Recent events

This post is a mash-up of all the random happenings around our household over the past week. It certainly feels like much longer that my husband’s been home.. we’ve settled into a routine quickly. But as our life always is, our routines change.

Weeks 3 and 4 of 50K training were not so stellar. I did less than the recommended amount of mid-week runs, and week 3 did not have a long run. I was out with a sinus/chest infection of some sort. Yesterday after debating all weekend when to do the long run, we went out for 16 and ended up with 12.7. My legs from my ankles to my hips were on fire; the pain was comparable to the end of the Illinois Marathon.

I was disappointed… from here on out the long runs get longer and after bonking at the EP Half and now this run yesterday, I just don’t think the 50K is going to happen for me. Mentally I feel pretty good, but my body screams no whenever I go longer than 10. My right knee was hurting yesterday too, which is something I haven’t felt in about a year, even with the high-mileage months I had last fall (80, 90, 100). I really don’t want to give up on it yet, but if I can’t pound out the 16, 18 and 20-milers soon it ain’t happening. The Jemez Mtn Trail Runs have a 13.1 option so I will shoot for that. I’m obviously trying to force my body and mind into something that isn’t jiving.

On Saturday after arriving to Ruidoso for our first full weekend together after 10 (!!!!!) months, we tried the long run on some trails. I got about a mile into it before I started to hate it. I love nature, I love hiking… but the whole thing was just pissing me off. I hate having to look at my feet so much, having to stop to walk around boulders, etc. It was also cold as heck and sleeting.. or something. So we hiked back to the car and put off the long run.

I thought I’d just love trail running.. but that seems that that’s not the case, at least not right now. I have a lot of fears about trail running that I need to either accept or get over before I can tackle a race like the 50K, and those fears weren’t helped after I got lost on a 9-mile trail race in November. I need to transition slowly into trail running for my body but also for my mind’s sake. Maybe I’ll shoot for 31 miles before I turn 31. 😉 That gives me three years.

It’s been a busy (and expensive!) week with my husband back. We junked his car since the engine was shot (1996 Honda with 225000+ miles), both got new phones as he needed an upgrade and I completely shattered my iPhone… soon we’ll buy another car. We had a great weekend in the mountains just relaxing and talking. Something I’ve always loved about us is that there’s never a lull in conversation, or lack of impressive vocabulary words, something this aspiring linguist can appreciate.

March will be busy with Aaron’s trip to Illinois to visit family and my trip to Portland to present at the TESOL conference. I also need to get the bulk of my thesis written. The analysis is done, so the writing won’t be too terrible.. just time-consuming. But I’m saving that for another day, not during spring break. Here soon we’ll be propelled into the never-ending summer in the desert. 🙂

You Just Never Know

Friends, meet the newest TA and graduate student at the University of Texas! This is crazy. I’m going to GRAD SCHOOL. All the student-ish nostalgia I wish I had had at Bradley is now mine! Along with many many chai lattes purchased at Kinley’s…

I got a call yesterday from the advisor of the MA program in linguistics offering me a last-minute teaching assistant position that had opened up. Along with that I will be studying full-time with a graduation date of May 2014. (And I’ll get to wear one of those cool hood thingies…)

HOLY COW. I applied back in January, really out of curiosity and as a possible way out of my last full-time job. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve tried to slow down my ambition, sometimes aimless and fruitless. In the past I’ve applied to several grad programs, never feeling peace about any of them, and treating them as a Plan B to whatever I was doing at the time.

I guess I felt back in January that it wasn’t the right thing at the time. I didn’t feel at peace, especially about taking out more loans to study more and put my career on hold, and that I was trying to find any reason to get out of a job I hated. What I really would have liked was a teaching assistant position, and definitely not a research position. UTEP’s graduate tuition is very reasonable, but I still couldn’t get myself to commit. Forcing things just isn’t my style any more; I usually end up disappointed and remorseful of my efforts that could have been better used somewhere else.

