Monday, October 27, 2014

The . of No Return

I've officially passed the point of no return with catching up on my blogging. 5 months is waaaaay too long for me to have abandoned this place. Summer in a word was good, and in a second word refreshing. But fast forward to the past 3 months - which have been the more crucial. After landing a job just days after graduation (HAL-LE-LU-JAH) summer started to revolve around planning for the move. My first post-college goal was to land a K-2 teaching job in Tennessee, and God's faithful hand provided! Check that off the list! In the planning and preparations for the move, He continued in his faithfulness through lots of little blessings and mini-miracles (i.e. finding an apartment, buying a couch, a bed, and a table, and my fantastic 1st grade co-workers) each with their own little miraculous-aspects. All contributing to the feeling of confirmation that starting over in a random city picked by hand wasn't random - but was following the path the Lord had set before me.

My first months of teaching has been a conglomerate of highs and lows. Somedays it seems so natural, and some days it seems overwhelming. Singleness has been an unexpected blessing in this season of life - I can bring my work home with me and work through the evening and not feel guilty about it. Which for the first year of teaching, is a necessity. First grade was my goal-grade before I started my student teaching, and I honestly kind of forgot about it. I love how He brought be back around to 1st grade and dropped it in my lap. The school I'm working at is a wonderful, tight knit community, and the perfect balance of demographics that I was hoping for. When I first visited the building, it just felt good walking through its halls. It's an old school (like 100 years old) which gives it so much character. Yes, there are some things that would be nice to have in a brand new, state of the art school, but I've always been drawn to old with character above new and shiny. And just as it was a joy to orchestrate the coming together of my apartment, it was a joy to pour so much time in to building my classroom. Heavens knows it's still not finished, but I love how far it's come!

when I first visited my classroom and they were in the midst of installing new hardwood floors

the "finished" room - back in August, a lot has been added even since then!

Of course setting up a classroom and running a classroom are two incredibly different things. My students have been both a beautiful blessing and a insane new level of challenging. Hopefully I'll post again soon with more details about the actual teaching side of my life. A lot has changed in my life in the past smattering of months, it really is hard to believe that 5 months ago I was in college, so much has changed!

And as a last note, I'm immensely happy that we're hurdling head first into the holiday season. My heart is itching for decorations and Christmas carols all ready!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wrapping It Up

In 5 days I will pack up and leave school. For the last time.


This has all gone so quickly, really too quickly. Yes, there are many things about post-college life that I have been hankering for for a while now, but there is an undeniable bitterness to moving on from this stage of life. This is the end of my education (for now). This is the end of my "carefree college days." But I'll save up the rest of my reflection for a post after I've actually graduated.

While I'm still here, there's a lot more fun and current happenings for me to focus on and update you about. Classes are over, grades are coming in, and graduation is just a few days away. I'm finding this transitional time to be a welcomed momentary respite - a stillness in which I can sit, and reflect on what exactly happened in my life this past year. The last time I wrote, it was still pre-spring break and there was snow on the ground. Now the pollen has budded and the wet, heavy, green beginnings of a North Carolina summer are in full swing.

While there was still that lingering snow on the ground in North Carolina, I skipped myself home to Texas for my spring break, and some good ol' Texas R&R. My Mom, my sister, and I took a weekend trip down to the small town of Salado, Texas to get out of the city and have a little adventure. While Salado was not the thriving metropolis that my Mom remembered it to be (hint: sarcasm), it was still quite enjoyable! We passed our days at the local shops and restaurants, and played a lot, I mean a lot of cards.

the bed and breakfast, with porch swings a-plenty

love them

Upon returning to North Carolina, I was greeted with, you guessed it: SNOW! We had an inexplicably long winter this year, with snow falling all the way into April. Personally, I think it was North Carolina's way of giving me a little extra Carolina love during my last winter here at school. So I soaked up every bit of snow with a smile. 

