Sunday, November 30, 2008

Australia


I just saw Australia yesterday, and now it's on my favorite list. It's got this old Western flavor which helped with the cheesy, "awe-come-on" moments (which are definitely there), and it made me want to take a trip down under. It's a feel good movie for sure which is great this time of year. Check it out! :)




Thursday, November 27, 2008

A National Day of Listening

In church last week, a woman spoke briefly about a National Day of Listening. Apparently NPR declared the day after Thanksgiving a "National Day of Listening" in which we should make a conscious effort to listen to one anther's life stories, record them if possible, and share. This project is sponsored by Story Corp, a group dedicated to uniting people by allowing us to share our stories. I think the quote from the National Day of Listening Website describes this project best:

By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten.

How cool is that?? I double-dog dare you to check it out, and I triple-dog dare you to do it! :)

video

P.S.
I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Mine was one for the books. My cup overfloweth. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I can't help but love a holiday that asks us to take a moment to be thankful for what we have. This year has taught me that I have a lot to be thankful for, to the point where it's even hard to talk about. I'd like to take a moment to share the top ten things I'm most thankful for (in no particular order). I'd love to hear what you are thankful for too.


This year I'm thankful for...

Life. The more I experience, the more I realize just how fragile it is. I love life even with its ups and downs. There is no better feeling than to feel alive.

Family. Mine was almost taken away, and as a result I value them even more than ever.

Friends. I would not have made it through this year without them, nor would I have gone on as many adventures.

Teaching. I'm learning that teaching really is just a way of life that not everyone understands. It can be really hard but is more rewarding than anything I've ever done.

Mountains. They aren't just my playground; they are also my thinking place and where I find peace. They make me stronger and help me remember that there are very few things that we can actually control.

Words. If it weren't for being able to read, write, speak, and listen I'd be lost.

Freedom. Sometimes it's easy to forget just how good we have it here in the states. Sure we have our issues, but at least we have the freedom to talk about them, the freedom to believe what we want to believe, and the freedom to choose what works best for us.

Music. It makes me whole.

Community. I've learned there is very little we can accomplish alone.

Getting by. There have been moments this past year that I barely scraped by financially, but I was always able to find a way to make it work.

Boot straps. Not everyone has them, but my parents made sure I did. I would be in pretty sad shape if I didn't have them to pull myself up with when things get tough.


video

(This is a video of an interview with my family. It goes to show just how much I have to be thankful for.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I've been tagged...


I've been tagged by my friend over at grace's birdcage wedding. I'm supposed to tell six quirky or boring things about myself and then "tag" a blogger or two to do the same... I thought it might be kind of fun and a light-hearted way to start out Thanksgiving Break.


#1 I sometimes put juice on my Rice Crispies. I don't remember where I picked up this weird habit, but I remember trying it out once and thinking it was delicious. I still do it now but only on occasion.

#2 I can speak Dutch and thoroughly enjoy singing the Dutch birthday song at the top of my lungs in public places for my friends. I don't think they appreciate it quite as much as I do, but it makes people smile none the less.


#3 I secretly enjoy a good skinny dip. I became addicted after my first attempt at a camp out with some high school classmates. I'm usually extremely modest, but I get a certain thrill from being a tad bit rebellious and liberated while swimming around in the dark (it must be dark!) in my birthday suit.


#4 I was once a fair princess for my county (a title that still makes me giggle). I didn't quite have the pleasure of being the beef queen or the pork princess, it was just Ms. Butler County. It didn't last long though. Less than 30 minutes after the coronation, I had to give up my tierra because I couldn't go to the state fair competition. I had bigger fish to fry-- my year as an exchange student to The Netherlands was to start the same week as the state fair.


#5 I snort when I laugh. It's funny how people react to this quirk. Either they look at me with disgust and say, "Excuse you," or they erupt in laughter. I have a phrase or two that helps me own this quirk: "Been snorting since '82" or "It's just part of the package." Usually these lines work to gloss things over when it gets awkward.


