Monday 22 June 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Just Monday

...But a good Monday!

Today I had one of those days when I feel like I have my act together. I can enjoy life; I can get things done. And the armload of wiggly baby makes it just more awesome.

I decided I will write up today as a Day in the Life. The last one I wrote was when AJ was four months old and I think it's time for another! so hopefully that will be posted later in the week. Plus when I know I will be sharing what I do I seem to do things faster and better because I feel accountable somehow.

The to-do list from last week went pretty well. I got to most things, just not cleaning up the yard (a task that I have been avoiding for a while).

I am getting together with a wonderful friend on Wednesday. She is an IFfer too, but a different generation: in her 60s now. She has had a very challenging life in a lot of ways: loss of loved ones, health issues, and she was never able to have children (she did foster/adopt but that was complicated, too.) But through it all she just keeps living and trying new things, including starting a business in the last few years. I find people like that so inspiring.

Have a new list for this week and have rubbed a few things off it already - a good way to start the week! (But still not the outside cleanup. Tomorrow might be a good day for that!)

More people share their Monday thoughts

Sunday 21 June 2015

Thoughts for today

There's always a lot of talk about moms in the blog world, but I'm saving a thought today for all the great guys out there who want more than anything to be dads and who will be wonderful days one day (I hope and believe).

And also thinking about dads of babies who will be born or find forever family soon, and the new dads.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Mr. Turtle has been outstanding through all 3 phases.

He's always teasing AJ about unicorns so I put a few on his card (I'm designing all my own greeting cards these days). For all the times life just doesn't make sense, here's some unicorn nonsense to help you get through the day, or celebrate, if lucky enough.

Many good wishes if not much logic from me!

Monday 15 June 2015

#Microblog Mondays: I have a To-Do list

I know, so exciting eh?

I've been so focused on existential questions about life and work in the past week or so that I didn't have any expectations that I would accomplish anything. I did get some things done, but I couldn't focus my mind on it. Now that I feel past some of that I'm going to try to live in the present and have a great summer!

On the to-do list so far:

  • grocery shopping
  • some yard chores in the front and back
  • look into swim lessons for AJ 
  • fill out some forms that have been ignored for too long
  • connect and hopefully make plans with the people I've had "we should really get together" conversations with in the last two months, and look into some leads and ideas for mom friends
I'm not giving myself a timeline for it, but hopefully will get to most of those things this week!

hope everyone has a good one.

Thursday 11 June 2015

Compromises with jagged edges

I made the decision today to return to work in September.

It was hard. I kept waiting for an epiphany, or at least some information that would influence me decisively one way or another. It never came.

I found out where I've been placed yesterday. The job is not quite my ideal, but second to staying at my old school, it is probably the smoothest transition possible. The school is close by; I will have to drive but won't have to commute on any of our crowded and dangerous city freeways. The job is special ed: a different student profile, but a lot of parallels with my old job. (In fact, as far as I can tell, the funding went straight from my old program to this one. So it was rather obvious that I go with it, I guess.) There is a lot of I will have to learn, but I know what questions to ask because I've worked in a similar setting. It's also (going to be) a two-teacher program, so similar to my old program in that respect as well. The difference is that at my old school I was the "veteran" who helped transition the new teacher, and in this case the roles are reversed.  That could be good or bad: if the incumbent teacher is as easy to work with as my former colleague, or dare I say it, myself, it could be a great asset. If not, it could be a giant pain. Still, I now have a reality to plan for, rather than an infinite number of possibilities. That in and of itself has definitely brought down some of the anxiety.

However, I still struggled and struggled with the decision. I'd turn things over in my head one hour, and think I'd made up my mind, only to feel completely the opposite about the matter the next hour. Wake up at 1am with one idea of what I could live with, wake up at 5am with a different one.  I constantly asked Mr. Turtle  for his feelings and opinion, but he seemed to have much the same conflicted feelings as I do. Sometimes, perhaps, thinking so much alike is not an advantage! But he took good care of me last night, doing all the chores that I said I would do one minute, then forgot about the next because I was so preoccupied. He cooked us dinner and made me Tension Tamer tea. I lay on the floor staring at AJ saying "But how can I?" Mr. Turtle said that he didn't think it was possible to look at the situation objectively, which is the probably one of the few things we can say with certainty.

