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,

Be Present

Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with Facebook memories? Most of the time, they make me smile or remind me of something that was challenging that I overcame.  Then there are those days like yesterday that remind me that my baby is growing up way too fast.  It was this picture of her standing outside of our house with a sign showing that she was her school’s student of the month back when she was in the first grade.  Her shoes are untied as they always were back then, and she was so little.  She looked more like a kindergartener than a first grader. Now I look at her and she is almost as tall as I am and in high school.  Where has the time gone? Maybe I am feeling sentimental and nostalgic because I saw this picture right after sitting at my youngest daughter’s middle school parent night for all rising middle schoolers. How is it possible that she will be in middle school next year? Both of these things happening last night really made me think about their lives.

As a parent there are so many times when we think, “If I can just make it past this stage, things will be easier.” At least I know I have had that thought more than once and have even said it out loud many times.  “If we can get through these sleepless nights…” If we can make it through the terrible twos…”  “If we can get her potty trained… “If we can make it through puberty…” This list goes on and on.  We often want to rush through those difficult times to a point when things would be easier. I don’t know about you, but easier never really came.  When one difficult thing was over, a new one came along that I wanted to rush through too. Parenting is hard and it is something you can never really prepare for. There comes a time, though, when you start to look back on those difficult times and realize that maybe they weren’t as bad as you thought or it felt at the time.  You realize that maybe you shouldn’t have tried to rush through those times because you will never get them back.  

I know for me personally, I get really sad when I think back to all the times my girls were little and I rushed through it.  I didn’t take the time to really savor those moments.  There are many times that I feel like I wasn’t really present in their lives.  Even though I was physically there, I wasn’t all in emotionally.  Part of it was because I was working full time teaching at a job that was slowly killing me, and I was so exhausted that I didn’t have the energy by the time I got home to deal with what was happening there too.  I was giving EVERYTHING to my students, and I had barely anything left for my own children.  It is hard to admit that, but sadly, it is true.  It’s honestly why I was so good at my job. I was making a difference in the lives of my students. Unfortunately, though, it came at the expense of my own children. I’m not sure I was making a difference in their lives. I clearly didn’t have my priorities in the right place. My focus was too much on my job and not on my family.  I was all in at work, but I wasn’t all in at home.

The other part of it was that I was beyond overwhelmed. With my husband deployed all the time, my youngest daughter’s medical issues, my job, and everything else that comes with being a parent, I often felt like I was suffocating. No one ever knew that, though. I was good at hiding it from everyone. I was good at hiding it from myself. This is the first time that I am really admitting it to myself or anyone else. There are parts of me that really regret that I didn’t stay home with them when they were little, especially now that I am home all day and stress free.  I regret not being fully present.  Without the stress of teaching and all that came with it, I feel like I am a much better mom now than I was back then when it really counted.  A stressed out, overworked, overwhelmed mom is not the mom I wanted to be; but it is the mom I was.  I was the mom with a short fuse. I was the mom that yelled. I took out my frustrations and feelings from life on my kids. It is sad. It makes my heart hurt. It makes me feel ashamed.

I wish so much that I could go back to that day in the picture. I would do so many things differently.  I know that there are some of you out there that feel the same way.  I know that even some of my friends feel that way or have felt it before.  Talk about it.  Don’t hold it all in like I did.  Don’t wait until it’s almost too late like me to be truly present in your kids’ lives. Don’t live with regret. Don’t let your job and other stuff take away your chance to be a great mom. Be present. Make those memories that will pop up on Facebook for years to come that make you proud of who you are and who you were. 

I can tell you that when I sat down to write this post today, I had no idea where it was going.  That has been the thing with blogging for me.  It is forcing me to reflect, to grow, to change.  It is forcing me to look inside myself and figure out just who I want to be. I certainly hope that it will be a better version of who I was. I hope that by sharing my story and my feelings, it will maybe help just one of you to change and become who you were meant to be.  I feel like I am getting there myself.  I feel like I am finally becoming the mom that I was meant to be all those years ago.  Yes, it makes me sad that I missed out on so much, but I have to believe that I can make it right now.  I can be fully present in my kids’ lives now when I wasn’t back then.  I regret so much, but I can only move forward now and make a change for the future.

Anchored and Present,

Teamwork is the Dreamwork

This past weekend we experienced our very first weekend of cheerleading competitions. I think I have said this before, but this is a totally new and different world for us. We have been in the gymnastics world so long that it is all we really know.  I can tell you that I have no idea how to judge a cheerleading routine.  I have no clue what the judges are looking for or what any of it means or really what it means to get a “hit” other than it is something you want.  Some teams didn’t get a stunt up but still got a “hit” while others who messed up a stunt didn’t. It was all really confusing to me.  I know that when I look at the routines with all their stunting, tumbling, and dancing, I think it looks good.  I am clearly an untrained eye. Some of the teams are really amazing, but I really don’t know what the judges are looking for. I am sure I will figure it all out by the end of the season.

