Life in the Green Mountain State

I am celebrating my 26th day living in Vermont!  Every day I learn something or discover a new place that I love.

Today, for example.  I walked to Northshire Bookstore, which is less than a mile from I live.  A mile.  Can you believe I’m this lucky?  It’s an adorable little bookshop near one of the roundabouts in the main part of town.  (Just a side note: roundabouts make so much more sense than stoplights.  Seriously, they’re amazing.)  I spent over an hour browsing and enjoying the atmosphere.  There’s also a coffee shop connected to the store, which makes it even better.  I got a book about being eco-friendly, like how to make your own laundry detergent and other ways to help be more green in everyday life.  It’s a big deal here in Vermont!

I recently completed my third week of teaching at my two elementary schools.  In some ways, every day gets easier, but in other ways it gets more difficult.  I finally have learned almost all the teachers’ and students’ names and I am more efficient at lesson planning and teaching to the needs of each class.  However, now band has started at one school and there’s a lot of work involved in getting rental instruments for kids, fixing the pesky clarinet whose bridge key is bent, talking to parents about costs, coordinating small group lessons with the classroom teachers, typing up practice sheets, updating my website page, and more.  It’s a lot of work!  Some days are tough – really, really draining.  I come home with a hoarse voice, a gigantic to-do list, tired feet, no food in the house, and very little money in my bank account.. But you know what?

I love those tiny humans.  I love music.  I love teaching.  Some days I walk out of school on such a high that I can’t help but smile and sing along to the radio the whole way home.  Those moments and days make up for all the tough ones.  Each day of teaching is unique and challenging in its own way.  It’s awesome.

Here’s pictures from both schools:

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2014-09-20 19.43.51My parents were visiting for the past 4 days, so I showed them the schools and some other places in the area.  It was great to have them here!  Now that all 3 of their kids have left home, hopefully they’ll have time in their schedules to visit us often (although mine is the farthest).

Speaking of visiting, I drove to Pennsylvania for my first drill weekend last weekend.  It was very tiring, but the traveling was fine.  Vamping up my energy level on Monday morning after this weekend was hard, but I survived.  It was so nice going to a familiar place where I didn’t have to concentrate on what anyone’s name was or use my GPS to get everywhere within a 10 mile radius of where I was staying!  My true introvert-ism shines through some teaching days because talking to so many new people exhausts me, but this weekend was great because it kind of recharged me talking to friends and familiar faces.  Here’s a shot of the sky as I was driving to PA.  I know, I know, I’m a terrible person for using my phone while driving.  I survived.  Lately, I have been obsessed with clouds!

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One exciting thing that happened a few days ago was that I became the official owner of my 1997 Volvo!  I drove it for most of college, but now it’s actually mine.  I have my Vermont plates and driver’s license!  I love this car.  It have more than 185,000 miles on it but it still runs like a champ, and is like a tank in winter.  It’ll be just fine for this coming winter.

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This past week was especially fun at one of my schools.  We had the “Junkman” visit and perform for us!  Don is basically a one-man Stomp performer who travels all over the place to do gigs like the one he did for Sunderland.  The kids LOVED it. Each grade had their own junk-playing class after an all-school assembly where he gave a short concert.  As a result, I am brainstorming ways on how the fifth and sixth graders can include our own composed junk piece on the holiday concert!  They did such a good job with playing rhythm patterns on their own junk, and they asked so many insightful questions.  I know you’re not supposed to have favorites as a teacher, but my 5/6 class is especially fantastic.  They are so musical and not afraid of doing anything in music class.  They’re a joy to teach.

(Just a little disclaimer, I had permission to take and use photos from our junk classes!)  You can see in this picture on the left Don’s set up where he uses 100% recycled materials to make music.  He did a great job with the kids.  I especially loved an exercise where 4 kids kept a beat on an upturned bucket with rubber band covered sticks to deaden the sound, and he and another student would take turns soloing on another louder, more metallic sounding bucket.  The students got really into it.  I loved seeing them be expressive and creative with music!  I’m working on getting him to visit the kids at Currier!

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Can I just say that it’s awesome to be loved as a teacher?  I see students everywhere (including a barn sale today, a restaurant this past week, and at church last Sunday), and in school and elsewhere, the kids are always waving at me and saying hi and coming up to give me hugs or to help me move instruments out of the closet to the music area.  I am doing my best to give them a well-rounded musical experience as possible.  I try to take notes after each lesson to remember what went well and what I could change for next time.  I’m sure I’m going to be such a better teacher after I’ve done it for one whole year but so far things are going pretty well!  I make mistakes every day, but kids are forgiving!  And the next class I teach a little bit better.

It’s beginning to get cold here!  I had frost on my windshield yesterday morning!  During the days it’s warm, but at night and early morning it’s very chilly.  I wore my first scarf and pair of boots of the season this week!  I had an especially good run yesterday at a nearby park (also within walking distance of where I live) when there was no humidity, a slight breeze, and the perfect amount of sunshine left in the afternoon.  It was perfect.

