Sunday, 9 September 2012

A Disjointed Post

When school starts, it seems as if all hobbies and many other responsibilities blur out of the picture.  This, my friends, is why I have not been blogging.  And I'll be honest - as much as I would love to keep up this blog and do a much better job at writing on a regular basis, I have to face the music and admit that it probably won't happen.  I think I am at a place (for the most part) where I am okay with this, too.

Over the summer, my self-confidence in my abilities as a teacher grew by leaps and bounds.  I have done this before!  It will be so much easier!  I know what is going on!

Ha.

I think I got a little over confident.  Yes, I knew I would still have a lot to learn and a lot to work on, but I thought I would be spending a little less time on things like lesson planning.  I was wrong!  At least, the past 3 weeks of school have proven me wrong.  So far.  Maybe it will get easier when I get into the groove of things again?  Or MAYBE it will get easier next quarter when EVERYTHING is familiar.  Because this quarter I am teaching a study skills class, and I am writing the curriculum as I go.  Fun, yes?!

But really?  I do love teaching.  And it is fun to be teaching my 7th graders again this year as 8th graders.

In other news, Matt and I celebrated our anniversary last month!  He really gave me the royal treatment - we went to the Melting Pot and he spared no expense!  It was truly fantastic.  He got me roses, too.  I am so thankful to God for bringing us together.  Matt is my best friend, and he is the most patient and understanding person I have ever known.

There is a lot more on my mind, but I really don't have the time to write it out.  I've still got lesson planning to do for next week, as well as grading some physics tests.  Until next time!

Monday, 13 August 2012

It Takes a Village to Teach Science - A Thank You

Remember that time I fell off the face of the blogging world?  Me too.  And it's about to happen again.

See, this opportunity fell into my lap out of nowhere, and I took it!  For the past month, I worked at a dental office as the front desk person, filling in for their regular girl as she went on maternity leave.  I then trained my replacement.  It was a good run, I think.  I learned a lot, kept myself busy, and I was able to bring in an extra chunk of change that we wouldn't have had otherwise.  Extra chunks of change are always nice.

Thursday was my last day.  And today?  Back to school!

Not in the "students in my classroom" way, but in the "final registration, cheer practice, setting up my classroom, lesson plans, in service training" way.  And guys?  I am pumped!  I couldn't sleep because I was so busy thinking of all the things I want to do this year, and where to start in my classroom today.  So now I'm exhausted, but I'm excited.

This year is so different from last year.  I'm no seasoned veteran, but I'm not a first year teacher anymore, either.  And that is a really great feeling.  Last year I was in all-out panic mode - I had never taught my subject in those grade levels before, I had no lesson plans, no experience, and no confidence.  I had to work to build curriculum from the ground up, and I had no partner teacher or team of teachers at my school to help.  I was overwhelmed but driven to do my very best.  And I did alright.  But I most definitely did not do it on my own.

Honestly, I wouldn't have been anywhere near okay if it wasn't for my support system of teacher friends.  Friends from college, mentors from student teaching...they surrounded me with support, advice, and anything I asked for (even things I didn't).

My friend Katie, for instance.  She was transitioning from teaching in a traditional classroom to heading up the education department at a children's museum at the same time I got my teaching job.  She gave me EVERYTHING she had.  I'm not kidding.  Everything.  Boxes and boxes of everything.  And whenever I texted her with a question, she had a speedy reply.

And then there is Christi.  She was one of the math teachers on my team during my student teaching semester.  She switched to science not long after that, and gave me all her lesson plans.  The worksheets she did, the websites she visited...she shared it all.  And she was always quick to answer my emails (and trust me - there were plenty).

And last but definitely not least, there is Jean.  She was my mentor teacher during my student teaching semester, and she has always been so encouraging, patient, and supportive.  Even though I am now teaching a different subject, she has always been willing to help me in any way she can.  She has shared with me her classroom management style, organizational skills, and general teaching wisdom.  And she has a lot of wisdom - she didn't win the "Teacher of the Year" award at her school for nothing!

Of course, the teachers at my school were great, too.  Even though I didn't have a partner teacher or team of teachers, I had a group of teachers that I could talk to about things.  And one in particular - Deb - allowed me to utilize her as my in-school mentor.  She helped me solve problems and be a better teacher overall.  And she served as an outlet for my worsening ADD spells in the afternoons.  That alone was a huge help!

And who could forget my family?  My parents, my brother, my husband.  They told me again and again what a good teacher I was; they told me how good I was doing.  They told me they were proud of me and that they believed in me.  And it really is true...when others believe in you, you begin to believe in yourself.

Without all these wonderful people, I would have been so lost last year.  Completely out of luck.  If it weren't for them, I don't know how my year would have gone.  I doubt it would have gone so smoothly.  And looking back, it's so neat to see how God perfectly orchestrated everything, knowing how much of a blessing these individuals would be to me and knowing how much I would need each and every one of them.

So this year?  I feel more prepared than ever.  I know what I'm doing this time around.  I've done it before.  I've got plans to better myself, my teaching, and hopefully my students.  And I know God has a plan for this year, too.  I'm not saying I have it all figured out or that this year will be flawless.  I'm not delusional.  But thanks to people who have invested in me, I know things will be okay.  More than okay, actually.  Good.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Sweet

"Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.  Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, and earthy."
-Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

Yesterday I talked about the bitter side of losing our jobs and our home.  Today, I want to talk about the sweet.  Because it's not all bitter.  The bitter actually gives way to the sweet.  But if that post had gotten much longer, you might not have lasted long enough to reach the sweet!

