For I Am Yours: Watercolor Illustrations

I’m thrilled to share another completed illustration for my children’s book For I Am Yours.

For I Am Yours

Lorraine Watry is the amazing illustrator, and she’s been blogging about her process for her followers and students. She has never illustrated a book before, but her watercolor paintings have won numerous awards.

To read more about her process, go to:  https://www.lorrainewatrystudio.com/blog/2019/3/1/for-i-am-yours-childrens-book-illustrations-in-watercolor-by-lorraine-watry

 

Episode 88: Dating and Single Parenting with Eric Levin

March 24, 2019

All In with Pauline Hawkins

Eric Levin

Today, I tried something new. Instead of talking to a guest about some cool project they are going all in on, I wanted to discuss topics that are important to us. Eric Levin, a single father, a real estate agent, and a good friend of mine, joined me to talk about dating, single parenting, and our boys getting ready for high school.

Instead of the traditional three songs on the soundtrack of his life, I asked Eric to think of one song we could listen to halfway through the show. He shared “Use Me” by Bill Withers.

You can find Eric on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/therealrealtor/ or online at https://ericlevilevin.kwrealty.com/
Become a Patron at Patreon.com to support my podcast!

Episode 85: Geezer Stories with Laura Mansfield

March 3, 2019

All In with Pauline Hawkins

Laura Mansfield

Laura Mansfield is the author of Geezer Stories: The Care and Feeding of Old People, a book that was birthed from a series of Facebook posts she originally shared to help her cope with the frustrations, heartaches and small joys of caring for her aging parents. Laura joins me form East Tennessee. She talks about the response to Geezer Stories and shares some statistics that has created “The Taffy Generation.”

Three songs that would be on the soundtrack of her life: 1st song: “Child of Mine” by Carole King; 2nd song: “Tennessee” by Mindy Smith; 3rd song: “Golden” by Ruth B.

Excerpt from a blogpost: “Pretty Fly (for an Old Guy)”
Gentle readers, you will recall from my previous Geezer Story, that DooDaddy and Gmamma left the old homestead in a bit of hurry, since it sold in a week. We thought there’d be months to pack and sort through the accumulated detritus of decades, from National Geographic magazines to debutante dresses. DooDaddy brought along armloads of Gmamma’s clothes but forgot everything in the hall closet when they refugeed to the Old Folks Home.
So we’ve been gradually replenishing his wardrobe. Last year it was a handsome topcoat. This year it was a leather jacket. Oh the trials and tribulations of shopping with geezers. Lord have mercy! Don’t get me started on trying to buy granny panties for Gmamma. I literally can’t even.
http://www.geezerstories.com/2016/01/pretty-fly-for-an-old-guy/

Laura writes from her home in East Tennessee. Learn more at: www.geezerstories.com.

Social Links:
Twitter: @geezerstories
Instagram: @geezerstories
LinkedIn: lauramansfieldapr

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Episode 84: A Memoir of Living with Alzheimer’s with Paula Sarver

February 24, 2019

All In with Pauline Hawkins

Paula Sarver

Paula Sarver is a new author who fell into the publishing world when, after moving her mother into an assisted living center for Alzheimer’s, she discovered her mother’s prayer journal. She turned that journal into An Introspective Journey: A Memoir of Living with Alzheimer’s. Paula joined me from Knoxville, Tennessee and shared a few excerpts from her book. Her mother’s words shed light on the pain and confusion that someone living with the disease feels, and Paula’s experiences help caregivers understand and support our loved ones.

Three songs that would be on the soundtrack of her life: 1st song: “I Won’t Give Up” by Trisha Yearwood; 2nd song: “Annie’s Song” by John Denver; 3rd song: “joy.” by for King & Country

Follow Paula on Facebook @thepaulasarver

Become a Patron at Patreon.com to support my podcast!

For I Am Yours: The Story Behind the Story

When my daughter Carol Linn was about four years old, she asked me to tell her a story instead of reading one to her. She loved story time and would beg me to read at least two books a night to her, so when she asked me to tell her a story, I was in a bit of a panic. I hemmed and hawed until my eyes fell on her baby blanket that she hugged to her body. She would often use the ruffles to stroke her cheek while listening to books or watching TV.

