Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Twilight Stroll

Photo by Highlander
Thanks to the folks over at Pictures, Poetry, and Prose... I was inspired to write about my walk at twilight last night...
My new chapter and I had the chance to take our first walk at twilight last night. It was ineffable and fantastic all rolled into one. We live in the northern Rockies, and the mountain ranges we can see from our house stood majestic and snow-caped against the backdrop of a perfect winter sky. Our big sky was all shades of blue, purple, pink, and orange with a few white, scraggly clouds bringing out the white chill of the snow around us. The air was crisp enough to make our eyes water, sharpening our view of the surrounding beauty, but not crisp enough to deter us from our quest. We had just missed the alpen glow, but it didn't really matter; the sky and mountains were still magnificent in those few moments before the sun slipped completely below the horizon.
As we walked down to the hill overlooking town and the three surrounding mountain ranges-- the hill where I've had most of my solo, starry-night walks, we chatted, confided, shared, laughed, hugged, cried a little, and took a few steps deeper into our relationship. We had our first Montana Moment together as we stood silently on top of the hill, hand-in-hand, ready to take on the world as a team, and feeling support from the mountains around us and encouragement from the horizon before us. Standing in that spot at that moment with this person made the current state of affairs feel a lot less bleak.

Monday, January 26, 2009


(Photo from here)

I'm learning that there are all different levels and types of happiness. For example, there's hyper happy, mellow happy, content happy, deliciously tired happy, i-just-met-a-goal happy, musical happy.... the list goes on and on and on.

I don't want to jinx this in anyway, but I'm the best kind of happy right now. I'm content/peacefully happy. There are lots of factors involved: my family is doing well despite all odds, teaching is going well, I was able to grieve and get over all the stuff that happened at home this summer, that new chapter I mentioned is amazing. Again, the list goes on and on, but basically, I'm just in a really good place right now. I'm content, I'm busy, I feel loved, I'm having fun, I know I'm in the right place. I feel easily inspired. I'm happy.

And on that note of reflection and gratitude, I'm headed out for my evening walk under the big, Montana Sky, quietly hoping for a little stress release from school (good stress) and a Montana Moment. It's really cold out there, so If I don't come back... send out the troupes! (Don't worry. I won't actually be that far from my house; I'll be fine.)

Happy Monday! :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thinking from my classroom

I'm really excited for the new semester and it's already off to a great start. One of the first activities I had my sophomores participate in was finding and responding to the deeper meaning in a text. I started by showing them Emily Dickinson's famous poem about hope and one of mine that was written in response to Dickinson's definition of hope (posted later on in this post). To take it a step farther, I had my students write briefly on how they would define hope after considering the definitions of the two poems. I was really pleased with how my students responded. There is always something amazing about watching the wheels turn in a young person's mind. Here are two student responses that really stuck out to me.

Student #1

Hope is the branch you grab while falling down a cliff.

Student #2

Hope is seeing the brighter side of a dark situation. [It's] like turning
the light bulb of hope on to bring light to a dark and bitter soul. It can
also burn out if relied upon too much or if hopes are too high and you're not
ready to accept the consequences of that hope not coming true.

The poem posted below is how I defined hope a few years ago and is the poem I shared with my students. After considering all of these thoughts on hope, dear reader, what are your thoughts?

Is hope a thing with feathers?
Can it really keep me warm?
She says it never asked a crumb of her,
But for me it takes a different form.

Hope stands haughty on a mountain top
Its golden coat shining in the sun
Majestic and inspiring
It lures me to push on.

When I finally reach it, though,
And stretch out my weary hand,
Its claws pop out and fangs appear
My heart, it demands.

Then it slowly eats away
At the things that I hold dear
Until there’s nothing left of it—
Not even my own tears.

Now I can’t help but ask myself,
Was Miss Emily right?
So much good can come from hope—
So much warmth and light.

But it only takes a moment
For Hope to change its fickle mind.
That’s when the beauty I once found in it,
No longer can I find.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Something to ponder

I've been attending a Unitarian Universalist church for about a year now (quite different from the Baptist church I grew up in, but more in line with my beliefs), and I find that each time I go, I walk away with something new and/or inspiring to think about. This morning was no different.

