Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmastime Happenings

Here's a smattering of what I've been up to since last time I posted...

I am currently in my third week of being an engaged woman, and I still am getting used to it! I often find myself referring to Thomas as my boyfriend, then immediately realizing that he's now my fiance! We have done a few wedding planning-type things, but nothing too much yet. The biggest reason stems from our one big choice...the date! After a little bit of thought, we've settled on July 15, 2017 as the big day!!! Yes, I know, July in Oklahoma is borderline insane, but it'll be just fine! We've also pretty well picked out our wedding party. Although I easily could have picked more, I've settled on six bridesmaids. A good part of having a full Catholic wedding Mass is the fact that you get to include even more friends/family because you need lectors/altar servers/gift bearers/Eucharistic Ministers/etc. That alone made my bridesmaid choice a little easier! I like that we have a longer engagement, because the chaos will be more spread out, but I also find myself wanting to hurry up and get lots of stuff figured out. I'm in a weird in-between time of it being too soon to book some things or to go dress shopping. Wedding planning will most likely be in full swing once school is out in May! 

In a similar vein, telling people about our engagement has been lots of fun! The days immediately proceeding our engagement were filled with phone calls, long conversations, and an onslaught of social media attention. I LOVED getting to tell our family members and our St. John's friends who have fully seen Thomas and I's relationship come to fruition. (Fun fact: Many of our SJ friends secretly wanted Thomas and I to date long before we realized it...sometimes, you just know!) Letting my students know was also fun, but I never directly told them...I waited for them to notice my ring :) It turns out that high school students are much more observant of those things than I gave them credit for! All but two of my classes picked up on it on the first day! 

Speaking of students, I'm officially done with my first semester of teaching! It was a whirlwind, but I'm still surviving! Semester testing left me fairly unscathed, and I had all of my grades in by the time I left for break! Woohoo!!! (Let's temporarily disregard the fact that I still have lessons to plan for all classes within the next week...we don't need that kind of negativity!) I'm not looking forward to next semester, only because it is absurdly busy between extracurriculars, testing, and everything else. 

This past weekend, I took the train down to Dallas to see Thomas and my future in-laws! I had a great time getting to be in the big city, which really helped to get me in vacation mode! Highlights of this trip included Thomas's middle school reunion (yes, that really happened), an engagement party of sorts (thrown by Thomas's parents!), a Christmas light "tour", dinner with two of Thomas's cousins, and lots of fun relaxation! The engagement party was great because it allowed me to meet lots of Thomas's family friends/neighbors who I always hear about but have yet to meet. As always, the trip went much too quickly, but Thomas will be making his way down here tomorrow for our Christmas festivities :)

Ah, yes, Christmas. I really haven't been much in the Christmas spirit this year. At first, I attributed it to being busy with the end of the semester and whatnot, but once I finished school, I realized that I just wasn't feeling it as much this year. I mean, I've purchased my gifts, wrapped them, listened to every version of almost every Christmas carol, but I still just didn't feel right. It wasn't until yesterday when I was out finishing up my shopping that I got to the root of my issue. I miss Mimi. A lot. 

I like to think I've handled her death pretty gracefully so far, knowing that she couldn't live forever and that she was in no condition to keep living the way she was. Starting work, people's birthdays, and even Thanksgiving wasn't as difficult as I anticipated it to be (until Aunt Carol died that day). But yesterday, I really hurt. I found myself crying through the opening verses of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" at Mass last night (that's always one of my favorites). I saw a "Dennis the Menace" Christmas special on TV and practically lost it. I guess I never truly realized how big of a part Mimi played in my Christmas traditions until now. 

Christmas Eve for the past five or so years has consisted of me picking Mimi up from her house, bringing her over for a nice three-course supper of salad, roast or salmon, and chocolate pudding dessert (foods she enjoyed but rarely ate). We'd always have the classic TV show channel playing and one year in particular, I remember seeing that same "Dennis the Menace" special while she was there. I remember proudly walking into church with Mimi in tow, sitting next to her and holding her hymnal while we gleefully sang the Christmas carols. I remember everyone flooding us after Mass to tell her hello and wish her a Merry Christmas. I remember taking her home, when she'd sometimes get her Christmas gifts from us. Mom would usually find her a nice Alfred Dunner outfit or a pajama set. She'd always cry tears of joy becuase of how beautiful her new outfits were, a trademark of people who grew up during the Depression. We'd leave her after she was ready for bed, and we'd gleefully tell each other, "Merry Christmas!" Going home was very serene. 

