Sunday, October 25, 2009

Heavenly Father's Projects

The last two weeks have been so busy - many days I have had almost no time to myself, with constant demands or commitments to my family, my calling, my students, the literacy coaching work I do at the high school and the two middle schools, and other commitments such as the work I occasionally do with the Oregon Dept of Education.

There were several big, one-time events that I had a major responsibility with in the last two weeks--coordinating the logistics for retesting nearly 200 juniors and seniors who haven't passed their state tests yet, preparing & presenting a training session for teachers at Oregon City High School, presenting another two days of training for more teachers at ODE, attending cub scout leader training (not that I needed to attend, but to encourage my new assistant den leader to go).

One morning last week I was saying my morning prayers before leaving for work, and I was going down this long list of activities for the day that I wanted Heavenly Father to please help me with, when it dawned on me--everything I was praying for was a project that I was working on. They were all worthy things to do, but it occurred to me to wonder what projects He had in mind for me that day.

At the end of the day, again praying, I asked in my prayer if I had accomplished any of Heavenly Father's projects for the day. I was forced to admit to myself that I didn't think anything I had done during the day qualified--just busy, busy, busy the whole day. But then I recalled sitting for a few extra minutes to listen to one of my teaching colleagues tell me about her success in (finally) connecting with a difficult class, and I also recalled spending a few minutes in the evening while Maleena and I talked about her day at school (Clackamas Community College).

That was all--just listening. That was what God wanted me to do that day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What it's like to be me in the mornings

A dear friend posted a poem on her blog about her morning walk, and it got me to thinking...perhaps my mornings are worth writing about, too...

The alarm goes off at 5:30, but most mornings I've already been awake for at least 15 or 20 minutes. It's my quiet time, my reflecting time. Problems that were tangled into a knot the night before begin to loosen in the mornings. New ideas come, and I see new ways to tackle what lies before me in the day.

Shower every other morning. Some weeks Mark and I are really coordinated--he takes a shower one day, and I take a shower the next. Other weeks we're on the same cycle, and we take quick turns. Every morning, floss, take vitamins, moisturize and put on makeup. (Not Saturdays)

One of us goes downstairs to start the cereal. We started eating steel-cut oats a couple of years ago, and we've been eating them every morning since. They take 20 minutes to simmer, so one of us goes down and gets the water boiling and adds the oats. Then that one can come back upstairs to get dressed.

Getting dressed: try to look professional, but I don't have to be overly fancy. I usually only wear jeans once a week or so (usually on Tuesdays, Cub Scout days), but most days I wear slacks and a nice shirt or sweater. I used to wear leather shoes more often, but the last couple of years I've gradually transitioned into wearing athletic shoes almost every day. It's just easier, and better for my feet, with the orthotics. Last month I bought some new shoes at REI (the ones I was wearing were two years old, and I had been wearing them almost every day). The ones that fit best were trail running shoes! Hah! I met up with a couple of trail-running gals when I went on my 50-mile hike in 2008, and I was pretty impressed with them. Now when Mark and I go for a walk, I joke that I just might take off trail running...hasn't happened yet...

Gather up the student papers I was grading the night before and put them plus the laptop into my teacher bag. A few quiet minutes for morning prayers, and then downstairs for breakfast. By this time the oats have finished cooking. One of us (usually Mark--he's better at it) scrambles a couple of eggs, and I cut up some fruit. Lately I've been eschewing sugar, so I add a little extra fruit to the oats, and maybe some slivered almonds.

Read the morning paper, check email while we eat. The grandkids are usually up by then, so we chat with them while we eat breakfast. Rinse the dishes, into the dishwasher, assemble the lunches: 1/2 turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, fruit, plain yogurt or cottage cheese for me / sweetened yogurt for Mark, a few almonds, a small bag of homemade trail mix, string cheese. Toss the lunches into our lunch bags, find the employee ID badge for school.

Give the grandkids a hug, head for the door. It's 7:00 am, more or less. We have to be to school no later than 7:30, but we always try to get there before that so we can run off copies, set up lesson materials, chat with colleagues a bit before the day begins in earnest.

I actually enjoy my morning routine. I don't dread getting up and going to work. My mornings keep me healthy and ready to be on top of my day. The only things that would make it better would be to work in some exercise - a walk, or some yoga. I've tried, but I'm not consistent about that yet. Maybe next month!

