Remember...

In response to yesterday's post, which so many of you sweetly supported me through with your kind words, I wanted to offer encouragement in these times as we have been shown grace and mercy in being alive and with our families tonight. 

Remember...

to tell your family you love them... whenever you can. 
to kiss your spouse goodnight and before they leave in the morning. 
to never, ever hold grudges, because you might not get a chance to make it right. 
to always forgive... and forget. 
to love with a sacrificial love beyond measure, and don't only reserve it for people you like. 
to tell people you appreciate them, and thank them for things they've done. 
to enjoy the simple things in life, and prioritize what really matters. 
to slow down.
to laugh loudly.
to surrender your worries about what might happen into joy over what you do have. 

Remember...

to trust that God will never, ever leave you or forsake you.
that Jesus will walk with you through every step of your battlefield.
that God is faithful.
that God will never give you more than you can handle. 
that God loves you, God answers prayer, and God's plan for you is good. 
that if you love God, Heaven is next, whenever that may be. 
that God knew you before you were born, and your life is for His glory.
that God knows the desire of your hear. 

Remember...

that there are many beautiful, kind and courageous people in this world. 
to treat others the way you want to be treated.
to use your life to make a difference, instead of hiding away in fear.
bad things happen to good people. 
Jesus understands pain, and God's grace is sufficient. 
when you walk with God, you are never alone. 
that every thing, good and perfect, in our lives came from God. 
that we are nothing without Him who created us. 
that God loves you. 

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Praising God in these storms

I may not have children yet, but I understand all too well the pain from the loss of a young child taken unexpectedly. I don't need to have children of my own to comprehend the unfathomable grief that bestows itself during the seemingly infinite time of numbing shock (which inhibits all normal day-to-day functioning)  when personal tragedy has struck.

My heart aches for the families from today's horror in Connecticut because I know what it's like to kiss your family goodbye one moment, and have them ripped from your life the next. To exist only supernaturally when you hear the words for the first time, "They didn't make it," and to lose all sense of rational ability except by being carried from one place to the next by the sheer grace of God. I know what it's like to come home to a house that was once full of warmth and life and love, only to have it be transformed overnight into just a blank interior. I know what it's like to set foot for the first time into a ten year old's bedroom whose bed was left unmade as he hurriedly left for school that morning, and see all of his prized trophies neatly arranged on his shelves, and his dirty clothes in piles on the floor knowing he'll never be home to pick them up. To sit on his bed and sob, staring aimlessly at what will never be again. 

I know what it's like to step into a mother's bedroom where we sat so many nights growing up watching movies, talking about life and boys and friends and school, and to have it be nothing more than an empty shell of what once was. I know what it's like to try and search feverishly over her clothes for the smell of her perfume; for any reminder that will bring her back, even for only a second, so that you can temporarily escape what your new reality is. I know what it's like to have presents wrapped which were never given, even though thought and time was put into your selections. I know what it's like to have to endure each and every holiday and birthday, time and time again, year after year, without reprieve; feeling as though you can finally move on with your life, only to be forced to remember the truth of your circumstances over and over and over and over. I know what it's like to want to call the person you love with news of such a horrible tragedy, only to remember that the horrible tragedy was them.

I know what it's like to desperately want answers, but realizing you'll never have them, and to make a choice, a determined and deliberate choice, that you're going to choose to live a purposeful life instead of being mad at God, mad at the world, and succumbing to debilitating bitterness.

For those families affected by the tragedies that have faced our nation this week, I'm so sorry you have to endure this process-- this aching, unfathomable process. I would never wish tragedy and sudden loss on anyone in this whole world because I am still struggling with the fact that it is in mine. 

Regardless of what type of loss one suffers, whether a senseless act of violence or careless negligence while driving, loss is loss. Nothing-- no matter how hard you try or how much denial and depression you're in-- will bring them back. It's so easy to try and find something or someone to blame-- as if that makes coping with it so much easier. The fact is, I've learned through the loss of my mom and 10 year old brother that nothing we have is ours. This life is not our own; our families are not our own. Everything that we have comes from God, and everything we have is purposed for something to His glory. This world is not our home, and the things we have were given to us by Him. We can try to protect those we love from danger or avoid circumstances because of fear, but if God calls someone when He does, He's doing so for his purpose. I can only imagine that when we have children, having to "let go," if God's plan for us is that, will be more difficult than I could even try and understand. In fact, I hope that we never have to experience that. However, I never thought I would be able to fathom the loss of any of my family members, let alone my mom and brother, and yet that experience is part of my story. God had a purpose in it and it was His purpose that they came "home" when they did. Is God behind acts of violence? Absolutely not. But as someone said earlier, "When those acts of violence have occurred, God is comforting those whom he knit in their mothers' womb protected from evil with Him in Heaven." 

It's important in these times to remember, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." 

In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say, blessed by your name

You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Sometimes, praising the Lord in storms and in grief can be almost unbearable. But even if that's so, we have to. He promises to comfort those who cry out to Him, and to restore what was taken. I can speak with ultimate authority that while I will never understand this side of eternity why my mom and brother died in a senseless tragedy, God has been faithful and blessed my life beyond measure because of his compassion and kindness. He rescued me from an empty path and restored my soul unto Him. And not just me, but everyone who calls upon His name. When loss happened to me, the insurmountable comfort I received through Jesus was that he gave me peace that surpassed understanding because I begged for it, and hope and assurance that I would see my family again in Heaven. That I know is true. 

Nothing can bring back the children and loved ones that were gone all too soon from this Earth in the senseless acts of violence this week, but God WILL meet those families and carry them. Pray blessings of peace and prosperity over the rest of their days, as the enemy will try to continue to try and take more than he already has. He will try and steal their joy, their lives, their marriages, their peace, their prosperity and anything else on this Earth that he can. Pray PROTECTION for these families from the enemies and God's covering and blessing on the remainder of their lives. 

