Monday, December 5, 2011

Contentment vs. Happiness

Some people despise exercise. It is an unpleasant thought, and an irritating process. I have never felt this way. It has always been something I have found interesting. Growing up, I was never athletic. I didn’t play on sports teams, and I wasn’t very active. But, one day in high school, my life changed. Exercise became an escape, a release for me. It helped me to channel my stress, organize my thoughts, and improve my self-image. Was I a bit obsessive at times…absolutely! Was I doing it for the wrong reasons…sometimes. But, I can honestly say it improved my quality of life. I needed to push myself and be in control of my body. Exercise was the best way to fulfill those needs.

My outlook on exercise has not changed. In fact, I think I have become more adamant about doing it over time. I still enjoy it, and cannot live without it. When I do not get the chance to work out, I’m cranky and uncomfortable. I feel better, work harder, and love more when I’m taking care of myself, and that includes exercise. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my abilities, my strengths, and my weaknesses through fitness. I’ve pushed myself in ways I never thought possible.

I started training for a marathon in May. I have always been a runner, but the increase in running called for cross training. I took up yoga, and it changed me for the better. Now, in recovery from my marathon, it has only become that much more vital.
One of my favorite things about exercise is the opportunity it gives me to think. I do not have much downtime in my world. I’m always busy and going from one place to another. When I get home, I’m too tired to reflect on my day. My time exercising is when I do that. Yoga is the best place for deep thinking.

Today, my instructor said something that really summed up something that has been on my mind for a while. Her comment was something along these lines;

“We get so caught up in being happy. We keep telling ourselves if ‘this’ happens, we’ll be happy….if ‘that’ works out, then we’ll be content. And yet, we never are. Maybe, the problem lies in our way of thinking. Maybe, if we change our way of thinking, we’ll find happiness. Instead, we should take the outlook that we are content where we are, as we are. Then, we will attract happiness and our outlook will become our being.” Ok, maybe this is too “yogi” for you, but it falls right in line with what I have been thinking about.

For as long as I can remember, I have been future oriented. I’ve always looked forward to the next stage in life, and have neglected to make the most of many experiences just waiting for the possibility of tomorrow. It was a year ago that I remember consciously deciding to change that. I made an effort, daily, to enjoy every experience; to appreciate every opportunity. I put more value in my relationships, gave more time, and took time for myself. I have continued to do so, and for the first time, I think I am truly content. I love my work, enjoy my freedom, and have a balance in work and play. I am feeling better than I ever have and I have a passion for life no one can take away. I am living for these moments. I still have a plan, hopes, and dreams, but these moments are being cherished in the process.

Guilty, guilty, guilty!!
I started my first official job post college graduation in August. It has been most exciting, fulfilling, and wonderful. I have felt every possible emotion over the past few months. I am right where I am meant to be, and I wouldn’t trade these days for anything. But, not everyone my age feels that way about their jobs. It doesn’t seem to matter in which field we work; there are always feelings of frustration that cloud our perspective.

I have had many discussions about happiness lately. I’m not really sure any of us knows what happiness really is. We have all these notions that it is wondrous, yet no one seems to really know what it feels like. So, why do we want it so badly? What do we have to gain from it?

I think the point of my instructor’s comment is that shooting for such an unattainable prize will disappoint us over and over again. Instead, we should live in the positive. We should look at what we do have, what is fulfilling us, and things will come together in time. We must realize that happiness is not a rite of passage…it is part of the ebbs and flows of life. When we least expect it, we will be surprised if we are in the right mindset. But, if we focus only on the possibility of this perfect happiness, we will miss all the imperfect replicas in our midst.

Enjoy life for where you are with whom you are with. Cherish the victories and the road blocks. Set your sights high, but leave room for failure. Life will amaze you with all the opportunities it holds if you let it. One day you may wake up somewhere different than you ever dreamed. We get one shot at this life…spend it wisely!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Daddy's Girl

I may be a teacher by trade, but I learn more and more with each day that passes...not just professionally, but in all aspects of life. If we allow ourselves to be open, our lives can truly be enhanced by all that is around us. 

I have learned the importance of family over the past few years. My family is very tight knit. We have an abundance of wonderful memories of times together. I admit, I have resented the closeness of my family at times. It can feel smothering, annoying, and exhausting. However, the more time I spend with children from broken homes, the more I come to treasure and embrace my family, despite the parts which exhausts me. 

