Thursday, April 30, 2015

May is Here

Tomorrow is May, which always represents the end of another school year to me even though technically out here on the East Coast we don't finish up until June. Each May always leaves me with different feelings. Some years represented the closing of doors with big changes coming from the end of one school year to the next. Sometimes I've had years where it seemed like I had waited years for the months to pass to get to May and other years it seemed like Sept had just passed. I've had years where I couldn't hardly take one more day with some classes, and others where I was sad to see the year end because I would really miss some of the students.

 I love May for a lot of reasons. I love the feeling of completing something, and as teachers you begin work in August but the "project" never feels completed until June. I love the weather. The warmer weather, the late sunsets, the sound of kids out playing in the yard, the sound of the peepers after dark.  I love the anticipation of the upcoming summer vacation I think more than the actual summer vacation sometimes. I love the constant go go of fun that becomes our life at this time of year with fires with friends, drive in movies, concerts, ball games, festivals and carnivals, outdoor walks and picnics, trips, and everything else that comes up.

But this May has a slightly different feeling. This May is the end of the first school year as a parent. Our kindergartener only has seven weeks of kindergarten left and then she will be a first grader! Wow, seems crazy to me that just six years ago she was this tiny infant of only two months. She's a whiz at math, even though when we jokingly asked her tonight what she was doing 20 years ago she said she was a baby. She loves Math more so than reading, but she is reading. Her last two report cards have been solid Os for outstanding or in older terms As. Even though she's started to test the limits with us this past year at times she is an exceptionally well behaved respectful child at school and to others. I think as parents it's hard to judge our own parenting. Some days we either think we're doing great or we're highly critical of our parenting abilities, but getting feedback from teachers is at least reassuring that we maybe know a little bit about what we're doing. Even the media teacher made sure to tell us even though Averi owed $20 to the school for the dog chewing up her book, she was "wonderful child to have in class".  She's always been an incredibly self sufficient smart mature child but it's been really neat to see her come into own this past year.

In our household May has always been like what December is to most people, and as I look back at this past year I feel incredibly blessed and hopeful. It was like the year so much of what we've spent ten years working for finally came to fruition. I made a change to a new school and even though it was a tentative one year contract split between two schools it lead to getting a full time position that I am really exciting about for next school year. Even though Nate finished his masters for school leadership last May it will be next school year that he's moving into a more leadership position. It's not quite the administration one he's hoping for eventually, but it's a move in the right direction. We made it through our first transition between rental tenants on our rental house and two years later are still keeping that ship afloat. We'll keep riding it until it sinks or we sail off into the sunset on it (it's paid off the same year we retire so crossing our fingers on it being a positive investment for our retirement years). Two years later I think we've finally recovered from the financial set back of making the move out of the city.

I found balance and contentment. Something that I didn't know was so vital to my sanity. I wrote once in regards to an article about if the modern woman/mom of today could "Have it All", and for awhile there I was on the side that said sure but not at the same time. This past year lead me to believe that maybe you can have it all at the same time. The career you enjoy, afternoons through evenings and weekends with your kids, time for friends, time for yourself with exercising and hobbies, and a marriage that isn't strained with the stress of everything.

This year gave me hope that what I've envisioned so long ago can be a reality. It still needs work. I'd like to work on building up a savings that isn't exhausted every summer, I'd like to be a little more consistent with working out (I kind of slacked for a few months in the winter Nov-Mar), as always I'd like to work on my marriage because it's very easy as two very independent people that are more than comfortable doing our own thing and as parents to just let time slip by without really connecting with each other, now that I have a passion for teaching again that I thought I'd lost two years ago I hope to continue to learn and improve on the art of teaching and become a better teacher, and now that Averi is old enough to kindly point out my shortcomings (gotta love kids' honesty) I'd like to work on being a better mom.

Even though this year could have easily been looked at as a rough year with two miscarriages, I have faith that God just has a different plan than me. I choose to see the blessings that have come in this year. He gave me back something that I really needed. He gave me back myself; gave me back my confidence. Maybe sometimes we have to struggle and feel letdown to really appreciate the blessings that are about to come.  I think that was the case with the struggle of getting to this point and with the struggle we've had with expanding our family this past year. I saw this quote the other day, "If you saw the blessing that is coming, you would understand the battle you are fighting." Faith and love is what makes this life of ours complete.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Tale of Two Americas

As the media and social media have blown up with coverage and thoughts of the riots in Baltimore Monday attention is starting to be drawn to the Tale of Two Cities. But I don't think it's just a story of Two Cities but two Americas.

