Thursday, January 29, 2015

Happy 2015!!

Oh Geez..... November, Jen? Seriously??? November???? I mean, I was off work almost all of December, and I still couldn't find time to write?!?!! Seriously.... 

I stopped by today to proclaim, "I DID IT!!!!!!!!" 

However, if you are reading, and we haven't chatted in real life recently, you would have no idea what I was proclaiming.... and honestly, I am not exactly sure, either! I mean, I am not bragging, but I am celebrating. I am finally sitting, alone, in my office, and breathing in.... deeply.... calmly..... because, well, seriously, God is GOOD... and He is doing things in my life that have never even crossed my mind, and He is doing things in my life to answer prayers I have had forever, and He is showing me His grace, and His timing, and His blessings. 

The rundown: 

1. Let's be honest and get it out of the way - the Seahawks are going BACK TO THE SUPERBOWL! RIGHT!??!?!? I mean - it's a beautiful thing for a football fan, right?!?! 

Ok - now that that's out of the way.... 

Hip surgery - so far, so good! My progress has been so much better than anyone predicted - faster, smoother, and just all around good. I am walking with no limp - less than ten weeks post-surgery. I accidentally ran one day a couple of weeks ago when it was absolutely freezing outside, and it didn't feel! I mean - seriously - that's a GOOD thing! Slow and steady, I am getting stronger, and healing - I know this is a gift! 

I spent a fantastic Christmas home with my family. That's pretty much a given, but still - a beautiful blessing not to be left off a list of proclamations of goodness. 

Things got a little wild over Christmas break... within a week's time, I learned of a job opportunity and a scholarship opportunity. In record time, I completed a job application and a scholarship application. In even faster record time, I had secured an interview and acceptance into a Global Competency Certification program through Columbia University's Teacher College. (More about that in a moment.) While there was a lag in time to schedule the interview for my job (two weeks later) it landed on the Friday morning that I had taken off to schedule my follow up doctor appointments from surgery, Physical Therapy, and then was scheduled to fly out to Austin, TX for annual PLU girls' weekend that afternoon. Appointments canceled, interview set for 10:15. In probably the most record of all record times that have impacted my life, as I was boarding the plane at 3:15 PM, I got the call about the interview that had finished less than 5 hours earlier (it finished at 10:30). 

Job details: unknown, actually, but here is what I do know.... I have been on an "Implementation Team" all year researching options for best practices and goals for what the "Next Generation" of schools will look like for my school district. We are researching things like scheduling, building/space use, curriculum, technology, global competency, etc. It has been a fascinating team to be a part of - so many exciting possibilities. Anyway - there was some movement as one of the Directors left just before winter break to take on a new position in another district. The woman that was overseeing our Implementation Team and the study in general was moved up to be the Interim Director. So, the district was hiring two Teachers on Special Assignment to split her role. Her role is K-12, and I knew it would give me a great opportunity to get some secondary experience. I also knew it would be an opportunity to participate in all of the site visits and do a lot of information gathering, networking, etc. So, I applied. Oh - and I REALLY like this woman - I think she is amazing and brilliant, and I could learn a lot from her. I interviewed, and less than 20 minutes later, I was done telling them all about my hopes and dreams for the position, why I think I will be a good fit, and what I think I can provide to them in terms of experience and mission. As I stated above, less than five hours later, the whole thing off my mind, as I was hopping on a plane to forget about anything but PLU, my phone vibrated in my hand as I was walking down the Jetway to get on a plane. Ahh! NOT PERFECT TIMING! I ignored the call. I texted my principal (who was part of the interview team, btw) frantically, "OMG! Getting on Plane! Randy just called! Do I answer in a rush or wait until I land?!?!??!" Her response came about two seconds later, "CALL HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" And the conversation went a bit like this - from what I remember: 

Me: Hi Randy! It's Jen. 
Randy: Hey Jen. I'd love to offer you the job. 
Me: WHAT?!?! (I think it was really loud on the plane?!??!) 
Randy: (muffled laugh - maybe??) I would love to offer you the job. 
Me: Are you SERIOUS?!?!? (mind you - this guy has NOT offered me three jobs prior to this one) and I totally started laughing. Way to make a good impression, Me. 

