Word of the Day Reflections and Rants: Intellect and Failure

I’m having my students freewrite on topics we are discussing in class to prepare them for writing their personal statements for college applications. This week we’ve written and discussed hidden intellectualism and response to failure. I like to write with them. It helps us all get to know each other as we start our class discussions. Here are mine on the two.

Intellect— The other day, we were at  a new friends house and the wife asked me what my husband and I liked to do when we were not working or running around with our kids. I thought about it…..when it came down to it, we liked to walk around places, sipping coffee or tea, and talking about “intellectual” things like philosophy or politics or cultural issues in our society. We are not sports people. We do like to travel but haven’t had time to since we’ve been popping out babies every other year the entire time and trying to grow a business. And in between changing diapers, driving kids from school to soccer practice to karate practice, showers and bedtime songs and prayers, we have time to sip on some coffee or tea and talk about why society is crashing or why Trump is the lesser evil than Hillary. We just got bikes so we can do that together, but haven’t actually started. I felt so boring. What do I like to do? I think I have become so habitual in my life due the circumstances of being a working parent that I almost forgot what I like to do. There was a time in my life where I snow boarded on weekends, camped during spring and summer breaks, laid out on beaches, flew to foreign places and swung from tree roots into warm waters. There was a time in my life where I laughed and told jokes over cold beer and chips and salsa or cried over poetry I wrote while Dave Matthew’s bellowed his blues through stereo speakers. Am I still that person? I think I am. I just don’t have time for her right now. Still, Owen and I have made some quarter goals this year: a weekend getaway once a quarter to a place we’ve never been, a date night once a month, and date-night with each of our kids individually each quarter. So I suppose with that, there will be more hobbie-like activities in our future outside of our usual family fun. Why didn’t I remember that when our friend asked me that question?

Failure–I hate failing. I let it really affect my self-perception and esteem. If I fail, I criticize my self-worth even at times. But those are for things I find important. If I don’t care about the activity or issue and I fail, I see it as a mistake and want others to brush it off or forgive me quickly. But I suppose I feel the same way when I do find the issue to be important. I may hate myself for it. But I sure hope others don’t. And I gladly and appreciatively accept forgiveness and encouragement. I need it. If I don’t get that, I will wallow in my own self-hating despair. I admire my husband. He sees failure as learning opportunities. If he fails at something, he highlights the positive in that he now learned a lesson and will use that for his own growth. I’m cautious. I prefer to take safer routes. I’m a teacher because I knew there was a salary and a pension and a pre-planned set of dates that I get off. No guessing. Less risk of failing and yet still a subject I love–English. Owen loves English too. But he is not afraid to take risks and for that reason he’s the perfect entrepreneur–a consultant on video marketing. He uses language to teach others how to make money through video and uses language to get viewers interested in products and services.  I love that about him. We both love language. But because of how we react to failure,  our careers are established. Thankfully, I’m decent enough at teaching, I haven’t had too much failure to wallow about in my career.

 

Summer Blessings

13445400_10154927222784746_4419286371882224395_n (1)After our trial the last year with cancer, it has been such a nice break this summer. This morning at church, our pastor had us look at where God has us right now and where he might be taking us in his big plans. During that time, as I reflected on where he has me right now, I couldn’t help but praise Him as I saw blessing after blessing in His active working my life. I wanted to share them with you and let you know that every single thing on this list has been given to me by God and for God–No one can tell me there is no God because I know Him personally! 🙂 This isn’t an eloquently written post by any means, but its truth and I felt lead to share.

13512128_10154932488199746_4493964367166036115_nSo the first thing is my relationship with my children has grown this summer. When my daycare provider told me that she needed the kids to come in at least 2 times a week this summer to keep their spots open (3 kids is a lot of income to lose for the summer when you are a daycare provider), my first thought was “Maybe I can use that time for me time! I can go to the beach, read a book, take a nap!” And then of course, the other day could be used for business–lesson planning, work on my books, my app, Owen’s business, etc. At first that is what I planned to do with those two days until God clearly spoke to me and told me to use that free day to take one of my kids out each week on a date for one-on-one time. 13415497_10154891369579746_7140565395515364686_oWhile I was sad to lose my lost me time, I knew it was right and also loved the idea. I  knew it was much better and God-glorifying than a me day. So I’ve been doing it and it has been such a wonderful time! James and I went to a movie, had lunch together and chatted, then held hands as we walked to the beach. Kanan and I did something similar, but he actually talked me into jumping in the cold ocean water and body surf with him. Once I got past being cold, I had an exhilarating time. I felt alive! Then Benny and I enjoyed our one-on-one time at Chucky E Cheeses and the Lego Land Water Park. He is going through a whiney phase lately which he still pulled on our special day, but with his bright brown eyes and chubby cheeks, He was easy to forgive. Won’t have time for Scotty to get a date in without causing an imbalance with the boys, but she alrady gets so much attention given she’s the baby. I really feel the boys are the ones who really need that special time. But even on days when we are all together, we have had such a great time going to Balboa park on free museum days, enjoying the refreshing water at the waterpark on hot days, or working in the yard.