I asked him before he went to work today if he had any final thoughts. He said: "I know you are strong and whatever you decide to do you will make it work." Then I asked: "Is going back to work full time, and retaining my contract status worth putting AJ through the transition of going to child care?" That was the question I kept coming back to: the one that was more important than all the others. Mr. Turtle said Yes. There are advantages.

So I called and accepted the job. I'm going back in September.

What else can I say? The decision for us came down to this: there are two ways to go, broadly speaking (due to the nature of this particular job part-time work/job share isn't an option), and we had to take one of them. Both options involve sacrifices and compromises. Some of those are short term, some are long term, which makes it more complicated because it's harder to understand the long term consequences of an action. But there wasn't an overpowering moral imperative either way. At least, the way we looked at it, based on our attitudes, knowledge and perspective, there wasn't.

There are many circumstances and events in life we have no choice about.  Things are one way, or they are not. Events happen, or they don't happen, and we just have to respond to the reality. Sometimes however we do have a choice that will influence our circumstances, and I believe strongly that in those cases it's important to make the choice, consciously. I could have made this decision easier for myself, sort of, by relying on assumptions: "I have to go back to work", or "It's best to stay at home." I gave myself the space to challenge both those assumptions and many others. It is really hard to do and I do not know if I made the right choice. As I've noted before, the only way to know the consequences of your actions for sure is to act.

I know it's going to get harder before it gets easier. AJ will have hard days; Mr. Turtle will have hard days. As for me I know there will be days when I just hate myself  for my decision. But I'm hopeful that this was the right decision for our family in the long term and that we will adjust and benefit from the many positive aspects of my being employed.

If I'm not wrong.

During challenging times in my life I often find myself returning to the poetry of Seamus Heaney. There's something grounding in it. Literally. Many poets look up for inspiration: light is clarity, spiritual awakening, enlightenment. Seamus Heaney digs in the dirt, stares down wells, looks for the door into the dark.

These lines are from the poem "North." In the poem the speaker stands on a chilly beach by the Atlantic, and communes in his mind with ancient Viking raiders (full poem here). 

"the coil and gleam of your furrowed brain" - we perceive our thoughts as somehow separate from our bodies, but they are also located in our physical bodies.

"Compose in darkness" - in some cultural traditions darkness was considered necessary for poetic inspiration. To me this also says that sometimes we have to create, live and act without full knowledge or understanding.

"Expect aurora borealis....but no cascade of light" - There will be guidance along the way, but not necessarily dramatic epiphanies

"Keep your eye clear...." - Honesty with ourselves and others is hard, very hard. But with practice we can become both more perceptive and honest.

"Treasure": Treasure is the feel of AJ's soft flesh and weight in my arms; her complete trust. Treasure is every moment I have with her, and every moment I hold her in my heart when we are apart.

...‘Lie down
in the word-hoard, burrow   
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.

Compose in darkness.   
Expect aurora borealis   
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.

Keep your eye clear
as the bleb of the icicle,
trust the feel of what nubbed treasure   
your hands have known.’

- excerpted from "North" by Seamus Heaney

Thank you to everyone who offered comments and perspectives on my last entries. 

Monday 8 June 2015

#Microblog Mondays: "Mom friends": Are they worth it?!

So, sometimes I think I should be trying harder to make "mom friends." Most of the small group of people I consider long term friends are child free and intend to stay that way, with the exception of one friend in the UK with a son, and another two who have gotten/are getting married this year and say they want children.

Yesterday one of my colleagues shared this blog entry The No-Bullshit, No-Drama Friendship Manifesto on Facebook. The second time I read it, I realized, Oh yeah, that's actually funny. The first time I read it (or skimmed it, rather) it made me want to curl up on the couch with a book and avoid all human contact.

I have to ask: Moms with mom-friends, or people who are forced to hang out with moms, is there really that much drama? Because if there is I think AJ can forget about play dates or birthday parties until she's old enough to go on her own. I can't deal with it!

Just kidding. Maybe.

Leave has definitely given me the option to get re-acquainted with my introvert side. It never went away, but while teaching full-time I didn't have much "alone time." I learned to cope with it. (There were also advantages to the job I had. Such as, working with the same students over 3 years, rather than new classes constantly. Many adults in the room, allowing for bathroom breaks pretty much when I wanted them. Which sometimes = sanity break. Probably another reason why I'm clawing pieces off myself contemplating a change.)

