Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Month End Numbers

"Work like you don't need the money" ...

It is a good thought. But I must admit now that the end of the month has arrived, my head is 'all about the numbers' this morning.

How will I fare on a part time wage? How is stat holiday pay calculated? Will I be disciplined enough to save holiday day as it is paid out on each pay cheque? What will my pay cheque be??? I must wait a week before I get an answer to all of these pressing questions.

Will I be working at all over the Christmas break? If not, that is two weeks of unpaid vacation. Vacation - I like. Unpaid? I can do it, but I'd rather not.

I have been spending cautiously this month. Not an all-out spending freeze, but we are definitely not replacing or fixing 'that which is broken' around here. The list is growing.

I'm adding things up and things look like they should be fine for December. It is January that concerns me ...

Things can change in a moment. One full-time, temporary position could alleviate this pay-day-stress. I'll take temporary ... I'll take working every day at a different school if I must. I just wish I knew what my pay cheque was going to look like for the next few months.

This is not new. This is how I have lived most of the past 13 years. But this is the first time that I have felt like I have no control over the outcome of my pay cheque. I just have to keep saying "Yes!" to every opportunity to work, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Now it is time to get out there and earn my keep.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Then ... I Went Dancing

Not to be undone by a day that had the means to undo me, I pushed myself out of the house, out of my comfort zone and into brand new territory ... and went to a bar that offered free dance lessons.

A friend and I have been talking (but not doing anything) about this for some time. Last night we forged ahead with our plans and went.

We got there early and at first glance it appeared that there were several men and a few couples in our midst. Then the dance lesson started ... and the men cleared out.

It was all couples. No spare dance partners. My friend said to me, "It's a couple's world ..."

I hate to admit defeat (again!), but it appears that she may be right. I just want to dance. I don't need a pro-dancer. I just want some one who enjoys music, has fun dancing and is willing to try.

I woke up this morning determined to take out an advertisement "Dance Partner Wanted". I don't need or want the complications of anything more ... but it is getting tougher and tougher to grin and bear it.

I am so tired. Tired of fighting these waves on my own. Tired of sitting out when all I want to do is dance.

It is no wonder I sleep all of the time.

Treading Water

I've been trying to turn this 'subbing' gig into an adventure. Truly, I have!!

As much as I love being able to work in one school for days or weeks at a time, when I get called into a new school unexpectedly I think of it as another brand new slate. A new school to check out. Meeting new people. Having the opportunity to see how other school offices operate. Another school to circle on my city/school map as a school-that-I-have-worked-at.

Yesterday, I was backing out of the garage when my phone rang. Change of plans. I would be going to a different school than I thought I would be when I stepped out of the house. Oh well. An adventure!

Since I got the call late, I arrived a few minutes late. I called in to the 'Help Desk' to advise them of the last minute change and they couldn't do anything for me because it would be undone at 8:30. Just wait. I waited. An hour later, nothing worked. I called again. They had no record that my school destination had changed ....

So once again ... I was working without the programs that I needed to do my job. I couldn't print off a class list for a substitute teacher. Not only because my computer program was not functioning yet ... but because I had no idea where the photocopy machine was. I am (just now) finding out the limitations of my email program ...

I rolled with the punches. Did what I could. Smiled and introduced myself to the staff as they came into the office.

Then I accidentally grabbed an extra sheet of paper off of the printer when I took what I had printed. When I realized my error, I delivered it to the correct person ... but only after the words (something to the effect of) "employee appraisal" crossed my vision. Shortly thereafter, the principal mentioned the need to rectify an oversight (the substitute that didn't have a class list) earlier in the morning and reference was made to reporting to the person that hired me.

Whoa! Suddenly, I felt stripped of any false security that I had been faking this past month (or three). I am working without a net. I am on my own. No one has my back until they hire me in a permanent position.

Today, I am headed off to work at a school where I will be on my own. For the better part of three weeks. I know where I'm going. I may not know what I'm doing when I get there, but computer programs should be up and running since I am going where I am supposed to go today.

Then (minutes ago) the phone rang. The automatic dispatch system called me to the school I worked at yesterday. I refused the assignment because there is no one else at the school that I have already been assigned to today. I felt guilty refusing an assignment but there were no live people to talk to so I called and left messages with those that I thought this affected.

Three weeks at one school. Three weeks of (hopefully) no last minute changes.

I am desperately trying to make the best of the situation that I am in. It isn't easy, but I am doing my best. I feel like I'm walking a tightrope without a net. That has never been one of my strong points.

It feels like a sink or swim situation. I can swim. I just need lessons!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Quiet Weekend at Home

It was a productive weekend. Or so I thought, until I sat down and thought about what I had accomplished.

I did start and complete a few small projects. I have followed through on a few of my Christmas goals. I have issued an invitation and accepted another.

I talked with a few people on the phone. I ran one quick errand.

I cooked two meals yesterday! Hey ... on further thought, we didn't eat out all weekend so I must have scavenged for food around here Friday and Saturday too.

I finished a few crossword puzzles. I sent off a handful of emails. I wrote a letter. I read two pages in a book ...

Why do I feel like I accomplished so much, when in reality all I did was putter?

Because I used to putter constantly. I propelled myself through a day by continually moving and doing. Something. Anything.

Moving through a day in a state of perpetual motion feels good. Things get done.

This weekend, very little interrupted the slow and quiet flow of my days.

It felt wonderful to be home. To stay home. To know that I didn't need to be running here and there.

I was quiet. I wrote a little, thought a little and talked a little. But for the most part, thoughts simply flowed in and out of my head like a quiet breeze.

I didn't have to 'be' anything to anyone.

My Youngest and I quietly co-existed in the house all weekend. We chatted a little now and again. I invited him to come and watch a movie with me Saturday night but he declined. He needs very little from me these days ... but it feels good to quietly share the same space. In peace and harmony.

This past weekend was idyllic. As were the weekends preceding it. In reflecting, my weekends seem to be a continual state of movement. I have been so busy with 'being', 'doing' and 'going' that I haven't had time to appreciate the simplicity of just being home.

Working outside of my home five days a week, working in and around people all day, learning new faces and a new job is exhausting. I haven't had the energy nor ambition to push myself out of my comfort zone after work. Because I am 'there' all day. Friends and family have rallied at my side. I have not walked this path alone.

