My Happiness List: October 2015 Edition

Sometimes, you just need to focus on the good things in life. I like to do that every so often, so I’m sharing another happiness list. I blogged my last personal happiness list back in January, so it’s clearly time for me to re-visit it. And as I wait to hear what school I’ll be placed in for my short practicum as a student teacher, I could use a little bit of positivity. The suspense is killing me!

Let’s get the joy party started, shall we?

happiness list

My Happy List

  1. All the cool things I’m learning as a student teacher.
  2. Mentors who inspire me.
  3. Watching my daughter in her tae kwon do class. She is seriously tough.
  4. Raisins. Not everyone is a raisin person, but I really am.
  5. Cozy blankets to curl up in on a chilly fall night.
  6. My son who has lost his two front teeth and is now sporting the most adorable gap-toothed grin.
  7. My shower. Getting clean is the best part of my day.
  8. The community that has formed with my fellow student teachers. It’s so good to spend your days with people you like and respect.
  9. Comfy boots to keep my feet warm and dry.
  10. Thanksgiving – it’s this coming weekend here in Canada!
  11. My new computer. It doesn’t crash every time I try to open more than two browser windows. So novel!
  12. My husband, who washes all my laundry and is picking up the slack now that I’m back at school.
  13. Fall leaves, that brighten up rainy days.
  14. Writing poetry.
  15. Chocolate. All the chocolate, all the time.

What about you – what’s on your happy list right now? I’d love to hear!

Day Three

Back on Labour Day I shared some of my thoughts and concerns as I prepared to head back to school full-time. That was nine days ago. I am now mid-way through my first week as a student teacher, and I wanted to update you on how things are going so far.

The Kids

My kids had their first day of school on September 8, and I was fortunately able to be there for it. It was very short – less than 45 minutes – as they reported to their classes from last year and took attendance. That was all par for the course and went well.

The next day, one week ago, the kids had their first full day of school and their first day of daycare. My daughter Hannah was concerned. Would she know anyone? Would she have any friends? By day two of daycare she was good. My son Jacob was excited to go and settled in right off the bat. When I pick them up now they complain and ask to stay longer. I take that as a good sign, and I’m feeling really relieved. It’s so much better when you know your kids are having fun while you’re away from them.

The Interval

plate impulse purchase

Impulse purchase while waiting for my car to be serviced

Because my school didn’t start until this past Monday, September 14, I had a few days at home with not much to do while my kids were at school and settling into daycare. I vacillated between enjoying it immensely and feeling totally panicked. I didn’t know much about what would be happening when I started school myself. I had a time and place to be for orientation, but that was it. As a planner, this freaked me out. On top of that, I’m used to working from home so just sitting around twiddling my thumbs left me with an uneasy feeling that I was forgetting something.

I ended up making myself busy polishing off last-minute details. I got my car serviced. I got a haircut. I met with people. And I also enjoyed the free time a little by watching too much TV. In the end those three days of peace and quiet went by way too quickly.

Student Teacher

student teacher burnaby mountain park

View from where I was sitting yesterday

Finally, it was just before 9:00am on my first day of school. I joined the other new student teachers in the line-up outside the theatre where our orientation session was being held. A woman beside me struck up a conversation and we discovered that we were both in the same module (a module is like a class of 32 student teachers). It felt good to make a friend right away.

The orientation session lasted all morning, and it was great. I found it very helpful. Then we met the rest of our module briefly before lunch. After lunch we headed off with our modules and got to know each other a little. We’ll be meeting together throughout the semester, which lasts until December. Yesterday we went for a walk to a local park and did some reflecting and got to know each other a little more. Today we’re going to a film, culture and art festival that celebrates diversity – Project EveryBODY.

What I’ve discovered so far is that my fellow student teachers are amazing people. They are mostly (but not all) younger than me by at least a decade, but they’ve done some pretty cool things and we all share a love of working with children. Many of our hopes and fears are the same. We are going to be spending a lot of time together, and I feel privileged to be working with them. They knocked my socks off, quite honestly.

