Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's a Chancellor Kind of Christmas

Christmas is my favorite time of year. Yes, I know how cliche that sounds. I definitely inherited it from my mother. She always made Christmas such a big deal. We got way more presents than we ever deserved (we still do). She just loves to search and find the perfect gift for someone. I inherited that as well. I love sentimental gifts and I know she does too. I'm good at getting my siblings to all come together to pitch in on the perfect gift for her. Last year it was a quilt made out of all of the Christmas pajamas she has gotten us over the years. The year before that, we did a photo shoot and had a giant canvas print made for her. She cried both years. The downside to these awesome gifts is that this year I didn't really have anything to top them. Don't worry, Mom, I still think we got you a good one. And I'm hoping it sets a precedent for something we can do every year.

I love Christmas because I love presents. There's no denying that and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Right now I'm sitting here typing this on the new computer by husband got me for Christmas. It's awesome. But more than getting presents, I love to give presents. I know that might sound like bull, but it's true. Like my mom, I love finding the perfect gift for someone. There's something about watching a person's face light up as they open the perfect present. And you know when you've gotten a good home run gift. I think this year I've done a pretty good job of getting my family gifts they will enjoy. 
This is one of the only aspects about my husband that I don't love. He is not a gift person. He doesn't really enjoy getting gifts and he doesn't enjoy giving gifts. It's just never been all that important to him. I love it and I thrive off of it. When I agonize over what to get someone and he responds with, "Just get them a gift card," it hurts my heart. I hate gift cards. They're too easy and so impersonal. You don't have to really know someone to get them a gift card. Cash is the same way. There's a time and a place for giving those as gifts and sometimes it's just unavoidable, but Christmas is never that time. At least, not when I'm the one doing the gift giving. 

Christmas at the Chancellor household is always an event. We have a big dinner Christmas Eve; usually steak or turkey, and Mom makes everyone's favorite desserts. Unless you want an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. . . don't ask for it. She'll get offended that you didn't request her Chocolate Chess Pie or her Oreo Truffle. She'd never admit it out loud, but she's actually very sensitive. 
Once everyone is so stuffed that we literally can't move from the table without rolling off of our chairs, Mom brings out one present for each of us. It's Christmas pajamas. It's always Christmas pajamas. Every year. For as long as anyone can remember. Yet, every year she tries to convince us it's not. She'll say things like, "Well I hope you guys brought pajamas to sleep in because I didn't get you any this year." We always roll our eyes because we know better. She's fooled Sarah and Jake before, but they both married in and it took them a little while to grasp the fact that she always makes that threat. In fact, Jake still packs his every year, just in case. After we all change into our pajamas (it takes awhile because we have to roll ourselves to the bathroom, and the pajamas probably fit a big more snugly than they were intended to), we sit down and guess who's who.
 This will take a bit of explanation. Mom never puts our actual names on the gifts under the tree. She chooses and theme every year, usually a TV show, book, or movie, and assigns us characters from that particular story. For instance, one year she used Hunger Games characters. I was Katniss (duh)...Ok so I don't actually remember who I was that year, but I think I was Katniss. And if I wasn't I should've been. Last year she did characters from The Princess Bride (one of the greatest movies of all time, and also a pretty good book).  What Mom does is she assigns characters and she doesn't tell us who is who. We have a contest Christmas Eve to see who can get the most right. The key isn't to understand which character is most like the person; you have to get inside Mom's head and think the way she thinks. She picks one trait of the character and matches it to one of us. She doesn't think holistically, which drives me insane. I'm a literary nerd. I love analyzing everything about the character, so I always over think it. Jake usually wins this contest, because he's good at observing people and figuring out the way they think (it's a little creepy). This year she did Modern Family characters, and I'm pretty excited about this one because I think I've figured us all out. We'll see, though. The winner gets a gift card; last year Jake won a gift card to Best Buy.
After we guess who's who, we usually play a game. It's kind of become a tradition for everyone to gather around the game room TV and play Dance Central on the Xbox. Jake and Dad hate it; getting them to play is like pulling teeth. But the rest of us have a lot of fun. There are a lot of embarrassing videos of us dancing together and making ourselves look like idiots. It's great. Then we watch a Christmas movie; The Grinch, Elf, Saving Christmas, whatever we feel like watching. We usually don't stay up too late, because we start Christmas morning pretty early (like, 5 AM). Also, Santa still comes. Don't judge. We'll take it as long as we can get it. 
Growing up, my brother, sisters, and I would always have a sleepover in the same room on Christmas Eve. When Jake and I started dating he joined in on this tradition. Once we got married he put his foot down and we got our own bedroom. This year Sarah will join in for the first time. I'm excited for her to really be involved in the whole shebang. And trust me, it is a shebang. That's the best and most descriptive word I could use to give you the best image of Christmas at the Chancellor's. 
One thing I love most about this shebang is the fact that it never shifts its focus from what Christmas really means and why we celebrate it. We read the Christmas story in the bible, we remind each other that this holiday was created for a very special Child who would one day be King. A Child who would take on the sins of the entire world and bear that punishment so that we don't have to. When I was little we would make a Happy Birthday cake for Jesus every year. That's one tradition we've grown out of, but we will never grow out of acknowledging the center of the celebration. 

I love it. I love everything about it. I love how excited and happy Mom gets. It's the happiest day of the year for her and her joy is infectious. I love how one of my younger siblings (usually Logue or Jami) will wake me up periodically in the morning asking, "Is it time yet? Is it time to go see what Santa brought?" Even now that we're all pretty much grown up, one of them still wakes me up this way and it warms me into the deepest core of my soul. I love that no matter how old we get, we always become children again at Christmas. Everyone should be like a child at Christmas. It's a holiday that was made for children, literally. There's so much of my family's Christmas traditions that I want to share with my kids one day. 

Right now, Jake and I are sitting here playing around with the gifts we got each other; me this laptop and him the new Playstation 4 with the Star Wars: Battlefront game, about to start our day and get ready to go over to my parent's for the night. I'm excited and I'm happy. This is the best day of the year for me. Everyone has days where their family drives them insane and I am no exception to that, but on Christmas we are happy and we get along. I don't care how childish and cliche it sounds; Christmas is magical. It has a way of bringing people together, of inoculating joy, of bringing out love. So today, I am ready to bask in the joy that is Christmas. 

