Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Blur...or exhaustedly satisfied

Three weeks of a new school year have rushed by in a heated blur, to say the least.  I have gotten to know many new students and their parents, been impressed with both, and worked like crazy to get everything in my world organized.  There have been many days that I have wanted to sit down and record some things, but time slipped away and so did my inspiration.   Tired doesn't cover it.  Busy is too small a word for what life has looked like recently.

However, I have been blessed with some amazing experiences the past few days.

First of all, I got to be in on a great surprise for my wonderful parents: my middle brother, Rickey (aka That Crazy Texan, check out his blog on Blogspot), rode his motorcycle out for a visit.  We were blessed with a couple of great visits with him and the rest of my local immediate family, but for me one of the coolest memories I will carry from this week was from a great experience shared just between Rickey and me.  I had mentioned earlier in the week that I would love to ride with him, but there wasn't a helmet for me.  He showed up the next time at my house with a red helmet that he bought just so we could ride with him.  I climbed on the back of his bike, a beautiful blue Honda Goldwing with every possible bell and whistle, including an impressive stereo, on a warm evening, for the first time in 25 years.  He drove me all around my dusk-covered hometown, perfect breeze washing over us, beautiful moon shining down, while The Beatles played on the stereo, and I remembered.  I remembered how I first heard The Beatles, the soundtrack of my childhood, because Rickey played the records in our parents' home.  I remembered how I would beg him to take me for a ride when I was a little girl and feel so special when he would let me climb on behind him and roar off, in for adventure.  I remembered all the years that passed between then and now and how much we had both changed, too, but mostly I knew that evening would be something always remembered.

Friday night my awesome Student Council kids (with a bit of help from me :-)) pulled off our first student event of the year.  I was incredibly proud to see how they all worked together, how they all already get that Student Council is more about serving  others (as Jesus served) rather than being in charge of things. They made sure their classmates had opportunities to step out of their comfort zones to socialize, play sports,  enjoy fun music, and just hang out with each other.  Their hard work paid off and their event was a huge success.  So proud of them.  So glad we're past that first event.

Yesterday James and I finished our 6th week of Insanity.  The second month started this past Monday, and Month Two's workouts are brutal.  I am proud of us for persevering in spite of a very busy season of our lives. I feel so strong and I can't wait to see what the end results will look like.  Three weeks remain, I have some pounds that still need to come off, but I have noticed that food is less and less of an issue for me.  I seem to have lost some of the desire for the wrong kinds of food, don't feel that I need to have sweets anymore, and am looking at how food can fuel me and serve me, rather than filling the need of putting me in a better frame of mind.  Still waiting to see how it will work to maintain all that I've worked for, as I've said before, that's where I falter.

Hopefully, as we settle into routine a bit more, life will seem less of a blur.  But I know I learn a lot in the midst of the blur, that God will provide these wonderful moments within the blur that remind me of how much He is working in my life.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

This week...

This week I went back to work full time after a summer that wasn't exactly work-free.  I loved seeing all my colleagues, meeting my new colleagues, and beginning to dig into all that this next school year will hold.  I had to remember how to balance home and work a bit, making sure I had meals planned (and somewhat prepped) ahead of time.  I had to start waking up to an alarm again and stop staying up late watching TV with James and the kids.  And I'm really tired.  Already :-).

This week (today, in fact) James and I finished week 2 of Insanity.  I have lost 7.5 lbs. so far and have at least another 12.5 to go.  7 more weeks of the program to go.  I am very encouraged at my progress so far:  excited to see the scale move, of course, but even more excited to see my strength and stamina increasing as James and I push ourselves through these very challenging workouts 6 days a week.  The thing will be maintaining AFTER we're done with the program, that's where I struggle every time.  A good friend of ours is 3 weeks ahead of us in the program, and another has recently finished, so they're keeping me pretty motivated.

This week my daughter and her first boyfriend broke up.  This is really a milestone.  Austin's family was transferred to Ft. Drum, NY and left June 7, 5 months after they started "going out" ( a term I use loosely, since they never actually went anywhere without us, being 14 and 15 most of the time they were together). Long distance proved to be more difficult for their relationship than either of them had anticipated.  They tried hard, but in the end, God led them to see that they needed to move on and concentrate on what was near them (their Christian walk, high school, friends, youth group, family) rather than those things 3000 miles away.  I was very impressed with both of them and the maturity with which they handled it.  There were many tears on both sides, I'm sure (I only saw my daughter's, but there were plenty), but they kept their friendship intact.  He even texted both James and I to thank us for making him part of our family for those months, for our kindness to him, and for letting him date our daughter.  God has big plans for each of these precious young people.

