Going Where I’m Meant to Go…

So here I am again! It’s been a while. The end of this school year is turning out to be quite busy and exciting. I’ve been very involved in leading our Student Government Association here at school. I also volunteered to take part in a five day workshop and training about the foundations of reading and the reading process. The workshops were intense and have required a lot of outside reading, responding, and completion of assignments, but it’s been SO rewarding for me. I enjoy learning about that kind of thing, and I even decided to do a Level 2 (a higher level) of the training to receive more staff development credit and become more knowledgeable of the reading process and how to instruct and intervene for students with reading disabilities or difficulties. Ultimately, I know having this experience and knowledge can only help me when I pursue teaching.
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I talked last time about how I want to go back to teaching next school year. I want to be back in an English classroom or teaching exceptional children in a high school setting. I took a break from this passion when I worked one-on-one with the little girl who I’ve talked about before. During my five years with that little girl, she was my passion and where the heart of my job was. However, once I was transferred into my current position, I lost the passion and twinkle in my heart. My job is good and some days I go home feeling pretty satisfied with what I’ve done or how I’ve been able to help students, but it’s still just a job. It’s not a career and it’s not my passion. My passion, whether I knew it or not at the time, has always been to foster learning for students. I happen to have a niche with high school students. Upon returning to a high school setting for my job, I remembered how I actually like crazy teenagers and all of their naivety mixed with an ironic sense of confidence. My personality and way of talking to people meshes well with most high schoolers. They get my sarcasm and no-nonsense threshold of tolerance. If I tell a 17 year old to drop the bad attitude or quit being a butthole, he/she seems to respect my way of keeping things in check. The other part of my passion – the most important – is that I have a lot of knowledge and advice about literature, writing, and critical thinking to share with students. I spent four years of study in college just to be able to share what I was learning with high schoolers. A lot of money was spent to gain that degree and license for teaching…and I’ve not used it since 2007. Stupid, right?
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You see, when I began teaching English right out of college, I was so ignorant of what the experience would be like. I didn’t completely fail right out of the gate; as a matter of fact, I still believe to this day that I was pretty decent at my job despite being a rookie. However, I wasn’t in a positive environment and I wasn’t supported by enough positive teachers. The school in which I worked was in kind of a recession with poor teacher morale, less than stellar student behavior, and the gravity and intimidation of that weighed on me as a young 20-something woman. The big picture seemed too scary to me at the time, and incidents that affected me personally didn’t help. I had no confidence. I began to think the older kids weren’t meant for me; maybe I was meant for the little folks – elementary school or exceptional children. I resigned from my job after only two years and spent the next six years cultivating my sense of education by working with exceptional children in an elementary school. I was then transferred back to a high school school because of my previous experience in teaching high school. How ironic. I purposefully left a high school in my county, but after six years, the county decided I needed to work in a high school again. But here’s the thing: It’s different now. I have more experience, more confidence, and high schoolers don’t intimidate me or phase me as much as they used to. I don’t sweat the small stuff and I don’t take events, situations, or myself so seriously. I can’t say that I might not feel differently and still doubt myself when I’m back to teaching, but I’m seeing more of the positive and how this is likely my purpose for my life’s career.
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In addition, while some adults still find ways to criticize and bring nothing but negativity to educators, I’ve found encouragement and positivity straight from the source: the students. As I’ve worked with high school seniors and helped them to apply to colleges, edit their college essays, write reference letters for them, guide them through AP English work, and even helped them register for college classes once they’ve been accepted, they’ve made me feel useful and appreciated. I’ve actually had students tell me that I should go back to teaching English (they know my past because of my affinity for editing their written work…haha) because I’m “too smart” to be sitting in a room and watching students work on computers all day. A few seniors have even lamented that because they’re graduating, that cancels their chances of ever experiencing me as a “real” teacher and instructor. I don’t write about these things to brag or make myself sound good. I write about them because I cling to the good stuff I hear and feel in my education experience. The general public needs to know that the negativity and judgement towards teachers far exceeds the good stuff they hear. Educators have to cling to the small snippets and little nuggets that come to them, most of the time from their students. Of all the groups of people to show appreciation for educators, you wouldn’t expect students to be the group that expresses it the most, but in my experience, they are. Other groups of adults, whether parents, administrators, or even lawmakers, lack in the appreciation department. So when I experience a positive comment or “thank you” from a student, I cling to it and treasure it. It gets me through the rough times of ridicule from adults who know nothing about what goes on in a classroom or school. I hope that when I return to teaching, I am able to create even more connections and do even more good than I might already have. I want to be the positive and persistent figure in a teenager’s life who pushes him/her to do the very best possible work with genuine effort and who causes him/her to mature and value education. My passion is rooted in that desire to affect young and impressionable minds.
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There might be some folks reading this post and thinking, “Why should a job or career have that much effect on a person’s sense of purpose or identity?” I fully acknowledge that some people work a whole career without having the work affect their identity or sense of who they are. Some workers can go to work each day and go home to family or friends and be totally detached and put their identity in just the personal life stuff. But I personally can’t do that. Part of my whole personality and makeup is my desire and ability to work with and serve others. It’s part of my nature. So to me, it’s only natural to place weight in a career that involves using such a large part of my personality. Yes, I’m a wife, mother, daughter, aunt, friend, etc… but I’m also an educator to my core. I find happiness in serving and interacting with the larger scale community, so for me, that’s the body of teenagers who come to school daily. No offense to those who do, but I could not make a career sitting at a desk in a cubicle or room by myself all day. I couldn’t make a career by communicating with people mainly through telephone or email. I find my niche is being around multiple people, talking to all or some of them at the same time. Things will get crazy and hectic, and some days I’ll come home and want to crawl in bed and pull the covers over my head and not speak to anyone because I need to decompress. But I’m the type of person that I’d far rather have those days sporadically than everyday of boredom and rote action. I want to influence and facilitate change – I want to make a difference and change the lives of teenagers for the better.

