Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

I'm not sure how many of you make resolutions each year. The older I get, the more people seem to become jaded with the concept, however, I find comfort in the never-changing tradition of finding stuff to change. As we say good-bye to one decade and barrel into the next, it seems appropriate to honor the transition with a new set of resolutions. I often make many resolutions. This is partly because I believe there is much that can/should be changed, but also because if I fail to follow through on a handful, those that I stay true to will bring some solace. 

Here we go...

1. Simplify. Stop laughing. I'm serious. Most of you who read this blog don't just know me, but know me well. Yes, I'm known for having particularly complex expectations, some even call it being "high-maintenance." This year, however, I'm going to work on that. This year in particularly has left me, well, tired. Unfortunately, I feel like I have little to show for this exhaustion, and the reason, in my opinion, is because I'm running to keep up with all the "stuff" in my life. This year, I will simplify. I'll start with my house--getting rid of un-needed items and donating them. Then, I'll move on to my time. I'll be saying, "Adios" to activities that I don't feel called to. 

2. Get back to basics. A few posts ago I wrote about ancient paths. Jeremiah 6:16 has been my focus in the past couple of weeks: 
This is what the LORD says:
   “Stand at the crossroads and look;
   ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
   and you will find rest for your souls.
I believe it's time to get back to basics, remember what's important, and make those things priorities. Time in prayer, fellowship with family and friends, creating a home for young family, these things will be my focus.

3. Cultivate the fruits of the Spirit. 
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
I hate to be super conservative-cheesy, yet I know these are characteristics that I want to have but do not. In fact, in many ways, I am the exact OPPOSITE of all these things. The woman, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and teacher I want to be IS these things, thus, I need to get to work.

4. Focus on frugality. Don't get me wrong, I L-O-V-E, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE nice things and still plan on making them a part of my daily life, but for the past 28 years, I've lived basically buying what I want when I want. Michael and I want to have a decent savings before we start a family, so if I want to be a mother before I'm 60, we need to start being a tad more frugal. I really don't mean cheap, but I do mean intentional. To begin with, I'm planning out our menu one month at a time, breaking down grocery list into each week, and only buying what we need for those meals. Good-bye ordering out just because I can't think of what to make. Good-bye spending $100 at the grocery store without a real plan for a meal. 

5. Document life. After waiting so long to have a good camera, it's time to really start documenting life. I'm confident that once Finn gets here I'll have an even greater desire to do so!

6. Authentic living. I've spent much of my life giving lip service to what I "believe," yet I often allow my convictions to get lost in a sea of consumerism, television, and the day to day. This year, I want to live out what is important, the first step? These resolutions. 

I'm ready for you 2011; I'll take you one day at a time.

A new blog!

Many of you know that I've been recently overcome with the desire to create and homemake. This desire has fueled my obsession with blogs relating to such things. The more time I've spent on said blogs, the more I thought...I could do this. I SHOULD DO THIS! So I am. I don't know if it will go anywhere. I might only have the same followers as I do here, and if that's the case, God bless you twelve, but I might also get more. I might finally find the outlet I've been looking for. Well see how it goes. In the mean time, check out my Domestic Diversions!

Monday, December 27, 2010

A kid on Christmas!

I don't know if it's possible to truly explain what a wonderful Christmas we had! This year Christmas felt different to me. For the first time in YEARS I was counting down the days, anxiously waiting for December 25th. In many ways, it was like I was a kid again. There was this one present I REALLY wanted, but I wasn't sure if I would get it; and I had a gift that I couldn't WAIT to give! Those things along with the fact that it was a White Christmas and there's a baby on the way--my nephew, Finn (don't you love the name?--if you're friends with my sister-in-law, realize it's not FBO yet), will be here in about a month--made this year so special!

The days leading up to Christmas were jam-packed with holiday festivities. I spent most of the day of the 23rd baking cookies for the #2 men in my life. I had made Michael his peanut butter balls earlier this month, and now it was time to make cookies that my dad and brother would love. Awhile back, Randy mentioned that he missed Frango mint cookies. 

For those of you who aren't from Chicago, or from the Hoyle household, you need to understand the importance of Frango mints. Frangos are the signature candy of what was Marshall Field's--now Macy's. (It took me YEARS to finally call the building on State St. in Chicago Macy's because it will FOREVER be Marshall Field's to me!) When we were kids, my parents would take the three of us downtown Chicago at Christmas time. We would look at the State Street windows, each decorated to depict a scene from a famous Christmas tale, and then go inside to eat under the massive Christmas tree in the Walnut Room. Looking back, this trip had to have been a headache for my parents, but to this day, some of my favorite holiday memories are from these times. (Isn't it amazing that even when I blog it takes me nine years to tell a story?!)

When Macy's took over the franchise, they kept Frango mints, but Marshall Field's famed Frango mint cookies were no where to be found. When Randy said he wished that he could have those again, a small voice, one not much different from NPH's, rang out, "Challenge accepted!" Thus the first part of the 23rd was spent making Frango mint cookies for my dear brother. The consensus was that my version of the cookies were even better than the original. They are much chewier and with my homemade label you'd think you bought them outside the Walnut Room itself!
Betty's Frango Mint Cookies--Baked especially for my brother, Randy!
Homemade dog treats for Bentley & Bruce's puppy cousins

My father's cookies were the true labor of love. I spent FIVE HOURS making these suckers! The famed recipe? Tasha Tudor's sugar cookies. (The only difference between the link recipe and the one my dad grew up with is that my grandma would not frost the cookies, instead she sprinkled a nutmeg and sugar combination over the cut outs before baking.) This recipe makes SO MUCH DOUGH! Those five hours went by in this way: knead, roll, cut,  place, sprinkle, bake, cool, repeat. Kill, me, now! I didn't count how many cookies I got from that batch, but let's say that my dad could probably eat cookies for the next six months! 
Tasha Tudor's Sugar Cookies--made for my Daddy

After my baking was done, Michael and I ordered pizza and watched A Christmas Story. It was fun to watch it from beginning to end (something that rarely happens because of TBS' 24 Hours of A Christmas Story every Christmas Eve--we usually just catch the same scenes over and over). 

Christmas Eve was a whirlwind. I packaged the Frango mint cookies and dog treats I made, organized present piles to be taken to our parents' homes, and made dip to take to my mom's after church. The busyness of the day could have distracted me from the gorgeous snow, but I've been actively trying to pay attention to God's small gifts, and I was able to delight in the peaceful snowfall this Christmas Eve. It was gorgeous! 

After church with my parents and sister, we went to my mom and dad's house for some appetizers then headed to my in-laws for a night cap. Since we started dating, Michael and I exchange gifts on Christmas Eve--why? Well, because we have to be up at 5:30 am in order to make it to his parents' house by 6:30 am! To my surprise and delight, my wonderful husband got me a new Nikon Coolpix P100! I couldn't have been more ecstatic! This camera has been the missing piece in my ability to start a crafty/domestic-y/DIY/Awesome blog...title suggestions welcome. Michael enjoyed opening his gifts too (3 Blu-Rays, a PS3 game, and two sets of Bulls tickets), but I knew he was a tad disappointed. He was hoping to get his new surround sound system for downstairs. It wasn't under the tree. :(
Christmas morning--6 am--Love the new camera!

