Stories of family, faith, celebration, struggle and humor… #hogfan style.
The last few weeks have been a disruption for us all. Some have called it “The Great Pause of 2020.” Others, there has been no pause, it has been a high-speed chase to do their jobs, continue to care for their families, now at home ALL OF THE TIME, and somehow process all that is happening. For the healthcare workers, the public safety personnel, the educators transitioning to remote learning, the parents doing their best to do school at home for the first time, the grocery workers, and on, and on, and on, there hasn’t been a pause. For those in situations of that high-speed chase, it seems more like “The Great Disruption of 2020.” I hear you, I see you, and I am you.
Today I was looking through the glass back door of my house into my back yard. I have three dogs and this door is used frequently by the entire family. To say the door was filthy would be an understatement (I am not overly type A about keeping the windows clean). I did scrounge up the window cleaner, grabbed the paper towel roll, and went to work. What I noticed as I cleaned is that the top of the glass pane had very little dirt. However, as I worked my way down to the bottom, the paper towel became filthy.
I started thinking about the conversations I have had with friends lately. The many posts I have read. The social media posts that have been reassuring to me. In every situation, those individuals that encouraged me, helped me to see through the confusion, and work through sadness or feeling lost, I was encouraged. They helped me to symbolically lift my chin.
There is much right now that if you are looking down or comparing our own truth to someone else’s can make you seem less than. You may feel like the bottom of the glass full of dirt that can not let the light in and causes you to become downcast. Even more so it can cause you to isolate and let our own worst thoughts pull you under. However, if we look up and look through the top of the glass free of dirt and clear to let the light in we can begin to see out, and see beyond to the beauty that God wants us to see.
I do not make light that we still look down. We still become overwhelmed by our own “dirty bottom of the glass .” However, we have been given one another. Reach out to the team of your choosing and chant to one another “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!” God made us for fellowship so that we look up, look through the clear clean glass, and are filled with His light!
I also want to leave with this. You can have two opposite feelings within yourself. Recently a post was shared on a Teacher Group page that encouraged me. I was really struggling with can I have conflicting feelings about what is going on, can I have hope, while still feeling out of control? Can I feel like I am confident my work is doing great things for others while feeling my parenting and quality time with my children is lacking? What I decided is, YES. I am sharing the image from the post that was shared with my group in case there are others that it can help.
I am thankful for those in my team who have helped me lift my chin, look up through the clear glass and see the light. I hope that you have the same. If you don’t think you have a team, please reach out. If not to me through the comments, to someone in your circle of co-workers, relatives, or acquaintances. In this time most of us are acutely aware of how we need each other and are more than willing to support others.
Since I last put letters into words and words into phrases for a blog post it was July 2019. It seems like a lifetime since then. Eric and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary. EmBug has been part of the cast for “Singing in the Rain,” “Chicago” (High School Edition), and Argenta’s “A Christmas Carol.” She has also stayed on the HS Quiz Bowl team, continues to be part of Beta Club, Thespian Society, and made a high enough chair in All Region Choir that she has an opportunity to try for All-State Choir. Kritterman is now a freshman in High School, was inducted into MHS Beta Club, plays in the marching band, joined the eSports team, was part of the Morrilton HS production of “War of the Worlds,” and is on the 9th Grade/Junior High Quiz Bowl team. In December, EmBug turned 17.
At the same time, Eric completed a successful audit at work in mid-September and in their busy season worked EVERY single day from December 2nd until Christmas Eve to get the company through their busy season and meet the order demands of customers. Kirsten took a trip to Lansing, Michigan and Dallas/Fort Worth for work, presented at a few conferences in the state and nationally, and continued to develop professional development for her teachers, vet curriculum, and designed the instructional model for learning for her organization.
So there is a lot of movement, growth, and activity going on in the Wilson household. And when I mention growth, I mean actual physical growth. Kritterman is approximately two inches taller than Kirsten, now. That has all happened since July when he was about two inches shorter than Kirsten. (Kirsten is wearing two-inch heels in the picture below.)
When we sat down to discuss our #oneword2020 we kicked around a few words. EmBug mentioned “adventure.” Eric suggested “clarity.” Kritterman… his contribution, “sandwich.” (I guess at 14 all the boy thinks about is the food he just ate and the food he is going to eat.) I through out the word “rooted.”
