Blogmas 2017 Day 6 (surprising my friend)

This morning I had planned to jump up and get in a hard workout first thing, but… who was I kidding? I woke up extremely sleepy and exhausted, and then I found I’d been hired for a voiceover job, so that became my first priority. The script was in both English and Spanish, so that was super fun, and I really needed the money right now. I recorded the job, applied to some freelance writing jobs, talked to a friend on the phone, and did the workout below (and died because I can’t breathe).

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Then I met my friend Cari at Home Depot for a photo shoot in the Christmas tree lot; sadly, it was closed, and we had to take subpar pictures in Walmart. But it was okay, because I also had a BIG surprise for her. More Love Letters is an organization where deserving individuals are nominated by their friends to receive encouraging letters from strangers. I nominated Cari a month or two ago because she is so good at helping others, but right now she could use some help as well. MLL selected her, and hundreds of strangers from around the world sent letters to my house during November. When I put all the letters in a box last night and weighed them, it was ten pounds. I’ve written letters to people for years through this organization, but being on the other end of things was really fun and special.

 

I spent the afternoon reviewing choreo, applying to more freelance writing jobs, playing with one of Joshua’s Christmas presents while he was gone (lol), and singing Hamilton karaoke (Eliza is pretty good for my range, apparently–sang Who Lives, Who Dies about eleven times). Then Joshua and I picked up a friend (and met his ADORABLE new puppy!!) and headed to church. We had drama rehearsal tonight, focusing on the last few scenes. A few people in particular really did not know their lines, and this thing is next week…

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feat the sound board that I’m slowly learning how to run + my messy choreography notes 

Tonight didn’t end so great. Not sure I’ve talked about this much here and not sure I will talk about it much, but last year my life fell apart, and as I worked through things there were also several other issues that came up that have been buried for years and that I am now dealing with–and not always dealing with well. However, I also found out tonight that the editor I sent the wrong draft of an important article to earlier this week received the final article and accepted it, and I’m very relieved because I put a heck ton of work into that article and was afraid one stupid mistake would cost me all of it.

Here’s what I did last year on December 6th. What did you today?

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Blogmas 2017 Day 5

Guess who stayed up until 11:30 last night and really regretted it when she woke up with tired and tingly legs this morning? Um… yeah. Started today with catching up on emails and pitching an article to a magazine; then I listened to the first part of this sermon. A few quick notes:

For God, for people, for the city, for the world… In Luke 2, the top line/primary message of the angels is–it’s all about God. And He has chosen to do something for you humans. The enemy inverts the story.

By mid-morning I was exhausted and falling asleep, but I choreographed a song for the musical, messed around with Pinterest writing prompts, and then applied to four freelance writing jobs after lunch. I started reading Gold Medal Winter again today and aww, I forgot how much I loved it.

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On Tuesdays and Thursdays at work, I come in thirty minutes before everyone else and unlock everything, lay stuff out, and get ready for the afternoon. There was an adorable new little boy who got there early and hung out with another tutor and me. Seriously, SO CUTE. Today I had the three fifth grade girls and spent time helping J with her fractions (hard for me because it’s been years, and hard for her because she doesn’t understand basic multiplication and addition concepts), and keeping all three of them on task because they’d rather be watching YouTube than doing the “evil” math website, and laughing about everything and nothing. Side note: remember the little Burmese boy yesterday who told me he spoke Asian? Today I asked his sister how many languages she speaks. She said English, Korean, Burmese, Malaysian, and Japanese, plus a little Chinese. And when I told her what her brother had said, she responded in exactly the way that any good older sister should: rolled her eyes, slapped a palm to her forehead, and burst into an uncharacteristic fit of giggles.

The rain derailed Joshua’s and my evening plans, so we had a quiet evening eating tortellini (my love language) and then he made a chocolate pie (also my love language) and I had a freakout session because appARENTLY I sent an editor the first draft–typos, notes to myself, and all–of an important article last week instead of the final draft and I just now noticed because I’m stupid like that. Ughhhh. I need to write but I’m exhausted and frustrated now so I think all that’s happening is bed.

Here’s what I did last year on December 5th. What did you do today?

