nothing quite like it

Brent and I have been home now for about a week and a half. We will have to head back to Louisville this weekend, but are trying not to think about that!

There really is nothing quite like being at home. Being surrounded by things you know and people who know you... there is truly something medicinal about it all. Yesterday Brent and I were driving into St. Joe, a drive that we have probably driven about 500 + times in our lives (or so it seems...) and yet yesterday I was just soaking it in. I had this moment, watching the hills and pastures roll by, and Brent wasn't saying anything and more surprisingly I wasn't saying anything-- we were both just totally THERE. Living in the city now I feel like that awareness side of me, the side that notices the new calves and the hawks on fenceposts (or "statue birds" like I used to call them) is gone. But when I returned to my "roots" I was relieved to find out that it was still there.

Brent and I also had an interesting conversation shortly after these thoughts ran through my head on our drive. Brent simply said, "It's amazing that our brain can still remember how to get everywhere back home." It is something I hadn't taken the time to stop and think about, but it's heartwarming to realize that we don't just push old memories out of the way and replace them with our new directions, and locations, and numbers, and addresses etc. We retain them. This relieved me as I thought of this simple truth regarding directions, because I realized this was the bigger truth I was realizing while being home. Since this is the first big trip home that we have taken, we were both maybe slightly apprehensive that what we once felt when we were home wouldn't stick...yet, just like directions to st. joe, it is a part of us, and just as easily we are able to resume our position in our homes.

We have been able to relax a lot, but we have also done our share fair of "bouncing" as I like to call it. Since our families live about 20/25 minutes away from each other, we just bounce back and forth. It is nice that our families are close and that we don't have to decide one place to spend the holidays, but sometimes it feels like we're shortchanging everybody! Christmas day was a good example: Christmas morning was spent at my house, then by 2 we were at my dad's parents with his side of the family and by 5 we were at Brent's house with his family! Whew. That doesn't take into account all the other Christmases we have had while being home...but it sure is great to see everyone. I even got a big surprise when Aunt Linda and Uncle Alan pulled into our driveway on Saturday!! Everyone had kept it a secret from me and it was SO good to hug A.L. again...I think I want to have her on my birthday cake this year :) I have also been able to spend some quality "play time" with Paige and Torri, always a treat, and not enough, but some time with Micah. Another fun surprise came when some of my closest college friends called yesterday and said, "Hey, if you think it would be alright we would love to come and spend New Year's with you?" OF COURSE! So tomorrow I get to surround myself yet again with some old memories that have not yet been pushed aside!

I have taken some pictures that I hope to post when I get back to Louisville (Brent got me a new touch screen digital camera for Christmas, so I have pictures!). But for now, I don't want to waste anymore time I could be spending with the wonderful people that are around me right now.


Christmas isn't Christmas, 'till it happens in your hearts...

(The title of this post is an old Christmas tune I once sang at a kid's Christmas concert at church and I always think of it at this time of year...it's so elemental, yet beautifully true.)

The real reason for this post is three-fold:
1) I left a lot hanging with my last post...I DID recover from what HAD to be something I ate- yuck. I finished the week at school complete with kids crazy for Christmas break! Brent and I then journeyed to Missouri late Friday night, and despite our check engine light coming on before St. Louis we made it home safely and have been enjoying time here ever since.
2) I am just going to say it up front: my blogging may be sparse now that I'm at home. Not only are Brent and I busy splitting time between our two wonderful families, we are also busy sleeping in, napping, reading, sleeping, watching movies, and partaking in many other important ventures. :) I hope to update at least once or twice more before we head back to Louisville after the new year.
3) I actually mailed out Christmas letters this year (yeah, talk about feeling like an adult! Whew! It was exhilarating...and surprisingly costly! ) Anyway, needless to say I underestimated the amount of pictures I would need, and then ran out of time tracking down every one's addresses. So, I figure if you are interested enough in my life to check my blog periodically, and you did not receive a Christmas letter from me: shame on me...BUT here it is for you! There were a few pictures with it, but since I'm not on my computer I can't put those back on here...but if you missed it in the mail: here it is!!! Just for you...

Hello from Louisville, Kentucky! We still can’t quite believe we are here, but we’re more and more certain that this is just where God wanted us for this time. We can’t believe that it has already been 6 months since we packed up everything we could and headed out east, but it really is time to start thinking about Christmas and what next year holds.

If I had to summarize our past year in one word it would be CHANGE (not meaning to echo any political campaigns, either J). Not only a year ago both Brent and I were busy college seniors anxiously awaiting what lay ahead of us. In April Brent secured a year long internship/job at Southeast Christian Church here in Louisville (www.southeastchristian.org). After much prayer and many tears thinking about leaving home, we knew we were to follow that call. We both graduated in May, I landed a job at South Oldham Middle School (in the number 1 school district in the state of Kentucky) teaching 8th grade Language Arts. During this job hunt we were busy finishing up final papers and making last minute plans for our upcoming wedding.

