February 28, 2013

Is there anything more hope-filled than the first bright blue sky of warmer weather after a long winter? Now, each morning, first rays of sun peek over farm fields hugging the horizon as I drive to school. Days are lengthening. No longer do I travel to and from in black dark, my body telling me I should still be in bed. All things wake in the spring, and these early glimpses bring joy.

Jack Frost was out early one morning, painting waiting branches with white diamond feathers spread thick. It did not last long. Warm sun soon spread melting rays. All around a hopeful drip, drip, drip began; first in eaves, then trickling across pavement. I can feel it now. This winter will not last forever. Hope creeps in, past frosty parts of my heart. Newness is coming.

February 24, 2013

In Early Morning Light...

Just loving the morning light these days. Also loving this little cyclamen, another flower from my valentine (he knows I prefer real plants over short-lived cut flowers). Happy days begin when the sun rises earlier, when snow melts, and when we can walk again on our usual path around the neighbourhood without our faces freezing solid!

In a few short days I turn 32. Really? Do I have to? I do not feel 32. Was it not just yesterday that I graduated University and set off into the wide open world? Are these really my dear friend's children I am beginning to see in hallways and classrooms at school? How much a decade can change.

In the more-manageable near future, there are a few things I'm really looking forward to;

- a trip to Texas to visit my brother and sister in law, my first time further south than Seattle (please kill all the big spiders and snakes before we get there!)

- our annual Girls Get-Away weekend in Canmore (you have no idea how much I am looking forward to this friends!)

- snow melting (it will happen... it will happen...)

- walking and biking again (we need to wear off some winter insulation!)

Have a wonderful week,

February 19, 2013

Into The Woods...

Caught this sneaky little prickle patch one afternoon out on the farm, high up in a young birch which was nibbled to nothing. Poor birch had the unfortunate luck of hosting a winter meal for this little woodland muncher. There he was, claws clinging to the smallest of the birch branches, swaying in the breeze. 

Neal thought it would be fun to shake the tree a little. Not such a good idea in my books. I for one, did not want to end up with a porcupine quill hat. No sir. I was thankful for the telephoto lens keeping me at safe distance. 

"They don't throw their quills, do they?" He asks, contemplating a gentle shake. This is what you get when you walk in the woods with boys...

No dear. They do not. This is still not a good idea.

He shakes the tree a little anyways, and the sleepy porcupine slowly shifts his long claws and continues napping. Thankfully. Then the breeze picks up and the little branches, heavy with porcupine, really start to sway. We decide to continue walking... away from the tree!

February 15, 2013

A Happy Heart Day

Valentine's Day this year meant a hilarious red and pink dress up day at the elementary school where I teach. No photo evidence exists except a few shots which may appear in the yearbook... It is one of those rare days when professional dress code goes out the window. I was given fair warning that simply wearing a pink sweater with black dress pants was unacceptable and frowned-upon, so I knew this Red and Pink Day was serious business! Feather boa's, red and pink pants (some a little tight...), ruffly tu-tu's and sparkly Western hats all made an appearance! I managed to rustle up a pink skirt, red flannel shirt, and my new red rain boots for the occasion, and topped it off with a construction paper heart headband. What would elementary teachers do without construction paper? I always enjoy watching as the students hand out their valentines, they just light up. Thankfully grade three is still young enough to enjoy the event without cootie issues! We truly had a sweet day, and despite much sugar (which I strategically save for the last 15 minutes of class), they were good as gold.

Update: there is no photo evidence, but I did receive this lovely portrait from a student today, complete with the class document camera, our current Bible lesson on the smart board and my heart headband, red boots and plaid shirt. I seem to have a disproportionately small waist and a rather large head....

Hahaha... I love them.

Pretty pink flowers and the cutest valentines (from here) happened to find their way into our kitchen by the time I got home. We enjoyed nachos for supper and my Valentine brought strawberry shortcake home for dessert. Mmmm...  Four short years ago this man asked me to marry him. Saying yes was the best decision I have ever made!

Hope your Heart Day was filled with the ones you love!

February 14, 2013

Happy Heart Day! May you shine the love of Christ into someone's heart today, and may you find His love and grace reflected back to you.

Thanks for the love!

February 11, 2013

recovery looks like this...

I attended our annual Teacher's Conference last week and walked away with something I did not expect, a little light shed on my healing journey. I attended a session titled 'Avoiding Burnout', slipping quietly into a back seat, happily surprised to greet a Slave Lake colleague a few seats down. Not sure what to expect from a naturopathic doctor and her psychologist ally, I tentatively listened as the presentation launched into a medical description of what happens to our bodies when we keep our wheels spinning a little too fast. In these last months since September, I feel know my wheels have been spinning a little too fast. I need strategies for coping with full-time teaching again; and in a raw and tender state, am not above admitting a need for help and understanding. Perhaps my before-the-fire self would have scoffed and feigned strength, taking pride in worshipping the god of Doing It All. Now, this raw and vulnerable self is looking for any help she can get.

I sat and took it all in, knowing I have hit a wall and hit it hard.

A piece of the session focused on the biochemical changes our body undergoes in response to a traumatic situation. I was aware of the concept of 'fight or flight', yet could not put my reaction during the fire into either of those categories. To know that there is another involuntary reaction, 'freeze', brought comfort to my heart. That is exactly what happened. I froze. Not because I am a fool, (which is what I have truly felt) but because my brain was responding to a perceived threat on the most basic of levels. I froze. We froze. Thank goodness a car came along.

