A new leaf

Hello friends!  I am excited to inform you that I am the new first grade teacher at a school in the Oklahoma City area!  I will be taking a hiatus from this blog, as I am no longer currently an American in Paris.  But believe me, I’ll be returning to this blog in the future, because I left my heart in the city of Paris.  I loved living there, and I know that some day, hopefully soon, I will return to see my beloved Eiffel Tower.

While you’re waiting, please hop on over to my new blog confessions of a first year.  I will be chronicalling my adventures and all the behind the scenes stuff of being a first year teacher.  Get excited!  I’ll see you over on the new blog.



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My last day as a bum

For the past two weeks, I’ve only left my house (and my sweatpants) a few times.  Thanks to Snowmageddon, or the snowpocalypse, or whatever you want to call it, I’ve been pretty much stuck in my house.  I’m not complaining, because really, it wasn’t much different than every other day for the past 2 months, but just the fact that I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to made it hard to take.  20 some odd inches of snow in two weeks can start to make you go a little crazy.  But that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about my last day as a bum (read: unemployed college grad) and what I experienced.  (For those of you who don’t know, I’m starting my new job as a preschool teacher on Monday, Feb. 14.  I’m super excited and I can’t wait to meet my new kiddos!)

Today was a special day, because I got to hang out with some pretty cool kids this morning.  We watched a movie, played tickle monster and tried to beat each other at Angry Birds (a pretty sweet game they have on their iPad.  Don’t worry, I let them win.)  I also learned that giraffes hatch from eggs and grow up to be mommy giraffes.  Then they turn into tigers and eat their babies.  I was fascinated.  Of course, I was playing the role of said giraffe.  It was all very exciting.

Then I got to hold a baby, and when you start your day off holding a baby, you know it’s going to be a good day.  They just make you smile.  Except when you have to change their diaper.  Then you remember why you’re glad you don’t have a baby yourself.

After my morning safari, I drove to Tulsa to meet up with my friends from Stillwater for an afternoon/evening of excitement.  I didn’t really know it was going to be exciting when I set out on this adventure, but when you get these kids together, things just happen.

We started out at the mall.  The Apple store to be exact.  Steph’s phone died, so we needed urgent care.  It turned out alright though, because she got a new iPhone.  Yippee for her.  After the rescue effort, we thought we needed a little pick-me-up.  We went to Peachwave, a distant relative of Orange Leaf.  We each created our own fro-yo masterpiece and then devoured it.

These are my friends Stephanie and Natalie. Sometimes people mistake them for each other and wave to them on campus. It's funny when they get the wrong one. Oh, they're sisters.

This is Christine. She's my friend, too. She always makes me laugh, even if she doesn't mean to. She's good like that. Example: I gave her a piece of gum from France and she freaked out because it foamed in her mouth "like a dog with rabies." Not true.

We walked past Brookestone and Natalie just had to try stuff out. This is some kind of massage-y thing.

Next we went to the "As seen on TV" store. Steph found a shirt folder. She was really excited.

After we had had our fill of the Friday evening mall crowd (read: teenagers), we made our way to Olive Garden for dinner. Natalie was talking on the phone when Laura came to take our order. And Natalie always makes the greatest faces. Picture proof.

A couple of things happened at dinner.  First, they didn’t have the soup I always get when I go there.  I always order the soup, salad and breadsticks thing with Chicken Gnocci as my soup.  It’s amazing and delicious and apparently not on the Tulsa menu.  I was thrown into a frenzy.  I had no clue what I should order instead.  I’m a creature of habit, and I don’t handle change very well.  This was apparently to be a lesson in flexibility for me.  I think I pulled through with flying colors though, because my Asiago ravioli with chicken was mighty delicious.

The second incident that occurred at dinner is a little befuddling.  There was a couple who we were convinced were on their first date sitting at a table just behind/beside Stephanie and I.  Natalie and Christine were staring and laughing because the kids were wearing matching blue plaid shirts.  It was cute, and slightly humorous, but apparently it caused them to feel self-conscious.  Due to the staring and laughing coming from Lumpy and Dumpy across the table from us, the poor couple got up and asked to be moved.  I mean, we’re assuming that’s why they got up in a huff. I suppose it’s possible that there was a draft.  We’ll never know.

