Thursday, September 30, 2010

And on the 8th day, God created the turn signal...

One thing that has been a little hard to get used to here in the great state of Texas is the awful driving skills that some people have.  I honestly hate driving here (which is sad cuz I love driving) because it is absolutely insane ESPECIALLY during rush hour.  Commuters hardly ever use their turn signals, weave in and out of traffic, and are particularly fond of what I call the 'Texas Dive'. The Texas Dive is when you are in the fast lane and suddenly realize your exit is a quarter of a mile away...or closer.  It is at that point that you glide across three lanes of traffic without so much as looking behind you to get off the freeway.  Daily occurance where I'm from.

I had a meeting until 5 pm last Wednesday, which meant I was driving home in the middle of the crappiest time to be on the road.  Houston has about 4 million people who all tend to get on the road at the exact same time, which means that the roads run to a stand still in 6 seconds flat.  There is undoubtably going to be at least three accidents on any particular highway at any particular time.  As I was making my way home the other day, the traffic slowed down to a stop and then creeped around the corner.  Sure enough, there were four cars pulled over to the side and a tow truck loading one of them up.

The fast lane was trying to merge with the lane next to the fast lane, my lane.  I let my mandatory one car in front of me in, as is standard oporating procedure.  But all of the sudden the car behind the car I let in decided they were entitled to not wait any longer.  They started to pull out in front of me.  Not wanting to be hit, I slowed down.  The passanger in the car rolled the window down and proceeded to very animatedly tell me to slow down so that they could get in.  I was pretty annoyed at this point. Then...the unthinkable happened.  As they sped away in front of me, the passenger flipped me the bird.  ME!  Like it was my fault.  I was so mad I cussed (sorry dad).  And then, I was so mad at myself for cussing, that I started crying.  Yup, pretty standard for a drive home, don't ya think?

So there I was, in rush hour, crying, and why?  Because things just didn't seem to be going my way.  

Today it was something similar.  It had been a long day, I was tired, things hadn't gone spectacularly.  Traffic was awful and despite a great chat with my padre on the way home I was still feeling a little down.  I got home and took a nap because nothing cures a bad day like a nap.  I was awoke by the sound of a text message from my roommate reminding me that we were going to go Visiting Teaching (yeah I know its the last day of the month, don't judge)  We got there and met beautiful Stephanie.  She is a recent convert and it was so fun to talk to her about her very first General Conference and things she could do to prepare.  She was so excited about life and everything that the future held for her and I just though, 'I am so glad I am here right now!'  I am so excited to get to know her better.

After that, I wanted to go running but knew that I had a million other things I needed to do.  My roommate asked if I wanted to go walking with her.  I didn't really have the time, but I decided to go anyways.  On that walk she poured her little heart out to me, and I was subtlely reminded by the spirit that I was where I needed to be.  Life is tough!  But we all have reasons to be grateful.  

I love my job.

I have an amazing family.

I have a strong testimony of the gospel

And right now I'm just grateful that no one flipped me off on the way home.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The best little home teacher this side of the equator

When I was a freshman in college, two cousins were assigned to be my visiting teachers.  They were dear girls, and they would set appointments well in advance so that I knew when they were coming.  They would bring me treats, leave me notes, all the things every good visiting teacher would do.  And I would avoid them.  Like the plague.  I was known in those days to fake sleeping just so I wouldn’t have to talk to them.  Little did I know three years later one of them would serve in the same zone as myself in Chile and we became close friends. 
I have a confession to make.  I don’t like being home/visit taught.   (GASP!) I know.  Its not that I don’t like my Home/Visiting teachers, its not that I don’t want the spiritual thought.  I think really the thing that drives me bonkers is all of that attention, awkwardly placed on me, for an undetermined amount of time.  This might be a shock to you.  Do I love attention? Of course.  But that much undivided attention from two of my male/female friends for somewhere between 15 minutes and an hour and a half is always so uncomfortable for me.
On Sunday, my home teachers had set up an appointment to come by that evening and teach myself and my roommate.  I didn’t remember this until I was on my way out the door to a mixer and I knew I wasn’t going to be back until late that evening.  OOPS!  I left a message with my roommate to tell them I was sorry and that they could count me as visited because it was my fault I wasn’t there.  Imagine my surprise last night when at FHE they asked if they could come over right afterwards to teach me.  I had so much to do, but I said yes.
So in walk Jake and Gavin, my wonderful, amazing home teachers.  They sit down on the couch, and instead of heading right into the lesson, they ask me how I have been.  I say good. Short.  Quick.  Jake pries, asking what has been going on at school.  We start to chat about my kids, student teaching, education, you name it.  Each time I try to be as brief as possible and yet they seem so interested and before I know it I am talking to them about how my mentor teacher drives me crazy and how the internet hasn’t worked at our school for three days.  They give me ideas for things I could try, commend me for things they think I’m doing right and this whole time, not once did they look at their watches.
Then comes the lesson, short, sweet, read the Book of Mormon.  Then they each take turns bearing me their testimonies.  I am challenged to read it more often.  And then a funny thing happens.  Jake opens his mouth and starts telling me things that I really needed to hear about decisions I am making in my life, what I’m trying to do and accomplish.  He promises me that Heavenly Father will bless me as I strive to put him first in my life.  He asks me if I have enough food to eat, how my cupboards are looking. I say fine.  He asks if I am having any fun, if I am balancing school and social. I laugh and say I’m doing my best.  And then with a prayer they are gone.
I can’t even describe how really touching that whole event was for me.  I am grateful for home teachers who care enough to make more than the minimum effort.
Moral of the story: Don’t fake naps. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Little Stroll Down Memory Lane