#6 I sing "I'm a Little Teapot" when I get scared. For some reason going back to my pre-school day memories helps ease my nerves. Perhaps it's traveling back in time to Mrs. Lawler's Wiggle and Giggle Preschool where there were bright colors, fun toys, and lots and lots of singing that puts me at ease. And maybe that's why I still like to sing an array of songs for any occasion including "The Iowa Fight Song" and the fore mentioned Dutch birthday song.


Okay, there are my six quirks. What are yours? I tag my followers: Don, Peter, Saphron, and anyone else who wants to play.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Wii

Last year, my friend invited a bunch of the newbies (all teachers who had just moved into the district) to chill out and play Wii. I'm not really into the whole video game thing, so I'll admit, I was skeptical at first. Little did I know that Wii is not your average video game.

The cool thing about Wii is that it's interactive, and the players actually have to move to play the game. So when we play golf, we actually get to practice our golf swings. When we bowl, we actually get to do the pendulum motion with our arms and that cute little foot slide-over/follow-through move at the end of a roll. The first time I played it I was amazed at how fun and life-like it was.

We haven't played Wii in a really long time. In fact, the last time I played was in Kansas City last May after my best friend's wedding. Needless to say when my friends suggested we round up the troops and play after watching a disappointing football game, I took them up on it. And, as usual, it was fantastic! :)

So here's to the Wii with all of its quirky little sound effects, cool characters, and interactiveness! Yay for Wii! :)

video

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Truth


Last night I had to have a hard conversation with someone I care a lot about. It was one of those conversations where I had three choices-- I could be honest and straightforward, try to sugar-coat the truth, or sweep truth under the rug and pretend like it wasn't there. Over the last six months I tried the later two approaches more often than I care to admit (which didn't get me anywhere but stuck), so I decided to try for the first approach-- being honest and straightforward.


It was messy. I spoke the truth, but he didn't want to hear it. Maybe I went too far, maybe I was too honest, and maybe I should have kept some of the truth to myself. But, I just laid it all out there as naked as a j-bird. After the fact (and even during the fact, for that matter), I felt bad for him--the issues at hand were not easy ones. At the same rate, I couldn't help but put myself in his shoes. If I were him, I'd want to know the truth, I'd want to know it all-- no matter how much it stunk to hear it, and I'd want to know it now. Regardless of my convictions and best intentions, the conversation ended with curt answers, slammed doors, and me standing at the window watching him pull away. Truth is messy.


On the other hand, being honest feels pretty damn good. Being surrounded by others who feel the same way is a gift and was a gift last night. After standing at the window for a second, letting the conversation soak in, I called up one of my best friends. I told her what happened, and before I knew it she was at the end of my driveway in her Soccer-Mom Yukon grooving out to some cheesy dance music that I could feel through the concrete as I walked toward her car. I had to smile. I had just left one conversation where truth wasn't very welcomed and was now jumping into a Yukon where truth is just the norm. Truth feels good.


At the end of the day, I don't regret embracing truth. Sure it was hard to be honest, and it was hard to watch someone I care for pull out of my life, but I had to do it. Truth is messy, but sometimes being messy is just the right thing to do.


P.S.
I just submitted this to NPR... After four years of assigning the This I Believe essay to five different classes, I finally submitted my own. Yee Haw! I don't know if anything will come of it, but it sure felt good to write. I really do encourage you to take Edward R. Murrow's This I Believe challenge.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Edward R. Murrow Challenge


During my first year of teaching a friend/parent introduced me to the NPR radio show called "This I Believe." It originated from Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s as an attempt to unite the American public-- to help Americans see that we are all human and shouldn't let fear or differences drive us apart. Murrow initiated the show by asking Americans just one question: In 500 words or less, what do you believe to be true about life?


