Elastic Basket for my Peaches

I also have a website: www.lizhightower.com

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Open House and chemo

It's been far too long since I have written in this thing. Life is busy but I will try to be better because I hear from time to time that people still read this thing.

I will start with a Sarah update in case that is why you are reading this. She has gone through a ton of tests at MD Anderson and has a few more to go, I think. They did some mini-biopsies on Monday and tested two lumps in the boob and one in the lymph nodes. They were all cancer. I hate telling people this because they do the quick intake of breath that basically means- Damn, that's bad. Well, it is bad but I was encouraged by internet findings on the subject for once. It is pretty common for stage 2 breast cancer to affect the lymph nodes nearby. Breast cancer at Sarah's age is pretty much guaranteed to be more agressive than the type found in older women. It is still not fun news even though I had a feeling it was not just in her boob. Sarah had to drink barium, which I hear is like death. And from the look on Sarah's face, she agreed. She is not one to get sick so she is having a hard time with all this. Not that anyone is prepared for this, but Sarah never even gets a cold.

She just found out that she has to start chemo tomorrow. We knew it would come to this but we didn't expect it with only 24 hours notice. Please pray for Sarah as this latest rush development is a bit unnerving. They said she will probably start to lose her hair after 2 or 3 weeks. So, on Saturday we are going to go to a big flea market to buy a turtle for my classroom, that may or may not end up being named Gary, then we are going to this place that makes wigs out of your hair so they can cut her hair and then we will go find a place to watch the UT game. You know, a typical Saturday: turtles, wigs and college football.

So, on to non-cancer subjects- I had a little dinner party this weekend with my friend, Jane (used to be Jane Kim), her husband who I love- James, their friend, Matt and my friend, Esther. It was fun, the food was decent and no one got sick. Also I made some kick ass rice krispie treats. I may not be a gourmet chef, but I make a mean rice krispie treat. We hung out and had some trampoline time. Jane told me afterwards that Matt thought I was really cool and kept saying it. It's nice to know I've still got it. He doesn't appear to be a member of the Jesus club, which is my number one requirement. But, it's nice to have some positive male attention other than random construction workers and gangsta types at the mall.

School is going well. It's even easier than I thought it would be and I already wasn't worried. I think compared to the best friend having cancer, a room full of third graders, just isn't too scary. Tonight was open house. I didn't really know what to do since I have never been to an open house. I think I did ok. Some of my parents don't speak English and my Spanish is only passable. I think I got my point across. My kids are fun. The day goes by quickly and I don't have time to think about the worries in my life. It's funny how being the teacher is like being a celebrity. I was eating lunch and some of my kids came by and just stared at what I was eating. Then one girl says, "So, you like carrots, huh?" So funny. I also work on my lesson plans for about 10 minutes the night before. I am definitely flying by the seat of my pants. I plan to get it together and write at least a week's worth of lesson plans this weekend. I am doing fine this way but I will be a better teacher if I plan further in advance. Speaking of lesson plans, I should probably go work on mine now.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

War and Internet Porn

So, I had a pretty good weekend. There was a good balance of people time and alone time and I got to hang out with a lot of different people. What more can you ask for? I have a lot of trips planned for the Fall so it is nice to have these relaxing weekends at home while I can.

I bought a lot of teacher stuff this weekend. My school gives us each $100 to start off the year, which is nice since I don't get paid until Wednesday. I shouldn't complain since my friend, Lee, works in another school district and doesn't get paid until mid-September. Not cool. Anyway, I did a lot of teacher shopping and I managed to stay out of the teacher supply stores. Those places freak me out even though I know there are probably many useful things there. I think this phobia is left over from when I was in my last year of college and didn't actually want to be a teacher. It's weird how much I find myself thinking like a teacher. It is rather scary, actually. I am coming up with lots of random ideas and bulletin board headings. As much as it freaks me out, it is nice to have an outlet for my creativity.

