This Moment

I spent the better half of yesterday sorting through dusty plastic storage bins, the contents of which were relics of the many different “lives” I’ve experienced over the past thirty years. There were the piles of journals recording both the mundane and the life-changing, and I could see scattered across those pages my journey to today.

And yet words scratched in my messy prose spoke of different paths, different lives that, while mostly forgotten today, were so real and so raw in their time. Do you ever feel like you are at once the same person and yet not? Reading my aspirations and fears at ages seven, fifteen, and twenty made me feel slightly nostalgic, but also like an archaeologist, mining away at another person’s life.

Do we ever really know who we are until years later when we reflect through a dusty and romanticized lens?

And although some may think I destroyed something sacrosanct, I felt peace as I tore those pages out of journals, ripping them and letting go of the ghosts lingering in the background. Let go of the cornfields and Camaros of my youth, the exploits and the romance, and the pain and the heartbreak because, frankly, it doesn’t matter anymore.

Life is best lived in the present moment, relishing the now and letting go of the past.

 

In what ways have you released your past and how did it make you feel?

And a Decision Has Been Made!

Remember that BIG DECISION I needed to make? Well I agonized. I made pro/con lists. Lost lots of sleep. Made one decision for a few days, then changed my mind. Then AGAIN. How do you choose between two radically, fundamentally different lifestyles?

And then I realized that the two “choices” don’t need to be separate, but rather can all be part of a greater plan for my thirties.

So which path did I choose?

Fall 2015 I will be one of the first deans at a new middle and high school opening here in Oklahoma City! This ultimately was the best choice for me AND my family because:

  • We love living in this city, we love the revitalization taking places, and we want to be part of a greater plan to renew and re-imagine OKC. This school will be city-centered and focused on helping students to be agents of change in their own community. We’ll rewrite the unspoken social code that says bigger, better, and more should come above other people.
  • Every career move I’ve made that, while at the time perhaps didn’t make sense, has culminated in this job. I’ll have a chance to combine all of my interests: teaching, management, curriculum development, finances, and mentoring, and heck, even minimalism is part of this greater vision.
  • This job move gives me the chance to change education in my own community. Rather than complaining or worrying about it, I can actually (and hopefully) make a change that will not only impact my own children, but those in my local community. Scary? Yes. But totally worth it? Without a doubt.
  • The best part of this all? This is truly a family endeavor and my husband and girls will all have a role. My girls will be welcome to spend time with me at “work,” while the hubs will help with vision and planning. I’ve put in some serious negotiation to make sure that I won’t be gone from my family too much and some of my work will be completed at home. Starting a school is no small undertaking, but with the support of my family and friends, I am fairly confident I can balance it all. And if not? See below…

So what’s the long term plan?

It’s hard to completely say right now, but I envision spending a few years starting and working at the school. We’ll re-evaluate our priorities each year to make sure it is still a good fit for our family. And when the time is right, we will take off a year or two to travel the US in an Airstream. That is still one of our larger, long-term goals. But taking this job opportunity will mean leaving no path untried before fully committing to a more nomadic lifestyle.

So now that the decision is made, guess who is finally sleeping again?

Weekend Links

This is a round-up of my favorite reads on the internet this past week. Take a few minutes to rest, enjoy a cup of coffee and read the latest.

Feeling overwhelmed? This NPR interview with Brigid Schulte, in which she discusses her new book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One has the Time really resonated with me.

The blog post that started my Airstream obsession….would you ever consider selling everything to write a new version of your life?

Several travel bloggers share their tips for how to stop putting it off and travel (with your kids) already!

This article makes a compelling argument against taking a digital sabbath.

 

That Place Between Fear and Change

Last week during a text conversation with my older brother he mentioned feeling trapped by his job. “If I could travel the country and not worry about my job, I would have left years ago.” His lamentation was thick with desire for something different. “But,” he continued,”if we can pay off our debt and make some changes, maybe someday we will.”

