Living Deliberately (or A Mom Who Reads)

Disclaimer:  I promised this wouldn’t turn into a “mommy blog” and I intend to keep it that way.  This post will use the word “mom” a lot, and because of that I debated whether or not to share it here.  I decided, yes, it applies, because it’s less about my daughter and more about how I prioritize life.  That can apply to anyone, parent or not.

Not long after my daughter was born, I got an iPhone.  Yes, I finally caved and joined the smart phone world.  I’ll admit, it’s been nice.  It’s so much easier to look things up, answer e-mails, etc, one-handed while holding a baby.  Plus, Netflix kept me from going completely crazy during that first month of all-nighters..  However, the other day as I sat feeding my daughter and looking things up on my phone, I realized how easy it would be to fall into that pattern.  As nice as the smart phone is, I don’t want to be that mom who’s staring at her phone all the time.  I started thinking about reading.  Digital books are nice and convenient, but I want to read physical, paper books now more than ever.  I want my daughter to see me reading, not staring at a phone.  That led me to the whole concept of leading by example.  So much of my adult life has been defined by my career and my role as a wife.  Entrance into motherhood seems like a good time to take another look at my life-priorities and how I spend my time.  What traits do I want my daughter to see modeled in me and learn from me as she grows up?  I grabbed a piece of paper (which was thankfully within arm’s reach) and started jotting down the kind of mom – the kind of person – that I want to be.

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Two weeks old, Eleven years in the making

Hanging on our wall next to our wedding photos is another picture of Dan and I, taken exactly eleven years ago on Feb. 7th, 2004.  It’s us on our first date – an 18 year old me in a recycled prom dress with a 20 year old Dan before he rocked his current beard-and-shaved-head style.  We look so different, so young.  At least in our wedding photos he’s sporting the beard.

I see that picture every day and think about the journey that began that day.  We’ve been a couple for eleven years.  You go through a lot of change in that much time, and we’ve seen more than our share of adventures, as you all know.  Eleven years.  Ten different homes in six different states.  Two doctorates for him.  Twelve education-related jobs for me. Four cars.  Countless sleepless nights and stressed-out prayers thrown out to heaven in desperate attempts to make ends meet and find our next step.

And now, one precious little daughter.

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Minefields and Marriage Vows

I usually do not form a strong emotional attachment to love songs.  Most of them are a bunch of fluff that has very little to do with what a real, life-long love story looks like.  Especially these days.  Taylor Swift’s misunderstanding of Romeo & Juliet and One Direction’s insistence that “the way that you flip your hair gets [them] overwhelmed” simply don’t cover the depth of companionship, sacrifice, and effort that go into a life-long love.  A few singers do get it.  I enjoy Brad Paisley’s “Little Moments”, and Jim Brickman’s and Michael W. Smith’s “Love of my Life” is absolutely gorgeous.  In general, though, love songs don’t make me melt.

But there is one song that takes my breath away, that I actually spent the money to buy on iTunes.  I first heard Andrew Peterson’s “Dancing in the Minefields” – and really listened to the lyrics all the way through – while in the throes of preparing for our move to Boston.  I was near panic mode because the pieces were not falling into place and the move date was mere weeks away.  It sounds cliche, but I was driving when the song came on, and I literally had to pull over on the side of the road because I couldn’t drive and cry at the same time.

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Strong for Someone Else

“It hurts!”  She gasped and sobbed as she stumbled along behind me.  “It hurts!”

“It’s OK, I know.  We’re almost back.  We’ll be OK, you’ll see.  You can do it.”  I kept up what I hoped was a soothing monologue, all the while ignoring each new scratch and cut tearing at my legs.  I was hurting, too, but I knew her pain was worse, so I kept calm for her.

It’s the first time I remember having to be strong for someone else.  I was in middle school at the time, spending a week of my summer at an overnight camp.  I’d befriended two girls named Ashley and Hannah who had come to the camp together.  The three of us became good friends over the week – though apparently, we didn’t try to keep in touch at all after camp was over.

One day, the counselors took us all out to an island in the middle of a lake.  I’m sure memory is skewing the size of the island in my head, but it seemed quite large to my pre-teen eyes.  The counselors had organized a game of capture-the-flag over the whole island, and soon we had all fanned out, roaming the land and trying to get past that invisible center line.  Of course, my two friends and I stuck together as we explored.  We weren’t the most aggressive capture-the-flag players, but we participated with the best of them.  However, that day, we soon forgot all about teams and flags and trying to be sneaky.

Keep reading to find out what happened!

Learning Responsibility, Part 2: Finances

English: An origami flower made of multiple te...

It doesn’t grow on trees, folks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I went to college, people understood my study habits, but many of my new friends couldn’t relate to my budgeting habits.  I was often amused by a certain friend’s reaction when I said I didn’t want to buy something because I didn’t want to spend the money.  “Why not?!” he’d ask, slightly incredulous.  “I know you can afford it!”  Yeah, I had money in my checking account, but only because I didn’t constantly spend it on needless things!  I wasn’t a miser or a Scrooge.  I’d go out bowling with friends and to the occasional movie, but I was careful and rarely made frivolous purchases.  Later I watched that same friend bury himself in credit card debt far too early in life, and I’m so thankful for the responsibility my parents taught me in my childhood.

