Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Let's try this again...

It has been awhile since I've thought about posting. Life has thankfully been very busy. I am about to start my second year as a music teacher at an elementary school and I couldn't be more excited or grateful.

I feel like I started a new life when I moved away from college. Not that I feel like I have changed much, but I know I have because change is inevitable. With all these changes I wanted to put my life into perspective before everything gets super busy and out of control again.

With that in mind, here are my goals for this next school/fiscal year:

1. Settle debts and mend relationships.

Of course I can only do so much, but I am going to try to be more accountable to do right by others. I think it's safe to say we all have done things we aren't proud of, and I'm going to do my best to work on my relationships. This includes not only family, but friends and former friends. I know that sounds harsh, but not everyone I was once close friends with is going to continue to be so, and that's okay. It's hard, but now I know it's a part of growing up.

2. Be more financially aware and responsible.

It was a big change going from a graduate assistantship income to an actual salary with two moves in the process, and I didn't plan ahead as much as I should have once the checks started coming each month. Budgeting and setting financial goals has already been in progress this summer.

A major goal is that I would like to get most if not all of my student loan debt paid off before other big life events may happen (doctorate, marriage, and/or children). They say college is the best years of your life, but I disagree if I have to pay for it for the next 20-30 years. Some may see that as extreme, but remember: teacher budget, plus I decided to get a Master's degree before really joining the work force.

3. Start giving back.

I've given a good amount of my time over the past year to work with students before or after school for different programs, but as I wasn't involved with a church or supporting a non-profit I don't feel like I've done enough to give back.

I know that I am so blessed and I can be selfish with my time and money. There are so many wonderful programs to support or get involved in, and it's just a matter of finding the right fit. I may have found my new church, which is incredibly exciting for me, so I am going to see if God shows me where he wants me to put my time, money, and talents.

4. Clean and organize!

If you know me well, you probably know my history with clutter. I have been reading a lot of tips lately and looking into ways to organize my stuff (like crafting supplies, college materials, etc.), and I know now the key is to have a place for everything. Recycling old magazines sure makes a big difference!

I also am going to try to make a weekly/monthly cleaning schedule. If you need an example,vacuuming doesn't happen as often as it should simply because of guilt; the vacuum terrifies my poor cat. I am, however, going to prevail by making a schedule which will eventually become a habit.

5. Celebrate- don't stress.

Over the last year I have become incredibly anxious and stressed for a number of factors that I can identify. With my new job came a new town, new people, new responsibilities, and bad phone reception. My family is further away than I have ever known, and it's been hard to adjust to the new normal. I can only see my family a few times a year and can only talk on the phone when our schedules work together and cell phone receptions on both ends are good, which is currently incredibly rare. I have had more trouble sleeping this year because I wake up with anxiety that I can't always find a source to.

Maybe this isn't the cure, but it's possible I'm focusing too much energy on the changes I cannot control, and perhaps I need to focus more on celebrating life, friendships, and the tiny successes that happen every day.

Feel free to comment with advice or loves.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Keep Your Chin Up

Life has changed so much and so fast.

A year ago I had no idea that this is where I would be with what I have.
Everything has just been falling into (or out) of place.

I am losing so much that is familiar and comfortable. Moving out of my apartment of three years was more difficult than I thought. I lost (forever) one of my kitties to an unknown sickness and I miss her every single day. My closest relative lives a good 5 hours away, and the man I thought loved me back for the last three years needed to be free.

There is such an excruciating amount of hurt in my heart that sometimes all I can do is cry and hope that time will heal that which I cannot control.

Not everything has been bad; some things have been almost impossibly wonderful to believe.