It's a Chancellor Kind of Christmas

Christmas is my favorite time of year. Yes, I know how cliche that sounds. I definitely inherited it from my mother. She always made Christmas such a big deal. We got way more presents than we ever deserved (we still do). She just loves to search and find the perfect gift for someone. I inherited that as well. I love sentimental gifts and I know she does too. I'm good at getting my siblings to all come together to pitch in on the perfect gift for her. Last year it was a quilt made out of all of the Christmas pajamas she has gotten us over the years. The year before that, we did a photo shoot and had a giant canvas print made for her. She cried both years. The downside to these awesome gifts is that this year I didn't really have anything to top them. Don't worry, Mom, I still think we got you a good one. And I'm hoping it sets a precedent for something we can do every year.

I love Christmas because I love presents. There's no denying that and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Right now I'm sitting here typing this on the new computer by husband got me for Christmas. It's awesome. But more than getting presents, I love to give presents. I know that might sound like bull, but it's true. Like my mom, I love finding the perfect gift for someone. There's something about watching a person's face light up as they open the perfect present. And you know when you've gotten a good home run gift. I think this year I've done a pretty good job of getting my family gifts they will enjoy. 
This is one of the only aspects about my husband that I don't love. He is not a gift person. He doesn't really enjoy getting gifts and he doesn't enjoy giving gifts. It's just never been all that important to him. I love it and I thrive off of it. When I agonize over what to get someone and he responds with, "Just get them a gift card," it hurts my heart. I hate gift cards. They're too easy and so impersonal. You don't have to really know someone to get them a gift card. Cash is the same way. There's a time and a place for giving those as gifts and sometimes it's just unavoidable, but Christmas is never that time. At least, not when I'm the one doing the gift giving. 

Christmas at the Chancellor household is always an event. We have a big dinner Christmas Eve; usually steak or turkey, and Mom makes everyone's favorite desserts. Unless you want an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. . . don't ask for it. She'll get offended that you didn't request her Chocolate Chess Pie or her Oreo Truffle. She'd never admit it out loud, but she's actually very sensitive. 
Once everyone is so stuffed that we literally can't move from the table without rolling off of our chairs, Mom brings out one present for each of us. It's Christmas pajamas. It's always Christmas pajamas. Every year. For as long as anyone can remember. Yet, every year she tries to convince us it's not. She'll say things like, "Well I hope you guys brought pajamas to sleep in because I didn't get you any this year." We always roll our eyes because we know better. She's fooled Sarah and Jake before, but they both married in and it took them a little while to grasp the fact that she always makes that threat. In fact, Jake still packs his every year, just in case. After we all change into our pajamas (it takes awhile because we have to roll ourselves to the bathroom, and the pajamas probably fit a big more snugly than they were intended to), we sit down and guess who's who.
 This will take a bit of explanation. Mom never puts our actual names on the gifts under the tree. She chooses and theme every year, usually a TV show, book, or movie, and assigns us characters from that particular story. For instance, one year she used Hunger Games characters. I was Katniss (duh)...Ok so I don't actually remember who I was that year, but I think I was Katniss. And if I wasn't I should've been. Last year she did characters from The Princess Bride (one of the greatest movies of all time, and also a pretty good book).  What Mom does is she assigns characters and she doesn't tell us who is who. We have a contest Christmas Eve to see who can get the most right. The key isn't to understand which character is most like the person; you have to get inside Mom's head and think the way she thinks. She picks one trait of the character and matches it to one of us. She doesn't think holistically, which drives me insane. I'm a literary nerd. I love analyzing everything about the character, so I always over think it. Jake usually wins this contest, because he's good at observing people and figuring out the way they think (it's a little creepy). This year she did Modern Family characters, and I'm pretty excited about this one because I think I've figured us all out. We'll see, though. The winner gets a gift card; last year Jake won a gift card to Best Buy.
After we guess who's who, we usually play a game. It's kind of become a tradition for everyone to gather around the game room TV and play Dance Central on the Xbox. Jake and Dad hate it; getting them to play is like pulling teeth. But the rest of us have a lot of fun. There are a lot of embarrassing videos of us dancing together and making ourselves look like idiots. It's great. Then we watch a Christmas movie; The Grinch, Elf, Saving Christmas, whatever we feel like watching. We usually don't stay up too late, because we start Christmas morning pretty early (like, 5 AM). Also, Santa still comes. Don't judge. We'll take it as long as we can get it. 
Growing up, my brother, sisters, and I would always have a sleepover in the same room on Christmas Eve. When Jake and I started dating he joined in on this tradition. Once we got married he put his foot down and we got our own bedroom. This year Sarah will join in for the first time. I'm excited for her to really be involved in the whole shebang. And trust me, it is a shebang. That's the best and most descriptive word I could use to give you the best image of Christmas at the Chancellor's. 
One thing I love most about this shebang is the fact that it never shifts its focus from what Christmas really means and why we celebrate it. We read the Christmas story in the bible, we remind each other that this holiday was created for a very special Child who would one day be King. A Child who would take on the sins of the entire world and bear that punishment so that we don't have to. When I was little we would make a Happy Birthday cake for Jesus every year. That's one tradition we've grown out of, but we will never grow out of acknowledging the center of the celebration. 

I love it. I love everything about it. I love how excited and happy Mom gets. It's the happiest day of the year for her and her joy is infectious. I love how one of my younger siblings (usually Logue or Jami) will wake me up periodically in the morning asking, "Is it time yet? Is it time to go see what Santa brought?" Even now that we're all pretty much grown up, one of them still wakes me up this way and it warms me into the deepest core of my soul. I love that no matter how old we get, we always become children again at Christmas. Everyone should be like a child at Christmas. It's a holiday that was made for children, literally. There's so much of my family's Christmas traditions that I want to share with my kids one day. 

