Saturday, January 6, 2018

Lessons Learned Over and Over...

How many times in life have you wanted to quit your job, sell your belongings, and move to Aruba?  The frequency of this thought has hit more times than I care to admit. The last couple of years have been filled with challenges, some of them overwhelming, but to be quite honest, as I look back on the past 3 years, I do see some valuable lessons that came because of them.

Lesson #1 - Letting go is not giving up.

  • But it sure feels like it.  It also feels a lot like giving in. Sometimes the hardest part is the impression that what you worked so hard for was all in vain.  I admit that sometimes I really did throw my hands up in the air and say, "I QUIT!". But when the letting go actually did happen, it was from a completely different place.

Lesson #2 - Change is often a necessity

  • Letting go brings some big changes, but often those changes are necessary and because of them, some really good things can happen. For example, I developed a musical theatre class, began conducting a ladies choir, started - and have almost completed - a master's program in Choral Conducting, transferred schools to a job I LOVE, and had the opportunity to sing in several diverse choirs. Letting go meant I had heart space for these new joys.

Lesson #3 - Relationships are hard

  • I feel like this is a lesson I should have learned by now, but it seems to come up over and over again. A couple of years ago, I read a book called The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John Maxwell and realized how much that book relates not only to work relationships, but relationships in general. Relationships don't just magically maintain themselves. They require nurturing and time. Sometimes deciding to let go of a relationship is as critical as holding on.

Lesson #4 - Eventually, you have to forgive yourself

  • If you always feel like something is your fault, whether it is or not, you'll never get past it until you decide to forgive yourself. That's all I'm going to say about that :)

Lesson #5 - Growth is painful, but invaluable

  • I've always wondered at the phrase "don't take this personally". It's a weird way to criticize someone. Criticism is personal, but for true growth, positive and pointed analysis and evaluation are essential. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it is more than you can handle in the moment. The key is taking time to process the criticism to make room for growth. The value is in what is done with the assessment - both praise and admonishment - and in taking to heart the key aspects to make the growth possible.

Lesson #6 - Jump: The adventure is worth it

  • I lead a very reserved, generally guarded, life. I choose my circle of trust very carefully. I make decisions based on a lot of thorough, rational thought, with a constant dialogue of angles and possibilities. But sometimes, this cautious approach needs to be loosened for the adventure to happen. And when it does, it feels like flying. I've had a couple of adventures the last few years. And when I look back, I'm grateful.

I'm sure there are many more lessons I've worked through, but these are the big ones, the ones I still see popping up constantly. I'm getting there. I'm just a little guarded in the process :)

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 - A Year in Review

I said to a friend today that I was glad 2015 was over.  It was a hard year. However, as I was sitting here tonight, I realized just how many wonderful things happened this past year that were overshadowed by one really crappy situation.  I've decided I need to look more for the good things and focus less on the bad.  I learned some great lessons from that bad situation, tough as it was, but there were some awesome things that happened this year of which I need to be mindful.  I'm writing them down so that when things are tough, I can remember how good this year actually was.
  • I got accepted for my masters in Choral Conducting.
  • I got 87% on my first class back to university in 10 years.
  • I volunteered for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (so awesome!!)
  • I got to play an awesome role in a musical.  Logainne Schwartzandgrubinere was a breakthrough part for me, where I really found my acting skills. It was so much fun to have a lead part.
  • I ran a personal best in a half marathon.
  • I did a triathalon.
  • I got to see my grandma, auntie, uncle, and cousin on a layover in Toronto.
  • I went to Kenya, saw some of my awesome children, kissed a giraffe, drank lots of Stoney, and had the best Malindi Chai.
  • I had a wonderful layover in Amsterdam and learned how to really be a traveler.
  • I got upgraded to first class :)
  • I sang at one of my dearest friend's weddings.
  • I got to spend some quality time with Kelly twice before she went back to the mission field.
  • I started directing a fantastic women's choir where they remind me each rehearsal of why I love choral ensembles so much.
  • I joined a 10 piece a cappella chamber group.
  • I found a new church where I feel completely at home.
  • I had a super awesome intern who has become a wonderful friend.
  • Kaia came home.
  • I booked a trip to England for an amazing price.
  • I went on a roadtrip with my girlfriends.
  • I deepened many friendships and was blessed by those who stuck with me even when I was living in seclusion.
The list could go on, but these are a good reminder to me to look at the positive.  Here's to a new year, with new goals to be mindful. Thanks to Melissa for the reminder.

