Saturday, August 8, 2015

July Fun Times!

A good deal of fun stuff has happened since last time, where shall I start?

One of the bigger things that has happened since last time is that, on a whim, I decided to chop my hair off! I was going to grow it until it was long enough to donate, but that didn't happen this time. I was going to have a new stylist cut my hair for the first time, and I wanted to get the most bang for my buck! Also, I decided that I needed a hairstyle that looks a little more teacher-y.

Short hair!!!
Fun fact: I made this decision approximately 2 hours before my appointment! I shocked Thomas, as I told him that I was only getting my hair good news, he loves it! (Not that he really had much choice in the matter, but even so...) I'm happy with the new look and the fact that it only takes me about 5 minutes to fix it in the mornings! Woohoo!

At the beginning of the summer, Thomas decided that he wanted to take me out for a nice dinner in OKC. After the craziness of harvest was over, he finally made plans! Because I had never eaten hibachi before, he found a place in north OKC called Sakura that specialized in hibachi. It was a fun dining experience for both of us, and we easily left with enough food to feed a small army. After dinner, I needed to visit the Disney Store to get one of Andy's birthday presents, so we made our first trip to the outlet malls! While we were there, Thomas was able to get new earpieces for his Oakley sunglasses and I was able to find a new wallet at the Vera Bradley outlet. I also had to tear myself away from the Corelle store and all of their fun kitchen gadgets. When the outlet mall closed, it was only 9, and the night was young! We headed over to the Myriad Botanical Gardens for an evening stroll. We probably would have stayed longer had it not been so humid with tons of mosquitoes. Otherwise, it was beautiful and an oasis in the midst of downtown! (Fun fact: this was the 2nd botanical garden that we have visited together...I have a hunch this could be a tradition for us!)
Photo op in front of the Devon Tower!
We ended the night with a slight stroke of insanity when we decided to visit the Marble Slab in Bricktown at 10 PM on a Saturday night. I think everyone else in Bricktown had the same idea. Thank goodness, the 30-minute wait was worth it! After that, we decided to call it a night and headed back north. It was a perfect night out on the worth it!

Most everything else I've done over the last few weeks has been school-related. I've completed lesson plans for the first chapter for every class, and I have tentatively mapped out everything for the first semester! I composed a syllabus for each class (mostly C&P work there!), a classroom diagram for seating charts, frameworks for notebook organization, grading rubrics for notebooks, and a few other documents that escape me at the moment. I've really accomplished a decent amount, but somehow, I feel like I'm forgetting something major! Really, those things have been pretty mundane, but I'm just happy to have made sizable progress! Also, I have made many trips up to my room to start getting things together and making it "my room". I'm slowly making progress, but I couldn't have done any of it without my mom, sisters, Thomas, or Liz! They've all been a huge help to me so far!!! Mom, my sisters, and Thomas all helped me organize the heck out of my classroom! (It was in dire need of it.) We rearranged a few things and I'm happy with how it has turned out. Liz was gracious enough to let me borrow her artistic skills to help me make a few posters! She made a few, then I also used Gina's Cricut to help me make a few much fun! The posters have really helped to tie my room together a little bit more. I made a curtain for my window, so it won't look so sad and institutional, and I also made a few curtains to cover some bookshelves that were a little more chaotic than I cared to look at every day. It's all coming together so quickly! I've been able to talk with my co-workers more, which has been helpful. I also helped with pre-enrollment this past week, which allowed me to interact with a few students and parents. It was a big help for me to start being more teacher-y :) Yes, I'm still nervous about school starting, but I'm not that nervous about actually teaching. It'll be okay, right? Yes, it always is, even if it really isn't!
Check out the curtains :)
After spending 5-ish hours working in my classroom, Thomas and I went to Tonisha's family's annual pool party! We arrived at just the right time, it turned out. The party spanned from 1-11 PM to accommodate different groups, and we arrived a little bit before 7. Most of the crowd had thinned out, the sun was setting (sunscreen wasn't a major issue), and her dad was putting on a fresh batch of his famous catfish! It was perfect! I loved getting to spend some quality time with Tonisha, who I hadn't seen since my graduation party. As much as I love meeting new people, nothing beats talking to someone who has known you for most of your life. There's lots of comfort in that for me! I'm very blessed to have a best friend as wonderful as Tonisha!
So great to see Tonisha!!
Andrew and Jeremy have celebrated birthdays since last time. Andy turned 6 and Jeremy turned 39! e had a small cookout for Andy's birthday, complete with his favorite foods--cheeseburgers and chocolate cake! While it strikes me that Andy is now 6, it'll be a new story when Cody turns 11 in a few weeks. We're having another, slightly larger, celebration at the lake this weekend. Andy is ecstatic, along with everyone else. Here's hoping for more fun times!

Random fact: I bought a bike this week.
I've been contemplating buying one for the past year or so, and I finally did! The impetus for this is that I found my Freshman 15...or 20...during the tail-end of my senior year. Ugh. After telling myself all summer that I'll walk more, I realized that I didn't, because it was either ridiculously humid, the mosquitoes were too thick and loved me just a little too much (even with bug spray), or I was working on other things. On a related note, I'm great at making excuses and I love to eat delicious, rich food. Oops. That doesn't change the fact that my professional wardrobe is rapidly becoming snug on me, and I'm not about to throw down hundreds of dollars for new clothes when I could easily just change a couple habits and probably be okay. Oh, to be my high school self who ran miles upon miles without a second thought. (My knees don't like it when I run these days :(  Here's to the beginning of better fitness and making progress! I can do it!!!