Wow! Talk about a loaded question. As a teacher, I saw this as a great opportunity for my Juniors and Seniors. Not only do I use it as a tool to talk about what a climate of fear can do to a group of people (as in the cold war, or even now for that matter), but it's a way to help kids really think about what they, not their parents, believe to be true. It's amazing what I get back from some of them and how close they let me get to their thoughts.


I'm a huge believer in practicing what I teach, but this assignment has me a little flustered. It's so hard to solidify what it is exactly that I believe. There are so many topics I could delve into like the importance of giving back, being human, forgiveness, empathy, making the most of each moment-- just to name a few. But how do I talk about those topics in just 500 words?? Now I fully understand why my 16-18-year-old students look like deer in head lights when I first present this assignment to them!


But, holding true to my pedagogy, I have decided to take Murrow's invitation as a personal challenge. After all, how can I ask my students to do something I haven't done myself? It might take me some time and require some space, but I'm going to do it. I think it's such a valuable exercise to think and then share what we believe. It helps us be human and helps us to recognize other humans-- something that is pretty rare in our society at the moment.


Wow, Murrow was smart! For that matter, whoever invented this whole blog thing is smart. I can't help but notice since I've started blogging how powerful it can be. I'm still amazed at its ability to unite perfect strangers just by allowing us to be human. There's important power in that. I just hope I can share that with my students and also continue to be a part of it myself.


Anybody else up for the Murrow challenge?? What do you believe to be true about life?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Art of Letting Go: Part III

(What was left of my parents' 2-story home after the EF five Tornado that hit this past May)

It's time. I think I can finally let this poem go. I wrote it as part of my letting-go process. I guess I've been kind of nervous to let it go because it helped me let go, but I'm ready.



"Blow Away"

The rust-colored bricks, its dark green siding, and the improved garage roof Dad put on.
The long, curved sidewalk, the wild flower beds, and the evergreens that had grown so tall.
The soft living room carpet, mom’s hand-made blankets, and those big East windows that let in the sun.
Grandma’s last quilt, Grandpa Doc’s pocket watch, and Great-Aunt Rofkins’ China buffet.
Our dinning room table, the print above the piano, the souvenir tiles mom had hung in a row.
My brothers’ boyhood toys, Mom’s Christmas pearls, and the skis Dad waxed with such care.
Mom’s wedding dress, the prom gown we both wore, and my first emerald ring.
Five years worth of my journals, four sets of baby pictures, and exotic trinkets from adventures abroad.
My favorite napping spot, my thinking place, and my refuge from the world.
All stripped away in just sixty seconds, never to be seen again.
I know it’s just stuff-- that our family made it;
I’m grateful for that everyday.
But, it still hurts to think
Of my childhood home and all that went with it,
And I hope that pain
Blows Away
Soon.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wine, Frozen Pizza, and Dessert


I'm about to have a seemingly ordinary night. I'm about to go over to a good friend's house for dinner, wine, and a good long session of cheesy, prime time television. I'm planning on bringing a few brownie bowls and a fresh bottle of Ten Spoon to celebrate the moment.

To most, this sort of evening is pretty ordinary, but I assure you it's not (hence the brownies and wine). See, I've learned there are very few people out there with whom you can just sit and be -- they're not flustered by the silence or the ordinariness of it. I'm lucky because I've always been able to find one of these friends no matter where I've lived, and they have all been responsible for saving my sanity at one time or another. I know I'd be pretty lost without my wine-frozen pizza-dessert night-buddies. So even though tonight might seem ordinary, I know that it's not. How could it be when I get to hang with a good friend and just be?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Pink Pearl Snap Kinda Night!


I have this fantastic pink gingham pearl snap shirt that I bought at Wall Drug on my way home one summer. I know it may sound weird, but this is a really special shirt. Upon first glance, it's just a shirt, but when I look closer I can't help but grin as I think of the solo road trip I was on when I found it, the old cowboy boots and paisley friendship flask my best friend gave me that coordinate so perfectly, and all of the crazy Montana adventures I've had in it. It's just one of those shirts.

