Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dream House

We just got back from a weekend away visiting very dear friends. Every visit to see them is marvelous but this one was extra special - they have recently moved into their "forever home" - this home was built by the husband's grandfather, his father grew up in the house and now, our friend and his wife have done a complete reno to make the house into a dream house in which they will raise their sons. The romantic in me loves the continuity in the generations (to me, a city kid, this facet of small-town life is really fascinating) but to see the house, it's a marvel of modern architecture. It's also very special to see these friends settled as they have earned this special home with a great deal of struggle - due to professional setbacks, economic challenges and family obligations, it took them years to get to this stage. We are so thrilled for them!

Spending time in this dream house has got me fantastizing of what elements I would want to include if I were to design my own house. Our house that we live in now is wonderful for us but it really has its drawbacks. It isn't my dream home but there are many happy memories coating these walls and I have always found it to be a very warm and friendly house. On the other hand, it was NOT designed with entertaining in mind and the set up can be quite frustrating.

If I were to design my own house, it would be like what we saw today - an older exterior, hopefully with come of the trappings of age - deep wood moldings, hardwood floors and fireplaces. I would love to have a living room with nice built-ins to showcase books. I would love a kitchen made with the cook in mind - ample counter space, open access to other rooms to allow conversation while cooking and a walk-in pantry to keep necessities close by. I have always dreamed of have a window seat in my bedroom and, most of all, an open entranceway that lets us welcome friends without feeling like sardines (a real draw-back of our current house). Main floor laundry, deep bathtubs and cool tile to floor my bathrooms would be a nice bonus. I yearn for a front porch (I grew up sitting outside on hot summer evenings and loved the connection to the neighbours) and a screened sunporch for summer afternoon reading without bugs and even a place to doze late at night in the cool summer breezes. I want a yard with the right exposure for roses but that doesn't involve tremendous amounts of care.

What would your dream house look like? What details would you suggest to someone who is designing?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Clothes That Make The ... Girl?

Before I had Pk, I really wasn't interested in kids clothing. Sure, I played with Barbies when I was little but I was much more interested in decorating her townhouse than I was in what she wore. I was not someone who had dreams of having a little girl and dressing her in cute little girlie dresses or hair in ribbons. In fact, I found a lot of that intimidating.

Fast forward many years. When Pk arrived, many wonderful people gave us clothing, pink, pink and more pink, lovely dresses and silly dresses and outfits that were ridiculous for an infant. I still didn't really get it. When my m.i.l. had a baby shower for me after Pk was born, she got really angry at me because when she asked what I wanted as shower gifts, I asked for sleepers and really casual stuff - at the time, I had found these great little hooded sweatshirt sets at Zellers that were cozy and warm. She informed me that, no, I didn't need those things, I needed dresses and we got a vast supply of them at the shower. Luckily, two very dear friends, gave me more practical stuff that I could ever need (which also happened to include a few cute dresses!).

Then, my life changed. I discovered Gymboree. The first time I ventured in, I was terrified (it does seem to be a place that brings out, um.. the aggressive side of mothers, especially when there is a big sale). I quickly got over that fear when I found that I LOVE much of their clothing. I need to say, I like very traditional stuff, clothing in simple colours and clothing that does NOT make my child look like a miniature teenager. I am a fan of modesty and comfort but, in my mind, there is no reason that such a look can't also be pretty at the same time. During Pk's first year-and-a-half or so, I spent WAY too much at Gymboree (and Gymbucks really help me to create the illusion for myself that I am getting a deal, even when I am paying $44 for a church dress that will probably get worn maybe ten times). It helped that Pk is the first grandchild and my mother loves buying for her so if we went to Gymboree together, I knew we would be spoiled. All that being said, though, I was being ridiculous and deep down, I knew it.