So this past weekend of (almost) solitude ... was just what the doctor ordered. I thoroughly enjoyed the simple pleasure of a quiet weekend at home.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Hands Will be Empty ... But My Heart Will be Full

Christmas. I am feeling oddly unaffected by the upcoming stresses of the season, because I am shifting my focus this year.

Random acts of kindness, giving in ways I haven't given before and looking outside of my friend and family circle to find alternate ways of gifting, has relieved the pressure of trying to find the perfect gift that represents the gratitude that I feel for having that person in my life. Once I closed my eyes to the materialism and opened them to looking at alternatives, I felt a part of me come to life.

In this day and age, there are truly very few people that I know that are in dire need. I am one of them. I want for absolutely nothing in my life. I have the ability to indulge in not only necessities ... but many frivolous items. It kind of makes me crazy to think that someone has spent their hard earned (or saved or borrowed) cash on something that may end up collecting dust in my home.

I look at the material gifts that are collecting in my home and it seems like such a waste. How do I make this stop without telling those who gave so generously that though the gesture is fully appreciated, the gift is unnecessary (and there are so many other ways their money could have been utilized ...)?

I must set out early and let those that are on the list that I would dearly love to give to, that a gift will not be forthcoming this year. Instead, I will open my eyes and heart to those who will never know what I may have done on their behalf.

The magic is in keeping the details to myself. I want to be Santa this year. An anonymous, mysterious figure who only exists in the hearts of those who 'believe'. I will still buy for My Youngest ... but I would like to donate the rest of my budgeted Christmas funds to my 'Santa Goal'.

I would like to enact a NO-GIFT policy to those who have given to me in the past.

Instead, I would like for them to take what they may have spent to treat themselves to an indulgence. Whether it is to treat themselves to a cup of coffee ... an afternoon at the movies ... a day with friends ... a dance lesson … a book … or getting their hair done. I would ask them to indulge themselves to anything that brings happiness to their heart.

If they find that in the act of being kind to themselves, they have more to give … commit random acts of kindness. Listen with their heart to hear of those who need a helping hand and give what you may have to offer. Whether it is a material or emotional need that they discover, follow their instincts and reach out in the spirit of the season.

The gift of ‘you’ is all that I could ever want
The gift of your caring, sharing, understanding and compassion is all that I need.
In this season of giving, if I am (or ever have been) on your gift list,
I have but one small request:
Please pay it forward.

Look for ways to spend your time and money
in ways that have significant value to you … or someone in need.

I will look for ways to continue this trend long past the Christmas season. When the opportunity arises, I hope to find ways of acting on giving simple pleasures all year through.

This is a long, convoluted way of saying when I see you throughout this holiday season my hands will be empty but my heart will be full.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Code of Conduct

Yesterday, I had time on my hands to research the school that I will be working at for the next three weeks. I perused their website, current newsletter and student handbook. There was a wealth of general information available and I was able to get a feel for the school I will soon be working at.

This school belongs to the "League of Peaceful Schools" where moral values are emphasized, teaching empathy, self-control and respect for all.

I was intrigued. I believe that the peace within our community/nation/world begins at home. If children are taught methods of resolving issues without the use of violence, coercion or bullying tactics at home, they have a better chance of utilizing those tools once they are out in the real world.

When the school system is dedicated to peaceful resolution of behavioural issues, it gives our next generation the best chance they have to learn the tools to create a peaceful environment. I admit that the school system is up against incredible odds, when children already come equipped with varying backgrounds, morals, behaviour issues and have already learned their own set of problem-solving-techniques.

But when I see and hear teachers consistently treating students fairly, I continue to believe that these students are still given the opportunity to see that the goal of peaceful resolution to problems is something to strive towards.

I continued my journey through the student handbook and found their Code of Conduct, based on the FISH! Philosophy (based on the DVD "FISH! : Catch the energy, release the potential"). I read the four simple practises that encompass the meaning of this philosophy and I thought it was a most perfect way to encompass good living no matter what your age (slightly adapted from the original FISH! Philosophy, so they apply to the students):
  • Be There
  • Choose Your Attitude
  • Make Someone's Day
  • Play
Be There - Make every moment count, no matter where you are. Be present and accounted for - whether it is school, work, family, friendship or any place that life takes you.

Choose Your Attitude - I love this one. It is not what happens to you in life, it is how you react to it. Your reaction is a choice that you make. Make choices you can live with. Choose a positive attitude.

Make Someone's Day - The best way to have a great day is to do a good deed, pay someone a compliment, commit random acts of kindness and envelope the spirit of giving. Helping to make someone's day always makes my day brighter.

Play - This is one that I often forget. Take time to laugh, to be joyful, to indulge yourself in that which makes you happy. Watch children playing independently. Watch their expressions, listen to their laughter. Take time to play and rediscover your inner child.

I have often read that "Everything I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten". It's never too late to learn. I am encouraged to find these philosophies enveloped in our school system.

I knew that I wanted to go back to school. Little did I know how much there was to learn in the Elementary grade levels!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Gift is in the Giving

Thoughts are many ... but words are few this morning. It is a morning where small miracles are at the forefront of my mind.

Simple things like:
  •  Waking up to a day where I have the luxury of living a day that is not unlike most of the days that preceded it.
  • A day blessed by good health and the health and happiness of my loved ones.
  • Feeling safe, happy, secure and content not only in my home and within my family ... but a general sense of feeling good about where I am 'at' in this world.
  • Being in a position to 'give'. As this Christmas season rolls around, I am thinking less of buying presents and more about giving.
I am coasting through life at the moment. Life is easy. There are few surprises. Some may call this boring. I call it 'blessed'.

The state of living an expected life can change in a moment. I will appreciate what I have, while I have it ... and do my best to share what I have to give.

I have a lot left over at the end of a day. It is time to push myself out of what is easy and do something with the excess.

The true gift is in the giving.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Unfinished Business

I have spent the morning sending off emails that were long overdue. The words that I should have sent off days ago are finally finding their way to their recipients.

Unfinished business. It takes an enormous amount of energy to not do something.

Putting off something for tomorrow, which could have been done today is recently my most annoying habit. This must change!

