Tag Archives: Connecticut

30 Years of Memories

I turned 30 on Friday.  I don’t know if it’s really hit me yet.  30.  Like 3-0.  Like I am no longer in my twenties.  I’m an actual adult, and although this has been the case for over ten years, it still doesn’t feel as though that is the case.

When I turned 28, I wrote a blog called “28 Things I’ve Learned in 28 Years” and they are still true today, so rather than writing about my 30 years of wisdom, I wanted to write out 30 years of memories.  Now, I don’t have memories from when I was a baby or toddler, so rather than writing something for each year, I am going to write about 30 memories that stand out in my mind.

1. Long Beach Island vacations with my mom

7856_699041469580_1359668740_nEvery year since I can remember, we spent time in LBI.  After she was divorced, we spent time at LBI at the house my grandparents rented, but as soon as she was able to, we started going to LBI for yearly vacations, usually around my birthday.

2. Growing up in Candlewood Shores

I loved growing up so close to the lake.  I spent tons of time at the beach, swimming in the lake, kayaking, and walking my dog around the neighborhood.  During the winter, I would go sledding in my yard or on the hill at the end of my dead-end road.

3. Frost Valley adventures with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins

1928832_505726713900_6999_nAlso every year since I remember, I have been going to Frost Valley with some of my family members for a long weekend in January.  I have so many memories of the great times I’ve had at Frost Valley.  Tubing, cross country skiing, hiking, using the low ropes course, the cable bridges, exploring, building snowmen, hiking to the observatory.

4. Myrtle Beach vacations

I went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina three times with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins.  Going to the beach, boogie boarding, swimming in the pool, hunting for hermit crabs in the gullies at night, getting ice cream, playing mini-golf.

5. Family parties

I was always excited to attend frequent family parties.  My favorite were those that took place in the summer at the marina where my grandparents kept their boat.  We would swim, barbecue, and go out for boat rides.  I am grateful that my family has always been so close, getting together for birthdays, Christmas Eve and Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, you name it.

6. Birthdays

Having a summer birthday, I always felt like my birthday lasted forever.  I would have a birthday party with my friends, and then I would also have other birthday celebrations with my family and at Long Beach Island with my mom.

7. Getting Adam Sandler’s autograph

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Adam Sandler came to Connecticut to shoot part of the film, Mr. Deeds.  Fun fact of the day: Winchestertonfieldville, Iowa is actually a town called New Milford.  And the film was set in the winter, but it was shot in June, so the film crew had to make fake snow each day.

My mom and I went to see part of the filming and we stood in line for hours waiting for Adam Sandler’s autograph.  My mom also got to meet Peter Gallagher and she saw Winona Ryder.

8. Butterscotch

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I remember begging my mom for years to get a dog.  Finally, on my sixteenth birthday at Long Beach Island, my mom surprised me by telling me that her gift to me was going to be a dog.  It took a little while to find the right one, but when we entered that shelter in Monroe, I fell in love with Butterscotch immediately.  My mom was a bit unsure since he really wasn’t excited to see us or play with us.  I think that he was just too hot since it was August.  But he ended up becoming a significant member of our family.  We had ten awesome years with Butterscotch.  I wish I could have had a few more, but I will always remember the memories of that cute little guy, and all of the places we went like Kent Falls and Tarrywile.

9. Anti-Prom Party

I know that my mom still regrets my decision to skip my senior prom (or any other high school dance, for that matter), but I do not.  My friends and I had an anti-prom party, which consisted of going to the playground, going out to dinner for pizza, going to Il Bacio’s for ice cream, and then watching movies and having a sleepover.

10. Steubenville East retreat with my youth group

Although I hated my mom for forcing me to go, Steubenville East was the pivotal turning point in my faith journey.  It was there that I decided to devote my life to Christ, and also the time during which I realized that I had an interest in Franciscan University, even though the distance terrified me.

11. My first flight to the Dominican Republic with my mom

1928832_505725611110_8849_n (1)Once I knew that I would be attending Franciscan, my mom wanted me to get on an airplane in case I ever had to fly home from college.  As it turns out, I did fly home twice from college (once to attend my goddaughter’s baptism and once to go to a Lyme disease specialist).  So my mom planned a trip to DR to celebrate her 50th birthday and to get me on an airplane.  I was extremely scared on the flight, and I still don’t exactly enjoy flying, but I’m happy to have conquered my fear since I now travel quite a bit.

12. Franciscan University of Steubenville

I’m so grateful for the education that I received from Franciscan – not just in terms of the teaching pedagogy but also my faith formation.  I was fully prepared to enter the classroom after graduating thanks to the fabulous faculty members at Franciscan and their strong education program. And in terms of Franciscan’s passionate Catholicism, I don’t know where I would be today in my faith journey if it were not for Franciscan.

13. Becoming a Godmother

18700536_10100108079416230_3671843442035731509_oMy goddaughter, Abby, was born during my freshman year of college, so I flew home to go to her baptism.  I can’t believe how old she has gotten and how quickly time is passing.

14. Getting Lyme Disease

I was on a walking pilgrimage in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with my youth group.  I loved the experience, but a week later, I was as sick as a dog, unsure what was wrong with me.  Once starting my sophomore year at Franciscan, I learned that I had Lyme, which is relatively treatable in most people.  Little did I know how much it would change my life, turning into chronic Lyme.  But I have grown in many ways as a result of the Lyme, so although I don’t necessarily embrace it, I see how God has used it to form and strengthen me.

15. ResQ

1929958_509778648790_8041_n 2I can’t really remember how I wrote my first rap, but I just randomly found a beat, wrote a rap, and eventually met Oscar (aka II X).  We recorded six songs together during my years at Franciscan and we performed at three coffeehouses.

16. First mission trip in Ecuador

I had been scheduled to study abroad in Austria, but had to cancel as a result of the Lyme disease since I would not be able to bring enough antibiotics into Europe to last me for an entire semester.  Looking back, I am so happy that I never made it to Austria because if I had, I would have never been able to sign up for a spring break mission trip.  Ecuador was a tough trip — definitely the most grueling mission trip I have yet to experience, but I also found my love for the missions field while there.  We hiked for hours through the mud, carrying heavy backpacks, guitars, and bags full of medical supplies.  We brought doctors, nurses, and priests into remote, jungle areas outside of Misahualli to serve the people.  We set up medical clinics, played with the children, prayed with the communities, had Masses and baptisms, and spent time with the people.

