Sunday, February 19, 2017

Oh, What a Night to Shine!

Drew and his best friend Michael dance and hang out with friends at Night to Shine Tallahassee.

My son Drew has always been up for a good time. He loves to eat, dance and hang out with his friends – and believe me, he has LOTS of friends. Recently, he got to dress up and party with many of his friends at the annual TimTebow Foundation’s Night to Shine prom.

Night to Shine is a prom for people 14 and older with special needs. Tebow started Night to Shine three years ago, and this year, 75,000 people with disabilities in 375 locations in 50 states and 11 countries attended.

Local churches hosted and organized the event, and this year, it took 150,000 volunteers to make the night a success. For months leading up to the prom, the church committees collected prom attire and accessories from the community and then hosted a day when prom-goers picked out a dress or tux. They made sure that security and medical care were on hand the night of the prom and that each attendee had a buddy to hang out with during the night. The buddies passed a background check and participated in a training workshop. I sponsored the high school prom once and it was a piece of cake compared to everything that these Night to Shine committees did.

Genesis Church hosted the Night to Shine prom in Tallahassee.

Volunteer buddies wait to cheer prom-goers as they walk the red carpet at Night to Shine Tallahassee.
Everyone enjoyed the karaoke room!

Tim Tebow is quite an interesting young man. His parents were missionaries in the Philippines where Tebow lived during his childhood. He played college football at the University of Florida where he led the team to two national championships. He was awarded the Heisman Trophy, was drafted by the NFL and played a few years. Currently, he is a college football analyst for the SEC Network and playing baseball with the New York Mets organization. 

Tebow established his foundation in 2010 with the “mission to bring Faith, Hope and Love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.” In addition to Night to Shine, the foundation aids in adoption of special needs children from 3rd world countries, provides playrooms in pediatric hospitals, and operates a pediatric orthopedic hospital in the Philippines.

Tim Tebow escorts a Night to Shine prom-goer into the event.
“From a very early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of God’s word, the salvation we have in His Son Jesus and the responsibility we have to give back to others. That’s why in 2010, I was so excited to create the Tim Tebow Foundation with a mission to bring Faith, Hope and Love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.” – Tim Tebow

Many professional athletes have foundations for charitable causes. Being a cynical person, I always considered them just a tax write-off.  These people are paid exorbitant salaries, and they must find a way to keep the IRS from taking most of the money. However, I was never exposed to one of these foundations directly until Night to Shine. 

This night was so special to so many people, and their memories of the event won’t fade quickly. Drew loves looking at pictures and talking about the great time he had with his friends. My daughter works at an adult day program for many of those who attended the prom. She said that the week after the event, many of the attendees wore their crowns each day. One man couldn’t tell her about the night without crying because he was still so excited.

Each prom-goer received a crown or tiara to wear at Night to Shine prom.

I live in the middle of Florida State University fanatics, and it's hard for many of them to find anything positive to say about the University of Florida. However, one of these die-hard Seminoles who volunteered at Night to Shine said, "I'm certainly not a Gator fan, but Tebow's foundation really does a great job!" My daughter, who is a UF alumna, said that it's because Tebow is part of the "Gator Good." Personally, I believe that his goodness has much more to do with his faith than with being a Gator, but then again, I don't like football.

So thank you Tim Tebow Foundation and all the host churches and volunteers. I’d have to say the Night to Shine was a success!

"I genuinely believe, from the bottom of my heart, that statistics will never motivate you; a specific story will motivate you. If one person realizes that God loves them, that’s enough." - Tim Tebow

Friday, February 10, 2017

I'm Back ... or at Least I'm Trying

haven’t been a good blog-keeper for over a year, having written only five posts since January 2016. My audience tells me they miss reading my thoughts. That previous sentence makes it sound like my audience is in the thousands. That’s hardly true, but I so appreciate anyone who has read in the past.

Why haven’t I been writing? I’ve thought a lot about how to answer this question because I loved writing and sharing with you. I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t want to keep up the pace. After a lot of deep thinking, I came up with a few reasons.

The biggest reason is that my whole life has done, as they say in racing circles, a 180. The course I had planned in 2015 – retire, spend time with my husband, family and friends, write – did not go as I thought. I did retire, but when Richard died, I didn’t have the desire to write. He was my muse, my inspiration for this blog and many of the posts. I didn’t have my editor anymore and didn’t feel confident in my thoughts or writing. 

Also, I didn’t have anything I wanted to write about. My world had become so small while caring for Richard, and I didn’t want to let anyone inside. Writing a post about grieving would be too sad, for me and for you. Often, I considered writing about news events but why? The election wore me out, and I stopped watching national news. I, like many people I know, now focus on my small world, accepting that there’s not much I can change about the big picture.

Instead of writing, I became physically active, mainly to become exhausted so I could sleep at night. I worked in my yard, pushing my old-school lawnmower, chopping shrubs and vines and even cutting down trees with an ax. I set a daily goal of reaching at least 10k steps on my Fitbit but also of having at least I hour of active minutes. I walked 1.5 miles every morning and again every evening. 

Along the way, I rejoined Weight Watchers which led to healthy eating. Since March 2016, I have lost 58 pounds. I began working with a personal trainer weekly which helps build muscle and protect my old bones. My appearance has changed so much that people I haven’t seen in a while don’t recognize me. It’s awkward when we meet because we must get the "new" Pam out of the way. Often, someone will say, “Oh, you’re so skinny” which bothers me. Before, did they want to say, “Oh, you’re so fat” when they met me? Body image, especially when you focus on your own body, is difficult.

May 2015 and November 2016

In August 2016, I returned to the school where I had taught prior to retirement to teach part time. I have the best job in the world! For three periods each day, I teach super kids who are taking dual-enrolled English. These kids chose to be in the class and had to jump through several hoops to be allowed in; therefore, they are committed to the work. They are receiving high school as well as six hours of college credit which is sometimes demanding, but I am well pleased with their work ethic.

I love my part-time gig, especially the part about being finished at 11:15 every day. Now, I have time to plan thoroughly and to keep ahead of my grading. I am willing to try new strategies because I’m not stressed of having to plan and grade for two other classes. If you are one of my former students and you thought I was a pretty good teacher then, you should know that you were cheated. I’m 100% better now. I wish every teacher could enjoy teaching part time, but alas, the money isn’t enough. Fortunately, I have my retirement income as well.  

So much about my life has changed over the past year. My wise friend Jo often said, “Something good always comes from change. You just have to wait long enough to see it.” I am grateful every day for all the blessings I receive – good health, financial independence, great working environment, family, etc. I still have those negative pictures of worst-case scenarios that pop up in my head, but I’m working on mindfulness, living in the moment. I’m getting used to the new me by spending time alone, exercising and saying yes to most invitations to events.

Sometimes I want to plan the rest of my life, but if the last year is any indication of how well I plan, it’ll all go "to hell in a handbasket," as my mom always says. I’ll try to write more often because I hate to see the blog go away forever. Why don’t you send me some topics you’d like for me to write about? Obviously, I need ideas.