The Angels and the Shepherds (A Christmas Blog)

I wrote this as a Junior in College, and time hop brought it back for me to read this morning. Advent has begun— it’s time to anticipate the arrival of the King!

Anna E. Meyer

“Have you heard?  Jesus is going to be born on earth tonight!”

“Oh my gosh, yes!  Hey, do you wanna go and check it out?  A bunch of us are going to earth tonight.  God’s letting us!”

“How awesome is that?  Duh, I wanna go!  I wanna see him as a human for myself!”

“Yeah!  I’m so excited!”

Meanwhile, on earth…

“Hey, guys, I’m gonna take a quick nap.  It’s been pretty quiet tonight.”

“Say, rookie, you slept all day, right?  This is our job—to watch the sheep when it’s dark, and the wolves might come.  Just because it’s been quiet doesn’t mean that something will come when we least expect it—”

And suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all…

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My 10th Celebration of Life

On this day ten years ago….my mother and I traveled an hour away from my hometown to visit my neurologist to receive my official diagnosis. The results from the spinal tap had come back, and finally, Dr. Nelson would tell us for sure if I had a pinched nerve, MS, or a brain tumor. He had given all three of these as possibilities as to why my entire left side had stopped working normally, but his theory was that I most likely had MS. That is what we knew before we got to Wilmar, MN. I was CONVINCED that it was nothing but a pinched nerve, and for some unknown reason my name had been on the prayer list at church for the last few weeks.

On that day, ten years ago, I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was started on some medical steroids, and I was shown how to use the Autoject for my three-times-weekly medicine shots, just under the skin. (It would be another year before I gave myself those shots….and, of course, I was bribed—because what other way is there for a kid to be willing to do something unless they get something in return?)

Since my diagnosis, we have called the anniversary of that day my “celebration of life.” It is the day when I can look back on a year and see all the things I have been able to do, even though I have MS. On this ten-year anniversary of this life-altering diagnosis, I reflect on the things I have accomplished in my life!

1. I’ve been on all sorts of cool vacations and stuff.

Who cares if I had to rent a wheelchair to go Disneyworld? I went to Disneyworld! I’ve also rented wheelchairs at zoos, and even the Minnesota State Fair. Those places take a lot of walking, and I don’t quite have the energy to walk all that way. But I still got to experience it and enjoy my visits! Those places, by the way, have been the only ones I rented a wheelchair for. I can still walk! ….just not super far. I’ve been to the Wisconsin Dells and the Black Hills of South Dakota, just doing the tourist thing because I could. In high school, I went to a youth gathering with a church denomination, and had an AWESOME time with my cousin Jenni and my aunt Sheryl! In college, I went on TWO summer mission projects. Just because I have MS, doesn’t mean I can’t have fun! So I have to plan a little extra, and the south is typically a bad idea in the summer. I STILL LIVE LIFE.

2. In middle school, there were no cheerleaders, and I wanted to be one, so I petitioned and found a coach for middle school basketball cheerleaders!

The January after my diagnosis. I am second from the right, front row. You know, the one with the big smile?
The January after my diagnosis. I am second from the right, front row. You know, the one with the big smile?

We were moderately good. Our most difficult move was when one cheerleader stood on the thighs of two other cheerleaders, but we stayed safe. I wasn’t really into watching sports, but I did notice that when our middle school teams had cheerleaders, the whole “crowd” was pretty riled up. You know, for a middle school game. Smiley face. Of course, this cheerleading team kind of left the middle school when I did. I always wanted to be a cheerleader. Our high school had football cheerleading, but by that time, I just wanted to play in the pep band. (We see why I became a music major?)

I was also on the golf team for a few years before the walking became too much for me and I acknowledged that I wasn’t that great.  But it was fun!

