Saturday, 31 December 2011

Lessons Learned in PA

We are back!  Hooray!  Matt and I returned from our Christmas trip to Pennsylvania yesterday and I must say, I have had enough of planes and airports to last me for a while!! :)

This was definitely a different Christmas for me for many reasons.  It was my first Christmas away from my family, and that was really hard for me.  Christmas in my family drips with tradition and togetherness, and Matt's family does Christmas very differently.

I learned quite a few things during our stay in PA, too. 

Like I'm a really selfish person.  And Matt is a much better person than I am. 

And living in Colorado that one year made me not mind cold as much.

I learned that Amish people make tasty things, use electricity, and shop at Lowe's (Matt pretty much had to physically restrain me so that I would not follow an Amish man with an epic beard and fantastic hat around the store).

I learned that people up north will think you are crazy if you bring them Mexican candies as part of their gift...which leads to the fact that I learned that Mexican culture has been much more influential on me than I ever imagined.  I can't tell you how many times I've tried to play Spanish words on "Words with Friends" and can't understand why it won't accept them.

Oh.  And I learned that I absolutely love the Hunger Games.  I loaded lots of books onto my new kindle (!!) before the trip, and made the mistake of reading the Hunger Games first.  I haven't even attempted reading another book, because all I can think about is getting my hands on the second book in the series.  The good news is that I teach middle school kids, and it shouldn't be that hard to convince one of them to let me borrow it.


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Mission: Skinny Jeans

Today I went to Ross on a mission.  I was going to find me some skinny jeans.

You see, I have this problem.  I hate shopping.  It's just not fun for me.  It makes me really tired.  I'm also very...frugal.  So if I don't NEED something, I don't go shopping.  This also creates a problem.  Because I run out of clothes that fit or are fashionable and appropriate for work all at the same time.  So then I begin to panic because OH MY GOSH I HAVE NO CLOTHES AND I LOOK LIKE A TOTAL SLOB WHO WILL ONE DAY OWN MORE CATS THAN CLOTHES!!  So then I binge.  I go shop, and I binge.  I see cute things.  I like cute things.  I buy cute things.  And then I feel very guilty about the money I just spent - never mind the fact that it has been at least 2 years since the last time I actually bought any clothes.  But then I like my cute clothes, and after I almost always return a few things, I feel much better.  Until another year or so rolls around, and the cycle continues.  Also - the word "so" pops up way too many times in this paragraph.

Back to the skinny jeans.  I found some really cute boots, which is also quite a feat for me as a girl with big, muscular legs...because usually all the cute boots won't go over my manly calves.  I have been wearing the boots with a sweater dress and tights, but you can only wear one outfit so many times.  I wanted to be able to wear these boots with some jeans!  Unfortunately, the one pair of skinny jeans I've ever owned were too big on me 10 pounds ago and made a trip to Goodwill a month ago.  So today, Ross and I were going to cooperate (and stars were going to align and pigs were going to fly) and I was going to find some great skinny jeans!

When I went to the dressing room, I had a bit of trouble with my coordination skills.  It's really hit or miss with those, and today was definitely a "miss" day.  I dropped my number and it slid under the divider to the stall next to me.  Not two minutes later, in trying to get my sandal off my foot, I launched it (I'm not kidding - it flew.  It was in the air.) under the divider into the same stall.  I am sure the woman next door thought I was either a complete weirdo or a total mess, and I was trying my hardest not to collapse into a fit of giggles.

Thankfully, it was not a "miss" day when it came to finding the perfect skinny jeans.  I bought 3 pairs and some black leggings with lace at the bottom for less than $50.  I'll probably return at least one pair, but it was a good deal, and I'm happy to have found what I was looking for without too much trouble.  Other than waiting in the checkout line for an hour because their systems crashed.  But I'm not actually going to talk about that.  Instead, I'm going to write a formal complaint to Ross. 

ANYWAY. 

Mission skinny jeans accomplished!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Diving into Astanga...again

So I did make it to yoga yesterday.  I honestly am not sure if I really would have made it, were it not for accidentally booking myself for the class online.  The website for the studio is very different from when I last visited it, oh, 5 months ago, and so I wasn't entirely sure what I was doing.  The next thing you know, I was signed up for the Astanga class from 9:30-11:00.  Even though it had been so long since I had last attempted anything slightly resembling yoga, I clearly thought that a one and a half hour class was a fantastic idea.  Jump right back in, all or nothing!  Go big or go home!  I ate too many cookies yesterday!

So I put on my now baggy yoga pants (losing 10 pounds will do that to you, I suppose), a yoga tank, a fleece jacket, and made my way down to the studio.  As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by the unique scent of the yoga studio.  It's like a mixture of a light incense and a hint of floral.  Immediately, I was overcome with feelings of nostalgia.  I mean, the last time I had entered this studio I had no job and no plans.  I began thinking about how different things are now and how far we have come.  And then the class started.

I have not come so far in my yoga skills.  Mostly because I have not given the time of day to my yoga skills since school started.  I threw myself in with reckless abandon, determined to not be outdone by the seasoned yoga-ers in the class.  I must say, for having not done yoga for so long, I did pretty well.  I'm not as flexible as I was last summer, but I sure as heck have a good sense of balance.  And I'm stubbornly determined to do well at everything.  I kept up really well with most of them, and was still able to do many of the more "complicated" or "advanced" poses.  I was surprised to find that I did not sweat near as much this time as I have in the past.  I was actually even a little disappointed about that.  Weird, I know.

Skip to this morning.  I am incredibly le ouch le sore.  I'm no idiot - I know that Astanga yoga is endurance and strength building.  I expected to be a little sore today.  I did not expect enough though - I am a lot sore.  But it's the good kind of sore.  The kind of sore that I haven't been in ages.  I am reminded of muscles that I had forgotten existed.  That's always good.

I don't think I'll be working out today - I'll let my muscles recover.  I'm often more sore 2 days after the actual workout, but I think I might see if I can make it back to yoga again tomorrow.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Trivial Fluff

It's the first official day of Christmas break for me, and guess what time I got up?  6:20.  Guess what time I actually woke up?  5:00.  I tell ya, sleeping in is really hard when the other person who also sleeps in your room gets up for work.  Once I wake up, I'm mostly awake.  So here I sit, trying to figure out what I am going to do with this first week of vacation.

We have had internet for the past 2 or 3 weeks, and it has been glorious!  I didn't realize how much I missed it.  I've lived without internet before, but when your job takes up most of your time at home, and said job also requires frequent use of the internet, it's a bit more difficult to go without.  Matt and I have been in a Netflix coma for a good portion of the past several weeks, as well.

So if we've had internet for a couple weeks now, why have I not written?  It's complicated.  School literally consumes my life - most of the time Matt takes care of the cooking because I get home from school and continue to work until bed time.  I think one other good reason is that blogging is no longer a habit for me.  I've had to prioritize, and my blog fell to the bottom of the list.  When you are struggling to find the time to take care of yourself and your marriage, your blog suddenly becomes trivial fluff.

Having not blogged in a while, I'm actually a tad unsure of what to even write about.  It's not that nothing has gone on (au contraire!).  It's more like...so much goes on all the time that I really don't have the time or mental capacity to process it all.  Sounds fun, no?  So I'm just going to start typing without a plan (which may be very dangerous) and see where we end up.

I am still loving my job despite the emotional and mental demands.  I love teaching middle school - I would so much rather deal with attitude and teenage angst than tattling, crying, and whining.  The kids continuously make me laugh, oftentimes without even meaning to.  Teaching science is a ton of fun, even if it is a ton of work.  I mean, let's be honest.  What other job would allow me to burn things over and over again and create cracker poop in a bag (one of the funniest days to date!)?  When we come back from the break, we are going to start two of my very favorite units - astronomy (8th grade) and heredity (7th grade).  Stars and punnet squares...yippee!!!

