Friday, May 27, 2011

A Quarter of a Century

Considering the fact that tomorrow I will be a quarter of a century old, I felt compelled to share some wisdom with you that I've learned along the way. Maybe I'm not old enough to be giving out my pearls of wisdom, but I have worked in a nursing home. So I think that qualifies me a little bit more than your average mid-twenty chica.

1. Learn to drive a stickshift. Learned: age 16.
2. Don't be rude to people who try to take your turkey hunting spot while you're standing there about to go in the woods. Instead, just get back in the truck...or they might try to pull a gun on you. Learned: age 12.
3. Go see your parents. It's amazing what a homecooked meal can do for a homesick girl. Learned: age 18.
4. It's easier to just eat the stupid wasper that your sister shoves in your face than to have her beat you with a hanger when you don't. Learned: age 4.
5. Invest your money, even if you think you're too young. Learned: age 13.
6. Don't spend your entire life wrapped up in one passion. Enjoy it. Don't kill yourself in it. Because when the final buzzer goes off in that final game, it won't be worth it to have missed everything else. Learned: age 18.
7. When your mom brings along the video camera, don't speak. Don't get in front of the camera. And definitely don't dance. It will..I repeat..IT WILL..come back to bite you. Learned: age 7.
8. Learn correct grammar before you go out of the state of Arkansas. And definitely take the dialect out of your speech. Learned: age 24.
9. Do something you've never done, just because it might be your only shot. Learned: age 20.
10. Don't just shake your dad's hand goodbye. Hug him. Learned: age 2.
11. Go see the world. Learned: age 25.
12. When your cousins want to blow out your birthday cake, they spit on it. And then they steal most of it. Learned: age 1.
13. You really do remember your times with friends more than your homework. Learned: age 21.
14. However, your homework gets you a career. Learned: age 22.
15. Fudgecicles can often double as dinner and dessert. Learned: age 5.
16. Sitting too close to the TV for several years can cause you to have to wear glasses. And despite your original thought, it really isn't cool to wear them. Learned: age 11.
17. Spend time with your best friend. Always. Learned: age 20.
18. Try to find a place and stay. Packing and moving is torture. Learned: age 23.
19. Blog. It not only journals your life. It may just land you a boyfriend. Learned: age 24.
20. Don't run under the bleachers. Sit in the stands. You'll learn more. Learned: age 7.
21. PBS is not the only channel on TV. In fact, most households have never put their TV on this station. Learned: age 19.
22. Blue liked to chew. Learned: age 2.
23. Having a cousin who is the coolest 6th grader when you are a 4th grader definitely makes you big stuff. At least in your own eyes. Learned: age 10.
24. Don't let your boyfriend ship your presents to your house and make you wait to open them until he gets there. It will taunt you and really test your relationship. Learned: age 24 years, 51 weeks, and 3 days.
25. Run hard. Then at the end of the race, run ever harder. Learned: age 15.

I can't believe in one hour I will have been alive for 25 years. It makes me feel old..and a little decrepid. But with age comes wisdom and gray hair and wrinkles. So what am I waiting for?!

And of course..I had to throw in my State of the Union.


1. AMS Talent Show

2. getting a random day off work during the middle of the week

3. knowing I get to spend 5 glorious days with my sweetheart


1. having our communities wiped out by tornadoes

2. losing my fence

3. my house insurance deductible going up

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Wonder...

If you know me, you know I love Amish people. I have a very dear friend who is Amish, and pre-Cash I was always telling her to hook me up! She said I was too wild for the Amish boys...and that none my age were single. HA! But I am mesmorized with their beliefs and conservatism.

In a typical post, I would insert a picture _______ here. But as you may know, we can't have pictures of the Amish. My mom went to Pennsylvania a few weeks ago and enjoyed a nice visit to Amish country. She snapped a few pictures of the backs of wagons, which is a few more than I've ever gotten in all the time I've spent with Renae.

They are a precious, precious people..and they love and serve God like I've never known. Every time I go there, I I that materialistic that I can't live like this?

And then when something goes wrong at work and my computer isn't working quite right, I instantly get frustrated. Then I sit back and wonder...what was life like before technology? It had to have been less complicated.

I all the things that make life easier just make us busier?