I’ve also discovered that this experience is going to be very hands-on and challenging in a totally different way than my other university experiences. It doesn’t appear that it will be very academically rigorous, in the sense that I won’t be spending a lot of time studying and writing research papers and sitting exams. Rather, it will be extremely challenging and stretching on a personal level, as I confront my biases, work hard, and transform myself into a teacher. And spend lots and lots of time with kids. I can’t wait.

For now, I know I’m right where I need to be. It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

Back to School

It has been a long time since I went to work or school full-time.

In February of 2005 I was working full-time. Then, six weeks ahead of schedule, my daughter was born. Thanks to generous Canadian maternity leave, I didn’t return to work for a full year after her birth. When I did return, I was fortunate to be able to negotiate a part-time schedule, where I went into the office three days a week and did some work from home the other two weekdays.

When my son was born in 2008 I went on another year-long maternity leave. Nine months into that I received notice that my job was being eliminated. I decided to shift gears and started working from home. I landed one small freelance job and then another. Eventually I was working 20 hours a week from my family room.

I was lucky. I was able to spend time with my children while they were small. I spent time in their classrooms, volunteered on field trips, and explored what I really wanted to do with my life. I know that not everyone has this freedom.

back to schoolNow, things are changing. Tomorrow my kids start back at school. They are now in grade five and grade two. The day after tomorrow my kids start before and after school care. And five days after that, I have my first day of school as a student teacher. I will spend the next 12 months studying full-time, doing practicum work in classrooms, and earning my teaching license. It will be the first time in more than a decade that I have done anything full-time.

This is a good time for me to do this. My children are in school all day themselves. They are well settled in their routines. I am ready for the next thing. But still, I’m nervous. It feels like a big change.

There are seasons in every life. I am entering a new season in mine. I feel just as scared as I did more than 20 years ago when I graduated from high school and first started university. The stakes feel so much higher. The demands on my life are already much greater. And I have two little people watching me. I want to set a good example. I want to build a good life for them and for me. I want to show them that you’re never too old. That learning never stops. That you can set a goal and make it happen.

I also want to do well for myself. I have always been an overachiever.

I know things will work out. If I just take things one day at a time, one task at a time, I will get through this. My kids will get through this too. I will figure out my part, and they will figure out their parts, and when all is said and done I will be a teacher. Hopefully I will find a job, eventually, and we will go on vacation at Spring Break. And I will have the privilege of working with children every day. If I keep my eyes on the prize, it all sounds good.

But still, it’s a big change. I feel it. I can’t think about it too much, but I feel it.

So, deep breath. Here I go. Wish me luck.

My Happiness List: January 2015 Edition

My last post was a little bit down, I think, so I decided that it was time to share another happiness list. I blogged my last personal happiness list almost ten months ago, so I’m clearly long overdue. Who couldn’t use a little hit of positivity once in a while? There’s all kinds of research to show that it’s very good for you. Plus, it’s just plain fun.

Let’s get the joy party started, shall we?

massage therapy happiness list

My Happy List

  1. Rooibos chai tea. All the goodness of chai, none of the caffeine to make me jumpy.
  2. Comfortable new pants I bought on clearance.
  3. Really good chocolate. Always.
  4. Finishing my prerequisites for teaching school and earning a GPA of 4.06. Hooray!
  5. Massage therapy.
  6. My new seed order has arrived. Let the garden dreams begin!
  7. The teacher I’m volunteering with, who is a fabulous mentor.
  8. The students I’m volunteering with, who are more awesome than a hot fudge sundae.
  9. Living in Vancouver in January. As we like to say, you don’t have to shovel the rain.
  10. My son’s love for his new loft bed – which we scored for free from someone who outgrew it, so double extra bonus points.
  11. My daughter’s newfound love of fantasy novels. I really enjoy watching her sink her teeth into a book.
  12. My children’s teachers. Both my kids are really enjoying school this year.
  13. Singing in the kitchen in the morning.
  14. Podcasts. I do love podcasts.
  15. My husband’s piano is out of storage and I get to listen to him play.
  16. New books to read.
  17. Getting back to blogging again. This space floats my boat.