Right now, Jake and I are sitting here playing around with the gifts we got each other; me this laptop and him the new Playstation 4 with the Star Wars: Battlefront game, about to start our day and get ready to go over to my parent's for the night. I'm excited and I'm happy. This is the best day of the year for me. Everyone has days where their family drives them insane and I am no exception to that, but on Christmas we are happy and we get along. I don't care how childish and cliche it sounds; Christmas is magical. It has a way of bringing people together, of inoculating joy, of bringing out love. So today, I am ready to bask in the joy that is Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Little Note from Me

I like to write things down. I usually have a notebook with me. I have one for school and I keep up with logistical things, like failing grades, documenting when I've had conversations with students and parents, having students sign a statement saying they chose not to turn in an assignment, notes from class discussions, etc. Teachers have to keep documentation of everything
I also have a little notebook that I like to write in from time to time. This one is personal. Sometimes I might jot down favorite quotes from a book I'm reading. Sometimes I might write a song lyric that stands out to me. Sometimes I'm feeling a strong emotion such as anger, despair, joy, or elation and I just have to write it down. Sometimes writing down aspects of my day just helps mellow me out. It's therapeutic. I also like my notebook because it has a Katharine Hepburn quote on the cover, "If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun." I wanted to share an excerpt from the first thing I wrote down in that little notebook. It's like sharing a piece of me, so please don't judge me too harshly. I hope you enjoy...

August 31, 2015
My story really isn't a very interesting one. So much so, that I almost didn't want to buy this little book. I read a book once, by Kate Morton, where a character was given a notebook by her teacher. The teacher believed she showed promise as a writer and told her to "write down everything." For the longest time, she refused to write in the book. Instead, she wrote down everything on spare scraps of paper and shoved them into the little book. She didn't want to spoil the book with any inferior writing. She wanted to save it for something special. That's how I feel, like nothing I have to say is truly worthy of my little notebook. But I can't save it forever. An empty notebook is a sad waste. The little girl in the story was a displaced World War I child. The circumstances surrounding her life forced it to be interesting. While I'm incredibly grateful for my safe and rather boring existence. . .it doesn't make for much of a story. But it is my story, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I don't really believe in regret. There are things in my past I'm not proud of, but I can't change any of them so why dwell? No matter what mistakes are in a person's past, there is always a lesson, a price, a purpose. But regret is a waste of time. For example, I don't regret choosing a small, private college because that's where my then-boyfriend was going. It wasn't the best decision, but I met one of the best friends I ever had while I was at school in Bolivar, Missouri. She lives halfway across the country now and we still keep in touch regularly. That decision, like most decisions, had a butterfly effect on the rest of my life. Who knows if I would've met my husband, or decided that my passion was teaching high school students if I hadn't started at SBU? Who knows if I would've been forced to make my faith my own? I could've gone on borrowing it from others forever. Even if we could go back and change our decisions, we have no way of knowing how that would affect or change the rest of our lives.

I'm proud of who I am, but I haven't always been. If anyone pretends like they've never not been proud of themselves, I don't trust them. (Kanye West, for example. Everyone thinks that guy is a joke, right?) I'm proud of who I am now because I don't put on airs for anyone. I am who I am and I don't apologize for that. The most disappointed I've ever been in myself was when I tailored who I was to try and fit someone else's perception of who I should be. I'm sure most people could say the same thing. I'm ashamed to admit that most of my life has been spent trying to get other people to like me. My self-worth has always come from my perception of how loved I am. Luckily, I have a ridiculously awesome family who have always loved me unconditionally. Unfortunately, that wasn't always enough. Even now, one of my biggest struggles is switching my feelings of self-worth from how my husband treats me to my identity in Christ. He's awesome, but he is human and, therefore, imperfect. So, it's not fair to him for me to attribute my self-worth to his current attitude.
Growing up, this mentality meant I always needed a boyfriend or, at least, some guy's attention. Most of the time I wasn't even all that picky about whose attention I was getting. Flirting was how I made myself feel valued. It's stupid, really, now that I look back. That's the thing about hindsight, though. It's 20/20. Funny enough, the one guy who never really flirted back ended up being the one I fell for. The man I needed was the one I couldn't manipulate. That's a God thing.

It's a good thing I met Jake when I did because I could've gone an entirely different direction with my attitude. He forced me to respect myself. He challenges me every day to be better. It still takes me by surprise sometimes. I've never really had that in a relationship. Almost 6 years later and I'm still not fully used to it. I hope I never get used to it. I hope he would say that I push him to be better, too.

I'm blessed.

Regardless of what I write in here from this point forward, I never want to overlook the fact that I have been blessed beyond what I deserve. 

I have a husband I adore, who loves me even when I'm hard to love.

I have a family who prays for me and always has my back.

I have a job I love and have a crazy passion for.

Life is tough, but it is good.




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A Little Note from Me

I like to write things down. I usually have a notebook with me. I have one for school and I keep up with logistical things, like failing grades, documenting when I've had conversations with students and parents, having students sign a statement saying they chose not to turn in an assignment, notes from class discussions, etc. Teachers have to keep documentation of everything
I also have a little notebook that I like to write in from time to time. This one is personal. Sometimes I might jot down favorite quotes from a book I'm reading. Sometimes I might write a song lyric that stands out to me. Sometimes I'm feeling a strong emotion such as anger, despair, joy, or elation and I just have to write it down. Sometimes writing down aspects of my day just helps mellow me out. It's therapeutic. I also like my notebook because it has a Katharine Hepburn quote on the cover, "If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun." I wanted to share an excerpt from the first thing I wrote down in that little notebook. It's like sharing a piece of me, so please don't judge me too harshly. I hope you enjoy...

