Sunday, April 29, 2012

Living Life...

And so the blog has been a little neglected over the past couple of weeks...but the good news is - just four more weeks, and I'll be a free woman again! lol This has truly been a great school year, but this last quarter has made me long for summer vacation more than ever. It has been long, busy, and seemingly never-ending. I think part of it has to do with taking classes at the same time I'm teaching.

Speaking of doing both - I would just like to say I admire all the husbands/dads, wives/moms, and other working people out there who go back to school. I feel so fortunate that 1- My schooling is online and I can do it at my convenience as long as I finish work by certain weekly deadlines, which also means I don't have to go anywhere for classes, 2 - I have a job providing me with the financial ability to go back to school. I still have college loans, but I'm thankful they can be deferred for now I can pay for grad school as I go, and finally 3 - I am only responsible for myself right now while I'm in school. I can't imagine working, being in school, AND caring for anyone else right now. It's wearing me out just working and being in school. I also can't yet imagine working (without grad school in the picture) and taking care of someone else/a family. But I know people do it every day. And I know God will give me the strength and ability to do it when the time comes! I am thankful, though, God has given me this time in life where I am only balancing two of the three things for now!

Last week was truly full of fun and examples of how much we care about our kids at my school. Sometimes, though they take away from "academic" time, fun activities are just what is needed to raise the morale of a school. Taking time to honor others and raise awareness for special causes help to show that our minds aren't just focused on ourselves all the time. And our kids need that example. So - last week we had our volunteer banquet Tuesday evening to recognize the many parents/soldiers/community members who help in our building throughout the year, then on Wednesday we had a staff vs. 5th/6th grade basketball game in the morning as a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, and a 1 mile all-school walk in the afternoon to raise community awareness for Autism. Our school is so fortunate to have an Autism-specific classroom, and I am so honored to teach every student at our school, including these very special and bright kiddos! Together we raised $1500 plus some more for the cause of Autism research! :) Thursday we had a state evaluation for our PLC system, and Friday was our end of the month "Fun Friday" with PTO activities for the kids. Whew! It makes me tired just thinking about it all. But I honestly look back and say - this was one of the best weeks of the whole school year. I got to be a painter (decorations for the banquet), a poetry reader (at the banquet), a basketball player (oh yeah - we won too! We beat the kids 50-34! lol), a music teacher, and a P.E. sub (when Coach had to leave early Friday and there wasn't a sub available). I was just full of unexpected surprises all week - you never know what to expect from this music teacher! haha If you had asked me about work last year I would have been down and negative. It was so hard. But this year I can honestly say, I love my school. I enjoy the people I work with. There are tons of kids, and though it's hard to get through some days, I want to go back the next day. I'm so thankful to God for this change of heart and the purpose I have there each day! Here are a bunch of pictures from our Autism Awareness celebration/fundraiser day! :)

These are only some of the decorations in the gym - the adults were the "Tiger" team and the kids were the "Cubs" :) It was a fun game!

Real live refs came to help out with our game!

Teachers and staff at Wood Elementary rock! This pic is of the basketball team, some of the cheerleaders, and a few other great staff members decked out in our blue for Autism! 
(And I love that you can see my fun classroom and its bright colors in the background!)

It's a little blurry, but here I am running out with the team - ready to dominate! :)

Pre-game picture - missing a couple of team members

Half-time pep talk...actually our principal came over to tell us we should probably let the kids score a few points too! haha 

Some of the great banners made by others in our school

Cool Super Man puzzle piece

Check out that score! Post-game pic!

We're so tough!

Getting ready for the walk in the afternoon - lots of blue balloons and puzzle pieces!

Great turnout for the walk - so proud of the kids and our community!

We were a pretty long group - they had to stop traffic for a little while! :)

So - while last week was busy at school, this week is going to be really busy in life. I have so many things in mind to blog about, but I just haven't had the time, and probably won't for a few more weeks. And I can't wait until I do! I still have two music programs, a baseball game performance, our district choir, and some assessments to get through at school. This week is when my big paper and lesson plan are due for my grad classes with another presentation and a written final due next week. It's going to be long and hard. I will probably be up late a lot of nights, and drink way too much coffee. But I'm going to cover the week in prayer! And if you don't mind, please pray for me too. I'm going to need extra strength, encouragement, and motivation each day!