What about you – what’s on your happy list right now? I’d love to hear!

A Word for 2015: Strength

For the past few 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. And for 2014 my word was forgiveness. This year, possibly for the first time, settling on a word was easy. For 2015 I have chosen strength.

strength*Photo credit – Colleen McMahon on Flickr

Choosing a word is about setting an intention for the year. This year, rather than choose an aspirational intention, I’ve decided to go another way. In past years I’ve chosen a word that represented something I wanted to bring into my life, but thought I might be lacking. In 2015 I’m opting for something I think I already have, but may not always see. That is, I’m already strong. I think maybe we are all strong. For me, this is about acknowledging and owning my strength. This quote from Marianne Williamson speaks to what I’m getting at by choosing the word strength:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

The past couple of months have been hard for me. It has been all too easy for me to fall into a place where I feel overwhelmed by all that is happening around me. Because you know what? Sometimes life is just too much. I was having a bit of a moment one day when my husband said, “You can do this.” And you know what? I thought to myself, He’s right, I totally can. This year I want to spend less time worrying about my shortcomings, and more time facing up to the challenges in front me. Curve balls will come my way no matter what. Running from them won’t change that, so I may as well step up to bat.

Here’s to claiming our strength, wherever it lies!

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 2015!


Okay, okay. It’s been two and a half months since I posted. A lot has happened. Right now I’d like to tell you about one of the big things that’s been going on in my world.

A couple of days after I last wrote here, I met with a teacher at a local middle school who was willing to have me volunteer in her grade six/seven classroom. I have to do this in order to apply for teacher training. However, I was looking at this as more than a hurdle to clear. For me, it was about really, really, REALLY making sure that my plan to be a math teacher is solid. I wanted to spend enough time in a classroom for the bloom to wear off the rose, so to say.

I’ve already spent a year pursuing my goal of becoming a math teacher. However, there’s going to be a lot more time and money before any of this work starts to pay off. I am, quite frankly, too old to get another degree in a field that isn’t a good fit. So, I spent almost 160 hours at the middle school over 10 weeks. I photocopied and stapled. I observed and assisted. I helped kids do their work and planned projects. I even taught the three week unit on integers to the grade seven math class. And I did this while I was also working part-time for, taking two university classes, and parenting two children.

middle school volunteer math teacher student teacher

I stapled this display to the wall!

It was busy. In fact, it was so busy it wasn’t even funny. But you know what? I loved it. I loved the kids. I really like the teachers I’ve worked with. And I enjoyed learning, first-hand, what my day might look like as a teacher.

On the last day of school before winter break, I was eating lunch in the staff room. Around me, everyone was comparing notes on their holiday plans, and how much work they would have to do over the break. Unsurprisingly, everyone was looking forward to a couple of weeks off. But what I also heard, loud and clear, was a note of sadness. I have kids of my own, so I understand this note of sadness. Yes, you’re thrilled when you get some time away. Sleeping in is pretty sweet. Having time to yourself is pretty sweet. But I also know that when you care about someone, you miss seeing them. Those teachers care about their students, and I can see that clearly.

student teacher math teacher

The teachers dressed as mad scientists for Halloween and I joined in

I’ve seen first-hand that teaching can be a very challenging profession. There’s bureaucracy and serious financial constraints. Here in my district there have been extensive lay-offs after a major budget shortfall last spring. On top of all that, the teachers were on strike for the last two weeks of the 2013/2014 school year, and the first two weeks of the 2014/2015 school year. I wouldn’t claim that I understand all of the challenges that teachers face, but hearing their stories and being in a classroom I understand them much better than I did. I know that being a teacher isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

However, I also know that this is the right choice for me. I know that the world needs more good math teachers, and I know that I want to be one of them. I met my goal of putting myself through the wringer and making sure that the good outweighs the bad for me. And like those teachers who were looking forward to winter break, but already missing their students a little, I know that the equation works out for me. I’m submitting my application right now to start teacher training in September, and I’m really looking forward to it.