This was the same blanket that covered her the first time we put her in her crib, the same blanket she held onto at six months old and wouldn’t let go of, and the same blanket she carried with her everywhere she went by the time she was two and could adamantly refuse to leave it.

So I began, “A soft, light-green blankie lay in a white crib, waiting for the special day. Blankie thought about the important job it had to do. Keeping a baby warm and comfortable was not a job for an ordinary blanket.”

She wiggled with excitement as I told “stories” that were based on true events. Carol Linn loved the story so much, she asked me to tell it to her again. I had a hard time remembering it the next night, so she reminded me of all the parts I had forgotten. When she asked me the third night to tell it again, I thought I’d better write it down. The two of us worked together to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I printed it out and read it to her a dozen times after that, and then she asked me to tell her a story about her stuffed animals, with the same result. Shortly after writing these stories down, Carol Linn started reading, so our nightly books became easy readers that she read to me.

The abandoned stories I wrote for Carol Linn were put into a folder and basically forgotten with a pile of notebooks. However, they stayed with me, in that folder, through two moves: from Rochester, New York to Colorado Springs and from Colorado Springs to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It wasn’t until I moved out to New Hampshire that I opened the folder again and found the stories.

I read the blankie story and started to cry.

By this time, Carol Linn was 21, independent, with seemingly little need for me in her life. I realized then that the personified “blankie” was really the story of my love for her.
When I showed Carol Linn the story after all these years, she cried as well and whispered, “I loved my blankie so much.”

You need to know that Carol Linn had kept her blankie until she moved to New Hampshire at 18 years old. It mostly stayed at the end of her bed or in the closet, but when I went to her bedroom after that emotional goodbye, her blankie was on her bed, curled up by her pillow.

When I told her my “mother’s love” theory, we both cried even harder. Our tears revealed the bond that had never disappeared; it just took on a different form as we aged, and our needs changed. Even though Carol Linn doesn’t sit on my lap and cuddle with me anymore, she knows I am here for her with open arms if she ever needs me: “For I am yours, and you are mine, ‘til the end of time.”

To follow Lorraine Watry’s process as she illustrates , go to : https://www.lorrainewatrystudio.com/blog/2019/1/25/creating-illustrations-for-a-childrens-book

baby and blankie

For I Am Yours written by Pauline Hawkins, illustrated by Lorraine Watry, and published by WordCrafts Press is due to be released in the summer of 2019.

Choose to be Teachers and Students

My daughter and son-in-law asked me to speak at their wedding. I was honored but also hesitant–what could I, of all people in their lives, say about marriage? The only thing I know without a doubt. With their permission, here’s my speech:

As we gather to celebrate your journey together, I want to share with you a little wisdom I’ve acquired along the way. After 15 years in education, I’ve realized a very important fact: We never stop being students. As a matter of fact, even without an education degree, we are all teachers as well.

This concept applies perfectly to our relationships. Every thought, word, and action speaks volumes for those willing to listen, watch, and engage. If we choose to be diligent observers of the people in our lives, we learn the important aspects of who they are. But as much as people observe us, they can’t know everything about us, unless we teach them. We must not be afraid to share the inner workings of our hearts with those we love and trust.

Therefore, Nicole and Tripp, you must choose to be teachers and students of each other.

As much as you think you know the person standing in front of you, there is always something to learn about each other. You must be willing to teach the other what makes you happy, angry, or sad; you must be willing to learn how to ease each other’s burdens and how and when to give each other space.

I know from watching the two of you together, that you have already learned much about each other and are not afraid to teach each other about your needs.

But as time goes on, each of you will change and grow—sometimes together; sometimes apart. But if you make the commitment to always be a student and a teacher, you will learn about the changes and teach each other who you are becoming. You will learn to give each other space and comfort when you each need it because you will teach each other when and how. Just as teachers can’t expect students to know what they have not been taught, you can’t expect the other to know how to meet your needs.

Teach each other with patience and love. Engage with each new stage with diligence and passion. Be dedicated students of each other and your relationship.

