It’s a hard rain…

I mean, literally, it has been raining all day. And I was just listening to Bob Dylan. And last week, the first week back, was pretty hard. There were really nice things, like getting Tuesday off because it 12 was the high, and Memphis is just not used to those kinds of temperatures. But my pipes burst and froze, and I did not run at all, and I ate cheese and drank milk and got a tummy ache, and it was just… well… hard.

But we have recovered. I am actually surprise about how much I really do love Simone. She’s very friendly and fun; she keeps me company and loves HGTV a whole lot (I might be making that up…) In the midst of the stress, having her has actually helped me to stay calm, mostly because I am a border-line clear freak, and I don’t want to make her nervous. I’m afraid if she goes crazy, she will tear up the house. Nobody wants that. It would be really not pretty.

As far as my financial goals go, I think that I have developed a better grasp over the past week or so on how to get out of debt this year in a realistic, I’m-not-going-to-fail way. I’m one of those people who comes out of the gate running, and I need to learn how to pace myself with just about everything. My plan was to just pay off everything ridiculously quickly, which would leave me very little wiggle room. So, I am leaving some wiggle room, and letting myself go at a 12-month, steady, consistent pace.

Travis and I had a sit-down, talk-it-out meeting on Saturday about budgets and goals and where we want to be and what we want to do and how we are going to do it. To tell you the truth, it was pretty hard to really look at my own spending and see how much money I wasted because I had not been organized. So, I made a budget and was really, really, really honest about my finances. Even though I spent a good portion of the meeting in stress-shock-oh-my-goodness-girlfriend mode, after it was over I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I felt like, “I can do this. This can happen. It will all be okay.” That is a great feeling! No seriously, it is! I am so blessed to have an organized, responsible, doesn’t-over-do-it boyfriend who really believes that I can do this! Woo hoo for support!

In other news, I watched a pretty great Ted Talk by Lizzie Valesquez. She was once called the ugliest girl in the world and people have said all sorts of mean, ugly, awful things about her. And, well, she’s a total badass. The talk wasn’t to the beat of “I have a dream,” but it was certainly inspirational. To be eloquent, her talk was basically a big “eff you” to all the small-minded people out there pissing all over people’s self-esteem, confidence, dreams, goals… whatever. The only thing I would have liked to see is her walking off the stage, middle fingers in the air. Lizzie is too classy for that, but you get what I am saying. The best way to get back at all of those evil people who basically suck a big one is to be totally awesome, like Lizzie.

Okay, so now that I’ve been silly and funny and encouraging, I do have to say one thing about the presentation that bugged me the whole time – me. I bugged me because I know for a fact that as an insecure preteen and teenager, I sometimes made fun of people and acted like a total bully. I bugged me because I know that I would stare at her if she was passing by me on the street. I bugged me because I kept on staring at her while watching the video in disbelief because she just looks so… so… so different. That part of me that is ugly and evil and oh so fleshy and human bugged me big time.

I mean, I look at the “People of Walmart” and laugh and say “Oh my gawwwwd” and totally de-humanize them. And you’ll say, “That’s not the same thing,” but isn’t it? We say, “That’s awful,” when we hear that someone told Lizzie to shoot herself because she was so ugly, but we don’t blink to say something nasty about a woman not wearing at bra out in public. Isn’t our heart in the same place? Maybe I’m taking this whole thing too seriously, but it still really bugs me that I do that – that we do that.

At school, I get all annoyed at parents who drop their kids off looking all crazy and disheveled. I have said things to people about it bothers me. And yes, I do think that parents should pull themselves together a little to drop their kids off at school, but what I need to do is show some compassion and grace in my own heart towards these parents. They might be who they present themselves to be, or they might just be really tired and stressed and overwhelmed, and their outward appearance should not dictate the way that I allow myself to think about them.

Okay. That got unintentionally serious! Hopefully it gave you something to think about or get angry about or say, “Oh girl, relax” about. I guess in closing I will say that I think I need to reevaluate my heart and my values and how I think about and interact with all people. Yeah, what do you think?

Long Nights, Longer Days, and Trying to Say “No” (and “Yes”)

I’m tired. There are a thousand factors that go into me being tired – nutrition, sleeping, anxiety – but when it comes down to it, I am tired because I have been saying “Yes” when I should say “No” and “No” when I should say “Yes.” Does anyone feel me on this? Anyone?

For instance, today I said “Yes” to a gigantic coffee and peanut-butter-chocolatey candies. I should have said “No.” This seems to be a pattern that is developing in my life… unfortunately.