And despite having abandoned my potential eight years ago and thinking teaching wasn’t meant for me, I’ve grown and realized I’m still being called. I still have the yearning. I feel like I can still follow this career and passion and be successful. I hope that as this school year winds down and I begin looking for a new position for next year that my experience will be acknowledged, my potential will be recognized, and some administration or county will take a chance on me and have faith in me. I just have to keep remembering that if God has this in my plan, it’ll happen and I’ll come back even better and stronger than before.
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NOT a Dream Deferred :)

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I posted a while ago about making decisions in life and potentially not being ready, and since then, I’ve continued to think about where I’d like for my life to go. I’ve always been a dreamer, but as I’ve grown and matured, my expectations have become more realistic. I still dream but my dreams are definitely attainable. I feel like I’m becoming more sure of what I want in life as it continues, and while some might keep their dreams or plans private, I don’t mind sharing mine because I’ve actually reached a point of excitement about a long term plan I have formed in my mind.

The first goal in my life is to return to teaching. I taught high school English for two years in 2005-2007 and after a period of what will be nine years outside of direct teaching (but still in education), I’m ready to get back into a classroom of my own and be in charge. I was fulfilling a passion when I worked as a one-on-one assistant with a little girl who had a physical disability, but my county needed me in another position in a high school setting, so I returned to the exact high school where I had started teaching but I began doing something I’d never done before. I’m still in a position at the high school, and while I enjoy my position and its purpose, I don’t feel it’s the best personal fit for me. I’m not fulfilling MY purpose or potential 100%. However, I love working with teenagers and find a strange patience and enjoyment in being in their company. I know not everyone can tout that kind of personality trait. 🙂 Some will say that you’re not supposed to advertise leaving your current job, but it’s no secret to my boss. He knows my past teaching experience and my wishes to return to an English classroom, and he’s quite supportive. So I don’t really fear an issue with expressing my career objective. I want to be an English teacher again; I want to impart knowledge and cultivate students on a higher level than with what I do now. I continue to hope and pray that after this school year is over, a door will open for me to go back into teaching in the next school year. If you are reading this and are a believer of prayer, please pray that I’m led to where I’m meant to be.

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On another front, I know that I previously talked about the pressure or influence from others to grow my family. I have gone through highs and lows of feeling totally confident in having another child or feeling absolutely terrified of having another child. As Ella Grace continues to get older, I am paying attention to the age gap that would occur between her and any potential sibling. There are large age gaps between my siblings and me, and I personally don’t want children who are far apart in age. In thinking about my own experience as a child, I feel like my sister was more of a second mother to me because she was almost nine years older than me. It’s just now that I’m older and a wife and mother myself that the two of us act more like sisters and are in more of an equal phase of life. As a result of this, if Ella Grace ever had a sibling, I wouldn’t want her to be so much older that she was like a second mother. So I know that as I continue to wait and mull over the possibilities, the age gap only continues to grow. I think about this and begin to feel more persuaded that if Ella Grace is going to have a sibling at all, I can’t keep waiting for years and years. I wonder if this will come down to the issue I discussed in a previous post: in life, we might just have to make decisions whether we’re ready or not. No, I’d never be ready for discomforts of pregnancy again, the sheer pain and agony of a C-section recovery, fumbling through an effort at breastfeeding that ultimately failed last time, sleepless nights, ravaged hormones and emotions, and everything else that comes with a new baby before things start to get easier and more manageable again. And while some would say it’d all be easier because I’ve done it before, I say no, not necessarily because now I’d be doing it with a new baby AND the other child I already have. But despite the fear and worry, I feel more that becoming a mother for a second time is what I’m meant to do. The persuasion I’m feeling from within myself doesn’t make it a definite in the near future. I don’t even have a time frame mapped out for that kind of life decision, and as a matter of fact, Andrew and I will continue to plan to NOT have a baby until we feel a stronger confidence that the time is right. But again, I’m always thinking about the age gap in potential children and how this decision will ultimately affect Ella Grace, too.

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And lastly, in thinking about a family expansion, I think about our home. Would our home be the best fit if another child came along? Could it hold us all anymore? Andrew and I have talked about this and feel that if we have another child, our current house would be overrun, having fulfilled everything it could for us. It’d be time to move on. We don’t take this kind of life decision lightly. Some people may bounce from house to house and love the chronic experience of moving, fixing up, and decorating, but not us. We bought our current house in November of 2006, so next year will be the full decade anniversary of our occupancy in it. We were young when we bought it – only 23 years old – and it was the first major purchase either of us had made in life. It fit our wishes and wants at the time, but as we’ve continued to grow and change, our wants have evolved as well. Our sweet and beautiful little house doesn’t fulfill all of those wants and doesn’t allow for alteration to create the changes we want, so that leaves us to consider moving. I’ve always enjoyed looking at real estate and home design, so the idea of finding a house to meet the desires of the family is fun for me. Right after we bought our current house, and for several years after, I was so content that I totally dropped my hobby of browsing realty websites and listings. In the past year, I’ve picked up the hobby/habit again, and I dream about a house out there that will hold us as we continue to grow and change. When we do move (whenever that happens), I’ll miss our current house terribly. It has contained so many moments and memories, and I’ll always remember it as the house where my marriage to Andrew grew and strengthened and where Ella Grace came home after birth and experienced so many firsts in her life. I pray that our next house will hold just as many, if not more, blessings and beautiful experiences that our current house has.

