Micro what?

Today I received a blogging newsletter that pretty much changed my life. In this newsletter there was an article about microblogging. Yep, it’s a thing. Microblogging is the idea that blog posts don’t have to be long, multi-paragraph dissertations on the topic of choice. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…) It’s okay for a blog post to be like any other post on a social media outlet, such as Twitter or even Instagram. Blog posts can be short updates, or long thoughtful essays. It’s okay!

I am not sure why I needed this validation from a random blogging newsletter, but it sure did make me think differently about the way I want to share on my blog. Sometimes I have an idea pop into my head that I really would like to write about, but I find myself thinking “do I really have anything/enough to say about that topic?” According to whose standards?!? I’m not sure where this self-imposed word count nonsense came from in my brain, but I am glad that it doesn’t really matter anymore anyway. Maybe I felt like I needed to be like the “real” bloggers who are amazing writers with lots to say about things in ways I could never do. But the more I have thought about what I read this morning, the more I know and understand that I don’t have to blog like anyone out there but me. If its something that I want to share, I should be okay to share it in any way that works for me! Maybe a sentence. Maybe a picture. Who knows?! The possibilities are really endless know. What a relief!

I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t come to this conclusion all on my own, or that I didn’t have the confidence in myself to create whatever and however I wanted to on my own blog… I would not be honest if I said that I came to this revelation all on my own. Nonetheless, I am excited to push myself to not conform to the way I think things “should” be according to some standard that really doesn’t exist. I am excited to write more and share more…with no boundaries!

Road trip

IMG_2107This mommin’ thing is not easy at all. Just when I think I may have it sort of, somewhat, almost under “control,” I am quickly reminded that I do not. Tonight my 19 year old daughter packed up her suitcase, a bag full of snacks, and her backpack to head out on a week long trip with some of her girlfriends. Her first trip with no parents. Nine hours away. Driving. Like…driving in a car. On the highway. For nine hours. Let the catastrophizing begin. What if they break down…What if they get lost…What if they are kidnapped and sold as slaves. What if I never see her again…

We loaded up her car and hugged her goodbye and I squeezed her just a little tighter and held on just a little longer than usual. The excitement for this first “no parent” adventure was evident on her face and in her cute grin. What if she makes amazing memories…What if she has the time of her life…What if she grows up just a little more while she’s gone. What if she comes home to me in a week…

Home

I went back to college in my late 30’s to earn a teaching degree. I had two school-aged children at the time. To say that managing it all was a challenge is an understatement. One year into my three year journey, my 16 year marriage ended. This event did not make life easier. But I kept going… My senior capstone work was creative writing. Considering the season of life that I was in, my writing from that time was raw and full of emotion. After the program was over and I had graduated, I put that writing portfolio away. It was a reminder of the pain and hardship of that time in life.

Recently, I came across my senior capstone portfolio. As I sat in my basement office in our quiet house, I read. And read. And read. Tears flowed freely as the words flooded my mind and heart with the memories of that year. I was surprised by some of the pieces. I hadn’t even remembered penning the words. Some of the writings were almost too difficult to read, and I moved through those quickly. But others were full of sentiment and happy memories of life “before” all of the hard stuff came along.

These writings have been in a beat up red file folder for more than a decade, and I would like to finally share them. So, over the course of the next few weeks I will share one at a time. The first piece is called “Home.” This was written in November, 2008.

Home

Home is the smell of sausage frying in a ridiculously heavy, old cast iron skillet once belonging to Granny. The smell would sneak down the hallway to my bedroom in the early morning hours. It was our signal that it was almost time to get up. The sound of cabinet doors and drawers opening and not so gently closing always came with morning. Daddy was the responsible party – and we knew when we smelled the biscuits in the oven, it was time. Daddy would whistle while he cooked each morning – yet another not so subtle wake up call for us. And when we finally stumbled to the kitchen we were always greeted by an awful mess. Homemade biscuits always left a trail…a light covering of flour on every available surface.

Home is the quiet of late afternoon – the dull rhythmic thumping of the dryer in a distant room. Background noise – a lone television broadcasting afternoon headlines to an empty room, the occasional creak of the ironing board as my mother ironed in the living room. The perfect blend of these sounds in the late of day is a recipe for home.

