Happy Half-Birthday! 22 before 23….

I have always wanted to do one of these. And I actually created one on my 22nd birthday…but I lost it. Which is actually a good thing. Because I remember not really liking the list, and not really feeling committed to it. Now that I am six months older and wiser, I am revamping my list. I realize more and more in life that goals and intentionality are so important. So, six months late, here is my list….
1. Take more pictures. 
2. Invest in new friendships.
3. Blog more consistently.
4. Have a daily devotion. 
5. Collect a few art pieces for my home.
6. Give my husband a nice gift, just because. 
7. Be a better housekeeper (I have already admitted to my hatred of washing dishes…)
8. Spend more time on activities that I enjoy (sewing, cooking, etc.), less time being a couch tater.
9. Find a simple exercise routine. Commit to it.
10. Read one book per month. And write about it. 
11. Host a party.

12. Send a book to a friend.

13. Hike the Grand Canyon.

14. Organize my kitchen.

15. Finish reading Les Miserables.

16. Create a tradition for our family-of-two

17. Figure out what to do with my hair.

18. Get a manicure

19. Get a pedicure

20. Run a 5k

21. Plan two weeks ahead in school

22. Visit Phoenix with my man

Well, I am spending my half-birthday at a literacy conference (woot woot!) Hope you have a lovely day! 

Teaching the Apache Indians


So, I think not very many people know that I happen to teach at a school where over 95% of the students are Apache Indians (to give you an idea: as I look over the cafeteria in the morning, I can literally count 14 white children). They live about 15 minutes away on the San Carlos Reservation.

I really had know clue what teaching the Apache Indians would be like, and it has been a learning process every step of the way. I heard from different friends and family that it would be awful. I would be dealing with behavior issues most of the day. That living so close to a reservation would automatically put me in a high crime area. I began searching online for peer-reviewed articles about teaching Native Americans. I was a little concerned. But I figured that if I could handle my first day of subbing in Kankakee, then I could handle these kids.

But the reality of me teaching these kids is that most of the time, I forget that they are from a completely different world and culture than I am. They truly act like every other seven and eight year old I know: they sing Taylor Swift, they have “I heart Justin Bieber” on their notebooks, and they watch Adventuretime. But every once in a while, I am reminded of their reality and the unique struggles they face.

I will always remember my first week of teaching and meeting a grandparent of one of my kids. In her unique accent she asked, “Have you ever been to Arizona before?” and I said, “Well, I visited the Grand Canyon when I was a kid.” She chuckled and replied, “So this is your first time with the Native, then.”

Yes, this is my first time being anywhere near the Native. But I am falling in love with it more and more. So, as I learn about my students and their culture, I will be sharing it with you. I think their culture deserves a space here on my blog, since so often they are forgotten amidst preconceived notions and judgements across America. I hope you grow to love them as much as I do. xo Janel.

Life Dilemmas

Tonight for dinner I was really jazzed (ha) about making homemade tomato soup. (I guess it’s not technically homemade….I basically put a couple cans of whole stewed tomatoes, garlic, onion, and olive oil in a pot, heated it up, chucked it in the blender for a few rounds, and heated it up some more).

Anyways, I was super excited because I was positive that this recipe would turn around Aaron’s opinion of tomato soup. He happens to not like it, which is just crazy to me. So, I make it and serve it and wait for Aaron’s reaction. He still wasn’t a fan… Which led us to talking about why he doesn’t like tomato soup. And here is what he said,

“I just think it tastes so much like spaghetti sauce. I mean, what’s the difference, really?”

And it was like once the thought of me sipping on spaghetti sauce got into my head, I just couldn’t shake it. All I could think of was “I’m eating a soupier version of spaghetti sauce. I could literally make spaghetti, toss it in my soup, and not know the difference.”

And now, I have all sorts of questions running through my mind: Should I have made my tomato soup less tomato-y? Should I have blended it some more and made it more watery?  Does anybody else feel this way? Do you make tomato soup? How do you make it less saucy and more soupy?

Reasons we love AZ

I remember telling a coworker in Illinois that I was applying for a job in Arizona and I was really, really hoping I would get it. And I will never forget what she said, “Well, if you don’t get the job, at least you can say that you missed out on living in a desert.” Ha.

Well, for those of you who have yet to experience life in the desert, here are some things to be jealous of:

  • This week, if finally cooled down….to 85 degrees 
  • Living here has brought the words “purple mountains majesty” to a beautiful reality
  • CACTI EVERYWHERE! Seriously, the various cacti are so beautiful and so different than the reg’lar, ho-hum tree (the above picture is of my fave: the prickly pear! Reminds me of The Jungle Book…)
  • Warm days/chilly, cozy nights
  • No clouds mean the most beautiful starry nights. We can literally look up and see the Milky Way
But don’t get too jelly! I will say that apart from the first day we moved here, it has not rained once. I know, I know, that’s what makes it a desert….xx Janel



So much has happened in the last months, I don’t even know how to re-cap it all…

The past few months have been full of hellos and goodbyes. I said goodbye to college in May when I (finally) graduated. I also said goodbye to Aaron for three months while he was training in San Antonio. 

I said hello to summer and desperate job hunting. Aaron and I literally spent ALL summer long praying and seeking for a job. It was pretty grueling. We were so sure that we were going to move to North Carolina–we even drove out there for an interview. But no matter how much we knocked, the more those doors kept closing. And closing. And closing. It would not be exaggerating to admit that I must have applied to a hundred teaching jobs. Ugh, the rejection. 

Then…an opening. And not at all where we expected…Arizona! I got a job teaching 2nd grade in a wee town in southeast Arizona. August was full of so many hellos and goodbyes. I said goodbye to my best friend, my sister and sweet nephew, a wonderful Bible study group, and a really wonderful church. 

And so, hello….to a new town, a new job, 17 crazy/beautiful kiddos, a new church, and new friends. I cherish this time with Aaron so much. We get the opportunity to explore, to rely on one another in ways we hadn’t before, to pave a path that is unique to us, to discover our independence as a couple.

Anyways, I hope the world where you are sitting is comfy, cheery, and peaceful. xo Janel.