Run down

Today I am stuck at home in bed with a 101 degree fever and what is likely a sinus infection. What sucks is that I felt a cold coming on early this week, and I tried to take it easy--but my crazy schedule this week simply didn't allow me to take a break. On Wednesday after school I drove to Omaha for the NETA conference. I presented Thursday and then drove back to Ogallala (about a 5 hour drive) on Friday to make it back for Nate's last concert. Then after the concert, I drove to Kearney (2 hour drive), arriving a little after midnight, in order to set up for the NeWP youth writing festival we held yesterday. So I spent about 7 hours in the car on Friday....gah. I drove back home yesterday, ate a quick dinner with my husband, and then went to school to meet the English teacher who will be replacing me next year. I hobbled in the door last night a little after 9 feeling ragged.

It's been downhill ever since. I've been dizzy, shivering cold, clammy, with a pounding headache and completely plugged nose. Luckily the burning in my throat has ceased a little. I couldn't squeeze in my 8 mile run this weekend...it's the first run I've missed since starting my training over 12 weeks ago. The marathon is one week from today, so I need to kick this bug. I'm hoping to get in the doctor tomorrow to get a shot of antibiotics (despite my extreme fear of needles!). If you know me, you know I have a hard time taking a break. I still have lesson plans to write, a quiz to create, and papers to grade. So the fact that I'm in bed while my to-do list sits in the other room with nothing crossed off, kills me. If you have any suggestions for getting over this quickly---pass them my way. And if you're the praying kind, throw up a few for a quick recovery!


New Blogs

Thought I'd put in a plug for the new blogs I'm following lately...here's sort of an annotated bibliography because I'm nerdy awesome like that:

Nameless Blog
After over a year long hiatus, my husband is blogging again! He's a wise and passionate dude. Lately he's been doing a lot of reflecting about our upcoming job changes, but he also writes about teaching and offers his insights about different books he's reading. His latest post is about realizing that he is a writer.

The Miles in My Shoes
I didn't link this blog because it's private with only invited readers. One of my incredibly talented 9th graders, Micah, started this blog a few weeks ago, and I've enjoyed reading his insights and thoughts. I've learned so much from him already. I'm looking forward to following his writing and keeping in touch with him to see how he grows as a writer and as a person.

The Life and Times of Ava
One of my former OHS students is now an Aurora Huskie (boo!). Having Ava in class last year was an awesome experience. Not only is she an INCREDIBLE writer, she is bubbly, intelligent, hilarious, compassionate, and driven. She started her blog today at our NeWP youth writing festival (more about that later).

Let It Be
This blog is courtesy of another former student. She was in my first class of freshmen at OHS. I remember reading her journal and enjoying each minute of it. One of the best parts of teaching is watching your kids grow and mature--and this is certainly true with Balie. She's growing into a phenomenal woman. Again, I'm excited to "follow" Balie via her blog.

My 366, 000 Words of 2012
And last, but certainly not least, is my running partner's blog. Kristin and I have become great friends over the past 6 months. It will be sad to say goodbye to her this summer. I always enjoy reading what Kristin writes because she is the most genuine person I know and this quality really comes out in her writing.


A deep imprint

My friend Ryan runs a home medical equipment business, which means he often visits patients in their homes in order to get them what they need to make life more pleasant for them when they're ill or in their last days here on earth. I don't know how he does it. The smell of hospitals and sick people makes my stomach turn. The sight of oxygen tanks and tubes sends my heart racing. Ryan's currently working with a patient who used to be a hired hand for his own grandfather, and this patient is one of those who's in his last. Earlier this week he told Ryan he'd like to hear some gospel music. Being the nice guy he is (I have great friends), he gathered our little bluegrass band up and today we drove to this guy's house to put on a little mini concert for this guy, his wife, and his son.

The guy was in a hospital bed and on oxygen. He looked so frail and small in his bed. His wife stood barefoot, leaning against a bed post. The son lounged on the bed near his father while the pet Cocker Spaniel slept between the two men.

We started with Gillian Welch's "By the Mark," and the first note out of my mouth was shaky beyond belief. I had shoved my hands deep into my front jeans pockets in an attempt to hide the shaking. Tears welled in my eyes as as I sang "When I cross over, I will shout and sing..." My legs felt rubbery, like they'd give out any moment. I couldn't get my body to stand still--nor could I tame the vibrato in my voice. I've sang this song at least 100 times and know the lyrics by heart, but still I kept my eyes glued to the music. I couldn't make eye contact with the man we were singing to; if I did, I'd lose composure.

