Keeping Confidence High

2016 netflix goalsEvery year I choose a word to represent something I want more of in the months ahead. As I shared at the beginning of the month my word for 2016 is confidence. I did this for a couple of reasons, but my big, overarching motivation was that I was about to start my student teaching practicum.

When you’re a student teacher – or, at least, when you’re a student teacher here in British Columbia – the practicum is sort of the centrepiece of the whole operation. You spend two months teaching alongside a practicing classroom teacher. You learn on the job, receiving regular feedback from your sponsor teacher and your university advisors. You plan and deliver lessons, construct units, create tests, mark student work and all that other stuff. You write about your experiences and provide evidence that you are learning and growing.

I’m not whining. I am so privileged to be able to share in the learning of my students. I am enjoying it more than I can say, and I am learning a lot. And I’m not just learning about what it means to be a teacher, I’m learning about myself, honing my interpersonal skills and having my worldview challenged on a daily basis. It’s an amazing experience, and the challenges are absolutely worth it.

It’s also testing my confidence in myself. It’s all so new. I frequently feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and that’s not exactly confidence-inspiring. Fortunately I am able to get a little perspective. I had an epiphany recently that I don’t have to be good at this yet because I’m just learning. Of course I don’t know what I’m doing after two weeks in a classroom. This should be obvious, but as a recovering perfectionist it’s something that I sometimes struggle to remember.

By the time April rolls around I’ll be wrapping up my practicum, finishing my final exam and looking forward to a lighter workload in the summer followed by graduation. And, hopefully, employment. Right now my goal is to take care of myself and keep my confidence high (enough) to get through in one piece.

The first thing I’m doing is taking a yoga class after school two days a week. One of the staff members at my school is an instructor and she’s teaching us in the library. I’m looking forward to this because I have worked out exactly 0 minutes since 2016 started. Stretching will help.

confidence netflixThe second thing I’m doing is returning to skiing. I recently hit the slopes for the first time in 25 years. And guess what? I can still do it! And what’s more, I’m actually a better skier than my husband. This may be the only athletic pursuit where I have him beat, especially if you don’t include things I’ve done that he hasn’t. For example, I’m a better tap dancer, but he’s never tried it so it’s not a fair comparison. Whizzing down the mountain is a definite confidence booster.

The final thing I’m doing is watching feel-good TV. Top of the list? Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I watched the series myself over Christmas break, and then my husband recently started watching it so I’ve re-watched some episodes. Leaving aside the poor teaching example, the show is funny and leaves me feeling good. If Kimmy can pull off her transition, I can pull off mine. Even listening to the theme song puts me in a good mood.

Now that I’m finished with Kimmy, I could use some recommendations for other feel-good shows. Netflix recommends On the Way to School which looks great (particularly for a student teacher), but I would love other ideas. What do you watch on Netflix when you need a mood-lifter? Tell me!

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Poem of the Month: Penguin Costume

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but I have written enough that are not as personal and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t necessarily my deepest poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, which I wrote after a trip to the aquarium with my children. I was playing with rhythm and rhyme on this one, and I had a good time writing it.

poetry vancouver aquarium

Penguin Costume

Leave me alone with my lapsang souchong
I departed from home six very long
Hours ago, wee chestnuts shouting their glee
Contagious excitement – what could go wrong?

Minivans aren’t glamourous, but we three
Each have our own row and I am gutsy
Hands clasped tight on the wheel, all lesser cars
Are forced to yield, compacts make way for me.

The day – a blur of otters and sea stars
And entrenched, never-ending sibling wars
Over whether we get ice cream later
Or get it right away and I feel far

From zen. “We’re NOT going to the theatre!”
I am not playing conciliator
Nearly half so well as a mother should,
I’ve become impatient, turned dictator.

Back to the car! But Mom, please please please would
You buy me this snow globe it looks so good
Or a penguin? I can’t stand to prolong
The whining which of course they understood.

A Word for 2016: Confidence

For the past number of years I’ve been choosing a word at New Year’s to represent what I wanted to bring into my life in the 12 months ahead. In 2011 that word was space. In 2012 I chose clarity. In 2013 I chose presence. For 2014 my word was forgiveness. And for 2015 I chose strength. For 2016, choosing was a struggle. In the end, though, I have settled on confidence.

confidence

Choosing a word is about setting an intention for the year. In 2015 my choice of strength was meant to help me acknowledge my own strength. Because when push comes to shove, I am a person who can weather adversity and get things done. Rather than bringing something new into my life, I wanted to focus on what I already have.