And now for the main event.  I was notified earlier in the day that we would be going to see the new Disney movie, Gnomeo and Juliet.  Ha. Ha ha.  Yeah right.  I was skeptical to say the least.  I’d seen previews for the past few months, and I wasn’t too eager to rush out and see it, especially on opening night.  I’d much rather go see the Justin Bieber movie.  (cough, choke.) But, in order to spend some quality time with my friends, I mustered up the enthusiasm needed to walk through the theater doors.  But first, let me show you the insanity in the parking lot.

These cars are parallel parked. In perpendicular spots. Apparently the theater didn't plow their lot well enough.

This car was so desperate to see the Biebs that they parked on Mount Everest.

I really hate to admit this, so don’t tell anyone, okay?  I think Gnomeo and Juliet might have been one of the cheesiest movies I’ve ever seen, but it was hilarious and I loved it.  I would even watch it again.  Well, I might Redbox it anyway.  I probably wouldn’t pay $7 to go see it again. Which reminds me of another story.  We dropped Natalie and Christine off at the front door while Stephanie and I went to fend for ourselves in the Himalayas for a parking spot.  We had hoped they would get our tickets for us, but boy were we wrong.  But worry not, we got the last laugh, because our awesome ticket seller gave us student discounts thanks to our OSU IDs.

As we were leaving our surprisingly hilarious movie, we noticed a large line of people waiting to get into a theater.  Bieber Fever has apparently hit the Tulsa area, because the line wound around the lobby and out the door.  I did my best to take an inconspicuous photo, but the horrible lighting combined with the camera on my phone didn’t turn out so well.

The line to see the Biebs. Really, it's there, I promise!

In the end, my last day of unemployment turned out to be one of my favorites.  Thanks for all the laughs, girls!  I really needed it.

Now I am finally about to do what I’ve been training to do for the past 4 1/2 years.  On Monday, I become a teacher.  Well, a certified and employed one anyway.  I’ve been a teacher for a while now, really.  It’s in me, and it’s what I do.  And it’s what I love.  I just hope I can say the same thing come Monday afternoon.

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How to: Become a substitute teacher

Because I had coffee this afternoon, Dr. Pepper at dinner, and then icecream after the OSU wrestling match, I am wide awake.  I thought I would take this opportunity to share an inside account of how to become a substitute teacher in the state of Oklahoma.  It’s rather entertaining, believe me.

Since my graduation in December, I have been searching for a teaching job.  Thanks to the economy (you can blame just about everything on it these days) and the fact that it’s January (mid-school year), I have found it rather difficult to find a teaching job.  This saddens and frustrates me because not only have I put in four and a half long years of college and therefore deserve a job (we’ll deal with entitlement issues later), I am a good teacher.  A steal for anyone who would like to hire me.  I’m modest, too.

That being said, schools always need substitute teachers.  I mean, come on.  It’s flu season.  Enough said.  So, I decided to go through the process of becoming a substitute teacher in my hometown.  Easier said than done.

The first step in becoming a sub is to work up the courage to call the Education Service Center.  That’s where all the important decisions are made, so I’m told.  It’s also where I took my AP tests back in high school, so I’m slightly traumatized by the place.  Once you’ve mustered your courage, be prepared with all of your documents.  Yes, you really do need 2 different forms of identification.  You’ll also need proof that you graduated college (if you indeed did…).  Oh, and please don’t forget your checkbook.  You’ll need it to pay the $45 fee for a background check (even though you just had one done in November.  That’s another story altogether).

Once you have all of your required items, drive on down to the ESC and proceed to the front desk where you’ll ask for an application form.  They will hand you a clipboard with a novel attached.  Yes, you really do need to fill in your social security number 25 times.  It’s very important.  While you’re at it, you should probably remember everywhere you’ve worked, all of the phone numbers and addresses of those places, as well as a few references for good measure.  Please make sure you know your legal name as it is printed on your social security card, because if you don’t, you’ll have to guess, and that’s pretty risky.  Oh, and DO NOT mess up on the tax form and cross out something, because you’ll just have to fill it out again.  Luckily, you’ll remember all of the information, because you just filled it out.

Okay, so you’ve filled out your application.  Congrats! You’re about an 8th of the way there.  Now you must proceed to jail.  Yep, you need fingerprints, and guess what?  You get to pay $25 for those.  But don’t write a check, because they won’t take it.  It needs to be cash.  Unless you know what a cashier’s check is, then go for it.  So drive on down to the courthouse and go through those metal detectors.  Don’t set it off or you’ll have to get wanded.  I mean, it can be fun, but it’s a time waster.  You’re on a mission!

