The blessing of waiting

It's been awhile since I last posted about the subject of adoption and infertility. It's also been a long time since I sat at a computer with headphones squashed in my ears....but Nate's doing the dishes and watching some cop show, and I needed peace (music) and a place to set my Bible. So I'm at the kitchen table---with headphones in my ears, writing about adoption and infertility--a topic I've been avoiding since December when we were closer than we have ever been to growing our family.

For the past few weeks, adoption has been creeping into my thoughts and prayers more. Throughout the day (and at the most random of times) I find myself growing weary about the waiting...my morning prayers often drift towards the topic as I pray for hearts of couples facing unplanned pregnancies to be open to adoption. And today during my morning quiet time, I read a few passages about waiting--something I know well but am not fond of.

Psalm 40 was one of those passages that struck me, specifically the beginning. David writes, "I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God" (Psalm 40: 1-3). I'm thankful for my Bible's footnotes; because at 6:30 in the morning, I tend to a miss a few things. My footnote reads: "[...] David received four benefits from waiting [I bolded and underlined them in the verse above]. Often blessings cannot be received unless we go through the trial of waiting."

Of course, I began thinking about the blessings we've received while we've waited. The list is long...but I think the most significant is my learned dependency on Christ. In all the heart wrenching moments we've experienced in the last three years, I've turned to various outlets: friends, family, a busy schedule, alcohol (for a short time)---to bring me comfort. And while most of my friends and family tried hard and were sympathetic, nothing satisfied me or brought me peace like Christ. I went through a season where I questioned God and nearly turned my back on Him. Why would a merciful, all-knowing, all-powerful God not step in when I'm in this much pain? was all I could think....I'm trying to identify the changing moment for me--but I can't think of what it was the made me drop this mindset. Honestly, I think I was just sick of wallowing. It was exhausting. When I finally stopped going to bed right after work, and when I realized that alcohol was providing only a temporary relief from the pain I felt, then I could open my heart to accepting that God had other plans for us. It's been the most difficult season of my life, but I'm not sure that I'd trade it even for a child. God makes us strong in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:8-10), and like my footnotes read, sometimes we need to endure waiting in order to be blessed. Child or no child...I am blessed.

So, like David, I'll wait. And while I'll wait, I'll try not to dwell on what I don't have, but praise God for what He has given me.


Social Action Project: News Clip and Photos

On Monday, our local news station from North Platte came out to interview some of my students (all because one of my students thought to write them a letter inviting them to come) about their Social Action projects and their project night. Here's a link to the video and text version of the story, or you can watch it below:

Project night was a success! All but three of my students showed up for the event, and there was an incredible turn out of community members, teachers, and family members. It was so great to sit back and watch my 13-16 year old students from all walks of life, some with all kinds of baggage--talk to adults about their projects. There were so many high points from the night that I can't even begin to list them all...but, I will share a few photos and captions from the night:

The two in this photo have taken on the biggest project...by far. Being XC runners, they're passionate about fitness. Naturally, they're planning and organizing a 5k race (the Leprechaun Chase!) that will raise money to benefit our local rec center. They have already been working on this project for a month. Their race isn't until March 18th, so they've committed themselves to working hard long after our Social Action unit is completed. Already they have met with rec center staff to pitch the idea, met with the city manager to gain approval, mapped out a course, contacted the police department and fire station to be sure they had the go ahead, created entry forms....you get the idea. The girl on the left is an 8th grader taking my English 9 class and the young man in green is a 9th grader...an 8th and a 9th grader are planning a 5k race! These kids blow me away year after year....
These young men have come SOOOO far in their lives. They truly are two of my heroes...they're just two of the kids that keep me coming to school day after day. They are pictured here with the Executive Director of SCIP (Sandhills Crisis Intervention Program). They sought to spread the word about the good work SCIP does to help victims of domestic violence. They handed out a ton of swag and were hits of the night!
That young lady in the blingin' shirt is Kelsey. Kelsey is passionate about her dog, Jack, whom she trained herself and shows in 4-H. She decided to take Jack to one of our assisted living facilities here in town to visit with some of the residents. Her presentation and project were simple, but what stuck out to me was the day after project night she told me she'd love to go back and do it again! The kid in pink made cookies and sold them at his church and at project night to raise money for new football helmets.

This was one of the most endearing projects of the night. These two young ladies wanted to inform the community about our Community Based Education program at school, and they wanted to show that "Special Education students are people with feelings and hobbies." The CBE program provides our Special Education students with life skills training. They are pictured here with several greeting cards that one of our Special Education graduates made in order to sell and raise money for a new coffee pot in the Special Education classroom.

