Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Passover Treats

Passover begins next week and we are gearing up in preparation. Thanks to my friend Patty Kepley (who is majorly helping with the food preparation on Monday!) who shared her idea for Chocolate Covered Matzos, I attempted this leaven-free dessert last night. Not bad! Kind of bland, but sort of like unsalted-chocolate covered pretzels.

Thanks Patty!

Monday, March 22, 2010

a new character is born

Jim and I spent the weekend working on the sequel to the To Save a Life novel. Right now, we're calling it One Choice, but our publishers are pushing for Jake's Choice. (Any opinions out there?)

Anyways, it's amazing how sometimes characters just create themselves, and this weekend Buddy jumped out of the pages and introduced himself to us. We fell in love with him. Taken from Jim's namesake who started going by Uncle Buddy when he turned 60 (that's Jim's plan, too, in 28 years...), Buddy is the 80-something year old grandfather-figure who everyone needs at some point in their life. Here's an excerpt from when Jake meets him in a church he's checking out in his new college town:

“See that foxy lady there in the second row? The one with the red vest on? She’s my wife,” Buddy beamed proudly. “Been married sixty-two years last October, and she’s purtier now than the day I first met her.”

Sixty-two years! Jake marveled. He couldn’t even imagine it, but it sure was cute. He wondered if he and Amy would even make it to a wedding, let alone six decades. How had Buddy and his “foxy lady” done it? Pretty amazing.
Never in his life had he so looked forward to someone saying “Amen.” The moment the word slowly crept out of the pastor’s mouth, Jake bolted towards the exit. With one foot out the door, a familiar wrinkly, spotted hand grabbed his shoulder.
“It was a blessing meeting you today, Jake.” Buddy threw out his other hand for a goodbye shake.
Jake felt a piece of paper between their hands and looked down to see a five dollar bill now in his palm.
“Wait a minute. What’s this for?” Jake stammered.
“Young bucks like you can always use a little treat,” the grandfatherly old man squinted with delight.
“You don’t have to do this,” Jake awkwardly tried to hand the folded bill back to Buddy. He was pretty sure the old man needed it more than he did.
“I know, it’s called grace. Weren’t you listening to the sermon?” The old man smiled and gave Jake a wink. “Just say thank you, go buy yourself an ice cream cone, and then pass some on to somebody else sometime.”

So, Buddy was supposed to be just a one-time passerby in Jake's story. But now we're thinking we want to bring him back. We can't wait to see where he pops up next...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Date Night on the Cheap

Thursday night is date night, but what with trying to pinch pennies and eek out the chapters for our sequel novel, I must say, we've been more utilitarian than romantic the past few weeks. So yesterday, I set out to achieve both!
Complete with Italian mandolins playing in the background, I set up our spare room upstairs as a little candle lit bistro.

The menu consisted of a healthy salad and a yummy parmesan-garlic-alfredo-chicken pizza (on sale for $5 at Albertsons!) and a bottle of Martinelli's sparkling cider. Oh, and cookies for dessert.

After our fine dining affair, we settled in and each knocked out nearly a chapter. Whala! Cheap and time-efficient.
Of course, this wonderful plan was nearly foiled by traffic. Our lovely neighborhood, which we enjoy so much, is connected to the rest of the world by only one--very popular--thoroughfare, Highway 76. Jim called me 30 minutes after he was supposed to be home to say that traffic was backed up a mile away and apparently "they" closed the highway 2 cross streets before ours. So he turned with the rest of traffic down N. Santa Fe, waited for another 20 minutes to go about a quarter of a mile, and then found out that the 76 was closed all the way down to the major cross street past ours. So basically we were stranded--no getting in or out. Finally, he decided to park his Jeep in a random neighborhood and run home about 2 miles through Guajome Park. Of course, he'd had several meetings that day and had worn his dressier shoes. Oh yeah, and he had to lug around his big lap top bag. But none of that deterred him. He finally made it home, an hour and a half late, and the pizza still tasted fine even after being reheated.

