Sunday, January 29, 2017

This is All of Us

We just caught up with the new show This is Us. After hearing everyone go on and on about it and how it was the best show on television right now we treated ourselves to a binge watching marathon to catch up this past week.

Around one of the last episodes my husband said how Jack and Rebecca did "everything they could for those kids." I agreed. They obviously loved their children and were parents that I'd say gave it their best every chance they had. But despite their obvious love for their children and their greatest efforts they still made mistakes, and they still made choices that hurt their children in the moment and long term later down the road. Isn't that so many of us though?

I look at my parents who I feel obviously love their children and gave us a great childhood.  They did the best they could, but they weren't perfect either.  Just as my husband and I love our children and are doing the best we possibly can, we still make mistakes and  make choices that may hurt them in the moment or much later down the road. It's hard enough to meet one child's individual needs, and as much as we want to "treat" our children the same, they all have their individual different needs. Different children require different things from us. I think trying to figure out how to love our children the same yet treat them differently according to their different individual needs is possibly one of the greatest challenges of parenthood. I often wonder if we will spend our whole lives questioning our choices and parenting, wondering if we did right by each of our children. Did we give them what they each needed? Did they feel loved for who they were despite whatever their individual differences and imperfections may be?

They-the Pearsons-are so many of us. Working hard, doing our best, loving our family with everything we have. But the truth is each of our realities are all different. We all have our own demons; we're all a little broken in some way. No matter how picture perfect any of our family lives may be we each fight our own inner battle. The theme of self identity in here screamed out at me in the very beginning with the three siblings. I imagine as siblings all the same age the search for who you are and where you fit in the dynamic of the family and then the world is possibly an earlier battle for sense of self than some of us. I think we're all on a search for self at various points in our lives; it's a struggle I don't believe any of us are immune to. Our role as parents in that journey for our kids' terrifies me.

But as Randall shows despite our mistakes and our own imperfections as humans and parents, loving and continuing to love our children is what will lead to their forgiving hearts. But I think our love for them doesn't just lead to them forgiving our mistakes as their parents and accepting us, but also why as adults they will become compassionate and forgiving adults themselves more willing to look past others' mistakes and struggles to see them for the more complex person they are- not just a drug addict, not just a heavier set woman or man, just a man with a nice body and pretty face, not just a black man. Love as this show I believe reinforces is the greatest thing we can give our children as parents. We'll make mistakes, we as individuals and families will never be perfect, but that imperfect love is what teaches them forgiveness, compassion, and acceptance- so many things needed in this complex, imperfect world we live in.

 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Two Years Later...The Lost Baby

I didn't need my facebook memory feed on Thursday to remind me that two years ago was when I suffered my second miscarriage, the one that definitely marked me in a way I understand now that I won't ever forget. Friday a childhood friend of mine who has also experienced her own pregnancy lost shared this post about miscarriage that generated a nice discussion among moms that lost babies in pregnancy.

I shared my experiences with my two miscarriages, particularly that last one two years ago that left me devastated in a way I had never expected. I shared my fear in the months after that about continuing to try for a third baby despite the emotional storm of going through two miscarriages in the past year. I learned many things. I learned that losing a baby you never met is still a loss you will grieve in your own way in your own time. But here I am two years later and I'm still learning.

Because see first I thought losing a baby you never met couldn't really be that bad. But that day, January 26, 2014 will haunt me for the rest of my life. I understand now that women don't just forget the babies they've lost but never met. Those babies stay with them forever. They define each mother's journey of motherhood in their own just as each baby that came before and after them define her. I thought the rainbow baby that we all hopefully have at some point would in some way make up for that baby's loss. But this is where it all gets tricky in my head. I love my son; I couldn't imagine my life without my son. I think how if I had that baby I lost I wouldn't have had the son I have now or maybe even a son at all as maybe it was another girl. But I still think about that other baby. Was it a boy too? A girl? We had talked about four at one point. Maybe we would have still had Lincoln after that one though and maybe it was the fourth one (guess technically the third and Linc was the fourth).

The process of moving on is not what I expected. I think in my arrogant non experienced way I thought I would eventually just forget that it happened. However, I see now it/they are not something we just simply forget. I think I thought we would just forget because it s (possibly was rather than is) taboo to talk about our lost babies that some don't consider a real loss because it was never a "real" baby. Their existence is real to us though as soon as we see that hope of a positive pregnancy test.