The next morning, we headed to the Sampleses' at 6 am to open presents there. It was a great morning filled with coffee, laughter, and love. 
Santa made his annual stop at the Sampleses'. 
Nicole didn't cry this year, but unfortunately, Poppy missed his visit again! ;)

Michael got his much coveted White Sox Championship banner with some more Blu-Rays, while I got a new coffee maker, perfume, stuff for the house, and some cute slipper-boots. 
Our sweet nephew & nieces--Jake, Nicole, & Ashley--before present opening

2005--Sox win the World Series!

Around 9 am we headed to the Hoyles' for Christmas there. Santa always visits us at my mom and dad's house, and this year was no different. We got three gifts each from Santa (because that's how many Baby Jesus got) along with our stockings. Some of my favorite gifts from that morning include a Coach coin purse, picture frames, and a stable to add to my Christmas village collection. I was most excited about going to my parents' to open presents because Michael's final gift from me--his sound system--was there. It took every ounce of self-control to not tell him about it before then, but it was all worth it when he opened his gift! (We had disguised it as a gift for Courtney and left it until the end. He couldn't have been more surprised!)
Michael realizing he got his sound system!!
My favorite picture from this Christmas--Thanks, Bex!

After some good conversation and a bit more coffee, we headed home to unload gifts and let the dogs out before turning around and heading back to the in-laws for drinks and games. We were home by 8 pm or so to give the dogs their gifts (HUGE Busy Bones) and play with our new toys. All in all, it was the best Christmas in my adult memory. I am so blessed to have family who loves me and knows me so well and a husband who takes care to choose just the right gift. 
Bentley loves his Busy Bone!
Bruce loves him a bit more...half gone in 15 minutes!

I realize this is a crazy long post, but it was a Christmas I don't ever want to forget! Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ancient Paths

I recently had a status update that said I was "feeling disconnected". My dear friend, Sarah, commented that she had been "meaning to talk" to me about something like that. Uh-oh. Yes, uh-oh. Why? Well, because Sarah has the annoying, obnoxious ability been gifted with the ability to call me out on stuff that I need to handle. This...feeling something I need to handle. 

I've been off center. Sarah asked me how God and I were. Simply put, we're not. I'm not sure when it happened, but I haven't been centered in a long time. I've been overwhelmed, mostly with stuff that truly...doesn't matter. So, it's time to re-connect, to find my balance, to fulfill my daily purpose, to seek...ancient paths. 

This is what the LORD says:
   “Stand at the crossroads and look;
   ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
   and you will find rest for your souls.
                    -Jeremiah 6:16

I'm not sure where these ancient paths with lead, but I know I must follow them. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Parents of a Savior

This Christmas, thanks to Pandora, I was introduced to "Joseph's Lullaby" by Mercy Me (you may know them from their hit "I Can Only Imagine"). While there are other Christmas songs sung from the perspective of our Savior's earthly parents, this one struck me differently than others in the past.

In today's hustle and bustle of the "holiday season" (the surge of political correctness frustrates me more than I can tell you), it's easy to overlook the baby Jesus, let alone his parents. However this year, for the first time ever I started to grieve for Mary and Joseph. Maybe it's because the majority of my friends are currently "with child," or because my insides have been in knots wanting a child of my own, or because I'm nearly thirty and actually starting to feel like a grown-up, I don't know, but whatever it is, it's allowed me to ponder the reality of parenting the Son of God.

My best friend, Page, and I have literally spent HOURS discussing the inevitability of screwing up our future offspring. The prospect of how severely I will mess up my children is often the thing that keeps me childless. This season, though, thanks to the aforementioned song, I've thought about Jesus' parents, specifically Mary. In all reality, she was an unwed, teen mom with a reputation charged with raising mankind's Savior. How she got through nine--actually ten--months (thanks for the reminder, Becky)without being a hysterical mess, is beyond me. Yet, she embraced this "gift" from God with remarkable strength. Let me be clear that I believe ALL children are gifts, and yet, if I were Mary (or Joseph), it would be difficult to look past the fact that this gift, this child, my son, was being born to die. The implications of this gift would be impossible to overlook.

As I approach my 29th Christmas (remember that I had one Christmas before I turned 1!), I'm thankful not only for my Savior's birth, but also for his parents. After all, if Mary and Joseph hadn't been who they were, Jesus wouldn't have been who he was and is. And while I miss the Christmases of my childhood, I am equally as grateful to have these Christmases as an adult because the older I get the more able I am to "treasure all of these things and ponder them" in my heart.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow day=Play day

This morning at 5:26 am my phone rang. Usually, a call this early in the morning would be either frustrating or worrisome, today, however, I was elated for the wake up call. Although my caller ID didn't register the number, I knew who it was: our superintendent. I'd hoped for this call for hours. You see, this was our view from the car as we drove home from a Christmas party last night.

I told Mike that he should have watched the road through my phone because it actually made the blizzard conditions appear tame. The snow and wind continued through the rest of yesterday, into the night and through today. Because of the treachery, we got a snow day!

I made good use of the day by baking...all day. I tried a few new recipes, a cherry-chocolate cookie, a butter cookie a-la Martha Stewart, and a cranberry-almond biscotti from a new cookbook. 

I was pretty happy with the way the cherry-chocolate cookies turned out. One of my favorite Christmas cookie memories is making "Uncle Butch's cookies" each year. In reality, these were a coconut-Eagle Brand-cherry cookie, but because my Uncle Butch loved them so much, we referred to them as his. I saw a picture of these cookies and they reminded me so much of my uncle's cookies that I had to make them!
I did make a couple of changes to the recipe. Both of them were with the frosting, neither one of them was intentional. To begin with, I was somehow out of chocolate chips, so I used milk chocolate almond bark instead. Then, I incorrectly remembered how much cherry juice to put in the frosting. I compensated with a little powdered sugar, but will be sure to get the proportions right next time I make these. Regardless of the mistakes, they came out fudgey (sp?) and delicious!

In search for a good spritz recipe, I stumbled upon this Martha Stewart recipe which triples for three different types of cookies. I ended up using them for a spritz cookie (below) and a cut out cookie (not pictured). Both turned out well, and I will be adding this recipe to my arsenal. My only frustration was that Martha was right. The recipe is suppose to be blended in a food processor. I thought that I could surely get the same result with my KitchenAid. No dice. I ended up putting my crumbly mess into the food processor (in small quantities because I have a small food processor) and wouldn't you know it? It turned into dough! Apparently Martha DOES know what she's talking about! 
All in all, it was a productive and domestic day. Hopefully you'll try these recipes on your own. If you do, let me know how they turn out! :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Confessions of a Blog-aholic

While I may still be working on posting daily to my own blog, I have become fully and completely addicted to reading others on a regular basis. I'm kind of crazy about it. It's a recent obsession. It started when I found Make-it and Love-it. While perusing through this amazing blog, I found yet ANOTHER amazing blog...MADE! The obvious theme here is design and crafting. (You can check out my current project, a gorgeous blanket for my soon-to-be here nephew!)

