What the heck, Fox.

So, about a week after that last post, I went to my first fencing lesson in many years with Red (a new character in our little saga and a dear friend and coworker). We ran (I am VERY not a runner), then they taught us proper stance. When we (sort of) had that down, they showed us how to advance and retreat, so we could do advance and retreat drills and they could watch our form. I advanced pretty dang well! In my first retreat drill, however, I took two steps, then collapsed on the floor with a scream. After a series of mishaps and shenanigans, I learned that I had torn my ACL. YAY! So, you haven’t heard from me in a while because I’ve been working two jobs (one of which is teaching), I’ve been attending and participating in grad school, and I’ve been dealing with some super-fun chronic pain!

However, I’m one week out from surgery and one day out from summer, so expect to hear from me again soon!

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Back Out

I am 99% sure I have depression. It runs in my family. I’ve never gotten diagnosed because I have an issue with therapists I’m trying to work through, but I know the symptoms and I have them.
I love so, SO many things about my job and getting to run the StarLab is one of them. I get to run a mobile planetarium, teaching the kids how to recognize constellations and telling their stories and legends and I love it. But it means that I spend at least two weeks during the darkest time of year in darkness all day. And it sends me into a depression. When it’s over, I come back out of it, of course, and it isn’t half as bad as some people’s depression, but a depression, nonetheless.
And this is how you know I’m back out – how I know I’m back out: I start to sing and I start to cook.
It’s been a while, but I’m glad to be back.
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I’m STILL bad at this…

Every year, I swear to myself that I’m gonna post more often and every swingin’ year, I stop posting as soon as school starts.

That happened a little earlier than usual this year, because this year, I started grad school! That’s right, friends! I’m getting a master’s degree!

“A degree! How wonderful!” I hear you cry. “What science are you studying, science teacher?”

Haha! I say, That would make sense, wouldn’t it! Nope. I’m studying theology. Because there’s so much money in it. Right?

In any case, I have been studying since July (I actually flew directly from the closing mass of mission trip to my first residency week in Wisconsin) for a degree in Theological Studies! Some shenanigans have ensued and I am now switching to a degree in Pastoral Ministry (the hybrid-distance equivalent of a residential master’s of divinity) so that I can roll right into a Doctorate of Ministry, as well. I’m honestly not entirely clear on what the end result of this calling will be, but I am studying my tush off and, if nothing else, I will be the best-educated Youth Minister anywhere around!

I’d promise you more updates, more frequently, but we all know that would prove to be a fib (especially with two jobs and a full-time degree plan!). So I’ll just promise to try.

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I recently started writing poetry again, for the first time in years.  Some of it has been terrible, some okay, most of it will probably never been seen by other people.  But one was about butterflies and it made me really happy.  I was inspired by the butterflies in my classroom as they changed from squiggly little caterpillars to big, beautiful butterflies.

The change from caterpillar to butterfly is one of the most badass processes I’ve ever heard of.  A caterpillar creates a hardened shell around itself, then melts.  It’s entire, little squiggly body melts in that shell.  And then rebuilds.  She retains her memories, she’s the same bug she was, but she has to undergo that whole horrible process to become the gorgeous creature she is meant to be.

I just returned from a trip to England, visiting Walsingham.  The Shrine used to be my home for at least two months a year, but until last week, I hadn’t been back for four years.  In my absence, a lot has changed.  There are people I knew who aren’t there.  I thought I was prepared for it.  And I was, on some levels.  It was incredibly hard.  I wasn’t prepared for the changes in the Shrine: lights where there didn’t used to be any, different hymns under a different administrator.  I was different, too.

But some things never change.  The Shrine is still the Shrine.  The zillion masses a day are the same.  The candles burning everywhere are the same.  The chapels packed half with tourists and half with family are the same.  It and I have both changed.  And the changes have been difficult.  In some ways, they’ve broken us down.  But we’ve rebuilt, she and I, and we are both still strong and both still beautiful.

I’ll always love her.  And I won’t wait as long to go back next time.

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Church Family

I wrote in my very first post about realizing how much my community means to me, but I haven’t done a lot of talking about that since.  I’d like to take this chance to do so.

To know about my community, you need to know that there are many different parts of it.  I have a work community at school, I have a friend-community of people I know from college and through Bear, I have a church community, and I have family.  They’re all different communities and most of them don’t know each other at all, but they are all so incredibly important to me.