This past week was a very easy and laid-back week - I left school by 4 every single day (something that has not happened since in-service week before school started!)!  Because I teach at a private Christian school, the church Christmas program is something my students are required to participate in.  This past week there were many rehearsals, all of which took up my class time.  So I only had 7th grade Tues-Thurs, and I had 8th grade on Wed&Thurs.  Friday was a half-day, which was occupied completely by Christmas parties.  Like I said - easy week!  My kids surprised me with more gifts than I would ever expect or even anticipate, but my favorite part of that was not so much the gift itself, but the cards many of them included with their gift.  Not all of them wrote personal cards, but the ones that did were really sweet and made me feel good about my class.  I really like my students.

Zumba is on hiatus for a month, which is unfortunate.  I mean, if there is any month that we really need to be exercising, it's this one!  If you could see the abundance of breads, cookies, and holiday treats on my counter, you would agree wholeheartedly.  In the meantime, I'm hoping to go to yoga...we'll see how that pans out.

I honestly can't think of anything else to include in this post, but I can think of some things I need to do.  So on that note, au revoir!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

An Update

Spacing between posts continues to grow, I am afraid.  I am currently sitting at the "business center" (aka - non-air conditioned room with 2 computers with dumb mouses...mice(?) that don't work well) at my apartments and am only roughly halfway through trying to play catch-up.  This week is Thanksgiving break, and so I actually have a few moments to sit and think.

Teaching is still going well, although I often feel as if it is a bipolar roller coaster ride.  Have I mentioned that before?  I can't remember.  But really, things can be going well and you can feel confident and like you are doing a great job one minute, and then a minute later you can feel like nothing is going right and you might just be the dumbest teacher on the face of ever.  I must say, it is great practice at strengthening my weaknesses.  Does that make sense?  I mean, it does in my head, but...basically what I am trying to say is that the things I am not so great at (i.e. hiding my emotions, controlling my tongue), I am now being forced to be good at.  And I actually really appreciate that.  Those are good skills to have.  Maybe on the same level as nunchuck skills and bow hunting skills.

We are still really enjoying our apartment.  We don't have to run our air very much this time of year, especially since we are mostly surrounded by other units and we are well-insulated (we planned it that way!).  We haven't had to cook much this week (actually at all) because my grandma is in town for the holiday and we still have plenty of leftovers from last week.  Cooking for 2 is a lot different than cooking for 4.  Or rather, eating that same amount of food is different.  Lasts a lot longer.

We are enjoying finding great deals as we shop for things.  We live right by a Sprouts and an HEB, and we get both of their ads in the mail at the same time.  We have had a lot of pineapple this week because they are 99 cents EACH at Sprouts.  Though small, they are super tasty.

This past week I discovered that I may be allergic to Braeburn apples after eating one made my tongue burn and swell.  I also have made the connection between dairy in the mornings and my morning upset stomach.  Cutting out the milk from my cereal in the morning has continuously cut out the upset stomach.

In other news, I am newly addicted to Jessica Simpson heels.  They. are. GORGEOUS.  I would love to be able to afford all of them (and have outfits to wear all of them with), but for now I will just have to be content with looking at them online.  And trying them on in stores.  Both of which I have done.

So that about fills you in on goings on in my life.  Today I am heading to Fredericksburg with mom and g-ma, so that should be fun.  I'm sure I'll have more to say at the end of the week - I will just have to make the time to find a computer with internet and write.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Well, We Moved!

Well, it has been a full week since Matt and I moved into our new place. We love it - it is the perfect size and it is in the perfect location. I'll be honest, though, this week felt like a month. I honestly can't believe it has only been a week. We haven't had Internet (still don't-we are at my parent's house for dinner and so this is my first ever post on an iPad!), work has been crazy, moving in and unpacking has been chaotic, and my students shared their colds with me. That much stuff can't possibly all fit into just one week, can it? This weekend has been spent mostly sucking on cough drops, drinking tons of water, and playing super nintendo. That's right. Super nintendo. And y'all? I still own. School is stressful but good. We are almost halfway through the school year and I am completely astonished. Where did the time go? I am looking forward to Thanksgiving break and the time to rest and visit with family. I might even get to read a book! Wouldn't that be something?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Working and Moving

I am relieved that this week has come to an end.  It was just kinda an overall crappy week.  I'm sure you know how that goes.

I'm not really sure what the deal was, but I woke up at 2:20 every morning, and my dreams were filled with school.  It was as if I never left school all week long.  When I woke up at 2:20, it was usually because of some school dream I had and I started thinking about what I still needed to do and how to get it done.  I also got a pounding headache every afternoon, like clockwork.  On Friday, the headache was so bad that 2 Excedrin Migraine and a Dr. Pepper didn't even make a dent in it.

Yesterday afternoon, Matt went to Austin for a football game with some of my cousins, and I think it was some much needed guy time.  While he was gone, I watched girly movies and worked on school.  It wasn't a bad afternoon, I have to say.

The weather has been nice and cool this weekend, too.  I love waking up to 30 or 40 something degrees.  Wearing slippers and cuddly clothes is just fun when you don't get to do it that often.  So today will probably just be laid back.  Thankfully, I got all my work done yesterday and so I will be able to relax for one day.  Then it's back to the grindstone tomorrow!

Oh, and we are actually moving in 6 days.  I'm excited and stressed out all at once.  Moving is usually a stressful thing, anyway, but I feel like this will be more stressful than before.  We are moving into a smaller space than our last home, and so I am positive that not everything will fit.  It has also been so long since we have lived in our own place that I actually don't even remember what we do own.  And moving is so time consuming!  How do you find the time to move when you don't ever have time to do anything other than work?

Even though I'm stressing about it, I really am excited.  It's really weird - it's like I know that we are moving, but it probably won't really sink in until it happens.  So, just as a forewarning, it may be more than a week until my next post.  6 days!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Why This Fall is Different

I can hardly believe that we are nearing the end of October.  October has always been one of my very favorite months, and I always look forward to it.  And I'm always really sad when it is over.

Last October was difficult.  One of my dear friends lost her newborn child after just 36 hours on this earth.  It was absolutely devastating.  This past week was the one year mark of little Gwen's birth and journey to eternity with Jesus, and I can hardly believe it.

This October (and this fall in general) has been very hard for me.  While I love teaching, I love my students, I love my school, and I love my new friends, my heart aches for what once was.

Last fall, I was picking fresh, ripe pears from trees just down the hill that my house was on.  I made pear pie, and it was awesome.

Last fall, Matt and I had a house that we had made a home, and we had people over for dinner all the time.  We had good friends, a great community, and we loved being able to share our home, our food, and our lives with them.

Last year, we could sit on the front porch of our home and look out across the river to the adjacent hills and watch the sunset paint the sky with brilliant colors and enjoy the peaceful quiet that life in the middle of nowhere brings.


Last year, we could walk from our house to any of our friends' houses in a matter of minutes.

Last year, we could walk from our house to our jobs in a matter of minutes.

Last year, our good friends got married and we were so excited about being newlyweds all together, sharing in that experience and learning together.

Last year, we didn't have any worries.  Our house came with our jobs, and our expenses were low.  We were able to save a lot of money.


This year is completely different.

We are still living with my parents.  The good news is that we have found an apartment that we can afford and that we actually like, and we are moving in soon!  But no place has really felt like HOME in a year.  To me, our house at Camp Eagle still IS our home.  I miss it terribly.  I loved that house.  Small, but perfect.  Ours.