Over the last 8 months or so, I have really being trying to get hold of my finances and to explore much greater frugality. I have been more conscious of not spending more than I have and only buying when I have enough to pay cash. That is just about enough to put Gymboree out of the picture. No more $250 sprees. No more, "Oh, well, I will pay for this later somehow". I have been studying how to get the same kind of wonderful clothing without putting us in the poorhouse. I have discovered Once Upon a Child (o.k. but don't love it), Valuevillage, Goodwill (not the most wonderful shopping experience but going on their sale days, I have done incredibly well) and now, the Today's Parent Virtual Garage Sale (wonderful "gently used" pieces available for a small fraction of the cost but in the styles I so love). It is becoming quite a lot of fun and it makes me feel a bit like that Proverbs 31 woman, providing for my family in frugal ways that stretch our resources in ways that people never need know that things are new and expensive. I get so much more satisfaction these days and, who can complain about an impulse buy like mine yesterday at the Goodwill sale - $8.67 for 9 articles of clothing, including two pretty summer dresses? I can indulge the love of dress up with feeling guilty or vain.

Here's my dilemma, though and I hope you mothers out there can give me your take. At what point do I stop being able to choose the clothing? So far, Pk is fairly easy about things. Yes, she needs choice but it is generally of the "This outfit or this one for today?" variety. There is only one thing so far that she refuses to wear - a set of Disney Princess flannel p.j.s that were given to us (Kittenpie, you KNOW how much pleasure it gave me to see her refuse the princesses!). Something tells me that when it is up to her, my clothing options are going to be significantly limited. With your daughters, when did they start needing to choose everything? Are you still able to buy the items and then have them choose? I will be very sad when that day comes - I guess I like dressing up dolls after all.

And the next dilemma is, what on earth do I do to dress a boy???

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Making Memories"

Monica, over at the Homespun Heart, put out a challenge today. It was to do something to make something special at home today. It came at a perfect time - I am finding the cold and lack of sun is giving the world a bit of a bleak look right now. I spent a lot of time at work brooding over what to do - I already had dinner made and am really trying to watch money so I didn't want to go out and spend anything. As I have probably mentioned, Dh is an English soccer fanatic and Chelsea F.C. is the family team. He recorded a game today to watch this evening and we ended up getting Pk into her soccer jersey and we all ate dinner in front of the t.v., watching the game. She loved that she was wearing the same shirt as daddy and I liked the fact that we got to do something a little different tonight.
It helped that Chelsea won and is now back at the top of the table!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday This and That

I have had a number of mini-posts floating around in my head lately and just haven't gotten up the energy to sit down and type so I thought I might do a Saturday ramble. My brain is all over the place these days to it seems appropriate.

The Pregnancy
I am almost 20 weeks now and I have to say that I am generally feeling pretty good. Braxton-Hicks have started (it's funny, I now know what they are but during my last pregnancy, I didn't know what was going on). Thank goodness for's forums. I have been pretty active in the June 2010 due date club and it is so reassuring to know that other women at the same stage of pregnancy are having some of the same issues. It seems to hit each evening about 5 p.m. It doesn't hurt but it can get pretty uncomfortable. Nothing like having my entire abdomen as hard as a rock. I feel huge and I am definitely bigger than I was at this stage with Pk. I haven't heard from my doctor about the last ultrasound (which was almost two weeks ago so I am assuming nothing is wrong - she assured me that she would phone and leave a very specific message if there was anything I needed to know). I am curious about the baby's size, since Pk was so big.
Knowing that I am almost at the half-way mark has made it all of a sudden feel more real than it did a few days ago. I think part of it is that until I made it far enough along, I just didn't want to get too excited. Now, I am getting into the work mode - it's time to think of what stuff we need, to start making decisions and to start to get the bedrooms in order.
Names are really stumping us right now. We have always liked the name James and had always assumed that is what a boy would be. For many reasons, it has a lot of significance to us and it's a Biblical name, something that is really important to us. On the other hand, there are just so many James around these days - our son would be at daycare with at least one, if not two. That just seems unfair. Another name we have been toying with a bit is Gideon. We really feel like we have seen God at work in our lives in the last few months and the story of Gideon (see Judges 7) really speaks to us right now. It would be wonderful to name this boy something that really means something. On the other hand, I worry that to those who don't know about Gideon, the name will scream of Bibles in cheap hotel rooms. What do you think of Gideon?

