Saturday, July 30, 2016

Life Doesn't Let You Get Too Comfortable

Life never lets you get completely comfortable, does it?  For the last 15 years I have been working as adjunct faculty for two community colleges teaching adult education (English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education).  I LOVE it!  I love the variety of students I am able to meet, the small but important lessons I am able to share, learning new things myself, and being surrounded by colleagues who want to make this a better world for everyone. The problem? Due to a screwed up state budget, both schools have cut their programs.  I am now facing a year of 50% of the classes I have had for many years.  Unfortunately, our family does depend on my income which means I need to get serious about finding a new full time job or finding a part time job to supplement my teaching jobs.

In addition to teaching adult education for the last 15 years, I have been busy raising my kids. I've always been passionate about motherhood.  While the kids still need me on occasion, they are growing up.  Between my job slowly dissolving and my kids growing up, I feel like I'm in limbo. What's next for me?  It's a scary uncertain time. I want my next phase of life to be just as rewarding as the previous one has been but have no idea what my skills allow me to do.  Plus, once you've been in a position of helping people as a career, it is pretty hard to give that up.

As I slowly prepare my heart and mind for a new job, I know what I don't want.  I don't want to go back to public education.  Teaching fifth grade was a lot of work and I don't have the energy for it anymore.  I don't want to be stuck in an office working on a computer all day.  I cringe every time I try to see myself there.  I like variety.  I also have a few things I want. After twenty some years of teaching, I want to continue helping others.  I love that part of my life.  I love knowing that I have helped many students who have been away from school for many years feel comfortable and component.  Also, after working odd hours for so long, I'd like a regular schedule that also comes with benefits, something I haven't had as adjunct faculty.

Each morning I wake up and ask for guidance on where I am supposed to be.  I search different career sites and try to see myself in different jobs. So far, nothing.  I know there is a place for me and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it won't be long before I see myself in a place designed for my unique gifts and I can continue contributing to our family income while also making a small dent in a better world.   

I am curious, how have you transitioned into a new phase of life? 

Friday, July 22, 2016

My Calm is Moving Out

My oldest is picking up keys today to an apartment he will share with his girlfriend.  We have had many discussions about his moving out and I thought I was in a good place.  I am so proud of how he has thought through the many scenarios of how this move will effect him.  That is hard to do when you are in love.  He has had ups and downs about moving and I think has come to a mostly happy place, although leaving home is of course a big change for anyone. But, I've been happy for him.  Actually, I have been excited for him.  Until now. Even though he hasn't even taken his stuff yet, the house feels empty of his spirit. 

My son is the calm of this house. Whatever is going on, even if it is him I am upset with, it is he who I need to be around. He radiates a sense of calm. He listens and gives a tiny bit of advice. He hugs me. He reminds me so much of the calm I felt with my dad.  There aren't many people in the word like them.

Last night we discussed how this is just a new phase and we will have to figure out a new way of making our relationship work.  We've been making those adjustments through every stage of his growth.  The difference now is he won't be here every day.  I already miss standing by the coffee pot as he makes his coffee, having deep discussions. I already miss the lessons I have learned from him on being more open minded. And, I can't wait until Sunday night when he is here for dinner. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Parenthood: The Tables are Turning

When my kids were young, my daughter would call me on my way home from the evening class I taught.  We talked until I was in the neighborhood.  When I pulled up in the drive-way, both my son and daughter were standing on the porch jumping up and down in excitement that I was home after being gone for five short hours. They would both run to the car and hug me tight.  Their pure genuine joy in seeing me is the most fulfilled as a person I have ever felt.  Pulling up in the drive-way, I knew 100% I was meant to be on this earth.

As my children are transforming into young adults, the tables have turned a bit.  It is now me waiting excitedly for them to come home.  With their busy schedules of school, work, and friends, I don't see them that often. Sometimes that is fine, because living with young adults who have life figured out can sometimes be a struggle.  But, I am and will always be their momma.  So, as their evenings out become later and later, I wake up constantly as I once did when they were very young, "Are they okay? Do they need me?" I am trying really hard to just stay in bed repeating, "You've raised them well.  They will make good choices," because if I get up and they aren't home at what I consider "a reasonable hour", I go into panic mode and sleep will not come again.  I ask them to please at least send a text that they are safe which is getting better, but sometimes forgotten.  So when the hour finally arrives that I hear the front door open and those familiar steps tromp up to bedrooms, my heart wants to jump up and down in pure delight that they are home.  As children they could share their excitement in seeing me, I don't dare show mine because I know they need their space and my jumping out of bed to embrace them will only make them feel watched and judged.  They made it home.  That's all that matters to me.  In the morning (wait, who am I kidding, they won't be awake until afternoon), I can shower them with love and let them know how happy and honored I am to have them in my life. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Happy 28th Anniversary!

