Monthly Archives: August 2015

Finding Balance

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What is balance?  Where has it gone, and did we ever have it to begin with?

I struggle daily to find balance in my life.  Balance between home and work, balance between what I give of myself and what’s left behind once I do.  The struggle is real to find the right amount of effort for each compartment of my life.  And that’s how I cope with issues – I compartmentalize my life.  Little sections of family, work, friends, church.  Each section is important but as odd as it may seem, they rarely mesh.

My daily battle is somehow equalizing the compartments, and I have to honestly say, there are times when some of my compartments are totally ignored.  There are days when one or two areas devour the other parts of my life.  Can you guess which areas those are?  I bet the same ones you struggle with, too.

As with many jobs, mine tends to devour.  If I’d agree to what it wants from me, I could work from dawn to bedtime every day.  If I would just give in and let it have me, I would eat, breathe and sleep work.  Many people I work with do and have.  They work incredibly long hours, every day of the week, just trying to somehow keep their heads above water.

Here’s the thing, I refuse to let any compartment of my life completely rule over the others in a negative way.  Especially work.  I work my tail off while I’m there, but I’ve learned the hard way that I must have downtime at home.  If I don’t, my family and home life suffers.  My children suffered when they were younger because work zapped me so fully and completely that they were left with a grumpy momma.  I learned a little too late that if there’s no downtown, there’s no energy for friends or church or anything else.

So where’s the balance?  How can teachers find balance in a system that demands more every year, sometimes every month or week?  How can school employees (because our principal, secretaries and staff work just as long if not longer than we do) continue at this pace?  I know my body and psyche and I know that this pace can destroy my gut.  It can wreck nerves and fray the senses.  It can change once kind, jovial humans into fussy, irritated grumps.

How can we fix it?  What can teachers do to regulate their time, to find a balance that keeps them healthy while providing all that is expected?  I wish I knew all the answers.  I wish I had a magic wand.

Here is what I do know (and granted, it’s not much):

  1. Don’t be afraid to leave work when your work day is over.  If the work is still there, guess what?  It will still be there in the morning.  The world will not have stopped turning and somehow, you’ll get it done the next day.
  2. Your children and spouse come first.  Period.  End of story.
  3. God gave us all a job to do on this earth, but I believe we’re still expected to take care of our internal selves.  If we don’t care for the tender parts of our soul, no one else will.  We have to ‘tend the garden’ of patience, love, kindness.  If we ignore them, weeds will take over.
  4. “Don’t sweat the small things” – man, nothing is more truer than that statement.  Let the little stuff go.  Out the door, out of your mind, out of your gut where it will turn into an ulcer the size of the moon if you’re not careful.
  5. When you get tired, STOP!  Stop, walk, run away from the building.  Go home, rest, cook, read, zone out in the recliner.  Just stop.
  6. Be kind.  Smile at somebody at least once a day.  Give a compliment.
  7. Sleep is awesome.  Downright magical, really.
  8. Share the good – like when you figure out this balance thing.  When you figure out the answer, let the rest of us know.
  9. Never forget the reason most of us are there.  I have heard so many teachers say over the years, “If I didn’t love the kids so much, I’d be gone.”  I guarantee you, every teacher in the world has thought that.  I know I have.  Sometimes, when I slow down enough to really look at my students, to look into their eyes and see the churning of their minds, I remember.  I remember that these little people are just little people.  They need us to love them with all we’ve got.  THEY are what keep me there.

Told you it wasn’t much, but it’s all my weary, work compartment can manage.  And I’m serious about number 8.  There has to be an answer to balancing our lives, to keeping our focus on what is real and important.  I’m expecting some really smart educator to figure it out.  That’s what we’re good at, by the way.  That’s why they pay us the big bucks!

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For the Unpolitical Like Me

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I know I can’t be alone.  Surely there are others in the world who cringe at every commercial, every ad, every post.  And even though the election is a long way off, the hullabaloo has already begun.  I already hate it and I can’t imagine how much worse it’s going to get before the actual election gets here.

Here’s the thing – I am not or ever will be completely affiliated with one political party (even though I am surrounded by people of both parties).  Nobody can sway that.  The only person who has some influence over my political decision making is my husband, but even he knows that I hate it all too much to ever fully commit to one party or another.  To me, they are ALL one big hot mess!  In my experience, political parties only seem to care about one thing…their own beliefs.  If something is different than what they believe in, then it’s out…goodbye and don’t even look my way.  What about that works?  What about that helps your fellow man or this country?  It seems like absolutely nothing.

I think about how much money politicians make and it makes me cringe.  I think about how they’ll fight for their own agenda but then ignore abused and starving children right here in America and I’m sick.  To me, and probably only to me, our system seems very broken, and since different political parties bounce through the White House every eight years, I think it’s hard to blame our problems on one group of people.  This brokenness has been occurring for too many years to count.

