A: anxiety. where all my anxious people at? whether you’re just discovering this sometimes smothering feeling, are on meds, or it has been/is taking over parts of your life – you’re not alone. as a matter of fact, over 18% of the us population has anxiety. anxiety is something that can easy have power over you in all areas in your life. i know it did in mine until it started affecting my relationships with people – then i decided i needed to regulate myself. i had increased temper and irritability, i was extremely moody, i needed things to go my way, and i had ocd tendencies. sounds fun, right? not so much. it’s been nearly 2 years since i started taking medication and my anxiety no longer has power over me! it’s not a scary thing, it’s not embarrassing or belittling, it’s part of who we are. living in a world with high expectations, it’s no wonder anxiety is on the rise. don’t let it have power over you – squish it like a bug, you’ll thank your past self one day.

B: behold: [v.] to see or observe a thing or person, especially a remarkable or impressive one. to fix the eyes upon. all powerful and true. behold is a word that rings in the very deep part of my heart. each time i say it or hear it, it’s like hearing the wind of the holy spirit – it’s soft and mildly piercing, inviting and delicate but brave with utmost authority. next time you hear the word, digest it.

C: care. in one of my college classes our class was asked to list the 3 most important characteristics of a teacher. naturally, we came up with things like: responsible, kind, invested, knowledgeable, patient, respectful, differentiated, enthusiastic, caring, advocating, etc. we wrote them all on the board and decided as a class to narrow it down to the top 3. after that, our teacher became quite sincere and told us that the most important part about being a teacher is to care. kids learn better when they know they are cared about. when people care, good things multiply. caring is also an umbrella term – every important characteristic of teachers falls under caring. good parents care, good friends care, and it’s no different for teachers. think about your favorite teacher growing up – you probably don’t remember anything they taught you academically but you remember conversations after class, sharing good news with them, reaching out to them for advice, and caring about you. just care, friends.

D: death. are you scared to die? while talking with a friend lately, we talked about not being afraid to die because we know where we are going is without a doubt better than anything we can ever imagine – tenfold. but what is a perplexing and rather scary thought is that where we are going after death is forever. FOREVER. F O R E V E R… we are not capable of understanding forever and because its so massive and beyond our human comprehension, it scares the living daylights out of us. i’m christian and i believe in heaven and that i am saved by grace, but i’m not here to talk about life after death because it’s literally unknown to us. this is merely food for thought – death is a tough concept. what are your thoughts?

E: equality vs. equity. equality is everyone getting the same thing no matter what – just what we all want. “it’s not fair!” we hear AND say all too often. equity though, is when each individual gets what he or she needs to be successful. THIS is special education at its core!

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F: forgive but don’t forget. forgive and forget, right? not so much. always always always forgive. it doesn’t mean the other person wins, it means you win because you free yourself from their power over you. forgiveness, like knowledge, is a weapon people often look over. god forgives us unconditionally, so why do we think we have the right to not forgive others? on the flip side, forgiveness frees our hearts but it doesn’t mean we have to forget. when others hurt us, we don’t ever have to forget what happened. experience shapes who we are and forgiveness allows us to remain ourselves. don’t forget but always forgive.

G: goals. so i want to do everything. the other day in class after watching an astronaut news segment on cnn, my teacher asked our students if they would ever go to outer space. a lot of them said no because of how astronauts have to live in space, i immediately said “i do!” that seems to be a trend in my life, i want to do all things all the time. i want to go to grad school, i want to become a certified skydiver, i want to go to every state, heck – every country! i want to do everything – i have so many goals. yes, prioritized goals, but as long as i keep learning and growing, i can stride toward my goals. and so can you.

H: he who is without sin can cast the first stone. a sin is a sin, there is no scale that tells which sins are worse than others – god doesn’t rate our actions. if you would like to stone a prostitute to death, or a thief or murderer, don’t forget to consider your own sins before throwing anything… are you THAT much better than that rapist or murderer that you have the right to judge and therefore stone another person for their actions? moral of the parable: judgment is not our job.

I: “if you could have any super power?” the classic ice-breaker question. “i want to fly, be invisible, be super strong, read people’s minds or see through things” are usually the answers you hear. not me though – i want to be able to communicate in every single way with every single person in the world. i want to know sign language, chinese, arabic and every language in between. lip reading, body language, and off-the-grid language, slang, accents, braille, and eye-gaze. how cool would it be to, without any effort, walk up to someone and have no communication barriers – to be able to interpret accurately and understand fully. would there be more peace in the world? there’d be no miscommunication. i could go anywhere and create relationships with an infinite number people. imagine walking around new york city, being able to greet each person you walk past in their primary way of communication. i want that super power.

