Saturday, December 14, 2013

Help my kiddos.

This is the time of year when many take the time to stop and consider their many blessings or the things they are most grateful for. In this season, despite the frustrations that come with teaching Pre-K children in a public school setting, I am very blessed by the kiddos in my classroom. Yes, there are days I need to be reminded of this feeling, but that is another topic for another day/post.

These kids challenge me daily, not just through their behaviors (oy!), but through their blatant honesty, genuine hearts, and simply how they face daily struggles head on.

As we ride on into winter, several of these kids do not have basic clothes that fit them properly, let alone proper and comfortable winter attire. Who has time for gloves and hats when you can barely afford the coat, socks, and somewhat fitting shoes? Those of you with kids long will those couple pair of socks and shoes really last a 4-5 year old growing child...

Many of these kids go home on the weekends to very little food for the whole family or household, many of which consist of 4+ people. Very little clothes? Scarce amounts of food? Just another day.

Now to the parenting...I could speak for days on this, but I'll hold back for now. These parents love their kids and they do their best by them, but that doesn't mean they can always do whats best for them. Most of these moms and dads are young, uneducated, and have low paying jobs, if any job at all. I know C and I are better off than most, if not all of them, but I'm still terrified of having children due to financial stress. Yet these parents are raising multiple children on very little.

Add another log to the fire: many of these children are Hispanic with spanish-only speaking parents. We all know parents should help with homework and parents should read to/with their children. How do these spanish-speaking families help their children with their English homework? How do these parents help their children practice the skills they are learning without knowledge of the appropriate vocabulary?

These kids have SO much against them...why not give them a little boost in the classroom? How are they going to catch up to their peers over in the private schools, the magnet schools, or the ones down the street whose parents can afford to meet all their basic needs and more, including all the latest technology?

We live in an age of technology. These kids need exposure. These kids need a chance to interact with all the online educational resources out there. This opportunity can make a difference in their lives. I can't clothe and feed all of them. I can't teach all the parents English and I can't become fluent in Spanish overnight (though I wish this on a daily basis). However, I can make a difference in the classroom. You can help too.

Click here to see how you can help. Help my kiddos.

If you can't help through donorschoose, please pray for them, their families, and for those of us who try to educate them in a way that gets them started on the right path early on in hopes that they will rise to their fullest potential on that same great path.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Our Summer with Sadie (Part 1 - The Good Times)


This blog post will come in 2 parts. Our main concern in this particular blog post is simply to reflect upon all the love and joy Sadie gave to us in the short, short time we had her (hence the blog title).

The one to follow will tell the tragic story of how her life came to an unexpected close, but will also end in hope as we will reflect upon the lessons we have learned and applications we hope all our readers will consider as well.

One quick warning... these posts will probably be very long for 2 reasons: (1) We (Chris & Bri) are writing these posts together which means there are more cooks in the kitchen than normal, each wanting to have a say in what information is important to convey, and (2) we are writing these posts primarily for ourselves. We want to remember everything we possibly can and cherish every moment. How tragic it would be to have such a short time with little Ms. Sadie and only be able to recall a handful of events after many years have passed. No. We want to remember as much as possible!

If you are a dog person, and especially a dog owner, grab some tissues... this won't be easy for any of us...


On May 28th we went to the Randolph County Shelter to check out some dogs we had seen on their website. Lo and behold none of those dogs were still there (typical). The lady assisting us didn't want us to go away disappointed or empty-handed so she took us back behind the magical "employees only" door! She showed us dog after dog but none of them really stood out.

And then it happen. We saw her! Chris randomly pointed her out first. "What about that one?" pointing to the eager little girl that would soon be ours. She was brought out and instantly took to Chris. As we played with her in the lobby and asked if she was "the one", that sweet little girl kept calmly sitting by Chris' feet and looking up as if she were saying, "yes, take me." Plus, she met all of the criteria Chris was looking for: a snout, a tail, and super cute!

