Saturday, December 28, 2013

striving for grace, not perfection

striving for grace, not perfection

I found it! A mantra for me! My new words to live by. These are the words that I PROMISE I will repeat over and over in my head, every day.

When my husband rolls his eyes at something I said, I promise to take a breath, apologize for being bossy/crabby/snooty/what-have-you, and redirect my earlier statement/request/grouchy comment.

When my mom disagrees with me in that most annoying way, where I feel like she is eternally judging me and like I will never be who she wants me to be (or at least be as easy to get along with and laid-back as my sister), I promise to take a breath, and check myself to make sure that I am being true to myself and my family but in a very graceful, compassionate, and calm way. And then I will carry on.

When the voices in my head are screaming - literally screaming at me - that I am not doing ANYTHING right (not making dinner enough so that my sweet husband can take a break from that chore, not getting the house organized in the way I want it to be, not getting the house clean like I want it to be, not folding that dang pile of clean clothes that has been sitting on the loveseat in our livingroom for almost two whole days now, not getting caught up on the girls' pictures, not writing enough in their baby books, not going to yoga frequently enough, not getting those dang quizzes graded tonight, not being SuperMom, SuperWife, and SuperDaughter) I PROMISE to repeat this mantra seventeen times just to make those voices STOP. I will also give myself a little hug and take twelve deep breaths, because wow - those voices are HARD to stop.

When my little love, Bear, throws a temper tantrum I will repeat this mantra and also remind myself that a three-year-old will be a three-year-old and that it is not necessarily my fault (and therefore a reflection of my parenting skills) that she is throwing this temper tantrum. Maybe I did a perfect transition, gave her two wonderful choices to choose from, spoke to her with a smile on my face and a loving tone in my voice...but a three-year-old will just throw a tantrum anyway. Totally not my fault. And it does not mean I am a less-than-perfect mom. It means I am a wonderful mom whose family members sometimes have shining moments and sometimes have cloudier moments. And no mom is perfect.

When my littlest love, Lambie, can't sleep through the night, or can't NOT be with me, I will not interpret this as my inept parenting skills and inability to parent "correctly." Rather, I will repeat this mantra and tell myself that her clinginess this week can be the cause of so many things: teething, feeling under the weather (daddio just had the flu, after all), stress of the holidays (I have heard over and over that children pick up on the stress of the holidays, right?), lack of routine (being a teacher, I am on winter vacation right now and the lovies are not spending their days with my mom), etc. etc. She just needs these extra snuggles from me and I will give her what she needs. Because truthfully, it is also what I need.

I will not get worked up - hot, angry, disrespectful - when I have a conflict with my husband, my mom, or myself. I will carry on. I will be graceful. I will not try to be my version of perfect, or what I worry is their version of perfect (even though both my mom and my husband are always telling me that perfect does not the heat of the moment I always fear that I am not being who they think I should be). Because PERFECT DOES NOT EXIST. I will be myself. A graceful version of myself. A person who loves hard, feels deeply, and TRIES REALLY HARD.

I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

where am i going?

I work at a school with challenging demograhics. The students have tough lives. The students themselves are tough. They are up against some serious odds, just to make it from day-to-day.

And then here I am. Their teacher. I have stated my argument time and again, to myself, to my husband, to my mom. I am providing them with stability. I am part of a safe environment that they can come to every day. I am a compassionate person who they interact with every day. I am teaching them something academic, helping to guide them to a path of learning. I am hopefully pointing them in the "right direction" in their young lives.

But who am I kidding? I just don't buy it anymore. I can't make myself believe it anymore, because that's what I have been doing for a few years now: actually making myself - forcing myself - to believe the aforementioned argument.

The truth is, I feel like I am doing NOTHING to reach out and truly touch these kids. Instead, I am just a pain-in-the-you-know-what teacher who is forcing them to try to learn something and then doling out homework that I know they don't have the time, energy, or motivation to complete. Then they earn poor grades in my class (among others) and thus I contribute to a high fail rate and, in my opinion, a low academic self-esteem that is too common at my school.

I want to touch them. I want to learn more about each and every one of them. I want to sit down with them, hear their story, and then HELP THEM. I want to help them. I want to be part of a program that offers emotional support to these incredible teenagers who are up against so many odds. I want to help them find and locate community resources that will help them lead better lives - like food shelves, free medical care, night classes for their parents to learn English, child care options for younger siblings. I want to help them. I don't want to teach them anymore. I want to be a support system for them in an entirely different way.

