Thursday, April 26, 2012

A day in the life

The other night I was talking with a friend and was asked, "So what do you do?" I thought it was a great question, and had a difficult time coming up with a concise answer. Following our conversation, I kept thinking about the question and thought it would make for a great blog. For those who have been reading my blog for a while, you may remember I did something very similar last year. If you are new to reading my blog check out this link (http://www.tommybfa.blogspot.de/2011/01/day-in-life.html) to read my "day in the life" as an RA from last year. That blog will give you an insight to what my life was like for the first three years as I served in the dorm. 

As a guidance counselor my job is fairly difficult to explain. Each day is slightly different from the next - in fact each hour is slightly different from the next. Overall I am a resource for the students - whether that is helping them with class schedules, college applications, an advocate in the classroom, or a listening ear. I am around to interact with the students and help them however I can. 
This year I have a case load of just over 80 students. We break up the student body alphabetically, so I have students in all four grades with their last name at the beginning of the alphabet. Right now I have 34 Juniors, and I am trying to meet with all of them to prepare them for the college application process that will begin upon returning to school in the fall. Therefore, I've had a constant stream of Juniors in my office throughout the week as I meet with them one on one to help out. This is a snip-it of what my day was like on Wednesday, and what life has been like recently...

7:03
I like setting my alarm for a random time, so as my watch starts beeping I aimlessly slap around trying to shut it up. I'm still a bit surprised my watch has lasted as long as it has, and am even more surprised that the low volume beeping is enough to wake me up.

7:07
My second alarm goes off and this time it's time to get out of bed and get moving for the day. I generally aim to get out the door around 7:50 so I'm up and moving around fairly quickly. I enjoy spending time in the Word while I eat breakfast, so I'll spend time reading a few chapters at the breakfast table. It really doesn't take me long at all to get ready in the morning, so after a shower, making a lunch,and packing all my stuff for the day, I'm out the door and on my way to school.
8:00-9:00 
Most of the students don't arrive on campus until 8:30, so I usually spend this time prepping for the day. Well, that's after I've had the opportunity to get caught up on a few odds and ends. I still greatly miss being able to read the newspaper on a daily basis, so I spend some time surfing the internet to get caught up on what has happened around the world. CNN.com, usatoday.com, boston.com help keep me aware of world news, while espn.com and espnsoccernet.com keep me up to date on the sports world. I also use this time to get caught up on some personal emails. Since most of my friends are in the States, if they shoot me an email after they're out of work, I'm generally sleeping. Therefore this is an opportunity for me to write back. I don't always get through them all, but I try. 

The first of seven periods starts at 9:00am so from this point forward I will walk through the day going period by period. 
  
1st Period
Jacob walks into my office for his meeting. I always try hard to make the students feel comfortable and at ease when they walk in my office. At first they usually think they are in trouble, so I'm not opposed to acting like an idiot to make them feel at ease. This morning we saw blue skies for the first time in about 10 days. So Jacob and I talked about the weather and how glad we were to see the sun. For the first 25 minutes of the period we are talking about academics and college. After we finished with college, he mentioned his plan to wake up and watch the NFL draft. So we spent the remainder of the period talking about the NFL and how our teams would do this upcoming year. He strongly dislikes the Patriots, so I was more than willing to make fun of the Pats with him. I'll take advantage of any opportunity to connect and relate with the students, so I'm happy to chill out and talk with him. 

2nd Period
Jacob leaves and heads to class, a few minutes later Sally walks in for her meeting. She is hoping to go to school in Canada or Hong Kong (I know... real close to each other!) As she walked in she seemed timid - and as she sat she put her backpack on her lap. To me, it seemed like it was a wall to hide behind. In hopes of breaking down the wall I spouted off some jokes my sister recently told me. She didn't fully understand the jokes (sorry Whitney) but I was still laughing, and soon the backpack was put on the floor. The jokes were bad, but it got the job done. After Sally and I finished talking she went back to class and I had about 15 minutes before the next student was going to come in. I took advantage of the free time and visited my athletic director. I'm continually amazed at how much paperwork I have to do, and how many emails I have to send for soccer. I pay a visit to the AD multiple times a day, and in the morning I'm trying to get everything squared away for our away game this weekend. 

