Thursday, October 6, 2011


Steve Jobs' death has somewhat hit me, and this quote from his commencement speech has hit home:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. source

Monday, September 5, 2011

Settlng, Part II

I love my new house. Isn't it charming? As odd as this may sound, I think the previous owner wanted us to have this house. 

Just to clarify things - this house is the third house I made an offer on. The second, which I wrote about here I lost to another buyer. I looked at this house prior to making the second offer, and really liked it, but just wasn't sure about it, partly because it needed a good bit of updating. I came back to it a second time when both of my girls were able to join me on a house hunting venture. I forget how many houses we looked at that day... probably about 12... but when we walked into this house both of their countenances changed. They grew excited. They said it felt like home. That was the first time I had gotten that response, and it caused me to really look at the house. The second house the girls liked, but Lizzie said it felt like it belonged to someone else. 

This house was part of an estate sale. It has had one owner prior to me, and she passed away last fall. She was a single mom, and bought this house in the mid 70s. Both of her children were nearing adulthood at that time, if not already there. At the closing, it dawned on me that her children's names are "Carol" and "Lee," both of which are my names, although I dropped Carol legally years ago. In talking with others, I've learned that the owner was a character, well loved, a former real estate agent, loved her yard [I have so much to learn], fed the wildlife... I like everything I know about her. Her energy is still very much present here.

So as I started the process of moving in, I started talking to her. Told her how much I loved her house, and to forgive me, but there were some things I needed to change. I hope she liked what I planned to do.

Right after we closed on the house, the work started. And then her daughter wanted to come by. My heart caught in my chest, because this was in the driveway:
This was a stone facade in the house just the day prior. I warned her, which is a good thing, and when she came over I told her what I planned to do. Her response was what I needed to hear [I also got the response from the original owner's best friend, who came by a little later]: "Mom would want you to do this - there were so many things she wanted to do to the house but just couldn't. I'm so glad to see you making the house yours."

A month later, I can say that the work has all been worth it. I'm not quite ready for before/after pictures, because we're definitely still unpacking, but with each day I grow happier with my space.

It has so many things about it which I have craved:

LOOK at that beautiful back yard! We've sat outside a number of nights, eating dinner... or I've had a friend over and we were able to have a glass of wine... It's amazing!

Wait, there's more:

The trees! Three huge oak trees that provide shade to the entire lot! The back yard is always shady - which is why I CAN sit outside at night as the day comes to a close and just enjoy.

I love where I live, and the convenience to so many things. I love that my children can see and articulate the difference between what school was like for them and what it's like now. I love that their father came to a school Open House, and that he has been to a football game. I really love that he can pick up the kids at my house when he gets off work on Fridays, because it is not really out of the way - unlike our two hour commute of the past six years. And I love the feeling I get when I come around the curve leading up to the house and see my house sitting on the hill, just waiting for us. And how welcome I feel when I walk into my kitchen from the garage.

I definitely think the previous owner is happy. The new owner is happy, too. 

Settling can have such negative connotations - "Don't settle," I've been told. In this case, though. I think settling is exactly right. I have been unsettled all summer, living out of my trunk the last part of it. I embraced the feeling, because I knew it was temporary. It was where I was, and where I needed to be.

But now... It's good to be home. 

Now, back to unpacking some more boxes. I'm ready to be settled.

Settling, Part I

The past seven weeks have been a blur. I went from massive limbo to overdrive as things started to happen. The quick and dirty:

  • Bought a house
  • Sold my other house three days later
  • Began a home renovation project which took 3x longer than I anticipated. 
  • Shuttled a child to band camp - even though we weren't in the house yet.
  • Started a new job - even though we weren't in the house yet.
  • Kids started school - even though we weren't in the house yet.
  • House got "done enough" to move in.
  • PODS arrived 12 weeks and 2 days after I shipped them off
  • PODS were unloaded into the house
  • Birthday party for my oldest back where we used to live.
  • Boxes remain everywhere... but my kitchen is finally unpacked, and I cooked for the first time since May yesterday.
I could go on. Point is, there has been no time to think very hard about what is going on, nor really much time to unpack and get settled into the house because life started happening anyway. 

Yet through this crazy time, I have had such peace. No, things did not go the way I wanted them to. Yes, it has been manic trying to juggle all of these things. Yes, lots of decisions, like where to sleep each night, had to be made in order to facilitate the process, but none of them marked the end of the world... they were just inconveniences. And I've learned a few things, too:
  • I have the patience of Job. I have often said it is folly to pray for patience, because it will surely get tested. I learned that I don't have to pray for it - I already have it.
  • Control is overrated. We really don't have it anyway, so letting go of the process and letting it happen organically is a beautiful thing. So what that I had to reschedule PODS five times... it didn't matter. Things worked out because I was flexible in my thinking and attitude. Great life lesson, there.
I can honestly look at this entire process and see God's hand in each part. 

