Friday, January 31, 2014

Where I'm From poems

*One of my favorite writing assignments of the semester is a version of George Ella Lyon's Where I'm From poem. First my students write about their family, then they write a version based on any other group they're part of. I write my own poems along with them for the different groups where I belong.

HSE Junior High

I am from blue hall passes, Expo dry erase markers, FBC sweatshirts and assignment notebooks

I am from the walls of lockers (tan, metal, they smell like sweat, old lunches and Victoria’s Secret lotion)

I am from the cornfields across the road and the newly planted trees in the parking lot

I am from the Amazing Race every fall, daily video announcements with cardboard nuggets of teachers, from KCraig and Hodgin

I am from try-hards and involved-in-everything

From “Do your best” and “Be PAWSitive Panthers”

I’m from going the extra degree, Wyld Life Club and a moment of silence after the pledge

I’m from Cyntheanne Road and Southeastern Parkway, taco triangles and chocolate chip cookies on Thursdays that everybody sits on to warm up

From the raccoon that got loose in the boys’ bathroom and the girl that threw pencils into the ceiling

I am from yearbook pages of pictures, the teachers and students that filled these hallways and desks before me, the ones that taught and learned for 180 days each year

Young Life

I’m from friendship bracelets, from dance parties and snapback hats

I am from the bonfire in the woods (winding path up the hill, canopy of tall oak trees and a circle of plastic folding chairs)

I am from the gym under the garage and the front row of every Club room

I am from eating Big Cookie in one chaotic attack and YL spirit jerseys, from leading with KCraig and Hannah

I am from the partiers and the church kids, the Varsity team and the Destination-Imaginationers, the sevies and the Seniors

From You Were Made For This and Club starts at 7:32

I’m from a God that say you are the best of the very best and nothing will ever change that

I’m from Timberwolf Lake and Sharp Top Cove, pizza before Campaigners and dinner dates at Steak n’ Shake

From the flash flood on Libby’s birthday and the snow storm that cut our trip in half

I am from hours of conversations and prayers, questions shared in circles of friends or between a leader and kid, pin points on the map of our walk with Christ and our walk with each other

Camp Tecumseh

I’m from tangled gymp string, North Face backpacks and Diet Coke at pop stop

I am from the shallow end of the Richard G Marsh Lake (slimy, murky, digging through sand to find the gray clay)

I am from the tree you’re not allowed to climb on the porch side of Hopi and the stars that shine so bright every single night

I’m from singing Taylor Swift on your chair during lunch, red, yellow and blue swim bands on every wrist, from CILTs and Blazers

I am from the mud-hikers, the story-tellers and expert-blobbers

From no talking on the Silent Bridge and don’t forget to have a great day

I’m from singing in the Green Cathedral, Johnny Appleseed before dinner and candlelit devotions before bed

I’m from the Brova and Choctaw, baked oatmeal and Smooncat’s craisins

From the night we hid in the Crow’s Nest to the time we ate fireflies that exploded in our mouths

In my backpack was a time capsule of the summer—faded friendship bracelets, love tank notes, cabin pictures and a red bead from the Sagamore Creed—I am from 9 weeks of living the dream with my Tecumseh family and memories that last a lifetime

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Hmmm. I think they're friends."

After quite the long hiatus, FBC was back today. Sometimes I'm exhausted by the end of the school day and I think I just need a break, but as soon as I walk into the LGI room with all of these kids I'm recharged. These girls are rockstars and I love getting to hang out with them. We played the Airport Waiting Game and they ran around the room screaming.

I sat in a circle with these 7th grade girls as they worked on their ombre bracelets and talked about Wyld Life and Michindoh and school. I wish I could see my 7th grade self and wonder what I would have been like in FBC. I was always a quirky, creative kid and would have definitely joined this club. Even as our attendance numbers shrink over the course of the year, it doesn't diminish how much fun we're having. I actually find that I get to have more meaningful conversations when there are fewer girls. These girls practiced smiling like me too. #thewrightsmile

Where I'm From- by Sophie Sams
I am from string, scotch tape and scissors
I'm from the white board (scratched, colorful, it was kinda messed up)
I am from bouquets of friendship bracelet string, colored and bright
I am from FBC sweatshirts on Thursdays and side pony braids from Miss Wright and C Vigs
I am from the quick learners and game lovers
From hurry up we're moving on and let's play a game
I am from a friendship bracelet is about its destination and its a friendship bracelet, not a yourself bracelet

Right after FBC I picked up Julia and Brookie to hang out. We'd made these plans over a week ago, before YL Club and the snow day happened. We've ended up hanging out almost all week long and we're okay with that. Tonight was full of stories and laughing hard and doing spontaneous weird things. We picked up Lucy from Vision volleyball and ran into some of our friends there. We got friendship bracelet string at Wal-Mart and made Lucy some interesting gluten free pizza back at home.

