Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wayne, America

I spent this past weekend in Wayne, America.  To the 65-and-over population, it offers many locations where one can sit and enjoy an early morning or mid-afternoon cup of coffee.  To college students or local teenagers, it's probably a place with which you are bored and a place that you are anxious to leave.  To us, however, Wayne, America, is sacred.

It's the current location for the Nebraska Association of Student Councils Summer Leadership Workshops.  It's where many of us have come, year after year, to either learn about leadership skills or to impart our knowledge upon the youth of Nebraska.  This past weekend, which we lovingly refer to as "Waynestock" was our get-everything-ready-weekend.

Our workshops take place at Wayne State College every summer.  For five days - usually the last full week in July - Wayne, America, becomes a place of escape.  For students, it is a short escape from parents, siblings, chores, and summer jobs.  For staffers, it is an escape from the doldrums of everyday work and life.  We love it there.

Every summer in Wayne, America, magical things happen to both the students and staff who experience NASC's Summer Leadership Workshops.  It's not uncommon for students to leave making comments like, "I don't want to leave here," or "this has been the best week of my life."  Several years ago, those were the same words that I spoke after my experience at Workshop.  Students who attend learn so much more than leadership skills like organization, communication, decision making, group dynamics, interpersonal relations, self-management, and values awareness.  They learn about themselves.  They learn about others - others who are similar to them and others are different than them.  They learn tolerance and acceptance.  While this may sound extreme, this workshop changes lives... I know that it changed mine.

It indirectly gave me a best friend and roommate...

And has given me many, many, other lasting friendships...

And you just never know... you might even find your future spouse at Workshop:

Believe it or not, this has happened on more than just the above two occasions.

Every year at this time, I am reminded to count my blessings for the opportunities that I had to attend this Workshop when I was a student.  Furthermore, I am so very grateful to now be serving the organization as one of its volunteer staff members.  I am always exhausted after "Waynestock," but it also leaves me feeling energized and excited for that last week in July, which will be here before we know it.  And I can hardly wait!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Galactic Blast

This past week, I spent every morning from 9-noon teaching Vacation Bible School at my church.  This is the first summer in many years that I have been able to make it work with my schedule, and I was reminded of how much I have missed Bible School.  Our theme this year was Galactic Blast.  It provided students the opportunity to learn about outer space as well as about God's love.

I was "Arts and Crafts lady" for the week, which was definitely an exercise of patience.  I am neither artsy nor craftsy, but thankfully, I had enough skills and resources to be able to fake it.

We did sand art,

we painted,

we made picture frames (of which I do not have a picture),

and we made color-changing cross necklaces, which were a big hit.

Although working with elementary school students always reminds me of why I teach middle school, I did engage in some precious conversations like these:

Kindergarten Boy:  (looking at the 10 Commandments poster) "What does K-I-L-L spell?"
Me: "It spells kill."
Kindergarten Boy:  "What does that mean?  Does it mean to make somebody die?"
Me:  "Yes.  Why do you think God commanded us not to kill other people?"
Kindergarten Boy:  "Because God loves us and doesn't want His children to die too soon.  Want to see how my shoes light up?"

I love how easily satisfied young kids are with regard to answers to questions and how quickly they can move on to another subject.  My students?  Not so much.

Different Kindergarten Boy:  "I can't wait for the Science center.  Science is my favorite subject."
Me:  "What kind of science do you like to learn about?"
Different Kindergarten Boy:  "I like to compare properties of solids, liquids, and gases."
Me: (jaw drops as I wonder whether or not my 6th graders could compare properties of solids, liquids, and gases).

This week took me back to my Rousseau days when I worked with grades K-5.  To be honest, I kind of miss those days.  These kids are innocent.  They do what they are told.  Their hearts and minds are wide open to whatever it is that you would like to share with them.  They voice their love and appreciation for you.  They can get excited about anything.  Although I know I am better suited to work with older students, this was a fun vacation for me.

