Thursday, October 13, 2011

Drunken Potatoes

Just had one of my favorite meals in the world- Drunken Potatoes and a salad. "What are drunken potatoes," you ask? Well, they are, quite possibly one of the most amazing indulgent foods I have ever created. Here's the recipe: (disclaimer: I rarely measure out exactly; you can ace this if you follow the instructions, I promise)

1 bag, Trader Joe's Teeny Tiny Potatoes (you can use 2 regular russet or 4-6 red potatoes, just cut them into chunks, but if you have access to fingerlings, it's so worth it)
1 sweet onion, peeled whole
7-8 fresh, whole garlic cloves, peeled
Olive oil
Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or butter/margarine)
Dry white wine (doesn't have to be expensive- TJ's Two Buck Chuck is fabulous in this!) You can also substitute veggie or chicken broth, if you are of the non-alcoholic variety (the alcohol DOES cook out, by the way)

-Slice the potatoes in half (or chunks, if you're using larger potatoes)
-Slice the onion and separate into rings
-Cut the root/bottom tip off the garlic cloves
-Give the olive oil about three turns around the pan, and add the prepared veggies,stir occasionally for 5-7 minutes

(This is the embarrassing part)
-After the onions start turning translucent and limp, add about two large spoonfuls of the buttery spread of your choice (hey, I said it was indulgent, not healthy)
-When the edges of the potatoes begin to look transparent and the onions are completely limp, cover the whole thing with wine/broth, and bring to a boil
-Let it boil until the liquid reduces to about half as much, then cover and turn down the burner to let it simmer for about 20-25 minutes
-Check to see if the liquid is mostly gone, if not, take off the lid and turn the heat back up to boil the rest out.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Day 1:

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

Your Answer:

I lost the love of my life after five years. He was my best friend and we had an amazing relationship. One day, he just looked at me and said he didn't love me the way he thought he was supposed to. I asked him to leave and when the door was shut, I exhaled. I exhaled five years of friendship, love, laughter, confusion, anger, frustration; and I realized in that moment, maybe I didn't love him like I was supposed to either. I woke up the next morning quite relieved. Since then, I've been lonely at times, but overwhelmingly grateful for the experience of loving so deeply and knowing that losing that deep love didn't kill me - understanding that it's better to have loved and lost than never loved at all is quite true.

Day 2:

Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you're especially proud of from this past year?

Your Answer:

I wish I had refrained from getting so involved at my job. It led to nothing but stress, weight-gain and extreme frustration and difficulty. To boot, I lost the one thing I loved doing more than anything - my leadership class.

I'm proud of getting so involved at my job. I stood up for others and I worked hard to make my work a better place to be, both for the teachers and the students. While I wish I hadn't done it, since it's done, I'm glad I did.

Day 3:

Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

Your Answer:

My nephew graduated from boot camp. It's been a bittersweet experience. I'm so very proud of him for taking on the responsibility of "growing up," but I'm also quite anxious as he has chosen a job that puts him on the front lines of battle, should he be sent to a warzone.

Day 4:

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

Your Answer:

The political situation surrounding the building of the Ground Zero Mosque and subsequent backlash from that (i.e. the "pastor" in Florida planning a Q'uran burning) has been quite frustrating as a follower of Christ. While I don't agree with the establishment of the Mosque at Ground Zero, it's more out of sensitivity for the New Yorkers who do not wish to have it in that place, not out of disrespect for religious freedom.

In that same vein, I am extremely upset at the man in Florida who wishes to display his religious superiority by burning the text of another religion. Whether I believe they are following truth or not is not the issue. What IS the issue is that we were all created with the freedom and liberty (especially in America) to follow the path we choose. It's what makes us different from every other being in the universe. The fact that this man is choosing to disrespect another human by destroying that which is held dear is the lowest form of humanity on display.