It took me a long time to start realizing the blessings that came about from our new life away from camp.  I didn't want to see them.  I wasn't ready to see them.  My heart hurt too much.

But slowly and ever so surely, God opened my eyes and my heart to the blessings that surround us.  Yes, we were so incredibly blessed at camp.  We were blessed to be a part of that ministry and that community even if it didn't end the way we would have liked for it to.  But we are not any less blessed because we are not there.

We are blessed to live close to my family and to get to see them often.  Matt is blessed by my mom's fantastic homemade margaritas ;)

We are blessed to live right across the street from and be members of a church that is involved in the community and in missions around the world.

We are blessed to live so close to grocery stores and farmers markets, especially as we try to figure out my dietary needs.

Matt is blessed to be involved in a strong men's ministry at our church.

I am blessed to be involved in the Zumba ministry at our church.

Earlier this summer, our pastor preached on "reassignments".  I don't fully remember the overall point to the message, but I remember with perfect clarity the part that resonated with me.  He was talking about Elisha and Elijah.  Elisha was just minding his own business, plowing his dad's fields like he did every day.  And then Elijah walks up one day, takes off his coat and puts it on Elisha's shoulders (choosing Elisha as his successor), and walks off.  In that moment, Elisha's world was changed forever.  He didn't expect a new calling in life or a new job.  He was just doing his thing.  But the Lord clearly reassigned him.  And so he threw a big BBQ party for everyone around and then went in the new direction, excited for what was to come.

It is exceedingly clear that God reassigned Matt and I.  Matt now builds things, and he has a real knack for it.  He is so smart and so talented!  I get to teach middle schoolers science, and I get to speak truth to them day in and day out.  We talk about how there is absolutely NO WAY that all the perfect intricacies of science could just come from chaos.  The only logical explanation is an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator.  I get to help shape these kids into responsible adults, able to think for themselves and make good choices.  I get to encourage them and praise them daily.  I get to laugh with them, and I get to learn from them.

I get to lead massive dance fitness parties for ladies multiple times a week.  Not only do I get to help them reach their fitness and wellness goals, but I get to make them smile, laugh, and help them feel more confident.  I get to pray for them and to share in their joys and triumphs.  I LOVE that.  And I didn't even know I could dance until God reassigned us.

We are blessed with the knowledge and the testimony that proves God is faithful and He provides!  He answers prayer, He heals the brokenhearted - He is the champion of the weak, the poor, the destitute, and the undeserving.  He makes all things new, and not only does He know what is best for us, but He wants what is best for us!  Our lives are proof of it.

Yes, we miss camp.  I miss my job - it was fun.  We miss the community, the fellowship, and the constant presence of people pushing us closer to the Lord.  We miss the raw, ragged beauty of the Texas Hill Country.  There is a lot we miss.  And sometimes I do wish we were still there.  But we really are happy.  And we really can't argue with the fact that God reassigned us.  Even if we tried, we wouldn't get very far.  Kinda pointless to argue with God (I mean, I've done it anyway...).  We like our home, we like our jobs, and we know that God has our best interests in mind.

So after a year and a half, I think my heart has finally reached a place where it is willing to just be at peace.  It has allowed God to work and to heal.  It might have taken me a while, but I think I'm there.

Monday, 9 July 2012

The Bitter

"Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands."
-Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet 

One thing that I have tried to make a habit of is identifying a problem and then digging even deeper until I find the root cause of the problem.  Sometimes what you initially identified as the problem was really just a symptom; a byproduct of the actual issue festering deep under the surface.

This isn't always an easy task, especially when it comes to evaluating yourself.  Because what I usually find to be the biggest issue of all is a selfish, rotten, sinful heart.  That is not pretty, and it's definitely not something you want to look at, or think about, or spend time with...even if it is for a good reason.

As I have struggled to heal from what happened on December 1, 2010, I've found that, though it is unpleasant, I really have no choice but to approach the whole thing like I described before.  I needed to really break things down.  I was hurting.  Why was I hurting?  Because xyz.  Why did xyz make me hurt so badly?  Because I believed abc.  Does this make sense?

Here's what I discovered.  I was hurting in a deep, profound way.  Why would I hurt so badly?  It was just a job, right?  And just a house.  Houses and jobs are everywhere.  Common.  It shouldn't be so difficult to find new ones.  But to me, it wasn't just a job.  And it really wasn't so much about the job as it was what came with the job.  The community.  The friendships.  The fellowship.  The knowledge that someone was always there when I needed them.  Someone with similar goals and ideals and ideas of fun.  Kindred spirits.  We were surrounded by a loving community.  Never in my life had I felt more like I truly belonged somewhere.  And that is not as common as a house.  Or a job.  That kind of community, that fellowship are hard to come by.  It is something to cherish and to treasure.  And I really did.  I relished it.

When we lost our jobs and our home, that was scary.  But I also saw a new horizon of possibilities.  Losing our community was the devastating part.  We were no longer a part of that family.  We were outcasts, unable to connect; unable to explain - we didn't even understand what was going on ourselves.  We were so hurt and so embarrassed that we lost our jobs at a Christian camp that never fires anyone that we were unable to face our friends and give them the goodbye they deserved.  I was terrified of what they thought of me.  What had they been told?  Matt and I hadn't even been told much, other than there was just..."something".  If that was the explanation we got, what was the rest of the staff told?  How would that change how they viewed me?  I felt like I had a big red letter slammed on my forehead.

