Well. Here we are in 2019.

Remember when 2018 started like two weeks ago? Oh. That was a year ago? Well, shoot. That was quick. Anyway, here we are in 2019, so let’s talk about how 2018 went.

Originally I tried to write about the year chronologically, but writing about St. Regis got too sad. I have decided to split up my reflection of this year into the following categories of my life: Career/Employment, Transient Lifestyles, Stella, Family, and Other Neat Events. Please enjoy the following highlights.

Career/Employment

In February, I officially decided not to renew my contract in St. Regis for the 2018-2019 school year. This was actually the hardest decision I have ever had to make, and I have cried about it approximately forty-two billion times, including today. This began my second year in a row of writing ALL the cover letters, filling out ALL the applications, and not getting offered a contract for Fall 2018.

After leaving St. Regis in June, at some point along I-94 in Eastern Montana, I decided that I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. I spent the entire summer in Minnesota working for the YMCA (which was THE WORST) and having a quarter life crisis about what the hell I was even doing with my life.

I ended up being called back to the classroom, returning to my role as a para in the Life Skills program at Chief Joseph as well as my stint as a 6th-grade teacher. Turns out, 6th-graders are so cute and nice.

In 2019, I will start (and hopefully finish) my Masters for Special Education.

Transient Lifestyles

In 2018, I moved from Montana to Minnesota and then from Minnesota back to Montana. There was a brief period of time when I was homeless. Thankfully that only lasted like a week. I am probably going to have to move in 2019, but let’s hope is across town and not across the state or across the country.

Stella

I’m still obsessed with my dog. Stella Sky turned one this year and is still the best adventure partner in the history of earth.  She’s still the cutest dog in the world, and she’s still nuts.

Family

I became a sister-in-law twice this year, when both of my siblings got married. (Welcome to the fam Kary and Brobeans) Those weddings were some g timez. Also, I became an aunt/godmother this year. (Welcome to Earth and The Kingdom, Youngblood)

 Other Neat Events

On the second leg of my journey to Minnesota for summer I was very sick the whole day. I stopped at a park in Glendive to let Stella run around for a little bit after two full days in the truck. About 15 minutes into this walk, I puked very loudly into some grass. People saw. Have you ever thought you were going to die in the parking lot of a Flying J in Beach, North Dakota? I have.

The one good thing about working for the YMCA in summer was that I got a free gym membership. There was literally no excuse not to go to the gym because I was already there for work. Because of this, I was able to get back into my routine of lifting four or five days a week. I can proudly say that I am currently the strongest I have ever been, and my mental health has improved significantly as well.

In August on my way home from spending summer in Minnesota, Randolff (my truck’s name is Randolff) decided he needed a new water pump about eighty miles east of Billings. Stella and I got stuck in Billings on a Sunday night and missed the first day of school.

The next trip I took was a quick weekend adventure to Milwaukee for my friend Rico’s wedding. Super fun time for many reasons. Milwaukee is neat. On the way home from that, my flight from Minneapolis to Bozeman got canceled and I got to spend an extra night at my parents’ house. Hey, if you’re going to be stranded somewhere, it’s good to be stranded at home.

Goals for 2019

  • Add the Special Education certification to my teaching license
  • Conquer my fear of the dentist
  • Continue to work hard on my fitness goals
  • Continue to work on my mental health goals
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Adventures in Traveling with Stella Sky.

Today on another episode of Anna and Stella’s Transient Life, we see Anna’s biggest fears realized when Randolff overheats on the Interstate. Buckle your seatbelt, we’re in for a bumpy ride. Here’s the story told from Stella’s perspective.

HI!!!! My name is Stella Sky, and I am by far the BEST adventure dog in the history of Earth, just ask my mama. She’ll tell you how cute and good and nice I am. Today, Mom asked me to tell you a story. Typing is one of my many talents. I swear I’m doing this all myself.

We spent the warm, sunny days in this place called Minnesota (Minnesnowta?). It was pretty neat, but there were no mountains. BUT I got to hang out with my BFFs Maiziee and Roobiee. Roobiee’s name might also be Ranger or Riley, no one is really sure. ALSO I got to see my aunt WahhnieeLee and hang out with my grandpawrents.

