Thursday, December 26, 2019

Here's To New Beginnings

13 months ago I leapt head first back into working full-time. Head first into one of the craziest, unpredictable, and rewarding jobs I've ever had. Working full-time with hundreds of teenage humans and all their emotions, drama day after day took me far outside my elementary teacher bubble and gave me such insight and empathy to the daily struggle of teens in my community. 

Today was bittersweet as I said good-bye to Huron High School and the amazing staff that work there. The last 13 months have been a unique concoction of crazy, teenage drama, frenzied multi-tasking, and connection with some of the greatest educators I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. (And I’ve worked with some fabulous people!) I am so thankful that I got to be a River Rat and I will miss Huron staff and students terribly.  

BUT...... when the universe presents you with an opportunity that you can’t ignore, you go for it. When the Main Office Professional position opened up at Logan Elementary - Emy’s school which is walking distance from our house, I had to apply. And I got it. It still feels surreal to say that, but I got the position that I dreamed of holding since first returning to work in 2018. 

And so, I embark on another new adventure, I'll have a manageable commute - 7 minute walk, I won't have to stress about being there to pick Emy up on time after school, and I get to work with a community that I love being a part of.

Here's to taking chances, new beginnings, and things working out of the best! Let the adventure begin!


Wednesday, December 12, 2018


I almost didn’t go.
Today was all kinds of crazy. Another epic roller coaster that left me dazed and slightly nauseous. The pace of this job. Man, it's intense. 

 I was D-O-N-E, DONE. All I wanted was my pjs, my couch, and a giant glass of water. Yes, water. I’m severely dehydrated. Aren’t we all? Drinking enough water in a day requires refilling water bottles  and frequent trips to the bathroom. Two things I don’t often have time to do during the day. 

It was getting to the point where if I didn’t leave, I’d miss it entirely. I'd taken alway all my excuses for not going at 6am this morning. 6 AM  Christy knows that 4:15 PM Christy will easily succumb to all the reasons why NOT. Transportation is tricky, I’m exhausted, I’m hungry, I am finally being productive for the first time today, there are 95 other things I should be doing at home, IT'S JUST TOO MUCH. Blah, blah, blah. 4:00pm Christy is a real grump. 
But 6:00AM Christy anticipated this. She packed the clothes, brought the mat, booked the class, told multiple people of the plan.... Made all the right choices, but still. In a moment of weakness, fueled by anxiety, and caffeine, I cancelled the class. Chose not to arrange the Lyft. Told myself it was okay, maybe tomorrow. 

But then the phone rang.  Voices of my two favorite people were there, one sweet, sing-songy and the other measured, logical, firm, but loving. Checking in. Reminding me why I needed to go, why taking time to take care of myself is crucial. They offered to come get me, drop me off, interupt their plans so I could keep mine. 


I closed all my open tabs (9 if you’re curious. My internet browser is always a clear indication of how (un)focused my brain is), shut the computer down, arranged a Lyft, and left. 

I went. 
I showed up. And it’s no surprise to anyone that I don’t regret it one damn bit. 

Yoga is how I show myself I matter. It’s how I remind my hyper-critical, anxious brain that I can do hard things. And that things aren’t always as hard and complicated as I tell myself they will be. 

I show up for others every day. At work. At home. On the bus. I show up. I’m there. Friendly, smiling, heart wide-open, ready to work, love, and cheer on the underdogs - Present. With a capital P.  

Tonight I showed up for me. I went to yoga. Breathed deeply for what felt like the first time in weeks. I stumbled through poses, legs and arms shaking, falling out of them at times. I forced my mind to focus on the here and now. This breath. This movement. I allowed myself to be still. 
I walked home. I listened to a podcast that made me laugh. I called my mom. I reflected. I wrote. I showed up. For me. 

I really should do this more often. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Big Changes Are a Coming: Christy's Edition (Part 2)

Friday 12 PM - Walking out of my therapist's office, I felt good. Great even. It had been a positive session. All the time, energy, and effort I had been putting forth was finally paying off. There was a measurable difference in how I felt now compared to how I felt just 4 months ago when I began this endeavor. It was kind of astounding.

Dr. Q. and I talked in depth about this shift that was taking place. That I was starting to view the future as positive opportunities rather than full of fear and uncertainty. That I was feeling confident in my abilities to handle change and open to possibility. That I am stronger than I ever give myself credit for and have a lot to offer (hypothetical) potential employers. That while I always intellectually knew these things to be true, I actually believed them to be.