Thursday was both a really good and a really not-so good day for me. In the not-so good part, Thomas went home after spending literally the entire summer with me. We had TONS of fun together and I'm really happy to have had the chance to spend so much time with him. I know it won't be that way for the foreseeable future, which makes me sad. As I'm sure you realize, I LOVE spending time with Thomas. He is the first man I've ever dated who has reciprocated this love of quality time. He goes out of his way to make sure that we have some form of quality time each day, even when we're apart, which consists of some combination of texting and phone calls. I can easily talk to him for hours on end without running out of things to say, as can he. He gets me in ways that very few people get me. We're scarily similar on so many of our viewpoints, opinions, life experiences, etc. If we aren't, we complement one another perfectly. I could go on and on about how crazy I am about Thomas, but I'll spare you for now. (That will be a post that happens in the near future, though!) I am so deeply, madly in love with him, and I'm so happy that I could at least spend the summer with him! With that being said, he also needed to have time at home with his family. They missed each other terribly and were excited to be reuniting! (I'm also grateful that his family is willing to share him with me :) )

A couple of hours after our goodbye, my dear friend Heather, the missionary from Florida, and I met up at long last! It had been a year since we had seen each other last, and even if we talked or texted often, it was still much-needed! We had a great afternoon/evening together and went on a few cool adventures! We started off by visiting the shrine and having an interesting conversation with a guy there (proof that timing is never an accident), visiting my classroom to hang up the rest of my posters, having gelato at Little Bit of Seattle (much needed at that point!), going to Walmart to buy ink cartridges, supper at Buffalo Wild Wings, and a quick drive by my old high school! It was a jam-packed time filled with joy, laughter, unexpected evangelization, and TONS of catching up! I'm beyond grateful for Heather's friendship, which has literally changed my life, and I can't wait to see what else she'll accomplish this year as a missionary! I'm so proud of her!
Picture with Mom :)
Fun fact: I've now been blogging for five years! That probably warrants a post of its own, but I don't have a ton of inspiration for it at the moment. Sometimes that happens, and it's okay. Even if my sparse posts don't reflect it, I love writing and hope to get better about writing more frequently this year! I've grown immensely in the past year, and I love being able to see my transitions through my writing!

I'll end it here for now! Here's hoping we can stay's a scorcher out there this weekend!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ponderings on Time

I feel like I'm always stopping to reflect on how quickly time passes in my mind. Time is a funny thing; it has a way of feeling like it either passes at a snail's pace or at a breakneck speed (nowhere in between). The fact is that time is strict. It passes steadily and unceasingly. Time, as we know it, can be brutal. Hours fly by, and quickly they turn into days, weeks, months, years, decades, and before you know it, a lifetime's worth of time has passed. Time is a precious commodity, and it always seems like we need more. We structure our lives around time--alarms to make sure we wake up early enough to be prepared for the day's happenings, calendars and appointment books to remind us of obligations we have, watches and clocks to keep us in the know of what time it is, rigid schedules that are designed to help us make the best use of our time each day. Honestly, I fall into all of these categories of being controlled by time. As a new teacher, I am forever wishing for more time to prepare lessons, more time to teach topics before the dreaded EOIs roll around, more time to spend giving quality feedback to student work...most of all, more time to sleep in after I try to do all of these things in one evening! Time is a heavy thing to ponder, but it's really an aside to the main topic I really set out to write about tonight.

These thoughts about time were a tangent from a thought I had the other day. It was nothing that I felt was too profound, but it was just deep enough that I wanted to write about it and get other people's perspectives...all while continuously ironing out my train of thought.

I was thinking about how much time has already passed since Mimi passed away in March (Four months this past Sunday...yikes!) More than that, I realized that the day of her death, March 26th, will no longer be the same in my mind. It will forever be the day that my beloved Mimi breathed her last and returned to her Lord, who she loved the most. As I considered the fact that March 26th would forevermore be a day of remembrance and sadness, I wondered what March 26th was like for me every year before this year. It very well could have been a joyful day for me at some point, possibly when I may have had fun times with friends or gone on some cool adventure. Moreover, I wondered what it would have been like in any of the 21 March 26ths I had lived through in the past, if I would have found out that on that day in 2015, that would be the day Mimi died.

Obviously, knowing that would have robbed me of lots of joy. Knowing myself, I would have found myself living in fear of March 26, 2015. I would have lamented the fact that my time with Mimi was slipping away quickly instead of soaking up carefree time and conversation with her.

On the flipside, I also considered my nephews' birthdays. I thought about how those six days hold such joy for my family. I pondered how many times we had passively gone through each of their birthdays (before they were born), treating it like another day, or perhaps having a really bad day, not knowing the joy that awaited us in years to come!

I considered the fact that the days I currently fill with my varied routines, could one day turn into one of the best (or worst) days of my life. God willing, of course, an engagement, my wedding day, my children's birthdays, career highlights and other days are ones that will quickly turn into joyful anniversaries that will forever be a part of my life. Of course, the joyful days are punctuated with more melancholy days that consist of diagnoses with major illnesses, deaths, injuries, tragedies...all things I don't allow myself to consider too often, only because my mind can't handle falling down that rabbit hole. More than that, it robs me of the joy of now.

