Thursday, November 29, 2018

Mountains.

Last Friday, Joe and I were in West Virginia, and we drove up I-79 from my parents' in Huntington to visit my grandparents in Morgantown. As we were driving up (when you're going north on 79, it's indeed driving "up" and not "down") those familiar roads which I have driven countless times in my life, I was once again reminded how much I love the mountains. (As if I could ever forget.) I looked over at Joe and said, "These mountains are safe. Flat, open land makes me scared. These mountains make me feel protected and safe."

I took this photo on I-79 a few years back.

And they do. They always have.

If you know what I mean, you know what I mean. And if you don't know what I mean, I don't think I can explain it. Truly, the only thing about living in Georgia that's remotely familiar is the stretch of the Appalachians you can view in the northern part of the state.

When I think of the word "mountains," three things come to mind. It won't be at all surprising to those who know me that all three things come from my first great love, The Sound of Music.

In the song "The Sound of Music," Maria sings:

I go to the hills when my heart is lonely. 

When she's talking with the Reverend Mother, who is concerned that Maria ran off and told her she might get lost up in the mountains, Maria says:

That's my mountain. I was brought up on it.

And when Captain von Trapp, Maria, and their children are fleeing the abbey to escape the Nazis, the Reverend Mother reminds Maria:

I life thine eyes unto the hills, from which cometh my help.

(Okay, that last one is scripture. But I first learned it on The Sound of Music!)

Just today, my sister Erin posted this on Facebook:



It comes from an article called "In the Heart of Trump Country" that was published in The New Yorker.

Erin (who now lives in North Carolina) posted it with this comment:

This is exactly it. I miss the West Virginia Hills. 

To which I, of course, commented:

I SAID THIS EXACT THING TO JOE ON I-79 LAST WEEK! 

I also reposted her post. As of now, Erin's original post has received many likes from people who live in West Virginia, as well as West Virginians who now live elsewhere. My repost received the exact same reactions.

The mountains are safe. The mountains are the place that raised me.

The mountains are home.

montani semper liberi


I stole this picture from the West Virginia Division of Tourism. Please don't be made WVDT. I love you!






Monday, October 22, 2018

Surrender

I am having a really hard time lately.

I can't really go into more detail than that (and Joe and I are great), but there is something in my life right now that is causing me a lot of anguish.

Frustration.

Exhaustion.

Uncertainty.

Confusion.

And I don't know what to do about it. There seems to be little I can do about it right now.

Today was more of the same, and I'm always thinking I just won't make it.

But, boom boom boom -- just like that -- three emails from beloved former students. (EDIT: As of 10:28 p.m. it's now four. FOUR beloved former students.)

One when I got up. One when the school day had just ended. One this evening. (EDIT: And now, one right before bed. That's when I got up, after school, when I got home, and right before bed.)

Three emails that three precious souls took their precious time to write to me. They made my day and have given me the strength to live to fight another day.

And that got me thinking that over the past few months, God has come through for me in small ways every moment that I've needed something. What He has NOT done is delivered me from my situation, given me a way out, or explained anything to me. But He truly has given me little pieces -- just enough -- to keep me going. To keep me from falling apart.


He is giving me exactly what I need. No more, no less. He's not giving me a way out of my circumstances, but He is giving me the exact amount of grace I need in order to endure and get up and do it again tomorrow. He's giving me the exact amount (the EXACT amount) of drops of love I need to know that He is there and He hears me while also making sure that I am completely reliant on Him to keep going.

Is this what they call surrender? I think it might be. I might not be happy about what's going on. I certainly don't understand it. I absolutely can't figure out what the point is. But I do see that He sees it. And He is allowing it. So this must be His will. And I must surrender to it, content in the promise of His grace.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Aunt Elizabeth

What is your earliest childhood memory?

I was thinking about that recently. I'm lucky because my earliest memories are beautiful ones. You see, when I was a young child, my mom, dad, Erin, and I lived with my mom's parents -- my Pap and Mamaw -- in the house they still live in now in Morgantown. My mom's sister, my Aunt Elizabeth, lived there too with her two kids at the time, my cousins Rebecca and Matthew. Even more fun, Becca was born in July of 1983, I was born in July 1984, Matthew was born in July 1985, and Erin was born in late June 1986. We were little stair-step kids. I count myself so blessed because I was surrounded by SO many adults who loved me in my early years: my dad, my mom, Mamaw, Pap, and Aunt Elizabeth.

