I am a firm believer that everyone should have a creative outlet. It may take some time to find what works for you, but it is so worth it in the end. I discovered writing as my creative outlet at an early age, but then life got in the way, as it always does. I hope this time I can make time for what matters.
As I have spent the last several weeks as a substitute teacher in a 4th grade classroom, I’ve enjoyed seeing just how passionate kids are about their hobbies. I have budding writers, musicians, artists, and athletes in the classroom, not to mention scientists. We had the best discussions about the US space shuttle program, astronauts, and basic animal genetics. They are not afraid to ask great questions. After a science lesson on the effects of long-term exposure to zero gravity on astronauts, one student asked me why we never returned to the moon after the 1969 moon landing. A quick Google search later, we had our answers, which included the facts that politics largely got in the way and that NASA recently announced possible commercialization of space travel, including a possible return to the moon. See article here.
I am left with just one question: What do we do as educators between 4th grade and senior year of high school to suck the creativity out of students? I like to believe things are changing for the better, but I still see way too much “busy,” mindless work being assigned, especially in middle school. STEM programs are on the right track, but I do believe they need to include art, or STEAM, as well. Still, that doesn’t cut it for everyone. What about students who have no idea how to stick with something long enough to enjoy it? How do we recognize and deal with the fact that many students are resistant to the idea that failure can help us learn and grow? We inadvertently teach students that failure is to be avoided at all cost. For better or worse, it is ingrained in our culture. High stakes standardized testing anyone? We need to teach students how to fail effectively: how to move on and learn from our mistakes. They need to know on a gut level that failure is inevitable. We are meant to learn from it.
I am deeply grateful that I found a creative outlet that works for me. I adored art classes as a child, but I have no ability to draw animals or people. I am no painter either. One of my greatest wishes is to have some musical ability. Sadly, as much as I love music, I have none. In searching for my creative outlet, I overlooked the obvious: I am meant to be a writer. Unfortunately, as a child, I always wanted to be more instead of embracing what I love and can reasonably do without embarrassing myself. In fact, that is one of my greatest wishes for any of my students past, present, or future: Find a creative outlet that makes you happy through good times and bad.
Writing, oh how I’ve missed you!
Taking a long-term sub position (4th grade) and working to get the canoe livery ready for the summer compelled me to slow down and consider what I want to do with my writing moving forward. I did walk away from this experience with a couple of observations:
1. I need to fit writing into my life, no matter what is going on.
Before starting my long-term sub position, I did get into the routine of writing every day. I do know that if I did it once, I can do it again. It is now a matter of fitting it into my routine no matter what that looks like.
2. I need to plan better.
I underestimated how much time I needed to grade and plan. Day-to-day subbing positions require neither. If I am honest with myself, this entire experience made me realize just what I need to do when I at long last have my own classroom. I know I can make this work; it will just take some time and adjustment. Knowing that the long-term subbing position will be largely over June 1st, I decided to start again. Today.
I do hope that this summer will bring many wonderful things into my life. It is long, long overdue.
More on my spring adventures coming soon!
Mother’s Day will never not be emotional for me. I am continuously torn between celebrating the wonderful women in my life who made me who I am today – not just Mom, but both my grandmas and Joyce, my childhood neighbor, babysitter, and essentially adopted grandmother – and struggling with my own path to motherhood. All those women helped shape me morally, spiritually, and intellectually.
Mom, of course, continues to do so. I still crave her advice. I am so grateful for her friendship; her example, not only as a mother, but as a teacher, business woman, Christian; and her unconditional love. All of it. Somewhere along the path to adulthood, she also became my best friend.
In the past, I dreaded Mother’s Day. Working retail in my 20s, strangers wishing me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” broke my heart and left me feeling empty. They all meant well. That’s the problem: One never knows who is struggling with infertility, pregnancy, strained relationships, loss, etc. For the longest time, I felt the same way at church on Mother’s Day, until I no longer did. A simple acknowledgement that some struggle with a whole variety of issues relating to motherhood made all the difference. Watching others grieve and acknowledge the loss of their own mothers made me realize that I am far from alone.
If I am completely honest with myself, recent events have made me question whether I do want to adopt, my only path to motherhood. In fact, it is part of the reason why I have been so silent here lately. Fortunately, my parents support me no matter what I decide, but what I wouldn’t give to be able to talk to my grandmas and Joyce right now. I could use their advice and wisdom now more than ever. All three would have something to say – all different – and force me to think of something I had overlooked.
If I do decide not to adopt, the hardest part will be having to change my perception of myself. I do not remember just how young I was at the time, but the first thing I remember wanting out of life is to be a mother. Fortunately, that is the beautiful thing about all of this. If I decide not to adopt, in many ways, I am still a mother. I have a great relationship with my nephews and niece. Spending time with my niece the other evening, she randomly told me that she wanted to come spend the night at my house. It didn’t work out that evening, but a sleepover is in the works once school is out. I want to be that aunt. My niblings are finally reaching the ages where I can be that aunt.
As a teacher, I influence children every day. I truly care for all my students, even if I am just their substitute teacher for a day or two. It doesn’t matter. So many students do not have much support at home. As a teacher, I can put my maternal instincts to good use. I can be the teacher that cheers them on at school. I know for a fact that I have already made a difference. I just need to step it up as I truly start my teaching career.
I may yet decide to adopt, but I need to give myself time and space to make that decision. I finally concluded that it isn’t the end of the world if I do not. When and if I do decide to adopt, I can say with certainty that I have thought of all possibilities and outcomes. If it is meant to be, I know that my son or daughter is out there waiting for me.