We got off the phone and girls' weekend was off to one heck of a start. 

This came on the heels of my acceptance into the Global Competency Certificate program. I included the link, because I am pretty sure it is too early for me to do justice to the impact this program is about to have on my life. Essentially, I will be a student for the next 15 months, online, with people all over the country - and 10 from my district (we got a community partner to give us the scholarships - AMAZING). Anyway - here's what I know - I will be growing my knowledge about globalization, building culturally responsive life skills, understanding the world from a more global perspective and bringing that to education and back to our schools to enhance the opportunities we give our kids as they grow to be competent citizens in an ever-globalizing world. BEST PART: not gonna lie - I truly think this is going to be the best part - I will be traveling abroad this summer as part of the program! Four choices: Uganda, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Columbia... how does one choose?! Well, I chose Uganda as my first choice, Bangladesh as my second. Can NOT wait to see where I get placed. In each location, the scenario is different but it is based on service-learning. I will share more about that when I know where I am going. 

Last week, Thursday (a week ago today, to be exact) - all of a sudden, at 2:15 in the afternoon, my lungs went to pot. I ended up home in bed until yesterday at noon, except for my 3-hour trip to urgent care on Saturday morning to be diagnosed with Influenza A. Uff da. I didn't even have the energy to go to Walgreen's to get my own meds - thank God for a dear friend, Shannon, who went and got them (and Popsicles and jello) and delivered them to my porch (but never came in contact with my gross germs). Tamiflu, cough medicine with codeine, and LOTS of Ibuprofen, and six days in bed, and I now feel like I am exhausted with a bad cold. No worries - doc said I will only feel exhausted with a potential cough for 4-6 weeks. Oh brother.... 

However, I think this is where the proclamation comes in. I have also been working on my student loan for the university I am getting my principal license from.... yes, this is probably the craziest time I have experienced in my life, but I have ONE class left and it started today and I was already registered before all of this other stuff came about, and I am GOING TO FINISH. So - the loans went through YESTERDAY - HUGE stress GONE. And so... I can PROCLAIM: 


I finished my first week of classes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night. I am energized (and wired, apparently, as I furiously pound this message out post a 14-hours day of work and class). My first two nights of online courses for the GCC have already been inspiring and motivating and have introduced me to some amazing people that I can't wait to get to know. And, the countdown is ON: Six weeks of crazy and I will be done with principal school v.2.0 classes, and I will have Thursday nights free again. I can do six weeks! Six weeks ain't got nothin' on me!!! 

Whew... so... there it is.... the fastest, craziest version of the nuttiest time in my life that I am elated by... 

Now.... bedtime. 
:) j. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

day 30... another day....

It's nearly impossible for me to believe I have finished ANOTHER November... it is crazy and wonderful and heart-warming, all at once. There is nothing that fills my soul, recharges my batteries, and gets me ready for Christmas, as thoroughly as November, and focusing, intentionally, on giving thanks, daily, for the month. This year has been no exception, and has maybe surpassed the usual amount of emotion that runs through my heart and soul during the month, simply because I have had to live November, this year, with excessive amounts of vulnerability. 

I am thankful that I have survived the last two weeks in a vulnerable state, and have not once tried to be stronger than I actually am. I have not avoided or declined help and support. I have taken it in fully, and this has been the best recovery period of my life. I have been blessed in ways that I am still figuring out. Just today, I got a text from a friend that said her family has been over to my house today to make sure the snow is cleared from my driveway and porch, ready for me to return home tomorrow. And, this friend? Yeah - she is undergoing surgery of her own tomorrow morning. There are probably a million things she needed to be doing at home today to prepare her home, her two boys, her hubby, and herself for her upcoming 6-week immobility, but instead, she was making sure my home was ready for my return. 

