The Bonk.

The Bonk: /n/ That moment during a run where you don’t think you can take another step, much less finish out the mileage you have planned.
Bonk: /v/ to hit an invisible but very physical threshold during a run that robs you of all confidence in future runs.*

I Bonked last night during my track practice.

The past week has been kind of hellish. The combination of crazy-work-deadline stress plus holy-shit-my-kid-is-going-to-kindergarten stress plus get-my-miles-in-because-I’m-marathon-training stress plus some other low-level stresses has given me trouble with insomnia.

Insomnia is bad in general. But it’s REALLY bad when you are running 45 miles a week. And working to meet a deadline. And getting your kid ready for kindergarten.

But. Last night. The workout was a ladder – 400, 800, mile, 1.5 mile, mile, 800. Which is a tough one.

And within the first 400, I had doubts. In the first 800, I had serious doubts.

And within the first lap of the mile, I had this panicky feeling in my chest.

I can’t do this.

I had NOTHING. No energy. No zip. Nothing.

It was like running in a nightmare, where you feel you’re in quicksand and you have dead legs like they’re not even attached, or alive, and you need to get away but you can’t go anywhere.

So I stopped. In the first mile. I actually laid down on the grass, and when someone else ran by and asked if I was okay, I gave her a thumbs up – I wasn’t injured, I was as okay as I was going to be. I was just trying not to cry from exhaustion.

I got up and tried again. I stopped.

And this time, I gave into tears.

I was just so tired. I had nothing to give, no kick, no reserves. I figured I’d just quit and call it a night.

And then a running friend, who was struggling herself, gave me most practical advice and got me to keep going. Karen, she said, you’re not going to win any money in the marathon! No one but you cares how fast you go. So just run slower. Pick a slower pace and run that. You are putting way too much pressure on yourself.

She was so right.

It’s funny how I didn’t even NOTICE. Work has picked up. My testing is going slower than I’d like and so I’m working more hours than I expected. My mileage has picked up too, so I have to spend more time in my day running. Owen is going to kindergarten, and I’m trying to prepare him (and me!) for the changes, and trying to do special things for and with him to celebrate this milestone.

All along, I’ve been putting more and more pressure on myself to be better. A great, productive, effective worker. A great, loving, kind mom, who takes time out of her day to make her son feel special. A better runner who nails every one of her workouts. All with a sleep deficit.

Okay, so maybe I need to let go.

So I did.

Thanks to my running club friend, I finished the workout. The mile and a half repeat was a beast, even with the slower pace. The next mile sucked too. But then it was the last 800 – the last repeat. And when I rounded the corner near the finish, with maybe 200m to go, I found some spark in my legs, and I pushed to the end.

I am doing the best I can.

I am doing the best I can.

I am doing the best I can.

And you know what?

That’s more than enough.

 

*yes, these are made up definitions. Why do you ask?

One Week.

Dear Owen:

One week from today, you’re going to climb up the stairs onto the big yellow school bus and head to your first day of kindergarten.

I am so excited to start this journey with you.

In kindergarten, you’re going to learn that the letters you know make words. And you’ll learn how to decipher those words into meaning.

All of a sudden, the world is going to open up to you: the world is full of letters and words and meanings.

In kindergarten, you’re going to learn how to make new friends; maybe the same ones you’ve been friends with since you were 6 months old, but maybe new friends, too. Like the boy up the road who will be at the bus stop with us every day.

Or maybe even a GIRL; you can be friends with girls, too, did you know that?

In kindergarten, you’re going to learn how to remember your schedule; the days you need to take the bus home and the days you’ll stay at school until your daddy or I pick you up.

Don’t worry – I have a plan to help you keep track, thanks to our next door neighbor. Just check your lunchbox every day: the magnet with the picture of our house means you get to take the bus home. The magnet with the picture of school means you are staying there until we pick you up.

In kindergarten, you begin what I hope will be a love of learning for the rest of your life.

There are so many things I hope for you.

I hope you fall in love with learning like your daddy and I did.

I hope your teacher recognizes your deep curiosity of the world and helps us foster it.

I hope you stay safe.

I hope you make friends easily, and play fun games at recess, and jump and run and get dirty.

I hope your father and I can ease these next few weeks of transition for you to make it easier.

I hope that you want to share your day with us at dinner, telling us stories about your day and what you’ve learned.

I hope you know how proud of you I am, how excited I am to start this next chapter of your life, and how much I love you.

And I hope you know that when I blink back tears as I wave goodbye to you as you board that bus, it’s because I’m happy. A little sad, too – when you’re a parent, it’s sometimes hard to let go. Not very long ago, you were so little and vulnerable and helpless.

But I know you’re ready, and you’re going to rock kindergarten.

Love always,

Mommy

Making a Plan.

Thank you for all the support – it was a little scary, yesterday, to publish my idea. Because it’s so tenuous.

