now is the winter of our discontent

It has been a long winter.

I feel selfish saying that, because others have surely had winters longer and more difficult than mine. Mine has been a winter of first-world problems. Two rounds of the stomach flu went through our family. Kids have had the usual colds. And I’ve been sick with non-stop congestion of some sort since late January. (Hello, third round of antibiotics.) But we are all here, we are all alive, and in the grand scheme of things I have no complaints.

And yet…

I feel weary. Bone-weary. Tired of the rat race. I love all the things I do, and yet I wish I could just be still for awhile. I wish I felt like I had time to do something fun with my girls. I wish there was space for a dance or music class or something more than the hurry from daycare-to-dinner-to-bed. Saturday and Sunday are for exhaustion and recovery, with no energy for adventures.

Granted, it all looks worse when I’m sick. Round 3 of meds made me so sick to my stomach this morning that I ended up staying home from school. I’m in a low spot of depression and anxiety. Today is not a good day to make decisions.

And yet…

Are my feelings and thoughts only valid when I’m strong? Do I only make good choices when I’m operating outside of anxiety mode? Or does the weakness help me see what’s really important?

Image result for shauna niequist quotes

Image result for shauna niequist quotes

 

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I am a teacher.

I am a teacher.

I hope I don’t get shot at school today.

I wonder how many students can hide behind the piano? It is the best barrier in my classroom from AK fire. More will fit if they are kindergartners… kindergartners are so small. I bet I could fit an entire kindergarten class behind the old upright piano. Fifth graders, however. Oh, fifth graders, you are so tall now. There are so many in your class. Which few will get the protection of the piano’s sounding board? What else do I have? A xylophone, a teacher desk, a drum.

“Review lockdown procedures with your students.”

Hide, children.

Hide. Be silent. Pray. Wonder why the adults have put you in this situation. I will protect you with my body, with a fire extinguisher, with… I don’t know what.

What if I had a gun?

I don’t want a gun. I don’t know how to shoot it. I don’t want to learn. I don’t want to know that there is a gun hidden in my desk drawer, next to my attendance book and my lesson plans. I don’t want to take a life.

I am a teacher.

I want to teach my students to sing, to dance, to play instruments.

I don’t want to take a life.

I don’t want to watch my students lose theirs.

I want my students to know that they are safe. Completely safe. I want my students to know that they are loved.

I am a teacher.

I hope we live to see tomorrow.

that song from Frozen

Sisters,

I have my first-ever student teacher right now. It is my eighth year in Helena, my ninth year as a teacher, and apparently that makes me qualified to help someone else become a teacher. Terrifying, right?

I spent Christmas break making an epic student teacher binder. Seriously, it is a work of art. Custom cover, tabs, and LOTS of pages with cute fonts: standards, class schedules, classroom management pointers, and all sorts of details about how my schools operate.

This project masked the fact that I was feeling completely terrified at the prospect of sharing my classroom. I was dealing with major impostor syndrome.

Imagine my surprise when the first week with Mr. R revealed that I have, in fact, spent the last 8+ years carefully crafting a method of teaching that actually has a thought process behind it! As I explained my classroom routines and my curriculum, I discovered that there is actually a method to my madness and I have real thoughtful reasons for why I do things the way I do. You guys, I might actually know what I’m doing!

This week is Mr. R’s fifth week. In two and a half weeks, he moves on to his secondary placement. He has rapidly taken on more and more teaching responsibilities and is now teaching every class for the entire week. I spent last week hanging around in the back of the classroom while he taught, taking notes and observing. This week, however, I am tasked with getting out of the classroom and leaving him alone to teach.

Sisters, this is SO HARD for me.

What if my students are obnoxious? What if he can’t find a material he needs? What if, what if, what if?!

He’s fine. He’s more than fine, he’s doing so well.

That doesn’t make it easier to let go. I should be relishing this opportunity to get extra planning and prep done. I should be making manipulatives and planning epic lessons for the rest of the school year. I’m doing some of that. Mostly I’m wandering aimlessly, unsure of how to occupy my time without my students.

As I was lamenting my control freak nature to my amazing school secretary, she leaned back in her chair, swung out one arm, and started singing…

You know, that song from Frozen.

Letting it go,

Abby

my sister told me to write this post.

The funk.

Y’all with me?

Nothing is “wrong”, per se, but things just feel… off. Like at any moment I might teeter over the edge and be swallowed up in a canyon of anxiety or depression. Which is why, earlier this afternoon, I found myself asking my best friends – my sisters – what to do to try to get out of the dreaded FUNK before it was too late.

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And so here we are.

My first thought was to go somewhere, like a coffee establishment, to write. While there are many Starbucks (Starbucksen? Starbucksi?) close by, the closest are all of the “Starbucks in the grocery store” variety. My options: Meijer, Family Fare, and Target. All fine stores, but let’s be real here.

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So the Target-bucks it was.

However…

I had to stop at home to get my Chromebook. Which meant I had to let Duke out. Which meant I saw the disastrous state of my kitchen and the half-finished load of laundry in my room.

And so here I am, sitting in a somewhat cleaner kitchen, with a shot of decaf from our espresso maker, waiting to hear the “ding dong ding dong” of the washer when the cycle is complete. And then it’s off to daycare pickup, and then on to mommy time for the rest of the night. Or at least until the girls are in bed.

Did I get myself away from the edge? I hope so.

the unbearable heaviness of being

I wrote this quite awhile ago, but never posted it. It’s still true, so here it is.

Sometimes there is just too much.