Next, when I found out the cost of making an app last year, the marriage app project that my friend Nikki-Marie from TheMomIWantToBe.com were working on last year seemed to feel impossible. I put my focus on my sick husband and teaching and pretty much forgot about it. That is until my cousin came up with an app concept and started successfully crowd-funding to make it. It has since inspired me and Nikki-Marie to do the same and we are now writing the scrip13434815_10154926962694746_32091562682476397_nts and getting the logo made for the campaign. We both strongly believe that this app could potentially save marriages if people use it. What is more God-glorifying than that? We are praying God blesses our endeavors and helps us get the funds to make it. Hoping to have the video filmed at least before I return to work.

Then, we found a new church. And while our old church was wonderful and helped Owen and I grow so much, we are so excited to grow deeper and make more friends in the church community as well as follow God’s lead in where he plans to take us through this next church community. If someone had told me two years ago we were going to leave our old church, I would have kicked and screamed and cried. But over the last two years, God has really prepared my heart for this change. We like the church too so much. Our new pastor has an interactive way of teaching–having us pull out paper and draw concept pictures so we can connect to the teaching as it relates to13442337_10154926961649746_7051367176373135726_n our lives. He teaches verse by verse. We just finished going through the book of Nehemiah and just started the book of Jonah. Seeing how these prophets helped create change in large communities for God’s glory has been so inspiring. While the church itself is much smaller than our old church, the new pastor’s vision is to be very active in the world. Everyone there is really friendly too. The pastor and his wife even took us our family out to lunch and had our kids play while we got to know each other!  We are really excited about his vision for our community and how we might be involved to serve God’s purpose and heart for people.

Finally, Owen and I have been talking about moving to Temecula the last few months. It wouldn’t be for a couple more years, but Owen has been so excited about the move and passionate about the decision.While the idea of living closer to work and being more connected to that community as w13445686_10154927222944746_2781050758264998830_nell as the lower cost of housing was appealing to me, I knew if we did, I’d have to ask my oldest son to choose who he wanted to live with. And I knew he’d choose his Dad. The idea of losing my son has been weighing so heavily on my heart. I have wept so much over it in private moments. Having him every other weekend for material things seemed like such an awful decision, but  When I first brought up my issue with moving, he didn’t budge. I don’t remember how I worded it, but it was brief. So I have resorted to prayer the last two months.  I’m doing a Beth Moore study right now on Believing God and during the study I came to recognize that God loves my son Kanan as well. And he would not want any decision to be made that could hurt him. I felt lead to trust that he would take care of it. I didn’t know how, but he would. Then a week ago, Owen prayed out loud during family prayer for God to let him know if He wanted us to move to Temecula or not. I praised God then because I knew that believe godGod must be working on his heart for him to be questioning the decision and asking God. I thought, I would wait for God to tell him. But a few days ago, I was hanging out with my friend Brianne, who I feel God used to speak to me. I brought up the move to Temecula and she immediately pointed out the concern for Kanan. She suggested I speak to Owen again about it, but I decided to just wait and let God speak to him because I didn’t want to start a fight and didn’t think Owen would agree with me. Maybe God could speak to him through a friend or divine revelation. But last night, I felt God tell me “Why are you waiting for Me to speak to Him through someone else? Don’t you think I could use you to speak to Him?” So I got up the courage to risk a fight and I told him my concern. But I brought up the possible damage it could cause Kanan and our family. Immediately, he said that he never considered those possibilities and that we would not move to Temecula. Then today, he brought it up again, saying that it his job to keep our family together. Yes! No fight. God just worked. He took care of it. He worked on Owen’s heart and worked on me to get the courage to bring up a sensitive subject when I hate conflict.

So right now I am just basking in God’s love and mercies. We are not experiencing any trials right now and I feel so safe.I feel very much like we under God’s canopy of protection right now. It is a joyous place to be. I know that if you are not in a trial that you just left one or about to be in one. We had a huge one this last year. And while I know this middle place won’t last forever, I want to acknowledge it, and thank God for it. I also hope to encourage any of you who are reading this to trust in God. He is so good and mighty!

Broken Idols and a Quest for Self-Worth: a love story

My senior year in high school, I made it my mission to get Bryan Parker (name changed) to fall in love with me. No I take that back. To fall BACK in love with me. Admitting that asks for a back story I’m not entirely willing to share or else write an entire novel instead of a 750 word blog and a mess of baggage that would make a psychotherapist squirm in his chair with delight, but its true.

But looking at the whole story almost 20 years later, I realize now that this mission was much more than just gaining Bryan’s heart back. This mission was about forgiving myself. About proving my stepfather wrong. And about making myself worthy of love. It was a selfish quest built on low self-esteem, a distorted self-image, and a lack of identity and self-worth.

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My senior photo–on a mission for self-worth

He was my first love my sophomore year. 5’11, quiet, with dark brown hair, blue eyes, a few freckles on his slightly turned up nose. He often wore blue-checkered, collared shirts and flannels with jeans. I still remember the way he looked walking through the halls—head down, a mop of thick dark hair hanging over his brows, his arms crossed, and his large black pack-pack filled with honors level coursework hung over his shoulder. He loved science, art, and cars. I gave him my heart, my soul, my everything.

And my stepdad did not approve. His anger simmered and boiled over and exploded the summer between my sophomore and junior year when all the truth about our relationship had been uncovered.

