Who Am I?

October is Connected Educator month and #kinderchat has a blogging challenge: “Tell us YOUR story. Who are you when you’re not “Teacher”? If you had to describe yourself and your life WITHOUT talking about your job, what would you say?”

Ok. So my blogging of late has been pretty much non-existent. I tried to get going this summer, but being on strike for five weeks with a two month break in the middle of it all wasn’t really an environment that I was inspired to blog in. I don’t like to focus on the negative, and the strike was one of the most emotional, stressful things I have experienced. But now let me try to start fresh. I said I would be a part of #bcedbloggers and #kinderchat challenged me, too, so I guess I have no more excuses. I’ll blog about more important things soon…but for now, let me tell you a bit about myself.

Who am I when I am not a teacher?

I am a wife…Shawn and I just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary this past August. We have known each other since Shawn was born (I robbed the cradle…we were family friends) and we got married eight months after we started dating. Shawn is my soulmate and the person I love to spend time with most of all.

I am a mother…David just started university and is pursuing an Honours degree in Physics on his road to becoming an astronaut. Matthew is in Grade 11 and loves break dancing and DJing. My boys actually like spending time with me and for that I am so grateful. I cherish every moment we can spend together because I know there will come a time when I won’t get to see them as much as I’d like.

I am a Christian…I am blessed to know Jesus.

I am a music lover…I love singing, dancing and being uplifted by good music of all genres.

I am a traveler…my favourite place in the world is Maui, Hawaii, and I had a wonderful holiday there this past summer. I have had many happy times in Disneyland with my family. We have cruised to Mexico and Alaska. We have relaxed by the pool in Palm Desert. I had the privilege of visiting Beijing, China, with David in 2011 when his school band played on the Great Wall. What an experience that was! And now I am looking forward to exploring the Caribbean on a cruise this coming Spring Break. Family vacation times are when we can turn off the phones (Shawn is required to carry his cell 24/7 for his job), escape and relax completely. I would not trade the memories we have created together on vacation for anything in the world.

I am a foodie…I love to cook, I am learning to bake, and having a meal with family or friends brings me great joy.

I am a golfer…sort of. Shawn and the boys often left me at home when they went golfing and I didn’t want to miss out, so I started golfing about a year ago. I don’t let the game frustrate me and I enjoy the times I can spend my time with my family chasing a little white ball down the fairway. Golf is a great way for me to connect with my dad and my brother, too.

I am a swimmer…I swam competitively from the ages of 8-16. I still love the water and swim as often as I am able. Water is soothing and restorative.

I am a reader…my favourite authors are Jeffrey Archer and David Baldacci, but I also love to escape into Sophie Kinsella’s world of funny female characters. Anything with a good story captivates me.

I am too often a couch potato…I really need to up my fitness routine. I have started being more aware of how much physical activity I am getting by wearing my Fitbit and now if my complete and utter exhaustion from school start-up would ease a bit I could get back to being more active.

I love to walk…I could solve the world’s problems on a nice, long walk in the sunshine.

I am an introvert…if you were to meet me at a social event I can easily fool you into thinking I am really comfortable, but it exhausts me and I need time and space to recharge.

Ok…so this is not a great piece of writing, nor is it a typical blog post from me, but hopefully these little snippets will help you get to know me a bit better. If relationships are the basis for all situations, perhaps I should have shared some of this with you before?

What Now?

For the past two summers I have participated in the KinderBlog challenge.  This summer I am going to ATTEMPT to participate.  It has been so long since I’ve blogged, I am not sure how this will go. In any case, here is this week’s challenge and my first step back into blogging.  If it makes no sense to you, that’s ok…I have to start somewhere.

So here is this week’s challenge:

Write the post that has been in your head (or your drafts folder) for a while now. You know the one. The one you write while you drive to work, or while you are in the shower. What is the question, or issue, or opinion, or emotions, you have been chewing on for a while now? Alternatively, what is the post that you have started a million times, picked away at, edited and re-edited, and almost trashed?  Did you read an article or a Facebook post that provoked a reaction, and that you can’t stop thinking about? THIS IS YOUR CHANCE.

Be Brave. Write it.

OK, I honestly don’t even know where to start.  Life these past few months has been…shall we say…INSANE.  Since I wrote this post: my mother-in-law has been diagnosed with cancer and has been in and out of hospital for weeks on end (thankfully she is home now); my stress level has been so high and caused so much physical pain that I wondered how I would finish out the school year; the school year ended with teachers being on strike and that situation has not yet been resolved; my father-in-law walked away from a car accident he should have died in; and both of my boys started working full-time, so now I have A LOT of alone time to start to process all that has happened.  See, I TOLD you it was crazy!