I have always been a daddy's girl. I am like my dad in many ways. I am following in his career footsteps...not just because I admire him, but because I am truly passionate about children and education, and I, too, have been blessed with the gift of teaching. I value health, wellness, and physical fitness. I am an introvert, but can be an extrovert as well. I am an early rising creature of habit who craves routine. 

My dad and I have been training together for a marathon and ran a 20K trail run this past weekend. It was truly a blast. The scenery was wonderful, the weather was perfect, and his company and encouragement was superb. I don't think he expected us to do as well as we did, but when faced with competition, I can't help but push for success. 

When I originally approached my dad about doing a marathon together, he was hesitant. He felt his marathon days were over and the time commitment would be too great. I didn't push him to change his mind, but momma did. She knew how valuable our training time would be. She couldn't have been more right. Every run has been full of conversation, sometimes about things I am very hesitant to share. 
We completed the Palo Duro Trail Run together. 
 I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease almost 8 years ago. It made for some very tough years for me. I am naturally a go-getter with an abundance of energy. I wanted to experience life the way my peers did, but unfortunately, that was hard for me. I tried many different forms of pain management, and continued to struggle until Fall 2010. I finally had enough and went a totally different route. 

A year later, I can honestly say I cannot remember feeling this good. I still have bad days, but the transformation has been remarkable. The other day, my mother reminded me how much of a testimony my running has become. Two years ago, I longed to run, but a 5k was taxing. It would take me days to prepare and I would feel the repercussions of the intensity for days after. And now, I have outrun myself and pushed myself to do more than I ever thought I could. 

I think this testimony spills over into other areas of life. I think it is really easy for us to make excuses for ourselves and set the bar low because that is what is safe. We have to be daring enough to strive for more! Because, most the time, the battle is in the mind. We tell ourselves we will fail, and our body and actions deliver just as we expected. Winning the battle of the mind is the hardest part. Once won, our actions will fall right into place. 

So, that brings me to another point. PERFECTION. I think this word is kind of ugly. Yet, it tends to be my goal more often than not. I have realized I am not alone on the journey to perfection. As a society, we have kind of become "All or Nothing" liars. We live our lives aiming for everything to fit the "perfect" mold. And, when that can't be achieved, we typically give up. We start a workout plan, and eat poorly, so we nix the plan and continue our poor habits. We try a career path, and find it unfulfilling, so we quit. We  try a relationship, and don't get what we want, so we break it off. We make a friend who lets us down, so we let the friendship die. And, unfortunately, in the midst of it all, we are thinking only of ourselves. We try to tell ourselves it is for the best, and sometimes it is, but usually, it's just easier to give up than to push through. 

My daddy and I made time to go see Courageous tonight. It was the perfect daddy-daughter date. The only thing that would have made it better was having momma and sissy along. I think this movie spoke right to this point of perfection. There is no such thing as a perfect dad, a perfect mom, or a perfect spouse. 

When it comes to relationships, looking for perfect will only let you down. It takes work, commitment, time,  and love. And by love, I mean true love. The patient, kind, never rude, never selfish, forgiving kind. It isn't natural, it is HARD! But, that is what makes it beautiful. Unlike many children, I have seen this love modeled well. I have taken it for granted at times, but I am blessed to have it modeled for me. I have high expectations because of the strong man of God who raised me. But, I don't regret that. I deserve that, and so do you.
Daddy had just finished a road run when this picture was taken. I was cheering him on in the cold!
We are given the choice every day to accept defeat or push through for more. We are guaranteed trials, struggles, and set-backs. However, the finish line looks so much better when we arrive a little beaten down. We must look toward our goals so we do not lose sight of them. We must constantly reassure ourselves that the journey is worth it.And, we must be confident that our perseverance will be rewarded. 

The following is a blog post I came across about perfection vs. excellence...

Excellence vs Perfection

Excellence vs Perfection: where is the line drawn? We must strive to be perfect, The Letter written to us by The Greatest Author of all time tells us so, but there is a difference between striving to be perfect (excellence) and being perfect (Impossibility).

Philippians 3:12 (NIV)
Pressing on Toward the Goal

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me

1 Peter 1:16 (NIV) states, "for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

What we must understand is that perfection and excellence have the same goal, we arestriving to become perfect, we will not obtain perfection in this lifetime (impossibility)... we will not become perfect until we are in Eternal union with The One who is 'Worth It', but we must strive, we must 'press on' towards this perfection and this striving is what is known asexcellence...

