My Church Journey and Why I’m Doing YAV

YAV. The PC(USA) is infamous for our ambiguous acronyms. That stands for Presbyterian Church (USA), for you “outsiders”. Ha. For a demonination that promotes inclusivity, we can be pretty exclusive (cough Montreat cult). We have the best of intentions! Regardless, I’m proud to be a Presby nerd. I am a cradle Presbyterian. As in, born and raised in the PC(USA). I went to church most Sundays growing up; I went to Wednesday night dinners and youth group; and, of course, I attended Montreat. As a kid in clubs and then every summer as a conferee and work crew. Now I go back as a small group leader. Montreat was my Presbyterian constant throughout the years. Even when we moved to Texas after my freshman year of high school and left my childhood church in Pensacola, I went back with the youth group to Montreat each summer. If you know me, you know I love Montreat. I’m sure it borders on obnoxious. But at the end of the day, it’s the thread that kept me connected to the church. The place that gave me such incredible love and belonging. 

I grew up with a flexible view of religion. I was never taught to take the Bible literally. I was never restrained from dancing in church or dabbling in the magic arts. I was shown a God who loves without conditions. Everything else kind of blurred into the background. Scripture wasn’t a focus for me, and the “law” seemed rigid and off-putting. Church was a community, a place to hang out with the youth group and be myself. The Bible stuff seemed foreign. Maybe that isn’t ideal, but that’s how it was. I felt happy and loved at church. 

After leaving First Presbyterian in Pensacola, I didn’t find my way back to church for a while. We had a church in Houston that was alright, but I never found the same community and did not enjoy going. In college at Ole Miss, I tried Campus Crusade and a church called Grace Bible. Both were short-lived experiences. I sporadically went to services at First Pres in Oxford and even helped with the youth group. But that only lasted a couple weeks. When Ole Miss got Ukirk, I was involved for a short time, but even that wasn’t consistent. In college, my focus stayed mainly on classes, friends, boyfriends, and myself. I wasn’t in constant communication with God, but I wasn’t totally lost to Him either. It just wasn’t a priority. I didn’t make it a priority. I realize now that having a consistent Christian community might have changed that, but alas. College was just so tumultuous for me. After dad and Laura died freshman year, I was really learning to live in this new context. The moment I heard they died, I changed. I was no longer the person I was when I picked up the phone. The years that followed were basically me growing into that new skin. Getting my sea legs. I got pretty lost before I got found.

One year ago, I moved back to Pensacola to teach middle school and returned to my childhood church. It was different, obviously, but the familiar walls were comforting and welcomed me back instantly. I already knew the associate pastors, Ben and Hailey (hi!), from summers at Montreat and random visits. Many members from my childhood church family were still there. People at church remembered me and were excited to have me back. It was a seamless and welcomed transistion. I moved back to Pensacola on my own, as a fresh adult, so obviously it wasn’t the same. The city seemed new and a little unsettling. But familiar enough to not be isolating. 

Over the past year, First Pres was my safety net. My foundation. My steady source of peace and comfort. I began helping Ben and Hailey with the youth group and found fulfillment in mentoring some of the high school girls. Ben and Hailey in turn became mentors for me. My friends Melissa and Andrew welcomed me into their home time and time again. They let me do laundry and offered their constant friendship. Shelby, a young adult who joined First Pres while I was away, eventually became my best friend and confidant. I made many more new relationships with young adults who had arrived while I was away. I’m looking at you, book club ladies. Adults at the church who were friends with my mom growing up checked in on me often. It was like I had an army of mothers. Even better, an army of people who loved me and cared about what I had to say and who rooted for me. The church became my family once again. Every Sunday, we recited words in unison. We sang together. Broke bread together. Exchanged hugs and tears and worries and theological opinions. We studied the Word together, drank beer and wine together. Read books, ate good food, shared our hopes and dreams. Looked to each other for guidance and support.

Relationships. THAT is what Church gave me. Once again, it was the community that showed me God. It was the community that got me up every Sunday morning. This time, though, I wanted more. I started asking more questions about the Bible. I finally began to see the value, beauty, and meaning it holds. I got interested in theology. I read books, listened to podcasts, and picked the brains of my brilliant friends. I was fired up about youth and ministry and Jesus. The people I was surrounding myself with and the way I was choosing to spend my time lend itself to this interest and inquiry. I was intentional about learning more. And the more I learned, the hungrier I got. The more I felt His Love, the more I wanted. Insatiable.

