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The Gaps

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I thought that I’d been hurt before, but no one’s ever left me quite this sore…

I’m sitting here listening to Stitches by Shawn Mendes (thanks for the lyric quote above). This song is clearly about love between two people, but it’s describing my feelings right now pretty well. I’m tripping over myself. No joke, this is feeling so true right now.

But I guess the question is why; why do I feel like I’m about to lose my mind, like everything going on right now is just too much? My mom told me today that I just have a lot on my plate, as if that explains why things seem so much worse to me right now than they could. I do not entirely believe her. I have about the same amount on my plate as usual, plus the amount that has been added onto each and every one of my family members right now. I feel like the answer to why is the gaps.

You see, I’ve noticed over the past few days that there are so many gaps in my life that just don’t seem to be fulfilled; there are so many spaces in conversation, in work, in play… they seem like big chasms of question, things I’ll never figure out the answers to.

Let’s start here: My family life. As you hopefully all know by now, my grandma is sick. What most people don’t know is that over the past week, she has gotten significantly worse. I don’t feel like going into details, especially since I feel like this is all I write about anymore. Instead, let me just say that there are spaces here… spaces of time when I would normally be visiting Grandma that are now filled with emptiness and worry. You see, her state has changed so drastically that neither myself nor my parents feel it is in my best interest or even my grandmother’s for me to visit her right now. Let’s not even get started on the fact that half the time I wouldn’t know whether to visit her at home or in the hospital…

Next: My job. I’ve come to realize this week that one of my students has been slipping through grades left and right ever since they were in elementary school. I’ve wondered for months now why their math skills are so low… come to find out, they slipped through those grades like an eel looking for a space to hide out for a while. Only this kid hid out for a really, really long while. Now that they are attending school on a semi-regular basis, it’s apparent that they have a lot of gaps in their learning. The poor child doesn’t know how to line up multi-digit numbers for subtraction and multiplication, let alone the fact that I’m trying to teach them how to introduce letters into their math! Let’s just say that I am horrified by the fact that this kid has slipped through so many fingers. And now, me standing here like a hypocrite, can only say that they are also about ready to slip through mine. You see, I’ve never taught elementary or middle school math. I don’t have the resources, and I honestly am not sure I know how to teach that type of math. I know it sounds stupid coming from a math teacher who has taught everything from Prealgebra to Calc II, but I honestly don’t know how to teach kids to multiply or divide the basics. Some math facts I was just taught to memorize, so I did. It’s never been an issue in my life. I fear that the school doesn’t have the resources, and neither do I for that matter. What will happen to this kid a year or two from now? Then I remember, it’s not like I was the one who let things get this bad; but it still feels like my job to find a miraculous way to fix these holes.

At home this weekend, I’ve found that there are some times when I am really good at keeping it together and there are some times when I am just not. Take Friday for example. I got a call from Mom on the way to work telling me that grandma was going back to the hospital again. Things weren’t looking good, etc. etc. I barely cried. I felt like crying, but I truly couldn’t make myself shed a tear. I was on my way to work, I was focused on my day ahead, and I could not bring myself to cry had I wanted to. Then, fast forward to Saturday morning, when I felt so depressed about the state of stress and disorder in my life, that I’m not sure I climbed out of bed before noon. The vast difference in my demeanor when I’m at home versus when I’m in front of family, friends, or coworkers is extreme. Somehow there’s a disconnect between those interactions in my life and those I have at home, alone or with my husband. I wonder where the disconnect comes from. I also wonder if it’s a good thing or a bad one. I hate feeling like I’m leading two different lives right now, but being able to disconnect from my family life at work seems to help me de-stress a bit during the day. Then, once I get home, I’m all about family and not so much concerned about which kid is emailing me about homework or computer issues, etc.

I don’t know whether any of these things are good or bad. The only thing I do seem to know right now is that things will only be getting worse in the near future, or at least that’s how it seems at the moment. Whether they actually do or not, I’m going to keep pushing myself the same as I have been. It suddenly seems so important for me to fill in these gaps that I’ve started to overcompensate for things. Not so great at helping this kid at my job? Let’s go home and run 3 miles so at least I’ll lose some weight. Not so great at being able to face my emotional fears and see my grandma? I’ll just overcompensate by having every single paper graded every single day before I leave my classroom.

So while I seem put together to many outsiders in my life right now, I am a complete catastrophe waiting to happen. I feel there’s only so long that I can continue to juggle all of these tasks and issues before my arms start to get weak and those balls fall to the ground. Yet I’m going to keep trying because I’m not sure what else I could do at this point. There is no such thing as mental health days off of work, and I’m not sure taking one would make me feel better even if they did exist. I’m also not sure that throwing myself at my work distracts me enough from my family situation, but it’s the best attempt I’ve got going right now.

So for anyone reading this who knows me personally, works with me, etc. Just know that I’m not okay, that things are quite a mess, but that I’m going to keep struggling through. I might be less talkative (since when do I avoid the break room at work, right?), I might seem grouchier or less willing to share the happiness and love, and I might seem like I have two different personalities depending on when you run into me. But trust me when I say this, I’m going to make sure my family pulls through this. I’m going to make sure that I, somehow, someway, pull through this. I’m going to keep praying to God more and more each day, and I’m going to do my best to keep on putting out my best for my kids, my family, and my overall well-being. It seems like a feat I’m clearly going to fail at reaching, but it’s one that I’m not willing to give up on. This is one time in my life when I insist on filling in all the gaps and making everything better. If I don’t try now, I’ll probably just fall apart.