Day 5:

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? "Spiritual" can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

Your Answer:

The first time I saw the World of Color show at Disneyland was an incredibly moving experience for me. It wasn't the show itself, but rather the idea of all the creativity and teamwork that was behind it. Coming off of a work year in which everyone isolated themselves and those who dared to step out were quickly put back down, it was a deeply spiritual experience for me to walk into another world where creativity, fun and exploration are not only encouraged, but rewarded. The icing on that cake was the show itself - this amazing display of ingenuity, artistry and daring to try new things that haven't been done before - it truly was an experience that reminded me that there is amazing talent in the world and that it's okay to be one of those talented people.

Day 6:

Describe one thing you'd like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

Your Answer:

I'd like to be in a healthy, steady relationship with someone. In the past few years, I have discovered that I am a very good and capable love-r and I feel like I've accomplished the things I want to accomplish in my individual status (career, etc.). I'd like to really focus on my personal and love life and work toward building a future with someone.

Day 7:

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you in this project?

Your Answer:

I would like to be as chilled out and un-stressed as I am now. After the previous year that I had, I feel I am incredibly deserving of this lifestyle. Additionally, I'd like to continue working on improving my physical health. I have found that this not only improves my health and appearance, but it does lend itself to the aforementioned stress-free life. :)

Day 8:

Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in 2011?

Your Answer:

I really have absolutely no idea. I am more interested in looking back to see what I ended up investigating and discovering in 2011.

Day 9:

What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

Your Answer:

I have a deep fear of failure. I mean a deep, deep fear of failure. I think there's this part of me that feels like there are certain aspects of my life which I have completely and utterly failed in, and therefore, I have this uncontrollable need to succeed at the other things I feel more confident about.

I have absolutely no idea how to completely overcome this other than to step back and look at those failures and trek after them one more time for a try of success. Additionally, I need to let go of some control issues I have around those areas of success that already exist. I need to loosen the reigns I have on those areas because they will continue to fly smoothly.

Day 10:

When September 2011 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you'll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you're at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?

Your Answer:

I hope that when I read these answers I will feel a sense of accomplishment - that I will have achieved certain goals that I've set for myself. I also hope that I am in a better place as a person. I hope that, when I read these answers next year, I will have grown.

Day 11:

What are your predictions for 2011?

Your Answer:

In love, the world and I.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Things I Want

It's time to take a little break from...oh, what the heck? This is my blog and I'll post what I want to. The following list is inspired by a conversation on relationships I attended at an artists' retreat over Labor Day weekend. The following is also pretty straightforward, so if it freaks you out, just blame the conversation and move along. :)

Things I Want:

I want to be married.
To a man who loves Jesus.
And knows how to love a woman.
Or will at least admit that he has the desire to continue learning how.
I want to marry a man who loves animals and enjoys having them around.
But will kill the bugs.
A man who isn't afraid to be the man.
I want to marry someone who is an adventurous eater.
Or is at least brave enough to try any of my culinary experiments.
And might be extra-brave enough to actually cook with me.
And will know how to let me down gently if the experiment fails.
I want to marry a man who loves being around other people.
But also enjoys a quiet night in, reading or snuggling up with a good movie.
Or wouldn't mind putting up a tent and building a campfire for the weekend.
I want to marry a man who will absolutely listen to me.
But will also tell me stories. I love stories...real and fiction.
I want to marry a man who wants to see the world.
And won't mind it if I spend hours listening to others' stories while we're seeing the world.
A man who will especially be an adventurous eater as we see the world.
I want to marry a man who will consider the option of kids.
But not right away because
I want to have an incredibly strong marriage that can be a model for our future children to build their love relationships on.
I want to marry a man who will support me, emotionally, if I want to work or if I don't.
Or maybe if I want to take classes.
So I can be a better wife, and partner, to and for him.
I want to marry a man who wants to own a house.
That he wouldn't mind putting a little work into.
Alongside me.
And I really think that's the point of all of this...
I want to be married.
To man who will live life alongside me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Ten Things My Pantry Wouldn't Be Caught Dead Without

If I could name ten things that my pantry always, always, always has in it, this is the list. In terms of managing the easiest and versatile cooking, I think these ten items provide a great springboard for a lot of fun in the kitchen!