Perfection is the goal (Eternal Life), excellence is the way to achieve it....
No one is perfect... that's why pencils have erasers. ~Author Unknown

So how does this relate to our everyday lives? Here is a list of trying to achieve perfection in the here and now and excellence which is achievable in the here and now...

Perfection says, "It's partly cloudy"
Excellence says "It's partly sunny"
Perfection is throwing one interception and losing confidence
Excellence is throwing 5 interceptions, yet coming back to lead your team to victory (see Dallas Cowboys vs Buffalo Bills week 5, 2007 NFL)
Perfection is performance based
Excellence is based on improvement

Perfection can make a victory become a failure
Excellence can turn a failure into victory
Edison example (invention of a battery): Edison must be ready to quit after having performed some 50,000 tests without success. "You must be pretty downhearted with the lack of progress", the assistant said. Edison replied, "Downhearted? We've made a lot of progress. At least we know 50,000 things that won't work!"

Perfection says, "God I am in control"
Excellence says, "God I am yours"

Perfection states intentions
Excellence creates actions

Perfection leads to insecurity
Excellence leads to greatness ( A human being in The Hands of God is an amazing tool for Greatness - Erwin McManus)

Perfection fears mistakes
Excellence sees opportunities

Perfection leads to a mess
Excellence leads to God creating a work of beauty out of our mess

Once you accept the fact that you're not perfect, then you develop some confidence. ~Rosalynn Carter

A person's pursuit of goodness leads to greatness, but the pursuit of greatness leads to ruin, Pursue goodness and you will achieve great things. ~ John E Kramer Vice pres for communications Institute for Justice

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The L Word

Oh, the L word. I have never really liked the L word. You see, I'm not a mushy gushy kinda girl. Secretly, I'm a hopeless romantic, but first and foremost, I'm practical. If it's not realistic, let's not get carried away! When my knight shows up, MAYBE then we can talk. I don't like to be touched, I'm not a hugger, and I crinkle my nose up when my family members kiss me. Don't worry, my family is very loving. I heard "I love you" everyday as a child and received plenty of affection. Physical touch and lovey dovey just aren't my love language. 

I've been thinking about this L word though...
I can't even imagine how many times a day I say "I love". I love chocolate, I love coffee, I  love her shoes, I love that necklace, I love to run, I love, I love, I love! I don't really mean it, though. Chocolate can lift my spirits, coffee keeps me sane, shoes are a collector's item for me, jewelry is fabulous, and running is my therapy. These are all wonderful things that I enjoy, but I don't really love them. I say this word about things all the time, but, I don't really say it to people. And, when I do, it's more like a "luv you"...a passing phrase that sounds endearing, but from which I am emotionally removed. For me, it's a conscious thing. It protects me from getting hurt, it keeps me at a distance, and I like it that way.

This past weekend, Beth Moore came to town. One of her remarks was about love. She challenged us to put the "I" back in our "Love You". Apparently, it isn't just me. I don't know that other people take out the "I" consciously, but without it, it is less intense. She feels that we need to express that love for others strongly, for their good and ours. I have thought about this quite a bit. At first, I thought it was dumb, in all honesty. Does it really matter? I'm set in my ways and I have my reasons. It's one letter that happens to be a vowel. It shouldn't bother me so much, but tonight at church, it came up again. 

As I left church this evening, I was hoping for a sense of renewal. I was a bit disappointed when I didn't feel that sense of relief after the day I had. As I walked to the parking lot, I heard a little girl telling her mother what she learned in Children's Worship. They are memorizing scripture while the adults are praying in 'Big Church'. She carefully began reciting 1st Corinthians 13:4. 

1st Corinthians 13:4

I was so impressed with how well she did! It was the most precious moment of my day listening to the pride in her voice. Then, it got me thinking...

This is what love is supposed to be. This is how we are called to love. This is why we are meant to say it and truly mean it. As I read the characteristics, I realize I'm not so far off from the type of love this scripture describes. What I've found is I don't know when to let go. I may not say it, but in my heart, I grow attached. I trust too much, I'm too nice, I don't take enough pride in myself, and I hope too much. Where is the practicality in that???