Fast forward to December of my junior year in high school—after a forced break up, a transfer to another school, no knowledge of my phone number, and no contact with my old friends or old life—my stepfather left our home forever and I came back to my old high school in Alta Loma, an affluent campus at the foothills of Cucamonga Peak, excited to be back and talk to him again.

That is until I found out that Bryan had hooked up with someone else while I was away. One of my sisters friends.  I felt so cheap. He couldn’t make it 6 months without having to find someone new? Didn’t he love me the way I had loved him? Didn’t what we have mean anything to him? And so in an impulsive anger, I got back at him by hooking up with his best friend.

And I regretted it immediately.

Of course, he was mad. He refused to talk to me. Ignored me the rest of my junior year. It was probably for the best. I had to really emotionally heal from all the anger inside of me. I was angry at my stepdad, myself, him, and the world. But alas, the details of my junior year in high school is for another story. This is about getting Bryan back.

So the summer after junior year, I woke up one sunny morning in a campground in Santa Maria and looked out at the big blue sky, listening to the lazy beats of Sublime playing from my best friend Lisa’s car stereo, and I decided I was no longer angry anymore. I could smile genuinely again. I had friends and fun life away from the strict rules of my stepfather and the misery of that angry junior year. But one thing was missing in my mind. I couldn’t truly have made it, until I got Bryan back.

I don’t really remember the details of the strategies or the sequence of events and how I did it. But I got pretty far. Smiles and notes. Flirtatious hello’s and invitations to come to this event or that event. I had the advantage my senior year of a very active weekend life. My group of girlfriends had developed a great connection with some college-aged friends who lived nearby and were always throwing parties, going to the river, concerts, and clubs. And they liked us. So eventually, Bryan accepted. And I always made sure I looked amazing when he would come. This was probably right after the new year of 1997.

Eventually we were walking to class together, and even kissing again. We in many ways my senior year, had the all the experiences I had only wished to have had with him when we were together under my stepdad’s reign. But this time I don’t think we used the term “boyfriend and girlfriend.” Still–I wasn’t going to push it. I just needed to hear those 3 special words.

I got close. I remember him telling me that he liked the way I dressed better than my friends. That he liked the way I danced better than others. I remember him saying sweet words like “you are so cute.” We even went to prom together. I think it was at prom that I felt that I had finally made it. I was at prom wearing a stunning silver sequenced floor length gown with a peak-a-boo halter and my hair up in curls with the love of my life who looked like Jake Guillinhall on the red carpet. My stepdad could bite it, I thought. Maybe I was still angry at him, at least.

But then something changed.

Within a couple of weeks, after I had given Bryan my book of poetry I had basically written all about him and other feelings from my life, he found pages in the book that had been torn out. I had torn them out because I messed up my handwriting, scribbled too much out and didn’t want it to mess up the beauty of my book. But he didn’t see it that way. He started getting paranoid, thinking that I must have been writing about other guys. He called me names: vindictive, liar, manipulative. I didn’t get it. I begged him to believe that he was my one and only. But he just couldn’t get passed it. In the end, I think it was all rooted in his inability to forgive me for my real transgression the year before.

One rainy day in May, he wrote me a note. It said, I hate you too much to be your boyfriend. But I love you too much to be just friends. All is lost. 

I wrote back, how can I have lost someone, I never truly had?

Still–I asked for one last date, in hopes that somehow it could be amazing enough to change his perspective. I wore my white crocheted sundress and matching white sandals, my hair down and curled, thankful the el Niño rains had dissipated long enough for a brief sensation of spring. In my mind I had played out an entire scene—laughter and joking, holding hands as we walked down the sidewalk.  One long last kiss under a big oak tree and him realizing that he didn’t want to miss any of this. That he was wrong and being silly and that he loved me.

That he would drop me off but then turn around half way, run out from his car and catch me just before I reached my door. The rain would start pouring down from the sky, his hair dripping wet, and his clothing soaked. But he didn’t care. He’d cry out, “Theresa! I love you! You are the only one I can see my life with!” And then I’d run to him and we’d kiss right there in the rain, its sheets wrapping us in our forgiveness, washing away all of the anger and tears forever. We’d then spend the bright summer frolicking on the sands of Huntington Beach, planning the rest of our lives together.

But he was emotionally gone by the time we had that last date—like someone literally turned off a switch in him. We went out, but he didn’t make eye contact. He didn’t ask questions. We sat awkwardly over our meal listening to the tinking of our spoons against our porcelain bowls and the slurping of our sodas through our straws. It culminated at the Koffee Klatch off of Foothill Blvd. where we talked about our futures. More like only him after I asked the questions, trying to keep the conversation going…to keep the night going. Anything but say goodbye. He talked about college, grad school, and becoming a doctor. He didn’t mention me in those dreams.

He dropped me off around 11 o’clock at my house and I sat in that passenger seat of his father’s white Camaro wanting so bad for him to recognize that this would be the last time he’d see me and that this would make him sad. So I said goodbye. No kiss. No long last hug. Just goodbye. I opened the door slowly, and then closed it–watched him turn the car around out of the parking lot of my apartment complex and drive away. I stared at those red tail lights until they became tiny pinpoints and then dissolved into the darkness of the night. He never did turn around. I stood there a very long time under the silent black sky. Then went inside and cried myself to sleep.

