Todos Somos Um- “We are All One.”

  Todos Somos Um. We are all one.  The famous Brazilian graffiti artist Kobra choose this mantra as the title for the masterpiece he created for the games.  His brilliant and gigantic mural depicts 6 different people groups in a stunning display of culture, color and beauty.   It portrays the unity, peace and feelings of community that perfectly sums up my feelings for my time at the Olympics.   We are all one. I have never felt that more than this week, here at the Olympic games.

You can’t understand this strange Olympic community until you experience it for yourself.    We have all watched the Olympics on TV.    We have all witnessed the athletes compete and heard their stories.  Every four years we all cheer on the American Team and yearn for Gold with lustful anticipation. The media describes and perhaps ignites feuds between athletes and countries and at home everyone focuses on the competition and rivalries.

But when you are here at the Olympics in person the rivalries seem to melt away.  It feels completely different.  What you don’t see through the TV is the community of spectators, athletes, volunteers, families of athletes, and media personnel who have all united under shared passions.  From home it is impossible to understand he bond and friendships being built in the little Utopian Bubble that is the Olympic Games. 

This past week I got to live my dream.  I got to attend several Olympic events including the Opening Ceremony.   I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see Kerri Walsh-Jennings absolutely dominate the Beach Volleyball court in person. I was also never so proud to be a Boilermaker than when watching Steele Johnson and David Bodia dive for Silver and give God all of the glory. It was also thrilling to watch US men’s basketball and Gymnastics.   I found it fascinating and enthralling to be there live with an energetic audience.


  
However, the events themselves, while thrilling and fun, were not my favorite part of being here at the Olympics.

What I loved most about being here during the Olympics was the COMMUNITY. The Olympic community is smaller than I ever imagined. Most events are all spaced out together in the Olympic park and it is fascinating to see people go around the massive park bustling off to their various events from water polo or  tennis to  handball or diving.


I kept running into the same people. I met these people on the bus going to the Olympic park, on the street, at the Boulevard or in line for different events.  It is thrilling and exciting to see people you recognize again and again.  It is fun to check in with each other to find out what they have seen and where they are going to next.  We shared stories of the games and gave each other advice.  Here in the Olympic Park, Rio suddenly felt small and familiar.



I saw athletes on their way to their events, duffle bags in hand and concentration on their face.  I met the families of the athletes with their nervous smiles and hopeful energy.   I created a group of friends from around the world and we all started sharing a common purpose.  We found ourselves suddenly rooting for each other’s teams, not just our own.

 The Host city’s intoxicating excitement compels everyone to root for every Brazilian competitor along with Rio’s  vibrant crowd.  I met many family members of athletes while roaming the Olympic Park and I found myself cheering, not just for the Americans or even the Brazilians, but also for the daughter of the Chinese woman I met in line of the diving event.   And I cheered for the son of the guy from Mexico and for the friends of that sweet couple from Argentina.  While at the Olympics in Rio, I started rooting for the world- not just America.

  

 When  I walked around the Olympic village I couldn’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie and joy. There are several tables set up in the Olympic Park and I saw  different groups mixing together sharing meals and hopping table to table to swap pins and collectible cups.   One evening I even joined a Danish Family in their game of 500 Rummy at one of these tables.

Here in this strange and magical Olympic bubble, smiles and kindness break language barriers and patience and understanding seem to be the normal mode of operation.  This utopia of peaceful cohabitation is why it is essential to visit the games in person.   It was here that my heart felt completely at peace and full of joy.  During all of the fun and love and celebration I started to fully understand Todos Somos Um. “We are all one”.  

  

      

I’m going to the Olympic Opening Ceremony!!   Today!!   

God is so good and so faithful.   He worked everything out and gets all of the glory!   My good friends drove me out of town to get the tickets from the FedEx shipping center. I am so thankful for them!  

  I am so beyond blessed and full of JOY!   How good is God?  He loves me so much even though I don’t deserve it- but that is what makes him so great!  We don’t deserve his love, but he loves us anyway!   Check out the emotional moment I had when I got my tickets.    I still can’t believe I’m going to the Olympics tonight!!! 

The Teacher’s Harvest: A letter to my teacher.

