Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A little bit of sporting insanity...

You may be looking at this picture and asking yourself "Why in the world is Robin wearing such strange alien countermeasures?" I am not wearing alien countermeasures. That is in fact when you wear aluminum foil on your head. I'm wearing a shark swim cap. And swim goggles. Yes, that's right. Swim goggles. This is in fact my super sexy triathlon outfit. Wait! Don't faint! It's true. I did the unthinkable and participated in a sporting event. I know that this is hard for most of you to grasp, seeing as I have never, ever, ever been the athletic type of person, but I've actually been thinking about doing this for a few years, I just actually got around to actually training for an actual event. Unbeknownst to me, training and participating in a triathlon turned out to be one of the most spiritual, exhilarating and exhausting moments of my life.

I woke up incredibly early in the morning after spending a night dreaming about running and not going anywhere. The temperature the night before had been hot, in the 80's. The temperature had dropped in the night and it was now windy and in the low 60's. I picked up Laura, my wannabe mentor and her cute doggy and we headed up to Coconut Creek, 45 minutes away to Tradewinds park. We joined a host of other people unstrapping bikes from the back of their cars in the dark pre-dawn. I set up my bike and gear in a place called the transition area (picture on the right). After setting this all up, I went to get marked. People wrote numbers on my arms. They wrote 182 on me so that people could identify who I was as I swam. This turned out to be counter-productive, seeing as I had a longer sleeved outfit. Then I went and waited for the race to start. We froze. Laura took out my camera and took pictures. Having her there with me was like a breath of soothing air. She calmed me and made me feel like I could do it. She had helped and supported me so far. It would be ok. Like I said before, It was cold. I stretched, chatted with other people wearing goggles and colored swim caps and at some predetermined moment, walked into a pond full of weeds. It was gross. Then I swam.

Up until this time, it had been Laura and me, and the dog. Halfway across the pond I heard something that would follow me everywhere I went for the remainder of the race. I heard my name being yelled. "Go Robin! Robin! Go!" My mom, dad, sister and brother-in-law had all come to show their support. They were, by far, the loudest, most enthusiastic fans that were there to cheer on the 300+ people racing. People asked "Who's Robin?" because they wouldn't stop yelling my name.
They cheered as I got on my bike for a 10 mile ride, half of it against the 15 mph wind.
They cheered as I attempted to get off my bike, frozen from the wind with jelly for legs and wobbled my way to put my bike up.
They cheered as I headed out on incredibly unsteady legs for a 2.5 mile run. I wouldn't say that I actually ran, I more of dragged myself at that point in time. I couldn't feel my legs, and my fingers weren't much better off at that point. Thankfully I warmed up a bit as I passed the pond again, which was about 80 degrees still and making the area around it a few degrees warmer than the rest of the park.
They even cheered when they couldn't see me. I heard my mother, loud and clear on the other side of the park, encouraging me on, just in case I could hear her. And I did.
One of the most amazing moments happened near the end of my almost 2 hour ordeal. By this time, 99.9 percent of the participants were finished. It was down to me and a few others who were first timers. I was jogging my way through a section of wooded trail. It was about 9:00 in the morning. I was alone. None of the other athletes were anywhere to be seen. Trees were above me and the wind was gone. It was beautifully peaceful. And I was tired. I wanted to be done. At that time I had a distinct impression that Camille, my sister currently living in Taiwan, was praying for me. She would be yelling at me, in Chinese, "Jia Yo! Jia Yo!" Which literally means to add oil, but in this instance means "Keep going! Oil it up and keep going!"
The day after t happened, I mentioned it to Camille, who exclaimed "Oh Robin! It was at about that time when I thought of your triathlon and I thought to myself "Jia Yo Robin, Jia Yo!" God was watching out for me. In fact. He's been watching out for me for all along.
I have been praying for years that my desires might change. I have never liked exercise. It made me uncomfortable. It made me sweat. I never enjoyed it. I always found excuses not to do it. I have been praying long and hard for the Lord to change that about me, to help me enjoy exercise. I realized that somewhere along the way to completing this insane goal of mine, that I had changed. I did like running and biking and swimming. I cried as I crossed the finish line and ran into the excited arms of Laura and Amy and my parents. It was such a happy moment. A joyous moment. I've been emotional about it all week. Laura made me a beautiful bracelet in blue and silver with letters spelling out "TRIATHLETE" on it. I haven't been able to stop staring at it. I can't quite seem to come to terms with the fact that I, Robin Jolley, had done something so completely insane. Or that's what I would have said a few years ago. Now, it is a milestone behind me, on my path to becoming a better person.