August 31, 2015
My story really isn't a very interesting one. So much so, that I almost didn't want to buy this little book. I read a book once, by Kate Morton, where a character was given a notebook by her teacher. The teacher believed she showed promise as a writer and told her to "write down everything." For the longest time, she refused to write in the book. Instead, she wrote down everything on spare scraps of paper and shoved them into the little book. She didn't want to spoil the book with any inferior writing. She wanted to save it for something special. That's how I feel, like nothing I have to say is truly worthy of my little notebook. But I can't save it forever. An empty notebook is a sad waste. The little girl in the story was a displaced World War I child. The circumstances surrounding her life forced it to be interesting. While I'm incredibly grateful for my safe and rather boring existence. . .it doesn't make for much of a story. But it is my story, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I don't really believe in regret. There are things in my past I'm not proud of, but I can't change any of them so why dwell? No matter what mistakes are in a person's past, there is always a lesson, a price, a purpose. But regret is a waste of time. For example, I don't regret choosing a small, private college because that's where my then-boyfriend was going. It wasn't the best decision, but I met one of the best friends I ever had while I was at school in Bolivar, Missouri. She lives halfway across the country now and we still keep in touch regularly. That decision, like most decisions, had a butterfly effect on the rest of my life. Who knows if I would've met my husband, or decided that my passion was teaching high school students if I hadn't started at SBU? Who knows if I would've been forced to make my faith my own? I could've gone on borrowing it from others forever. Even if we could go back and change our decisions, we have no way of knowing how that would affect or change the rest of our lives.

I'm proud of who I am, but I haven't always been. If anyone pretends like they've never not been proud of themselves, I don't trust them. (Kanye West, for example. Everyone thinks that guy is a joke, right?) I'm proud of who I am now because I don't put on airs for anyone. I am who I am and I don't apologize for that. The most disappointed I've ever been in myself was when I tailored who I was to try and fit someone else's perception of who I should be. I'm sure most people could say the same thing. I'm ashamed to admit that most of my life has been spent trying to get other people to like me. My self-worth has always come from my perception of how loved I am. Luckily, I have a ridiculously awesome family who have always loved me unconditionally. Unfortunately, that wasn't always enough. Even now, one of my biggest struggles is switching my feelings of self-worth from how my husband treats me to my identity in Christ. He's awesome, but he is human and, therefore, imperfect. So, it's not fair to him for me to attribute my self-worth to his current attitude.
Growing up, this mentality meant I always needed a boyfriend or, at least, some guy's attention. Most of the time I wasn't even all that picky about whose attention I was getting. Flirting was how I made myself feel valued. It's stupid, really, now that I look back. That's the thing about hindsight, though. It's 20/20. Funny enough, the one guy who never really flirted back ended up being the one I fell for. The man I needed was the one I couldn't manipulate. That's a God thing.

It's a good thing I met Jake when I did because I could've gone an entirely different direction with my attitude. He forced me to respect myself. He challenges me every day to be better. It still takes me by surprise sometimes. I've never really had that in a relationship. Almost 6 years later and I'm still not fully used to it. I hope I never get used to it. I hope he would say that I push him to be better, too.

I'm blessed.

Regardless of what I write in here from this point forward, I never want to overlook the fact that I have been blessed beyond what I deserve. 

I have a husband I adore, who loves me even when I'm hard to love.

I have a family who prays for me and always has my back.

I have a job I love and have a crazy passion for.

Life is tough, but it is good.




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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

If I Could Write a Letter to Me

Dear Rachel Claire,

Hey! It's me. I mean. . . it's you, in 10 years. There are so many things I want to tell you, but at the same time I don't want to ruin the surprise. I know that 10 years seems forever away, but it's really not. It'll be here before you know it and you'll be looking back, like I am now, and wondering where all the time went. I'm sitting here thinking of all the things I could tell you to save you a lot of mistakes, pain, and heartbreak, but I know a lot of those things are necessary to make you (me) the person you will become. So, I'll just give you some little golden nuggets of knowledge to get you through the rough times. 

First of all, quit moping and bellyaching. Moving to Arkansas is not the worst thing to ever happen to you. It's certainly the most life changing up to this point, but you really are quite a drama queen and you need to chill out. Quit taking life so seriously. You aren't a tragic heroine in one of those novels you love so much, get over yourself. Buck up, get out there, make some friends, and life will be so much more fun. Seriously, you wasted way too much time feeling sorry for yourself up in your room. Actually you wasted too much time feeling sorry for yourself in general. However, keep reading those novels. That is going to come in handy later and one trait of yours that never changes is the fact that a good book can make you forget all your troubles. 

Don't be embarrassed. Ever. Don't ever not do something because you are afraid of looking dorky. In fact . . . 

Quit caring what people think!!!!

I know exactly who you are thinking of right now. All those people whose approval you secretly wish you had? None of them matter. In fact, in 10 years, you won't know where any of them even are or any other aspect of their lives. Don't be afraid to be a nerd. Don't be afraid to be who you are. You are a dork. You are not one of the "cool kids." You used to be. In Tennessee you were the big fish in a small pond, but this is friggin' Lake Superior and no one knows you or cares. Instead of the drama and moping we were talking about earlier, just embrace it. Trust me, you don't really want to be one of the cool kids. Oh, and you should've been in band. This is one of those things you didn't consider because of the whole "caring what people think" thing, but you shouldn't have cared. You would've had a blast in band. Now your French horn is moldy and collecting dust in an attic somewhere at Mom's house. You were good. You should've stuck with it. 

Don't wait until your junior year to get involved in choir. That was the most fun you had at school. Go for it now. I know you avoided joining things at first because you were scared. Don't be scared. Quit being afraid of everything. The things you are afraid of don't matter.

Quit judging everyone. I know the look you are giving me right now and I know what you're thinking. You are appalled that I would suggest that you judge anyone. Stop lying to yourself. You have a tendancy to be a bit self-righteous and I know you think you're standing up for your faith but all you are doing is making Jesus look unappealing. You have alienated a lot of people because you feel victimized and you think that you are better than they are. They are mean to you and so that makes you think you have a reason to believe that you are a better Christian. Get over it. People will always be mean. Learn how to be comfortable enough with yourself not to care. You're kind of a baby...
Don't worry, you'll grow out of that.

Go visit your Mamaw more. She loves you so much and she is so proud of you. Indulge her. Let her show you off to all those ladies at the retirement facility. One day you are really going to miss that. Hug her every chance you get.

This boy that you are interested in right now. I get it. I know why you like him. He's cute, funny, smart, popular...all the things you think are important. There's nothing wrong with him, have fun. But don't give your heart away. Just wait until you meet your husband. He is all the things you want in a guy and a lot of extra things you didn't even know you needed. I know you've spent a lot of time imagining him. Don't even bother. You didn't come close. Nothing you imagined was anywhere near as awesome as the awesomeness that is your husband. He's smart, sexy, athletic, funny, ambitious, determined, full of integrity, honest, kind...
He balances you out in a way that you desperately need and you do the same for him. Oh, and his family is seriously the best. They embrace you as one of their own from day one. You really don't stand a chance. There was never going to be anyone but him.

