To those that play with or against my brother.

I almost cried sitting in the bleachers at my old high school tonight.

The sound of old pop songs blaring through the speakers welcomed me back home along with lots of hugs and questions about school. I chatted politely with people as I impatiently waited to watch the JV boys game. I promised Kellan, my younger brother, I would make it to a basketball game over break, and it was finally happening.

His 2 minutes of fame finally rolled around, and I was again reminded of how much I love the sport of basketball and the area I grew up in. Kellan has always loved basketball, but I wasn’t ever sure I would be able to see Kellan play in an actual game. Kellan has Down syndrome, and with no Special Olympics nearby, I always assumed that his basketball career would end just as soon as it started. I never thought I’d see him wear a Medicine Valley jersey let alone play during a high school basketball game. I believed his basketball career would consist of time spent with my siblings and me in the high school gym. I can’t tell you how many hours he spent running up and down the court those weekends, but I can tell you that basketball was (and still is) his passion. Watching him on the court today brings me more joy than you can imagine.

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That being said, I wanted to write this blog to really say thank you.

To Kellan’s teammates, thank you x100. Thank you for opening your arms and hearts to Kellan. Thank you for treating him with respect and accepting him. I have been out of school long enough that I don’t know all of you and you don’t all know me. That’s what makes this even more amazing- you’re loving Kellan even though you never knew my siblings and me. Kellan talks about practice and you boys more than you could ever imagine. The time he spends with you is his favorite part of the day. Thank you for being a support system. Thank you for letting him have time to shine. Thank you for always helping him when he needs it. He loves you so much; thanks for letting him truly be a part of a team.

To those that play against Kellan, simply saying ‘thank you’ will never be enough. You are absolutely amazing. As his big sister, nothing gives me more joy than to see him doing what he loves. I cannot put into words how much it means to me that you show him respect. You all play a huge role in helping his dream come true. Thank you for allowing him to shoot as many times as it takes to make a basket. Thank you for cheering just as loudly as the home crowd does when he makes a shot. Thank you for allowing him to occasionally foul and not getting upset by it. Thank you for accepting his hugs instead of high fives following the game. I have so much respect for all of you, and I want you to know that.

When I started this post, I mentioned the water works that threatened to break lose at the game tonight. As I sat in the stands, my eyes kept flickering back to the opposing team’s bench. You don’t normally see players cheering for their opposing team, but that’s exactly what was happening. Players from South Loup (the opposing team) were cheering louder and more animatedly for Kellan than some people that actually knew him; how incredible is that? These teenage boys who have never met Kellan were cheering him on and celebrating his success. Some even hugged him following the game. And this isn’t a one time thing; in fact, it happens nearly every time Kellan plays. The sportsmanship demonstrated by opposing teams is unbelievable. It’s something we can and should learn from.

I tear up every single time I see Kellan step on the court in a jersey. As he has continued to play, it’s become evident that basketball helps to bridge the gap between Kellan and others. It’s more than just a sport, and I am forever thankful that we live in an area full of teams that are supportive of Kellan and his desire to play.My only hope is that you boys understand how much of an impact you have on my brother. He is happiest when he’s playing basketball; thank you for allowing him to do so. My heart bursts hearing him excitedly talk about his games. You are all creating an environment of love and support that is helping Kellan grow. Win or lose, I hope you all walk off the court with a sense of satisfaction and happiness knowing how much your actions have meant. You all have my respect and love.

-RG

NaBloPoMo- An Adventure

Well, this is it. Today is November 30th, which signifies the end of 2016’s NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Where did the month go?

November seems to have almost passed by in a blur. I feel like just yesterday I was posting my first blog for the month, anticipating what would come from my time full of blogging. As the days went on, I became more enraptured in the process. Blogging became therapeutic for me, the perfect way to end each day. Thoughts came spilling out as I typed; it was freeing.

NaBloPoMo has been an absolute adventure. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s honestly how I feel. Some days came easily and words flowed out. However, that wasn’t always the case. On days when I had writer’s block, I had to push through. I knew that a post needed to be made every day, whether it was perfect or not. NaBloPoMo helped me push past some of my issues with perfection and the anxiety to always do everything correctly. I had to keep going and put something out every day, regardless of whether or not I thought it was my best work. For that, I am thankful.