Monday, October 5, 2009


My school was infinitely intelligent when they decided to give me ten days of vacation in order to watch General Conference and to celebrate the fact that Ft. Lauderdale will be getting a temple. Granted, my school claims that the purpose of this holiday is to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacle, but obviously they were mistaken. Saturday morning brought the bi-annual branch brunch before conference. (For those who might read this who have no idea what I am talking about, you may be directed to the following website for more information. ) We all got together and Dave made waffles and hoped in vain that the batter wouldn't overflow the waffle makers. Audrey and I cooked bacon. I did so in the oven and she did so on an electric skillet. If you wish to hear an amusing story, you may ask her what happened when she attempted to make eggs using bacon grease without first removing most of the grease. I believe some of that grease is still lodged somewhere in my intestinal tract. I made buttermilk syrup, the recipe for which I will attach at the bottom of this blog. It was quite a hit, if I don't say so myself. :)

I settled down to watch the first session of
Conference in the Chapel. I had out my notebook, and had been writing down what questions I was looking to answer during this spiritual smorgasbord. As I was writing these thoughts down at the beginning of conference, an announcement was made that will change, forever, the face of south Florida. A temple will be built in Ft. Lauderdale. The chapel, literally, erupted into cheers. A rumor had been circulating for quite a while, but had never been substantiated. But now it was going to happen. A prophet of God had said so. We were going to get a temple!

For you, this may not mean anything special, but to me, this means the world. Temples have meant a lot to me since I first went to do baptisms for the dead in Toronto when I was 12 or 13. Temples continue to mean more to me the older I get and the more I visit them to make sacred covenants. I tell you, there's no feeling like walking into the walls of that sacred building and leaving the world behind. There is no deeper calm, no peace more sublime, no joy more full than within these sacred edifices.

After conference, I literally scared some of my friends with my enthusiastic jumping about. My first thoughts were that I needed to learn Spanish so that I could memorize the ordinances in Spanish. I think I'll order one of those CD programs and listen on the way to work. It's a good goal. I'll be sitting in the car. "No hable Espanol..." or something like that. People will glance inside my vehicle windows and wonder who let the mental patient out of the hospital, but it should help me learn some beginning Spanish at least.

The rest of Conference was just as glorious. I ate a wonderful Pre-Thanksgiving meal with our friends Crissy and Kevin Cook and their cute son Stellan. It was delicious. Amy also made a sweet and sour brisket and we invited over some friends. Then on Monday morning, to make up for my merry feasting, I got up and biked 10 miles and then ran 2.5 miles. I'm tired now. I'm just imagining what my body is going to feel like after I actually do my triathlon sprint in 2 weeks. 13 days actually. I'm not panicking. At all. My goal there is not to die. I feel confident that I will be able to reach this goal.

As Promised! The recipe for Buttermilk Syrup!
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Tsp Baking Soda
2 TBS Karo Syrup (corn syrup)
2 Sticks of Butter
2 Cups of Sugar (I didn't say it was healthy!)
2 Tsp of Vanilla

Add all of the ingredients EXCEPT Vanilla into a large pan (it doubles in size when it boils) Bring it to a boil. Boil 5 min. stirring constantly . Remove from heat and add Vanilla. Refrigerate any unused in a sealed container. Serves 15 or so.

