Are You Sure?

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There are days where I question the choices I’ve made. Truth be told, days like this are becoming more frequent. It’s like every element of my life is playing a little game with me called, “Are you sure?”

Honestly, I don’t know.

Perhaps, its a mid-life crisis attacking a bit early. Or maybe, I am just ready for a change. Admittedly, I am a creature of habit. My very organized self likes a schedule and gets a little thrill when everything works out as planned. This aspect of my personality was a mild quirk when I was younger, but after 14 years of teaching, it’s become a full-blown neurosis. I’m starting to realize this is making life a lot less fun.

Although, this feeling of “life doubt” could also be tied to what I consider a noticeably missing piece of my existence. Travel. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I traveled extensively overseas. I saved and planned for it, because it was such an important part of my life. However, the last three years have been tough. Between budgets constraints and family concerns, I haven’t really gone anywhere. The fact that my bucket list has largely gone ignored is starting to bug me.

Then, there’s the undeniable fact that I’m tired. Exhausted, actually. Working 10-12 hours a day at a job that is getting increasingly more stressful and frustrating is starting to wear me down. As much as I love the art of teaching, it’s getting difficult to love where I work. I don’t know if it’s just one of those challenging years or if I’m reaching a point of total burn out. Thankfully, my students aren’t picking up my general feeling of frustration (I know this because they constantly tell me they like how positive it is in my classroom). At the same time, I am perusing job postings for possibilities that lie beyond my current station.

With all of this going on in my head, it’s surprising to me that I remain a total optimist. A little funk never wiped the smile off my face and it probably never will.

My family and my writing keep my fire burning. As my novel reaches the final stages of becoming a polished piece of work, I find myself excited to take the next steps. When it comes to the game of “Are you sure?,” this is the one thing where I know the answer is a definite “Yes!”

After a crappy day at work, I love escaping into my dreamworld where my novel finds its way into print. I can wander into lines of poetry and fuss over plot holes while drinking my Muse Juice (Cafe Mocha). When all else fails, there is the beautiful dream of being able to write (and maybe knit a little) all day long. Lucky for me, my husband and furkids are cool with joining me on this journey.

Of course, the game of “Are you sure?” has the added bonus of motivating real change. Besides reconsidering my job situation, there have also been a number of discussions regarding a change of location. We’re thinking the Pacific Northwest might be a nice change of scenery within the next few years. A road trip to scope it out is in the planning stages. Am I sure about moving? Not really, but I’m excited to explore the possibility of something new.

Aside from considering major life changes, I’ve started stuffing money aside for a trip to Amsterdam. My bucket list is in dire need of a check mark and my soul craves the touch of a new experience.

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Writing Therapy

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This week has been a difficult one. My grandfather ended up in the hospital for a number of reasons giving all of us a very real fear of losing him. There’s nothing worse than watching someone you love suffer. Between the heartbreak and the sadness, there is the frustrating emotion of complete and total helplessness.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t handle any of these emotions very well. I lock them inside until they consume me. My only release comes from writing. All the things I feel, yet cannot speak always find a way out through poetry or free writes. This is my therapy and I am grateful to know myself well enough to understand I need to keep a pen and journal with me whenever there’s a crisis.

After a particularly difficult visit with my grandfather, I went home and sat down with my thoughts and my journal. In the space of 5 minutes, the following poem came flooding out:

Breathing is hard,
sitting up, too
Since when did living,
cause so much grief?
There is no pain,
except in his head.
He wants to let go,
but no one will help.

The blanket slips,
his feet are cold.
His arms won’t move,
there is no strength
I ask what he needs,
he says nothing at all
We watch the rain fall,
and hear the wind howl

His will is gone,
he wants to go home
I watch the despair,
helpless in every way
The clock keeps ticking,
despite his pleas
There’s nowhere to go,
his feet are still cold

After I wrote the last word, it was like every fear and all the bits of sadness and anger were sucked out of me. All that remained was the hope that he would get better.