I will come right out with it...I lost my marbles this morning. I, who am rarely emotional, became an emotional wreck in a matter of minutes. It started out with a few tears and turned into a panic attack from being so shocked by my balling escapade. I cannot even remember being this upset in the past. It took me a long while to gain my composure, and I can't lie and say I did it gracefully either. That experience illustrated just how passionate I am about kids and their success. From that experience, I learned that I am human. As hard as I try, I am just as 'normal' as everyone else, and it is ok to shed tears. Ok, I typed that, but I'm still trying to convince myself about the tear shedding! 

Most importantly this traumatic experience brings me right back to the L word. I truly care about all of my students. I am doing everything I can for them, and it is wearing me out. I want the best for them even when they don't want it for themselves. But, I must LOVE them the way I have been called to love them even when they don't deserve it. I must be kind and patient. I must persevere. I must be the one who doesn't fail them. 
Yes, I will fail. I have to let go of that. But, they must always count on the fact that I am their advocate. 

So, I have taken all of this too heart. I'm still stubborn about my love. It means something when I say least when it comes to people. :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lessons I Learned Over Labor Day

This weekend was a very welcome and much needed chance to get away. It is no secret that I love to travel, but it is not often that I get a chance to relax. This weekend in the mountains was a VERY relaxing vacation with very dear friends. 

It is almost always impossible for me to not think about work. I live for work, and love my job. This weekend, I allowed myself to completely forget about all obligations and enjoy the exact moments I was living. I spent the weekend with three amazing mommas, one husband, two high school teenage girls, my sweet Sammy love, and five children under the age of 10. There was never a dull moment! 

Friday night, we had fajitas waiting for us when we arrived at our newly remodeled cabin. We put the kids to bed, and the adults relaxed on the back deck under the stars. The married couple (17 years and counting) danced in the moonlight as if they were newlyweds again. Saturday brought with it cool temperatures and sunshine. I heard the most wonderful story of a widower's new found love. It was absolutely enchanting to watch her sweet face light up with every word. It doesn't matter what age we are, all women want to be cherished. 

Later that day, I took the high school girls to get ice cream. Oh, high school relationships...just as I remembered. These girls, too, had stories to tell. Mainly of disappointment and confusion. I gave the best advice I could, but secretly I was glad to be past that stage in life. And, then, the little girls told me of their 'boyfriends'. It's amazing to me they have gone through so many at such a young age. They are still at the 'cootie stage', but boy crazy none the less. 

Every story I heard was different, but the emotions were all the same. I've learned love comes in many different forms at every stage in life...the trick is being open to it. Sometimes, I think it's easy to look around and think it can be so easy for other people. But, we don't always know all the details. It may be better right where we are. 

Which brings me to the map...
Of course, I found this on pinterest...I mean, where else would I waste/invest countless hours of my time?? 

I think often about the future, but it is also imperative to look at 'the now'. After all, it is the now that gets us to the future we someday would like to see. I've learned, these moments that add up to become days in our lives are valuable. We can remember them forever, but we cannot relive them or change the way they happen. It is up to us to be diligent with our time and spend our moments wisely. Cherish the days we are given, both good and bad, for they are our lives. 

I've seen the value of working hard for that in which you believe. Sometimes it is easier to get busy with other things, and let the important stuff move to the back burner. But, it can be dangerous to let that happen. 

I stepped outside in the crisp mountain air multiple times this weekend. As I looked off into the vastness of greenery, I realized how much for which I have to give thanks. I also had to reevaluate where I am going. I know where I want to be, I'm on my way there. But, I can't miss the opportunities right before my eyes just because I am lost in the fantasy of my future.

I think of life like a race. From the minute I start training, all I can think about is the finish far it is, how hot I am, how tired, beat down, and thirsty I am becoming. The whole way through, I keep telling myself 'You can do it!', 'you're strong enough!' 'Keep going!' When I get to the end, I am so proud of my accomplishment. I am pleased with the payoff of my hard work. At the end of the road, it's great to be proud, but all that really matters is the crowd of people I have to surround me...the ones who have supported me all along and experienced the ups and downs of the run.

I have come to appreciate relationships so much more over the past year. I have a great group of friends, but I keep them at a distance. In all honesty, I like to be alone. I value having time to think, and I appreciate privacy. But, life is about more than that. Life is about being open and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I will be the first to admit I am AWFUL at that, but I am working on it. I am finding it is better for me and for all those I share with to know the true emotions of my heart. It makes the thrills of life more thrilling and the struggles in life less painful.

