Saturday, July 8, 2017

At Long Last

I’ve dreamed of getting married for my whole life, you probably know that.
For years, I tried in vain to find “the one”.
I had lots of failed attempts to make things work with the wrong guys.
I knew what I wanted, but I knew changes needed to happen first.
I left my home and started a new journey in Stillwater.
It was tough, as I knew almost no one.
I didn’t think I wanted to, but I went to church.
It was the best thing I ever did.

I made a myriad of friends, Thomas being one of them.
I can’t remember our first conversation (neither can he!)
He was a friend, but we weren’t close.
We were too different. (so I thought)
I was interested in other guys. He was interested in other girls.
Nothing worked for either of us, but we persisted.
We continued trying in vain to find “the one”.
I felt hopeless. So did Thomas.
Each of us just wanted someone to give us a chance.

Then one day, something changed.
Thomas saw a light in my eyes that sparked something in his heart.
He had his own “what ifs”.
He was scared. He felt hopeless.
He just wanted something to work. He wanted to feel love in his life.
He confided his feelings to a friend.
She told him to go for it.
So he did.

He sent me a Thanksgiving day text.
I was utterly confused (and disappointed).
We came back from break, and he sought me out.
With a trembling voice, he asked if I’d go out for coffee…or frozen yogurt…or ice cream.
On Friday, or Saturday, or even Sunday. (He would be there all weekend!)
I didn’t want to, but I said yes to Friday.
He left, promising we’d secure our plans on Wednesday.
I left, lamenting about my weekend plans to Rebecca.

She told me it was just a date. (She dated him once herself!)
She told me a date doesn’t equate marriage, just an evening of my time.
I told a few other friends.
They sang his praises.
I reconsidered.
I changed my attitude. God softened my heart.
I got excited.

God turned my sorrow into joy.
I felt hopeful for the first time in a long time. (So did Thomas!)
Friday came.
We went to dinner.
We talked the whole time.
It was too early to part ways.
We went to the lake (it wasn’t that cold outside!)
We walked and told our stories.
We saw a shooting star, and internally hoped it was a good sign.

I still had my fears, but I shared them.
He didn’t care. (He kissed me to show he didn’t!)
We made it official right there!
Life was great!

Then we were apart for a month.
His grandpa died.
Mimi was slowly dying.
We talked nightly.
It sustained us through that month of longing.
It set us up for our future.

He helped me through student teaching.
I helped him through his tough class.
Then Mimi died.
He stayed with me that night to comfort me so I wasn’t alone.
I knew then that I didn’t want to lose him.
I got a job.
I graduated, and I didn’t know where the summer would take us.
He found something close to me. (I couldn’t believe it!)
He loathed the job. But he loved getting to see me.
We made the best memories that summer.
He learned more about my life and my family.
I was certain we’d make it.

 He started his senior year.
I started work.
I hated being away from him during that time, but the weekends were great.
We continued making memories.
Then reality hit—he needed an adult job.
I promised my support of whatever he pursued.
We knew we could make it.
We knew we were ready.

He got a job, but it’d take him to Arkansas. Somewhere else eventually.
I didn’t want that. I wanted him close. I was mad.
He wanted a good future.
I knew he would thrive. I supported him wholeheartedly.
It was tough, but we did it.

That cold night in December, much colder than the year before.
He took me to the Shrine. I knew what was to come, but I said nothing.
He asked me the question I’d waited forever to hear.
I cried. I shrieked. I was in shock.
I said “YES!”
Life was good.

Then we spent another month apart.
Mother Nature conspired against us, lessening the time we’d spend together.
I was in a wreck. He hated being away from me.
Somehow I survived.
He came back, and we eventually celebrated his graduation and my first year of teaching.

He moved to Arkansas.
Reality set in again.
We were the farthest we’ve ever been from each other for the longest amount of time.
Weekends sustained us.
So did nighttime phone calls.
Arkansas was good to us.
I loved it more than I expected.
I was happy for Thomas.

School started again, and the stress returned for me.
Dallas beckoned, and Thomas accepted.
I wasn’t happy, but I knew it’d be okay.
We trusted each other, but we trusted God more.
He moved, again.
I reluctantly bid Arkansas adieu.

We found a new normal, yet again.
This time, it meant more time apart than ever before.
Nightly calls continued.
School continued, punctuated by events reminding me of all that awaited us.
We were showered by love (and gifts) so many times.
We found our first home (an apartment).

Now school is done.
I found a job, though not what I expected. (God provides, right?)
Thomas is in the apartment.
Everything is getting closer.

The white dress, the flowers, everything.
It’s all for us.
It’s our time.
The two will become one.
The distance will end.
Nightly phone calls will end.
Living separate lives will end.

Our marriage, at long last, will soon begin!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Pre-Wedding Updates

I thought I’d drop in and leave a quick update, because who knows when I’ll get back here next! The wedding is scarily close…less than 2 weeks away! WOW. After waiting for over 1.5 years, it’s finally almost here!!!

Last time, we were about to move into our apartment, so I’ll pick up there. I like our apartment a lot. It’s way bigger than Thomas’ Arkansas apartment, so it currently feels like a palace! It is set up well and flows nicely. We’ve gotten most of our shower gifts unpacked. Even better, we’ve been able to use quite a few of them already! I’m especially loving our Fiestaware. It’s beautiful, simple, and fun to use. (Who knew it was possible to have fun using plates?! I think I’m officially an adult now…) So far, I’ve only found a couple small downsides to our apartment. The first is that we are situated on the third floor, so it makes unloading vehicles full of groceries or wedding gifts a little more challenging than we’ve been used to. Also, every time I’ve wanted to go swimming in the complex pool (yes, we have a pool!) I have been foiled by rain, unseasonably cool weather, or inadequate time. That bums me out a lot more than you’d think, but I know I’ll have all the time in the world after I move down, right? Also, I figured out a workable solution to help us unload vehicles. I decided that it’d be useful to keep canvas tote bags in each vehicle, then load those up with grocery bags. That helped quite a bit and saved Thomas and me having to go up and down all the flights of stairs 4 times.

