Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yellow Belt

My son has been taking Tae Kwon Do for the last 6 months or so, and last weekend he completed his yellow belt test. It was a grueling day for him. It started at 10 am with a written test and finished with 5 hours of physical tasks.

I was so very proud of how hard he worked.

This is not something that comes naturally to him. He does a great job intellectually - he knew his paragraphs, he knew the moves. What was missing was "the heart" - a ferocity that just isn't part of his nature. This is something he is going to have to fight for and work on for every belt test in the future.

During one routine, the coaches came out and talked to him about "looking mean." It wasn't about going through the motions, but it was about giving the impression that he was really in a battle with 4 foes. When he went through the routine the next time, I got tears in my eyes because he looked so fierce.

I love the group we chose for these lessons. Even though they prepped him for weeks about being really tough on him, and yelling at him and making things deliberately hard during this test, they were still coaches and teachers first. There were a few times when one would pull him aside and talk one and one about what he was doing or what he needed to be doing. They were a great encouragement to him, which I greatly appreciated.

If I had to make a list of our best parenting decisions, signing him up for these lessons would be high on the list. The confidence I hope he gains from this experience will be a great asset to him in the future.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

School Year So Far

We are about two weeks into the new school year, and I am having a great time so far! I'm not sure if it is my schedule this year, or the fact that I actually took the summer off, but I feel more refreshed right now than I did last year.

In fact, my family reminded me that I worked last Saturday for several hours. I had forgotten all about it. I was able to get a lot of things done, which freed me up during the week to get some other things done. It was great!

I just finished a great time-management book called 18 Minutes and I feel like I was reading it at just the right time! It was an excellent reminder to take deep breaths, to focus on one task at a time, and to prioritize my time on the things that are most important to me. Good stuff! I highly recommend it.

I have high hopes for this school year. I have been thoroughly impressed with our new superintendent and principal for this year. I love seeing my students after the long summer, and slowly but surely I am learning the names of the 100 new students I have this year.

This will be a great year!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

If Only ONE

In my last two posts I have talked about how I've been fighting anxiety this summer, and last time I shared about two techniques that I tried that seem to be helping. I'm also trying one other thing that could be a key to a variety of emotional strains - the anxiety, frequent feelings of being overwhelmed, setting unrealistic expectations and disappointment when I can't meet those expectations.

I am trying to focus on ONE - one thing at a time. I have so many passions and projects and ideas and interests, I can easily be paralyzed by so many choices. Not only am I wondering what I should do next - work or read or crafts - but then there are the myriad of choices within each choice. It's ridiculous.

It would be easy to say that I should just NOT be that person, but it is too much a part of my pattern, a part of who I've been for a long time. It's hard to turn that part of me off.

So I started focusing on just the next choice. Not my next five books, but the ONE I'm going to read right now. I ask myself, "If I can only read one more book this summer (or month or whatever), what is the ONE I want to read?" When I want to be crafty, I ask "What is the ONE project that captures my interest right now?" rather than listing every option I have in the house over and over, wondering what to choose, until my crafting time has disappeared.

When this summer started, I had a list of books I was going to read. Even though I read over 100 books on my break from school, only a few items got crossed off my master list, leaving me feeling like I failed in some way. But if I focus on today and on ONE thing - the right-now thing - maybe I can step out from under the pressure I put on myself. Sure, I'll still make lists. They help me organize my thoughts and prioritize and not forget things. But hopefully I can then choose the ONE next thing and set the rest of the list aside for awhile.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Punching and Prayer

I've tried two things to help with my anxiety (see previous post) that seem to be working.

1) Punching - In Jon Acuff's book Start, he talks about "punching fear in the face." He advises writing down the things fear says to you when you think about or start trying to make changes in your life. Fear usually says things like, "That will never work" or "It's too late for you to make this change." After you've identified the fears, Jon says to refute them, in detail. So I tried that with my anxiety. Since I knew what I was worried about, I then asked myself:
"What's the worst that could possibly happen in this situation?"
"How likely is this worst case scenario?"
"What supports and resources do I have if the worst actually does happen?"
"What are my options?"

Each situation I applied this to started to seem less scary and more manageable.

2) Prayer - I found this resource about anxiety online. But instead of reading the verses over and over, I decided to write them out in my own words and direct them at my specific circumstances. I only got through two verses - both re-writing and also some drawing to go with my thoughts - but I felt SO much better. Just from those two verses. And every time I have gone back to re-read those two verses, I have felt affirmed and at peace.

Will my anxiety return?

YES. Worry is too much of a habit for me at this point.

