Sunday, October 31, 2010

Whirlwind Weekend!

Johnathan and I returned to our beloved Alma Mater for the Homecoming game this weekend. On our way into Chapel Hill we stopped and had dinner and spent the night with friends in Greensboro. Then we continued our trek toward Blue Heaven, and it was a BEAUTIFUL day for football (and my personal favorite, listening to the drumline warm up)...

The game itself was, to quote my friend Ashley's husband, "unnecessarily exciting". And by that I mean UNC had no reason to struggle against William and Mary, but they did. And it wasn't until there were 13 minutes left in the game that the Heels showed up to play! Talk about frustrating! But in the end, UNC pulled out a win and all was well even if it wasn't pretty!

As you can tell from the photo below, we had a wonderful day in Chapel Hill :)

Happy Halloween!!

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why We Wore Purple

I want you to see this video (at the end of the blog post), because no matter your opinion on the issue of homosexuality, surely we can all agree that school is supposed to be a safe place for every student. Joel Burns, from Fort Worth, Texas, is openly gay, married and an elected official on City Council. None of that matters, though. In this video, Joel speaks out against the bullying that has caused a number of suicides in the last few weeks.
I want to say, again, that it doesn't matter your view on the issue (we can agree to disagree if you want). What matters is that no child should end his or her life because they can't find another way out. No child should go to school in fear of being physically and/or emotionally bullied because of who he or she is. No child should ever be told they don't deserve to live, or that Hell is waiting for them, or that the world doesn't need someone like them. I have some readers who are very strong Christians, and I imagine that they would be appalled at the notion that children are telling other children that the world doesn't want them.
Yesterday, my husband and I along with my mother and over 1 million others decided to show our support for the victims of this bullying that cost them their own lives by wearing purple. We stood up for those students, we took a stand to say that no child should fear school, and no child should fear another child. But there is a bigger picture here, and that picture has 2 main points:

1. Anti-gay language and violence should constitute hate crime, and current legislation should reflect it as such. No one should have their life taken from them because of their sexual orientation. When we look at stories like that of Matthew Shepard, we should realize that sexual orientation, just like race, native language and gender is just one facet of a human being. Tunnel vision is what causes hate crime, as people are narrowed into one characteristic and then punished for it. We have legal protection for those being persecuted because of their race and religion, why not sexual orientation, too? We just aren't there yet. As long as people like Carl Paladino, who openly states (while pandering to potential voters) that no one should be brainwashed to believe that "homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option", and American voters back policies like Don't Ask Don't Tell and Proposition 8 (in California) and The Defense of Marriage Act, we won't get there anytime soon. I live and work in a small conservative town, and let me tell you that my students don't even know how same sex couples "have" or "get" children. They don't know because "we" don't talk about it, and "we" don't talk about it because "we" know it's wrong. Or at least, that's what Mom/Dad/Auntie/The Preacher/The Sunday School Teacher told us. And I don't want to get into the religion of it all, either. I would never insist (because I value the democracy of America) that churches change their belief systems to be more welcoming and accepting of the LGBT community. But to deny same sex couples the right to a legal marriage? That's just wrong. A marriage in the religious sense of the word is another story altogether, and that should be left up to church leadership organizations.

There are so many organizations that are taking a stand for the rights of the LGBT community, and the one that comes to mind that I am involved (on the fringe) with is the Human Rights Campaign. This organization works as a political and social advocate, and their website has some great resources on how you can get involved, too.

2. Bullying is an increasing problem in our schools, and something must be done to protect those who are targeted. North Carolina has recently focused legislation on bullying, particularly cyberbullying, in the public schools. The issue with bullying, in my own opinion, is the enforcement of these policies from school to school. Am I saying that my administration doesn't do a good job dealing with bullies? No, not at all. I think my administrators are well read and are consistent and fair in this particular area. Then again, when I think about how much bullying goes on in my school, that level is notably low, which I think may be a direct result of the "we don't talk about it" situation that goes on around here.