Quite a bit of my time this summer has been devoted to toting some combination of my nephews to some sort of day camp, whether it was for basketball, baseball, or Totus Tuus. They’re all done with summer camps for now, so it’s back to their carefree summers!

A few weekends ago, the Liese side of Thomas’ family had a reunion in Georgetown, TX. Although it seemed like a long drive down there due to traffic and construction, it didn’t stop us from having a great, relaxing weekend. Truth be told, it was like a mini-retreat from wedding planning. Friday was a travel day for everyone, so most of our activities were slated for Saturday. We kicked off the day by visiting Thomas’ great-grandparents’ original home. The current owner was sweet enough to let us invade her home, which was surprisingly well-preserved. She took a lot of pride in explaining the history of the house and comparing notes with the grandchildren who still had vivid memories of the house. During our tour, Thomas ended up winning a large bag of pecans that came from the trees his great-grandparents planted many years ago. We were quite excited about that, because we both love fresh pecans. (Store bought pecans taste like cardboard in comparison with fresh pecans…just saying!)

After the tour, our smaller group (us, his parents, his sister, his aunt Jean, and his uncles Jay and Mark) all went down to the Georgetown square to look around and grab lunch. It was typical of most historical small-town squares, as it was packed with antique stores, and other novelty stores. It was nice to roam around with Thomas, as it was the most carefree time we’d spent together in quite a long time. My favorite place we stopped on the square (besides getting lunch) was the chocolate shop. It was a little family-owned shop, and we had the privilege of having a good chat with one of the owners. He was a kindly older gentleman who was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary that day. He gave us his blessings for a happy marriage and told us the short history of their family chocolate shop. To make things better, their chocolate was absolutely amazing! We met up with our group after some time, when Thomas was gifted an antique nut cracker, found by Jay and Mark at the only antique store that Thomas and I didn’t go into to look for one.

We capped off the day by swapping photos and stories in one of the hotel meeting rooms and dinner at a quaint German restaurant in Walburg, which was a stone’s throw away from Georgetown. The food was comforting to me, as it is quite similar in flavor to many of the foods my family makes or has made. We ended the night out the in the beer garden behind the restaurant, just talking and enjoying the cool evening in the shade of the trees, listening to a polka band that gave us their best rendition of AC/DC songs. (I never imagined that I’d hear “Highway to Hell” with an accordion harmony line…)

We finished the reunion by traveling to some of the area cemeteries to visit the burial sites of various Liese ancestors. It was an interesting history lesson that was diminished for me only for the fact that I incurred a sunburn on my shoulders, thanks to the fact that I didn’t realize we’d be outside for so long, and, let’s face it, cemeteries usually don’t abound with trees. Oh well, story of my life! The highlight of our trip home was getting to stop at the Czech Stop in West, TX and get kolaches. They were heavenly, just like the ones my family makes. Did you know that in certain places, they call sausage rolls (pigs in a blanket) kolaches? For shame. They are wrong, but they’ll never admit to it, so life somehow goes on.

Since then, I’ve been in OK working on tying up loose ends for the wedding and soaking up my last bits of living here. In the time from then to now, we’ve had a fun evening talking wedding plans at Liz’s house. (They recently moved into a beautiful new home and have volunteered their home for a wedding day bridal brunch! They’re the best!) I grabbed lunch with my teacher friends and met the teacher who’ll replace me. (She seems nice!) We also had an impromptu dinner with my immediate family and a few cousins and family friends. It was such a nice evening!

The million-dollar question these days seems to revolve around people wondering if I have all the plans done and if everything is ready. The overwhelming answer to this is a resounding “kind of.” I’ll give you a run-down of what I’ve accomplished!

I had my pre-bridal pictures taken last week. This helped me to have a run-through of my hair, makeup, and pictures. (Fun fact: Liz has been so sweet to volunteer herself to do my makeup for the wedding. Have I mentioned lately that she’s the best?) I’m anxiously awaiting the text from my photographer letting me know that she has finished editing my pictures! This past weekend, I celebrated my last shower and bachelorette party with some of my favorite ladies! My sisters, Mom, Liz, and Tonisha did an amazing job putting everything together and making it happen! It was absolutely perfect! Ladies, if people tell you that you have to have an all-out booze fest/wild night for your bachelorette party, know that they’re wrong. We ate at a Mexican restaurant and went to a painting studio and consumed absolutely no alcohol in the process. After the painting studio, everyone went their separate ways. I was with my mom and sisters, so we went to Target (extra crazy), and capped off the night with appetizers, dessert, and a drink from TGI Friday’s. It was the perfect night! During my events, besides the people I already mentioned, I also got to see Sierra and Rebecca (my St. John’s bffs), Mary (my other high school bff), Laura and Aimee (my teaching bffs/classroom neighbors), Robyn and her girls (my flower girls who I used to babysit), Aunt Pat, and my cousin Tim’s wife, Silvia and their daughter. Everyone had a blast together, and I loved getting to see/talk to everyone!

Speaking of my flower girls, I have to giggle a little bit, as one of my flower girls pulled the classic little girl stunt—I don’t want bangs anymore, so I’m going to take matters into my own hands and actually prolong having bangs. (Long story short, she cut her bangs.) Surprisingly, I wasn’t concerned by this at all. It happened almost a month ago, and they’ve grown out alright. Life goes on, and hair grows back.

We also put in our flower order with our florist. We opted not to use one of the bigger florists in Enid, so we went with a smaller florist. I’ve come to realize that the only downside of utilizing small businesses is that they are prone to greater instability since they aren’t backed by a larger corporation or copious amounts of money. About a week after ordering flowers, it was announced via social media that the shop was being put on the market to be sold. I wasn’t too concerned since it never came up in conversation during our ordering session, but to be safe, I called and checked in with the owners. It turns out that there is nothing to worry about, as they are slowly starting to step away from accepting new jobs, but will fulfill everything they’ve signed on to date. All things worked out well, no crises here!

