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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

I just closed another show yesterday and it was a good one. If you ever get the chance to see You Can’t Take It With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, do it. Written in 1937, the message is still relevant today. I won’t got through the whole play for you (but you should!), but I wanted to share with you something that resonated with me. When I say resonated, it hit me right in the gut the first time I heard it. Hard. It coincides with what I’m going through right now, life decisions that I’m making. Here’s a little speech from Grandpa Vanderhoff in Act III to help you understand. He’s speaking to Mr. Kirby, a businessman with indigestion and anxiety whose son wants to marry Grandpa’s granddaughter. Mr. Kirby is against the match because Grandpa’s family, the Sycamores, are not the typical family. They don’t hold regular jobs and happiness is their main goal rather than the “American Dream” of making money. They’re not rich, but they’re really a happy family. Grandpa understands that Mr. Kirby is unhappy with his life, even though he is incredibly successful, but Mr. Kirby won’t see it. After learning that Mr. Kirby had originally aspired to be a trapeze artist and a saxophone player as a young man but put those dreams away when his father “knocked it out of him”, Grandpa tells him this:

“Where does the fun come in? Don’t you think there ought to be something more, Mr. Kirby? You must have wanted more than that when you started out. We haven’t got too much time you know- any of us.

“How many of us would be willing to settle when we’re young for what we eventually get? All those plans we make… what happens to them? It’s only a handful of the lucky ones that can look back and say that they even came close. So… before they clean out that closet, Mr. Kirby, I think I’d get in a few good hours on that saxophone.” (Hart and Kaufman)

I’m at the point in my life where I need the few good hours on my proverbial saxophone. I need the fun. I need to not wish my life away. I feel like I’m on the brink of change, I just don’t know what it is.

Maybe you don’t know either. Maybe you recognize that your life isn’t going the way you want it. It doesn’t mean that you’re not grateful for being employed or whatever, just that  you recognize that you need to make some changes in your life because it’s not your path.

I’m working on my path.

I’m curious. Are you happy? Or have you realized that you’ve been sacrificing your happiness for something else? Share if you’d like, support is good. Comments are welcome.

Much love to you all.

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Coming out of a deep, but thankfully short, depression hole a couple of nights ago, I was reminded again to take in the beauty around me and to be thankful.

I love looking at the sky. I always have, no matter what the weather. I love the moon in all of its phases, the clear perfect blue of a crisp autumn morning, even the tempestuous storm clouds as they angrily dance by.

This morning, the sunrise was stunning as I was driving to work. Streaks of blue, pink, gold, purple, and orange blended together to take my breath away. The Detroit skyline was in the distance and wispy, pink-edged clouds were beginning to fill in for the rain that will come later today.

I was amazed, even though I’ve seen many sunrises. They never get old. God is a wonderful artist.

I was happy.

May you find something today that takes your breath away. If you do, tell me about it.

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Just a little note on a cold Monday night to let you all know that you’re amazing, wonderful, and you can get through whatever it is you’re going through.

Image result for happy memes

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Well, it’s official. After seven and a half years, including student teaching, subbing, actual full-time employment, and some major student loans that I will be paying off until I retire, I’m leaving the classroom. For good.

Am I bitter, angry, disillusioned? Eh, definitely not bitter or angry, and mostly not disillusioned. Well, disillusionment plays a part in my decision, but it’s not the main reason. There were a lot of factors that figured in to my decision and months of going back and forth. In the end, I decided to leave, mostly for my mental health and for my family’s well-being.

One thing I don’t like about my decision is that I’m leaving in the middle of the year. I know that sucks and most teachers I know wouldn’t do that without a really good reason, but here’s the thing: I feel like I have really good reasons, which I’ll get to momentarily. Will the students be upset? Some of them, I’m sure, for a little while. I have an email address for school that they will be able to use to stay in touch with me if they so choose and my friend, who just happens to be the classroom assistant (I can’t just call her my assistant; it sounds so clinical and she’s so much more than that), will be there for the rest of the year, so their world will not be shattered. In the end, I have to balance the students’ needs against mine and my family’s and this is a case where I feel I have to make a break.

