Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A New Challenge - This is Me

Thanks to my good friend, Pinterest, I have found another blogging challenge, and have decided to give it a shot! Here goes "This is Me" (http://thisismechallenge.blogspot.com/)

Challenge #5: The ABCs of Me!

A: Ambitious.  I mean...here I go again...starting another challenge... :)

B: Books.  They consume my life.  They are the biggest obstacle I face when cleaning my room and the my saving grace in both dealing with and escaping reality.  I've inhaled nearly every genre at least once, though I gravitate towards fiction.  I have a nerdy affection for fantasy and have always been a sucker for a good romance novel or teen drama.  My best loved books are stashed on a shelf together - dog-eared, with cracked spines and pages that sometimes slip out.  They are my treasures, my vacations, my friends.

C: Chicago Blackhawks.  It is safe to say I have an obsession.  It began as a simple pastime I shared with my dad - evenings on the couch, eyes glued to the television followed by mornings and afternoons discussing strategies and outcomes as if we had a voice in the matter.  Now, it has taken over my wardrobe, my bedroom and Facebook walls, my schedule, my conversations, my stuffed animal collection, and my heart. 

D: Dance Marathon.  I signed up because the only friends I had met so far in college were all signed up and I was afraid of spending a weekend alone in my dorm room.  I stayed because I fell completely in love with the organization and its mission.  The largest student organization on the University of Iowa's campus, Dance Marathon is a year-long mission to raise money to help children with cancer, culminating in a 24-hour Big Event during which thousands of college students refuse to sit, sleep, or have caffeine to show their support for children who are fighting the battle of a lifetime.  I've learned so much about determination, optimism, and strength from these children; their stories and their faith never cease to amaze me.  I don't think I could ever think of a worthier cause than this, and that motivated me to spend countless hours, days, weeks, and dollars giving everything I had FTK - For The Kids.  Along the way, I've met the most inspirational people - kiddos, families, and fellow college students, and I couldn't be more proud to have brushed shoulders with every one of them.  When cancer is cured, we will dance for joy.  Until then, we dance for life.

E: Exes.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  They're all buried deep in  my past by now, but when I am being brutally honest with myself, I must admit that they've each had a role in making me who I am today.  They've taught me what it's like to love and not be loved in return.  They've taught me how it feels to be unable to return love.  They've taught me that feeling too much and feeling nothing at all can be equally terrifying.  They've taught me that to settle for less than everything is to compromise my own happiness.  I've made some mistakes and kissed a few frogs, but I could never say I didn't learn.

F: Fire.  Some of my absolute favorite memories from this past summer, have taken place around a bonfire.  Summer Hits of the 90's on Pandora, a cooler of drinks close by, a comfortable hoodie, and "The Regulars" settled in around me - that's happiness.

G: Genuine.  I strive to be an honest person.  I am well aware of the fact that I am a terrible liar, but it is very rare that I even have the desire to lie.  I prefer to tell the truth whenever possible.  Now, I'm not going to go around telling people that I hate their new haircut or that that they could stand to lose a few pounds, but if you ask me a question - any question - I will always do my best to give an honest answer...as tactfully as possible. 

H: Harry Potter.  Yep, I'm one of those girls.  I grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  I consider them friends.  I can't even begin to count the midnight releases (books and movies!) I have attended or the number of times I've revisited Hogwarts via page or screen.  I reference the magical world in daily life - which has both gained and lost friends for me.  It could be a generational thing, or it could be a nerd child thing.  Either way, it's my thing. 

I: Iowa.  There is so much stigma that goes along with being an alumnus of the University of Iowa.  Big 10.  Corn.  Number 1 Drinking School of 2013.  Nationally ranked programs.  More corn.  But Iowa City will always hold a large piece of my heart, because above all of these stereotypes, Iowa City is my home.  It's the place where I studied, partied, worshiped, loved, laughed, cried, worked, played...it's the place where I lived for five glorious years of my life.  Going away to college was a terrifying concept to me, but it was life-changing in all the best ways possible.  It is where I truly became the person I am proud to be today, and I could never have done that anywhere else.

J: Junk food.  I can't help it.  No matter how healthy I try to be, I can never say no to chocolate, ice cream, cookies, French fries, funnel cakes, cheese sticks...you name it.  The Cs always get me: if it's full of carbs or calories, if it's covered in cheese or chocolate - you can bet I will be devouring that.  I wish I could say I have some semblance of self control, but when the Cs come into play, it's all out the window.