17. First Year of Teaching in Bridgeport, CT

It was a crazy year: starting at Paul Laurence Dunbar School, teaching 7th and 8th grade reading and language arts only to be transferred in October to Central High School to teach 9th and 10th grade due to overcrowded classes.

18. Traveling to San Diego, California

184596_550658969300_3900568_nAfter graduating from Franciscan, I missed my two closest friends, Lizzy and Amy.  Lizzy lived in Virginia and Amy lived in California.  For spring break, I flew out to San Diego to visit Amy and her housemates and fellow Franciscan alumni, Kara and Lea.  Lizzy also flew out and it was so nice getting to see everyone again while exploring beautiful San Diego.

19. Four Years of Teaching in Danbury, CT

I loved working in Bridgeport, but had to switch jobs due to a budget crisis that took place the year that I was hired.  Little did I know that Danbury High School had group of staff members that were incredibly welcoming.  I absolutely loved my four years in Danbury and it was extremely difficult when I decided to leave that job to move to New Jersey.  I remember the tears I shed walking out the doors for the last time and I still miss my fellow colleagues there, but I am very happy teaching in Long Branch now.

20. Traveling to Brazil to meet my sister and Brazilian family

252120_661138756920_781866846_nAfter my sister messaged me on Facebook back in 2012, I was excited to plan a trip to Brazil to finally meet my family.  I went there during Christmas break and it was a whirlwind of a trip.  We had 11 flights in 10 days, traveling to Manaus, Cruzeiro do Sul, and Rio de Janeiro.  I met my sister and her fiance at the time, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.  My grandpa died not too long after my trip to Brazil, so I am thankful that I was able to meet him before his passing.  Since then I have traveled to Brazil twice: once for my sister’s wedding and once for my grandmother’s 99th birthday.

21. Teaching Trip in Haiti

22008_693890252660_823665868_nA fellow teacher at DHS informed me about a trip for teachers to Port-au-Prince where they needed teachers to provide professional development to teachers in Haiti through Project Teach.  Many teachers in Haiti only have a high school education, so we taught them how to utilize more engaging strategies.  Since I had only been teaching for three years at the time, it was incredibly humbling to be providing professional development to the class of teachers in front of me.  One of the men had been teaching for 35 years and yet he was eager to hear every strategy I had to share.

22. Running a marathon

1378251_710296374660_118341198_nAfter getting Lyme, I was determined that I would start running once my health improved.  I first signed up for a half marathon and then my first full marathon.  Since then, I have completed 5 half marathons, two full marathons, two Spartan Beasts, one super Spartan, three Spartan sprints,  one Tough Mudder, two Belmar Five Milers, and one 10-K.

23. Seeing Eminem in concert

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Eminem has been my favorite musician since some time around eighth grade when I was finally allowed to buy his CDs once we found the edited versions at FYE. When I heard that he was coming to perform with Rihanna at MetLife Stadium for their Monster Tour, I knew that I had to go.  I spent more than I would ever spend again on a concert to go and then arrived super early on the day of the concert to ensure that I would be in the front row since my section was standing room only.

24. Moving to New Jersey

The timeline was crazy.  Go to the last interview for Long Branch and accept the job offer.  Find an apartment in under a week.  Go on a mission trip to Rwanda.  Pack up my apartment in Danbury and fill a U-Haul.  Drive to Jersey to begin my new teacher professional development day at Long Branch while living out of a spare bedroom at my ex-boyfriend’s parents’ house while I wait for my apartment to be ready.  Leave work to meet my mom and uncle at my house with the U-Haul to begin unloading.  Go to my first day of work while my house is a mess of boxes.

25. Scoring AP exams

13450962_910561681380_7318586538020961940_nI traveled to Kansas City, Missouri for my first year scoring AP exams and I was really excited to get to room with my friend from DHS and to see my friend, Kristin, who was a zookeeper at the Kansas City Zoo.  I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to Tampa, Florida, twice for AP scoring.  I have learned so much through my years of scoring and it always helps me to improve my teaching practice.

26. Mission trip to Nicaragua with Living Water International

14138684_930197101840_4572372580567899979_oI went to Nicaragua for a week to help drill a well for a community that lacked access to clean water.  We also provided hygiene lessons, played with the kids, and did arts and crafts with the women and children while the men were working on drilling the well.  Our translator was sick, so I also helped to translate Bible stories into Spanish, despite the fact that I hadn’t really been practicing my Spanish much.

27. Becoming a part of Young Adults in Faith

14890390_947361404440_2687692922311237888_o 2I had been wanting to start a Catholic young adult group at my church in Belmar, but our parish doesn’t have that many young adults.  I met Gabriella, a Catholic DJ who soon became a close friend.  She invited me to Bible study and holy hour and I became a member of Young Adults in faith, which has been such a blessing.  Through the group, I have formed great friendships and that is also where I met AJ.

28.  Mission trip to Rwanda with Go Be Love International

I had always wanted to travel to Africa, so I was extremely excited about having the opportunity to volunteer there.  We traveled to Gisenyi, which borders Lake Kivu, Bugesera, where some of the most poor Rwandans live and Kigali, the capital of the country.  We volunteered our time, shared our love, and we visited the Genocide Memorial Museum to keep everything in perspective.  And then I stayed two extra days to meet Patience, my sponsored child, and to go gorilla trekking.

29.Mission trip to Uganda with Go Be Love International

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Last summer I traveled again with Go Be Love, but this time to Uganda, where we visited a children’s prison, volunteered with Sole Hope to remove jiggers and provide people with a pair of shoes that had been made from jeans that were donated and cut by myself and my students at Long Branch, and we volunteered at Amani Baby Cottage.