My challenge to you this week is to look at your life. What do you  need to work on to get the most out of life? Where are you going and how will you get there?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

This past week was a roller coaster ride of emotions. I think I experienced every possible emotion, except for tears...which shouldn't surprise anyone!I LOVE my job...which also shouldn't shock anyone. I don't think I've ever spent my time doing something I didn't love. I wake up before my alarm and lay awake at night thinking about all the possibilities for tomorrow. Yes, I know, that won't last long. But, for now, I am all fired up!

First Day of my teaching career!
However, I have had things on my mind besides school. As usual, I over analyze everything and don't know how to turn my mind off. I met up with an old friend this week to catch up on life. We both had tons to say. We were talking about plans, big goals for the future. Mine didn't at all surprise this person. The only thing that surprised them was that I hadn't acted on those plans yet. I had a laundry list of reasons why I hadn't. Yet, every one I mentioned, they fired back a counter excuse. 

I changed the subject, but I've been thinking about it quite a bit since. Not so much that excuse, but the whole slew of them I create on a regular basis. Today, I admitted to myself I am a master excuse maker and excuse taker. Not only do I make them for myself, but for others, too. I'm forever extending the benefit of the doubt and wearing myself out trying to be the 'be all' for everyone else. And, for what purpose? What do I get out of those excuses? A feeling of authority over myself coupled with a disappointment later. Not worth it. 

My mini goal for this week is to leave the excuses at home when I leave in the morning. I will take on every situation in stride, and encourage others to do the same. Life is full of opportunities for happiness, we just have to be willing to take them. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Very First Classroom

Playing teacher in momma's office. 

This post has been a long time in the making. When I was younger, my parents kept a Norman Rockwell book with an annual rundown of the child we were that year. Every  year since 1st grade, my future profession has been teaching. The grade level I dreamed of teaching has changed, but the dream itself is still the same. 

I have been hoarding classroom necessities forever. Finally, I have a use for them. I am teaching 6th grade science this year. I could not be more thrilled. I really like the first year of middle school, and I LOVE teaching science. I can't wait for what this year has in store. 

People have been begging to see pictures of my classroom. It took much longer to get it ready than I thought it would. I still have quite a bit to do, but this is basically what it will look like. 

 I covered my bulletin boards with fabric. Fabric absorbs some of the echo (which is a huge problem in my room), and holds up better than butcher paper. I cut out the letters for the board from Science magazines. 

I used zebra print duct tape to separate the boards. My clock came from Target, and I made the 'Agenda' letters using scrapbook paper. The Christmas tree was left behind by the previous teacher, and I WILL leave it up year around on account of my love for Christmas! I've had these rope lights hanging in my room at my parent's house since I was in 7th grade...they still work.

My Science wordle has been the topic of many a discussion. I created it using the Texas standards for 6th grade science and designed it using It's fabulous!

 The demonstration table didn't get painted with the rest of the room. I actually like it unpainted...kinda vintage. 

I do not know how to sew, but I sure did hot glue these curtains together myself! It's amazing how much of a difference the window treatments made!

The WOW wall is my favorite. My sister modgepodged the letters for me. The Caution idea came from Pinterest...imagine that. The sign says "Under Construction: Awaiting Student Work" Can't wait to display my student work and take the sign down!

I feel like this chair speaks for itself!!

 I teach regular and Pre-AP Science. Regular and Pre-AP will have separate folders. This wall will help students keep track of their make up work. There is a file folder for each day of the week. Their make-up assignments will be in the designated day folder with their name on it. I had to have my beloved zebra print in here somewhere!
 Door decor...vital! The letters are elements spelling 'Science Matters'. 
This is my personal corner! I know I'll be first to arrive and last to leave fairly frequently, so I need a comfy space where I'm likely to work. 

Let's Play I SPY: Can you find all the items I picked up at garage sales?

1. Lamps...$12 for all of them
2. Turquoise Chair...$3
3. Bumble Bees and Butterflies...$5 for all
4. Metal Mailbox...$5
5. White file caddy...$1
6. Picture frames...50 cents
There are more items not pictured

I also collected an area rug from a teacher friend! Making friends is the BEST resource!!!

