Wednesday, July 27, 2011


*sings from Rent*
That's how you measure a year.

I've moved right along to the age of 27. In celebration (mourning?!) I'm making a list of 13 things to be happy about at the age of 27 :)

1. I'm in a happy marriage with the most amazing and supportive person I have ever known.
2. I will NOT be attending any graduate school next year!
3. I am starting my 5th year of teaching (and my colleagues ROCK)
4. I have read LOTS of books in the last 12 months and acquired more than I read.
5. Johnathan's last colonoscopy was clear; no cancer here!
6. I attended my brother's beautiful wedding :)
7. Acquired: MacBook Pro
8. Traveled to New York to see the many, many sights including a show on Broadway!
9. Seeing the last of the Harry Potter films, completing my streak of seeing them all in the movie theater
10. Finishing The Hunger Games series
11. Watching the students I've taught for 3 years graduate last May (my babies!)
12. A new school year is on the way and I have lots of exciting ideas
13. Books, books and more books!

I LOVE celebrating birthdays, especially my own. But, I really can be incredibly vain about getting older and worrying about my looks and how people perceive my exterior before they get to know me. I guess we all feel that way sometimes, but after making this list I'm feeling much better about what's ahead for me. The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Well, I can mark another item off my lifetime to-do list: graduate school.
Last night I attended my last class as a grad student at Appalachian State University. I started my MA in Curriculum and Instruction in August of 2008, and participated in the Commencement exercises for that degree in May 2010. The following fall, I went back to ASU to add a license in School Administration to my credentials. I completed over 600 hours of intern time in my school and through coursework. In the last 8 weeks I have written 6 evidence documents proving I have the know how to be licensed as a school administrator K-12. Aside from my vacation, I would suppose that's why I haven't been blogging as actively as I would like. Those documents have been submitted for review and I should know if I will be awarded the license in about a week or so.

I am SO relieved to be finished with all of the coursework. I'm actually, dare I say it, looking forward to just focusing on my regular classroom job and my work within my school, including yearbook and Relay for Life. I'm looking at this as both an end and a beginning. In the grand scheme of things (go ahead, call me an overachiever), I taking classes for the majority of my life. I took one year off (my first year in the classroom) and then went right back to night classes and summer school. I'm not sure what I'll do with the time! Well, I'll probably read more books ;)

For now, I'm kicking back and enjoying a lemonade and the rest of my summer vacation. My birthday is next week and we are going to have a blast celebrating! I can't wait to spend some quality time with my family without the looming licensure documents. It will be nice to just be a teacher for a while and not a student, too!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More books?!

Yes, it's possible. I could have even more books. There's a contest going around in our local area about the Asheville to Nashville (ash2nash) book tour some local authors are sponsoring. How cool would it be to meet Beth Revis (author of Across the Universe, which I LOVED!)?

So here's the thing, I'm posting about the tour as part of a contest AND because I'm excited about going if it's a possibility. The prize pack is AMAZING but just meeting local authors would be more than enough for me! Hey, Steph, are you in? Let's go meet people who write the books we love!

In honor of the ash2nash tour I'm taking Hex Hall out to the beach with me today. I've been busting to read it forever, and today is as good a day as any!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: Love Wins+my own musings

Warning: The book I'm about to discuss is controversial in nature; the narrow-minded need not read this post.

So far in my #bookaday challenge, I have managed to read 2 books in 2 days. I finished Beauty Queens today, which I will get to in a post tomorrow (I know, the perpetual 1 day behind cycle!) but today I want to talk about something a little...deeper.

A friend of mine mentioned the book Love Wins to me in a google buzz post. She said she had marked it as "interesting." I wasn't familiar with the text so I looked into the reviews on Amazon and was a) taken aback and b) immediately fascinated. I ordered the book right away, just dying to get into it. Here's why:

One reviewer called the author " A Hell-Believing Universalist"
Another said "Sadly, Bell has embraced heresy"
And the controversy continues with "Christian? I don't think so"
And yet another of my facebook friends called Rob Bell a heretic and more or less condemned him to Hell. Yikes. You know I couldn't wait for that book to show up on my door!

