An Ode to 2016: Drunk, and In Charge of a Bicycle

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Late this year I discovered a love of Ray Bradbury. Somehow in all my years of school, Fahrenheit 451 never was assigned to me and it just never crossed my path. But Marshall University's children's theater group is coming to our school to perform a play based on the book at the end of January, so I decided now was the time to read the book. In the course of checking that book out of our school library, our librarian also gave me a (rather large) book of Ray Bradbury's short stories, introduced by the man himself. I read the overview he wrote, and when I read this paragraph, I knew I had my life theme for 2016:

Drunk, and in charge of a bicycle. I love it. It sounds so very, very Auntie Mame who is, and always has been, my life role model.

For the past few years, I've also been thinking about words -- one per year -- on which to focus my year. Some past ones have included "open" and "hope." I got the idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Jennifer Fulwiler. Yesterday, I brainstormed a list of possible words, and that list included such words as "trust," "patience," "enough," and "fortitude," which are all good words.

Needless to say, I ended up choosing one not on the list at all. Haha. Or rather, it chose me.

You see, yesterday I discovered a journal that I kept for a few months at the beginning of 2012. I usually hate re-reading this kind of thing (I can't explain why), but I decided to flip through it yesterday. In doing so, I stumbled across some entries about an old relationship that ended in a way that really hurt me, and I remember that pain. But I almost laugh now because what I basically wrote was how I just wanted what everyone else had. Something normal. Just a normal life.


I know myself so much better now, and I know that ordinary and normal would never work. I wasn't made for that life. (See: drunk, and in charge of a bicycle.) As hard as it is to keep hoping sometimes, I think that deep in my heart I really do believe that something wonderful will happen. Maybe this year! :) So, my word for 2016 is ...

Because I am. And I need to remember that all the time.

It's a word I love because it seems to be a contradiction in a way. For example, if I said I was "extra tired" or "extra hungry" or "extra sad" I would mean I was really tired, really hungry, and really sad. But when I say "extraordinary," I don't mean I'm really ordinary, I mean just the opposite. Words, man. :) I love them. And they are my business (much like Rumplestiltskin), as I tell my students as I teach them Language Arts.

So tonight, tonight I celebrate being drunk, and in charge of a bicycle, not knowing where I'm off to next. But knowing that the trip will be exactly one half terror, exactly one half exhilaration -- extraordinary.

I just poured myself a glass of champagne, but not just any glass of champagne. (Extraordinary, remember?) A glass that is wearing a tutu given to me by my good friend Sarah, with a wine tag attached, given to me by my friend Colleen. And since "extraordinary" wasn't an available wine tag choice, I chose the next best thing: formidable.

Because I am.

I hope you have a year that is full of whatever you want. I hope all your dreams come true, and it's your best year yet. But if it's not, I also hope that you remember that it's best to believe that something wonderful is about to happen.

And so I'm off to drink my champagne and continue my textversation with my bestie Colleen. I also have my Czech 1 Koruna coin ready to throw out at midnight. My mom always made us throw pennies, but I thought throwing out a Koruna this year couldn't hurt and maybe that means I'll get back to Europe in 2016. :) Oh, and I'm also enjoying the classic movie It's a Wonderful Life, which just so happens to be on TV right now on one of the very few channels I get. Coincidence? Of course not.

It's extraordinary.

Words Hurt, Man -- The Sequel

Monday, November 23, 2015

So, after what happened to me at the last place I got my nails done, I decided to try this other place my friend Sarah suggested that is also close to where I live.

I arrived a little after 10 a.m. Saturday, after having taken a yoga class. There was no one in there when I arrived except for a lady, a man, and the cutest little girl, whom I found out later was their 3-year-old daughter.

The salon was nice, clean, and welcoming, and the lady started soaking my old polish off. When it was time to apply my new polish, the guy took over. He asked me what I did, and I told him I was a teacher, and he said how nice that was. Now, whereas I am perfectly content to sit there in silence, apparently some people are not, and you will never guess what happened next.

"So, do you have a fiance or a boyfriend?"

PLEASE IMAGINE THE LOOK ON MY FACE AT THIS TIME?! Like are there NO nail salons in Huntington where the (to date, always male) nail tech will not ask this?!

So, because I am not a liar I reply, "No, I don't."

And he said, "Oh, okay, not ready?"

To which I reply by looking up at the TV on the wall where Bob Ross is painting and thinking to myself that I am soon going to have to leave the dang city to get my nails done.

He goes on to talk about something else, I'm not even sure what to be honest, and then he says, "When do you think you will be ready get a boyfriend?"

At this time I realize I have a few options: 1. Say something incredibly rude and/or sarcastic, 2. Blow him off with some sort of nothing answer, or 3. Use this time to educate him in the hopes he will not talk to another person like this in the future.

As much as I wanted to go with 1, I went with 3. So I said, "I'm not saying I'm not ready now. I'm saying that it's not really up to me. I assume it will happen in whatever time God has planned for me."

He started to say something here, but I wasn't done.

"... and, you know what? The thing is, maybe it will never happen. And why should that be my goal anyway? I have a job I love, a nice family, and great friends. I have a very nice life, and this is not some sort of problem I have."

He says, "That is awesome."

So, I'm really glad I stood up for myself this time. The only thing I wish I would have added was this:

"And since I'm telling you all this, sir, I want to advise you to perhaps reconsider what you plan to say to your lovely daughter when she gets older. Perhaps talk to her about her interests, her personality, and her career goals, and not push her into thinking that life is some big marriage waiting room and if she doesn't marry she's somehow failed at something."

And this guy is not the only person I've ever met who needs to hear this. People of the world -- just stop. STOP. Stop asking single people you know why they're not dating anyone/when they will be dating anyone/how sad it is they're not dating anyone. Why should we spend our days acting like our lives are some sort of dress rehearsal for the real thing? Because, intended or not, that is EXACTLY what you are saying.

Perhaps I'm not dating anyone because God's plan for me is to educate all the nail techs in the greater Huntington area how to appropriately make conversation with people. And clearly that's going to take a while. :)

"We Took Lunch Count and Attendance"

Thursday, November 12, 2015

For the past five weeks, I've spent Thursdays at a local high school for my clinical for grad school. (Don't ask. That's a story for another day, but if you are a praying person, please pray for me.) There is another teacher at my school that handles my homeroom for me when I am not there on Thursdays. I always leave a sheet of paper on my desk for her that allows her to take attendance and lunch count.