This is Christmas Eve to me, and it will always be that way in my mind. This year was different, and I'm sure new traditions will come about through the years, especially after Thomas and I get married and start a family. Even so, my heart hurts right now. Not only do I miss Mimi, but I also miss Uncle Joe and Aunt Carol. I miss going to Uncle Joe and Aunt Genevieve's beautiful home and enjoying meat that he smoked especially for the occasion. I miss telling him about all that I've been up to since the last time we spoke. I even miss him trying his hardest to convince me to be an engineer like he was! I miss seeing and laughing with Aunt Carol when we celebrated Christmas at Mimi's house. I miss her big hugs and her booming laugh. I miss it all. 

I know it's not right to dwell on the past because it keeps us from enjoying the present, but right now it's one thing that brings me a little bit of solace, even if it still makes me sad. I know death isn't the end and that they're all waiting for me and that love transcends death. I get it. I'm still sad, and I still miss them, but life goes on. 

On a less depressing note, we're having our Christmas festivities tomorrow. Because we love non-traditional Christmas food, we're having a collection of soups, salads, and breads. I'm also making a coconut cheesecake, just for Scotty! Thomas will even get to join us! :) This will be my first time to have someone here with me for a Hladik Christmas! I'm really excited!

The weather forecast isn't looking too promising for this weekend, which bums me out a little bit. I don't mind some snow, but I really hate ice and sleet, which is what they're mostly predicting. Fingers crossed that they're wrong and that our electricity stays intact for the duration!!!!! 

Stay warm, and have a very Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Power of Yes (A Love Story)

At some point in each person’s life, you’re placed in a situation where you have to make a decision that seems relatively small at the time, but ends up playing into every other aspect of your life. For me, I’d say the best example of a choice like this was when Thomas asked me to go on a date with him initially.

Here’s the thing: Thomas and I had known each other and had been friends for almost 1.5 years at the time. His asking me on a date was COMPLETELY unexpected. I had no idea what to think. Honestly, it didn’t seem all that appealing at the time. I wasn’t really interested in him, I thought we were too different, and I really just wasn’t sure what would happen. But there I was, hearing the man with the deepest, most resonant voice I know tripping over and stuttering out the words to ask me on a date. I could tell this meant something to him. I could tell he didn’t want to just go on a date and call it good. He had intentions. The good kind. Even with all of my apprehensions, I was bowled over by his sincerity and boldness. With all of the fear in my heart, I said yes to the date. We agreed to discuss it further through the week, but went our separate ways from there.

Through the week, I told a few of our mutual friends about what happened. As I told the story more and more, I could feel my heart softening and becoming more receptive. As I laid out a few of my concerns, they managed to quell each of them and tell me little tidbits about Thomas to put me at ease. The more I learned about him, the more I realized that I was hasty in my initial assumptions. The more I learned about him, the more I realized that we just might be more similar than I ever could have anticipated. The more I learned about him, the more excited I was about our upcoming date. I realize now that God really worked through everyone I told about it to help prepare and open my heart for what was ahead.

Finally, the big night came. He picked me up at St. John’s, and we headed to dinner. We talked more about where we grew up, our families, our majors, our goals, and just about everything else under the sun. As we talked more, I could feel something changing deep inside. After dinner, we decided that the night was too young to call it quits, so we went to Boomer Lake, a man-made lake on the north edge of Stillwater. We decided to start walking around the lake and talking. We didn’t realize it, but it was a LONG walk, easily a mile or two. We filled the entire walk with stories from our younger years or other tidbits about our families. After we finally made it back around and to an open park bench, we were happy to sit down. As we sat down, we happened to notice a big, bright shooting star right in front of us, something we both internally hoped was a harbinger of good things. Our conversation on the bench made me realize that we were scarily similar on many things. I was so happy I said yes to the date! Eventually, the cool December air was too much for us, so we walked back to the vehicle. During this walk, we decided that a) since we had known each other for so long, and b) since it was going so well, that we were ready to start dating each other exclusively.

