Growing, Changing, Improving

Lifestyle

Something that has been a huge relief to me in my professional life is the realization that humans always have the ability to improve and grow. It’s like we never truly have a limit to improvement. At first, I didn’t realize this, and I quickly grew overwhelmed with my job.

I am a high school English teacher. When I first started in the field I thought that meant I would be teaching students to love reading and writing. It turns out that would be way too easy. My first year of teaching I quickly found more and more responsibilities being thrown on me. You have a kid who sucks at organization? Well, guess what, now you’re in charge of keeping his materials for him! That’s right, now you don’t only need to keep your things organized but also multiple students who can’t stay organized for themselves.

That’s just one example. And maybe that doesn’t sound too difficult, but I have around 150 students per day. I already have a lot to organize and keep track of. At one point in my career, it seemed almost impossible to think I’d also be able to manage personally keeping track of a bunch of kids’ work and materials for them. Now, somehow, I do it easily without even thinking about it. Currently, I’m in my fourth year of teaching, and it seems every year there are new things that I think, “There’s no way I can do this. It’s just too much.” But by the start of the next school year, I’m always seamlessly doing those very things that the year before I thought were impossible to master.

Part of me finds this reality comforting. To know I can always get better, that somehow there is always more capacity in my brain and body to take on more. It helps me from getting completely overwhelmed and shutting down. But I do think there is a dark side to this great human ability as well.

See, I am not the only person who realizes this cool ability that humans have. My boss realizes it, and so does my boss’s boss. And a lot of other people in positions of power too. My boss is a nice guy, but he also has a boss (and his boss is probably a nice guy too, but I don’t know for sure because I don’t know him), and bosses have a lot of pressure on them, just as much as us people lower on the totem pole do. That pressure all comes because the thing about most jobs and careers and our society in general is the push to be efficient as possible. To get the most out of what we have. And sometimes, wrongly, the people in charge start viewing the people below them as things. We become reduced down to an object; we are resources to be used and drained. At least this is how it feels in education.

Most days I feel tired. I feel like my bones are tired, like my soul is tired. I go home most nights with nothing left to give, but that doesn’t work because my job doesn’t stop when I walk out the doors of the school building. I still have parents to contact, emails to respond to, papers to grade, classes to prepare for, and more. The 90 minutes I get to do these things in a school day are never enough.

Plus, I have a family; I have a husband and two dogs, and I think it’s wrong to go home everyday with nothing left to give to them. They are my whole heart. They deserve the most, and yet so often they get the least.

I’ve been trying to find ways to energize myself, so I don’t keep going home with nothing left. I know that there are no quick fixes, and I know that eventually something big will have to change, but for now it’s about maintaining and sustaining myself.

One small way I’ve been doing this is through taking pictures of all the small things that bring me joy throughout my week. I did not come up with this. I started doing it after someone I follow on Instagram shared the idea (I don’t remember who. If I did I would share the handle).

So today I leave you with these: Some of the things that have brought me happiness in these last few weeks.

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Breakfast food is definitely a love language of mine. I’ve been making this cinnamon roll coffee cake recipe for the last couple weeks and it’s the best part of every morning. It’s been an easy enough way to show myself some love.

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This blurry, sunny picture of Eric and Tallulah. These two have been there for me so much in these last two and a half years I can’t even begin to tell you it all in this small caption. They will forever be my heart.

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We got Clementine in part just because we wanted another dog, but we also got her because we wanted a friend for Tallulah. I also secretly (or not so secretly) wanted a dog who would cuddle endlessly with me. Tallulah likes her personal space and I can appreciate that. To my pleasant surprise Clementine loves to cuddle, and I’m actually her preferred cuddle buddy. Every day she curls up on my lap like this, I am just filled with radiating beams of contentment.

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This one worked in a couple of different ways. 1. Self-care in the form of giving myself time to do something as simple as use a skin mask, and 2. Try a new beauty product, which I love to do. This was so fun, and I enjoyed it so much. Sometimes it makes me wonder why I don’t make time for me to do it more often.

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And finally, my garden. It took forever to see anything bloom in my garden this year. The weather was not what the plants needed, and I saw so much of my hard work from the spring go to waste. It was discouraging to say the least. But this is the silver lining! See, I still have flowers in October! And even better, this past week, those flowers were covered in butterflies, because (get this!!!) it’s butterfly migration season. My time in my backyard has been extra beautiful lately.