In short, I’m pretty sure that my priorities are all out of whack. I need to get some perspective; I’m pretty sure that this is my step 1.

Things to Remember:

1) Relationships are important – very important. However, don’t use them as an excuse to be a slacker (and the church said “Amen”)

2) Make your boss(es) happy – like your big boss(es), whoever that/those person/people are. You have more than one boss (let’s be honest), and some of the people you let be your bosses are unnecessary (originally I said “suck,” but I wanted to remain positive); decide which ones matter and fire the ones who don’t… Oh, and listen more carefully to the ones who DO matter.

3) You are not superwoman, and capes are dangerous (we’ve all seen The Incredibles… at least I would hope you have!)

4) Stay in your lane. I need someone to text that to me every single hour of my life. I hate staying in my lane (like literally – I love switching lanes.) But people who stay in their lane get hit and flicked off.

5) Just because you’re staying in your lane doesn’t mean that you cannot help. Help is good. Being “not stay-y in lane-y” is bad. Don’t get them confused.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “That is like the worst list of priorities I’ve ever seen,” OR, “She’s crazy. That made no sense. And we’re letting this woman teach our children!?!”

First of all, to the haters I say, “Haters gonna hate.” Second of all, these are directly listed to my priorities. You see, your priorities… I mean MY priorities (I have no clue how you think about your priorities) are directly related to how I think about myself in relationship to others. It is also related to how I think about myself in relationship to myself.

It all comes down to these… I think… maybe:

  • Trust. Trust God. Trust that He will give you what you need. Trust that right now is not forever. You see, over time I’ve lost trust. I only trust me (see #3 in the aforementioned list). That’s a problem (obviously). To have my priorities right, I have to be able to trust – completely trust. I have to be able to give up control when necessary AND take charge when necessary. Both of these (giving and taking) are related to trust.
  • Authority. I must understand who has authority in my life right now and beyond that who needs to have authority and doesn’t, and who has authority but shouldn’t. I am finding, unfortunately, that there a lot of people who I have allowed to have authority, but they really shouldn’t. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have people who need to have more authority (or authority at all) in my life, but they do not. I’m starting to fix that. (This pretty much covers numbers 1,2,4, and 5)
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. I realize that all the things in my life that need to be fixed won’t be fixed now. I also realize that when I do fix them, they may not be fixed perfectly. But hey, that’s okay… right?

 

MEMPHIS: VOTE PRE-K

Okay, I should have posted this weeks ago, but it’s better late than never, right?

Attention Memphians: Early voting for the Memphis Pre-K Initiative ENDS tomorrow, November 16th! (Election Day is November 21)

As an educator, I believe that the earlier we start educating children, the better. One great way to do this with a pre-kindergaten or preschool program. Unfortunately, these types of programs are not widely available in public school, so if you want your kid in pre-k, you have to pay money. Thus begins the education gap that people just LOVE to talk about.

Memphis is wanting to do something about this huge problem. There is proposed .5% tax increase (this is only about .25 for every $50 spent.) That money will go towards putting preschool programs in EVERY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. At my elementary school, we currently can only afford to have 2 preschool classrooms (there are between 4 and 6 classrooms for every other grade level.) Go talk to any kindergarten teacher – the difference between those students who had preschool and those who did not is significant! 

Bottom Line: The gap between kids whose parents have money and kids whose parents do not starts early, even earlier than we would like to admit.  In my experience with parents, they love their kids and want their children to have the best education possible. However, many of them lack the resources and/or the education to help keep their kids on (or anywhere near) the level they need to be in order to be successful in their educational endeavors. This is our reality now. It does not have to be our reality forever.

This is THE REASON that we pay taxes, to fund programs to help people. I will GLADLY pay an extra .5% on my purchases if it means that every single kid in Memphis has the choice to be a part of a preschool program.

I honestly believe that if you live in Memphis, and you want to better the education system in our community, you will head down to one of these locations tomorrow between 10 am and 4 pm and VOTE.

I will WATCH YOUR KIDS, CLEAN YOUR HOUSE, DRIVE YOU THERE, DO ALMOST ANYTHING if it means you get out there tomorrow and vote for this initiative.

CHECK OUT THIS LINK FOR MORE INFORMATION!