Keep reading to learn how I learned about money!

Learning Responsibility, Part 1: Work Ethic

“Responsibility is the acceptance of oneself as the cause of one’s current situation, and it is the willingness to cope with that situation.”

Mr. Fluegel, my quirky 9th grade science teacher, required his students to recite that definition of responsibility every day at the beginning of class.  He had us write it on tests and quizzes for credit, and for all his personable, smiling attitude, he adamantly insisted that we live by it in his class.  I can still hear the chant of the class speaking in unison ringing in my ears, all these years later.

As memorable as Mr. Fluegel’s lessons were, though, they were only a reinforcement of the sense of responsibility my parents had been teaching me for years.  I see so many people now struggling with the consequences of poor financial habits and impaired work ethics, and I’m so thankful for the habits my parents built in me at an early age.  I’ll speak more to the financial side of things in a later post.  This is the story of how I learned to work hard.

Keep reading for more about my life!

The Adult Who Should Have Been There for Me

I have a confession to make.  When I strip away all my ambition and dreams of preparing teens for their futures and revamped career explorations, I need to admit that there’s another reason that drives what I do every day as a teacher.  There’s a story behind why I fight so hard to connect with my students and invest everything I can in them, no matter how short a time I spend in a given school.  As I look at my adolescence, I see the glaring need that no one stepped in to fill.  I see the cracks I fell through, and I want stop that from happening to someone else.

I need to be careful as I write this post.  I’ve had 10 years to recognize and deal with the fact that when I was 17 and 18 years old, the adults in my life failed me.  I’ve come to terms with it, and I don’t blame anyone.  I haven’t always been this level-headed about it, though.  When I first looked back on that year with the perspective of adulthood, the realization of what had happened hit me with a wave of anger.  Not at my parents, but with the teachers and other adults in my life back then.  I was hurting and scared, but they did nothing to reach out.  I know that in outward appearances I held the world in the palm of my hand, but when your smart, popular star of a student breaks down in tears in class on a regular basis, when she spends half a class period twisting and mangling a plastic water bottle out of recognizable shape, and finds relief in the act of banging her head against her locker?  Something is wrong.  Help her!   Continue reading

How Barnes & Noble Prepared Me for Life After High School

I’ve always been an avid reader, and in 8th grade I identified myself as a lover of classic literature.  Whether or not that was a good thing may be up for discussion, but it was fact.  My junior and senior year of high school, there was a Barnes & Noble directly on my route.  I drove right past it twice a day.  When I needed a new book to read, that’s where I would go.  I usually headed right to the upstairs table filled with summer reading books assigned by area schools, because it was a collection of good literature that I hadn’t read yet.  I would also frequent the “Barnes & Noble Classics” display for the same reason.  I knew the entire floor plan of the store – the literature, the mythology section, Shakespeare, poetry, drama – I knew exactly where to find everything I wanted.  I loved it.

Bookshelves 3 stories

This is beautiful. Just sayin’. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The summer after I graduated high school I got a job as a pool operator at a hotel.  I spent 10 hours a day sitting next to an often-empty pool, and if there wasn’t anyone to guard in the pool, I read.  It rained a lot that summer, so I did a lot of reading.   That same Barnes & Noble was on my route again, so I would frequently stop in to pick up a new book.  I had a friend who worked at the attached Starbucks, and he passed me free coffee drinks whenever his manager wasn’t watching.  I was at the bookstore so often that a sales guy began to recognize me, befriended me, and was soon giving me his employee discount on my purchases.  It got to the point that on any given day, I could enjoy a fancy coffee drink and leave with my choice of book, only spending a total of a few dollars.  It was dangerously addictive.  For an English nerd like me, it was glorious.  And even though I didn’t recognize it at the time, it was my emotional salvation.   Continue reading

Friendships That Last a Lifetime

It was 11:45 pm on a Friday night.  My husband was already zonked out for the night, and I was just playing around on my computer.  I finally pushed the keyboard away and headed to the bathroom with thoughts of getting ready for bed.  I was literally halfway through the bathroom door when my phone rang.

Starbucks in Brisbane

This is where my husband and I go on Friday nights. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, you need to understand something.  My husband and I have never been “party-on-a-Friday-night” kind of people.  We’ll go out to dinner with friends or maybe catch a  movie sometimes, but more often than not, Friday night sees us reading or doing work at Starbucks, or simply enjoying a quiet night at home.  We like it that way.  And we like going to bed at a decent hour.

It was not normal for someone to call me at 11:45 pm.  Far from it.  I knew the ringtone, though.  It was the special ringtone that I reserve for two of my dearest friends.   Continue reading

Pretty Girls are People, Too.

My sister once asked me how I managed to be both valedictorian and prom queen of my graduating class.  Nerd and popular don’t often mix.  It took several hours to figure out the answer.

I moved.

When I was 16 years old my family moved from Texas to Maryland.  In my new school, no one knew the awkward 14-year-old with braces. Instead, they met the 16-year-old me right after a Texan summer of life guarding, tanned skin, sunny blond highlights, and all.  One boy asked me out two days after we moved.  Another started leaving anonymous love notes in my locker.    And that was before I got a haircut that started turning heads as I walked down the street.   Continue reading