Okay, that’s all I have for now, but let me tell you this simple trick works. Taking these photos and looking back on them really does remind me of all the wonderful things I’m constantly surrounded by and that in itself helps to re-energize me.

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The Time I Caught My Hair On Fire (Making Cards)

Home, Lifestyle

Wow, it’s already September. No, it’s already the end of September. I can’t believe how quickly this month has gone. Back in August, a Windows update crashed my computer. Eric and I took it to a professional to restore, but the guy couldn’t save any of my word files. I’m devastated to say the least. And no, I didn’t have them backed up. And yes, I’ve learned my lesson and will back things up from now on.

Regardless of what I’ve learned, this experience hurts. Years of writing have disappeared and this is a hard experience. What I’ve realized, though, is that life is full of hard experiences, and usually not not only does God allow me to learn through these experiences, but also He allows to find humor in them. I know it’ll be awhile until I can find something to laugh about through this experience, but until then, I’m going to share another experience that I learned to laugh about.

This story takes place in February of this year, just a handful of months ago. I decided that I really wanted to take the time to hand make and mail Galentine’s Day cards to all the ladies closest to me. Maintaining strong friendships in adulthood requires intentionality, and this is one thing I wanted to be thoughtful and intentional about.

February was also a rough month for me in general. I was fighting off a sinus infection that I had acquired in January, which had sent me to an urgent care one night and just wouldn’t seem to go away. I was also trying to find a balance between my personal life and my professional life (there are always more papers to grade). I felt like I never could get the things done that I most wanted to accomplish. This led to me staying up late one night, desperately trying to finish the cards in time to get them in the mail so they would arrive on Galentine’s Day.

My husband had fallen asleep on the couch. All of the cards were finished and dried. The envelopes were addressed and stamped. All I had left to do was to put the cards in the envelopes and seal them with a red wax stamp.

I practiced with the wax stamps before, but I was excited because this was the first time I had a real reason to use it. After finishing stuffing the cards into their rightful envelopes, I lit the wick in the wax. One at a time, I balanced the stick of wax over each envelope until a spattering of wax drops formed a nice circle. Then, I would press the stamp firmly into the hot wax, waiting a few moments for the wax to cool and take its shape as a seal.

The cards looked beautiful. I was proud of my effort and staying up late paid off. After I finished the last seal on the last card, I sat up and looked at my short wax stick. It was in my hand the whole time, but I only noticed now that the flame had overtaken the wick and had now started the actual wax on fire too.

Calmly, I attempted to gently blow out the flaming wax stick. But my gentle blow didn’t work and now a small panic was setting in. So I tried to keep it together and reasoned that I just needed to blow harder (I felt very much like the big bad wolf hunting down the three little pigs). This time, my attempt did in fact put out the fire on the wax stick, but it also sent little piles of flaming wax straight into my hair. I’m lucky that it was just the front band area of my hair. I’m lucky that the wax didn’t fly into our carpet or our curtains.

At this point,with my hair on fire, I needed to make a decision and make it quickly. First, I tried calling for my husband, but my panicked screams didn’t wake him. It’s probably good that he didn’t wake up. Can you imagine waking up to your significant other’s hair on fire?

Next, I thought about making a run for the kitchen or bathroom, where I could use a towel to pat out the fire or stick my head under the sink. However, I decided not to, afraid that moving would give the fire access to more oxygen, allowing it to grow bigger.

Now, as the smell of burnt hair filled the air, I only had one option left. I pulled sleeves of my sweatshirt down over my hands and started patting my head vigorously. Before long, I could no longer feel any heat. I got up and checked the damage in the mirror. I couldn’t tell where it had happened. My hair didn’t look any differently, but it did smell terribly. I washed my hair in the sink, managing to get most of the smell out.

Finally, I woke my husband. I told him what happened. His groggy eyes filled with shock. “Are you ok?” he asked. I was fine and I told him I was, but it was scary for a little while. The whole thing probably took seconds but it felt like half an hour. I apologized for the smell. Eric apologized for not waking up to my yells. No one was mad. We were both just glad that everyone was safe, it was over and we could both go to sleep.

That night it was scary, but even by the next morning I was starting to see the humor in the situation. Now, months later, I see it as pure comedy. I mean, I can literally picture Mindy Kaling doing the same thing in a movie scene. I’m thankful that I’ve been given the ability to find the humor in almost every situation, and now I’m just waiting to find it in the crashing of my computer.

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