First up, black beans:

Now, I realize that beans probably belong in the "Top Ten Things My Grocery List Wouldn't Be Caught Dead Without" because they're more like a staple food item instead of a cooking enhancement. However, black beans are so easily used, I thought they belonged here. Need BBQ baked beans? Whip 'em up with some peppers and onions, BBQ sauce, a little beer and bake for 45 minutes. Throw some cumin, lime, cilantro and tomatoes in with them instead of BBQ and beer and you have a mighty fine protein source for black beans and rice. Stick them in a food processor with a touch of tahini, lemon juice and garlic and you've got a great alternative hummus. See? Versatile. I always buy canned, and I always, always, always drain and rinse before cooking with them. Saves your arteries a lot of sodium-laden stress.

Next up, Tabasco Sauce:

Personally, I love the smokey taste of the Chipotle flavor, but I am a huge fan of just about any hot sauce- regular Tabasco, Verde, Tapatio, Cholula. A few dashes of this stuff on any dish adds a whole new level of flavor. Just don't tell anyone about my habit of throwing it on my Indian dishes at home, too, okay?

Honey, honey!

I might have a serious addiction to honey. This is only one of three bottles in my pantry. Honey is, by far and away, my top choice as a sweetener-topping. When baking, I always use sugar (more on that later), but for hot tea, smoothies and just general buzzing around, honey is and always will be my first love. Add it to the BBQ black beans and you can tone down that spiciness of the sauce. Drizzle it over some plain yogurt and fruit, even caramelize some roasted sweet potatoes or sautéed peaches for an entirely different experience. Oh, honey. Oh, sweet, SWEET HONEY!!

Aw, sugar-sugar (you are my candy girl)...

Since going vegan, I prefer the raw stuff, but any good sugar will do. And like a good Southern girl, I also have brown and superfine/confectioners sugar in my pantry as well. Like I said before, I mostly use sugar for baking. Occasionally, I'll dash a little on some sweet potatoes before roasting, but sugar is pretty much essential for any baked good you hope to make.

And speaking of baking:

You can't have sugar without flour. Well, unless everything you bake is flourless (that's a lesson for another day- oh, chocolate torte!). Flour is actually quite versatile in itself. You know about cakes and breads, but you can sift a little with some butter in a saucepan and make a creamy, smooth roux (base) for soup or gravy or an amazing cheese sauce. It also makes a great breading base if you want to fry things, but we won't talk about frying...

Non-Stick Cooking Spray:

Lately, I really only use olive oil in the pan, but this stuff is fabulous if you want to roast or bake something. Just whisp it across your foil-lined baking dish for a non-stick surface that easily releases and cleans up, or spray a touch on some sliced pita bread before baking to whip up some crispy, brown pita chips. It also works wonders on your hands if you have to handle gooey messes like bread dough or rolling messy cookie or cake mix for treats.

Vegetable Broth is water's big brother (and he came to play):

Any time a recipe calls for water (unless it's a sweet baked good), I dare you to use vegetable broth (or chicken broth) instead. Just see how much flavor the broth brings out in the dish. I always thought broth was really just for soups and whatnot. It's not. It's for anything that you need any significant amount of liquid for, and by significant, I mean anything over 1 tablespoon. You can get it in liquid form as above, or in a can; or you can get it in bullion form- a little dried cube that you add to water. Whatever your style, this is one item your pantry doesn't want to live without.

These last three really make up a cook's bread and butter, in my opinion-

Salt and Pepper:

I realize it probably goes without saying, but salt and pepper are really the two most important ingredients you can have. The reason they're on this list, instead of just assuming you know better is because I am a huge fan of grinders, whole peppercorns and sea salt. There is nothing like hand-grinding the salt or pepper you need for the dish. The flavor is so much more fresh and really opens any dish up. I'll probably do a blog on spices someday, and salt withstanding, you should never be afraid to throw 'em in there. That goes for pepper, too. A little extra ground pepper never hurt anyone.

