Last week, I did something I never, ever thought I would do.
I resigned from teaching.
It was my dream job. The one I was set to do for 30+ years until retirement. And I chose to walk away.
There are so many reasons--more than I can actually explain well in a single newsletter post. Maybe I’ll write a memoir about it someday, lol. Honestly, I'm still processing this transition, and I feel like I will be for some time.
However, if I had to boil my rationale down to a single word it would be this:
Changes in teaching--pretty much all aspects of the job.
Changes in my priorities.
Changes in me.
This decision to leave did not come easily or impulsively. It was one I agonized over for years. It was scary. It was filled with unknowns compared to the relative predictability of teaching. It was uncomfortable.
But last year, I decided to make an exit plan. I started freelancing as a copywriter for advertising and marketing, and I took classes to develop my portfolio. All while teaching English full-time. And being a baseball mom and a wife.
Needless to say, it was the most grueling 18 months of my life.
^^me this past year. Forever thankful for Jon’s help and tireless support.
Now, I’m working as a copywriter at an advertising agency. This world feels so different (in good ways) from the world I just left, and it sometimes feels a little…unreal. Like I’m going to wake up and be back to my old “normal”: sitting in my classroom, grading tests and essays, and hearing the bells ring every 55 minutes.
This process reminds me of a David Bowie song--also called “Changes”--which has these lyrics that really resonated with me:
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes, don't want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes, just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
One of my students this year wrote an essay, and in their piece, they asserted the importance of being comfortable with discomfort. In that space, we can discover our potential and find the most growth.
That idea really stuck with me, so much so that I read the essay to my own kids because I wanted them to understand that healthy discomfort shouldn’t be avoided. It is a stepping stone into a better, stronger, wiser version of ourselves.
Packing up my classroom, saying tearful goodbyes to my beloved students and colleagues, and starting a brand new job in a brand new industry has definitely been uncomfortable.
^^me when the emotions hit. Reader, I was no match for the torrent of tears that flooded me on my last week.
In fact, saying goodbye to this part of my life was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long, long time.
But I’m embracing the hard things. The discomfort. The unknown. All of it.
Instead of dwelling on the “what was,” I’m going to allow myself to lean on the “what could be.”
Here’s the David Bowie song if you’d like to listen:
^^Our cats and pup are always on the lookout from their favorite spots around the house.
Current Read: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
I just started reading Raymie Nightingale, a middle grade book by Kate DiCamillo. It centers the story of a 10 year-old girl reeling from the sudden and unexpected abandonment from her father. Raymie constructs an elaborate plan to win him back, but it is clear from the start that the plan will not work. In the meantime, she develops an unlikely friendship with two other girls dealing with their own heartbreaks. DiCamillo puts a lot of heart and energy into this story without making it overly tragic. With short chapters and an engaging pace, DiCamillo is able to help us navigate through these characters’ genuine and sometimes messy emotions while keeping us hopeful that they will find some healing.
Topics: Grief, Loss, Friendship, Coming of Age, Family
Jon and I are hard at work in preparation for the launch of our Crowfundr Campaign later this summer. I will be announcing the official date soon.
This story is one we have enjoyed developing, and we are so excited to bring it out into the world!
Here is a new version of our book cover:
I’m loving Jon’s character re-designs! Can you spot which cartoon and children’s book characters inspired this design? Hint: look at the faces and legs/feet.
I’m a big fan of Lo-Fi music, especially when I’m working on anything having to do with writing, editing, or revising.
I’ve recently discovered this station, which plays Lo-Fi versions of alternative/rock music from the 90s.
I can’t work in silence, so instrument music is soothing and gets my creative juices flowing.
What music do you like to listen to while working? I’d love to hear your recommendations!
Also, Jon recently bought us coffee from a local Yemeni Coffee Shop, called Qamaria. It was delicious! I love that it’s a hot spot just a short walk away. Because of Qamaria, I realized that adding a small pinch of spices like the ones pictured below is a game changer for coffee.
I strongly recommend trying this if you’re a coffee drinker.
That’s it for June. I will definitely be reaching out in July with more updates, so stay tuned!