I’m not SURE I want to teach, but I have an IDEA I want to teach. Very hard to throw that idea out into the universe when it’s not a real formulated plan.

That said, I DO need a plan if this is something I want to pursue.

The first obstacle is schooling if I want to be licensed to teach in public education. In Massachusetts the requirements for obtaining an initial license is that I complete an “Educator Preparation Program.” There are lots of flavors of this which I have spent time researching.

I could do an immersion program – teach AND do classes at the same time, which would be incredibly hard to balance as a mother.

I could do a masters program – there are many schools in the area, which have myriad options. Full time, part time, etc. I like this option; there’s a program which would ask only a weekend a month for me for a year and a half and then a student teaching assignment.

I would like to get my license to teach in the public schools. Mostly because I don’t want to limit myself to only charter or private schools.

But it requires an investment of time and money. Which I would wholeheartedly pursue if I KNEW my vocation was a teacher – that is, if it wasn’t just an idea.

I just don’t know. I need to get into a classroom and see if I like it, or see how the education system works and whether I think I can handle the specific pressure on educators.

And so I don’t think I’m in a place to move on this right now.

The way I look at it, maybe I need to substitute teach*, or volunteer at the school, or work for a non-profit in education. Or maybe I start at a private school/charter school and go from there.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea to change careers, reinvent myself, at age 40. It WOULD be a bad idea for me to  do it without really KNOWING that this is something I want to do.

Really, the bottom line is that I don’t want to waste money on a degree if it’s not going to make me happy.

All careers have pros and cons. I might not like the work I am doing now, but I make good money and it’s relatively flexible. I often cannot imagine doing this for the next 10, 20 years, but I KNOW this career.

It’s possible it might be better to stay where I am right now, too.

So I will continue to research. And when Owen starts kindergarten next week, I’ll talk to his teacher about volunteering in his class, and see if the principal would be interested in me volunteering in other classrooms, too.  Maybe I’ll see what’s involved with being a substitute and whether it’s something I can commit to when I don’t have an active work project.

As much as I want to MOVE on this right now, I know I need to be practical and smart and make sure I know that this is the right choice for me.

________

*Because, seriously. If you are a substitute teacher, you see the worst of kids. Sometimes the best. But the worst, too. If you can survive running the substitute teacher gauntlet and STILL want to teach, maybe that’s a vocation. At least, that’s what I figure.

Being Clear(er).

So I want to start this post off with an apology.

As a blogger, I often feel as if I don’t post enough. SO when I DO find time and something to write about, I want to hit the “Publish” button quickly. Last week on vacation, I was trying to post from an iThing, which is not compatible with wordpress. It was a pain in the ass to write much of anything. But I had the time and desire, so I hit publish on my post about my career and my new idea.

Except I broke my own cardinal rule: DO NOT, under any circumstances, vagueblog.

Rule #1: If you’re going to write about it, THEN WRITE ABOUT IT.

So please, please accept my apologies.

And let me start over.

I have mentioned before that I’ve spent YEARS now thinking about my career path. And with all that ruminating, you’d think I would have come up on this idea sooner than now. But this has come up in the very same way you put together a puzzle. You know, when you are looking at one or two puzzle pieces without any real understanding how it fits in the whole. But then,  you find that ONE piece that makes the pattern clear, and all of a sudden the pieces fit.

Back in 2003, when I started working in public accounting, I had about 6 months where I absolutely loved it. I loved the fast pace, loved having to step up and learn, loved putting the theories I learned in my Master program to use.

And then reality set in. I’m not naturally a detail oriented person. Where I excelled at auditing was really on MANAGING an audit: the planning of procedures and budgeting, the utilizing of the audit team to get stuff done. I was decent with my own tasks, but I really didn’t LIKE auditing. What I liked was the audit room – the asking of questions, discussion of theory, walking the new associates through the theory and procedures of how to test an area, talking the partner through his review.

Teaching. I have, in one form or another, considered being a teacher – for most of my life now. When I was younger I would have told you I was either going to be a famous Broadway star – or a teacher. For my high school career day, I shadowed a high school English teacher.

I made the decision in college, when I was a clarinet major, that I didn’t want to teach music.

And I am not sure why I opted out of education altogether when I went back to the English department. I think it had something to do with feeling like I needed to be a different person after my cousin’s suicide – I needed to distance myself from, well, myself.

Anyway, I ended up graduating with an English degree and figured I needed a practical career. Enter a MBA, then a CPA.

I have looked into teaching a few times over the course of the past couple of years. But I’ve always thought I needed to teach high school. My English degree was 15 years ago. I’m a CPA, but there is no way in hell I’d be able to teach high school math. I do not have the interest in doing that, either.

Not to mention the schooling I’d need to  complete in order to get certified in Massaachusetts. Yet another freaking Master degree – my THIRD.