Last week, my mom and I were fairly productive. Our crowning achievement for the week was that we finished making up our punch. Since the recipe calls for the punch to be frozen, it can be made quite a while in advance. It was nice to cross that item off of our list!

The last item of note is that I am currently without my beloved engagement ring, as Thomas repossessed it yesterday. I say that, but really, he’s taking it to the jeweler to have it cleaned and to have my wedding band soldered on to it. I won’t be able to wear it again until the wedding, so I’m going to miss it quite a bit over the next two weeks!

Today (I guess now I have to classify it as yesterday) was a good Fourth of July. It was much simpler than our celebrations in most years (for obvious reasons). We assembled wedding programs, then Scotty grilled delicious hamburgers for us. After dusk, the older boys headed out to the pasture and set off our fireworks. We also were able to see displays for miles around us in all directions. It was a simple, perfect night with my family. I really love nights like these :)

I’m hoping to get at least one more post in before the wedding (which could be a tall order to fill), but if I don’t, the next time you hear from me could be after I am a married woman! Here we go!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Moving, (More) Wedding Plans, and Life in General

Now that I’m really settled into my summer, I realize that I didn’t talk much about work in my previous posts, so I’ll tell you a little bit of how that went.

All in all, my second year was infinitely better than the first. By the end of the school year, I was about wiped out from all of the happenings. I didn’t realize it until the end, but there were a handful of kids who were particularly sad about me leaving. It was equal parts touching and humbling to realize just how much of an impact I made on these students’ lives. During the last few days of school, I received an awesome gift from my students, a large W that they and many of my coworkers signed for me. It is a great memento from my years there that I’ll forever cherish.

It was tough for me to stay motivated towards the end of the year, especially when it came time for the end-of-year in-service days. I say that mostly because these meetings usually focus on planning for the upcoming year, which means very little to me at this point. I like to think I still contributed well nonetheless. My sources tell me that they’ve already hired my replacement, which is great to hear. I think it’ll be a positive change all around. Also, one of my best teacher friends from my building won both HS and district teacher of the year. She so deserved that honor!

Now that I’m done with work, I’m pretty much in full-on wedding and moving mode. In the last few weeks, I accomplished lots of small tasks on my to-do list! My wedding dress is currently being altered, which is a huge item on my to-do list. (It needs to be hemmed, which is a big task. I may have already said too much about it! Oops!) Much to my dismay, when I brought my dress home from the store initially, I found out that the shoes, which I made a special trip to the mall with Thomas’ sister (Elizabeth) to find/buy absolutely clashed with my dress. It was a little disheartening, only because I had also worked like mad to break those shoes in (which I still hadn’t fully accomplished). In good news, Gina saved the day by finding the shoes she wore for her wedding, which happened to fit me and coordinate with my dress! I was very happy only because I somewhat dreaded looking for even more shoes. Also, my original shoes can still be put to good use, which means that it wasn’t a wasted trip or purchase. Wedding programs are being printed as we speak, which is helpful! I think I’m going to be so happy with how those turn out! We’ve also settled on lots of other decisions, like our cakes and other food for the reception. I could bore you more with the details, but I won’t! Okay, one more big detail! Invitations are addressed and ready to mail! That’s a huge thing! (Now, I’m done!)

Let’s talk about something non-wedding related, if that’s alright. I’m sure you might be sick of reading about it (or not, I’m not sure). I’m a little sick of writing about it for the meantime, only because I don’t want to sound like a broken record or like that’s all I can talk about.

Oh, wait! One more wedding thing! The church ladies threw Thomas and me a beautiful wedding shower the other day! We received lots of amazing gifts and had a lovely time. I wish I could share pictures, but everyone else took pictures and never bothered to share them with me yet. (Sad face) NOW, that should be the end of wedding talk for now!

Last week, I made my first trip to Dallas since April to help celebrate Thomas’ cousin’s high school graduation. She attended the same all-girls school as Elizabeth, so the ceremony was very similar in structure to last year’s. In good news, Thomas, his mom, his grandma, and his cousin’s grandma from the other side of the family (Grandma Sasi), and I were all able to stay at his aunt and uncle’s house during the ceremony and watch the live-stream. We really enjoyed this, as there is limited seating at the ceremony, and we had free access to sit on a comfy couch and eat gads of food while watching. That truly is the way to experience graduation ceremonies! Okay, it wasn’t all perfect. At the beginning, a tradition for the school is to introduce each girl as she curtsies. Initially we weren’t able to hear the names being announced, due to some loud background music. We were glad that Thomas’ dad (Steve) was at the ceremony and that he was able to talk to the tech person who could fix the issue. That made for a much more pleasant listening experience.

As an aside, I should mention that the food at the graduation party was exceptional! Grandma Sasi (sp?), who I mentioned earlier is originally from Thailand. She LOVES to cook authentic Thai food for the family when she comes to visit. (She and her husband live in California.) I expanded my palate as I tried curry for the first time. What can I say? I’ve always been a little hesitant to try it at a restaurant because I don’t want to buy it just to not like it and have it go to waste. Although it was a little spicy (I’m a baby about spicy food), I liked it! I also tried some really delicious cashew chicken. However, neither of those dishes compared to the AMAZING egg rolls she made for us. It’s probably a good thing that Grandma Sasi made them a little smaller than what you usually see, as Thomas and I both ate an obscene amount of egg rolls. I don’t even want to think about how many the two of us ate. They were the best thing I’ve eaten in a LONG time!

After the festivities concluded, all of us adults made a celebratory trip to a local tavern to cap off the night. That was also a fun time…I think I gained a few years of life back, due to how much I laughed! It was much-needed on all accounts!

Another highlight of my last Dallas trip is that Thomas and I now are the proud owners of a Maytag washer/dryer set! We had our first major appliance purchase, and we didn’t kill each other! I’d say that was a raving success in my books! We went for a more basic model, because who wants to shell out $1,000 for just a washer, when something that is almost half the price will do the job just as well, without all the bells and whistles. (Not to mention all the technology that will be obsolete within a year or will cause the untimely demise of an otherwise useful appliance.) We’re happy with our purchase. Now, we’re waiting for Monday when they’ll be delivered to the apartment so we can use them for ourselves!