We cannot live in fear of these kinds of tragedies. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and of sound mind." After my mom and Chase died, I had an absolutely crippling fear of driving, travel and icy conditions that deeply hurt our early months of marriage. It wasn't until I fully surrendered that fear over to the Lord and believed in His purpose, plan and provision in my life, that I could heal from what happened to us and surrender our future to Him entirely-- good or bad. 

I have no idea what safety looks like for our future, and for the family we plan to have. But what I do know is that we cannot let the enemy succeed in gripping our lives with fear. What we have is bestowed to us by God to raise, to steward and to use for His glory while we're here on Earth. This is not our home, and our only calling and purpose is to be the hands and feet of Jesus for all of our days. 

I praise God for his grace and mercy that this time around, I can go home to my family and hold them and kiss them and tell them I love them. But I ache for those who can't because I fully understand with all brokeness in my heart what that feels like.

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Long overdue update!

Three months later, things are finally slowing down...

I wanted to write a heartfelt, sincere update for you about the major changes have occurred in my life (and collectively, T's and my life together), because while the opportunities are exciting and I am passionate about what I'm doing, I will definitely need your support!  

So obviously you remember that my teaching position in Hillsboro was eliminated due to budget cuts, and that I held on all summer waiting for something full-time to emerge. Well, it didn't, and so I was left with the option of either continuing to look elsewhere for a full-time teaching positions (which were pretty much obsolete), or go back into the business world like I did prior to teaching. I chose the latter, and was blessed by a good job with an industry standards organization. However, just about the time I took that job, I received opportunity after opportunity to shoot weddings, engagement sessions, family portraits, etc., and my photography business just started growing out of nowhere. I was balancing all of these new photography jobs with my new business job, editing photos, training our new puppy, traveling for work and trying to keep up with all of the responsibilities that come with life and marriage as well. Then, along came Stella & Dot. 

I discovered this fabulous company called Stella & Dot while at my favorite barre workout studio called Xtend Barre. I saw these jewelry pieces that absolutely captivated me-- and were completely my style as if I had designed them myself. 




The quality and craftsmanship that go into each pieces and their design inspiration are unmatched in the industry. The lead designer of Stella & Dot used to be the lead designer for Banana Republic, if that gives any indication into the type of pieces offered in their collection!

So, I naturally felt that I wanted to own them all, but obviously couldn't. That's when the stylist at the event offered to come over and hold a trunk show at my house. She explained that it was where I'd grab a few girlfriends on a Friday night, have some wine and shop from my living room like a pop-up boutique shop. Then, for opening my home up and hosting the event, I would be rewarded with around $250 in free jewelry of my choice from Stella & Dot! It sounded easy enough and just up my alley. :) Friends, shopping, wine and free jewelry.

When I had my trunk show that I co-hosted with my good friend Sara, we had SO much fun. A bunch of girls playing dress up and picking out gorgeous pieces to get and gift was a great way to spend a Friday night. 







So, what did I do after my trunk show? I signed up to become a stylist! I had so much fun and realized that becoming a stylist and holding trunk shows was a really great way to earn a part-time income while sharing Stella & Dot with others and helping women enhance their jewelry wardrobe with versatile pieces instead of having to go out for a new outfit when things feel kind of blah. Needless to say, my business with Stella & Dot took off and soon I was balancing a full-time job with photography jobs, editing, a new puppy, a husband, a home, AND Stella & Dot. I was quickly becoming burnt out and at a fork in my own road. 

I prioritized and asked myself what it was I really loved doing and wanted to do in life. I want to eventually be able to stay home with our kids when we have them, and to be the wife who has dinner ready when my husband gets home and make our house a home like my mom always did growing up. There is no way I would be able to do that with a full-time job, as it has been challenging enough even working 8 - 5 but close to home. Pursuing my passion as a photographer and getting to help style women and even coach them as they launch their own businesses with Stella & Dot has been the biggest reward to me besides teaching. So, earlier this month I decided to resign from my full-time position in order to pursue this new path full-force. 

It's a huge risk. A leap of faith. But one I am SO excited about and hoping for your support in. Your support can be manifested in one of the following ways:

1) Not labeling or judging Stella & Dot as "another one of those home-based businesses," or "home parties," because it is absolutely more than that stigmatized label in so many ways. :) 

2) Not cursing me under your breath every time you log-in to Facebook and see a post about Stella & Dot... I am SO not offended if you choose to hide my statuses, but hope that our friendship & connection is above the urge to "unfriend" me! ;) 

3) Sharing my website or posts with other women in your life who you think might love the jewelry, love to earn free jewelry at a trunk show or might even love to work a part-time job from home or earn an extra side income for fun money. My website is www.stelladot.com/meganlove

4) Hosting a trunk show with me! ;)

5) Praying for me as I begin this new venture because it is a huge leap of faith!!

6) Emailing me or calling me to catch up in person, because I only really use Facebook as an "appeal to the masses," because it's so much easier to connect with a large audience of people-- not as a substitute for an in-person relationship. I enjoy checking in on what's new in your life, but I would 1,000% much rather do that in person!!

7) Sharing my photography website, www.meganlovephotography.com with anyone you think might be interested or looking for a photographer in the upcoming months. You can check my most recent work out if you haven't already on my Megan Love Photography business Facebook page.


I have never done anything like this before, but I am extremely excited at the opportunity and the potential it holds for our lives. I'm excited to be able to prepare better meals, to keep our home clean all the time, to be home to greet my husband when he gets home and take care of our dog during the day, and to spend a lot more time at peace and slowing down as I work (essentially) from home.

And a side benefit? I get to go back and sub at my old school anytime I am feeling the urge to teach again! ;)

Thank you so much for your graciousness, your support in my new ventures, and in letting me share my heart with you.

xoxo


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Educate yourself before you vote.