Just as you have chosen to marry each other today, Nicole and Tripp, may you choose to be teachers and students for the rest of your lives.

TED Talk from Sharon Brous: It’s time to reclaim and reinvent religion

Sharon Brous powerful TED Talk is a great part of the global conversation that needs to happen to heal the brokenness in our world. It fits perfectly with my message of optimistic realism. You can watch her video and/or read some of the highlights below.

 

4 Principles of Religion

Wakefulness. Our world is on fire, and it is our job to keep our hearts and our eyes open, and to recognize that it’s our responsibility to help put out the flames. We suffer from psychic numbing: The more we learn about what’s broken in our world, the less likely we are to do anything. We shut down at a certain point. Somewhere along the way, our religious leaders forgot that it’s our job to make people uncomfortable. It’s our job to wake people up, to pull them out of their apathy and into the anguish, and to insist that we do what we don’t want to do and see what we do not want to see. Because we know that social change only happens when we are awake enough to see that the house is on fire.

Hope. Hope is not naïve, and hope is not an opiate. Hope may be the single greatest act of defiance against a politics of pessimism and against a culture of despair. Because what hope does for us is it lifts us out of the container that holds us and constrains us from the outside, and says, “You can dream and think expansively again.”

This is what religion is supposed to be about: It’s supposed to be about giving people back a sense of purpose, a sense of hope, a sense that they and their dreams fundamentally matter in this world that tells them that they don’t matter at all.

Mightiness. It is true that I can’t do everything, but I can surely do something. I can forgive. I can love. I can show up. I can protest. I can be a part of this conversation. “I am strong, I am mighty, and I am worthy.” In a world that conspires to make us believe that we are invisible and that we are impotent, religious communities and religious ritual can remind us that for whatever amount of time we have here on this earth, whatever gifts and blessings we were given, whatever resources we have, we can and we must use them to try to make the world a little bit more just and a little bit more loving.

Inter-connectedness. It’s so hard for us to remember how interconnected we all are as human beings. And yet, we know that it is systems of oppression that benefit the most from the lie of radical individualism. Phobias and racism of any type are all of our problems. Emma Lazarus was right when she said until all of us are free, we are none of us free. We are all in this together.

Our hearts hurt from the failed religion of extremism, and we deserve more than the failed religion of routine-ism. It is time for religious leaders and religious communities to take the lead in the spiritual and cultural shift that this country and the world so desperately needs—a shift toward love, toward justice, toward equality and toward dignity for all. Our children deserve no less than that.

“Captain Trout” by Guest Blogger: Matthew Ferri

This is one of my favorite personal narratives from a talented student. One of the literary essays we read in College Composition is “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell. Matthew read that and remembered a similar event that has stuck with him. Here is his poignant story:

Just about a year short of being a “real man,” my father and my brother invited me on a week-long canoe trip up in the mountains of Maine, close to the border of Canada. My brother, Cameron, was part of the boy scouts and because I had done some community work designing the troop’s neckerchiefs, the Scoutmaster, Doug, asked my brother if I’d like to come. I was hesitant to give him a straight yes or no when they asked me to go, mainly because I wouldn’t know anyone going besides my brother and father.

Plus I wasn’t sure if I wanted to sacrifice a week of my summer to a canoe in the smoldering heat while listening to the sound of pre- pubescent boys squeaking their words at me. Out of guilt for not spending enough time with my brother and father, I agreed to go. I thought it might be a good experience to have before they forgot that I was an existing member of the family, rather than some sort of specter that haunted the fridge.

We packed our bags and set out on the road for a three-hour drive through the great scenic state of Maine. Mountains, old antique shops, road kill: They had it all. We drove up and down hills so steep our ears popped. When we finally got to the base campground, we got everything unpacked and set up our tents. We were on one side of a dirt road next to some docks and a lake that led out to the river we’d be setting out on in the morning. On the other side of the road were rows of RV’s and mobile homes people towed up there for their definition of “camping.”

The sun had sunk pretty low by the time two young men pulled up in their truck with a canoe rack hitched behind them. They got out and headed over towards us for some introductory conversation. One was not more than two years older than I was with a freckled face and red hair; the other was in his late twenties, much taller, and had a clean-shaven face ready to be filled in. These two were our river guides for the week.