These blogs have taken me to dozens others that I love! I'm grateful for these blogs for several reasons. First of all, I have been craving ways to create. My insides have been aching for the opportunity to let the world see what's going on with me. Who I am, what I love, and what I can do. I've also loved finding these blogs because so many of them are done by stay-at-home-moms (SAHM-- aren't you impressed that I'm picking up the slang?!) who are doing these really great wholesome, innovative, economical, creative, and responsible things with their kids, families and lives. I don't know if I'll actually get to be a SAHM or if I'll even want to once we have kids, but right now, it's my dream...another thing that makes my insides hurt. 

So, keep an eye out for some pretty great blogs from some pretty astounding women, and maybe one day I'll be a SAHM with a rockin' blog of my own with thousands of readers. For now though, I'm happy to be doing a blanket here and a craft there and writing for the twelve of you who follow me (although I'm pretty sure only three of you read regularly). ;)

Monday, December 6, 2010

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

We had our first real snow of the Christmas season this past weekend. To say it was wonderful is an understatement. While I love the tingle of sunshine on my skin, the older I get the more I long for the crisp smell of winter. There is something so magical about a snowy Christmas season, and the fact that we got it the first weekend of December was an absolute thrill!

Many of my all time favorite childhood memories come from the Christmas season. When I was little, before my Aunt Lillian moved to live next door to us, she would visit over Thanksgiving. The Friday after gorging ourselves on turkey was spent preparing for "Lillian's Christmas" that Saturday. Even though Aunt Lil has been home for the past eighteen years or so, the tradition of decorating the day after Thanksgiving has remained.

I'm posting pictures from my phone. A point I want to make clear in case my amazing husband actually reads today's post. The truth is I'm getting better shots with my phone these days than with my camera. THAT is why all I want for Christmas is a fairly descent camera! (Michael, if you read this, please note the urgency!)

Our upstairs tree is pictured here. It's pretty much as themed of a tree as I will ever have. I stuck with traditional Christmas colors: red, green, silver, and gold. While I love the eclectic trees I grew up with (so much so, that our downstairs tree has multi-color lights with eclectic ornaments), I always wanted to have a tree that matched. Hello, Type-A personality!
I bought this ornament last year from Things Remembered for our first Christmas together. Not only does it have my favorite picture from our wedding in it, but it also has "For ever. For always." (the inscription in our wedding rings) with our initials inscribed on the opposite side. I love, love, love, LOVE it!
 Knowing how much of a sucker I am for anything monogrammed, my mom got this "S" ornament for us last year. It proudly sparkles at the top of our tree.
 It's a Wonderful Life is one of my all time favorite movies. In fact, if you told me I could only watch two movies for the rest of my life I would choose White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life. The fact that "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings" makes each bell at Christmas a little bit more special for me. This ornament was from my parents as well. A few years ago we went as a family to the Music Box Theater in Wrigleyville to see the White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life double feature, complete with an organist and sing-a-long. Mom found these ornaments that year and gave them to the three of us to complete the memory.
I am sure to have many more Christmas posts as the season continues. Some of the highlights for this Christmas include holiday shows, parties, and cookie baking. I can't wait to document (with my phone until I hopefully get a new camera) and share this Christmas with you!

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Blessings & Thankfulness

When we were children and couldn't sleep, my mother would have us count our blessings. While I know that her prompting came from a spiritual place, when I grew older I realized that Bing Crosby crooned about this method of evoking slumber in our family's favorite move White Christmas

My mother knew that we would run out of sheep to count much faster than we would blessings because my family has always had countless blessings. There are so many things for which I am thankful. This holiday season hi-lighted some of the biggest blessings in my life.

My husband: It makes sense that I would start with Michael. I thank God for him daily, in fact sometimes I thank Him hourly. One of the greatest blessings the Lord has given me is the love of a man on whom I can rely and depend. With Michael in my life, I laugh daily; I continue to grow into the best version of myself; and I have a new family. A family that, for now, is Michael, me, and our sweet puppies. I wake up knowing that I did not settle to be married for the sake of being married. I chose to spend my life with this man because I believe he is the best person for me. Our marriage is not perfect. We work hard to communicate and compromise, but our marriage is happy, loving, and one of the most significant blessings in my life.

My families: Not only was I born into a wonderful, loving family, but I was also tremendously blessed to marry into a family with the same qualities. My brother fell in love with one of my best friends, and now, Becky has been a part of our lives longer than she hasn't been. I have a second sister, and soon, I will have the most wonderful nephew. In the midst of the holiday stress, I am reminded that while so many are alone, I must sometimes choose between all the people who love me. We have our issues, but we move forward and overcome them. 

My friends: There are so many people who have come in and out of my life. While it is hard at times to allow people to leave, I am learning more and more that the ones who stay are truly becoming the family I choose. There have been times that like sisters, we have fought and been petty, yet we have overcome those trials and become stronger as a result. We support one another, and we love one another.

My puppies: It's hard to articulate how much I love my dogs. They are in so many ways my children at this point in my life. When life is frustrating, when times get hard, Bentley and Bruce are always there with wet noses and kisses. They listen when no one else does, and they are ALWAYS happy to see me. 

There are so many other blessings in my life that it's impossible to blog about them all. I have been given more than I deserve so many times in this life. I pray that the life I live is a tribute to the gifts God has give me. I hope others are blessed by me and that there life is better because I am in it and that I am always thankful for all that has been given to me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Apologies...I've been MIA

While I'm sure the only person who is truly sad when I take a hiatus from blogging is me, I'll pretend that more of you are affected by my absence from the cyber writing world. A quick recap of the last few weeks.

5K-The 5K I had been writing about with so much anticipation went well. While I know Michael would have like to run faster, I was happy because I had my best time on 3.1 miles. I know there are more races in my future, but they will not be longer than MAYBE a 10K. I'm not opposed to running more than that in general, but I just don't know how much I really enjoy the race feeling. I could eat my words, but I doubt it. 

Other updates:

Mom is doing as well as can be expected given the situation. Thank you to those of you who have been praying. So often I think we discount that act, but in earnest, I know that it makes a difference. Continued prayers would be appreciated. It's a hard time for my parents right now, and I am constantly convinced that prayer has brought them this far.

My job has been a weird combination of wonderful realizations and scary things to come. For those of you who I talk to on a regular basis, you know that teaching has been a struggle for the past few years. Adjusting to LC was harder than I thought it would be, and I don't think I even really understood it had been difficult for me until recently. Maybe it's finally having my own room, maybe it's the fact that I'm finally feeling secure with the content for my courses, or maybe it's because my first year was an adjustment and my second year was heartbreaking because we watched our beloved principal succumb to cancer. Whatever the reason(s), I didn't feel like me. 

This year has been different. I have relationship with my kids again. I joke with them like I used to. They come to me for regular high school issues (formal dates and too much homework), but also for big, important, scary things ("I'm gay, and I'm scared to tell my mom"). We talk about things that matter to them. I share things with them I wish someone had told me. For the first time in years, I feel like my job matters. And yet...

For the first time ever, I really wonder if my job matters. So much has been happening in the educational politics of my state. The gist of it is  that the state is demanding high results for teachers and kids while neglecting to include parents into the equation. The result is inevitable: standards will be lowered statewide in order to present the illusion of success. With all of these changes, teachers are being encouraged to sacrifice their desire and obligation to foster good study habits, organizational skills, and basic responsibility to decrease their "failure rates." My belief is that while the push is to decrease these failure rates, we're actually failing our kids. We will be producing generations of people who, unless they have parents who foster responsibility, will go into the world as adults expecting information to be spoon-fed to them. It's scary and sad, and I wonder how long I can be a part of the destruction of our children.

