Let’s talk Blessons…..

I am a single mom to 5 children, a teacher and coach.

I grew up in the suburbs with a pretty “normal” life. 2 parents and one younger brother. Both my parents worked….my dad as a lawyer in town and my mom as a teacher in the next town over.

I left home to go to college attending St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana which was, at the time, an all women’s college. 4 years and I was done. I was not an A student like I could/should have been and did not take advantage of opportunities the school had to offer until my junior year….something I regret.

I got a job as a part time teacher upon graduation. I wanted to live in the city so I moved to Lincoln Park (the only place my parents thought was safe) and took a job working for a small graphic arts firm. I eventually left that job to go back to teaching. I taught in the UIC area for several years then met and married a man. After a few years of commuting, I had a daughter thus, I chose to take a teaching job closer to our home. A second, third and then FOURTH(!) child meant looking for a larger home and with that, a change to another school closer to home. Somewhere in there, my stepdaughter (goodness I hate the term step!) chose to become a part of our family. Thus, I became a mom of 5!

It took the change in my life for me to decide I needed to leave the school where I had been teaching for 14 years, and reignite my passion for teaching.

I took a position at a charter school in the North Austin area of the city and I loved it. But fate called me to another part of the city. I am now teaching at another charter in the McKinley Park are of the city.  It is HARD work every day with challenging students but the rewards are endless. I truly feel, once again, that I am making a difference in the lives of the young people I teach.

I went right to college after high school which was expected. I graduated in 4 years as was expected. I lived in the dorm and was only a few hours from home if I needed to visit my family. I do regret not getting an advanced degree. I do not have the funds nor the time now to do it. When I had the time and money, it was discouraged.

Blessons – I love that word. I have had many from being assaulted and hospitalized to anxiety and depression. The biggest Blesson I would have to say is my divorce. I was married for over 20 years to an emotionally and financially abusive man. I stayed “for the kids” and….if we are being honest, because I didn’t know it was abuse.

Women speak to each other and either only discuss the “wonderful” parts of marriage and complain a bit about the “socks on the floor” crap. We do not talk to each other about the tough stuff like money or honest feelings. We think the what happens behind closed doors is private. Women and even some men think that just because he/she doesn’t hit you and there are no bruises, it is not abuse. Scars and bruises heal. The “verbal reel” plays over and over in your head.

I was miserable and put on a brave face the moment I left the house each day. I did anything and everything to keep everyone, especially my husband, happy. The criticism, put downs, isolation….it was all part of how he controlled me. I began to have horrible anxiety and panic attacks. These panic attacks directly correlated to money/shopping…..because financial control was also present. I sought therapy. My therapist tried to tell me that the root cause of my anxiety and depression was my marriage but I did not believe her.

It was blatant infidelity on his part, discovered by my children, that I could no longer ignore. I begged and pleaded for him to work with me for the benefit of the family. He tried to maintain control, but I was determined to do the right thing for my children and I filed for divorce.

I own the mistakes I have made in my marriage and in the divorce process. There is no one size fits all manual….I mean there is no manual at all. I admit I made mistakes…plenty of them! But part of being an adult is owning those mistakes, learning from them and moving forward in a more positive manner.

I stayed for my kids and now realize I did more harm by not leaving sooner. I live with guilt and regret and the consequences of my actions daily but I am no longer a victim …. I am a survivor.

Every woman deserves an education. Every woman deserves the right to achieve her dreams. I went to college and got a job. I knew what I wanted and pursued that dream. I lost sight of that dream when I got married and had kids. I eventually lost sight of who I was and what I wanted. It took me years to get that back and I want other women to have the opportunity to do more and be more for themselves and their families. Many women do not have the opportunity to attend traditional school. Many women do not have the financial resources or have obstacles that impede schooling. Blessons allows women the opportunity to realize dreams through education.

I would love to become a mentor for young women. Assisting and advising women through the process of navigating the system to register and attend school. I would also like to just be a sounding board and support for those days when school and life are difficult. I would love to even just proofread a paper or check an assignment for someone that needs a mentor. Education is the key that unlocks so many doors to opportunity. Everyone deserves that key.

Well, I used to say that I was writing a Lifetime movie….now that movie is a mini series! And, honestly, reality is far more brutal than fantasy so no one would believe my real story anyway!

I surround myself with inspiring, understanding women who lift me up on a daily basis. Some days they allow me to vent. Some days they allow me to just wallow. Some days they kick my butt with a running shoe and force me to go for a run or just get out of bed and get dressed. Some days they just make me laugh or smile. They do not accept my excuses for long.

I also have a deep and abiding faith. I have faith that my God has a plan for my children and for me. I may not like nor understand that plan right now but I know that there is a plan. I have faith that God does know what’s up!

There is far too much negativity in the world today. TV shows and the internet thrive on negativity, anger and drama. People sit behind a screen and mindlessly put others down, spewing hate and anger with no real consequences. I refuse to get sucked into the “vortex of negativity” . We have forgotten that we belong to each other. We have forgotten how to communicate with one another. We have forgotten that each of us is a human being in need of connection and feeling that we matter. We don’t really SEE people anymore. We “see” people….we look at social media and see what people want us to see but very little is based in reality. Just a simple smile or hello might brighten someone’s day…. I try and teach mostly by example that it is not what we say but how we say it that makes all the difference in the world. Kindness matters and people matter.

Passions? I have many and have begun to rediscover them all. I run for charity…for Blessons, for Girls on the Run and for a school for autistic children. I have become the #tutulady thanks to my Girls on the Run and run every race in a tutu. Cooking…well feeding people ….is something I love, as well as knitting and reading. I also am a vocal and active ally for the LGBTQ community working with Free Mom Hugs.

My own children, the children I teach and the girls I coach in Girls on the Run all inspire me daily. I know that they listen to what they see more than anything I can say so I try to set a good example of healthy living. If I can inspire one child or one person …..I have been successful. Plus I have to keep up with all these kids! It is exhausting!

There are many outlets to maintain strong mental health. Some that I utilize are yoga, running and therapy. During yoga, I clear my head while twisting up like a pretzel and sweating like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs! I run… a herd of turtles in peanut butter …and sometimes I want to find my inner Forrest and keep running away….but like a boomerang I always come back home! I am also a strong advocate for therapy. Perhaps not every week or all the time but it is good practice to go once in a while for a “tune up”. Having a sounding board that is impartial is essential to maintaining mental balance.

To overcome challenges, first I panic! Really! I panic then I catch my breath, and think of the options. I talk to trusted friends and get advice then…. I just power through. My motto in running and life is #forwardisapace and I live by that every day. Move forward….even if it is a shuffle or a baby step but just keep moving forward.

We women need to lift each other up, encourage each other and empower one another to be better each day. Each one of us has a responsibility to reach back and help others. When women are successful, we need to celebrate that success. The more that we see the positive in each other, the more impact and success we can all have on the world at large.

For more information about Blessons or to apply for a scholarship: Blessons For Women

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