That was that, the lady at the shelter fast tracked our application (which normally takes around 24+ hours) and 20 minutes later we walked out the door with a little furry bundle of joy. The ride home was surreal. We kept looking at each other saying, "we got a dog... this is crazy!"
She looooooved watching the world go by!
This was the same face she made at the shelter that stole our hearts.
Resting comfortably...
On the ride home, as we reassured ourselves of our decision, our first task as a dog-owner was to rename our sweet little girl. On paper she was "Tasha," but that just didn't suite her so we discussed other options. We landed on "Sadie" because there was another sweet looking dog named Sadie at the Guilford County Shelter and we really liked the name. 

By the end of the first day all we knew about Sadie was the info on her paperwork, what the shelter staff could tell us, and that she stole our hearts. Her paperwork told us she was a beagle mix. Our best guess is that she was mixed with Pointer or Springer Spaniel (we think it was most likely Pointer). Also, we didn't know her exact age but everyone's best guess, experts included, was that she was under 1 year, most likely around 9-10 months old. 


That day and the next several days were a whirlwind as we then had to purchase everything for her: crate, food, leash, collar, harness, treats, bones, toys, etc. Priority #1, however, was getting her a bath, so we took her directly to the Connellys' (Bri's parents') house because they already have 2 dogs and all the essentials for getting a dog clean. As Chris drew the water, Bri was downstairs talking to her mom. Sadie was left unattended. And so it was that Sadie peed and pooped in their dinning room... what an introduction!

Early on, she didn't have much of a personality. For the most part she was quiet, pretty submissive, and wasn't very playful, despite Chris' numerous attempts to get her hyper. And she didn't take to any of the toys or bones we got for her. At the most, she'd sniff them and move on. However, crated-Sadie was a much different dog! More than once we would come back having found something in her crate torn to shreds. One time it was the actual hard, plastic flooring of her crate. Clearly, this pup suffered from severe separation anxiety.
Seriously?!? How in the world?!? 

We discovered quickly that our new pup must of had some early training because we found her to be very submissive and receptive to authority. She sat without command most of the time and was quick to report when her name was called. In fact, any time you would show her her leash, she'd come right up to you, sit down, throw up a paw (which was both weird and super adorable), wag her tail, and wait patiently until everyone was ready to go... all on her own.
"Daddy... I'm ready to go outside!"
The first few days and nights were filled with moments trying to establish our relationship with Sadie. As dog-owners know, its easy to give in to that sweet little face, but we wanted Sadie to know that we made the rules and she followed them. Therefore, the first few days and nights we made sure to establish the fact that Sadie had to be invited on the couch and on the bed before jumping up. To establish the authority, Sadie spent the first couple nights sleeping on the floor. But it didn't take too long before we allowed for the bed to become her spot. :)
She always took over Mommy's side of the bed
Sadie was a sweet and healthy pup (we know because our first visit the the vet confirmed it!), but while we were at the vet, we were told that she was either going into heat or just coming out of it. We were hoping for the latter... what we got was the former... so we quickly had to run get doggie diapers. And that drama continued for about a week.

Then it came time to have her fixed. So the drama continued yet again for another week trying to keep her inactive until she fully healed. Our instructions were: no jumping, no running, no playing. At this point, Sadie was accustomed to sleeping on the bed with us, so either she would have barked at us until we let her up or should would have jumped up on her own if we ignored her for too long... and we couldn't let her do either. Thus, we, being the good puppy-parents we were, got out our inflatable mattress and slept on the floor for a few days with her. :)
I spy a cute pup wearing diapers...
The cone of shame!
Then there was her leg. On her back left leg there was a red bump she had had since we got her. The first 2 times we took her to the vet, they simply stated it was a common tumor dogs get that will grow for a time and then shrink to nothing, but all we kept seeing was growth. Long story short, we took her in a 3rd time, they did some tests, and found that it wasn't a tumor. Instead is was some kind of skin irritation (the medical name of which escapes us) that got worse as Sadie would lick it. And so it came to pass that we had to keep her leg medicated and bandaged while also giving her some new medication (and the cone of shame returned during her crate time so that she wouldn't chew off the bandages). Oh the joys of taking care of a pet...

