Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving to any of the readers that I might have left after yet another long hiatus from the f&f scene. But to say that this first semester has been crazy would be an understatement. I don’t know that I have ever been more ready for a break, and I know that I am not alone in that. Don’t get me wrong, this semester has been full of so many good things, but man, I feel like I have been running 100 miles per hour this entire first semester, yet I’m barely managing to stay half a step ahead of all that needs to get done. But I’m confident that this break – and the fact that I put school work aside after a full Monday of grading expository essays – is going to leave me feeling refreshed, refocused, and recharged to tackle the remaining four weeks of school with my freshmen.


Anyway, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday because it’s such a great reminder that I truly have so much to be thankful for. It comes at a time when I am tired and worn out and definitely not outwardly expressing my daily gratitude, and probably doing more complaining than anything, so Thanksgiving allows me to put my complaints to the side and reflect on just how much good there is in each day.

This year's thankful board

So, here goes another year of what I’m thankful for. I’ll try and encompass everything that’s been going on in my life since my last post, without giving a play-by-play of what’s been going on in my life since my last post.

It goes without saying that I am thankful for my parents. They are my rocks, and I’m not sure how I would have made it to this point without them. First, they so generously agree to watch my sweet pup throughout volleyball season, as my long hours away from home during those few months just wouldn’t be fair. They answer my every phone call, and they calm me down when I start losing my cool. Which, let’s be real, happened quite a few times this semester. In fact, when I called them feeling completely overwhelmed with everything I had on my plate, wondering how I was possibly going to cross everything off my never-ending to-do list without sacrificing too much sleep, they swooped in to help without even a moment’s hesitation. My dad did all my grocery shopping so that I would have a fully stocked fridge for the week ahead. He took a bulging basket of dirty laundry back home to my mom, who happily did all of it and delivered it back to me the very next day. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. And though they don’t necessarily understand what goes into all the running that I do, they always, always ask me how each run went.


Part of the reason I could never leave Houston is because I love having them just 20 minutes down the road. It’s always nice to know that I can always take the Westpark Tollway home, and probably be treated to dinner at Hungry’s.

I’m thankful for my incredible friends, who I haven’t seen as much as I maybe would have liked because right now, I’m hyper focused on this whole running thing. That they know my personality and that when I focus on some task or goal, I tend do whatever it takes to achieve it. That I’ve had to say “No” to a number of things along the way. And that’s hard for me, not because I particularly care about missing out on something, but because I don’t want my friends to think that I don’t care about them. But they still show up and they still call on me and they make sure to tell me I’m doing a good job. And I probably don’t tell them enough just how much they mean to me, but I’ll never stop being thankful for their listening ears and the endless laughter they provide.

 


 

This year, I am especially thankful for the city I call home. The city that I grew up in and that I share with millions of truly incredible people who were more than willing to lend a helping hand. A city that was absolutely devastated by 51 inches of rain, but that fought back with resilience and love, proving to the rest of the country and to the world that it is very possible to put aside any differences we may have and lend a helping hand. I wrote a lot about my thoughts on Harvey here, but I’ll always hold onto the fact that we are #HoustonStrong, and we showed everyone that you can never count out Houston, which brings me to my next point –



I am thankful for the unifying power of sports. I’m 100% talking about the Houston Astros, because this year, our hometown heroes absolutely #EarnedHistory. And it could not have happened at a better time. The Astros gave so many in this city something to hold onto; something to put their hope in. I know that I was brought to tears multiple times when interviews of the players after games focused very little on themselves, but instead harped on the idea that they were playing to bring happiness to the people of their city. I mean, they had photos of the devastation Harvey caused taped to the inside of their lockers so that they never lost sight of what was truly important. How can you not root for a team like that? And after living through the Lastros and the Diasastros era, this World Series victory was everything we could have hoped for and more. The games were purely fun to watch, though every minute was stressful, and it has been amazing to see the lifted spirits of my fellow Houstonians.

Throwback to 2010 and the red and black
I am thankful for pep talks and second chances and fall weather and surprise double rainbows and First Friday and harmless pranks and my fellow English teacher who stops by my room EVERY morning without fail with a “How’s it going, Pickles?” and stays for a few minutes just to chat. For group chats and the means to travel and opportunities to learn and grow each day.


I am thankful for meaningful conversations and handwritten notes and encouraging words and people who invest in me and who take the time to pull me aside and make sure that the smile I’m wearing is authentic, and not one that I’m simply hiding behind.

 
I am thankful for people who encourage me to dream big and chase goals and stretch myself in every area of my life. For library chats and donated pencils and Harry Potter marathons and dairy-free chocolate, because what would a day be like without it?
 
