And so, I said yes

Journal page 21:

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I got a phone call last week asking if I would be interested in teaching two art classes at the private school I taught at last year.

I was hesitant.

Last year was a real struggle at times for many reasons:  some of them were “me” issues and some were issues with the school situation.

I was distracted by things happening at home and was not always as prepared as I would like to have been.  I was teaching Kinder through 2nd grades in the common lunch room area and there were continual distractions as people wandered through.  I’m not totally displeased with the school year overall, but really feel that I could have done better.

This year they asked if I could teach Kinder through 2nd and 3rd through 5th.  I’d be in a small classroom and that is a much more pleasant situation.

I was still hesitant.

It is a large time commitment and I am trying to spend more time making art.

I’m getting ready to be a grandmother.

I’m homeschooling a high-schooler this year.

And so on…

I said yes…

for three reasons.

  1. Without a doubt, the money I’ll make would be helpful as I continue to try and pay down our debt (and for art supplies which are expensive).
  2. I feel that it is important to expose children to art and I am distraught that art is considered to be an “elective” instead of a required subject, or not necessary at all!
  3. I love watching children as they create and discover what they are capable of.  In the early years children (for the most part) believe they are artists and that all things are possible.  Their freedom of expression and interest in play are inspiring.

So, I said yes.

Almost immediately, the anxiety set in.

Will I be able to manage everything?  Did I make a mistake?  Will I do a good job?

My anxiety has been very manageable lately.  I am making progress on the house.  My mood has been mostly stable.  I am back in the studio.

I’m worried that this will upset the balance I’ve been working to maintain.

This is definitely a step outside of the comfort zone I’ve been dwelling in.

Early in the summer, I had drafted a rough schedule of lessons I would do if I was asked to teach again.  I hadn’t anticipated two classes and older students.

Now, I need to get to work and finalize the projects and draw up a supply list.  School starts on the tenth of August.  I want to be better prepared this year.  It will definitely lessen the stress.

I also need to consider the loss of a day at home while planning our homeschool year.  Youngest daughter is taking three classes outside the home this coming year:  American Sign Language, Theater Production, and Spanish 2.  I’ll be covering the rest of the subjects here at home.  Her outside classes are on Wednesday and I’ll be teaching on Friday.  That leaves three days at home to do the rest.  It’s not too early to start planning that out.

All shall be well.

Last week’s Kon-Mari de-clutter of clothes resulted in a box ready for the thrift store.

We are getting ready to put new flooring in the third bedroom that has been sitting empty for over a year waiting on the money to repair it.  It was damaged by a water leak under the house.  One wall also has damage from a water leak in the adjoining bathroom.  Once completed, oldest daughter will move in there from the second living area that she has been occupying along with my studio.  That will give us space to spread out a bit more and accommodate the activities of our busy family.

Unfortunately, that empty room is not really empty.  It has become a catch-all for all kinds of junk.  That’s the declutter project for the rest of the week.

Along with the art journal, several art projects are in process:

 

It’s been busy so far this week and now will be even more so.

Lots of planning and de-cluttering and creating…

All good things.

Yes, all shall be well.

Peace.

Taking a Deep Breath

Mondays.

I don’t know why we make such a big deal of them.  Especially in my case where the majority of my family works in retail so Mondays aren’t the first day after two days off.

Almost every day is a work day for someone in my family.  It is a rarity for us all to have the same day off.

Still, I wake up on Monday with a vague sense of anxiety about all that I need to accomplish, and that needs to be dealt with before it blows up into a disaster…mood wise.

I have a friend who is dealing with Stage 4 colon cancer and is participating in trial treatment at MD Anderson.  She writes every day on her Caring Bridge site.

I take great inspiration from it.  She regularly talks about managing time and energy and the challenges of that for her.  In her previous life she was a very active pastor, activist, writer and just general accomplisher of everything.  She had a journal calendar that was bursting with notes and memos and appointments.  She was a marvel.

