Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

At the moment, I’m preparing to become a teacher. I’ve never really seen myself doing anything else, and I like to think that’s because I’ve been blessed throughout my life with a truly wonderful assortment of teachers. For Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I’d thank a few of those special people.

Mrs. Davis (kindergarten)… I’m so thankful for the frog-covered room and the singing and the constant kindness, even for the little girl who cried all the time. There could have been no one better to learn from during my first year of “real” school.

Ms. Smith (4th grade)… On my last day, Ms. Smith (who, I believe, is actually Mrs. Chattin) left a letter for me with my report card, encouraging me to grow and overcome my own perfectionist tendencies, to become my own person, and reminding me that others’ opinions don’t matter nearly as much as I think they do. I have not forgotten the care in that letter. I can only hope that one day I might encourage a student in the same way.

Mrs. Wrather (7th-8th grade science)… It is entirely likely that, despite a plethora of good science teachers, Mrs. Wrather is the only one to have ever managed to convince me that I like science. Her excitement in carefully explaining the simpler aspects of physical science have stuck with me throughout my educational journey– so much so that I continue to shock people when I reveal that I prefer chemistry to biology.

Mrs. Knight (8th grade language arts)… Despite the fact that I certainly did not stand out in her classroom (I mostly stuck to myself in the back row during middle school), Mrs. Knight continues to remember little old me. She was even kind enough to allow me to observe her classroom a few weeks ago, helping me with my decision to go into education.

Mr. Nance (9th-11th grade English)… Universally adored, Mr. Nance still makes every student feel welcome in his classroom. I was lucky enough to sit in his class for three years, and I sincerely regret not appreciating his brilliance while his student. It continues to amaze me that he is able to instill a love for literature in what seems like each and every one of his students. His passion drives his class and inspires me to someday become even half the teacher he is.

Ms. Smith, Ms. Warner and Mr. Jessup, Ms. DeBoer (the music teachers)… Even though I’m no longer playing horn, I continue to carry with me the lessons learned throughout my years studying music. I cannot begin to thank these people enough. Their confidence in me– from Ms. Smith pulling me aside and reminding me that I can succeed to Ms. DeBoer’s graceful understanding when I made the decision to I leave the department at MTSU– has blessed my life in more ways than they can ever know.

Sarah Warren… Sarah has never been my teacher, but I proudly call her my pseudo-sibling. Sarah has inspired me more than simply as a teacher, but I am thankful to have Sarah the Teacher in my life in addition to Sarah my Sister, Sarah the Mother, Sarah the Wife, Sarah the Disciple.

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There have been countless others, about every one of whom I could say a kind word. (Well, most of them, anyway.) If I could speak to every teacher I’ve had over the past twenty years, I would thank each of them for inspiring me along the way. I hope that one day I am able to bless even one student in the same way that these special people have blessed me.

My roaring twenties

Yesterday, I turned twenty. Twenty years, can you believe it? It’s not a long time. I’m still awfully young.

I have a lot of complaints. I’m ready to be older, as I have been for most of my life and will probably be for a while yet. The past year and a half or so haven’t been my best, and sometimes I’m so filled with disappointment, I could burst. I have to keep reminding myself that your college years don’t have to be your best years.

Yesterday, I had to work most of the day and then I threw up my special dinner. (Was that too much information?) Perhaps not the best birthday I’ve ever had. (Though let’s be honest, it will be hard to ever beat my Sweet Sixteen surprise party.) But it wasn’t all bad.

I received two cards in the mail in as many days.
Plenty of beloved friends wished me cyber-happy birthdays.
A girl in my religion class gave me a donut (along with the other two girls celebrating birthdays).
My “big gift” was a Blu-ray player… with a Netflix button. Yeah.
Mom gave me a card to make me weepy and watched “Asylum of the Daleks” with me.
My sister gave me beautiful treble clef ring and my grandmother gave me the perfect cross necklace.

(The clef is backwards because webcam.)

(The clef is backwards because webcam.)

So I think I’ll probably look back on it as a good start to my “roaring twenties.” Yes, that’s what I’ll call these years. My roaring twenties. May they be filled with fewer complaints and more joy.

Here’s to the third decade of my life. May it be a good one.

Dreams

This past weekend, I visited a friend in Knoxville. I thought the drive would mostly consist of me singing “Carry On Wayward Son” at the top of my lungs, but God had other plans. 

If I’m in the car alone, I sing. Loudly and without an ounce of shame. When I was halfway to Knoxville and yearning for something I knew all the words to, I popped BarlowGirl’s first CD in.

