fun, home life, school, working

Taking It Slow

This was the first week of school with students, and I was worried I would be stressed out and overwhelmed and rethinking my life choices.

Instead, I’m zen.

Ok, not completely. There were several nights where I wanted to fall into bed at 8 o’clock but couldn’t, because: kid, dishes, bath time, bedtime stories, prep for the next day, reading to relax, having time to breathe, etc. The essentials.

But I managed. And I don’t feel confused or uncertain right now. I know I made the right choice in taking this job (not that I could have ever said no, it’s pretty custom-built!) and putting my kid in this school and refocusing my priorities – for now, anyway.

I did get a little frustrated on Tuesday night. I had so much to do – prep for work, housework, work for my volunteer duties with YALSA, a podcast to record… not to mention the major project I’ve conveniently been putting out of my mind or else my body would seize up in stress. It was too much. I couldn’t do it. I was overwhelmed. I started writing a list of things I could cut out of my life to simplify and give myself more time for… anything.

I was going to delete Twitter, because I only use it for promo/re-tweeting and rarely interact there anymore. I used to have great friends on Twitter, and our morning back-and-forths were better than that first cup of coffee. But Twitter has changed, and my relationship with it has changed. Same with blogging, actually – so I could delete my blog, too. This one, and We Are Storytellers, and if I was deleting that blog I could delete its Instagram, too. That would definitely simplify things. No more creative blog posts or pictures to post. No more podcasts to record. The only Instagram account I’d have would be #bookstagram, and there was no way I’d have trouble posting there!

Wednesday, someone emailed a piece they wanted featured on We Are Storytellers. A great piece. And I thought… hm, this is becoming the community I wanted. It won’t be all on me forever. And I love podcasting – just because I don’t want to do it this week or don’t feel inspired doesn’t mean I should shut it down, because once I do – I’ll miss it. It’s happened before, hence my podcasting “career” stopping and restarting.

This one email, one shared Google Doc, helped me put it all in perspective. So I recorded the podcast – short and sweet, but I did it. I’m sticking with it. I do these things – these blogs, podcasts, Instagrams – because I enjoy them. Just because my time is crunched now and I’m too exhausted to have passion doesn’t mean I won’t in the future. I have ideas for all of those outlets, and I don’t want to stop them completely just because of a mood.

Since then, I’ve been taking things slowly. Not stressing about the extras on top of my job and home life. I am trying to pause more during the day – at work and home – and take notice of all I have. Take it slow. Enjoy what I have. Appreciate it all.

home life, money, school, working

Montessori School

I have a lot of thoughts on the public school system, from my memories as a student (skewed, I know), to being a teacher, to being a prospective parent. I’ll try to not get too… opinionated here, because I know every school system is different and the more specific I get to my district, the less helpful my insights will be to others.

I worked in an elementary school in a middle class area; the school had high ratings and incredibly high enrollment – there were over 860 kids there when I was there. We were understaffed, even if no one would admit it or no one could fix it. Classrooms pushed 30 kids, and that was way too much. I worked as a librarian so I saw all of these kids on a rotating schedule, and I always dreaded the 30-kid classes. It’s too much.

My son went to an inclusive preschool three days a week, mostly for socialization. They learn a lot there, but the pace is different since there are so many kids with different abilities. He used to go to a different school 5 days a week, full days, when I worked full time. He fit in there and learned a lot, including Spanish. But it seemed like he was on the road to behavior problems, because he always acted out with one friend. Those behaviors disappeared once he was in a classroom with kids ranging from 3-6, and with drastically different abilities. I loved this preschool because he saw so many differently-abled kids and worked with them on their levels. He has told me about some of his friends and it makes me happy that he has this understanding and compassion from a young age.

Now he is going to a Montessori school. Well, right now it is the school’s summer camp. I got a dream job at the school so I am prepping my classroom this summer while he attends camp. I think Montessori is perfect for him because he loves to learn, and has specific interests, and wants to be able to learn at his pace and on his level. Again, he will be in a class with 3-5/6 year olds. I think this is great because he will see older kids as role models, and can strive to be a good role model for those younger than him.

I was so anxious about putting him in public school. I detest our system as it is, and while I know he would adapt and socialize and fit in, I didn’t want that. I don’t want him to become a cookie cutter kid when he is so smart and curious. I want him to move around and pick his tasks and learn practical life skills from school, instead of being pushed to read and write and do worksheets in kindergarten.