Sometimes the only thing that gets me through a bad day is the thought that even if today was a bad day, that doesn't mean that it'll be just as bad in a year. I mean, last year at this time, I was preparing to finish an awful summer class with a broken heart, loads of stress, and uncertainty about my future. Now, I'm preparing to begin my career as an educator, back at home with my family, and dating an amazing boyfriend who continually amazes me! A year can change a lot of things...It's funny what time can do.

(Sorry for the disjointed thoughts, but this has really been on my mind lately, and I had to get it down before it slipped away!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Making Progress

I am back to tell you all about my adventures from the past few weeks! Let's see...

My family had a fun 4th of July celebration together at Lake Carl Blackwell. It was weird being back there after having been away for a few months! The whole weekend in Stillwater led me to realize just how much I miss the town that was my home for 2 years! Even more than I miss the town itself, I miss my friends who still live there. Thankfully, Thomas and I were able to meet up with a couple of our friends at Finnegan' was great to chat and catch up! Our festivities were pretty great, minus the fact that OSU owns that lake, and they don't allow fireworks on the property. That meant that all of our fireworks watching was limited to what we could see from the clear spots along the shoreline. This was slightly disappointing since I love that party of this holiday so much, but such is life! We still had a great time, even if it was incredibly hot outside!!

Not long after returning from our excursion, I decided that it was high time for me to acquire the keys to my classroom. I was successful in this quest, and I'm so excited!!
 They're still cleaning carpets, but by next week I'll be able to start organizing and arranging my first classroom!!!! I had been procrastinating pretty hardcore, but after receiving my keys, I decided to get a jump on lesson planning! I've made a decent amount of progress, but there's still plenty to be done...then again, there ALWAYS will be; I guess I'm adjusting early :)

In other relevant/exciting teaching news, I had a nice lunch with my new co-workers last week! I really enjoyed meeting everyone again in that context! I loved being able to talk candidly without the pressures of school bogging us down! One of the biggest things I enjoyed was having the opportunity to talk at length with a co-worker who is in her 2nd year of teaching. She gave me lots of wonderful insight, support, advice, and hints. I sincerely hope that she and I can become good friends! There's nothing like having another young face to make you feel more at ease! Having the wisdom of veteran teachers is great, but sometimes it can be daunting to seek their opinions, which makes having a younger peer a huge relief! On the whole, I'm still excited about this coming year and all that I'm about to experience...even if it'll be one of the must chaotic things I've ever pursued!!!

Another interesting thing happened the other day: for the first time in many years, I received a hand-written later from a dear friend of mine! I loved it so much! I always enjoy hearing from friends, but there's something extra special about someone taking the time to write a note and send it to you. Yes, I do believe letter-writing should make a comeback..I'm old-school like that :) I sent my reply's hoping we'll continue this trend!

For the last few months, the tub in my bathroom has been dripping. After some time of it dripping, my mom got the idea to put a cup beneath the faucet to catch the water. To our surprise, the cup filled up much quicker than we anticipated! A 16-ounce cup was overflowing by the end of the day...if that's not an eye-opener, than I'm not sure what is. After we started catching the water, we decided to use it for various things, like washing our hands. That amount of water was more than enough to finish that job. This continued for a few weeks, but when we left for the 4th of July, Mom decided to place a small plastic tub beneath the faucet that should accommodate the drip. When we came back, the tub was full. Because I was in desperate need of a shower, I decided to see just how far the water in the tub would go. It was just enough for me to wash my hair completely. That really opened my eyes to how much water was being wasted by a seemingly insignificant faucet drip! I've washed my hair multiple times like this over the past week. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but this helped me to realize that I can/should do a better job to conserve water whenever possible. As a society, we don't recognize the importance of clean, potable water and often pour it down the drain without a second thought. We could do so much more! (Today, a plumber came out to replace a corroded gasket from the faucet...a by-product of using mineral-rich well water...crisis averted!)

On a related note, I had a great talk with my cousin Evan a couple weeks ago. We talked about his aspirations to pursue his passion of landscaping and his overall goals. He told me that one of his biggest goals was to build a home in the side of a hill that utilizes geothermal climate control, has solar panels, runoff water barrels, a packed garden, and many other qualities to make it a sustainable living environment, where he could live "off the grid", so to speak. He talked about how people don't respect the earth and treat it like a big trashcan. Quite the observant nineteen-year-old, if you ask me. I'm really proud of him and his aspirations...he inspires me in many ways! Okay, off my soapbox now!

One of our friends from church has an apricot tree and called my mom just before the 4th, telling her that she had an abundance of apricots that needed a home. Because we enjoy fresh fruit, she brought home a large bag of apricots. After letting them ripen for a few days, Mom commissioned me to make an apricot pie. As you likely know by now, I LOVE baking and trying new things. Also, when it comes to pie, I have become a bit of a pie snob as of late. I have grown to enjoy making my own fillings from fresh or frozen fruits, as opposed to using canned fillings. (I still utilize them, but when I can, I REALLY like making my own!) I found this awesome recipe! Alas, I didn't snap a picture of my pie, but I can assure you it was delicious! The only change I would make for the next go round would be to add a little bit more sugar...those apricots were a bit tart! It was still a huge hit with my parents and Thomas :)

Ah yes, Thomas. How is he doing, you ask? Well, he is chugging along and continuing to work at the grain elevator. That job has been quite the experience for him, in many ways, but it has also been a good learning experience for him. I'm not going to lie, I have LOVED having him right down the road from me/with me all summer! This has really spoiled me and will, undoubtedly, be a tough transition once school starts and he heads back to Stillwater for his senior year. I mean, we'll see each other most every weekend once school starts back up, but it'll still be a big transition for us. Let's not dwell on that too much, or else it'll rob us of the joy of the present!