I’m trying to get involved in community events to meet people and socialize.  Next week, I am doing a yoga day at a studio in town whose proceeds benefit an organization called Women for Women, and I was recently invited to help lead Girls on the Run at school.  It’s a club in the spring that’s like an elementary version of cross country.  I’ve been to 2 different churches, and I’d like to try out a couple more in the coming weeks.  There’s also a house being built through Habitat for Humanity in a neighboring town soon, and I’m going to sign up to volunteer to help.  I also have 4 piano students and have met really nice families through that already.  And I’m playing with a samba group tomorrow!  I was invited by a fellow teacher at school who is also a musician.  So I’m definitely keeping busy!  I love having two mornings a week where I’m not at school, because it allows me to get everything done I need to and still have time to do this kind of stuff.

It’s a good life.  Have a great week, my friends.

Change of Plans!

My life has changed drastically in the past week and a half!  I am now living in an adorable New England town, about to start teaching music in two elementary schools!  Honestly, I was planning on explaining how this entire thing came about, but I am totally worn out with sharing how I got hired, found a place to live, etc.  So you’ll just get to read about my adventure now that I’m here!  Which, in my opinion, is much more exciting anyways.  I know that in my last post I was all okay with subbing and was making the most of it, but I am so glad everything worked out the way it did!  This is way better than subbing.

First of all, my new home!  I am living in southern Vermont, smack dab in between the two schools I will be teaching at.  It’s almost exactly fifteen minutes north to one school, and another fifteen minutes south to the other.  It’s a beautiful, beautiful place to live.  I thought Pennsylvania has gorgeous, lush mountains, but the ones here are even better.  A picture can’t even do them justice so I’m not going to bother at the moment.  You have to be here to truly appreciate them.  (So come visit me!)  Frankly, I get quite distracted when I’m driving places because I’m too busy looking at the mountains that make me feel like an absolute dwarf.  Oops.  It’s a good thing there’s not too much traffic here!

I am renting part of a lovely little house, and it’s very close to the center of town.  There’s plenty of places to walk, run, and bike – my kind of place!  It’s actually quite a touristy area, with lots of people coming to shop and stay at the many bed and breakfasts that populate the area.  I can already tell I’m going to love it here.  I never thought that I’d want to live in Vermont, but now that I’m here I never want to leave!  This is a picture of my street with a beautiful sunset.  The mountains look small, but not when you’re standing in front of them!

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Speaking of leaving, I will have to once a month for National Guard stuff, but it’s only a little over 5 hours to the base.  When people find out I’ve moved here, they’re all saying, “Vermont?!  It’s so far away!”  But really it’s not.  It’s not any farther than going to the coast for vacation, or moving to Virginia to Pennsylvania.  But because not many people I know have been up this way, so it’s this strange, unknown, and frigid place.  Well, hopefully by my living here, my friends and family will learn a thing or two about Vermont!  I’m certainly learning a ton, and now I want everyone I know to have a vacation here.  And no, it’s not cold here…not yet at least!  I’m sure it will be, but from what I’ve heard from people, it isn’t that bad.  My principals told me the kids go outside every day for recess, almost every day of the year unless it’s absolutely far below freezing. 

I think it just stays cold here longer than in PA, that’s all.  Definitely manageable.  Another note about the upcoming cold weather: Every Wednesday during the winter months in VT public schools (and maybe private too), the schools shut down after lunch and the kids go skiing!  How awesome is that??  Guess that means I’ll be learning how!  I’ve gone snowboarding a few times, but never skiing.  I can’t wait to learn!

The two schools I’m working at are quite small.  And by that I mean very, very small.  There’s less than 100 students at each elementary school – only one class and teacher for each grade, and fifth/sixth grade are actually combined into one class.  I’m very excited to be working at small schools.  They are both very self-sufficient and the small numbers allow for more flexibility with scheduling and activities.  Here’s a picture of one of the schools.  When I asked about safety in the area, the principal told me seeing bears on the property was the biggest issue!  Bears!

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It’s adorable and I can’t wait to start!  My first day is this Wednesday.

It’s been such an adventure moving here.  I came up less than a week ago, not knowing a single soul besides the two principals who interviewed me.  My closest acquaintances are almost 3 hours away.  There’s been some frustrating parts to it, of course, like paperwork.  Dreaded paperwork!  Insurance, finding the grocery store, getting a new bank account, lesson planning with very limited resources, and having to do all of this on my own is pretty exhausting.  But my parents have been helping me work my way through the paperwork and any other questions I have about anything.  By the way, they are now empty-nesters as my younger brother just left for college!  I don’t know how they’ll deal with not having any kids at home!

It’s a good thing I’m rather independent and like doing things on my own, because moving to a new place is kind of lonely at first.  I’m sure I’ll make good friends, but it might take some time.  It’s not like college where there’s an organic place to meet other people with the same interests and age as me.  Instead, I’m going to have to join local groups and volunteer and just involved with the community.  I’m fine with going places on my own, but it will be nice to do things with friends.  For example, church.  I went to a church this past week by myself, and it was very nice, but it will be great to establish myself with a group of like-minded people once I decide on a church.  I’m going to try out a few before I make my decision.  After the church service, I went to an outdoor garlic and herb festival that happens annually this time of year!  Here’s a snapshot of some of the vendors:

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It would have been another place I’d loved to go with some friends, but again, I was okay with going by myself.  I talked to a lot of interesting people as I sampled local cheeses, garlic, fudge, pesto, and other delicious Vermont and New York products.  There was a live band playing and tons of people, so I was able to do one of my favorite things: people watch.  It’s fun just observing others and watching the world happen sometimes.  There were stalls selling alpaca products, fresh honey, woodworking, jewelry, and much more.  It was a great way to spend my Sunday afternoon, but next time I’m bringing a friend!

