Friday, March 28, 2014

The Planning, The Process, and The Prize

Photo Credit: Sura Nualpradid
I seem to quite good at setting goals, but not so good at seeing them through. In the rare instance that I have seen a goal through to the end (either because of the genuine desire or genuine necessity), I've often reflected in how I felt after I've achieved a goal. I am beginning to see a pattern.

First, I am excited to be starting a new project. It is usually all I can think about or talk about (to anyone who will listen). I know I'm deep in a project when I begin dreaming about it. This happens with any goal I've set. When I started researching the low carb way of eating a couple of years ago, I submersed myself in information that would allow me to learn all I could about it. When I completed a NaNoWriMo challenge back in 2008, I lived, breathed, and slept my novel(ette).

Later, I become overwhelmed at the sheer size of the task in front of me. This is when that ugly self-talk comes creeping into my brain. ("You'll never finish this." "What made you think you could do this?" "You're going to disappoint everyone?" "They're all going to laugh at you...") This is usually the stage where goals are not realized. I never move pass the anxiety to work through it. For the goals that are reached, I usually have some form of accountability that sees me through to the end. (For my degree, I knew my family depended on me. That and the fact that I had taken out all of this money in student loans and knew that quitting was not an option.)

A little while later, the euphoria comes back. "Yes, I can do this!" "Yes, I can finish." This stage usually occurs when I'm deep in a project and things are going well. I have a momentum that keeps me going. (With my low carb eating, I was losing inches and weight and it felt good! People were beginning to take notice, providing me with that external motivation.)  

Enter another bout of anxiety This stage actually repeats itself quite frequently through the process, depending on how long the project lasts or how big it is,

Finally, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am almost there. It is going to feel so great to finally reach my goal!

Until I do.

After reaching a goal, I feel a moment of euphoria and then an unbelievable feeling of let down. Suddenly, reaching a goal has become terribly anticlimactic. I forget about every struggle I went through to get to where I am currently standing and instead have inner dialogue with myself:

"That wasn't so bad." (When it really least at the time.)
"I could have/should have done it better/differently." (Maybe or maybe not. But the truth is, I did the best I could at the time. And why don't I just bask in the glory of my accomplishment?)

The doozy - "What now?"

"I've lost 25 lbs. What now?" (Do I lose more? Do I start an exercise regime?)
"I've graduated college. What now?" (Do I go back to earn a more advanced degree? What area?)
"I've written a 50,000 word novelette. What now?" (Do I write more? Do I edit it? Do I start another one?)

I was so concerned with this facet of my psyche that I asked the Man Beast his process in accomplishing goals. He agrees that for him, goals are anticlimactic and he finds himself searching for more. So, either we're both very broken or both very human.

What about you? Do you enjoy the planning, the process, or the prize?

Until next time...

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Life as a Paraprofessional vs. Life as a Teacher: Part 2

To read about the first part of my journey on the road to becoming a teacher, please click here.

So, here I was, gainfully employed. In a position where I didn't have to wait for a phone call every morning telling me where I was to be working. I knew. I was working at the Middle School Down the Street.

I had no clue that taking this position would lead me on such an incredibly journey - but it did.

My first job as a paraprofessional was working in a self-contained classroom, serving students with severe and profound intellectual abilities. Many of them were non-verbal and some of them could not walk.

The first couple of months were challenging. Nowhere in the world will you find a room full of students with hearts more pure - or honest. If they like you - they love you. But if they don't - well, sorry about your luck. Naturally, it took some time for me to find my niche (both with them and the teacher with whom I worked).

But find my niche and I did and soon, I felt a yearning in my heart that I had never felt before. I decided soon after I started working with those Special Kiddos that I wanted to go back to school to become a teacher. (Admittedly, this was not my first round at a college - or at education. But this was the first time I had ever considered special education. And to be honest, I don't think I would have ever given special education a thought if not for working with these kids. But like has a funny way of working out. Not only would I become a college educated woman working with children with special needs, but my daughter would be diagnosed in the middle of it all.)

