To walk out or not to walk out…

That is the question that was on a lot of teachers’ hearts and minds this past week in Arizona. And the vast majority of them decided to do it….

Honestly, this post has been on my heart for awhile. Ever since I heard about the teachers in West Virginia and in Oklahoma and their strikes. I never really imagined it would affect me so directly though, as it has now that teachers are striking here in Arizona. Being that I am a teacher myself, and a parent of a student affected by this walkout, I am well within my right to comment on this “walkout” and I reserve the right to my own opinion on the matter. Just because I am not in favor of a walkout does not mean I am not in favor of teachers getting a raise or that I am ignorant of the fact that we need one. I also understand that education is “poorly funded” by the State, and that we need more funds to help us do what we do. However, the government does not allocate those funds for what is needed. They just give the schools the money, and those in power in the districts decide where the money goes from there. That is where I believe the real problem lies. If you just throw more money at a problem, it doesn’t mean the problem is automatically fixed. And since we can’t seem to use the money that we are given very wisely- the government and those who dole out funding don’t see fit to give us even more. I totally understand where our leaders are coming from there.

When I started my teaching career 11 years ago, I signed a contract for $33,000 a year. This last teaching job I took, I signed my contract for $35,000. Different school, this time a charter not a district. Doesn’t matter. The fact that the difference in pay in 11 years is only $2k is pretty freaking sad. But here’s the thing. I had a choice. I could have decided it wasn’t worth the effort to be a teacher for so little pay and could have decided to do something else with my time and my life. Because, as an American, I have that choice. I did not have to sign a contract to give a year of my life to teaching students who I did not even know yet for so “little compensation”. I could have walked away and found a job elsewhere. Maybe not with better pay, but with less stress or with less meaning, for sure. See, to me, teaching is not a job. It is my life. It is what I feel I was meant to do in this world. Should I be compensated better for it? Maybe. But that isn’t really my concern. I leave that in God’s hands. He is my Provider, not the government. Not my job.

For awhile, when I was decided on leaving BASIS (whole other story there), I seriously contemplated leaving the field of education and teaching altogether. But the more I thought of myself in a cubicle doing some mundane office job, or even back in the childcare setting, changing diapers and doing very routine, very physically demanding work (cleaning, lifting, bending, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, etc.) I decided that I could not fathom doing any other job and that I would continue working as a teacher. Why? Because it is my life’s calling. I would not feel right or that I was doing what I was created for if I was doing any other job. And so, in the same way, I would not feel right walking out on my students and marching on the State Capitol demanding they give education more funding when the real people that should be held responsible for this are the districts and the administrations of schools. In my school’s defense, it’s a small charter school and they probably really can’t afford to pay me more. But they make it easier for me to make more money for myself by allowing me the use of my classroom for tutoring students outside of school hours and holding a Reading Club once a week. (Honestly, I could have two meetings a week and have even more kids – but I choose not to. There’s that pesky word again. Choice.) I have to convince parents to sign their kids up – but if I do, I can ask whatever compensation I want from them and can keep all of it. I think this is a very fair way to treat the problem of needing more money. I also had no problem asking to be given my compensation during the school year only (thereby getting more money in my checks from August to May) and then working a second job during the summer. It is what I have accepted as the norm for a teaching life. It allows me the freedom and flexibility to be a single mom. I could potentially have Emma come with me to my school if I wanted. (She attends a public school at this point, but with every passing day I seriously question whether I am doing the right thing in allowing her to remain there. Again, a topic for another post.)

Teaching has been called the “noblest profession” precisely because people are not paid a whole lot to do it, but those who are willing to do it in spite of the insignificant monetary reward, are doing so willingly and without coercion. I was not forced to sign my contract for $35k. I signed it willingly and it goes against my sense of integrity to violate my contract (and thereby my conscience) to walk out on my students and leave my job post to strike for more funds. Even if I were to cloak it in the disguise of “I am marching for my students” I would not feel right about it, because I would know deep down, that the end does not justify the means. If you can’t go about something the right way for a just cause, then you should find a different, and better, way to do it.

