About Us, Family Fun

8 (years)

Grew up in a small town
And when the rain would fall down
I’d just stare out my window


Dreaming of what could be
And if I’d end up happy
I would pray

Trying hard to reach out
But when I tried to speak out
Felt like no one could hear me

Wanted to belong here
But something felt so wrong here

So I prayed (I would pray)

I could breakaway

I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly
I’ll do what it takes ’til I touch the sky
And I’ll make a wish, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I
won’t forget all the ones that I love
I’ll take a risk, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Wanna feel the warm breeze
Sleep under a palm tree
Feel the rush of the ocean


Get onboard a fast train
Travel on a jet plane, far away (I will)
And breakaway

I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly
I’ll do what it takes til’ I touch the sky
And I’ll make a wish, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Out of the darkness and into the sun
I won’t forget all the ones that I love
I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Buildings with a hundred floors
Swinging around revolving doors
Maybe I don’t know where they’ll take me,

but
Gotta keep moving on, moving on
Fly away, breakaway

I’ll spread my wings
And I’ll learn how to fly
Though it’s not easy to tell you goodbye
I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won’t forget the place I come from
I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Source: MusixmatchSongwriters: Benenate Bridget Louise / Gerrard Matthew R TBreakaway lyrics © Wb Music Corp., Almo Music Corp., Music Of Windswept, G Matt Music, Friends Of Seagulls Music Publishing, Avril Lavigne Publishing Llc.

It was been a wonderful 8 years in Texas, and I look forward to many more!

January, Philosophy

The Evolution of a Story

Yesterday was January 23, which is a significant date for me. For the past two years, I have struggled to come up with some way to commemorate that date, to turn it from a very negative memory into something positive.

This year it passed without me realizing it, until bedtime.

The 2017-18 school year, which was my 14th year of teaching special education, began with hurricane Harvey ending the first week early. Which was a wonderful blessing, because the first four days of school already had me considering a career change.

My class was overwhelming, but I was not physically injured until after we came back to school. I spent my birthday on assault leave, with a shoulder injury that was never properly diagnosed or treated. (It is only because my yoga teacher–who is not a physical therapist or doctor–worked with me, doing stretches, while I was waiting for access to medical treatment that never happened, that I currently have a full range of motion with my left arm).

When I returned from leave, nothing good had changed. I am not going to tell the details of what ensued over the following 4 months, but it was escalating, it was constant, and it was often sexual in nature. Yes, I sought help, repeatedly, but I am not retelling that part of the story either. It is in the past, and it is fine staying there.

January 23 was the beginning of the end.

It was that morning that I received the worst of my injuries, and I still have scars from it today. It was when I got people’s attention, and for a short period of time, it seemed that things would change.

And things did change.

Yes, after that day I was at less risk physically, but not only because of the inconsistent support I received. That was the day that something shifted inside me, where I realized that maybe I was worth more than this. Maybe it would be less scary to leave and to chance losing income and possibly losing my career. Maybe the status quo was absolutely unacceptable.

We will celebrate March 1, because that was the day I finally left. I took unpaid leave until my contract ran up, and during that time I rested, joined Weight Watchers, and cared for myself, rather than planning my next moves.

When I started working again, I took two years off of teaching, until I found my current position. There were initially some challenges in going back. I would get emotionally triggered by situations that reminded me of what happened at my previous job, and in the two years where I wasn’t teaching, I noticed that my memory and ability to multi-task were not nearly as good as they used to be. But all of that improved with time, and other than the scars, I seem to have no lasting negative effects from the trauma.

Which brings me to today. I nearly missed the “anniversary,” and I noticed that realizing the date, did not bring up any strong negative emotions for me. In fact, writing this did not either. Yes, I skipped over some parts of the story, but that was only because I did not think telling them was necessary for writing this post.

However, I do feel strong emotions today. But rather than anger, vengeance, or fear, the emotions I am feeling are appreciation, love, and gratitude.

I am grateful for my yoga teacher, who never cancelled a 6 am class during that time, even when I was the only one who showed up. I am grateful for the conversations we had, and especially for the time we prayed for the student who was hurting me.