The community I want to focus on today is my church family.  This is one I have taken the most for granted.  I’ve always known that they were my family and they’ve seen me grow up into the woman I am today, but I never knew just how much of a real family they were until two summers ago.  While leading what would later be known as the mission trip from hell, I started to get a bit of a feverish feeling.  I blew it off as being overworked, but rested a bit when the mission trip was over.  Instead of getting better, it got worse.  Finally, I went to an urgent care clinic where some dramatic x-rays revealed the pneumonia that had spread to absolutely fill my lungs.  Needless to say, I did not go on the Senior High mission trip.  My parents, however, did.  I stayed home, resting, getting better, until one day I finally felt well enough to go grab some food with friends.  Treecko drove us to the grocery store and we were just pulling into the parking lot when I got a call from the clinic that had run my blood test.  I had sepsis and had to go to the hospital immediately.

That was terrifying for me (I believe I’ve mentioned my fear of hospitals?) and the idea of driving myself was simply not possible.  I called my parents, first, and they immediately started driving back from Austin, but I had to get to the hospital NOW.  So, I called a friend from church.  She not only dropped everything to drive me to the hospital, but she stayed until my parents got there.  She comforted me in my fear, she chatted with me while I panicked, and she was a true life-saver that day.  And that was the day it hit me that my church family is far more of a family than I had ever realized.

It hit me again when I told a different friend from church that I was buying a house.  Her immediate reaction was “We’ll have to have a pounding!”  Now, if you’re not from the South, a pounding is a type of housewarming party where everyone brings a pound of something (butter, sugar, flour) to help fill your pantry!  The fact that her immediate reaction to my good news was “Let’s celebrate and help you!” really cements the place of this precious parish in my heart.  Sure, we sometimes fight like family, but we love like family, too.

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“I do not think that I will ever reach a stage when I will say, “This is what I believe. Finished.” What I believe is alive … and open to growth”

~Madeleine L’Engle

When I was in high school, my wonderful mother introduced me to a character who would become a personal hero: Mary Russell.  The young and enthusiastic companion of Sherlock Holmes in Laurie R King’s brilliant sequels to Conan Doyle’s masterpieces more than holds her own in the mystery portion of the stories, but the aspect of her character that struck me most is her double-major at Oxford: Chemistry and Theology.  She wove the two together in a way that I found both beautiful and familiar – the two were then (as they are now) passions of mine.  Though I generally prefer physics, the beautiful unity of science and faith is something about which I have always felt passionate.

Recently, a parent at my school asked me how I reconcile my desire for a Master’s of Theology with the fact that I teach Science.  While this is a conversation I have had in my head frequently, I’ve never had an opportunity to express my views on the subject to someone I don’t know well.  To me, the two are simply two ways of looking at the world which, only when taken together, give someone a worldview which is full and beautiful. Science is absolutely critical to understand the way the world works.  Science deals in the observable, focusing on what humanity can learn by watching the world around them.  It is also critical to note that while science is often thought of as dealing solely in facts, there is really no such thing as a fact in science, judging by the way society thinks of facts.  Society thinks of facts as proven, unshakable, and irrefutable.  Science thinks of them as things which have been thoroughly tested in all the ways humanity can test them and which have withstood all the tests we can throw at them.  Science thinks of facts as concepts which have not yet been disproven.  Faith is something unprovable as well.  Faith, by definition, requires a leap.  It requires an act of will, rather than on observation.  As such, it is (as Mrs. L’Engle says) alive and constantly changing, growing with us as we grow in it.

The two form a complete understanding of the world, both physical and spiritual, which combine, rather than conflicting, to form my worldview.  To me, there is no need of reconciliation, since they form two halves of a whole.

This is one of the reasons I so dislike films like “The Case for Christ,” which I recently saw with my Youth Group.  They assume a faith that can be proven, as if it is scientific.  Certainly, there is historical evidence that helps to back up my faith.  And that is nice.  But it doesn’t discount the need for that act of will in choosing this faith.  And the movie does (in the one scene I didn’t hate) acknowledge that.  But the rest of the movie perpetuates the concept of faith as science (not to mention the “Us vs Them” mentality that currently has a stranglehold on communities of faith) which drowns the one moment of true faith that shines through.  Without the understanding of faith as faith, a worldview cannot be complete, even with “faith” masquerading as science.