I have been talking the talk ... but not walking the walk. I have inspirational and motivational articles and books all around me. I have not pushed myself out of my comfort zone to do anything I have not wanted to do for too long.

It is time to make an action plan that I can and will follow through on! It is time to wrap up unfinished business so that I can pursue that which I am passionate about. The stuff that dreams are made of.

"If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up."
~ J.M. Power

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ready For Anything

It was an unexpected day. I thought I knew where I was working yesterday, but one phone call just before I walked out the door changed that.

I already had my brain turned on and working through strategies to make the day ahead of me productive and positive. All I had to do when my destination changed unexpectedly, was to take that plan and make it work in a brand new environment.

Another new school. A day where Head Office didn't receive the change of location information in time to make any of my computer programs functional where I was working.

New faces, no other secretary in the office and a whole new set of challenges were set out before me.

And it was okay! It was really okay!! I introduced myself to staff members as they walked through the door and treated the day as if I was 'there to stay'. I made a conscious effort to remember names. I worked independently and treated this as a practice run for the new school that I will be working at next week (for the next three weeks).

The staff were wonderful. The students were awesome (I actually had one student tell me that I was awesome, too!). It was a whirlwind day and I was still standing at the end of it all.

It was a day that helped me appreciate the gift of a new beginning. Another chance to start all over again, utilize the knowledge and strategies I've learned the past month and make the most of a day.

It was a day when I woke up and prepared myself for whatever the day had in store. I was ready for anything. It proved to be a very good way to start the day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Won't Go Back There!

I've had many life-experiences which were unfair and hurtful which have marked the hills and valleys in my journey through this life of mine.

As I wrote that sentence, my life past flashed before me. Yes. There have been some life-changing experiences which I wouldn't want to live again. But I did live them ... once. It is my choice not to go back and emotionally dwell those occasions unless doing so, will help someone else (usually my children).

I've had some interesting lessons. Some of them had to repeated in various forms before I finally learned what I needed to know, so that I could move onto new lessons.

This fall has been one of those 'new lessons'. I found myself in the middle of a situation that I did not create and was out of my control. It tore me up inside. I was a shadow of the person that I thought I had become. Nothing that had worked in the past, worked in that situation. All I could do was try my best ... and cry (and I did a lot of that).

Finally, the solution was taken out of my hands. The powers that be removed me from a toxic situation and tossed me into a brand new set of lessons. I walked away from a situation which I could not change, knowing that I had done everything in my power to overcome the challenges. I didn't say or do anything that I regretted. I am trying my best to take the 'lessons learned' and pay them forward into my newest set of life-lessons.

I won't go back and relive those months. It wasn't fair. Some people don't play by the rules but it doesn't mean that others have to resort to their behaviour to 'win'. I remain firm in my resolve that it was a blessing in disguise that the choice to remain in a bad situation was taken out of my hands. I will move on.

I had a conversation last night where I had the opportunity to go back and reopen freshly healed wounds. I refused to take the bait and let my emotions take over my thinking. It was what it was. It isn't any more. I feel happier in this new state of flux, than I did in the state of upheaval that I lived during that time frame. My new situation isn't perfect. But it isn't eating me up inside. I won't go back to 'that place' unless it serves a purpose.

I have done my best to take the lessons learned and apply them to other situations. Bad leadership trickles down and affects all those who work under that leadership. It infects bystanders. It affects the innocents. It is those that don't have a clue what is going on that receive the inferior service, uncaring attitude and a myriad of oversights because 'the obvious' isn't apparent when staff are receiving pressure from all angles.

Now, when I am on the receiving end of poor customer service, I try my best not to jump to conclusions. Perhaps it is a new employee. There may be inadequate training or inadequate staffing. Perhaps there isn't an adequate system of checks and balances to assist staff who walk into a new role (or shift). The staff may not have a strong and supportive team behind them. They may be on the receiving end of subtle but chronic bullying in the workplace. And management that does not confront those issues. Or ... they may simply not be suited for that position and have remained where they are because it is easier than starting from scratch somewhere else.

Now, I won't go back there. But I will do my best not to jump to conclusions. When I run across this 'lesson' in its next revised form ... I will try to empower myself by taking what I learned and pushing through.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chips Make Crummy Bedfellows

My mom thought my niece was exaggerating when she mentioned the pure joy of eating chips and dip in bed and just enjoying the guilty pleasure of it all ...

I assured my mom that my niece was in all likelihood being 100% truthful. Because I have done the same.

One of the joys of being single are that there are absolutely no rules when it comes to things such as this. Last night was one of those nights.

I had been craving chips for weeks. I finally jumped on the chance to fulfill that craving and bought some chips yesterday afternoon.

I came home, put away groceries, ran out to see a movie, returned home just in time for supper, watched the end of "Pacific" with my Middle Son (while savoring the cheesecake which we had for dessert), showered and tended to that-which-needed-tending before I could finally call it a night ... and the chips were calling my name.

I was almost finished reading a book that I started on Saturday and I knew that climbing in bed with the book would be 'lights out' for me. Unless ... I grabbed those chips!

Mmmm!! Chips in bed. The perfect way to end a most wonderful weekend!

Until I woke up this morning and felt crumbs ... everywhere.

I must have dropped one chip. And rolled around on it. All night. There was little evidence of a chip left. Just chip-dust. And the unmistakable grease blot which told me that it was not a leaky pillow. It was most definitely a chip that caused the mess.

My stomach feels a little bit off this morning after chowing down on chips until I could eat (nor stay awake) no longer.

Which leads me to my Life Lesson of the day: "Chips ... Make Crummy Bedfellows".

The Return of Laughter

It was a wonderful weekend. It was filled with everything my heart could hope for.

Sleep when I needed it, friendship in many forms, time to be alone, time to indulge in guilty pleasures, time to read, time for pleasure.

My heart is light and happy these days. The cloud that has been hovering over me has been gradually dissipating. The sky is blue and the sun is shining in my world.

It wasn't so very long ago that I felt broken, weak and weary. The contrast between then and now is like night and day.

Then I heard it. The laughter within our home, within my heart. It never left, but there has been far too much laughter among tears.This weekend, the laughter was pure joy. Unanticipated humor in little things. Unbridled emotions set free in the form of laughter.

