Archive for June, 2009
I absolutely hate being sick. Usually I will do everything in my power to convince myself and others that I am just fine. I have found homemade remedies that I swear cure 99% of all sickness- usually some combination of 2 shots of wheat grass, sitting in the steam room at the gym and drinking emergen-c will take care of most ailments. Even when I was little I was the kid who would beg my parents to let me go to school so I wouldn’t miss out- even if I was sniffling and coughing. (I know not so great for those parents who were trying to protect their little ones from germs. oops)
But, today none of my remedies worked. I am home sick. Blah.
The kind of fever sickness where I am simultaneously hot and cold and my whole body aches. My head strangely feels like its 4 lbs heavier and I get dizzy whenever I stand up. I slept for 13 hours last night and was hoping that I would just magically feel better in the morning. I love Saturday mornings in this sleepy beachside town. So I convinced myself to get up and enjoy it. Probably against better judgment I decided that I would battle my sickness. I browsed through a few garage sales, got breakfast from my favorite local bagel shop and then my friend and I tried to go surfing. Well, in case you didn’t guess my sickness beat me. I lost.
And now I’ve spent the whole day in bed – napping, watching re-runs of The Office on my computer and drinking lots and lots of tea. On days like this I wish I had super telepathic powers like Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I mean she could sit on her bed and simply with a look of her eyes move the box of Kleenex from the bathroom to her bedroom or bring a cup of hot tea from the kitchen to her bedside. Aw, man…that’s what I need right now. It feels like someone came by and zapped the life out of me. Like some kind of mean trick on this gorgeous summer day. Wow, you know you’re really sick when you’re idolizing Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
But I guess lying in bed for 12 hours will keep you humble. And remind me that yes, I too get sick. And no, I can’t make myself get better. (although I’ll probably keep trying.)
Santa Barbara is a small town and it’s not uncommon to run into someone you know nearly everywhere you go. Last year I was sitting by myself in one of my favorite coffee shops with big windows and oversized chairs. I was quite content with my book, journal and large latte when one of my students. Sulleyma, a friendly, bright-eyed latina girl who looked like she was 14-going-on-24, walked by and waved to me through the window. She and her 3 other friends strolled inside, in a single file line, one girl behind the other.
And I’ll never forget what Sulleyma asked me:
“Ms. Acker, why do always roll solo?
I laughed to myself at her creative slang (to roll solo means to go out or be by yourself) and then I tried to explain to four teenage girls that this introvert at heart actually enjoys sitting in coffee shops all by herself. Regardless if they got it or not, I realized there are a number of things that I do enjoy doing by myself. I like rollin’ solo to a coffee shop for hours and strolling through the farmers market by myself. And I’ll roll solo for an afternoon at the beach or a run to the park. I’ve even become quite accustomed to rollin’ solo while traveling in other countries, but there is one place that I do not like (in fact, probably hate) rollin’ solo to…
I don’t think anyone really likes going to weddings alone. It’s one thing if you know lots of people and have a group of friends who will be there- those situations can be fun for sure. But if you’ve ever been to one of those weddings where you know all of three people, and one person is the usher who you escorted you to your seat, and the other two are the bride and groom, well, then that’s just recipe for a rollin’ solo disaster.
I went to a beautiful wedding for a friend from high school last weekend. It was the kind of wedding that had the perfect balance between simplicity and eloquence and yet just enough creative personal touches to make it feel like you were a part of the wedding, not merely distant observers. I walked in and gave my best effort at making awkward small talk with friends I haven’t seen since high school graduation. I was introduced to everyone’s boyfriends and husbands and…yes, KIDS. My friends from high school have children! Feeling more out of place then ever, I squeezed passed two couples and sat on the end with an open seat next to me. (fyi: I have come to realize that wedding industry likes even numbers. Have you ever noticed that most rows have an EVEN number of chairs and most tables seat 8 or 10…also even numbers. I have nothing against even numbers in general, but when you’re at a wedding alone it makes you feel like you’re the odd one out.)
Already feeling like I was the odd one out, I intentionally dug through my purse, checked my cell phone and scanned through old pictures on my camera trying hard not to also look like the odd one out. Thankfully, the music started and with it began one of the most beautiful weddings I have been to in a long time. The whole ceremony was sweet and personable and just different. And I tend to like things that are a little different. Ya know, not always abiding by the status quo just because it’s the way it’s supposed to be done.
The gentleman who officiated their wedding had a grandfather voice and a tall, lean body the hunched over, ever so slightly. With his words and presence came a wave of emotions: encouragement. hope. freedom.
He began describing how our society often talks and jokes about marriage being restrictive. We speak of “tying the knot”, settling down and the tender trap of making this permanent and binding commitment. But he went on to explain that we can actually find marriage to be a source of tremendous freedom:
“Within marriage, you are free to fail without being rejected. You are free to succeed without causing jealousy. You are free to journey through one stage of growth to another, while drawing strength and support from your partner. You are free to face huge problems knowing that each problem will be less intimidating and more manageable because you will face it together. Marriage also allows the freedom to exchange hopes and fears and the whole gamut of feelings with one another. Such intimacy requires hard work and courage, but it is a kind of hallowed journey and, ultimately, a source of fulfillment and freedom
This isn’t to say that all of this is impossible outside of marriage. This is to say that the marriage commitment especially lends itself to such freedom because it provides a secure framework within which such risk and creativity are possible.”
I just love this.
