Merry Christmas?!

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How was your Christmas, friends?

I have a tendency of putting waaayyyyyy too much stress upon myself. School finished yet I still had to go in on my non-teaching duty day to do some paperwork and tidy up my classroom. By choice, though, as I could have just left it but then it would have awaited me in January. In the meantime a students’ book order came in, unfortunately not in time for me to give them to her on her last day of class, but yet since I knew she wanted them for Winter Break I got in touch with her Dad to get them to him. Did I mention that I work on the opposite side of town?

Did I mention that my stepdaughter was getting married that Friday? So the decorating, rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner was Thursday night. Although I haven’t known Abby and her fiance very long, they are very important part of my life, and other events have happened that have estranged her from her birth mother. Combine that with planning for a wedding and not having her mom involved would be hard on any daughter. I, for one, couldn’t imagine it, as I have a wonderfully, amazing relationship with my own mother. But yet as a stepmom, where do you draw the line as to where not to butt in where it’s not your role and keep the peace? I did my best to stay respectful in my role and help out the best way I could, a challenge, as I was super conscious of not sticking my nose in where it shouldn’t have been. Fortunately, it went off well, there weren’t any hurt feelings and I don’t think I did anything I shouldn’t have and intentionally offend anyone.

Attempting to plan around two different parenting plans as well as adult children made coordinating Christmas a little more difficult. We eventually settled on us hosting a Christmas lunch. Some of the children had their Christmas presents in the morning, others had them later in the afternoon once my 3 came home, and even more were later in the evening at the grandparents’ house. Unfortunately, Mike’s youngest wasn’t feeling well and by mid-afternoon was running a fever, putting a damper on his day, I’m sure. I guess I shouldn’t put as much pressure on myself but I put so much thought and effort into gifts and meals and making sure that everyone’s needs are met that I struggle with keeping my own head above water. By the time we were done volunteering in the nursery at church and home, I was in tears, overwhelmed with the many aspects of, well, everything!

Standing over the frying pan making pancakes Christmas morning, I prayed for God to change my heart. It was all so . . . different . . . After all, this time last year I was preparing for Christmas and my own out-of-town elopement ceremony. This year has been tumultuous but happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to change, and some changes are good but I wondered if Mike’s children were feeling the same as I was. This isn’t the way things have been. Blending families is challenge enough and for whatever reason, Christmas seems harder than other holidays. I tend to take things too personally. The reason why one of the boys was in a bad mood was because of me, not because they weren’t feeling well. The reason why the plates weren’t full was because they didn’t like what I had cooked, not because they’d eaten too many pancakes that morning. The reason why they didn’t say anything about their gift was because they didn’t like what I had picked, not because they were side-tracked by something else. See what I mean? Perception is something else.

I survived Christmas. There were no tears or arguing. There was lots of laughter and smiles with some reminiscing. Even playing Wii and competitive personalities didn’t dampen spirits! My overly sensitive smoke alarm only went off a few times when I was baking the apple pie but yet not because I was burning it. The food was delicious and I actually coordinated it all coming together at the same time (thank heavens for microwaves to help with potatoes that didn’t cook through in the crock pot even after being on for hours!). Everyone got along with everyone else. Who could ask for more? I am indeed blessed.

 

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Letting Go

I stumbled upon this purely by accident on Pinterest.

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A year or so ago I was on a mission to find a better life. I actually don’t do a bad job of keeping clutter to a minimum. After all, there is NOTHING in my attic and my storage area you can walk into without any problems. Yet, it seems as if I had SO. MUCH. STUFF. Or I should say WE as I wasn’t the only one living in our home at the time, my 3 teenage children, 2 large dogs and 3 guinea pigs live there, too! I was fed up of cleaning, tidying, and maintaining our home.

Minimalism being my focus, I started slowly, filling a bag or two at a time and then dropping it off at Goodwill or having it picked up at the end of my driveway through Amvets. If the item didn’t have a purpose and didn’t bring me joy, it was gone. It was incredibly invigorating!   I had nearly an entire garage full of  things so I decided to turn as much of it as possible into cash and held a quick, one day only moving sale.  (I had put my home of nearly 14 years on the market in March and it sold in 4 days!) Now that I was downsizing to a smaller home, it made it much easier to let go of some things!

