Adulting, teaching

Lie: You Can Be Anything You Want When You Grow Up

I must admit, that occasionally at work I can have a bad attitude. Especially if I am tired or overwhelmed. Most days I’m busy from the minute I arrive at 7:25 until the end of the school day (3:00) or even the end of my work day (which varies from 5-6:00.) This week, I was grading papers while eating, waiting for teacher’s meeting (during my lunch break.) That’s when that lie slipped out of my mouth even if it was in jest. “I could have been anything, and I chose this.”

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But the truth is, that’s a lie. The truth is that I had the intelligence and skill set to be a vast number of different things, but not everything. I could not be anything. My academic mind has limits that prevented me from certain fields. Trust me, I would not make a competent nuclear physicist. I would not make a good book editor. You definitely wouldn’t want me doing surgery on you. My artistic/musical skill, athletic ability, and personality traits eliminated many other options. (Concert violinist, pro-athlete, and infantry solider to name a few.) My lack of commitment knocked out a whole other set of options (doctorate degree…not feeling it), as did my financial limitations.  But still, I had a lot of viable options.

So why did I pick the job I currently have?  Because I really had no choice.

I picked this career because It’s who I am. I teach. Sure, people fulfill that desire in a number of different ways from drill sergeant to corporate trainer, but my blend of personality traits, my experiences, and my place in life has perfectly led me to this place. And I am super grateful for that, even in the moments when I forget to be grateful.

classroom

I don’t think your job is like a soul mate, where you have only one possible perfect career or job that you need to find, but I do think we are made differently in such a way that certain jobs fit us better.

My career line may not be the most glamorous or well respected. My pay scale probably doesn’t reflect master’s degree education in the way it might in other fields. But who said everything should be equal.

Here’s what I think. Find the career that fits you, not the one you think you are suppose to have. Spend your days being yourself. Don’t believe the lie that if you love your job, you won’t work a day in your life. Believe me, I work. I work hard. But my job is part of fulfilling the calling I believe God has on my life, and that makes it worthy work.


Not feeling like you’re really living the dream? Here are some places to start. I learned about a few of these while in graduate school getting my master’s in counseling.

Self Direct Search

Meyers Briggs

This might also be good, but I haven’t tried this specifically. I have taken several others. I always hate how I always come out as having the gift of administration, and I’m trying to keep denying that about myself.
Spiritual Gifts Survey

books

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food

Getting Out of the Dinner Rut

Once upon a time, I made a new dish probably once a week. I had a rather lengthy list of regular options that we rotated through. Then I got busy and my mental capacity was being used for other items. To add to this, I switched grocery stores so the items I was seeing each week looked different. I literally forgot what I used to make for dinner. This past week, I was tired of the lack of variety finding its way to our table.  So I sat down and made a list of dinners I’d made before that we used to eat. Then I had my husband and son add to it. It wasn’t really that hard, but I had this sense that things would change. Sometimes it’s little steps that help to get us out of a funk.  Here is my list of dinner ideas. What are your ideas? Send me your thoughts.  Let’s make dinner great again.

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General
Soups
tortellini
enchilada
potato leek or cheddar
beef vegetable
egg drop or wonton
chicken and wild rice
Salads 
taco salad
Thai inspired
Caesar
Breakfast for Dinner
Pancakes/waffles/French Toast
Eggs
salad
United States
General
Roast Chicken with honey/Italian herb
Meatloaf
Ham
Steak
Pork chops/lamb chops
Chicken baked in Cream of chicken soup
Beef stew
Pot roast
Balsamic onion chicken
Rosemary garlic chicken
Ginger lime chicken
Roast Chicken/stuffing
Main Pasta
Lemon chicken orzo salad
Tuna noodle casserole
Sandwich type
Pork roll
Grilled chicken club
Hamburgers
Cheese steaks
Italian hotdog/ sausage sandwiches
Sloppy joe
Native American
Fried bread tacos
Cajun
Jambalaya or gumbo
TexMex
Chili
Southern 
BBQ chicken
Ribs
Pulled pork (chicken)
Fried chicken
Chicken and waffles
Leftovers/Finger Foods/Game Day
Chicken wings
Baked potato/mashed bar
Loaded nachos
bread -navajo
North American/South America/Caribbean
Mexican
Salsa chicken
Fajitas
Tacos
Enchiladas
Burritos
Caribbean
Beef and plantains
Jerk chicken
Caribbean chili lime tilapia
South America
Empanadas
dinber

