A mini-philosopher

Ran across this video this morning on NPR. It made me smile. The blogger on NPR who posted this video wrote about how this kid's parents don't have a particular method that lends to such an insightful child. Instead, they simply treat him like he's an intelligent kid who can understand the complexities of life. I've only had a few interactions with young kids, but in my experiences working with little kids (I did run an after school program for elementary kids for one year...it was both terrifying and rewarding),  I've learned that if we talk to them like they're smart people, they'll have smart things to say. This is a humanizing concept. Treat kids like they're intelligent beings. Of course, we shouldn't have unrealistic expectations for our wee ones; they can't talk and act like adults all the time. They'll still do little kid things like pick their nose (gross) and there's room to allow them these little kid "privileges." It always makes me cringe a little when I hear adults talking to kids like they have no brains. So, I guess that's why I like this video so much. It makes me excited to have kids in our home.


Career crossroads

It's late, and I rolled in from work and meetings at about 10:30 tonight, but still I'm feeling like I need to write. We had a leadership team meeting for the Nebraska Writing Project in Lincoln tonight and then a few of us walked down the block to another meeting after that to plan for a session we'll be facilitating at conference coming up. Though these days are long, I always appreciate the time I get to collaborate with other teachers. I carpooled with two other teachers from the Metro area, and on the way there and back we talked teaching. Well, mostly they talked and I listened. They've got 10-15 years of teaching on me, and they're both intelligent dudes. At first it was sort of overwhelming to hear them talk so deeply and I felt like I had nothing to contribute, but eventually I came to simply enjoy listening to them. Their talk of literature, teaching, politics, and education made me think. And it was refreshing to have time to think and reflect. So much of this year has simply slipped by me. I feel like I haven't really done a good job at anything this year (teaching, relationships, learning, etc) because I've simply been surviving. It's a terrible feeling. I desperately want time to think and reflect.

I love teaching English, but I sometimes fear that I'm not cut out for it. It's a demanding profession, and my principal tells me I'm a type A person (I can't really argue with him). I haven't learned how to shut off my job yet.  My fear is that if I keep going at the speed I'm currently at, I'll be dried up in five years with nothing left to offer kids. I worry about balancing teaching English full time and being a parent (either to foster kids or our own through adoption); I can barely manage teaching full time and taking care of myself! This afternoon I stumbled across something I wrote a few years ago about the necessity of finding a way to keep young teachers teaching...perhaps that was my psyche foreshadowing all of these worries I have regarding the sustainability of my own career. Perhaps I'm just not cut out for teaching English. I wonder if all English teachers feel this way at some point in their career....

I feel I'm at a crossroads in my career. I don't want to be the person who never seems to be content with her situation. But I also want to be realistic and plan well for our future family. If I'm stressed out to the extreme, it will be difficult to be the kind of parent I want to be.

Making tough decisions blows (for a lack of more articulate terms).



After parent-teacher conferences on Thursday night, another teacher and I chatted about our weekend plans. "I'm headed back home this weekend," I told her--referencing Ogallala as home. We've lived in Omaha now for ten months, but it still doesn't feel like home. We like Omaha, and it's nice to be so much closer to family, but it doesn't have the same comforting feeling like Ogallala does. Anyway, we made the trek back "home" on Friday morning and came home this evening.

On Friday we got to spend time with some of our former students as we celebrated the life of a beautiful young woman (one of our former students) who was killed in a car accident last weekend. It was tough to see these kids so broken up, but it was great to be able to tell stories about the fun memories we all have of Emma. I'm so glad we were able to be there to hug our kids, let them cry on our shoulders, and tell them we love them. Seeing these kids made my heart heavy because I miss many of them so much more than I ever thought I would. 

We also got to spend time with our friends this weekend. We stayed with the Josjors, so of course we ate and drank well and had great conversation. Kristin and I ran six miles on Saturday morning, which doesn't seem like a lot, but if you had seen the weather that day, you'd be proud of us! It was cold, windy, snowy, and the roads grew slicker with every mile. It's always great to catch up with Kristin. She's a true woman of God who inspires me to live better. On Saturday evening we helped our friend Ryan celebrate his birthday by eating way too much food and playing a raucous game of spoons. After we left Ryan and Tracy's, Nate and I stayed up late talking with Bob and Shannon. It reminded me of our first dinner with them. A few years ago they invited us over for dinner on a Sunday night, and we ended up staying well past our bedtime. We were hooked on the Josjors after that! For the next few years they fed us, cried with us during tough times, and laughed with us. They were our first real friends in Ogallala and are part of what made Ogallala feel like home. 

