Pandemic Roller Coaster

Does anyone else feel like you have been on the longest roller coaster ride ever? It’s almost like I got on this ride back in March and have yet to get off. Sometimes the highs are so high and the lows are so low that I can barely hang on.  All of the twists and turns along the way have me spinning in circles.  It’s this roller coaster of emotions that we have been on since this whole pandemic started.  Oh, and by the way, I don’t even like roller coasters! In fact, they make me sick and dizzy, and I try to avoid them at all costs.  I sure am ready to get off!

You know how many roller coasters start out with a slow, steady climb upwards? That is how this whole thing started.  We suddenly jumped on this ride and started to slowly make that climb.  We were all in a little of bit of disbelief and denial of what was coming ahead. We kept hearing bits and pieces about this new virus on the news, but we didn’t really think it would affect us. Then schools were abruptly canceled, and people had to take off work. Maybe there would be few bumps and twists, but our initial anticipation was that this could be fun. We would enjoy a few unexpected days off of work and school and then things would get back to normal. Little did we know that we were about to reach the top and be hurdled downward.

Unfortunately, we eventually got to the top of that slow, steady climb into the sky and were teetering on the edge looking down.  The fear was starting to creep in. We were about to make a huge plunge into the darkness, and the ride looked like it was going to be longer and wilder than we had ever imagined.  Schools were canceled for the rest of the year. Stay at home orders were put into place. Thoughts were swarming around in our heads that this couldn’t really be happening in 2020.  It couldn’t possibly be real life.  We were afraid of all the things they were saying on the news.  People were becoming infected at alarming rates, hospitals were filling up, and people were dying.  We decided at the top that we didn’t really want to be on this ride because what lay ahead didn’t seem so fun anymore. We wanted to get off as fast as possible.   

Usually when you get past that initial plunge in the ride, you get to the fun and exciting parts of the roller coaster.  This is the part most people enjoy. It is when the hands come up and you are flying carefree through the sky.  This Pandemic Roller Coaster was no different.  Once we got over our fear and settled in to this new normal, we started to have fun.  We realized that this ride, although unexpected, was one we all needed and we accepted it.  It caused us to slow down and appreciate the ride.  We got to spend time with our families that we typically never had.  We got to take a break from the craziness of our everyday lives.  We were truly enjoying the ourselves.  Yes, there were some sharp curves initially with people having to figure out childcare for their kids, how to manage teleworking, and the lack of toilet paper and certain foods. However, there was so much good that was happening that was outweighing the bad initally. We were laughing and smiling in ways that we hadn’t in years.  We were stepping up to help our fellow neighbors. We were exercising and spending time outside.  We were doing the things we normally didn’t have time for like household projects, movie nights, games, puzzles, and more. We were having incredible drive by birthday celebrations and the community really rallied together. 

It really was incredibly fun for a while, but then the ride turned upside down and sideways and that made some of us angry, some filled with anxiety, and some maybe even depressed.  Balancing it all became really hard and we were overwhelmed.  People started losing their jobs. The economy plunged downward. Some were worried about how they were going to put food on the table.  Businesses were trying to keep from going under.  Distance learning started, and parents were having to figure out how to balance work and homeschooling. Kids were struggling to keep up with their lessons. Teachers were barely keeping their heads out of the water.  We were struggling to keep it all together.  We started missing our old lives. We were missing things that we used to do and our friends and extended families. We were longing for things to get back to normal, but there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. We were exhausted and just wanted the ride to be over. 

