Friday, March 23, 2012

Accountability, anyone?

OH MY WORD!  I have so much respect for people who can blog consistently!  I am nowhere near that organized, together, consistent... the list goes on.  But I won't share the rest.  It's not that interesting, and I have something else to say, anyway.

Whether it's blogging, doing the right thing, getting a project done, or anything else, it seems like the best way to ensure consistent, organized behavior for me is to create some system of accountability.  It's true in both my professional and personal lives.  I need deadlines, people to turn things in to, checkpoints, etc.  And if those things don't exist on their own, I have to create them in some way.

My most recent application of this knowledge has come in relationship to my own personal health.  I have undergone a transformation over the past year.  No, it's not one you can see on the outside.  I haven't lost 100 pounds, become a competitive bodybuilder, or started running marathons. It's an inward transformation.  I'm becoming the person I never thought I could be.  I'm willing to take a risk, try something new, do it wrong, practice some more, and try it again.  It's ok if I make some physical effort and fail.  I'm not afraid of being the slowest, or the weakest.  I just don't want to be the one who's only watching.  I know all of this "new me" has grown out of the changes I've made to my level of physical activity.  And for that reason, I want to make sure I don't let go.  I like the new me better than the old one.

(Sidenote: I tell my students all the time that peer pressure never goes away, it just changes.  Nearly my entire circle of friends has taken up running, with most of them running half marathons and many of them running fulls.  While I think this is extremely admirable and wonderful, I'll repeat words of wisdom I once heard spoken in a fitness class as we were doing split stretches:  "This is not a goal for me."  I was peer pressured into walking a 1/2 marathon for which I trained very poorly.  I have no interest in ever repeating that episode. But I digress.)  

Knowing all this about myself has helped me to build accountability into my personal exercise since I started over a year ago.  I love going to fitness classes for this very reason.  Group fitness classes are a great way to ensure that you can't skip out and have no one know about it.  Anyone who knows me well knows how much I've come to L-O-V-E Zumba, and part of the pull (besides having a super fun instructor -- SHOUT OUT TO AUDREY ESTES! -- and the opportunity to dance around like an idiot) is knowing there will be friends there to laugh and cut up with when I show up.  I also really enjoy weight lifting but have slacked off since the end of last school year.  Know what?  There's no accountability for me there.  No one I'm working out with, no one checking up on my progress, no one to know if I don't show up.  So I've slacked off.

Well, I've gone and done it now.  There will be nothing but accountability once next school year starts.  I've wanted for several years to be able to offer a girls' fitness class at school, and that's coming to fruition next school year.  I went to Zumba Instructor Training early this year and started teaching at school for my co-workers, who are more fun than a barrel of monkeys!  They've given me courage. :-)  They served as my guinea pigs, and I decided that this is something I can handle.  So I'm excited, many of the girls at school are excited, and I can't wait to get started!  We get 5 days a week, 45 minutes a day to create and maintain habits that will have a lifetime of impact.  My goal is to help these girls discover that they, too, can find a "new me."  That they can gain confidence, health, and a love for keeping their bodies working as well as God intended.  I want them to spend the school year learning to love their bodies and take care of them.  And I get built-in accountability.  And a group of girls who will (and should) expect me to practice what I preach.  I'm looking forward to it!  Bring on the accountability!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sewing the Seed (Get it? 'Cause I teach FACS! Ha-ha!)

So I feel like I'm finding my stride. I wish I could find some book or article (that's what nerds do, you know) that outlines the stages of a teaching career. I'm beginning my 6th year in the classroom, and I feel more ready and prepared than I have any year up to this point. I have a feel for what will happen the first two days, I know how to start class around day 3 when schedule changes are final (day 2, if the stars align), and I don't feel nervous about starting. Just ready. It makes me wonder what each future "first day of school" holds. Will this calm continue year after year, or am I just in a good place right now? And will I even be able to hold onto it through October -- through FCCLA membership drives, fair booth construction, county fair day, Relay for Life, fundraisers, parent-teacher conferences, grades due, homecoming, a couple hundred lessons -- will it last? Who knows. But I have learned (read: am trying to) be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11), so I'll just take it for what it is and be thankful for the present peace God has given.

I'm taking advantage in this moment of calm to prayerfully remember my purpose. I have one of the greatest jobs in the world. I get to teach, and I get to plant. Every day in the classroom is an opportunity to equip my students with invaluable knowledge that can significantly improve the quality of their lives as individuals and as family members. And I get to plant seeds for the Lord. What an awesome blessing and a grave responsibility. Recently I was thinking about how discouraging it can all get sometimes. It can seem like your efforts, your prayers, and your concern don't produce any change in behavior or perspective among students. And then I realized how self-centered and egotistical that view is. The glory isn't mine to receive. God never promised a grand show of change or impact among the children of his that I am privileged to minister to. He just asked me to plant seeds. So this year, I won't worry about the end result. I'll just make sure I'm planting the seeds that God expects me to.

