Part 1: Unprepared (and a little thing called jet lag) HTW-2018

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Seven years in the Girls Scouts gave me two takeaways. Two things that have rung true in my heart and as clear in my mind since the first day I heard them:

1.) Make new friends and keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.

And 2.) ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the sweet tune of friendship with many sliver and gold friends. And I strive to be prepared- as much as possible- for whatever situation I may find myself. My husband often shakes his head when I come out the door, ready for a day trip, with numerous bags filled sweatshirts, raincoats, towels, snacks and water, and a very large first aid kit. My answer to his playful mocking is always the same, “ALWAYS BE PREPARED.”

But “always be prepared” goes beyond physical plans and material items. It’s a combination of a prepared heart, mind and body that makes a person as prepared as they can be. And even then, no person is ever 100% prepared for anything. Because stuff happens. Needs come up. Priorities shift. Unexpected opportunities are offered. Energy levels fluctuate. Uncontrollable events occur and unforeseen situations happen. Little annoyances can turn into hefty distractions. That’s life!

You do your best, and let God take the rest.

This is where my hike begins. Unprepared in many ways.

After a wonderful two-week vacation in California, our family returned home late Tuesday night. I had exactly ONE and 1/2 days to prepare and pack for the hike.

Laid-back, Californian-thinking must have taken over my mind, because I wasn’t one tiny bit worried about the little amount time I had or how unprepared I was to do the laundry (at the laundromat since our washer had conked out the week before), go grocery shopping, run errands, and pack my pack.

And I forgot to account for a little phenomenon called jet lag. We ended up sleeping in Wednesday, taking up 1/2 day of prep time. Still.. I was excited for the trip, not worried about anything, and the kids and I took off to conquer the to-do list. I am sure a little adrenaline and a lot of caffeine helped compensate for the loss of energy I was starting to feel.

Oh, how quickly reality rips through vacation’s rosy veil. And the veil was completely gone by Wednesday night after something occurred that left my heart turned upside down and inside out. Ugly roots of things that I thought had been weeded out of my heart, started to sprout, twist around my joy, and took on an exhausting presence. A cloud of fear settled over me. Lies taunted me. My confidence was questioned. My spirit was in fight mode. I believe it was a spiritual attack and my heart felt less and less prepared to leave the next day. BUT… I knew from experience that the hike was exactly where I needed to be. The mountains give you and God an amazing arena to fight together and work through these types of heart issues.

That night, jet leg destroyed my sleep. I tossed and turned, dwelled and worried. The very little sleep I got was interrupted by bad dreams. No amount of caffeine or bursts of adrenaline was going to make up for severe loss of rest. By Thursday morning, my energy was drained and my pack was still empty.

If you have followed my hiking stories in the past, you know that I usually prepare months in advance, checking off items on a thorough list, and on the morning of the hike I’m thoroughly packed, and often I’ve already packed and unpacked several times. This was different.

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With caffeine-induced energy and a lot of prayer, I started going through the list and throwing things in gallon-sized bags for waterproofing. There would be just two of us this year and we were planning on staying at the Joe Dodge Lodge the first night, camping trailside the next, and spending our final night at Carter Notch Hut. The camping component required a few new items in my pack for cooking and sleeping outside.

Knowing I would have a night in the lodge to reorganize helped as I struggled to decide what to bring. In the end, with an hour to go, my pack was finally packed (as best as I could) and I threw a bunch of other stuff in three shopping bags, just in case I needed or wanted them. Then I put all of it in the truck to deal with later. It was a jumbled mess. I was a jumbled mess of emotions- excited, exhausted, worried, full of anticipation- and I felt extremely unprepared. The good ole’ Girl Scout motto offering me guilt this time instead of comfort.

My husband. My kids. I love them!! They saw my weariness and my increased anxiety. They cheered me on, reminded me how much I loved hiking and how fun this trip was going to be. In our kitchen, they circled me in love and in prayer. Their sweet little hands laid on my knees as they prayed protection over every part of my body. I took in the scene. It was the first beautiful view of my trip. I breathed in the sweet air of the Holy Spirit.

Everything was going to be okay. It was going to be better than okay. It was going to be great because I was heading to the mountains. Three whole days on the trail with one of my best friends, challenging myself, seeing new things, exploring new peaks. And I knew most of all that God was going to bring something new out of this. In my weakness, He’s made strong. I took renewed strength and comfort in this fact. I was going to return from this hike stronger, more confident, and reenergized than how I was leaving. Nothing- no matter how much more I could have prepared, no matter what attacks against my heart and mind, or the crazy shiftiness of jet lag- could ever take that from me.

 

 

 




Thanksgiving Eve

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My grandfather, Baba, was one of the best.  He was gentle and kind. Intelligent and clever. He delighted in learning and was always up for an adventure. He loved his family and he loved words.

Baba went to the library almost every day and if he couldn’t get there, he would call the reference desk with his questions. The ladies knew his voice and he kept them busy with his burning inquiries. When he wasn’t reading or highlighting large portions of texts, he was creating and writing his own short stories and home answering machine messages. Sometimes the messages made sense, sometimes they did not; but they always rhymed and they always brought him joy to create.