 

Also, another thing I’d like to add here. I am not a very materialistic person, by American standards anyway. We live in a country that is chock full of opportunities that people in other, poorer countries (even the one right below us) can only fantasize about being a reality. I honestly feel that if we made the teaching profession one that were to make a more “decent, livable” wage, it might attract the wrong sort of people to the profession. Hear me out here. If we made it so that teachers could make 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars a year…. maybe people would be getting into it JUST for the money. As it stands, no one really becomes a teacher because they want the paycheck. And that ensures that they are in it for the kids, and because they want to help others. It is just the nature of people in general that if there’s a way to make money, and it seems like an “easy” way to do it (which a lot of people view teaching as “easy” even though it is anything but) they will be flocking to it. I fear that a lot of people would try to get into education for the wrong reasons if it were paid better. As it stands, teachers have to really love children and want to sacrifice their lives to be a teacher. And to me, that makes it a lot more likely that we have good, quality teachers in the profession. I know it sounds odd, and maybe even a little backwards to think that way, but that is honestly how I think and feel about it. Call me crazy (and many people have – especially lately) but I LOVE teaching, and I won’t do anything that I feel is dishonest or morally incorrect in order to change it, even if it would be “for the better”.

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Looking back

I cannot believe it has almost been a year since my anxiety issues finally spun out of control and landed me in a horrible mess. It took me almost as long to recover fully; though I would say a major breakthrough came when I was switched back to the fluoxetine. Honestly, since I switched back in mid-September 2017 and my body got readjusted to it I have not had one panic attack since. It is AMAZING!!!! I feel like myself again, and have now for several months…and it brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes to recall the horror I went through and how I was so afraid but how, again, God brought me through. I doubted him. I thought for awhile that I was going to die. I was terrified, but even in the midst of my fear, He did not leave me. He did not forsake me. Not even for a moment.

I have realized something very profound through all of this. God’s presence here with us on this Earth is always with us. Though we might not feel it intensely and overwhelmingly all the time, even in our darkest moments, He is still there. Even if it’s just a glimmer, or a spark. It is enough, because even just a drop of God is enough for us. It is enough to sustain us and bring us through the darkest valley. The most terrifying nightmare. The most painful illness. He is always with us. He is the Word made flesh. His Word lights the way for us. His Word is mighty. It is a mighty, two edged sword. His Word will not return to Him as void. He will do all that He has promised us; He will accomplish all that He has set out to do. Jesus is the Word of God, so if we have His Word, we have Him. And His Spirit lives in us – and because His Holy Spirit resides within us, we are never alone. He IS always with us. He never leaves us alone, never forsakes us. We are His and NO ONE can pluck us from His mighty hand! Satan tries to deceive us any which way he can… but He will not be successful in the end. We ARE the righteousness of God, because Jesus lives IN us. He has MADE us worthy of His love and His redemption and when we realize the Power of God that resides in each of us, to do His will and to accomplish His great works in the Earth… God’s Kingdom will come, and His will will be done, on Earth, as it already is in Heaven!

We are His Beloved and He is ours. May we live lives worthy of His Name. Jesus, wash me with the water of your Word. Your love endures, forever! Thank you for all you have done in and through me this past year. Praise you for bringing me through such darkness into such marvelous Light! I love you, Lord. Forever I will sing your praise!

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Prayer: Conversing with God

Prayer has always been somewhat of a mystery to the human race. How should you pray? Should it be long, or short, a recitation, or impromptu, a ritual done every night and before each meal, or done five times a day, facing a certain direction…or something else entirely? Honestly, the way I view prayer now is pretty much the only way I have ever viewed it, starting when I was a young child. Talking to God. Like He is right there next to you. As if you were talking to your Best Friend, your Loving Father, your Most Trusted Confidant. Why do other people seem to have such a tough time with it? Well, as I grew up, and grew apart from God along the way, I think I see why people try and make it so complicated. Because they think there are “formulas” and “rituals” that if they perform them the right way, will bring them close to God, or into His favor. But I don’t see it that way. Jesus said that we must be like little children and when we pray we should do so in our rooms, with the door closed. Not standing on a street corner shouting for all the world to see. By this, I think he meant we should talk to him the way that I did as a child. In my bedroom, at night, while I was waiting to fall asleep. I talked out loud to Him. Oftentimes for hours. And it is where I learned a lot about God. Just by talking to Him, and listening to the things He would tell me, deep in my spirit, I would hear His still, small voice inside me. Even now, I find myself doing so, but many times I converse with him in my head, and not aloud. Alone in my room at night, I still do talk to Him, now not as often as I used to, but I find this way of praying a comfort to me. And a way for me to get closer to my Heavenly Father.