Normally, I hide behind things that are PC. I don't want to offend anyone, I don't want to get in arguments, I don't want to bring up controversy... whatever, whatever. When I was a public school teacher, evvvvvverything had to be objective and PC. 

Now that I'm on the sidelines, I'm feeling it's appropriate to exercise a bit of my first amendment rights and speak a bit more candidly about this dreaded thing that so many people moan about on Facebook status updates... politics. 

Here's the thing: I'm not going to talk to you about why you should vote for so-and-so, or why so-and-so is so much better than the other person. However, what really bothers me is the fact that SO MANY PEOPLE between the ages of 18-30 don't take the time to a) identify issues that are important to them (and for substantial reasons), and b) determine which candidate is going to support those beliefs and views. 

Regardless of what side you're on, it's greatly disturbing to see the way the media portrays each candidate, and how each campaign goes the route of taking personal attacks at the other. That's not how winning an election should happen! In America, we are a democracy. We the people need vote for a candidate who we feel is going to support our personal beliefs and goals as not only an individual and community, but as a country. Far too few people have determined what those goals are, and what they want for their future (including what it is going to take to get there, financially and otherwise). It's become now about which campaign has more money than the other to create advertisements that run during primetime slots, and who can take the bigger hit at the other one...

I received this email from the NEA (National Education Association) a few days ago, which really concerned me:


It bothered me for many reasons, but particularly because this is supposed to be an organization supporting our children and making better schools for teachers and children, and they send out an email blasting the character of a public speaker and asking for money in the same sentence. 

Additionally (and yes, I watched Ryan's speech during the RNC), I was a little shocked to read the claims that this political director included in her email such as, "Ryan lied about Medicare... the plant closed during Bush's watch...Ryan led the charge that lowered the US's credit score..."

So I had to do a little investigative research myself to find out the truth. The truth is (from Karen M. White who apparently feels that lying is her least favorite character flaw), is that she was incorrect as well. BOTH SIDES were not accurate in their claims and BOTH SIDES exaggerated facts. Had I not researched this email's claims for myself, I could have gone along and though, "Wow, Paul Ryan is such a liar. I can't believe he would say that."  (and Fox News did not call Ryan's speech "deceiving," a Democratic contributor who writes editorials for Fox News did.)

Unfortunately, some people might not take the time to research campaign truths for themselves, and they will get caught up in voting for someone that looks good, that makes promises, that everyone else is voting for, or that their parents are voting for because they don't know any better. 

This election is extremely important for our nation's future and the direction we are going as a country. I was laid off from teaching because of a broken tenure system. I know people who cannot find a job for the life of them after college and are back to working at Starbucks or nannying. Filling up my car at the pump costs over $45, when it used to barely cross $30. We are in debt beyond measure and creating a healthcare system that taxpayers cannot afford. I worry about my grandma's future on Medicare, and small business owners facing revenue and personnel decreases because of mandatory insurance offerings. I worry about how much bigger class sizes are going to get because education budgets keep getting reduced year after year to pay for social services such as unemployment. I worry about tax revenues supporting our government, and how much more of my paycheck will be eaten up by state and federal taxes. I worry about how regulations are going to affect healthcare, corporations, small businesses, home loans, and the quality of services we receive from providers overall. We almost couldn't buy a home because the regulations on home loans were so strict. 

These things I worry about, so I'm taking the time to educate myself on which candidate I feel will best support the changes I want to see in the next 4 years. 

In getting ready for November, ignore commercials. Ignore emails like the one sent above. Ignore character blasts and mockeries on Facebook and Twitter feeds and don't be ignorant about truth. Research. It might take you awhile to get there, but do your homework because campaigns aren't doing it for you. Figure out what's important to you in the world and who will get you where you want to be, then vote accordingly.

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Moving right along




I love this reminder.


So many things in my life have occurred that show me that everything happens for a reason. While I might not understand why something's happening in the moment, I know that I can trust that it's a movement to someplace new. 

~
 
I am loving where I'm at! While God closed the door (slammed?) on teaching, He opened another one in a place where I am so happy. I would never have thought I'd be entering back into the business world again, but I am honestly loving it.

**Yes, I'm giving up summer travel and time with T. 

However, we've also traveled so. much. in the past three summers, and we're pretty happy with where we've been. 

*Disneyland (twice)
*France
*Spain
*Colorado
*New York
*Mexico (twice)
*Disneyworld (twice)
*Costa Rica
*Whistler
*Banff
*Numerous Oregon staycations

We're also feeling like absence will make the heart grow fonder with each other. :) Two spirited people together 24/7 the last three summers has made for some interesting conversations! We're just going to be more intentional about the types of vacations that we plan and where we decide to go.

~

With life changes that occur, I walk in these truths: 

1. God loves me
2. Whatever is good, is of God
3. God promises to work all things in my life out for good, according to his purpose
4. God's plan is not to harm me, but to give me a purpose and a hope
5. God loves us enough to send His son for me. 


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Blessings of teaching

I have had an amazing three years in education. Aside from budgets and politics, I got a lot of joy out of being a teacher and spending time with the fabulous people that I worked with-- it truly was a privilege. While that chapter is coming to a close, I really don't see the last three years as a loss or a waste of my time. I wanted to write down a few blessings that I was able to experience through being a teacher, and some of the ways in which I have grown as a person. There are so many people that I am thankful for, and am appreciative of, who have taken me under their wings to mentor me and guide me through my experience as an educator.

____________________________

Through teaching I...

Met my husband. 

While T. Love is an awesome guy and I knew him before we officially started spending time together, the sole purpose we even went out to breakfast that day in late December was because I was beginning my full-time student teaching placement, and I needed guidance from a fellow middle school teacher. We didn't really have anything in common (that we knew of at that point) besides teaching, so education was the common ground that brought us together. If I hadn't become a teacher, Timothy and I probably wouldn't be together right now. 

____________________________

Through teaching I...