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So what does all of this mean? I suppose that in the cycles of life’s events and progression, we’re approaching a cycle of change. Thinking about these potentials means that I’m not done growing and improving myself – I know that my blessings and happiness can be even more if I have the faith and persistence it will take to achieve bigger and better things.

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Ancestry.com, I Love You!

A couple of weeks ago, I found a keepsake book meant for a mother to fill out for her daughter. I began working on it, filling in facts and memories for Ella Grace to have later in life. At the beginning of the book was a family tree for both sides of Ella’s family. As I began filling it out, it required knowing a few things about Andrew’s family that I wasn’t positive about, so I employed his assistance in getting the correct names of ancestors. When Andrew wasn’t for sure, he called his father. Eventually we got what we needed for the book, but my initial questions and Andrew’s conversation with his dad sparked some interest in learning more about his ancestors. As a result, we are now the proud members of Ancestry.com and while Andrew has looked into his family tree, I’ve also taken an interest and started my own family tree.

I started with my dad’s family – the McKnights and Ashcrafts (my grandmother’s maiden name). This side of my family is far more spread out so I was curious to track down some locations of where people were born and died. As I searched back through both branches, I discovered that in the McKnight side of the family, past wives came from families with the names Dalton, Shelton, and Patterson, which are all ironically local to where we live now. However, my dad’s side of the family comes from West Virginia, Ohio, and Virginia. To me, it’s so interesting to find and identify people and immerse myself further into the older generations. As the dates go back in time, the names of the people get pretty interesting as well. Way back in my grandfather’s family tree is a man named Littleberry Patterson, born 1729. What a name! The furthest back I’ve gotten on the McKnight side is Hayden McKnight, born in 1793. He was married to Patience Bradfield, which makes me think of Puritans for some reason, but those were the Bradfords. Ancestry.com supplied portraits of this lovely couple. They’re pictured below.

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My paternal grandmother’s name was Ruby Pearl Ashcraft. She died in 1976 so I never knew her, but when you talked to my dad and his siblings, you found out she had quite the legacy and large personality. Even her name – Ruby Pearl – has always seemed unique to me. 🙂
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Ruby’s mother, Olive, was a Swiger and as I traced into that branch of the family, I discovered the names Davis, Griffin, and even a Keziah (Kizzie) Underwood. Maybe I’m distantly related to Carrie Underwood… LOL! So far with my dad’s side of the family, I haven’t gotten far enough back to get out of the United States with ancestors.

However, with my mom’s side of the family, I’ve gotten back to Ireland on one side and Switzerland on another! My mother’s side of the family is Shires. But my grandmother’s maiden name is Robinson, and on that side of the family, the lineage goes back to Ireland through a man named Joseph Robison/Robeson, which is probably how the last name began in Ireland. On an 1880 census for the United States, he lists his birthplace as Ireland. Pretty vague but I’m determined to find ancestors in Ireland. Below is the listing of his existence in 1880.

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My grandmother’s mother, Gladys Robinson, was originally a Persinger. I began tracing the Persinger name and found lots of interesting information! It’s hard to know if all of this information is exact because some stories and connections are merely stipulated and not confirmed with valid records; however, many members of the site hold the same versions of stories and people, so for now, I’m considering these finds pretty reliable.

One of the cooler tidbits I found is that a woman from my great-grandmother’s side of the family, Sarah Persinger, had children with a Cherokee man named Joseph Sparrowhawk. Some stories say they were married – some say they weren’t but had children together. Sarah Persinger and her family were a unique bunch for their time period because the family supposedly protected and defended Joseph as one of their own. Some children of Sarah and Joseph were registered and labeled as mulatto but other children of Sarah were labeled white. Descendants and historians believe all of Sarah’s children were fathered by Joseph but that she and her family lied and told stories concerning who the father of the children were in order to get the younger ones labeled white. Or course, we know from history that anyone during the 1800s had better opportunities if he/she was white, so Persinger folks seem to think that Sarah wisened up about how to make life better for her younger children and lied in order to get them registered as white. However, Sarah and Joseph’s children were, in fact, part-Cherokee, which means as part of the long running joke in North Carolina, that I likely have “Cherokee blood.” Ask anyone in North Carolina if they have Cherokee heritage and he/she will say yes…haha. If this part of my ancestry is true, then I legitimately do!

The Persinger ancestor I found as the first generation immigrant was Jacob Bertschinger. He came from Switzerland in 1735 and at some point, his name was recorded as Persinger, obviously the American version of his Swiss last name. Jacob came into the U.S. at Philadelphia and married a woman named Rebecca at some point. Together with their children they began migrating down from Pennsylvania to Western Virginia, which is where the Persingers still live. On their way, accounts says that Rebecca and two of her children were kidnapped by Shawnee natives. They were never found and so in 1757, she was officially declared dead. Jacob remarried and eventually settled in the Alleghany Mountains of Virginia.

