Friday, May 20, 2016

Five Minute Friday.... Expect

A lot of people have been asking me, "So.... is retirement what you expected?" I respond with something rather bland like, "To be honest, it has not really sunk in yet." Then I go back to what I was doing and, in my own quiet moments I ponder the question.

If I had to honestly answer the question, I would have to say that I have not REALLY retired yet. (That becomes official on July 1. That is when the school's fiscal year ends, so I am on contract and paid until that point. Because of that, it is the marker that I am using for actual retirement.) To complicate matters even more, I am working 6 weeks of summer school, beginning next Monday. It adds a bit to my retirement and it keeps the school system from having to train someone else for the reading program.

I may not technically be retired, but I have to say that retirement is just as wonderful (so far) as I expected. I expected to be able to sleep in without setting an alarm and I am so happy that my body clock is already adjusting to that. I am able to stay up a bit later with family and sleep in a bit later each morning. 

I expected less stress and, (so far) that is happening. My biggest stress has been trying to decide what to cook each night and what to crochet or craft next.

I do expect that I will get a teeny bit "bored" from time to time, so I am preparing myself for the idea that I may have to take a part time job doing something. I am, after all, still young enough for a second career and still healthy enough to make the most of it. 

I once read a quote that said, "Expect nothing and appreciate everything." I think that kind of sums up my expectations for retirement. I hope to appreciate every minute of free time or family time that I am given!

This post is my attempt at participating in the online "Five Minute Friday" writing group. I discovered it quite a while back, but I never seemed to have the time to commit to participating. Now I do! 

For more information about the group, you can click on the Five Minute Friday button on the right. I would love for some of you to join us!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Settling In

Friday came and, with it, I retired. I don't really feel a lot different. My body is still on the school clock, waking up this morning bright and early at 5 AM. (I am hoping that will change.) I still find myself checking email to see if I have anything that needs my immediate attention and I still have those school related pins that keep popping up on my Pinterest feed. The fact that I am actually retired has not really set in yet.

The last week was an eventful one. My students spoiled me rotten. With the last day of school for students being Thursday, the gifts and cards started rolling in on Tuesday. I managed to hold the tears back until Thursday itself. When my students were sitting in my classroom awaiting that final, "Students are dimissed," it began to sink in. This was IT. My last group of students, my last "last day", and my last official day as a teacher. That is when the tears began... 

Then my sweet daughter and hubby showed up at the door with a gift bag and the tears poured! They brought me a crown and a sign, declaring me queen for the day. (The bear was a gift from a student.)

Friday was even harder for me. I went in as late as I would allow myself- (keep in mind that I am known for arriving at school at least an hour before my students). First stop- the office, to turn in my keys. The tears started again and they continued off and on for most of the day.

At lunch my middle school team surprised me with something I have been longing for: a Cracker Barrel rocking chair. 

It has been really difficult to think of leaving these guys. They have been my family for years now. If you want to see a real TEAM in action, we were that. The whole district knew us as a team. We planned together, ate together, laughed together, and cried together. I love them and I will miss them. I have already warned them that I will be returning, with food in hand, to sit down for lunch and hear the latest gossip.

As far as plans for retirement go, I tell people that there are 4 things on my "to do" list: read more, cook more, crochet more, and clean more. This week I have attempted to get started. I have swept, mopped, scrubbed, and reorganized 2 bathrooms and started on another couple of rooms. I am into chapter 6 or so of a freebie book that I downloaded ages ago to my Kindle, I have had a warm supper on the table each of the last 3 days, and I have been catching up on the last of my crochet orders. I have even been able to experience an afternoon nap each of the last 2 days. I think I can get used to this... LOL!

Over the next week I hope to come up with a plan that will allow me to regularly update this blog. I am muddling things over in my mind and trying to decide how best to use this as a platform for all of the things that I want to do: share my family, my faith, and my fun stuff with everyone. I will keep you updated. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Where Has Time Gone?

Has it really been months since I have been on here? I know I have said it before, but life has really been putting a weight on me..... (So much for my word of the year- BALANCE....) BUT... I am hoping that this is about to change.

Here I sit, May 8, 2016- only 4 days left in my teaching career. After 31 years in the classroom, I have decided that it is officially time for me to wrap up that section of my life and enter the next stage. I am actually retiring!

Here in Kentucky, teachers can retire as early as year 27 and many of them do. I stuck it out, primarily because I was concerned about money. Would I have enough in retirement to make it through each month? Would my family's needs be met? Year 30 came last year and I kept telling myself that I needed to hang on until I was 55. (That is the other milestone that Kentucky uses to determine retirement eligibility.)