3. I got my black belt!

Actually, I started Tae Kwon Do in 4th grade.  In 7th grade, I got my junior  black belt.  I was diagnosed with MS in 8th grade.  In 9th grade, I got my 2nd degree junior black belt.  After I turned 16, sophomore year, I got my first degree adult black belt.  And senior year, I got my second degree adult black belt!  I was involved in Tae Kwon Do for 8 years; 5 of those years after having MS.  I remember difficulty in my first tournament after being diagnosed, but then I just focused on what I COULD do instead of what I COULDN’T.  I taught and I was a referee as my level advanced.  I became inactive in TKD after I graduated high school, but I will always be a second degree black belt!

4. I finished high school AND college.

One of my college professors once told me that he had never seen such determination in a student. So I wasn’t the best. Who cares? I did as best I could. I was DETERMINED to finish well and I learned a ton while in those college years. I wrote a post about what MS has taught me over the last decade or so here.

5. I played a senior recital of percussion music.

At that time in my life, I had skill, because I was playing on these instruments all the time. I played a piece on the marimba, the timpani, some toms (drums), the vibraphone, and even flower pots! (Videos of all these can be seen on YouTube.) I loved that season in my life, when I could go from instrument to instrument in the percussion section in an empty band room and just PLAY.

6. I’ve had a “grown-up job” since I graduated.

Even before I graduated, I’ve been giving private lessons. According to some of my other music-major friends, I wasn’t charging enough, but still. As soon as I graduated, I got on the substitute teacher list for a few different school districts. And when I got to Kentucky, of course, I began working at a music store—giving lessons! And now I’ve started up this Mary Kay business! Before I was married, I paid my own rent, bought my own food, and loved when Mom and Dad came to Sioux Falls to take me grocery shopping. And now, I don’t get many visits from Mom and Dad (because I currently live, like, 20 hours away), but I still get care packages of coffee brands that aren’t sold in the south. (Thanks, mom!)

7. I’ve written, like, four novels.

Only one I’ve written is decent enough for me to want to publish it, but I do want to publish it! [2015 edit: you can find my first book here.] I also write shortstories and blog posts all the time. And other little things when I feel like it. I’ve kept a journal since I was diagnosed! And things have just kept moving from there. I don’t believe they will ever stop, either.

8. I wrote music for a class in college and directed an ensemble playing it in church one time.

So I maybe didn’t take into consideration that band instruments play better in flats than sharps. And that high school students can’t pick up music as fast as college students. But I was so proud of that piece! I even published my college friends and I playing the piece here on YouTube.

9. I GOT MARRIED!

My handsome groom and I at our wedding this last July.
My handsome groom and I at our wedding this last July.

Just this last summer, if you are keeping up with me at all on this blog. (I’ve kinda talked about it a lot….) Never did I ever think I would meet a man who saw ME past the MS that has been so apparent in my life. I have a limp, which is the most obvious symptom to the world and the first turn-off to anybody who sees that instead of me first (which is pretty much everybody). But Dr. Wile E. Coyote, while he notices my limp, only notices if it’s a bad day or a good day and helps me stretch sometimes. Or if he’s walking with me, and I pull him around. (He’s not as sturdy as my sisters when they’ve walked with me, hehe.) I love Dr. Coyote, my best friend, and he is what I need. But God knew that. And I am privileged to be starting this med school journey with him and trusting the Lord until graduation, and beyond! (Like, forever. Every. Minute.)

10. I have become stronger than I thought possible.

Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have had to push past the limits of where I would want to quit because something is hard. Being diagnosed so young (at 13), I had to face many decisions and situations that most teens shouldn’t have to face. I thank the good Lord for my always-supportive family who helped me so much!

On this day in ten years, who knows what things I’ll accomplish that I’ll be able to remember? The thing about having MS is that though we have to plan a little more, sometimes sleep a little more, and maybe be careful of what activities we chose to partake in, we still live normal lives. I haven’t felt normal for years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would love to wake up one day and the Lord tell me, “You’re cured!” But I know that when people see me walking with a limp, unphased, it brings God more glory.

Anna E Meyer

So I’ve talked about what I’ve learned and what I’ve done, MS wise. What else would you all like to know (MS-wise)?