My first year teaching was intensely challenging in many different ways. I’m still processing it, to be honest. At the end of the year, I was struggling with what to do next. Stay for another year at the middle school and hope it gets better? Try a different school or a different grade-level? Nothing sounded appealing. Staying didn’t seem productive or fulfilling. Leaving for a different school felt like starting all over before even having time to process what had just happened. There was no synchronicity yet. No signs as to where I needed to be. I prayed. I begged for a sign. I just wanted to do the right thing. Where did God want me, where did he NEED me? One Sunday in May, there was a flyer in the bulletin for the Penecost Offering. A portion of the Penecost Offering goes to the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program, so there were a couple pages advertising it. The flyer listed core tenets of the program: intentional community, vocational discernment, simple living, cross-cultural mission, and leadership development through faith in action. As I read the words, something shifted and clicked inside me. It was everything I didn’t know I needed. It was everything my soul was craving. A community of like-minded peers, living simply, practicing faith in ACTION. I wanted that experience. And vocational discernment? That was the biggie. I needed space to discern my call. I still wanted to work, and do important work at that, but I also needed that intentional space to grow and search and discern.

I applied, that day, after thinking about it all Sunday afternoon and calling my mom and mentor teacher in the district. Everyone I talked to affirmed my idea and told me it sounded perfect. It was synchronicity. The whole process flowed easily and I never doubted it. The application was submitted and the intake interview completed and suddenly I realized: I was doing this. I resigned from my teaching position for the next year and didn’t look back. Nothing had ever felt so right, so guided by Spirit. That’s how I knew.

Now that I’m 10 days from moving to New Orleans, I keep coming back to this initial place of peace. No matter what this year brings, I’ll always know it’s where I’m supposed to be. I believe last year prepared me for and led me to YAV. The stark awareness of my privilege, working at a Title One school and trying to bridge the gap between home and school for my kids. As a teacher, I felt helpless most of the time. I felt like I was trying to fight a battle I had already lost. I felt like I was trying to encourage kids who already believed they’d fail. Or who were just determined to write me off and do it on their own because authority = oppression. And can you even blame them? A lot of my kids were born into a system that starts them at the bottom while I started halfway to the top. It’s not equitable; it’s not okay. I don’t want people to think I’m giving up on education. Or that I gave up on those kids just because they were “difficult”. All middle schoolers are difficult. I expected that. I just need space before I consider going back into that environment. I want to explore other ways in which I can make a difference. Thankfully, I’ve been placed in a job in NOLA that I believe will help me do that.

I’ll be working for YMCA Educational Services (YES!), which is an adult literacy program that offers adults free reading and math classes in order to obtain the skills they need to be successful. I believe in education. I just haven’t found my piece in the puzzle yet. The place where I can be challenged but still have enough room to breathe and stretch and grow. That’s what I’m looking for this year. And I’m so happy I’ll get to explore this with my housemates and co-workers and supervisors and site coordinator and future church family. It’s an opportunity  that doesn’t come often. To have so much built-in support and encouragement. To be able to grow in my faith in an intentional community created for that EXACT REASON. To do important work and be challenged in my privilege in new ways. I have no idea what’s going to happen between August 19, 2016 and July 31, 2017, but I know I won’t be the same. How very thrilling that is. For better or for worse, I get to keep evolving and learning and soaking in all the millions of different experiences offered on this Earth. I don’t think it’ll always be easy or fun, but I think it will be sometimes and thank God for that. Life is too short not to join the second line. Bring it on, NOLA YAV year. 


                          

                      

What’s left of my dad?

How do we forgive our Fathers?

Maybe in a dream

Do we forgive our Fathers for leaving us too often or forever

when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage

or making us nervous

because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.
Do we forgive our Fathers for marrying or not marrying our Mothers?

For Divorcing or not divorcing our Mothers?
And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?

Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning

for shutting doors

for speaking through walls

or never speaking

or never being silent?
Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs

or their deaths

saying it to them or not saying it?
If we forgive our Fathers what is left?

* This poem is by Dick Laurie and is read during the last scene of Smoke Signals. It was originally published in a longer version titled “Forgiving Our Fathers” in a book of poems called Ghost Radio. 



If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

I want to spend some time answering that because I’m starting to think it might be my greatest fear disguised in a question. The question begs me to reflect on facts that have taken me many years to even face. Maybe it’s rhetorical, but I have a feeling he left it unanswered for the reader. His answer would not be the same as mine. And he would be doing me a disservice if he didn’t force me to face the answer for myself. Myself, myself. Yes, I am writing this for myself, but I know so much of it will resonate with other people. On a day that’s difficult for many, dealing with situations like those mentioned in the poem, I need to wrestle with my own father and what our story means for me.