This week my firstborn, my only son, turned 17.  I have reflected a lot on how my life was before Conor came into it and all he's taught me.  I'm convinced God gives us children so that WE grow up.  It's been a wild ride, to say the least.  I'm sure I've changed almost as much as he has in 17 years.  I have thought about how he was as a newborn, how he's always, his whole life, loved to laugh and had an amazing sense of humor.  Our amazing, brilliantly intelligent red-haired boy has never made parenting super easy.  But then, when is it?  I have thought about the challenges we have faced and how people have misunderstood him or our parenting of him.  One thing I've learned (and I learned it early, thanks to wiser people than I), is that you don't EVER judge someone else's parenting, especially if your child isn't to that phase yet, because you don't know the whole situation and your kid may end up doing the same thing.  I've thought about all the triumphs and the amazing achievements he's had and seeing him find his voice as an actor, a singer, a writer, and a leader in his youth group.  I've learned so much about God's love for us in the way I've loved my son (and daughter).  I've learned to let go of so much, a step at a time, because every step your child takes is a step toward their own independence, toward adulthood, down the path God has for them.  I'm proud of him as I look at the hours he volunteers every week at church to run tech for the student worship team, as I look at his heart that loves God, and as I look at how much he has grown in his character and heart in the past year. He is still misjudged and misunderstood by many who don't take the time to really see him or know him, which makes me sad.  He's starting his senior year in a matter of days and next fall he hopes to be at William Jessup University, a great local Christian University, another step away from me.

This week a lot changed, but change is good.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The last sweet day of summer break...OR taking up the gauntlet

Today is bittersweet.  For many reasons.  I have really enjoyed the slower pace that summer affords this wife/parent/teacher.  I have enjoyed our travels to southern California, New York state, Tahoe, and Yosemite. I have enjoyed watching all 4 seasons of "Damages" with James and wasting time on Pinterest (without James).  I have enjoyed letting my teenagers sleep late, having a fairly open schedule which has included many opportunities to spend time with precious friends, get my house in order (literally), hang out with my kids, have impromptu lunch with James, and *gasp* read things NOT related to my life as a teacher.  And today's my last.  I go back to a job I adore this coming Monday, I begin my two weeks of student-free preparations for the first day of school, I will see my beloved colleagues again and we will catch up on each other's lives, and set up my classroom (fun!) in a new and exciting way, though still themed in black/white brocade and shades of blue and green with giant "books" on the wall.  I love my "normal," though I will miss the quiet, long mornings to myself that have given me time to pause, think, listen to God, be still.

I have been reflecting on these past three and a half years of teaching.  My first full year I learned to survive.  Marked by the challenges of learning all the things I didn't know (and there were SO many) about running a classroom, managing students, parent interactions, and balancing work and home, that first year also brought some major health issues that could have stopped me in my tracks but for God's grace and strength.  My second year I learned to teach well.  Not that I've arrived, by any means, I will ALWAYS strive to improve and grow as an educator, but I made great strides that second year.  Last year, I learned how to really love my students.  God gave me a heart last year for a group of particularly sassy 8th grade girls, most of whom I'd had since they were 6th graders.  These girls had alternated between making me cry, making me laugh, making me call their parents, and stressing me out over three years' time.  Distruptive?  Yes.  Attitude?  Yes.  Leaders?  To the core, but not always using their powers for good.  Good hearts?  Yes, but didn't know how to show that.  By the end of last year, God had done an amazing thing.  These were the girls I cried over as I said goodbye to them at graduation, amid their promises to come and visit me next year.  They had asked me to lead a Bible study for them at lunch this past February, which I did, and God moved greatly in their hearts.  And in mine.  Through that experience, God opened me up to seeing so many other students as He would have me see them, and He taught me to love them with His heart.

As I begin my 4th year of full time teaching, I don't fully know what He has for me yet (when do we ever??).  I begin with some trepidation, as this is my son's senior year of high school and my daughter's freshman year.  For the first time I won't have one of my kids on my campus.  This, honestly, makes me so very sad.  I will miss them.  But I also know they, particularly Grace (since she's been on my campus since the day she started Bradshaw), have a need to find their own paths, continue find their own identities in Christ, and branch out more and more into being someone other than that teacher's kid.  I'm so blessed by the growth and maturity I've seen in each of them this summer.  I know God has great things for them, but I lament the end of this, their last real summer together as kids.  I choke up just typing that. Wow.  Big reality.  Another step toward independence for these precious kids with whom God has entrusted us, if only for a short time. Next summer Conor will have graduated, will be (hopefully) working part time, and preparing to leave for college.  Grace will be even more independent than she already is, working on her driver's permit, I'm sure.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Back to this fall:  I am taking on a new position this year in addition to teaching English: heading up events and teaching a class on Student Leadership.  I'm very excited and a little scared.  We're getting Conor ready for SATs, ACTs, and college applications.  We're getting Grace ready to start high school and I'm teaching her the rudiments of flute since she's starting band in a few days.  Also exciting/scary.  My English department head/colleague/good friend Ric Reyes has thrown down the gauntlet that I (actually we as an English department, including him) should blog at least every other week.  We try to teach our students to think like writers and readers, and I have to be in that mode myself, thinking as a writer rather than just pushing through life, my head down, eyes fixed on the task at hand.  Writing helps me reflect, see the bigger picture, and keep things in perspective, as I hope it will do for my students.  So the challenge has been issued, Ric Reyes.  Challenge accepted.