Your life is going to get so much richer in the next 10 years. There will be a lot of bad days, but the good days are so much better that they will make up for it. 

It seems like this is as good as it gets, but it gets so much better.

Love,
Me (You)

If I Could Write a Letter to Me

Dear Rachel Claire,

Hey! It's me. I mean. . . it's you, in 10 years. There are so many things I want to tell you, but at the same time I don't want to ruin the surprise. I know that 10 years seems forever away, but it's really not. It'll be here before you know it and you'll be looking back, like I am now, and wondering where all the time went. I'm sitting here thinking of all the things I could tell you to save you a lot of mistakes, pain, and heartbreak, but I know a lot of those things are necessary to make you (me) the person you will become. So, I'll just give you some little golden nuggets of knowledge to get you through the rough times. 

First of all, quit moping and bellyaching. Moving to Arkansas is not the worst thing to ever happen to you. It's certainly the most life changing up to this point, but you really are quite a drama queen and you need to chill out. Quit taking life so seriously. You aren't a tragic heroine in one of those novels you love so much, get over yourself. Buck up, get out there, make some friends, and life will be so much more fun. Seriously, you wasted way too much time feeling sorry for yourself up in your room. Actually you wasted too much time feeling sorry for yourself in general. However, keep reading those novels. That is going to come in handy later and one trait of yours that never changes is the fact that a good book can make you forget all your troubles. 

Don't be embarrassed. Ever. Don't ever not do something because you are afraid of looking dorky. In fact . . . 

Quit caring what people think!!!!

I know exactly who you are thinking of right now. All those people whose approval you secretly wish you had? None of them matter. In fact, in 10 years, you won't know where any of them even are or any other aspect of their lives. Don't be afraid to be a nerd. Don't be afraid to be who you are. You are a dork. You are not one of the "cool kids." You used to be. In Tennessee you were the big fish in a small pond, but this is friggin' Lake Superior and no one knows you or cares. Instead of the drama and moping we were talking about earlier, just embrace it. Trust me, you don't really want to be one of the cool kids. Oh, and you should've been in band. This is one of those things you didn't consider because of the whole "caring what people think" thing, but you shouldn't have cared. You would've had a blast in band. Now your French horn is moldy and collecting dust in an attic somewhere at Mom's house. You were good. You should've stuck with it. 

Don't wait until your junior year to get involved in choir. That was the most fun you had at school. Go for it now. I know you avoided joining things at first because you were scared. Don't be scared. Quit being afraid of everything. The things you are afraid of don't matter.

Quit judging everyone. I know the look you are giving me right now and I know what you're thinking. You are appalled that I would suggest that you judge anyone. Stop lying to yourself. You have a tendancy to be a bit self-righteous and I know you think you're standing up for your faith but all you are doing is making Jesus look unappealing. You have alienated a lot of people because you feel victimized and you think that you are better than they are. They are mean to you and so that makes you think you have a reason to believe that you are a better Christian. Get over it. People will always be mean. Learn how to be comfortable enough with yourself not to care. You're kind of a baby...
Don't worry, you'll grow out of that.

Go visit your Mamaw more. She loves you so much and she is so proud of you. Indulge her. Let her show you off to all those ladies at the retirement facility. One day you are really going to miss that. Hug her every chance you get.

This boy that you are interested in right now. I get it. I know why you like him. He's cute, funny, smart, popular...all the things you think are important. There's nothing wrong with him, have fun. But don't give your heart away. Just wait until you meet your husband. He is all the things you want in a guy and a lot of extra things you didn't even know you needed. I know you've spent a lot of time imagining him. Don't even bother. You didn't come close. Nothing you imagined was anywhere near as awesome as the awesomeness that is your husband. He's smart, sexy, athletic, funny, ambitious, determined, full of integrity, honest, kind...
He balances you out in a way that you desperately need and you do the same for him. Oh, and his family is seriously the best. They embrace you as one of their own from day one. You really don't stand a chance. There was never going to be anyone but him.

Your life is going to get so much richer in the next 10 years. There will be a lot of bad days, but the good days are so much better that they will make up for it. 

It seems like this is as good as it gets, but it gets so much better.

Love,
Me (You)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Students are More Important than Content

I love what I do. If you know me or if you read this blog, then you know how true that is. It's not always rainbows and sunshine, but it's something I take pride in. There are days when I struggle, but for the most part, I feel fulfilled and confident in my abilities as a teacher.

The other day, someone unintentionally and unknowingly insulted me by insinuating that I am not qualified to do what I do. This person doesn't know me very well, and I don't believe that they intended to be offensive at all. A few people were having a discussion about teaching and I was asked where I got my master's degree.

"Oh, I don't have a master's degree. I have a non-traditional teaching license."

After this person's eyebrows shot up they asked me what my bachelor's degree was in.

"Kinesiology." (I am an English teacher.)

More shock and more eyebrow-raising was followed by, "I can't believe you managed to get a job!"

Now, I don't believe for one second that this person was intentionally insulting me and this has happened to me before. It is a perfectly reasonable question (even though it wasn't exactly phrased as a question). When I started working towards my teaching license I had no prior qualifications other than a short stint as a teaching aide at an elementary school. It's kind of a Catch 22 when you're in the non-traditional program in the state of Arkansas. You can't stay in the program unless you get a job. You have to get a job with the provisional license they give you while you are in the program (it's a 2-year program), and most schools don't want to hire someone without a full-fledged license and no student teaching experience. In spite of this, the program actually has a very high rate of hire. I can't quote statistics, but I do know that out of the 60 people I started the program with, we only lost a small handful, and those were mostly people who were only certified to teach low-profile elective classes that not all schools offer or who wanted to teach high school PE but weren't certified to coach any sport (not going to happen...). 

This person went on to make more comments about how lucky I am and kept expressing disbelief in the fact that I am working as an English teacher, let alone at one of the best high schools in the state (as far as I'm concerned, THE best high school in the state, the country, and even the entire world, but I'm a bit biased...). I was told I must have known someone, otherwise how could I have gotten the job?