Ah, yes, the apartment! Thomas was able to pick up keys for it earlier in the week and said that it looked good. I still haven’t seen our apartment, which is about to drive me crazy. I’m beyond ready to see exactly what my new abode will look like in person, not in pictures. Moving is always a crazy time, am I right? I think it has a tendency to bring out the worst in people sometimes, just because of all the stress that accompanies the process, or at least for me it does. Moving is especially difficult for type-A control freaks (aka me) because you have to deal with a considerable amount of chaos and other variable factors. Personally, I don’t like the process of moving, but I know good will come out of it, so I’m trying my hardest to muddle through and not make anyone else’s life unbearable while I’m at it.

My bedroom is slowly becoming more empty, as my desk and my cedar chest are either in Dallas or about to be in transit for Dallas. My only other piece of furniture I’ll have to move is my bookshelf that accompanies my desk. It isn’t too obnoxiously large, so it’ll be okay to move it later! I still have LOTS of crumbs of things that will require me to figure out what I really want to do with them. I’m foreseeing lots of garbage bags or trips to donate lots of items…maybe a lot of both! I’ve gotten much better at parting ways with things that don’t suit me, but I still have lots of work to do on that front. This change has only come within the last few years, so now I’m still trying to muddle through things from my years of keeping stuff. What doesn’t help is that I try to be resourceful by thinking that I can repurpose lots of my things. We all know that that’ll rarely happen, but I try to life in the illusion that it will! (Don’t we all?) I also am heavily influenced by family members who lived through the Depression and instilled into me that nothing should be wasted. I have no issues donating things, but at the same time, I don’t want to dump off my junk there, just to have someone else throw it away or figure out what to do with it. That’s not really what donating things is about, if you ask me. It’s an endless, vicious cycle.

Oh, yes, I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the other goings-on here at the farm! My dad is slowly gearing up for harvest this year. In the last few years, my dad has harvested significantly less wheat than he usually does. This year, we’re harvesting a whopping 17 acres. All the rest has either been used for spring grazing or for hay, mostly hay, which we’re hoping will help us along better in the wintertime. He’s also working alongside Scotty and Jeremy to restore a kegerator that they bought off of an old bar/grill so that they can have it for my wedding! When it’s done, I’ll have to post pictures of the whole process…they’ve really done a great job on it!

My nephews remain crazy and active, as always. Cody (who is officially taller than me and whose voice is definitively deepening) just finished basketball camp. Wyatt (who has all but forgotten about how he was one-armed a few months ago) also finished a basketball camp. It was his first time to attend and to play basketball. He was supposed to play this year as a 5th grader, but due to budget and scheduling restrictions, no 5th grade team was created at school. He seemed to really enjoy basketball and has high hopes for his 6th grade year. Kyle is living his dream by getting to play summer baseball! After being “the only kid at baseball camp who doesn’t play baseball” (direct quote from him last year) for the last two years, he’s finally able to play on a team. He plays on a YMCA league, which has proven to be a good fit. They don’t have insane uniforms, they play twice a week (no practices), and they’re done playing games by the middle of June. I know Emily sure is happy about all of that from a logistical standpoint! His team is undefeated so far, and last night, he scored his first-ever home run! I’m so happy for him and all his success!

The younger three haven’t done anything quite of the magnitude of their older brothers/cousins, but they’re generally the same happy-go-lucky boys they usually are. The boys are also excited that in a little over a week, they’ll get to go back to their beloved Totus Tuus at church! I personally love how excited they are about attending! It’s been great to see just how much they’ve latched on to it. I’ve found that it’s rare for kids to remember or get excited about something like this, but when they ask you in the middle of January when they’ll get to go back, or when they’re singing the songs they learned during the school year, or when they’re at church remembering things they’ve learned about the faith from the program, you know it’s a worthwhile program. I cannot recommend this program highly enough!!! If your kids (or the young people in your life) can possibly go, they definitely should! It’s SO worth it!

Everyone else in the family is generally doing well. We’re all continually doing things to get ready for the big day. It takes a village, no doubt. Today, I will load up my loyal steed (Subie) and blaze the trail southward to Dallas, yet again. I hate the drive, but knowing that Thomas is waiting for me at the end makes it better, not to mention the fact that I’ll finally get to see my new abode after having waited for almost three months!

Even in the craziness, I am abundantly blessed by all of my loved ones (related or not) who stand by me through my stress, who pick me up when I can’t keep on keeping on, who make me laugh, who pray for me, who give me hugs or affirmations when I get bogged down by life and its happenings, and who generally keep me sane and love me unconditionally. I couldn’t live this crazy life without any of them, and I’m glad I don’t have to!

Peace and love!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Job Update!

Hello all! I promised I’d be back soon to fill you in on the other goings-on of my life, but it has definitely been a while. I tried with all my might to hurry back, but life won. Work, wedding planning, and preparing for life after the wedding (finding a job) has proven to be a lot for me. I feel like I’ve been subconsciously waiting to give you big news, and I guess that now is as good of a time as any to share it.

But first, the backstory. There’s always a backstory. (It’s me, of course there is. I will say this one is a little more “raw” than what I usually share, but I felt like I needed to write about it. Bear with me.)

Since November, I’ve been trying my hardest to find myself a good teaching job at a Catholic school down in the Dallas area. That really seemed like a good next step for me after the wedding. I contacted everyone who Thomas’ family suggested or introduced to me who would possibly have leads on open math teaching positions for the coming year. I put in (what felt like) a ridiculous amount of applications. (Okay, it was only about 3-5 in total, but still.) I felt like I knew my professional references’ contact information as well as I did my own. Then came a few interviews, which were carefully orchestrated, since, well, I live 250+ miles away. It’s not like it’d be a quick jaunt up the street for me. Honestly, the interviews were pretty telling. I liked the premise of what I’d be doing, but I was left with a lurking dread of what would be to come if were to be hired by the school in question.