If you have free time, I'd love to be in your prayers. I'm blessed to be in a small, rural public school where many of my students are followers of Christ. But many aren't. I could use wisdom in choosing my words, and I could definitely use all the prayers you can offer to help me live my faith loudly. It's demonstrating those fruits of the spirit to God's hurting and lost children that often make the greatest impact. I want my students and co-workers to see God and his love living in me. I want them to SEE that an intimate relationship with God is the thing in this life that supersedes all else. I want to be a living sacrifice, living each day as an act of worship. But I can do none of that on my own. It will only come by the grace of God, supported by the prayers of those who love me.

Each school year signals a renewing and a new beginning for me. I am so thankful for new beginnings.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Winners Never Quit? Right.

Hi. My name is Beverly, and I'm a quitter.

Not the worst kind of quitter, not someone who walks away in anger or frustration, not someone who can't commit to my family, just the kind of quitter who looses interest. I seriously L-O-V-E to start new things. It's so exciting to begin some project or undertaking, dreaming of the grandeur to be observed at it's completion. Like the quilt I started when I took a quilting class with my mom... about 8 years ago. I loved picking out the pattern (Ohio star), the fabric (rich purple, dark green, a purple floral on a dark background, all set off with cream and lighter purple), and getting started on learning a skill so culturally important. Generations of women before me (including my own grandmother who is still quilting today) sat around together, quilting covers that would keep their families warm for years and years to come. What a blessing to learn about and be a part of such a heartwarming tradition! So I began piecing my Ohio star quilt, intent to complete the project by hand. (Stupid idea. I involved the sewing machine a short time into it.) Propelled forward by images of this quilt covering my bed and keeping my future husband and children warm for years to come, I worked diligently on my quilt top. I was becoming the wife of noble character.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. (Proverbs 31:21-22)
I was on my game. Amazing. And focused. Until I wasn't. I pulled the still unfinished quilt top out last week and showed it to Cassidy because of something she had brought up. The top is nearly finished. But it just doesn't hold the same interest for me anymore. I quit. Like 8 years ago. And I keep meaning to finish, but there's so much else to do. Like read Twilight again.

My life has a long history of incomplete projects, things I've willingly walked away from just because I didn't want to do it anymore. But as I've matured, I've developed staying power. That balance I talked about a while back guides a lot of my decisions about what to start and what to quit. And honestly, I'm just a lot more cautious about what I actually start. Instead of dwelling on the things I've quit (Weight Watchers, a couple times, tennis - but that's my kids' fault, tanning - probably for the best, a few relationships here and there) I'd like to focus on the things I HAVE committed to. The things that were too important to quit. I'm a teacher by trade, so how about some examples? :-)

Fantastic Things in My Life I Haven't Quit

1. Bunko. But it took my 2 years to start it. I just wouldn't make the commitment. I had beentold going in, "If you start, you're expected to be there regularly unless something seriously legitimate gets in the way." For those of you who are freaking out about that, sick kids and kids' events totally count as legit. Listen, I know my weaknesses, and I was a little freaked out about the "no quitters" policy. So it took me a while to decide to give it a try. And oh, am I glad I did! What a blessing to have a group of friends like those I've found in Bunko! (Another important sidenote: although Bunko is actually the name of a game, in this particular case, Bunko is used to refer to a monthly gathering of ladies at which any number of things - including an actual game of Bunko - may take place.)

2. My husband and children. Duh.

3. My faith and my God. Duh, again.

4. Exercise. So far. I've quit this one a few times before, but for some reason, I have new resolve. Maybe it's because it has become "me time." Maybe it's because I love my Zumba class and lifting weights, and I tolerate the elliptical machine (which I have been know to refer to as the Helliptical). Maybe it's because I joined a gym, and I had never actually tried exercising OUT of the house before. Maybe it's because I like the changes I see in my body and feel in my health and energy level. All I know is I'm willing to get up at 4:30 or 5:00 at least a few days a week so I can be sure to get it in. And secretly, I kind of like being "that guy." The psycho who got up a 4:30 to go to the gym. It makes me feel committed, like this lifestyle is really ME, a part of who I am, and that makes me want to continue. Feel like I NEED to continue. It's been a solid 6 months no, and I have no plans for this to move to the "used to do that" list.

