Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Teachers are my heroes!

Despite having children in the public school system for more than a decade, I have never volunteered in the classroom on a regular basis until this year. I always had a little person at home with me that made regular volunteering challenging. Sure, I went along on some field trips and helped with stuff from home and worked the book fair and open houses and the school carnival. But regular, weekly, in-the-classroom volunteering is new territory for me.

Each Wednesday morning I walk my kids to school like usual (except for today, when we drove, since it was rainy!), but instead of kissing them goodbye and turning around to walk back home, I go to the office, sign in on the iPad, don my volunteer badge and head off down the hall to spend the morning with some great kiddos!

Until now, I've mostly had the opportunity to maintain my ignorance about what kids -- little kids! -- have to deal with in their lives. I know, intellectually, and on a general level, that there are kids in my kid's school (and in pretty much every school in our country) who have yucky home situations. Who don't eat breakfast in the morning. Or dinner at night. Who struggle with academic stuff that their peers mastered long ago. Who don't have appropriate clothes (coats, hats, boots) to wear to school. Who don't have supportive parents. Who don't have a home, or a bed of their own. I know these facts intellectually, but to know these things more intimately, in my heart, by working each week with kids who struggle in these areas, is heartbreaking! If I knew the specifics of each of the 20 or 30-some kids in the classroom, I think it might do me in! I don't think I could take it. Even the kids who seem to have things going for them (kids like the ones that live at my house), have struggles. Real struggles. Some not as "big" as being homeless, for example, but just as real. No one is exempt. And to know those struggles for dozens of kids is so weighty! I told one teacher this morning, "I really don't know how you do it. It's heartbreaking!". She agreed and said she doesn't sleep too great many nights. These men and women are heroes! Their love and concern for kids that aren't their own blows my mind. The hours they spend working with, thinking about, worrying about these kids is WAY more than the hours written in their contracts. I am so very thankful for them!

This morning, one of the kiddos I work with one-on-one wasn't at school. That allowed me to spend a little more time helping out another teacher, but I couldn't help but worry about why this kiddo wasn't at school today. I was looking forward to our game of "war", where we sneak in work on some math facts under the guise of just playing a card game. I want to be a bright spot in the lives of the kids I come in contact with. I don't want to just help them make academic strides (although that will, hopefully, be an outcome as well), I want to build them up. Make them feel seen and cared about and noticed. I want them to know that they matter and are important and can do it . . . even when they think they can't. I want to give them big huge hugs and tell them that I pray for them and buy them a nice, new winter coat. But some things aren't appropriate to do and I just need to keep pouring into them and praying for them and loving them in the ways that I can. I only know the specifics of a very small number of kids (and even then, there is lots of stuff I don't know about them) and it is hard. I know I am more sensitive than some, but I don't know how pouring in to the life of a kid who is struggling in life couldn't get to you, no matter who you are. They are kids, for crying out loud! Life should be (mostly) carefree and fun. And for many it isn't. That is hard for me to know. To really know. Not just to be aware of, and know in my head, but to know in my heart too.

I could not handle being a classroom teacher. For way more reasons than I could begin to list. But I am so very thankful for teachers! They are my heroes! Thank you, teachers!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Senior Night

It was senior night for football this week. At the game on Wednesday night, they honored the seniors on the football team and their parents (as well as the senior team managers and cheerleaders). Jacob is healed up enough to be able to suit up and play again -- which we are thankful for. He's not 100% yet, I don't think, but he is certainly better than he has been for the past month.

at home, before school in the morning
The football team dressed up for school on game day and Jacob looked fabulous! (although I might, possibly, be a little biased) Tradition says that the mom of each senior is supposed to wear their son's jersey to the game that night. Let me tell you, those things are NOT comfortable! First of all, Jacob and I are not the same size! Also, since I wasn't wearing football pads, there was lots of excess fabric in the shoulder area that was crazy-making! I won't get in to the rest of my complaints about the jersey. At the first possible moment, I took that thing right off!

on the field, before the game
Each of the seniors was announced, along with their parents, before the start of the game. They mispronounced my name . . . but I guess it's not about me, right!? Ha! (I'm sure no one even noticed other than me.) After all the seniors and their parents were announced, we stayed on the field with the players for the national anthem. In addition to it being senior night, it was also "pink out". The ENTIRE student section was dressed all in pink to support those fighting cancer. More specifically, breast cancer. I was not unaware of the fact that my mom was in the stands watching her oldest grandchild play in his senior night football game on "pink out" night, almost 4 years after her own breast cancer diagnosis. If you know anything about me, you might not be surprised by the fact that all those things added together had me a bit verklempt!