Africa
Northern
Moroccan chicken kadra
Egyptian kofta
Western
Cameroon beef and peanut skewers
Beef and aubergine stew
Southern
Lemon fig chicken (papaya fried rice)

pretzel
Europe
Ireland/England
Fish and chips
Shepherds pie
Corned beef hash
Italian
Spaghetti (meat sauce, sausage, meatballs)
Lasagna/ baked ziti
Chicken scampi
Pesto pasta
Stromboli/Calzone
Chicken Alfredo
Pizza
Chicken marsala
French
Chicken cordon bleu
Beef burgundy
Ratatouille
Russia
Beef stroganoff (chicken)
German
Beef roulade
Sauerbraten
Schnitzel
Polish
Stuffed cabbage
Pierogies/Kielbasa
Hungry
Hungarian Goulash
Sweden
Swedish meatballs
Switzerland
Fondue

refugee 4
Asia
China
Asian burgers (ok, Asian inspired, not authentic)
Beef peppers steak
Asian tuna
Beef snow peas
Fried rice
Pork dumplings
Kung Pau chicken
Sweet and sour chicken
Lettuce wraps
Mongolia
Mongolian beef
Indonesia
Chicken satay
Thailand
Coconut Curry Chicken
Pad Thai
India
Tikki masala
Samosas
Indian chicken masala with hard boiled eggs
Middle East
Schwarma
Shish kebabs
Potato Latkes

bread monkey

 

 

 

 

 

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mental health, parenting teens, teaching

Stress Reducing Advice I Should Take More Often

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. This isn’t really anything new. Life is busy. Teaching is a profession that is both physically and emotionally taxing, despite the obvious joy that comes with seeing children learn and grow. I have teenagers both in the house and on their own. I worry. A creative mind and worry combined make for an expert worrier.

Recently, I discovered that I wasn’t releasing my tension. I was just holding on to it in some warped sense of strength. I couldn’t let it go. I was holding it in my neck and shoulders. I was holding it in my heart. I’d make it a couple of weeks and then let it all out in a good cry only to start the cycle again. Crying isn’t bad. I’m a big fan of a good cry, but here is my expert advice which I rarely take, but really should.

Leave Work At Work

Believe me, you don’t want to live in a world where teachers aren’t taking their work home both physically and emotionally. However, taking a couple nights a week to not bring home that bag of papers to grade or refusing to check your email can do wonders for you. Take a full day or more over the weekend where you don’t do anything for work. Unplug. It’s good for you. I work way too much, but I try to take Friday after work through Sunday morning church to unplug. Rest matters. For me, post dinner Bible study and scrolling through FB comes before parent emails, and that routine is often enough to push me out of my busy mindset and into a place of rest.

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Shop on-line

Seriously, Amazon is my BFF. Running out of toilet paper or dish soap? Amazon prime. Don’t want to cook dinner? Grubhub. Need groceries? Peapod. What a world we live in. I just googled grocery delivery and the number of places that offer delivery services is outstanding. Many stores offer plans where they pull your items and you just pay and check out. Sometimes it takes a while to set things up the first time, but you save time in the long run, and you can shop anytime and in your PJs.  I did this with Sam’s Club all the time when I was home with little ones. This morning I looked at ordering my Christmas tree online. MAIL ORDER CHRISTMAS TREES! Hallelujah!