Has America become the world’s joke?  Are we now just one big reality television show?

I take comfort in believing that God is in control, and I do believe He has a plan.  Somehow he’ll turn our huge messes into good.  But guys, I just cannot believe that this same God cares who is Democrat or Republican.  I instead think He’s looking at us like I look at my children when they’re telling me something all hyped up and one-sided…He has one eyebrow up, eyes are squinted, mouth is pursed in a smirk, and He’s silently shaking his head.  And since He loves us, He just murmurs, “Good grief.”

My hubby told me the other day, “If so-n-so wins, we’re moving to Canada.”  I laughed hard but I think he might be serious.  If we’re up and gone come next winter, you’ll know why.

Stress

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If there was an award for stress eating, I’d be your champion.  Like the gold medal, first place winner.  For instance, our adopt-a-school sponsor, the wonderful Johnson Controls, gave us a goody basket of supplies for back to school. Nestled inside was a jar of jelly beans…the really good kind you get at Easter…and I ate every single one of them in probably fifteen minutes flat.  Told ya…first place for sure.  

Back to school is the ultimate stress inducer, as in there is no worse month in the month of teaching than August.    New students, new personalities, new schedules, new everything.  And as much as I hate to admit it, I stress eat like a crazy lady.  Not good things either.  Stress eating hits at non-meal times when I’m weak and shaky…at times when only a snack will do.  Things like M&M’s and Smarties and dark chocolate.  Not good, I know.  

I’m hoping this week will be better and the marathon snacking will subside.  We’re entering week three, day ten of this new year.  My class is sweet and eager, hard-working and interesting, and I’m anxious to see how far they will progress.  If we can survive August, we can do anything.

So as I prepare for another week, I’m asking a huge favor.  Please pray for the children and for the teachers.  Pray for us and how we deal with our stress.  We all don’t handle it the same, and goodness knows we’re all just looking for a way to survive the moment.  Some chew nails, others cry, some rant.  I eat candy.  

And that is my confession.

Told you they were interesting!

Back to School

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It’s that time again.  Are you ready?  Am I?  Most definitely not…not today anyway, but I’ll get there.  It’s time to begin another school year, to meet new students, to try and be the best teacher I can be.  Some years it’s easy, some not so much.  And honestly, I’m struggling a wee bit.  It has nothing to do with school (except for the getting up early part) and way more to do with the fact that I’m heading off to school alone this year.

For the first time in sixteen years, I have no child starting the school year with me.  No babies to pick out new outfits for, no new backpacks, no new tennis shoes.  Since Kindergarten, I’ve always taken their pictures on the first day of school and then meticulously put them in their scrapbooks.  I’ve always gone school supply shopping for them, picked out snacks, dreaded the homework, and prayed hard for them each day when I passed the high school.  This year, it’s just me.  And like the big goofball I am, I’m a little sad about it.

Hunter starting Kindergarten.  The first of many school pictures made on the back sidewalk.

Hunter starting Kindergarten. The first of many school pictures made on the back sidewalk.

Trey, first grade - reading to his daddy.

Trey, first grade – reading to his daddy.

Is it possible to be thrilled they’re both going to college at the end of the month and still be sad they’re growing up?  Yes, that’s me.  And is it unreasonable to ache for your little babies even while you beam at your semi-adult children?  If it is, then that’s me too.

Here’s what I figure:  I spent sixteen years of my life getting my children through school (and the last three, college), so…is it an unreasonable possibility that I should be finished with school, too?  Seems fair to me!  And what if I get them both through college?  Then that’s the bonus round with a big retirement coming right after it!  Right??  Right??

Hunter and SuSu and a really gigantic purple backpack.  Sorry Hunter, that thing must have tipped you over a few times.

Hunter and SuSu and a really gigantic purple backpack. Sorry Hunter, that thing must have tipped you over a few times.

Luckily for me, I’m going to have a room full of little ones to love me when I get to school next week.  I know they’ll ease the missing and ease the sadness.  That’s such a wonderful perk to my job.  Just today, I got hugs from a prior student and a boy I’m having this year.  There are not many jobs where hugs find you everywhere you go.

I’m also lucky to live in a county where freedom and faith still find you on a warm Saturday.  This morning, people from our community gathered to pray for the upcoming school year.  People from all denominations and different parts of the county gathered at the courthouse before heading out to individual schools.  It was pretty amazing, and I know I felt blessings all around me.  My beloved Mrs. Marsha, the kindest cafeteria worker and person in the world, said, “Did you see the birds and butterflies circling our building while we were walking?”  They were there, we weren’t alone…  What a wonderful reminder that even when I feel sad and alone as I head off to school, I’m not.  I’m not alone at all.