I climbed in the car and began chatting with Josh. I wanted to share my revelations and was trying to articulate how it feels to return to yourself after a long, arduous journey with two unwelcome companions, (Depression and Anxiety), when my phone rang.

It was Huron High School looking to schedule an interview the following Tuesday morning for the position of Class Secretary/ Office Professional. Excited and surprised by the suddenness of it all, I'm not entirely sure that my agreement on the date and time were coherent, but arrangements were made for a two-part interview Tuesday, a mere 4 days away.

Friday 2 PM - Full of butterflies and nervous energy, I was happy to find Emy's school secretary alone in the main office when I went to volunteer later. Blurting out the news of the upcoming interview and questions about what the second part - the skills test might entail. I was quickly reassured by Mrs. B that I'd be fine and in her opinion if I wanted it, the job was probably mine to be had.

Tuesday 8:50 AM - The morning of the interview arrived and unsurprisingly I was my nervous self. But unlike the other interview I'd gone on last fall, I was a reasonable amount of nervous. I felt confident and ready, for once taking solace in the fact that the only thing I had to do was be my friendly self and see where this goes.

And it went.
Or so I thought.

Tuesday 10:15 AM - Walking to the bus stop, I texted my best friend about how the interview went alright, commenting on how out of practice I felt during the skills test and asked if there would come a time when I'd feel less nervous and not stumble over my answers as much. Knowingly she replied that I'd always feel nervous and asked me how it felt being there.

And that's the thing; having spent so much time in so many different schools, I've developed an ability to quickly asses a school environment and gauge how welcoming it may or may not be. It's not an exact science, more of a gut reaction, but I've personally found it to be pretty sport on.

Huron felt special. Everyone I interacted with was friendly and polite. The vibe was welcoming and kind and I could tell that I was amongst professionals who care deeply about students and education. My kind of people. Conveying this to her via text, I was struck by the notion that I was disappointed the interview hadn't gone better, because I was fairly certain I'd enjoy working there.

Tuesday 11:30 AM - Josh came home from lunch and found me consoling myself over a rather large bowl of popcorn. I'm not sure he believed me when I told him I'd already eaten my salad and this was dessert, but what can you do? At least it wasn't alcohol.  We sat at the table and I rattled off all my perceived errors and all the reasons why I wouldn't be getting this job. He listed patiently and then calmly asked for me to tell him the things that had gone well. Flustered, I forced myself to focus on the positive and was  reluctant to admit, but pleasantly surprised by the number of examples I was able to give. During our lunch, we were interrupted by Amanda, saying she'd just gotten a message from the Assistant Principal at Huron who was calling to check my references. That's the beauty of having a best friend listed as one of your references, they'll be sure to give you a heads up when things are about to go down.

Tuesday 4:00 PM - Walking towards Emy's classroom to pick her up from school, I was stopped by her principal, who happens to be another one of the references I'd been listing on applications. With a smile, he said he'd gotten a call about me from the same Assistant Principal at Huron and he sang my praises. When I revealed he was the second reference I'd heard from that afternoon, and that I'd only interviewed this morning, he cautioned that the process may take longer that it appeared at the moment and not to get discouraged if I didn't hear anything for a day or two.

Tuesday 4:50 PM - I got a call from Ann Arbor Public Schools Human Resources offering me the job.

Sometimes, when you finally admit that you're ready, the Universe says, "It's about damn time." and things start falling into place.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Big Changes Are a Coming: Christy's Edition

I got a job last week.
I start on Monday.

A little back story.......

I've been applying for jobs for about 6 months now. Encouragement (ie: Pressure) from my LTD company, along with a growing desire to figure out what I want to be doing with my life set these wheels in motion and for well over a year I've been obsessively thinking about returning to work.
I subscribed to all the major job finder websites, and my inbox was flooded daily with job postings that ranged from feasible to down-right ridiculous. (It's amazing how many jobs were recommended to me that required driving skills.) Several times a week I'd spend hours reading through them, analyzing the requirements and duties listed, trying to discern from a few paragraphs what this job actually was. Was I qualified? What would the work environment be like? Would it be too stressful? Would I be challenged, yet not overwhelmed? What sort of visual skills were required? Would the company be willing to make reasonable accommodations for my vision impairments? Could I get to and from the place of business by bus? Was the commute time & distance reasonable? Would I need childcare? Was it enough (money/interest/opportunity) to risk losing my LTD insurance?

