First Week of Summer= Home Projects

This was our first full week of summer. And what did we do?

1. I planted a few veggies and herbs in pots---spinach, cucumbers, dill and chives. I'll soon have a cherry tomato plant that I can grow upside down in a hanging basket--I know; it should be pretty sweet :) My mom came across the handy contraption and is dropping it in the mail this week. I'll have all the basic fixings for a mean salad....

2. We began our kitchen renovation. We painted our cabinets and changed the hardware AND painted one kitchen wall...orange! I LOVE picking out paint colors. In our basement we have a bright green and two shades of gray, our living room sports a dark brown and a khaki, the master bedroom a deep red and khaki and our bathroom is a bright aqua and white. All of the colors are unique---and I love them. :)

Here is a "before" shot of our cabinets:
A "during" shot of the process (and Nate's terrible sunburn):

And a few "after" shots:

Though the green has kind of grown on me, in July we plan on replacing our counter tops with something a little more modern.

Tomorrow we're heading out to Boulder with another couple to do a little shopping and then hike the Isabelle Glacier trail not far from Boulder. I can't wait to get on the trail--even if the temperature is a high of 43 with wind and possible rain!


What They Learned

As sort of a closing activity in my 9th grade Reading class I had my students write for 10 minutes about what they remember learning this year in our class. This may seem like an easy task, but this particular group of students struggle in the areas of reading, writing and comprehension. So when I explained the assignment, there was a collective groan and an outburst of "10 minutes?!? You want us to write for 10 minutes about everything we learned this year?! You're crazy!" But...they accomplished the task :)

Honestly, I had forgotten about these until tonight. I was cleaning out a bag and found them. They made me smile. Here are a few lines from their papers along with my commentary:

  • "I learned that it's hard to adopt a kid." (Amen brother! And...more importantly...he used the apostrophe correctly...a minor victory!!!)
  • "I learned that people are fun to write with. It's funner to write in groups." (I'll ignore "funner" since he used an apostrophe correctly...)
  • "I learned that nobody thinks the same."
  • "I learned that Mrs. Helzer is kinda cool and that English is kinda cool." (I'll agree...I'm not really cool....just kinda cool ;)
  • "I've realized how bad life could be and how fortunate I am although life isn't great for me either." (We read portions of The Freedom Writers Diary at the end of the year...)
  • "I learned that fighting and causing physical problems isn't the answer most of the time." (I'm proud of this---it took a lot of convincing and long chats when he came into my class pissed off about something...)
  • "I learned how to really aggravate Mrs. Helzer." (Yes, yes he did!)
  • "I also learned my English teacher is funny and sometimes crazy." (He must be talking about the English teacher down the hall...)
  • "I have learned not to 'run' away from problems. I have also learned to be a better listener and just a better person all around."
  • "I learned that Mrs. Helzer is a very good English teacher because she does not let you slack off and doesn't have many patients for slackers." (So having high expectations really does pay off!)
  • "I learned that reading is something I like and it calms me down a little bit. And if you really try you can do anything." (This is incredible considering this student also struggled with anger problems earlier in the year and was NOT a reader!)
  • "It has been a very, very fun year being able to come in her room and do my reading at my own pace without getting told I am too slow or stuff. I know the 6 Traits of Writing now and I love to read and write now." (We're still working on Word Choice and eliminating vague words from our writing!)
  • "I learned never to give up on yourself; keep going. Don't say you can't do something because you can. I said, 'I can't do this' all the time, but I have gotten over that." (Usually the first reaction from this student whenever I assigned something difficult was a blank stare then---an "I can't do this." It took a lot of pep talks to get her confidence back!)

New Layout and Design

If you check my blog often, you'll notice that I've been toying with the layouts and settings for the past week. I think I've finally decided on a layout, so thanks for being patient and enduring all the changes. However--I have noticed that my followers gadget has vanished. After doing some investigating--I've learned that it's a problem with Blogger/Google. I've submitted my request for help; hopefully it gets fixed soon because the gaping hole where my followers should be just looks stupid. A few weeks ago, Blogger had another glitch and was temporarily down---this encouraged me to backup my blog. So, if you keep a blog and haven't backed it up in awhile---do it soon so you don't lose all of your posts.