My posts this month were varied and lively. One day I would write about my hatred for the white oppression that falls every winter (snow of course) and the next I would write about the word surrender and what it means to me. I wrote about the election and my feelings regarding it. I focused on what I was thankful for. Harry Potter and Hogwarts took center stage as well as my love for middle schoolers. I highlighted the best movie quotes ever and wrote a message to my mom, my number one fan. These posts highlighted some of my thoughts throughout the month; they were my saving grace on days when I needed an outlet for stress.

Looking back, I’m proud of my posts. I’m proud of pushing through blocks and posting every. single. day this month. I’m proud of my thoughts. I’m proud of sharing my opinions. I’m proud of sticking with it, even when it got hard. I’m proud.

NaBloPoMo started off as an assignment. I wanted an A and didn’t mind blogging, so I thought this was the best choice. However, it became so much more. This journey of learning will stick with me for a long time. Blogging is important, and I can’t wait to share it with my future students.

Thank you for allowing me to be open and honest in such a public setting. Thank you to those that took the time to read through my posts and provide feedback for me. I have loved this adventure and am forever grateful for the learning it provided.

2017-Vivacious Living

It’s hard to believe that it is already time to start thinking about life in 2017.

2016 seemed to rush by in a blur. It was stressful and overwhelming at times, but it still had it’s amazing points. Looking back, I’m happy with the life I lived over the past year. I worked at jobs I loved with people who were really great to me. I was able to attend school to further my career. My friendships grew, and I was able to spend lots of time with my family. All in all, it was a good year.

But, I want more.

Every year, I want to continue on the uphill slant. I want every year to be better than the one before it. I want relationships to grow stronger. I want to see my friends happier. I want to be healthy and doing things I love. I want to live my life in a way that I can look back on and smile when I get older.

I want to live vivaciously.

Vivacious living is what I’m striving for in 2017. Miriam Webster defines vivacious as “lively in temper, conduct, or spirit.” I’m normally a bit of a wallflower, but I strive to be lively; I’m tired of blending into the background.2017 is a year to better myself. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. I want to be full of love and spirit that exudes out. I want to live a life that I am happy with. This year, I’m going to work on living my life purposefully.

How do I go about this? I’m working on eating better, exercising, and generally taking care of myself. I’m involved in some great Bible Studies with amazing friends. I’m trying to put myself out there and be involved in things that I have always wanted to. I want to live life to the fullest because that’s how it’s supposed to be lived. I don’t want to miss out on experiences that I deserve to have.

So I’ll spend 2017 stepping out of my box. I’m going to try new things and take care of myself. I’m going to shed my old skin (metaphorically) and grow a more confident demeanor. My word for the year is vivacious; I can’t wait to live life in full color.

Pura Vida & Costa Rica

My blog post is coming out late tonight, but I have a good reason for it.

To fully understand, I think I have to take you back to the beginning of this story. A couple of months ago, I found out about this awesome study abroad trip to London that my college was going on in May. Immediately I wanted in on it. London has always been my dream; I’ve wanted to see the sights and monuments for as long as I can remember. I’m an English major, so this seemed like a no-brainer for me. I’m steeped in Brit Lit, and felt a pull to experience the culture first hand instead of simply through a book or play. I was ecstatic. I vowed to make this trip work any way possible.

At the same time, my church announced that it would be taking a mission team down to Costa Rica in March. The team would work in hospitals, churches, and schools, doing whatever needed to be done to help the people while spreading God’s word. Though the trip sounded amazing, I knew I couldn’t possibly make both work, especially after paying for next semester and needing money to pay rent and live on. So, I pushed this to the back burner. It would happen some other time.

But you know that saying about God laughing at our plans? That’s exactly what happened to me.

