Embarking on my New Adventure

I have been a teacher for 13 years. It is a huge part of my identity. People ask me, “What do you do?” and I answer that I am a teacher. There is no explanation required. Even though they don’t really understand all that being a teacher entails, they still have an ideal of what I do. It is a known entity. For 13 years, I’ve labeled myself “teacher.” I know who I am because I am a teacher.

Now that I’ve decided to leave the profession, I am not sure who I am anymore.

I don’t have the crutch of pointing to my teacher label when I meet new people.

Hello

 

I have to rediscover who I am. It is exciting and yet completely terrifying.

I don’t know where I am heading. Will I be able to find a convenient label for myself? If so, what will it be? Director of Something Something? Project Management Specialist? Will my new label be one that people understand, one that I don’t have to explain? My husband’s title at work tells me nothing about what he does. In fact, for the first few years of our marriage, people would ask me what he does and I would just answer with a jumble of words that I’d heard him say (sorry, love). I have more of an idea now, but we’ve been together forever.

Do I even need a label anymore?

I am at a point in my life that makes me want to give a one-finger salute to all the people who want me to conform. For most of my life, I’ve done the conventional thing. I went to college, got a degree, got a job in a respectable career, got married, had a child, etc. I’m so glad that I did all of these things. I have been blessed with stability and support from so many people.

Now, I am not sure if I want as much stability. I don’t want a contract tying me to a position for nine months. I am not even sure I want a go-to-work-from-7-to-330 job. Those of you who know me personally understand how much of a stretch this is for me. I’ve thrived on consistency and stability.

I want to take risks. I want to do things that I was afraid of doing, like working freelance or going on occasional day trips by myself. Heck, I want to go on spontaneous weekend trips with my family. I want to have no itinerary and just drive until we get somewhere interesting and stop there. These are things that I could not have done two years ago.

My heart aches for adventure and thrills at the thought of embarking on this new journey. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

~E

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Bully For You by Amy Durant

Amazing.

- as Others -

I can’t watch movies or television shows where someone’s being bullied. If there’s bullying going on, I either hide my eyes, or steel myself, sitting very still, frozen, waiting for it to be over; not over for the character, but for myself.

It may end for the character, but it never ends for me.

Nowadays, they teach kids about how bad bullying is from a very young age. There are classes, starting with the primary grades. How not to bully, how to handle being bullied, how to handle seeing someone being bullied. The psychology of the bullies. The psychology of those bullied. The psychology of those who silently go along with the bullies, afraid, if they don’t, they’ll become one of the victims themselves. Reports I get from people in the school system are mixed as to how well these programs are working. I think it’s good the awareness is…

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Candelight Vigil for Autistic Children who’ve Lost their Lives Wandering

My friend Danielle at ProfMomEsq invited me to an event on FB that I thought I would share with you.

Jill over at Yeah. Good Times. is a blogger who is dedicated to raising awareness about autism. Here is what she wrote:

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This event is a virtual candlelight vigil to remember and respect the lives of autistic children who have died after an elopement.

The Kennedy Krieger Institute reported in a 2011 study that up to 48% of all children with autism will engage in wandering behavior or “elopement,” which is defined as the tendency to leave a safe space and enter into a potentially dangerous one, and is a rate 4 times higher than their neurotypical siblings.

The Krieger Institute also reported that “35% of families with children who elope report their children are “never” or “rarely” able to communicate their name, address, or phone number by any means.”

In 2012, the National Autism Association reported that “accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with an ASD ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement.”

This vigil is being organized to spread awareness of the very real issue of wandering behavior in autistic children and the unspeakable tragedies that can, and have occurred as a result.

Please join us in respectful remembrance of the children who have died.

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I can’t even imagine what it feels like to lose a child. It is even harder to imagine what it feels like to worry about your child wandering off. Please send a little prayer, positive energy, good thoughts — whatever it is you do — to the families who have lost someone precious.

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Eyebrow Wax, Anyone?

I went to get a pedicure with my mom, niece, and daughter this week. We haven’t done it in a while, and it was so much fun hanging out with them. My niece– a stunning 15-year old– has grown into quite an amazing young lady, especially since she was only 11 last year.