Prayers are appreciated for Grandma, the student who is struggling so bad, and anyone else I know that is going through a painful time. I know I talk on here a lot about my personal issues, but don’t think I can’t see your problems too! And not only do I see them, but please know that I still care. Through it all, my gaps feel less important and more manageable than your’s do. I know how much you are sacrificing right now to take care of our family. You’re the strongest people I know.

 

~B

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My Shoes

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I haven’t had the chance to update my friends and family lately about what’s been going on with my life. This is mainly because school is back in session full force. It could also have something to do with the amount of stress that I have been feeling lately; sometimes the last thing I want to do is focus on my own personal life (and problems) by discussing them with people who either try to understand or are going through similar.

I have been wanting to write ever since yesterday morning, when I almost didn’t crawl out of bed. I wanted so bad to call into work. Though I’m not sure what I would have told them, my excuse probably didn’t fall under sick. It was more like I needed a mental health day after having a torturous dream that left me feeling pretty horrible.

I don’t really remember all of the exact details of the dream itself; all I remember was that I woke up scared to death, worried about moving or starting the day. Why? Because in my dream, my family and I were dealing with the death of my grandma. Even though it was just a dream, the “day” didn’t go too well.

Needless to say, maybe grandma being sick is bugging me more than I am letting on. Some days I feel like I should go and see her no matter what else happens, but some days I wonder if I can bring myself to sit there with her, in her home, while she’s getting sick and I’m just trying not to act any different than normal. (People with anxiety often get really quiet or strange in tense situations; unfortunately, visiting grandma has been one of those situations lately.)

In any case, my week has not started off in the best way. In fact, it pretty much sucked to wake up like that on a Monday morning before heading off to a drama-filled, intense day at work. Some days, especially yesterday, I wish my kids could see, could at least try to understand what I’m going through outside of work. They mostly see teachers as these beings who don’t do anything outside of work. You remember being a kid right? When you ran into a teacher in the grocery store or at Walmart, it was weird; why would your teacher need to ever leave the school, right? I remember those days. I wish I could tell my kids, tell their parents exactly what I am going through. I wish I could give them some insight into my personal life, explain to them why I may not be performing at my best right now. Because I am a wife, with two dogs to look after, and a family that I am concerned about 24/7 these days. This is what happens when someone in your family is so horribly ill. Mom has been spending all of her energy keeping her emotions in check and watching over grandma multiple days a week. Dad is so upset and stressed by grandma’s sickness that I don’t even want to see what kind of state he’s in half the time. My sister and I are to the point that we are just trying to keep it together. There are honestly days when my husband doesn’t know how to deal with my emotions… mostly because neither do I.

So as a human, I wish these kids could understand: I care about each and every one of my kids, but in the grand scheme of my life right now, I cannot give them my usual 110%. I wish I could. It kills my heart not to be able to. Yet it upsets me that, even though they may not know what is going on in my life, they can’t take the second or two to realize that maybe there is a good reason why I am not as caught up on my grades as I normally am. Maybe there is a reason why I have stopped sending my work emails to my phone on weekends. Just maybe, there’s a reason why I cannot handle their own personal issues as if they are my own kid. Maybe it’s because I currently cannot handle my own personal issues.

I get it, I do. I want what is best for each of my kids. I want them to know that I am there for them no matter what. I also want them to learn some responsibility and how important it is for them to help themselves. With this said, I just wish I would have been able to explain that yesterday as a kid approached me about grades. But this entire conversation, telling them anything about my personal life right now… it just felt too personal, too unrelated to what was going on with them at the time.

You know, I worked my butt off last night to get grades updated. I probably should have been doing so many other things. Which is why the phone call I got this afternoon as I was packing up my things at work blew me away. Over the weekend, my grandma was taken to the hospital for dehydration, dizziness, etc. She was sent home within a few hours. What I hadn’t realized at the time was how extra sick she had gotten over the past few days.

I won’t go into details about her personal issues right now; I doubt she’d appreciate me sitting here telling the world about her problems. Just trust me when I say she was not doing well. Is not doing well. She told my mom today that she didn’t want her grandkids to see her in her current state. After dad saw her this weekend, he agreed that my emotional state was probably not a good mixture with grandma’s current problems.

I’ve basically been told that it’s best if I don’t see my grandma for at least a couple of days. The doctors and my family are hopeful that the medication she is taking is the reason why she has gotten so much worse. They are hopeful that her sickness should improve at least a bit in the next few days. If so, I should be able to go back and see her.

Yet all I keep thinking tonight is, what happens if they’re wrong? What happens if grandma is just getting worse because she is so burdened with cancer that it’s just going to get worse? What if there is nothing that a doctor or a family member can do, no matter how much we try, how much we care, how much we love her? What if there’s nothing left for us to do?

So I started listening to Christian music on my way home, praying in my head throughout the whole trip. When I got home, I took the dogs on a 3 mile jog to release the tension building up in my mind. After that, I was able to get distracted by some new game my husband showed me in his attempt to make me feel better. (Thank God for him, I think the game helped at least a bit to get me out of my funk.) I haven’t cried, I haven’t fallen apart. Not yet.

Even though today I heard about my mom’s horrific day, how she was almost crying as she talked to me over the phone… even though I found out that even my uncles are having a hard time dealing with seeing grandma so sick… even after I found out that grandma doesn’t really want to see me (even if she’s trying to protect me)… I still haven’t really cried.