Finally, a good olive oil (which you do not see here):

I don't mean to be a hypocrite. I've been traveling all summer, so my house sitter ran out of olive oil and had to use the stuff I keep in the cabinet for occasional baking. Never, ever buy anything other than Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO, thanks Rachael Ray) when you're buying olive oil. It costs a bit more, but it's totally worth it and if you use it for cooking, not baking, it'll last quite a while. Store it in your pantry- a cool, dark place- and it will make you very happy. EVOO has a fairly high smoking point, meaning you have to get it pretty hot before smoke starts coming out of the pan, so it's pretty easy to cook with. If you combine that with its rich, robust flavor and texture, you'll understand why your kitchen can't live without it. This stuff is wondrous for sautéing onions and peppers or brushing on some skewers or making a simple Greek marinade, or salad dressing, or dipping bread in, or... See? The possibilities are endless. Olive Oil is your best cooking friend...or one of your ten best.

What about you? What makes your Top Ten list? Is there something I should have added here? Anything I should have left off? Leave a comment and let me know!


Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 12, 2011

Long time, no say...


Yes, yes. I realize, it has been a while. A lot has happened since the last time I posted. First, I became very, very busy. Then I became a traveler. Then I came back home and rested from all the busy and all the travel. And now I'm about to be a traveler again, and then be very, very, VERY busy...again.

If you're out there and you're reading this and you don't already know, I got my job back! That would have been the situation in the aforementioned "War of My Life" post that began this blog. I had been deemed unemployed and didn't know what to do, but just shortly after I found myself in such straits, I was returned to the land of the working. However, I don't actually have a position yet because my position was promptly handed off to someone else as soon as I was removed from the job. Nevermind that I was back in the saddle two days later. No matter- it's a good great thing that I'm not at that school anymore.

So, just for giggles, let's recap Jessica's summer (even though she has about two or three weeks of it left!):

1. Went to Austin, Texas for two weeks. One of the most amazing trips of my life.
2. Came home to find I actually did not lose my job. However, discovered this while applying for unemployment and trying to shift status at the district to substitute availability. As a result:
3. Saw the Dr. for a TB test and quick check-up.
4. Found out: don't have TB.
5. Went home to Tennessee for two weeks. Scored $400 Delta dollars for giving up my seat on a tiny plane from Atlanta to Chattanooga. Also scored a (very short) night's sleep in a pretty swanky Holiday Inn Express.
6. Did not feel smarter the following morning.
7. Went to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with great friend and 'Mate, Johnny. Ate at the Apple Barn and visited a place I always wanted to go: WonderWorks (yes, it really is upside down)
8. Returned to LA, unpacked, have been cleaning and getting ready for wherever it is I might go this year.
9. Received August paycheck which confirms that, yes, I DO have my job back.
10. Paid August bills.
11. Didn't complain once.
12. Have seen (this week): Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Crazy, Stupid, Love, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Cowboys and Aliens is on tomorrow's agenda. I think.

And here's the plan for the future:

1. I'm going to be a camp counselor! I've always wanted to do it and the timing or opportunities were always off. Was asked last week, leave Sunday. SO EXCITED.
2. Several more movies to see, including: The Help, One Day, and one or two others, I'm sure.
3. Some sort of touristy things in my own city.
4. Korean least once before school starts again.
5. TERRA NOVA!! (I'm teaching this year!)
6. New teaching adventure.

See? Very, very, very busy. And that doesn't even include the fall camping trip to San Diego for the Zoo and Wild Animal Park. OR the Great Girls' Getaway in the Spring of 2011 to Mexico on a Carnival Cruise ship!

Very, very busy. And very, very, VERY blessed!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Heart of Life

As I boarded my flight and made my way to the very back of the plane, there was this deep sense of apprehension...likely just my extreme fear of flying kicking in. There was also this deep sense of satisfaction. And a tiny little hole began to develop in my heart.