I am grateful for my friend at work, who helped me to find a more supportive union to work with, took me out for coffee after work, and encouraged me through texts during the day.

I am grateful for my union rep, who tried to find a way to help me and acted as my lifeline of sanity.

I am grateful for the lawyer who helped me to get out of the situation, even when there was not anything he could do beyond that.

I am grateful for the assistants in my program, who did what they could do to keep things running and moving forward.

I am grateful for the co-worker who came to check up on me that day and was able to intervene.

I am grateful to myself, as I was ultimately able to leave and to find a much better path for my life to take.

During the situation, one of my friends shared a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, which said that, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” But I don’t remember the silence of my friends, although there were plenty of people who looked away and pretended they weren’t seeing what they were seeing.

I remember being surrounded in love and feeling more connected to those around me, than ever. I remember the many people who were not silent in their words and actions.

And that is why I never want to forget this date.

Health, Philosophy

How Personal Growth Changes Relationships

Image result for mommy friends clipart

Losing weight, finding sobriety, and making career changes can all lead to losing friends.  A simple Google search will confirm this and largely paint this as negative.  Former friends will push food and feel left out when you aren’t able to go to pizza night.  Old drinking buddies will pressure you to have “just one more,” and you will never feel comfortable joining them at the bar.

And yet my experience was different.  None of my friends cared what I ate when we got together.  Nobody batted an eye when I brought my own salad dressing and coffee creamer.  When I started ordering Shirley Temples, everyone was very supportive, and even insisted I send my drink back if it had too few cherries.  Nobody pushed food on me.  Nobody pressured me to drink.

But still, I experienced major shifts in all of my relationships, and I ended up letting go of some of my closest friendships.  This is because the changes I had made had less to do with food and alcohol, and more to do with learning to love and value myself.  And as I learned to love and value myself, I began to seek out those who would value me as well.

It began with my closest group of friends.  For two years, we would meet up and support each other through our struggles.  But I noticed a change when I began losing weight.  I found myself downplaying my accomplishments, and when I did share something positive, it was ignored at best.  Nobody was being mean–we were just moving in different directions.  I felt a sense of hope, that I was unable to force anyone else to feel.  We were just at different places.

And then in my other interactions, I began to notice how unkindly I was being treated, and how much energy I was wasting on people who did not care.  Recently, I was writing Christmas notes to acquaintances, in an effort to bring more joy to their day.  I became very jaded when I number of these people threw these notes away, without saying a word to me.  Now, my interactions with these people had been slightly strained, and I realized that my notes were a way of seeking connection with people who were not interested in connecting.  I was wasting energy chasing people and seeking their approval.

Finally, in the midst of this realization of negativity, I brought a case of water to my yoga class.  When I go grocery shopping, I usually pick up a case of water to put in the refrigerator at the studio, since it is easier than storing my own water and cheaper than buying a bottle every night.  Even though I share the water with everyone, I come out ahead.

As I walked through the door, balancing the case of water on one arm, while holding my mat and props in the other, my teacher immediately took the case from me and said, “Bethany that is so sweet of you!  Thank you so much–I really appreciate it.”

At that point I realized that my teacher was not going above and beyond, with that statement.  She was acknowledging my act of kindness in the way that acts of kindness deserve to be acknowledged.  (I am not referring to random acts of kindness here–I had done this deed seeking connection, and I had found it).

After class, I told her that I wanted to create a reality where her response to my kind gestures was the rule and not the exception.  That I wanted to spend time and energy with people who valued me for who I am.  She said, “Look at all you’ve accomplished, Bethany.  You can create any reality you want.”

So, moving forward into the new year, with “Create” as my one word focus, this is my promise to myself, in my relationships:

1.   I will not waste time on groups where I am invisible.

I have lost count of the number of conversations where I have been interrupted as soon as I opened my mouth to speak.  Or where my comments have gone unacknowledged.  I have Googled this and tried tip after tip to make myself more “interesting.”