My plan for the fall was to continue nannying part-time and be a stay-at-home wife the rest of the time. Aaron’s been gone a lot since April, and it’s nice to have evenings and weekends to spend together. Just live a simple life, you know? The past few weeks I’d really been feeling a contentment and peace wash over me… one morning I woke up thinking, “This is my lot in life. Better to make the most of it rather than squander time and energy wishing life were different.”

Also over the past couple weeks I’ve really felt as well that this is not the time for us to start a family. Even if Aaron told me today he was ready, there was something that would hold me back. Maybe two, three years down the road. We have no idea what life holds for us after the military, or maybe he’ll stay in the military. Only God knows. After years, seriously, YEARS, of off-and-on baby fever, I feel like I can breathe! God’s peace is just amazing.

So when I received that call yesterday, it felt right. In my undergrad, I’d plan everything out weeks, if not months before hand. Books and notebooks and pens would be ready and stacked way before the required time. I bought my parking sticker way in advance. I even planned out my study time. Now, I have to crunch all this into just a couple days (I register tomorrow) and when I get back from Honduras, I’ll be hitting the ground running to catch up with the first week of classes that starts on Monday.

But I’m okay with that! I’m not freaking out, and there’s no panic attack in sight. UTEP is HUGE compared to Bradley, but I’ll figure it out, right??

This feels good. This feels right. And I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am that my plan to go to grad school is finally working out. Maybe in a perfect world I would have started right after graduating Bradley, but only God knew the preparation I’d need emotionally and financially. Only God knew that I’d be in the right place at the right time.

I love that I’ll have a job for the next two years. There’s a plan in place. I’m investing more of myself into this city and its people, which lately I’ve allowed God to give me a heart for. I get to study something that I want to study, that can open up more doors than other grad programs I’ve applied to. This is really happening!

So don’t be surprised if you don’t see regular blogs (um, I don’t think you do now…), or if you don’t hear from me as often. I’ll just be grabbing hold of what’s been waiting for me… drinking lattes and writing papers, reading textbooks, walking across campus (just a much larger campus), and oh, you know, TEACHING COLLEGE. No big deal. 😉

Fear of failure

I’ve had a major breakthrough recently that explains, well, a lot. I have a crazy fear of failure and a major lack of commitment… I know it’s only human, but it fuels a lot of my decision making.

I went to Bradley because I was afraid I couldn’t afford or be successful in med school. I mean, I was at the top of my class, but could I really be an expert in science and medicine??

I majored in Spanish instead of music (piano) or math because I was afraid I’d have to actually work at something. My piano teacher,  a professor at Bradley, wanted me to practice at least four hours a day. Um, what?! And as far as math goes, Calc 2 was hard. Like, crying my eyes out and panic attack before finals hard. (P.S. I got an A. Yeah.)

I’m good at Spanish. I’m good at teaching. In fact, I think I’m a pretty great teacher. I’m glad I went to school for something that I could do and use in the real world. I really believe that I’m called to be a teacher.

Honestly, the reason I haven’t pursued a teaching position here in El Paso is not explained by the following statements excuses:

  • I’m happy with being a part-time SAHW (stay-at-home wife).
  • I’m okay with working part-time.
  • I’m relieved to not have to do the lesson planning, grading, and dealing with parents. (Oh wait, I deal with parents in my job more now than I ever did teaching.)
  • I’m a military wife; who will want to hire me?
  • At least I have a job in my field.
  • It’s expensive to recertify in another state.
  • I’ll look for something when we “settle”.
  • I’ll just spend the time getting my Master’s. Might as well.

The excuses make me sick. What happened to the go-getter who actually worked for what she wanted?? I’m afraid that girl’s been hiding for a long, long time. I’m not sure when the transition was, but somewhere along the way, I must have failed at something and then became afraid.

That’s it, folks. I’m afraid. I’m scared that my Spanish will just suck. I’m scared I won’t pass my certification tests the first time. I’m scared of not getting an interview. I’m scared of getting an interview and totally botching it. I’m scared of actually getting a job and having to perform at a certain level. I’m scared of not getting my contract renewed.