In terms of eating, she was very good. If you put food in her bowl, it was sure to be gone within 15 minutes, which is wonderful for a family who is often on tight schedules. We've always been used to dogs who wait all day to eat anything... so this was an added bonus for us. But she liked food so much so that if she found other dogs' bowls, she'd eat from them if left unattended. One time, while we were at the beach, a friend and one of our siblings were helping look after Sadie for us, and they caught her in the act of stealing another dog's food. They both yelled out, "SADIE!" Sadie, looked at them... and all the food in her mouth came tumbling out as if to say, "What? I wasn't doing anything..." They laughed so hard at her then and each time they retold the story.


By the time we came back from said beach trip, Sadie, by this point, was what Chris called a "normal" dog: fixed, healed up, and getting used to her environment. Her personality finally began to show and she finally began taking to a few toys and chew bones (and, man, would she devour a chew bone!). She even would play a few short rounds of fetch... like the good version where you'd throw the ball, she'd run and go get it, bring it back to you and actually let you grab it from her mouth without resistance... again, all on her own!

More than anything, Sadie LOVED being outside! She was always ready for a walk. But the best was getting opportunities to take her to a dog park or letting her out in someone else's big fenced-in back yard. In Chris' words, this is when Sadie "came alive." She would run and run and run and run. And if another dog was there, she would play and run and play and run. Often times she'd go find a patch of grass with an interesting smell and dive-bomb it with her body and wiggle around. This was always the most interesting when she was on her leash, because then we'd be dragging her behind us while she's wiggling around on her back.

Probably one of our most favorite things about Sadie was actually people's reactions about her. Everyone... and we mean EVERYONE... that met her, liked her. Whether at Petsmart, in the dog parks, or walking in the neighborhood, everyone could tell that she was a good dog, with a good personality, that had a sweet and playful disposition. And Sadie never met someone she didn't like either. That goes for dogs too... she never met another dog she didn't want to play with! Oh, we were proud puppy-parents indeed!
Chillin' outside 
Classic Sadie (this was also our LAST picture of her... appropriate)

We only had Sadie for about 2 1/2 months, but the time we had and the happiness we shared will have an everlasting impact on us. This is the reason for this post! We want to celebrate the good times we gave her as well as the ones she gave to us. Someone once said, "Our dogs are not our whole world, but they make our world whole." And that was and is so true for us. So, to conclude, we simply want to list a series of experiences and character traits that made our summer with Sadie so special (along with a few more pics!). You may find your pet is just like her in more ways than 1... :)
  • She would let out a big sigh when she found a good resting spot
  • She always wanted to chase bunnies and geese
  • She would randomly bark at us as if to announce “I’m ready to play now”
  • After chasing down a fly, she learned she could sit on top of the couch
  • Getting into small, cramped areas to rest was her specialty… like behind furniture
  • She’d only bark at other dogs and people from the window. We think it’s because she knew should couldn’t physically get to them to say hello
  • Whenever she got excited seeing another animal, she would sprout this intense Mohawk that extended the length of her back (hence why Chris wanted her to be named Sadie “Hawkins”)
  • She knew 3 tricks: sit, up, and stay
  • The beagle part of her always kept her nose to the ground
  • She loved car rides… she’d assume she was going with you when you grabbed your keys or put on shoes
  • While in the car, she’d go back and forth between being curled up in the back seat, to sitting in mommy’s lap, to sitting in daddy’s lap while he was driving!
  • She learned quickly that being off the leash outdoors was not an invitation to run away (though she did twice) but that it meant we were either going inside or going to the car
  • With the first few bites of her food she would always take it away, find a soft spot (like the carpet), and chew, only to end up eating next to the bowl because she realized it was too much work to do that each time – but she did it EVERY time!
  • She had crate issues…
  • Crate Issue #1: She’d cower from her crate when she knew we were leaving which meant we’d always have to find her and carry her to it
  • Crate Issue #2: Most of the time we had to place her all the way in her crate because she wouldn’t walk in on her own. She only walked in a handful of times
  • Crate Issue #3: 9 times out of 10 when the front door officially shut we could hear her barking obsessively in her crate from the outside
  • Crate Issue #4: Because of her separation anxiety, she would often salivate a lot in her crate leaving us with the constant chore of cleaning up pools of saliva and drying her off
  • However, she did learn that she couldn’t leave her crate until she was specifically invited out
  • She came to us housetrained (except for when it came to Bri’s parents’ dining room – she almost always did something in there)
  • However, twice, after eating a rawhide bone, her mouth got so dry from this that she drank a lot before bedtime – both times resulting in a pee spot on the hallway rug the following morning
  • After using the bathroom outside, she would always do this kick-back action with her hind legs as if to try to cover up what she had just done – and to indicate that she was all finished
  • She was notorious for hiding her stuff, especially her bones. We still have not found the bone we brought with us to Jacksonville… but it’s there somewhere
  • She loved having her belly rubbed
  • She mainly slept at the foot of the bed until morning – then she got in our faces for some serious cuddle time!
  • In the mornings, she’d get up with mommy in order to go eat, but would go right back to bed after eating and sleep with daddy until he got up
  • She didn’t like being held too much – she became dead weight mainly
  • She met A LOT of people from our church and neighborhood in a very short amount of time. She got to spend repeated, quality time playing with at least 8 other dogs (mainly male dogs… Sadie was a player)
  • She never jumped up on people when she was excited, but she’d stand up and streeeeeetch herself on whoever she was greeting
  • She was always very submissive and gentle (except the times she’d kick Chris trying to get comfortable on the bed or couch)
  • She was scared of frogs… and drains
  • She would do this weird thing where she’d arch her back like a cat and rub up against the couch. To turn around, her head would take a nose-dive to the carpet to somehow pivot her body in the other direction. And she’d always let out little playful “woofs” while doing it. What a weirdo!
  • She cuddled with mommy but followed daddy

