Working Hard for No Money

construction-work-carpenter-tools.jpg

The Gratitude Gospel: Day 9

Lately, I’ve been thinking about jobs.

Our rental has become a bit of a fishbowl in recent days. A deck is being built outside. Shirts, as we have learned, are optional.

The whole environment is strange until you consider that the beings clanging around our home are humans. They have families, too. And when they work long hours after a long day of work, they leave them behind.

Continue reading “Working Hard for No Money”

We’ve forgotten how to use our hands

FullSizeR(3)

My father’s hands were always calloused – filthy from the day’s work. His meal ticket wasn’t a college degree but back-breaking labor. In all of my life, I have never seen anyone work harder.

Which is why he readily accepts projects during visits to our home. This past December he removed rotten wood and adhesive from our front steps and completely replaced our laundry room flooring. In the process, he ruined a well-used long-sleeved T-shirt with Virginia Tech, my alma mater, written across it.

My father’s four-year plan ended prematurely, and he didn’t finish college.

Continue reading “We’ve forgotten how to use our hands”

5 Keys to Work-Life Balance (Mom Edition)

flowers-desk-office-vintage

Last fall the walls were about to cave in. Really. In many ways, my world was coming apart.

If you’re a mother, you know exactly what I mean:

  • Exhaustion: Check
  • Countless meals out: Check
  • Irritability: Check
  • An inability to do ANYTHING well: Check

Truly, you can only hold on like this for so long. When last semester ended, I did what any sane teacher mom would do. I disconnected.

No social media pressure. No play date merry-go-round. No books about parenting. And no cheap, meaningless conversation.

In short, I returned to all the little things that I had forgotten along the busy motherhood way. And, in this, I focused on a work-life reset.

So what is the “secret” that helped me pull through?

Continue reading “5 Keys to Work-Life Balance (Mom Edition)”

The Ones I Couldn’t Save

img_3710

Several years before I became a mother, I was a high school English teacher…and probably inappropriately maternal.

One particular student comes to mind from my first year in the classroom. He demonstrated a gift for the written word. His passion for music was contagious (think drummer). And his family was in the midst of a financial crisis. He always seemed to end our conversations with the same urgent question: How am I going to survive? 

But I am a teacher, and – every so often – I struggle with a God complex. I want to save every last one of my students.

As an unmarried, 23-year-old I couldn’t offer him money or a safe home. He did, however, mention that his birthday was quickly approaching. And so I did what any loving woman without children would do.

I celebrated him as my own.

Continue reading “The Ones I Couldn’t Save”

The Scientist

img_3499

“I think you should consider medical school.”

I was 26 at the time and only two months from finishing my second graduate degree. But, still, my advisor’s words were tempting. And, let’s be honest, coast has never been a word in my vocabulary.

In that moment, I saw two paths my life could take. In the first, I could work hard and sacrifice for a dream job in obstetrics and gynecology. Or I could make my way back into the classroom – likely to teach language arts (the field where my initial training occurred).

For many days, life begged the question: Science or the arts?

Continue reading “The Scientist”

Things Fall Apart

img_8027
I don’t remember the trip home.

My first late night at the office this semester proved nearly disastrous. When my senses entered shutdown mode, I faced two choices: drive home sleepy or pass out beneath my desk.

But, in the middle of deep contemplation (i.e. the edge of hallucination), I heard an echo of laughter…and perhaps reason. It was a woman’s voice.

Immediately, I found myself overwhelmed with sadness. It was 11:45 p.m. and a lady – just outside my door – would soon retrieve my trash. What a life.

My very presence soon startled her. But, with one hand on her chest, her earnest eyes challenged my entire existence.

What are you doing here?

Continue reading “Things Fall Apart”

Preschool vs. Teenager Mom

img_3394

Few things bring anxiety like sitting down to Google “preschool crafts”. Really, I love creativity. I love artistic expression. But my brain just isn’t wired to seek out toddler activities when mental space opens.

Which leads me to consider advice I gained from a mommy mentor of mine just last year. I had recently shared my personal struggle in falling short of my own dreams for mothering two small children.

“Don’t beat yourself up. There are preschool moms and there are teenager moms.”

The relief, I must admit, was instant. But lately, that very idea has come to haunt me.

Am I okay with being one or the other?

Continue reading “Preschool vs. Teenager Mom”

Finding Hope in Our Homework

14086291_10104634086789783_2604387045784506596_o

“Homework will make your life better.” It’s a line I shared with my students over and over when I taught high school English. But, the truth is, that was before I was really an adult – and long before I had children.

From my own perspective, homework opened the doors of opportunity. The classroom environment has always produced considerable stress in me, but – on my bed late at night – I found the freedom to work through problems and write papers without the pressure of feeling that everyone else knew more than me. Homework, in many ways, was my safe space.

Just this week a note for parents from a teacher in Texas went viral, as she boldly announced an end to “formally assigned homework” in her class. The Internet may have rejoiced, but the teacher in me has serious questions: What, then, will fill that homework time?

Continue reading “Finding Hope in Our Homework”