Sep 22, 2018

Detained

The third week of school brought on the introduction of autobiography requirements.  Often when our students hear the word "auto-bio-graphy"  they panic.  It sounds so official and daunting, but in reality it is simply writing reflections on things that have happened in their lives.  Many students hate this graduation requirement and spend months dragging their feet on getting started.
I have no problem talking about things that have happened in my life and what I learned from the events, so I truly struggle to understand why people hate it so much.  How can talking about memorable things in your life be so dreadful?
This week I was asked to lead a group of students in an exercise that would serve as a launch-point for writing autobiographies and attempt to prove to students how fun writing about their lives could be.  I was pumped.  I was handed the writing prompt "Name a time you were caught."  and knew this was going to be fun.

I decided the best way to get the students interested in writing their own story would be to share mine.  There really are quite a few to choose from....I went with the one with the most action and greatest potential consequences.  I told them the story about the time I was detained by local law enforcement for vandalizing someone's house.  To be clear "vandalism" consisted of about 36 rolls of toilet paper and some plastic forks.  We knew we were caught when a light flipped on, then things got serious when we found ourselves being chased through the neighborhood by the barefooted, half naked homeowner.  We managed to outrun him and were walking through the neighborhood, laying low and trying to decide just how long we would have to waste before we could safely return to my friend's car, when suddenly we found ourselves dead center of a police searchlight.  And there we were sitting in the back of a police cruiser, being returned to the scene of the crime.

After leading with my shenanigans I sent the students off to write their own stories.  My grand plan was for them to write about the time they got caught for about 5 minutes, then we would talk about consequences and what we would do different if we could re-live that moment.  Unfortunately, the students didn't have as much buy-in as I hoped and we never got that far but I started thinking about the last two parts of the exercise.
What did I learn from this event?
1. The county line thing from Dukes of Hazard isn't real.  The whole time we were roaming through that neighborhood we were thinking if we could just make it to the border of the next city we would be out of the jurisdiction of Folsom PD and be safe.  That was silly.  Not that we made it to the border anyway, but still.
2. When pulling off a prank on someone it is vital that the person will see the prank as a friendly action and not an actual attack or crime against them.  Turns out, the person whose house we were "vandalizing" was not a friend of my friend, but an actual enemy.  They hated each other.  I would like to think that if I knew this prior to the prank, I wouldn't have participated.  There is definitely a difference between toilet papering a house, shrink wrapping a car or tying the shoe laces together of a friend than an enemy.
3.  Justice.  The overriding lesson of this event was that justice was served. Fair, reasonable consequences were handed out.  The homeowner asked that we return first thing in the morning and clean up every last ounce of toilet paper from his yard.  My parents restricted me from doing any social activities outside of church.  That might seem like a huge consequence but the reality was, I was 13 almost all my social activities were with my youth group.  In fact, I learned how to tp a house with my youth group.  But, my parents saw that my heart was not to vandalize someone's house out of malice, but just a kid having fun, causing temporary damage as a joke.  My consequences really did fit the crime.

Detained - not arrested.  There is a big difference!

Sep 18, 2018

Be Somebody

60.
There are 60 new students at the school I work at, bringing the total number of students to just shy of 200.
I know the names of all of our returning students.  
All of them.  
Some may take me a minute to recall, others I know so well I could tell you their hobbies, vacation plans, dream jobs and list the projects they completed last year.
For me to be successful at my job, I have to build relationships with my students, gain their trust and help them believe that I will do everything I can to help them succeed.
In the first few weeks of school I make it my mission to know as many students as possible.  Not just know their name but KNOW them.  I link their face and their name with an important fact that I can recall later on and show them that they are valuable and they matter to me.

I have just a few days, maybe a week, to add the names and faces of 60 new students to my memory bank.
I stand at the bottom of the stairs or at the main entrance and greet each student that walks in by name.  As I walk through the halls, I'm constantly scanning and naming the kids.  I pursue the ones that seem to blend in and drive their name into my mind so that it sticks.

I cannot count the number of times that I have approached a student, called them by name, inquired about some fact or story that they told me in the past and watched their entire countenance brighten as they are shocked that someone has noticed them and taken the time to remember them.

Today, I started a conversation with a new student who I will be working with quite a bit this year.  We talked about what she was interested in, how she preferred to receive help, and she shared some of her hopes for the school year and her future.  She looks tough.  Her body language, he clothing and her piercings and tattoos all scream "leave me alone".  The more we chatted, the more she opened up to me and she said something that broke my heart a little.  As she was explaining to me that she wanted to become a youtube star she said "I know it is every teenager's dream to become a famous youtuber, but thats what I really want to do, I want to be somebody".