In case I've never said it before, my homeroom is eighth grade. There are 11 boys and 1 girl in that class, and this is the second year I've had them. They are a rambunctious bunch, but I dearly (DEARLY) love them because they are my people, you know?

So, I get back to Fatima today around 2:55, just in time to see my kids before they leave for the day. I walk into my classroom and look at the white board to find several notes and funny things written on there by my students. For example, I always do a "thought of the day" on my board, but it was blank today since I wasn't there. Well, I mean I left it blank. When I got there there was a quote on there. It said:

It's a good day when nobody dies. 

I was cracking. up. Because ... true, right?

But what made me laugh even harder was not only did my students write me notes, they also used improper apostrophes in their notes -- and even added improper apostrophes to some things I'd already had written on the board -- just because they knew it'd drive me crazy. For example, what that thought of the day actually said was:

It's a good day when nobody die's. 



They came in the room to get their backpacks at just the moment I was standing there laughing. That's when they told me the amazing news -- apparently the teacher who covers for me on Thursdays wasn't able to get there this morning, so the kids were left there alone. YIKES! But guess what they told me they did?

"Well, Miss Lafferre, C found that paper on your desk, so M took lunch count and attendance."


I mean, really?

They did. Also, they PUT IT IN THE DOOR BOX so the school secretary could pick it up. WHAT?!

I said, "And everyone stood for prayer and did the pledge?"

"Yeah, we did."


Now, granted, apparently my class clown, G, ordered himself two lunches and a milk today and got called to the office to explain himself later, but in the grand scheme of things how terrible was that really?

I mean these kids took attendance and lunch count today, stood for the prayer and the pledge, took down all the chairs off the desks (where we put them so the custodian can sweep), and stayed until 8:05 when the first period bell rang.

They also left me many funny board decorations.

Maybe they do like me after all.

Words Hurt Man

Monday, November 9, 2015

On Friday I stayed at school for a couple extra hours in the late afternoon, and I had to be at the Junior League building to volunteer at 6:30. I had also recently gotten a $20 refund from my doctor's office (and how often does THAT happen?), I decided to treat myself to a manicure between school and volunteering.

My usual place is a bit out of the way, so I decided to go to a place that was really close to my volunteer site.

And, oh, how I wish I hadn't.

My manicure looks great, no problems there. No, the problem was with my encounter. Please, read on.

So this older guy starts doing my nails, and he asks me if I had been at work that day. I say yes, and then he asks me what I do. So I proudly tell him that I am a teacher! (I love being able to say that so much, by the way.) His reply?

"Oh, that's great, you get so much time off!"

Yep. You got it, sir. That is exactly the reason I am a teacher. However did you guess?

It only went downhill from there. Next, he asked if I was married. I said no. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend (not sure why any of this is his business, by the way), and I said no. So he said:

"Ohhhhhh, still single?"

I mean REALLY. Like being single is some sort of marriage waiting room, not an actual real life. So I say, "Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

I thought that was a nice way of getting him to change topics (or shut up), but I was wrong. Because THEN he said:

Him: "Well, you're probably not as old as my daughter. She's 26."
Me: "Actually I'm 31."
Me: "Um, yeah, I wouldn't lie about it. That's my age."
Him: "Well you should really think about having a baby because 32, 33, 34 -- that's about how long you have."

I. MEAN. REALLY. REALLY?!?!?!?!?!?

So I didn't say anything because, you know, if you can't say anything nice ...

Turns out that doesn't always help because apparently it encourages the other person to keep talking. Which this guy did. And he said, "Well, don't you want to have a baby?"

And it was at this point that I said, "I do not want to talk about it."



No. No. No. No.

And I know you might say that I was overreacting or whatever, but words hurt man. I don't care what sticks and stones say.

I guess, though, it did serve as a good reminder that WORDS HURT MAN, and I need to be careful about what and how I say things to other people. You never know what people are sensitive about or having problems with.

*(Oh, and when someone tells you they're a teacher, it's NEVER okay to reply with, "That's great, you get so much time off!") 

Thanksgiving Food Drive 2015

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Man, there has been so much going on lately -- teaching, three graduate classes, student teaching, Junior League, Dress for Success, life!

Luckily I was able to spend yesterday doing one of my absolute most favorite things, and that was helping man The Divine Intervention Thanksgiving Food Drive. The Divine Intervention is a local nonprofit, and I am on the board of directors. I encourage you to check out our website (especially if you're local) because there's something we might be able to help you with! Three times a year we do a food and/or clothing drive for local organizations, and those three days are among my most favorite days of the entire year! I can't really explain it, but there's something so fun about spending the day watching people help other people and spending time in fellowship with each other, enjoying coffee and a donut. I also like the other people on the board/volunteers -- Dave, Kim, Lisa, and Eileen -- because they are such a joy to be around, and I always love the time I spend with them.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I helped unload donors' cars and re-load the food into our trucks. I also took so many photos because I love to document how much fun these food drives are. Luckily, I was also able to make the trek out to ECCHO (where we take the food) to help stock the food on the shelves. Our donors are so awesome because they gave SO.  MUCH. FOOD. It was awesome seeing ECCHO's shelves fill up. It's also very humbling to know that that food won't be on the shelves for long because there are so many families in need. As John (an ECCHO volunteer an DI supporter) said, "If you have 70 families come in, and each family gets two cans of vegetables, that's 140 cans right there." And ECCHO serves WAY more than 70 families.

I love this time of year for so many reasons, but one of the biggest is how much focus is put on thinking about people other than yourself. Yes, people are hungry all year long, and yes, we need to donate food all year long, but there's something really special about the holiday season that brings out the best in (most) people, and I really see the Thanksgiving Food Drive as the kick off to my holiday season!

Here are some amazing photos of people's generosity.

Kim, Lisa, and Dave

Me, Lisa, and Dave

First truck starting to fill up!

A donor unloading her car.

More donations coming in.

About an hour into the drive!

Catching up! Our food drive is really an event, not just a food drop off.

My dad and Father Jim.

The shelves at ECCHO as we're beginning to help fill them.

