MuddyFingersMeg

Eat, drink, (garden, knit, quilt, think, fix, read) & be merry

And a friendly hello from 2014!

Well, hello there!

I sure have missed this space even though I’ve hardly posted in a year.  Life is going well for me and, sadly, that provides little fodder for blogging.

I’m more than halfway through my first year of teaching and I adore it.  I must have the sweetest first year teaching gig ever.  My colleagues are simply outstanding, the kids are fun, and I’m old enough to feel confident and poised.  I still struggle with stuttering – and some days it’s hard to get the words out – but the kids are patient.  In fact, my colleagues say they don’t even notice.  I’m learning that while my stuttering feels awful, I’ve managed to figure out how to minimize the impact it has on my actual communication.

Craftiness is still a substantial part of my life.  I’m finding bits of time for knitting.  I have two blankets in progress.  A friend gave me her old (nice) sewing machine which I had tuned up and it works like a champ.  I’ve been toying with making skirts and small bags.  I’ve also picked up candle-making.  I’ve been buying cute old tea-cups from our local thrift store and making them into “tea lights.”  I’ve also picked up the fiddle again and finally have a reliable fiddle teacher.  I’m getting competent enough that my ears no longer bleed during practice.  ;)

This is mighty boring and please accept my apologies.  Life has just settled into a nice rhythm which is something I’ve wanted my whole life.

Things aren’t perfect by any means.  I’m exhausted most of the time.  My oldest kitty is getting older and needs more medical interventions each year.  But she’s still my sweet babe and she has a lot of life left in her; however, her care is gradually becoming more complicated (and expensive).  I’ve begun seeing a new therapist and she’s component, although she’s no M.  The winter has been long and excessively cold.  My anti-anxiety meds have made me gain weight which is hard (read: nearly impossible) to lose.  Thus, many of the “teacher clothes” I bought last year don’t fit.  This has made my work wardrobe restrictive.  Also, the meds frequently give me “brain zaps” which are unrelenting and unpleasant.  Speaking of unpleasant, I was diagnosed with osteo-arthritis in my neck last November.  I’m learning to manage the pain, but it’s put a major kink in my lifestyle.

Alas, all the complains are minor.  Life is sweet these days.  I finally feel like I’ve shaken some mean demons and I have a life throughly worth living.  <3

I hope to check in again soon – perhaps with some pictures of lovely hand knits or a recipe to share.

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Rubix!!

 

One of my goals in life is to be a R*ubix cube master.  Today I came one step closer.  

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our new kitty

I’m a little slow in posting this but here is our completely adorable, wild, sharp toothed, and cuddley kitten.  

 

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Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse – Holiday Happiness

For a good chunk of my life I loathed the holidays.  December comes with all kinds of social obligation that, for a long time, I didn’t understand and couldn’t afford.  It also conjured all kinds of Norman Rockwell-like images that were so far removed from my own holiday experiences that I couldn’t appreciate what I did have.  It was complex when I was a kid and it somehow got even worse in my early adulthood as I didn’t know how to navigate this complex time of the year.

Several years ago I worked through the holidays with my then-therapist, M.  She encouraged me to “claim” what I loved about the holidays and leave the rest behind.  That was a tough year.  I had to really think deeply about what I wanted my holidays to look like.  I had to decide what traditions I wanted to keep, what I needed to toss, and what I wanted to create from scratch.  Being intentional was difficult after so many years of survival.  I had no idea what I wanted, I just wanted it to not hurt so much.  So I started with caused me great pain every year.  I decided to throw out a bunch of Christmas stuff I had inherited from my mother – a ugly Christmas tree skirt that reminded me of my childhood, my childhood Christmas stocking that carried loads of unpleasant memories, a set of Christmas ornaments that my mother had given me, and a few other things.  The part that was hardest about that was trusting that, by throwing out some of my history, I could create a new history that was more meaningful.  I had long held onto material things that brought me pain because I somehow thought they also held the key to understanding what had happened to me.  Letting go of those material goods was challenging because it meant I was accepting that there was no reasonable explanation for what happened.  Letting go of that skirt, stocking, and ornaments meant I was embracing the unsettling truth that what happened was mean, irrational, and inexplicable.  

Second I had to decide what I wanted to to keep.  I love having a real Christmas tree.  We often had a real one growing up and that tradition brought me great joy.  To a horticulturist there is hardly anything more fun than having a socially acceptable excuse to bring a gorgeous, fragrant tree into the house for a whole month.  Most years P and I still get a tree and I adore waking up the forest smell and the twinkling lights.  I think that’s the only childhood tradition I actually kept!

