Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beer for Dinner

Editor's Note: This entry is from our Europe Trip and was originally written July 5th, 2013

I was already on beer number three when the waiter realized he had forgotten our beer sausages. He said he would bring them right away.

Not that I was too concerned. I was still full from my second breakfast. Yes, second breakfast. The first I ate with eyes half-open while descending in an airbus over the Fatherland. The second was a disheveled affair where I stuffed my face with Nutella and fruit at the hotel buffet.

I ordered beer number four. Our host ticked another mark on the coaster. This was tic mark number 8. Robyn was up to my challenge.

Beer in Germany costs less than soda, I jokingly observed to Robyn.

Still no beer sausages...

We struck up a light-hearted conversation with our tablemates, representatives from Milan, Paris, and Vienna who had converged upon Düsseldorf for their media company's annual meetings. They paid their bill and headed to catch their respective flights.

So we left too. Without the beer sausages. I'm still unsure what a beer sausage is. Unsure and incredibly intrigued.

We returned to Hotel Berial, thoroughly jet-lagged and slightly buzzed.

Tiredly I pulled out a napkin containing the smuggled leftovers from our earlier buffet. My third breakfast.

Three breakfasts and beer for dinner.

The view from Hotel Berial

Vacation and Blogging don't mix

So, we had high aspirations of blogging while we were in Europe this summer, but a combination of inconsistent internet access, blinding heat, a work schedule that is not the typical American 9-5 desk job, and traveling between five countries in two weeks.

I will try to catch you up on our experiences, but it will be a challenge to cram a once in a life time experience into a handful of snappy blogs that won't bore you.

Come along and relive our crazy summer with  us!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"This is can stay or you can go, but this happening"

The title for this post comes from NBC's 30 Rock and it has been running through my head all day today. Today was the final count know it is close when you can check into your flight online. We spent the day organizing electronics, booking the last few sleeping place, and doing the third target run of this trip for last minute supplies.

But before we could leave our journey took us to two weddings. One was a Vegas wedding for our dear college friends Brad and Jacey and the other was for my brother-in-law in beautiful La Jolla. There are many stories and memories with each, but for now just know that we have been busy and blessed with friends and family.

Tomorrow morning at 4:30am we begin our trek. More to come...

P.S. I have received many word of encouragement and support. I am pleased to report that I am more excited than nervous at this point and am ready to begin my journey.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Unexpected Journey...Sort of...

"We don't want any adventures here thank you! You might try over the hill or across the water."-Bilbo 

Bilbo does not like adventures. He likes to stay in his warm Hobbit hole and eat his delicious food and be comfortable. He does not like his comfort disrupted. Yet, he embarks on a legendary trek that sparks one of the most epic journeys ever capture in literature. Why does he go? Mostly because Gandalf knew he was just the man for the job...and he was! Perhaps Gandalf sensed that Bilbo's legacy would last beyond their journey together. Bilbo's adventure is an amazing story (seriously, check out Danny's post here), but Frodo's journey is epic. Bilbo needed to go on his adventure so his nephew would be poised to, well, save the world. 

Bilbo begins his Unexpected Journey

Our adventure is neither as dramatic nor as unexpected as Bilbo's. However, at the start, I resonate with Bilbo and fear that I am a hobbit at heart. I want to stay in the comfort of my home. I am leery of the tasks needed in order to survive in the world. I do not want to venture out into the unknown. Yes, I did plan this trip with Danny. And yes, we have booked every night's lodging in order to prevent sleeping on the street and most modes of transportation, but there are still many unknown things. 

Bilbo's journey reminds me of two things: 1. I travel in order to change and 2. I need a wise friend to encourage me out the door. I am blessed to have Danny who has, with a gleam in his eye, reminded me that we will be living our dreams. He tells me it is good to leave all my possession, which have such a strong hold on me, and rely only on what I can carry on my back. As I emotionally prepared last night I found other reasons to go: It is good for me to get out of the city and live in the country. It is good to be isolated with my husband, away from the daily distractions that can consume our quality time. It is good to take a risk. 

I am hoping that I will come back a better hobbit. 

Tuscany, Italy
To those of you who are confused, Danny and I have left San Francisco for the summer. We will be gone for two months. We will be celebrating weddings in So Cal for some of the time, but mostly we will be working at a B&B in Tuscany Italy in exchange for room and board. We will also be traveling to Paris, London, Croatia, and Bosnia. Traveling to Europe has been a dream since we started dating. (The truth is we would love to live abroad, but are settling at this chapter in our lives for a summer abroad). I am very excited, but also nervous. Check back to hear tales from our unexpected journey. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Life Update

I am still wrestling with the concept of a Scandalous Jesus, but life has interfered in my reflective practice. Because of some complications, I may not be teaching 7th grade math and science at my school next year. In January we, my administration and I, had thought I would for sure have a postion at Melrose, but in March we became aware that I was on a temporary contract. As much as my principal wants to keep me, she may not be able to due to district politics. So, I have been on the hunt for a new job, just in case. I had two interviews this week that went well and are both for middle school math and science. One job is in Oakland and one job is in San Francisco. Right now I am in a holding pattern, waiting for a call back, hoping my current principal can sort things out, and continuing to apply for other positions, just in case.