I worry it will hit me at one point, hopefully not while I’m at work. I pray that grandma heals and gets better, at least enough that I can go visit again. I pray that the last time I saw her won’t be the honest-to-God last time I ever see her alive.

This, unfortunately, is my current reality. I know people have it worse; my grandma sure has it worse right now. I bet Mom and Dad have it worse right now; she’s their mom for one, and they are the caretakers who see the illness and are exhausted by it first-hand every day. I know there are people who are homeless, who are hungry and ill. I know I am not in the worst situation possible. I, for that reason, am still trying to be grateful. But it’s so hard right now to be grateful for something that still seems so unbearable.

So I guess my message for the day is this: while people going through a rough time often find it hard to complain or discuss their issues, we all have to remember that anyone around us could have it worse off than we could. I need to remember this too, even when it comes to my students.

More than anything, I wish you could take a walk in my shoes. If we could switch for just an hour or two, so that someone without anxiety could see how heavily these types of family-situations can feel so extra horrific, maybe they would better understand why I am so emotional, why I am not my best at work, why I am still trying my hardest but seem to be failing miserably.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

~B

My Life as an Anxious Overachiever

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There are very few people in life who cried over actual spilled milk, yet I bet there are even less who cry over a grocery store flyer and a TGIF ad for two-fer deals on entrees and appetizers. I actually wonder if there are any people who cry over the mail when the mail is such inconsequential papers in the grand scheme of life. These junk pages aren’t even worthy of their own envelopes.

Then I remember: just a few short hours ago, that was me; I was the girl crying over the flyer and advertisement. While I didn’t have any spilled milk, let me just say I did not need one single thing more to set me off. But let’s start at the true beginning.

Last Saturday I got some weird news. A distant relative had a major health issue that landed her in the hospital. She and her family ended up having to mourn the lost of one of their own. Why weird you ask? Not because the relative was so distant, not because it was so shocking… it ended up being real weird because it affected me more than I ever thought it would.

To anyone reading this, I hope that didn’t just sound super selfish. I didn’t mean that I got nosy and pried into their lives; in fact, I haven’t really talked to any of the family much since. I’ve been giving them space. Instead I spent time thinking of them, wishing them well, and praying hard that everything would be alright for them. Let’s face it; we aren’t the closest people ever, but their tragedy touched my heart because in some way, they welcomed me in to parts of their own lives. Even more, the devastation that a person becomes aware of when tragedy strikes anywhere close to home brings their anxiety up and their confidence down.

I trudged through the weekend, trying to enjoy myself and think of things other than the horror that probably ensued that day for those people I care about. Monday came and things at work were strange. Everyone wanted updates and to share concerns. (Long story how that connects to work, but believe me, it encompassed a large part of my conversations that day.) When I made it home, I realized that my husband and I had made plans to go buy a new dryer that night. Our’s had broken sometime over the weekend and we were about to be in desperate need of clean work clothes.

It was about 8:30, the parking lot was dark, the stars may not even have been out. I surely didn’t notice any constellations. My phone kept vibrating; I had been having a text conversation with my sister while we shopped and waited for the Lowe’s appliance guy to run through his paperwork. I finally got tired of it moving in my pocket, so while we were waiting for the dryer to come out to be loaded into the back of the pickup, I pulled it out of my jeans to see what was going on. A family member had texted me to tell me some contact information for the relative I spoke of earlier. I had called my grandma’s house for the number earlier in the day but there was no answer. Not only did I never receive that number from her, but the relative also continued to text me about how bothering my grandmother with things like this while she was trying to come to terms with her disease and inevitable death was something I needed to realize was inappropriate.

Crying my way home on my husband’s lap as I laid across the bench seat of the truck felt like the stupidest thing I had done in a while. I wished many times I had never made that phone call, left that message on my grandma’s machine. The contact information wasn’t that important; in fact, I wasn’t even sure that was the only way for me to get that number. (I ended up getting it from my Uncle later that night as it turns out.) I just couldn’t think how my one phone call had to be such a big deal though. How did the idea of leaving a message turn into me crying over the idea that I had made my grandma sick? How did my outlook on her illness and my relation to her change so suddenly with just some simple words on a screen? The answer is this: I was tired, I was worried about the wellness of others already, and I was stressed after having slept poorly the night before.

In the end, it was silly of me to have broken down like I did, there in the dark Lowe’s parking lot. Yet it made the events of the rest of the week seem even more important, maybe even worse.

Tuesday I spent all day trying to figure out how to stop thinking of my grandma every second. I went through teaching my classes as best as I could, but the thoughts lingered. When I realized it was time to go home, all I wanted was a break. Then I remembered I had to go to see my therapist immediately after work.

I won’t retell the events of that hour-long visit I had. All that’s really important is that I don’t remember ever walking out of therapy feeling worse than I did that day. It wasn’t my therapist’s fault; she was trying to help me get through the thoughts and issues I had been having, she was trying to prepare me for reality as best as she could. Unfortunately, that did not help to alleviate any of my worries or fears.

Going into Wednesday morning, I didn’t think much more could happen. Then we got the news that a coworker had to leave suddenly because of a family emergency. At the time, I could only guess what had happened to their family; unfortunately, the guessing made the anxiety worse. I continued to talk to my family and friends about all that had transpired so far during the week while simply praying to find an escape when I got home that night. I guess it wasn’t the worst day of the week, but I felt the stress climbing like my acid reflux climbs up my throat when I’m feeling particularly ill.