It’s been a meandering journey, from engineer to writer to editor to student teacher. It feels good to know that it’s led me to where I’m supposed to be.

On Winging Life and Winging Forgiveness

It’s been ages, but today I felt compelled to write a Forgiveness Friday post. Today, specifically, I’m thinking about forgiving is something we have to just wing it in life, which includes forgiveness. You can find my other posts on forgiveness by checking out the Forgiveness Friday tag.

I volunteer as a peer breastfeeding support person, so I occasionally field calls from new moms who need a listening ear and a little information. What I’m best at, in these situations, is pointing out what is and isn’t normal for a breastfeeding infant. If you’ve never had a baby before – or even if you had a different sort of baby every other time – it can be hard to tell what is perfectly okay and what is cause for alarm. Add in the pressure of being utterly and completely responsible for another person’s well-being when that person can’t actually communicate with you in a truly meaningful way and it really is a recipe for total panic.

Well, at least, I remember being totally panicked myself. Fortunately my kids aren’t any the worse for wear.

As I was speaking with a mom last week I thought about how much of life is spent flying blind. Seriously. Of course parenting is an extreme example, but how much do I really know about gardening or investing or choosing the best melon? And even if I master these topics, there’s always something else to know. The universe is amazingly vast, and I am actually rather small. And so, sooner or later, you just have to kind of wing it and get on with things so that you don’t spend your whole life agonizing. You won’t always get it right, but at least you’ll do something.

14828832674_252fb985b6_kAs I considered how much time I spend flying blind and winging things, I also thought about how little patience I have with myself when I make a mistake. Somehow, I expect myself to do everything well, even when I couldn’t possibly be expected to have mastered a specific task. I constantly tell my children that mistakes are okay, because they’re just learning. The important thing isn’t to do everything perfectly, but to avoid the same pitfall the next time. Mistakes are just learning opportunities, and all that jazz. However, in order to actually learn from something you have to stop self-flagellating long enough to see the lesson. Just feeling bad doesn’t actually lead to growth.

My point, once again, is that I need to forgive myself. However, there’s more to it than that.

When I started out on this forgiveness journey I was focused on defining forgiveness and then executing it perfectly. Of course, this isn’t how life works. You don’t learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book, you learn to ride a bicycle by falling off and getting back on. Forgiveness is sort of the same thing. You decide to forgive, you do forgiveness as best you can, and you figure out what does and doesn’t work. This is true whether you’re forgiving others or forgiving yourself. And if you’re not good at it right out of the gate, well, that’s to be expected. You’re learning as you go, which is how so much learning happens.

The good thing about forgiveness is that, unlike parenting, you don’t have a helpless infant’s well-being in your hands. This means that it really is all about what works for you. And if the question is whether or not your feelings are normal, or okay, the answer is pretty much always yes. Feelings are just feelings. Anger is just anger. Letting go of it is hard. You will feel that hardness. It is okay. You might not let go of it right away. It is okay. You are okay. You are normal. The key isn’t to be perfect. The key is to avoid this same pitfall the next time. And if not the next time, the time after that. Or the time after that.

Sometimes you have to fall in the same hole a bunch of times before you can actually see it. This is also normal. Unfortunately.

So, while I haven’t been writing about forgiveness, I have been thinking about it, and working at it. Am I good at forgiving yet? I’m not sure. I only know I’m getting better. It’s happening more slowly than I’d like, but it’s enough all the same.

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