Head on down the hall to the sheriff’s office.  You’ll hand over the cash and they’ll tell you to go down the hall, and then down the stairs.  Make sure you understand.  Because if you get confused when you get to the bottom of the stairs and it says “No Admittance,” you’ll have to humble yourself and go back to ask for help.

Once you get through the ominous door, you’ll be going through another ominous door.  Then you’ll be in jail.  It’s not that bad.  Everyone’s wearing your favorite color, orange!  If the guy who does your fingerprints tells you you’re good at it, just take it as a compliment.  He’ll also think it’s pretty strange that you’re 23 and a teacher.  Apparently he thinks he could be making more money if he had paid some attention in school, so he’s proud of you.  (At least that’s what you’ll go with.)

You’re free to leave the jail once you’ve got the fingerprint cards in your hand.  Make sure you tell everyone that you’re getting printed so you can SUBSTITUTE.  If not, they might think you’re there for different reasons.  You don’t want that reputation.

Head on back to the ESC.  You’re not really afraid of it anymore.  Give them your fingerprint cards and head home.  You’ll be waiting there for a few weeks, because it’s going to take about a month to get your background check back.  But, once that happens, you can go to a training session!

After you’ve successfully completed all of these steps, you are now considered a substitute teacher.  Congratulations!  You may now wait for the next flu epidemic.

I am so happy to report that I’ve only gone through to the waiting for the background check stage of this process.  And that’s where I plan to sit.  As of this afternoon, I have been offered (and I accepted) a full-time job teaching preschool!  I’m really excited, and I can’t wait to get started.  Unfortunately, we’re still waiting on my background check.  I’m hopeful that it will come back soon though, because honestly, there’s nothing to check.  Once it comes through, and DHS approves me, I get to teach some really cute 3 and 4 year olds.

My new adventure is just beginning.  Preschoolers are a rough crowd.  They’ll keep me on my toes, for sure.

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A dose of southern hospitality

Whether it was in an effort to broaden my horizons, reintroduce adventure and excitement in my life, or who knows what else, I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Houston last week to visit my friend and help her find an apartment in the Baton Rouge area.  The flight was booked Friday afternoon and I left Saturday afternoon.  Like I said, spontaneous.

There were so many adventures that happened throughout the week, but I’ll reign it in and stick to the ones I caught on film.  Or at least I’ll try. :D

Saturday began the week long adventure in a most fitting way: sitting at the airport for 3 hours waiting for my plane to get fixed. The last time I left the Tulsa airport, my plane died, too.  I’m starting to wonder about the quality of the Tulsa airplanes.

I did eventually make it to Houston, just in time for dinner.  My first culinary delight in Texas? Mexican food, of course!

One of our first adventures was to conquer IKEA, and thus the Swedish meatballs. Yum.

Another of the joys of IKEA: cinnamon rolls. YUM.

After our IKEA adventure, we set out for the land of crawfish and creole. We stopped at the welcome center, and felt fairly welcomed.

We stopped at Raising Cane's for dinner that night. We were well taken care of, as all 7 employees were there to serve only us! Gotta love that southern hospitality. On a side note, I'm hoping the napkin was made of recycled materials, not the chicken...

I must interject to tell you a brief story.  My friend/Bible study leader attended LSU and thus spent her years there enjoying the cuisine of Baton Rouge.  I drew upon her expertise to create a list of restaurants we needed to hit up while we were there.  Kari tells a story of a sandwich that I would love to tell, but I know I would butcher it if I tried.  Suffice it to say that I’ve heard this story several times, and I knew the one thing I must eat when I arrived in Baton Rouge.  After a stressful attempt to find the place, we finally got sound directions to the American Market.  In all the years of hearing this story, it never registered in my head that it was a convenience store.  No wonder it was tricky to find.  But find it we did.  And boy was it worth it.  All I could remember of the specifics of the sandwich was Cajun turkey WITHOUT pickles.  For some reason, KK is very adamant about this detail.

Unwrapping the famous sandwich, filled with turkey and anticipation.

Digging in. I would say that KK is correct in her evaluation of this sandwich. It was delicious.

I was so happy to have found this place. I feel like I made KK proud. *Note the sketchy van. I was only slightly creeped out by this.

Little did we know, we bought the best king cake in town. At least that's what the guy at the register said when we bought it. Upon further testing, I would agree with his decision. It was amazing, and made even better by the fact that it was from Target. Who knew?