I wish I could say that it was good riddance. That I knew I had done nothing wrong and chalked his behavior up to a crazy, paranoid boy. But I didn’t. I was devastated. I sunk into a deep depression. Graduation came and went. I walked. But he was not there to give me flowers or a lei under the misty, twilight sky. After that June night, I spiraled through a series of self-destructive and self-hating actions that summer after senior year while the rest of my friends began preparing for college. My mission had failed. And he saw me the same way I felt  my stepdad saw me: worthless. The first three months were the hardest, darkest of my life.  I essentially became what I thought I was.

But in an upside down and twisted version of the summer revelation I had the prior year, the August after I graduated high school, I woke up around 4 P.M one late August afternoon with no job to go to and after a night of binge drinking. I looked in the mirror and knew I had to get out or I’d never get out of the pit I had put myself in. I wanted to be happy again. But I couldn’t if I stayed in that town where everything reminded me of them. Of Bryan. Of my stepdad—The men I both loved and hated. The ones I spent so much energy trying to get to love me for me– two opposing sides of the same coin I had hoped to use to redeem my self-worth.

In desperation, I called my real dad up—the dad I saw only during the summer from ages 8-12 and then one weekend a month from thereafter. He invited me to move to San Diego and move in with him. I could go to college out there and start a new life.

So I did. I packed up my stuff on my mom’s birthday, kissed my brother and sister goodbye and left. I don’t even think I said goodbye to my friends. No goodbye party. No goodbye call even. I think I finally told them I was gone after I had already been there for two weeks. I was over that life. Everything reminded me of him and of the awful person I had become.

That move was the best decision I ever made in my life. I essentially recreated myself, becoming the person who I always wanted to be. I got my driver’s license,  went to Palomar Community College, and graduated with honors and an A.A degree. During that time, I worked as a waitress for 5 years in the evenings and a jet ski resort in the summers in Carlsbad. I transferred to Cal State San Marcos and graduated again with honors and a B.A degree after cocktail waitressing at a local watering hole and trying my skills at editing jobs for a few large companies.  I then enrolled in the credential program and became a teacher, wanting to make a difference in the lives of teenagers who maybe struggled with their identity as much as I had when I was young. I made many friends along the way. Dated. Got a long-term boyfriend who I loved. Traveled through Mexico and Costa Rica, snowboarded on numerous mountains in the West. I lived a great life.

But one thing still haunted me all those years. I still dreamed about Bryan in my sleep. Always a similar story. We see each other after many years. Hearts race. We reunite. And I’d wake up wishing I could just get him out of my head and my heart. I didn’t want to dream about him. Finally at the age of 25, after I confessed to my mom my haunting dreams, she told me that sometimes, people can develop “soul ties” with their first loves they were intimate with. Makes sense when God says he will make the two become one. And that perhaps that was the issue. She prayed over me to cut the ties and release me. I know it sounds crazy, but the craziest part about it all is that it worked. I no longer dreamed of him. I was free to finally move forward with my life 100%. And that even meant forgiving my stepdad for all he had done to hurt me. And later on realize, I too had done much to hurt him. My eyes were opened.

It’s been 11 years since my mother cut that soul tie between Bryan and I, and just the other day, his profile picture showed up in my Facebook feed as a suggestion for a friend. My heart did not skip a beat. It was like looking at any old picture of a friend from long ago. Somebody I used to know, as the Gotye song goes. But I did actually laugh a little because there was a girl in the picture too. And she looked just like me.

Funny thing is, she looked Hispanic too. And this conjured up all sorts of memories of him in a light I hadn’t really seen before. I remember he hated that Hispanic part about me. He was so embarrassed that I was Colombian that he hid that from his own father, who had a confederate flag hanging in his garage. And he hated it when I spoke Spanish, always asking me to stop. I guess he changed too. Twenty years will do that to any of us, I suppose.

All those years in high school, I had built him up in my mind to be so wonderful, believing that if I had him, it meant I was worthy of love. But the truth be told, he was flawed too. He had been the entire time I worshiped him. But I don’t think I saw it because I had elevated him to a position that was meant to save me. And we don’t like our saviors to be tainted.

While this story in many ways is about a love story gone awry–it really is about a love story with myself. How and when do we begin to love ourselves? When should we give our selves away and what are the consequences  when do? Today, I don’t need him or my stepdad or anyone other than God to define my self-worth. To do so makes them idols and makes our self-worth only as strong as the person we build our self-worth upon. When they fall or fail, we do too. I did. And as I look at my own amazing husband now, and our four beautiful children, I thank God that somehow he gave me the strength to pick up the pieces of that shattered dream and reform it into something so much better than I ever could have had with Bryan. I just didn’t know it then. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. But thankfully, I’m not in the shadows, looking back at the light.

In Sickness and In Health– a reflection during Owen’s treatment last Fall

Owen and I right before he started treatment

Owen and I right after surgery but before he started chemotherapy.

No one ever writes Cancer on their life plans. At least in my circle of experience, we don’t. We plan for the good life. Not trials.  I planned for a teaching career, marriage, family, travel. And while I already have experienced so much, when I married my husband, Owen Hemsath in October of 2009, I had no idea that almost 6 years later, my 35 year old husband would be diagnosed with a Cancer so rare, doctors don’t know how one gets it, or how to cure it enough so it doesn’t come back.