We had no friends until August.  We now have three friends in this city, and all three are girls who teach with me at the school.  We get along great, and they are so much fun!  Matt enjoys hanging out with them, too, which is great.  But we don't have any married friends.  And we don't have any guy friends.  I feel like we both need that, Matt more than me.  Because we haven't had our own place...or any friends...we haven't had people over.  Have you noticed we love having people over?

This year, instead of beautiful views, we have 1604 and I-10.  We have highways and traffic and sirens and air planes.

I love my job now, but I also really loved the job I had then, too.  You always knew how you were doing because the guests told you so.  When you needed help or didn't quite know what to do, there was always someone who could give you some insight or a fantastic solution, because I worked on a team.  I am the only science teacher for my grades, and am the only middle school teacher on the first floor.  I'm pretty much on my own most of the time.  And I never have any idea how I am doing.  How do you even measure the success of a teacher?

No matter how hard we try not to think about it, there are reminders of our old life everywhere.  The kids at my school all wear Camp Eagle shirts on spirit day...even some of the teachers, too.  My facebook news feed is always filled with people talking about loving their jobs at camp, or loving their camp family, which just reminds me about how we were kicked out of that family.  And, of course, the giant billboard they placed along 1604 that guarantees I will be reminded of Camp Eagle at least once every day, if not more, as it is on my way home from work and church.


Like I said.  This fall has been so different for us.  For some reason, this fall is almost as difficult as the first few months after losing our jobs.  I've cried more this fall than I did during the summer.  I dread the coming months, which will bring back memories of last Thanksgiving (saying over and over how thankful we were for our jobs and how much we loved them...); of decorating our house for our first Christmas together (we were so excited) and having to tear down all the decorations the next day because we were told we no longer had a home.


As time goes on, I realize that I don't know if this wound will ever fully heal.

Monday, 10 October 2011

On Missing School

Today has been a really weird day.

It's Columbus Day, and so school is out.  In fact, my school was closed - I wasn't allowed to go up there to get work done.  I stayed home.  Everyone else went to work. 

It felt a lot like when I was still looking for a job.  Matt left, and I was the only one home.  Granted, I did work on school all day long (got the next 2 weeks planned - now I just have to create everything I planned...).  But still.  It was rather surreal.  I almost felt like I should be sitting on the couch reading a Lauren Willig novel instead of staying in Science-world all day.

This week will be a really weird week.

I have to show up for jury duty tomorrow.  To say that I am not looking forward to it is a gross understatement.  But Columbus Day + jury duty = 3-day work week for me.  On Friday I'm going to think it is Wednesday, and I will be very confused when Saturday makes its appearance the next day.

Like I said.  Weird.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Millie


Hi!  My name is Millie, and I am just so stinkin' cute!  I'm a little fuzzy, roly-poly puff ball.  My favorite games include biting, destroying anything and everything in my path, chasing balls, getting under your feet and tripping you, and dancing on keyboards as you are trying to type.  Chasing shadows is really fun, too!  I also love to eat sticks and plastic and used tissues from the trash can...but my favorite thing to eat is ICE!  Seriously.  When I hear you getting ice, I will run from wherever I am straight to the freezer and will sit ever so still waiting for you to share!  After I eat my ice (well, really any time), I will come and give you lots of kisses all over your face!  It's extra points if I can get my tongue up your nose, in your ear, or in your mouth.  That's the best.

My BFF is Jack.  People think we're related, but we aren't.  This is us at a picnic!

 
So.  Am I the cutest thing you've ever seen or what?!



Sunday, 25 September 2011

Wisdom Teeth, ADD, and Projects on a Whim

Greetings!  I am pleased to report that this weekend has been a success on many levels.  Grading went much more quickly, as did preparing for this coming week.  Matt and I were able to do a lot of things that needed to be done for a long time but had been buried under all the other to-dos.  And I even got to read for fun!  Winning.

I have so many things drifting through my mind, just waiting to be written and processed.  However, I know if I write about everything that is on my mind, this post will become a complete and total example of word vomit and will be absolutely unreadable.  Last time I left off by mentioning a few things I might want to write about, so I'm going to use that as a rough outline for this post.  Ish.

Matt had his wisdom teeth out last Friday, and aside from slurred words and blank stares for a few hours, he really didn't do anything outrageous or ridiculously funny.  He didn't even get the obligatory chipmunk cheeks!  I was a little disappointed about that - I wanted pictures.  But you know, that means he healed well and stuff, so I guess that's good...and stuff.

One thing that Matt and I are doing this fall is taking the Financial Peace University class at our church.  We are very blessed to not have any debt, but we want to be as wise with our money as possible.  The classes are really difficult for me to sit through, as I am unable to focus for that long (the class is 2 hours long, and it is right after we have been sitting in church for 1.25 hrs).  In college, I solved that problem by doodling.  Somehow, it really helps me to focus better.  So I bring scrap paper to class and doodle, and voila!  I am paying attention like a normal adult.  Who doodles haunted houses and furry monsters.

What?

Oh, and I tried my second ever "project" off of Pinterest.  The first idea I ever copied off of Pinterest was to glue buttons to bobby pins.  It worked fantastically, and I love my button bobby pins.  But today, I tried something a little bit more iffy.  As in, you know gluing buttons to bobby pins will work but you don't know if what you are about to do will actually work...or if its some hoax so internet bullies will point and laugh at your epic craftiness fail.

Someone had pinned a site that mentioned VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are a component of household fragrance products (like plug-ins) and they are dangerous to your health.  So they came up with a more natural alternative - to use essential oils in the empty plug-in containers!  Matt and I marched into the aisle at HEB containing such things and selected two essential oils that we really liked - jasmine and clove.  I followed the instructions on the website and I really think it worked!  Our room smells like jasmine, and I feel better knowing that it really is just essential oil and water in there.  Nothing added.  Now, I really have no clue if the VOC thing is made up or not, but either way, I like the more "green", natural way best.

In fact, I still have about 45 more minutes before I want to fall asleep, so I am going to into my jasmine-y room and read.  Sounds relaxing, yes?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

In All Honesty

I'm big on honesty.  I'm big on being direct and upfront and getting it all out there.  Most of the time.  Except for with myself.

I've told myself over and over again that I will NOT neglect my blog and I WILL write because it's good for me and I enjoy it.  But I haven't been honest with myself, because I clearly HAVE been neglecting my blog and I have NOT written.

It's not that I don't want to.  It's more like...I can't.  I literally always have so much to do that writing on a regular basis is a laughable idea.  Doing anything other than schoolwork all the time is a stretch.

The transition from non-working to working again has been interesting.  At first when we lost our jobs, it was like the vacation that we really needed but never got at our previous workplace.  It kinda helped that it was around Christmastime and you always get a vacation then, anyway.

As time went on, I began to seek healing and restoration - those wounds were deep and did not heal quickly.  I was able to spend so much time in the Word and in prayer.  I was able to read books that assisted me in identifying some issues and eventually resolving them.  And my schedule was free enough for me to seek counseling.

Then I began to form a routine.  It was like being a stay at home wife, and I liked it (for the most part).  I knew how to keep myself busy and productive.  Most of my time was spent looking for a job, and the rest of my time was spent doing housewifey-type things like menu planning, grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning.  I was able to keep my blog updated often and I read a million books (PS - I'm a huge bookworm).  I wrote handwritten letters to my friends and was consistent about it!