Happy new year, my friends!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Teacher Comments

I am a sucker for punishment when it comes to reading the comments posted on articles written about teachers. I don't know why but I am always compelled to read what the general masses have to say about my job. It's like a strange form of torture that I willingly inflict upon myself.  I always tell myself that it will be the last time I read the comments, but then another article surfaces on facebook or in an online newspaper and I find myself scrolling down to see what kind of bad person I will be today.

Let's get one thing straight off the bat - I love my job.  Please note my use of the word job.  Yes, I am lucky that I get to go to work in a place that I actually enjoy, but at the end of the day, like everyone else, it is a job.  It's what I do to pay the bills, eat out occasionally, save up for a trip, and buy new clothes.

Somehow, based on comments read, that makes me a terrible person.  I should love to go to work everyday because I get to shape the minds of the future generations and because of that privilege, it's like a bonus that I get paid at all.

I hate reading articles that talk about how much work teachers do, and how much time we give up in the evenings, and that it is those factors that determine that I should get an increase in my salary.  I do these things but I did enter into this job with that knowledge of the "extras" that would be required of me.  However, even if I didn't do the "extras" that my job entails, I don't think that it would be unreasonable for me to request a raise just like the rest of the working population.  Minimum wage increases, the private sector gets raises, government employees receive annual wage increases, but as a teacher, every time we have come up for a contract renewal, we have to fight for even the smallest percentage. And in my teaching career, I have yet to go through a negotiation where I am not made out to be a horrible person.

Just in case you were wondering, I'm pretty nice. I work hard and try my best in my classroom, the same way I would if I worked in any other career. Yes, there are bad teachers.  There are also bad lawyers, nurses, doctors, secretaries, McDonald's cashiers, and letter carriers.  Please don't lump me in with your one bad experience.

I am not a perfect teacher.  I am certainly a better teacher now than I was in 2005 when I got my first contract. I like to think that what I do in the classroom is pretty darn good but I know that there are students who don't like me. I know that there are times when I don't teach my most effective lesson. Sometimes, I fail.  I know - that's not allowed, teachers aren't human - so if we fail, we've somehow caused the entire fabric of society to unravel.  Please accept my sincerest apologies.

Maybe, when you're writing your comments, you could think about the 90% of teachers who are awesome and do their jobs to the best of their ability - but who also need to keep up with the cost of living, prepare for retirement, and even once in a while, take that much needed vacation (don't even get me started on the whole summer holiday thing.  Just stop that thought before you even go there).

I'm not asking for you to shower me with compliments about how my job is so hard and I must be a saint for doing it. I have other options. I picked this one. Now, how about treating me fairly and instead of generalizing in what you say, think carefully about who you are hurting in the process.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Theatre - my newest love!

Over the last several years I have gotten involved with my local theatre community - and you know what I discovered? I love it!

As a high school student, I always wanted to be involved in our productions, but I was painfully shy and lacked any sort of self-confidence.  I would go to auditions and freeze, never receiving a part, but always working backstage or on the costume team.  I struggled so much during my high school years because I was so worried about what people would think.  I'm grateful that I've grown out of that in so many ways as an adult.  It's taken a few years, but I've finally come to understand that there are areas that simply make me who I am and no amount of trying is going to change it.  It's funny to me that we always want to change the things we can't and never work to change the things we can...

I realized in my new burst of marathon training that I'm doing this so that I can be a better performer.  I am not going to be 100 lbs and size 0, but from my training, I've developed greater stamina, breath control, and a power to my singing voice I didn't know I had, I can dance (rather I can move in some sort of rhythm that looks a little like dance) and sing at the same time for a longer duration, and I'm starting to tone and shape - all great areas to have improved for the stage.