For me, BarlowGirl’s music brings back a lot of good memories. Middle school winter retreats and long talks with old friends I haven’t talked to in years. Good food and highlighted Bible verses.

If you know BarlowGirl’s music, you know that while it is occasionally cheesy (see “Clothes”), it is altogether incredibly poignant. Listening to the sisters’ lyrics as I drove through east Tennessee really got me.

I’ve been struggling with giving up my own plans. I’m a chronic planner– always have been. One of the most difficult things in my life is accepting God’s will when it doesn’t exactly match up with my own. I keep repeating Jeremiah 29:11 to myself, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough.

I am afraid I will never amount to anything. That teaching English is frivolous. That I’ll never meet anyone. That I’ll spend the rest of my life wishing I could just find a friend. That I’ll regret not pushing myself harder in college. That my life won’t mean anything.

Surrender, surrender, You whisper gently
You say I will be free
I know, but can’t You see?
My dreams are me
+ “Surrender” by BarlowGirl

As I was listening to these words, it took everything in me not to cry. Of course, I know others have felt this, but there is something about BarlowGirl’s way of putting it. Isn’t this what I’ve been feeling the past two years? My little sparkling dreams sitting in my hands as I huddle them closer to me, hesitant to give them up for God’s even bigger, even sparklier plans. (I know we’re getting into cheesy territory, but this did start with BarlowGirl.)

God is good and kind and His plans are plans to prosper me. Day by day, I’m seeing those plans unfold. I’m learning to trust God. I’m waiting for the peace I know will come. I’m not entirely ready yet, but I’m getting there.

When I’m a teacher…

I think I’ve always known I wanted to teach. I went through a doctor/lawyer phase, and for a while I was convinced that I would one day be playing for a major symphony orchestra. But, really, I always knew I was going to be a teacher. (And for all of the nay-sayers who think I’m going to make a grumpy old teacher, well, boo you.)

I’ve still got three years of school left (ugh), so I don’t exactly feel close to actually starting my career. But, in classic Melody fashion, I have already started planning. I’ve started a “teaching ideas” board on Pintrest and I’m reading education blogs and I’ve started a special folder on my computer full of suggestions for the day when I’m actually standing at the front of a classroom.

I had a really great English teacher in high school (who I did not appreciate until it was too late, of course) and I can still remember what he said to us on our first day, something I found irritating then, but has resonated with me since: It’s not all black and white. I look forward to the opportunity to remind my own students of that one day. I’ve also begun to look forward to a few other things. For example,

I cannot wait to…

… assign book reports. I am so excited about book reports.

… have summers off. (That’s still gonna be a thing, right?)

… find a way to utilize Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a lesson on storytelling.

… force my students to act out scenes from Shakespeare.

… nitpick over the little grammatical errors in students’ papers.

… have a teacher bag. Teacher bags are awesome.

… show Boy Meets World for my homeroom every morning before class starts.

… keep a tea pot for those tea-drinking students who will inevitably be my favorites.

… start an after-school book club.

… teach a unit on Dracula. (I can do that, right? Even if I end up teaching middle school?)

… go home every night knowing that I chose the right path.

Also, I’m completely aware that being a teacher probably won’t be exactly like I think it will (more paperwork and annoying children), but let me dream for the next three years, huh?

Welcoming Serenity

I’ve been sick for the past ten-ish days, but I’m almost back to 100% Melody, so what better than a new post to celebrate my new (to me) car!

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Forgive my mismatched socks.

For those of you who don’t know (or, for those of you who aren’t Facebook friends with Mom), I bought an adorable little Honda Accord on Friday. This was a big deal, as I hate spending money on anything that isn’t a book. But we got a great deal, thanks to my parents and their insistence on price (I think I might be the type who will end up paying sticker price someday– I can’t say no!) and I absolutely love my new car.

I’m calling her “Serenity.” Get the reference? Probably not, but here’s her namesake:

See the resemblance?

See the resemblance?

Welcoming Serenity means saying goodbye to my first car, whose name (which did exist despite lack of use) was “Kennedy” (after the president– I did in fact debate naming Serenity “Jefferson” to create a tradition).

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Driving up to my surprise party…

Kennedy was a gold Nissan Altima, a sweet 16 gift from my parents. (That’s the best sweet 16 gift a kid can get, let me tell you.) My sweet 16 was full of surprises, from my party…

Seeing everyone at my surprise sweet 16.

