Friday, December 31, 2010

Because Olivia Says It's Been Awhile Since I've Blogged

Last night, as I was watching my team get defeated in the Holiday Bowl, my friend Olivia asked why I hadn't blogged in a while.  It's only been little more than a week, but I suppose, for most people, the last week of the year is pretty eventful, and therefore, blogworthy.  So, Olivia, here is my attempt at catching up:

The day after my kidney stones showed up was the last day of school before Winter Break.  I contemplated whether or not to just take the day off, but I ultimately decided against it.  I wanted to be there to wish my students a happy holiday, to thank them in person for the gifts they brought, and to let them know that I was OK.  Also, my co-worker Steph had the idea for all of us to bring a food to share that our family traditionally eats at Christmas.

So, although I was in a little bit of pain, I woke up early to make monkey bread.  It was the first time I made it by myself, but I'm told it turned out to be pretty good.

Although everything looked really good, I was feeling nauseous, so I didn't eat lunch that day.  Maybe next year.

On Thursday, I finished some last-minute shopping and then headed for my hometown.  My family went out for dinner at a new Mexican restaurant in town.

I would like to insert that one of my most favorite parts about going home is that I eat for free.  Food, in my opinion, always tastes better when you don't have to cook it yourself or pay somebody else to cook it for you.

For the rest of my stay at home, I basically did nothing.  I was still not feeling up-to-par, and my overly concerned mother waited on me hand and foot.  While I realize that I am an adult and completely capable of taking care of myself, it was nice to be pampered a bit.  And I think my mom secretly enjoyed it.

On Christmas Eve, I got myself out of the recliner and ready for church.  Afterwards, my mom prepared a nice steak dinner for my immediate family plus my aunt and my cousin, Chloe.  I, of course, don't eat steak, so it was chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese for me.  We opened presents with Chloe and my aunt, watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and went to bed.

On Christmas morning, we opened our Santa presents with my immediate family.  Among my favorite gifts of the day were:
An electric mattress pad
A heated throw blanket
a stand-up mixer
and a new camera.

Santa was good to me this year, as he always is.

As much as I love getting presents, I enjoy giving them much more.  This year, I gave my mom an iPod nano, an iHome, and an iTunes gift card, which she loved.  My mom isn't exactly technologically proficient, so it took some time to get her to figure out how to use everything.  I got my dad one of those bracelets that claims to make your body more balanced (he wanted one), a framed picture of Memorial Stadium, and earwarmers.  I got my brother a bunch of clothes that he wanted.  I spent way too much, as usual, but I really like gift-giving.

We then went to my grandma's house to have Christmas with my mom's side of the family.  We ate a big lunch and then opened presents.  My grandma has a cat, which I am allergic to, and the medicine I took was not non-drowsy.  So, after opening presents, I laid down in the recliner and fell asleep for a few hours.  When I got back to my house, I slept for several more.

This soon became the theme of my break.  All I did for the remainder of my time at home was sleep, play solitaire, nap, eat, and watch football.  And it was kind of nice.

On Wednesday, with speculations of a snow storm to come, I headed back to Lincoln.  It took me the rest of the day to get caught up on my recorded television shows take down my Christmas decorations and put away all of my new things.

On Thursday, I drug myself out of bed so that I could go to school and get some work done.  When I left for work, it was 60 degrees outside, which is unheard of for this time of year in Nebraska.  When I left school three hours later, it was  30 degrees, and we were in a winter storm warning.

When I got home, I made these:

This picture and this recipe came from this blog, which I adore almost as much as I adore these cupcakes.  I have taken them to work a few times, and they went over famously.  My co-worker, Steph, even called them "life-changing."  So, I thought I'd make them to take to Ashley and Jeremy's house while we watched the game.

The game during which Olivia told me that I needed to blog.

So, Olivia (and the rest of blogworld), that is what I have been up to as of late.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kidney Stones were NOT on my Christmas Wishlist...

I was pretty excited to go to school today.  We had a shortened schedule due to the after-school PLC meeting.  Half of my class period is taught by our media specialist (only for the 13 days of learning the research process), which only left me with 30 minutes of teaching per class.

For those of you who aren't teachers, you should know that any day when you are only responsible for a total of one hour of teaching is a dream of a day!

We have these shortened schedules once a month, on which day our team also has a CHAMPS (Consistently Having Amazing, Mighty-Positive Skills) celebration.  All students and teachers gather in our commons area and teachers present awards to one student per class period.  Awards are given to students who consistently exhibit outstanding behaviors in class, go out of their way to help others, or who show significant improvement.

It was about 9:40AM, and our team was gathered.  My team leader began the ceremony, and I made my way to the "stage."  All of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain in the lower left side of my back.  I keeled over in pain.  I turned to one of my co-workers and said, "I need to go sit down."

My resource teacher followed me into my classroom and suggested I go to the nurse.

I did.  But as soon as I got there, I darted to the bathroom and threw up.

I then went back to the nurse's office to lay down with a heating pad.  Ten minutes later, I threw up again.

I knew exactly what was happening, as this is not the first time I have experienced this.

I called my friend Kelli to see if she could come get me.  She didn't answer, for she was sleeping.  Who can blame her?  She's done with her law school finals, and if I didn't have anything to do for the day, I would still be sleeping at 10:00, too.

So, I called my friend Jeremy who came to get me.  I felt a little bit bad because I walked out of the building during my students' recess time.  They yelled, "Where are you going?" to which I replied, "to the hospital."  I gave no further explanation.  In hindsight, I recognize that I should've let them know that I would be OK.


