Sunday, August 21, 2016

Summer Swan Song

Tomorrow I will be heading back to school as summer vacation officially draws to a close.  Tonight, my friend Erin and I took our annual "Teachers Back To School Cry Fest Pic" (5 years of these pics, she tells me). 

See how sad we are? We really like our summers off. 

Every year, I think about how lucky I am to have summers off.  I love my job.  Really really love it lately.  However, I can tell you that I look forward to that summer break, where I can rejuvenate and reaffirm that teaching is what I want to do.  Summer gives me a time to relax, to connect with my kids, to be destressed and not distressed. 

I've had a great summer, one of the best yet.  We went on vacations.  I got to hang out with friends (my favorite thing to do).  I got to sit by the pool.  I bonded with my husband and children (another favorite).   I planted a flower bed.  I ran 15-20 miles a week (except a few weeks).  Life was good.  Life was great.  Life was full of blessings. 
I actually own this tank top and it's a pretty true statement

But summer being over changes the nature of the blessings but not the blessings themselves.  One child is moving out to get his first ever apartment (I'll miss him but I'm so pleased he wants to be independent).  The second child is starting her sophomore year of college.  The third child is starting high school.   Tony and I are getting closer to being empty nesters, but that just means we get to spend more time alone together (I'm probably more thrilled than he is about that...LOL). I am also looking forward to what this school year will bring.  Because I looped this year, I will have many of the same students, but I will also have new ones.  I will have a new curriculum and I am looking forward to trying out some different things. 

So, yes, I am sad to see summer go.  But I am learning to embrace what lies ahead.  To my teacher friends who also start back tomorrow, good luck and have a great school year! 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What A Difference 2 Years Makes

A recent Facebook flashback took me to a blog post I wrote in 2012 when I was first starting my gratitude practice.  Looking at this old blog, it hit me that my last post on it was May 2014, over 2 years ago.  A lot can happen in two years.  A lot.  I've had triumphs and I've had tragedies.  I've gained weight; I've lost weight.   I've filled up more gratitude journals (currently on #8) and tried to peg down some of my struggles so that I can work through them.   Here are some things I've taken away from my last 2 years of blog hiatus. 

1.  Life is too short
I was an orphan already (Mom in 1983, Dad in 2010), but I also lost my stepmother in 2015 after a nearly 2 year battle with cancer.  Friends of mine lost their parents as well.  We never have long enough with those we love.  Never.  I could spend 1,000 years with those I love and I would say it's not enough time (well, maybe I might get sick of them...)

2.  Gratitude just makes things better 

I started a regular gratitude practice in 2012.  I still have bad days.  I still have times when that gratitude is hard.  But you know what?  If I can latch onto just one aspect for which to be grateful, I can pull myself out of the anxiety and stress and sadness.  It took me years to be able to do this.  It is easy to jump onto the negativity train and choo-choo into Grumpyville when something doesn't go my way.  I have a journal in which I write at least 10 things for which I'm grateful most days (occasionally I don't have time or am too tired).  To be able to say, "I am grateful that [insert bad thing here] happened because it was [a learning experience, a cue to change my behavior, a valuable lesson, etc.]" is very difficult, especially in the midst of said bad thing.  I confess that I'm not always successful, but I recover so much easier these days.  Not to mention, if I can't be grateful for the bad things, I can at least go back and look at all the GOOD in my life.  I am blessed beyond measure.  When I lose sight of that, I reread some of the 7 completed gratitude journals and I remember...

3.  Patience pays off and sometimes detours are learning experiences
Me waiting for my dreams to come true
In 1993, when I graduated college, my dream was to be an ELA teacher in middle school in the county in which I live.  No ELA jobs in 1993.  Then, I had babies.  Working in non-public schools.  Got my master's degree in Special Education.  Worked for 12 years in the county school system as a special education teacher.  Then, last year, 22 years after I graduated, 22 years after I set that goal, it became a reality. Yet, without that wait, I would never have had some of the wonderful students I came into contact with as a special education teacher, nor would I have the skills in differentiating my lessons that I now have. 
 I also have wanted to drop the extra poundage that I've been carrying since my oldest was born (nearly 22 years ago--maybe I should play the number 22 on my next Lotto ticket).  I was finally able to make some headway this year, and just bought a size I haven't seen since I was 20 years old.  I had to be committed.  I also got a pretty fun running habit (really, it's great!) in my quest.   My advice is to look at detours as learning experiences and be patient.  Dreams and goals have a way of working themselves back into your life. 

4.  Laughter really is the best medicine. 
Have you laughed today?
When I can find the humor in a situation, I do so much better.  Really, who doesn't like a good belly laugh once in awhile?  My favorite memories with friends, family ,etc. involve laughing our asses off. 

*  So that's just 4 of the little life lessons I've been learning since I last wrote.  Who knows when I will write again?