As we drove down that dirt road one last time, I felt like I was leaving my hopes, dreams, and big chunks of my heart behind me, still in our little house on a hill and with the friends we were driving away from.  Matt and I had planned on staying there for a long time.  Years.  Our dream was shattered and flushed down the toilet.

So that explains why I was hurting.  But why did it hurt so badly?  Because it was home to me.  Because I believed I was safe at home.  And I was loved at home.  I belonged at home.  And when I got kicked out of my home, I didn't feel safe or loved anymore.  I didn't belong.  It felt as if the very people and place that I trusted and cherished so dearly had betrayed me in the most vicious and horrendous way.  It shook me to my core.

It hurt me because the people who had been so welcoming, so loving - who had become family...all of a sudden they were distant.  Silent. 

And it hurt because I had made my plans.  I had hoped and dreamed about our future at camp.  I believed that was where God had us, but I don't remember ever really, truly seeking out His will about it.  And I was holding tight to those plans with clenched fists.  I didn't want God's will if it meant being somewhere else.  I didn't want things to change.  I wanted what I wanted, and I just wouldn't let go.  Do you see what I mean about this being unpleasant?  At the heart of this issue was my selfishness, my pride...me, me, me.  It's just not nice.  Because I held so tightly to what I wanted, God had to break a few fingers and rip it away from me in order to give me what I needed.  His will.


Friday, 6 July 2012

Revisiting Bittersweet

Ahh summertime.  Lazy days spent reading by the pool, whipping up the latest recipe I've found on Pinterest, preparing for the upcoming school year, and perfecting Zumba routines.  That is this summer in a nutshell.

Last summer, Matt and I had passes to Six Flags, and it became our second home for the summer.  Our third home was the neighborhood pool.  I didn't have a job, and I was still on the lookout for something to pay the bills.

There are a lot of similarities between last summer and this summer.  Downtime.  Heat.  Pools.  Reading.  And a lot of time for reflection.

Last spring I was deeply hurt and desperately searching for answers after the loss of our jobs and home in December.  I read a book called "Bittersweet" and it really spoke to the broken pieces of my heart (you can find the review I posted here).  This summer, with so much time on my hands, I find myself thinking a lot about what was.  What has been.  What will never be, and what might be.  And I decided it was a good time to revisit that book.

"The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life.  Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness.

Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul.  Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands.  Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.  Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, and earthy.

...The central image of the Christian faith is death and rebirth; the core of it all, over and over again, is death and rebirth...When you haven't yet had your heart really broken, the gospel isn't about death and rebirth.  It's about life and more life.  It's about hope and possibility and a brighter future.  And it is, certainly, about those things.

But when you've faced some kind of death - the loss of someone you loved dearly, the failure of a dream, the fracture of a relationship - that's when you start understanding that central metaphor.  When your life is easy, a lot of the really crucial parts of Christian doctrine and life are nice theories, but you don't really need them.  When, however, death of any kind is staring you in the face, all of a sudden rebirth and new life are very, very important to you.

...I've begun to train my eyes for rebirth, like looking for buds on branches after an endlessly long winter.  I know that death is real, and I trust that rebirth is real, too."
-Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

Something I have learned about myself is that I am a slow healer.  I thought I was stronger.  I thought I healed quickly.  I thought I could just bounce back from anything - nothing could keep me down for long!  But I was deceiving myself.  And I think my reluctance to admit that I needed more time to heal, that everything was okay probably slowed me down a bit more.  I don't want to downplay the whole experience.  After all, it was a big hurt.  But I think my heart is finally ready.  I've made so much progress, and I think it's time for the final push.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

On Being a Productive Pinner

So.  Pinterest.  It's pretty much all the rage and then some.  I've been on Pinterest for about a year, and I've really enjoyed it.  I don't really get sucked into it for hours on end, but let's be honest - there is a lot of great stuff out there.

Recently, one of my Facebook friends mentioned that she decided Pinterest was dumb because it sets an unrealistic standard for women and they have unrealistic expectations of their homes, their families, and of themselves.  She also mentioned that she often found the links on Pinterest were bad once she went back to really look at them.  I've heard similar things from other fellow Facebookers, bloggers, tweeters, and pinners.

I can see why they would feel that way.  I think their thoughts and opinions are completely valid.  After all, most of the homes we see on Pinterest are probably interior designer decorated and are photos from a magazine shoot.  Not realistic for the average American.  And from many of the pins floating around, you get the impression that women are expected to look good, make fantastic foods, keep their children stimulated and entertained every second of every day, throw awesome parties, keep fabulous gardens and immaculate homes, and craft in their spare time.  Maybe it's not so much that we are expected to do those things as it is that we wish we could do all those things.  I think we all get the Super Woman complex from time to time, don't you?

For me personally, though?  I love Pinterest.  There are so many great recipes and ideas floating around.  I usually check pins before I repin them, making sure it isn't a shady link to begin with.  And I really do go back quite often and use ideas from my pins.  I am especially excited about the pins regarding teaching ideas, because there are plenty of things that I already know I will be using this coming school year.

I also find Pinterest helpful in communicating to Matt my personal taste in things.  Before we got married we talked about color schemes for our future home.  Without the visual, I think my descriptions of my dream home totally missed the mark.  I was describing robin's egg blues, mint greens, and creams; he was seeing dark blues, dark greens, and browns.  So guess what colors are in our living room?  Here's a hint: not the colors I was describing.  As a result, I often feel like our living room is too dark.  And it really is not me.  The other day, I was able to show him the things I had pinned on my "Home Style" board, and I think he finally understood what I had been trying to tell him the past 2.5 years.  What can I say?  We both like visual aides.