Meanwhile Danny is giving the biggest presentation of his academic career today with two hours of sleep. One of his group members, who is from Polland, stayed with us last week and tomorrow we are hosting is entire team, from all over the world, for a celebration. Oh, and he continues with his other classes and Research Assistant and Teacher Assistant positions. Needless to say, we have been busy, stressed, and overwhelmed. To add to the madness we also made the decision to go spend the summer in Europe without me having a job locked down for next year.

So many emotions and thoughts have come up in this time:
1. Is it smart to take off for the summer if I don't have a job?
2. Is is being careless with the resources God has given us?
3. Or has God blessed us with resources and time to take this adventure to restore our souls after a year of intensity in the city and in school?
4. Where should I take a job? Is it selfish to take an increase in pay and less of a comute?
5. Is it selfish to want to teach "easier" students? (Which hit me yesterday as I dealt with behavior issues  all day in class yesterday. This is an especially challenging question since I pride myself on being "called" to the difficult students. Am I already burned out after a year? Or is this why God is giving me Europe? To revive my soul and marriage to enter back into the spiritual battle ground of inner-city teaching? Either way, I don't like the feel this questions brought up...)
6. Am I ready to be a leader in incorporating social justice into my curriculum?
7. Is it selfish to want more of my husband's attention, when he is already giving me everything he has?
8. Why do I crave my "own" space so much?
9. What do I need for our trip and what do I just want?
10. What is the purpose of this trip?
11. Am I becoming lazy in my current job, because I am withdrawing?
12. When are we ever going to settle down, buy a house, and have kids? (Random I know.)
12. What does God have for me in all this?

I is a lot of questions. But I was reminded this week through Richard Foster's Sanctuary of the Soul that when I listen to the voice of God, he rarely has provided me with a life a map. Instead he offers me peace, security, and rest. And I felt these things as I let go of all my questions, let my Lord be with me, and let the truth that he loves me and he has good plans for me sink in. When the flood of questions and insecurities come, I remember that I am loved and he has never let me down before. I am going to keep persisting in taking risks each day with the trust that he will catch me if I fall.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Teenagers, Booze, and Grace - Oh my!

I am still exploring the scandalous Jesus.

However, I have come to a couple of conclusions:

1. I am too busy to blog all of my thoughts.

2. Jesus uses young people to speak his word.

3. Giving up stuff for Lent is totally a creation of the church.

4. Jesus will still die for me everyday so that I can know God's love everyday, no matter what I do.

Number one speaks for itself.

We went on a trip to see our dear friends JJ and Tessa and while at their church God spoke to me. He didn't speak through the Lenton devotional by Henri Nouwen that Danny and I read that morning. He didn't speak through the the sermon on the same topic. Instead, he spoke through a sophomore boy. I couldn't tell you what the young man said, but at that moment, I heard Jesus say I am right here. I have everything you need. I felt filled. I felt a peace I haven't felt in awhile. Most of society do not think that our youth have much to offer. In a comercial for Tully's coffee, it is the adult that literally does all the talking. Just the other day one of my students lamented that we (adults) never give them any place to speak. We are all just waiting for teenagers to "grow-up". I don't have any Biblical proof, but Jesus did not use adults to speak to me, but a young person. What would happen if the world gave young people more space to speak? It would cause a bit of disruption in our churches, because, trust me, young people do not always say things in the most eloquent way, but they may be saying what our hearts need to hear.

On the topic of giving stuff up. I have given up alcohol for Lent. I have also broken my fast twice. One night I got a bottle of wine with then intention of seeing what would happen if I broke my fast on a non-Sunday (apparently the rules of Lent-giving-up state that you get a break on Sunday, because it is a day of rest). I realized walking home, that it didn't matter. My salvation was secure. God said it didn't matter if I broke these "rules". He said he would love me no matter what rules I break. I also googled it and fasting during the 40 days leading up to Lent is a convention the early church created in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

At the same time, I have been challenged with not being disciplined enough. Today, I had a glass of wine. Today it wasn't a test of boundaries. Today it was because I had a lot of grading, Danny has been absent while he finishing end-of-the-quarter projects, and I am lonely. If I had some wine, was I a bad Christian? Was I filling the hole with something other than Jesus? Again, as I walked home from the bus I felt God's unconditional love like I haven't felt in a long time. I felt free from having to be the perfect Christian. I felt free to fail. I felt God holding me in his arms and saying that he would be there to help me cope.