Home is the small tree growing in the front yard. Not an impressive tree – at least in stature – but to my sister and me it was…a princess castle, a pirate ship, a mountain top, in the jungle, a hiding place, base, and adventure, a swing, monkey bars…and the dreaded sources of our daddy’s “switches” – used only in the worst of circumstances. When Daddy went to grab a switch from our beloved tree, it was only then that we wished it didn’t exist.

Home is dinner around the dining room table, saying prayer before eating, holding hands as a family and thanking God for the nourishment which he had provided. And not complaining about what was on the evening menu. “It’s not right to thank God for our food and then complain about what it is, ” Daddy would often remind. Familiar meals, comfort food, were served in a weekly rotation…foods such as meatloaf, and fried chicken, and once a week…breakfast for dinner…a concept my own children will not warm up to.

Home is the conflict and tension of teenage brothers, resentful of their “step” mother and angry over the death of their own. It is the open defiance and harsh words heard by my sister and me as we hid at the top of the stairs – terrified but curious. It is the sound of objects thrown, painful sobs, and endless slamming doors. Home is the feeling of being torn between family members. Admiration for older brothers, and the natural love for a mother and father.

Home is the gentle reminder from our father each time we left the house. We were not sent on our way with rules or threats but rather with four simple words from our soft-spoken patriarch…”Remember who you are.”

 

 

 

You just never know.

When I started blogging, I did so simply as a way for me to express myself. I decided that I wanted to write with complete authenticity and I wanted to write just to share my perspective on the world around me. I truly never knew if anyone else would ever read my words, but that didn’t really matter. I was doing it for me. It was my expressive outlet. Do I look at my view numbers? Yes I do. Do I worry about how high (or low) the number is? I honestly do not. But it does make me happy knowing that people are taking the time to read my ramblings.

Today made me especially happy. Today not just one, but TWO different people stopped me and shared that my words had meant something to them this week. They shared that they had read my post and that the words I wrote really hit them in the heart and made a difference to them. I was so deeply touched by this. It is hard for me to imagine that anything that I could write or share could touch someone in such a way. I was honestly humbled by the thought of it. My next thought was “What if I hadn’t shared my words? What if I had listened to that voice in my head that told (and still tells me) that I have nothing really important to say?” We all get so busy rushing around taking care of ourselves and our own full lives that we don’t take the time to encourage each other. Yes, life is busy, and yes we all have things to take care of in our own lives. But shouldn’t we all be worried about taking care of each other too? Isn’t that really what it’s all about. Sometimes, I will think something nice about someone else, but then I don’t actually say it out loud to them (weird, right? Does anyone else do this?) When I keep those thoughts to myself I miss out on speaking positivity into another person’s day. And couldn’t we all use that?

I guess my takeaway is this. Do not ever pass up the chance to share what you have on your mind and in your heart. If you have been given a gift, share it. If you have a desire in your soul, chase after it. If you feel a tug to do something out of your comfort zone, act on it. Someone out there could really need what you have. Someone could be inspired or uplifted by your actions. Someone’s day could be brightened by your words. Someone might be able to face one more day because of you…you just never know.

Choose your hard

I have a sign that hangs in my office/craft room/hideout. That sign reads “Choose your hard.” It’s a reminder to me as I try (once again) to lose weight and get myself in shape. I saw a saying once that said “Working out is hard. Being overweight is hard. Choose your hard.” That stuck with me and I thought it was a great way to think about it. But as a grow and work on myself I am learning that not everything that I’ve thought of as hard is truly hard. What I’m learning is that most of the time, things are uncomfortable, not hard. Climbing Mt. Everest…hard. Advanced Calculus…hard. Brain surgery…hard. But many of the things we say are hard to us are really just uncomfortable.

Think about it. How many times have you heard “relationships are hard”? No….not really. Relationships can be uncomfortable, but not necessarily hard. As I work through so much of the “stuff” from my past I hear myself saying over and over – “it’s just too hard.” In all honesty though, it’s just really uncomfortable to face the ugly things that I’ve kept buried so long. And none of us really like to be uncomfortable. Having conversations with people about the things that matter is really uncomfortable at times – but not hard. The craziness of raising 5 kids, chaotic schedules, outbursts, teenage hormones, undecided paths, sleep deprivation, worry, anxiety, endless laundry….ask a tired mom. It all feels so hard. But in all reality, everything that goes along with parenting is just really uncomfortable. It’s not hard to raise our kids because we love them so much and want the best for them in every way. But there are certainly many moments of “uncomfortable.”