I am where I am supposed to be. 

I feel my heart settling. The vagabond in me is at peace, and my heart is home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Letting Go

I have had such peace. Things have not happened in my time - definitely God's time... but I will say - now that I'm "this close" to closing on my house and things aren't moving quite the way I want them to, it's very hard to maintain my "Let Go and Let God" stance that I know is a lot of what I've needed to learn through this process.

Closing is supposed to be Wednesday. The file is still not approved. Just got off the phone with the mortgage officer.

We'll see. Letting go again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Living in Limbo

I left camp a week ago. I can't say I went home, because I haven't done that. Don't exactly have a home right now.

Yay for parents who are happy to have us with them. Yay for my empty house that is under contract. Yay for a house to move into as soon as we can get a few things done. But in the meantime... limbo.

I'm ready to be in my own space again. Working to accept this unsettled feeling as where I need to be right now.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Sense of Place

Back when camp started, I wrote here about finding my place at camp.

Over the past week, I've realized that I've done that. It took my leaving for four days for my sorority leadership conference [where I've definitely found my place, but that's another blog post] and coming back, plus the events of the past week, for me to truly recognize that.

One way manifested itself as soon as I was back. A number of people told me they missed me, including the junior staff who work with me at Arts & Crafts. One of them even told me, "Lee, I'm not gonna lie. When camp first started I was worried about working with you, but I've really enjoyed it. It just didn't feel right when you weren't here."

Several senior staff members have come up to me and said something like, "We're glad you're back. Can't believe you're leaving at the end of this term. We don't want you to go." One of them in particular, who I knew from the get go would be somewhat hard to crack, went further and said, "You've won us over - that's pretty impressive, coming from a group of 20 year olds."

The night before Lazy Day, I ended up helping in the canteen during the big "89 Party," even though I technically wasn't on duty, and was thanked profusely by the Senior Staff on duty - "we couldn't have done this smoothly if you had not helped."

So that's good. One of my concerns when camp started has been put to rest. But more than that, a shift happened in my relationship with the directors this week:

Several years ago, what everyone labels as "the plague" hit camp. It took out over 80% of the campers and staff. The memory of that has haunted directors since, and they are ever vigilant not to allow that to occur again. So this week, when a stomach virus seemed to be taking hold of some campers, the directors went into crisis mode. Ironically, this happened on Lazy Day, right after my rather idyllic morning.

Thursday afternoon they asked all of us to help make sure things were clean, and I worked to disinfect the canteen to the best of my ability. I got the canteen open, and within about 10 minutes of my being there, one of the directors came in and told me they were going to pull me from my afternoon duties to run a hospital ward of sorts in the Boys' Directors Cabin. They didn't want it to be fun for the campers, but they did want it to be a place for people to rest and for us to be able to evaluate how they are feeling prior to sending them back into activities with the rest of the campers. If they were truly sick, they'd go to the infirmary, where we had kids dealing with the stomach virus. If they weren't, we'd send them back to activities after watching them for 4-6 hours.

I ended up doing this from 2:30-8:30, with a short break for dinner. They said they would find someone to relieve me, but my response was that if there really was an issue, it made more sense for only one person to be affected rather than risk more of the staff getting sick. No one really argued with me. I quickly had the place running the way I felt it should be - quiet, no talking inside where people were laying down. One of the directors overheard my conversation with one of the campers [who many of us had determined was faking it as a way to get attention] that was firm, but not mean, and got on the radio and said, "We chose well - Lee is perfect for this." [For the record, everyone seems to be feeling much better. If there was a crisis, we averted it. If there wasn't, then campers who needed a place to rest got it.]

Since then, I have led vespers and given the vespers talk, and a number of people came up to me and said, "That was the best one so far this summer." I was asked to help with the flag raising today and tomorrow. I was thanked by another director for my work on Thursday, and relieved from duty last night, but I chose to stay involved - I had to be at the event anyway, and it turns out that I was able to problem solve a few situations that ended up causing him not to worry as much.

My point, and I'll mix some metaphors here, but they all work: I've become a part of the fabric of camp, a part of the rhythm. A lot of what I've done is behind the scenes, but that's what makes things work well. But more importantly, I've developed a reputation - and that is one of cheerfully helping out wherever I'm needed. My goal for the summer was to do just that, and to help make those precious camp memories for the campers happen.

I'm already feeling a sense of melancholy, which I'm working to suppress - I really don't want to leave next weekend. In the meantime, I'm here now. And I'm enjoying every single minute of it.

Finding Joy

This morning I sat at breakfast for a bit longer than normal because I got engrossed watching a conversation unfold between the camp director, Bob Gene (who is in his 80s), Allen (his son, and friend I've mentioned previously), and two other staff members. The conversation was about the fireworks that camp is shooting tomorrow night over Lower Lake for the 4th of July.