"Hey! I'm cute! Love me!"
"THIS... IS... SO... AWESOME!!!"
"Pay no attention to the pup behind the end-table"
Okay, so this photo is only 50% genuine...
"I can help drive, Daddy. Is this helping?"
On top of the world
Our ONLY family photo :) and :(
Stay tuned for Part 2... which may take us a while... it's a tough story to tell.

Our love to you all!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Journey to Africa, Overview

I've retyped, reworded the first sentence of this post at least five times and yet, as you can see, nothing has satisfied me. That is why it has taken nearly 2 weeks 4 weeks okay 5 weeks for me to even attempt to put my experience down on "paper."

I'm going to bite off a little at a time and start with a simple overview of the trip. A day by day synopsis and I'll expand with the educational and emotional goodies in the days to come.

Before going further I have to say: I heart Heart for Africa. Big Time.

I think having a heart for the organization, what its doing, and the country its doing it in helps when attempting to endure the journey there and back. Folks, its a lot of traveling. We left Saturday afternoon and didn't arrive to Swaziland until Monday afternoon. That's two days of traveling before you even get to your final destination and then you have to settle in...

That brings us to Day 1:
After arriving in South Africa on Sunday we stayed that night in a hotel connected to the airport. The following morning we all piled on to a bus and rode for 5 hours to our final destination. About half way through we had to enjoy a little walk through passport control in order to leave South Africa and cross the border into Swaziland. Once we finally arrived at our hotel, we got settled in and had our orientation and a darn good meal...oh that food, YUM.

Day 2:
On Tuesday morning we set out for Project Canaan (PC), a 2500 acre farm owned by Heart for Africa. Swaziland is actually a kingdom, meaning its run by a King, who owns nearly all the land. The fact that Heart for Africa was able to buy land was amazing, but that much land...definitely a God thing. PC has a variety of animals, crops, greenhouses, training centers, children homes, and so many other wonderful things that I hope to dive into later.

The day we visited PC we were given a detailed tour of the land along with a vision for what is to come - good stuff, people! After the tour, we ate lunch around the baby, toddler, and preschool homes. Then we set out in small groups to complete some work around the farm. My group ended up here:

Picking up and bagging corn
Rob & Chris hard at work

My group gathered corn in large bags, emptied said bags into a fancy shmancy machine that decobbed the corn, and we tied up the bags of corn kernels to be used around the community. Typing it up makes it seem simple, but trust me, it was no joke. Our muscles had a lot to say about it the next day.