The Dharma Bums Part I

My senior year of high school (six years ago), I was enthralled with Jack Kerouac. I ate up his books. I'd skip my law class so I could wander to a nearby park and read Kerouac. I wanted so badly to be a wandering beatnik who delighted in simply existing. My favorite book of his is The Dhamra Bums--not one of his well known books--I came across it via a good friend's recommendation. At the time, the public library was my haven---we had no internet at home, so I paid a quarter an hour to send emails back and forth to my boyfriend who lived two hours away. I did my homework near the small art gallery that housed locals' artwork on the second floor and a few times a week, I'd check out new books: Steinbeck, Robbins, Kerouac, etc. I found The Dharma Bums tucked away in some odd place in the library. I loved this book. I considered stealing it, just not returning it...but I loved it so much that I returned it in hopes that some other dreamer like myself would come across it and fall in love with it as much as I did.

Once I finished reading it, I began my search for a used copy of the book. But it couldn't be a used copy from Amazon or Ebay...I had to buy it from a bookstore. So the hunt began. I searched high and low at any bookstore I wandered into, but could not find a copy...until last summer. One afternoon in July I wandered into Bluestem Books like I had so many times before, greeted the kind-faced old man of a storeowner and asked him if he gotten any copies of The Bums in. "Actually..." he started and then led me to the Kerouac section of the store. I found it there---it had just recently been marked down from $15 to $6. I also bought a book of Gary Snyder poetry that day. I had all intentions of sending The Dharma Bums to the friend who recommended the book to me....but, my selfish desires got the best of me, and I sent him the Snyder book instead (which...he probably enjoyed more anyway).

The book has been sitting on my bookshelf near other more obscure Kerouac books (Orpheous Emerged, Lonesome Traveler and his well known book On The Road) for just about a year. But a few weeks ago a friend and I got to talking books. I found through gentle prodding that he had not read The Dharma Bums. So I insisted that he take my copy and read it. He did...and he loved it...it's not surprising since it really is a literary masterpiece (more about that to come). After chatting with said friend about the book, I decided that I would read it again this summer. So---late Thursday night I started reading the book. I read a few hours yesterday and an hour today and am hoping to finish it today (if I can procrastinate my graduate homework any longer). I've been scribbling insights on my bookmark and found that I have ran out of room...so...this weekend I will post my insights/ramblings about the book where I have unlimited space :) If you're interested, be watching for another post on 'Da Bums!



I've never been very good at waiting. In Kindergarten my table partner was too slow at his homework--we couldn't move on to another activity until both of our work was done, so I did it for him until I got caught and moved to a different table. After I graduated, I couldn't wait to leave--so much so that I decided to rush just so I could move into my dorm a week earlier. To be fair, I went through two days of sorority recruitment and then quit. And now I find myself waiting again. We have officially completed all of our initial paperwork to get us into the adoption pool. We're waiting to receive confirmation that we were approved and placed in the pool....then, we'll wait some more to be matched with a birth mom/birth parents.

So what do we do while we wait for an undetermined amount of time? Someone asked me the other day if I was going to work on a nursery this summer....and though it's so tempting to clean out our spare room and convert it into the nursery of my dreams, I don't think this would be good for me. I would have a difficult time walking by an empty nursery day after day wondering and hoping for the child that may or may not be. Someone else recommended that we start looking for a daycare provider. How do you even get on a waiting list for daycares when you have no time frame of when you'd need daycare? We have been attending several classes and workshops designed for adoptive parents--prenatal drug and alcohol exposure, newborn care classes, parenting a child whose birth family has a history of mental health issues, etc. And though these are great, I feel like I need something that's "child-free" to take my mind off of our adoption. (I hope people don't read that wrong! I want our adoption to go through, but I don't want to dwell...)

