Friday, December 30, 2011

It's done!

It's done! Well..kind of..most of it at least.
This past Monday was a good milestone for me as it marked the day in which I wrote the final sentence for the book I have been working on over the past ten or eleven months. If you are unaware of exactly what I am talking about you can check out my blog from October 20, 2011 or by following this link (I hope the link works).
While I have officially finished the writing I recognize the work is far from over. The next weeks and months will include editing and finalizing all the fine details. I feel blessed to have a few different people looking over my writings and offering their insight and expertise. My goal still remains to have everything finished by March 5, which is the official start of our BFA soccer season. For my own sanity I wish to have the book completely finished so I can devote my efforts toward soccer. I would hate to feel torn and be giving either of those less than my best. Therefore the next two months will be spent re-reading and re-writing what I have already done.
However, for now, it is time to celebrate. I have not touched anything pertaining to the project since Monday, and will keep it put away for another 24 hours or so. Over the weekend I plan on pulling the chapters out and getting back to work. But for is done, and I am really enjoying that feeling.

Thank you for all of your encouragement and help along the way.
Lastly, I have still yet to settle on a title so if you are feeling creative I would love to entertain different ideas.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Welcome Back

I apologize for not putting up a post last week. Thursday was the last day of the semester and things were a bit hectic in closing out the semester and getting ready for break. Starting Saturday night I began my 29 hour journey back to the States where I currently am. It is great to be here and to be with family. I left rain and cold and arrived in beautiful warm sunshine. Not a bad trade off!
As I was traveling home I was trying to come up with a creative blog topic. I had the idea of making my own version of "The 12 days of Christmas" but I couldn't think of a general topic where I could list 12 different things. However after letting that idea roll around in my head a little bit I began observing some of the things I was doing. I found myself acting as if I were in Germany - when in fact I was no where near Germany. Perhaps it is a bit of culture shock, maybe a bit of jetlag, or most likely stupidity. I like to think it is a bit of all three. Regardless, I hope you enjoy reading some of the things I have done that have helped me realize I am no longer in Germany. I apologize if some do not make complete sense, but hopefully you get the idea.
1. While walking down the street I greeted someone by saying, "Guten Morgen"
2. After drinking a bottle of water I searched the bottle for a Pfand (refund for recycling) and after not finding one, looked around the kitchen for the Gelbe Sac (recycling bin). I didn't find one of those either.
3. While at the grocery store after letting the cashier scan everything I quickly bagged everything up. After getting a surprised "thank you" from the cashier I later asked my dad, "do they bag your groceries for you here?"
4. While searching for items in the grocery store I found myself muttering, "Wo ist..." (Where is...)
5. While at a restaurant I made a special effort to point to the menu as I was ordering, a habit of mine in Germany. In case the waiter cannot understand what I am trying to say I point to the menu to ensure I order what I want.
6. At the restaurant I drank sparingly forgetting there were free refills.
7. While on the road I got frightened by the fact a Mini Cooper no longer looks to be the normal size of cars on the road, but is in fact mini.
8. Accustomed to driving stick-shift, I won't even mention what happened as I stepped behind the wheel of an automatic.
9. Prior to driving I was wearing flip-flops and went back to my room to change, only to realize Americans don't have a law about that. (In Germany it is a law you have shoes/sandals with back straps on while driving)
10. In the grocery store the man in front of me was purchasing alcohol and got carded. I was taken back as he clearly seemed to be over 16 and could obviously see over the counter. So why the need to see an ID?
11. There is basketball, football and hockey on TV, but no soccer.
12. I got to take a long shower. (Water is really expensive in Germany so most people shower extremely quick)

So, there you have it 12 ways I realized I was no longer in Germany. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

