Friday, January 31, 2014

Hater's Gonna Hate

Lose weight, get a new car, earn praise from the boss...doesn't matter what it is, haters gonna hate.  It's taken me a long time to realize that what works for me and my family is all that matters - but it hasn't always been that way.  

About four years ago I was at my wits end with my job situation.  Loved my lovelies and their families but the environment was not conducive for my mental health.  Every time something positive happened someone had to tap a hole in my bucket  - teacher of the year ('who voted for her?'), National Board Certification ('she only made it by two points'), cute projects by my students ('we don't have TIME for that, we're too busy TEACHING').  Things that I should be proud of became sources of contention and not having the balls to stand up to them, I let them zap the positive vibe  right out of me.  To be quite honest, most were not for the challenge of my nemesis, therefore I received very little support and sometimes I wonder if that hurt more than the barbs from the haters.  Six years in this environment (tried to leave twice, unsuccessfully) and at my wits end with the negative energy, I convince my husband to take a new job and BAM! we move - to another state, closer to my family.  Drastic, right?  But that's how I dealt with negativity - avoidance at all costs because somewhere down the line I must have done something to deserve it, right?

So we move to our new city and the job market is slim pickings - on an interview for a kindergarten position I am told that there were 126 applicants and they chose 15 to interview - WTH?!  A handful of interviews later, I'm depressed and I am convinced that I'll be saying "paper or plastic" to help pay the bills.  And then I get THE call...great interview, very relaxed and I really like the administrators: the next day I am offered the position but it would mean commuting over an hour one way.  Nuts, right?  I mean gas was near $4 a gallon and I drove a Yukon XL - a big ass beast that could navigate the winter roads easily and in comfort...priorities, right?  I tell them yes so quickly that the principal laughs! Truth be told, my ego was too big to take a substitute teaching position and I felt that this was last chance,  my personal and professional holy grail.  And it was, in two important and priceless ways.

1.  My girls were very brave and took this move in stride.  C just wanted me to be happy and K was gradually coming to like Michigan - she rated it daily and it was slowly rising to about 2 (out of 10) by the time school started.  The girls commuted to work with me and they were truly able to step out of their comfort zone - K grew academically and C was able to shine like I knew she could.  I am not too proud to admit that I have no issues with my kids being a big fish in the little pond - good thing, but that is exactly what they were, at least in my eyes.  But it was a very special little pond that embraced my girls' and I like we were one of their own.  Both girls were able to shine in their own way, in ways that were hindered in NC, and of their own accord...nothing to do with mama, all them.

2. I got my sense of self back - sassy, always joking, full of laughter and fun.  I was able to regain my love for teaching - my sense of self as an educator was pretty low and I had even considered changing professions...D was not going to have that as I had just finished my Master's degree and hadn't even started paying the student loans back, but it was on my mind.  Anyhoo, I didn't realize it but the real "me" had gone missing.  It didn't take long to realize that I was truly a likable person - if they thought I was a cocky overachiever they certainly didn't let on and hell, maybe they did and they liked it!  School was fun again - I could be me and not worry about someone stirring up some nonsensical half truth about me. But damn, they liked me, they really liked me! (imagine Sally Field's 1984 Oscar Award's acceptance speech).  Sure, I was 40 years old, but it felt good and it was exactly what I needed to get "me" back.

I will forever be thankful to the peeps of TAS - they helped me get my groove back.  It was a short year and we headed back to NC at the end of the school year - low man on the totem pole, I was on the list to be pink slipped and D's job was changing which meant a pay cut.  In hindsight, we probably should have stayed, things would have worked themselves out - obviously the worry wart in me had not completing disappeared, but she was on her way out and we confidently headed back to NC.

I'd like to say that the self-doubter never returned, but that has been a work in progress.  I work in an environment where my peeps accept me for who I am - they know I will go above and beyond to get the job done but they don't least not to my face.  And my dear lovelies, the beautiful children that I get to connect with everyday, they mean everything to me and I to them.

Next step?  I don't know, my mind swims with ideas, but for now, this blog is my new toy and we will just have to see where it goes from there.  Deuces!

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work I Go...