Thank you for reading! If you have any friends who’d like this newsletter, feel free to share this with them. :)
When in a stressful situation, I’ve always bristled when someone says “Think of your happy place.” I tried to imagine this ideal place, but it just didn’t feel real, causing this vision to slip between my fingers after mere moments. Plus, it was hard to find a quiet moment to meditate at all when I am constantly surrounded by kids at work and at home.
However, I learned to create my happy place--one that I could go back to whenever I wanted even if I lacked peace and quiet. Because we know my life will NOT involve anything quiet.
Allow me to go back in time a bit. When we visited Kauai last year, my husband told me that we should choose an album to play on repeat during our days there. That way, the memories of that trip and the emotions we felt would be embedded in that music. Full disclosure, Jon learned this trick from a longtime friend.
The album we chose? Bloom, by Beach House.
So after spending the day at the beach snorkeling and swimming with the fish and sea turtles, we played that album as we sat in the lanai behind the house. Bloom played in the background as we sipped our cold drinks and listened to the birds calling out from the tops of the palm trees behind our house. When the album finished, we played it again as the not-so-distant ocean waves crashed and the cool wind streamed through the balcony, making the ti leaves and hibiscus flowers dance on their branches.
Bloom played as Jon drew on his iPad and I brainstormed ideas in my notebook. It played while the kids threw a baseball back and forth on the nearby grass.
That was it: a core sensory memory locked.
And a few days later, we arrived back home. Back to reality.
Back to feeling spread thin and overwhelmed by our long list of to-dos, grading, appointments, etc. I immediately longed to return to that porch in Kauai.
I faced grading deadlines and a huge pile of tasks. Getting caught up seemed impossible, but I slogged through the stress for a few weeks. Then, after a super taxing day at work, I slumped into the driver’s seat of my car, completely wiped out. Then I remembered a Thomas Fuller quote: “Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved.” Our memories serve as monuments for us to revisit whenever we need to (and sometimes when we don’t want to, admittedly). We all have our painful monuments, but what about the joyful ones?
The day we spent listening to Beach House came to mind, and I realized I hadn’t played that album since our vacation. I lumbered into the house with my shoulders knotted from the built up tension, and I played Bloom on our record player.
Almost immediately, my tightly wound nerves came loose. My defensive posture dissolved from my shoulders. My mind ceased its racing. I just sat and took in that moment, devouring the calm it provided.
I melted into the couch, letting my weight surrender to its cushions. For a few fleeting moments, I was back on that lanai. My mind had been transported to that magical island where the cool breezes made the palm trees dance.
I found my happy place.
Speaking of happy places: my pets have no problem finding theirs. Here’s Lilo staying warm on cold and rainy days. Amelie and Finn always snuggle together (and usually prevent us from making our bed)
Current Read: Atomic Habits by James Clear
I just started reading James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, which several people (including my husband) recommended. So far, it has lived up to the hype. Already, I’ve learned about the importance of small, incremental changes. Like compound interest in banking, these minute changes add up over time to lead to significant transformations.
Some of my newest habits:
-staying in touch with more friends by checking in frequently (even if just through text)
-networking more and introducing myself to people I don’t know
-walk outside every day
Some habits I want to get back into:
-write creatively every single day
-wake up earlier (4am)
In order to gain some experience in copywriting, I’ve been busy side hustling as a freelancer. It’s been an interesting learning experience, for sure. I’ve created social media posts, email blasts, marketing campaigns, and other deliverables. You can check out my portfolio here. It’s pretty scrappy, but I’ll be adding to it as I create more portfolio pieces.
I didn’t get a chance to re-work my GN memoir synopsis, but my husband and I are going to re-focus on THREE BEE HONEY, starting with a redesign (based on feedback we’ve received). I’ll keep you updated in the coming months!
All this rain has made our yard pop off with countless weeds, which I have been picking like crazy. But I have to say, pulling them out and seeing the garden cleaned out does feel empowering, cathartic even. Maybe pulling weeds is feeding my need for control and therefore a form of therapy? Hmmm…..maybe I’m onto a new business model there.
That’s it for March. I look forward to updating you in April! If you have any friends who’d like this newsletter, feel free to share! :)
Hey, everyone! I know it’s been a few months since you’ve heard from me. Life got extremely stressful a few months ago, and I needed to step back a bit to focus on my health and my family.