As we talked about it, we reflected on last year’s word “balance.” Coming off of a busy holiday and work season wasn’t the best time to reflect on how we put that word into practice, so it was agreed we didn’t necessarily stick to the essence of balance. We did talk about how we are headed into EmBug’s Senior year of high school. That our moments of family time that are more readily available even with all our activities will become more limited when EmBug heads off to college, wherever that may be. 2020 needed to be purposeful, meaningful and focused on the blessings.
We settled on the word “JOY.” In everything we do, we will seek joy, share joy, and be joy for ourselves and one another.
I hope we do better to keep this #oneword at the forefront of our minds than we did with balance. It is a year of many firsts and lasts, and in that, I hope I am able to make memories that are hemmed with joy.
What is your family #oneword2020? Share your thoughts in the comments.
There is a birthday coming up very soon in our household. It celebrates the life of our biggest hero, hardest worker, and anchor… known as Dad by the kiddos and “George” by me. Eric is finishing out his forties in fine fashion.
Today we had a bit of a laugh between us. In our transition to this new home, new jobs and new community, we have gone from feeling like we were of the younger age with our kids and our community, to we are just old… significantly so. We were noting that at a school sports event Eric was asked which grandson was his that was playing on the court. When we joined a marriage study at the church we are attending the majority of the people in our group and in the larger group were married 10 or fewer years (we are coming up on 25 years this July). A men’s group Eric has recently started attending he is between 7 and 15 years older than the others attending.
It has not been gradual… not like my choice to let my hair fade to gray. Nope, it has been like a light switch.
So we are embracing it. We even used this sudden move to “old age” to justify plans to design our backyard with a rustic cedar hot tub, reasoning it would aid in relieving our sore muscles and achy joints.
I am not sure how this move from feeling you are perceived as youngin’ to being mistaken as a wise old codger happens for others. I thought it would be gradual and slow and not slap you in the face.
We will continue to think young, act young and when necessary take Advil to keep up the pace of the best life we have been given.
In the meantime, one of us is celebrating a birthday this Wednesday, February 27th. Happy Birthday, George! May we stay young at heart and in our minds and may we build that hot tub quickly for when the reality of age catches up to us!
Moving in any stage of life is a challenge. Once the basic needs are taken care of and you are able to locate the grocery store, a couple of restaurants, the nearest gas stations and have settled into a routine, the next need comes into play. The need for community and friends. When I was growing up and moved, you were thrown into a pool of peers, almost like forced socialization. When I moved as a newlywed we had the freedom with time and flexibility to meet other young couples. As we transitioned into the early stages of family and moved, again, that stage of life seemed to naturally create an opportunity for friends, motherhood is a time of desperation that brings you together with others struggling in similar life journeys. Early stages of parenthood gave way to connections when the kids entered elementary school and often crossed over into the nearby church we attended. So making friends, while sometimes daunting, in each situation had an obvious “entry point.”
This most recent move, however, has created a new set of difficulties in the realm of friendship. We have moved to an area of the country that is more static with people moving in and out, compared to where we were in Texas. In Texas, there was always a new person who had moved to town and we all had been that new person at one point or another. We welcomed them, just as we had been welcomed. Invited to lunch after church, asked to join other families for a get-together, or every person just made a point to continually greet one another and talk to one another when we ran into one another. Community happened with ease. In our new home in our new state, people have their “set” circle. Comically it reminds me of “Meet the Fockers” and the “Inner Circle of Trust.” To break that circle takes an inordinate amount of time, which brings me to my next challenge. The current reality of my children’s schedules. They are active, smart and involved. I do not plan to change that, however, that severely limits my ability to direct my focus to other things. Namely the time that it would take to “break” into a circle. So I write this letter:
Dear New Friend,
My family came here by unusual circumstances. We were not prepared to move here. We thought our children would graduate from the school district where they had started Kindergarten in Texas.
The decision to be where we are now was one that took an adjustment. We left a lot of things that we enjoyed. Great schools, great friends, awesome grocery stores, incredible restaurants, and a church home. One unusual tidbit, I grew up here in Arkansas, graduated from both high school and college in this state, my parents, sister, and family, and youngest brother and family live in the state, along with an aunt, uncle, and cousins. However, we have not found community here.
Our kids are adjusting, but we worry. We really hope they won’t hate us and they will find life-long friends here and keep the friends that they left behind.
We didn’t come here altogether. It was so hard for us to make our kids leave the only home they had ever known that we tried for me to stay with the kids in Texas while my husband worked in Arkansas. We made the choice to become a two household-still marriage intact family (despite all the rumors of divorce that surfaced). We worked hard to make it work. It kind of did. However, the it kind of didn’t was what brought us together in our current residence as a family after a year apart. My kids still wish we had tried harder to keep up the two households.