 
I couldn’t do a thankful post without talking about the fact that I definitely don’t take having a healthy body for granted. Most days these days are run days, and I can always be thankful for legs that continue to allow me to run. I cherish the well-executed runs that leave me feeling on top of the world and that all the hard work and sacrifice is so worth it, and I’m thankful for the failed runs that humble me and remind me that I can always work harder and smarter. Running has taught me discipline and focus and how to push myself and a whole lot about expectations and goals. I truly love this sport – the reminder to dig deep and the “me time” it provides, and I’m thankful for all that it has given me over the years – especially this last year and a half. I’m thankful for those who believe in me when I don’t believe in myself, and for a coach who shows absolutely no mercy when it comes to this seemingly crazy training plan, but also makes sure to tell me that I’m doing a good job every once in a while. I’ll continue to run as long as I love doing it, and I hope to never take it for granted that I can.
 
 
Chasing big goals, and being rewarded with an even bigger medal
I’m thankful for my job that, most of the time, doesn’t feel like a job. Whenever I tell people that I teach freshmen, they give me this look and say something along the lines of, “You’re so brave.” And that might be true, but I also know that I’ve got what I consider to be the best role anyone could have. I get to start out each day with a plan, never knowing what wrench is going to be thrown into it. Because there’s always going to be one. I get to stand among 128 students each day, talking about reading and writing and real-world issues, trying to help light the fire that’s already inside all of them. I get to listen to their stories, believe in, encourage, and challenge them, and hopefully be a bright spot in at least one of their days. Because they are definitely bright spots in mine. They make me laugh no matter what kind of day I’m having, and they truly mean the world to me. I get to stand outside my door each passing period and greet all of my current and former students, remembering that my crazy freshmen will one day mature. And though I’ll groan and grumble about having 128 essays to give feedback to, I’m thankful that they’re turning their work in.
 


 

 
And my job wouldn't be my job without the people I have around me. I work with some pretty stellar people who encourage me and push me and help me and ask the hard questions and want the best for our students. And I couldn't ask for much more than that.
 
 
 

I’m thankful that I get to wear multiple hats within Bellaire High School – that of a teacher and a coach. Volleyball has always meant so much to me, and I’ll never take for granted the sport that gives me infinitely more as a coach than it gave me as a player. And it gave me a lot as a player. Every year, when I get really overwhelmed with teaching and coaching and … adulting … I am reminded how much of a privilege coaching is. Sure, I get to help these girls improve their volleyball skills – and trust me, it’s amazing the progress each one of them makes from day one of freshmen camp to our final game – but even more than that I can help foster an environment of teamwork and hard work and inclusivity and positivity and focus and energy and determination and drive and encouragement. Every year I’m blown away by what these girls bring to the table, and my work day just wouldn’t be complete without them.
 


 
I’m thankful for neighbors, who, when you send out a post about desperately needing a bookshelf for your classroom (because this is the current situation),
 
 
more than come through. I’m thankful to be a Texas Longhorn (we’re going bowling, heck yeah!), for sunshine, for car insurance, that I can hold myself to a stand of grace and not perfection, for Wednesday phone calls with Gram, and that my brother nailed down a job in Houston post-graduation.
 
 
Finally, I’m thankful for who I consider to be the cutest dog in the world. My little Mack brings a tremendous amount of joy to my life, and I really don’t know what we did to deserve dogs. He has never met a dog or a person he doesn’t like, he brings a smile to the face of every person he passes on the street, and he is always down for a long walk through the neighborhood. He makes himself comfortable all up in my personal space, he begs for food like I don’t ever feed him, and he adds endless love and excitement to each day. He brings a smile to my face when I need it the most, and I’m a better person for being the owner of this floppy-eared nutcase.
 
 
 
And hopefully, I’ll continue to be thankful every other day of the year, too. I’ve found myself doing quite a bit of complaining lately, so I am determined to finish out this year with a “get to” mentality as opposed to a “have to” mentality. The mindset we bring to the table is half the battle, and expressing gratitude is such a little thing that can go such a long way.
 
 
I hope you and your loved ones have a fabulous Thanksgiving! I’m going to power down and enjoy time with my family and friends, and though this year we’re gathering around a table in a house hit by Harvey, I think I’ve got more to be thankful for than ever. And I can’t end this post without telling my readers how thankful I am that you guys still read my posts, as they tend to be few and far between these days. I love pressing pause on the chaos around me and sitting down to write, and the encouragement I get from the people who read f&f are the real MVPs.

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