This morning's sermon was about being our own saviors, being our own answers to our own prayers, or as Midwesterners bluntly put it: it was about pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps instead of waiting for someone else to put us back on the horse. This sermon really spoke to me. Our pastor, Rev. Lois Van Leer, suggested that often times we wait for a savior of sorts (a profit, god, the guy next to us, or a knight in shining armor) to deliver us, or others, from our miseries. However, what we often fail to see is that most of the time we, as individuals, are the ones we are are waiting for, the ones who can change the situation for the better.

Each one of us has the power to stand up for what is right. Each one of us has the power to ask for help when we need it. Each one of us has the power to put a bully in his place. It's just a matter of finding the courage and wisdom to do the right thing at the right time. If we wait for someone else to find the wisdom, courage, and power to do what needs to be done, it probably won't happen.

What an interesting thought: being our own saviors, being the ones we have been waiting for.

I connect to this on so many levels. Since I've been on my own, I have found that if I sit back and wait for some other force to take over (be it God, time, or another person) and allow that force to make my decisions or to act for me, nothing happens or the wrong (for lack of a better word) thing happens; my life continues to move in a straight line. However, if I step back, take control of what I can control, and do something about a situation, my life path, or someone else's, changes-- usually for the better.

My life would be so different if I would not have filled out that application to be a foreign exchange student after my senior year in high school. My life would be so different if I would have ignored my calling to teach. My life would be so different if I had gone along with relationships that didn't suit me. My life would be so different if I would have waited for some magical force to heal my broken heart after my home town was destroyed. My life would be so different if I only waited for some sort of savior to bail me out whenever life threw something ugly in my path.

I'm so glad that my parents and other trusted mentors taught and encouraged me to take control of my own destiny. I'm so glad they taught me to fend for myself and how to pull myself up when I get knocked down. I'm so glad they taught me how to ask for help when the obstacle is too great to be managed on my own. I'm so glad that they taught me not to be bitter about the things that happen to me or to others I care about, but to instead accept those things and deal with them as they come.

This morning I needed the reminder and affirmation that bad things can and do happen to good and innocent people. I needed to hear that I shouldn't just sit back and wait for things to change on their own, that I need to do my part. I needed to be reminded of why I teach-- to help kids find their boot straps, courage, and wisdom. I needed to be encouraged. I needed to be reminded. Mission accomplished.

Happy pondering! :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Simple pleasures...

There are a few things that are really simple but just make my little heart sing. New socks (the really squishy ones) and really comfy pajama pants. Thanks to my friend Lisa, I have two new pair of Eddie Bower skiing/hiking sox and thanks to me, I have a brand new pair of men's pajama pants from Old Navy (my legs are too long to find women's p.j. pants that fit well). So as I snuggle in to watch a few movies, I plan on sporting these simple pleasures and zoning out for a while. I can't wait!

Happy Weekend! :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

I spoke too soon

I hate it when I get ahead of myself. Last night was so beautiful, and today I find myself uncomfortably anxious. I feel so anxious, in fact, that I don't quite feel human. I feel more like The Scream than I care to admit!
I know that the anxiety is just fall-out from a really stressful week (which isn't over yet) and from a few other things... but that still doesn't make me a fan of this feeling. I tried to run it out-- it's beautiful here (Sunny and 45 degrees above zero) unlike the dreadfully cold temps in the Midwest-- but the the residue of the anxiety is is still here. Boo Hiss!! I know it will pass in time; it always does, but that still doesn't make me a fan! Have I mentioned how much I dislike this time of the school year???

I just have faith that it will all disappear by Monday night. By then my grades will be completely submitted, we'll be done with day one of semester two, and... remember that "new chapter" I wrote about a while ago... the page turner??? Well, he'll (yes, Saphron, you were right) be home after being gone for a month. Like I said, all will be well in about three days. How could it not??

So until then, I'll be doing a ton of running, grading, and pacing.

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Starry Night

It has been a long week. The end of the semester is always chaotic, but I think I almost have everything dialed in. At least enough so that I had the chance to go for a nice de-stressing walk under a sky full of stars. Man, was it beautiful.