Me, Erin, and Becca at my grandparents' house.

My grandparents and my parents worked outside the home, so my Aunt Elizabeth is the one who stayed home and took care of us. And it's my Aunt Elizabeth who is the lead in what I think might be my earliest -- or at least one of the very earliest -- memories of my childhood. I have this very distinct memory of my Aunt Elizabeth teaching us how to skip like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz through my grandparents' living room and into their kitchen. It is SUCH a clear memory. She also used to make us lunch while singing, "Peanut butter and jelly, for my Becca's belly. Peanut butter and banana, for my little Anna." That's another memory of her that's as clear as day.

I feel so lucky to have been able to stay home as a little child while my parents worked, with an aunt who loved me so much and cousins and sister to play with.

Although my immediate family and I moved to Huntington for my dad's job when I was four, my aunt continued to play a huge role in my life. When we'd visit Morgantown, I'd get to spend the night with Becca at Aunt Elizabeth's house, and it was so much fun. She'd always drive us places, and we'd listen to the Eagles or the Police. My aunt is loud, she's funny, she's smart, and she's so much fun.

More than that, though, she's likely the most hardworking, giving, big-hearted, and kind person I know, too. She might not have much in the way of material things or wealth, but my gosh, she would never hesitate to give anything to you that you needed. I am full of regret for the times I have made life harder for her or hurt her feelings.

I'm 34 now, married, and I don't have children, but I am a teacher. I reflect on what it must have been like for a very young 20-something woman to raise/help raise four very, very little kids, spending day in and day out with us. Someone who must have had her own worries and challenges, as we all do, but who took care of us, fed us, sang to us, made life special for us, and taught us to skip like Dorothy.

Aunt Elizabeth -- I love you so much. You are more than an aunt. You are the greatest bonus mom anyone could ask for.

Accidentally wearing matching shirts! If I remember correctly, we accidentally wore matching shirts the next day, too.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Anybody Home?

April? APRIL?!

The last time I posted was April?

As surprising and sad as that sounds to me, it also sounds realistic. The past few months of my life have been the most emotional, turbulent, and full-of-change months of my life. While I have so many thoughts, reflections, and things to say on lots and lots of topics (dare I say that I ... might post on those things soon?), I wanted to come back to blogging life with something happy and wonderful.

I wanted to share with you about my wedding to Joe.



As you prepare for a wedding, one thing people tell you over and over is to expect that something will go wrong. As much of a planner as I am, I was truly okay with this happening. I believed in my heart that the only thing that mattered was that Joe and I would be married by the end of that day. We had done all we could to plan, and whatever happened, happened.

And you know what?

... nothing went wrong. NOTHING. It was the best and most perfect day of my life. Here are some reasons why:

The Dream Team
Never in the history of the world did a bride have such a wonderful group of women to stand up with her. My bridesmaids were heaven sent. Seriously. I called them the Dream Team. Throughout the process they were great, but on the day of -- wow. They were on time to hair and makeup, had only wonderful attitudes and things to say, were easygoing, were complimentary, asked for nothing, complained about nothing, and were generally the best people on God's earth. I'd give anything to have them around me all day every day. I have so many happy moments with them that day, but one of the top ones is Sarah praying for us just before I walked down the aisle. I wish I could relive that moment always. Erin, Mel, Sarah, Story, Colleen, and Emma -- God, I love you guys.




The Venues
We were married at Our Lady of Fatima, the church where I grew up, and our reception was at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena. We could not have asked for better locations. Wanna hear something weird? The air conditioner at Fatima had broken the week before the big day. I (and my mom) had everyone on God's earth praying that it would be fixed in time for the wedding. (Seriously. "Did you find everything you needed today?" -- Target cashier. "Yes, and can you please pray the air conditioner is fixed at the church before my wedding Saturday?" -- me.) I just kept telling myself that a person God had afflicted with hyperhidrosis would not also have to suffer the indignity of a hot wedding. Miraculously, the air was fixed!!! (Even weirder, my mom texted me a couple days after the wedding to tell me the air had broken again. God is real, people.) We also loved everyone at the Big Sandy Arena! Veronica, Lindsey, and company were simply the best. Early in the evening, I noticed that our event coordinator, Lindsey, was bartending. I thought it was odd, but, with everyone else going on that day (like getting married), I didn't really think on it further. Later in the evening, I went to the bar to get a water (seriously, I drank, like, EVERYONE'S waters), and I thanked Lindsey for all the great work her staff was doing. You know how she replied? "The chef quit earlier this week." EXCUSE ME?! Yeah, their chef quit earlier that week, and she was bartending because their lead bartender was actually their sous chef and was heading up the kitchen. You guys. The food was EXACTLY AS GOOD as our food tasting. Arena staff -- you have my forever love.