Fast forward to 2018 and now my new husband and I consolidated households. Thanks to Facebook Marketplace, we managed to sell items so we didn’t have to move them or find storage place for them when Mike vacated his town home. Gone were the dishes, extra 2 dressers, bed, dining table, and couch. Other practical items such as casserole dishes, silverware, pots and pans, etc. were packed into boxes to keep for when our older children decided they were ready to move out. Even today we continue to keep paring down our things. We think carefully as to whether or not something is a need or a want and where we will keep the item.

It’s much easier to declutter an unworn pair of pants or an out-of-style shirt. The emotional part of old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits weren’t as easy. Philippians 4:8 helped me to focus. Remembering I can only control my own actions and not of those around me. Surrounding myself with positive examples through email like Proverbs 31 and WAY-FM’s Word on the Way, Pinterest, and Instagram. Bible verses, songs, and pleasing pictures/photographs are in my feed. Workouts, inspirational quotes/pictures, and home improvement items are pinned in my Pinterest. My life isn’t dictated by how many “likes” I get on Instagram and Facebook. And in my reading pile beside the bed? My Bible, Lysa TerKeurst’s devotional book, Fierce Marriage’s book by Ryan and Selena Frederick, and Mark Hoover’s devotional, You Times Two. My husband and try to read something every night. Is what I’m doing what God intended and does it bring joy? That will certainly help!

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It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, though, and I had to be intentional about where my thoughts were taking me. If you tell yourself something often enough, it becomes a reality. My husband is amazing in helping me stay focused and keeping in mind what should be important and what isn’t. So are my parents. Surrounding yourself with a support system of people who know the real you and have the right intentions/motivations in which to help you is also important. As a result, I have been able to let go of people who used to be a big part of my life. They have made no effort to be a part of mine anymore so it was time to let go. Holding onto it was toxic and I must admit that it’s been freeing. As Philippians 4:13b says, “but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” . In Philippians 2:14-16 is also says: “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as Children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.”

Friends, I wish you a peace and joy that surpasses all understanding through the love of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Happy Teacher

Teaching is hard.

You’re constantly reflecting on what you can do better and how to meet each students’ needs on a variety of different levels and subjects.

This week in our professional development, our leader provided us with a grid for The 30 Day Happy Teacher Challenge. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day grind of teaching so this was refreshing to help us take time for ourselves and focus. We were challenged to get a Bingo and then we’ll get a prize. Since I enjoy a challenge and I liked what was on this chart, I figured I’d go for it. Besides, who can’t use a bit of positivity?

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Yesterday I gave my students an index card with the prompt “I am happiest when . . .” I enjoyed reading their responses and they made me smile.

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If you’re a teacher, thank you for all that you do. I know it’s hard work. If you like a challenge and need a positive boost, try this 30 Day Happy Teacher Challenge!

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Labor Day in St. Louis

A long weekend. Yeeeesssssss . . .

Mike and I hit the road for a trip to St. Louis, Missouri to do some site-seeing and go somewhere I’ve never been before. We had looked into going before but apparently it’s a hopping place as economical hotels were already booked up. So for this trip, we planned ahead and booked early!

I had worked all day teaching the Friday we left and didn’t arrive in St. Louis until after midnight, but at least we got a jump on our mini vacay. Our hotel was lovely so if you have a chance to visit St. Louis, I would highly recommend La Quinta. Saturday morning we visited the iconic Arch, of course! So did a lot of other people . . . but now it’s a national monument that I have seen and been inside of! A little scary, I might add, and crowded at the top but great views!

 

Next up, the Basilica Cathedral.  Wow. All of those mosiac tiles! There was a wedding ceremony there when we were but after it was over, we were able to go into the sanctuary. Absolutely incredible.

