Monday, December 17, 2012

A Teacher's Reflection.

Over the past few days, I have heard, read, and seen details of the horrific tragedy that happened in Newtown, Connecticut. As a former elementary school teacher (currently I am a high school teacher), I am unable to fathom what those who were involved - students, teachers, staff, parents - are going through. Seeing photos, names, and ages of those lost on Friday, December 14, 2012, has only brought more reality and heartache to me for the victims and their families.

I have tried to place myself in the shoes of Vikki Soto, the 27 year old teacher who hid her students in the cabinets of her class, saving all of their lives by sacrificing hers. I cannot begin to imagine what went through her head and her heart in those moments before the gunman broke into her room. What thoughts she had as she made sure that all of her students were hidden and safe. Seeing the looks of fear in her students eyes, yet reassuring them that everything would be okay.

I cannot imagine.
I remember the layout of the classroom that I taught 4th grade in. 
I remember each of my students. 
I remember their sweet faces. 
I remember the sweatshirts they wore every day. 
I remember the jokes they would tell me, and my reacting as though I had never heard them, laughing with the same enthusiasm every time. 
I remember the different things they collected and would bring to school. 
I remember their backpacks. 
I remember having the "Stranger on Campus" drills and conversations with my kids, which undoubtedly lasted much longer than they were supposed to. 
I remember that these conversations only ended when I had reassured my kids several times that I would never let anything happen to them.
I remember that I meant it. 

I am positive that Vikki Soto's students knew the same of her.

She truly is a hero.

I cannot imagine, and don't think I will ever be able to fathom, the depth of pain that each and every person involved is going through.

I know that I will never be able to fathom that deep evil that engrossed the gunman to be capable of such a monstrosity.

If I am ever to be put in the same horrific situation, God willing no one will ever have to be again, I pray that I would react in the exact way as Vikki Soto.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Oh my.

This one is a slight oldie, and kind of long, but it's definitely a goodie. Enjoy.

It was early February 2012, and I was on my way to meet my date. I realized I left my purse on my dining room table. Not a good way to start.

I gave him a call around 2:45pm. I fortunately had my phone in hand upon leaving my house thinking my purse was in my car. We were meeting at Disneyland; he worked there and could get us in free. (I will never pass up a free trip to Disneyland.)

We had planned to meet in the middle of the two park entrances at 3:00pm, but seeing as I had no cash or card, I had to have his help to park. We decided I would pick him up on the street near the parking structure.

Perfect, I thought. He mentioned hugging when we met to avoid an awkward handshake. Strange, but the thought was fleeting. With my lapse, we needn't have to worry about either.

As I drove up to him on the curb, I noticed he was attractive - about 5'10", handsome face, dark hair. Not bad. I was excited.

We entered the parking structure, he leaned over me, flashed his employee card to the attendant, and we were off to park.

It didn't dawn on my until this moment that trekking through Disneyland on a blind date may not be the best idea. There could potentially be several long, awkward minutes (and maybe hours) to kill in lines. Again, the thought was fleeting.

While on the tram riding to the park, he asked me what ride I wanted to go on first. It had been years since I had been - Nemo was under construction the last time, so naturally I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype they had created years before.

It didn't. I get claustrophobic and motion sickness quite easily, so this was not the best of rides to go on first. But, I survived and we got off the ride to discuss where we would go next.

He suggested that we go on Star Tours next. Not fully remembering which ride this was, I agreed. He bought me a water and we got in line. I think it was about a 45 minute wait. Considering how packed it was, it wasn't too long. As we stood in line with the masses, memories of the ride came flooding back into my mind. I realized that this was, indeed, the worst ride for me to go on. This ride is a perfect recipe for a headache and vomit for someone who gets motion sickness. Not sure what to do, since this was a blind date, I continued on in a stupor of slow breathing and concentrating, trying to force any upcoming nausea out before it had a chance to creep in.

We got on the ride.

