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.  ❤

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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Several weeks ago I hosted a bonfire to

Several weeks ago I hosted a bonfire to celebrate the end of the teacher licensure program.  After a tour of the garden, as we sat down to enjoy s’mores with homemade marshmallows fresh from my kitchen and as P brought over kabobs from the grill, a fellow cohort member said in passing, “I envy your life.”  For the first time ever I didn’t grimace or immediately think, “You say that now, but if you only knew…”  I didn’t flash back to years of abuse and looniness, I didn’t instead pour over my own envy of her kind and supportive family.  Instead I smiled, fully and sincerely, and said, “I do, too.”  

It’s true.  These days I live what feels like a charmed life.  I have my teaching license and was offered a fantastic position in my first-choice school.  I was the second person in my cohort to secure a job, and I didn’t even have to interview.  With guaranteed additional income this fall, P and I have been doing a lot of travelling this summer.  We’ve finally visited good friends in Maine, spent ten glorious days in Yosemite, and will be heading north this August for long-anticipated relaxing long weekend with family.  

I feel more in control of my life.  With the summer stretched ahead of me this spring, I knew I’d struggle with depression, so I secured a part-time job at a local garden center.  While the work is hard and oftentimes tedious, I’ve greatly enjoyed my co-workers and learning about plants new-to-me.  Embracing the discount, I’ve planted more than 20 new shrubs in our yard and I think it’s really going to look nice in a year or two.  I successfully turned an impending bout with darkness into a source of fulfillment and joy (& a little drudgery, for good measure.)  

I’m also keeping busy with professional development this year.  I’ve already attended two weeks of classes and have four more to go.  I’ve learned how to identify dragonflies, learned how to incorporate citizen science into the classroom, and will be learning more about metagenomics and biomed technologies.

I love it.  Teaching science has given me full license to embrace the nerdinest part of myself. It’s given me a sense of purpose and excitement.  I now have an excuse as TSA searches my bag full of rocks from distant coasts as I travel home.  I think this must be how some people feel about parenting – it gives my life breath and purpose, sharing my love of nature, science and the outdoors with the next generation.  

Speaking of parenting, P and I have been wrestling intently with the question of babies.  Well, we were wrestling until we finally decided we are perfectly happy childless.  We have so many children in our lives to love and spoil.  I will gain 200 more once I start teaching.  I love loving other people’s kids.  I just don’t know what I’m cut out to be a parent of my own accord.  This is enough fodder for a whole other post, but now it suffices to say that we are at peace without babes and I’m knitting like a fiend for all the other babes arriving in my life.

So much more remains to be said, to be chewed over in writing.  But I at least wanted to get this much out.  To say hi.  To see what ya’ll have been up to.  More soon, I promise.  XOXO

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