Monday, March 20, 2017

Night at the movies

There's something about a new take on an old classic that always makes me a bit nervous. I've seen too many of my favorite books made in to less than adequate movies, and far too many of my favorite movies redesigned in such a way that breaks my heart a little.

But wow, Disney, you did it right this time.

I wasn't all that excited for this new version of Beauty and the Beast. Maybe I didn't want to get my hopes up, but I had almost decided that I didn't need to see it in theatres, but when the opportunity arose to go after school today I couldn't resist.

And my goodness...it was marvelous.

I left the theater and sang with my friend Bekah all the way home. I didn't care who heard and didn't care who stared.

I've always wanted life to be a musical, and watching the movie tonight made it a little more possible, even if only for a few minutes.

And beyond singing my way home, I left the theater with a glimmer of hope. I mean, I know it's a movie. It's a fairytale. First of all, there aren't evil spells cast that turn princes into beasts with enchanted flowers that give them a deadline on finding love. Second, if there were princes that had been. turned into beasts it's doubtful that they would be anywhere near Chengdu. It's a movie, I know...dose of reality realized.

And yet....still, Disney has this way of making little girls (and grown ones) feel like anything is possible.

Beyond all of that, I think my favorite part of the movie was the relationship between Belle and her father. (The fact that Kevin Kline played Mauric probably has something to do with that.) The devotion, the connection, and the sacrifice that are woven throughout the story (and even more so in this updated version) are just beautiful. And my parents live in France...so I'm sure their little town could break into song just like Belle's did.

Okay, I'm rambling....time to put the iPad away (I left my laptop at school today! Aren't you proud?) and get some rest. I wonder what musical I'll watch tomorrow....

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hello old friend

Have you ever gotten so used to something new that you forget just how much you loved the old? In this busy, electronically driven world, I guess there are dozens of things I could be talking about, but my mind is focused right now on just one: books.

I love books.  The stories that waft from the pages into your mind and paint an entire universe where they live out their existences.  The heros, the villains, the twists and turns...they are all so powerful.

I've gotten caught up in TV shows lately, where I can escape reality and just veg out on my couch not having to think about anything.

But books.  Wow.  There is something so different about getting lost in those worlds.

The problem is, so many of my books these days have been loved through the screen of my kindle or ipad. There is something so different about tapping a screen and having a white glow surrounding the words.  It's not that the words are any less powerful, but there is something about their surroundings that takes away some of the thrill.

I love turning the pages. Seeing the wear and tear. The potential of dog-earring the corner when you don't want to lose your spot.

And don't even get me started on the smell of those pages. (I know...I'm strange.  In the words of a good friend of mine, 'You do you, I'll do me.')

And so, on this smoggy/foggy morning, I'm quite enjoying sipping on my coffee and getting lost in another world. We'll see if I emerge anytime soon...



Quick thought (a few ours later): Finished the book in one sitting.  It's been a long time since I did that.  And my first thought upon completion: What shall I read next? This is the life.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Thankful

There was a season where I was trying to focus on things that I am thankful for.  In a time of uncertainty and frustration, I committed to keep my mind on the good.  The places where my cup overflows rather than the spaces where the well runs dry.

And somewhere along the line I lost sight of that.

I got caught up in the craziness, in the busyness, in the stress, in the to-do lists. I found myself frustrated by the unfinished. Stifled by the unsaid. Stuck in the ungrateful.


But that's a dark place, and a place that I don't normally dwell.

Yes, there will be challenges.  Life is full of them.  We grow because of them. If we're not stretched, we'll never know.

And that stretching is something to be thankful for.

And so, today, I'm choosing to be thankful.


As a friend came into my office and talked through a struggle, I found myself overwhelmed by thankfulness for that friendship.

It's a friendship forged in fire and sometimes frustration, but at the end of the day we can talk it out, fight through it, and leave the conversation feeling like something good is on the horizon.  At least that's how I feel.

In this transient life that I live, the friendships go deep quickly and then transition to spanning continents before you know it, but I'm still thankful.