Front row.

We buckled our seat belts and the ride began.

I'm not sure how long the ride lasts, but I am sure that it was pretty dark in there. For that I was thankful, as I think my color may have been somewhere between green and gray. As I allowed my body to flop to the left, and sway violently to the right with each twist, turn, and jerk of the seat I was securely buckled in, I kept my eyes closed, my breathing slow, and forced any unwanted breakfast or lunch to stay put. I could hear the other riders laughing and oohing and aahhhing and I wished desperately the ride would be over. Slowly, with a few bounces and shakes, I realized we had "landed" back at Disneyland.

A success! No puke on me, or anyone else for that matter. But, I knew I needed a very long line and mellow ride after this - I had to let my equilibrium return to normalcy. Before he could mention any ride he hoped to go on, I blurted out, "Pirates!"

NOTE: If you haven't been on this ride, it is quite possibly the slowest ride in the whole park, with the exception of "It's a Small World." I knew that I wouldn't be able to maintain my lunch with "It's a Small World" theme song playing, loudly, for the near 8 minutes of the ride, so I waited for the approval of my ride choice eagerly - moments feeling like minutes.

He agreed. I relaxed. We headed to Adventure Land.

At this point, aside from my close call with embarrassment and trying to keep my breathing even to avoid any future embarrassments, I realized that though he was a very sweet guy, he was not a man that I would want to continue any relationship with. But, since we were at Disneyland and I didn't know when I'd be able to go back, I decided to make the best of it.

The ride was exactly what I needed. Slow. Nothing unexpected.

We walked outside and the smell of clam chowder and sourdough bread bowls caused my mouth to water instantly. I forgot how much I loved this area of Disneyland - the rides, the food, the atmosphere.

I also realized how hungry I was at that moment. He must have, too.

"Are you hungry?" he asked.

"I'm starving!" I tried to conceal the desperation in my voice.

"Okay, give me your three top choices of where to eat."

"Alright. Number one: right here at this clam chowder place..."

No response.

"Number two: the Corn Dog cart..."



"Number three: I can't think of a number three. Just not the Happy Birthday cafe. I got sick there once."

He paused. Contemplated.

"Okay, my top three choices...The Hungry Bears Cafe. The Happy Birthday cafe. The [I can't remember what he said]."

This time I paused. Really? Were you listening to me at all? I didn't respond, as I didn't know what to say.

"Well, what are your three choices outside the park?" he asked as we started walking toward the front gate.

"Um, I haven't tried it, but have always wanted to try the La Jolla Bakery."

No answer. Still walking.

"Okay, um, I love the Rainforest Cafe."

"No. I don't do the Rainforest Cafe."

"Got it. What about the Mexican food restaurant? I think it's called Tortilla Joe's?"

" I like the ESPN Zone..." [and he mentioned two other restaurants that I don't recall.]

I was kind of at a loss at this point. It was almost 7:00pm on a Saturday night. I was starving, my back was starting to hurt from the cold and an injury the previous summer, and we weren't getting any closer to making a decision of where to eat.

We continued to walk through Downtown Disney.

We were nearing the Rainforest Cafe. Oh, I thought, maybe he changed his mind! 

He looked at me.

"We're going to ESPN Zone."

Slightly flabbergasted, I replied, "Okay." What else was there to say?

As we entered the restaurant, he flew by some men who were standing near the hostess station and started putting his name in. I asked them, mortified, if they were in line waiting. Fortunately, they weren't.

The wait was going to be about an hour. He looked at me, and I said it was up to him.

We left and headed toward Tortilla Joe's.

Again, the wait would be about an hour. He told me he couldn't wait that long. I reminded him that at 7:00 on a Saturday night we would be lucky to find anything shorter.

We stopped. He thought. He remembered a place.

"There is a restaurant at one of the hotels. Do you want to try that?"

"The Storyteller's Cafe? I like that place. Let's go."

We started walking toward it. Finally, a decision!