Then the school year started. Changes within the system started. Around September, the yearly student angst started. By October or November I was praying, asking God for guidance. I just didn't seem as happy in the classroom anymore. I felt that I had accomplished things that I wanted to accomplish. I had taught thousands of students across a three county area, touched many lives, imparted wisdom, set examples, and stood by to cheer on my students as they succeeded. Many of my students were now parents and some of them were even stepping into classrooms alongside me. My own family was growing older, with my son graduating from college and my daughter in her second year of undergraduate school. I had discovered a new love for crocheting and was finding it difficult to make time for some of the small orders that were coming in. It just seemed right....

I find myself a bit melancholy at the thought of leaving. I have made strong friendships with the 5 teachers who formed the middle school team at my school. For the past several years we have encouraged one another, cried with one another, laughed with one another, and been through a lot. We have shared births and deaths, successes and failures, and much, much change. I have no doubt that I will be returning to visit them often (with food in hand) to catch up on the recent gossip and continue to encourage them.

I am also more than a bit happy. I am looking forward to being the teacher who VISITS the school and leaves when she wants to, not when the bell rings at the end of the day. I have a lot of plans and I look forward to following through on many of them.

I know that life will continue to throw its curve-balls in my direction- that is normal. Without it, life would get boring. I think that retirement will have me better prepared to deal with those curve-balls.

I do not know all of God's plans for me in the coming years, but I know that he will make them evident to me, if I will only take the time to listen and watch.

Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Balance in Life

For each of the past 2 or 3 years, I have made time to sit down at the end of the calendar year, reflect on the last 12 months, and think about what I wanted for the next 12 months. From that, I select one single word that I use as my "Word for the Year". I think on that word throughout the year and allow it to help me make purposeful decisions.

This year I have spent at least three days thinking about what it was that I want for myself for the next year. What do I want to change? What do I need from God? What do I need to do in order to achieve my goals? Tonight..... my word finally came.

I was reading Ecclesiastes 3 and thinking about what God told us about time. I had always thought about this particular scripture as just explaining to us that life isn't always what we want. It isn't always laughing, happiness, searching, or love. Tonight I realized that for me, it means much more.

In recent years I have found myself devoting more and more time to career. It isn't just the usual 8 to 3 school day. I bring home lesson plans that need writing, papers that need graded, emails that need responses, and other things that I always think just HAVE to be done at the time.

As I entered into this, my 31st year, I also found myself thinking about and agonizing over whether I should go ahead and retire at the end of this year. After all, there are bills that will go on.... cars that will need repairs.... and one more child who still has 2 years of college and college debt.

As I read this passage I realized two things:

1. I need to create a more balanced use of my time. I need to allow myself to take personal time for my family and for myself. I have allowed myself to get off kilter- devoting too much time to work and being serious. I need to stop beating myself up over taking a bit of time to read a book, go out to eat with my husband, or just sit and watch a television show.

2. I don't have to worry about how retirement will affect me or my finances. If it is time for me to retire, God will provide. He has blessed me with a talent for crafting, crocheting, and sewing. In the past couple of years, he has shown me that I can create things and sell thing to supplement my income. Retirement could provide the opportunity for me to finally go ahead and turn that into a full time side business that can help if my retirement money runs a bit short of the financial need. It could also allow me to do something else that the Lord has in mind for me. He led me into teaching and he can help me to figure out what his plans are for me after retirement.

Because of these realizations, I have decided that my word for 2016 is BALANCE.

As I read the Bible, study, journal, and pray, I am sure that God will help me to find the personal balance that my life so badly needs. As a reminder, I added a small drawing in my journaling Bible, along with a short prayer.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

God Comes Through....... Yet again!

Boy, did I need that verse! I am definitely weary at this point in my week and at this point of the school year. I was just telling someone at school today that I really need what some of my friends call a "mental health day." Actually, what I told him was that I could really use an early snow day, an unexpected electrical outage, OR a mental health day. The only problem is that I am too stubborn to take it.

Everyone talks about how we teachers get sick days. My problem is that I get them and I don't use them. Unless I am so sick that I just can't teach, I am right there in my classroom: pocket full of cough drops, full box of Kleenex on the desk, and a back-up box of sinus medication by my side. A couple of weeks ago, my sweet hubby actually called a sub and scheduled him to come in the next day so I could stay home and recover from a sinus infection that had me under the weather. I texted him back and told him not to come. I wanted to be here for my students and I was willing to suffer through another day. To me, a sick day means that you have to be down and out and unable to do your job.

Right now, as I said, I am just tired. It is a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, we just finished posting midterm grades, and I still have my students' Halloween stories that need to be read and graded.  About a week ago, we repainted our living room and entry. I vowed that I would use this as an opportunity to weed through my baskets and baskets of papers and (mostly) unnecessary things. Each evening, I go home after my 10 hour day, walk in the door, and collapse on the couch, only to sit there and stare at the boxes and baskets that are still overflowing- too tired to do much constructive purging.

Just this morning I was saying, "I need some refreshing! I need to rest! I need to have an energy REBOOT!" Then tonight the Lord came through....