These strapping young men collected so many items for the Keith-Arthur County Food Pantry!

Meet Ms. Abigail. She's incredibly quiet and introverted, but when you give her a mission...watch out! She's great at public speaking, and for her project she decided to organize and host a soup supper to raise money for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). She raised $372 to donate to the organization!

A shot of the entire gym bustling with activity.


Social Action Project Night

Today is the day! In two hours my English 9 students will be sharing their projects with community members, parents, teachers, and peers. For the past few months we've been studying Social Action and what it looks like in the lives of everyday people right here in Keith County as well as what Social Action looks like in history--specifically, during the Civil Rights Movement. Students grappled with the horrifying injustices during the Civil Rights Movement, and they worked hard to understand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's text Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Students were tasked with taking their own action in the community to help someone. They had to come up with a plan, research to prove that action needed to be taken, act, and then reflect on their action. Many of them have worked SO hard on these projects. I have 13-16 year olds taking on projects that many adults wouldn't or haven't taken on! A few weeks ago they wrote business letters to people in our area informing them about and inviting them to project night, so tonight they'll get to show off their hard work to those interested.

It's been an exhausting process. I woke up about 1 or 2 AM last night and tossed and turned with nerves until 5 when I finally fell asleep again. I about went crazy today as I tried to answer all the last minute questions students had and keep track of all I still needed to do for tonight. But...to see students working so hard to make positive change in the community is totally worth it. Even if it's not 100% of my students working hard....I have so many who have really thrown themselves into this project: two students are planning a 5k fundraiser run, two students used their passion for music to perform on the piano for residents in a local nursing home, one student organized a soup supper benefit to raise money for our local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) group, two students who are passionate about treating SPED kids equally created a totally endearing poster featuring some of our SPED kids doing things they love to show that they're people with emotions and hobbies, one student who struggles so much in school read to pre-schoolers a few weeks ago and then created the coolest poster over her project, two girls I wrote about last week put on the youth basketball camp, two boys put around plastic bottle recycling containers around the building and took their first load to the recycling center today and recycled 7 lbs of plastic bottles....I could go on and on. Even if I'm nervous about those few students who may not show up or even complete a project, tonight I'm beaming with pride at the kids who have worked their tails off on their projects. I can't wait to see them show off their stuff!

I'll post photos from the evening later this week...and the news station from North Platte visited my classroom today, so if they post the video on the news, I'll post it here.


Music for your Friday: Bon Iver

I seriously can't get enough Bon Iver lately. Their music is intriguing, calming, and unique all at the same time. Today I ran across a link to this video on Twitter...enjoy!

Thesis = Nerve-Racking

We have today off from school due to parent-teacher conferences this week; I've committed this day to writing and working on my thesis. I've got a good chunk done--22 pages to be exact--and my goal is 45 (including an appendices). I'd like to have a draft completed with citations, formatting, etc. sent to my committee by May 15th in order to have time to complete my revisions before co-facilitating a class at UNL this June.

Today I finally had time to send a paranoid email to my committee with a list of questions that have been brewing for the past few weeks, and because my thesis chair is awesome, he emailed me back with answers to my questions within an hour. He's asked that I share my draft with him now so that he can get me a response by early March...this is what I originally wanted: someone from my committee to read through my document to see if I'm on the right track early. I don't want to write 30+ pages and then be told that 25 pages suck in April leaving me only a month to fix it all. But reading my chair's request that I share my document with him makes me so nervous...I honestly feel as if I could puke right now because of nerves.

I have a lot of respect for my chair and the rest of my committee members. They're incredibly intelligent, talented, successful, and are the best instructors I've ever had. I fear they'll read it and find me incompetent as a writer. I fear they'll read it and tell me I'm taking the wrong direction, to start over. I fear they'll read it and doubt my potential as a future PhD student (should I want to pursue that route later on). This is the first major project I've ever worked on; I want so badly for this to be good...and I want to graduate in August with my husband. I know this is nothing compared to the dissertation my sister in-law just finished or that some of my colleagues are starting on, but I feel like it's the first step in that direction for me. And in some ways, it's a deciding factor on whether or not I'll even make it to that next step.

By nature I'm a pretty nervous person, but I've never been this nervous before. I know it's a selfish thing to be nervous, and it demonstrates a lack of faith...but I'm all for honesty--and honestly, I'm nervous! So today my goal is to work through some of these nerves, add a few more pages to my document, tighten a few paragraphs, add an author's note, send it to my chair...and then treat myself tonight with a run and some guitar time.