We all want to chant American pride and patriotism, and I am proud to be an American. I believe in what America stands for. I have friends in the military; friends that serve our communities as police officers, firefighters, and nurses; and friends like myself that have chosen to serve our country in the classroom by preparing our youth to give us a brighter, hopefully more peaceful tomorrow. But unfortunately what I think America stands for is sometimes the complete opposite of the "patriot" across from me.

We (as in my fellow teachers and public servants) serve the white, the black, the generational American, the immigrant American, the rich, the middle class, the poor, the heterosexual, the homosexual. We serve humanity. That is what we do. That is what being an American is to me.

I can't hardly take the derogatory comments about immigrants, blacks, homosexuals, and poor people anymore. America was never meant to be a place for the "chosen" people. Before anyone sits there on their high horse and pass judgment with their conservative views I challenge them to pick up a book like Savage Inequalities or The Other Wes Moore and so many others that show the struggle of the less fortunate or join the forces of police officers, teachers, nurses, and other public servants, or take part in a community program that's trying to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate and really go out there and experience ALL of America. Walk through and emerge yourself even if just for the day in one of this less privilege areas of our country. See the America people don't want to see.  There is another America where opportunity does not live. Don't isolate yourself from it and don't isolate them from the opportunities and resources they so desperately need.

America is a beautiful, amazing place from the small towns to the big cities. It's rich in history about perseverance and diverse cultures. But America is hurting, and maybe it seems like the current concerns are about the issue of white and black. But I think it's more so about the issue of poverty and wealth; about power and oppression; about education and ignorance; about acceptance and rejection; about hope and lost hope. Stop pointing fingers and casting blame. There does need to be change; I don't think anyone can really argue that. So the bigger question is what are we each going to do to help facilitate that change?

Every generation has seen war. We go to war in other countries for the sake of all of humanity; to eliminate the wrongs and make things right. You don't have to go to war with guns a blazing to fight the war of today. The struggle is right here in our streets, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our rural areas. It's in our poor, under served city neighborhoods and rural communties, it's in the flocks of immigrants that flee their countries in fear of violence and disease for a better opportunity in our education systems, it's in the misguided youth that feel unaccepted and full of lost hope that just need someone to believe in them and give them a little direction.

There will always be those that don't want to help themselves; those that work against the progress that everyone else is trying to achieve. But just as we as teachers fight the 5% that make our jobs impossibly hard to reach the other 95% that want the education we can give them so do all those other public servants out there. They go out there in the streets, the hospitals, the communities and take the sometimes physical, emotional, and mental abuse because in the end we can save the future of more than the ones we can't. For every bad apple out there doing the wrong thing there are dozen of others doing the right thing and wanting to make the most of the resources provided to them to do better for themselves.

To me being American is helping your fellow man. America is about opportunity, hope, and freedom for all of humanity.  Don't keep them down with your judgments and biased views. Be a part of the solution; not the problem.
                                                             The War on Poverty in America
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Protest and Riots in Baltimore

As I am watching rioters and gangs destroy their own neighborhoods and make the city I've come to love look similar to a war zone, I can't keep my anger and thoughts to myself any longer.

This is just fueling the problem; not helping move towards any kind of positive change. This is just feeding into the negative, violent image of African Americans. There is a negative stereotype about African American men in our society that does make them a target, and it is unfair. But it's unfair to the good, honest, hard working African American men, not the ones that are committing crimes and disobeying laws and authority. I look at and think about some of the great African American boys my husband and I, as well as our current and former coworkers,  have taught here in and around Baltimore in the last ten years, and I keep thinking of them because I'm sure their emotions are running high. I know some of them feel targeted due to the recent national events with police and the African American community. Events like what is happening in Baltimore City with these riots just take away from the movement for change and justice. These violent African American teens have hurt their own cause and in return continue to build the negative image that the good honest kids myself and others have had the privilege of working with and teaching will continue to have to overcome.

 As one of my former students pointed out in response to this how come they "protest" this but when her good friend was murdered by gangs it goes unnoticed and no one is protesting that violence or injustice.  No one will even come forward to get her friend justice because of the "no stitching" code. Instead Freddie Gray's death is being used as an excuse for continued violent behavior.

