Getting Back To Getting Back

20 Jun

Man, time sure flies when you’re a first-year teacher.

miss you

I didn’t mean to leave this blog on such a dour note. Nine months later and I’m living proof that when I’m not immersed in something I tend to let it go. Quit the knit shop job and I stop knitting. Stop spending my days in front of a computer screen and I stop writing. Which many would argue means I’m not a real writer. In my mind it just means I’ve been exhausted.

Many people have asked me how I plan to spend my first summer of freedom since I graduated high school. It’s simple really. I want to get back to doing the things that I love: spending time with family and friends. Nurturing relationships. Playing with my dogs. Reading. Writing. Doing all the things I’ve had little time for since I started teaching in August. Crossing things off my 30 Before 30 list. (Spoiler alert: there’s not many left! I’ve been crossing off quite a few since August!) Living. Experiencing. Loving. Living. It’s gonna be a great summer.

One year of teaching under my belt. It’s been nine months of Big Giant Learning Curve. There’s been many successes. There’s been many things I’ve done that I want to do better. There’s been many nights celebrating triumphs and crying over fears. There has been oh so much more wine drunk. Many things I’ve learned that made me grow. Many moments that confirmed, for me, that I am I teacher; I need to be teaching, I love working with kids and helping them grow, and I’ve found a way to be in teen ministry and get paid to do it. All in all, I’d call this past school year a crashing success. As many things as I know I want to do better in the future, there’s been so many moments that have been awesomely amazing, that have convinced me that – as many personal ghosts as I’ve had to face – I am right where I need to be. Now, it’s all about figuring out the next step.

It’s awkward figuring out what to write after such a long hiatus. Do I try and do a wrap up? Apologize to my non-existent audience for being gone so long? Say sorry to my blogging friends that I haven’t kept up with their writing either? (Hi Cara, Katie, Adelle! Long time no read!) I’ve thought about doing all of that, and ended up thinking I should just do what I do: write what I’m thinking about, how I’m feeling, and not worry about the stream-of-consciousness of it all. Because I’m back to my roots: writing for me. Because I want to, not because I feel like I have to or like I have to produce content. I’ve produced plenty of content since August, just none of it has made it to this page.

So to reintroduce myself after such a long pause, A and I are good. We’re well. Thriving, even. He’s taking vacation next week to spend time with me on my summer break and I couldn’t be happier. I’m crossing stuff off my 30 Before 30 list, and have lots to catch up on, at least online. The dogs are happy dogs, I have more direction than I did a year ago, and I’m continuing to live an out-loud life with as much openness and authenticity as possible. Because, as busy as I’ve been, I still stand by life being too short to live it halfway.

Cheers, friends. See you soon.

Facing Your Ghosts

28 Aug

I have a ghost in my head. I haven’t seen him in person in four years, but he lingers there, in the corner of my eye; a spectre, the mirror reflection I compare myself to, wondering if I’ll ever measure up.

mr. robb, in 2008, with more than 20 years of choral education under his belt, took the best of the best from all his years back to gilroy’s sister city in japan one last time. I was so blessed to be counted among his number.

This week threw me for a loop. I work for a private school, and I’m in charge of teaching all of my teachers in California how to teach my subject area of expertise. This week, my best teacher quit. And I was asked to fill in. In the classroom, all day, in my area of expertise.

I’ve never been more terrified in my life.

Not when I had to teach the same kids other subjects, not when I’ve had to teach my peers how to do what I do (have you ever had to teach adults? Nerve-wracking, let me tell you), never. If I could choose any subject to teach, music – my passion, my reason for living – would not be it. Totally counterintuitive, right? Unless you’re me, and have trained with some of the best vocal teachers in the world. When you have that background to live up to, no matter how good I am, so matter how gifted a teacher I am, a vocalist I am, I’m going to fail. Because I’ll never be as good as they are.

And yet…

They must have started where I am. They had to have had their first day of school, their first day of teaching, their first piece of music they weren’t quite sure how it went but had to teach anyway. They must have, because no one gets to where they are without taking that first step. I know this…I know this!!! And yet, I’m wracked with insecurity because I won’t be able to do with my kids what they did with me, 20 years into their careers.

I’m not Greg Fritsch. I’m not Mr. Robb.

I’m just little ol’ me.

Nobody. 28 years old without the degree I’d aspired to all these years. 28 years old, only halfway through my 30 before 30 list with little time left to go. 28 years old, filled with a 19-year-old’s zest for life but wanting to have accomplished so much more by now. I never aspired to be Mr. Robb, not without so much more schooling than I have to date. And I don’t have it. And yet today, I have to be him.

Or maybe I don’t.