So many of us feel trapped by our current situation, whether it is a job, a relationship, financial debt, or monotony that I know my brother is not alone. And you wonder if someday  will ever actually come. And yet, it seems so impossible to give up the good, the acceptable and socially normal for something even greater. I may desire and dream about selling my home, buying an Airstream and seeking adventure with my family, but conventionality and the invisible social norms are likely to curb it.

Fear is the underlying current driving many of the decisions I and others make. Fear has the ability to limit potential, resulting in a comfortable, but boring life. But how does one overcome it? I’m no life coach, but my guess is that allowing discomfort into my life and readily accepting new challenges will better prepare me for a showdown with my greatest fears. Routine and predictable living removes all possibility of challenging oneself.

Frankly, I know that I’m lucky to have a safe and comfortable life. But I desire adventure, new challenges, and more for my family than material stuff and the status quo. So in the meantime while I’m still mulling over what to do with my life, I’m going to challenge myself, face a few fears and create some new habits. Top of my list? Learning to say no and getting up consistently at 5am (or earlier.)

What fears are you facing and how do you plan to overcome them?

 

 

Which Direction to Take?

Full-time Airstream living or become a dean for a new, innovative school in my city?

But first some background:

When I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter, nearly 4 years ago, I wasn’t prepared for the life change. My teaching career was full-time and fulfilling. But pregnancy and the subsequent birth completely rocked my world and perception of my purpose in life. It just didn’t seem possible to hold down a full-time job AND full-time parenting. So I didn’t try and found happiness in this new direction for myself and my sweet, growing family. Several years and a second baby later I’ve found a harmonious balance between full-time parenting and part-time university teaching.

Lately, however, we’ve been inspired by families who travel full-time around the country in an Airstream or other travel trailer. Our general direction for the past several years has been to simplify, embrace minimalism, and define our values as a family. And we both have jobs that can travel with us; my husband can find a traveling Speech Pathologist position and lately my university has been having me only teach online (due to having my baby this spring.) Neither possessions nor jobs need to tie us down at this point in our lives. And simplifying further so that we can focus on our passions and family is SO APPEALING.

But an unfathomable and unexpected job offer fell in my lap last week, leaving me bewildered and uncertain of which direction to take. A former colleague of mine is starting a new school, and he asked me to be one of the founding deans. His offer over a simple cup of coffee at a local bookshop completely sidelined me. My head started to ache between my eyes, and I lost my ability to respond. Flattered? Yes. Shocked? Undeniably.  It would be an opportunity to enact change in my community, to respond and work toward a new vision of K-12 education, and to lead in an area in which I am passionate.

My response to and subsequent emotions have ran the gamut since the offer last week. Do I accept a job (even one with a “flexible” full-time schedule) that would require me finding childcare for my children? Do I have the energy and the innate personality to excel at a new, challenging position, manage my home, and provide loving support to my family? Would this new job meet my creative and mental needs more than teaching a few classes online per semester? What is my true calling in this life?

Although I’m wrestling with the potential implications of such a life altering decision, I hope to reach a decision soon.

 

Have you ever faced a decision between two vastly different life paths? How did you resolve your personal and career goals?

Why blog?

The short answer is that I love to write. Yesterday, I found an old Winnie the Pooh journal of mine from approximately 1993. Fears, dreams, random lists and sketches filled the pages in my scratchy 9 year old handwriting. Writing (on paper, on the computer, in my head) has been the solace, the redemption, the fulfilled need of mine for nearly 25 years. From the moment I could write I recorded my thoughts. And I’ve dabbled in blogging before, mostly in an attempt to copy the formulaic mommy blog into something financially lucrative for me. And you know what? It never felt right, and it never lasted. I wrote for a time for a well-known mommy website and blog. It filled a need of mine, but eventually that need evaporated. The reason being?