Blogmas 2017 Day 4 (errands and more)

Whew, today was a busy Monday. I got up at 8:30 and emailed the people who entered the giveaway at the festival. I did voiceover work (just one audition–things are slow on Monday mornings), signed and organized 15 book orders (which felt like such an author thing to do), and ate breakfast. Then I worked out while Mom and Joshua (and Sophie) decorated for Christmas (below is the easy circuit I did if you want to try it out–click to make the image bigger). Sophie didn’t get to help for long, though.

 

I wore my custom designed shirt from Sew Vinyly Made today–don’t forget to check them out! Also, if you’re looking for something fun and meaningful to do this Christmas season, jump in on More Love Letters’s 12 Days of Christmas. I have loved this organization for years, and now I’m thrilled to get new letter requests for 12 days straight!

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Joshua and I headed out to run some errands after lunch–gas, 5 Below, Freddie’s, and the library. We eat Culver’s custard all the time, but had never tried Freddie’s, and I liked it better. Freddie’s was also decorated like a cute diner. (Freddie’s cashier: “Young man, did your mommy send you with money?” Joshua [later]: “I AM INDEPENDENT!”) Joshua was thrilled because he got to sit in the front seat for the first time ever today.

 

By the time we got home and I secretly I delivered a gift next door (see below–my FAVORITE thing, honestly! First gift is a gingerbread house kit) I had to get ready for work. 

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The nonprofit I work at three afternoons a week is a thirty-minute drive one way. Today the teacher who comes and helps run things wasn’t available, so I was the only “adult” on the premises for a while. We have only three tutors for most of the afternoon on Monday, including myself, and typically have a dozen kids; but attendance was down today, so everything worked out fine and we weren’t too swamped. I took our only kindergartner–she’s a little Hispanic girl who is saying “I want to help!”–and our fourth grade Burmese boy. He told me today that he speaks four languages–English, Asia, Japan, and Burmese. He also told me he’s half Asian and half Japanese, but mostly Burmese. Ironically, he and I worked on equivalent fractions today. It was a busy day but a pretty good one; lots of fractions, writing about bunnies, reading about bunnies, and then hanging out talking with some other tutors.

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After dinner I opened the 30 letters that came in the mail–more on that later this week. I felt surprisingly great all day but am exhausted now, so after a few Monica Church videos, a little catching up on other blogs, and a little bit of freaking out about the fact that my book is in the library I grew up in and has a CALL NUMBER, I can’t wait to go to bed.

Here’s what I did last year on December 4th. What did you today?

Blogmas 2017 Day 3 (Chattanooga concert)

Getting up and out the door in the mornings is hard for me because of my health condition, and I knew I couldn’t do it three days in a row–so this morning my family went to church and left Sophie and me under my blankets. (Sophie is my baby, if you’re super clueless. You’ll hear about her a lot this month.) We had a lovely quiet morning of dozing, reading, and catching up on my memory verses. (You’ll also hear me talk about the ScriptureTyper app a lot this month. It’s just so amazing.) This weekend did not exhaust me anywhere near as much as I thought it would–I didn’t feel much worse than usual this morning. So that’s good, I guess.

This quote has been on my mind for the past week. Read it slowly, a few times.

“One day we will dance with no restraint, and will love with no fear. For when the King returns, it will be as though our pain was but a dream, and our hope is the only reality we know.”

My family came home mid-morning and we had lunch, laughed about the tweet below (I’m convinced my dog runs that Twitter account), jammed to Pentatonix’s Up on the Housetop, did a little cleaning, and got on the road to Chattanooga to see my grandpa’s chorale concert. Today’s read: Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu.

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A few of my favorite lyrics from lesser-known carols that the chorale performed:

“The children in each different place will see the baby Jesus’ face like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace, and filled with holy light. O lay aside each earthly thing, and with thy heart as offering, come worship now the infant King, ’tis love that’s born tonight!” –Some Children See Him

“O hearken ye who long for peace, your troubled searching now may cease, for at His cradle you shall find God’s healing grace for all mankind.” –O Hearken Ye

Then we ate at the Epicurean with my grandpa–they have these amazing cheese rolls–and laughed at the texts from my friend who was dog-sitting. We were shocked that our very antisocial dog actually acted somewhat decently to my friend. 