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Since I went to grad school, I have been saying an Angelus at the same times of day the community there says the Angelus, three times daily.  This has been an interesting experience.  For one thing, it has made my daily expression of faith much more public than it has ever been.  When my teaching team has a meeting that goes until 12:30, I must stop my participation to pray.  During morning announcements (and sometimes during songs that don’t quite match the spirit of the thing), I must stop what I am doing and pray.  In the evening, when I am usually unwinding and watching TV, I must stop what I am doing and pray.

There have been some awkward moments, some rushed prayers, and some hilarious mishaps.  There has also been a sense of closeness I have never felt before.  At this point, over a month of Angeluses later, it feels almost like texting a best friend.  It reminds me of the time my Marmee travelled to England after first getting her apple watch.  We sent daily heartbeats back and forth.  No words, no conversation, just a simple, tangible reminder that we love one another.  And that’s what this daily Angelus is to me.  A check-in with God, a quick and simple reminder that He loves me and that I am His.

And I am so grateful for it.

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It has been a whirlwind of a week.  I have had one situation come up after another.  Everything from kids having a meltdown to finding out my flight leaves two hours before I thought and needing to take a half day off at the last second.  It’s been nuts.

Everything has, as usual, turned out just fine, but I have miles to go before I sleep.  I am teaching my three most difficult classes this morning, all while getting all of my classroom animals home with families for the break AND making sure I get all my students’ work posted in the hall for the Open House I won’t be here for.  Then, I rush home and grab my bags to go pick up my mom from babysitting her godson so that we can barely make it to the airport in time for our flight.

After that, though, we are on our way to my grad school visit!  The campus is simply gorgeous and I cannot wait!  I’ll get to see old friends and meet new ones and this school has a daily rota of services in which all residents are required to participate.  This sense of tradition and ritual is something my life is thoroughly steep in, so I’m really excited to start my Spring Break with this time of centering and change, focused entirely on me and my relationship with God.  Now all I have to do is figure out what focus I want my degree to have!

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I’m Bad at This

There are a lot of things I’m good at.  I’m good at my job.  I’m great at technology.  I’m good at studying and learning.  I am bad, very bad, at consistency in projects with no accountability.  Like this one.

However, my mental health is in a great space, today, so here I am!  I’ve been working hard on finding my way, lately.  I’ve made two grand plans for the summer and had to cancel on both.  (In fairness, I cancelled the first plan in favor of the second and cancelled the second in favor of my mental health.)  However, I have now gone to a summer with literally a single week of free time to a summer which is startlingly open.  I don’t know what to do with myself.

As I noted in my last post (four months ago – ugh), I thrive on busy-ness.  I also noted that I crash and I crash hard.  I have been going-going-gone all school year long and there has been SO MUCH good done!  We’ve done some truly remarkable curriculum writing, I’ve totally reformatted the Science Fair, we’ve chosen and (finally, today!) ordered a 3D printer for the lab, the youth groups have been thriving, and I have applied for grad school.  It truly has been a beautifully productive year.  And that is one of the reasons I’ve had to cancel my participation in Grand Scheme Number Two: a parish trip to Malawi.  I am devastated, but if I had continued on with my plans, I would have been a wreck by the end of the summer – right in time to start it all over again.

On the other hand, my only current plan is to take four or so days to go to a small town a few hours south of me and spend my time in an old mission in monks’ quarters with nothing but books and a journal.  And that’s a pretty great way to recharge.

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Where I Live

I have four projects I’m working on due this week.  One of them involves having a sub for the day, which means writing sub plans for a lab where I have to completely understand background knowledge and be able to explain it to kids in five different grade levels and keep it interesting and engaging, but explained first to an adult.  It’s chaos.

But this crazy cocktail of intelligence (I’m not bragging, it’s not something I work at, it’s just something I was given) and mental illness means that if I am bored, nothing gets done.  If there’s chaos, however…  This is where I live.  This is where I shine.  I’m rocking this.  The only problem is, I can only rock it for so long, before I burn out.

The other problem with this is, I’m working so hard on work that I’m not working on supporting myself.  That isn’t healthy and it isn’t productive.  So, here’s my commitment: I will work on myself this week.  That’s what my spare time is for.  I’ll use the organizational energy this crazy-busy week has given me to plan how to best take care of myself when this crazy week is over.  And that will make it easier when I crash.

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