The taller and older of the two extended his hand towards Doug and the rest of the adults chaperoning the trip and introduced himself as Seth, and the other, a little less confidently, introduced himself as Skylar. They all talked about the drive up, the troubles they had understanding some of the directions, and the types of snacks they got for their kids at the gas stations on the way up.

After a quick meeting about our plans for the morning, I retreated into my tent for the remainder of the night to write in my journal about a girl I liked. I felt a little like the odd man out. After all, that’s what I was. I was not a Boy Scout, and they had all been to campouts before where they had already formed their bonds. So, for the first night I sat in my tent writing and drawing bears while I heard the sounds of my brother and his friends laughing about dumb things each had been saying in hushed tones. They didn’t realize, however, that the tents were not soundproof. The adults, along with myself, could hear every typical inappropriate conversation one would hear out of the mouths of a group of fourteen or fifteen year-old boys.

I woke up the next morning to see their red embarrassed faces after the adults had told them how they kept them up with their chatter. Not one of them had anything to say that morning as they bashfully ate their breakfasts. I couldn’t help but smirk to myself at the end of the table as I ate my poorly prepared Boy Scout breakfast.

After breakfast, we packed up camp and hauled our canoes to an opening in the trees by the river where we would be taking off. My brother and I threw our gear in our canoe and started pushing into the water, my brother hopping in first once the bow was half in as I pushed behind jumping just before my feet touched the water. We took up our paddles and started rowing. We were off on our adventure, and for the rest of the week we would mostly be rowing.

The next day we left early and rowed gently down the stream. All of the canoes were always close enough that everyone could talk and laugh as we went along our journey down the river, and the man my dad had paired up with was named Pat. He was the father of the scout named Quinn who only ate raw meat because he thought he was part wolf.

Pat was boasting about his younger days when he owned a fishing shop with his brother in the Philippines as he cast his line behind him, making sure to avoid any scouts. I listened to his stories of fishing as I stirred the water beneath me, glancing over occasionally as he passionately spoke. Eventually everyone had grown tired of his rambling and began their own side conversations. I hadn’t noticed their exodus from the one-sided conversation and continued to politely listen and smile as he uncomfortably directed his stories to me.

Once we made it to our next checkpoint, he showed me a few of the tricks he knew on the shore. I slowly got a hang of the cast form and technique for luring fish with a slight jerking motion of the wrist to make it look like the lure was swimming like a tiny fish. I even managed to catch a few small ones on the beach.

The next day was a beautiful one. We got up, made the routine breakfast, packed, and set back out on the river. I had been talking a bit more to each of the scouts by this day, and they seemed to like me. They all started treating me with less and less awkwardness and more like their big brother. As they got more comfortable with me, they looked to me for leadership. I settled their childish disputes of who had to do the dishes and things like that, and eventually I played card games and told them about my experiences with girls. They sat in awe as I told them stories, far from the adults, in a packed tent with a lantern hanging from a hook in the center. I became an idol to each of them. That’s when I realized that most of them didn’t have older brothers; that’s why they were scouts. I felt like Peter Pan among the lost boys.

We eventually rowed ourselves into a tighter area of the river that had much more vegetation, where fish could easily swim and not be taken away by the river’s current. There weren’t any good spots to pull the boats up on, so we just tied them to trees and climbed up this dirt and rock wall that was used in the past as a sort of natural staircase. After I set up my tent, I began fishing, not expecting much. I borrowed one of Pat’s lures and didn’t use bait. I cast and reeled in a few times, using the motions Pat taught me, the lure reflecting through the green murky water as I towed it through. It was almost strange how calm the water had been there, yet I knew there was so much happening underneath.