When we got home, I worked on the giveaway I did at the festival. Now it’s 8:30 and I plan to clean up my disaster area of a room as much as possible before I fall into bed. (If you didn’t notice, cleaning was a recurrent theme throughout today… yay.)

Here’s what I did last year on December 3rd. What did you do today?

Blogmas 2017 Day 2 (Blairsville, cont.)

*The majority of photos in this post were taken by Sean Clyde. Make sure to check him out on Facebook.

Hello. It’s me, yet again underestimating how far I will push my body to get a blog post out on schedule.

 

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Where to start? I got to sleep in a little later, although certainly not enough. Just my mom and I went up the mountain today, and it definitely felt like the third or fourth day of VBS when everyone is dragging in a little later than usual.

More people were there today, but my sales were personally still way down. I made some changes because so many people had asked what I was selling, or who wrote the book, or if the author was here–but after someone asked me “Is this a book?”, I quit worrying about making sure everything was obvious. I figured there was nothing more I could do. Because, *facepalm.* A lady from our next-door dip booth gave me some much-appreciated marketing advice.

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I don’t know if I mentioned this yesterday, but these ladies were selling Tupperware near us, and they made some amazing food like grilled cheese and teriyaki salmon. On the menu today was salsa, peach dump cake, potato soup, and teriyaki chicken. SO GOOD.

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I enjoyed talking with the Neely family some more. They suggested that I give them a book and then pick out the equivalent $$ worth of merchandise from their booth, which was so nice–and then their daughter Jessica gave me another candle later just as a gift! Definitely check out their many talents by clicking here. They do everything, or so it seems, and they do it all well.

This is the lady who sat across from me and sold such beautiful quilts. Unfortunately I don’t think she has a website or Facebook page that I can link.

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Mom had a midlife crisis and discovered a new career selling dip today. Seriously, you HAVE to check out this dip. I can’t say enough about how delicious and how versatile it is. My favorites are the potato soup–I ate it as a dip with pretzels all weekend, and plan to make actual potato soup with it next week (like the Tupperware lady made today)–and the New York Cheesecake. (We plan to make cheesecake with that next week!) These dips are cheap (just $5 per bag, and FREE SHIPPING) and make a fantastic Christmas gift for anyone. Go buy some!

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These were my neighbors for the weekend (and that’s the receipt I received when I bought something from them–sure am glad to know that tax didn’t apply). We spent lots of time walking around during slow periods. One of our favorite booths was Georgia Fire Starters. This is such a neat idea; I loved learning the science behind it. A fire starter would make a great gift for the hard-to-shop-for guy in your life.

Crooked Creek is a vendor that I’ve bought soap from before. Such a sweet lady (she bought my book!), and I am a sucker for handmade soap. Mmm. I also got some homemade dog treats. (Sophie says mmm.)

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These shirts are basically the coolest thing ever. Kimberly came up with this design (left photo) on the spot for me. These T-shirts would make wonderful gifts for anyone you need to buy for; click here to visit Sew Vinyly Made’s Etsy shop.

 

Tommy Keith makes Appalachian eco baskets that are so unique and beautiful.

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I was definitely tired and headache-y today, but day 2 went much more quickly, and it was just such a fun atmosphere. I only sold one book to someone actually at the festival, and it was another vendor. But then I panicked and began texting friends/marketing online, so I’ve sold 16 total this weekend. I also had 8-10 people enter my giveaway each day. More people stopped and asked me today about my book and the shocking reading statistics I’d put on the table. It’s a really good feeling to have someone be genuinely interested in what you do. This weekend has reinforced my desire to support small businesses so that others can make money doing what they love. Yes, it’s discouraging that I still have 59 books sitting here, but I plan to get rid of them quickly in other ways. (Like… you! Leave a comment if you’d like to buy one or two or thirty-five–a discounted rate of $13 gets you a book AND a handmade calligraphy bookmark! Plus, a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you helped me get out of the red.)

