Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hello Again

Hi, there!

It's been a little while since even I have visited my blog.  Does anyone still read them?  I'm not sure, but this has always been a place where I can come and just get out what's on my mind.  So here I am, three years later.

It's been a crazy three years.  Since my last post in February of 2014, a lot has changed.  The camp where my family lived and worked for 15 years was closed, which motivated my parents to make the move back to Texas closer to family.  However, the move closer to family took them farther from me.  I stayed in Oklahoma.  I loved my job and things would just play out better if I stuck around a little longer.  So, in the summer of 2014, I packed up all my belongings, put them in storage, and took a trip to Canada to spend time with my best friend before she got married.  When I came back stateside, my family all lived in Texas, and I was homeless.

I moved into a tiny house just days before I began my third year of teaching special education in Kingfisher.  Did I mention I love my job?  I work in a classroom that intimidates most people.  We deal with things on a daily basis that would make the average person a bit (maybe a lot) queasy.  But you see, the biggest struggle leads to the biggest reward.  Working with these kids has been the most rewarding experience of my life.  I wouldn't trade the last five years for anything.

I'm getting ahead of myself.  During the three years that Mom and Dad have been hours away, some big things have happened.  In September of 2014, Dad had a massive heart attack.  I was three hours away getting texts and calls from Mom and Josh, and falling apart because I couldn't be there.  I was stuck in Kingfisher, with pneumonia by the way.  They decided to do open heart surgery, and I took my sick self on a three hour road trip to Texas.  Dad had a quadruple bypass, and came through it like a champ.

In August of 2015 (the day before school started), Dad had another huge medical event.  I will do a post about that soon, because our God is a God of miracles and everyone needs to read that story.  Needless to say, they did not expect my dad to survive, and brought the family in to say their good-byes.  While the family was preparing for the worst, I was making a 4-hour drive to Plano to try and make it to where they were.  Thankfully, things did not play out the way the doctors expected, and dad came through it again.  Later that same week, my great-grandmother passed away.

Fast forward to this year.  In November, my mom's stepdad, the man who raised her, my Papa Grouch, passed away unexpectedly.  In February, my last remaining great-grandparent, my Papa G, also went to heaven.

All of these things have made me realize one very important thing.  I want to be closer to my family.  The distance did not seem so big in 2014 when I moved into my tiny house and prepared to make it completely on my own for the first time in my life.  But the distance seems far greater when you are racing to get to a hospital "in time."

This has led to one of the hardest decisions I have made in some time.  This week, I turned in my resignation letter to Kingfisher Public Schools.  There is a lot of controversy surrounding the education system in Oklahoma, right now. So, I'm going to make one thing very clear. I am NOT leaving Oklahoma because of my salary.  This does not mean I'm happy with my salary. Oklahoma teachers are woefully underpaid and something needs to be done, but that's not why I'm leaving.

I've said it twice already.  I love my job.  I hate the paperwork that seems to be ever-increasing and I hate the politics involved in education.  I love my students. I love the people I work with.  I love knowing that I am making a difference.  The staff and students I work with have become my second family, when my real family is so far away.  I was emotional when I turned my letter into my principal; I was emotional when I sat at home that night thinking about it; I was emotional the next morning when I saw that my position had been posted for the next school year.  I don't think it's going to get better as we get closer to the end of the year, and I have to say goodbye to these people who have been such a huge part of my world for the last five years.  I'm not looking forward to saying goodbye.  I'm not looking forward to the change of a new school, new colleagues, and new students.  (Nevermind a new state with new laws.)  In spite of all that, I have complete peace that this is the right decision for this time in my life.

So, I'm facing a lot of changes, and I'm not great with changes.  When I pulled up my blog, I realized my camping theme wasn't really accurate anymore.  If everything else is changing, might as well change this, too.  So, I did a "redesign."  Deciding on a name change was difficult, but I read this quote and felt it was a pretty good place to start.  "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." (Lao Tzu)  My journey is not technically a thousand miles, but it's sure going to feel like it.  It can be overwhelming to look at it all in a big picture and all the decisions that have already and still have to be made, but I can make it if I look at each single step.  So, this is the first step of my new journey.  I can't wait to see where it takes me!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bow the Knee

When I was in the 8th grade, the high school choir at Windsor Hills Baptist School sang a song that I absolutely fell in love with.  I still find myself singing it all the time, almost thirteen years later.  It never fails that when I start to stress about things and let worry get the best of me, that God reminds me of this song and where I need to be in the midst of all this worry, and that is on my knees.  I don't know that I'm necessarily stressed, but I've had a lot of things on my mind the last few days and this song keeps coming to mind.  Since it's always such a blessing to me, I thought perhaps if I shared it, it would be a blessing to someone else as well.


There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Bow the knee;
Where God illumines every step we take.

There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us,

As we try to understand each move He makes.

When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him.
Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.

Bow the knee;

Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.

And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

There are days when clouds surround us, and the rain begins to fall,
The cold and lonely winds won’t cease to blow.

And there seems to be no reason for the suffering we feel;

We are tempted to believe God does not know.