April snow - a first ever for me

One of the classes I took this semester was a course in Children's Literature. The class ended early in the semester (i.e. first week of April) and for our last class, we had a little party at our professor's house. This professor certainly had a flair for the dramatic - so he requested that we each dress up as one of the characters from one of the children's books we had read. This is the professor's last semester teaching, after at least 30 years at the University, so it was an honor to attend his final Children's Literature party. Take a glance at our costumes below and see if you have any guesses about who we were!

A big thing that has happened since I last talked to y'all is the job hunt. It has consumed so much of my time, my thoughts, my heart, and my prayers. I mean, y'all, hunting for a job is hard. The kick off for me was a job fair in Knoxville at the beginning of April. It was my first truly professional experience and I really enjoyed it. I absolutely fell in love with the city during my couple of days there - so fresh, so fun, but not overwhelmingly big. I got to stay with one of my sister's friends who lives right in Market Square - putting all the fun and young things right at my fingertips. I know that there are many potential paths for the Lord to lead me down in these next couple months, but at the very bottom of my heart I hope that path takes me back to Knoxville. 

And let me take this opportunity to make a shameless plug for myself: if you have a connection to ANYONE and I mean ANYONE working in an elementary school and they are looking to hire new teachers - PLEASE PUT ME IN TOUCH WITH THEM. I am grasping for any and every connection possible. If the school is in Tennessee - great, if it's in Texas - great, if it's anywhere else on God's green earth - great! I would just love to make as many connections as I can! I'm learning to be a shameless self-promoter people! (Side note, feel free to visit my digital portfolio here.)

krankin' out those business cards

Headed to the job fair and feeling adult-ish! 

spent some time relaxing at this park in Knoxville, watching the ducks paddle themselves along 

part of the chalk festival in Market Square

 One of the rights of passage that we as seniors get at our university is tours of the tunnels and the bell tower. Our campus is built on top of an elaborate system of tunnels that traverse the entire extent of campus. Unfortunately, in the past 30 or so years they have been locked up and off-limits to student explorations/shenanigans. But before sending us out into the world, the university allows us to go on a tour of a small portion of the underground labyrinth. I didn't get any decent photographic evidence, but those tunnels were cool. We saw old old old storage rooms, original chairs from the chapel, bomb shelters, and rooms that were set up as safe rooms during the cold war. All very interesting stuff! Additionally, we got to tour the bell-tower. That's something I did during my sophomore year with some friends, but all the same it was impressive to climb up onto the steeple of the chapel and overlook our city and campus.

making our way through the tunnels

at the clock face

panoramic view from the bellower

The quad and downtown: I've loved calling this place home.

Up next on the docket was Easter. Our shuttle driver is a very eccentric woman, named Dede. She went all out, and I mean all out for Easter. On Thursday, she drove us around in her Easter get-up, with pink nose, painted whiskers, and all. She handed a dyed (hard boiled) egg to each student who got on her Bunny-Mobile (read: shuttle bus) and sent each student off with a "Hoppy Easter!" Campus was in full spring swing right around then and all the trees were blooming with their bright pink blossoms. This Easter brought a special treat, (in addition to the obvious reasons for rejoicing), my Dad came up to visit! He flew into town on Thursday and we drove down to South Carolina to take care of some family business and have some quality father-daughter time together. That weekend was definitively one of my favorites of the semester. We got to visit Bon Haven, the home where my grandmother grew up, visit the resting place of many of my ancestors, eat dinner in the mountains each night, and attend Easter service at the church that my family has gone to for generations. It was a weekend rich with remembrance, rejoicing, and lots and lots of laughter.

oh Dede....

the trees in full bloom

Bon Haven

Bon Haven

what a stud!
dinner in the mountains

the best travel buddy

 This semester has been rich with weekend adventures, including a quick trip into the mountains. One of the items on my Senior bucket list was to visit Blowing Rock one last time. I have been up to the quaint mountain town several times over the course of my years here, even spending Thanksgiving there with the family in 2010. It's also one of my parents favorite get aways. Beth and I managed to scurry up to the mountains for a quick one night get away, filled with good food, good coffee, and good shopping. And I mean, who doesn't love going to the mountains?

on Main Street, at our beloved Last Straw

Our trip to Blowing Rock was the weekend before our last week of classes. It was crazy how quickly the end of the semester snuck up on us. I basically blinked and it was gone. So, in honor of my last college class ever, I of course had to snap a quality selfie. 