John Mayer is my all-time favorite musician and he just seems to always have the right words when I need them. You'll see me post his lyrics in here often, I'm sure. (Go back a couple entries, they're already there.) As we flew over the vast desert that was New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, somewhere between Austin and Los Angeles, Heart of Life started tinkling in my Skullcandy-filled ears:

I hate to see you cry
Lying there in that position
There's things you need to hear
So turn off your tears
And listen

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No, it won't all go the way it should
But I know the heart of life is good

You know, it's nothing new
Bad news never had good timing
Then, the circle of your friends
Will defend the silver lining

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No, it won't all go the way it should
But I know the heart of life is good

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
Fear is a friend who's misunderstood
But I know the heart of life is good
I know it's good

Pain's been holding my heart to the ground for a while now. And I know life doesn't always go the way it should. But I met a new circle of friends these last two weeks in Austin and they reminded me, in each of their precious and subtle ways, that there is always a silver lining. I've been saying that I am blessed and that I live a fortunate life, but these past two weeks touched me more than I could have ever told any of those people.

I caught glimpses of who people really are throughout my time in Austin, and from what I could tell by the time we finished, in each of our own ways, we needed saving: saving from toxic school environments, saving from end-of-year burnout, saving from uncertainty and anxiety, saving from fear of what lies ahead. These people saved me. They didn't know it, but they helped me realize that fear really is just a "friend who's misunderstood." I started to realize, as people were sharing their favorite moments from our time together, that we all, in our own ways, saved each other.

I mentioned that the hardest moment of all of this would be the morning after we all separate, and we wake up and realize that we're not going to meet each other for another long day of classes. I still believe that even after my plane has landed. My heart has a tiny little hole, and I believe that hole will probably grow just a little bit over the next few days, and maybe weeks. But, thanks to all of my ASNE friends, I'll always remember that whatever state my heart may be in, the heart of life is very, very good.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Austin?! I don't even know him!!

Bad pun out of the way.

Okay, so tomorrow, I leave for Austin, Texas for two weeks!! I'm very excited about this trip because it combines the two things I love most in the world- traveling and learning. I've never been to Austin before and I've heard it's a wonderful city, full of magic and fairies and light. Wait. No. Wrong city. But I have heard that Austin is pretty incredible. I'll be staying at the Doubletree Suites and taking journalism education classes at UT-Austin.

I'm pretty stoked because this is an all-expenses paid trip. That's right, folks. Jessica got herself a scholarship to attend school for two weeks whereby all, and we mean all of her expenses are paid! They already sent my books to me, and the travel agent booked my flight (more on that later). I even get a (very small, but hey, it's money!) per diem to pay for my meals. On top of everything, I will get three continuing education credits and all the scholarly knowledge my little head can hold for the next two weeks! All free.

The classes center around teaching journalism which is something I've been interested in since I started the yearbook program at my high school. I love teaching the kids that there's more to this thing than a pretty scrapbook of photos. I thought teaching newspaper journalism could take myself and the kids one step further. This institute is right up my alley! I really love learning about censorship, responsible journalism, ethics and all the stuff that goes along with it. And, even if I don't teach journalism as soon as I'd like, I'm sure I can translate a lot of what I will learn into all my other classes.

Now, what I'm not too excited about: Pretty much all centers around my flights. First, I fly out at 9:30 a.m. which means I have to get up before God to be at the airport on time. I'm never a fan of early flights. Next, because the flights were booked in such short notice, I'm in the very last row on every. single. flight. I've never flown in the tail of the plane in my entire life- I am terrified. I get scared whenever I get up and walk to the back for some exercise on my flights home. Finally, as if to add insult to injury, my flight home is non-stop on a regional plane. If you don't know what those are, they're the little 15-row tiny planes that usually take you from point A, 20 minutes later to point B. I'm flying three and a half hours in one of these little guys. In. the. last. row. I hope I'm not complaining, even though it sounds like it. I really am just a very nervous passenger, so I think it's more my fear that's complaining than me because...

This is going to be one awesome trip and I am so excited for it! I'm so fortunate and incredibly blessed! Stay tuned for updates from Austin!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Proudest Moment of My Life

I like to think I'm an achiever. I don't think it's one of my top five strengths as determined by the Gallup Organization (See: Strengthsfinder), but I'd bet it's in my top ten. I love the feeling of accomplishment. I love that moment when all the work that's been put into something pays off. I could say that my proudest moment was graduating from high school on my birthday. Or, I could choose my undergrad college graduation - I was the first in my family to continue my education straight out of high school and complete college chronologically. Or, I could say it's the day I got my fancy sleeves and velvety hood along with my giant Masters Degree. I could, in hopeful foreshadowing, say that it will likely be when my son or daughter graduates high school, college, completes his/her doctorate, becomes President...[insert accomplishment here].