I’m a walking self-fulfilling prophecy. This is not how a follower of Christ walks in faith!

I could go on about the other things in life I decide I will, you know, certainly fail in before I even try, but I’ll stick with this topic since it’s the most pertinent in my life right now. I think about it, a lot.

So. This is what I want to do. I want to eventually secure a full-time teaching position. If that happens next fall, fine, if not, fine. Chances are we’re going to be here for quite a while, if not the next four years until Aaron’s done. And we might even settle in Texas somewhere depending on job opportunities. Thing is, I’m gonna take steps towards my career goal(s). I want to teach. I want to someday be a professor.

I’m still planning on starting my Master’s (and yes, I’m even scared of that!).

Now that I’ve realized my biggest weakness, I can begin transforming it into my biggest strength. I’ve decided to have a better attitude at my current job and see it as a stepping stone to the next big thing in my life.

Half-a-versaries and grad school…. what?!

So much is happening this week! I’m not even in school and I can feel the stress of the holiday season. This weekend we have two parties to attend, one of which we still need to buy for. Next week, things should calm down somewhat. Aaron will be working half-days and we don’t have tutoring for the next two weeks; just conferences and testing. While my paycheck come the first of January will suck, at least I get to enjoy my time off with my husband.

Speaking of whom… December 21 is our 3.5-year anniversary (of our church ceremony. November 16 was the “technical” 3.5 year thing.) I know, it’s almost as lame as celebrating a half birthday. But hey.. we’re that much closer to four years. After December 21 I can now say that “we’ve been married for going on four years”. This is our NINTH Christmas together. Uhhhh. Where the heck did time go?!

Guess what I heard from someone who just got on at one of the districts here? He told me that for many positions there are 300 applicants. 300. Reeedonkulous. Sigh. I’m having a hard time believing that after I shell out upwards of $400 for my tests that Texas wants me to retake that I’ll be the lucky winner of a teaching job here. It also took this fella two years, yes, TWO, to land this job. We’ll be here three, probably four years total, and I’m not willing to sit around and see if I can get a job, only to leave in one or two years.

My next plan of attack is to get accepted to the University of Texas at El Paso to start my Master’s degree in linguistics. There are two specializations I could do: applied linguistics and Hispanic linguistics. According to our ever-reliable Wikipedia, applied linguistics is “interdisciplinary field concerned with real-world language issues”.

Sounds like fluff, huh? Not so much. Examples of class titles within this degree are Psycholinguistics and Reading, Teaching Second Language Composition, Bilingualism, Phonology, Computer-Assisted Language Learning, Pedagogical Issues in English Structure, etc. With this degree I will gain knowledge of teaching ESL and bilingual students. If I go the Hispanic linguistics route, I would probably have enough hours in Spanish to teach at the community college level. I can’t deciiiide!

In my opinion, this is a much more useful degree for me at this juncture than one in education, and more enjoyable. Blech. I think out of all my undergrad classes, education classes were my least favorite, excluding the middle school courses taught by an amazing professor who is now a superintendent. Most of the time we did fluffy group projects that did not prepare us, or at least me, for teaching in the real world. I did learn a lot in my secondary assessment class, where I learned how to write and structure tests. Anyyywayyyy.

My ultimate career goal is to be a professor. (Did I ever tell you that?) I’m not too concerned about being full-time… I just want to be able to teach, and teach what I love: Spanish and language. I love grammar, syntax, phonology. It’s all so interesting and applicable to every language. Another job that would be awesome would be a reading or language specialist in a school. I just can’t pry myself away from linoleum hallways filled with little humans who are ready to skip class learn. Just can’t.

I would like to start classes in the summer, if possible. I’m also going to apply for an assistantship. Being a TA would be a good experience, I think. I’ll at least be eight years older than college freshmen….. :shiftyeyes: I wouldn’t mind tutoring in the writing center, either. I mean, I have a way with words. Not quite sure what that way is besides loquacious, but whatevz. I also would LOVE to take some elementary Arabic classes… not sure if they’re open to grad students though.