I made my plans and decided that was it. I was making London happen no matter what. But, as it sometimes happens, things began to fall through around the same time that I began praying for a sign on which trip I needed to take. I had been feeling as if I was being pulled in two separate directions and felt like I wasn’t getting a straight answer from God. However, He was speaking to me through the whole ordeal and I didn’t even realize it.One afternoon, I stumbled across Isaiah 6:8, a verse I’ve had highlighted in my Bible for years, and the answer became clear: this trip took priority. Just as I came to understand that Costa Rica was my calling, I realized that I had missed the deadline; the trip wasn’t happening for me, and I was devastated.

However, God had the plan in motion still. As I sat in church that Sunday, Pastor Mike told the congregation that spots were still available. If we felt moved to turn in an application still, he encouraged us to do so. That afternoon, I immediately sat down and began to explain my path to this decision and why I felt compelled to join the group.

Just last week I got the text that I had been approved; I was officially on the team headed to Costa Rica.

Guys, I cannot explain the amount of joy my heart is still feeling. I can’t wait to serve God in the country of Costa Rica. I’ve never left the country or traveled that far; how awesome is it that I get to travel further than I ever have to spread the word of God?

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I spent tonight brainstorming about fundraising ideas when I stumbled across the Pura Vida website. My roommate and I had discussed possibly doing that to help with costs, and it just felt right. Pura Vida is a company that sells bracelets produced in Costa Rica. Every single bracelet produced is made in Costa Rica by local artisans. To date, this company employs over 100 Costa Ricans on a full time basis. Many of the bracelets are also designed with charities in mind. From sea turtle foundations to Down syndrome and MS Awareness, there is something for everyone. Proceeds from every charity bracelet bought are given directly to the charity itself. Pura Vida has donated over $1 million dollars to charity since its founding 5 years ago.

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Riptide
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Not For Sale (Charity)

So, that’s what I’ve spent my night doing: deciding on what bracelets to buy and sell to   anyone who wants to support Costa Rica and my trip (some are pictured to the left and some further below). I love the message this company stands upon, and the bracelets are super cute, too (if you’re interested, please let me know! I have those pictured above and an assortment of others coming in soon). I got so wrapped up into my decisions and calls that I lost track of my allotted blogging time. I’m ecstatic about this opportunity, and the fact that I can make a difference while fundraising is huge to me; after all, this trip isn’t about me at all. It’s about Him.

That being said, money certainly isn’t everything. If you could do anything for me, I would ask that you keep this mission and the others on my team in your prayers. Although March seems like a long time from now, I’m preparing my heart and mind to go on this trip to serve God. Any and all prayers are so appreciated.

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Berry Cute
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Teen Cancer America Solidarity Strings (Charity)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am so excited to follow God’s path He has outlined for me. If you have any questions about my trip or would like to get ahold of me to chat, please feel free to do so. I’m ecstatic for this opportunity and would love to share my experience with you. 🙂

Childlike Eyes

Do you remember what the world looked like as a child?

I do. I remember thinking how big the world was compared to how small I was. I remember living life carefree, thinking about and doing nothing except what made me the happiest. One minute I was pretending to be a mother of 3 on the playground and the next I was in a swinging contest with my best friends. I loved meeting and interacting with new people. Differences between me and other people didn’t make things awkward or uncomfortable; instead, they didn’t matter. I was friends with the other person regardless.

Viewing the world through the lens of a child makes it a completely different place. It seems rosier and more picturesque; it looks like the perfect universe we all want it to be. Kids are born into this world without judgement or condemnation in them; these are traits that we, the older generations, hand down to them. A child would never know to judge someone by their looks or skin tone unless they were taught to do so, whether that be through parents or TV or somewhere else. These thoughts and feelings would never be there unless they were taught; how sad is that to think about?

Kids believe they are invincible. I’ve met so many children who are on top of the world every single day. They truly believe that the world is beautiful and positive. These kids wake up and can’t wait to hit the ground running because, to them, the world is full of possibilities and wonder.

However, I start to notice a change in kids’ behavior around middle school. Gone are the days of wonder and excitement. In their place now stands a time of anger and bitterness. Kids don’t see the world as a place of possibilities; instead, they now see it as a trap and use their sarcasm to hide their disappointment. They have been failed and lied to. They begin to believe that they aren’t capable of being the superhero they always dreamed up. Little girls start allowing the whispers of insecurity in, believing that they aren’t worth it. Kids grow quieter and more reserved. They change. They grow into cynical adults at a young age, and that’s a crime.

