Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Step in the Right Direction

     When I started this blog, I had every intention of framing it around writing, books, and the creative process. The deeper I delve into this artistic realm, I realize my writing is so often linked to my day-to-day life. I write because I have stories to tell, they eat away at me when kept at bay. I would love to say I can separate life and work, but that is simply not the case. Recently, I began posting about my uncertainty with my job and how that affected me. While the posts were not directly related to the writing field, I think many of us, as authors, teachers, electricians, or mechanics, understand the universal message behind this writing. These posts are a part of my story. I needed to share it as much for myself as for anyone else struggling with the same issues.

     Decisions are rarely black or white but rather a muddled mess of gray. I often think it would be easier if there was a clear cut wrong or right, yay or nay. Perhaps if we were void of emotion, created like machines, this would be the case. Instead, the most significant decisions in our lives are bombarded with the gray matter of emotion, doubt, and questioning.

     I recently made a decision, a major one. I did the analyzing, played out endless scenarios in my mind, conversed with my husband for hours on end, and finally, made a resolution.

     I took that leap of faith. I resigned from my teaching position for the 2013-2014 year.

     And now, I find myself in that gray, embarking on a new journey. I am proud of myself for having the courage to admit I had not found satisfaction with my position. I recognized that I am capable of more and should be doing more. I am scared of the unknown facing me and let’s be honest, there is plenty of that right now. I am hopeful for what is to come and believe that I made the best decision for myself and my family. I am sad to leave the many friends that I’ve had the privilege of working with these past four years. In short, I am about as far from black and white as you can get.

     But I know I will get there, wherever “there” is. It starts with letting go and I took a step in that direction on Thursday. In publicly acknowledging my decision, my resolve was first shaken and then steeled. I knew this step would be tough, that many would not understand my choice. I also knew that those who love and support me for me would understand my need to find my own place. I took a deep breath and said the first of many goodbyes.

     Thank you for helping me be brave enough to chase my dreams. Here’s to starting the next chapter in life.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stop and Give Me 20!

 Can You Spare 20 minutes?  Sounds silly, right? I mean we all have an extra 20 minutes in our day when we think about it. The St. Charles City-County Library Foundation recently launched the TAKE 20 and READ campaign for literacy. The program focuses on the importance of early literacy and helping families build critical literacy skills for children to succeed in school and for adults to continue reading and lifelong learning.

Why 20 minutes? Reading to a child is the easiest and best way to help that child succeed in school and later in life. I grew up immersed in language and literacy. We read with each and to each other. We talked about books, discussed characters and themes. My husband and I have raised our children the same way.

Let’s just think about this mathematically. Let’s pretend we read just 20 minutes a day.

20 minutes x 30 days = 600 minutes or 10 hours per month

10 hours x 12 months = 120 hours per year

120 hours x 5 years = 600 hours over 5 years

That would mean that our children started kindergarten with over 600 hours of knowledge building, engaged learning time BEFORE they ever set foot in the classroom. The power of 20 minutes a day!

But what happens when children and adults don’t get those same opportunities? 

Sadly, currently 35 percent of children arrive at kindergarten unprepared to learn. Most reading problems are not outgrown which means students who are struggling readers in the early grades will continue to struggle as adults without proper intervention. Reading effectively as an adult directly impacts opportunities in all aspects of life, including education and job preparedness but also self-esteem and quality of life. But with just 20 minutes a day, we will see a change in fundamental language and literacy skills. 

The St. Charles City-County Library Foundation is challenging everyone in St. Charles County to Take 20 and Read! I hope you will accept the challenge to read at least 20 minutes every day. It doesn’t matter what you read, just read! 

Our family took the pledge. I hope you will stop and give me 20 for yourself, your children or grandchildren, and for your greater community. If you complete the program you will also be eligible to win a mini iPad! To register, visit or

Photo Credit: St. Charles City-County Library Foundation 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I think I...

     A friend of mine from my teaching days at Mason Ridge has a blog called “One with the Pastor.” She calls herself the unlikely wife of a pastor and often blogs about the trials and tribulations of this role. She recently posted about her worst enemy. With her typical wit and skill, Rachel described her nemesis vividly. There is no doubt about it, this person would drive you crazy. After describing the many reasons she dislikes this person, Rachel revealed her worst enemy to be her inner thoughts.

     All I could think was, “Well played Rachel. Well played.”
     We all have them. Those terrible, negative, nagging thoughts that eat away at us from the inside out. The ones that keep us up at night while our spouse or partner snores away blissfully unaware. The thoughts that cause us to doubt our worth and question our capabilities. I think as women (sorry guys, most of my audience is female) most of us could hold honorary Phds in Overanalyzing.