My Obligatory Valentine's Day Post

I've been anti V-Day for quite some time. The color pink does nothing for me (though I'll love any child God brings us, I'm hoping for a boy simply to avoid all the pink baby garb). Candy hearts taste like chalk. Rhyming, syrupy, cliche love poems make me gag. It's all a big marketing scam. Call me crazy, but shouldn't people express their love every day? A few days ago while cleaning up the kitchen my husband brought up Valentine's Day and asked if I wanted to do anything. I gave him the, "are you crazy?" look and he chuckled. He knows me too well....

When we got home from a long day of school and parent teacher conferences, Nate surprised me with 12 chocolate covered strawberries in a box adorned with hearts. He told me he gave me 12 strawberries, one for every hour of the day that he loved me (what a comedian). While I'd prefer to not spend money for Valentine's Day, I gobbled up three of the massive berries tonight and felt pretty good about it because a) I love chocolate and 2) these were made by one of our students.... my disdain for Valentine's Day set aside....I appreciate the gesture.


I went to basketball camp...sort of

Last night my husband and I spent our evening in our school's gym surrounded by 38 girls in grades 3-6 (yikes!). Two students in English 9 (Maaika and Jenna) chose to put on a free basketball clinic for girls in the grades mentioned above for their Social Action project.

Both of these girls are passionate about basketball. They've played for years, and as freshmen have seen their fair share of Varsity court time. Both of their parents are involved with coaching either youth leagues or high school basketball, so it was natural that their project involved basketball. They've been planning the clinic for several weeks. They had to get permission to use the facility, create a registration form and liability waiver, plan the schedule, promote the clinic, etc. As of yesterday afternoon they had only received five registration forms and they expected to have about 15 girls at the clinic. Nate and I walked into the gym about ten minutes after the clinic started to see 38 little girls dribbling basketballs in a big circle while Maaika and Jenna walked around correcting form and offering encouragement. These two girls are so quiet in my class, so it was awesome to see them in leadership roles being vocal. They were definitely in their element last night. The girls were super organized and even had snacks for the girls to eat halfway through the clinic. They made cute little gift bags to give out to each girl at the end of the clinic.

After talking to a few parents last night, I discovered that our community or school hasn't offered a basketball camp or clinic for girls in years...no wonder these girls came in droves! One parent last night thanked me for having this project for the kids (I had his oldest daughter in class last year) because "The kids are really learning the importance of public service."

I had so much fun watching my two students corral and lead nearly 40 energetic little girls last night. It gave me a renewed energy to get me through the last week of working on our projects. Here are some photos of the night:
Maaika (left) and Jenna (right) working up some last minute plans while the little girls eat snacks

All the girls

Jenna trying to corral the 3-4th graders

Running dribbling drills

Dealing with resistance

We have one more week to finish our Social Action projects in English 9. We've examined song lyrics for societal issues, listened to 14 local activists talk about change they've made in the community, students have interviewed and written about a community member working hard to make positive change, we've studied the Civil Rights Movement and examined Dr. MLK Jr's four steps for non-violent direct action from his text Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and now students are working on their own change projects. Students were instructed to tap into their passions, find a need in the community, and then do something about it. Not only do they have to take action, but they have to gather research about the issue to prove their project is legitimate, compile a vocabulary journal of words learned along the way, and then compile this all into a presentation of some sort to chronicle their journey and show at our English 9 Project Night on February 20th. They've composed professional business letters inviting people to attend our project night---so now they simply have to finish up their projects.

All week I've been meeting with students, helping them brainstorm, problem-solve, and plan. It's been exhausting for a few reasons. First--more students than usual still don't have project topics or ideas. However, this doesn't surprise me. This year has been a challenging year due to the group of students I have. I have several high-needs students who come to my class with lots of baggage. For a few, attendance is sometimes poor. It's been tedious work to inspire these kids to do this project, and I've had to get very creative (many of these students haven't completed too many assignments for my class or their other classes this year). Secondly, I've met resistance from a few colleagues regarding this project. Of course this resistance has never been directed to me, but has instead come in the form of snarky comments, eye rolls, and shoulder shrugs towards the kids' projects. I feel like apathy is the worst form of resistance because I just don't know how to address it. Yesterday I reached a breaking point when I found out another teacher in my building posted a rude comment on someone's Facebook regarding the legitimacy of this unit (just another reason why my life is Facebook free at the moment...). Of course I was pissed, but more than that---I just was awestruck that this teacher can't see the benefits of this project. This unit aligns with more of the state Language Arts standards than most of the other units we teach; it's grounded in sound research (so far I have 20 pages of my thesis and a shelf full of books to prove it); students are learning valuable skills that will transfer beyond the classroom, etc. etc. As I packed up to leave my classroom yesterday, my mind was spinning with thoughts. I passed by poster above of quotes hanging in the front of my room, and I keyed in on one that I've used as a journal prompt and point of discussion with my students:
  "The first resistance to social change is to say it's not necessary." --Gloria Steinem
This project IS necessary for so many reasons. I won't convince all of my students, all of the parents, or all of my colleagues of its importance. But after four years of research, I'm convinced this project is good for kids---so in the words of Joe Dirt, I'll keep on keepin' on doing what's best for kids.