At this point, my slight annoyance was morphing into indignation. This person still didn't seem to understand how insulting their comments were. They just seemed genuinely interested in how I got where I am. My response is that it was a God thing. He places people exactly where they need to be, and this is where I need to be. That's all you need to know. The circumstances happened in a way that prevented me from giving anyone but God the credit because only He could have orchestrated the events that led to me teaching at Har-Ber High School.

What I chose to study in school was something I enjoyed. I loved my anatomy and physiology classes. I loved learning about how the human body functions. I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist. I interned at a PT clinic in college and I enjoyed it, but I wasn't passionate about it. There is a difference between enjoying something and having a passion for something. I still think about taking the test to become certified to teach life sciences. I think it would be fun to teach Biology or Anatomy/Physiology, but right now I'm having way too much fun teaching a subject that I have spent my entire life studying on my own. 

Jake was a part of this conversation and as soon as the comment was made that I must have known someone or I never could've gotten the job, he immediately jumped in to defend me (I'm a lucky lady). He pointed out that I read more books in one summer than most people read in their lifetimes. He usually jokes around and pokes fun at me for the fact that I would rather spend time with fictional characters than real ones, but he knows how much I love literature. And that's really why I have to give this person the benefit of the doubt, because they don't know me. We were making random small talk because we happened to be sitting in the same vicinity. This person couldn't possibly have known how hard I've worked to be where I am, or all the moments and decisions in my life that led to me deciding to teach English. I do have an odd story. I like it; it's unique. So, I can't really blame this person for intentionally offending me. What I can do instead, is learn from their blunder. My habit of speaking without thinking has undoubtedly made me the unintentional offender before. I'm sure I've made incorrect assumptions about people that I never intended to be offensive, but they were all the same. 

There is something I wish I had had the guts to say to that person. 
I wish I had told you that content is only a small percentage of what teaching really is. I wish I had mentioned that students are the most important part of being a teacher. I can know everything there is to know about literature, but if I stand there in front of my students and lecture them on all that knowledge they will learn nothing. If they don't trust and respect me, it doesn't matter if I have a doctorate in English and literature, they will walk out of my class and forget everything I said. Sure, they might memorize a few facts to regurgitate on a test, but is that all my goal should be? Teaching is so much more than student scores. If you are more focused on the content you teach than the students sitting in the room, you're doing it wrong. That's why it doesn't matter what it says on my bachelor's degree. Of course I know my content, but I know my students, and to me that's 1000 times more important.

It's getting harder and harder to work in education. It isn't easy to be a teacher. We shouldn't be tearing teachers down, we should be building them up. I don't say that because I feel like this person was trying to tear me down, they weren't and they didn't. I say that because I hear negative comments about teachers far too often. Your teachers and your children's teachers need your encouragement and support, not your indignation and disrespect. They need you to work with them instead of against them. Teaching is one of those careers everyone assumes they can do, even if they've never done it. Remember that teachers are professionals, in spite of how we may dress on spirit days...






Being a professional looks different depending on what you do. For us, it looks like cheering on our team on a pink out day supporting breast cancer awareness in ridiculous tutus and running out with the flags before the team in honor of a colleague who has beaten breast cancer....among other things. We are professionals, and we love what we do. Give us a little credit. Encourage a teacher today.



Students are More Important than Content

I love what I do. If you know me or if you read this blog, then you know how true that is. It's not always rainbows and sunshine, but it's something I take pride in. There are days when I struggle, but for the most part, I feel fulfilled and confident in my abilities as a teacher.

The other day, someone unintentionally and unknowingly insulted me by insinuating that I am not qualified to do what I do. This person doesn't know me very well, and I don't believe that they intended to be offensive at all. A few people were having a discussion about teaching and I was asked where I got my master's degree.

"Oh, I don't have a master's degree. I have a non-traditional teaching license."

After this person's eyebrows shot up they asked me what my bachelor's degree was in.

"Kinesiology." (I am an English teacher.)

More shock and more eyebrow-raising was followed by, "I can't believe you managed to get a job!"

Now, I don't believe for one second that this person was intentionally insulting me and this has happened to me before. It is a perfectly reasonable question (even though it wasn't exactly phrased as a question). When I started working towards my teaching license I had no prior qualifications other than a short stint as a teaching aide at an elementary school. It's kind of a Catch 22 when you're in the non-traditional program in the state of Arkansas. You can't stay in the program unless you get a job. You have to get a job with the provisional license they give you while you are in the program (it's a 2-year program), and most schools don't want to hire someone without a full-fledged license and no student teaching experience. In spite of this, the program actually has a very high rate of hire. I can't quote statistics, but I do know that out of the 60 people I started the program with, we only lost a small handful, and those were mostly people who were only certified to teach low-profile elective classes that not all schools offer or who wanted to teach high school PE but weren't certified to coach any sport (not going to happen...). 

This person went on to make more comments about how lucky I am and kept expressing disbelief in the fact that I am working as an English teacher, let alone at one of the best high schools in the state (as far as I'm concerned, THE best high school in the state, the country, and even the entire world, but I'm a bit biased...). I was told I must have known someone, otherwise how could I have gotten the job?

At this point, my slight annoyance was morphing into indignation. This person still didn't seem to understand how insulting their comments were. They just seemed genuinely interested in how I got where I am. My response is that it was a God thing. He places people exactly where they need to be, and this is where I need to be. That's all you need to know. The circumstances happened in a way that prevented me from giving anyone but God the credit because only He could have orchestrated the events that led to me teaching at Har-Ber High School.

What I chose to study in school was something I enjoyed. I loved my anatomy and physiology classes. I loved learning about how the human body functions. I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist. I interned at a PT clinic in college and I enjoyed it, but I wasn't passionate about it. There is a difference between enjoying something and having a passion for something. I still think about taking the test to become certified to teach life sciences. I think it would be fun to teach Biology or Anatomy/Physiology, but right now I'm having way too much fun teaching a subject that I have spent my entire life studying on my own. 