Grandpa Phil

Grandpa Phil on the trolley in Memphis Winter 2010

Grandpa Phil on the trolley in Memphis
January 2010

Grandpa and Aly Christmas 2010

Grandpa and Aly
Christmas 2010

Grandpa and Elizabeth, the baby he called, "My new favorite." Fall 2011

Grandpa and Elizabeth. He’s been quoted to refer to her as his “favorite.”
Fall 2011

Grandpa Phil and Ellie Shea dining Spring 2012

Grandpa Phil and Ellie Shea dining
Spring 2012

Where do I start? I guess at the beginning. Grandpa Phil has always been my favorite; I am sure that I am his favorite too. When I was little, we would watch the Jungle Book at his house, and he would feed us chocolate to the dismay of my health-nut mother. I remember him taking us to the A&W Drive-In in Berthoud. I remember him and my dad teaching me how to swim when I was four. “It’s like riding a bike,” he told me. Needless to say, I swim really weird because of that. When I was little, I always wanted to ride on his Harley, but then I would cry the whole time because I got scared. So he would give me orange sherbet ice cream and hug me and it was all perfectly wonderful.

When I was a little older, my siblings and I would spend the night in his tiny studio apartment for retired people. He slept on a futon, and, even though mom packed up sleeping bags, we all insisted that we were scared and needed to sleep with Grandpa. I’m pretty sure he ended up sleeping on the floor, and, if my parents had known, we would have received a spanking. He took us to Starbucks, let us pick out our very own Starbucks mug. He’d order us decaf carmel cappuccinos, and we thought we were the best and coolest people on the planet.

In third grade, it was “Bring your parent to school” Day. My dad normally came, but for some reason this one year he couldn’t. My mom worked at the school, so I couldn’t bring her. I called my Grandpa crying, so he came. I remember when he walked in the classroom, I jumped on him. I was wearing a dress, and it flipped up. Luckily, I was wearing shorts. Still, I was sensitive and emotional and really easily embarrassedd, and so he took me in the hallway so the other kids wouldn’t see me crying.

He helped (and by helped I mean built) our house when I was in middle school. I mean, hours and days and weeks and months of building and building and building. I remember one time when I was 12 just the two of us went to get coffee at the local coffee shop in the small town where we lived, and I wanted to order the coffee on my own. I ordered a regular cappuccino on accident, so he took it and put a ton of sugar in it so that I would like it. I remember waking up really early and we would sit at the table and watch the sunrise and drink coffee (again, mom was not happy about that). We didn’t really talk. We mostly just sat and watched, and he would hold my hand.

When we moved to Florida, he would stay with us for 3 months out of the year, normally in the fall/winter when it would get cold in Colorado. He’d take me to horse riding lessons every single Saturday on the back of his motorcycle. He drove soooooooo slow so that I wouldn’t get scared. Cars honked, and he would say, “Let them honk.”

He taught me how to drive when I was 15, mostly because  my parents refused to (I was pretty awful). We would go way out to the middle of nowhere and drive his truck, which was a stick shift. One time, I ran a stop sign over. He got out of the car and pushed it up like new… sort of. He got back in the truck, where I was bawling; all he said was, “I won’t tell your mom.” Then he took me to a movie to make me feel better.

He was in the audience of almost every play I was ever in. He was in the stands cheering me on during my very short athletic career. He was at my high school, college, and grad school graduations. When I first moved to Memphis, he made several trips during my first three and a half years here. He insisted on moving boxes up and down stairs, even though his health had been declining for quite some time.

During that one really hard break up a year and a half ago, he hugged me and told me how loved I was.

And this past year has been so hard. In and out of hospitals, surgeries, medications – moving him from my parents home where he had lived for five years to a nursing home. But he still knew me a year ago; he knew me 8 months ago; I don’t think he knows me now, and that is really hard to accept. But what is harder is that this really is the end. I mean, he’s going, and there is not a whole lot of time left.

We all keep hoping that he’s going to just bounce back, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen this time. And there are a million regrets and things that my family wishes we would have done differently. We hoped that the surgery from a year ago would heal him, make his body healthier, make him live longer. Instead, it just sped up the end.

Anyways, I’m just a bunch of feelings right now that I don’t normally let myself feel because they are extremely unpleasant and they interfere with my sleep. But ignoring them is unhealthy, so I suppose I need to feel this and write this and share it, if for no one else, my family and me.

I suppose at the end of it all, I have been blessed beyond measure to have had my sweet Grandpa in my life for nearly 26 years. It just sucks because he’s not going to see me get married or have kids. I guess I had this weird expectation that he would. But back to the being blessed thing – I know that the greatest blessing in my life is the people that I have. I didn’t just get sweet parents and sweet siblings. I got three sweet grandparents who watched me grow up, supported me, loved me. That’s not normal, and it is way more than I deserve.

