packing up.

I will forever remember the day I found out I got the job in Arizona. My principal called me at 4:00pm, asking if I would accept the job. As soon as I got off the phone, Aaron and I went around to every grocery store in town, asking for boxes. By 10:00pm that night, we had all of our books and board games packed and ready to go. We were more than ready to get out of there.

Eight months later, we are packing it all up again. Yep, we’re moving!

Just a few miles away. (Did I trick you? I was trying…;)

Since Aaron and I moved into this apartment, we have been dreaming of the day when we would move to a place that didn’t have scorpions, that had hardwood floors, and had a real kitchen that wasn’t a hallway. And yesterday that day finally came! After lots of prayer, driving around neighborhoods, and searching the newspaper every weekend, we found the sweetest little home and it has everything we want (except the hardwood floors…but we’ll take the brand-spanking-new carpet).

So, this morning, we once again drove around town to all the grocery stores and begged for boxes. When we got home, we packed up our books and our board games. Once again, I realize how moving sucks. I thought maybe having an entire month to pack up would be better, but it doesn’t really help. I’m only on day one of packing and I already hate it. I don’t know how my mother did it all those times we went back and forth to Australia.

I will post pictures, but probably not for another month or so, as we don’t really move in until May.

I can’t believe the time has come for us to live in a real house. We are moving up in the world!

cashier love.

I found THE ONE. See, I shop at Walmart. I don’t know what it is about this particular Walmart, but they have the worst cashiers/baggers. I even specifically place items on the counter so that they all go together, and the cashiers still mess everything up and put the craziest items together. I just don’t get it.

Well, tonight I went grocery shopping and Aaron picked line 12 to check out. The cashier was an older woman wearing six multi-colored earrings per ear, several brooches made from plastic canvas and yarn (one in the shape of a bunny), and a striped button up wool vest. Her name tag said ‘Yulanda.’

I was really questioning Aaron’s judgement.

But there she was, trekking along, looking at all of our produce, talking about how she can’t stand to waste bags, but she doesn’t want to overfill them. We had a great chat, actually. She mentioned about how I was buying tofu, and it reminded her of this man who bought chicken feet because his daughters always complained about their mom’s cooking. And then, when she saw him again a couple weeks later, she asked him how the chicken feet went over.

She mentioned how she hated her bifocals because they make her feel old, but she figures she should have decent glasses since she finally has a decent job. She talked about her migraine. You know, just chit-chatty sort of things. I could just tell that she was a keeper. Finally, as Aaron and I were walking away, she said, “Well, you have a happy Easter if I don’t see you before then!”

And that was it. I was sold. If she is going to wish me a happy Easter and remember me the next time I come in, I will go to her line every single time. And you know, she wasn’t nosy and annoying. It was just really pleasant. I always try to be pleasant to the cashiers when I go through their line, but sometimes they are so grumpy. Not, Yulanda. She was friendly and colorful…I have a feeling we will become great friends.

goodbye 2012.

Well, folks, it’s the end of 2012. Looking back on this year, I think it was probably one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, years of my life. I graduated in January from school and felt really lame for being a waitress with a college degree. Aaron left for three months in March and it was a time in my life that I would not care to repeat. We spent a summer praying and crying and begging God to find us new jobs outside of Illinois. We celebrated our first year of marriage in Galena, IL. And then in August, we packed up and moved to Arizona and it has been an incredible adventure living here. I am a teacher, which brings it’s own set of challenges and rewards. Aaron is a social worker to severe mentally ill adults. We are both using our degrees, which brings an incredible sense of accomplishment in ourselves and provision from the Lord.

And tomorrow is a new year! Wow, I can’t even describe how excited I am for this year! In March, I will be camping in the Grand Canyon. In June, I will be flying out to Illinois to visit with my sister and mom and meet my newest niece/nephew! And I know that there will be many more adventures for me and Aaron in the coming year.

I hope and pray that your 2013 will be blessed, happy, peaceful, exciting…and lovely.

a secret.

I have something to share. It makes me ashamed, but I have to talk about it to get any closure.

All across America, there are coffee and tea stains sitting in various church sanctuaries where Aaron and I have sat. It began at the first church that we ever started attending together: College Church of the Nazarene (North Campus). We were still dating and Aaron would bring his coffee or we would get a cup at the church and hustle inside before the service started. At some point during the church service–usually in a transition time from standing up to sitting down–bam, coffee cup spilled. More than once this happened.