Monday, September 28, 2009

so I work at a Jewish school now

After a summer of unemployment, nerves and constantly searching for a job, I got one. A job, that is. I was beginning to think it would never happen, and seeing as I have a shortage of faith in my life on occasion, I didn't believe it (even after a blessing that stated I would find a job) until the Lord spiritually hit me over the head with something like a dead tuna at church one day and I realized I just needed to trust him. The day after this realization came a call from a school called Bias Yaakov, or Beth Jacob for those of you who don't speak Hebrew. It is a private, Jewish Orthodox all girl's school in North Miami. They teach 6-12th grade there and have about 300 students. In the morning, the girls study a multitude of Jewish and Hebrew topics with names I can't pronounce. Girls can not date, if they do, they are expelled. They must wear long skirts, stockings, long sleeve shirts and high collars. In the afternoon, I have the privilege of teaching 8th and 11th grade English. The girls are talkative and have names like Hadasa, Bracha, Batya and Rochel Leah where the CH sounds are a guttural cccchhhhhh in the back of the throat. The girls enjoy attempting to argue their way out of assignments and things they don't want to do, which causes me to try to pull out my hair from its resting place on top of my head. But overall, the students are respectful and I don't have to worry about them pulling knives on me or even swearing. That is refreshing, and the girls are intelligent and the parents care, which makes a difference.

Life at the Jewish school is interesting. I've found that I have gone from being the Ultra-Conservative Mormon, to a super liberal Christian just by accepting a job. I've never been liberal before. It's a strange sensation. I was called in after the first week to speak to the principal because I had mentioned romance to my 8th graders. We were reading an O'Henry story where the main character turns from his life of crime because he meets a girl and decides to settle down. It was written in the 1900's. Obviously it was too much romance for the girls and a parent phoned in about it. Apparently the 11th graders are able to handle more of this topic than the 8th graders, because some of our books for this year include Pride and Prejudice and Emma, some of the most romantic books in the world. I have to learn how to talk more seriously about subjects that I've considered normal most of my life, but I respect their views and so I'll try.

I also have been learning more about the Jewish culture. For example, two weeks ago, one of my students handed me a beautifully wrapped present and exclaimed "Happy New Year!" (Keep in mind that it is still September.) Puzzled, I looked at her expectantly. "It's the Jewish New Year," she said-- as if that explained everything. I have a lot of strange holidays off. I get the first 1o days of October off for the Sukkos holiday. This is otherwise known as the Feast of the Tabernacle, I think, and is in remembrance of the 40 years of wandering around in the wilderness that Moses did. They each build a tent in their back yard and do all their eating and socializing in it for a week or so. This sounds fun to me. I wonder how I can get myself invited... I may be too new in the community for invites. I also have the day off of school today, because it's Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It is the reason I have time to write, but mostly I am writing because I have a stack of homework and tests to grade and I am putting it off as long as possible for procrastination's sake.

One entertaining moment at school occurred on the first day of class. A previous class had been using glue and a small piece of paper had become stuck to a desk. Normally this would not be a problem, rip it off, scrape the rest of it up, wipe it down, no problem. Problem. As I attempted to help the girls remove this piece of paper, the girls started screeching "Don't rip it! Don't rip it! You can't rip it!" Apparently, this piece of paper was special. It was written with Hebrew script, unintelligible to me, but apparently it had the name of God written on it and is therefore sacred and never to be destroyed or mangled in any fashion. After several attempts to gently remove the paper without ripping it, we realized that this was an impossible task. I went and got another teacher who knew more than I did. He teaches history, wears a cap over his white hair, and poking out from underneath his suit vest are tassels made from a homespun material. My fellow teacher looks at our problem and tries to get the paper off the table. After a few minute's work he looks me in the eye and exclaims, "We better go get the Rabbi." So he went to get the Rabbi. The Rabbi looks at the situation, makes a little "harrumph" noise, bends down and with a few gentle yanks, rips the paper off the table. "I'll take this with me," he says and walks back to his office. I chuckle. It was funny.