How MS Changed My Life (For the Better)

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 13 years old. When I started the testing for everything (MRI, spinal tap, bloodwork, etc), I thought nothing of it. But then I was diagnosed with MS. Those two letters are pretty powerful. Mood swings are a symptom, and I always laugh when I’m taking a poll or something and somebody asks if mood swings got worse with my MS diagnosis. HELLO! I WAS IN PUBERTY! Hehe. But it did hit me pretty hard. I have posts about my diagnosis on this blog, so I’ll just skip to how it has changed my life.

1. It has forced me to rely on God and to trust him way more than I would have otherwise.

My faith has grown SO MUCH. I have very little control over this MS. I can do things to try and keep my body happy, like stretch or exercise, but I don’t have control over spasticity in my leg muscle or when my fingers will get tired or numb. Those things just happen. I have had to rely on the Lord to give me physical strength and energy when I have none. When I just want to crawl back into bed and skip the day, the Lord gives me exactly what I need. I’ve compared my MS with a thorn in my flesh before, but I don’t think of it that way anymore. Yes, it’s there, but it doesn’t always have to have an impact on every single thing that I do. Yes, I do take it into consideration when I’m asked to go for a walk and I reply, “Ehhhhhhh, I shouldn’t,” because I know what the next hours might feel like.
God is my physical, emotional, and spiritual strength when I have none. The MS has shown me I don’t always have physical strength. But, like the parables that Jesus was so good at telling, I have been able to relate it to my emotional and spiritual strength, as well. God is pretty sneaky like that.

2. It has allowed me to see what negativity can become, and weighed in my decision to be happy and positive all the time.

The MS community is split, sadly to say. About half of them cry, “Woe is me!” and have allowed the MS and depression to take over their lives. They are sick with a disease that is ruining their life. Nobody understands. Life sucks, let me drown in the sea of despair. The other half allows positivity to reverberate off of them, no matter what. These are the people that others who have never even heard of MS, look at and they say, “Now there is someone who I’d like to hang out with. Even though she’s in a wheelchair (or uses a cane or walks funny on her own or all these other things that MS can cause), she is a happy person. What an inspiration.”
I have been in the negativity boat. It is heavy, and doesn’t flow easily. It struggles to do everything, and there are many tears that cause the boat to start sinking in the water around it as it takes on water. But I have decided that while sometimes, pity-parties are what a person feels like they need, I don’t want to weigh the world down. I want to lift it up! (Pity parties DO affect others, whether we think they do or not!)

3. It has forced me to come out of my shell.

Kudos to my mother, who made me start talking to doctors and neurologists about what’s going on right away. Although I told her everything, I needed to learn to speak up for myself. I also needed to learn to defend myself, stand up for myself, and not let other people’s opinions be mine. I definitely did that. Now I’m the odd person who walks up to a stranger and says, “Hi. I don’t know you.” I will tell complete strangers about my MS and when they try to pity me, I will shrug and come up with a sassy comeback (that never gets out of my mouth, but in my head, it shuts them down). People can think what they want to think. But the people that know me realize that there is NOTHING to pity. I tell ya, some people!

4. It allowed me to see other people’s hearts first.

Most people, when they first meet me or see me walking on the street, see my limp. At least the people who look on the outside first. I had a bible study leader who once told me he’d never noticed my limp before. Because he looked at my heart. I like people’s hearts more than I like physical appearances. That’s what I see first. And you really ask me how I landed such a great guy? Hint: he saw my heart first, too. We actually fell for each others’ hearts before the rest of us. But, mmhmm. His heart is one sexy organ. And it’s MINE! 🙂

5. It has made me totally empathetic with illnesses and people who are not in the “norm.”

The people who society looks down upon and judges? I see them. I know what it’s like to be judged, and part of that feeling makes me feel a connection with that person, even if they don’t realize it’s there. I have no idea if it’s related or not, but I have a soft spot when working with kids, as well. So not all of them are at the same levels. I teach beginners and advanced students that range all ages. And it’s not always the older ones who are so advanced. Someone has a learning or other physical disability? We’ll work around it. Someone’s self-esteem is shaken? We’ll fix it. Too young? Too old? No such thing. I’m a friend to all, and I will teach anybody. MS? ALS? Autism? Cancer? Who cares. Let’s teach them something!
And I’m sorry for the people who are used to getting special treatment because of some condition. Who are seen by everyone as one way. Because I will see beyond. I believe this is what makes me a good teacher. And giving one-on-one lessons is my FAVORITE.

