When Life Chooses

You might notice in my bio on this blog that I wrote a book. I wrote it with my aunt, someone I think of as a best friend, who is an orthodontic technician; her job of 30+ years. She’s darned good at what she does, and I haven’t done so bad myself.  So when she came to me with the idea of a cookbook for people wearing braces, I jumped on the band-wagon. I named the book, Will I Ever Eat Again?, and had an illustrator draw up a cover.

I had the cover drawn as part of my belief that if you want a book to come to life, have the cover done first. It makes it more real. Even so, my best laid plans were derailed by Life. In the time just after Tracy and I started the book I got married, built a house and started having children. The book was shelved and Life took over.

Nine years later, one night at mediation, after I had been thinking, how can I make money?, I had a realization. I needed to pick that book up again. It was called Surviving Braces and it wasn’t just a cookbook, it was an entire guide to wearing braces.

I immediately called Tracy and told her I was ready to get our book done. I designed a new cover and we had that manuscript written in four months. I look back now and I can’t imagine how I got it done. My kids were out of school for the summer. I had just lost my nanny, so my house suddenly seemed much larger with all of the housework I would be now be doing myself.

But the book was my refuge. I woke at 3 a.m. many mornings, worked on it and went back to bed. I dreamed about the book. In my mind this was a ticket to income. I could make this happen.

We finished the book and I worked with a printer on getting 500 copies. We had pre-sold 300, so things were looking good.

We have had minimal success with the book, especially on Amazon, but I envisioned having a steady stream of income from it (selling it to every orthodontist in town) – and that has not been the case. I fully thought out the book, but I didn’t think nearly as much about selling it. In my mind, that part just happened magically.

It wasn’t hard to let go of the delusion of big book-money. Looking back, I guess my real dream was the writing of the book. I have had the fancy of being an author most of my life.

I might not have thought much about the sales of the book, but I did think about the fact that I did not achieve one of my main goals from writing it – to make money, an income of my very own.

So in meditations I just put it out there: I want a “job” with the following qualifications – I want to make good money, I want to help people, I want to do something I can be passionate about, and most importantly, I want to have a flexible schedule so that I am able to still be around for my children. Oh, and no office job please – I want meaning here.

In the meantime, I considered and even did mock ups, for a dental newsletter. Back in my 20s I had a company called Newsletters, Etc. where I wrote, designed and mailed newsletters for dentists to send to their patients. I had quite a few dentists I did this for and I did it for a couple of years. I really loved doing it, but the money was not there. When my mentor and company owner from my previous job called me and said she had a client for me if I wanted the job, I took it and ran. I needed more stability and she was offering me a pot of gold at a really good time to end the newsletter rainbow.

So when I was in meditation another Saturday night and I asked for direction, I thought about that newsletter from my past, ToothTalk, and what came to mind was to do an email version. With the Internet, the newsletter business would be so much cheaper!

I did a couple of designs, I grabbed a gmail account, ToothTalk themed, and went to thinking about how I could get dentists on board. I even found my old ToothTalk articles and set about updating them to be more current.

But I was kind of broke and I didn’t know how I would get the word out. And I sent it to one dentist that acted interested but when he got my design he said he wasn’t up for it. So I choked. I thought maybe it was the design and maybe my articles just weren’t that good anymore. Who knows, but I tooth-talked myself right out of pursuing my newsletter idea to any further extent.

I met with a lady that owns a marketing company to see if I could pick up some writing work. I applied to be editor for a startup magazine. Nothing was working out.

Then one day last summer, I took the kids to the park and sat down. There was a girl (or I guess I should face it, a woman my age) sitting on the same stone ledge watching her kids play. Turns out, our kids are the same age. I had the book Outliers with me, as if I was actually going to read at the park, and we talked about the book. She was in a book club. I liked her from the get-go.

Jesse, my daughter, ran over and asked me a question. Jesse has trouble pronouncing her Ls and Rs. She can’t or doesn’t say them. Kind of like Elmer Fudd. Jesse says, Can I have a Wowwy Pop, pwease? And “What in the Wood? Instead of World. Or, “That gull is nice.” Instead of girl.

The lady told me if I wanted to know what that is causing Jesse to not pronounce her words she could tell me. “Oh yes, I would love to know,” I said.

“It’s a lateral lisp.”

This basically means Jesse will probably need speech therapy to train her tongue to fall in the correct place to pronounce her Ls and Rs in the future.

The reason she knew this is because she’s a speech pathologist. My journalistic side came out and I started to question her more about her career. She told me all kinds of things that speech pathologists do, including help stroke survivors restore speech. It’s not all about children.