My choice of the word confidence, on the other hand, is entirely aspirational. I have long identified myself as grappling with impostor syndrome. That is, even when I am doing something, I feel like I’m pretending. Like I’m an impostor. And now that I’m back in school and about to start my long practicum as a student teacher, this is a huge thing. It’s hard not to feel like an impostor when you’re just learning, but those feelings aren’t helpful. Because you know what? We all have more to offer than we recognize. Any teacher will say this about students – about how we can be gobsmacked by insights from a seven-year-old. I want to give myself the same credit. So in 2016, as I complete my schooling and embark on a new career, I would like to find confidence.

The word confidence is also significant for another reason. Confidence can mean trusting yourself or someone else. However, it can also be about holding your tongue. Keeping your confidence means not sharing those things that should not be shared. It means using your discretion about when to speak, and when to keep silent.

In addition to finding confidence in my abilities, I would also like to find confidence in my words. I would like to choose them more thoughtfully. I would like to work on knowing when to share and when to keep my confidence. This actually cuts both ways, because while I am a talker who sometimes has no filter, I also have a hard time bringing other people into my confidence on a personal level. So I am both building closer relationships and choosing what I say more carefully.

Confidence is a tall order in so many ways, you guys. Sort of like going back to school full-time when you have kids.

2016 will be a big year for me. I am both excited and nervous, but I am choosing to embrace it no matter what it brings. With confidence.

How about you – are you choosing a word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear what it is, and how you’re setting your intentions for 2016!

2015 Year in Photos Slideshow

happy new year slideshowThis is my favourite post of the year. It’s a lot of work, but I am happy to do it because I love it. It gives me a chance to reflect and wax nostalgic, which are sort of my bread and butter. This post contains my annual slideshow, chronicling my family’s year in photos. It’s my eighth (!!!) such slideshow. Looking back over the others is a real walk down memory lane from 2008 to today. I remember things I’d forgotten. I laugh, and of course, I cry. I’m not sure if anyone else loves my slideshows, but if one of the benefits of blogging is having a record of your family life, then this slideshow is the best example of that.

2015 was another big year for me. I started the year unemployed and applying for teacher training. My car was totalled. I was accepted into the teaching program. I spent the summer with my kids. I started back at school and finished my short practicum. Looking back over the year’s photos I see snapshots of all that and more. Here’s the photographic evidence set to music. True to my hippie roots, I’ve gone with Joni Mitchell this year, from Joan Baez last year:

If you’d like to take a walk down memory lane with me, here are my past slideshows:

2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014

I’ve shared the photos and now I’d like to turn the tables back on you. What was 2015 like for you? When you consider this year, what images will stand out in your mind? And what are you looking forward to in 2016? I’d love to hear.

Happy New Year!

Holidays and Sick Days

I had grand plans this holiday season. Grand plans. With my daughter now almost 11 years old, we were going to bake together. Oh yes, we were! Or perhaps I was going to get her to bake for me, which sounded even better. And then we would enjoy holiday movies together and it would be very warm and fuzzy and all that stuff.

As I wrote recently, though, those holiday lists often go sideways. And that happened for me when my kids took turns being sick over the holidays. For Hannah it was December 17 to December 20 or so. For Jacob it was December 21 to December 24 or so. And hence, there wasn’t any baking. There weren’t any holiday movie marathons. There was just a lot of sick kids on the couch while I hovered nearby and worried.

When my daughter Hannah had to stay home from school on December 17, which was gingerbread house day, a decision had to be made. That decision ended up being that I would pick up her gingerbread house supplies from her teacher and bring them home. Because I couldn’t send her to school, and she was super, duper, extremely sad at the thought of not getting to make the house.

sick day gingerbread houseIn the end, it all worked out. She built the house. And then while she recovered she watched almost the entire first season of Once Upon a Time on Netflix. She’s been asking to watch the show with me for ages (I am an avid viewer), but since I am well into Season 5 now and since I don’t want to have to wait for a time that’s convenient for my daughter to catch new episodes that hasn’t happened. Luckily, thanks to the wonder of technology she can watch it all on her own.

When my seven year olds Jacob got sick he also turned to Netflix. We got Apple TV not that long ago and he loves that he can talk to the remote (or, as he says, marote). He is his father’s son, and is therefore naturally much better at technology than me, my engineering degree notwithstanding. For a couple of days he binge-watched Batman: The Brave and the Bold. And once again, I hovered nearby.

It is Murphy’s Law that both of my children were sick over the holidays, but I am sure I am not the only one. And I am happy to report that they are both all better now. The fevers are gone, the lethargy is gone and the tissue station on the couch in front of the TV is gone. For the time that they were sick, though, I was really thanking my lucky stars that we have things like PVRs and Netflix and DVDs and 24 hour children’s channels. Because while family togetherness as we all watch movies together is fun, being able to keep a sick kid more or less happy is worth its weight in gold.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Light and Hope

This is a dark time of year … the darkest, in fact. And so, since time immemorial, long before stories were written down or babies were laid to sleep in mangers humans have craved light. The promise that the darkness will not last. That the sun will return, and bring with it spring and a new season of plenty. Our ancient ancestors tracked the movement of celestial bodies and the rhythm of the seasons and in the midst of it all, they found hope.

