Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Grown-Up Christmas List

If you've never checked out the book The Five Love Languages, you should.  It's interesting reading.  My love language is actually receiving gifts (though, I do take much pleasure in finding the perfect gift for someone else, too) so Christmas is totally my love language.

(None of this undercuts the true meaning of Christmas for me.  It doesn't overshadow Christ's birth.)

My first real gift was having my family in one place.  We missed NutMeg on Christmas day, but I have this weird need to know that everyone is together in one place.  I would actually give up every single present for that to happen.

Of course, there were presents.  Beautiful, shiny, glorious presents.

This gorgeous handbag is every bit as beautiful in person.  Actually, it may be a little more glorious than I had imagined.  It fits everything.  It looks classy.  I'm hoping it rubs off on me.

 The Nook Tablet is a lot cooler than I imagined.  I didn't realize it worked as a web browser in addition to an ereader, so I've been getting Favorite's moneys worth out of the product.  One of my first purchases?  The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.  I've heard about it for years.  I'm finally going to decide for myself.

You should hear Favorite sing the opening song from The Lion King.  This is one of my Favorite Disney movies, and I'm glad to finally be able to watch it on DVD.

Pretty soon, I'll take a picture of what I received from LilBro and NutMeg.  They made me a "Welcome" sign to go in front of my house, but since they know me so well, they also added a removable "not" sign to put in front of the welcome.

Don't judge me.  You know not every person is welcome at your house.  The same is true at mine, but we all buy outdoor mats that indicate otherwise.  It's a farce...and I'm bringing honesty back.

I was also blessed to receive gift cards and money--some of which I will be spending on upgrades around my house.  First order of business?  Picture frames in the hallway.  I have to lay out the order, and then I'll get them up and get you pictures.  I'll upload pictures of the pinterest project then, too.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Season

I knew you all would be waiting with baited breath to learn the winner of our little "Weight Loss Wager."  Well, hold on to your pants:  Me.  Turns out, I was only one good flu away from victory.  I lost no less than seven pounds in three days.  Favorite, who had gotten a little lax in his eating and exercise since he was suuuure it was in the bag, lost a little over two pounds.

My comment?  God bless us...but especially God bless the flu.  (Because I'm not too good to know where my bread is buttered.)

Despite Favorite's devastating loss, he still managed to have a great Christmas.  I did, too.  Our families are really generous, and generosity is a lifestyle.

Sunday morning, our pastor didn't preach a message about a baby laid in a manger.  He didn't talk about a pregnant virgin and her uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem.  Instead, he lovingly read from a passage in Matthew 11:

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Who are you?  John asked.  I Am, Jesus replied.

At Christmas or St. Patrick's Day, He is.  On the fourth of July or Halloween, He is.  He is.  He binds up the broken hearted.  He sets the captive free.  He heals the blind.  And there's something in the present tense of "He Is" that breaks my heart wide open. 

God with us.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Minor Updates

A few updates of minor importance...

1.  Favorite finished the Pinterest project in the pantry, and it looks great.  I'll try to get pictures up soon.

2.  I have developed some sort of stomach flu.  Guess when it happened?  If you guessed the moment I stepped out of my classroom, you would be correct.  Lovely.

3.  I'm trying to wrap a present or two in between sitting down.  But both brothers, Sheena and NutMeg will be home by tomorrow...and that's worth smiling about :)

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge 12/21

1. Are you cooking Christmas dinner? How many will be round your table this year? What are we having?
I do not typically cook Christmas dinner; Mom and Gloria usually take that job.  Occasionally, I contribute, but Christmas dinner is much lower-key at our house than Thanksgiving.  We may have sandwiches or something, but I haven't heard the menu this year.

2. What is one must-have Christmas cookie in your house?
Shortbread.  Always.  It's an easy cookie to make, and it's something I do fairly well.

3. Santa likes a glass of milk with his cookies. Do you? What kind of milk is on tap at your house-skim? almond? soy? full fat (Gasp!)
It's full fat, vitamin D milk at our house, but we aren't really milk-drinkers.  I keep the full fat version around because it's lower in carbs and better for women with PCOS.

4. Time magazine recently named their 'Person of the Year' for 2011. This is the person the editors believe had the greatest impact, for better or worse, in the past year. This year they chose 'The Protester'. Your thoughts? Who would you name Person of the Year for 2011?

Oh, I don't know.  According to their list, I guess The Princess, but those people don't really impact my community or my family.  Around here, I think The Soldier would be high on the list--there are several coming home, and one in particular whose parents can't wait to see him.  (Happy to have you home, Sawyer!)  In my life, I guess anyone would be labeled an Encourager or a Prayer.  The list is longer and more distinguished this year than in years past.

5. December 21st is National Flashlight Day... when was the last time you needed a flashlight and did you know right where to find one? 
I needed one when I put my sideboard together last week.  Luckily, I have one on my phone :)

6. candy canes...yum or yuck?
Love 'em in their own right.  Don't care for them chopped over my chocolate.

7. What Christmas carol lyric means the most to you? 
I've always been partial to "Oh come let us adore Him."  It's haunting to me...and six short words fill me completely.  Odd how that happens, eh?

8. Insert your own random thought here.
One last gift to buy.  Grades are entered.  I got an A in my grad class.  Sleep in heavenly peace, indeed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weight Loss Wagers with Favorite

In "what's-going-on-around-my-house" news, Favorite and I are competing against each other in a weight loss wager.  We are both fairly competitive people, and I thought that might give me the push I need to make a concentrated effort to focus on cardio every day.  Don't get me wrong:  I hate being fat.  But I hate the idea of losing a competition more than I hate my size *yeahlikeI'mevergoingtopostthat* jeans.

And that was my first mistake. 

You see, competitive or not, you shouldn't ever wager with your husband...or any man for that matter.  Especially when it comes to weight loss competitions.  Because boys?  Will visit the little boys' room and lose 15 lbs.  Women add a spray of perfume and gain seven.

So what did I do when I learned that Favorite dropped 8 lbs in four days?  (Yep.  Eight.  It would take me three months to lose eight pounds.  Plus, you should see what he's eaten in those four days.)  I stopped competing.  I'm still going to have to pay up, but for two or three days, I just thought it didn't matter. And I acted like it.

That was my second mistake.

After 31 years on this planet, I finally starting to get that it's never going to be about "eating right" or exercising a certain number of minutes a week.  Not for me.  Instead, it's about doing something.  About living.  About enjoying.  And it's not about dread or resignation.

See, I don't really enjoy food.  For the last seven or eight years, it's become the solace that isn't really comforting.  I felt I deserved to eat a doughnut because I wasn't as thin-pretty-capable-fill-in-your-own-issue-here.  I should be allowed to avoid the gym, because things didn't come easy to me.  I shouldn't have to count calories, because I wasn't able to get pregnant.  All of it boiled down to a sense of entitlement that said, "If I'm deprived here, then I shouldn't have to complete x."  But I wouldn't call anything of that particularly fulfilling.  Replacement never is.

But then I read about these people who love to eat and cook and still manage to lose weight.  And I think, "I'm doing something wrong here."  Truthfully, I should've said, "I'm thinking something wrong here."  Perhaps that's the bottom line issue for a lot of people.  I want...  I deserve...  I should have...

None of those thoughts make us better people.  I've perfected that thinking process, and it sure hasn't made me a thinner human being.  (I'm not more magnanimous, either, in case you were wondering.)  But a resolution to enjoy, to do, to be a part of...  I wonder how that would change me...