I thought Thursday would be settled enough to help me become less anxious; I was wrong. Thursday was the first day in my recollection that I had cried at my job. Well, at my current job. You see, I had made a mistake; I’m not afraid to admit it, nor am I afraid to tell you that I had been kind of immature in some of my actions. You see, my students continue to leave their lockers hang wide open all day long. Many of them leave their cell phones in their lockers, open for any eye to see. Even more of them leave other valuables unlocked without the realization that anyone, even a visitor, could end up taking something of their’s without it ever being returned. I’ve spent almost the past year and a half closing lockers on a daily basis. Always the same kids, always the same valuables, always the same lockers between every period of the day. Students say they don’t have enough time to unlock their locks in between classes though I’ll never understand why that means they can’t at least close the door…

In any case, my coworkers and I had started to move things. We never removed things from lockers, we just moved a textbook from one shelf to another. We zippered up a backpack that had a calculator and a brand new iphone peeking out of it. Then we closed the door and made sure it was latched just like we have done every other day for years. Maybe this was our way of teasing our kids a bit, but I’d like to think that it was my way of trying to get them to realize that someone, anyone, could be touching or removing their things. Some kids did start to get it; some kids thought the idea was funny. If they forgot to close their locker, they’d have to spend extra seconds finding the textbook that used to always sit in the top left of their locker. It may have been annoying, but they saw the lesson, they tried to learn. There was one kid who wasn’t so understanding… Needless to say, boss man ended up in my room that morning telling me that it was inappropriate for me to touch the kids’ items regardless of whether I had removed any of them or damaged them or not. It was really the first time that I had gotten in trouble at this job, the first time I ever felt a large level of anxiety within this classroom of mine. Along with everything else going on that week, I broke.

I spent at least 30 minutes crying silently to myself, with my husband working on the other end of the speaker phone as I tried to grade some quizzes for my students. It wasn’t so much that I had been yelled at, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t get what he was trying to say… I think I had finally realized the stupidity of the situation, the fact that I had actually spent time trying to teach these kids a lesson about valuables, about material things when all I wanted was for the people around me to be healthy, happy, and safe. At the end of the day, I may sound callus but I don’t really care about any of those cell phones, any of those backpacks or textbooks. I care about my family member who had a funeral to plan, I cared about my grandmother and how she had either gotten more sick or I had missed something in recent weeks that would have helped me to know how sick she truly is, and I especially worried about the coworker who was out of work again on Thursday for some unknown family emergency. I didn’t care about these phones, but I took the time to try to teach the kids (in what I thought was going to be a fun and carefree way) that their lockers needed to be locked. Really, I thought that was an open and shut case. A story that quickly should have ended. I thought the kids would be refreshed by the fact that I hadn’t yelled or babied them like normally happens when an adult tries to teach a teenager a lesson. I know now how it could have been perceived differently, but I wish someone (that kid, my boss) had realized that my actions were honestly not to make their day worse, to break any rules, or to do the wrong or immature thing. It was a bit of inane movement that I thought would result in giggles and lessons.

That day was clearly not the best; I spent the rest of it feeling like an alien in my own classroom; what other actions could be perceived as immature or incorrect? Would I run into my boss again? Would any random meeting be awkward? My anxiety was in third gear, maybe fourth, by that time. I got home successfully but I spent a good long time doing some more crying when I got home. I couldn’t manage to put this into words that day, or any of the other days earlier in the week. I couldn’t explain to anyone how these individual incidents kept piling one on top of another.

Friday was my glory day; Friday was the day things were going to be different. I didn’t think I’d end up saying the same about Saturday… maybe even Sunday. At this point, I just wanted to make it to three o’clock. I wanted a junior to come in and clean my room faster than ever so I could just go home and be away from humans. I think I had started to realize that the more I tried to converse with others, the more stress and issues there were. Friday was not to be my day either… another coworker was called out on family emergency (seriously, does anyone else believe in coincidence or things happening in groups). Then there was the last period class who tried to give me all gray hairs in a single 30 minute period. I had to end up assigning them the extra homework of explaining the word respect and how they had disrespected one another and myself. I asked them to think this weekend about what they needed to do better during their class next week. I had tried moving seats, I had tried gentle reminders, circulating the room… these kids were extremely distracted and extremely hyper that afternoon. I should have done the normal teacher thing and just gave them a Friday afternoon off; stopped teaching either out of the kindness of my heart or because I had reached an unsafe level of frustration. What I did instead was assign them more homework, more grading for me, to try to teach a lesson. I hope they take it seriously. I hope they realize that I’m trying to do good by them. Each and every one of them.

I did make it home finally, and I was able to have a relaxing evening with my mom. We attended a small play based on the story of Anne Frank. One of my students performed as Anne and was ABSOLUTELY amazing. The stress and fears lingered with me that night but I thought some sleep would help.

Today, Saturday, was going to be a good day. I had an event in the morning and a whole span of afternoon hours in which to relax, sleep, and be okay with me. I never thought the walk to prevent suicide would hit me so hard; side-by-side with my sister-in-law and my husband, we walked those two miles. I listened to stories of people who had died or almost killed themselves due to depression and suicidal thoughts. I listened to one man discuss how his major social anxiety led to him attempting to take his own life. I guess I realized then that all this stress isn’t good for me. I realized how desperately I just wanted life to pause for a minute, to just give me one second of rest without a single thought of all of this negative and horrifying news. I just one wanted minute, maybe sitting on my couch, where there wasn’t a thought in my brain or a single image on the TV screen. I wanted just a little bit of time by myself, no human interaction at all. As much as I care about those around me, I wanted for just a bit to truly take care of me.