Don’t get me wrong. Our kids are great. They have adjusted and made the best of things. They excel in their academics and extra-curricular activities. However, they aren’t making those deep friend connections I would hope they would have by now to the extent I had hoped, and I can’t help thinking that is because I am not making friends either.
I had great friends in Texas. I also have a few great friends from the places I moved before Texas. I think if you met them, they would tell you I am a good friend. Serious, but funny. Will love your kids like I love my own. Loyal like a labrador. Love my husband. Struggle with some of my childhood experiences. Love my immediate family fiercely. Probably brag too much about my amazing kids… see there?
I want to have great friendships here too. However, there seems to be a lockdown on getting into the friendship circles here that is like Fort Knox, and I don’t have the time or the will to figure out the combination.
I am going to lay it bare here in this letter. My hope is that someone will read it and like it. Maybe you will give things a shot or when you do read, even if you don’t live close to me, you will give that new girl at work, at your kids basketball game or at church a little more of a smile, offer her an invite to coffee, or just chat her up a bit and take the edge off of her attempt at making friends. Trust me, I have put on a brave face, attempted to insert myself into a “set” circle and been “ghosted.” (By the way, I didn’t realize at forty-six adult women can make you feel like a teenage loser like in high school!)
Back to a little about me. I hate to exercise but try to because I know it is best. I love to read but with my schedule, I have become an avid audiobook-phile. I like to craft but rarely do because of time. Not huge into cooking although I am not bad at it. Like to bake, but only from about October 1st to the end of February. I also love dark beers, a glass of most kinds of wine, a good gin and tonic, or a cranberry vodka. I am a huge college football fan but not so much an NFL fan. My favorite outfit is yoga pants, a soft t-shirt, and bare feet, however, most of the time you will see me dressed semi-casually in typical 40-something appropriate outfits with my TOMs wedges, wishing I was in my yoga pants, t-shirt and bare feet. I have two dogs, two cats, and a pet snake. I have a gift of learning a little bit about someone and determining based on that information what wine they like or would like… I have been given the name of #winefairy, and I carry that honor with pride. I love the idea of going to social events, trying new restaurants and experiencing community, but when push comes to shove, I am a homebody at heart.
Church has been a constant throughout my life, but the real relationship between me and Jesus has been more real in the past twenty years of my life than it was from age 0-26. If you were to try to put who I am on a t-shirt it would say “I love Jesus, I cuss a little, drink a little more, and love hard.”
In addition to all this, I am a public educator and am passionate about excellence in PUBLIC education. Other than Jesus, I believe education is the key to transforming lives. I am passionate about this part of my life, too.
So here it is. Take it or leave it, but this is who I am and I think it is pretty o.k. I am not sure why making friends has been more difficult this time. It hasn’t been for lack of attempts on my part.
If you have read this far, thank you. I hope as you read this it encourages you to be open, reach out to the “new people” in your path and invite them into your “circle.” This may not improve my current friend situation, but it makes me hopeful. After all, I am a good friend material who wouldn’t want to be my friend!
The discussion of our one word was much less of a process this year. I sent a group text asking for the three words that each person felt was a word that would guide us through 2019. The two words that were common among us four were FINISH and BALANCE. After a little discussion, it was agreed that BALANCE, if we worked toward, would also address the term FINISH.
Last year our word was EMBRACE. There was a lot of opportunities to do that. We moved states, changed jobs, changed schools, etc. We kept our chins up, and we grabbed hold of this change. It hasn’t been easy, but when is change like that easy? I was watching/listening to a marathon of DIY’s “Building Off the Grid.” Every 30-minute show at some point the novice builder building his “off-grid” cabin would say, “This was harder than I thought it would be.” At one point I rolled my eyes, I mean, what did he expect? It is Alaska, rugged terrain, remote and a very limited opportunity to build before the eight-month winter sets in, what was his first clue this would “be hard?” But then, I realized, he knew the challenges and yet the hardships were more than he anticipated. That parallels so closely with this last year and the move. I knew and anticipated the hardships, but I still didn’t realize it was going to be THIS HARD! So we leaned in and we embraced it. I can’t tell you how thankful I was for our #oneword EMBRACE both for myself and as a parent.
We have so many things coming toward us and we are planning for in 2019. It is no accident that BALANCE was our #oneword for 2019. Honestly, it will be the greatest challenge for me. Perhaps as the coordinator and chief scheduler of all events and logistics, this may have been decided on as more a hope for me, than a need for our family as a whole.