I mean, I get married in the middle of July, I’ll move down to DFW, then no more than two weeks later, I’d start professional development with the school. Maybe I’m just a baby about it, but that sure seemed like a quick turnaround to me. Also, it really stressed me out, because I could picture myself trying to settle into our apartment (which we signed a lease on a few weeks ago…go us!), deal with post-wedding chaos (i.e. trying to change my name), adjust to married life, being incredibly homesick for OK, and on top of all of that, mass planning a bunch of lessons and figuring out a classroom design. Typing all of that truly stressed me out a little. And I know I’m not exaggerating, because that’s literally how everything would play out regardless. That’s simply the life of a teacher.

Nevertheless, I persevered. I kept fighting the good fight, accepting every interview I was invited to, and praying like a crazy woman. I had about all of my friends and family embroiled in a big fight with the heavens trying to get me a teaching job.

You know what happened, I’m sure.

Every interview ended with me feeling very turned-off about the school for some reason or another. Or I didn’t feel qualified enough for the position at hand. Or I didn’t feel like I meshed well with the interviewer (who would eventually be one of my principals, if hired). Or I just flat-out didn’t like the place. Except for one school. I loved it a lot. However, the universe seemed to be conspiring against my plans, because it took that school about 2 months to give me a final answer. I experienced the full gamut of emotions during that 2 month wait. I kept applying and/or interviewing in the meantime.

Last week was when I finally got my long-awaited answer from the school. I didn’t get the job on account of them finding a much more qualified candidate than me. It was a long shot in the first place, but I really thought that I’d get it. To say I was devastated would be the understatement of the month. To make matters worse, I found out in the middle of my planning period, which is right in the middle of the morning, which is right before I’m back to having to be around students for the remainder of the day. I did my best to save face for a bit before eventually having to ask my dear teacher friend across the hall (Aimee) to watch my study hall kiddos so I could go bawl my eyes out in the counselor’s office. I felt like I was a kid again. In good news, I realized that teenagers can actually be fairly compassionate, as many asked if I was alright, and provided me with hugs and words of consolation/encouragement. (It definitely helped to restore my faith in teenagers, just saying.)

The more I thought about the situation, the worse it was for me. My mind kept replaying the initial hurt and shock that I felt upon finding out initially. I went home, crying intermittently during my drive. I came in and collapsed in a heap upon my bed, feeling generally defeated by the day. It was the only job I was even remotely close to wanting, and it wasn’t an option for me anymore. Add typical end-of-year teaching stress to that, and you can, perhaps, have a fair assessment of my mental state at that point. Thomas called, trying to console me, but I wasn’t having much of it. At that point, I wasn’t ready to get over it. By that point, I had really grown weary of hearing all of the multiple platitudes thrown around from lots of well-meaning people. Comments of “It’ll be okay,” “God has a plan,” “Don’t worry,” “It wasn’t meant to be,” punctuated my day. By that point, I knew full well that those were true statements that I needed to take to heart, but I couldn’t. I was done. Truthfully, I felt like a royal failure.  

But it got worse from there. The crying turned into an upset stomach, which eventually turned into what was probably the beginning of a low-key anxiety attack, which culminated with my family having to talk me down from it all. I’m grateful for all they did to help me calm down. They helped me to break down a little of the “why” of the whole situation. They gave me perspective that I needed. They gave me the figurative “slap upside the head” or “glass of water to the face” that I needed to just snap out of my despair. They helped me to realize what God may actually be calling me to do next.

After talking it over with Thomas, we reached a conclusion. I’m not going to teach next year. I’m actually REALLY happy about that. I feel an immense amount of peace about that decision. Here’s what’s on the horizon for me instead!

My initial plan was to work as a substitute teacher, but I wasn’t totally keen on the idea. (Have no fear, God intervened…again.) We reached the conclusion that the time may be approaching for me to start working on a master’s degree, which is something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time now. Honestly, the time is right, and we’re childless, which would make it a little easier on us (or at least me) to undertake. Then I realized that there are at least two programs that look fairly promising that will require further research on my part to determine the best fit. I also realized that I’m not 100% certain that either program would be sufficient to do what I want to do with my master’s (teach at the junior college level). Side note: I think they will be, but I’m meeting with one of my old professors soon to further discuss/clarify that. I also realized that I’ve definitely missed the boat to start in August, so the absolute earliest I could begin would be in January. Then we realized that I would be going to college in Texas, and I probably wouldn’t live in the state long enough to qualify for in-state tuition and that in a full-time master’s program (specifically a small program like math education) it might be more difficult to line up courses if I were to start in the spring term as opposed to the fall term.

Okay, there’s obviously a lot of variable factors that could cause us to “what-if” the situation to oblivion. No, these fears aren’t deterring me from pursuing a master’s. Instead, God made up my/our minds for us.

Last weekend, on the heels of the initial news, Thomas was with his family and some of their family friends who homeschool their children. Thomas and his parents were telling them about my current job situation, as their friends were curious. The wife shared that if I were interested, there could be good opportunities for me to tutor students from various homeschool co-ops, with which they’re involved. She said that she’d be more than happy to share my information to the organizations so that I could be added to their tutoring directories. I was so excited to hear about this, because as you may remember, I have a good deal of experience in tutoring! (2.5 years, to be exact…which is more experience than I have with actual teaching…) Even better, tutoring homeschooled students would allow me to have tutoring sessions during the day, instead of having to wait until after school, which was what stopped me from pursuing this avenue in the first place.

At the end of last weekend, Thomas and his family had to make an impromptu stop by their friends’ house to drop off something they’d left behind, which was when the wife proceeded to tell them that she had just seen an online posting from a lady needing a full-time Algebra I and II tutor for her two daughters for next year, but that she needed someone who could work for the whole school year. She sent my information to the lady, who ended up contacting me almost immediately thereafter (on Monday). Since then, we mutually decided that this would be a good arrangement for everyone! What this means is that I’ll look to start grad school in August 2018, and spend the next year working as a full-time tutor at least for this family, and hopefully for many others, too!

