Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I Think I Can, I Think I Can...

"She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."
Proverbs 31:25
I don't have much to say today that this verse can't sum up pretty well on its own. God is a big part of my life, and I lean on my faith a lot. Recently, life has been pretty hectic and I need to remember this verse more than ever. I am taking summer classes for the first time. I will begin my internship in August, where I will be living the life of a teacher for the first time every single day. In addition, I will be taking two classes, which just happen to fall on the same night at the same time. One professor offered to excuse me on the few nights the alternate class meets, which was a huge help. I also just found out about some graduation requirements, which I was not aware of. In addition, my boyfriend just moved back to Tallahassee to move in with his brothers and save some money in this economy, which puts him further away yet again. Needless to say, I am stressed beyond belief and anxious about the future. I want to remind myself of this every day, knowing I have the strength to face what comes my way.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

All That I'm After is a Life Full of Laughter...

I never write poetry, at all, but I so badly wish I could. I have recently been reading some of my classmates' blogs and I am enthralled by their poetry. It is original, creative, beautiful, symbolic. I have never been good at writing poetry, because I believe sharing it makes me so vulnerable. However, stealing an idea from my classmate Nancy, I'd like to give it a shot through an acrostic poem on happiness, and what it is that brings light and joy into my life. Interestingly enough, this was one blog that took me the longest to write. Perhaps I will improve with time, practice, and reading more poetry.
Hilton Head Island, my vacation spot for years, full of memories
Apple picking at orchards near my childhood home
Pets that love unconditionally, a lesson to us all
Places that I can travel to and explore, where only my mind's eye has been before
Intercoastal waterway afternoons, boating with friends, music blaring, sea salt in my hair
Never regretting a moment of time spent with family and loved ones
Enjoying a moment to myself, too, reading and relaxing
Sassy wit, that keeps me on my toes and my laughter flowing
Seem to fill up my life with light, meaning, and love

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top Ten!!!

I was inspired by a fellow blogger last week (Thanks, Julie!) to compile two Top Ten lists…one of things I love, and one of things I hate. It may be a short post, but it’s definitely thought out and gives you a better glimpse at who I am. Enjoy!

My Love List
1) God. I really love church and reading my daily devotional. It puts me in the right frame of mind each day.
2) Trashy reality TV. I hate to admit it, but I’m a sucker for The Real Housewives.
3) Going to pet stores or shelters. I love to look at and play with the puppies.
4) Halloween and Christmas. I can’t describe it, but these two holidays give me unspeakable joy and excitement. My decorating may be a bit overboard! (;
5) Ice cream. It’s a disease, I swear! It’s always been my weakness, and was a reward for my grades in high school and a bribe for remaining positive during surgery or at a doctor’s appointment to this day.
6) My family. Did I mention they are the ones who plagued me with my love of ice cream? But really, I am an only child and have the best mom and dad in the world. I don’t know what I would do without them…we have such fun together!
7) Feeling comfortable with people. I am lucky that I make friends quickly and easily, because I can only open up once I get to know people. Most teachers would think I am the shiest person around, but I am the life of the party with friends and family. I am always dancing, singing, saying off the wall things, and never sleeping. I love being able to be myself, and constantly feeling happy.
8) Medicine and doctors. You never remember how wonderful it is to be healthy until you are sick. I am so thankful medicine helps get us healthy faster or make us feel better in the meantime!
9) NPR. I just started listening to NPR this year, and it makes my drives out of town or to work in the morning SO good. I am not exaggerating; I look forward to driving now, even in traffic.
10) Getting e-mails/texts/Facebook notifications. Maybe it’s growing up in an era of technology, but I love seeing a notification telling me I have some sort of message. I always get excited about who it could be and what possible plans I have to look forward to. Don’t get me wrong, though, I am not attached to technology and LOVE face-to-face interaction tenfold! (=