We have needs that if not met we will not achieve BALANCE.
-Being healthier as a family (exercise and eating)
-Being intentional and purposeful with our travels, adventures, and opportunities
-Finding a church home
-Investing in ourselves and in others
-Discovering and creating an opportunity for community
My greatest hope is that just as our #oneword guided us through 2018, our #oneword for 2019, BALANCE will do the same.
I know for me it will be a great integration between our family #oneword and my personal #oneword for 2019- FOCUS. You can read more about my personal #oneword on my professional blog: My 2019 #oneword- FOCUS: Yes, It is a Revisit!
Moving sucks. It’s not just the packing of boxes, unpacking of boxes, painting, re-painting, registering kids in new schools, learning the ins and outs of a new community, school, work culture that sucks. It’s that no matter how much your kiddos are seeming to adjust, and you are getting along; in the middle of it all… YOU MISS YOUR PEOPLE!
I now spend an average of two hours chauffering kids to events and such each day. This increased time as a MOM TAXI has pushed me into the world of Audiobooks. I first listened to “Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker. I learned really quickly this is not the best book to read AFTER you have moved twice in one year AND started a new job while starting kids in a new school. I was not in the right spirit to receive its message. I did take some of the intent from it, and at some point, I plan to revisit. Even though the message is not for me RIGHT NOW, I did discover the efficiency and convenience that audiobooks provided.
I took a break from the blog/female Christian author genre and listened to a work-related book “4 Disciplines of Execution” by McChesney, Hulen, and S. Covey. You can read more about that in my professional blog post titled “Whirlwind and the WIG,” if you would like.
I revisited the blog/female Christian author genre, again, this time a bit more carefully. I chose “Uninvited: Living Loved When You Fell Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely” by Lisa TerKeurst. Holy, moly. Talk about getting down to the heart of the matter. I am undone by this book and feeling freer than I ever have and at the same time feeling raw, so raw. It is times like this, I miss my people. I need to share the rawness, the part of me that has become undone and vulnerable.
After that, I jumped into “Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Franctic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living” by Shauna Niequist and let me tell you, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
This move has sucked. I am missing my people, but “reading” these last two books, I have realized this dish of misery called “moving” is secretly and a dish of “do-over.”
I am getting a do-over. It doesn’t take away that I miss my people and my kids do too. I watched tears stream down my daughter’s face last night as we discussed the sixteenth birthday coming up in December that isn’t anything that we thought it would be, nor would it be in the place we once called home. I know it will be ok. Between the Mom Taxi, the audiobooks, and learning to begin again… we will find the birthday celebration event of the century.
In the meantime, I will hold tight to the things that matter. I will live loved and in the present. And yes, if you are meeting me for the first time, you may see a tear in my eye and hear a rawness in my voice. For this move has left me bare, stripped of my people and working hard to begin again. Only this time I begin a little better than before and leaning hard on a Savior that loves me.
I have been waiting. Wanting to have the perfect post about our transition. That waiting… it made me malcontent. Instead of focusing on the moment(s) and relishing those little ways God was revealing he had my back, I was focusing on the “dream.”
The “dream” for me, for my kids, for my husband and for our family.
Back up to a time before all this crazy transitioning.
I was reading the book, 100 Days to Brave by Annie Downs. I had started reading when I was feeling less than who I felt God had purposed me to be. I started it as a way to find my way back to what I knew myself to be, in God’s eyes.
When the flurry of moving, transitioning from two households back to one household were taking place and everything seemed to be falling into place, I put the book to the side in late April.
Fast forward to late July. I am about three weeks into my new position in Arkansas that I am over the moon about. I am living in a house I never dreamed I would live in. I have just traded the “soccer mom vehicle” for a sporty little car that makes me feel like I am in college again. I am celebrating 24 years of marriage to the best guy in the world. I should be on top of the world.
But I am not. I am worried about my kids. We went from so many opportunities and experiences at their fingertips in Texas to a situation that I fret might limit them. I start to worry, try to control every connection, and orchestrate every move. I become the “helicopter mom” that engineers EVERYTHING.
It is ugly. My kids in every public setting with others give me a wary look when I start “my thing.” I don’t like myself, they don’t say it, but they don’t like me either.
I really didn’t even notice how bad I had become. I was operating from a place of fear not in a place of assurance and bravery that God has us all in the palm of his hand.