These fireworks are a big deal. For one, lots of special permits to make this happen. We've been told at some point how much money is spent on fireworks, and it's substantial. The volunteer fire department is present for the show. Camp gets to stay up late to see them. People have been calling to ask if we're doing them again this year, and what time they'll start [Dark, people - dark...]. Allen always thanks the "dam people" for coming out to watch [they get chairs and sit on the dam which separates Upper and Lower Lakes]. Corny joke, but it works. It's certainly etched into the minds of my brothers and me.

Anyway, at breakfast, Bob Gene had a fuse [or something else electrical related to the fireworks] in his hands and was talking through what he wanted to happen today, and lamenting the change in the supply at Radio Shack, as well as commenting on the fact that the game room repair area at camp is better stocked than Radio Shack, etc.

While I had no clue what they were talking about, of how it all worked, I sat there enraptured. What delighted me about the conversation was recognizing how excited Bob Gene is about the fireworks, and watching the men around him talk through what he wanted to do, and knowing that everything that was going into the fireworks brings Bob Gene [and so many others] tremendous joy. The animation he expressed reminded me of a young child near Christmas.

I truly just wanted to sit there and absorb the energy. Whether they know it or not, they are all a part of Joy embodied.

Friday, July 1, 2011

When's the Last Time...

  • You sat outside in the early morning with a book?
  • You could hear cars coming well before they appear in your line of vision because the sound of them is rare?
  • A bee landed on you, and you sat still enough for it to determine you aren't a flower, and it moved on?
  • The sound of a pine cone dropping startled you?
  • You felt the cool morning air start to give way towards the heat of summer?
  • You watched people fishing from a boat?
  • You waved at everyone who drove past, and spoke to everyone who walked by?
I experienced all of this this morning, as I had road duty for Lazy Day. I wouldn't trade a minute. My life is usually so harried, full, and scheduled, but today... today... I didn't have a worry in the world, and the sights and sounds around me just filled my soul.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lazy Day

Tomorrow is Lazy Day at camp - a time honored tradition that everyone looks forward to. One of the great things about it is that it is always a surprise when it happens, as it is announced 1-2 days ahead of time. The main difference between Lazy Day and any other camp day is that there is no morning bell to wake people up, and you could technically sleep until lunch time. The regular program kicks back in at 2:00.

My kids both looked at me earlier this week and said, "Mom, I need Lazy Day... I'm exhausted!" A number of the staff have commented how much they need it, too. It's been interesting to watch the raw nerves that are present.

When Lazy Day was announced this morning, cheers erupted throughout the camp. I couldn't help but laugh out loud. The noise could probably be heard for miles around - I know it is a memory I'll cherish for a long time to come. Tonight, the 8th and 9th graders get a special cookout at the pool, then there is a band party on the tennis courts for the whole camp. That is followed by the midnight movie for 9th graders on the Volleyball courts, where you'll find me serving popcorn... how cool that this is happening.. Tomorrow morning the 9th graders also get extra ski time on the lake while the rest of the camp just does whatever they feel like - with staff members on duty, of course.

Anyway... I think there are some important things to learn from this idea:
  1. We all need to schedule a Lazy Day here and there - it's good for the soul.
  2. Lazy Days should be a reason to celebrate. We work hard, and it's such a simple reward.
I'm looking forward to it. I'll be up early on duty, but the chance to just kick back and relax for a morning "Among the Pines?" Priceless.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Putting on my Parent Hat

One of the things I've enjoyed most about this summer is re-learning the organization behind how camp runs. As an alum and former staff member, I've had great confidence in the staff members and what the camp program offers my children, but experiencing it as a staff member with my parent lens has caused me to appreciate it even more. It may be as simple as what is in various storage sheds around camp, but the thought behind what happen when, how it happens, and where things are placed has tickled me to no end. Frankly, I can't help but marvel at the logic behind the controlled chaos all day long.

Many of my friends don't get why camp is so important to me. I've long said that this particular camp is one of my favorite places on earth, and the memories I have attached to this place are pretty powerful. I only spent two summers here as a child, and one summer as a staff member when I was in college, but those summers were amazing.

Allen, my friend who is one of the directors and teaches horseback and rappelling (just as he did 28 years ago), and I "talked" a bit via facebook last fall. I told him one of those memories then. On one particular day my last year at camp as a camper, I was riding a horse that was not "mine" for some reason, and that horse ran me into a tree, which both knocked me off and caused my neck to get rather scraped up. It was all I could do to get back on a horse - I don't remember if it was the one that threw me off, but I had to get back on in order to finish up the trail and get back to camp.

Later that day, we went to the rappelling tower, and I, despite being very sore and scared to death, managed to walk down the wall. It was my first and last time doing so - I wasn't willing to do it again.