The Family
You know those movies that feature the most monstrous in laws or the mother of the bride who is such a pill? I have no idea what that's like in real life. My parents were the best, and my in laws are one of the biggest blessings of my "new" life. Everyone got along, helped each other, had fun, and rolled with it. I was also so blessed to have so many family members come to my wedding. My lovely family came from all over West Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kansas, and Virginia to celebrate with us. Here's a photo of what pretty much amounts to being 1/8 of my actual family. Haha.







The Vendors
Guys ... I don't know how we got so lucky, but our wedding vendors were the best ever. If you are in need of any of these services, please, for Heaven's sake, do yourself a favor and reach out to:
Cake -- Suzcatering (delicious, beautiful, amazing)
Wedding Planners -- TwoFineWays (Could there be two better people than Hannah and Leah? I think not!)
Flowers -- The Putnam Market (If you're local and haven't gone there ... go!)
DJ -- Bravo Live! (I can't say enough about how awesome Josh is! Please call him if you have any DJ needs!)
Photography -- Margaret Schaad Photography (Maggie is simply one of the best people I've ever met. If your plan for your wedding day includes wanting to have people around you who are kind, uplifting, loving, professional, and amazing at their jobs ... reach out to Maggie, or you're making a mistake!)
Videography -- I have been in more than one Drew Navy production, so I know from what. Drew is the best. No question. I was honored to be in just one more of his films! There is only one Drew Navy. See his video below.





The Friends
Thank you so much to all of our friends who spent our day with us. We know some of you traveled a long way, gave up time with your own kids and families, and spent your precious off-work time with us. It meant SO much to us to have you there!







My Kids
One of my absolute favorite parts of my whole day was having my precious girls at my ceremony. I teach English, but I do not have words -- I truly do not -- for how I feel when I think about my sweet girls coming to our ceremony. As we walked out of the church that day, I knew our job was to walk through the crowd and then double back around to take photos with our families and bridal party. Before it happened, though, I said to our photographer, Maggie, that I wouldn't stop at all ... except for students. I would only stop for students. And I did. My girls -- you are my life. You being there made my life. It really did.

This is a photo I will treasure till the day I die.

When I first received my wedding photos, I didn't cry ... until I saw this one. It gets me every time.

More later on all kinds of topics. But for now, Drew's (and Sarah's!) spectacular, creative, more-than-we-could-have-dreamed-of video of our wedding. The one that makes me cry every. single. time.






Monday, April 30, 2018

Fulton and Me.

Friends, I am so sorry it's been months since I've written. As we are all busy, I would never use that as an excuse. What I will say is that it has been a huge season of change for me. Joe and I are getting married in 39 days. I am packing up to start a new life in Georgia. I have officially given my current job notice that I will be leaving at the end of this school year, and I have accepted a new position at a Catholic school in Atlanta. I am learning to be a family with a small dog. I am packing, saying goodbye, and grieving my "old" life while I rejoice and make room for the "new."

Something so poignant happened today, and it's something so profound, so clearly a sign of God's love and mercy, that I had to stop what I was doing and write it out.

Five years ago, I wrote a post entitled "Where I've Been ... Or the Night Bishop Fulton Sheen Saved My Life." I didn't come out and say these exact words then, but with five years of perspective and distance, I can say them now. I almost killed myself that night. I desperately wanted to. I was in the darkest place of my life, a place I hope you never are, and a place I hope to never be again. As the title of that post said, Bishop Fulton Sheen saved my life. Literally. No one will ever be able to convince me that the God didn't work through Fulton Sheen that night to save my life.

Since that time, I've gone on to become a teacher, which is what, I believe, God always wanted for me to do for Him. I met Joe, the best man on earth, and we are getting married. I lost my beloved Baby Snicks, and he sent me Jane Austen to love. I still have days when I feel down, depressed, scared, and sad, but nothing like where I was that night in 2013. Through the mercy of God and Bishop Fulton Sheen's intercession, I am where I am today.