Was mentored by excellent, seasoned educators.

Cindy and Marika, my mentor teachers in my student teaching placement, taught me so many things about classroom management, about assessment, about lesson design, about navigating difficult situations, about patience, and even about different ways to have fun in the classroom. I was blessed to be able to teach on a team with Cindy after my student teaching was over for a year, and was able to stay close with Marika after my time at Hopkins was over. I owe so much of my educational practice to them, and appreciate them for giving up their time in the classroom to mentor me along the way. 

___________________________

Through teaching I...

 Made so many lasting and authentic friendships.

Between Hopkins, Conestoga and Evergreen (even in my time at George Fox), I have remained close with colleagues who are AMAZING teachers. People who inspired me to be a better teacher, who taught me patience, who encouraged me and supported me, who believed in the initiatives I took, who trusted me and who partnered with me with the students that we shared together. Having teachers as colleagues is an incredibly bonding experience, and to me, they really feel like family. I know that just because I have left the classroom, does not mean these friendships will cease to exist. Thank you so much, colleagues, for EVERYTHING you have taught me-- I cherish it and I hope that someday we can partner together again. :)

_________________________

Through teaching I...

Got to work for fabulous administrators.

My administrators were such a gift to my teaching career. Never before have I felt so supported and believed in-- especially in my time at Evergreen. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to work for Rian and Linda-- it was truly one of the best jobs I've had before, and I know that everyone who has worked for them feels the same way. To have a supportive administration when you're a teacher, and dealing with all of the things that we face as teachers on a daily basis, is one of the best gifts and makes what we do worthwhile. I so appreciate all of the principals and administrative staff that I've worked with who have invested in me as a new teacher-- it did not go unnoticed. 

____________________

Through teaching I...

Spent time with students that I will never forget. There are too many to name on here that I care so much for, and will always be cheering on in life. Teaching is incredibly rewarding, and daily-- daily, I was impacted by my students. They surprised me, made me laugh, challenged me, blessed me and I was so fortunate to be their teacher. 



I do not for one second regret entering in the teaching profession. I think so much of the policies and funding measures that go into education need serious reform, but being a teacher was one of the best titles that I've held. Thank you for all who made it memorable for me, and for the time and resources you invested in me. I'm looking forward now to new experiences and new learning opportunities, and am excited about what the future holds. 


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Private vs. Public Education Soapbox

{Stepping onto soapbox...}

I grew up in private schools. Not because my parents thought they were too good for public education, but because they wanted a better educational experience for my siblings and I. 

While I loved my friends, classmates, and memories formed throughout the years in private school, I always wanted to go to public school instead (I even did, for two months on a brief sophomore stint). There was an allure that I thought I was missing out on which included: dating, proms, dances, theatre, and generally better programs than we had. 

I thought my educational experience would be so much better, and I really wanted to ride the bus and go to different classes every hour. 

____________________________________

Instead, I got individualized instruction, small classes, deep friendships and a general protection from teen dating, drugs + alcohol, and other temptations that high schoolers tend to face. Yes, some of those moral decisions had to do with my upbringing, but going to private school by and large kept me from the exposure to things I didn't necessarily want or need in my life. 

Because I grew up in private school and had small class sizes, I wanted that to transcend into my college experience as well, which is why I chose a local private liberal arts college to attend instead of a booming state school. My college experience was extremely enriching educationally and otherwise.

I am SO THANKFUL for the education I received throughout elementary, middle, high school and my college years. My parents made financial sacrifices to pay for it, and I made financial sacrifices to continue in it. I never got to go to a school dance or really "date" in high school, nor did I get to be a cheerleader or star in a school play. However, what I realize that I gained in exchange for those things was a quality, individualized education that met my needs academically.

25 students in a classroom used to be large; now that's considered small. 35 was unheard of, now 40 may be the new normal. My graduating class had 19 students in it, and that was absolutely perfect. My teachers were able to sit down with me at length and explain processes and procedures to me in time I would never get in a public school classroom, and it has absolutely impacted my educational experience today. 

The flip side of this argument is obviously: What about those who cannot afford private school?

__________________________________________

Obviously, just transferring to a private school in order to get a quality education is not the answer. Am I saying that private education is the way to go? Not necessarily. However, they're doing something right with student achievement, and that's what needs to be examined.

Teachers, with the best of hearts, work so hard to try and meet each and every one of their students' needs in fifty minutes' time, but unfortunately, the achievement gap is continuing to widen because it's just not physically possible to do so. A scenario of less time, more students and bigger needs is equaling an educational process bursting at the seams. Our students deserve better. They are our future generation: our lawmakers, our innovators, our healthcare professionals; our mayors, lawyers and Presidents. 

If we don't invest in our future generation by giving them the best possible public education they can receive, then what do we have to gain in twenty years?

Lowering class sizes + hiring more skilled teachers = effectively reducing the achievement gap. Period. 

Our government educational spending and funding priorities need a HUGE wake-up call-- immediately. 

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Necessary change.

I've taken a summer hiatus from blogging, as travel and freelance work have consumed my free time {in a good way}.

It breaks my heart a little, reading the last post I wrote: honest, raw. Pouring my life and heart into education for these past three years has been beautiful, yet emotional in so many ways. For so long I thought that my calling was to be a teacher. I was good at it, but more importantly, I loved the students who challenged me to grow each day. 

Sadly, yet full of hope, that chapter of my life is coming to a close. 

_____________________

I had to be honest with myself this summer and determine what it was I wanted in life, and what I wanted to see that I had worked so hard for. The honest truth is that Oregon's educational budget situation and the way that teachers' jobs are retained is broken. The fact that someone's career and livelihood could come down to nothing more than a hire date is broken; that budget relief could be felt in bigger class sizes and pay deductions for teachers who already work above and beyond their call of duty on a daily basis is broken. While I loved being a teacher, public education and policy is just not something that I can be ping-ponged around in anymore. At twenty-eight years old and with two degrees I supported myself to attain because of my professional dreams, a half-time position and pay reductions with increased class sizes and decreased funding priorities is not something I can compromise on anymore. 

