Friday, June 28, 2013


Don't forget that Google Reader is disappearing come Monday so be sure to follow my blog with Bloglovin!

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Friday, June 21, 2013

A Call for Grace

Craig and I ran into an old friend of ours last night at the local sports bar while watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It had been awhile since she and I had gotten a chance to catch up and since we had last REALLY talked, many changes had occurred in her life. Changes that seem to be ultimately beneficial for all parties involved, but while in the process were extremely painful, shameful and destructive.  As with many little-big towns like the one we live in, I had heard rumors through the grapevine about everything that had happened...but like when dealing with middle school rumors, I believed only half of what I heard.  I figured that if she wanted me to know the story, she would fill me in but I owed her a listening ear and an unbiased heart.

As we sat at the table and cheered (and then groaned) our way through the basketball game, my friend turned to me and said something to the effect of "I thought you were disappointed in me or mad at me for what happened." I nearly spit out my beer. "Why on Earth would I be upset with you? You don't owe me an explanation or an apology.  That's between you and God...your forgiveness and reconciliation has nothing to do with me."  She immediately relaxed, smiled and mentioned that giving grace was one of her favorite qualities about me. I thanked her and tried to brush off her compliment with a remark about my own checkered and wildly sinful past while we refocused on the game. 

But my thoughts kept churning through the rest of the evening. 

Grace. I've been chewing on that word ever since Natalie was born. Our children must have boundaries, rules and expectations to live by in order to become productive members of society. But in order to be a compassionate and considerate person....they must also have a healthy dose of grace extended to them from the people who love them the most. 

But I think it's such a misunderstood word. Grace is not a free pass or revoking consequences. It is not blindly loving or wearing rose-colored glasses.  Extending grace doesn't mean condoning or supporting the negative behavior but it does mean acknowledging the frailty of the human condition, the fact that we are all sinners while providing an example of Jesus' most important one another. 

The moment I extended grace to my old friend and shook my head at her concerns of my disapproval, I saw her spirit lift and her shoulders perk. I wasn't another person condemning her or brandishing her with the scarlet letter. I was another sinner struggling through my own misgivings and missteps saying "I will love you through this." 

And why should we extend grace to one another? Because it is the greatest gift that God gives to us everyday as we trip, stumble and fall along the path we are trying to walk with Jesus.  Every day as I speak too harshly and lose patience with Natalie, get frustrated and snap at my husband or envy the owner of the brand new Lexus down the street....God provides me with grace and forgiveness. If I want to truly be an example of how I was made in His image, I must afford those around me the same grace and forgiveness that He provides me. 

But also from a practical point of view, I also don't believe in kicking a dog when they are down serves any useful or productive purpose and I tried my best to demonstrate this with my athletes. After a loss, whether it be hard fought or an easy girls' faces were filled with disappointment, frustration and even shame. Berating them in the post game huddle would have squashed their burgeoning love for the game and made the entire season miserable for them and for me.  My job as their coach was not to yell at them and make them feel worse but instead to teach them how to pick themselves up and focus their eyes on the next game while figuring out how to avoid tripping in the future. Of course I would go home and vent and fume about the game to my husband, but it was never about the girls' was about what I could do as their leader to help them overcome the obstacles they faced. In order to get the best out of people they have to know you believe in them and that belief Is conveyed through grace. Period. 

And that is what I think we are called to do....not discourage one another from living a Christ-filled life by judgment and condemnation, but instead help our friends along the treacherous path of life through grace and encouragement. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Staying Settled....For Now

To say that I have an overactive imagination is quite the understatement.

This can be very good since it allows me to explore all opportunities, outcomes and possibilities.  

This can be very bad since it allows me to explore all opportunities, outcomes and possibilities.

So when Craig mentioned a job opening a few miles (okay, an hour drive time) away from where we currently live, my mind started spinning.  I was looking at houses, searching for jobs and imagining a slower, less materialistically driven lifestyle.  I pictured Natalie growing up in a small town with the opportunity to play multiple sports and be involved in all school activities.  I imagined us knowing our neighbors and having barbecues together in a manner similar to a Norman Rockwell painting.  There were visions of relaxation, less commitments and a focus back on each other.

While Craig was merely sending in his resume and thought the whole gig was a crapshoot, I was miles down the road and envisioning ourselves in an entirely new life.

I didn't realize how badly I wanted to get out of here and start fresh in a small town until the possibility was staring me in the face.  I didn't realize how claustrophobic living in our suburb can be until it seemed there might be another option.  Suddenly the planes streaming towards DFW seemed louder and more frequent.  Traffic became more congested and obnoxious than before.  Everything about living in a major metropolitan area seemed amplified....and I realized that I'm ready to turn the volume down.

But it looks like that possibility has blown away in the wind and our lives will remain where we currently reside.

And my heart is a little heavy from that knowledge.

