Writing about myself and my journey is a dangerous endeavor.
Let’s go back to the one course for my educational specialist degree program. The professor required chronicling the personal journey that prompted me to pursue an administrative degree. A portion of my life.
Length? The professor identified a minimum of 5 pages but said she wouldn’t limit it. Mine clocked in at 37 pages because my teaching career began back when I was in elementary school.
(NOTE: I’m not going to bore you with all those details.)
Let’s start with this –
Hi, I’m Becky.
If you are only as old as you feel; then today, I think, I feel ___.
(Fill in the blank because it changes every day.)
In reality, I’ve completed 63 trips around the sun. I rarely count the years. In fact, ever since I hit the 21-mile marker, I’ve usually had to stop and use mathematics to figure out how old I was.
I entered this world in March 1958; so, therefore, I am considered a baby-boomer. Rockford, Illinois, where I was born and lived until I was 57, lies 90 miles west of Chicago and 20 miles south of the Wisconsin border. In 2015, Hubby and I left Rockford and moved to Southern Middle Tennessee.
Odd Facts About My Childhood
I was that child who
- pretended that little busses would come down the street to take the migrating birds south so they wouldn’t get exhausted. (I was maybe 4 years old.)
- caught fireflies on warm summer nights. (Doesn’t everybody?)
- wore saddle shoes. (The bane of my childhood.)
- watched Dark Shadows on a black and white television with the front curtains drawn closed with my mother every afternoon. (A show well before its time, but comical today.)
- wore a dress to school even when I wanted to wear jeans. (Compliments of my mother.)
- learned to twirl a baton at one of the park district summer programs. (I wasn’t very good at it.)
- attended Saturday Choir School as well as summer camp through the church. (This took up my time for at least ten years.)
- walked to school even on the coldest of days of Northern Illinois winters and even all four years of high school. (Nine blocks in elementary school, but seven in high school.)
- played with friends at a nearby park district park without parents hovering in the near distance. (My curfew was the streetlight.)
- rode my bike anywhere — everywhere — until the streetlights came on as long as I wore a personal ID bracelet. (And there were no cell phones to track me or call home.)
I graduated from high school in 1976 and from college in 1980. As an adult, my focus on this journey through life is complex. It is focused on becoming the best version of myself, learning what works for me in the way of self-care, caring for my home and family, working on and developing the relationships I already have and any new relationships that come my way, and how to nurture and invest time in my creative outlets.
Why do I write about each category?
What is your best self?
To me, your best self involves your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It includes a desire to pursue my interests, to learn as a necessity because I need to understand the things life throws at me, to learn as my interests expand, and to improve my knowledge base.
Where does this necessity and desire come from?
It comes as health issues present themselves in my family’s lives. It comes from the places we explore and the people we meet. It comes as I read and watch television shows, movies, and the news. It comes from what people post on social media. It comes from a desire for life-long learning.
Self-care means so many different things to so many different people, and that is good. Self-care focuses on how your take care of yourself so that you can be your best in all areas of your life. I am an advocate for healthy eating, exercise, meditation, massage, as well as non-traditional and chiropractic medicine. With that in mind, I am the type of person who would rather try natural remedies before prescription or over-the-counter medications. In addition to taking care of myself first (and that is not selfish because if you are not your best, how can you care for others), I search for ways to destress and detoxify.
Home is where you hang your hat and rest your head. Whether it is a house, a condominium, apartment, camper, or elsewhere, it is the space where you can be you. It should be the place where you can comfortably kick up your feet and relax. It’s where you can let off steam and not fear getting fired from your job. It’s where you feel most comfortable to be yourself and where you should be loved.
Family, as well as framily, are those people in our lives that we feel most connected to. Those people who support us and encourage us to reach for the stars. Those people who are there not only when things are going great, but when things get tough.
Home and family are a vital part of our existence.
Where do I call home?
I was born in Northern Illinois and for the first 28 years of my life called Rockford, Illinois, home.
In 1983, I married my first husband, and we bought a small, starter home near on of the strip malls. In 1986, we moved with two children under the age of three to nearby Cherry Valley Township, and I lived there for 29 years. Forest preserves, parks, and cornfields surrounded our neighborhood, and if I had to go anywhere, it took 7 minutes of travel time to just get to the edge of the city.
It was a peaceful neighborhood with lots of kids. During the summer, if the group of kids wasn’t next door or across the street, they were down the road a piece or in the back easement where one neighbor had set up a ball diamond and supervised the games of softball or kickball.
In September 2015, I left my “hometown” area and traveled to Southern Middle Tennessee with my second husband and our two fur babies to our forever home.
I am still out in the middle of nowhere – now a 15-minute drive from the edge of the nearest town. Beyond my backyard lies a cow pasture; next door lives a horse; and down on the corner exists a small hobby harm with cows, goats, chickens, sheep, and peacocks. Across the street? Well, I’m not sure what exists across the street and beyond the trees, but there are a few driveways that lead far back through the brush and trees.
BUT, home is where you, your family, and your framily hang your hat and rest your head.
My family consists of a loving husband (my second marriage), two adult boys (both married), two stepdaughters (one married and the youngest living with her boyfriend), and 9 grandchildren.
In 2016, my husband became medically retired from his job as an over-the-road truck driver; and in 2019, his kidney failure and dialysis finally labeled him as disabled. It has not, however, stopped him from being actively pursuing his woodturning and camping.
Addendum: Hubby received a kidney transplant in January 2021. He is itching to return to his wood shop at his one year anniversary, but we recently celebrated his recovery with an extended camping trip.