But here’s the thing.  While I understand that someone might occasionally get excited and talk over someone else (and I know I have done the same thing), even if I am not perfect–even if my social graces might even be lacking at times–I deserve to be around people who value me and value my contribution.  I do not need to try to be good enough to not be interrupted constantly.

Along the same lines, I am done with trying to get into conversations that I am closed out of.  You know the scenario.  Some friends are standing in a circle, having a conversation, and you walk over to join in.  Slowly, the circle closes in, leaving you out.

I used to think this was normal, until a close friend of mine did it a few weeks ago.  This is exclusion.

It is okay if not every group wants me as a member.  I am not for everyone.  But it is not okay for me to keep trying to change who I am, so that the groups will want me to join in.  If I am not accepted for who I am, then they are not my tribe.  I would rather have a smaller tribe, than hustle for approval.

Image result for i feel invisible clipart

2.  My vulnerability must be earned.

I like to give.  I have come to understand that acts of service is my primary love language, and that giving of my time and energy is simply something that I do in an effort to connect with those around me.

At the same time, I also enjoy doing random acts of kindness.  These are often anonymous, and done in a way that the person will not be able to find me in order to contact me afterward.  This is something that brings me joy and also helps me to feel connect to humanity at large.

The problem comes when I mix up these two “motives.”  When I am giving and expecting nothing in return, giving is its own reward.  However, when I am giving in order to express my love and friendship to someone, I am giving with the expectation of connection.  This is not “wrong.”  Everyone has a way in which they express these things, and everyone is hoping for connection in response to their efforts.

Giving with the expectation of connection, involves vulnerability.  When I wrote the Christmas notes to my acquaintances, I was putting myself out there.  I was very hurt by their reactions, but in the past I would have continued to reach out to them and seek their acceptance.  But now I realize that they have not “earned” my vulnerability.  If it is not a connection, I can simply let it go.

Image result for wearing your heart on your sleeve clipart

3.  I will stay away from the co-dependent dynamic.

For so long, I was the friend who struggled, who “needed help.”  I was so convinced that I needed someone to save me, that I often fell into the co-dependent dynamic in my friendships.  I would be clingy at times, and I would immediately contact the other, seemingly stronger, person for advice and support.

Some friends immediately set boundaries with this, but others became addicted to “helping.”  Their role in my journey became their addiction, and this often led to them becoming more involved than what would be appropriate.  This never ended well.

My desire to have equal friendships and avoid falling under the wing of a co-dependent friend, has led me to approach this from both angles.  First, I do tend to stay away from or set boundaries with friends who show signs of co-dependency.  I make my own choices.  I fight my own battles.  I take care of myself.

But I also am mindful in my role in creating and perpetuating this dynamic.  I am learning to stop myself before running to someone else for “help” when I am facing strong emotions or other challenges.  I am learning to use my tools, so that I am not constantly seeking a rescuer.

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4.  I am seeking experiences beyond support groups.

When I was getting started losing weight, Weight Watchers was an excellent source of support.  I went to workshops, I joined Facebook groups, and I was in contact with many people on a similar path.  In the same way, AA was very helpful when I was struggling with my sobriety, both in person and on social media.

And yet, I don’t see myself as a “lifer” in either of these groups.  My struggles are a part of who I am, and overeating and drinking alcohol are two coping mechanisms that I am working to avoid.  But I think there is a danger in defining myself by these struggles.

The focus of my life right now, is not on weight maintenance or sobriety.  It is in using the tools that I have gained through losing weight and becoming sober, to move forward.  So surrounding myself with peers who are still struggling with these issues, is not going to help me accomplish my goals.

It is one thing if I want to do service and help people who are still struggling with these issues.  But for my own growth, I need to look to other places, to new horizons.

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5.  I no longer worry about finding “like minded” friends.

Surprisingly, I have found that I feel more comfortable being myself (and more accepted) by friends who have different political, religious, or lifestyle views than my own.  In fact, I have found that in “like minded” groups, dissenting from the group set of beliefs is strongly frowned upon.