6. For some reason, my love of writing has been growing!

I don’t know if this is related to the MS or not, but I have been writing a lot more than otherwise. Nobody likes to listen to complaining, so I started writing about it in a journal. I wrote stories about it and overcame some of my own struggles through my characters. And now I write about all sorts of things. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that I can write from a seated position, because I get so tired on my feet all the time. I’ve always embraced the idea that, “I CAN do this now, so I WILL do this until I can’t.” That is why I happily finished my music ed degree and looked forward to being a teacher. Not because I’d be able to do it forever, because I don’t know the future. But because I liked it and I can do it NOW. Which leads me to

7. It has allowed me to value the NOW like never before.

Right now, I can type and write and walk and climb stairs and drive and work. I don’t know what my body will do tomorrow, or in 5 years. Maybe I won’t be able to do half those things. Maybe I’ll be able to do more than I can now. I have no control, and no idea. But right now, I can. That’s all that matters. Right now, I could WALK down the aisle to marry my love. Right now, I can support him as he’s in med school, because right now, that is where we’re at. Years from now, I don’t know where we’ll be living or what I’ll be doing. So right now, we are plugged in to a church. Right now, we are making a lot of close friends. Right now, we are involved in other people’s lives because right now, we may be at the same stages or at the same church or simply in the same neighborhood. Right NOW.

8. Since I was diagnosed, I’ve become an MS Activist.

When I was in middle school and high school, I was in the MS Walk and raised all kind of money for MS research. Since then I have become too busy for the walk (and I don’t have the same connections I did), but I educate as many people as I can about the disease. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised awareness and millions of dollars for ALS research. What challenge does anybody have cooked up for MS? Because I am excited to jump on board!

These are a few of the things that came to my head as I was thinking about the MS I have. Dr. Wile E. Coyote is actually learning about the central nervous system and nerves and all sorts of things that he’s been able to connect to MS, and he understands it better in that medical way. With all his resources, he has also been able to see what is up with MS research and what researchers are looking into. Apparently, they are looking deep into genetics, because there is something related to that. But that’s not ALL. It is so interesting listening to Dr. Coyote talk about the stuff he’s learning. Of course, when he starts talking, using all scientific terms, I know he’s no longer talking to me and can tune him out. (He’s only been in school a few months and I’ve learned that!)

Do you or have MS? How has it changed your life? Do you know someone with MS? How has it changed YOUR life, watching them? Do you see changes in their life?

Anna E. Meyer

T-Swift’s “Love Story”

Yes, I’m a T-Swift fan, and I’m not sorry about it. Ever since she became that new country singer, I was a fan. Still am. I love that she writes her own music and that she’s so personable and nice and everything. Anyway, that’s beside the point. I love this song.
Listen to it!  And watch the video while you’re at it.  🙂

Here are 8 reasons why:

