Saturday, January 22, 2011

Decisions, Decisions...

So I've recently decided that having spent the last 28 years of my life not caring about the NFL has led me to miss out on a lot of fun. My life is, I'll admit, jam packed as it is, so I don't have it in me to become a die-hard fan. Nevertheless, this is a time of the year that seems like it would be so much more exciting if I had an affiliation or admiration for a particular team. It's kinda late to jump on a bandwagon this year, but I've decided that I should select a team now to lend my devotions to, so that next year, I too can share in the hype, trash talk, celebration, and (usually) crushing defeat that comes with being a football fan.

First, some history. Some of you may know that I was a cheerleader in high school. I never cared too much about football back then (it was really cold outside, usually, and I was always concerned about not falling off the pyramid). But even with my limited knowledge of football, you couldn't help but get passionate about a close game, and when you win that close game--pretty awesome feeling. As I've gotten older, having realized that most boyfriends are a package deal that involve the NFL, my knowledge of how the game is played has increased slightly. Teaching at a high school in which football is the favorite past time of the entire town has really helped get me sucked into the accompanying mania that come along with play-offs and nail-biting matches, too.

So, yeah. I like sports. I sort of understand football now. I've realized that lots of other people feel deep loyalty and joy stemming from following their teams. So, since I'm missing out on this wonderful world of fun, competition, and food (there seems to be lots of eating and drinking during game time), I've decided I need to just go ahead and pick a favorite football team.

Now. No one in my family watches football, so there's no easy team for me to inherit. After having consulted friends and facebook in eliciting advice in this endeavor, here's where I stand in the decision making process:

1. The Ravens. They're from Baltimore, so they're local (ish). Their colors are black and purple, which I like. They're named after a famous poem. Plus that Flacco guy has a cool name.
2. The Steelers. Being from PA, they are also relatively local. (Too bad Delaware just doesn't have a team. That would make this much easier). They are heavy, heavy favorites at the restaurant where I wait tables, so supporting them would probably be fun and exciting at my part-time job. Plus there's a cool hip-hop song out now called "Black and Yellow." I have to admit, though, that yellow is not a great color for me. Plus... what's a steeler?
3. The Saints. I had to put them on here, only because they are Jennifer Scholl's favorite team. Jen is from New Orleans, and because I'm a little afraid of her, I usually do what she tells me to do. (Plus she's a wonderful human being whom I love very much, and she is right just about 100% of the time. She strongly feels that I should become a Saints fan).
4. The Dolphins. I know, they're terrible. Not one person has suggested that I become a Dolphins fan. But they were featured in one of my (don't laugh) favorite movies of all time: Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. Plus they have super pretty colors, and the one time in my life that I ever put money on a game, I supported the (winless, at that time) Dolphins and they managed to pull it together long enough to win their only game of the season. Maybe if I supported them, their luck would turn around.
5. The Redskins. Also kind of local. I've been told they suck, too. But I know someone who works for them... maybe he'd still be willing to get me free seats? Also, an argument from a longtime friend, who wrote via facebook: "Redskins! Long, rich history...and our players don't stab people or assault girls at clubs! *coughraylewiscough* *coughbigbencough*"
6. The Jets. Somewhat close in location to the only other professional sports team I've ever really cared about: The New Jersey Devils of the NHL. As a bonus, like the Steelers, they're still in the running for this year's Super Bowl.

I've also heard arguments supporting Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, and the Bucs (Sorry, don't even know where they're from). I enjoyed my friend Anna's take on Denver: "Tim Tebow plays for Denver - I think. He is a strong Christian. He was quarterback for Florida, and always gave God the glory and wrote scripture on his face." Scripture on his face, hmm? Fairly compelling argument there.