It is back. The joy of living life and savoring the little moments has returned. Laughter.

"He who laughs ... lasts!" ~ Mary Pettibone Poole

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Let's See Where My Fingers Take Me

It is a roll of the dice this morning. I can't quite make my mind settle down on one topic so I shall let my fingers wander the keyboard and see what they have to say for themselves.

First off, can I say how happy I am that it is Saturday?!?

It isn't that I don't love my job. But it is getting so exhausting not knowing the people I am working with. As a secretary, a good half of my job is sending calls or tracking down people in the school. When I have no idea who is standing next to me a great deal of the time, this is a tiresome challenge. I mix up names and data because everything is Greek to me. I wish that every school came with a directory of Who's Who. That would be the first thing that I would do, if I became King of the Schools.

The second thing that I may do as King, would be to ask that employees document the 'timeline of their day' in a fashion that someone walking into their job (and not knowing a thing) could pick up this handy-dandy to-do-list and they could maneuver their way through the day without asking a bazillion questions. Little things ... like where to locate various items (eg: a pen!).

It is not that anyone has given me a moment of grief because I am bothering them with questions. It is just a matter of self preservation. I feel more independent when I can get through the basic elements of the day without relying on someone else's knowledge.

One other thing that I would do if I became King of the Schools, would be to develop a quick reference guide for new employees. Phone numbers, contact names and email addresses of who to call when you have a question about _______? I am finding out things by trial and error. A great deal of the time, I would not need to bother someone with a phone call. The ability to communicate by email would be a great time-saver to the person on the other end of the question.

I am feeling a great deal of angst about an (almost) three week position that I will be filling in December.

I have been booked to work Tuesday - Friday at the same school for three weeks. I will be filling the Admin Assistant's role. I am not Admin Assistant material. These secretaries know the school like the back of their hand. They are the heart and core of the operations as they balance a myriad of roles. Me? I will know how to answer the phone and do attendance.

As I sit here and wonder what else it is that I know how to do without assistance, my mind goes blank. I must know something else. But frankly ... I am feeling (more than just) a little nervous about this.

I know that a person learns the most when they are immersed in a sink or swim situation. I am currently practicing my survival techniques. I am learning all that I can, from the people that I am working with at the moment. They have told me to call them if I need help. I have a life line.

The secretary that I am replacing is leaving me a detailed list of what-to-do and how-to-do-it. She will be accessible and she has told me that she will call in from time to time to check on how things are going. I have help at my fingertips from other secretaries within the system. It will be okay.

It's just that this new-job-anxiety has been going on for too long. It has now been three months. And due to the fact that I am working as a substitute, most days still feel like a first day.

The last month has been a completely different kind of anxiety. It is all self-induced. Prior to that? I was dealing with other stressors beyond my control. Unhealthy stress. This past month? The anxiousness is only because of the newness of the job, the staff, the school and situations are unique and new at each school.

But the people I have been working with? Life savers. I am not exaggerating. The staff have been wonderful to me at a time when I really needed to be treated with a little bit of respect and patience.

I guess I had a few related thoughts going on within this head of mine after all. Who knew? My fingers did. That's who! When my fingers do the talking, I usually find the underlying cause of my restlessness.

Now that I know what I'm thinking, I can act on it and become proactive.

Friday, November 18, 2011

It Feels Like Home

One of the schools that I have been working at the past few weeks has stood out from the rest. It feels like I have 'come home'.

The staff are incredible. Sitting in the coffee room feels like I'm sitting in the kitchen of one of my family members - with sisters, cousins and friends of the family milling about.

The way everyone pulls in and works together is like a well oiled machine. The give, the take, the yin, the yang. It all 'works'.

The students are the kids that are a result of this 'family'. Individuals. They are what bring us all together.

It is simply easy to work in this atmosphere. There is little fear of failure, as it a well accepted fact that no one is perfect; mistakes happen; and encouraging words are generously dispersed.

I have seen and felt this at most every school that I have worked at since I started working as a substitute. Why does this school stand out from the rest?

A little bit, because the secretary that I work with is very much like a good friend of mine. I feel like I know her. She has all of the qualities that I admire in this friend.

Then, there is the fact that people from different facets of my life keep showing up at this school. A young girl from the dance studio is a student at this school. A parent that I used to babysit for, came to do some work at the school. Phone calls from staff at the school that I worked at for a few months. My 'room-mate' from our dance competition appeared yesterday (her last day at her nursing work practicum) and one of the staff that I admired from my first school came by yesterday. This school was her previous 'home' ...

Home. That is how I feel at this school. I wish they would adopt me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Work Like You Don't Need the Money

I talked to an insurance agent a few nights ago and was transported back to a time where my head was consumed with planning my financial future.

It was a time when I was just over a decade away from paying off my mortgage. A time when I had a pension fund where my employer matched my contributions. A time where I maximized retirement savings plans. A time where my insurance needs were just that. "In Case of Emergency" funds; not a basic requirement, for what I was not able to save up for during my life time.

My mind back-tracked to a time where I was consumed with my financial state of affairs. I have often said that "It was a time when I could afford to retire and afford to die ... but I could not afford to live". It was a time when my priorities were all mixed up.

Since then, I have discovered the joy in spending what you have, when you have it. Living life. Experiencing the joy of doing something unexpected. Spending money on experiences instead of material belongings.

Part of my retirement savings went towards funding my stay-at-home venture during the first year. The rest of it went towards shingling our home. I withdrew the non-locked-in portion of my pension fund as a contingency plan during my most recent transition into a new job.

My retirement money allowed me to make good-for-me transitions within my work life. It also quite literally went towards keeping us sheltered from the elements of the outside world. Perhaps it didn't earn the astronomical rates that long term investing has the potential to do. But it funded 'the present' and provided choices to live life the way I wanted to live it. I had the ability to walk away from jobs that didn't fulfill the part of me that needed fulfillment at that point in my life.

Windfalls of cash have also found their way into my pocket. I suppose that I should have accumulated a nice little nest egg with a good portion of those unexpected funds. But I didn't.

What I have instead, is a small arsenal of life experiences. I have fixed up and maintained a home. I went back to school. I have danced. I have gone on spur of the moment trips. I have experienced a dance competition. I took a trip with my mom. I experienced a vacation of a lifetime, with friends from my life time. I have loosened up the purse strings and experienced joy whenever the opportunity arose.