Another shot of the shelves at ECCHO.

Turtle Soup

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I had a wonderful weekend in Morgantown watching the Mountaineers with my brother Alex and visiting my grandparents.

It's always good to be home in Morgantown, and this weekend was no exception. The weather was nice and sunny, although it turned a bit chilly in the second half, and the game was so much fun. Now that we've all gotten older, I don't get to see and hang out with my siblings as often as I did when we were little, so it was really nice driving up, watching the game, and driving back with my brother Allie.

Some highlights of the game were Brad Paisley performing Country Roads with The Pride of West Virginia. Or, more accurately, watching my sister Emma back up Brad Paisley! Not many people can say that! My dad said that he saw on TV that there will be some ABC special where various singers perform songs that mean something to them, and they asked Brad Paisley to sing Country Roads. And then Brad suggested he do so at a WVU football game. Love that guy!

We also saw Bobby Bowden with the 1975 Peach Bowl team, which was cool. I have a lot of family members who were at that game. We also saw Amos Zeroue, whom you may or may not know, but he played for the Mountaineers in the mid 90s, and he was being inducted into the Hall of Fame as well. He was on the team when I was in middle school, and now I teach middle school, and he's being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sunrise, sunset.

As always, we got to see Emma perform at the halftime show, which I always enjoy. (Well, I did. Allie was waiting in line for snacks, but please don't ask him about it because I think he's still not over his experience.)

The most fun thing, as it always is in Morgantown, is spending a decent chunk of time around people who are not making fun of me or saying something bad to me about being a WVU fan. I always enjoy the safety and security of my people up north. Oh, and the 45-6 win over Maryland definitely did not hurt! :)

All in all, it was a great weekend, and I'm glad to have gotten to go! I just wish my mom could have gone, but she was there in spirit. We're headed up again in a couple of weeks for the Oklahoma State game.

(Oh, and I'm sure you're dying to know about Snicks's weekend without me. He lived. Barely. See, I usually give him a bunch of greens in the morning and some pellets in the afternoon when I get home. Well, I knew I was leaving directly from school on Friday, so on Friday morning before I left I gave him both greens and pellets. WITH THE EXPLICIT DIRECTION not to eat both all at the same time since no one was coming to feed him till Saturday afternoon. Well, he did not listen. Bunnies. When my mom arrived Saturday to feed him, she said he was on her like white on rice the minute he heard that fridge door open. So she fed him greens and pellets. And he learned his lesson and did not eat them all up just in case I wasn't home to feed him till late Sunday. NOT. He ate them all up and then starved from then till Sunday afternoon when I got home. He's hopeless.)

I Promised Him That No One Would Ever Eat Him.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Man, I have not posted in a hot minute. Summer wrapped up with yet another Praxis test, I started teaching, and then my graduate classes began. I have several post ideas, mainly concerning teaching and how much I love it, but I decided my first post back should be something a little more light.


Let me tell you about the State of the Apartment over here at the Anna/Snicks compound. Otherwise entitled "The Great Flea Saga of 2015."

You heard me. Fleas.

Now, this time yesterday I would have never, ever posted anything about fleas. I told my mom that I was just going to tell people Snicks had a "skin issue" because I didn't "want people to think we are dirty and never clean." It took Kathy (and Melissa) a while, but they finally made me realize that fleas are a thing that happens.

Let me start from the beginning.

This past weekend I noticed that Snicks had a little bald spot on the back of his neck. I investigated further and saw that he had this scaly white patch that was flaky. Oh no! So I did what any sane person does, and I Googled his symptoms. I decided that he may have mites since he seemed to have all the symptoms of it. Unfortunately, I had graduate classes both Monday and Tuesday nights (they were located IN HELL, but that's for another day) so I couldn't take him till Wednesday. We go to the Best Vet Ever and they basically let me choose my day and time.

Prior to us finding out what the problem really was.

So, Wednesday rolls around and I pack Snickers up after school and take him to the vet. Our appointment is scheduled for 4 p.m. When we get there, it is standing room only. And, let's face it, Snickers is super cute and somewhat of a novelty, so many people wanted to talk to me. I had spent 14 hours the previous day around people, and I had been around people all day till that point, so I was on people overload, which is a introvert's nightmare. I honestly had to tell myself DON'T CRY because I just could not handle it. Around 4:45 we get called back to a room. Two vet techs and the vet come in because, no joke, Snicks is super popular around those parts. (If it's not already obvious why, it's because not only is he cute, he's very calm and well behaved.)

The vet looks at his skin problem and at first isn't sure what it is.

Then she goes, "Do you see this black spot?"


"He has fleas."


Like how does this even happen? He practically lives in a bubble.

I am not kidding you when I say I sat down and started crying. The vet was like "Are you getting upset?" They were so nice and trying to tell me this is not a big deal, but I was just so overwhelmed and the dam broke. They told me that this is the animal equivalent of a skinned knee. They told me they see so much worse every day. They told me that I caught it super early because I watch him so closely. And they did so much for me. They talked me off the ledge, they told me what to do at my house, they treated Snicks with medicine and combed him, and they told me to drop him off the following day (today) where he could stay all day while I bombed my house.

These people are the real deal.

So I came home last night and refrained from burning my house down. Seriously.

It's a long story, but I don't teach on Thursdays because here in a couple weeks I have to start student teaching (yet another story for another day). God blessed me because today is obviously Thursday and I was able to take half a personal day without requiring my school to get a sub. I got Snicks all packed up, complete with a bagged lunch with his name on it (yep), and dropped him off at the vet at 8 a.m. I then went to the store and got the flea bomb and some flea spray.

There were three bombs in that package, so I used all three. I'm not messing around here. I decided to bomb the hell out of my house. Go big or go home.

I'm not sure what I thought the bomb was going to look like. I think maybe this?

Minus the fairy tale characters and trip to the Enchanted Forest.

Alas, it looked like spray. I hightailed it out of there as per the directions.

I worked the rest of the day, then went home to vacuum before picking up Snickers. I'm not sure what I assumed my house would look like -- I think I was imaging some sort of post-apocalyptic scene with dead bodies everywhere. Or like that scene in "The Craft" where all those bugs are all over the shower? That scene haunts me to this day. (I would have posted it for you here, but I can't find it, so it's your lucky day.)