5. Passion about my work. I love what I do, and I love my kids. Teaching is rewarding in a way that just can't be explained. If you're a teacher, you understanding without my having to explain it. If you're not, I could talk all day and it still wouldn't make sense. Because I work with high school students, I don't often see massive change in their personalities (not for the better, anyway). But I do get to make them think. All the time. I get to challenge their stereotypes, their prejudices, their preconceived notions. I get to show them that THEY decide who they will be, not their past, not their families, not their circumstances. And I get to do it while teaching them about life's most important topics: parenting, money management, nutrition, relationship skills, leadership, and more. There is nowhere I'd rather be as far as work is concerned. I'm so thankful God brought me to this place in my life. He knew just where I need to be to feel valuable and useful. It makes me feel like I was created for this purpose, at least for this time in my life.

6. School / education. I'm an oldest child with a sick need for approval. There was no way I could have quit even if I'd wanted to. But I didn't. I'm a nerd and I like school.

I don't know what you're committed to, but I hope it's something that makes you happy and gives you fulfillment. We ladies are super good at thinking about all the junky ("junk" and its variations are my favorite expletives) stuff in our lives: our flaws, the things we've quit, the mistakes we've made; I'm sure you have your own list. As your friend, I'm going to give you some friendly advice. Shut up already. And I say that with all the love in my heart. No one, least of all YOU, needs or wants to hear what a miserable and worthless being you are. Suck it up, and move on. Focus on the important things in your life that you HAVE been committed to. If you quit, maybe it wasn't all that important. Or maybe that can just fuel your resolve to get back at it. Commitment happens one meal at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time.

So I quit some stuff. It was like $20 worth of fabric for that quilt, and I enjoyed it for a while. Pretty cheap entertainment if you ask me. And who knows, maybe one day I'll get around to finishing it...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

So the saying is older than dirt, and we've all heard it. "The grass is always greener on the other side." One variation I read said, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the septic tank." Those of you who have never lived "out in the country" will have to ask someone with different life experience to explain that one to you. Once you understand it, it's especially ummm.... profound? Something like that, anyway.

Our Lord speaks to us PLENTY about contentment in his word. I won't go through all the scriptures here, but I'd encourage you to take a look. There's a whole lot of wisdom there. I'm thinking that maybe those things we struggle with most get an exceptional amount of attention in God's word. You know, idolatry of all sorts, taming our tongues, being focused on worldly things... those seem to be issues that we all struggle with at some time or another. So I'm guessing I'm not alone in constantly having to force myself to put my eyes and heart on things of importance, rather than being distracted by the "haves" and the "have nots."

I wish this was only an adult issue, or that it only related to the car you drive, the house you live in, or the job you work at, but unfortunately it runs so much deeper than that. Girls (and at a frighteningly young age) are thinking they'd be just perfect if they had Janie's hair/lips/curves/shoulders/boyfriend/parents/room/stuff. That scares me to death for my own daughters. Here's another scary facet of the same issue: how can I teach my girls to value what God has created them to be if I can't find my own happy place? One night I made a slightly disparaging comment about my own appearance to my husband (not in front of my girls, mind you), and do you know what he had the nerve to say to me? "What about all those things you tell our girls? That God made them perfect. That they are just right the way they are." Ugggghhhh. I HATE it when he's right. Of course, I didn't immediately respond with, "Honey, you're so right. I see the err of my ways and the contradiction in my thinking. I am just right the way I am. And I'm thankful for how God made me." Nope. I didn't say any of those things. I said, "Well, that stuff's for them to hear." Weak defense, huh?

I'm seeing greener pastures in someone else's field. I'm having to remind myself that my pasture is exactly where I'm supposed to be, and the color of my grass is just right for me at this time in my life. Or at the very least, the color of my grass is seriously affected by the color of my own glasses. Ok, that metaphor got a little deep, but do you understand what I mean? My grass is only as green as I think it is. And the awesome thing about that little tidbit is that if I want my grass to be greener -- a vibrant, Eastery, other-wordly green -- all I have to do is decide that it is! Voila! Magic green grass!

The implications of seeing our own grass as washed-out and dying can be serious. If our color-blindness is in relationship to our own self-image, then everything is at risk Such a deep unhappiness with who we are as people will no doubt have an impact on ALL of our relationships. Fellow married ladies, it will affect your marriage. I've got a little piece of information for you that you may not be aware of. Ready? Here it is: your husband thinks you're awesome! I know, it's hard to believe, but he really does! And he'd like for you to at least partially agree with him on occasion. You know how annoying it is when you have lunch with a friend who's constantly fishing for compliments? It's no less frustrating for your husband to constantly have to persuade you that you are not ugly/disgusting/not good enough. Give it up already. You won him. Stop seeing the grass on your side of the fence as a weak, pukey, almost-brown-from-too-much-August-sun green. Decide that you're the perfect color of grass for your own husband, and work with what you've got!