But how do I do that?

I need to leave teaching. I need to. BUT WHERE DO I GO?


I am a heavy-hearted person. I feel things. Like, I really feel things. I take on the emotions of others too much. I am constantly asking myself (actually, my husband is constantly asking me) "Who owns that problem? Is it you? No? Then you have to take a step back."

But I can't.

Take today for example. I learned that one of my student's brothers died last year in a car crash. Probably my most favorite freshman student this year. Simply adorable. Put together, studious, SO cute, and incredibly sweet. NOT FAIR that she has to experience this loss at such a young age.

I also had a conversation with another wonderful student of mine. She happens to be in my advisory, so I don't know her too well yet. Well, a few of her grades are slipping, so I asked her about that. She said that she can't stay after school anymore to get help, because her dad was deported a month ago, and now she has to go right home to help out at home with her family. NOT FAIR that she is experiencing this loss. How does she - and countless other students - stand a chance?

My aunt and uncle are struggling with HUGE health issues right now. More than anyone should be asked to handle ever, in their entire lives. And they live so far away. All I want to do is hug them, but I can't. NOT FAIR that they have these daily emotional, physical, and financial burdens.

So you see, my mind is consumed with these things. Just consumed. And then, as if there is any space left in my mind, other worries find a way to creep in. Stupid mom worries. Am I talking to Lambie enough, so that she will have a big vocabulary? Am I stimulating Bear enough, so that her incredible mind can grow and grow and be even more incredible? Am I setting a good example every minute of every day, or are my children seeing me too stressed out? I know Bear heard Niko and me arguing earlier this week and I still feel TERRIBLE with a capital T. Does Niko really know how much I love him? Am I ever going to finish sorting photos and making Lambie's photo album? Bear's birthday is just around the corner - will we be ready? When will the terrible two's go away? Am I handling the terrible two's as I should be - with grace and compassion?

Relax. Relax, Relax, Relax.

I don't know how to make my worries go away. I can tackle them one at a time, I can lean on my husband for support, and I can try positive self talk. But I will always be a worrier. I will always be a highly emotional woman who feels intense emotions. I need to accept that about myself and embrace it.

However, I know that I also need to reign in my emotions a bit. Yes, I will always be a worrier, yes I will always have intense emotions, but I need to learn how to express them in a healthy way. Like - if something goes wrong or if I feel guilty about something - it is not the end of the world. If someone comes at me with a different opinion than me (namely, my mom), they are not attacking me so I should not feel targeted.

Sometimes I wish I had a different emotional make-up. Like, life would be easier. I wouldn't find myself heavy hearted over everything, I wouldn't be worried about everything I do, I wouldn't get so frustrated in the face of adversity or conflict.

But at the same time, there's the up side to being so emotional. I am compassionate. I am empathetic. I am a good friend. I love hard and with all my heart.

I think I just need to embrace my highly emotional make-up...but
1. somehow figure out a way to separate or remove myself from problems I don't own. Acknowlege the emotion, but don't let it consume me. Like the stories earlier about my students.
2. go-with-the-flow a little more, like with the mom worries and/or the crabby interactions that can occur for any of us on a daily basis (like with our husbands, our moms, etc.)
3. Throw out the word "perfect." That word, in and of itself, is enough to stress me out, make me worry, make me feel inferior, make me feel guilty, etc. etc. etc. It creates a landslide of emotions for me...unnecessary emotions. Emotions that cloud everything, and don't let me enjoy the moment. PERFECT DOES NOT EXIST. Stop using that word. Stop thinking perfection can be achieved. Stop!

I can do it. I think I can, I think I can...

Friday, November 8, 2013

a love letter to my girls.

I have two little girls.

They are the lights of my life. One is my heart, the other is my soul.

This is my promise. To them. A promise to myself, but really - a promise to them.