So I've read it. There were a lot of things in the book that I had considered before on my own and in conversations with my mom and my husband. Rob Bell argues, but don't quote me as his spokesperson, that there's more to God and the Jesus story than what any one church can filter it into for the sake of human consumption. This much I can agree with. It doesn't make sense to dwindle the expanse of God down to one set of ideas that will get you "in" or leave you "out". There are as many question remaining at the end of the book as there were in the beginning; they are just different questions. Rob Bell uses a LOT of Biblical references to make his case, and as someone who studied early Christianity in college I appreciate the direct reference to the text. The language flows nicely; Bell has a very poetic style and the text reflects that visually as well.

Another term I stumbled across in reading the various reviews of the text was "Universalism." Hm, doesn't look like a terribly difficult word to decipher, but it's being used in a derogatory context. Let's investigate.

First: defines Universalism as "the religious belief that all men are predestined for salvation" Well, that puts an interesting spin on it. Why would that be such a bad thing? For one, it defeats the idea wholeheartedly that God is a vindictive distributor of punishment at the drop of a hate while the rest of the time He's benevolent, giving, loving and the like. An idea like that definition would paint God without his wrath, if you will.

Second: Looking deeper, there's Christian Universalism which suggests that yes, there is a Heaven and yes, everyone will go there without the worry or threat of Hell. You can read about their basic belief system here. Some of these beliefs do in fact line up with what Rob Bell says about the inclusivity of God, and how it is the influence of man that has caused this idea of Jesus as a rescuer from a harsh, violent God. Is that really the picture the Biblical text paints? I found this passage most interesting because of a new angle on the Jesus story. Why does God have to be villainized as the bad guy so Jesus can swoop in and rescue us? That's not the picture I want, and Bell goes on to say that image instills violence in people, too. Because "We shape God, and God shapes us." What a sense of agency!

Why does this idea of Universalism bother so many Christians? I don't consider myself qualified to truly answer that, but I have some theories of my own. For one, Universalism doesn't get caught up in the who's who of Christianity. There are no works attached to this gift from God. Now, I know there are lots of churches around who say "God doesn't need your works," and this is true; He doesn't. But you're kidding me if you try to say those same churches don't "keep score" based on who is there how often and what they do to contribute to the "work of the Church" in the name of God.

Rob Bell doesn't say this, but it seems implied to me: people have messed up religion by putting their hands in it. Muddy water requires dirt; this same idea applies here. If the message, then, is clear as claimed, then it only gets muddy when dirt (people) get too involved. Overall, Rob Bell makes some pretty great points when it comes to human understanding of the vastness of God and His love for His creation; these ideas I can get on board with completely. There's just no way that if God is as loving as He says He is, and as others say He is, that he can just toss people that He created in His image away for some infraction that other people who are not God say He said is wrong.

What about grace? Love? Mercy? Do we really have the right (audacity?) to claim to know the heart and mind of God so well that we can distill it down into something everyone can memorize and pray to be "saved"? One more Bell point and I'll wrap this up: Heaven is here, now. People who work to right the wrongs in the world are creating Heaven on Earth. People who work to end social injustice, who fight poverty, racism, sexism, discrimination based on sexual orientation; those people are doing God's work, too. However, being part of God's plan for humanity cannot rest on someone else's shoulders; what if they fall down on the job? What if the missionary who was supposed to tell you about Christianity had the flu on your day to receive eternal life? Is the same God who promises that eternal life going to fault you for the events in the life of another? How does that make any sense?! Bell says God offers you the freedom to embrace His love or reject it. That's how much freedom you have as His creation. Hell, then, is when that love is rejected and the consequences that arise from being out of sync with God, so to speak. But it can be righted, and not just prior to death. There's so much to think about and chew on that I can't say it all here.

There is plenty of talk inside and outside of the Christian community about the text. I don't want to say too much more here because I don't want to a) spoil the book or b) influence your thinking on the matter; I'm no expert. I would, however, encourage EVERYONE in any faith or without one altogether to read this book and decide for yourself.

Tomorrow, a lighter read: Beauty Queens by the hilarious Libba Bray.

With love,

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bulls Baseball!