I haven’t even really begun to grieve the fact that I am not part of the #tiegrad class anymore.  I willingly withdrew from that program, but it still hurts to see my classmates connect on twitter.  I know it was the best decision, but that doesn’t make it any easier to process in my brain.  The timing couldn’t have been better, though…within 10 days of withdrawing from university, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and our lives went into a tailspin. There were many weeks when Shawn and I would go to work all day then spend the evening at her bedside in the hospital.  Thankfully, mum is home now, still very weak, but not as sick as she was the first few months of her diagnosis.  I am also thankful that my sister-in-law, Joanne, is able to live with mum and dad and be a caregiver while mum is so ill. We are praying that the chemo will shrink the cancer and give us some more time with mum, and in the meantime we are enjoying the short visits her illness will allow.

As for my own health, I am happy to say that after months of physio therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture and doctor’s orders for more rest, I am feeling 90% better.  My tennis elbow still hurts a bit, but it is not a constant burning pain like it was before.  I need to consciously avoid working on the computer (I know…trying to finish this quickly!) and on my iPad, and make sure that I am doing my exercises to take care of myself.  I am really trying.  HONESTLY!  I even borrowed a Fitbit to see if that would help motivate me. (Thanks Paula!)  I must say, I do find that the Fitbit is helping keep me on track.  The bracelet keeps reminding me to move more, sit less, and be aware of how much I am exercising.  The only frustration I have had with it is not being able to count any laps I swim towards my daily fitness goal.  So, on the days I swim rather than walk, it looks like I haven’t been active.  Oh well, I guess it’s only a little annoyance. Hopefully by the end of the summer, I will be a healthier, happier me.

The teacher’s strike…I don’t know where or how to begin to write out my frustrations and anger here.  Let me just say that I am frustrated that our government doesn’t think it important for them to be a good example and follow the law.  The teachers have won in Supreme Court TWICE and still, 12 years later, our students do not have the supports that I gave up raises and benefits to guarantee in contract. It makes me sad that my own boys have gone through their entire school careers without the supports that teachers fought for.  Our kids deserve better.  Teachers deserve to have their constitutional rights upheld.  Ok, enough…I will not be writing more about this situation.  I just hope I don’t have to be standing on a picket line in September…but if I have to, I will.

A few days ago, my father-in-law fell asleep at the wheel and rolled his car into a ditch.  The policeman who arrived at the scene was expecting to call an air ambulance, not witness dad get out of the car on his own.  Dad literally doesn’t have a scratch on him.  Nothing.  He is FINE.  There is NO WAY he should have survived that crash and the only explanation we have is that the angels were working overtime to protect him.  When I got the phone call from Shawn saying “dad’s been in an accident, he’s at the hospital, we don’t know how he is”, I can honestly say that I thought we’d be starting the hospital vigils all over again like we did with mum.  We are so thankful that he is ok!

OK, so what is all this rambling about and why did I have to get it out?  Because if I didn’t write this, I think it would still be festering inside me.  These past few months have not been easy.  There were times that I didn’t know if I could get out of bed in the morning, I was so stressed out and in so much physical pain.  I don’t think there was a day that went by from February to June that I didn’t have tears.  Some days there were just a few tears, easily brushed off, but most days the tears flowed freely and often. Unfortunately, sometimes even at school.  You see, when you experience life like we have for the past few months, it is nearly impossible for me to turn off my emotions.  I am an emotional person…not in the crying sense of the word, but in the EXPERIENCING of emotion.

Every day when I go to school, I experience emotion…joy when my students are excited about their learning, frustration when I am not getting through to one of my little KinderPals, hurt when I see one of them hurting, and above all else, LOVE because I learn to love them more each day I am with them.  I call my students MY KIDS because of the emotion that I bring to my teaching.

Likewise, I am emotional with my own family.  I LOVE THEM ALL more than life itself! I am excited about the new jobs that my boys have. I cherish the time that I spend with my husband. I am sad that my mother-in-law has to suffer through this horrible disease called cancer.  I am grateful to have a loving extended family. And I could go on…but you get the idea.

Suffice it to say, if we don’t embrace all the emotion of our life experience, I think we miss out.  Yes, there are high highs and low lows, but all of them put together create something called a LIFE.  I had to take a step back these past few months and go into survival mode.  I still felt all the emotion, but I had to disengage a bit so that I wouldn’t be swallowed up by all the intense feelings. I think I am beyond that point now, back to a life that I can actually experience fully without being overwhelmed by it all.  I think.

I have often said over the past few months that we can’t talk about IF something challenging in your life will happen will happen, but WHEN.  It was my turn.  And I think the classic song by “Turn Turn Turn (to Everything There Is a Season)” by The Byrds illustrates that quite nicely.