Hanging out with these girls reminds me of when Kid President says, "Aren't we all on the same team? I mean really, right? I'm on your team, you're on my team." I'm on Julia and Brookie's team and I know that they're on mine too. We'll be there to help look for a lost phone, to talk about the hard stuff, to be Patty Pals and run around the kitchen with Lucy. We get to make life an adventure together.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"7th grade is a magical place full of possibilities."

One of my 7th grade boys walked into my room today with a whole binder full of Pokemon cards. He's going to bring them back and make them cool again. On Monday he brought just three cards to show me but now he has pages and pages of the characters that are ready to battle.

On game days the wrestlers and basketball players dress up in button down shirts and ties. If they have to change for their Wellness class then it's a struggle to get their tie perfectly tied again. One of my boys came to class after the bell rang because he was struggling with the knot and he had his shirt buttoned wrong. He got a basketball teammate to help him figure it out. When they couldn't do it together, we opened my cabinet door that had a mirror inside. He wasn't tall enough to see in the mirror so we pulled over a chair for him to stand on.  Once he got the tie fixed he needed to tuck his shirt back in so he asked if he could stand in the cabinet with the door closed. He happily climbed in and shut the door behind himself. His classmates tied to convince me to lock him in, but we let him out when he finished fixing his shirt. Never a dull moment in Junior High.

Today all of the fiesta girls got to come and play after school. Alex, Rachel, Katy and Hope are individually fantastic and that greatness just multiplies when they're all together. Our hang out was a fast one today, but it was filled with things we're excited about, good talks and always laughter. This simple routine of hanging out together on Wednesdays is one of the most consistent parts of my year.

One of things I want to continually make a priority is showing up at my student's extracurricular events. I remember one of my favorite professors at Hope telling our class how important it would be to make this a priority because it has such a profound impact on our relationship with students. Showing up speaks volumes.

Our 7th and 8th grade boys' basketball teams played Riverside tonight and I went to both of the games. I love sitting in the stands with Julia and Genna, their younger brothers are both on the 7th grade team. It's sweet to see my students out on the court playing their hearts out. Parents and younger siblings fill the stands and for a couple hours we get to just cheer on the team. I'd rather watch my Junior High kids play a game than watch any professional sports team.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"I never thought I would make friendship bracelets, but I figured if I was gonna hang with you guys I'd have to learn."

The possible -40 wind chill closed down government offices and almost all the schools of Indiana today. It's strange when you get a Cold Day on a Tuesday and you wake up feeling like it's Sunday. Of course we slept in and once we finally we woke up Julia started whipping up pancakes for the whole crew. Brooke, Jack, Matt, Livvy, Lucy and I were all ready to start off this day well. Julia had gluten free, regular, chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes sizzling on the griddle and everyone's plates were stacked high.

Julia, Brook and I were excited to play all day long instead of being at school. I don't know if I'll ever get tired of hanging out with these girls. Whether we're hyper, like at Club yesterday, or lazy on the couch today, having heart to hearts late at night or just talking about Gossip Girl, these two are some of the best. I'm so thankful for these girls that love each other well, choose to be kind, listen to one another and build each other up.

I had a camper this summer named Taylor Fischl who showed up to camp with a tutu. Taylor is the queen of Disney, princesses, bows and friendship bracelets so it's not surprising that she can also rock a tutu any day of the week. I've had a tutu on my crafting to-do list since I met Taylor in June and finally got the supplies to make it happen. Do you see her rocking the tutu right there in the middle of Gold Rush?

You can buy rolls of tulle at Wal-Mart for $2.50 and a yard of elastic for just a $1. Taylor said it was about two rolls per tutu so I got enough for Julia and I with an extra roll just in case. You just cut the tulle into long strips, fold it in half and then make a knot over the elastic waistband. It didn't take us very long at all before we had very fluffy tutus of our own.

We don't have an occasion to dress up in our tutus any time soon, but I'm confident they'll come in handy at Tecumseh and Young Life. I'm sure this will become one of my favorite costumes along with my overalls, Indian vest and snap back hats.

Julia's 7th grade brother wanted to try on the tutu too. We didn't even have to prompt him to start doing some ballet moves. Julia, Brooke and I spent the rest of the afternoon working on friendship bracelets while we watched TV and talked. Brookie gave me a purple and pink three-braid, the first one she's ever made, and I love it. Today she started a second one and she is pretty much a pro now.