I’ve written about my dad some before, so I won’t try to delve into who he was, because shit…I’ll never understand him completely. To be brief, I had a distant father–physically and emotionally. He was a surgeon and he worked a lot. Too much. He was emotionally intense, but in ways that felt both isolating and wonderful (sometimes in the span of five minutes). He was either on or off. He left when I was six, and from then on out, it felt like a constant game of getting back to him. When we had moments of connection, they were deep; but the next minute, they were overshadowed by his sometimes unexpected rage and coldness. I grew up walking on eggshells, trying so depesperately to be pleasing one minute, and feeling angry and resentful the next. He was unpredictable and always living in his own head. He was a man living with alcoholism, shame, anger, and a myriad of other things I’m sure I’ll never know or understand. He’s not here for me to ask. But I have a feeling I would have never gotten the answers I wanted. I’m coming to realize that’s okay. It’s a limp you learn to walk with.

Cheryl Strayed says, “You get the father you get.” When you’re born, your father is still the broken human he was two seconds before you entered the world. Only now, he’s got the pressure of another human life in his hands. If he wasn’t emotionally equipped to be a good father before you were born, odds are he’s not going to magically transform the first time he gazes into your baby blues. I don’t think this is depressing. I think it’s liberating. He loved me deeply, but who he was had an effect on me. I lived for years feeling victim to that because I didn’t see his humanness. His humanness set me free.

He fucked up (early and often), and five years ago, his life ended suddenly because of decisions he played a vital role in making. He let his four children down in the biggest way I can imagine. That fact gets suck like peanut butter on the roof of my mouth. It lingers no matter how much I try to tongue it away. Anger, my friends, is a fantastic way to push down grief.

So what happens when I forgive him?

When I forgive my father, and let the cool waters of love wash away the stale aftertaste of resentment, what’s left is compassion and empathy. Plain and simple.

The bitter side of this is that it makes me miss him more. Or rather, it makes me miss what we could of been if he had taken the steps to healing as well.

What I desire so deeply is to be able to ask him to explain. I wish I could sit down with him and demand for him to, in complete honesty, try to explain why he was the way he was. I realize this is too much to ask. Maybe not even why he was the way he was, but why he did such shitty things. I have no capacity for eloquence here. He pissed me off and made me laugh more deeply than anyone ever will again. I adored my father. I hated my father.

The love/hate emotion of it, which gives me some illusion of connection, is what I’m losing when I forgive my father. The emotion gives me control and one last ember to blow on. One last person to blame for my own struggles and shortcomings. When I take the emotion out of it, and feel what’s lurking beneath, it overwhelms. It’s deep longing for a father who never was. It’s a deep desire to understand a man I didn’t have enough time to get to know. It’s deep sadness that I can’t taste his banana pancakes and laugh until I’m sore at his storytelling ability.

I think I’ve been afraid that when I forgive my father, I’ll lose him a second time. That I’ll be left with nothing.

Instead, I’m finding that every time I forgive my father, I meet him in a different way. I’ll never stop meeting him in dreams, on random Tuesdays, in songs he loved, and movies he sobbed over. He’s in every ocean because his ashes are now a part of the earth and his spirit is now speaking through every experience where I’m brave enough to listen for it. Every time I have enough courage and resilience to let love speak louder than fear, I’m set free. This is the great work of my life. Letting go–over and over and over again.

A Call for Radical Love

A little note to start: I’m breaking my unintentional blogging fast with this post because, in times like this, I have to write. It’s my first way of doing something. And in times like this, we have to do something. 

This morning after church, I said to someone (I won’t name names, but I don’t blame them, honestly), “I can’t get over the Orlando shooting. They are saying it’s up to 50 people dead now.” They waved their hand as if to wave the whole thing off and said, “Ah, I’m not surprised. I’m used to it now. I’m not going to let it get to me.” It’s also important to note that this was after hearing a sermon on radical love.

I’m going to let it get to me. I am going to let it upset me. This is because, in the face of this horrific tragedy (and no, I’m not used to it yet), I am choosing an open heart over a closed one. An open heart is suspectible to being broken. A closed one is safer maybe, yes, but ruled by fear. Nothing gets in and nothing gets out. Please do not get me wrong, I am terrified of violence. I am fearful by nature and live with daily anxiety. Being shot and getting a terminal illness are two of my biggest fears. However, if I let those two things rule my life, I’d be holed up in a tiny apartment with a gun eating salads and reading WebMD all day. Miserable. Ain’t gunna happen. For me, choosing love over fear is fucking terrifying. It means I’m opening myself up to all sorts of “threats”. It means I’m in percieved danger all the time! Key word: percieved. If I walk in the world clothed with fear, I am no better than my fearful neighbors (even if my fear is different than theirs). If I walk with love and trust, the possibilities are endless. It changes everything. It’s a lens through which opportunities present themselves at every corner. Opportunities to help and be kind. Help and be kind.