Wasn't THAT an uplifting post?! (insert eye roll here) I'll try to be more consistent (even if it's just for you, Bex). With Christmas coming, you may be getting some cooking/crafty posts. Get excited! 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bad news...we're mortal.

I feel like the past five days have been an absolute obnoxious whirlwind. The height of the craziness was spending several hours in the ER with Mom on Sunday night. While she was given a "clean" bill of health after the whole ordeal, I'm not completely convinced that all is well. The evening definitely left me feeling helpless and overwhelmed. I realize that there wasn't really a close call and that she is "fine," but the scare was a bit more than I was ready for. I've always "known" the time would come that my parents would cease to be a part of my life on this earth, but that truth didn't really hit me until this past Sunday night. 

After losing my Aunt Mary Kay suddenly when I was 15 (she was 39), I've had a unique perspective on life and death. Over the years, I've spent way too much time contemplating how I'll survive without my parents. When it comes down to it, my mom is one of my best friends in the entire world. It's an odd day if I don't talk to her multiple times about nothing in particular. For this reason, it's no wonder that I've discussed how I'll get by without my mother WITH my mother. Typically, this conversation is had over the phone. Through obviously suppressed tears, she reminds me that "We'll be together again." While my faith, something that is another true gift from my mother, is usually a sweet comfort, it fails to bring serenity with this conversation. 

While I know I have this immortal soul, my mortal brain can't wrap it's head around the concept, so I'm often left feeling alone and vulnerable instead of comforted and expectant for the afterlife. I suppose that is strength that God will bestow when I need. My prayer is that I will go many more years before receiving that gift. 

For tonight, I'm trying to accept that we're mortal. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

24 Days, 4.25 miles, & countless blessings

In 24 days, my dear friend Kelsey and I will be running a 5K. This exciting to me not because it's my first race ever, but because I feel like it's the first race in my life as a runner. I've had goes at running in the past. Bout #1 was in 2007 when my friend Beth said, "You should run a half marathon. It's not that hard." I did end up finishing a half, but I wouldn't say I ran it. I was poorly trained, and lacked the motivation found in the joy of the sport. Bout #2 happened last year when Sarah, another close friend and my business partner, asked if I would "make" her run a half marathon. That race was not finished. We had good intentions, but running was not a priority for either of us. To be honest, I was grateful when life circumstances kept me away from the starting line. 

For nearly two months now I've been dedicated to running. The first five weeks I ran without an intention of finishing a race, since then, I've been obsessed. I dream about my runs. I fantasize about my routes. When I'm at work, I count down minutes to the time that I can leave, come home, lace up my shoes and hit the road. This is becoming who I am. I love it.

After returning from my 4.25 mile run today, one made much easier due to Harry Potter MP3's, I got to thinking about my life. Despite my frustrations and minor irritations, I love my life. Don't get me wrong, I have my days. I feel sorry for myself; I get lonely; I get bored, but 95% of the time, life is wonderful. I have countless blessings. My husband is easily the funniest person I've even met. He makes me laugh multiple times every day! The life we are building together is more fulfilling than I could have ever thought possible. I have a wonderful family and in-laws. My friends are there when I really need them, even if life keeps us from each other, when I need them, they are there. And now, I'm learning to love this body God gave me. I am able to run...far distances. What a miracle. 

I am now rambling and extremely tired. Until tomorrow, lovely followers. xoxo

Thursday, October 7, 2010

30 Days, a killer, and a killer run

The 5K is 30 days from today. I've decided that I HAVE to have a race to look forward to from now on if I am going to stay in the habit of running. I was going to say, "If I'm going to FORCE myself to run," but the truth is I haven't felt forced. In this, my third attempt at becoming a runner, I am truly enjoying myself. Maybe it's because I don't have the scary idea of a half-marathon, something I may never do again or could exceed some day in the future, staring me in the face. Since I have been looking forward to my daily run, I was incredibly irritated when I missed it on Tuesday of this week.

At the end of the school day, I got a text message from Michael warning me that there was a random shooter miles from our house. Because I was working late, I wouldn't get home in time to run with him. Thus, my run was cancelled due to a killer. I know it's horrible that this irritated me. I'm aware that one family lost a loved one and that two others (one distantly connected to me) are blessed to have the people they love, but will forever be changed from the incident. Even knowing all of that, I was irritated that a crazy man was keeping me from my normal routine. I mean, isn't that how we let the terrorists win? I digress...

Yesterday, despite the fact that the killer had not been caught, I went for a run. The fact that I didn't use the uncaught killer as a phenomenal excuse to ditch my run is yet another example of how I am becoming a runner. In the past when I've been running, I would take ANY excuse to stay a home. "What's that you say? It might possibly rain in Detroit? Well, I had probably skip my run in case it blows this way." Although my mother was against me being outside for 30+ minutes by myself with a killer on the loose, I laced up my running shoes and headed out.

I knew I would at least run the 2.6 I had done on Monday, but contemplated doing the last .5 to get to the 5K distance. However, I remembered one of my running blog sites talking about doing "too much, too fast" so I decided that 2.6 for two runs in a row would suffice. What resulted was nothing less than a killer run! I did my 2.6 miles in 29:05! I averaged 11:12. It felt amazing! It has also fueled a desire in me to wait for it...start running for time?! Wow. I'm that person. Not completely that person, I mean I'm not going to be shutting down 8 or 9 minute miles any time soon, but to do my 5K in 30? That would be amazing. Fortunately, I have 30 days to work toward that.

At least now I know that if I do encounter that killer, I can run away!

Monday, October 4, 2010

33 Days..breaking 2 miles

By the time Mike and I got home from a couple of errands after work it was already 5 p.m. I seriously contemplated skipping my run. I did two miles yesterday and could have easily justified taking a rest day, however, I had an off-day as far as eating was concerned, and felt that skipping my run would add to the stress of the day.

My goal for today was to run 25 minutes. A small increase from the 22 minutes I've been running. I ended up doing 30 and got in 2.6 miles. Just .5 away from the 5K. Once I get to 3 miles a day we'll focus on speed. Mike should be starting training with me tomorrow. We'll see if this happens. 

Long day, short post, good run. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

34 Days...One mile at a time

It's not my intention to turn my blog into a running blog, but it appears that may be the result. I'm ok with that because, after all, this is a sample of my life. :)

I woke up this morning to my blaring alarm at 7:30. It's the only time in my life that I ever experience pain from hearing Dave Matthews voice. (There's always love for Dave...always.) Sunday mornings are the hardest times to find motivation to run. I'm in bed. I'm comfortable. I'm warm. I'm dry. I don't hurt. I debated the possibility of postponing my run until this afternoon, however, I have become acutely aware that whenever I put a run off the likelihood of it happening decreases exponentially.

7:50 am-Get out of bed & use the restroom
7:52 am-Lay in bed one more time contemplating the benefits of 30 more minutes of sleep
7:55 am-Drag myself off of the bed. Put on long pants & a long sleeved shirt
7:57 am-Lace up running shoes.
7:58 am-Commence running.
8:20 am-Return home after 2 miles.