Jake was a part of this conversation and as soon as the comment was made that I must have known someone or I never could've gotten the job, he immediately jumped in to defend me (I'm a lucky lady). He pointed out that I read more books in one summer than most people read in their lifetimes. He usually jokes around and pokes fun at me for the fact that I would rather spend time with fictional characters than real ones, but he knows how much I love literature. And that's really why I have to give this person the benefit of the doubt, because they don't know me. We were making random small talk because we happened to be sitting in the same vicinity. This person couldn't possibly have known how hard I've worked to be where I am, or all the moments and decisions in my life that led to me deciding to teach English. I do have an odd story. I like it; it's unique. So, I can't really blame this person for intentionally offending me. What I can do instead, is learn from their blunder. My habit of speaking without thinking has undoubtedly made me the unintentional offender before. I'm sure I've made incorrect assumptions about people that I never intended to be offensive, but they were all the same. 

There is something I wish I had had the guts to say to that person. 
I wish I had told you that content is only a small percentage of what teaching really is. I wish I had mentioned that students are the most important part of being a teacher. I can know everything there is to know about literature, but if I stand there in front of my students and lecture them on all that knowledge they will learn nothing. If they don't trust and respect me, it doesn't matter if I have a doctorate in English and literature, they will walk out of my class and forget everything I said. Sure, they might memorize a few facts to regurgitate on a test, but is that all my goal should be? Teaching is so much more than student scores. If you are more focused on the content you teach than the students sitting in the room, you're doing it wrong. That's why it doesn't matter what it says on my bachelor's degree. Of course I know my content, but I know my students, and to me that's 1000 times more important.

It's getting harder and harder to work in education. It isn't easy to be a teacher. We shouldn't be tearing teachers down, we should be building them up. I don't say that because I feel like this person was trying to tear me down, they weren't and they didn't. I say that because I hear negative comments about teachers far too often. Your teachers and your children's teachers need your encouragement and support, not your indignation and disrespect. They need you to work with them instead of against them. Teaching is one of those careers everyone assumes they can do, even if they've never done it. Remember that teachers are professionals, in spite of how we may dress on spirit days...






Being a professional looks different depending on what you do. For us, it looks like cheering on our team on a pink out day supporting breast cancer awareness in ridiculous tutus and running out with the flags before the team in honor of a colleague who has beaten breast cancer....among other things. We are professionals, and we love what we do. Give us a little credit. Encourage a teacher today.



Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Happy Place


Y'all, these are my people. 


This is my happy place. 


This is where I don't question myself, where I am in my element. This is the area of my life that brings me the most fulfillment. 


You're always told growing up to make sure to do something you love, because if you do something you love you won't have to work a day in your life. 
Now, that's not necessarily true. I am the student council sponsor at my school and we just got done with homecoming. And let me tell you, it takes a LOT of work. Today was basically the first day I've spent any time with my husband since early this week. But I will say this, it was fun work. Stressful, yes. But fun. 

This week is spirit week and I am so excited. I'm excited because I have a tutu and a blue wig ready to go; I have a Harry Potter tshirt ready to make its debut tomorrow. This week is also parent teacher conferences and picture day and you better believe I'm going roll up into both in full on spirit attire. 

My husband told me once, "You know, you have to be a little bit of a dork to do what you do," and he is absolutely right. It takes a certain level of dorkiness to wear a Harry Potter book fairy outfit for Magical Monday and a blue wig and tutu for Ties or Tutus Tuesday. It takes a slight loss of inhibition to sit next to your coworkers and friends at a Friday night football game and scream "Go score 34!!!" at the top of your lungs because number 34 is one of your people and even if he can't hear you he knows you're  up there cheering him and all your other people on. 

I know it's been several weeks since I've posted, and at first I felt bad about slacking off on my blog writing. But then I realized that I've been slacking because of all the life that's been happening. It's been a crazy few weeks and I mean the best kind of crazy. I haven't had time to blog about it. 
Today I have just a short minute to myself and I'm so grateful for all of my people. I'm grateful that, even though my job is a lot of work, it's fun work and work that I love. And I know that the reason I love it is because of these people. 




These people who let me share life with them; who let me teach them and work with them...they are why I am grateful today. 


So, I just want to take a minute to bask in this thankfulness. My heart is full and my soul is happy. 






My Happy Place


Y'all, these are my people. 


This is my happy place. 


This is where I don't question myself, where I am in my element. This is the area of my life that brings me the most fulfillment. 


You're always told growing up to make sure to do something you love, because if you do something you love you won't have to work a day in your life. 
Now, that's not necessarily true. I am the student council sponsor at my school and we just got done with homecoming. And let me tell you, it takes a LOT of work. Today was basically the first day I've spent any time with my husband since early this week. But I will say this, it was fun work. Stressful, yes. But fun. 

This week is spirit week and I am so excited. I'm excited because I have a tutu and a blue wig ready to go; I have a Harry Potter tshirt ready to make its debut tomorrow. This week is also parent teacher conferences and picture day and you better believe I'm going roll up into both in full on spirit attire. 

My husband told me once, "You know, you have to be a little bit of a dork to do what you do," and he is absolutely right. It takes a certain level of dorkiness to wear a Harry Potter book fairy outfit for Magical Monday and a blue wig and tutu for Ties or Tutus Tuesday. It takes a slight loss of inhibition to sit next to your coworkers and friends at a Friday night football game and scream "Go score 34!!!" at the top of your lungs because number 34 is one of your people and even if he can't hear you he knows you're  up there cheering him and all your other people on. 

I know it's been several weeks since I've posted, and at first I felt bad about slacking off on my blog writing. But then I realized that I've been slacking because of all the life that's been happening. It's been a crazy few weeks and I mean the best kind of crazy. I haven't had time to blog about it. 
Today I have just a short minute to myself and I'm so grateful for all of my people. I'm grateful that, even though my job is a lot of work, it's fun work and work that I love. And I know that the reason I love it is because of these people. 




These people who let me share life with them; who let me teach them and work with them...they are why I am grateful today. 


So, I just want to take a minute to bask in this thankfulness. My heart is full and my soul is happy. 