One of the first things I did here was locate the library and get a card, so the rest of my weekend has been spent reading and relaxing.  There are still things I need to do before Wednesday, but nothing is open today so I can’t go to the bank, print my lesson plans, etc.  It’ll all get done eventually.  I know it might be tough at first, because I’m jumping into the school year a little late with very limited knowledge about the students and what their level of musical knowledge is.  But I think after a week or two I’ll have a lot more figured out!

I have a little secret to share.  It’s something I wasn’t really proud of and didn’t like to tell people, but it’s turning out to be the biggest blessing of this whole experience.  And if you’ve made it this far in my post, you probably care about me and won’t think any less of me. 

Here it is: I’m only working part-time.  I will be teaching music three days a week, and that’s it.  At first, I was sad it wasn’t a full-time position, but then I read some articles and did some thinking, and I realized I don’t need or want full-time!  I am completely happy with the amount of work I have.  First of all, it’ll allow me ample time to lesson plan and get all the things I need to do as a first-year teacher, without feeling completely and totally overwhelmed.  Second of all, I can still do those things I wanted to do when I thought I was going to substitute teach!  I will still have time to run, to cook, to play music, to sew, to keep in touch with friends, everything.  Yes, I won’t make much money, but honestly, it’s not like I decided to be a music teacher for the paycheck.  I’m doing this because I love teaching and I love music.  With careful planning, the numbers will work out fine.  And, I do have a supplemental job helping with the after-school program every afternoon, which will give me more experience working with kids and teaching (and more money).

So it’s really a complete win-win situation.  I have plenty of time in my life to be full-time and I’m sure I will want to be at some point.  But for the next year (or however long I decide to stay) I’m loving the idea of part-time work.  I know it’s not as noble or as wonderful-sounding as full-time teaching, and I’m sure there are some people who think I shouldn’t have accepted the position, but I know in my heart it was the right thing to do.  It hasn’t been smooth-sailing the entire way, but not once have I regretted my decision to do this. 

I am capable of supporting myself, serving God, and getting to do what I love most in one wonderful package, all the while having a hugely grand adventure in a place I’ve never been before.  It takes a lot of guts and bravery to do what I did, and I’m really proud of myself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my new life!  I’ll leave you with a pretty picture of the clouds from a few days ago.  They’re stunning.  Stay tuned for more Vermont adventures.  🙂

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Future Plans

It looks like I’ll be substitute teaching in the foreseeable future. Don’t feel sorry for me or wonder why I don’t have a job, because I am actually really okay with subbing! Here’s what happened in my job search saga…

Let me tell you, I worked really hard to get a full-time job. I applied for over 40 positions in 8 states, and I had 5 interviews. I actually had calls about 7 opportunities, but I was turned down for those before the interview was scheduled because I didn’t have the proper certification for that state and because of my Guard commitment (which is discrimination, yes, I know). My interviews kept getting better and better, and I felt more confident after each one. Yes, I’m disappointed I didn’t get chosen for any of them, but I know I could not have interviewed or taught sample lessons any better. I did my best, but I realized my best just wasn’t right for any of those positions.

Which was heartbreaking. After my last “sorry, you impressed us very much and you’re very qualified but it was very competitive” phone call last week, I was sad for a long time. I questioned a lot about my teaching ability, my content knowledge, and everything that I’ve worked towards the past 4 years. It’s been really tough on my pride, especially – I have always worked hard and have been proud of what I’ve accomplished as a music teacher. Being denied from jobs made me feel unworthy and unwanted.

I could keep applying for jobs – I know there are still jobs out there – but I am making the conscious decision to stop applying, at least for a month or two. I am sending in my sub apps this week, and I feel very at peace with my decision. God is telling me to wait for my dream job, and wait I shall.

I actually made a list of all the reasons why I should sub for a few months. I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation or need anyone’s approval because it’s my life and my decision, but I want to share anyways. I started this blog to keep track of my teaching adventures, and this decision to substitute teach is part of that journey. So here goes:

1. I will have free time.

It sounds selfish, right? Well, it totally is. Because the last 4 years of my life I have given up hobbies, sleep, time with friends, and much more. Which is okay! That’s the nature of getting a music education degree. And I know that being busy is the nature of being a music teacher, and I knew that going into this field. I’m okay with sacrificing things, but I’d like to take a couple months and not do that. I really just want to slow down for a bit and enjoy life.

I can’t wait to work on a few projects that have been stewing in my mind – sewing things, a vertical herb garden, performing in pit orchestras, and more. I have a long time to be a full-time music teacher and I know it’s what I ultimately want to do, but I’m accepting the idea of just…pausing my career. I will still gain experience by substitute teaching, but I will be able to devote more time to just being young and energetic and doing stuff that I want to do.