Now that I have a job, those things just aren't possible anymore.  At least not all of them.  I am glad to be working again, and I am glad to feel as if I have purpose again.  It's nice to be productive and to be contributing to something.  Sometimes I miss being able to do all those other things, and I miss the slower pace of that lifestyle.  But, like I said before, I'm glad to be working again.

Teaching is a funny job.  I'm discovering things about my students and I'm discovering new things about myself.  It's a constant refining process for all of us, I think.

There are some other things that I could be honest about right now, but I feel like it's time to bring this post to a close.  Perhaps next time I'll tell you about Matt's wisdom teeth surgery, our new dog, Financial Peace University, and why this Fall is just so different.  Until then, may your pillows be soft, your blankets be snuggly, and your faces full of smiles.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Work-A-Holic

Hello.  My name is Lauren.  ("Hi Lauren.")  And I'm a workaholic.  I think I've known this deep down inside for...ever.  It really started showing when I did my student teaching semester and I spent every day at the school from 7:30 AM - 5 (or later) PM and then came home and worked on school until I went to sleep at 9:30.  I also spent most of my weekends grading and preparing all. day. long.

Then I worked at Redcloud as an Outdoor Educator.  You work crazy hours with that kind of job anyway (beginning anywhere from 2:30-7 AM and ending anywhere from 9PM to...the end of the week, depending on the group [some groups you were with 24/7]).  Even when I was technically "done" or "off", I would go looking for someone who needed help doing something.  You need help in the kitchen?  I'm there.  Need help cleaning up after dinner?  Okay.  What about in the office?  No problem.

THEN I went to Camp Eagle.  My work weeks ranged between the 45-70 hour mark, sometimes topping even that.  Many weekends (especially in the Fall and Spring) I spent my weekends arriving at work before the sun and getting home between 10PM-1AM to make sure everything was going alright (some weekdays, too).

Control freak, perfectionist, workaholic.

I'm noticing the same trend as I work at the school.  Technically?  I'm part time.  But really?  I average about 60 hours a week.  Part of this (a large part) is due to the fact that it is my first year teaching this subject to these grade levels.  Though I have some great (wonderful, awesome, fantastic, saintly!) friends who have shared their materials and wisdom with me, I still have to write a lot of my own materials and design the labs and lesson plans.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not complaining.  I knew what I was getting myself into and I really like this so far!  Alls I'm trying to say here is that...well, maybe the reason I'm sick is because I don't stop.  (Oh, PS - I'm sick.  Did you know?)  It wouldn't be the first time.  And I'm definitely saying that the reason I've neglected this blog is because I choose to spend my time working instead.  (What can I say?  Lots to do!)

I do think this blog is important.  I enjoy writing a lot, and I know that in the future, I will love looking back at the things I've written and then laughing and shaking my head at my ridiculous self.  And I know that though most of you guys aren't dying to see a new post pop up from me all the time, some of you really do enjoy keeping up with me via this here blog-fangled contraption.

So I'll try to post more frequently.  I will.  I'll try.  I'll think about it?  NO!  I will.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Back to School = Weekend Stay at the Hilton

OBVIOUSLY.

I can hardly believe the first week of school has come and gone.  It really flew by!  I'm trying to do my best to stay on top of things, but that's easier said than done.  Sometimes I envy the other teachers who have a partner teacher or are on a team of teachers because they have extra heads, materials, and resources when they plan.  Me?  Well, I have some great resources (really, REALLY great resources), but I really have to plan all on my own.  It takes a lot of time!  But that makes me a better teacher, right? (Um, not better as in better than the other teachers, but better as in...improving myself.)

I feel like my classes have gone pretty well for the most part.  The seventh graders seem to like me a lot, and I think the 8th graders are still undecided (a parent of one told me that they are afraid of me).  That's alright, though.  We've got a lot more time together ;)

I'm really looking forward to moving past the beginning of the year things (Nature of Science - it's all review) and getting into the really fun things!  The 8th graders will start off with Physics an the 7th graders will start off with cells.  Hooray!  This means lots of labs.  Hopefully this means they start enjoying class more.  I know I will!

This past weekend has been absolutely wonderful.  We house-sat for my cousin the week before last, and as a thank you, they gave us a certificate to stay at the Hilton downtown for two nights.  I KNOW.  It. Was. Awesome.  A king sized bed with a down comforter and down pillows.  Our own bathroom.  And a river view!  We could stand on our balcony (on the 20th floor) and look down onto the River Walk.  Watching the sunset from that porch was fantastic, and the city lights at night are so colourful and fun!

Now we are back home and trying to prepare for the coming week.  So far I'm caught up on grades and lesson plans for next week.  I think, dare I say?, that I am even looking forward to tomorrow.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

What You've Missed

Well, guys.  A lot has gone on, and I have completely disappeared for a while.  So, here's what has gone on during that time:

We went to Houston for a wedding...but not just any wedding!  It was my first ever college roommate getting married, and we were really excited to go.  She is from Iran and her husband is from Palestine, so we knew it would be an all out party...and it was!  We finally left the hotel just after 2 AM, tired from a lot of dancing and plenty of delicious food.  It was quite the experience and I am so glad we got to be a part of their special evening.

Matt and I waiting for the bride and groom to arrive.

Mitra and I. She was so beautiful! I'm really glad we are still friends after all these years.

Then I got a teaching job and spent the entire month planning, preparing, and panicking.  Sounds about right, doesn't it?  My classroom was a bit chaotic when I first inherited it, but with Matt's help and a lot of hard work we got it looking pretty darn good!

Here are the lab stations to the left (if you are facing the front). There was so much stuff in there!

In this pile we found some pretty interesting things...!

The room also acts as a storage room for the school and church during the summer.

All the lab stools, plus textbooks, trophies, and some of maintenance's things.

All these trophies stayed right there until they were taken to be recycled.

So here is the view from the front left corner of the room after hours and hours of hard work!

And this is the view from the front right corner. A big improvement, I'd say!

We also just celebrated our one year anniversary.  I can't believe it's already been a year, and at the same time I can't believe it's only been a year.  So much has happened, you know?  We've been through a lot this year - we lost our jobs, house, community, and a large portion of our support system all in one day.  We moved in with my parents and waited eight months for God to answer our prayers to provide a job for me.  We got bad news from the doctors and got "investigated" by our insurance company (they thought the condition I was being tested for was a pre-existing condition that I just chose not to tell them about).

We went to the Tower of Americas for dinner. There were lots of pretty fountains.

We also really liked these pink flowers.

But a lot of really great things happened this year - we got to spend more time with my family and my parents are more generous and understanding than we could ever hope or ask.  God provided Matt with a great job and we have had more time together than ever before.  We are able to go to church on a regular basis again, and Matt is involved in the men's ministry at our church.  I also have become a Zumba master.  We got a new-to-us car that we really like, and the issue with our insurance company was resolved.  And, of course, God provided me with the perfect job.


I am so happy to be married to my best friend.  This year was tough and I can't imagine going through it all without him.  I'm so glad I didn't have to.

My parents surprised us with an anniversary cake - the exact kind we had at our wedding!

Tired, but happy. And so ready to eat this cake.

And tomorrow?  The school year begins.  Oh boy!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Oops, I Did It Again

I really hope this doesn't become a habit.  You know.  Neglecting my blog.

But I have good reasons!  Kinda.  No, well...er...YES, they are actually good reasons.  I've been working like a mad woman trying to get things ready for this school year.  I feel like there is still just SO MUCH TO DO and no time to do it.  At all.  Ever.  To infinity and beyond.  There's a snake in my boot.

What?

ANYWAY.

