Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blogging Contest

In April, I am participating in "Blogging From A to Z" on BOTH of my Blogger blogs.

This particular blog is a bit more personal, so my topics will be personal, with maybe a smattering of poetry thrown in.

Here is the link, if you want to participate: A to Z 

As a participant, you commit to also go read 5 blogs that are below you on the list, making this a social event as well. I'm kinda excited about it. I have to pace myself, though and start writing NOW to make the deadlines. If you do not post anything for 5 consecutive days, you get booted. To make this happen, I am scheduling posts. So, expect posts from me every day but Sunday in the month of April.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Honesty: Who Am I? The Midlife Crisis or The Crossroads

I am not sure I really qualify for the mid-life crisis. I'm not in the middle of my lifespan (I hope). But I have been feeling like I am in the wrong place. Maybe I'm surrounded by the wrong people, or in the wrong town, or have the wrong job.  Feeling "wrong" seems to be a common occurrence among adults. This is why there are so many well-paid speakers out there giving inspirational speeches! I've even talked a little bit with my parents about how I feel. As an adult, the parents no longer really have much to say. This is my ship in the storm to guide, not theirs.

I'm feeling mediocre.

I think I missed the early adulthood phase where you do some major self-discovery and it is finally catching up with me. I was always the good girl doing what was expected of me. I went to college, never partied, had one solid relationship, got married, had kids, and chased after a career. I'm pretty boring. I color inside the lines.

And life is not so bad. It's not always easy nor pretty, and I do get depressed sometimes and happy other times, but it's not fraught with hardships. I have made a life with my husband that meets our needs. It is satisfying. Then again, I am not on any quests, nor adventures, either. I can't complain.

However, I am feeling restless.

So what do I want to do with my life?

I went to college to become a special needs teacher. As I have progressed through this field, struggled to find a job, gone back to college for more training, and am finally working in a position I feel most confident, I constantly second-guess myself. There is always someone out there who can do things in a different and more effective way. I do include those kinds of thinkers on my team and value their input, modeling their styles when I can, but I also feel so dumb and incapable beside them when they share their knowledge with me.

I worked with many kinds of special needs people at all ages. I love when I am able to connect with someone and they do something they've never done before. I like tutoring. I tutor some students with special needs and some without. I think one way I might go is to become an ABA therapist. This is an up and coming field and much more flexible than teaching for locations where you can work. Plus, the work is more of a therapy where one-on-one work is performed. I have always been better at one-on-one.

What I really love to do is write. I didn't know this in my college years. It's nearly too late to go back and take classes. Where could I go with it? This future is cloudy, but also would most likely give me the adventure and freedom I seek.

I've thought about being some kind of speaker, promoting my book, generating interest and dollars and traveling the country. I don't have a topic. What do I have to say? I am passionate about Education, Special Needs, Parenting, Blogging, Love, and Creative Writing. What can I do with this?

If I write a book about these things and promote it, will I be happy?
If I do not, is the next step for me ABA therapy?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Honesty: 3 Months of Depressive Moments

I'm beginning a series about Honesty.

I have a confession to make. So far, 2015 has been pretty crappy, emotionally, for me.

In January I had a breakdown, crying, because I wasn't being a good wife and I didn't know what to do about it. My husband was open and communicated his feelings and I felt horrible. I felt like a failure as a wife. The role of wife and lover and partner physically was outside of my grasp. If I couldn't be the woman he needed, I was a loser.

While there is some truth in this, having a physical relationship whenever only one of you desires it does not a marriage make. He was frustrated that we could not connect anymore and I could not tell him what I needed (as he was willing to do anything for me) because I didn't know. I was broken. I was without answers. My silence was more disheartening than the initial problem.

What worked for us was expressing our needs and then trying small steps to meet them. We had to meet in the middle, compromise. I had to stop shutting him out and being preoccupied with other things. This is what worked:

1. Cuddling, without pressure to be anything more than a warm body in the presence of each other. I would concentrate on relaxing and quelling all the negative, or distracting, thoughts that arise and remember that love feeling. I was the one with all the negative feelings crowding the space where I should have been cherishing the moments we had together. When I relaxed and let the love in, I was more receptive to warmth and could kiss back with more passion.