I’m a selfish writer, and I am completely unable to write content to please others. These erratic thoughts of mine? I unabashedly love them, want to pull them out of my head and create a word picture with them. But that is not the way of the blogging world these days, at least for most. So I stopped writing for over a year. But I’ve felt a nagging tug on my heart and mind to let go of the vision of perfect blogs and write for the love of it.

I can’t promise a focused topic to meet a niche market. I won’t sneak ads up and down the sides or write sponsored posts (not that I would know how anyway.) But I can promise clean, honest writing from the soul of a thinker, mother, teacher, and friend. If you crave reading and learning for your own growth and love of life, then perhaps we’ll get along.

And as this mothering life comes full-circle, I ripped out the aged, word-soaked pages of my old journal and gave the new blank book to my daughter. She may not be able to write just yet, but I cannot think of a better gift than a shared passion for writing. In the meantime, that sweet, decades old journal will wait patiently to record the thoughts of the next generation.

take it in, but then let it go

Nearly three decades in, and I’m still not sure who I want to be when I grow up. Having a third of my life crisis seems apropos in the same year that I gave birth to my second daughter. Fretting about poor past decisions and worrying about the future could indeed clutter up the few months I have remaining until I turn 30. I could create a bucket list to complete these last 180 odd days. But I won’t.

Not because I’m lazy or unmotivated (although it certainly is an excuse with a 3 month old and a 3 year old,) but because I crave simplicity and unabashed acceptance. Accepting who I am, where I am, and why I have done what I have done is a difficult task indeed. It requires a careful inventory of my dreams, my failures, and my hopes. But once I’ve gathered this imaginary list, it is time to let it go.

One of the tools of the minimalist movement that I hold dear is the idea that a simple life removes both physical and emotional baggage. I cannot embrace the future me if my mental suitcases are full.

And so like the tiny dandelion wisps my daughter blows into the wind, I let go. Let go of wanting different, wanting more, wanting less, just constant wanting. Instead, I’ll focus on creating a more intentional and hopeful world with my family as I enter this next phase of my life.

This is my journey, will you join me?

making this home in OKC

After several years of place-hopping and cross-country moves, we settled into our first purchased home ten days before Christmas in 2012. I wrote about the anticipation and excitement of our new home in the past. And friends, let me tell you that this home has not disappointed.  We’re infatuated with our neighborhood, which is nestled in the heart of OKC and has introduced us to small city life. We’ve marked this home as ours with new paint and decorating, and we’ve claimed the backyard with its three large raised garden beds.

And this home is the only one that our newest baby girl has ever known, an unfulfilled desire that unfortunately our oldest never experienced. Bringing her home to this house felt so right and confirmed that moving back to OKC in 2012 was the right decision. So here we are, roots placed and all. Sure, I sometimes miss my family and feel the temptation to pull anchor and run north. But the sweetness of this simple family life in a small city we love always pulls me back.

And Oklahoma City? You may not be cosmopolitan like NYC or walkable like Boston, but you wooed us with your friendly charm and desire to be bigger and better. We’re jumping on that bandwagon and committed to living a local life, one that supports the hearts and hands that make this city great. 

Two years, two new jobs, and one new baby later, I’m so grateful we moved back to Oklahoma City.

 

The Blight of U.S. Education and my Own Dilemna

I’m going to attempt to sum up a few ideas rattling around in my not quite caffeinated morning brain. My husband, whom I’m pretty sure has developed a case of chest-quaking bronchitis, woke me up at 5am from his incessant coughing. Laying in bed, but trying to sleep, my mind wandered instead to my upcoming classroom evaluation by a colleague of mine.

I’ve been sweating (OK, let’s be honest, losing sleep over) this to-be-determined, but albeit required, classroom visit. I’ve been belly-aching about it to anyone who will give me a millisecond, and yet, I understand why these visits are important.