My experience was better than theirs, though. I had the best nail tech ever. It was absolutely fabulous. Here are highlights from conversations with the lady who was doing mine:

Conversation #1
LADY: You need wax eyebrows?
ME: No, thank you.
LADY: No, you NEED wax eyebrows. I will do.
ME: No. I like my eyebrows the way they are.
LADY: [looks at me with the you-are-a-crazy-lady look]

Conversation #2
LADY: You have too much. [pointing to my heels and tut-tut-tutting]
ME: Pardon?
LADY: [showing me the dead skin in the callous-removal-tickle-torture device] You have too much. You need to put vaseline and socks. [shakes head with disbelief]

Conversation #3
LADY: [leading me to the front] You sure you don’t need eyebrows?
ME: I’m pretty sure I don’t.
LADY: [looks at me with the you-are-a-crazy-lady look again]

I know that some people would find this offensive, but I don’t. I figure that she cared enough about my beauty to get a little bit tetchy about it. Plus, it gave me wondrous blog fodder.

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My first post since January and it is one about a pedicure. WTF? I have had tons of ideas, just not the time to sit and write them down. They’re still running around in my brain and will come out soon. Enjoy this in the meantime. I know I did. 🙂

Hello, 2013. Thanks for Visiting.

Ode to 2013

2013 is a year that taught
me copious lessons. It brought
hope and some trepidation,
faith and some affirmation.
A bounty of choices demanded attention,
giving my simple life greater dimension.
An unheard of act of risk taking
led to an act of decision making.
I cried, I cheered, and I laughed
(What the hell is a mosquito craft?
This rhyming dictionary is weird.
)
I frequently disappeared,
sinking into my protective shell
dealing with change and doing it well.
Today I celebrate the good
in 2013, just like I said I would.

__________________________

At the beginning of the year last year, I made a “Resolution to be Successful.” My goal was to concentrate on the great things that happened throughout the year. I had never done it before– usually ending the year with a “thank goodness it is over” feeling. I was tired of living my life, waiting for the year to end so I can start afresh. It was time to realize that every day is a fresh day and I needed to acknowledge and celebrate that fact. I made a jar and I filled the jar with wonderful things so I could write about them at the end of the year. I hope you enjoy my adventures.

Family

I am thankful every gosh darn day for my family. Without them, I would not have as much joy in my life. They keep me from staying in the darkness when I’m depressed, and still love me when I spend extra time there. Here are some highlights.

  • We have a little raised garden in our back yard. It has become a family project. Every season, we clean it out, hand till it, and plant it. Pretty much every season, we end up with very few veggies– they get creature-eaten or frost-bitten or die in the hot, hot sun. Yet we continue to do it. There is something about sticking your hands in the earth that reminds you how connected you are to everything around you.
  • The girl figured out how to tie her shoes. It may seem like a little thing, but she was determined to never learn how– at least not from me. Thank goodness Hubs has the patience of a saint or she’d still be in Velcro shoes. Now if we could get her to keep them tied…
  • We were able to send the girl to Camp Invention. It is a week-long critical thinking/problem-solving day camp. She learned so much, including how to work with others to solve real-life problems. It was fabulous listening to her stories about what she learned. Her excitement was palpable.
  • We took two camping trips. I am not very fond of camping, but I like to be outside with my friends and family. The first trip was with my brother, niece, and nephew. I had so much fun during the day. It was fabulous being with them in a different setting than the living room. I want to do it again with them before my brother moves on to his fellowship and my niece and nephew go to college (or wherever– no pressure, guys). The second time was with my BFF, Jen. It was freezing and relaxing and wonderful (for camping, anyway). We did decide that next time we’d camp in a motel. It’s so much better that way.
  • We actually had some weather this year. I love it when we have weather in the desert. After one seriously rainy day, the girl and I played in the puddles until she had mud up to her eyeballs. It was so glorious letting loose and getting dirty. I think my heart grew three sizes that day.

There are so many more, but I know that it’s important to keep posts short so people read to the end. 🙂 Maybe I’ll do a part deux.

Educational

Both my husband and I are pursuing degrees– his is a B.S. and mine is an M.A. I’m so proud of us for managing school, work, and family without wanting to hit each other in the shin. With a car. I celebrate the following:

  • After a bazillion years of study, I am so close to the end, I can see it. I submitted my application for graduation. This does not mean that I am done, but it does mean that, if I take the last FOUR classes that are required, I can graduate at the end of the summer term. FOUR CLASSES! I really need to be done because I’ve got such a serious case of senioritis (mastersitis?) that it makes my eyes burn.
  • I had to take a graduate research class. It was horrible and felt pointless to me. Focusing on the positive: I had one of my favorite professors again, I earned an A, and it is another class down. Only FOUR more to go!
  • I took the summer off. It was fabulous spending the time with my family. Even though it put me a little behind, I needed it. I still only have FOUR more classes until I’m done.
  • My degree program is online, so I miss the face-to-face interaction that I enjoyed with I was getting my B.A. This last semester, I had a colleague taking the same classes. It was wonderful! I had someone to bounce ideas off of for the first time in a bazillion years. I wish he was going to take my final FOUR classes with me, but he isn’t. Still– I had someone to kvetch with… er, share ideas with.