So I'm stepping away, likely, for good. I'm confident that my abilities and talents that God has given me will benefit an organization that appreciates the work that I do and what I have to give, and that I won't have to wonder every February: am I going to have a job next year? 

I can't keep putting off life, wondering if I'm going to have a job or wondering how I'm going to make ends meet with a pay reduction and hours reduction-- especially being married to a teacher enduring the same obstacles as well. 

Public education is broken, and change needs to happen. 

I hope that as I move on in my career, I can still be an advocate for that change, but emotionally, financially and otherwise, I can't stick around to wait and see what happens. It's sad. Disappointing. Discouraging. 

Our kids deserve better than tenure status, bigger class sizes and underfunded programs, and I hope and pray those changes occur sooner rather than later. 

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to new change... positive change; an opportunity for growth, for investment in something bigger and to spend my free time volunteering, staying connected to education on the sidelines, and cheering on my husband as he stays low in the trenches. 

Wish me luck. :)




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Heartache


My heart is hurting a little bit right now. 

Education is not something I entered into because I was bored or because I needed the money. Education is something that I feel called to be a part of; that is a unique profession where you pour your soul into something, regardless of what you get in return. Teaching is a choice and a calling... and is far from being called a "job." 

So much of classroom life is challenging. Some days are hilarious because your student tells you about their sneeze fart the night before, and some days are frustrating because students aren't living up to their full potential. Some days are energizing because life lessons have been learned and students are engaged; some days are exhausting because the student who refuses to speak to you in anything but back-talk seems endless.

For anyone who has held a garbage can in front of a barfing student while trying to teach about Sumerian cuneiform, having just broken up a fist fight in the hallways the period before: you understand what classroom life is like.

But the thing is, I wouldn't choose to be any place *but* the heart of my school. I'm the kind of teacher that holds my students accountable for their potential and value, but laughs when things get too serious or has Bieber dance parties when we need a brain break. I love what I do and my classroom life: The messiness, the frustration, the exhaustion, the germs, the laughter, and everything in-between. 

More importantly, however, is that survival of this kind of life is dependent upon a trustworthy and supportive administration, and colleagues who are in it with you. Teachers are a unique breed, and we need each other. I absolutely LOVE my students, colleagues, my school, my community and my administration..


and today was the day that I had to say good-bye to them.



I have poured my heart and my soul into my job this year, and budget reductions have displaced me to a new location for a job that is 1/2 of what I make right now. My financial livelihood is in jeopardy, and I am emotional for the fact that I have to say good-bye to people that I dearly love and cherish as both friends and teammates. The transparent side of me says that this change is not easy or even bittersweet. It's just sad.

However, I do know that everything happens for a reason. That God knows what is going on, and that my faith is being tested. I'm disappointed, and trying (more like searching) to find the positive in the situation because it's difficult to see right now. My heart is sad and I wish more than anything that I could stay in a position at my school for next year. 

But, as of right now, there are more relationships to form on my horizon. More school policies to discover, and new PLCs to attend. More students to meet, more families to connect with, and more opportunities to make a difference. More body odor and deoderant talks to have, more fights to break up and more manners lessons to be taught. It's all a day in the life, and a day in the life of the new path God is taking me on... even though I may not understand it right now.
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One month later...

Holy smokes. I was realizing that it had been awhile since I wrote last, and boy did a month fly by. I know exactly what happened though: my evenings being manipulated by new endeavors. No more cooking dinner, resting or blogging... the new normal is writing article content and reports while my husband graciously cooks dinner or we order take-out because we have too much work these days. 

So what have we been up to?
Well, the school year is coming to a close and I am still awaiting official word on whether or not I'll have a job next year. It's a huge opportunity to just trust God that no matter what happens, He's in control of every detail. My heart goes out to all of my old Beaverton colleagues, but man am I glad that I was literally pulled from that district last year. I was so bummed and so confused when my job was cut, and yet I feel SO thankful that it enabled me to move to Evergreen which is absolutely where I want to spend my career teaching. The Hillsboro School District has been such a perfect fit for me and I feel really blessed that it's where I teach right now.

In the meantime, I've taken up a second contract-job work opportunity writing content articles for various websites, as well as doing some shopping analysis on the side at various retail departments. Super fun, but a ton of extra work. It's been a great opportunity because I can do a little freelance writing on the time, but also gives our budget a boost so that we have some extra play money to spend or save on the side... which is what we've decided to use for our travel fund these days :). 

We're also heavily involved with our church helping lead 4th & 5th grade camp for this summer and are extremely excited for this opportunity. It's going to be such a blast. Sun + 9 - 10 year olds + an amazing staff + a fabulous venue... totally stoked for that week in July. 

The travel bug keeps biting strong... we just booked a week at the end of June to visit Banff and will be taking my brother along with us since he loves Canada. We'll be hiking around the area, hiking around Lake Louise, kayaking, etc. I am SO stoked, you don't even know. I love western Canada and even more the beauty of the outdoors. We've never been to Alberta before, and we'll also spend a day in Calgary before coming home. After that, we'll be taking off a few weeks later to visit family in NC and then spending a week in Disneyworld because we're now officially DVC members. :) 40 years of virtually free vacation stays at Disneyland + World, Hawaii, South Carolina and the Florida coast!

We've been ridiculously busy but are hanging in there until the school year is over. I also just started a program through the University of Portland to add an ESOL endorsement to my teaching license, so I'm in grad school class every Monday night from now - 2014. Yeesh. 

Not sure when things will slow down, but I'm really excited for summer travel season & sleep-in time to get here. We're averaging like 6 hours a night if we're lucky these days. 