Teacher quality. Failing classrooms. Budget cuts and unions. Tech overload and sensory issues. And that’s mainly indicative of the U.S. public school K-12 system. After reading an NPR article about a new book by Amanda Ripley, “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way” and watching an interview with her, I cannot help but wonder what my role is in this whole mess AND what does this mean for my own children.

And that takes me back to last week, in which I was frantically calling the “best” preschools in my city, hoping to find a place for my daughter for 2014 as well as one that, you know, might actually also be good for her. Because God-forbid we either 1. do some run of the mill preschool or wait until she can enter the state-ran Pre-K program at our local elementary. Moral of this whole story is that waiting lists for “good” preschools start at birth, cost a lot of money, and by the way, test your 2 year old for “readiness” and BS like that.

And yet, I really really want that. Why? Partly, I’ve seen the abhorrent state of public education firsthand. Both my own education, in which I mostly slept through high school and still earned A’s, as well as the quality of students I receive at the university-level. A dear friend of mine teaches freshmen English at a local private high school and, interestingly enough, freshmen level English at the same university as me. On the first day of class, she gave both sets of freshmen a basic grammar exam. Can you guess which set passed the quiz at 100% and which group failed, nearly unanimously?

And that brings me back to my upcoming review. To be honest, I’m not sure what the benefit of it will be. If I’m a sub-par instructor, will my department actually can me, despite their near desperate need for an instructor in my area of expertise? If I’m a “good” instructor, will this be mostly a formality to initiate a university-sponsored pat on the back?

I’m not quite sure what the outcome will be, for myself or for my children. In my classroom, I strive to challenge the hell out of their critical-thinking starved brains and hope that I make some smidge of an impact. And as for my daughter? Time will tell what happens with the preschool debacle. I want to believe that I could jump on the home-school bandwagon and give her the best damn education possible. But let’s be real: I’m human, I don’t know everything (heaven help my children if I’m required to teach more than basic math), and I’m not sure bucking the system is the answer. Can money buy her the better education? My experience working in the private school system says yes and no. Unfortunately, I don’t have a better answer at this point.

So, the overarching question of this post is: how do we create an educational model that is for everyone (and not just the societal upper-crust), but also shapes our children to think critically and be excited to learn? Any thoughts?

In the meantime, check out this Economist interview with author Amanda Ripley and let me know what you think.

Random musing about the last few months

I realized today that I have not posted anything new in approximately 6 months. The reality is that I know that very few people actually read my random musings, and so I do not feel obligated to write like other bloggers. It is relieving to write when I feel like it, about what I please, in whatever manner suits me. I’m selfish, I know, but aren’t we all to an extent?

But there are a few ideas rumbling around my head. First, I’ve noticed that several of my favorite minimalist bloggers have taken a step down from radical Minimalism to embracing simplicity and comfort. At first I was a bit surprised, but understand their reasoning. Minimalism is like a moth, drawing unsuspecting over-consumers to the altar of zen living. And it is appealing, the notion of having very little belongings, very little financial responsibility, and very little commitment to this world. I am a Christian, and I do feel called to reject the consumer lifestyle I see idolized around me.

But on the other hand, the ability to seek comfort (in moderation), is a blessing. It is nice to have nice things, even if they are hand-me-downs, thrifted, or hardly fashionable. I think we have minimized our household as much as we feel comfortable, and the items that remain are loved, cherished, and welcoming. Our closets are mostly half-empty, and we have entire drawers/cabinets/shelves that are empty. By American standards we’re weird, and yet we’re not super “minimalist.” And I’m fine with that. I’m also grateful for a husband that also reins in my desire to rabidly chuck all of our stuff whenever I feel life spinning out of control. Because let’s be honest, if I was single and without kids, I would probably live in a little micro-apartment with 1 pair of jeans and a spork. Just saying.

In other non-minimizing news, I’m roughly halfway through my pregnancy with #2. This one has completely surprised me with how quickly it is passing, and yet, I’m ok with that. My daughter is 2.5 now, and watching her grow and change has been one of my greatest pleasures. But I cannot wait to see how the two will interact and become “siblings.” As I’ve mentioned before, our house sometimes feels “too big” and I think having another living, breathing, laughing, playing person here will make this humble place feel just right.