Things I realize

This year has been a long, hard year. I’ve picked up and dropped and picked up and dropped many values and convictions and sins. I can honestly say that I have never struggled more than I have struggled this year. But I have to remember that struggle is good; I mean, surrender is good too, but struggling is also good. At least I hope it is. Jacob struggled right – he wrestled with God. And David and Joseph and Noah and Jonah and Jesus – struggle isn’t sin. I mean, sometimes in struggle we sin, but the struggle isn’t sin. Struggle makes us stronger, right? It eventually leads us to surrender (which is different than apathy), and surrender is beautiful and peaceful. I think it would be less beautiful and less peaceful if you didn’t have to struggle to get there.

Anyways, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons I’ve been learning a lot lately; I feel like things just clicked – like really clicked – a few days ago, and now everything seems clear. I mean, I’m still afraid, and I’m really worried that my courage will fail me like it has in the past, but I’m hoping upon hope that it doesn’t. But lessons – yes lessons – I was going to tell you about the lessons I am learning, as I fearfully enter into what I am praying is a new season of life.

  • Lesson 1: Sweetness is not the same thing as kindness. I wish I had learned this before like 2 days ago. A person, a man, can be sweet without being kind. Sweet is bringing you flowers; sweet is opening the car door; sweet is texting you hearts and smiley-kissy faces. And I’m shocked at how often I look for sweetness from a man. But kind is so different. Kind is genuine and honest. Kind is talking – really talking – without expectation of anything. Kind is following-through on promises no matter how incredibly small they may be. Kind is not putting you in a compromising or uncomfortable situation. Sweetness is fast and it feels good, but it ultimately leaves you empty. We, I, am so used to sweet. But kind – being truly kind – does not leave you questioning and empty and confused. No a kind person fills you up and holds you up and makes you feel more confident and more secure. A few weeks ago I told my BFFs that I was “sick of game,” but what I think I’m really sick of is “sweet” because “sweet” is so often confused with “kind,” and they’re just not the same thing. I want kindness – not sweetness.
  • Lesson 2: You don’t have to be desperate. I have a major confession: I have felt desperate. The truth is my heart still – still – STILL – gets sad about past relationships that didn’t pan out. And when my heart feels sad, the emotion that immediately follows is desperation. But what I am having to learn is that singleness and loneliness are not the same thing. Because I am single, it does not mean I have to be lonely. You see, desperation comes from this place in my heart that is afraid of being alone – physically, emotionally, spiritually, all of the -allys. But I am not alone. I have to remind myself of that a million times every single day. I have to remind myself that I have the Spirit living inside of me; I have to remind myself that I have friends in Memphis so close that they are now my family; I have to remind myself that Kela and Rachel and Christian and Emily and Cullen and Matt have all driven out of their way to my house to bring me Gatorade or Tylenol or soup or whatever on more than one occasion, and that all of them would do it again. I do not need to feel alone because I am not alone – not reallySo, I do not need to fear to being alone. So when that spot in my heart called “Desperate” begins to grow, all I have to say to it is, “You’re not alone, so you can go away now.” And I might have to do that a million billion times an hour all day long, but I know if I keep doing that, “Desperate” will eventually begin to go away for good because I’ll finally realize that I do not need her anymore.
  • Lesson 3: Screwing up a million times does not mean that you have to screw up a million and one times. I have this sin problem – like one sin in particular – that I just keep doing. First of all, I recognize that this recurrent problem is a symptom sin, not the root sin. Well, I’ve tried killing the symptom (hint: it does not work), and I have failed at it. I’m praying for strength to overcome the root; it’s rather difficult to destroy the root, just sayin’. Anyways, I was encouraged today actually with this word that even though I have screwed up about a kabajillion times, it’s still not too late – I never have to do that sin again.
  • Lesson 4: I am wrong – a lot. Oh boy, oh boy, this is a big one. I have had the same conversation about the same thing several times in the past few weeks, and I am pretty sure that I chose the “wrong” side of the argument. Sometimes, I am too relative and too post-modern and too much of an English major to pick the hard side of an argument. In fact, I don’t normally pick a side. I am registered “unaffiliated.” I pretend that I don’t read about current events. I voted for Roseanne Barr, y’all. This.Is.Serious. And my lackadaisical attitude makes me wrongFor real. Now, there are times when I need to a) keep silent, or b) play the devil’s advocate, or c) pull the “I’m an English major and I don’t really care that much” card. I believe that some conversations are highly unproductive, even harmful at times, and thus are not worth engaging. However, there are many moments in which I need to take the awkward road and argue the awkward point and get compared to Mandy Moore’s character in Saved (not because that’s how I act, but because she is the stereotypical Christian girl that I got compared to one time when I was in fact an overly-judgmental high school student… or it is Mother Teresa? If it’s Mother Teresa, I’m okay with that. Go ahead – compare me to her) OR, in other circles, compared to, oh I don’t know, a famous drug-addicted liberal hippie woman from the 60s.. there are so many… but I think I’ll go with Janis Joplin because I think she was beautiful, and I just love her soulful voice (Oh, oh, oh, take it. Take another little piece of my heart now baby.) Anyways, I’m hoping you’re getting my point… sometimes I’m going to have to say things that will piss people off.