I feel an indescribable amount of peace and clarity about this situation. I have a hunch that this is why I didn’t get or like the other jobs. Even better, it’ll really give me the freedom to ease into my new life as a newly married resident of Dallas. What’s more, Thomas is 100% on board with this decision, which makes me even happier. Admittedly, it makes me feel pretty silly about losing my ever-loving mind last week, but, then again, maybe that needed to happen so I could fully reach this point and appreciate it like I do. I spent all of this time hoping and praying to God and every job-searching saint I could think of to find a good job. In my mind, I somehow thought that those prayers were somehow exclusive to me finding a job as a classroom teacher, but obviously that wasn’t what God had in mind. It’s funny how when our will doesn’t align with God’s, we try to fight him to make it work the way we want it. But, try as we might, we always lose. God always wins, which is probably a good thing, because I know I probably would’ve punched my ticket to the insane asylum had I accepted a teaching job down there. I love tutoring a lot, and I think that this could be the best possible outcome.

Who knows, maybe grad school really isn’t in God’s plans for me. Maybe this tutoring gig will be something I do for the rest of my working career. Maybe it won’t. What I’m hoping it will be is an opportunity for me to get comfortable with my new way of life, a chance to take the time I need to carefully discern grad school (because the last thing I want to do is make a rushed decision on that big of an investment), a chance to continue investing in the lives of young people, and an opportunity to foster an appreciation for math in future generations. I’m so, so excited about what’s in store. I’m grateful for this part of my story, and I can’t wait to see where it leads me through the year! Keep praying for me; heaven knows I still need it! 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Wedding Updates!

I'm back! I've been so busy over the last few weeks that it has taken me about a month to come back to you all and tell you what I've been up to. I thought about making one monstrous post, but I'm going to split it up, just so I have a chance at actually completing a post! So in this segment, I'll talk about wedding planning!

Wedding planning is in full swing, I guess you could say. People always talk about how stressful it is to plan a wedding, although I don't completely know if I can echo that statement. I guess that's a perk of having almost 1.5 years to plan a wedding, you stretch everything out over such a long period of time that you're able to alleviate a decent amount of stress. Or I'm just forgetting everything.
I doubt that, actually. Really, we're still in a holding pattern for the next few weeks, as the remainder of tasks to be completed can't be done until it gets closer to the big day.

Some planning highlights for those keeping track at home...we have now ordered invitations and picked out all of our readings/prayers for our wedding Mass! Those are actually pretty big milestones! I'm happy with our choice of invitation, which we ended up finding at a print shop in Enid. They outsource those to their vendor to be printed, but it was still a pretty economical option. Some people think I'm crazy, but with our invitations, I'm not sending out RSVP cards. Apparently no one forgoes RSVP cards these days, but we'll live. My parents planned for ample food for both of my sisters' huge weddings, and I'm sure we'll be just fine again. If not, everyone can make a group trip elsewhere to get more food, and the party will continue! (You have to be an optimist to keep from going too crazy, right?)

Picking readings with Thomas was an awesome experience. In a way, it made everything seem more real to us. We had a minor snag earlier in the week when we found out that one of our friends who was supposed to be a lector likely wouldn't even be able to make it to the wedding due to a summer training program she was just accepted to at Notre Dame. I was equal parts sad and excited about the whole thing. Sad that one of my dear friends wouldn't be able to attend, but excited for the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity she has received! In good news, it only took us about ten minutes to find someone to replace her. Okay, that sounds just a little callous, but I promise I don't intend it to be! You see, Thomas and I have wanted to include another of our dear friends from St. John's, but we just weren't sure where to include him. Thomas was pretty dead-set on who he wanted to be groomsmen, and we already had all of our other mass roles fulfilled. I'm glad that Thomas remembered that this friend liked to lector (because I sure didn't). Our friend seemed pretty excited to be a part of our wedding, which makes it all the better! All's well that ends well, right?

In other exciting wedding news, we have 2 more showers slated for the next couple of months! This week, my co-workers were sweet enough to throw me and the other teacher who's getting married this summer a shower! It was especially sweet, considering that it was right at the end of our state testing period AND close to the end of the semester, which are incredibly stressful times for everyone. Thomas wasn't able to attend that one, since it was on a weekday, but my mom was able to be there, so that was awesome! (Emily also popped in at the very end.) There weren't a ton of people there, but I loved getting to see everyone who showed up. We received lots of beautiful gifts, including a couple of personalized items made by teachers who are pros with their vinyl cutting machines! (Leave it to the teachers to come up with crafty gifts ;) ) It was so beautiful and humbling to see how much they all put into making it a fun, relaxing event.

The church ladies have decided to throw one for me about a week after school is out! Thomas and his family will be able to make it up for that one :) Also, I think my sisters will have one for me at the beginning of July. I think I've finally settled on guest lists for those last two showers. I'm trying not to double-invite people to my showers so that no one feels obligated to get me anything each time. Also, I'm trying to coordinate groups of people who would mesh well together, so no one feels out of place or anything. (I think that's the teacher coming out in me!)

One thing that I've been able to stay on top of is writing thank you notes. I'm very glad that I've been able to manage that, as I hate having those loom over my head. Also, I think I've pleasantly surprised people by how quickly I've managed to get those out to them. One of Thomas' family friends called his mom and asked if I wrote them on my way home from the shower because she received it so quickly! Kudos to my mom for instilling in me that thank you's should be sent promptly! Now for me to keep that up :)

Speaking of the teacher coming out of me, I feel like I've become extra OCD, but I know it'll be for my sanity's sake in the end...I decided to create an excel spreadsheet that details the times that everything needs to happen during the wedding weekend. I'm hoping that it'll be helpful for all of the people in our wedding party so that there is no ambiguity as to when things are happening (pictures, line-ups, etc.). So many planning tasks will beckon me after school is out!