Lent may be about understanding Jesus' suffering and sacrifice, but Jesus understands the suffering I see everyday, the self-sacrifice it takes to love my students, and the daily refinement happening in my heart. During my time of imperfect fasting, his resurrection has been felt more keenly than any other day this year.

I have given up alcohol for Lent once in college. I broke the fast only once, for Saint Patrick's day, and I never felt the grace of God like I have during this Lent season. I am f*ed up and am tired of pretending I am not.

What would happen if I held firm to my fast? Would I be blessed by feeling the depth of grace God has for me? Would I feel in my soul his deep love that compelled him to send his son to death? Possibly, but maybe not. Jesus chose to meet me in my unlawfulness with a glass of wine in hand, which is a substance that has a tense relationship with those in the church. If that isn't scandalous, I don't know what is.

So far, my Jesus has been found in a teenager's humble words, a bottle of wine, and some honest self reflection.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Scandalous Jesus: Diction

Note: This is the second post in a my Lent series. For the introductory post, click here.

Scandalous: Adjective
1. disgraceful; shameful or shocking, improper
2. attracted to or preoccupied with scandal

             Scandal: Noun
1. a disgraceful or discreditable action, circumstance, etc.
2. an offense caused by fault or misdeed.
3. damage to reputation; public disgrace.
4. defamatory talk, malicious gossip.
5. a person whose conduct brings disgrace or offense.

Diction is a lost art in today's world. The word "epic" is so over used that it can describe a car ride or an imaginary world full of mystical plant people. (Yes, the movie is actually called EPIC). Once upon a time, "epic" described heroic, majestic, or impressively great ( events. I'm not convinced that this can describe car ride to the grocery store or this specific movie. Epic has been cheapened in order to sell products. Daily I am challenged to continue using my adult vernacular, but define the "big" words I use so that my students are both exposed to challenging vocabulary and can still comprehend what I am trying to communicate. Word choice is significant in our journey to communicate with others effectively. 

That is why I started my reflective journey by first defining the word "scandalous".  Overall, the literal definition of scandalous or scandal seems to be any action or personality quirk that would ostracize you from society. Postmodern scholars will push back and question who decides what is disgraceful, improper, or offensive? What may offend people in my mom's generations, the baby boomers, may be a drop in the bucket to one of my peers. On the other hand, things that were normal in the 50s, like racial slurs, would be highly offensive to me today. Acceptable social behavior is influence by so many factors, like age, gender, religion, socio-economics, etc. So who decides what is scandalous? 

Well for the sake of this blog, I do. But in general, I would argue that if Jesus is not pushing our buttons - no matter our generation, gender, income level, ethnicity, religious background, or political party - then he is no longer scandalous. Jesus needs to remain offensive to all of us or his message is no longer challenging. If his message is no longer challenging, then why should we listen? If we aren't changed by our interactions with Jesus, then why should we follow him on a daily basis?

I may get on board with some of the things Jesus did in his ministry, like allowing women to be  disciples with the men (Luke 10:38-42) or feeding the hungry (Mark 6:30-44), but there are other things that challenge me. For example, when Jesus says those that mourn will  be comforted (Matthew 5:4), I often reply, yes, but when Lord? Some pain is perpetually inflicted or so deep that it takes years to heal from it. Will I really ever be truly comforted in this life? Will others who struggle with depression ever see freedom? I struggle with this promise. Another story that bothers is me is when Jesus call Peter, Peter walks on water, and then Peter fails. That just sucks. I know there are bigger truths to this story, but I still struggle with the fact that Jesus seemed to ask Peter to fail. Peter could have succeeded, but he didn't. He failed and I don't like that Jesus sometimes asks us to follow im into situations or places where we will ultimately fail. It makes me uncomfortable. 

I am going to see if Jesus' meaning in his actions would be considered disgraceful, shocking, improper or shameful today. Whether or not you agree with my use of the word scandalous or the way I define it in future posts, I hope the meaning of what I am trying to say comes through: Is Jesus still challenging us today? Does he make us uncomfortable in social circumstances? Does he push us to the outside of what is normal? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is Jesus still Scandalous?

When our pastor preaches about the resurrection of Jesus he describes it as scandalous. It was outrageous! A man died and then came back to life, upsetting generations of religious rhetoric. And that was only the cherry on top of years of ministry, which were so upsetting to those in power that they killed him. During his life he was friends with the marginal and transformed the lives of people who society had categorized as beyond saving. The people in power wanted him on their side, but he chose a cohort of ragamuffins instead.