Today, in the here and now, when I write down everything and carry around a little computer in my pocket that beeps at me constantly, I need hope. Some things never change. The cold and the dark still feel like too much. The world around us still affects us. We are not immune to feeling hopeless or sad or scared.

I seek out the light, because in the light there is hope. I bring a tree into my house and string it with lights. There are lights on my house. Lights in my rooms. Candles on bookshelves. A (gas) fire in my fireplace. Stories of a baby who was the light of the world and brought hope to nations. Stories of the rebirth of the light, the return of the sun. Stories of oil that lasted longer that it should have, its sacred flame illuminating the darkness.

candle light christmas

My children are naturally hopeful and optimistic, as most children are. They seem to carry light within and that brings me hope. But never does it shine more brightly than today. The presents, the food, the time with family, the decorations, the twinkling bulbs that festoon almost every house, these things all speak to children with a special voice.

Now that they are 10 and 7 my children don’t just enjoy these things, they drink them up like they are dying of thirst and they have found water. They look forward to this all year, and when it is here they are so fully immersed in it that it lights me up, too. It brings me hope. It reminds me of what it is like to be wholly in the moment, filled with joy, surrounded by love.

As they say on Game of Thrones, the night is dark and full of terrors. And I would add, the winter is cold and merciless, and of course winter is (always) coming. But here, as I celebrate Christmas surrounded by my family, there is hope. There is peace. There is an ancient story, as timeless as the world itself, reminding us that there is something to look forward to. The cold and dark are not all there is.

Let there be light. Let there be hope. Let there be Christmas.

Making a List, Checking it Twice

Sometimes it feels as if Christmas is all about lists.

  • Gift buying lists.
  • Grocery shopping lists.
  • Baking lists.
  • Decorating lists.
  • Gift wrapping lists.
  • Lists of errands to run.
  • Lists of tasks to perform.
  • Lists of parties to attend.
  • Lists of Christmas light displays to see.
  • Christmas card lists.

And, even:

  • Holiday playlists to compile so you have the perfect soundtrack.

Santa Claus is not the only one who’s making a list and checking it twice. We’re all doing it – especially those of us who have children. The feeling is not exactly festive.

Sometimes, though, you have that moment. That bright spot that makes all the running around, spending money, coordinating schedules and so on worthwhile. It’s the moment that reminds you that traditions matter. That you’re making memories. That you’re doing it all in service of something much bigger, older and wiser than you. Ritual is powerful and it calls to us all. And few rituals are as deeply ingrained in my psyche and identity than the rituals of Christmas.

This afternoon I was decorating the tree with my children. There it is … I am a Christmas slacker. My Instagram feed has been filled with photos of other people’s fully-decorated trees since late November and I am just doing it now. And to make matters worse we still aren’t finished with the tree. I find that it’s easier and more fun to do it in fits and spurts, rather than pushing myself to get it done in one go. Those lists? I am better at making them than completing them, and sometimes it just doesn’t all get done.

christmas joyAnyways, I bought new Christmas lights for our tree this year. They are small multi-coloured LED globes that flicker and blink and change colour. My children were delighted. And then I turned on the Christmas music, and we strung the garlands and got out the boxes of ornaments. My daughter sniffled because she has a cold, and clung to me like a kid who is much younger than almost 11 years old. Then my son, who is seven, placed his third ornament on the same branch of the tree and stopped to admire his handiwork before saying, “Mom, when you play Christmas music and we decorate the tree I feel the joy.”

And then Christmas happened for me.

Because this is what Christmas is. It is a tree that is haphazardly decorated with mismatched ornaments acquired over a lifetime. It is children who are excited and embrace the moment and don’t agonize over perfection. It is letting yourself step away when it’s all a bit much. And it is being present with your family in the mess. Those amazing holiday moments don’t come when you look at a list completed list. They come in spite of the lists.

I am trying to cut myself some slack and reducing what’s on my lists. Because someone will get sick. Some beautiful ornament or dish or brand new gift will break. Some family member will disagree with some other family member. And at some point the weather will get in the way of carefully laid plans. Accepting it is better than feeling bad that things didn’t go to plan. I don’t believe Christmas is meant to be an exercise in making yourself feel guilty for not being Martha Stewart.

In fact, I bet even Martha Stewart finds the pressure overwhelming sometimes.

So here’s to the holiday season. May it be joyous, and loving, and festive in spite of the lists.

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