Our final task that day was to sort out boxes of TOMS to be sent out to homesteads the following day. Everyone was pleasantly surprised at the quality of these TOMS. They were much higher quality than the pair that you receive when you order from their site. More to come on that later...

Day 3:
On Wednesday we had the privilege of visiting two homesteads. Each homestead belonged to one of the workers from PC.

Day 4:
Thursday was the once in a lifetime experience of exploring the natural habitat of African wildlife.

Day 5-7
Friday was the first of three days that changed things for me. It was the first of three days that my group visited Ebholi Methodist Primary School. During the first day there we helped them plant a garden and just hung out with all of those beautiful children. Our second day at the school we passed out TOMS and played with the kids some more. Our last day was bittersweet, filled with tears. We held a worship service in one of the classrooms, helped a teeny bit with food prep and distribution, and simply enjoyed our final hours with the people that touched our hearts.

More info and pictures coming soon, but for now you can check out a handful of the pics here:

Day 2-3 Pictures

We're pretty slow at getting thank yous out, but this little thing is on its way. We can't express how grateful we are for all of the donations and prayers that helped us make this life-changing journey. :)

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's day thoughts

My thoughts as I was reflecting on father's day and life in the present: 

Whether it is the TV, newspaper, or online, everywhere we look or listen we hear of one natural disaster after the next. When I say "natural disaster" I mean both weather and man-made. Not only have there been hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and flooding that have taken lives, but there have been men and women who have committed horrendous acts, ones that have taken so many lives, leaving pain and confusion. These men and women are not monsters or people who have gone crazy and killed innocent people. They are human beings who are controlled by the same human nature that lies within all of us. It is in our, meaning ALL humans, nature to desire more than we need, to envy to a fault, to judge, and to hate. 

It is our nature to sin. All of us. 

In other words, on our own, none of us are any better than those men and women who have committed such heinous acts. 

But that is where my God comes in, my heavenly father. Without Him, I am worthless, nothing but a sinful human who gets lost in this world. With Him, I am an instrument, His instrument, used to bring healing, peace, and happiness. To bring Him glory. I am a small piece in His beautiful story.

It is only with God that I am saved from an eternal Hell. He saves me from a meaningless life, one where I wander around looking for acceptance, love, and success in areas that will never keep me content long enough. 

Don't get me wrong, my faith and relationship with God does not make my life perfect by any means, but boy does it make it worth it. I can't imagine dealing with the trials, pain, and disappointment that this world offers without having the peace and joy of Christ that transcends everything else and knowing what is in store for me for eternity! 

I LOVE my dad SOOO much and I can't express how thankful I am for him and how he has always been there for me. I LOVE my husband more than words can express and I have no doubt that one day he will make a spectacular father, but both my father's love and Chris' love cannot compare to the love of God, who sees me as holy and blameless. 

Today, I am thankful for my dad and all of the amazing fathers out there, but more than anything I am thankful for God, my Father. I pray that others experience His love as I do. It changes everything.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Becoming a family of 3.

Yea, so I'm going to work on making more frequent updates...

This past week was a big week for Chris and I, adding quite a bit of responsibility and a tad bit of crazy to our lives. First, we went to the Farmer's Market and purchased items for an herb garden container and a veggie container. We now have basil, thyme, parsley, and cilantro growing on our patio.

After we got those edible beauties planted, we continued to pursue our search for a sweet pup that we could call our own. We've wanted a dog from day one in our marriage, but we have been walking the financially responsible road and applying logic which meant no dog for us. However, we've graduated from grad school, refinanced our place, and changed a few other little things here and there, which means our money and our time is a bit more available than in the past few years. Plus, I truly believe the many pros to dog-owning completely outweigh any possible cons. We had been talking about getting a dog for a while, but were trying to make the wisest choice, taking our time to research things.

We discovered that when you find the right one, things just fall into place.

This past Tuesday, I rushed home from work to pick up Chris and head to the Randolph County Animal Shelter to check out some sweet furry faces we saw on their website. The hubs, prepared as always, had the adoption application filled out and ready to submit when we got there. We headed there knowing that it was likely that we would instantly pick out one of the pups we read about, submit the application and then wait a day or two to hear whether we were approved to go back and pick up the dog wanted to adopt.