Like telephones.

And computers.

And dishwashers. No..not that one. That one's definitely worth it.

And nice cars that get 15 mpg.

And TV dinners. (That's really something Cash hates..and he blames TV dinners for my lack of cooking ability.)

I don't know...I just wonder. What would life be like without all this...this...this stuff. I may take my dad up on his challenge of us living in the wilderness living off the land for a month. We want to see how little money and possessions we can live off of. I think it'd be a neat experiment, like the PBS reality show a few years ago when they lived like the 1800s. I don't know if I could do it, but I just wonder...

Friday, May 20, 2011

State of the Union

This week I didn't feel quite as perky about doing the State of the Union. Then I realized that I probably needed it more since I've been so down. It always helps me to think about the great things instead of constantly fretting over the same stresses.

1. My mom stopped by to let me give my niece and nephew a hug and kiss. Braeson was sick, so he just held my hand.

2. Yesterday I was having a rough day, so my dad offered to come up and take me to dinner. We had steak and the best discussions.

3. My best friend from college--Katie--is coming in tonight.

4. Bottom's Friday. And that's helping me get through the day. That and the candy bars Kristen sent me yesterday.
5. God is working. I don't know what His results will be, but I know he's working pretty hard on me right now.

6. I had to include one more...just because my nephew is a great t-ball player. More on that later!

7. Ohh...and Scotty McCreery is 1 week away from being the American Idol.

1. Tornadoes. I'm so over them.

2. When life gives you lemons, and you haven't had time to make the lemonade just yet.

3. Being away from Cash. That gets me down more than anything.

Do you have those types of weeks too? I hope you can have more things "in" than "out." Have a blessed weekend, lovely little things.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Being Scared of the Dark

I just got off the phone with my precious boyfriend, and I must admit I've been bawling my eyes out for 2 hours. Sometimes reality hits, you know? I can't believe everything I'm about to leave for 3 months.

Then it rips somewhere way down deep when I know my life won't always be here. I think I knew regardless of my current relationship that one day I'd be moved and changed, because God keeps doing that. But I didn't expect it to be as drastic as it's going to be. Well, it seems drastic at this point in life.

Without getting into too many details, because a lot of them Cash and I just like talking about between ourselves, I can say life is full of changes. Here I am in this small town 30 minutes from where I grew up. Before college, I lived in 2 houses my entire life; they were 3 minutes away from each other on a dirt road. I never really knew change.

I have such a deep connection and passion for this part of the world. Arkansas is home. It's where I live, where I love, and where I long to be. But I do recognize that much of that is due to the fact that it's the only place I've ever afforded that opportunity. I was the 7th generation in my family to live in North Franklin County--I'd say I had some foundation there! Now I think one day I might live hundreds of miles away with no hills or rivers or family farms.

White Rock Mountain--where my sister got engaged. You can see it from our parents' house.

The Mulberry River, which flows through the edge of my parents' property, has given me many float trips, days of swimming, and rope swings.

For quite some time I have been just sick thinking of everything I might leave behind one day. What about everything I started here? What about my family? My career? My house? My church? What about the first 25 years of my life? Don't they even matter?

Then I realized they do matter. They are what's prepared me for my journeys, my relationship, and my future. They are so much a part of me that my every being is woven into these mountains and memories. I have to learn to be fond of the memories while looking to the future.

Memories like watching my niece and nephew not only be born but also grow up. I can't believe how fast the past 7 years have flown by. To know what a little man Braeson is becoming and the princess that Addison will always be makes me so proud to be their aunt.

Memories like teaching school and having literally the greatest students on this planet. Who knows how long I'll teach? Since I'm working on my master's degree, the obvious thing would be for me to implement and use it in a job. However, I want to take my time moving away from this, because I have the most wonderful friends and co-workers.

Memories like growing up with friends I've known since Kindergarten. That's foreign to a lot of people. We graduated high school with 99 students in our class, and I would venture to say 75% of those students were together K-12. I can't even begin to encompass all of those memories. I'm so so fond of my childhood friendships, and to this day they are the friendships that mean the most to me. They are the very foundation of my life.

