one little word.

A year ago, I knew there would be hardships in 2013. My grandpa’s health was very poor and a number of Josh’s relatives were also struggling. I thought hard about what would help me get through what I knew was coming and some things I didn’t anticipate; I decided my one little word for 2013 would be FAITH.

While my original intention was to explore my faith in terms of my relationship with God, the word took on new meanings as I continued through the year. I found myself giving up the feeling that I needed to be in control of everything for it to work out how I wanted; I started having faith in those around me to do what they were supposed to. In my personal relationships, I had faith in others supporting decisions I made and trusting them to work out how I did. I had faith that the students who made me crazy would eventually get it, even if I didn’t get to see it happen. My trust in people grew, and it caused my faith in destiny and good things happening to people who are genuinely good to grow as well.

It worked. It got me through rough patches and times of greatness. I felt lighter because of it.

But over the last few weeks, I’ve tried to really reflect. Did I do everything I sought to do when it came to FAITH in 2013? Did I choose this word a year ago because I thought it sounded nice and that it would maybe be something I’d jump on board with over the course of the next twelve months? Did I push myself to grow in a way that I should have at an age where growth is okay awesome? During the last 365 days, I did FAITH, but I did it the easy way. The passive way.

What I really need in 2014, not just in my faith journey, but in every aspect of my life is to be more active. I don’t mean exercising (although that will also be part of my year). I mean choosing to do something and really doing it. With work. With family. With friends. With Josh.

I decided on my one little word for the next year before looking up the definition. After seeing all aspects of it, I’m even more confident that it fits perfectly for where I want to be after the next 365 days: 

Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 9.23.55 AMHere’s to full COMMITment in all aspects of my life in 2014!

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For more information about One Little Word, click here.

For my 2013 post, click here: faith

For my 2012 post, click here: cherish and here: cherish reflection

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faith : my one little word for 2013.

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It took me a while to decide what I want my focus for the next year to be. I predict that there will be some struggles that come my way over the course of the twelve months to come, and I tried to find the perfect word to get me through them.

While “strength” or something like it would have probably worked, I decided to go with something that I thought would truly help me be strong at the end of the year. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I’ve lost my relationship with my faith in the past couple years, and there’s no better time than the present to get it back.

I’m looking forward to the next year. While I know there will be trying times, I’m excited to reflect on my experiences in 365 days and remember all of the good things that came my way.

I have faith that I will be a better person after everything that 2013 will bring me. And I’m excited for the journey.

cherish : a reflection on 2012.

A year ago, I decided to follow in the footsteps of many bloggers whose thoughts I read frequently. They all embraced an attitude shift at the start of a new year instead of the tangible resolutions most people attempt. I chose to have cherish be my guiding force through a year that I knew would include a lot of change.

I could not be happier with how successful it was.

At the beginning of January, I was an official graduate of Marquette, a university that had transformed me from a girl who looked at the sidewalk as she walked to class into a woman who smiled at strangers walking down the street. I was a brand new alumna of Pi Phi, an organization that helped me understand the true meaning of friendship. And I was unemployed. Because that’s what happens when you graduate in December with a teaching degree.

But I had a long-term gig lined up starting in June. I’d spend the summer living in Tulsa and the next two years living in Kansas City. I knew I needed to enjoy all my time with everyone here for the few months I had left and I’d figure out how to make it work once I left.

About two months into the year, I started apartment hunting. During the nine hour drive I had a “come to Jesus” moment and realized I was running away from the type of happiness I was always hoping I’d find when I picked up and moved to some place far away after reaching real adulthood. I told the folks in charge that I changed my mind, and when telling people at home that I was going to stay a Sconnie, I hid behind a million reasons that made me sound like the independent woman I always claimed to be. In actuality, a really close friend brought me back to reality and helped me realize that it would be silly to move 500 miles away from the kind of love I’d been dreaming about for years to have a job that I could get anywhere (thanks, T).