Big tasks that still beckon us are picking out cakes with our cake lady, finalizing details with our DJ, picking out artificial flowers/reception centerpieces with Clemy, meeting with our priest again, picking outfits for the small boys, getting my dress altered, having pre-bridal pictures done, sending invitations...oh yeah, and packing up my belongings/moving to Texas. There's still lots to do, but we'll get it done! I'm trying to just enjoy the ride!

Okay, I'll leave you with a few pictures from all of the showers. They're too great NOT to share!

Centerpieces for our fiesta-themed shower!
As you'll see, they were the real hit of the shower!

Thomas' cousin McKenna and his sister Elizabeth

Kyle LOVED the decor...obviously.

Thomas' dad, Steve, and Steve's brother Jay (one of our hosts)

Quite possibly one of my favorite pictures....
Mom, me, and Aunt Pat

Thomas' uncle and aunt, Bob and Jan
(Jan is one of Steve's sisters.)

Diana's brother Ross and his beautiful family!
L-R: Ross, William, Juliette, McKenna, and Michaela
(Michaela was our photographer for the evening!)

Oh yeah, I guess I should include a picture of us :)
Love this man!

My nephews really LOVED the decor. They're a mess, but I love them too!

McKenna, Elizabeth, William, and Michaela

Thomas' neighbors, the Howe family!
Such lovely people!

Our hosts for the night, Mark and Jay!

I also love this picture of Diana and me. I think this is the first picture of its kind! 
Me and Mom at my work shower.
Look at those gorgeous centerpieces!

All of my hostesses for my work shower!
Love them and how much work they put into the shower!
I promise another post is in the works about everything else, I'll try to post that soon! Happy Friday!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March Happenings!

Okay, this is long overdue, but I'm finally finding enough time to string together what I've been up to over the past few months! (Yikes, I cringe at's literally been months...oops!)

So much has happened, where shall I start? Let's start with the good plans! A few weeks ago, mom and I found the flower girl dresses at Burlington Coat Factory! They're absolutely beautiful, flowy, and perfect. Even better, they were much less expensive than we were anticipating! On a related note, the bridesmaids dresses finally arrived! I was oh so excited about them until I let Liz, Gina, and Emily try theirs on. Much to the dismay of me and my mom (and dad for that matter), the dresses weren't fitting anyone, and they didn't lack that much space of zipping. We were beside ourselves, knowing that it already took almost 3 months for them to arrive initially, wondering how on earth we could possibly finagle reordering them. Then, Mom decided to manhandle the dresses a little, and a small miracle occurred! With a little effort, the dresses zip and fit beautifully. Thankfully, all the dresses will need to be taken in and hemmed a little bit, but those are all quick, easy fixes! Whew! Also, I went for my makeup trial with my makeup artist. She didn't go all out on it since it was just a trial, but I was still pleased with the results, nonetheless! The last big development is that Mom and I talked to our florist and have picked out flowers! So many big things have been taken care of, and the big day is quickly approaching! (Not that I'm excited or anything 😉)

Now that it's getting closer (we're close to the 4-month mark), it's time for the next phase--showers! We just celebrated our first shower, which was thrown by Jay and Mark (Thomas' uncles). It was a lovely evening! It was a fiesta themed shower thrown at a Mexican restaurant in Dallas. The shower was thrown especially for Thomas' family so no one would feel especially obligated to attend a shower in Oklahoma (as at least 2 or so are likely). All of our families were in attendance, which was especially awesome! It was my family's first time to be down here to meet the remainder of Thomas' family. It was a bit of a treacherous drive down last Friday, as we were in the midst of the mass exodus from Oklahoma to Texas at the beginning of spring break. It felt as though we spent more time in standstill traffic than we did driving at highway speeds. For reference, a drive that should take about 4-4.5 hours took us almost 6-6.5 hours. It was frustrating to say the least. However, we ended up having a great time once we all made it! I've come to realize just how much I love getting the two families together. It makes me a little sad to think that that will take quite a bit of orchestrating to make that happen in the future. I still just consider myself doubly blessed to be marrying into a wonderful, loving family!

While I'm thinking about Dallas, I guess I should mention some of the developments that have taken place in our "resettling" process. Thomas is still staying with his parents for at least another couple of months, but, have no fear! We have put down a deposit on an apartment! We spent one painstaking Saturday driving all over town trying to find an apartment complex that was safe, clean, well-managed, and affordable. We're hoping that we have chosen well. Thomas is hoping to move in sometime in May so that he'll have plenty of time to get everything settled before I get there. From a location standpoint, we are confident in that, as we are right by the intersection of 2 major toll roads. It shouldn't pose too much of an issue for any commutes either! Speaking of commutes, I've interviewed with a few schools down here and am feeling fairly confident. Of course, I'd appreciate some prayers. I'll elaborate more when I have some definite good news, but for now I'll just leave it at that. Hopefully you can understand that. Let's hope I have lots of great news in the coming weeks and months!

As for work, it's going. I was very happy to make it to spring break with my sanity intact. Really it wasn't too stressful until the last week or two, but then everything (and everyone) started going crazy all at once. Now that we're at spring break, we're officially in the home stretch. That is equal parts exciting and terrifying. State testing is rapidly approaching, but so is summer. Keeping my students reined in for the next 8 weeks could be fairly challenging, because in their minds, nothing matters after spring break. I'm also slowly realizing that my time there is quickly coming to an end. I'm also quickly approaching my last day with my students. I'm sure that they won't miss me that much, but I know that it'll make me at least a little sad to part ways with them.