So, soon enough, I was in Emergency Room #6 dressed in a stylish gown, laying in an uncomfortable bed.

They also gave me some cute, new accessories.

I had to give some blood, which is one of my least favorite things to do

And they gave me some magical pills that made all the pain go away.

Later, a C.T. scan revealed that it was, indeed, kidney stones that were the cause of my pain.  Three kidney stones, to be exact.  The first one that will be coming through is 3mm in size.  They only pulverize stones that are bigger than 5mm, so they sent me on my way with some nausea medicine and some hydrocodone (the aforementioned "magic pills").

While awaiting test results, I felt very defeated.  I resented that I had to leave work at a moment's notice (which is not easy to do in my profession), I knew that my worrisome mother would be a nervous wreck (I called my brother and gave him specific directions not to let my mother leave town to come visit me), and I resented that I would be spending much of my Winter Break taking pills that make me nauseous and dizzy while a 3mm rock tears through the lining of my internal organs.

On the other hand, I thought about how very fortunate I am to have health insurance that allows me to go to the emergency room and to afford two prescriptions that would otherwise be very expensive.

Upon my dismissal from the hospital, I called Kelli to come get me to take me back to school to get my car.  By the time I arrived, I still had one hour left before the medicine would wear off (and so that I could safely drive), so I ended up making it to the after-school meeting.

After the meeting, I was greeted with dozens of thank-you cards from students, past and present.  Today, before I left, we had SOAR time, which is a 30-minute block of time where students meet with a teacher to do character-building activities.  Today's activities were writing thank-you notes and new year's resolutions.  Although students were obligated to write the notes, their words did help to cheer me up.  Here are some of my favorites:

Although not perfectly written, this one holds special meaning to me:
"Thank you for making me turn good and help me starting to write good."

And this one might be my favorite.  Simply put, but well-said:

I have the best job in the world.

But now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to go take my magical pills.  Please pray that my stones will not pass while I am at school tomorrow!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Real Meaning of Christmas

I love the Advent season.  But it has completely passed me by this year.

Rather, I have allowed it to pass me by.

Advent is meant to be a time of anticipation and preparation.  Admittedly, I have been anticipating and preparing for the wrong things.  I have been anticipating the break from school, holiday gatherings with friends and family, and going home.  I have been preparing by decorating a Christmas tree, baking cookies, and buying presents.

I have been doing all of the things that Christmas should not be about.

In my Bible study this morning, we pulled out a devotional book entitled Simply Wait:  Cultivating Stillness in the Season of Advent.  Since today was the fourth Sunday in Advent, we focused on that chapter - the chapter about obedience.

I have not been very obedient as of late.

Our wonderful leader Dr. Gene Armstrong quoted a song by asking us, "Where is the line for Jesus?"  He commented that everywhere you look, there are lines for Santa and check-out lines for buying presents, but you are hard-pressed to find any evidence that Jesus has anything to do with this holiday.

It's sad, but he's right.

I'm so grateful that today's church service re-focused me.  As we lit the fourth candle on the Advent wreath, I was reminded of the previous three candles - of hope, preparation, and joy - and was given my focus for the week - the candle of love.

Today was also our church's Chrismas pagaent.  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the children speak about and sing about the birth of our Savior.

I've got seven days until the Christ candle is lit, and I fully intend to make the most of those seven days - having hope, preparing, sharing joy, and loving.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin's name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

-Luke 1:26–38

Holiday Hoo-Rah

After we picked up Andy from the airport, we went to Allison's house for the NASC Holiday Hoo-Rah.  This is one of my favorite NASC staff events that happens during our year.

We spent a good amount of time just mingling:

Shortly after we arrived, it was time for the white elephant gift exchange.

There is a $15 spending limit.  Each year, there is a pretty good mix of nice gifts/gift cards and things that were found lying around the house.

It begins with each person drawing a number.  The first person opens a gift.  The second person can either steal the first person's gift or open a new gift, and so on.  If a gift is stolen from you, you can either steal from somebody else or open a new gift.  The game continues until all gifts have been opened.

Here are some staffers opening their gifts:

Even when you're not opening, it's fun to watch others' reactions:

After gifts were opened, many people left.  A few of us stuck around to play games... or to play with our new gifts!

Another great Hoo-Rah for the books!

A Welcome Home

Yesterday was our annual NASC Holiday Hoo-Rah.  It's the winter gathering where our volunteer staff gets together to enjoy holiday snacks and a white elephant gift exchange.

I carpooled to Omaha with my friends, Kelli and Keith.  We had to detour to the airport to pick up our friend Andy, who flew in from New Hampshire for the holidays.

Kelli made a sign to help welcome her:

In case you are wondering, the present that I am holding is not a present for Andy.  It is my white elephant gift for the Hoo-Rah.  I was so distracted by the fact that we were running late that I forgot to leave it in the car.

Since Andy didn't know that Keith was going to be a part of our carpool, we devised a plan while we waited for Keith to run up to Andy and do a spinning hug when she arrived.

We experimented with several different locations for Keith to hide:

I stood on the lookout while Kelli and Keith stood back.  Here is what happened next:

She was so surprised that all she could do was laugh.  I think she liked her welcoming committee!

My favorite quotation of the night happened at baggage claim when Andy said, "I have to keep touching you guys to make sure this is real!"

We are so glad you're home, Andy!