Monday, March 17, 2014

Parenting in the Digital Age...

Several times through the last few years I've made comment that I wish I could turn back time so that I could parent in a time BEFORE digital access and devices were a part of everyday life. Parenting is hard on it's own. Trying to figure out how to help your kids safely and successfully navigate all that comes with online social media, texting, photo sharing, and access to just about anything on the inter-webs, feel impossible at times.

Scott and I have approached our girls' exposure to all things digital pretty conservatively over the years. We're online, obviously, and as the generation who welcomed this form of connection and communication into our lives in early adulthood, I often feel like we are still trying to figure out a good balance ourselves. We've allowed our girls access, but with some control and restrictions. Much to her dismay, our 12 year old does not have her own cell phone. Even though she used her own monies to purchase an iPod touch at the holidays, she understands ultimately we have the final say on what accounts she can set up and when she's expected to set her device aside and unplug.

Privacy. Safety. A clean digital footprint. Learning to balance the need for unplugged activities in a time when everyone, everywhere seems to always be connected. All reasons we've tried to come up with some reasonable restrictions. Admittedly, there's always been a little bit of fear of what bad COULD happen that has, at least on my part, guided those decisions. As a mom, protecting my girls with the force of a mother bear comes naturally. Letting them venture out to learn by trial and error on their own is a little harder to practice. I've sometimes forgotten that much awesomeness is also possible when you allow kids to connect and share in the ways of their generation.

This weekend, to kick off our 10 day spring break, the girls and I took a quick trip to Omaha to meet up with a good friend of mine from college, and her daughters, who we've not seen in about 5 years. (Which is ridiculous, quite honestly.) We spent an afternoon in the warmth of the jungle, aquarium, and desert at the zoo. The girls swam at the hotel while Sara and I talked, and talked, and talked. We'd probably still be talking if it weren't for the fact our time to be together simply ran out. It was fantastic. Saturday afternoon, after Sara and her girls headed west, the girls and I decided to stop at Joslyn Art Museum before we headed back east. We'd not been to Joslyn before, but so much enjoyed our visit to Nelson-Atkins in KC a few summers ago that we were pretty sure we'd enjoy Joslyn too.

Coincidentally, another college friend of mine, Jen, and her daughters, who we do get together with often, also spent some time in Omaha over the weekend to celebrate their spring break. We didn't get together with them on this trip. Our oldest girls, who have gone to summer camp together for the past 4 years, have started texting regularly since they both have iDevices. It was as we were walking through Joslyn that Lexi shared that Maddie had been to Joslyn that weekend too, and had shared some of the photos of her favorite pieces of art with her through an iCloud album. As we walked around Lexi was keeping an eye out for those pieces, and snapping pics of the pieces she was drawn to to share in return. Throughout the weekend those photos have been shared and commented on, not only between Lexi and Maddie, but their other friends as well. No matter how you look at it, it's 12 year old girls interacting with, and over, fine art, and I happen to think it's pretty cool.

Am I still freaked out and frustrated by all that comes with navigating parenting in the digital age? Oh hell yes! Having been involved in discussions about this very subject both as a parent, and as extension of my work at the school, I can say there are lots of opinions and no clear answers on how to keep moving forward. That being said, I'm starting to relax a bit knowing that with all the bad that COULD happen, a lot of good DOES happen when kids connect online.

~ peace ~

Friday, January 3, 2014

And then there were three...

I have a soft spot for animals. Especially big-brown-eyed ones.

Sometimes, apparently, I make rash,  quite possibly unwise, decisions.

Sometimes I make rash, unwise decisions involving animals. (Or so says the opinions of some.)

Meet Ozzie...

Six years ago this month we adopted Tilde. We've warned people since about the hassles of adopting a puppy during the winter months. It's hard to socialize them with other people and in a variety of settings in the winter. Plus there's that whole potty training in the cold and snow thing. Tilde is possibly the most neurotic, annoying, and yet totally lovable dog I have ever owned. I think part of her neuroses stems from a lack of expose to the world outside the walls of our home while she was a tiny pup. I think part of her neuroses is just part of her inherent personality.She is the reason we will hesitate to ever have a small dog again. She is also the reason we've often said we'd never again bring a new puppy into our family during the winter months. So it makes perfect sense that we welcomed Ozzie into our home the first part of November.

Ozzie's personality is just as awesome as it looks in that photo above. He's eager to please, quick to learn, and for such a young guy, pretty chill most of the time. (When he's not chill, he's kinda like a bull in a china shop.) I am so thankful for his naturally good nature because apparently I need to work on some shit, and the introduction of a 9 month old 65 pound puppy into my relatively small, calm life can very quickly point that fact out. Even when I have been less than patient, or kind, he's been there, looking at me with those big, brown eyes, trying to figure out how to please me.

Yes, he's a bit of a bull with his body which causes a bit of craziness during key "I'm so happy to see you" times of the day. But he is learning that full speed ahead isn't always necessary, or the best option.