Tonight as I was washing dishes, I thought about a text that my brother had sent me and how a conversation we have been having off and on for days keeps bothering me. I was thinking, how could I reply to him to convince him that my point of view is the right one? LOL I believe that I heard God laugh out loud at me. He told me why don’t you run that text by me before you send it? And that’s when I had this magnificent thought. Maybe if I brought my troubles to God in prayer first before reacting out of hurt or anger, I would greatly reduce the stress in my life brought about by other’s conversations with me. They might be insensitive, wrong, mean-spirited, hard-hearted, selfish, or just plain misunderstood (as text messages often are) but if I bring God my wounded heart first and present to Him my hurt and anger, maybe He could transform it before I reply in my flesh and desire to “get back” at them with a witty, sarcastic, evil response. If we would pause before we respond – as was needed back in the days before instant communication (like our texting, emailing, instant messaging days of today)- if we would pause and bring our hearts to God and ask Him what He would have us say in return, I think a lot of our problems with communication would be solved. Why I never thought of this before, I do not know. It seems pretty simple to me. Pause, and pray, before you react in anger and hurt. “A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1 The Bible literally holds all the answers to our problems. Even now, thousands of years after it was first written. God never changes. Apparently, we don’t either. But that’s a topic for another day, and another blog post. 😉

 

 

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Though He Slay Me…

Yet will I trust Him.

Do you ever wonder “If God is so good, why does he let bad things happen to ‘good’ people?”

There’s a fundamental problem with that question.

We are using the same adjective to describe God as we are using to describe people.

Let’s just get one thing straight. Don’t you think that if God is good, then people cannot be described the same way?

 

I’ll let that sink in a minute.

 

God is God. He is infinite. All powerful. All knowing. Always present. Never sleeps. Resides outside of time and space. And He is Good.

 

We are not.

 

Yes, when God made us, and everything around us, he declared it good. But then, we chose ourselves over Him. And everything went to Hell. Figuratively and literally.

 

So, no, we are not good. And so God does not ‘let’ bad things happen to ‘good’ people. We chose evil over Him. and He let us.

 

When Job says in his book, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him..” That just floors me. Because yes, it is God who is doing the slaying. He is the One in Supreme control of the Earth and the Heavens and all therein. He is the Master of the Universe. So yes, everything that happens, happens because God sets it in motion.

 

Now let’s look at what or rather Who caused Job’s suffering….

Job 1:6 “One day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

Who’s the One who brought Job’s name up? God.

It wasn’t Satan. God asked Satan to consider Job. It was His idea to smite Job. It’s almost like He gave the Devil the idea.

I’m not saying that God is evil. I am saying, this was all His doing. Not Satan’s, as we like to believe and lay blame on him for every little thing that goes ‘wrong’ in our lives.

 

Why do I bring this up? Because I don’t believe that God is shocked or astounded by our trails or tribulations or suffering… I believe He causes it. And that He is good. And I thank Him for it.

He is God and He knows all. He knows all and He does what is best, always. No question. No doubt.

And this brings me comfort. Because if God has orchestrated my suffering, surely He has a good reason for it and will bring me through it and will bring about good from it, and will use it for His glory. And that is an exciting and wonderful and awesome thing to be a part of.

I know it sounds a little odd… but think about it. God knows ALL. He is never caught off guard. He is never unsure. He is never intimidated. He is ALL powerful and ALMIGHTY.

“In the eye of the storm, you remain in control.

In the middle of the war, you guard my soul.

You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn

Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm”

Heard that song on the radio this morning (KLOVE) and it reminded me how God is always in control of everything that happens to me and around me… and because of that I have nothing to fear. Nothing happens outside his will. I am safe and secure there.

And though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him.

God give me grace to do just that. Forever.

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Beauty for Ashes

A few months ago, I went through some shit. That’s the best way I can describe it, concisely. Sorry to those who have sensitive sensibilities, but this is my blog, and I can use profanity when and where I see fit. And this is such a time.

I don’t say this lightly. I honestly thought and felt for awhile that I might die. I have struggled with anxiety and depression probably my whole life, as far back as I can remember but was never diagnosed with any problem until I finally broke my silence about it back in December 2014. I told my doctor, my primary care physician, that I had just gone through a break up and I felt like it was my fault because of my anxiety issues. She gave me an assessment and then suggested I go to counseling and go on a low dose of Prozac, to see if that might help. I did go on the Prozac but told her I could not afford the counseling and did not look into it further. I honestly wish I  had tried harder back then to get more help, but I did not know how deep the rabbit hole went, until things started to get progressively worse.

I started experiencing panic attacks in February 2016. I went off the Prozac six months later because I was convinced these attacks had been brought on by the drug. To this day,  I don’t know if that is true, because even after I went off of it, I continued to experience attacks and they grew more and more frequent and intense, until May 2017 I was in an almost constant state of anxiety over one thing or another. By this time, my doctor had practically begged me to try another anti-anxiety med – this time she was pushing Zoloft, but I was afraid to try anything else, fearing my problems would only get worse, not better. Well, they did get worse – without the drugs.