Betty-1  Stupid little voice in my head telling me to sleep-0

I don't know that I'll ever want to run more than 3 miles in a race again, but I'd like to end up running 5-6 miles a day to stay in shape. Even if it takes me months to get there, I want to be there. For now, I'm taking it one day and one mile at a time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My next race

To hear the title of this post, you'd think I run races all the time. In actuality, I've only done 2. Seriously? 2?! It seems as if I should have done WAY more than that with all the time I've spent "training" in the past three years. Oh well, no matter. No need to dwell on the past. On to the future...

Kelsey, my wonderful, quickly becoming best friend and colleague, reluctantly agreed to run a 5K with me on November 6. While there's much less pressure to run when I DON'T have a race on the horizon, I think a race is what I need to make sure I keep running. It's been easy recently, but I'm sure I'll hit a wall and find excuses to not go out everyday.

I'll figure out a countdown and get it up for tomorrow. Three days of blogging. GO ME!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Running: a love hate relationship

Notice that I'm back...again? Two days in a row? I'm trying to incorporate some consistency and accomplishment into my life these days.

Yesterday I went on the best run I've had in easily a year. While Sarah and I had been training for a half marathon earlier in the year (a race that we did not run due to some uncontrollably factors), most of our training was happening on a treadmill. Something that ANY trainer/runner will tell you is a BIG no-no. Since I started running again, about six weeks ago, I've been outside for all my runs. Most of these runs have been 1.7-2.0 miles long and have included periods of walking.

My run yesterday was 2.62 miles and I ran 2.32 of it. It was WONDERFUL! This morning on my way to work, I was fantasizing about my run today. I contemplated different routes, wondered what the weather would be like, planned new play lists, and became all euphoric at the thought of lacing up my Pumas for another run.

This is the part of my relationship with running that I love. Unlike other love affairs, it takes a couple of months to get to the honeymoon period. Before yesterday, my runs could be described as obligatory, obnoxious, irritating, and down right depressing. Yet, something always happens for me six weeks into a running routine that makes me want to make-out with my runs. My abs are noticeably tighter (to me anyway), my breath is steady instead of gasping, and I enjoy my time on the road. 

In addition to all the physical benefits (not the least of which is being down 8 lbs!), running has become the one thing that clears my head. Seriously. I don't think about anything when I'm running. I don't worry, fret, get upset, cry or complain when I'm running. For a half hour each day, I get to be Betty. That, is amazing, and totally worth icing my swollen knee and shin splints every night.

Apparently, I'm becoming "a runner."

Monday, September 27, 2010

I am alive.

I have not blogged in AGES! This is my attempt to get back in my habit of blogging and also to remind any of you poor souls who follow me that I am, indeed, alive and well. Most recent wonderfulness in my life includes:

  • Being an aunt (and waiting nine months for it!)
  • Running 2 consecutive miles without dieing (Once an activity taken for granted during my mini-training days, now a step towards my next 5K.)
  • Finally purchasing our home from Michael's parents 
  • Routinely going to bed at 9 o'clock so I can be asleep by 10. 
I promise to be better about my posts if for no other reason than I like to read my own blog. I'm a dork. I know. Most of you know as well, so I'm not the slightest bit embarrassed to admit it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Learning to say, "No."

Hi. My name is Betty, and I'm a people-pleaser. I suppose that admitting you have a problem really is the first step to moving past any ailment, addiction, etc. So that's where I'm starting. The truth is, I'm addicted to pleasing others.

Coming to this realization should not have been all that startling, and yet, while I sat in church this morning, I listened to my pastor (a man I've trusted with spiritual issues since my early teens) describe a people pleaser. It could have been my bio. People-pleasers are: over-committed, concerned about what others think of them, take criticism personally, feel guilt over saying no, do not handle said guilt well...check, check, check, check, check. I sat in disbelief as my life was dissected in front of hundreds of people. As if being pegged wasn't enough, here's the zinger: People-pleasing=idolatry. Wow. Ouch!

At first I wanted to protest. Surely these spiritual gifts of generosity and hospitality, gifts from God Himself, gifts I love and cherish, couldn't replace my love for God. And yet, verse by verse, point by point, I began to see how my desire to be approved of by others was taking priority over being approved of by my Maker.

I'm constantly amazed at how God orchestrates interactions in our lives. For those of you who believe in chance, by all means continue, however, I will not be swayed from the belief that God meets our needs whether we ask Him to or not. The sermon this morning did just that.

Earlier this week, I had a breakdown. Through trembling sobs, I literally said to my mother, "Nothing I do is ever good enough. I can't make everyone happy." This morning, God was good enough to remind me that I was correct. Nothing I do will EVER be good enough. I will not make everyone happy. Thus, I must choose whose happiness I will be concerned with.

So, here I am, a recovering people-pleaser. I'm taking the first steps toward being free from this idolatry that I have spent so much of my life serving. I will ACTUALLY pray about new commitments, and not just SAY that I will pray about them. I will seek wise counsel from my inner circle. Harder than the last two steps, I will work to accept that I cannot, that I will not be liked by everyone.

I know myself well enough to understand that there will be many trials and setbacks, but I also know that with God's help, I can start living for the praise of Abba, as opposed to the approval of men.

Monday, May 24, 2010


FYI- I started this blog ions ago...I'm just getting back to it now.

About four years ago, I started watching a new show that I was confident would never catch on due to its long name. Fortunately, I was wrong, and tonight I watched the season 5 finale of How I Met Your Mother (affectionately referred to as HIMYM). Over the years this show has provided a lot of laughs while still having the ability to get me to think about my life from different perspectives. While I'm not ready to ask, What would Barney do? (a possible future blog post), tonight's episode made me think about my life in a pretty cool way. I'll back up.

This season on HIMYM, the gang encountered doppelgangers of each member of the group. There was "Lesbian Robin," "Stripper Lilly," "Mexican Marshall," and "Robot Wrestling Ted." (We're still waiting for Barney's doppelganger to make an appearance.) At the end of the episode, Ted said something pretty insightful. He told Robin that all of us have doppelgangers, they're just older versions of ourselves. Who we were 5+ years ago was probably someone very different from who we are today. I for one take comfort and delight in this revelation.

Five years ago I was in a relationship that was going nowhere wishing it'd go somewhere. I abandoned principles and values I believed in for him. I'd just been hired for my first real job. I was living at home and was scared to death about what I would do without my friends. Doppelganger Betty had some issues.

Enter Betty of 2010. Thankfully, she's come a long way. The last three years have been spent with a wonderful man who's allowed me to be who I am. Together, we've embraced the faith and beliefs I so easily walked away from. I've seen friends come and go, but a few select kindred spirits have remained by my side. I've learned a lot in the past five years, and I'm happy that I have a doppelganger out there. It's because of her that I get to be me. So thanks, Past Betty. I'll learn from your mistakes and move on so that hopefully Future Betty has a life she loves too.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

You can't make me...