I have the most amazing and supportive family that have dropped everything more than once to just help me, whether to deal with my grief or to help me move across the state. I finished my master's degree and was hired into a dream job right after coming back from my choir tour to New York. I'm in process of buying my first home and live temporarily with some incredible people that attend the local university. Leia, my partner in crime, is adjusting to her own roommates as well, even though dogs aren't her favorite living organisms. I have a completely new town and environment far away from all of my friends and family. A new face has arrived in my life and expressed an interest in me while happily still giving me space to let me figure out what I  want and need.

I don't know what will work out and what won't, and I don't have all the answers, but this is a chance to start anew. To quote Lucy Maud Montgomery, "Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it."

I have so much to be thankful for and for the first time in a long time I am truly happy. With every decision to be made I simply put my trust in God that I would be led where I'm supposed to go, and He has proven to me at every turn that His plans were so much greater than my own.

If you find yourself in an unsure place, look for the signs. You always have a choice, and there's always a path to lead you to where you are ultimately meant to be. Have faith, roll with the tides, and keep your chin up.

Live for what you love and never settle for less. <3

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why would a homeless woman say "I'm sorry"?

That's the question that has been on my mind for about a week now.

If you don't know me personally, you will just have to take my word on it that I have a big heart that breaks easily. Childfund.org and ASPCA commercials have me sobbing in less than 30 seconds. I have been known to set blankets outside in winter for the homeless cats to snuggle on. Seeing needy people gives me the same gut-wrenching guilt and hurt in my chest that can leave me crying and depressed for the rest of the day and several days after. I don't know what it is, but when I can't help someone it's like I'm automatically wired to ignore them and make them become suspicious in my mind, like they are a bad person and that's why they are so poor they can't own a house and take a hot shower once in awhile. In case you didn't figure it out, that adds another link to the guilty chain in my heart.

Honestly, it's something I've never taken much time to consider. Ten years ago I barely used my debit card; all my transactions were primarily cash or check. As the world has become more "digital", so is the way I deal with and treat money. I now no longer really think of my money in the bank as actual bills that can be taken out of an ATM, but rather a number on a screen when I log-in to my online banking profile.

To explain my thought process, if a homeless/needy person approached me a decade ago I was more likely to have a few bucks on me to spare for them to get a sandwich or soda at the local convenience store. Now I am often filled with even more guilt than I would normally carry because 90% of the times I am approached I literally have nothing on me that I can give. Not even a gift card to McDonald's.

Back to the story, on the way out of my college town there is a crossing between two major highways that is well designed enough that has special walkways for pedestrians. It has also become a focal point for some of the needy/homeless of this town to stand in shame and beg bearing a sign that often dons the same rhetoric that explains their life story in permanent marker on a small area of cardboard. Whenever I am leaving town to drive up to see my folks it often works out that I am taking off around meal time. I don't know how I plan it that way, but I usually have a snack of some sort in the car with me. I have found myself more than once either sharing or giving my food to whomever is standing near the light, always wishing I could do more than share a medium fries or an apple.

The last time I visited one of the churches up home it was insisted that I take a care package with me to keep in my car to give away. This church had begun creating care packages for needy/homeless people. It seemed so obvious. Of course! Care packages! Why didn't I EVER think of that? I figured it couldn't hurt, but that it was probably not going to be used because of the area of town that I live in. It's not that I live in a fancy area of town, actually quite the opposite. Homeless/needy people are actual centralized in my neighborhood largely because of the number of college housing in the area, which provides a wealth of bottles/cans to collect and be traded in at a recycling center for a few bucks and some pocket change. If you are an early riser it's not unlikely to see at least one homeless person rummaging through the dumpster bins outside the frat houses and apartment complexes.

As a female I'm not exactly comfortable approaching people outside of my apartment by myself in the wee hours of the morning, so the care package was untouched for nearly a month. I had to make a trip up to see my folks last weekend and I started to pull out the driveway before I had a gut feeling that I should run back in to grab the care package (I had brought it inside so the contents wouldn't freeze in my car).