ANYWAY. Yesterday Mom got real sad and told me to “get in” the truck. I don’t know why she was so sad. How could anyone be sad when they get to “get in” the TRUCK? Especially since she told me we get to go home to MOUNTAINS. I’m a mountain pup, so I’m real big on mountains.

I snuggled Mom while she sat in the truck and we magically moved down the road. Then we got out and went to a magical building with lots of smells and we slept in a giant comfy bed.

When it was light out, we got back in the truck. I wasn’t too excited about getting back in because we had to be in there for a LONG time yesterday, and I was getting sick of it. Mom made me get back in, but she fed me breakfast which was DELISH. I heard a rumor we were gonna get to Bozeman and see Aunt Sadie.

Mom sat in the truck and we magically moved down the road again. I did my job of making sure I took as much room as possible. Then the magic moving down the road stopped, and Mama was scared. I don’t know anything about trucks, but I heard something about it overheating. I knew I had to be brave for her because she was scared.

THEN I had to be REALLY brave when a strange man approached our truck. Mama told me it was okay though and that it was just a state trooper here to help us. He was super nice and wanted to pet me. He stayed with us on the side of the road for a while. When Mama finally got a hold of someone to tow our truck, she said she had to go to the bathroom. I don’t know why she couldn’t just go in the grass like I did, but humans are weird.

Next thing I know Mom puts my leash on and tells me to get out of the truck. THEN she tells me to get in the car with the state trooper. THIS WAS MY TIME TO SHINE!! I WAS GOING TO GET TO BE A POLICE DOG!! I thought of all the places we might be going. To rescue someone lost in the forest? To check for drugs? TO CHECK LUGGAGE AT THE AIRPORT?! Except I realized I don’t know how to do any of those things. I know how to sit and high five, though, so I’m super smart. I just had to pretend I was a police dog. Pretending is probably just as fun as the real thing.

We just went to a gas station and waited while Mom went inside to go bathroom. Again, why can’t humans just go in the grass? Such weirdos.

When we got back to our truck, I waited in the police car while they loaded our truck onto this other truck that was REALLY loud. Mom lifted me up and made me get in that super loud truck. We rode in there for a while with another man that was super nice and even had toys for me!

Here we are in this strange town calling Billings (Bilwings?). No sign of Aunt Sadie. Mom says we’ll get to Bozeman tomorrow.

After this whole day of adventures, I am glad that those nice people helped my mom and wanted to pet me. At the end of the day, I have my mama and my chewies, and that’s all I need.

Far Too Tired To Fall Asleep.

Remember the time in 2013 when I didn’t sleep for 3 weeks? Or the time in October 2017 when I didn’t sleep for a week, this happened, and then I woke up to April and Shaun doing a welfare check on me at 9am after not showing up for school? G timez.

Insomnia. It’s a war I’ve been fighting for as long as I can remember. It’s another tactic that The Monster uses to try to ruin my life.

I have figured out that if I stick to a strict sleep schedule of going to bed no later than 10:30 and sleeping in no later than 8, I can control it pretty well. Naps during the day? Out of the question. Caffeine after 4pm? No thank you. If I stray off of that schedule, it takes me a while to get back into it.

It works in a vicious cycle with anxiety. When my anxiety gets high, it keeps me up at night. At a time in my life where I’m not sure what I want to be or where I want to be, my anxiety is a little higher than usual. When I stay up a night, it fuels the anxiety, and I get anxious about going to bed for fear that I will be up all night again.

It inhibits my ability to concentrate. It makes it hard to do my job.

I have tried every trick in the book when it comes to sleeping better.

  • White noise: can’t stand the sound
  • Melatonin: one pill was not enough, two pills put me in a weird state between being asleep and being awake.
  • Mirtazapine: turned me into a zombie and made me suicidal
  • Trazodone: turned me into a zombie
  • Zanaflex: made me have terrible nightmares
  • Ativan: zero affect
  • Ambien: made me sign up for professional development conferences in my sleep.
  • Meditation guides: work like 30% of the time if I catch the insomnia monster in the first 45 minutes of going to bed

Also, the medication wasn’t super helpful at 2am when I realized I needed help going to sleep. Taking that stuff put me out for at least 9 hours. Because my insomnia is so unpredictable, managing it with medication isn’t a good strategy.