I'm not a picky eater. Truly, I'm not. When we were kids, my mom made sure that we were exposed to a wide variety of food. (In fact, I didn't realize how diverse my tastes really were until I met my husband, but his penchant for cheeseburgers and pizza will be left for another blog post.) As a child I LOVED frog legs, lobster, and most vegetables. Friday night, however, I was accused of being a picky eater. Why, you may ask? What is so heinous that I refuse to try it? The answer: White Castle. Let's back up a bit now.

As a child, the only familiarity I had with White Castle was the fact that it sat nestled on its corner of Indianapolis Blvd. and 119th Street in Whiting where I grew up. This White Castle served as a reminder that we were officially leaving Robertsdale and entering Whiting. Its corner was also the site for our family and friends to set up camp for the annual 4th of July parade (a Whiting extravaganza!). So, in my defense, I DO have some warm and fuzzy feelings about White least the building.

The first time I was ever even IN a White Castle, I was 17. My boyfriend's mom was bringing a group of us home after a concert, and we stopped to "eat." I did not eat. I had a pop.

The second and LAST time I was in a White Castle was this past Friday night, and it is important that you know it was under duress. I was (essentially) forced to enter this establishment. Before I get ahead of myself, let me explain how this horrific trip came to be.

Friday night started out rather low-key. I came home from work and began getting ready to attend/chaperone Senior Banquet. Before heading off to be sure that no babies were conceived on the dancefloor at senior banquet, I kissed my loving husband good-bye and reminded him that we would be hanging out with the Verpootens after the banquet.

A side note about this year's senior class: I love (most of) them. I really do, but they are the laziest group of kids I've EVER encountered! Since they are a great class, I was actually looking forward to the event. At our school, seniors dress up in costumes for the dinner and dance. This year there were some AMAZING costumes. My favorites included: Waldo from Where's Waldo?, Pee Wee Herman (complete with Schwinn and bowtie!), the Fandango bags, and an array of superheroes.

Sarah and I cocoused and decided that the three of us (she, her husband, and I) would leave the banquet after awards were handed out. While I was happy and proud of all my students who won awards, I was MOST thrilled that our niece, Ashley won for "Best Looking Girl" in the senior class. Michael insists that it's in the Samples genes. I'm hoping! :)

Around 9 o'clock we headed toward Crown Point to pick up Michael. A brief discussion of plans and 45 minutes later we were headed to Frickie's Bowling Alley. Mike and I have only lived in Crown Point for a year or so, thus we were not really sure where one should go bowling on a Friday night at 9:45. Google said Frickie's. Google did NOT say that Frickie's has only eight lanes, all of which look like they were installed in 1965 when the structure was initally built, nor did Google mention that Frickie's/Joe's Pizza is a townie bar.

Despite being so poorly described on Google, Frickie's was good to us. Even though I bowled my worst game EVER, I had a great time. After two games of bowling, we headed to the bar for a drink or two. While there, discussion ensued about organic eating. I'm not really sure HOW this started. More than likely my husband was teasing me about my recent, insane fear of all food chemically engineered/non-organic/non-grass fed/genetically modified. Discussion of such fears led Dustin to ask...why? This lead me to discuss Food, Inc. and Supersize Me (a movie which made MOST people STOP eating McDonald's made my husband hungry). While McDonald's can be a super-sized helping of gross, what is even grosser, someone mentioned, is White Castle. (Mike is convinced that I told him White Castle is made of horse meat...I deny this.)

Now, as previously mentioned in this post, I have NEVER, EVER, EVER eaten White Castle. I have no desire to, yet I do not judge those who partake in the delicacy of Sliders. Upon learning that I had never eaten one of those nasty little burgers, my three companions made it their goal to get me to choke one down. This is how I ended up at a White Castle late on a Friday night with Sarah, Dustin, and Michael. I warn you what came next is hard to stomach.

I indignantly sat down at a table in the deserted establishment as my friends headed to the counter. They placed their orders with a woman who I'm sure was named Bertha the fact that I didn't see her name tag is irrelevant. Some people embody their names...often these names include Bubba, Bertha, and Trixie. My husband was the first to make his way to the table. He clutched his greasy brown bag. As he was unpacking his six tiny cheeseburger, Sarah and Dustin joined us at the table. Dustin had ordered EIGHT mini-burgers of grossness. Once the food was organized on the table, the frenzy began.

If you don't know my friend Sarah, let me fill you in on a little something I've observed about her. She's a normal paced eater. She's never the first one done, nor are we waiting for her to finish at the lunch table. All I knew or thought I knew about Sarah's eating habit/ability was shattered that night. With Bertha busying herself in the back, Dustin and Mike enjoying their "food" next to us, and me staring on in disbelief, Sarah inhaled FIVE White Castle cheeseburgers. Mike and Dustin had five each as well, but honestly, their consumption wasn't nearly as impressive or disturbing.

For all these reasons, that night will forever be burned into my memory for the bowling, for the fun, for the disgusting food, and for the fact that I stood by principles and refused to eat a cheeseburger.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Over the past 2 1/2 weeks I have started at least 5 different blog posts. I begin typing, think I'm going somewhere, and end up deleting whatever it is I had. I'm totally uninspired recently. Life has been fairly undramatic (the way I like it), and I have to say, I'm happy for the change. To be fair, I've been surrounded by drama (3 funerals in 8 days, 2 students with MAJOR issues), but Mike and I have been drama-free (pound on the proverbial wood). As much as I've been longingly looking at sweet cherubs asleep in their strollers at the mall or park, Mike and I are just enjoying spending time together.

I'm not asking for drama, but hopefully, I'll have some blog inspiration soon. Until then, you can catch me sipping on a Crystal Light (read: when on Atkin's I don't consume alcohol) on my deck, puppies at my feet and Mike grilling. Life's good. It's good to be really happy. Finally.

Monday, April 19, 2010

If home is where the heart is...

"...then my home is where you are. It's getting oh so hard to spend these days without my heart."--Relient K

The lines of this song have undoubtedly been connected to lovers who are separated by miles, or they maintain the deeper meaning of the ache that we as Christians have to be with our Father. However, this past weekend, they held a different meaning for me.

Nine years ago, I made a decision that has forever shaped the course of my life. I decided to go to Anderson University. At 18, my faith was strong, legalistic, and new. Going to a Christian college seemed to be a much nobler act than partying at a state school. Additionally, I went to a high school where the senior class typically divided itself between IU and Purdue, and no part of me wanted to go to a version of Munster "South campus." I wanted to re-create myself, and it wasn't going to happen living with the people I'd grown up with. So, in August of 2001, my parents packed me up and moved me the three hour distance to Rice Hall. I mentioned that this decision shaped my life, but I know that other decisions that were out of my control also set my course. I'm not sure how the housing department at good 'ol AU decides who's going to live where, but that year, it seemed that the choices made were hand-picked by God.

When I arrived on Rice Hall 2AB, I had no way of knowing that some of these girls would become integral parts of my life and who I would become. None of us knew that we would face incredible hardships together. Whether it was the insane fear that we would lose one of our new friends to cancer (a diagnosis received just months after beginning school); the heartbreak of ending relationships, both ours and our parents; or the questioning of our faith, values, and destinies, we were there for one another that first year of college.

Sophomore year brought new challenges and times of rejoicing. Living arrangements scattered us across campus, new girls were added to the group, and our beloved friend returned to school cancer free. Junior and senior year brought new trials. Boyfriends came and went, relationships waned, and faiths hit roadblocks. I questioned where or if I belonged with these six women. I knew that I had relationships with some of them individually, but as a group, I questioned my place.