My family, per the norm, has been so gracious, and loving. Today, I spent a couple of hours playing cards with grandma and grandpa and Gracie and mom and Jerrin.... it was so fun to just sit - no rush, no agenda (except to win a game or two), and laugh and play and enjoy being warm and cozy together at grandma and grandpa's kitchen table. 

I am so tired, and I have been reminded of the amount of energy recovery takes. Unlike last time, for my appendectomy, this time, I really was able to safely rely on friends and family to help me out and get me through. I am anxious to get off these crutches (hopefully Friday), and I am anxious to be able to give back and help out, but more importantly, I am so incredibly blessed and thankful to feel so well-loved and cared for this month. It shouldn't have been unexpected, for I know that I am surrounded by some of the most wonderful people on the planet. However, it was unexpected, because I know how busy all of the people in my life are, and I didn't expect them to put me first. But, they did - more than once, over and over, they poured love on me and got me through another November, and an especially exhausting, fragile last two weeks. 

The tears are sitting at the edge of my eyes - for I have been touched to the core, and for that, the gift of being moved by community and an outpouring of love, is something to never take lightly. I am thankful for the gift, and more thankful that I have been given the soul that notices and has grown to receive such a gift with the utmost gratitude. Thank you, to each of you, that have impacted my November 2014. 

~ j. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

day 29... hmm...

I have the stomach flu. The really bad kind. After 26 hours without food, I attempted a popsicle and struggled to finish it - it was a junior pop. I can't put anything in my mouth and swallow. I have left the couch twice today, both times to go to the bathroom - the second time, dad had to help lift me off the couch because with my current need for crutches and the ability to only put pressure on one leg, I couldn't push myself up alone. It has been a long day. 

So - what to be thankful for... 
Maybe that I was home, with mom and dad, rather than alone at my own house. 
Maybe the fact that I had no pressing agenda for today, so nothing was missed, and I didn't have to travel. 
Maybe that (fingers crossed) the worst might be behind me, and as I go to bed, I could potentially hope to wake up feeling better tomorrow? 
Maybe that my dad has taken good care of mom and I, bringing us 7 Up, and popsicles, and helping me off the couch. 

I am not really sure I care a whole lot about any of this, but I know I should... 
it could be worse, and it's not.... thankful. 

~ j. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

day 28... Black Friday...

I missed Black Friday festivities today... it was very sad. 
I replaced said festivities with online shopping, from the couch, with my non-shopping sister, while our shopping-sister took our niece on her first Black Friday trip. 
It was very sad for me... but it made me very thankful for the trips of the past several years. 
So many fabulous memories with my mom, my sister-in-law, my sister, and my brother. 
So many laughs. 
So many naps.
I missed it this year, but appreciated having the memories to call back and realize just how much I appreciate the time with my family members laughing and having fun. 

~ j. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

day 27... my hearing...

Strange, you might be thinking, but I was so incredibly aware of my hearing today, on Thanksgiving Day, that it was crazy and I know it is what I need to post about today...

I woke up to mom and dad chatting and giggling in the living room, and I couldn't even get back to sleep. I laid and listened for a bit and then it lured me in and I wanted to be there, in the living room, with them, the fireplace, the ads, and the comfort of home.

My cell phone started notifying me early that loved ones from afar were thinking of me today and wishing me well. I love those simple, quick reminders.

Later, I heard the kitchen appliances, and knives, and water, and all of the little details of getting ready for a big, fun, family dinner. Maybe I haven't noticed them before because I am usually helping to make the noises. This year, since I was sitting, I was very aware of all that was going on. And I found myself enjoying the details of all of the sounds all throughout the day...