I'm tired of the cries that these men killed in police custody were "innocent". I understand their deaths may have been uncalled for, but if you're going to commit crimes and then run from the police and  defy authority you better be prepared for the consequences that occur. Police officers are not unemotional robots. As a public servant myself, I can only imagine the abuse police officers face. When someone that yes is suppose to be the bigger in control person, finally snaps in the face of constant disrespect and sometimes violent behavior you can't completely make them out to be the bad guy. I know two wrongs don't make a right, but quit making the inaccurate claim that these men were "innocent". The response we often get from others is a reaction to our actions, not necessarily our race.

Change does need to happen. There do need to be some serious conversations. But change has to start within ourselves. We have to be the positive change we hope to see in the world. Represent the perception you want society to have of your culture. Encourage others to be a positive example of what you want society to perceive of your race and culture. .

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Degrees I Didn't Know I Needed for the 21st Century Mom Competition

Social Media and the hype surrounding it sometimes amuses me. I have no hope of competing in some of the mommy war races so I tend to rather amuse myself with my own shortcomings rather than getting my panties all in a bunch about what other moms are doing to supposedly "one up" the rest of us. So here is a list of things I didn't realize I needed a degree in to compete  in today's 21st Century Mom Competition.

A Degree in Pinterest Crafting: I do not have a crafty bone in my body. This was proven once again when I had to help create a team banner for Ave's opening parade for little league.

A Degree in Party Planning: Hello, wal mart party aisle. I guess that's not cool anymore for today's mom.

A Degree in baking: My baking expertise with the girls begins and ends with Nestle chocolate chip cookies. Every now and then we expand our horizons with some brownie or cake batter. Other than that there is no fancy cake decorating or pie making happening over here.

A Degree in Style and Pampering: I have never been a girly girl (I do wear dresses now though) but I didn't know I'd have to clean myself up for public appearances (aka social media pictures) with fashionable clothes like "skinny" jeans and tall boots (which I do own and wear) and fix my hair, which I have yet after 33 years figured out how to tame into something beside an unruly mess (which my husband told me the other day I should do something with because it made me look like a tired, out of sorts mom). Then how to dress a child in style and fashion is a whole new degree certificate or something on top of the one in personal style and fashion.

A Degree in Pinterest Period: Or wait is that where I should go to get this 21st Century Mom Degree in the first place?

Or how about a degree in embracing and being happy with just ourselves.

                                                    Let's just go for a Mom Degree in Silly
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wait! I only have 12 More Years to get this Right?

Several friends and I are closing in on our first year of kindergarten as parents in the next month or so. With that we recently just celebrated six year old birthdays too in which I said we were 1/3 of the way to raising them to adulthood.. However, while I was doing division my friend was doing subtraction and informed me that in just 12 short years our girls (we all three have girls) will be 18 and seniors in high school. WHOA!

Putting it like that stopped me. Twelve years is such a short amount of time! I start my twelfth year of teaching next Fall. Sometimes those first few years seem like yesterday, and so much of all of it just seems like a blur in time looking back. Is that what these next twelve years are going to feel like?

On top of that, you're telling me I only have twelve years to figure out how to make this little six year old girl a self sufficient, responsible, successful adult. That's a lot of pressure!

These first six have been a lot of trial and error as it is. So far we've managed to get her head caught in a lazy Susan with the possibility of having to call the fire department to extract her, sent her down a snowy embankment to the emergency room, sent her through 21 days of intense antibiotic treatments for lyme's disease from the exposure from all the outdoor play we enjoy, gave her the opportunity to prove that she's not Tinkerbell when she tried to fly, and God knows the list of other mishaps and mistakes we've made along the way. That's not even counting blunders like the time she convinced her dad it was okay to have pie for breakfast.

Then one thing or one person is telling us to not be so hard on her, but another is telling me I baby her too much. One thing stresses the importance of involvement, activities, and structured education; while the other says more play and less structured work. One says make them work harder for the things they want; the other says it's our time to take care of them now they'll have their whole life later to work. One says be present for everything; the other says being present for everything is being a helicopter parent. One says be engaged with your kids with daily activities; the other says we shouldn't "entertain" our kids. AHHHH! How are we suppose to do know what to? Which is the right way to parent? What if I listen to the wrong advice, follow the wrong parenting model or formula? So much pressure!!!!!!