In addition to working with the younger kids, I got to know some other people from my church whom I didn't know before.  I had some insightful conversations with the adults, and I enjoyed getting to know the teenage shepherds (helpers) who were volunteering their time.  There are some really amazing people at my church, and I hope to get to work with them again someday.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go try to get all of those catchy VBS songs out of my head.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Much-Needed Perspective

Yesterday was Father's Day, and today is my parents' 30th wedding anniversary.  These events happen near the same time every year, and we typically do a joint celebration.  This year, my parents and brother came to Lincoln to have lunch and spend some time together.

Mom and Dad stayed later than they normally do, heading home at around 5:30.  I was watching the weather and watching the clock, waiting for them to call and tell me they had arrived safely.  Superior was covered in red on the radar on the weather channel.  The television told me that Superior was in a tornado warning and that people needed to seek shelter in their basement.

My parents weren't yet home, but were driving straight toward the storm.  When I called, they were a few miles north of town and were speeding (literally) to get home.  Then, the sirens started going off.  My mom said she would call when they were safe.

Thankfully, the call came a few minutes later.  They were in the basement, but from what they had seen, things weren't good.  Cell phone lines weren't working, so we had to communicate via land line.

Here's a video of what was happening during the storm:

My mom was called for an emergency City Council meeting last night, where they met with the Emergency Management Team and made a game plan.  She along with the city electric crew worked into the night and returned to work early this morning.

It was confirmed this morning that the tornado was an F2 and had wind speeds reaching 120 miles per hour.  Here are some pictures courtesy of my friend Whitney at Whitney Huynh Photography.

This is in our City Park.  A tree fell on top of the band shell.

Many cars were damaged.

MANY trees fell down.

Some were uprooted.

Train cars were removed from the tracks.

Many roads are now blocked by trees.

Lots of roofs were damaged.

And yards are covered in debris.

Power lines were damaged... many are still without power.

This shed was completely turned upside down.

Here are some more pictures from my friend Brooke at Hi-Light Studios Photography:

More trees...

Destroyed swingset

 My friend Brady's house

 Then there is the flooding issue.

This last one is from my friend Houston:

This was her caption:  "the entire church sign was shattered...but the one thing left in tact was the cross on top."
That speaks volumes of truth.

When I talked to my mom over the lunch hour, she said that their plan is going well.  The American Red Cross has arrived and are serving lunch to the people who are working to clean up the town.  Only 25% of people are without power, and it is expected to return by the end of today.

We are so very fortunate that the only damage was structural... as far as we know, nobody was hurt in the storm.  In times like this I am reminded to count my blessings and be grateful for what I have, especially after being reminded that so much can quickly be taken away.

Thanks to everyone back home who is working hard to get things cleaned up and back to normal!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Hi, my name is Allysa, and I am a Shopaholic.

A few years ago, I fell in love with the Shopaholic book series, which chronicles a woman named Becky who has a serious addiction to shopping.  She has quite expensive taste and is an impulse buyer.  She has maxed-out credit cards, but she can't seem to control her spending.

While I am not nearly as bad as Becky, I do have a shopping problem.  Last Thursday, for example, I set out to buy my dad a Father's Day gift.  It was my only mission for the day.  My first stop was Kohls, which is one of the stores my father frequents.  I considered some new shirts or a new bottle of cologne, but I couldn't find anything that suited him.  I did, however, find two pairs of shoes that suited me perfectly.  The two pairs of shoes are identical, except one pair is black and the other pair is brown.  That's how I shop.  I find something I like and buy it in multiple colors.  Another thing to note is that I wear a size 10 shoe.  These are nearly impossible to come by in stores, so I rationalized buying them by thinking that there is a good chance that they will not be in the store the next time I come.  A bonus was that they were on sale for $20.00, which I think is a very reasonable price for shoes that can be worn every day, either dressed up or dressed down.

Then, I sat off to the mall.  I stopped first at JC Penny, where my dad buys a lot of his dress clothes.  I didn't find anything there that suited him, but I did find a little black dress that suited me.  I thought it would be perfect for the wedding rehearsal and dinner that I had to partipate in this past weekend and could also be used for a number of other events that are coming up.  Also, it was on sale for $40, which I think is a very reasonable price for a dress.