Philadelphia: I love the city, but even in my lackadaisical interest in professional athletics, I harbor an almost immediate hatred for all teams Philadelphia: It started with my great dislike of the Flyers (which stemmed mainly from the fact that my brother loved them... I know. I was twelve. It seemed like solid reasoning at the time). And actually, even before that, when Mommom was trying to make baseball fans out of us... our loyalty to the Orioles brought with it an intense hatred of the Damn Yankees and (to a lesser extent, of course) the Phillies.

Dunno. There are much more important decisions to ponder: How will I get all of these book projects graded when I keep wandering off to blog or facebook? Where can I go run a 5k before January ends, so as to not screw up my one-race-per-month minimum that's been in effect since May? Do I allow myself the endless pancakes at the Applebees breakfast tomorrow, or try to stay away from the excess carbs? Should I be revising my first novel, or plugging along on my second--or should I be doing both? Now that I've read through the entire Bible, what kind of reading plan should I implement to make sure I'm still in the Word daily? Will I get a literary agent this year?

Decisions, decisions. Maybe I'll just throw the names of the front-runners for favorite NFL team in a hat and draw one. Then I could be done with that question, and it would always be an interesting story to tell, when asked why I like the Whoevers.

Or, as other friends cautioned me, maybe I'm better off to be blissfully uninvolved when it comes to the NFL. Maybe I'll add "STOP WASTING YOUR TIME" to my hat, and if I draw that card, it will mean that I was never meant to be a football fan.


Monday, January 17, 2011

A Love Affair...

This weekend, I experienced one of those once in a lifetime, luxuriously refreshing string of events that you might equate with an unlikely romantic fantasy or an unspoken, secret dream: in a beautiful oceanfront hotel, where I watched the sunrise over the sea, talked all hours into the night and early morning, enjoyed laughter from the depths of the soul, invigorating intellectual conversation, and plastic cups filled with cheap wine, I fell in love...

It wasn't a weekend getaway with a long lost lover (though that might have been nice, too). This weekend, during the Eastern Shore Writing Project's Winter Writing Retreat, I fell in love again with writing, with living, and with people. It was a love affair of different sorts.

I engaged in a whirlwind romance of the mind as my colleagues and I examined the power of words, allowing ourselves to express heartfelt sentiments about writing, teaching, and communicating. I wrote, I reflected, I read my words aloud. I laughed. I felt deeply my own pain and joy, and that of those around me, as we captured the little miracles of life and typed them into existence on our laptops, jotted them into permanence in patterend journals and tattered spiral notebooks. We came together in a way that is truly rare. I realized, once again, that writing is a bridge across cultures, years, gender, experience. I smiled and cried as I was touched by the words of those around me, and I was humbled as I watched my words fall meaningfully onto the ears of others.

I was swept off my feet spiritually, as well. In a place when I was more inspired than I have ever been by the common bonds uniting us, so many vastly different people, I reflected on what God has done for me, the incredible gift of salvation that I believe is found in Jesus Christ. I ran across the boardwalk at sunrise, watching the incredible display of glowing pink rays lighting up a still soft, star speckled sky, the cold ocean consistently lapping the shore below. I thought of how big my God was, yet how accessible He is, to all who seek him. I prayed for my new friends, and thanked God for the amazing blessings He has given me.

Of course, it's all very noble to claim that I had planned this spirtual rejuvenation in conjunction with my adamant need to exercise. Truth is, I had to force myself to run. Self, I began, you've gained at least five pounds if not more over the holidays. You embarassed yourself terribly at your last 5K. If you don't run at least once this weekend, I'm going to kick your own butt later.

So I exercised my resolve and woke up at 5:30 in the morning, as to not interfere with the precious writing time or the socialization to which I had quickly become addicted, having come together with some of the most interesting and fantastic people I had ever known. As I'm too cheap to pay for a gym membership, and too much of a pansy to be hardcore with my running in the icy month of January, I decided a run in the hotel's treadmill would be a special treat.