You might be asking yourself what could be so bad that a fairly seasoned teacher would choose to leave in the middle of the year and that would be a fair question. Here are my thoughts

Let me get one thing straight to start: I love to work and to be useful. I hate being lazy and unproductive, lest my gentle readers get the impression that I desire to be a lady of leisure. Staying home all day without anything to do but clean the house or cook would make me insane. I do have a new job to go to, which I will touch on later. My depression, however, has been progressively getting worse during the working months. In the years that I have been teaching, I’ve noticed a major difference between my depression levels from September through June and June through the end of August, something that I had never felt before in any part of my working life, and I’ve been working since I was 15 years old.  During the past few school years that I have taught, I have felt like I made the wrong career choice, yet I was loathe to quit because I had invested so much money and time into this career.

The stressors that come with teaching, parent conflicts and student behavior are at the top of that list, seem to affect me in a huge way that I have not been able to overcome, no matter how much I try. I replay them in my head over and again in a frustrating loop. I have attempted to make peace with this in therapy, but to no avail. These are things that all teachers deal with and most teachers take in stride. While they’re not a pleasant part of the job, people like my husband are able to brush those inconveniences off and go on with their passion for teaching students, many for thirty years or more.

My mother-in-law was one such teacher, working well past standard retirement age for the sheer love of her job. When she eventually retired, she welcomed the break, but to this day remembers her teaching years with extreme fondness. Former students still stop her, no matter where she is, and catch her up on their lives. She was a fabulous teacher who touched a lot of lives. I am not that kind of teacher. In the past couple of years, I have dreaded the end of breaks, half-heartedly put together student projects, and felt my tolerance for even normal student behaviors dwindle. This is not fair to the students. They deserve to have an enthusiastic teacher who gets excited about new classroom ideas on Pinterest and has the patience for a pack of exuberant elementary students, not one who just tweaks an old project from the last year and loses her patience more quickly than she should.

I found myself losing interest in other things that I love, especially over this past year: writing, reading for pleasure, going out with friends. My social anxiety about going places has gotten worse. I’ve declined invitations for work parties and to be with people who I really love being with because I’m panicking in the anticipation of going out into situations where I am absolutely terrified that I will look and feel ridiculous. Mind you, it doesn’t usually end up that way, but that’s the stupid thing about anxiety, which tends to worsen with stress.

There will be some who really criticize me for not only leaving teaching, but leaving in January as opposed to finishing out the year. Those people can think what they want, but I have to do what’s best for me and my health right now. I have put this off for as long as I think I can.

Am I whining? No, I don’t think so. I think I’ve laid things out in a rational way. I’ve simply come to the realization that I am not cut out to be a classroom teacher. I also understand that any job will have its issues, but as a wise friend and neighbor so eloquently put it, I’m ready for a different set of problems. There are people who are fabulous teachers, who love their jobs because teaching is their passion. I am, regretfully, not one of them. I admire teachers like my husband, my mother-in-law, my Aunt-Mom, my sister-in-law, and several friends who are committed to being in the classroom. Lord knows our children need it. When I think about spending the next thirty years teaching, part of my soul wilts a little.

So if I won’t be teaching, what will I do all day? Well, I’m very pleased to say that I have accepted the job as full-time Office Administrator at my church. I am excited by the prospect of being a help to a place that has a special place in my heart and that I will be able to be a face for the church. I think the work will suit me well and I will have more time to work on my writing, rather than stressing about parents and students. It will be a new beginning for me and for my family. Hopefully, this change will give me some breathing room to work on myself while I still contribute financially to our family. I would love to be more present for my kids instead of feeling the guilt that I’m spending much more time with other children. In short, I want to be happy again. If I’m happy, I know that that will carry over into my family, a win-win situation.

I have high hopes for good things.

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Last week I wrote about pet peeves, things that drive us insane at times. I do like to keep things balanced, so this week I’m writing about things that bring me joy.

Joy is different than happiness, a term that I use in to describe my constant feelings about certain parts of my life. For example, I have happiness in my marriage. That’s something that is all the time; a state, if you will, rather than a moment. Do I have moments of joy in my marriage? Undoubtedly, yes! But in my mind, joy is one of those things that happens spontaneously, a moment that catches you off-guard and can take your breath away while filling you with, well, joy!

For me, joy can be elusive. It’s not that I want to be joyless, but depression makes it hard to feel good things sometimes. Therefore, when I do experience something that brings true joy, the feeling is so profound that it stays with me. Moments of joy give me hope and keep me going. From the silly to the sacred, reactions vary from genuine laughter from deep inside to quiet awe and reverence. Here are some of my favorite things that bring me joy.

When Marty Man does something romantic. We’ve been married a long time, but he still has that power to make my heart flutter. It can be the surprise book that he ordered for me because he knew I would want it, the spontaneous, “I love you” that drifts across the couch, or even just a look that he sends my way. My husband brings me joy.