Soaring levels of adrenaline and a concoction of other survival hormones surge for a short period of time after such an event. Instead of a normal reaction to stimulus (in my case, hearing loud noises or sirens), where the body system will react adequately to suit the situation, your body will fire at 100% every time, making one quite jumpy. I certainly experienced those reactions in the days and weeks after the fire. Eventually these reactions subside, yet adrenal glands can still continue in overdrive. Over-thinking the situation and obsessing about what you could have done differently are all common experiences when your body is still swimming in a cocktail of negative stress hormones *whew*, definitely experienced that!

When the over-extended state continues other symptoms can arise; weight gain despite healthy eating and exercise (because the hormones cause your food to be stored as 80 - 90% fat as opposed to normal levels of 40 - 60%), feelings of depression (with a different chemical source than clinical depression), constant fatigue, inability to concentrate, lack of focus and general feelings of 'not caring' about anything. If your body continues in this over-stressed-state, it will begin to tie-in to your lean muscle mass and deplete it, resulting in weight loss (but not the good kind).

*yikes! are you tired of reading this yet? it's not fun to talk about, but I need to, the good stuff is coming, I promise!*

Now, this May will mark two years since the fire. I have cycled through the most intense of the hormone over-reactions, bounced back a little when I took a break from everything from Sept 2011 - Jan 2012, and now here I am, after getting my feet wet subbing, back into full-time teaching. Do I feel that it was right to walk through that open door - Yes. Am I thankful for the opportunities I have been given - Yes. It is Hard, but that doesn't mean I am not supposed to do it. I just need help knowing how, and managing what I have been given. Don't we all? Reading around the blogosphere, I know I am not alone. Many women are tired, hitting walls, over-extended, feeling guilty saying no, just trying to cope, looking for healing. We journey together.

The session gave some practical tools, like resting your adrenals by sleeping in anywhere between 7-9am, when possible, two mornings a week (your adrenals are at their height an hour after waking, so it is ideal to rest them during that 'programmed' hour). Make time each day to spend even 5 minutes doing something you enjoy and be fully present in that moment (like sipping on a cup of tea and not letting your mind float to events or expectations for later in the day).

Armed with a few tactics to slow down my system's stress response, my next wave of healing in the session came from a little imagination exercise *don't worry, it's not creepy or new-age-ish*. We were asked to imagine a container, outside of ourselves, big enough and strong enough to hold all of our 'stuff', sealed tight so nothing could leak out. I tried to imagine something big enough and strong enough, something that could hold all my stuff; heartache, dashed hopes and all the daily demands and pressures. I swallowed back a few tears as before my mind's eye, nail scarred hands and a bright voice whispered; 

"Let Me be your container. I can hold all your 'stuff', you're safe with Me. Leave it In Me. Take it out when you need to deal with it, and have the freedom to put it back and forget about it. I'll hold it for you, safe In Me."

Truth is, I am not in a life threatening situation right now. Snarled threads of thought can be put away, untangled later by Master Hands. By taking out what is not necessary in the moment, I can address what is necessary in the moment.

I curled up in my favourite thrift store-ratty blanket this past Saturday morning and indulged in a few chapters of The Hobbit instead of embarking immediately on the mound of marking perched on my kitchen table. Sitting warm and rested in a moment of peace, I placed my expectations and demands for the day into my Container. This is what my healing journey looks like right now. This is what my recovery journey looks like right now.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

image credit: 1, 2

February 7, 2013

a side of Thursday night funnies...

Neal and I are getting back into the routine of going out to eat on Friday nights. It is something I look forward to all week; not making supper, and having a fun night out with my man. I was searching a variety of places on-line this evening when I hit a gold mine... The Cheese Factory. If you know Neal, you know he loves cheese. Proud of my new discovery I look slyly up from the screen;

A: Guess what kind of a restaurant I've found...
N: *raises eyebrows*
A: It's one that specializes in a certain kind of food...
N: Uh... beans?
A: What? No! Can you imagine? What kind of a business plan would that be? You'd have to have quite the extensive ventilation system...
N: Well, you have been putting beans in a lot of our food lately... *true story - thanks to 'Spilling The Beans' cookbook*
A: No. Not beans. Cheeese... I found a place called The Cheese Factory!!
N: You didn't know about the Cheese Factory?
A: No! Did you?
N: uh, Yes. We drove by it just the other night... I even said something about trying it out sometime.
A: What? Am I losing my mind? *don't answer that - I also apparently turned on my bedside lamp while I was sleeping last night...*
N: *laughing* Well, I'm glad it's not just me who has memory issues... I'll have to keep an eye on you for early Altzheimer's...
A: No. Doubt.
N: But on the bright side, we can go on first dates for the rest of our lives!

Hahaha... I'm looking forward to it...

February 1, 2013

Deer Winter...

 {pics taken by Mom}

These woodland friends seem to be making it through the winter just fine, despite severe cold snaps. They look so furry and fuzzy I just want to hug them! Being close to wildlife like this is one of the many things I miss about living in the country, and one of the reasons I am happy to visit. Just last week eleven deer were spotted wading through the snow up the back hill; one by one, single file, through the pasture and out to back woods.

They seem to have an unfortunate affinity for several ornamental trees of Grandma's and an assortment of perennials in the garden. Why eat old, dried-up grass when you can munch on a frozen Hosta? When my family first moved to the acreage, great lengths were taken to discourage the constant deer-munching; whirly-gigs, tattered scarecrows, dryer sheets and a 5 foot mesh fence around the lower garden. Still, deer bandits prevail. But really, if they weren't here, where else would they be? Good thing they are so darn cute.