2. I can go back to Jamaica.

I’ve been invited back to teach music in Jamaica again! How cool, right? Except all the dates for the 2015 trips would have conflicted with a new teaching schedule/my Guard commitments. But with subbing, I can create my own schedule! So I’m thinking of going in January or March! It would be to a different part of Jamaica that I haven’t been to yet. Again, I’d still be gaining teaching experience doing this.

3. I can run another half-marathon.

One of the best things I did last fall was run my first half marathon in Annapolis, MD. I trained for it with my pal Rachel, and we had such a great time doing it. There’s a race at the end of October in Gettysburg that I’d like to do. I know with a new job, it would be very tough finding adequate time to exercise and train. But with my flexible subbing schedule, I can fit in long runs when I need to!

4. I can still visit IUP.

I’m not saying I will go back every weekend (no one wants to be THAT guy). But I will be able to be at Homecoming and other significant events. Since many of my friends in college were younger than me because I transferred, many of my friends are still there! I think it’s tougher to stay in touch with friends after graduation, but there are definitely people at school I don’t want to lose contact with. So visiting a couple times this year will allow those connections to stay strong.

5. I will save money.

I’ll be staying with my parents who have graciously allowed me to live with them for a while. (For a small fee!) We’re in the process of making the lower level of our house like an apartment, for me and any future person that they may rent it to. One of the greatest things they ever did was help me graduate college debt-free. Thanks to their savings and my hard work with the Guard and other jobs, I don’t have any loans! It’s so freeing and allows me further flexibility in my life when I do land that dream job. I’ll save up anything I make from subbing, and I don’t have to spend a whole lot of it now on loan payments, expensive rent, a car, etc.

6. I can get more involved at my home church.

Between Guard, traveling, and college events, my church attendance has been pretty awful the last year or two. Although I do have a personal relationship with God and I spend time in my Bible and in prayer, I think it’s important to worship with other believers. There’s a young adult study going on at my church that I would love to join. I’m sure many of the people there are going through the same things I am!

7. I can volunteer more.

Volunteering is something that’s really been on my heart lately. Especially ever since I went to Jamaica, I’m trying hard to think of how I can help those around me. I’ve donated tons of my belongings to various organizations, and I’m collecting toys for kids in Jamaica. (so if you have any Beanie Babies or small stuffed animals, send them my way!)

I’m considering volunteering at my local library again. It’s something I did in high school and really enjoyed. There’s also this program called Bike and Build that I REALLY want to do. It’s basically a cross country bicycle trip involving building homes along the way. It’s not until next summer, but there is a lot of planning and training that would go into it in the coming months.

I would also like to keep helping the marching band I’m working with right now. I’ve gotten really attached to the kids after just a few weeks. They’re so funny and full of life. It makes me so happy to see them determined and succeed at their tasks. Also, the show music is incredible – it’s the kind of music that I absolutely love and I never get tired of it. Just today at band camp we were working in a woodwind sectional on the ballad, and I was getting goosebumps during rehearsal. The music is so well-crafted and orchestrated, and the kids are doing such a great job of bringing the notes on the page alive. There’s this saxophone line that comes out of the texture, and it’s just gorgeous. They were nailing it today with intonation and tone. Wow. Sorry, getting a little off track here.

There’s just a lot of cool stuff out there. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people, especially if it involves physical labor which may sound weird. But I like to use the healthy body and mind I’ve been blessed with. If there’s one thing I know how to do well, it’s how to work hard!

That’s the gist of my list as to why it’s good to sub for a while. It’s not forever, and I know I’ll get my job when the time is right.

I am nothing but thrilled for my friends and colleagues who have gotten teaching jobs or are headed to grad school. So happy for you guys! You’re already amazing teachers and people, and you’re going to change people’s lives. I know I will too, but it’ll just happen a little differently.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me during this wordy, intense post! Life isn’t turning out exactly the way I planned, but I’m sure whatever happens will be even better. Have a great Wednesday everyone!

Summer in a Suitcase

It’s finally time for a new blog post! This summer has been very busy and full of great things so far. The 3 main parts have been going to Jamaica, an Air Force National Guard tour, and the latest news in the hunt for a job. In a nutshell. Here we go!

Jamaica was incredible. One short blog post won’t do it justice but I’ll do my best. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here we go…

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It’s a beautiful country. I never got tired of looking at the coastline, or the sky, or the trees, or the people. It was a fascinating and gorgeous place. The guesthouses we stayed at (which were really like treehouses/huts) had their own cliffside pool that I just loved. Here’s a shot of the pool and you can see the coast in the background. The Jamaican beaches are so blue and pretty.

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Teaching in a Jamaican primary school was an amazing experience. Here’s what our “classroom” looked like:

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The school is in the background – it’s basically a couple of trailers put together and dirt “hallways” that connect them. One thing I’d like to make clear about Jamaica: it’s a very poor country that needs a lot of help. Yes, it’s beautiful and the resorts look picturesque, but that’s not the real Jamaica. The people there need food, clothes, medicine, everything. I’d like to think that we made a bit of a difference by being there for our trip, but so much more could be done for the people there.