"Where I am ..." a funny turn of phrase considering what I'm about to tell you.

Joe and I confirmed that we have a lovely townhouse to rent in Georgia today, and, as I already said, I have accepted a job at a Catholic school in Atlanta. Specifically, where is this home and this school?

Fulton County.

Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us. 

Picture

(If you are suffering from a mental health issue, please ask someone for help. Please talk to me if you want to. I love you, and I know exactly what you're going through. Also, I want you to know that God doesn't love me any more than He loves you. I pray He will deliver you as He did me.)


Monday, January 29, 2018

The Least of These

Almost exactly six months ago, I wrote about the lesson that can be learned from dog poo.

And although it is incredibly humbling every time you have to pick up dog poo (or anyone's poo), I learned a new level of humbling last night and this morning.



You see, this past Saturday, Jane got her spay stitches out (no cone, go Jane, dignity!), and she also received medication for a tapeworm (not so dignified), and she got her rabies shot as well. She seemed fine on Saturday, but then all hell broke loose on Sunday.

As the day went on, Jane's poo got waterier and waterier (oh yeah, if you are easily grossed out, stop here) until, around 11 last night when we were settling in for bed, I looked over and Jane was going to the bathroom on my bedroom floor. While she has had accidents in the past (she's only lived here for about a month), she's never been that brazen about it. All I could do was just watch as a wave (that's the only way I can think to describe it) of poo came pouring fourth.

I wish I could tell you I was kind. I wish I could tell you I was understanding. But I am ashamed to admit that my first reaction was to raise my voice at her. She immediately hid under the bed because she knew she had messed up.

But had she? Had she really?

The thing is, no she hadn't. Her tummy was upset, and she couldn't help it. I don't know about you, but I can think of some times in the past when my tummy hurt and holding it was pretty much not an option.

I felt so bad, but God gave me the opportunity to redeem myself this morning when, upon waking up and going to Jane's crate to get her for her morning walk, I saw that she had gone to the bathroom in her crate. Not nearly as watery as the night before, thank God, but she has never gone in her crate before.

This time, I told Jane it was okay, it wasn't her fault, and I was sorry her tummy was so upset. I took her for a walk, then got out the paper towels and Lysol to clean her crate before getting ready for school. I called the vet and after my afterschool class today I went down and got her a medication the doctor thinks will help. (The doctor said that it could be her worms medication, the rabies shot, or the combination that is making her feel unwell. It could have just been too much for her.)

As I was driving to the vet to get her medications, it occurred to me that Jesus said, "... whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me."

I've heard this verse a million times, and I always associated it with how we should treat the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the imprisoned, etc. But then I thought -- Jane is one of God's little creatures, and, although she has more defenses than some animals (like Baby Snicks), she is still a little, helpless dog who was also created by God. She can't tell me when her stomach hurts, when she has to go to the bathroom, etc. She relies on me to meet her every need. And I can either raise my voice and get upset about things that don't really matter, or I can give her the best I have to offer, just like I would if she were Jesus's dog.

I've talked before about how I've learned that God doesn't see your ability as much as your availability. And here I am, available, and I have paper towels and Lysol, you know? The dog currently asleep on my lap, preventing the ease with which I can type this, lived in the shelter, on the street, and only God knows where else and also only God knows what has happened to her. I learned today that it takes a lot to get a dog off the street and into a family.



I understand that Jane is not a person, she is a dog, but I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I have served Jane well, as best I can. As Mother Teresa said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Our Only Hope

Jane got spayed yesterday, and although she seems to be doing very well, I can also tell that she's very sore, tired, and low-energy. She's shaky as well. I also think she misses Joe and Asha very much.

And maybe I do, too.

So tonight, after I got home from the school dance and Jane and I went on a little walk, we decided that since things were proving rough for us heroines, our only hope was Jane Austen.

The OG Jane.

Jane #2 has never seen any of the movies based on Jane Austen's books, so we decided that was exactly what our souls needed. I told Jane how much Baby Snicks used to love Jane Austen films as well. :)

So tonight, right now, we are both lying on my bed -- a treat for Jane as she is not usually allowed up -- and we are watching Persuasion. We are forgetting that our bodies hurt and our hearts hurt, and we are letting OG Jane Austen work her magic.

It will work. It always does.