I got home from the walk today; there was an envelope in the mail from the state tax bureau. They thought I hadn’t paid our taxes in full, that we had lied on our return from last year. I spent probably an hour with my husband trying to figure out where the “missing” money was. Luckily, we found out that it wasn’t missing at all. Unluckily, I finally reached my breaking point. As I cleaned up the papers from the tax debacle and prepared to mail the paperwork in an envelope, I could not find a pen that wouldn’t stop dying on me. I was on the phone with my sister at the time; she probably thought I was insane. I started yelling, pretty sure I threw that pen up against the wall. Then I told her I had to go; I hung up, looked around the room, and realized this: my life was a mess, my week had been one huge snafu, and even worse to me at that moment was the fact that it was a never ending feeling. Even the dog hair on the floor was a nuisance, the mail laying in haphazard piles just more mess to add to my extremely messy life. It was there, standing looking around my kitchen, that I broke.

I think I’m okay now. My husband made me lay down with no option of getting up, doing anything, or seeing any of the mess of my life (physically or in my head). He kept me distracted from the stresses and let me talk out things whenever I felt like voicing my thoughts.

I can’t say I feel better at this point but what I can say is this: my life has been worse, my life has gotten really rough at times. I thought many times in life that my days would be difficult, maybe impossible to get through. Yet each time so far, I have been wrong. There’s always been a tomorrow, there’s always been a light at the end of the tunnel.

I can say right now that I don’t see the light. I don’t think that working an open house at school tomorrow is going to brighten my future or bring me out of my funk. I’m not even convinced that someone will not have another family emergency this week or an issue that stresses me out. Instead, I’m just trying to go with it… I’m going to turn this computer off, lay down on my couch, and relax with my dogs. This is my evening, and if it’s the only evening of relaxation again for another whole week, you’d better believe I’m going to try to make the best of it.

If you suffer from anxiety too, just remember you aren’t alone. If you don’t have anxiety and now think I am totally out of my mind, I’m sorry. I guess detailing every minute thing that happens in my life is just one way of saying to others that I understand, that they can be okay too, that they are not alone. You. Are. Not. Alone.

 

I Don’t Understand

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Right now in life there are so many facts, so much data, and so many events happening simultaneously that it’s impossible for any one person to know everything. It’s even impossible in my opinion for someone to know everything that they would like to know. Maybe that’s just me though. As a teacher, I am always thirsting for knowledge. I love learning, which makes me able to learn and teach new things to others. But I digress…

Really what I’m trying to say is that even though I don’t plan on ever having all of the answers, right now I feel as though I have none. For example, I turn on Facebook or flip through a news station (which I admittedly don’t do very often), and all I see is negative. We had an entire professional development day yesterday at work about being positive, wording everything you say to your students in a positive manner, and being kind as well as compassionate for others. I spent almost 7 hours yesterday being drilled with positive this and positive that. I have to admit that it was refreshing, but the problem was that when I got home, everything around me was trying to throw negative in my face. I felt like I had hit a brick wall. Honestly, I still kind of do even 24 hours later. Maybe I just don’t understand.

Additionally, God threw into my life yesterday another twist on the rollercoaster. My friend died yesterday morning from his battle with cancer. While we weren’t super close, I will always consider him a friend. We may not have spoken often lately, but I know that I will miss seeing his old pictures of mountain climbing expeditions and other things that he experienced in his very active life. So here I go again, from this positive team-building day filled with activities to a negative brick left in my road to trip over. What makes this even worse at this particular moment is that my family has been struggling to even watch TV shows where people are suffering from cancer since my grandma is currently battling many types. To hear that someone I knew died from the disease is almost paralyzing. I could not get my head wrapped around the reality of that death, that pain, or that worry I was feeling. I guess I just don’t understand.

Then to flip through the news and see all of the negative that happens in this world… it just floors me. I believe probably close to 99% of all news stories are negative ones. And I cannot stand it anymore! People hurting each other, people being hurt by forces of nature, people being hurt because they can’t afford or cannot get healthy for one reason or another. It’s always something bad. Maybe the media needs to take a page from yesterday’s lessons that I went through and try to make everything positive. I’m not sure that’s really possible in our world right now. Even the people who have seemed trustworthy or good in the past often turn around to be a negative part of our lives. Yet, I feel like there has to be some sort of solution to all of this negative. And try as I might, I don’t think it will be possible for me to make myself 100% positive all the time with all of this dark cloud nonsense surrounding me every day.

I read a blog post recently about someone who was in a very positive place in her life. She was able to go on a trip that would change her life for the better. Even then, she mentions in her one post that the devil tried to input his negativity into her trip, into this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It made me feel good to know that I wasn’t the only one experiencing some struggles with the negative things in this world. Yet even more, I wished for just that one day, that one trip, that the writer could have experienced a completely positive environment. I feel like we all deserve that one chance, that one moment, to feel totally at ease in our lives.

Unfortunately, I am being reminded constantly that the idea of total good and happiness is not a reality in anyone’s life. I feel right now that I could attempt to (or even succeed at) being the most positive person on the planet with the most faithful and beautiful ways, but I would still be affected by that thundercloud of doubt, of anger, of negativity.

So it’s true then: I just don’t understand. If anyone has tackled the beast that is positive vs. negative in the world and has found ANY inkling of an answer, please feel free to share it. I know more than one person who would love a clue as to how to begin understanding all of this ‘ick’.