I may not have accumulated much interest. But I am living a life that is interesting. I will have fond recollections of the years where I allowed myself the freedom to live the life I chose to live. I was not so consumed with The Budget, that I let life slip by.

I woke up this morning with part of a quote "Work like you don't need the money ..." wafting through my consciousness.

Work has been all consuming for me lately. I live, breath and sleep work-related-thoughts. I long for stability. A place of employment where I go every day, know the people I work with, know my job like it is the back of my hand and earn a pay cheque that I can count on.

As I switched between two different schools yesterday morning/afternoon, my world felt like it was topsy turvy and I confused what I thought I knew from one school, with the other. I am confusing names, people and I feel like I am in an altered state as I don't know who is standing next to me half of the time.

I counted up the potential days left to work this month and if I manage to work all of them, I will earn approximately $600.00 less than I did when I worked full time at one school. Does this affect my budget? You bet. Can I make it work? Yes, I can.

As I looked at the numbers, I felt weary. I wish that I didn't have to work. If only I was working because it was a choice; not a necessity ...

Then came the question of the hour. If I didn't have to work, where would I choose to work?

The answer came easily. I would do exactly what I am doing right now.

I would enjoy the status of 'substitute', because it gives me the possibility of booking days off that I may need. I may end up with an unexpected day off from time to time.

I would get to experience working with many different people (and I have had nothing but good experiences since I have been on the sub-list).

I would have the opportunity to work in old schools, new schools ... in affluent neighborhoods and their extremes.

I would have the chance to see that no matter what district children live in, they are all a mixture of cultures, behaviours, challenges and joys.

There is one variable that has remained the same no matter where I have worked within the school system. I absolutely love the feeling within those hallowed walls of learning.

I find myself drawn into conversations where I hear teachers struggling to find the best way to make a challenging situation work. I see small miracles when a child's eyes sparkle because of the way someone spoke to them.

If I was not getting paid, I would choose to volunteer at the school. I would find my niche and I would follow where ever that path led.

I am in the right place. If money was no object, this is where I would choose to be.

I must continue to make the most of each day, so that I can make a living doing what it is that I choose to do.

Work like you don't need the money
Dance like no one is watching
Sing like no one is listening
Love like you've never been hurt
And live life every day as if it were your last.
~ Author Unknown

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let Me Tell You About Our Cats ...

There is one member of our family that gets more love and affection than all of the rest of us combined. Our cat - Andre.

Andre was tossed into our back yard one fall day about 11 years ago. A black, gangly 'teen-age' cat that purred like an engine and had the worst gas of any living being that I have ever known. That purr is what won our hearts.

Andre joined our family of three humans and two cats. He was a friend to all. He easily stepped into the family order.

Max - the alpha male cat was dominant and ruled the roost. Tanzia was a slightly insecure (dare I say 'neurotic'??) female cat that we adopted due to a cat allergy within her original human family.

Max overcame renal kidney failure and was destined to a life time of special cat food. This food cost an arm and a leg and was doled out in medically appropriate doses. Max thought that he got first go at the special food because he was the King of This Jungle.

The cat line-up in our kitchen at feeding time amused and entertained us. Max took up his place at the front of the line and ate to his heart's content. Tanzia awaited the second lick at the bowl. And last but not least, Andre took up the rear. Between the three of them, the plate was licked clean. Each of them knew their place. No one butted in line. No one challenged the rule.

This was the way the house ran. Each cat knew their place in the hierarchy of cats. Max had no trouble maintaining his royal status of King of the Household. Andre was a fun-loving guy and he loved to play. He enamored himself to the rest of his family and he was 'everybody's buddy'.

The years went on and our cat population dwindled.

Max was destroyed more furniture (three couches, one hide-a-bed and at least two chairs) during his reign than any other child, cat, dog or human that I have ever known. He was getting nastier by the year. His health food was expensive and he was getting little to no attention from anyone in the house. After the demise of our good living room furniture, I made the executive decision to give him away ...

Tanzia was a high-strung, nervous cat. I thought that her 'problems' were related to Max's dominance. But when (months after Max moved out), she was still urinating in random places other than her cat litter, we 'traded her in' for a new couch. This is no lie. We needed a new couch (see above), but I refused to buy anything as long as we had Tanzia. She was running a close second to ruining as much around the house as Max did. The sales clerk at the furniture store offered to adopt Tanzia and we bought a couch from her.

Andre became an 'only cat'. As much as he loved his brother and sister, he adapted very easily to his new role. One cat to three humans equals a lot of love and affection! It makes me wonder if perhaps this was his plan all along. Did he quietly and subtly frame the other cats into crimes that they may or may not have committed, so that he could take over the role as King of the House??

Years have passed and Andre continues to entertain and amuse us. He has a humorous way of demanding our attention. He lavishes us with his need for love and we reward him. He continues to be everybody's buddy. We have enough Andre Stories to fill a few chapters. I have one recent anecdote to add to the reams of stories that precede it.

Yesterday, Andre somehow knocked an empty box of cat litter into his litter box. Thus, he could not use his litter box when required. I can't imagine the angst that this would have created for him. This dilemma remained his and his alone (since no one happened to notice the problem right away) for the better part of the day.

He must have circled the location for a while, holding himself as he weighed his options. He solved his crisis using the tools that he had at hand. A litter box that he couldn't access. A dust pan sitting beside it. Guess where he peed? You got it. A quick and easy clean up for me, as I poured the contents of the dustpan into the toilet and flushed. Not so ideal, because the brush for the dustpan got in the way,but still a very creative solution for our adored kitty to come up with. Just one more little story for the archives ...

The new litter box??

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What You Think About

What you think about you bring about.” 
~ Anonymous

My thoughts have overruled my life lately. It seems that I have let myself become consumed with work and much of what is out of my control.

This time last year, I was consumed with Zumba, 'Dancing With the Stars', planning an Alaskan Cruise holiday and the Afterglow of a most excellent birthday.

This year? I am consumed with my job, sore toes, budgeting and simply 'feeling my age'.

Zumba? I must fix my feet and buy new shoes first.