Not all change is bad--but I think it's all hard. To leave a known world, either good or evil, to venture into the unknown...that's a scary situation. My cousin Brad used to tell me that it wasn't the dark he was scared of; it was the things in the dark. I can say that is flat out true about life too. I'm not scared of the dark; I'm scared of those things in the dark.

Maybe you've been in that spot before where your life was changing at 100 mph...I don't know. How did you get through it?

Friday, May 13, 2011


Last week I started thinking that I don't celebrate the weekends enough...nor do I celebrate those little things in life near as much as I should. I got really bogged down with grad school this semester, so I was in a pretty rotten mood most of the time. I promised Cash I would try to be better on a more frequent basis...his prayers have been answered. HA! So, I decided to start doing something new on Friday's. I hope you join me!

When I taught 6th grade literacy, my girls were obsessed with these Lisi Harrison books called The Clique Series. I must admit, I read them with the girls. I claimed it was for my teaching responsibilities, but you could find 2 or 3 Clique novels lying around my house at any given time. Busted! Anyway, the protagonist in the book ended everyday with a State of the Union. We won't concentrate on the 3 bad things like she did, but I thought it was a fun way to end the week every week!


  1. picking up Cash from the airport
  2. Pizza Parlour with Kristen and Megan
  3. 1 of my 2 best friends from high school getting married!
  4. Scotty McCreery is still "in it to win it"
  5. 65 degree days
  1. floods, rain, and floods
  2. losing satellite signal the last 10 minutes of American Idol
  3. my computer crashing from viruses
Enjoy your weekend...and let me know your State of the Union!

Bucket List

I'm so sad that Blogger has been messed up and inadvertently deleted my bucket list post. For those of you who have already read it, I have another link at the bottom for you to click on. For those of you who missed the bucket list post, feel free to write about your bucket list and link your profile to mine! Never done it?! Easy peasy! Just click on the link button below, copy & paste your URL, and wa-la! You'll be an old pro at this in no time. Look for more linkable posts soon..can't wait to hear from all of you! ~Avery

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Drop in the Bucket

When I was younger, I thought it'd be so cool to live forever. You know, be the oldest person alive and be on TV for knowing the secret to aging well. But that all changed when I was 20 years old, and my best friend at the time passed away unexpectedly. It was the worst time of my life. I will always remember the days we went without knowing where he was, the lines of people at visitation, his cold body in the casket with his sister holding onto him. A few months after his funeral I went to visit his family for his sister's wedding, and I couldn't get over it. It still sent me into a state of shock as I would wish and hope and pray it wasn't true.

The valley that took me to I hope I never reach again. I had no vision for life anymore. I felt as if I had no friends. I could barely function..and that was on a good day.

That's when I decided that no, I really don't want to live forever. Because forever is a long, long time. And that'd be a lot of friends and a lot of family I'd have to say goodbye too. So at 20 years old with my best friend gone, I learned to appreciate every single day and to find something wonderful out of each day. Therefore, I came up with a bucket list of things I wanted to do before I died. Of course I continue to add to them, but it was such a fun way to start thinking about day-t0-day life.

