Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Youth vs. Bob Dylan

Last night Chris and I went to have dinner at his parents’ house. And we took Bella. I can’t figure out if this was a mistake or not. I don’t know how everyone else felt, but she totally drove me crazy during dinner. She’s a loud breather, and she wanted to be right there at the table next to our elbows. I like listening to jazz music or watching a little TV while I eat; I most certainly do not enjoy listening to loud, heavy breathing! I don’t think I can adequately describe just how loud the breathing is. On the way to dinner Chris was on the phone with his mom, and she asked him what was wrong. She thought that he was scrapping something, but it was just Bella that she heard.

There’s really not much else exciting going on with me. I think that’s good though. The last few weeks really drained me, and I could use a few days of nothing exciting. Chris and I went to dinner the other night at the Green Hills Grille, and then we wandered around Davis Kidd Bookstore. Nothing spectacular happened; we were just happy to be together. Maybe that is spectacular: having the opportunity to relax and enjoy the company of your spouse.

The school year is progressing well. I like the routine of being a teacher, and I like my students. But I am starting to feel older around them than I used to. The kids were naming all these different dances the other day and asking me if I knew how to do them. First of all I hadn’t heard of many of them, and when they demonstrated them I thought they looked stupid. (Of course I didn’t tell the students my humble opinion.) Doesn’t the older generation always see things the younger people enjoy as stupid or a waste of time or strange? In his younger years, Bob Dylan said that you should never trust anyone over the age of 30. A few years ago a student reminded me of that quote and told me that he could still trust me because I was still in my twenties. Well, what now? Have a progressed too far to be a teenager’s confidant? In my defense, I still like a lot of the same shows, movies, music, and products that the kids like. Chris always says that he will grow old, but he will never grow up. “I don’t want to grow up; I’m a Toys R us kid!” I’ve seen a lot of people retain that youthful exuberance and yet also grow wiser. That’s what I want.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Strange Days

I really have not been myself for the last couple of weeks, and my husband is very glad to have his wife back. But in this mini voyage from myself, I have made a couple of self discoveries. First, my personality is significantly altered when I gain weight. Secondly, my personality is significantly altered during times of great stress. In both of these cases, I tend to shift into some sort of self protective mode, and major fortresses are built in record time. I become withdrawn and tend to fixate on work. I am not very personable.

My brother left for Iraq yesterday. More than any time before when he’s been deployed, I have struggled with his departure. While it’s true that this has happened at a particularly stressful time in the year for me with the school year starting and Chris starting his own business, I still think that my brother’s situation has weighed heaviest on my heart. He is leaving behind his wife and four boys, and I have known the pain of not having a father at home. I was very young when my dad was gone, but it had a great effect on me. These are terrifying times we live in, and without my faith in God I don’t know how I would cope. I can assure you that the last couple weeks would have been far worse than they were.

Yesterday I had some time to rest and decompress. And then last night Chris and I went to see The Sound of Music at the school where I teach. During the intermission I smiled brightly at people and sought out friends and acquaintances for a bit of conversation. I have been laughing and just being goofy with Chris. I went shopping with my Mom today. (A little aside: I tried on some clothes at a store and didn’t realize until hours later when I returned home that I had put my shirt on inside out in the dressing room. Neither Mom or Chris noticed either!) Life is beginning to take on a bit of normalcy, and I am breathing regularly.

I still feel a piece of my heart holding tightly to the desperate yearning to change the circumstances and bring Wayne home. But this is our life for now. Hundreds and perhaps even thousands of people will be praying for my brother while he is gone. Mom is wearing a set of Wayne’s dog tags until he returns. It reminds her to pray for him and the others in his unit and, indeed, for all those men and women who are serving, and it also gives her a little piece of him to feel a little closer to. How well I understand that. I too have a set of his dog tags, and holding them between my fingers while I whisper a prayer for my brave, strong brother I can see his smile and feel his presence.

