that perfect hand…

In Ocean's 11, Danny said that "the house always wins. If you play long enough, never change the stakes, then the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big… and then, you take the house." Here's the hand I've been dealt, sometimes it's risky and sometimes it's safe, but all the time… it's perfect. It's mine.


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defining gratitude

New Year
Thank you.

‘Thank you’ kind of looks like this: As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

Sometimes, I’ve decided, being grateful is my default action and reaction to circumstances I cannot understand – or change. It is as though I’ve learned that I need to be grateful for adversity, or difficulty, because I know that this is where my purest growing happens.

However, it is a bit of a charade. And things are changing. I think somewhere between situation and reaction, I’ve forgotten to let myself be. Be tired. Be hurt. Be afraid. Be lonely. Be angry. Be frustrated. Be confused. And then, let the authentic gratitude come later. I am pretty sure I am not alone in this – a masking of what is really going on, providing the “right” answer instead of the “true” one.

Doesn’t sound like much good around here, does it?

I think I have mentioned that this year has been a difficult one.. not just at work, and not just in my personal life. For some reason, 28 has boasted more adversity and more confusion that any years past.   As it has all unfolded, I’ve felt pretty vulnerable, yet consciously aware of why I am walking through everything. Call it self-awareness, call it maturity, or whatever you want, but as everything has happened, I think I’ve been attune to it because this is the first year I’ve also really understood myself. My limitations, my downfalls, my talents, my strengths. I have struggled with worthiness this year; I wonder often if the range of who I am is as valuable as I think it is. I’ve taken more risks this year, but I’ve also struggled to find my voice in some of the most important aspects of my everyday.

Anyway. My profession provides a myriad of ways to feel success and vulnerability every day, all day. I feel like I am perfecting my craft a bit more, all the time. I often refer to myself as a “work in progress”, yet this has negated myself from seeing that even so, I am pretty good. There have been many instances that have left me wondering and questioning that this year, but I try to see that humility to my art is the place that I want to be. The same is true for my relationships. While sometimes leaving me feeling as though I shoulder much responsibility for things that really aren’t mine, I am learning to trust that people are capable of disappointing or hurting me, even when they love me and fill that need in my soul for connection. It might not be revolutionary to all, but it sure has been to me. Somehow, it makes me feel better, learning that all this can’t solely be on me. I tend, as we all do, look at our own situations and go “well, this is really not so bad and compared to others, I have nothing to complain about”, but as much as we do this, we need to get better at recognizing our hurts need only to be measured relative to our own experiences. In other words, this is the worse it has been for me. And I am tired. 🙂

Now, none of that [very confusing and vague] explanation is my point. I have been struggling to put words to everything, because I know I am not ignorant to how beautiful and much-more-whole I will feel once I am out of these valleys, looking back and seeing how much better I am for these bits and pieces of my life. However, I am tired of putting an inaccurate voice to how difficult it’s truly been. My mom’s favourite saying (and subsequently, my least favourite) is “bloom where you’re planted” – some line from a Catholic hymn that used to drive me crazy in grade school. I’ve tried, and ultimately struggled with, being grateful, genuinely, in the moment as the days of this year have passed. Instead of allowing myself to be more honest with others, and myself, about everything, I’ve created a cautious identity of gratitude, even though it doesn’t always work.

Don’t misinterpret this – I am grateful. I know that amongst pain are immense blessings. I just also know that I am not better for ignoring some other truths in my heart, and in my experience. Chalk it up to working with kids all day, and encouraging them to find their voices and be authentic in their being, but I’ve been feeling convicted in knowing that there is a bit of a competition in my heart right now – being grateful and being unsure [of why things are panning out as they are]…is it possible for me to be both?

I remember going to counselling a few years back and we were talking about how tired I was about learning lessons. I wanted to be left alone for awhile…no more lessons for a bit. As I write that, I am taken back to that day, and I still feel silly for saying it. I guess my point is that I want to know that what what I am doing is good enough for awhile, even though I know it’s never that easy. We don’t plateau, nor would I want to, at a mediocre version of ourselves; a version we spend our entire lives trying to overcome as we get better and better at identifying ourselves with who we’re supposed to be. 