I really wanted to homeschool him, but couldn’t find a way to make it work. When I was working from home, I was working 15 hours a week while he was in childcare. If needed, I worked some at night after he was asleep. And I loved working from home, and wanted to continue to do it for the flexible schedule. But now, I will be working in the same place as him. I will know what he’s learning and how. I’m still learning about the Montessori method, but I know some from a previous job at a learning center and really agree with the approach. I think this is the best compromise to homeschooling – being near enough him (no worries with drop off and pick up times at school coinciding with my work schedule!) and knowing he is learning in a method that will encourage his growth and individuality. Plus, as I said it’s a dream job for me, and teaching there means a discount on tuition. I was looking forward to public school being free, but if that’s the only perk to an education, it’s not a perk at all!

I’m eager to keep learning about Montessori as it applies to me as a teacher and parent, and I’m eager to see how he reacts to it. I’ll definitely be sharing more as I build my classroom and curriculum.

 

home life, natural living, school, working

Zero Waste

I mentioned the Zero Waste Home on my Inspiration link up, but only wrote a blip about the site. When I discovered it back in 2010, it really affected my thinking and my lifestyle. I was really into blogs back then, following friends and personal blogs and lifestyle blogs, and I even followed some fashion bloggers, believe it or not! These were more alternative bloggers who bought from thrift stores or had capsule wardrobes or did 30 day challenges… Attainable fashion, basically. Even those sold out, though some have come back pretty level-headed. But I digress.

The Zero Waste Home made me conscious of what I used and how I disposed of it. Since then, I have noticed how much trash I bring home from the grocery store in terms of packaging. And how much paper schools waste with busy work or “art” just to have something to show, to keep the kids busy, or to hit numbers and create “meaningful” data. It’s all pretty disgusting, but it’s hard to keep it away.

I wrote about Valentine’s cards and how I thought they were wasteful, but what can you do? Everything about consumerism and waste is so mainstream, so ingrained in everything, that it’s hard to break free. I sometimes still feel societal pressure about things as an adult, so I certainly don’t want my son to feel uncomfortable or mocked because his mom hates recycling the art papers that are sent home with him, or anything along those lines.

Going Zero Waste within the home is easy enough – we are keeping track of our trash vs our recycling and seeing how much we get rid of each week. We are trying to cut down on what we bring in in the first place. And I think it’s important to speak up and tell others we don’t want what they are offering us, like a free plastic toothbrush at the dentist when we buy our own compostable toothbrushes. But in a setting like school, or the workplace, things get a bit harder.

Do you have this problem with your workplace or at your kids’ school? How do you work around it? Are you vocal and just hope your kids go with it? Do you consider working at home and/or homeschooling your kids as an alternative?

Let’s get deep on the last letter of the alphabet, hm?

home life, money, natural living, working

Questions

I’ve been interested in zero waste, minimalism, and more along those lines since 2010. I’ve been interested in recycling and reusing since childhood, when I made dollhouse furniture out of toothpaste tube lids and toilet paper rolls. I have a long history in this category, but I still have a lot of questions.

Sometimes I don’t realize I have a question until I read something written by someone else. The bloggers I listed in my Inspiration post are especially good at this – they have different experiences within the field, so I will read something and want to know more because of what they’ve said, even if it is a topic I never thought about on my own.

Sometimes I have questions because of how I’m changing my own life. I’m working from home and now my son attends a preschool just a few minutes away. How much money am I saving versus how much I was earning and spending before? How much gas am I saving? How much less pollution am I producing? Does it make a difference that taking him is more stop and go on side streets instead of speeding down the highway?

How much money am I saving buying everything online? How much pollution am I creating by having things delivered to my door instead of driving to get them myself?

What toothbrush is best for my teeth? What toothbrush is best for the environment? What kind of packaging does this product come in? Is the product worth it to me, or would I rather buy a different brand that uses recyclable materials?

What will grow in my garden? Is it worth the time and work put into a garden for what we reap from it? Will I grow more produce if I plant it over there? Or there?

What do I need versus what do I want? What will make me happy versus what will be the best for everyone, for the Earth, for the environment? What am I supposed to do with my life?

You know, just your typical, everyday questions.

money, working

Photography

Photography has been my passion since I was young. I used to take tons of film pictures, filled albums, owned a band photography business, and even had an application ready for art school… but I got cold feet. I didn’t think I could make photography happen for me, so instead of sticking with it and trying, or even just keeping it as a hobby… I quit.