It was like God had planned the whole thing. I pulled up to the red light at the very same intersection and for the first time I encountered a woman begging. She looked awful. Hurt, shame, hopelessness just seeped through her. I had to wave her over twice before she started walking towards my car, wiping away her tears. She looked me dead and the eyes and said "I'm sorry," before gratefully accepting the zip-lock bag full of small snack bars, a can of vienna sausages, and microwave bowl of ravioli complete with a Bible verse, contact information of the church, napkins and a plastic spoon. I was so taken aback by her apology that all I could reply was "God bless."

I cried for quite a few miles down the highway, not knowing how to react to her apology. Why was she sorry? Why was she apologizing for her plight? God has more verses in the Bible regarding loving thy neighbor and taking care of the poor than just about anything else, so why is it so hard for us? Why is it scary? How did these that are so blessed in His eyes become a threat to the safety net inside my head? I don't know her story. I don't know why she doesn't have a home or a job. I don't know why she has to stand outside on a cold Friday evening in February to beg in shame for a few dollars for food or a warm drink. I don't know why it's my instinct to ignore her or drive away from her as quickly as possible when she was too scared and ashamed to approach my car the first time I waved her over.

There are a lot of things I don't understand in this world and about myself, but I do know that it takes courage and bravery to do the right things in life. I don't know if I can really make a difference in the world. I don't know if I can give up every thing like Jesus asks me to. All I know is that a small and almost absentminded change in my life made a huge difference in hers.

I have another care package ready and waiting in my car for when God calls me to serve Him again. If you found this remotely moving or inspiring, I encourage you to get with a group of individuals (or your church!) and pool resources to make care packages for your vehicles. You never know if God may want to use you as a tool today, and how much it will bless your own life to be His hand.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ringing in the New Year

School and life in general became really busy for me in the last few months. I spent less time blogging and social networking and more time working and spending time with friends and family, which I can't say is a bad thing at all!

I decided to look over last year's resolutions (http://melodysmusing.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html) to see how I did at following (or remembering) any of them!

As for the first resolution regarding flossing and mouthwash... yeah not everyday. Or even every few days. I was pretty good about flossing about once a week throughout the year, give or take a few weeks off or more often if I had popcorn stuck in my teeth. I bought some mouthwash that is supposed to whiten my teeth but it burns SO MUCH to use that I hardly ever do. :/

I didn't buy a new hardcover Bible, but I did download a NIV version on my kindle app on my smartphone to look up passages in church. It has helped a bit, but I'm still looking for that hardcover that will work for me and the way my brain thinks. I can't say I had a program for reading, but I was a part of a women's book study that has now included books by Rodney Reeves and Rachel Held Evans. Baby steps, people.

As of this summer I DID have all my store and credit cards paid off. Unfortunately during the school year some unexpected purchases were made and so I have money on 2 of them again (out of 6!), but I really have been doing SO much better. It's amazing how much money you have when you aren't spending a couple hundred a month on credit card bills.

In some ways I have become a better friend, in some ways worse. I do believe that we grow and change as we get older, and there are some people I have drifted apart from either because of fewer shared interests or because I can't handle their lifestyle choices (respect, yes; wish to be a part of, no). I did try to reconnect with some friends over the last few months, and for some it worked out. I'm sad about the others, but like I said, we all grow and change. All I can do is keep trying!

I did not become a regular donor for any specific charity this year. I did find out that I can donate money through some of my survey companies, however, and I have been able to donate money that earned through the amount of time I spent on surveys to organizations such as St. Jude, the Red Cross, Unicef, and Clean Water Fund. It's menial really, and I'm not trying to brag; I just feel like this was a step for me in the right direction since I really don't make enough to donate even the minimum monthly amount that many charities ask for.

So how did I do?

About as much as I expected, really. I didn't think I would necessarily succeed on my goals, but they were constantly on my mind and in the forefront of many of my actions. Even if we know it's not likely for us to succeed, it's important to keep striving for your goals and trying every day to become the best version of yourself.