Home School
One thing that has been on my mind for a while is what to do about Pk's education. She goes to a fantastic home daycare. We specifically looked for a home daycare because we wanted that nurturing environment with a special relationship with an adult who becomes like family. While there is nothing wrong with institutional daycare and there are some out there that are wonderful, I would not say that is the norm and as a teacher, I can almost always tell who is a "daycare" kid but the kids from the home daycares tend to be much less identifiable. Of course, every choice has its challenges and the one limit of the home daycare is that there isn't the same programming. Yes, J does a lot with them, particularly around crafts, outdoor play and socialization but I realise that in an environment with that diversity in ages, there aren't the same learning opportunities. I have decided that what I feel most comfortable with is keeping Pk in the wonderful place that she is and that I will take on the educational end of things. I am not especially worried in terms of the fact that we are both elementary teachers with a specialization in early childhood and she also participates in library programmes and two different music classes but I wouldn't want her to start school behind. She is a September baby and will be JUST four when she starts school so it will be challenging enough for her. I want to do what I can.
I saw this wonderful book on someone's blog and decided to buy a copy. We are having a blast! Pk has loved the ideas so far (although she really has a thing against playdough!) and I feel like we are really getting some good connecting time. It's also helping me to get a clearer picture of her weaknesses and strengths (this is a kid with one heck of a sense of humour, terrific fine motor skills and a total unwillingness to persevere with things that aren't immediately interesting to her). It's a relief to feel like we are making progress.

Matters of Faith
I love Monica's blog, the homespun heart. Judging by her blog, she has really found a way to simplify life down to its most essential parts - it's obvious that faith and family are central to how she lives and she manages to find beauty in everything. I really admire her approach. She has started a series with a focus on making home a haven - something really close to my heart. Life seems so frenzied and busy and I would like to make home a refuge for all of us and a welcome place for friends and family alike. This week, the discussion was about starting by making time for God.
Scheduling has been something that I have really struggled with since I returned to work. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I am really trying to focus on keeping Sunday as a day of rest. That has been really refreshing and it has already become a day that I look forward to instead of being a day of driving work to get everything done for the week. As an extension, I have been looking at how I manage my time on other days. I had gotten into the routine of getting up before everyone else in the house and doing Bible study and playing around on the computer for a while before starting my day. I felt like I had no time with Pk - home from work, run the dogs, work out, make dinner, do bath and bedtime routine and then, most times, bedtime for me. I have moved the workout to the morning and Bible study to just before bed and the routine seems to be working much better. I won't lie - getting up at 5 to work out is not something that comes easily but it is so nice to come home from work knowing that I have at least a free hour to play with Pk and just "be" at home. It has made so much difference to me. I miss the morning Bible reading (I have started a One Year Bible that I got much of the way through several years ago) but it's also a nice way to end the day. I have to be very disciplined but it pays off.

Burns' Supper
I find January to be such a bleak month (although I am already starting to notice longer daylight!) and so we are always looking for something to brighten things up. Growing up in Presbyterian churches, there was always a Burns' supper around Jan. 25th. In the past, we have hosted gatherings of friends and family. This year, we didn't feel up to that but we decided to get some haggis for ourselves in honour of the day. We went to a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall British shop today to find something for Mon. Even the smallest haggis looked a bit big for the three of us but they have haggis meat pies that looked like just the thing - they look like a Scotch meat pie but they are filled with haggis and the topping is mashed potato with a delicate blob of turnip on top. The shop sells EVERYTHING so dh and I were bad - dh is English and so most of what they sell has childhood memories for him. Pk loves going there because the elderly woman who runs the shop always gives her a treat - this week, a tube of Smarties.

I have totally rambled and I can't believe that anyone will read to the end but that's fine. It's just nice to feel like I have been living life and have something to say, rather than weeks where I feel like I have survived and that's it. Hope all is well for you and Happy Burns' Day!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Up to the Challenge?

We have a programme at our church called "Angel Food." Whenever someone in the church or the close relatives of people in the church go through a major event - surgery, a death, illness, the birth of a baby, a significant move - a team of people make a large meal that is delivered to the house. It's a main dish, homemade bread, a salad and some kind of dessert, usually. We have only been recipients of Angel Food once, when Pk was born, and it was a wonderful thing. There's nothing like a wonderful home-cooked meal when life is chaotic and it helps to know that there is help out there. I have been a cook for Angel Food for a while.