The bottom line is that even though I’m exhausted and even though I’m disappointed about my lack of profits, I’m sad that tomorrow I won’t get to eat dip all day long, get advice from a business-savvy eleven-year-old, and hear lovely harp music in the background. It was a great weekend. Now I am going to bed for a LONG TIME!

Also, I had a devotional published on The Life today. Click here to read it.

Here’s what I did last year on December 2nd. What did you today?

Blogmas 2017 Day 1 (Blairsville book selling)

Surprise! I’m here after all. Today was definitely exhausting, but I managed to type up my thoughts into my phone on the way home. So here’s a quick rundown of how my first day at the Blairsville Holiday Stop & Shop went.

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First: a long, sleepy, foggy drive through the mountains. Then my mom and brother and I set up my table and waited for people to begin arriving. The event was technically from 11-7, but we arrived at 9.

I really enjoyed meeting all the different vendors. The lady across from me had homemade quilts (she made eight THIS WEEK), another lady was making amazing grilled cheeses and salmon and passing them out all day, and the lady to my left was selling all kinds of amazing dip (like cheesecake dip with vanilla wafers to go in it). This was an especially good booth to be next to because of the free samples all day. I enjoyed talking with the Neely family; they have ten kids, sell all kinds of neat products, and played lovely harp and violin music for us all day long. They are so kind and so talented–go check out them out! On my right were two younger girls with a small booth, and we spent a lot of time together throughout the day.

I tried so many different tactics and nothing worked; for every one person who stopped and acted interested and maybe entered the giveaway I’m running for a Starbucks gift card, ten to twenty more walked by and didn’t do a thing. I thought the point of my booth was evident, but people kept asking what I was selling or if I was Hailey or who wrote the book. So I plan to implement a few changes tomorrow. I didn’t sell any books or even any bookmarks today. That means tomorrow I really need to ramp it up, because I have invested a LOT of money in this festival. 

Summary of Friday: It was really slow all day today and I sold nothing, which makes me a little worried. But, I enjoyed meeting lots of nice people–and although I definitely felt sick and exhausted, I didn’t feel quite as bad as I had thought I might. Tomorrow morning it will probably hit me.

So that’s what I did today. If you’re local, come by the Blairsville Civic Center tomorrow anytime from 11-7 and join in the fun!

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Here’s what I did last year on December 1st. What did you do today?

Blogmas 2017: Overview

In case you weren’t around last year when I did Blogmas, I just wanted to pop in and explain how things are going to work in December. Last year was my first time to do Blogmas, and honestly, I’ve been waiting impatiently this entire year because I was so excited to do it again! Basically, each evening in December, I’ll be posting a rundown of what I did that day. You’ll get an inside look into the life of a freelance writer; you’ll hear lots of cute kid quotes from both my job at the nonprofit and our church Christmas musical; and you’ll get to come along on all the fun adventures that my friends and I are planning. Excited yet? I sure am!

For the first couple of days this year, I’ll probably be MIA–I’m going to be at the Blairsville Holiday Stop & Shop from dawn until dusk (or at least, it feels that way) December 1st and 2nd selling my book (and some bookmarks, and running a giveaway–free stuff!). If you’re in the area, you definitely need to stop by–it’s at the Blairsville Civic Center from 11-7 both days, there will be lots of wonderful vendors plus a Santa on Friday evening, and I bought 75 copies of my book that I really need to sell. *nervous laughter* Click on the hyperlink above to visit the Facebook page and find more details. If you’re looking for something to do while I’m gone, check out last year’s Blogmas (start here). You can also buy my book online by clicking here. Wish me luck at the festival and stay tuned for Blogmas–I’ll be back on Sunday the 3rd, and then things will be consistent around here for the rest of the month!

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What are you most looking forward to about the Christmas season?

November: Month in Review

The month started with a little bit (okay, well, a lot) of backsliding because the enemy knows I am free. I will cling to my freedom and not give in.