I promise to always tell you nine million times a day that I love you. I promise to kiss you over and over. I promise to hug you when we're happy, hug you when we're sad, and hug-it-out when we're mad. I promise to sweep the hair out of your eyes. I promise to whisper sweet things in your ear when we're snuggling. I promise to read to you all the time. I promise to help you brush your teeth every morning and every night, and hold us to that darn timer from the dentist that seems to last forever. I promise to do projects with you, like baking cupcakes or bread, or making holiday cards with lots and lots of glitter and stickers. I promise to let you sit in my lap anytime you want. I promise to make forts with you. I promise to help you learn from your mistakes. I promise to take you for walks all the time, so we can look for puppies, feel the breeze, and count the airplanes. I promise to dance with you, especially to our favorite songs. I promise to listen to Aladdin and Jasmine sing "A Whole New World" over and over again in the car. I promise to take a million pictures of you for memory's sake, but respect when you say you've had enough of the camera. I promise to get excited over little things with you. I promise to let you use my "lip gloss" (really, it's chapstick) anytime you want. I promise to sing with you.

I promise to give you space when you need it. I promise to not hover and micromanage you. I promise to trust you. I promise to believe in you. I promise to forgive you. I promise to not judge you. I promise to tell you how proud I am of you, all the time. I promise to notice, appreciate, and treasure the little things. I promise to be patient with you. I promise to be calm. I promise to be positive. I promise to set a good example, especially when I am frustrated with someone or a situation. I promise to not be crabby under my breath. I promise to exude love, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and honesty. I promise to teach you how to love yourself. I promise to praise your efforts more than your achievements. I promise to help you believe in yourself. I promise to give you space to be the person you want to be, and respect when you make decisions that differ from my point-of-view or opinion.

I promise to love you. Always. No matter what. Because you are the lights of my life, my heart and soul.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

goodbye teaching career.

Goodbye teaching career.

I cannot WAIT to say those words. Officially. Formally. Permanently.

I feel like a traitor to my 20-year-old college self, who was so happily awaiting the day I would enter my classroom – my own room – and greet my students, plan my lessons, and make a difference in my students’ lives.

I feel like a traitor to my 8-year-old self, who loved playing “teacher” with friends, and asked for a mini whiteboard for my birthday, so that I could create the illusion of a classroom in my bedroom.

But I just can’t do it anymore. I just can’t.

Not only is it the build up of multiple years of disrespect of so many students, arrogance of honors students, apathy of SO, SO, SO many students…not only is it the isolation I feel while teaching at the secondary level because we are so separated by departments and subjects, the cattiness of so many female colleagues, the arrogance of male coaches who seem to focus on their athletics and just teach on the side…but also it is the fear. Fear of Connecticut. Fear of Columbine. Fear of a school massacre. Fear of what my students are capable of. Fear of the unknown. Just.Plain.Fear.

Without going into any detail, a student snapped today. He just went ballistic in the hallway, yelling absolutely terrifying things about what he wants to do to this school. He compared his wishes to the big stories we all know too well.

I was speechless. Though I do care about this individual and feel for him and his marred mental health…I care more about myself and my safety. I have children. I have a husband. I don’t want to lose it all or have those who love me lose it all (a mother, a wife) simply because of someone’s thoughtless act. I tremble at the thought. My heart actually hurts. Tears well up in my eyes. I have a very hard time breathing. My voice shakes and quivers. I honestly become consumed with these thoughts and cannot function as I know I should. I am not able to be the best mom I know I can be, because I am so clouded by this fear.

Is this how I should feel and be, when I show up at my job? My career? My place of employment? Is this fair? Is this right? Is there any other friend of mine who experiences these same feelings when he/she steps into work each morning? Why is it that way for me?

I’ve had it. Though I love teaching at it’s core – I love connecting with high school-aged students, I love talking to them, I love teaching them my content, I love when they come to me for help and assistance both academically and personally - I just can’t do it anymore. The stress and the worry and the anxiety is too much.

But what am I going to do instead?

Stay-at-home-mom? I would love that. But we are not there financially. And that’s ok. Someday.

Wedding planner? How do I start?

Photographer? I need MUCH more education. The passion is there, but wow – lots more education is needed.

Something crafty? Like I could sell on Etsy? Handprint plaques? Tutus? Wreaths? Invitations? Cakes? I would need to refine whatever craft I choose, in order to really excel.

Business world? Maybe an HR department somewhere would appreciate someone like me with an education degree?

My heart hurts just thinking about the crossroads I am at. I never thought I would be here. I thought I would be a “lifer” in the education world. But clearly, I am not.

I want to run for the hills right now, but I don’t know which hill to attempt, let alone what to do when I reach the top…

Someone help me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

facebook: ugh.

