Survival

Bless me, readers, for I have neglected my blog.  It has been two weeks since my last post.  In the intervening time, I’ve thought about posting three times but put it off because I am lazy.  Don’t worry about penance, though, because I started in-service for school last week and the students came back this week.  As one of my teammates said, “I must brace myself: Kindergarten is coming.”

It’s been a thoroughly exhausting and completely satisfying two weeks.  I have been so desperately busy getting things ready for my students, whether that’s the physical work of putting the furniture back in order and rearranging shelves and supplies or the mental work of coming up with new and improved lesson plans and recreating the science fair in a way that improves it without completely confusing my students, that I have had very little time to reflect on myself and my life at all.  However, as so often happens, this focus outside myself has made me more and more content with who I am and what I am capable of.

Yes, these two weeks have been incredibly trying, but I have survived them.  As they say on Welcome to Night Vale, I too have survived.  I have survived everything up to this moment.  And where I go from here is to a brighter world, where I control my future and my present.

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Cottage Food!

I’ve been living here for a week, now, and the adventure is starting to settle into more of a fun one and less of a challenge that just won’t quit.  We’ve got the air conditioner running over the bed, so I sleep nice and coolly, I’ve got consistent wireless internet, and I’ve managed to make a small kitchen work!

With such a small space, there’s no room for a stove or oven and I haven’t had a chance to borrow one of the extra hot plates from my lab, yet, so for now I’m working with things from the fridge, a rice cooker, and a hot plate.  So, there will be frequent adventures in cooking occurring here.  Lucky for me, today’s adventure was a total success!

I made salsa chicken burritos with queso sauce (well, ONE burrito.  And the extra filling for, like, six more) from this website.  I switched a couple of things up, though.  I put the corn and beans and one can of salsa in the crockpot first, stirring them up til they were well mixed, then laid the chicken breasts on top, then poured in the second jar of salsa on top of the chicken.  The salsas I chose were one with a good garlic flavor and one with a good dose of lime, to complicate and deepen the flavor.  I cooked it for seven hours, shredding the chicken at around 4.5, but it could’ve been done a bit later, if I wanted to cook it a bit longer.

When it was done cooking, I put it in a burrito, which was still warm (I didn’t say the air conditioning worked miracles!), with some shredded cheese and guacamole, and covered the whole thing with queso.  Let me tell you, kids, when I put that down on the table with a margarita, I got really excited about living out here.  There’s really something to be said for taking back some control and homemaking in a space that’s your own.

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The End of an Era

I’m so sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted (again!).  Between two mission trips, lots of professional development courses, and one BIG move, there’s been a lot going on.  It’s no excuse, but since you’re here to read what’s going on in my life and in my head, that’s what’s been going on!

I’m sure that at some point, I’ll tell you about the mission trips I went on this summer.  Both of them were challenging and remarkable, as all mission trips always are.  I learned a lot on both.  But the two things most on my mind right now are my move and the fact that school is starting in just two weeks!  (At least, for teachers.)

These two things sound like they’re only related in that they both contribute substantially to the amount of stress I’m feeling at any given time, but they’re actually more similar than that.  You see, both things are full of hard, uncomfortable, unpleasant, but ultimately good and necessary changes.

This year, my school has decided to standardize the lessons we teach across all five science labs.  This was a great move, because it means that we are collaborating on lessons, we’re giving the students a more standard experience across campuses (we have a fair number of students who move schools within the district when their family buys a new house), and we are able to come up with a unified idea for how the lab should function.  This is frustrating to me, because I tend to think of the science lab as a chance for the kids to be challenged above and beyond the teaching standards for their grade level, to force them to think about concepts that the state thinks they’re not ready for (they are.  I know because they understand the concepts when I teach them), and to give them a chance to push the boundaries of how their minds work.  But, the administration of the district wants us to keep our concepts consistent with the grade level standards.  No more pushing to higher concepts.  No more freedom to switch up the lessons as I see fit.  But that doesn’t mean the benefits of the standardized lesson plans go away.  In fact, having the entire first semester planned in the first week of summer means that I have the entire next two weeks to rehaul science fair and prepare for all of the extracurriculars I do during the school year!  And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

My move to my parents house has worked very similarly.  There have been a LOT of issues.  I’ve got air conditioning that doesn’t work, internet that doesn’t work, and too much stuff for too small a space.  But that doesn’t mean the benefits have disappeared.  I’m saving SO MUCH MONEY!  I’ve got a yard for my dog to run around in!  My cat and I sleep in the same bed without having to worry about the dog worrying the cat or the cat worrying the chinchilla!  And I’ve got a waterproof case on my iPad, so I can spend my last two weeks of summer freedom working on science fair and my extracurriculars in the pool!  So, if you need me…  That’s where I’ll be.