I stopped being able to sleep. For four days straight, I could not sleep, at all. I’m not even joking, not even slightly. It was terrifying. I could not function. I could not even make a meal for my daughter. I began crying and could not stop. I called my mom. She came to get Emma and myself and that night at my parents house, I took some Nyquil and finally slept for the first time in four days. But the next night, nope. No sleep again. And the next night, and then I could not go back to work. I did not feel safe to drive. I did not feel like I could handle my classroom. I called out, then again, and again. Finally, they told me I would need a doctor’s note to return. And I did end up seeing my doctor, that Tuesday I went and she prescribed – you guessed it – the Zoloft.

This med instantly calmed me, and I did fall asleep that first night I used it – for a couple hours. Then I woke up, calm, but still could not sleep. And to boot, I had a burning sensation all over my body. My skin felt like it was burning from the worst sunburn you could imagine, only it looked fine. There was no rash or redness, just the sensation. It got worse the next day. I vowed I would not take the pill again. And I didn’t. But by now it was the weekend (because for the first two days after I was prescribed the Zoloft I did not want to take it, but finally succumbed on Thursday night out of desperation) and I could not see my doctor. I had a panic attack, after not sleeping Friday night at all, and ended up calling 911. The paramedics came and took my vitals, they said I was fine. I explained my situation and they had me call my mom. She took me to the ER so I would not incur an 800$ ambulance bill. I got some ambien from the ER doctor. I slept some, but not all that great.

When I went back to my doctor’s that next week, she gave me Lexapro and Trazodone. The Lexapro was for anxiety, and the trazodone was for sleep. That combo helped almost immediately but then my body had to go through some adjustments. The meds made me dizzy and out of it for the first several weeks I was on them. I also started therapy with a Christian counselor. That has honestly made all the difference in the world. Meds can help to a certain extent, but they cannot do the whole job.

Now, it is August, and I have started my new job at a new school. I am much happier than I was before, but the road has been a long one. When I would lie awake at night, trembling all over uncontrollably and not able to relax, I would beg God to let me sleep and help me, but I could not. Knowing that God can answer prayer (hello, Emma) but knowing that answers aren’t always in the timing that we would like (also, Emma) I knew that there was a lesson to be learned through this, and that God wanted to do something, I just did not know what it was at the time. Now, I feel like I am finally beginning to understand.

People who do not struggle with an anxiety disorder really have no idea how bad it is or what it is like. They can’t. It’s something you have to experience yourself to know how truly horrible it is. There really are no words to adequately describe it. You must go through it. So after I began to feel a little better, I began to see how I could potentially help other people who struggle with this, because I have been through it and understand what it is like. Being able to understand something and empathize with another human being on the level of their pain is a gift, and that is what I regard this experience as now. A gift. I know  that sounds a bit odd – but God can turn awful situations into beautiful ones. I have only to look at my daughter to be reminded of that. Isaiah 61:3 says “To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.”

The scripture I have personally been led to, time and time again throughout this mess, has been Isaiah 26:3 which says “You will keep him in perfect peace who’s mind is fixed on you, because he trusts in you.” Trusting God and keeping my mind fixed on Him have been my goals for the past couple months now, and it is not an easy task. I have to continually surrender my desire for control and even my desire to live. I have to continually ask God to help me to trust him, to teach me to trust him. Because my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. In other words, it does not come naturally for us to to do this. We want to be in control of everything, and that is just not possible.

One thing I realized early on was that I have a fear of dying, not just because everyone does, but because I am afraid of what will happen to Emma once I am gone. I had to give that to God and trust that He will take care of her and provide for her. She is in His hands now, but I have to continually choose to place her there.

While Emma spent the first three months of her life in the NICU, I had to trust God that He would sustain her life and allow her to live and let her come home with me. That was tough, but because it involved her, and not so much myself, I was better able to cope and give it to God. When I started to fear for myself is when it got tougher, but the same principles I learned almost ten years ago still apply today. Take each day as it comes and give it to God, minute by minute if you have to. And the same God who never left my side during that crisis has never left me through this one either.

“Through the valley of the shadow…I will not fear.

I am not alone, I am not alone, You will go before me, You will never leave me.”

(Kari Jobe sings that song. Music has been a great comfort to me during this time, as it always is, and has been a way for God to communicate to me when I did not feel Him as near to me as I would like. KLove is always on in my car, and has been for awhile now. It’s my lifeline.)

 

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Gilmore Girls: Another Year in the Life, PLEASE?!?

 

Just watched the ending of the Gilmore Girls Revival, A Year in the Life. Gotta say, I loved it!!

