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So this last week saw me take what I feel is a pretty momentous step, and which I’m both delighted with and terrified about.

I qualified as a community education worker 8 years ago, and that role has both defined me and expressed what is important to me ever since.  It took me a long time to ‘find’ the profession too, I’d had my fair share of years in the wilderness wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my time here on earth, and I suppose it was no small coincidence that all the various little jobs, volunteering roles and areas of interests were what eventually channelled me into doing a postgrad professional qualification to enable me to practice as a community educator.  I have also been so blessed to have the chance to work for an amazing organisation for most of my post-qualification years.

So why, then, have I just quit my job?!

Since becoming a mum, in fact since becoming pregnant 5 years ago I’ve had a sort of split in my mind.  I wanted to continue to do the work I loved, that I could see also did so much good, but I wanted to not have the mad juggling act of parenthood combined with busy working life.  Financially we were in no position for me to stop working, and to be honest when our daughter was a baby I was glad to reclaim my self, to have a space where I was independent again (as much as any employee can be anyway).  As the years have gone by we have intermittently re-examined that position to see if our finances offered flexibility for other choices to be made, but until now that has been a pretty laughable proposition.

But this last 6 months or so have brought together a number of jigsaw pieces.  I’ve rediscovered a passion for art practice, and have had some creative juices stirred which could do with an outlet.  Our daughter is about to begin school and that presented new organisational challenges which we were struggling to reconcile (whilst being aware that everyone else manages these things somehow!).  As my mum is facing a longish period of ill-health and I’m feeling the distance between us, it would be great to have a bit more time and flexibility to head up to my parents to help out now and again.  And finally, once our daughter heads off to school we’ll free up enough money (from nursery fees no longer being paid) to make a career break for me a realistic idea.

We worked all this out about 3 weeks ago, spent a couple of weeks mulling it over, praying it through, and finally, last Monday I handed in my notice.  I’m not leaving immediately, I’ll be there for the rest of the summer but already my mind is shifting to new projects for the autumn, my eye is being cast calculatedly around the house as I assess areas to tackle when I have time.  I’m reimagining my mornings, getting up very slightly later, walking our daughter to school rain or shine (I’m getting rid of my car too, won’t need it) and getting to know other parents in the area as we gather at the school gates.  I’ve been busy looking at art and craft workshops I’d like to do, pondering possibilities and just listening to what excites my soul as I consider opportunities.

I also had a small crisis moment, induced at last week’s small group in our home.  So tell me, what do I say now when I get asked what I do?  I hate ‘housewife’, it sounds empty and demeaning.  (is that just me?  would I feel different if I hadn’t been a working parent?)  Apparently I’m going to be on a ‘career break’, but since I never regarded myself as having a career that doesn’t seem right either!  And although I have an art degree and I’m planning on (in a gentle and not particularly purposeful way) taking time to do more art, I baulk at calling myself an artist – artists are people other than me, I feel.

Can I still be a community educator even if I don’t have anyone to ‘educate’?!

I wonder how long it’ll take me to reconcile this?  I’m sure I’m not the first person, the first woman to feel like this, and I certainly won’t be the last so any insight and guidance will be much appreciated.

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On Sunday our pastor preached an awesome sermon.  But isn’t it funny the things that stick in your mind afterwards?…

“You can’t hurry a tomato”

Seldom has a truer word been spoken!  In the context of the sermon our pastor was basically exhorting us to live life richly, to ‘dwell’ where we are wholeheartedly.  And that one little phrase really stuck out, and came back to me again today as I was pottering about the house (got some horrible bug so have been off work for a couple of days, and am sad to note I seem to be getting worse rather than better at the time of writing.  Sigh.) and I spent a few moments admiring our daughter’s flourishing tomato seedlings that she planted just a few weeks ago at Sunday Club. 

I’m mentally planning which seeds need to be sown in our vegetable patch this year, and am already anticpating the long and (im)patient wait for the first bursts of life.  I’m a very very VERY novice gardener and had more failures than successes last year, but I enjoy the fact that so much of gardening seems to involve patience and trust.  Trust in the seeds to germinate and ultimately bear fruit, trust in the soil and the sun and the rain to each play their part.  And the long tormenting journey from seed planting to final harvest.  The torment and the joy is in the waiting of course.

