The last few weeks have been tough for me. Adjusting to a new job is being harder than I thought. It’s been over 5 years since I’ve had to make a transition, and my assignment is certainly a lot more challenging that it was at my last school. Compound that with Ben only being home 1.5 days a week, and the fact that I’m still adjusting to living in a new town without my family, and I’ll be honest. It’s being really hard for me. It was a tough summer in so many ways. My uncle passed away after a short 7 week battle with cancer, my sister’s fiance was in the hospital for 3 weeks, my dad had a staff infection, and now my parents might have to be evacuated from their home because of the fire. Ben’s been away from me since the end of July working at a job, and I’ll admit, I’m not the greatest when it comes to stress. I think I do handle things better than I used to but this last week, I was so incredibly emotional. I got to work at 6:30 each day and graded till I went to bed three nights last week. This week I have Open House tomorrow, and a 2 hour meeting after school Tuesday. And that’s all on top of getting adjusted to my new school, lesson planning, grading, teaching, and attending various meetings. I guess I just have to take it one day at a time. Ben will be done with this job in a couple weeks, and hopefully once he’s home, I’ll cope better with all of this. It’s just hard, and while I wish I could be inspiring, I guess right now what I need is some prayers and support. Thanks to all my readers. Thanks for listening.
It’s hard to believe that the longest summer of my life is over. Tomorrow I attend the first of many meetings at my new school and district. I wish I wasn’t nervous but I am. You would think after 8 years of teaching, I would feel calm, cool, and collected, but even at my last school where I worked for five years, I would still get a little nervous on my first week back. That said, I was fully used to my last school. I knew the routines, expectations, and little ins and outs of the school. And now I start all over again with my 3rd school, Mountain View. I’m excited but the little things make me nervous. Little things like will my computer equipment work, will I figure out how to get all my copies made, will I have the right keys, and will everything work properly when I need it to. And then there’s the big things, like how I’ll connect with the kids and so forth. I guess I can only hope that everything will go as smoothly as possible. I don’t think parents who aren’t teachers realize just how much time and effort teachers put into the little details. I assume most teachers are like me, and I assume we all work hard. I’m sure there are a few exceptions, but most teachers I know work very hard to do a good job for the kids. This summer, I attended a week long conference and a week long class. There were many days where I did little else but lesson plan or read up on teaching related materials. Granted, I haven’t had a summer like this in a while. Usually, I relax more, but starting a new job, in a new state is stressful.
It’s been such a mixed summer. I moved here to Bend, Oregon and it’s truly a beautiful place. My husband and I had a wonderful time exploring in June and July. We went to so many new places and discovered things we didn’t even know were here when we moved. We’ve made a few new friends, and our parents came and checked out our new pad. Our house is lovely…it’s about 500% better than the last place we were in. But on the flip side, my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on my last day of school at Chaminade (May 29) and he died just 7 weeks later on July 18. My sister’s fiance has been severely ill and in the hospital for the last 3 weeks. Ben’s job has taken him 3 hours away from me 5 days a week, and I’ve been stressing about work off and on for the entire summer.
So while I do feel very blessed in many ways, I have also been dealing with grief, stress, and a general unease. Especially with Ben gone, I find myself missing friends and family. I miss my sister who I haven’t seen since May. This is the longest we have ever been a part, ever. I miss my friends and my former co-workers at Chaminade. And I miss good Mexican food…LOL! But most of all, I miss my uncle and I feel sad that my sister and her fiance have to battle his Crohns disease again this summer. Last summer, he went through the same thing he’s going through now.
I guess life is always going to be filled with challenges. My prayer is that we can all find strength and the faith to push on even when we are discouraged, sad, grieving, or stressed. It’s been a rather emotional day for me, and I hope there will be good times ahead. Here’s to my 9th year of teaching. I really hope and pray that I can do the very best job possible for each and every one of my students this year, because believe it or not, teachers really do care.
