Some of you may or may not know, but I experienced a little buzz back in October and November when our local paper deemed my little rants fit for publishing. Eventually, after submitting one too many, they asked me to be a community columnist and promptly stopped publishing anything I wrote. I decided that I still like what I have written so I shall just find somewhere else to publish it. What better place than my own blog? Hence, Gray Matters. Catchy, I think.

Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

Well, I have totally misssed all my deadlines. So much for that. You will just have to check on a regualar basis to see what is happening. (By the way, the fun continues in Family Fodder. Check out my latest TRUE stories!) I am still inching my way along in navigating this site myself so for all the gaffes, I do apologize. Though Julia would NEVER apologize! In cooking and in life, she just barrelled straight ahead with little remorse. She wasn't mean and not all that introspective regarding her self. She just loved, loved, LOVED life and was intensely curious about everything. I read My Life in France for a book group. I had also read Julie and Julia and, of course, saw the movie. I proclaim all three worth your time. Above all, I am taken with her spirit and her love story. Amazingly enough, her unforgettable food quest did not begin until she was 40, and she and her husband remained partners in love until his death. This inspires me because growing up in this youth-dominated culture, it would appear life ends and romance ends at 40. But when you are staring at it, living it, you realize,"Hey, this is really just getting started." How great is that? All these things are swirling in my head because my hubby and I were just checking in the other night, wondering what our next adventure should be. We both are addicted to security so despite some wild ideas we have discussed multiple times, we haven't made the move to rock any boats yet. But it gives me satisfaction just to have the conversations.

Do I read too much into these little signs....or not?

A while back, I enrolled in a local program to get my reading certificate. It's all the rage now. Despite being an English teacher, I didn't understand the science behind teaching someone how to read nor did I really know how to teach reading. Since I didn't have a job and I felt a little bored, school on the weekends seemed like an acceptable and useful way to do something for me that might make me more marketable. I didn't really end up liking the program, per se. The science wasn't my cup of tea though the information was useful. I learned I am not good at statistics or linguistics. Testing and re-testing and sorting through minutae was as enjoyable as visiting the dentist to me. However, I did like learning about the reading levels of literature and how to assess that as well as evaluating textbooks and other materials for the classroom. Teaching basic study skills is something I knew how to do, but my ideas were re-enforced and now I have a bigger cache of resources. Where I am going with this is that I learned I did not want to be a reading specialist. Too much of what is involved is not where my talents lie but having that certificate might get me in a job at a community college to teach reading and study skills. I took the course work and the magic test and ....did not pass the magic test. I set myself up for failure by really believing based on past experience that long, dry standardized testing is not my forte. I almost passed, but since there were no jobs waiting in the wings I just let it go. However, the director of our program was in the book store last week. She was 'so glad to run it to me. She proceeded to tell me there are some openings in some community colleges teaching reading and study skills. It would be great if I took that test again. Soon. By July. They are changing the standards and it's going to get harder.

The thought of studying for and taking this test makes me want to vomit. But. Trying my hand at community college teaching could be interesting-especially working with the non-traditional student population. Again...I though I was done with teaching. But is teaching done with me? I am. If I take it and pass, more doors open. If I take it and fail, I feel like a schmuck. I am not out that much except time that I could be blogging, painting my nails, organizing the sock drawer, etc. Question answered? I don't know. Help!


Just when you think you had it all figured out....