2. Share a few dreams or goals and reconnect where you are. Do you need a vacation? Ask what places would be reasonable and ideal. Your partner may have different ideas. Mine did. Is there a way to have them shoulder a burden for you? While he can't help with any of my work-related stuff, he can help with the children, or be supportive of a night out.

3. Perhaps the humdrum of day to day work tasks has left little time to be together. BE together, not just in the same room, but in the same space, both physically and mentally. If you have to get rid of the kids, take a 'mental health' day from work, or clear your schedule in any way to make time for your partner, do it. It doesn't have to be a full day, but maybe a few hours of just the two of you, really listening to each other, crying it all out, giving back rubs, or cuddling is enough to reconnect. While we have a 'date night' it is about fun with others more than about us building our relationship. We still needed to stop everything and have some 'us' time.

After I began to feel better, and cried myself over this hurdle, letting go of the guilt that held me back I learned to become the wife he needed me to be. I shared that at the heart of it, I was feeling like a jane-of-all-trades and a master of none. I felt like all my efforts were treading water in life and not succeeding at all. I lost the desire to improve.

These were mostly work issues.

At work, I began to have some paranoia. I felt that others on my team were talking about my lack of good leadership skills and all my shortcomings and failures behind my back. I have no idea how true or false this is. What I should have done was schedule a meeting and just let us all air our grievances, and come up with ideas for bettering the work environment. The same kind of communication I had with my husband I needed at work.

But I didn't do that. I couldn't face crying in front of them. I hate to cry in front of people who are not super close to me. It took time and a few changes, but things began to look up again. I admitted some negative feelings and had some friendlier casual conversations and began to stop thinking that they were 'out to get me' in a sense. It was not that they WANT my job. (Hardly anyone wants to do what I have to do. In fact, they say often that if things go sour, I'm the one that gets blamed. I know they don't want that pressure. Sometimes I don't want it either.) Rather, it was that they thought they could do better work than I could and often implemented their ideas without telling me, knowing that I naturally and usually agree that they are good ideas. I felt a bit out of control and I didn't like it. However, sometimes I need someone else to take the helm for a while and steer the ship. Clearly, if I was having emotional issues, I was in no shape to be commanding. They probably sensed this and took over. I knew I would have to put on my big girl pants and lead soon enough. I watched for my opening and quietly began to control what I could to restore their faith in me. I'm not one for loud outbursts, but covert and introverted ways to climb back out on top.

Finally, my parenting was questioned. This hurt as bad as the role of wife. This cut me to the core. If I'm a bad mother, then how can people trust me with their children? Who am I as a parent if I am this bad at it?

I cried and felt terrible and angry at myself. I felt like this mama duck. I didn't sleep well. I had a plan. I knew what had to be done. Still, I wanted someone to say all those encouraging things to me that are borderline lies, all opinions that I am better than this and I am good and not bad, but no one was around. But my logical partner simply was not going to give me that. He said if I had a plan, that was good enough. I should get some rest. But I kept beating myself up. I would get angry, then depressed that I was such a loser, then angry about being depressed and think about my plan to steady myself, which led to thinking about why I had to have a plan in the first place, and then I'd get depressed again and angry at myself. This cycle lasted for a few hours.
I got a little sleep that night and went to work and distracted myself. I got a few things done and talked about non-parenting things and solved tiny problems, took control where I could, and finally felt better. The morning was rough physically because I was so upset, my intestines were unhappy. I spent extra time in pain and in the bathroom until I stopped feeling emotionally bad. My physical symptoms dissipated and I got through the day. Nothing I had imagined happening as a result of my poor parenting skills happened. I began to release these unnecessary fears and worries.