I read a few articles about what to do during this "wait time" in a recent issue of Adoptive Families magazine (a great magazine for people adopting, interested in adopting or wanting to learn more about adoption). In one article readers weighed in and gave suggestions about what they did during this wait time---and the best advice I read was to have fun and spend as much time as possible with your partner. I can do this. So---we're planning a last minute hiking trip with another couple to the Boulder area for this weekend (hopefully the weather holds up for us!). And...a vacation to the Portland/Seattle area is in the works for the end of July! Ever since I started reading Don Miller a few years back, I've wanted to visit these two cities. We've decided not to get too crazy planning our trip since we want it to be laid back with no rushed, set timetable. But we will drive so we can see more of the country and we know for sure that we want to do some hiking around the Mt. Hood area. I would also love to visit the Pike Place Market in Seattle. And we have to visit a jazz club---that's a given. Nate and I haven't been on a true vacation where we call the shots since our honeymoon almost five years ago, so we are stoked about the trip.

As much as I want to fill my time with preparing for a potential baby---I'm just not sure my heart can take it. So if we get a call, we will be unprepared--we'll be crib-less, bottle-less, etc. But I'm okay with that. We'll make it work. Until then--I'm going to enjoy the time I have with my husband.



Today I attempted to clean our office. On Friday I carried home boxes and bags filled with books and binders that I'd need this summer to revamp a few units I teach or books that I'd taken to school with me because I had a specific student in mind who might like to read Good Poems put together by Garrison Keilor or Black Boy by Richard Wright or Winter Morning Walks by Ted Kooser. While I shelved and re-shelved books, I listened to the first listen preview from NPR of Death Cab for Cutie's new album: Codes and Keys. The NPR reviewer wrote of this new album that it has a more mature sound---and rightfully so, because it's been 11 years since they released their first album. The lead singer is now sober and married---so the music has changed. As I listened to the album and cleaned the office I couldn't help but think about how much I've changed.

I've listened to Death Cab since I was 16. An older boy I liked gave me my first Death Cab album. I can't remember which boy it was---there were a group of boys who were all friends. I had not-so-secret crushes on four of them---all were free-spirited, intellectual, musically talented, sincere, crazy and had good taste in music. I kissed one of them on a back porch while summer mosquitos and moths banged their tiny insect bodies against the porch light. We had just spent the evening watching some Monty Python movie and listening to Simon and Garfunkel for hours. The boy I kissed was in college and I was in high school; he would leave CD's beneath my windshield wiper while I was in school. The other boy was my best friend's brother. He was off limits and had a girlfriend for most of the time I knew him. But his sweet voice and guitar serenading made me think crazy things for too many years. The third boy was also in college. I chose to attend UNK partly because of him. When he came home on the weekends, we spent time drinking coffee at a local coffee shop which name slips me now, walking or listening to music. The last memory I have with him was on the slides at Glur Park late one night. We sat there shivering from the summer cold, crying because we couldn't be together. I had a boyfriend and wasn't ready to let him go. Another of the boys was mad for one of my best friends---this made him off limits as well. For most of our friendship, I saw him as a brother. We drove to a concert together once in his blue van and he let me put my bare feet on the dash while we listened to Death Cab for Cutie on HWY 30. We had many memories like this, but perhaps the best was one late night out at Goedekon's Lake in his family's lakeside trailer. We were smoking Clove cigarettes and playing guitar. I worked up the courage to play and sing a song I wrote--shaking the whole time. When I finished, my face red, hands trembling---he smiled and told me it was beautiful. He probably doesn't remember something so seemingly insignificant, but I do.