Baba was a special man. It’s because of him I wanted to be a teacher. It is because of him, I will always be a life-longer learner. It’s because of watching him observe and problem solve, that I love observing, exploring, and discovering just like him.

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The holidays always bring a mixture of emotions with them- sadness for the ones we miss, joy for the ones we have near, gratitude for the memories from the past and the new memories we are creating. In memory of my grandfather, I wrote the following little poem (true to his poetic style.) It brings me joy to think I might be carrying on a little bit of his “rhyming words and writing “corny” verses” legacy. 🙂

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

Twas the night before Thanksgiving,
And all through the town,
the pies were a baking,
the dishes strewn around.

The preparations were happening,
the time was very near,
the moods varied from maddening to
“Yay! The time is here!”

In the hustle and the bustle,
its hard to stop and rest,
to remember why we celebrate,
the reasons why we’re blessed.

This day is more than history.
more than moods and the food,
this day is about gratitude,
and the people we include.

The blessings that come in small ways,
through the good times and the bad,
the people who praise and pray with us,
and the communities that make us glad.

Let’s turn our eyes toward heaven,
and thank the good Lord who
gives us life and provisions
daily for me and for you.

And let’s sow some seeds of gratitude,
so our hearts may be renewed.
And harvest a field of hope and joy,
that will last the whole year through.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! I am thankful for you! 🙏


NEVER and NEW

 

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We start our fifth year of homeschooling on Labor Day. It’s hard to believe I’ve been homeschooling for this many years (half the number of years of my public school teaching experience.) It’s amazing to see how quickly my children are changing, growing in beautiful ways, and learning to embrace the unique person God made them to be.

It feels like yesterday when each hour, each season of babyhood and toddlerhood seemed to have no end. I walked around in a constant state of exhaustion. I was barely able to think beyond the diapers and bottles. Some dreams were put on hold, some dreams exchanged with dreams of a good night’s sleep. Survival mode seemed to be the most common mode of my life but this was also a time of great thriving. There was joy, growth, excitement, and a lot of love in between the surviving and thriving. Love so powerful it was the fuel that kept me going. As time kept going, things got “easier.” I still hoped for more sleep but my foggy mind started to clear just enough to think in complete sentences again (not in paragraphs, just sentences…) In this time, new opportunities presented themselves to be explored, embraced and be experienced. New dreams were born.

Right around the time my daughter turned three, I started to think more seriously about what education would be like for my children and what my future place in education would be. I remember walking through our church with two homeschool moms and declaring something to the point of “I will never homeschool my kids.” One of the ladies laughed and looked to the other and said, “She will. Just wait and see.” At the time, I was irritated that someone would dare think they knew me better than I knew myself but I also knew there was truth (and love) in her statement. The next few years proved her right! After much prayer, MANY discussions, and more prayer, we decided to homeschool and I found not only what education would mean for my children but also what it would mean for me. A new teaching position in a new setting. My kids, my home. A position I feel I was being prepared for long before the thought of homeschooling ever crossed my mind.

Fast forward five years, homeschooling is without a doubt one of the best decisions we’ve made for our family.  It is also one of the more challenging things I’ve taken on. It is a full-time commitment, often requiring much sacrifice and patience. LOTS of patience. Patience and grace with my children and patience and grace with myself as we all are challenged to learn, grow, and try new things. Education is a whole person, whole family, all-areas-of-life experience in our home.

At the beginning of each school year, I pray about a verse to focus on, memorize, and pray God will use in mighty ways in our lives. This year, our homeschooling theme verse is:

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

ISAIAH 43:19 (ESV)

It’s a new season, a new school year, new ideas are flooding my head, new dreams are being placed on my heart. In school, we have a newly organized school room, a new “schedule,” new books, new crayons (LOVE the those new crayons,) new skills to master, new challenges to accept, new ways to learn. I feel like this is a start of all things new and I’m praying we would be able to perceive the new things God is doing in our lives in very new, tangible ways. Here’s to a great new year and all it holds!!

 

(PS. And just so I do not mislead people, I still wish I got more sleep and there are still days of survival mode living. BUT when those days come around, we are learning to close the books and eat some ice cream. Ice cream is the magical cure for many things. 🙂 )


Happy New Year!

Back To School

Happy New Year!  Today was the first day back to school for the public school teachers and the students in our town. I love this time of year. A mixture of hope, nervousness, excitement, and anticipation. To me, “Back-to-School” feels much more like a new year than January 1st ever will.

There has been a “Back to School” time as long as I can remember. For the most part, I really liked to go to school. And as early as third grade, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. The church my family attended met in a school. On Sundays, during coffee hour, I would wander around the school, looking through the class windows at bulletin board displays and classroom set ups.  One fortunate day, my sister and I rescued some old teaching manuals out of the trash in the school. I was ecstatic to find those manuals and can remember thumbing through each page imagining what it was like to be a teacher. Most days, I could not wait to get home from school so I could PLAY school. I created worksheets for my imaginary students and corrected”their” work.  I would take “them” to imaginary assemblies and field trips. And I kept a Teacher’s Record Book and Attendance!