When we arrived at Grandma and Grandpa's, I listened to them chirp at one another, and then at me, and then welcome everyone that entered their home on their first Thanksgiving in it. As people arrived I heard the greetings, the noticings of the favorite foods, and all the smells. As we gathered 'round the table, holding hands, hearing the voices in my family (missing a few due to the flu and work), say the words to the Lord's Prayer, as we do at every gathering, my heart melted.

The chatter at the lunch table is loud and crazy and beautiful. Some of the loud is to help those who are losing their hearing take part in the conversation. Some of the loud is simply because we are a loud crew and we all talk at once. Either way, it's a family I call mine, and I love it; fully.

Post-lunch, we spread across two tables and play. I heard the dice. The cards being shuffled. The banter and the cheers and the frustrations - seriously - games are no light ordeal with this crew! The giggles and the belly laughs remind everyone that we are in it for fun, just as much to win it. Apples-to-Apples was one game of choice this year at the younger table... the older table was playing pinochle... Tenzi took over at the younger table... fun. fun. fun.

I snuck off to the den to lie flat for a while, and to watch some Seattle pre-game show TV. I could hear the muffled interactions, chatter and laughter, from down the hall. It was so calming and comforting, it nearly lulled me to sleep.

And, of course, the icing on the cake was hearing the TV as the Seahawks won a huge game tonight against the 9ers. It wasn't the most important or special thing I heard today, but it sure was fun to be able to hear. :)

Yes, today, I heard so many beautiful sounds, reminding me of so many of the blessings in my life. I am so thankful, not only for the ability to hear the sounds, but for all those that make sound in my life.

~ j.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

day 26... rest...

I take it for granted... 

I pretend I don't need much... 

I deprive my body, and therefore my mind... 

I am half-way through week 2 of what is supposed to be intense rest...

The first four days went well - mom was there to hold me down... 

The next week on my own, I was determined to be Super Woman... 

Today, at mom and dad's, with a few guests to help out throughout the day, while I was alone, I felt the impact of rest... 

I hardly moved my body - seriously - I got out of bed at 10, moved to the couch, and got off the couch twice between 10 and 7... 

I had slight moments of feeling lazy and "gross"... 

but as I drifted in and out of dreamville, I realized, this is what rest is - it is not guilt; it is not rushed; it is not lazy...

Rest is healing... rest is recovering... rest is fulfilling and energizing and healthy, and I needed this time of rest, both for my body, and my brain, to realize how beautiful rest is... 

So very thankful for this rest period in my life today... 

~ j. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

day 25.... home...

Seriously... when I got HOME tonight, this sign was waiting for me from the kiddos, and this care package was waiting for me from Wollan and her fam.... SO BLESSED.

I am exhausted after a long, but wonderful day.... so keeping this short....

Whether 1500 miles or 300 miles,
whether I am living in a house or an apartment,
even with the best of roommates and the best of friends,
HOME is simply being with mom, dad, brother, sis-in-law, sister, and my favorite kids - the niece and nephews.
Never fails, when I truly get HOME, life just feels better.

So thankful for a good day that started with an honor retreat with my staff that I loved so much! I had a great time and it was SO good to see everyone. Dear Friend, Shannon, picked me up and took me to our retreat, then came home and helped me get packed up to come home, and had lunch with mom and I. Then PT went well again. Mom and I got to spend 3.5 hours chattin' in the car. Met up with Dad and Sister for dinner. The snow started to fall just as we were pulling into town, and when I walked in the door, I was greeted by this life-sized poster from the kiddos.... seriously... it doesn't matter how tired I am, this day has been just perfect.

:) j. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

day 24... my Cornelia staff-mates...

I went to work today... not for any reason other than the fact that I had a meeting set up with my principal and my university supervisor for my internship. I had hoped to be there for two hours, max. I should have known better. :)

I didn't even get into the building before two co-workers were with me trying to skate in on the slippery sidewalk. Kathy and Amy offered to help in any way possible, sadly, they couldn't carry me inside. But, they could hold the doors, carry my bag, and just welcome me "home" and be genuinely happy to see me. And Wendy walked up as I was waiting for my crutches to dry inside the first door, since there was no mat there.