One of Jacob’s sons, John Henry, was born in 1752 to Jacob and Rebecca, and he later became a colonel for the United States. I haven’t researched much about his service but records indicate that he was killed by his own slave, Daniel Wright aka “Blue,” and Blue was subsequently tried and hanged. His hanging was the first recorded hanging in Alleghany County, Virginia. Below is an image of a text that records the account of Colonel Persinger’s death.

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These are the most exciting and interesting things I’ve found out about my ancestry so far. I knew I had ancestors from Ireland but was surprised to learn my maternal great-grandmother’s ancestors came from Switzerland. I personally find anything I can learn about my ancestors as fascinating. I’m sure some people wouldn’t care but I enjoy learning about my family and also hearing stories about family. I used to love to listen to my grandmother’s stories about her parents and grandparents, as well as her youth.

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I think it’s important for recent and future generations to know something about their forebears and where they came from. So coming full circle to why I started the whole research process: creating a memory book for Ella Grace to have about me. I have a weird and irrational fear that when I die, Ella might think she never truly knew her mother or what her mother was like, and I don’t want that to be the case. So I started the book for her and as a result, I’ve now become a more educated and enlightened descendant myself.

11,688 Days

Today we celebrate Andrew’s 32nd birthday! I’ve mentioned a lot recently that Andrew was born with an immune deficiency and outlived doctors’ expectations of his life expectancy. His life story is always an inspiration and miracle to me – the fact that I still have this man to come home to every afternoon and go to bed with every night is incredible. And to celebrate his birthday, I thought it’d be fun to share some of my favorite memories and moments I’ve had with Andrew since we started dating at 16 years old.

Well let me start a little before the official dating period. Before Andrew and I became a bona fide couple, we enjoyed hanging “just as friends” on Sunday afternoons when we’d go fishing at a pond close to my house. While fishing, we spent our afternoons flirting and joking around with one another, but we were never more than friends. Eventually we moved past fishing and started going to movies, but again, still as JUST FRIENDS. 🙂 However, I recall that when Andrew drove me home from the closest movie theater, he took the longest way possible. We spent our time listening to the radio and CDs, and despite being a highly self-conscious teenage girl, I even became comfortable enough to begin singing and belting out tunes with Andrew. I didn’t comment on the long drives until after Andrew and I started dating, and when I asked him why he took that particular route home from the movie theater, he said it was so he could be with me for as long as possible. *sigh* How dreamy…

Fun fact: Andrew asked me to be his girlfriend on August 27, 1999, at a West Stokes football game. He’d been too shy and nervous to ask me prior to that, despite our “friend dates,” but one of his good friends, who was also my friend at the time, threatened Andrew that if he didn’t ask me out, the friend was going to! So I believe we can thank that friend for giving Andrew the motivation to finally make a move. I mean, I’d only been pining over Andrew and waiting for him all summer. 🙂

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(Christmas 2000 – the year Andrew gave me a promise ring)

Another fun fact: I was Andrew’s first real girlfriend – definitely his first girlfriend in high school. I was also his first kiss and first love. Andrew valued love and kissing and had never wanted to just give away his first kiss or saying “I love you” for the first time to a girl. I joke that Andrew must have been way more stingy with his kiss because he actually told me “I love you” before he ever even kissed me! He professed his love after only a few months of dating, and he did so under the influence of drugs leftover from having his wisdom teeth removed. Not kidding… So his “I love you” was quite the surprise, and Andrew will say that I scared him because I didn’t reciprocate the expression. In my defense, I wasn’t sure if he meant it since he was slightly drugged; therefore, I didn’t want to say “I love you” back, only to be surprised when Andrew had forgotten the whole situation by the next day – which I was sure he would because of the narcotics. However, he was sincere the whole time and professed his love again the next day, when more sober of painkillers. I returned the expression and the sentiment hasn’t changed for 16 years. 🙂 When it came to the first kiss, Andrew neglected me on New Year’s Eve – the BIG New Year’s Eve of turning from 1999 to 2000. He refused to kiss me. The kiss came later in January, after we’d been out of school for winter weather and had been at a sledding party at a friend’s house. At this point – five months into the courtship – I’d quit expecting to receive a kiss, but Andrew surprised me with a peck on the mouth/chin when he dropped me off at home that cold and snowy night. Yes, he was a little off target, but I’m pretty sure he was nervous. He’s perfected his kissing aim since then.

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(Senior prom – 2001)

My favorite memory or experience from dating would have to be the trip we took to Hawaii. Yes, when I was only 18 years old and simply just dating my boyfriend, his parents invited me on a family trip to Hawaii (our high school graduation gift), and I went! In July of 2001, we traveled to the big island of Hawaii, via San Francisco as a stop on the way there and on the way back. Along with Andrew, his brother, parents, and their family friend, I experienced breathtaking scenery and landscapes on the Big Island. I had a lot of firsts on that trip: first major flights, first time snorkeling, first time seeing or being in the Pacific Ocean, first time out of the continental U.S., and probably my first trip somewhere without biological family. It was an incredible trip, and I can’t believe how blessed I am that Andrew’s family pulled me in as one of their own so quickly and so thoroughly. Since that first trip, we’ve had many other Voss family trips (Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Aruba, and throughout the U.S.), and through these trips, my love for travel has been expanded and intensified. 