Maybe we should have waited to make that decision, but we didn’t. From that point, we had about a week together before Thomas had to go home to Texas for a month. That month was super challenging, but really what has made our relationship what it is now. There’s nothing like finally having a boyfriend and not being able to see him. Early on, we started calling each other most every night, much to our families’ chagrin, admittedly. That time apart really allowed us to get to know each other more deeply. It also cemented the fact that we shared a deep admiration for one another, and we didn’t want that to change. I wouldn’t trade that month for the world.

From the time he returned, our relationship was a whirlwind of excitement and adventure. We spent 
countless hours talking, laughing, crying, studying, planning, supporting, traveling, and just being together. Over the past year, Thomas has become one of my best friends in the whole world. He understands me in ways I never dreamed possible. He exceeds my wildest expectations of what I thought my next relationship would be. He makes all of the sadness, heartbreak, loneliness, and emptiness I felt in so many other “relationships” worth every second. He shows me God’s love each and every day. He helps me to continually grow into the person I aspire to become. He is the answer to so many prayers.

I love reflecting on the many facets of and experiences from our relationship. As of late, it has become interesting because Thomas has been doing a considerable amount of job hunting, as most college seniors do. He’s considered all sorts of positions in all sorts of locations, but he has made the decision to accept a job with JB Hunt this coming summer! I am beyond proud of him and all that he has accomplished thus far. It’s going to be an interesting transition for us, but hopefully we’ll adjust well!

Oh wait…there’s more!

You see, once Thomas began job hunting, we began feeling a call on our hearts from God that our relationship was called to something different than we anticipated. Albeit much sooner than we anticipated, we started discerning whether we were called, as a couple, to the vocation of marriage. Through a few months of prayer, deep discussion with our families, and lots of time weighing our options, we made a decision.

On Friday, December 4th, after attending the Waukomis HS basketball homecoming festivities, Thomas took me to my favorite place in the world—the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima at my church in Bison. After spending a few moments together in silent prayer, we were about to leave when Thomas dropped to one knee, pulled out a ring from a box in his pocket, and asked me to marry him!!!!!!!!!

Amid shrieks and tears of joy, I said yes!

I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with this amazing man!

Today, I’m BEYOND grateful that I put aside my selfish concerns and was open to God’s will for my life. Today, I’m BEYOND grateful that I didn’t let fear get in the way of the rest of my life.
Today, I’m BEYOND grateful for the love Thomas and I share.
Today, I’m the happiest woman in the world! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gratitude and Sadness

Hello all, and a Happy Thanksgiving to all who are reading this! Today is a day when we all pause more than usual to give thanks for all that God has blessed us with. I am thankful for the blessings I've received that allow me to live the life I live that is so full of great people and opportunities!

However, today was a Thanksgiving unlike any other. Today, my mom's sister, my Aunt Carol, passed away unexpectedly. We're not really sure why or how, but all we know is that she has gone on to join Mimi, Grandpa Rudy, and her son, Keith. It still hasn't completely hit me, as I'm sure it won't for a day or so, but I feel a great sadness in my soul, even if I know that she has fulfilled all that God has called her to in her earthly life.

Right now, I ask that you please say a prayer for my family, especially my Uncle Neil and her sons and grandchildren, as well as my mom and her siblings. Even more, pray that her soul may find peace in God's presence.

Aunt Carol was a beautiful woman who brought joy to the lives of many people. She was always quick to make jokes and be a light to many. For many years, she touched the lives of countless students as she worked as a school bus driver in her community, the same community in which I now teach. She was a good, loving woman who left before we had the chance to say goodbye.

As an amateur writer, I can appreciate boldness on anyone's part to write something that you're willing to let the whole world see. Very few people knew this, but my Aunt Carol had a way with words, especially in the form of poetry. When my sister Michelle passed away, she wrote a poem to memorialize her, which was sung at the funeral and engraved on Michelle's tombstone. With my mom's permission, I now share some of my aunt's writing that is quite apt for today.

Michelle's Angel Wings

I was on earth but for a while, 
to make you glad to give a smile.
I must move on to other things, 
I'll try on my Angel's Wings.

Cry for me, if cry you must, 
But in God, place your trust.
Give a shout of joy and sing,
I will fly with my Angel's Wings! 

