May 31, 2018

Missouri Memories

5/31/2018 — cori

Chuck and John were both born in Missouri and lived there on and off through-out their childhood. All of their Dad's side of the family still lives there. We've had the opportunity to visit several times over the years. But this time was extra special. Their youngest cousin, Jon, was getting married and John's son, Logan, was to be the Ring Bearer at the wedding. Also, it just happened to coincide with their Dad's 70th birthday. We thought that heading to Missouri a few days before the wedding to spend some time with their Dad would help make it a meaningful and special time for him. He's asked us to visit him at his lake house at The Lake of The Ozarks for years, but our schedules never seemed to allow it. But this trip was extra fun because the brothers and their families got to go together - which if given the choice, is how they would always prefer to do things.

This was our little slice of lake-life for 2 days.

8 of us shared this little cabin. It's bigger than it looks.

 As usual, the boys had a ton of fun playing together

And jumping of the dock

More jumping


More jumping


Pushing each other off. 

Floating like otters.

Being vessels for transporting children.

Our cabin was only 10 minutes away from Danny's. Our floating vessel is the one in front, not the nice one.

This is Danny's pontoon, The African Queen, that he carted us all around in. Yes, all 9 of us fit in it and we didn't sink.

We even had a captain.

We had a monster storm come through our first morning there. Thankfully, the sky cleared up and we were able enjoy all the lake had to offer. Here is Danny enjoying floating with the little ones.

Lots of games were going on in the water. This one involved tying all the life vests together, all hanging on, and then all letting go to try and sink to the bottom. To my knowledge, no one was able to actually touch the bottom of the lake because it's like 30 feet deep.

We had loads of fun jumping off the boat (getting back on was a little bit of a challenge though). Bennett looks to be headed for a belly flop here. That little bit of water entertained us for hours. The water temp was perfectly refreshing.

Mason was all smiles on this day.

To top off the fun day at the lake, we also got to ride a pair of jet skis. This was our first time ever and boy was it exhilarating and fun!

After 2 days at the lake, we headed north to Kansas City. They were experiencing an unseasonably hot Spring. It was approaching 100 on this particular May day.

The day of the wedding we had some extra time on our hands to explore the city. We learned that KC was home to the largest ever WW1 museum. We knew we'd have to experience that. It was built in 1926 during the Neo-Classical architectural period. There was a lot of Egyptian influence in the design as it also coincided with the discovery of King Tut's tomb. I highly recommend this wonderful museum. 

We visited the famed Union Station

And last but definitely not least, we attended the beautiful wedding of Jon and Hannah.

These two! So grown up (and sun burned). My favorite people to hang with!

The only picture we have as a family from our entire trip! And it's still not a complete family picture because its missing Gavin. Unfortunately, it's our (sad) new reality to experience events without him now that he's away at college.

May 22, 2018

Random Questions from Strangers

5/22/2018 — cori

This is not me. This is, however, the only appropriate picture I could find for this story. I would like to preface this story by saying: THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED! I am not making this up.

So Chloe and I took the hour long trek down to the IKEA store in Denver the other day. After we found all our goods, I left her standing at the car loading zone with all our stuff. As I'm walking back to my car, a complete stranger lady walking behind me asks, "Hey, what kinda booty exercises you do? I need to get working. You got it going."

Um. I literally am speechless. I have a blank mind. No one on the planet has ever asked me this question before. I'm not prepared with an answer. Especially since there is no answer. I don't do anything except sit on my booty. All my 'assets' are God-given, not manufactured or toned in any way.

Some stupid, idiot words come dribbling out of my mouth about leg exercises. They trail off into oblivion. Then she continues, "I'm about to be 52 and everything is going south. I need to do something to get my booty back."

Excellent. I'm great at deflection. I tell her she looks great for 52, not to worry about a thing. I then confess my age and that seems to make her feel the need to compliment my booty again. I thank her for the compliment and duck into my car. I laugh out loud. This is one of the most bizarre experiences in my recent past. Who does this? Who goes around complimenting people's butts? 

Lest you think negatively of my new-found admirer, she was just a normal looking lady who was not afraid to start a conversation with a fellow IKEA shopper. 