I felt a nibble and immediately jerked my rod so the hook would properly puncture the mouth of whatever I had on the line. I quickly realized this fish was not like any of the other bite-sized fish I had been catching that week. This fish was the king of the river. It was a nine-inch brook trout, bigger than any brook trout Pat had ever seen. The rod had bent a good 120 degrees as I wrestled this fish for its life. I saw the dark silhouette of its immaculate body as I pulled it closer to me and farther from its domain. My rod was on the verge of snapping when I finally got it out of the water; it was thrashing and splashing everywhere. I held it over the boat as I hauled it up. The line snapped, sending the fish to the floor of the canoe. It wriggled and sputtered about the boat as I tried to get a hold of it, its body still slippery from the coat of murky water. I grabbed a towel and grasped it firmly, and as I took the hook out, Seth looked over the top of the dirt stairs and shouted to the scouts, “Looks like Matty’s eatin’ good tonight boys!”

Brook TroutImmediately all 15 or so of the scouts ran over along with the parents to glance over the edge down where I was standing in the canoe with the trout wrapped delicately in a towel in my hand. I could feel his body rise and collapse, gasping for air. I wanted to put him back in the water as soon as I caught him and watch him slip back under the protection of the clouded water where he belonged to the river and the river belonged to him. I looked at the scouts as they peered back at me with anticipation. Waiting for me to say or do something with the exhausted fellow. I swallowed deep and said agonizingly what they wanted to hear, “I’m gonna eat him.”

They all went berserk as the adults smiled at their barbaric chanting of my new nickname, “CAPTAIN TROUT! CAPTAIN TROUT!”

They proceeded to take their chanting farther from the cliff where I was no longer in their view and could regretfully kill this fish for their amusement. I had never taken the life of anything bigger than a spider, and here I was about to slaughter a full-grown brook trout with my Bear Grills survival knife my dad got me for the trip.

I gently rested my hand, putting the trout on the seat of the canoe and pulled back the towel, past the gills, where I made an imaginary line that would end his life. I looked into his dark marble eye as I rested the knife across his shimmering body. “What a beautiful fish,” I thought. I pictured him gliding through the water with such mystery and momentum, without a care in the world. I thought of how he might have thought nothing could hurt him, before this, and in that moment I still had a chance to put him back in the water. I still had time. No one was watching, and I could make it seem like he got away from me. His chest was still rising and falling, slower now, showing his quickly draining life. I could just toss him over…but how could I bring back nothing to the lost boys? How could I lie to the scouts that looked up to me? I couldn’t. With one last glance of life the fish gave to me, I took.

The blade, short and feeble, didn’t cut through him easily like I hoped it would. No, it was painful; the knife barely made it through his whole thick body. As I sliced through him like an old tire, his mouth opened wide as if he were trying to scream. Expression of anything but regret left my face. Slowly, I slid his head off to the side, with his contorting jaw as a trail of blood followed my knife. I then turned his stomach toward me and sliced him down the middle exposing his innards. I could see everything that once gave the fish life, so I ripped them out too. When I was done, I looked down at the awful mess I had made. There were guts all over the chair with blood still covering my knife while the trout’s head stared at me, still moving his mouth. I drove the knife down through his eye to make his questioning stop, and with an angry motion of my arm, thrusted the blade outwards to the river where the head plunked into the water like a rock.

When I brought the “cleaned” fish up to the campers, the excitement had already faded. Now I had to cook him. We had no breadcrumbs, so my dad gave me pancake batter to use instead. I put the fish on the grill and cooked him, then dished him. By this time, I was not hungry. My stomach was noxious, and I couldn’t picture him without the rest of his body. I took two bites and passed him off to my dad. I slumped into my tent, while everyone else enjoyed my first and last catch.

 

 

YouTube, Armor, and Winning the War

Me and IanAs some of you know, Ian has a YouTube channel (link). He’s been making and uploading videos since he was 7 years old. I have been monitoring his site. I get an email whenever someone comments on his videos, and then I delete and report anyone who makes a nasty comment. He’s been called names like retard, idiot, and fat. Up until now, I have protected him from the harshness of social media, waiting until I felt he was old enough and strong enough to deal with it on his own. However, I didn’t sit idle, expecting Ian to develop armor without help; so while I’ve been deleting comments, I’ve also been “training” him for these realities. Elementary school is the perfect time to build up the necessary armor. What used to be a middle school battleground has now filtered down to the younger years. Ian has had many opportunities to practice what I preach. It may seem unfortunate that someone so young would have to deal with children and adults attacking his intelligence, integrity, motivation, and character, but I’ve come to realize that it’s a blessing to be present and involved in these battles. Is there a better way to train him and strengthen his armor than while he’s in my presence, surrounded by my love and guidance?