So the sign that hangs over my desk will be changed very soon to reflect this new mindset I am working toward. Changing the way I think about the world around me will be a drastic change, and it will be uncomfortable, but it won’t be hard.

Relationships before tasks

I am in the middle of my tenth year of teaching. Even though I find myself complaining about constantly bringing work home, and the ever-growing workload, I cannot imagine myself doing any other “job.” The profession has changed drastically in the decade that I have been a part of it. Ask any teacher who has been in the field for more than five or so years and you are very likely to get an earful about the differences. But as I reflect on my journey, I realize that I have changed just as much as the role has. This year has been a big growth year for me as I continue to hone my craft.

When I first began teaching, I worked extremely hard to learn my content. I wanted to make sure that I knew the curriculum inside and out. I made sure that I understood it completely and that I could teach it multiple ways so that they “got it.” I was very much consumed with learning different strategies for teaching reading, various interventions for students who may have been struggling. I searched for multiple texts on one topic to ensure repeated practice and a complete understanding. I was hyper focused on the “book” side of teaching. I’m not for a minute saying that knowing and understanding your content is not important…because you can’t teach it well if you don’t know it well. But it is not the only side of teaching. I have always prided myself on having a great rapport with my kids, but I think that my focus being so much on the content – on the tasks – held me back from realizing my full potential to both educate and influence my students.

My shift this year in my thinking and my practices has been monumental. I began this year more focused on relationships. My relationship with my students, and their relationships with each other. My focus has been on creating a culture in my classroom where each of us has our own voice and we are each valued. So – let me pause and say that I have always felt that classroom culture and relationships are important. That concept is not brand new to me, so my focus is not anything that is earth shattering. The “A-ha” for me has been the change in where my priorities lie. Yes, I am still teaching my curriculum, but I am not tied to the pacing of that map. Yes, I am still assessing my students for their mastery of standards, but I do not derive my value as a teacher from one set of data. Yes, I am setting high, rigorous expectations for my students, but we are not defined by a snapshot in time or a grade in the grade book.

This year I have had to let go of a lot of “control” and trust what I know about relating to my students. It has been so hard for me to not get caught up in the race of trying to “cover” everything. Sometimes we have to stop and talk. We have to stop and listen. Sometimes, we just need to read a story “because.” We have started “soft starts” in the morning – just so we can hang out together. I have been so intentional about taking those extra 15 minutes to have conversations – sometimes about little stuff, and sometimes about BIG stuff. I’m learning so much about myself as a teacher and a person. I’m learning, in such a tangible way, that my students truly will learn what they need to learn even if we spend a day “off the grid” (shhhh don’t tell my curriculum director). As a matter of fact, having spent so much time establishing trust and relationships with my kiddos has had a huge impact on their classwork. They are safe. They are valued. They know that it’s okay to get it wrong.  Because they know that Mrs. Taylor will love them even if…. And I remind them of that every day. They are more courageous in their work knowing that as long as we are trying we are learning.

For many of you out there who figured their way through all of this a long time ago, you are probably thinking “well, duh”! Yes – it does sound so simple and makes total sense on paper. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, or I was too worried about test scores for too long when I should have been figuring this out. For those of you who do this so well, and share all of your experiences, thank you so much. I have been immersing myself in all of your shared practices and ideas.

One hundred eighty days. I am blessed to have these sixty-five best friends for one hundred eighty days. I take that blessing very seriously. It’s not really a long time to make an impact. I am passionate about making those days count. My deepest desire is that they will learn from me. That they will learn not only the content that I love teaching them, but more importantly that they will learn their value. And that I love them.