The song from Wicked always comes back to my mind:
I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return


Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today

Because I knew you
Like a comet pulled from orbit

As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
?Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good


It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart


And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
...By being my friend


Today, I'm thankful for those friendships that cause us to grow, that help us weather the storms, and that are constants in our lives regardless of distance.

And yet even in that thankfulness, there's the acknowledgement that it hurts a little.

But that's no excuse not to be thankful.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Caught up in it

This week I got caught up in an assignment. It took over every spare thought and seemed to work its way into every conversation outside of school.

But it wasn't a pleasant assignment to get lost in.

For the past two months, I've been in an class on conflict resolution that has been enlightening and stretching in very interesting ways. I knew going into it that it wouldn't be the most pleasant of learning experiences, because much like praying for patience, working on conflict skills requires conflicts to practice them on.

And I can handle that.

I can deal with conflict that involves me.

But the hypotheticals...those are dangerous territory.

The assignment this week was to look at the Virginia Tech shooting that took place on April 16, 2007, and analyze it to pieces. I read in depth reports, looked at laws that changed, focused on the flaws, and read more about the shooter than I needed to.

I can't help but wonder what kind of relationships he had with teachers...

...where he went to think...

...what would have made it end differently.

That's the thing about education...you can't look back and think about what ifs...there are too many variables and too much that can and will iron itself out...

...except when it doesn't.

I'm thankful to be done with this project, but it's lit a new fire in me.

A fire for the students that find themselves hiding in the margins.

A fire for the students who feel lost and don't know how to navigate it all on their own.

What exactly this fire means and where exactly it will lead, I don't know.  But it's there.

And now to start on another project...oh the life of a life-long learner.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The whole pain thing...

Pain is an interesting thing, isn't it? There are so many forms of it, so many vastly different causes of it, and so many ways that we react to it.

This week I was in pain. Some of it physical, some emotional, but all frustrating.

With the weather constantly changing here, from almost spring back to winter awfulness, joints get confused and stop working. I'm not 30 yet, there isn't supposed to be weather-related joint pain, right? Wrong. But physical pain I can handle. It is frustrating, but you learn to adapt and cope and do what you have to do to get things done.

It's the heart pain that gets me.

I'm still processing, trying to figure out what exactly is going on and why I'm hurting, but I am.

Maybe it's because I feel like I'm totally unprepared to do what I do each day, and definitely not smart enough or wise enough or old enough to help my students figure out what they are meant to be doing and how they need to change some of their habits now.  I'm not perfect...and they're not perfect...and sometimes I feel like there is just this unperfect mess of us trying to figure it out.

But I love my job, and I am learning and growing and figuring it out...day by day and prayer by prayer.

And then there is friendship pain. The pain that comes with us all being human and messing up and inadvertently causing pain to people that we love. For some reason this pain gets me on a level that I can't put words to. The thought of being the source of someone's pain broke me this week.  It was the straw on top of an already precariously stacked Jenga pile that came crashing down.

And you know how competitive I can be. The reality of the pieces falling down around me while I sit in shock that I've failed...that's the pain that may be the worst of them all because there's a shock factor that goes with it.

Sometimes I wish I could do it on my own. That I could retreat to some oasis and just get it done and not need anyone or have anyone that needs me. But alas, community and relationships are key (especially to an extrovert like me).

And so I'm working on sorting out the pieces, waking up each morning and remembering to breathe in and out.

It's been a rough week, but a new one is right around the bend.

So if you've been having a rough week, too, I'm with you.  We'll make it out of this.  We can get through it.


And if you don't know how, maybe a good start would be watching this panda video :)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Seasons


Have you ever gone through a season that was so busy that you kept having “If I make it to _______, I’ll make it through” moments? When around every corner was something else keeping you up at night and causing your suitcase never to quite be unpacked?

'When we've made it through September, we'll know if we're doing okay.'
'Once I get back from the US, things will get back to normal.'
'If I can survive January, I can survive anything.'

That has been the last...hmmm...six months for me.  Six months of something else just around the corner to not necessarily be worried about, but to be thinking of and planning for. The school year is far from over and there are so many things I probably should be doing right now, but taking the time to reflect on six months of crazy seems more important right now...