K: Kin.  My family.  I am so lucky to have parents that loved and cared for me as a child, and who became some of my most trusted confidants and closest friends as I grew older.  And though they might not admit it, I know they just adore being "roommates" with my now that I've moved back home again!  I'm also incredibly blessed to have a fantastic relationship with my brother - though we fought like typical siblings when we were younger (and let's face it, it still happens), today, I consider him one of the my best friends.

L: Laughter.  I used to be the kind of person who took everything very seriously.  Friendly teasing could hurt my feelings, and a low grade could send me into a minor depression for a week.  I finally realized that I could not make it through life with an attitude like that.  I needed to lighten up.  I slowly learned to laugh at things the scared me, embarrassing moments, and mistakes that I made.  Life has been much easier to deal with since I've made this simple change, and I strive to share my newfound positive attitude with everyone around me.

M: Miracle.  I can't help it.  I absolutely adore this movie, and could watch it every day without ever getting tired of it.  I try to keep my viewing to twice a month to avoid judgment, but no promises.  And fair warning, if you ever watch it with me, you better be prepared: I will quote the entire thing.  Great moments are born from great opportunity...

N: Newman Center.  I attended Catholic schools from the time I was in Kindergarten until the time I graduated high school, but I don't think I learned about true faith until I became an active member of the Newman Center on campus.  For the first time in my life, Church was a choice - one that was completely up to me.  I spent my freshman year a silent observer in the back rows at Mass.  A friend finally convinced me to attend a retreat with him during my sophomore year, and I could not thank him enough for doing so.  I listened to some incredible stories of faith that finally seemed real and alive to me, and eventually even ended up sharing my own stories.  The Newman Center was a safe haven brimming with worship, exciting events, delicious food, study tables, comfortable couches, and people I could trust with any secret. 

O: Otters.  They're by far my favorite animal, a passion I share with one of my favorite people.  How can anyone look at even a picture of an otter and not smile?  Let's face it: they're just stinkin' adorable.

P: Panama City Beach.  Two college spring break trips.  Two perfect weeks surrounded by the people who meant the most to me, enjoying life to the absolute fullest.  Life is never going to be that simple again, no doubt about it.  But when I think freedom, when I think happiness, when I think college - I go back to the sand-covered condo floor, 10am margaritas, balcony chats, closet beds, Spinnaker, and my best friends.  I go back to PCB.

Q: Quotes.  It's a guilty pleasure.  I try to be a writer, to manipulate the words in exactly the right way to fully express a thought or emotion, but I'm no professional.  So I rely on the experts, the ones with the magic touch to find the words that hit me such a way that I can do nothing but stop and stare at them, re-read them, whisper them to myself, and write them on pretty pieces of paper to hang on my wall.  I can't get it right, but I love finding when someone else can.

R: Random Roommates.  Many times in life, I can look back and say that something particularly good or bad happened because of a specific choice that I made.  This though...this was completely out of my hands.  It's the classic story that makes you sick with the pure cheesiness of it all: the random roommates who should have hated each other, but somehow found a way for their opposite personalities to balance one another out until they were the kind of friends that you never saw separated from one another.  Yes, that's us.  And no, I wouldn't have traded it for the world.

S: Snail Mail.  It is absolutely the most underrated form of communication.  I wish more people believed that.

T: Teaching.  The best decision I ever made in my life was changing my major from pre-dentistry to education.  I consider every day, every hour, every moment I get to spend teaching to be an incredible blessing.  I treasure the times I am able to connect with a student, and the times I know I have made a difference.  I value the lessons I learn from my students along the way.  Teaching is always an adventure, and I can honestly say I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life on this adventure.

U: Umbrellas.  Perhaps it isn't the umbrellas themselves that I love.  In fact, you'll rarely see me use one.  I am, however, a complete sucker for a good rainy day.  Ideally, it would be a day snuggled up in comfy clothes with a good book, empty journal pages, or a favorite movie.  Of course, it never hurts to have someone to snuggle up with too!  Thunder and lightning are an added bonus, especially as I tuck myself into bed at night.  There is never a more perfect lullaby than a strong storm.

V: Vocabulary.  Few things disturb me as much as hearing people use the words "gay" or "retarded" to mean "stupid."  Please, go ahead and use both of these terms in the appropriate context, but if you use them to mean "stupid" it won't be long before you hear me quietly remind you to "pick a new word."  It's hurtful and unacceptable, but it won't change unless we are willing to dig a little deeper for a more accurate word.  And while you're perusing that dictionary, it wouldn't hurt to learn the difference between your/you're and their/they're/there. 