We can’t let this happen.

But how do we do this? How do we keep kids’ sparks and zest for life going? These are loaded questions that I struggle with myself. I remember losing my spark. This is something I want to divert kids from and, as a future educator, it will soon be my job. I watched a great TED Talk video about how schools need to continue to put creativity in the classrooms. Isn’t this true? As kids age, less class time is devoted to being creative. We incorrectly assume that they need to grow up and learn about the real world; what if the real world was the world we all used to dream of?

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I want kids to always look at the world with childlike eyes. I want them to find wonder and creativity in every day circumstances. I want them to look at challenges and difficulties as opportunities to better themselves. I want my students to see themselves as the superhero they once were. I want them to be idealistic and (as some would say) “silly,” because they’re kids. I want my students to love each other just like they did when they were 3. I want them to look at differences and see the beauty within them.

Is this a bit idealistic? Yes, probably. But you know what? I’m okay with that. I want to be the type of person who tries everything to make life better for her students. Working at a middle school has given me many wonderful experiences, but I’ve also seen numerous lights go out in students. I want to keep that from happening as much as possible. So. Let’s infuse our kids with creativity. Let’s teach them love and acceptance. Let’s encourage them to be superheroes. Let’s show them that it’s okay to be different from the person sitting beside you.

Let’s let them live with childlike eyes.

 

 

(Image CC: Flickr.com)

Why babies are the best.

Today, I held babies. It was magical.

Babies are the best. They’re just so innocent and precious. Their eyes are always full of wonder and love (even when they’re screaming). My best friend and I went to visit a set of twins tonight, and I was reminded of why I love kids. Even though I don’t want any for quite some time, I am still a big softie for cute kiddos. Both of the babies were so expressive and trusting, falling asleep in our arms and smiling big when we acted stupidly towards them. They are just the sweetest, and I fell in love at first sight.

So, to commemorate this, I wanted to compile a list on why babies are the best:

  1. Innocence. Babies have an air of innocence about them that just takes my breath away.They look so delighted and happy and sometimes angry; it’s almost as if the world hasn’t touched them or let them down yet. They trust those around them and don’t judge others. It’s a beautiful thing to see a baby interact with a person, and I love the innocence they possess.
  2. Little Miracles. Babies are miracles; there’s just no way around that fact. I look at each and every baby and think to myself wow- what a miracle. Just to think about how each and every child is formed in the womb and to watch them grow and develop is amazing. Children are truly gifts from God.
  3. Baby Smells. No, not the stinky diaper smell. I’m talking about the new baby smell; it’s addicting, am I right?
  4. Their Smiles. I don’t know about you, but I’d do just about anything to see a baby smile and laugh. I would make funny faces, buzz my lips together, and coo like a crazy woman. I love seeing babies smile. It’s just so expressive and warms my heart.
  5. Heart-Changing Powers. Babies can change a person’s heart; I’ve seen it before. The most cynical person in the world can hold a baby and suddenly their heart changes. Gone is the person who would complain about kids; in their place now stands a person who speaks baby talk fluently and plays peek-a-boo like a champ. The toughest guy can be turned to mush by a baby, and I love that. They have magical powers, I swear.
  6. Cuteness Overload. Babies are just downright cute. I don’t care what anyone says, I love looking through peoples’ baby pictures and seeing them at that age. Cute doesn’t even describe how babies look. Their expressive smiles and big eyes on a small face are favorite traits of mine.

I absolute love kids and think they’re adorable. Spending time with babies makes my heart happy and my smile a little bigger. Even if they make my arm fall asleep and drool all over my shirt, I will always fall more in love. I’m excited to one day be a mom, even if it’s far down the road.

Babies are miracles; this is something we should all agree upon. ❤

“If I should have a daughter…”

I have officially hit the post-Thanksgiving slump.

I’m sitting in my room at home, stomach full and body tired from all the traveling and family time. I’ve been in my PJs for a solid hour now, and I’m feeling like the laziest person out there.

