In Memory of my Uncle Dwayne

30 Jul

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.

 

Your niece,

Megan

1 month in Bend

8 Jul

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.

Deschutes River Trail

Deschutes River Trail

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. :)

Our new home :)

Our new home :)

Sawyer Park

Sawyer Park

Deschutes River by the Old Mill District

Deschutes River by the Old Mill District

Hubby kayaking on our anniversary

Hubby kayaking on our anniversary

Yours truly

Yours truly

How I got the job…

25 Jun

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.

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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.

Thank You Jeremy, the 10 year old boy who sat next to me on a plane.

24 Jun

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.

A picture I took while on this visit to Bend.

A picture I took while on this visit to Bend.

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.

Entering a New Phase One Step at a Time

19 Mar

Ben finished his last final yesterday.  And I mean his last last final. He now has his Bachelor of Science in Fishery and Wildlife Biology (he also has a BA in Film from his first time in college). We started this journey in August 2011, two months after we were married. It’s been a long journey, and it hasn’t real settled in that this part of the journey is over. Now it’s on to finding jobs and making the second part of the goal a reality. I hope this will be a much easier part of our journey, as part one was exceedingly long and difficult.

To celebrate Ben’s accomplishments, we thought we would go to Santa Barbara for the weekend, but the hotel prices are outrageous, so instead, we are going to stay home and get massages, go for dinner, and see a movie.  I’m actually more excited about this plan because we’ll spend less money and I’ve been dying for a massage for months. The stress of the last few months has been horrible, so I really need it.

On another note, I have been listening to a lot of music and spoken word poetry this last week as inspiration. It’s been hard for me to focus on reading…normally reading is a joy for me, but I’ve been so exhausted since getting sick a couple weeks ago that it’s been hard to concentrate after teaching all day. Anyways, this week I keep hearing the song, “Happy,” and it’s been just the thing I’ve needed. Simple but fun.

I Need Inspiration and Mike Masse Gave Me Some

16 Mar

It’s been a little hard to feel inspired the last few weeks. I got really sick 2 weeks ago and I’m finally feeling better, but I’m still a bit tired. I had a sinus infection, eye infection, and early signs of bronchitis.  Thankfully, the second doctor I saw actually helped me, but by that time I was a total wreck.

Mike Masse

Mike Masse

In addition to being ill, I’ve been feeling very stressed lately…something I may blog about some other time when I have some distance from the stress.

It’s been hard to get back in my groove of reading, writing, etc.  When my husband introduced me to Mike Masse’s version of “Africa” by Toto, I felt so inspired. Here’s a regular guy who has true talent, and it’s beautiful. I don’t know why that means so much to me right now…the need to know that regular people can be inspiring.  Knowing that what I have to offer the world, as small as it may be, could be inspiring…that’s huge for me. I’m really hard on myself. I always think I’m not good enough, and here’s this man who is beyond good enough, and he plays music at a pizza place.  So yeah, that’s pretty damn inspiring.

You have to watch this:

5 Reasons “Chuck” is my favorite TV show

28 Feb

Let me start by saying that it is hard to impress me when it comes to television. I generally don’t like wasting my time, so unless a television show is really well done, it’s hard for me to stay with it.  In my life there are a few shows that have captured my heart: Who’s the Boss? and Boy Meets World (when I was a kid), and Frasier, and Chuck (as an adult).  What do they all have in common?  Although the story telling in each is superb, what really made me connect was the characters and their chemistry.  Like a good book that you just don’t want to leave, I felt emotionally distraught when I finished watching each of these shows.  And guess what?  Tonight was the night, I finished Chuck.  I began watching it in November on Netflix, and it took me almost exactly three months to finish watching the show.  I could have easily finished it much sooner, but because it’s so rare that I find something I like so much, I wanted to make it last.  So why was Chuck the best show on television, and why am I heartbroken that it’s over?  Here’s why:

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1. Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi): The character, Chuck, played by Zachary Levi, really makes the show. His warm-hearted, lovable personality is what tied each of the characters together. At the beginning of the series, he is working at the “Nerd Herd” at the local “Buy More” (which is essentially a “Best Buy”).  After being kicked out of Stanford and losing his college girlfriend, Chuck feels like a loser.  But what we as the audience can tell from the very beginning of the show, is that there is nothing “loser-ish” about Chuck. He is kind, funny, sincere, and family-oriented.  He loves his big sister, “Ellie,” (played by Sarah Lancaster), and he is extremely loyal to his best friend, Morgan.  All around, he’s the perfect catch.

2. The Chemistry Between the Characters: While there are an array of characters on the show from Ellie to “Awesome: (ie: Devon), Sarah Walker, Morgan, General Beckman, John Casey, Jeff, Lester, and Big Mike, each of the characters plays a vital role in the chemistry of the show.  When I finished the last episode tonight, I was not just upset that I would be leaving Chuck’s world, but I knew that I would actually miss the entire world of the show. I will miss Jeffster (a band created by the two Nerd Herding dweebs, Jeff and Lester), and I want to know if John Casey ever gets his woman.  Most of all I want to know what happens with Chuck and Sarah…where will their future lead?  I won’t give any spoilers, but the ending leaves you at a cliffhanger, and my heart literally ached as the scene faded out.  Now, you may be thinking, Wow this girl needs to get a life.  If I were reading this, I probably would have that reaction. But I am telling you, I NEVER FEEL THIS WAY about a television show.  Books yes, TV shows, no.  There is something magical about how these characters came together.  I will actually miss them even though I am fully aware that they are not real.

3. The Storytelling is “Awesome”: The writers of Chuck really nailed it, from the creation of the character’s personalities, to the stories they told. I have watched several spy related shows but this was by far my favorite. While Alias was a great show, I stopped watching it in the fourth season, when I no longer cared about the characters or the ridiculous “Rimbaldi” story.  The stories on Chuck are obviously not meant to be realistic; they are pure fun.  Yet even though it’s pure fun, the emotions feel very real, and the character development is organic.

4. It’s Funny: I cannot tell you how many times I came home after a stressful day and wanted to watch an episode of Chuck just so I could relax. This has been a very stressful year for me. My husband is finishing school, we are attempting to make some huge changes in our life, and it hasn’t been easy.  While watching the show, I could escape from all my troubles, even if it was just for one hour.  I cannot tell you how many times I laughed out loud with tears streaming down my cheeks.  Whether it was how perfectly perfect “Awesome” was, or how incredibly nerdy Jeff and Lester were, there was not a single episode that I didn’t laugh myself into their world.

5. It’s Heartwarming: You want to know my dirty little secret? The first thought I had when the show ended was,  Maybe I could just rewatch them?  Obviously, I won’t, at least not for a while, but the thought of never again being in that world with Chuck and Sarah and the gang, made me so sad!  And as I was thinking it, I was like, really Megan, you do need to get a life, but then I thought…no, I never feel this way when I watch a show!  These writers and actors really touched my heart.  I’d like to think they are all really great people in real life, because they convinced me of how awesome they are in the show.  And I suppose one day, maybe several years from now, I would venture to watch them again.  There was only one other show that made me feel that way, and that was Frasier.  When that show ended, I couldn’t imagine my life without Niles and Daphne and their gang.  I’ve gone back to them time and time again because you can watch a single episode of Frasier  and not be lost. The only problem with Chuck  is that it is a fairly linear show, so ideally, you should watch the episodes in order. I guess I can always hope that they will bring the show back.  So writers and actors, if you are reading this post….BRING BACK CHUCK!

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