I was on my way back down the mall when I saw that a shoe store was having a sale.  I have never purchased shoes from this store, so I felt that a quick browse wouldn't hurt.  I had been thinking for a long time about how I needed a good "in-between" pair of shoes.  Shoes that aren't dressy but aren't athletic.  I don't own a pair like that.  Or at least I didn't.  There was an adorable pair of Rocket Dogs that are plaid.  The colors are predominantly red and blue, which are two of the colors that I wear most often.  I thought they would be perfect to wear with denim capris or bermudas in the summer or to wear with jeans in the fall and winter.  Also, they were on sale for $30, which I thought was a very reasonable price for a pair of shoes that match nearly every item of casual clothing in my wardrobe.

As I headed toward Dillards and Younkers, I noticed that Bath and Body Works was having a big sale.  When I saw this, I remembered that I had just put my last bottle of foaming soap in my bathroom and that the soap in my kitchen was almost running out.  Soap, for me, is a necessity.  I am an obsessive hand-washer, so I go through soap pretty quickly.  Plus, the soap was on sale for $3.00 per bottle, which I think is very reasonable for a bottle of nice, deliciously smelling soap.  It's only twenty cents more than the soap I buy from Wal-Mart, which doesn't smell as good.  With a price like that, i figured that I might as well buy four bottles to last me until the next sale on soap.  There.  Justified.

After the soap purchase, I realized that it was well into the dinner hour and I hadn't eaten much that day.  So, I headed to the food court for some dinner.  I ate rather quickly and then took my new purchases out to my car and headed for home.

No Father's Day gift in hand.

So, my goal for these next few months is to be much more aware of my spending and to not be so impulsive about what I buy.  I will make a list and go to stores only to buy what is on said lists.  No exceptions.  Ready, go...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Brother with a Capital B

Today is my Brother's 22nd Birthday.

His name is Andrew.  In my brother's graduating class, there were only 9 boys.  Of those nine, five were named Andrew, so it was determined early on that they would all need nicknames.  My brother, because he was the biggest of all of them, was called Big D.  He liked this nickname, and it suited him well.  He was the biggest lineman on my high school's football team, and now he's one of the biggest linemen on his college football team.  The teachers at my school all referred to him as Big D, and my parents often call him that.  To me, however, he is Brother with a capital B.

I love the story of Brother and I.  My parents got married when they were 28 and tried having a child when they were 30.  My mom's first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, and as a result, she was told that she would never have any more children.  After being on an adoption waiting list for five years, my parents adopted me.  Within my first two months of living with my parents, my mom found out she was pregnant.  To her, this was quite scary, as her doctor told her that it was quite dangerous for her to bear a child.  I love it when God proves doctors wrong.

Eight months later, my baby Brother was born, and ever since, we have been best friends.  We are 10 months and 12 days apart, which I love.  We grew up together - we hit all the milestones at nearly the same time.  Brother was old for his class, and for athletics, that bumped him up to the teams that my guy friends were playing on.  Thus, throughout our schooling, we had the same friends.  I was never much of an athlete, but Brother is, and I have always been his biggest fan.

Brother was always the child that my parents worried most about.  As an infant/toddler, he was the climber, always getting into things.  As a young boy, Brother made a mess out of whatever he touched.  Sometimes, we would find him sitting in the corner peeling paint off the wall.  If he was outside, he would turn on the hose and get filthy while playing in the dirt.  As he got older, breaking windows was his thing.  He broke windows at home, at Champions, and at our elementary schools.  This kid was a wreck.  But, he never failed to give me (the good child) a good laugh!

In our adult lives, I am so thankful that we are more than just siblings.  I love that when my Brother needs to process through the first half of a big Husker game, he calls me.  And I love that when he has an itch to take a trip to Boston or Chicago, he calls me.  And when he wants to go shopping or go to go to a baseball game, he calls me.

Brother has a great sense of humor... he's hilarious, in fact.  He's the kind of guy that funny things always just seem to happen to.  Like here, when the McDonald's worker thought that he ordered ten 4-piece Chicken McNuggets instead of one 10-piece order.