(If you really read this post, please make a comment. This has got to be one of the driest topics I've posted here yet...most likely interesting only to me...)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October Play Day - at Olallie Lake

Mark and I had our October play day this weekend. Lucky us--we had Friday off, and the weather forecast was good, so we decided to make it an overnighter. We both wanted to try out our new camping gear we bought at the REI garage sale last month, and Mark wanted to do a little fishing, so we decided to camp at Olallie Lake. We had new sleeping bags rated to 20 degrees, and our choice of two new tents to sleep in. Yesterday we loaded up the car and headed to the lake!

We were glad we did it the simple way, with the smaller canoe on top of the Subaru (instead of the larger canoe on the trailer) because the roads were pretty bumpy as we got close to Olallie Lake.

Although we camped at other lakes near Olallie Lake last summer when we went backpacking with Joshua, it's been years since I'd camped here. I remembered how windy it always is, though, so we made it a priority to choose a campsite with some shelter from the wind.

We weren't sure which of the two new tents we wanted to use, so we ended up setting both of them up!

Once we had them up, we decided to sleep in the blue tent in the foreground. It's smaller than the other one, although it doesn't look like it in this photo. The white one has less wind protection, and since it's larger, it doesn't hold the heat in as well. Boy, were we glad we slept in the smaller tent! We were cold during the night. Mark got up about 4:00 to go potty, and he said there was frost on everything. When we got up this morning, we checked the temperature in the car, and it was 27 degrees!!

We were so cold we had to go for a hike to warm up. We hiked about 2 miles to Long Lake. The trail goes through a huge burned-out area. It looked desolate, although the views of Mt. Jefferson were beautiful. It was a gorgeous fall day--just a little cold, since we were camped at 5,000 feet!

I think I get to camp and hike with the handsomest guy in the world. And he is wearing a very classy hat.

Once we had warmed up, we went fishing in the canoe. Well, Mark went fishing, and I paddled so he could troll. After a while he decided on a stationery fishing spot, so I got to read my book for a while.

After we finished playing in the canoe we were cold and hungry, so we went back to camp for lunch. Good thing we had set up both tents, because we took our camping chairs and our lunch and ate inside the bigger tent! Oh, it was nice to get out of the wind for a while. Not much of a view, but it felt good to warm up.

Now we're home...tired, sunburned, and happy that we calendared another play day for ourselves. We feel ready to tackle the day-to-day challenges again because we got outdoors and away from our normal responsibilities. And like I told Mark, "Old people can't camp like this when it's cold, so we are not old!" This proves it...I think...

Monday, October 5, 2009

I want to be like these people when I grow up...

These are amazing and wonderful people: Ken and Nancy Jenkins, my parents. They sent this photo today. They are 77 and 74 years old, and this photo was taken today at the real estate office where they work.

They are healthy and busy every day. Dad has a little trouble with his ankles, so he has to be careful when he walks and limit how far he goes (less than 1/2 mile at a time...) but they are just amazing to me.

A couple of years ago they decided to augment their fixed income by studying up and getting real estate licenses. This has been a tough year for them--only 2 sales so far in 2009--but before the economy went sour, they were selling 1 or more properties every month..and that's in a small mountain community in rural northeastern Washington. They work full time selling real estate. When sales aren't going through, they are still picking up listings, following up on customers, researching properties, you name it. I have never known two retired people who worked so hard.

They live in a small home heated by wood heat, which they supply for themselves by cutting wood throughout the year. They are known for being wonderful neighbors, who never miss an opportunity to help out. They maintain regular contact with their two surviving siblings, two children & spouses, 12 grandchildren, and I don't even know how many great grandchildren.

Mom calls me every Saturday at 8:30 am. I can set my clock by her. She and I chat and keep tabs on the family news. I wish they lived closer! When the kids were in high school and performing in the high school plays, Mom and Dad would drive down (9 hour trip, one way!) for every play performance. But now that the kids are out of high school, we don't get to see them as often. Guess I need to get into community theater, or something like that...