Fast forward five years. My husband and I went to the wedding of one of these amazing women this past weekend. I was so ecstatic to see these girls, my college friends, but what caught me off guard was that I was still questioning my place. Those feelings of inadequacy along with approximately 5 glasses of white zin left me a hot, crying mess in the bathroom. (After talking to my BEST friend, I realized I ended up in the bathroom because she had the forethought to remove me from the dance floor before I made a fool out of myself in front of the ENTIRE wedding.)

I came to understand several things in that bathroom. First, Page has always had a knack for pulling me out of situations when I'm getting crazy, and I'm always grateful that she does. Secondly, the fact that I didn't have the same place as the other girls in that group didn't mean I didn't have a place at all, and I AM loved by them. Next, if Leah and I hadn't been so convinced we were disliked by the other, we probably would have been close friends in college. Additionally, no matter how old you are or how high your heels are, when you're drunk in a bathroom crying, you still look like a pathetic 21 year-old bar fly without self-control. Finally, I'm blessed beyond words to have these women in my life. They still (5 years, 5 husbands, 1 baby, and countless moves later) reflect back to me the person I truly am, and they offer a glimpse of who I can be.

I told Courtney that night I don't realize how much I miss them until we're together; she agreed. For the months, sometimes years in between visits, we push down this ache that we feel because really, what else is there to do? It's not possible to go back to college and live down the street or nap together during a lazy Tuesday afternoon. And five, six, seven years ago, we didn't get it. We didn't realize that as wonderful as the lives we were dreaming about would be, that a time would come that we would long for the cramped corners of Rice Hall or the tiny rooms of a make-shift apartment.

The older I get, the more I long for those relationships. When it comes down to it, part of my heart is with those women, my sisters, and sometimes it's incredibly difficult to live without the missing pieces of my heart. That's why nights like my friends wedding are perfection. In those moments, I get to taste heaven. At a celebration of selfless love surrounded by people who know the real me, I feel the smallest bit of what I believe God has in store for His people, and I can't help but smile, laugh, and love the moment despite my heartache to go home.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's my story?

Since this is my second blog in a row responding to how Donald Miller's blog impacts me/causes me to think, I kind of feel like a sham. I should probably have my own ideas about what to write...I wish I had all my own ideas about what to write sometimes, but the truth is, for the time being, I'm ok with responding to the thoughts of others. It's where I'm at, and I think that it's better to be there than to NOT be thinking about life and where I'm going. Having said that...

Miller's blog today suggested that we think about our lives as narratives. Instead of merely setting goals, he offered the idea of "writing our stories." To write our story, we decide on the end result, work our way backward, and write each scene that will lead us to the end scene. This got me thinking...

Am I being intentional when I write my story? Is my story one that is worth It's an evaluation that isn't comfortable to make because honestly, I don't think it is worth telling, at least not yet. So, what do I have to change? What's the next chapter? How am I going to intentionally make my story worth reading? Worth living?

My first end scene? Co-own a successful graphic design business. Follow this new passion I've found. I have friends who LOVE their jobs. One of my best friends is an RN and runs an orthopedic pediatrician's practice; she loves her job. Yes, she gets stressed, and yes, she has rough, frustrating moments, but at the end of the day, she gets lost in her work and loves it. I want that, and I find it when I'm designing invitations, logos, and accessories. My creative juices get flowing, and I feel like I can breathe again. So that's my first end scene. I'm still working out the initial scenes to get there, but I know they're there. I just have to write those scenes, and I will. They will be written.

My next end scene? Lose this "last" 20 lbs. (I use quotes because truly, I could decide that I need to lose more, but I'll reassess after this next 20.) From the ages of 8-20 I was the fat kid/girl. It's easier to admit now that many of my peers packed on the pounds I always seemed to have, and I'm now referred to as "average," but the truth is, there's a fat little girl inside me who would like to be thin. I'll even settle for thin-ish at this point, but it's got to happen. I'm working on writing those scenes right now. 3 weeks ago the number was 28 lbs. We'll see where the next scene takes me, but at the end of this chapter, I'll be there minus 20 lbs.

The last scene that I plan on writing in the near future is the motherhood one. The paradox is that I know this is the easiest one to accomplish (let's be honest, how many pregnant students have I had in my classes?) (FYI: That last side note caused me to knock on wood because there's a part of me that's terrified that it won't be easy, and that scares me. To. Death.) The paradox is that while this may be the easiest end to get to, I know that motherhood is not going to be easy. I'm ridiculously terrified that I'll suck at it, mess our children up, and have them grow up to hate/resent me. I know that this is the story I have the least control over, but it kind of makes it the most exciting.

The reader in me knows that three chapters isn't all that much, but the writer in me is often lost at where to begin. I guess it's time to start asking, "What if?" I think it's the only way to avoid writer's block.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What if...?

One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, had a blog post about asking the question, what if? His consideration of this question explained how authors use this question when they're trying to advance a plot. Answering the question "what if?" for their protagonist leads to huge changes. Relationships start or end. Careers are begun or abandoned. Families are healed or broken. After this posting, Miller's readers began offering their own "What if's." All this discussion about what may have been, led me to think about my own what if's. Obviously there are what if's that I had/have no control over. Some of the more upsetting ones (because of their possibly positive or negative impact) include:

What if I had actually known my Papa Jack and Grandma Betty?
What if my mom hadn't lost her third baby?
What if we had lived near my mom's family instead of my dad's?
What if my Aunt Mary Kay were still alive?
What if Grandma Phyllis and Grandpa Dick were never a part of my life?
What if my dad hadn't found the postcard that led him to meet my Aunt Lillian?
What if I hadn't been a fat kid?

Other what if's, however, I did have control over, and they have steered the course of my life as I know it.

What if I hadn't accepted Christ as a child?
What if I decided not to go to youth group at our new church, SunCrest?
What if I had called Hillsdale home instead of Anderson?
What if I chose not to be an RA for two years?
What if I turned my back on my God?
What if I hadn't realized I deserved better than the three year relationship I'd been in?
What if I had called and cancelled dinner on September 1, 2007?
What if I waited too long to accept my job at LC?

The last set of what if's are yet to set the course of my life.

What if I don't teach forever?
What if I design despite the fact that I don't have a degree?
What if Sarah and I really do grow a fantastic business?
What if I finally lose that last twenty pounds?
What if I forgive the people who abandoned me?
What if I really love my neighbor as myself?
What if I truly follow Christ like I say I want to?
What if I write that book?
What if my husband and I allow our love of children as opposed to our finances dictate the size of our family?

These are the what if's in life that I still have to answer. I know it won't be easy, but more importantly, I know that leaving these questions unanswered will leave me with a whole other set in years to come. Here's to what if's and possibilities.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Teaching Now and...Forever?

At age five I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I was the cliche kid who would line up her dolls and teach them, grade papers for non-existent students, and instruct a my teddy bears on the finer points of spelling (ironic given that as an English teacher I rely heavily on spell check and am constantly grateful that Google Chrome points out spelling errors for me as I blog). My childhood practice coupled with the fact that my mother was a teacher made teaching the obvious profession for me. Five years into it. I can honestly say I'm good at what I do. My cooperating teacher during my student teacher told me that I had the "teacher gene." While I will agree that many aspects have come naturally for me, and I do often enjoy it, I can't believe that I'll do this forever.

