Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Bittersweet 2009

I have been thinking about this post for awhile now, as I think about the past year. I will always remember 2009 as a bittersweet year. I had the best day of my life and the worse day of my life. I experienced the worse failure and one of the best triumphs of my life. All within one year. So here it, in all honesty, holding nothing back, 2009:

At the beginning of the past 3 years I have gone down to Florida to do the breast cancer walk with my grandma. I loved spending time with her, taking a break from the cold and sharing in the special event. I almost didn't go this year because of student teaching, but I made it down very last minute. I am glad I did.
Breast Cancer 5k Walk in West Palm Beach, Fl.
Me, Grandma, Mom, Uncle Tom and Judy

In January I started student teaching. I went into this experience with high hopes and much excitement as this would be the last part of the teacher licensure program at The University of Richmond. I was ready to graduate and become an art teacher. My first placement was at a title 1 elementary school in a rough part of town. Most of the students came from broken homes with parents who did little parenting. 95% of the students were on free and/or reduced lunch and breakfast. To say the students were a challenge is a huge understatement. To make matters worse my cooperating teacher who I was working with had never had a student teacher before. Instead of helping me (which I desperately needed) she watched old episodes of Lost on her laptop. This experience ended up being horrible, I couldn't get the students under control, I couldn't get them to listen to me and I couldn't keep up. I am not pushing all the blame on my cooperating teacher or my supervisor from UofR, which was my first response. I could have done a lot differently as well. I was planning a wedding and working a part time job at the same time. I didn't have enough time and energy to put into student teaching, I was being pulled in 200 different directions. By the end of the first placement I was ready to move onto high school. I would be working with a different population of students both demographically and developmentally. This did not come to be, as I was pulled from the program. I can't believe I am writing this, but yes I was told in a meeting with my supervisor and field placement director that I would not be moving onto my second placement. I was shocked, confused and angry all at the same time. I just remember crying and feeling like the biggest failure ever. I couldn't believe it. I was told I could finish student teaching in the fall if I did some observing and retook a class over the summer. After a lot of soul searching I decided I wanted to finish the program. I told UofR that I wanted to complete the program and do all the extra work that was involved. At that point I was still not 100% sure I wanted to teach, but I wanted to give it another try. I felt God had called me to teaching, and now looking back I can see how this experience will make me a better teacher. I can see I was becoming a teacher who did the bare minimum and was not passionate about her subject or students. This was definitely a wake up call, and I am finally at a place where I can truthfully say I am glad this situation happened. It took me a long time to come to that place, where I could look back and take positive things away from that school. For a long time I was bitter and mad at my cooperating teacher and supervisor for not stepping up and helping me more. For not being a good example of what a great teacher is. But, I have learned from this experience, it will always be with me and I will always remember the type of teacher I want to be because of it.

I soon switched from teacher to wedding planner. At this point I had about a month left until I got married. I had my bridal shower and bachelorette party, both were fantastic.
Bachelorette Party

My Bridal Shower

On April 4 I married my best friend. It was the best day of my life. I know that is cliche, but it's true. All of the most important people in my life were there. I looked and felt beautiful and everything was perfect. We ended up having great weather, sunny and warm. I definitely had a fairytale wedding. We got married at our church and had the reception at The Dominion Club. I couldn't have asked for a better day.

Me and Clarke, Our Wedding Day

After our wedding we went on our honeymoon to Martinique. This was amazing. We stayed at a Club Med resort, which I highly recommend. Our room was right on the beach and the food was so great. We did have some trouble getting there, with a detour to Puerto Rico. Someone on our connecting flight from Miami to San Juan brought a knife on the plane. I guess they found it somewhere, so everyone had to deboard and they searched the plane. By the time that was done and we got to the San Juan airport we had missed our connecting flight to Martinique. There was only one flight that left from San Juan to Martinique everyday, so we were stuck in San Juan, Puerto Rico for a whole day. We were pretty bummed but it ended up being fine. Once we got to the resort in Martinique it was great. This was definitely one of the best trips of my life.
Martinique, Our Honeymoon

We also moved into our apartment. We waited until we were married to move into together, so this was really exciting.
Our First Place

In May I got my hair cut off. I donated 10 inches to Locks of Love. It was a big adjustment, but I am glad I did it. I think when my hair grows out I will do it again. Me and Clarke also got to go to the Outer Banks with his family. Althought it was really cold and windy we still had a good time and managed to get some beach time in.
Me and Clarke, Outer Banks