Then, the ride eventually slowed down.  We got into the grove of it all. There started to be talk of reopening, and we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We have again been filled with a little fear, but we were excited at the same time to start to get back to whatever the new normal is going to be.  Some of you are further along in this part of the ride than others.  Where I live, we are still under a stay at home order and have not yet started phase 1 of reopening.  Others of you are getting ready to head into phase 2 already.  I am seeing social media posts of happy and relieved people who have been able to get their hair done and their nails done.  I am seeing people heading back to work and businesses reopening the best they can with restrictions.  I could be wrong, but it looks like this crazy roller coaster is coming to some sort of end.  I’m not sure any of us will ever be the same once we get off or that we really want to be.  Sometimes when you get off of a rough roller coaster, it takes you some time to feel steady on your feet.  We all may be a little wobbly and dizzy at first, but I really think that we are going to land on our feet again eventually.  I truly believe that this Pandemic Roller Coaster was designed by God to give us a wakeup call.  No matter how long it lasts, if there are more hills to climb, or we end upside down again, I firmly believe that God has ultimate control and will lead us down the right track.  We will come out stronger and better all-around on the other side. We will eventually get off this ride. My hope is that we will look back on the Pandemic Roller Coaster ride and remember all that we overcame and know that we are stronger than we ever imagined. I hope that we have learned whatever it was that God wanted to teach us. I know for me that lesson was to slow down and value the important things. I have learned to let go of the trivial things in my life. I just pray that it is a lesson that sticks! Whatever your lesson may be, I hope you find it and are better for it. I believe the end is near, my friends. Just keep that belt buckled and keep holding on for a little longer. We’ve got this!

Anchored in for the ride,

Leap of Faith

This past weekend, I spent time with 8 of my closest friends for our annual girls’ trip to the beach. One afternoon a few of us were sitting on the beach discussing the feeling of being trapped by our chosen career. We chose a career path when we were younger that we were so passionate about. We all became teachers. We just knew that we were going to make a difference in the lives of so many children. I know I felt like that was what God had always called me to do. I was destined to be a teacher. Unfortunately for many of us, that path is no longer one that we really want because teaching tends to suck the life out of you.  When you are someone that devotes everything to your career, you eventually will become burned out.  You are forced to choose your job over everything else in your life because you think that is what you are supposed to do. It’s who you are. Sadly, it makes you become bitter, resentful, and angry.  It causes you to take time away from the people and things you love the most.  I know it made me a miserable person.  I wasn’t someone that others wanted to be around.  I took all of my frustrations out on my own kids and husband.  They always got short changed because the job came first.  It got to the point where it took all I had just to get through each day.  I had nothing left by the time I got home to my family each evening.  I felt like a failure…a failure to my students, to my kids, and to my husband. It is really sad to hear that so many of my teacher friends feel the same way. It is sad to hear teacher after teacher leaving the profession because they just can’t take it anymore.  What is more heartbreaking, though, is all of those teachers that are forced to stay because they are afraid to leave.  They are afraid of loosing an income that their family desperately needs.  They are afraid of the unknown. They are afraid of no longer having a purpose in their lives. They are afraid of not knowing who they are because their whole existence has always been about being a teacher.  They are afraid of loosing their identity.  These are all things that I struggled with when I made the decision to walk away from the classroom.  It is the same thing that many of my friends are struggling with.  

As I sat there on the beach, I looked one of my friends in the eye and told her that she is worthy of something else.  She is worthy of something more. We all are.  I only wish that someone had told me that years ago. I may not have listened, but I would like to think that maybe it would have sunk in and made a difference. Staying in a situation that clearly is killing you is not worth it. It is not worth the stress, the fatigue, or fight that you constantly have with yourself.  It is not worth all of those times that you feel like a failure as a mom because you can’t devote the time you need to your children or the times you feel like a failure to your students because you are being pulled in a million directions.  It is not worth it.  It wasn’t worth it for me. I was not willing to sacrifice my own happiness, my family, my health, or my sanity anymore.  I had to take that leap of faith.  Of course I worried about how my family would handle the financial loss of my income. I worried about what my purpose in life was. Who am I if I am not a teacher? I worried about looking like a quitter. I worried about letting people down.  I worried that I was going against God’s plan for my life.  I can tell you that it was not an easy decision. It was not something that I took lightly, and it certainly wasn’t something that came quickly.  It actually took me 3 years to decide that I wasn’t going back to teaching.  There are still days when I think about how much easier it would be on my family if I just went back.  There are days that I still feel like I want to go back. I loved working with my students.  I really did. I know that was what I was called to do at that time. Unfortunately, I just didn’t love all of the extra stuff that came with the job or the pressure. It wasn’t my passion anymore. Maybe I will go back one day, but right now my choice is for something else.  It is for something that fulfills me in ways that teaching no longer did. 