Don't get me wrong, I know that I've impacted lives. I know because I have a box of letters telling me so. This box is where I turn when I'm at my wits end with my students, profession, and colleagues. This the box I turn to when I want to quit my job and search for a nice 9-5 where I can not be invested in others. (Paper pushing has an allure when you've explained for the umteenth time to yet another parent that the best way for her child to succeed in English is to "come to class, do his homework, and ask me if he has any questions.") This box houses the letter of a student who wrote to me about finding out that she was pregnant and that more than being concerned about what her parents would say, she was worried about what I would think. Just under that letter is one from another student who writes about how important it is that I was the only teacher who gave him a chance. There are a dozen or so of these letters, yet on days when I'm most frustrated, I forget about this box. Complaints about homework overshadow thank you's for being understanding. It's hard to remember that I make a difference, but crucial that I do. These letters keep me going.

With new opportunities on the horizon and parenthood presenting itself in the next three to five years, I wonder if these letters will keep me going, or if I'll hand in my chalk for other adventures. When I started teaching five years ago, I said to my mother (the most dedicated and phenomenal teacher I've had the privilege of knowing) that as long as I impacted one life in my entire teaching career it would all be worth it. I was young(er) and (more) naive then, but I think I was right. After all, good teachers should want to change the world one kid at a time, thus if we only change one kid, the world can be better. If there does come a time that I leave the classroom, at least I know that I will leave having achieved the dream of that five year-old little girl who was intent on Paddington Bear knowing how to spell.

Friday, April 9, 2010

God didn't give me patience...

By age 27 you'd think that I would have come to grips with this fact. Any patience I do have has been painstakingly cultivated throughout much of my adult life. Much like my struggle to lose weight, the pursuit of patience has been arduous. I'm excellent at testing other's patience, however. My mother has often told the story of my first night at home as an infant. I screamed. The. Whole. Night. (Now that I am getting to a mothering age, I pray fervently that there won't be a repeat performance by my future child.)I also mastered testing my little brother's patience, so much so that he resorted to violence. Looking back, I can't blame him. When colleagues, or students for that matter, push me to my limit, I would be lying if I said I hadn't considered a good right hook. I've left a trail of friends and boyfriends who I'm sure could attest to my ability to drive them insane. But this post isn't about them. Let's focus on MY inability to have patience.

Because I've already been reprimanded (however rightly so), about a passive aggressive status update, I thought a blog (that certain people don't even know exists) would be a better venue to vent. So, here are the top 10 things that tested my patience this week. (In my defense--I kept my mouth SHUT. I'm learning to suck it up and be patient. I'm trying to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it doesn't mean I can't be irked, miffed, frustrated, or just plain D-O-N-E.)

10. People who have taught a class already and still don't know the curriculum.

9. Teachers of lower classmen who try to make MLA citation easy. MLA will NEVER be easy for sophomores. Make them work. It won't kill them. I promise. Also, by making MLA "easy" (read: letting them do whatever they want), you make my job that much harder when I get your little geniuses in two years.

8. Offering advice when asked, only to have said advice not followed. If you're not going to do what I say, then don't ask. I have a certain numbers of breath in this life, and I rather NOT waste them on you if you are going to disregard what I've said. After all, I have plenty of students who do that everyday.

7. Individuals who do not know the names of people in their department after nearly a year.

6. Answering questions when the answers to said questions are WRITTEN ON THE FRIGGIN' handout.

5. Answering questions when the answers to said questions are WRITTEN ON THE FRIGGIN' handout AND I just answered the same FRIGGIN' question for the fool before you!

4. Persons who use my classroom before me leaving their stuff ALL. OVER. MY DESK!

3. Individuals following suit when others are proceeding incorrectly DESPITE being informed of how to do it the RIGHT WAY.

2. Asking me a question in front of a student, me answering said question correctly (after all, I teach research and MLA citation/format ALL YEAR LONG), and the inquirer informing the student to do it a different way. (Please see #8 & increase frustration by 100%)

1.Now this is a tie--I'm not sure if I was more irritated that my class was interrupted SIX TIMES during the first 15 minutes of class due to a lack of planning and organization OR that I was locked out of my computer, delaying my instruction time by ten minutes.

The above list is evidence that God wants me to be patient and love people that I don't like. I'm trying. I'm REALLY trying, but some days (weeks, months, years) it's not easy. God give me the strength. I really WANT to be Your light, but please remember, You didn't give me patience. I have to work on it.

Samples of a Life?

Let it be said that coming up with a name for my blog created pressure that I can't even express to you. (The reason for the change is completely because when I first signed up for a blog over a year ago (because Sarah MADE me), I wasn't really sure that I would follow want to deal with it. Thinking about my future inbox crammed full with e-mails about a blog I never update, I craftily used my "junk" e-mail address (the one I give to stores for discounts, bars for free booze, and whichever website is about to tell me how to have a flat stomach in 2 days AFTER I handover my prized e-mail address). In the past year, a lot has changed. The blogging concept is more attractive. Maybe it's because I'm more mature--ok, we know that's NOT it. Anyway, blogger is stupid and wouldn't let me change my e-mail address, so I changed my blog.) Samples of a Life came to me at some point. Having this new name Samples, I decided it would be best if it were used for good instead of evil. (For those of you who don't know, my middle name initial is J and the combination of BJ and get the picture.) The more I thought about it, a blog really is a sample of a life. People who are close to me know that I sample an infinite number of emotions and feelings a day as well. Thus, Samples of a Life seemed fitting. So that's what this blog will hopefully be, a sample of where I am in my life. Thanks for following. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Apathy and Settling

When it comes down to it...I'm a sham. It's not a revelation I particularly enjoy fessing up to, but it's true nonetheless. I spent years growing up in a Christian home, surrounded by values and dialogue about Christ. After graduating high school, I went to t Christian college. I decided to go into teaching, partially out of obligation to follow in my mother's footsteps, but mostly because I believed in the possiblity of helping others. God had given me hands to serve, hadn't He? I worked hard while in school. I even served here and there when it was comfortable...I worked with teen moms, took a job as an RA, and periodically participated in campus activities that focused on the less fortunate. Four years later, I graduated from this Christian institution, moved home, found a job, and settled in. Settled. Settled. Settled.

Now I'm married, live in a comfortable home in a safe suburb, drive a safe car, and deal with, for all intensive purposes, safe kids. At 27, I have to ask the question, have I settled?

My knee-jerk reaction is no. Of course I haven't settled. You see, for many years I associated "settling" with one aspect of my life: my future spouse. I went through a time where I was close to settling for a less than perfect-for-me husband, but now? Now, I am married to a wonderful man who loves me, and more importantly, loves God, but I still have this nagging feeling that maybe there's more out there for me to do...for us to do.

I wonder if there's something I've been called to that I haven't found yet. In a world so desperate to know God, to be reassured of acceptance and love, what do I do? Who do I influence? Where is my passion to show others Christ? At this point, I have way more questions than answers. Maybe this will always be the case, but regardless, it's time to start searching.