As I walked away, Allen called after me and said something like, "Lee, you've had a great day!" I don't remember what I said, or what my facial expression was, but I do remember feeling incredulous. He went on to say that getting back on a horse and facing my fear had made the day a great one.

I've never forgotten that.

As a parent, I often think about what I want my children to experience in life, and what I need to do to ensure that they get what they need during their formative years. It amazes me how much of what I want my children to experience can be found at camp. They need a place to try things that scare them in a safe environment. They need the chance to build their confidence and learn some independence. They need a place off the grid where it's ok to be who you are. And as a parent, I think of all the things they have the opportunity to do at camp that I could not begin to offer for them at home. From water skiing, horseback riding, archery, tennis, swimming, a water playground, learning wilderness skills... there's so much here for them to do. Further, these things are taught by college age students and adults who help make the activities fun and who they often look up to.

So, finding myself as a parent working at camp, I often think about what I want my children to get out of camp, and I look for ways to make it happen for other children. It may be a smile, a compliment, or a specific example - helping a child hammer "just enough" so the product is theirs, and showing them how to correct mistakes. In many ways, it's inserting myself "just enough" to help foster those positive memories for others much like was done for me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I've had a blast working with these kids in Arts & Crafts the past six days. Today, in many ways, I felt I hit my stride.

The girls came today, and outside we had the station where they worked on painting their major project. Inside, though, I had stations for pom pom creatures, legos, beads, draw your favorite counselor, and face paint, which my junior counselor and I did.

What was neat about this is that a lot of my education training came into play. For starters, the room was set up in stations, but more than that - there was a lot of choice involved in what campers could do. There was no defined product at any station - they weren't copying things so that each product looked the same - they could go with it any way they wanted to. Counselor help was where it needed to be - with the stations that required assistance. I set boundaries - no more than four at face painting at a time, and also a clear awareness from the beginning that there was no way we could paint all faces, that they would have to prioritize what was most important to them; and finally, I positioned myself so I could keep an eye on everything at once.

From a teaching perspective - I had:
Self Direction
Engaged workers

From a camper perspective, they had fun. The sound of arts and crafts was happy, with quiet talking between campers, and at no time was the chaos anything other than controlled. It was awesome.

A friend/former student of mine commented that she just couldn't see me doing face painting, plus all the crafty things I've got going on. I told her to reframe it - to think of how I often structured classes for them, and encouraged them in their teaching. If she could do that, then she could picture it.

This experience really is good for me - it's a different setting, certainly, but in many ways it's giving me a chance to practice what I preach. I like that.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Little Things

Yesterday, there was a boy in Arts & Crafts who was upset about his horseback helmet. He didn't like that it had Batman on it - not sure if someone made fun of him because of it, but he asked if I had anything that could cover it up. I told him I had duck tape, and then on a whim I asked him if he was a Bama fan. Sure enough, he was, which is good, because that's the only team duck tape I had in the back at Arts & Crafts. It took about 5 minutes, but by the time I was done, he had a personalized Bama decorated horseback helmet.

One of the campers is sick and in the infirmary - I was asked if there was anything she could do on her project while she's up there. While there's not, I put together a care package of beads with the letters of her name, string, pom poms, googly eyes, glue, and a "cracker barrel" solitaire game and took it to her.

Another girl, who has part of my name in hers, has gotten frustrated with me not remembering her name [that's something I'm horrible about, and it frustrates me, too]. I've passed her three times today, and gotten her name right - today she brought me a pipe cleaner bracelet she created during Arts & Crafts time.

One boy made a point of telling me he had a book with plane insignia on it, and he wanted to bring it to Arts & Crafts to get the details right on the plane he was decorating. He opted to decorate with sharpies rather than paint, and then asked how we could do a star on the Air Force symbols. I showed him the technique of how to use the back end of the paint brush and put dots in the corners of the star, and then connect the dots.

Little things.... all part of why I'm loving being at camp.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Camp, week 1

My friend Allen, one of the directors at camp, has encouraged me to write about my experiences this summer - and here is as good a place as any. I'm not really sure how to organize my thoughts, so tonight's will likely be a bit scattered.

A week ago, I put all my belongings except for my piano into storage, signed a contract on a house where I'm moving, and drove to camp - the same camp I attended as a camper and was a counselor at 21 years ago. This journey started back in October, and I wrote about it here, although then it was just a possibility. Now, it's a reality.

How lucky am I to be able to stop the normal flow of life as I've created it [which isn't entirely true - I have work that I'm doing while I'm at camp, too], and step back? How many people can structure their lives in such a way to be able to return to and work at a camp for six weeks? I know of very few others who can do this.