Dancing? The budget speaks volumes. Lack of dancing partners. Lacking a 'goal' ...

Holidays? That one is being placed on hold as our family is planning a group holiday in 2013.

Birthday? That was still good. It's just that it has given me a benchmark to compare how I felt this time last year (young, full of fun and life!) and this year. Older.

It is time to change what I am thinking about!

I have an appointment to 'fix my feet' on Saturday! The budget is looking better than anticipated for December (I have been working almost full-time since I have been on the substitute secretary list). I have a little bit of a 'Dream Fund' so I can start thinking about a future holiday. My age? What I think about, I bring about!

It is time to think of myself as the person I want to be. To get moving. To set small, attainable goals. And dream that anything is possible.

It is time to start chasing rainbows again ...

Monday, November 14, 2011

It Looks Like He's Made It

I went out for supper with My Oldest last night. And it was good.

It wasn't the food (though the food was good). It was his aura. His sense of self, sense of happy and his inner sense of confidence.

It has been just over two years since his world was shaken up and the ground beneath him gave way. It hasn't been easy. It has been a process.

Slowly but surely, he has rebuilt not only his 'life' ... but himself.

What I saw last night didn't appear to be something that could be taken away from him. I felt and saw something deeper than superficial glory.

It isn't one piece of his life that has come together. It is many different pieces that complete the whole. Work, home, family/friends/neighbors and self worth.

He is stronger now than ever before.

I asked him to look back at himself before this whole 'rebuilding' process began. He had what he thought was a pretty good life back then. "But ..." he said, "I wasn't happy."

This hasn't come easy. That which is worth having ... is worth working for. It is also something to strive to hold onto.

Life is full of lessons. The more confident and satisfied you feel about yourself, the better equipped you are to deal with what lies ahead.

Strive to attain a sense of self that 'nothing' or 'no one' can take away from you. Not only must you become strong ... you must stay strong!

You are on your way.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Weekend of Remembrance

The Remembrance Day holiday has always held significance for me. Not only because it happens to be my birthday ... but the significance it holds to honor those who served in the wars that have allowed us to live a life of freedom and peace.

This past weekend, my Middle Son suggested that we watch "Pacific" - a mini series about the war fought against Japan during the Second World War.

My knowledge of history is an embarrassment. I know only the most basic of facts. I remember more when it touches me in some way by way of a family member or friend who relays their personal experience. Most of my knowledge comes by way of a work of fiction, based on fact.

We started watching "Pacific" yesterday. Each episode is preceded by seeing and hearing the veterans of that war speaking of their personal experience. You then watch the actors portray one small facet of a monumental amount of history.

We took a break from the series and I turned on the History channel. They were airing the series "D Day to Victory" which depicted the war near Germany. Soldiers fighting a different enemy during the same time frame.

Each series retold our world's history from a personal and factual vantage point. I quite possibly retained more knowledge this past weekend, than I have all of the years prior.

Yet once again, it is the personal story that touches me the deepest. The uncle of a very good friend of mine died (just over) two months before the Victory in Europe. He wrote letters to his family throughout his year of basic training and over three months overseas. These letters are a cherished memory and a vital piece of their family's history.

I had the privilege of helping my friend compile her family history and I still have a copy of the completed book. This weekend, I reread her uncle's chapter. The more I learn, the more I can appreciate his words and all that was written between the lines.

This weekend, I personally honored those who served for our country. I appreciated how close my dad came to being one of those who went overseas. He was still in basic training when the war in Europe was won. He volunteered for duty to serve in the war against Japan, in the Pacific. Thankfully, that war ended before Dad was asked to serve.

History. A small twist of fate that can make all the difference in the world to one family. It puts our small day-to-day crisises into perspective, when you look at the big picture.

We all continue to wage our own personal battles within our lives. Big or small, those battles change our world. One day at a time.

This weekend I appreciated how fortunate I am, to live in a world where my biggest worries are those that time, patience and financial security can remedy.

It has been a weekend of honoring those that have paved the way to the life which we take for granted today. It has been a weekend to remember.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Just Another Day

An email greeting from a friend. Some cards in the mail; others hand delivered. Well wishes from friends and family. A lunch invitation. A movie night with a friend. Future plans with others.

It just so happens that it is my birthday today.

But when I look around me and look at the gifts of the day? I see a day that is much like any other day.

Each day is a celebration.

I have friends and family that rally around me, invite me into their days and we celebrate (or endure) the good, the bad and the ugly. Together.

I am surrounded by the gift of family and friendship every day of the year. Today doesn't really stand out as a day unlike the rest.

I am blessed. And I am grateful. Thank you!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I had high hopes for yesterday ... but the day did not go as I expected.

#1 - I arrived at work one hour late. Actually, it was only 45 minutes late. But I thought I was 15 minutes early. The Automatic Dispatch System said I was to start work at 9:00. In reality, they expected me there at 8:00.

I thought that I came in early, to have time to smooth out the snags that always arise when 'every day is a new day'. But I was late. I was disappointed.

I could have used the extra hour's pay. I would have enjoyed not jumping into the day with both feet, but having a gradual escalation of busy-ness and time to learn a few more tips and tricks to make the day go better.

No one could really be angry at me for being late. But I was still disappointed. I questioned the start-time. But I did not call to confirm. Next time? I will.

#2 - The long anticipated training session was 'too little, too late'.

Everyone in this department appears to be new in their job. The person teaching the class knows his job ... but knowing and teaching are two different skills.

He did well, but it is unfortunate that they didn't have any type of manual or hand outs for us to take back with us.

He was limited as to what he could show us, because he was working with a real, live school. So he could not mess with the data to show us real-life scenarios. Or go beyond Step One in a ten step process.

I didn't have the same 'permissions' on my computer as everyone else did. So I had to watch instead of learning by doing.

I was commiserating about my day with my Youngest Son last night. "They sure don't teach very well at this job." Hmmm. I'm working at a school and they don't have an organized method of training. Ironic.

I got through the night by ticking off the must-do chores around the house. Laundry - done. Dishes - washed and put away. Shower - complete. At least I felt in control of my 'job' here at home. My work for the day was done.