3rd Period 
Back to the Junior meetings as Jacob (a different one) comes in. We breeze through our college information. He recently went on a Mission trip over break so I asked him how it went. For the next 25 minutes we're talking about his trip and the different lessons he learned and the way his heart was moved. Definitely a cool conversation. 

4th Period
Madison, one of my soccer players comes in for her Junior meeting. She's a solid student with a clear vision of where she wants to go, so the conversation doesn't take nearly as long. We spend the rest of the period discussing soccer. I like talking with my players and hearing their opinions and getting their views on how things are going. I don't mind tipping my hand and explaining why we're doing what we're doing and why I feel certain drills will be most beneficial to our team. Maddy recently rolled her ankle pretty good so we spent some time trying to figure out the best way to get her on the field as soon as possible. She'll probably miss our game this weekend, which is a huge blow to our defense. 

Lunch
I'm a "Junior class sponsor" which means I am helping with all the junior class fundraisers and functions this year. Next week we're having our "Junior-Senior Banquet" (JSB) which is our version of the prom. Lots of planning has gone into JSB already, and during lunch I am meeting with the other class sponsors to discuss all that needs to happen over the next week. I'll be thankful when JSB is over and I can cross that off my list.

5th Period
Brian is a little late for his meeting, so I try to take care of a few work related emails. Gotta check in with a few teachers about students' progress in class. Brian comes in, and is looking to go into aviation. Knowing very little about the process, I have fun asking him questions. He doesn't stay the whole period, but as soon as he leaves Krystal walks in. She's overwhelmed with all her work and needs help getting organized and prioritizing her work. I hope she leaves a bit relieved. 

6th period
Anna comes in. She isn't quite as prepared as the other students, so we spent a lot more time going through the nuts and bolts of what is on the horizon for her. Honestly, at this point in the day I am starting to get a little tired from the constant conversations. Thankfully, I get several devotional emails throughout the day that help me keep my focus and allow for me to take a little break. Around 10am I get an email from a Max Lucado devotional, around 1:15 I get one from Chuck Swindoll, and around 2:00 a third comes from my grandparents. 

7th period
I pull out some paper to jot down some final notes to prepare for my upcoming soccer practice. As soon as I do that, Asher walks in to chat. He doesn't have anything on his agenda, he simply wants to shoot the breeze. He is one of a handful of students who are my "regulars." They come to my office in their spare time to hang out and talk. He sticks around for a while but eventually realizes he forgot to sign in to study hall. He needs to jet over to study hall before he gets in trouble. As he leaves Tina comes in for her meeting. She is late (but it really didn't matter because Asher was hanging out) so I tell her she has to tell me a funny story to make up for being late. Her story wasn't very funny, but it helped her relax so it worked. 
We met until the final bell rang. School is over, time for soccer. 

As soon as the bell rings I quickly change and head out to the soccer field. Those blue skies I was rejoicing over in the morning? Gone. As soon as I step outside it starts to rain. Unbelievable. For the next 80 minutes or so I'm on the field coaching. I absolutely love it (minus the rain). I always get filled with excitement and energy as I step on the field to coach. Unfortunately injuries and field-trips have forced over half of the girls out of practice, so I hop on the field to join in the drills and have some fun. Jumping out on the field again, makes me feel like a little kid. I love it.

The season has been challenging, but I love interacting with the team, and love being on the field with them. They constantly give their best effort, they continually encourage one another, laugh together, and have fun. While we're not finding the net, or keeping the ball out of our own net, like we would like, we are still having a good year. It's been a challenging year...very challenging. But I love it. 