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(Banff, Canada – 2004)

Andrew and I continued to date throughout college. We went to Appalachian State University together and saw each other every day. During our junior year of college, Andrew proposed to me. He proposed on March 4, 2004 – so 11 years tomorrow! He followed the example of his grandfather, Rex (Grandy), by choosing his birthday as the occasion for his proposal because “I was all the gift he’d ever need” in life. 🙂 As part of his proposal, he gave me wedding-themed gifts in an order that led up to opening the ring and Andrew dropping to one knee. I don’t remember everything he said as part of the proposal but I do remember crying, screaming “YES!”, and then practically tackling him with a hug.

We got married on July 16, 2005 and honeymooned in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It was a good honeymoon. We stayed on the all-inclusive resort and did a lot of relaxing, until I got food poisoning (probably the fresh fruit) and spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I hope that the trip we’re taking for our 10 year anniversary this summer will be less gastric…haha!

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(Honeymoon! – 2005)

So as I just mentioned, this summer will mark 10 years of being married to Andrew.  There are so many things that have happened and it’s impossible to remember it all. However, I do have a few moments that remain clear and vivid in my memory.

Let me back up: When we got married and the doors opened for me to walk down the aisle with my dad, I saw Andrew at the other end, sobbing and bawling his eyes out. My dad and I made it down the aisle with dry eyes and as Andrew and I continued to stand at the front of the church, the look on his face was one I couldn’t read. I’d never been so confused by an expression on his face as I was during our wedding ceremony. But I believe it was because he was feeling a lot of emotions and his face couldn’t keep up with them all! At one point during our ceremony, though, I whispered, “Are you okay?” to which he gave a quick nod. So I followed his nod with, “Well just don’t throw up on me…” Ah, the romance. 🙂

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(the sobbing groom)

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Other married moments: buying our first house at the ripe age of 23 and getting our first dog shortly after that. We traveled some more, worked jobs/careers, faced some health issues, and continued to love and build our marriage. After 5 years of being married and enjoying “us” time, we decided it was time to start a family. We consciously made the decision to try to have a baby, and after only 4 months of trying, we found out I was expecting in November of 2010.

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On that morning of November 9, 2010, I woke up as I did any work day morning, but I knew it was my plan to take a pregnancy test first thing before taking a shower. I’d done this a couple of times before with negative results, so after peeing on the stick, I put it on the counter and began undressing to take my shower. I didn’t have contacts in nor glasses on, so I was in my natural state of highly impaired vision; however, even through the blurriness, I began to see a second pink line forming to join the standard first one. I continued to stand at the bathroom counter, naked as a jay bird, until I was for sure that there was a second pink line. I’d closed the bathroom door so as not to wake Andrew, as I did every morning when I began getting ready, but when I opened the door and said his name, Andrew bolted from the bed. He’d known I was going to take a test when I woke up, so when I called his name, he dashed into the bathroom to see the pregnancy test. I believe he said something to the effect of, “You’re kidding me…” We were shocked, overjoyed, but hardly knew how to react. I believe I stood naked in the bathroom for a few minutes before I could figure out how to proceed with life…haha. I did take pictures of the test after my shower, and I continued to look at the pictures throughout the day to make myself believe I was actually pregnant. After work that day, I then went to the drug store and bought every other kind of pregnancy test and took those, too. Andrew grumbled about the cost but I needed to be reassured by also seeing a plus sign and a digital read-out of the word “pregnant.” It was Andrew’s idea to wait from November 9 to Christmas Day to reveal my pregnancy to family. We kept the secret and had momentous reveals. It was during this time that I began to feel a closer connection to Andrew.

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When my water broke on July 19, 2011, I was in our upstairs bathroom and yelled down, “Hey Andrew, I think my water just broke!” to which he replied, “You’re joking!!!” It’s funny that his reaction to my pregnancy and then an impending delivery were just about the same.

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(July 19, 2011)

I remember bits and pieces of my labor but it was during the literal delivery of Ella Grace, via C-section, that I recall her first cry and Andrew subsequently saying over and over “Oh my God.” We were both likely having out of body experiences. We had a daughter. We were parents. We’d created another human being. It’s likely the most incredible moment I’ve experienced in life, and along with remembering the exact sound of my daughter’s first cry, I can also recall the tremble in Andrew’s voice – the sound of emotion, tears, and utter disbelief. “Oh my God, oh my God…” over and over. He instantly became a father in that moment, and I firmly believe that any nervousness he had about caring for a baby instantly fell away when he held Ella Grace for the first time. On numerous occasions in her first months, I felt that Andrew was far more steady in caring for her than I was. He became even more amazing in my eyes.

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(July 20, 2011)

There are so many more moments and memories. We’re only a fraction through a lifetime together, but already Andrew and I have experienced so much and been so blessed. I do hope that in 30 or 40 more years I can still remember our youth so clearly. I know that as the years pass, we will continue to celebrate Andrew’s birthday on March 3, and each year, I’ll never cease to be thankful for every minute, every laugh, all of the tears, each night with him asleep by my side, and every second I can hold his hand or reach for him. He is truly a gift in my life. 11,688 days alive for Andrew and of those days, I’ve been by his side for 5,677. Thank you, God.

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Am I Ready?

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Today I decided to find a quote from one of my many Pinterest boards of quotes and use that quote to spur a blog post. When I came across this quote as I was browsing my own boards, I jumped out at me because it relates to some things I’ve been thinking about lately.