Or not...Third snow/icy road day for the students of our county yet some genius decided that the school district employees should report to work on a two hour delay.  Hmm, what made them think that roads too treacherous to navigate by a big ass school bus were safe enough for me to traverse with my SUV?  Did they not realize that my lil' ol' Highlander was going to glide on through like Gretzky on his home rink?  Wow, did I just date myself with that reference...anyhoo, being born and raised a Yooper* I was up for the challenge.  Let's not worry too much that my family truckster needs new tires - I mean how bad can it be, we live in Northeastern North Carolina?  Note: I had not been further than my back deck in four days, clueless would be an understatement.

Fast forward...cocky like someone who KNOWS a thing or two about snow, I back out of the driveway and immediately realize that I don't know what the hell I am doing.  Visions of backing into the ditch at the end of the driveway fill my belly with fear - oh hell no, not again (a story to be shared at a later time).  But still confident that I can do it, I slowly sneak down the drive - if you were to have an aerial view of my driveway you may compare it to a big ol' bargain bottle of wine, very wide up near the garage, narrowing down to the neck...a neck that has a ditch on each side.  I successfully escape the driveway, my confidence slowly but surely seeping out of my cocky ass, when I start hearing the song "Slip Sliding Away" running through my frazzled brain.

I get out of my cul-de-sac (don't judge) and daringly (5 mph) pull out into the street when I quickly realize that I will lose control of this bitch if I go over 15 miles per hour.  Half a block later and I know that I do not have the balls to get across town, much less out of the freaking neighborhood.  But now that I am already out I don't want to look like a jackass and turn around.  Solution?  Cruise around the neighborhood and stop to take a picture of the sun shining on the icy road - you know, you need proof, right?  I don't want to look like a wuss - I'm a Yooper damn it, winter is in my D N-freakin' A!

What my dumb ass didn't realize is that none of the snow in the streets (5-7 inches) had not been plowed, driven on or melted, and with the little bit of rain we'd received the night before it had turned to slick as snot ice. Traveling at a record breaking speed of 15 mph, I safely made it back to my driveway, walked into my house to be greeted by K who yells out, 'Yay! Mommy is home.' and then turns to me and says, 'I knew you wouldn't be gone long.'  Total time out: eight nerve racking minutes of my life - and I didn't even leave the neighborhood.

BTW - I actually worked from home, no bs-ing.  Thank God for technology, thank God.

*A Yooper is an awesome person who has had the privilege of being born and raised anywhere in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan - must be north of the Mackinac Bridge, as those living below the bridge are referred to as Trolls.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Very Brady Childhood

My memory has been labeled, by D, as a steel trap.  It appears as though I have this uncanny ability to recall the trivial nonsense that happened to me, my family and my childhood friends, as far back as the early 70's up to present day.  Note: Does anybody else think that it is strange that I don't recall anything to do with homework? - wow, that speaks volumes, right?  But one of my favorite and most vivid memories is my after school routine: come home, change into my play clothes, slather some saltine crackers with margarine and get ready for hanging out with my favorite family: The Brady Bunch.  By the time I became acquainted with this groovy group of kids and their super understanding parents, the show was in syndication so I was able to watch the episodes over and over for many years - kind of like hanging on to my Barbies and wearing footie pj's, the Brady's were an easy and convenient way to hang on to my childhood.

What was the allure of this cheesy, too perfect blended family?  Predictability and Dependability.  First off, the show's template was perfectly predictable: a minor dilemma would occur within the first few minutes, often involving more than one Brady.  The kids' struggle with making a morally correct  and attempt to work it out together. The parents were always on the fringe, never directly involved until the end and then Mike and Carol would walk in with simple but firm advice - usually with Mike sitting behind his drafting terrible, Carol supporting him in the background.  The kids never argued or talked back to their parents and it always worked out.  Silly, entertaining, and predictable.

The Brady Bunch episodes were dependable.  Just like I could count on Channel 4 to have my favorite family on every day,  I could count on the Brady's to share their extremely straight, white bread existence with me.  Like a good book, I could escape for thirty minutes - no worries, just me and the Brady kids, chilling with my crackers. Life was good. 

Parental Fail or Airhead of a Child?