...and I have a cup of chai made out of Indian tea and Kenyan masala within reach, so that of course makes thinking all the more exciting.

The first semester of school as a principal was so much better than I could have imagined and so much more exhausting than I thought possible. It was filled with new challenges and adventures, trying to find enough time each day to get everything (or just something) on my to do list done, and redefining relationships as I transitioned from teacher to principal and from colleague to boss. Not everything changed, but so many of the "normal" aspects of my life were totally abnormal all of a sudden, and that transition was so much harder than I thought it would be.  It wasn't bad, it was just different and a wee bit difficult.

And then there was the travel.

Every month from September to January I was away from home for at least 5 days, sometimes more. As I packed for my trip to India over the Chinese New Year break back in January, I discovered a suitcase from my October trip to the US that I had never bothered to unpack. October! What on earth! My carry-on was never empty and my passport didn't get a break. Usually I have 4 or so stamps next to my Chinese visa in my passport (which is renewed each spring). Right now I have 10...and that just represents the trips out of the country from May to January this year.

Now don't get me wrong, I love traveling. Since returning to China last July, I've explored southern France with my parents and brother, wandered around Hong Kong twice, prepared for transitions in Beijing with our seniors, gotten caught in a downpour on a coffee plantation in India, and so much more. I've slept through two 7+ hour flights (thank you Jesus for making me someone who can sleep anywhere) and taken one too many of my 'traditional' Starbucks airport pictures. After years of trying and failing, I've gotten to the point where I can actually pack for a week in a small carry-on suitcase. If that isn't a life goal achieved, I don't know what is.

And now, like the calm before a storm, I wait patiently for normal to finally become a reality. My hope is that in February I will cook at home more and worry about what is not getting done less.

And I hope that I can rest.

My word for 2016 was trust, and boy oh boy was that a doozy to meditate on. I was stretched and poked and prodded with that word and the heaviness of actually doing it time and time again, and I think that sometimes I forgot that I can take a deep breath and trust even while doing nothing.

So my word for 2017 is rest, and besides taking more naps, I hope that I can learn to turn off all of the noise around me figure out what rest really is...

And with that, I should probably get back to my homework and lesson planning so that I can get some rest. :)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Reset

Do you ever reach a point and find yourself hitting pause to look at the world around you, wondering how on earth time has flown so quickly and what younger you would think of where you are now?  I find myself doing that an extra heap these days as I get into a rhythm with this school year, my fifth school year living in Chengdu and calling China home.

Five years?!?!  Goodness gracious how can this be the start of five years in a part of the world that I never intended to do more than visit.

Five years.

That's one sixth of my life.

That's three years longer than I lived in Kenya.

Or 2 years longer than I lived full-time in Ethiopia.

A year longer than I lived in Michigan.

A year longer than I lived in Rwanda.

Only two years less than the time I spent in Washington state between countries as a child.

And by the end of this contract, I will have lived here longer than I have lived anywhere.

And so, as this fifth year starts, I find myself wanting to go back to how I saw the world around me when I first arrived, taking pictures of every strange thing at Walmart, amazed by public transportation, and in awe of waking up every morning in a city that is larger than the State where I grew up.

I'm hoping that this year can be a reset.  Resetting any frustration that I find with my surroundings.  Resetting my abysmal language abilities and trying to learn again.  Resetting expectations on myself or the world around me.  Resetting opinions that were foraged in a season of stress.

Sometimes it's just time for a fresh start.

What triggered this line of thinking? Well, last night I went out to dinner with a dear friend and her parents and I found myself in awe.  We sat at a table on a crowded sidewalk where restaurants have taken over the walking space.  Around me, families and friends were reconnecting after a busy week on a holiday weekend.  They were laughing, drinking, eating, sitting back, and just enjoying each other.  On our way to meet another friend, we walked past neighborhood squabbles, street cleaners, fruit stands, and so many other pieces of life that are a beautiful part of this place that I have grown to love.

I realized that it's been a long time since I sat back and enjoyed watching life here happen.

And so, let the reset begin.