 

A-Z Scientists & Mathematicians

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My goal for this post is to see how many scientist and mathematician names I can come up with in order to create an alphabetical list of people who have greatly influenced the fields that I love. For those of you who are much more experienced and knowledgeable than me, please feel free to comment names that should be added! I’m sure, especially since I am tired, that I will miss some pretty big ones as well as some of the less popular ones!

Scientists:

A- Amedeo Avogadro

B- Niels Bohr

C- Pierre & Marie Curie

D- Charles Darwin

E- Albert Einstein

F- Rosalind Franklin

G- Carl Friedrich Gauss

H- Stephen Hawking

I-

J- James Prescott Joule

K-

L- Edward Norton Lorenz

M- Albert Michelson & Edward Morley

N- Isaac Newton

O- Georg Simon Ohm

P- Max Planck

Q-

R- Ernest Rutherford

S-

T- 

U-

V- Alessandro Volta

W- James Watt

X-

Y-

Z-

My Work Mom

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I’m going to sound really silly (or so I feel) writing this, but about five years ago, I met someone that I never realized would impact my life in such huge ways. She taught me everything practical there is to know about teaching, and she has been there watching and helping me grow in my profession ever since.

I remember entering the school in December, right before Christmas break. I met a bunch of people whose names I could not remember. I walked around some hallways that I would never remember how to navigate when the holiday was over. And then I went on my merry way, to try to gear myself up for the anxiety I was sure I would feel about starting to teach in an actual classroom.

Many of my friends know that I have always wanted to teach. Fewer know that I never thought it would be possible for me because of my anxiety. There were so many obstacles to maneuver around, that finding some retail sales job or simply living with my parents forever seemed like good alternatives to college and a career in education.

Somehow, while skirting around the high anxiety of actually staying on a campus and attending classes in a lecture hall, I managed to fairly happily make my way through college. Until that December. I struggled for weeks if not months to find a school that would allow me to complete my required student teaching hours. I never ever thought that the school I would go to was the one that everyone in my town always “hated”. I mean, some of us attended there, but when it came to sports, we were rivals in everything!

But I had no other choice at the time and I did what I had to. Which meant working meeting a bunch of new people and (hopefully) surviving the next three months teaching in a foreign place to me.

The funny thing is I remember leaving that day and feeling so much better about the entire situation. I felt my anxiety decrease tenfold, but I just always assumed it would come back the day before I was supposed to start working. That’s just how my body is. There was something that day though, about how welcoming the people were, that gave me hope that maybe I could keep myself under control and survive through those next few weeks.

Ironically enough, I was right. But I didn’t just survive without panic attacks; I feel like I excelled. Within weeks, my proctor and supervisor was pushing me to focus on the more minor details of my teaching techniques. He encouraged me to circulate the room more, or work to stop repeating the same words over and over again (which unfortunately, I still do quite often). He, like many others who got me through my life so far, believed in me and saw the best that I had to offer. He pushed me to bring that “best” out of myself and really make some progress in my career.

And while my family was always there supporting me, I feel that the biggest reason I was able to remain calm, work ahead, and truly ease my anxiety throughout those weeks was not one of those people.

No. It was the somewhat sarcastic, often funny, openly honest person who taught me what a “career husband” was and led me to believe that I could actually make something of myself in terms of teaching. I never thought I would want to teach at a brick and mortar school, but she taught me that even that was pretty cool sometimes.

I remember making so many embarrassing mistakes because of my young mind and my oversight of how different words and jokes can affect others. She was there through that too, teaching me that everyone makes mistakes, but you remember your’s and vow to never make the same ones again. She taught me the best method for running a classroom was through open and honest communication, but that it’s also always better to have a plan that can be changed at a moment’s notice.

By the time I left those three months, my position at that school was well known. I remember the salad and lemon cup that I ate for my farewell party, hosted by none other than the person I have been discussing. I still have all of the gifts that everyone gave me for my own classroom (though I’m unsure what to do with my name plate once my last name changes in a few short weeks).

My co-teacher even helped to land me my first job. First, as a substitute in the middle and elementary schools. Then, a few short months later, she pushed me to make contact with another person who not only gave me a full time job but also pushed me even farther in my career. And here again, my anxiety took over, and against her advice, I didn’t reach out to him myself. I was worried about the long drive, the fact that I would have to teach Calculus (which I HATED), and just the overall idea that I would have a major career where I would be impacting other people’s lives. But you know what? She didn’t let me skirt around that opportunity. No, she contacted that principal herself and shared my contact information. Before I even knew it, I was starting the first big job of my life.

I hate to admit that I lost a little bit of contact with her after I started my new job. I was pretty busy and spent a lot of time in my car after all. But for those first few years, I always remembered to send her anonymous birthday flowers and to make sure she knew I never forgot all that she had done for me.

Sitting here today, I don’t know where my life is supposed to go or what’s going to happen as I start so many new adventures in my life. But I am more than happy to say that this friend of mine is now my boss, now my resource, and now the person who suggested I take over their classroom when they decided to make a career change. And though I know that this job may not last forever, I am again astounded by the fact that this one amazing lady (whom I call my work mom) has changed my life for the better again.

But more than anything, as I sit here reviewing her plans and lessons from previous years, I realize just how truly she impacted my own teaching. Her planner… looks exactly like mine from previous years. Some of our worksheets are exactly the same (though this could be attributed to the fact that we used the same textbook). Even our sense of organization and using binders for blank copies and answer keys are the same.

