Sundry Spotlight – Meet Megan

Hello, readers! As we take this MLK jr. Day to reflect on a brilliant and inspiring mind that helped change the course of our country, we think of other people working to shape the future. They’re out there, and today, I have Megan, a high school teacher who finds great purpose and fulfillment in her profession.

 

Hi! Thanks for joining us here on Sundry Spotlight! Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello! I’m a high school teacher, a mother to two boys, and a wife of 12 years.

You have a bit of a unique interest. What is it and what can you tell us about it?

I am a high school teacher and I love it. It’s challenging and rewarding. I am famous inside the walls of my school because, as the kids say, “I’m chill” I get to teach the subjects I am passionate about and I really love my students, even the rough-around-the-edges ones. The tough kids challenge me to be more creative and look for different, unique ways to either engage them in the content, or find ways to maintain order.

How long have you been doing it?

As a career teacher, this school year marks the 5th year I have been doing this job.

What led you to start it in the first place?

Well, that’s kind of a long story. When I was a kid I wanted to be a lawyer. So, when I got to college, I started majoring in political science so I could have a good background in conflict resolution and diplomacy. I hated the courses…I then changed my major to History, a subject I was very passionate about and I loved it. When I was a junior in college, I got married. One day, speaking with my husband about school, I said, out loud, “I don’t think I want to be a lawyer.” Instantaneously it felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I thought, I’m not supposed to be a lawyer. So, I thought, what can I do with a History degree? Teaching seemed like a good place to start. I enrolled in an exploratory education course at my university and their advice from day one was to start substitute teaching. They said it was a good idea to even see if you liked teaching first. I started the process and fell in love with teaching. This was where I belonged.

What’s your favorite thing about it?

The interactions with many unique students who are hilarious, the outlet for creativity in my lessons, the impact I can have on a kid and the impact a kid can have on me. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see a kid struggle so much as a freshman and then to be there to see them mature into someone who knows what they want out of life because they finally got their life together. It’s so inspiring and uplifting to know that I had a part in that metamorphosis.

What sorts of challenges do you face in pursuing this interest?

Well, not that it’s a problem now, but when first applying for jobs and trying to get started, the fact that I am a woman and teach the social sciences, and don’t coach, I had a very difficult time getting a job. It took me 3 years to actually get hired as a full time teacher. I had the qualifications and licenses necessary and I was working as a substitute teacher at the time so I know I had some on-the-job training too. It was just rough going on several interviews knowing I would not likely get the job. I treated each one like interview practice. So, when I finally got offered a job, my literal first words were, “are you serious?”

Now that I am a teacher, other challenges I face are ever-changing teacher expectations from society, low wages, others not respecting my profession (I hear things like, well, you get summers off, or well, you’re just a teacher) I do just as much work as anyone else, and I work a lot during the summer just to get prepared for the next school year, particularly if I add a class to the load I’m already teaching. Governmental policies pose a road-block as well. Sometimes the government does not give us enough funding to do some basic things. For example, we used to have purchasing cards each year in my district but because of funding, a lot of the office supplies and things I need either need to get submitted for approval or I just need to purchase them out of pocket.

A major daily challenge is how to motivate those students who are not really into school. I am constantly asking myself how to motivate those kids…it’s what pushes me to get more creative and design more engaging lessons.

If you could have your ideal setup for doing this, what would that look like?

Realistically, I would love to be able to get raises for doing an amazing job…I’m kind of stuck right now. Because I get paid by the district (a non-profit organization basically), not like most other people do, through for-profit-companies.

If someone wanted to start doing the same thing, what advice would you give them?

I would definitely say, find out what the minimum requirements in your state are to become an emergency substitute and start doing that ASAP. It was what really taught me what it was to be a teacher and I think it really helps people to decide if that is what they really want to do. I loved subbing and I love being a teacher. It is my true passion and calling. I am so glad I started with subbing because it helped me decide which grade-level I wanted to teach full time. I learned that I did not like elementary school and middle school was barely tolerable but I found that high school was where I was the most comfortable and where I fit best.

I would also say, figure out what you love and try to teach that. If you teach something you love, you’ll be happy. I absolutely love history and even though, I teach things that aren’t history per se, I teach sociology and psychology and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! I never even thought about teaching sociology before but once I got into it, I fell in love and I wouldn’t want to go to a district that didn’t have that option.

Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?

Yes and no. I see myself putting in at least 5 more years or so but eventually, I would like to get a masters and start working as an adjunct professor at a community college or university and eventually, I want to teach future teachers or start working the professional development circuit.

