I’m getting used to surprise on faces of people as they find out I’m heading to Mexico for seven months with limited Spanish. Am I scared? No way! Am I excited? Of course! Am I nutso? Probably!

I’ve been reading Spanish for Dummies for a couple of days. It’s my version of cramming for a test, only the test is called life-in-another-country. I love this new word I’ve learned: ¡Olé! It means Great! Superb! Keep going!

I’ve found many ways to apply ¡Olé! to my life experiences:

Yesterday, Mama and I hit the road pretty early. On our way out of town, we stopped at a diner that’s just a couple miles down the road from Mamaw. The only thing that will keep this new business from being successful is that the owner is a Yankee. The food was delicious–and he was friendly as can be (Are you shocked a little?). This quintessential mom-and-pop business is called It’s All About The Fudge. As you’ve probably guessed, they make 130 different types of fudge: Moonshine, Hazelnut, Peanut Butter, Raspberry Cheesecake, and more! ¡Olé!

Back on the road, we drove to Chattanooga without a hitch. The short drive allowed time for Mama to ask me counselor questions and give mom advice. (I know you won’t do that, Jania, but I have to tell you anyway.) I’ve spent a lot of time with Mama the last couple months, and I’m gonna miss her. I’m pretty glad that she’s learned to Skype (kinda). ¡Olé!

We met Priya south of Chat-town, and she and I chatted all the way to Marietta (Or rather I talked non-stop in an effort to fill her in on what she’s missed…). We stopped in to see her parents, whom I love to pieces! Priya’s parents are sweet Sri Lankans, and her dad has this thing for flashy cars. I wish I could remember what it was sitting in his driveway. I’ll give a Jania description; it was a black, shiny, two-seater. The trunk was tiny, and Ravi loaded and unloaded the three small bags in an attempt to get them to fit. All the while I poked him shouting, “¡Olé! ¡Olé! ” (Okay, so that didn’t really happen, but I thought about it…)

That evening, we had a bride-friendly dinner, and I finally got to meet Jerry (Priya’s new fiancé). It’s nice when I genuinely like someone, and I don’t have to fake it. ¡Olé! It’s even better that I’m super excited about their upcoming nuptials (I’ve always wanted to use that word), and the help they’ll be to the kingdom. Thankfully, I was able to see my other big sister and her new boyfriend as well. They woke us up from a little nap, and I soon got my second wind. ¡Olé!

Last night, Priya and I laid in bed gossiping like a couple of school girls. The only differences between now and when we were 13 (Wow! That was over half of my lifetime ago!!) is our conversations have shifted from cute boys to grown-up talk. This is mainly because we now know a man’s substance doesn’t rest in his good-looks alone. ¡Ole!. She also doesn’t wheeze every few minutes…

I had plenty of time at the airport, only I chose to begin writing for you. Exhausted with waiting, I finally looked at the time. Luckily, I had five minutes before the flight left–and in those five minutes I realized I was at the wrong gate. ¡Ole! (Am I allowed to use it sarcastically?)

It’s been apparent the last several months that good friends and amazing family can really make a difference in a girl’s life. S.M. always says, “Keep on keeping on!” I’m using my new vocabulary to give you my version of that: ¡Ole!

Disclaimer: No bulls have been hurt in the writing of this post.

A Prayer Like Any Other

A Prayer Like Any Other by Kevin Welch

It’s way past midnight, everyone asleep
Outside the window it’s quiet on the street
My bags are packed, my guitar too
Taxi’s coming, nothin’ I can do
Oh Lord, keep your eye on my friends
I’d just feel better knowing you’re watching them
I’ve got to roll, take a little spin
While I’m gone, keep your eye on my friends

Gotta get home the only way I know
The long old road, steady and slow
One of these days I’ll come back
If the creek don’t rise and stuff like that
Oh Lord, keep your eye on this place
Keep it warm, keep it safe
You know I depend on your saving grace
While I’m gone keep your eye on this place

This is just a prayer like any other
Nothing more, nothing less
A prayer like any other
One more time could you just say yes

Oh Lord, keep your eye on me
You know how foolish and reckless I can be
Light my way up, so I can see
Oh Lord, keep your eye on me
Oh Lord, keep your eye on my friends
Oh Lord, keep your eye on this place

I love that song. It really says it all, huh? When I left Virginia and my sweet friends and family a couple months ago, I must have listened to it fifty times on the drive home.