If anything that is on the list of events not to experience during one’s life for many people, especially health conscious ones like our selves. This is why I have spent so many hours reading health articles and meticulously shopping at the grocery store for organic vegetables, alkaline water, GMO-free foods, no food dyes, and products with no high fructose corn syrup. I did it so we wouldn’t get cancer.

So even after multiple trips to the hospital for chest pains so bad it brought Owen to his knees on our living room floor, night sweats so strong it literally left the sheets soaking wet, weight loss and the loss of appetite—I still didn’t suspect Cancer.

I knew something was wrong, no doubt. I’m the one that urged him to go to the hospital each time. But I thought it was a lung infection. I thought it was that damn cat my husband refused to get rid of that had given him so many sneezes and coughs—it had finally done him in. That we’d go and get a big bottle of antibiotics and the problem would be solved.

But hospital visit after hospital visit with no answers came and went until April of last spring.

So at the 4th visit in two years, there Owen and I sat in the brightly lit emergency room at Scripps, Encinitas at 2 o’clock in the morning, hoping this time we’d get some answers as we watched the pretty doctor with the brown pony tail and mousy ears  come down from upstairs, studying his CT scan and EKG results and white blood cell count with her eyes brows drawn close together at the center—concerned. Perplexed. None of the doctors on any of the 3-4 other ER visits had that look on their faces.

“What’s wrong, doctor?” Owen said finally, pale- faced and looking so small under the hospital sheets. “Your face has cancer or something written all over it. Are we looking at something like that here? Or am I misreading you?”

And we watched her sit there silently, studying his face. Hesitantly. Like she was already regretting having to say the words. “Yes,” she said.

At this point, it is difficult to explain what it felt like. For me it was like I was not actually in the room. Like I was outside of my body watching this whole scene in front me on a television or movie screen. I watched myself put my hand on his knee as he stared stoically at the doctor—so strong—and then watched him crumble into millions of pieces like a sack of flour the following day after the oncologist came in with the unofficial diagnosis of lymphoma.

And even now, four months later, after the official diagnosis of thymoma, after the surgery that removed the 12 cm sized tumor in his chest that had spread into his heart, after the first 3 rounds of chemo that has stripped him of his hair, beard, eye lashes and color from his skin, I still feel like I’m watching it all. I make sure the heroine in the story acts heroine-like—supportive and loving, doing more around the house and maintaining her joy, seeking God for her strength. I pray just like the rest of the audience that the hero in the story beats the cancer and is able to achieve all of his life goals that cancer has sought to destroy—successful business, travel, speaking gigs, a home in Carlsbad, and giving to charity.

We now begin our fourth round of chemo today. I say we, because whatever affects him affects all of us. He is my love and I am with him through sickness and in health. And while I don’t look forward to the nausea this week or the fatigue or even the sadness that I know he will feel as he lays on the couch wondering how and why this happened to him—I do look forward to the increasing amount of closeness that he and I have developed through this. There is something that sickness does to a marriage when the couple loves each other. There is gentleness and a cherishing that increases significantly for both parties.

This chapter is not over—we’ve got at least 2 more chemo rounds and an entire month of radiation. In two weeks we get the next CT scan to see if any of the treatment has made a difference. Who knows when this chapter will end? I know that it is silly now to finalize life plans. Plot twists come our way and complications arise that the hero and heroin in the story do not anticipate.  I guess the point of life’s story is how we handle it when it comes. Will we allow it to change us like a good dynamic character? Will we resurrect in the end as the hero and be stronger than ever before?

Valentines Special–Free Download of Children’s Book on Love

agape heartValentines Special–Free Download of my Children’s Book, “How to Love Like Jesus: a Guide for Children and Their Parents.” Now through January 20th.

One of my students came in yesterday and asked if I could read a definition paper she wrote on love. She chose to focus on what love is versus what love is not. I breathed in a sigh of relief when I read her quote from the Book of Corinthians where the Apostle Paul defines love. And I then knew for sure she had taken it to heart when she went on to explain that love was not a hormonal feeling but a committed action that someone does for the ones they love. She went on to bring up Romeo and Juliet and typical high school romances that more often fall in to other categories outside of real love, and it hit me–Valentines Day will be coming up soon and so many people will be speaking about love without really knowing what it is.

Wouldn’t it be appropriate then as a Valentines Gift to give our children a book that helps them understand what love is from a biblical standpoint so they too can start their lives off on a strong foot, as my student has? It is so rare. And the world bombards us with lies about what love is.

The front and back cover of the children's book How to Love Like Jesus: A Guide for Children and Their Parents.

The front and back cover of How to Love Like Jesus: A Guide for Children and Their Parents.

My children’s book “How to Love Like Jesus: a Guide for Children and Their Parents” has not only helped children, but many of their parents better understand what real love looks like in real life.

For this reason, I am starting a promotion. You can get a FREE DOWNLOAD of the kindle version of my book starting today from January 16th through January 20th. If you like it, I encourage you to read the book to your children on Valentines Day or as you approach the holiday. Even better, if you like it, I encourage you to Buy “How to Love Like Jesus” . At $9.99 with numerous, colored illustrations and engaging questions for your children to ponder, you will see from the free-download that is worth it.

The book is appropriate to read to children as young as 2 to as old as 12. You can use just the illustrations with your younger ones, but use the written text with the older ones. You can read one section at a time, or all at once if they have the attention span.