Glad to come back now that all is well with the world. Right?.....RIGHT?
Speaking of chaos, I am now a parent of a pre-teen. I have worked with teens and adolescents for over 20 years (16 as a teacher, and 4+ years in parks and recreation). Before I go on, I want to make something clear: I love my children dearly. They are great kids with big hearts, and they work hard for their goals. They have made me proud on many occasions.
*Ahem* But being a parent of a tween/teen? Nothing--and I mean NOTHING--could have prepared me for this rollercoaster.
So a few months ago, my oldest son was in one of his moods because I had set limits on his screen time. I know….the audacity, mom!
After trying to bait me into an argument, he stewed in his anger, sullen with his arms crossed in the passenger seat. I’d try to make casual conversation, but he stared ahead in cold silence. Ouch.
I gripped the steering wheel and my thinning patience, willing myself to follow my therapists’ advice to take deep breaths and back off before I made things worse.
I’m not a religious person, but I find myself praying for a sense of calm a LOT more these days.
Anywho, a song came on: ”Walk” by Foo Fighters. The speakers played Dave Grohl’s words quietly as we sat at the long red light. I bobbed my head to the beat, but I didn’t dare say a word or turn up the dial to hear it better. It suddenly felt like a weird game of chicken. Who was going to break character and turn up the volume? Finally, my son went for it. He couldn’t resist this song.
With quiet, unsure voices, we sang along with the lyrics. I hesitated to look at my son, but I could hear him. Gradually, our voices rose until we sang loudly over the music, letting our frustrations melt away from the car and unite in our affinity for great music. Then another beloved song played, and we belted those lyrics like the scene from Wayne’s World.
I could feel our anger dissipate with every lyric. For these fleeting moments, there was no judgment. No button-pushing. Just sweet catharsis through a stranger’s poetry. Even though these years will be tough and require a ton of patience, I’m comforted to know that music can help us stay connected. Despite the angst and turmoil, we can still find a way to understand each other.
Nowadays, when he gets in the car, after telling him how happy I am to see him, I always ask, “What song would you like to hear today?”
Some of our Favorite Songs:
"Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”--Alphonse de Lamartine
This quote echoes my story beautifully. I have special songs for many loved ones in my life (and some people from my past). Oftentimes, when I think of someone, their song will happen to play on the radio or on a store speaker if I’m running errands. This happens more times than I can count, and it’s definitely bittersweet. Music will always be my way of connecting with others and my memories with them.
Amelie and Finn napping together, and Lilo enjoying the grass on a sunny day.
Current Read: Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Glennon Doyle’s memoir, Untamed, came in just at the right time in my life. Doyle recounts her journey overcoming her own demons and abandoning society’s limiting expectations for her as a woman, mother, and wife. She advocates for all of us to recognize when we feel unsatisfied and stuck. When we feel unhappy, Doyle urges us to be courageous and follow our true instincts. It is a call to action to live our lives in the truest way possible, embracing the messiness and opening ourselves up to what the world has to offer. This book was hard to put down. It is eye-opening, inspiring, and deeply emotional. I give it 5/5 stars and strongly recommend it!
I shared a recent draft of In The Middle of the Sea with my agent, and she had some extensive (but very helpful) editing notes. When I got those notes, however, life became extremely hectic. Frankly, my brain went on survival mode, and I did not have the time or energy to do much writing at all. However, now that summer has begun and I can breathe again, I am forcing myself to get back into the workflow each morning. One exercise that is helping me find my way back into the story is doing short freewriting “sprints” (by hand) in a notebook, getting into my MC’s head, and recounting her memories, fears, hopes, etc. I am not worrying about plot--I’m just trying to reach her on a deeper, emotional level.
After Ross (our beloved border collie) passed away, we planted a fig tree in our backyard to honor his memory. He loved being outside, and we wanted to have a place to sit and think of him. The figs represent his sweet nature. We miss Ross dearly, but we’re happy to have a way to remember him.
That's all for now, but stay tuned for next month's updates. In the meantime, feel free to reach out and say “hello!” :)
Some updates, musings, and sharing of inspirations.