So no, I will not carry a gun to protect myself. I will not stay in a bubble, isolating myself from the unknown, which is inevitable anyways. Our guns will not save us from this kind of hate. They may save your life, which is indeed precious, but please try to think about the bigger picture. Fear begets fears and hate begets hate. In this case, only love will save us.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. If all the law hangs on these two commands, then I don’t see another way. I don’t know how to justify fear with that.

There are 50 people who have died because someone used their beliefs, whatever they may have been, to justify hate and murder. We cannot let this person, who was an American citizen of Afghan heritage, in turn justify Islamaphobia–hate born from fear. We cannot let the fact that the shooting occurred in a gay nightclub justify homophobia. Instead, like President Obama said in his address today, we need to remember that a traditionally marginalized people group was targeted. This is hate. This is not okay or justifiable. You can’t spin it any other way. Let’s show our LGBTQ+ neighbors love. Let’s show our Muslim neighbors love. Let’s hold out our hands to Orlando and ask what we can do because we love them and we care.

Let it get to you. Let hate inspire the opposite. I’ll say it again–fear begets fear.

But…

Love begets love. LOVE BEGETS LOVE! “Kindness gives birth to kindness,” said Sophocles. Listen, I’m afraid. Contradictions are okay. The more we try to escape them, the more confused we become. I’m afraid, but I’m going to stretch myself in the direction of love and kindness. That will take bravery. So I’m on my knees praying and reaching out to my neighbors through this blog post because with them I am stronger. We belong to each other. Let’s make this love thing happen. 

Currently: January 2016 

Hi, y’all. Here I am posting again! Look at me! I will try my best to keep this up. Today, I have a classic “Currently” post for this first month of 2016. Here’s a little glimpse into my current world for the three people who give a shite (hey mommy!)

  

Current book: The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

Current music: Bowie (RIP), Beatles, & Best Coast 

Current (non)guilty pleasure: Bachelor, baby (so much alliteration going on in my last two answers, mmmm). Y’all, I’m in a fantasy league for this season. A group of us get together on Monday nights. 

Current nail color: Bare (another answer beginning with b! can I keep this up?!) I don’t paint my nails often because chipped nails make me feel like my life is falling apart. 

Current drink: So much water in my new S’well bottle and La Croix, as always. 

Current food: Bananas, roasted potatoes, all the eggs, sautéed kale, dates + coconut butter, and green smoothies. 

Current obsession: Making a Murderer, my Danielle LaPorte planner, and space (as in moon and stars). 

Current craving: Oatmeal with sunflower seed butter. Due to food sensitivities, my doctor has me off grains and nuts right now. I haven’t had oatmeal since summertime. Heartbreak. 

Current need: The THREE-DAY weekend !!! 

Current indulgence: I’ve been going by Fresh Market some days after school to pick up a cup of decaf and a square of dark chocolate. Bite of chocolate, sip of warm coffee, repeat. Heavenly. 

Current bane of my existence: Donald Trump on the TV right this moment. And certain middle schoolers. 

Current procrastination: Christmas thank you notes. Which I think are very important, so I will cross it off the list very soon!

Current confession: Hmmmm…I drink coconut milk out of the carton? Omg that’s so lame. I need to think about this one. I’m kind of an open book/honest with myself. My life is a big confession. In a totally shameless sense. 

Current quote: “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.” -Cheryl Strayed. My girl. 

Current excitement: I’m taking a free, community ukulele class Saturday morning. That speaks for itself, right?

Current mood: Clear-headed, peaceful, and content. I had an intense massage therapy session after work. She scraped my IT bands with this metal contraption and it was so worth it. My body feels incredible. However, I’m watching the GOP debate and my eyes kind of hurt due to excessive rolling. 

Love and light to you all! I hope your Friday work/school day is short and sweet. 

I’m back.

And I have so much to tell you. 

I have something I’ve been itching to write, but I’m going to hold off on posting it because I want to talk about 2016 and my intentions for this year first. It’s something I put a lot of thought into during the last days of 2015 and I’ve been meaning to type it all out and get it out into the internet where other people might read it and therefore will maybe keep me accountable. Run-on sentence much? Not writing on the blog for months has caused a severe case of word vomit. I’ve missed that surprising gush. Nothing like a good vomit metaphor to sum up my love for writing, am I right? <3

So, in 2016, I’m basing my actions on four words. I have them scrawled on a post-it, I have them written out on every other page of my Danielle LaPorte planner, and I’m trying to think about them at the beginning of each day. 

Radiant. Bold. Peace. Flow. 