This week, I got an email mid-week asking me to do something to contribute to Angel Food and it needed to be more substantial than usual because the family in question is quite large. As you know, this has been a crazy week, so it panicked me a bit in terms of getting something done. Luckily, I got the salad to do and it wasn't quite as challenging as a large main dish would have been. I found myself feeling just the tiniest bit resentful of the intrusion.

As I was making the salad today, I got pondering WHY I was feeling so resentful and it came to me and it wasn't something I was proud of. Normally, I just jump in, getting that good feeling I get when helping (see the previous post!). This time, I just didn't feel the same drive. The reason - my feelings of disapproval of the situation in question. I don't want to say to much because I don't want to violate someone's privacy but it is enough to say that it is a challenging situation, a situation that arises from choices that I would NOT make and it brings out the judge in me.

It's interesting the way that God tests us. Dh and I both grew up in very diverse churches. Dh's family are staunch Salvationist (members of the Salvation Army) and you won't find a church more committed to life's lost and suffering than they are. For other reasons, it is not the church for us but we both admire and Dh absorbed that idea that church is a place for ALL people and that to be in a place of only "people like us" really isn't the challenge that church is meant to be. Of course, with my hippie-peacenik-social justice-children of the 60's parents, church was always somewhere in the inner-city among people who KNOW struggle.

When we moved up here, Dh and I found it really hard to find a church. We went to a church for a while in a town not too far from here. The minister really had a heart for everyone and while the congregation was awfully white-middle-class, the preaching from the pulpit was challenging enough that we felt it was worth the drive. We never really felt a sense of belonging there and when the congregation turned on the minister, we quickly realised that our faith was being hindered and not helped in that environment so we decided to move on. Our second stop was a church in the nearest large town to us. We went for a couple of months but it just didn't fit with our perceptions of church. There were no small groups, people were much too comfortable and for us, with no children at the time, it felt like the church really didn't know what to do with us. It felt to us like a church that existed to give people a place to send their children to Sunday school. That was NOT was we were looking for.

Then, through a series of coincidences, we ended up at our current church. It's in another town not to far from here but this town is in an area known to be struggling. Really, it is a town in transition. Fifteen years ago, it was a hotbed of social issues - all the wonderful trappings of poverty and few resources. In recent years, it has become a commuter town, largely, populated by young families and people who want that suburban lifestyle but just don't have the money to afford the popular places to be. The cost of living is lower but it is reasonably close to larger places for shopping and the homes are brand new, nice (if you like new homes) and affordable. We went to church there the first Sunday and at the end of the service, Dh turned to me and said, "We're home" and I had to agree.

It's a very mixed place. There are quite a few people there who are "like us" - white, middle class professionals but who for different reasons, can't afford or choose not to live in the more prominent suburbs (in our case, primarily because of Dh's huge student loans which took us a long time to pay off). On the other hand, there is a little bit of everything else, too - single-parent families, elderly couples, long-time residents of the community who don't have much more (or many teeth, in some cases). We love it there and feel a sense of belonging there that I don't feel in many places. We have friends we would not otherwise have met and have some very close relationships with people who are very much "not people like us". We love it.

At times, though, being a Christian in such a place is a challenge. I try not to but I do have some prejudices and there are ways that certain families choose to do things that really rub me the wrong way. I wish I could say that my issues are with the fact that they are making decisions and choosing lifestyles that go against scriptural teachings about marriage and family. Sadly, while I may not think that their decisions are Christian, if I am totally honest, it is much more shallow than that. People "like us" don't do things like that. "We" don't have more children than we can afford. "We" don't have babies until we are married or until we know that we have a way to make a living. "We" get educations and drive inexpensive cars that we can afford. "We" parent in certain ways. "We" are careful about the life partners we choose and generally also go for people "like us." I let it somehow become an "us" and "them" and, in my mind, my way of doing things is somehow more right than theirs and that gives me a feeling of slight superiority.