I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but I did find my voice. Now to keep it. I admit it: I struggle to fit everything in and cross all my T’s and dot all my I’s, especially this time of year. So many things are coming together, but I am just not quite there yet. I need to fit my writing into my temporary schedule. Maybe now would be a good time to figure out exactly what it is that I want.
So, what do I want out of my writing life? It is simple. I want room in my life to practice writing daily – both personally and here at Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde. I need room to grow as a writer. I now have the proper tools and the right support systems in place: it is just a matter of making time. I also want to keep contributing to other blogs, online publications, etc. Again, I am getting there.
Lately my writing made me reevaluate what I want in my personal life. What I’ve written here in earlier pieces is true. On one hand, I do want a family. On the other, it is not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. I have too many things I want to do in life. What am I willing to give up? What can’t I live without? How am I supposed to make that choice?
I think that is it. Over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve been forced to give up so many things, including several versions of what my life could be. How do I avoid becoming attached to one outcome? There are so many things in my life to explore. I hope I never lose my desire to try new things. That is part of my problem though. It is time I start making some commitments. In doing so, I hope I am never so inflexible that I am unwilling to start over when I need to do so. The day I quit trying is the day I die. I may still physically be here, but that could not be called living.
Who is to say that my life needs to be a certain way? I flat-out reject that idea. I need to do what is best for me. What that looks like now, I’m not sure. I do know I am not quite ready to trust again. At this point, I don’t know if I ever will be. Does it matter? I need to focus on my myself, and if the right man is out there, he will find me. It is time to let it go.
Nothing compares to spring in Omer. In the middle of all the mud, daily extreme temperature swings, the rain and snow, not to mention the annual Sucker run, my family and I start gearing up for the busy summer ahead. The canoe livery will always be a part of my life, and as my parents prepare to retire, I can say I am finally starting to make it my own. Our Facebook pages, website, and our new online reservation system all represent years of hard work on my part. Slowly my brother and I are taking on more and more responsibility.
This year, for many personal reasons, I am looking forward to this summer. For the first time in a long time, I have a clearer vision of what I need to do. Writing will take its place alongside all my canoe livery responsibilities. In the meantime, I am working as a long-term substitute teacher until the end of the school year. Last week I transitioned from subbing in a different classroom every day to taking on the responsibility of finishing out the school year in a 4th grade classroom. Just as I eased into a routine with my writing, I need to readjust. In June, I will have to do it again. Please stay with me as I try to figure out a good schedule here.
On a personal level, it has taken me years to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be happy unless education (teaching), business (the canoe livery), and writing were a part of my life. I need all three. When I received my teacher certification testing results for the business, management, and technology subject area, I felt anger. It clearly showed I should have never doubted myself when it comes to my business education. Of the three tests I took for my teaching certificate, I scored highest on the business exam. All areas of the test.
Yet, I did doubt myself when my business career hit a brick wall in 2005. So many things happened at a result that I took a good long look at what I truly wanted to do with my life. Thanks to that reevaluation of my career, I eventually earned my teaching certificate and my general writing certificate. Now, after all these years, I work every day making it all fit together. I simply ask that you stay with me. I will figure this out.
More than anything, I am proud of the family business my grandparents and parents built over the years. This summer represents 60 years in business. I grew up working not only with my parents, but my grandparents as well – especially Grandma Reid (Dad’s mom, pictured above). She, and my parents, taught me so much about business, customer service, and hard work growing up. Several years ago now, I asked Grandma what Grandpa Russell (Dad’s father, who started the canoe livery and passed away decades ago) would think of the canoe livery today. She didn’t quite know what to say. Now I wonder what she would think of the changes we’ve made.
What is it about a book club that makes it so irresistible? Personally, I believe it is the structured discussion of a set topic. It is nice, neat, orderly; we all know exactly what to expect. And yet, we don’t. Book club discussions often lead to interesting places. I’ve formally been a member of a book for the last five years. During that time, I’ve read books I never would have picked up otherwise and had discussions I never dreamed I would have all thanks to book club.
The Standish-Sterling Book Club, however, is not my first. I like to think that Grandma Buttrick and I had our own little book club of two for a few years. Every time I visited, usually weekly, she never failed to ask me what I was reading. I loved sitting with her in the den, cold drinks in hand, talking books. I clearly remember both of us reading Malcolm Gladwell’s books and discussing them at length. Even when poor eyesight and memory issues made reading difficult for her, she still loved to talk books. I wouldn’t leave until I told her about the latest book I read.
When Grandma passed away in 2014, I saw it as no coincidence that I soon discovered the Standish-Sterling Book Club. The fact that they were discussing The Fault in Our Stars at the time captured my imagination. I’d read it as well, and due to the loss of an old childhood friend, that book will stay with me for the rest of my life. I wrote about the connection here and even quoted part of the book. On some level, I like to think that Grandma knows all about book club and that our family still shares books.
Regardless, book club will always be a part of my life, even if one day I must start one myself. I get too much out of it – as a reader, a writer, and a human being. This article nails it when it comes to the importance of book clubs and their resurgence. I hope the trend continues. I don’t see myself giving up book club any time soon. I enjoy it far too much.
As a teacher, I wish I could impart my love of books on all students. I truly believe that everyone can learn to love reading. Those who supposedly hate reading just haven’t found the right books yet – or they equate reading with reading in school. In school, students often have little or no choice as to reading material – although that is changing for the better and one of many reasons why I love Donnalyn Miller’s work. You can find more information on her work here. She stresses how important it is for teachers to help students discover good books and learn how to make solid reading choices on their own. I hope one day book clubs – and more importantly, the love of reading – will become so pervasive that students will want to create their own. There is so much to be gained through reading and too many good books to allow a hatred of reading to grow.