I’m finding that I suddenly don’t feel like I’m starting a brand new job, but that I’m returning to one after many years of absence. And while she won’t be in the classroom right beside me, I know that my work mom is just down the hall any time I need her and that she has saved me hours upon hours of work by teaching me her organization skills and teaching techniques so that when I take over her classroom (which in my mind will always be her’s), it will already feel at least partly like I am in control, know what I’m doing, and will not be bogged down having to recreate every assessment and assignment and lesson.

So to that person, who I truly hope reads this, I can never thank you enough. The progress in maturity and my career may not be solely attributed to you, but you’re the one who has always been there guiding me in the right direction. And even though I am determined to come up with another way to thank you, I hope for now just knowing how grateful I am and how much I am starting to take after you in terms of my career will help you to realize that every day I spend in the classroom is just another tribute to you and your amazing educational skills.

I’m excited to see what my new job is going to bring me this year, and I just keep praying that starting it in the same week as my wedding will not bring back that anxiety too badly. Here’s hoping anyway, right?

~B

Struggling Today

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Yep, that’s right. I’m having a rough day. I mean, everything is working out okay, but I am struggling to understand why some people step into leadership positions (for jobs or otherwise) when they have no intention of being kind, considerate, or helpful to others around them. The biggest thing I have ever learned from teaching is that the job is NEVER about me. I have to force myself to look out for my needs, my health, and my happiness. Luckily, I like the job, but unless I focus on doing things for myself, they don’t get done. Other people have equally (or more so) selfless jobs, but not everyone treats those jobs the way that they should.

Why am I struggling with this in particular? Because at the same time that I land a job in a religion-based private school, I am also having to switch churches. Don’t get me wrong, my faith is not changing or being swayed by anything going on, but I have never been so ashamed to be in a church before in my life. Moreover, the person who is supposed to be giving me religious guidance is doing nothing really but to make me wish people weren’t so gossipy and selfish.

As I sit here writing, I’m trying not to sound selfish (or feel selfish for that matter) about the decision I have made. I’m trying to remember how much it means to my grandmother for me to attend church with her (though she’s never said so out loud). I’m trying to remember how important family is to me and how I feel so amazing knowing that I am sitting in the same pews that my ancestors have sat in for over 80 years now. And yet I cannot bring myself to go back.

So this week, I’m determined to go to the same church that our wedding officiate will be attending. In fact, he’s the senior pastor there and is more than understanding of circumstances that change your life in ways you never see coming. He, thankfully, has recognized that I am trying to lead a faithful life and to be a more regular attendant at church. And more than anything, he believes in me and would sit down with me any day at any time to give me advice or help through any situation.

I haven’t had a super great pastor or reverend to look up to in a long time, and I’m not excited about switching churches (again), but I feel like this is a change my life needs right now. I just pray it turns out well and that I can find myself with less anxiety about simply attending my church on Sundays. Here’s to hoping!

The Sneaker Catastrophe

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My sister brought her dog over to my house yesterday so that I could puppy sit. That left me in the house with three tiny black dogs who are all willing to cause plenty of trouble in their own way.

There’s Duncan: the one who doesn’t like loud noises, refuses to enter the kitchen, loves being outside, and does not go where you ask him if he doesn’t want to.

Then there’s Jasper: I think he’s the cool, chilled out one, though he is also mine. He’s the oldest of the group and acts like the father. He’ll put them in their place if need be.

Finally there’s Zoey: She’s my dog and my fiance’s (though mostly his) and just turned 3 months last Thursday. She likes to chew on everything, eat everything, and has recently learned to dig holes. Though her potty training continues to improve, she sometimes has a “set back” day where she acts like she should just be left outside the entire time so I can stop cleaning up accidents every ten minutes.

My day didn’t start out too well since I accidentally fell asleep shortly after my alarm went off. I was woken up by my sister banging on my door to drop off Dunc. And as soon as the dogs saw each other, it was terror all around. Even my “innocent” Jasper wasn’t enough to fend off the feuding that Zoey was trying to start between herself and Duncan.

Then, when I decided it would be great to go outside and just let the dogs run off all of their energy, it starts raining. And it rains pretty much the rest of the day. Of course this doesn’t stop Duncan from being outside; in fact, I think he might have enjoyed it more than sunshine!

Anyway, the dogs were basically terrors all day yesterday, including one of Zoey’s “set back” days, her new ability to almost jump onto our kitchen table and spill water all over my books, and Duncan’s insistence that he stay outside and get soaked before coming back in. Plus there was Jasper, who didn’t do anything majorly wrong. Yet, he wasn’t his normal fatherly figure in the house; he was happy just to trip me up when I was trying to go somewhere or to try to sleep on me when I’m trying to wrestle the other two off of each other. And so my day went…

Until it sort of stopped raining and I decided it would be good to get some of my (extreme) frustration out by taking a jog/dog walk down the road. Zoey is still too young to go too far from home yet because she doesn’t have all of her shots, but I leashed up the two boys and set out. I was excited because I had just downloaded a new app called “Map My Fitness” and wanted to try it out. Plus I ran much farther than usual, and ended up walking well past a mile in under 20 minutes. Unfortunately when I hit the 1.15 mile mark (or around about), my sneaker decided to break.

Before all of you track stars out there start to tell me, I will admit a few things: 1) I know, I should have been using actual running sneakers; 2) yes, they were really old too and I should have thought about that; 3) It’s probably much smarter to go running when someone you know could come and pick you up in an emergency; and finally, 4) I understand the implications of going running when it’s still sprinkling outside but I needed that exercise!