We went to the Mall of Louisiana (who knew this existed?!) and what did I find? That's right, my favorite French store!

How impressive!

For some reason, all of our electronics on the trip decided to get sick. The GPS never did register this restaurant that came so highly recommended. Luckily, Erin pulled into the parking lot on a whim and there it was! We were ecstatic. And hungry.

I attempted to be inconspicuous in my photography, but the flash gave me away. This calzone was so good.

We could hardly believe our eyes. If only we had a freezer, we could have enjoyed this delicacy that can be found nowhere else. Believe me, I've searched.

On the way back to Houston, after enjoying as much fried alligator and seafood as we could handle, we decided to stop in Lafayette at the Science Museum. They were having a Star Wars exhibit!

Now, it's pretty well known that I'm not a Star Wars fan, but this was my birthday present to Erin. However, I had forgotten how cute Yoda was, so I was super happy to have my photo taken with him!

We saw lots of cool things, like the actual costumes used in the movies, plus we got to drive a hovercraft! It was harder than it seems.

Once we safely returned to Houston, I decided to see if my aunt wanted to join in on my adventures. Sure enough, she did! We went to dinner at Lupe's and found some cute animals for me to pose with.

So for some reason, I've got this strange thing for alligators. I don't know why. Perhaps I secretly want to be like Clarissa in Clarissa Explains it All (she had a pet baby alligator in her room). All I know is that I really wanted to see one while I was in the area. Luckily, I found one! (Okay, sure it was at the Rainforest Cafe in a mall, but it kind of looks real!)

I learned a bit of history on my trip. Apparently, the Missouri, Kansas, Texas railroad went right through this part of Texas. That is why it's called Katy, Texas. The KT railroad. Get it? Pretty neat.

As much as I love tree lined paths, I really love jumping pictures. I love being able to capture movement in my photography. I might start another blogging endeavor. "Jumping Pictures of the World" Sounds pretty epic, doesn't it?

Alas, all adventures must come to an end. My flight from Houston took off without a hitch, a minor miracle in my eyes.

So there you have it: my latest adventure.  Now I have shifted my focus to the adventure of job hunting.  As always, my adventures come with their share of awkwardness, but I embrace this as it provides for entertaining stories to share.  I’ll keep you posted. :D

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A time for living

Although I no longer live in France, I have decided that I can have an adventure wherever I live.  I have decided to make a conscious effort to thoroughly enjoy whatever stage of life I’m in.  That said, today was the first of my big adventures in my small town. (Okay, it’s a city.)  So here you have it, Bartlesville at its finest.

The Price Tower! Although slightly smaller, this tower is a close second to my beloved Eiffel Tower. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, this is a pretty nifty tower full of geometrical wonders.

These kids were so enthusiastic. This was Tyler's first visit to the Ville, and I think he's found it rather enjoyable. This is a sundial, but it was so high-tech, we couldn't figure it out.

Next on the list of sights was the honorable Matthew Reed's office. Since we're all Presbyterians, we found it very welcoming, even though he wasn't present. Here's the note we commandeered as our own, because someone else had already discovered his absence. It was funny.

A vital part of our community is the public library. Here you see a human replica of the statue outside the library.

Tyler and Ethan are the best.

Studying on his day off. Nerd alert!

I wanted to find the exact location of where my children's book will live once I finally write and publish it. Here it is! Be expecting a huge section, similar to that of Dr. Seuss. I'm going to be big.

Tyler was so over the library...

... so we moved on to our photo shoot.

Ethan needed a bit of assistance.

We are so cool.

Enter the buffaloes. That's the title of their first album...

I'm the one who needed help...

And there you have it. Bartlesville. Rumor has it Rachel McAdams stayed in this hotel.

It turns out this town can be pretty cool, as long as you take some fun people along for the ride.

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Words of wisdom from an almost graduate

It has been nearly a week since I left my beloved Paris, and I’m only finally wrapping my mind around the fact that I was actually there.  It’s just so weird.  I feel like I’ve returned to my normal life, but even that isn’t normal anymore.  I don’t know what normal is!  But I think I like it.

I successfully arrived back on American soil last Sunday night, after a few travel woes, but nothing too awful.  I mean, I almost didn’t make my flight from Dallas to Tulsa thanks to the insanely long customs/security process.  Not to mention the fact that I arrived in terminal D but had to be in terminal A (on the complete other side of the airport) for my flight to Tulsa, in 15 minutes.  Oh, and then the tram car I was on decided to stop working midway through our journey.  You know, no big deal.  I made the flight, after sprinting through DFW, and arrived in Tulsa only to find that my bags didn’t come with me.  You know, no big deal.  I only had to wait around for 2 more flights to come in from Dallas before I saw my bags.  Like I said, no big deal.