Could that be any less Christian? I struggle with the whole "love the sinner, hate the sin" idea. I do find it hard, sometimes, to be compassionate and to truly and deeply love people who make choices different than mine. I am not saying that I am any worse than anyone else - if we are honest, we all do it at different times. I just find it interesting that God could use a salad to teach me an important lesson and it is proof to me that we are in exactly the church we are meant to be. God is challenging me, not just through the preaching or the Bible study but through the relationships, which is just how it should be. I have a long way to go but I will tell you, this salad is going to get more attention and prayer over it than any other I have contributed.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I have to say, the situation in Haiti and, more specifically, people's response to it, has really said something to me. I have heard over and over again on the news today that donations have been so fast in coming that major aid organizations working in Canada haven't been able to handle the volume of calls and of internet traffic on websites. As I was driving home, I couldn't help but think about the fact that, while we talk about the world as being such a cold and callous place, most people really do want to help. There is an essential goodness in most people when we are touched. God created us to be in relationship with other people and to live WITH others. The frantic pace of life separates us from everyone else and makes it too easy to forget about the world around us and more particularly, the people whose lives we touch every day. No wonder it feels good to give - it's hard work to function in that cold way and to be so detached all the time and there are things we miss when we turn off that way. When we do help, we turn off the work of detaching and we can enjoy the blessings God has offered us through relationship, even if the person we are touching is far away and is someone we may never meet.

If only we could keep this spirit of generosity and this willingness to give and sacrifice for others all the time, I think we would discover a peace and contentment that is absent in so many of our lives. I hope to incorporate this as a more regular focus of my life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So Far, So Good!

Well, so far, everything is good. I was terrified (as you know) and waiting for the ultrasound almost killed me. I won't get the results of that for a few days, if there is anything to get (my doctor said she would only be in touch if there is anything to know). The good news, though, is the IPS results. My doctor actually laughed at the results... spina bifida is 1:54, 697, Down's is 1:36, 500. I think that a positive screen is 1:200. There would still be a small risk but given these odds, I feel somewhat reassured.
Thanks for the support!
Oh, and by the way, it is almost certainly a boy!

Pity Party

I am feeling very, very blue today and I just need to wallow for a minute. Actually, it's not so much blue as scared. It's nothing extreme but there are just times when things get pretty overwhelming and this is one of those times. I have my 18 week ultrasound today and I seem to be the person that people feel they must share all of their horror stories with so I am always TERRIFIED with ultrasounds that I am going to find out that the baby has died. I see my doctor today. That should be fine but I am a bit scared of that, too. I opted to do the IPS screening (for neural tube defects, spina bifida, downs and the trisomies) and my doctor told me that she wouldn't call unless something was wrong. I had it done over two weeks ago but I am still a bit scared that I am going to go and find out that something is wrong. To top it all off, I have my performance appraisal at work tomorrow. It is ridiculous that I am worried about that since it is pass/fail and I know that my principal thinks I am wonderful. I still find it very uncomfortable - she is one of those people who I find hard to read and she comes from intermediate, not primary, so I don't know that she is all that comfortable with the subtleties of grade 2.
I had been convincing myself that I wasn't worried and I was doing a pretty good job until I went to my therapist appointment yesterday. I went in feeling great and it ended up being a 90 minute discussion of fear. I tend to think of my life as being pretty boring but when I talk about my life, my therapist keeps telling me that she can't believe how much I have either been through myself or been exposed to. I don't feel like I have a right to claim things have been hard - I haven't had cancer, my parents didn't beat me, we always had a roof over our heads. I guess, when I do the inventory with L (the therapist), that maybe things have been a little bit harder than I thought. On one hand, it's nice, because I finally feel allowed to feel what I feel about things but on the other, to admit that things were so bad means having to accept all that goes with that. It hurts.
If you are a prayer, please pray for me today that all goes well and that I have the strength to deal with all that comes along with a sense of peace. If you are not, cross your fingers for me. I feel like I need it today.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day of Rest

As you might have read, one of my goals for this year is to find a way to rest, to slow down and enjoy some peace. It's not something that comes easily to me but I am finding myself so overwhelmed by life, I need to find a way to catch my breath.