I have journals full of insomnia entires. I have coloring books full of insomnia art. I have played many a levels of Cupcake Mania and completed my fair share of logic puzzles while trying to will my brain to shut up and go to sleep.

In the last two nights I have slept for a total of 4 hours. As I write this, my brain and my body are exhausted. Let’s hope I’m not too tired to fall asleep.

Wherever You Might Call Me.

My junior year of college, I had to take a class called Exceptional Learners. It briefly covered both special education and gifted education. Our teacher, Mr. Ron, changed my entire life and view of what I wanted my career to look like.

I decided I didn’t want to make a career out of teaching. Of course, I had to finish my elementary degree because it was too late to switch to something else. I thought about pursuing an LCPC certification after getting my bachelors. I graduated in December of 2016 and signed a contract to teach fourth grade in St. Regis for the 2017-2018 school year.

After making the gut wrenching decision to not renew my contract in St. Regis, I applied for probably 100 teaching jobs, got two interviews, two “sorry you don’t have enough experience” calls, and a “sorry we chose another candidate” letter addressed to Ms. Briggs. Needless to say, I do not currently have a contract for the 2018-2019 school year.

My plan B was to move back to Bozeman, go back to making coffee and being a Life Skills Para, and try to bust out my Masters in Special Ed in a year.

Right before I left, my good friend, April, said, “Have you ever considered not going down the teaching path? It seems like God is closing doors for you right now, so it’s something to consider.” This hit me like a ton of bricks.

Then I began the 18-hour drive from Regis to Chanhassen with only Stella to talk to. While Stella is my favorite adventure partner on Earth, she’s not much for conversation. I had a lot of time to think.

I am 100% sure that my calling in this world is to, “be cool and save children.” Now I just have to figure out what that looks like in terms of a career path.

I reflected on this year of teaching. While I fell in love with my kids and watching them learn and grow, I struggled with getting excited about actually teaching.

I was reminded of my thoughts in 2015 when I decided maybe teaching wasn’t for me.

I’m not teaching next year, and it is possible that I will never return to the classroom as a teacher.

I’m praying hard for the discernment to go wherever God calls me. It’s a little scary not knowing where that is. Is this my quarter life crisis?

Go in peace. This mission you are on is under the eye of the Lord.

Pyromania (Except without the Fire).

It’s just regular mania. But I have the Pyromania song stuck in my head. Thanks Cascada.

Anyway, hey friends. Here we are today on the journey of mania. (I made that bold so you’d maybe read it in a deep, ominous voice).

In the last few weeks, I have seen the many sides of mania as I continue to battle my way through the world of bipolar disorder.

Fortunately for me, I only experience hypomania. Unfortunately for me, it still interferes with my life significantly.

Here’s how it goes:

Leading up to mania: 3-5 days of crippling depression

And then……. (AND NO AND THEN)

1-2 days of being so cranky and irritable and angry crying about everything.

7-10 days of feeling like a normal human

3-4 days of crippling anxiety and paranoia about people breaking into my house

We are currently in the mood swings phase. Minor frustrations send me out of control. I find myself running around my house at night because I have too much extra energy. Things that are not that funny send me into uncontrollable fits of laughter.

I find it incredibly hard to get out of bed in the morning, but I haven’t slept a full night in weeks. Given the opportunity, I stay in bed, in and out of naps, for most of the day.

As I engage in the war against this disease daily, I am grateful for my support system of friends and family who are always there for me. I am grateful that I have a job where I am allotted sick days to take when I need them. I am grateful for medication that does its best to help me function.

I have a monster inside of my brain and it is doing its damnedest to kill me. Well, Monster, I have bad news for you, sir. I am bigger than this. I am better than this. I am stronger than this. The war has already been won. Spoiler alert: the winner is me. (Also, Jesus. Jesus won the war for me.)

P.s. Someone PLEASE catch my Dude Where’s My Car? reference.

2018.

Yes, my last post was also a reflection on the previous year. Here’s another one.

2017 began in Skokie, Illinois watching Friends. I remember wanting to hold on to 2016 as long as I could because I was terrified of what 2017 was going to bring me. The clock struck midnight, and I immediately started crying. As always, my mom was on the phone to tell me that it was going to be alright. This was going to be an exciting year full of fulfilling dreams. As usual, she was right.