I also use a lot of recipes from Pinterest.  I've made these fantastic flourless banana muffins twice already since I first pinned the recipe last week.  I eat at least one every day, and Matt loves them, too!  We are having these chicken fajitas tonight (they are in the crock pot right now, and let me say they smell awesome!).  And later this week, we will be making this quinoa mac and cheese and this cauliflower crust pizza.  I also make these homemade "Cheez Its" for Matt every week - we prefer not to eat very many processed foods, and he loves them!  Pinterest makes finding recipes that are healthy and FructMal friendly a lot easier for me.  And I love that.

I could go on and on about the other great things I have learned from Pinterest and have incorporated into our daily lives.  But really, that can be another post for another day.  I think Pinterest really is just what you make it.  I make it a practical place to keep track of recipes, ideas, tips, and tutorials.  I use it often, without allowing myself to spend ridiculous amounts of time on the website.  And I really like it that way.

Monday, 25 June 2012

There is Hope!

Do y'all remember this?  Or this?  How about this?

I do.  What I remember most about the time period when I wrote those posts is how much I loved cooking.  And baking.  I mentioned at one point that it was therapeutic for me, and it was fun to experiment and come up with something quite delicious. 

Things have changed.  I am ashamed to say it, but y'all?  I hate cooking.

Over the course of the school year, Matt took on more and more of the meal prep duties, and I helped clean.  I just had so much work to do all the time.  Cooking became just another chore - another thing that had to be done.  And then in February, I got diagnosed as a FructMal.  So as far as eating goes, it was like going from life in a luxurious mansion to a studio apartment.  Variety and flavor to perpetual rice and grilled chicken.

For the past 4 months, our meals have consisted of the same things week to week:

Baked potatoes.

Rice noodles with butter and parmesan.

Grilled chicken and rice.

Broccoli.

Hamburger meat and rice.

Rice tortilla "pizzas" (they are more like quesadillas with pepperoni).

Meatloaf sans the onions.  And sauce.

Mashed potatoes.

Stuffed bell peppers.

Do you see why there is no joy in cooking anymore?  There's no joy in cooking because it's always the same things.  It's always the same tastes.  There is no joy in eating.

So yesterday as I was working on this week's menu, something occurred to me.  Ever since I got diagnosed, I have been looking for recipes that are already fructmal friendly.  And I got so discouraged when my hours of searching resulted in nothing more than blurry eyes and a headache.  What I didn't realize was that I was basically setting myself up for failure and disappointment, because there really aren't many recipes that are safe as is.  But why can't I find recipes that sound good and just modify them to make them edible?

I know.  That probably sounds like a really obvious solution.  You probably already thought of it forever ago.  Sometimes it just takes me a little longer to get from Point A to Point B, okay?

But I'm really excited.  I am really excited about the possibility of flavor and texture again!  I'm going to find "regular" recipes and do my best to alter them to fit my specific dietary restrictions.  I'm trying it a few times this coming week, and I am excited to share the outcome!  Guys.  There IS hope!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Today I'm Bored

Right now I am sitting at home on our couch, looking out the sliding glass doors as I wait for Matt to get home.  I don't know what time he is coming home, I just know he will be late.  Each time a car comes into view, I perk up thinking maybe it's him.  So far, no dice.

Today has been a typical "lazy" summer day.  So far I haven't really had many of those...maybe 2?  I've done a good job at keeping myself busy with workshops and conferences and doctors appointments.  But today there really was nothing on my schedule other than a 30 minute chiropractor appointment.

I did some research on the interwebs.  I downloaded almost 10 new apps on my phone, added widgets, moved icons, and basically redesigned the whole thing.  Then I played with the new apps.  Then a friend came over and we visited for about 2 hours.  I painted my nails.  I watched an episode of Saved by the Bell before I got distracted by a book sitting on our coffee table.  I read for 30ish minutes.  I played with my phone some more.

And now here I sit blogging.  I am bored out of my mind, y'all.  I am ready for Matt to come home so I can eat dinner (oh, because I am also starving) and so we can watch Netflix and play the Wii.  Not that I can't do those things without him...it's just not as fun.  And I wouldn't watch our favorite show without him.  That would just be mean!

An idea just occurred to me.  An idea so fantastical and great, I am ashamed I didn't think of it before.  I am going to play Donkey Kong on the Super Nintendo.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Super Nintendo.  The very same one my brother and I had as kids.  The exact same games.  We never got rid of them.  They all still work, and they are all still hella fun.  If you need me, come looking sometime around 1996.  I'll be there.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Not a Photographer

I used to take pictures all the time.  I was notorious for always having a camera, always taking it everywhere, and always taking pictures of everything and everyone.  I scrapbooked.  I organized.  When things went digital, I uber-organized all my photo files on my computer, and scrolled through them often.

And as I sit here and think about my history with capturing memories via photos, I realize that it really was not so long ago that I went from obsessive picture taker to never picture taker.  In fact, I can pinpoint it to right before Matt and I moved here.  Things stopped being so capture-worthy, and then our camera stopped being camera-worthy (read: it died).  I think the greatest contributing factor would be the untimely death of our camera.  Because I got out of the habit of taking pictures.  I got into the mindset that I didn't have a device to take pictures on.  I know, I know.  We live in the age of smart phones(!) with superior cameras(!!) and Instagram(!!!) and blah, blah, blah.  But I'm still not used to the notion of taking pictures with my phone all that often.  (And really, I've only had a smart phone for 4 months now.)