I have frequently said that I would like to be a public speaker- someone you listen to at a women's conference or a parenting workshop of some sort. I have been joking all along that I have the talent to speak but no message. And then Katy says that perhaps that is my message. Of course I thought she was joking but then I started thinking about it and it makes me think, hmmm...... maybe she is on to something. A few blogs ago I put out there that I didn't miss teaching and then someone brought up an adjunct position at a community college teaching Public Speaking to returning soldiers. Hmm....what do I have to offer returning soldiers? My husband said, "Good speaking skills." Oh, yeah, right. I look at the details- how would I rearrange my life to make this fit? Would I even be good enough? These are young men returning from who knows what kind of life- what does a 41 year old female with little kids in a cushy life have to offer them? I know how to write a speech. I can communicate, I guess. So... well...why woudn't I do this? And how does this fit in with my plan? I just put out there that I felt a bit done with teaching. But am I? The minute you start the journey with assumptions, those assumptions get busted. Again and again, I appreciate the fact that I have this undisputed luxury of following what feels right. Believe me, if I were reading this same blog written by someone else 15 years ago, I would laugh and cackle. Must be nice to be in that position where you don't have to worry about money and the bills, etc. If you read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, you may have had a similar reaction. Take off from life for a year and travel having connections to someone almost everywhere you went? Yeah, right. I am not in an Eat, Pray, Love moment, but can appreciate her journey to learning more about herself. Which gets me to my message. Perhaps that is it. That you just really listen to yourself. I am not pretending that it's always easy because sometimes what we think we want isn't ours to have. There is something else out there and it's our job to keep looking for it. A few years back I wanted a job so badly that I literally cried when I did not get it. That had never happened to me before. Oh- there were jobs I didn't get but none of those losses brought be to tears. This sent me into hiding. And then I started looking for other things to fill the void and looking back, I chose things based on what seemed right more so than what I truly wanted. I finally see this now. It's taken 3 years to come to this realization. Yet I firmly believe that every choice I made has led me to now, which is still not a settled place but I am curious. Somehow all the twists and turns will come together. And that brings me to this message of having no message. Maybe it's just the looking that is the message. Maybe it's just the wondering and asking...if it keeps me challenging myself and as a side bonus, others, isn't that enough?


Well, so much for deadlines!

So I promised that I would post on Mondays and Wednesdays and already I broke my promise. Life just gets in the way. A sick baby yesterday made it hard to type as he was sprawled across my lap for most of the day when he wasn't sleeping. Part of what happened in the last session was putting out to my friends ways in which they could help me. Now, this may not seem like a big deal but we all know how hard it can be to ask for help. Especially for something so apparently selfish. I couldn't really force myself into committing people to specifics, but there were offers for childcare, phone calls, offers to connect me with people who might be helpful to me, etc. Fast forward to the first day I missed my self-imposed deadline. I get a call from one of the women who participated. She had been ruminating on me and her oldest daughter, as well. Her daughter has babysat for my kids and she actively enjoys them! How wild is that? The thrill of a non-relative liking your child never dies:) Her daughter is looking for volunteer opportunites because she has a light semester in school. More about this girl in the future because when I was her age, I was not looking for meaningful ways to spend my time! This is probably why I am on this journey in the first place--being such a slow starter and all. Anyway, C thinks of me and my kids and B's affection for them and suddenly I have an offer of-- can B spend two hours with my kids on Thursdays? It's voluntary- they called me so no payment is required. C knows me, however, and told me that I could do whatever I felt comfortable doing. Cartwheels and hugs notwithstanding, I see a number of books in B's future.
I can now find 2 hours of uninterrupted writing time that will be scheduled like a "job". This will not take me on the fast track to a starred review in Publishers Weekly, but it's a start.
I am not sure if anyone is wondering what ideas spewed forth from the last session, but I just want to share a few of the ideas that people put out there based on their kind dissection of my personality and abilities and interests. Repeatedly, the idea of helping some underserved population came up. There were ideas of tutoring and offerings of baked goods- either at an open room in the high school after hours or even someone's garage. The Women's Resource Center was brought up. Since my interest in public speaking is apparent, maybe I could develop a class that teaches women how to promote themselves in the work place emphasizing positive communication skills. Community Education is always looking for instructors for this type of thing, too. Of course, getting a speech team going came up. I can't talk about my past without waxing poetic about Mr. Hyler(my high school speech coach) and his influence in my life. The mother of all ideas was a pod-cast radio show. I expressed interest in being on the radio even though I have NO raio experience whatsoever- except that I am an avid listener to MPR and when in the Cities, a few women-related talk shows. But it is intriguing because....I like to talk.
There you have it. Does anyone else out there have any thoughts? I am going to let you all stew on that while I leave you to wonder about my reactions. They are still simmering.
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Lisa Loves to Read and Gray Matters coming soon!



I'm back after marinating.....

It has been an interesting week after the initial rush of getting this going. I thought, perhaps, that some things about my future and what my friends said might become clearer to me as time passed. However, it seems that reality smacks you in the face and the laundry still needs to be folded, kids still resist repeated requests, and dinner occurs every day. So while I am not making excuses, it is humbling to me how much people can accomplish in the midst of ordinary life while it seems my biggest accomplishment is ordinary life. Case in point: A local women known for her athletic prowess is a tri-athlete, a chiropracter, and has 3 kids ages 2-7. She was recently in the book store and to make conversation, I asked her what she was currently training for and she told me. In all seriousness, she then asked me what I was training for. Naturally, I laughed. What else can one do when faced with such ridiculousness? It also proves that while we share many commonalities, people do speak different languages. For her, not training for something, not pushing her physical self is likely as inconceivable as it is inconceivable to me to all.