And get better, he did. He’s not out of the woods yet, but he’s fighting hard to get back home. His strength is slowly returning and he’s telling jokes again.

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c.b.w. 2014

For My Friend

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We must have seemed odd
to those who passed by
Opposites in every way
except on the inside
No need to explain Party of One
I understood you,
and you understood me
as no one else could
Over countless cups of coffee,
we pondered the meaning of life
and other silly things
And let’s not forget the music,
Junip and jazz still sing in my head
We read Maisie Dobbs and F. Scott Fitzgerald,
along with Willa Cather and Steinbeck, too
Ah, the books we treasured
and the stories we shared
I don’t have your picture,
but I’ll never forget your face
Nor how you taught me
the real source of strength
Without you there is an empty space
Thank you for being my friend,
until the very end

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Recently, a dear friend of mine passed away. While the sadness is sometimes overwhelming, so is the joy I have in the memories of the moments we shared.  Our friendship was something really special and I already miss it.

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c.b.w. 2014

What I’ve Learned From All Of My Jobs

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It dawned on me earlier this year that I’ve officially been part of the workforce for more than twenty years. It all started when I was ten years old and wanted a Barbie Sweet Roses 3-Piece Wall Unit for my dollhouse. It cost $12.95 and with my allowance there was no way I could afford it. I ended up going to work with my mom, who was a master dog groomer. She paid me 25¢ for each dog I bathed. It was hard work, but worth it in the end.

I can’t begin to say how proud I was to go to Toys R’ Us with my hard-earned money and buy one awesome Barbie Sweet Roses 3-Piece Wall Unit. The funny thing is, I still have it.  Every time I even think about putting it the donation pile, I remember how hard I worked for it and I just dust it off and rearrange the “China” plates and cups inside of it. (Yes, I still have my dollhouse, too. My Grandpa built it).

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Not a single piece is missing! Intact since 1988.

Despite the money I earned, dog bathing just wasn’t for me. I got my first “real” job when I was fifteen (and a half). I spent my summers with my grandparents in small Northern Wisconsin town, so it was only natural that my first job would be in a tiny family owned business. For two summers, I worked at the Christmas House as a cashier and stocker in the midst of tourist season. I still consider it the most fun job I’ve ever had. It was literally Christmas every day! I set up Department 56 villages, decorated Christmas trees, hung up lights, and created beautiful displays of dishes and figurines. In the middle of all that fun, I learned about collectibles (what’s valuable, what’s not, and how to tell) and Christmas traditions from all around the world. Sadly, the Christmas House closed it’s doors last year.

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The Christmas House as I saw it last summer. So sad to see it closed.

My love of animals led to a job at Petsmart. I was a cashier and also did some floor work (cleaning up shelves). While I loved the animals, I hated the corporate atmosphere. I also hated having to wear a back brace every day (I sometimes had to lift enormous bags of dog food). The only take-away I got from this job was having a healthy respect for anyone who works in a big store. It’s not easy cleaning up after customers who don’t put things away or make huge messes down each aisle. To this day, if I change my mind about something I want to buy in a store, I put it back where I found it instead of on some random shelf.

After leaving Petsmart, I went back to working for a smaller company. It must’ve been my artistic side that drew me to the idea of working for a flower shop. My job was to unpack, clean, and display each day’s shipment of fresh flowers. Then, keep the floors and cooler clean, water the front showroom plants, and take orders over the phone. Being around so many beautiful flowers was wonderful, but the work was brutal. My hands paid the price with cracked skin and permanently green grooves. On the up side, I learned how to do a variety of floral arrangements ranging from corsages, funeral wreathes, and wedding bouquets, along with the standard vase and bowl arrangements. Not a bad skill set, indeed.