One thing I have learned

Throughout the year I have had a continual learning curve. Every time I feel as though I have my job figured out something new pops up and I am reminded of how little I really know. Just today I was in a situation and somebody asked me a question and all I could do was look straight back at him and honestly say, "This is the first time I have ever done this and I have no idea what to do or what to expect." Every day there is something to learn. Thankfully there are things I have previously learned that can be applied to my role as a guidance counselor, and I honestly believe it is something that every person could and should learn: people want to be listened to.
We walk around with a lot on our minds. There are a lot of things that can make a heart heavy, or full of joy. Often we fail to learn about these things in other people simply because we fail to take the time to listen. Listening is not hearing the words coming out of someone's mouth and instantly queuing up your next thought - all the while ignoring everything else the person is saying. Listening is intently and carefully listening to what is being said. But it can go further than that. Not only is it hearing the words that are spoken, it is listening to the way in which they are spoken. Listening takes time. It takes focus and effort. It takes patience.

I feel blessed because in my role I have the opportunity to sit and listen to people. I have always told my students, co-workers and friends my door is open and they are welcome to come in and talk about whatever, whenever. I truly feel blessed when people come in and feel comfortable sharing things. And it is not always "big deep secrets" we need to share. Sometimes we have successes we want to share. We have an experience we want others to know about, or awkward situations that are simply too funny to keep quiet about. People want to be listened to.
I have one student in particular who comes in fairly regularly. Often when he comes in I can see the frustration in his demeanor. Something has happened and he needs to let it all out. So he sits and talks, while I listen. Sometimes you have to ask specific questions to get specific answers, but there is always something inside that desperately wants to be heard. When he leaves he will often say, "Thanks Tommy" and walk out. I always find that a bit odd, because more often than not I'm just sitting there. But I listen and that's what he needs and that is what he wants.

I want to encourage you to make the time to truly listen to someone. Be willing to be patient, quiet, and listen. It sounds so simple because we hear so much noise all around us. We hear the radio, we hear the TV, we hear the phone ringing and the people talking. But who are we really listening to?

I found the following thought online from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and thought it would be applicable to close with...

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.

So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.

This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Banquet

It is crazy to think that Christmas Banquet has already come and gone. This year continues to fly by. I am not entirely sure why but this semester seems to be going at a faster rate than any previous. The students leave two weeks from tomorrow to go home for Christmas break. Crazy how fast it has gone by!
For some the countdown to break has been going on for quite a while, for everyone else it seems as though Christmas Banquet begins the time at which you can start counting down to break. So, with Christmas Banquet happening this past weekend it is officially time to start the countdown.
Christmas Banquet is a great evening put on by Student Council. The guys have the opportunity to ask a girl to banquet (which is often done in a very elaborate way). The whole night is a very formal evening. Guys in ties, jackets, dress shoes, and most of them wearing dress socks. Of course it wouldn't be a formal high school function without those few guys who forget to wear dress socks, or they forget to wear socks all together. The girls get all dolled up in their dresses, with their hair done in fancy and creative ways.

After the students arrive they sit down for a wonderful dinner. Throughout the dinner there are several performances by students, as well MCs leading a program. This is the second year where we have had ballroom dancing as a part of the program. After dinner the students had the option to go to the gym and learn how to waltz. I was simply a spectator, and absolutely loved my position in the peanut gallery.

Also interspersed throughout the evening are what we call, "granting of Christmas wishes." About six weeks ago students had the opportunity to write down their own "Christmas wish." The members of student council collected all the wishes and decided which ones they would 'grant.' Throughout the night different students would get called to the stage and be presented with their wish. Some wishes included; having hot chocolate served to the student body one day, allowing everyone to wear their pajamas to school, having a teacher sing a song during Christmas Banquet, etc.

To my surprise I got to be a part of a Christmas wish this year. One of the seniors at Sonne made the wish that CB and I (we are both former RAs from Sonne) would come up to the dorm and be subs next semester. It was exciting to be a part of that wish and to see those guys excited knowing we would come back to the dorm for a weekend.

This year's Christmas Banquet was exceptionally well done. Everything from the food to the decorations and performances was phenomenal. I have heard nothing but positive things from staff and students. Now that it is behind us the students have only one thing on their mind, Christmas Break.

I know this is kind of unfortunate but I couldn't help but take this picture and post it as the stereotypical group of guys watching everyone else dance. It was too perfect.