  1. I love story songs. Possibly because I’ve always liked hearing and telling stories.
  2. She uses classic literature (Romeo & Juliet, The Scarlet Letter, and Pride & Prejudice) as her story.
  3. Some of these classic pieces end in tragedy, but she blends them together to make it a happy ending.
  4. I love the story of P&P. Don’t get me wrong. The book starts out a little too slow for my taste, but have you SEEN the Lizzy Bennet Diaries on YouTube? Fantastic remake. Okay, I love classic literature retold in a modern setting (I kind of write that way, too). The song skips all the stuff where Lizzie won’t talk to Darcy because she feels judged by him, it just gets to the good part where they both love each other.  I love how much Darcy loves Lizzie.  Anybody with me on that?
  5. I like R&J, too, just not the tragedy part. She took the part where they weren’t supposed to be together and used it, just not all the families killing each other and stuff. Awesome.  Romeo and Juliet had an amazing love, too.  The romantic in me is sighing softly.
  6. I was also that weird kid in high school who enjoyed reading TSL and analyzing it. T-Swift only took a reference from this book, the part where Hester Prynne, who wears the scarlet letter, is alienated from society. Well, T-Swift kind of just uses the reference to underline the fact her dad didn’t want her seeing Romeo; she was like a scarlet letter to Romeo.  (But the rest of the lyrics and where they are from just indicate their love for each other was like in the aforementioned stories.)
  7. I know she took all the happy parts out of these stories. Frankly, when I’m writing shortstories or even the novel that I’m working on, I use the Bible as a basis of my stories, and pull stories from there. But I never pull stories that don’t end so well. For example, in my stories, people don’t die, they just get knocked out (kind of like Batman doesn’t kill).
  8. And, finally, why I love this song: Taylor Swift is an awesome artist in general. I loved her when she was in the country scene, and I just followed her to her pop music. Okay, so I wasn’t a fan of all her heartbreak songs (because they were all so similar), but I loved her happy little love songs. (“Our Song” is another great one of hers, by the way.)

I like story songs because I like stories. What kind of songs do you like the best?

Anna E. Meyer

Depression, MS, and Wit in a Poem

It tiptoes into peripheral sight,
And stays to take away the light.  
The darkness makes its home there;
Until you realize you were unaware.  

But I didn’t notice this until
I found myself climbing up the hill!
The flat and happy ground was green,
But this hill is dry and brown and mean.

Depression sneaks up to the unsuspecting;
It makes one think they are the one rejecting.  

It causes feelings that don’t belong,
It places monotone where there once was song.
This hemeola of emotions, this fighting of sorts
Leads to modulation that’s unwelcome, of course!

One day I’ll be down, and the next snap out of it.
It’s like this other unpredictable disease a bit.  
Depression is a symptom of MS, as well.  
Which is just my luck– but I won’t dwell!  

If it gets bad enough I’ll go see my doc.
But coming out myself wouldn’t be a shock.
Just like everything else I’ve been given,
I’m too busy to notice it–I’m livin’!  

So before you go and hand me your pity,
Allow me to give you an answer that’s wity:
I may not be from Mississippi, have a master’s degree or be a medical specialist,
But I AM Mega Smart, Mighty Sarcastic, and Marvelously Sweet.  
Just ask my sister mom husband. (We still qualify as “newlyweds.”) 

Prayer Really Is Powerful.

I have started reading this book that I received at one of my wedding showers from my aunt Sheryl. It is a book by Stormie Omartian called “The Power of a Praying Wife,” and I highly recommend it for any Christian wife, no matter her stage in life. Anyway, through it, God has been showing me the kind of wife that he wants me to be. He keeps leading me back to scripture, showing me what all exactly I am called to do to be Dr. Wile E. Coyote’s wife. “How can I be the wife of a med student?” I have been praying for a month now. “Everyone says I need to be his support, but I don’t know how to do it!” Fervently, I have prayed for his help. But, you know, I didn’t really know how he’d answer. OH MY GOODNESS. Ask God for something specifically and expect an answer, and HE WILL GIVE IT! All you have to do is give him the opportunity.

Last night, Dr. Wile E. Coyote and I were invited over for a game night with some other Christian med students and their wives/families. Scott and Tammy, we had met in church on Sunday. And then we also met Andy and Sarah, John and Leslie, as well as the adorable children of John and Leslie (John’s a fourth year) and Scott and Tammy (Scott’s a second year), who were already friends with each other. We were playing this game called “Bang!” and Doug asked, “So, what is the best and worst part of being married to a med student?” That is all he asked, and he told me the next day that he had no idea where that question came from. But, alas, it led to some amazing conversation and advice from the wives of those students! Who did some OMT on The First Year. J According to all the wives, being practiced on for OMT (which I think stands for Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment? Correct me if I’m wrong) is one of the best things about being married to the student of an osteopathic med school. Especially this one! ‘Cuz they push OMT here in Pikeville a lot. And, it is a little known fact that KYCOM is one of the best schools for osteopathy. But boy, are they proud of it in this town! Plus, if you need a chiropractor or have pain in some muscle, there are a bunch of students who need practice, anyway.