So what adventures have we been up to lately? Besides lake trips with my family, we made a ladder golf set, which I'm pretty proud of! It was an easy project that used PVC pipe/connections, some rope, and 12 golf balls. We had the majority of the tools and the golf balls on hand already, so that cut a few costs, but all in all, the materials only cost about $40, which isn't bad for a lawn game that'll last (hopefully) for many years! We used a set of plans that we found on this website. Really, we used the plans to give us an idea of a materials list and dimensions. We altered the dimensions a little bit, to give us less waste and a slightly smaller set (we decreased the 2' pieces to 1.5' or 1' sections...I could give you specific dimensions if you were curious). Ultimately, we plan to paint the set (OSU-themed, because, Go Pokes...obviously!), but for now, we're content with the simple set we have! It's provided us with lots of fun and laughs...maybe a few mosquito bites, too. It was fun to build something with Thomas!

As an aside, I should mention the near disaster that occurred post-construction. We used my dad's fancy big shed/power tools to make our set, and it was a typical July morning--humid and HOT. We opened up all of the doors to help keep air moving/provide natural light. As we finished up, we cleaned up our messes and put all of the tools away. The last thing we did was close all of the overhead doors. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the proximity of a 5-gallon bucket to the big door on the east side and it was caught beneath the door. Not a big deal, right? Well, the door went back up, so I moved the bucket and put the door back down, which was great...until I realized that the door stopped closing about 3 inches above the ground. NO!!!!!!!! I was in shock/terrified that I broke the door. Thomas examined it and determined that the pressure of the motor against the bucket bent the iron bar that connects the door to the drive chain. Like a prisoner heading to a death march, I went inside to inform Mom/tell my Dad over the phone, news which I knew wouldn't be well-received. I was nervous because that door easily costs upwards of $5000. Only for the grace of God, Scotty was able to come to my rescue (as usual)! Thankfully, the combine is tall enough/strategically parked so that he could stand on top of it and remove the bent bar and hammer it back straight...ish. I am happy to report that through Scotty's expertise, the door successfully closed! Reason #410 why I'm grateful for this great man my sister married!

Alas, more lesson planning beckons. I feel like sometimes I'm not making the content interesting enough, but at the same time, I'm there to teach not entertain...and it's math. Looking at blogs/Facebook group posts from other math teachers can be inspiring, but it can also be terribly demoralizing...seeing all of these high school math teachers who do so much cool stuff in their classrooms somehow seems unattainable for me. I suppose that stuff comes with time, but at the same time, I feel like other teachers can be a bit "judge-y" about teachers who primarily teach using traditional methods. Ideas for effective apps, ways to get around traditional homework, problem-based lessons for everything under the sun, lessons to make completing the square relevant, reasons why textbooks are awful, reasons why you should use interactive notebooks, methods for formative assessment (besides homework...). It's all overwhelming at times, and sometimes I have to pull myself away from social media and assure myself that it won't be the end of the world if I use the textbook for homework most of the time. It won't be the end of the world if the only technology I use is my SMART Board. Life won't grind to a halt if I teach like a traditional teacher. My students won't freak out if I don't use some publishing software to create cutesy, Pinterest-perfect classroom decor. It'll be okay. I'm my own type of teacher. It'll be okay. It'll be okay. It'll be okay! 
Okay, much better now...Pray for me, people!!! I'm SO gonna need it!!!!

On that note, I'll end it here! Have a great week everyone!!! Stay cool in this oppressive heat!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Snapshots from a Simpler Time

Confession: I LOVE old pictures. Like, I will spend hours on end looking at old pictures just because I'm fascinated with seeing that snapshot of what life was like back in those times. Well, it should be no small wonder that I was excited when I happened upon some of Mimi's old pictures this past weekend when Mom, Gina, and I were going through a few things at Mimi's house. I scanned in a few of my favorite pictures, so I thought I'd share them so you, too, could enjoy getting a glimpse of a simpler time!
If you've never seen it before, it could be hard to believe that the beautiful brunette is none other than Mimi in her younger years. Here she is with my Grandma Hajek (her mom) and my Grandpa Rudy (her husband). Mimi and Grandpa Rudy took really good care of Grandma Hajek, especially in her later years.

It's such a tiny picture, so I made it extra big so you could see the handsome gent in the middle. That strapping gentleman is none other than Mimi's dad, my Grandpa Hajek, pictured at his filling station in Hennessey. This picture embodies the American dream so well. You see, Grandpa emigrated from Czechoslovakia. He was born out of wedlock, so he and his mother were outcasts. His mother left him when he was a child in Vienna so that she could come to the US and earn enough money to send for him. He was, for all intents and purposes, orphaned. He was malnourished and had to steal to find enough food to sustain him. He came to the US as a 16-year-old and eventually married Grandma Hajek and had 8 children. Eventually they moved from their farm in Goltry to Hennessey, where Grandpa became a business owner. What a story! Mimi was quite partial to him, and I feel like he was the one who taught her how to love so generously. Mimi always told me that he never knew what love really was until he met Grandma Hajek and had children. What a gem!