Next, we started attending River Valley Christian Fellowship. It very specifically says that no drinks are allowed in the sanctuary. Aaron constantly assured me that it would be alright. Well, sure enough, after a few weeks of attending I once again knocked over a coffee cup. I couldn’t stand the shame, so we moved over to the other side of the sanctuary so we wouldn’t be recognized. And yet, I still didn’t learn my lesson. Aaron brings in a cup of coffee, I somehow manage to knock it over. EVERY SINGLE TIME, it felt.

Now, after doing this maybe three times at River Valley, I finally introduced the policy that prohibited us from bringing in beverages to church. I really put my foot down. It was just getting to be too much. We were running out of sides to sit in the sanctuary! People would soon know us as The Spillers. For the rest of our time at River Valley, we had a spill-free experience. I felt really good about the new-found freedom of not bringing any drinks to church. No drinks = no chance of making more stains in our beloved sanctuary. It was really a fool proof (or should I say…spill proof?) plan.

Well, that all brings me to today. We had yet to bring any beverages to our new church, which was working out really well for us. No spills, no severe looks from our neighbors, all was fine and dandy. Until, Aaron decides that he wants to bring a to-go cup of hot tea. I forgot all about my policy and said, “Make me one too!” Everything is going really well until we get up to pray for someone in our church. We head back to our seats and I can see Aaron’s cup in the distance. I truly was so focused, chanting in my head, “Don’t knock it, don’t knock it, don’t knock it, Janel.” But it’s like my feet had a mind of their own! Boop!  I saw the cup tip over slow-motion-Matrix style. At first I thought that nothing was going to spill out because this certain lid was the type that screws on. There’s no way any tea would fall out! Oh, how wrong I was! There may as well have not even been a lid! While Aaron is whispering “Quick! Hide it!” I think I may have loudly exclaimed, “I seriously just did that!!”

Yep, as if actually spilling tea everywhere wasn’t bad enough, I made it known to the world that I had, once again, been the instigator of a stain that will live forever in the multi-colored, textured carpet of a church.

I guess I mostly feel bad because I really think people look down on you if you spill a drink in their church. They paid for that carpet! How dare I soil it with coffee, tea, or any other caffeinated beverage! And I completely agree. If I sat next to less responsible people who spilled their beverage during church, I would probably look down on them too!

As a disclaimer, Aaron wants me to inform you that he has never been the one to knock over a drink. Completely true. It has always been me. He also wants me to inform you that I have never given him my beverage after spilling his. There. That not only makes me a terrible church member, but a less-than-perfect wife. 😉

Phew, I feel slightly better. I hope that if there are any church members from those churches reading this, that they will forgive me. And I promise I will never bring a drink into church again. I have truly learned my lesson this time!

Tis the Season…

Hi friends,

I have just had the best weekend! It’s hard not to have an awesome weekend when both you and your best friend have FOUR DAYS off of work!

First, Thanksgiving. I felt really proud of myself for making a killer turkey, stuffing (from a box, ha), creamed carrots, baked sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie! We played our very most favorite game, Ticket to Ride, and longed for our family. We miss all of you.

Thursday night, we headed out to Walmart where EVERYONE and their mother came out to pre-Black Friday shop. We seriously had no idea that so many people lived in this tiny town. And we discovered the more vicious side of Safford. We saw some ladies play an intense game of tug-o-war using a Paula Dean Cookware set. I was so amazed that grown-ups acted that way, and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over our crazy society. It really puts things in perspective.

I had my eyes set on a Ninja! 

On Friday, we skipped shopping and instead drove to Phoenix for a little day trip! We headed to the Vintage Market, bought a sweet little painting for our home, meandered downtown, and then drove to Tempe to walk around the Tempe Marketplace.

A sweet park bench in downtown Phoenix

And today was one of my most very favorite days of the year! The Westerfield Christmas Extravaganza! It’s the day where Aaron and I set up our Christmas tree, watch Christmas movies, and make ornaments! It really kicks off the Christmas season and we get intensely crafty. This year, we painted porcelain ornaments. I have no pictures to share yet, but hopefully tomorrow.

Well, I hope that your weekend has been filled with thankfulness, pumpkin pie, family, friends, and sweet memories.

Janel. xx.

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.

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.