There are profound and deeply resonant lessons to be learnt through planting a seed…

Okay, so my first RAOK was a washout (although in the end I got to eat all my chocolates myself, so I was happy), but the next day I decided to bring joy to my workplace and take some yummy Green & Blacks chocolate in to the craft class I teach on Fridays.  The previous week there had been grumblings about our centre’s ‘rubbish’ healthy eating policy, which if truth be told isn’t very hard-core anyway.  So I took in the chocolates and watched the pleasure unfold.  The remaining chocolate was shared at the staff meeting and went down pretty well too (although some people discovered they don’t like ‘good’ dark chocolate, philistines…!).

Phew!  Just got to find the right recipients.

Other RAOKs this week have included giving away something I spent a long time making, which a friend coveted and I was glad to give to her. 

But there’s going to be more I’m sure. 

Anyway, this is the big week for The Art of Joy.  If you haven’t already had a look please visit theartofjoy.wordpress.com, and if you are anywhere in travellable (is that a word?) distance come along to the opening night of the exhibition this Wednesday night at The Lot, on the Grassmarket in Edinburgh.  It will be fantastic, the artwork looks great and The Lot is a great venue, a lovely building in it’s own right sat at the foot of Edinburgh Castle surrounded by the history and the hubbub of our capital’s heart.

I didn’t manage to do it yesterday, but on my way home from work today I called in to a wee newsagents to buy a drink and some chocolate to sustain me until I got home.  As I chose my chocolate I recalled the RAOK challenge I’d issued myself with, and felt suddenly very foolish and slightly sick at the thought. 

All the same, I bought a packet of Munchies, figuring I could share them with the guys behind the till – one serving, one sort of hanging out.  Paid for my purchases, suddenly very aware of smiling, then, opening the Munchies as I picked them up from the counter I offered them each a sweet, murmuring something vague and ineffectual about it ‘being something me and my friends are trying to do’ (?).  The guy at the till looked dumbfounded.  The other guy looked sort of blank.  I rapidly calculated I’d need to up the charm offensive to get them to take a sweet from me, and simultaneously realised that I’m Not Very Good At This.  The blank and puzzled looks changed to slightly shy smiles, and sort of apologetic ‘thanks but no thanks’.

Never thought my joy-offensive would be turned down!  (I don’t think I was actually offensive)

Ah well, try, try again.  It has bought me some amusement and a nice line in gently-mocking interior monologues today, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. 

 

Told you we needed a masterclass in this stuff – I certainly seem to.  Maybe I need to be more circumspect in my ‘joy’.

As a brief follow-on from my previous post, here’s a campaign Tearfund are conducting.  This was flagged up in God 360, and makes a strong call to act collectively to support the Ethical Trade Initiative.

Follow the “take action now” link on the Tearfund website and make a difference. 

(it’s in the youth section, so I’m feeling a bit ‘down with the kids’ by bigging this up, but make no apologies for doing so – it’s worth it.  Wonder why it’s in the youth section though?  Maybe once we get past our teens we don’t buy new clothes?….)

It’s Fairtrade Fortnight now – from 23rd February to 8th March.

Fair trade products and practices have been an area of interest – passion? – for me for a good while now.  We buy fairly traded produce at home where we can, and the origins of what we buy has become more important for us as the years have gone by.  I was given pause for thought by Fourth Space the other day when he hinted that (and I might be extrapolating here so forgive me if this is a bit of a misinterpretation) the origins of our food is a middle class concern – and perhaps even a middle class luxury.  He’s got a point in terms of the accessibility and affordability of food which is local, organic, and yes even fair trade – all of these factors can make an item more expensive.  In the case of fair trade it almost inevitably will, surely?  Because low prices for the consumer will mean less than a living wage for the original grower or maker.

So why do I think fair trade is important?  I read God 360 last night and it reflected on Proverbs 31: 8 & 9

Speak up for the people who have no voice,

for the rights of all the down-and-outers.

Speak out for justice!

Stand up for the poor and destitute”

(from “The Message” paraphrase by Eugene Paterson)

God 360 went on to reflect on the voiceless nature of the world’s working poor, and connected them with the fairtrade movement and how this enables them to form trade unions to barter for better working conditions and to get a fair price for their work.  So for me, and for so many other, fair trade is not just an ethical concern, it’s a spiritual one.  As Rob Bell says, everything is spiritual.