WAIT. I'm a well educated, self sufficient, independent, successful adult. As are my two friends and so many other parents out there. Yes, I am imperfect, flawed, and going to make many more mistakes besides not hovering over her every second to catch her when she decided to try to fly like Tinkerbell. She is also imperfect, with this thing called a mind of her own, and I'm sure sticking her head in the lazy Susan is not going to be the last bad decision she makes. No matter what the latest article on the internet says, there is no magic formula to raising kids. There are way too many variables to make it an exact science.

At times I'm a little intimidated and anxious about the school age, tween, and teenage years to come. I have exactly no experience for the job I'm about to embark on these next twelve years. Just as confident as I am that we'll make mistakes, I also think we'll figure it out. We don't have to create the perfect parenting formula or kid. Even with our and their flaws, our goal is to help them reach their own potential to succeed in our imperfect world. I think we got this, ladies (and gentlemen). Don't worry so much what the internet says and just trust yourself in the end to know what's right.

 Our parents before us figured it out without the internet's constant contradicting advice; I'm pretty sure we can too. (We're just raising kids in the cyber age which our parents didn't do so I guess it's a little different ball game but that's for a whole other post).

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The Moment Catcher

After "I DO"

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Monday, April 20, 2015

The Moment Catcher

Even though still at 33, family tends to anticipate what creative electronically created  photo gift they'll be getting from me that year, this cataloging of moments gift giving habit began as an adolescent, when I would often dig through the boxes of boxes of photos my mother stored in the closest to organize them into creative albums for my parents as Christmas gifts.

Even though I am just now starting to truly understand and get how fast time goes, I anticipated the truth in those words from those older and wiser than me early on. Our life is such a blink in time; now and yesterday are the only guaranteed moments that we and those we love have. I knew early on I didn't want to misuse my time; didn't want to miss life's moments so I'm conscious of creating and capturing them.

As time goes on the more people we lose, and I want to log as many memorable moments with them in this life as I can. Are you a moment catcher too?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

After "I Do"

Summer is wedding and anniversary season. Something about the blooming flowers and sunny days gives people hope to commit their life away to one person. Every bride dreams of that glorious wedding day. Hopefully all of yours were as blissfully wonderful as I recall of mine. But just as I always say to expectant mothers you better not just want a baby, you better want a whole person to add permanently to your life, any bride better want more from that “I do” ceremony than the princess wedding she’s always dreamed about. She better be ready for a lifelong journey that is not always blooming flowers and sunny days.

For the hopeful brides out there this wedding season I thought I’d share a little married woman’s knowledge into the journey that follows after the honeymoon ends.

1.       You will think nothing of having a conversation through a closed door while the other one does his or her business, the kind of business that takes longer than two minutes to take care of

2.       Some days you will wonder if you even like each other. There will be moments where no one has ever driven you crazier than your significant other.

3.       You will share a sick sense of humor in playfully tormenting your kids.

4.       Shortly after kids you will discover where you once loved being able to do things for him, you will now discover you leave him to do lists of things you need him to do, and there’s little time left for you to pamper and wait on him like you use to.

5.       You won’t even think twice about foregoing shaving or other basic feminine upkeep.

6.       You will realize that men can be just as moody as women and have their own man period in which case they are sensitive to everything you say.

7.       You will realize that men are full of a lot more shit than women because they seem to have to go to the bathroom for ten plus minutes at a time several times a day, which becomes really apparent after you have children.

8.       You will envy your husband because even though you interrupt his bathroom time by telling him the latest story or to do list through the closed door at least he gets to go in there alone, unlike us after we have children.

9.   You will discover that there is this crazy bitch that exists within you that is ignited when he pushes your buttons too long.
10.  You will discover someone besides your parents and your best friends who can still love you even at your worst.

A wedding is the happily ever after ending every little girl first knows of love, but it's really just the beginning, not the ending, of the love story of your life.  

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Midweek Confession: The Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Edition

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Midweek Confession: The Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Edition

My working mom balance dream come true: So this is so simple, but getting Ave off the bus every day is a working mom dream come true that I didn't even really know I had until I had it. The majority of my working mom of two life had been so unbalanced and inconsistent before with Nate in grad school and me picking up extra work that being able to be home every single day when she gets off the bus has just been the most simplistic amazing thing these past few months.