Don’t have a kindle? Don’t worry, the link HERE will give you a safe download of an app that will help your iPhone or computer be able to read the kindle file for free.

I hope you enjoy the book. Please leave any comments or suggestions below or on the Amazon page. I do use affiliate links on this blog to help support it. It does not cost anything extra for you, just allows Amazon to share a few pennies with me for linking the books they host.

 

Born Again Teacher

blogger-image--2079890276Last Summer was a born again experience for me. My colleagues jokingly say its because I joined The Writing Project “cult.” But I think that any one who loves teaching has a sort of religious experience with it. Think about it–it’s a daily applied philosophy.  For those who love teaching, our educational world view and its applied methodology is something we do in our classes daily, reflect on in our drives home in the afternoon, improve through reading books by the gurus, plan lessons in the evenings at our dining room tables, and evaluate assessments over the weekend after we’ve tucked our kids into bed or spent some quality time with our spouses or loved ones–and for those who love teaching, this job, this life long decision to teach gives us meaning and purpose in our lives. And so when I say that this summer was like a born again experience for me, I mean it, all joking aside.

There are a few reasons why this summer was so impactful–one, because I learned so much through the lessons of my peers and the experts who had graduated from The Writing Project program. The other, because two personal experiences happened that summer, which only magnified all that I had learned. One, my husband started his chemotherapy for stage 3 thymoma, and two–a colleague of mine died unexpectedly, leaving behind hundreds of mourning teens who had been touched by her spirit and teaching over the years here at Chaparral High School, where we work.

So the first–supporting my husband through the trial of cancer and chemotherapy, ignited in me an extra fire for nurture and love. Life is precious. People are precious. And we all will experience trials that will test our character and define our priorities.

Then when my colleague Pamela Varnam died, I watched student after student mourn, so many coming forward at her funeral and memorial to share how she had been there for them during tough times, encouraged them, taught them, and mentored them. I looked back at the last few years of my own teaching and thought, if I died, would I have left the same legacy with my students. Sadly, I came to the decision that I wouldn’t have. Not the last few years. Over the last few years, I had lost that close connection with my kids. I had entered a valley in my love for teaching students. And I wanted so desperately to climb out.

There are numerous reasons why I had entered a valley, but none of that matters for this post. What matters is that this summer, I decided to change everything. This is the gyst of what changed:

1. Read less in quantity, but spend more time on each reading to boost the quality of analysis and understanding, incorporating more vocabulary, reading strategies, analysis of writing style and rhetoric, along with the message, and offering opportunities to mimic that writing style.

2. Keep literary analysis for the classroom and have homework time spent on activities they could do on their own with minimal guidance from me (Articles of the Week Readings and Responses, independent reading, studying root words and notes, and writing their passion blogs).

3. Add in a Passion Blog Project to my curriculum which offers prompts, mentor texts to model, drafting, peer evaluations, revision time, publication onto blogs, and final teacher evaluation. Additionally, best blog articles are voted on for publication as a guest column in the school newspaper (I set that up with our school newspaper ahead of time to make sure). Blog days were reserved for every Friday. The typical English 11 American Literature curriculum would be reserved for the other 4 days of the week.

4. Fun routines established for each day of the week’s bellwork– Monday is memorization preparation day where kids preview the weeks rootwords with peers and brainstorm example words they already know that include the roots.Then they make flash cards for homework and study them the rest of the week. Tuesday would be Tones of Poetry day, where they start the period by listening or reading a poem or viewing a spoken poem on Youtube–no analysis or discussion. Just appreciate. Wednesday would be Word of the Week Wednesdays–6 minutes of writing on the Word of the Week. Thursdays would be Throwback Thursdays–in which they did a warm up activity that reviewed terms, concepts, or skills learned earlier in the week or the week before. And finally, Flashy Friday–in which they “flashed” their partner with flash cards of the root words they made to see if they memorized those definitions over the week and were prepared for the quiz.

My goal this year was to do a few things–First, to foster in my kids a love for writing which I no longer had in my classroom as all writing had been confined to literary analysis or research. Second, to build a supportive and nurturing environment where I could connect with my kids and have them see me as a mentor and coach rather than an unapproachable hard ass as I felt I had become. And third–through the changes in quantity and quality of literary analysis, writing genre expansion, and classroom environment, I wanted to build skills in my students in such a way that they would actually show an increased proficiency of the standards than I had typically seen in previous years using my previous methodology.

Well guess what? It worked! This year has been an amazing year. One of the best in my entire experience teaching. My students passion blogs have lead me to learn so much about my students and connect with them. They see it as well because I actually respond to their blogs with specific and encouraging comments, much more than I have ever written for typical literary analysis and research writing. Their scores on the grade level common assessments are great–my students are scoring at a higher proficiency than previous years. Student grades have gone up. I have more A’s and B’s this year and less F’s than ever before.  The rubrics have not changed either. Same standards and expectations. Just different approach in getting there.

