Saturday, August 24, 2013

being surprised by joy, and a job!

Life has been crazy. Crazier than it's ever been or that I could have ever imagined it could be.

I found a job! I am working for the ICAN Schools network at Akron Preparatory School teaching the fourth grade. All subjects! Ah!

We are a start up school in the network. Brand new. Lots of brand new teachers. This has meant long hours, weird circumstances, and lots of the wonderful (but stressful) chaos that comes with all new beginnings. I can't even begin to tell you.

I have never, (never, never, never) been so exhausted and overwhelmed in my life.

But I have also never (never, never, never) been overthrown by the amount of joy, surprise and delight I'm experiencing.  I drive to work (an hour commute!) and sometimes literally laugh out loud at the surprise that this is really my life. I'm doing it.The thing I set out to do. But never in the way I expected. Me? A sometimes soft spoken, T-county girl, teaching in inner city Akron? How can that be? It can't be possible that this is right?

This was never in the plan. Its been the the most difficult, but the most wonderful thing I've ever done. I'm humbled and overjoyed by the grace of it all. I get to be a part of something good, and new, and beautiful.

I work with families who somehow trust me and my co-workers. They look at us with all the hope and trust in the world. It terrifies, motivates, surprises, and delights my heart. All of those things, at once. Its almost too much joy for one person.  How can I be so exhausted and so happy all at once?

So, somewhere, in all of this chaos and exhaustion, I'm trying to hold onto this. This precious delight. This knowing that I'm a part of something. Something that is rare and good and difficult.

I hope I don't let go of this ability to let life surprise me. It is wild, and I go forward with all the white knuckled terror of someone new at this, but with hope. With the knowing that this is it. These are those rare and wonderful moments in life that we wait for. This is my moment that matters.

You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I'll take grace. I don't know what it is exactly, but I'll take it.— Mary Oliver

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

10 things I've learned from running and job hunting

This summer has mostly been filled with these two things: job hunting, and running. I've learned a great deal from both.

Here are some of the lessons (some harder learned than others) that I've come away with.

1. Just get up and get going. There will be a lot of days when you don't feel like it, but I promise, if you just peel yourself out of bed, get dressed, and start moving, the rest will come.

2. Some days you will feel like you are absolutely crushing it. Your mile time will be better than ever, or you will have more leads than you know what to do with. Live in this moment. It might not last forever, but its a good feeling.

3. Some days you will feel like it is absolutely crushing you.  These days are the worst. When putting one foot in front of the other seems impossible, and you want cry and scream and give up. Its okay to do the first two things on the list (in the privacy of your own home, preferably), not the third.

4. Laugh at yourself. This is important. Some days you may fall flat on your face. Its better just to laugh. If that doesn't work and you have to cry, that's okay too. Do it.

5. Some days you will get hurt or even just very tired, take the time you need to rest and let it heal. This is so much easier said than done, at least for me. Running on an injury only makes it worse and only requires more time on the bench. This one takes discipline, learn it.

6. Don't forget to enjoy the view from right where you are.You may only pass this way once. Look around, there are some really great things you might be missing while on your journey forward. While you're climbing the hill, take in the view from the top before you charge on to the next. Take a deep breath. Look around.

7. Enjoy the success of others.  Some people might be faster than you or farther along than you. This is a hard pill to swallow, but in the end its not just better for them, but for you. Life is much more pleasant when you are happy for people rather than mad. Much.more.pleasant.

8. Not everyone will understand you. Deal with it. There will be times when you are thought crazy, or weird, or whatever else, the list could go on. You may be running in the rain, or the heat, and people won't get it. But the truth is, you're out there. And that's something.

9. You'll get there eventually. This is my least favorite. It requires patience, of which I've learned I have very little, but it's true. You really will get there eventually.

10. Don't give up. This will be tempting. And you may even claim to yourself on some days that you are in fact giving up, but don't. Keep on keeping on. Even on a slow day,  you're still moving forward. Remember why you started int he first place. That helps.

That's it. They are simple, and maybe a little lame, but they are getting me through. Happy Tuesday! Keep on keeping on!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

something you can do when your soul (or mine) just can't take one.more.thing.

Last week was the worst. Really, the worst. It was a four-job rejections-in-one-week-some-for-reasons-beyond-my-control-and-some-for-the-worst-reason-of-all-that-is-I-fell-flat-on-my-face-because-I-was-too-afraid-and-blew-an-opportunity-sky-high kind of week. It was one of those week when just when I felt I really couldn't take one more thing before I crumbled and fell into a pile of tears or despair or worse, apathy--one more thing seemed to keep happening.  I was tired, heavy, and shell-shocked by it all. Maybe I took it all a bit too personally, but I've discovered that that is the way of things for me. Things affect me.