All those I love I've left behind 
To each other please be kind 
I sleep now with Christ our King 
I will soar with my Angel's Wings 

Goodbye, Aunt Carol. I love you, and I hope to see you again one day!

Monday, November 16, 2015

October/November Update!

Oh goodness, where shall I start this time?

Leading with the obvious, teaching is still going well, all things considered. I think it's normal for teachers to feel a little cynical/worn out by this time of year, which is convenient because that's essentially where I am. Overall, I'm settling into a pretty good pattern of balancing work things with, oh, I don't know, maybe actually having a life?! I'm starting to learn how to set boundaries with work and home. The biggest break-through I've had to date has been making the decision that, unless I have VERY good reason to, to leave work by 5 PM. Technically, we only have to be there until 3:30, but if you know anything about teachers, you know that most of them almost never leave "on time". Maybe this seems obvious to some, but I've found that that time of afternoon is when I'm at my most productive and when I'm the most awake, so I can generally accomplish quite a bit! If I leave then, I'm able to do good work and still have enough mental fuel left to come home and do a few things (i.e. cooking, dishes, laundry, relaxing...but not blogging...obviously). Planning for three different math classes is a bit of a stretch at times, but I'm making it work as well as I can.

Overall, I feel like working at my school has taught me quite a bit about how to be more self-reliant, especially when I'm the only full-time HS math teacher in the building. However, being the only full-time member of my department is a double-edged sword. Sometimes I find myself wanting more people who really get what I do who can give me more feedback. Other times, I enjoy not having to worry about stepping on other math teachers' toes with my methods. Give and take, I suppose. Maybe teaching isn't all that I thought it'd be, but it's still a good, fulfilling career.

Obviously, I haven't just been teaching over the last month or so...I do have a real life, I promise! One of the better things I've been able to do is attend a few OSU football games with Thomas and my St. John's friends!! By sheer luck, I was able to attend both the homecoming game (vs. KU) and the incredible TCU game a couple weeks ago. The TCU game was the most fun I've had in quite some time! The fact that we showed up and played so well in a high-stakes game made it lots of fun! I'm really looking forward to attending the Baylor game this coming if the weather will cooperate and not be completely icky, that'll make everything even better! (Well, besides us winning...that'd DEFINITELY make things better!!!)
Homecoming game vs. KU
OSU vs. TCU!
Thomas's parents came up for the TCU game, so we were able to spend a good part of Saturday with them. We started early by going to Diana's (Thomas's mom) cousin's daughter's apartment in town for breakfast. This cousin also has a son who is a center on the football team, so it was fun for me to see that connection much better! (No, he didn't join us for breakfast...he had more important tasks at hand!) After breakfast, we meandered over to the St. John's tailgate lunch. Steve and Diana sat separately from Thomas and me during the game, but we reunited post game so we could go to supper. Because everything lined up so well, the four of us were able to meet my parents for dinner at El Vaquero (the BEST Mexican restaurant in Stilly). Mom had been wanting to go for almost a year, so we finally made that dream come true! Everyone had a GREAT time together, with lots of stories and laughter shared by all. Thomas and I both loved having our parents together with us...the fact that everyone meshed so well made it even better! What a blessing it is to have both sets of parents get along so well!
Me, Thomas, Diana, and Steve
Speaking of Thomas, he is currently in the thick of interviews and wrapping up his next-to-last semester of college. He is ready to graduate and be done, but I know it'll be here before he realizes it! His bigger job interviews are coming over the course of the next week, so please keep him in your prayers!!! :) I'm so proud of him and all the great work he's done this semester/throughout college, so I know he'll find a wonderful job! He definitely deserves it!!! Otherwise, we're edging up on one year of us dating, which is pretty surreal!! If you would've told me a year ago that I'd end up dating him, of all people, and being so deeply in love with him, I wouldn't have believed it. Yet, here I am, continually amazed by how wonderful he is and how great of a fit he is for me! God has blessed me SO MUCH! I can't wait to see what lies ahead of us, even with all of the challenges that life will throw at us. I'm certain that there's no one in the world I'd rather face those challenges with than Thomas!!!