Go Raiders!
In the end, the team pulled off a 41-20 win. I can't believe we are so close to the end of Jacob's high school football career. The days are long, but the years are short . . . so very true! We adore our #19 and are so very proud of him and the man he is becoming!

Monday, October 10, 2016


It was a big weekend at our house. We celebrated some birthdays. We had a lovely, very fun birthday dinner at my parent's house to celebrate Kirby's birthday, Sara's birthday and Allie's birthday. I won't give away everyone's ages, but combined they turned 92 . . . which is OLD!

Happy, happy birthday to 3 of my favorite people on the planet. My amazing husband, my sweet baby girl and my what-would-I-do-without-her best friend/sister. I am so very thankful for each of them. They are such blessings in my life, and the lives of so many others as well.

sister love
We don't get to all spend enough time together, so we enjoyed every minute of our Saturday together celebrating!
the birthday "kids"

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A journey of a thousand miles (or maybe just one). On running and life.

I wrote this a couple months back. I wrote it mainly as a way to process my thoughts and feelings and life (because writing helps me do that). I wrote it mainly for myself. I shared it with my husband after I wrote it, but other than that it has just been for me . . . until now. Lately I have felt that I should share it, even though it is vulnerable and hard and I don't really want to do it.

It may be what someone else needs. It may be what the Lord uses to encourage someone else during a tough time. It may be what makes someone feel a little less alone or sad or isolated, or a timely reminder that they are not the only one who is struggling. For me, personally, things have turned around a bit now that the seasons have shifted from summer to fall (summer is always, always hard for me). I still have some stuff to work through and to work on, but I'm in a better place than I was when this was written.

So here you go. My heart ::

5 years ago I couldn't run for more than 30 seconds at a time without thinking I might die. Little by little by little that changed. In 2013 I ran a half marathon. I was a "Runner". It took me a long time to embrace that I was legit and could own my title of "Runner", but I finally got there. These days I'm much closer to the person I was in 2011 than the person I was in 2013, as far as running goes.

Probably a little more than a year ago now, something shifted in me. I started becoming more anxious than I had ever been before. I started feeling "off", not like myself and struggled to do normal, everyday things that I had never even given a second thought to before. I had a few hard life and relationship situations that took a significant toll on me. A couple times I tried being brave and authentic about one particular struggle and the authenticity backfired on me and seemed to make things worse. Since it was a pretty big deal for me to work up the courage to do that in the first place, that set me back. I didn't feel alive inside at all. At some point in there I'm pretty certain I crossed the line into depression. One Sunday, earlier this summer, I couldn't even go to church with my family because I, literally, could not stop crying (and church is one of my very favorite things!). A few months before all this, I had stopped running. I would try, sometimes, but I couldn't do it. Mentally. Physically. It just didn't work any more! I have some pretty significant physical pain (hip, knee, foot, hand, wrist -- not all at the same time, thankfully, but it was always something . . . or a few somethings). I don't know if the pain brought on the depression or if the depression lead to physical pain. I went to PT for a while, but it wasn't helping and was costing a lot, so I quit. I have also had a few panic attacks over the past year or so. If you haven't ever experienced one, those things are horrible! So painful and scary. I really think that it is one of those things that you can't understand without having experienced it for yourself. All of that weighed on me and sucked the life out of me.

If someone were to ask me today if I was a runner, I wouldn't know how to answer them. I own running shoes and technical running clothes, and running-related gadgets, but that is not what makes someone a runner. It's been hard to adjust to this stage: something that had, at one point, been a big part of who I was no longer fit. I can't agree to a group run with friends because I would never be able to keep up with them anymore (even thought I know they would never leave me behind). Since I also struggle to admit all of this to anyone, my running friends probably just thought I was blowing them off or didn't want to run with them. But I don't know any of that for sure, since I never opened up to tell them what was really going on.

The other day I ran a solid mile without stopping. That was huge! Even though not that long ago I could run 10, even 15 miles, this one solid mile seemed even more significant somehow. It was a solid 3+ minutes per miles slower than I used to run, but I ran the whole time without stopping. I still have a long way to go and I don't love (or even like) running like I used to, but I think that getting back "in the saddle" is something that I need to do if I want to get better. Both as a runner and as a person that I would actually like to be.

Things that make me feel alive are being outside, my family, creating things, meaningful music, good books, making note of the (seemingly) small blessings in each day, authentic relationships, writing, encouraging others, hanging my clothes out to dry, reading a good book -- and I wasn't doing enough of any of those things. Often, I couldn't muster up what it took to get off the couch, which makes it hard to create much or spend time outdoors or be with others or do any of those things.