Which is probably why I wake up at 3 AM and think, "I should do THIS in my classroom!"  Of course, ideas like...make every kid grow a hanging tomato garden in the class for their pet ladybugs or come the first day wearing old lady makeup so they're totally freaked out probably aren't my best.  Good thing I just made them up right now and they aren't really middle of the night revelations.  But really, I do wake up at 3 AM and I do think of things that would just be SO TOTALLY AWESOME for the class.  Then I spend all day trying to remember so totally awesome things because, DUH!  I fall right back asleep and forget it all.

It's amazing how one can be so excited and so freaked out at the same time.  I guess it's not my first time to feel those things all at once, but really, I might not ever get used to it.  I like to be over-prepared, and right now I feel so under-prepared.  I'm determined to get it right and do the best job possible, but it's hard not to think about ways that I could mess up and ruin it all.  But no, I will be positive!  It's a great school with great administration, awesome teachers, and good kids.  And God has provided me with a great support system and a million resources, so I am confident this is where I am supposed to be.  Remind me of those things when I start panicking and breathing into a paper bag in 4.83 seconds, k?


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

On Rivaling Tim Burton and Ted Dekker

Let's talk about dreams, shall we?  For as long as I can remember I have had extremely intense and vivid dreams and nightmares that rival the works of Tim Burton and Ted Dekker.  And unlike most people, I remember them, usually in great detail.  I can still remember dreams I had as a child.  Like the one where a giant put me in a frying pan and was cooking me and flipping me with a spatula.  Or the one where I was in a black world with neon features (black sky, neon grass, rivers...you get the picture) and I had to rescue Batman.  I dreamt those in grade school.  I can even remember a horrifying nightmare I had when I was really little. (We were camping out at a lake in cabins with my extended family.  I dreamt that terrible creatures emerged from under my bed and slowly pulled me off my bed and under it into the darkness.  As I screamed at my mom for help, she grabbed my brother and ran out of the room, shutting the door and leaving me to the monsters.)

My reoccurring dreams consisted of dark places and back-lit aquariums.  The further back I went into the aquarium or pet sore, the dimmer the lights got and the larger and scarier the fish got, until the only lights came from behind the aquariums and I could see massive silhouettes of terrifying fish all around me.  Every so often, the glass would break, releasing all the shadow fish and water.  I actually still have these dreams from time to time.

I've also had plenty of dreams that turned into reality.  On more than one occasion during the day, I've stopped and said, "Wait.  I dreamed this the other night.  This will happen next."  And it does.

Like I said.  I'm a little different.

Unfortunately, most of my dreams are nightmares or night terrors.  In fact, I don't remember the last time I had a good dream.  I can't explain why, but I get shot a lot.  I've also been stabbed to death and sliced up in my dreams.  But getting shot seems to be the favorite.  I'll spare you the details of my most recent nightmares (unless you just really want to know - but they're a bit much to post on a blog).  I've tried to make sense of my dreams many times to no avail.  Just this past week, Yahoo! posted some articles on dreaming.  Here's what one had to say:

"So exactly what happens in our brain when we dream? Sleep experts admit they’re not sure, but it appears that dreams are where memories meet emotion. On the one hand, your dreams can help you tap into the emotional issues in your waking life. On the other, they’re also a way for your brain to catalog the events of the day. “We know that memories are stored during sleep, and dreaming allows the brain to use certain circuits that improve long-term memory,” says Dr. Kohler. Simply put, you dream in order for a specific part of your mind to kick in and sort through memories, figuring out which ones to keep and which ones to let go.

If dreams are there to help file away memories for the long haul, why do they sometimes seem so surreal—not the literal way life happens to us? “When we’re sleeping, the controls of our conscious mind are turned off,” says Dr. Kohler. So as the brain sorts through our different experiences, trying to cross-reference memories (Is the day this happened the same day that happened?), it puts them together in strange and unusual ways (hence, our weird dreams) until it finds a connection that fits—and stores it in our memory bank."

(You can read the full article here)

I don't really find that very helpful (although it is really interesting and something to think about), and I'm not sure it explains my dreams at all.  It's not like I've actually ever suffered a gunshot wound or any other violent crime.  The only tv show Matt and I watch right now is The Next Food Network Star, and I don't ever watch horror movies.  Maybe I just need to think about it more in depth...??  One thing is fore sure, though - I don't know where I get it from, but I have always had a vivid imagination.

Often people have nightmares or stressful dreams if they are stressed out about something in real life, but it doesn't seem to work that way for me.  I could be extremely happy with my situation and not be stressed out at all and still find myself waking up terrified in the middle of the night.

Some dreams don't have to fall into the nightmare category, but if they don't, they always fall into the "stressful" category.  Take my dream from last night, for example: I was presented with the opportunity to perform a drama piece with Julie Andrews (love her!), but I couldn't get my script out of the envelope.  So when my first line came, I couldn't say anything because I was too busy fumbling about with the papers.  We tried again, and this time I couldn't find the correct scene and all the lines seemed jumbled.  So again, I said nothing, and she just looked at me like I was an idiot.  I was so embarrassed and so upset that I had ruined my opportunity to perform with Julie Andrews.

I'm usually tired during the day because I've woken multiple times in the night after stressful dreams or nightmares.  I guess I felt like blogging about it because it's on my mind often, and it seemed like good timing with the articles and everything.

In a way, I feel like this is more like a rambling post in which I am trying to process things for myself.  Sorry about that!  It's not as well written as I would like, and it's definitely longer than I originally planned.

But what about you?  Do you remember your dreams?  Are they usually good or bad dreams?  Do you know of anyone else that is like me in this?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Provision and Chaos

Well, it's happened.  I've gotten a job, and I've begun to neglect my blog.  And you know what?  Technically my job hasn't even started yet!

This past week has been completely full of textbooks, lesson plans, reading articles on teaching and classroom management, and basically obsessing and worrying over all things that are teaching.  I'm a tad overwhelmed by how much work I have yet to do before the school year begins (August 22.  That's twenty days, y'all.), but I'm super excited about having my own classroom and actually being a teacher again.  I'm really hopeful that this year will be awesome.

And if it is super awesome, I think that my amazing friend Katie will have had a lot to do with that.  Katie and I went to college together and had a lot of the same classes, thanks to having the same major.  Our final semester we had every class together (All of us did, actually.  It was super fun!), but when student teaching came around, we both moved back to our hometowns.

Here's Katie and I just after graduation!  We got bored during the ceremony that lasted 5.72 days and sat there talking the whole time.

We've kept in touch, and when she found out that I got this teaching job, she surprised me with something HUGE.  See, she's taught 8th grade Science for the past 2 years, but will not be returning.  She really wanted to give someone all her supplies and resources because she wouldn't be needing them anymore, and she chose to give them to me!  I'm not even exaggerating when I say it took the entire back end of my parents' minivan to hold all the stuff she gave me (this is a very good thing, by the way...classrooms are not easy to decorate and stock with supplies!).  I'm talking supplies, posters, games, lab materials, lesson plans, power points, organizational things...the whole shebang.

I know.  Amazing!

Like my job, it was completely unexpected and such a blessing.  The Lord totally answered our prayers for provision as we continue to try to get back on our own feet.  So thanks, Katie, for being an amazingly kind and generous friend!

Like I said, I'm really looking forward to this coming school year.  But I'd better get back to work - I've still got a million things to do!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

An Answered Prayer!

You know, I should never plan what I'm going to write on my blog, because it never happens like I think it will.  Ever.  But I've never been more excited about a change of plans than this!

Because you know what?

I GOT A JOB!

As in, a good, steady job!!!  I am so excited!  Like, WAY more excited than Rebecca Black on Fridays.

Not even four hours ago, I was offered the position of 7th and 8th grade Science teacher at the school I subbed at all spring.  And not even two hours ago, I accepted!