It was a good movie because it was an honest movie...

A perfect end to a day? Watching Midnight in Paris with my husband. I know it wasn't his favorite movie--but he sat through it, pausing the movie every now and then so I could record quotes I found insightful. In fact the title of this post is adapted from a quote in the movie by the character who plays Hemingway. He states (regarding Farewell to Arms), "It was a good book because it was an honest book..."

The movie is a nice blend of honesty, longing, and intellect. Not only is the script tasteful and the camera shots beautiful, but I love the romance behind the film. I loved Owen Wilson's character--a writer and a dreamer. I'm sure many writers identify with his character. I've always had big dreams...when I was a 17 year-old, I longed for city streets, for the stage by night, and poetry by day. I pictured myself in the plots of Kerouac books, meeting interesting people who spoke in poems. And in college when I realized I couldn't make it as a full-time actress, I planned on teaching to support my writing habits. That was when I scrawled lines on napkins, in the margins of newspapers, on coffee sleeves, and anything else that would absorb ink. Now as a teacher, I start every class period with writing---and when I transition students from journaling to class time, I can't help but smile at the students who continue to madly finish their lines as I begin teaching the day's lesson wishing secretly that I too was writing.

I digress. I loved Midnight in Paris. When it ended, I went back to the scene where Gil (Owen Wilson) first meets Hemingway....that conversation is so saturated with priceless lines...I'll end with my favorite from Hemingway: "No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure."So beautiful. Bottom line: pick up a copy of Midnight in Paris, and if you're a literary nerd like me--you might as well just buy a copy because you won't want to return your Netflix rental!

Career Crossroads

After grading quizzes and study guides yesterday, it appeared that many, many students did not bother to fill in their study guide in class or even study for the quiz they knew about for a week...After receiving one too many snarky emails from colleagues...After realizing just how much I have to do on my thesis...I reached my breaking point. It happened last night on the phone with my parents when I cried as I told them I didn't know how much longer I'd be able to continue teaching because the stress is so much for my type A personality.....but last night I received that phone call that every teacher longs for: the snow day call.

It's been a much needed break. I stayed up until 1 AM to catch up on all my grading and edit student writing for our class blog. I slept in until 7:30 this morning, made snickerdoodle pancakes (they were amazing), drank a pot of coffee, and watched a few comedy shows while reading my new issue of Runner's World. I'm feeling better now, but I'm still conflicted. Here's why:

I love teaching. I enjoy impacting kids and presenting them with opportunities to think and engage. Seeing kids really connect with literature and writing just about brings me to tears. I love researching and implementing best practice in my classroom. But when kids don't engage, my job really sucks because of my takes-everything-to-heart, can't-shrug-much-off personality. I view student failure as my failure, which I know isn't necessarily the case. For many students, their lack of engagement in school is not their fault; it stems from their upbringing. It frustrates me that so many kids come to the classroom with baggage from broken homes or come from families who don't place a high priority on education. And while I know these students really deserve teachers who care and who pour their energies into them, I'm just not sure how much I have left to pour. I realize that part of this is my own fault. I've definitely bitten off more than I can chew---it's been my nature ever since I was a teenager. It's hard for me to pass up great opportunities to grow in my career since I really do have a passion for education. But as my professional circle grows and my resume lengthens, I have to wonder, is this what's best for kids?

Our guidance counselor at school has said to me so many times, "You can't meet the needs of others when you're own needs aren't met." My professional involvements bring me fulfillment, intellectual stimulation, and ultimately make me a more effective teacher in terms of content--but my socio-emotional needs are being compromised. I feel like I don't have near enough time to grow in my faith, spend with my husband, socialize with people, and simply relax. At times I tend to think that the aforementioned needs are frivolous, and that going without those will me me tougher and more productive. But each time I've gone with those needs unmet for a length of time, I breakdown.

I can't figure out if I love teaching or if I love education and improving the quality of it. I'm not sure that I can do both well and still have all of my own needs met. The next three to four months will definitely require lots of prayer and honest reflection.