Damn Facebook.

I need to take a break.

I periodically deactivate my account, but always sneak back on. Or I have my husband change my password, but then convince him to tell it to me. Just so I can see what’s new. What’s going on. I have realized that my motive is actually not so innocent; rather, it is quite self-detrimental. Whose husband did the sweetest thing today? Whose family portraits are to-die-for amazing? Did Niko’s ex-girlfriend get more “likes” on a recent post than I did? I know. Believe me, I know. I am hearing myself as I write this. How trivial. Stop it. Just stop it. Who cares? Walk away. It’s juuuuuust Facebook.

I WILL stop logging on. That, or I will change my mindset. I will recognize that real life is more important. True friends and actual phone calls, face-to-face interaction is more important. Comparisons will be my demise. Don’t let it be my demise. Take the higher road. Be happy with where I am and what I have. I am happy anyway…so why bring in the comparison game, and make me unhappy? Why do that? It is so not worth it.

I will stop comparing myself to other people. In real life too, but right now I am just going to focus on Facebook.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

how i became a yogi

When Lambie entered the picture, life reached a whole new level of intensity. I found myself consumed with mommy thoughts, mommy concerns, mommy worries, and mommy doubts. I found myself to be a very crabby wife – very crabby. I found myself to be a very critical, snappy, tense version of myself. Something had to give.

And so I found yoga.

My safe haven. My refuge. My sanctuary.

It's where I go when I need to just be with myself and not be responsible for anyone else.

I go, with my purple mat in hand, and though I am nowhere near graceful or fluent in my motions, I am grateful for every.single.minute. of peace and calmness that is granted to me. I breathe deep, pure breaths. I inhale. I exhale. I force myself to clear my mind. Sadly, I must admit that it usually takes about half a class for me to get to the “clear mind” point. But I get there. I then usually struggle to stay there, but I persist. I make myself focus on my breath. I stretch my back tall. I open my heart to the world. I leave my worries on the floor of the yoga center. I vow to leave worries behind and to be calmer and more at peace. I diligently make these resolutions because I have to. I need to. I need to have a goal in mind.

But what if I don’t get there? Like ever? What if I always remain this tense, anxious, critical person? What an awful description. I need to move far away from that reality. I need to open my heart, open my mind, go-with-the-flow, choose my battles, breathe deep breaths, stay calm, and believe.

That’s a tall order.

I need a mantra. Something short and concise. Or maybe a quote. Something to remind me to do all of those things I just rattled off, but not sound so intimidating. I love quotes, and am always reading them, looking them up, writing a few down…but I am yet to find one that completely encompasses everything I must remember to do in order to be the person I strive to be. Or the one that reminds me to just relax, enjoy the little moments, leave worries behind, and love myself harder.

I can see myself moving in a positive direction, inch by inch, day by day. Some days I slip backwards a bit (or a lot) but I pick myself up and make myself move forward. Love myself, and take time for myself. Yoga or an ocassional shopping trip...when I need to take a break from it all and just focus on me.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

my love of Momastery

Glennon Doyle Melton. Creator of Momastery. I love her. She doesn’t know me, but she is my soul mate. She is the thinker of my thoughts. The feeler of my feelings. The expresser of my words. I long to meet this amazing woman and tell her (through tears of course) what an incredible, wonderful human being she is, and how much validation she has brought me in my life. I am obsessed with her:
Love Wins.
We can do hard things.
We belong to each other.

I find that the harder I search within myself to be the best person I can be, I am simply trying to be the most honest, respectable person I can be. And the person I view as a role model of those traits is her.

we heart police officers

My oldest daughter, Bear, currently has an infatuation with police officers, police cars, and fire trucks. As in, we are constantly on the lookout for these guys and gals, as we drive to and from work each day. We commute on an interstate for about ten miles, so lucky us: we see a couple state troopers every day, if we’re lucky. While I am holding my breath that the state trooper won’t pull me over AGAIN for driving in the carpool lane, because they can’t see my little ones in the backseat and think that I am trying to pull a fast one on them, my little Bear is craning her neck, calling out, “I see one! I see a police car! What is he doing?” Seizing a “teaching moment,” I reply, “He’s being a helper. He’s telling that car to slow down and be safe.” Satisfied with my answer, Bear then repeats my explanation to me, as if I have forgotten, every.single.time. we see a police car or state trooper. Over and over! What is it with two-year-olds and their need for repetition?