Thanks for staying with me - I'll be back soon!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Miles 4 Missions

I did something kind of exciting this weekend.

I ran my first 5K race in 10 years. And I finished without walking. In 35 minutes and 34 seconds. It was such a good and successful feeling. 

The last time I ran in a for real race was high school when I was on the Cross Country team, and my last season was in 2002, my Senior year. I ran a little bit in college on my own, sometimes 4 miles or so at a time, but never consistently, and not in a healthy way. I was doing it because I was stressed out, and doing it directly after working out at Curves which led to pain/injury. So, really, when I started running again last month, it had been ten years since I ran races, and about five since I ran at all. I really wasn't sure if I'd be able to go back to it consistently, or if my knees would be ok without hurting. But so far, so good! 

I'm enjoying it a lot. And it felt so good to cross that finish line on Saturday. My goal was to finish without walking, to keep up with some other runners, and to have a time of 36 minutes or less, because my time last week when I practiced 3 miles for the first time was just over that. There were some other ladies from my school running too, a couple who had also just started running recently, and a couple who have been running for several years (half and full marathons too!) It was even more exciting that I crossed the finish line with the two who have experience in marathon running. They were obviously going at a slower pace and probably not running as intensely as normal, but I loved running with them, and it helped me push myself a little more! I was 5th out of 16 in my 20-29 yr. age category, though some were walking the race. I did it!

The race was for missions too, coordinated and sponsored by a woman at my church who started running a couple of years ago and desired to use that ability to glorify God. And He was glorified this weekend! The weather was SO beautiful, and over 100 people showed up. At $20/person, $2200 was raised to support the missions fund at our church. What a blessing and testimony of God's glory! You can visit her website here

When I think about it, I'm also thankful for my Cross Country coach from school. I joined the team in Jr. High having never run anywhere in my whole life. I have no idea what made me want to join, but I did. I couldn't even make it a mile without walking, and I could never keep up with anyone at practice. Sometimes my mom would drive around and follow me so I wasn't running alone and worrying her. I walked in almost every race - and they were only 1.5 miles. Then, I skipped a few years and didn't join the team again until my senior year. I spent the whole summer before it running on my own and really just building up endurance. Imagine how proud I was the first time I realized I could make it on our team's longest run from school to a bridge about 2.5 miles down a country road and back (about 5 miles total, with some hills!) without walking! And when I finished each of the races that year (which were now 5Ks since I was in high school) without walking, and even beat a couple of other runners once or twice. It was such a feeling of achievement I never knew I could reach. I was also never fast, but I just loved the distance. So - I write all that to say that our coach never put me down. He never said, "What in the world are you thinking joining a running team when you can't even make it a mile without huffing, puffing, and walking?" He just encouraged me and all the other runners. He said to keep pushing myself, and I would be better before I knew it. He had people cheering for me at the finish line, even when I walked in a race, and finally, my senior year when I made that long, long, run at practice - he remembered where I'd come from, and he reminded me to celebrate that. 

So - I guess 3.1 miles doesn't sound like that much to me when I think about it now. And I know there are a lot of people who "run" for recreation now. But it feels awesome. And I plan to keep going! I don't know if I'll ever be one of the people who pushes on to a half or full marathon, but I would love to get to the 10K level one day! God is good, and I am proud to celebrate my accomplishment from this weekend! It's a big deal to me! :) 

P.S. - Here's a picture of my amazing roomie and me. She has been running longer than me and did the 10K race.....AND got a metal! Yay, E! :) 

Friday, April 20, 2012

99 Years From Now...

I will have to renew my new teaching certificate that I received today. I hope that won't be an inconvenience in my busy schedule and active lifestyle I will be living then. After all, I will only be 126 years old!