Third I had to figure out what I wanted my holidays to look like and a route to get me there.  I knit myself a new stocking which I love.  It’s a two-tone green with a snowflake on it.  I look forward to taking it out each year and hanging it on our door.  Also, I love plates of beautiful cookies, thus I bake and bake and bake.  P and I also pick out two new cookie cutters to add to our collection each year.  We’re running out of Christmas themed cutters to buy so we also have a Christmas octopus, frog, and hammer.  I love them all, even if I give P a hard time.  I also spend an evening making paper snowflakes (LOVE) and often make handmade gifts specifically for those I love.  P and I also use the holidays as a chance to spoil each other a little bit.  We get each other gifts that we wouldn’t buy for ourselves and it adds a richness to the holidays that I cherish.  In that same vein we also find ways to give back to our community.  We now have traditions where we find ways to help others enjoy the holidays in big and small ways.  This adds immensely to my enjoyment of the season.  

This is my third year of my reclaimed holiday season and, I must admit, I love it more every year.  I honestly and fully look forward to the holidays now.  I love our little (and big) traditions and the new quirks we experiment with each year.  While my holiday experience still isn’t Norman Rockwell-esque it’s an enjoyable, rewarding, and loving time of the year which is all I’ve really ever wanted anyway.

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Back to school – for the first time.

FIrst day of teaching was a success!

Some parts of the day were a bit choppy, and I’m learning some quick lessons (if you don’t tell them to take their papers with them… they leave them on the desks), but overall things are off to a solid start.

Last week, as I posted the “I can” statements based on the priority standards, I kept reflecting on all the skills and knowledge students develop over the course of a year.  And then I realized that by the end of the year I will (hopefully) be able to say, “I can teach…” and list all of those statements.  Kind of cool.

And really, really exhausting.  My back ached by the end of the day.  And my throat hurts.  I feel like I’m getting sick, but other teachers assure me it’s just the first week adjustment.  My body has to get used to being in “teacher” mode – projecting voice, constant awareness, non-stop movement.  

It’s good.  Very, very good.  

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Workshops

Opening week is winding down.  Frankly, I’m exhausted and a little overwhelmed.  Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

School starts next Tuesday.  I don’t feel ready, but I do feel ready enough.  Only heavens knows how, but I’ve managed to surround myself with kind, supportive, helpful, funny, wonderful people.  While some things aren’t ideal – I’d like a little more freedom and a little less “floating” (I move classrooms every. single. hour.), – many things are more than I could ever have hoped for.  

Tomorrow I try to wrap up dozens of loose ends.  While I have (almost) always appreciated my teachers, I never appreciated just how much goes into teaching.  I must have a dozen new internet logins of various sorts, equipment and textbooks in FOUR classrooms to manage,  a new program to implement, and several new committee responsibilities to muddle through.  But it’s okay.  I see wonderful, talented, balanced, healthy, happy people doing it all around me.  I’m going to be okay.  Some moments I feel like I’ve made a huge mistake but other moments – like the first time I saw my photo class rosters – I feel awed and touched that I have such a special place in the world.  One quote I heard in grad school resonates in my heart, “As teachers, the future of the world passes through our hands.”  Indeed.

So humbled, overwhelmed, exhausted, awed, worried, happy, satisfied, and curious I’m leaning into the chaos and embracing both the known and unknown.  Wish me luck, friends.  This little birdie is taking flight.

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My desk

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I never, ever thought I’d have a good job. In fact, I never thought I’d have my own desk. And yet here it is. All set up and ready for the school year. It makes me very, very happy.

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One Little Word

If I could go waaaaay back to January (not that I want to!) and decide on One Little Word for 2013 I would probably pick “Let it go.”  Ok, it’s not a word, but close enough.

On Monday I start teacher workshops and the day after Labor Day I start teaching.  Full Time.  Yikes!  But here’s the thing – I’m not that stressed about it.  Even though I’ve hardly done any planning.  Even though I’m teaching on a cart.  Even though I move classrooms almost EVERY hour.  Even though my classrooms aren’t science rooms and don’t even have a sink.  

A few years ago I’d probably be living in a near constant state of panic right now.  I wouldn’t have recognized it as panic at the time.  But now that I know how “normal” life can feel, that’s exactly what it was.  In fact, these days, when I feel the panic coming on, I’m surprised by it – both in how intimately familiar it is and how debilitating it feels.  Did I really live like that for most of my life?  Yikes.

I’m now able to let go of things beyond my control.  School will start and there is really no way to be completely prepared for what will happen.  I have the final “draft” of my schedule, but they can change it at any time.  My rooms will likely change.  I don’t have my rosters yet (which will surely change multiple times once I get them).  And yet, I’m okay with it all.  The IL program in general, and student teaching in particular, were powerful lessons in letting go – and trusting things will work out.  And I’m drawing deeply on that hope in this final waiting time.