In reality, it looked like my apartment, just hotter because the air/fans had been off all day.

I did my vacuuming and went to pick up Snickers, where the vet charged me NO DOLLARS for taking care of him all day. I love these people.

I brought him back home -- flea free (please God) -- and proceeded to spend the subsequent four hours cleaning everything. Vacuuming, washing, bleaching. The positive here is that my house has never been so clean. It's usually clean, but this is like for real clean, like sweeping under the couch and stuff. The biggest pain in the rear has been washing so much stuff. Washers go faster than dryers because they are from the devil, and that helps no one.

In the event this ever happens to you, you really only need two supplies to help yourself out. The first is a package of flea bombs. The second is alcohol. No, not the rubbing kind. The drinking kind. That part's for you. That's how we handle fleas in this house.

Also, I feel pretty terrible because the only real promise I ever made Baby S is that no one is trying to eat him. Whoops.

This is the face of someone who has suffered so many indignities over the past couple of days he may never bounce back.

At any rate, I've been ordered to vacuum twice a day and put flea treatment on Snicks monthly. Done and done. I just pray to the dear Lord God in Heaven that this never happens again. I cannot even deal.

So, I hope you have enjoyed my transparency and honesty about what is going on up in herrr. I hope this never happens to you, but if it does, know that I am here to offer moral support. I'll bring the wine.

And please remember that if you think you've had a bad day, Snicks has had fleas pooping on his head for who knows how long. Puts things into perspective doesn't it?

Local Eating!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I like to shop locally whenever I possibly can, especially where food is involved. Luckily, we have a great year-round local foods store called the Wild Ramp that I visited this morning. I bought a few things and then realized it was about a day's worth of delicious meals!

First up, breakfast:

This delicious mocha zucchini bread from 3 Chicks A Bakin. What a great way to start the day!


I bought these grape tomatoes from 4got-N-Tymes. These cucumbers were grown by local veterans through the Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture program. (I will admit that the red onion is one I already had at home.) But the bonus? This bowl was crafted by a local artist, and I got it at this great event called Empty Bowls.


Purple potatoes! How much do you love these? They are so pretty! Sadly, I can remember which farm they came from, but I will try and find out and will update when I can.

I also got these great green beans from Back Acher Farms. I used one of my favorite recipes, which I eat about once a week, and this is by far the best this recipe has ever tasted!


I am not a huge fan of fudge to be honest, but this looked so good I decided to try it, and I'm glad I did! It has lavender in it -- yum! It's from Spirits of the Wildwood.


So this didn't come from the Wild Ramp, but I did stop in to our local beer place, Bottle and Wedge, to pick up a couple of new bottles to try. I haven't had one yet, but maybe when I get back from yoga tonight. I mean, that's how that works, right?

Baby S.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I got one of the biggest compliments of my life yesterday that both made me feel awesome and awful at the same time.

I took Snicks to the vet for a checkup, but I was worried about a few things that I brought up to the vet and the vet techs who know us pretty well and are awesome. When I was getting ready to leave, one of the vet techs said to me,

"There are children who should receive the kind of care you give to him."

It made me feel great for obvious reasons, but here's why it made me feel awful: Snicks has been doing some things lately like piddling outside his litterbox and piddling outside his cage that are so frustrating. And I've been thinking about moving and how hard it is to find an apartment to rent that will either allow pets or allow them without charging a gazillion dollars. So, I guess I am ashamed to say I thought about how much "easier" things would be without him the other day. Now, I would never EVER EVER EVER get rid of him because he is my baby (and my responsibility), and I couldn't live without him, but I had allowed that thought into my mind lately of how frustrating he can be sometimes.

So when the vet tech said that to me, I honestly cried. Cried because I was so ashamed of myself that I even entertained the thought even one time about how hard he can make things.

Snicks will be five and a half in August, and when I brought up to the vet about him piddling outside his cage where his litterbox is, she did say that he is getting older and maybe having a harder time getting into and out of his cage, so she suggested I get him a little step to help him in and out.

I am sure you can imagine the emotional strain hearing "he is getting older" caused. So I cried a lot yesterday, that's for sure. He looks the same as he always did, and he seems to act the same as he always has for the most part, but the truth is, he is five and a half, not a year old any more. He could live another 10 years, but still -- he is getting older.

And the truth is -- he's my little bunny. He's my little pal. He's who is here every day when I get home. No matter what kind of day I've had or what I've done or what went on, he's still here hopping about. And you can't really say that about a lot of things.

So here's to you Baby Snicks, world's greatest bunny. I'd live in a crappy apartment and clean up your piddle every day if it meant you'd live forever. Cause I love you.

Heart Kid: Josie Lynne

Monday, June 29, 2015

If you've been reading my blog for a while or following me on Facebook, then you know all about AnnaMarie. She was my very first heart kid through Reece's Rainbow, and she was adopted before her time ran out, which was a miracle!

After AnnaMarie was adopted, Joseph became my heart kid. He only had till October of this year to find a family before he aged out, and I just found out that he has a committed family! 

I really feel that my sweeties AnnaMarie and Joseph found their forever families because of the prayers of you guys who read this blog and joined me in my prayers for them.

And now I'm going to ask you to pray again, for something that seems impossible.

I always choose an At-Risk of Aging Out kid, because those kids are on a very serious deadline to find families before they age out of the adoptable age in their respective countries and will NEVER have a family.

NEVER HAVE  A FAMILY. CAN YOU IMAGINE?!? My heart seriously breaks. 

I was just matched with Josie Lynne as my new heart kid. Here she is

How cute is she?!? I mean seriously. Here is some info about her:

Josie Lynne cares for each person around her and loves to help. She helps her foster mother because she is concerned that her foster mother may get too tired from all the household chores. Her foster brother is blind and she always, on her own initiative, helps him to do things such as preparing toothpaste, getting water, clothes, and shoes, holding his hands and leading him when being outside. When celebrating the National Day they visited the zoo, she would tell her foster brother what was happening and the appearances and living habits of all kinds of animals. They even saw the pandas’ performances. She happily told him how a panda turned a somersault. She happily told him how a panda turned a somersault. He was excited and happily said, “a panda is so cute, Josie, you are very good at telling those things, it seems I see the panda.” Josie Lynne has studied in the Little Sister program for 2 years. She really likes school. Although she has poor ability of understanding, she loves studying with good learning habits and attitude. The teachers love reviewing her homework because she writes down words neatly and formally. Josie Lynne especially loves dancing with beautiful gestures. Josie Lynne is best friends with Elizabeth who is her foster sister.