If you need help, or you know someone who does, please know that you are not alone in your battles. There are people in this world who love you and do not even know you. There are others who will reach out and help you without knowing the first thing about you. Please, I'm begging you, don't take your own life. There is so much more out there than these temporary situations. You will find the person who loves you as much as you love them. You will see that there is life beyond these high school years. Your heart will probably be broken a time or two, or maybe more. But please know that we all hurt before we find the right person, and that it's part of growing up.

To get more information or resources on working with gay teens, check out The Trevor Project.

I hope no one finds this post to be incendiary; it was not my intention. Sometimes, we just need to lean on each other as an example to others that we can all get along despite our differences. As a society, it is our duty to stand united against teen suicide, no matter what the circumstances that prompted it, and anti-gay bullying is no exception.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Johnathan!!

Today my cute husband turns 26 years old. I am happy to report that he is healthy, albeit a little crispy from his weekend adventure, and happy. Since we are celebrating his first birthday since his cancer diagnosis back in December 2009, this day is a special one indeed.

I have known Johnathan since 2003 when we met at Fall Fest in, a little "welcome to/back to UNC" street fair that happens every year on the Sunday before classes officially start on Tuesday. There are lots of booths from campus organizations, loud music, and most of the athletic teams make a brief appearance on a center stage. It's a great place to meet up with all of the people you haven't seen since the previous year, and a good opportunity for freshmen to meet others and find out what UNC campus life has to offer.

That night, my roommate at the time and I had gone over to check everything out and meet up with some other people we knew. We ran into Johnathan and some of his friends who had come to UNC that year as freshmen, too. I don't remember speaking directly to him, because one of the other guys with him introduced us, but I do remember talking about making plans to eat lunch together at the dining hall sometime.

The dining hall lunch became a regular activity a couple times each week. I ate lunch with Johnathan, our mutual friend Darrin, and Johnathan's roommate Steven. I lived off campus, and thus didn't have a meal plan, but Johnathan had meals to spare, so he would swipe me in on occasion. What started as some friends hanging out and adjusting to college became more and more just Johnathan and me meeting up for lunch, or grabbing coffee, or walking campus. I had a car in Chapel Hill, so sometimes Johnathan would ride back to Lincolnton with me, and we spent a lot of time getting to know each other. Confession: I knew he liked me, and I liked that he liked me, but I didn't think I liked him.

Turns out, I did :)

Fast forward to 2004, our first kiss and a whirlwind summer when we fell in love really fast after that school year ended. I knew I had met someone special, someone who treated me like a lady, but respected me for my intelligence. Johnathan was (and is) an incredible listener, and he helped me sort out my feelings in a lot of situations as my friend before he became my boyfriend, my fiance and then my husband. We had a beautiful wedding in August of 2007 surrounded by friends and family, and we promised ourselves to each other in a way that I did not even think possible. There were times when I wasn't sure that we would make it to that day because of my own fears and doubts, but he held my hand and never let go.

December 2009 to July 2010 was incredibly difficult for us emotionally as we dealt with Johnathan's cancer diagnosis. He was so strong through the whole experience, reminding me how lucky I am to be his wife, to be able to stand by him and be there with him when things were at their worst in that hospital. After his surgery his incision didn't allow him to even be hugged, and as someone who thinks that people need physical affection to feel whole I felt very far away from him during that time. The first time he put his arms around me again, I shed tears of joy, as if he was reassuring me that we were going to get through this together no matter what the odds.

In honor of my husband's first birthday since cancer, I have officially kicked off our Relay for Life season by registering our team, Go JoBe, Go!. This will be our second Relay as a team and I am looking forward to raising money and awareness for the fight against cancer. My husband is a survivor, and with organizations like Relay we can work toward a day where being a survivor is so common that we don't even mention it anymore. If you want to know more about the event, you can go to this site. Relay for Life is an incredible experience and if you're in the area I hope you'll join us as Johnathan walks his second survivor lap :D

Johnathan, I love you more than life itself. I cannot imagine living any other life than the one we have built and shared together. You balance me in ways no one else can. I see my future in your eyes, and I know it is going to be more than either of us could ever dream. Thank you for choosing me to be your companion; I will be with you, hand in hand, forever.