I have two Collab classes this year, which is our terminology for having a cluster of kids with IEP’s in the class, thus requiring a second special Ed teacher with whom to collaborate. Normally, my teaching methodology did not work well enough for those kids to grasp the concepts and skills I was asking of them. They struggled in my classes. This year, I have students in these clusters saying that for the first time in their life, they understand and like English class. And for the first time in their lives they are getting positive remarks about their writing. And its not inauthentic responses I am writing. Their passion blogs are good! It is amazing what happens when you have students apply skills and concepts from mentor texts to writing topics that they actually care about. I’ve got kids writing on bullying, dirt bike riding, travel, make up, fashion, mechanics, soccer, basketball, health and exercise, you name it. They are writing informational texts, persuasive, expressive, even satires. Next semester, our 11th grade common assessments are focused on fiction and poetry, so I will have my students write more narratives and poetry then.

My two collab teaching aides love what we are doing in our class and how they have seen their students blossom. The teachers in the other grade levels and in my own are asking questions about what we are doing in this classroom as the buzz around campus is spreading, especially when great writing is turning out in the guest column of our school newspaper and is labeled as a blog written in my class. What I like as well, is that I find the curriculum to be equally fulfilling for the students who have higher dreams don't workunless you doskills as well. Most of the Gate kids by 11th grade had moved on to AP Language, but I still have some high-skilled kids who are taking other AP classes and just didn’t take it for English. I find them to be engaged and enjoying the class as well.

I already have ideas on how I’m going to tweak and improve what I have started this semester for next year, so it goes even more smoothly and successfully. In the meantime, I want to stand on the mountain top and share with the world how much I love my students and my job, and how excited I am to be making a difference. And I want to help other teachers who may be in a valley in their own love for teaching and show them how to climb up to the top of not just a hill, but a mountain too.

Here are some of the books that have inspired me!


Top 75 cancer tips — Making Treatment Easier

Im so excited about these tips that I got from a friend in the Facebook group. While it makes it more “real” it also prepares me a little bit more for the storm.

Bill's General Thoughts

Me in my hospital room. Me in my hospital room.

Top 75 Cancer Tips for Burkitt’s Lymphoma, But You Can Use Them for Almost Any Cancer Journey. Really You Can

Tip #1 – Take a tape recorder to your first oncology appointment, The information comes so fast it is impossible to take it all in the first time around. The doctor won’t care – he’ll probably appreciate it.

Tip #2 – Only wear t-shirts with pocket and wear them inside-out so you stuff your catheter lumens in the pocket so they’re not jangling and tugging on stuff.

Tip #3 – For PICC lines Instead of gauze get some old athletic tube socks and cut off the toe and slide that up your arm to secure all the tubing.

Tip #4 – For those of us that deal with health insurance. Most insurers have a case management office that handles dangerous illnesses like cancer, heart disease…

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Back To Work= Messy House

These are the most important people in my life. I don't want to miss out time with them because I'm cleaning.

These are the most important people in my life. I don’t want to miss out time with them because I’m cleaning.

I have two choices when I get home. I can spend time with my kids. Or I can clean up the house.

I want to do both. But there is no time for both. I pick up the boys at 415 after a 45 minute commute, we make it home and they play while I cook dinner. Dinner is around 5. Then afterward they run around and play while I try to do everything but never have the time to do it all. And that is on an easy day. A day without doctor’s appointments, grocery runs, karate practice, or bible studies.

Still….my hate for mess, finds me often telling my kids to “wait a minute while I finish [fill in the blank here].”

They want to spend time with me. They want me to push them on the swing or watch them do back flips on the trampoline. They want me to play legos or to look at the spider they found. And I absolutely HATE washing dishes.

Then why? Why do I continually push that time away from them to wash the dreaded dishes? Because in the end, after the dishes are done and dinner is eaten, its time for baths and pajamas and teeth brushing. And bed. And then I am sitting there, missing my kids and wondering how I lost the time.

The dishes can wait, right?

I don’t want my children’s memory of me to always be the one who was around but never really there. When I’m not working, I have time to take them to the park, or read stories to them, or cuddle on the couch watching morning cartoons. It is those days I can say, “wait a minute.” But Monday-Friday, I need to just stop.

I want to wash dishes after they go to bed. And I want to complete one simple, quick chore a day that I can do to keep the house up and get back to being with my kids.

I also need to get my 7-year-old to do a daily chore and get my toddlers participating a bit more. One idea I also came up with after I wrote this is—don’t give them unmonitored free play time while I’m cooking. That is often when they make their biggest messes (especially the toddlers). Instead, I think I will set them up at the kitchen table for some table activities while I cook and Kanan does his homework. Then after dinner we spend 10 minutes cleaning up the room together or with some of my direction as I do my quick chore. 

I read this great book last year also called The Get Organized Project by Kathy Lipp. She had great ideas, a lot of which I have applied. But one that I have stopped doing was putting a paper towel roll and a spray bottle of cleaning spray in each bathroom. And that way I can clean it up when the kids are bathing and not have to leave the restroom to get anything (which is often the deal breaker when the thought of cleaning it comes to mind). I can do the same after I use my restroom…just a quick spray and wipe of a counter or toilet after leaving without needing to go out and find all the supplies can make a big difference. By Saturday, I might just have a floor to sweep and that’s it. 

Okay so here is a rough plan.


 

Monday-– Me– wipe down bathroom counters and wash a load of laundry.

Tuesday– Me– fold the load of laundry.

Wednesday— Kanan, h.w and karate. Me– sweep kitchen floor, gym

Thursday–Kanan–h.w, trash and clean bedroom. Me–clear up clutter from living room.