You know, Mama and I were talking the other day–about stress (the number one killer). When I was in Virginia last year, my body was wrecked from the lifestyle I was living. I was in the doctor’s office every month with one thing or another. I wouldn’t have lasted one more day in that situation, and I know that God has led me away. There are a lot of things that I tend to regret (or second guess), but I realize more than ever my place isn’t there for now. (Although it sometimes it hurts to admit that, and I sure do hope he leads me back…)

What I realized after praying the other night, is that one reason my stress is gone is because I unload more often. Spiritual growth does wonders for a heavy heart. Mama says God loves a crybaby.

As I think of leaving my family, my friends, and my home(s) behind, I try to leave my worries with him. L.W. told me at Knoxville, “I don’t worry. I pray for people. And I love people. But I don’t worry about them after I pray.” I made it a goal then. And so here I am: I’ve got a list a mile long of the people that I keep in my mind all day. I will miss them all, but I won’t worry. I know God has his eye on them.

The other thing I’ve realized is that I am excited and nervous right now, but I am not scared. I’m not naive (well, maybe a little). I know that dangers lurk around many corners, but I do believe that God has opened this experience up for me. I think again of my Helen Keller (love her) quote about closed and open doors and windows. It’s been the prayer of my heart for many weeks that God would really make it clear to me. It was hard to pray for his will when I had that interview in NOVA. And now, I am so happy that didn’t work out.

I am ready. My bags are mostly packed. Ooh! Just remembered I need that passport (finally!) I am heading to bed with big plans and great expectations–but mostly with gratitude and thankfulness. I pretty sure God loves that too.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Do you see me?  And Rachel?  Sigh…and the cutest boy in class–totes my boyfriend.  I am just sad you can’t see his amazing rat-tail.

This is where it all started.  A couple years ago (well, like three) I was in between Florida and Virginia. (Oooh, that was another transitional time that was tough, Steffy!  Look out for broken hearts and bad choices!)  I came home for the summer and took the job of managing our local pool.  One day, this cute high school student came by, and when she signed in I realized that she was the daughter of my hero–Miss Hurd.  Miss Hurd is the teacher I am all cuddled up to–like I do to all people I love.  (See?  No personal bubble even then!)

I was so happy to tell this teenybopper–born just a few years after Ms. Hurd student taught in our classroom–that her mom was one of my greatest influences in my decision to be a teacher.  I certainly have had some great teachers since she blessed those walls, but this is where it began:

These days, teachers know that you have to maintain a professional relationship with your students.  gag.  That isn’t exactly the case here where teachers are part of our community–and it certainly wasn’t the case then.  Ms. Hurd was as enamored with me as I was her (or at least in my memory…)  She had me over to her house after school.  We baked and decorated a cake together.  And her boyfriend (now husband) gave me some art supplies that led to one of the greatest adventures Rachel and I had.  One day on the way to pick up my siblings from school, we discovered the power of a permanent purple ink pad.  Quietly we dipped our hands over and over into the ink pad, hiding safety out of Mama’s view.  “Girls, what are you up to?” she said knowingly.  “Look!” we shrieked!  We popped up over the bench seat in the van with our purple hands proudly on display!  This, of course, led to our moms trying everything under the sun to get the ink off our small paws.  I don’t remember how many days it took, but we were the talk of town (again, in my mind).

It’s amazing what an influence teachers can be for their students.  At some point, Mama and I went through all of the teachers I had and labeled them great, good, and bad.  I had very few “bad” teachers–and I’m trying to thank the “fair-to-middling” teachers personally.  I know the power of a simple, “Thanks for all you’ve done.”  Teachers really don’t hear it enough, and they are hearing it even less in the current dark days of education.  It’s like my friend said, “Now is NOT a good time to be in education.”  How true!  And how unfortunate for the masses of innocents (Haha!  That sounds like something my vampire thrillers would say).

I’m looking forward to teaching in Chiapas (and the more I say it, the better I become at pronouncing it).  I know that things will be much different than here in the States, and I feel like it will be the transition I need to regain my passion for education.  If you haven’t checked out the website–do!  The kids are truly adorable!  I am trying to read up on the current political status as well as the history of the state.  The area is the most rural area of Mexico.  Last night, I did a search and was startled to see pictures of jaguars, pumas, and spider monkeys!  The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) even has their fingers in the pot!

It’s hard to believe that this is all happening so quickly.  Today (or sometime last night) reality smacked me in the face, and I began making a list of “To Dos” and “To Takes.”  Any advice is welcome from you seasoned travelers!

Vive Mexico!

I scanned this silly fortune into the computer a week ago. I thought it was quite funny–I mean, really?

Well, it’s for real happening! I got a job teaching second grade Language Arts in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas… Mexico! I’ll be working at The American School Foundation of Chiapas. (For those of you who dont understand that website and have a Facebook account–the school has an organization page.) I seriously can’t believe this is happening so fast. I emailed them info on Friday, Dec. 23. I applied Dec. 24th. I interviewed yesterday, December 26th. Today I was offered a job, and I fly out December 31st! Whew!