When I am around friends with differing beliefs, we all feel free to share our ideas and learn and grow together.  When we accept that our views are different, we are more respectful of each other’s views.  As I have gone through this evaluating process, I have come to realize that I have four friends whom I trust very strongly.  One of them is my husband.

And yet, my husband and I have different religious beliefs.  And I vote differently than two of my other friends.  What we do have in common is our mutual love and respect, as well as our desire to learn and grow.

And that is more important than any smaller ideologies.

Health, Minimalism, Philosophy

Create

Good morning, friends, and happy black Friday.

I know that I have taken a break from blogging, but I have most certainly not been idle.  It has been a time of change and re-invention.

As of yesterday, I am now 8 months sober.  It’s not even a big deal anymore, in my daily life.  I have learned that diet Coke is often free at bars, but Pellegrino is not.  And that the best bars put lots of cherries in their diet Cokes.

shirley temple

This fall, I started a new job doing behavior intervention at a small charter school.  Working full time again has taken some adjustment, and I have had some triggers from the past that I have had to confront.  But I love what I do, and I love my co-workers and students.

A surprising change in this arena, has been that Iliana is also attending the school where I work!  The program she had been in, in the traditional public school she had been attending, was only available at a junior high that was 30 minutes away by car.  The bus ride got to be too much, and I did not like the difficulty I had being involved and communicating with her teachers, due to the distance.  So after two weeks, we transferred her to the school where I work!

 

Charter schools are simply independently run public schools, that are not part of an ISD or school district.  They are 100% school of choice, so they tend to be smaller.  Iliana has thrived with the individual attention she is getting!  She is in pre-AP math and has tested out of speech (which is HUGE, because the language delay/disorder was the most significant part of her disability).  She works with a special ed teacher and counselor on her social-emotonal issues and is doing very well.  (And what could be better for a minimalist wardrobe, than adorable school uniforms!)

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The biggest change for me is not I am not as big as I used to be!  On Tuesday, I will most likely reach my weight goal at Weight Watchers.  But that is just a formality.  The hard work is finished!

I have read from multiple sources that only .8% of obese women ever reach a healthy weight.  Most people would consider a probability like that to be impossible.  And yet here I am.  I have lost 60 pounds and plan to never need to lose 60 pounds again!

So I have done the impossible.  Now what?  While I will be focusing on maintenance and still attending Weight Watcher meetings and using their tools, I know it is time to move forward and work on new goals.  (Here are before and after pictures!)

 

And thinking of those goals, brings me to my one-word theme for 2020.  Do people still do one word themes?  I am not sure, but I definitely will be!  And my one-word theme for 2020 is, “Create.”

create

I have already survived.  I have already faced my inner demons and completely changed my life.  All that remains now is to work on the, “so what?”  It is time to create the reality that I want to experience.

I know a one-word theme is open-ended, but I do have some specific goals I would like to start with.  Maybe these will be my goals for the year, or maybe they will grow and change.  My immediate goals are:

  1.  Reconnect with the blogging community and write a blog post at least once a week.  I will set aside a specific time to write, when no one is allowed to interrupt me.  Not being firm on this has led to my lapses in blogging in the past.
  2. Work on my stretching and flexibility on a regular basis.  Do stretching exercises at least 5 days a week.
  3. Run a half marathon.  Run at least 3 days a week for now, because the stretching will help more than anything.
  4. Declutter and fix up the boat to the point where it is everything I want it to be.  Do the budgeting to make this happen and make it a priority.
  5. Connect with positive people, rather than letting negativity suck me in.  Be kind, but stop personalizing people’s bad moods.

So this is what I will be working on in the next year!  I look forward to sharing it with all of you!

 

 

Health

Preparing for Those Resolutions

I am the queen of setting goals.

The higher I can aim, the better.  I remember one year, when I blogged at Journey to Ithaca, my resolutions were: eat less poison, get completely off the grid, produce no more than one grocery bag or garbage per month, put together a 12-piece wardrobe, and have my Christmas shopping done by December 1.

I did eat less poison and put together a 12-piece wardrobe.  And with the other goals, I learned a lot about goal setting.

