I Can’t Do It and Neither Can You

So that resolve thing?  Yeah, it’s not working.

I keep trying to do things on my own and my resolve lacks results.

So, here’s what I am learning.  No amount of doing on my part is going to help.  This is a difficult realization for me to admit.  You see, I’m a doer and a doer that can’t do anything is a force to be reckoned with.  Just ask my husband.  I don’t like to wait;  I want to take action.  I want to develop a plan and implement it.  But manipulation of the externals rarely succeeds in bringing about internal change.  And therein lies the problem.

This frustration is at the heart of Christian experience, right? The Apostle Paul got it.  It has to be God doing the work because we’ve got nothing.  No amount of wishful thinking or good intentions is going to accomplish the work He has started.  Only He can do that.  And so we wait on Him.  Argh.

I’m just trying to figure out how to live in that holy dependency.  Seriously, how do we practically depend on God for strength?  (And don’t comment in Christianese; “let go and let God” just doesn’t deal with this very real struggle honestly enough for me.)  I know that trying to “figure out” the mysterious movement of God is a bit of a fool’s errand.  But I’ve got to do something!

Often, I feel like there is little point in trying at all:  what I want to do I don’t do; but, what I don’t want to do, I do. Yeah, I get that, Paul.  For all those areas that need discipline in my life, I am at His mercy. Somewhere between grace and application a balance can be found – not that I’ve found it, I just choose to believe in that hope.

But how do we allow God to work in us to break us free of these chains?  I have to believe it is possible and that I’m just a work in progress with a long way to go to completion.

I suppose I should feel it is freeing to know that this work is not up to me.  Somehow, that’s not where I’m at and I want to be able to accept that I can’t do it.  And I want that to be okay.

Looking for some wisdom?  Can you supply it?

If it’s not one kid it’s your mother!

So I am currently home taking my sixth sick day of the school year and it’s not even the end of November!  The trouble is, I haven’t even been sick yet!

(The truth is, I’m actually at home for another sick day because of dental surgery and it is February 14th, but it seems I neglected to post this blog before Christmas.  Can’t imagine why I didn’t have the time then!)

It seems that the Covey clan is getting hit hard this fall with every communicable disease going.  From colds, to lice, to flus, to pink eye – if it is out there, someone in our house has had it since September. And it never fails:  we don’t get it at the same time, the virus staggers its way through our family and turns a 24-hour bug into a week-long saga.

I’m sure there are many factors that have contributed to this current dilemma in our house, not the least of which is the fact that I have young children who do not use discretion about appropriate places to stick fingers and frequently rub eyes, pick noses, and chew on fingernails!

Yes, I have taught them about germs and proper hand-washing but they seem to be willing to risk it when mom is not looking.  The thought process is something like this: this one time won’t matter, what mom doesn’t know won’t hurt her  or it’s not going to happen to me. (Come to think of it, that sounds like a teenage mentality!)

Alas, no matter how often I disinfect, we are at a stage in life that seems to be characterized by illness (or perhaps, antibody development if you are a “glass-half-full” kind of person).

I have a bit of a unique (and wonderful) daycare arrangement for my kids.  For the most part, my mom is their Nanny.  It is win-win-win:  I know they are loved and safe, mom has a source of income, and the kids have their grandmother as an important part of their lives.

I must say that it is very comforting going to work each day knowing that they are in the care of family and able to play with their beloved toys and nap in their own beds.  It also means that I do not have to have all four ready to go in the morning by 7:30am when my husband or I have to leave for work.  And, as many of you moms know (especially those who have to drop your kids off somewhere in the morning before work) the morning routine can be a nightmare so this is a bonus that I do not take for granted.

But, I have run into a glitch in my splendid plan:  illness. What do I do when that wrench gets tossed in? How do I juggle my obligations? And what do I do when Nanny is sick: take a sick day to cover her shift? (I did.  That’s why I’m home blogging instead of working!)

Truly, if it’s not my kid, it’s my mother!

If I actually calculate the number of days in total that at least one person in our family has been “under the weather” it is a least triple the time I have taken off (I think we are at least 20 days now).  Jason has also been unwell and has taken his share of sick days to care for himself and the kids but even with the two of us the burden can be overwhelming.

How are working parents doing this? One friend assured me that it does get better as the kids get older (they are sick less often, for a lesser amount of time, and are able to care more for themselves) but in the meantime it is really hard.

When I am not at work, I have a guilty conscience and I feel I am being irresponsible, even when circumstances are out of my control.  I am learning from Andy Stanley’s book, Choosing to Cheat, that parents often have the wrong perspective on that.  I am trying to remind myself that my primary responsibility is my family and that not caring for them in their illness is actually the true irresponsibility.  I can tell myself that 1000 times but it doesn’t negate the very real pressure on working moms (and dads) when it comes to this issue.

I wish I could be more like my husband who is far less swayed by the opinions of others and is content to do what is necessary, in spite of how it may be perceived in his workplace.  I am learning a lot from him about not getting caught up in the “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” of people pleasing and false guilt.  He’s good for me (more on that in another post).