"The wait is about 20 minutes," the hostess cheerfully replied.

Done! We will get a bowl of bread soon enough! At this point, it was almost 7:30 and I was starting to get shaky.

"They even have a buffet," he told me, "but I forgot to ask how much it costs...But I'm not cheap!"

What an interesting string of thoughts.

"You get a discount as an employee, so it shouldn't be too bad." I tried to calm his nerves, as I could tell he realized he was thinking out loud. It didn't bother me.

"Do you want to get the buffet, too?"

"No. Honestly, I never eat enough to make the cost worth it."

"Do you need to go to the bathroom?"

"Yeah, I could go."

"Okay, I'll take you to my favorite bathrooms. They have doors and walls that go all the way to the floor and ceiling, so you get plenty of privacy, if you know what I mean."

What? Seriously, I don't want to talk about that on a first date. Things were starting to go downhill.

When we got to the bathrooms, I realized he was right. They were nice.

I decided to hang out for a bit. I took out my phone and texted my mom.

Hey Ma, I'm still on my date. In the restroom. Not feeling it. I'll call you when I'm on my way home.

She replied.

Are you still there? I'm making dinner if you want to stop by.

My turn.

No, we're about to have dinner. Call you soon.

I walked out and the buzzer-thing had gone off. Hooray! Time to eat!

We went back to the restaurant, checked in, and were seated. He got his buffet plate and got a plate-full.

"Please, eat," I encouraged.

"Are you sure? You don't mind?"

"Not at all."

At this point, I could not control my hands from shaking as I buttered my roll. I took my first bite. It melted in my mouth. Delicious.

My mood was getting better.

Though not diabetic, I could feel my blood sugars balancing out again and I was starting to feel more like myself.

Having walked around for nearly four and a half hours, I was allowing myself to sink into my chair. I couldn't remember a time when I sat in a more comfortable chair.

The whole time this was happening, he was happily chatting, as I'm sure he was experiencing similar emotions.

I noticed he continued to talk with his mouth full. Gross.

Then I noticed the way he cut his meat. Really?

He held his knife like one would hold a microphone. I don't know why, but I couldn't seem to stop looking at the way he held his knife. Something was off. Why was he holding it like that? Why---


Oh my.


I had to force my eyes away.

A quick glance.

How did I not realize sooner?

Four and a half hours and I am just now noticing!?

He had no fingers.

I'm such a jerk. He HAS to hold his knife like that! 

Stop looking!!

The date after that was uneventful.

My chicken salad came; the chicken was undercooked. I sent it back. It was pretty good. Not as good as the bread.
We finished our meal.
He asked if I wanted to go to California Adventure, but as it was 8:30pm, I was spent and declined.
I had to be up early the next morning for church and my back was aching something awful.
He was disappointed.

We started walking back toward the structure. He seemed to get a renewed sense of excitement, and had a bounce to his step. We walked up to my car, I gave him a quick hug to avoid anything unwanted, got in the car, and drove away.

The day's event started to sink in. What an interesting date.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Didn't Want to Interrupt...

In looking over past blog posts, I have realized that many are pretty heavy. Uplifting, but packed to the brim with a lot of density.

This one will not be.

I have been wanting to write down some of the various experiences I have had, yet I have been slightly timid when it comes to writing. Maybe due to the fact that as an English teacher I am afraid that it won't sound witty or intelligent enough. Maybe due to the fact that I know these stories are funny (based on the reactions of my friends), but I am afraid that the humor won't come across in my writing.

Whatever the delay, it is now over. I need to start getting them from my head and into the heads of others.

So, without further ado, here is my first post on my random dating life...

Almost two weeks ago I went on a date with a man that I knew very little about. We were set up due to similarities, and though I was initially open-minded, I was also a bit skeptical from the start.

We met at the Starbucks off La Paz and Oso, near the Target. Given two, this was my choice place of meeting.

