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.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Fun with Animals...

I had a hard time deciding which camera to pack for our quick trip this past weekend. My old Rebel is smaller and much lighter, but since upgrading to my 60D a couple years ago, I'm spoiled with the ability to still get good quality images in low light settings. In the end I went with the 60D knowing some of our photos would be taken in darker, interior locations. Turns out I didn't take near as many photos as I would have expected to take due to the rainy day. Thank goodness for my old, water resistant Eastpak backpack that comes on most ambulatory adventures with us. As you can see, rain or no rain, we had a good time bumming around with the animals.

These two are practically attached at the hip when they are together. It's hard to remember sometimes that almost 4 years separate them. It also cracks Scott and I up with how comfortable Lexi is with her older cousin because she is scared to death to talk to the volleyball players that Scott coached this past year who are the same age.

Scott and I were trying to be silly with momma giraffe. She got tired of waiting for me to get the right perspective and waked right off Scott's hand as I snapped this. Still makes me smile.

We're thinking we would like to plant one of these varieties of trees in our backyard once they are made available to the public. Shade and yard decoration all wrapped up in one neat little package...

There is a gorgeous sensory garden at the zoo, complete with lovely rain blocking arbors. A zoo keeper had a few tropical birds out in the garden, who didn't seem bothered by the sprinkles at all.

One of the areas that I enjoy the most at the Omaha zoo is the primate houses. The gorillas are amazing to watch. I really think I could sit and watch them all day. The intelligence in those eyes...

These birds, and their crazy head feathers, crack me up.

We are also big fans of the big cats. I love how no matter their size, cats will always sleep in a box if you provide them with one.

Brea was the first who showed signs of wilting. She stayed up much later than normal Friday night, which I'm sure was a factor as she's usually our early to bed kid. Luckily she's easy to please and along the way we found little treats to get her through...Aunt Kathleen got her a hotdog, Uncle Jason offered up his lap for some snuggles, and a new small stuffed river otter purchased at the aquarium gift shop helped distract her from her fatigue as she showed him all the sites we visited after he joined our family.

Why is it my husband always insists on being silly when I point the camera in his direction? Obviously he's the fun half...

Short sitting breaks got more frequent as the day progressed...

The aquarium still proves to be my favorite attractions at Henry Doorly. (Although the new butterfly house is pretty awesome too!) I love the new expanded jellyfish area since I was last through a few years ago. The colors, the textures, the fluidity of movement all mesmerize me. These big orange jellyfish look upside in photos, but this is actually how they were swimming. I wonder if this is how they always swim or if it's a result of how they are fed or the direction of the current in the man-made home? (Yes, these are the nerdy questions that go through my head. Just like the lengthy discussion we had after we watched a zoo keeper switch out the blood dishes in the vampire bat display. I wonder what type of blood they feed? How do they get it...liquid or powdered that needs dehydrated? Are the platelets removed or is an anti-coagulant added as the old trays she was removing wasn't clotted at all? So many questions...)

This little display of upside down jellyfish was pretty cool. It's like a jellyfish garden.

It was a day well spent. I'm glad that we finally made good on our "we should meet in Omaha for a weekend sometime" plans, and that so many family members were able to join the fun. Just as Scott and I talk about trips taken during our childhoods, I'm sure this will be one the girls think back on with good memories for years to come.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Just Cheesecake Please...

Traveling with family with whom you don't normally travel can be a fun treat. And a little stressful. It is quick to point out how uniquely we all approach things on the road. This is one such story...

We took a short trip to Omaha this weekend to meet my mom, my brother, my aunt, and my cousin with a goal of hitting the zoo on Saturday. Zoo it we did, despite the rain. Thankfully it was nice rain. No lightning. No wind. Mild temps.