  • I have always wanted to live abroad.
So dreams do come true! I'm not too far away from my opportunity to do something like this. My hope is that I learn as much as I can when I get the chance to live overseas. I love culture--anyone's culture. When I get to live abroad, I hope I find myself in the middle of a culture so unique from my own so I can learn and grow and be challenged.
  • I've dreamed about a cabin in the mountains since my first trip to the Rockies when I was in middle school.
I love Colorado, Wyoming, Montana. I love Yellowstone and the Arkansas River. I love seeing moose, bear, and elk. I'm sitting here in Arkansas on the perfect 65 degree day, but honestly I wish I was in the mountains watching the snow fall getting ready to go out and ski. And I love hot chocolate--so I'd definitely need some of that when I got back to the cabin.
  • I want to learn how to sail.
I don't know why this is on my bucket list. It sort of reminds me of families like the Kennedy's and Rockefeller's. I wouldn't mind having their money, philanthropic abilities, or political stamina. I don't know. Sailing just seems like an enjoyable, relaxing time. I do get very seasick, though. I'm not really sure how that's going to fare.
  • Of course I want to finish my master's.
Six hours down and 30 more to go! I enjoyed my first semester, because it pushed me so hard. I learned more in this one semester than I feel like I did in all of undergrad. Now, I know that's not completely true. But I feel so confident in my ability to talk about the political processes of budgeting in the public sector. That was just one class! I'm ready for my other 10, especially Human Resources. Yes, I am a nerd. You can thank Ron Kuykendall for that.
  • I want to be in local and state politics, hopefully a state senator or representative one day.
Hence, I am getting a master's in Public Administration. I love being a teacher--there's not another job in the world like it. I hope I can use my time I am spending in the classroom to make education even better at the legislative level one day. Don't get me started on my platform, because I could dedicate an entire blog about the significance of education. I just hope to one day have an impact on the state level and not just the classroom level.
  • I want to travel to Israel and walk the same places Jesus walked.
Can you even imagine? I can't. When I start thinking about it, I honestly could cry. It's overwhelming to me to think that my Savior walked the same places I can walk. He was crucified, buried, and resurrected..and I can go look! What a precious, precious thing we have in Christianity to worship a living Savior.
  • I want to see a concentration camp from the Holocaust.
That may sound gruesome to you, but it's one thing I've wanted to do since 8th grade. I had this awesome 8th grade Social Studies teacher (yes, that is what I you know why) that introduced me to the Holocaust. I was mesmerized, and since then I have begged to learn more. In undergrad I even took an entire semester literature class on the Holocaust. It was one of my favorites ever! I'll be in Amsterdam soon and will visit the hiding place of Anne Frank. And that's pretty stinkin' close...but I just want to have an entire vacation dedicated to the Holocaust.
  • And most recently, I want to hike the Grand Canyon.
I've never really hiked much, even though the Ozark Highlands Trail is in my parents' backyard. When Cash mentioned to me that he'd like to hike the Grand Canyon, it sounded fun..but it also sounded like a lot of work. During turkey season, I was walking through the woods and just started thinking about the beauty of the mountains. When I got to work the next week, I asked my assistant principal about his trips of hiking the Grand Canyon. He convinced me there was nothing like it. Since that conversation--plus, knowing how much Cash wants to--I can't wait to get to where I can hike to that extent. What a fun trip!

I'm sure I'll eventually add more to my bucket list. I think that's what they're for! But I want to know you would like to before you die! Link your blog below!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It All Started in Algebra

High school was pretty good to me, and I loved being a Hillbilly. Yes, that was our mascot. Don't be jealous. It was kind of taunting, however, when you would be out of town at a store. (This is a true story, PS.) The lady would ask, "What is your address?" And if you were me or my sister, you'd have to say, "Number, number, number Upper Jethro Road." Then she'd kind of laugh and ask the town. "Ozark." A little bit more of a snicker, then the state. "Arkansas."

And every single time they would almost die laughing. Except one time when the girl was trying to mock me and said, "Sounds like a pretty hillbilly place!!" At which point my brother-in-law walked up sporting his "Hillbilly basketball" shirt as he was coaching in Ozark at the time. She turned pale white. So, note to self, don't mock me and my high school mascot.

Today I asked my kiddos to write about their worst school day ever. As you might guess from my blog title, mine was no doubt one wretched day in Algebra II. To set the tone, I'll tell you that I was a sophomore in class with mostly seniors. The quarterback that year sat right behind me, and he and our head football coach (also known as my Algebra II teacher) would talk plays non-stop. Coach Ford thought it was comical to try to teach me the plays. One day he even started pounding his fists on his desk in state of hysteria saying, "Kuykendall is going to play football! Pahahaha." I'll have you know I never signed up for football. I never even asked to sign up for football. I was 100 pounds soaking wet.

But Coach thought that would be hilarious--I guess the whole visual of a frail little sophomore girl getting pummeled by 300 pound linemen was somehow humorous to him. None the less, it was his sense of humor, and he was my teacher. So I just went along with it and laughed.

Coach Ford never really said a lot in class. He gave us instruction, but being the youngest in the class I was often too intimidated to ask questions. Honestly, I don't recall ever raising my hand in that class except one day. The Day.

We were taking a test one morning, and I wasn't feeling too well. But we had a basketball game that evening, and I was not about to miss it. So I went to school and tried to take my test. Well, that was a great idea until I was sitting there with a completed test in front of me, and I could feel my breakfast wanting to spew right out of me. I raised my hand (yes, the one time I raised my hand) to get Coach's attention, but he told me to just hang on a second.