He named something that is so true and so beautiful and sometimes I fear, so forgotten. His heartfelt words brought encouragement to the rollin’ solo feelings that had crept into my heart and mind that cloudy afternoon. I was reminded why marriage is worth waiting for. And regardless of the wedding or the dress or the rings or the flowers or the countless other things that consume a young bride’s mind, this lifelong commitment is the essence. The day-to-day freedom to grow and serve and learn how to do life together-that is what marriage is about.
And that truth left me with a renewed ability to hope. and trust. and pray. and wait.
This is a season of weddings. And any single person in their twenties or thirties or forties can probably agree that weddings have this uncanny way of bringing a truth and hope that reminds you what love can look like, but they can just as quickly bring a lonely, heart-ache that makes you doubt and question, Why am I still here by myself?
My advice: 1) Don’t roll solo to weddings. And 2) Take time to ask the hard questions, but don’t lose the ability to hope and trust and pray and wait.
At beginning of every school year my elementary school teachers would assign class jobs. There were the usual jobs inducing paper passer outer, calendar duty, feeding the class fish, etc, but my favorite job by far was when it was my turn to be the class line leader.
I don’t know why I liked being the class line leader so much? Maybe it was the appeal of leading the class and being the first one to the cafeteria or the first one to recess or maybe it was just my way of being a selfish seven year old who wanted to be in front. Sometimes I think I haven’t changed too much. I am embarrassed to admit that sometimes I still like being the “line leader.” On my defense, it’s not like I am consciously thinking, “ooh, I want to be in front”- but it just happens. Sometimes I end up walking two feet in front of the group, until a good friend points out how annoying it is to everyone else. And every so often when I find myself to be the first car at a stoplight I get this childish glee because I realize that I am the “car line leader” and that means I’ll be the first one down the street. I know it sounds odd, maybe even worrisome, but heck, I’m just being honest. I am sure I can blame part of this on the combination of being the first born in my family and being someone who likes to “be in charge”, but there is also some truth to be told about growing up in a culture that trains and values leaders. I look back on my junior high and high school days and vividly remember teachers, mentors and speakers who instructed us to be leaders at school and in our community. There was this implicit message that good, responsible, successful citizens grow up to be leaders. Even in youth group we were encouraged to be student leaders, and once I got to college there were entire classes on leadership and how to make a difference in our world.
Leaderships is a buzzword now days. You can find books, curriculum, conferences, etc., all promising how to make you a better leader. It seems that we empower and teach our youth that they can and should be leaders. (This is certainly the message I heard growing up). We encourage students to plan and organize and bring about change and to essentially, become LEADERS. Which on one hand is not inherently a bad thing, but what happens when we live in a culture that emphasizes leading and not following?
These past few months I have been wrestling with what it looks like to follow. You don’t hear a lot of talk about following. For one, the idea of following doesn’t sound as glamorous and courageous as the word leadership. The notion of “following” doesn’t sell books and curriculum and get people excited and passionate. There are plenty of community awards for having great leadership skills, but when is the last time you heard of someone getting a “dedicated follower” award? Umm, never.
I find it ironic that the Jesus I read about in the New Testament says, “Follow me” almost twenty times. He does not say, “Become great leaders” or “Lead on”… No, instead he says, follow me. What would this world look like if men and women really, truly followed Jesus? How would my life look different if I sincerely started to follow Him?
Following implies listening, waiting, and sacrificing. It requires a letting go and giving-up. This past year I have spent a large chunk of time leading-leading meetings, planning events, organizing projects, and teaching students, but very little time following. This summer I want to learn how to be a better follower.
To be quite honest, I don’t normally love graduations. They are long and sometimes boring, filled with cliché speeches and those horrible-why-were-they-ever invented blow horns, but yesterday’s graduation was a highlight of my year. This was my first graduating class from San Marcos. I have had the privilege of working with many of the students who graduated yesterday since they were freshman. That’s four years of teaching, reminding, listening, being patient, getting frustrated, forgiving, yelling, getting frustrated (again), relearning, reteaching and then doing it all over the next day.
Notice, the proud graduate in the picture. I know this kid. I have known him for 4 years. And the local newspaper could not have picked a better picture to put on the front page. This is a guy who hated school. He got in trouble in elementary school and once told me he spent more time in the principal’s office than his own classroom. He spent that past 6 months in my English class and every morning it was like pulling teeth to get him to pay attention. He liked to take 20 min long bathroom breaks and he spent more time sketching in his notebook than answering questions. I argued with him and took a way his cell phone, and often made him stay in at lunch to finish his assignments. I would assign nightly homework and he would moan “aw, ms. acker…I’m over this.” Sometimes I wanted to respond, “well, fine. I am over you too.” But something kept him (and maybe me) going. He finished. He did it. And I could not be prouder. This picture captures it.
For many of my students last night may be the only graduation they ever have. A lot of them go on to City College or start working, but may or may not actually have another graduation. Last night was their time to celebrate. I think one of the joys of my job is that I too get to mark time and celebrate with them- another year is ending, a season is done. I too, get to feel that sense of accomplishments that comes with finishing something. The year is done. Grades are entered. Good-byes are said. Yearbooks signed. Computers shut down. Doors are locked.
Today was my last day.
I love that there are natural markers to my job—clear endings and beginnings. Even though it’s becoming a familiar rhythm every 9 months, I still get a little sad at the end of each year. Don’t get me wrong I will be the first teacher to adamantly claim that “yes, June, July and August are three great reasons to teach” but there is something wonderful that happens between September and May… and that is the something that keeps me coming back.
So, here’s to the class of 2009. Congrats.