I'd like to think that I've done a pretty good job of educating my daughters.  Ages 2 & 5 when we adopted them from Western Samoa, K & C have been very accommodating and cooperative kids.  C is a a textbook overachiever (would never know where she gets that from) and K is slowly but surely beginning to rise to the challenge - school as really not been her bag since her days in Preschool with Miss Kelly.  But hell, Miss Kelly is a tough act to follow - crafts galore, movies, taking naps in tents, singing - hell I wanted to hang with Miss Kelly!  And although her preschool days were truly idyllic (for all of us - K was so darn cute, speech impediment and all), I certainly didn't think it would take nine years to get the enthusiasm back into her academic life, but it's back and that's all that matters.  So even though all seems to be well, some days I see glitches, things that randomly occur and I'm like 'WTH, how did I forget to teacher her that?'

For example, last week we were cruising through the traffic filled aisles of "W" when K says, 'I need some confederate sugar.' I promptly respond with 'Okay, but I prefer union sugar, you know, growing up in the north and all.'  Yeah, she had no idea of her mistake or of my reference -epic fail.  I clearly explained that it was confectioners sugar she would need and to get a small package - we came home with a huge bag but it was the correct item and that's all that matters, right?

Tomatoes have forever been referred to as potatoes - she is 13, when is it going to click?  Please don't think I'm poking fun at a learning disabled child - hell, she is on the National Junior Honor Society and her last report card was multiple A's and one B.  Great kid, now a great student, and wit to beat the band...but sometimes her comments make you want to "hmmm..."

Fast forward to last night.  Same child steps out onto the deck and blurts out 'Oww, it's snowing salt!'  Serious as a heart attack, 'it's snowing salt!'  Again, I explained, 'No honey, that's called sleet, a mixture of snow and rain.'  Hmm, she wasn't the least bit concerned with her faux pas and moved on to Tweet about the 'salt' coming down in her backyard.

Is this some hidden English as a Second Language issue that has laid dormant for 10+ years or have I simply not spoken enough to my youngest child?!  Maybe it is personal on my part -am I just afraid to face the fact that she is not the lover of literacy that I am and that she actually enjoys her mistakes?  I am going upstairs to ponder this situation, under my cozy covers with a good book - escaping reality is always the answer to face palm situations. Deuces!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Night Live

Sunday has arrived and the school/work week is looming before us - time to get our crap together for a relatively stress free week.  Reality check: I live with two teenagers and a husband that is getting ready to start a six week training program four evenings a week, some stress is inevitable and will usually occur in one of two ways: dogs using the home as an indoor toilet or teenagers needing something at the last minute.  Thank the dear Lord for the blessing of modern medicine - happy pill, woo hoo!  As the Beatles so famously sang: I get by with a little help from my friends.

So, morning smoothie ingredients have been prepped, random meals (mentally) planned and laundry is good to go...D & I have clean drawers, that's all that matters.  We have a couple of basketball games on the calendar and more snow & cold temps in the this rate we'll be going to school until freaking July.  Fingers & toes crossed, as well as extra prayers for decent weather this week as I prefer to spend my 90+ degree weather by my pool, not in school !  Oh, a poet and didn't know it.  Yo - make it a great week, kick ass and just be awesome!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

When It's Time to Change

Not sure about the rest of you, but whenever I hear/think/say that line my brain automatically goes to the Brady Bunch episode when Peter's voice changes.  Totally out of his control, he lives through the wackiness and his groovy siblings help him to make the best of it.  If it were only that easy - change, not puberty.

I have an issue with spontaneity - if I think it I want it NOW.  Patience is not a virtue that I claim to possess and yet I am a mother, wife, and elementary school teacher - that should be the ONE virtue that I DO have. Not so folks, not so.  Between humor and a happy pill, I can conjure up enough of it to get through the day without seriously hurting someone's feelings.  Not proud but isn't the first step is admitting you have the problem?

So, back to the topic at hand, change.  I'm ready for it, nothing too drastic, but I'm ready and I will blame religion for this sudden desire to jazz it up, it being our life.  Yep, the family is in for this one too - they are the only thing I wouldn't change.  Here is where we are so far...I'm wondering if you'll be as impressed as I am that all of these have occurred within the last month AND they were not even labeled as so-called resolutions...

Change 1: Began attending, regularly, a non-denominational church up the road from our house: laid back, relevant weekly message/lesson, with an awesome contemporary Worship Team (i.e. live band, complete with guitars, drums and vocalists) - waaaaay different than our Catholic church.  Not better, just different and at this point in our lives, fulfilling.