So we'll stay where we are at and there is obviously comfort in the known.  No packing or moving, no change of insurance or doctors, Natalie stays with her beloved Ms. Rebecca and I stay close to my friends and parents.  

But I did give Craig permission to keep looking and keep sending out his information.  And I'll keep praying for not only the opportunities to come available, but that we are ready to take that leap whenever the time comes.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Ugly Cry

I cried the ugly cry last night.

You know, the one where you've just a few too many cocktails and suddenly everything is JUST. SO. SAD. Your shoulders start heaving and you're squeaking trying to hold in the sobs until the floodgates open and mascara starts streaming down your face while your husband says bewilderedly "I thought we had a good time? And everything was fine?" 

Yeah.  It was THAT kind of crying. 

What for, you ask?

A myriad of things, really...the end of the school year is always emotional for me because I get attached to my 8th graders and its hard to watch them move onto high school. This year was made infinitely more difficult because I'm hanging up my coaching hat to wear the full-time teacher cap. As I knew it would be, this transition is so incredibly bittersweet. I love watching girls fall in love with sports. I love watching them set goals, strive for greatness and overcome obstacles. Playing sports created so many defining characteristics through tough practices, conflicts with teammates and coaches, and the glory of a well-deserved win. When I coached my girls, I tried to keep in mind that I would be forever etched in their mind as their "middle school volleyball coach" and I had control over whether or not that was a good or bad memory. 

I didn't become a teacher because I love math SO much (although, I really do). I became a teacher because I wanted to leave something on this earth that was bigger than me. I wanted to make an impact in children's lives. There is so much ugliness in the world that our children see and experience. I can't erase the rejection by a parent, or the years of abuse by a loved one....but I can offer a safe place to land for forty-five minutes during the day. I can have an open door policy that allows for communication, a listening ear and advice....when asked. I can show my students the unconditional love that they might be lacking elsewhere.  Yes. Love. I have to love these kids in order to teach them. I have to be invested in who they are, where they come from and where they are headed.

So I cried because I'm scared at this next step. I'm worried that my sphere of influence in the lives ofstudents will shrink due to the nature of being a math teacher. I dread the day my athletes come to me complaining about their new volleyball coach. Or even worse...they tell me how awesome she is and how much they love playing for her. I'm terrified that all these people are excited about my new position and believe that I'm going to do great....and what if I'm not. What if I've been faking my way through this whole teaching gig and I'm really not that great at disseminating information, organizing curriculum and preparing kids for a MAJOR state test? 

And then I cried because of an overwhelming sense of loss. 

My first three years in the classroom were spent at a school where the teaching environment and th comrade rue amongst the teachers was pure magic. There were fun pranks on fellow teachers, happy hours every week and tons of wedding and baby showers celebrating each others major life events. There was a tight-knit group of us that weren't just co-workers, but great friends as well....and I know this contributed to the success of our students and the overall atmosphere in the school. During this time, the girls athletics program won at least six district championships not JUST because we had a run of fabulous athletes, but I think the girls had a great understanding of teamwork because the four of us coaches MODELED teamwork and friendship for them on a daily basis. 

One of these great teacher friends I made during this time was my mentor teacher who took me under her wing while I was student teaching in 8th grade math. She was young, cool and laid back. She also was a former party girl and understood why I was always dragging on Monday mornings. Through my year of student teaching, she became more than just my mentor teacher....but a great friend as well. I would sit with her and her bestie at lunch everyday and I learned so much about teaching , being a wife and motherhood. They became the older sisters that I never had. 

And she's moving. To Colorado. Sigh. 

I'm upset and sad not just because I'm going to miss seeing her at in-services or at swim dates during the summer....but also because its the end of an era. Another important face of those three wonderful years at MMS that is gone. 

At this end-of-school party the other night, most of that old gang was there to celebrate the end of another year, but also to say good-bye to a dear friend. It was lovely...all of us being back together, having drinks, laughing at our crazy antics and marveling at the quickness that time seems to pass. I cried because I miss that camaraderie. Yes, I have a bestie at my new school...but it's not the same. I miss going to work excited to see all my friends.  I miss the kids knowing that if I wasn't in my room in the mornings to check next door with the other volleyball coach - because we were a matched set, where you found one of us the other wasn't far away. I miss conspiring for our yearly prank on the basketball coach - we've tipped over desks, decorated his room in Michigan State (for the devout Michigan fan) and printed off huge pictures of ourselves and taped them to the walls. 

I miss the easiness of it all....we came to work, did our best to teach the kids we had while trying not to take it all too seriously. We knew the lessons we were preparing were tried and true - and we had the test scores to prove it. Because of the educational atmosphere alive and well today in my district, the state and the nation....teaching is stressful. Am I incorporating enough technology?  Are the parents going to contest this very low but very well-DESERVED grade by their child?  Am I going to be docked points on my appraisal for a lack of technology in this ONE lesson they are observing?  Am I strategically designing my lessons? I guess I've been involved in education for long enough to see the changing of tides....and also long enough to know that I've invested far too much time and energy into it to bail out now and find something else to do.