It was sad. I was sad.

Within the past few years, I have picked photography back up as a hobby, and am now turning it into a business. I have watched videos on how to actually learn my camera, because I am purely self-taught. And by “self-taught”, I mean I picked up the camera, figured out basic settings, and started photographing what moved me. And it’s worked for me, but I feel like to get anywhere, I need to know what I’m doing.

Hence studying my camera, settings, the technical side of it, and the business side of it. I’ve been self-employed and worked freelance for years, so I can do the financial side and the taxes. But the marketing and the clients and all that jazz is totally foreign to me.

I’m excited about Allison and Her Camera. I wish I knew when I was in my early 20s that being a photographer, and not just a wedding photographer, was possible. I wish I had found some encouragement to follow what I loved, because I would be so much farther along now.

But you can’t go back, and you can’t change anything. So now I just have to hustle and work hard and learn all I can. I want to make it happen, so I can. And I will. Everything has been happening this year, happening quickly if you realize it’s only April.

This doesn’t have much at all to do with money, or possessions, or anything like that. You could delve into it and make it about that – about digital photos over printed photographs on display. About owning a camera and lenses versus renting them. I can twist anything into being about money and finances. But for this… I didn’t want to. I wanted it to be purely about my passion for photography and my drive to make it happen for me. So it is.

fun, money, reading, school, working

Library Love

(Double letter score!)

If you know me at all, you know I love libraries. I have always wanted to be a librarian. I have always loved to check books out from the library. I’ve had a library card as long as I can remember, and it’s usually maxed out (25 books at a time is not enough!).

Libraries are awesome because they are becoming community centers. You can go and get books for free. Most libraries offer ebooks for free, and you don’t even have to go to the library! I can’t count how many times I have finished a library book at 9p, gotten frustrated about what to read next, then reached for my Kindle to check out an ebook and start reading it immediately. Plus – if you want a book and the library doesn’t have it, they’ll often order it on your suggestion!

Libraries have movies and music for rent – often free, sometimes not, depending on your system. A lot of libraries are eliminating fines, because accruing fines prevents a lot of people, especially poor people who need the library, from coming back.

Libraries have events and programs. I was a Teen Services Librarian and loved planning programs with the teens to get them into the library after school and just have fun with them and connect with them. I’ve gone to a lot of library programs and events, ranging from learning new things to hearing a speaker or an author.

Our Central library has an awesome CLOUD 901 center for teens, and a lot of larger libraries are offering media centers like this. Even rural libraries are offering diverse programs (I wrote a STEM curriculum for special ed high school students to be held at a public rural library).

If you don’t visit your local library or know much about it, check it out online and in person and see what it has to offer.

home life, money, working, writing

Freelancing

Part of the reason I wanted to leave my “typical” job was because I wanted to spend time with my son. When he was born, I was getting my Masters, so I was lucky to stay home with him for 2 years. I would have loved to be a stay-at-home mom, but something in my makeup pushed me to work outside the home. I was healthy, smart, able, and had worked nonstop since I was 16; I felt there was no reason for me to not work. Which is kind of messed up because there was also no one pushing me to work. I had just always done it, so I felt like I always had to.

Of course, now I have to work to an extent. But I am trying to find exactly what I want instead of settling for jobs that sound good on paper. I am tired of picking a job because of the title, or because the salary sounds so good (though I will admit that is a HARD temptation to push past!). I know I want to work from home, and not just because I prefer being as hermit-like as possible. I like not having a commute. I like the flexibility. I like being there for my kid when he needs me, instead of not being able to leave the office for a reason.

I am lucky to have a background conducive to freelancing – I have a degree in graphic design; a degree in English; a lot of years of experience writing, blogging, and managing my time efficiently. I had a photography business for a few years, long ago, and am starting that back up again.

I am also lucky that doing one thing all the time bores me. I admire people who can find their calling and stick with it and be passionate about it, and I know so many people like that. But I have always found myself getting restless after doing anything for a period of time, ranging from 3 months to one year. So I like the idea of cobbling together a living of writing, photography, working on different projects, doing different things for different people. Who knows if it will be a long-term venture, but it’s important to me, and I tend to push really hard (past the 3 month-1 year expiration date!) for things that matter.