Marathon Training Update

 Yesterday ended badly. A conflict with a colleague tipped me over the edge and sent me into a fit of rage. I'm a hot-headed person in some situations (especially situations concerned with my job and doing what's best for kids), and yesterday it took a lot to calm me down. I spent much of last night dwelling on how angry I was. But my run this morning (18 miles= painful) gave me a fresh perspective on it all. And that's part of why I love running so much. I had nothing to do for 9 miles (until I met my running partner) but listen to music and think. Running and writing are probably the only two activities that bring me down to earth. This marathon business is time consuming and is the biggest physical challenge I've encountered, but I love the guaranteed "think time" that comes along with it. It's a great way to clear the mind and gain a sense of satisfaction. I'm afraid to think of how wound up I'd be without running!


We have a doctor in the family!

For the past few years my sister in-law, Amy, has gracefully pulled many all-nighters, sacrificed hours of time, juggled an insane schedule, etc, etc. while she's pursued an Doctoral Degree in Education. Her husband and kids have cheered her on every step of the way...and today...she defended her dissertation. We got word this afternoon that we can officially call her Dr. Nebesniak! We are so proud of Amy and of all she has accomplished. She is a great inspiration to us!

Congrats Amy Dr. Nebesniak!

"What Teaching Means: Stories from America's Classrooms"

A colleague of mine from the Nebraska Writing Project who teaches English at Ralston High School is currently working on editing and publishing a book--alongside his wife--to be released this April called What Teaching Means: Stories from America's Classrooms. Dan's an incredible teacher, and though I haven't met his wife, Marni, from what I know of their work on this book, they're quite the dynamic duo. I'm impressed with all they're doing in order to humanize students and teachers in a society that treats both more like machines. Not only did they commit to organizing, editing, and then publishing this book (with Rogue Faculty Press), but they're also organizing a series of readings across the country. The book's contributors span a wide geographical area stretching from Oregon to New York. I know they have a reading planned in Omaha, one in the works for the Ft. Collins area, and last I heard possibly one in Wisconsin. I don't know how they raise kids, stay married, teach, take classes, and work on a book together. They inspire me to be better, to teach with passion, and to work through the ugly days.

One of my essays will be published in the book--this is my first "real" publication (poems in college publications don't count), and I don't know how I managed to weasel my way in. As I read through the brief excerpts from the book and scour the teacher bios, I feel awkwardly out of place and humbled. The teachers whose essays are featured seem genuine and brilliant. These are people I'd want teaching my kids. And after reading just a portion of the book, I feel proud to be a teacher.

Dan and Marni created and maintained a blog to publicize the book where they feature snippets of essays featured in the book, a beautifully written preface, as well as reviews of the collection. You can also order a copy of the book from their blog. If you care at all about the state of education in our country, order a copy of What Teaching Means; you'll be encouraged by the stories.


Marathon Update

6 weeks until the marathon. 12 weeks of training under my belt has brought about the following:
Prior to half-marathon number three in Arvada, CO this winter
  • A craving for fried chicken. I've tried hard to eliminate processed, fried foods from my diet. With thesis writing, essay grading, and other stresses---this dietary restriction hasn't always happened. I've eaten my fair share of candy, and today I ate a doughnut :( Gah. On Saturday I ate not one, but two hotdogs cooked over a campfire...I couldn't resist. My stomach hated me for the next 48 hours. While I've had a few slip ups, overall, I've done a pretty good job of eating nutritious foods. For the past 12 weeks, though, I've craved fried chicken. It might be my post-marathon treat...
  • Massive blisters on my second toe of my right foot. For a minute I considered posting a photo...but then I realized how nasty that would be. The blisters really did me in last week. I hobbled home, barefoot, after my 8 mile run on Wednesday, my toes screaming. I did some research and purchased a pair of toe socks made specifically for running. My toes are fat little things, and my second one rubs like crazy on my big toe. I tried out the socks on my long run this weekend and am pleased with the results. I think they'll be a good solution until I purchase my next pair of running shoes. A post-marathon pedicure is definitely in order--perhaps I'll eat fried chicken while having my feet sand blasted....
  • A renewed appreciation for Lauren Hill. 'Nuff said. 
  • A deeper respect for running. Train for a marathon, and you'll understand how challenging running can be. The tiniest actions like slightly dropping a shoulder, leaning forward too far, or constant heel-striking can turn a somewhat pain-free run into a terrible experience. Too many sugary foods (or wine!) the night before a long run can stop you dead in your tracks. Transitioning from 30 degree running to 80 degree running can do incredible things to the body. Running is truly a science that I'm only beginning to understand.
  • Nerves. To be honest, I haven't thought too much about the marathon....until this week. I have two more difficult weeks left in my training. This week I'll log 36 miles with an 18 miler on Saturday, and in two weeks I'll be up to 40 with a 20 miler that Saturday. So far I've only reached 16 miles on my long runs. I've been blessed to have Kristin to join me for either the full run or for the second half of my stupidly-long runs, so that makes it more bearable. But as the miles increase and the weeks before the marathon fade, I find myself wondering if 26.2 miles is even possible for me--the former sprinter. I'm excited for the challenge but am terribly scared of failing.