It's hard to believe I've almost taught four full years of school already. And that my "Initial" certificate (for the first four years of teaching) has now been upgraded to a "Career Continuous Professional Certificate."

Here's to 4 years of experience....and 99 more to look forward to. Right?...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Brother - One of the Few...

The Proud, A Marine! I had a t-shirt saying that when I was in elementary school, and I was SO proud to wear it! I was proud...of my brother Mark!

My brother Mark was (and still is!) kind of the practical joker in our family. He always enjoyed thinking up practical jokes to play on anyone and everyone and even probably gave our dad a heart attack or two and some gray hair, hiding behind things and jumping out. Where Bryan's corny jokes left off, Mark's crazy pranks picked up...between both of the boys, our house was definitely never, uh...dull! haha One memory I still laugh at today is the time Mark took a kleenex box, cut a hole in the bottom, stuck his finger through and squirted ketchup inside. Then he knocked on the door to my sister's room and acted like he was in excruciating pain and his finger had just been cut off....LOL...She was not as amused as the rest of us were!

Mark graduated high school and left for the Marines the summer before I went into third grade. But before he graduated, I have so many random (and good) memories! I can remember going to his football games and cheering him on as he played (#62 I think?) and also watching him march with his trumpet in the band. I remember thinking he must be the strongest guy I knew because he lifted weights a lot at school. He (like all my siblings, except me!) worked at Mc Donalds for a little while as a teenager and might or might not have given me an extra chicken mcnugget or two in my Happy Meal when we came through the drive through once in awhile. ;) And, like Bryan, he had a stylin' car! A copperish colored Thunderbird, that is. And with both of those gracing the presence of the street in front of our house as well as my parents' two vehicles and then later my sisters' we could have easily passed for the Whitaker/Carlton Used Car Lot! I'm sure our neighbors loved it...haha

I have some funny memories - of times when he brought a girlfriend to dinner, and I asked her some kind of embarrassing question/made some comment (just doin' my job as baby sister! haha) He also loves to tell a story about the family at the dinner table and me in another room of the house, but I'll leave that one for him to tell! Another favorite story we share is the time he took me to school one morning, already running late and trying to catch his bus to the technical school, and just as he was about to drive away I started screaming, "Wait, wait, wait!!!" with urgency. Then suddenly I burst into tears and he stops, thinking something is really wrong, and I say "I forgot my lunch and it's hammmmmburrrrrggeerrrrrrr dayyyyyyyyyyy!" between tears. Thank goodness for Dr. G who happened to be walking by and took me to the office to call my mom. :) Ah the traits that sometimes come with being the baby...oh well!

I remember when Mark decided to enlist in the Marines that we used to drive to monthly meetings at Lebanon and stop at Army Surplus, so I thought it was so cool to go there since my big brother liked it. I was so sad when he left for Boot Camp the summer before third grade, but the time passed, and in August, our whole family traveled (on an airplane for my first time!) to his graduation in California. It was really fun to visit Disney Land, the beach, and some other places, but it was  not so fun to eat at Jack 'n the Box EVERY day on the base (there wasn't much else to offer, I guess...haha)

I know I have many more memories, but just like I wanted to be like my brother Bryan in many ways, I also wanted to be like my brother Mark. He tried to teach me things about being "tough" and sometimes I tried hard to fit into that toughness....but it never stuck much! haha What did stick was the fact that, my brother Mark is one of the strongest, most determined men I know. During his time in the Marines, it would have been easy to give into the things his peers did for entertainment and down-time. He could have had a LOT to drink and been part of lots of parties. He probably could have even found a girlfriend/wife there. But instead, he chose the hard way. He never (and still has never as far as I know) had a drink of any alcoholic beverage. He didn't go out with girls just to have fun or pass time. He didn't party or find ways to get in trouble. Instead he watched cable t.v. and made videos of all the shows and movies we didn't get at home and mailed them to us so that we had a stash too! haha (I still have and watch some of that stash!) And sometimes I know he was lonely.