While this weekend was a great time spent catching up with people who are important to us, part of me wishes we hadn't gone back because I find myself longing to be back there. I couldn't keep track of the number of kids and parents who asked us to move back (Nate's replacement will not be returning next year, so his old job is open again). After this weekend, it is so tempting to move back. We still have a house there, and we have so many great friends to come back to. The logical part of me knows that God has put us in Omaha for a reason, and it might take some time for us to figure out what the reason is. While Ogallala still feels like home, our home is here, in Omaha. Nate mentioned this on his blog earlier this weekend, but I am ready for Omaha to start feeling like home for us. 



One reason I love teaching is that it gives us the chance to really connect with kids. One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is connecting with students and then watching them grow and mature. For many teachers, our students become our "kids," a title we use with fond affection. Often these connections with students make our jobs difficult, too.

This morning Nate drove me to Lincoln so I could run a half-marathon. About 20 minutes before the race, a former student of ours called Nate. It's not unusual for former students to stay in touch with us via texts and emails. But we don't get many phone calls from kids; it was also 7:40 in the morning on a Saturday (a time college students don't frequently see), so Nate answered it right away. Based on Nate's responses, I could tell it wasn't good. "How's Lea," he asked? "How are you doing? Are you home now? Please call me again if you need to talk. Tell the other kids that as well," he said while his eyes grew misty.

"What's wrong?" I inquired.

"Emma died in a car accident last night," he stated.

Nate taught Emma for three years in choir. She was never in any of my English classes, but I came to know Emma through church and through our high school musicals. She was in two of the shows that Nate and I directed. When you help with an extracurricular activity, you come to know students on a deeper level than in the classroom, which makes this much harder on Nate. I taught her little brother Jake last year and came to know him more through FCA. Jake is young, but he's a solid kid with a great Biblical foundation (their parents did a nice job raising these kids). Tough moments like this can be a definitive moment for a person's walk with Christ. My prayer is that Jake would grow deeper in his relationship with the Lord during such a hard time.

Emma always had a smile on her face. Seriously...sometimes I wondered if her face ever hurt from smiling so much. I loved watching Emma on stage because she always looked as if she was having a great time, but this is no surprise because it seemed that this was how Emma chose to live her life. Come to think of it, I just can't picture a time I ever encountered her in a bad mood. She had a great sense of humor and a contagious positive attitude. You couldn't help but smile yourself whenever you spent any amount of time with her. Emma brought joy to a whole lot of people.

This is the first student both of us have lost. It's tough to sort through all of the emotions affiliated with such a hard event like this. Teaching is incredible because it allows us to build relationships with kids, but it's difficult to experience losses like this.


Reading through the Bible in a year

A few weeks ago I finished my daily Bible reading plan that took me through the Bible in one year. I finished in a year and a few weeks, and I've got to say, it's a good feeling. Prior to this experience I was hesitant to read through certain books of the Old Testament. It's an intimidating chunk of the Bible, and it can be dreadfully boring. I pressed on, though, and though some parts were tedious, it really opened my eyes to see the full picture of Jesus. It's incredible to read through some of the Old Testament prophecies about Christ and then to read about them coming true thousands of years later.

This was a year that I very much needed this consistency in the Word. It was a hectic year filled with trials, and I think without that rock of scripture, I would've floundered way more than I did. My command of scripture still isn't as great as others', but this reading plan definitely helped solidify verses and stories in my mind.