Over the summer I retook a classroom management class, went camping, made it down to Florida again and went to Baltimore and Roanoke. I also learned how to play golf. Well started to learn. I still have a long way to come, but it's fun and I really enjoy it. I have noticed a lot of similarities to gymnastics in golf. The controlling of your body and discipline is needed in both sports. I also like that this is a sport I can play for the rest of my life, unlike gymnastics.
The Hollows Golf Course

Roanoke Star

Baltimore, Inner Harbor, Visiting Dad

At the end of July we got Betty. It seems like we have had her for so much longer than just 5 months. I can't imagine not having her, she has really become a member of our family.
Betty, The Day We Adopted Her

Also towards the end of July I went to Florida yet again. My grandma, who I was very close to had been sick for some time. My aunt decided to throw her a surprise birthday party, her birthday was the week before. My dad came from Baltimore, my whole family came from Virginia and my cousin came from Maryland. All of her children and grandchildren were there. She said it was the best day of her life, I bet about 100 people were at her party.
Grandma's 78th Birthday Party

After the party we went back to her place and spent some time together. About 20 minutes after we left we got a call saying she had passed away. This ended up being the worse day of my life.

I was very close to my grandma, and loved her very much. I miss her so much and wish she was still here. She taught me so much about life, God, perseverance, love and family. She helped me become the person I am today. I still can't believe that she is gone. She overcame a lot in her life as she had four different types of cancer: breast, lung, colon and liver. She never gave up hope and had the most positive attitude throughout all of the chemo treatments. She lived every day of her life to the fullest. She had an amazing faith in God. She never stopped trying new things. She loved her family so much and was the glue that held us all together. This was a really hard time for my family, and I know we are not over it. I probably gained about 10 pounds that month, just eating out of sadness. I honestly don't know when I will be able to talk about her without tears coming to my eyes. All I can say is I am so grateful for having her in my life. I don't know many people who were as close to their grandma as I was. I am a better person for having her in my life.

In the fall I finally finished student teaching. I was at my high school placement and I absolutely loved it. I had the best cooperating teacher ever. I went into that placement scared to death of teaching. I was so unsure of myself, unsure if teaching was for me. Throughout my 2 months there God confirmed that teaching is my calling. I was made to be a teacher. I have such a heart for young people and a passion for sharing art with them.
Page's Clay Vessel

In October me and Clarke went apple picking at Carter's Mountain. We also went to Rocky Mount and Clarke played his great uncle Bob in the ghost and more tour. My sister in law Melanie played her great aunt Anna. I took pictures.
Melanie, Clarke and Me in Rocky Mount

Our first holiday season as a married couple was great. We spent Thanksgiving at my mom's and did Christmas with both families. We were busy, but it was nice to have so many people to share it with.
Thanksgiving at Mom's

Christmas Eve at Clarke's Parent's House

I also just turned 26. It is my lucky year, 26 on the 26th. I went to Dave and Busters with my friends and of course Clarke to celebrate.
Lori, Me and Rebecca at Dave and Busters

So there it is, 2009.
A wedding and a funeral.
 Failure and success.
Joy and pain.
All rolled together.
A bittersweet year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

One Year Older

I'm officially 26 years old now. For some reason 26 seems so much older than 25, maybe because its closer to 30. When I was younger I had an image in my head of what my life should look like by the time I was this age. And although it doesn't I am still pretty happy about where I am. I have come to realize that putting a time limit on my goals can be a good thing, but that sometimes there are circumstances that are out of my control which can effect them. (Mainly the economy). That doesn't mean I am going to give up. My pastor recently gave a sermon about waiting, and he said that it is a cultural thing to think that we need a certain job, or marriage, or a house by the time we are a certain age. I think he is right.

So with that said I am ready for another year of my life. I am hoping to have a full time teaching job by this time next year, but I know that is ultimately up to God. So here's to another year, I am going to make the most of it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A X-Mas To Remember

This was our first Christmas together, and it was so great. I feel very blessed by all the many family and friends I have in my life. The past 2 days have been filled with yummy food, great company and a lot of present opening.

We spent Christmas eve night with Clarke's family. First, we went to our church's service which was beautiful as always. Then we had a huge Christmas feast at his parent's house with his family as well as his grandma and aunt and uncle. I made the green beans, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. It was my first time making the green beans and pumpkin pie, so I was nervous, but they both came out great. (The secret with the pumpkin pie is half and half, instead of condensed milk, which most recipes call for, it makes it creamier). After dinner we opened gifts with Clarke's family. I got totally spoiled.