I'm scared shitless of a third baby but really want one: I've made no secret of our desire to have a third baby and our trouble with having one. When I envision our family I love the idea of the larger family when they're older, past the infancy stage. I've always wanted a lot of kids, and I really do like them when they're about two and get their own cute little personalities. Due to the concerns now with carrying a baby and then some very simple but scary for a quick moment complications at Kenzi's birth pregnancy gives me a bit of anxiety. But I'm even more horrified of the year of infancy that follows. Babies are so much work. I just got my working mom groove back, and I get to sleep. All my poor sister tells me when I talk to her is she's so tired and never gets any sleep.

I love facebook: Not only to stay in touch with people, and I know maybe we all do sugar coat things at times and share more of the happy than sad. But damn it life is tough so I love seeing so many happy people. Seeing my friends happy and enjoying life makes me happy and makes me want to make sure I'm living a life in whatever way makes me happy too. We all deserve happiness, and I've heard many complain and defend the plethora of beach body posts that fill the newsfeed.  And honestly, maybe for a minute I hate them too because I just can't give up my addiction to reese's peanut butter cups. But then I think good for them; I don't really hate them. I actually admire them. That takes a lot of discipline and even if I'm not willing to give up my peanut butter cups, I can still admire their dedication and use it as inspiration in other parts of my life that may require dedication and sacrifice ( just not of peanut butter cups).

Small town pride amuses me: As a small town girl myself and now experiencing a tight knit community again with where we live and in teaching in a community so many here rave about, I love to see so much pride in one's community, and I hate to see when one trashes their community. Yes, they all have flaws but just like people choose to see the good in them rather than the bad so much. However, with that being said none of them are the ONE greatest place on earth as much as you may think. It may be the greatest place on earth for YOU, but just like we are all uniquely different and offer great things to the world so do a zillion other places across the planet. But it's still awesome to have pride in small towns so don't be tearing down that small town.

I'm a liberal: There I said it and some of you are probably running the other way now, but some conservative statements like the one I heard today that said, "The liberals are going to destroy America" got my liberal self all up in arms (puns attended but for all political purposes I do strongly support the 2nd Amendment Right so I guess I'm a conservative liberal). Honestly I find politics and religion kind of hypocritical. You do not have the right to bear arms to protect yourself but you do have the right to kill a fetus. I'm not saying necessarily that I'm pro choice or pro life but the split between those two ideas between the two parties just floors me. God I believe wants us all to just love one another yet every religion is constantly crucifying one group or another for not believing a certain way. Follow us or go to hell. I could have a whole post on the hypocrisy of religion and politics so I'll just go get a peanut cup for now to calm myself down.

I like to toot my own horn: If we don't, who is going to? The world will do it's best to knock you down. I know what it's like to totally lose confident in myself. I've seen what low esteem does to someone I love very much. Why not share our excitement for our successes; why not pat ourselves on the back every now and then. Let's just be happy for ourselves and for each other, people!

Share your latest confession or success below.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

The Life that Love and Faith Built

Dear My 23 Year Old Self,

This moment where you're on the edge of the cliff, hesitant to jump for fear you'll fall instead of fly, will be a moment etched in your memory forever. I know how much you are doubting your choice, doubting yourself, doubting him, and doubting the two of you and any hope you have of making a real go at it. I know how close you are to backing out because of your fear of the unknown, of the drastic change, of failure and being wrong.

You'll take that leap. I'd like to tell you that you flew right away but really it was more like a flat nosedive with a crash landing rushing at you at times at record unstoppable speed. Yet somehow not only will you find your wings, so will he, and together you'll see you can fly.

I know in your little 23 year old idealistic mind you'd like to think from there it was smooth sailing after you worked out a few kinks. I know what a planner you are; I know you always have this vision of how perfectly you'd like things to fall into place. However, I can tell you the sooner you get over everything going according to your "plan" the better off it will be for both of you. Life will not follow your "plan", and trust me when I say that's okay. You will fly, but you will nosedive a couple times towards that bottom.

But don't quit, girl. You will just have to pull up your big girl pants and suck it up. In some of your worst moments he will tell you marriage/relationships shouldn't be so much work. But it won't just be each other you have to fight and work for. It will be putting both of you through grad school with little kids at home, owning your homes, trying to build up and maintain some kind of financial security with all the vehicle and housing setbacks, your careers in education, your promise to yourself and your kids to get home to your families so often, and you'll even want to quit on your damn animals at some point (don't worry when Bettis disappears for a week you do find him again).

But that's life; it's not meant to be easy. You're meant to have to work for it. Things won't always go the way you planned or hoped but keep your faith. God's plan is better than yours. Keep your faith in yourself and the two of  you too even in your worst moments and setbacks because ten years from now even though you'll still be working towards career and family dreams you'll find yourself living a life that love and faith built.