It's not.

It's none of the above.

My proudest moment was the night I changed the upper radiator hose in my best friend's car.

Picture it: Cleveland, Tennessee, March-ish 1999. I am a freshman in college. Each Spring, Lee (that's my university) does this thing called Lee Day. It's basically a recruitment weekend in which a million different things happen all over the campus (like it has ADHD or something) and students who are thinking about attending come and discover the campus in real and personal ways. Enter my best friend, Sheron (heretofore known as "Sherry"). Sherry and I had been at one of the outrageous Lee Day parties and decided that we needed McDonald's. Sherry had a car, I did not.

Earlier that day, Sherry loaned her car to our friend, Missi, who drove it to Chattanooga for some reason I can't remember. Unbeknown to any of us, at some point on the 15-mile, all freeway drive, the upper radiator hose pretty much blew completely open. From what we could tell, Missi had been driving the car for at least 30 minutes HOT. Looking back, it was nothing short of a miracle that a radiator hose was all we needed. I digress.

Sherry and I get in her returned car and a very distinct smell comes wafting through the vents and I know immediately what it is (thank God for a mechanic father and an old, 1989 Cavalier for my first car!). I tell Sherry it has to be something with the radiator or antifreeze or something. We call my dad and he says to go out and lift the hood (hey, I was an 18 year old GIRL- I needed direction, okay?), upon which I see a gash about eight inches long staring me in the face with a terrible, flourescent green liquid oozing out of it. Yep, radiator-something and antifreeze.

So, dad says because it's the hose at the top, it's the upper radiator hose. (Rocket science!) He says they cost about five bucks, and take no more than 15 minutes to repair. Easy enough except Sherry's car is the only one we had. In true college dorm-life fashion, we went knocking on doors. Most resident students leave campus as much as possible during Lee Day Weekend. Prospective students are our tourists - we aren't that interested in being around them the entire time they're there. Anyway, we finally find a girl who offers to drive us to AutoZone and I pick up a radiator hose. All that's left is to unclamp the broken one, put the clamps on the new one, squeeze her on there and screw the clamps tight.

One problem. The clamps don't screw together; they're what are called V clamps. V clamps look like this: take your left hand and make a V with your index and middle fingers. Take your index finger of the right hand and slide it between your left-hand V, this should make another V. Those are V-clamps: they can't be opened with a screwdriver. Pliers are the only option.

So, we went knocking...again.

Our RD had a set of needle-nose pliers that she loaned to us. March in Tennessee equals early sundown, so now, we had to move Sherry's car under a parking lot light. Two 18-year old girls pushing a car across a parking lot is definitely entertaining. Especially when such action came about as a result of a conversation somewhat like this:

"You really think we can push this car all the way across the lot?"

"I don't see why not - we found the problem, we found a ride to get the hose to fix the problem, we found the pliers to apply the hose to the problem. How hard can it be to push a car?"

"Okay, let's do it."

So, we push the car. We open the hood, and I set to work on the clamps. I tell Sherry, "Y'know, all this time, I was hoping and wishing for a guy to see us and offer to help, and none have. I don't care if God's Gift to Mechanics walks up at this point. If he's a man, I'm tellin' him 'no, thank you.'"

Twenty minutes, lots of sweat, one gash in the hand to match the broken hose and two very frustrated girls later, we almost had the new hose on. My hands were just too small and too tired to maneuver the pliers on the clamps and squeeze anymore. Enter a very cute guy: "Y'all need some help?" Sherry looks at me- "YES!" I reply. He comes over, and within a minute and a half, has the hose fully set on the radiator. And with that, he nods at us and walks off. I turn to Sherry and whisper, "that doesn't count - I'm injured."

We filled the radiator with water and decided, in light of our accomplishment, to celebrate at Applebee's instead of McDonald's. It was about 9:30 at this point; we started around 4:00.