Friday--Kanan–dust. Me–wash a load of laundry.

Saturday-– kanan and me–fold a load of laundry and me–clean a bathroom (we have two). 

Sunday-– 20 minutes per room (hubby and wife turbo house clean up).


So what do you other moms, working or non-working, do to keep your house in order with toddlers and the hectic schedules that come with all our many tasks? 

 

Exciting Times!

25 weeks along here carrying #4

25 weeks along here carrying #4

Alas, I blog again, having wished I have been better at blogging since I used to be and loved it. Will this be it? Will I finally get back into it? I sure am hoping so. A lot is happening and I want to share so much.

1. I am pregnant with our 4th child. Its a girl. A vasectomy baby. God is good though—he will have his way and he knows how to give good gifts to his children. This will be our only daughter and a sweet little refreshment in our testosterone-filled house. We are naming her Scotland Amalia-Leme. I’m 26 weeks as of tomorrow. She is due November 1st.

2. We bought our first house!!!! Built in 1965. Great starter home. Lots of property. Lots of fun project opportunities. 🙂 The kids love it. 🙂 Thank you Lord!

3. I started a resume writing business last year right around Thanksgiving and it has taken off. It is helping provide us a little extra cash to help pay for Owen’s teeth (lost two of them in a crazy golfing accident), a bigger car for our growing family, and house needs.

4. I was recently hired by Sound of Your Voice Memoirs to be an interviewer and writer. I have my first client and am really loving the process. Sure hoping this job can grow and eventually open the doors to allow me to work from home full-time.

5. I have taken the plunge and am writing the first drafts of a few christian children’s books! 3 I am doing on my own. 2 I am co-writing with a friend of mine. And I’ve already come up with another book I want to write, but will put that one on the backburner for the next set of books. In the mean time, I’ve got the first drafts complete, and the illustrations starting. Once those are finished, I’ll venture into learning how to use InDesign and designing the layouts. Then market market market! Marketing is half the job. Writing is the easy part. So we have a long way to go. But I am very excited about this. I’ve been praying that God really use me in these books to speak to kids about real ways they can apply Jesus to their lives. I’ll share more in a different blog.

With all this, I’d like to write more about all the transitions and emotions and thoughts as I go a long this exciting journey. I will be changing the name of this blog and planning to write in it more and work at actually building a following. So for those of you who are reading this, please follow this blog. I’m pretty sure there is an icon at the top right area where you can sign up. I promise, I can be funny, insightful, and honest. And if you have a blog, please comment with a link so I can check yours out too. I love mommy blogs and of course, love blogs that inspire! 🙂

Going to be attempting to find a blog address similar to theentrepreneurialwife.com. We shall see!

Wisdom from Grandma on Life

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My Grandma Barbara and Grandpa Lowell

My Grandma’s birthday was this Thursday. I wasn’t able to visit her for the day, but wanted to call her to wish her a Happy Birthday and catch up. She lives in a nursing home with my Grandpa, who needs a lot of help due to his health issues. Grandma on the other hand is there simply because she is his wife and she goes where he goes. She is still healthy as ever, vibrant, and joyous. I admire her so much and her steadfast love she has for my Grandfather. So I asked her the question I have asked myself lately and others when we talk about age: how old do you feel? I find the question interesting because I know my answer and I love hearing the answer of others. I find that each one of us emotionally feels younger, typically finding ourselves surprised when looking in the mirror and seeing this person with more wrinkles and less hair than the one we feel. The body ages much faster than the spirit I think. I myself feel 25 when I am actually 34. When I talk to my other family or friends who are older than me, I hear answers that are often 10 to 20 years younger than where they really are. So I don’t always expect to feel 25. At some point, my spirit will age and I’ll be 50 saying that I feel 35. I like this. I find it beautiful and fascinating. My grandma’s answer caught me by surprise. But it blessed me more than anything else I expected her to say.  In her thick, Colombian accent she said to me these words:

“I don’t feel like an age anymore. I feel more like a place.  I’m at the top of a mountain looking at my life and my family’s life as they really are, no longer the way I used to. Up here, it is clear. There is no more stress or bitterness or worry. It is like I can see for the first time. I look down and see my whole life and yours and our family’s. And what I see is how blessed I am and how blessed you are. It is a very free feeling, darling. I tell you, my biggest regret is rushing through life so much and not stopping to enjoy each moment.  I know this time in your life is very busy with work and all the kids. But experience it. Be there in the moment. There will be a time in the future where you remember this busy time and miss it. And you can believe me because my blinders have been taken off. I know. I can see at the top of the mountain what you may not see. You are very blessed. I am very blessed. I am happy to be 75. It is easy to see everything here.”

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The Hills with their some of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her words. I felt it was true wisdom. I came home and told Owen what she told me. He told me I should blog about it and I agreed. I don’t want to forget her words and I believe others should hear it too. Today, in the midst of the sick, crying baby and the 2-year-old who dumped the fish food all over the carpet, and the 6-year-old running around like a crazy man around the house with the neighbor kid, Owen and I walked up to each other in the kitchen, gave each other that knowing smile that  said, without words—oh look at us and our crazy little life right now, and we hugged a long time, and kissed each other. It is a beautiful Christmas season, this year. And while I look forward to 2014 and all that God will bring, I will enjoy each day of this December. And I pray you do as well.