Favorite and I weigh at the end of the week, and we'll fulfill our wagers at that time.  Then, we'll start over.  For my do-over, I'm resolving to enjoy my break and live.  It's probably going to require me to get off my rear end and do something.  (That might be the definition of living.)  But there are people to enjoy, and events to attend and things to do.  The funny thing is, for the first time in a long time, I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Midweek Confessions: Volume 1

Click on the button to join E in Midweek Confessions (she's seriously one of my favorite bloggers!).

*  I still have 60% of my Christmas shopping to do.  I haven't wrapped anything, and I am just now starting to care.  I guess I had to get my paper and most of my grading out of the way before it mattered.  I also need help getting Favorite's gift, so I'm going to have to get on that.

*  I don't put up a Christmas tree, and nothing you say will make me sorry.  Christmas happens at our house whether it's decorated or not.

*  I just bought a nice sideboard to go in my kitchen/dining room area, and I'm really pumped about it.  I'm actually embarrassed to share how excited I am to spend some of my break decorating my house or getting it more put together.  I may actually put pictures on the walls.  (In frames!  With mats!  In a prescribed layout!)  I also have a little Pinterest project for my husband to complete.  I know we've been in this house for a year, but it takes me a while to get to stuff.  Does anyone else get ridiculously pumped about organization?

*  I got a pregnancy announcement this week and I didn't cry.  I was so proud of myself.  I didn't even feel jealous (not lying).  And that made me feel relieved.

*  My brothers and their significant others will be home in just over a week, and I'm far more excited about that than any Christmas present I could open.  Christmas just seems so homey to me.

*  My husband and I are in a weight loss competition.  So far, he's lost 8 lbs since Sunday.  I've lost three that I gain back and lose and gain back and lose.  Sometimes, being a girl sucks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sharing the Disjointed: Blogging about Life

When I'm not whining about grad school, grading papers or doing laundry, I'm usually sitting on my couch staring at a computer screen trying to figure out how to share my life with people I don't know.  (You know you're jealous).  I usually laugh over how disjointed my life probably seems--from telling students I can't keep clothes on to sharing our recent church displacement.

But disjointed is what life is.  We move from cleaning toilets to hosting Christmas without a second breath because that's what the day entails.  Why should my blog be any different?

This year was a tough year for a lot of people I know.  It was full of tough diagnoses, emotional trauma, budgeting and the highs and lows any relationship brings to the table.  So was last year.  And the year before.  And while I find myself praying that 2012 will be different, I keep wondering what different would look like.  What part of life would I be willing to erase for the sake of different?

More than once over the last three years, I felt that God was impressing, on me, the importance of authentic living.  Last night (and all day today), I kept hearing the words of Matthew 5:14-16:

Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven (The Message).
But the more I think about that verse, the more I remember the way I used to interpret it.  Shining my light meant I would wear the right clothes, say the right things, go to church Sunday morning and evening and on Wednesdays, spout Bible verses at people who were hurting and pretend the words "Jesus loves me" solved every problem.  (Hint:  They don't.)  I thought hiding the unsavory parts of life would show other people what it was supposed to look like.

I was a church person.  And what you just read was what I got out of Christianity.  Clothing.  Words.  Holier-than-thou.  Pretense.

Pretense is my natural inclination...even here.  I've been concerned that I'm sharing too much of my life with people I don't know.  Occasionally, I write something and wonder how I would feel if a student read it.  Frequently, I wonder what people think of me after they read a post.

Then, I think of the people who have poured into my life.  They stood on a stage and let me see all parts of them--from ugly to glory--and I'm the better for it.  Maybe that's what I'm hoping to do here.  I cringe when I think about the people who have read about our loss, but how can I possibly talk about what Jesus has become to me if I can't show you, tell you, where I've been?

A year ago, I thought I might take this entire blog down.  (There's an entire month missing in 2010 because of the delete button.)  I knew the content was going to be sad for quite a while afterward, and I just didn't see that sharing those things with the world was going to be beneficial.  I didn't want pity, and I didn't want to write.  Lying wasn't an option, and, other than rage and hurt, there wasn't much to share.

Then, there was this post.  It came as the result of a conversation with a friend who wondered why my writing was so much different than I was.

I guess that's when I got it.  Life is a gift--with all of its crazy, disjointed happenings.  Those happenings are shared and savored--by people who know and those we don't.  And while common experience ties us together as people, the uncommon experiences are the things that help us sharpen one another and learn to walk the unfamiliar path.

If my honesty draws one person closer to God, then a little bit of uncomfortable is worth it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Picture Dump

My paper is finished.  I only made it to page 19, but I can honestly say I did the best I could.  At the end of the day, what else could be expected?

Don't answer that.  I know what could be expected.  I've heard some of those expectations from the craziest of places (you're human, too, bud...and all of us fall short of the glory of God)...but I digress.  I've emailed said paper and am relieved it's over. 

I sat on the couch to look through my camera and realized I haven't unloaded pictures since September. Sad, no? Wanna see what you've missed?

Ronnie and Sheena got married, and Kate and I hammed it up for the camera.
My friends, Morgan and Jason, had a baby.  Good thing I got this picture up before Max turned 30. 
And for the record, he was the prettiest newborn I have ever seen.
Ronnie and Sheena at their bridal shower.

Casey, cooking in my kitchen for Sheena's bachelorette party.

I have tons of Homecoming pictures, too, but I don't think I'll post them in a public forum.  I'm just amazed at how much has happened in the last few months.  How did I already forget half of this stuff?

(PS.  Just got an email from my Prof.  He received my paper..  No turning back now.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

On Your First Birthday

I'm seventeen pages finished with a paper I can't expand anymore, because I keep thinking of you.  Tomorrow is your birthday.  Today is the first time I've recognized that fact without crying.  OK, I take that back.  I'm crying now.  But not for the same reasons I've cried in the last year.  I'm crying because I'm just a little bit proud of myself.

I'm proud of myself because I never thought I'd get here.  A couple of months ago, a place like this didn't exist for me.  Without meaning to, I would relive moments I didn't want to forget and find myself in the same angry, hurt place I had been since our unplanned goodbye.  Even though I haven't heard it for a year and a half, I never have had any problems hearing your heart beat in my mind, and I certainly don't struggle to remember the statistic that said you had less than a 5% chance of dying once we heard that sweet swish-swish that indicated we had experienced a miracle.

I still remember those things, but they don't sting the way they did.  You were.  I know that, and that is, perhaps, the most important part of this story.  Ultimately, I'd like to think that your short existence has made me a better person--more compassionate, more appreciative, more aware.  Those things weren't true every day of the last year and a half.  Baby steps.  Surely that's something you understand.

Somehow, I'm less uptight than I used to be.  You'd think the opposite would be true, but the experience of you and everything afterward has been a tangible reminder that some things are simply beyond our control.  I've never been able to admit it, but you were beyond my control.  I wanted to take responsibility for what happened, but I can't punish myself forever for something that was never in my hands.

Tomorrow, and for every day I live after that, I will remember every single part of our experience together.  I won't forget you--not just because I can't, but also because I don't want to.  Even though I'm moving to a different place, I will carry you with me.  How could I not?  You are a blessing.  Likely, the only one of your kind in my life. 

In the last two months, your father and I have talked about you every week.  We don't know where we will be on your second birthday, and we're finally OK with that fact.  Sometimes it's best to forget anticipation and enjoy the blessing of the moment.  Tomorrow, that's exactly what we'll do.  You didn't get your first birthday, but we do.  And I want you to know I won't waste it.