Gazelle Intensity: The Bus Blues

Tonight I realized that my sister, Chelsea, and one of my best friends, Erica, are rockstars. First off, my sister moved to Chicago when she was nineteen and mastered public transportation and impressed me with her fearlessness on the EL. I was always pretty scared when I would go visit her because everything having to do with public transportation is just foreign to me. Then, there is my friend, Erica. She has never ever owned a car, which is impressive in itself since she is a college graduate and has gone this long without car payments, car insurance, and gas prices. She, too, has recently mastered public transportation and frequently takes the bus to work.

So, the time has come for me to hop on the bandwagon and hop on the bus. Ha ha. It all started with Mr. Team Blue’s Jeep (which we lovingly call Bulldog) breaking down, leaving us with Carla (my beloved Saturn). At first, we managed okay since I had only one job and was able to drop Aaron off at work and pick him back up. No biggie, right?

Well, now I have three–yes, three–jobs and gas went up to $3.85 this week. Going along with our Gazelle Intensity, it has become so expensive to drop Aaron off thirty minutes away and drive back times two. Bleh. So, tonight I took the bus. I would really like to sound noble and cool and say that I did it of my own free will, out of sacrifice for our debt free dreams, but that would be a lie. I really didn’t want to. I have been prolonging my bus riding for a couple of months now. Months.  Knowing the whole time that we could be saving tons of money if I would just take the bus. Today just so happened to be the first day that we couldn’t possibly get both me and Aaron to work with one car.

It wasn’t so bad, really. These two men got on the bus and one of them said, “Hey, there, pretty lady,” sans friendly cowboy accent. Another creepy old man sat in front of me and pulled out his phone and started typing “Butthole itching” into a text message (yeah, I definitely learned my lesson on that one. Don’t look at other peoples texts, it’s not worth it…). And this other guy talked to the bus driver the entire time, telling stories of his lady-friends, his daughter, all the while loudly proclaiming his age every fifth sentence (which, by the way, is either 41, 52, or 97…not sure which).

All this saying, it was an adventure. And when we passed by all the gas stations screaming that gas went up 40 cents, it felt more worth it. If you are on the edge of embracing public transportation, it’s not so bad. Just keep chanting in your head “Debt free. Debt free. Debt free.” And don’t forget to take pepper spray 🙂

Fight Club: Substitute Teacher Edition

Today has been a wild, wild day. It was my very first day EVER of being a substitute teacher (after graduation, it took me forever to get my ducks in a row and I just kind of floundered around before getting the sub-train in motion. But I digress…) and it could not have gone worse.

First, as a little background, I was always the kid in high school who found out about fights a week after they happened. And then I had no clue who the kids even were. I never even saw a fight with my very own eyes before today. That is how inexperienced I am with the whole fight scene.

So, I was in a fourth grade classroom in a rough neighborhood school and I knew the kids were pretty testy. Actually, when I first walked into the office and told them who I was subbing for, they all looked at each other as if deciding who was going to tell me “the bad news.” The bad news being that I was going into the class from hell. The day started out pretty well. I took attendance, I didn’t lose my cool, I got to know their names quickly, they did their science homework quietly. But things went downhill once we got to the computer lab. To make a long story short, I had my back turned for about an eighth of a second, when I hear chairs being tossed and lots of yelling. I turn around and these two boys are on the floor choking and punching each other!

Okay, let me break down my thought process here in a numbered format, since it took about a second in real time:

1. Oh my gosh! They are really fighting!!!!
2. Is this really happening to me?
3. What do I do?
4. I can’t think of ONE thing my professors said about fights!
5. Do I… a.) break up the fight? b.) leave and go to the office for help? c.) send a student to the office while I helplessly yell at them to stop?
6. Is there any way that I could get sued for any combination of the above actions?

In the end, I yelled at some kid to go to the office while breaking up the fight. Everything happened so fast, but I do remember feeling like I’m probably trampling these kids to death (do you remember that scene in Mean Girls when all the girls in the school are fighting and Lindsay Lohan says “It was full-tilt jungle madness.And it wasn’t going away”? Well, I thought of that, too, during this whole fiasco.) Anyway, the office person came to the rescue and I was no more Mr. Nice Guy the rest of the day.

Phew! And would you believe it, I am subbing again tomorrow?! Yep, another long day ahead of me. But I am determined to do well and be the best teacher I can be. I know that somewhere in all of that craziness, God was totally there and had my back. And praise the Lord for coming home to a hot cup of tea and a loving husband after all was said and done!