Our furbabies are foundlings – in other words, they were found at one of the animal shelters. They are not only our companions but our protectors, and as such, we consider them part of the family.
Relationships shape you as an individual. You have been a child, a student, a teenager, and a friend. You might be a spouse or significant other or EX. You may be a parent, a step-parent, a foster parent, or a grandparent; and you have blood relatives. You have probably been a co-worker or now a member of the retirement group. From those you meet, some become friends while others remain acquaintances, but every single person has a moment where they impact you as an individual.
Whether you travel with a group, just your family, or even by yourself; whether you stay in a resort, a hotel, or a camper; travel gives you opportunities to grow and learn about yourself and your interests.
The traveler in me?
I come from a family of travelers. My grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and my parents instilled an interest in exploring the world. Whether I am traveling by plane, train, or automobile; whether I am staying at a resort, on a cruise ship, at various hotels, or in our camper; I enjoy finding what the world holds for me and my husband.
Everyone needs some sort of activity (or more than one) that is an outlet for excess energy and frustration. Something that you can put your focus on for a time that is not part of your routine or daily responsibilities. It can be something that comes easily to you or something that you have always wanted to learn. Dabbling in something creative doesn’t mean that you have to be skilled in it but that you find enjoyment in it.
What makes me unique (just like everyone else)?
*Teaching, especially in the theatrical arts, found me drawing on all my creative nerves.
I taught high school for nearly all my 34-year career in only 2 different school districts. As a teacher, I have taught elementary science, math, reading, and language arts. After a year, I moved to the middle school level where I taught reading and language arts in addition to elementary physical education. Two years later I found my first high school English department position teaching English/language arts, public speaking, creative writing, acting, directing, and technical theater and stayed with that level for the rest of my career until I retired in 2014.
*Music has always been a vital part of my life.
I grew up in a musical family and extended family. Music entered my life the day my parents brought me home from the hospital. When it was time to put me down for a nap or for the night, Mom put a stack of classical music records on the stereo and let them play.
Growing up, extended family gatherings always included the singing of grace before a meal, and if we gathered for a birthday, we sang “Happy Birthday” after grace. Many of my extended family have been, and still are, involved in music, and the music industry, in some way.
When I entered third grade, my mother felt I needed an instrumental outlet. Piano playing was a common denominator in my immediate and extended family, and my mother held the philosophy that, if I ever wanted to play another instrument, the piano supplied versatile music instruction that could be transferred to any other instrument. So, I learned to play the piano, and when the school district instituted the program “Music in our Schools,” I took up the violin (in fifth grade). I played in orchestra through college, and later with Rock Valley College Community Orchestra in Rockford, Illinois. When we first moved to Tennessee, I began playing with the Spring Hill Orchestra, but COVID put us on hiatus in March 2019.
Since then, I have been playing for the First Friday event on our historic downtown square; for those of you who aren’t street musicians, this is called “busking.” The musician in me sang in the church youth choir and later the adult choir. I also sang with my junior high school and high school choirs and an organization called the Rockford Lutheran Choral Union. Today? Today, I sing with my radio as I drive around.
*I enjoy baking and a wide variety of crafts.
Saturday Morning Choir School introduced me to crafts with most of the projects 1960’s kid crafts. (Think popsicle stick picture frames and spray-painted eggshells glued to the bottom half of an Ivory dish soap bottle.) At the suggestion of an aunt, my mother got me involved in 4-H rather than Girl Scouts. I always thought that 4-H was a “farming and agriculture” organization, but my cousin introduced me to city clubs. Through 4-H, I learned various skills that interested me and focused on each for six months to a year. Some of those learned skills have followed me into my adult life. During the year, the club leader expected us to make a presentation for each skill we chose to pursue; then, at the end of the summer, we entered a specific product or project for judging at the county fair. I learned how to cook and bake (and the idea of baking to perfection for a blue ribbon at the county fair), but I also learned how to sew, crochet, knit, and make candles, among other things.
*I am a writer
I can trace my writing back to elementary school — kindergarten to be exact. The picture of above was taken in the spring of 1964 when I was in kindergarten. How do I know? That dress is the one I wore for the Maypole dance for school and didn’t fit after that.
I still have some of the pieces I wrote in elementary, junior, and high school. In high school, I took newswriting, the course required to write for the high school newspaper or yearbook. I didn’t like the structure of newswriting at that time and opted the next year for the creative writing course. In college, I got involved in the creative writing journal but didn’t do much except journal with my writing until the late 1990’s.
While I taught, I maintained the philosophy about writing that I wouldn’t assign or expect my students to write anything I couldn’t or wouldn’t write. If I gave the assignment to write a myth, an essay, a poem, or a story, I first tried the assignment myself.
One year, a creative writing student issued a challenge. “I’m going to write 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. I bet you can’t.” She had to explain National Novel Writing Month to me, but then, it was game on with one other student joining in. Each morning, we got together to update our word count on the chalkboard. I accomplished those words, but the manuscript sits in my files waiting for a good edit.
I consider myself a multi-faceted creative who is driven to explore the wide variety of opportunities, experiences, and adventures that come my way. As a student of life, I am a life-long learner in search of ways to encourage others to become life-long learners and to be the best person they can be. In a world of craziness, I work on being the happiest and healthiest person I can be. I write, in my fiction and my poetry and articles, to challenge, question, and motivate people to rise and be who they were meant to be.
As the editor of Woman-strong!, I am here to encourage, motivate, and help you to find the strength to be your best and live life, not just exist.