How did I finally get to the place I am now? Trust me, it wasn’t easy.  I did a lot of praying. I did a lot of soul searching. I had to rediscover who I was without teaching.  I had to really reflect on what my dreams are now. I learned that those dreams are something totally different than what they were 20 years ago, and that is okay.  I listened to a few podcasts and read a couple of books.  Most of all, I sat still and listened to God. I listened to what his will for my life is now. I had come to a fork in the road. One path was the one that I thought I was supposed to be on. It was the path that was familiar.  It was the path I knew my way through.  The other path was new. It was a path that led to places I had never been.  It was scary. I was afraid I would get lost, but when I was still, I heard God telling me to take the unfamiliar road. He told me that he would be my guide. He would lead me through the uncharted waters.  He promised me that he would hold my hand and carry me when I needed him.  You know what? That is exactly what he has done. He showed me that I was supposed to become a teacher all those years ago. I was supposed to influence the lives of hundreds of children, but he also showed me that chapter in my life is over. God has different plans for me now.  Yes, we have struggled financially since loosing my income. Yes, it has been hard. Yes, it has been an adjustment. Guess what? It has been worth it all because I am worthy of something more. God showed me that. He has provided for me in all the ways I needed. He has now opened doors for me that I never knew existed. He is leading me down the uncharted path one step at a time. He has blessed my family in ways we never could have imagined. He is taking care of us because we are all in his hands and he is in control.  

I am so glad that I listened and took that leap of faith.  If I hadn’t, I would still be in the midst of a job that was literally killing me.  It was robbing me of so much.  I would never have known what amazing things that God has in store for me now. Sometimes it is still scary.  I still second guess myself.  Whenever those times come up, I stop and pray.  A peace will come over me, and I will be reminded of whose I am and who is in control.  If you are at a crossroads and you have to choose the right path, I encourage you to be still and listen.  Search your soul.  Rediscover who you are.  Take the leap of faith. Dive head first into those uncharted waters. You are worthy. You are worth the jump. God will take care of you, and he will show you the way.

Anchored on a New Path,

Lessons Learned

Have you ever considered how much we learn from our kids? I personally feel like my kids are teaching me things all of the time.  They may be lessons that I have learned many times or long ago, but my kids will remind me of those lessons daily.  One of the biggest things that I see over and over again with my kids is persistence and overcoming obstacles.  In any human’s ordinary, everyday life there are obstacles that get in the way.  We can do one of two things.  We can give up and let the obstacle defeat us and prevent us from going on; or we can hold our ground, stay on course, and come out on the other side a better person.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been faced with something that I have let defeat me because I gave up.  It got too hard and I just quit.  How about you? Have you ever started a diet and then it got hard so you gave up? Have you ever wanted something really bad, but to obtain it took more work than you were willing to put in so you gave up? It happens all the time. The thing is that we know what we are supposed to do.  We know that we aren’t supposed to give up.  We know that we should push through.  We even teach our kids this.  I find myself telling my kids almost every day to keep trying, to work harder, to not give up; yet I am quick to give up on myself.  I know I am not alone in this. Why, though? Why do we give up on ourselves and try to teach our kids not to? Are we really being an example for them? Is it because we are weak? It is because we don’t care enough? Why? I think it is a little of both.  I think we are human and, therefore, we are weak. We make mistakes. We also don’t care enough about ourselves.  It is easy to tell your kids not to give up and to keep fighting because we care more about them than we do about ourselves. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. As I sit back and reflect on my kids, I see example after example where they have stayed the course even when things got tough, and I rejoice in their accomplishments when they overcome something that stands in their way.  Both of my kids are examples to me of persistence and overcoming obstacles.

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My youngest faces challenges every single day, at every meal, every snack, and every opportunity to eat.  This has been a challenge she has faced since the day she was born.  She has had many setbacks, and many tears have been shed. What she has faced in her life could have broken her so many times, yet she still gets up and faces each day head on. It hasn’t been easy for her by far, but she has somehow turned out to be this amazing kid.  Yes, she has troubles. Yes, she gets angry. Yes, she has anxiety. You know what? That’s ok because despite all those obstacles, she picks herself right back up and keeps trucking along. Some days are really hard.  Other days are a breeze.  Yesterday was a good day.  Yesterday was a triumph. Today, things didn’t start out that well. Sometimes that happens, but she doesn’t give up.  Ever. She is a fighter.  She is my hero.  I am proud of her. If she isn’t a daily example of overcoming obstacles, I don’t know what is. I have learned a lot from her.  If she can deal with all that has been thrown at her and still come out on top, I have to believe that I can too.