I keep alternating between wanting to dance around and make strange hooting, yipping noises and wanting to cry because I am just so happy.

I never saw it coming.  Really.  I had thought that door was completely closed.  The position I had originally interviewed for there didn't work out and I figured that was the end of it.  But last night on our way to church I got a call from the assistant principal, telling me that a position for a science teacher had opened up and would I be interested?!!  I said absolutely (!) and spoke to the principal this evening.  And we lived happily ever after.  Ha!

**For those of you who like short versions of stories, stop here.  For those of you who love details, carry on**

A couple weeks ago a position opened up at my church, and the ladies that told me so also said, "You would be so perfect for that position!"  And really, it did seem to be an excellent match.  That was the position that I was going to interview for last Tuesday.  Which got moved to last Thursday.  Which got moved to this morning.  I was so anxious about it at first, and as time went on, my anxiety disappeared.  I don't know how or why, but it just...was.

I had my interview this morning.  I was greatly looking forward to it, though I can't say I was anxious like I was before.  I'm usually pretty chill going into interviews, so I didn't think too much about it.  The interview went wonderfully.  It was more like a conversation than an interview, and there was a lot of laughing involved from all three of us.  I left and was hopeful, but I knew they wouldn't have an answer for me for at least a week, maybe two even.  I drove away feeling that if I were offered that position, I would be quite happy and really would enjoy it greatly.

But as I spoke to the principal of the school this evening, I was practically bursting at the seams - I was so excited!  I knew, just knew, that this is what God wanted me to do.  Everything makes sense.  It all fell together perfectly, like only God can make happen.

And while I'm super pumped, I'm also really nervous.  Because school starts in less than a month, which gives me less than a month to set up a classroom, write lesson plans, and figure everything out!  Ahhh!  That really is not very much time...at all.

SO.  For those of you who are teachers, or who know teachers, I would absolutely love any advice you have for me in this crunch time!  Science teachers, feel free to share any and all ideas for lesson plans, labs, and activities.  7th and 8th grade.  And when I say feel free, I really mean pretty, pretty, PRETTY PLEASE!!!!

All praise and glory to God who provided!  He was working together the details, weaving them in and out and all around.  He could see the front of the tapestry - the beautiful design.  And I?  I could see the back, where knots about and images are distorted.  But He has answered prayer and I am so thankful!

Monday, 25 July 2011

I Can't Blog Because the Sun is Up

You know, last night as I lay in bed unable to fall asleep I had several different ideas about blogs I wanted to write.  And now that it's daytime and I'm at a computer?

Nothing.

I'll try for something tomorrow.  Deal?

Also.  Does this happen to anyone else?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Say What? Sseko!

It's been a while since I posted about human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  I promise I haven't forgotten!  Far from it, really.  I've since read two more books that have really challenged my thinking, and I'll be posting some more on that soon.

And you know, I don't want to always be talking about everything we shouldn't be doing and making everyone feel awful.  That's not my goal.  So today I thought I would do something a little different.  I'm going to talk about one amazing company that you can feel good about supporting.

I'm talking about Sseko Designs (pronounced \ say-ko \).  It all started when a young woman named Liz decided she was going to make a difference.  From the Sseko website:

"The Ugandan school system is designed with a nine month gap between secondary school and university. These nine months are intended to allow time for students to earn money for tuition before continuing on to university. However, in an impoverished and male dominated society, many of these young women struggle to find fair work during this time.

Sseko Designs hires recent secondary school graduates for this nine month period to live and work together, while earning money that will go directly towards their university education. These women will not make sandals forever. They will go on to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers and teachers that will bring change and unification to a country divided and ravished by a 22 year-long war.

 Sseko Designs is a not-just-for-profit enterprise that recognizes the power of business and responsible consumerism to support sustainable economic development, which in turn affects a country's educational, justice, and health care systems. The goal of Sseko Designs is two-fold: provide university tuition for these promising young women through a sustainable monthly income, while also contributing to the overall economic development of Uganda."

You see what I mean?  You can feel good about buying shoes from here.  Because you don't have to wonder if the women making the shoes are treated well.  Or if they get paid fairly.  You can feel confident that by purchasing these shoes, you, too are making a difference in the lives of these women!

And let's be honest - these are some super cute shoes!  I have a pair of these shoes - I got them 2 Christmases ago, and I love them.  I even wore them in my own wedding!

See? Here's me with my Sseko shoes on my wedding day.

I had my bridesmaids wear them, too!  It was actually their gift for being in the wedding - shoes, the straps for the wedding, and then special individual straps for each lovely lady.

One really neat thing about these shoes is that it's like buying several different pairs of shoes in one.  They're super versatile.  There are tons of different strap designs and colors to choose from, and they are all really fun.  But probably the neatest thing about these shoes is not the variety of straps; it's the many different ways you can tie them!  Just go here and you can choose a style and watch the easy-to-follow video.

Here's what my sandals look like right now:


I had to search hard to find grass that was still alive and green for this photo.

Pay no mind to my short little fat feet or my badly painted toenails.  Instead, ooh and ahh at my classy shoes!

See what I mean?  And once you have the leather soles, you can keep buying more straps!  You know, if you want to.  (Which you probably will because they're CUTE!)

The only issue I have with these shoes is actually probably a user-related issue (aka: my fault).  I still haven't quite figured out how to tie them so they don't feel like they are slipping off.  Well, I take that back.  I did a really good job 2 weekends ago.  So if you tie them right, they feel great and secure!  Be more awesome than me and tie them right all the time when you get them, okay?

I was not paid or endorsed for this post in any way.  In fact, they have no clue I wrote it.  I wrote it because I wanted to.  Fancy that!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Social Paralysis

So outwardly, I'm a very outgoing, energetic, confident person.  And most of the time I'm that way on the inside, too.  But every once in a while, insecurity takes up residence in my mind.  I don't usually show it outwardly, but when it's there, to me it's quite palpable.

I'm not insecure about many things, and I've worked really hard on overcoming the insecurities I do have.  But recently a new insecurity has wriggled its way into my life.  Or maybe it's not as much a new insecurity as it is an old one with a makeover.

I'm sure most of us, if not all, were insecure about meeting new people at some point.  Some of you may still be insecure about it now, and that's okay.  But this insecurity has morphed itself into something entirely new to me.  I'm usually pretty good at making friends.  I'm friendly and outgoing, and like my dad, I can strike up a conversation with just about anyone.  So chances are in a new group of people, SOMEONE will want to be my friend.  But when we lost our jobs in December, things changed a bit.  I'm still friendly and outgoing, but I lack the inner confidence I once had, I think.  Because when we lost our jobs, we also lost a lot of friends.  They'll protest and say that's not true, that they are still our friends...but when people make no effort to talk to or see us in eight months, I'm going to listen more to their actions and not their words.  And honestly, there's no bitterness in that statement - I'm just being 100% completely honest.

Making new friends has been incredibly more difficult than Matt and I imagined.  We met some people in April and it was the most promising hint at a friendship yet.  When we found out they attend the same church as we do, we got even more excited.  "Oh boy!  Finally, some friends!  We need friends!"  A couple months went by, and then one day we saw them in the church parking lot.  Seizing the opportunity, we walked up behind them, got their attention, and started up a conversation.  And it was probably the.most.awkward social encounter I've ever had.  And really discouraging.

On our drive home, I was lost in thought, wondering why people just didn't seem to want to be our friends.  I mean, we're likable people.  At least, I think we are.  So why the no friends?  Then I also realized that we also just haven't met very many people our age, and even less people our age that are married.  So it's not like there are multitudes of people who have decided we are not friend-worthy, we just haven't had much luck with the people we've met.