Wednesday, August 12, 2015

To My Future Students



I'm so excited! I can't help it. For me, school started on Monday, but you have almost a week to wait. I'm sure you will soak up everything you can in your last week of summer. I'm also sure you're dreading Monday morning and the start of a new school year. I remember. It wasn't long ago at all when I was where you are. 


I want you all to know why I'm so excited for our year together. 

1. I can't wait to meet you. 
I can't wait to learn all about who you are. I can't wait to find out what you're interested in and what you're good at. I don't even care if it's English. Don't ever think your teachers don't care about you as a person, because we do. You are an incredible unique individual and I want to be there to help you grow your interests and find your passion in the short year we have together. 

2. I can't wait to teach you. 
I can't wait to share the limited amount of knowledge I have with you. It doesn't matter to me if English is your absolute least favorite subject. I promise you will learn something, as long as you are willing. You may not learn anything about grammar, language, or literature, but you will leave my classroom at the end of the year having grown in some way. 

3. I can't wait to learn from you. 
This may surprise you, but you teach me just as much as I teach you. Sometimes you even teach me more. You teach me what it means to be compassionate. Some of you are dealing with more than any teenager in the world should have to deal with and you will never be able to understand how much that breaks my heart. Some of you don't realize how incredible you are and what you are capable of. A lot of you teach me that I am capable of more than I ever believed possible. You show me how much I can care about people. You teach me that not everyone is the same, and that is a beautiful thing. 

I promise to be a teacher you can trust, as well as someone you can talk to or go to for anything you need. Here is what I need from you:


  • I need you to come to me with an open mind. Be prepared to learn. Don't assume that I have nothing to teach you. Don't assume that you will never be interested in anything we do in class. I might surprise you.
  • I need you to remember that education is a privilege. You are blessed to live in a country that provides you with free education. Not everyone has that right. Some people have to fight for the right to learn how to read and write. (Ever heard of Malala Yousafzai?) You won't always like what you do in school, but realize that this is an important stepping stone to the rest of your future. Regardless of what you plan on doing with your life, what you learn in high school will help pave the way for that aspiration.
  • I need you to understand that it won't always be easy. Some of you already understand this. Some of you have to fight for everything you have. But there are those of you who are used to things being easy for you. There are those of you who have never had to study, never had to worry, and never known what it means to want. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, it only becomes a problem when you start thinking you shouldn't have to work to succeed. Success comes at a cost. Sometimes that cost is giving up a night out with your friends to study for an exam. Sometimes success means missing the big game to finish a term paper. There will be times when my class, or any of your classes, will be hard. Don't give up. Don't quit. Don't get angry. Don't assume that the system is broken or that the teacher is a jerk just because you are having trouble understanding. But most importantly, don't assume you are stupid. I promise you, you're not. Some things will be more difficult for you than for others, and that's ok. You will have to work harder at some things. Just remember, "perseverance produces character, and character produces hope" (Romans 5:4). 
  • I need you to remember that I am here. I am here for you. I want you to succeed. I will help you however I can. I want you to grow into the best person you can be. I care about you.

I am so excited to meet you next week. I hope that you can see past your dread of summer ending and find something to be excited about, too.





#BLEEDBLUE!



To My Future Students



I'm so excited! I can't help it. For me, school started on Monday, but you have almost a week to wait. I'm sure you will soak up everything you can in your last week of summer. I'm also sure you're dreading Monday morning and the start of a new school year. I remember. It wasn't long ago at all when I was where you are. 


I want you all to know why I'm so excited for our year together. 

1. I can't wait to meet you. 
I can't wait to learn all about who you are. I can't wait to find out what you're interested in and what you're good at. I don't even care if it's English. Don't ever think your teachers don't care about you as a person, because we do. You are an incredible unique individual and I want to be there to help you grow your interests and find your passion in the short year we have together. 

2. I can't wait to teach you. 
I can't wait to share the limited amount of knowledge I have with you. It doesn't matter to me if English is your absolute least favorite subject. I promise you will learn something, as long as you are willing. You may not learn anything about grammar, language, or literature, but you will leave my classroom at the end of the year having grown in some way. 

3. I can't wait to learn from you. 
This may surprise you, but you teach me just as much as I teach you. Sometimes you even teach me more. You teach me what it means to be compassionate. Some of you are dealing with more than any teenager in the world should have to deal with and you will never be able to understand how much that breaks my heart. Some of you don't realize how incredible you are and what you are capable of. A lot of you teach me that I am capable of more than I ever believed possible. You show me how much I can care about people. You teach me that not everyone is the same, and that is a beautiful thing. 

I promise to be a teacher you can trust, as well as someone you can talk to or go to for anything you need. Here is what I need from you:


  • I need you to come to me with an open mind. Be prepared to learn. Don't assume that I have nothing to teach you. Don't assume that you will never be interested in anything we do in class. I might surprise you.
  • I need you to remember that education is a privilege. You are blessed to live in a country that provides you with free education. Not everyone has that right. Some people have to fight for the right to learn how to read and write. (Ever heard of Malala Yousafzai?) You won't always like what you do in school, but realize that this is an important stepping stone to the rest of your future. Regardless of what you plan on doing with your life, what you learn in high school will help pave the way for that aspiration.
  • I need you to understand that it won't always be easy. Some of you already understand this. Some of you have to fight for everything you have. But there are those of you who are used to things being easy for you. There are those of you who have never had to study, never had to worry, and never known what it means to want. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, it only becomes a problem when you start thinking you shouldn't have to work to succeed. Success comes at a cost. Sometimes that cost is giving up a night out with your friends to study for an exam. Sometimes success means missing the big game to finish a term paper. There will be times when my class, or any of your classes, will be hard. Don't give up. Don't quit. Don't get angry. Don't assume that the system is broken or that the teacher is a jerk just because you are having trouble understanding. But most importantly, don't assume you are stupid. I promise you, you're not. Some things will be more difficult for you than for others, and that's ok. You will have to work harder at some things. Just remember, "perseverance produces character, and character produces hope" (Romans 5:4). 
  • I need you to remember that I am here. I am here for you. I want you to succeed. I will help you however I can. I want you to grow into the best person you can be. I care about you.

I am so excited to meet you next week. I hope that you can see past your dread of summer ending and find something to be excited about, too.





#BLEEDBLUE!