I’m not sure why all these fans are bemoaning the ending. What’s wrong with Rory being pregnant? She’s 32. Not 16. She’s double her mother’s age when she got pregnant with her. She’s a very capable woman. And her career isn’t exactly panning out like she had hoped. This is life. Things don’t always work out the way we picture them. But then, what does happen is what you make of it. It’s not what happens to you, or what hand you’re dealt. It’s what you do with it. And I think this is a chance for Rory to do something that she probably never saw herself doing, but now maybe she is ready for that chance. Motherhood. New life. A new beginning, or at least a new chapter.

I am a firm believer in this. Because this show has always reflected my life. Well, not always. But I was always drawn to the show, and more specifically Lorelei. I really empathized with her. I admired her fire and tenacity and stubbornness. Because in her, I saw a lot of myself.

And then I got pregnant. Not at 16, but I was still pretty young. Twenty-three, almost 24. So I have always felt a kinship to Lorelei. My family isn’t exactly the same as the Gilmores, but there are similarities. I have never felt like I belonged in my family. Always felt like somewhat of an outsider. So I definitely identify with her there.

And now things have come full circle. I am nothing if not a realist and this is REAL. Which is why I honestly just LOVE the way the writer decided to end this. There are lingering things as well, like with Jess seeming like he still has feelings for Rory… And the question of who the father of Rory’s baby is. What if it was the Wookie’s? I’d honestly love for that to be the case. Because then she wouldn’t have any attachment to the father and it could just be her and her baby.

Anyway, we may never find out. Amy Sherman-Palladino hasn’t said for sure, but there isn’t a definitive answer either way. Which means it’s a definite possibility. Another Year in the Life, please? I love having things to look forward to. And I will always love the Gilmore Girls.

Oh, and I forgot to mention…Rory’s book. OMG! I LOVE that she’s writing a book about her and Lorelei’s life. BEST ending to a show EVER! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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ISIS and Orlando

Is this new to people? Did this just happen for the first time, ever? Because I feel a little bewildered by everyone’s shock and outrage over the Orlando shootings. Did you not see this coming? Because I sure did.
When did life become sacred again? Because last I checked, no one in this country, or even this world really, holds it as sacred anymore. I’m talking collectively, by the way, not individually. As a society, we do not hold life as sacred. And this is why you see people taking it so lightly, and so violently.
You can’t pick and choose which life is sacred any more than you can pick and choose which parts of the Bible you believe in or decide to follow. This is what is happening to our country, our world, and even the church. We are our own gods. We make the rules, and decide which ones we ought to follow and which ones to ignore. And then we get upset when chaos rains down on our heads?
We care more about 50 gay people being shot to death in a crowded nightclub in Orlando on a Sunday morning than we do about 300,000+ innocent children being ripped out of their mother’s womb over the course of an entire year, being ripped apart limb from limb and dumped into a trash can. We care more about criminals being shot to death by police than we do about a police officer being shot to death by a criminal. We care more about those same gay people being murdered in the club that night, by an ISIS sympathizer, than we do about Christians being beheaded by ISIS itself in other countries. Why do we care now? Because it’s in our face. It’s on our doorstep. It’s in our backyard. And now, I’m afraid it may be too late to care.
When our society only cares about lives that matter to them being taken, and lives that are incovenient or far away don’t matter, like the unborn, and the elderly, and the disabled, etc… Welcome to the holocaust. Welcome to Nazi Germany. Welcome to Hitler’s reign. Welcome to history repeating itself. Because we never learn. If some life is not sacred, then no life is sacred. If the unborn and elderly and disabled don’t matter, then no one matters. Got that? Please just do yourselves a favor and shut the hell up. Because a public outcry at this point is just stupid and worthless and will accomplish absolutely nothing at all.
A thought occurred to me today. If it is true that babies are born with a sexual preference (which I don’t believe that is true, but for the sake of argument, I’ll go along with it), what if a gay gene was found, and unborn children could be acknowledged as being gay even before birth? Now, what if those same children were being aborted simply because they were gay? Wouldn’t there be a public outcry against abortion by the gay community? I would definitely think so! So why is there not such value placed on ALL life? Gay or not? This is my problem with the current episode of “Who’s gonna die next, America?” Seriously, wake up and smell the EVIL people! We live in a culture and a society saturated by it. And then we have the nerve to be outraged when a particular evil takes place that we don’t like? Well, I’m so sorry, but… you can’t pick and choose. This ain’t an all you can eat buffet. This is life, and like it or not, there are rules. And when those rules get bent, or broken, or trampled all over, there are going to be consequences. And here they are.
Now, the question is, what are we going to do about it?
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