Me and Clarke spent Christmas morning together with Betty. I made some chocolate chip muffins and we opened gifts. It was really nice and we just enjoyed each other's company. Betty got a cat jungle gym, which she loves.

Afterwards we went to my mom's house. We opened even more gifts. Me and Clarke got a beautiful nativity. I absolutely love it. I can't wait for next Christmas to enjoy it all season long. I helped my mom make dinner and then I ate way too much again.

I am so thankful for everything and everyone in my life which has made this Christmas so special. The only person who is missing is my grandma. As many of you know she passed away this summer. Nothing can ever replace the love she gave me or the sound of her voice telling me Merry Christmas. I wish she was here with me, or I could at least talk with her on the phone. I know she is in heaven right now, dancing away and has no more pain. (I will post more about her soon).  She is not just celebrating the birth of our savior, but is with Him.

Tomorrow is my 26th birthday. Can't wait for more time with my friends and family. I am so blessed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Favorite

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is our annual girls Christmas dinner. This was the 5th time we have done it and it's always so much fun. All 8 of us dress up and go out to a nice dinner together. This year we went to Avenue 805, it was really good.

I have known all of these girls, except one since I was twelve years old. Some even earlier from girl scouts, and one was in my third grade class. I am so blessed to still be so close with all of them.

At the end we always go around and take turns predicting what is going to happen in the coming year. It's fun to see what everyone thinks, what we hope for, and to dream of the possibilities. This year we wrote it down since we always forget.

I love Christmas time, all the parties and events. This one has always been a favorite, and I know it always will be. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowy Day Pics

Winter Wallop

Here I am sitting in my family room looking out the window at a foot of snow! A foot of snow in Virgina! I was suppose to go to work today, but decided risking my life wasn't worth it. I had to work last night and when I got off at 8 it took me 35 minutes to get home (It normally takes me 15). There were a bunch of cars stuck in the highway, just sitting there. The snow is still coming down right now, it is so pretty!

Betty is freaking out, she won't stop meowing. I think she is so confused about what all this white stuff is outside. It is her first snow!!

This just in: a blizzard warning!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kittens and Oil Paint Don't Mix Well

Betty is very curious, as most kittens are. She gets into anything and everything. So why did I think my oil painting would be any different? I painted it as a gift for my mom the other day, and I monitored Betty the whole time I was doing it. She didn't seem to interested in it and I was happy about that.

First, let me say that our apartment is the worse place for painting. There is no room to spread out all my supplies, not a lot of light, and there is no room to put the painting once it is finished (which is bad since oils take a minimum of a week to dry, unlike most other paints). Since Betty didn't seem to interested in it I left it out to dry.

Last night was Clarke's office Christmas party. We had a great time, ate great food, drank great wine and chatted with great people. When we came home we were in a great mood, that quickly changed. I noticed blue paint on the carpet, blue paint on the table, blue paint on the chair, blue paint on a pillow! NO! I was sooo upset. I picked up Betty and saw two of her paws were blue.

Clarke said we could clean it up, but I told him this is oil paint, its not like acrylic, its not water based, it's impossible to get out. He googled it and found that the solvent I use to clean my brushes could be used to clean the carpet. Makes sense, I am so lucky to have a husband who is calm in these situations, unlike me. Since the table and chairs are hard surfaces I could wipe the paint off. So we cleaned up the carpet, wiped off the tables and chairs, and cleaned off a relentless kitty's paws. The pillow is the only thing that was ruined. Since the painting was still wet I blended it back to its original status.

I ended up storing my painting in the back of my CRV, that is the only place it will be safe, that I can think of for now. I guess I need to find somewhere better to paint, and remember that Betty is still a kitten in the future. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Nester Christmas Tour of Homes

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

I thought this was the cutest idea when I saw it on a recent blog. Click on the image above to see a huge list of other people's homes decorated for Christmas. Below is mine, enjoy!

This is out first Christmas being married and living together. So, we don't have many Christmas decorations, but I love all the ones we have so far.

When you walk in the first thing you see is our tree. I love how it looks all lighted up.

This is my favorite part besides our tree. It is the "mantle". I really wish we had a real mantle to decorate, but we don't have a fireplace, so I decided this still would have to do for now.