Later, a friend contacted me that I haven't heard from in a long time. She was exactly what I needed. She said the things I needed to hear. While I appreciate the logical responses that ask me to solve my problems and to plan for any eventual relapse in judgement and how to deal with it, I also need the emotional sympathizing and the kind words that emotional people provide. I cried again, because I felt loved. Logical people don't always come across to others as loving, empathetic people. She was my sympathizer. We swapped stories of hard times and supported each other and reminded each other that people have lows and need to remember to encourage each other through them.

While these episodes are short, I am reminded of how it must feel for those who have major mental health issues, chronic depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other issues that I do not know the names of. This is not a post about having chronic depression. This is a post about what I went through in a short time and how I dealt with it. It may help someone, it may annoy others.

I want 2015 to stop being so bad. I have to look at it as a sort of 'growing pain' and accept that it's just my time to learn some hard lessons. It's time to grow a thicker skin. That hurts. I have to change with the times, with the situations, and become a better person.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Female Seeking Great Escape

Work has been really emotionally draining lately. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I love the students I teach. I respect the careers of my peers and supervisors, and I went into this knowing full well my capabilities, weaknesses, and strengths. This is a good fit for me. Maybe not perfect, but good. I fought long and hard for this. I earned the right to do what I do. I don't know how long I can keep doing it. Isn't that sad to say? There is so much stress involved being a functional special needs teacher with testing, paperwork, planning, organizing, and dealing with the protocols, daily flubs, and daily struggles. It is wonderful to see student progress and to celebrate milestones, but it is devastating to find flaws in your system, cracks in your facade, and holes in your plans. When things go bad, they can go really badly in relatively little time. One second, peace, the next..boom! chaos. 

Sometimes I feel like I am alone in my ocean of responsibility and want some company, and sometimes I would rather be alone in the ocean and handle things my way. 

When you work with other adults in the same room, there has to be a clear leader. 

I like to share leadership and take turns. This reduces stress.  I like to delegate tasks and have time to stop and think and plan for the next stage. Sometimes this irritates people. They think they are doing my job. They don't realize I need them to be a sounding board, provide fresh perspectives, advocate for the students they are closest to, and to help out with more than the mundane cleaning, managing, and grading papers. I haven't yet learned the art of getting people to do what I want while making it all seem like their idea. Instead, I accept the ideas of others.

The other half of the coin is doing everything the government says I have to do to be 'in compliance' and to keep the 'school grade' high. Some of this is really political. We all play nice, but those that know the right people are the ones who get things the fastest. Sometimes I feel like I won't ever understand a person and that is holding me back. I have to be forced to contact them and make my requests.

I can get along with almost anybody, work with a myriad range of personalities, but sometimes I get overwhelmed by trying to hold it all together and trying to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes I stay quiet and observe when I need to speak out and put a stop to some actions. It happens. Then I feel guilty.

Mostly, it is not guilt that plagues me, but a sense of inadequacy. I feel overwhelmed and out-maneuvered. 
I feel like if I just get through this day, go home, plan for tomorrow, think, come up with a solution to the problem, vent, rant, rave, eat chocolate, and sleep. I can get up tomorrow and magically have a better day.

Work is WORK, man. 

When do I have time to be ME? You think teachers just give homework, but they take home as much baggage as any student and plan and give and nurture and spend their money on their students. 

Many of you would say, "yeah, well, what did you expect going into the teaching field?"
I knew full well what I was getting into. Really, I did. You don't do this without knowing the sacrifices.

But oh, the sacrifices! Sometimes they catch up to you. 

This month, heck, this time of every school year, is full of the overwhelming sense of being bogged down and mired in the daily grind. While the daily struggles are new, and the tasks are many and varied, and it is never mindnumbingly boring, it is emotionally draining. Can I be better? Can I do more awesome things? Look at my failures. Look at what I have not accomplished. Look at what I forgot I planned to do by February. Look at how much time is left until Spring Break! Why are they whispering about me? Why is everyone frowning?