Anyway, this post is lame. And I am as restless with it as I am restless with many things right now. But I think what I have learned, especially in the last four to eight months, is that even though it might lack authenticity at times, attempting to live in gratitude is much better than the alternative. My gratitude looks different, as I try to be thankful even for experiences that have been hard on me, but somehow I have to trust that this will be more beneficial in the long run.

Doesn’t mean I am not exhausted. Or hurt. Or confused. Or humbled. I am trying to be all of those things, too.

Looking forward to so many things… ❤

grace and peace.

 

 

 

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group effort – lemon meringue pie

 

I have a post formulating that is going to blow your minds (probably not) but I am taking a hiatus from hashing out that essay for a little baker’s pride moment, which don’t happen very often. It’ll even include a recipe.

Check this out:

Yay for birthdays.

I know, right? It was Luke’s birthday yesterday and I wanted to make him his favourite – lemon meringue pie. Last year the pie I made him was unmentionable, not even worth being the punchline in the lamest of lame stories I tell my classes. Even though he ate it last year, smiling and nodding that he liked it, my goal this year was to make sure that the crust didn’t cook down, the filling wasn’t sweating or watery, and the meringue actually resembled one that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to give him. The result? The perfect recipe for lemon meringue pie (and the largest grin on my best friend’s face). Anyway…the recipe came from three different sources and with some tweakings done by me, risky but effective,  I suggest you put this little delight in your recipe books.

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The Crust (courtesy of my cousin in law and favourite person to waste time with, Chrissy)

1/2 lb shortening
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 a beaten egg (use your gut)
2 tsp salt
1/2 T vinegar

Add beaten egg to vinegar and add enough cold water to make 1/2 a cup.

Mix dry ingredients and cut in the shortening with a pastry tool. Mix in liquid with a fork.

Separate into two balls and refrigerate for 20 minutes or so. Roll the pastry between two pieces of wax paper so that the dough is 1 inch bigger than the inverted pie plate. Drape dough loosely into pie plate and pinch down. Prick holes with a fork and weigh it down with pastry weights. Or in our case, interior decorative rocks. Amazing. Bake until golden brown, 18 minutes I think @ 425. I can’t remember that part, I was playing with Eli.

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The Filling (courtesy of my sister and favourite person I’d like to get more chances to waste time with, Jes)

In a microwave bowl combine:
1/2 cup corn starch
1 cup and 3 T sugar (the extra 3 just makes it a little more delicious)
1/4 tsp  salt
Gradually add 3 cups boiling water and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stirring once halfway.
Stir a small amount, I used two spoonfuls, of hot mixture into 3 beaten egg yolks (reserve whites) and blend into remaining hot mixture. Cook for another minute or two.
Blend in:
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp grated lemon rind (took me 2 lemons, average size)
1/2 cup lemon juice (2.5 lemons)
Cool to lukewarm, whisking every now and then, and pour into  cooled baked pie shell. I think Jes and Mom are onto something here – shouldn’t be hot!
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The Meringue (courtesy of my friend and owner of my favourite cookbook I’d like to own so I can waste time with it (and her), Jaime – and The Joy of Cooking)
All ingredients MUST be at room temperature. No wavering. NONE.
Thoroughly mix:
1 T cornstarch
1 T sugar
1/3 cup water
Bring to a boil over medium heat, constantly stirring. Let it boil for 15 seconds and cover the pot with lid, remove from heat and set aside.
In a glass or metal bowl (essential) beat until foamy:
FOUR egg whites (I know, three eggs for filling, four for meringue…just trying to be especially complicated! :))
Once the whites are delightfully foaming, add and beat:
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (Don’t have any? Buy it at Walmart…it’s ridiculously cheap for a lot of it)
After beating for a bit, gradually add 1/2 cup sugar. Beat on high speed until very stiff and glossy, not dry.
Reduce speed to very low and beat in the reserved cornstarch paste, 1 T at a time. When done, increase speed for another minute or so. Spread over pie filling and crust
Very IMPORTANT: Make sure the meringue is ‘anchored’ to the crust or pie plate – this keeps the meringue from ‘going anywhere’ or shrinking away from the pie when cooling.
Bake in a preheated, 350* oven for 20 mins. Watch carefully but 20 minutes was all my pie needed.
The result?
This:
and then this, which made it alllll worthwhile:
That win didn’t hurt, either! Go Canucks!
Enjoy your pie.