One day I'll have it all together. I won't care what size my jeans are, it won't matter to me if I'm 45 and my face is still breaking out, I won't be concerned with whether someone else is making their kids homemade cookies when my dough comes out of a tub from the refrigerator. I'll be happy with things just the way they are. I'll be content, no matter the circumstances. I'll forget about what everyone else is doing, or what works for someone else, and I'll stay focused on doing things the ways that are best suited to me and my family. I'll just be focused on glorifying God in everything I do. Until then, though, I'll keep reminding myself that my grass is plenty green enough. Way greener than some people will ever have. And definitely much greener than I deserve.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
I Timothy 6:6-7

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How shallow is the deep end?

So, today's my birthday. And I get to stay home from school (which is work for me) because Cassidy's sick. It's been pretty ok, with the exception of a minor hormone-related breakdown we won't talk about. We ended up going to the doctor because her ear was hurting again, and as I suspected her ear infection from last week never cleared up. I should have been a doctor. (That was a joke.)

We had a little time to kill after the doctor visit since the Nurse Practitioner had faxed a prescription in to Fred's Pharmacy for us. Time to kill demands retail therapy! My birthday was totally redeemed in a matter of minutes. I took my $10 off any $10 purchase to the local JCPenney and hit a $2.97 sale rack right off the bat. Nothing like that to lift the mood! In addition, the shirts I tried on fit like a dream, thanks to some recent time in the gym and
adjustments to the old eating habits. But that's not even the best part. Wait for it, wait for it...
AREN'T THEY GORGEOUS???!!! Now, you may be thinking, "What's the big deal? They're red shoes!" Yes. Yes, they are. They are THE red shoes I found at JCPenney on sale in NOVEMBER that have been out of stock both in the store and online ever since. They are THE red shoes that I was so sad were no longer available. And they are THE red shoes that I got myself for my birthday.

I realize that may sound pretty shallow and materialistic. But it's not like I cried about not getting the shoes, or obsessed over it, or bought other junk I didn't need instead. I just got really, really happy today when I was able to buy them. On sale. With my $10 off coupon. In addition to my $2.97 shirts. So you may say it's shallow and materialistic, but I say it's relishing the small things. Besides, the shallow end can be a little shallow. It's the deep end that can't. And I have a deep end that isn't so concerned with shoes and purses. I do happen to love both, partly because they only make you look better and almost never make you look fat. But I also care about world peace. So for now, I'm just gonna be happy about my new shoes.

"Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Finding Balance

As I near my 30s (far too rapidly, might I add), I have come to value something in life that until this time really just hadn't been on my radar: BALANCE. Why is it so hard to find balance? It's not like it's magic, and there are no complex mathematical equations involved. It is no respecter of age, or money, or education... so why have I struggled so much to get and maintain it?

I work outside the home as a teacher. (Please don't use that as an excuse to hold me to the highest standards of grammar and punctuation. I try to do my best, but I don't teach English. And I make mistakes. Sorry.) Today Cassidy had to leave school because she was sick. So, in addition to bringing home a sick kid, I have to get everything ready in the middle of the day for a substitute, because things are different when I'm teaching and when someone has to babysit my class. The whole time I'm feeling guilty because I just missed work on Friday when Lauren was sick, and here I am missing again. It's not like I have to seek special permission to be gone for this. I have sick leave for the purpose of missing work when I or one of my children are sick. So why do I feel bad when I have to use it? It's like there's this constant conflict between work ethic and the desire to be the mother my children need. I just can't seem to find the right balance.

But the issue is there with the good stuff, too. There are all the social events, family activities, weddings, showers, professional development opportunities, fun things to do with the kids, trips to the gym... the list is virtually endless. With so many wonderful possibilities facing most of us, how do we find balance?

Well, I'll be honest. I don't have it figured out just yet. But I am getting better. And I talked myself out of feeling bad for missing work, because that was pointless. And I watched a movie with my sick kid because it made her happy. And I'm writing because it helps me think. Most importantly, however, I'm learning to say "NO." Not so much to other people as to myself. It's like I have to constantly run interference against myself to protect my sanity and the time I have with my family. I'm saying "no" to some of the activities that I know would be fun and enjoyable, because I just need to slow down. Nothing is enjoyable once you're past the point of exhaustion anyway. I'm re-prioritizing to focus on the jobs God has given me and nurturing the life and body I have. I never want to answer the question, "How are you?" with the word "busy" again. Because nobody cares how busy you are. We're all busy. But my girls will always remember how available I was. Oh, and if you're really struggling with balance, you can always tell your husband. Chad has been extremely helpful in helping me identify opportunities to practice using my new word. And he knows me well enough that most of the time I end up feeling like I made the decision on my own.

Good luck with finding your own balance. And feel free to offer up a prayer for me in your free time!