Here's a great picture of my parents' wedding day with Grandma Hajek (my mom's grandma). Mom and Grandma Hajek were just as close as Mimi and I were. I think the only difference was that Grandma Hajek was reportedly much more feisty than Mimi ever was! Such a great picture of my mom with two of the people she loved most!

I enlarged this picture so you could get a better glimpse of everyone. Still Mom and Dad's wedding day, this time with their parents. On the left are Grandpa Rudy and Mimi, while Grandma and Grandpa Hladik are on the right. This picture, to me, represents unity and multi-generational love. It's a good, classic shot from that beautiful April day. (Fun Fact: Mimi and Grandma Hladik's dresses were made from the same pattern! Obviously they were made from different fabrics, but still essentially the same dress! How cool! :) )

I found lots of pictures of Mimi's younger days. I was in love with this simple picture. I'm not sure when, where, or why it was taken; I can only imagine what was going through her head at the moment. I suppose I'll never know, but I can still admire it. 

Here was Mimi in her wedding dress! Mom insisted that Mimi try it on again, so she got the picture. What a beautiful, simple dress. Oh, to have been at her and Grandpa Rudy's wedding!!

This picture fascinates me. On the back, it says that it is Grandma Pipla (Grandma Hajek's mother/Mimi's maternal grandmother) and Grandpa Hajek (Grandma Hajek's husband). I'm a bit dubious as to whether it was Grandma Pipla or Grandma Hajek. The only thing that convinces me it's Grandma Pipla is the fact that she appears to be reasonably older than Grandpa Hajek. If so, I'm not sure why they were photographed together, but regardless, it's a great portrait!

My mom is pictured here with Grandpa Rudy. There are few pictures quite similar to this one, so let me put those up before I go into any detail.

Here are Mom and Mimi together, in basically the same spot as the previous picture.

Mom, all by herself, in the same dress. (One more similar picture!)

Here we go, same day, same dress; this time, Mom is on Grandpa Rudy's combine! When we found this, Mom laughed at how staged the picture was, seeing as she would never have any other reason to be on a combine in a dress, for heaven's sake! Mom thought that maybe Mimi had some film to use up so she could have the pictures developed, so they took a bunch of random pictures. Even so, I love seeing these shots of my mom as a girl. 

Does this picture remind you of anyone? This is Mom in her early teens, pictured with four of her nephews, much akin to pictures I have of me with my nephews! This picture makes me realize just how similar my life is to my mom's. We are both the youngest of four, with siblings considerably older than us, born to parents who were considerably older than most of our peers' parents. The similarities go on, but it makes me happy to know that I'm so similar to my own mom! (If nothing else, she understands my life pretty well and can easily sympathize with me, or tell me to buck up!) 

Nothing too astounding about this picture, as it is Mimi doing dishes in her kitchen, something she did quite often. Maybe it's the simplicity of the shot that makes me like it so well!

Another simple shot of Mimi standing in front of her house in a pretty dress. What a lady!

Mimi and Grandpa Rudy on their 40th Anniversary...look at those love birds, still happy together! Their love for each other still inspires me! 

Last picture, this one is of Grandpa Rudy's family. The couple in the front row are his parents, my Bobbi and Grandpa Vaverka, both of whom died LONG before I was thought of. In the back row are Grandpa's sisters Annette and Mary, Grandpa Rudy (what a strapping young lad!), and his brother, Stanley. Such a beautiful picture of a family that knew a few things about hard work, hard times, and love.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summertime Adventures

It's been a while since I've sat down and thought about stringing together some words to talk about all that I've been doing since the last time I posted. As it turns out, I've actually done some interesting things and visited exciting places! Let's see where I pick up now...

My first trip was to visit my beloved in Dallas a few weeks ago! As I mentioned before, I rode the Heartland Flyer down there and loved it! It was efficient, economical, and comfortable...definitely a great way to travel! There were a few delays due to some flood damage, but the trip only took about 5 hours (basically as long as it would have taken to drive). When I made it to the train station, I was greeted by Thomas, who came bearing a sign...what a guy!

After he picked me up, we ate lunch at a FTW legend, Joe T. Garcia's, which was much-needed after my extra long train trip! We spent the next few days going on other fun adventures in the Metroplex, including, but not limited to: attending his cousin's Little League game, visiting his former work (a Mini Cooper dealership), smoking a brisket (for dinner with his mom's aunt & uncle), and a few other awesome things. Okay, that sounds vague, but we were able to visit the Dallas Arboretum, thanks to his aunt and uncle's PR firm who does all of the publicity for it (and who graciously gave us admission passes). I LOVED the arboretum! It was a beautiful oasis in the midst of the crazy city. We only made it to about half of the property because it was hot and humid, and we were utterly exhausted. In visiting that half, we also took a tour of the park's centerpiece, the DeGolyer house. It was beautifully ornate! I love admiring fancy houses, and it's A/C was a welcome relief from the oppressive humidity, so I was in heaven! A few highlights...

The dining room...I feel like the picture doesn't fully convey its expansiveness!!

Mr. DeGolyer's famed holds at least 85,000 books! WOW!

Another fun part of the Dallas trip was going on an outing with Thomas's parents and sister to a nice dinner. We ate at a Moroccan restaurant, which was something I never imagined I'd actually do! It was delightfully different, and I couldn't help but feel quite cultured by eating there! After dinner, we walked over to a nearby area that overlooks the Trinity Groves Bridge (I think that's what it's called, I'm still not really sure!) It was a beautiful view of the Dallas night skyline! I have a picture with Thomas, but alas, it's on his phone :( I do, however have a picture of the bridge itself!