Make no mistake: I'm by no means trying to be all braggy in this update or anything like that. We bought a timeshare through Disney this year at a ridiculously cheap price so that we could vacation every year to different Disney-affiliated hotels throughout the US for the next 40 years. As in, it's basically paid for on this trip we're taking this summer. We also scour last-minute travel websites to get great deals for booking hotels in advance, which is how we got our Banff hotel 20% off and with a free upgrade. I'm also currently writing this post from our bed at Hotel Lucia in downtown Portland, paid in part by a $25 off coupon from Priceline, and a successful "name your own price" bid for 40% off the retail room price. 

I say all this, because I we are huge believers in travel, and we do it for as cheap, yet awesome as we can.


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Puerto Vallarta Paradise

So our fourth day on the cruise was our first day ashore. Our first port stop on this adventure was Puerto Vallarta and it is an incredible destination completely opposite of Cabo San Lucas. When you port in Puerto Vallarta, you go immediately on land instead of having to use tender boats like in Cabo San Lucas. With that however, you are met with views of a shopping mall, a Wal-Mart and other high-rise apartment buildings. It doesn't quite feel like a tropical destination, but the weather was really warm and humid and the palm trees really set the ambiance of the city.

Last year my DH and I did the port excursion of visiting Las Caletas with the tour company the ship uses, Vallarta Adventures. (We actually saved about $15 by booking directly with the company ahead of time instead of on board). The excursion to Las Caletas was about $85 per person and while we loved it last year, we decided not to spend any money on excursions this year.

Instead, we decided to leisurely walk the 4-mile stretch of beautiful, warm beach from our ship to the downtown shopping area of the Malecon. The Malecon is their "main street" center of commerce with stores, restaurants, and plenty of beachfront views. I regret to not have any photos from this day because I left my camera on the ship (didn't actually realize our quick trip to the beach would end up being 4 miles!), so I will do my best to describe the scenery to you.

It was a very hot and humid day and we were thirsty after our walk which took us about an hour and a half one way. We were really excited to stumble upon a beautiful oceanfront restaurant called Punto V (which is apparently a night club at night but by day they have beautiful seats and tables that sit and overlook the ocean). We stopped because they had us at "two drinks for $2." Okay.

We munched on fresh salsa and guacamole, relaxed with some ice cold drinks and relished the fact that we were truly vacationing in Mexico.

Thankfully T.Love let us hail a cab back to the ship, and after successfully avoiding the sales hounds at Diamonds International (don't get me started), we paid $6 for a 15 minute ride in a comfortable taxi. T speaks Spanish and always engages our drivers in conversations when we're traveling in any Latin country, and you'd be surprised by the kinds of information we learn from them! (Plus I think they appreciate that someone is actually going out of their way to have a conversation with them in their native language). Our taxi driver told us that he had a throat tumor but he apparently staved off the growth by drinking a liter of something called "guanabana juice" every day for the past five years since he can't afford health insurance. He seemed to swear by it and had a huge bottle full of the juice that he said he got at his local health food store. He seemed healthy enough to me! I had never heard of it before, but he was happy to inform us of it and its affect on his life. He also told us that he has been a taxi driver in PV for over 25 years and wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

After our little jaunt downtown we went back for yet another nap and refresher before we had our own dinner reservation at Palo that night. As much as I loved our long walk on the beach, our lunch downtown and our afternoon nap, I was really excited to go to Cabo San Lucas the next day because it was home to my absolute favorite hotel-- the Sirena Del Mar, which we would be visiting all day. More on that later!

Our Palo dinner that night was really nice but I have to be honest-- I actually preferred brunch more than dinner and wished that we had two brunches instead of a brunch and a dinner. However, I know that if someone had told me that, I probably wouldn't have believed them and would have wanted to experience dinner myself to make that decision. In the future, I know I will definitely just make brunch reservations because the other unfortunate thing is that we missed a big dinner performance at Animator's Palate and time with our table mates because of our night at Palo. I would prefer not to miss any dinners on our cruise on the next one because there is always something going on. Also-- breakfasts on the ship leave little to be desired unfortunately and I would gladly miss breakfasts on board for a brunch instead.

Anyway, after Palo we saw the stage production of Toy Story and while it was really cute, it wasn't anything to write home about. It was definitely geared more towards kids, and it was probably my least favorite show on board.

We went back to our room around 10pm and fell asleep yet again to the sounds of Disney movies, ceiling creaks and our hangers swaying side to side with the rocking of the ship... sigh. 


Next up: Infinity Pool Bliss in Cabo

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Brunch + Pure Laziness

Ohhhhh I am still drooling over our Palo brunch. I don't want to jump ahead of the story but I'm pretty sure that was the most amazing meal I've ever had in my life. (and I'm not speaking in hyperbole... for once.)

So Tuesday morning (cruise day three) was simply fabulous. We woke up around 8am with sunlight pouring through our balcony, walked out on our verandah and were met with warm, humid air. I missed the sun SO much and loved the feeling of heat and salt water on my skin. I was also really excited because we had our first "adults only" breakfast up at Palo scheduled for 10:00am.

Before brunch, we decided to get our blood pumping and go for a run out on the main deck which is an awesome experience that I highly recommend while at sea. With the ship moving, the wind blowing, the sun shining, exercise out there just feels sooooo good. Anyway, I digress.

So after our run, we got ready and dressed up for our brunch. Palo is the adults-only restaurant on the top deck of the ship, and it's a really beautiful restaurant that Disney pulled out all of the stops for. Since Disney is essentially synonymous with kids, they wanted to create a space for people only 18 to have some rest and reprieve away from all of the kids. Palo is one of those places and a must-do for any adults sailing with Disney.

Soooo.... onto Palo.

