Thursday, July 18, 2013

{I Can't Help It} and Other Good News

I have a problem. I like animals. A lot. A lot, a lot. I grew up having dogs, cats, fish, and any combination therein. I have no less than THREE posts on this blog alone about petting zoos or zoos in general. The answer to the question " What's your favorite animal?" Is impossibly long, and much more list oriented than the questioner often intends. And even in China, we managed to have a pet, even though it wasn't quite practical. I can't help it! Animals are a driving force in my life. They are unconditionally loving, rewarding to take care of, and so.darn.cute.

A few months ago we adopted Cooper, the Blue Heeler/ Boston Terrier wonder dog. He's smart, devoted, and the first "goody-two-shoe" dog I've ever met. I can count the time's he's gotten into trouble on one hand. Seriously, he's the best dog I've ever had. A couple of weeks ago, We ( Tyler) adopted Kate. Kate's a sweet, but still timid 7 month old lab mix that's growing like a weed and coming out of her shell and gaining confidence a little more each day. She's smart, too. Smarter than Cooper, honestly, and is very observant of everything that goes on around her, trying to absorb what she is and isn't allowed to do.

As if that weren't enough fur in our lives, we also decided to foster animals for the Lexington Humane Society, where we got Cooper and Kate. It gives animals a chance to get a break from the kennels, or to get better from an ailment, or to get the extra socialization they need to be an awesome pet for whomever decides to adopt them into their home. We get to choose how often and how many we take in. This past couple of weeks we had a spirited little pit-bull mix puppy that muscled her way into the pack and bullied the other two into cuddles, play time, and every so often, an argument or two. She grew like a weed, was super affectionate, and I really think she's going to make an amazing dog for some family.

All of this canine affection started as a way to relief stress and anxiety while I was trying to plant my feet with my last job, and to an extent it helped. As things drew to a close, and Jeff and I had several long conversations about the future, long term goals, and what-ifs, and he had a revalation. Why don't I start looking for jobs working with animals? I brushed it off and said I wasn't qualified. I had always wanted to be a vet, but a lack of academic ambition and aversion to math/science discouraged me from ever taking that route. But with our experiences with adopting and fostering, I began to realize that there were many different options for jobs working with animals than just being a vet. So, I started looking around, speaking with some connections, and applied. and you know what, it worked! I'm going to be training to start in a vet office as a client services coordinator working with clients and pets on a daily basis, and that really, really excites me. I don't anticipate it to be the perfect job, but it's something I'm confident I'll be able to do well , and apply my passions to, and who knows, it may lead somewhere!

So here's to fluff, dander, and four legged friends. They are comfort, inspiration, and a passion I look forward to pursuing!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

{A Letter to a Remarkable Woman}

I was feeling particularly blue in a strand of blue days and was thinking about life and the people that had influenced it. I decided to search out a my favorite teacher on Facebook. No easy task, since I hadn't seen her since 3rd grade, in another state, while she was still young and unwed. This was a woman who had made a difference in my life growing up and has stuck with me throughout my education. She is one of the few teachers my Mom spoke highly of, and when I, by chance ( and a little skill), found her, I decided to send her a message:

I'm sure you won't remember me, as it's been years and years, but I thought I'd seek you out and let you know how much of an impact you had on me as a teacher. You taught me 3rd grade at Cimmaron Elementary School. I was a tough student, I had problem behaviors, and I struggled every step of the way through school, right up to graduation with my Bachelors. Of all the teachers I've had throughout the years, you've always stuck out to me. You had a compassionate countenance, a way with making a student feel special, and a talent for instilling a love for learning.

My favorite book is -still- Lafcadio, and it still sits on my shelf of my complete Shel Silverstein collection. And while I've grown to love many genres of books I still have an affinity for children's literature, and have always sought opportunities to work with Children to share that same love you instilled in me.

I chose to get a degree in Elementary Education. My choice confused some of my teachers, and when a less supportive teacher confronted me with my choice I explained to her that children deserved to have teachers that had walked a while in their shoes, struggled as they had, and empathized with what they were going through, and yet could still inspire them to do better. I taught in title one schools before deciding that I needed a break from the bureaucracy. I spent last year in China teaching English for Disney, and am currently working as an independent case manager with individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