About that time, I lost it. "It" being my breakfast. It went all over my Algebra test, my desk, my clothes, the floor. Coach told me to run to the office to get my mom since she worked in the office at the time (thank goodness). When I got there and told her what happened, she went back down to Coach's room to clean it up..because she's a great mom!

But come to find out he was an even better teacher. Because by the time Mom got down there, Coach Ford had cleaned up my throw-up! He was even grading my test that had been thrown up on! I was mortified!

They decided to let me stay in the nurse's office for an hour or so until I started feeling better, because I still wanted to make the basketball game that night. I did feel better by lunch, so I went outside to talk to all my friends. I stood there and someone said, "My goodness! It smells like throw-up out here! Disgusting!" A few of my friends knew I had been sick and looked immediately at me, and there was nothing I could do. I just fessed up and said, "Yep. It sure does! Algebra made me so sick this morning that I threw up on my test."

I would say 99% of that crowd took 15 steps back. The other 1% was me.

I can't remember if we won the game that night or not. I was a sophomore and didn't even see the court, but we had a future D-1 player as our star. So chances are we probably won. I don't remember losing a game except state finals that year. But I can say I sat on the bench every single game...even when I was sick.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I am so excited that my friends are starting to blog! Leslie is back and blogging more, which is great since we live so far apart now. You need to check out her blog, because she pretty dynamite. Currently she and her husband Zach live in Little Rock as they felt God calling them back to school to pursue different careers. I can't spoil all the fun (she is super smart..and she is a dynamite sewer..if that's a word), but you should check her out! And, yes, that's how beautiful she really is!

My friend Sara blogs too, and she's the one to credit for getting me connected to Kelly's Korner. If you know me, you know why I love that blog so much! Sara would love for you to see how cute her little dog Lily Kate is! That's the two of them with Kyle (her man!) and Luke (their other child).

And the last of my Arkansas friends, but certainly not least, is my latest friend to start blogging--Kristen. She is a proud new mommy to Christian! Kristen and Corey are 2 of the prettiest people you will ever lay eyes on, so you'll understand why Christian is so handsome! I bet you're thinking, "Wow, that girl has a bunch of gorgeous friends." Well, you would be right. But they are all so beautiful on the inside, and I'm blessed beyond words that God has given me such an easy time in this new town by giving me the best friends a girl could ever ask for!

I am lucky, too, that I have one awesome new friend in Midland. When I talk about her in Arkansas, I say, "My Midland best friend this...My Midland best friend that." She's an awesome friend, and we are both so lucky to have such wonderful (and handsome) boyfriends who happen to be great friends as well. We really bonded one afternoon while sunbathing (our guys were golfing and I knew NO ONE, so she saved me). I found out she was one of the best photographers I have ever known. I love looking at pictures, and it's no doubt you'll love looking at her work as well! Check out my Midland best friend, Barbara!!

I still can't believe how lucky I am to have these women in my life! I hope this gives you an insight into some pretty amazing blogs and some pretty amazing women.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Delight Yourself in the LORD

I am so excited about the blog my students are doing today! I've enjoyed the past couple weeks of descriptive writing with them, because it's allowed me to get to know so much about their lives. When you understand someone's history and where they came from, then you understand why they are who they are now. Today takes a different spin, though. It tells me what they want in a future: your dream boy/girl.

When I was in high school, I made a list of every single thing I would ever want in a guy. I placed it in my Bible, and to this day I've never shared it with anyone. So to share this with my students, hoping they learn that dreams do come true and God really listens to the desires of your heart, is one of the most exciting days of my teaching career. It's up there with teaching about the fall of Nazi Germany, which may always be number one in book!

My list, as I called it, was very specific. Sure a few things were broad, but I put things down to the very nth degree, because I had always been told that one day the right guy would come along. I never expected him to come along in the way he did (HA!), but my Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, rock solid family members were right. If you follow God, He will give you the desires of your heart.I put things on my list--like, he had to be good looking. Maybe it was shallow, but I got it.