So, when a child tells him, “I hate you!” Ian and I talk about what happened before that comment. Did Ian do something to that child? If so, we talk about making better choices and apologizing for his behavior if necessary. If not, we talk about the fact that we don’t know what’s going on with that other child. Maybe he has some difficult situations he’s dealing with, and the best course of action is not to retaliate and just walk away.

If someone says, “You’re stupid or weird,” I explain to Ian that those types of comments say more about the other person than they do about him. If Ian is just being himself and other children think he’s being weird, Ian doesn’t have to change to please other people. He can tone it down, if he wants, but Ian is allowed to have his own personality and be his own person, as long as he is being kind and not hurting anyone.

I constantly repeat this mantra to him: “You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you do need to be kind to everyone. You can’t change how someone else behaves or feels, but you can change how you react and whether or not you let someone else control how you feel about yourself.”

That all sounds cut and dried, but situations aren’t always that simple. Yes, I teach my son to be kind, but I also teach him to stand up for himself and for others who are weaker than he is. We had one situation in which a girl his age got so angry with Ian’s goofy personality because he was “annoying” her, that she dug her nails into his shoulder to get him to stop repeating his “Chuck Norris” phrase. Ian knocked her arm away. Even though Ian had claw marks on his shoulder, she ran home accusing Ian of hitting her, which started a small group of children, along with this girl’s parents, calling Ian a bully—of course they only heard the story from the girl. No one present at the incident believed Ian was a bully, but there is nothing we can do to change how those other people feel.

In another situation, Ian defended a friend against a much bigger person. Ian stood on tiptoes to get in a high school boy’s face about something this boy did to one of his friends. Luckily, this older boy called him “little man” and appreciated Ian’s loyalty to his friend, resolving the situation immediately. Ian and I did talk about choosing his battles wisely though.

Usually, I let Ian take care of these situations on his own and give him advice when he asks or I see he really needs it. However, there have been times I’ve had to step in, like when two mothers ganged up on Ian and accused him of “bullying” their daughters and being a “liar” … about everything, I guess. I know Ian is not perfect; I need to discipline him for some of his choices, but the things they accused Ian of did not happen, and Ian had a number of other students who witnessed the situation and came to his defense. He was eventually vindicated, but there are a few people around him who still believe the lie.

As you can see, we have had many opportunities to practice these lessons over the last few years, which has helped Ian to develop a pretty tough armor. He’s strong and confident, and mostly immune to the nastiness around him.

The other day, someone made a mean comment on one of his parcour videos from a few years back. Ian made that video before he really knew what parcour was. This person decide to say, “You suck” on his video. Now that Ian has his own iPad, he received the notification of the comment as well. We both looked at our devices at the same time. Ian told me, “Apparently, I suck.”

“Don’t worry, bud. I’ll report it.” My heart hurt a little for him; I knew there would be more of that down the road, especially with his older videos, so I suggested, “You know, if you want, we can delete some of the older videos you have on your channel. You’ve grown so much that those videos aren’t really a reflection of who you are now.” I fully expected him to say, “Yeah. Let’s do that.”

Instead, Ian said, “No. Let’s leave them, Mom. We can just report the people who say mean things. That person’s words didn’t hurt me. Besides, how else are people going to see how much I’ve improved as a director, if they can’t see how I started?”

My mouth hung open for a little while. If I taught him that, why was I so shocked by his answer? Maybe the answer is that I just gave him the necessary tools so that he could fashion his own armor, according to the situation.

We all want to protect our children from pain, but pain is a requisite for life. Protecting my son isn’t about keeping him out of the battle; it’s about helping him develop the armor he will need to win the inevitable wars.

Friday Writing Challenge: I Miss High School

Prompt: Something you miss

Capping two of my students at their Senior Breakfast in 2014
Capping two of my students at their Senior Breakfast in 2014

I miss high school—not my teenage years but the years I spent teaching high school English.