If you’ve read LaPorte’s book The Desire Map, you know what I’m talking about. Basically, she presents a unique way of goal-setting. I’ve always loved setting goals. The feeling of a fresh year with infinite possibilities. Mmmm, the sweetness. The crisp, clean life and the steps to get there written down in list format, intended to be checked off sooner rather than later. But it never worked out for me. The sooner inevitably turned into later which almost always turned into never. I’m sure millions of others know the struggle. And it’s because I was thinking about the end goal, but not the way I wanted it to make me feel. I never even thought about how I wanted to feel. I just knew it currently wasn’t good. And I thought I knew how to fix it with these lofty goals. Lose 20 pounds–was I doing it to feel radiant and more comfortable in my skin or was I doing it to fill a hole of unworthiness imbedded in me from an early age? I didn’t delve into the WHY of the things I was aiming for. I would aim for these things and still feel like shit when I got them. And that’s a shame because feeling good is the point!!! That’s the basis of LaPorte’s goal-setting theory. You decide how you want to feel FIRST then you figure out what you need to do in order to feel said ways. Goals with soul, she says. As an INFJ personality-type (someone who feels all the feels and wears it on their damn sleeve), setting goals through an emotional lens was revolutionary for me. Maybe it’s not for everyone (read: those not in touch with their feely feels), but I think it does everyone a little good to at least question the reasons behind the goals they’re setting. Are you becoming a lawyer because it’s something that lights you up or because your dad planted the seed in your head as a kid and you feel a deep desire to please him? Get curious about your life. You create the circumstances–most of the time–that affect your happiness. And when situations are out of your control, you can at least have the confidence to recognize that fact and insist that no one will steal your joy because it’s your God-given right. 

With that spiel in mind, the four words I wrote earlier are how I want to feel in 2016. 

Radiant = sending out light; shining or glowing brightly.

Bold = showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.

Peace = freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. 

Flow = the action of moving along in a steady, continuous stream; and in psychology, the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

I’m creating my intentions and actions with those words in mind, letting them shape my experience. They aren’t bad ways to live, are they? It’s empowering to know I have the ability to co-create with God/the universe/Higher-Power-of-your-choosing to build a life I can show up to fully. The fact that there will be inexplicable joy and sorrow is inevitable. But I can endure the intensity this life brings when I’m living in accord with my values. Like I’ve always said–at our core, we are Light and Love and nothing else matters. Period. I intend to live in the light.

Ugh, I just love the idea of living life with words, with language, guiding the process. It’s a beautiful practice and I’ve found that it really, really works. I’m only 12 days into 2016 and I feel more peace than ever before. I find myself not being as controlled by outside situations or people. I’m more in touch with my values and my worth. It’s bleeding into my professional life, urging me to take more risks in my teaching and set firm boundaries in regards to how I want to be treated and how I expect my students to treat each other. I know the year will bring challenges and possibly heartbreak, as it goes, but I feel equipped to deal with those storms. I don’t feel like I’m at others’ disposal. I have the gift of being able to tell people how I want to be treated. We all have that right. This year, I’m taking my power back, and at the same time, I’m loving harder than I ever have before. I’m owning my innate radiance and I’m not holding it back for fear of being condemned and laughed off as idealistic. I’m daring to show up and be brave. 

My intentions for this year are as follows:

– train for and run my first half-marathon in April 

– generate ideas and publish blog posts more regularly (read: WRITE with discipline)

– work smarter, not harder; maximize my time and practice self-care more often and with less guilt 

– meet new people! create community and connections with people outside my work circle and church family (read: get out there and do new shit)

I’m going to wrap this up now because it’s 10 pm on a school night and I must be rested in order to interact with middle schoolers from 9 to 4 every day. 

Talk to y’all sooner rather than later. 

Writing is hard; but hard is neccessary.

…is something I said to my students today. Then I read them this quote by Angela Lee Duckworth:

“One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success . . . It was grit . . . Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day-in, day-out. Not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

I told them that I still have trouble with writing–trouble with the self-doubt and even just getting the first word on that blank page.

So tonight, I’m sitting down with that dreaded blank page and I’m practicing what I preach. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m writing this post for the second time. The first time I wrote it, the words flowed effortlessly onto the page and I was proud of them. Then WordPress crashed and they were gone–poof, into cyberspace, never to return. BUT GRIT, RIGHT? I clicked “New Post” and I’m going to write this again. It may be a little different, the words might not flow in the same exact way, but here I go. It’s all easier after that first sentence. (A big LOL at life for giving me a real-life opportunity to practice grit so quickly.)

I’ve realized recently that as much as I’m trying to teach them and get them to see these universal truths, I’m growing just as much, if not more. Teaching is really hard. Dealing with insecure middle schoolers and the baggage they bring. Seeing past the behavior to the child. And, after all the behavior, taking on the responsibility of teaching real, messy human beings to read and write well, skills that are imperative to high school, college, and the workforce… It’s daunting. But I’ve walked in there every day for the past (almost) 6 weeks and tried my best. I am an example standing up there in front of those kids every day. If I tell them to show grit, I must show grit. If I tell them to drop the negativity at the door, I have to hold myself to the same standard. We are responsible for the energy we bring into a room and I intend to bring as much love as I can muster.