I have had so much fun putting my room together. I never would have imagined it would take so long. I couldn't have done it without the help of my sweet friend Ashley. She has done so much for me! She is going to make a great teacher!

Now, my classroom is ready, and I am onto lesson planning. There is so much I want to accomplish and so many ways I want to teach the material. I just have to remember what my pops said..."You will never get it all done. You will always think of one more thing you could have done. Do your best, but don't expect perfection"

After all, “Striving for excellence is healthy. Striving for perfection is neurotic.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Potential in Everything

Ok, so I haven't been so good at blogging lately. I've been so busy enjoying all of Life's Simple Pleasures!

Let me tell you, my most recent fascination has become garage sales. My sister and I have been going on Saturday mornings for the past month. We're becoming experts! We know the best neighborhoods to scout and we have even become the creepers who do the slow drive by to decide whether a house is worth the 'park and mosey'. I have found so many great things! All of my finds have already been useful in my new home or my classroom. I've saved so much money, and all my finds tell a story. 

My favorite part about garage sale-ing is the adventure my sister and I share every weekend. We anxiously pile in the car talking about the things we would like to find. When we get out at the first few places, we find nothing on our list and tons of useless items that suddenly have a special place in our lives. We rave over the bargains we are finding and plan out the use of our new found treasures. We drive around until there is either no more room in the backseat or until we are out of energy. Then, we drive home and distribute all our loot on the dining room table to show our parents. You'd think it was Christmas every weekend at our house!

I've learned a thing or two from garage sale-ing. 

  1. Everything is valuable, we just may not see it's value right now. Many of the garage sales we have gone to are overflowing with kid's clothes and toys. We aren't to that stage in life. But, we already have plans to garage sale together when we are at that stage. 
  2. Some things take up more space than they are worth, and occasionally, it is time to purge. I'm the worst at holding onto things...not just material things, but emotional things too. I'm afraid to let them go for 'sentimental reasons.' What if I need them some day down the road? I'm learning that there will always be something else to take that space. It's not efficient to be overcrowded physically or mentally. We have to learn to let go. 
  3. Most importantly, there is beauty to be found everywhere. Sometimes we find the most useless items that are worn and dilapidated. However, with a little time and creativity, they can be remade into the perfect pieces. You have to learn to look past the exterior. You have to use your imagination to see potential that isn't always easy to find. You have to invest in the brokenness to enhance the initial beauty. I think this fact is true in life. Often times, we come across people who appear to be worthless, a waste of our time. Sometimes, they just need someone to invest in them to tell them they are worth it. We have to help them see their potential and give them the tools to rebuild themselves. Sometimes, the process is tedious, but in the end, totally worth it!

I challenge you to look for the beauty in something or someone that appears broken around you. What can you do to enhance the hidden potential?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Life List...a work in progress

I have learned a lot about life in the past few months. My life has changed more than I ever imagined it would. I have always been a planner, type A to the max. I admit my OCD gets the best of me, and my inability to relax wears me out. But, I always seem to think I know exactly what I want, and that I know the best ways to get it. Boy, have I been wrong...but only a time or two. ;) OK, many more than a few times.

A friend of mine tagged me in a posting of this quote. We laughed about it at lunch today, but both of us recognize how relevant these words are to our lives.

There is no telling how many times I have read this verse, claimed it among my favorites, and shared it with others in moments of chaos. Yet, truly believing in what it says and living my life accordingly is easier said than done.
As a young girl, I played house, mommy, and school. Some of my earliest memories are coming home from elementary school and playing "teacher" to my imaginary students in my mom's office. I wore her high heels, old glasses, and broomstick skirts. I used an old American Flag stick as a pointer, and used her world map as my main education tool. I pretended to type my lesson plans on her type writer and kept track of my students' grades on yellow legal pads. I taught precious little elementary students all the basics of life. I remember wanting nine children at one time. I had a list with all of their first and middle names. I knew the age I would give birth to them and had a reason for spacing them the way I if I had control over that. I could have drawn you a floor plan of my dream house. I would have told you that I was going to graduate college in four years with a degree in education. I would meet the love of my life there, and marry that handsome hunk the following December. I would be teaching in my hometown, and start a family a few years down the road.