Last night I decided that it was going to be a pink pearl snap kind of night. I've been short on pink pearl snap nights lately and was looking to remedy that. So I pulled on the boots, snapped myself into the shirt, and headed out on the town with friends. It was fantastic! I saw a lot of friends I hadn't seen in a long time, made new friends, and even twirled around the dance floor a few times. Man, did it feel good to get out there again!

Despite my throbbing head this morning and that weird hazy feeling that often follows a pink pearl snap night, I can't help but wonder why I've been denying myself these kind of adventures lately. Life is too short to just think about work all the time, the tragic stuff that has been happening back home, or to isolate my time with only one or two of my friends. It feels way too good to forget about all of that stuff, throw on the pearl snap, and cut loose. So from here on on out I'm going to make a conscious effort to have more pink pearl snap adventures-- even if they make my head hurt the next day. After all, I wouldn't really be me with out a good pink pearl snap story to tell! :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eric Hutchinson

Now here's a guy I've been groovin' out to for the last few months especially on my commute to and from work (yes, I am proud to say I'm that crazy lady who boogies out in her driver's seat). He has great lyrics and a beat that makes me want to cut a rug-- no matter where I'm at. It's rare to find a musician that can make me think and groove out at the same time, but this guy has it figured out.

Dance it up friends! Dance it up :)



Friday, November 14, 2008

Matt Coughlin


I did end up going to Wild Joe's coffee shop to catch some live music. The musician is the son of one of my fellow teachers. His stuff is acoustic and very moving. He kind of reminded me a little of Ben Harper only less mainstream. You should check it out:

A well-rounded day



We had quite the treat today at school; the Shakespeare in the Schools acting company paid us a visit and performed Much Ado about Nothing... what a great play! I especially loved how they changed the setting to more modern times (the 1920s) and put a gangster spin on it. It's been a while since I've been that entertained. It was nice to see a comedy too, we often study the history plays or tragedies in our school, so it was nice to have something a little more light hearted. There is definitely something to be said about a live performance!


Not only did I get to see Shakespeare, I also got to go to one of my student's first art shows. He's quite the sketch artist. His mentor had him put on a reception at our public library; it was so great to see his work and to see how proud he is of it. I love it when kids have opportunities like that. I'm thinking about commissioning him to sketch a picture of my niece and nephew for my brother... we'll see if it pans out.


There's a good chance I'll also get to take in some live music tonight too... (other than my roommate's practice session that I'm listening to right now) It's turning out to be quite the day! :)


Yay for the arts, and yay for Fridays!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Art of Letting Go Part II


...and what do you know?? When I let go, it felt like a giant weight was lifted from my heart and a gentle peace took its place; it's a sad peace, but it's peace nonetheless. I haven't had that feeling for a long time-- surely a testament that it was time. I feel like I'm one step closer to center and a one step closer to me.


P.S.

Thanks for the extra support, fellow bloggers and friends. You amaze me with your kind words, wisdom, and patience.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The art of letting go


Life has been a giant roller coaster lately. Yesterday was a really good day, and today started out fine but ended up taking a turn for the not-so-great. When I take a second to reflect on why today ended on such a different note, I can pretty much trace it back to one thing. For some reason I have a really hard time letting go.


I have a hard time letting go of battles that aren't worth fighting. I have a hard time letting go when I lose someone or something I hold dear. I have a hard time letting go when things won't go my way. I have a hard time letting go when I know it's time to let go, and a hard time letting go when I know the end is inevitable.
RRRRGGG!!! I feel like I've been forced to let go of a lot of things lately, more so than usual, and perhaps that's why I find myself on this crazy emotional roller coaster. The weird part is, I don't remember ever thinking I struggled with letting go. It almost feels like I woke up one day and "bam" it became an issue. But, maybe what really happened is that I woke up one day and opened my eyes to reality as an adult.