Like Nephi in the Book of Mormon, I can say that "I was born of goodly parents." I love them, admire them, and I am so very grateful to be their daughter.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Remembering Jed

I'm feeling sad this afternoon. I got a call from the mom of a former student a little while ago. She was calling to tell me that her son, Jedediah, passed away on Tuesday.

I think he graduated 3 or 4 years ago. He was in my Reading Writing Workshop 9 class as a freshman, and then I taught him again in Oregon Lit and Creative Nonfiction Writing. Having him as a student for 3 different years, I got to know him pretty well.

Jed loved to write. He wrote with enthusiasm and vigor, if not finesse. His favorite genre was fantasy, and he brought me his chapters from time to time, beginning in freshman year. They were long on plot and short on character development, but Jed loved them.

He was such a nice kid. Always polite.
He got really sick a couple of times during his freshman year, so sick with pneumonia that I was afraid he might die. His family belongs to the Followers of Christ church here in Oregon City, a faith that does not use medical treatments, a faith that shuns its members who do.

During his senior year of high school, Jed stopped coming to school. His younger brother, Zack, was in my 9th grade class by then, so I would get updates from Zack: Jed is doing better, Jed will be back soon. I made packets of work for Jed to do, but eventually I stopped because he couldn't do the work. He was confined to his bed, couldn't even walk. Zack told me they were using herbs to treat M.S. Eventually Jed started to walk again, with a cane, and he finally made it back to enough of school that he barely passed the credits he needed to graduate.

When his mother called me today, she said she knew she should call me because Jed loved to write, he loved my class, and he loved me. I loved him, too.

She said he was happy up until the end, and he smiled every day. She said they had done everything possible for him, had given him all the medical help available. I hope that's true. I hope that if anything good has come out of the recent controversies for the Followers' families, it has been the lesson that they can't keep allowing their children to die without getting medical treatment for them. I hope they will stop shunning one another for taking care of their children.

I feel so torn between my anger and frustration with a faith that allows children with medical needs to go untreated, and my love of the individual students and their very real belief that this is God's will for them.

More ways I feel torn - this morning I got an email from the district liaison for homeless students, and learned that six...SIX!...of my seniors in first period are homeless. No wonder they're tardy and disorganized. Of the six, three of them are some of the brightest, strongest writers in the class, but I rarely see their writing, and when I do, it's always late. They don't have computers, they don't have transportation, but they do have constant crisis and chaos in their lives.

And then there's this: on Wednesday, I was reading a piece I wrote called "Pixie Dust" with my students. I wrote it several years ago, when the high school put on Peter Pan, and Mark was one of the "flyers" back stage, handling the equipment that made Peter and the Darling children fly. It's a chipper, cheerful piece, and the kids always enjoy reading it. Except that this time, I got as far as the second paragraph, and I was sobbing there in my classroom, in front of all the kids. It doesn't say it in the piece, but Mark was the flyer for the character John, who was played by Brad Ventura, who died of cancer at age 22 in June.

It's been a tough week. There's a lot I wish I could fix in the world.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I am sitting here in the student union at PSU, waiting for my new writing class to begin in 1/2 hour. I know there will be times during the term when I kick myself for having signed up for the class, but those times will come and go. I love taking classes! I love the way I go to new places within myself when I take a writing class. (Even if those new places so often include doubts and discouragement...I will never get it completely right...)

I rode the new MAX train from Clackamas Town Center to PSU for my class! The ride is about 50 minutes, which is longer than the drive (30 minutes), but I think it will be better for three reasons:
1. The cost of the roundtrip fare is half the cost of parking at PSU.
2. I can get some homework done during the train ride instead of driving.
3. I am using public transportation, which is good for the environment.

Mark and I rode the train for our Family Home Evening on Monday, so today I rode it with complete confidence - knew exactly where it would let me off, where to buy the ticket, etc. It's nice to not have to worry about the traffic or parking. I parked the truck at the Park-N-Ride parking lot (free) at the Clackamas Town Center, so it will only be a 15-minute drive home once the train drops me off at the Town Center.

The biggest drawback is that my class doesn't get out until almost 9:00, so it will be around 10:00 before I get home. But at least the trains run that late, and I can do this. I had wanted to take the bus before this, but they don't run late to Oregon City, they take longer, and I would have to change buses. This is much better.

Hooray for the new MAX "Green Line" that opened from Clackamas Town Center in September!