Beyond that, there was so much crazy exciting fun stuff this month. How did I cram it all in? I don’t even know. We had lots of drama practices, and I worked at my nonprofit only seven days because of Thanksgiving and because of my crazy life. I went to writing group; babysat three of my favorite littles at the park; and had a weekend alone with Joshua and Sophie that involved movies, Heath bar pan cookies, arts and crafts Christmas festivals, and eating out with friends after church. I helped my friend Brooke N with a fun project for her film class. My wonderful friend Emma came to stay for two nights, and Hannah came to stay for one night; we went to Brasstown Bald, played cards, ate cake, and went to church. I am so so thankful for them–Emma and Hannah are fantastic friends!!! We went to our old co-op’s cotillion. I planned Friendsgiving for half a dozen of my brother’s and my friends. We went to breakfast with friends we haven’t seen in a while, and then went on a family bike trip. I took three younger girls from church out for a day of pizza, feeding the ducks, and Dairy Queen. My friend Anna turned 17 and a few of us surprised her at Provino’s. I had a photoshoot with my friend Laura. My family went to TN for two days for Thanksgiving. My dad and I went to hear my cousin play (check out his CD) and visited with my aunt. All of this plus normal everyday stuff like haircuts, oil changes, and working in nursery made for a very full month.

 

 

 

This month I’m…

Reading: Under a Painted Sky, Stacey Lee (reread). Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling (reread). The War I Finally Won, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling (reread). Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, Chip Gaines. Outcasts United, Warren St. John (reread). The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing, Zachary Petit. Courage to Soar, Simone Biles (reread). A Dream So Big, Steve Peifer (reread). 10 total.

Watching: Nim’s Island. Mary Poppins. The Voyage on the Dawn Treader. Ben Fankhauser on the Tyler Mount vlog, Kara Lindsay on Live at Five, old interviews of my favorite gymnasts, and other randoms. Describing Car Problems to the Mechanic Like by John Crist (my mom told me to tell the mechanic that my brakes sound like liquid bubbling in a mad scientist’s laboratory–“actually, no, tell them that it sounds like voices. Voices coming from your brakes”–and this was all I could think of). Julia Robertson’s 2016 Vlogmas. 

Listening to: Death was Arrested, North Point InsideOut. Daydream, Jillian Edwards. L’Chaim, Fiddler on the Roof. And a ton of Hamilton: Dear Theodosia. One Last Time. Take A Break. It’s Quiet Uptown. Wait For It.

Writing: My writing career really exploded this month–which was great, except I have low energy and many other commitments. The last two weeks of November were incredibly stressful as I was completely slammed with writing. I submitted fiction to 11 magazines/contests, one of which required writing something new; pitched article ideas to seven individual magazines; and applied to 21 freelance jobs. I wrote a ten-page fitness ebook for a client, and got to interview one of my favorite athletes (Morgan Hurd) to write a piece about homeschooling and sports that was due 24 hours post-interview (I love Morgan and am so excited that she will forever be my first official interview!). I was published several places: Dare to Hope; Next Generation Focus: Power to Dream; Candy Cane Christmas; and 4 tried and true tips for enjoying the season (co-written). Also, the organization that published my book is sponsoring a bestseller contest–read more here–and if you buy my book, you can get a great Christmas gift, help me win cool prizes, and donate to the illiteracy crisis!

Loving: Kate A., Modern Witnesses. Change by Olivia (summer of 1999). Getting Outside of Ourselves, Revised by Grace (Tizzie’s Tidbits). la reyna by Addy (down by the willows).

I blogged three times this month: Story Shares Bestseller Contest: How YOU Can Help!, Lessons Learned in Three Months of Tutoring Kids at a Nonprofit, and November: Goodness (Fruit of the Spirit project, Month #6)

Grateful for: Amazing fall leaves, finally. The Scripture Typer app that a friend recommended to me–I’ve learned so many Bible passages this month. The chance to dance Marie’s Wedding again (fave swing dance ever) and to do it with my two “brothers”–I was grinning ear to ear. A stranger made me a paper flower. Getting a TON of letters (like, 25 each day–more on this later) and opening them every night. Eating the most amazing meal at Ruby Tuesday on Thanksgiving night after a long, hungry day.

 

What fun things did you do in November? Stay tuned, because tomorrow Blogmas 2017 will begin!! 