     I began to think about her post and why we tend to allow our thoughts to rule us in such a manner. And I mean I really thought about it… which is kind of a quandary in itself. Deep thinking about your thinking. I wasn’t sure much good would come from it. But there I was. Rachel’s post struck a chord in me whether I liked it or not. It called me back to one of my own more recent posts about feeling like I needed to find my place and purpose.
     I decided to evaluate the role my inner thoughts had in my current “stuck” situation.

     Am I staying in an unfulfilling job because I am scared to take a risk? Sadly yes. Am I worried about what others might think of me if I throw caution to the wind and try something new or different. Undeniably yes. I don’t think I need to share more of the thought stream with you, the writing is one the wall.  My inner thoughts had become paralyzing instead of motivating.

     As a woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a writer, and a survivor I know myself to be stronger than my thoughts. It is time to take them back. I am reclaiming my identity here and now. Changes are coming, starting with these darn thoughts!

To visit Rachel's blog, go to:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We're All in This Together

     You’ve probably heard the saying "We're all in this together!” and for each of us, different images spring to mind. Undiscovered talent, enthusiastic writers, frazzled artists trying to make our deadlines – we are all in this thing called “writing” together. 

     I still consider myself pretty new to the writing community here in St. Louis, having just seriously starting applying myself in the past year. Despite my rookie status, I find myself in the company of some amazing authors through writing critique groups, Saturday Writers, and SCBWI. Joining these groups, making a concerted effort to build relationships with other writers, has been one of the best things I have done to help with my stamina, outlook, and production. 

     Cultivating relationships with like-minded writers with whom we can share the successes (no matter how small) and rejections can make all the difference in how we feel about the work we do. Collaborating with each other in workshops, at critiques, over dinner, or with an adult-beverage will often provide inspiration or validation of our own artistic efforts. It's not uncommon to find another writer’s spin or variation might be just the answer to the endless writer’s block we’ve been facing. Even the smallest tweak can make a dramatic difference!

      Ultimately, we are connected because we are members of a profession that does not give up. We write because we are compelled to write. As one of the panel members from the Warrior Arts Alliance, Mr. James Moad, said, “The story is a living thing. We are tools for its expression.” Thankfully, I have found a tenacious bunch of tools to hang out with who inspire, motivate, push, and encourage me. We're all in this together!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

In Search of a Place

Last night I read a blog post (okay, I read most of it) about the dangers of staying in a relationship that does not uplift, cultivate, or enhance your life. I kind of stumbled upon the post. I saw it on a friend’s Facebook page that I ended up on because I was looking for a picture. I shouldn’t have seen the post, but I did and I think there is a good reason for this. Funny how that happens. 

For the past several months, I have really been struggling with some deeply personal and internal conflicts about my place in life, my role. From the time I was just a young child, I have always known I wanted to be a special education teacher. This has been my calling, a certainty in my life. I attended college and earned multiple teaching certifications, my master’s degree, and taught special education for five years. Those years, for better or worse, define who I am as a teacher. I was a damn good special education teacher because I was passionate about my job, my kids, and my purpose. 

I left special education a few years ago as my heart physically began to give me more challenges. During this time, I found myself unable to manage some of more hands-on tasks my specific role required and the long hours were taxing on the body and mind. I switched positions, moving into a role as a Reading Specialist, hoping that I would still find my soul satisfied. Sadly, this has not been the case.

A beautiful creation by our oldest daughter, Kennedy. So fitting for this post.
Almost four years later, I am in the relationship the author of that blog post described, it is just the relationship with my career. My husband and I have, through many a long discussion about work, decided we disagree about what our careers need to mean to us. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is one of the hardest working people I know and excels in his career, leading two teams on a daily basis. My husband works in the corporate world while I have always been surrounded by children at the elementary level, watching them grow, learn, and change. I got to be an integral part of this process, something I treasured in my last teaching role. I miss that feeling.

This year has been pretty tough, contemplating the decision to stay in my job or take a leap of faith (in terrible economic times, with a family of 6, a mortgage, car payments….) and try something new. Can you tell the decision is a bit daunting? The practical, orderly side of my brain keeps slapping the emotion-driven side, daring it to step out of line. Then I allow myself a minute of “what-if-ing” and it all goes to hell. I would love to write full time and work part time, but that is not a possibility for our family right now. So in the meantime, I will continue to ponder, read, and write my way through the internal chaos. Maybe I happen upon someone else’s blog post about how to become a millionaire overnight. A girl can dream. 

Photo Credit: Kennedy Englert