Monday, November 29, 2010

New Mystery Cat

A few months ago, I told you all the story of Sippy, the tiny black kitten in our SIPS Panels. Sippy was around 3 or 4 weeks old when we found him, and he had been living in our construction materials, where it stays relatively warm. Unfortunately, there is very little to eat over there, and so Sippy was quickly starving to death. He cried piteously until we captured and fed him. We soon discovered that he was very personable and, once we put some weight on him, a cat with a very nice personality. Within a week, we found a forever home for him with a fellow animal lover, Nancy.

Well, some of the SIPS panels are still out there, and they are still a deliciously warm haven for cats in the middle of this cold spell. For the past few days, a new mystery cat has appeared in the panels. She (I think) stayed mainly in the panels, frightened of people, but occasionally we caught a little vision or her tail or face.

This morning, her hunger and loneliness drove her right to the steps of our trailer. She cried and cried and cried. I left the door ajar and a bowl of tuna and turkey directly inside and pretended that she wasn't there. After a few moments, she wandered in and, much to the dismay of my other cats, began to eat hungrily. She let me pet her and even purred a lot and rubbed her face against me. Currently, she is looking for other food in the trailer. She must be ravenous.

I am not sure what will happen now. I will try to find a way to slip her some food every day. I don't know how my in-laws will feel about the new cat, but a big part of me says, "I am NOT a person who lets animals go hungry on my doorstep- no matter what you say."

Other concerns: If she's a girl, which I think she is, but I could be wrong- she is about 8 months old. If she's been on the streets a little while already, she could be pregnant. The idea of helping her and dealing with kittens is a bit daunting for me. If we decide to make her a pet, then we will have to get her fixed.

Oh well, all these problems will sort themselves out. For now, I am just happy that she is fed and warm at the moment.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Proudly Accepted by the Kern Valley Sun

I just had an article published in the Kern Valley Sun. It's not anything particularly exciting, but it is nice to get paid for writing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grateful for Grief

At a Thanksgiving Service last night, I thought back on this year, with all its ups and downs and asked myself, “What am I most thankful for?” I surprised myself with my response.

2010 was in many ways a successful year for me and my husband. We put up the walls and roof of our new house this year. We paid off thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt, and put ourselves in position to get all our loans paid off in six months. I directed my first musical with high schoolers and followed the Lord in leading my church on the first mission trip this church family has ever taken. The children’s ministries we’ve been working on for the past five years are finally growing, and I’ve continued to meet and befriend many interesting and even influential people in our community. Grant and Meghan moved up here this year to begin their ministry at Kernville Baptist Church and we’ve greatly enjoyed them. Anthony and I are both well-respected in our careers and it seems like everything we’ve tried our hands at this year has turned out well.

We’ve had many successes this year- but for me, it’s been a year of deep heartache. During the spring, my grandfather’s already weak condition suddenly became worse and he was put on Hospice. For six agonizing weeks, I watched him shrink as he became weaker and weaker. I watched his pain and discomfort. I watched as he struggled to maintain his dignity and composure through all the changes. And I watched as he took his last breath.

I also watched my mother and grandmother struggle to make the best choices in the midst of their deep pain. I watched them grapple with guilt, uncertainty, and hysteria. For the first time, I confronted a hard reality: everyone I know and love will someday die. In the next forty years, I will experience the death of both of my grandmothers and both my parents. For the first time, when I think about the future, I realize that Death is going to be a large part of it.

It makes me angry to watch the pillars of strength that I have leaned on crumble and fade. I want to freeze this moment in time and grasp my family and order them- “Stop getting old! Stop getting sick! You can’t leave me. I still need you.” It feels like trying to hold onto water.

Two students from my high school committed suicide this November. It ripped open the scabs from my grandfather’s death, just when time had been dulling the pain. Both students killed themselves over grief of one kind or another, and it made me realize that basically, all humans have three choices when it comes to dealing with grief.

We can choose, as they chose, to quit this life. We can choose a living death- where we let the bitterness overcome our joy, and close our hearts to keep ourselves from what we perceive to be more pain than we can bear. Or, finally, and this requires the most courage- we can embrace our grief, pray that our hearts will remain open, refuse to take the coward’s way out, and grow stronger and wiser for it.

So this year, I am thankful for my grandfather and his death. I am thankful for the pain, and for the lessons it’s taught me. He did not complain while he was dying. He tried not to lash out at the people who loved him, though he was often uncomfortable. Above all, he acted as a Christian gentleman should act. When his caregivers and nurses found out that he died- they cried with us, and I am grateful for that because it showed me that even at the end, he inspired love in the people that met him. I was privileged to watch the way that a truly great man dies.

Before this year, I had wondered if I would be strong enough to deal with Death when it finally came my way. Now I know that I will be. I will choose to walk bravely and love openly- and it will hurt a great deal. But there will be joy, too. And someday, when I am old and shrinking before my death, I pray that I will still have a core of strength, and above all, Love, just like my grandfather.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Desert

We wander side by side

Trudging through the sand

There are no monsters to slay out here.

There is no treasure to find.

The only food and water we have is what carry on our backs.

There was a time before the desert

When our quest was exciting and new

When we slept under green trees and bright stars

When we fought small battles and won.