So I gave up on the idea and have been trying to figure out alternatives, where I can use my CPA but maybe can do more fulfilling work. I’ve been spinning my wheels over this for a long time now, with no real solution.

The reason: I really just don’t like accounting. I can do it just fine. But I don’t like it.

Enter thoughts of drama and guilt over having a job which provides well but I don’t like it. Really, is it awful to work a job you don’t like if the rest of your life is fulfilled? Isn’t work, by definition, well, WORK?

I’ve mentioned before I don’t believe that there’s a soulmate equivalent of a career. And truthfully, I’ve had two different careers already – once in marketing, once in accounting – and haven’t found that happiness I am looking for. What really makes me think that yet ANOTHER try would be different?

But when I started thinking about Owen going to school, I started thinking about the things we could do at home to augment what he learns in school, and thought about the stuff I might be able to do with volunteering in his class. I had a schedule set in my head – when he gets off the bus on Fridays, we’ll go to the library and hunt for books that match what he’s learned about that week.

And then I started remembering my own grade school years. How my fourth grade teacher made me feel special and smart, even though I struggled with my organization and study skills.

The thought struck me: maybe I should teach elementary school. Literacy – books. Math – accounting is, essentially, grade school math. Science – since Owen has kind of a scientific mind, we’ve already had some experience teaching him everyday science. I could learn how to teach social studies through the more schooling I’d need to teach.

So here it is: I think I want to teach elementary school.

And the thing is: it is such a small, shaky idea right now. It’s a tiny sprout in a garden overrun with weeds.

So many reasons NOT to do anything: Education is hard. It includes entitled kids and even more entitled parents. Special needs. Mandated curriculum. A new career in at 40. Dwindling energy. Wasted money on a MBA and CPA. More schooling. Less money.

And the biggest worry: what if I invest the time and money into this, and figure out in ten years I don’t like it either?

But it’s the what ifs that keep me up at night.

What if I DID like it?  What would it be like to feel fulfilled in my career, to really like going to work every day, to do work I enjoy?

So I’m researching. Talking with people. Looking into the schooling I’ll need; I found a program that requires only one weekend a month for two years. (Ha. “Only.” Right? But it seems a hell of a lot less overwhelming than one or two weeknights every week for a couple of years.) Navel gazing.

Because if I’m being honest, this is the first time I’ve ever thought about doing something I WANT to do, rather than what I should do. My MBA and MSA were practical decisions; I needed more schooling and the money was in business – and stability in accounting.

A career change at 40 is not at at all practical. It’s terrifying, actually, to contemplate.

But. What if?

To Kill A Mockingbird : A GRAB(ook) review.

I joined an online book club a little while back, led by one of my good friends. And I was really excited to get the next assignment. To Kill A Mockingbird was one of my favorite reads from my English undergraduate degree. In college, I was drawn to Scout, who reminded me of myself when I was young.

(Man, college was a looooooooong time ago.)

When I read it again a few weeks ago, I was struck by this idea that repeats itself throughout the book:

You never really know someone until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.

What would life be like if we all did this? If, instead of judging moms for their parenting choices, perpetuating the so-called mommy wars because someone made different choices than we did, we agree instead that parenting is a really tough job?

What if, instead of telling a child he shouldn’t be angry over some minor issue, we instead look it things from his perspective and acknowledge his frustration?

What if we cultivated compassion and understanding of religions we didn’t understand, of people we didn’t understand, of circumstances we thought maybe were all their fault?

What would our world look like?

After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for To Kill a Mockingbird.  You can get your own copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee at bookstores including Amazon.

Vacation Musings.

I am currently writing from our cabin in the lake.

I say “our” because it is the second year we’ve taken cabin 2 here on the lake; the second in a line of neat cabins tiny cottages right on Lake Winnepesaukee. We have been coming to the lake with Jeff’s family now for a number of years; we settled on coming back here when we discovered 4 years ago that sharing a house was too much; we all wanted our own space. Even though the furnishings are spartan, there are no good dishes with which to cook, and often we share our living space with ants and spiders, it’s one of my favorite places in the world.

My in-laws have been coming here for almost 40 years now.

Our days fall into this sort of rhythm: Jeff gets up early and goes out fishing on my father in law’s boat each morning, rain or shine. I have breakfast and coffee with Owen, who draws or plays with his cars (and now complains about “no TV!”). When Jeff gets back, after the fish are cleaned and he is eating breakfast, get change into my running gear and head to the state beach nearby; the site of a triathlon on the weekend we leave and a popular route for walkers and other joggers. I get to run along the water, the sun on my back and breeze in my face.

And every year, it’s here that I gain confidence in my running. It’s comfortable, exhilarating… Happy.

I run happy here.