I want you to know, that you were instrumental in shaping the mindset I have when choosing my work, and my passions. Teachers like you made it possible for me to see myself beyond my behaviors and my problems, and instead focus on potential and the capacity for achieving.
I hope life has lead you to do much good with your talents, and that this finds you happy and content in life.
Thank you for teaching.
Ashley Dickinson McLemore
 It felt great to get to send her something I had been wanting to say for years, and was really moved by what she wrote back.: 
You made my day!! Of course I remember that face. Thank you for adding the picture. I just received news from my boss today that makes me feel like I failed and changes what may lie ahead of me for this next year, my 21st year of teaching. Bureaucracy... to the highest extreme!! I just moved to 4th grade after all those years at 1st-3rd. God had your message perfectly timed and I am so thankful that He blessed me with you.
Just for the record I don't recall seeing you as such a tough student either. I can name several others that took the place of memorable extremes of behavior even in the year that I had you at Cimarron.
Another co-inkydink is that I just placed a call to Cherry Creek today asking if there was a particular position still available. Texas is a different planet compared to Colorado and while there are plenty of wonderful things here, there's no place like home.

I still share Lafcadio with my students. I still have the same copy I read to you on my shelf. It still makes kids think and gives them a reason to laugh. Thanks for sticking to who you are and not trying to be someone else. I ran across a plaque last week that said, "Stick to being yourself because the job of of everyone else has already been filled."

My students are reminded, "Once you are mine, you are always mine... no matter how many years have passed, no matter if old age makes me forget a name, I will always love you and want the best for you."
Thanks for taking the time to find me and share with me. I would love to know more about what else life has brought your way.

Mrs. W (at least that is still somewhat the same:)


Life changes, children grow, plans don't always work out, but the influence we have on others stays and stays. I'm grateful that I was able to let her know that she had that lasting impact on me, and even more so by her uplifting words when I needed them most. 

Do you have someone that could use your praise, encouragement, appreciation, or just a kind word? Don't wait to give that simple gift, let them know that they are valued. We all need it. 


{Thoughts on Progress}

I have been working on overcoming a weakness of mine, in comparing myself to others. Sometimes I look around and see the milestones, the happy pictures, and lives people lead and develop this envy of those who seem to have it together with life. I marginalize my own accomplishments, I downsize my daily triumphs, and I under-appreciate my personal blessings. I'm working on it.

The past couple of months have been tough, in this area. Since at -least- college ( at which time it became an acute problem) but certainly before, I've had anxiety. I worry about things that a rational person would normally worry about. I stress over hypothetical situations. I paralyze myself in accomplishing simple tasks over the fear of failure, ironically spiraling me into that direction anyway, and I overwhelm myself with tasks that seem daunting or challenging and run into wall after wall of frustration. This has done me in and caused great struggle in most of the things I've tried to accomplish in life. over the past couple of years, it's become progressively worse. I used to take medicine, but stopped when I thought I had it managed. I became ambitious at work, and bit off more than I could chew, and after months of crippling anxiety attacks, small failures stacking up on each other, and a couple of tough crisis moments, and I realized I couldn't continue the way that things were going, and started the transition out.

Immediately after making the decision and talking to my boss, it felt like an elephant had stepped off of my chest. I could breath, my heart rate settled, and I felt at ease. This frustrated me. I loved the job. I loved what I did, and I hated that I wasn't successful in this particular endeavor. I felt feel like a failure. If not this, than what? What am I supposed to do with my life? Am I ever going to be good at anything?

This is what started a still continuing contemplation about what I'm meant to do with my life, my past failures, my successes, and what I'm supposed to do with it all. What AM I supposed to do with it all? I know that while I loved teaching, I am not going to be a successful teacher in a traditional setting, but that I have the skill set to effectively teach people, children in particular new knowledge, and that I have an intrinsic need to do so. in the little jobs I've had here and there I've learned that I'm good with talking to people, customer service, putting people at ease while they take high stakes tests, relating to people across cultures, alphabetizing, and many other little tidbits that by themselves look unimportant. In case management, I learned that I have a love for all people, and an advocate's heart and a need to improve the lives of others in whatever work that I do. I'm never going to be the best at paperwork, or organization, or filing. I'm never going to be the best at lesson planning. I'm never going to be the best with politics.

Perhaps all this is going to lead to something better. Perhaps these experiences are just meant to teach me humility, and how to accept failure gracefully. I do know that I'm grateful for a husband and family that are supportive as I explore new options and interests for myself, and have helped me to grow through the struggles, the anxiety, and grief of evolving as a person.

I may not be where I pictured myself being at this moment in my life, but I look around and realize I'm surrounded by people that I love, who are genuine. I have my needs met, I have an enriching life, and I am progressing a little more each day. There always seems to be something on the horizon to look forward to, even now, and I'm excited for things yet to come. It's not easy to be optimistic all the time, but it is worth stepping back, examining life, and adjusting what needs to be adjusted and prioritizing the things that really matter.