Do I agree with this quote? Yes, absolutely. I wouldn’t have saved it if I didn’t. This quote is a reminder to me – someone who tries to be a perpetual planner and simultaneously a worry wart – that I can’t plan everything and wait until I’m ready to do big things. Now granted, there is importance in being responsible and thinking about things before doing them. I’m not wishing I was an impulsive decision-maker. I don’t think that’s what this quote is about. I think this quote means, to people like me, that sometimes you have to throw aside the worry and the what-ifs and just choose to have faith that you’ll succeed at something you choose to do.

In my life recently, I’ve been thinking about future decisions I could make. Here’s one: a decision to have another child. I never realized that once your first child turned three years old that you, as the parent, crossed a line that offered you up to being asked numerous times by family, friends, and strangers WHEN you’re having another one. Not IF, WHEN? It’s odd because before I had a child, I always thought I’d want more than one. Then I had the first one, who is incredible – don’t get me wrong – but all of the hardship of having a baby made me scared to have another one. See, I’m not blissfully ignorant now. I know what it’ll be like. And I just don’t feel like I’m ready yet. There are finances to think about…Ella as an older sibling…totally changing the way we live our lives AGAIN… I think about all of these things, and yes, I pray about them, too, but my thoughts always come back to “I’m not ready!” Then I read this quote and wonder just how much of a control freak I’m being. How much am I letting fear hold me back from growing my family, growing my blessings? It’s almost like I have to have a blind abandon – just say “Okay, I’ll do this,” and then leave the circumstances up to faith and God. I’m not saying I’ve made a decision to have another child just yet, but instead of jumping to a “Heck no!” answer when asked if I want another one, I can likely stay calm and give a “Probably” answer. When? I don’t know but I’m trying to remember it’s okay to not be totally ready.

Another big decision I think about a lot is going back to the classroom and being a high school English teacher again. I’ve been away from teaching English for almost eight years and while I’d have a foundation for returning to teaching, it’d likely be like starting over again because technology and techniques have changed so much in eight years from when I started teaching straight out of college. While I feel the desire to fulfill a higher purpose by returning to teaching – doing more to affect teenage students than what I’m doing now – I still have the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I won’t be ready. I won’t be prepared for the extra hours to plan, execute, grade, evaluate, etc… I’ll likely mess it up and won’t be a good teacher. And it’s when I have these thoughts that I’m convinced I’m not ready to take that leap again. Like with having another child, I’m not blissfully ignorant. I know what to expect and how hard it is to be a teacher, especially in a high school setting. When I went into teaching straight out of college, I was still wet behind the ears and thought I knew what to expect, but I really didn’t. Now I’ve been away from it for so long yet have the notion that I want to go back to it. I keep saying I’m not ready, but when I read the quote from above, I’m reminded that lots of people go into new and different jobs and careers without being 100% ready. So it’s possible that I can return to teaching without feeling totally mentally and emotionally ready, but I’ll do it and succeed at it because I think it’s in my heart to teach and influence young adult students. I’ll experience a lot of on-the-job training and I’ll continue to grow and adapt. I don’t have to be totally ready for everything that will come my way – I just have to be willing to give it my best and maintain the flexibility that is required when you’re human and just need to cut yourself some slack sometimes. 🙂

So those are just two major life decisions I have on my mind lately. I have no clue what will happen down the road but I do continue to pray for guidance and wisdom in how to make certain decisions. However, I think I also need to remember the quote above when I’m stuck in a pattern of overthinking and trying to control too much. I need to remember that it’s okay to leave some things to faith and realize that you may never be ready to make a particular jump in life, but once you make the decision, you find your blessings and figure out that inevitably, you’re going to be okay no matter what.

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An Ideal Friend

Came across this blog prompt and find it quite interesting. It comes from the site that provides blog prompts for every month. Here’s the link and I’m following it with the prompt.

http://www.thesitsgirls.com/blogging/writing-prompts-february/

Describe your ideal friend – do you live up to this description in your friendships?

Friendship is an interesting subject because I struggle with having deep and solid friendships in my adulthood. I think about it frequently and I’m not sure what the reasons are, but I do find myself lacking in a best friend who I talk to regularly and can say just about anything to. There’s no doubt that I have some really good friends who mean a lot to me and give me a sense of companionship; however, I’m missing a friend I could call or text or email at any point of the day and get a response of recognition, even if we can’t talk at the moment. My ideal friend would be the one I could talk honestly to and say just about anything. We could talk about embarrassing stuff, serious stuff, and if we ran into conflict, we could tell each other our thoughts and opinions with respect and without having to be hurt. As I’ve gotten older and into my adulthood, I’ve had less patience for humoring the poor behavior and choices of people in my life in silence. I don’t like to be around people who act in a way that is negative and then NOT say something. If someone in my life, and our relationship, is hampered by patterns of negativity or dysfunction or obnoxiousness, I’m likely to talk to the person and be honest and say, “Hey, have you noticed you act this way or always talk this way?” and then at least the person knows how I feel. My ideal friend would be open to this type of communication and honesty with me, and in return, the friend would tell me the same things. If I’m going through a pattern of whining or being overly snarky with my sarcasm, I want a friend to tell me. If I’m being neurotic or spazzy, I’d like a friend to tell me. But in return, if I call her out on her issues, she has to be receptive to the constructive criticism that comes from unconditional love. I suppose that in this southern culture, politeness and silence reign when someone is being annoying or acting in the wrong. I don’t subscribe to that type of passive reaction, when no one wants to address an issue, so my friendships with people should be able to sustain my level of honesty and communication. I’m not saying I want to be a bossy friend or constantly judgemental or able to say anything I want about a friend’s life decisions. I suppose I have the mindset that I’ll call a spade a spade, even if it’s trying to act like a heart. How’s that for a colloquialism? 🙂 I would just like to have a friendship that could sustain some conflict and honest words without crumbling.