28 years ago today, at the very young age of 20, I said "I do" to my best friend.  While we both work hard at our relationship, it has never seemed especially hard.  Together, we have grown up, encouraged each other, and learned from each other.  We had eight years together before starting our family and as things start to come full circle, we find our children gone most of the time and things centered back to just the two of us. Sometimes it is sad because our kids are so much of our lives, but at other times, it is really fun to focus back on just the two of us.  Feeling very lucky today!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Body Image During Menopause

I remember sitting at our neighborhood pool in my late thirties, early forties thinking this is “the BEST” age to be a woman.  As I looked around at all the women at the pool, my eyes were drawn first to young teenagers with perfect bodies.  They were busy fixing their swimsuits just so wondering if they were too fat, too skinny, too pale, or whatever else teens think their bodies are “too ________”.  I knew they would one day look back at their teen pictures and be amazed at how beautiful they were even if they couldn’t see it now. Then I noticed the women my age.  They walked confidently in their swimsuits chasing after kids aware that they had stretch marks, cellulite, and bits of chubbiness here and there.  Somehow they seemed confident in their bodies knowing that they had changed physically, mentally, and emotionally due to childbirth, jobs, and the aging process. As I lounged on my chair, I too felt confident in my body.  It wasn’t perfect, but it held up well despite rheumatoid arthritis taking a stab at it each and every day. I was eating well, exercising when I could and it had paid off. I was satisfied, maybe even a little proud of the body I had.
Then came new medications and the beginning stages of menopause.  Almost immediately after starting Enbrel, I got my physical life back in addition to 15 extra pounds.  Feeling good, I added on hours to my work schedule which also increased my time sitting.  Over the last five years or so, I have put on another 10 pounds.  I wish I could say I am okay with it, but I am not. I have become that person that cringes when I see photos of myself.  When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a strong woman who has raised two beautiful children, been a good wife of 28 years, a patient/loving teacher, and struggled with rheumatoid arthritis for 12 years.  I don’t see the fat until I see a photo of myself or a pair of “big” pants become too tight. 

From what I have read, I am not alone in body image issues when transitioning into menopause.  Many women experience extra fat, especially in the stomach, as they make the change.  I wish knowing that I wasn’t alone made me feel better, but it doesn’t.  Some days I feel six months pregnant with engorged breasts (yes, those have grown too). When I was thirty years old, that was exciting.  At 48, it isn’t.  I don’t know what the answer is. Some days I work really hard to focus on everything that is beautiful about my physical body and find some success.  Other days, I feel hopeless. Why even try? It doesn’t seem to matter what I eat or how much I move.  But, I don’t want to look at photos with my family and see only my size, I have too many of those where I can see the pain I felt from RA that day. I want our photos to represent the fun, pride, excitement of the day. I wish I knew the answer. 

Help! How do you deal with body image?     

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Letting Go: Graduation

Tomorrow night my youngest graduates.I don't feel overly sad or sentimental. I know this is an important milestone in her life - one of many she will still experience.In fact, a part of me feels relief. For some time now she has outgrown high school and I can see her wings ready to take off to the next adventure.This is one of the many things I love about this girl. She embraces change and the experiences she gains from them. She has always been the one to challenge my ability to let go. She is independent, something I want but that I also struggle with often. I want her to think and act for herself, but also don't always know how to give up control.(Being a mom is a never-ending learning experience.) But she has learned a valuable lesson I taught her at an early age, "You know your body best." And she does. As she graduates and makes her way into the world, she will make mistakes which will make her stronger and lead her down the paths she was meant to travel. She will bring her beautiful smile everywhere she goes, brightening the lives of all those around her - that is one of her special gifts to the world. She will make a difference.That I am 100% sure of. Knowing this makes letting go that much easier. I know I HAVE to share her with the world. But as lucky as all those who meet my passionate daughter will be, I know she will always come back home to her momma in some manner. I know this because she has taught me to let her go as she has been ready and because I have, I have placed myself in a very safe place in her heart where she knows I am here for her no matter what life brings. I am her forever mom. After tomorrow night, she becomes a free woman. I can't wait to set her free and see what she can do!  Be on the lookout because pure amazement in being released.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Working as Adjunct Faculty

As adjunct faculty for two Adult Education programs, I worry every semester whether or not I will have enough classes to pay my portion of the bills.  Living in a state with no budget, that fear has intensified.  Each semester I patiently wait to see when, where, and what I will be teaching and then cross my fingers that I have enough students to keep my class for the semester. I also do this with absolutely no benefits.  As adjunct, I am always considered part-time.

Why have I put myself through this torture roughly every 16 weeks for 15 years? The answer is simple: I absolutely LOVE my job. There is an energy to being on a campus full of students ready to make dreams come true. After all these years, I still feel excited when students begin walking through the door. There is nothing better than to be in the middle of teaching a tough topic and see the spark in a student's eye that tells me he/she gets it!  A student recently said, "You make reading books interesting." For many of my pre-GED students, they have read their first book ever with me. In one of my ESL classes, I currently have 26 students who come from 12 different countries.  Some evenings I sit in awe as they work together on assignments.  Language and culture are not an issue.

As a long-time teacher in the same building, I have seen students come and go.  Work, family, health, etc have taken them away.  My job is to give them a purpose to come back.  Because of language barriers, previous bad school experiences or lack of an education, self esteem, and many more reasons, my students fear their first time back in the classroom.  Are they good enough? Will they look foolish?  Will their weaknesses be exposed?  My challenge is always to calm those fears and to find quickly where their strengths are so we can build on those.      

Why do I keep doing the job I do when I could have the security of my own benefits rather than relying on my husband to secure them?  Why do I plan everything around the hours I am given at school because if I take off work I won't be paid?  It's because whatever small part I can play in making the lives of others better, in helping them reach their personal goals, or hearing for the first time that they are good at something school related, it is worth everything else.