First foray into teaching

Last week I stood in front of an empty classroom, the whiteboard a blank sheet, desks empty and expectant, and imagined the people who would soon fill the seats. Tomorrow morning I’ll step out into a new job, and I feel a bit like a new, untried swimmer diving into a pool of water. I imagine I’ll flounder a little, swallow a bit of water along the way and eventually grow stronger with every stroke. 

 

Change is a strange thing. Like most people, I at once crave it and fear it. It’s easy to follow a routine, get comfortable with the familiar, day to day rituals and complain about a situation from the safety of the tried and true. I often long for things to be different, a new job, a new location, a new something – but it’s another whole ballgame to step out boldly, without knowing the result of that leap of faith, and change it. There are no crystal balls to tell us in advance whether our gamble will pay off or not, just an optimism and the desire to take a chance.

Point of view.

Growing up, my family was poor.

But I didn’t know it.

We lived in a subdivision with families who all knew each other, whose parents or grandparents had immigrated from Poland, the Ukraine, Holland or other foreign countries. I grew up with the neighborhood kids, riding our bikes until dusk, exploring the river valley behind our house and sledding and skating during the interminable winter months.

For the longest time, the route to Edmonton was a rough, gravel road. I can still hear the pings of the rocks being thrown up under the car.

My childhood was marked by a lack of focus on the material. We didn’t have much, but we never missed it. My mom had a huge garden every summer and she canned and pickled and cooked all kinds of fresh foods, including raspberries and rhubarb. Our two story house, built by my dad, had unfinished floors perfect for drawing on with crayons. The stairs leading to my bedroom and my siblings’ rooms were covered in drawings of people and animals. Our living room carpet was tomato red. Some of the walls were still rough drywall.

I never noticed.

In the winter, a woodstove helped keep us warm. One of my most lingering memories is the scent of wet, wool mittens drying in front of that stove. We would come in from playing outdoors and pull off the tiny clumps of ice and snow that stuck to gloves, snow pants and coat cuffs, and toss them on the flat top of the stove. I loved the sputter of melting water, the way the tiny drops danced on the surface before finally dissipating.

When our well went dry one summer, I have a vague memory of a long garden hose stretched across the road to our neighbor’s house so they could share with us.

Looking back, I have no memories of feeling deprived during my younger years. We had an awesome tree house and playhouse, room to roam and friends to play with.

When I was a teen, my family picked up and moved. Nearly 18 years of living was sorted, packed into boxes, and sent to North Carolina. I stepped on a plane in one country, and off it in another. I went from the cold, dry air of an April in Alberta, to the cloying, thick warmth of the south.

For my parents, the long move meant starting from square one. We struggled to put down roots and establish ourselves. There was no money for college.
I spent my late teens and early 20s working low-paying jobs, fighting my way toward a degree. I got pregnant. Walked across the stage to receive my diploma. Got a job in journalism and bought a house. And even though I had that degree, it wasn’t the ticket to prosperity I was told it would be. I never had much, and I felt the pinch a lot more as an adult than I had as a kid.

But I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned to live with less. I’ve learned that free things create the best memories and that splurging is more fun when it’s occasional. I’ve learned to waste less and appreciate more. I’ve learned to be frugal and still be debt-free.

I don’t intend to accept it as a permanent way of life and I strive to do better, but why live through something if you’re not going to learn from it?
Someday I’ll be better off than I am now, and I plan to enjoy it. In the meantime, I’ll garden and immerse myself in hobbies and learn to stretch a dollar a little further.

 

3-0

In a few fleeting months, I’ll be 30.

It sounds so cliché but the past few years have flown by at a frightening rate of speed. It seems like a year has just begun one moment, and we are ushering it out the next.

In honor of this mini, premature, mid-life crisis I am making a list. I want to take note of all the things yet to do and see and overcome.