If I ask my students to write, and to write often and with fidelity, then you guessed it… I have to be the change I wish to see.

So here’s to writing. Here’s to telling our truth. Here’s to the beautiful freedom in words.

10 Things I’ve Learned in My First Two Weeks of Teaching

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  1. You will either lose or gain weight. There is no balance. Personally, I’ve lost weight from the constant walking around, bending over, and being so busy that food is a mere afterthought. What is food? What are friends? Is this a healthy lifestyle? Don’t answer that.
  2. Grammar can be dirty and kids don’t let anything go. Case in point: we are correcting a grammar practice paragraph and the word “adventure” is spelled like “aventure.” One student points it out. I say, “Good, so we need to insert the d…” INSERT THE D, y’all. They laughed for 5 minutes straight.
  3. Nothing you say is secret. They will talk about you behind your back. You will mention privately to one student that you’ve merely heard of one band they like and next thing you know, three students have said to you, “Ay, Ms. Pickle, I heard you’re a fan of Suicide Silence.” Good, good. Definitely tell your parents that. Also tell them that you’ve nicknamed me after a phallic symbol.
  4. They will do very strange things. You will look up from reading a short story and a student will have their shirt pulled completely over their head. A student will be laughing and suddenly throw themselves out of their desk. You’ll be teaching and a student will somehow appear next to you asking a question completely unrelated to anything remotely relevant.
  5. They are shameless. They will fart audibly and banish you from an entire side of the room because of the odor. Good strategy for keeping teacher off your back, I suppose. Props.
  6. Your feet and body will ache terribly after the first day. Take heart–you won’t even feel it in a few days. You become acclimated to the shoulder tension and sore calves. It’s the LEAST of your worries.
  7. Some students WILL seem to hate you for no apparent reason. It’s hard not to take it personally. Detach yourself, love them anyways, and don’t give up. Mostly just advice to myself…
  8. Calling a parent for the first time is intimidating and terrifying. You will feel like a tattling kid. Do it anyways. Everything is easier after you’ve done it once. Besides, when a grandmother gives you her personal cell number and tells you she will “Take care of it” and to call her if it continues, you feel empowered.
  9. With each day, you will feel your skin growing thicker and your heart getting bigger. I feel myself hardening and softening all at once. Feel the feelings and then MOVE ON.
  10. You will mostly just survive. If you can get through a moment, you can get through a minute, an hour, and eventually the day. Days add up to months and before you know it, you look back at where you started and the person you’ve become takes your breath away. I know this because it’s been true in other parts of my life. And it will be true in teaching. I can do hard things :)

 

CURRENT THANGZ: August

Okaaaay, so, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been around these parts. Why? Because sometimes just sitting down to get down that first word is the entire battle. And here I am. It’s already so much easier! Mind. Blown.

It’s August 1st a.k.a. The Month That School Starts (teachers go back August 10th and students August 17th). Just typing that causes heart palpitations. I’m so, so nervous but also pumped out of my mind! I just kept focusing on the moment when I finally get to meet those crazy, terrible, beautiful middle-schoolers and start our year together. I know it’ll be a roller-coaster. I’ve been briefed on a million different horrific scenarios of things that can go wrong my first year (any year, for that matter) and, more than likely, many will come true. But I’m also pretty convinced it’ll be an incredible learning experience and year of growth, for both me and my students. I love them and am simultaneously annoyed with them already. <3

For any teachers out there, I want to share some resources that I adore:

Angela Watson’s The Cornerstone blog and Truth for Teachers podcast

Classroom Questions podcast

Love, Teach blog

Harry Wong’s The First Days of School

Google and Pinterest… When in doubt, get lost in the black hole that is the Internet.

Colleagues and friends who are also teachers. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Be kind and other teachers will have your back.

July in Review

July was filled with a lot of stress related to health issues. I won’t even get into it, but let’s just say I let my anxiety steal my joy more than once. I’m drawing the line and actively focusing on patience and trust and gratitude. Overall, I’d have to say the highlight of July was the week I spent at Montreat Youth Conference as a small group leader to 30 incredible high schoolers. The theme this year was This is Our Story. It was an emotional week, to be sure. Those 1,200 teenagers were filled with a lot of pain and a lot of beauty. I am so grateful to have shared that week with them. Maybe I’ll do a post with more on that, because I don’t even know where to begin. A week in the mountains talking about what really matters gave me the perspective I was desperately needing.