In the midst of all of this, Jakub turned two...yes, we officially have another two-year-old on our hands, and he is very much in the thick of the Terrible Twos. But he's also really cute and funny, so that makes up for a lot of the frustration Jake can cause! :)
I love this crazy, sassy, sweet two-year-old!
This past weekend was fairly eventful in and of itself. I spent the bulk of Saturday at my old high school serving as a judge for a quiz bowl tournament. This was something that I did mostly because I love quiz bowl, but I realized how big of an honor it is to be asked back as a former player to judge. I had a blast, even in the couple of dicey moments! Even better, I was able to see my students play during both of their games! (I like to think they enjoyed seeing me there, too!) On Sunday, we gathered the whole family up to do something we've NEVER done since Gina and Emily have been married or had children--we had professional full-family pictures taken. The impetus for this was the fact that almost 4-year-old Cole noticed that there are literally no family pictures in existence that include him. Gina also realized that the same was true for Jakub. (#youngestkidprobs #storyofmylife) Thus, we called upon Gina's babysitter who is breaking into photography. We were a little nervous that the weather wouldn't hold out for us, as there was rain in the forecast, but we were fortunate that everything went well! Our picture location was in the midst of some trees around a creek near our houses, so we were also sheltered from most of the piercing winds! (As a fringe benefit, the boys were able to run around amid the trees and sticks...they were in heaven!) Afterwards, we loaded the memory card on Thomas's computer to get a sneak peek...the pictures were AWESOME!!!! I can't wait to have actual prints of them in a few weeks!!!

The best news I have now is that four school days are all that is separating me from a week-long Thanksgiving break!!! Hallelujah and happy day! I don't have any major plans for my break besides conquering some lesson planning (boring, I know) and resting a little bit. Christmas break (3-ish weeks after break) is looking a bit more exciting, as I have already purchased train tickets to go visit Dallas for a few days before Christmas! I think Thomas will be coming up around New Year's Eve, so we won't have a month apart like we did last year during the break! Here's hoping the weather will hold up all around so that these plans can come to pass!

I'm starting to fade quickly, so I'll cut it off here! Hope all is well wherever you may be!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Back at Last!

Yes, I'm still here and haven't been eaten alive by my students! The last few months (yes, months) have been a blur of all sorts of craziness and excitement. Believe it or not, as of next Tuesday, I will have been teaching for 9 weeks. One quarter of a school year has already passed. WOW. I could hem and haw about how it has been going for me, but I'll sum it up to say that I'm surviving. Some days I feel like I'm thriving, but those days aren't so frequent, if we're being honest. I'm perpetually up to my ears in lesson planning and/or grading. I have a limited social life, if any, and my "free time" is usually spent on work or sleep. For now, this is the new normal for me. 

My classes aren't too bad. There's really only one that is a bit of a challenge. I found out quickly that I do, in fact, have a teacher voice! My students are forever commenting on how uncanny it is that I can go from being cordial to calling out a student's behavior in nothing flat. I have to be more mean than I care to be in order to be taken seriously/respected by my students. I don't like being mean. I think my meanness was at peak level last week when I realized that students stole a box of rubber bands from the top of my desk and were using them to shoot paper hornets at each other. I promptly put an end to that by clipping the rubber bands and shredding their paper hornets to pieces. It was a bit brash, but I have found MUCH less evidence of hornets on my floor. I still don't like being mean. 

It turns out that my resting mean face has its perks as a teacher. Students making inappropriate comments are often tricked into thinking that I heard what they said just by looking at my face. Most of the time, I never hear what they say, but they don't know any better. That makes my life a little bit easier! Students also cuss...a LOT. They somehow forget that you're in the room and drop f-bombs, etc. galore. I'm pretty quick to put the nix on that. Last week, I told a student that she was a student in a classroom, not a sailor in a bar, so she needed to speak like one. Everyone else got a kick out of it, and I didn't hear any more cussing from her for the rest of the class period! You have to be quick-witted to be a teacher. 

Honestly, I have days where I feel like a mixture of all kinds of teachers from TV. Some days, I feel like Ms. Frizzle, teaching students the cool stuff about math and where it came from. Some days, I feel like Mr. Kotter, trying my darnedest to keep the Sweat Hogs in line. Some days I feel like Mr. Feeny, giving life advice to teenagers. Then I have the days where I feel like the Economics teacher from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", rambling on and on while my students nod off. No teacher is perfect, right? I always feel like I could do more and do better things, but such is life...