I'll love you forever; I'll like you for always.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Last of the Infamous Grad School Paper: Updated

I thought the next time I posted, I would be completely relaxed and happy to report that I had officially finished my paper.  Unfortunately, that's not the case, but I was afraid if I waited until then, I would start getting phone calls from my out-of-town family wondering if I had met some unfortunate demise.

But I have met an unfortunate demise.  At the risk of complaining about this paper every single step of the way, I should inform you I'm ten pages in...but that's all I have.  (I am now fourteen pages in.  Who knew I would be able to get so much more out of the point of view manipulation present in Night?)

I need ten more pages.  I'm praying they will come fairly easily.  I'm planning on pounding out five more tonight and then maybe five tomorrow.  If there's ten pages worth of material left on this stupid subject.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Long December: Another Post on the Month That Will Not End

I wasn't going to post tonight, but then I was all "What if my faithful readers really want to hear about trauma narrative and how it's grossly under appreciated in the high school classroom and that severely affects our interpretations of pieces like Elie Wiesel's Night and causes our students to think they understand events like the Holocaust when they actually only understand a gross misrepresentation of an event that can't be articulated?"

When I had that thought I just knew I needed to come and talk with you. 

I really appreciated your kind comments on my last post.  (Though, it would be nice if a few of you would attach email addresses to your accounts.  Normally, I would email you back if you comment on a post.)  The holidays are tough around here.  I told Favorite I feel selfish admitting that, because there are worse traumas taking place and I need to keep that in mind.  What he said reminded me of something I quoted in an earlier post:  "Your cancer doesn't fix my broken back."  I guess I forget that grieving is a process that everyone goes through, and it takes a different form for everyone.

There are just a lot of days when I wish this process was over.  Or, even better, nonexistent.  Thousands of women have walked in my shoes, but I find myself frustrated because my standard dictates that I'm not supposed to be here almost two years later.  I'm supposed to be moving on, in a different place, working through, insert your own "working-it-out" phrase here.  Instead, I do stupid things like look at birthday cakes made to mimic the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar and sing "Long December" and laugh at the part "maybe this year will be better than the last."

The narrative in my head sometimes convinces me that part of the healing process is knowing that the one stint wasn't it for us.  The logical side of my brain (which doesn't function often) says there is no reason to court hope when every sign points to the fact that my body is irreparably broken--there's a "feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls."  And then there's just me--no logic, no narrative--that doesn't want optimism or pessimism.  I just want to accept what is and move it to the back of the closet.

I've come to admire the women in my life who do a lot of side-along support.  They're sneaky in their encouragement--popping up when you least expect them and turning the subject to something worthy of a belly laugh.  It's weird, but I don't hear "Let's have dinner" when they talk.  I hear "I haven't forgotten you."  While I'm in the process of shoving all of this junk to the back of the closet and praying for invisibility, there's something in me that just needs to be seen.  Not praised.  Not justified.  Not even comforted.  Just not cast away. 

Last Sunday, Pastor Josh talked about peace.  He pointed out that, as Christians, we are called to be a people of peace, but that can't happen if we can't find peace with God.  I've started to think that may be the theme of this holiday for me.  I'm not talking about finding peace with what has happened.  Instead, maybe I need to seek peace for what will never be.  But I'm trying to savor the lesson and trying "to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass."

Thanks for giving me an outlet to work through them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Silent December

It's December.  I used to look forward to December with great anticipation.  All good things happened in December when I was a kid.  Snow.  No school.  Christmas.  Family.  Presents.  And, honestly, the world just seemed a little bit cozier in December.  (I really feel the same way about football season in my small town.)

But now I dread it.  I dread the first day because it leads into a second, and the pattern continues.  I dread it because of what didn't happen and what can't be fixed.  There's still snow and family and no school and presents, and I still love those things.  But there's something else that lurks behind all of those things that makes it just a little less sparkly than it was in the past.

There's more hope this month than in any other month in the calendar.  And I will simultaneously thank God for that hope and curse it under my breath, because unfulfilled hope has a way of stinging like a slap to the face.

This month, in the back of my mind, I silently celebrate the birthday that won't come and will go unremembered.  I light imaginary candles for nonexistent people and pray for this month to go as fast as possible and be as silent as possible because I can't really muster enough joy to share it with the world.

But I could do with a few silent nights.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Good News: Grad School

Because we could all use a little good news from time to time, right?

I have another week to work on my paper.

Ok.  That that probably wasn't good news for you, but it was awesome for me.  I'm still going to work on a schedule to try to get everything written without going into a panic.  Currently, I'm one section down and four pages in.  By the end of Thursday, I'd like to be two sections down and 8 or 9 pages in.  My friend, Morgan, says I just need to sit down and write.  She's probably right, because the four pages I wrote yesterday came in about an hour.  I just analyze and analyze and then freak out that what I'm saying isn't good enough.  That requires an extra three hours or so in the writing process ;)

If you want to contribute, my paper is focusing on a narratological approach to Elie Wiesel's Night in secondary classrooms.  I'd really like to discuss narratology as this is my first experience with that particular aspect of theory.

(And hopefully my last.  I'll be glad to have the theory requirement out of the way.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Rut

Normally, I post Two on Tuesday, but I'm currently knee deep in the paper I keep referencing.  I'm knee deep because I've only written four pages so far.  (I'd determined to write five this evening, but I hit a wall.)  On a happy note, I've read almost all of my literature and have outlined the other things I'd like to address in this paper.  If I can make bullet points from my research tomorrow, I may be well on my way to finished by the end of the week.



Please, Jesus.

The requirement for this paper is 25 pages, but I'm going to count myself blessed if I can pound out 20 of those pages.  I've set realistic goals for the rest of the days this week, so hopefully I won't get too overwhelmed.  I really just wish I would've known what I was doing earlier in the semester so I had a better start on this paper.

But while I'm swimming in narratology and critical analysis for high school students, I cannot possibly think about Christmas traditions.  Shoot.  I can't even think about Christmas presents.  All I can think about is writing this paper and finishing this class.  I don't even care about getting an "A"--which is unusual for my perfectionist self.  (Case and point:  I never received anything under an A in my English undergrad.  Yes, I am a nerd.)

Keep the prayers coming.  I need a little more inspiration.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Good Intentions: Prayer

About five or six years ago, I really felt like God was impressing the necessity of prayer in my heart.  More than Praise & Worship (which was I involved in at the time).  More than Women's Bible Study (which was quickly becoming a staple in my devotional life).  In response to that pressing necessity, I began reading books on prayer.  I questioned the way prayer worked or was meant to work.  I talked about prayer with other people.  I encouraged others to seek Christ during worship services.  I did everything.

Except actually pray.

Well, that's not entirely accurate.  I prayed, but I didn't seek God the way He was encouraging me to seek Him.

And I feel like this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, because I've established that while everyone else was paying attention in Sunday school, I was learning how to best flick a booger.  (Alright, that's not entirely true, either.  But gracious jeebus, you'd think that in one area of my life I'd get it together and learn something.  But nnnnoooooo.  I'm a train wreck--one of the it's-so-crazy-you-can't-look-away numbers.)

When I look back on that time period, I mostly want to kick dirt and look at the ground.  You don't make eye contact when you're ashamed of your actions.  See, I think that was a preparation time for me.  I think God was drawing me to Him so I would develop a habit--that in every situation, my natural inclination would lean toward prayer.

Currently, my natural inclination leans toward bread.  But that's another story.