That being said, I am not feeling very creative. No prompts or thoughts seem to be emanating from me; no thoughts seem to be coming together. I’ve spent the past 30 minutes or so feeling frustrated due to this. As I reach the end of this blogging journey, I’m feeling a little bogged down in my writing style and posts. Nothing seems to sound quite right.

So, for today’s post, I’m going to instead share a favorite video of mine from this semester:

To put it simply, Sarah Kay is a genius. Her words flow beautifully and paint a picture for audiences everywhere. This TED talk is on my list of favorites because I appreciate her message. She discusses and presents spoken word poetry and how she gets students to catch the fire for it. I love her passion and desire towards her craft. She shares her thoughts in such a humorous and loving way; it’s easy to see how gifted she is. This video provided me with many prompts to work with (hands, if I should have a daughter, 3 things I know to be true, etc.). Someday, I will play this video in my classroom.

Spend the 18 minutes watching this video. Even if you aren’t an English major, I think you’ll still get a lot out of it. I know I did.

-RG

 

P.S.- If you still can’t get enough, I suggest you check out this video. Sarah is magnificent when she performs.

For those who are lonely this holiday.

My heart is so full.

There’s nothing quite like spending time with your family to fill up your empty spaces. I always leave family gatherings feeling refreshed and renewed. I love catching up with my cousins and aunts and uncles while eating some delicious home cooked meals. We reflect on our lives and our semesters, laughing all afternoon. It’s also a tradition that we cap off our Thanksgiving night with an airing of The Grinch, a reminder that we will see each other again in a few short weeks. It patches up my stress and anxiety, leaving me feeling at peace.

But I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am.

I’m sure that many of you are feeling alone this Thanksgiving. Whether it’s emotionally lonely or physically separated from family and friends, I can’t imagine how difficult that is for you. And I won’t pretend to. I’m lucky enough to celebrate all holidays twice each year: once with my dad’s side and once with my mom’s side. I get double the laughs and double the food (so I roll away instead of walking). But I’m not stupid. I know that there are plenty of people feeling alone right now, hating the holidays because of the feelings they stir up.

I want these people to know one thing: you are loved.

Regardless of what you may think or believe, you are so incredibly loved. God looks down on us and sees an image that he created. It doesn’t matter if you believe in him; He still loves you. It doesn’t matter your race, weight, height, belief system, relationship status, or past. God loves you, no matter what.

If you’re feeling the weight of today on your heart, call out to Him. He will be your rock in the shifting sands of life. He will comfort and heal your wounds. We all have down times when we feel as though life just isn’t fair. He understands that and wants nothing more than to have you trust in His plan and vision in your life. He asks that we only be still while He works in our favor.

So, if you’re having a hard time being thankful for something this weekend, be thankful that we serve a God that loves and protects us. Be thankful He sent His only son to die and set us free. Be thankful that you have a solid rock in the shifting sands of life. Be thankful for His all-consuming, unending love. Be thankful that no one can judge but Him. Trust in His word and plans for your life; He has great things in store.

And if that doesn’t work, let me know. If this just doesn’t seem like something you can wholeheartedly believe in, please get ahold of me. I’d love to talk with you and pray for you. I have seen so many people struggle through this holiday season, and I don’t want that to be you. Life is hard; allow yourself to lean on someone.

Above all else, know that you are never alone.

 

Thankful for… The big three.

Life is insane. I think this is something we can all agree on. One day you feel on top of the world, and the next day you can be at your lowest point. We’ve all been there, and it isn’t fun for anyone.

Luckily, I have “the big three” in my life to help me through those not so great times. The big three is something I have thought of during times of unease or distress. I consider these three things to be superior above all; these are what I am most thankful for.