Now it seems as if that time never existed.

All there is is sand and sun.

Our horses ran away a long time ago.

All we do is step, step, and step forward.

Every step is a step closer to the end of our desert.

Sometimes I forget just what it is we are questing for.

My legs ache.

My eyes are gritty with sand and tears.

I cannot help but think about what home used to be.

Sometimes we talk.

Mostly, we just trudge.

When we leave the desert,

There will be more monsters to fight.

There will be new aches and pains

But nothing will be as difficult as getting through this damn desert.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

more death

We had another student commit suicide from my school. Two in one month? It seems like too much to bear- and yet, here we are- bearing it- because there is simply no other choice. I am mad, sad, and confused. Sometimes I forget how fragile my students are. Jesus, how do I help these babies you've put in my care? I don't understand this world.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Things I Wish I'd Learned in School.

I have a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in Drama and a Major in English. I have an English-teaching Clear credential. I have been teaching now for five years. I did a lot of studying in school and worked as hard as I could...but I still don't know the really important things I need to know to be a successful teacher.

Here are some classes I wish I had taken.

1. Fundraising 101, 202, and 303.
This series of classes would cover how to succesfully run an effective, lucrative fundraiser without stepping on any other club's territory at an already fundraiser-saturated, state-controlled school.

2. Cardboard 235
This class would cover how to make stuff out of refrigerator boxes, like set pieces, props, book-shelves, etc. It would also cover basic tool usage, such as box cutters, packing tape, spray paint, and electric drills.

3. Motivation 504

This class would teach you how to get 100 surly high school students to not only WANT to work hard on a project, but also how to make them actually capable of doing it well, and how to make it all seem really, really FUN.

4. School Politics 855
This advanced class would teach you how to identify the powerful people (not always administrators- sometimes they're teachers) at your school who are capable of getting you fired or possibly making your life miserable. The class would teach you how to both avoid and suck-up to them. It would also go over the basics of What To Do When Someone is Bad-Mouthing your Administrators, and What To Do when Some Other Teacher Tells you How Great their Kids and Their Program are When you Hate yours.

5. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff 205
This would be the last class in your degree program. It would basically consist of teaching you pre-designed scripts to help make your teaching life bearable. The students in this class would regularly repeat phrases such as,

a. "We'll do our best, but remember, it's only a _____________ (insert whatever extracurricular program is making you crazy here)."

For example, "It's only a yearbook." "It's only a club." "It's only a school play." "It's only my career." "They're only high school students."

b. "Teaching is not my life. Teaching is not my life. Teaching is not my life. Teaching is not my life."

c. "I will go home before 6:00 tonight."

d. and finally, "This too shall pass. But my students probably won't."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trailer Love Poetry

Voluntary poverty is a great way to get ahead financially. Basically, the idea is that you and your household purposefully limit the amount of income you live on and save the rest. This works extremely well when you're trying to get out debt, save for a large purchase, or accumulate wealth. The idea is not to try to make more money- try to spend less.

My husband and I have been living in voluntary poverty for the past few years. We tithe 10% of our income, live on 30%, pay off debt with 20%, and save for our house with 40%.

Most of the time, it's really exciting and fun to see the progress we've made in building our house (sans building loan or mortgage), and paying off debt (the students loans will be gone by next August!) Sometimes, though, it really bites.

Trailer Love

I can feel the ball of my shoe wearing thin.

I thought that when I married you,

My handsome young husband,

That we’d arrived.

I thought I’d have new shoes from then on,

New shoes, nice bras, nice haircut.

But instead, here I am with tired shoes

In a tin-can trailer where the oven won’t work,

We use a fax machine as a telephone,

Do laundry at your mother’s house,

Have no space to entertain guests,

And wear hand-me-down clothes.

As you remind me- most of these things were my idea.

You know what I’ve learned?

Worn-out-shoes don’t matter

As long as I fall asleep next to you every night.

My haircut isn’t important

as long as we treat one another with kindness.

Our trailer is like a palace

And my shoes feel just fine

As long as we love each other.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Yearbook Blues/ Jill-of-all-Trades

It's been a while since my last post. Any yearbook advisors out there? Maybe you can feel my pain. I am a first year yearbook advisor. We have a huge deadline coming up and I've been pulling my hair out. I have been eating, sleeping, and drinking yearbook. In two weeks we have to submit 40 pages. I have personally completed about 12 pages. The other 28 pages are the students' responsibility and they are in various states of incompleteness.

Is it poor teaching to create so many of the pages myself? Definitely. Do I know how to get the kids to do it? Nope. How can I teach them something I have no idea how to do myself? Plus, 20 kids are sharing 5 computers and one camera.

Anyway, here is how I have been feeling about myself and my hyperactive hobbies lately.

Jill of All Trades.
I am Carol Ann’s daughter,

A sub-par potter.

I’m a slow-jogging-runner

And a never-would’ve been swimmer.

I’m a don’t-like-to-fighter,

And an undeveloped writer.

The child of a preacher,

I’m a tough-as-nails teacher.

I’m a going-nowhere-actor,

And an adequate director.

I’m a Jill-of-all-trades,

Mistress of none,

Lucky for me,

I never quit when I’m down.