My team comprised of 6 music education majors from various colleges. We worked for 5 days and taught a variety of things to the students there.
For 4th, 5th, and 6th grade: traditional Jamaican drumming and singinging with guitar accompaniment
For 3rd grade: recorder
For 1st and 2nd grade: nursery rhymes and a simplified drumming lesson

We usually split into 2 small groups and co-taught the lessons. The kids were so receptive to us. They were ecstatic that we were there – teaching kids who are enthusiastic is so much better than teaching kids who don’t want to be there! The first day they were a little timid around us – many of them had never seen a light-skinned person. A lot of kids kept coming up to us and just touching our skin then running away! But they got comfortable with us very fast. Despite the incredible heat and humidity, we made sure to go out into the courtyard during their breaks between lessons to get to know them. (Even though sometimes all we wanted to do was sit in the shade!) By the end of the week they were practically knocking us over with their hugs!

Here’s a picture of the 6 teachers and some of our students on the last day:

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Here’s two more pictures from lessons with the younger kids. Three of the teachers played a drum beat called “Panlogo” while the kids had the chance to solo over top of it. They loved it.

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Of course, I spent this entire trip with my partner in crime, Ali. Between Jamaica and tour, we weren’t more than a mile apart for almost a month straight. We reached a level of friendship I didn’t think possible – I think we know absolutely everything about each other at this point!

One of my favorite things that we did while in Jamaica was drum in the evenings, which is what this is a picture from. The entire team (of about 35 college kids plus staff) learned traditional drumming patterns every evening, and we would layer them with multiple parts and even sing over top of our playing. Our final night in Boston Bay included us going into the village and playing for the local people. I will never forget these evenings of drumming.

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I really hope I can go back to Jamaica someday soon. It was my first time out of the country, and it was incredibly eye-opening to see how these people live their daily lives. The Jamaican people are so kind and are very interesting to talk to. At first, it was tricky understanding their accent but I got used to it! One of the songs called “Mango Time” we taught in the school was in the Jamaican Patois dialect – it was one of my favorites.

Part two of my summer included going on tour with the Air National Guard band! I had about 4 days in between Jamaica and leaving for tour, so it wasn’t a whole lot of down time. I basically lived out of a suitcase for the month of June!

I loved tour. What could be better than getting paid to play my flute while serving my country and travel with some great peoeple? This year’s tour brought us up to New England – we performed in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. My favorite performance was in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. We had a wonderful crowd and we had gotten to spend the entire morning at the beach. Here’s a picture of the stage during the rock band portion of the show:

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One of my jobs as an airman was to pass out programs before each concert, and to give out surveys during rock band. Ali and Katie both had the same task. We got to talk to a lot of super nice people! I enjoyed being someone that our audience members got to interact with.

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My grandparents came to one of our performances! They go up to Massachusetts every summer, and they were close enough that they could come out to hear the band. It was so good to see them and it’s great to have people who are supportive of what I do! Another memorable thing was me and some other people ran a 5k in MA. Apparently it’s turned into kind of an annual thing to do some kind of race during tour, which I think is really cool. I’ll definitely be participating in any future tour races! Overall, I didn’t sleep enough and I ate WAY too much good food, but my first Air National Guard tour is in the bag! I got to know a lot of people better and I just really enjoyed my two weeks of active duty. It is such an honor to be a part of this group.

I spent a few days at home before packing my bag again – this time, the destination was Cape May, New Jersey! My family spent a few days camping and going to the beach there. It was beautiful and relaxing, despite one morning of rain. We stayed in a little cabin in a campground, and we cooked over the fire. (but also went to several restaurants!) I read a ton of books (what else is new?) and went running a few times, and just enjoyed the peacefulness. Brett and I played our ukuleles are couple of times – in this picture we were actually in the car driving home. We were learning “Let it Go.”

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Since I got home, I’ve been helping out with my high school’s marching band. This week we had a three-day mini band camp, which I really enjoyed. I hadn’t taught anything in a while, and I missed it! The kids are just really good kids and marching band in general is just one of my favorite things to do in any capacity. I’ve repaired a few instruments, led some sectional time, and am helping with the visual side of things as well. I loved marching band during my 8 years of actually marching it, but I absolutely love being on the teaching side of it as well.

Speaking of teaching…I’m still working on the job thing. At this point, I think I’ve applied for about 40 jobs from as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as Virginia. As much as I am able, I try to complete at least one job application a day. It gets very frustrating because job applications aren’t standardized, although there are similarities among them. Every day I check and check my phone, waiting for a phone call about an interview, but nothing new yet.

Before I started helping the band, I was getting pretty fed up with the whole thing. I was kind of losing sight of what my ultimate goal is: to teach kids music. I was getting so bogged down with all the paperwork and online applications and google searches. I was also beginning to doubt myself as a music educator – I was questioning whether I was brave enough or qualified enough or a good enough teacher – but those doubts have diminished. Now that I’m helping with the band and remembering what it’s like to teach, I realize it’s all going to be worth it when I land an amazing job that I’m passionate about.

If I have to substitute teach for a couple of months or a year, it won’t be the worst thing in the world. But I have NOT given up yet. There are still so many positions out there waiting to be filled. I am really excited about a couple of applications that I put in this week in particular! No matter what, things will happen the way they’re supposed to.

I’m so grateful that I have such a big support team. People are constantly telling me about positions they’ve heard that are available: my friends, professors, even my neighbors across the street and several of my relatives who are not musical at all – they’ve been checking the newspaper for music ed postings for me! I appreciate it so very much. I’m just going to keep applying, praying, and doing what I can now to teach and continue to be the best teacher I can be. As much as I’d like to have a set plan for the next year, or even the next month or two, I don’t. I’ve just got to trust God, keep my head up, and enjoy whatever life throws my way.