It was not hard to find him, as I had seen a few photos. It also helped that he walked right up to me as I walked through the door.

We ordered our drinks and sat outside. It was a beautiful day.

Our conversation was light-hearted, not too serious. I spoke of my niece and nephews and showed him photos on my phone, I told him of my job as a teacher and a cheer advisor (and all that entails), of my church, and of my family. He told me about himself, as well.

After an hour, he had to leave to do some work for his church. It was a good amount of time; not too long, but not too short. Our conversation didn't have any painful lulls or awkward silences.

As he left, I knew that I wouldn't see him again. He was a nice guy, but not the right man for me.

I had the afternoon open, so I called my mom to see if she wanted to have lunch. This would be a great way to fill her in on the activities of my morning.

We were almost to the restaurant when my phone chirped in response to receiving a text message. To the dismay of my mother, I checked it at a red light (yes, I am aware that you can still get a ticket even if stopped - but this didn't stop me from checking).

I read the text. I couldn't help but laugh.

Great getting coffee with you! I enjoyed hearing your stories and seeing those instagrams of your niece and nephews! Sorry if you didn't feel like you got to know me too well, I didn't want to interrupt you. :P

Call me crazy, but I think that means I talked too much... :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

One Choice Can Change It All.

Five years ago today, February 4, 2007, I made a decision that changed the entire course of my life. I chose to end my engagement. I won't go into details of why I made this decision; they're not suited for a public site, nor are they necessary.

As I sat in my car that cold February evening, fearing as I watched my perfect plans evaporate in front of me, feeling pain and hurt like I had never felt, and wondering what was to come, I had an overwhelming peace that I am positive could only come from the love of Christ in my life. (Don't get me wrong, though I had peace I was still afraid of the unknown of my future as I drove out of the parking lot).

By this point in my life, that night is a memory that is hard for me to connect myself with as I feel so far from it; the life I was living then is so different from the one I live today. The one memory that sticks out with searing brilliance is that of my phone call with my brother. As always, he answered the phone with enthusiasm and excitement to my call.


"I'm..not..getting..marr-ied." (insert hysteria)


The utter shock and pain I heard in his voice stills rings vibrantly in my ears to this day.

The rest of the conversation went as expected: I told him what happened, why I had made the decision, and he stayed with me on the phone until I got home. I later found out that my sister-in-law wept into a pillow as she put together the pieces of the choppy puzzle she received from my brother's end of the call. The love that she and all of my family felt for me then has only magnified to this day and I am blessed to have them in my life; the road to today would have had more detours, I'm sure.

The point of this post is not to relive that evening, or the several difficult months after as I dealt with pains, hurts, betrayals. The point is to show that God is good, that He brought healing to me, and that no matter what, He works "all things together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

In the last five years, because I trusted Him, because I actually did what I knew He was calling me to do though it was not easy, I have seen how He has blessed my life. So many of the things that I have been able to experience, take part in, help with, etc., are a direct result of this choice. I would not have done most of the things that I have done if I had chosen otherwise.

I'll list a few of the major things that I can think of off the top of my head that would not have happened:

*Moved to the Aventine and made lifelong friends.

*Hosted my first nephew's (Hudson) Baby Shower

*I went to visit my best friend, Laela, in Chicago for a week.

*I got to see "Wicked" at the Pantageous Theater while on a date! (small, but still awesome!)

*Christmas Bliss (started this annual Christmas Party because I had a place to have a party)

*I spent two months working with an organization called Hope of the Nations in Kigoma, Tanzania.

*Road Trip to Fresno, Gilroy, and Santa Cruz over Christmas Break to see old friends and new friends I made while in Africa.

*Christmas Bliss the 2nd

*I went on an all-expense paid cruise for two weeks in the Mediterranean with my best friend, compliments of Oprah.

I won an Oprah Photo Contest with that pic ^

*I was able to go back to Kigoma for three weeks and work alongside Hope of the Nations with a team of friends.