Down I went to the gym on the second floor, and yes, it's quite possible that I forgot my sweats and had to run in my pajama pants (don't worry. They're gray, and except for the penguins and surfboards across my derriere, I don't think anyone would have noticed anything suspicious about my attire). Luckily, I was the only lunatic in the gym at what I would have thought was an ungodly morning hour.

*Sidenote--I just had to google "butt synonym" to figure out how to spell derriere. True confessions of the randomness of my life.

So anyway, I attacked the treadmill, and it attacked me back. I've only resorted to indoor running a handful of times in my life, and when I checked my mileage after twenty-five minutes, a timeframe when during my normal efforts outside I would have been at close to three miles, I had managed to run just over two. Sweaty, hot, and disgusted by the stuffiness of my gym and my poor performance, I jumped off the treadmill and wandered out to the balcony to breathe in some fresh air.

To my delight, it wasn't a frigid, furious winter morning, as I assumed it would have been. The cold that greeted me was exactly what I needed to refocus my mind. I jogged down the stairs, having found the inspiration to finish what I'd started. I ran the final mile down the deserted Ocean City boardwalk, awed by the spectacular display of nature in the sunrise, convinced that God had chosen this moment to talk to me.

It was a beautiful experience.

The people I spent the weekend with: dear older friends and instant newer ones, too, were truly some of the most fascinating I've ever met. Many of us are teachers. Some of us are students. All of us are writers. Stacie, the single mom of four I invited from my church, one of my favorite friends I made last year, discovered that she is, in fact, a writer. My friend Greg, a college student and full-time construction worker, held his own and kept us in hysterics as he carried his weight as one third of our entire male population (the only time you'll be in the minority as a white male, we joked). His creative documentary on seagulls is both hilarious and a bit scary. Once he posts it online, I'll provide a link. Laura, who has easily done enough living in her short time on this planet to have lived fifteen people's lifetimes, told of her adventures in twenty-one countries, and her Deep Conversations with Random Strangers, a brilliant book idea that stems from her energy and fearlessness in meeting and connecting with new people. I heard sentences from her mouth that I would never anticipate hearing again, things like "So I was in Chicago, and it was after I'd won third place in the Amateur Ventriliquest Competition..." We practiced the art of Deep Conversations with Random Strangers, marching into The Atlantic Hotel in Berlin, demanding to know if this was in fact the hotel Richard Gere stayed in during the filming of Runaway Bride. The gracious owner, who was sidetracked by her duty to check in actual paying guests, handed us the key to Room #20, and up the stairs we went. Cynthia touched the bed Mr. Gere slept in; we all admired the toilet he peed in.

We finished the weekend out with Jody Kelly Wright, a local author and partner of a West Ocean City restaurant. She spoke beautifully, encouraging us all, inviting us to celebrate whatever successes it is that we have achieved, and to constantly challenge ourselves to take it to the next level, whatever that may be. Jody is living my dream. She has had one book published by a small press, and is now an agented author pursuing traditional publication for another of her novels. I think given her energy, dedication, and obvious talent, she is a definite name to watch. As I sat in that room with other aspiring authors, I thought back to that grueling run on the treadmill, and how the moment I stepped outside, I was free to really run. It suddenly became easier, because instead of running in place, I was actually going somewhere. I think so many of us run, run, run through our lives going nowhere, just as I was struggling and huffing away on that treadmill. Only in breaking loose and running in the fresh air, which we are so often afraid to do, because of the cold, because of the inconvenience, because of the unknown, because of the challenge, only when we venture outside, do we find we are finally able to run somewhere. I don't even know that where you go is the important thing... I just know it matters that you are moving in a direction of your choice, as opposed to staying still despite your best efforts.

As I thought about God and all his majesty, the gifts he gives us that we take for granted or get distracted from (the most sacred of which is the gift of His own son), I vowed to not run in place any longer. I vowed to pursue my dreams and those God has for me, and to not settle for running in place, to exhaust myself in a struggle to make it through without actually going anywhere. I want to live life to the fullest. As I returned to Salisbury for church in the evening, my pastor's words summed up my realizations of the weekend:

"It is never too late to be the person you were always meant to become."