I'm sure you're surprised to find out that my anxiety has been off the charts for the last year.

The idea of going back to work is both exhilarating and terrifying.  It's been 5 years since I've left teaching. FIVE. And while leaving the classroom was certainly the best decision for my physical and mental health, thereby making it the best choice for my family; surrendering to my disability felt like failure to me in so many ways. Just the idea of putting myself out there again, reentering the work force, only to (possibly) have to admit once again that my low-vision prevents me from successfully holding down a job, was (is) paralyzing.  But with A LOT of support from career counselors, therapists, my husband and daughter, family, and friends - I began putting myself out there.

I hadn't interviewed for a job since 2004. Aside from the one summer I worked at Busch's grocery store to help pay for my Masters, it's been 14 years since I've done any of this - created resumes, applied for jobs, waited anxiously for interviews to be set up, and then the impossibly long wait to hear any news regarding the position. Let me tell you, I didn't miss it for one second. But I did it and applied for jobs that I thought might be a good fit. I even began to get a little excited about all the possibilities.

In October, I went on my first interview and didn't completely bomb it. The position was not the right fit for me so I was only mildly surprised and disappointed that I wasn't offered a second interview.

Once November hit, I decided to take a hiatus from applying, figuring I'd start back up again in January. Or maybe I'd wait until April. Or May and look for something that would start in September, when Emy goes back to school. Slowly losing steam, not really sure what I wanted, afraid of the unknown, I was pretty willing to make a decision by not doing anything at all.

But January came. And with it came the feeling of hope, fresh starts, and resolutions to change old habits. As he had been doing for months, Josh, (my relentless cheerleader and Chief Encourager) sent me some job postings. The role of Class Secretary/Office Professional at middle and high schools around the Ann Arbor school district piqued my interest. There were several positions available, two of which were at Huron High School, Josh's alma mater and a mere 2.4 miles from my house. Reasonably confident in my qualifications and ability to perform the duties, I was also excited about the job itself.
So I applied.

Then theoretical became reality, awfully fast.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

7 is Going to be Magical

My Darling Emeline,
Do you remember when I used to sing this to you? Changing Clementine to Emeline was a far easier swap than some of the darker, more tragic lines of this American classic. We'd snuggle in tight, arms and legs entwined, and I'd try desperately, to come up with clever and soothing words that would instantly lull you to sleep.
Oh my darling, 
Oh my darling, 
Oh my darlin' Emeline 
You are sleepy, and it's bedtime
Close your eyes Emeline. 

It rarely worked.
Which should come to no surprising to anyone who's ever met you. You, my dear, are hard to convince to do anything you're not already ready and willing to do. And once your mind is made up, you are hard to deter.
Although there are occasions when  you (and I) may think otherwise; I love this fierce stubborn side of you. It gives you a strength and independence that you and I have both relied on many times over the years, and will continue to drive you forward as you age.

We're so close to the age where you don't want Mom & Dad hanging around all the time. You beg to be dropped off at birthday parties and soccer practices, telling us you "need sometime with just my friends." You readily accept sleepover invitations and are diligent in your never-ending negotiation for walking to and from school alone. As you learn to be independent, your dad and I are learning to let go.  Sometimes it's quite easy and we are more than willing to do so. Birthday parties for instance provide an excellent chances for a quick date with your dad, even if it's just grabbing coffee and running a quick errand. Other things, like letting you walk to and from school (1/4 mile each way) alone, I'm just not ready for you to do solo.

Sneaking in a day date after dropping E off for a birthday party
A couple of weeks before school let out, while walking home from school, our beloved crossing-guard told you that you'd remember these small moments - walking to and from school, hand in hand with me, for the rest of your life. He still remembers walking with his mother over 60 years ago. You giggled nervously, something you've been doing more and more frequently, when a conversation gets too sincere and real. You gave an awkward smile and nodded your acknowledgement, too polite to ignore his comments, but too uncertain to respond. I verbalized what you could not, "I hope she does, I certainly will. These are my favorite times of each day."