To make matters more crazy exciting, I get a new place to live on the 1st, and begin my first day of work on January 3rd with 50 kids who won’t understand much of what I have to say… Am I nutso?

I’ve emailed the workers, and I know that there is a meeting the next town over. It’s a family affair, but Mama was happy when she found out they are all doctors and nurses. (Me too with my track record…) The sister workers will be there my first weekend I have meeting. I’ve been reading my bilingual bible in preparation (but I can’t wait until I really understand the left column.)

Adventure awaits! I am looking forward to Mayan ruins, amazing spring break in Central America, tropical rain-forests, parrots and other exotic animals, fresh coffee (Did I mention they are the coffee kings of the world?), Mexican beaches, live volcanoes, and more! Hopefully that “more” includes better understanding and speaking of the Spanish language on my part…

Is this really happening?

Oh, Baby! #2

So, on to the worst baby names in East Tennessee this week…

* Daelyn Rielle– It’s bad enough when you choose ONE name people won’t be able to pronounce. At least give the kid a back-up name should they ever want to go by something else…

* Key’Juan MacShawn. Yes, MacShawn is the middle name. Yes, his names rhyme.

* Brought to you by the overused letter “k”: Kae, Kyndal, Kaysen, Kayden, Kasten, Kyleigh, Kerrigan

* Kolin– who is going to explain to these parents the function of a colon? Unless they mean Colin–in which case, 1) This belongs with the other “k” names
2) They should have spelled it with a “c”

* Momoh– Psh. Please, no mo’ silly bizness.

Bah, Humbug!

I’ve felt a bit like Scrooge this holiday season. It’s the first year Dean Martin wasn’t belting “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” back on November 1st. I’m even trading my favorite Ella Fitzgerald winter tunes for some of her darker refrains.

This Scrooge has had enough visiting with the Ghost of Christmas Past. It’s time to move past the chains of disappointment-tainted hope…

So, here’s to Mexico! I have a Skype interview! I haven’t even had a chance to tell my family yet–as I just got the email. This has been much like my Minnesota Life Experience (remember my 3rd or 4th post detailing my impulsivity?), except this time I’m praying like a mad woman! I gotta say though–it’s really looking like this might happen.

If it’s the Lord’s will, I know I will soon be learning espanol. If it’s not, you will have to endure countless posts about East Tennessee Woes. (I will make this promise: I won’t say anything else negative about my beloved home-state without restoring balance by telling you something good–It will be like a Bless-It’s-Little-Heart afterthought.) I’m working on being content, and I gotta say, I think I’m losing this struggle. It’s like I take two steps forward and one step back.

Merry Christmas, friends-o-mine. Learn from me: Be content with the place you’re in. Let’s get control over the ghosts of the past and present so that we can truly say:

Not my will, but thine be done…

Think Positive

Today I subjected my mama to countless Ted Talks. We watched one about Regret–and essentially, the lesson was that it’s okay to have regrets. We can view those lessons with positive thinking (and even sadness)–and can grow in the future! After watching one of my favorites on the death of creativity, it got me thinking about some of my favorite animated talks I’ve viewed on YouTube. While poking around, I uncovered this video called Smile or Die. To all you unemployed readers out there–I hope you find this interesting!

I continued to mail out emails with a barrage of information about myself to potential employers. I am thinking realistically though, and I know that most won’t even peek at my info. I did get an exciting email from one American school in Mexico, and here’s to hoping again that something works out…

For those of you who’ve lectured me about the dangers of Mexico–calm down. This is “the safest city in Mexico!” It’s also a college town (of sorts), so the average age of the town is 23… Hooray!

Oh, Baby!

I’ve decided to share one of my favorite past-times with you.  As you know, I’ve been trapped in East Tennessee, and the things that I love have been overshadowed by things that drive me crazy.  One of my rip-roaring activities here is reading the birth announcements.  Yes, I know…such is the exciting life of this girl…

So, I decided to start making a list of the WORST baby names.  Mainly because it’s amusing, but also because it’s a warning to Kindergarten teachers:  Five years from now, you are going to have a hard time explaining why these names don’t follow phonetic rules.

  • Yawn–because your child is such a bore.  Or maybe this was the first thing he did when you saw him.  Let’s be glad that he didn’t poop or cry.  That would definitely make this list too!
  • Ma’Blessan–No joke.  I am assuming this is a form of “My Blessing”
  • Nevaeh–Every single week someone names their child this.  EVERY week.  We know it is heaven spelled backwards.  Still…
  • De’Refla-Mae–My friend pointed out that the first part of this name is “Alfred” spelled backwards.  d-i-p-u-t-s.  This one really takes the prize.