(Loves dancing! That's when I knew I had found my girl.)

She is so well-behaved, so helpful, so special. 

Here's the thing guys -- Josie Lynne ages out of being able to be adopted in September. 

As in 2015. As in two months away.

I know. It's totally crazy. It's crazier than crazy.

But will you join me in praying anyway? Pray that Josie Lynne's family finds her ASAP. She needs a family so badly. She's just a kid. 

Maybe you are Josie Lynne's family? 


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Not quite a year ago, on June 5, 2014, I announced on this blog that I was going back to school full time to pursue what I felt was God calling me to be a teacher.

Then, on July 14, 2014, I announced on this blog that I had accepted a job teaching at Our Lady of Fatima Parish School the previous Friday, July 11.

And now it is June 2, 2015 -- our last day of school. I finished a whole school year, my first as a teacher. And it hasn't even been quite a year yet since I even had ANY idea I'd be any sort of teacher this year. Crazy, right? 

It's amazing what God will do if you just let Him. If you get out of your own way and actually bother to ask God what it is that He wants you to do. And even if you, like me, think there's no way you can do something -- you're not qualified, you have no idea what you're doing, you think you'll be a failure -- remember that God is not actually limited by what YOU can do. He's not limited by your abilities or how you think about yourself.

As one of my favorite blog writers has said -- God doesn't look at your ability as much as your availability.

And I was available. 

I spent some time after school today reading a few cards I had received from students, specifically two of my eighth graders. I was in tears, just looking around my room, when my principal walked in and asked what I was doing. I told her, and she said, "You're just reflecting." And I said exactly. That is exactly what I was doing. And we had a nice conversation about how I didn't even know her a year ago or even know I would be teaching, and we talked about how God just works in such mysterious ways. 

I told her, "Sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what it is that God wants you to do. But when you do, it is such a relief."

And I don't think I realized till I said that that it absolutely is. So relieving and freeing. 

Before I left school I pulled out a notebook my friend Kay (also a middle school language arts teacher!) gave me. On the front it says "Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen." She gave it to me last May, before any of this happened. I used it to plan my first lessons last year. I smiled as I looked through it today, remembering how unsure I was about everything. 

This evening I was looking through my blog at all the posts I labeled with "teaching." Oh man, so many memories, things I'd already moved to the back of my mind. The exhaustion, the fairy tales, the fear, The Twilight Zone, the worry and doubt. But one thing that really made me smile is that one of the earliest posts I tagged with "teaching," one that I wrote before school even started, I titled "My Friend Atticus Finch." And how prophetic that would be. 

School ended today at noon, and I got home around 1 p.m. My principal asked me if I was leaving, and I told her I was almost done with my summer checklist (teachers work tomorrow and half of Thursday), and she said "Head out then!" I told her I wasn't sure what to do with myself, but that I liked to stay ahead on my graduate school work. She said no -- she said it's the last day of school, go home, lie on the couch, binge-watch Netflix. So I did. I came home to do nothing.

I was looking in the fridge for a snack, when I realized I had a bottle of champagne in there that my parents gave me when I graduated with my Master's in Journalism a year ago. It had just been sitting there for a year, waiting for an occasion. So I decided that today was the day. I had something to celebrate, so I cracked it open and toasted myself. 

I am still in denial/amazement that this school year is over, and it is summer. SUMMER. A summer with no work. That is amazing. 

I do have four classes I'm taking all summer, and I also have several things I want to do around my classroom. But I'm going to make myself enjoy this summer. Sleep in some days, enjoy some coffee on the couch, go to the pool with Melissa. I'm super excited to be visiting my Aunt Jennifer and Uncle Bobby in South Carolina with my grandmother in just a couple of weeks! I just want to enjoy the fact that I worked 70-80 hour weeks at my job most of this school year and now I have the opportunity to just have some time off in the sunshine.
 I hope you have a super sunny and happy summer! 

I Declare This Meeting of The Midnight Society Closed.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

There are a lot of hard things about being a teacher, such as all the planning, dealing with discipline issues, and grading. But I will tell you that the absolute hardest thing about being a teacher is sitting in your room at 10:40 a.m. when you should have your fourth period students but they are not there because they have graduated. It's way too quiet. Saying goodbye is the hardest thing.

I love all my students, but I am particularly close to this year's eighth grade class. There was only eight of them, and they were all so well behaved and polite. They were just easy. Anything you wanted them to do, they did with energy and smiles. They were just a joy to teach. I looked forward to seeing them every day.

Really, it all started with a mouse. A little mouse named Algernon, whom we read about early in the year. Then it was The Midnight Society. And then -- and THEN -- it was To Kill a Mockingbird. And that was our special year together.

They graduated Wednesday night. The girl who is the valedictorian spoke about a few of her past and present teachers. She spoke about me last and said I taught them that not everything had to be so stressful, and that they should trust their teachers more because we're there to help. And, as if that was not enough, she finished by saying, "Most importantly, she taught us that a book can change your life."

I am STILL crying. And honestly, I might print that on a poster and hang it on my classroom wall. In fact, I absolutely will.

I also received a card from another of my eighth graders. It was one of the most humbling, kind, and longest letters I've ever received. I will forever keep it -- and the contents of it -- for myself, but the P.S. was especially profound. My student told me when she gave me the card that she knew this would be the last thing she'd ever write that I'd read (*sob*) and she knew the last line had to be a great one:

I'll say she succeeded. (And she doesn't know how much of that she owes to Story.) Man. MAN.

I am so proud of this class. They will do so much that is great in their lives. I am sad for me, because they will move on, and I will be back in the same classroom missing them, but I am so happy for them too. I can't wait to see what they'll do.

I feel like God has blessed me so much this year with this job and this calling. I will never know why He gave this to me, but I will forever be grateful to Him.

I am a Teacher.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Man, I had a pretty trying day. I am taking a class this summer that meets on four Saturdays from 9-6 and two Fridays from 5-9 in Charleston, which is about an hour from where I live.