Now that I'm here, though, I find myself in a very surreal place, which I expected and prepared myself for, doing pretty much exactly the same job I did 21 years ago. So much has changed, yet so much is the same, too. The part that has changed is a bit of a learning curve, which I admit has been fun. I find myself challenged - not in a hard or bad way, but in one that is intriguing to me. The teachers in this case are my coworkers... which leads me to an entirely different train of thought:

One of the interesting places I find myself is simply in finding a place. I'm a senior counselor, in charge of arts & crafts, the canteen, and doing whatever other odd job I'm asked to do. My senior counselor coworkers range in age from 19-22, while the directors of the camp programs are all about my age or older that I am. So in some ways, I have no place that is mine. There's not exactly a peer group I can just hang with all the time.

At the same time, that allows me a freedom that is a bit different. I am able to float in and out of groups and belong, yet not belong. In some ways, it's refreshing. While I have my duties here, I'm not totally and completely "in charge" of the program like I am in so many other areas of my life. I'm not the one making the "big" decisions, but certainly small decisions that impact the quality of camp life from my corners of the program. I'm obviously invested in the camp - my children go here, and I want camp to be a special place for so many others.

Which leads me back to that sense of place. The other senior counselors have had a bit of a time figuring out what to do with/around me. How much should they trust me? Should they let me in? What exactly am I doing here? How do you work with someone who is also a parent? I know this only because of how I read people, and glimmers of conversations here and there.

I've tried to put those questions aside, and just be who I am. Not worry about how others look at me - just do my job, talk with people and learn from them, and enjoy being here. And for the most part, I'm succeeding. I did have a night off tonight, went into town and got a pedicure, went to Mellow Mushroom for dinner. I brought the leftovers back to the senior staff lounge where a good number of them were hanging out and they were eaten pretty quickly. Had I been thinking, I would have put in an order to bring back to them - I will next time. Sitting in there with them was the most relaxed I've felt any of them around me, and a willingness to let me into some of the conversations that occur when it's just staff. Having been staff, I know what those are and what they look and feel like. The feeling doesn't change, regardless of the players. I wondered when that beginning to relax would occur, and I have to say the fact that I felt it more tonight than previously causes me to breathe a small sigh of relief. I wanted to feel that prior to my children arriving. I wanted to sense that I was a part of the rhythm of camp.

And that thought leads me to one of the truths about camp:

There is a rhythm here that feels timeless. I experienced it for the first time the summer of 1983. Today, in the canteen, one of the songs on the radio was "Sunglasses at night," which was played a lot at camp during the summer of 1984, and just hearing that song made me think, as it always does, of being out at the lake skiing. So much of what I'm doing and experiencing feels almost innately familiar. The routines, the ringing of the bell to wake us up and at meals, the chimes played at more reflective parts of the day, vespers and talking ceasing at the "line of silence," the break midday at the canteen, the sounds of campers in the cabins and talking at arts and crafts.... Walking through camp, retracing steps I first took nearly 30 years ago, I find myself sinking back into that surprisingly familiar rhythm.

More than that, though. I find that rhythm wrapping its arms around me.

When I first thought of working at camp, I had no idea how much I would need this rhythm at this point in my life.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


This post may come off a bit trite. I hope not. And I wish the story were complete, but it's not, either... but I'm feeling the need to acknowledge the universe for a bit, and writing things out always helps me.

So, I accepted the job. And my house is on the market. It's shown 2x since going on the market, and, well, that's discouraging.

I've been looking for a place to live where the new job is. I have wrestled with whether to buy or rent, because I have this house sitting here... and I finally settled on buying for several reasons: my parents are helping me make this happen, and two - the words from a friend of mine when I asked him his thoughts:
I'm looking for a house, and it's a financial & real estate transaction. You're looking for a home, where your kids will spend the years making a lot of memories that will carry them forever. While they certainly can do that from a rental house, if you're in a position to buy, it gets you all settled and focused on other more important things.
He's right. I need to be focused on other things for their sake. They are the main reason I'm making this move.

He also said this:
As for the parents, I think its a good thing. Your time in ____ has been asserting how things now work, and they seem to get it finally. They've put out their rules respective to this transaction, you have your own. I'd say appreciate it and take it.
I've gone to look at houses four times now. The third time I made an offer on a house. My mother, after looking at the pictures of this house, was not happy. The owner countered, and we ended up walking away.

The fourth time I went, I went with my parents. Most of the way to meet them, I prayed. I cried, prayed, and finally felt a peace. My prayer was simple, in many ways. I asked to be held, and I figuratively climbed up into God's lap and felt comforted while I cried. After I poured out my heart, I asked for clarity in knowing what I needed to do. That if I found the house I was supposed to have, that I would be given a sense of peace and knowing that I was in the right place.

So, when my parents and I looked at the house I had made an offer on, Mom's reaction to that house was clearly not positive. As the day progressed, I felt a greater sense of defeat. I found one house I liked, but it wasn't quite right.