She still is.  Just in a different way.

Her musings on making time for what’s important…including rest and walking have made a difference for me this Monday.

I am taking a deep breath to calm the anxiety.

I am making a list of the things that have to be done to stop the swirling thoughts in my head.

I am reminding myself that it doesn’t all have to happen today.

Tomorrow is a viable possibility for some of the to-do list.

Today I need to take a shower.

I need to make a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow or the next day before I run out of meds.

I need to gather all of my supplies and teach my art class this afternoon.

I would like to wash my sheets and bedding.  That has been pushed to tomorrow too many times.

Cooking dinner would be a plus, but realistically there is food and everyone is capable of fending for themselves.

They will probably still love me if I don’t get that done.

The house has moved past the lived-in stage and is teetering on the edge of possible crime scene.

I am reminding myself that the state of my house does not necessarily make me a bad person.

As I make my list, I am realizing that today is doable.

I’ve got this.

Anxiety, go somewhere else.

This Monday is not yours.

It is mine and I may not do it perfectly, but I will do it with a smile.

Peace.

 

 

A “What If-er”

 

Mood swings, irritability, frustration, guilt and self-recrimination.  That seems to be my constant lately.

Some days I wonder if it’s worth the effort of maintaining any sense of optimism.

Some days, hope is hard to come by.

And then, something happens that turns things around and lightens the load…

On Mondays, I teach a class of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders at a small private, Christian school.

I pretty much teach a process over product class and place the emphasis on the “what if” idea.  What if you try this…what will happen?  I emphasize creative thinking.  When the class project is done, the kids get to work (play)  in their journals and work with all of the scraps that we have collected in what they have dubbed the “what if” box.

Yesterday, as we were working on a owl drawing and painting project, I shared a story from my own early elementary days.

A long, long time ago when I was about your age, I was working on painting a plaster owl in art class.  We didn’t have an art teacher or classroom at the school I was attending at the time.  It was my regular classroom teacher and she wasn’t an artist. We had red, yellow and blue paint.  I remember that I wanted my owl to look like an owl with lots of colors and texture.  I was young and didn’t know how to achieve that so I kept layering on paint…lots and lots of layers.  The paint began to muddy and crack. My teacher told me that I was doing it wrong and took my owl and washed all of the paint off.  She returned it to me and told me to start over and do it the correct way.  I didn’t want to finish the owl because I was afraid that I wouldn’t do it right.  It’s important to follow instructions, but it’s also important to try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes because sometimes that’s how we find the answers we are looking for. 

After I told the story, my little artists finished up their project for the day and  moved on to their journal time.

As they were working, one of the boys in my class who I often suspect doesn’t listen very much because he is always talking, stopped drawing in his journal and said to me…

Miss Kelly, what if God gave you that teacher who messed up your owl so that you would become a “what if-er?  What if you were supposed to become a “what if-er so you could help me be one to? ‘Cause I think I’m a what if-er like you are and we’re supposed to figure stuff out.  Is that even a word?  What if-er?  I think it is and I think that’s what we are.

Well.

What if I’m supposed to be a what if-er and I have just forgotten what that means?

What if it took a child to point out to me that there is a purpose and a meaning to my life that I have lost touch with?

What if I just keep trying things out and remember that life is a process and not a product?  And that I’m going to make mistakes and that’s okay.

What if I quit striving to reach the destination and spend more energy on seeing the joy in the journey?

The destination is a mirage that you never actually arrive at.  The journey is the reality and there are magical moments to be found…often when and where you least expect them.

Here’s to what ifs and the what if-ers who explore them…and to the joy to be found in the exploration…

And here’s to the purported wisdom of owls and some art teachers (including myself) and the actual wisdom of small children…

 

– and to following the instructions (mostly) and then celebrating the beautiful, varied and sometimes messy results of our “what if ” life.