I think legitimately admitting to the struggles is a good place to start to get better. I have been reading things lately that have been helpful with different aspects of my struggles. I know that I am not alone in this. I should get off the couch more often. I should go outside more. I should make more stuff. I should probably get on some drugs.

Writing helps me to process my thoughts. But getting things out on paper (even if only for myself) takes vulnerability that is scary. Until you say it out loud or write it down, it is easier to pretend that it's not real. Or that it's just a "rough patch" or a "tough season", rather than an actual ongoing problem that needs addressing. Here's to the first step of putting it out there!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


I haven't done a gratitude journal update for a while. Here are a few of the blessings that I've noted lately as I go about my days, which turn into weeks and months and years and make up a life. There are so many and I like to write them down so I can remember how blessed I am when I need such a reminder.

5825. Joe back on the swim team
5826. 9 pm family meetings with the "bigs" (oldest 3 kids). Prayer and sharing time.
5829. thunderstorms
5832. the honor of being asked to be godparents for the son of our dear friends
5838. perfect fall weather
5842. leaves crunching underfoot
5849. turning in early
5867. 20 years of marriage to my best friend
5872. the smell of autumn
5874. understanding, empathetic friends
5876. a better-than-expected WRTC 10K race
5879. the generosity of my parents
5880. the power of music
5881. productive crafting
5882. my huge mum from Costco
5889. Lexington open again heading north, after being closed for over 4 months
5895. clothes on the line
5896. morning walks to school with the Falcon kids
5898. great homecoming at UNW for Kirb
5900. finding Joe some pants that actually fit
5908. sunshine
5910. shadow pictures

raining morning pre-race friends photo

and we're done!

sunny afternoon coffee date

sunshine is the best!

walks in the woods

sisters in the morning sunshine

Saturday, October 1, 2016


While we were away on our anniversary trip, Jacob had a football game. We were in the air heading east and he was playing football. While we were flying and he was playing, he got hit hard in the rib cage. It hurt, but he didn't think too much about it. He didn't really mention it to my mom and, since we were on the other side of country, no one said anything to us either.

The last game he played in pre-injury
After we'd been home 4 or 5 days, Jacob got up one morning and said, "Can you make me a doctor's appointment?" I replied, "For what?". "My ribs.", he answered. "What is wrong with your ribs?" I countered. That's when I heard, for the first time, about the injury that had happened about 10 days prior. All the while, stubborn #19 had continued to practice and play in games. So I took him in to get him looked at. The doctor that we saw figured that he had some deep bruising and said that he should take Advil regularly to manage the pain and listen to his body as far as what his limits should be. So for another week or so he went on pretty much the same as before, although with significantly more ibuprofen in his system. Then he woke up one morning later that same week in significant pain and not being able to breathe comfortably. So we went back in and saw a different doc (since we were a walk-in appointment). This second doc examined him and pushed and poked, eliciting quite a bit of pain from her patient. They got an x-ray, and though his ribs didn't appear to be broken (though ribs aren't the easiest bones to x-ray), she decided this was his body's signal that he needed to stop everything. Heartbreakingly, this was the day before the Homecoming football game of his senior year! To say he was pretty bummed when she told him to completely stop doing anything that required him to take a deep breath or caused him to breath heavily or exert himself, for at least a month, would be a major understatement. It's hard to watch your kid be in physical pain, but it might be worse to see them in emotional pain. In one moment he lost the rest of his senior football season, pep band, band class, weight lifting class . . . all the things he loves most and is most passionate about in life right now.

He he has done pretty well. He still goes to practice and stands on the sidelines of the games in his jersey (sporting jeans, rather than pads and a helmet), but it's not the same.

"Togo Tuesday" when all the seniors wear a toga to school

He is feeling better all the time these days and is hopeful that he might be able to play again before the season is done. But it was a tough blow.

I'm crazy about that kid and can't believe in less than a year he will be taking off to spread his wings and won't live in our house with us anymore. I just sent in a baby picture and special message for him to be put in the yearbook. As I looked through the pictures in attempt to choose one and wrote the note, it seemed surreal. How can he be this old? What on earth happened to my precocious preschooler who knew every make and model of car and talked "car talk" with anyone who would listen? And, at the same time, he is ready to take this next step and we know it. We are so proud of him and the man that God is molding him into. I can't wait to see what God has in store for him in the future! What a blessing he is to our family.

Senior football guys dancing at the homecoming pep fest

Jacob and his team after their homecoming WIN!
Jacob is the one in the jeans.
Praying he can suit up for a game again before the season is over!