I sat down at the end of a very long day and was less than satisfied with the way I felt at the end of it all. It wasn't bad. But it wasn't good. It was just a 'Wednesday' to tick off the to-do-list of the week. I had gotten through three out of four working days.

I am grateful that tomorrow is a holiday. That makes today the last work-day I must endure. The good thing about today, is that I have no expectations. It is easy to have a good day when you expect nothing. I am sure that is why yesterday felt so 'off'. I expected too much.

Here is to a day where I shall expect nothing.

 "Blessed are those who expect nothing. For they shall not be disappointed."
~ Unknown

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wading Through the Discomfort

When my conscious mind starts to wake up each morning, what are the first thoughts that come to my mind?

Where do I go today? How do I get there? Have I been there before? In short, what is the forecast for my day?

There is a slight racing of my heart as I wake up and remember what I do (or do not) know about the day that is about to unfold. It isn't fear. It isn't anticipation. It is the unknown.

Today's forecast is:
  • To work at a busy school that I have worked at once before. I love being busy! The one day that I worked at this school sped by.
  • To work with a secretary that was very kind and willing to show (and tell) me all that I needed to know, to make the most of the day.
  • And ... I already know that I will return to this same school for a full day again tomorrow.
  • This afternoon, I will go downtown for some training.
  • I am so excited to finally, finally get some training! It is training on a computer program for one, small piece of my job. But I will be in an environment where questions are welcomed (absolutely no one has given me a hard time for asking questions since I've been on the substitute list).
  • My day will be divided into two separate pieces. Two different locations. Two mindsets.
There is little that is predictable about my weeks, except for the fact that they are unpredictable. I am a creature of habit, so I suppose that this is a lesson on becoming adaptable. As uncomfortable as it is, I am finding this more of an adventure than anything else.

I step out of the door most mornings blazing a trail to a school I haven't worked at before, not knowing if I'll be flying solo or if I'll have some assistance to get through the day or any idea of what the day will bring.

This is not comfortable. But in the discomfort, I am learning so much. I am growing. I am spreading my wings and doing more, learning on the fly and trusting myself to make decisions on my own. I needed this.

I have had so many positive experiences since I have been a substitute secretary. The contrast between 'where I was' and 'where I am' has taught me that I needed to leave 'where I was' ... to get to where I was meant to be. I haven't arrived. But I'm getting there.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Discomfort = Progress

I worked at another new school yesterday. I steeled up my courage and walked through one more new set of doors and confronted yet another new experience. Oh, how I long for routine in my days ...

I had a hand full of small issues/questions about my new car (ie: "How do you open the hood?"). My Son would not just tell me the answers. He insisted that he show me and that I learn with my own eyes and hands. I would have rather stayed in the house where it was warm.

I went to see my nephew perform at a bar last night. I left the house ... alone. I met up with some cousins and watched the show along with them. Then I walked back to my car ... alone. I stepped far out of my comfort zone.

We watched 13 comedians stand up in front of their audience and vie for the cash prize. At the end of the evening, we walked past a table where a lot of them were sitting together. I listened to the encouragement among those that weren't among the 'Top Five'. Life experience does not come without a little pain and humiliation.

Learning curves.

Whether we are learning something in the privacy of our own home ... or out in the big, scary world of a new job ... or in front of a sold out crowd. There is a curve that we all must endure.

It is not comfortable to put yourself out on display and find out through trial and error, what works and what doesn't. What is worth having, doesn't come easy. Success doesn't come without failure.

We watched seasoned performers last night. Others were working their way up. The contrast between experience and inexperience was vast. The courage that it took each one of them to get up in front of an audience and sell themselves was enormous.

It takes courage to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, take what you have learned and keep pressing forward. I couldn't do what they do.

I stepped out of my comfort zone yesterday. At work and at play. I had to pay a small price to get where I wanted out of the day.

I was spent. Yesterday took a lot of energy. Now it is time to summon up the energy to do it all over again.

I need to step out of my comfort zone, to get where I want to go.

Monday, November 7, 2011

One Dog, Two Inches of Snow and 24 Hours

After supper last night, my Son asked me to come and look at the paw prints in our back yard.

His dog is a mixture of Border Collie and German Shepard. She has more energy than any dog I have known. But she has slowed down. A lot. Or so I thought, until I saw how many tracks she made in the snow during the day yesterday.

She was in the yard alone. Her partner-in-crime and usual yard-mate (a chihuahua) was holidaying for the weekend. So these tracks mark the miles that she made. By herself. Without human or dog influence. This is just a day-in-her-life. Just check out where she went yesterday:

Even the top of her dog house was not off limits.

One dog did this? By herself?

On patrol - no corner of the yard was untouched.

Yes, Sadie. Aren't you svelte!? Your work-out routine really works!

Proud of her hard day's work.

I am grateful that there is no 'snow' in the house to mark the miles that I make during the day. From the computer, to the kitchen, to the couch and back. All day.

Maybe it's time to get a pedometer and race to put accumulate more steps than Sadie does in a day ...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hearing Delay

I have been given so much lately.

As life has handed me its fair share of surprises, twists and turns ... I have found friendship, support, encouragement and good humor at every turn.

I have felt like a saturated sponge that could absorb no more. I have been parched at other times and absorbing so much more than people could ever know that they were giving me.

There have been occasions where I have been hearing all sorts of wisdom, but not in a place where I could internalize all that was being said.

There has been a time warp in between the time of hearing and the time of actual impact.

The past week, I have been feeling the power of words which I heard a month or more ago.

I read the words that are spilling out of my fingers and onto the page. I hear the phrases that I am repeating, as if for the first time ... but they are words that my all-knowing, family and friends have already told me.

Where would I be without you?? I'm certain that I would eventually find my answers. In my own way and in my own time. But thanks to you, I believe that I have been fast-tracked onto the road of happiness, healing and progress.

I am listening. Sometimes I don't hear immediately. But it catches up to me sooner or later.

When I hear the words and my mind is ready, those words become the fuel to power me through and move forward.

There has been a time lapse. But I hear. And I thank you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

They Like Me! They Really Like Me!!

I had the pleasure of working with a most excellent group of people this week. For five consecutive days.
  • Five days of kindness and appreciation.
  • Five days of positive reinforcements.
  • Five days of patience and acceptance.
  • Five days of laughter, smiles and small acts of kindness.
  • Not only that ... but five full days of pay!
  • Five days. Five very good days. 
Those five days undid a lot of damage. This group of people restored my faith.