I did gain clarity, though. I gained a sense of what it was my parents wanted. They didn't want to tell me what to do, but they want my children and me to be in a place that doesn't cause them to worry. And, more importantly, they want to do what they can to make that happen. As a daughter, I had to reconcile the competing need I have to be independent and a grown up who doesn't need support with their need to still be my parents. Add to that the reality that they are in a position to make possible for me something that I clearly need, and honestly, that they need, too. In accepting that, I gained peace. As painful as that has been, I got a pretty powerful answer to prayer.

So, that night, I changed the parameters of my search. I started looking at homes that cost more, but that are move in ready.

The next morning, a house came on the market that in pictures, is perfect. Exactly what I would want.

Yesterday, the second day the house has been on the market, my parents went to pre-screen it. They called while they were in the house and told me I need to make an offer. So, I talked with the realtor and I'm going to see this house today. I've also sent her my pre-qualification letter, and will likely leave her an earnest money check today prior to submitting the offer with my realtor, who is not available this weekend.

In the meantime, another offer has already been made on the house... the owner is waiting to accept it because the realtor knows my story and would like me to have an opportunity to present an offer. So that means I really don't have much negotiating room.


I'm seeing answered prayers right and left, truly. Timing is very intriguing, too. At the same time, the sense of internal stress is high, because I don't like competing for a house. I can accept that I might not get it, and that I may need to walk away. The child in me doesn't want to, though. I want this house.

So, in writing this, I'm in many ways writing out a prayer. One for faith in God's plan, in walking through open doors, and in trust that things will work out as they should be. I can feel it, deep inside... but I can also feel me trying to wrestle this one away from God. I'm trying to approach the next few days from a faithful position, not a faithless one.

Things will be as they should be. Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open Doors

So much has been on my mind for so long,
so with apologies in advance, this will be long.
This story, however, is not really for the current readers of this blog,
although I know a number of you
will read with interest, because you love me :).
This post is really for my daughters at some point in the future.
Thank you, digital footprint, for preserving this story for them.

There is something to be said about loving what you do. If I were to create a job description that had everything that I could possibly want in it, the job description would be that of "Mentor Leader," which is what I have been for four out of the six years I have taught in our cohort program.

A Mentor Leader is a professor within the College of Education responsible for leading a cohort of students, typically women (but not always) through the last two years of college. We start a group of students at the beginning of their junior year and teach them their last four semesters, plus arrange field placements and supervise them in elementary classrooms - really getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. As a Mentor Leader, I teach the courses that I feel are most important in my students' development in thinking about teaching, so I am able to scaffold their learning and help guide them into becoming developmentally appropriate teachers who can think for themselves, and think critically about what they do and why. In many ways, I also become their professional parent. They lean on me not only for professional support, but I frequently get to be the shoulder they lean on for personal matters.

I love the relationships that form in the cohort program. I've had more job satisfaction in this job than I have ever had before, mainly because I get to be a part of the development not only of individuals into teachers, but also their development into a living, breathing supportive group who are so very special to me. The women I've taught I've invested my soul into, and I am so proud of the teachers they have become. My sense of purpose has been sky high.

About a year ago, I found out I would not be a "Mentor Leader" to the group of students who started last Fall. After I got over the shock, and fully digested the reasons, which I couldn't argue with (the best way to learn the program is to be a Mentor Leader, and we had someone who needed to learn the program - I was the obvious choice to handle some other issues that had been percolating), I thought to myself, "Hmm. I wonder if it is time to start pushing on some doors."

I've long said that paying attention to the signs around you is a way of knowing what God is saying. It's up to us to look and listen. And then push on doors that He seems to be pointing to... if they open, walk through. If they are hard to open, quit pushing. You're not supposed to go that way. Pay attention. Trust your gut. And either walk through or stop, based on the answer that you get, without regret or thinking, "what if?"

The door pushing thought emerged primarily because of timing. I've often thought I would not be able to leave a cohort I was leading midway through the two year period. The change in my job description caused me to examine other factors not related to work. First and foremost, I couldn't miss the fact that both of my girls would be transitioning schools at the end of this academic year, which is when the midway point of a cohort I would have led would have been. Sign number one.

This fall was one of the hardest I've experienced in this job. While I enjoyed my new responsibilities and the new courses I was teaching, the job change actually took me away from my children several nights a week, and we suffered as a family. I alluded to that here and here, and maybe some other places. Additionally, I became more and more frustrated with my children's school experiences. They were not getting what I wanted them to get at school. I also watched and listened to my children express frustrations with their father. Their relationship seemed to be suffering. I started looking ahead at what the next few years would look like and I realized that their visitation schedule would be severely limited due to extracurriculars, dating, parties, etc. All seemed like signs I needed to pay attention to.