The biggest difference between gymnastics and cheerleading is one that I find not only interesting but also mimics real life (at least my life).  While there are teams and team awards, the sport of gymnastics is really an individual sport.  Your scores and your placement are based solely on your own performance.  It is up to you to work hard and improve your skills. If you don’t win, it’s on you.  You can’t blame it on anything or anyone but yourself.  I talked last week about how gymnastics has taught my daughter about persistence, overcoming obstacles, and that hard work pays off. The same can be said about competitive cheerleading, but the lesson comes in a different way. Cheerleading really is a team sport. Your winning or loosing depends on the group’s performance as a whole.  You can do the best routine of your life, but one of your teammates can have the worst of hers, and the whole team loses. For example, my daughter’s team knocked it out of the park on Saturday.  They “hit” their routine and were in the lead going into Sunday’s competition. Then on Sunday one stunt had a small mess up and one girl was dropped. This one mistake caused them to drop to last place.  It was a crushing defeat.  Several girls were crying, some not even knowing what had happened but were still crying because their teammates were crying. They also knew instantly that the coaches were upset.  It was evident to everyone, and the girls hated disappointing them. The girls that were involved in the mess up were naturally upset.  I’m sure their heads immediately went to blaming themselves. I am also sure that the girls who didn’t mess up naturally blamed those that did for putting them in the bottom.  Of course no one said anything aloud.  There was no blaming going on verbally, but we all know that they are kids and that some of them were thinking it. What an opportunity to teach these kids an important life lesson.  All of the parents were consoling their kids and assuring everyone that it wasn’t anyone’s fault.  It just happened.  Sometimes things happen in real life that we have no control over and things go sour. It happens. We had to remind them all that they are a team and that they were in it together. They win together and they lose together. It just means that they have to go back to practice and work harder next time.  We reminded them that they should be building each other up and supporting each other. 

So much of this mimics real life. There are times when only you are in charge of what happens in your life and around you, and then there are times when circumstances are beyond your control and you have to trust and rely on others.  This can apply within your job, your family, and your day-to-day life. You have to learn to manage both scenarios. You have to be willing to put in the work to make things happen, but you also have to trust that those around you are going to also put in the work. A great example of this is within a marriage.   I don’t know of anyone who has a 100% perfect marriage.  Marriage can be hard. There will be times when you disagree. There will be times when you don’t like each other.  That’s all normal.  When you live with someone day in and day out, there are bound to be some difficulties. It is just part of it.   There will be times when things are going really well and times when they aren’t.   In order for your marriage to be long-lasting, you have to be willing to put in the work.  You have to do your part, but you also have to trust and rely on your partner to also put in the work. You have to trust each other no mater what.  Just like in cheerleading, you have to have trust in your teammates.  My daughter is a flyer, meaning that she is on the top of many of the stunts.  She has to put her trust in her bases that they are going to hold her, not drop her, and catch her if she falls.  The bases have to trust that she is going to get up there and do what she is supposed to do to remain tight and steady and that she is going to fight to stay up in the air no matter what.  It’s the same in a marriage.  You have to trust each other.

My marriage has been a combination of the two sports (solo and team). Much of my married life has been a cycle of me being solely responsible for my family and its well being, and then there are times when my husband and I are together as a team.  It hasn’t been easy. For those of you that don’t know, my husband is in the military.  I could say that he has probably been deployed for about half of the 18 years that we have been married.  When he is gone, I am the one who is solely responsible for the way things go.  I am responsible for keeping our family going.  I take it all on; the mom role, the dad role, the financial guru, the disciplinarian, everything.  If things go wrong, it’s on me. There is no one else to blame it on.  It’s a huge and stressful responsibility, but one that I have had to take on too many times to count. I am a pretty independent person and part of me is okay with doing it all myself, but the other part of me likes sharing the load.  It is a fine line to find the balance between the two. When my husband returns home each time, I have to then relearn how to work together as a team for our family. We have to parent together.  We have to do life together. I have to take off some of my hats and pass them on to him. I have to trust that he is going to do his part.  As much as I want to share the stress of our daily life, it’s not easy to give up all control and share the responsibility.   His way of doing things is different from mine. His way of parenting is slightly different than mine. We have to learn to combine the two in a way that works for our family.  We have to put in the work. We have to be united. We have to take care of each other. We have to be a team. When something goes wrong, we have to share the responsibility.  The load is ours to bear together. We are ultimately better when we are together than we are apart. I will take teamwork over the sole responsibility any day.    Teamwork is not easy. If it were, there wouldn’t be hundreds of team building activities, retreats, conferences, etc. out there all dedicated to teamwork.  When you are united as a team, things will run smoother.  Someone once said, “The healthiest relationships are those where you’re a team; where you protect each other and stand up for one another.” This is so true.  I know my relationship and overall quality of life is better when my husband and I are working as a team, supporting each other, sharing the load, and standing up for each other no matter who or what is to blame.  We are in this life together. We chose to do it together.  I wouldn’t choose any other way or any other teammate to do all with.