I wanted a guy who liked to hunt, fish, and be outside. Because being stuck indoors the rest of my life sounded miserable. Cash even says that maybe one day we'll get to have a cabin up in the mountains, another dream of mine!

And I love sports, so having someone who loved every type of sport was towards the top of my list. I never realized that sports like rugby would ever be of any interest to me, but I have grown to love those short little rugby shorts! Okay, maybe not. But I do love the sports Cash has introduced me to...and the fact I get to watch baseball every time I'm with him doesn't make me mad.

(P.S. That's not Cash.)

But I grew up with a bunch of outdoor people, and one thing always stuck out to me: I also wanted someone who could look nice and present themselves well. I got the good end of that deal! I have to ask Cash if my outfits look okay. When I ran out of clothes (thank you, American Airlines for 2 days of cancellations) last time I was there, I had to use his athletic shorts and t-shirts. He finally said, "Let's go to the mall and get you some clothes." I think he was slightly embarrassed that I was looking so nasty! :)

A guy with a good job was one thing, but I wanted someone who pursued a career that he was passionate about. Amount of money never mattered to me, but intelligence and perseverance did. Cash works so hard, and I don't know how he gets up at 3 in the morning when a rig calls. Although I often ask when he does work since he gets to do whatever he wants and go on hunting and fishing trips with his boss, I know it's demanding. He has worked so hard!

But above the things you may consider shallow and ridiculous, I truly wanted someone with a sincere heart and great family. I've been able to go to Midland twice now, and both times I've had the most enjoyable time. Cash's family is so welcoming, and from the first day they made me feel at home. Plus, his little niece is about the cutest little girl I've ever seen!

Speaking of family, I wanted my family to love a guy. I must admit, before Cash my family was never too high about any guy. They might say, "Yeah, he's okay." or "If you like him, he'll do." But never did they really, really like someone. To be honest, I never even heard my dad speak to a guy before I took Cash to meet them. I was getting kind of jealous one afternoon when my dad completely ignored me and the political talk I wanted to have in order to talk to Cash about geology. I mean, seriously?! Dad even took us to lunch at Rivertowne (never thought that would happen) then gave Cash a tour of the operations building one Friday. The ladies at the Bank seemed pretty amazed that my dad introduced them to one of my boyfriends. They have known me my whole life, but they've never ever met a boyfriend.

Above all, however, I wanted someone with a passion for his relationship with God. Someone who respected me before he ever met me. Someone who supported me in my missions. Someone who craved more of Christ. To me that was always the hardest thing to find in someone my age. Going to church and loving Christ are 2 different ideologies. My parents support me, but Cash takes it to a new level. When I want to quit or go have fun or just do anything besides get ready for something at church, Cash doesn't just support me. He challenges me to keep going in my relationship with Christ and in life in general. One afternoon he drove me 2 hours to Lubbock to let me just see their law school, because he knows that has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. This is us on the campus of Texas Tech!

And he is so willing to help prepare me for things I'm nervous to do that he is starting a study with me over the next few weeks. We are doing "Kona with Jonah", and I'm so excited! Jonah was called by God to go to a foreign country, but he was scared. So through a series of events, Jonah eventually found himself in the belly of a whale. The way God used Jonah's circumstances to get his attention are loud enough that I would never want to have to repeat his decisions. Finally, Jonah ended up where God wanted him despite his initial refusal. It is just God's perfect timing that Cash and I can do a study like this together (and I'm sorry, sweetheart, that it's probably a lot more feminine than you wanted :D).

Is Cash perfect? No. But I often get overwhelmed with how God guided me in my desires and then led those desires to my front door. No one person will ever encompass everything we need in life or fulfill all our happiness. We have to find the happiness inside ourselves, in our relationship with Christ, and in the setting that surrounds us. But not settling for an okay guy (or girl) or a temporary solution makes it worth the wait when you do discover the dream you have had your entire life. Just don't stop dreaming at a relationship...aim for a you that could never be duplicated. And that...that will make dreams come true.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Big 2-4

Last year I spent my birthday in a way I had never dreamed. When you're growing up, you think by 24 you would be married...maybe even have a few kids. I suppose I was no different in that thinking, and even at 23 I was engaged. So never in my mind did I think I would spend my 24th birthday single. Nor did I think I'd spend it in the most heart-warming, sweetest way. I wouldn't trade anything for how I spent my birthday last year.