I met up with 8th graders Milly, Emma and Liz for dinner at Qdoba tonight. These three are ridiculous and I love just sitting and listening to their stories. My Tecumseh friend Maggie and I were talking about being a counselor for teenage girls the other day and she said, "Ugh I love them so much. They're ridiculous and so funny and annoying and perfect." She's right-- they're just a wild mix of everything and that's why we love them so much. I can't wait to go to Washington DC with these three and a few hundred of their friends in just over two weeks. It will be one heck of a trip and I'm pumped to play with them all for three days straight.

Monday, January 27, 2014

"Young Life cancelled school so everyone can come to Club tonight!"

Do you know what's better than having a Young Life Dance Party on Monday night? NOT HAVING SCHOOL THE NEXT DAY! We got the call from Jim White halfway through our leadership meeting and I immediately switched into hyper mode. No school doesn't affect most of our leaders, but it meant that suddenly all of our kids didn't have to do their homework tonight.

Tons of kids showed up, pumped for a dance party and dressed up in their Young Life shirts, tutus, snapbacks and neon accessories. The Brookes (featured below) rock my socks. Brookie Cookie is a baller and I love when we get to have our shooting contest and she laughs at everything I say and we just play the whole time. Brooke Barnes is so busy with soccer a lot of the time so I get pumped when she can come to club. Brooke is a party.

Tonight Hannah and Haleigh had early cheer practice so they both got to come to the dance party.

More and more friends kept showing up and we ran around taking pictures and screaming, "NO SCHOOL TOMORROW!" I love when I get to see Julia, Olivia and Brooke all at once. These girls just make it so much fun to be a Young Life leader. I'd hang out with them every day if we could.

The sophomore girls rolled in ready to throw down. They understand what makes a really great dance party outfit. Hannah, Natalie, Marie and Brooke always have so much fun together.

Cousins Maddy and Natalie are the kind of friends that feel like family to me. I love that we get to live the dream together all year round.

Ryan taught us a game called Twerk Tag that he learned at training in Florida. Everyone grabs their ankles and then hops and waddles around the room running into other people.

It's ok if you fall over, you just can't let go of your ankles.

When there were only about ten twerkers left we moved them inside the free throw square and stood around the outside watching the mayhem.

Watching people's reactions might have been even more fun than watching the people actually playing the game.

Audrey and Nat Rat were two of the last ones standing because they're so beast. I bet they were so good because they've had plenty of practice doing the trick where you put your legs through the arms of a sweatshirt and walk around.

One of the highlights of the night was when Alex Kocher taught everyone a giant choreographed dance. It was like Dance Marathon line dance meets Hip Hop clinic with the best of Young Life all at once. She did such a good job of being patient with a crowd of this many people and getting all of us to learn the dance. We went hard and everyone was sweating and dancing and going crazy. So. Much. Fun.

The boys lead the way with the dance circle. You know when one person is in the middle and shows off their best moves? Seeing all of these different kids step into the middle was hilarious.

We all screamed for Karl, who came for the very first time tonight. KCraig can get down with the best of them. Teress taught us how to play and Imaginary Basketball Game and everyone was suddenly the most incredible basketball player to ever step foot on the court.

Almost all of our Junior and Senior Wyld Life leaders were at Club tonight. These kids are the best and hanging out with them is always fun. Because we have no school tomorrow, most of us went to Wendy's after club to hang out.

Ryan gave the Club talk tonight about how Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He waits for us to invite him in and share a meal with him. This week Ryan got to go to Jorge's house and eat traditional Salvadorian papooses with his family. He told us about how special it was to get to share that meal with them and be embraced by his family. The bible is filled with stories of Jesus sharing meals with friends and even whole crowds of people. Jesus wants to have a friendship, a relationship with us.

Young Life is the best. Dance Parties rock. Having no school creates instant happiness. These friends are awesome. Tonight was a very, very good night.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Donald Miller!

Last year Abby Miller and I went on an adventure to Commonway Church in Muncie to listen to Bob Goff, author of Love Does. It was one of my favorite experiences of 2013. We got to hug Bob, take our picture with him and have him sign our books. The same church hosted Donald Miller, author of books like Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, this morning.  Of course Abby and I wanted to go again and this time brought our friends Katie, Audrey and Amanda. 

Their friends saved us seats, so even though we were late we still got to sit right up front. We missed most of the worship but had perfect timing to hear Donald speak. Seeing favorite authors in person is one of my very favorite things. After reading their written words it's so cool to see them speak, hear their laugh, watch them engage with the audience. I furiously tried to write down all of the best things as he spoke so that I could remember them and so I could share them with you.

You know it's a really good movie when the credits roll at the end and everyone just sits there. It's a sense of gratitude I think. It's a realization that maybe life is a little better than I thought it would be. I want people to feel that way when they get to the end of their life too. I want them to say, "This is better than I thought it would be."