There is a big production coming up and I'd love a role in it.  I'm recognizing there are things I can do and change to help make that a reality.  Not just in exercise of the body, but of my voice and my mind.

I've also discovered how much I love music directing for shows.  My next venture is chorus-master for Fiddler on the Roof.  It has such great music and I'm looking forward to working with a large ensemble, knowing how many wonderfully talented people will be working with me.

Community theatre is amazing.  So many treasure chests of talent that you would never know existed.  Community theatre uncovers all sorts of hidden gems.  Go to your local community theatre productions and you will be amazed at what you find.  You don't need to go to New York to discover good theatre.  Chances are it is practically in your backyard!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Strength from the struggle

Wrapped tightly in its woven, silk cocoon, a caterpillar begins to change into a butterfly.  If released too quickly from its chrysalis, it doesn't have the strength in its wings to fly.  It takes the struggle of breaking through the cocoon to move the necessary fluid into the butterfly's wings so that they will be strong enough to fly.  Without the struggle, the butterfly can't emerge from the protective shell and the timing of the release, although unknown in length, is vital to the butterfly's survival.

It's so easy to give up in the struggle.  It's tempting to wrap up in a protective cocoon and just let the world slip by unnoticed.  It's easier when I feel weak to simply give in and say that I am not strong.  I want to learn to be like the butterfly.  I want to fight through the struggle, not knowing where it will end, but knowing that something beautiful will emerge at the end.

The struggle to be disciplined, the struggle to be patient, the struggle to be faithful - all of this produces in me a strength that I don't recognize until I burst out of the chrysalis and discover that my wings are strong enough to carry me.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Periodically I like to go back and look at my blog posts - sometimes I forget what I've written and as I'm on holidays, today seemed like a good day to do it.  I read a blog I wrote from tour and realized how true it still is.  So many wishes.  Today, it is 3 years since I moved back into my house.  When I wrote the previous post, I had 3 months left of tour.  Funny how the circumstances change, but the wishes do not.  Funny how in 2010, I was wishing that my brain would shut down enough for sleep and I'm still wishing that in 2014...I'm thinking I may be stuck wishing for that one to happen.  These are still my wishes for a new year, new season, fresh journey.

Here it is, exactly as I wrote it on August 29, 2010.

I wish that life was fair.

I wish that life was balanced.

I wish that I understood the small things.

I wish that I could tell my mind to stop thinking long enough for sleep.

I wish that my children would know they are loved. By me.

I wish that I would know my children love. Love me.

I wish that the world was just a little bit smaller.

I wish that the world was just a little bit bigger.

I wish that I understood the generosity of many.

I wish that I understood the ignorance of few.

I wish that I could glimpse the future.

I wish that I could change the past.

I wish that love wasn't so elusive.

I wish that hope would be longer felt.

I wish that joy could be everlasting.

I wish that emotions could be more controlled.

I wish that I could be more understanding.

I wish that communication wasn't so demanding.

I wish that understanding wasn't so hard.

I wish that forgetting could be easier.

I wish that remembering could be longer.

I wish that endings didn't happen, but that beginnings still came.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

I need to get away...from myself

I think too much.  I think about what I said, what I didn't say, what I'm glad I said but wish I had said differently, what I did, what I didn't do, what I wish I had done differently.  Seriously - I need a vacation from myself.  I need a break from my brain which refuses to shut off.  I need a break from the constant dialogue in my head.  I don't know how to make it go away.  I keep my thoughts very close to myself - partially because I'm not very good at articulating them, partially because I find it hard to share what is going on in my mind because after I do, I'll think about it for days.

I'm on vacation from work and although it has in many ways been wonderful, I'm going back to work as tired as I was when I left.  Totally defeated the purpose of this vacation.

I wish I knew what to do to make this constant thought process stop.  It's going to drive me insane.