Desperately needing to fix my damaged hands, I started working for The Body Shop. This is the job where I learned how to sell, sell, sell. Every day I was responsible for meeting certain dollar quota. Talk about pressure!  I never thought of myself as a salesperson, but I dug deep and learned how sell every product in that store. That meant learning everything about perfume oils, lotions, body washes, and creams. I even learned how to do in-store make-overs to sell cosmetics. Make-up has never been my favorite thing, but it was a lot of fun to make people feel pretty. I would have stayed at The Body Shop longer, but the arrival of a new fragrance ignited a pretty severe allergic reaction. I couldn’t even touch the bottle, so I had to quit.

In the same mall, just around the corner was a locally owned store called the Hobby Bench. It sold everything from cross stitch patterns to radio controlled cars. Even before I applied for the job of cashier, the Hobby Bench was one of my favorite stores. I was hired instantly and stayed there for almost five years. Aside from learning a number of new crafts, this is the job where I learned how to handle crabby and attitudinal people. Within a year, management had me working returns. In a store that didn’t give cash refunds. And always on the day after Christmas. I took a verbal beating often and that caused me to develop some pretty tough skin along with some witty diplomatic strategies. I was studying to be a teacher at the time, so these skills ended up being an essential part of my education.

It may seem amazing that I stayed through all the verbal assaults, but it really wasn’t a hard choice to remain at my post. The Hobby Bench was where I met my soul mate. While I rang up customers in the front, he sold and fixed R/C cars and trucks in the back. Even the crappiest jobs feel like heaven when you’re best friend and love is working just a few feet away. It’s been fifteen years and we’re still together, even without the Hobby Bench, (about three years ago, “our” Hobby Bench closed down).

I continued to work at the Hobby Bench during my first two years of teaching. Then, one day I decided it was time to let it go. My focus had shifted from a job that just paid the bills, to a career that means so much to me. I’ve been teaching for the past thirteen years and it is every bit as rewarding and challenging as I thought it would be. Some days are difficult, but most of the time I’m thankful to have a job that brings me so much joy. There are million things I could complain about, (as the public education system is far from perfect), but this is the only job I’ve ever had where I have an immense amount of control over my day. I get to decide how to teach material and I can be creative in everything I do. However, the best thing of all is watching a kid learn. I love it when a student tells me “I hated history until now.” Yup, that’s a good day at work!

I will likely remain in the teaching profession until it’s time to retire. I honestly never thought I would last this long, but it turns out I’m tougher and more patient than most. If I’ve learned anything from this job, it’s that the key to staying in the classroom is the willingness to learn as if you’re still a student. No one knows everything, not even a teacher.

But, I do still know how to make one hell of a two dozen rose vase arrangement!

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c.b.w. 2014

Poem A Day: April 1-2

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Between the April Poem A Day Challenge and National Poetry Month, it’s only fitting that poetry takes the spotlight! As I work my way through the challenge, I’ll be posting my entries along with what inspired me aside from the prompt.

April 1, 2014
Prompt: Two for Tuesday, write a poem of beginnings and/or endings.

Kissed by wings,
taking flight
Feathered drop,
seasoned ground
Drink the sun,
touch the rain
Down they dig,
rooted deep
Life begins,
veins unfurled
Reaching up,
leafy limbs
Nesting buds,
blushing blooms
Wilted green,
withered stalk
Shorter days,
longer moons
Darkness dreams
of gold wings

Inspiration: The seeds I had planted the week before were just starting to sprout. The morning of April 1st, I saw the first green leaves poking through the ground. Writing about the cycle of life just seemed fitting after a morning a new beginnings.

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April 2, 2014
Prompt: Write a voyage poem.

From the shore,
to the sea
to the stars
Always searching,
seeking our place

Worn through boots,
sails raised high
starlit skies
Still we venture,
wander and roam

Inspiration: I was still thinking about the last episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. The episode discussed the concept of black holes, gravity, and the speed of light.  It made me think about the history of human discovery and how far we’ve come, yet how far we have to go.

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If you are participating in the PAD Challenge or celebrating National Poetry Month on your blog, please leave the link in the comments so we can all stop by and see your wordsmithing!

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c.b.w. 2014