Then, before the meeting even started, Kylee, Courtney and Tom spotted me and bombarded me in the principal's office with hugs and smiles galore. So good to see them!

When the meeting was over and I was finishing up with my university supervisor in my office, with the door open, I can't even tell you how many people stopped or waved or smiled as they walked by. Once my supervisor was gone, people stopped in left and right and it was GOOD... so. very. good.

Nina made me stuffed acorn squash for lunch - amazingly warm and comforting, and so incredibly thoughtful. David helped me carry my bag from the copy room to my office after we chatted for a long while about how I am doing. Michael wanted to know all about how things are going for me. Linda stopped in to check on me and offered a Starbuck's run, since she had a break in her conferences.

Terry stopped in a few times, which made it feel like a normal day at the office! :) Nancy checked on me and shared my sentiments about the exhaustion of recovery, as she has just wrapped up her own health battle. Patty stopped to say hi and check in and give me a laugh or two, as did Debbe. Christine stopped in and gave me a hug and even kissed me on the top of the head and then apologized a few times - haha - I loved it! And then I realized that I haven't washed my hair in a couple of days and I felt bad for her!

I am sure I am missing a colleague or two - there were so many that stopped by today! Oh - Sherron fixed my computer, and Crystal stopped in to say hello.

Still - I am sure there were more.... but, the whole point is how thankful I am to be part of a staff that welcomes me with open arms and cares for me so well. It is no wonder I missed them so much in the last week! I can't wait for the next couple of weeks to be behind me and for me to get to be back with them in full working order, full time.

And BTW - today was parent-teacher conferences, so these colleagues of mine had LONG, busy, full days. Seriously - they did NOT have time to be chatting it up with me. So, those that didn't get to stop in today, A: didn't know I was around, and B: had much more important things to do. And I don't mean to be pointing out anyone that didn't stop by - I have received countless numbers of texts, emails, Facebook messages, notes, cards, meals, and visits from my co-workers. They are just SO GREAT!

:) So, thank you, to each and every one of my Cornelia friends and family, for all of your thoughts and prayers and love!! And, of course, for your friendships....

~ jen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

day 23... my church...

First, I am uber-thankful today for my friends... Mary and Ray and Aaron have been like my family away from family since I moved to Minneapolis, and they filled that role again today as I laid on their couch and watched football. Ray picked up lunch and brought it home for Mary and I after he took Aaron swimming, and then he did my laundry. Seriously - the guy is practically a saint. And then they do things like walk me to my car, and carry my bags, and just let me be part of their life, even when we can't do anything fun together! 

And then there is my most-recent favorite roommate, Katie, who also came for a visit tonight. I miss living with her because there is never an end to our conversations. Seriously... we had so much catching up to do, comparing of surgery stories, since she just got her knee all fixed up and we went to the same surgery center. Her new job... my classes... and of course, we had to catch up on the latest TV talk! Such a fun evening!! 

But, I started my day at church - well, two hours after I woke up - yes, TWO HOURS, that is how long it takes me to do anything, and I didn't even do much to get ready. It's just that I need to sit in between movements so often. Man are my arms falling apart from carrying my body all over the place this week. Ouch! 

Anyway - church was the perfect place for me this morning. It was perfect for my heart and my head, and as I told my mom, I didn't even bother playing the stand-up/sit-down game - I just sat and soaked in the energy around me and sang my heart out. Today's message spoke directly to me as well - on being real. I absolutely loved it. I feel as though I have worked hard in the past two years to just be me, the real, raw, honest version, good times and bad, and it has been so freeing. 

The pastor referenced and read a good chunk from The Velveteen Rabbit today -- gets me every time! "What is real?" I love that real might mean no hair left - favorite part. :) Real is being so incredibly loved.... I know that I am that incredibly loved, both humanly, by family and friends, and even beyond any love I can fathom, as a child of God, which is what has made me real. It's such a beautiful gift that I have not given enough admiration to in years past. However, as I have attempted to live with my identity in Christ as a consistent anchor for how to live my life, I can't believe the ways my life has improved. 