Throughout the song my mind wondered to the last time I'd seen someone so sick and frail. I think I was 7 or 8, and it was my grandpa. He had lung cancer. I vaguely remember a hospital room, and his small frame tucked in those sterile looking white hospital blankets. I remember the oxygen tanks and the hum of the machines in the room. I think I remember hearing people cry, but mostly I remember feeling scared out of my mind. I'm not sure what I was scared of. Maybe deep down, I feared that was the last time I'd see my grandpa.

We fumbled our way through many of our songs that are, ironically enough, mostly sad or about death. As we sang, my voice eventually settled and calmed to its original straight, smooth tone. I slowly gained courage to peek at the wife who kept her eyes mostly fixed on her husband, and the son who seemed deep in thought. A few times I glanced at the old man and give him a sort of half-smile as I sang. During one of the songs he stared straight ahead, and I wondered what he was thinking. Was he negotiating with God for more time with his beautiful wife? Was he remembering days spent with his children? Or was he thinking of the long list of regrets we sometimes think of when we come close to death?

Soon other family members crowded into the house, so we ended with "I'll Fly Away"---another song about death. Though it's a hopeful song about being free and joyful to meet the Creator of the universe, I couldn't stop myself from thinking about all of these people who'd soon be without a loved one. The shaking returned and the tips of my ears grew a deep hue of red and felt fiery. I was thankful when the last chord rang. We packed up and drove home, making small talk until we finally got back to Ryan's house. After I shut my front door behind me, I let myself cry for just a few minutes as I remembered the frail little man we sang for and my own grandfather. Those 40 minutes left a deep imprint in my memory; I hope we brought a little joy to Ryan's patient and his family during what I'm sure is a tough time.

Piano burning

Before the burn

 Last night we spent the evening burning a piano. No joke. Over the past year or so we've become great friends with Bob and Shannon who own our local music store. A few years ago they started a tradition of burning a useless piano. So last night the piano from our musical last year was the victim. Of course it was awesome to watch a piano burn and then collapse into a heap of ash and iron, but what was more enjoyable was the time spent with so many great people.

I fell asleep last night...er...early this morning...thinking about the friendships we've been blessed with here in Ogallala. When we moved here, we thought we'd never have friends! These people are genuine, honest, hilarious, and a host of other adjectives. Many have become almost like family to us. It will be difficult to leave and say goodbye to these people....

Enough sap. Here are some photos from the evening:

Shannon plays while Bob laughs :)

Yeah, this isn't from the piano burning. Today we frolicked through Meadowlark Hills Lilac Farm in between here and Grant. It was beautiful and smelled so nice!


Marathon update

The hard part of my training is over. Yesterday I ran 20 miles--my longest run of training. My running partner and good friend, Kristin, was kind enough to bring me Gatorade and Kleenex at mile 5. Then she met me at mile 8 to run the rest of the way with me. She's a great distraction! At mile 19.5 when I began making faint noises of discomfort, she was quick to encourage me, and it helped carry me through the last half mile which seemed to last FOREVER. It was a nice, cool, misty, rainy run. The sun peeked its way through the clouds about 14 miles in and warmed us up. Overall, it was a good run. My legs aren't too sore today, and I feel ready to tackle 26.2 miles in three weeks. I am thankful that my mileage begins to taper this week and will continue to diminish until race day: May 6th.

This year my husband, Nate, and his sister and younger brother will be running the half-marathon. This will be Nate's fourth half, Amy's second, and Scott's first. I'm excited to run the first half with them as they're a fun bunch of people. When Nate, Amy, and I ran our first 5k sometime around 2007, Scott cheered us on with a McDonald's breakfast burrito in hand. He's come a loooong way and has made some great lifestyle changes in the past few years. So though he may not see it as this, I look at it as a celebration of his accomplishments. I'm proud of him. I'm also proud of Amy for training for the half during the last stretch of her dissertation (a slightly time consuming process). And my dear husband despises running...so, I'm proud of him for coming back to it year after year.

This year our nieces (Denelle, who will soon be 6, and Alexis who is 7 going on 17) are running the kids mile around the state capital the day before the marathon. Alexis was a little hesitant to consent to such a feat, but Denelle proudly proclaimed that she is signed up for the mile run. Last weekend we were back home for Easter, and right before I set out for my Saturday morning run, Deni stumbled into the living room half-asleep. "Are you going running?" she asked. When I confirmed that I was in fact going running, she stated sleepily, "Well I'm running the mile marathon the day before your marathon." It was super cute. I will be there the day before the marathon with signs for the girls and hugs to offer at the finish line. And I'll probably tear up when Amy, Scott, and Nate turn off at 13.1 to enter the stadium and cross the finish line. I will likely be a blubbering wreck when I cross the finish line myself.

Needless to say, I'm excited for the weekend of the marathon :)


Should teachers be disciplined for online lives?