And, she told me more about how to help Jesse as well. She emailed me, from her phone, a computer game that might help and told me some things I could do with Jesse.

The kids played and it was time to go, so we parted ways. When I got home, I saw her email come through on the computer and I made, for me, a bold move. I emailed her and asked if she would like to get together some time for coffee.

She emailed me back and said, “Sure.”

But it took a while. Things came up, as they do when you have two small children. Eventually, we met at McDonald’s for breakfast. It was summer and we had about three weeks until school started. The kids played on the indoor play-set while she and I had breakfast and talked.

After I met her in the park, I started thinking, I might like to be a speech pathologist too. How rewarding. And, she seemed to be able to “do it all.” Work, have two children the same age as mine, and keep life together. This was promising.

But as I looked into what it takes to be a speech pathologist, I realized it was much more of a “do-over” for me than I could handle. Oh well.

So I met her at McDonald’s and we chatted more about her job. Turns out, she not only practices in schools, she has a company where she has other speech pathologists working for her and she sends them out on jobs at schools.

Then she said, “I’m looking for an Orton Gillingham tutor. I get requests for it all the time. If you will get trained in that, I can get you work.”

And like that that (snap of the fingers) my life changed.

Orton Gillingham? What’s that? It’s a method of teaching children who are dyslexic to read and retain information better.

I told her, “OK. I’ll check into that when I get home.”

I went home and set my new life in motion. I researched and I was fascinated from the beginning. I ordered a book about dyslexia. I thought about a mom from my kids’ previous school who just so happened to have been a tutor for special needs kids before becoming a full time mom.

I called her and asked what she thought about this method. She said, “I used some Orton, but my best friend took a class and loved it. She is an Orton tutor now.” And, she told me exactly where to go to get the training.

I found the course. It is one day a week for the entire school year. Just two in-class hours and the rest of the work I do from home. I signed up and have been doing this all year, since the beginning of my own kids’ school year. And I will be taking the class until the school-year ends.

That could be where this ends, but it isn’t. The girl-lady from the park emailed me half way through the class and asked when I would be ready to start tutoring. I asked her to meet with me so I could show her where I am in my studies. And we agreed that with what I have learned so far, combined with my writing and journalism experience, I could help some kids now.

I have been working for three weeks.

I don’t regret trying hard to find what was right for me – I believe God helps those who help themselves. But I have to admit, in the end, what I wanted found me rather than me finding it. I have a feeling I could have looked under every rock in front of me, but it wasn’t a rock I was looking for in the first place. It was a piece of wood, lying right next to the rock.

Under that piece of wood was a career with exactly the requirements I asked for:  the money is good and gets better the longer I do it, it’s a great chance to help people, I have a true passion for words, I love them and Orton is word and word-rule centered.  And most importantly, the schedule is flexible so that I am able to still be around for my children. Oh, and I’m feeling like I get to see so many different types of people and kids there is more meaning in what I am doing than I could have imagined for myself.

And isn’t it a worthwhile prayer: God, please use me for something greater than I could ever imagine for myself. I got that one from Oprah and I use it often and I mean it when I say it.

I was inspired to write today because of something I read in a book called LovingKindness, by Sharon Salzberg.

She says, “We are not urged to make thought spring from the love born out of concern for all beings. Rather, we are advised to let it spring from the love that is our true nature.”

She actually said this about thinking, not being. But that statement made me think about how I had been trying to make something happen and when I least expected it, in a quiet moment at the park, my path found me and I let it happen. My true nature was exposed, my love of words and my desire to help others.

My new career path is not easy. One kid has pretty much told everyone he hates me (to my credit, he hates everyone) and yesterday a girl left our session, which was outdoors at her house, and went under the deck, hid and would not speak to me anymore. Session over.

Through these challenges and because I feel like I have been led down this path, my take on life is changing, becoming less stressed and I am able to be more accepting of myself.

Yesterday my tire went flat on the way to a meeting about a child. I missed the meeting. And normally I would be stressed and worried. Part of me wanted to take a picture of the tire and send it to the lady I work for, to make sure she knew I really did have a flat, but I didn’t. I decided to trust that I am trustworthy. I decided to believe myself and to believe in myself.

I don’t know how long the new career will last. I feel like it entered my life for a reason and when I have learned what I am supposed to, helped the children I am supposed to help and I have been used until I’m all used up, I will move on. I might be 100 when that happens, I might be 41.

But today, I am going to accept that this is where I am supposed to be and the children that enter my life are the ones I am supposed to help. I trust that this direction was hand-picked just for me. I am that special, that helpful and that worthy. Just because, I am.

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