And they are. Walking you to and from school, talking about the day, observing the sights and sounds of our neighborhood, these are the best moments of my days. It fills my heart to see you skip ahead, singing to yourself, occasionally pausing to say  good morning to a neighbor. My heart bubbles over with love hen you slide your hand into mine, the gentle reminder that while you may not need me as much these days, you still choose, at least for this moment. to be by my side.

We celebrated Summer Vacation by getting pedicures and manicures; your first time having them done in a salon. You were so excited and were dead set on us having matching colors and you picked shiny sparkly blue for our toes and bright iridescent fuchsia for our finger nails. Not necessarily my first choices of color, but I embraced the moment. After all, how much longer will you want to have matching anything with me?

Our toes didn't quite match because Emy got special flowers painted on hers.

 We had the best time that afternoon and I realized how magical of an age 7 is and what a fantastic year we are going to have.

You're so grown-up in so many ways.  You have your own thoughts, interestsm and opinions. You can carry on conversations with ease and are easily able to entertain yourself for hours. You also enjoy doing things your dad and I enjoy doing, like going to town events, or taking yoga in the park with me. It's so fun to experience these activities together.
You're generally an excellent listener. While there are occasions you still require multiple reminders about transitions, expectations, or directions, they're increasingly rare.
You carry and are responsible for your own stuff, needing very few reminders to keep track of it when we are out and about. You  have a far better memory than I do, which comes in handy daily. You are such a solid reader, which helps us navigate buses and environmental print that can be difficult for me to see. You're hilarious and relentlessly optimistic. You keep me laughing and focusing on positive outcomes throughout the day.  Basically, you rock kiddo.
Swimming is so much more enjoyable now that you can swim easily. 

Your dad and I are in awe of the fantastic and interesting human you're growing into. We love you so, so much Emeline. Try to be patient with me as I continue to learn to let you grow and I'll promise to do the same. Learning and growing is hard work my love and I am so thankful to be by your side through it all.

Love always,
Birthday Buddies
Emy & Papa May 27. 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hello 2017!

I'm big on self-improvement and therefore big on making New Year's Resolutions. I'm sure more than a few past therapists would agree that my near constant quest to be BETTER probably stems from my deep-rooted insecurities. Namely, that nagging perfectionist voice inside that occasionally still tries to convince me I'm not good enough. In the past I would have readily agreed with this theory. Especially, considering how I'd get super frustrated and completely give up on all my resolutions if I made one misstep.

Not anymore though. Ever since having Emy, losing my vision, and the million life changes that were consequences of these coinciding events, I've been on a different sort of quest for self-improvement. One that focuses on acceptance, awareness, and discovery. I'm not who I was before May of 2010. I am not who I was in February of 2013 when I left my beloved career. I am not who I was in January of 2016 when we moved to Ann Arbor. I am constantly changing, adapting, evolving and that requires effort to move myself towards goals, but it also requires a good deal of reminding myself that accepting and cherishing where I am, who I am, at any particular moment is a crucial part of the journey.

Angela Amman, a friend and a writer whose work I admire, wrote this piece about choosing a word of the year rather than making a list of resolutions.  I was inspired and did some soul-searching to find the word that best represented my goals for 2017.

I'm in a pretty good place mentally, physically, figuratively, and literally. I made some big changes in the past couple years that are impacting my life positively and I want to keep that momentum going and maybe ramp it up a little.
So the word I chose for 2017 is ...
photo used with permission

MORE. As in love more, do more yoga, write more, eat more fruits and veggies, more exercise. Nebe more patient with my family and myself. I want more of all the good stuff I've already been focusing on. More time with friends and family who make my soul happy, more reading, more music, more one on one time with Josh, more self-care, more experiences that help me be more present.

I could go on and on. But you get the idea. I want to hold the word MORE front and center and make conscious decisions throughout the year. If something adds to my goals, enhances them in a positive way then it's the MORE I'm searching for. If not, then there will be more days and more chances to try again. I firmly believe that by allowing for more forgiveness and acceptance - starting with myself - will directly lead to more peace and joy.

What word best describes your goals for 2017?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Searching for Hope

 Ever since waking up Wednesday morning to a world that feels like we've slipped through the veil of reality into the terrifying depths of  the Upside Down, I've been a mess. I am angry and confused and fearful of a seemingly insurmountable divide in my country. While those feelings are valid and very real, I know that I need to simultaneously allow myself to feel them and prevent them from consuming me. Like oxygen, food, water, shelter, and LOVE, Hope is one of my basic need. I need to feel hopeful to be a functioning human so that I can show up and fulfill the roles of my everyday life - mother, wife, friend, volunteer, neighbor, daughter, sister, etc....  