Beyond the love of white flour was the fact that I, like many other people, like for people to like me.  It's been a weird season in a lot of ways, but it's definitely tied together with this theme:  "To inoculate me from the praise of man, He baptised me in the criticism of man, until I died to control of man" (Francis Frangipane).  That admission is simple and true.  I'm not the first.  I won't be the last.  Close the book.  End of discussion.

More than anything, this "baptismal" of sorts is a reminder for me of what the "Sovereign Lord" says:  "my house will be called/ a house of prayer for all nations" (Isaiah 56:7b). 

Truthfully, prayer is a unifying theme in much of the New Testament.  (That doesn't discount the Old Testament, but it's generally a "crying out" there.)  But that prayer is just as often meant to be for the others we encounter as for ourselves:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. "
                                                                             --Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

Clearly, this passage doesn't speak to our human sensibilities of murder and pillage.  But it does speak to a God consciousness that's meant to be a part of our lives:  a consciousness that pushes us to be more like Him and desire that for others, too. 

That consciousness comes through prayer.  Must be the reason Paul admonishes us to "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12).  And like Paul says to the church at Corinth, it's true that the church's constant prayer should be "that you may be fully restored" (2 Corinthians 13:9b).

Right now, I'm praying I get this lesson so five years from now my natural inclination leans toward prayer.  Rest assured, I would be a different person if I had dedicated myself to God's drawing the same number of years in the past.  I'm praying for a God consciousness--for myself and others. 

"Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”                                                --Isaiah 30:20-21 (NIV)

Friday, November 25, 2011


You all.

My mom hates to shop. HATES. IT. But about a week before black Friday, every conversation with her is the same: "We're going shopping on Friday, right? Right?! RIGHT?"

It's like declaring you hate running, and then a week before screaming "IT'S THE NEW YORK MARATHON. WOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Yep. Woo.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Forest Fires

I've really been trying to focus on what is pure, what is holy, what is just, what is right, etc.  But it seems like I can't stay out of the way of people who insist on sharing tidbits of information that aren't just inaccurate, they are no where close to the truth.

And then, all I can think of are blazing forest fires.

Anyone else have this issue?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two on Tuesday: Blog Grateful

2 on Tuesday

Join us for Two on Tuesday by clicking the button.  You really want to.

Why are you thankful for blogging?

I am a stuffer.  It's true, and I hate that it's true, but there's no use in denying stuff here.  When things get difficult, or when I don't understand something, I stuff it down.  Then, when I encounter something else, I stuff it on top of what I've already stuffed down.  I do this until there is absolutely no room left, and then I try to sit on the suitcase and zip it up anyway.

It's super healthy.

On top of being a stuffer, I don't really talk about personal things in person.  I know that's bizarre, and probably stupid to a good number of you.  But it's easier to find my voice at a keyboard and really process what's bugging me, or what I think.  

In the last few years, I've shared a good number of things with you.  I've talked about my former church, the epic fail that is my grad school experience, my son, and the things that run through my mind when I teach.  For the most part, blogging has given me room to have a conversation or close the conversation when I just can't talk.  It's given me the experience of support without the awkwardness of personal conversation.

Mostly, it's helped me find my voice.

A while back, I wrote that I don't write because I'm going to make millions of dollars for putting my words on paper.  If you want to read someone like that, go to Barnes and Noble (or look on my sidebar for people more impressive than I am).  I write because I don't know who I am if I don't.

And I'm pretty sure that's something for which to be grateful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Brief Update, Because I've Got Work To Do

Since so many teachers approach holocaust literature in the classroom, there has to be a way to address those memoirs with a certain amount of respect while still allowing the students to have the opportunity to see what is functioning behind them.

This is the working concept for my paper.  I'm really no further than I was yesterday, but I learned that at least one of the articles I found is going to be useful (YAY!) and one of the books I have (Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust) is proving to be invaluable.

So the rest of my night, now that I'm finished picking up and putting things away, will revolve around grading and reading those articles so I can hopefully start writing some time this week.

I'm excited about grading these papers, because it's a project I love giving the freshmen.  Since we read The Miracle Worker, a play about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, I think it's necessary for the students to experience what teachers experience.  Their job?  To teach someone something.  The papers are as diverse as the students in my classes, but I was more impressed that several of them indicated that this was not the best experience of their lives.  People don't listen.  They are hard to teach.

And sometimes, it's easier to do things yourself.

Anyone relate?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Desperate Plea

In two weeks, I will no longer have to attend my class.  In two weeks, I will be required to hand in a twenty-five page research paper supported with ten to fifteen resources.  In two weeks, I will hopefully stop hyperventilating and relax to enjoy the holidays.

But there are still two weeks.

They are going to be the longest and the shortest two weeks of my life.  Long because I have to write this paper, and short because I have to write this paper.  Anyone trackin'?

I know some of you may think this is silly, but I could use a few prayers over the next two weeks.  I have no idea how I'm going to write a worthwhile paper.  I have a topic, but the last five resources I've read have proven to be worthless to my topic.  So now, I'm scouring JSTOR for anything that will explain the concept of Narratology and attempting to determine how to teach high school students holocaust literature while making them aware of the fact that the very literature they read actually remembers and eliminates the event.  While I'm at it, I probably need to address the latent nature of trauma.

And while all of that sounds really high-minded, let me assure you:  I have no idea what I'm doing.  If this paper gets written, it will be by the grace of God alone.  So if you get some time, would you pray for me?  Or pray that God would send some resources and some good paper ideas my way?  I could certainly use some divine intervention.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Things I'm Loving: November 2011

My cousin, Jake, is in massage therapy school so I had him work on my shoulders this morning.  Verdict?  Even if I never work out again, I've got to get back to stretching.  That's the one thing I really appreciated about gymnastics and swimming--it was a way to stay limber.  Jake was impressive, though.  He stretched me and massaged until my head at least stopped hurting.  I'm grateful.

And if you were wondering, he's single and a catch.  Jake will be using massage therapy to pay his way through grad school.  AND, he plays the guitar and sings.  Oh, and he's good at all those things.  Plus, he's one of my favorite people--he's funny and loyal and, above all things, cute.  Sometime in the next month, I'll be promoting Jake's buddy, Blake, who is also a catch, but I thought it necessary to say something nice about Jake here.

But I'm mostly writing this post to tell you about a few things I'm currently loving.  I think it might be a nice turn from the serious nature of the last few posts (though, I have all of a sudden gained a fairly large following from my hometown area over those last few blogs), and I don't think it hurts to smile over things from time to time, either.

This is Fossil's Vintage Re-Issue Large Satchel.  I love it for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I'm a big fan of any bag that holds its structure without the owner filling it to the brim.  Secondly, this is a classy looking bag.  It would go well with jeans or dress pants, and would travel to a wedding or McDonald's.  Plus, I actually really like the color.  Reminds me of a comfy pair of jeans.

Not long ago, I told you guys that I was looking at a new winter coat.  This is what I bought, and I'm really pleased with it.  First of all, it's lined with thinsulate, so it's definitely going to be warm.  I also really love the color.  Maybe Stacey and Clinton are right--red is a neutral.

Now for something revolutionary.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Nook Tablet.  I never thought I would join the ranks of those who no longer hold actual books, but I'm starting to see a benefit. 

One major benefit is the fact that books for ereaders are cheaper than buying a regular book.  Since I'm in grad school, that's a HUGE benefit.  Plus, if I finish a book, and there's another in the series, I can buy it and start reading right away instead of waiting until I can find the next book in the series.  Also, since I read a lot (like, a lot.  I haven't updated that book tracker thingy in quite some time), I think this may be a more economical way of getting books.  Will it keep from from ever buying a book again?  I don't know.  I don't totally see that happening, but we'll see, I guess.  (Oh, and you should also know that this version of the Nook allows readers to borrow ebooks from their local libraries.  Pretty cool, right?)