God has specifically been answering so many prayers for this big faith step taken by Dr. Coyote and I. I just can’t get over it! I have a job, a great place to live, and FRIENDS. I have a purpose here in this town, and a reason for doing what I’m doing (being a teacher, the wife of a med student, etc). And here’s a prayer that wasn’t even prayed by us—John and Leslie dated long-distance, as well, so they were telling us how hard the first year was for them, because they never went through that “dating normally” stage. Like today, when Pre-Doc Wile E was looking everywhere for the scissors we used yesterday. I can misplace my phone after 45 seconds of being in the house. It’s one of those things that many couples get over while dating. It’s whatever.

Dr. Wile E. Coyote and I have been appreciating all of the prayers that have been coming our way. We are SO blessed to know all of you! We are getting plugged in here and acclimated to the culture that is so not like that of the Upper Midwest. Next week will be a transition week, as Dr. Coyote begins orientation and I do more at Sound House Music. I’ve already been meeting people (okay, one person) who wants their child to take lessons from me!

So blessed.

So thankful.

Praising God for his mercies and grace,

Anna

HOPE

Hope: noun (first definition) the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best

I took a quiz on Facebook today that told me in five simple questions what my happy word is, and it gave me HOPE. Normally, I take those Facebook quizzes for funsies and just laugh at the result. But I liked the description on this one: “You refuse to give up on anyone, including yourself. You see the best in others. You think happiness should be shared. You spread your message of optimism as much as possible. You will keep believing when everyone else has stopped. You think good will always prevail in the end. You believe if we trusted each other more, the world would be a better place. All we need is a little hope.”

I downloaded “e-sword” (basically, a really neat tool for studying the Bible in-depth, even though at first it looks like an old, ’90s computer program or something), and in the KJV, I looked up “hope” and got 130 matches. It’s interesting that modern translations substitute other words like “wait” or something. But the Hebrew dictionary entry for “hope” is this: “tiqvâh tik-vaw’ From qâvâh; literally a cord (as an attachment ); figuratively expectancy: – expectation ([-ted]), hope, live, thing that I long for.”

The word hope gives joy and expectancy. In the trinity, who is continually at work here in ways we can’t see; in the physical return of Christ. In each other. I do believe in sharing happiness with others. Smiles are contagious, you know. I can’t be in the doldrums longer than I want to because of my optimism (even before I was on anti-depressants and cried a lot and freaked….I still smiled, which is kind of weird when I think about it now). Hope is the word that was on those red rubber bracelets before the National MS Society decided that orange was a better color for their logo. Hope for a cure of MS and a better tomorrow. I have dreams and hopes for myself and for the way things will be. I hope to become an author (now with the name “Anna E. Meyer” instead of Olson, as I formerly wrote of often…smiley face). I hope to teach others of the subjects that I love—of music and playing it; of Christ and the many things I’ve learned and want to pass on; of simply living a hope-filled and a Christ-filled life. Because Christ is hope. He is my hope and the reason for my continued smile. It is he whom I trust, and my Minnesota-roots that have taught me to trust others, as well.

There is always a reason for hope. Even when life feels down or bad things happen, God is there. There is a silver lining. Hopes of mine have already become realities: my hope of a husband who loves me for me (well, that’s a month away still, but he loves me for me even now); my hope of writing for an audience (thanks to this blog and readers like you for my start), and my hope of a future, even with this blasted MS. I graduated college in 4 ½ years. I’m currently living in an apartment with three other roommates whom I love like sisters. And I’m getting married in a month! God is good.

Smiling,

Anna

What are your hopes? Have you seen hopes become realities?

A Letter from 2014 Me To 2009 Me

Dear Type-A, Control-Freak, 12th-grader Anna from 2009,

Yes, I just called you a type-A control freak.  Because you are.  You hide behind other people’s opinions and you like approval.  You don’t like to think for yourself, because what if you are wrong?  You follow the rules and you have this awesome confidence when you know something really well.  I know this MS has been hard so far, and it’s not over yet.