J: jo. jo is my middle name. as i wrote this, i learned that it means: to add, god is gracious, to enlarge – all pointing at the growth in family. i’m quite obsessed with my middle name, i share it with a cousin, aunt, and some friends. i love that it is simple and only 2 letters. in a bigger picture, i love knowing other people’s middle names. anytime i do ice breakers with new friends or am getting to know someone, i ask what their middle name is and where it comes from. also – the movie safe haven with julianne hough [my all time favorite celebrity] is super exciting because julianne’s fake name is katie and the ghost that is with her’s name is jo. obviously i’m obsessed.

K: knowledge is power. as cliché as it is, it’s true. [there’s a reason things are cliché] learning is the best weapon anyone could ever have. being educated about things you’re passionate about is something no one can take away form you. as a first generation college student in my family, i have thousands of dollars in debt, but what’s inside my brain is absolutely priceless and the single biggest tool i will have as an educator and person. be a life-long learner, immerse yourself into experiences that will build a foundation for meaningful conversation in the future.

L: love languages. words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. if you haven’t heard of these 5 love languages and learned which are yours, i encourage you to – you’ll learn a lot about yourself. things start making sense when you figure out how to be loved. explore your love languages!

M: mother nature. holy cats… some of my all time favorite things are in nature. i love leafless trees in the middle of winter on a clear blue-sky day. i love seeing a bird perched at the top of those trees. i love the smell of fresh cut grass and listening to a stream rush, squirrels rustle in leaves, and watching trees breathe. something that makes me stare into space in complete puzzlement is knowing that every plant and beast, earth, wind, and fire – every creation was made to worship their creator. every gust of wind, every bird’s song, every annoying cricket, buzzing bee, and drop of water is literally worshipping it’s creator by simply being what it was created to be. P.S. [E A R T H  D A Y] is saturday, april 22 and [A R B O R  D A Y] is friday, april 28. celebrate our planet all week!!!

N: no. surprise! yet another teaching inspired concept… negative feedback gets ingrained in our minds. when i’m lifeguarding – “no running!” at school – “no talking,” “don’t do that,” “stop.” these are all ways to put an end to something but we leave kids/students not knowing what it is we want them to be doing. so when i’m lifeguarding – “walk!” at school – “please be quiet,” “i’d rather you do ____,” and “at school we ____.” it’s psychological – without even knowing we are programming people’s minds around us and reinforcing behavior with our responses. it’s a way of thinking – a mindset. if you’re looking to be more positive, try eliminating negative response habits and replace them with responses that are less of a blow to people. happy yes-ing!

O: olive green. my favorite color next to brown! yes, brown is my favorite. If you’re scrunching your eyebrows, it’s fine I get it a lot. it’s such a natural color – soil, trees, wood, and a very common color for houses inside and out might I add! and olive green – forget about it. i know it’s trending right now but seriously it’s the best. get outside of your comfort zone – love colors you never thought you would!

P: photo booths. photo booths are my thang – i love the whole experience: from spotting a photo booth in a mall, to scrapping up dollar bills, cramming 2+ people in the tiny little booth, selecting a border, and remembering to look at the camera and not the screen. the best part? deciding what combination of faces to make to express the emotion shared between myself and who i’m with to capture the mood of our day. then after a stressful 12 seconds of being unrealistically photogenic and laughing at how silly a photo booth is, you channel your inner 5 year old self and stare at the drop box waiting for the photo strips to print. and when they do – you stare, point and laugh. photo booths are more than $5 pictures, it’s more than a selfie, it’s an experience. i challenge you to photo-booth [verb] the next time you see one. share the moment and keep the memory. i wish i invented photo booths – absolutely brilliant.

Q: quality vs. quantity. over time, i think we all learn that the quality of things is much more important than the quantity, to a degree… my father has always been an advocate for paying more for quality things so they last longer, they’re more reliable, etc. therefore, he’s not a fan of the family dollar. on the other hand, my mother is the queen of bargain shopping and getting the biggest bang for your buck. for example, she buys the pizzas we like whenever they’re on sale so we have about 16 pizzas on hand at all times [rockstar mom???]. i’d like to think i’m a mix of both, which would make sense because i’m their biological offspring. but – what about quality vs. quantity outside of material things? quality wins every time. 3 deep relationships will always beat 10 shallow ones. spending 2 hours of quality time with someone is worth much more than 6 hours of interrupted and surface time. quality, quality, quality [unless it’s pizza].