So what about this year? I've been thinking about this for awhile especially since so much has happened in the last month.

1.) Get a real-person job!

This is it. I will (hopefully!) start/finish my thesis and final recital project this spring and then graduate for the second time at Missouri State University. I'm so thankful for the opportunities given to me during graduate school, and now I will have to make my way out into the world. People keep asking me where I plan to go/what I plan to do, but I don't have an answer! I will apply for jobs in the teaching realm in primary, secondary, and continued education levels. I will look into musical performance jobs, as well as look into my recently rediscovered modeling contract. The possibilities, I feel, are endless. I will go where I get the best job offer, quite possibly the first/only job offer I receive! 

2.) Reconnect with extended family.

I lost one of my aunts this past week to a twenty-year battle with cancer that I honestly knew little about until the last couple of years. That is completely unacceptable on my part. I lost my grand-parents at a young age and since then I have seen less and less of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Some I have not seen since I was a child. 

I realize I have a bigger family (on BOTH sides) than many but I need to do better at reconnecting with them on a regular basis, whether it's through hand-written cards, emails, facebook messages, phone calls, or visits in person. It should not take a funeral for me to find out where my cousin goes to college in a city I've visited 3 times in the past year, or a separation/divorce that has been in the works for years, or a disease that may be killing another of my aunts. Change starts with me!

3.) Make a budget plan for paying off student loans.

I looked up my student loan account this past month and it scared me in my tracks. College is expensive when you don't have a rich family member paying for it, or a college fund set aside when you were a baby by your parents/grand-parents. I have been mapping out average salaries for teachers in my field and believe I have come up with a possible plan, but it all depends on what will happen once I graduate. 

Will I get a job? Will I get a job in the field my degree is in? Who knows with this economy. I am hopeful that I WILL get a job and can find decently priced housing so that I can set my plan to be student-loan-debt-free before I'm thirty. After all, I may want to get married, buy a house, and have babies by then!

All I know is I would rather keep living like a poor college student for a few more years than live like a poor American with debt the rest of my life.

4.) Take a vacation!

I know this seems ironic to have this right underneath the post about getting out of debt, but here's the deal:

I have worked hard for a long time. People work hard with joy in their heart when they have something they are working towards or looking forward to. Since I am not engaged/married/having kids/etc, I need to work for a personal goal for myself and have a little savings account that I will put money in for a vacation each year. Doesn't have to be really far or for very long!

I honestly believe that God did not put us on Earth to work ourselves to death but rather to enjoy what he has given us, so I plan to spend a little bit of time each year doing just that. I want to go out and experience the world, and I've been told repeatedly that you need to go while you are still young!

I think that is my 2013 in a nutshell. What are your goals/resolutions for the new year? Hope you all have a good one!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Paris, day trois!

Again, if you haven't been following, YES this is over a month since I got back. I refer to my journal I kept and my pictures to retell my travels.

June 1st, 2012

I went to bed upset last night due to my lack of sight-seeing (couldn't find a group), and I got up early and resolved to go out by myself and see all the things I hadn't seen yet. Luckily for me, I met up with Ethan during breakfast and he convinced me to go with a group to see the Moulin Rouge (which for some reason hadn't even come up in my list of things to see!), as well as the Louvre (which was DEFINITELY on my list). They had already been to the Eiffel tower, so that was a bit of a bummer, but at least I wouldn't be breaking the rules in going out by myself.

After breakfast, I set off for the Metro with Sara, Kayley O., Ethan, and Taylor S. Since it was still very early on a weekday the Metro was PACKED, and I actually got on a train that the rest of the group wasn't able to squeeze onto. They were able to yell through the door to let me know which stop to get off and wait, which was lucky for me since I wasn't navigating and didn't know what stop/line the Moulin Rouge was on. Eventually we made it there, and managed to get some great silly pictures in front!

It's much smaller than I expected!