However, when we got there our nice little plan went out the window...and I couldn't be happier about that! When we got there we found out that the sweet furry faces we saw on the computer were not actually there, but in foster homes and were likely already being adopted.

As soon as we had decided to make a trip to the shelter, I had started praying that if getting a dog was the right thing to do, then we would find one right away and it would happen quickly, but if it wasn't the right move for us then I asked God to close that door and keep us waiting. When we were told the dogs we came for were not an option and we didn't see another good breed/size for us, I thought that was it...story over.

However, we were then invited to the Employees Only area in the back where we saw her. Chris pointed her out and she was brought out for us to visit with her. She was so sweet and gentle. As people came in and out of the lobby, she stood by us, no barking, no growling, no jumping. She simply looked up at Chris with those precious puppy-dog eyes as if she was saying, "I can love you so well, please take me home." She was the size we wanted, a good breed mix, good age, great personality. She was perfect.

THEN the lady said that she would go ahead and review our application, right there on the spot! And just like that my prayer was answered. Within 20 minutes, we were walking out the door with our brand new pup, Sadie. This sweet thing was now ours.

Yes, I had moments of "oh my, what are we doing?" and "are we crazy!?" but she has been such a blessing that I don't doubt this was the right decision.

In the past week we've seen how Sadie makes us stick to more of a schedule, which we actually love. She keeps me more on top of cleaning (darn shedding), but that is a good thing. She keeps us active with all the long walks. She has brought Chris and I closer as we talk on our long walks and we work as team in training and disciplining. And one of my favorite things about her is that this kid just flat out loves people, which is not only sweet to witness, but in a matter of days simply walking her has opened up the door for conversation with more neighbors than we have had in the almost 4 years that we've lived here! It is amazing how people open up and share life when your dog daily loves on them.

Maybe it is too early to say this, but I'm going to say it anyways: Sadie has changed our lives for the better and we already love her like she has always been one of us.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Open eyes

It is been waaaay too long since my last post. Since then, Chris and I have both graduated with our Masters, my adorable little nephew was born, and life (or I) have just continued to change. However, those updates are put on hold.

With spring arriving, summer around the corner, and plans being made left and right, the busy-ness of life can cloud out what is really important. On my way home from work the other day (totally psyched about Spring Break) a song came on that just pierced me. And yes, I'll admit I listened to it over and over and over again, singing it with all that I could know, like one of those people you see at the stoplight just singing at the top of their lungs, really workin' it out. That was me.

Here are the lyrics to Billy and Cindy Foote's "Rescue the Perishing":

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave
Weep o're the erring one, lift up the fallen
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save

Church open your eyes once more
And see what Christ died for
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save

Church open your eyes once more
And see what Christ died for
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save

As we're playing our songs, while we're singing them well
Have we forgotten the lost or the reality of Hell?
If we say we love God, want to see his will done
Will we offer our lives or just the songs we have sung?

Do we even care?
When will we care?

Wow. At the risk of my words ruining the power behind the lyrics, I want to share what this song did to me.

This song reminded me to open my eyes to the true purpose of my life. I was not put on this earth to get a higher education, to marry an amazing man and have babies, to have a successful career, to enjoy vacations and a great social life. I was put on this earth to worship my Savior, to glorify his name, and to share his love. However, do I remember this on a daily basis? No. Do I remember to share Christ with my friends, co-workers, strangers? Not like I should. Do I get caught up in the values of society? Yes, more than I'd like to admit.

Jesus saves. Even on this very weekend, do I really grasp what it means that God sent his only son to die on the cross to pay for MY sins, my messed up self? Do I care enough to shout it from the rooftops? To even whisper it to all who cross my path? Do I show the love, grace, and mercy that was shown to me that day and every day since?

Hmm, talk about shame and guilt...yet God sees me as holy and blameless. I am loved and it is finished.

Tomorrow, during the Easter service my focus won't be on singing songs well, but on offering ALL of me to my God. I want to remember why Christ died, what it means for my life, and how I can live in a way that others can't help but see God and know him.