Since my birthday will take place in less than two months, I’m setting a goal to check all these things off before or during my first year of being 30:

1. Get my first (and only?) tattoo. I can’t decide between a quill pen with pot of ink or a small map of the world. Location to be determined.
2. Ride in a hot air balloon. I hear there is a festival in Statesville every fall celebrating hot air balloons. And offering rides.
3. Kind of a minor goal, but I want to hit 1,000 twitter followers.
4. Continue to blog all year. I want to record for posterity what it’s like to be 30.
5. Visit a state I’ve never been to before.
6. Go white water rafting.
7. Pay off my student loan. Can’t wait to check this one off…
8. Move. I love moving. Of course, I would have to sell my house first and I’m not sure that is even possible right now.
9. Succeed in my new job.
10. Continue studying Spanish and become half-way, if not all the way, proficient.
11. Keep chickens. Grow a garden. Produce more of my own food.
12. Be more altruistic, even when it’s not noticed, appreciated or reciprocated.
13. Donate blood….Embarrassed to admit that I was signed up and scheduled to donate last month and chickened out. Next time!
14. Bike 50 miles in one day.
15. Work in a coffee shop. Even briefly. (And since a local coffee shop has invited me to do just this on my birthday I’ll get to check this one off ASAP!)
16. Write. Every day. Even if I’m the only one who reads my words.
17. Go see a concert.
18. Be a better mother.
19. Go camping with Nat.
20. Take a photography class.
21. Watch a meteor shower.
22. Procrastinate less.
23. Write a book.
24. Learn something new every day.

25. Visit a city in NC I’ve never been to before.

26. Try a new ethnic restaurant. 

27. Finish War and Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The child-free choice

I chanced upon a fresh TIME article, via Twitter, this morning that featured the declining birthrate in America and the anomaly of more women choosing not to have children.
I read the first few paragraphs and it told the story of a woman who decided, at 14, not to have babies. The years passed, she got married, and wonder of wonders, she didn’t change her mind. At 50 years old, she still hadn’t reproduced.
The story has hung at the back of my mind all day and I’ve spent some time mulling it over.
I have some conflicting feelings about this article, I confess.
Even in today’s “modern” society, I still sense a subtle idea that women aren’t truly fulfilled or complete without a child. Once we give birth, it is the one thing that defines us above all others. Men don’t experience this in the same way, and a man who chooses not to have children isn’t generally a man to be pitied. There is something unnatural about a woman who willingly faces the future with no desire for children. Or so we’re told. I’ve seen reactions regarding these women vary from skepticism, to insistence she will change her mind someday, to an outright declaration that it’s selfish not have any. Besides, the common argument goes, who will care for you in your old age?
I, for one, believe a woman can have a perfectly fulfilling, complete and happy life. Child-free. I see the benefits of remaining childless. Kids are exhausting, time consuming and financially draining. Not all women are prepared, suited or stable enough to have children. Travel, free time and even careers become more complicated. And if there’s one thing I learned about parenting, it is that the word “mom” is synonymous with “guilt.” Dedicating your life to a career or even a worthy cause means putting your own child on the back-burner. 
Sometimes, kids put added strain on a marriage. You can’t focus on your spouse like you used to and quality time is rare. On a bad day I wonder why anyone would choose to have one child, let alone two or three. I can’t help thinking of all the things I would have – from a more relaxed morning routine to the chance to travel the world – without children. Since I didn’t quite choose motherhood, it’s a decision I’ve never had to make. Would I have taken the childless path? I’m not sure.

But then I think about my daughter and how much richer my life is because of her. I think about all the things I would never know if I had never become a mother. I have come to know a deeper, more selfless love. I became a stronger person. I learned to care for another human being without expecting anything in return. I learned the true value of this life we are given when I had my daughter, how the ordinary moments can be extraordinary. She stole my heart completely.
I realize you can’t miss what you never had and if I had never become a mother, I wouldn’t know otherwise. I think I would still be fulfilled, complete and happy without the title, but I realize the gift I have been given.
Ultimately, it boils down to this: Love your life however it looks. Find fulfillment in being a woman, first and foremost, and then embrace whatever role you choose. Embrace being a mother and do it to the best of your ability. Embrace being childless and cherish the opportunities this presents.

Quite simply, live life with purpose. However you choose that life to look.