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Moving The Burrow

I have lived for two years in a truly beautiful, wonderful apartment.  It has been my first foray into independence and I have loved every second.

That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges.  There certainly have.  Between power outages and smoke machine snafus, it’s been one heck of an adventure.  But I truly have felt this two-bedroom, perfectly-sized, gorgeous apartment turn from “the place I live” into “my home.”

That’s part of why this summer will be a challenge to me.  This summer, I move back into my parents’ house for a couple of months while I look for a house.  You heard right – my wonderful parents (my incredibly strong Marmee and my unflappable Dad) are helping me make the downpayment to buy my first house.  AH!  It’s terrifying.  I’m building up credit and applying for grants for teachers and learning about how mortgages work and OMIGOSH BEING AN ADULT IS TERRIFYING.

I definitely want to do this.  Definitely.  I want a yard where I can grow things and raise bees and where my dog can play and I want to be able to paint my walls and tile my own floors and build and create my own space.  However.  This process of change and of creating a new life for myself in a space I own and am responsible for that costs more than I will ever see in one place is so terrifying to me.  I will owe people money!  Lots of money!  What if I don’t have the money?!

One of the most comforting things anyone has said to me, throughout this whole process was Señora (an old family friend, who we met when she was my elementary Spanish teacher) told me that she is scared every single time she buys a house.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work out, but being scared is just part of it.  And if that woman, an unshakable pillar of unchanging confidence, is scared every time?  It’s okay for me to be scared, too.  I just have to not let it get to me.

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The Journey Continues

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been on a physical journey.  Between pneumonia and sepsis this summer while working, and the death of my grandfather this fall, this past year has been a series of remarkably trying emotional and spiritual journeys.  (I should, at this point, qualify that because I am a teacher and youth minister, I always think of years in terms of school years.  So, to me, “this past year” means the summer of 2015 and the school year that is about to end.)  So much have these journeys tried my spirit that I have not even had the will to write in the little black journal that I carry with me.

However, I am incredibly blessed to have the most wonderful of parents, truly remarkable siblings (both of blood and heart), and some incredible friends who have helped, supported, encouraged, and (as one friend would say) “restrengthened” me through these trials.  I have come out this side of these particular trials with energy I have not had in a long time: to work, play, study, and plan.

This summer, I approach my journeys with not only a renewed spirit, but with a deeper, fuller, and more tightly woven relationship with my mother.  I am so incredibly blessed to be facing the future with this amazing woman.  I can’t wait to see what the summer brings!

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Mission Trip 2014!

In just over a week, I will leave for Mission Trip with my senior high students. We’ve been given our training packets, we’ve been given our packing lists, and (almost) all the prayer partners have been selected.

Last year’s Senior High Mission Trip was amazing. Truly, deeply inspiring. We all came home from it changed in a profound way, whether those changes took root immediately or they planted seeds that are waiting for the right time to grow. It was a Mission Trip I am certain we will all remember until the day we die. We will talk about it constantly.

And that’s a bit of a problem.

You see, our Mission Trip this year is also with the same organization that led our Mission Trip last year. Even at our meeting for this year, there was a lot of talk of “Well, last year…” Which is good, because it means that we have confidence that this Mission Trip will be a good one. But it’s problematic for a host of other reasons.

The first reason is that I believe strongly that the success of our last Mission Trip was that we had absolutely NO expectations. We were scared, yes, but we were entirely in God’s hands. We had to rely entirely on our faith to reassure us. We had nothing to go on, nothing to compare it to, so it blew us away. This year, we know just what we’re in for, because we’ve done it before. We are prepared. We have something to compare it to, so when it inevitably fails to meet the romanticized memories we have of last year’s trip, it will disappoint. When it blows us away, it will be a matter of course – Why wouldn’t it? It did last year!