By the time I've cleaned everything up from practice and finished up it's around 5:45 and I'm back in my office for one last round of work emails, getting ready to head home.
Each weeknight offers something different - so it is hard to sum up. On Monday/Wednesday I try to be more low key. That doesn't always work out as it seems like something usually comes up. I love to cook and find it to be a real relaxing way to finish a day - it's great to turn on some Lady Antebellum and make some grub. On Tuesday/Thursday I play soccer with my German team - so I take off for that shortly after getting home from coaching, and don't return until 9:30 or 9:45. Those are long days. During soccer season, on Friday/Saturday I'm traveling with and coaching my girls. We will have a tough game this weekend, I'm praying that I, and the girls, do not become discouraged. As a team we continue to discuss the characteristics of Esther, which has turned out to be really cool.
After an opportunity to perhaps read, write and relax at night, it's off to bed and time to get ready to do it all over again!
It's busy. There is a lot happening - at the end of the day I'm pretty tired, but I absolutely love it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Update

Spring break continues here in Germany, and the time remains to be a blessing and an opportunity to be refreshed. Having the guys come and visit last week was such an unbelievable time. Sure we did a lot, and went on some exciting adventures - yet the greatest part of the trip was simply being able to spend time with them. The conversations we had, and laughter we shared was phenomenal. I feel refreshed and was extremely encouraged by their visit. I'm not one who sheds tears easily, but last Friday we shared our final dinner together and after eating, with tears of gratitude and love, I took a few moments to tell the guys how thankful I was they came out. Their passion, vision, encouragement, and physical presence was paramount for me.

With the guys gone, this week has proven to be a time where I can tackle all the little odds and ends that have piled up throughout the semester. The biggest thing I have been working on this week is the book. With that in mind I thought it would be a good time to give a bit of an update on my progress. I have had a few people asking about it recently, so hopefully I can take the questions they asked and put everything together here...
As I mentioned in a previous post, my original plan was to have everything ready to go by early March. That obviously did not happen. I have been amazed at just how much time and energy is required to complete this project. Over the past week I have easily spent at least four or five hours each day on the book. Every chapter is written, so I am working on editing and formatting - making sure everything is consistent from chapter to chapter, ensuring all the footnotes are correct, and properly formatted. I have a few peers who are also helping me edit, so I am taking their suggestions and looking through them. I am blessed at the work these people are doing, because they are truly turning my rough writing into something (hopefully) worth reading.
Prior to the break starting I printed out the first 21 chapters of the book, and have gone through each chapter with a red pen marking any and all necessary changes. It has been a lot of work. A LOT. But, I am thoroughly enjoying it.

While I am not sure of the exact format of the finished project - I think I will be pleasantly surprised at the length of the book. My original goal was to write somewhere between 75-100 pages. I felt that was a good amount for a first crack at writing. The 21 chapters I have printed off total 110 pages, which I believe will only increase when you factor in the size of the book compared to the 8x11 pages I have printed. Therefore, it looks like it could be somewhere between 150-200 pages. I know that is a huge range, but I truly don't have much of an educated guess.

At this point I still do not know when it will all be finished. I would like to say sooner rather than later - but I honestly don't know. I feel as though I have taken a great leap forward this week with the amount of time and energy I've been able to put into it. Once I feel as though I have a manuscript ready, I will contact a self-publishing company to move forward with them. From conversations I have had, it seems as though that process could take anywhere from 3-6 months. If I were to create a new goal it would be this; to have a manuscript ready by the end of the school year (June) and at that point begin corresponding with the publishing company. With that time frame, perhaps it will be ready just in time to make for a great stocking stuffer at Christmas!

This has been a big project, but something I have thoroughly enjoyed doing. I am anxious to finish, but need to keep plugging away. The project has taken a lot of time, thought, and energy (not only from me, but from all those who are assisting me). But I am convinced that when all is said and done, it will all be more than worth it.
I am still working out some of the smaller details, as I have been spending the majority of the time on the bigger details. However, I have had some fun (and help from a former soccer player of mine) in creating an image that may be used for the cover. I am still not 100% certain of the title, or what the cover will look like - but below are two different options that have been created. When I was in need of a break from writing/editing, or in need of a little motivation these helped remind me of the big picture.

As always, thanks for spending some time on my blog and checking in. Feel free to leave comments, or shoot me an email if you want.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Week

As I mentioned in my post from last week I have been blessed by having some of my closest friends out here over the past seven days. Rather than me (Tommy) writing this week, I thought it would be a great opportunity for these guys to write on the blog. So tonight I left for practice and left my computer and blog open for them to do as they sought fit, this is what they came up with...