My adventure is truly just beginning…

Living Intentionally

Note: I wrote this over the weekend but didn’t post it until now!  Enjoy.  🙂

I forgot how slowly life moves here.  No cell phone service, no computer, nothing but each other to keep ourselves company.

I’m at my grandparent’s house for the weekend and it’s been years – yes, years – since I’ve been here.  It’s also been that long since I’ve seen some of my relatives.  It makes me so sad and ashamed but it’s the truth of life.  Between college and basic training last summer, I haven’t been around a whole lot to make it to the family gatherings.  And who knows where I’ll be, or where my cousins will be soon?  We’re all growing up.  Yesterday my cousin Chris stopped by to visit.  He’s going to the Naval Academy in Annapolis to play college basketball soon.  It’s probably been, oh, two or three years since I’ve seen him.  Gone is the chubby little kid that I remember!  Christopher is so tall and strong!  Here’s a picture of me, him, and Brett.  I feel like an absolute midget next to them.  It was so good to catch up with this guy though!  I enjoyed comparing our Air Force and Navy experiences.

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Today’s riveting events included yard-saling and napping.  Seriously, I’ve probably been the most productive member of the group, and all I’ve done is read a book, write, and a short workout.  A while ago I was watching the end of the Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I took my headphones off only to hear absolute silence in the house.  Everyone was asleep!  It’s been so, so nice though.  The weather is gorgeous and it’s very relaxing here out in the country.  I’m currently typing this on Brett’s laptop with Microsoft Word since my grandparents don’t have a computer.  And obviously no wi-fi either.  I’ll copy and paste this over to my blog once we get home tonight.  More of our relatives are supposed to be coming by tonight, so it will be great to see more folks.  I brought my deck of cards in the hope that someone will play with me!  It’s one of my favorite things to do when I get together with family.

I just realized I have not yet done a post-graduation blog post!  It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated anything.  Well, here goes.  I graduated from college!  Woo hoo!  Finally finally finally.  Instead of going to my graduation ceremony, I marched in a parade with the guard band and it was great.  I remember marching down the street thinking to myself, “Yep, this is why I joined this band – so I could keep playing after graduation!”  Here I was, only a college grad for a few hours and already performing with a great group.  It fills me with such joy.

Everyone kept bugging me about why I skipped my graduation and I’m really tired of telling people about my decision to do so.  So, it happened, and it’s over and no one needs to bother me about anymore.  I graduated and that’s all that matters. 

Some exciting stuff has happened since May 10.  I had my first job interview!  A real live one that took a few hours and a lot of driving through traffic.  I had a short phone interview for this school, then I was invited to visit, interview, and teach a class.  I also had to do a piano audition and meet the dean of the school.  It was pretty intense and I got asked all sorts of difficult questions.  I’m grateful for my experience – it was very cool!  And I’ve gotten a few other inquiries about job applications, but no more calls about interviews.  Yet.  I’m keeping hopeful that something will come through!  It’s very cool being at this point in my career.  I’m sad I will no longer be a part of the college crowd, but I’m so excited about what is about to happen.

I am counting down the days until Ali and I leave for Jamaica!  (12, in case you were wondering.)  We are both getting so excited for this adventure.  I am planning on going to Goodwill next week to buy clothes to wear when I am there, and then just leaving them behind when our trip is over.  I also started sewing a couple things to wear there.  I made a maxi skirt the other night, but it was a little too big for me.  So I’m considering ripping all the seams out and cutting the fabric a little smaller so it fits better.  It would be time consuming, but I don’t want to waste the pretty fabric that I bought!  I also have to learn some music, like the Jamiacan National Anthem and other folk songs before we go.  That’s on my to-do list for next week as well.

I have this feeling I’m going to go to Jamaica and never want to come back!  I can’t wait.

This past week I got to do something very awesome.  I drove back up to Indiana for a couple days to help with my first placement’s elementary concert!  I played piano for the choirs and also helped with the band portion.  It was so good to see my co-op, students, and Meg again! 

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The kids played and sang wonderfully and I love that I was able to be there.  I have a couple of lovely friends who lent me their couch for two nights!  It made me wish I lived closer to Indiana, because it felt like I was leaving home when I left.  I love the community of great friends that I have there, and I’m sad that It’s ending.  Transitions are tough!  No doubt about it.  I plan on staying in touch with many of the people I have met during my time at IUP though.

Other than that, I’ve been reading books like a crazy person and wearing shoes as little as possible, in addition to taking bike rides and just being outside. 

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One of my favorite things to do is sit on our swing (which is the perfect length for me to prop my feet up on the end of) and read a book.  I can’t tell you how many afternoons I’ve passed over the years doing exactly this and nothing else.

I am really cherishing this summer because I didn’t really get to enjoy last year’s a whole lot!  After Jamaica, I’ve got tour with my band for two weeks, so that will take up most of June.  Then come July, I’m having a graduation party with family and after that, who knows what the future holds?  For now, I’m going to enjoy this time of relaxation and sunshine!

Update: Now I’m typing this in real time.