One great thing about having friends in the area when you travel is you can really take in things that are "local." As I have said in earlier posts I have great friends still in the middle of North Carolina, and I always try to make time for them whenever possible. My friend Ashley invited me to join her and her husband for a Durham Bulls baseball game. When I was in college my roommate Amanda and I liked to watch UNC baseball (and that's right before they started punching a ticket to Omaha's College World Series regularly. I watched UNC baseball before it was cool. Just sayin'). So I gladly accepted the invite. I had NO IDEA how much fun we would really have.

Let's start with the stadium. It's located slap-bang in the middle of the city of Durham.

Let me just say this, too: our seats were unbelievable! Look how close we were to both the Bulls dugout and home plate. No zoom was used in this photograph:

And of course, a trip to see the Bulls isn't complete without the actual Bull. At any time during the game if a homerun is hit by a Bulls player the eyes on this guy turn read, smoke comes out its nose and its tail moves up and down. In short: totally cool.

I had the BEST time at the Bulls game with Ashley and David. I cannot say enough about their kindness and generosity for inviting me along. It was definitely a welcome break after spending a lot of time up to my eyeballs in history and super smart lectures. Maybe Johnathan and I can check out the Hickory Crawdads around here as an acceptable substitute!

NEH Post 2: Burwell School

I'm back with more of my workshop with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Sorry if you aren't a history buff and were looking for another book post; one is on its way later tonight or tomorrow :)

So anyway, we spent the next morning (Saturday) on the road to close-by Hillsborough, NC to see the historic Burwell School. Some background: The Burwell School was a home that was occupied by Rev. and Mrs. Burwell and their 6(?) children. The Rev. Burwell brought his family to Hillsborough to pastor a church there, and the local doctor asked Mrs. Burwell to consider beginning a girls' academy, which she accepted. Thus, the Burwell school began with boarders and day students. The curriculum was interesting when we got a chance to see the list of courses. The house itself wasn't all that large for boarding students.

None of that information was the purpose of visiting the school; this is: Mrs. Burwell held an enslaved person by the name of Elizabeth Keckly. Elizabeth, or Lizzy as she was called, was an integral part of the girls' school and actually learned to read and write as part of her time at the Burwell School. Eventually, Elizabeth Keckly became an free woman working as a seamstress. Her work was much sought after and her most famous client and was none other than Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln. Elizabeth ultimately became a close friend and confidante to Mrs. Lincoln as her personal seamstress in the White House. Lizzy eventually wrote a memoir entitled Behind the Scenes: 30 Years a Slave and 4 Years in the White House. It is said that her relationship with Mrs. Lincoln deteriorated because of the publication.

Anyway, so much of that story began at the Burwell School. Here are some photos of the inside of the home/school. The property originally had 12 (!!) buildings, including a stand alone kitchen and a "necessary house," which is...well, we call it a restroom now :) I also took a photo of one of the school houses for your enjoyment/curiosity

It's not an original, but this is an example of what the girls would wear at the school. The more petticoats over your hoop skirt, the better! Another important fact: more material and layers meant more wealth.

An example of the bedding arrangements. This is half of one room and as you can see it has to sleep at least 3 girls. Imagine, boarding at a school and sleeping in the same bed with someone you did not know!

This is one of the original school houses. Inside, there are (guess!) chalk boards and long benches. There are no traditional desks. I can't imagine going to school in this room in the summer in so many layers of petticoats!

It's not so much part of the trip, but we did finish this part of the day with a Barbecue lunch on the school grounds. I know I've mentioned previously that this program is for teachers Nationwide and Internationally, but this was the truest moment of that fact so far. It was so interesting to see people from other parts of the United States (and beyond!) enjoy southern barbecue, baked beans, hush puppies and the like. Also, I tried a new food that day, too. Along with what I would consider the traditional fare, there was a dish called corn pudding. I had never had it before but I was on an adventure, so I gave it a try. It was AMAZING!! I'm going to try my hand at making it before summer is over. Anyone got a good recipe?

I hope you enjoyed seeing my trip through my eyes. Next post will contain information about my first Durham Bulls Game! I'm trying to catch up while I'm on vacation at Oak Island, but hey, a girl has to get her tan on sometime!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Beach Reading

From my summer reading blog:

I use twitter to follow the authors whose books I love or want to know more about. Recently, I've noticed there are lots of other book people who are also teachers. One of the things these folks are doing is something called Bookaday, where they read and review a book each day. Now, I'm a voracious reader and I love getting through a good novel (unless it's TOO good, then I don't want it to end!). But I don't know if I'm up for the challenge of a book each day. But I'm going to try it out.