So, I started trying to push on different doors. One door I explored, and I've long played with, is the idea of leaving the college level and going into school administration. I started the coursework for it as part of my doctorate, and I hated it. I honestly felt the soul being sucked out of my body during those classes. So, I stopped - it's one of the few times I've backed out of something I started. Still, I continued to entertain the idea at various points. Most recently, I've talked with people I work with about doing the coursework here, and even applied for admission - only to hit some major road blocks. I took the test for certification on the state level and passed, but didn't go through with the paperwork for no particular reason other than I just never got around to it. Last fall, when I started pushing on doors, I went and inquired about it... only to find out that I had inquired a day after the rules had changed and I was no longer eligible to go that particular route. Um... hello. Quit pushing on that door.

In the meantime, I started paying attention to job postings near Atlanta. Two popped up, and I explored the websites of the institutions. One of the jobs had popped up last year, and I eyed it then, but determined in my heart that it wasn't time, so I didn't bother to apply. The other job is one I've just waited to open up.

I pushed on the door and applied to both. But only to those two.

What did I find out?

I'm marketable. I got interviews at both institutions. Wow.

I interviewed at one in mid February, and I knocked the interview out of the park. Research presentation - stellar. Teaching demonstration - incredible. It was one of those times where you just know how well you did not only intuitively, but also in how the conversation shifted as part of the interview.

I also had some concerns that emerged during the interview. I wondered, out loud, during the interview (geez - that was rather gutsy of me, now that I think about it): Would I be able to build the relationships there that I have been able to build here? Would I be happy with the volume of students who come through? What about field supervision? Most professors don't do it - how could I frame my teaching without that? How did they justify changes made to courses if they weren't in the field knowing what worked and what didn't? If they weren't really in touch with trends in the schools? Further, could I supervise students if I wanted to? I challenged the professors I talked to, and honestly enjoyed the interactions and the conversations.

I left there knowing I had a decision to make. So I started processing what it would look like to take that job. What would it mean for my family? What would life look like there? Could I be happy, given my reservations? Am I done here?

So, what have I thought through?
  • I've spent the past six years healing. I'll likely always be healing, but I feel more whole now than I ever have.
  • My children and I have grown together. We are a family - a whole, unbroken family.
  • While we may be a whole family, the relationship between my girls and their father has suffered. I don't want that for them.
  • I've long been unhappy with the school situation my kids experience - It seems at many school functions we've been to that the most recurring thought that has emerged is that they are mired in mediocrity, with a few bright exceptions to the rule. Meetings, ceremonies, etc - all have felt like going through the motions and have been quite painful for me as a career educator. I've looked for a number of alternate solutions, including home schooling.
  • I love my job. Love my job. Let me say it again. I love my job. How many people can honestly say that? I love my job. Redundant? I don't think so. I love my job.
  • There's more to a whole life than a job.
  • Target. I've missed Target. [kidding, a little... but shopping opportunities are plentiful where this job is]
Clearly, I've prayed. Thought. Digested. Driven around with no radio on so I could think. Listened. And in the end, I've felt a peace about my decision - everything about it feels right, and I have complete faith and trust that things will work out as they should. I've imagined life continuing here as it is now, and there as it would be.

When the call came, I accepted the job offer without reservation.

A bittersweet decision, because I obviously love my job. I do not leave this job easily, and that is by far the hardest thing with which to come to terms. The new job, however, is 20 miles away from the girls' dad, rather than the two hours away we are now, and he will have the opportunity to be more involved in their lives if he so chooses. If he chooses not to, then the fault lies with him and not with me. I have a sense that the girls will get what they need at school, and that it will also be easier for me to advocate for them. I also have a sense that it may take awhile for me to be as satisfied professionally, but that there is abundant opportunity for me to shape the job in the way that I need it to be shaped based on my family's needs. It's a matter of being patient, strategic, and thoughtful - skills I've certainly honed here.

The whole picture makes sense to me - there seems to be a balance that has been missing. So it is with complete faith that I'm walking through this door. No regrets. No what ifs. And faith that the logistical things, such as selling my house, will work out as they are supposed to.

There is much to do between now and then, particularly at work, where I have my fingers in a number of projects. I am committed to not leaving my job until I leave my job, so I anticipate the next few months at work being very full. There's a reason I have a good reputation on campus, and I can't even begin to imagine doing anything to change that at this point. That is a very good thing.

My girls are excited about the move, although nervous, too. The unknown is scary. I hope and pray, though, that this opportunity will help them further grasp what courage, possibility, and hope look like. That they learn how to test doors, look and listen to what God is telling them, but more importantly - they learn that it's ok to imagine life differently, and if it's the right thing, then make it happen, rather than letting life happen to them.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Yesterday morning I did a Multiple Intelligences Inventory with my students - something I've done for the past few years when I teach this particular course. And just like every year, I take it, too, because inevitably what is strongest for me has changed. The ones I expect to be strong are, but whichever one is the strongest changes from time to time.

What struck me this time was one of the indicators, found in Musical Intelligence (one of my stronger ones):

"Concentration is difficult for me if there is background noise."