I did some shopping today after a lovely lunch with my grandparents (we had Vietnamese food – yum!).  When I was at Target, I saw the mom of a friend I had in high school.  I haven’t seen my friend in about 3 years, but we had been pretty close, so it was nice hearing what she’s been up to recently.  It turns out she’s in Africa, doing a year-long missions trip!  She graduated college a year early then headed out to Burkina Faso to work in an orphanage there.  Today, I also got a letter in the mail from one of my sponsored children, from the one who lives in Burkina Faso.

Hmm.  Perhaps God is not-so-subtly telling me something here?  Maybe there will be a trip to Africa in my near future!  Anyways, I hope that my friend Bekah and I can re-connect!  We actually aren’t even friends on Facebook (I deleted mine after high school graduation and lost a lot of the connections I had as a result – something I’m both grateful and mad at myself for doing) so I sent her a friend request.  I can’t wait to hear from her!

After talking to Bekah’s mom today and reading her blog about her mission journey, I got in one of my “the world is so big, and I am so small” moods.  I am so excited about doing good in the world, and I know God has a wonderful plan for me to fulfill.  I think of myself as being a passionate person, and hearing stories like Bekah’s fuels that desire to go out and just do something.  I don’t know exactly what, but whatever it is, I can’t wait to do it. 

I’d like to share a quote by Roald Dahl.  I loved his books as a kid, and I found this quote on Pinterest recently.  I just love it. 

If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead.  Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it.  Lukewarm is no good.  Hot is no good either.  White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.

That’s what I try to do.  To me, there is no point in living a life without being passionate about something.  So go do something with purpose!  Live intentionally.

Transitions Are Tough

I graduate from college in six days.  

I graduate from college in six days! 

How the heck did that happen?

It’s just so surreal and I can’t believe it’s finally here!  It has been such a long, crazy journey.  From  my first year at Grove City College, to deciding to transfer, to coming to IUP, to going to basic training, to student teaching…it’s really been a wild ride.  How am I feeling?  

Well, first off, I am feeling so, so happy.  I have worked very hard to get where I am now, and I am  overjoyed to be finally at this point.  Following shortly behind happiness is sweet relief.  I know adulthood is no picnic, but at least for the near future, I’m going to enjoy my summer and celebrate!  I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief, at least momentarily, knowing that I have the college degree in the bag.  Then, of course, I am quite sad.  My life will never be the same as it is right now, surrounded by all my friends and great musical experiences in one place.  I am going to miss those people in my life so much, and I know I am going to have to make an effort to stay in touch with them.  I’m also going to miss making music with all of them.  

I started packing up my apartment a lot this weekend, which is really making all of these feelings sink in.  I’ve lived in the same place for two years, and it has really become a nice home.  It’s familiar and comforting and I’ve loved living with my roommate and friend Caitlyn.  Now, all my posters and pictures are gone from the walls, and it’s beginning to look rather bare in here.  

Transitions are just so hard sometimes.  Especially this transition, because I have no idea what I’m going to be doing a few months from now.  That just adds a whole other layer of fear to this time in my life.  I know it’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to, but I can’t help but feel anxious about what’s to come, because I don’t know what that’ll be yet.  I applied for a bunch of jobs this past week, so maybe I’ll be hearing about an interview or two in the near future?  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

One thing I am loving about this whole thing is this: I can go anywhere, and do anything I want.  I have no ties to one place (except my National Guard commitments once a month, so I can’t go too far) and I have no significant other to factor into my decision.  I am absolutely free to move where I want.  The world is such a huge place, and I can’t wait to explore a new part of it.  Right now, the possibilities seem endless and I am so excited for what’s to come…whatever it is.

This past week went pretty well!  I went to my first placement’s band banquet, and it was really nice.  I got lots of hugs from the students I taught there, and hung out with Meg, who is currently student teaching there.  It was also bittersweet, because seeing these kids again made me realize how much I will miss them.  But I know they will become great people and do good things in the world.  

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I went a little crazy with sewing this week.  I had quite a bit of free time, since I finished my last set of lesson plans last week and didn’t really have much to do when I came home in the evenings besides those job applications.  I made an infinity scarf, which I really love!

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I also finished another dress!  I used the same measurements as the first time with a couple improvements because I actually knew what I was doing this time.  I wore it to school on Friday, and for a recital on Saturday!  I love it, especially the color.

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I feel like I’m getting really comfortable with teaching elementary school.  I took a while for me to figure out how things worked and the different ability levels of the kids, but it feels pretty easy now!  Whenever I’m teaching, the time seems to just fly by!  I recently did a two week unit on the instruments of the orchestra.  The first week I brought in all the woodwind and brass instruments that I can play, and did demos for the kids as well as some other listening activities for them.  The second week, we learned about Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and we acted out the story and played listening bingo.  The kids really loved it and I loved teaching it!  Using Peter and the Wolf really helped them remember the sounds of each instrument.  I found some great resources online when I was planning: a shortened version of the story with music clips, and the bingo cards from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com.  I saved myself about 12 hours of work just by paying a couple of dollars!  I gave the kids macaroni noodles to cover their spaces.  