Today my friends, Jane and James came to my church. They just moved to Houston and I am excited to add them to my list of Houston friends. This list is actually quite long, though they are very scattered. I wish we could all just live in the same neighborhood. That'd be ideal. Our pastor is doing a serious about some of the big life issues. Last week, he talked about internet pornography. He has an unusual style of preaching. Most preachers start out with an assumption and then proceed to tell you how they came to that assumption step by step. Our pastor tends to think of an issue and then look at all the Bible has to say. Then he presents the information without really saying what his personal conclusion is. He wants to present the info and let us think for ourselves. I like this style a lot. Now, with the internet pornography, it was obvious that he was against it. Despite its prevalence in our culture, I think all Christians would say that it is wrong. He gave these interesting statistics: 40 million people regularly admit to looking at porn. 7 million of these are women. And 1/3 of clergy admit to regularly visiting porn sites. So, as I said earlier, it was pretty obvious what the pastor's opinion on this issue was. This week, on the other hand, wasn't as obvious as the topic was war.

Now, with my brother being a soldier in Iraq, this is a very personal issue for me. I almost dreaded hearing our pastor talk about it because I was afraid he might take the blanket non-war, pro-peace stance that so many Christians take. Unfortunately this stance is personal and not Biblical. Well, good old Pastor Rufus Smith IV did not let me down. He looked at the Bible first. A summary of his talk would be that there are times to defend and times to be gracious. I found myself fully agreeing with him and that felt good. He also spoke on a passage I had never noticed. In Luke 3:14, soldiers ask Jesus how they should live. Jesus does not say they need to quit their jobs. Instead he says that they need to be sure not to extort money or accuse falsely. I was already familiar with another passage where a centurian (soldier in charge of 100 men) is also not told to quit his job but is commended for his great faith.

There is nothing wrong with Christians who choose to be anti-war. But it is their choice and opinion. It is not Biblical.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Missing Maui

Warning to reader- This was written late at night and is fairly personal and highly reflective. If you are looking for humorous antecdotes, this is not the blog entry for you. Hopefully one of those will come again soon.

I really miss Maui right now. I know you are probably thinking, "Big surprise! Maui is paradise and people pay big bucks to vacation there." Well, when I say that I miss Maui it is more that I miss YWAM Maui and all the incredible people there. I was so unbelievably lucky to get to spend a year and a half with 50+ people who genuinely cared for me and would drop whatever they were doing in order to pray for me when I needed it. I also developed some incredibly deep and vulnerable friendships, and while we have sustained the friendships over the phone, it is not the same as being there to literally cry in each other's arms when necessary.

It's not that I have a lack of quality friends here. In fact, I feel lucky to that so many of my friends have settled in Houston recently. But, here in the real world, we all get so caught up in our own stuff that we can't fully be there for our hurting friends like we should. I wish that real life was more like my YWAM life.

Luckily God makes it clear why I am here in this time almost daily but it doesn't stop this longing I have to be in such a supportive, vibrant Christian community. It is hard to create that outside of a full-time living and working environment like YWAM. The other night I had some sort of nightmare where I awoke thinking I had to get back to Maui and soon. I don't even remember the dream but it sure felt urgent.

I am frustrated by all the change and unknown in my life. I like to be in control. I know ultimately that God is in control and if I didn't believe that I would probably have a nervous breakdown. I don't like change unless I am the one in control of the changing. I was supposed to teach 4th grade and now I am teaching 3rd. It really isn't a huge deal but in this very uncertain time in my life, another change really throws me off. I know ultimately that I will be teaching these specific kids for a reason but it sure would have been nice to know months ago when I got the job. There are obviously bigger concerns in my life.

My brother, the person I love the most in this world, is in the middle of a war. It is easy to pretend that it's not happening. I don't even pray for him enough because that would make it harder to delude myself. Bad men will continue to try to harm my little brother until January and that is just a fact. If I let myself think about it too much, I will implode.

And now Sarah, my best friend, has breast cancer. Right now is a time of not knowing the extent of the cancer or what will be done. It is endlessly scary. I truly am hopeful but I have also seen the reality of this disease. Mrs. Pilgreen, mom of my friends, Lee and Erin had breast cancer too. And she was of the age that is more likely to get it. She beat it once and then it came back and killed her. If that happens to Sarah, I just don't know what I will do. We have been friends more than half of our lives. Some people say, "God will heal her." But in the Bible, God promises to heal us but sometimes that is not this side of Heaven. And whether or not God heals Sarah does not affect His character or whether He is a good God or not. And yet I pray fervently for God's healing for Sarah. I do have hope that she will beat it and I plan to stand by her every step of the way. There are just no guarantees. If I could shave my head and guarantee Sarah a full recovery with no reoccurences, I would. In fact I would do just about anything. But that is not how life works. There are no guarantees especially with a beast like cancer. Lance Armstrong had cancer all over his body and then won the Tour de France. And Mrs. Pilgreen died before seeing her grandchildren grow up. My grandma had ovarian cancer in her 40's and lived to be 93, And Jorie Zemel died of bone cancer at 14. There are no guarantees one way or the other and I HATE IT!