I would be interested in hearing about other working moms and how they handle the disruption that illness brings to their schedules.  I am learning to expect the unexpected but I still need practical help with how to manage it.  Can you identify with the struggle to care for little ones at home and the demands of your career? Do you have any tips or sage advice that you would be willing to share?

Note:  Since January, I have enlisted the support of another excellent in-home daycare provider and that has helped alleviate some of the pressure!  Options and backup plans seem to dispel some of the worry associated with the inevitable changes in plan that characterize parenthood.

Consider the Big Picture: The Saturday Night Rant of a Public High School Teacher

“It doesn’t matter if you love teachers or you hate teachers. It doesn’t matter if you don’t care about teachers at all. What everyone should be concerned about is the government and their new tactic of “convenience laws” that violate pre-existing laws. The government has targeted a specific group of people and are rallying hatred towards them while they enacted legislation that violates pre-existing human and legal rights. *THAT* is what this is about. *THAT* is the whole problem. If you take away all the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ and whom is involved, and any of the side issues (nobody cared whether extras were happening until they weren’t anyway) then you boil it all down to the above statement. And no, it doesn’t matter that they said they’re repealing the law. They’ve used it. It’s too late. Now, whenever people refuse to something the government wants, they will enact legislation that tramples those people’s rights in order to make them do what was wanted; and once the people do it, the government will repeal the law, thus saving themselves from any responsibility or legal challenge. That is simply terrifying. I guess if I wondered what it was like to live with a dictatorship that the general public tacitly approved of…I now know. “ Ken Cory,  a comment from a reader on CTVNews.ca

This comment helps to explain why it is so important for teachers to fight what is happening with our government.  We cannot, in good conscience, allow dictatorial strategies to have a foothold in Canadian government.   What kind of precedent would that set?  This labour crisis is highlighting a scary reality that we need to acknowledge and address.

Unfortunately, because we work with children, it is impossible not to have families affected by this direct attack by the provincial government.  It is appalling to me the lack of respect being voiced for educators that is primarily based in personal inconvenience.  Does the public forget that most teachers are also parents that pay taxes and have their children in the school system, too?  Our kids are affected by the same things that all parents are facing but we feel it is a necessary battle so we keep fighting.  Teachers’ families are directly affected by this crisis even more than the average Canadian family because the education sector is the target of the bullying, in many cases from the government and the public.

So many people are cursing teachers instead of becoming informed about the real issues and seeing this problem in light of the big picture.  The caustic accusations that are being hurled are not helping anyone come to a solution. Becoming an active participant in the bullying only perpetuates ignorance and cruelty.  The unlawful action on the part of our government  is something that stands to affect the very democratic foundations of our country and consequently the lives of ALL Canadians.  Shouldn’t we all be outraged?

Because teachers are not interested in breaking the law and wish to make ethical and respectful decisions, we have been put in a very difficult situation this year.  We have little legal recourse to protest this injustice because of the imposed working conditions under this “convenience law”.  We are only able to make a political statement by removing the voluntary and extra-curricular activities if we wish to abide by the Education Act and to continue to perform our official duties.  We fully intend to do our jobs and continue to provide quality education in a safe and caring learning environment.

Teachers love to facilitate all sorts of opportunities for students that go above and beyond our job description and that is precisely why they have been offered for years without any remuneration.  But the government’s recent tactics have totally decimated all of the goodwill that existed and have consequently created this terrible mess in education.  And if the only leverage we have is to cut out the extras for a period of time, then we have to do it.  Believe me, no teacher is enjoying being in the midst of this crisis, it is incredibly stressful and difficult.  However,  I would rather have my kids miss a few trips, concerts, or tournaments than have them grow up in a dictatorship, wouldn’t you?

Students can and do get all sorts of extra-curriculars through organizations outside of the schools.  If you want to see a certain club or activity continue at your local school, consider offering your time to volunteer to keep it running in the midst of this political uncertainty.  All children in the public education system are still getting their education; their learning is not what is at stake, their future is.  I need to fight this injustice for the sake of my kids and your kids, too.

Although Broten calls it a “collective agreement”, that is not at all what we have in place – nothing has been agreed upon collectively. We have dictated working conditions (that have not even been communicated clearly to us) and a government that is totally unwilling to compromise.   The Ontario Labour Relations Act has not been followed by the government because Bill 115 allows them to override it.  Essentially, they don’t have to play by the same rules.  Apparently, the rights of education workers are not as important as the rights of government officials.

Despite the misinformation that has been circulating in the media, the truth is that there has been no willingness on the government’s side to engage in civilized discussions to try to negotiate something reasonable.  OSSTF and ETFO’s attempts to have those conversations have been shut down.  Instead, the government is wielding unprecedented power to disregard previously existing legislation in order to control a large group of people.  This is simply not okay.  It is ridiculous that the government can approach the Ontario Labour Relations Board to rule against teachers having a political day of protest but they are not accountable to that Board and the Act it upholds at all.  Why not?  That is a question all Canadians should be asking.