After a long, moist day at the zoo, we headed to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. My Mom had never eaten at one, and had mentioned that fact several times during planning our gathering, so to the Cheesecake Factory we went. I realize there were a couple of factors that contributed to my near meltdown once we got seated in our booth and I opened the menu.
  • I was tired. I do not sleep well in hotels, especially the first night. I finally turned off the light to settle in at 11:45 Friday night after a full day. I remember seeing 3:00 on the bedside clock. I was awake for the day by 6:30. Even though I'm generally good on short night's of sleep, a full day at the zoo is tiring even when you go into the day on a full night's sleep. 
  • I really could have used a moment to freshen up between animal gazing and food consuming. The rain at the zoo didn't bother me, it was actually beautiful and, except for a little stress over keeping my camera dry, it made for kind of a romantic day as I strolled around hand in hand with my hubby. But my hair was a frightful wet hairspray mess by day's end and my tired feet were filthy having walked for hours on end in my favorite Chacos. Filthy.
  • My brain was ready to rest. Scott and I, as the parents of the youngest kiddos on the trip, spent a good portion of our day keeping tabs on our girls who wanted to be with everyone in the group BESIDES mom and dad. We were the herding dogs keeping track of the flock. Herding sheep can be exhausting. That catalog of choices they call a menu at CF takes a ridiculous amount of decision making brain energy. I made the mistake of trying to start that process BEFORE ordering a drink. 
  • I had not properly prepared myself, or our budget, to spend as much through the weekend as we ended up spending on just food. We eat well when we travel, but we eat well on a budget. We generally spend a little less at some meals to allow us to spend a little more at others. We also tend to stay away from chain restaurants in favor of local establishments. That approach is a  little harder to do when you're not the only ones making the decisions about when and where to find nourishment for a party of 8.
Needless to say I opened the menu, started adding up the bill in my head as I helped my picky, also tired daughter who no longer qualifies to order off the kids menu at CF (Ten is a ridiculously young age to cut off the kids menu, by the way...especially given the HUGE serving of food that my 7 year-old couldn't even come close to finishing when it was set in front of her.) figure out what she might want to eat at full adult prices, and then had to will myself not to cry. In the end we all left full. And we sorta ate balanced meals. (French fries count as a veggie, right?) The food was okay. Nothing really stood out as particularly special. We got cheesecake to go, which I will be enjoying after I finish writing this post. Whether she planned to or not, my mom picked up the check. (THANKS MOM!) I'm feeling quite guilty about that fact given our total with tax and gratuity worked out to be about $30 per person. Our family's portion of that total bill would have fed the 4 of us 3 meals the way we normally approach on the road food gathering. I'm a lover of food, but I have a really hard time throwing down that amount of cash on any single meal experience unless it's a SPECTACULAR experience. The Cheesecake Factory is not.

The whole experience was a good reminder about why Scott and I tend to go local rather than chain when we eat out, at home or on the road. The only reason I'll be going to The Cheesecake Factory in the future is for cheesecake. It's really the only thing I've eaten there that really lives up to it's inflated price tag...and even that seems a bit much knowing the mean cheesecake making skills I myself posses. It's also made me question how we are going to afford our whole doing plan for summer 2013. The rest of our doing will just have to be on a tighter budget than planned. It will be a good lesson in flexibility.

Obviously I still have some work to do in that area of my life.

I'll post some pics from our zoo visit, and the more lighthearted part of our trip, later in the week. It really was a good trip.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Summer officially started last Thursday at 11:00. Our home now houses a 2nd grader and a 6th grader. Sixth grade means a move to the middle school. A certain 11 year old is pretty excited about that fact. Her parents are a little more nervous, but at the same time confident she'll do great.

Our summer schedule is filling up quickly. Summer looks a little different for us this year as the girls and I will be spending a couple days each week hanging out at the house of one of Lexi's classmates while his parents are at work. The girls were a bit concerned about how that would cut into our pool time, but I assured them we'd still have plenty of days to splash around in the sun. Plus, a little summertime employment means a less stressed family budget, and that's a good thing.

We're doing our best to make good on our doing plan for the summer. So far we have a family weekend to Omaha for visiting the zoo, a quick solo trip to KC to enjoy time with a friend and see Mumford & Sons, a trip west to see family while attending my 20th high school reunion, and an end of the summer wedding trip planned. We're also excited that Uncle Jason will be in Iowa to visit for a bit at the end of July. I'm training to do some 5K events with a lovely group of lady friends throughout the summer. (I use the term training somewhat loosely here as I have yet to put together any regular workout schedule thanks to an early summer cold, and our goal is simply to participate, not to clock world record pace times.) We'd also love to get the tents out for some weekend camping this summer, but first it seems we need to get past the Iowa rainy season.

At least the rain is good for the gardens. In addition to plantings around our house, and plans to make new raised beds this summer for next summer's garden season, we are part of 2 group gardens this summer. Apparently one of us has a hard time saying no to opportunities that requiring digging in the the dirt.

I'm sure come August we will be amazed at how quickly these lazy days of summer have passed. I do hope, when it comes time to ready school supplies and backpacks, we will be able to say summer 2013 was well spent. As for now I'm going to grab a second cup of coffee and enjoy the sound of Brea reading to our new summertime buddy on this cool, rainy, mid-week, school free day of June.