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 library...it 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.