But the problem doesn't just stop there.  Despite the overwhelming majority of people that no longer keep in contact with us, we do have some very wonderful friends that we keep up with.  But even with them, I've begun to second-guess myself.  Are they just hanging out with us because they feel bad for us?  Out of guilt or obligation or pity?  In fact, just the other week I had Matt ask some friends of ours if they would want to hang out because I was too scared to do it myself.  I felt so stupid.  I mean, these people had been some of our best friends.  They're still good friends, but...?

As you can see, the repercussions of losing our jobs in December didn't just stop with finances and our living situation; they trickled all the way down to our social lives and relationships.  Trust was broken and has yet to be fully restored, whether by the ones who broke it or by new people coming in and healing old wounds.

I am hopeful that the Lord will use our few remaining friendships to teach us and refine us.  And maybe we aren't ready for super new friendships yet, because we still need to heal from old ones.  I don't know. But it's interesting, isn't it?

Some days it's worse than others, and some days I don't notice it at all.  It's not an all-encompassing, can't get out of bed or can't-move-because-the-Bogeyman-will-get-me feeling - not at all!  But I'm a social person and sometimes I just...am more affected.  And today seemed to be a good day to write about it.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Our First Vacation

This past weekend Matt and I went on our first non-honeymoon vacation.  Wahoo!  As much as we would love to go on another cruise (please, Carnival, give us a free cruise??), we just can't afford one.  Not now anyway.  And we want to go, like, yesterday now.  So we had to make do with what we've got, which isn't much.  (We are firm believers in not spending money you don't have.  Shocking.  I know.)

Some friends of ours got married on Saturday, so that was our opportunity to get out of town and do something fun!  Friday afternoon we packed up the car and headed to Houston to stay with my aunt and uncle.  We were looking forward to this weekend for the whole getting away aspect, but we were also eagerly anticipating the antics of my relatives (they're legendary).

I'm sure everyone has a crazy aunt and uncle in their family, but in my family?  They're all nuts.  Mostly because crazy runs in our family.  It's part of what makes us so awesome.  I am not immune.

We were not disappointed in the least - not by them, not by the getting away...it was all good.  The wedding was lovely, the bride was beautiful, the reception was fun.  We even got to go to the beach on Saturday!  I've become quite the Sunscreen Nazi, so we were applying fresh sunscreen every 90 minutes or so.  That is, until we discovered the hermit crabs.  Then we totally forgot and, alas, our backs are fried.  But the hermit crabs!  They were just so fun!

The whole vacation weekend cost us only what we spent on gas, and I will deem it a success!  So now we are back to our normal lives and our normal routines.  I'm hopeful those things will improve soon, but no luck yet.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

I Don't Want To Be A Celebrity, But...

You know, the life of a celebrity does not appeal to me in the least.  If I think things aren't private living in a house with three other adults, I would never be able to handle the paparazzi and the press all up in my bidness.  Also, I feel like they've got to be unhappy.  No time to relax.  No normalcy.  Divorces and scandals galore...

But, there is one thing I wouldn't mind.  Okay, maybe two.  Or three.

Like...

Having a hairstylist who is really, REALLY good.  I've always had trouble with my hair.  It's fine. (Fine as in thin and slippery, not fine as in good.  Duh.)  And flat.  And rebellious.  When I get my hair cut, I always walk away with what is most likely a variation of what I had before.  And no matter how I try, when I style it myself, it just looks dumb.  Having a hairstylist who knows and understands my hair is definitely appealing.

I did not have a hairstylist who knows and understands my hair today.  In fact, she really didn't listen much when I told her what I wanted, what I like, and what I don't like.  I was really hoping today was going to be an awesome, magical experience in which I would be transformed into the girl with hair to envy.  Today was a very average experience in which I walked out of the salon with a haircut that hardly looks any different than the last 100 I've had.

Don't get me wrong...I like my haircut.  It's just not as happy as it could be because it wants to be known and understood.

Here's me and my new hair. See? It's not bad, but it's not awesome and inspiring and worthy of envious stares. Also? I hate pictures like this. I feel like it wouldn't be out of place on a myspace or dating site. Don't expect too many more of these from me.


Oh, and if you're wondering what the other two things are...

Having a personal trainer would be cool.  I could definitely use someone who can whip my body into shape.  And having a lot of money would be cool, because then I would be able to actually donate money to worthy causes instead of just wanting to.  Oh yeah.  One more thing.  People would really listen to what I have to say.  It's not like no one listens to me at all...I just don't have the influence that celebrities do (and boy would I love to).  It would be amazing to say "care for poor people!!!" and "do something about human trafficking and slave labor!!!" and "buy me an ice cream!!!" and have TONS of people actually do it.  Also, I didn't meant that last one.  I just really want ice cream right now.

Maybe I should look into becoming a celebrity after all.

Kidding! (kind of)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Freedom

source

This Independence Day, I am more thankful than ever for our freedom and our rights.  This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am more aware than ever of how precious those things are.  After reading Half the Sky and Not For Sale (still working on that one), hearing Jim Martin of IJM speak, and watching CNN's Freedom Project and Demi Moore's documentary on Nepal's Stolen Children...I realize just how fortunate we are as Americans.

We have a voice.  We matter to our country.  We have rights.  Freedoms.  Choices.  We decide what God we serve.  We elect our country's leaders.  We have health care.  We have education.  We have opportunities to elevate our life and financial situations.  We can achieve great things!

I realize America has flaws.  I'm not saying we've got it all figured out and that there is no corruption period.  That would be untrue.  But when compared to many other governments around the world?  We really don't realize how well-off we have it.

So today, I'm not just proud to be an American.  I am so very incredibly thankful to be an American.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Kindle Giveaway!

Megan over at Millions of Miles is hosting a Kindle giveaway on her blog!  This is exciting, yes?  It's really easy to enter the giveaway, and I don't like doing things to enter giveaways.  So for me to say that means something.  It also helps that I already follow her on twitter and Google Friend Connect and like Millions of Miles on Facebook.  But whatevs.  That just shows that her blog really is worth reading.

I've been reading Megan's blog for at least 6 months now, and I cannot for the life of me remember how I came across her blog.  But I'm really glad I did!  She is hilarious.  Absolutely hilarious.  As are her kiddos.  And she also has a lot of really good, insightful things to say as an adoptive mother (their youngest son, Miles, was adopted from the Congo).  I suggest you take the time to poke around and read several of her posts.  If there are videos of Miles, you must watch them.  Because he is absolutely precious.  Also, my absolute all-time favorite post is the one about Pink Donuts.  I laughed so hard I cried.  Go read it now.

And don't forget about the Kindle!



*holds up to 1500 books
*downloads books in just 60 seconds.
* 3G capability means you can download books from anywhere
*read up to three weeks on a single battery charge
* weighs only 10 ounces
* 6 inch screen reads without glare

Monday, 27 June 2011

What It's Like to Have Your Butt Handed to You By God

So.  Winter, right?  And waiting.  Good.  Now that you're all caught up on that, I'm going to get serious again.  I won't be serious all the time.  I promise.  I'm not good at serious all the time.

During this waiting period, I've learned a lot of things about a lot of things.  I've learned a lot of new things about myself and remembered some old things. While I don't think this entire time has been solely about my self-discovery and whatnot (because how narcissistic is that?), it definitely has played a key role in figuring some things out.

It would be a little ridiculous for me to try to come up with an exhaustive list of all the things I've learned and/or rediscovered these past seven months, so I'll just stick to the most relevant*.