We were immediately greeted by our server who seemed incredibly excited to host us. Obviously she had served hundreds of people, but she made us feel like we were her very first guests ever. She was excited about everything, from our drinks to the view to taking us on a tour of the restaurant. Her name was Mariana, and if ever you happen to sail on the Wonder in the near future or for any reason, you should absolutely request her! She has worked on the ship for eight years. She took us around to all of the food stations, introduced all of the various items to us, and told us to "relax for the next two hours, because we were in the best place on board."

Just a sampling of our food from brunch:



Timothy's caviar...






After brunch, we rolled ourselves out of Palo and took a long and necessary nap. Necessary because, well, we never get to nap and even though it was highly indulgent and lazy, it was absolutely fabulous.

After our nap we decided to pour some glasses of wine, order room service and read books on our patio for another two hours or so. It was the most deliciously lazy and ridiculous day... and probably my favorite one of the cruise. I knew that the next three days were going to be busy because of the fact that we would be in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo and wouldn't be sleeping in or taking naps.

Deck indulgence:







Laziness was the theme of this day... we didn't even go to the evening show which was a hypnotist I believe. We watched movies in our stateroom, finished the books we had started in the morning and just rested....

I highly recommend a full day of turning clocks off, eating, napping and reading... and not even caring about it. THAT's what vacationing is all about.

That night, we had dinner at Triton's (french-themed restaurant on board), and we were the only couple at the table because everyone else at our dining table was eating at Palo for dinner that night. Because of that, we had full attention from our servers-- Eddie and Raka. We loved getting to know them better-- those Disney cruise ship crew members sure work hard. Eddie told us that his mortgage in The Phillippines was only $31,000 and that he will have it paid off in two years from working on the cruise ship!

Anyway... sorry for the boring update/posting, but it was just pure, fabulous bliss with not a whole lot of excitement involved. I highly recommend those days once in awhile. 

Next up: Long walks on the beach... in Puerto Vallarta!
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Formal Night & the Golden Mickeys

So after our fabulous tour ended, we headed back to our room to get ready for The Golden Mickeys evening performance. It was SO GOOD! I'll admit. I teared up a bit. I LOVED feeling like a kid again and seeing all of my favorite Disney characters and movies up on stage. It took me back to such a special time in my childhood when I was just simple-minded and definitely caught me up in the magic of it all. It sounds pretty cheesy, but I let myself be "ageless" on this trip and just relish the awe that Disney brings. (Yes, you can mock me.) Timothy looked at me a little funny when he saw me tearing up over the Golden Mickeys, but after the cruise was over, he eventually got it. If you've grown up with Disney, you know what I'm talking about.

It was also formal night on the cruise that night meaning it was time to put on our best clothes and mingle with the crew. I was super impressed with the fact that SO many families dressed up for formal night. During our cruise last year, we felt overdressed on formal night because many families believed that khakis and skirts were formal and not cocktail dresses or dress coats. We wanted to go all out, and we weren't alone for sure! They had complimentary cocktails in the lobby and lots of photo opportunities with characters and cast members also dressed to the nines.

Here is a picture of us on formal night with our captain of the ship, Thord Haugen.

(My hair had issues this trip so I didn't really go all out hair-wise...!



After the show, the juggler, Ivan Pecel, was doing another family show in the WaveBands where we watched him juggle a kid (no joke), as well as other things like 6 bouncing balls at the same time! He was incredibly talented. I highly recommend checking out his stuff online if you can. I think he has a Youtube page.

Wavebands at night:







(It's red in there because the only lights were red...)


After the show we finally made it to dinner for the first time. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, we were on a dining rotation so we missed the restaurant, Parrot Cay, the first night (as well as all the meet-n-greets with our servers and table-mates). This night, we were at a place called Triton's and got to meet our table mates and our fabulous servers, Eddie and Raka. Disney did an amazing job and paired us with three other "kidless" couples around our same age range. That made SUCH a huge difference for us! It was great having things in common with people and we became fast friends with one couple in particular during the cruise. Disney is just all about the details for sure!


I also don't really remember what I ate each night... but I will say that I ate a lot of steak and it was all amazing, AND, if I wanted to try multiple items including soups, apps and salads, Raka just brought out one of everything to sample! I highly recommend that route... even if you don't end up eating everything. Like he said, "it all has to get used up before the cruise is over anyway, so you might as well try it!"

Dining became one of my favorite things to do on board, even though it was hard for me to wait until 8:15 every night to eat. I loved taking my time leisurely through the meals and then enjoying dessert and coffee with friends until closing time. It was so relaxing and those dinners provided a lot of memories for all of us. Plus, I loved having our servers follow us around because we got to know them really well over the course of the week also.

After we said our good-byes around 10:15pm, we headed back to our room because I am a total party-pooper and can't stay out past 11pm anymore. Our friends went out for the late-night adult entertainment options, but sadly I couldn't muster the stamina. If you are into that kind of thing and staying up late, there are TONS of options for adults to do after dinner.

Upon coming back to our room each night, we always had a navigator, chocolate and an animal to look forward to. One of my favorite nightly "rituals" was to wash my face, brush my teeth, and crawl into bed with a Navigator (the daily agenda) and a highlighter, planning out the next day's adventures.





Up next: Morning run and brunch at Palo!

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Sunshine, Sleeping in and Ship Tours

So where did I leave off...

Day 3 of vacation, day 2 of the ship:


Oh yes. The next morning. SO much better than the night before! Once the ship cleared Los Angeles and San Diego, the waters were much calmer and everyone seemed to get their sea legs back. My appetite was in full force and I was ready for my vacation to start!

We awoke with our curtains open and the sunlight pouring into our cabin. Breakfast was typically offered one of three places on the ship: Triton's, Beach Blanket Buffet and Parrot Cay. We decided that since we missed dinner the night before, we would start our dining off with a bang and join 8:30am breakfast at Triton's the next morning. This is where my feedback to Disney goes a little south. Besides our experience at Palo's, we never had a good breakfast on the ship. This is okay for us because we are not huge breakfast people anyway, but breakfast was so mediocre that it just became a way to take away the hunger pangs but not a lingering, enjoyable experience for us (unlike the other meals the ship offered).