30. My relationship with AJ

When was your first date?  People sometimes ask that, but we never really had one.  We met at Bible study, initially not considering a relationship at all.  I thought AJ was a lot younger than me.  He thought that I was into the dating scene and interested in older guys.  But during Bible study, we noticed some similarities, especially regarding working out and our love for spending time outside.  The first time we hung out together was to go kayaking.  Then we went hiking at Hartshorne Park (one of the most fun days ever) and out to dinner at Mr. Shrimp for Restaurant Week.  Then we went to the movies to see Hacksaw Ridge.  Soon we were hanging out all of the time.  Eventually, I went to the Poconos with him for his friend, Sway’s birthday, and I guess the rest is history.

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I have so many other memories, but these are the ones that came to mind the most quickly.  30 years of adventures, and so many more still in store.

 

 

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2017: My Year in Review

As I’ve done for the past three years (201420152016), here is my 2017 year in review.  Last year, I was incredibly thankful for having met my new friends from Bible study and starting a new relationship.  Now, I have even more to be grateful for this year.  So here is what happened since last year:

January:

-AJ and I rang in the new year at Devin and Elise’s wedding in Connecticut

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-Then we went hiking at Lover’s Leap in New Milford, CT and Kent Falls in Kent, CT the next day

-Frost Valley in Claryville, NY

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-I met up with Lizzy in Philadelphia since she was there for clinicals for vet school (before graduating in May!!!)

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-Camden Aquarium with AJ

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-Hiking with AJ and Bolt in Freehold

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February:

-Hiking at Lover’s Leap in New Milford, CT again with AJ

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-Grandma’s birthday party

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-Valentine’s Day dinner at Rooney’s in Long Branch

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-Going to Absecon Lighthouse, the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and Lucy the Elephant in Margate with AJ, Sway, and Denielle

March:

-My mom’s birthday

April:

-Escape room in Freehold with AJ, Daniel, and Brady

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-AJ’s 25th birthday party

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-United States Marine Corps Educator Workshop in Parris Island, South Carolina

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-Sway’s Confirmation at the Easter Vigil

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-Easter in Connecticut

-Hiking at Bushkill Falls for AJ’s birthday

-Finishing the Spartan Beast with AJ in Vernon, NJ

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May:

-Bible study at the Freehold Mall

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-Battleship USS New Jersey in Camden

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-Father Larry’s talk with Bible study

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-Abby & Lauren’s Irish step dancing recital

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-My cousin Lauren’s first communion

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June:

-Scoring AP exams in Tampa, Florida

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July:

-Acro yoga in my back yard

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-4th of July in Connecticut for my grandpa’s birthday

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-Vacation in LBI with my mom

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Barnegat Lighthouse

-Churrascaria for my early 29th birthday dinner

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-Acro yoga attempt #2 in my back yard

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-Volunteering in Uganda with Go Be Love International.  Sole Hope in Jinja

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-Free day at the Nile River

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August:

-Volunteering with Go Be Love International at Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja

September:

-Phil and Marissa’s wedding in Pennsylvania

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-Chris and Grace’s wedding in Pennsylvania

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-Visiting Franciscan University for the first time since I graduated 7 years ago

October:

-Jersey Shore Half Marathon in Sandy Hook

-Getting engaged on October 9th

-Connecticut for a family party

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-Pro-Life dinner at Doolan’s in Spring Lake

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-Lizzy visited & we went Halloween bowling

November:

-AJ’s cousin, Jared, took engagement photos for us

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-Celebrated Thanksgiving with AJ’s family in Somerset, NJ

-Hiking at Hartshorne Park

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December:

-Christmas Eve in Connecticut at Grandma & Grandpa’s house

-Christmas Day in Connecticut: morning at Grandma & Grandpa’s house, shoveling snow, and then Christmas Day at Aunt Suzi & Uncle Bob’s house

-Young Adults in Faith Christmas celebration at St. Robert’s in Freehold

2017 was a great year.  Looking back at January, when AJ and I had only been together for a month, I never expected that by New Year’s Eve, we would be planning a wedding, figuring out where we want to live, and having intense conversations about the future.  So much can change in one year and I am thrilled to see what 2018 entails.

I thank God for all of His abundant blessings and pray for an amazing 2018.

 

 

His Perfect Timing

I really believe that everything happens for a reason.  I find myself repeating that line over and over in my conversations, especially with my students.  But sometimes it’s so difficult to actually heed my own advice.

I can’t say that I love the fact that I have Lyme disease, but it has forced me to grow in so many ways.  If it had not been for Lyme, I might not be a runner right now, something that I love so much.

Upon graduating from college, my goal was to move to the Jersey shore.  Things didn’t work out initially and I had to work in Connecticut for five years, but I had amazing experiences at my job there and I had the opportunity to meet some awesome students and coworkers.

Two years ago, I met a man who I really thought I was meant to be with and when he suddenly ended the relationship, I was lost and confused.  I felt especially lonely since I was living in a new state.  But looking back, I think that he was the reason why I had the courage to take the leap of faith that required me to pack up my life and move to New Jersey.  If I had been in a relationship with someone in Connecticut, I may have second guessed myself.  Or if I had been single, I may have simply been to afraid to move somewhere where I didn’t know a single soul, leaving behind my job, apartment, friends, and family.

I could go on and on with examples of other times when, looking back, I can see God’s work, but the most recent occasion happened last night.

Since moving to New Jersey, I have been hoping to meet some like-minded, Catholic friends.  I don’t want to be picky when it comes to friends, and I have met great people at work, but I want someone who really gets me and understands why I am the way that I am.

I was so fortunate to have attended Franciscan University, where everyone is Catholic and it is so easy to find people who will push you to be a better person.  Out in the real world, things aren’t quite that simple.  I want a friend who I can talk to about my faith without them thinking I’m too hardcore, or some sort of Jesus freak.

So about a month ago, I was reading the church bulletin, hoping to find something geared toward people in my age group.  I saw a little blurb asking for young adults in their 20s and 30s to try to start a CORE team for Theology on Tap.  I immediately sent an email when I got home to say that I was interested.

We ended up meeting at a place in Belmar a few weeks ago, but the turnout was not great.  There were 5 of us, and only 2 of us were actually from the parish.

We had a nice time, but I was not looking too optimistic about this group, considering that there was only one person who was actually from my church and in my age group.  So we met again the following week and this time, there were only 4 of us.  It wasn’t looking very promising at that point.