As I moved books around from shelf to shelf organizing them from contemporary literature, to classics, to poetry, to education, to faith based books--I ran across three old copies of the Carillon--UNK's Sigma Tau Delta English Honorary Society's publication of student work. I read through my poetry that was published in each volume from 2006-2008. It hasn't been that long--but as I leafed through the pages, it felt like ages ago when my dream was not to be a teacher---but a writer who was married to one of those four crazy boys. I sat for awhile on the hardwood floors with books in hand thinking back to the memories above and my current life---a married teacher in a small town who desperately wants to be a mother. How different my life is now. It's tempting to want to give everything I have now up for the more carefree life I once had (and still at times desire)---but then my phone rings. It's my husband asking to check what kind of primer we have in our basement. He's at the hardware store buying paint, primer and sandpaper to refinish our kitchen cabinets. He's been working all morning on the kitchen. And then I think about how I happy I was last night to fall asleep in his arms---a teacher in a small town who desperately wants to be a mother in the arms of a hard working, sincere, passionate and funny guy and I know that I wouldn't trade this life for another.


Why I Run

My sister in-law (Amy), me and Nate after the Lincoln half-marathon this year. We ran it in 2 hours and 5 minutes, 5 minutes under our goal time!

I've been thinking a lot about why I run. I've taken too much time off after the half; a few weeks ago I hit the pavement and the first ten minutes was just plain hell. It hurt so bad. The only thought running through my mind was, Why am I doing this?!? Every thread of my body wanted to stop. To just sit down on the curb, stick my thumb out and hitch a ride home. But instead---I kept going. I clenched my teeth, steadied my pace and put on my determined face. I would finish the scheduled run. I had to. And I did...in great time even. And this is why I run---because I am stubborn. Because I need a challenge. I run because I need to know how hard I can push myself---last year I would've thought that a half-marathon was my limit, but I think I'm up for a new challenge.

So, still living on the runner's high from the marathon, I signed up a team for the Market to Market Relay lottery....and, our team was one of those selected! We've put together an eight person team for our 86 mile relay from the Old Market in Omaha to the Haymarket in Lincoln on October 1st. It should be a fantastic time--we're running with a friend of Nate's from high school and her husband and four other people from the Grant/Ogallala area. Hopefully the event will give me a new challenge and will push me to new limits!


Year three= finished.

It's been awhile since my last blog post. The past two weeks have found me running around like a mad-woman in my classroom grading projects, finishing novels, posting grades, attending graduations, etc. But...today....at 11:45, I checked out of the high school. I have officially completed my third year of teaching.

This year has been a mixed bag of emotions with me. There have been some major stressors with my job, and I have spent a lot of time questioning my career path. But after school on Wednesday a student who I've had some struggles with walked into my classroom and handed me a bouquet of roses and said, "These are for you. You are my favorite teacher."

As she handed me the flowers, I was in shock because I have had many sleepless nights spent tossing and turning wondering if I was doing any good in the classroom, if I was making even a slight difference in the lives of my students. If I've learned anything from my short time in teaching, it's to never give up---to keep reaching out and pouring love and energy into students because you never know when it may sink in and impact them.

This year I really was blessed to have a fantastic group of students who taught me how to listen more, how much enthusiasm and positivity pays off and how important relationships are. Here are some highlights from this school year:
  • Coaching cross country: I was an assistant this year to an amazing Christian head coach. I learned a lot about motivation, grew in my faith, had a great time with an awesome bunch of kids...and our boys team won the class C state title!
  • English 9 social action project night: My students worked hard to create some awesome projects that helped out the community and then all showed up to present their projects to the community one evening. We had a great turnout of community members supporting students and were featured on the local news channel for our efforts. Many of them were truly invested in these projects; I think this opportunity made them feel like they actually can make positive change, like they can be activists despite their young age. I can't wait to do it again with next year's students.
  • Attending the National Writing Project and National Council of Teachers of English conventions in Orlando: I was so blessed to be picked to attend these conferences. I attended many great sessions that challenged me to really step up my game in the classroom. It was just what I needed to invigorate my teaching.
  • Presenting at the National Writing Project Rural Sites Network conference in Little Rock and the Nebraska Educational Technology Association: Though I was incredibly nervous for both, each conference was a positive experience that allowed me to share something I am passionate about AND to network with other incredible teachers. Presenting at these conferences also reaffirmed my desire to teach teachers.
  • Watching my husband succeed in his job: He had seven students make the All State Choir (more than Ogallala has had since the '90s) and two students selected for the All State Jazz Choir, and two out of three of his choirs received Superior ratings at District Music Contest this year. He also led nearly 60 students to a successful musical performance. Last night we went bowling with 2o Tri-M music honorary society students to kick off summer, and those kids love him. I get such a thrill out of watching him interact with his students.