 

The next day we headed to the St. Louis Zoo. So did everyone else (free admission? Yep, gotta go!) so we went to Plan B, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. We went on a tour and saw the Clydesdales horses as well as ate outside at the patio BBQ, got free beer, and enjoyed a free concert. Although I had been hesitant about going, I think it was one of my favorite parts of our trip! I had been to the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO and thought it might have been similar but this was much better! We did, however, go back to the zoo later in the day and were thrilled to see the penguins and a polar bear.

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Mike and I with Bruce the Clydesdale!

I loved what I saw of St. Louis in the short time we were there. The architecture and buildings were wonderful. There were many bike paths and lots of trees. Downtown was neat, although parking was a nightmare to get to the Arch. There were plenty of highways to get around with although I’m thankful for Google Maps that helped us navigate the city.

Mike and I enjoy our traveling and try to take advantage of a trip out of town every other month or so, schedule permitting! With us having the kids alternate weekends and Mike having to work another weekend, we’re typically limited to one weekend a month. Taking time out of our hectic schedules to see something new and enjoy each other’s company is wonderful and does our marriage so much good! It’s energizing and gives me a refreshing change with what else is going on in our lives.

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Deep Waters

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The swirling waters of a full Arkansas River.

Have you ever felt that the waters are just deep and life is just too tough? You can’t catch your breath. You feel as if you’re drowning. You’re trying to fight your way out.

Yep, I have. And it seems it’s more and more these days.

When my word for the year came to me (strength), I had no idea that it would be as needed as it was. I guess that’s the way the Lord works, though, when He puts ideas in your head! It seems to be one challenge after another with little to no break in between. Geesh.

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I found this bracelet at JCPenney earlier this year and have worn it every day!

So what does one do?

You MUST relinquish control to the One who loves you. I’m one to hold on to worries and struggle with releasing it. The thing is, many of the issues I’m having to deal with I have absolutely NO CONTROL OVER. How are you to solve a problem if you don’t have any control over it? You can’t.

I was running by the river earlier this week after an exhausting day of teaching, my main goal of alleviating the stress of the day. As I frequently do, I pray but last night I had no words. My sentences wouldn’t come. My words seems to freeze. I was frantically searching for guidance yet found none. I glanced at the river, noticing the rushing current and the swollen banks. Under water. That was what I felt like.

Psalm 121 says the following: I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you–the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Isn’t that so reassuring?

My second tattoo was inspired by Isaiah 41:13 (NLT) – For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God, And I say to you, Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. 

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An infiniti symbol in the shape of a heart on my right wrist, perfect for inspiration of Isaiah 41:13.

I have to keep in mind, however, that there are reasons I am going through the trials that I am. Maybe not reasons that I understand yet, but reasons. 2 Corinthians 13:8-9 (NLT) says: Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. Okay, so I’m not to the boasting part about my weaknesses, but I will pray for His power to work in my weakness.

I hope that you are able to place your hope and trust in Christ. Life is hard enough to manage it alone; grasp tight to His hand and His grace will guide you.

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Welcome to Another School Year!

Just like that, summer was over! It was an incredibly busy one yet strange at the same time. I’m not even sure how to even explain it. Yet I was excited to get into my classroom and changed my theme slightly this year. I was fed up of using the same borders and colors that I’ve used over and over and over again for years! I had bought black fabric years ago for my bulletin boards and I continue to use those (frugal!) so this year I decided to do black and gold.  I believe “Glimmer of Gold” was the name of the theme that I purchased at Mardel’s. Why not?

The custodial team cleans all of the classrooms during the summer and takes out all furniture. My carpet was cleaned and the furniture put back where I wanted it other than the student’s desks, which I arrange into groups. The photos above show what my classroom looked like when I first walked in after the summer break.

Here’s what it looks like right before Open House.

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One of my student groups, ready for Open House night! I used folded sheets to cover the storage area shelves above the coat hooks. Love my new poster on the left and incorporated our district’s theme of Dream, Believe, Achieve on the right.

