Thursday, November 29, 2012

Me? Meditate?

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Most Friday mornings you will find me indulging in a yoga class at my local YMCA. I love it! What a fantastic way to challenge my body, stretch my limbs, and relax my mind  ... all without breaking a sweat. That's my kind of exercise, baby! When I stroll out of the gym after class, I feel like I've just enjoyed a one-hour massage. No joke. Love, love, love me some yoga.
So when I heard about the Creating Abundance Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge™, hosted by Deepak Chopra, I signed up. I thought I was ready. I envisioned solitude, mindfulness, and the discovery of great inner peace.
Um ... take a peek at my e-mail to see how it turned out. 
This is a not-so-brilliant screen capture of my folder for the 21-Day Meditation Challenge. If you squint and turn your head slightly to the left, you will be able to see that messages have not been read. I opened the introductory message, but didn't make it past Day 2. And I didn't even meditate those first two days. I clicked and dragged everything into a folder with the intention of starting my meditation practice LATER. You know, LATER, as in when I have more time. And that's the hilarious part because isn't meditation all about slowing down and making time to just BE? Apparently, I am not the meditating kind, as much as I like the idea of it.
What I find interesting is that my Ideal Reality (becoming some maven of meditation) really wasn't any better than my Real Reality (I only need my weekly yoga fix to rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit). Lesson learned? Sometimes what we already have is what we already need.
Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How Do You Know If You've Chased the Wrong Dream?

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Several years ago, I decided to ditch the private sector world and a career as a magazine editor to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. At the time, my husband and I had just moved to a town outside of Philly. I enrolled in a  teaching program and earned my certificate. While I thought I wanted to teach middle school English/Language Arts, I was offered the position of  7th grade remedial reading teacher. From the day I started until the day I resigned to return to the Midwest, I loved it. It was truly my dream job, and I was good at it. I couldn't learn enough fast enough. My passion and enthusiasm was over the top!

As soon as we got settled back in Missouri, I began looking for a teaching position. My goal was to replicate my PA experience and find work as a reading specialist. Around this time, the economy began to show signs of softening, and education was taking a huge financial hit. I taught as a long-term sub for about a year and a half, with no sign of landing a permanent position in sight. Meanwhile, I earned my graduate degree in literacy education, holding onto my dream of working with middle schoolers who needed help their reading skills. Nothing. No interviews. Barely any jobs to interview for.

About a week before the 2011-2012 school year started, I was offered a position at a charter school. I accepted it because it came with the opportunity to teach both English/Language Arts and Remedial Reading as well as tinker in the library. Was this another chance at a dream job? You'll find the answer to that question here and here. The remedial reading aspect of the job never materialized, and my passion and enthusiasm quickly disintegrated in an environment of constant stress, mismanagement, and unnecessary competition.

I made the decision not to return to the charter school this year, and it was the right one for me. But now, I'm left wondering if I chased the wrong dream. I just finished reading Ron Clark's book, The End of Molasses Classes. In one section, he writes about his hiring process for teachers.
There are a lot of teachers who are passionate about their curriculum, and there are some who like the idea of teaching more than they actually enjoy teaching children. Their classroom is very neat and their lesson plan is crisp, but they act as if the kids are ruining the scene by having the gall to simply be there.
As Iread these words, and the read them again, I couldn't ignore my inner voice, which screamed,  "That's you! That's you!"

Did my Ideal Reality and my Real Reality clash in the ugliest of ways? Or is that me because of last year's experience? Am I just suffering from temporary burnout? Or is it me because I chased the wrong dream? I'm back to writing and editing right now. Is that what I'm supposed to be doing? How do I know?

How about you? Have you ever chased the wrong dream? Or thought you did, but didn't? I'd love to hear from you.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... keep it real.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Do The Wallflowers, Chimneys, and Nixon Have in Common?

It's been an adventurous, albeit random week, here in Real Reality week. A pictorial for your viewing pleasure.

We had both of our fireplaces repaired this week! Cha-Ching! Just in time for winter in the Midwest. This is the downstairs hearth. It reminds me of the one in Citizen Kane ... on a miniature scale.

Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers! Third row, standing room only, on a THURSDAY night. I "poked the box", said "Yes" to an invite and had a blast! Read here about poking the box.

Meet the newest member of our family, Nixon! Before you ask, or in case you are wondering, he came with that name. Although, as someone pointed out, we do live in a white house. Heh heh heh. He's a shelter dog. Yep! We busted him out of the KC Pet Project. We are just super excited to have him around!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Real Reality Thursday

Hey, there! How's it going? Today brought news that I didn't land the full-time position at my former company. I'm ok with that because as I thought more about it, I realized how much I enjoy my freelance gig and the flexibility and variety it offers. I'm finding ways to make my days more productive, and I'm looking forward to digging into freelancing a bit more. Plus, the door isn't shut all the way at the publishing company. Stay tuned...

Other than that bit of news, my Real Reality Thursday included a hair cut, laundry, and lugging the peeps to tumbling.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, Keep It Real.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Where's My Change? (A Non-Political Post About Change)

For the longest time, I've been wandering around life with this feeling that something has gotta change. I just feel unsettled most of the time. Not really anxious, but like I'm at the tipping point of the next big thing in my life. It's like I'm waiting for something to flick me into the next phase. I feel like I should be doing something, but I don't  know what that something is. I keep thinking it will come to me. Just show up on the doorstep and yell, "Here I am! Now get on with it!" So, I don't do anything. I'm stuck. By now, you are likely as confused as I am.

But, that might be about to change.

Recently, I started reading Seth Godin's blog to gain industry insight for some freelance blog posts I'm writing for a marketing firm. While Seth writes very simply and matter-of-factly about business, his musings also apply to life. His writing style hooked me; his advice keeps me coming back because it makes me think.

Last week, I discovered that Seth writes books. So I checked two out from the library: Poke The Box and Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? I started with Poke The Box, a book about taking initiative and being curious in a time where most people don't and aren't. Basically, Seth's premise is that if you want change in your life, then it is up to you to make it happen. Otherwise, you are just wandering around life with this feeling that something's gotta change. Keyword: Initiate.

As I read the book, I began to remember what it was like to initiate projects, share ideas, and ask questions. I used to do all of that, but somewhere along the way, I gave up interest or power. Maybe both. And as I read, I realized that even though it is in small ways, I am still an initiator. For example, most mornings, my girls and I walk to school. Our path is strewn with litter. For the first month, I kept thinking, "Someone should pick this up." Finally, I clued in. Why shouldn't I be the one to pick up the trash? And so I do. And my girls help, too. What a great way to set an example about taking care of our world. It feels good.

Here's another one: We moved to our new old house in May. We did a bang-up job of unpacking, with the exception of a box of framed artwork which sat in a corner of our dining room for 5 months. I kept wondering, "When is Mark going to do something about that box?" Yesterday, I took the initiative. I unpacked the box, enlisted Mark's help in haning the artwork, and claimed my corner. It took only 10 minutes,but it made a world of difference.

My biggest initiative has yet to play out. About a  month ago, I reached out to an old high school buddy who needed a freelance writer. He jumped on my offer, and we've been working together. Last week, I got a lead on a full-time position as well as some part-time work at my former publishing company. For whatever reason, I "poked the box" (thanks, Seth) to see what would happen. I interviewed, and now I am I'm freaking out because I don't know if I really want to go back to work in an office. Or back to work full time. Or just explore my freelance career from the comfort of my own home. This is why people don't poke the box: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of happiness.

Regardless, it feels good to take some initiative after a long hiatus.

What about you? How have you Poked the Box (thanks, Seth) recently?

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, keep it real.