June 7th came with no rain and we still reflect on how perfect it was to get married in my grandparent’s garden. We only wish we would have had more time to spend with all of you who made the trip to share that special day.

After a wonderful and relaxing honeymoon to Colorado, it was time to load the truck, say some very hard goodbyes, cram as many memories of home in our bags as we could, and make our big move eastward. I’ll never forget that Tuesday in June when we unloaded everything, Brent drove off to work, and I waved goodbye to family. I looked around the apartment full of boxes and belongings and knew the romance and newness of it all had faded.

Slowly the boxes were unpacked. Slowly we began to make friends (which the Schoon family would be proud to know we taught Nerts), and slowly we felt more settled. In October a fellow teacher of mine hugged me and said, “Wow! I can’t believe everything you have been through and accomplished in the last few months!” I immediately melted into tears simply in appreciation for someone recognizing everything we’ve done since May.

It has been lonely at times, and it has been thrilling at times, but overall Brent and I are happy to be able to share so much time together and figure out the beauty of marriage on our own. We miss family and home deeply, but are thankful for this time to become “The Irwins.” Brent is really enjoying his job in the Sport’s and Fitness ministry at our church. He has helped organize and prepare for softball, soccer, basketball, racquetball, and volleyball (did I miss anything?!). He is currently coaching a young basketball team of 8 and 9 year olds, and we are taking advantage of such a wonderful sports complex so near by. We are both playing in the adult basketball league, and let’s just say that his team has been slightly more successful than mine! As far as my job goes….whew!!! I’m tired A LOT. I remember being an 8th grader and I think 8th graders just make people tired wherever they go J but I am also beginning to see some of the benefits of teaching. Just recently I asked my students to write “Why I write…” and what they produced moved me to tears. I posted it on my blog if you want to check it out and see what 8th graders truly are capable of: www.kelseylynae.blogspot.com. (Duh...I think you got this)

With all this CHANGE Brent and I have become ever more grateful for everything in our past that has made us who we are. We are thankful for family dinners around the table that faded into hour long conversations. We are thankful for friends who never wanted to be entertained but just wanted to be with us. We are grateful for family that invested in us, prayed for us, and walked with us. We are grateful for a God that goes before us and beside us.

Has all the CHANGE that marriage, moving, and new jobs brought us been easy? NO, but we are ever-thankful for the life we have been given, for the gift we have in each other, and for the Savior we celebrate this season. We look forward to spending two full weeks at home over Christmas relaxing with friends and family, and recharging in the land that made us who we are. Whatever you may be doing this year for Christmas may the Lord of every CHANGE in our lives bless you, and may you be refreshed and renewed by His goodness as the new year begins.
Love and Blessings,
Brent and Kelsey


what in the world?

Strep over Thanksgiving and now this?!

We had some friends over yesterday for lunch and over the next 20 hours some how or another all of us got sick. Unfortunately, I got it the worst. I called in sick today (or actually filled out my "subfinder" request online...everything is so impersonal, isn't it?). I'm feeling better now and even managed to eat some of my favorite noodles.

I am typically a very healthy person. I DO NOT like being sick (of course, when I write that down it begs the question, "who really does, Kelsey?"). Maybe I should say it this way: I am a very pathetic and unhappy camper when I am sick. I'm trying to be better, and Brent has been fantastic, but I feel like I have the right to display how miserable I really feel...is there anything wrong with this?

I only have four more days until Christmas break, and I know I can survive, but it is so weird that I have been as sick as I have been this year. Weird. I just want it to be Friday, for the drive home to be over, and to wake up to mom's homemade toast and FEEL BETTER....


is it really almost Christmas? whew

For some reason my blog has not been updated since Dec. 1. Weird. If someone wants to look into that I would really appreciate it. :)

I have a large stack of papers that need to be graded (and I would prefer getting them done before break - this Friday) so I am going to try to accomplish two things with this post: a good update for all of you faithfuls who have been patiently withstanding my tardiness, and brevity (the latter of which is not my strong suit).