In an instant

Just yesterday morning I was hit (literally) with the reality of how quickly a moment can change things. I opened the kitchen cabinet that we (attempt) to keep all of our water bottles in. On a side note, how many water bottles/refillable cups/yeti cups/etc does one family truly need? So I opened the cabinet to retrieve a water bottle to fill and take to school with me. The instant that the door opened, several water bottles tumbled out sending me into a screaming fit. One especially heavy container landed awkwardly on my hand. As I type this it probably wasn’t nearly as dramatic as it sounds. But trust me, it was quite the scene. This single second in time changed my upbeat, ready-to-take-on-the -world mood to a being instantly irritated, aggravated and ready to fight the world. I was able to recover quickly from my hand injury (which was not much more than an owie) but it took my mood a little longer to recover. I’m not sure why I was so mad. Not even sure who I was mad at. But looking back at the episode a day later, I realize that I let a really small, unexpected event rob me of at least an hour of my morning.

I have been thinking a lot about how this little thing is a lot like how life can be. In just an instant, lives can change. In just an instant, people can be gone from our world. In just an instant, diagnoses are delivered. In just an instant, finances crumble. In just an instant, relationships can be destroyed. The action of a water bottle falling out of the cabinet, in an instant, really made me think about how so many things hang in the balance in so many ways. I guess my takeaway will sound a bit cliche-ish…but the reality is that things can truly change in the blink of an eye. Within one heartbeat our whole world could be flipped upside down.

So what…..?

So…appreciate the life in every moment. Be present in every moment. Don’t miss the chance to speak those unspoken words. Smile – just because. Be someone’s hero. Ask for help. Chase your passion. Soak it in. Grab those moments and truly live in them. Don’t dwell on moments that have passed. Don’t worry about the moments that lie ahead. Live in the current moment because everything could change, in just an instant…

Milestones

stepping stonesAs a new parent, I remember being so excited for each of my children’s milestones; crawling, walking, talking, first tooth, etc. I couldn’t wait for them to reach each of them, and then to move on to the next “big” event. I would mark each of these glorious days in their baby book and swear I would remember them forever. As they got older, they still continued to reach new ones, but they didn’t seem to capture as much attention as when they were babies. Maybe that’s because life just got so busy that I didn’t take the time to fully appreciate them as I should have. What I wouldn’t do to have some of that precious time back to just slow down and enjoy each moment for its true worth. I feel like I almost wished their childhood away by saying things like “I can’t wait until they walk…I can’t wait until her first day of school…”. 

This past year has been full of milestones for both of my “big” kids. Zach finished his junior year at Otterbein University. And instead of coming home for the summer, he moved into his first apartment in Columbus (which is now home to him). For the first time in 21 years, my son does not live with me. It’s left so an odd emptiness in our house and in my heart. Carty played her last soccer game ever, attended her last prom, graduated from high school, and is at her college orientation as I type this! She is no longer a child. She is embarking on her life after school. So many milestones for her this year. As I left her at orientation (why the heck were parents not allowed?) she got out of the car and told me to drive away before she walked in. I got a big smile on my face because I knew that she knew that I was going to snap a picture of her heading straight into her next milestone. I did as she asked and drove away without a picture on my phone. But I did pause to capture the image in my mind and saved it to my heart. (Jeez that sounds so cheesy – honest but cheesy). 

Why did it all happen so fast? That sounds so cliche…but wow is it so true. I can remember so many people telling me that it would. But in those busy times of practices and homework and laundry, at times it felt like it would never end. So here I sit, tears streaming down my face, wishing that I had paid more attention along the way. Somehow, all of a sudden, my babies are grown. They are moving on to their own lives. Yes, I will always and forever be their momma…but things will never be the same. I’m sad that they are not babies anymore, but I know that there will continue to be more events that we will share. We will learn to navigate this new normal. And I will cherish each new milestone that comes along. 

*(I’m sorry (not sorry) for the emotional messiness of this post. Writing is my way to process and take time to feel what I’m really feeling. And also just to ramble a little bit.)

Words

Blank 10 x 8 inI am a word person. I love words. I love when authors use words in magical ways. I love quotes. I hold onto quotes that have been meaningful to me in different seasons of my life. I find myself pulling quotes out of my brain from the past to help me through whatever I’m going through presently. Right now, I am working on myself – my fitness and my weight (yes….here we go again). I have been successful once before losing weight and getting in really good shape, so I know I can do it. I’ve also failed way more times than I have triumphed, so I understand when even my closest friends and family doubt me. (It’s all good though…doubters are just fuel for my comeback).