A year, depending on your perception, either passes by far too quickly or trudges on testing your strength and hope. He’ll be gone a year. May that year pass quickly, and may we all be strengthened by the hope we can find only in Christ.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Zombie

For most of the weekend I’ve felt like I was wandering around in a fog. On Friday I stumbled through my last day of in-service with a migraine, and then Chris and I went up to Fort Knox to spend the weekend with my brother Wayne and his family before he deploys to Iraq. I had to climb into the back seat half way there in order to sleep, and by the time we got there I was rather disoriented. My Mom had been staying with my brother’s family all week, and my sister and her husband would join us the next day. With the realization of my brother’s impending departure and the arrival of my new students on Monday, my brain hit hyper-drive, and I was not able to go to sleep until around 3 AM, and so on Saturday I somewhat lethargic. That night we all traveled an hour further north to my nephew Brent’s football game. It was supposed to start at 8:30 which is already a late start for a high school football game. However, another game was already in motion and was running late. Then after we all endured a rain shower which quite sufficiently soaked us, Brent’s game finally started around 10 PM! While it was a good game, sadly Brent’s team lost, and he didn’t even get to play. We didn’t get back to Wayne’s house until after 2 AM, and once again I didn’t get to sleep until around 3!

Chris and I came back to Nashville today, dropped of our luggage, and went to work in my classroom for a couple hours. When I left, I felt like I was as prepared as I could be for tomorrow, but that doesn’t stop me from being very nervous. I’m really excited to be back on the job, but beginnings are often scary. The days and months ahead feel like an epic saga waiting to be written, and I’m just one of dozens of authors jockeying for position to fill up those pages. However, tonight I plan to get in my pj’s early and hop into bed and read until I can’t keep my eyes open. I really hope that my nervous energy and overactive brain don’t keep me awake tonight. I need sleep.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ending at the Beginning

I am sorry that I haven't posted in so long. I haven't even had a minute to be on the computer. Life has been REALLY crazy this week. Tons of stress. Among other things, I've had inservice all week; I've been trying to get my classroom together (actually accidentally stapled my thumb to one of my bulletin boards!), and we found out that my brother Wayne is being sent to Iraq about a month earlier than expected. He's leaving this week. I am actually in Fort Knox right now visiting with him and his family. Chris and I rushed here after work yesterday, and we're going to hang out here for the weekend. I'm so grateful that I have the time to see my brother before he leaves. Tonight we're going to my oldest nephew Brent's football game; my sister and her husband are supposed to come up as well, and I think Dad may be able to make it as well. Mom was already here; she spend this last week up here.

On Sunday Chris and I will go home, finish my classroom, and then go and pick up Bella from Chris's parents' house. And Sunday night I will try to get some sleep, but I usually don't get much the night before the first day of classes. That's not good because lately I don't seem to be able to sleep much at all. Sleep deprivation: that's a good thing to add to the mix. I just have too much on my mind. I think it's time to take that last Lunesta that I've been holding on to.

I don't really have much more to add at this point, but I do promise to try to post more this week. I'm sure I will have plenty to say after the first day of classes. I really am excited about seeing my new students on Monday.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Finding Peace

The world does not feel like it’s getting smaller to me. Sometimes people say that it is because of email and connections to people through other people and the ability to get almost anything you want at any time of the day. But then I watch TV or read the paper, and I start to feel very small in a dark, scary place. On the news: high alert because of terrorists, people dying because of the heat, a vast majority of people naively denying that there’s any reason for our military to fight babies drowning in swimming pools, and so on. And in my own life I have seen so much sickness and death and hardship. The world overwhelms me. So, I find that I have to pull in and focus on the immediate things in life: call my mom, wash the dishes, kiss my husband, walk my dog, play on the computer…. In order to maintain sanity, there has to be some sense of normalcy for me. Oh, and I just remembered, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And I sigh. Sometimes I forget God’s promises. I think that I’ve mentioned this before. I’ve been meaning to find a way to remember them better. I wish that I could think of a way to do a border around the top of the walls in my apartment that would not be difficult to remove. I’ll keep brainstorming.

I only have two and a half days of freedom left. On Sunday night I have my first faculty meeting, and then the school year will be in full swing for me. I love my job, but I am trying to drain every bit of vacation from this week that I can.