One thing I realised last week is that I don't take advantage of Sunday as a day of rest. I used to. For a long time, Dh and I had a deal that on Sunday, we didn't watch t.v., we didn't use the computer and there was no work (particularly related to our professions) allowed. It was wonderful. We did all kinds of things we wouldn't normally do, whether it was to go for a long walk in the afternoon, play games, sit in the living room on the couch reading or to have a nice dinner with friends. Sunday truly was a day to catch our breaths, to gain some perspective and to relax. I loved it.

Somewhere along the way, we lost that. Sunday has become one of the more frantic days of the week. Yes, we go to church but when that involves getting a toddler out of the house, it doesn't end up being a very restful part of the day. I would get up early, do cooking for the week (I tend to take homemade soups for lunches, make homemade muffins for Pk), work out, have all kinds of housework to do and, as often as not, we had to get some shopping done. There was no peace in the day and I spent most of it focused on trying to get ready for the week. I have grown to really hate Sundays. I had read some wonderful books on Sabbath-keeping and love the idea but really, did nothing to make that happen.

That is something that needs to change and I am already seeing a difference. This week, I bought containers for the freezer to freeze my soup so that I can make it early. This week, on Friday night, I made a big batch of cauliflower soup and yesterday, I got the muffins made and the ingredients prepared for the stuffing for the turkey breast I am cooking this evening. I worked out for evenings this week so I am allowing myself to take the day off (other than walking dogs but that's something I enjoy).

Yesterday, I had one of those days... you know the kind I mean. Sometimes with a toddler, you have those times when parenthood has so much meaning and you feel such a wonderful connection with your child. Yesterday, it was the total OPPOSITE of that. I went to bed feeling so frustrated and angry - Pk was throwing tantrums over the most insane things (e.g., she had a total strop about not being able to reach the handle on the door at music class when we were leaving, with a large group of people trying to leave behind us). She has developed an eye-infection that involved a drive to the walk-in this morning, meaning we had to miss church and the baptism of the son of a good friend. I was feeling so discouraged and frustrated and hard-done-by. I had to go to the Christian Book Store to buy a gift for the boy being baptised and I saw this wonderful small wall plaque - "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest". I had to buy it, it was speaking directly to me.

Now to the good part. In the night, my ornery, cranky girl woke up crying inconsolably. I couldn't get her calmed down or to tell me what was wrong. Finally, I grabbed all her sleep gear (about 10 stuffed animals, four blankets, two dvds etc) and brought her into bed with me). We spent the night cuddled up and this morning, I was awoken to, "Hi, Mummy," and a hand stroking my cheek. She spent almost half an hour lying in bed with me, chatting and then we read stories. I didn't feel the usual rush to get up and get things done. It was an hour before we left the bedroom for our Sunday tradition of Daddy making bacon and me making blueberry pancakes. Instead of leaving for the walk-in feeling overwhelmed, I felt calm and Pk was wonderful (I think, a lot of the time, when she is at her most difficult, she is reacting to where I am at emotionally, whether I want to admit it or not). We are going to make cupcakes this afternoon (one of Pk's favourite things to do) and I think I might make her some playdough. If we can fit in a family nap (or a read, for me) that would be perfect. We will finish the day with a roast turkey breast with all the trimmings and for once, I will go back to work feeling like I spent the day really connecting with my family instead of feeling like I fit them in around my jobs. Talk about sustenance.

Thanks to Sonya, who helped me to remember what Sundays are truly for. I hope you enjoy your Sunday, too.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

God Stuff

Pk is obsessed with Veggietales and she has become the queen of imaginary play. We bought her the Veggietales calendar and she "talks" to the characters on the front of the calendar. Last night, I went into the room and she told me that she was reading her Bible to the Veggietales. She opened it to the last page and said, in a serious voice, "Do not be afraid. God loves you very much." I was blown away. Not bad for 28 months! I guess she is getting some good influences!