Yes, he's turned Tilde's world upside down and I've felt a bit guilty for creating that situation for her in HER home. But they are slowly figuring out how to not just co-exist, but be friends and playmates. Thankfully he seems pretty respectful of his elders, and he and Jasper came to a quicker understanding of who's top dog.

Yes, shortly after bringing him home I let some of the hype about him being "one of those dangerous and aggressive breeds" get to me. (That's what happens sometimes when you spend too much time on the internet.) I freaked out about what potential danger we put our children in by adopting him, even though we've pet-parented a rottie before who was the best dog ever. Period. But then I watch him patiently serving as a pillow for Lexi as she watches TV, and I have to remind myself about my belief that badly behaved dogs are the result of irresponsible owners, not their genetic code.

Yes, our house was a little crazy during the holiday week with extra humans and animals visiting to celebrate. But we made it through the week just fine, and my extra sensitive perspective on things, and desire for things to be harmonious at all times, probably isn't the best litmus test for how things actually went down around here during the week. I hope people still enjoyed their time spent here as much as we enjoyed having them.

Obviously, given my mood and frequency of freak-out moments, I've got some issue making their way to the surface as of late. Shit that needs working on. Did I expect that adding a new furry member to our family would trigger the quick excavation of some of those issues? Not really.

I'm working on finding my happy. And letting a few things go. And letting others in on some of the conversation that's been playing in my head over the past several months. And keeping perspective on the fact that while dealing with shit kinda feels lonely at times, I am far from alone. And knowing that admitting I need some time and support while dealing with said shit is not a sign of weakness, but just a fact of what I need in life right now. And allowing our new dog, and our old dogs, to just be DOGS. And counting down the days of winter, remembering that the days ARE getting a little longer even if they are not getting any warmer as we head into January.

Would I make the same choice to adopt Ozzie if I could turn back time by 8 weeks knowing what I know today? Maybe not. But then I look down at the lump of unconditionally loving canine laying at my feet, at the pup who is never far from my side no matter what I may be doing around the house, and I think, how could I have ever made a different choice.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dear Blog...

Hard to believe it's been 4 months since I last wrote a post. What can I say? Life has been a bit of a whirl wind since mid-July and non-essentials have been cast aside. Sadly, blog, you are a non-essential right now.

I miss you and the way you help me think through the many conversations about life's challenges and opportunities that swirl around in my head. I do hope that someday I have time to visit with you again, to share life's little blessings, joys, and bits of celebration with you. Until then, I will be thinking about you.


Monday, June 24, 2013

You'll Find Me in the Stacks...

On June 12th I posted this thought to Facebook:
"I have questioned where the future of my professional life lies many times over the past 3 years. I've stressed. I've tried to force. I've cried. I've been angry. I've recently decided to stop wasting energy trying to figure it all out, and instead put more energy into being the best I can be where I'm currently landed. That decision has brought much peace to my heart, which I think is a pretty good indication that I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing right now in my life."
A number of key events had happened in the weeks leading up to this point that influenced this thought.
  1. I had taught my last scheduled yoga class in Carlisle and cleaned out the studio space I was renting...for a second time. Class attendance numbers, while steady, were small and it was getting increasingly more difficult to juggle my teaching schedule and family activity conflicts which seemed to be occurring more often.
  2. I had gotten yet another "thanks for applying, but we are pursuing other candidates at this time..." email from one of the few wellness related jobs I've found to apply for over the past 2 years. Repeatedly not even getting to speak to someone in person about a job in a field in which I have 15 years of experience has been discouraging to say the least.
  3. I'd just interviewed for a different position at the school where I have worked for the past 2 years, having left the interview quite excited about the possibilities should I be offered the position.
Last week I was offered that position, and gladly accepted the chance to start a new adventure come August. I will be serving as an Instructional Media Assistant, which basically means I'll be working as a school librarian with some teaching duties. I'm super excited that everyday I will have the chance to work with kids ranging from Kindergartners through 5th graders. I'm going to be able to revamp some of the lesson plans from what the previous media assistant taught, and I will being incorporating some new technology instruction into the mix for the 4th and 5th grade kiddos. I've already started to do some reading about the duties of elementary school librarians, how to develop library skills lessons, and have begun gathering ideas for teaching students solid research skills, which I envision will be a large part of my technology instruction time. There is so much information out there for me explore and learn, which is part of what makes this opportunity all that much more exciting for me. I plan to do some writing about this new adventure on a new dedicated blog, Little Footsteps in the Stacks. I've also decided to lift my self imposed ban on Pinterest so that I can use its powers to gather ideas and information. I'm hoping both blogging and pinning will help me connect and network with this new pool of professionals which I will be joining. In a way I feel like I'm starting my adult working life all over again, and honestly it feels great!

While relocating our family, and my business, was a big factor in my most recent professional direction questions, realistically it's been an issue that's been brewing in the back of my mind for a number of years. I loved the work-life schedule I had built teaching fitness and yoga in Grinnell, but I knew it was unrealistic to believe my body could maintain that type of schedule long term. I also found that if I didn't find ways to keep myself mentally stimulated, it didn't take long for my work to feel mundane at times. As a student it's easy for things to feel fresh when you only see the same instructor 1-2 times a week. It's much harder to keep that fresh feeling when your the one regularly teaching 10-12 classes a week.