In trying to think of possible future activities, we decided to go to a place near St. Rose for dinner at 6pm and then walk over to adoration (my church has Eucharistic adoration from 7-8pm on Monday evenings).

Last night, to my surprise, there were 8 of us at dinner!  I was so excited that it was more than just the four of us.  I ordered my typical water without ice and then I heard the girl across from me, Gabby, order the same thing.  I know it seems totally random, but most people think it’s strange when I order water without ice.  When someone asked us why we don’t like ice, we immediately responded with the exact same sentence at the same time about how it makes the water too cold.

Then I was talking about my previous day’s 11.5 mile run and I found out that Gabby also runs and that she’s done a half marathon before.  I was really excited, thinking that maybe this was finally someone who I could get along with well.

I had a great time at dinner just talking with everyone and getting to know everybody’s back story.

Then we walked over to church for adoration.  A few people had to leave due to prior commitments.  During adoration, I usually pray the whole time, read a book, or do something else that really requires my full thought.  I started off that way, praying about the things on my mind, but then I just felt like being still and trying to listen to God, knowing that He has a plan for me.

I didn’t feel particularly inspired, but I left church feeling happy that I had left time to be with God on my busy Monday.

As we were walking outside, I saw Gabby approaching us in running clothes.  She was trying to get back in time for benediction, but she had just missed it. She asked if I wanted to go for a run since she was headed to the boardwalk.  At first, I didn’t really want to since I had eaten a BLT and fries for dinner and I never run that close to eating.  But how could I turn down the offer to finally have someone to run with?

So I drove her to my apartment and changed into my running gear, and then we went for a short jog on the boardwalk.  I couldn’t believe how many things we had in common.  My birthday is July 20th and hers is July 16th of the same year.  She’s also left-handed.  Obviously those are pretty insignificant things, but I felt like we could have talked for hours.  We talked about relationships and the struggle that it is to find a guy who is actually committed in his Catholic faith.  How it’s easy to find nice guys, but that nice isn’t good enough.

I sometimes feel like I’m too picky when it comes to guys, but I don’t just want a nice guy.  There are plenty of those around.  I want a nice guy who loves God and who loves his Catholic faith.  And being Catholic alone isn’t really good enough.  If a guy simply goes through the motions of attending Mass, that’s still not really what I yearn for.  I want someone who is passionate in his love for the Lord, someone who makes his faith a priority.

Yet while I want someone who is passionate, I also want someone with other interests, someone who likes to do things outside of church as well.  I have looked at guys on Catholic Match before, trying to see if there was anyone who I was interested enough in to actually pay for the subscription, but I don’t love the idea of paying to find a relationship.  And many of the guys who I’ve been on the site are one of two options:

Option 1: They’re Catholic in name only, mainly on the site to meet nice women, but they aren’t passionate about their faith.

Option 1: They’re passionately Catholic, but they seem to lack social skills and they don’t share common interests with me.  It seems that all they do is related to church.

And this is why I sometimes feel too picky.  Yes, I want a Catholic guy, but despite my love for my faith, I have many other interests.  I don’t want to spend the entirety of my weekends in church.  I love running, kayaking, hiking, going to the beach, mini-golfing, and just being outside in general.  I want someone who can share those interests.  Is it impossible to find someone who shares these feelings?

Looking back on my relationship with my ex, I really thought that we were headed for marriage.  We had talked about engagements and future plans.  I was confident in us.  But I see now how I was still settling.  Yes, he was Catholic, but he refused to say grace aloud at a restaurant because he didn’t want people to look at us.  He didn’t want to go to Mass on holy days.  He went to church with me every Sunday, but he didn’t mind missing Mass here or there.  He was always complaining about the homilies.

He didn’t really like going to do outdoor activities as much as I did and was very happy to watch TV or movies instead — something that I only really do on a rainy day when I have no other plans.  He loved going out to watch movies at the theater, while I would rather spend my money going to a nice dinner and watching a movie at home.

He had no desire to travel  — something that I am so passionate about.  Yet I was okay with that.  I thought that our relationship was worth sacrificing travel for.  And it wasn’t even his refusal to go on mission trips with me…he wouldn’t even go on a day trip to another city.  I had accepted the fact that I would probably just continue to volunteer overseas alone, while he stayed home to coach football.  Football was his passion and although I learned a lot about it, I really don’t care at all about the sport.  He was a great guy, but he was probably right when he eventually decided that we weren’t right for each other.

Maybe it could have worked out just fine.  But I am still hoping that God has something even better in store for me.  Maybe, once I meet the right person, I won’t have to sacrifice some of my passions.  I know that any solid relationship requires some sacrifice and compromise, but it’s tough to decide how much is acceptable. It’s difficult to know if I’m giving up too much of myself in order to be in a certain relationship.

Gabby has the exact same feelings as me, and similar situations with dating.  If it wasn’t a work night, I am sure that we could have just talked for hours.  And she said something that really resonated with me, about listening to the desires of my heart.  If there is something that I really seek in a man, that is something that I shouldn’t give up on.

I know that if I had to choose the perfect person for me, he would love God above everything else, but also enjoy being outside and staying active, and be eager to travel with me.  I don’t want to have to compromise on any of those three things.  If I did compromise and find myself in a marriage with someone who didn’t fit those criteria, I think I would be always curious if I could have found a better person if I had waited it out.  And that is what would lead me to a divorce.

Do we necessarily need to enjoy all of the same outdoor activities?  No, but some should overlap.  I’m not expecting or even seeking a guy to accompany me in marathon training.  But I hope I can find one who will cheer me on at the finish line.  I don’t need a guy who loves kayaking, but maybe instead he enjoys hiking.  He has to enjoy some of the activities that I enjoy.  Does he need to jump on a plane for 14 hours to go trekking with gorillas in Rwanda?  No.  But going on a drive to the Baltimore Aquarium, or flying out to see the Grand Canyon would be awesome.  And he would need to be supportive of the mission trips that I go on, not upset with me for leaving for a week or two.