My Numbered Negatives
1) Certain bicyclists. When bicyclists want the rights of cars, but don’t follow the traffic laws, it puts them in danger. I am also not a fan of them not wearing helmets.
2) Worry. Having a personality that is constantly anxious or worrying about anything you can imagine puts way too much stress on your body.
3) Negative messages. I especially dislike society’s emphasis on being “skinny” rather than healthy.
4) Judgment. I truly believe we should remove the plank in our own eye before lecturing about the speck of dust in someone else’s.
5) Name-dropping. I hate when people drop the name of a person or place, or even their salary figure, to try to impress you. Trust me, I find it much more impressive when you are humble.
6) Seafood. I wish I liked it because it is so healthy, but I don’t like the smell, taste, or idea of it. It’s a disappointment to my dad, but alas…
7) Interviews. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful when I get an interview. However, they make me so nervous, I find them incredibly awkward, and I hate when the company is unprofessional. If they say they will call by Thursday evening either way, and you get an e-mail the following Tuesday, it’s kind of the pits.
8) Crowds. I love people, but used to get panic attacks in very crowded places. I am a bit claustrophobic and need to be able to breathe, and see an escape route, ha ha! Also, in places like malls, airports, and especially Disney World, please move your giant party and stroller to the side to stop and look at the map. When crowds abruptly stop in the middle of a walkway and I run into them, it’s not the best of memories.
9) Drama/fighting. I like to let the little things go, and rarely get into fights with friends, family, or strangers. Sometimes I hear stories that simply don’t sound real, or I see people getting up in arms about a disagreement over Angry Birds on the iPhone. It’s just not for me.
10) Biting nails. Really, this one gets me. I don’t like to see it happening, see the end result, hear it, or anything. I don’t know why, but it gives me goose bumps and I just hate it! I had to sit with my neck in the most awkward position to avoid watching my roommate chomp away through an entire movie. I know it’s a habit, but I always have disliked it, always will.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fun, Fearless Friendship

I wanted to make today’s blog something that I hope will inspire and strike a chord. Of course, that involved some brainstorming. I thought about writing about family, as my parents visited me this past weekend and I feel incredibly blessed by the close bond I share with them. However, I think some events of the last week have led me in a different direction. Please bear with me if I ramble or go on, and on, and on.

My boyfriend recently had a phone interview for a position with Best Buddies International, which is a non-profit organization that advocates for those with disabilities. If he gets the job, he will travel to cities all over the United States to attend events that bring about awareness and promote friendship with those people that have disabilities. While these opportunities are both intimidating and exciting, it is his passion for this cause that I want to highlight more than anything else, because it has rubbed off on me.

There are two things that will, without a doubt, bring tears to my eyes every time. The first of these is seeing those in our community that are homeless and in need of basic necessities. I always keep little snacks and water in my car so that I can help in any small way. The second thing is when I see the pure joy in the face of those with any range of disabilities. So often we think that they face so many challenges and we feel sorry for them, but they seem more genuinely kind and happy than anyone I have ever met. This brings me such joy, myself, and makes me reevaluate the way I think and live. Meeting my boyfriend showed me this truth more than ever.

One of Joel’s younger sisters has Down Syndrome, and I have never seen her without a smile on, and she is always the life of the party, winning dance contests at her high school and being the most popular girl at church. Recently she and her mom were at the grocery store when she pointed at a magazine with some celebrity on the cover and said, “That’s my mom!” My boyfriend’s mom said, “I’m your mom, silly,” only to be told, “I mean my BIOLOGICAL mom.” She asked, “Wait, what? Well what about me?” Her daughter responded with an exasperated answer, saying “Sorry, Mom. She’s hot like me!” This story created waves of laughter to everyone who heard it, including me. But that’s my boyfriend’s sister- a jokester and the ultimate joy.

Sadly, sometimes people neglect to see this. While on the bus one day, she heard a fellow student talking negatively about her favorite teacher. When she stood up for him and said “Hey, he’s the best! Stop that,” the student responded by saying “Shut up, ya retard!” Luckily my boyfriend has many siblings, and his other sister was on the bus that day to stand up for her and report the vile student. Still, this is not an isolated incident. An adult woman in her forties told my boyfriend’s mom to “get that retard out of the way” at the grocery store. This makes me sick! Mary Kate is the most well behaved, kindest, funniest child you will ever meet, and you can count yourself lucky if you do. We all consider her a gift from God, and I wish our culture would change to reflect this.