Note: This post is edited from one I recently composed for our district's Professional Learning Network. Since this is my "personal" blog (I say that a bit sardonically), I added in a few of my own thoughts, some "one-two punches" as my dad calls them.

Should teachers be disciplined for online lives? What a question! This contentious issue was one of the topics on NPR's Talk of the Nation today. Two college professors, Jonathan Turley (Prof. of Civil Law) from George Washington University and Elizabeth Meyer (Asst. Prof. of Education) from California Polytechnic State University, discussed the issue with callers on today's program. I listened to the podcast of the episode today and found it incredibly relevant for teachers even in a small, rural district like ours.

As the title implies, teachers across the nation have been disciplined for online activity. One teacher was disciplined after he posted a blog entry containing his opinions on the topic of gay marriage (by the way...this same guy was previously awarded Teacher of the Year in Florida), others have been let go for posting photos on social networking sites of themselves drinking alcohol, and the infamous Philadelphia teacher who blogged about her students being "rude, disengaged, lazy whiners" was also fired. Though this may seem to some like immoral behavior, as one caller (a pre-service teacher) points out, it's all perfectly legal and within each teacher's right as an American citizen under the first amendment.

"Teachers are denied the full range of freedoms adults have" states Turley. Turley's argument throughout the show is that teachers work long hours for low pay, and they should be allowed the full freedoms that every other citizen is allowed. Meyer argues that there is no separation between a teacher's career life and his/her personal life. "Schools are public compulsory, therefore it's essential that teachers are held to a higher standard," she states.

While I agree that teachers should model social media responsibility (as well as civic responsibility), I completely disagree with disciplining teachers for online activity if the activity displayed is within that teacher's legal rights. When I moved to a small town to teach, I understood I was moving into conservative country. I understood that my privacy probably wouldn't exist anymore. Like both professors mention in the radio show, teachers have to know their communities and live responsibly in them. But if we start limiting what teachers can or cannot post on social media sites, should we begin policing grocery stores or other public places to monitor conversations teachers have with community members? And who will be tasked with this monitoring? Who will ensure that discipline is issued equitably? If morality clauses are introduced into teacher contracts, who will define "morality"?

I've only been a teacher for 4 years...technically, if you're familiar with my crazy student-teaching experience, 3.5, but already in this short time, education has changed radically. It will be...interesting (for lack of better terms) to see what other crazy policies, bills, and changes wiggle their way into the world of education.....


Realigning my focus

Last week was a rough training week for me. I wanted to run an 8:30 pace for my 5 mile run on Tuesday; when I finished, I checked my Garmin to see an 8:59 pace. Disappointment crept in alongside self-berating thoughts.  Throughout the day on Wednesday I found myself dreading the 9 miles I needed to log after school. It was a cloudy day, and all I wanted to do was curl up on my couch with a book. I felt 25 pounds heavier during my 5 mile run on Thursday. I love running, but it really was a lousy running week for me.

On Friday we attended a Good Friday service at Nate's home church where I was reminded of the price of my sin. I've never been so affected by the crucifixion as I was on Friday evening. For a majority of the sermon my vision was clouded by tears. After the congregation slowly filtered out of the sanctuary in the dark, I lingered in my seat a little while longer contemplating all I had neglected in the past few weeks. I have pushed aside Christ and filled that spot with selfish, worldly desires.

I started this marathon training with intentions of glorifying God--pushing myself to new limits that I knew couldn't be attained without focusing on Christ. But in the last few weeks I traded my focus on Christ for a focus on myself. After my 18 miler, I grew too proud of myself and began growing a bit egotistical about all I have accomplished in the last 15 weeks. Last week was miserable because my focus was all screwed up. I was more worried about myself and how crappy I felt when I should have been more focused on how I could glorify God in my running. During my 14 miler on Saturday, I knew I had to realign my focus. When I think about all Christ went through so I could be counted as righteous, I am overwhelmed. This unconditional love Christ demonstrated for me on the cross should motivate me to work hard through the crappy runs and aches and pains. Running 26.2 miles is nothing in comparison to what Christ suffered here on earth.

When we begin to be motivated by fast times, recognition, and other forms of worldly success, we've lost our focus and we will eventually be defeated. It's hard not to focus on this when that's what we're surrounded by. But as believers we should lead an antithetic life--one that's opposite from what the world lives because we know that everything in the world (including our success) is temporary and will eventually let us down. We have our hope in eternal things--and though we can't gain more favor with God by doing certain things, we should strive to glorify Him in all we do...it's what He deserves. "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).
And I know I used this verse in my last blog post, but I don't mind being repetitive! John 3:30 states, "He must become greater; I must become less." If God is to be my priority and my center, then I must become less. As my miles increase to an all time high this week, I'm planning on saturating myself in God's word in order to make Him first and to bring Him the glory He deserves.