Love the paintings!

Kayley Monroe?

Let it all hang out, Ethan!

Sad Asian face

I love the woman walking behind me and cracking up

Work it, Taylor!

We then made our way to the Louvre, which would take you months if not years to see everything there is to see. Noha did give a GREAT suggestion; to go in through the mall entrance and buy tickets at the tobacco shop, therefore avoiding long lines at the main entrance. We also inadvertently followed my travel guide book's advice about going in the morning, because most people don't come until midday or later. Of course we could only stay about an hour and a half, but I did get certain priority pieces on my list checked off. 

The beautiful glass pyramid

I've been dying to behold this: Nike of Samothrace, or Winged Victory. I almost cried.

My clearest zoom of Mona Lisa. She's protected by guards, barriers, and glass after all she's gone through (acid, knife wounds, theft).

She so much smaller than you would ever realize. Much smaller than the majority of paintings I've seen.

I took this one for mom. It's a painting about King Solomon's wisdom in knowing who was the rightful mother of a child, but I can't find the title or painter online. It's not the most popular, but I love it.

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss- Antonio Canova

Venus de Milo- possibly by Alexandros of Antioch

I have simply too many photos from inside the Louvre to post them all, but those were some of my favorites. After we had our fill of running around, Sara and Kayley opted to go find the Lover's Bridge, while Taylor, Ethan, and myself decided to stroll through the 'jardin des tuileries', which is a garden full of statues and fountains outside of the Louvre.

We left through the main entrance so we could still get pictures in front of the glass pyramid :)

Wish it weren't so cloudy!

My 'sign' (Sagittarius, the archer)

It was so relaxing to sit in front of the fountain!

I like the pigeon just chillin on the statue's head

Taylor, Ethan, and I then went down the Place de la Concorde towards the Luxor Obelisk, authentic from Egypt, and I got some great pictures there, as well :)

Eiffel tower with the obelisk

I love hieroglyphics, and it was so cool to be near some written during the reign of Ramses II. 

 We got some more silly photos by the fountains on either side of the obelisk.!



Before heading back, we decided to just browse through the expensive shopping district, including the fancy dessert stores, such as Fauchon and Fossier. 

Macaroons at Fauchon

We got some crepes on the way back to the hotel, because we have just one more concert to sing!

Mmm! Egg and cheese!

We had our final concert in the Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and unfortunately I was unable to get any good photos inside because of the lighting and request of no flash photography. There was apparently an 'oops,' though, because we understood that we were singing at 3:30, but the church had advertised our concert to be at 4:30, so we compromised and sang at 4 pm that way we could still make our reservations for our farewell dinner party at Cafe Barjot. I will borrow one of David Webb's concert photos (see link further below).

I'm the girl on the top step closest to the men.

Again, top step on the left side!

I didn't really enjoy the dinner. :/ The red wine sauce was very strong and the beef was too chewy for my taste, I thought we were getting ice cream for dessert, but oddly enough, it was flan.

I'm going to borrow some pictures from Dr. Webb's son, who took thousands of pictures during the trip. You can look through David Webb's albums on Picasa: https://picasaweb.google.com/102722375026351141139.

I received a gift for being a grad asst. And I am the queen of weird faces.

Dr. Webb received a very French beret to match the bass's, and the tomahawk has returned!!

I love this photo so much!

Soprano group picture

That was then photo-bombed by the basses coming to tickle attack!

Even though I could have tried to run around another few hours, I opted to be responsible and go back to the hotel and begin packing because we needed to be on the bus no later than 7 am (which means I needed to have eaten breakfast by 6:30) to get to the airport in plenty of time to get through customs and whatnot. I spent the evening showering and repacking my suitcase so that I didn't lose any breakables on the way back home. I am not ready to leave Paris, but at the same time, I'm very ready to be home again. On a normal sleep schedule. :)

Stay tuned, I just have one more day to write!