So what does one do? I didn't know, and really nobody does in that moment. How do you put back the pieces of your own confidence and find a way to move forward? I didn't know. I didn't even want to know (I think this is okay sometimes). So, I read. I just picked up a book and let everything just sit heavy on my shoulders as I read. Quietly passing time in pages rather than minutes.

This sound like a small thing. It wasn't. I remembered the healing power of fiction, of stories, to restore our soul and to slowly bring life back and to move it forward in some unspoken way.

I read the Life of Pi. I had started it ages ago. A student wanted to read it, and even though I wasn't finished, I could tell how badly he wanted to read it, and just gave it to him. I never saw that copy of it again. I have since seen him around, I think he loved it as much as I did. That is a bond worth all the lost books in the world. He and I shared that story.

I am glad that life made me wait until now to finish it though. It was the exact book that I needed to read at this exact moment in my life. It talked about fear, and losing, and winning, and hope, and grief, and holding on, and fighting for things with your very soul, and then being forced to let them go. Oh, I cannot tell you what it meant it to me. The writing was beautiful. The story moved slowly and that's just what I needed as well--a slow moving, soul searching story. The kind that turns you inside out.

Good fiction works itself out hard and beautiful in the painstaking details,  and often before we even know it, we are changed. It helps us to be unafraid, it helps us to lie low, and to listen, and to wait--goodness is always on the horizon. In it we can find courage, or rest, or joy, or cathartic pain. It will bring us what we need at that moment.

So when your soul cannot take even one more thing, or when you are afraid and cannot take one more step, maybe just start by turning one more page. In it you will find hope, you will find motion, and a slow steady momentum. And when you are finally ready to lift your head from the pages and face reality again, you may find that your spirit has been strengthened to hold on, or let go, or fight, or give up, or whatever it is you needed the strength to do.

So even though nothing in the world seems to have worked out in a way I would have guessed or wanted, I am least reminded of the salvation that can be found in a good piece of fiction. Sometimes we fight our fears quietly, and in the pages of book and not out in world. Sometimes it is the power of stories that see us through.

“I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always ... so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.” 

― Yann MartelLife of Pi

Saturday, June 22, 2013

bringing the boat in at night...

You start out gliding through glass.

Quiet, just you, under a wide, full moon, rising over the dark waters. Dimly lighting the way.

There are lights, others, like you, drifting with some purpose in mind.
Sometimes you can't tell how far or close they really are. 

The trick is to not try to see too far ahead. To see what's right there.

Stay centered, and bring her safely in.

It takes a special kind of vigilance,

keeping your eye on the shore lights but still right on ahead,

watching for stray buoys, or logs,  settled in the silent night waters.

Then the shore lights near a little,
Specks on the horizon, growing bolder, hailing you to a safe place.

But it will still take longer than you thought.

You'll start to wonder in the black if you really saw what you thought. If that is the shore you wanted?
Or was it a ways back? If you are really moving towards dry ground. 

Stable and solid.

But you must see it through. You must trust what you knew of this place in the brilliant light of day.

When sky and shore and water were all so distinct.

You must move inch by inch through the depths.  For eventually the shore will near and you will find yourself tied sturdily off on a dock. 

You're feet firmly on the ground.

Friday, June 7, 2013

findING a job, but mostly finding something else even better

Lately life has been this combination of opportunity and disappointment. Sometimes it looks something like hope and other days it smacks of despair. Transitions have always been tough for me. There are days they feel adventurous, like something lovely on the horizon about peek its head over the hills, all light and goodness. Then there are days when its all so terrifying, and I curl my toes and dig my heels firmly into a steady soil, resistant to change. Resistant to the unknown.

Oh, the unknown. And that is just it. Life is hazy right now. I don't know what life will look like in the next few months, or the next year, or the next five. And really, who knows any of that about life to begin with?

For me, all this comes in the form of starting a career. Which, never did I expect it to be this way. I never thought it would matter so much. But it has to me. And in this whole process I learn. I learn to move forward and to be confident. I learn to take it on the chin when life seems unfair. I learn to keep spinning my wheels, because I won't know right away where they are going. I learn that I can be ugly and jealous and petty. But that I can overcome it and learn to be happy, so very happy for others. Sometimes.

And of course I learn grace. This has been the most wonderful. That in these waves of hope and despair. Storms of my own emotions or disappointment. I can rest.  I am learning the most delicious thing about grace and it's that there is always enough for me. It never ever ever runs out. Ever! Did you hear me? While that is just about enough to surge joy right through anyone, it gets better. Since grace never runs out for me, there is always enough for giving. I am finding that by receiving grace upon grace upon endless, endless grace. I can give it fearlessly. I can give it with abandon, knowing that the stores will never run dry. The dam has already broken and it runs wild. We are all already swept away in it.  That even when life feels graceless, when I feel graceless and run ragged and raw by the blows of life, there is still more than enough. It was never really my own grace to give anyway. Which is what makes it so great for giving away.