So Gabby and I chatted about jobs, relationships, dating, our faith, and friends over our 2.3 mile run.  She told me how she loves going kayaking and stand up paddle boarding on a river that is close to where her sister lives.  She also enjoys running and the beach.  Although I don’t drink, she assured me that I will enjoy going out with her to experience the Belmar night life with her and some of her other Catholic friends.

I drove her back to my car, we exchanged numbers, and I left feeling so excited about the way the night had played out.

A few hours before, I had come home from work, went to the beach, and I was actually feeling a bit frustrated knowing that I would have to leave the beach early to shower and go out to dinner.  But I am so happy that I went.

I have no idea what will come with this young adult group or this friendship, but I am absolutely thrilled to find out.

I couldn’t even fall asleep last night because I was just in awe of the way God works.  My relationship ended in February and I took time to work on myself.  During Lent, I had been going to adoration every Monday and Stations of the Cross every Friday.  I went to Mass every Sunday and I went to confession twice.  I was reading my devotional daily and trying to pray more than I had been in the recent past.

I also worked on restoring my health, through hot yoga and running.  I needed to be alone during the past few months to get to where I am right now.  And maybe He now knows that I’m ready for more, whatever comes from all of this.

They always say that things happen when we’re least expecting them and I think last night was a perfect example of that.  I went to dinner expecting there to be four of us, maybe five max.  But everything fell perfectly into place.

I wish that I was better at waiting patiently and trusting in Him, but I get so impatient when I feel so alone.  I need to remember that He truly has the best plans for me, even if they don’t happen as quickly as I think they should.  Waiting is key.

And the idea of waiting reminds me of a blog that I wrote on February 11th, about The Difficulty of Waiting.  At the time, I was just frustrated that I had to wait to see how life would unfold, but now, in June, I am starting to see the fruits of that message in my devotional about waiting.  It had said this:

“Your path is difficult.  There is no work in life so hard as waiting, and yet I say wait.  Wait until I show you My Will.  Proof it is of My Love and of My certainty of your true discipleship, that I give you hard tasks.

Again, I say wait.  All motion is more easy than calm waiting.  So many of My followers have marred their work and hindered their progress of My Kingdom by activity.

Wait.  I will not overtry your spiritual strength…

All your toil in rowing and all your activity could no have accomplished the journey so soon.  Oh, wait and trust.  Wait, and be not afraid.”

Four months later, and maybe the waiting has finally paid off.  I am eager to see what unfolds next.

God is so good and I am feeling incredibly blessed.

 

Will Standardized Tests Make Americans Compete in the Global Economy? I Think Not.

You’ve heard the statistics – American students are less intelligent than those in countries like China and Finland.

In America, we’ve decided that the way to combat this issue is to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and to create a national test so that students in every state are assessed on the same material.

Although that’s already been quite a bit of a failure, we’re still pushing forward.

As a high school English teacher,  I don’t mind the CCSS.  Most of the high school standards seem reasonable.  I have heard complaints from English teachers in lower grades as well as math teachers, but for my students, the standards seem appropriate.  I do, however, have a strong dislike for the standardized tests like the SBAC and PARCC.

I worked in Connecticut last year when the SBAC was being given.  In a school with over 500 juniors who were supposed to take the test, we had fewer than 100 of them actually take it since so many had opted out.  The test was an abysmal failure.

It wasn’t just my school where the test failed.  Most towns either experienced high opt-out rates, or low scores since many students simply clicked through the test without trying.

So Connecticut is considering getting rid of SBAC completely, or shortening it.  According to a Connecticut Post article from February 26, 2016, the SBAC that was set to be given during this current school  year was trimmed down from the one that was given last year.  The language arts section was cut in half.

Many districts in Connecticut did away with the SBAC entirely, opting for the SAT to assess student achievement.  This makes complete sense.  After all, with CCSS, the country wanted a national assessment to assess students from every state.  We already have the ACT and SAT, so why not use one of those?

Instead, we had two companies create tests that were specifically aligned with Common Core.  Thus, the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and PARCC (The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).  But this still didn’t solve the problem of creating a national test because different states opted for different assessments.

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http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2015/02/a_map_of_states_2015_testing_p.html

SBAC states include: Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and California.

PARCC states include: New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Colorado.

Many states opted to keep their own tests or use other alternatives.  These include: New York, Virginia, Texas, Florida, and on and on.

So take a small area as an example.  If a student moves from New Jersey, to New York, to Connecticut (not a long distance to travel), he will face three different state tests.  This is exactly what we had before CCSS existed.

So Common Core definitely did not achieve its goal of creating a national test.  National standards?  Well, mostly.  Except for the states that opted out and those that continue to opt out while these tests continue to fail.  The map of states that have adopted Common Core can be viewed at that link.  While most states are using CCSS, some that are not include Texas, South Carolina, and Virginia.

But anyway, back to the reason I decided to write this blog: the chaos that was PARCC testing here in New Jersey on April 20, 2016.

Monday and Tuesday were the first PARCC testing days in our school.  We were scheduled to have 4 total PARCC days where the test would take place in lieu of classes.  One could argue that the 4 days of lost instructional time is too much, but that was the schedule, until today’s chaos ensued.

Monday and Tuesday passed with just a few glitches.  Students took the computerized test.  Hopefully most of them actually tried and put their effort into it.  We’ll know better when we see the scores next year.

Today, however, was a bit different.  When signing out my materials to bring to my room, I was told that I should keep refreshing the Pearson website since it wasn’t yet working.

All of my students got situated.  I passed out the necessary materials.  I repeatedly clicked “refresh” on my computer, but nothing was changing.  Students were starting to get antsy.  After all, they’re not allowed access to much of anything during testing.  No food, water, cell phones, internet.  They just had to sit there while I clicked “refresh.”

Today’s test called for two 110-minute English sections.  As the clock kept ticking, it was clear that it was going to be impossible to give those two sections and still release the students at 12:30pm.

Eventually, our principal came onto the intercom and cancelled testing since it was still not working at 9am (students get to school at 7:30am).

So I had the pleasure of sitting with my class of students for the next 3 hours while we waited to be dismissed.