And you know what, that's cool. I had reconciled myself to that fact. It's only a few times, and it's better to take it in summer when I'm not teaching school instead of fall when I'd be teaching Monday through Friday. So I drove to Charleston today with my snacks, my water, my lunch packed, a notebook, and my required three-ring binder. Ready to learn because I love new teaching ideas.

Overall my teacher seems nice and she is definitely interested in the subject matter, so that's great. But the problem lies in something that requires a smidge of backstory.

See, my undergraduate degree is in political science, and I also have a master's degree in journalism. Because my undergrad is political science, upon completion of my Master's in Teaching program, I will be certified to teach social studies for grades five through adult. I already passed the Praxis II exam in that content area. However, I currently teach Language Arts at Fatima. I teach all three middle school grades (6, 7, and 8), and I teach grammar, writing, literature, spelling, and vocabulary. In our diocese, a person can teach as long as there is a plan in place for teaching certification. So everything I've studied and taught over the past year is straight language arts.

I had an amazing teacher last semester (shout out Kelly Bonar!) who was like -- Anna, look, I get that social studies is technically your area, but you teach language arts, so please feel free to do all applicable work in this class for language arts. Do things you can use.

Oh, also, I should add now that I have also taken, and passed (with flying colors, I might humbly add) the language arts Praxis II exam.

During a break today, I mentioned to my teacher that where Marshall is concerned my content area is social studies, but I teach (and plan to continue to teach) language arts, so would it be all right if I did my work in this class focused on language arts? (Thinking that it would be great to plan actual lessons with actual students in mind and actually teach them.) Um, she laughed at me. Like actually laughed. And I'm still not sure why. And also, I never got an answer other than that, so I assume the answer is no? After she laughed at me, she asked me how I plan to do my student teaching, so I explained what my principal had worked out with Marshall concerning my placement for the fall. (In a nutshell, I'll be going into a public school to teach social studies one day a week while keeping up all my language arts/religion duties at Fatima.) She said that might work, but that there's no way I can teach at Fatima and also student teach in the spring (because you need way more hours). Thanks? I mean, I know it's the state's fault -- not Marshall's -- that I, in essence, have to leave my teaching job to go student teach so I can get a teaching job, but could I get some support? I mean, we have tons of standards we have to meet for our academics PLUS we have to integrate Catholic Identity into everything, so we actually have MORE standards.

And all of that was fine until this one incident. During a break, the girl next to me and I were chatting, and she was asking me about teaching and going to school. She said, "So do you have a conditional license from the state or something?" Before I could explain the diocesan rules, my teacher butts in and says, and I quote, "SHE'S NOT CERTIFIED."

Okay. Thanks.

In this past year, I have been going to school full time while also being a first-year teacher. I have put in more hours that I can remember since I officially accepted this job July 11 doing research, planning lessons, reading about best teaching practices, reading books, scouring the internet, cleaning, organizing, scrubbing, etc. I'm not complaining because most of it was a lot of fun, and I have loved my teaching job. But I say all that to say, I might not have that much formal education in teaching, but I am a teacher.


You want to know how I know that? I have actual students. My students -- who I write lesson plans for, whose work I grade, whose learning I encourage, whose well being I lose sleep over, who I am always there for -- are ACTUAL people. They are not hypothetical students I might have "one day" when I graduate the MAT program. They are Magdalena and Olivia. Tommy and Gabe. Katy and Zoe. Some of them are amazing creative writers. Some love to talk. Some are class clowns. Some always forget to raise their hands. They are oldest children, youngest children, middle children. They come from families with 10 kids and they are only children. They have parents with limitless money, and some have parents who work multiple jobs. Some are C students who could be A students, while others get Cs we celebrate. In fact, last week, I wrote on a student's spelling test, "It makes my week when you get a 100% on a spelling test!" AND IT DOES. And if that's not being a teacher, then I honestly am not sure what is.

One of the things I said to my mom/dad/Erin/Melissa/anyone who would listen back in July before I formally accepted this job is that I was afraid that the other teachers at my school would think that I thought that I could do what they do, no problem, pretty much poo-poohing their years of education and experience. Which is not how I feel AT ALL. But you know what? Not a one of them has ever said or even insinuated they felt that way. Not once. In fact, the most veteran teacher at our school, who has won many awards and who is one of my favorite teachers of all time said to me (when I brought this up to her last summer) -- Anna, the only thing having a teaching degree means is that you have a teaching degree.

Wow. I have carried that with me this whole school year.

A parent who has a kid in my class this year and will have two next year, when I mentioned the lack of degree to her said -- Anna, you have to stop getting hung up on that degree.

Wow. I have carried that with me too.

Am I the best teacher at my school? NOT BY A LONG SHOT. I have so much to learn, which is why I go to my classes with an open mind and heart to be an even better teacher. But have I given this year literally every. single. drop. of everything I had? Most definitely. And every time my 100% was not enough (which was every day), the Lord came in and gave me exactly what I needed. And I believe He has done that because He called me to something, I said yes to Him even though I was scared terrified, He sees that I give it all I have, and He honors that.

Obviously I place a high value on education. I'm a teacher. Haha. And I don't say all this for pity or compliments or anything. I say it because I need your prayers. And your support. And, if you are ever in a position where you can lift someone up or make them feel inferior, please pick lift someone up.

That's what a teacher would do.

Dear Jen Hatmaker,

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

This article is making the rounds again, as it is the end of the school year for almost everyone. I've read it before, but it's floating around Facebook again now that it's mid-May. I highly suggest you read it, as it is very funny, but in a nutshell, it's a mom writing about how she is barely making it through the last few weeks of the school year because she's so over it. She's very careful to point out that "Just in case you think this is 'anti-teachers,' you might want to check out what I wrote last month: Dear Teachers Everywhere. TEACHERS RULE. We ALL crossed the finish line together. Cheers!"

Well, Mrs. Jen Hatmaker, as a teacher I'm here to tell you


I mean dude. Teachers work hard. Teachers, at least the good ones, plan lessons up until the very last day of school, trying to cram in every bit of material we possibly can for our students.