When I found Wooddale Church, I was blessed with a fabulous ministry for single 30-somethings. My closest friends came from that group. Over 6 years, the dynamic has changed the group has dwindled at church, but we have remained dear friends. Recently, I switched campuses, since I now own a house and know that I won't be moving anytime soon. I wanted to find a church that was closer to my community, and luckily, Wooddale has a second campus that they are trying to grow. It was with hesitation and reservation due to not knowing anyone, and knowing the last time I visited, I was one of about 12 people in attendance, and the other 11 were at least double my age. No judgments, but not necessarily where I was going to find a new running partner, or coffee date. 

Anyway, I started there again this fall, and it has been met with one blessing after another. The church is growing at a beautiful rate, it seems, by the looks of the pews on Sunday mornings. The pastor and his wife are full of energy and burning with passion for our community and the families within it. There are smiles and hellos in abundance, and the number of people is so perfect that some of them look familiar from week to week. However, the greatest gift started with coffee. Pastor Kyle and Mindy, Coordinator of Children's Ministry, took Jess and I out for coffee a while back. We made the connection, and neither Kyle nor Mindy has let it go since, in a good way. 

Leading up to surgery, Kyle called and emailed to see how the church could support me. Then, his dad, one of the visitation pastors, met me at the surgery center before surgery - after he called to see if this would be OK a week before surgery, and then he called me twice after surgery to check in and see how he could support me. Mindy sent me a card in the mail, as did the pastor that oversaw the 30s group I used to attend. And since surgery, Kyle has called and emailed again to check in. Seriously - FOR ME. They are showing care TO ME. It feels so surreal, and so wonderful all at once. This morning, at church, of course it is awkward to get through the crowd on crutches, but I never felt judged for having to wear my workout clothes. People greeted me, held doors for me, picked up my keys for me, and smiled at me. And when I left, and I banged my crutch into the door and broke part of the trim off, they laughed with me and reassured me it was fine and they would take care of it and I should go and have a good day. Seriously.... THIS is the kind of love I want to show others and I have long searched for in a church. 

So thankful that the church home I have dreamed about is finally not within reach, but where I call home. 

~ j. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

day 22... not sure...

Yesterday, I got back to my car after my escapade through the entire gym to reach a bike for 20 minutes, and I cried. I sat in the driver's seat feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and I cried. 

This morning, I avoided getting out of bed, because I knew the second I touched my crutches my arms were going to start burning and shooting pain. I knew that as soon as I touched the ground with my right foot, I would feel the weight of my body, running through the crutches, straight to my arms and shoulders. 

In class today, I was distracted by how badly I had to go to the bathroom, and weighing the cost of holding it to the very last second, as a better option than having to crutch all the way out the classroom, down the hall, into the bathroom, and back again. 

By about 1:00, I was spent, but I sat in class anyway, because it felt like the easier option to sit there than to try and make it to my car on dwindling energy and even less willpower. 

Within moment after I got home from class (after resting in my car for a few moments before I drove home, and again before I got out and made it into my house), I was asleep. Sound asleep. Cuddled up under 3 blankets - all gifts from people that I care about and that I know care about me. I slept like a rock, or a baby, or whichever sleeps more comfortably. 

Four hours later, I woke up, and I felt just as sore, and just as leery of trying to get off the recliner and move my whole being on one leg and two arms, but my mind felt a little stronger. My mind remembered, after a good long nap, that this is temporary, that things could be worse, that I am going to make it and if I stick with it, even if it means just lying around when my arms hurt too badly to move, I am going to come out healthier and more ready to take my life back. 

Today, I am thankful for long naps that come easily and are much needed, and a healthy mind that is stronger than my body right now. 

And, goodnight. 
~ j.