You'll have that family of your own you always envisioned with two of the sweetest, beautiful little girls, the loving marriage you both doubted at times, your masters degree and eleven years invested in the career you wanted since the first grade, your own home (even an invested rental he talked you into keeping), and amazing friends in both places, time and money to make it home as often as you can to see both families, and a lifetime of memories with the family and friends you love traveling to see; sitting around fires; drinking wine; movie nights, drive ins, and theaters; camping in mountains; hanging out on beaches; baseball games, hiking, and fishing in the summer time; snow tubing, skating, and bowling in the winter; little league baseball and soccer and gymnastics; bedtime stories, family dinner time, night night walks, and park trips. You will live your life with purpose, and even though it will be a struggle at times and you will doubt your choices and capabilities, you will also find a happiness greater than you expected. The journey will not always be easy but it will be completely worth it. So just do it already, girl, jump and find that life that love and faith built.

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Don't Wait for the Perfect Pitch

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Don't Wait for the Perfect Pitch

When we were growing up on that beloved ball field I often reference of my childhood my dad always taught us to not wait for the perfect pitch to come across the plate. You’d be waiting a long time and miss your opportunity to make something happen to change the outcome of the game if we spent our at bats waiting for that one perfect homerun pitch. We were told to make something happen with what the pitcher threw at us, and it was always better to strike out swinging than watching and waiting on our pitch that may never come.

The lessons in life I’ve come to see aren’t much different than the ones I learned on that ball diamond. My sister called me yesterday, excited for a great career opportunity my brother in law had hoped for years ago that didn’t come to pass until now. However, now in some ways it will be step backwards at first. We’ve been in her shoes at least twice; where something we’ve hoped for happens but we worry about the timing of it with the financial strain. The thing I learned is sometimes we will have to move backwards in order to move forward. Just like that perfect pitch the perfect moment for the opportunities we’re hoping for rarely comes at the time we plan for them to come.

Things have a funny way of working out though; not to say they may not be a struggle in the meantime. I know they can make this happen for them and am excited to see what they do with this great opportunity.

Life is just like stepping onto that ball field. Come to play, be aggressive at the plate, and remember it’s not always about if you win or lose but how hard you played. And as my dad always said, “You better play it with a lot of heart.”

My other baseball analogy post: You Can't Score if You Never Swing

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Reveiw of Vacationing in Gulf Shores, Alabama

We have visited over a dozen beaches in the last ten years with the majority of them being on the East Coast. Even though there are numerous beaches near us in Maryland, and Florida is a popular destination for spring, we decided to take our spring break beach trip to the Gulf Shores of Alabama this year. In April the weather is not warm enough near us for the beach, and we have been to Florida multiple times for Disney and family so we wanted to experience and drive through parts of the country we haven't visited yet so we went to Alabama. We were not disappointed.

For us from Baltimore it was about a fifteen hour drive, but it's a beach worth the extra hours on the road. It's not as busy or as tourist like as some of the popular East Coast beaches. It's a beach that's more known to locals and the surrounding states of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. There isn't a boardwalk, but you still have the tourist beach stores, mini golf and go kart attractions, areas with live music, and more than enough restaurants to choose from.

The other thing I loved about visiting Alabama besides the smaller crowds was the cost. I love the East Coast, but I can tell you from living and traveling in different parts of the country almost everything tends to cost more there. We had a one bedroom, 1.5 bath, with a hall bunk bed condo overlooking the beach for a little over $100 a night; that's $750 for a whole week! The place we stayed was part of the local Phoenix All Suites Hotel. I am not a coupon clipper for groceries (which I should be) but I am a coupon bargain shopper on vacation especially now with four to pay for so with the hotel coupon book we were also able to go on a two hour dolphin cruise in the Gulf for $60 for all four of us and went mini golfing for $13 for all four of us.

As someone who has spent time in the Midwest, East Coast, and the South, one of my favorite things about the south is the people. The south is known for their southern charm because they're just nice people. Life is slower, weather is warmer year around, and people are just nice and pleasant down there.

If you're in the Midwest it's a great beach vacation for you. It's only 10 hours from St. Louis and 14 from Kansas City. If you're on the East Coast and looking for somewhere a little more inexpensive and less crowded than the usual beaches on the coast and don't mind the little longer drive it's definitely worth it. Of course, don't forget to eat the shrimp while you're in Alabama! If you're a history fanatic think about making time to stop in Birmingham or Montgomery for all the Civil Rights History. Keep it in mind for your next vacation; you won't be disappointed.