And on the house front: we’re still working on it and will be for the next several (ahem, decade) years. Sometimes I crack out on pinterest and Apartment Therapy and barrage my husband with a list of DIY projects: new countertops, stencil the walls (something totally modern and hip, of course!), and surely the bathroom needs to be redone? Sometimes I think the poor man is strangling me with his eyes and saying yes with his lips. God love him. So things are slooooooooooooow now. We’ve painted almost every room, except ours and the bathroom. The hubster is in the process of refinishing a credenza I found on Craigslist, and we’ve recently moved our daughter into her own freshly painted bedroom. It’s hard not to compare our home to others (especially when I have friends who give Martha a run for her millions), but this is OUR HOME and we love it.

Alright friends, enough of my rambles. Hope you’re having a lovely week.

All the best,

Boomerang Mama

My Other Gig: Teaching the College Folk

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I spend much of my time here discussing parenting methodologies and creating my first home. And while being a stay at home mama is my number one job, and my boss is the best, I also get to put on my fancy pants clothes twice a week, and teach a bunch of peeps who pay to take my class. Yep, it’s a sweet gig. 

I fell into teaching, kind of how I’ve fallen into most things (that year of hell in which I managed an Abercrombie & Fitch? I’m looking at you, soul-sucker fragranced hellhole.) As a kid, I never played school, preferring to play high-powered businesswoman or banker. Even in college, I majored in Art History, but intended to run a museum someday. 

But somewhere in the shuffle of paying for grad school (times two, as hubby and I thought it would be brilliant to go at the same time,) and in the year before the recession truly hit, no less, I realized that full-time job security=sleep at night. So I blindly took a job teaching high school freshmen social studies. I had absolutely NO CLUE what the flip I got myself into.

But I totally loved it. Did that for two years, had a baby at the end of the second school year, moved cross-country, yadda-yah, came back to our adopted homecity. Wrote a thesis during my daughter’s first year and graduated with my master’s degree shortly after. I randomly applied for an adjunct teaching job at the school my husband went to for undergrad/grad. Somehow, I got hired on the spot for it (pretty sure they were desperate), and here I am, smack dab in the middle of my second semester of college proffing. 

Again, I love teaching. It’s such an intellectual release to have adult conversations over topics that I actually know something about. To hopefully inspire some kiddos to appreciate and understand the humanities at a deeper level. 

And being around college kids is just flipping hilarious anyway. I had a student mix up the words secular and sexual, much to his embarrassment. And we look at a decent amount of breasts in this class (art history, people, c’mon!), so the conversations are always ridiculous anyway. But in all seriousness, I have the best of both worlds: full-time mommyhood and night-time professorhood. I know how lucky I am, and fingers crossed, the school keeps me around for a long time. 

How to Let Children Simply Be

Is parenting a battle of wills and a matter of training? Or can we learn from our children, be childlike ourselves, and understand the complexity of their little hearts and minds?

I try hard to fall in the latter category, although it’s difficult. Every day, I wake up with a cup or two of french-pressed coffee and (try) to devote myself to being in the moment with my daughter. To ignore my cell phone, to not be distracted and flit from one activity to another, to consciously enjoy our meals and rituals together. 

Children, if allowed, do this so naturally. They have such focus and diligence and creativity, when we the parents stay out of their way. As a relatively young parent (and someone who has taught high school and currently college), I see the way my generation tends to parent. We hover. We narrate their every action (wow, Sally, you did a great job eating breakfast. Now you’re drinking your milk, yay!). But should we be doing so?

As I read more educational and parenting philosophy, I think that letting children simply be might be appropriate in more situations than one would think. Sometimes I bite my tongue to keep from shouting “good job,” a phrase so engrained in our society, that I’m afraid we don’t even know the difference anymore between responsibility and achievement. We’ve made them one in the same, both in our homes and schools.