A Tiny Little World

Depression is hard…trying to keep going and not let on that you are struggling.  Doing what has to be done.  Tired all the time.  Battling the hopelessness.  Frustrated because the negative feelings aren’t fully connected to the reality that you are living in.  Knowing that things aren’t really all that bad, but mad at yourself because you are unhappy anyway.  Not living up to the expectations that you are placing upon yourself.  The little voice in your head that gets louder and louder – criticizing and commenting on all your failures.  Knowing that the folks around you (who don’t live with you) are unaware of the struggle.  Pulling into yourself bit by bit until only you only have to deal with your immediate surroundings, decisions you can’t avoid and work you have to do.  Realizing that you’ve isolated yourself from anyone who might be able to help because you don’t want them to be aware that you are weak and less than perfect.

…an unhappy tiny little world…

I’m peeking out a bit today.  This vicious little merry-go-round ride I’ve been on is not fun.  I’m blogging today and I will write again tomorrow.  I promise myself.

Life has really been going on rather normally I suppose.  Most people around me would probably be surprised to know how hard the last few weeks/months have been.  What’s been happening since I last wrote regularly?

I’ve got three part-time jobs now.  Part of it is for the money – we are really working on getting our debt paid down.

My newest job is teaching at a private school that opened in our little town.  Did I share this already?  I’m teaching art one day a week and am really enjoying it.  I was pretty sure that I would like it, but am actually surprised at how much!  It’s been fun to get to know the kids and to see how talented some of them are and how enthusiastic they all are.  The art lessons are supposed to complement the history curriculum and they are studying the Renaissance.  That’s challenging to do in one hour, one day a week.  I’ve been lightly touching on an aspect of Renaissance Art and then adapting a lesson to be both fun and fit into the time we have.  Today we did a “stained glass” project using tissue paper, laminating sheets and a laminator.

My youngest and I are fully into our homeschool year.  It’s been sooooo different having only one “student”.  We’ve actually “done” school almost every day and are hardly behind my schedule at all.  We’ve also managed several field trips (other than trips to the grocery store).  We’ve visited the Blanton Art Museum and the Austin Zoo so far.    Not bad for a self-described eclectic un-schooling family.

We’ve been working on the house doing some small maintenance and renovation projects.  Right now we are working in our hallway which is almost large enough to be a room on it’s own.  Three of the bedrooms, the classroom/studio and hall bath open into it.  It also contains a built-in desk, counter and two upper cabinets.  I’ve decluttered enough that the cabinet above the desk is almost empty so we are removing it.  It overshadows the desk and looks cramped.  We’re putting in a simple shelf instead.  Less stuff, less clutter and a more open airy feel.  All the walls are going to be painted Polar Bear white.  I’m ready for simple, uncluttered and peaceful!

Still sorting through stuff and trying to see how little we really need.  Layer by layer we are downsizing.  About a box a week is going to the thrift store and the trash can is always overflowing.  Where does it all come from?!?!

Not much is happening on the art front.  I just haven’t had the energy to complete anything.  Anything I did attempt just didn’t measure up to my expectations.  I’m cleaning an architect’s office and have been gifted a lot of flooring and upholstery samples.  I’m planning on playing with them and seeing what I can come up with.  Lots of fun colors and textures!

Time to open the blinds, throw open the windows and let the breeze blow in.  No more shutting out the world!  There is joy out there to be found, lived and enjoyed.  I’m going to give it a try…



Choosing to look for the joy

Hmmmm…been a long time away from here and it is ever so hard to start writing again.  Lots has happened and there is a small component of guilt as well.  The perfectionist in me struggles with not doing everything well…if you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do it at all…  That’s the “old” me, or rather the me that I’m trying to outgrow.  But old habits die hard – especially if we stop paying close attention and start living on autopilot…

…which is what I’ve found myself doing a lot of lately.

I simply stopped looking for the joy.