I wanted to tell her  YOU ARE SOMEBODY right now.  You don't need followers or subscribers to prove that.  You don't need to become somebody else in order to be the right somebody.  You don't need to hide who you are to be somebody someone else wants you to be.
But I didn't.
I simply said.  OK.  I asked about her knowledge of making videos and such and moved on.

Hours later, I couldn't shake what she said...."I want to be somebody".
Maybe I'll help her become somebody better at math, or somebody who did a really cool project, or maybe if I'm lucky, I'll help her see that she is already somebody.

Jul 11, 2018

Chevre


Not a hurricane, just a named storm.

Is it not a hurricane because we are getting used to these high winds or is it just not really that big of a storm?  I don't know anymore.

Chèvre came.
Chèvre passed.
We are moving on with life.

This storm provided me with one of my favorite mom-ents.  Prior to becoming a mom of teens I would have never thought that THIS would make a list of favorite moments, but here I am, doing my best to help these two boys become awesome men and sometimes things don't go well. I'm making mistakes, they are making mistakes, and it is messy.  It was in the mess that I found beauty.

Like many times in the past, some whisper in the wind, tug at my heart, thought in my head, or spirit of knowledge moved me to catch my little rascals being naughty.  I was spent, exhausted from the previous situations we have dealt with, and simply frustrated.  I called the boys both in to my room.  Even though their transgressions were different, I lumped those boys together and just let them see my broken heart.  I didn't try to be stoic and parental.  I cried and explained why their choices were making me sad and disappointing me.  We discussed consequences, I said my peace and released the boys from the torture chamber, but they didn't leave.  Their eyes were puffy, they were guilty, regretful, and their hearts were sad.  

One said he didn't know how he would have a good time during our upcoming family vacation with all this weighing on him.

This.
This is when I got to do the thing that I hope I never forget how to do.
I looked them each in the eye and said the most simple, yet powerful words.  

"You are forgiven."

No crime is too great, no thought too shameful, no choice too poor, no words too harsh and no thing is too big not to be forgiven.
Oh that the boys will remember those words.
Sure it would be great if they never need to be forgiven, but I'm a realist, the storms aren't over, there will be more discussions, more tears and surely more forgiveness.
I can't describe why this moment was so powerful for me, but it has something to do with showing grace, showing them there is a way back.
There is always a way back.
It was paved long ago in the death of a Savior on a cross.  The cross that forgives me, it forgives them, and it allows me to offer unmerited grace just as that grace is shown to me.

To all who need to hear those words today...you are forgiven.


Jul 10, 2018

Have you ever noticed that the things that you don't want to grow do so at an alarming rate but the things you want to grow seem to take forever?
The yard at my Olympia house is the perfect case to prove my point.  The front yard has a lovely patch of green grass with a little clover here and there and a bald patch.  The backyard is completely overrun by weeds.  Like, if there was such a thing as a weed garden, I have one.
The house has been empty for a month so I have to drive down to Olympia to water the grass and mow.  I have long since given up on watering the mess in the back, I have focused my efforts over the past few weeks on keeping the front looking nice.  I sprayed weed and feed in the front, pulled the big weeds out, give it a good soak at least once a week and I bought some of that all in one grass/soil/fertilizer to try and restore the bald spots.  I was feeling hopeful.
Upon returning to the house this week I found that not a single blade of grass has sprouted up in that all in one business but every single weed that has ever existed in the grass has multiplied.  I am not sure I can even describe the back mess, it is a jungle back there.  If you cut heads of lettuce in half and laid them out across your yard covering every single inch and then put random yellow flowers that were 3 feet tall in the middle of each head of lettuce - that would be my backyard.  If there is an award for the largest weed like there is for the heaviest pumpkin, I might be in the running.  And yet while those weeds seem to be on steroids, the grass is getting brown and the little new seedlings have done nothing in the direction of grow.
How is it possible that with the same amount of rain and watering the weeds grow 10-fold and the grass turned brown and nothing new sprouted?  How is it possible that I poured all kinds of bad for the environment chemicals on those weeds and they still grew?
I don't know the answer to this.  I'm sure a turf-ologist could shine some light on the why, but the fact will still remain: the unwanted things have superpowers.

The same is true in my life.  The things I want to grow, the good things, the patience, self-control and peace are so hard to cultivate, but the things I don't want, the anger, negativity and gluttony (its vacation week and I ate a lot of junk) seem to come so easily.
Mold, moss, clover, those long stringy weeds that wrap around you and stab you with little poky things disguised as innocent leaves - those things don't seem to need much to thrive.
But the plant I was given on the last day of school that is now a shriveled up mess of brown twigs, new grass, strawberries in the garden, fruit trees - need time and just the perfect amounts of water and sun.

Why can't the weeds be hard to grow and the grass come easily?  Why can't patience be the natural thing while frustration is something you really have to work hard on?