For that very reason, I was all excited about giving the Photo a Day Challenge a shot.  In May I was still way too busy to think about anything superfluous (fun word!), but when June rolled around I was ready!  At least I thought.  I forget most days to take a picture.  In fact, most days I forget to even check what I am supposed to be taking a picture of.  And then if I do take a picture, I often delete it or don't share it.  For a few days I did alright and shared my photos on Facebook, and then I realized that I just felt awkward posting those photos like that.  Just one random photo a day is apparently not my style.

So I've been thinking.  I really like a lot of the prompts for photos on the PAD Challenge.  So I think I'll try to take the photos, and then recap here on my blog.  I feel like that is a lot less awkward and it allows me to elaborate a bit.  What I took a picture of, why, what it means, etc.  And this way, if I ever want to look back at my blog and reminisce about the past, I have a better, more detailed record.

We'll see if this plan actually pans out.

Friday, 15 June 2012

I am a Fainting Goat

Matt and I have lived in the same city for 1.5 years now, and to be totally honest, we still have no married friends.  We don't have any married friends who are close to the same age as us at a similar place in life. 

That sentence doesn't make sense, but I can't figure out how to make it make sense.  This is why I teach Science.

Anyway.

We don't have married people friends our age.  We want married people friends our age.  Not that our single friends our age aren't good enough.  Not that our single friends older than us aren't good enough.  It's just...different.  Not bad.  Just different.

We decided if we were going to try to make friends, we needed to get more involved with groups of married people our age.  So we started going to a Life Group at our church.  It is small.  It is nice.  We like it.  We decided (as a group) to meet informally over the summer in a more social setting to get to know one another better.  Plus, most of the couples are traveling quite a bit these next few months, so it really is hit or miss as far as the weekends go.

Our first social was last Friday evening.  I was excited about it; I had been looking forward to it for over a week!  And when we got there, I froze.  I freaked out.  And then I basically shut down.  I started having wild fantasies about running out the door and speeding home so I could curl up in a ball in my bed (because, you know, apparently 3 other couples is just too much).  And while all this was going on, I thought to myself, "What the heck?!  This is not normal.  I wasn't like this before...what happened to me?!  I wonder if they would all stare at me if I started crying.  Of course they would.  I would.  Oh gosh.  I think I might have turned into an introvert.  Gross.  Is that even possible?  I want my bed."

When I look back on that evening, this is how I interpret my reaction:



Seriously.  Lunatic.  I eventually calmed down, but guys?  Making new friends is HARD.  It is hard for me.  I want friends.  I want community.  I want fellowship and...any other synonyms of those things.  But getting to that point scares me to death.  And I have no idea why.

But on the bright side, aren't those goats funny?!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Some Summer Goals

This morning I was supposed to be on my way to a science workshop.  I got up when my husband did, I showered, did my hair, did my makeup.  Checked my email.  And changed my mind.

You see, last night I had sent an email to the leader of the workshop asking a few questions.  The most pressing question I had was about tomorrow - I have a doctor's appointment that is fixed in stone and I wanted to know if it would be possible for me to miss the morning portion of the workshop and attend the afternoon portion.  You know, just for tomorrow.  She wrote back with probably the least helpful answer of all time, which resulted in me just unenrolling from the workshop.  On the plus side, they are offering the same workshop next week, so I enrolled in that one, when I don't have any other conflicts in my schedule.

So all of a sudden, my jam-packed busy day is open.  I am free to do as I please today, and that doesn't bother me in the least.  I have goals for this summer, so my free time will be well spent.  I have trainings to attend.  I have books to read (both for school and just because I want to).  I have Zumba routines to choreograph and Zumba routines to learn.  I have Zumba classes to teach.  I have next year to think about and plan.  I've got stuff to do!  And somewhere in there, I am supposed to recuperate from the school year that just ended.

At some point, I will hopefully get past feeling guilty for just sitting down and reading for fun.  After all, it's my summer!  I'm supposed to be resting.  I'm supposed to be taking some me time.

So today I've got some goals.  Today I want to learn a new Zumba routine, and I want to choreograph another.  I don't think those goals are too lofty, do you?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Lessons from Middle Schoolers

Well, kids.  School is out!  Yesterday was my first "official" day of summer, and I kept myself quite busy.  Today?  Not so much.  But I wanted to take some time to debrief this past school year, and I thought I would share some things.  Today I'm sharing the things that my students taught me:

I learned that during each menstrual cycle, women develop another ovary!

I learned that the ocean floor "shits"! (she meant to say "shifts"...I guess she was writing quickly?)

I learned that you can classify dogs and cats by "unquestionable loyalty" and "questionable loyalty"!

I learned that if you stand on Jupiter, your face will "be on the floor"!

I learned that "neutrons" are the unit of measurement for force!

I learned that there are flesh eating spiders on the moon, and that is why we can't live there!

I learned that "Super Bowel" week does exist!

I learned that "Smart tuna fish sandwich with kitty litter!" and other such things are considered to be awesome compliments to one another on daily work!

I learned that playing "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction will erase all wrongs in the eyes of 8th grade girls!  You will be their best friend all day!

I learned that "Chex mix" is the default answer for when you don't actually know the answer!

I learned that kidneys make babies!

The list could go on.  My kids kept me laughing all year long.  I think when it came to grading papers, I got the best papers TO grade.  (And the best kids - they are so funny!)