Beyond that, we no longer have to rely on our faith for reassurance. We don’t have to depend on God, we rely on the company and on our memories. We can be confident in our trip, because we remember how well it went last year. We can be sure of ourselves, because that company didn’t let us down last year. There’s no need to rely on God. Which is a tragedy. That was such a strength for us last year! We relied on God so heavily that our trip couldn’t fail to fall under His protection and inspiration. I only hope that this year, we can continue to fall on the grace of God to sustain us.

However, we have a brilliantly strong youth group. They are the most godly group of teens I’ve ever met and I am thrilled and honored to get to be a part of their experience. I have faith that this trip will be exactly what each of us needs, so long as we let our hearts and ears be open to God’s plan. Mission Trip 2014, here we come!

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To The Fourth Grade

Every teacher has a “first class.”  It’s the very first class she ever taught, the kids who made her realize how HARD a job she signed up for, and the kids who taught her more than any college classroom ever could.  No matter how long she teaches, no matter what she goes on to do, no matter how many kids she loves over the chourse of her life, there will never be another “first class.”

My first year teaching, I have had over 500 students.  That’s so many that I don’t even know all their names!  And I love every single one of them very, very much.  But 500+ students are not a “first class.”  500+ students are a “first school.”  So, my first class, the students who changed my life forever, are my fourth graders.  You all have challenged me more than I ever thought I could be challenged.  And no matter how much I challenged you, you rose to the occasion and always wanted to know more, do more, learn more.  You are the students who will stick with me.  You may not know it, but you are my teachers, too.  And I couldn’t have asked for better ones.

You taught me that fourth graders can learn high school science, if you give them a chance.  You taught me that hermit crabs are BAD class pets.  You taught me that humanity is flawed, but humans are good.  You taught me that hard science can be fun science.  And you taught me that I am capable of more than I thought I was.

I will miss you so much.

Thank you for everything, fourth grade.

Love,

Miss Fox

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No. You. Did. Not.

Okay, so, it’s getting toward the end of the school year.  And let me just begin by saying, “THANK YOU, JESUS!”  I cannot tell you how excited I am for this complete rubbish to end.  Seriously.  The kids are COMPLETELY out of control.  I had a kindergartner today, while I was setting up the video for his class to watch (Bill Nye, by the way), whine, in the voice that most makes me want to slap someone that HE wanted READING RAINBOW.  “No.  You.  Did.  Not.  Just talk to me that way.  No.  You.  Did.  Not.”  We had a discussion about the way kids who are about to go into first grade speak and how they don’t.  By which I mean, I gave a lecture on how they do and don’t speak.  I warned them again about speaking during the movie.  Then I started the movie and sat back in my desk for yet another THRILLING rewatching of the Bill Nye video my kindergarten classes have been watching ALL WEEK.  Obviously, my mind wandered.  I started to think about all the things I had to do this week.  They were dropped on me at the last second!  It wasn’t fair!  My team is starting to get snarky at one another!  That isn’t fair either!  I have a lot of things to do this summer for youth group!  I want the summer OFF NOW!

In case you missed it, that was the EXACT voice that kindergartner used.  And there, of course, is where my inner teacher stepped in.  No.  I.  Did.  Not.  I’ve almost completed my first year of teaching!  I’ve made this science class THE MOST SUCCESSFUL IT’S BEEN IN YEARS!  I won a flipping GRANT, for goodness’ sake!  But when I go to my team’s lunch, I complain.  The kids are out of control.  I’m too busy.  They ask me to do so much.  Where’s the gratitude?  Where is the joy?!