I don’t usually write anything about a celebrity’s death, but my blog is titled after the poem, “O me, O life” by Walt Whitman. The first time I heard this poem was in the 9th grade when my English class watched Dead Poet’s Society. I remember being inspired by the film, but always left uneasy by the suicide. I felt conflicted about the message of the film. Was the writer saying that some people cannot handle the kind of intellectual freedom that Williams’ character was espousing to his students? Was his passion for literature too avant garde for 16 year olds? His “sucking the marrow out of life” philosophy seemed pretty appealing to me at age 14, and it certainly didn’t make me suicidal; if anything it made me more hopeful that life was full of mystery and beauty.
I suppose I also found the suicide in the film especially unsettling because in 9th grade someone I knew personally committed suicide. It was the first time I had known someone who took his own life. His name was RJ, and he sat next to me in almost all my classes from 6th-8th grade because his last name started with “L” and mine with “M.” Somehow we had most of our classes together in middle school. He signed my yearbook in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I still think of him from time to time, but mostly I think about his parents, especially on April 3 (his birthday) and April 19 (the day he took his own life). Don’t ask me why I remember the dates; we weren’t even close friends. His death just impacted me that much. It also happened to be the day before the Columbine shooting.
Come to think of it, my high school years were filled with moments like this. This was just the first one. There were several other notable high school suicides throughout the valley that year, and when I was a senior, a peer of mine was murdered. I realize now that I encountered a very dark world in high school, and I myself struggled with depression from the time I was in high school until I was about 23.
Thankfully, I was never suicidal…I think the reason I was able to have hope and eventually break free from my depression was because of my family and my faith. But also because I held on to beauty and truth. Lines of poetry from Whitman, and maxims from Emerson and Thoreau, fed my need to find transcendence in a world that often felt very dark.
It saddens me that in his time of crisis, that Williams could not hold on to the words he brought to life so many years ago.
It is with great sadness that I share a little about my Uncle Dwayne, who passed on July 18th this year from pancreatic cancer. I can hardly believe it, even after attending his funeral, because he was only diagnosed on May 29th, the day Ben and I moved from Los Angeles and headed north for Bend. I found out late in the evening on the 29th when we arrived at my parent’s house (we were staying there for a week before moving to Bend). I was in utter shock and disbelief when my mom told me. You see, my uncle was only 61 years old, and of all my relatives, he was one who was in the best shape. He canoed almost every morning at dawn on Whiskeytown Lake, and he was thin and ate healthy, because my aunt has a background in nutrition. Both of them are shining examples of how to age gracefully and live a healthy lifestyle, and I especially admired Dwayne for getting up so early in the morning to pursue his passion.
Dwayne was truly a man of God. He was a good father, husband, son, and uncle. I never heard Dwayne raise his voice…he was truly one of the gentlest men I’ve ever met, yet under the gentleness was a solid rock of faith and conviction which motivated him to be a good man. He was an architect who owned his own business for over 30 years, and he built the home that he and my aunt raised my cousins in. It sits on the top of a hill in Old Shasta overlooking Mt. Lassen. Growing up, my family would go there almost every summer for about 5 days, and those days were ones I looked forward to the most every year. My parents’ friends had children who were younger than me, and on my dad’s side, my cousins were a lot older than me, so I always looked forward to the trip, because my cousins, Katie and Amber, are one year younger and one year older than me, respectively. And my cousin, Jeff, is my sister’s age, so it was always nice for our parents that their kids were the same age and could relate to each other. Despite the distance, I always considered my cousins to be some of my best friends, and though it’s hard to stay in touch because of the distance, I am so grateful that we have.
Last month, just two weeks after my uncle’s diagnosis, my cousin, Jeff, got married to his beautiful wife, Michelle. My uncle was determined that no matter what, he would be there at his son’s wedding. My parents helped my aunt to get him there, and we are so very glad that he had such a beautiful time. That was the last time I saw my uncle, and I’m grateful that my last memories of him are joyful. They were bittersweet, but joyful nonetheless.
The one thing that struck me through all of this, was that my uncle never complained. He never asked, Why me? He remained strong and kind to the end. My cousin Katie told me in his last days how he was just as sweet as ever. I hope that I have that kind of courage when my time comes.