In all seriousness, there are at least two families in my city who I could make an effort to get together with. I seem to remember saying so to them. Two, three weeks ago? Where did the time go?

I feel like now is a great time to get to know people because AJ is so cute, I have an easy icebreaker. It's summer. People are outside. They talk to me as they pass on the street. Even call to me from their trucks.  We have a very walkable neighbourhood. With an active community association. A new member of the legislature about my age, with a child. Mr. Turtle grew up (at least part of his childhood) in a neighbourhood where Everybody Knew Everybody. I'm so impressed by that and would love for AJ to have the same opportunities. If there was Drama it didn't seem to hurt my mother in law; she's quite happy.

So many opportunities!

So many books and blogs to read, too. Such as all the ones over at Microblog Mondays!

Wednesday 3 June 2015


I wrote to my employer to clarify a date they quoted in the letter they sent, regarding when I need to make a decision about whether or not to return to work. I quoted my union agreement that clearly states that 30 days notice is all that's required. (This is important because at the moment I don't know what job I am potentially returning to in the fall; I have to wait and find out.)

The reply today: Yes, you need to give 30 days notice.  Which means mid-July.  And: "The reason for the date [we gave you, June 30th] is only for processing purposes. We would like to process all request in a timely manner."

In other words, we make !@#$ up because it is convenient to us. HOPE THAT DIDN'T CAUSE YOU TOO MUCH STRESS.

Moving on.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

And the 3am sequel

It occurred to me (after a surprisingly nice long spell of sleep, thanks AJ) that maybe I wasn't entirely honest with myself in my last entry. Isn't that an interesting thing about blogging? or any kind of journaling. Even with a very safe, anonymous space, it's hard to be completely honest. In fact I believe it's hard to be completely honest even when you're just thinking (perhaps especially when you're thinking). We always tell a story, always. And every story leaves something out.

So, yeah, I woke up at 3am and thought: When my leave was turned down, I had an emotional reaction. I wanted to have the extra time with AJ. I felt disappointed that one possibility that would allow for this was denied. Stabby sad disappointed. Emotions connected with AJ have their own particular weight and feel. What I feel, is visceral. I feel it in my very centre, not just from the head space, but in the place where she was made and grew. It has always been so, from the time she was....embryonic.  And will always be so, I am sure.

Am I being too quick to dismiss my "emotional reaction?" 

Because the emotional reaction is the one I usually wake up with in the middle of the night.

These days I wake up at night at least once. Sometimes a lot oftener.

I will still be waking up at night in August. September, October. Maybe because the 10, 11, 12 month old baby is waking me up, or just because.

Still have to live with it then. Still have to live with decisions at 3am.

It's always possible rationalize, to turn questions into a thinking problem. It's something I do very well.

Less well at 3am.

So what if I don't go back to work in September. I'll let myself consider it.

I can be with AJ a bit longer. I don't have to feel pressured to make childcare work at 10 months, 11 months. Mr. Turtle will be with her till she's 11 months, but we will have to transition to full time care. It feels like a lot of pressure. It would be nice not to have that pressure.

I will be with her for more big developmental stuff. I won't have to wonder about what I missed.

We'd probably spend more time with family, especially my parents.

But mainly I won't have to feel that gut anguish of separation. Or will I? I mean, she's going to grow up, grow away. It happens; it's supposed to. Does it get easier? Is there a better time? Is one year old a better time? Two years old? Part of me wants to think there's a better, easier time to make that separation. If I put it off, would it be better for AJ, for me?

I don't know. It's hard. I guess I just wanted to say that. 

Now I better get back to sleep, haha. 

Monday 1 June 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Getting the pieces together

There was a single letter in my mailbox today: the response to my leave application for next school year.

I was in the kitchen simultaneously fixing some lunch, tidying up (because a messy kitchen makes me edgy) and feeding AJ in her high chair. (She didn't want avocado and banana mush but devoured sweet potato / lima bean puree and a good portion of applesauce with quinoa.)

As I ripped open the letter, I was mostly hopeful that the leave had been approved. At the same time I realized that I was also curious about what my placement for next year might be, and that I would be a little disappointed not to find out.