But it's that very thing that makes me look up to him most now, I think. I admire and respect my brother for sticking to his Christian and moral values. I strive to be like that too. Even after getting out of the Marines, he still had to live on his own and work for a few years before God brought him a beautiful wife and blessed me with another super sister-in-law. (Another funny side story - once I was visiting my brother and sister, and we went to some of their friends' house. My (now) sister-in-law Kristin was there and had a huge crush on Mark and was so bummed because she thought I was his girlfriend....LOL...I was only like 15 or 16 at the time, I think! Needless to say she was relieved to find out this was NOT the case!) Anyway - I say all that because I know my brother Mark trusted God, even when it was hard, or he made a mistake, or he was lonely. And a lot of times, I feel like I'm in that boat now. I make a lot of choices that are different from people my age...and I'm not too worried about changing to fit in. Not that I feel "better than" any of my peers for the decisions I make, but I just mean I am firm in staying strong in my moral and Christian beliefs too. And even when I feel lonely and long for a relationship, I can look and see the perfect timing God had for my brother Mark and his faithfulness in waiting for that and know that God will be faithful in my life too...and when He is, I know you'll be the first one to "interview/intimidate/approve" of the man God brings into my life! haha Hopefully God's preparing whoever that is for such brotherly approval and intimidation! lol

So - I know this has gotten kinda long, and I know that it's a little sappy (but secretly underneath the tough Marine there is just a little sappy in my brother too....shhhh, don't tell! haha) but like I said in my brother Bryan's post, I am so thankful God has given me this time in my life where I can share adulthood with my siblings. I love watching them and the ways God is using them/teaching them now. Mark and Kristin have two beautiful and fun children, a boy and a girl. And I am learning so much from watching them raise their children and model a godly relationship and marriage. I know things are not always easy or perfect - they aren't for any of us - but that is what teaches me the most...seeing the two of you work through and trust God each step of the way.

I'm thankful God gave me two awesome brothers and that you're one of them, Mark! I love you and have looked up to you since I was a little girl...and I still do now!

Love, Your Baby Sis (who is about to be 10 years younger than you again in May...until January, of course!)
I couldn't find a picture of Mark and me by ourselves, but here's a great picture of my two awesome brothers riding in the tea cups with me at Disney World during our family vacation when I was little!

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Recently I decided it would be fun to do a series of blog posts about my siblings and what they have meant/still mean to me. I look up to each of them so much, for so many different reasons, and though they are a few years older than me, I still have lots of memories from my childhood that really hold a special place in my heart! (I have to add, so no one is left out, that I also have two awesome sisters-in-law, and a brother-in-law, and I am thankful for them too!) So anyway, I hope this is ok with my siblings...if not, they'll get over it. I'm the baby after all, and that means I get away with everything can do what I want to once in awhile!  ;)

And because he is oldest I mean, ummm...because he is the first-born of my siblings, I'm going to start with my brother Bryan. I have lots of random memories, so they're in no particular order, but I also have so many reasons I still look up to my "Bubby" now to share at the end!

My brother Bryan was (and still is) always full of corny jokes to make people laugh (or maybe groan once in awhile...haha). He played drums like a pro, and it's because of him that I wanted to be a girl percussionist! He graduated high school and moved to college the same year I graduated Kindergarten. I still remember the ways I looked up to him. I remember when he was home from college that I couldn't wait for him to pick me up at the babysitter's house. I remember when he had friends over that I wanted to hang out with them because they were "so cool..." and that once in awhile he actually let me. He drove the coolest (ok, probably ugliest and biggest) gray Cougar in think my parents got smaller and smaller cars as each child learned to drive (thank goodness!)