Last week, at a children’s art group I work with, we gave everyone (staff included) sketchbooks which we are all tasked with using throughout the week to mess about in, draw, stick, collect, journal… do whatever we feel like doing.

peace sister

How ironic that, as the only person in the group with an art degree, I’ve been embarrassingly slack about actually making use of my sketchbook.  I’d forgotten that you need to sort of ‘make friends’ with a new sketchbook, to become accustomed to it’s presence in your life and adapt your way of living to accomodate it’s needs and demands.  Funnily enough, I’ve done not one bit of drawing in the book either.  It’s just got some scraps and (above) some nice paper with a self portrait I attempted to do using masking tape bits (and without looking in a mirror, so it’s how I see myself circa 1995, the last time I placed myself under such scrutiny).

I’ve got an hour before the club begins.  Better get on and do the rest of my ‘homework’.

I will try harder this coming week to make better use of my wee book.

The week I wanted?

  • An optimistic and motivated return to work after the Christmas break
  • A return to the security of routine, with a reluctant farewell to the freedom of holidays
  • A well- paced week, with each day a pleasant balance of rewarding work, refreshing sleep, delightful family time and blessed time with others
  • A week where I can enjoy my change from 5 day a week full-timer status at work, to 4 day a week part-timer status, by just enjoying spending time with my daughter on our shared day off mid-week
  • A week where I look around my home and feel the small pleasures of successful domesticity as I observe the well-ordered home we have achieved as we make the most of our refreshing break by spending a little time each evening tidying and putting away.

The week I got?

  • A week of slightly random work events, bubble-wrapped in the back to work torpor that I had forgotten always surrounds this returning week after Christmas
  • A week of frantically juggling a sick daughter with trying (and mostly failing) to get to work on time
  • A week of wakeful nights as our daughter became sicker as the week progressed, and the eventual pleasure today of seeing her well enough to go to nursery and now to have her finally sleeping well
  • A week of enormous delight in the company of others, from work colleagues, to my family, to our extended ‘small group family’ despite encroaching exhaustion and apparently terminal frustration
  • A week of observing our home fall into further chaos as we lack the time and energy to tidy up – until tonight

Overall, and all things considered, it was a pretty good week!  However, it should be noted that I am saying this tonight, as bedtime draws near, my daughter is (currently, and surprisingly, given the last 5 days) sleeping peacefully and a weekend of leisure and time with great friends beckons.

Have a great weekend too.  Sleep well!

So I’m having my tea just now (or dinner, whatever you want to call your evening meal), but sadly I’m having it at work as I’m taking a break between the manic late-for-everything day that I’ve had and the intense when-will-it-be-over? evening I’m about to enter into.

It’s been a weird couple of days.  I’ve heard so much bad news about people that I know or know of in the last 48 hours that I am just longing to go home to the security of my little family and enjoy that taste of heaven I posted on the other day.

And tonight I’m going to help deliver an induction course for this year’s new intake of students, when to be blunt, I’d rather be doing anything else.  I’ve got the perky ‘let’s all get to know one another and do some fun stuff together’ part of the evening, starting in 40 minutes time.  My mind is not really on the games I should be preparing, the theory I should be linking it to (the course is all about play) and the general enthusiasm and passion I should be getting over to these students. 

Home is where my heart is tonight.  I’m looking forward to a bit of sanctuary, a safe harbour from the world I’ve found myself in today.  I’m looking forward to a cup of tea snuggled on the sofa, to not being ‘on-duty’ even when I’m ‘off-duty’ – this is an inevitability of my work, like many others too.  I worked later last night too, and I’m sad that this week and for the next few weeks I’ll be missing my daughter’s bedtime for two nights out of seven.  I’m going to tiptoe into her darkened room tonight and kiss her goodnight, looking forward to tomorrow’s breakfast and the disorganised chaos of our mornings, when I’ll be able to have a few sleepy minutes to chat with her as she wakes up.

Today has not been a day to be far from my family, and yet is the one day this week that we’ve spent the least time together. 

Well, off I go to be perky and enthused.  Have a good evening!

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Go to the Barnardo's Believe campaign website.