But back to what to what I learned. Ok. So my friends and I were pretty on target. I totally get my energy from other people, I don't take things too personally, I like public speaking, I like helping people who might not get help. I had a history of working with people that seem on the margins: adult English language learners, troubled kids, struggling readers, etc. I like working for a cause, I am not afraid to speak out if it seems justified. Blah, blah, blah. How does this translate into anything that might be a future career? And what about the teaching? After blowing wads of cash on a masters plus in English and reading education, how can I just kiss that good-bye? Well, the truth of the matter is, I don't miss it. That is harsh to say. I do not miss the daily stress and requirements of what I know to be the best teachers. I worked half-time for a year and felt I did a half-assed job at everything- mothering, working, home care, and obvioulsy anything for myself came last. I get my energy from colleagues and if you are not in a position to work in teams, teaching can be very isolating. If you are working with the struggling readers and challenged students, this means all the good energy created is up to you and I feel like I don't have that magic. This, combined with my husband's job, which limits my availability to be involved in extra-curriculars and committees, just overwhelms me. Strangely, I loved committee work and coaching speech- all done outside the classroom. This is where the fostering of relationships occurred and where I jived most. My husband's job is not an excuse. It's a reality that is quite inflexible. I am not a super human and I don't want to be. I don't need to pay others to mess up my kids. I do that on my own quite nicely. Money is not my primary concern. This is a statement I never thought I would write and with all my heart, I know how fortunate I am. I don't take this lightly,which is why I almost feel something like pressure to give back. However, the giving monetarily doesn't seem to be as gratifying as it could be. And then there's the fact that I would like to get paid because I am worth something. Which leads me back to how this all started. Which is to say I am restless and want to push my own envelope, but I don't know how and why and when and where. So....I've been reflecting on the teaching, what makes me feel good, and how this can be combined into something meaningful, and what does this have to do with this blog?

What I have figured out so far? Obviously, not much. I can sort through things by writing, hence the blog. I am also hoping that others might see something similar in their own thinking. Maybe they struggle with the same things. Who knows? And I am trying to publish something sometime...again,I don't know what. What I do know is that I will be creating a few pages on this blog. One will be called Gray Matters. I will post columns that didn't make our local paper or drafts of things I am working on for feedback. Another section that has it's first entry is called Family Fodder, which explains itself.

I hope you continue to follow me on this unknown journey.

Still restless,

Two Weeks Prior to the Big Night

This all started on January 19th. I frequently joke to both men and women that most men really never mature beyond 7th grade. This comes up for a variety of reason in a variety of situations. When your husband farts at the dinner table and is laughing as loud as the kids is one. Or when you when you realize the belching contest isn’t being led by your son. These are just a few examples but you get what I mean. It turns out that women can regress to 7th grade, too, but in a typically more emotional fashion. My first job was to invite 8 -10 women to participate in my circle. Preferably, I was asked to find people who knew me in different capacities- I guess this would paint a clearer, more well-rounded picture of me. So that list of local people was kind of hard. The insecurities of junior high came flooding back- only this time it wasn’t about my new jeans--will anyone notice? Will they see how my comb matches my shirt? No. It seemed so serious and what if those who I felt were my dearest wouldn’t or couldn’t come? I realize it wasn’t a funeral or a wedding or even a significant celebration, but it many ways it seemed way more important. I included people farther away- my sister for one, but knew the distance skypng thing might be too weird. So I focused locally, on those who’ve been around me in the last 7 years in Winona. I knew I had 3 that I could totally count on and these 3 women were the people (in town) who knew me best. But five more? I have friends and working at the store has introduced me to many community people and a long-standing book group has really given me some rich relationships- but it just seemed like so much to ask -- give up three hours of their life for me? It really seemed like the most selfish thing I could do. I kept trying to turn the tables. I would have done this for any one of the people I invited. Truly. So…I just asked and everyone said yes. How crazy that seemed to me-perhaps I wasn't quite the schmuck I tend to think I am. And if I am, I apparently hide it well.