So...that was an interesting day.

Weathering the Storm

5/22/2018 — cori
So thankful for this man!

The journey of life takes many unexpected twists and turns. If you are expecting a straight, even, and smooth road, you're probably going to be a little frustrated when you encounter a few bumps in it. I don't know why we have these expectations of smooth sailing, yet we continue to be surprised when the wind suddenly picks up and blows us in the opposite direction of where we thought we were going. We just experienced another such "wind blowing." 

We moved to Colorado 10 months ago because the mountains were calling our name. Chuck's boss was kind enough to let him work remotely. All was well until January of 2018. Chuck's boss got fired. It made Chuck a little nervous, but not too much. He knew how vital his department was to the success of the company. Surely he and his team were safe. To be honest, he had considered looking for a different job many times during his tenure at this company. But the team he worked with was so close knit and tight, he wasn't willing to give that up. They were like family to him. He was willing to continue to put up with not the best working conditions in order to stay loyal to his team and their camaraderie. I admire that about him greatly. He put others first over his desire for 'security'. 

Then comes the fateful day of March 28. He had a meeting scheduled with the CFO. In under two minutes he was told that the company was getting rid of all "non-essential personnel" and he was one of them. Just like that, almost 5 years of loyalty to a company and it's over in less than two minutes. Two other members on his team also got the axe. It was a strong gust of wind that blew his sail in a direction he wasn't ready for. 

We never are ready, are we. Storms always take us by surprise. We have to wait them out. Trust that the sun is still up there behind those dark clouds. When all we can see is black, when all we can feel is the tumultuous waves, when all we can smell is's hard to remember the sun hidden from view and all those beautiful, carefree days behind us. Trust is not a character muscle we exercise every day. Times like these remind us of how atrophied it becomes when not in use.

However, this is not the first time our ship has been blown off course. This scenario played itself out once before. That time felt infinitely more scary. This time, experience was our guide and reminded us of how we survived the last storm. Not only did we survive, we learned a ton, all our needs were met somehow, and a new job was found...eventually. Chuck refused to let this twist of fate control him. He remained such a calm rock in the midst of this storm. He let us all hold on to him and as we did we felt less afraid because he wasn't afraid. He'd weathered a storm like this in the past and knew what needed to be done. So we waited. We kept living. We didn't fear. We reassessed our situation, made whatever adjustments we could and held on for the duration. It's the 'duration' that's scary. It's an unknown. It's the duration where trust is maxed out; where belt buckles are tightened; where hope is ever present. 

Because Chuck is Chuck (kind, loyal, generous, teachable, humble, hard-working, easy-going) and never burns a bridge, so many past co-workers and people in the business he's known and worked with for years reached out to him almost instantaneously. He had people telling him who they knew was hiring, giving him recommendations, setting up interviews for him. The out-pouring of love and support was incredible. Chuck worked even harder and longer than normal. He was at his computer 8 hours a day applying for jobs. He applied for over 40 jobs as his white board will attest to:

(Side note: in the upper right hand corner, the board also testifies to our multiple ping-pong games and scores and losing streaks against Bennett) - but that's beside the point. The more important thing to focus your attention on are all those companies. That represents a ton of work and time. Because of the nature of his work, he often has to complete a 'design challenge' once he gets further along in the interview process. These design challenges often take 10+ hours to complete. He never once took unemployment. He also had additional time to devote to freelance work.

But the most amazing thing of all is that in the midst of this storm, a beautiful rainbow poked through. He finally had time to finish the app that he's been working on for 12 years. Bookstack finally became a reality in the midst of one of his darkest times. That's the paradox of life, when something 'bad' happens, its not always all bad. There is much good that happens during the 'bad' or in the cover of darkness that we can't see or don't expect. That is why we are to hold this time with open hearts and minds and not be so quick to call an experience good or bad but to stay teachable and open to the moment. 

An oft recited prayer by St. Teresa of Avila was my constant mantra and had a very calming effect on my soul during this time. I've put my own spin on it, but it goes generally something like this:

Let nothing upset you,
Let nothing worry you,
All things pass,
God does not change.
Patience wins all she seeks.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.