All of this to say, after posts like this or this grace finally caught up with me. Which I guess isn't really right, it was always there, its just a matter of remembering it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

the story of shearing day

Up at 5:30 to pile on layers and layers of mismatched winter-wear. Long johns, jeans, sweater upon sweater, hats and scarves. A little while later she arrives and I hop into the car. Bleary-eyed, but quietly wild with anticipation, we hit a drive-through for some coffee and a quick a breakfast sandwich. After all, who has time to make breakfast on a big day like this?

A freeway and a few curving country roads later we arrive and step out into the cold. The farm is on a hill so the bitter chill of winter weather (still? it's March) swirls around us along with a few stray sparkling flakes. Magic. My heart jumps with excitement as we near the barn. I can hear the sheep bleating, not as gentle as some would think. They are hungry (no food before shearing), they are scared (why are we up and moving already?) and they don't seem to mind speaking their mind. Blurting out call after call.

It's funny how I love these sort of days but how unaccustomed to them I really am. I clumsily climb over the pen, limb over tangled limb, and introduce myself to Du-Roy, a white Shetland ram. I look at him and my friend unsure of what to do next. She explains to me what "rooing" is. Rooing?

It is the process of gently pulling away the previous years coat and exposing the new years' coat. The wool is thick, and soft, and greasy with lanolin. (Lanolin is an oil that sheep secrete, and before you cringe in disgust, go read the ingredients on your creams and lotions. Its probably listed.)

We wait on shearers and get to know the flock. A moving sea of sheep slowly become recognizable faces. There are two brand new lambs to cuddle and make over.  Soft and brown. A week old, but already bouncing, skipping, all energy and wool. Their new faces show none of the fear that is written on faces of the others. Red, the English Shepherd keeps his close watch on mom and babies, his eyes shift as we pass the lambs from person to person.

The shearers finally arrive and the real work begins. There are two quiet young men, tall and lanky, that do the actual shearing. All day their faces shift from the focused scowl of a worker, to the softened smiles of a caretaker. The rest of us are bagging fleeces, sweeping the shearing the stations, handing off the shots and medications for each sheep, and wrangling sheep back into pens.

Its amazing the differences in sheep personalities. We start with rams, their fleeces so big, you could just roll up in them and sleep warm for days. Rams, for the most part, fought very little. Then the ewes. Some were quiet and calm. They looked uncomfortable, but just seemed to lay back as the wool fell to floor, soft like a cloud. Others though, struggled and bleated and kicked and rolled. It was a wild fight, and sometimes I wonder, who is really winning?

When it came time for returning sheep to pens, I have things to learn. Some seem to know right where to go. Then there are others. With these, there is plenty of panicking, running, and grabbing, and that's just me. Some sheep bolt past the gate, while others run the opposite direction. A real chase down. Mimosa, a small ewe, standing about a foot and a half off the ground, has me on the ground in a matter of a few seconds. She darts into her pen and we both slowly stand, look at each other, and wonder what just happened. Equally traumatized. With time I am better. Realizing sheep need direction more than force. They need a calming hand, rather than a powerful one. The shearers seem to know this. One of them scoops up the smaller ewes in his arms and carries them gently to the pen himself.

When the sheep are all shorn and the wool all bagged. The sheep enjoy their new lightness, unfazed by the cold. They scratch and shake, and dance their own noisy freedom dance. They rub against each other, reacquainting themselves with what they mistake to be new pen-mates. (Really, they don't recognize each other now.)

 The llamas are next.

 Octavias (above) and Lucky. Both of which have been aware all day that some part of this would eventually involve them. And they don't seem to like it. The llamas stand and spit, and wobble this way and that, but in the end, they are shorn to, and return to their pens.

The wool is carried into the garage heaping armload after heaping armload. Bag by bag. Some other day it must be cleaned and carded.

 We say our goodbyes and head home, cold, tired, and smelling of hay and lanolin. But we are happy.

I arrive home and peel off the many layers in exchange for warm pajamas.

I am asleep, warm on the couch, in a matter of minutes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

learning jazz

I start out

on the keys
I cLunK andIclutter
on the beat up baby grand in the front room from 1926.
It just doesn't sound right,
doesn't sound the way it should,
Whatever "it" is.

Then with time,
it gets better.


lt runstogethersogoodsoripeandreadytobepickedjuicyandhotandsweetandcool.



Just like it should

but expected all the same.

It starts to sound like red lipstick, and smooth Scotch, and sweat and smoke that hangs over our heads in some dim seedy club at 2am like our problems hovering over us,
out of sight
out of mind, and pressing down on us thick and heavy all the same. Like us.

With a foggy sigh.

Its there somewhere, it just takes time to find it.