So yeah… here I am in my SUPER old Adidas sneakers that are, unfortunately, not intended for running. I’ve got Jasper on my left and Duncan on my right because they keep tangling me up if I let them on the same side as each other. Jasper doesn’t seem to care to run, Duncan doesn’t think I’m going fast enough. And yet I enjoyed myself! The road was a little slick, but not slippery enough for me to fall. Plus, like I said, I did some pretty good distance for being an out of shape asthmatic!

*Evil music enter here*

Then my shoe broke! The front half of the sole came off. At first I didn’t notice, but it shortly ended up curling and folding under itself so that I was walking on some pretty unbalanced and unsteady surface. Please keep in mind that I was over a mile from home.

On a normal day, I would have taken my shoes off and put my tough feet to the test. I would have turned around immediately and gone as quickly as possible home. But this was not any ordinary day. This day Duncan was with me; this day it was still spritzing and the roads were all wet and worm-covered. Also on this day, I had just decided to get into jogging down the road again after a pretty bad spill where I messed up my knee.

I think it took me almost 45 minutes to trudge my way back home with my broken shoe stuck to my left foot for my poor foot’s sake. Also with both dogs still trying to pull me home a fast as they could (or, in Jasper’s case, alternating between really fast and really stinking slow).

The reason I am even writing this is because it was hilarious now that I look back on it. It’s just my luck that 20 minutes in, I get a text from T saying he will be home late. So I had no ride either. In fact, every little piece of the day yesterday seemed to be one of those “just my luck” situations. I even had a thought at one point that I would rather have been at work changing people’s lives for the better than here at home dealing with dilemma after dilemma. (For the record, if you don’t already know, I’m quite the hermit sometimes. Under normal circumstances I would NEVER say I wanted to go back to work, even if I do enjoy my job most days.)

So the only thing that I can think is that there was some kind of moral here, some lesson to be learned. Was it that I should never ask for another puppy again? Or maybe just that I needed to take a break for a day and try not to do so many chores and take on so many responsibilities at once. Maybe it’s even that I shouldn’t be so worried about working out, though I know it’s healthy and necessary if I don’t want to end up looking like a tootsie roll.

In any case, God had some kind of plan for me. Or maybe it was karma… Either way, I leave you with this. Always wear good shoes when going far away from home with no way to get back. Never take those in your life for granted, because sometimes they aren’t going to be around to rescue you. And finally, even though we may not know where our lives are taking us next, just keep getting until you find out where you land. It may be a long process, there may be aches and pains and even some rain in your path; however; in the end, you will get right back home to wherever it is you belong.

~B

The Mushroom Disaster

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I’m going to just start by saying that I am loving my summer vacation already! Today was especially good since it was the first day that I really got out in the good weather to walk with Jasper. Mostly because it has been raining every day for what feels like the past five years, but also because my knee is finally starting to heal from that stupid trip I took onto the pavement (but that’s another story).

Today was so good that I was enjoying my time outside with my pups and watching T do the weed whacking without a care in the world. I’m even looking forward to going out with my parents for a day tomorrow to some stores and things. And then I saw it.

Mushrooms

The first part we found… it looked like half was eaten. 

A single white and brown mushroom was hiding in the dog yard behind the tree that they spend a lot of their time around. I’ve heard a lot about dogs eating mushrooms and getting sick, but I’ve never lived in a really wet or really wooded area, so I wasn’t really expecting to have that problem. I didn’t even think that I had moved to the woods recently and that the dogs have started to eat everything in their sight… and in their yard.

Needless to say, I freaked out. Without knowing much about mushrooms at all, I had no idea if the thing was poisonous or not. I stopped T from working and we examined it together. It took us a while to realize that not much of the mushroom was missing. What worried me most though was that it had been torn to pieces and was uprooted from the ground. Who knew what that meant; I just played it safe and assumed it meant my Jasper had been digging up “weeds” again, this time in the form of a shroom.

Mushroom 2

Size Comparison… I had a 5 dollar and my hand nearby.

We spent probably close to an hour researching, though I called the vet hospital first thing. They told me they couldn’t do anything for me except to give me the poison control hotline’s number. The call would cost me at least $50 and would simply detail any treatment that needed to be taken for the dogs. The vet would then coordinate with the poison control case and treat the animals as necessary, for an additional fee of course. Otherwise, the vet couldn’t do anything to help me (which seems pretty sad to me since they are there to help animals, not watch them possibly suffer from poison…)

My mom got the same responses from anyone that she talked to, so before I knew it T and I were sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by our two dogs, staring at a mushroom on our table that was torn into pieces. We sent pictures to my family, who then (all three of them) spent time researching mushrooms as well. We settled on the fact that it is not a poisonous kind and the puppies should be safe. Even so, we have scoured the rest of the yard for additional monsters.

I also took some advice off of the internet and tried to give the dogs as much water as possible in order to help flush out their system. Just in case! I’m trying really hard not to worry about the fact that they may or may not have eaten a poisonous fungi, but I’m still having trouble not feeling stressed, exhausted, and worried after that dilemma.

Needless to say, if anyone reading this has dogs, please go out and check your yard right now for any type of mushrooms! I don’t care if you think they are safe or not, pluck them out of the ground (root and all) and get them as far away from your pups as you possibly can!

Heck, do this even if you have cats, chickens, or any other animals. Sometimes it’s just better to be safe than to be crying of worry. Take my advice, I know from experience…

~B