I'm obsessed with the panorama setting on my phone camera!

Not long after that, we bid Dallas adieu and came back to Oklahoma! On our way back, we stopped in OKC for fuel and food and happened upon Tucker's Onion Burgers. Oh my gosh, those were AWESOME! It reminded so much of eating Pak-A-Sak burgers from my childhood! We loved it, and will definitely go back when we're in town!

The next day, I was able to pick up my new glasses from the optical office!!! Here they are, in all of their glory!
So far, they're everything I've hoped they would be and more! It is wonderful to be able to fully see out of my glasses now that I have larger frames with an updated lens prescription! :) Hooray!!!

Later that week, we harvested our wheat...both fields of it! It took about 3 days total to finish up, perks of having a small operation. Thomas got a crash course in driving the tractor with the grain cart, so he was a huge help in making things run smoothly. It was his first harvest ever, and there's a decent chance I was more excited about that than he was...what can I say, it was awesome to see him embrace it so well! (I told you he fit in well with my family!) He got to ride in the combine and the wheat truck also for a few loads, but reported that he'd rather fly a plane than operate the combine, because it seemed too intimidating! (Fun Fact: He actually did fly his friend's dad's plane for 5 minutes a few years ago, so that is a well-founded statement!) 

In the midst of harvest, I happened to leave town, which is usually unheard of/frowned upon, BUT it was to attend the Imagine Dragons concert with Rebecca, which we couldn't have known would coincide with harvest, so not too big of a deal. It was a quick trip, basically there and back. We drove up on the day of the concert and had some much-needed catching up time! It was great to talk to Rebecca in person, since I've only texted and Skyped her for the past semester!!! We learned that the drive to Omaha is not a particularly exciting one, because it mostly consists of the Kansas turnpike, which is chock-full of pastures and cattle. Another fun fact we learned was that Oklahoma PikePasses work on the Kansas Turnpike!!! (They also work with the North Texas Turnpike! This alone is enough to almost convince me to get one, except I'm still not sure how much I would actually utilize it if I had one...I digress.) That saved us $9 of tolls, so we were excited! Another aside is that I like how Kansas runs their turnpike system. Instead of having toll booths every few miles, you are able to get a ticket once you enter, then pay the allotted amount once you exit, much simpler than Oklahoma or Texas's systems, in my opinion! We made it to Omaha without much trouble and found a fun brewery restaurant near the concert venue for supper! The concert itself was great, minus the opening acts, who were more techno-y than I really care for...I may or may not have fallen asleep twice during the second opening act. I wanted to get excited, but let's be honest, techno is a no-go for me! I loved Imagine Dragons's show! I didn't realize how much of their new stuff I wasn't familiar with, but that just made me even more excited when they played their big hits! I about cried from joy when they played "On Top of the World", my favorite song by them! That song alone made it all worthwhile!!! The next day, we trucked back to Oklahoma...a very quick turnaround with lots of road time, but still a fun trip!
Us after the concert!

Another fun thing that happened while in Dallas was that Thomas brought me to the "dark side" and convinced me to buy a pair of Chacos. People are pretty one-sided about Chacos, most of whom find them to be hideous and pointless. What won me over was the fact that they have a sturdy sole and that my cousin who recently had foot surgery said that those were the only sandals her orthopedic surgeon would allow her to wear post-surgery because of their excellent foot/arch support. What can I say, I'm practical...I'm also unconventional and bought the men's style instead of the women's because I hated the way the extra toe strap felt on my foot, not to mention that I wanted a wider footbed and thicker sole. 
Obviously you know which foot is mine (or I hope you do!) ;)
I legitimately LOVE these shoes!

Some random thoughts/things of interest:
A couple of weekends ago, everyone made an excursion to Canton Lake. It was a great, relaxing weekend getaway! Now, we're all preparing for our Fourth of July weekend plans to visit my old stomping grounds at the lake in Stillwater!

Last week, I took Wyatt and Andy to the summer program at our church called Totus Tuus. It was incredibly awesome! We thought it would basically be Catholic VBS, but it was so much more! The boys learned so, so, so much last week and were excited about going every single morning! It was easily one of the better things I've done as an aunt, as it supplied me with lots of great time with them to help them grow in their faith. We had lots of great discussions about God, prayer, Jesus, Mimi, evolution (you read that correctly), and so many other things, like how the story of the Three Bears would have been different had Goldilocks been a boy or if she had an older brother, named "Brodilocks". If you have the opportunity to send your children/grandchildren/nieces/nephews/etc. to Totus Tuus, you SO should! It was awesome! 

I think I'll cut it off here, and do my best to keep up a little better among all of my summertime adventures! Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!!! :)

Monday, June 1, 2015

What No One Tells You About Graduating High School

Not long after Evan's graduation a couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about my high school experience and the fact that it has already been four years since I last graced the halls of Pi-Hi as a student. Moreover, I marveled at the fact that those four years flew by and that next year will be the first "milestone" year for my class. (Well, if 5 years counts for anything...I'm a math person, and 5 is a good, round number, so I say it counts.) I started thinking about the class reunions that will inevitably await my class, and I realized that I was much more excited about reuniting with my friends from St. John's/OSU than I ever could be about reuniting with my high school classmates. 