The first thing I saw when I got to Tulsa though, was this:

Welcome home!

It was great!  And she even had a cold Dr. Pepper and some apple cider donuts waiting for me.  My first American meal was at a Mexican place.

Since being home, I’ve noticed many things that are different from what I’m used to.  It’s just the little things, really, that I notice.  I’m afraid I might be getting annoying when I’m always saying, “Well in France…” but I think I’ll get over that soon enough.

This week has really flown by.  I’ve been in Stillwater since Monday, giving my final presentation on Tuesday.  My days have been full of seeing people and trying to be productive.  The best moment of my week was getting to Skype with my class.  It was so exciting!  They had questions for me, told me news, sang me a French Christmas song and even gave me a virtual hug.  I love technology!

I gave a presentation to a class of 2nd graders who wrote on our class blog to my class.  They were a wonderful audience, oohing and ahhing at the right moments.  I showed them a picture of the snails I ate and they went ballistic.  It was great!

Tomorrow, I graduate.  I don’t really know how I feel about this.  I think I’m okay with it, because I’ve been so far removed from college this semester, that it’s like I already graduated.  But for some reason, I’m not really extremely excited about it either.  It’s a transition, and transitions tend to be a bit uncomfortable.  I think once I have a job lined up, I’ll get a little more excited about this change, but until then comme ci, comme ça (the French for “eh.”)

As I sit here typing this, I’m looking at my graduation gown.  It makes me think about the last time I wore one of those.  I have changed so much in the course of four and a half years.  It’s just amazing.  I’m sure if you knew me in high school, and you look at me now, you’d be surprised.  Or maybe you wouldn’t.  I think we all change in college, for better or for worse.  There’s something about doing something new, and being around new people that marks you somehow.  Stepping out of your comfort zone and forcing yourself to adapt, you stretch and you grow.  This is true of my entire time in college, especially the last 3 months.

In Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) we have a motto: Life, light and legacy.  I would butcher the whole thing if I tried to write it, so I’ll leave it at that, but I’ve reached the point of my college time that is considered the legacy portion of this motto.  More than just in Cru, I want to have impacted people.  I’m not saying I want to change the world, though we know it needs it, but I want to have at least changed someone.  I hope I have been able to blaze a trail for other students who want to expand their horizons and move beyond the options set before them.  Seek out the opportunities that you’ve been dreaming about.  Don’t back down.  I need to remember this myself.  If I want to do something badly enough, it can happen.  If it’s in God’s plan, it will happen.  But don’t be scared to try something, just because you think you might fail.

So there you go.  Words of wisdom from an almost graduate.

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Au revoir mes amis, au revoir.

Just a quick update.  It is currently 6:45 am.  The weather: dark. 41 degrees. No snow.

I have a taxi coming at 8 to get me to take me to the airport.  My bags are basically all packed, with the exception of my two carry on bags.  I’m still trying to decide the best way to handle it.  I’m currently thinking computer bag with school papers (in case something gets lost, because I think I would die without these papers…) and computer of course.  My other bag is a duffle (the same one that has traveled to Berlin and Madrid with me).  It’s from IKEA and it squeaks.  I’m okay with that though.  Inside I’ve put some random things that wouldn’t fit in my luggage, as well as some candy, my I <3 Paris hoodie (i.e. new appendage) and my purse.  I’ve decided to put my most important belongings in my purse, inside my carry on, with the exception of my passport, which will be in my computer bag for easy access during loading and unloading.  I think I’ve thought this through pretty well, considering the hour at which I packed this morning.  The reason for this will be another blog post entirely, to be completed when I am safely on American soil.

Here’s a teaser though: I talked football, politics and Garth Brooks with a mixture of Americans, Brits and Frenchmen last night.  And had about 3 glasses of wine.  After my 3 glasses of champagne. Remember the whole French dinner party thing I mentioned a few weeks ago?  I forgot to watch my wine glass last night.  It just kept magically getting refilled.  And I couldn’t be rude and not drink it, right?  I’m going to sleep REALLY well on the plane today.

So, my friends, I’ll sign off for now.  I can’t believe I’m leaving.  It feels very surreal.  The next time you hear from me will be from the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave.

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