Change 2: Eating at home.  Now for some of you this may be a simple task but for the L family, not so much.  When K or C ask 'what's for dinner?' what they are really asking is 'where are we going?"  Well, for the past week we have eaten every meal at home - not even a Bojangles biscuit for a quick Saturday morning breakfast.  If you do know us/me you will acknowledge that this is the equivalent of running a marathon - as most know I will only run if chased.  But we have survived quite well and we have noticed a few thing, some obvious, so some not so much: we've spent less money; we're less hungry; we've had less of a desire to get out of the house (the frigid temps may have something to do with that, but that's beside the point!); and last but not least, we've learned to look forward to meal time rather than dread it.  Overall, a higher quality of life.

Change 3:  I'm writing and sharing it publically - I've wanted to write, anything, for the past 10 years, but didn't know where to start.  This past week we had three snow days - what to do, what to do?  Why start a FB page called Superior Nonsense, of course!  My fantasy job would be to run a book store/coffee shop/trinket shop called Superior Nonsense but I'm not ready for that type of financial recklessness, so this is the start. Started the page on the 23rd and birthed my blog today. Note: Superior is not a reference to me but rather to the might Lake Superior, the beautiful, unpredictable waters that I grew up near in Upper Michigan.  Nonsense, well that is simply what rattles around in my head all day and I am now feeling confident enough to share it with whomever wants to muddle through it.

Right now, I will not make any promises that these changes will stick - although I am pretty awesome, I am human and I am not known for my willpower.  Heck, I don't know if anybody will read this and right now that is the least of my worries - because I am celebrating, hell I'm embracing change.  Peace out peeps!

My Ball and Chain: The Mental To-Do List

The holiday season brings about a variety of feelings for many people, some happy, some sad.  I, as an educator of the masses for the past thirteen years, find it  liberating but also a bit daunting.  Free time, what is that?  I mean, don't get me wrong, I LOVE the freedom that the break provides for me and my girls - D is not so lucky as he is a part of the civilian work force and does not have the luxury of two pure weeks of laziness.  But really, neither do I. You see, I am cursed, cursed with idea of the perpetual, all mental, to do list (MTL).  If I am not productive, if I am not attempting to accomplish ALL that needs to be accomplished on my mental to-do list, I am lazy.  And lord forbid someone call me lazy (or stupid, that's not a good one either), as that would certainly send me into a tailspin of self-shame.

Now before I progress, let me explain that this is ALL me, I am the only one judging my household task progress. Before becoming employed as a full-time elementary school teacher, I was just your average Joe wife - worked five days a week, made dinners, did a few crafts, watched soap operas and socialized with friends.  No perpetual to-do list, probably because 1. I had a lot of time to get everything done and 2. my peers were in the same boat and there was no real competition.  But enter a job where I was able to pour my heart & soul, creatively and emotionally, into making a difference in 20+ lives, 180 days per year.Then top it off with the adoption of two awesomely perfect little girls and my life is full: great job, awesome kids and terrifically supportive husband.  Dot the i, cross the t, life is good.

So you ask, if everything was so great, what happened?  Why the self-doubt and self-nagging to do  more? 
Why the self-inflicted MTL?  Well, a simple conversation between a mother and son was my trigger and it goes a little something like this: Z had just spent a week with our family and upon returning home to his family, told his mother, in a non-demeaning, actually admiring tone, "Mom, you should be more lazy like Miss N. She isn't always rushing around doing things for everybody. She watches TV with Mr. D"  Well, of course, she chose to share this little gem of nonsense with me, claiming that her response was "Miss N. is the hardest working person I know.  I would not call her lazy."  But you know what I heard - her kid thought I was lazy. Why would she tell me this?  Did she not know me well enough to think that this would hurt my feelings?  I mean, who in the world wants to be called lazy?!  Whether or not intended, the comment stung and left a mark, a mark I have yet to shake off.

Fast forward, eight years later, and we make it through the holidays: great time spent with M & D, relaxing, shopping, watching movies and lots of home cooked meals.  But when the festivities are over and it appears as though I have too much time on my hands, MTL reared its ugly head and I got to steppin!  All of the Christmas decorations came down, repacked and safely stored for another year.  Put the primer on a bedroom, ALL laundry washed, dried and put away, and a crafting room in the works.  Not as much as I would have liked to accomplish but just enough to make me feel like an accomplished mama/wife.  Until the next break...