And so, I pray for healing for my aunt and my three cousins, because I am confident that Dwayne is fine. He fought the good fight and is receiving his eternal reward, but the hole he leaves behind in all our hearts, is one that will take time to heal. And I’m sure there will always be a hole, because when you love someone that’s just how it is. I only hope that my family knows I am there for them, and I am so grateful to have had Dwayne as my uncle. I am uniquely blessed to have had so many strong, positive male role models in my life. My dad and I are so close, and it is because of that closeness that my empathy is so great for Dwayne’s children. And it is because I have such a good, loving husband, that my empathy is so great for my aunt. Tomorrow would have been their 38th wedding anniversary and Dwayne’s 62nd birthday, and so I wish them both a happy anniversary and birthday, because I don’t think relationships end in death, not ones that are that strong and that beautiful.
Thank you, Dwayne, for always making your home a place I wanted to be. I love you and I will miss you.
Well, today marks one month of living in Bend, OR! It’s hard to believe because the month has flown by so quickly. Our first week was spent without any of our stuff…we were literally sitting on lawn chairs in our living room and sleeping on the floor. At the end of our first week, we ventured off to my cousin, Jeff’s, wedding in Chico, CA for a few days, and then we headed back to our new home and finally got our stuff.
So what have we done in the last month? Well, a lot of walking for starters. Everything is just beautiful here in Bend. From the Deschutes River to the trails near our home to the pristine mountain views. We really are very blessed to have found our way here. Not only that, but our home is absolutely beautiful. We are only renting for now, but I couldn’t be more content with our home. It’s spacious (but not too spacious) and it’s basically brand new, so everything is just gorgeous.
There is too much to cover in a single post, so I’ll tell you about our 3rd anniversary first. Ben planned the day and he did a great job! We started by going to Palmer’s Cafe for breakfast…best breakfast I’ve ever had! We then went kayaking on the Deschutes for a couple hours and later we went to dinner at 10 Barrel Brew Pub. It was a lot of fun, in part because we were (and still are) exploring our new home town.
I’ll share a lot more in the coming posts, but here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. :)
While I can’t promise this post will be quite as heartwarming as the last, I know many of my family and friends who live far away, would enjoy hearing about my move and how we got from LA to Bend. As someone who has traveled a lot, but never made a big move, I had a lot of ground to navigate before actually making it happen.
Like I said in my last post, it was in April that I attended the job fair. I knew that getting a job was not going to be easy. Something I didn’t tell a lot of people was that I had actually had an interview the summer before but didn’t get the job. At the time, I was actually a bit relieved because I didn’t feel ready to move yet, but the experience did teach me a lot. First of all, I had never been rejected for a job after having at least gotten to the interview round, so even though I was somewhat relieved not to have gotten it, it was also a huge blow to my self-esteem. I asked the principal why I didn’t get the job, and basically it was because one of the other candidates had been working with a student population that was more similar to theirs than I had. I knew that might be an issue because I’d been teaching in a private school for the past five years, and now I was headed back to public. After being rejected for that reason, though, I really began to worry about my prospects.
I decided I had to “kick it up a notch.” I made portfolios of some of my lessons, including student work, and sent one to every principal in Bend. My friend, Vickie, videotaped me teach one of my 8th grade classes, and I included the DVD with my portfolio. God, I will miss those kids. What an amazing group of kindhearted 13-year-olds. Anyone who says that middle school kids are difficult, has never met the kids I had the privilege of working with this year. They were fun, funny, smart, kind, and just a blast to teach.
After sending out my portfolio to each principal, I followed up with emails (probably three to four times), and then I attended the job fair. I was the first one in line, the first to get my interviews, and it was over in about 45 minutes! I couldn’t believe how fast it went, but I knew it had been well worth my time to make the contacts and get my name out there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet all the people I had wanted to, so after flying home, I began contacting the rest to see if I could meet them during my spring break when Ben and I would visit to find a home.