So, I cried the ugly cry while Craig patiently patted my hand and reminded me how much I hate change, but despite my fear of the always somehow works itself out.  And he's right.  I'll sit here next year and laugh at my fears of teaching math.  Of course there will be moments when I sit at my desk and wonder WHY DID I DO THIS?!  But when it's all said and moves on, math will be taught, friendships will remain despite the distance but I also have to remember that not everything in our lives is meant for permanence....that's why God gives us the power of memories.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Blog Lovin APP

As most of you know, Google Reader is being eliminated come July 1st and therefore we will all have to find other ways to catch up on all our bloggy friends.  

The main site that I have found to keep following all your favorite blogs is BLOGLOVIN but I had been hesitant to test it out because I was afraid that it would be difficult to transfer my reader roll of blogs.

I was very, very wrong.  It was incredibly easy and took a matter of minutes.  

1. Sign up and then verify your email address.
2. When it asks you if you want to transfer your blogs from Google Reader, click YES.


So simple, right?!

And because I like things organized and orderly, I went ahead and took it one step further and created a little Bloglovin app on my iPad since that's where I do a lot of my reading these days.  

Again...this is something that sounds so difficult but is SUPER easy to execute.

First - open up your new Bloglovin home page on your iPad or iPhone.  In the header bar at the top, you should see a little box with an arrow popping out.  Click on that button.

Second - you will see this screen pop up.  You want to "add to home screen" because this is what will create an "app" that will bring up your personal Bloglovin page when you click on it.

Third - title your new app whatever you want.  I stuck with the very simple 'Bloglovin.'

And ta-da!  Your new Bloglovin app should pop up on your homescreen!  

Hope this helps your transition from Google Reader to Bloglovin!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Meal Planning Part Deux

A few weeks ago I wrote THIS post about how Craig and I have rehabilitated the way we eat due to his diagnosis of Diabetes II back in January.  Here's a little two part follow-up with pictures to help you get an idea of how I plan and execute meals for my family.

This is my menu board that hangs next to the pantry and across from the laundry room.  There are multiple ideas for this kind of board floating all over Pinterest - I just bought a see-through frame at Target and a few pieces of scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby.  

This is the family calendar that hangs next to the menu board so that I can keep track of what we are doing and when we are supposed to be doing it.  That way I can check our plans for the week and see exactly what nights we will be home for dinner.

And as far as the super cute calendar?  It's Craig's yearly Christmas gift to me - he pulls pictures from the year and creates it for me.

As you can see...the schedule for this week goes something like this:

Sunday: BBQ Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Monday: Skinny Chicken Pesto and red potatoes
Tuesday: Craig has basketball practice so Natalie and I will eat leftovers
Wednesday: Fish tacos
Thursday: Last day of school so we will be hitting up the parties!

On an average week, I'm cooking about three of the nights and the rest are leftovers or restaurants (mainly on the weekend).  I also pack my lunch with leftovers or a small salad to take to school with me.

This morning, after I quickly planned out the meals for this week I headed out to Tom Thumb (by myself!) to grab what we needed for these meals as well as anything that needed to be refilled (snack bags, dish detergent, Sprite, goldfish, etc).  There is that saying that it takes 21 days for a repeated action to become a habit....and after nine months of meal planning like this, I have some sort of Pavlovian response to Sunday mornings and I MUST plan meals and go grocery shopping or I get all itchy inside.

So that's the first part of this post and the second part has to do with this container.

Since Craig and I started eating healthier I haven't bought or cooked with butter, mayonaise or sour cream....AT ALL.  

And to be honest - part of me is incredibly proud....and the other part is so, so wistful.  

But seriously, there are a ton of recipes out there that substitute Greek yogurt but taste remarkably like the original dish.  One of my favorites was a creamy avocado dip that tasted like guacamole but without the extra calories from sour cream.

The big recipe I needed the yogurt for today was BBQ Chicken Salad which I found HERE but unfortunately at my Tom Thumb the only sizes I could find the yogurt in was either individual (and flavored) servings or a full 32 ounce container.  I went ahead and bought the big 32oz. container even though the recipe called for about five ounces of yogurt.

So I made the chicken salad (and it smells delicious) and popped it into the fridge but the yogurt was calling my name.  I knew that if I didn't do something else with it then it would sit in my fridge and go bad and I would be mad at myself for wasting both food and money.  

To Google I went, which is where I found THIS little gem.

Perfect!  A cup of yogurt combined with ingredients I already had in the kitchen and now I have something sweet (and relatively healthy) to serve Craig and Natalie after dinner is over.  Natalie is super big into bananas right now but I think it would also taste great with graham crackers or strawberries!  

And the best part?  Both of these recipes were easy and quick enough for me to complete during Natalie's naptime.