This fight is NOT about wage freezes or sick days at all; teachers are more than willing to acknowledge the need for austerity measures and to make concessions in light of the current economic situation; but, we want to have a voice in how that is done rather than having it shoved down our throats.  So would you.  There are so many cost-saving options that those working in education could suggest because we know the system but we are not being given any opportunity to work together towards a better solution.  If we really need to save money, we should be looking at efficient and intelligent solutions that don’t attack and destroy the morale of those in the front lines.  The government has severely miscalculated the impact of their bulldozer approach and will spend many years having to make amends for that stupidity.

If you are a Canadian, you need to be aware of what is happening because, if teachers give up or, God forbid,  lose this fight, you could be part of the next group that is targeted.   This is a fight against the misuse of power by those in positions of authority in the Ontario government.

Instead of complaining and criticizing, why don’t you try standing with educators in their fight to preserve democracy?  I know I’d sure appreciate it.

50 Shades: Is “Mommy Porn” Really Okay With You?

Let me begin by telling you that, on principle, I am always skeptical of the “everybody’s doing it” philosophy of life.  I tend to be incredibly suspect of the masses.  I find myself asking why I would be interested in doing what everyone else is when I see the results of common choices.

So, given my bias that following the crowd is often unwise, I have chosen to address my concerns about the current cultural obsession with British author E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey.

I might be assuming too much here, but I suspect that many readers of this book have never before purchased or read erotic novels.  I feel fairly confident in this supposition because, until now, erotica has rarely, if ever, made the best-sellers list. And, if it has, it was minus all the hype because I never heard about it.

For most readers, James’s novel is likely a first encounter with this genre and I’m wondering why people (specifically women) are justifying it this time-particularly given the extreme emphasis on bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism that has caused such controversy?

As a Christian I could simply object on the basis of immoral content and as an English teacher I could take serious issue with the miserably written prose but I’d rather add some perspective to the discussion than dismiss the book without consideration.

My friends are all talking about it and, since I am confident that (for the most part) my blog appeals to the same target demographic as the novel, I am choosing to make this my first official book review.

Unlike most of the books I intend to review, this may be the first and last time that I actually write about a book that I have not read.

That’s right.  It is not on my bookshelf or my bedside table and I seriously doubt it ever will be.  But, before you consider dismissing my opinion on the “how-can-you-have-anything-to-say-about-it-if-you-haven’t-read-it” objection, consider hearing me out.

Continue reading

Sarah Unplugged

I have wanted to blog consistently for some time.  Many of my friends have encouraged me to do so but I have always argued that I do not have the time.  Now, I am making the time.  This is something that is important to me and I am determined to make it a priority.

This blog is about me sorting out my life and my thoughts, not about having it all figured out.  So please read with that in mind.  I’m attempting to answer the questions that plague me, to process day-to-day observations, to pay attention and to reflect on what I notice, and to chronicle ongoing struggles and successes.

Primarily, I am looking to be honest with myself.  I hope that my example might encourage others to evaluate their lives and to live authentically as well.  There will be no censorship or ear-tickling, I’m just putting my journey out there.  If that is of interest to you, please read on.  If not, I will not take your lack of readership personally (being a follower, often isn’t a good idea anyway).

These words are me.  Take me or leave me.  I’m not trying to impress or offend (so if I impress or offend you, it is purely coincidental).  I’m just trying to be real.

My life is demanding.  Lots of people want a piece of me: my husband, my four kids, my family, my friends, my students and the list goes on.  I need to blog for me as a way of clawing back a bit of myself amidst the demands of daily living.  I have learned that I need to practice self-care first in order to care for others and, for me, blogging is a way to do that.

I have always had the compulsion to put pen to paper, so to speak, and I have come to realize that is a necessary thing for my life.  I believe in the therapeutic and clarifying power of the written word and I have taught many classes and workshops that promote this belief.  Despite my own understanding of its importance, I have not practiced what I preach.  I want to change that.

I believe journaling (blogging) can be a type of spiritual discipline:  a way to record and remember your journey and to reflect on your personal growth. And since, the palest ink is stronger than the most miraculous memory (Chinese Proverb),  I will write my life as a way of remembering. (Lord knows if I can’t remember the names of my own children, I will need a little help!)

With that said, I will try desperately to write a blog and not a polished article.  Yes, Lori, I am taking your advice:  blogs are not meant to be fine-tuned.  In light of the conversational tone and my tendency to perseverate on the small details, I ask you to keep the English teacher jokes to yourself.  I can hardly type a Facebook status update without scrutinizing every word because of my professional life!  This is not an assignment that I am handing in for your review.  Please be forgiving and I will try to extend the same courtesy to myself.

The other day my husband texted: Just blog it.  It is good for the soul.  Ultimately, that sums up my purpose in starting down this path.  I will write because it is a spiritual need.

And, if my transparency and pondering can encourage or inspire one of you, I guess it is worth going public.