As I watch the people I respect most navigate through life, I've noticed that there is definitely an art to knowing when to hold on for dear life and knowing when to let go in order to embrace life. From my observations, it seems that the better one gets at deciphering when to say "when," the better off that person is.



"Lord, please grant me the wisdom to know when to hold on, when to let go, and the strength and grace to do both well."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A really good day


It was a really good day in the classroom today. It's days like this that remind me why I'm a teacher. Now, don't get me wrong, it wasn't a perfect day, but it was a really good day. That being said, I'm sure you're wondering why I chose the label of one of my favorite wines as the image for this post-- isn't it the bad days that warrant wine?? But, because it was such a good day, the only thing that could possibly top it off would be a glass or two of my favorite label and a good book. :)
See, I have this student that I'm kind of worried about. He's very smart and is an amazing writer; he just doesn't seem to care all that much about school and is thinking about dropping out. Today was different, though. We're learning about persuasive writing in his class, and I was trying to show the real-life relevancy of the skill. As we started talking about it, his apathy seemed to evaporate right before my very eyes. We even connected for a moment as he realized I was actually trying to help him, not teach him some bullshit fact or skill that he'd never use again. For the first time, he was the one drove our lesson with his questions and made it ten times better than I anticipated. I can't tell you how awesome it was to see this kid have this kind of moment-- now I just hope he sees the same potential within himself that I witnessed today.
This my friends, is what us teacher types call a "teaching moment." It's when everything we work so hard for suddenly pays off-- our message gets through, and the students "get it" -- not just a school "I get it" but a real "I get it." These moments make it all worth the effort.

With that fuzzy thought and a big glass of ten spoon to keep me cozy, I'm going to curl up with Eat, Pray, Love (the new book I'm falling in love with) and relish in the moment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shhh... I played hookie today

I'm trying to get my online teaching certification which involves taking some online classes. I'm in the fourth class of five, and so far the classes have taught me a lot. It's just hard to stay on top of it sometimes with a full-time job. So props to all of you out there that are doing the full-time job/taking classes gig. Your efforts have my utmost respect!

Needless to say, I played hookie from school today to get caught up. Save for one break (I just had to take a Naked Noodle lunch break), I've been sitting behind my laptop creating a blog I could use for class and learning about how to use the web to teach. I think I can stop for good today, though, and take in one of my favorite shows How I met Your Mother.
Thank goodness for sick days!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Sigh of Relief

Whew... I have my plane ticket home. It works out that I'll get to see not only my family but my best friend as well. I can't begin to explain just how much weight has been lifted off my shoulders in getting that figured out. I am so excited to get back. I feel sort of like... well, like a kid waiting for Christmas.

A Sense of Balance

I've started to do yoga on a regular basis in conjunction with a nice long walk/run. I'm amazed at how taking a few moments to stretch, breathe, relax, and move can help keep me centered. My walk is probably one of my favorite sections of the routine because no matter the route I choose, I am surrounded by snow-caped mountains. It's beautiful. It helps remind me to keep it real. It's so easy to get caught up in the questions, in left over stress from work, in the what-ifs and the what-the-hecks from relationships, and the general pressure to live at Nascar pace. It's so nice to take an hour or so and put things back into perspective-- to get back to center.

This Sunday, I've started with a nice yoga session, am about to enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee, go to church, and then get ready for the week. I'm starting to like this Sunday routine. It's nice to start off the week at center instead of drooping heavily to the right or left. So hurrah for the sense of "om" and for the fresh start of a week. Who knows what this week will have in store! :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Figuring Things Out

It seems like there is a lot I'm trying to sort through at the moment. Including trying to plan my Christmas trip home to Iowa. Although it's a HUGE bummer that the economy isn't doing very well, I'm selfishly excited for affordable airfares. Being a teacher, I'm always on a tight budget, so finding the cheapest way from the-middle-of-no-where Montana to the-middle-of-no-where Iowa can be quite the trick. The process seems easier this year, though, and for that I am truly grateful.
See, it's really important that I get home for the holidays this year. I'm pretty homesick at the moment and have had a pretty rough go of things this summer and fall. I'm hoping a trip home will bring me back to center. More importantly, however, I need to go home because my parents' home, my brother's home, and about 3/4 of my home town were all completely destroyed by an EF5 tornado this past May. We lost everything including three of our next-door neighbors and a man from from our church. It's really important to get back for my family, friends, and for me to help continue the overall healing and grieving process.