We (I, especially) live in a culture of discontentment.  We are not supposed to be happy with where we are and what we’re doing.  We are supposed to be ambitious.  We’re supposed to want more.  And that’s an insidious way of thinking.  If we want more from ourselves in all areas of our lives, we quickly find ourselves dissatisfied, not just with what we’re doing, but with our whole lives: what we’re given, who we’re with, and what we have already achieved.  And that’s a waste.  We should be grateful for who we’re with.  Even the whiney kids.  We should be proud of what we’ve achieved.  Even what is isn’t quite finished.  Most importantly, we should be grateful for all that we have.  I have a wonderful support system (even when they’re snarky), wonderful friends (even when I don’t have time to call them back- sorry, YaYas!), and a wonderful boyfriend (even when I don’t remind him).  I work for a wonderful school and an incredibly blessed church.  Yes, I am overweight, but I have enough food to eat that I can GET overweight!  Yes, the intern acts like a teenager, but she has the energy to keep up with the kids when I’ve had a hard day and am getting pretty snarky myself.  Yes, my life is hard.  But it is beautiful.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Hourglass

I have always been an “If you can’t eat whatever you want, what’s the point?” person.  I hate to run.  HATE IT.  I don’t like working out for the sake of working out.  I have been in good shape twice in my life.  The first time was when I was on swim team in middle school.  I was working out to be able to compete.  The second was when I was training in ju jitsu.  To be honest, that one wasn’t about anything other than making my sensei proud.  Now, seven years and 50 pounds later, I get bored with exercise quickly, hate running on treadmills, and can’t run to save my life.

So, this is the story of why I, a self-proclaimed hater of exercise, am working out and eating/drinking healthy again.  Lets be honest, there are lots of reasons, but there are two that matter most to me.  First, there is an hourglass figure in my body that I want back.  Let’s be honest, I have rather large…  Tracts of land…  (Monty Python references, anyone?)  I don’t say this by way of bragging (I’m not sure what there is to brag about; it’s just genetics), but as explanation.  They’re there, and they used to contrast GORGEOUSLY with my tiny waist.  And I want that contrast back.  I want to look that way again.  Second, I teach and I youth minister.  Both of these jobs involve a lot of time spent with young people, with boundless energy.  They never stop moving and they love to run and play games that sound, to my out-of-shape self, a lot like exercise.  I want to be in a shape that doesn’t mind games of soccer of basketball with my high schoolers, a shape that has no problem chasing down little feet that run off after yelling “Catch me!”  I want to not worry about being winded by fun.

So, I’m drinking ALL THE WATER.  I’m working out daily, for 15 minutes at least, with a friend at my school.  I’m getting at least 7000 steps a day (and 10000 at least three days a week).  And I’m cutting down the sugar in my diet.  AND IT’S WORKING.  I can see my waist again!  I’m stubbornly refusing to weigh myself, because that isn’t the point for me, but I’m keeping an eye on how I look and how I feel.  And I’m turning into an hourglass again.  😉

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Incorporeal Gatherings

I’m not good at online communities.  I’m really not.  I don’t like the impersonal, cold connection that is the tendency of these communities.  I don’t like the way that online communities necessitate sitting in front of a screen for a great deal of your time.  I don’t like that it is difficult to communicate in a private fashion on the internet.

That being said, I love a lot of things about online communities.  I love that they connect people who would otherwise never have met and who, because of these communities, form deep and lasting bonds.  I love that they enable like-minded people to create things that improve the world in profound ways.  I love that they provide an outlet for people who do not know how to otherwise let their thoughts and emotions into the world.

I think there is great value in online communities and that they are and should be fundamental constituents of our society now.  I also think, however, that we have to be careful with our participation in these communities.  I think that it is strictly necessary to not let our entire lives be lived solely in these online communities.  Now, that means different things for different people.  For some people, this means what I can HEAR teenagers thinking I mean, “Get off that computer sometimes and go outside!”, which, to some degree, I do mean, if only because you are a physical being whose emotional needs often have to be met in physical ways.  For some people, this means that their online community meets sometimes in the offline world.  I think that this is the most wonderful and amazing thing that the online communities of the world have done.  They have taken communities that exist in an abstract and occasionally disorienting way and have made them into a very real, experiential thing.  That’s not to say there isn’t value in these communities outside of their physical gatherings, because an online community is just as capable of funding a well in Bangladesh or of developing a science as a physical one, but that these physical gatherings bring a new and maybe even more valuable element to their participants.

And that’s why my love for online communities will always outweigh my dislike for them and while, though I am not good at online communities, I will continue to try.

 

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