Wednesday, March 27, 2024

the reinvention of you

I wish blogs had little trap doors into a virtual family room of sorts. For this one I feel like we need to curl up on the couch so I can look you in the eyes as we talk back and forth. I want to hear about your life too. I have some news I want to share that is just so precious to me and I hope the written words can do the actual feelings justice. 

As women, we constantly reinvent ourselves with each decade of life. I don't mean anything as surface as a make over or even a personality overhaul. I mean a real and authentic revamping of every single purpose and cell in our being. Think about it- ten years old you compared to 20 year old you. Pigtails and skinned knees turning into adulthood. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" turns into, "What am I doing with my life?" You look and feel and are completely different.  

I remember turning 30, thinking I was so "old" ( HA!!!) Wondering when my "real life" was going to begin, not knowing I was there all along. I lived in my own apartment in Hermosa Beach, a gorgeous beachfront city in Los Angeles, California. I was making great money in Pharmaceutical Sales, I loved to run on the beach and hang out with friends on the weekend. But I thought a lot about what I didn't have- my Disney promised "happily ever after." Husband, kids and a yard to call my own. 

From 30 to 40 was a huge shift. From career person to wife, mother, and then stay at home mom. First to an 18 month old and a newborn. And then the realization that although I was a mom, my life was unlike any other motherhood journey I had personally witnessed. I had to relearn everything I thought I knew about parenting and life. Yoda said, You must unlearn what you have learned and so I did. Imperfectly, sloppily and with all the grace I could muster. 

I hit 40 and I felt younger and more capable than that 30 year old prior, but I didn't have it "all figured out" suddenly like my dog-eared Glamour magazines promised me I would by now. Yoda also says, In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way. I think Yoda gives pretty good parenting advice. 

For most of these years I was home with the boys, attending some kind of Doctor or Therapy appointment. Our days were planned around intensive home Behavior Therapy where my boys learned to navigate life. Every single thing typical kids learn naturally- how to eat with a utensil, how to pull on a shirt on over your head, how to brush your teeth, how to label colors, how to hold an adult's hand while crossing the street- they were repeatedly and painstakingly taught on a daily basis. At first I was terrified, I was confused, I didn't know what they needed- and over the years, we found our path.

Sometimes when you are on our own little well lit path- you can suddenly find yourself in the dark again. In September of 2023, we moved to St. Louis after I spent 24 years in California. A truly magical state that was unfortunately no longer meant for us. Buddha says, In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you. Boy is letting go hard. 

The boys started school in October. For the first time in literally ever- both boys are in the right spot for school. Suddenly I found my days filled with free time, which at first was weird, and then cool, and then just boring. I had an ache in my soul for something more. What do I want to be when I grow up? I still wondered. In my past life, aka before Mom'ing- I was in Pharmaceutical Sales. I made a lot of money, but it didn't fill my soul. 

While rocking our Plan B Life during the past decade- I fell in love with watching my boys learn. I fell in love with teaching them. I read everything I could get my hands on about how the brain works, neuroplasticity, what motivates behavior, communication, and child development, how to learn how to read and more. Certainly that passion could be used somewhere, I wondered. And then I thought about the 15 year gap on my resume. Then I saw an add on Facebook, polished up my (ancient, carved in stone) resume, got some letters of recommendation, and went on my first interview in probably 20 years. 

And now you are looking at the new Mrs. Kelly, substitute Teacher. It's only been a month, but I LOVE IT SO MUCH! 

It's so fun! It's also so hard! One- because it's hard! Two, because I don't know any of the technology and currently school is MOSTLY TECHNOLOGY- it's all apps and google drives and links. Back in my days we called links ACTUAL HEAVY BOOKS in our backpack. Three- because you literally have to have 47 windows open in your brain at one time, while also talking, writing, finishing what you are doing while also planning how to execute what comes next. I've taught kindergarten,1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, Freshman and PE (enter laughing emoji here! What the hell is ultimate frisbee and floor ball?!I don't know but I taught it!)  Every time is a new choose your own adventure. 

But my hard is absolutely, positively NOTHING compared to full time Teacher hard. MY HEROES. My first few times subbing- tears filled my eyes numerous times as I watched how many people are literally working all day, every day - pouring their everything into our children. From the people in the cafeteria, to custodians, to bus drivers, to paras and aides, to people holding a stop sign at the cross walk to the main office air traffic controllers.