  1. God. My walk with God has put on some serious mileage in the past few years, and for that, I am incredibly grateful. Christ is my solid rock when times get hard. I know that I am never alone because I have Him to lean on in times of need. He is never failing and always loving. I spend my days trying to be more like Him; I want His light to shine through me so that others can see His love and grace.
  2. Love. If it wasn’t for the love of family and friends over the past few years, I’m not sure I would have made it. Love is a major component in my life. I spend my days trying to spread love around to everyone, and I am my happiest when I am able to accomplish that. My family and friends have been the biggest support system for me. They always encourage me and lift me up when I’m feeling down. I know that they believe in my abilities unhesitatingly and will support me no matter what. Their love is palpable in every circumstance. The world needs to spread more love around. When I feel loved, I tend to be more confident and happy; everyone deserves to feel that way.
  3. Happiness. I strive to feel joy at all times. Is this always feasible? No. It’s not at all. But, we choose to be happy. We choose to spread that happiness to others. I want to live my life knowing that I’m doing my best to be happy and healthy. I want to be happy with myself and what I accomplish. I want to spend time with my friends that never cease to put a smile on my face. I want to laugh so hard I cry. Happiness is contagious. It’s a key element (for me at least) to living a healthy life to the fullest. Happiness is empowering, and I am thankful that it exists. Can you imagine a world without smiles and laughter? I know that sounds really sentimental, but aren’t you feeling your best when you’re happy? We should all be thankful for laughter and happiness, because they show that we are truly alive.

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(Source: Giphy.com)

Turkey Day is tomorrow! What are your big three?

Thankful for … The “necessities.”

When I really think about it, I’ve never “wanted” for anything in my life. Sure, I’ve desired to have luxuries; I’ve asked for new clothes, shoes, an iPad, and numerous other things in my life. I think we all have. We always want something new, and it needs to be bigger and better than whatever we had before. The day I upgraded from a basic sliding phone to the iPhone was monumental- but was it really?

See, it’s funny when we really start putting things into perspective. I’ve always known that I live a somewhat privileged life, yet I always seem to want something more. However, I’ve never “wanted” for the necessities in my life. I never went without food. I never worried about a lack of drinking water. I have always had clothes that fit and were comfortable. Electricity, heat, and shelter have always been a part of my life; I have never truly felt the pang of want. I am thankful for that.

Looking at the world around us, it becomes clear that this isn’t the case for everyone. The things we see as everyday necessities are luxuries for some. Many live in shacks that have holes in the floor and no AC or heat. There are children across the world that die from malnutrition daily. There are many that go without clean drinking water. Children and adults go without proper clothing because they simply can’t afford it. I have never truly felt that; I have been blessed to live the way that I have. I may not drive a brand new car, but I drive a reliable one that gets me places safely. I don’t have brand new clothes, but I have a closet bursting with hundreds of pieces of clothing, even if some were hand-me-downs.

I think realizing how truly blessed we are with these necessities is important. Many of us take these things for granted, feeling as though it’s almost a right instead of a privilege. This is far removed from the truth. So, I’ve dedicated today to being thankful for the necessities that some must go without. I am thankful for:

  1. Clean water
  2. Electricity
  3. Edith (my car)
  4. Houses with sturdy foundations that have no holes in the floors
  5. Food- the excessive amount we have even when we say there is “nothing to eat” in the house
  6. Vaccinations that keep me healthy
  7. Phones & the various lines of communication
  8. Technology
  9. Walls that protect me from bugs that carry disease (please check this link out; the prevalence of malaria in other countries is a horrid truth)
  10. Street lights & traffic rules
  11. Shoes to walk in
  12. Clothing for all seasons
  13. Pharmacies & modern medicine- it’s literally a hop, skip, & jump to the nearest hospital if anything ever happened
  14. Our judicial system- it protects us and (hopefully) upholds our laws
  15. Our employment market
  16. Education- something definitely taken for granted by many, but a necessity for all
  17. Sanitation systems- take a look back in history; things didn’t go so well for countries without this.
  18. Clean air
  19. Feminine hygiene products
  20. Cleanliness
  21. A bed- not a floor- to sleep on
  22. Military, police, firefighters, EMTs, etc.- these people are so integral to our society, and I like knowing that if the time every unfortunately came that I needed help, I could call them unhesitatingly.

I know that I’m probably missing quite a few, so once again this list is not exhaustive. Living in a First World Country is a privilege, and we need to remember this. We also must take our knowledge of what living in other countries feels like and try to make a change.

Imagine what one day without any of the above amenities would look like. Envision it. What would change? How would your actions differ? Be thankful. Show your gratefulness.