For several weeks in FCA we've been studying the gospel so kids are familiar with it and can share it with others. Tomorrow it's my turn to talk to the kids, so I've been praying and thinking about what God would have me share. And I can't get the gospel off my mind....so, I think I'm going to share my testimony with the kids (something I haven't yet done) to sort of show the power of the gospel to change someone's life. I don't want them to think I'm some saintly being just because I help with FCA. I want them to know what God has done in my life and how He's transformed me...and what part the gospel had in that. So here's my story along with some scripture I'll share:

This weekend I tried to remember when the first time was that I heard the gospel. I remember hearing it as a little kid, but I didn't comprehend it then. I went to youth group at a few different churches, but I don't ever remember hearing the gospel spelled out clearly for me. I remember feeling a lot of guilt for the music I listened to, for the words I said, and for my choice of friends. But that guilt never lasted long enough to make me change. I had Christian friends, but I don't remember them sharing the gospel with me. Once when I was a senior in high school I was at this coffee shop that my friends and I frequented. It was owned by a Christian couple who ran a homeless ministry in town. My best friend's dad had just died, and I was pretty devastated about it. I saw the pain it caused my friend and her family, and I couldn't understand why God would take him from her. I was pretty upset and wondered if God even existed. While I waited for my friend to arrive at this coffee shop, the owner came and sat down next to me, which was nothing new. He was the friendly type, but I had never talked to him one on one before. My Christian friends were always there, talking to him about church. We made small talk for a little while and then he asked, "When you die, do you think you'll go to heaven?" It was a bit unnerving, really. I mean, I was still trying to deal with the loss of my best friend's dad, and then he asked me about dying. But without much hesitation, I stated confidently, "No. I don't think so." He asked me why I felt that way, and I think I got pretty defensive with him and mumbled something about not being good enough to get into heaven. Luckily about that time, my friend walked in and saved me from the awkward conversation. It shook me up for awhile. I couldn't sleep that night as I remembered all the stories about hell I heard at Catholic school and youth group. I was sure I was going to hell for various reasons and that there was nothing I could do about it. Still--I don't remember anyone stepping in to clarify this theological misconception.

During my first year of college a friend of mine (John) dragged me to campus ministry (Navigators) and bible study each week. He shared the gospel with me, but I wasn't quite ready to accept it.  I was in a relationship at the time that I knew I shouldn't be in--I knew that it wasn't glorifying to God, but I wasn't ready to give that up. But John kept dragging me to these Jesus things, and I started to break. The next time I can remember hearing the gospel vividly was at a Navigator's meeting during my first year of college. I typically went to the first part of Nav meetings--just so I could participate in the dramas we did to introduce the week's scripture readings. I usually left before the message. But this week the topic was, "Does Jesus love gay people?" I was into controversial topics, so I stuck around that night. There was a guest pastor, and I don't remember the entire sermon or the specific verses, but I remember clearly the gospel message: God loves you so much that He sent his Son to die for you and to bear the weight of your sins (Romans 5:8). He doesn't care what you've done; if you trust and believe that Jesus' death makes you right with God, then you will be made righteous and will have the hope of an eternity spent with Him in heaven. "We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are" (Romans 3:22). I left that night crying because I wanted that. I was terrified of going to hell--and I knew I deserved hell for all the swear words I said, for how I treated people, for having sex out of marriage, for drinking underage, the list of my sins is (notice how I used a present tense verb...) long and complicated. It humbled me to think that God would send His son to lead a blameless life and then die a bloody, brutal death for me. It made me respond. I talked with my friend John, started reading the Bible, praying, and attending church. I knew these acts wouldn't save me (Romans 4:5), but I wanted to do all of these things sort of as a way to thank God.

I've been walking with God for eight years now. And it hasn't been all rainbows and cupcakes. After I made a decision to follow Christ, I lost a lot of friends; I broke up with my boyfriend of nearly two years--someone I'd given way too much to and had put too much hope in. Later in life, I experienced many trials. But the one that nearly broke me again was hearing that my husband and I would probably never have our own kids. For about a year I really wrestled with God. Why would He deny me this blessing? After all, I had responded to the gospel message, so why did my life appear to be falling down on me while others, who hadn't accepted Christ seemed to be getting everything they wanted? I finally learned that God does not promise a perfect life after we respond to the gospel message and decide to follow Him. I learned (by studying the Bible) that God gives us trials to develop us and ultimately to help us "strengthen our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment" (Romans 5:3-5). Everything in this world will disappoint. God won't. He won't because he offers us salvation from our sins when we don't deserve it, and eternal life spent with Him. What's disappointing about that? So when trials strike, I try to remember the hope of salvation.