I don't remember when, but at some point, I had a friend who called her older brother "Bubby." I decided I wanted to call my brother "Bubby" too, and the name stuck! My brother played in a Christian band with some friends in town, and I remember summer evenings sitting in the back (or on top of the hood) of our family station wagon in the parking lot of what was Stanley's Grocery Store then, eating ice cream from Ruby's, and watching his band play. I was a super fan, of course! One of my favorite memories is of the music he loved to listen to. DC Talk, who was pretty hard-core back then was cool to me because they were cool to him. I recently found a cassette tape he made for me of some of their best songs. My Bubby worked at a Christian radio station for awhile too, and even though he couldn't always take requests, he played a song that was one of my favorites, "Drop in the Bucket" by the A Capella Kids. (P.S. I tried SO hard to find a copy of that song or the cassette tape it was on today online, but no luck! Maybe one day I will find it and get to hear it again!) I will always remember that song! He also taught me to play the game "Mastermind," and of course I got even better than him and learned to win a lot! (Or maybe he just let me once in awhile, but I think I was pretty good!)

My brother was a Christian example to me and to others around him. I remember one time when he was helping with either VBS or Sunday School and we were playing a game of "Sink or Float," where you put things in a tub of water to see what happens. One of the items was bar soap, and I decided that I would pretend to wash my hands instead. Somehow I think there was a mess involved, and I remember he was not the happiest with me! haha Oh well!

I remember that he had a girlfriend (now his wonderful wife of almost 19 years) who he spent lots of time with (especially on the phone!), and that, even though I might have been just a tiny bit jealous once in awhile for his attention, he always still made time for me too! After they were married, Bryan and Melissa always made time for me to spend a few days with them in the summers where ever they were living, and it was a lot of fun for me!

So - now I'm here, and it's hard to believe I'm older than the age my brother Bryan was when I made all those memories. But one thing hasn't changed - my brother has an amazing heart for God, and he has gone from making time for one baby sis and a wife to adding five other precious girls in his life! Yes - my brother is dad to five beautiful girls, my nieces! He and Melissa do a wonderful job keeping up with the many different interests, activities, and needs of their children. I admire my brother for the dad he is - pouring time and energy into the role God has called him to fill in his family, and giving individual love and attention to each of his special girls. My "Bubby" still loves playing drums, working with computers (he has a computer programming business), and sharing Christian music with others. In fact, if you like Christian rock, hard rock, hip-hop, or power praise, you should check out the online stations he created here!

I'm sure there are many other memories I will think of as I write about my other siblings, but for now, I just want to tell my Bubby, if you read this - I love you lots! I have looked up to you since I was little, and I still look up to you as an adult. I love this time we have now as siblings when all five of us are adults to share life with each other in different ways. I respect your advice and have learned a lot from watching you and Melissa raise your girls. I am thankful God blessed me with two awesome big brothers, and that you are one of them. As I think about having a family of my own one day, I pray I will find a man who loves the Lord and devotes himself as a dad like you do to your family. Of course no one will ever take your place as the corny pro-joke teller! :)

Love, Your Baby Sis (Who is now pretty much as tall as you and also almost 27 years old!)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I'm Here

I haven't had a lot of motivation to write lately for some reason. I think of things I might like to blog about, but don't really know how to put them into words without making big long, and possibly boring-ish posts! Mostly I'm writing this time to keep track of all that has been going on when I look back. Thanks for sticking with me if you're reading. I've been reading all the other great blogs I subscribe too, even when I haven't been writing!

I started running again over the past two weeks, and I'm really enjoying it. I took 0:42 off my mile this Sunday from my time a week ago, and I have also been doing some 2-mile timed runs, mostly to build distance back up, not so much for the time - but this week I took a little over 2 minutes off of my 2 mile time from a week ago too! :) Anyway, just doing it for enjoyment and hopefully to get my heart rate up on the days I don't go to Curves. I miss running a lot since high school Cross Country and college. It hasn't seemed to bother my knees either, so that's great! I am also taking it in moderation as compared to college when I made the not-so-healthy, stressed-out choices to run 3-4 miles right after working out a lot of days. It feels good to be smarter (or just wiser about the decisions I make) now.

I'm trying to keep up with grad school but haven't been as motivated there lately either. I want to do my best and am thankful to be back in school again. And the work isn't super hard. But - working full-time teaching and taking the classes is definitely a big workload, I'll admit that. I'm keeping up with our posts, but need some prayer to get going on my projects that will be due in just a few short weeks....all coming around the same time. Yikes! I'm a procrastinator to the core, and I tend to hate starting things early. Maybe just maybe I can do it this time.