I walked into school that morning, and my dearest Alma friend--Dee Ann--had set a package in my seat. It was pink tote with an embroidered "A" on it. Inside was a wall decoration that read, "Faith is not knowing God can. It is knowing God will." (And boy, did He ever...)
Since my birthday is the end of May, we were having school assemblies left and right. My birthday fell on a Friday, which happened to be the same day as our AMS awards' assembly. School dismissed early, and the teachers had a luncheon at the PAC. When I got there, Leslie had saved me a seat. She also surprised me with an apron she had made just for me! You may not know my friend Leslie, but she is the best at anything sewn! She also knew I loved aprons, so to have her make me something I'm so fond of was just overwhelmingly amazing to me!

My friend Sara modeling the apron Les made for me!!

My sweet friend Leslie--I love her like she is my very own sister. I hate that we live away from each other now, but I love what God is doing in our lives and in our friendship!

After the luncheon, I went home and just sat around. I had no clue what to do that night. My mom offered for me to go to Ozark, but at that point in my life I wanted to show I could do it and make it on my own. Maybe I was trying to prove a point to my ex-fiance. Or maybe I was trying to prove a point to myself. Either way, I was in the business of living a brand new life...I just didn't have many brand new friends yet!

Then my phone rang, and it was sweet Kolby Dilbeck. She asked if we could please go to supper, and of course I wanted to! We ate Chili's down! The lady kept saying, "Do you want anything else?" And every time, we found something new on the menu! I felt terrible afterward, though, when I was surprised to find out that Coach and Bobbie had given Kolby their card to pay for our dinner. Bobbie told me later, "I didn't know a girl your size could eat SO MUCH!" We all had a good laugh about my ability to throw down some food.
We hung out and had just the best time of our lives! Ultimately, it wasn't how I had expected to spend my 24th birthday, but it was definitely the perfect way. I found that even during times that you think you're at your worst...when you think you have no friends...when you think that you're in a new town without any family...that's when you find those friends, you find that family, and find that every season of life has a celebration.

I wouldn't know what to do without those friendships over the past year. That time of my life gave me the opportunity to develop relationships with people I may never have gotten to know had I been married or in a relationship. This year my birthday will be much different, especially since it'll be my last weekend with my family for almost 3 months. But what I've learned is you have to take every season, every circumstance, and every moment that you're given; and you have to celebrate it like it's the most defining moment of your life. Because chances are, it is.

However, I'm not sure I'm ready for that defining moment of being a quarter of a century old. Ouch.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Golden Years

That's my Pa Dutton--my sale barn buddy, my favorite cowboy, my go-to guy. Because my Pa Dutton makes it known that I'm his very, very favorite. And he loves me more than anyone else on this earth ever could. He especially loves going to eat with me at I-40 on Thursdays so he can brag to his buddies that he can get the young girls to come eat with him. I love that man!

When I was in high school, I had the coolest job! I started as a janitor with side duties of passing ice at the local nursing home. One of the directors approached me one day to see if I'd be interested in taking CNA classes the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I was ecstatic! Not only would I be receiving a raise to $7.00/hour, I would also get to be part of the residents' everyday lives.

It was an experience I'll never forget and one I often long to go back to. If you know anything about CNAs, you know they have the hardest job in America. In my short tenure, I got chased down the hallway, my hair pulled out, told I was in the middle of World War II, and so much more. I bathed, fed, changed, and talked to the residents every single day. It was gruesome. A lot of times it stunk, literally. But I loved my job from day one, and I fell in love with the residents, their stories, and their families.

I learned quickly my passion was for the elderly. It was never a question in my mind or those close to me that I always gravitated toward people several generations older. Even today my dearest and closest friend in Alma is a woman a few years older than my mom. (Not that she's elderly..she's just older! :) )

Knowing that, it may be a shock that I'm in education. However, what I strive to do in my job is give my students an understanding and appreciation of the world that our elders have made for us. I try to exemplify to them the things generations before of us have endured: a bloody Civil War between brothers, cousins, and friends; a depression that simultaneously weakened our economy and strengthened our American spirit; terrorist attacks that threatened our national security. I could go on and on about what other generations have endured for us..and that is why I admire and respect them so much.