Treat Yourself

I’m dieting. My treats are 12 calorie chocolate covered pomegranates. This is the definition of sadness. Treats could be a drink at the end of the week or a special dessert. But treats can also be reserving time for curling up with a blanket and a cup of tea to read a good book without guilt. It could be a planned girls night, coffee with a friend, date night, massage, or sleeping in. Taking time to live your life is important. We weren’t put here to just work non-stop. We definitely need fun. We probably need booze.

carbs

Create

We are made in the image of a creator God. We need to create. It’s different for each of us. I like to cook and write. Some people knit or rebuild cars. Some people design computer programs and others enjoy coloring books. It doesn’t matter what outlet you chose. Take some time to create. Warning: Creating small human beings may be fun at first, but leads to parenting which is the opposite of stress relief.
I’m still tired, and their is still tension in my shoulders and neck. I need better boundaries. I need to pray more. I know I need realistic expectations regarding what I can and cannot do in both my work and personal life. But taking some time to make a conscious choice to reduce my stress level not only for myself, but for the benefit of everyone around me.

beauty 4

 

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reading

Weekends are for Romance Novels

I have a deep desire to read the classics. Some of my favorites, like Pride and Prejudice, I can not help but re-read. Yet, I love starting and finishing another classic. Last summer it was much of the Anne of Green Gables stories. This year, it was Julie (Catherine Marshall) that I just had to read again along with The Abolition of Man (C.S. Lewis) which I definitely should have read on paper rather than listen to on audio. *

However, If you looked at my reading log from the last two months, I think you’d question my commitments to the classics. The vast majority of titles are short, recently published, romance novels. These are the kind of novels that I read in a weekend, often staying up way later than I should because I am lost in the story of a girls being swept off their feet by billionaires, historic fiction with strong female characters, and one of my favorite genres, Christmas romances.

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You know what? Zero guilt. The classics are classics for a reason. I honestly cannot believe I waited until I was in my 30s to read The Count of Monte Cristo** or was over 40 when my teaching of the Civil War led me to pick up Uncle Tom’s Cabin. These books moved and changed me in the way that literature does. But, the classics will still be there for me to work through year after year. Sometimes, that’s not what I need. Sometimes the perfect ante-dote for life is a book that lets you fade away into a story without any of the struggle that the language of older books often include. Who wants to sit with a dictionary while reading for relaxation? At times I literally feel stress drain out from my neck and shoulders as I read the sweet sappiness that comes with one of these modern gems. I need a book I can read in a a matter of hours. Life doesn’t stop because I’m overwhelm; it typically does the opposite. I need unadulterated happiness.

They offer salve for my tired soul. Regardless of audiobooks, kindle on my phone, or good old paper, they offer wholesome goodness. The world seems better. I can get up another day and face the struggles of my day.  It’s not about the joy of timeless stories; it’s the joy of the new love. It’s getting wrapped up in stories.

Now, for the record, I am also a fan of chick flicks. Hallmark movies. Christmas movies any time of the year. These are perfect for Friday nights when even reading is too hard,  sick days, and any time you want to enjoy a story communally. Only have 2 hours  or can’t get sucked into a novel? Watch a chick flick.

beauty 6

We were designed for story by a Creator God, the great storyteller. Stories help us get in touch with our humanity. Stories teach, mold, and change us. So, after a hard day, a rough week, or a trying season, it is stories that heal, refresh, and grow us.

Here is to the authors who create the stories.  Here’s to the stories that make us better, make us happier.


Top picks for authors:
Katherine Reay
Carrie Turansky
Emma St. Clair
Karen Witemeyr
Cathy Gohlke
Vickie McDonough


*As much as I adore audiobooks and completely count them as reading, some books are too weighty to absorb that way.