The Big Night:

I can't say that attending this felt like an execution, but I did feel a bit like that poor dead frog you dissected in junior high. People were going to dig into me and see what they could find. But it really wasn't like that. No...if it weren't for the task at hand and the focus on me, it might have been sort of fun. Imagine a warm cozy room filled with your closest friends, a roaring fire, some tea, and chocolate cake. It had all the makings of a better than average evening. But then dear Katy gets it going. She wants to know how everyone knows me, what words they think of when they think of me, decribes the places and events that youv'e witnessed Lisa "light up" or be in her "zone", and how they might finish this thought: what do you find yourself wondering about why Lisa doesn't...... I had to give a bit of my back story- how I got to where I am today and what I might be hoping to get out of it and that was that. We started this conversation at 7:30 p.m. and after 30 minutes my clock watching kicked into gear. How long could these people talk about me? Apparently awhile. We didn't end until almost 9:00 p.m. and I was so glad. Honestly, detassling corn was more fun despite the soggy pants, humid weather, and cuts on my arms. I found myself wondering if the person they seemed to describe was the same person. Honestly, I don't suffer from low self-esteem. I am pretty aware of what I can and cannot do and where my strengths lie, but it is an out of body experience to hear people describe you in a way that makes you think, "Hey, she sounds like someone who would be fun to be with- and a good friend" Surreal.

So that was done. Now the hard part. What does this girl need to do? Why is she restless? What path can she take? What is stopping her? How can these fabulous ladies help me? The tough questions that I have been avoiding for awhile were just smacked right down in front of me. Ok-- smacked is dramatic but I was the one in the hot seat. Yes- I know, I know. I willingly put myself there. Fortunately, time was up and people were going to be pondering these for me- as would I, of course. Based on themes that kept coming up throughout the night, where might dear Lisa like to go? Home was my first thought. Get me out of here!

Restless Gray Girl Gets Started!

Here I am! I did it and I had another month to go! This post date is for you, Katy!

All that agonizing about a title and I decided to just go for it. I like my title because it says pretty much what this is all about.

For anyone who stumbles upon this, here is my back story:

I am a 41 year old stay at home mom (by choice) who is restless. My baby is in kindergarden and the time stretches before me. This is NOT to say that I don't have things to do: clean, cook, chauffer, nurse, organize, dictate when needed, volunteer at school, and work sporadically at a charming little book store in Winona, MN. So...while I have more time than most it's not in spades. Plus, I like to sleep so that cuts into things a bit.

How I got to a blog:

Upon arriving in Winona 7 years ago, I was turned on to this life saving group MN offers to parents- ECFE, early childhood family education. I encountered a fairy godmother named Katy Smith who is responsible for saving the well-being of countless moms and in effect, their children. Katy and I struck an immediate bond and life set things up so that our paths would continue to cross even when I wasn't attending the classes Katy taught to parents at ECFE. We live in the same neighborhood, we pounded doors during a bond referrendum, her youngest daughter was our long-time babysitter, and we are both restless so any conversations we had could seem to go without end. I am a teacher by trade, but I was forced into staying home when we moved to Winona. My hubby's job is demanding of our time so it just made sense all around. I dabbled in subbing, got a reading endorsement to attach to my masters in education, and even held a part-time teaching job that lasted for only one year due to budget cuts. I was saved from myself again when I brazenly marched into our indedpendent book store wondering if they needed help. I still have the job. But here I am-- still restless.

I guess I have always been a person who is not content. Long before kids,with only myself and 125 students to think about, I wondered if there was something else out there for me. Now that I am home with a few chunks of time and the realization that I will never have a home that looks like the cover of Simple magazine, I decided to take Katy up on her offer to help me. Since she, too, is restless we were helping each other. She's taught parenting classes at ECFE for 20 years or more. But she likes variety and change and she is currently dabbling in life -coaching, specifically women helping other women find and follow their passion through support and practical help. Katy is inrigued by circles of women helping each other so she developed this process of launching a woman onto her new path and I signed up as her guinea pig. I will be sharing my reflections of this process, along with my progress (or lack thereof) as well as anything I damn well please since it is my blog:) This blog is the result of hours of contemplation by myself and my friends and is hopefully just the beginning of whatever crazy path I am on. To anyone who is restless, I hope you join me and find some comfort in this.

To my circle of friends: I love you more than words can say. To have such amazing women invest hours of their life in me is just an incredible gift. The fact that I could find 9 of you that I consider such dear friends is amazing in and of itself. The flaws in my cakes in no way reflects the perfect adoration I have for each one of you! Amy, Ann, Carol, Connie, Jenny, Jessie, Katy, and Mary- thank you, thank you, thank you.

Did anyone notice I am ahead of schedule?

Restless Gray Girl