W: Waterpark.  Raging Waves, the place where I spend most of my waking hours during the summers.  It started out as a summer job, something that I would quickly leave behind, but it has become pretty clear to me that I am destined to be a "lifer."  The job can be absolute hell: cranky customers, crankier employees, hot hours spent next to a fryer or under the scorching sunshine, constant shortages of pretzels and hot dog condiments, blisters upon blisters, and a shirt that smells like funnel cake batter even as it comes out of the dryer.  But I have met the absolute most incredible people at this job, people I would never have come into contact with otherwise.  They have taught me to laugh through the hard times and they have been the ones to buy me a cold one when there's just no getting over it.  They're the ones I run to with the greatest and worst news.  They keep me honest and they keep me sane.  They celebrate with me and encourage me.  They're my volleyball teammates and my drinking buddies, my funnel cakes boys and my ice cream girls, my otter half and my boyfriend, my coffee companions and dance partners.  They're my fellow slaves.  They've become so much more than co-workers; we're a family.

X: I'm going to stretch this one a bit and say this X stands for the Xs on my To Do lists.  Lists.  I love em.  I make them almost daily, and sometimes multiple lists are made in a single day.  Obviously, crossing things off the list is the best part, so I have been known to make the number one thing on my lists be "Make list" so that at least one thing can be crossed off right away.  It helps to establish at least a false sense of accomplishment.

Y: Young.  At this point in my life, I often feel as if I am being thrust into grown-up life at an alarming rate: ready or not, here it comes.  Every once in a while, I force myself to take breather from the search for the dream job, to put aside the to do lists, to ignore the achy back from bending over student work all day.  I remind myself that I am still young, that I have plenty of time to get it right, and that I should enjoy where I am instead of always trying to get to the next big thing.  I make a point to appreciate where I am now before it becomes nothing but a memory.

Z: Zumba.  Easily my favorite method of exercise.  I like to believe that I'm good at it, but let's be honest - I probably look pretty ridiculous out there.  Regardless, it is time I love to spend with my mom, a time to put away the cell phone and the computer for a while, and a time when I can look and act absolutely insane and no one will judge me.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thank you, slicers!

Once again, it seems, I have no words to say.  This "Slice of Life" challenge is over, and I'm still deciding where this blog should go from here.  As it is, I've been inspired, challenged, and encouraged in ways I never dreamed imaginable, and I could not be more thankful for that.  I have found an incredible community here and I hope to return to it in the future.  Likewise, I hope to continue writing.  I love the way it creates a place for me to vent, to question, or to celebrate.  This has been an incredible experience for me.

Thank you from the very bottom of my heart to all who have been involved.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

No Words

I'm a words person.  Reading, writing, quotes, lyrics, movie lines...I eat, drink, and breathe words.  It's always been this way for me, so it really throws me off when I'm facing a situation where words are useless.  Having no words to make it better or make it make sense makes me feel lost.

But there are no words when your 21 year old brother calls you sobbing so hard you can't understand a word he's saying.  There are even fewer words when you realize he's telling you that the 19 year old sister of a close friend has just lost her battle to cancer.  And there will be even fewer words when I face that friend in a funeral home next week.

All I can say is I am so glad God knows how to listen to hearts.  Hearts don't need words.  Even as my brain continues to search fruitlessly, I know my prayers are being heard in their purest form.  I ask that you add your own prayers - words optional - to mine for this incredible family who will need them so very much in this difficult time.

Rest in Peace, Faith.

Friday, March 29, 2013


We tend to make a big deal out of "lasts".  We celebrate or mourn them, but we seem to have a innate desire to recognize them no matter what emotions they evoke.  We have parties when someone retires, graduates, moves - the last time they will ever be a part of a certain community.  We have bachelor and bachelorette parties - the last night being single (kind of).  We rejoice in last payments, and say tearful goodbyes.  We take a moment to watch as these moments pass.

Today, though, I took some time to think about the "lasts" that we don't expect.  The last kiss, not knowing a breakup was coming.  The last day you saw her healthy, not expecting a diagnosis.  The last time you visited a place, not realizing you would never return.  Maybe it's a little sad that it wasn't recognized at the time for what it was.  Then again, maybe not.  Maybe it's better that we treated that moment normally, so we could remember it how it truly was.  It wasn't over-emphasized or forced, it existed in its most natural state.