My students are particularly interested in my personal life, like what I do on the weekends (very little), if I have kids or am married (no, I don't), if I have a boyfriend (yes), how I met my boyfriend (at church in Stillwater), what church (the Catholic one), what my boyfriend does (he's still a student), what he's studying (agribusiness), if he's going to come to our school and replace their ag teacher who they don't like (no), or when my birthday is (none of their business). Yes, this was a conversation I had with one of my classes towards the beginning of the year! They're forever asking about Thomas and our weekend adventures. Heaven only knows what they'll ask after they see us at the football game tomorrow night!! 

This is really where my story takes off, with Thomas. He, along with my family, has been a rockstar since the beginning of the year! He is forever keeping me sane and laughing. He always does his best to help me keep a clear perspective! I still hate the fact that I only get to see him on the weekends, but I know that it could be much, much worse. He is currently in the thick of job searching, now that he is a senior. He has already interviewed with three different companies! It seems crazy to think that in seven months, he'll be in the adult world like me! It is wild to imagine that he'll be settling somewhere soon. I cannot say with any degree of certainty what the future will hold for us, although Thomas and I both have a few ideas of what we'd like to have happen, although that's really looking a decent while into the future. He is the highlight of every day and one of my best friends I've ever had. I love him so much! 

About three weeks ago, my family lost a great man, my beloved Uncle Joe. He was out riding his bicycle in the early evening and was hit by a car. It was very unexpected and quite tragic, but that's the way life goes sometimes. His funeral was a beautiful, Christ-filled remembrance of Uncle Joe's great life. I thought I'd have to miss school for the first time this year, but by some miracle (if you want to call it that) the water main in town broke, and school was canceled on the day of the funeral. Uncle Joe always had a sense of humor like that...I suppose he wanted me to be able to be fully present while I was there. Uncle Joe was always one of my favorite people in the world, especially among my dad's family. You see, being the youngest as I am, I was often overlooked/ignored by the majority of the family. I have had very few genuine conversations with most of my cousins. I don't really know most of my aunts and uncles that well. I never even met Grandpa Hladik, my cousin Todd (Uncle Joe & Aunt Genevieve's son who died in the late 80's), or my own sister. I come from a separate generation and I just don't identify with any of them. (I'm not trying to play the victim here, but experiencing this gets old after a while.) Uncle Joe was the one person who consistently talked to me, included me, and made me feel loved by my family. He invested in my life and he cared. He and Aunt Genevieve were some of the few people who attended my OSU graduation ceremony. I loved him dearly, and I know that I'll feel an emptiness the next time the family is together. Life goes on, though, and here we are, coming close to a month since he died. Until next time, Uncle Joe!

This will forever be one of my favorite pictures, taken at Grandma Hladik's house, circa 1995-ish. 
All kinds of other things have been happening, but I'll let some pictures suffice...

Over Labor Day weekend, Thomas took me to visit his family in Dallas. During our trip, he encouraged me to buy my first article of camouflage clothing so that I can go hunting with him at some point soon! I promise I'm wearing pants in this picture, but the shirt is a men's XL (per Thomas's direction)! I would've never guessed that I'd own camo, much less have any logical reason to own any, but love makes a person do crazy things, right?! 

We also attended the annual Czech festival in West, TX, while we were there! We got a fun photo op while we were there! It was a blast and a half!!! 

During the first OSU home game, I happened to be given a ticket from a friend at church, so I decided to surprise Thomas! It was such a great time to spend with him! I have to admit, there is nothing like attending an OSU game and having a cute boy in tow to put his arm around you during the Alma Mater at the end! :) 

Next week is my first go at Parent-Teacher conferences, so that should be exciting! Shortly after that, Thomas and I will be headed to Texas to spend the weekend with his great family! They really are wonderful people! If you could, please keep his family in your prayers, as Thomas's paternal grandmother is entering her final days of life. She is almost 87 (I think) and has lived a beautiful, love-filled life. It'll be hard on them no matter when it happens, no doubt. I've been there not too long ago, and I still feel the sting of death every day. Such is life, loss happens each day, and we never really heal. We merely learn to move forward so that we can make the most of our own life while it remains.

Have a great week, everyone! Here's hoping it won't be so long between posts next time!

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.