Since I graduated from Bradley, I’ve probably applied to three or four grad programs. I was accepted to ISU’s Spanish grad program, but obviously never went. I also considered school counseling. But, this time… I think it’s really gonna happen!

(In case you were wondering, my #1 reason for going back to school is to wear one of those weird robes that has a hood and really really flow-y sleeves at graduation. Just so we clear that up.)

Folks, it’s only a matter of time before I get a brand-spankin’-new planner and UTEP shirt & car decal. Watch out.

Becoming bilingual

Since coming to El Paso, I’ve had many good experiences with speaking Spanish, contrary to my expectations. So far at work I’ve had two conferences with parents who don’t know English very well, and I’ve taken some inquiries, too. One time last week, someone called while my boss and one of our assistants was in the room. The person on the other line said “Buenos días” and I started talking to them. The assistant left the room with her mouth hanging open… she thought I would need her help translating. I asked her later how I did.. she said I spoke slowly but very well and that I was easy to understand. I was elated.

In our care group (small group) we have a family from Juárez who moved to El Paso about ten years ago. I’ve been able to talk with them weekly and it’s been great for both of us; they’re trying to learn English, which is why they started coming to our church.

I’ve learned two new words that are used quite often…

-Huera or huero means “blonde”.. I’ve been called this affectionately by friends here.

Mande is a phrase used when politely asking someone to repeat themselves or when asking them to tell you something.

I love the mix of cultures here… it’s much more seamless than I thought it would be. Oftentimes people go between Spanish and English without even realizing it.

I think I’ve (finally) realized what I want to do when I go back to school, if I go back… I want to get my bilingual certification. The psychology of second language acquisition eludes and fascinates me.

I apologize for not having posted in awhile.. our life is busy but still wonderful! We really like it here.. much more than I thought we would!

So, here’s the deal.

I’m learning a lesson. A big one. And it’s calllllled…..

CONTENTMENT.

Sigh. This is probably the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in awhile… and I’m actually relearning it, just in a different area of life. Last time I learned it was last summer when Aaron gallivanted off to Korea and the Army just.. left me here. So, I became content in my jobs, and living alone, and taking care of, well, everything. And I did it well.

Now the tables have turned a little bit. I have my husband with me, every day, every night and that in itself is pretty amazing. I mean, have you tried living the same zip code, much less the same house with your spouse before?? It rocks. I love that we can eat meals together almost all the time, and workout together, and all those other married things. Just sayin’…

But then there’s this part of me, that’s actually a really big part of me, that I can’t shake. It’s the part of Elizabeth that seems to only be happy when she has a title outside of “Wife” and is bringing home some bacon. Heck, it doesn’t need to be a lot of bacon, but some. And she also has to be doing something creative or worthwhile, preferably something that has to do with what she paid $50,000 to learn about… She has to be productive about 110% of the time, or otherwise feels like a failure.

I’ve had my ups and downs over the past couple weeks. Guess what? The grass isn’t any greener down here. I’ve felt guilty for racking up all this debt in a freaking private university education just to sweep the floor or wash a few dishes. I should be out there in the world, making money to pay off my debt.

However, my husband is the greatest gift ever. He doesn’t see it that way at all, and he encourages me to do whatever I want. If I work, fine. If not, fine. He reminds me daily that we worked hard to be able to live (not just survive) on one income… I have to remember that. WE worked hard. We BOTH worked hard. When we got married, everything became ours,  even our debt.

I had an interview earlier this week for a job I was actually on the fence about. I didn’t get it, and I was honestly a little relieved. It just didn’t feel right. Last night I filled out some more applications, including Sylvan, Starbucks and other jobs at a school district (clerical and aide jobs). I don’t feel an overwhelming need to teach full-time and have my own classroom, but I do feel a need to teach in some capacity. It is what I was made to do, I believe.

Aaron asked me if I could do anything, what would I do? I said that I would be a mom; however, I know it’s not the proper time yet.

Today I got a call from Sylvan. I have an interview tomorrow, and I would love to work for them again. The schedule is flexible and part-time if I want it to be.