So!  What does one do on the last day of summer break?  Savor. Every. Moment.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Some important things I've learned...OR Week 1 of Insanity

1.  Even if you are 15-20 lbs overweight, you can still climb Half Dome successfully.  And you won't even die.

2.  Even if you are exercising regularly, this does NOT mean that you won't gain weight if you are eating like your teenage kids.  You will, especially if you're over 40.  Ice cream and fried food doesn't get balanced out, and neither does chocolate.  Not even dark chocolate that you eat while telling yourself it's for the antioxidants. That weight creeps up when you least expect it.  Especially if, like me, you refuse to weigh yourself regularly because doing so (sadly) has the power to ruin my day.  Working on that part.

3.  I am SUPER disciplined if I'm on some kind of nutrition "program."  I have will power of steel.  I can turn down the most decadent dessert or the most amazing-looking cream-based pasta and sauce.  However, all that goes right out the window if I'm not on a nutrition program of some kind.  I revert back to all kinds of crazy when it comes to food.  Therefore, I need to be on a nutrition program, not only for my weight, but for my overall health and energy level.  Did I mention I have teenage kids I have to keep up with?

4.  Working out with your husband is WAY more fun and motivating than working out on your own.  This is how James and I managed, in our "early" 40's, to get through two rounds of P90X last year AND to the top of a few giant mountains this year (two major hikes in Tahoe before we did the Half Dome hike).  We have dabbled in "Insanity,"  never getting through the whole program, something would come up with our schedules, we'd be travelling, things got too busy, etc.  So we started again, with the nutrition plan and everything, this Monday.  We weighed ourselves (ugh), took the requisite measurements, took "before" pictures (which I will NOT be posting, thank you very much), and took the "fit test" that is the beginning of the program; it helps you track your progress in stamina and fitness.  We are determined to make it through the whole 9 weeks in a row.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Half Dome: A reflection

This past Saturday was a day that has been marked on my calendar for months and months.  It turned out to be one of the most grueling, exhilarating, exhausting days ever.  James and I had trained for this for months, applied for permits, bought equipment, and done training hikes, but the big event had finally arrived.  Half Dome.  Second shot, this one successful.

A bit of backstory is in order: In February of 2011 James and I started P90X (the workout program and nutrition guide) as a means of getting healthier, then did it a second time with the idea of training for this, the Holy Grail of hikes. We added Insanity to the mixture last fall, and gave Half Dome a shot in October of 2011.  Our hike was cut short by an early season snowstorm that had hit a couple of nights before we hiked,  covering the granite with snow, making the last mile far to perilous to even attempt.  We were literally stopped by a ranger (I had pictures to prove it to my students, who never would have let me live it down if I had "wimped out").

This time, being July, we had no fear of being stopped by said ranger or snowstorm, and having now completed the hike, any illusions of saying we had "almost" hiked Half Dome last fall went right out the window.  That last mile is easily as strenuous (physically and mentally) as the entire rest of the climb.  The steep switchback granite stairs on the subdome, the cables that are your lifeline on the nearly-vertical climb to the top, complete craziness.  I have to admit that when I stood at the base of the cables looking up I had a moment's panic, my brain telling my body that under no circumstances was I going to do this to myself.  No way.  But, you see, I had already bought James and I "I made it to the top" t-shirts at Yosemite Village the day before and I didn't want to return them, so I couldn't exactly back down, now could I?

The cables are the only way up and the only way down.  If you're going up and someone else is going down, you have to hold on to just one of the cables and let the other hiker by.  The whole time I was ascending, all I could do was hold on tight and look directly at the granite face in front of me.  I couldn't look to the side lest my brain figure out the angle at which I was climbing and how  precarious my position actually was, which would have resulted in me freaking out.  But the view from the top is like nothing else I've ever seen.  Truly awe inspiring, pointing to the amazing power and creativity of our God who made us and loves us.  James and I had a picture taken on the "diving board," the lip that juts out from the left hand side of the dome (iconic in many pictures of Yosemite), but we didn't go to the edge and dangle our feet.  No.  Way.

All of our party of 7 made it to the top and back down again, some faster than others, some more exhausted than others, some more blistered than others.  It took James and I 13 hours to hike the 20 mile round trip, and we had a 4800  foot elevation gain to get to the 8,843 foot high summit.  I feel a huge sense of accomplishment having crossed this off my bucket list, and I have absolutely no need to ever do it again.