I usually do some of my best thinking under a starry sky. Tonight I didn't think too much though, I just enjoyed the moment. I had a few minor epiphanies like wow, I think I'm getting older- I don't require constant pop and sizzle to find happiness. And, I'm really lucky right now; life is treating me really well. I hope it doesn't end anytime soon. Or, maybe I should start a dream jar, a place to put spare change and a few spare bucks in order to make some of the things on my bucket list a reality. But, mostly I was just enjoying being. I was just being me, just being happy, and just being in the beautiful starry night.

Monday, January 12, 2009

And these are a few of my favorite things....

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit Fairmont Hot springs, a small family resort equipped with nice hotel rooms, fine dining, natural hot springs (indoor and out), and rather large water slide (although i didn't give it a try). It was a fantastic weekend with just the right amount of working out, soaking, eating (really great food, I might add), movie watching, hanging out with good friends, and sleeping. I couldn't have asked for more. It was so great that it reminded me of my top favorite things in the whole wide world... the stuff that takes me to a whole new level of giddiness...

Here are some of them:

  1. Climbing mountain peaks on blue-bird days.

  2. Musical moments (when everything-- in musical sense-- lines up perfectly).

  3. Runner's High/Post-workout High

  4. Amazing food and/or beverages--(wine, coffee, or tea)

  5. Montana moments (when everything is breathtakingly beautiful and is in its perfect place-- usually but not exclusively in nature)

  6. Teaching moments (when a kid really gets something I've been able to share)

  7. Conversations that make me lose all sense of time

  8. Perfect ski runs

  9. Reading, listening, and viewing inspiring stories, thoughts, words, or images.

  10. Learning new and relevant things.

  11. It's a secret

What's on your list?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"But Ms. H, my Dog Ate My Homework"

.... "But my dear student, perhaps you shouldn't have left it by his kennel," said the very over-the-lame-excuses teacher.

This post is just to give you an idea of where I'm at with school right now. We have a week until the end of the semester and so begin the excuses... Wanna know a little secret?? I'm over it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A fresh start

Have I mentioned that I love new years?? Perhaps it's this thing I have about new starts-- I just love 'em-- and taking stock of what worked and what didn't from the year before. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm extremely goal oriented. Regardless of the reason, I'm really excited about this new year, it wouldn't take much to be better than last year (it was a doozey), but already 2009 is proving to be quite fantastic.

The odd thing is that it's not an over-the-top fantastic like I've been used to over the past 5-10 new years... it's actually just sort of a mellow, content fantastic. I guess 2008 helped me to have more gratitude and contentment with what I have and what I'm experiencing at any given moment in time. It has also helped me to realize that it's not all about me or what people think of me; actually, it's more about the collective whole of which I am a part. Let me tell you, these are two extremely liberating realizations! (Despite the fact that they make me feel a little old around the edges!)

So what are my new year's resolutions?
In 2009 I will strive to...
  1. Take better care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In other words, I want to strive to be more balanced.

  2. Have the courage to be myself all of the time, despite relationships, circumstance, or work.

  3. Play outside more. I really want to get better at snow shoeing, cross country skiing, and fly fishing. I want to hike and camp more and would be game to pick up a few new outdoor hobbies!

  4. Be more financially responsible and savvy. Granted, I don't blow away a ton of money, but I'm really tired of having to scramble all of the time. I'm hoping I can do better in this department this year!

  5. Be more active in my community. I've lived in this town for 1.5 years now, and I'm still not involved with a whole lot beyond school. I want to do more and give more to my community; I just need to find the right venue and the right cause.

So this is my resolution in a nutshell... what's yours?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Home sweet Home

I'm feeling pretty lucky today. I have realized I have two homes, and I like both of them equally. I like them for different reasons, but equal reasons none the less. I love where I came from and am so glad I can visit. I'm also in love with where I live now because I know I can always find a slice of me amid the chaos. For this, I'm really lucky. I have amazing family and friends at home #1 and amazing Montana family and friends in home #2. Life is good. I'm so grateful and feel more centered than I have in a while.

Happy 2009! :)