Montreat-gate

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photo cred montreat.org

Oh, and I turned 23 on July 29th. So that’s pretty fun, I guess. 23 definitely sounds more mature to me. Let’s go with that.

Current Things

Current music: Tame Impala, The Beach Boys, and random playlists on Spotify.

Current books: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and Go Set a Watchmen by Harper Lee.

Current guilty pleasure: ABC Family’s Switched at Birth and various chart-topping pop tracks…

Current drink: Kombucha and Lemon La Croix.

Current food: Endless spoonfuls of sunflower seed butter, hummus, Nut-Thins, Rice Chex with cashew milk, Lindt 90% dark chocolate, and Lundberg brown rice cakes.

Current mood: Inspired and optimistic.

Current link: There Are No Hacks To A Meaningful Life by Alison Berman.

Have a BLESSED weekend, y’all :)

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A teacher meme that made me LOL. 

 

Food and Life Lately

Hello friends. It’s been a while. I’ve been in Pensacola for over a month now and, man, life just hasn’t slowed down. I’m making extra efforts towards self-care and have been doing a MOSTLY good job at it. I have a tendency to feel like I always need to be go, go, go and constantly seeing people and doing productive things…. But that wears me down after a while. Naturally. The root cause of my health issues are still being explored and I’m waiting for tests to come back, but the doctors are almost positive that it’s originating from the gut. Digestive health is so important as we’ve discovered its vital role in all other systems of the body–especially the immune system and brain. My body is imbalanced and I’m taking the steps to heal it. I’m seeing an acupuncturist, general practitioner, and holistic doctor. I’m also seeing an absolutely wonderful therapist who is there for my mental health along the way :) I love therapy so much and recommend it to anyone, no matter how much you may think you don’t “need” it. It’s just so cathartic to have someone to talk it out with who is TRAINED to give good advice, ha. I definitely need some guidance along the way as I heal my body and assimilate into this new season of life.

All in all, I’m just really happy with how things are going–with both relationships and work. I’m trying my best to balance doctor’s appointments and my new job (8th grade English teacher! I’ve been going to the school a lot for pre-planning and I’ve got a mile-long to-do list of classroom supply and lesson related plans) with nurturing relationships and taking care of myself. I notice that when I neglect journaling, time alone, and relaxation, I get overwhelmed and shut down. I’m making a conscious effort to be self-aware and feel my feelings without over-identifying with them. Feel, let go, and move on. That’s my current motto.

So, life lately? It’s looking pretty good. I was at the school from 8 to 4 yesterday for planning and I’m there for the same time today. I’ve been going about twice a week (some days are paid and others are for my benefit alone) and I’m really starting to feel like I belong at this school. The other teachers have welcomed me with open arms and we are doing some awesome collaborative work. I know I’m in the right place and career. Vibin’ with my tribe over here. School starts August 17th and I’m a big mix of anxious/excited/inspired/terrified/impassioned. I think that means I’m where I’m supposed to be.

Besides school, I’ve mostly been spending time with friends and going to doctor’s appointments. I’ve been seeing movies (Jurassic World wasn’t half bad), going to the beach, kayaking (interesting story for this one), enjoying the city (Pensacola has got it going ooooon now), going on long walks, and other random things. This weekend I’m going paddle-boarding at the beach, maybe doing some hiking, eating good food, and seeing what other adventures pop up. I’ve been living in the present, checking social media much less often, and just really letting life take me with it. It’s a new and freeing way for me to exist in the world and I all around feel better–mentally, at least.

I’m going to be a small group leader for a youth conference in North Carolina week after next and then I may be going to New Orleans for my birthday. Besides that, I’ll be around Pensacola and gearing up for school next month! I’m going to do a “Currently” post because I’m reading/listening/doing a lot of exciting things and I want to share that without writing a total novel of a post for you today. TODAY is What I Ate Wednesday and today is about food! Since I haven’t been around much, I want to share some of the meals I’ve enjoyed recently. I’m going to divide it up into two categories: in and out. I’ve been eating out more since I’ve moved here while also cooking meals at home, so that seemed like a good way to lay it out. Enjoy…and happy eats day!

 

IN:

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two slices of sourdough Einkorn bread from the farmer’s market // topped with avocado and butter // california blend veggies on the side

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salad with purple potatoes, chopped turkey, avocado, salsa, and greek yogurt

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brown rice, turkey, tri-blend beans, and nutritional yeast

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overnight oats (raw oats, cashew milk, banana) in an almost empty coconut peanut butter jar

 

OUT:

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vegan Sunday brunch at End of the Line cafe // butter grits, spring salad, tufu spin on benedict, rosemary home fries

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tacos (one mahi mahi, one shrimp) + beer from a food truck downtown on Fourth of July

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meal cooked by my godmother Bibi // baked chicken, AMAZING greek salad, brown rice, and unpictured green beans and onions 

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homemade PF Chang style chicken lettuce wraps and rice at a friend’s house

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lunch from the hot bar at my local co-op // lettuce, roasted chicken, rice, veggies, mock chicken tofu salad, and some other random things I forget // kombucha and mint dark chocolate on the side

That’s a wrap! I’ll talk to y’all soon and happy hump day!