This led me to further examine my high school years and why it is that I could really care less if I saw most of them ever again. Let's be real: high school was NOT always a good experience for me. I struggled with figuring out who I was and what I stood for, most of my "friends" treated me poorly (except for Tonisha...thank God for Tonisha!), I was mocked/chastised for excelling academically, I was basically the only Catholic in my class and had my faith mocked by my peers frequently, I wasn't in style or in touch with the latest fashion trends, and I didn't live in Brookside. I struggled with my self-image, with my faith, with my friends, with knowing what my ideals were, with the fact that I didn't really date (until the end of HS), with the fact that I wasn't one of the "cool kids". I mean, I wasn't a social leper, but I DEFINITELY wasn't cool by their standards. People belittled me for having good grades and wanting to do productive things with my life. People belittled me for actually trying to be successful at everything I pursued. People acted as though I was only Amanda, the girl who makes straight A's, instead of Amanda, the girl with a life outside of school. While my experience may pale in comparison to other people's experiences, it was often a great struggle for me. 

I remember that every time I came home crying about something people said/did/didn't say/didn't do, my parents and sisters framed every "tragedy" with this smattering of advice: "Once you graduate high school, none of this will matter." "There is life outside the four walls of your high school, and it's WAY better than anything you could ever imagine it to be." "Life might be difficult now, but it WILL get better!" "Don't let them keep you from being who you really are!" "You're a beautiful young woman and some guy is going to be REALLY happy to meet you!" "Don't let them get to you, just be the bigger person." Or my personal favorite from Emily, "...that's why I was only friends with the boys...girls have too much drama!" 

While this advice sometimes seemed trite and was of little comfort to me, it still meant a lot to me...especially the first tidbit about nothing mattering after graduation. If I could tell any new high school graduate one thing, I'd tell them that who they were in high school is pretty irrelevant to the way the rest of their life will play out, for better or worse. The students who didn't fit in will have opportunities to make friends of their own who will love and support them unconditionally. Most students who were star athletes will quickly become "have-beens" whose accomplishments will probably mean little to most people they meet. That clique of girls who made your life a living hell will have little power over most people who didn't know them in high school. That inseparable friend group you were a part of that swore would "never, ever quit being friends", will most likely dissolve within the first year out of high school. That high school boyfriend you "love with all of your heart" will probably break it, unless you're one of the few who marries their high school sweetheart...which I think is super sweet and incredibly adorable!!! Kudos to you! :) 

So I haven't really painted a positive picture of high school life, but what I've come to realize is that most negative high school experiences stem from the fact that, especially in smaller schools, you're stuck with the same people for as many as 14 years. That's a decent chunk of time. During a span of 14 years, it's a social norm (dare I say expectation) for students to be close friends, play on sports teams together, participate in extracurricular activities together, maybe even date. Oh yeah, did I mention that puberty takes place at some point in that time span? Looking at the high school experience, it is a unique time in teenagers' lives, a time riddled with crazy hormones, lovesickness (caused by the aforementioned hormones/puberty), and general craziness. These students are all over the place in their physical/emotional/social/cultural/sexual development and they're all stuck together during this time. Everyone spends so much time with the same people experiencing ALL of these things, plus plenty more, it's no small wonder that high school becomes a way of life, lacking an important aspect--perspective. 

Perspective that it all will change, for better or worse, perspective that their problems they face now are likely miniscule in comparison with those they'll have as they continue through life or that others have faced already. Perspective that their accomplishments are (mostly) relative and probably meaningless without any context. Perspective that a whole lifetime's worth of memories, friendships, relationships, careers, happiness, sorrow, adventures, and so many other things await them once they cross the stage in May that may pale in comparison to anything you've experienced yet. Perspective that they have the opportunity to change their life situation, for better or worse. Perspective that they have the freedom to make their own choices, but not to be free from the consequences of those choices. The real education about life occurs AFTER high school, not during! 

Lots of food for thought as you're likely contemplating your high school experience now. Maybe I'm way off the mark with my opinions, who knows...I may be wrong! The one thing I do know is that I'm about to immerse myself back into this crazy, nutty, hormonal environment on the other end of the spectrum as a teacher. A math teacher, no less. How can I, as a math teacher, help to make this experience less awful for students? How can I help them to see this perspective of what life really is? How can I give them hope or ground them in their thoughts? I mean, I'm just a math teacher, right? 

Honestly, I really don't know the answers to these questions. I have a suspicion that I have no idea what I'm getting into as a high school teacher. I know that a lot of successful teachers have one thing in common--they care. A lot. They invest in their students' lives and teach them things that have more to do with life than with their content area. They intersperse nuggets of wisdom into each "boring" lesson they teach. It is my hope that as I enter my classroom in the coming months that I'll be able to positively impact my students and make their high school experience just a little less painful, a little less awkward, and a little bit better. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday News

I'm making it a goal to write more this summer to make up for rarely writing over the past few months! So far so good :)

I'm not going for a list with this post, just a random smattering of thoughts! Let's see what I've done lately!

After I moved my clothes home, I made a quick realization that I had WAAAAAY too many clothes in my closet that I don't wear anymore. I've been trying to make an effort at least once a year to reduce my "inventory", so to speak by donating clothes to local thrift stores. It's easy way for me to give my ten percent since I don't really have an income to speak of, and honestly, it makes me feel good to give to people who could really use these things. Last week, I was able to donate four large boxes of clothing to the local battered women's shelter. It was an awesome feeling, and I encourage everyone to do this simple act of charity!! You won't regret it!