Yea for date night! :o)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Adopting After Infertility"

So last week we went to our 2nd of 3 adoption-specific classes. It is mandated that we attend "Adopting After Infertility" since we have been unable to produce children of "our own"...Ah bliss!
The closer the evening came, the more uptight I found myself getting. It was as if my mind subconciously realized what the days were leading us closer to. Jim, on the other hand, was merely excited to be able to check one more thing off our ginormous list.
On our way down, I wondered what the other couples there would be like--and how many there would be. I mean, most people we know who are interested in adopting have already had their own child(ren). When we got there, the class was packed! And there were couples of all ages and types. Most of the class was actually pretty boring, but in the middle, they broke us into guys and gals so we could share with the group our infertility story. Lucky me, I was selected to go first in the gals group. I guess that was a good thing. As we went around the circle after me, the stories got longer and longer and more and more emotional. It was actually pretty reassuring to see that we aren't alone on this journey, and actually, we're doing quite well compared to most of them. I was surprised at the anger and inconsolable grief expressed by some of them. I hope adopting a child doesn't just slap a bandaid on some deeper issues that will then affect their adopted child later in life...Funny, the guys group ended about 25 min. earlier than us, and then just had to wait around until we were all through. I asked Jim if the guys just didn't share, or what? He said all of them contributed pretty well, but once they said their piece that was it--no tears or hugs or whatever. Typical! :o) Apparently their first question was did they ever imagine sitting in a circle discussing this. Jim, in typical fashion, piped up and said this was actually why he signed up for adoption. ha!

One of the other things we discussed in the group was the different stages of grief, starting with denial, moving through emotions of anger and depression, and finally ending up at acceptance. We had to think through our own processing, and I realized that I've gone through every stage--sometimes cycling through multiple times!--yet while I'm potentially willing to accept infertility as our permanent "thorn", I really am not fully arrived at acceptance yet. Every month, I still hope. But really, I don't think that's a bad thing...yet.

On that note, I finally just heard back from the doctor's office regarding the laparoscopy procedure. Online research had brought up numbers that looked like the surgery could cost into the thousands of dollars, and when the billing lady said my insurance wouldn't cover it, I was ready to concede forgoing this option. But...when I asked her--full of trepidation--how much it would cost then, she said it would be $300 out of pocket.
That's not too bad, all things considered...So...I'm now scheduled for surgery on Friday, April 30, one week after our FINAL adoption interview. Interesting timing. We'll see what God unfolds.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

God is good...in pink

So, this week brought my official "pink slip"...it really isn't pink at all. It was a letter explaining how at Tuesday night's school board meeting, they voted to end my contract at the end of the school year. Yes, I'm tenured--have been for several years--but that's what happens when there's no money I guess. They actually voted to end the contracts of 200 teachers--out of around 1,000 district wide. That's a 20% reduction in force. Yikes! Since there will still be kids, chances are many will be rehired before next school year, but thanks to all my other English buddies getting laid off last year, I am now the bottom of the barrel when it comes to English credentials in my district. So we will see...

But here's the part that was so cool: My principal had the lucky job of calling us each individually into his office yet again to deliver the bad news. Lucky guy. And when he sadly handed me my letter, he reassured me that this was in no way based on my performance, and then he went on to encourage me that I have made a huge difference on this campus, both in my students' lives as well as (this is the part that was so cool) in his own life...that I have inspired him to be a better person and pursue a deeper walk with God, and that I have motivated him spiritually, etc. I felt like I was getting teary, and it looked like he maybe was too, so I got up to leave, and he gave me a hug, and I went back to class.


What a difference from the last time I got pink slipped--at Vista High School five years ago, when my principal insinuated that I wasn't a good teacher and they'd be better off without me...and where I later learned there had been complaints about my involvement in Christian Club and allowing my students to hold Bible studies in my classroom.

That time, I was devastated, and it really made me second-guess my calling to teaching. I felt like a failure.

This time, I am elated, and it really confirms that God brought me to Oceanside to be both a teacher as well as His hands to those around me. I feel like a success.

So, yeah, God is good...even through a pink slip!

Another way I saw God's wonderful-ness in pink this week was our short visit with Jim's sister and her husband and their baby daughter. Not quite 5 months ago, Becky went into labor 7 weeks early and gave birth to a tiny Kylie who had to spend over a month in the NICU. Now she is a gorgeous, healthy, smiling, expressive little girl who is an amazing testimony of God's goodness. And she looks great in pink! (although by the time we took this picture, she had changed out of her pj's)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The icing on the cake

Yesterday I wrote I was thankful that I at least had a job to get a flat tire on the way to...("at least until I got my pink slip"). Well, I didn't have to wait very long! Today at lunch, I was invited to the pink-slip-party line in the office, as our principal had the tough job of bringing us into his office one by one to hand us the following notice:

"Unfortunately, it appears you may be part of the spring 2010 layoff..."
Poor guy!

Kind of funny timing, given the circumstances of my week, but again, I actually just feel really blessed. If I'm honest, I've been ready to take a break from teaching since we started trying to get pregnant two years ago. And hopefully this summer, we'll get the kid we've been longing for, and I'll happily be a stay-at-home mom!

Please do pray for so many of my friends, though, who were with me in this line and who really need this job. The economy sucks!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rachel's Not-So-Fun Day

Jim left yesterday morning for Canada, to do some movie interviews and publicity work. Cool stuff. Unless you're me...