A few weeks ago, I went to the local high school with my son to see his friends play a 10-minute exhibition game as the half-time entertainment for the boys’ basketball game. As soon as I walked into the building, I felt the energy that only exists in a school: An energy fueled by youthful hope and ambition.

We were a little early, so we sat in the bleachers by Ian’s friends. As I looked at the faces on the court, I was disappointed that I didn’t know anyone. Then I immediately chastised myself. How could I know anyone in this building? I don’t teach here. I don’t teach at any high school anymore. My heart began to ache.

Ridiculously, I fought back tears. Why did I leave a place I loved so much? How could I resign from a position that defined my purpose in life? How could I leave the students who needed me?

I looked at the parents, siblings, students, and teachers sitting in the stands. In Colorado I would have had at least one if not five people approach me while I was sitting there—a student just to say hi or a parent thanking me for working with his or her child or an older sibling back from college telling me I made a difference. But here, in this high school, no one knows me: None know that I used to change lives for the better; none know that I would lose sleep worrying about students just like them; none know how much it meant to my students to see me sitting in bleachers just like these.

While Ian watched his friends play, I evaluated what to do with this surprising surge of emotion. Did this mean I should start applying for secondary teaching jobs? Would anyone even hire me after my public resignation letter? If so, could I really work fulltime in a public school again? That thought brought a new surge of pain and questions. How could I go back to a public school, no matter how much I loved it, when the reason I left still exists? How could I be part of a system that aims to replace hope and ambition with standards and test scores? How could I go back to a profession that is being exploited by corporate greed and destroyed by bureaucrats with little concern for our children?

As my mind and heart raced, I thought about my college students. I am still changing lives and losing sleep over them, but I’m not immersed in the community the way I was in high school. As an adjunct, I just show up for class. If a student has questions, I stay on campus a little longer, but I’m free to leave when I’m done. I know I am still making a difference with my college students, but at a community college, I have many nontraditional students who are no longer teenagers in their formative years. Nevertheless, they respond positively to my encouragement, tough love, and passion. Most of my students leave at the end of a semester better prepared for their futures. Some students, however, don’t make it to the end of the semester. They didn’t start this process with the necessary work ethic or resilience to battle through entitlement issues, to embrace the demands of a college class and grow stronger mentally and emotionally because of it—skills I made sure I taught in high school.

I also thought about my financial situation. I’m barely making it right now. I chose to work as an adjunct so that I would have time to write. But a part-time adjunct position has just as much work as a fulltime high school position with a quarter of the pay. So I have less money and still have limited time for writing. If I taught fulltime again, I would at least have money, but I wouldn’t have as much time with my son.

So where does this leave me? How do I get all of my son’s and my needs met without sacrificing my convictions? How can I still be part of a system that encourages and builds up students when they are at their most vulnerable?

This semester, I put a few things in place: I started tutoring a high school student, which has been great. I also am on the subbing list for the middle and high schools in the area. My son will be moving up next year, so I hope to have more jobs in the middle school—that would be the best of both worlds.

Last week, I had my first subbing assignment in the middle school—8th grade English. I felt the energy again as soon as I walked into the building. Being a substitute is definitely different from being the main classroom teacher: Some students tested my teaching abilities immediately. They brought their phones out, walked around the room, sat next to friends, talked while I talked, but they quickly found out I was in charge, but not with an iron fist. I smiled, laughed, and quietly controlled the room. Some students were sweet and wanted to talk to me. I loved it all! I felt like I was home. This was a viable solution for my heartache. Maybe, if I were there enough, students would remember and recognize me. I could be part of this system, encourage teenagers, and make some extra money.

Ironically, while Ian was jumping at Blitz and I was writing this post, a student from the 8th grade class I taught walked past me and stopped: “Hey! You’re the sub from the other day, aren’t you?”

I think this is going to work just fine.

This writing challenge was painful and cathartic. I cried while writing it, which helped me heal, but it also renewed my passion for true educational reformation.  After I published this post, I realized I had more to say about education and the teachers leaving the profession, like me, with broken hearts. I turned this challenge into a post that is now on Huffington Post. You can get to that post here.