To combat the worrisome stress in my life, I am working out like a fiend. My mind may be troubled but my body will look good. Of all the things people turn to in order to relieve frustrations, working out is a good bet, I think. It's definitely better than getting drunk or not eating or sleeping all day.

I once read a quote and I liked it so much that I wrote it in my Bible-
"We act as though the purpose of our prayers is to inform God of our need rather than to confess that we depend utterly on Him to provide what He already knows we need." I totally agree. It is about surrendering our desire to be in control and letting God take His proper role in our lives. So, God I surrender these people I love up to you. I trust you with Andrew and I trust you with Sarah. I also surrender my desire for a husband and especially the desire to know who that husband will be. I surrender my desire to teach fourth grade since I have now been reassigned to third. But most importantly I surrender my desire to be in control. You know so much better than I do and I thank you that I am not like those without hope.
"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." 1 Thess 4:13
Thank you God that with you I have hope.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I had yet another day of teacher training today. This one was probably the worst. The lady leading it was nice but her niceness could not make up for the innate boringness of the topic. It was a full day about PDAS- a system that administrators use to observe and critique a teacher. The dumbest part of the whole thing for me is that they just made it sound like you needed to do all this stuff to get a good observation. I don't want to change the way I do things to fit within an observation framework. I want to be a good teacher and be evaluated for what I do every day.

We are supposed to dress "business casual" for all these affairs. This is a bit of an ambiguous term especially in the non business teaching world. I have seen quite a wide spectrum of "business casual." Some people show up in business suits. Others go for slutty short skirts and cleavage displaying tops. There was one guy wearing long jean shorts and a plain t-shirt 3 sizes too big with all white Air Force One sneakers. I doubt that would fly in a traditional office. No one seems to be enforcing the business casual so maybe I will just show up in my bikini for the last day. Or maybe not.

My class today had nine teachers from my school. That's a lot of new teachers. The weird thing is that one of the other girls said she was going to be the 4th grade reading teacher. That is the position I was offered. I looked on the school's website and it lists me as a third grade teacher. Strange. You would think the principal would have told me. Pretty shady if you ask me. It looks like I might be teaching third grade now but I don't even know. It's like my life is just perpetually changing. But the irony is that I HATE CHANGE! I am sure if I teach third grade, it will be for the best but I feel like a victim of the old bait and switch. And I won't be in the fourth grade teacher club with my buddies, Emily Hardin and Lee Pilgreen. I will keep you posted.

It was good to meet some of the other teachers at my school. They are all pretty young and seem pretty fun. They seemed equally bored by the seminar. Next Monday we all meet at the school for some bonding and more inservices. We are also scheduled to do some sort of team building at the Culinary Institute. Maybe it will be like Top Chef. That could be fun. I hope they ask us to make Lean Pockets. I am really good at that.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Teacher Training

I will start with the latest on Sarah. She is scheduled to see a doctor from MD Anderson, a world class cancer hospital here in Houston. The doctor specializes in young women with breast cancer. Her appointment is in two weeks. In the meantime, they are testing the lump at their labs since it's common for other labs to make mistakes. We should get the lab results back in the next few days. They seem to think this is less urgent than the other doctors and they are the specialists. They are also saying they prefer to shrink the cancer and don't always recommend something as radical as a double masectomy. I will keep you posted.

Today I went to my second day of teacher training. This one seemed far more beneficial than the first one. The first one was for new HISD employees and at times felt like an HISD pep rally that no one really wanted to attend. They kept telling us what a good choice we had made. After about ten times, I started to think the over-reassurance could mean I'd made the wrong choice.

This training was for elementary school teachers new to the district. I was in a room with only fourth grade teachers and we were given a lot of information that will be helpful for setting up a classroom. I learned most of this in school but it's been four years and I certainly could use the refresher. I especially needed the part about classroom management. I am good at getting kids pumped up but not as good at calming them down.