I began my studies online through Grand Canyon University. A representative came to the school and spoke with many individuals about various degree programs they offered. For one reason or another, they never spoke with me. But I did speak with a co-worker who spoke with them and went online to do some research. I filled out my information and was contacted by Michael - my enrollment counselor.

Online classes tend to be accelerated. As such, I took one class every eight weeks. For two semesters, I took two and it was a challenge. Still, after all was said and done, in four year's time I had a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education/Special Education. (I had to quit my job at the middle school in order to complete 16 weeks of student teaching. While completing it, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of great students and a handful of great educators).

Before I finished, I began putting in applications anywhere and everywhere I could find a position open. After talking teachers, I decided that I shouldn't narrow my search to just local schools, but instead, should branch out an hour in each direction. (It wasn't ideal by any means - but my chance for success was greater by spreading my search field.)

Even while I was putting in applications, in my heart of hearts, I knew I didn't want to take over a classroom mid-year. I felt it would be too much of a challenge and to be honest, I just didn't want to do it. I briefly contemplated working as a sub for the school system to keep my name "in the system" but in the end, I didn't have to: I was hired on as a paraprofessional at one of the elementary schools where I completed my student teaching. (I later found out that many teachers begin their teacher careers as paraprofessionals, waiting for positions to become available).

Long story short, one became available, I prepared for the interview with a lot of input from fellow teachers, and was offered the position.

After 7 months as an educator, I can report after being on both sides of the fence that my Life as a Paraprofessional varied greatly from my Life as a Teacher.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of Life as a Paraprofessional vs. Life as a Teacher

Until next time...  
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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Life as a Paraprofessional vs Life as a Teacher: Part 1

hyena reality

Eventually, I will write a lovely end-of-the-year post (probably entitled something original like: "What I Learned as a First-Year Teacher"), but this morning, I want to write about something a little bit different.

The differences between my life as a paraprofessional (teacher assistant) and my life as a teacher .

I'm sure many of you are aware that I began my life as an educator, not in the classroom, but in a lunchroom. After I had home schooled The Boy and Baby Girl for a couple of years, it became apparent that it wasn't working out any more and some changes needed to be made in our family. So, on that fateful day in November, I dropped both of the kiddos off at the Little Elementary School Around the Corner, The Boy, a 4th grader and Baby Girl, a 1st grader, while I headed off to work in the school cafeteria. 

As a substitute cafeteria worker, filling in for the ladies who had to be out for whatever reason at various schools around my city, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of kids. (I realize that I didn't technically "work" with the kids. I fed them breakfast and lunch. But when you connect with kids, you connect with kids. It doesn't matter in which capacity it's done. It just is.) In every school I worked, I adored the kids. It didn't matter if it was a pre-k center or the elementary school - I loved it.

When you wake up in the early morning hours to prepare a meal for 600 students, you tend to use that time to catch up with your co-workers (mainly, to stay awake!). One day, the ladies were telling me about a job I could do which would bank me more of a steady (and larger) income. 

After I took the exam, I was ready to began applying. As luck would have it (as if!), there was a paraprofessional  position opening up at the middle school. And also as luck would have it, the woman I went to church with also worked there as a paraprofessional. And as luck would have it, this lady is a born sales person. When she gets an idea in her mind, she works it and works it hard. 

So, she told me about the position and told me where I needed to go to apply. As a stay at home mom for the past 10 years, I didn't have any so-called "references" of which to speak, so I had to rely on "character references": people who knew me and could vouch for my character. Not only did she vouch for my character, she also put my name front-and-center where ever she went. (I owe everything to her; I really do.)