Since my last post:
- Thanksgiving...at home. Beautiful. And even though I had strep throat it was wonderful to be with family. Unfortunately, because I didn't feel very well I took very few pictures. Here are a few that I was able to get with our nephews (who we hadn't seen since JUNE!)
-Since Kali and Dan were at home for Thanksgiving, but will be traveling to California for CHristmas, we decided to give Mom and Dad their present while we were all home. The four of us "kids" all went in together and were SO excited to give them their new flat screen TV! Needless to say, they were very overwhelmed and thankful.- Final KTIP observation for cycle 1 is complete (2 more cycles to go...) I received very good reviews and the board member who is on my KTIP committee asked me if there is anyone else from my college who needs a job :)

- Brent and I decorated for Christmas last weekend (with the few decorations we have...I'm waiting for the sales after Christmas this year to stock up a little...but don't worry, I won't go overboard). We put up our Christmas tree, including out "First Christmas Together" ornament :), our nativity set, which was passed onto us by Renae and Jared (who, strangely enough, did not register for a nativity set but received 3 for their wedding in MAY...weird), and a poinsettia that one of my students gave me.

- Last Sunday we had a phenomenal message at church which I would encourage all of you to check out and listen to online if you have a moment (I usually just turn it on the computer and then crank it up while I clean) : http://www.southeastchristian.org/sermons/?id=808. I was expecting a "typical" Christmas message, which sounds horrible to say... but I think this Christmas season pushes a lot of us into a routine place of "Yep...Jesus is the reason..." But this Sunday I was shaken out of that place. The sermon started with the sanctuary lights being turned off, and when you're sitting in a room with 10,000 other people and you can't see anything, you're are uncomfortable...and you're listening. The premise was this:
-Until you grasp the extent of the darkness in this world you won't be able to truly celebrate the light of Christmas
- Are we still afraid of the dark...within us?
- He talked about the history of Christmas lights: That in medieval times they wanted to create something to hang up that would remind them of the LIGHT of Christmas: Jesus in a dark world.

I would just really encourage you to check it out if you are finding your self needing a step back from the chaos of Christmas, a step back from the world... a step out of the darkness so you can truly appreciate the LIGHT of this season!

- Brent had an interesting day at work. For the all-staff Christmas pary each department at the church puts together a "float" and they have a parade and then worship and food and all that good stuff. He said it was a really fun day: everyone leaves at noon, gets paid until 5 for the day, and there is happiness all around :) Brent's sports and fitness crew decided to do a "political" themed float and ordered masks online. They made a replica of the whitehouse for their float, and Brent was a secret service guy. The picture is a little far away, but there is a Palin, Clinton, Obama, and Bush (the McCain mask didn't come in in time. Brent is on the left holding a paintball gun)

We leave to go back home for TWO WEEKS on Friday, and could not be more excited. Hopefully this update has sufficed...May you remember the Light of this Christmas season!


student's writing

As promised, here is what I put together of my students' writings (I will blog about Thanksgiving at another time.)

If you feel like "kids these days" just don't understand, or that they have lost a love for words to video games and t.v. shows, then you need to read this! :) The Friday before Thanksgiving for my student's writer's notebook's invitation (they write for 10 minutes everyday in these), I simply asked them to record why they write. I read them a chapter from Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones," & then I turned on the classical music for 10 minutes and in the lamp light (Oh yes, I really set the mood, don't I?) they wrote these words that moved me to tears.
Just when I had almost lost hope in them and in their ability to really feel writing, they gave me true inspiration and art.
I looked through all 120 notebooks and could have typed up 20 pages...but I pulled out the ones that refreshed something in me, or that broke something in me, or that made me want to pick up my pen and write.
So here you have it, why Mrs. Irwin's 8th grade Language Arts classes write:
I write.....

- Because it takes me anywhere I want to go.

- Because it influences me every time I write a piece.

- Because it makes me feel good about myself.

- Because if I didn’t, the monster would unleash itself.

- Because it is the only thing that keeps me contained.

- Because I am heartbroken, and need to mend my shattered heart.

- Because my heart is overfilled with emptiness, and I am in hopes of filling it with emotion.

- Because I don’t have the guts to say things in person.

- Because I am shallow; like a creek without water.

- Because they are my stories, my imagination coming out on paper.

- To see a new world.

- Because I’m full of mistakes.

- So I can start a new page.

- Because I’m only 13.

- To answer my questions.

- Because my teachers say I talk too much.

- Because I have ADHD.

- Because it is a never ending story.

- To see myself grow.

- It’s the only thing I know I’m good at.

- Because somebody will eventually read it and feel the same way.

- Because it’s a part of me: just like singing, and dancing, and my family.

- Because I can hit words instead of people.

- Because it takes the edge off of some pretty embarrassing things.

- Because I can’t say it out loud.

- Because everyone passed by too quickly.

- Because I can create a world and rule it with an iron fist.

- Because I am ignored.

- To start a riot.

- Because I don’t know how to stick up for myself.

- Because telling people things to their face is not what I do.

- Because my feelings get hurt easily and I don’t show it.

- Because I can’t handle the truth.