I was sitting in the computer lab with several students, completing my after school services with an enrichment program when I received an email. As I clicked on it, I was thinking, "Just what I need, another meeting, some student with a question, or maybe a parent who needs something." Much to my surprise, it was a notice that I had been selected to receive the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English Middle School Teacher of the Year award.

For several seconds I was skeptical. I searched online to verify that the organization existed, that the lady who had sent the email was with the organization, and that the recognition ceremony dates were accurate. Still being doubtful, I forwarded the email to an instructional leader in our district and asked if she knew anything about it. To my shock, she responded that she had nominated me.

While my body is still physically tired, my spirit is indeed rejuvenated! Knowing that there are actually people out there who see the effort that I put into my job inspires me to continue. God knew what my spirit needed. It wasn't chocolate or flowers. It was that little nudge to say..... You DO make a difference!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

3 John 1:4 

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Over the years, my children have brought me much joy. I have beamed with pride when they received awards for an academic or athletic achievement, laughed when they said or did something silly, and felt a mother's heart full of love as a dirty little hand delivered a fist full of wildflowers carefully picked just for me.

Yet, none of these can compare to the joy I feel when I see one of my children doing God's work. Today was one of those days. I sat in the wooden pew of our small country church watching as my daughter sang for the congregation. It was a simple little song that she had heard on the radio and requested, "Dad, can we learn this one? I would like to sing it at church sometime."

She arrived home late Saturday afternoon, after a particularly grueling day at college. She had just finished a placement test that will be used to determine her admission into the college of nursing. After the hour drive home, she sat down and ate a quick bite and then joined her dad to begin practicing. 2 or 3 times through was all it took. There was no doubt in my mind that she would be ready to sing at today's service.

Later last evening, she sat on the couch with me and introduced me to a blog that she has started. (Apparently, she was inspired by my attempts at a blog and created her own to share the woes of being a college student and her personal growth as a Christian.) As I read through some of her entries, I again felt my heart fill with the joy of knowing that my daughter is living her life for Christ and is already beginning to share with the world how he is blessing her. 

At this point I want to share a link to her blog. I have tried and tried to upload a video of her song, but it just isn't working. If I can get it to work at some point I will edit this post. Feel free to offer some comments and feedback on her blog to encourage her. If you know a college student who might be interested in following her blog, feel free to share the link with them.

Finally! Success!
Here is the video of Kari singing at church.
Hope you all enjoy it and find it a blessing!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Walking With God.... Literally

Deuteronomy 5:33
Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

A few weeks ago I went back to my doctor for a follow-up visit. Earlier in the summer he had been concerned because my blood pressure was a bit higher than it should be. The whole thing really surprised me since my blood pressure had always run a little low. The doctor had told me to return just before school started so we could see if there was any change.

The follow-up did not bring good news. My BP was still running high, so I was told to change my diet and exercise. The doctor recommended walking, something that I used to enjoy.

I racked my brain and tried to figure out HOW to fit walking into my daily schedule. I already get up far before the sun does and, with school starting, I would be there until late in the evening. I needed motivation and I needed help. 

Allow me to introduce you to the 2 (or 3) new friends that have helped me along my walking journey.

You thought I meant actual PEOPLE? Well..... there is one other person in that picture above. (An explanation will shortly follow.)

You see, I first needed some accountability. That is why I bought the FitBit. I knew that it would accurately track my steps each day as well as the amount of time I spent engaged in physical activity. It has worked wonders for me! 

I have worn the FitBit for 10 days now. On 9 of those days I actually met and slightly exceeded my goal of 10,000 steps per day. Even a sore ankle didn't stop me. I just wrapped the ankle in an ACE bandage and kept walking on.

The second thing I needed was some encouragement- some type of motivation to keep walking during those times when my body was tired and I felt like stopping. That is where the iPod comes in. I loaded a playlist with every gospel song that I could find on my computer. (Between my daughter and I, we had collected a LARGE number.) I added a good set of earphones that would allow the heavenly tunes to come straight to me- loud and clear.

That brings me to the other person on this journey with me. You can't see him in the picture above, but trust me.... he is there. GOD.... You see, while I walk I pray, I think, I listen to the music, and I allow God to speak to me. He never fails me. When I am feeling tired and my shins are beginning to ache, a tune will come on my random playlist that pushes me to keep on walking and not give up. When I am thinking of one of my children and the struggles they are having, a song will begin playing that lets me know that God is there for them AND for me.

This daily walking isn't always easy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. It is my daily worship time, with God and whatever message he chooses to send me through my earphones. 

So, if you see me out there walking along the halls at school or along the roadside, seemingly lost to the rest of the world, with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step perhaps you can better understand WHY I am so happy amidst the sweat and pain. I strongly recommend this type of daily walk with God....... It has heart benefits in more than one way!