But I feel more equipped today than I did a week ago to address my fears and anxiety so it does not grow to control and consume me.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Anxiety Sucks

This has been an anxious summer for me. I'm not sure if this is a  new development or if I have just kept myself so manically busy these last couple years that I didn't have time to be anxious.

The anxiety isn't to a level where I feel like I need medication or therapy. It's been like a blanket draped over my lap - I'm aware it's there, but I can forget about it, too. When I notice it, I feel the gnawing in my stomach and the dread in my chest. For the most part, I can name the causes, although I have had some weird dreams this summer (almost all set at school) that have been hard to place.

The frustrating thing is that I haven't found a good technique for combating the anxiety other than naming it, journalling about it and waiting it out. I prefer to be more proactive than that.

I am going to spend some time in scripture, looking for some guiding principles. This time of year is too busy to not feel my best.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Soap Opera Isn't Dead

My grandmother watched her "programs" faithfully for years. In fact, when I visited their house, we often watched them together. When I was in college, she would catch me up over breaks when I went home.

Soap operas were something of a joke back then. Popular, but a joke. I remember one show had a story line where one of the main characters was possessed. In one of the shows my grandmother and I watched, several of the characters had married - and re-married - eachother multiple times in some twisted sort of round-robin. One of my favorite movies, Soap Dish, mocks how soap operas will bring characters back from the dead - no matter how unlikely the resurrection would be.

One by one, the soap operas that were prevalent in my childhood have gone off the air. There aren't many left. But I recently discovered a replacement.

Comic Books

Our family loves comics. My husband makes a weekly stop at one of our local comic shops. We love the Marvel movies like the Avengers. (I am less of a fan of the DC options). I read a few comic books, but not too many because I find it frustrating not to know the backstory of the characters.

Recently we have been watching the X-Men movies as a family. I decided to see if I could find some of the backstory I crave by doing some internet research. I started with the X-Men character, Jean Grey. I found this article online.

What struck me as I was reading through this was how much it sounded like the plot of a soap opera:
*exposed to radiation, changing her powers
*turns evil, and kills herself when she has a moment of clarity and sees what she has done
*resurrected because the evil version was only a copy (a twin - classic soap opera ploy)
*cloned and the clone married her husband (who thought Jean was dead) and now that Jean is back, the clone wants her dead
*loses her powers

Well, you get the idea. And this is just one character! So, if you are missing the soap operas of old, or if you are looking for some new stories that are just as intricate (and sometimes convoluted) as you can imagine, check out some comic books!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Reading Update - final

Summer is over. I'm trying not to think that in a whiny tone. While I am looking forward to seeing students and getting this school year started, I know that the first few weeks are super busy and there's not much time for reading. Here are the last few books I read this summer:

(releases 2/25/14)

(releases 4/15/14)

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett (Origami Yoda Series #4) (B&N Exclusive Edition)

18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done

I'd say it was a successful summer of reading. While I didn't get to all the titles I wanted to read, I was able to get through over 100 books and some were real treats!

So, what did YOU read this summer?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cleaning House

"He [Jesus] is going to clean house - make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned." ~ Luke 3:17

This summer I've been working on cleaning around the house - cleaning out the office/craft room and helping my son clean out his bedroom. Each room was a major undertaking. When I do projects like this, I like to empty the room first in order to reconnect with the space and look for ways to reclaim some of the space in new ways. Then, bit by bit, all the things we removed either get a new spot back in the room or they are sorted into trash, recycle or give away piles.

I have to be in the right mood for this project. If I'm not fired up to make the "hard" choices of what to get rid of, it becomes a shuffling of items rather than any actual purging. Sometimes I have started this project and gotten only so far and had to just put it all back because I just wasn't ready to really make the tough decisions.

My son's room was the harder of the two projects. My son is sentimental and he keeps everything - rocks, papers, paper airplanes, tags, cards, drawings, stories, office supplies, etc. He had NO interest in letting me clean out the room for him, afraid I would trash all of his little treasures. There were times I would just stand in the middle of the room feeling overwhelmed. Some spots were in such disarray I didn't even know where to start. So, it took a whole week to do this one room.

We were in the middle of the bedroom project when I read this verse from the Message. John the Baptist was talking about Jesus and the work he was coming to do. I imagined Jesus standing in the "room" of my life. Does he stand there sometimes, noticing all the places that are so out of hand it's hard to know where to start? What are the things that I cling to, that I don't want him to purge from my character?