Yes, this could also be the description of Shonda Rhimes new show, Scandal...well without the rising from the dead. And the star being killed...well so far.

The essence of my faith is described by my pastor as scandalous. I love it! I want my faith to be described as scandalous. I want my faith to make people uncomfortable. I want it to constantly challenge the religious norms. I want to question what people take as fact. I want to experience situations where Christians are uncomfortable. I want to do what no what expects me to do.

I like that my Jesus did the same things.

However, when I look around the Church, ask my difficult questions, and get answers that are out of touch with the reality around me, I wonder if my Jesus is still scandalous enough for today's world. Or is it the Church that isn't scandalous enough for Jesus?

This is my quest during Lent. Either I will find that Jesus is in fact irrelevant, boring, and not "crazy" enough for the world we live in today or I will find in the scriptures the Jesus who was outrageous enough to win this sassy, sensitive, and scandalous girl's heart. If it is the latter, then I will feel confident in fully pursuing the scandalous path I have only just begun to traverse in the Church and world. Pray for me.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Valentine

I know it is not Valentine's day, but this Valentine can not wait.

I have a new job. Since September I have been working with Oakland Unified School District as a reading intervention teacher and a 7th grade math and science teacher. While I am doing two part-time jobs, my heart is with my middle schoolers. I have postponed writing about my experience due to exhaustion from being a new teacher and feeling inadequate to capture my new adventure with words. The words have finally come to me and I am no longer feeling like I am drowning in work.

The other day I opened the door to my class and a slow smile spread across my face. I wasn't expecting it, it just appeared on my face. "I love my classroom. I love my job" flitted through my mind. This was explained the spontaneous expression of joy and contentment displayed across my face. 

Currently, I am in a training for Restorative Justice. I hope to write more about this in the future, but if you are curious now, here is an overview from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. In schools RJ is used when harm is done or as a way to build community in order to decrease detention and referral rates. Our training time is a blend of  cerebral learning about how to lead Circles and also experiencing a Circle time for ourselves. My training group consists of some parents, fellow teachers, after school teachers, and school aids. I still don't know everyone's name, but I feel closer to these people than most people in my life. I feel heard, understood, and valued. This is what I want for my students more than anything. I love the training I am receiving. 

This school is a perfect fit for me. Teachers understand the systemic injustices facing black and brown children and are actively discussing ways to challenge these injustices. My colleagues love to laugh and have a good time. They are learners and are constantly striving to improve their practice. The principal observes me and offers me honest feedback. She serves me by giving me a ride to BART and opens her personal life to me when she shares about her family. I love my school. 

My mentor for BTSA is at my school....and there is no other way to it express my relationship with her except to say "she gets me." She is the kind of teacher who gives her heart to her students. She is the kind of person you for a best friend. I have never had someone build such a deep trust with me so quickly. By watching her and allowing her honestly speak into my craft, she is helping form me into the teacher I have always wanted to be.

My partner teacher has taught in the past, but this is her first year back in about 5 years and she is new to middle school as well as our school. She offers a balance of being a veteran teacher who can share in the mind boggling experience of being a middle school teacher. These pre-teens are very different than children. Oh, and she just completed her PhD at Standford in Language accusation and has two kids. She is humble, funny, and one of the most efficient people I have met and yet is a self proclaimed "messy person." I want to be her when I grow up. I love my mentors.

And lastly I love my students. The more I hear their stories the more I admire them. The more I hear their insecurities the more I want to impress upon them their significance. The more I hear their hearts the more I am ok with storming out of class or yelling at me. They are starting to trust me and I realize what an honor and responsibility it is to hold their fragile trust in my hands. They challenge me to be the person that I want to be. They challenge me to be more like Jesus. They also will challenge my agenda, math skills, and every statement that comes out of my mouth everyday, but man I love them.

While this all sounds nice and fluffy, there is a rough side of love. I have cried for my own mistakes and hurt ego. I have been exhausted and lost my temper in class and resorted to (gasp) copying answers from a book. I have cried after a debrief with my principal. I have wondered if I am in the right profession. I have had kids flip me off,  punch each other, and throw things. I am still planning lessons on a day to day basis and am a couple of unit behind the district outline in math.....and science. Most days I feel like a failure.

But when I sit and eat my lunch and hear a group of my girls openly gossiping in front of me I feel right. When these girls feel they can openly share what is in their not quite child, not quit adult hearts - the pain, the questions, the joy - I simply love my job. And not just because I love to gossip. I love the relationship that is forming between us. We are falling in love.