Our school's last day is June 2, and we only have half a day that day. Between now and then, we have a special mass, movie, and lunch for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (tomorrow!); our eighth graders (and I!) are spending three days in Washington, D.C.; we have a spring band concert and awards day that takes up half a day; and we have a day spent at Camden Park. So, as you can see, we have a lot going on.

And I started a new grammar unit today with the seventh grade.

Do you know what it's like -- can you even imagine what it's like -- to teach GRAMMAR to SEVENTH GRADERS at 2 P.M. in the MIDDLE OF MAY? I truly have absolutely nothing with which to compare it. Oh, and then when I'm done with that, I get to spend another 43 minutes teaching them literature. It honestly took us about 15 minutes to read two pages of "Insurgent" last week because they absolutely could not stay on task. Everything is funny. EV-ER-Y-THING.

"Miss Lafferre, look, that sentence just says 'Apples grow.' BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH."

And everyone is cracking up for the next five minutes. Because absolutely nothing on earth is funnier than short sentences about apples. AmIright?

I find myself constantly saying things like:

Guys, we just have to hold it together for 25 more minutes today ...

I know it's almost summer, and, believe it or not, I want to go to the pool too, but there is stuff we still have to do ... 

Okay, we can do this the easy way or the hard way: the easy way is I cover what we need to cover, you write it down, we do an activity, and we call it a day. The hard way is that we can't get it together and I send all this home with you to do after school ... 

Okay, guys, we need to get our lives together ...

Get your life together ...

Get your life together ...

Get your life together ...

Homie, I WANT TO GO TO THE POOL TOO, you know what I'm saying? But it's also important to me that you know these little things like how to read, write, and diagram sentences.

Getting these middle school students to do anything this time of year is much like me trying to get Baby Snickers to assist me with the household chores. He doesn't understand English and he lacks any and all capability and motivation to help out.

So, Jen Hatmaker, I hear you. As I've said to my coworker Sarah on numerous occasions in the past couple of weeks, I feel like we are all army crawling across the finish line. Right arm, left arm, we're almost there. The thing is, we have to cross that line together, and it's sentence diagramming and book reading that is going to get us there.

Parents, we get it. We're still asking you to initial AR logs and sign TTM sheets. But we promise we're doing it to help your kid, not torture you. Just give us about 14 more days, and your little angels will be all yours for the whole summer!



Monday, May 11, 2015

Last Sunday I wrote about my new thoughts on food. A week in, I have to say I'm pretty proud of my efforts and am really happy with how I've been feeling physically.

Also ALSO!!! I have to update you on a recipe. So in that same post I mentioned that I made a parfait of plain Greek yogurt, raspberries, and Love Crunch as a little dessert. And, yeah, it was tasty. But you guys. YOU GUYS.

A few days ago I decided to mix some raspberries and about a teaspoon of mini chocolate chips with some plain Greek yogurt AND THEN I FROZE IT. Seriously. I thought -- hey, what the heck? This might be good. So I put it in the freezer for about an hour-and-a-half and it was so good. SO. GOOD.

I mean DELISH. I have been mixing up this same concoction pretty much every single day and having it for dessert. (I decided to keep yogurt as dessert and not eat it for meals so I keep thinking of it as a treat.) But man, this dessert has good nutrients from the Greek yogurt and the fruit. AND THINK OF ALL THE THINGS YOU CAN MIX! I tried both slivered almonds and walnuts in my raspberry/yogurt concoction. BOTH GOOD!

Maybe you like peaches or blueberries or strawberries or pecans. I DON'T KNOW YOU I DON'T KNOW YOUR LIFE (as Erin would say), but I say MIX AWAY!!!

And put it in the freezer for about 90 minutes max I'd say. I tried it for a few hours and it was a bit too hard. So mix it up, put it in the freezer, make your dinner, eat it, and then your frozen Heaven will be ready for you. The only problem is you will want more of it!

You can thank me later.

Overfed but Undernourished.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Over the past couple of years I've tried to pay more attention to what I eat, incorporating more fruits and vegetables and eating fewer processed foods. I pretty much believe in all things in moderation, but lately I've been living the exception rather than the rule.

Lately I have been thinking more about what I put on and in my body, especially now that I'm 30 and nature starts taking its course. Yesterday I was turning on Netflix to find a movie to watch in the evening, and I  noticed that something that was recommended for me was a documentary called Fed Up. If you haven't seen it, in a nutshell it's about how the amount of sugar in processed foods is at the root of our nation's obesity problem. After that, I moved into watching Forks Over Knives, which is about rejecting animal-based and processed foods in favor of a plant-based diet.

Here's the thing -- I know that numbers can be manipulated to back up pretty much any point that someone wants to make, but the general gist of both of these documentaries is we need to eat real food.

And can't we all agree with that?

I appreciated a lot of what these documentaries had to say. For example, they stress that it's not as simple as "calories in, calories out." And that's true. We eat way more in a day than we can burn off, even if we combine exercise with our daily activities that naturally burn calories. The thing is a 100 calorie mini-can of Coke just can't have the same affect on our bodies as 100 calories worth of almonds. It just can't. Additionally there are just so many chemicals in processed foods that cannot be easy for our bodies to process. There are many stories about people who were able to go off many medications by changing their diet to natural foods. Have you ever thought that we take so many prescription medications every month yet continue to eat chemicals?

I don't mean to be preachy, because I sure don't know what I'm talking about and also that's offensive. I'm just sharing some things that have come to mind in the past couple of days after giving it all some thought.

My sister Erin is a vegetarian, and after watching Fed Up and part of Forks Over Knives last night I texted her to ask if she felt physically better since she switched to being a vegetarian. She said yeah absolutely and also that she's thinking about going vegan. The thing about myself is, I really don't need to lose too much weight. I have an average-sized frame, and several years ago I lost a bunch of weight because of a medication I was put on. (Before you ask me to tell you what so you can take it too, just believe me when I tell you I'd rather have my 15 pounds back.) However, I think I am what I recently learned is called a TOFI, or Thin Outside, Fat Inside. Meaning, just because I look thin on the outside doesn't mean that I have healthy insides. And I really don't think I do. The other scary thing I noticed about myself over the past year or so is that after I eat a large meal my heart starts to race like it's literally taking my body a massive amount of work to digest it all.