This is what I learned about today’s testing fiasco from a NJ.com article:

-The problem was due to the Pearson website

-Pearson is attempting to fix the problem (key word: attempting)

-We are told that testing “should be up and running” by Thursday

Well that sure gives me confidence that tomorrow will play out differently than today.  (Don’t mind the sarcasm.)

This is what happens when we fully rely on technology.  As a teacher, I know how technology can fail.  Projector lightbulbs die out, internet connections cut out, power outages happen.  It’s expected.  In those situations, we think on our feet and adapt our lessons so that we don’t waste entire class periods.  This is what is expected of us.  If we are having a lesson observed by an administrator and the projector won’t work, we can’t just say, “Okay, class, just sit there and I’ll try again to teach you tomorrow.  Maybe by then the projector will be working.”  No, I’m expected to be flexible and figure out a plan B.

With PARCC, there is no plan B.  It’s a computer-based test.  If the website is down, then no student in the state of New Jersey can take the test.  The test is given to all freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.  There were hundreds of thousands of students scheduled to test today, but oops!  The website was broken.

Now don’t even get me started on the fact that students must take this test for three years of high school.  I already believe that these students are over-tested.

But if you cannot guarantee that this test will work, then you are wasting my instructional time.  Today was a complete waste.  We were supposed to resume a normal schedule on Friday, but thanks to the glitch, Friday is now another day of testing.

Students have lost 5 school days for the PARCC test, plus portions of the school day when we had 2 prior practice sections to get ready for PARCC.  Plus, we could potentially face more if the website is not fixed by tomorrow morning.

What about this situation makes anyone believe that standardized testing is going to fix American education?

AP exams start the first week of May.  So while teachers could have been preparing for those tests that can really help students for college, they were instead babysitting students today who had nothing to do.

The problem is that many of our lawmakers and politicians who make decisions about education in America have no background in education, minus their own experiences as a student.  They don’t consult teachers before making these major changes.  They let companies like Pearson monopolize the testing, but Pearson’s main goal is not to improve American education.  They are a for-profit organization that wants more states to choose their test.

If we want to improve education in America, we need to listen to the teachers who have their hands and feet inside a classroom every day.  The teachers who know that forcing a student to sit at a computer for hours on end, answering questions about slope and possessive pronouns is not the best way to assess each of them.

I’m not sure if today’s failure will prompt any changes to take place, but gosh I hope so.  Increasing standardized testing is never going to help our students to become more college and career ready young adults.

Too Many School Shootings? Let’s Get More Guns!

Although I no longer live in Connecticut, I’m familiar with the town of Kent, since I would usually take the drive up there to see Kent Falls every now and then.

I just read a News Times article that explains that the Board Selectmen from Kent want the Board of Education to consider arming their teachers with guns.

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There is a program (“FASTER Saves Lives”) that was started in Ohio that will pay the tuition and room and board in order to train staff members how to safely carry firearms.  It will also help schools to deal with the legal issues that are involved.

Legal issues….ya think?  Maybe because not every parent is comfortable sending his child to a school where there are guns all over the place.

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Based on the article, it does not appear likely that Kent would actually adopt this program; however, I know that there are various similar programs across the nation that have gained popularity.

The premise of the program is based on speed.  Since Kent is a rural town that lacks its own police force, it is estimated that it would take 20-30 minutes for state police to arrive in the event of an active shooting.  However, if a teacher is armed, he or she is right there inside of the school and can try to stop the shooter more quickly.  Several districts in Ohio, where the program was created, have already adopted it.


 

There are some places where teachers want the right to carry a gun to work.  According to a US News article from 2013, there are at least 7 states that allow teachers to carry guns (and I’m sure there are more now that it’s 2016).   Yet in many places like Newtown, which experienced the tragic Sandy Hook incident, teachers feel the exact opposite way.  They don’t want more guns, but people don’t want to listen to them.  They want to listen to the gun-toting second amendment activists who believe that guns will solve all of our problems.

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I don’t personally like guns.  I don’t want to ever own a gun gun.  I don’t ever want to live in a house where there is a gun.  As a teacher, I ABSOLUTELY do not want to carry a gun at work, and I would not feel comfortable knowing that other teachers are carrying guns.

I don’t understand how our country can be so obsessed with violence that many people still believe that violence is the answer to violence.  Too many school shootings?  Let’s get more guns!  Let’s arm the teachers!

In schools, there are already so many issues regarding liability.  Confidentiality.  Nurses offices and healthcare/privacy matters.  Guidance counselors.  Social workers.  Teachers demeaning students.  Safety.  The list goes on and on.  Think about how many more there would be upon introducing guns into our schools.

What if a teacher misplaces a gun?  What if a student somehow gains access to a gun?  What if an accidental shooting happens?  What if a teacher has a psychotic episode and goes on his or her own shooting spree?  Where will the ammunition be kept?  Which type of gun will the teachers be provided with?  Do the teachers wear their guns, or are they kept in a specific location?

According to Kenneth S. Trump, President of the National School Safety and Security Services,“The vast majority of teachers want to be armed with textbooks and computers, not guns.”

He also said that “it is short-sighted for those supporting the idea to believe that educators who enter a profession to teach and serve a supportive, nurturing role with children could abruptly kick into the mindset to kill someone in a second’s notice.  Police officers train their entire career and enter each traffic stop and individual encounter with a preparedness and life-safety mindset that is different from the professional training and mindset of educators.”

I couldn’t sum it up any better myself.  Are the people who are promoting these new programs really thinking about the consequences?  Would a measly 26-hour course in gun safety truly prepare me to shoot (and possibly even kill) someone?

I went into the profession of teaching to do just that — teach.  As a teacher, there are already days when I act like a therapist, social worker, mother, friend, disciplinarian, and coach.  We teachers wear many hats.  A hat that I do not desire to add to my list is that of a police officer or a sniper.  Kenneth S. Trump is completely correct in not believing that people like us, who have dedicated our lives to helping children and teenagers, can suddenly switch into killer-mode.

Think about the following scenarios:

Scenario #1: 

There is an active shooter in the hallway.  11th grade history teacher, Mrs. Williams, is armed with a gun, so she decides to try to take matters into her own hands.  She aims for the shooter, but misses, and the bullet flies into the body of the innocent bystander whose life she hoped to save.