What I Ate Every-Day-Except-Wednesday

I’ve been thinking and writing about a lot of heavy things lately and I think that’s important. It’s important because it matters and we need to focus more on the things that matter–the uncomfortable conversations around race, class, gender, and more. While I’m passionate about speaking truth, telling my story, and listening to others, I’m also passionate about food and health–both mental and physical. I love Wednesdays because I get to share what I’ve been eating and that’s something to celebrate. I get to see what you are all are feeding your beautiful bodies with and I love, love those glimpses into your lives. Thanks for letting me in, and thanks for celebrating this day with me :)

I love this community and I love good food. Below, you’ll see some meals from the last couple days. I kept it simple with a photo and a description underneath. I’m linking up with Jenn for What I Ate Wednesday, but this is more like a round-up of some stand-out meals from the past week. The past couple days have been heavy on the chocolate with a mix of other carbs–greens, potatoes, oatmeal, bread, banana…what can I say?! I’ve also been loving my all-time favorite nut butter (Earth Balance coconut peanut butter), avocado, and EGGS (always). New-to-me this week was tempeh and I was an instant fan. I was also reunited with a couple faves that I rarely have–shrimp and Quest bars. Have a look for yourself…

 

breakfast

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rolled oats cooked on the stove with cashew milk, cinnamon, pinch of sea salt, and banana slices // topped with coconut peanut butter and hemp seeds

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ezekial toast topped with coconut peanut butter, banana, hemp seeds, and drizzle of local honey // a little leftover tempeh on the side

 

lunch

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salad from Newk’s // greens, cherry tomatoes, shrimp, avocado, some sort of lemon dressing

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wheat tortilla filled with GoVeggie cheese, eggs, and salsa // greens and fresh watermelon on the side

 

dinner

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roasted purple potatoes (coconut oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper), greens, pan fried tempeh (coconut oil and liquid aminos), sauteed onions, and a fried egg — THIS WAS SO GOOD

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roasted white sweet potato, avocado, goat cheese // sauteed kale, spinach, and onions

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CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE FONDUE with ALL THE TOPPINGS (pear, apple, mango, sausage, angel food cake, pretzels, marshmallows, strawberries, french bread) while watching The Bachelorette with a few friends

 

snacks

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little coconut treat I got at the Everman’s checkout // into all the coconut right now

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finally tried the new Quest flavor! YASSSSSS!

desserts

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surprise treat on Father’s Day from a special man friend — some sort of decadant chocolate cake/brownie with chocolate ganache on top and candied pecans on the bottom — so freakin’ tasty

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shared dessert between my friend Dorie, Nathan, and I — a flourless cocoa espresso torte with raspberry sauce — it looked like a log of poop but tasted like pure joy

Those two desserts were shared with good friends and that made them a million times better. I’m really happy here in Pensacola and I’m having the most wonderful time reconnecting with old friends and building both old and new relationships. I am happy. I am overflowing with gratitude for the people in my life and the adventures we go on together, big and small. It is amazing what happens when you show up as you are and let life take it from there. I’ve been paying attention more than I ever have before and I am blown away. I have woken up to what God is doing in my life and I’m trusting Him to carry me through it all.

Today, I’m going kayaking with the special man friend I mentioned above and, later, out to dinner. Yesterday, I met up with an old friend and her boyfriend for lunch, coffee, and dessert. Monday night, I went over to a girlfriend’s house where we made cheese and chocolate fondue and stuffed ourselves silly while getting outraged over The Bachelorette. I spent Father’s Day on the water with my godfather and his wife, Bibi, who love me like their child when my own father isn’t here to do so. These are the things lighting me up. Experiences with other people–that’s what makes life precious. Not the stuff, but the people who we enjoy the stuff with. Relationships are so important and only when we are at peace with ourselves can we really put adequate effort into those relationships. I’ve come so far in my journey of self-love and food peace. Sometimes it’s so refreshing to just recognize where I am and how much work I’ve done. My thoughts are no longer consumed by calories, weight, and various “problems”. A year ago, someone surprising me with an indulgent chocolate cake would’ve made me feel instantly anxious, defensive, and closed off. Now, it brings joy, love, and appreciation. The difference is night and day.

I feel so, so free.