During the lunch break, I decided to get food at the food court of Sharpstown Mall. I used to live in that part of town and remember going to that mall as a child. Apparently the area has changed a lot. It looked like most stores were either selling athletic shoes in colors I didn't even know existed or selling bling. For those of you without an adequate ghetto vocabulary- bling is flashy jewelry. There was a sweet silver Spam can-sized belt buckle featuring a bejeweled outline of the state of Louisiana. Now, that was hard to pass up. I am normally fairly unfazed by things going on around me but today I noticed all the young men looking me up and down. One guy said, "hey," and without thinking, I said, "hey" back. Big mistake. Then, he says, "Hey baby." And proceeds to look me up and down. I started walking quickly and luckily he continued on. This was not the best choice of lunch location but I survived.

After lunch I went to a room full of people trying to give me free stuff and get me to sign up for things. I came away with a lot of free candy and pens. Pretty sweet deal. I also signed up to win some free iPods but I think I will end up getting some annoying solicitation phone calls instead. I did win a laminated chart to assign classroom managers and a book about teaching Math. Too bad I will be teaching English.

I also noticed at the end of class that one of the guys in the room will also be teaching at my school. I didn't have time to say anything to him but I will definitely look for him at the next training. He seems fun and not too dorky, which is good. I'd like to have more male friends since mine keep getting married.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Camp continued

My mind is pretty consumed by the whole best friend having cancer thing right now but I do want to write more about camp. So, here it is:

The camp had about 150 teen mothers. Most brought babies, but some were pregnant, or left their babies at home or had their babies taken away. I heard of one cabin where two different girls had babies with the same guy. Now, there is some guaranteed drama.

The babies slept in the cabin with us. Thank God for ear plugs. I think the Lord blessed me with the ability to block a lot of the noise out. The girls got to do lots of fun activities both with and without their babies. A lot of them don't seem to know how to have fun with their babies. They know how to take care of them but not how to enjoy them. We completed a ropes course, rode mountain bikes, went swimming, played goofy and messy games, sang and danced. It was so cool to see them acting like kids. Our girls ranged in age from 14 to 19. Some of them had their babies in Jr. High. I was just finished playing with Barbies when I was their age.

Some of the leaders from the camp told their life stories and then had a question and answer time afterwards. One leader told of her own teenage pregnancy and how she got her life together and ended up marrying a 25 year old virgin Young Life leader. Another told of how she was sexually abused by her grandfather throughout her childhood and how it took a long time to share that secret with people. During the question and answer time, a girl from another school stood up and asked, "How do you know when it is time to share your secret?" This hurt my heart so bad and I didn't even know her. We estimate that 90% of these girls were sexually abused. That stuff can contribute to teen pregnancy.

It was fun to hang out with the girls but hard too. I don't think I am ready for kids anytime soon. I am sure it is different when they are your own and there aren't 20 of them.

The speaker at the camp had been a teen mother herself and was great at relating to the girls. Many of them became Christians, which is super exciting. And as usual, when they told us to cheer for the new Christians, all I could do was cry.

After camp, we went to the Grand Canyon. It was really crazy. Only about 3 or 4 of the girls were interested beyond looking over the edge for five minutes and taking one picture. The girls started complaining a lot and none of them brought enough water for the babies. Everyone was a bit grumpy. Then we read the map wrong and had to walk about a mile along the sied of the road. Picture it- five adults, fifteen teen moms, and 17 babies. It was even more impressive in a single-file line. A tour bus passed us and I heard the tour guide exclaim, "Well, now I have seen everything." Too funny!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cancer makes me want to throw up

So I just found out that my best friend, Sarah Stojanik McGregor (I wanted to fully clarify since I collect friends named Sarah), has breast cancer. At first I was shocked, then I cried a lot and now I just feel like I want to throw up.

She found a lump in her boob and the doctors assumed it was a fairly common condition where the breasts make harmless little cysts. Sarah had a big lump so they took it out. There was little talk of the possibility of cancer. The big C was not likely at all. Sarah is only 26. She'd be the first to admit that she isn't particularly well-endowed in the boob dept. She eats healthy. She's thin and does not have a family history of cancer.

Well the doctor who took the lump out in an outpatient surgery thought it seemed sticky. None of know what a sticky lump means but she didn't seem particularly conerned. Well apparently a sticky lump is bad because they tested it and it's cancer. Sarah is going in for another appt. tomorrow and they will schedule an MRI to see if the cancer is in other parts of her body.

I still can't believe this is true and I still want to throw up. Please pray!!!!!
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