So, back to my title…I say “What Now?” not with an element of fear, as I would have these past difficult months, but with a feeling of hope.  What wonderful, beautiful, amazing, incredible things can I experience…amongst the heartache and stress.  I’m ready to start LIVING again!

 

 

Busy is NOT the Boss of Me Anymore!

So…the title says it all, really.  I thought I could try to be Superwoman, but apparently that is not in my DNA.  I have found my kryptonite.  It’s name is university.

I have withdrawn from my #tiegrad studies.

There…I wrote it down in bold letters.  That makes it official, right?

I feel like a truck has hit me.  I am physically and emotionally broken.  I had wanted to better myself.  I had wanted to get my Masters degree.  I had wanted to do it all while not giving up anything of my real life.

Well, reality is very different. 

I gave up a lot. 

My family gave up a lot.

I gave up sleep.  My brain was racing around in too many different directions because of all the new things I was trying to learn and stuff in there.

I hope now that I will be able to sleep.

I gave up my health.  There was no time for exercise.  I’m now being treated for tennis elbow and ironically I have never played tennis.  The injury comes from too much time on the computer.  BTW…after this post I will be taking a blogging hiatus.  I will come back to it eventually, but I need to rest my arms and typing with only my left hand is really tricky.

Some day the pain will go away, won’t it?

I gave up time with my friends.  I miss my friends dearly, but if I were to do my best at studying, time for fun had to be limited. 

I hope they will forgive me.

I gave up time with my family.  This one hurts the most.  I asked my family to support me and they did in the most loving and selfless ways.  I am so sorry that my ambition took me away from them.

I hope they will forgive me.

I hope I can forgive myself.

My wise friend, Carolyn Durley, wrote a post on her blog not too long ago titled “Is busy the boss of you?” and if you haven’t read it yet, please do.  This post HAUNTED me.  Busy is exactly what was the problem in my life. To quote Carolyn:

Not only is busy a bully but he is a liar too. Some of his lies you may have heard include:

1. Busy is how to make a difference in the world

2. Busy will pay you back one day.

3. Busy excuses you from being present.

4. Busy has a higher purpose.

5. Busy has your best interests at heart.

6. Busy is a sign of toughness.

7. Busy wants to help you be “successful.”

8. Busy is the same as quality work.

9. Busy offers fulfillment.

10. Busy is for important people.

There is far more to my story.  I have had a new split grade to teach (stress), chronic back problems that were aggravated by being a student (stress), THREE different principals this year (stress) and so many other things that I just pushed aside as part of attaining my goal.

There is never one thing that brings someone to a monumental decision.

I had many people give me well-meaning advice.  “Just push through, you can DO IT!” “I did my Masters, SO CAN YOU!” “It’s short-term pain for long-term GAIN!” Of course I would have loved to stick with it, but you know what?  The only person’s advice I should listen to is my own.  My brain, heart and body were telling me that this was the wrong decision.  I spent five weeks in the fall being more sick than I have ever been before…but I was enjoying my class , so I ignored the signs of burn out. Now my arm hurts so much I can’t even pick up my coffee cup without wincing in pain.

My body is telling me I need a break.

My heart knows it is the right decision.

So, there you have it.  Some may call me a failure.  Some may call me a quitter.  I have called myself those things so many times over the course of my internal struggle to make this decision.  But you know what?  I am not a failure and I am not a quitter.  I have become self-aware enough to know that I can’t do it all, and I can’t expect the people around me to pay for my ambitions and wants. I know that I am a good person, wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, friend and teacher…WITHOUT the extra letters behind my name.

I will continue to learn.  That does not have to be done in a university.  My twitter PLN helps me learn every day and for that I thank them deeply.

I am not wealthier in the financial sense (the extra degree would have bumped my pay significantly) but I am RICH in so many other ways that the money doesn’t matter.

I have a wonderful, amazing, loving husband.

I have two incredible, awesome, brilliant sons.

I have incredibly supportive and loving parents, siblings and extended family members.

I have the best and most understanding friends (both real and in the virtual world) that anyone could ask for.

I teach at a fantastic school with great colleagues, kids and their families.

You see, money can’t buy what I have. 

I AM BLESSED AND I AM HAPPY!

#tiegrad…I am so sorry I couldn’t make it work.  You are an amazing group of people and I am honoured to have been traveling this journey with you.  I wish you nothing but the best and can’t wait to celebrate with you when you finish your degrees!

Valerie…thank you for encouraging me, believing in me and teaching me.  I will be forever grateful for the faith that you have in me. I will continue to learn from you, even though it is not in a formal university program.