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.