Now, the active shooter had already wreaked havoc on the school.  Although Mrs. Williams tried to take matters into her own hands and fix the problem, she actually just made things worse.

God forbid a teacher accidentally killed an innocent student in the process of trying to take down the gunman.  That is something that must be considered when making decisions about guns in schools.

This may seem like a stretch, but it’s not that unreasonable if you really think about it.  Is a few hours of training really enough to be able to aim with precision, especially under astronomical levels of stress?

Police officers receive very specific training with regards to firearms.  They have to practice shooting for a certain number of hours each year.  That makes sense; that is a major part of their job.  Teachers have 356,548,217 other things to worry about.  There are papers to grade, lessons to plan and teach, students to help.  Remaining up to date with one’s firearm training is probably not the priority.

But the scenario could have played out differently…

Scenario #2: 

Maybe Mrs. Williams was able to kill the shooter without hurting any other students or staff members.  Does that mean that the problem was solved?  Not quite.

I am sure that even if I killed a criminal, I would still face major emotional problems.  Soldiers often experience PTSD.  Do you think that teachers are immune from that?  I think not.  If I was to kill someone, even a criminal, I am sure that I would face major emotional and psychological problems.

But wait, we have another scenario…

Scenario #3: 

In this scenario, the student does not have a gun.  Instead, he has a knife. He has already stabbed two students multiple times, and they are bleeding profusely, gasping for air.  The armed teacher now must decide what constitutes “appropriate force.”  If Mrs. Williams shoots this student, could his parents sue her?  Will the teacher’s union step in to save Mrs. Williams’ job? Could she be charged with murder?  Sure, she’s saving the lives of other students, but the perpetrator only had a knife, not a gun, after all.  That could be easily spun in court to point a finger at Mrs. Williams.

“Mrs. Williams always had a problem with John, you know.”

Next thing she knows, Mrs. Williams is being sent to prison.

Again, that scenario may seem extreme, but it is situations like these that must be considered.


 

Will teachers now earn the salary of a police officer?

Police officers know that they are taking their life in their hands every time they go to work.  That’s what they signed up for.  That’s why they get paid the big bucks.  It’s a tough job mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I obviously didn’t go into teaching for the money.  But if I was expected to pack a gun, you’d better believe that I would be looking for a raise in salary.

The whole idea behind the “FASTER Saves Lives” program is that teachers in the school would be faster at addressing the problem than the distant police officers.  So the teachers are, in effect, acting as police officers.

The starting salary for a teacher in the state of New Jersey is about $48,000 per year.  The average starting salary for a state trooper in New Jersey is $62,000 per year.  Police officers receive other benefits, like working overtime.  They can double their paychecks with those hours.  Most retire by the time they hit 50 years old.

Yet in many districts, we teachers are now the stand-in police officers.  So where is that extra $20,000 (minimum) a year?


 

As teachers, we take a risk every day that we enter our buildings now that school shootings are so rampant.  However, being expected to be the heroes who will whip out our guns, kill the bad guys, and save the day is asking a bit much of us.

I have no idea how I would react in a tragic situation like those I see on the news.  I hope that I would try to save my students with every fiber of my being.  I hope that I would try to protect them and risk my own life for them, like Victoria Soto, the heroic teacher from Sandy Hook who died attempting to protect her students.

But I do not believe that that should be part of my job description, and that’s similar to what is being done by handing teachers guns.  It’s asking them to step in and be the heroes and police officers when push comes to shove.  But many of them were not built for that.  Many may not be able to aim that precisely.  Many would still find it difficult to pull the trigger and kill.

I understand that a district would never force me, or any other teacher, to wield a gun.  I know that it is the teachers who volunteer who do.  But it still makes me extremely uncomfortable.


There are already security guards in most schools.  Many schools have police officers, or retired police officers.  So why must teachers be added to the list?  So that every square foot of the school can be “protected”?  I like this image below:

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Let’s stop fighting violence with violence.  We must realize that the solution to shootings is not introducing more guns.

 

 

New Beginnings are Never Easy

I had a student two years ago who was a senior and would soon be moving on to college.  In a video project that she completed toward the end of the year, she said that she had become too comfortable in high school. She knew that this level of comfort signaled the necessity to move on.

That fits my current situation perfectly.  I love my life and I am so thankful for all that I have right now.  Just a few weeks ago, I lived in a lovely apartment in a nice neighborhood.  I had so many family members just a short drive away.  I had a job that I truly loved.  And I had a church that helped to nourish my faith.

Part of me wonders why that wasn’t enough.  It would have been so easy to just remain in Connecticut and keep things the way that they were.  It would have definitely been less emotional.  Lately, I have been find myself feeling so excited that I could burst one moment and then breaking down in tears five minutes later.  It’s stressful and scary and I’m not really a person who does well with change.

But this is what I want — and I’ve wanted it for a long time.  Some people heard that I moved and know that my boyfriend lives in New Jersey, so they assumed he was the reason for everything.  Of course that’s a bonus, but I have wanted to move to New Jersey since high school.  Talk to my friends from high school; they remember.  This is my dream.

After college, my plan was to move to New Jersey.  I graduated and moved back to Connecticut in search of my first teaching job.  I applied to schools in Jersey, but I didn’t have my license yet since I had just finished paying for all of my Praxis tests and my Ohio and Connecticut teacher licenses.  I didn’t tell my family members and friends that I was applying to schools in New Jersey because I didn’t want them to be sad that I was finally home from Ohio and was going to be leaving again — especially since I didn’t know if I would even get an interview.  Obviously, New jersey was not in the cards for me at that time.

I really believe that everything happens for a reason.  Maybe moving away would have been too overwhelming back in 2009.  I loved both of my first teaching jobs in Bridgeport and Danbury and I am thankful for all of the growth they gave me professionally, socially, and emotionally.

Now it’s time for a change.  I have said goodbye to Connecticut.  I always complained about Connecticut, although I know they always say the grass isn’t greener.  Now that I have this definite plan, I can appreciate the pieces of CT that I will be leaving behind.

I love the parks and mountains and hiking trails.  Tarrywile was such a great place to go for a run or a hike and clear my mind.