Here is a picture of me at breakfast that morning-- fully recovered from seasickness (but still looking a little green). Hooray!



One of the best things about the cruise (and also unfortunate when you think about it!) was that there was SO much to do while on board. I say unfortunate because part of me wanted to experience everything there was to do on the ship every hour, and part of me wanted to just sit back, lay out and relax with a good book for 90% of my time onboard. Timothy and I settled on a happy medium between the two.

After breakfast that morning, we decided that we were going to go on a full exploration of every area on the ship, so we found the gift shops







and perused their goods (and also bought a bathing suit because stupid rushed packing mistake #2 on my part was that I forgot my bathing suit- ugh), discovered the movie theatre, sat up by the quiet pool and then found our way back to Wave Bands for a little bingo action at 11:00. I normally LOVE cruise ship bingo (and ironically never win), but Disney's bingo buy-in prices were SO expensive compared to other ships that we didn't indulge this time. Minimum was $30 and it went up to $60. I couldn't justify losing that much money in one single go (at least draw it out of me in the slot machines or something--lol), so we just sat and watched the competition for an hour or so. There was some schadenfreud involved as we watched people drop tons of cash on bingo computers and then subsequently lose it all. Ouch. It made me want to stay out of bingo for the entire trip (which I did-- hooray!).

After bingo, we decided to head back to our verandah for some room service and quiet time because-- surprise!-- the sun was finally out. Ahhhh... glorious sun. We Oregonians had missed you so badly!! I forgot what healthy heat felt like on my pale skin. It was quiet marvelous.










After some delightful reading and vitamin D, we decided to embark on an "Art of the Ship" tour, to go around and hear the behind-the-scenes details of the specific and intentional design ideas that went into both the Wonder and the Magic. I HIGHLY recommend going on this tour if you ever sail with Disney. We met on deck 10 in a small group and it was led by a fabulous entertainment host named Sophie.

We first learned the history of the adults-only restaurant Palo, which means 'pole' in Italian. It got its name because the Wonder was crafted and built in Venice, and Venice is marked by several various gondola poles. In Palo, there are many different authentic Venetian masks and poles all around, which makes sense as to why the restaurant's primary cuisine is Northern Italian influence!



After that, we headed down to deck 5 and Sophie asked us to count how many different types of carpet we saw on the way down. This wasn't something I normally would have paid attention to, but of course now I did. When we made it down, I noticed eight different types of carpet between the corridors, the lobby areas and the stairs, and that was correct. Sophie said that the ship actually has around 250 different styles of carpeting and they all have a very specific and intentional theme to them. Other cruise ships have approximately 80 - 100 different types of carpet, but Disney has a purpose for all of theirs and replaces them completely every few years or so.





On deck 5, which is the children's area deck, Sophie noted that the ceilings are intentionally 1 - 2 feet lower, because it gives kids the feeling that they are more "in control" since they are often running around on the deck in their own clubs. It apparently gives them much more comfortability and confidence feeling "bigger" than on other floors. Kind of interesting!



We stopped by the Buena Vista Theatre where she told us that Disney is the only cruise line who shows first-run movies and in-theatre movies still, largely because they own all of them...



We also learned that there are over 28,000 different signs on board the Wonder alone... crazy!



We then made our way down to deck 4 where the Walt Disney Theatre is housed. We studied this picture for a minute... do you happen to know what is different about it?



... While this is a very famous picture, Walt's cigarette was photoshopped out of his fingers because the cruise didn't want to give the idea of endorsing smoking to kids... especially since he died of lung cancer... :(
Deck 4 is also the only place where the famous "WD" logo is found on the carpet!



While we were talking about the picture, none other than Daisy Duck comes strolling along the red carpet, no big deal! Only on a Disney cruise can you pass by a character and "chat" with them, without them being escorted away hurriedly by their entourage.



By the elevators of deck 4, there is a lobby viewpoint area where the beautiful (plastic) ceiling sculpture by Dale Chihuly hung from the ceilings. Sophie said that crew members hike themselves up with ladders every Sunday and dust that thing, and that the reason it is not actually glass (unlike his sculpture at the Bellagio in Vegas) is because of the danger of a rocking ship + frequent guests underneath. Smart move.



After that, we walked out to the running deck on deck 4 to note a few different characteristics of the outdoors. First, the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic are sister ships and are intentionally the same, except for the fact that the Wonder was built as a whole, and the Magic was built as two halves put together. There is a large seam down the sides of the Magic to signify this, so, even though the Wonder was built as a whole, it also has a large seam down the middle (re-created) in order to be identical twin sisters with the Magic. Crazy fun fact!



Sophie also told us that Disney wasn't cool with the ugly orange boats that the Maritime law (or whatever it's called) requires all cruise ships to keep on board and they didn't feel that orange meshed well with the colors of "The Mouse." They appealed to the coast guard and asked if they could test out the yellow color shown below. The coast guard obliged after some negotiations, and discovered that not only did the yellow color work, but it was actually more visible at night than orange! Fancy that...



Disney also wanted to design their ships not as cutesy Fantasyland-extensions, but as elegant, grand vessels similar to the Titanic or Lusitania. Because those turn of the century ships had the traditional shuffleboard games on the outside decks, of course Disney had to as well.



All in all, we learned a ton of valuable, "insider" information on this tour and I definitely didn't cover it all on this post. It took about an hour and a half, and the most amazing fact of all (for all of your Disney-afficionados), is that Mr. Dave Smith himself of the Disney archives was on our tour of ten! In fact, he was on the ship the entire week we were there and even led his own informational seminars about the Archives and Disneyland. It was fabulous! We so enjoyed meeting him and learning from such an amazing Disney legend. I was a bit star struck, as only true Disney fans might imagine.

Up next: Formal night and new friends


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