There You Are

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This is my reflection on going back to work.

I knew there was going to be a learning curve. I knew I was going to feel incompetent and frustrated. I picked it anyway.

And in the midst of week two of a twelve week training, as I listened to the very smart, very successful man on the screen talk about all the ways we can drive ourselves to make more money, I had to accept a truth: I knew what I was getting into. I may have thought I could do it half speed, or without being motivated by dollars, but I still knew I was going among people who get up every day to win.

The trainer is an Irishman, so as motivation he said “My sainted mother used to say ‘Everywhere you go, there you are.'” This fired up some of my co-trainees, but I shrank a little inside.

Here I am.

In this place that I picked, I have been lied to. I have been called “Doll” and “Sweetheart” and “Bitch” like it’s a compliment. I’ve been given unsolicited advice on how to have a good marriage from a man 10 years older than me who’s never been married. I asked another professional to wait 30 minutes so my client who was having a diabetic episode could force herself to drive to my office in her pajamas, and was told “No”.

People drink in the office. That part I don’t mind actually. What bugs me is why. Yesterday I woke up to write an offer for one client and list a property for another. I ended up 0 for 2 on the day, for various reasons out of my control. I have a vet client who despite all his “benefits” cannot afford to buy a home at a decent price point in our town. His wife has cried at my table. That’s why agents drink, or maybe it’s how they learn to say no to a decent request to wait a half hour for a sick woman.

I know these are the pitfalls of any profession which requires dealing with people on a daily basis. Teachers get jaded and burnt too. But I knew what I was about in the classroom. I saw the future of it.

Here I am.

Yes, I got into this to make money, but not for the sake of money. I have no desire to be the Top 100 anything.  I’m missing family dinners and practices and coffee with my friends. Right here, right now–super not worth it. Of course, I haven’t gotten paid yet. Maybe that will change things.

But I can’t help thinking that two paychecks into my teaching job looked like the same amount of work for a lot more compensation.

Am I whining? Sure. Maybe it sounds like I have the “luxury” of not being worried about dollars and cents. It’s not true. My husband makes a great living, but like most stay at home moms can tell you, we lived on a shoestring so that I could be there, and the kids are only getting more expensive, not less. It would be helpful for me to pick up the shoestring and make it more rope-like.

Here I am.

This is just a stop on the way to where I want to be. Three years to learn the job so that I can do what I really want, which is own and manage affordable housing in this city where landlords have no souls because the occupancy rate sits in the high 90s. Three years to create a philanthropic housing program for low income families. No, I’m not really sure what that means yet, because I’m busy learning about leach fields and urban growth boundaries, but I know that shelter is a basic human right and there has to be a way to help people get it that glorifies God.

The storm before the calm. The horse before the cart. Uncomfortable. Unsure.

Here I am.

 

 

For the Rookies, on the First Day of School

For the rookies in 2015-2016!

There's nothing better than brand new school supplies!

There’s nothing better than brand new school supplies!

At the very core of education, in your own classroom, there is nothing like the magic of educating kids. Nothing. You see moments in a kid’s life, flashes of brilliance and frustration; you hear them laugh, you see them cry. You are mom, friend, sister; you are at once the coolest cat and the biggest bitch; you will love them, and have days where you could climb a mountain; you will hate them and have days where you wish it was still legal to smack them.

You will love their parents. You will hate their parents. You will see some beautiful souls and some souls bound for the deepest parts of hell. You will hear stories that make you believe in the human spirit, and stories that give you nightmares. Students will lie to your face; parents will lie to your face. One day, a student will tell you a truth so terrible that you will wish they had lied. You will help them while your heart is breaking inside.

You will want to save them. Then you will learn that some kids are not meant to be saved by you. And you will cry.

You will know you are on the right track when the question of your reputation results in fierce debate between the kids who love you and the kids who hate you. Change is hard for teenagers, just like for grown ups. When you push them, they’ll push back. Stay strong. I once had a student named Jerome revise a paper 9 times to get a B and when he did, he hung that thing proudly on the fridge. And didn’t speak to me for two weeks.

I was so proud of him.

You will make mistakes. Tons. There’s no way to talk to 200 kids a day and not say something stupid on a fairly regular basis. When you do, just apologize. They will respect you forever because no one ever apologizes to teenagers. Let them learn from you that apologies don’t make you weak, they make you honorable.

The kids–they will strip you down and make you see who you really are. Then, if you let them, they will make you better, even the ones who make you crazy first.

Maybe them most of all.