Today I went to Portland, TN with my parents to have lunch with my sister at Five Chefs. I enthusiastically recommend this charming restaurant. But good luck with finding it. They don’t advertise, and the sign in the front is tiny and inconspicuous. It’s all by word of mouth, and it seems to be doing quite well. They only serve breakfast and lunch, and there is also a lovely attached store called Occasions which holds an array of knick knacks, d├ęcor, furniture, and accessories. Delicious food, fun shopping, quaint atmosphere. I loved it. And of course I know that my companions lent quite a bit to the experience.

After Eva went back to work, we paid her a short visit at the bank, and then we made our way back to Nashville on Highway 31. I love traveling the old highways instead of the interstate. It’s a most relaxed ride, and there’s always so much more to see and talk about. Chris and I used to spend a fair amount of time driving old highways, back country roads, and down the Natchez Trace. It’s one of the factors of us falling in love. I hope that we’ll be able to take many road trips together in the future.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Just Another Day in the Life

For the last couple days I don’t feel like my life has had much substance to it. I haven’t been reading much or writing or painting or doing anything creative or productive. This is my vacation week, so I haven’t wanted to do very much. Also, I’ve had horrible headache on and off for the past week, and today is the first day that I’ve actually felt like myself. So I don’t really feel like I have anything interesting to write about here, but I hate to go too long without a post.

I had to buy a new cell phone yesterday because the one I had was dropping calls or not getting service or having other random problems. I didn’t want anything special, but we got a really good deal. Since we left the store yesterday I have not stopped playing with it. I know can take photos and video, and I got one of those Bluetooth wireless headsets; it was just a basic phone, but apparently they all come with bells and whistles these days. Yea, a new toy!

We took Bella to the vet today. What an experience! Whenever she gets around other people she becomes a nearly uncontrollable, crazy beast and nearly knocks people over because she’s so massive and strong. Plus she sheds a lot, so while we’re trying to hold her down for all the poking and prodding, hair is flying all over the place covering the doctor, technicians, Chris, me, and the floor. It’s like a tornado of Bella hair! Overall she’s very healthy, but at 97 pounds, she’s about 7 pounds overweight. We think that this is mostly because we didn’t really walk her very much during the winter. I guess we just chickened out due to the frigid temperatures. However, we’ve been walking a couple miles with her in the morning this summer, and we will buck up, bundle up, and take her out this winter. So, as a family, we will all be getting in better shape together. She’s actually smaller than she was at the beginning of the summer, so that’s at least some progress. I think the shots subdued her; she's been sacked out on the kitchen floor since we came home. We’re really crazy about that dog.

Ok, I guess that’s it for today. Maybe something strange and wonderful will happen later that I can tell you about.

Monday, August 07, 2006

365 days plus 2

Yep, folks. We made it. It's actually been a year. It's hard to believe. The wedding and all that bright-eyed wonder doesn't seem like it was that long ago. But what a year it's been! Can a year be considered a milestone? After what we've endured it feels like we've really accomplished something great. We arrive tired and a bit battle scarred and yet still happy together and hopelessly in love. And we decided that a celebration was in order. We honeymooned in Gatlinburg, so what could be more appropriate than to return there to mark another special occasion?

A year does make a difference but not as much as one might think. On our honeymoon, we were practically drifting through the streets with dreamy grins on our faces, and we barely noticed the weather at all. This year it was either hot and muggy or storming like God was out to prove a point. Last year everything tasted like delectable food had been brought down from heaven on silver platters by angels themselves; this year I had to send back truly inedible food, and Chris got a little sick from the food. However, there was one significant similarity about our trip. We truly enjoyed one another's company and were happy just to be together. All in all, it was a very good trip, but if you’ve been to Gatlinburg, I can’t really add much to your understanding by describing the weekend.

Instead, I’ll include a couple pictures.

The happy couple:


A view of Gatlinburg:

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Caffeine Crisis

I failed miserably. I was not able to relax last night. I ended up straightening up the kitchen, dining room, and living room; washing and folding four loads of laundry; and ironing 15 shirts, two pairs of pants, and a skirt. I sat down for just long enough to eat my dinner, a salad with grilled chicken, before I was up and going again.

But there is a reason for my manic behavior.