Tune in next week for another exciting edition of The Worst Baby Names!

Another “Life In Tennessee” Post

Well, let me start by saying–I didn’t get that job in NOVA.  Can I get a boooooo?!  I’m ok.  They timing is off anyway.  So… we’re back to the applying-for-jobs-but-getting-rejection-emails-daily point.  I’m even applying for lame-o jobs here, because I am really trying to be willing for this if God wants me here.

You know, it’s funny–there are a lot of things I really love about East Tennessee.  Unfortunately, it’s really hard to remember what they are right now…

I do know this: Waffle House is still as trashy and drama-filled as ever.  (If that were a tweet I would add #somethingsneverchange.)  Tonight Rachel R. and I met for a waffle.  It stinks that Rachel wasn’t there.  I played some extra lame my-heart-was-recently-broken-but-I’m-okay music.  There was no one to sigh in exasperation or roll their eyes and scoff when “White Flag” by Dido played for the second time.

If you’re ever feeling like you have writer’s block, you should visit Waffle House.  It was like a writer’s gold mine in there.  I actually wrote a couple things down because I couldn’t forget them…

One old lady was sitting at the frequently visitor VIP section of the restaurant.  That means the bar right up next to the waitresses/cooks.  I overhear, “Well, my day started off good.  Then it turned bad.  Then it turned real bad.”  Only it sounds like this, “Weeellll, my daaay started off gud.  Then it turrrned bad.  Then it turrrned reeeel bad.”  (Can you imagine that in your head?)    My jaw dropped open.  I mean, is this lady my soul-mate or what?!

While I am reeling from the shocked, this young couple walks in.  He’s got a shaved head, full beard, and ball cap on.  This says jock-gone-bad to me.  His “lady” friend was wearing some tight clothes and too much makeup.  They were just in time to get a new waitress on duty–she may have also been on crack based on the way she threw herself into her job with gusto.  She goes over to take their order, and says something about the table being dirty.  Steriods-in-Shorts says, “Oh, that’s okay–I like dirty!”  Crackhead Cindy retorts, “Oooh, well you’re my kinda man!”   “Well, I guess we came to the right place!” exclaimed the girlfriend with glee.  Sigh. Maybe I should have played them a little mood music on the jukebox…

Never-the-less, this girl is applying for some jobs that might trap me here forever (Heaven, forbid!).  All in the spirit of my I-am-not-controling-my-life-anymore.  #quarterlifecrisis

UPDATE!  This is my horoscope that I just read.  I NEVER do this…but for some reason I clicked the wrong button and it took me to my horoscope. 

If you’ve been dying to experience something new in your life, you will get a grand opportunity to do so today. Someone you don’t know very well will propose a crazy idea — so crazy that it just might work! Are you in or out? Gather all your courage and dive on in! You need to start taking more chances, don’t you think? Risk is the only way to give yourself the excitement you’re craving. You don’t need another quiet, safe evening at home right now.

Really?  I need more risks?  I think maybe I’ve met my quota of risk taking moves for the next…oh, year?

Preparing for Disappointment–Planning for Adventure

I remember someone telling me when I began teaching, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”  Isn’t that appropriate, all you teachers out there?  I’m even thinking of my sweet friend today that had an observation.  Seriously.  Who schedules an observation on Monday morning before Christmas break?!?!  Sigh…  (I know I don’t have to worry about her–she’s a GREAT teacher!)

Anyhow, back to the point:  I am preparing for disappointment.  I know I said that it would be okay if the job in NOVA doesn’t work out, but honestly, I really want it!  I want to teach Pre-K.  I want to go back to Virginia.  I want to re-assume a life of traffic, D.C. weirdos,  and sweet fellowship.  I want. I want. I want.  I know that this might not be about what I want…

I am preparing to be bummed in a couple days.  I was told that the school would be interviewing all last week.  I was told they would make a decision by Thursday of this week.  I haven’t heard a peep, and I know how these things work: interviews, emails, second interviews, good news!

BUT, I will NOT be depressed and whiney!  I know God’s plan is great for me!  Soooo, I am planning adventure.  That was the plan, remember?  Last night, in preparation for bad news, I made a couple strides in a fun adventurous direction.  I applied (or emailed school directors) in Brazil, Eastern Europe, Spain, Morocco and some other South American country I don’t remember.  Today, I am going to send info to Ghana.  I mean, why not??  (Seriously, why not?  If anyone can think of why I should or shouldn’t go…speak now!)

I have also decided to reapply to the Department of Defense schools.  I know those won’t start until next school year, but I figure a head start wouldn’t hurt.  If only something would work out soon!