November: Goodness (Fruit of the Spirit project, Month #6)

I’ll be honest: I didn’t really understand this one, and I wasn’t all too eager to study it. I was too busy reading Isaiah, playing with my new Scripture memory app (ScriptureTyper–it’s fantastic), and rereading Daring to Hope this month. But I finally made myself sit down and figure this out, and I have a few thoughts to share.

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God wants the whole earth to be full of His goodness–of His truth, His righteousness, and His light. What God calls good does not change. Goodness means integrity, in some ways; it means choosing good over evil. In this case–as a fruit of the Spirit–goodness also means generously doing good to others. King Hezekiah was described as having goodness; 2 Chronicles 29 tells us that he was twenty-five when he began to rule, and that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (v 2). Chapter 31 continues on to say that “Hezekiah did… what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple… he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” (v 20-21) King Josiah is notable as well. Also young, he too “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 34:2).

There’s a Greek word, agathosune, that means “uprightness of heart and life, and goodness for the benefit of others.” When you show love to someone in a tangible way, that is an expression of goodness. This is something that we can’t do by ourselves–James 1:17 reminds us that every good gift comes from above. We don’t do it for ourselves, either (see Matthew 5:16–our good deeds are meant to glorify our Father).

What did you learn during the month of goodness? Next up is December: gentleness. (I’m a little too relieved that December is NOT self-control. Can you say pie? Peppermint bark? Christmas cookies?)

Lessons Learned in Three Months of Tutoring Kids at a Nonprofit

Three afternoons a week, I tutor kids at a local nonprofit. I do other small jobs for this nonprofit, too–mainly advertising type stuff–and it’s been really great to see the inside workings of everything, because one day soon I’d love to start a nonprofit that provides underprivileged kids with the opportunity to play softball at a low cost and hear about Jesus. I’ve learned a lot from working at this nonprofit, and today I’m here to share some of the things I’ve learned. I’ll spare you the boring details of grant writing and jump right into the cute kid stuff instead. For more information about the nonprofit, here’s an article that I recently wrote for a local publication–Next Generation Focus: Power to Dream.

Hispanic kids living in Georgia think that less than zero white people are capable of speaking Spanish.

I’ve read forms from school, spoken to parents, and clarified myself in Spanish, and every time it’s been a genuine pray-to-Jesus miracle. Third-grade A: “How did you know what my mom said?!” Fifth-grade L: “You want to read my handout? But–it’s in Spanish.” Our resident 6th grader, I, pulled off her headphones one day and exclaimed, “That was really good Spanish. Who said that?” Upon learning it was me, her mouth fell open, and she even went so far as to ask where I was born. Where does it look like I was born? Maybe my favorite was fourth-grade J: “What does ‘caution’ mean?” I told him it means “be careful,” and he stared at me blankly; I said “cuidado,” and his face LIT up. “You speak Spanish?! I speak Spanish at home, but at school, no one understands me!” It made him so happy that I spoke to him only in Spanish, whenever possible, for the rest of the day. He beamed every time.

Choose your words carefully.

“Hurry and pack up, your mom is about to be here,” I said without thinking. One little third-grader crossed her arms and said witheringly, “I live with my grandma. One parent is dead and I’m not going to see my other parent again because they’re in prison.” That was a mistake I only made once.

Maybe it feels like you’re not getting through to the hard kids. But you are.

The same little girl who schooled me on my assumption regarding her parents is cute and funny and smart, but one of the harder kids to handle. She moans and groans her way through homework and has a stubborn streak that regularly displays itself. But one day, as we wrote sentences on the whiteboard with intentional mistakes for the other person to fix, she wrote, “Ms. Hailey is soo nice and sweet.” In return, I wrote, “J is going to do big things in life.” Because I know she is.

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Alexander Graham Bell was homeschooled.

I found out this nugget of information while helping fifth-grade L research a school project. However, I didn’t announce it aloud, because that would’ve triggered yet another endlessly long conversation about what homeschooling was and how it worked and why wasn’t I in college again?

Remember all the little things.