On that fateful day, I received a phone call for an interview. My friend said she would watch The Boy and Baby Girl while I went. So I went. And it was intimidating. And I was honest. But I was willing and as I was driving to my friend's house contemplating the whirlwind interview, the principal was calling my friend and my character references. He liked what he heard, apparently, because I received a call an hour after I left the school, informing me that I had gotten the position!

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

10 Goals for This Week {Say Goodbye to Survival Mode}

David Castillo Dominici
Every Monday, Crystal from Money Saving Mom blogs about her weekly goals and encourages her readers to join up. Because everyone needs a bit of accountability, I've decided to join suit.

I started my to do list by creating daily lists and marking them off. It is liberating and kind of fun to physically mark off a to do list. However, during the week, it becomes almost too overwhelming to have a daily to do looming over my head. So, I've decided to embrace Crystal's idea of a weekly to do list. This way, I'll stay focused on my goals, but I won't be overwhelmed daily by something else I just have to do.

10 Goals for this week:

Marriage/Motherhood Goals:
- Spend 3 hours of uninterrupted time with The Man Beast
- Spend 1 hour of uninterrupted time with The Boy
- Spend 1 hour of uninterrupted time with Baby Girl
- Read 2 Chapters of Anne of Green Gables with Baby Girl (we haven't picked up this book in almost two weeks; it's time to get back to it. Besides, it's an excellent way to wind down)

Personal Goals:
- Get active for 2 days (walking, running/jogging, Tae Bo...something to get the heart rate up)
- Read three chapters in a book (any book!)
- Spend 30 minutes in the Word, every day (only daily goal - but it's important!)

Writing Goals:
- Write and publish two blog posts (this one doesn't count!)
- Find the grey flash drive that has my manuscript on it; begin editing it

Homemaking Goals:
- Organize the bookcase in the study (maybe I'll find my flash drive on one of the shelves!)

So, there you have it. These are the goals I'm willing to share publicly. I have other goals written down, privately that cannot be shared publicly (but I can certainly update you all next week and let you know if I accomplished them!)

What are some things you want to tackle this week? Tell me in the comments!

Until next time, 

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

With Faith Like a Child {Say Goodbye to Survival Mode}


They say that love can heal the broken
They say that hope can make you see - "Faith Like a Child" Jars of Clay

I shared not too long ago about a book I was reading by Crystal Paine: Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, in which she discusses ways we can can live intentionally and stop letting life live us.

Rather than go chapter by chapter, I will skip around as I feel compelled to discuss what she says on various topics. 

Today, I feel compelled to talk about charity.

In light of recent political topics, many have said you can't force charity. And I believe you can't. Complete a definition search for the word "charity" and you'll discover words like "voluntary" and "love" in its definition. True charity is not forced and comes from love (not guilt or bullying).

Oftentimes, when we think about charity, we think in terms of money. And unfortunately, it's a resource that, for many of of us, is in short supply. Luckily, charity extends to include things such as time, kind works, or even kind words.

Still...are we quick to supply it outside of holidays?

It's so easy for me to get wrapped up in my own problems. And I've got problems, let me tell you! (I'm sure you do, too!) Who has time for charity?

Turns out, we do.

One person who never fails to amaze me in her capacity for love and compassion is Baby Girl. Her thoughtfulness for her fellow man is never ending.

  • Last year when we went to Universal Studios for our Girl Scout cookie trip, we watched the Mardi Gras parade. She got quite a few beads. Later, we went to an eatery for dinner. As we were eating, I noticed Baby Girl looking toward the door. As we were leaving, she took off all of her beads and went up to a little boy and his mother. Baby Girl told her that she wanted to give all of her beads to her little boy. The mother had a look of confusion on her face when she said, "Thank you". Once we were outside, I asked Baby Girl why she gave away all of her beads (especially since she worked so hard to get them). She looked at me and said, "He didn't have any beads and I didn't want him to be sad. I don't need any beads to be happy."
This week marked the first weekend for Girl Scout cookie booth sales. We spent all day out in the warm sun (and have a sunburn to show for it!). Today, when we went into town, we saw another troop selling Girl Scout cookies. 