_____________________________

Almost as soon as I hit “publish” on my post about the benefits of my career, I admit I was back to disliking accounting again. Mostly because I went back to work; I am now back to testing internal controls and commuting three hours a day and forcing deadlines to motivate myself to actually get something accomplished.

It’s easy to extoll the benefits of flexibility when you aren’t actually WORKING, you see.

Harder, then, to talk about flexibility when you need to be onsite and your client would rather do anything other than internals control testing and you are stuck trying to be nice when all you want to do is get stuff done so you don’t have to sit in traffic on the Tobin Bridge for hours.

It’s days like those where my commuting hours are spent trying to think my way into a new career. What WOULD I love doing? How can I get there?

What would be be like to do something I really liked, instead of trying to convince myself I like my job?

___________________________

I think I have an idea of what I might want to do next. I have had this idea for a few weeks now – I have spent time researching and looking into what would take for me to move into this career. I’ve talked it over with Jeff, who has been very supportive. I’ve mentioned it to my best girlfriends, both of whom have talked me through the pros and cons.

I have mentioned it to others, too. And the general reaction has been, basically, to talk me out of it. Like I don’t know what a career change entails at almost 40. Like I haven’t considered fact that that ALL careers have pros and cons. Like I am the kind of person who changes my mind willy-nilly.

I have been an accountant for 10 years now. I have been trying to talk myself into LIKING accounting for nearly that many years as well.

All jobs have pros and cons. I know this. I don’t believe that there is the equivalent of a career soulmate out there for me; at least, not the kind where everything is perfect and I am blissfully happy forever and ever. I understand that I will make choices that affect my family if I decide to move on this idea I have.

And I confess that the idea of changing careers scares me a lot.

But so does the idea of spending the next ten years talking myself into liking my job in three hours of traffic, too.

Time and Tide.

Last week, I found myself looking for an alternative to copious amounts of TV, Wii, and other “quiet time so Mommy and Daddy could work during the weeklong daycare shutdown” activities.

I stumbled upon Baseball Camp, which is run by our school district’s baseball coach. And lucky for me, they still had spots open.

I’d like to take credit for Owen’s baseball obsession – being a decent softball player myself – but unfortunately I can’t. He picked up baseball on his own; asking us from the moment we got him his first baseball glove if we’d play with him. Last summer I stopped pitching wiffle balls to him because he kept hitting me (which stings!).

So this year, we signed him up for tee ball, which was HEAVEN. Our kid, who hung back and never joined in for soccer and swim lessons, ran off willingly – happily, even! – to play baseball with complete strangers.

I figured he’d do fine at Baseball Camp. My biggest worry was that it would feed into his obsession and we’d never be able to do ANYTHING that didn’t have to do with baseball.

(Actually, no, that’s not true. My biggest worry was that he’d get stung by a bee and someone I didn’t know would have to administer his epipen.)

On Monday, we showed up at the Little League fields, paid our fee, handed over his labeled epipen, and filled out paperwork for the nurse that is onsite daily.

When the director blew his whistle, my not-so-little boy ran off to join the rest of the Big Boys for baseball camp.

Just like that, he was a Big Boy.

When I called my best friend on the way home, I couldn’t keep the tears from flowing.

___________________________

I am really excited about kindergarten this year, probably more excited than Owen is.

I have vivid memories of learning how to read. The day I realized there were words to read everywhere! was the most magical day of my life.

From that moment on, I read everything I could find: the cereal box. The toothpaste tube (seriously, the directions on the Crest tube of toothpaste? “Directions: Start from the bottom and squeeze as you go up.” WTF does that even MEAN? I puzzled over that for years). Mail. Magazines. My dad’s books. I took 6 books from the school library every week during library period. During the summer, I read even more books.

Even as an adult, reading is still magic. I don’t read as much as I’d like, nor can I push off sleep to finish a book the way I want to. But reading makes me happy.

And I can’t WAIT for Owen to be literate. To go to the library every week and take out more books, to read together every night books that have more words than pictures.

I think he’ll love it, too. Because he said to me, not too long ago: Mommy, I love books. Because they can teach you things you don’t know!

I cannot wait to see him learn his letters, put words together, and see his reaction when he realizes that there’s a whole new world that’s open to him.

___________________________

I didn’t expect to be so… emotional about that first dropoff at Baseball Camp.

But this summer I’ve seen him growing up – right in front of my eyes.

And one night, literally as he was falling asleep at a much-too-late bedtime, protesting, “but I’m not tired…!” I realized that all I see is Boy now. Not baby. Not toddler. Not even preschooler.

He’s my boy. Sometimes not so little, either.

Which is weird. Because seriously, wasn’t he just born yesterday? Where did 5 and a half years of my life go? How is it possible that he’s even OLD enough for baseball camp and reading and kindergarten and riding the bus?

When did that HAPPEN?

But time and tide, it seems, waits for no mother.