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being teacher.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea, this one might make you wish I published it in a Reader’s Digest so your eyes didn’t burn so much from the computer screen’s glare…

I’m trying to decide how I feel about this career choice. There is so much work involved in preparing and creating and deciding and learning all the material that needs to be covered for even one 80 minute period. I spent all weekend crafting my introductory lesson to Macbeth and before I walked out the door on Monday, I told Mom I was afraid that I had too much to cover/expected too much. I was surprised to find we covered everything and more over 70 minutes, leaving 10 minutes of “oh no, what now” ringing in my head.

And it’s not just the preparation, it’s the teaching. It’s a difficult task to comprehend something my self so entirely thoroughly before I teach it so that I can ensure my kids will understand it the way I’ve decided they need to. Again, how I decide. Shakespeare is hardly my second language, so expecting 19 grade 11 students to have a love affair with it themselves is a bold request — so my goal is to simply challenge them to give it a chance. However, remember when your teachers in high school or beyond talked about staring into a sea of glossed over eyes and stunned looks of “what the heck are you talking about”? It’s the truth. High school = a whole other world.

In a week, I’ve learned many things.

I have learned that while one lesson and day might go perfectly according to plan, successful both in delivery and student engagement, the next day might be a fail beyond repair. Then the next day, I won’t even recognize the faces that stare at me in earnest… ready to learn. It’s constantly changing and dynamic and unpredictable… they weren’t kidding when they said to be prepared; and be prepared for anything.

I’m also learning that I can’t take things personally. I am so far off the kids’ priority radar that even if I bomb a lesson in my head, they aren’t the wiser nor will they remember the next day. They have boyfriends, girlfriends, after school job, drama, sports and the playoffs, TV shows, obsessions with Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga (oh yes!), break ups and make ups to deal with — far more important than Miss Stam whose knees have gone weak and stomach flip-flops when they haven’t been able to answer three questions in a row as my mind races with insecurity. So as I learn that I can’t take things personally, I am quickly learning how much I truly do carry burdens, of all sorts, in my heart. Seems like more lessons than just for teacher me.

I’m learning tricks of the trade — how to be friendly without being friends, what battles to fight and battles to ignore, and the list goes on and on. I have been blessed with a great group of kids who genuinely seem to enjoy me, which has made this a much more enjoyable transition. My 9s, who I get in a week and a half, seem a lot more distant and a lot harder to please or engage, but they are even more concerned with Justin Bieber than my 11s so I am not too worried.

To say I am humbled is an understatement. In fact, as an English teacher, I feel like I should invent a word that describes how I feel since I can’t seem to come up with the right one. High school students make me so happy… they are funny and obnoxious and emotional and thoughtful and careless and innocent while being experienced and almost wholly real. I know, I know, when you think of your own high school experience, you remember the fake parts and the cliques and insecurity or whatever else there is and I know that all exists. But when I am standing there in front of the room and there are 19 people sitting there, waiting to hear what I have to say, trusting me (albeit, not by choice) and respecting me and opening up to me, well, it’s much easier to see high school students for who they are when you’re teaching them, not being their peer. Make sort of sense?

The stories are already piling up, the comments and anecdotes and encounters are too hilarious to attempt to put into words — plus, I don’t want to privatize my blog so we’ll have to just save those for a coffee date one day. I’ve now had two official evaluations. One by a university supervisor and one by my mentor teacher and they both went super well. The things I have to work on are minor, mostly about disciplinary tactics (being a bit more harsh) or waiting a bit longer for them to answer questions but all in all, I think I am doing well.