Honestly it’s not been the summer that I dreamed about – full of fun, memory making activities and lots of restful time to prepare for the school year ahead.  It started off well enough, but somehow snowballed into one challenge after another.

But there was plenty of joy to be found.  It all depends on how I choose to look at it.

We did get our back mortgage caught up with all of it’s late charges!  Without a doubt that was a joyful thing indeed.  And we’ve been working through the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover so I even managed to set up our emergency fund.

Then…

The dryer died.  Dead.  It’s been coming on for a while.  Remember the crazy noise and the on-line repair tutorials.  Not this time.  Thank goodness for that emergency fund, right?

Then the thermostat started going out on the oven.  Guessing temperatures, anyone?  Hubby found a great deal on one at work.  A great deal!  Okay, we’ve got the emergency fund and we need an oven. Done.

Then…the BIG one.  The “what-the-hell did I do wrong to deserve this crap” break-down.  Our  central air-conditioning unit quits working.  In August.  In Central Texas.  Three service calls and estimates later, we have a price for replacement.  The general consensus is that it can’t be fixed as it’s over 10 years old and is beyond repair.  Cost:  around $7000.00.  No emergency fund for that, my friend.  We’re “camping in a few rooms of our house with some loaner portable A/C units.

Then, there’s the vacation at the beach that came with it’s own set of issues.  Two car break-downs that resulted in repairs and a trailer rental to haul one home.  A trip to the minor-emergency clinic and a case of bronchitis that turned into an asthma diagnosis, and….  Well, you get the picture.  A vacation to remember, right?

But, that’s where the title of this story comes into play.  “Choosing to look for the joy”.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ve been in a bit of a depressed mood.  (That may be an understatement)  I haven’t been choosing to look for the joy.  I’ve been sad.  I’ve been “down”.  I’ve been feeling sorry for myself.  I’ve wondered where you can turn in a resignation letter to life and just quit.

Then…yesterday, this story start writing itself in my head.  And I stared seeing the bits of joy that have happened this summer.  Quiet moments for the most part.  They didn’t shout out their arrival like the A/C breakdown did.  The joy just sort of happened and waited for me to notice – and appreciate.  I just got so busy running from one problem to another and worrying that I never stopped to be grateful for the good stuff.

Bad stuff has happened aplenty this summer.  Lots more than I’ve shared here.

But…here’s a small listing of the joy that’s come along for the ride…

  • a solid roof over our heads to shelter us and a caught-up mortgage to keep it over our heads
  • new knowledge about money management that I am sharing with my kids so that their life can be easier and they can learn from my mistakes.  Knowledge can be powerful.
  • Health insurance that made medical care available for us when we needed it.
  • The most beautiful beach weather I’ve seen in all the years we’ve been going to Corpus Christi.  Calm winds, bright skies, moderate temperatures, no seaweed, and clear, clear water.
  • A lovely card in the mail from someone I’ve never met in person, but who sensed that I need some love
  • A new, part-time teaching job at a private school close to home.  I’m teaching art once a week and am already in love with my kids.  Such talent and enthusiasm!
  • Friends that have been there along the way and have helped out when we need a helping hand.
  • A successful first week of school for us.  One week in and we are only two days “behind” schedule.
  • A fun field trip to the art museum that included my hubby.
  • Children who are finding their own way in this “big ole world” – making decisions, making mistakes, trying new things and discovering their own joy.

It does seem that life has been “one step forward and two steps back” for too long around here.  So many things are broken and need to be fixed (literally and figuratively).  I get tired.   It can seem hopeless.  And pointless.  Like I said, I can’t figure out where to turn in my resignation…to life.

But, I don’t have a lot of “quit” in me.  And, I’m not going to “plod” through one step at a time.

I am going to take it one step at a time, but I’m going to choose to “step lightly”.  I’m going to look for the joy…I’m going to search for it.  I’m going to do whatever it takes to find it.

This is the life that I have.  I am grateful for it.   I’m going to choose to look for the joy.