If you haven't noticed, the Bible is a big book. It can be intimidating to know where to start when reading through it, but the reading plan made it so easy to read the Bible: I simply read what the plan stated I should read on that particular day, and it did a nice job of balancing Old Testament with New Testament each day. If you're of the Christian persuasion (or are interested in religion) and you haven't read through the Bible in its entirety, you should (not to sound pushy or anything!). There are tons of reading plans on the internet; I don't think it matters which one you use. Nate just bought a chronologically ordered daily reading Bible that takes him through the Bible in the order which all the events occurred (which is contrary to the typical organization of the Bible by books), so that's another option to check into as well. I don't think you'll be disappointed with the experience :)


Running (and living) through pain

I knew it wasn't going to be a good run this morning the first time I pressed my snooze button. I rolled out of bed at 6:45 after three snoozes and choked down a few pieces of toast and some Powerade while reading a few chapters in Hebrews. At 7:30 I was still sitting at my kitchen table, barefoot and in pajamas. The night before I had made plans to meet some of my running friends at 8, and it is about a 20 minute drive (depending on the number of red lights) to our typical launch pad. I trudged to the bedroom and began my typical Saturday morning dig for my running clothes. No surprise: they were all dirty. They didn't smell too bad, so I put them on anyway. A guy at a running store once told me that SmartWool socks can be worn for a few runs before being washed...I hope he wasn't joshing me. By 7:45 I sprinted out the door with one shoe tied, my hands filled with my Garmin, my mid-run fruit chews, my non-nerdy fanny pack, and my headphones. I arrived a few minutes late (luckily I have gracious running partners), frazzled, and already short on breath. This isn't gonna be pretty, I thought to myself.

I was right.

Des and Amy casually carried on conversation while I focused on a futile attempt at regulating my wacky breathing. As we racked up miles, my breathing became more out of sync, I felt a twinge of pain beneath my left rib, my left shoulder throbbed, and I felt dizzy. I limped along with them trying not to focus on the pain. We arrived back at our starting point after 7.38 miles so Des and Amy could head home, but I still had 4.22 miles left in my run (someone check my math here..) to get to my 12 miles that my training plan insisted I run. I stopped for a minute or so to part ways with Des and Amy, check my pace (8:28...seriously, these ladies make me do the craziest things), and then I was off. Back up the hill to complete my last leg. I slowed the pace down a bit to what seemed like a tortoise pace, but at least the burning in my rib went away. I resisted the urge to peek at my Garmin, and just kept running, trying to focus on my music and ignore how crappy I felt.

I ran the last .10 mile with my arm up, eyes glued to the screen of my Garmin and came to an abrupt halt at 12 miles. A coughing fit ensued and snot shot out onto my sweaty gloves. I bent over to catch my breath for a few seconds. When I got to my car, I checked my pace, hesitantly. I did not want to see the numbers....
I was pleasantly surprised. Not bad for how terrible I felt throughout the full 12. I love running, but today during my run I hated just about every minute of it. Some runs are just like that, but the satisfaction gained at the end of a hard run is one of the greatest feelings. Running is a lot like life; when life gets tough, we just have to keep going. And when a run is hard, we just have to keep running. Eventually the pain will cease, and we'll be able to look back with a sense of satisfaction for how we've grown through the pain.

In one week I'll be running my first half marathon of 2013. It's a trail run in Lincoln, so I don't quite know what to expect for a time. I'll post an update after the race!


Learning about foster care

3,000 kids. That's the number of Nebraska youth who are currently in foster care. 1,500 are from the Omaha Metro area. In the basement of the agency we visited tonight was a shelter for youth who had no foster home to go to. There are currently 12 kids there (which is this shelter's capacity) and one of these kids is only nine years-old....only one year older than our oldest niece. It was heartbreaking to hear these statistics.

We learned that a 10 week training program is beginning in early April (as opposed to a 13 week training program not starting until early May with our current agency), and after that it takes about 45 days to get our licensing finished. So, we could be done with the process by about the time school is starting. We asked a lot of questions tonight and found out some valuable information. When the meeting concluded, Nate looked at me and said, "I think we should sign up for the class in April." Nate's a pretty intuitive guy; he doesn't often make hasty suggestions. It's part of what I love and respect about him. Before we left, we signed up knowing that we still have a few weeks to pray and talk about the matter. Though, I just don't know there's much to pray or talk about. We want to be parents and 1,500 kids in the Omaha area need homes. God has adopted us into his family when we haven't done anything to deserve it; why shouldn't we offer this same gift to others? I'm sure it will be a challenging road to travel, but I am excited by the possibilities. I'm looking forward to learning more about caring for kids who've been through trauma (this knowledge will help us both in the classroom, too) and about ourselves.

In the meantime, we need to talk with our agency about the switch (luckily, this new agency will accept all of our current background checks!), and we'll keep praying for wisdom and that God would prepare us for whatever He has in store for us in the coming months.