Playing the waiting game

My brother in-law, Scott, has been raving about the movie "Courageous" for a few months. We've been meaning to watch it, but my short attention span often distracts me from movies. This weekend we helped Scott move into a new apartment, so as a token of his appreciation, he bought us the movie. After we unpacked from our holiday travels today, we watched it. The acting is sometimes cheesey, but I appreciated the message. Given our circumstances and struggles with infertility, the movie was tough to watch at times...

In July we will have been on the list of available adoptive parents through our agency for one year. Maybe this is arrogant of me, but I honestly didn't think we'd be on the list for this long. I know one year isn't that long. It seems like most of the adoptive parents who've worked through our agency waited for a year or two before a placement was made. But the irrational side of me thinks, "We're young, financially stable, and semi-interesting---who wouldn't pick us to parent their child?!" I tend to over-analyze things anyway, so as the months have passed, I've started thinking about our profile letter and what needs to be changed in order to make us more "marketable." It's such a crazy experience, really. We have two pages in text and photos to "sell ourselves" to prospective birth parents, to convince them to meet us face to face to talk about parenting their child.

As we watched the movie I wondered if we'd ever be parents. I feel like I go back and forth on this. At times I feel sure that God wants us to be parents and will bless us when the timing is right. Other times I'm not so sure, and I wonder if parenting is in the cards for our lives; I don't know if it's just a fear of mine, or if it's a real possibility. And so this is where faith comes into play. I have faith that what God ordains in our life is what's best--even if it may not align perfectly with my idea of what's best. It's not easy to have this kind of faith, to say to God--"Do what you want." I want to adopt kids, and I want to be parents who bring their kids to Christ and work to foster their relationship with Him. Remaining childless forever terrifies me. So it's hard to submit to God and say, "Do what you want." But...like John writes in John 3:30--"He must become greater; I must become less."

This infertility/adoption road hasn't been an easy one to travel. But, it's made my faith more genuine and practical. It's teaching me to set aside my own desires to seek God as my only source of fulfillment. And though the road sometimes feels like a dead end, I'll keep walking, searching for beauty along the way.


Thoughts on teaching "To Kill a Mockingbird"

I love spring. Longer days and warmer weather seem to put life back into perspective for me. I've always been a bit of a tom-boy--but I adore flowy skirts; I pull them out as soon as the weather reaches 55 degrees. Spring also means that I get to teach To Kill a Mockingbird...my absolute favorite book. I read it my 9th grade year of high school but don't remember any of it. I wasn't mature enough to appreciate literature until my junior year (that's when I fell in love with the transcendental writers and began musing about being an English teacher). I re-read the book again during my first year of teaching as I scrambled to find something to fill the last month of my 11th grade English class. The wise Language Arts teacher across the hall from me suggested I teach it, "The kids always love it," she remarked. So I took home a copy that night, started it after dinner and found myself still reading at 3 AM that night. I finished it in two days.

Since then I've taught the book three different times to three diverse groups of students. I'm currently teaching the book again to 66 students in my English 9 class. Though it's the fourth or fifth time I've read the book, I still find myself laughing at the kids' adventures and  and crying during the Tom Robinson trial. Countless times I've tried to convince my dear husband to name our daughter Scout or our son Atticus. Unfortunately, he doesn't share my affinity for the novel! Tonight my students are to read chapter 11 of the novel--where we meet Mrs. Dubose. Tonight I re-read the chapter again and am trying to plan the right activity that allows my students to see Mrs. Dubose for who she really is: a picture of courage. Like Atticus tells Scout and Jem, I want my students to "...see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do" (Lee, 116). I'm not sure what activity I'll do tomorrow with my students...sometimes I wake up at three in the morning with ideas. Hopefully that happens tonight.

I think what I struggle with so much while teaching this book is knowing that many kids probably aren't reading the book. Though I'd like to think that all of them are reading the novel, I know many (probably more than I know) will rely on Spark Notes or a friend to clue them in about the book rather than reading it for themselves. I forget that not every 14 or 15 year old kid shares my passion for a carefully turned phrase. However, I hope they notice that dream-like trance I get when talking about the book. I hope they hear the quiver in my voice when I read the chapter where Atticus tells Tom Robinson's wife that her husband (an innocent man who is deemed guilty only because of the color of his skin) is dead. I hope they understand why I have them share lessons they've learned while growing up, memories from their own childhood, times their own parents mortified them and then turned around and made them proud. I hope all of the above motivates even a few to look past the difficult vocabulary and the fact that it's an "old" book to actually read it.

If you haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird since you were in high school, you need to. It truly is a timeless classic!