Another highlight of last week was my cousin Evan's graduation! By some miracle, we had a reprieve from our monsoon season, and they were able to have the graduation and his after party outside. The weather was absolutely perfect! Thankfully, Evan was one of the earlier graduates, so we left right before the ceremony ended so we could leave without fighting off traffic from every way and make it over to Joe & Vickie's house! They had an awesome, Pinterest-perfect party for Evan, complete with a s'mores and popcorn bar, which are his two favorite snacks. Even better, the weather was just cool enough that the fire used for roasting marshmallows was perfect! In a bit of a last minute, slightly insane, decision, Mom and I decided to make some cake pops for part of Evan's gift. You see, Gina and Emily were sweet enough to make some for my party, which is when we discovered Evan's love for them. Thus, at 9:30 the night before graduation, Mom and I started the process. By 5:30 the next evening, we had a finished product :) Rumor has it that he LOVED them, so it wasn't a fruitless effort! Now, he is all enrolled to start his first year or so at NOC before transferring to OSU to pursue a degree in Landscape Design! I'm beyond proud of my awesome cousin!

The next day, I woke up and began my whirlwind weekend by packing my bags to go to the TEC retreat. Thomas also decided to help with the retreat, so he drove up that day to pick me up and head on to Tulsa. This was my third TEC retreat to be a part of, and it was probably the best experience I've had yet, with the exception of parts of the first retreat. (Okay, not that impressive in saying it, but still...) The first time I attended, I was what they call a candidate, or an attendee. The retreat is tailored around the candidates, and consists of reflections given by members of the leadership (called Resource members) and various times for personal prayer, along with free time to mingle with other candidates and lots of other fun surprises. Everything is taken care of for the candidates over the weekend (i.e. meals, wake-up calls, sleeping arrangements, etc.). Last time I helped, my role was what they call a Wheatie (there is an underlying theme of wheat to the retreat centering around John 12:24), which is more of a serving role. Wheaties do all of the behind-the-scenes work that makes everything run smoothly. It is SUPER exhausting and self-sacrificial, but totally worth it to see the transformation that occurs in the candidates. This time, I was a Resource member, which meant that I, along with another Resource member, led a table of 5 Candidates in discussion and generally just invested our time in them over the weekend. It was awesome to see how everyone came together and our ragtag group turned into a family, of sorts, in the course of three days. It was beautiful and warmed my heart in every way possible! Moreover, it was awesome to see just how God used me to accomplish some part of His plan by being there for my table members and sharing my life with them. I also gave a talk, which went much better than I thought it would. I was able to share a bit of my experience over the last few years in my quest to find love and realize the great love God has for all of us in the process. Giving this talk really brought a lot of meaning to all of the pain I've experienced in my quest for a good loving relationship, and generally helped me to use those painful situations for a greater purpose! God is good :)

Thomas and I drove back on Monday evening, and he knew that it'd be in his best interest to at least wait until at least the next day to drive back to Dallas so he could rest up a little bit. Well, after sitting around for a while yesterday, he really welcomed just being able to stay in one place for a little while, so he decided to stay an extra night and really rest up before heading back this afternoon. Obviously, I was happy to keep him here for another day! After spending most of the day doing very little besides eat and play Jenga, we made an impromptu trip to Enid to buy groceries for Mom. Even if that was all we did, I still loved having him with me for a little trip to town and going through Enid stores. We capped off the trip by stopping at Braum's to buy milk, and we picked out a few cartons of ice cream for after dinner. Thankfully we headed home when we did, because a hailstorm was headed to Enid and we narrowly missed it! After supper, I happened to still have a sleeve of Thin Mints left over (they're Thomas's favorite) and we made thin mint sundaes :) Not long after finishing the sundaes, the storm was catching up to us, so we frantically moved his car into the shed in case hail came with it. Naturally when we made this decision, it was POURING rain outside! (This always happens...Murphy's Law of Hailstorms, I suppose?) After coming in and drying off, I found another cool thing we have in common...we both love watching storms :) (This just keeps getting better and better!) So, we sat in my room (more window space/a better view) and watched the lightning was awesome! I love being able to enjoy the little things in life with Thomas :) He's pretty neat!

Today I bought a few new songs, something I haven't done in months. It was almost cathartic, as crazy as that sounds. My current favorite song is "Loving You Easy" by the Zac Brown Band...if you think you don't like country music, you should listen to it anyway. It's short, sweet, and fun to listen to :) I'm not sure how they did it, but they managed to channel some 70's funk and Motown in it. I'm obsessed. I also finally bought another interesting song, "Riptide " by Vance Joy. It's not new, but I love it. It has a really cool beat/sound, you should give it a listen :)

Last interesting thing: I found an awesome new pork chop recipe tonight that rocked our socks off! It was super easy and WAY tasty/tender. We were all getting bored with our usual way of making pork chops that left them dry and/or bland...not the case with this recipe! Basically, you dredge the chops with a seasoned flour, pan-fry them, saute some onions in the drippings, and create a gravy using the remaining flour and some milk, then bake it for an hour. I love it. Here's the link to the recipe :)

Lots of random fun stuff from the past week! Now, I'm resting up and getting ready to make my train trip to Dallas next week :) Have a great week!!!