Baby Girl stopped in front of the booth and dug in her purse. I wasn't sure what she was getting; we have over 100 boxes of cookies that we have to sell for our own troop. 

She pulls out all of the change she has in her purse and and drops it in the donation box. (Both of our troops collect donations to buy boxes for soldiers and send them overseas). 

This is just how she thinks. Competition is not in her vocabulary. She sees the bigger picture; the greater good.

Today, something pretty upsetting happened at the grocery store and Baby Girl was witness to it. We talked about it a little as we were driving home, but for the most part, Baby Girl was quiet and contemplative. 

And to be honest, I was really depressed about the whole ordeal. I was sad that it happened and even more so that she had to witness it. But as I sat here reading the charity chapter in Say Goodbye to Survival Mode and reflected back to the encounter with Baby Girl at the cookie booth, I thought better of it.

Yes, the situation stinks. But it's going to be okay. And it's not the worst thing to happen to us.

Charity begins in the heart. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money (many times, it's free!) It's incredibly easy to focus on our own lives. Our own problems. Our own schedules. But in truth, it takes only a minute to look outside ourselves and see the needs that surround us.

  • The elderly neighbor
  • The new mother
  • The struggling family
  • Those in hospitals
  • Those in nursing homes
  • Animal shelters
  • Homeless shelters
  • The frustrated waitress/waiter/barista/cashier
  • Postal Worker/FedEx Driver/UPS Driver
  • Teacher/Childcare Giver
  • Police Officer/EMT/Nurse
I'm challenging myself this week to think outside myself and do something for someone.

What about you?

Until next time...

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Work It, Girl {Say Goodbye to Survival Mode}

I have been following Crystal Paine over at Money Saving Mom for a couple of years. She brings Biblical wisdom to money matters and doesn't just preach it; she lives it.

Soon after she and her husband got married, they made a vow that they would not incur any debt while he finished going to law school. Through blood, sweat, tears (mostly hers), they made it. What's more, they took their financial goals a giant leap further and vowed to pay for their house with cash. And they did it!

For a woman who not only teaches but takes her own sound advice, you really can't help but to be inspired.

Not too long ago, my friend and I were were taking a sabbatical from Facebook. I subscribe to many bloggers who are linked with others. (in)courage is one such blog. It was through this blog that I learned of Crystal's new book, Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode.

Survival Mode. 

This was a term I used with some of the ladies at work during our book study many months ago. I have felt that I am in survival mode for a long time. The problem was, I didn't know what to do about it. I felt lost, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Stuck in a rut. That was me.

When Crystal offered a 7 Day Say Goodbye to Survival Mode challenge, I signed up. (I knew I couldn't afford to buy the book, so I was very grateful that she was offering a small sampling of her wisdom.)

Each morning, I would log into my email and anxiously wait for the latest issue to arrive. I found myself drawn to what Crystal was saying. It certainly wasn't anything new. And it wasn't anything I hadn't heard before. It just clicked this time around.

For those who don't regularly follow me, this is my first year teaching. For those of you who are teaching, you know how hectic your first year can be. I have nothing to compare my first year to (obviously), but it's pretty intense. I think it's like any new job where you're getting your footing and learning. The only difference is that with teaching, you're getting your footing for the whole first year (and I've spoken to some teachers who say it's more like three years. Whew!)

I was ready for a change and I started by following what was in Crystal's 7 Day Challenge.

Then, there was a book giveaway. I was one of the lucky recipients of a free book!

I don't believe in fate. But I do believe that things happen in God's perfect timing. I believe that this book was meant to fall into my hands so that I could start making some changes. (Lord knows I have been crying out to Him for a long time!)