And, last, but not least, these people:

That's me on the end.  The other two guys are my brothers.  In the last few weeks, I've just been reminded how much I appreciate my family.  Not just these two, but their significant others (SILSheena and Nutmeg), my parents, Gloria & Jason, Jake and Blake (because I'm pretty sure Blake may be part of the family now?).  I realize not everyone has been blessed with a supportive family, but I have and I don't take enough time to tell you how great they are.

This Thanksgiving, enjoy the people who surround you.  Love them.  Appreciate them.  And thank God He's given you others.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Resource: Devotionals

Since Sheena mentioned it earlier this week, I signed up to receive the devotionals from Girlfriends in God.  If you are interested, you can sign up by clicking here.  There are other types of devotionals available, too.

But those devotionals have been speaking to me.  About peace.  About letting go. 

God is impressing things on my life.  One of those things is that it's my responsibility to obey and do what I can.  More importantly, God is reminding me that we all have obligations to one another--even if we feel we've done nothing wrong.  There is responsibility in relationship.  Responding to an action through the same type of action doesn't breed peace, kindness or unity.

My time in grad school has been nothing if not useful.  It's reminded me that I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that I know what's right.  I know what's helpful.  But, more importantly, I know a Jesus who hasn't given up on me (or anyone else for that matter).  So my prayer to Him is for all circumstances.  And my hope is that my prayer is still possible.

Two on Tuesday: Pet Peeves

2 on Tuesday

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What are your pet peeves?

Lots of things irk me, because, according to Favorite, I let them.  But if we're going to get down to my two biggest pet peeves, I'm really going to have to think.

Number one is this:  When are you going to have kids?

I've fielded this question at least a million times since I've gotten married.  C'mon people.  You aren't being original.  I've been married almost nine years--so you can only imagine the number of times I've gotten to smile and say, "Oh, I don't know."  *Add in harmless chuckle and a subject change here*

For the most part, I realize people aren't meaning to be rude and intrusive when they ask, but no one seems to take notice of the fact that the question actually is rude and intrusive.  Reword it this way:  "When are you going to have sex and see results from that sex?" 

Also, our situation has attuned me to the fact that there are many couples who are trying to remain positive and kind when they approach that question; however, they can't field it six times in a row.  It's too much--particularly when they've faced a loss.  So if you feel the need to put this question to a newly married couple, think better of it and bite your tongue.  You may be saving that couple a few tears later in the day.

(If I could tell you all the crazy questions I've had to address because of well-meaning people, you would probably call me a liar.  Or take up drinking professionally.  I've been accosted and questioned like I belonged in Guantanamo.  Maybe the lesson we should learn here is that if people want to talk, they will.)

My other pet peeve is when people assume too much.  Makes me want to buy a shirt that says, "You don't know me"--and not in a referencing Aida way.  We can't always decipher intentions so sometimes it's best to ask a specific question or take a step back.  Either way, more communication is often the best outcome.  Though, I'll admit that isn't always the case.

(I also get annoyed when Favorite doesn't close cabinets or get his clothes in the laundry basket.  People who put gum anywhere other than their mouths or the garbage gross me out.  I hate the assumption that all fat people aren't trying.  It bothers me when teachers don't consider themselves part of the same team.  I need to stop.  There's a whole other list of things that annoy me and make me laugh at the same time.  Maybe we should address that list later?)

Monday, November 14, 2011

There are Options: Bend a Knee or Break Your Leg

In the movie Mean Girls (nothing like a Lindsey Lohan reference on a Monday, eh?), Lindsey Lohan's character, Caty, says she needs to suck all the poison out of her life.  Of course, this is toward the end of the movie and serves to wrap up the previous hour and a half with a feel good conclusion, but work with me here.

I'm aiming to suck the poison out.  It will probably sound contrived, but I mean this in all sincerity:  few people in any frustrating situation intend to create poison.  Most of them are good people who truly want reconciliation and react out of strong emotion.  If there are sides, then both of them have certainly reacted in that way.  Why?  Because they care.  Because this matters.  Because there are a handful of people who want to see reconciliation and resolution.  But those things come at a cost.

That cost?  That we bend a knee.  It's something God has impressed on me over and over, and there have been more than a few instances in which I have refused openly.  He's been kind to me in those refusals--ever the gentleman.  But the reminder was that there would come a time when I could bend my knee or He could break my leg.  Either way, I was going down.

That particular lesson was also apparent in the godly example of Warry and Tindy (names changed to protect people from notoriety on my blog, because my 5 readers may see it).  Their example was a reminder to me that everyone bears a certain amount of fault and this would be a different situation if every person would own their part, bend a knee and offer an apology for the sake of reconciliation.  We all have something to own.  We all need support and encouragement.  And often, support is there amid the disagreements and struggles--and it's present when we aren't.  Few people bring those things to light simply to wield the "I'm-better-than-you" hammer.  They struggle to understand, share and move to a place where those fears, problems and issues can be addressed.

I have not made, nor do I intend to make, inflammatory remarks about anyone or anything.  My concerns have not been an open forum for others to read and then offer remarks.  I will say something I read on another blog, though:  "Your cancer doesn't fix my broken back."  And that's true.  If you take issue with me, the fact that I maintain imperfection won't fix the issues I feel are present other places.  The only thing I can do is submit myself to the Lord (per James chapter 4), offer my apologies for any issue I may have created and move on--which is what I've tried to do.  Favorite and I made the best decision we could for our family.  I don't know what else could be expected.

Note:  Comments are off for this post.  You are welcome to email me if you wish to discuss something; however, I will not comment to inflammatory opinions or remarks.  If you take issue with me, I apologize sincerely.  It was not my intention to create issues.

Friday, November 11, 2011

To Run

If there's any suggestion I can give the current generation that I feel would be really beneficial later in life, it would be this:  learn to like running now.

Running makes a top ten list in my life.  In fact, it's number one on my "Things that Make Me Want to Vomit" list.  It shouldn't shock you that my former PE teacher (who is now a coworker of mine) still laughs over my aversion to pounding the, track.

No one could argue with my reasoning that running would probably be a surefire weight loss technique.  I'm pretty sure it's impossible to shove a piece of toast in your mouth if you're busy trying to keep your thighs from setting fires because they're rubbing together so quickly.

There's another reason.  Look at this:
Look at her.  She looks so...focused?  Free?  I don't know what word would be more fitting because "not frustrated" and "not stressed" aren't great terms here.

I've been thinking about running a lot over the last few months.

First, there was the fact that Lil Bro moved.  Then, Big Bro got married and moved and took Sheena with him.  (I mean, I guess you have to live together when you're husband and wife...but whatever.)

Then there were realizations, actions and decisions.

And now, there's me wishing I liked to run, because I'm completely jealous of that girl in the picture.

I almost wrote, "Change blows."  But not all change does.  If I lost 40 lbs over night, I probably wouldn't believe that change was a slight of fate (if I believed in fate).  It only really blows when it isn't on the list of things I specifically requested.

When Robert Frost penned "The Road Not Taken," I wonder if he considered the possibility that one road was blocked.  Barred.  Impassable.  The road less traveled may never have been the first choice in walking paths.  It changes the tenor of the poem to learn that road may have been shoddy seconds when the walker had to turn back after learning that the first road ended.