I had bought some diet pills at the beginning of the week to help give a little boost to my weight loss. Bad choice. You can take up to six pills a day, two before each meal. I was taking five a day. Last night I discovered that the pills have a ton of caffeine in them. I don’t generally have caffeine and certainly not at night. I may have a Coke on the weekend, but I have to be really careful with caffeine. It really affects me, and I was ingesting the equivalent of five cups a coffee. I knew that I wasn’t feeling quite right this week, but it really all came to a head last night.

Let me lay it out for you….

Around 10:30 last night I crashed… for about five minutes. Then I flipped out! I mean I really flipped out. My pulse was pounding in my ear, and I became very paranoid and emotional. Poor Chris! He was trying to calm me down and help me figure out what was going on. I was completely restless and was not thinking rationally. I was really worried that I was really sick…physically and emotionally. Chris prayed for me and read to me a little from the Bible. Then I remembered that the label of the diet pills mentioned caffeine, so I huffed it to the kitchen to check it out. Problem solved. As soon as I figured out what had happened I started to calm down. I wasn’t losing it; I was just hyped up with too much caffeine. I am sure that you will be glad to know that the pills went straight into the trash. I climbed back into bed, put in a Friends DVD, and grabbed my coloring books and colored pencils. Soothing activities. I wasn’t able to fully calm down enough for sleep until after one. What a night!

Thankfully I have a pleasant weekend ahead of me. First I will take advantage of the tax free weekend in Tennessee tomorrow, and then Chris and I are heading out for Gatlinburg. I’m aiming for a leisurely weekend just wandering around the strip, going to the aquarium, eating good food, and really resting. After this strange episode I’ve had and him taking over his company this week, Chris and I really need a non-stressful weekend.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Busy Relaxing

Yesterday I started the day by walking two miles at 5 AM with Chris, and then I did a little laundry. After a very busy day at work, I came home, walked Bella, went swimming by myself, worked out to the Firm, made and ate dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, went swimming with Chris, and finished out the evening writing and reading. Of course this morning I walked the two miles with Chris again, did some more laundry before work, emptied the dish washer, and then had another busy day at work. Bella has been walked and is resting on the floor behind me. Right now I’m simply drained, and I’m sore from yesterday’s Firm workout. I haven’t done that particular workout in a few months, but I plan to add it to my schedule every other day. I thought about doing Tae Bo or walking on the treadmill this afternoon, but I think I’ll just relax… and do a little laundry.

I have a hard time being idle.

Chris is always trying to get me to relax, and for the first six months or so of our marriage I did start to relax. Now, however, I find that I can hardly sit still. When I watch TV or a movie, I feel like I need to be doing something productive. (I really need to learn to knit.) I used to really enjoy watching movies at home, but lately I feel so restless, like I’m wasting time, especially if it’s a movie I’ve already seen. Tonight I’m going to try to relax a little. Even as I write this I feel something within me start to rebel against that thought. I know there is so much to do. I have visions of the dining room table and the living room with an assortment of items strewn about waiting to be put in their proper places, the pile of ironing that awaits me at the foot of the bed, the load of clothes on the bed and another in the dryer that need to folded, the loads of clothes yet to be washed, the items behind me in the office that need to be organized, the sink that needs to be scoured, and the range of other chores. I know that none of these activities are really pressing concerns, and I know that I could just attend to these things tomorrow. However, I start to think about what other chores will inevitable present themselves when tomorrow comes.

I worry about people thinking that I’m lazy. After reading what I’ve written above, I know that some of you think that I’m crazy. I do keep busy, but what if it’s just not enough? What if I miss something really important and let someone down in a significant way? A few years ago this concern got me into trouble. Among other things I taught 7th grade English and theater, directed three plays a year, orchestrated the Renaissance Festival, and led a discipleship group for high school girls. Often my work day was 12 to 14 hours long, and I would only have a break, spent planning my classes and grading, every other day. I was exhausted. I think I said “yes” a little too often that year. While I no longer direct plays or lead a d-group, I need to be really careful not to overextend myself again, even if it’s only in my personal life.

So, tonight’s goal: rest and watch an entire movie without working on anything else. (Chris will be shocked if I am actually able to do this!)