Highlights of 2017 included:

February: Getting my first real job out of college, buying a truck

April: Receiving my teaching license

June: Accepting my first teaching job in St. Regis

July-August: Packing up all my stuff in the most painfully drawn-out moving process in history, signing a lease in Reegie and becoming a dog parent to my baby Stella Sky

September: Starting my career adventure with my nine students.

In this trip around the sun, I achieved so many of my life goals. I am incredibly grateful for and in awe of what God did for me this year.

I literally jumped into 2018 in Menomonie, Wisconsin, saying goodbye and thank you to 2017.

Highlights of 2018 will include but are not limited to:

  • Taking the GRE
  • Applying and getting into grad school
  • Enrolling at MSU-B and beginning my journey towards a Masters Degree in Special Education
  • Standing next to my sister as she marries a pretty G dude.
  • Helping my best friend plan her wedding to another pretty G dude.

I was abundantly blessed in 2017, and I am hopefully awaiting to see what God has for me in 2018.

Go in peace. The mission you are on is under the eye of the Lord. Judges 18:6

One Year Later

On December 17th, 2016 I sat in a chair on the floor of the Brick Breeden Field House and held hands with my best friend. We got our 12 seconds of glory as they announced our names, we walked across the stage and were the only two people to high five when we got to the other side. All of our hard work paid off; we received college degrees. We were officially teachers.

Man. That year went by so quickly and was filled with surprises and changes. The morning after graduation, I rode with my family 1,000 miles back to Minnesota. I spent the next three weeks freaking out about what my next chapter held. My plan was to go back to Bozeman and spend the rest of the school year subbing, working at City Brew, and trying to find a job for Fall 2017. Most of my anxiety was caused by not knowing if I would have a job in the fall.

I could never have imagined what God had in store for me. After less than a month of subbing, I was hired as a para in the Life Skills program at CJ. I had very little experience with Life Skills students, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

During my three months on the Life Skills team, I learned more about teaching, learning, and myself than I did in four and half years of college. I confirmed my passion for special education and learned that I have a heart for Life Skills kids.

In the midst of working at this challenging job, I scoured the Montana OPI job postings for open teaching positions around the state. I filled out applications, wrote cover letters, and perfected my resume countless times. I switched back and forth between being willing to go anywhere and refusing to leave the Gallatin Valley. I accidentally applied to teach at a Hutterite Colony and had to turn down their offer. I interviewed for a teaching position at CJ. I thought it was a done deal. I had it in the bag. I was wrong.

In April, I attended the Teacher Career Fair at MSU. I did not want to be there, and I forced myself to go. I told myself I had to talk to three people and then I could leave. I ended up staying for a while and talking to a lot of people. As the fair was ending, I finished talking to the guy from Lewistown and turned to leave. At this point, I accidentally made eye contact with a younger teacher, who introduced himself as Tim and told me he was from St. Regis. I knew where St. Regis was, and I was not interested in going there. This guy was talking to me and I did not care at all what he had to say, but it would have been rude to walk away. I politely nodded while not listening to anything he was explaining to me about Summit Learning and Socratic seminars. Feeling pressured, I wrote down my contact information on a sheet of paper and ran away.

A while later, on the way back to my truck, I realized that I was walking behind Tim and a man I assumed to be the St. Regis principal. After listening to their conversation, I figured out that they were talking about me. Keeping a safe distance, I walked behind them into the parking garage. As the men entered the stairs for the garage, the principal turned to hold the door for me. “Oh! We were just talking about you,” Tim said. He introduced me to Mr. Ball, the principal. Right there in the parking garage, we set up an interview for their open 4th-grade position.

Needless to say, they hired me after a Skype and a face-to-face interview. I was officially a Tiger. I don’t know if I was more excited about having a job or the fact that I could get a dog.

At the end of the summer, I moved 300 miles west to the bustling metropolis of St. Regis, Montana. I bought my precious Stella Sky, and we settled into our house.

We are almost halfway through the year, and I could not have asked for a better experience as a first-year teacher. I hang out with the eight best fourth-graders in the entire world all day. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They challenge me. Although I have mixed emotions about living in the town of St. Regis, this is a year I will treasure forever.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have had in the first year of my career, and I can’t wait to see what else God has planned for my future.