In case you didn’t notice, I have only FOUR classes left until I’m done. Not that I’m excited or anything. Not me. Not at all.

Professional

This is the aspect of my life that changed the most. This is where I took a leap and let the Universe catch me. I don’t generally do that because of my anxiety. Here are some of the positives:

  • I finally said no more to the job that was disintegrating my being. I was turning into a person who I didn’t enjoy being and it affected every aspect of my life.
  • I woke up in the morning and didn’t have a debilitating panic attack thinking about going to work. After I decided it was time for a change, I began to repair myself. This was the first sign that it was working.
  • I got a new job. Even though I felt beaten down and almost destroyed, I was able to keep my head straight during interviews. Even though I felt like a fraud, I was able to tell potential employers how wonderful I was. It worked. If you want to read about it, I wrote a couple of posts about it: Part One and Part Two.
  • I made a decision about my professional goals. The public education system no longer suits me. I can’t do what they ask me to and still live with myself. I finally decided to leave the public school system. After 13 years, I am taking a break from it. I may come back, I may not. It just depends on where life takes me. Once again, when I made that decision, another layer of anxiety and fear disappeared. Once again, I have no fear that my decision is the wrong one. I have no clue what the future may bring and that doesn’t scare me. Weird for someone who’s live her life in fear that she’ll make the wrong decision and destroy the world.
  • Hubs attends one of Embry Riddle’s satellite campuses. He is good friends with the director there. They are in desperate need of English teachers. Hubs has worked his magic and there is a great possibility that I will be teaching some classes for them when I’ve completed my M.A. (FOUR more classes!). This is a wonderful opportunity and I hope it comes to fruition. I’m trying not to want it so much.

I haven’t felt so sure of myself professionally in a very long time. I am thankful for the year that passed and am definitely looking forward to the future possibilities.

Other Awesome Stuff

Not everything fits into lovely categories, so here is the potpourri of great things that happened this year that don’t fit anywhere else.

  • I got a new, used car. It is the car that I’ve always wanted. It has a sun roof and, because I’m spoiled, brand new speakers and a kick-ass radio. It also only started with 30,000 miles. Because it’s a Toyota, I will get to enjoy it for many, many miles to come.
  • I’m getting crafty up in the hizzouse. I started crocheting again, something that relaxes me and makes me feel productive. Hubs got me a sewing machine for Christmas and I’ve already made myself a purse. Creating is such a wonderful feeling and I am glad that I’m doing it again.
  • I was brave enough to put my writing out there. When I won NaNoWriMo in 2012, I had a mostly, sort-of finished manuscript. I’ve been sitting on it, fearful of letting it go into the world. I decided to share it. There are so many plot holes and loose ends that I need to tie together. I wasn’t able to do so objectively. Hopefully it’ll get worked out. Either that or my readers will tell me that it’s too convoluted in its current state and will need to be disemboweled and reanimated in another configuration. I’m comfortable with either possibility.
  • One of my students graduated this year. This young lady has been in my life since she was a sixth grader. I love her like she was my daughter. I’m so proud of who she has become. She honored me so much when she asked me to escort her to senior night basketball game. Her mother and I proudly stood next to her before her final game of her senior year. I felt truly blessed that I meant so much to her that she asked me to be there. Teachers don’t always see how they affect their students’ lives. Chelley made sure that I knew.

There are so many other things, but brevity is the soul of wit (so they say).

The Girl’s Celebration

The girl was so excited to participate in this project. For the first seven days. Because she was six. I told her I’d post everything that she wrote down. Here it is:

  • “I have school.”

She’s so awesome.

Final Thoughts

This was a great exercise for me. I am thankful for my blogger friend Danielle for making the commitment to do this with me. If it had not been for her, I am pretty sure I would have stopped writing the good things down about the same time that the girl lost interest. I’ve decided that I am going to do it again in 2014. I think it is part of the reason why I’ve been able to make the positive changes in my life. It helped me live in the moment.

__________________________

Resolve to be successful

Reaching

I am not to be
the poet that sits
and drinks scotch
reaching for the glass
bottom of life.

I cannot find truth
in ice cubes, love
in a wilted paper
napkin, beauty in
the ring left on the table.

My toast is not
for others to hear.

I perch on the stool,
vapors hovering,
the mists of poems
unwritten. I want to
catch them, savor them
as they slide, burning
cold, down my throat,
settling in my soul.

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Northern Exposure

There is something strange about being out in the forest and using a chromebook to type out a blog about being out in the forest. I’ve realized that writing things down in a notebook makes for a lovely journal, but not for many blog posts. It seems like they never make it from paper to cyberspace. I figured if I lugged the thing around, it would ensure that I at least get some writing done.