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My oldest provided me with a huge example of persistence this past weekend.  About two years ago, she began working on a higher-level vault in gymnastics.  It was what she needed to compete at the next level.  She was afraid of it, but she kept working on it in practice.  One day I got a video from her of her actually doing it. She was so excited.  Yes, she was still scared of it and it wasn’t perfect, but she did it. She overcame her fear. Then just before the competition season started last year, we found out that she had a Salter Harris fracture in her wrist.  Not only was there a fracture in the growth plate, but part of the bone was also fractured. She had been doing gymnastics on it for weeks before we went to the doctor.  You see, in the sport of gymnastics, the gymnast’s body always hurts and they develop a very high pain tolerance. It is hard to determine when a pain is serious enough to warrant a visit to the doctor.  She was fighting through the pain.  She kept going.  Anyway, she ended up in a wrist brace for 2 months and was unable to do any upper body weight bearing activities.  Well, when she was cleared to return to gymnastics, she was slow to get back on the vault.  After not doing it for months, the fear had returned.  The coaches were also cautious and were very slow at easing her back into vaulting.  Vaulting is very hard on your wrists and they didn’t want the injury to come back.  All season, she competed a lower level vault and got really low scores all while trying to get back the other vault at practice every day.  She just wasn’t ready for the big vault again in competition but it didn’t stop her from working on it.  Fast forward to the summer after competition season had ended.  She began working the big vault seriously again and was having some success even though she was still afraid.  Then we moved, and she started a new gym.  She was hesitant but she was still working the vault until another set back hit.  She injured her foot and was in a walking boot for 3 weeks. She slowly had to ease her way back into vaulting again with the fear returning once again. This past weekend was her first competition with her new team.  Four days before the meet, she was told that she would be scratching vault, meaning she wouldn’t be competing it because they didn’t think she was ready.  Then the day before the meet, the coaches decided that they would let her do a timer for her first vault (a partial vault without actually flipping it) and then they would spot her for her second vault on the flip.  She was so excited but also very nervous.  You guys, she got out there and flipped that freaking vault without the coach touching her (it’s a big deduction if he does)! Her other coach was jumping in the air when she did it.  I almost dropped the video camera.  What an exciting moment it was!  No, it wasn’t the prettiest vault ever, and yes, she was terrified. She overcame it and just went for it.  What is even more amazing is that she placed 5th on vault that night.  How in the world that happened, I don’t know. If that’s not an example of persistence, I don’t know what is. She kept working even though she was afraid and even though she was in pain.  She didn’t give up.

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I am reminded daily by kids not to give up, to freaking go for it, and to not let things get in my way.  I am working hard not to give up on my dreams. Writing this blog is something that I have wanted to do for a long time but I kept putting it off. I kept letting other things take over my time and energy.  I let things get in the way out of fear.  I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid no one would read it. I was afraid of looking dumb.  I’m not a writer. I make spelling and grammar errors in every post. Sometimes I write about things that stir up a lot of emotions and I am afraid to hit the publish button.  Sometimes a post will be in my head for days before I get the courage to write it. I tell my kids to go for it. I see them do it all the time.  I finally realized that I need to be an example to them just as much as they are an example to me.  I can’t let obstacles keep me from living.  I have to get up each day just like my youngest and face whatever obstacles lie in my way. I have to not let them keep me down. I have to get back up. I have to keep pushing trough and face my fears just like my oldest. I have to I have to climb the mountain not matter how long it takes and freaking jump off the edge.

Do either of my kids know that they are teaching me just as much as I am teaching them along the way? I highly doubt it (until maybe they read this one day). I need to remember the lessons they have taught me, the lessons that I taught them.  I need to apply it to my own life. I’ve said this before, you just have to put on your big girl panties and just do it.

What lessons can you learn from your kids? What have they already taught you? Let me know! Isn’t ironic how your kids can end up teaching you the thing you try to teach them? Lesson learned for sure. 

Anchored and Learning,