***A side note: I have permission from Crystal (through Amy, her assistant), to talk about Crystal's book in my blog. All the links in this post (and future posts) will link to Crystal's website. There are no affiliate links in this post. Period.  I am also offering this blog series as a self-help for me and so all of you can keep me accountable. I did not receive a free book in exchange for my opinion on the book. Instead, I wanted follow Crystal's lead. She uses her blog to update her readers about her own personal goals. (This is a blog that helps sustain her family, folks - but if she does that on a business blog, it only makes sense that I might like to try it on a personal one.)***

I look at successful people at wonder how they got their success. Were they born with it? Were they lucky? I didn't know and to be honest, people aren't always quick to share how they got where they are. (There are exceptions, of course - Crystal, for example). But because people weren't sharing and all I saw was the success (as opposed to the struggle), I came to my own conclusions.

It just happened.

Guess what?

It doesn't just happen.

Successful people work at being successful.

Who knew? I didn't.

So, how do successful people work it? They set goals that they write down and work on daily. Daily. Not once a week. Not sometimes. Every. Single. Day.


So, naturally, as I'm reading through Saving Goodbye to Survival Mode I'm stopping and doing the little "homework" assignments. I even found a brand name spiral notebook to take notes...and boy have I been taking notes!

I will share some of my goals a little later, but do you see that graphic at the top of this blog post? That's a small sampling of my to do list today. And while I didn't take pictures of it, I've got three things marked off of it today. (This post will make #4!)

I've never been one to use to do lists. I'll use shopping lists - they help keep me focused and stop me from spending extra money I don't have.

Do you know what a to do list does?

It keeps me focused and stops me from spending wasting time I don't have. I just came to that realization. Literally just as I was writing that sentence. But it's the truth! My to do list has kept me focused on what I need to do. I even found an online timer and set it for 30 minutes and didn't do anything but worked on the task at hand. (Crystal borrows a bit of wisdom from Marla Cilley aka FlyLady and suggests working for 15 minutes. But I knew the work I had to do could be done for longer.)

You know what I found out? The task didn't take as long as I thought it would it usually does.

Focused work gets the job done.

Who knew?

Until next time...

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Faithful One {Book Review}

The Faithful One is a modern re-telling of the story of Job. Seth Jacobs is a renowned chef who owns a chain of upscale restaurants called The Perfect Place. He is so successful that there happens to be The Perfect Place restaurants in every single state in the country. He has a beautiful wife, three successful children who are skilled in various areas. Life is good.
But this all changes one fateful day when he gets stuck in traffic on the way to a dinner honoring a would-be presidential candidate at one of his restaurants. Seth is thrown into a downward spiral of catastrophic events that leaves his whole picture-perfect world is shambles.
As he questions God about his recent lack of luck, Seth's three friends (an agnostic lawyer, a doctor and a rabbi) attempt to shed light on their theories as to why God is punishing him. Seth searches his heart and cannot see truth in his friends' theories. Instead, it takes the gentle, but strong voice of a chance meeting with a stranger that truly opens Seth's heart to take a good listen to what God is saying.
I snagged this book because 1) it was free and 2) the storyline was intriguing. As I began to read the book and follow along with Seth on his worst-day-in-the-history-of-worst-days day, I rolled my eyes. It sounded trite and almost comical. But when I thought about it further, I soon realized that this is how bad news is dealt to us. It is one blow after another, after another, after another until we wonder if we're KO. We're reaching for the ropes, eyes swollen shut, blood dripping onto the ring wondering how much more we can take. There are times when we just wish our opponent would take us out and we could call it quits.
This is how Seth Jacobs felt at his lowest of lows. And this is why I fully sympathized with him during his quest to find answers to seemingly lost questions.
If you are familiar with Job in the Bible, then you can probably guess how Seth's journey ends, but Michele Chynoweth puts just enough of a modern spin that you can still be pleasantly surprised by the end. Or if you're like me, you can struggle with the decisions he makes and wonder, if faced with the same set of circumstances, would you make the same choices?
Until next time...

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