Too much pain, suffering, sadness. Too much that is unfair. Too much that hits too close to home. Too much fear.

Why are things the way they are?

Oh, sure, I know the Sunday school answers. But those aren’t cutting it today.

I am a jumbled mess of sorrow and anxiety. Why are these things happening to these people? And what’s to say I won’t be next? Whether it’s me or someone close to me, it’s become painfully clear that no one is safe from the horrors of life.

Somewhere inside me is the knowledge that God is still in control, a seed of faith buried underneath a mountain of doubt.

I alternate between a fiery desire to live fully every moment I’m given and a crippling sense of futility that makes me want to pull the covers over my head and give up on it all.

I gave in, and admitted that God was God.

-C. S. Lewis

 

detroit 

I wrote this last summer, but apparently never posted it. So here it is…

Aaron and I have given up on giving each other birthday gifts because a) we don’t need more stuff and b) we stink at actually going out and buying gifts. So we’ve decided that in lieu of gifts, each year we will head to Detroit for a Tigers game and an overnight stay.

Detroit, of course, is a city that needs no introduction. Anyone – anyone who doesn’t know the city, that is – will likely tell you that it’s an awful place. If you’ve been there, you know how wrong that assessment is.

We started our day at St. John’s Episcopal Church, with the sole purpose of enjoying the organ playing of Dr. Lewis, my college organ teacher. (Shout out to all my Hope peeps who survived Theory II and Senior Seminar with Uncle Huw. Here’s hoping your homework doesn’t have a fanged smiley face on it.) Figuring out a new church can be difficult when it’s within your own denomination, so asking a couple of lifelong protestants to be Episcopal for the day was a little intimidating. But we were greeted warmly, shown the best place to sit to see the organ, and if anyone was offended by our cluelessness, they certainly didn’t show it.

After the service, Dr. Lewis told us about the history of the church and introduced us to several people. And, honest to goodness, the altar guild (I hope I have that right) gifted us the day’s flowers. (Here they are!)


I got my pat on the ego for the day when Dr. Lewis introduced me as his student and explained to others how I had won Hope’s concerto competition on multiple instruments. (There is no affirmation quite like the positive words of a teacher you respect.) After some continued fellowship at the church coffee hour, we were on our way.

After the game (a pathetic loss), we headed to La Lanterna for dinner. We ended up having an extended conversation with the couple seated next to us – a pair probably about our parents’ age. She is a retired kindergarten teacher; he worked in the auto industry and then in higher education. (Side note for Hope folks: they live across the street from Paul Schaap – as in the science building. !!!) They finished their meal first; as they stood to leave, they shared heartfelt words of thanks for our work as teachers. We ordered dessert, and then prepared to pay the bill. It felt like a Facebook cliche when the bill arrived and it was only for the cost of dessert, because – as we found out from our waiter – our table neighbors had paid for our meal.

Detroit. It’s an amazing place.

New Year’s Revelations

Y’all. 7873bb0956e870b595de0df6edb03e7dHave you ever gotten into a really vicious cycle where you feel tired and unmotivated at work, but then when you don’t accomplish what you wanted to accomplish, you decide to take work stuff home in an effort to redeem yourself and your day, but you still feel tired and unmotivated so you don’t do the work at home but you spend all night thinking about doing work, but then the next day you feel tired and unmotivated again because you didn’t get any rest? Or the same thing, but on a semester-long scale? You don’t get enough done at the beginning of the term, so the pressure to do more, do more, do more, just keeps building as the weeks wear on, but the level of energy just keeps falling? Yeah. I think this is what getting burned out is like for me and it has taken a long time to identify just how insidious this cycle is: I’m convinced I don’t deserve time off because I haven’t accomplished anything, but there’s no way to break the pattern without stepping away. 
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So, I finally took time off over the holidays – and it was really great. I snuggled nieces, played in the snow, dove into wedding planning, caught up with mentors, went shopping, got pedicures and hamburgers, made Christmas cookies, spent a glorious weekend in San Diego with friends. I’m now wildly unprepared for everything, and behind on big projects, and the days I’ve spent trying to get back into work have not been the magical, productivity-blessed, success-fests I was hoping for, but nonetheless I discovered something. I’m a lot happier when I’m not working. So my resolution this year is to be not working more often. 

It’s not that I want to do less work (that sounds impossible, frankly, given how extremely my productivity bottomed out last semester) – it’s that I want to do more not-working. Or really, that I need to do more not-working. I need it desperately. I don’t really know how to solve my work-related issues (finishing a PhD is a slog and I’ll keep slogging – they don’t call it the Valley of Shit for nothing) but it appears that if I want to maintain any health, sanity, compassion, relationships, optimism, or energy, I need to have a life. (Surprise!)

So I made a January list. I’m attempting to keep my expectations low and my celebrations of victory big.

In January, I will 

  • read one book 
  • write one blog post (check!)
  • host one gathering in my home 
  • bake one loaf of bread
  • shoot one roll of film 
  • have one coffee date with a friend 

I’m also signed up to run the Lincoln Half Marathon in May, so it’s time to start running again. I believe I’ll love my job again someday, but for now, I’m going to focus on loving more rewarding things. Let me know if you want to help me out! Currently looking for recommendations on books, ideas for photo adventures, and encouragement and/or accountability for running. 6356455064543114321264004529_waffles-friends-work

Also, sisters, sorry not sorry all I write about on this blerg is productivity. Maybe I’ll have deeper or more meaningful thoughts again someday. For now, this is all I’ve got. 

Happy New Year!