Anchored,

Chickens and Gymnastics: What?

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When I was standing at the school yesterday freezing to death as I waited for my youngest to get out of school, I heard a really funny conversation that made me laugh.  I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. It was totally a conversation that I could picture myself having with my husband.  A couple walked up behind me, and they were playfully arguing about chickens.  The man seemed to be trying to convince his wife that they should buy some chickens so they could have fresh eggs every day.   She was of course telling him all that would entail and how much work it would be. I even heard her say that he would have to be the one to deal with them because she wasn’t getting near them. Then I heard her ask, “You know that I don’t do animals, right?” This is the part that made me laugh because I can’t tell you how many times that exact thing has come out of my mouth.  For those of you that missed my post about animals before, I do not like them.  I don’t like animals of any kind.  I never have and probably never will. The woman went on to say, “You are more likely to talk me into getting a dog than you are into getting chickens and even that is a stretch!” Again, I chuckled.  As I am sitting here typing with our dog sitting right beside me, I am wondering how long it will be before the family wears the woman down and convinces her to get a dog or some other animal. I really wanted to turn around a high five her to let her know I was with her and encourage her to hold her ground.  Will she end up outnumbered like me and have to deal with a crazy animal in her house?

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It’s hard to get good quality photos in a gym with no flash. 

Last night was my oldest daughter’s first high school gymnastics meet.  She only competed on bars and pulled out fourth place behind 3 of her teammates.  Her team blew the other 4 schools out of the water and swept the competition taking first place.  I must say that high school gymnastics is a totally different world than the competitive club world we have been in all these years.  I saw so many scores that were lower than I have ever seen before.  I saw girls doing gymnastics that looked like they had never done it before in their lives.  I will be honest in saying that some of it made me cringe and want to hide my eyes because it was a little scary. Our team really had an unfair advantage with at least 5 girls that I know of being upper level club gymnasts. You could hear a hush over the crowd when our girls would perform and then a bunch of gasps and wows as they finished. It was clear that some of these parents in the stands had never seen that level of gymnastics outside of the Olympics.  It was a really neat experience. I love that those other girls that would never get the chance otherwise are able to get out there and try something new. I loved the excitement mixed with nerves in their eyes as they went out and gave it their all knowing that their scores weren’t going to be high up there.  I love the awe they had as they watched our girls go and still had the courage to get out there and do their best.  It was really inspirational in a way and a good lesson in perseverance and drive. If you really want something and you put your mind to it, you can do it.  You may not be the best at it, but the point is that you tried and had fun doing it.  You stepped out of your comfort zone and went for something that you dreamed of doing. That’s really what it is all about.  It’s the lesson I want to teach my girls.  You don’t have to be number one.  If you are, that’s great.  If you aren’t, that’s great too.  None of it matters as long as you put in the work, give it your all, and have fun. Isn’t that what we want for all of our kids…to reach for their dreams, to push themselves, to work hard, to not give up, and to enjoy life? I think so.

The other big take away from last night for me was getting to see my daughter out there laughing, joking around, and having fun with her teammates.  It is the reason that we agreed to let her try out for the high school team.  As a club gymnast, you often miss out on the school experience because you are always at practice.  You can’t do extra curricular things because you just don’t have the time for it. You don’t get to go hang at football games with your school friends because you are at practice. Club gymnastics can also be intense and really serious, and there isn’t as much joking and playing around. There is a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears.  Don’t get me wrong, she absolutely loves it, but it’s a lot of work. We wanted her to have the opportunity to really experience high school and get to make friends outside of her club team.  My daughter is awkwardly shy and has a hard time making friends outside of the gym.  It was really great to see her interacting with other kids and just having a good time. Yes, I know that these new friends are also gymnasts and some are also her club teammates, but it’s just different outside of the club gym.  I can’t really explain it. It’s a totally different atmosphere, and I think it is important for her to do this. My husband and I both feel good about letting her have this experience even though it means more money for us, more time spent in the gym, and more time given up for a sport she loves.

I know that this post is kind of random, but it’s my life.  My life is full of random events.  Chickens? Dogs? Gymnastics? Life lessons? It’s all good, right? Ha ha! I am now off to finish up the first 10 chapters of our book club book for this month, Educated by Tara Westover. I hope you have been reading along with me.  It’s not too late to join us if you haven’t.  I will post about the first 10 chapters on Facebook and Instagram tomorrow. Check it out and join the discussion. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Anchored,

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