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These cubbies hold textbooks.  Their desks are too small to hold these as well as their other supplies we use daily. I used labels with sticker numbers and then put clear contact paper over them so they can be reused year after year. If I want to, I could write the students’ name on the contact paper also and it will still keep. The signs above the sink are for birthdays and the post office I use for handing out papers weekly. The desk is my “Safe Seat” for students from other classrooms or my own that need a break from their other space.

 

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This is my Focus Wall for our new Journeys English Language Arts curriculum as well as a part of my library. I redid my tubs to the black/gold and cut the signs in half to do more tubs. Frugal?! I also reused plastic tubs from Furniture Row that had leather cleaners in. I arrange my Accelerated Reader levels and also by collection, like Captain Underpants, The Magic Treehouse, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I bought the pencil tubs from the Dollar Tree and I reused chalkboard clips from my wedding reception to label the tubs. 

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The central part of my classroom, the SmartBoard! I did buy a new black & gold calendar.

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The classroom door. I added my students’ names on arrows and kept my Gold Glimmer theme going outside the classroom with signs and notices. I love the difference! Can you see the guinea pig cage through the window? I brought Cosmo  and Tito back to the classroom!

This is my 12th year of teaching and I’m looking forward to hopefully making a difference in the lives of my students and taking them to the next level.

A Doozy of a 25K

One thing I know about myself – I don’t run well in heat. Especially humidity. And this summer hasn’t been any different than any other except for the fact that the thermostat sky-rocketed early in May. Yuck. That doesn’t do much for my training, that’s for sure!

The UrbanICT was a new race this year and a couple of things appealed to me about it – it was at night, hopefully under the full moon, and the registration fee was much lower than most long races I’ve run. So I signed up.

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Isn’t this beautiful?! We ran across this bridge as the Keeper has the rings of fire on during the first mile of the race. Mile90 Photography rocked these pictures!!

My training was on track for the most part until July hit. My ocular migraines were back with a vengeance as was the humidity and ultimate exhaustion. Of course that didn’t stop me from hiking a 14’er in Colorado, but it did derail my outdoor runs. I ended up on the treadmill at the Y more often than not. The night of the race, I hadn’t run in 2 1/2 weeks. Uh oh. I should have known.

As I toed the starting line, I was hoping that my body would kick into memory mode and knock out the race in about 2 1/2 hours. Ultimately, I wanted to finish without injury and wouldn’t really know until the horn blasted from the start and I began to run. I was thrilled to run with a running buddy that shared a marathon with me a couple of years ago. She helped me keep pace for the first 5 miles but then the side stitches came. Regardless of my breathing, liquid intake and fuel, it was a struggle. Running in the dark was a new experience. I had a lamp but the bobbing of other runners’ lights was a bit nauseating and parts of the path by the river were very, very, very dark. And yes, maybe a little scary. My body was giving up waaaayyyyy too early. The shorts that I have worn on many a run started to rub. My hips ached. My knees started to give me issues. And did I mention exhaustion? To the extreme. It became a tremendous battle of my mind to keep going.

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These are the best race pictures I have EVER had. Thanks Mile90 Photography! (Look at those leg muscles!!! ;))

Although I did some walking, especially through water stops even though I carried my own on my back, I finished. According to Timer Guys, I finished 69th out of approximately 146 people with a time of 2:57:31, just before midnight.

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This smile wasn’t forced — I was FINALLY done!!!!

I learned a few things.

  1. I don’t much care for night running along the river with bouncing headlights.
  2. The power of running with friends is tremendous.
  3. Regardless of how much I struggle running/training in the heat/humidity, it MUST be done in order to be successful.
  4. Running long distances will always be a mind battle.
  5. Treadmill running doesn’t replace street running although it’s better than nothing.

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Next up?

My hubby and I have scheduled another half marathon in October in Nebraska. We had such a great time running the Good Life Halfsy last year that we wanted to do it again! I have started my training again – outdoors and relatively easy for now – to ensure that I’m ready. I don’t want to risk injury by ramping too many miles too quickly. I’m not making the same mistake again!! I’m prone to IT band and knee issues as it is!

A HUGE shout out to Mile90 Photography!! Your race pictures were absolutely fabulous! Thank you for capturing this race!