*Christmas Bliss the 3rd

*Choreograph an epic Team Cheer at a high school summer camp. (Go Gabbas!)

*Adventure Day 2010. (Need I say more?)

Still my fave pic from Adventure Day 2010! ^

*Christmas Bliss the 4th

The only one I have from CBthe4th ^

*Coach the Cheer team at SJHHS (where I teach)

*10-Year High School Reunion

*Be in the room for my nephew's (Stryder) birth

*Christmas Bliss the 5th

It's only the start of the year, but I am looking forward to see what I can fill in here.

I don't know what my life would look like today if I had decided to continue on with my plans, to continue trying to build that life that I thought was best; honestly, I don't want to know. Though there are things that I wish were different now (I'm still a human), I know that God knows what is best and that He ultimately will bring me the most joy, the most love, the best life.

And that, I believe, is worth waiting for.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dressember...half way there...

This has been so much fun! Thanks to my friend, Blythe for putting this together, I have been forced to get somewhat creative at times with my wardrobe.

I'm spending Christmas in Oklahoma with family, so it will be an interesting, more-layering-than-known, kind of week!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

..thankful for the simple things...

For the past two weeks, I have had health issues, debilitating at times, that have hindered my everyday life. I had to take three and a half days off of work due to pain and fevers, and therefore my life stopped; literally.

It was not really until tonight, as I was getting ready to get ready for bed, when I realized how much I am thankful for. About a week and a half ago, my dear friend Simone Knepper hosted her annual Thankful Brunch, in which we all come to the table (again, I'm being literal here) and share the things that we were thankful for throughout the year. Unfortunately, this was when my health issues began, so not only was I ill-prepared with my list, but in midst of pain it is difficult to remember exactly what I am thankful for.

In the next several bullet points, I will attempt to convey those things, simple or grand, that I am thankful for for the 2011 year...up to this point, at least.

*my family
(cliche, but simply stating I am thankful for them will never suffice to convey the depth of how thankful and grateful I truly am for them)
*my health
(it has been up and down throughout the year, possibly more than usual, but I am thankful for both good health and bad health - bad health because it reminds me to appreciate the small, simplest of things ~walking with ease, laughing without pain, etc.~ even more)
*my apartment
(especially throughout the past week of being nearly under house arrest, I am so thankful that I still love the small details of my house ~ the cups/plates I have acquired from Anthropologie, the pillow I so love from Pier 1, the small owl figurines and various bird salt and pepper shakers I have begun to, unknowingly, collect)
*my iPhone
*Instagram, Phonto, Diptic, the camera on the phone!
*pain killers and antibiotics
*a smile from a complete stranger, or someone close to me that I can share their joy
*finishing a good book
*Pride & Prejudice - the book and movies
*Coke Zero
*the lamp I retrieved from my dad's childhood room that I use on my desk (which I am continually getting compliments on!)
*my job (as a teacher and a coach)
*my computer
*friends that, though I may speak to them but once or twice a year, we pick up as if not time has elapsed
*living in a free country
*the ability to travel easily
*my car
*air conditioning
*after the rain...
~a leaf with raindrops still lingering
~puffy white clouds with a brilliant blue sky backdrop'
~the smell of wet dirt and wet asphalt
*a breeze that cools the temperature just enough to raise a slight goosebump..or the sun shining on my skin to raise that same slight goosebump
*the tree outside my front door
~and that though I often forget to water it, it is stubborn enough to keep on keepin'on
*my coffee cup from Anthropologie with an "M" on it
*Donut Shop coffee pods
*Peppermint Mocha creamer from CoffeeMate

This list could go on, and I plan to continue it. Right now, however, I must get some rest before I make the trek back to work tomorrow...of which I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


...starts tomorrow.

If all goes as planned, I will be feeling better and will be able to join the real world again with my first dress...

Get. Excited.

For more information, go to

*Photo Cred to Blythe Hill