Well…our love of law enforcement has actually led us to the local police station THREE DAYS IN A ROW now. After work, I go to my parents’ house, nurse Lambie, change her diaper, bargain with Bear about putting on her shoes, and then make a grand exit. A few days ago, I made the mistake of telling Bear “I know where we can find police officers, for sure!” since we were having trouble spotting any that day. I found myself driving over to the local police station…only to pull into the parking lot, put the car in park, and then literally just sit there. Creeping around at the police station. In a mini van. That would be me. We counted the police cars. We got really excited yesterday because the fire truck (in the adjoining fire station) was not parked (hidden) in the garage, but rather it was in plain view in the parking lot. For three days now, we have just waited for a police officer to say hello. We haven’t seen one yet. I am sure, however, they have me on their parking lot cameras, and have my license plate recorded as “that creeper woman who arrives every day at 5:07 and stays for a few minutes.” I swear, if we were to see an actual officer, I would jump out of the car, introduce myself, and ask him/her to come say hi to Bear. I really would.

Let’s just hope this happens soon.

Divorcing Friends

Divorcing friends. Not a fun process, in my opinion. Often necessary, but even still, never without a second thought or a couple of regrets.

My best friend, attached-at-the-hip, soul sister friend and I separated a little over seven years ago. Seven years. It sounds like an eternity. But she still crosses my mind way more frequently than I like to admit. Did I do the right thing in walking away? She was a bad influence and liked to turn happy hour into happy night way more frequently than was necessary. She judged me in a harsher way than is ever necessary or called for…and didn’t do it out of love or friendship. I walked away. I know for a fact that if I had stayed with her and her partying ways, I would not have dated my now-husband, married him, and had two beautiful girls. I would still be doing the single thing. She hurt me so badly: my pride, my self worth, my confidence. I needed to assert myself and cut ties with her. I needed to be true to myself and respect myself and love myself.

I am a better person without her.

I repeat: I am a better person without her.

I expanded my friendship circle when we parted ways. I figured out exactly what I need in a friend. I learned to value and appreciate my friendships more. I like to think that I gained more self confidence when we parted ways, but I secretly don’t know if I did. The quiet voice inside me all too often asks, “Are you sure? Are you sure you should have done what you did? What if you were still best friends with her? Would you be happier?” Damnit. Go away quiet voice. Stop making me second-guess myself.

I treasure my life with Niko, Bear, and Lambie. I treasure my beautiful, wonderful friends and our healthy friendships. I am grateful for the self-awareness I have acquired.

But part of me will always miss that friend.


I am married to my best friend. We have two beautiful daughters who make us feel like the luckiest people in the world. I adore them more than I could ever begin to explain. I teach high school math at my alma mater. Hablo espanol. I get super excited over little amazes my students. They constantly ask me why I don't teach kindergarten. People tell me I have a lot of energy. I am fast-paced...I like to get the show-on-the-road. I am extremely organized. I cannot whistle. Baking is fun. I pick up pennies when I find them because they are lucky. The fastest way to get me mad is to tell a racist joke. I am an enthusiastic person. Crossword puzzles relax me. I can be really bossy. I love nail polish...especially on my toes. I love anything Spanish. mmm...I like wine. I am very much a perfectionist. I am scared of birds. Especially geese. I get impatient and antsy quite easily. I talk too loud when I am excited. Don't EVER ask me to ride a horse. Ever. I am independent. I try to follow my heart and be true to myself. I hate olives. They're so gross. I love peanut m&ms and can never eat just 2. Same goes for chocolate chips. I have to sleep with a fan on at night. I always take two fortune cookies, in case the first one has a bad fortune. Every day I try to be the best person I can be. I have my nose pierced. I ran a marathon in 2007. I sweat the small stuff...but I'm working on that. I pray. Every night. I have strong convictions and I stand by them. I believe in myself, my husband, and our relationship. I try to embrace the idea that every morning is a "clean slate." I have amazing people in my life and I am very thankful for them. I like to be in control...but I know I need to work on that a bit (or a lot). I need reminders (all the time) to relax. I get stressed out. I have anxiety. I have a big heart. I treasure love letters. I enjoy the little moments. I am grateful to be where I am right now. I am a strong person. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, lover, best friend, teacher, learner, friend.