Here's my day yesterday:
2:30 pm--Finally finished with a long, exhausting day with my students. Research papers. woo hoo.
5pm--talked on the phone to my dad about a plastic-y flapping sound under my car that seemed to be getting worse. He said he'd check on it when he comes to visit next month.
5:45pm--leave for church early for a meeting with one of my girls before youth group.
5:47pm--pull onto highway 76 and car makes a huge "KABOOM!" and starts shaking. Plastic-y flapping sound is gone. I quickly pull to the side of the road, look under the hood as well as under my car (as if I know what to look for!), and see nothing. I call my dad. We figure out...something is wrong. (I know, genius).
5:55pm--I call AllState for our towing service.
6:45pm--The tow truck finally shows up. (Note: I have been sitting in my car the whole time, with nothing to do in the dark, while I am less than a mile from home. But I had to stay with the car for when the tow truck came.)
7:45pm--My car is finally parked at our mechanic's and I drop the key in the after-hours slot. (Note: It is parked in a Handicapped spot because it won't shift into anything except drive--not reverse or even neutral--so the tow truck driver basically had to shake it off of the truck and this was where it landed. When I expressed concerned about being illegally parked in the handicapped spot, he kind of laughed and hinted that was the least of my problems.)
My amazing friend Lauren left her family and picked me up and brought me home, because everyone else I could think of was at church (where I should have been).
11pm--I finally make it to bed after talking to my dad, Jim, watching the Biggest Loser (ok, that was fun), and prepping Jim's bike to ride to school tomorrow. That's right, I figured rather than make someone go out of their way to give me a ride, I'd kill two birds with one stone and get my exercise done while commuting. Brilliant!

6am--Bundled up and looking pretty ridiculous, I prepare to ride to school.
6:15am--I forgot to adjust Jim's seat and I almost fall off the bike.
6:20am--I'm finally on my way...

6:55am--About 2.5 miles from school, my tire feels weird. I pull over--it's flat. But I'm smart! I packed an air pump. Aha!
6:57am--I get on the bike and feel the tire one last time...All the air is gone. I don't just have a flat, I have a blow out that won't even hold air. Hmmm...
7am--After standing there just trying to figure out what to do, I decide to start walking. I walk...and walk...and walk...and walk...At one point, I decide it's just to scary and embarrassing to be walking my bike along the highway, so I turn down Benet Road to catch the bike path. 50 yards down, a group of young homeless people emerge (a lot of them sleep down there) and look at me strange. I can't tell if they're sizing me up, or think I'm one of them. I stop to think and decide the highway is less scary than the low-lying secluded bike path I'm headed toward.

8am--I finally arrive at school, looking quite bedraggled and worse for wear. As I try to rush to my classroom (thank goodness for 1st period prep!), I run into two teacher friends who look at me with concern. I freshen up and change to my school clothes, ready to start the day.
9:25am--I call my mechanic and find out it'll cost $2,000 to fix my transmission. I guess it's cheaper than a new car, so I tell him to go ahead. Eek!
9:30am--I tell my story in 3rd period, and a girl tells me she had laughed at the crazy lady walking her bike on the way to school that day.
10:30am--I tell my story in 4th period, and another girl tells me she had wanted to pull over to help the poor lady walking her bike that morning.
12:30--Students walk into 5th period and laugh at the story they heard from their friends.

And here I sit, trying to figure out if I should beg for a ride from someone, or rent a car for the next day or two...What a day!

BUT...Throughout this whole ordeal last night and today, as I attempt to pout and feel sorry for myself, God has just not allowed me too! Everytime I focus on the negatives, I just have to laugh at the timing of it all, and then I can't help but think of all the positives...
*It was a gorgeous morning.
*I made it more than half way riding my bike.
*I have legs to walk.
*I already got my exercise done for today. (and I'll let myself indulge on ice cream tonight!)
*I have good friends who have offered rides.
*I made it to school in time, and had a fine day.
*I have a job. (at least until pink slips come out next week! :o))
*I have a trustworthy (although expensive) mechanic.
*I have a husband I can't wait to see tomorrow!
*I was able to listen to a great podcast on my journey this morning by David Platt, talking about what it means to follow Christ fully (i.e. the whole pick up your cross daily thing--very challenging!)
*There are women in our world who walk as far as I did EVERY DAY just to get a little water or food for their families.
*Those homeless people I was a little afraid of LIVE THERE, while I slept in a wonderful warm bed.
*And again, it was a gorgeous morning.

I am blessed! I wish my blessed life could have looked differently this last 24 hours, but really, in the grand scheme of things, I have nothing to complain about!