Where can people find you/your work?

@MrsBoneLHS [Twitter]

 

Thanks so much for joining us on Sundry Spotlight, Megan. Continue what you’re doing and help shape those budding minds. It’s been a pleasure.

Sundry Spotlight – Meet Beth

My apologies for a lull in our interviews (computer problems that I’ll not get into), but we are back with a very special guest in this Thursday’s Sundry Spotlight! Today, we have Beth, who takes artistry to a whole new level.

 

Hi Beth! Thanks for joining us here on Sundry Spotlight! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 64 years old, a little goofy, and I have had many, many jobs in my past. I’ve done everything from child abuse investigation to being an IT consultant in hospitals all over the USA and England.

When I was laid off about 10 years ago, we purchased a farm, and I went from being an IT consultant traveling 48 weeks out of the year to a fiber artist/goatherder.

You have a bit of a unique interest. What is it and what can you tell us about it?

I raise colored angora goats for their mohair.  I sell their mohair to crafters and fiber artists who use it in everything from doll-making to felting, weaving,  knitting, crocheting and other fiber arts.

I shear the goats myself, clean their fleeces and then either sell it or process it further for my own use.  That means picking, carding or combing the mohair, dyeing it, then spinning it on one of my 7 spinning wheels.

 

How long have you been doing it?

Almost 10 years, since we purchased our farm.

What led you to start it in the first place?

Many years ago, I took a fiber arts class at the KC Art Institute,  and learned to spin with a drop spindle, dye wool, and weave. I have always had the idea of spinning in the back of my mind, so I finally bought a spinning wheel when we moved to our farm.

I had a hard time learning to spin by myself, so I took a week-long class from Carol Leigh in Columbia, Missouri.  I learned about spinning, felting, dyeing and weaving in that class, it was well-worth the time and money! If anyone is interested in learning about natural fibers, they should check out http://www.hillcreekfiberstudio.com/ .

After a few months, I realized that I should get some kind of fiber animal so I would not have to purchase rather expensive fibers for spinning. I thought about sheep, angora rabbits, alpacas and angora goats.

I did some research, and decided on angora goats rather than sheep.  Mostly because goats have great personalities, and can even be taught to do tricks like dogs can.  I decided on Colored Angora Goats so I could have more naturally colored mohair to work with.

I started out with five goats, now I have 60.

What’s your favorite thing about it?

I love being able to create something beautiful from the animals I have raised, cared for, and sheared.  Then taking the process all the way through to a final product.

Currently, I’m doing a lot of wetfelting – I felt wool, mohair, alpaca wool and silk together to make very unique items.  I also enjoy spinning yarn and needlefelting.

But actually, I think what I love the most are my goats.

What sorts of challenges do you face in pursuing this interest?

Naturally, the hardest part is finding customers for my fiber art, and learning how much to charge for what.

The other big challenge is learning all about goat health care.  How to keep them as healthy as possible and how to deal with goats who get sick.  We have had sick goats living in our house before while they recovered.  Thankfully, I have a very understanding husband!

It is very hard to find a veterinarian with much knowledge about goats – they are not very common in the USA compared to cows, sheep, horses, etc., so I find that I learn a ton from other people with goat herds.

If you could have your ideal setup for doing this, what would that look like?

I love our property, it’s great for the goats, but I would love to have more pastures properly fenced for them, with a shelter in each one.

I’d also love to have a properly lit indoor area where I could shear my goats instead of having to shear them outside – where the wind steals a lot of mohair as I’m shearing!

If someone wanted to start doing the same thing, what advice would you give them?

Believe it or not, I have learned a ton from social media. There are groups devoted to fiber artists and goat raising there.

If you are interested in learning to spin, dye, knit and weave, I would join a local fiber guild or see if anyone will teach you.  I’ve taught a lot of people to spin yarn.

Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?

Definitely.  It’s hard work, but it’s also quite rewarding.

Where can people find you/your work?

On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Argghhh/.  Please look through all the photos, and you can see what I make.

I am also building a website at www.castleargghhh.com It should go active next week.

I also sell colored angora goats to other fiber artists.

Thanks so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you for your interest, James!

 

Best of luck to Beth and her endeavors with all things goat-related! There is more to come!

Sundry Spotlight – Meet Melissa

Good Monday, readers! In our very first Sundry Spotlight, my guest’s interest lies in the heart of music. Her tale will inspire you to never give up on chasing your personal dreams no matter what. Allow me to introduce you to Melissa.