These last four weeks have been proof to me that roads end.  So I've smiled, gritted my teeth, discussed it with the people I'm closest to, pretended it didn't exist with everyone else and believed that God has a plan.  It's not an invitation to pity me, but rather an admission that it's often easier to write covertly about difficult things than to talk.  I can type through gritted teeth, you know.  But the same act makes conversation a little difficult.

So through gritted teeth, I've prayed to be a runner.  I need the grace to pace my breathing, move my legs and forget about the places I can't run.

I need an open road.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Tip of the Conversation

Favorite and I have friends who are raising four children--three little girls and a little boy.  They are great parents.  They expect their children to behave, hand out consequences when instructions aren't followed, but they don't shy away from life's realities.  This was abundantly obvious the day I witnessed the two older girls get into a calculated tripping match.

After my friend stopped the altercation, both girls, with no sense of remorse, said together, "Sorry."  My friend looked at both of them and said, "What do I say about sorry?"  Two little girls wouldn't even make eye contact as they answered in matching, sing-song voices, "Sometimes sorry isn't good enough."

Surely there's something worthwhile in the sense of mea culpa that comes with "I'm sorry," but, unfortunately, those words don't produce an eraser that "undoes" everything that has been done.  Frankly, I'm not even sure how we got to a place that allowed "I'm sorry" to be a catch-all that fixes everything.

"I'm sorry" was never meant to be the entire conversation--especially when the real apology likely wasn't going to come through conversation anyway.  "I'm sorry" was meant to be a jumping off point...a place to begin...a recognition of the work that was going to have to take place to make "I'm sorry" worthwhile.

I'm learning that.  (Sure, I'm 31 and I should've gotten this lesson back when I was 5, but I've established I'm the slow kid in class.  Don't judge me.)  It's one of those necessary lessons--you know, the one everyone tries to skip but ultimately cycles through again and again until, finally, something clicks.

"I'm sorry" is the beginning of a new normal--one that doesn't continue to spout meaningless nonsense to people who really need a little bit of change.  And I can't imagine who wouldn't be willing to live that normal.

Two on Tuesday: Early Christmas Thoughts

2 on Tuesday
Click on the link above to join us :)  This is my first time participating, and it could be yours, too.
 What’s your Christmas wish list? What do you hope to receive from Santa?
Christmas wish lists are hard.  I don't have a lot of wants, and when I really, really want something, I usually buy it.  My family loves to give gifts, but they prefer to get you something you actually want, so I make an effort to give them something...which usually ends up in a list of books.

Right now, I have a few books on my list:
My (not so) Storybook Life by Liz Owen (I don't want the kindle version as I don't have a kindle.  This was just the picture I found.)
Following Atticus by Tom Ryan (What is it with the kindle?  Gah.  I want real books, people.  REAL BOOKS.)

I've had my eye on a couple of Coach's finest.  (And, oh yes, I am picky.)  The Lion King just came out on DVD and Sheena made a good point with that Clarisonic facial brush.

But I'm also content with gift cards to my favorite haunts:  Sephora, Target, Macy's and Kohl's.

So what do you hope will be wrapped under your tree this year?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ante Up

One of my students owes me $4.50.  He owes me this money because he is an incessant gambler and feels the need to bet on the length of his classmates' speeches.

Typically, he's wrong.  Way wrong.  I even give him a ten second leeway on either side of the time and allow him the opportunity to look at the outlines and the notecards to determine length, and he still hasn't managed to guess successfully.

Bless his heart.  Some of you are probably thinking I'm not going to take the money.

You would be wrong.  Because I'm vindictive.  And I like to win.  And I think some lessons are hard learned.  Like don't gamble with your teacher.  Or your future as a bookie is crumbling before your eyes. 

Either way, I think I'm cultivating a successful learning environment.

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Ode to Freud

In my classroom, when students ask a question that no one else can answer, and I can, I'll follow my answer with some statement like this:  "Man.  I am awesome.  You guys are so lucky to have me."  The students and I then chuckle and move on with our day.

This same incident happened yesterday, and I made the same comment:  "Man, I am so awesome.  You guys are lucky to have me." Then, in an effort to out-do myself, I added, "I'm so awesome I can barely keep clothes on."

I'm going to let that marinate for a second.



Gracious Jeebus.  How am I even allowed around adolescents?

I looked down at my desk and prayed that no student caught what I had just said...but some prayers go unanswered.

"That was a bit of a Freudian slip, wasn't it, Mrs. House?"

I bit my lip and muttered, "Uh huh."  (But honestly, two points to a sophomore who knows the concept of Freudian slip.  He's no slacker.)

So what had I meant to say?  That I was so awesome I could barely contain it.  I have no idea how clothes came out of my mouth.

But don't you feel blessed to know I'm an educator?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sublime--with Blogger

If you plan to write a compelling blog, you should live a compelling life.  Though, I'd venture to say that people living compelling lives probably don't have time to sit down and blog about it.

Clearly, I don't have a compelling life, because I do have a blog.  A sad, little, floundering blog that rarely gets comments from people even though they look at a myriad of posts on a regular basis.  But, I'm counting it something that people even look. 

It's something because I don't have a better term to identify it when I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a strange thing.  (Or both?  Could it be both?) 

On one hand, it's pretty flattering to think that someone, somewhere reads what I have to say.  (Granted, that person may read the first line and then skip to a more interesting, say, Young House Love.)  But it's humbling, too.  And a little scary.  I'm not ashamed of the things I've said, but this--these words--they're me.  And since they're mine, I obsess constantly to hear some feedback occasionally like knowing how others respond.

I can't promise that things will get all lighthearted and fuzzy around here soon.  My mom and brother are fond of saying that they need stability in one area of life (church, work, home) in order to find peace...unfortunately, this isn't a time of stability.  But promise me that you'll keep reading?  That you'll give a little feedback every now and again?  That you'll straight up lie to my face so we can be friends (like ganstas and hoes)?  Kidding on that last one.  Unless I post pictures and you feel the need to comment on my hips.  Be kind, people.  Be kind.

Especially when you figure out that the upside of my day may be this space on the interwebs.  My apologies to Sublime, but bloggin'--it's what I got.  Remember that.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Local Church

The local church raised me.  My parents are great people, and they were active and present in my life.  But they made a decision when I was young:  they would raise their children in church.  Part of that committment meant putting me and my two brothers in the capable hands of other congregants and knowing that those people were just as committed to directing us down the path of righteousness as my parents were.

Those people introduced me to the concept of salvation.  Children's Bible Quizzing gave me a venue to learn more about scripture.  At the time they may have been simple trivia questions, but down the road they were words I couldn't turn to the right or left without hearing.  More recently, Women's Bible Study and the high school Sunday school class changed the way I related to others through the Word.  And Tobie?  Tobie reminded me that it's possible to overflow and be loved unconditionally whether you deserve it or not.

The local church has been far from perfect.  There are disagreements and struggles.  Often, I have cultivated a bad attitude or opinion about something when I should've been minding my business.  I would get aggravated when opinions differed with my own.  But down deep, my desire wasn't really to make problems.  I wanted to know Christ more.  I wanted to know Him as best I could.  I needed to put Him in context with the ministry I was in or the situation I was facing.  But underneath it all, I loved my church for giving me a place to do those things.

So leaving my church was the hardest thing I have ever done.  Favorite and I felt it was the best decision we could've made at the time.  I was sad to learn that the relationships I valued didn't necessarily translate outside the doors of our local church. 