Monday, January 23, 2017

Career Change???

I am burnt out. I know this may not be the best year to judge exactly how burnt out of teaching I am with all the policy changes we faced on top of the changes at home with adding a new baby. Even though I definitely feel leaps and bounds better than I did in October, though I don't believe I still have PPD, I'm not back to being my positive chirpy self.  But I  faced my last year of burnout just four years ago. Twice in five years seems too frequent. That year was definitely worse than this year. Maybe because I just don't have the sense of panic I did then. Maybe because as I get older I know myself better, and I know myself well enough to know I won't stay in a miserable situation for long. I will take action to resolve it. And if that action involves change I know myself well enough now to know though the idea of change scares me and can make me anxious I know I don't let it intimidate me enough to stop me. And the third thing my 35 year old self knows better than my 30 year old self is if I set my mind to something I know if I really want something I can do it. I just have to know what I really want.

I think that's been the biggest struggle with thinking of leaving education. If I leave the education field what can I go do that's not a huge financial hit? At first I haven't been finding anything that seemed worth the hassle of change and facing the fear of the unknown, yet the thought of doing the same thing for my whole working life is just starting to feel like I'm short changing myself. I worked in the educational setting at daycares the four years before I started teaching so that means combined I've been in education for 17 years. I've been a supporter of most education reform these past few years, but recent reform this past year has taken away a sense of student accountability worse than it even was before. I'm so tired of grading, and I know being critiqued and criticized is a part of every profession but I'm just tired of feeling like I'm doing something that I'm really just not very good at.

I've been looking for a way out for probably the last five years as it is. Honestly the things that keep me from leaving teaching aren't the right reasons- summer vacation and retiring in my 50s. Summers half the time stress me out because we don't get paid in the summer and unfortunately I've had to work three of the eight summers I've been a mom as it is. The other concern though is as much as some say teachers don't get paid much, it's been really hard to find a different job that would pay me the same. Maryland teachers make pretty decent money especially with a Masters Degree + and 13 years of experience.

Most of the best possible things I've found has been in sales and that's all dependent on commission which makes me nervous as I'm use to a fixed income that comes from a salaried job. Working in sales is not exactly my dream job. Though I've looked at education related jobs that are not in public school classrooms, again because I'm so burnt out of education in general none of those leave me very excited to tackle change.

Something I read recently about change and the unknown left me asking myself if I wasn't teaching and money didn't matter for a minute what would I really really want to do. I came back to this blog. No, it's not writing. It's actually what I discovered I really enjoyed through writing this blog and what I loved about my masters degree program that I started to formulate a new possible direction.

I went to get my Masters in Counseling ten years ago now this month. However, as it came time for the internship I had just had my first baby, things were tight financially so I was coaching volleyball on top of finishing grad school and it looked like the internship would require me to go part time at work or involve a whole lot of hours I had no idea how I would complete with a new baby at home on top of a full time job. So I did something I kind of regret now. Just short of the internship hours I decide to change my program of study and completed my degree with an Educational Studies degree rather than a counseling though my whole program focused on counseling. I am an internship and certification licensing away from being able to pursue career paths in a variety counseling settings.

Through this blog the most enjoyable thing to come from it, even before the publication acceptances, is the connections I've made with other moms. I love talking and consulting with other moms about the highs and lows of motherhood. I have loved and appreciated how other moms have felt comfortable in coming to me with their own personal struggles and worries with motherhood.

So how could I combine my counseling courses and passion for working with moms and still make a comparable wage to my teaching salary? This was the big question I set out to solve to see if I could even come up with a possible workable solution. Researching all of that is how I've started my new year.

Turns out I am 7 health science classes away, a new CPR certification, an online module training course, and of course an actual internship away from being able to become a lactation consultant/maternal health counselor (the roles vary base on place of employment) employable by private companies, hospitals though they prefer RN certified, physician clinics, and government agencies like WIC. Through further research I also found there is another course training program with a another set of online training and certification exam I could take to add certified childbirth educator  (I would not be delivering babies! Just preparing moms mentally for labor and birth and taking care of a newborn) to my list of credentials in which I would have an easier time working in physician clinics in educating new moms on childbirth, parenting, and breastfeeding. Depending on the actual job assignment with an education background, coursework in counseling, lactation certification, and childbirth education I would have the qualifications to function in many capacities with new moms as a parent educator, lactation consultant, and maternal health counselor as they prepare for labor and delivery and bringing home a baby.