So how do we let our kids be kids? As Maria Montessori said, “follow the child.” Observe, watch how they interact with their environment. Comment if you must, but keep it brief and neutral. I think there is so much to learn from our children, to understand the excitement of playing in the first snow of the season or the joy of having blueberry pancakes for dinner. 

Life is truly beautiful in its simplicity, if we allow it to unfold naturally. 

And as my daughter grows and meets the challenges that come her way, my jaded view of life fades away, and it is an amazing thing. Please, my friends, use today to view life through the eyes of a child. See things anew, enjoy the simple moments from what they are, and celebrate life’s triumphs as a child would. Image

Weekend Links

Here are the websites, ideas, and resources I’m digging right now:

  • Taproot Magazine: I ordered a pair of wool slippers for V from Palumba (a very cool, Waldorf type online kids store), and packed in the shipping box was a copy of this magazine. Each issue has a theme with thought-provoking essays, recipes, and ideas to live a more purposeful life. I’ve had the last issue for about 6 weeks now, and I continually refer to it. In fact, tonight I’ll be using the greek yogurt recipe to try my luck on making some homemade yogurt. 
  • “Comparison-A Speed Bump on the Road to Happiness & Simple Living”: This blog post from Smart Living 365 gave me some definite food for thought as I considered the way websites like Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and Houzz affect the way I view my home. What is the root of my happiness? Is it how good of a “show” my home puts off OR is happiness rooted deeper, in the memories and imperfections of these four walls? As a side note, a good friend of mine and I were chatting about Pinterest and how it seems to diminish creativity. Why sweat your way through a unique creation when you can look up the DIY tutorial in 30 seconds? Thoughts?
  • Shiki Beds for Foster kids: Tuft & Needle is a company that crafts Japanese style Shiki beds and uses profits to create and supply foster kids with a safe bed. Love their mission, love the minimalist design, and the price tag is pretty nice too. 

 

Enjoy the weekend,

Boomerang Mama

 

 

Why Small Houses Matter

“Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication”

-Leonardo da Vinci

Over two months after closing on our first home, I totally don’t regret buying a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home that clocks in at 1296 square feet. In fact, I love it and sometimes, believe it or not, wish it was even smaller.

When we were house shopping, we spent a decent amount of time debating the merits of a 2 bedroom vs. 3 (or more) bedroom house. And while we wouldn’t have walked away from a 3 bedroom house that we loved, a 2 bedder seemed a better fit for us, for the following reasons:

  • we’re hot on minimalism, so the less places to hoard crap, the better.
  • We only plan (plan being the operative word) on having one more kiddo, and seriously peeps, they can share a bedroom. In fact, the hubs and I have a third roommate right now (aka our 2 year old daughter.) I affectionately call it sharing the family bedroom.
  • In our experience, 3rd bedrooms end up being junk rooms or the catchall “guest/office/craft/whatever” room. Cutting back to only 2 keeps that from happening.
  • We’ve lessened our environmental load: less fossil fuels used to heat/cool/light and provide water to our home.
  • I hate cleaning and love that I can pretty much clean this entire house in an hour. Having only one bathroom helps with that.

And as we shed more junk, empty our closets, reevaluate our priorities, a big home just doesn’t make sense. Why would we want some beast of a place requiring more maintenance, more of our time, and more of our (super precious) financial resources?

I grew up in a small home myself, and while we had our complaints about it from time to time, I loved it. It was cozy, we spent time together as a family (and not huddled up in separate rooms), and money was spent on experiences not the trendiest furnishings and gadgets.

And that’s really what this is all about. Desiring a place to call home that doesn’t own us, doesn’t call the shots, and make us regret every dime we shovel into it. This home may be small, compared to some, but it shelters our family, will watch our children as they grow, and provide a safe home base.