Letting go is not easy for the anxious part of me, but it feels so satisfying.  I’ve also let go of expecting perfection from P, 

And here’s the funny thing, since the anxiety has subsided it’s been easier to get more done in a day.  Before it might take me days – or weeks – to do simple tasks, like put an empty shampoo bottle in the recycling or return a phone call.  As a child I was always expected to be ready to answer to J’s call at any time, or experience dire consequences. Getting involved in anything meant I might not be immediately available.  Thus, engaging in anything – even rinsing a shampoo bottle out – evoked debilitating anxiety, and I wouldn’t do it.  Now I can.  It’s still a conscious choice – no, no one is coming for me, I can take 90 seconds to do this – but at least it’s a choice.  I can let go of the fear.  And I love it.

I have also been able to let go of miles of unrealistic expectations – for a perfect garden, to be a perfect teacher, to always have perfect, error-free homework.  I’m learning to accept my best as good enough.  And I’m learning to re-define “best.”  Sometimes I stop working on an assignment because I want to go on a walk with P.  I could do one more proof-read but instead I choose to allocate my time elsewhere.  And what I’ve given is my best, in the context of my life.

All these little big steps have made it possible for me to relax sometimes.  Like now, mere days from the beginning of the school year.  And it’s good.  Very, very good.

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Transitions

“The art of living does not consist in preserving and clinging to a particular mood of happiness, but in allowing happiness to change its form without being disappointed by the change…”

- Charles Morgan

Within 48 hours I’ve met, for the first time, a large swath of my mother’s extended family, said my goodbyes to a job of six years, and had my final appointment with my amazing therapist, M.  In the broader span of a few weeks I’ve finally acquired a pet snake, starting purchasing supplies for my classroom, spent three weeks in out-of-town teacher training, and have been amazed at how well my newly acquired self-care skills have been serving me.

In short, I’m in the middle of all kinds of transitions and I’m handling it much better than I could possibly have imagined.  I feel relatively relaxed and calm.  I feel capable of dealing with whatever comes my way.  I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to start my first year teaching. I’ve put in place all kinds of support systems so help me navigate this brave new world and I think I’m up to the challenge.  

M and I both cried a little bit at our last meeting this morning.  I’m going to miss her – she was a cornerstone of my healing process.  On the other hand, she did a fantastic job of preparing me to take on my own life.  It’s bittersweet that I feel ready to leave her office and strike out on my own.  

The most hectic part of my summer is over.  Wednesday P and I head north to spend a few days cabining with family.   After that I have a precious bit of R & R before my first workshop starts.  

It’s not perfect, it never is.  But it feels nice to be at peace with where I’m at and where I’m going.  I’m learning to live in flux and find contentment despite change.  While I’ve said a lot of goodbyes I’ve also met a lot of new friends and family.  Transition is not easy for the anxious part of me, but I’m leaning into it.  And it feels right.

ImageEna, the corn snake

 

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Hi Friends!

Summer is winding down at an alarming rate.  In just over one month I’ll be standing in front of six sections of students as one of their teachers for the 2013-2014 school year.

I’m not sure I can articulate the jumble of emotions.  I feel both prepared and unprepared at the same time.  I quickly switch from “bring it on” to “Oh, heavens, give me another year.  Maybe two.”  I know I can make it through the first day, but I mostly worry about the incessant crush of things to do, the unrelenting pace, all the unknown land mines that await me as the year moves through its’ natural paces.

My methods teacher, a beacon of stability and confidence, always said, “Just because you are nervous doesn’t mean you’re not ready.”  I cling to those words with a a fierce hope.  A hope that I am ready.  Not only ready to teach but ready to try, to fail, to get back up time and time again.

In many ways I do feel more ready to fail.  And, surprisingly, this helps me feel ready to teach.  For the first time in my life failure means “growth” and “possibility” instead of “the final harbinger of eminent doom.”   Believe it or not, this is major progress.

I am trying to breathe in the excitement that comes with the fear.  I’m trying to parse out these two emotions that, at the moment, feel desperately twined.  I need to feel the rush of possibility, of accomplishment.  That’s sustaining in a time that is steeped in uncertainty.

I’ve spent the summer relaxing and preparing.  This is my third class of the year. I’ve now spent 4 weeks in various professional development courses, and I have two more to go.  I’m always the sole new teacher.  I feel lucky to be steeped in so much experience and expertise.  At the same time I exposed to all the dark sides of the teaching profession, sides that I tend to fixate on if given the chance.

Already I hold on to my students, to the memories of their smiles, their hope, their curiosity and even defiance.  I surprised myself with how much I appreciated them, and I continue to surprise myself with how much I lean on the inspiration they gave me.

In many ways they provide the impetus to be the best possible teacher I can be.  And I thank them for that, from the very apex of my heart.

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