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On that same note of communication, my ideal friend would share news of her life with me and vice versa. I’d love to have a friend that I could call up on any given day and say, “Wow, you’ll never believe what happened to me today…” Or a friend who would call me up and say, “What are you doing right now? I have the funniest story to tell you…” I don’t have any friends that I communicate with regularly like this. I have friends who I “catch up” with when we’re actually together, but when not together and seeing each other once a week or even more infrequently, I have no friends that I talk to regularly. I rarely just talk about life with anyone, except Andrew, and now that I think of it, maybe that’s why this blog is so therapeutic.

I suppose you can tell that communication and honesty are very important things to me in any relationship. There are other important things in a friendship though. My ideal friend would be kind and sensitive, definitely compassionate on a bad day or in a time of need. I feel like I am this type of friend because I’ve been there for friends in their times of need, whether good or bad, and I’ve given of my time and resources. Have I dropped everything to go to a friend who has called in a time of panic? Yes. Have I received phone calls from friends in the middle of the night when something traumatic has happened? Yes. Have I seen the fear and doubt on a friend’s face at having to go through a situation alone and offered to go with her and be her support without her asking? Yes. Have I done everything in my power to cheer up a despondent friend, helping her to go from tears to laughter? Yes. I know I’m a friend capable of caring and sharing, and my ideal friend would do the same kinds of things for me – return the gestures.

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Another friend requisite: having a sense of humor, not taking herself too seriously, and being able to act silly. Despite being in my 30s, I still enjoy laughing and being silly when hanging out with friends. Some of the best memories are those in which I laughed about something stupid with a friend until I cried and my sides hurt. My ideal friend and I would be sarcastic and joke with each other without being offended. We wouldn’t take ourselves too seriously and we wouldn’t be afraid to laugh at each other at times, too. Do you know that I actually know people, people who are in my life on a regular basis, who can’t take a joke and bristle when a joke is made at them…every single time? Why does a person need to be that serious and on guard all of the time? Another thing – my friend and I might not be politically correct or act appropriately in public all the time, but we’d have fun. We might do crazy things but we’d do them together because the level of fun and spontaneity would go up when we are together. What’s the fun in always being prim and proper? That’s my philosophy, at least, and my ideal friend would be up for craziness and merriment and laughter. My ideal friend would continue to bring exuberance and joy into my life, no matter how we age.

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Going back to the communication thing: My ideal friend would be someone I could confide in, telling my craziest truths and life experiences to, and she wouldn’t judge me or gasp at what I say. I’d like someone to which I could tell my worries and anxieties. I’ve talked about my postpartum depression before – the time after having Ella Grace in which I thought I was crazy because I wasn’t particularly happy and I was constantly anxious. What if I’d had the ideal friend to whom I could’ve talked about my issues and not felt like I had to keep them secret for fear of judgement? Along with the emotional issues of having a baby, the physical and bodily issues were insane! But I didn’t have an ideal friend to call up and ask, “Hey, is it normal for this fluid to be coming out of my body?” I’m very comfortable in talking about bodily functions, but not everyone is, so my ideal friend could handle the occasional conversation about female bodies, in all their complexity, and the physical perils of having a baby and getting older. You know, woman stuff… Can I handle this as a friend myself? Of course. Come to me with any confession and I will listen and do my best to understand. If advice is wanted, I’ll give it. If being listened to is all that is asked, I’ll listen. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at listening to people, and despite what I said earlier in the post about speaking my mind, I make it a point to NOT speak my mind until I’ve thought about things.

My ideal friend would also not be shallow (hope that wouldn’t be an issue anyway), not judging based on looks or my choice in clothing. We’d be able to enjoy things we have in common but we wouldn’t have to be exactly alike. I’m very capable of being friends with people who have different personalities than mine, even a different belief system. But of course, at the core of the ideal friend, there is goodness and humility – a desire to have friendship as much as I do. I’m sure there’s so much more I’m not articulating now, but I suppose I’ll wrap this up as my description of the ideal friend. And in wrapping up, let me just give the addendum that in my life, Andrew is the best and ideal friend I could have. As my husband, he holds all of the qualities I discussed and so much more. But in doing this post, the OTHER ideal friends are the ones outside of your family – the people who are in your life because you and they both choose to be connected. That’s the type of ideal friend I still wish for. However, as I continue through life, I’ve learned that friends don’t always stay and it takes work sometimes to make a friendship last through the years. But as the quote below states, I don’t wait for an ideal friend to be present to continue my life and my growth, but I’ll always want the friend who will weather the years and the journey in my life.

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However, no matter what, I know I’ll always be okay.

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The Sexualizing of Babies!?

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Look at this picture. Think about the age of this little girl – this BABY girl – and study what she’s wearing. Am I the only one who finds this picture disgusting? Is the advertisement of a slutty bikini on an 18 month old vulgar to anyone else? I came across the picture while browsing Zulily, a website that features collections of merchandise at discounted prices. This bikini was featured as part of a line of swimwear called Babi-Kini, which is featured on Zulily. Here’s Zulily’s description of the line of swimwear:

Babi-Kini creates fun, colorful and comfy beachwear for the mini mermaids and sweet surfers in your life. From Baby’s first string bikini to one-piece suits and rashguard sets, each of their adorable designs is made in the USA using high-quality fabrics in a variety of picture-perfect prints.