But on a more serious note, I also learned (or relearned) these things:

Middle schoolers are stuck in an odd place.  Not quite kids, but not quite adults.  It kinda sucks.

Because of this, they need lots of love.  Not the kind you show to kindergarten kids, but...something.

The difference between 7th and 8th graders is so much greater than one initially realizes.

Students actually like having a personal relationship with you.

Students are baffled when they learn things about the "outside of school you".

The things I say have an impact on my kids.  The impact is either positive or negative, not neutral.

Even middle schoolers watch you like hawks.  And then they do and say what you do and say.

I am more like my students than I would ever admit to them.  (Don't be like me, kids!)

Most of the time, the impact you make on your students goes unmentioned.  But then there are a few students who (at the end of the school year) take the time to let you know how much you impacted them, how you helped them and changed them, and how your class was something to look forward to every day.  And those are the moments when you bawl like a baby and want to give them bear hugs.

Teaching is a hard job.  It is emotionally, mentally, and physically draining.  It consumes all your time and then some.  It's more than just explaining educational concepts to young minds.  It is doing your best to shape them into people who will succeed and excel in life.  It requires so much effort.

And it is well worth the effort.  It is time well spent.  I love my kids.  They are the reason I show up every day, and they push me to be better than I thought I could be.  We really are in it together, and they know that.  That means the world to me.


Sunday, 29 April 2012

April in a Flash

It seems like it was just spring break, and here we are at the end of April!  For my small private school, there is now less than one month of classes left, and students and teachers alike are eager for the reprieve that summer brings.  But we aren't done yet - four more busy weeks must pass before I have much time to blog again, so here is a brief look at my April:

-We had Easter at my cousin's house, as we always do.  It was a little different this year, because one of her daughters happens to be one of my students, and I felt bad for the kid that she had to see me on a school holiday.  It went fine, though.  And I made the decision that I was going to eat all the food available, despite my FructMal problem.  I want to participate in things and be a part of things!  You know?  I knew I would pay the price, and I did.  I was in so much pain that I couldn't move for 4 hours.  But I think it was worth it!?

-I subbed in a second grade classroom at the end of the day when my classes were over.  I already knew many of the students from when I subbed in their first grade glass last year.  As I subbed in their class this time around, I felt so different from the teacher I was last year.  It occurred to me that I really have come such a long way in just one year.  I know I don't have it all figured out - not by a long shot!  But it's nice to know that there has been growth and progress.

-I gained two new students, and will be getting another new one tomorrow.

-I accompanied 40ish 7th graders on a field trip to Houston.  In the span of three days, we visited the Health Museum, Museum of Natural Science, NASA (twice!), Battleship Texas, San Jacinto Monument, and George Ranch Historical Park.  We also ate at Rainforest Cafe, which I had never been to before.  It was fun!  Oh, and we visited Bucees.  I'd also never been there before, but when you can't really eat anything they sell, it isn't that fun.

-The field trip was also a really interesting experience for me because of my diet restrictions.  I had to pre-pack a bag of food for the trip the night before.  Many of the places we ate (like at the museums or the ranch) did not offer any dishes that I could eat without getting sick, so many of my meals consisted of a rice cake with cheese, some almonds, a boiled egg, and my special gluten free, sugar free bread.  I also took my special gluten free steel cut oatmeal for breakfast in the mornings and had the hostess at the hotel heat it up in a microwave.  Absolutely not the most glamorous way to travel, but it's my new reality.  Vacations are going to be an interesting experience for our family, I think.

Like I said, once school is out, I'm assuming I'll have more time to blog.  Sorry I've been so touch and go - first year teaching is an all-consuming job.  Four weeks until summer!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Support

I can't believe it's already Thursday.  Thursday!  How is it that Spring Break is just flying by when most weeks take at least a month to end?!

Anyway.

After my initial meeting with new bff Linda on Tuesday, I was so excited to find that there are plenty of foods out there that I can be eating, but haven't been.  That's probably not surprising since most foods don't fall into the (miniscule, narrow, tiny!) categories of meat, dairy, white rice, and plain oatmeal.  I had to utilize my highest level of self-restraint to not drive to the nearest HEB and buy one of EVERYTHING that I am allowed to have.  Although, I did buy a cauliflower.  And then I ate it.  And as sad as this may sound, I found it to be extremely enjoyable.

But let's get to the point, shall we?  When I met with Linda, she mentioned that she has a support group for people with FructMal*, and it meets about three times a year.  When is the next meeting, you ask?  Why, it happened to be yesterday evening!  It was pretty great timing, if I do say so myself (although I can't take any credit for the impeccable timing).

So yesterday evening, Matt and I headed over to the support group to see what new and helpful information we might happen upon.  My first impression upon walking into the room?  It was like an AA meeting for old ladies.  Seriously - I was the youngest person in that room by at least 20 years.  And those ladies are funny.  There was one woman who kept talking about french fries: "I loooove french fries.  I've never eaten so many in my whole life.  I eat them all the time because we can have them...they are just so delicious!"  If you read that with an incredibly thick Spanish accent, you were spot on.

Most of them had been dealing with the condition for years - seasoned veterans, if you will.  There was one other woman there who had been diagnosed around the same time as me, and we were like eager nerdy students on the first day of school.