Okay, so some of that is paranoia, but when you get ..prickly.. it feeds the monsters and they grow to fill the spaces between the planning, organizing, testing, and failing. Sometimes you need a little space. And being snowed in is not very space-giving. I know February is about Love and Support and I have a very loving and supportive husband, but he is sick of my ranting. He is one of those "work is WORK" people who tells me to suck it up and problem solve with my logical half of my brain and just figure a way around it.
So I am.
And my creative side is longing for a great escape. I've been watching travel shows, reading books, and planning writing escapes in my bits of spare time.

(Anyone got a winning lottery ticket?)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Goal: Intentionally Teaching Children to "Pay It Forward" in 2015 and Being Their Example

I have a keyword tag for it, I mention it, but do I really "pay it forward"?

Paying it forward means being kind to others without expecting anything back in return.

I researched ways to pay it forward, to find lists of ideas and compare my deeds to those suggestions.
I hold the door open for people, donate clothes to goodwill, recycle, and sometimes let people cut in line in front of me at the store or in traffic. I admit sometimes. This past year I did volunteer at the MS Walk in September. I enjoyed that.

I have to admit, a few of the acts of kindness made me cringe, "Oh, I couldn't do that!" Where did that attitude come from? I should embrace some of those as a challenge. Things like buying stuff specifically to donate; pet food, clothes, food. Food is the easiest. It is the cheapest! Man, I'm a tight-wad.

My goal is to not only consider ways to Be Kind everyday, but to DO something outside of my comfort zone to intentionally help others.

Moreover, I need to teach my students and my own children to be kind. After some more research, I saw that there wasn't a singular list I liked for teaching children, so I made my own.

At school:

  • Smile at someone who seems to be having a rough day
  • Carry books for someone on crutches
  • Compliment someone, tell them they played a great game, painted a nice picture, or wore great shoes
  • Hold the door for someone behind you
  • Take found items to Lost and Found, even money.

In the Community:

  • Put shopping carts back in the cart corral
  • Bake and take cookies to local fire and police stations with thank you cards
  • Hold a Teddy Bear and Friends drive and donate to police and fire stations. If they have a kid in distress, they would love to have a stuffed animal to give them!
  • Take cards, Valentine's, or notes to local nursing homes
  • Donate clothes, toys, to daycares, charity, or to a family whose house burned down.
  • Donate items to the local humane shelter, maybe even volunteer there or foster a pet
  • Give cookies and thank yous to your local postal workers
  • Pay for someone's drink or toll behind you from a coin jar you and your kids save change in
  • Allow a person with a few items in line in front of you
  • Shop with your child for canned goods that you then donate together to the local food bank
  • Teach your children how to greet strangers. "Hello" and a smile from a sweetie might make their day.
  • Encourage them, if old enough, to use It donates rice to hungry people while your child learns new things.
  • Live in a tourist trap? Offer to take photos for people and families struggling to get into a selfie.
  • Put coupons you don't need on community bulletin boards. Share coupons for restaurants with others in the restaurant that you don't use.
  • Take found items to Lost and Found. It is not always 'Finders Keepers'.
  • Many churches do wonderful things to help others. Find out what your church is doing and jump in!

At Home:

  • LISTEN! Listen to your kids without trying to fix anything, without adding to their stories, without trying to change the subject. They will learn to listen to their friends and others without judging, too.
  • Pick up litter in a local park, along your street, or in an open space nearby regularly. Recycle cans.
  • If you don't recycle, do. Kids can help separate and take bags of items to the recycling center, or out to the curb.
  • Donate books you no longer read. Schools, libraries, paperback exchanges, and other places like jails or prisons will take books. Call first, though. Find out what programs your town has. There are also some online.
  • Donate old towels to the humane shelter
  • Leave inspiring notes for each other. (or love notes)
  • Mow the neighbor's lawn
  • Put out bird feeders or fresh bird baths in winter. 

For More Ideas:
My Pinterest Be Kind Board
For Teachers and Schools
Rants From Mommyland: Kids Can Volunteer - These are divided by age groups
109 Acts of Kindness you can start doing today