** Don’t you dare read the abridged version. Full text only.

 

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Adulting, family, parenting teens

Confessions From a Working Mom

I wrote this blog with pen and paper. Not because I wanted to return to the simple way of writing where ink flows out upon the white lined pages of a notebook. Not because I was so inspired that I was compelled to get my thoughts jotted down, lest I forget. Rather, I found myself sitting in a doctor’s office sans cell phone and thus unable to do any of the normal tasks I typically accomplish while waiting. No emails. No Facebook. No Kindle books. No hotspot to allow me to enter the grades for the papers I just finished correcting.

school

How did this come about?

The simple truth is that I forgot my phone at work. The more complicated reality is what I was doing at the moment I realized I didn’t have it.

I was lecturing my adolescent on his poor memory and lack of organizational skills. Yes, I am aware of the irony.

The details are unimportant, but here are the highlights of the conversation in simple points. I won’t identify who said what:
choices
excuses
executive functioning
responsibility
micromanage
consequences
waste
not listening
late

“Late” was the word that led me to have that same child search through my belongings strewn across the center row of our minivan seats looking for my cell phone. Instead of calling the doctor to say we’d be late, he was using his phone (which he had not misplaced) to successfully track down my phone for me.

As you can imagine, I groveled and thanked him and took back all my words.

Nope!

I said nothing. We both sat in tense silence, stewing over our mutual frustration. He went in for his appointment, and I wrote this confession of inadequacy.

I don’t want to lecture.
I don’t want to model ingratitude.
I don’t want to be so harried.

I want my words to be ladened with grace.
I want a life marked by peace.
I want to live a life more like Christ.

beauty 2

Of course, I will make amends, when he comes out. I will try to use this unplugged time to settle my soul and re-emerge into the evening with a more humble, sweeter attitude. We all have grumpy days, and we need to extend as much grace to ourselves as we’d offer to others, but sometimes it is my lack of grace towards others that marks my parenting and my life. I’m still a work in progress. I just wish I was further along. I mourn that I was not a better mother for my kids years ago. I wanted better for them; I want better for them now. Yet, I am the person God appointed to the task of raising them. He knew better than me. I pray he won’t give up on completing that good work he began in me.

I will try again.

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Adulting

My Body is a Machine!

I have come to the conclusion that my body (and my brain in particular) is a machine. Not one of those well oiled powerful engine types, but more like the copier that keeps jamming.  One minute, it can be organized and fully functional, teaching an amazing lesson, mentally keeping everyone’s schedule organized, planning and ordering Christmas present months ahead of time. The next minute, we are running out of toilet paper, grabbing fast food on the way home from work because I totally forgot we had some important evening event in 30 minutes, and tripping over a laundry basket that have been sitting in the kitchen for a week. My brain functions normally for a while, but I know the next paper jam is just around the corner.

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For the last 3 weeks, I have gone to the grocery store and bought a large pack of toilet paper. I couldn’t remember if we needed it, and figured we were probably low. Of course only three people are living at home, and we’re out of the house for the vast majority of every weekday. My closet is now so full of toilet paper I am having a hard time figuring out where I’m going to store food. I reminded myself this morning that when I went shopping I needed to stop buying toilet paper.

This past weekend, I spent hours writing detailed lesson plans for the week and then printed out an original copy of everything to make sure I had everything I needed. Then, I realized I had completely forgotten about my “big picture” plans, planned for the wrong lesson on Thursday,  and needed to hurriedly make copies before the students arrived.

My body is a wreck. My feet are in constant pain, and the doctor’s plan of stretches and orthotics have only been able to minimally reduce the pain. I’ve dropped 20 pounds, but I still have to limit sitting and standing throughout my day. I get insomnia, because my brain is determined to run throughout the night when I want it to just SHUT UP!. Jay and I are talking about retirement communities like we’re 80 years old.