Connecting with my kids. I love my boys, always, but when we have a moment, whether it’s snuggle time or a good conversation, it makes my heart swell. They get closer to being on their own every day, which makes those moments precious to me.

Baby belly giggles. Completely unresistable. Hands down one of my favorite sounds in the entire world. I dissolve into a puddle of joy. It’s so real, so genuine. I can take on the world after hearing a baby lose it in laughter.

The ocean. Wild, raw, powerful, untamable. I love being around water in any case, but something about the ocean just fills my whole being when I watch it. I could stand there for hours.

Travel. Not necessarily the nitty-gritty parts of it, but the very thought of going somewhere, especially somewhere on my bucket list, is more exciting than Christmas morning. Right now, I’m looking forward to Italy. One month from today I’ll be in Rome. The anticipation is wonderful, but the reality will be even better. Even the opportunity to drive someone else to or from the airport makes me giddy, because it’s a wonderful place. I know, I’m a dork, but that’s okay.

Sleeping babies in my arms. I can’t even explain. Settling a baby down so that he or she is sleeping in your arms is amazing. They’re just so perfect, so innocent and beautiful.

Feeling God’s presence or understanding when He’s at work. When I’m reading the Bible or something related and a point just hits home, there’s no mistaking it, especially after I’ve been through a rough patch and the result is something that I never would have expected or planned for, but I know is right. The awareness that comes through and the feeling of being close to Him is indescribable, but joy is in that mix so it definitely belongs on my list. He is my everything.

Seeing the sun and clear blue sky after several cloudy ones. Relief, just pure relief and joy. I don’t know if this is a depression thing, but I do know that people, in general, feel better when it’s sunny out. It’s especially joy-inducing when it has been hot, awful, and muggy. I hate muggy. It makes my skin crawl, so when that lifts after several days and the sky is that clear, clear blue, it’s heavenly.

Music. I don’t know where I’d be without music. It helps to cope with or enhance every emotion, from the dark deep holes I can get into to the best moments in my life. There is a song for every feeling, every day, every time. Music understands.

Writing. I amost didn’t include this one, because when I write, I have to fight the nagging feeling at the back of my mind that tells me I should be doing laundry, or cleaning, or something else mundane because writing feels like such a guilty pleasure, but the times when I really just put that on the back burner and allow myself to get lost in my story or my blog are really full of joy. I love to write and I wish that I could make more time to do it. A work in progress, yes?

I’d love to know what brings you joy. Life is hard, joy gets us through.

Until next time.

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Autumn is here!!! I’m so excited! Temps are cooler, leaves are changing, the bugs are (slowly) dying. We can light fires in the fireplace, go to the apple orchard, even though we don’t go very often, and celebrate Oktoberfest over at the neighbors’ house. Fall is my favorite season of the year. Winter is Michigan is beautiful, but evilly cold and sloppy. I loathe the heat and humidity of summer. Spring is nice, although too short as we tend to jump right from winter to summer here, but autumn has all of the feels that I adore. It’s a welcome respite after sweating since the middle of May, about a week after it stops snowing. No kidding: we had the air conditioning on less than a week after turning the heat off this year, 50 degrees to 95 degrees in a couple of days. Anything over 82 makes me want to melt, so these last couple weeks of beautiful weather has been a balm for the soul. The 75% cool weather British Isles/Northern European mutt part of me trumps the 25% hot weather Sicilian part every time.

Some of my favorite memories of fall were made when I was working for Greenfield Village. For those who are not Michiganders, Greenfield Village is an 80-acre complex that is a part of The Henry Ford, an institution founded by Henry Ford in 1929, an outdoor museum consisting of many buildings, most original, some not, that are important to American history. I worked there for almost eleven years, mostly in the Village, and loved every bit of it. It’s a serious thrill to be around buildings and objects that have seen so much history. I worked in the museum a bit, not as exciting to me, but the majority of my time was spent in the Village.

I worked on Firestone Farm for three years. Firestone Farm is the farmhouse and barn where the tire mogul, Harvey Firestone, was born and raised in Columbiana County, Ohio. It was moved to Greenfield Village, piece by piece, in the 1980s and has since functioned as a working farm from the 1880s. There, I learned to cook on a coal-burning stove, to care for farm animals, and to run a house with no running water, which comes in handy when the kitchen sink breaks. We sheared sheep, butchered pigs, washed dishes by hand, and grew crops on nine acres. They still do. Every season had its chores and jobs, but autumn was the best! It was harvest time, when all of the hard work over the summer was finally coming to an end. The canning was done, no more weeding, and the little kitchen was snug and cozy.