R: real talk [rt]. real talk is so important – don’t fear what people will think about the way you feel or your opinions, they are not you. it’s always bothered me when people say “it’s not a big deal.” um, hello… a kindergartener who lost a mitten is a big deal. a friend who is going to be late for curfew is a big deal. a broken pencil – big deal. a lost letter – big deal to a specific individual who values different things than you do. no one has a right to judge what is important in your life. a big deal to someone else may not even matter to us; but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important in the grand scheme of things. with the lack of face-to-face interaction these days, real talk in person is so critical to relationships. have valuable conversations with new people, learn something, dig deeper than the surface, and steer away form prejudging other people. having real talk with people builds trust, character, and strong relationships. surprise people by being patient, slow to anger, non-judgmental, willing, and constant – they will be surprised.

S: stories. there is something i love about listening to a story – how someone got their name, a good memory of a trip, or a war experience – the tone of someone’s voice and the way they use their hands to tell a story shows passion and purpose in what they are speaking. think about campfire stories, happy endings, and your imagination – stories are critical to growth and learning, not to mention happiness and fun. people relate through stories… a child can tell a story to a ninety year old friend and make a connection  – they may encourage others to tell their stories too!

T: timeless. time seems to have control over quite a bit in our lives and we forget about the things that are timeless… like handwritten letters, the smell of an old book, photographs [the ones you can hold on to], advice from grandma and grandpa, scrabble, calling someone on their birthday, giving back to your community, and bald eagles. A bit of advice [that I also need to be advised of], make time for what’s timeless.

U: universe. like the topic of death and forever [see letter d], the vastness of our universe absolutely blows. my. mind. like, you are one person, in one house, in one town, in one state, in one country, on one planet that belongs to one solar system within one galaxy and there are infinite galaxies. what. how small do you feel? as of late [the past few years] something i crave is to feel small in the bigness of god’s universe. i’m not going to sit here and say your problems “aren’t a big deal,” but next time something is bothering you, think about how big of a universe you live in. a universe that always existed and always will – like god: was, is, and always will be, the alpha and omega, the first and last, the beginning and end. isn’t it cool to think humans have only reached earth’s moon? wow. there is so much more to our universe and god is in every single cell.

V: violin. there’s nearly nothing else as simple as a violin that makes me instantly happy. when i see a live band and there is a violin, it’s like the world stops for a moment [or until it’s done playing]. something about a tiny string crossing a few others – like a tiny child teaching a few adults how to love in a very discouraging world – it makes a beautiful, nearly unbelievable sound. it’s soft and serene but intense and strong. in my opinion, it makes or breaks a band. and don’t even get me started on violin solos – forget about it, absolutely stunning. hands down my favorite instrument and the one i wish i could play, because hot damn.

W: who, what, when, where. who does god want me to interact with? what conversations does he want me to engage in? when does god want me to initiate? where does god want me? — these questions are ones that immediately stood out to me when I heard them from a friend in college. simple, basic questions that can literally guide your faith journey. write these down somewhere and put them in places you will see multiple times a day and see what happens.

X: xo. first off, why is xo, xo? well, in the middle ages, x meant something to be true which was encouraged by the cross of christ – “in christ’s name, it’s true, i assert.” then people would start to kiss the x in the same way they’d kiss a bible – essentially “sealing it with a kiss” thus, x signified kisses! as for o, who knows. xo is such a fun way to sign off a letter or some sort of message. subtle but meaningful. – xoxo katie

Y: you weren’t born to just pay bills & die. my dad always says “work to live, don’t live to work.” i know i know, i’m young and naive to money, but don’t wake up each day with the sole purpose to work – work to get a paycheck to pay bills to maintain your life to go back to work the next day to do it all over again. work to live – work to make that paycheck so you can do things that make you happy because paying bills makes no one happy. let your work be a part of your life rather than letting your life just be part of your work. we aren’t here to just pay bills and die – go explore, spend too much money doing something exhilarating, clock out on friday and get out of town for the weekend, go do happy. bills and grocery shopping aren’t going anywhere, and either are you if you think they hold priority over your happiness.

Z: zebra sweater. a good friend got her eyes on this silly zebra sweater when we were shopping one day. i didn’t like it – i thought it was silly and every time she wore it, i would just shake my head and smile. but the more i looked at that sweater, the more i understood why she loved it so much and how important it was that she didn’t let my opinion have power over hers. she loves that zebra sweater, and even though i think it’s silly, i love that she loves it. i love when she wears it because she feels fun and happy in it. if you ever find yourself eyeing up a zebra sweater [metaphor], don’t let anyone’s opinion decide whether you want to invest in it or not. too often we pass up opportunities to make us happy because of someone else’s opinion. so when you find a zebra sweater, buy it. love it. and wear it because it makes YOU happy.



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