May I learn to let go as Jesus cleans up my life.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reading Changes People

"The Bible says, 'Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?' (James 2) If you have taken God's Word to heart and truly made it part of you, it will by its very nature change you."
~ Intro to SOLO: An Uncommon Devotional

Last year I did a lesson with my students where I asked them why reading matters. We have made a huge deal about reading through our adoption of Accelerated Reader. We have parties to celebrate students who meet their goals, we have one or two book fairs a year to get books into the hands of students, and I give silent reading time in almost every library class. Why? Why is this reading thing such a big deal?

The students gave a variety of answers and then we looked at my list where I reviewed what they said and filled in some of the gaps they didn't think of. I did this lesson in 13 or more classes last year. In all of those classes, I only had one student - ONE, at a Christian school - talk about reading as it relates to the Christian life.

Books change us. Whether they change us because they teach us new information or because they give us insight and empathy for others or because they inspire us to do something amazing or because they teach us what we DON'T want to do, they change us. We can read the same book year after year and get something new from it, or understand it with a different nuance because of our maturity or our life experiences. While this is true of books in general, it is true of the Bible in the extreme. How many Easter sermons have you heard? How many times have you read about the prodigal son?  Hopefully each time you catch something new, or it speaks to you in a new way because you are a different person than you were the last time you dug into that passage. Good material speaks to us as we change and grow. Reading changes people.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summer Reading Update

Things started amping up for school last week, so my reading has slowed down considerably. In fact, I missed my goal of reading 50 books in July by six books. But what I have lost in quantity, I have picked up in quality. A couple of these are fantastic.

July 28
Hurry Up, Houdini! (Magic Tree House Series #50)

The Flying Beaver Brothers: Birds vs. Bunnies

The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Mud-Slinging Moles

Calling All Pets! (Pet Hotel Series #1)

A Big Surprise (Pet Hotel Series #2)

July 30
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

August 1
Danika's Totally Terrible Toss: The Legend of the Purple Flurp (Secret Keeper Girl Series)

August 3
Counting by 7s

Max Steel: The Parasites, Vol. 1

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Best Kid Ever

In the last couple years I have come to appreciate my son's enthusiasm for travel and other things. Last year we stayed at an airport hotel before leaving on a trip to Disney World. My son declared it "the best hotel ever!" (At least until we got to the Animal Kingdom Lodge at WDW!)

This summer on vacation, we got a room with a hide-a-bed so he could have his own space in the room. Even better, it was in a part of the room with a TV, so he could lay in bed and watch a movie. He was reluctant to leave and declared it the "best bed ever."

We recently had our bathroom remodeled. After his first shower in the new tub, he announced it was the best shower ever. A meal he likes? The best ever. A book he enjoyed? The best ever.

After getting to meet an author he likes, I asked him, "Wasn't that cool?!"
     "It was AWESOME!!"

I love his enthusiasm for life and his appreciation of new experiences. It's easy, as an adult, to take things for granted because I've experienced several versions of the same thing. A hotel bed is a hotel bed. But my son is a joy to take places (Well, most of the time. He can be a pill on occasion.) because if he enjoys himself, he really enjoys the experience - telling stories and asking questions about it for weeks and months to come.

I hope he keeps this attitude and appreciation and excitement for these experiences. It's endearing, and as a parent, it makes doing the big vacations and the special events worthwhile because we can enjoy the experience as a family and know he really appreciates the opportunities.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

To Write Or Not to Write

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because school starts in less than two weeks - who has time to proofread?!

In  June I signed up for Teachers Write, a free summer writing program with prompts and advice and feedback from authors and other writers and teachers. For the first week, I stayed with every day's activities. Then we left for a vacation, and I thought, "I'll pick it up when we get home."

I took my writer's notebook with me on the trip. I even got a story idea that I jotted down so I wouldn't forget. And I wrote in a travel journal while we were gone. I kept track of all the things we did while on vacation. When we got home I saw all the Facebook notices about what I missed from Teachers Write, but I wasn't ready to dive in again. I was "still on vacation."

Two weeks later, I could no longer cite the "I'm still on vacation" excuse. If I'm honest with myself, I'm not writing - and not reading about writing - because I'm scared....

.... scared to sit down and try this story idea and find out I can't pull together more than a paragraph.
.... scared to wrestle with writing or planning - do I dive in and see where things go or do I outline a plan?
.... scared to write about things that are tense or that scare me
.... scared to find out I can't write fiction
.... scared to find out that what I do finally write just stinks

Writing is fear for me right now. Jon Acuff would tell me to "punch fear in the face." I guess it's time to dive back in and see if fear is ready for a pounding.