“Guess what I was for Halloween,” said one little girl on a rainy November day. I gave her a funny look. “You were an angel. You told me on Tuesday.”

“Oh,” she said. “Yeah. I thought you would forget.”

Hidden talents abound.

One fifth-grader is reticent in person. She’s Malaysian, somber, and serious–I couldn’t tell you what her smile looks like. But her writing is brilliant. WOW. Her personality really shines through, and it’s vivacious and wonderful and hilarious! When I told her one day to write about her most embarrassing moment, she scrunched up her nose slightly and said, “Have to?” I said yes, and she grunted and set to work. So when I opened her journal later, I wasn’t expecting to see her personality leap off the page so vividly: “My tutor told me to tell my most embarrassing moment… I ain’t telling her! None of her business! Instead, I’ll tell you something embarrassing that happened to my cousin.” She always provides commentary on the journal prompt she’s been given; one day she was finishing up her entry from the previous day, and I wrote the date in the middle of her paper. Later I found an arrow pointing to the words, “That is NOT part of the story. I don’t know who wrote that without my permission.” She cracks me up.

I remember having the conversation below, but I had no idea it was being documented. Don’t forge to check out the cartoon at the bottom. “Others tell me to get in shape. A circle is a shape!” E is also a great artist who enjoys drawing unflattering pictures of her male classmates.

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All kids are the same at heart.

One kid, J, is exactly the same as the kid I nannied for two years. Their personalities, mannerisms, the way they try to charm me into forgetting their homework, their loud exuberant laughs–all completely the same. The only difference is that J has a Spanish accent.

How to head off the key distractions.

Light switches. Going to the bathroom. Using the whiteboard. Going to get a drink of water. YouTube. Going to tell the boys in the next room to be quiet. Going to get headphones/pencils/paper/a computer charger/a different computer. Anything and everything is a distraction when you’re eight years old and being told to do extra math practice, but a few things crop up literally every single day, and by this time I can spot them from a mile away.

Kids are beautifully resilient.

I asked P to tell the story of his life as his journal prompt one day, and at first he flat-out refused. But finally the floodgates opened, and I was amazed. “My birthday is February 3rd, 2007. I was born in Burma and it was snowing. I had lots of friends there and we would have snowball fights. One time when I was three, I slipped because the world was icy.” His little accent was so thick that I could barely understand some words. “When I was six we moved here. We came here on an airplane, and it took like ten years to get to the USA. Life was normal until I had a baby sister. Then I had another baby sister.” Dramatic eye roll. “Then we moved to the house we live in now.” He paused, thinking back over his ten years of life. I prompted, “Do you miss your friends in Burma?”

“Yes. My old friends had the same language as me—I don’t know how to say their names in English.” P’s face grew downcast. But then he gave me his signature squinty-eyed smile and said, grinning from under the chair where he’d barricaded himself against the dreaded journal writing, “But I made new friends here.”

I think about P’s story often. Displaced from his home, dragged to a new country, still learning English–he’s doing the best he can.

I’m on the right track.

In summer 2015, three things happened–a friend of mine committed suicide, I had surgery for a torn ligament, and I coached softball since I couldn’t play. Those three events planted in me an important dream to found a nonprofit where kids could play softball/baseball and hear about Jesus. That dream faded a little with everything that’s happened in my life during the past year, but working at NGF has brought this vision back 100%. I think about it all the time now; I’m dying to begin. My dream is to create a place where any child–regardless of how much money they have, how much talent they have, whether they speak English, whatever–can play softball. I especially want to give underprivileged kids equal opportunities as the kids whose families can afford prestigious travel teams, because during my years playing rec and travel ball I noticed a huge disparity. I’d also love to help the kids in my program in school–similar to my local Cowboy Church’s homeschool, or to the Fugee Family’s accredited school for refugees. Next spring I will coach softball for the first time since fall 2015, and next fall I plan to begin work on my associate’s degree in something like exercise science or sports management. Then I can focus full-time on my dreams: namely, writing and this softball ministry. I am so so SO excited to see where they go.

Have you ever worked in a similar environment? What’s your favorite of the lessons I’ve learned? What dreams light up your eyes and heart?