It was very much like a discussion group - a time to ask questions and talk about the woes of flavorless foods.  I didn't realize how therapeutic it would be just to sit in a room full of people who just know what happens to my body when I eat certain things and who really understand how difficult it is to avoid everything considered dangerous.  I hardly had to say one word.  I realize I've only known about my condition for a few weeks (almost a month!), but one thing I really felt during those several weeks was that no one really gets it.  They can sympathize, but no one can really empathize.  Again, I really don't mind having the issue - I just know that not a lot of people can truly understand what it means for me.

I think Matt and I will attempt to eat out tonight - that is the biggest challenge of all, I think.  To find a restaurant that not only has a gluten-free menu but also does not use added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, or any of the various other things that make me ill will be quite an adventure.

Don't worry - I won't always post about FructMal.  In fact, once school starts back up, I doubt I'll be posting much of anything at all! ;)

*typing out the whole thing is hard.  I stumble around on my keyboard every time.  So...abbreviation!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

My New Best Friend

I was given her phone number by multiple people, thinking we would get along just great.

I checked her out on the internet, and then finally plucked up the courage to make first contact.

Her name is Linda, and as of this morning, she is my nutritionist and my new bff.

I don't normally get all in a tizzy over going to a health-related appointment.  But this was different.  This appointment held the promise of more variety in my diet and a healthier and happier me soon to follow.  So I was counting down the days.

Linda was fantastic.  She sat with me for two whole hours and we talked about my diagnosis and what it will mean for me, pretty much for the rest of my life.  She has done a great amount of research on Fructose Malabsorption and compiled all her research into a nifty packet for me to take home!  Guys, this packet is amazing.  It's the packet of dietary freedom.  It's a packet of answers to all my questions, and I feel so relieved to have ANSWERS.  She talked me through the whole packet, step by step, and answered every question I could fire her way.

Gone are the days of only eating meat, rice, and dairy.  I can eat some vegetables!  I can eat some fruits!  I still have to be pretty careful, and I can only have things in small amounts.  But!  Still!  Better!

This weekend I also made a fantastical, magical, WONDERFUL discovery!  Not only are Sweettarts like medicine to me (because dextrose=maltodextrin=glucose=helps my body cope), but so are Pixie Sticks!  Fun Dip!  Bottlecaps!  Basically any Wonka candy that doesn't have corn starch or corn syrup listed as an ingredient is GOOD for me (aside from the whole tooth rotting thing...).  I always knew I liked that Wonka guy.  I've been munching on Bottle Caps like my nine year old self used to do.  Turns out my twenty-something year old self loves them just as much, if not more, than my nine year old self did.

I still understand that my eating habits will be changed permanently.  But my diet has been so strict for the past three weeks, right now it almost seems like the possibilities are endless!  I'm going to eat cauliflower tonight!  I think some days will be harder than others, but I'm okay with that.  And I have my new bff Linda to help me out along the way. (Did I mention she has a support group for people with my condition?  She does!  They share recipes and lots of great info.  Best thing is?  There is a meeting tomorrow evening.)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Diagnosis - Fructose Malabsorption

When I last wrote, I mentioned that I would spend the majority of my Presidents' Day holiday at the doctor's office getting tested for a fructose malabsorption disorder.  I had planned my day around the appointment, since it was supposed to take four hours according to the paperwork they had given me.

When I got there, I drank this cup full of an extremely sweet syrup.  As the nurse described it: "It's like sweet tea...without the tea."  Theoretically, I would breathe into a device every 30 minutes for four hours and see if the levels of Hydrogen in my body increased or not.  After 15 minutes, I was already experiencing some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, but I brushed it off because it's never that easy for me.  Usually when I go to the doctor about something, they test me for a bunch of things and then end up saying, "Sorry, but we don't know what is wrong with you."  So I wasn't prepared for such a quick diagnosis!  I breathed into the machine the first time, and when she called me back the second time (one hour after I had arrived), she already had a pack of papers in her hand.  She had me breathe into the thing again, briefly glanced at it, and then handed me the pack of papers saying, "You tested positive.  Here is some information on the disorder, and here is what you are going to have to do."  She went on to describe the kind of diet I would need to be on to heal my body and alleviate my symptoms, and then she sent me on my way, three hours early.

That was almost three weeks ago, and it's been an interesting three weeks.  Despite the fact that my condition really limits my diet, I'm not really bothered by the fact that I have the disorder.  As a completely logical and reasonable person, I went to the doctor fearing the worst.  And by that I mean I had pretty much convinced myself that I had cancer.  So I'll take this over cancer any day!  I'm still relieved that's not what is causing all my problems.

Unfortunately, the information the nurse gave me on fructose malabsorption was not extremely helpful.  I immediately set out on my own internet quest to learn more about what was wrong with me and what my life would look like from that point on.  I quickly discovered that the information on FMD available on the internet was spotty, contradictory, and confusing.  I have an incredibly loving and supportive family, and they joined me in the search to find good information that I could rely on and really use.  Unfortunately, they pretty much found the same things I did.

Interestingly enough, though, we all noticed consistencies in the few websites that were helpful - none of those websites were created in the US.  Blogs, books, websites...all written by people living in Australia (with the exception of the one Canadian blog we found).  Matt and I have joked about this being a sign that we should move to Australia.

I think the biggest break so far occurred last weekend.  My parents met a woman at a farmer's market last weekend who gave them the contact information of the woman who heads up the Celiac Foundation for our area.  Apparently she also has FMD, and so there was hope!  I spoke to her earlier this week and she referred me to a nutritionist who has made her life a lot easier.  I spoke to the nutritionist, and y'all?  I am so excited about my appointment with her!  I am looking forward to being able to eat things other than just meat, rice, eggs, cheese, white potatoes, and oatmeal.  I am looking forward to someone who is KNOWLEDGEABLE coming alongside me and helping me figure things out.