So best of luck. You’ll need it between principals trying to make quotas and veteran teachers with an ax to grind and an entire political system that likes to demonize your profession. But it’s not cliche that you are in charge of the future so you have to find a way to manage. You’ll want to quit. All of us wanted to quit sometime in that first year, usually in January or February.

But hang on.  I promise that by May you will feel much better.

When Facebook Calls You Skim Milk

You know how something stupid can get you thinking?

Last week one of my friends posted “Which TV mom are you?” The pictures were of Claire Huxtable, Roseanne and Peg Bundy.

I am Claire, minus the law degree I thought to myself. No nonsense, fair, funny. For sure.

And then I got Cindy Walsh from Beverly Hills 90210.

Dang.

Cindy was skim milk—good for you but boring and forgettable. Minimal impact.

And stupid enough to let her sophomore daughter have a hotel room for prom.

Hello? I wrangled 200 teenagers a year for 18 years. I taught them Thoreau, for the love of God, and they liked it. People respected me, 16 year old people, and they don’t hardly respect anyone.

How on earth am I like Cindy Walsh?

Sweet goodness—have I turned into Cindy Walsh????

This could be a stay at home mom thing. Transitioning from working mom to stay at home mom is not for sissies.  I don’t want to turn this into a working vs. stay at home mom tirade because that horse has been Rode. To. Death.

(Rode. That’s right.)

I’m just saying that when a woman is kind of a big deal in her workplace, the eye of the hurricane, staying home can be like hitting a wall.

I am not complaining one bit. I am just saying that “big deal” and “hurricane” are not words I use to describe my time at home.

I used to be one bad ass teacher.

“I’m a bad ass stay at home mom!” is something no woman said ever.

Not that I want to go back, mind you. I never want to go back. And yes, I know the work I do now will resonate through the generations. Fruit of my womb. I get it. I’m thankful.

But this stupid quiz made me realize I miss being the eye of the hurricane, sometimes.

Vanessa, from Suburban Mama Goddess took the quiz and got Carol Brady. Vanessa is not Carol Brady. Maybe even more than I am not Cindy Walsh. She didn’t like it either. We had this chat:

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I would love to believe that changing my drink would solve this problem, but that’s a slippery slope. Where do you go from Kettel One and Tonic? Absinthe?

I know what I have to do.

Make peace with the fact that my Claire days are over.

Find a way to balance Cindy and Gloria while avoiding rehab for an alcohol and plastic surgery addiction.

And stop taking the stupid Facebook quizzes.

PS: Dana took the quiz and got Claire. I didn’t talk to her for two days. You can cause your own mid-life mama crisis at www.playbuzz.com.

Slowing Wonder Woman Down

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My younger self would have seen this statement as a challenge and asked with a saucy smile, “Are you sure about that?”

This older and wiser version of me knows better and actually grieves the years I spent trying to be too many things to too many people. My mantra used to be “I got this” with little thought to whether I needed to have it or not.

I have learned to say no, or say nothing, which is maybe even more powerful.

Now, Worn-out Wonder Women make me nervous. I feel like a recovering junkie: If I get too close to their whirlwind lives, they will suck me back into the vortex of Being All Things to All People. The affirmation that comes from keeping friends, colleagues, bosses, families and spouses happy can be intoxicating.

But to paraphrase Emerson, it gives no peace. Wonder Women are running from or towards something, for sure. In my own case, I was trying to find something that I already had. But I was moving too fast to know or appreciate or enjoy it. Now I try really hard to be still and present, but I can only do that if I have time.

And I can only have time if I tell others No.

No to commitments that only serve me or my ambition

No to people who do not know or care about my family.

No to people or things that do not bear fruit.

I only owe one yes in my life, and that’s to God.

Lysa TerKuerst of Proverbs 31 Ministries has a new book out called The Best Yes, which is all about curing “the disease to please” and escaping “the guilt of disappointing others” that comes from saying no. Today and tomorrow, if you order one copy, you can get a second for just $5, plus a free audio download.

Check it out at www.thebestyes.com and learn more about Lysa and Proverbs 31 Ministry at www.proverbs31.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Years

Ten years is a long time to be married to someone.  –Gwyneth Paltrow

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Dear Gwyneth,

I’ve been married ten years in November and it has gone by in a silly blur. When we got married, my nephew Wyatt was a tiny bump under his mom’s bridesmaid dress. He’s going to be nine in June—nine!  Behind him came seven more grandkids in seven years and all of them are now walking and talking.