Seeing everyone at my surprise sweet 16. (Photo credit: assorted friends)

to Kennedy herself. A couple of months before my birthday, on a Thursday night when I had just been let out of Murfreesboro Youth Orchestra rehearsal, Mom and Dad presented to me my big gift. I remember being in a bad mood, because Dad was not where he usually picked me up at. I called him, frustrated like I get, and demanded to know where he was. He let me know that they were in front of Wright, not Saunders, so there I headed. There was laughter in the background of the call.

I saw Mom’s car first. Then I saw Mom and Dad (I don’t remember if DeAnna was there or not…) and then several of my friends from rehearsal. I had no idea what was going on. My friends were standing around giggling and Mom looked like she was about to cry. Dad proceeded to point to an incredibly beaten up and terribly ancient car (I’m pretty sure it was missing a wheel or two) and said, “There’s your car.” At this point, I had already noticed the little Altima sitting behind Mom’s car, but my heart skipped at least two beats.

Kennedy was a good car. We had a lot of great memories. It was a good four years together. Here’s to Kennedy, here’s to Serenity!

(And, yes, Mom did cry upon the gifting of my first car.)

Looking back

I went through a spring cleaning of my Internet life when I first got my laptop. I really thought I got rid of most everything I could, including old blogs, old emails, etc. Turns out I didn’t.

I am so thankful.

I found my old blog– the only one that’s ever lasted more than a month or two (other than this one). I went through and read a lot of it (there’s less than 50 posts total, and most of them are pretty short). So right now I’m feeling a bit nostalgic and sad. My life has been so blessed. Right now, I’m so full of bitterness that I forget that. This old blog of mine helped me to remember.

I’ll get through it. I’ll get through these days. Even if this darkness lasts another two years, I’ll be okay.

Sorry to be so depressing. Want to lighten the mood? Here’s an old post from April 23, 2010…

life is good.

My 8-year-old cousin B tells a lot of stories.
He always gets this look on his face- “Listen to me!”
His eyebrows are raised, his hands move a lot,
He walks in circles and jumps up and down,
And, with plent of and’s and um’s,
He tells his story-
And it is always the best story EVER.

This might seem like a silly, immature thing-
But I really wish I was like that.
I wish that I saw life as story after story,
Every one more dramatic that the last.
B tells things the way he sees them.
I think that’s the best part of it all-
He really, actually is that excited.

I’m too melodramatic.
I’m too prone to overreact.
I’m too easily frustrated.
I’m too sarcastic.

“I finally came to grips that my life may not be legit
And I haven’t ever felt this good in years.”
-Actions Not Words, Crash Romeo

So-
I will laugh more.
I will talk to God all the time.
I will listen to the Ting Tings often.

Life is too happy to be sad all the time.

My Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is on Thursday. (Maybe I should go all Liz Lemon and call it Anna Howard Shaw Day?) As someone who has never dated, it’s always been a non-holiday for me. When DeAnna and I were little, Mom and Dad bought us chocolate and toys. But in high school, it just never became an issue. Most of my friends had boyfriends, so I guess they did stuff– but to be totally honest, I don’t remember. My point is that it’s never been a really important holiday to me. (I mean, we’re not talking about Thanksgiving here.)

Anyway, this year I decided to do something for myself. I’m having a miserable time with all of these upper-divisions this semester. So– on Saturday because I’m too busy on Thursday and Friday– I’m going to take a day for myself. (Because I never do that… *sarcasm*)

The grand plan?
  • Sleep in.
  • For breakfast, fix something special. There’s a snickerdoodle recipe Mom’s been wanting to try.
  • Pack up a lunch and head out.
  • Get my nails done, but not at the place I usually go to– they’re rude. (Any suggestions?)
  • Stop at the Greenway for lunch (because this unseasonably and horribly warm weather will certainly allow for that).
  • Head over to JC Penney’s because I have a giftcard and I’ve been needing black flats for church.
  • Maybe wander around the mall– inevitably I’ll end up in Books-a-Million, where I’ll let myself buy books that I don’t need and will probably never read.
  • Leave from there to the movie theater to see Beautiful Creatures (an obvious choice– I’m a sucker for anything set in the Deep South and for anything fantasy-related).
  • Go home.
  • Ignore my homework– no, not even think about it.
  • Watch as many episodes of Supernatural as I want before I fall asleep and not feel guilty about it.

Sound good? Maybe not to you, but that’s okay. Don’t worry– I’m not going to pull an Ann Perkins or anything. But it’s Valentine’s and I have a little disposable income, so why not have a day?