Look at the phrase “Baby’s first string bikini.” Why is this even a phrase that would be used to market swimwear to little girls and babies? Why does Baby need a string bikini!?

And here’s the “About Us” blurb from the company’s actual website:

We started making Babi-Kini’s many years ago and have had a blast doing so.  What started out as gag gifts for a couple of business associates has turned into a thriving business.  Everyone who saw the little bikini’s wanted one and so the story goes.  Fast forward several years later and here we are, swimming in itsy bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikinis, and we love it!  Babi-Kini’s are so fun to design, produce, and sell because they make everyone smile.  You just can’t help yourself when you see them…..they are so darn cute!

Problem #1: These bikinis started out as gag gifts. And then someone thought it’d be a good idea to make them into a real product. Problem #2: “…They make everyone smile…” No they don’t. I’m not smiling. And the people who are smiling at baby girls in sexy swimwear need to be screened for pedophilia.

Has this country not come far enough in how it values females that it can’t be beyond selling sex on a baby!? I’m livid that there is actually a company in the United States that is proud to create and market this type of clothing for baby girls. Isn’t it bad enough that pre-pubescent girls choose string bikinis, inviting men to stare at their bodies before they’re even fully formed? Now we have to lower the age to the newborn level in which we put a string bikini on a girl in an effort to have her look “fabulous” and “cute.” Granted, the company also offers more modest swimwear for girls, like one-pieces, but clearly its target sale is supposed to be the string bikini.

Here’s part of the issue: a baby girl can be on the beach or in the pool in just a diaper and nothing sexual is thought because there’s an innocence there. A diaper is functional and when a baby girl is seen in just a diaper, the functionality of the diaper creates the subliminal message that nothing sexual is being seen. A baby girl’s body should never incite thoughts of attractiveness or sex. NEVER! But when something like a string bikini is put on a baby girl, equalizing her to a grown woman, the image of sex is meant to be thought. And it’s just wrong. Totally wrong.

And shouldn’t we be protecting small children from harmful UV rays when they’re outside at the pool or the beach? Babi-Kini has a portion of their website that references UV protection, but upon clicking the link, there was no information. “Coming soon” was all I got. I can’t help but wonder where the UV protection is going to be so beneficial if it’s included in a string bikini. A baby girl’s nipples, genitals, and butt might be protected, but since that’s all the string bikini covers, it seems pretty pointless.

Let me also comment on the fact that baby girls are not born with the innate desire to show their bodies and bare skin for positive attention, acceptance from others, and affection. At some point during a girl’s growth, she is TAUGHT to show more skin, and with this company, apparently that point in the process of growth is at birth! Baby string bikinis start in a size classifed “birth to 6 months”. Newborns can’t even regulate their temperature well, but let’s roast or freeze the girls in a string bikini, bared to any and all environmental harm. When little girls are put into teeny bikinis at an early age, they’re being taught to show their bodies for affirmation AND they’re being opened up to the scrutiny of adults who are likely horrible people. I’m 100% sure that there are adults out there who would see an overweight girl, no matter how young, in one of these bikinis and think the girl shouldn’t be wearing something like this because she’s too fat. Why would any parent want to open up his/her daughter to judgement and scrutiny at such a  young age? Shouldn’t we be protecting our little girls in this harsh and unrelenting society as long as we can? Is there no more innocence and modesty to be found in this society? As you may be able to tell, I’m totally flabbergasted. I’m upset that I’ve been slapped in the face with images of baby girls, bared for all to see, offered up like pieces of meat.

And then I think personally about my own little girl. Ella Grace is so young and innocent. She’s not aware of her body being a vessel for judgement as she grows. Right now her body is neutral to her. I don’t think she knows to think positively or negatively about it yet, but as her mother, I’m also very conscious of how I talk about her body so that she doesn’t begin to develop any negative body image issues at a young age. We talk neutrally and honestly about Ella Grace’s body to her – we call her vagina her vagina. Her nipples are her nipples. We made the decision to go with straight body talk so that Ella Grace wouldn’t feel like her body was funny or something not worth talking honestly about. We want her to feel comfortable in her body and with her body, but I certainly don’t want that confidence to translate into a sexual showing by her at an early age. Along with respecting her body, I want Ella Grace to learn the value of keeping her body her own for as long as she can. If she’s four years old and showing off everything for all to see, her body is becoming less personal to herself. With all of that said, there will come a day when Ella Grace is old enough to make a decision for herself about whether or not to wear a string bikini or flaunt a little cleavage. But until she’s old enough and mature enough to make those decisions for herself, it’s my duty as her mother to make decisions that protect and honor the integrity of her innocent body.

And now let me leave you with this. I continued to browse the Babi-Kini website and look at different collections of swimsuits. I noticed there was a link for a boys’ collection. I clicked the link and saw one picture. It’s below. Notice this little boy has skin that is far more covered and protected from the elements. This little boy lives in a society in which bearing the torso of a male is normal. Yet this company makes swimwear for a boy that covers his whole torso and his legs down to his thighs while also marketing a small and disgusting set of swimwear for little girls. 

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Why, why, WHY is this society still failing girls and women in how it teaches respect and integrity for females? Babi-Kini is definitely one of the reasons.