So late last night I took my trash can and disposed of about 1.5 bags of processed and other unhealthy foods I had laying about my house. This afternoon I went to the store and bought some more things to help supplement my new food choices. Another thing the documentaries said that I liked is that you can't think of it like "I'm going on a diet." You have to think of it like, I'm adding these new, nutritious foods to my diet and gradually the old ones with go away. Or think of it like I'm eating real food! And you get to eat a lot of food when it's real food.

I got some quinoa, couscous, brown rice, almonds, leafy greens, squash, grapes, raspberries, Greek yogurt, broccoli, colorful peppers, brussels sprouts, red potatoes, green beans, dates, and many other things. You'll notice from the Greek yogurt I haven't gone vegan like Erin may be doing, and I'm not even saying I'm going completely vegetarian, but I'm putting more focus on things that come from the ground.

I hear you now -- Anna! There's beer in there! Darn right. Because I'm a person. Not a machine. And my intention is not to declare my hatred of things like cake, wine, and Chick-Fil-A. Because what kind of life is that? But on a daily basis, the best bet is for us to nourish ourselves with actual real food. The thing that really stood out to me in all I watched was this line: We're overfed but undernourished. WHOA. That's so true. We are the wealthiest nation in the world and also the heaviest. It doesn't matter what you put on your outsides if your insides are dying. Also I don't make much money at all, and I can't do a lot of things like shop or go to the movies, and yes, it would be WAY cheaper for me to have stocked up today on things like frozen pizza and chips because that stuff doesn't cost as much money. But at what personal cost to my body and future would I have done that?

The truth is even as I'm sitting here I'm thinking how good some cookies would be. (I mean donuts are my favorite food.) And that's to be expected because sugar is a drug. The more you have the more you want. And it takes time to detoxify yourself from sugar and processed foods. Like I told my sister last night, this languishing in the headache, processed foods, sugar, etc. lifestyle seems easier than changing. Which means I need to change. And if I don't do it now, I never will. It'll be super hard for a while turning away from old habits, but I am praying that it pays off with more energy, healthier insides, and an all-around better feeling.

For dinner tonight I made myself roasted red potatoes and green beans. I loosely followed this recipe, meaning I used it to tell me what temperature the oven should be on and how long I should leave everything in there. But here's what I personally did:

- 6 small red potatoes
- Some french-style fresh green beans
- salt
- pepper
- olive oil
- rosemary
- fresh garlic

This is the first time I've ever used by rabbit garlic press (is that even what it's called?) that a friend brought me back a couple years ago from her trip to Prague!

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Cut the red potatoes into eighths.
3. Place the potatoes in a bowl, and drizzle some olive oil on them. Add salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and rosemary to taste and mix around.
4. Place the potatoes on one half of a cookie sheet you've sprayed with cooking spray.
5. Bake for about 15 minutes.
6. While that's baking, throw your green beans in a bowl, and drizzle some olive oil on them. Add salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and rosemary to taste and mix around.
7. When the potatoes have been in about 15 minutes, add the green beans to the other side of the sheet.
8. Bake for another 15-20 minutes.

It was so good! Now that I'm thinking about it, I should have added some slivered almonds to the mix! Next time.

Oh look! I also had dessert. :) I made a little parfait of plain Greek yogurt, raspberries, and some organic dark chocolate granola. That was super good too!

I tried to help myself out by washing my grapes and bagging them up in individual baggies and making some yogurt raspberry parfaits in tupperware containers. I'm about to sit down and plan a couple meals too because I feel like I do a lot better getting my fruits and veggies in if I actually plan what I'm going to eat in advance.

Anyways, these are just some thoughts that I've been having lately about what we put on the inside of our bodies and how we really need to think about what we're filling ourselves with.

Love the Skin You're In.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On Saturday I decided that I really needed to actively pursue a skin care regimen. I've always been a twice a day face washer, but I turned 30 last summer, and I really thought I should be taking better care of my skin.

Prior to Saturday, I pretty much used Olay face wash in the shower, whatever came in my ipsy glam bag at night, and Olay moisturizer in the mornings. Sometimes I'd also use it at night if I remembered, but I was pretty lazy about it. The best skin care thing I've got going for me is that I do drink a lot of water. With the exception of a cup of coffee once a day (and wine a couple times a week), I only ever drink water. So at least there's that.

My mom and I were in the Target skin care aisle on Saturday when I announced my intentions to find myself a skin care regimen. I wondered aloud if I should stick with Olay or move brands blah blah, and my mom asked one important question, "Has Olay been good to you?"

Why, yes. Yes they have. I use their moisturizer, my great grandmother used it, my grandmother used it, and my mom uses it. In fact, my grandmother says my great grandmother had the softest skin, right up until she passed away.

So good enough for Grandma Annie, good enough for me. Also, I've used Olay for a long time, and it's never led me astray.

Already at home I had the Olay Complete All-Day Moisturizer (for sensitive skin) and the Olay Foaming Face Wash (also for sensitive skin). I decided to stick with those things. To add to it, I purchased the Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum, the Olay Regenerist Luminous Overnight Mask, and the Olay Fresh Effects Deluxe Make-Up Removal Wet Cloths.

At first I was like forget this, this stuff is too pricey -- because I am super cheap, let's be honest. But as my mom pointed out, this is what happens when you start getting older, and having healthy skin is worth the cost. Point taken. I mean, it's my face.

I've been using this stuff since Saturday, and I can't say that I've seen a huge difference, but it's really not about the short-term is it? I can say my face feels really soft and moisturized, so that's good! I might switch and try the Regenerist Brightening Cream Cleanser when my current face wash runs out, but we'll see.

The only skin care product I use that's not Olay is body lotion. My mom got me this for Christmas, and please believe me when I tell you I'll never use another body lotion again. I honestly am not sure I've ever even purchased body lotion before. Doesn't it seem like one of those things that you just always seem to have and you're not sure where you got it? At any rate, like I said I got this for Christmas, and I had to go buy a new thing of it for myself a couple weeks ago because I use it every day. Amazing. It smells like Heaven.

Here is a place to get some Olay coupons to get you started if you'd like to try their products!

Anyways, what skin care products do you like?

(Note: I was in no way compensated by Olay -- or Boots -- for writing this. These opinions are all mine based on using the products myself. If they wanted to send some free stuff my way I wouldn't complain though. :) ) 

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