They liked me. They really liked me! And I am grateful beyond words.


I found my way to a new blog yesterday.

Undomestic Diva has set forth a 30 day challenge of doing one thing a day that scares you. As if waking up in the morning and facing work these past few months hasn't been frightening enough for me! I was intrigued ...

This month's theme of a regular monthly newsletter that I receive was "Courage". It spoke of courage in many forms, but what spoke loudest to me was the courage that it takes to make decisions in a time of self doubt. When you wake up in the middle of the night and the challenges you will face when the sun rises in the morning feel insurmountable ...

The newsletter quoted the "8 Tips to Build Courage" from (I have condensed these, but this is a quote from the article above - to read in full, click on the title):
  1. Understand that in difficult situations, there are always choices.
  2. Have the courage to move away from people who think negatively, who want to pull down your ideas.
  3. Do not let your fears become bigger than reality.
  4. Go back to your core values.
  5. Build up your courage step by step.
  6. Indulge in quiet confidence.
  7. Savor the struggle.
  8. Be original.
I came home and dug out an article that changed my life. "66 Ways to Build Courage" by Christine Kane. I highly recommend clicking on this link and considering a few of her suggestions.
I can feel it stirring. The urge to face my fears and feel victorious over my life again.
Perhaps I don't have complete control over my work situation. But that is no reason for it to make me feel powerless in all other facets of my life.
If I seek out and find my inner confidence, it will shine through no matter where I am.
I am tired of feeling like the Cowardly Lion! It is time to seek out and find that the courage that I have been lacking, has been within me all along.
I am going to accept the 30 day challenge. I have gotten off to a late start, but as I said before ... I believe I deserve credit for facing the unknowns of my new role as a substitute secretary.
Yesterday? What did I do that scared me? For supper, I ate the chili that had been in the refrigerator for over two weeks. Then ... I went dancing. I believe that should count for two!
Today? I am off to see the Wizard ... I am in search of my courage. And I believe that I shall find it in bits and pieces as I make my way along this yellow brick road.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

May the Correct Answer Please Reveal Itself?

Choices. Too many. Not enough. But still no perfect answer.

Weighing the pros and cons. Thinking logically. Thinking forward. Thinking of the practical.

What choice brings a spring to your step? A sense of 'happy' to your heart?

When you reflect on the day you just lived, what brings inner contentment? When you think of yourself in retirement, talking of the life that you lived ... what stories do you want to tell?

I found it easier when I didn't have a choice.

I have been a single parent for 27 years out of 33 years of parenting. Even when I was married, I needed a job so that I had the ability to support myself. Working full-time gave me an escape route from a life that was not good for me or my children. I had to work. It was not a choice that I had the luxury of making.

Then, I made a bold decision to work out of my home after My Youngest was born. I looked at all of my options and running a daycare was the one answer that stood out above all of the rest. I look back fondly on those days and know without a doubt that it was the best choice for me and my family.

I went to school to broaden my horizons and open the door for a new career path. I loved learning. I was excited about where I was going. Then I got there.

The job that I was in, wasn't right for me. I persevered in a situation that started the erosion of my self esteem. I got out. But not before I started believing that I was less than I am.

I jumped from that, into a transitional job. A job that was to allow me the ability to follow the path that I knew I wanted to follow. A job that (in the end), conflicted with the path of my choosing. A job that I didn't conquer before I had to give it up and move forward. A job that proved that I could NOT do everything that I set out to do. The second nail in the coffin.

I didn't know it at the time, but I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Life lessons were being thrown to me and I thought that I was putting up the good fight. I may not have been winning, but I thought I was keeping up. Turns out ... that I was not.

I wasn't back at square one. I still had a foot in the door. But now came a choice. Do I persevere? Or do I quit (again!!) and look beyond what I thought was the right choice for me?

It is exhausting to fight the current. The obstacles that I have been facing. Are they there to challenge me and make me firm in my decision to succeed? Or are they there, to tell me "Go back! This is not where you belong!"?

Yesterday ended on a very good note. I will have worked four consecutive days at the same school (after today). When I left work yesterday, the principal asked, "Will you be back tomorrow?" When I answered, "Yes", his response was "Great!".

One word. One simple word. And it made my world okay again.

I do not know where I will go or what my next mission will be after today. I was gifted with four days, working with a wonderful group of people. My self esteem went up one notch.

For me, for today, the answer is easy. Persevere. Keep taking forward steps.

But what if there was another option set out before me? One that came with many benefits ... but an equal amount of setbacks. What then?

When the answer doesn't come easy ... is it the right answer?

I don't know. I feel like I don't know a thing right now. Looking back, it will all seem so simple. Looking forward???

Will the Correct Answer please reveal itself?!? Please??

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Confidence Wanted

Everywhere I go, I am noticing people doing their jobs.

It makes no matter if they are sweeping floors, delivering goods, teaching a class or serving customers in any capacity ... I watch.

The vast majority of what I observe, is people doing their job with ease.

The cashier that appears to brainlessly scan, bag and collect payment. Those who work at fast paced take-out food counters who work in sync with a team and deliver what is expected quickly and efficiently. Staff that know their industry, their own job and a little more.

Auto pilot. I long to run on auto pilot again.

I do not want a 'brainless' job. I want a job that I can (appear to do) brainlessly. I want my confidence back. I am going to have to work to attain that goal.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Two Days in a Row

Not only two consecutive days of work ... but two days of working at the same location.

It is my hope that all of the phone calls that I made yesterday (to allow me to sign on, work and print at a new location) will not be necessary today.

I know a few names and several faces at the school.

I have a feel for the routine of the day.

And ...  the school's regular part-time secretary will work with me this morning. I may have a little guidance to fill in a few of the gaps of all that I didn't know yesterday.

Two days in a row is good. I aspire to obtain a week-long assignment. From there, I can hope for a temporary, full-time position. If and when I latch onto a permanent, full-time job (and pass all of the required probationary periods),  I will have it made in the shade.

It may take a while to get from here to there. But I will appreciate it so much more when I get there. The struggles along the way will make victory that much sweeter.