He’s my ghost, the person I want to be when I stand before a choir of children, because i know how much he moulded me, shaped my life, by being my choir teacher. He’s been my dad, my mentor…but I don’t have to make him my idol. As much as he was the spectre of what I have to live up to as a vocal teacher, he was never part of my life to make me feel like I couldn’t measure up. If I’ve learned anything in the 11 years since I graduated high school, I’ve learned that he was there to inspire me, to help me realize the best parts of myself, like any educator worth their salt would. If he stood before me today, he would tell me I could do it. That I had to make my own way, one step at a time, and that I couldn’t compare myself to where he was 25 years into his career. I didn’t get married thinking I could have the house, the car, the career America sets us up tp expect, but I wanted to step into my career at the level it took him 25 years to achieve.

How arrogant am I?

Maybe I can’t be the next Phil Robb. Maybe one day I will be, I can only hope. But for now I’m going to be the best Mrs. A. there is. I’m scared to death, but any teacher worth their salt started where I am. And this is where I am. Starting at the beginning. Stuck in between the bottom of the barrel and the greatness I grew up with.

Here’s hoping for a successful tomorrow.

Book Spine Poetry

17 Aug

Have you heard of book spine poetry? I just did for the first tine this week, and I think it’s really cool. You take books you own (from what I’ve heard there’s some debate on whether the books should come from one shelf or not) and make the best poem you can using the book titles as they appear on the spines. Here’s my first one:


On the road
Rebecca pledged
All the available light.

It’s fun, you should try it! If you do, leave a link on the comments below so we can check yours out!

Flip the Switch

13 Aug

Last week I tried something new and took a stand against that inner voice that says “I suck.”

Ask anyone who knows me, and I think most would agree that I’m a pretty positive person. For me the grass is always greener under my feet, the glass is usually overflowing, and I can rattle off at least twenty things I like about myself if asked without having to think about it. Upbeat, confident, self-possessed, that’s the me that most people see. Ask anyone who knows me closely, and they’ll probably tell you they’ve been on the receiving end of at least one late-night phone call where my confidence has fled me and I’m reaching out to hear something good from someone who loves me so I don’t spin into what I fondly refer to as a shame spiral. Does that emotionally needy image go with my usual brand of Christy Self-Confidance? No…but it still happens.

Do you have an inner doubter? A voice inside that sounds like you, but has just enough mocking and derision that you know it’s not your voice? Some people say that voice is Satan, and I believe it because I well know how he plays off our insecurities, but sometimes I know it’s me. My Insecurity. I’ve named him Seth. I don’t know why – feminist as I am – my inner voice has a man’s name, but it does. Seth’s voice has grown louder over the years, and I think it sucks.

I’ve heard every bit of pick yourself up by your bootstraps advice there is: make a set of 3×5 cards of good things about yourself to refer to when you’re feeling blue, memorize affirmations/scripture to say to yourself when that inner voice starts talking to you, write affirming quotes on your mirror so you see them first thing in the morning (I actually love this one, and do it often), etcetera. All that is well and good, and I remember nodding vigorously when I heard and/or read this kind of advice, especially if I was hearing it from another woman who said it helped her. But there is a wretched disconnect between hearing these good ideas in the light of day when the sun is shining and everything is beautiful, including me, and applying them when it’s late at night and I’m feeling ugly and that stupid thing I did the day before keeps looming in my mind telling me over and over again how dumb I am, and how I always make mistakes, and how stupid it is to put myself out there because I’m going to fail anyway, so why even try?

But last week something has changed. I feel like breaking out the opening lines of that song from Wicked:

Something has changed within me, something is not the same.

I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game.

Except that the game is of my own making, and like that playground merry-go-round the big kids would push around and around, faster and faster until your little arms could barely hold on, I’m tired of the ride and I want to get off. This time when Seth was sitting in my head, gleefully replaying all the moments I wished I could do over from the past few days, telling me how dumb I’d looked, how I’d put my foot into my mouth again, how I’d not only misrepresented what I’d wanted to say but perhaps unintentionally irrevocably changed the way some people looked at me, I felt a switch flip in my brain, and I said, “No more.”

I started thinking of all the things I was good at. Seth sensed what I was doing and started to shout over me, and his twisted movie reel of Christy’s Most Embarrassing Videos started playing again. So I fought back with images of my own. I remembered the last time I did the dishes even though it wasn’t my turn because I wanted to give my husband a break, and thought about how that made me a considerate wife. I pictured a text message I got out of the blue from my cousin that was so sweet and full of love it made me cry. That reminded me that I’ve contributed to people’s lives. I started picturing the faces of my friends, and as I imagined each one I thought of a good time we’d had together, a shared lunch, a catch-up conversation, and thought that with all the people in my life there has to be something of value in me. I thought about the last time I prayed, really prayed and sought communion with God and felt the Holy Spirit rest on me and give me peace. God didn’t think I was worthless, who I am to question Him? The more I thought about, the fainter and more feeble Seth’s voice became, until I had to work to hear it.