I'm leaving for Oak Island, NC for a week's vacation on Sunday, and I would like to read a book each day while I am gone for a total of 6 not counting travel days. Here's what I'm taking:

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Abandon by Meg Cabot
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
Graceling by Kim Cashore
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Those are all the
physical books I am taking along. I'm also taking my Barnes and Noble nook which is loaded up with other good things to read.

Oh! And I promised I would review Lauren Oliver's
Delirium and let me just say it was wonderful! I think that teens would really like it because it is a) dystopian, which is all the rage right now, and b) it has a love story about two people who, of course, can't be together because of societal restrictions that they later discover...

I will leave you there. What I will say is that it's a page turner that moves quickly, and I'm fascinated with the angle Oliver takes on the idea of love being a sickness that can destroy you. I think this book is for anyone who has ever been even the least bit cynical about love or finding the right person or any of those other pesky things we worry about when it comes to relationships. I'm kind of disappointed, though, that the book is actually part of a series. Some books are just so well done, can't we just leave them be? Maybe I'll think this part over (ha!) while I'm relaxing on the beach next week :)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

NEH Crafting Freedom, post 1 Stagville and Milton NC

June 23-28 I attended a workshop entitled "Crafting Freedom" through the National Endowment for the Humanities. A colleague of mine urged me to apply to an NEH workshop, as she has attended many of them and has always learned so much to bring back to the classroom. I applied back in March and got word that I was invited to attend the second session June 23-28. Excited? Yep! Bonus: the workshop was in Chapel Hill!

I started my trip a little early and headed to Raleigh to spend some much needed quality time with my close friend Ashley. She took the day off and we went to the
outlet malls both in Smithfield and Mebane. We didn't do *too* much damage, but I did get some good deals on some cute clothes for the beach :) It was fun to just hang out and talk and catch up in person as opposed to our weekly chats on the phone and facebook. Sometimes, you just need to interact with a person, you know?

Anyway, our orientation to the workshop was held on Thursday night and then Friday morning we were off and running!
Our first stop was historic Stagville in Durham, NC. Stagville was a plantation that held over 300 slaves. Here is an example of a home where up to 4 families of 8-12 people would live.

Slavery was an ugly institution. However, what we saw at Stagville showed just how large a contribution African Americans made to the plantation life and even its infrastructure. We were shown a mule barn that is believed to have been built by slave labor.

The outside has clearly aged. But the inside of the barn was an amazing example of craftsmanship. Here's a photo of the top of the barn; you can see how it resembles ship construction:
The inside of the barn was by far my favorite part of the trip to Stagville. After lunch, we rode a bus an hour north of Durham to the town of Milton, NC. There, we visited a small church whose pews were crafted by a free black by the name of Thomas Day. In exchange for his work as an artisan, he and his family were allowed to sit in the downstairs congregation with the white members of the church instead of sitting in the balcony with slaves and other blacks. Another cool fact about Thomas Day: he petitioned the NC legislature to allow his wife, Aquila Wilson, to immigrate from Virginia to North Carolina as an exception to a newly enacted slave immigration law. 61 people, including the Attorney General of North Carolina, signed his petition in support, and Aquila was allowed to move to Milton.

example Thomas Day pew

We also visited the Thomas Day furniture museum housed in Union Tavern. The Tavern used to be Day's workshop where he created custom furniture for residents of Milton and beyond.

As you can see, Day's furniture was beautifully constructed using 19th century hand tools. This is just an example of his work; he made everything from cradles and bassinets to full home interiors and even coffins. As one of few free blacks in North Carolina he built a business and personal reputation that transcended the laws that were slowly becoming more and more restrictive and harsh. His is not the only story I want to tell. There is the story of Elizabeth Keckly who worked in the Burwell School, and she is the subject of the second post about NEH.

There is a lot more to see from our trip, so be on the lookout for another post about the Burwell School and my excursion to a Durham Bulls baseball game!