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I also loved hiking up to Kent Falls with Butterscotch.  CT is beautiful with all of its green trees everywhere.

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And fresh snow on those trees is a sight that never gets old.  …Well, it starts to get old when it’s still snowing in March.

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I will miss Stew Leonard’s with its moving creatures and its little farm.

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I will miss Candlewood Lake and the Candlewood Shores beach.

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I will miss St. Marguerite Bourgeoys and St. Gregory the Great parishes.

I will miss Danbury High School.

Yet I’m also so excited for what is store for me in New Jersey.

I love the beach.  I really can’t get enough of it.  I am so excited to live in a place where I can step out of my house and walk a few steps to the boardwalk to go for a run by the ocean.  In the fall, a time I wouldn’t typically be at the beach, I can still go for walks on the beach whenever I feel like it.  I will also be near nice little lakes where I can go kayaking.

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This past weekend, I was still able to go swimming in the ocean.  It was September 19th and the water was still 73 degrees.  That is something that just makes me so happy.

But obviously the hardest part of leaving has nothing to do with landmarks, but rather the people and relationships I have formed.  I have been so lucky to grow up so close to my family.  Even after moving out and onto my own, my apartment was still within 30 minutes of many family members.  We have so many family parties and although I’ll still be there for the big ones, it’s sad to know there will be some that I will miss.

Yes, I’ll only be a 2/2.5-hour drive away, but things will be different.

I wish I was better at change.  I wish I could just feel happiness right now, but if I told you I wasn’t terrified, I would be lying.  But I guess that’s normal.

It’s time for new beginnings.  It’s really amazing to me how quickly things can change.  I write about major events in my diary so I can look back and remember details that my memory may have forgotten.  On June 18th, I wrote about how disappointed I was that I had not heard back from any school districts despite having applied to 15 schools in New Jersey.  By the end of the month, though, I suddenly had 6 interviews between 2 different districts.  Fast forward 2 weeks and I had a signed teacher contract and a signed apartment lease.

Will I always live in New Jersey?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Who knows what plans God has in store for me.  Will I ever live in Connecticut again? Who knows.

For now I will try to look forward with excitement toward the future.  I know that most changes that I’ve experienced have been for the better.  I was terrified to leave elementary school to move on to Whisconier Middle School.  I was scared to then move on to Brookfield High.  By the time I had graduated, I could not even face the fact that I would be moving to Ohio within 2 months — the first move of my life, since I had lived in the same house for my first 18 years.  It was scary to graduate and move to Monroe while working in Bridgeport and then to move to Danbury to work there.  This is just another change that will hopefully only prove to be fruitful.

So it’s time to step out of my comfort zone and chase my dreams.

And lucky for me, those dreams (at least for now) happen to be in the beautiful Belmar, NJ.

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Right to Refuse Chemotherapy?

I saw an article on Yahoo about a 17-year-old girl, Cassandra, who has tried to refuse chemotherapy. You can view the article here: https://www.yahoo.com/health/should-a-17-year-old-be-allowed-to-choose-death-107518648817.html There’s another article from Fox News here: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/01/08/connecticut-supreme-court-upholds-ruling-that-teen-must-undergo-chemo/

She has hodgkin lymphoma, which, according to the Yahoo article, has an 85% survival rate for patients who undergo chemotherapy. However, Cassandra does not want to put poison into her body.

People are comparing this case to Brittany Maynard’s right to die case. But to me, there’s some major differences between the two.

Brittany took physician-prescribed medicine to commit suicide in order to end her suffering with brain cancer. She was blatantly attempting to end her life. She had no will to live any longer; she was done fighting. She wasn’t looking into any other sorts of treatment options.

Brittany Maynard
Brittany Maynard

Cassandra, on the other hand, is not asking for medicine to die. Instead, she just wants to avoid the poison that is chemotherapy and the side effects that accompany it. She isn’t fighting for the right to die; she’s fighting for the right to refuse treatment and to seek out alternative treatments. It upsets me that our government is trying to stop her.

Cassandra with her mother
Cassandra with her mother

Dying and refusing treatment, to me, are two very different situations.

The Connecticut Supreme Court has voted to force Cassandra to undergo chemotherapy. While I do not agree with Oregon’s “Right to Die” law that helped Brittany Maynard to end her life at 29 years old, I also don’t agree with the state of Connecticut forcing Cassandra into a specific treatment plan of chemotherapy.

I’m aware that part of the reason for the ruling is the psychological maturity of someone who is only 17 years old. The government believes that she is incapable of making such important decisions, even though they believe that she will have that ability once she reaches her 18th birthday and is legally considered an adult. But the problem to me is that she has not said that she wants to die. She wants to fight. She wants to battle this cancer, but she wants to do so on her own terms. She has the support of her family. It’s frustrating that the government has to get involved in this sort of situation.

This would be a different situation if it was just her mother who was forcing her to refuse treatment. But in this case, Cassandra is the one who, with her mother’s support, wants to find other options.

The article treats this situation as a life or death situation, but nothing that I have read shows that Cassandra wants to die. She just doesn’t want to experience chemotherapy. That is very different than Brittany’s story. Cassandra went through two sessions of chemotherapy before running away. She wants to look into alternatives. According to the Fox News article, “The single mother said she and her daughter want to seek alternative treatments that don’t include putting the “poison” of chemotherapy into her daughter’s body.”

I absolutely support Cassandra in not wanting to undergo chemotherapy. There are many alternative treatment methods for cancer patients. One includes the removal of sugar from one’s diet. It’s been proven that cancer cells require sugar to regenerate. Some people have had positive results when eliminating sugar from their diets. Cancer cells thrive on glucose, so there have been studies that have shown that when a cancer cell is starved of glucose, it dies. This treatment alone would probably not cure Cassandra of cancer completely, but it’s a start.

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cancer cells

There are many other natural treatment methods, as well as some experimental treatment plans. I agree that Cassandra shouldn’t already give up and plan to die; however, if she wants to try to fight her cancer with some method other than chemotherapy, and she has the support of her family, then I believe that she has the right to do so.

Sometimes, in cases such as these, our government can be too overbearing. I am thankful for the many freedoms that we have in this country, but in situations like this, these freedoms become too limited.