There's a good chance it could be a really hard Christmas, but I think it will feel pretty good to be around my family. After the tornado, I started to realize just how fragile life can be, and now I'm trying to realign my priorities. One of the priorities that I am struggling with is being closer to my family and friends. Lately, I've been wrestling with whether I am ready to leave the mountains so that I can be closer to home. In some ways I'm hoping this trip will help me know what I need to do.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Carpe Diem

I'm feeling pretty lucky as far as my job goes these days. This is really great given that this school year got off to a less than favorable start. I've learned a lot from it, though, like how there are some things that can change, others that probably won't, and some that never will. As a result, I'm trying to focus mostly on what can be helped and not waste too much time, effort, or emotional energy on the things that aren't going to budge. Although I probably can't change the way an institution works or change some of the decisions the higher-ups might make, I can fix/control my attitude and the things I teach my students-- the whole reason I'm there in the first place, right?


In one of my classes we're learning how to find theme in all sorts of things-- poems, short stories, movies, essays, and lectures. I tried to choose pieces that had a theme dealing with Carpe Diem ("To Virgins: To Make Much of Time," The Last Lecture, The Dead Poet's Society, "Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket" just to name a few). I can't helped but be amazed at what some of my kiddos are taking away from these pieces. Watching my kids not only learn an important skill but also think about what Carpe Diem is and looks like for them reminds me of why I choose to do this job. It's not about tardy policies, legislation that is setting us up to fail, or the paycheck that barely gets me by. It's about helping my kiddos learn to think and chase after their dreams. It's pretty exciting to be a part of that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Wandering Spirit???

It was over a cold brew and a good conversation with my two favorite bachelors that I first explored the concept of a "wandering spirit." At that point in time, I was one year out of college and trying to survive my second year of teaching in a tiny mountain town (less than 500 folks big) nestled in the Tobacco Root Mountains.

That night, we were sitting in my friend's weaving studio, located on a two-block main street that looked like it came straight out of a magazine from the 1950s. We were trying to solve the problems of the world and were shaking off the last part of a long week. Soon the conversation drifted off to different types of people and thier personalities. We eventually decided that there should be a category of personalities named "the wandering spirits" and that the three of us would definitely fall into it.

Now, I don't remember the original definition that we came up with-- there was a lot of brew involved that night-- but I do remember that we thought the term did a really good job of describing us and how we ended up in this little one-horse-town west of the Mississippi. I also remember really liking the term and connecting to it. It somehow gave me a sense of peace about myself, a sense of belonging, and it reminded me of the wanderlust that carried me so many miles from home.

Now, two years later, I find myself somewhere new (go figure), and missing those Friday night happy hours with my fellow wandering spirits. I miss those deep conversations about life, love, and happiness. I miss playing "brain-pong" with some of the locals, listening to stories from those who had seen and done far more than me, and I really miss being surrounded by the idea of having to "make our own culture" to survive some of the tougher moments of small-town life. Those moments helped me feel whole and connected when feeling whole and connected seemed impossible. Those moments also taught me a great deal about what is really important and what's not. And, of course, they reminded me to have fun.

In an effort to pay tribute to my fellow wandering spirits, other dear friends, and to the lessons learned during the magical time I spent in that little mountain town, I've decided to create this blog. I'm also hoping it will serve as a reminder to me of what's really important and that it will help sustain the wanderlust, independence, and spontaneity that has become so central to my being.