To you, my love, Happy Birthday.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I've been honored by my friend Makia at Teaka's Truths with the Cherry on Top blog award! I'm so excited! And what's better: I get to pass it along!!

Directions for the Cherry on Top award:

1. Answer the question "If I had the chance to go back and change one thing in my life, would I, and what would it be?
2. Pick up to 6 people and give them this award.
3. Thank the person who gave the award.

My response to the question:
I think we all have parts of our past that we'd like to change, but looking back I think each of us is a composite of those experiences. To me, making a change would alter who I am now. There are, however, some relationships I wish I had treated with better care, in hopes that they may have had a different outcome. But then again, if I had those, would I have the ones in my life now? I'm not sure, and none of us can really know. So to answer the question...I don't know if I would really be willing to risk the present for the sake of the past.

On to the lucky recipients!

Congratulations on your award; now get writing!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Something more fluffy

My blog topics have been a little heavy as of late, and I think both my readers and I need a break from the serious conversations. This is not to say that I'm backing down from my beliefs, but I need more fun in my life :) I'm spending today on the couch, as my annual allergies/asthma flare up has commenced a little earlier in the calendar year than usual. I would say it's a more mild case this year than usual, or maybe I've come to expect it and therefore know what to treat it with to head it off at the pass.

Anyway, I watched one of my favorite movies this afternoon, "Moulin Rouge!" (2001). There are so many great lines in that film alone, and so I thought, why not post a list of my top 10 favorite movie lines of all time? I will go ahead and apologize to those of you who do not share my taste in film, especially my good friends Matt and Erin, because I'm sure Matt will roll over in laughter at the films I choose :)

1. Maverick: She's lost that loving feeling.
Goose: I hate it when she does that.
~Top Gun

2. Duke: I don't care about your ridiculous dogma! Why shouldn't the courtesan choose the maharajah?

Christian: Because she doesn't love you!

~Moulin Rouge

3. Johnny: Nobody puts Baby in the corner
~Dirty Dancing

4. Harry: I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
~When Harry Met Sally

5. Noah: So it's not gonna be easy. It's going to be really hard; we're gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me... everyday.
~The Notebook

6. Timothy: Whores don't get second chances!

7. Jake: I am a liberal Row-Ark. What I am not is a card-carrying ACLU radical.
~A Time to Kill

8. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around.
~Love Actually

9. Mr Ollivander: I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. It so happens that the phoenix whose tailfeather resides in your wand gave another feather... just one other. It is curious that you should be destined for this wand when its brother gave you that scar.

Harry: And who owned that wand?

Ollivander: We do not speak his name! The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter. It's not always clear why. But I think it is clear that we can expect great things from you. After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible! Yes. But great.
~Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

10. Jack: But why is the rum gone?
~Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

What are your favorite movie lines? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why Glee is the best show on television

I have not hidden this fact from anyone: I LOVELOVELOVE the television show Glee. At first, I loved it for the music, plain and simple. But as someone who works with high school students, I love Glee even more for its wit, its truthfulness in both the stereotyping and the message, its music, and its ability to resonate with all kinds of viewers.

Tonight's episode originates in Finn, the "dumb jock" who is lovable beyond his (brilliantly written) one-liners, such as "I got this book from the library; did you know you can just borrow books there?". Finn thinks he sees Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich, henceforth Grilled Cheesus. Hilarious, I know. Sacreligious? Probably.

Then there's Kurt's monologue about how he has no faith, an idea based mostly around his life experiences, one of them being that he was born gay. He says "Most churches don't think much of gay people. Or women. Or science," and I think he's saying what a lot of people may be thinking. Then later, he goes on to say that "God made me gay then sends his followers out to tell the world that it's something I chose".

What great dialogue could an episode like this prompt?

Here's the problem: we don't talk the way we should to our children or to each other. We don't openly discuss beliefs and opinions that might be unpopular in our communities. We don't exercise our voice just as loudly as the religious voices do (when I say religious, I mean the intolerant, hateful, judgmental variety; this is not a blanket statement about any followers of any one faith). Would someone please tell me why it's ok for people to send their kids to school early to have "prayer breakfast" and FCA and Bible Club, but no one is reaching out to the outcast? I don't have any issue whatsoever with those organizations, and I understand the legalities of it all (thank you, school law) that state that any organization can use school facilities as long as any other organization is allowed, too. It's about playing fair.