Still, there is hope. Just as we have changed our world before, and demanded equal rights for women and those of a different race, I know we can demand the same for those with disabilities. They may process things slower or differently than we do, but that makes them unique, not ignorant. I think they know more about perseverance and true happiness than we do! They are faced with challenges, and one student even said that something as simple as making a friend can be the most difficult thing in the world for her. That is what Best Buddies tries to change, all over the world, in over 50 different countries. They seek to provide friendship, opportunity, and confidence. They seek to change our culture and put their organization out of business, because that means there is no longer a need to advocate for equality for those with disabilities. They are currently in a campaign to end the use of “the R-word,” and I challenge you all to strive for the same. In the meantime, I hope that my boyfriend can be part of this organization and change the social climate of today, as I truly believe that this issue deserves the attention that so many before have gotten. I was a Buddy in high school to a student with special needs, and it meant everything to me. Now, I know no one more passionate or fitting to try and change the world for those with disabilities than Joel, and I pray he gets this chance to. I promise that it would change the world for all of us, to be able to see everyone as the true gift and teacher that they can be, as my eyes have been opened to do. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes...

With it being spring break this week, I thought I'd go a little lighter on this blog. Also, I am currently in dream mode of the millions of place I want to be and things I want to do throughout this week, so I thought I'd share at least part of my bucket list. I'd love to hear from anyone who has done anything on the list; collaboration can always teach people something new, and that would be great!

My Bucket List

-Snorkel/Scuba/Cage Dive with sharks

-Learn to ride a bike (I really don't know how!)

-Visit Ireland, France, England, Spain, and Germany

-Live abroad in Europe

-Go paragliding

-Go whitewater rafting in/near the Grand Canyon

-Get married and have kids

-Join and become involved in a great church

-Own my own dog

-Volunteer regularly with a charity that means something to me. My main passions for volunteering involve those with disabilities, suicide prevention, and the homeless.

-Read more authors I was introduced to in undergrad (Ellis, Cheever, Updike)

-See Jason Aldean, Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, or Luke Bryan in concert (any of them!)

-Become Teacher of the Year

-Work my way into administration

-Go back to school for my law degree (and practice in education!)

-Learn to cook really well, and cook frequently

-Try snow-shoeing

-Meet a president

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February Fun!

This weekend proved to be rather busy. I took a trip up to Tallahassee, where I went to college and where all my closest friends live. I am the maid of honor in my close friend’s wedding, and I was in charge of throwing a bridal shower. Actually, make that a couple’s shower, per her request. That was quite a feat, but more about that later. My weekend started Thursday, with laundry, packing, errands, homework, and studying for a midterm I had on Tuesday. I then worked from 8-11 Friday morning, and headed straight to Tallahassee with my boyfriend. Talk about being busy!

I arrived in Tallahassee and headed to my best friend’s apartment, where I was staying. We’ve known each other 10+ years, so it’s always exciting to get to visit with her and her sister. When I walked in, I was greeted by her roommate, a dog, 2 cats, and countless other people. It brought a whole new meaning to the phrase “Animal House!” We then went downtown to my favorite local restaurant, and came back to the apartment to have some drinks and play games. It was a late night and early morning, so relaxing still wasn’t on the agenda.

The next day we were rushing around to get all the food and drinks for the shower, and prizes for the games. The entire weekend it poured, and the weather was just awful. While at the grocery store, my boyfriend’s flip flops broke and he wiped out in the middle of the parking lot. He ended up being fine, but he was sopping wet for the shower. The shower went well, but it was one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen. Call me traditional, but I am not used to a couple’s bridal shower. This shower boasted men, women, and people from ages 15 to 65. The gifts given ranged from kitchen appliances to lingerie. Needless to say, things were a little awkward. Getting everyone on the same page was a lot of work, but it helped me perfect my skills as a hostess. What I didn’t perfect, however, were my driving skills. Tallahassee is one of those rare Florida cities that actually have hills, and the house we hosted the shower at had the longest driveway, and atop a hill, no less, that I had ever seen. Around midnight, when we left, my tired and groggy self backed down the driveway and into a little ditch. 5 people and a few pushes later, we were on the road again.