I think the picture speaks for itself. It's the end of an era, people.

 With graduation comes graduation presents. Sweet Beth gave me this precious banner to hang up in my classroom next year. I love her creative spirit and personal touch and can't wait to hang it up in whatever classroom I end up in. I also love that it will be such a perfect visual reminder of our time together.

Because the university gives us a roughly week-long break between the end of finals and graduation, most Seniors take this time as a free vacation, trekking out to the beach for the first hint of summer. Beth and I made the journey down to Florida for a change of pace from the usual Carolina coast. It was refreshing and free, a nice journey away from the confines of North Carolina. Personally, busting out on a 10 hour drive gets me all excited and giddy, and this was no exception. We were at Blue Mountain Beach, just down the road from the more widely known community of Seaside. I personally love staying at Blue Mountain Beach, as it gives you great access to both Destin and Seaside, without having to actually be in the middle of the hustle and bustle of it all. Our days in Florida were filled to the brim with poolside relaxation, good books, bike rides, and a little bit of shopping for good measure.

dinner on the beach (with entertainment from the children at neighboring tables)

the view on another night of dinner on the beach

getting that, I mean, tan

post-dinner stroll through Seaside

the view from our patio

relaxing after biking to Seaside

the magnolias were in full bloom in Florida!

Now that we're back in North Carolina, it's time to get down to business and pack up the apartment. It's always sad to strip the apartment of its memories and its essence of home, only to be left face-to-face with the starkly blank walls. It really is such a visual manifestation that this period of my life is coming to a close. So as my apartment is in chaos-mode right now, it's been hard to find a time to sit down and do something that is not packing-related. I resolved to get away from my apartment for a little bit today to Camino Bakery, a coffee shop downtown, for some magical coffee and some good work time. I finally managed to get a few more things checked off of my to do list, including writing this long-awaited post! 

That pretty much brings us up to date! My family starts rolling into town Saturday morning for all of the graduation festivities. I am beyond elated to have them all in the same place at once and even more to have them all experience a little piece of what has been my world for these past four years. I've come to realize how valuable it is to me for my loved ones to get to see parts of my world. It makes me feel like they are truly involved in my life. So I'm stoked that that will be happening in these coming days! I'll graduate on Monday morning at 9 AM and then our little caravan will roll out of town on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

So here's to soaking up my last little bit of time in the city that has been my home for the past four years. It's been good. It's been fulfilling. It's been appreciated. 


Thursday, March 6, 2014

And Suddenly It's Halfway Gone

So many updates to be had. Let's jump right in.

Only one week after getting back from Panama, I had the unique opportunity to go to Passion, in Atlanta, Georgia. Me and eight or so other girls made the five hour trek down on a Friday morning. If you know me, you know I love a good drive, so I welcomed that trip with open arms. We stayed at one of the girls' houses in Atlanta, just a short 20 minute drive from the Georgia Dome where we would have our sessions. In case you didn't hear, Passion got a bit of a facelift this year. Typically it is a three day long Christian youth conference at the Georgia Dome. Of course, if you know passion, you know that calling it a "Christian youth conference" is a gross understatement. It is more of a revolutionary uniting of the college generation, to encourage and propel us to great things for the Kingdom. this year it was a condensed version, all the glory of Passion packed into just two days. We spent long and glorious hours in corporate worship and were fed wisdom by some of the greatest ambassadors for Christ: Francis Chan, John Piper, Christine Cane, and Louis Giglio. Attending Passion was on my 20's bucket list and I was elated to get to check it off. It was a great time to draw near to the Lord after returning from Panama just 4 days before and also was a wonderful way to be launched into my last semester of college. Talk about perfect timing.

all the girls in Atlanta

a glimpse inside the dome

Now just to hit the highlights of the rest of January and February....