I don’t feel like I have aged a day, even though there’s a whole lot of gray hair and twenty extra pounds that give a lie to that story. Shea is thinner than he was on our wedding day, but the gray ghost has caught him by the chin and we’re going to make a lot of money in retirement hiring ourselves out as Santa and Mrs. Claus for parties.

We still fight over the same stupid things we fought over when we were dating. And we laugh at the same stupid jokes. Sometimes we look around at our three kids, two dogs and home that we’ve lived in for almost all of those ten years and say to each other “When did we become grown-ups?”

Before, I prayed for and waited almost patiently for this life. The last ten years have not always been joyful and we have faced some dark valleys, just like everyone else. But even when those folded up socks in the laundry make me want to scream and throw Shea over the mountain, I am grateful that he has given me this life.

So I don’t think ten years is a long time to be married. Not when we’re standing in the shadow of our parents, who have been married 30 and 46 years respectively. Not when I witnessed both my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebrations. Not when some of my closest friends, who are our age, have been married 24 and 19 years. Compared to them, we’re still rookies!

And Gwyneth, this idea of “conscious uncoupling” is dangerous. If it was a way to divorce without anger and resentment and with the children’s emotional and psychological health intact, I could get behind it-ish. We don’t speak divorce in this house, but there are legitimate reasons for it to happen.

But that’s not what you’re saying. You’re saying you got tired, distant, bored. That you’ve had enough and there isn’t any more you can learn from each other. That it just isn’t working.

You’re not saying much else, so we don’t know the nuts and bolts. And normally I would say that it’s not our business, except that the conscious uncoupling made it our business.

You want reform the definition of divorce and hide behind the “science” that humans are living longer and are not psychologically or emotionally equipped to be married for decades. That we should stay in our marriages as long as they have something to teach us, and then, like graduating from college, move on to the next experience with no guilt, shame or sense of failure.

Without even a nod to the mountains of research that tell us what divorce does to kids.

Look, if you aren’t willing to work on it, if your anger is too big and your ability to forgive too small, that’s fine. We’re human and we understand those emotions. We’ve all felt a like a five year old at one time or another.

But own it. Say that you have failed, let down your families and your children and yourselves. Be humble. Don’t whitewash it, like it isn’t a trauma.

And keep this conscious uncoupling stuff to yourself. You are entitled to your delusions. But don’t call my marriage and the marriages around me “exceptions” to your delusion, because we aren’t. Most marriages that make it ten years have more resilience in the long run. Not yours, I get it, but who knows what could have happened if you hadn’t put a limit on it before you even started.

Don’t drag the rest of us into it, even though misery loves company. We aren’t faking it, or denying ourselves personal growth by staying with our partners. We’re still learning and growing and our endoskeletons are just fine, thank you very much.

Jen

PS: You’re on a roll, with your conscious uncoupling and your comments about regular working moms, and not in a good way. I have found that when the world seems to be against you, that’s more about you than the world. Might be time for a rethink. Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here ~ Jen

Home

For those of you who are new, I started on a blog called Hallelujah Highway with three good friends. For years and years, the Highway metaphor was apt for my life. I was journeying towards marriage, motherhood, economic security, health. There was always a bend or fork in the road up ahead, and I was moving, moving, moving.

My job was my gas pedal, speeding me on. Working required me to box my life into neat chunks of time. On a good day, all the chunks got checked off and I fell into bed with a book for one last twenty minute chunk before sleep.  I was good at this. Ninety miles an hour with my hair on fire.

Then I quit my job to stay home. Not without a lot of soul searching. I had a master’s degree and tenure and that cushy teacher’s pension everyone complains about. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. Life at home is busy, but moves at a softer speed. There are no defined chunks of time, just things to do. No pressure. No lists. No expectations. Believe it or not, that’s a hard adjustment.

I had a newborn, and for long months the goal was to get through each day. By the time she was old enough for me to think about a schedule other than hers, our lives had settled into a lovely rhythm that I didn’t want to disturb.

And now a year later, I know this: my life is not a highway anymore. Once I slowed down, I noticed that I had arrived. I was Here.

This is not about being a stay at home mom. That’s not what I mean by Here.

Here is a place for which my husband and I hoped, prayed and worked.

Here is a destination to be savored and explored.

Here there are graces and blessings and peace.

Here is what I wanted; I need to stand still, right Here and live it.

The journey is important. The journey pushes and strengthens us. But every journey needs a destination, or it’s just wandering.

We want this blog to be a place where we celebrate the Here. Our Here. Your Here. We want to bridge the gap between working moms and stay at home moms and figure out ways to help each other be happier and healthier in our Here.

Welcome!