Does the question of whether or not a last was recognized make difference in its significance?  I'm not sure.  Either way, it seems, lasts are always something to be remembered.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Summer :)

I'm a summer girl.  Always have been, always will be.  I was thinking today about how ready I am for winter to be over and for it to be summertime, and I just really wanted to share a few of my favorite things about summer:

  • Being barefoot
  • Pool time
  • My summer job at a water park - and the greatest co-workers in the world
  • Reading in the porch
  • Sunglasses of every shape and color
  • Rarely dressing up, wearing makeup, or doing my hair
  • Bonfires
  • My little brother (and friends) coming home from school
  • Starry skies
  • Summer fruits being in season
  • Driving with the windows down and the radio blasting
  • Ice cream
  • Bike rides
  • Bike rides to get ice cream
  • Fireworks
  • Having no idea what day it is
I could really go on all day, but making this list has gotten me even more excited.  It won't be long now :)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Go On, Brag a Little

I'm going to be very frank here.  I think it's sad that we feel such pressure to be modest all the time.  I understand that over-confidence is annoying and unattractive, but sometimes, I really think we deserve a chance to brag, and that's okay.  So here I go.

I planned a really awesome inquiry lesson about bird beaks on Friday.  The kids (and I) absolutely loved it, and they really did learn things from it!  It was a huge success!

Also on Friday, the selective mute child in our class spoke to me six different times!  I haven't had him speak to me six times in an entire semester!  It was so awesome to hear his voice!

I went jeans shopping the other day and bought a size smaller than I normally do.  All this hard work is paying off!

My zumba instructor complimented me on my dancing last week.  From someone who dances for a living, I'm going to take that as a huge compliment!

I got seven comments on yesterday's post!  How awesome is that?!

Okay, I'm done now, thank you for putting up with me.

What would you like to share?  Go on, brag a little!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Little Heroes

It seems strange to think about children who have to fight for their lives.  We think about kids as the epitome of life itself - full of energy, questions, and hope.  Unfortunately, not every kid is so lucky.

When I was in college, I had a crazy passion for a student organization called Dance Marathon.  DM is a year-long effort to raise money to help the kids in the pediatric oncology (kids' cancer) unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.  Much of the money raised by the organization goes to research efforts to put an end to this terrible disease.  Most of the money, however, goes towards directly helping the families that have fallen in its shadow.  Families receive care packages with parking vouchers, restaurant gift cards, and toiletry items.  Rooms are stocked with things to keep the kids entertained during their (sometimes very long) stays at the hospitals - including books, TVs, game systems, toys, coloring books, etc.  Perhaps most importantly, DM sends volunteers into the unit on a daily basis to help provide a support system to these families when they need it the most.  The organization puts on an event every February where participants who have raised at least $400 come to show their support for our kiddos.  The event is a 24-hour Dance Marathon, where participants do not sit, sleep, or consume caffeine to show that they are fighting right along with the kids.  It's an incredible event - full of laughter and tears, and, of course, plenty of dancing.  It is quite possibly my favorite 24 hours of the year, and every bit of it is "FTK" - for the kids.

These children are the bravest fighters.  They face countless painful treatments and procedures, days on end in a hospital bed, time away from family and friends, and a loss of normalcy, yet they never seem to lose that smile or that hope.  When I hear their stories, all I can think is "It's not fair."  When they tell their stories, they laugh and joke and inform us of how they will beat this evil cancer.  They are my heroes, and they have taught me so much about life and how to live it.  Today, I got some bad news about two kiddos very close to my heart.  I ask you to keep all of the kids and families who have to go through this in your thoughts and prayers.  I don't think I know anyone who deserves or needs it more.

Today, I just wanted to give a little shout out to a few of these fighters.
Addison - Your bravery inspires me every day.  You keep fighting, we'll keep praying.
Kirsten - You did it!  You kicked cancer and I could not be more happy for you!  I'm sorry your hair did not grow back pink as you had hoped, but I cannot even tell you how good it is to see your happy, smiling, healthy little face.
Connor - You're a trooper, dude.  And such a stud, too.  Stay strong, stay healthy, stay awesome.
Faith - Oh honey, you broke my heart today.  The battles never seem to end for you.  Know that my prayers are always with you and your family.  We all love you.
Dax - I never had the chance to meet you, but I do miss you.  Thank you for inspiring us all with your story.  Rest in peace sweet baby.
Dillyn - You never gave up, and taught me to do the same.  Thank you.

Last year, DM raised $1,529,650.19, bringing their 19 year total to over $12.7 million.  I'd love to encourage anyone who is interested to visit the University of Iowa Dance Marathon's website: www.dancemarathon.org