So I’m currently finishing up my first full week of being intentionally focused on losing 40 pounds. I have worked out everyday except today (my sabbath). I have make food choices that I feel really good about. I feel better. I am proud of myself for sticking with what I started – granted its only been a week, but that IS progress. Right?! But, like many of us in this modern society, I want some instant gratification! I feel like I should be seeing results. I should look different in the mirror. That dang number on the scale should be getting smaller! Why am I so frustrated that there are no visible results for all of my hard work?! I do feel better, so why isn’t that enough?

As I pouted my way out of the bathroom this morning after the scale betrayed me, I was reminded of a quote that has been important to me at many times in my life. TRUST THE PROCESS! These words seem simple and perhaps they are overused, but these three words hold so much meaning and power for me. These words guided me through some very dark times in my life.This weight loss journey is definitely a process. It will not happen overnight. It won’t happen in a month. It may not happen in a year. But it WILL happen as long as I allow myself to remember that it is indeed a process. It will require trust on my part. My “instant gratification” will have to come from the small wins along the way. My results will have to come from my non scale victories from day to day. I am so thankful for the words that I hold tight from the past, and for the words that I learn each day that teach me lessons and keep me strong.

Thirteen again

Our 12 year old started swim team for this summer. Practice is every day at 7:45. Since we are at the Y for over an hour, I thought it would be a great time to spend some time exercising. However, since I have the two little girls, the only form of exercise I can get is swimming laps in the pool (no child watch that early). Let me say that I am NOT a swimmer….well like a “swim for exercise” swimmer. I’m more of a float around and soak up the sun swimmer. But, I really am motivated to get myself in shape, so I decided to use the time to better myself. Yesterday was my first day in the pool. I walked in and was totally intimidated instantly. But, I pushed through and didn’t compare myself (too much) to the people around me. Not even the 70 year old woman who was twice as fast as me. I swam 20 laps (with lots of stopping in between) and felt pretty good about myself.

I woke up this morning with that soreness that lets you know that you actually did something the day before. I was determined to walk into the pool with confidence this morning and push myself a little bit more. When we arrived, there was one lane open in the pool. The middle lane. Right in the middle of the “real” athletes with their caps and goggles and swimsuits. So – did I just jump right in and do my thing? Heck no! I sat on the bleachers and waited until the slow lane opened up. So much for feeling good about myself. Finally, the end lane opened up and I worked up my nerve to get in and start working toward my 20 lap goal. After a couple of laps I had stopped worrying about the world record swimmers around me and was focusing on myself. On lap 9, I noticed that the two male lifeguards (maybe 16 years old) had some secret inside joke that had them both cracking up. Of course, I KNEW they were laughing at me. Maybe it was my granny swimsuit. Maybe it was my inability to make it all the way down the lane in under 2 minutes. Perhaps they were laughing at my attempt at the breast stroke (which probably looked more like a I was drowning, rather than exercising). Why did I automatically assume that they just had to be laughing at ME? I am a strong, successful woman! I run a household of 7 people. I run my own classroom. Why was I letting these boys make me feel so insecure?! I felt like I was thirteen again…when I was so insecure and was certain that people were talking about me and making fun of me. I felt like that awkward little girl with the big, thick glasses who people laughed at and called names. Why was I letting myself believe that they were making fun of me. And IF they were, why did I even care? All I was trying to do was make myself better by working to get in shape. It didn’t matter what these two children were laughing at! I hate that I automatically retreat back to those hurtful, awkward times when I had ZERO self confidence, and preferred to be invisible. I’m not sure what it says about me that I can be reduced to feeling so poorly about myself so easily. But I do know that I need to dig deep and explore the whys behind those feelings.

There is a positive to this tale. When I felt like I was being laughed at and made fun of, I wanted to quit. I wanted to wrap up in my towel and sit in the locker room and cry. But I was only on lap 9 and I had set a goal for myself. I was not going to let the senior citizens who were swimming twice as fast as me, or the adolescent lifeguards who were laughing at me (probably wasn’t even about me) derail the goals I had set for myself this morning. So I did what I have learned to do best. I fought. I battled through. I finished what I started. I only wish that I could be thirteen again, so that the fighter in me could show my 13 year old self how strong I really am.