Luckily, I had some wonderful grandparents that top the list of my favorite elderly people!

My Granny is hands down the best cook on earth! She and Pa have always opened their home to our huge family, and Granny slaves over her stove making me baked beans and baking Brad pecan pies. We are, after all, the two favorites!

She's also the sweetest, kindest person I know. Last Christmas a little girl that rides her bus broke her present for her teacher one morning at the bus stop. Granny went to Wal-Mart and bought another present for the girl's teacher, even though she probably didn't have the money to do so. She makes sure every single person that comes to her house for Christmas has at least one present to open. And most of the time, she has spent the entire year making us presents with her own hands. I could just cry thinking of the time she dedicates to other people.

And my Grandpa Kuykendall...the best man God ever made. He and my grandmother were married for 53 years before she passed away. The last 3 years of her life she had Alzheimer's, and she couldn't even remember him most days. Still, he loved her more then than he did the day he married her. He slept in the recliner next to her all those nights and would just hold her hand when she asked. Love like few of us exemplify it.

That's my Grandma Kuykendall! She passed away last October, and I had the honor of speaking at her funeral. I could never say enough about how much I loved her...and how much she made me laugh! It wasn't a question who was her favorite--all of us! She was the best grandma, and it was hard to watch her forget us in her last years. But it gave me an understanding for what thousands of other people go through.

Grandpa K likes to do things with us more often now. He went with us last fall to listen to the elk bugle in Boxley Valley. A lot of times he'll come to Alma to take me on "dates." We will go have what he calls a malt, aka a milkshake. And he'll just sit and tell me stories of when he was younger, all the girls he dated, and all the trouble he prayed we would never find out about!

Between my grandparents, the residents I served in the nursing home, and the people I strike up conversations with in the local diners, the elderly are no doubt my passion. They say your golden years are your last, but having a passion in life for that generation has helped make every single day golden for me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

And I Thought It Was the Fourth of July

Typically when asked about my favorite holiday, it is an automatic response of "Easter!" But Easter just happened, and I've read countless blogs about the holiday. So today I'm concentrating on my other favorite holiday--the 4th of July.

I was lucky enough to grow up with a dad who had served 5 years in the U.S. Air Force. He has told me countless stories about mid-air refuelings, survival camps, and linguist school. It's never short of amazing to hear about his stint in Monterey Bay, California. For several grueling months he learned the ins and outs and rolled r's of the Russian language. After many stops later, he found himself in Fairbanks, Alaska where he (and soon after my mom) lived for 3 years. I'm not sure I'd ever be tough enough for that!
Can you imagine living in such a cold, freezing, dark place? Brrrr. I just get cold thinking about it.

My dad's 2 older brothers were also in the Air Force, and my Uncle Dan eventually retired having spent 20+ years in the service. His daughter is now in the Air Force as well. I suppose my dad's side of the family gave me my love for the military. Or perhaps it was the time I spent getting to know the guys on Navy Seal Team 10. Or likely it's because I simply am in love with the United States of America. Whatever the reason, I am one of the biggest advocates for the U.S. military.
Add to that I am flat out in love with summer. What could be better than the combination of watermelon, sun, cookouts, and friends? That's what I live for!
Okay, I have a serious problem. I don't like watermelon. I am obsessed with it! Saturday night I had a few bites of it for the first time since last summer. Ever since I have been dying for some more watermelon. I could almost eat that picture I am craving it so bad. Anyway, the fourth of July...

With the summer fun toppled with the celebration of America's independence, it's no doubt why I love the fourth of July. Fireworks, hamburgers, and of course watermelon make the holiday nothing short of amazing. Every year I sit there in absolute awe of the celebration taking place for our country. I wonder what the fireworks looked like that fateful night in Boston Harbor when protesters began to dump tea off the ships. I wonder what the fireworks looked like during the American Revolution when Paul Revere rode along to warn of the British coming. I wonder what the fireworks looked like in 1776 when we finally received independence from Great Britain (shout out to the Royal Wedding--still loved it!).

I'm going to miss all the fireworks this year, but I think I'll have enough next summer to suffice. What a year I have in front of me!