Happy Valentine’s Day
Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day, from me to you!

tumblr_mhvyd9zXup1qavx6vo2_250tumblr_mhvyd9zXup1qavx6vo7_250tumblr_mhvyd9zXup1qavx6vo8_250(These probably aren’t helping my “I’m not completely hopeless” case, but they’re just so wonderful I can’t help myself.)

Blurbs

I’m exhausted. My schedule this semester is much busier than I’m used to. Who knew?

Anyway, I made a promise to myself that I would write every Tuesday. So I’m going to write. Just little blurbs of… stuff.

On classes: I feel busy. So busy. Why has college not felt this busy before? I’ve taken this many hours before. I don’t have an excess of social engagements. Is it just because I’m in upper-divisions? Whatever. I feel tired. I’m ready for a break, and it’s only a few weeks into the semester. Heck, I’m ready to graduate. (I will tell you that I’m learning a ton. After today’s classes alone, I can distinguish between Apollonian and Dionysian, give an example of horrid published work, explain John Proctor’s actual role in the Salem witch trials of 1692, and recall about thirty new Spanish nouns. At least I’m getting somewhere!)

On the weather: I hate this weather. Do not talk to me about this “wonderful weather we’re having.” Do not mention how thankful you are for the “mild” temperatures. Do not express your happiness at seeing frat boys in those awful little pastel outfits. I might hit you. (Honestly, I think I was meant to live somewhere cold. Like, on top of a mountain. Or in Alaska.)

On God’s coolness: On the way to school today, I had this song stuck in my head. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been watching Supernatural? Well, it features a ton of great older music– lots of Skynyrd and Zep and other good stuff. (I now cry a little bit every time I hear “Carry On Wayward Son.” Oh, Dean and Sammy!) Anyway, there’s a scene that features Def Leppard’s “Rock Of Ages,” and it was in my head all morning– especially that little odd opening sequence. I was in the car, thinking how I should burn a CD, when I flipped a station and guess what I heard! That’s right! What did that teach me? God is cool.

This is nonsensical. Well. I’m tired. Good night.

When I’m feeling sad, or lonely, or just ehh…

(The past few days, I’ve been focusing on what I’m missing. Tonight, I’m choosing to focus on the beautiful, awesome, good things in my life.)

For example, this picture of Mia.

I’m thankful for…

… scarves.

… Mia’s dutiful insistence on sleeping beside me until (she thinks) I’m asleep, after which she can move to her favorite spot on the futon.

… sad music.

a new book announcement from a favorite writer.

… “naturally flavored sparkling mountain water.”

… Psalms; particularly, the fourth Psalm.

… a Frightened Rabbit concert in March, and a friend to join me.

… forgiveness.

… a kind professor who insists on saying Have a good day, Melody as I leave class.

… new friends.

… answered prayers (see above).

… long-forgotten gift cards.

… that one TV show that I can’t shut about lately (sorry, Mom and Twitter) and for my favorite character on said TV show.

… chocolate wafers and out-of-season blackberries.

… being the only one in the movie theater because it’s two o’clock on a weekday and I’m seeing an art house flick.

… those who read these posts. Thank you.

At day’s end, I’m ready for sound sleep,
For You, GOD, have put my life back together.
+ Psalm 4:8 (The Message)

How to be alone, on a Tuesday

You wake up. It’s early for you, but then again, anytime before noon is early for you. You lie in bed for ten extra minutes. Just lie there, savoring the still quiet of the morning. The cat stretches and hops down from her perch on the futon across the room. She looks up at you, expectantly. No one’s home, except for you. It’s that small time of the day when the house is silent.

You sit up and stretch, neck aching. Why do you insist on sleeping with so many pillows?

You stumble your way to the bathroom. When you’re finished, you don’t look in the mirror. Seeing yourself in the morning is uncomfortable. You walk out the kitchen, thinking you’ll eat an egg this morning. With a teaspoon of syrup, yes. You eat, too quickly, like always.

After your grumpy morning tummy is full, you feed the cat. (Always last, and she complains because she knows it.) She meows gratefully before digging in, hissing to warn away the other cat. You return to your bedroom and pull out the outfit you thought up last night. It’s not exactly in style, is it? But you can’t be bothered to care for more than a moment. You have no one to impress.

You leave an hour early. You have a few errands to run. When you’re through with the first, you drive to purchase the school books left unchecked on your list. Even though you only ask for the Condé and the Austen, they bring you everything but. You tell them it’s fine, and purchase only the Spanish textbook and  the Wordsworth volume. One hundred dollars less than you thought. You rejoice silently on the way back to the car.