Learning lots but not excelling — and in so many ways, I am glad I am not. I think humility is a huge, if not the biggest, part of this job. And realizing that it most definitely is not all about me, and I like that.

Going into the first day, I really wondered how it all would go, especially since I was blessed with no anxiety or fear whatsoever. Even though the fear comes and goes and my confidence is fairly shaky, Miss Stam truly seems to fit like a well worn glove already and when I am standing in front of those kids I know I am exactly where I dreamed of being for so long; were I am sure that I am supposed to be. It also feels pretty darn cool to have my kids step away from their groups in the hallway to say “Hey Miss Stam… I can’t wait for class!”

Me either.


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personal profile

Excuse me while I digress – I’ve had a long and difficult day. Some would attribute it to the fact that I messed up the cinnamon buns I was making (apparently I killed the yeast – who knew?) while others might think it’s because of my constant efforts to become Makenna or Elias’ favourite second cousin (or whatever I am) only to be batted and pushed away, literally, in the face. I am struggling.

But the truth is about this dang personal profile letter I have to write to my pending mentor teacher at the school I am going to be student teaching at. I have such a hard time selling myself and since it is supposed to be about confident and brave and smart and intelligent and admirable Kate, it’s very difficult to write when I screwed up a recipe, had hurt feelings by the people in my life that are less than two feet tall, and misused not one but three words over the course of the weekend which are probably making the other members in those three said conversations question themselves on whether or not I should even be teaching English.

WHERE IN THE WORLD DO I FIND CONFIDENCE IN THAT?

Ergo, you all need to contribute to my statement. Consider this your opportunity to compliment me profusely in the comment section of this post. Kind of like those blog contests you see on the Pioneer Woman or something where the best answer to the contest question receives a prize. Only in this case there is no prize per say, just your own confidence in knowing you played some role in advancing that masterpiece that will eventually be labelled “Kate’s Career”… so if you’d be so obliged:

Why do you think I would make a good teacher? Why do you think the teaching profession is the one for me?

And OBVIOUSLY if you disagree with my career choice and me in it, feel free to comment on that as well… heck, it’ll make everything a lot more interesting. Nothing is going to make me feel any worse today. (Trav, if you feel the need to contribute to this, please remember that sarcasm is dead in written form so please be careful with my oh-so-fragile self esteem).

5-4-3-2-1… comment!


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a cure for grumps

Anybody got it? What are your best remedies for grumps (being crusty, grumpy, and feeling like you’re spending the entire day stifling a festering conniption slash rage blackout volcano)? I need insights, especially since I don’t know the roots of my dilemma…

Talk to me.


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amendment

That’s actually AUNTIE Katie, BA… soon to be B.Ed! In the course of one week, I finished my degree, found out I am going to be an Auntie in November (who cares about due dates, I am totally an auntie already!), and got accepted into the teaching program! Talk about a tidal wave of awesome blessings and success. I knew 2009 was going to be the best year yet. 🙂


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Katie Justine Stam, BA

3 – post-secondary institutions attended

10 – semesters of post-secondary education

43 – courses taken

6 – Education courses

41 – final exams

7 – group presentations

3 – labs

25 – English papers

15 – Research papers (3000+ words)

12 – Education papers

3 – speeches

2 – “A+”s

2 – different cities I’ve lived in for the occasion

50,000+ – dollars I have spent

5 – summers spent in Penticton

4 – times I’ve fallen down on campus

8 – times I’ve flown to either Penticton, Victoria, or Edmonton

1 – time I flew home for Christmas with Jes

1 – job I had (ATB Financial) while going to school

13 – different roommates I’ve had

Apprx. 15 – times I’ve skipped class (this semester)

Priceless – moments I’ve had, people I’ve met, and sweet surprises I’ve had along the way.

Wow.