A blogging friend posted a fantastic idea yesterday. The idea is that you buy a Bible for your child but instead of giving it to him or her, you hold onto it, write ideas in it and give it to him or her when he or she leaves home. I love this idea!!! She has found the perfect Bible for it - the text is on one page and the opposite page is blank other than lines so that there is plenty of room for writing notes and reflections. I am going to order one for Pk a.s.a.p. I was thinking I might expand the idea a bit and pass the Bible around to family and close friends who are Christians. I love the idea of her being well into adulthood and having her grandparents' handwriting in her Bible. What a connection to the most important things in life. If you are interested, pop on over to visit at Thankful for more information.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Rest and Success

Over the last several weeks, I have been reading "Little House on the Freeway: Help for the Hurried Home" by Tim Kimmel, PhD. When I read non-fiction, I tend to read very slowly and pick up and put down a book over and over and this book has been no exception. When I do read it, however, I feel like a person lost in the desert who has found a secret lake - I just can't get enough.

As you probably know, I am a teacher and tomorrow, I go back to work after my winter holiday. I do NOT want to go back. Of course, nobody wants to end a holiday, it's nice being free of schedules and being able to live pretty much as you wish, knowing that financially, all is cared for. It goes deeper than that for me lately. I have felt incredibly torn since I had to go back to work after Pk was born. I have always been fairly type-A - I have always tried to be as perfect as possible and life has been all about that "exemplary" performance rating. It may not seem so from the outside but schools are often very competitive places, with the staff jostling to be "the best". While I wouldn't say that I am trying to be better than anyone else, for me, it's all about not being "worse" than anyone else - if someone else is doing something, then I must do it too, all in the name of being "good enough". It gets tiring. It was hard enough before I had Pk but since she came along, I don't have the time that I use to have to put into things and I also know myself well enough to know that to do what I need to do to be that perfect teacher, I would be making sacrifices that are not worth the cost. In the end, it's led to a sense that I am just not good enough, that I am not pulling my weight, since there are people doing more, making more obvious contributions, getting accolades that aren't coming my way.

Yesterday, I read the chapter entitled "Maintaining Rest in the Work Area." Wow!!!! It really forced me to see and understand my thinking in a much different way. I would love to share the entire chapter here but obviously, I don't have time for that. Tim Kimmel's point is that to maintain "rest" in the work world, to remain true to our values and be able to live in balance, we need to re-examine how we define success. We need to shift from seeing success as a list of accomplishments and a collection of rewards, but instead, doing our work with integrity and doing what is "good enough". What hit me most was this:

When success is our goal, we can never be satisfied. That's because success was never meant to be a goal. It was meant to be an outcome of certain qualities and wise priorities. Qualities such as hard work, rendering a good service and product for a fair price, backing up your work and maintaining integrity all the way - these are the things that bring success. These qualities allow room for us to be human. To be as good as we can... but maybe not as good as the next guy. People who work hard and fair can accept their shortcomings and inevitable failures - because success for them is an outcome, not a goal. It's a process, not a product. It's what you are, not what you do. page 201

Can I accept that I have shortcomings? Not until now, I haven't. Instead, whenever I encounter a weakness, I just push harder, apply more pressure and feel like crap. I don't enjoy my work and haven't for a long time. No matter what praise or encouragement I get, it last for a few minutes and then I go back to focusing on what I am not doing well enough. As we spend more and more time focusing on "reflective practice" and trying to see what we should be doing and aren't, I get so mired in the feelings of inadequacy that I don't want to be there, especially when the guilt of not be "good enough" is paired with my guilt as being away from my daughter, which is always there. It's time for me to try and live with the new definition of success and start to measure myself fairly. It's time to be "good enough" instead of "perfect" and to allow myself to be a human being, a daughter of the King (the true measure of my success). I need to ask myself daily whether I have made a difference or a connection as opposed to whether I have been "perfect".

It's time to rest and enjoy.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Off to a good start...

When we woke up yesterday morning, there was soft, fluffy snow falling. I can't imagine a better way to begin 2010. I love snow but ever since we moved to a small town and have to drive to go just about anywhere, snow is nowhere near the pleasure that is used to be. We were able to spend the morning hanging around at home and enjoying the snowy views and in the afternoon, we played outside, had a cozy nap and then had friends over for dinner (I tried a wonderful new recipe - potato pie from The English Kitchen - yum!). Our friends stayed too late and we sat at the table talking for at least three hours - always a good sign.
If only the year can continue so well...