 My desires for the local church are still the same.  I hope people come to know Christ and serve Him deeply.  I hope attendees serve one another with genuine concern and hearts that are set on Christ alone.  I hope that my absence in the congregation means fewer roadblocks to truly loving one another.

But you should know I miss you.  I want my heart to break with the things that also break God's heart.  Right now, the fact that you're facing anything at all breaks my heart.  The fact that there are difficult decisions to make in the near future hurts.  The fact that other congregants may not make it out of this mess still a part of your congregation makes me cry.  Because whether you believe it or not, I didn't make my decision based on me.  I made it because my other members of my family may not have made it out with a relationship with Christ still in tact.  And I don't want to see that happen to anyone else, either.

I hope you do rebuild.  I hope you find your footing beside a Jesus who wholeheartedly believes in redemption and forgiveness.  I found it in Him.  I hope that you struggle with Him, but I hope He comes out on top.

Gone or not, my heart still breaks for you.

You were my church. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More On Grad School

Feel free to skip this whole post if you don't want to read anything about grad school.

The whole process of grad school has really taught me something:

Being the only person in the room with something to learn sucks.

I'm not being metaphysical here.  Sure, we all have something to learn, but I'm talking about higher education--particularly classes that expect attendees to have a strong knowledge of a particular literary canon before beginning.  Unfortunately, my knowledge isn't exactly strong. 

Take Kafka's The Trial for example.  I read The Trial in my U of I days--circa 2000.  Since that's been eleven years ago, I think I deserve points for even remembering Kafka is the author.  But I can't tell you a blessed thing about the book this many years after the fact.

Therefore, I'm already behind in a game that expects precursory knowledge.  Not only do I have to read all the required literature for the class, in some instances, I actually have to reacquaint myself with things long since past in my memory.  And that doesn't even take into account the pieces I've never encountered.

There's another side to this coin, though.  My coworkers are encouraging just to switch to Curriculum and Instruction as opposed to English.  I always swore I would never go back to C & I because of the inane garbage I was fed during my undergrad.  But it goes so much further than that.  And it may be pride related.  I keep wondering:  how can I teach a subject I can't survive in graduate school?

I don't really care if I can ever add master's degree to my credentials.  I don't care if I move over on the pay scale.  Don't get me wrong.  Those things would be nice, but I'm not completely sold on any of them.  The thing is, if I do get a master's, I really wanted it to be in English.  Really.  Really.  And I can't explain that at all.

Suffice it to say I'm drowning and I have no knowledge that will pull me out of this particular rip tide.  Oh, and my presentation tonight?  Well, it wasn't good.  But sadly, it was the best I could do. 

I find that slightly depressing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hey, At Least It's a Post

Since English II is watching Hotel Rwanda, I spent several hours grading papers today.  And grading papers.  And grading papers.  And grading more papers.  I have a few stacks to go, but there's no shame in taking a break this evening when I spent so much time working earlier today?

You answer, and I'll pretend your answer counts.

Until then, it's 6pm and I'm contemplating laying in bed and reading until it's time to go to sleep.  And before you mention it, yes, I realize my life took a wrong turn somewhere. 

I came home and ate comfort food (even though I know better) for no better reason than I felt like it.  I probably should've screamed I do what I want while I was in the process of eating, but that would only give the dog and ulcer and he's about to go stark raving mad over the deer who insist on walking through my back yard.  Which reminds me:  it's the little things, isn't it?

It's getting cold outside.  I ordered a new winter coat.  I spent a long time debating whether or not I was going to buy the black coat.  Black is classy.  It's slimming.  It goes with almost everything so there's no worry about a fashion faux pas. (Unless you wear brown.  I don't.)

But then I realized I needed a little more red in my life.  I need a little bright and cheerful.  I need a little less black.  Forget matching everything.  How about a little spice?  So I did it.  I ordered a red coat.  And now I await its arrival.  Because life is a waiting game, ladies and gentlemen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Budgeting with Dave Ramsey

Favorite and I are decent with money.  We plan well enough to pay our bills, including an overage on our mortgage, and put a fairly substantial amount in a savings account.  But we lack when it comes to what's left over.  We don't worry about how much we spend at the grocery store or how many times a week we go.  We eat out a lot.  A.  Lot.  We spent money on our favorite recreational activities without giving them a second thought and don't really stick to any sort of budget.  We also have a credit card, but have committed to paying it off every single month no matter what (which sometimes means dipping into that savings we should be using for other things).

Short story?  We're spoiled.  And we know it.

When we first got married, we had no money and bills that were difficult to pay on Chris' salary alone so I became a budgeting guru.

Fast forward five years and I'm realizing I really need to invest more time in considering my budget for a couple of reasons:
  1. Budgeting allows us to save a substantial amount of money comfortably.  We don't have to dip into savings and we can accrue an emergency fund (hopefully a hefty one).
  2. Budgeting will give us greater freedom to consider housing upgrades (hello patio!  And deck!  And hot tub!  You get the point!).
  3. Budgeting will allow us to add a third car so Favorite can quit trying to drive his gas guzzling farm truck back and forth to work.
  4. Budgeting will allow us to honestly consider the worth of purchases so we can hopefully pay cash for larget purchases in the future.
  5. Budgeting will allow us to give more freely to others.
I've considered Dave Ramsey's approach to budgeting for a while due to a weekly article I read (written by a local guy whose simple writing has really helped me to understand the concept of money).  But after reading this post from The Lumberjack's Wife, I committed to giving it a shot.  And before you ask, yes it is extremely shallow to start budgeting just to buy a new wallet.

But if you're interested in that sort of thing:

This is my cash envelope wallet from Melissa at A Time for Everything.  (A couple words on Melissa:  she was amazing.  UH-MAZE-ING.  She emailed me no less than three times to answer questions and even credited my account because I didn't read thoroughly and she didn't think it was fair to overcharge me.  I haven't gotten the wallet yet, but it shipped in record time--I should see it Tuesday--and she committed herself to customer service the whole way.)

Here's what I love about Ramsey's cash envelope system:  you create a zero-based budget (every dollar is allocated to something specific).  After creating your budget, you determine which categories are going to be cash categories.  For us, housing costs, utilities, savings and my school loan are paid online by using a debit card.  Also, medical bills are paid by check or debit card and I pay my car payment by check every month.  Those categories don't require me to keep cash on hand.

The categories we're focusing on regarding cash are these:
  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Clothing
  • Personal
  • Recreation
Every time Favorite gets paid, we get a certain percentage of that money in cash for these categories.  When the money in that category is gone, we're done.  For example, if we've allotted $150 for groceries for that pay period, once we spent $150, we don't grocery shop anymore.  My hope is that it will keep us from spending unecessary amounts of money.  (I work our budget on Favorite's pay schedule because he gets paid on the 15th and the 30th.  It get paid every two weeks so it's easier to work on his schedule than mine as his is more predictable.)

Of course, this new budget is also encouraging me to consider other money saving ideas. 

  • Make a list.  I'm notorious for going the grocery store without a list.  That's going to stop, because I end up spending money on things I don't need.  Here's the deal:  I can't buy the cheapest item when it comes to certain things.  Favorite breaks out when we change detergent or soap so I don't play around with trying new ones.  We get what we get.  Therefore, it's necessary for me to consider how to save money on those items and in other areas.  A list is the best way to make that happen.

  • Coupons.  I have no intention of becoming an extreme couponer.  I don't have that kind of time.  But it wouldn't hurt me at all to save the money I can by cutting the coupons available to me.