I think think my brain is just on overload much of the time. I can’t figure out how to slow it down, slow my life down. I’m tired, but my wheels are spinning and momentum is driving it. I want to hit the brakes, but at the same time, I don’t really want to stop. And that’s the real problem.

waterfall

I don’t know what makes me feel this need to do all the things I do. Most of what I do is mental work (planning for the needs of a class, organizing my families schedule and our home, writing, etc.) so it is my brain that takes the largest hit (followed of course my my feet, because I’m a teacher). I need to want to let things go, but I cling to them like a baby who doesn’t believe that if they would just let go of that pacifier they are holding on to so dearly, they could actually drink that bottle of milk they desperately want and need. I cling and strive, and I need to slow down.

Four years ago, I gathered a group of friends and asked them to evaluate my life. To tell me what they thought my strengths were, to be honest about my weaknesses, and to evaluate the choices I was making about the way I spent time. I wanted more from my life, and I asked for help. They lovingly sat down and told me that my plate was too full, and I needed to drop all non-essentials. I begrudgingly listened to them. And they were right. Unfortunately, in the last four years, I’ve allowed my life to fill up again. I need to sit down and do this again, but I suspect I could do it without my tribe. I could sit down and figure out who I am and what I want to be doing and stop spinning my wheels to please other people. I need the courage to change. I need to chose this and that is hard.


I was inspired to do this meeting of friends four years ago when I read Restless by Jennie Allen. I highly recommend this book. I’d read it again if I had the time.

 

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adoption, Adulting, family, parenting teens

The Last Chick in the Nest

Twenty years ago, I was pregnant with my first born child. We were living in the lower level apartment in the house of our dear friends and looking to purchase a home of our own. We were dreaming about what our future would hold. Four years later, we had grown from family of two to a family of  six, with children spanning ages newborn to 17 years old. Sixteen years ago, we were in the thick of parenting a foster teen, two pre-schoolers and an infant. We had just begun pre-school co-op. Life was busy, chaotic, and hard.

First home (Nov 1998), Caleb (Jan 1999), Abigail (April 2000), Sean (September 2000), Joel (September 2002)

In these past 20 years, we have launched (or mostly launched) our oldest three children into the world, and we have just our 16 year old living home. This month he will obtain coveted driver’s permit, takes the PSAT, and go on his first college tour. Car ride conversations are different than they used to be, lacking the veggie tales soundtrack in the background. We talk about careers and colleges and how to file taxes. Diner time is recounting school discussions on the literature of the middle ages and what crazy thing happened during house period.

Legal adoption (October 2008)

Three years from now, I will begin the school year as an empty nester. My youngest child’s final years of high school as he is planning for his post high school life is also our countdown towards ending our active parenting years. It is incredibly difficult to wrap my brain around that thought.

I had wanted to have my kids close together so they could play with one another, (Yes, I know bringing a teen into the mix didn’t exactly mean our kids were close in age.) I wanted to go through the stages once and then move on to the next phase. There is beauty in that, but it also meant that we would launch our kids at a pretty rapid rate. Had our youngest been born a week earlier, we would be one year closer to his launch. (My heart and my bank account are both thankful for that very difficult final week of pregnancy that actually bought me this extra time.)
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Day to day life this year is vastly different. I am still trying to figure out how to cook for only three mouths. The calendar feels naked without the sports, scouts, and work schedules cluttering the boxes. Jay and I are rarely tag-teaming in order to get multiple kids to multiple events. Date nights include discussions about retirement planning and re-writing our will. We talk about the aches and pains of our aging bodies and how to eat better to stay healthy longer. The unoccupied bedrooms are clean.

Twenty years later, now we are dreaming and planning for a life without children in our home. What will the next twenty plus years look like? Will it include travel, babysitting grandchildren, volunteer work? Will we dine out more? Will the house finally be clean?

I have loved and still do love this beautiful messy life of raising my children into their adult lives. It has been a humbling privilege. I will miss some of the excitement and energy my children have brought into my life. I know summers with an empty nest will be particularly hard. But I have enjoyed virtually every stage of life that I have lived through until now, so I know I can anticipating this stage as well.

These two have flown the coop –
Rowan University (Sept 2017), Graduated HS and moved out (July 2018) 
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