My new career goal is to "retire" from teaching after 17 years, four years from now. Over the course of the next four years I would take my 7 missing health science classes and childbirth educator course, do the online module trainings, and complete an internship to take my two Board Certification exams in April 2021. Once I get my foot in the door of making the change then I may look into completing my official counseling certification if it'll benefit me in some way wherever I end up working.

I have found where to take all the courses I need. If I do this- I plan to start taking my first course in August or Sept. The biggest hurdle would be first in finding a place to log internship hours and second in actually logging those internship hours. Though April 2021 is four years away I would like to start logging those hours possibly as early as this summer.

I am no stranger to the fact that change comes with sacrifice. Not only would there be sacrifice in my time which is already pushed pretty close to its capacity at times to get myself certified to make the career change, but once I was able to make the change there'd be more sacrifices with time and money. Obviously I would work all year round and not ten months, and on top of it I would probably take somewhat of a paycut, possibly because if I could work a 30-32 hour work week in four days I would do it rather than a five day work week. But on the flipside I would be doing something totally different that I am excited about doing and anticipate loving despite the fact that all jobs have their hard, not so fun moments. I would also possibly have different hours that again though I may get to get up after sunrise and see my kids off to school it'll be traded for being home with them right after school; however, because the kids will be getting older I'd much rather leave my then middle schooler in charger for an hour or so after school then in the chaos of the morning routine so at that point in our family life I think it'd be better for me to be around in the mornings and returning later in the day. Then of course I would give up retiring at 53; however, with the youngest still in college at that time I was probably looking at working doing something for another 3-4 years after that anyway so really I'll only be working about four years longer than I would have.

When it comes to the uncertainty of tackling such a big change my biggest worry is that I'll do all this work to get all these certifications and qualifications and then struggle to find a job. I keep reminding myself I've been on uncertain roads before, but faith has always seen me through.


Photo courtesy of Blueprintchurch.org

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 In the Rearview Mirror and the Road Ahead to 2017 and Beyond

Many in social media were ready to kick 2016 to the curb with all the celebrity lives it took. Though many of those were great people that deserve to be remembered and missed I did not know them personally. But 2016 was a year that took a lot of lives it seemed. My family lost the head of our family- my grandfather on my 35th birthday, and unfortunately I watched too many friends lose parents, cousins, and even nephews and grandsons unexpectedly. 2016 also gave me and many friends our third babies, and some their first and their seconds. The circle of life was very apparent this past year. It was a year of great joy and great sadness.

If there's anything we take from this I guess it's to remember how very fleeting and precious our time is with the ones we love and for ourselves in living the life we hope to live. So what do I hope for in 2017? When I looked back at my goal and aspirations for 2016, it was pretty simple- to find peace and contentment with where I'm at. Some days I succeeded at that goal; some days not so much. Some days I still get anxious worrying about this or that for the future or am too hard on myself for the things I didn't succeed at the way I planned. As always I'm a never ending work in progress. But as time does go on I get better at accepting my failures and imperfections with my successes. I know the tough moments are followed by great moments and everything is just a continued cycle of ups and downs in this life we live.

My dream of our completed family with baby Lincoln came true in 2016. We started our journey the summer of 2005 and 11 years later in 2016 so much that we envisioned was finally a reality. After so many years of being in transition as last year's post pointed out this past year in 2016, particularly the summer, did have its moments of peace and contentment with feeling like we finally arrived to the destination we were headed to so long ago.

Though I've found a place of contentment and satisfaction we can still have that and reach for more, can't we? On one hand we hear to always keep dreaming and pushing for new goals as we conquer old ones, but on the other hand we hear to find happiness and contentment with where we are and with what we have. Can we do both???

I do have goals and hopes for 2017. I am 10 pounds away from the initial 35 lb weight loss goal I made before I became pregnant with Lincoln so I will be pushing to say good bye to those 10 pounds and just keep the healthier habits of working out and eating better. There were only four weeks I didn't get in my 3-5 workouts a week in the past 8.5 months. I'm hoping for six or less weeks missed in the whole twelve month period of 2017.

