My last blog post was over 2 years ago! Amazingly, I still have a few hits on this blog almost every day, so I thought I would take it in a slightly new direction. Or, maybe it’s not really a new direction as much as a “settling in” for me. I spent the first few years of retirement trying things, “exploring my new reality.” Don’t get me wrong, I am still constantly discovering new things to do, but I have settled in somewhat to 2 undertakings. These are the tasks that I feel are beginning to define me in my new reality. It is interesting that I never thought of it this way, defining me, until just now, but these are the things I talk about to my friends and family. These are the activities over which I stew and rejoice, the activities about which I complain and brag, activities which make me feel productive and alive.
This is the beginning of my fourth fall teaching at a local university. I teach only in the fall. As I tell everyone, “I did not retire from teaching full time to teach full time.” I teach what are known as methods math classes to students studying to be elementary school teachers. Teaching college students how to teach math, a subject that many despise(d), has its own set of rewards and challenges. Some years one outweighs the other.
The role that most lights up my life nowadays, is my new role as author. In my last post, I was beginning to focus more on writing, and I left you, my virtual audience, hanging in the air as to what direction my writing might take. I was as yet uncertain about what that direction would be. I mentioned in that post that I had begun jotting down anecdotes about my experiences as an elementary classroom teacher. Just as writing blogs for a virtual audience did not spark my creative juices or light any fires in me, neither did my stories about my own personal experiences. I did not have enough interesting material to fuel my writing. I realized that many of my short pieces were actually about my interactions with children on the autism spectrum and what I learned from having those special children in my classroom. The stories were, however, about me, not about the children. Boring. Suddenly, it hit me! I would share, not my own stories, but the stories of families who have children with autism.
For the last year and a half, I have listened to more than a dozen mothers pour out stories about their lives as they share examples of how having a child with autism has impacted all aspects of their daily living. This is what I am chronicling, not my story, but theirs. For me, it is a remarkable journey, a journey that finds me humbled by how open these women were in their conversations with me. For some of them, the experience was therapeutic, as we cried and laughed together over events they revealed. Most of these women seemed motivated by the desire to help other families feel less alone in their own journey. A few of these women knew me slightly, some I had never met, yet all were willing to share their hearts and their lives. I have met some of the most remarkable families during this time and have found a new mission and passion in my retirement.