As I got older, my imaginary students turned into real ones. I started taking care of children in the church nursery and teaching Sunday School.  In high school, I participated in our high school’s preschool program as a student leader. Deciding that I wanted to be a teacher was one of the easiest decisions that I ever made and when it was time to go to college I knew exactly what direction to go in.

My first teaching job was a dream job!  It was on a small island accessible by ferry. I had five students. I was fresh out of college with a degree in special education and I was ready to inspire, motivate, and lead my unknown students to success. I can vividly remember sitting at the teacher orientation breakfast. It was held in an island hotel, the wind was whipping against the building, postcard ocean views could be seen from every angle. Staring out to the ocean, I felt so extremely thankful and blessed. It was almost too good to be true. I was a teacher! From that moment on, I told myself to try to never take things for granted and every day try to take in as much life as I could.

Over the years, my teaching experience has grown and my life had taken me many places. In those seven years between my first job and staying home with my children, I had the privilege of teaching in three different states to three very different populations of students. In each state, in each classroom, there were no two things the same except ONE- my feelings of gratitude and the excitement for the start of the school year.

This year is just like any other, the same feelings of excitement and anticipation for a new year are flickering in my heart and mind. My classroom is no longer housed on an island or in a public school. My classroom is my house and my students are small in number. Only two this year! Everything still feels the same. There is a room to be rearranged, school supplies to buy, desk name plates to be carefully and lovingly written, a new curriculum to be excited for. And a bulletin board to create!

Years of teaching and motherhood have brought me to this point. It is such a blessing to be able to look back on your life and see God’s hand connecting the dots. From the earliest desires to teach, to small group instruction in public schools, to holding my babies in my arms, and now to teaching them at home, God has been with me through every step and allowed me to gain knowledge to be used for the next one. Every day, I strive to do better than the last and to improve myself and my attitude.  So with that, here’s to another year of TEACHING and LEARNING! It is going to be great and I cannot wait to see what is in store!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a]and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11, English Standard Version (ESV)

PS We are extending our summer. Our first day of homeschool will be September 1st. Homeschoolers privilege. 🙂


Lessons From A Playdate

I was enjoying the peace and quiet of the morning. The girls had a new friend over for a play date and the three of them were playing upstairs.  As quietly as I could, I crept upstairs to peek through the half-closed door of the bedroom. It had been turned upside down- every costume owned was on the floor, tap shoe boxes were empty on the bed, random toys were scattered around. All signs of a play date going well. I smiled, walked away and left the trio to their imaginations and laughter.

Moments later, my youngest daughter came to find me, “Mom, E said that S could not play in her house and now S just walked down the stairs and she is sad.” What! I almost could not understand what was just said. One, I had just checked on them and everything seemed great. Two, my oldest, who in my eyes, is very sensitive and including of others, just told our guest that she could not play in her house (whatever the house was) in a way that made someone upset. That did not sound like something she would do at all. I got up to go see what was going on and found S at the bottom of the stairs about to cry. E was coming down the stairs with a convicted, guilty, concerned look on her face. She looked like she was about to cry.  The play date was quickly falling apart.

After trying to figure out what exactly happened, giving some “wise” words about how we treat our guests, and asking my daughter to apologize, I motioned my oldest daughter to the couch to sit with me for a moment. My youngest and her new friend, bounced back up the stairs as if nothing happened at all.

Through whimpers and sobs, I was able to piece together the real story of the play date. My daughter felt left out- like the third wheel. She felt slighted, her sister and friend were not listening to her ideas about WHAT and HOW to play. She admitted that S and A had tried some of E’s ideas but they decided that they would rather play another way.

These were relatively new and very real feelings for E.  Her sister was usually the youngest in the group and the one following along with E’s friends.  Today A had a chance to play with someone her own age and with someone who seemed to share many of the same interests as her. They just clicked. I was happy that A had found a friend of her own and someone to play with in their own way.

My daughter may not agree with me, but I think it was good for her to have this opportunity. A chance to walk in her sister’s shoes. I hope this will teach her to be a more open to listen to her sister’s ideas of how and what to play. I also hope that she is able to see what a good thing a friend just for A is.

For me, I learned that my daughters still need me to help them in social situations. Allowing kids to figure out things on their own and not micro-managing their behaviors is a good thing. But I think it is healthy and beneficial to talk about the attitudes and behaviors that you have observed.  Provide opportunities to role model and practice positive attitudes and behaviors that need work at home. Help your children become socially aware and competent in the security of a safe environment and with parental love.

About ten minutes post couch, the tears dried and the three girls were back to playing a new game. The play date ended as successfully as it started. A promise of another play date was met with excitement and hugs. It was a good learning experience for all of us and the girls are now looking forward to the next play date- this time without the tears.