Mother's Day

Well, if you haven't noticed today's is Mother's Day. I love my mom--she is one of the greatest women I know; she's always looking for how she can help other people. It's a great example for me.

Though I'm thankful for my mom and will take time today to celebrate her, today is one of the most difficult holidays for me---year three of trying to start a family has passed and still I have nothing to celebrate today. I opened up Facebook on Friday and already the Mother's Day status updates had begun:

I've carried a baby within my body, I've slept with a baby on my chest, I've kissed boo boos, mended broken hearts, been thrown up on, peed on and pooped on and I've spent sleepless nights in a rocking chair. I WOULDN'T have it any other way. My body isn't magazine perfect, but when I look into the mirror I see a mama, and there is no greater honor or blessing. Make this your status if you love being a mama ♥

This is just the first one that jumped out at me and forced me to stay logged out of Facebook for the majority of the weekend. I am happy for all of my pregnant friends (which is most of my friends), and I wouldn't want anyone to experience the tremendous pain that comes along with infertility. But this weekend, this holiday, just makes my whole body tense up.

This weekend I've kept myself busy doing school work, reading a book for pleasure, cleaning my house, cooking, running, biking and spending time catching up with friends. Today we are skipping church. I'm taking time to catch up on my writing and later we'll head out to Ash Hollow to get lost in God's glorious creation. I hate missing church, but I don't think we can sit through a service where mothers are celebrated--where roses are given to moms, where moms are asked to stand and be recognized, where moms proudly wear gaudy boutonnieres pinned to their dresses. Ceremonies like this are needed---but they make infertile couples or couples who have experienced the death or loss of a child feel out of place, like foreigners in a new land. I'm not even sure what our church does for Mother's Day (we've always been out of town)---but I'd hate to go and then burst into tears because another year has passed and I'm not a mom, ruining it for those who have been blessed with this role.

Yesterday a friend and I went on a run and then stood around outside and chatted for about an hour. She and her husband have struggled with similar infertility issues as ours and have experienced the pure agony of a miscarriage. We talked about how vital it is to protect our hearts at all times, but especially on weekends like this one. Then we moved into the dreaded "what if" conversation----what if we never become parents? My friend explained that in her Bible study a few weeks back, they came across a chapter in a Francis Chan book that asked something like, "Are you willing and ready to go anywhere God wants you to go? To do anything He wants you to do? To endure suffering on His account? To give up your desires in order to have Him?"

I wrestle with this a lot. At times, I am a conditional Christian--when things are going great, I can praise God. But the minute I read that another close friend is planning to welcome a new baby in the world, I fall apart and question why God would deny me children. Well meaning people try to comfort us telling us that someday we'll make great parents, that God will give us the desires of our hearts because we love Him (Psalm 37:4 and Psalm 145:19). But...I don't think these verses are meant to imply that God will give us whatever we want just because we love Him---I think they say a lot about the nature of desires. Our desires should be Him. This gets me thinking---how often have I put my desire to be a mother above my desire to serve God or grow closer to God? What if my desire to be a mother is not what God's desire is for me? Will I be okay with that?

I don't think it's safe to say that someday we will be parents. Yes, that's my hope and desire. But I want my first desire to be to serve my Father. I just have to work on making that my top priority--on stripping myself of selfish desires. Like John the Baptist writes, "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less" (John 3:30).