I got to check another thing off the Senior bucket list - paint a painting. I'm not a painter, I'm not artistic, and it's even a stretch to say that I have artistic leanings. All the same, I decided to put the brush to the canvas and see what happened. Of course, I didn't do it without aid. Beth and I went to one of those assisted painting places where they walk you through your painting step by step. And y'all. All of my previous artwork was worthy of being posted on the walls of a kindergarten classroom, and nothing more. So this, was mind-blowing to me. The thought that I would actually be happy, even proud, of what I produced was WILD! I've even hung it up in my apartment!

this is what I had to work with, a canvas with pencil tracings and an example

essentially our personalities captured in a photo

aaallll finished!

love it love it love it

In mid February I went to my first hockey game in Raleigh. It was the minor league team, the Checkers, but all the same I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would! I might actually enjoy getting into hockey! 

and I got a puck!

This February....and March have been particularly snowy. We have had three (and currently going on four) snow storms. The first was a dusting of 1-2 inches, the next was almost 8 inches, then another dusting of 1-2 inches, and now we're getting a wintry mix of snow and ice. I have never seen this much snow in my time in North Carolina! And that 8 inch snow storm? I stayed in my apartment for 36 straight hours. I have never experienced that kind of snow before! North Carolina is one of those weird in-between states, where it's not uncommon to get a decent amount of snow, but we still don't know how to deal with it. That being said, everything was shut down for two solid days. I got a twinge of apartment fever, but I loved having the overall experience! Check that off my bucket list too!

our parking lot

the entrance to the apartments

this was all right outside my door! 

In late February, Mary Catherine came to visit me! Wheeeeeeee!! That's always fun! Our time together involved the typical sisterly shenanigans. I always love having family come visit at school and getting to show them parts of my life here in North Carolina. While she was here, we had some unseasonably warm weather. I'm talking 70's. So we went to the gardens near campus and spent some time lounging in the sun. 

doing what she does best: chilling.

had a blast with this nugget!

The last big thing that's happened for me so far this semester is that I took the Praxis! EEEEEEEEEKKK. If you don't know, the Praxis is the MCAT/LSAT for teachers. If I pass the Praxis, I can officially get certified! I was scheduled to take it on February 14th (yes, Valentine's Day), but that, unfortunately, was at the tail end of our big snowfall, so it actually got cancelled. I got it rescheduled for the 28th, took the extra time for extra studying, and when the time rolled around, finally checked the test off my list. I have yet to get my scores back, so for now I'm just waiting...with all my fingers crossed.

all the prep that went into the test

Now we're all the way caught up to last weekend, when a friend of mine from Pine Cove just so happened to be in town. Paris, who I hadn't seen in 4 years (where does the time go?) was in town with her mom for a women's conference at the church they used to attend when they used to live here. So I was lucky enough to get to see her not once, but twice in just two days. This chickadee is one of the coolest girls I know. Really and truly, she is confident and assured of her identity in the Lord and it is evident in all aspects of her life. I love how God can craft relationships that can pick right back up after so much time has passed. And what's more, how he can make those relationships so much richer when they are picked back up again. I really cherished the good heart-time I got to spend with this girl talking about what the Lord has been doing in our lives lately. And I think the Lord is reconstructing a friendship that had been put on hold for far too long.

I took her to what I consider to be one of the (very) few cool spots in town - a local coffee shop called Krankies.

So that sums it up. And just like that, the semester is halfway gone. Which means I only have about two more months left at my beloved school. Which means I'm totally justified in getting sentimental and super sappy, and posting as many pictures of campus as I'd like. Right? So this is where I leave you.