And who knows?  Since this is Spring Break, maybe I will actually have time to post a little bit more!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Nutshell

As time continually slips away from me, I have become quite a different blogger than I was at this time last year.  In fact, there isn't much now that is the same as it was at this time last year.  While I would love to be able to say that my blogging change is one in which I have gained more readers, improved my writing skills, and gained a full understanding of my writing style, that would not be true.  In fact, I have blogged so little that at times, even if I do find myself with a spare moment, I am completely unsure of how to begin.

Which is pretty much how today started out.  But I'm attempting nonetheless.

It has been a busy month and a half.  I had a birthday.  I had Orange Leaf for the first time (and the second...and the third...and then maybe again...).  I got in a pretty large dispute with T-Mobile and won.  I joined my husband's phone plan and jumped on the smart phone bandwagon.  I got certified to be a Zumba instructor.  I got tested for Celiac and the test came back negative (which is both good and bad).  Valentines day came and went, and I still have the chocolate to prove it.  I went to the rodeo with someone who had never been before, which I learned is a completely hilarious experience.  I forgot how old I was and could not figure it out for at least a full 30 seconds.  I choreographed and taught my first song at a Zumba class (with less than 15 hours warning, mind you) and enjoyed it.

Even though so much has happened, I still find it incredibly difficult to believe that February is almost over.  I could swear I just put up the October calendar in my classroom, and in less than two weeks, I'll be changing it to March.  How does that even happen?!

Speaking of classrooms, teaching is still going well.  I really hit a snag around Christmas break - I was just so exhausted from burning the candle at both ends all the time.  I wasn't sure how much more I could handle on my own, and I was overwhelmed.  I'm not really sure what changed, but the school year keeps chugging right along, and so do I.  I absolutely love my students, and I am so proud of their accomplishments.  I can't believe that some of them will be finished with middle school in just a few short months and then will be moving to high school!  It's unreal.

Tomorrow is a school holiday, and I will be spending at least half of my day at the doctor's office getting tested for a fructose intolerance (I haven't mentioned that I've been having stomach issues for the past year, have I?).  If that comes back negative, I have no clue what else it could be, since gluten has been ruled out.  On one hand, I want my issues to stem from a fructose intolerance, because then we can put a name on it and it's not scary.  And there is a way to deal with it.  But on the other hand, a fructose intolerance would severely limit my diet and I would have to part with some of my favorite food groups.  All in all, I would rather give up certain foods forever and ever amen than have cancer.

So there's my past two months in a nutshell.  It's felt good to write.  Au revoir.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year's Reflections

Last night, Matt and I rung in the New Year, but barely just.  We were so tired that we almost didn't make it until midnight, but thanks to words with friends, we were able to push on ;)

Because it is New Year's Day, Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere are filled with hopeful thoughts for the coming year, and pensive reflections on the past year.  I'm going to attempt to jump on this bandwagon because I think it would be good for me.  I think it would be good to reflect on the past year and define my hopes for this next year.    So without further adieu, let the reflections begin!

Winter 2011 (the beginning):
-Matt and I had just lost our jobs, our home, and our community.  We moved in with my parents and were clueless as to what was next for us - we hadn't planned on this.
-After days and days of job and house searching (which was ridiculous since we didn't even know where we were supposed to live), we fell into a pattern of playing the Wii all the time.
-We also developed the bad habit of staying up watching Food Network until midnight-thirty every night
-I started doing Zumba at out church
-Matt got involved with the men's ministry at our church
-God answered prayer and provided Matt with a job
-I began experimenting like never before in the kitchen

Spring 2011:
-Matt worked, and I felt like a stay at home wife
-I began writing actual letters to several friends, and a few of us actually still keep writing one another.  It's been absolutely wonderful!
-I began my journey of emotional, mental, and spiritual healing
-I read a lot of books and found a new author that I really liked.  The library right by my parents' house was a favorite haunt of mine
-Matt and I developed a taste for drinks at Sonic happy hour
-I applied to what seemed like hundreds of different jobs and went on only a few job interviews
-I began subbing at a private Christian school, teaching K-4 even though my certification (and preference) is middle school!
-We grew herbs in the backyard and used them in our cooking daily

Summer 2011:
-At a routine doctor's appointment, the doctor found something unusual and several tests ensued
-When the tests were filed with our insurance company, they refused to cover said treatments, claiming that they were for a pre-existing condition that I just chose not to tell them about.
-It was hot.  Really, really hot.
-I continued to apply for what seemed like hundreds of different jobs and went on a few interviews
-We spent most of our free time at Six Flags or at the neighborhood pool
-We went to a Middle Eastern wedding in Houston and stayed until 2:30 in the morning

Fall 2011:
-My subbing job at the private school turned into a permanent teaching job as the 7th and 8th grade Science teacher!
-Matt and I began taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University Class and adjusted our budget
-I was moved to more of a leadership role in the Zumba classes at my church
-We found an apartment and moved in!!
-We got to decorate for Christmas for the first time since we got married in 2010

You know, as I look back over 2011, I have no trouble remembering just how rough our year began.  I look at where we were this time last year and where we are now and I am so thankful for God's grace and mercy as He led us to this point.  I have no clue what 2012 holds for us.  But good or bad, I can say with 100% confidence that God will remain with us, blessing us in more ways than we can imagine or deserve.

Happy 2012, everyone!
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