My family has been up to all kinds of things. Wyatt celebrated his 11th birthday, and a few weeks later was healed enough to have his cast removed! He was happy to go back to the two-armed life! The boys are all growing so much...Cody is now officially as tall as I am! I feel a little bit old (and short). In other birthday news, my mom celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago! We had a lovely day putzing around in OKC, taking care of a few things. I so love the days I get to spend with her. They make me happy! Thomas also celebrated his birthday last week! He's still doing well and enjoying being back in Dallas, thanks for asking. As of late he has become re-involved with his old Boy Scout troop as an assistant scoutmaster. (He is an Eagle Scout, did I ever mention that?) I think he likes being able to give back to an organization that has given so much to him, not to mention the fact that it gives him a little more purpose. During Thomas' birthday weekend, we celebrated the first quarter birthdays with the Liese family. We had a lovely evening feasting on brisket and chocolate cake, among other things!

Of course, now that it's March, we're only about a week out from my birthday! I have started to realize that since I turned 21, it's hard for me to remember exactly how old I am. Oh well, as long as I'm still alive, that's all that matters to me! I really love my birthday, but it also makes me a little sad anymore, because I'm so used to celebrating it alongside Mimi, whose birthday would be on the 18th. If she were still alive, she'd be 99 this year. This also means we're coming up on two years since she died (the 26th). It makes me have a love/hate relationship with the month of March. I guess I'm glad that Thomas is a March baby as well, so that it can somewhat help me to get my mind off of being sad about Mimi. Two years later, and I still cry over Mimi's death. My heart still stings when I think about her and how wonderful of a person she was. My heart still longs to hear her voice, to hold her hand, to tell her about my life, to laugh with her, to just share life with her.

I'm sure you wonder why her death affects me more than the death of any of my other grandparents. Yes, I miss them all. The thing is that both Grandpa Rudy and Grandma Hladik both died when I was eleven, within a couple months of each other. Grandpa Rudy fought long and hard with skin cancer, Grandma fought with dementia. They weren't in the best of health for most of the time I was around them, and they died when I was a child. Grandpa Hladik died back in 1987, long before I was ever thought of. He died of lung cancer, as he was a lifelong smoker. I would have loved to meet him, as we had many common interests, so I've been told. I would have loved to hear his war stories, as I'm fascinated by WWII. We both love(d) the rosary. But Mimi was different. She was alive and well for almost all of my life. Really, up until the last 1.5 months of her life, she was easy to talk to and full of life. For 11 years, she was my only living grandparent and was a true rock for me. We learned so much from each other, and we really were able to just be there for each other. I guess the old saying is true that when someone you love dies, you never get over it, but you get used to it.

I'm going to try to stay on the bright side and focus on the here and now. Life's too short and too good to focus on what makes you sad! Love and peace to you all!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thoughts on Senseless Loss

Hello all, it sure has been a while since I’ve last written, huh? Life has been good, and I have been more than sufficiently busy living it! I had a few thoughts floating around in my head, and I felt inspired to share them with you tonight.

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”-Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NABRE)

This passage of scripture showed up in my Facebook feed today, and my mind kept looping back to it throughout my day, so I figured God wanted me to think about it a little more.

The last few days have been filled with sadness for many in the area, as a beloved man in the community passed away in a tragic car accident. He was a highly respected and loved high school math teacher who was driving home from watching his students play basketball. A drunk driver who was on the run from law enforcement was going the wrong way on the highway and hit him head-on. Here, we have an innocent bystander, a beloved educator who had touched countless lives throughout his 20-year teaching career, a veteran of the United States Army who proudly served his country for many years, a devoted family man who left behind a wife, seven children, and multiple grandchildren, a staunch Catholic who was uncompromising in his convictions, yet merciful and humble, lost his life.

Situations like these make my head spin. I remember feeling the same way when my uncle Joe was killed in his bicycle accident. Random, senseless deaths have the power to shake us to our core. They make even the most faithful of persons wonder what God is thinking, wonder how such a kind and loving God could do this, wonder how it could ever be fair that people have to endure hardships such as these. Deaths as these tear us down, shatter our sense of peace, break us to our very core.

So often they make us lament, “Why God? Why? How could you? How could this possibly be for the good of your kingdom? WHY?!”

Sudden, tragic deaths as these leave us with more questions than answers. Family members never truly get closure. Healing is made more difficult by encountering situations that remind us of the death, like doing what we did on the day the death happened, driving by the scene of the accident, going back to their home, seeing their belongings, seeing something (however insignificant it may be) that triggers those feelings of despair, sadness, and pain.

We live in a world surrounded by pain. Every day people face situations such as these. Every day, people lose loved ones to senseless acts of violence, negligence, or disregard. Innocent people’s lives are cut short because someone acted impulsively, or simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. People lose their lives because of who they are, what they believe, or what they look like. Our world is a tragic, broken place. We can bury our heads in the sand, disregard what is said on the news, or try to avoid it altogether, but it doesn’t mean that people aren’t experiencing this hurt. We can ignore it, but it doesn’t change the reality. We tend to ignore these hurts until they smack us in the face where we can’t ignore them.

Life is hard, especially when you have to keep plugging on with your daily life while muddling through loss. Death stops for no one and nothing. So what do you do?

I can’t answer this question. I wish I could, but I can’t. Everyone copes with death differently, and I’m not about to toss out advice I probably have no business giving. For me, I handle death the best by viewing it through eyes of faith, so my advice would be along those lines. Here I come back to my original point with the passage from Ecclesiastes, that there is a season for things, and God’s hand guides it all, both good and bad. We don’t get to pick when God’s will unfolds. We don’t get to choose what God wants to happen. We are given these seasons of life, and we have to make the best of them, reacting to them as gracefully as possible.

My heart breaks for this wonderful man’s family. I was confirmed with one of his daughters, so I had the opportunity to know him personally and learn much about our Catholic faith from him. He truly was a gem. He was a humble servant of the Lord who touched many lives during his time on this earth. We lost a great man this weekend. Now, all we can do is imitate his life and try to do as he did and strive daily to make the world a better, more loving, more peaceful place than it was the day before. Hug your loved ones extra tonight. Let them know they’re loved by you. Be at peace with all in your life. This life is fleeting, and we never know when God will call us home.

Peace to you all, wherever you may be. If you would, say a few extra prayers for those mourning the loss of this great man, I know it’d mean the world to them.