What is it that makes life meaningful? If we don't know what we're going after, we lose interest. 

There's this man named Victor Franco who researched and wrote about how people want a deep, experience of meaning. He said if they can't find it, than they distract and numb themselves with pleasure. 

Victor said people experience meaning in three ways-- 
1) A project (preferably one that serves other people) 
2) Community (people to share your life with) and 
3) Redemptive perspective on your suffering (looking for the good that came from a horrible thing)

God doesn't call us to comfort, but to a life of meaning. And meaningful stories must have conflict. There's always a perspective where we say, "God can do something beautiful through this tragedy and I'm choosing to cling to that."

You know how there are those people who are always arguing that life doesn't really matter? What if life is not meaningless? What if just your life is meaningless? Maybe God has given all of us this big, blank canvas and you've just been painting something really boring?

We live in this foggy idea that we're just waiting for God to tell us the plan. So we wait around and buy stuff at Bed, Bath and Beyond and just wait to hear God. That's lazy. We have to DO something different. We have to take responsibility for our own lives.

There are 3 questions that we've got to ask ourselves...

Who are you? 

We are not our failures. It's a tragedy if you let your past mistakes define you. God does not choose people that the church chooses. So why can't he choose you? We have to stop letting the past define us. 

We are not our successes. You are you. The pressure and expectations of repeating your success is too much. You start being careful. Risk. Just be yourself again. 

Every great character and every great hero fails at some point. But you just keep going.

What do we want?
Some people treat God like this controlling deity that wants to boss them around. That doesn't sound like a good plan to me. Maybe God is more like this, maybe he's a Dad that's just sitting on the floor with his kid coloring on a giant sheet of paper. If we want to color a purple unicorn that's ok. He bonds with us by doing stuff with us. It's not about stalking him and just learning about him, we've got to do stuff with him. 
We long for an intimacy with God but we're not doing anything. We're not taking any risks. 
What if we said, "Hey God, let's you and I adopt a child. Let's you and I lead a small group. Let's you and I start a used bookstore. Let's you and I start volunteering to mentor a kid once a week. Let's do something together."
Do you know what Steve Martin is doing right now? He's in a blue grass band. He's operating out of his heart. It doesn't make any sense. It's a risk.
I think you've always known what you should do. But it was a dream or it was silly or it was risky.

What happened when you went for it?

There are the questions I want to ask people in heaven. Great stories are beautiful in hindsight but they're awful when you're in the middle of them.

This photo of Martin Luther King Jr? Everyone is terrified. I've stared at this picture for hours. This is a story. This is a story worth living. It's full of risk and meaning. That's a story.

What is that for you? What has inherent risk? What's frightening?

I think we need you to live that story. We become the person that the story demands. You've gotta dive in. That's the only way it happens. 

"Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite the fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage. Courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world." Robert McKee

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Even when we are both grandmas in the same knitting club you will still be Miss Wright. It's kinda like the law of gravity, it can't be broken."

Saturdays were invented to be the very best day of the week when you get to sleep in and not do any work and hang out with friends. At least I think that's what they were created for. I got to have a spontaneous lunch with camp girls Emily, Rachel, Amanda, Taylor and Soph. We got to sit around a circle table and eat together just like in the Party Room at Tecumseh. Taylor had just survived the ACT, Rachel's got one more performance of Spec tonight and we were all happy to just hang out for a little bit.

Late this afternoon I picked up Katy P and we headed over to the Vigren house for their annual Ice Party. They live on a cove of Geist Lake and shovel off the snow to make their own rink. Tons of families were over and everyone was outside playing hockey or talking around the fire or making snow angels. Doesn't it just look like so much fun?

Katy and I were pumped to hang out with our friends Demi and Hope-- they're equally fierce and enthusiastic.

Cecilia's friends Maddie, Liza and Lucy were all over too. The eight of us were unstoppable on the rink.

I've always been a huge fan of the Vigren family but I think this was the first time I got to hang out with all three of the girls at once. Demi, Hope and Cecilia have different personalities but they're all confident, kind, fun-loving and joy filled girls.

It was so fun to run around on the ice with Maddie and Katy, two girls I think the world of. Maddie's in 7th grade, Katy's a sophomore, and they are both so much fun.

The game got even more interesting when we made up the rule that you had to sing Hannah Montana while playing. Everyone was belting out the words, dancing to the Hoe Down Throw Down and occasionally remembering to actually play hockey.

Eventually we headed inside to warm up, eat from the Vigren buffet, make bracelets, watch Netflix, wrestle Cecilia and practice our bridges. With so many people running around it was entertaining to say the least.

If Saturdays were created for fun and friends then I think we can safely call today a grand success.