Five years ago this week, I walked into the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.  Anxious, excited, a little sad, I was ready to take on the challenges and trials that the Lord put before me.  First and foremost, I was ready to take on the Spanish language.  I was ready to learn it, inside and out, understand it, eat it, sleep it, BREATHE the very essence of spanish.  It wasn't easy.  In fact I would say there were times in the following few months that I really struggled.  It was so difficult to feel like I couldn't express all the feelings in my heart.  It was so trying to have the words on the tip of my tongue but not have them come out.  There were times when I felt so alone, but I learned so much from that experience.

Flash forward two years.  I'm back at BYU and I am trying to decide what on earth to do with my life.  Do I try to go back to Music Education?  Do I pursue other career paths?  Something urged me to not turn my back on what I had spent the year and half doing.  So I entertained the thought of Spanish Education.  I said to myself, 'I'll apply. If I get in, then that's what Heavenly Father wants me to do.'  Much to my surprise, I was accepted on my first application...something that had NOT happened with Music Ed at all.

Skip forward to a classroom in Houston, Texas.  I am speaking, in fluent Spanish to a bunch of kids who probably don't have the SLIGHTEST clue what I'm talking about.  I'm modeling what I'm asking of them as I speak, I'm using the most simple words possible and a student finally cannot handle it anymore.  She exclaims in frustration, 'THIS IS NOT HOW I LEARN!' To which I reply, 'YEs, it is.'

So many times in life, we have experiences, and we don't really know why we have them. Years later we are brought to the realization of how important those experiences were to us.  This week, I realized just how important that simple decision to go on a mission has been for me.

Happy Sabbath.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why I Teach

I have a student in my ESL class, C.  He is from a central american country and has only been in the U.S. since April.  He speaks very little english and I can tell that most of his behavior issues stem from that.  A few days ago we were talking before class with a few of the students and he mentioned that he didn't like english and didn't need it because he would never make it to college anyways.  As a teacher, that is one of those comments you just CRINGE at.  I asked him if he wouldn't mind chatting with me after class.  I ended up having to talk to my mentor teacher right after that so I didn't get a chance to talk to him.

To my surprise a few hours later he came by my other classroom during passing period to talk with me.  I explained to him, as a bilingual myself, that speaking BOTH languages fluently would help him gain a substantial amount more money than if he never learned to speak english.  C told me he didn't really care because his parents had kicked him out, he was living on the street, and he was most likely going to be deported come February anyways.  Besides, he told me, all the english he needed to learn, h e learned in the street.  My heart sank.  I reassured him that no matter WHERE he was living, learning english would help.  He said he would think about it.

This morning, before first period I was getting some things ready in the classroom.  C approached me and in pure english said,
    'Remember the conversation we had.'
    'Of course!' I replied.
    'I am going to try.'
    'GOOD, C!' I almost hugged him, 'That makes me very happy.'
    'I want to learn.'

Today during class he was on the ball, so attentive and really working hard, and it was amazing how HIS attitude affected the rest of the class.  They put out some real quality work today.

C walks by my classroom at least twice a day.  He always stops, shakes my hand and says hello.

This is why I teach.