It is looking like we will be taking that 10 year anniversary trip to Hawaii this summer though I'm a little anxious about leaving my babies for a whole week and flying so far away. My husband wants to take us on a long weekend getaway to either Vegas or New Orleans in the Fall for his 40th birthday too, so between these two trips with our annual camping and beach trips and trips to MO (4 planned!) and PA/NY (4 planned as well) we're traveling every month in 2017 but Feb and Sept and some months like June include two trips. So my continued dream of traveling and seeing new places looks hopeful with two new destinations. Of course I love keeping the family traditions of the beach, camping, and trips to grandparents going year after year for our kids, and it looks like we'll be carrying that over into 2017.

I  have paid writing opportunities in 2017 which I haven't had since all the $$ I've pretty much made from my writing came in 2014. I have my first book signing scheduled for the spring, I've received a promising email from the Huffington Post though I haven't received my login info to actually proceeded with publishing there so that's a bit discouraging at the moment, and I have a charity idea I'm hoping to pitch later this month as one of my initial goals with my writing income was for 20% of it to go to children's charities, primarily pediatric cancer. I have another book idea I'd like to make some progress on and maybe with a ten week summer vacation I will, but otherwise I'm very content to do my own thing at my own pace with my writing. It's always been a hobby I love and I don't want to ruin it by making it feel like work.

As for other things. My second starts kindergarten in 2017! Which I am super excited for and sad for all at the same time. I'm sad that she's so big already. I swear the second grew faster than the first. I can't imagine how fast the third is going to grow. She's so ready and excited to go to school with her sissy. She's a smart little girl like her big sister so I know academically she'll do well. She might be a little like her momma though and be my one to get in trouble every now and then for talking or being out of line, but overall I look for her to do really well and am excited for her school years to come for her. Two in school all day also frees up our pocketbook so after our weird shuffling of vehicles for the past ten years now that my husband got his ideal truck two years ago the plan is to get my mom SUV back later this summer. We should be able to start the second's college savings account too and we're doing okay so far with the first's, and hopefully build up our other savings accounts. Then my last hopeful financial goal for 2017 is to get new floors in my kitchen and bathrooms (with a new vanity).

As for goals when it comes to work? It's probably the interesting thing for 2017. I'll be finishing year 13 and beginning year 14 here in 2017. But I'm burnt out in so many ways. I've been in my current school system for 11 years now though. Though I doubt more and more every day that I can do this for 30 years I'd like in 2017 to attempt to switch school districts to the one here where we live; however, because they keep making cuts I'm not too hopeful on that actually happening and I'm unsure how much of an actual pay cut it is. Eliminating 2.5 hours of my day commuting would help some of my burn out probably. At least temporarily.  I think working in a different area may help for a bit too. But there are aspects of the job that will follow me no matter where I go so I'll apply but we'll have to see what comes of it.  I don't look for any drastic job and/or relocation changes in 2017, but the wheels of possibility have been turning in both our heads. Right now 2017 is another year towards our pensions, another year to build up more equity in both of our houses, and another year to save up money. However, in 2018 or 2019 we're going to reach the fork in the road though. One path will be to stay the course for the next 15 years to collect our full MD teaching pension in our 50s, raise our kids to adulthood in this small Maryland town that we do love, and find or build our dream home on some land here. The other path at the fork in the road is the unknown one. The one where we take a huge leap of faith. We leave our professions with our job security and financial stability and possibly the home and life we've built here to recreate our life as business owners with the restuarant my husband always wanted someday.

We've faced the challenges of change and the unknown before. We are no stranger to taking the risks- moving out here away from anyone and everything we had known to build our own life, becoming landlords and turning our home into a rental property, adding babies to our family (that's a scary unknown challenge of change for everyone, right????) with no family nearby for help. Here's the thing I've learned. It's always hard, incredibly stressful, almost always involves some tough moments of failure, but in the long run in the bigger picture it's always made our life better and been completely worth the scary moments and growing pains of change.

Knowing we are getting closer to that fork in the road excites and scares me all at the same time. Which would you do? Take the safe path or the riskier one? We are so blessed; we have so much and even though we've reached a point of contentment and conquered so much that we had hoped for do we stop? Do you accept and settle with the one area of your life lacking complete fulfillment because you have everything else you ever dreamed? Or do you look at your life and say I want it all- everything I envision, even as the vision changes and evolves, and I won't settle until I get it? Life is short. We only have so much time to do all the things we want to do, live all the lives we want to live.  Can we have contentment in the present yet look ahead to the future to the next dream to conquer?