He is also a hard-worker, and will do anything for anyone.  Like in high school when he'd go start my car in the winter mornings so that it would be warm by the time I needed to go to school.  Or when I need someone to take my luggage to my car after a weekend at home.  Or when I need someone to help me move to nine different dorm rooms in a four-year span.  Or when I simply don't want to go wash my car.  He's the best.

So, Brother, I hope that your 22nd year of life is just as great - better even - than the past 21 years have been.  I continue to thank God for bringing us together and making us family...siblings... and friends.  I hope that you know how much I love being your sister and how much I take pride in calling you Brother with a capital B.

Happy Birthday, Brother!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Day of Good, Bad, and Ugly

Perhaps if one looks hard enough, one can find good, bad, and ugly in every day.  I try my darndest to focus only on good, but today, there were three big things that happened to me, one from each category.

The Good
Many months ago, I heard of a tuition reimbursement program that was made possible by a proposition from Governer Dave Heineman and the passing of LB1071 in the Nebraska state legislature.  On the very day the application was made available, I applied and had that manilla envelope postmarked.  I received an e-mail today which told me that I was awarded $2,975 for this calendar year.  What an amazing blessing!  Financially, come to find out, Masters degrees aren't cheap.  Thank you Governer Heineman and Nebraska state representatives for believing in the importance of well-educated teachers in our public schools.  I can assure you that I will work very hard to put our state's stimulus money to good work in the classroom.

Perhaps with the newly imparted knowledge that my Masters degree will bring, we will be doing less of this:

And more of this:

Just kidding.  I assure you that I can provide a rationale for what is happening in both of the above pictures.

The Bad
Another one bites the dust.

We received an e-mail from the Special Education teacher on our team telling us that she has taken a position at another school and will not be with our team next year.

I don't handle change well.  Especially sudden change.  It takes me a good deal of time to wrap my head around things and to mentally process all the implications that come with whatever change is occurring.  We just went through a round of interviews for Taylor's position, we might have to do more interviewing for Adam's position, and now there will be even more for Patty's position.  More than the inconvenience of interviewing, though, is the fact that there will be a new person to whom we will need to adjust.  I got really comfortable with the way things were, and it's hard for me to imagine what differences will come as a result of this change.

I firmly believe, however, that everything happens for a reason.  Therefore, I trust that Patty's new position is the right move for her.  I also look forward to meeting our new team member.  Perhaps this person will be an even better fit with our team.

The Ugly
I am a hard-core Husker fan.  And today, my beloved Huskers have opted out of the Big 12 Conference.

And into the Big 10 Conference.

Again, I don't do so well with change.  But I call this ugly because I think that things are going to get really messy back in Big 12 Land.  

I am not a sports analyst, so I do not have any credibility in terms of what predictions to make with what will happen with other programs in the Big 12 Conference.  By my calculations, however, I suspect that Nebraska basically just made a decision that will leave Kansas, K-State, and Iowa State hanging out to dry.

I suspect that the other big programs like Texas and Oklahoma will be just fine.  They will maybe move over to the SEC which, frankly, might be a more fair match for them.  In the Big 10, Nebraska will be a shoe-in for a conference title, I think.  We will be in the western division, which, I think, will make Iowa our biggest competition.  And I feel good about being able to take care of Iowa.  I might even be persuaded to purchase tickets to go watch my Huskers play a game in the Big House, a stadium which I have always wanted to see.  A game at Ohio State's Horseshoe might also be fun.  I've done the Texas thing and the Oklahoma thing, so some new scenery might be nice.

Academically, I think the Big 10 will be a good challenge for us, and in other sports, we might have a chance in the world to excel.  Our baseball team might even win a game or two up North, although they will be playing in cold temperatures until May.  Men's basketball isn't likely to have much of a chance anywhere we go (unless we would bump down to NAIA status or something), but the Lady Huskers, if they continue to do well, might be able to put up a fight.  The volleyball ladies will continue to be challenged, I think, but I don't anticipate that recruiting will slow down for them because of this move.  I do think that recruiting for other sports might pose a challenge for us.

I don't know what will come of all of this, but I do know that Big 12 or Big 10, I will always be a Husker!