In some sense, I feel that as someone who has a belief system that's (theoretically) based in grace and love and mercy, why isn't anyone doing the graceful, loving, merciful thing that is reaching to the misunderstood, the downtrodden? Why aren't these groups showing this love they keep saying is available to the people who need it most? In the South, we stay very busy beating people up with our Bibles and we forget that it may hurt or leave a scar.

Here's another problem: who's going to step up and lead? Who, in a place like this, is going to provide an openly safe haven for bullied, ostracized teens? As a teacher, I do it covertly student to student, offering my classroom as a place where they are protected and free to speak openly. But so many of them don't. They are afraid. They know that no matter how much safety I try to provide them, there are hallways and public spaces where others can take out their hate, their intolerance and ultimately their ignorance. Working in a public space comes with responsibility, and there is only so much I can do in the midst of the chaos that constantly surrounds religion in the public schools. My solution at the moment is to stay out of it for the sake of my job.

I guess in a roundabout way, I'm saying that I've had that crisis of faith. I can't wrap my mind around how people who claim to belong to a church or a faith can say and do the things I observe at my workplace and then show up on the appointed day at the place of worship as if they are totally spotless. I struggled for a long time with figuring out where God fit into all those things, and I would be lying if I said that my husband and I hadn't had more than one of those awkward, difficult conversations about how to raise our children with moral and spiritual values that still reflect tolerance and love. In short, we don't know where to take our future children outside of our home and our families to teach them those things.

Glee acts as a conduit through which these difficult conversations can flow with little fear of retribution, because the show starts the talking, not the students. I loudly applaud Ryan Murphy and the entire cast for being willing to take on these difficult subjects, such as religion, discrimination and sexual orientation without fear. Thank you for being the light. Thank you for daring to say what so many of us are thinking.

Maybe I'll teach my kids everything they need to know through episodes of Glee.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

100 posts later...

I've been itching to write a post for a few days. Usually, I try to write something that has value and some sort of focus. And lately, I've felt a little fuzzy on what exactly I should be writing about both on the blog and beyond. So I've decided that since this is my 100th post, maybe I should look back in order to move forward. And you all know I love a good list!

Over the course of 100 posts, beginning June 2008, I have:
1. Moved into, decorated, and learned to love our first home as a married couple.
2. Watched my "little" brother grow up, get engaged, and graduate from college.
3. Worked more hours at LHS in the bandroom than I care to think about, but what I lost in hours, I gained in a beautiful friendship
4. Brought home one sweet little dog that I can't imagine living without
5. Celebrated 3 years of marriage
6. Finished my second master's degree
7. Truly fallen in love with young adult literature
8. Been the wife of a cancer patient, and am now the wife of a cancer survivor!
9. Become more passionate about those causes closest to me, and have spoken out on their behalf
10. Have traveled with friends and captured those moments in photographs I will forever cherish
11. Finally started to do something for myself about my distorted body image
12. Been diagnosed and treated for clinical depression
13. Discovered my inner voice through writing
14. Celebrated the birth of nieces, nephews and cousins
15. Laughed, Cried and Loved through the struggles, the doubts and the occasional triumphs
16. Found value in building real relationships at work
17. Worked on defining myself as a professional and a wife, daughter, sister and friend
18. Built new and/or healthy relationships slowly but surely
19. Found that I can, in fact, cook
20. Taught LOTS of students, most of which have left my classroom with at least some kind of new knowledge, even if it isn't necessarily about literature
21. Written recommendation letters that have contributed to college acceptance
22. Learned to appreciate quiet evenings at home with a glass of wine and the company of my husband
23. Built my 101/1001 list, and am making documented progress
24. Worked to find something good in each and every day, even when it's terribly difficult or feels impossible
25. Learned that love, friendship and compassion can make any broken person feel whole again.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and definitely proves I have a lot of living left to do. Here's to 100 more posts of a life full of dreaming :)