So then.  Where to begin?  I'm going to make a mental spinner with all the choices and see which the arrow lands on first.  And the winner is...

My attitude.  I've been reminded that I really struggle with my attitude sometimes.  Oh gosh.  I'm bringing out the big guns early, eh?  I've always struggled with my attitude.  Always.  I'm convinced that every person has something they struggle with their entire life.  Some people have horrible tempers or an unrelenting need to be in the spotlight.  Others have fears and phobias that debilitate them.  And me?  I most definitely struggle with my attitude.

This is ridiculously apparent as I wait for God to answer prayer.  With one discouragement after another, I find that my heart has become angry and bitter toward God.  I've unknowingly followed in Job's footsteps in believing that God has sought to make an enemy of me (Job 13:24, 19:11, 33:10).  I have not, however, followed Job's example in not blaming God for things.  When things keep going wrong, I think "Of course things are going wrong.  As if it would be any different this time around."  Which, if you read that correctly, is as full of anger and bitterness as venom.  This is a bad thing.  This is something I am incredibly ashamed of.  Don't be like me.

While I have improved at dealing with and handling my attitude over the years, these past seven months have been a test of epic proportions.  I might have done alright at the beginning, but the past few weeks I've failed with a big fat F MINUS FROWNY FACE.  I want to change that.

I feel like it almost goes without saying that if I have attitude problems, I suck at renewing my mind.  But for your benefit, I'll say it anyway.  I suck at renewing my mind.  In this waiting period, I have focused on the negative.  I've focused on what God is NOT doing instead of what He IS doing (this probably is partially due to the fact that I have no clue what He is doing).  I've focused on what I DON'T have instead of what precious things I DO have.  Instead of thinking on the things of Heaven, I've obsessed over the problems of this world.  These are bad, bad things to do.  Don't be like me.

The weight of these realizations is almost unbearable today, which makes sense because they are fresh out of the box.  As in, I got my butt handed to me by God this morning.  That's always fun.  He's been building up to it for a few days at least, and this morning did not disappoint, I think.

I am overwhelmed by how wicked, selfish, and horrible my thoughts have been.  I am filled with sorrow that I allowed my heart to become so bitter.  I know I've been dumb.  Who in their right mind thinks they can challenge God and come out unscathed?  Idiots.  Me.  Me = idiot.  And I'm so, so sorry.  God and I have talked about it, and we're going to work on it. Together.

Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.  I was so foolish and ignorant - I must have seemed like a senseless animal to You.  Yet I still belong to You; You hold my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  I desire You more than anything on Earth.  My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.  Those who desert Him will perish, for You destroy those who abandon You.  But as for me, how good it is to be near God!  I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do.
Psalm 73:21-28

*After having words pour forth from my fingertips, I've decided just one thing is relevant to this post.  Perhaps future posts will highlight other things, perhaps not.  I seem to not have much control over my writing, as it runs away with me.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Let's Talk About Winter

Let's talk, shall we?

One thing I've had a difficult time coming to terms with is my blogging style.  I want this to be a place to share what is going on in my life and my heart.  I want it to be balanced and honest.  I want to share the good, the bad, and the ugly while not crossing boundaries of privacy.  I don't want to overwhelm you with negativity.  Which, at least right now, is easier said than done.

Shortly after Matt and I lost our jobs, I mentioned that I wanted to move on.  I didn't want to dwell on the past; I wanted to look ahead.  I was hopeful, and possibly naive.  Of course, at that point I never would have imagined that seven months later Matt and I would still be stuck in a rut, living with my parents in a city we don't love.  But I think I overlooked the fact that December 1, 2010 was a defining moment in our lives.  It changed things.  Big time.  And one thing that has definitely changed is me.

So while I don't feel like I'm stuck in the past, longing for the things of yesterday, moving forward has not been as rosy (or easy) as I might have previously imagined.  I've felt guilty for writing sad things, for being negative.  But as I mentioned before, I want to be honest.

And I realized - just like I won't write about how warm and sunny and SO TOTALLY AWESOME it is in the middle of January when it's raining and twenty degrees, it doesn't make sense for me to write posts about how happy I am and how great life is and everything is just SO TOTALLY AWESOME when, quite frankly, it's not.

Life is full of seasons.  Right now is my winter.  It can be (but isn't always) cold and lonely, and it seems to be dragging on forever (did you picture the kid from The Sandlot, too?).  I'm looking forward to the upcoming spring and summer seasons in my life.  I'm looking forward to seeing healing come from the brokenness and...you know.  Creative metaphors like that.  I'm looking forward to my summer, when all is well*.

And while I'm looking forward to those things, it would be foolish to act as if I'm already there, just as it would be stupid to wear a tank top, shorts, and flip flops in the dead frost of winter.  That's denial, and that's dumb.  Winter won't go away because I will it to.  It will run its course, and I will run with it.

So I'm going to be honest.  Because it's my proverbial winter, I'm going to write about it.  And when the next seasons come along, I'll write about them, too.  That doesn't mean that I can't post funny things and lighthearted things at all.  It just means that it is what it is.  You know?  I think my challenge will be writing honestly and not despairingly.  You guys hold me accountable to that, okay?

Well, now.  I'm glad we had this chat.

*Wouldn't that be so ironic to experience my proverbial summer in the literal winter?  You know, since I'm experiencing my proverbial winter in the summer?  Haha.  ....But really, I don't want to wait that long.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Half the Sky



I've just finished reading Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Guys.  My heart is heavy.  Burdened.

This book opened my eyes to things going on in our world - things that we never even imagined, here in America, all safe and comfortable in our plush homes, surrounded by our rights and freedoms.

Human trafficking.
Sex trafficking.
Child prostitution.
Slavery.
Gruesomely violent rapes.
Honor killings.
High maternal mortality rates.
Neglect.
"Gendercide".

More than ever before, I am so thankful for a government that cares for its people.  Women and children have rights.  They have protection.  They are valued.  WE are valued.

We have access to health care.  Doctors.  Medicines.  Vaccinations.

We have clean water.  Education.  Food.  Shelter.

I have a loving husband who cares about me in every way.  He cares about who I am as a person and values my thoughts, opinions, and feelings.  He cares about my health.  I am important to him.  I am of value.  I am of worth.

As I read this book, my heart broke.  I was shocked.  Appalled.  Then I was outraged.  Filled with grief.  I read of girls sold into prostitution and the sex trade by their own parents.  Girls who were manipulated into slavery.  Baby girls neglected and often murdered by their parents, who would rather have boys, believing them to be more profitable - more valuable.  Women who were beaten, mutilated, and burned BY THEIR FAMILIES for being raped, as if they were the ones who did something wrong.

And yet, amid the stories of heartbreak and desolation, there were glimmers of hope.  Many men and women have risen above social and cultural stigmas and taboos to make a difference.  Yet it is not enough.

AMERICAWake up.  Open your eyes.  Please.

Proverbs 28:27
Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing. But a curse will come upon those who close their eyes to poverty.

I'm a pretty passionate person in general.  And you know what?  I'm really passionate about this.  And I believe the Lord is, too.  I'll be writing many more posts related to human rights, the poor, and the oppressed.  I'm asking, begging you to join me in this.  Do the hard thing.  Read the unpleasant stories.  Really think about it.  Pray about it.

I know God gives us each different passions and talents.  Upon reading and learning more about the issues we face with poverty and oppression, you may feel led to reach out to the homeless in your community.  You may be filled with the desire to help orphans, widows, and the elderly.  Awesome.  Great.  Do it.  You don't have to only be moved or be passionate about the specific issues I am highlighting.  My hope is simply that you will open your eyes, open your heart, and make a differenceBecause you can.
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