- Because I can’t take this anymore.

- Because nobody is perfect.

- Because I made another mistake.

- Because if you’re really writing you have the feeling you could go on forever and you just stop thinking about it and you just let the thoughts flow freely.

- Because I need to keep myself from going crazy.

- Because I need to get over my anger.

- Because it makes time go by quicker.

- Because it’s not the end of the world, it’s a new beginning.

- Because I have a story to tell everyone.

- Because it calms me down.

- Because I let go during writing.

- Because I don’t have to stop.

- Because there is no limit.

- Because nothing goes wrong while writing.

- Because it never holds you back.

- Because it’s a way of life.

- Because it always agrees with you.

- Because it never talks back.

- To keep my brain active.

- To persuade.

- To change the world.

- To impress people.

- Because the world is messed up.

- Because nobody listens.

- Because that’s a piece of Springdale, Arkansas—home—that I don’t want to let go.

- Because I’m afraid of being judged.

- Because it’s my peace of mind.

- Because it makes up for hesitations and regret.

- Because it lets me be where I want to be, to see who I want to see, to say what I want to say, and not have to think twice about it.

- Because I want to compare my handwriting from another day.

- Because I love the feel of the imprinted paper after I’m done.

- Because I love to tell how much I miss you.

- Because it helps me cry.

- Because it’s my freedom.

- Because no one cares anymore.

- Because I’m heartbroken into shattered pieces.

- For the same reason a baby cries; for the same reason water freezes; for the reason a volcano erupts. I write because it’s natural.

- Even though there is never enough time to let your mind drip out onto the paper.

- Because the paper is the only one who cares to listen, and will not be hurt by what I say.

- Because the paper will listen without indifference.

- So I won’t yell at my mom.

- So I don’t put burdens on others.

- So that when the stress of the world is so great, and I am so alone, I don’t break.

- So the good times, feelings, and relationships have a safe haven, where I can keep them fresh forever.

- So there will be less of me and more of everyone else.

- To save myself, the world, and the ones I love.

- Because it is like breathing on the paper

- When I’m cold, tired, alone, worried, laughing, and rejoicing.

- Because I want to remember how I felt, where I was, how far I’ve come.

- Because I can actually get a whole story out.

- Because then I can make a story end the way I want to.

- Because it’s the only time I’m not interrupted.

- Because writing can be edited, unlike speaking.

- Because I’m too shy to say it out loud.

- Because I secretly want someone to hear my thoughts.

- Because I feel too small, too plain in the world.

- Because it’s the only way I know to touch someone’s life.

- Because I know my memory is never as good as visiting my memories in ink.

- Because I have an opinion; a voice that is suddenly heard over the crowd.

- Because of rainbows.

- Because there is a thing in my head called pain.

- Because my family is a distant memory I can’t seem to want anymore.

- Because I’m emotionally unprotected.

- Because I want my mother to have a better life.

- Because I fell through the cracks and was buried in cement.

- Because no one looks twice.

- Because I can’t seem to get the smell of paper out of my nose.

- Because I think pencils can remove my pain.

- To feel writing outside of schoolwork.

- To become a bestseller.

- Because things left unresolved can never be mended.

- Because I don’t want to leave my something broken because I may get no other chance to fix it.

- Because some people can’t, so I’ll write for them.

- Because I don’t want a chance to pass me up.

- So I can leave this trace of pencil markings on paper to be held and read for all eternity.

- To be the cause of someone’s laughing; someone’s tears.

- Because it is the over-popular blue jeans that never go out of style.

- To be the red rose in a field of gray.

- Because there are lies that are believed.

- Because there are too many hours in my midnight.

- Because I miss my grandmother.

- Because I am different.

- Because I am the girl who tripped over a bag and broke my arm.

- So that my mom will have a reason to get up in the morning.

- To feel, smell, see, hear, and touch.

- Because I have many things to say and no one has a long enough attention span.

- Because I open my mouth too much, and it’s my apology.

-Because I like to start with little ideas and turn them into big ones.

- Because people call me names and I don’t care.

- To start a revolution.

- Because I am like those priests that turn atheists into worshippers.

- Because I have the right.

- Because I tell my friends I don’t like to write, that there is nothing to write, but inside that is all I feel like doing.

-Because I’m a ship in a bottle with no escape.

- Because my parents don’t listen.

- Because I’m the youngest in my family.

- Because I was forced to grow up and I’m looking for a way back.

- Because it’s like putting a pressure release valve on my mind.

- Because I have a sponge-bob band-aid on my shoes.

-Because Wal-Mart isn’t open.

- Because I want to find love.

- Because every novel starts with a rough draft.

- Because it’s like being in a place where everyone understands you, and those types of places are hard to find.