Long story short, I actually had three interviews. One in person that I flew up for and two via Skype. I was tentatively offered a position for one, but it wasn’t official until the person I was replacing resigned, so I took the other two Skype interviews I was offered. I pretty much thought I would end up with the first job (which I was excited about). I had heard that it was nearly impossible to get a job because of all the qualified applicants. But the morning after we left Los Angeles (we were staying at my parents in Oakhurst for the week while the movers had our stuff), I got a call at 7am in the morning, offering me the position which I will begin in the fall. It’s at a high school 2.5 miles from my home.
In the end, things often don’t happen the way we think they will. I was fairly well convinced that I would have that first job I had interviewed for, and I was happy about it. But when an official offer came through which was so close to my house, it was impossible to turn down. The last five months were filled with excitement, but also a lot of fear. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, especially after my experience last summer. People everywhere were telling me how hard it was to get a job, especially without having subbed for the district first.
In the end, I’m not quite sure why I was chosen, but if there was any one thing I can think of it would be grit. While I know I am a good, hardworking teacher, there are other teachers who work very hard too. But grit is a quality that got ingrained in me during those early days when I was a gymnast. A gymnast who didn’t make the competitive team the first time, so what did I do? I wrote my coach and told him I was going to try harder, and the second time I tried out, you know what? I made it.
So if you’re looking for a job right now…my #1 piece of advice (other than being very competent at what you do) is to have grit. Don’t be afraid to let people know how much you want the job. You may think you’re annoying them, but guess what? When there are 150 other people vying for your position, you have to do something to stand out.
Get gritty. And if you don’t get the job…get grittier.
And when you do get the job, realize you didn’t get there all by yourself. I know for a fact that I had a whole team of people behind me. Vickie who videotaped my lesson, my administrators who gave me glowing reviews, my students who made sure the video went well, my husband who endured listening to me when I was scared, my parents who also listened to me when I was anxious, and most importantly God, who was surely looking out for me and my husband this whole time.
The last three months have definitely been a tad insane, which is one of the reasons I took a hiatus from blog writing for a while. The other was because I needed some time to process my emotions before sharing all my experiences with the world.
So what’s happened since my last post? Well, I can’t cover it all in a single post, so I’m going to start from the beginning. Well, the beginning of my “moving story” that is.
In early April I attended the job fair in Bend. Although I’ve flown by myself before on several occasions, I always had someone to pick me up upon my arrival. I know, that’s kind of sad for someone who was almost 30 years old. So I was a tad nervous (for a variety of reasons) to fly up to Bend by myself, rent a car, and attend a job fair. Although I’d been to Bend twice before, I definitely did not know my way around. On my flight up to Bend, I was seated next to a 10 year old boy who was flying by himself to go visit his grandparents in Bend and cousins in Portland. The fly attendant asked me if I could “keep my eye on him,” as it was his first time flying alone. I smiled and said “of course.” The boy and I quickly struck up a conversation about his family, the sports he liked to play, his favorite subject in school (reading…good kid!), and the game he was playing on his iPad. He asked me questions too, which not all 10 year old boys would do. After all a 30 year old woman is not always the most interesting person in the world to a 10 year old.
As we were talking about his first flight by himself, I told him he was very brave and asked him if he was scared. I was planning on offering to walk him to his grandparents after the flight, but was told that one of the flight crew would be doing that for him. Probably a good idea. I wouldn’t want my kid to be escorted by a stranger either. His response to my question was, “Eh it’s not that scary. I’m just excited to see my family.”
And here I was scared about my trip and I’m nearly 20 years older than this kid! I smiled and thought to myself, Good one God. I know why you put me next to this kid.
Over the course of the flight, the boy asked me if I had kids. When I told him “not yet,” he said, “Why not? I can tell you’d make a great mom.” I had a hard time not tearing up at that one. Sometimes God sends us little angels to help us. My angel was a 10 year old boy who taught me not to be afraid of new experiences.
And guess what? The trip went great. I made a lot of contacts at the job fair, drove myself all around Bend, and found my way around just fine. And every time I got a little nervous about where to park, or how to get back to my hotel, or whether or not the people at the job fair were going to like me or not, I thought of that 10 year old boy who wasn’t afraid to fly alone.