Who am I, and how do I know these things?  I’m you, after college.  I am currently 23, and life is pretty great right now.  You’re still walking, but you know all those lectures everyone gives you about stretching and exercising?  They’re serious.  Keep at it.  You won’t regret it.  (You’ll probably be lectured from all sorts of people throughout life, so you might as well learn to listen, not do everything but what you’re told.)  I’m still walking, although my limp has gotten worse over time.  (Keep stretching!  Even as I write this now, I haven’t stretched yet today, and I feel like such a hypocrite.)  I am currently job searching—the “currently” part encompassing the last month or so, but I haven’t really done anything about it until now.

I want to encourage you.  Keep playing music.  You just decided, about now, I think, that you’re going to major in instrumental music.  It’s tough, but you will love learning all that you are going to learn.  All the music theory, music history, and those instruments?  You’ll learn so much!  Also, keep writing.  Don’t be discouraged that the story you wrote last year isn’t very good (it isn’t—what is the plot even supposed to be?  It’s weak.)  KEEP WRITING.  You will just keep getting better.  I promise.  I haven’t had anything published yet, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried.  And it’s all been totally worth it.  And, you’re going to get involved in this campus ministry, at first because you feel like you’re supposed to.  But God is about to change your life super dramatically using it.  You will love it. And you might find a future career opportunity through it.  Through any of these things that you love—you won’t stop loving them.  In fact, you’ll become better at what you like to do, and you may find future career opportunities through any of those things.  You may be freaking out because you don’t know what you’ll be doing—that’s okay.  I actually still don’t know.  But one thing I’ve learned is to be okay with that.

College is better than high school.  I promise.  And it just keeps getting better.  I am so excited for what comes next.  I’m so ready to leave college behind.  In a letter you wrote to your high school graduating-self back in 7th grade, you totally planned out your future.  It’s kind of embarrassing, you’ll come to realize when you read it in a couple months.  You’re not as bad as you used to be, but you’ll keep easing up.  The details aren’t worth getting upset over.  They’re not that big of a deal.  As Dad says, “Don’t worry about the little things.  And it’s all little things.”

There are so many things I wish I could tell you right now.  You are going to make so many friends in the next 5 years!  But sometimes not knowing is the best.  You love surprises.  So wait and be surprised.  Chose a major and stick with it, but have fun!  And don’t worry about the future.  It takes a long time to learn that lesson, and I’m still continually learning it.  God has the best for you in mind.  Sometimes it will hurt, and sometimes you will cry.  But it’s worth it.  Live and love—you love so well.  Be comfortable with who you are as an individual with your own opinions and talents—not just the opinions and talents you think you should have.  It’s okay not to be the best—you won’t get to play with the Augustana Band every year, but that’s okay.  You’ll still get to play.  Strive to be YOUR best.  There IS a difference, and it’s okay.  I am so excited for you.  You are faithful and fun and so great!

Stay you,

Anna from 2014

Christmas Songs <3

Christmas music is great. Most of the live professional concerts I’ve ever been to are Christmas. It probably plays a role that my birthday is at the end of November, and most Christmas tours start in November. I remember going to see Martina McBride’s Christmas concert when I was in high school or something like that—my mom won two tickets on the radio, so I sat with her in better seats than the rest of my family had. Awesome! We all went and saw Lorie Line’s Christmas concert one year, and it was awesome. And this year? This year, my aunt and her boys for my birthday/Christmas present got me tickets to see Michael W. Smith AND Christmas at Luther College! That was this last weekend. And the weather certainly brought Christmas to us just in time! BOTH of the Christmas concerts I saw this last weekend were (wait for it) AWESOME! Okay. I love Christmas music. There is something about a huge crowd of people singing Christmas carols together that happens at like every Christmas concert that just moves me. I never get goosebumps during music, but I DO get an adrenaline rush. I grew up with my mother singing the alto lines of a lot of hymns at church. I was a soprano until my voice dropped a little after high school, and I liked harmony better than melody (that everyone knows), so now I love to sing the alto lines of all these traditional Christmas hymns. I love that at my church on Christmas Eve we sing a ton of Christmas hymns. The last song sung is “Silent Night,” and the lights go out and everyone in the congregation lights a candle, getting the flame from the person beside them and passing it on. It is beautiful. I’m getting all excited just thinking about it.