In conclusion, (and all my fellow English-teacher friends cringe) I’m moving forward. I think that’s a gospel song that I am going to look for after I finish typing this paragraph. It’s a good thing – moving forward. It is much much much better than moving backwards – trust me.

 

Love where you are

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long minute, but there is a thing I am going to say in this post that I just wasn’t ready to say until very very very recently.

First of all, I am writing this post from new favorite thing in the whole entire world – my green antique bar stool that I bought yesterday. It is literally in the middle of my bedroom with no real place to go, but I still just love it. It is awesome. Best purchase ever in the history of Ellie-Shea-Purchase-Making! It’s comfy and high and I can swing my feet and slouch a little and sit with my computer on my lap and put my elbows on the arm rest as I type. I love this chair. It is near-perfect.

Image

But I haven’t been having a hard time confessing things about my new chair. That is not what this is about. As many of you know, I’ve decided to stay in Memphis for an undecided amount of time. Who knows, Memphis may become my forever home. I still have over-sea-teaching dreams and big-city-living dreams and get-my-doctorate dreams, and those things can still happen. In fact, I’m pretty sure that those things will happen. I don’t really understand how all of these things (Memphis = homebase, over-seas teaching, big-city living, getting my doctorate) connect to each other, and I have zero clue how/when/where those things will happen, but I have to trust that God has a plan. So I am trusting, which is really difficult for me to do. Thankfully, “He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world,” and “He who is in me is greater than me,” so I’m pretty sure that with the Holy Spirit I can trust that whatever happens it will be the right happening.

But that is also not what this post is supposed to be about. This post is supposed to be about Memphis… and some other things. I’ve been here for four years, which is like 1/6 of my life. When you consider that I don’t remember much for the first 1/3 of my life, and that the 1/6 of my life that I was in college doesn’t really count, and that I don’t count middle school (1/6-ish) as “life,” I’ve pretty much been in Memphis my entire life. Don’t fight it – just accept that my math makes sense.

For much of my life (my life for the case of this post = 4 years), I was in a relationship that I put a lot of hope in. I thought that this relationship was going to lead me out of the city of Memphis, so for a good while I spent time disconnecting myself from the city. It was like I refused to enjoy Memphis, explore it, invest in it – in short, I wanted to make leaving Memphis as quick, easy, and painless as possible.

First things first – this mindset is dangerous, I get that. Even if you are only going to be in a place for 6 months or 4 months or 2 months, investing is always worth it. You will always regret missing out on your life, even if you’re only missing out on a little bit of it.

Second things second – as I enter into my 5th year in Memphis, I’ve committed to loving it. I’ve committed to exploring and learning and meeting and investing in this city while I am here. Again, I could be here for a million years, or I could be here for 10 more months, you never know. Life happens.

If you’ve made it this far into the blog, you are a champion. There’s a bit more; don’t give up now.

So, today I went to the Brooks Museum, which I had never visited before today. It was lovely. I love art so so so much. I think it’s mostly because I lack artsy-ness. I’m not a skilled painter or sculptor or sketch-ist, so I really appreciate seeing those skills in other people. Anyways, I really enjoyed myself. And I learned that teachers get in for free, so that was an added bonus! (If you’re not a teacher, it’s $7. Very affordable.)

In all these ramblings, I hope that you (mom, becca, rachel, amaris, melanie, alexis, other people who know and love me) get this one point – love where you are. Love the physical place you live and work, love the season of life you are experiencing, love the people who are around you. I find myself so often trying to manipulate and change things, and I never really stop and just love the place that God has put me right now.

Peace, hope, and love to you… where you are