In honor of my upcoming trip to Jamaica to teach music, I began a new unit on Thursday with fifth grade about Jamaican music.  We learned Mango Walk and Linstead Market, two Jamaican folk songs.  I showed them a steel drum, and we learned a reggae dance to go with the Mango Walk.  I showed them a video of a Jamaican man singing and speaking about the second song, and we learned about their language, Patois.  It’s similar to English but some of it is quite different, and it’s fun trying to translate the words of the song with the kids.  They loved this lesson!  

I had a two-fold purpose for teaching these songs: one, it’s great music for the students to learn.  Two, I have to learn a lot of Jamaican music before I go on my trip and I wanted to become more familiar with the songs.  Linstead Market is one of the songs I have to learn, so I can check that one off as being learned from my list!  And speaking of my trip, it’s in 31 days!!  I am getting so excited.  My friend Ali and I are going together.  it’s going to be an amazing trip!  

Yesterday I performed for the last time as an IUP student.  I played for my friend Caitlin’s harp recital!  I had such a good time playing and listening to her.  It was a rainy afternoon, and hearing the harp was so beautiful and soothing.  It was a perfect combination.  For the last piece, there was a small ensemble that played Pachelbel’s Canon, dedicated to her mom.  It was very meaningful and awesome.  

Yesterday, a member of our IUP music family was killed in a car accident.  I didn’t know him, but I know he was an amazing musician and he will be missed greatly in the world.  He was just about to graduate with his master’s degree in music.  Even though we were playing Pachelbel’s Canon for Caitlin’s mom, I’d like to think that Tyler was listening to it as he entered his new home in heaven.  Rest in peace, Tyler.  

Life Lately

I am home!  I forget what a blessing it is to be here since it happens so rarely now.  I have had the nicest couple of days off from teaching – a full 4 day weekend! (I have off tomorrow too.)  Teaching has been going well, but I am getting antsy for it to be over.  It’s not that I don’t like it because I do, I know that I want to still be a music teacher, but that college degree is so close.  I’ve worked so hard the past 4 years, and graduation is right around the corner.  It’s such a weird place to be in right now. 

I was just telling my mom that I feel sort of homeless right now.  I don’t really belong anywhere.  With student teaching, I don’t have a place to call my own.  I’m just the tag-along who kind of fits in but not really.  It’s like teacher purgatory.  With living in Indiana, it kind of feels like home.  I’ve lived in the same apartment for two years, and it’s a familiar, comforting place.  But lately I’ve been packing that place up because I’ll be moving out of it in three weeks!  It looks pretty empty right now.  And then there’s the home I’m in right now…it’s where I grew up, where I go for almost every school break, but since I’ve left for college it doesn’t really feel like home.  It’s basically a place now full of old memories and a place to put my boxes of belongings.  I’m excited to get a job and get a place of my own that finally will feel like my home!  To get involved in a permanent church, to get a pet of my own, to buy my own furniture and have a garden.  For the past year especially, it’s just been a series of packing and unpacking, moving from place to place. 

Despite these feelings, life has been good.  I’ve been starting to take bike rides since this dreadful, horrid, awful winter seems to be finally over.  I’ve been lesson planning like a fiend and working on paperwork for student teaching like my work sample and non-music observation write-ups. 

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This is basically what I did all last Wednesday: my work sample.  I was dreading doing it, but I knew once I sat down it wouldn’t be so bad.  And I wrote the whole thing in one night, which made me feel productive.  This is how I felt when I was done.

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I don’t think I moved from this position on the couch until I went to bed.  I was so tired.  I always thought that being tired from student teaching was a silly thing, that people were exaggerating.  But it is no joke.  I get home some days and all I want to do is crawl in bed.  I am so grateful I will get my summers off from teaching, because it would not be possible to do year-round.

Here are some pictures from this weekend.  My mom’s garden is beginning to grow and I love watching things bloom.  With basic training last year, I felt like I didn’t get to appreciate spring or summer barely at all, so this is a real treat for me right now.  As much as I am tired of living in Pennsylvania and I’m ready for an adventure somewhere else, it really is beautiful here.

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And here’s a picture of me and brothers from Easter today.  I only see these two a few times a year now, but I love spending time with them.  I love that I have good relationships with my brothers, and I hope it continues throughout our lives.  I got to go to my brother’s volleyball game the first night I was home, and it was a lot of fun.  It was the first game the team won this year!  My grandparents were there too so it was good to catch up with them.

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Also, I’m wearing the dress I made and I feel really proud of myself for that!  I enjoyed going to church with my family and praising God.  I’m not going to lie, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a church service and I haven’t given God the attention He deserves the past few months.  That’s definitely going to change.  I need His direction in my life, especially for things that are about to happen!

Does anyone sometimes get a sudden thought in their head and it won’t leave?  Like God is telling you to do something?  And its so strong and compelling of a feeling that you know you’re supposed to do something?  That happened to me this weekend.  I was impressed upon to make a phone call to someone that I haven’t talked to in a really long time but I knew I needed to make the call.  Even though I didn’t feel like it, I picked up my phone and called this person.  It was great catching up with them and I knew it was the right thing to do!  I love it when God gives me such clear directions like this.  There is such a feeling of freedom and satisfaction from knowing I did the right thing.  Sometimes I don’t always know what I’m supposed to do in my life, but it is so refreshing to get such obvious directions from God.