Fast forward to August, crying on the couch with all the lights off as I tell a cat and dog that I’m going to be unemployed forever. It wasn’t my finest moment. But forty job applications and ten interviews with “you were a really close runner-up” results will do that to a person. There is a part of me that believes if I hadn’t had cherish getting me through, I’d have stopped applying for jobs and tried to adopt stay-at-home-mom status with my two furry friends. But instead, I found the positive in each experience and kept moving forward.

Thank the lord.

Two weeks before school started, I got a blessing of a phone call. Not only do I work with amazing and encouraging people every day in classrooms filled with students who make me happier than they could probably ever realize, but I walk the halls that my grandpa did as a teacher for 27 years. Hearing stories about him from people who had him as a teacher or colleague is what gets me through the hardest days, and I am so grateful to have that.

I’m starting 2013 happier than the average 23-year-old living in a small town in the Midwest probably is. I 100% believe that it’s because of the attitude shift I sought a year ago. I am so much more focused on the good of the present moment than I used to be, and I’m completely looking forward to everything that continues to bring over the next twelve months.

Happy (belated) new year!

one little word.

I started using the one little word” concept in 2012 instead of attempting any sort of New Year’s resolutions.

It was fantastic. And much more effective than any sort of specific goal has ever been for me.

I decided to use this concept for an assignment with my seniors. I was hoping a few of them would come up with good words after reading through the idea and that maybe one of those few would actually use it for some deep reflection and take it forward in 2013. It might seem silly to consider 1/63 a success, but I like to prepare myself to not be disappointed.

I couldn’t believe the words they came up with!

A number of them were absent the day we did this (because of some serious weather issues), and we had a snow day on the day they were going to write their short essay about why they chose the words they did. However, as a starting point, I’m so unbelievably happy and excited about where this could go.

I created a Wordle with the words of the students who were actually there so that they can see what their classmates chose. For anyone who doesn’t know how Wordle works, words appear larger as they’re typed more frequently. Those that are bigger in the image were typed in the most times.

I told them that “cherish” was my word for 2012 and wrote a sample essay for them about why I chose the word I did for 2013. I plan to write a more thorough reflection on how cherish impacted my year as a whole and explain my goals for the next twelve months in the next few days.

I’m excited for a few days of Christmas celebration, especially now that we have snow on the ground. I haven’t really embraced the typical December attitude, so I’m hoping that we can make it happen in full force over the course of the next few days. Lots of Christmas music playing at our house from here on out!

looking forward.

For the past few months I was working as a long-term substitute teacher in a small district in Southeastern Wisconsin. I absolutely loved it.

I had my first group of kids who were (almost) my students, and for the first time had to figure out a classroom/curriculum truly on my own. I’m so glad to have had this experience to transition rather than just being tossed into the deep end during my first year teaching. Add it to the list of reasons I’m grateful for my decision to graduate in December instead of May.

I’ve been subbing back in old territory for three days, and even though I enjoy my time here, I cannot possibly describe how much I miss everyone in that building. I wish there was a way for me to express as much gratitude as I feel to the students and faculty I met this spring. Here’s hoping our paths cross again one day… and not just on Facebook!

One positive did come out of me leaving, though. It proved  how ready I am for a more permanent gig. I don’t want to keep saying goodbye to everyone just as I’m getting to know them. Fingers crossed that full-time employment is just around the corner!

change in plans.

I think I’ve told most people in my life I needed to about my new “plan” for the future. Up until a week ago, I was going to move to Kansas City, MO to teach for two years. I was accepted to a program that puts teachers in communities across the country that need energetic people. I loved the idea of moving to a city that was comparable to the Milwaukee I grew to love over the past few years, and I loved the idea of knowing I didn’t have to face the reality of the real world until 2014.