 Let me relieve and assure you that I DO NOT think nine children sounds so awesome anymore. I just don't have the energy. Yes, I realize I'm young, but I have probably changed just as many diapers in my 21 years as the Duggar momma has in her entire parenting career. I have no clue what my house will look like or what kind of home I even want anymore. I did not meet that handsome hunk, and there is no wedding in my near future, and children are so far off my radar, it's unreal. Though I graduated from college in four years, and I will be teaching in my hometown in the fall, I will not be teaching precious, well behaved, elementary students.

I have come to the conclusion that life is just so much easier when I stop making my own plans, and enjoy the natural ride of life. I could not ask to be in a better place right now. I have accepted a job as a middle school science teacher. This job is perfect for me. I love the school, the administration, and my co-workers. I am, admittedly, a science nerd, and look forward to the challenges ahead. I have rented my own home all by myself. I am financially stable, independent, and embarking on a journey of freedom that I have been waiting for as long as I can remember. However, in typical me fashion, I want more.

A few months ago, a friend and I started talking about Bucket Lists. We regularly share with each other our hopes and dreams, and decided to write them all down. So, we began thinking, jotting, sharing, and now we are publishing. With these goals out in cyberspace, there is a certain accountability to see them fulfilled. I wish I could say this list is complete, but it changes constantly. So here goes...

My Life List
1.      Create a website using html code.
2.      Learn how to use Photoshop.
3.      Start or join a book club.
4.      Take culinary classes, possibly gluten free.
5.      Design and publish a cookbook.
6.      Obtain my Fitness Instructor Certification.
7.      Read the bible cover to cover.
8.      Learn to sew.
9.      Shop at a farmer’s market.
10.   Grow my own herbs.
11.   Own my own business. Right now it will be a cafĂ©/bistro.
12.   Write my own wedding vows to say at me wedding in addition to the traditional ones.
13.   Publish an article in a journal.
14.   Become a better blogger.
15.   Read one book a month.
16.   Run a marathon.
17.   Compete in a triathlon or duathlon.
18.   See Italy, Ireland, Australia, and Switzerland.
19.   Be a Keva International supporter.
20.   Be a mentor to young women.
21.   Keep my health in check and live a lifestyle that promotes wellness.
22.   Be comfortable in my own skin. 

So, this is what I have, one goal for every year I've lived, and a very important one to grow on with my birthday coming up next week. I realize those aren't grammatical sentences, but there is something final about putting a period at the end of a goal. This Life List is ever-changing. Tomorrow, I may have ten more things to add. I may never cross some off, and I may cross a few off multiple times. I am embracing life for all that it is and opening myself to the possibilities. I won't put limits on how long I have to complete these goals.  After all, who knows where life will take me next.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chicago, a City of Bliss

 As a reward for graduating college, unmarried, tattoo, and baby free, my momma planned a family vacation to Chicago! We had the best time. Chicago may not be on the top of most people's travel list, but I thought it would be a neat place to visit. My family does a lot of traveling, so we have been to many of the popular cities. Now, I can cross Chicago off the list!

We did more touristy things than usual, such as riding up to look out Willis Tower, Navy Pier on 4th of July, Millenium Park for an evening concert, the Art Institute, an architecture boat tour, window shopping the Magnificent Mile, etc. But, we also took some time to see the city for what it truly is.

My favorite thing about traveling is seeing how the locals live. I love to walk their neighborhoods, eat at the local restaurants and watch as they live their daily life. I enjoy sitting at a park bench watching the young couples walk by hand in hand, families walking their dogs, and old ladies getting in a bit of exercise. There is nothing better than running through the streets at sunrise, and walking home on a full stomach after supper as the sun sets in the distance. Really, the world isn't all that different wherever you go. People are all very much alike. Their environments and circumstances mold their facades, but at our hearts, we are really all the same.

One of the things on my Life List (don't worry, that will be my next post), is to eventually own my own business. I want to have a bakery/coffee shop/ cafe wherever I end up living. I have spent the past few months creating a style notebook with some of my ideas for decor, menu items, and advertising. On this particular trip, I took lots of pictures of store fronts I like. I have no idea what will actually come to fruition, but these are some of my ideas. Let me know what you think!
I LOVE the flower sign

What a great sign

Chalkboard menu...mirrors add a nice touch
Rise and Shine, It's breakfast time!
Menu ideas, I like the lighting
Now, that is my kind of chandelier
Blue corner shop with porch dining
Store Front