Why wait another day? We are given so very few, and they are truly precious. I'm getting off the treadmill now.

Will you?

Why settle for an affair when you could be married?

Here's to living each day to the fullest.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Guess What?

...I got invited to teach a creative writing summer camp!

Yep... it's not official yet, but I was contacted by the directors of the Eastern Shore Writing Project, the amazing sponsors of the best profesional development ever, the ESWP summer institute, which I had a blast completing last year... and they both want me to be the instructor for the Young Writers program at Wor-Wic this summer!

I still have to interview with Wor-Wic... but just being asked to do this is a huge compliment.

I am very excited to share my love of creative writing with talented students. :)

Yay me!

And in other ESWP news... the Winter Writing Retreat is this weekend. Totally stoked for a weekend of writing and relaxing. Rumor has it... there's going to be karaoke.

Look out, Ocean City!

PS--Snowmageddon, I hear you're coming for us again. I SUPPOSE I can handle a day or two off work this week, if you're gonna twist my arm and all... but that's it! ONE or TWO days ONLY! I've got mid-terms to give, and these kids need to know what's on their exam! Plus, if you even THINK about interfering with the retreat...

I'm calling Delaware quits and going to Mexico. Don't think I won't do it, either.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hello, 2011!

Look at my beautiful daughter, racing into the New Year!

(She's number 132 in the purple. Just in case you didn't know.)

Check out that unbridled joy on her face. Note that this is the begining of her race--she's not smiling because the end is finally in sight, like an unnamed runner from yesterday's post.

By the way, I finished third in my age group. With a time of 28:28, which is far from my best. I'm kinda glad the clock wasn't up, for whatever reason, yesterday. That probably would have dampened my spirits.

But today--what's to be sad about? Nothing, if you are looking at the smile on my little girl's face. Seriously, doesn't it just melt your heart? I bet it would melt even the Grinch's tiny, shriveled heart. You know. Pre-Saving-Christmas, Whoville-Loving, Grinch. The mean one. Even the grumpiest Grinch would have a change of heart in my daughter's presence.

Well. Until she opens her mouth and starts asking fifty bazillion questions, anyway. :)

So on a related note--my legs HURRRRT today. It's what I get for not exercising all month before yesterday's 5k.

Exercise--there's a nice transition for the final segment of today's blog. I'm not great at New Year's Resolutions. I usually make a few half-hearted attempts to lose weight or get more organized or be a better person in general. Traditionally, I blow all my resolutions by the end of January. Anybody else out there with me?

At church this year, one of our Pastors suggested looking at three areas of your life and setting a goal for improvement in each one: Physical, Spiritual, and Relational. That seems doable, even for a Resolution Reject such as myself.

1. Physical--By the end of 2011, I'd like to finish a 5k in the 26es. This goal should be fairly attainable, as long as I get back into my regular running routine soon. I'm not much for jogging in cold weather, but if I can force myself to do it even once every other week, I shouldn't have lost too much ground by the time spring rolls around.

2. Spiritual--I have a goal for this area that is somewhat private. It's kind of big, and I don't want to look stupid if I fail. :) So while I will be sharing it with a few people so that I can feel like I'm being held accountable, I'll hold off on posting it online.

3. Relational--I want to be more patient. I tend to be able to do this with my students, or co-workers, or even friends. But with my closest family members, I tend to lose my temper and snap more easily. I am especially harsh with my daughter and grandmother at times. So I am going to count to ten before I open my mouth when I'm in a situation in which I tend to get angry quickly, and ask myself--is this really a big deal? Is what you're going to say going to hurt feelings? Does it have to be said? If it does, can you phrase it nicely?

So there are my three (well... two and a half, since I didn't really divulge number two...) What are yours? Are you good at keeping resolutions? Or lousy, like myself?