Teachers are teaching all damn day, sometimes monitoring lunch duty and recess, then donning walkie talkies for after school pick up. (I thought school drop off was crazy from a parent perspective. HA! At least we don't have to deal with the craziest of all= US PARENTS!)  

ON TOP of teaching, Teachers and Administration are attending meetings and professional development, learning the constantly changing format of technology, finding new and innovative ways to engage students, and accommodating extremely different learning styles with different baselines. They are writing lesson plans, managing behavior, filling out check lists and questionnaires about students with known and suspected learning differences, collaborating with Admin, communicating with parents and connecting with children (plus eleventy hundred trillion things I can't think of right now).

"So and so rides the bus so he leaves in five minutes", "so and so gets picked up", "so and so stays for after school club"- (also- can I go to the bathroom- my stomach hurts, can I go to the nurse- Tommy has Speech Therapy at 10:30. The timer went off- Maddie has to go to the nurse to take medicine). THERE IS SO MUCH TO REMEMBER AND OUR TEACHERS ARE DOING JUST THAT. It is an outright miracle and incredible and they deserve Pharmaceutical Sales level money so much more than I ever did.

Every single day from bell to end bell- our schools are this constantly changing by the second machine and it is the most beautiful thing and an honor to witness. 

Every parent should have to substitute teach for one day. 

So here's your homework assignment my friend. 

1. Answer- What do you want to be when you grow up? Maybe you are doing it now and need that reminder. And if you aren't, It's never too late to write a new story regardless of what decade you are in.

2. Hug a Teacher. Write them a note telling them how awesome they are. Give them a gift card or a high five or a Mercedes. They are magic. 

So Much Love,

Mrs. Kelly

PS- I wish they could just call me Chrissy but I know that's illegal. 


  1. Congrats! I too I left a full time job to be with my oldest son after being diagnosed with autism in preschool. He was always main streamed with added support and I became a full time pto/ volunteer/class parent/ lunch helper/ school site council parent ALWAYS advocating for my kids and others. But once my kids were good in school in middle and high school I too did the next step of becoming a substitute teacher. 8 years later, I still love it and the special Ed classes are still my favorite. Best of luck to you .

  2. Love this. Congrats. Currently on the verge of an empty nest next year and am trying to solve my own next chapter riddle. Thanks for the inspiration :)

  3. ❤️❤️❤️

  4. It was amazing to meet you today! Thanks for hugging this teacher today and for inspiring me in my autism mom journey the last few years. We are so lucky to have you subbing in the district!!

  5. I am what I always wanted to be… an elementary teacher. One of my aunts was one and when I was five I decided I wanted to be one too. I tutored from elementary school on; taught Red Cross swim and lifesaving classes; taught dance to ages 3-adult before landing in my late thirties as an elementary teacher. In the past 26 years I have taught kinder, a 1,2,3 combo, a 2,3 combo and grades 2 through 4. Currently back in grade 2. Love teaching, even through the hard times. Our youngest is now 21… had many years of ABA and is now in an adult transition program he loves. Life has been good!

  6. Dear Chrissy, just when I thought I couldn't admire you more, I came across this on Facebook tonight (3/28/24). I'm so proud of you and everything you've accomplished as a Mom and advocate for Special Ed students. I'm glad to hear that both of your sons are doing well in school and I know that all of the kids you encounter as a substitute teacher love you. Maybe they can call you "Miss Chrissy". Just a thought.

  7. So, so happy for you!

  8. I hear you... I wonder about becoming a para, actually, after one of my boys has one... TOTALLY different from what I do now. But reinvention .....

  9. From reading all of your posts over the years I would say this is a perfect fit You bring an unusual amount of actual teaching experience. And a varied and specialized experience.
    Wishing you the best

  10. Awesome! Congratulations on your new adventure! I bet you make a super fun substitute!

  11. SO, SO, SO inspiring - per always. I am so happy for you. (This sounds trite, but truly - from the bottom, corners and edges of my heart, I am so happy for you.) Those kiddos and those co-teachers and staff? They're BLESSED to have crossed your path.

  12. That’s awesome I’m so happy for you and your family