I had really believed that what I wanted professionally when we decided to relocate closer to DSM, is to rebuild my wellness focused business here in Carlisle where I could work close to home like I had in Grinnell. I knew it would be a challenge, and that the question about physically being able to keep up with the demands of such work long term were still present, but I didn't want to make excuses, not try out of fear, and then spend time wondering "what if". In many ways my undertaking was a success. Because of my willingness to stick my neck out there, I met many, lovely individuals in our community that I may not have otherwise met. I also helped a few people new to yoga come to love the practice  and know that they are continuing to practice even without the availability of my classes. THAT fact makes me incredibly happy. In the end the stress of working to build something with little to no income, working as a solo instructor without any back-up, and the difference in the local trends when it comes to fitness/yoga, proved to be more than I was willing to deal with at this point and time in life. I considered stepping outside of our local community in order to find opportunities to continue to work in wellness, but the fact of the matter is how I approach health and wellness, and how that shows on my body, doesn't jive well with the mainstream fitness scene. I know that being in the more image focused world of mainstream fitness is not healthy for ME and my personal body image. As a Mom of 2 young girls, that's not a place I'm willing to go.

I've really come to enjoy working in public education over the past 2 years. While my specific job wasn't always the best fit for my personality, knowing I was spending time everyday making a difference in the lives of kids, supporting all the good that happens within the walls of a school, and working alongside others who have similar goals of making a positive impact on the world around them, HAS proved to be a very good fit. For years a dear college friend of mine, one who herself is a 3rd grade teacher, has been telling me I belong in education. I'm thankful for her gentle, constant encouragement to just consider the possibility as I'm starting to believe she's been right all this time. Now that I've allowed myself to accept that I am spending my working hours right where I need to be, a huge sense of relief has come over me. No longer is that constant, nagging question about what I'm going to BE when I grow up rolling around in the back of my brain even as I face this new adventure much as it has before. I'm excited for not only the challenge of learning the ins and outs of a new industry, but I can see it as being a field that would provide plenty of opportunities for growth and learning for years to come.

I do no wish for the remaining weeks of summer to pass any faster than they are already passing. The girls and I fully enjoy our summer days of gardening, projecting, hanging out at the pool, and visiting friends and family. I've always enjoyed the excitement of the start of school come August even if I am a little sad to say good-bye to the casual schedule of summer for another year. I think this year will hold even a little more excitement than normal for me...and it won't just be because of the fresh, new school supplies each of us will carry in our bags. I wonder what school supplies a school librarian needs in her school bag? Maybe I should Google that...


Friday, June 14, 2013

The Soundtrack of Summer...

Lexi has recently become a country music listener. As a result, we've all started listening to more country both at home and in the car. While our home music collection boasts a large amount of country, southern rock, and folk music, generally the tuner on the car radio (and our most played Pandora stations around the house) are pop/rock based.

Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Charlie Pride, Kenny Rogers...all familiar names from my childhood. Growing up we had this HUGE old console stereo. It had a tuner, it played 8-tracks, but in our house it was a stack of vinyl that most often provided the beat. My Mom would load up the turntable, crank the volume and we would dance around cleaning or cooking or working on the task of the day. I loved the deep, rich sound that old wooden box provided. It's the same reason Scott and I still own the, by modern standards, huge stereo we bought the winter before we married. I'm a sucker for the big base its sub-woofer cranks out.

The comforting familiarity of county twang makes the perfect soundtrack for summer. We are fully settled into the ease of summer now that the weather has consulted the calendar and turned the heat up a few notches. I love our summer life. It's not just the more relaxed schedule and hours spent by the pool. I feel most authentically ME during the summer. Whether it's tending to the yard, or digging in the dirt of my gardens, or spending time on the bike trail, or sitting atop my new equine buddy Ranger as we chat our way through the trees by the lake, or simply hanging with friends, the summer sunlight and the ability to do it ALL outside feed my soul. Summer means no longer are work and play defined as separate activities. It's all just daily summer life. Summer often makes me think of my grandpas and their lives as farmers. They worked (or in the case of my Grandpa Hall, still WORKS) hard, but I think they worked hard because their work was also their play. Summer apparently speaks to my farm-girl roots.

So many of our summer days have been lived to a country beat over the years. Summers that involved windows down drives across Nebraska, or through Kansas, with a tent and sleeping bags stashed in the back of our vehicle. A summer spent dancing in the dirt of a rodeo arena as newly weds. Summers spent on the sand volleyball courts drinking terrible, but cheap, beer. The summer spent waiting, hotly waiting, for Lexi to arrive and make us a family of 3. My summers of RAGBRAI. There is a country tune playing in the back ground of almost everyone of those memories.

Country music + summer = a life I'm so blessed to be living.