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Just Drive

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Just Drive

I have this goal to put a pin on almost every state in the United States (not really sure what to visit in places like Wisconsin, North Dakota, and a few others), parts of Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. I want to hit as many historical landmarks and National Parks as we can. I'm about halfway through this first part of my goal.  My far reaching dream is to then make it to a few places overseas.  Even though flying is a convenient way to get somewhere fairly quickly and I don't have the anxiety about flying that some in my family do, I just prefer to drive. Sometimes the trip is just as much about the drive there as it is the end destination itself.

Whether it's the mountain ranges of the Appalachians, the flat plains of the Midwest, the coastal roads of the East or West Coast, and hopefully one day soon the lands of the west the differences in the views and sites never cease to fascinate me. Driving through those mountains and plains just always fill me with a sense of contentment. Maybe it's similar to why I'd prefer to exercise outdoors rather than  indoors; there's a sense of freedom and peace to it. Nature to me is where God lives; it's out there where I've always felt closest to Him.

I also love to stop and eat in all the local places, trying food that is known for that region. Along with that you also get to experience people. People are different in different parts of the country. Of course not every single person on the East Coast, Midwest, Appalachian, or the south is a certain stereotypical way, but there are stereotypes for different regions of the country because it doesn't take long or many people to be around in a certain area to see why that stereotype (good or bad) exists for people of that region. I've always loved to study people so I find this another fascinating benefit of driving across the country rather than flying. Nate and I both love to meet new people. We spent half of our Caribbean vacation years ago with a couple we just met from Tennessee, and we did the same thing years later camping with a couple we had just met in Yosemite.

Nate and I are the odd balls, the different ones in our families. We both come from families of homebody type people, and there's nothing wrong weith that. That's just not who we are. Even as much as my mother says, "Why don't you just stay home?" every time I tell her where we're going on our next break from work, I know I also remind her of her parents. My grandparents and Nate's grandmother share our love for traveling for experiencing as much of this world as we can in this life.  I think grandma (Nate's grandmother) did quite a bit of traveling back in her younger years and my grandparents spent their retirement driving all over the country checking out new places. I've always said I want to be old people like them; I still have a lot more driving planned to continue to see the sights, taste the food, and experience the people.

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Life is About Creating Yourself

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Life is About Creating Yourself"

              This quote that hangs in the room I teach has captivated me since the first day. What is the difference between finding yourself and creating yourself? I feel that I’ve always heard the journey of life referred to as a search for self; that’s the way we examine it in literature. The character is lost; they’ve lost sight of who they are and what they believe in, and they embark on change or in some cases the world of adulthood. They are trying to find where they “fit” in the world. So is finding ourselves about finding our place within our communities, families, and society in general? Is that really what the journey is about; finding where we fit?

                I’ve always found it an interesting contradiction how our society claims to celebrate individuality, but there’s still the expectation to live and be a certain way in order to truly be accepted. We all want to feel accepted and like we fit in, but I don’t like what I think of when I hear this word “fit”. Fit to me means we have to conform to certain standards and expectations on how to live our lives, but there are so many ways to live an acceptable good life without conforming to some of society’s pushy expectations.

                I don’t think this journey in life is about finding ourselves but about creating ourselves. One of my favorite quotes that I’ve used to describe my own choices in life is Robert Frost who said, “two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference”.   But maybe it’s about not even really about a choice between the paths before you, but more so about creating our own. Whether it’s our careers, our marriages, parenting, the way we live our life there’s always the push that do something right or well we need to do it like so and so or because that’s just “the way it is”.

                As a child my parents often accused me of “always having to do things my way”. I don’t think the battle between me and them was really about me getting my way as much as me getting to do things in my own way. My goal in life is not to raise rebel children as much as it may sound at the moment but to raise confident children that look at those two roads in the wood and choose rather to just pave their own path. I don’t want them to spend their life chasing society’s changing ideals of what’s the latest acceptable way of thinking and living; I want them to spend it living by their own rules to create the person they want to be, not the one someone else wants them to be.

                So, child, don’t waste your time trying to find yourself in this crazy world; just go out there and create the “you” you imagine, and it is there you will find yourself in that person you created on your own terms.