On the surface, there's nothing spectacular about this story. It's all true and I have the memories and the laughter to prove it. What made this night my greatest accomplishment was not what happened with the car, but my life before and after this moment. I entered Lee in the fall of that year as a very homesick freshman. I spent all my weekends locked in my dorm room and was quite anxious and upset most of the time. Less than a month in, I called my parents and said, "You have a 10-hour drive ahead of you. I'll be packed when you get here." Somehow, in the course of a few months, I'd gone from this frightful, fearful, apprehensive girl to a take-no-guff, laugh it off, try-try-again She-Woman.

I learned that night that the greatest accomplishments are not without hard, tedious, seemingly neverending work. But they are also not without some of the most memorable, happy and profound moments that can be found in life. That moment carried with me for my entire undergraduate and graduate careers and it was the spirit of that girl that said, "YES!" when a big, big God set California in front of me. And the conversation went something like this:

"You really think I can move all the way across the country?"

"I don't see why not- I've set the road before you. I have a plan for you. I've never taken you anywhere you couldn't handle before. How hard do you think I would make this for you?"

"Okay, let's do it."

And I couldn't possibly be more proud.

Monday, June 6, 2011

War of My Life

We spent a significant amount of time this year focusing on our "Expected Schoolwide (don't get me started on how that's not a word) Learning Results," or for short, our ESLRs. Basically, these are the things we want our students to be able to do when they leave high school. It's a sort of checklist that is virtually identical amongst all high schools everywhere. Our particular list is that our students will be:

Critical Thinkers
Lifelong Learners
Effective Communicators
Responsible Citizens

In all the time I tried to get my kids to understand the importance of these traits, I never realized that I don't really exercise my right to display these traits as they have become a part of my personal philosophy. Odds are, I'm probably not as good at it as I'd like to be, but hopefully, I'll get there. And to do so, let's start here:

So, over time, I'm sure I'll get into what I think has brought me to this place that I've been for the past couple years, but suffice it to say for now, it's been a pretty hard place surrounded by a lot of rocks. So, I pulled out Battle Studies the other day because I was, ironically, tired of listening to audiobooks in the car. I came across "War of My Life" and instantly felt like this was my current anthem:

Come out angels,
Come out ghosts,
Come out darkness,
Bring everyone you know.
I'm not running,
and I'm not scared,
I am waiting,
And well prepared.

I'm in the war of my life,
At the door of my life,
Out of time
and there's nowhere to run

I've got a hammer,
And a heart of glass
I gotta know right now
which walls to smash
I got a pocket
Got no pills
If fear hasn't killed me yet,
then nothing will
All the suffering and all the pain
Never left a name

I'm in the war of my life,
at the door of my life,
out of time
and there's nowhere to run
I'm in the war of my life,
at the core of my life
Got no choice but to fight 'til it's done

No more suffering, no more pain
Never again

I'm in the war of my life,
at the door of my life,
out of time
and there's nowhere to run
I'm in the war of my life,
at the core of my life
Got no choice but to fight 'til it's done

So fight on,
fight on everyone
fight on
got no choice but to fight 'til it's done
I won't give up
I won't run
I won't stop for anyone

Yes, it's dark. I've been in a dark place for a while: there's no light when you're surrounded by rocks. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a very optimistic person and there isn't a whole lot that can get me down. I've been down for a long time and I think that's why I'm so drawn to the message of this song. He's so beaten down that he realizes there is nothing left except to continue fighting. As morbid as the second verse is, it is really how I've felt at times in the past year, though not as literally- if there were any other way out besides fighting, I'd take it, but I "got no pills." (No, I have not thought about, nor will I think about, that option)

At the end of the day, all the rocks and all the darkness and all the tired and all the just doesn't matter. It is what it is and I'm not scared of it. I'm going to fight because it's what I do, it's what I have to do. And I'll fight because I am ready. If I've learned anything in my life, it's that I can handle it- whatever it is, it won't be something I can't lick. As much as I wish this place wasn't a reality for anyone, myself included, fact is, I've been there and I'm ready to fight my way out. Choices or not, I'm ready, so bring it on.