That's an easy one for me to check. That's why I can't work at the office. That's why I frequently work in silence at home. When I did my dissertation, I usually worked at night after everyone went to bed.

This time, however, it struck me because the radio in my car has been silent for the past few weeks. I haven't even thought about it.

I've had a lot on my mind. Some big things that I've needed to think through regarding sorority, school for the girls next year, not to mention professional and personal concerns. I've noticed for awhile that when I have to process things, I need to be by myself and noise needs to be diminished, but I've never connected it to Musical Intelligence.

I've found it interesting that I really haven't written about all that's on my mind. It could be that another one of my strongest intelligences, the Intrapersonal one, has kicked in. I often use writing to help me process, but that is usually when I want the thoughts to come out, not stay in. These thoughts I've needed to live with for awhile - just to see if I can be comfortable with them. Likely why I've been silent here, too. I'm just not comfortable enough for a larger audience to play with my thoughts yet. A few people have been privy to them, but as a whole - these thoughts live with me right now.

The radio will be back on soon, and then I'll be able to let those thoughts spread their wings. I know that I'll be writing about them, because I want there to be a record of them for my children to see when they get older. One thing I can say at the moment is that I'm certain that it's time for a new chapter in my life. A large portion of that new chapter is nothing but attitude - how I look at things; others are much more concrete. The impact of that new chapter is far reaching for my family.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the shift that comes from not just imagining life differently, but from actually living it differently ... for now, though, I'm sitting in silence, watching the pieces rearrange themselves and fit into place in a way I had not imagined before.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Voices Inside My Head

Yesterday night, my youngest informed me she wanted to go to church this morning.

Let me back up a minute and explain why this is interesting. Prior to moving here, we were at church every single Sunday. As part of the move, I made a decision that it was time to explore my spirituality a little differently. We went to a church about an hour away then, and it was exactly what I needed at the time - very progressive, liberal, and a place to heal. But then it wasn't. So we stopped going. It was hard to get there.

I tried going to church where I live, and became intensely frustrated. I'm just not a match for what I'm hearing, and there are some services I just can't stomach, so there's no reason to even try with them. Regardless, going to church served to take me farther away from where I was than where I needed to be. So we quit going.

In the past few months, both girls have deepened friendships with children who attend a church that can be in my comfort zone, and I've encouraged them to go. So when my youngest said she wanted to go to church today, I fully encouraged it, and went with her. Her motivation, though, is to have the opportunity to play with her friend - there isn't a spiritual reason for it, really. That's fine, though.

I do want them to develop spiritually, but it's been hard to do that formally because of location.

So, today I went with my youngest - and I left the service with many voices inside my head. And I've had to write them out, because a)I have other things I really need to focus on and b) they have been festering. If a sermon is designed to make you think, then kudos to the minister, because that is indeed what happened. So here they are:
  1. This church has a very White population. There was also an insert in the bulletin about the evangelism committee. The expectations listed were so surface in nature that I thought about the fact that I often wonder if I am mired in mediocrity - Surrounded by people who are not willing to think differently.
  2. I couldn't help but think about the huge racial divide where I live.
  3. This sermon went away from the typical Methodist litany in that it wasn't over the selected scriptures for the week. In fact, no scripture was directly referenced. The sermon was actually 4 sermons written by a "Black preacher" (and that's a quote from the minister, so I will stick with the adjective) years ago that the minister had memorized. So here I am in a very White church hearing words originally spoken by a Black minister for what I assume was a Black audience. And the minister changed his voice to be more similar in delivery to a Black preacher. Huge irony there. And I couldn't help but think that this is indeed a stretch for many in the congregation.
  4. After I got past the irony, I listened to the words and the cadence. They were beautiful. I understood why the minister loved the words, yet I remained somewhat bothered by the license that people take when re-crafting stories for an audience. How much liberty should be allowed before the meaning becomes lost?
  5. The fact that the minister clarified that even though the words in the sermon only mentioned men, it was to all. My feminist side rankled a bit.
  6. DD2 looked at me after the Lord's Prayer and said "I don't know this." A moment of guilt washed over me. I need to do something about that.
  7. The last sermon he gave from what he memorized was about the crucifixion, and was written as if someone was there watching. During this sermon, I had my arm around DD2 and she was snuggled in. She played with my jewelry and I stroked her hand, and I was taken back to my childhood for a moment.
  8. Within that same sermon I was able to imagine myself as Jesus' mother. Watching the scene, and knowing in my heart that I would take his place if it meant saving my child from such agony. The true manifestation of unconditional love. And then
  9. Wondering again about how the congregation (and I include myself in this word) received the message - is there a sense of being willing to learn from others who are not like us, and genuinely being open to it, rather than feeling good about it after a false sense of bridge building? Goes back full circle to #1.
I wonder how others processed the sermon today. I really do.

I'm glad I went.