We started school. August 13th, and like we always do we cheat and take our “Back toSchool” pictures the day before.I even went to the local college where EmBug is taking concurrent credit (college and high school credit at the same time) for a class and took a picture. So I can post on social media subtly “my kid is in college!” I think she met her limit (see the picture… if you know her that is “the look.”) I know, shameful!
I did do something right in all this engineering of my kiddos future. We started praying every morning before they left for school. We did this the year before the family was living in two separate places. I honestly started it to, in my “wise” mind, to settle their nerves and subtly remind THEM, God is in control. I know, you can say it, what a hypocrite!
I think those prayers, however, were slowly pulling at my own heart. So I picked up the book, “100 Days to Brave” again. The first night I started reading again, I posted on Instagram (See image). I was still in a state of worry, but the conviction to back off on my engineering was received and acknowledged.
The next day after work when I was looking at the posts from friends, one of my dearest friends that walked me through the earliest parts of motherhood, replied to my post, “Oh KIWI, NOBODY loves your kids more than God does! Hard to remember, but keep trying! And… fear is imagining the future as if God is not in it.” If I didn’t know better I would have thought that God was speaking directly to me. Maybe he was, through my dear and wise friend.
Tonight as I write this post, bearing a little bit of the reality, and knowing I have no idea what the future holds for my kids, I am at peace. That doesn’t mean I haven’t emailed a few teachers in haste since this revelation… I am a work in progress. However, God’s plans are bigger than my dreams. Dreams for myself. Dreams for my kids. Dreams for my husband. Dreams for this family.
Honestly, life is good. I am so grateful for life right now. Sitting on the back deck kicking back, drinking a beverage with my husband and listening to voices of my children as they chat back and forth about their day in the kitchen on the other side of the brick wall affixed to the deck.
We are embracing our new life and, with God in control, it is beautiful.
What a journey this last year has been. We have had many celebrations and many moments of grief. Through it all God has been with us. Comforted us. Grown us.
Kritterman’s journey into middle school was smooth sailing. He excelled in all areas… some in his sister’s footsteps with theater. Others were on his own path… specifically in the area of band. At first I wasn’t sure band was for him. When he started to shine, I thought it was due to the competition with his fellow saxophonist. Later I was informed it was due to my threat when he made a “B” on a playing test. I don’t recall saying this, but according to him I told him if he made another “B” in band I was yanking him out. I don’t necessarily recommend this type of parenting, but I guess I had a weak moment and it worked to both of our advantages. He ended the year, first chair, superior plus rating on his solo in Solo and Ensemble contest, and best instrumentalist of the day by the judge he played in front of at Solo and Ensemble. As I type this he is at a Band Camp in Arkansas. It is his first overnight camp and he knows no one. He has texted a few times, but he is loving it AND on his own accord signed up for extra classes for support with his saxophone and with the upcoming season of All-Region Music for Arkansas. He is going to be o.k.
EmBug’s transition to high school was a bit bumpy at first. Taking three pre-AP classes, one AP class, Productions, Theater I, Advanced Girls Choir and on online Spanish II class made for a tight schedule and some long nights. Over time she found a rhythm. Highlights of her year included a leading role in Eaton Drama Department’s freshmen production of “Radium Girls.” She also worked tirelessly with throughout the production of “May Fair Lady” as a chorus member. Her pinnacle achievement was being cast in the award winning One Act Play (OAP) “The Insanity of Mary Girard.” At times I was worried about her social life, as she rarely had a spare moment and every moment she utilized. However, my worries were put to rest, as the final week she was in Texas she was thrown a good bye party with her friends and was occupied for breakfast, lunch and dinner that last week by one sweet friend or another who wanted to squeeze out just a few more moments with her.
In both kiddos situations we are blessed. Not just this year, but every year they attended a Northwest ISD school. We have had so many teachers invest in EmBug and Kritter. Encouraging them. Building them up and challenging them. Their teachers, in many cases, have become my friends as well. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate them. I love my kids, and so do these teachers. These teachers loved my kids in a way I, as a mother, cannot. They taught them to take criticism and coached them in a way I could not. These teachers allowed the environment of school dynamics play out, whether it be collaborative projects or planning activities with others that came with its own set of challenges, when I would have just tried to rescue Kritterman and EmBug.
I am eager for the journey ahead of us, and thankful for those that prepared us for the road ahead. I know that God has a plan for these kiddos. I know that every teacher in their path will guide them. We will miss Northwest ISD. However, I am eager for the next chapter in our journey.
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