Another case in point?  My efforts to exercise consistently and lose weight.

I tried to start exercising my senior year of high school, when I was still thin.  After a year of therapy and medication, I had successfully quit my meds and was sitting in my last therapy session.  My therapist was not stellar (in fact, I had to go to therapy as an adult to unlearn a lot of things that I learned from the professionals I worked with during that time of my life!), but she did have one nugget of advice to give me.  When I asked her what I could do to help maintain my mental health, she was adamant that I start an exercise program.

I set out to do some research, and I learned that our local community center offered a free step class for high school students.  I eagerly attended and felt comfortable amongst the teens of various shapes, sizes, and ability levels in the class.  Our instructor was a cheerful 20-something named Jodi, with a bouncy pony tail.  We all really liked her.

I went to that class for about 6 months, until I graduated.  It was a few months until I got brave enough to attend my first class as an adult.

I started at the community center, since it was familiar.  But I noticed that the adult classes lacked community.  I also noticed that my heart rate often got too high during class, so I had to use less support under my step and smaller weights.  I became very self-conscious about this.

In the brochure for the community center, was an ad for a new women’s fitness center.  I went there and immediately loved the community!

What I did not love, were the large mirrors.  I was skinny and weak.  I could noticably do less than everyone else.  I paid for 28 classes, but stopped attending before I used them all.  When I thought about going back, the center had gone out of business.

When I first got married, I visited a local health club.  They offered me a great deal and a trainer put me on a program.  However, I looked so weak compared to the teenage athletes who were also working out, that I only went there twice.

I did a couch-to-5k plan from Prevention magazine. I followed it until I was running 5 miles…Until I ran past some redneck teenagers in our neighborhood, who followed me, mocking my slow running.

It was 10 years before I tried working out again.

I have told my hit and miss yoga story here, but the short version is that I did not stick with a work-out  until I found a tight-knit, small yoga studio with a teacher who was patient enough to work with anybody.  And only then, did I notice the benefits I was gaining from yoga, to the point where I experience physical pain and noticable mental differences if I miss more than 2 classes in a week.

Diet is the same pattern.  I tried diet after diet, giving up when I “slipped up” or “fell off the wagon.”  Weight Watchers, in the end, left me with no excuses.  It was only acceptable to speak of your journey in positive terms, and it became easy for me to see how much happier I am when I am eating well.

Recently, I regained 9 pounds.  But when I finally weighed myself, I also noted that I have kept 19 pounds off.  It’s not even a matter of the glass being half full, versus half empty.

So I am getting back on track.

So are you planning on making any New Year’s Resolutions?  If you are, here are some lessons I have learned from my experience in setting (and achieving!) goals:

 1.  When (not if) you “slip up,” first look at the reasons for your “lack of motivation.”

Why are you not motivated to stick with your changes?  Is there a good reason?  Before you judge or muscle your way through, look at your reasons for quitting.  I quit the step classes because I was self-conscious and needed a close-knit community without mirrors.  I quit the yoga classes at the gyms, because I did not feel like I belonged.  Once I found an exercise program that met my needs, motivation was no longer an issue.

2.  Look at your reasons “why.”

After you look at your reasons for slipping up, look at your reasons for making the changes.  Are you doing it just because someone told you to do it, or you think it is what you are supposed to do?  Is this what you really want?

3.  Try not to compare.

We are all different, and everyone struggles with something.  If you are struggling with making a positive change, then the thing you are trying to change is not easy for you.  So don’t compare yourself to the people who have it easy!  Close your eyes, and make your best the only thing that you need!

4.  Look at the big picture.

Slip-ups are a part of making changes.  Growth is not a straight line, but it is a general trend.  I regained 9 pounds, but I have still kept 19 off.  Focus on the 19, not the 9.  You are going to fall on and off the wagon.  That is life.

5.  Find supportive friends.

When you are frustrated, don’t talk to just anybody.  Some friends will help you focus on the positive, and others will discourage you further.  Learn to tell the difference.

What positive changes are you working on in the upcoming new year?  What strategies have you found to be helpful when making changes?