  • Vinegar.  People probably wonder how I'm saving money with vinegar, but I have an amazing answer for you.  I no longer buy clorox wipes, rinse agents for the dishwasher, kitchen cleaners, etc.  In fact, that only cleaning products I purchase outside of vinegar are Windex (so great for cleaning hardwood floors) and bathroom cleaners (I haven't found an alternative to those yet).  Vinegar is a multipurpose product that costs under a dollor for a gallon; it's cost effective.  It is safer than bleach and does a better job of cleaning (particularly when it comes to mold--not even kidding...look it up).  It's completely non-toxic for anyone who is concerned about kids--no ventilation necessary.  It gets rid of weird smells, and when it dries leaves no after-odor.  It will leave your dishes spotless, up the ante on bleach in the washer by helping whiten clothes, and will even serve as a fabric softener.  When you calculate all the money I'm saving by avoiding the products I was buying previously, you might be willing to give vinegar a shot for a month.  (I mix it with baking soda to disinfect sinks, etc.)
I'll try to revisit this topic once a month or once every other month to let you know how it's going.  I truly believe the reason most people don't budget is because the process isn't simple enough.  My question is how much simpler does it get than alloting certain amounts of cash and spending until it's gone?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Bit of a Restart

I don't know how I moved from posting something every day to posting something once every two weeks or so.  I guess time has gotten away from me, but, oddly enough, I've felt every second tick by.  These last few weeks have been full weeks--not in a hectic-I'm-complaining-because-I-don't-have-enough-time way.  I've just had a few events a more considerations on my plate.

  • First of all, my brother married Sheena...then they moved.  And while I have lots of fantastic things to say about their wedding (meaning I may post pictures sometime before I die), I was terribly sorry to see them leave.  It's possible to love people and be so grateful for what will very well become an epoch in their live together while mourning what will no longer be.  And that's where I am.  I miss them.  I'm so grateful for what is, and I would never want to rewind for multiple reasons, but I can't lie about the fact that I miss the way things were 5 years ago.  It's a new stage--one that's going to require me to get out of my house from time to time, because Kate is still here, and I can't see her if I hole up in my living room every night.

  • My professor told me I wasn't stupid.  Ok...that's not exactly how it went down, but I did preview the information for my presentation on Tuesday and he told me he was pleased.  I'll take it.  I'm no genius, and I'm well aware of my deficiencies in this class.  So if he's pleased, I'm ecstatic.

  • I'm so far behind on grading, I may never see the light of day again.  How do I forget every year how hectic fall semester is?  Why did I believe adding a grad class would be a good idea?  How am I SO far behind?!  Despite those questions, I'm loving this school year.  LOVING.  IT.  My students are open, honest and fun.  They are a reminder of everything that is great about education.  Sure, they occasionally forget things or blow off work.  I'm just speaking from an overall point of view.
And that's all I have for an update.  I'm not sure if I'll get better at this whole blogging things in the next week, but I'm going to make an honest effort to try.  In the meantime, pray for me.  Favorite and I are still looking for a church home, and we'd appreciate all of the encouragement you could give us.  I'm ready to put this particular journey to rest.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Letter Series: To The Parents of my Students

A former student stopped by my classroom today and I had the opportunity to laugh with him over his current college experience.  When he left, and I went to sit at my desk, I smiled to myself and thought about what my role in his life is...or was.

I've never really taken the opportunity to thank the parents of my students, but I probably should. 

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Because of you, my job is a privilege.

I don't mean that tongue in cheek at all.  My job really is a privilege.

I have the opportunity to witness some of the best parts of your teenagers' lives.  I get to giggle during homecoming, dance at prom and blink a little faster at graduation.  But those are really only the highlights.

On a daily basis, I laugh with these students.  We laugh over dating mishaps, discussions about pornography (strictly educational, I promise) and weird football nicknames.  We laugh over my inability to be graceful and their inability to filter conversation.  (Wait.  I can't filter conversation either.)  We laugh because of successes, and we manage to laugh over stupid trivia contests that never quite end the way I imagined.

I've been challenged by their views.  You may not believe it, but these students are precocious bunch.  They are concerned about your unemployment and the cost of electricity.  They know that it's necessary to clip coupons and watch the grocery bill.  They get that the current state of the economy doesn't just affect someone somewhere--it affects their families and this community.  They may not be voting or passing laws, but they are certainly interested in war and the United States' involvement in those wars.  They worry about loved ones who are deployed and whether those same loved ones will make it home. 

They are great conversationalists.  We've discussed everything from grammar issues to cancer; rhetorical devices to loss.  They are masters at navigating the classroom requirements and still manage to approach my class with a serious demeanor that leaves space for humor.  And speaking of humor?  They know how to use it.  Mostly appropriately.  And more often than not, defuse tense situations with it. 

They are conscientious, and I love them for it.
They are funny, and I love them for it.
They are attentive and interesting and honest and open to learning.  You are so privileged to have the opportunity to raise them.  I'm just grateful I get to be a player in the game, because those students change who I am and the way I approach others.  I learned to accept, push, discipline, praise and instruct because of your kid.

During a conversation with another grad student, I was faced with this question: "With all of the new requirements for high school students, will you eventually think about leaving your job to avoid the stress?"

I thought for a few seconds and then gave the response that popped into my head the moment the question was out of his mouth.

No.  I can't.  I'm all in.  I expect that from them.  And they should expect it from me. 

But mostly, I feel privileged to enjoy what is likely the best part of you.  I truly hope you recognize the perspicacious group of human beings you have on your hands.  Thanks for sharing them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

To Testify

The concept of testimony boils down to one word:  evidence.  Evidence for the things that you've seen.  Evidence for what you've heard.  Basically, whatever you've been witness to that bears testifying.

Saturday, at STBSIL's Bachelorette party, I had the opportunity to share part of my testimony.  It wasn't something I had intended to do, but the opportunity presented itself so I didn't shy away.

Today, I just keep thinking that I was able to laugh through so much of what I told her and believe that PCOS may be some distant dream in the near future.  But what I can't explain are days like today.  Days when it feels like the nightmare will never end and you're stuck trying to find the quickest way out knowing that exits are blocked.

But these days are as much a part of my testimony as my belief that God is good.

What I wonder more than anything is how those testimonies affect perception.  If I were to tell you that I've spent the last 6 1/2 years longing for a child only to lose one and I still believe God is good would that cause you believe I'm more of a Christian than if I told you I'm not sure the last 6 1/2 years have been worth it, I can't see what God is doing and I'm afraid He's not listening to my prayers?  Because each of those things make up my reality on a given day.

When I testify to my belief that God is truly good, I don't want people to believe that I've got it figured out or I never struggle with being in limbo.  (Or even the concept that limbo can be a permanent place?)  There are a lot of days when I would rather pull my blankets over my head and pretend I don't have people who depend on me.  Actually, there are some days when I don't get a lot of choice in the matter.  Physical movement probably isn't going to be possible.  But surely those things don't mean that I don't believe He's good?

If my life is meant to give evidence to the fact that He is good, I fear days like this:  days when I may seem less than grateful, less than capable of showing the beauty that can come from ashes.  But then I also wonder if these aren't the days when that is most apparent.  How can beauty be appreciated if the ashes were never visible?

Maybe what I should testify to is the limbo.  Right now, I'm standing in the middle and I can see ashes on one side and beauty on the other (and hope the latter will be the permanent reality).  But that's not what every day looks like for me.  And I think I would testify to lies if I told you I had this whole thing figured out and I'm at a complete place of peace.

Though, it is what I hope for.