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

So I began my search - for hope, for the helpers, for acts of love and kindness, evidence that the beliefs I hold true are shared by many. I've been sifting through music, quotes, essays, poems, blogs, images and trying desperately to only linger on the ones that provide comfort.  It's been REALLY HARD because I also believe in being knowledgeable and informed of the world's events, but for sanity's sake I have to find a way to balance the negative emotions that come along with that knowledge.
Here is a small sample of what has brought my comfort and refilled my heart and soul with hope, love, and even glimmers of joy. 

1. Elizabeth Gilbert Facebook post about taking control over our emotions. She discussed the idea that the only thing we really can control is our actions and our reactions. By asking yourself, "Who do I want to be in this situation?" you are returning that control to yourself. This concept is something I've personally been working on and struggling to do consistently for YEARS. Reading her reminder to herself, helped me feel less alone and more in control. I encourage you to read the piece. It really helped shift my perspective and mood.   You can read her full post here
Dallas Clayton is one of my favorite artists. His words never fail to fill me with hope and wonder and I followed his frequent advice to get outside.

2. Getting outside. The weather Wednesday and Thursday was unseasonably warm and sunny for November in Michigan. Harper the Humongous and I went for long walks, appreciating the beauty of our neighborhood in fall and soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible before winter sets in. 
Harper loves the pond even more than I do. 

3. Music. Loud music. Music that releases the negative emotions and comforts. The song Holy War by Alicia Keys has been particularly helpful the last few days. I first heard this song last week and have been a little obsessed with it ever since. Keys'  lyrics have been echoing through my head, like a mantra repeating: 

So we can heal each other and feel each other
We can break these walls between each otherBaby, blow by blow and brick by brickKeep yourself open, yourself openYeah we can heal each other and feel each otherWe can break these walls between each otherBaby, blow by blow and brick by brickKeep yourself open, you openMaybe we should love somebodyMaybe we could care a little more
Maybe we should love somebody
Instead of polishing the bombs of holy war

A reminder that the forward is through LOVE. 

4. Children. Not only my child, but her classmates and schoolmates. Wednesday afternoon I went to Emy's elementary school to help her Art teacher take down student art work and be a second set of hands during Em's art time. I arrived a bit early, just as the other first grade class was preparing to leave. I was greeted by enthusiastic cries of delight, "It's Emy's MOM!!!" One of our neighbor friends came running to me and gave me a gigantic hug. A hug I desperately needed at the moment. And a couple other little friends followed suit. 

I love our school community here. We haven't even lived in Ann Arbor a year, but our neighborhood school is a small, diverse, close-knit community. Many of the students and their families are from all over the world, living in Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan, work at the UofM hospital, or one of the many international companies around town. I am so grateful that my daughter attends a school that embraces the philosophy "We include, not exclude" and she has the opportunity to learn with and from so many varied backgrounds and experiences. And I get to participate in such a vibrant community as a volunteer. We are very lucky. 

5. Smiling Bulldogs. Seriously? Look at Ruby's face. No explanation needed.

6. People. It may seem a little odd given how horrid some people have chosen to behave this week, but the people who are choosing to speak out of love, do good, spread kindness, show up, be an ally, work to support positive change - THESE PEOPLE are filling me with so much hope. I truly believe the path forward is through love and requires the incredibly challenging work of choosing LOVE over hate, OVER and OVER again.

7. The Book With No Pictures. This book is a favorite in our house and my perceptive little girl busted it out Thursday evening knowing we were all need of some laughs. She made us all read it out loud, laughing hysterically with every reading. Here is a snippet of her version. Warning, it gets a little off the rails but she is ridiculously adorable. 

In the days and weeks to come I will continue searching. I know there will be moments that I want to give up and give in to the anger and despair. I'm a pretty optimistic person but I also struggle with depression and anxiety. I pledge to be kind to myself and all those I come in contact with. I will push through the dark to find the light. I am committed to attempting to find a balance between being informed and staying sane. I will take breaks. I will surround myself with people who are committed to spreading love, kindness, and hope and engage in activities that do the same.

Sending you love.