I considered giving up soda again like I did at the end of high school when I was running (I went four years without it!) I only drink diet soda anyway, but after two weeks, even though I could have kept going, I thought, I'll just do maybe one a week so I can still enjoy it, but I don't need to have it all the time.

I talked to my parents on the phone last weekend for a long time. I miss them a lot. They may be home a little later this summer for a short visit/training for work. Honestly it might be harder to see them for a short time, though, than to just keep going without seeing them. We'll see. It will be good to hug them and talk to them face to face.

I turned down a job at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina for this summer. It was hard. Last summer was the biggest blessing. God knew just what I needed. And this year would have worked out, timing-wise...but it just didn't seem right. For some reason I am feeling so much like just sticking around here and taking some time off to relax while also getting caught up/more prepared for school next year. I'm also not taking a summer class. I think it will help financially to wait until the new Fall semester and save over the summer, and it will give me a break so I can feel refreshed in the Fall.

I plan to stay at the building I'm currently teaching at next year and am thankful that this year has been so much better, so much more fun, and has given me chances to really get to know other teachers better and build confidence in myself. I am, however, out of energy, ideas, and almost patience, and I'm so ready for summer to be here! The year has gone so quickly this time, but the end seems so far away right now.

I haven't been traveling much lately. Every time we have a break, I just want to stay here. I think financially and time-wise it just stresses me out more to travel than to stay here. I'm going to have a reunion with these three super friends from college at the end of May, though, and I am SO excited about this! It's been almost two years since we've all been in the same place at the same time! Look out, Birmingham - we're on our way!

I keep learning more about who I am, what it means to be content in Christ, thankful for where I'm at, and looking forward to the future. Just the other day I think I took another big step in realizing who I am is ok when I thought this, "How can they not like me if they don't know me?" I know that sounds silly, but for ever, my first thought has been that people don't like me when they meet me, or people I don't really know at work, etc. don't really like me. Then I realized - I don't really know them, and they don't really know how can they not like me? I know it is small, but really, just that thought was a huge deal for me. God has really been teaching me about little things like that lately. I've also learned to see and recognize when Satan is trying to fill my mind with negative thoughts - or even just slip them in there one at a time in little ways. And that is one of the biggest parts of the battle in finding contentment and joy - being able to stop, push that thought aside, and replace it with God's truth. Thank you Lord for bringing me to this point!

I have enjoyed having some new friends and some closer relationships at school and work this year. There are teachers I rarely got to (or made the effort to) talk to last year, and now I've enjoyed getting to know a little more about them. One of my roles has also been mentoring our new art teacher. And while I confess I was a little freaked out at first about "mentoring" someone, thinking that I still need a mentor myself - I've also realized that this role doesn't require perfection or being a "know it all." It simply requires sharing what I know in the best way I can, encouraging someone else (which I love doing anyway!), and helping that person find other resources and teachers who can help when I can't. I hope I've done a good job - I know I've learned a lot, myself, through helping. And I've gained a new friend and a lot of laughs too. I decided last week I should probably just change my title to "frientor" because I get to be both a friend and mentor. I'm thankful God provided that opportunity and responsibility this year.

I practiced piano today. Of course by practice I mean worked hard to remember some of the things I learned in college, read both clefs, and play hands together after playing each line separately about a million times. It's steps, I guess! I miss singing/playing music for myself and in an ensemble setting...not that I ever did that with piano, but definitely with voice and percussion! Hoping I'll get to be part of the town band again for the first time in a few years, this summer!

A few verses that have been on my mind lately:

"Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning." -Lamentations 3:23

"Whom have I in Heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart. He is mine forever." -Psalm 73:24-25

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him." -Philippians 2:13

Praying God will greatly bless you this Easter week. I am so glad He chooses to love us in a new way each morning and am thankful for the many ways He has led me to grow content and hopeful in Him more each day! If you read all of that, it was longer than I meant for it to be - thanks for keeping up with me, even when it's been awhile!