When the storms arise, don’t forget we live by faith and not by sight.

Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee;
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Once Upon A Time...

Once upon a time, there was a girl who thought she had time to blog regularly.  Well, as it turns out, she doesn't have all that time she thought she did.  Or...maybe she has the time, but doesn't really have anything interesting to share.  I haven't posted since the spring when I {apparently} made people cry after the tornadoes.  So, I'll try to catch you up from then to now.

We had a great summer at camp!  We had a few new churches come this year, and during one week, we were literally bursting at the seams.  The Lord really worked and so many decisions were made.  No rest for the weary, though.  We are already planning for next year.  Here's the theme we've come up with!  We are getting excited about it and hope everyone else is, too.  {I will do my best to put up a post with more details about summer 2013 soon.}

I started back to work in the middle of August.  I was super excited to start this school year.  This time, I was going into the new year knowing what I was walking into.  Last year, I felt like I was going in blind.  I have two fewer students this year than what I finished with last year.  That means there are seven boys.  I have the same amazing aides and could not have asked for a better team.  We have received a few small grants in our classroom.  One of them was a Pets in the Classroom grant.  We are now the proud owners of two Australian white's tree frogs.  We feed them crickets and meal worms {much to the disgust of my aides} and one likes to climb in fake trees, while the other likes to hide in the dirt.

The most boring section of this post.  The Baldwins are doing great.  Mom is back to work part time.  Dad is, as always, busy with camp things.  We went to Austin a couple of weeks ago to watch the Longhorns play Kansas State.  They won!  In case anyone missed it, they also won this last weekend against that team that was "unbeatable."  Just in case you missed it.  My very best Canadian friend, Mandy, came down for a visit this past weekend.  She was in a wedding in OKC, and we had hoped to get one night to spend together, but it just didn't happen.  We spent all of Sunday together which was great!  Then she had to leave again, so it was a short but good trip.  Much to my dismay, I didn't get a single picture of us together.  Sad day.  I won't get to see her again for probably a year...at her own wedding most likely.  Growing up is rough stuff.

That's all I have for now.  Look for more detailed posts about some of the things I glanced over in here...or don't.  But in any case, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Teacher's Broken Heart

F5 Tornado
May 20, 2013
Moore, Oklahoma

Yesterday, I closed the door on my classroom for the last time this school year.  My classroom was cleaned and my materials were locked away.  My walls were bare and white.  I had planned on coming home and posting a happy little blog post about how great my first year was.  I got in my car, went to Sonic for my mom and her boss, then headed to Wal-Mart listening to the weather warnings on the radio.  When I went in to Wal-Mart they were watching a storm with possible tornadic activity.  When I came out, less than an hour later, I was listening to reports of damage and destruction that had hit the town of Moore, Oklahoma.  Out of all the reports I was hearing--they were all heart-breaking, the ones that stood out to me were the two reports about schools where students and teachers were trapped.

Briarwood Elementary School
Plaza Towers Elementary School
I bet just about any teacher out there has complained at some point or another about the number of drills we are required to have every school year.  Weather drills, security drills, fire drills--they all are things that take out of our instructional time.  We complain because that is time that could be spent learning, and it is hard to get the students back on track after a drill.  I have an added complaint because in my classroom, drills are emotional every time.  My students don't like their routine changed.  They do not like having to be in small places.  They don't understand that we are practicing for a future potentially dangerous event.  We generally have at least one meltdown during any given drill.  I dread having drills.

Yet, in that moment, hearing Kelly Ogle talk about the numbers of people trapped inside those schools, I was so very thankful for every drill I have ever had the PRIVILEGE to take part in.  Of course, drill cannot possibly prepare us for every circumstance.  It can't be guaranteed that circumstances will play out how we planned them to.  They do, though, provide us with some semblance of preparedness that allows us to act with a level head when disaster occurs.

The longer I watched and listened, the more I began to try to put myself in those teacher's shoes.  Especially when the reports came about the seven children who were lost at Plaza Towers.  Teachers catch a lot of flack.  While I know that there are some teachers out there who are not the best, I truly believe that the majority of teachers are in those classrooms because they love those kids.  I call my students "my kids."  The plaque below says it all.  When I tried  to imagine myself in those teacher's shoes, I felt such a real and powerful sense of grief.

I know--I am absolutely certain--that those teachers are grieving so hard.  I'm also sure that many of them are dealing with a certain amount of guilt, blaming themselves for the little lives that were lost yesterday, even though I am sure that they did everything in their power to keep those babies safe.  I know they are praying just as hard as parents, friends, and strangers all across the world that there will be no more casualties at their school.  So today, I am praying for the families who lost everything, including loved ones, the rescue workers still digging through debris looking for victims, for the thousands of people all over--not just Oklahoma--but the whole country who are rallying together to help the people of Moore, Oklahoma.  But I am saying a special prayer for the teachers at Plaza Towers Elementary School from my broken teacher's heart to theirs.
Teachers carry students from
Briarwood Elementary School
Teacher carries student from
Briarwood Elementary School
A teacher hugs a rescued child
at Briarwood Elementary School