A few things keep going through my head…

“God delights in exalting our inability.” ~David Platt

“God equips the called.” (Not sure who said it.)

The book of Ecclesiates… that all the toil under the sun is meaningless.. what really matters in eternity?

The thing is, I have to learn this lesson soon. I can’t move forward in life until I can be content with what I have right now. Life is too short, people are too precious, the weight of eternity is too great, for me to be whining about a perceived problem that I’ve created all on my own. So, here it is: No More Pity Parties for Elizabeth. I’m really really rreeaallllyyy gonna try. And pray. Maybe you should check in on my husband at some point soon…

Who knows what I will do in El Paso, but I do know one thing. At my funeral, my loved ones aren’t going to be standing around telling each other about that one time I didn’t work full-time and make such-and-such salary. They will talk about what kind of person I was.. my character, how I treated people, how I loved Jesus, how I nurtured my children and served my husband. Those are the things that matter.

>This Spanish major will be happy! and thoughts on immigration and language

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There is so much culture in El Paso that as a Spanish major, I am ecstatic to explore! There is a museum of art, history, and archaeology. Good thing my husband likes museums, too. In fact, one of our first dates was to the Lakeview Museum. This site has some really awesome pictures of downtown El Paso, including one of an Aztec Calendar. I’ve never seen one of these in person. Heck, I’ve never been to Mexico. A shame, huh? Because of the dangers there and being a military family member, I may not get to go for some time. Bummer.

Because of my career choice (as a teacher, I obviously have an educated and extensively researched commentary on every major problem that plagues this great nation), many people have asked me what I think about illegal immigration, and many students have asked me, “Why do we even have to learn Spanish?” to which I wanted to reply, “If you don’t like it, then why are you in here?!”

This is what I think about illegal immigration from Mexico, or anywhere: it’s illegal. Therefore it’s wrong. I know many people who have come to this country and built their lives here by going through the correct channels. People who come here illegally mar the process of immigration for everyone else. Sure, all our ancestors were immigrants unless you’re Native American, but times have changed… laws have changed.

Why is it important to learn Spanish? Well, besides “needing” it for admission to college (not true; there are many other things that merit admission to college), why not learn another language? When you learn another language, you inevitably learn another culture. Even if you merely study vocabulary of British English, you will learn about Britain’s culture. It enhances one’s outlook on the world and helps in other areas of learning as well.

Suffice it to say that our children will be fluent in at least my two languages. After piano at age 7, Spanish was my second love and I long to pass that on to our children. Besides, if they start young their pronunciation will be lovely and much more native-like than mine. My accent is definitively American + Bolivian + Honduran + Enrique Iglesias (haha, I kid about Enrique).

As far as children go, they are our future. I know that sounds really typical for a teacher to say. We shouldn’t punish the children of illegal immigrants. They had no control over their parents’ actions, and by law if they are born on U.S. soil, they are U.S. citizens. It’s said and done and there’s nothing that we can do about it. There are people of every race, ethnicity and class who take advantage of services provided by our government.

The truth is that El Paso used to be part of Mexico. Boundaries, laws or prejudice cannot remove the Mexican influence, just as generations cannot take away the history passed down to me from my grandpa about my family who came here from, you guessed it, England, to be farmers. Yes, farmers. In Illinois. You can stop chuckling now. No wonder this gringa loves traveling so much…

I’m not going to lie and say I know how to solve any problems facing education today, as they are many. I really did not plan on writing about it in this entry, but I know that all children should have a right to education and to succeed in this country if they so choose (and are legal). It’s sometimes hard for us to see, but the opportunities here despite the current economy are unfathomable.

In conclusion, living in El Paso will be like living in a foreign country to me. The cool thing is, it used to be. According to statistics, El Paso is 80% Hispanic (shocker, right?)… this blonde-hair-blue-eyed-girl-from-the-Midwest-who-really-loves-Spanish-but-is-just-so-white-that-even-the-Europeans[Spaniards]-saw-right-through-me will learn a lot!