I also liked the idea of running away. For the past three years, I’ve faced a number of challenges here that made me want to pick up and leave. I wanted to be able to start a new life by myself where nobody had a clue who I was. I wanted to leave everything behind. I wanted to create a happiness that I felt I was faking for the benefit of everyone around me. I had adopted a mentality (probably not the healthiest choice ever) that I needed to get the heck out of dodge to have a genuine smile and laugh on a daily basis. I had told myself in 2009 that I needed to run, and that idea had turned itself into everything I lived by.
In the past few weeks, I had a revelation: I didn’t know what I was running from anymore.
I realized that I’ve been happier than I thought possible over the course of the last year. I’ve taken ownership of a life that I’ve dreamed of for what seems like forever, and I’ve begun to create everything I wanted. Here. In Wisconsin. Who would’ve thought?
Long story short, I started to panic. What the heck was I doing trying to run away to something that might not be as good as what I’ve started to lay the foundation for here? I went to visit Kansas City thinking maybe being there again would re-energize my desire to go there for a while, knowing I could always come back afterwards if I wanted to. But I hated every second of it. I know that’s not the most positive attitude, but all that hate and anxiety made me realize I didn’t need to run away. I could be here. I could figure out what to do with my life because I want to, and I don’t need to worry about everyone else’s thoughts on the entire process. It took a lot for me to make the big girl decision, but holy smokes did I feel good afterwards.

I’m not quite sure where I’ll be working next year. I might not for a few months. I don’t know what city I’ll be living in. I don’t know anything really. But the one thing I do know is this: I made a choice for me, for my own happiness, and I am so unbelievably excited to see where it brings me.
I’ll keep cherishing. Because I love being a Sconnie. And I love being happy. But what I love even more is the idea of continuing that happiness in Wisconsin.

a calling.

I’ve had this weird realization lately: I’m outrageously blessed.

I don’t mean this in the “I have so many opportunities that others don’t have” kind of way. And I don’t mean it in a “I grew up in a community with a family where I was made aware that I could do anything in the world I wanted to” kind of way. I don’t mean it in a “I’ve been to Disney World/Disneyland/on Disney Cruises seven-ish times and some kids only dream of going there once” kind of way…. Don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously grateful for all of those things and a million more that have gotten me to this point.
I mean I’m blessed that I know exactly what I want to do with my life. I’ve always known. I was put on this big, beautiful planet of ours to be in school forever. I’d say I’m not supposed to be taking tests every day, not supposed to be the one doing the learning between bells. But that would be a lie. I get the opportunity to learn every single day. I get the even better opportunity to learn from people younger than I am. Unfortunately, the majority of those people will always be taller. Perhaps more unfortunately, I will probably always be more innocent/naive than those people too.
It’s hard to explain to everyone who says, “why would you ever want to do that to yourself,” how I feel being in a classroom every day. It’s harder to explain it to people who saw me have a less than stellar attitude about all of my own school work (oops). I often find myself responding with a simple “I love it.” I wish I could help them feel what that really means. I wonder if I’ll ever actually find words to describe how much I loved my life in Room 310 from 7:30am-2:40pm every day this past fall, how much I love my life in random classrooms from 8:20am-3:00pm right now. Maybe I will. Or maybe I’ll just be the lucky one who gets to feel it every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
There is this vivid memory I have of the Dean of the College of Education talking about how teaching is a calling the very first time I saw him in the flesh. At that point, I didn’t know how much of an impact his words of wisdom would have on my life for 3 1/2 years. But I also didn’t truly grasp what this calling was. I kind of did. I knew that I always wanted to teach in some way. I knew that it wasn’t a hard decision to choose a university based on their pre-service teaching program because I was confident I wouldn’t move around anywhere.
What I didn’t know was that I was one of the lucky ones. I had a calling. I got to begin answering this calling at age 18. I get to continue to answer this calling for the rest of my life. As much as I wish I could find words to describe my love for teaching, I wish more I could describe my excitement about now being paid to do something I’ve loved paying to do since Fall 2008.
At this point, I have no idea what my classroom will look like next fall. I have no idea where I’ll be living in six months. To be honest, I’m pretty clueless about my life in general any farther in the future than a week. But for some strange reason, I’m still happy.
I think this is what self-discovery must feel like.