Becasue that’s the thing about insecurity: that voice is always there, waiting for a dark moment to wrap its fingers around your thoughts. There have been times when I’ve sought it out, feeling low enough that I looked for reasons to feel lower, and Seth’s always happy to oblige. I don’t know where that mental switch came from – what clicked inside me and made the difference so that this time I didn’t let myself get sucked into the shame spiral – but now I know what works for me. If I can be self-aware enough to recognize Seth’s voice from my own, to recognize that I’m letting myself drown in a whirlpool of anxiety and self-doubt, I can choose to go all Peter Pan on his butt and “Think lovely thoughts.” I’ve known that for a long time, but last week was the first time I actually did it.

Take that Seth.

So now I have a formula that works for me. If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that we are absolutely capable of growth and change. It takes re-routing well-worn thought-patterns if they’re not helpful, which is hard and takes a lot of practice. It also takes choosing to do what is healthy over what is familiar. I’m grateful to have stumbled on to something that works for me. May you find a way to vanquish your inner mocker, should it exist, and choose to see yourself for who you are, in the best possible light.

So there you go. A Broadway reference, Mary Martin’s Peter Pan, and an alter-ego named Seth. Happy Monday.

Misadventures in Marathon Training

30 Jul

plaza de cesar chavez. where we were SUPOSSED to end our saturday run.

Hello friends! A and I are two weeks into training for our half marathon and already we’re racking up stories. This weekend we were set to run 5 miles in downtown San Jose. I had the brilliant idea to run the first loop of the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll course, as it’s about 5 miles. And there’s no better way to prepare for a race than run the course, right? As it turns out, not always.

The first mile was a non-starter. Literally. There’s a big difference between running a race in downtown with all the streets shut down and running on a Saturday morning with all the traffic lights fully functional. Our first mile looked like this: run a block, wait for the light. Run a block, wait for the light. Run a block…you get the idea. Things picked up once we got into the more residential areas and were able to run for longer stretches. Until our IT bands got simultaneously pissed off. But we pushed through, looking forward to a long stretch once we were done.

A, being a much stronger athlete than I, went ahead and flew down the course. I got a text from him around mile 3.5 saying he was almost done, and even through his texts I could hear that he was hungry. Sadly, A didn’t bring any cash, so right before I sailed into my big 5-mile finish I popped into a Starbucks to get him a bagel. Because I am such a good wife. I missed my last turn (really miss those well-marked Team in Training routes!), but knew where my end-point was, so adjusted and got back on course. I ran into Plaza de Cesar Chavez up to the Poo Statue just as my RunKeeper app announced that I’d hit five miles. Success!

see? it’s a coiled snake, but really it looks like coiled poo.

I looked around for A…no A.

*ring ring* “Honey? I’m at the poo statue. Where are you?”

“The poo statue? What? I’m at San Pedro Square.”

“…..Why are you in San Pedro Square? Our ending point was Plaza de Cesar Chavez.”

“You were supposed to run through here. I thought I’d come and meet you since I hit my five miles early.”

“I missed my turn after 2nd street, so I didn’t go through there. Ok, never mind. I’ll come find you.”

“No, don’t come here. Just meet me back at my office at the car, since we have to go there anyway.”

“Right….I totally know how to get back to your office from here.”

I didn’t.

I ended up wandering around downtown San Jose for another half hour. Which translated into another mile and a half of walking on a bum IT band. Boy, did we stretch afterwards!

The Good:

  • A and I hit our miles under less than ideal circumstances. There were a few moments there where I thought we were going to get into it and let our frustrations out on each other, but in the end love and patience won out and we built each other up instead.
  • I unintentionally did more than a 10k, waaaaaaay more miles than I’ve done since April, and more than a smart increase for distance training. Still, my body handled it, and I’m really feeling my strength training and yoga are paying off. Win!
  • A foam roller is the best purchase we’ve ever made. We rolled and rolled and rolled on our IT bands, and the next day we felt fully recovered. No kidding. I did not expect that, especially after my unintentional 10k. Stretching works, and we are rock stars!

The Bad:

  • Waaaay too many stop lights.
  • Jerk-ey guys hollering at me from their front porches. Haven’t had to deal with that in a while. So glad I’m an iHollaback girl!
  • Missed turns and detours cost us a lot of time out of our Saturday. Oh well, live and learn.

The Takeaway:

  • Unless it’s an out-and-back, we will not try to intersect the other person on the run and meet up at the end. Because sometimes people get lost. And hungry. And hangry. But no matter what, we’re dealing with it together. And that makes all the difference.

So that was our Saturday! How was yours?

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