Turns out Chuck's previous boss, that got laid off 2 months before him, reached out to him with an opportunity to work for him again. This is the same boss that found him and gave him a job after his last firing. Here he comes to the rescue again. He offered him a position in a company that wasn't even hiring. He created a position, title and salary all custom to Chuck's abilities and skills. He would have never found this job on his own. This week marks almost 2 months since he was fired as well as his first week back to work at his new job. We couldn't have written the ending to this story better if we tried.

Probably the best gift to come out of this experience after having strengthened our trust muscles again is the living witness the kids have of what strength under pressure looks like. They will forever remember how their dad handled this apparent loss and how he gracefully and humbly continued walking the course without giving up. They will hopefully draw on his strength and example in their own lives for years to come. I know I will. 

May 13, 2018

Do What You Love, Love What You Do

5/13/2018 — cori

I was very sad to leave my amazing job behind when we moved to Colorado 10 months ago. I was actually shocked I was getting paid to do what I loved with people I adored. I didn't think I'd ever be able to do that again, at least not in that capacity. I thought that once I moved here, I'd have to start all over as a volunteer since I didn't have a CO teaching license. I applied to 4 ESL teaching jobs in the area, even though I didn't have the exact qualifications for them (a Master's degree or a CO teaching certificate). I thought maybe I could at least be a classroom helper. I never heard back. I was so sad. I couldn't imagine not getting to teach again.

I had been looking at this one website where I thought I might like to volunteer if I wasn't able to find a job. It was a place in Greeley, about 35 minutes from where I lived. It was called the Global Refugee Center (they have since changed their name to the Immigrant and Refugee Center). I wasn't sure what services they offered, but I knew I had to be around these people in some capacity. I just really loved their mission statement and how they were reaching out to the local community. On a whim, I called and asked if they had any need for ESL teachers. I was put through to someone who told me to send her my resume and if the director likes it, they'll get back to me. I did so, but didn't expect any return email or phone call. That same night, I got an email saying the director would like to meet with me. Two days later I had an interview. I loved this director. We hit it off immediately. She said, "I know I should do the right thing and call all your references, but I like you and I'd like to offer you the job if you want it." Of course I wanted it! It meant working Saturdays because that was the only position they had open, but I said "Yes!" in a heart beat. I have been in love ever since.

A few weeks later my boss emailed me asking if I'd like to take on another class through the school district. Of course I agreed. And a few months after that, she asked if I would take over a class for one of the teachers who is leaving to have her baby. Another excited, "yes"! So over the course of the school year, I ended up with 3 classes. I couldn't have dreamed of this - and I was getting paid. Amazing!

These are the pictures of people I have grown to love this past school year. These students astound me with their dedication, hard work and life experience. I am so lucky to surround myself with people like this that I can learn from on a daily basis.

This is my ESL 5 class. I was so intimidated jumping in to take over this class mid year since I'd never taught this level. It was a steep learning curve for me. But it turned out to be my absolute favorite level ever. We have so much fun in this class. I had about 10-15 regular students. I also have a volunteer in this class that I adore and couldn't teach the class without him. I am a better teacher with him around. Now I don't think I could teach without him.

This student is in my ESL 5 class. This was the first certificate he ever got for anything - ever - in his life! He was SO proud of this certificate that he asked to take a picture with me. 

This is the class I teach through the school district. They are parents (and one grandparent) of the students at the elementary school where we meet. This is a Beginning English class. I think maybe I learned more Spanish in this class than they learned English. :) I usually had 4 Burmese students and 4-5 Spanish students. This is our end of the year party. One of my students still came every week even though she has cancer and is undergoing chemo. I know I wouldn't have dedication like that.

This is my Saturday class...the one that started it all. I love these women! Several people were not able to make it the day we took this picture, but these are my dedicated ones. One of these ladies would not say a word for the first couple weeks of class. She just sat there silent. Now, she is speaking and writing and understanding English better and is so proud of herself - as I am of her! It just warms your heart to hear their stories, struggles and successes. I learn so much from my students. I'm so lucky to have this amazing job!

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