Fall mornings on the farm were my favorite. The walk from the building where we punched in at the time clock to the farmhouse served as a portal through time. With our shawls pulled tight against the chill and bonnets properly on, the employee parking lot gave way to a small pond at Ford Motor Company and then the back barnyard where, if it had been a nice night, the horses were waiting outside for us, particularly my favorite, Mouse. They knew that they were about to get fed so they would follow us along the last bit of the road, snorting, their breath visible in the frosty autumn air as we greeted them. The sun would be just rising when we got there, bathing the house, barn, and frosty fields in a rosy glow. We would crunch down the gravel path, house people and barn people separating and going their ways. Although we knew that very soon, our little world would be filled with visitors, it was, for the moment, our own private farm and we settled into our roles. Outside, animals were fed, the barn was cleaned, cows milked, water barrels filled. Inside the house, the stove and fireplace were cleaned and lit, water was pumped for cooking, dishes, and washing (nothing modern there), cooking started, and coffee beans ground. When the morning chores were done, just before opening, there would be coffee and cheese toast for all in the still-chilly-but-warming-up kitchen. Cheese toast, made of homemade bread, butter, and large slices of muenster or cheddar, toasted in the oven of a coal stove, I’m convinced, is food of the gods. I’ve tried to replicate it at home in the oven and toaster oven, but it is never the same. Those quiet, still, moments are some of my best memories.

Another favorite part of the season was The Headless Horseman, a magical evening program. Back before the Village streets were repaved with curbs, some of us farm folk would act out the story of poor Ichabod Crane and his fateful meeting with the headless Hessian soldier, as written by Washington Irving. We would pile visitors in the horse-drawn wagon and as they traveled through the village, a black-caped storyteller (my Marty) would tell them the tale as it came to life in front of their eyes with real characters and horses. They saw lanky Ichabod, plump-as-a-partridge Katrina Van Tassel, Bram Bones, and other partygoers dancing at the Van Tassel house, normally the Giddings House during the day. The wagon then went where normal visitors never went during the day, into the woods in back of the Village. They watched Ichabod ride away from the party on his borrowed horse, Gunpowder, and followed him through the woods where he met the infamous Headless Horseman, who wore a fabulous costume designed by our period clothing department. The Horseman rode one of our big, black, Percheron horses and would burst out of the woods with an explosion of fire. The entrance was so impressive it terrified our horse that originally played Gunpowder and we had to use a different one. The visitors witnessed the chase through the woods as the wagon raced after them, the woods illuminated by fire barrels, Marty’s voice rising with the action. The chase continued back through the Village, past the Susquehanna Plantation House where the Headless Horseman picked up a flaming pumpkin, just like in the story. They would race on horseback all the way to the covered bridge where, as the story goes, the horseman’s power ended, but by the time the wagon slowed down to approach the bridge, there were only the remains of a smashed pumpkin and Ichabod’s tricorn hat. The schoolmaster was never seen again, at least, not until the next show. After the wagon had crossed through the fog-filled bridge, they would hear the thundering hooves of the giant horse on the wooden planks and would turn to see one last glimpse of the horseman, sword held high, still searching for a head.

That program was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. The horses enjoyed it, too. They would be pacing, raring to go before each performance. We did that program for three seasons and I was able to play Katrina, Headless, and work behind the scenes with lights and props. Unfortunately, the new roads meant that we couldn’t race horses around in the dark anymore, but it was something that we put our hearts and souls into. There’s nothing quite like racing a horse around the Village at night, pounding up a hill and through a bridge through the darkness, praying to God that they can see better than you can. At the end of it all, we would be exhausted, but exhilarated, ready for the next year. They have a very cool Headless Horseman for the Halloween Walk now, but it’s not the same.

My time there was full of moments like that, too many to list here, but every autumn when I can feel the change in the air, my mind returns to those days. I know that I can never go back; the combination of people and circumstances could never be duplicated, but the memories are rich and I treasure them. Oldest child works there now, not on a particular site, but as a seasonal presenter. He gets to work the Halloween Walk this year and I hope he makes as many wonderful memories as I did. I’m a bit sad, though, that he won’t experience what I did. That being said, this seems like a good day to go and wander the Village to relive some memories.

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