We left after lunch on Sunday and drove the four hours back to town. It was nice seeing everyone, but I didn’t get to spend the time I wanted with my friends or do all the unique things I love to do in Tallahassee. In fact, the city didn’t quite feel the same anymore. It’s funny how things change. Nevertheless, it is always nice to get out of town for a while and spend time with those who know you best! Coming back to rainy weather and a midterm in the hardest class I have ever taken (Applied Linguistics) wasn’t ideal, but spring break is just around the corner. Thank goodness for that!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Love It or Leave It

In honor of Valentine’s Day (love it or hate it, I’m sorry!) I wanted to blog about something a little more personal to me. On Valentine’s Day, I spent the afternoon with my roommate, shopping and seeing the movie Safe Have. Run-in 1 with love. That same day, I received innumerable texts from friends. There’s run-in number 2. Over the weekend, my boyfriend came to visit and we spent a great time together. And that makes run-in number 3. My last run-in with love came on Saturday, when Joel and I met up with my family from Minnesota. They come to Orlando once a year, and I have tried, in recent years, to make sure and see them. It is my grandma’s sister and her kids, and maintaining a relationship with them, their kind words, and their lasting relationships with one another are all great reminders of love. Still, I am only 22 years old, so to say I am an expert on love would be like calling Kathy Griffin funny. However, I have been with my boyfriend for three years now, and we have plans to be married once I am out of school and on my feet. But first, responsibility calls. Still, it’s been a great three years and I’ve learned a lot along the way. With all that being said, I figured I’d write some relationship do’s and don’ts for long-term relationships based on experience. Maybe they can help, or maybe I’m too young to know what I’m saying. At the very least, I hope they entertain!

DO learn from each other! My boyfriend and I love politics but belong to different parties, and I’d be lying if I said he didn’t change my mind on a thing or two. Thank goodness for that; he’s opened my eyes and my mind, and everyone can handle a little dose of reality now and again.

DON’T read Cosmopolitan Magazine (well, sometimes, haha). I learned this the hard way, after one too many articles made me say, “Are ALL guys really like this?” I know I’d hate to think of my dad or my boyfriend the way they often paint men out to be. There is such thing at TMI.

DON’T give up due to distance. My boyfriend and I have been semi-long distance for a year and a half, and with his job search that may increase even more. If you have trust, can see an end in sight, and make time each day, it is completely doable. I always think of it in terms of the idea that it’s HIM I want, not just any guy, same city or not.

DO know that parents will always be there, so take it in stride. Even if you don’t always see eye to eye, or they don’t see how great you are, future in-laws are worth the struggle. Hopefully you can even find common ground and see the good in any situation.

DON’T go out to eat all the time! There are plenty of other ways to have fun, and you’ve got to keep the relationship REAL, too. We got in such a habit of eating out that I lost lots of money only to gain lots of weight. Yuck!

DO marry a guy who loves dogs and kids. It melts my heart when my boyfriend talks in his “puppy voice” around dogs, or when I see him playing with his younger siblings. He is one of 5, and his younger sister has Down’s syndrome, so he has lots of practice with being fun-loving and kind. That is something SO important to me!

DO make sure you have the same values. To me, marrying someone who works hard, wants kids, loves his family, and puts his faith first are non-negotiables. It’s okay to have those; there are some fissures that can’t be fused and having a solid foundation is crucial. However, once you get past the basics, my boyfriend and I are totally opposite, so don’t be too picky! (;

DON’T settle. Don’t love out of pity; don’t stay with someone if you don’t want to. If you have a lot of complaints, there is probably a reason. If you don’t see a future, don’t spend years and years stuck in a rut. Love because you want to, and because it’s a feeling you can’t help. That’s the best, and only in my opinion, kind of love that is worth it.