I put our Christmas cards on it, and some decorations I bought at the Bizarre Bazzaar this year. I absolutely love our stockings. I bought them at Target with the thought of adding our momograms to them. My friend Rebecca from church, who owns Mimsy's Sister, added the red ribbon and our momograms. I LOVE how they turned out! Here is a detail:

I thought our kitchen needed some Christmas cheer so I hung these ornaments from the top of the stove. So far Betty hasn't knocked any down.

This is a little tree I have had since I can remember. It used to be in my bedroom growing up, now it sits on the bar.

This is the centerpiece for our table. It changes with the seasons. For summer I had seaglass and seashells in in it, for the fall I had little pumpkins and squash, now it has a wintery mix from Pottery Barn.

Last but not least, these glass christmas trees sit on our bookcase in the family room. I filled them with the same ornaments that were in the kitchen.

Hope you enjoyed all the decorations. I know I have enjoyed seeing everyone else's at The Nester.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Love....

I love how Betty gets into all the Christmas decorations:

I love watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation:

I love setting up the Christmas houses with my mom:

I love old ornaments from my childhood:

I love all the tacky lights here in Richmond:

I love celebrating with friends:

I love spending time with my hubby:

What do you love about Christmas?!?

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Christmas Spritz

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is baking spritz cookies with my mom. It was never really Christmas to me until I ate one of them. They are pretty easy to make, and I just made a batch today.

I love how they are so colorful! Here is the recipe below:

Christmas Spritz Cookies:

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Blend in remaining ingredients. Divide dough into desired parts; add food coloring and blend till reaching desired color. Fill cookie press with 1/4 of dough at a time; form desired shapes on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 6 minutes or until set but not brown.
Enjoy! For more great christmas recipes visit: Kelly's Korner.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

God is Big

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

I truly believe that God is big. He is bigger than the economy; He is bigger than me and you. He does things that we thought would never happen, could never happen. I have seen it in my life, so many times already, and I am waiting for it to happen again.

I am in a season of waiting right now, when it comes to my career. I know God has called me to be a teacher and I am not settling for anything less. I know finding a job is not going to be easy, but the journey to getting my teaching license was not easy either. God has made it clear that He will always provide for us, take care of His people, but we must be willing to take the risk and wait. There it is, risk and wait. Who wants to do that? I know I don’t, but I know the end results that come from those two things and so with God’s help I move forward and take risks and wait.

I take risks when I substitute. I am a person who likes schedules, knowing what is going to happen and when. I hate the unknown of subbing. I don’t know what I will be doing, I don’t know when I will be eating lunch, and worse of all I don’t know how the students will behavior. I have been doing a lot of subbing at a semi-challenging middle school lately. Sometimes the students are great, and last time I had to call an administrator. But, everyone says subbing is the key in, and I am making great contacts, so with God’s help I forge on.

I am waiting. I am waiting for God to give me an opportunity. I am waiting for God to show me where I need to be. Waiting is so hard, but I can already see how God is using this time to work in me and orchestrate things. In Isaiah 40:28-31 it talks about waiting. Specifically how God gives you strength that you couldn’t have obtained otherwise and how you gain new and much needed perspective while you wait. I can see both those things happening in my life now.

I am thankful for the many blessings God has already given me in my life, and I am thankful for the ones I know He is going to give me as well. But, most of all I am thankful I serve a God who is Bigger than this world.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Time

"You are very Richmond if you are hoping heaven is a cross between the Jefferson Hotel and the Bizarre Bazaar." ~Style Weekly

Yesterday my mom and I went to the Bizarre Bazaar. It became a tradition three years ago when she took me for the first time. It has been rated as one of the top five craft shows in the nation, and it should be because it is amazing. It took us half an hour to get it in, waiting in line to buy our tickets. It was worth it though. We now know where all the good vendors are and which ones we have to go to. After 6 hours of shopping we were done. I left with these beautiful red glitter Christmas trees:

Also, this cute little reindeer:

And some much needed mistletoe:

Afterwards Clarke and I went to the Grand Illumination at the James Center. It was the first time we had gone, and they were making a big to do about it here in Richmond. It was really neat though, to see downtown become lighted up all at once. The reindeer were beautiful as always. Here are some pics:

I am really enjoying all the Christmas things going on here in Richmond. On a side note I was suppose to go to Baltimore this weekend to visit my dad. He has the swine flu and is really sick. Please keep him in your prayers. Thanks!