Dear Tommy's followers,

This has truly been a memorable trip. France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy all in one week! The highlight...hanging with the bro's. These friendships are a literal answer to prayer that I prayed about 7 years ago. If you get to read Tommy's book-check out chapter 6 on companionship. God really did design us for community and fellowship and I am very grateful for His gift of these friends. Alright enough with the sappy stuff...

The trip starts out like this. I got off the plane and was met by Caleb and Tommy as they embarrassingly catch me trying to change money at a vending machine- I was poking around obviously in an unsuccessful attempt to trade Dollars for Euros.- We start off where we left off- laughing. Then in comes Cheese (Croce) trying to scare me but instead he knees me in the gut...typical.

Tommy's town is great. It is a picturesque mountain town. We try to be as German as we can so the first thing we get for dinner is wurst! While Caleb and I (Ross-TFF) are grilling a giant German man wearing blue overalls yelled from another balcony..."Wurst!!!" and he patted his stomach like Santa on Christmas. That is when I knew i was in the right place.

After dinner we went to Basel-a stunning town filled with a laid back European culture. I got to dance with a complete strangers named Roseanna by sunset along the Rhine River while the rest hide and took pictures while laughing their faces off-Roseanna was one of a different breed.


Cheese is now entering the writing.

On Sunday we did what all good missionaries do- we went to church. After church we took a hike up a beautiful mountain outside Tommy's town. I myself still cannot figure out why we did not drive up the mountain.(Ross) When we got to the top it was well worth the trip. We could see France, Germany and the Swiss Alps from summit. After we climbed the mountain we were overdue for some relaxing-Tommy had just the remedy. About 20 minutes away from the mountain were some old Roman ruins of baths. The Germans made them current and we got to enjoy some unique culture of outdoor bathing and indoor pools. However in order for it to be a true German experience Tommy provided us with some authentic European bathing wear. I cannot describe these suits just in case there are some young readers out there.




Monday we had to part ways with the Drake (Caleb). After dropping him off at the airport in Zurich we headed for the town of Luzern. The most beautiful city I have seen to date. The Alps were prevalent in the city, situated on a lake. We had Swiss chocolate, expensive coffee, and fruitful conversation. We also saw a gorgeous catholic church - old and full of history. However I couldn't help but think of the words "white washed tomb" The only thing that seemed to matter in this church was it's beauty.--convicting as an analogy to my heart.


Monday night was a night I wont soon forget. Tommy and I (Ross) went strolling around Kandern on his scooter looking for my friends Lincoln and Leah. We didn't find them but we did find ourselves with a face full of asphalt. The scooter could not handle the weight of us together- Ross has put on some weight since college. The front tire started to violently turn back and forth and eventually took us down. I was laughing the entire time- even when I was lifting the scooter off of Tommy's leg. Neither of us were seriously injured-minor bumps and bruises.

Tuesday we went and saw an old castle in the city of Heidleberg Germany. Huge structure looking over an old classic European town. We brought our own food and picnicked in the town square.



Wednesday was a Tommy day. We stayed around Kandern and hung out. We had an Ultimate sports challenge in the BFA gym(ask Tommy or Dan who won :)) and we got to see Tommy's office and where he spends his day to day. Tommy pours a lot into those kids and they are extremely blessed to have him. It takes a special person to do what he does for the duration he has been doing it, so if you are reading this blog-pray for Tommy and that he will be encouraged and filled up so that he can continue to minister to those kiddos.

Thursday- lets just say we are no- Ponce de Leon. We got uber(super-in German) lost. When we did find our destination-the World War I trenches were surreal. There was a dense fog covering the uber close battle lines. We got to explore the stone, dirt, barbed wire and dug in trenches. AND we got lost in them as well. After the trenches we strolled though the French country side and enjoyed their unique culture.

Tomorrow it's off to Milan. I am excited to see what the day brings. Whatever it is-it wont compare to hanging out with the bro's. God is a great God that takes care of each one of us and I'm glad his answer to my prayer 7 years ago was Cheese and TB!

Thanks for reading this.
Ross and Cheese.