What is your favorite Christmas song? Why?

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Student Teaching, SDMEA, and Remembering Reasons

Student teaching is seriously getting better all the time.  However, I still have a long ways to go.  I’ve been praying that the Lord will show me direction and all that.  How do I even know I want to be a band teacher?  I heard somebody say that they had wanted to be a band director since 7th grade.  Um, I made the decision my junior year to finish college and “we’ll see what happens next.”  But this band teacher thing….I kind of like it.  But I still question?  Ugh, I digress.

Today (Friday), I went to SDMEA (South Dakota Music Educators Association) instead of school (excused, of course).  I always love clinics and stuff, because I learn things that I didn’t even know I needed to know.  One session was called, “Why Didn’t I Learn That in College?”.  The simple answer being there’s no time.  Also, I am super thankful to Dr. Schilf for teaching us a whole lot more in Secondary Methods than other people learned in their undergrad programs.  Like that marching band drill we had to write?  It wasn’t much, but it was at least SOME experience.  Writing a budget?  Mapping out exactly what we’d like in a band room if we got to help design it (a woman who graduated from Augie when I was a junior was actually asked that and, wa-lah!  She had ideas already).  During that session, we were told that in student teaching, one will learn more than all the previous years of college.  And during the first year of teaching, one will learn more than student teaching and college combined.  I stayed after and talked with the presenter about putting my foot in the door and looking for a job in Kentucky.  Oh my gosh, did he tell me some good stuff!  Like to look up all of the schools near Pikeville and watch their pages for job postings.  And to even find the contact info for the band directors at those schools and shoot them an email, introducing myself or something (to get my name out there).  To go on to the Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) website and look for job postings there (but I think they’d all go on the national page, anyway?).  I seriously made a list today.  Now, a lot of the middle schools don’t even HAVE a band director listed, but I’ll call the schools and check it out.  I also talked to a friend on Tuesday who moved up to Sioux Falls to student teach when she didn’t know anybody here.  She said to talk to everybody.  So I’ll ask here, first.  Anybody know of some young women in Pikeville, KY, looking for a roommate next year?  (Never too early, right?)

About when I was finishing up my general music placement and just this last week, I remembered why I actually did want to be a band director.  I want to teach these kids music.  In band, they’re either there because they want to be or because Mom and Dad say so.  But even if Mom and Dad say so, they’ll eventually love it, probably.  If they play through high school.  I want to teach kids to play their instruments CORRECTLY so that they won’t want to quit because they don’t know what’s wrong and it’s too hard to fix later.  I love the light in the eyes of a student when he or she discovers what a key is for or that they can get a partial higher than they thought they could.  I love being surrounded by music and sharing my love of it with students.  I love having relationships with students, so we can talk about life other than band.  I love talking about band, of course, and I love watching a student improve.  It is such a great feeling.  To know that they know more than they did, or that they can play better than before?  My day is simply made.  A random high-five when I’m walking through the commons, a “Hi, Ms. Olson,” in the hall or even as a student is leaving the band room, a lesson going so successfully well and the students don’t talk out of line but respond to me as I direct from the podium.

I feel like these last few days, I’ve been in a good mood in general.  Which is way better than the “I don’t want to move or do anything” mood I had toward the beginning of the week whenever I’d get home from school.  Even though Dr. Wile E. Coyote and I don’t get to talk during most of the week (like either of us has time!?), we still email and text and he makes me smile and points me to Christ all at once.  We got to know each other better through snail mail, you know.  And emails just get better and better as we get closer (even though we live 10 hours apart).  I feel like that’s a topic for a different post.  Or girl talk.  Whichever.  (Gush.)

Smiley Face,

Anna