Today we took a spontaneous road trip up north to where there are some leaves turning green and where it is cooler and beautiful. The strange thing is that I actually suggested the trip. Me. The person who generally doesn’t wake up in the morning and say, “Hey! Let’s ruin my whole routine and take a trip somewhere.” Well, this morning, I felt the need, desperately.

You see, I’ve been stressed. Majorly. My heart is restless. I can’t focus on what I should be doing. Frankly, I resent the fact that I should be doing it when there are so many other things that I want to do. I have two classes this semester, and four left until I am done with my Masters. I wish I could take a year off, but I know that, if I do, I won’t finish. I have to finish.

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming urge to feel pine needles under my feet and shade on my face. I had to hear the rustle of the wind in the pines and watch the oak trees drop their leaves. I had to move and cleanse the malaise that I was feeling.

I also had a crap-ton of homework. I’m talking a five-page paper on a novel that I haven’t finished yet that is due on Thursday. An at least 20-page paper on 12 secondary resources that I’m using for my graduate research paper. I have three more weeks to do it, but I haven’t even started. Not to mention the things that I should be starting that are due Thursday after next. Yeah. Crap-ton.

Responsibility almost won out. I woke up, booted up my computer and tried to wade through some of the work that I’m supposed to complete. I just stared at the screen, pain in my chest. I could feel the lethargy of depression sliding over me, suffocating, stifling my spirit. I realized that I would not get anything done because, quite simply, I didn’t want to do anything.

I had to get away. If I didn’t, I’d end up going back to bed, staring at the ceiling, feeling guilty and sinking even farther into a depressive funk. I’d rather feel guilty while I was playing outside. Plus, a getaway might help alleviate some of my sad.

When I asked hubs if he wanted to road trip, he wondered who had kidnapped his wife and replaced her with this strange creature who wants to go somewhere…. spontaneously. Once he realized that I was serious, he agreed quickly, taking advantage of this strange mood I was in. Mom, dad, daughter, and dog piled into the truck and off we went.

My plan was to do homework on the way there. Two hours in a car would give me ample time to read, take notes, and do all the hoop jumping that I have to do in order to get my degree. I am a little tired of working so hard and feeling so dissatisfied. I am not as content to perform the circus act the older I get. I didn’t really want to get my Master’s. I was content with my Bachelor’s until I realized that I would be stuck in the same position for the rest of my life. I knew I couldn’t be a classroom teacher forever, but that is a story for a different post. Maybe I’ll write it later.

As we left the city, my shoulders dropped their tension.My breath slowed. My brain shut itself down. I wasn’t thinking about what I *should* be doing. I was doing what I wanted to do, and all was right inside of me. It had been so long that I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sensation of freedom (WC). The farther north we drove, the cooler the air became. The curvier the roads were, the more I slipped into a half-slumber– you know, the kind where you are aware of what is going around you, but you don’t really feel like it is anything you should worry or think about?

We had some music playing, and Natalie was reading a nonfiction book about volcanoes to us. Every once in a while Jason or I would correct a word– she never did learn to say obsidian correctly. There was just the lightness of the travel.

Once again, this is so not me. I get anxious– when will I be able to stop and go to the bathroom? What If I get hungry? What if we run out of gas? What if we get lost? None of these thoughts occurred to me. I melted into the road. I became a leaf on the wind, a bubble in the current, and all those other cliches.

It was amazing.

Once we got to Payson, my shoulders were down in their natural position and not around my ears where they’ve been residing recently. Opening the windows and breathing in the piney-and-cold air helped my insides mellow as well. We pulled onto a forest road– one where we had to open the barbed wire gate to get into. The farther away from the road I got, the more relaxed I became.

The road ended at the edge of the rim of the mountain. We got out of the truck and hiked down as far as we felt was safe for Natalie. I looked out and could see for miles. There were no people, no computers, no homework, no grading, no lesson plans, no formative assessments, none of the things that have been slowly sucking pieces of my soul away.

Remember how it feels when your muscles are stiff, and you are stretching them? It hurts like hell, but you know it’ll make everything better in the long run. That was my ache. And it ached. All of the empty spaces inside of me filled like a torrential rain.

None of my homework got done on the trip. We are driving home, and I am writing this instead. I know that I will feel the pressure as it gets closer to the due dates for my assignments. As we get closer to the city, I feel the tension gathering again. I can’t help but think of all of the things that I have to do. I don’t regret taking care of my spiritual needs. I needed it so badly. I wish I could do it every weekend.  Maybe then it would stick. I need it to stick or else I won’t make it.