You park in the parking lot across the street from the university. There’s still forty-five minutes before you need to be on the bus headed to class. You read the text for your class on the Salem Witch Trials, the only reading you have not already completed. Your confusion at three-hundred-year-old spelling throws you off and so you don’t finish in the forty-five minutes. You continue to read on the bus.

It’s comforting, to have something to occupy you on the bus packed with people. Your sunglasses– the pair with the minute floral print– snapped in half last week, so your wandering eyes are not hidden. You can’t stare at people and wonder about their day. Not without being wondered about in a less flattering manner.

You step off the bus at your stop. Two English classes await you. You tell yourself as you start toward the third floor of Peck that you will speak to at least one person in each class. This is how you make friends, people tell you. Again and again, they tell you. Like you don’t already know.

And you do. You speak to the girl with the beautiful tanned skin who sits one seat down from you in Early Euro. (It’s January. Where did she find the sun?) Admittedly, you only speak to her because the professor told you to partner up and find examples of epic convention in your text.

You speak to someone in your next class too. This time, of your own free will. After you finished your green beans in the hall, you followed the rest of your peers into the small classroom and only just stopped yourself from sitting down alone. You shake your head and move your coat to the chair beside the dark-haired girl. You sit and smile, introduce yourself. An exchange of names, and nothing more. But it counts, you tell yourself, completely satisfied with the interaction. You speak up in the class too. You won’t remember what you say, but you said it.

You have to leave the building and walk across the street for your next class. You feel out of place with your two tote bags (instead of a backpack) and your mother’s black and white houndstooth coat (too dressy for class). But you always feel a bit out of place.

The next class is in a glass room, and the people are a bit more talkative. You don’t join in, but you listen. When the discussion begins, you feel your heart beat a little faster every time you think of something you could add. Finally, you force yourself to speak, raising your hand (all the while, knowing it makes you look elementary and silly). You suggest something that sounds not unintelligent, and are satisfied with the response. There’s a handsome boy in the class, and you sneak looks at him all through the hour and a half. As you leave, you laugh at yourself.

You go to Spanish next. It’s your least favorite class of the day, made worse by the fact that it is so late in the afternoon. The professor is lively and energetic, demanding verbal response from every student. You hate that, but you oblige because you want to learn. Si. That’s the extent of your vocabulary so far, but you feel confident that you’ll grow quickly. There’s a nice girl in the class who wears a hat. You want to ask her where she got it. But you don’t.

Then you’re outside, waiting for the bus to return you to your car. The bus is crowded again, but you manage to secure a seat. Someone calls your name, and you see and old friend, then two. You say hello, and the conversation continues until the bus is too full to speak. You feel normal, like a normal college student, for the first time all day. The girl with the hat from your Spanish class sits across from you. You smile at her and start to ask about the hat, but suddenly blue jean pockets are all you can see. You roll your eyes and wait for your stop.

When you’re back in your car, you turn the heat on and wait. You reflect on your day. An air of satisfaction and quiet fills you. It was a good day, you think. Better than last week. You sing along with your new Kim Walker-Smith CD all the way home, praising God from the confines of your Altima.

Once you’re home, you change into your sweatpants and feed the horses, continuing your talk with God. There aren’t any stars tonight, and you’re disappointed. Stars are the best part of feeding, aside from the rare nights when Casper lets you pat his shoulder and breathe in the deep aroma of his dirty white coat.

When you’re back inside, in the relative warmth, you remember that you promised yourself you would write a post every Tuesday. As you eat dinner– delicious turkey chops that your mother fixed especially for you– you ponder what you will write. You have drafts started, but they need revision. You decide to write about your day. Then you remember that your days are spent in measurable solitude. Alone, but surrounded by people. You worry that people will pity you. That people will think how you must be sad soul. How lonely you must be.

You write it anyway. And decide not to explain that you’re alone, but not lonely. At least, not all the time. There’s a difference, and you wonder if people understand that. You tell yourself not to underestimate people. Then remind yourself that your audience is quite small, and that surely most of them understand. If they read your words, then they care about you, at least a little bit. You hope that they’re not lonely either. You hope that their weeks go well. You send up a silent blessing for each of them, thankful for anyone who would read such a long and drawn out post.

You publish the post, and close the window. Check your email and Twitter one last time. You read the bell hooks article for your religion class tomorrow, then decide that, yes, just one Supernatural episode tonight. Then I’ll go to sleep. (You probably end up watching two, but that’s okay.)

———–

Inspired by: Tanya Davis and Andrea Dorfman’s “How To Be Alone”