So in a not so small nutshell, that's how the gospel message changed my life...it forced me to confront my life and it gave me something better. It took awhile, and I experienced lots of trials along the way--but the hope of an eternity spent with Him keeps me going back to Him and gives me strength to push through the tough days.

Changes ahead

This week has been an exhausting one. Nate had a high school concert Monday night, a jazz festival on Tuesday, a middle school concert on Thursday, and a fine arts festival on Friday and Saturday in Minden. Friday was the end of the quarter, so I found myself scrambling to grade essays. The bluegrass band I sing with played last night at a restaurant, so we squeezed in a few practices. Today, two of my English 9 students are hosting the 5k run they've been organizing for the past few months. But this isn't why this week has been so exhausting.

On Monday morning I interviewed for an English position at Gretna High School. The interviews went well; the district is impressive--they have extremely high expectations for both students and teachers. Honestly, when I left my first interview with the principals and headed to meet with the superintendent and curriculum director I felt nervous that I'd not be able to meet the school's expectations, that I wasn't near that caliber of teacher for which they seemed to be looking. As I walked out the door, the principals told me they'd make a decision by Wednesday. On my way home Nate and I talked briefly but excitedly about the interviews, the position, and the district. We agreed to talk more about it this week. As I passed Lexington on the Interstate headed back west, my phone rang. It was the Gretna principal to offer me the job. Of course, I was ecstatic. This was a position I'd been desiring for a few years now. But after the initial excitement wore off at about Hershey, I thought about the roots we've set down here in Ogallala. This is where Nate and I first launched into adulthood, this is where we began our careers, it's where we learned to be independent. More importantly, this is where we've built some of the best relationships we've ever had. As if someone flipped a switch, immediately tears fell and continued until I reached the Ogallala exit.

Nate and I talked on Monday night and agreed that this was a leap of faith we needed to take. I accepted the position the next day, and we turned in our letters of resignation on Tuesday. On Wednesday we told our kids. On Wednesday and Thursday we tried to comfort teary-eyed kids and parents. Today we're exhausted.

It will be hard to leave this place. Not only have we had the chance to work with hundreds of kids (many of whom have taught us more than we've taught them), we've been blessed to meet the most genuine people here. I don't want to leave these people. I've cried a lot this week thinking about it. But I'm confident God is pulling us east. It's time we lived closer to our families. I'm praying and hoping that our family soon grows through adoption. I grew up around my grandparents and cousins and wouldn't trade it for the world; I want our kids to have this same opportunity.

So, now begins a season of change in our lives. In the next few weeks we'll prepare our house to be put on the market (it's a cute two bedroom for anyone interested!). And soon we'll have to pack up our classrooms, our home, and say good-bye to the best friends we've ever had to begin a new chapter out east. If you're the praying type--here are a few requests:
  • Nate does not have a job yet; he has a few leads on positions and an application out, but nothing set in stone. 
  • We need to sell our house in a dismal housing market...'nuff said. 
  • Obviously, we need to find a place. Though it would be an adventure of sorts, I'd prefer not to shack up with friends and family.  
  • Energy and patience to make it through all the upcoming changes; I sometimes struggle with change. 


Update (I'm all out of creative titles!)

It's been too long since my last blog post. The past few weeks have been crazy! We had our first youth writing festival through the Nebraska Writing Project last weekend. 20 high school students attended the event at Elkhorn South High School. It was encouraging to see students devote a Saturday to writing. I hope to post more about the festivals after our Kearney festival is over. Because my schedule has been so packed, I don't have anything terribly insightful to share, but here are a few updates:

On Friday I took the day off to work on my thesis and address the comments my advisor sent me a few weeks ago. It took me all day, but I do believe that, in terms of content, my draft is complete. I may have a few organizational issues, and of course I still need to complete all the crazy formatting requirements that UNL expects. In the next few weeks I'll work on inserting my appendices, but after writing 36 pages and reading a small mountain of books and articles, the bulk of my research and writing should be finished! Before I celebrate too much, I'll wait to hear final word from my committee. This thesis is my first major academic accomplishment. It's been the most challenging experience so far, but it has reaffirmed my love for researching and writing.

This morning my running buddy (Kristin) and I ran 15 miles! This is the first time I've ran anything over a half-marathon distance. My feet hurt when we finished, but other than that, I'm feeling pretty good after it. The weather was beautiful and the conversation was even greater. The only glitch came when we ran into a coyote at about mile 9.5 on a desolate gravel road. It was the first time I've ever seen a coyote, and I freaked out. Kristin, who grew up in the Black Hills and has experience with coyotes, handled it like a champ. While I cowered behind her, she stomped and yelled at the coyote, scaring it off. At the time I was holding an opened energy gel. After the coyote retreated into the field from which he came, and after my legs stopped shaking, I realized I had squeezed my tiny packet so hard that gel covered my hands. It's hard to believe the marathon is only 8 weeks away! While I have a few reservations about the race, I'm looking forward to the challenge.