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a wife and a critter mom.  I have a dog and two cats. I am an introvert which means although I enjoy being around people, I need a certain amount of alone time to recharge my batteries. I love reading, traveling and sci fi stuff like Star Wars and Star Trek.  I am also a nature girl.  I love hiking, sunshine, trees and being outdoors in the fresh air.  For my day job I work in the helping, human services profession.

You have a bit of a unique interest. What is it and what can you tell us about it?

Sure, I am an Americana folk rock singer.  I am a recording artist/songwriter and I also do some live performances.  I also have a custom song writing business where I write custom love songs for weddings.

How long have you been singing?

I have been singing since I was a little girl. When I was a kid I would spend hours in my bedroom playing records, mesmerized and memorizing the lyrics and notes and I would sing along with the artists.  I quickly learned all the notes and the changes and nuances of tons of songs because I enjoyed it so much.  My childhood dream was to become a recording artist.

What led you to start it in the first place?

I used to sing in church and when I was about 6 years old I started doing solo performances on Sundays.  This was a big deal for me because I was a very shy little kid but I felt the magic of the music so strongly that I could look past that and just get up there and do it.  I started taking voice lessons as a child and throughout high school and in college.  After college, I joined a rock band and did a ton of performances at venues and weddings, for quite a few years.  I got out of the business for a while and finished a master’s degree in psychology.  Around 2013, I was longing to get back into the business again and I joined a new grass group and then I was in an acoustic duo called CHILL for a couple of years. I did some recording with CHILL and fell in love with being in the studio.  It ignited my childhood recording artist dreams!  In 2016, I decided to strike out on my own as a solo artist.

What sorts of challenges do you face in pursuing this interest?

The decision to become a solo artist was challenging as I have always kind of hid behind having a band to back me up so I feel more vulnerable now when performing.  I have always wanted to do this but was afraid to be on my own but have taken a lot of steps in my life around personal growth so that has improved my confidence.  The other challenge as a solo artist is that I am solely responsible for everything from booking to making decisions around production of tracks, follow up calls, just all the details that go into doing this.  However, at the same time there is this sense of excitement and empowerment that goes along with it.

I actually got an F in chorus in high school. My teacher was bullying towards me and treated me like had a contagious disease..lol. But I still decided to go after my dreams so don’t listen to the naysayers!

If you could have your ideal setup for doing this, what would that look like?

I am very blessed and feel like I have a pretty ideal set up right now.  I have a supportive husband, enough free time to write and record and all the tools I need here at home to do that plus I have access to session musicians, recording studios and colleagues who are helpful and supportive.

If someone wanted to start doing the same thing, what advice would you give them?

Don’t give up on your dream.  You can do this. Just take a little step or two on most days towards your goal and you will make it happen. Record deals are overrated.  They are basically a glorified loan that you must pay back and then you are basically a slave that can be dropped anytime at their whim. It sounded so glamorous and amazing to me when I was younger but I have had a few musician colleagues that have suffered at the hands of record labels.  It doesn’t mean they are all bad but just be careful, get a good lawyer, etc.   Don’t worry about making mistakes. There is a great quote from John Mayer which is “Mistakes are the exhaust of the dream machine.” You will make mistakes and bad decisions but just keep moving forward.  Don’t take it too seriously because then it will start to feel like work and once that happens then the magic is gone. However, do treat your music as a fun and creative business or a startup, show up, follow through, schedule time to create, have a business checking account There is nothing wrong with having a day job and it does not delegitimize your craft! Don’t listen to the naysayers who will tell you this.   It is honorable to take care of yourself and your finances so that you can free your mind of worry so that you CAN create. Nothing stifles creativity more than financial pressure.  If you are hungry/broke then it is hard to concentrate and relax so that you can truly enjoy and excel at what you are doing. Also, you can have more than one calling in life.  For example, I am in the human services field.  I feel it is a calling for me to help people and serve my community.  I also feel that my music is a calling.  Both callings feed me in different but very wonderful ways.

Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?

Yes, I’m just getting started!  I am an independent artist, so I am not doing this the conventional way through big tours and major record deals, but I am finding my own way in a grassroots/on the ground kind of way and that feels so empowering.

Where can people find you/your work?

Vermontmadesongs.net. I am giving away my new single, End of the Day, plus another bonus track.  I also have a Kindred community. Would love to have you become part of it.

 

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your passion for music and your amazing talent with us! Stay tined for more Sundry Spotlights.