The leave was denied.

Not going to lie, this is quite crushing. I'd made some effort to remember that the leave might not be approved, but mostly I'd allowed myself to assume it would be. It seemed to me with cutbacks to education spending, and reduced job opportunities all around, nobody in my school board would much object to a teacher who wanted an extra year off (one less person to place in a job, one less salary to pay!). But that wasn't the case, obviously. The only reason given in the letter was that I was not allowed to have any more leave extensions. In other words, no more than 10 months leave allowed. Which also makes sense, when I think about it. If teachers were typically allowed to take two years of leave back to back, an awful lot of moms would likely choose to do that! and it could cause problems with staffing. So in hindsight I was indulging in have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too-ism. (Although what a ridiculous expression that is: "You can't have your cake and eat it too!" What is the point of having cake if you can't eat it?)

Another piece in the puzzle: Since receiving news about the cutbacks to my program, our province's newly elected government has fully restored education spending. So in theory my job could be restored. Although I am doubtful this will actually happen. And anyway now that I've allowed myself to consider other possibilities, they are almost more appealing than returning to my old job. Although I don't know exactly what those possibilities are and if they actually exist.

The letter also mentioned that if I wanted to resign in order to "pursue my plans," that I had to give 30 days notice, which means sending the resignation! Conversely, I have to send in my intention to return to work today. Because the end of the school year is June 30th. ***

***Update: I think that I may have misinterpreted that part of the letter (hazard of emotional reading). It shouldn't be such a tight timeline. In any case, I have reviewed my union agreement and I can't find anything that says I need to give more that 30 days notice to return to work or resign. When the school year ends is (should be) irrelevant. That makes a huge difference as it at least means I will have more information to make a decision (like knowing what job I'm supposed to return to in September!)

When the initial wave of disappointment washed over me, I was quite tempted to go write that resignation letter now!  I could barely bear to look at AJ sitting in her high chair with orange mush smeared all over her mouth. I don't cry easily but I almost cried. At the same time I understand that I'm having an emotional reaction and it doesn't tell the whole story. For example, I am still curious about my placement for next year, and I don't have completely negative feelings about it. I'm quite sure that I'm not ready to resign. It took a lot of effort, several years and some luck to achieve my contract status. It is not something I resign lightly.

There are also advantages to going back to work:

  • more cash flow and chance to save
  • if a second child is in the cards, I can take employment insurance in the next leave
  • I "stay in the game" professionally, and presumably expand my experience and skill set with a different position
  • I learn how to be a working mother, instead of being afraid of it. Although I'll still have fears and doubts; that goes with the territory. Look, the deep end! JUMP. I've done it before.
  • Less pressure on Mr. Turtle to be sole provider. He says he is fine with being the sole income source, and I'm sure he is (we've mostly survived on one income since October). But the truth is he is working full time, studying full time, being a dad and husband, and living with a chronic condition.  Even if all the balls are in the air, there's got to be some pressure just wondering if one is going to fall. Everybody likes to feel someone's got their back.
And finally, I have the chance to make a difference to.....some students, somewhere. That part is hard for me to imagine this because I don't know who, where. I've been teaching for 10 years. When I started it was by no means a given that I would be in the career this long! (Teachers have about a 50% attrition rate within 5 years.) Because I have had some humbling experiences, I don't tend to wax poetic to myself or others about how I shape young minds and blah blah blah. I consider what I do a privilege and I know I am flawed and that I work in a system that's flawed in many ways (although still comparatively very good). Still. There are many reasons I'm still at it, and at least one of them is that I know I do have a positive, quantifiable impact.

One of my colleagues sent me this sweet email when I was discussing my situation with her.

I hear that you are worried about going into a new role, but I have total faith in you. I know that you will be amazing where ever you go. You have too much passion not to be. With any new teaching role, you make it as you go. You research and build lesson plans and curriculums as you need them. Look what you built in seven years at [school] in the [.....] class and the impact you had on your students. I also understand the uncertainty of leaving your first baby and putting that child in child care. Just know that it all works out. ...... Enjoy your summer.

We all have our wishes and 'druthers but sometimes the best thing is to hear that people believe in us. There's so much good to focus on.

PS. If you were nice enough to read this much, thanks. There's also a 3am sequel.