264536-harvestA year ago today a great teacher passed away.  Mr. Wiatt was a self proclaimed simple man.  He was a teacher and a farmer, yet he meant so much more to those who knew him.  He taught me to understand and appreciate mathematics, the subject I now teach and love.

I was able to send him the below letter for his birthday last year.  He received it a few weeks before his passing.  I am so thankful that I was able to express my gratitude for all he had done for me.   I was not able to attend his funeral because I was living in Finland at the time, but the family read the below letter at his services.  I wanted to share it with you today as I remember a great man and teacher.

 

My Dear Mr. Wiatt,

I am sorry I cannot be here with your family and loved ones today as we celebrate you and the great man, father, teacher and friend you were in our lives.   However, I want you to know what a difference you have made in my life.

I am a math teacher and I cannot imagine doing anything else.   Like you, teaching math is my life’s calling and I find so much joy and contentment from it. And I owe it all to you and your skillful example and kind instruction.   I would not have had the courage or the ability to pursue a math degree without first being your student.

You made a profound impact on me in school. You were able to explain math in a way that just made sense. Your teaching was so simple, so logical and without frill. You were able to cut to the chase and simply teach. I gained so much confidence from taking your courses.

You are a foundation of Southmont High School. A legacy. A legend. You were everyone’s favorite teacher. My parents loved you, my brother and friends loved you, and I loved you. And while, you sent many of us to the Hallway for various reasons (I think you sent me once for apologizing too much….I’m still sorry about that by the way.) you did it with love and often a trace of a smile.

Your stories and ironic wit made us all laugh and enjoy your math classroom. I, like so many others throughout the years, looked forward to math everyday. I thrived in your class and began to see that I could be successful in math. With that confidence came the realization that I wanted to become a math teacher just like you.

And I did. You, not my university education, taught me how to teach and love math.  I truly mean that. Those fancy education courses didn’t teach me a thing about actually teaching math- you did. Everything I know about good solid math instruction came from you. I use your crazy sayings and explanations with my students every single day I teach.  

Like you, my teaching is simple, logical and to the point and I also color it with funny stories and silly sayings that add life and fun to the classroom. I know now, just as you knew then, these silly sayings are not just for show. It allows us to really remember the special tricks along the way. I still can’t subtract a negative integer without thinking “Bam Bam”. I also always think “plus a blank-a, plus a blank-a” when I am trying to complete a square. And NO ONE will ever be able to add two unlike terms together because you simply cannot add Pumpkin Pies to Pumpkin Rolls! And the list of Wiatt-isms goes on and on.

What I am trying to say, your teaching legacy continues. You are teaching a whole new generation of students through me, and several others who have followed in your footsteps of becoming math teachers.

But your legacy continues and reaches beyond the math classroom. Your teaching legacy continues in the hundreds of engineers, doctors, nurses, businesspersons, electricians, farmers, accountants, construction managers, lawyers and other professionals you taught in your 40+ years of teaching.  

Our collective success is due, in part, to the math and life lessons we learned in your classroom. You knew math education isn’t about the math. It is about teaching students to use their brains. That is what you trained us to do, and for that we are forever grateful.  

You always talked about being just a simple farmer. And you were just a farmer, but not in the traditional sense.   What you planted in all of us was far more valuable than the corn and beans you planted in the ground.

We, your students who love and cherish you, are your crop. We, the students of Southmont High School, are your harvest.   We are your life’s work and we are so thankful for your years of dedication, love, kindness, wit, humor and service.

Southmont would not have been the same without a Mr. Wiatt.   Our lives would not have been the same without you. I love you Mr. Wiatt, and I am so thankful for you and what you have meant to my life.

Love Always,

Kelly , Your faithful math student.

 

” Yes I can! I’m Clover Anne! I can be an Engineer!”

I can’t describe how much I LOVE the below book series.  The  “I can be an Engineer” books are all about empowering young girls to be mathematical thinkers and problem solvers!  I know the author, who is an engineer herself.  She is dedicated to helping inspire young girls to become engineers.  We need more messages and books like this out in the world!  Please check it out!  I recommend having a copy of this book in all classrooms!  It is a great book for all boys and girls!

New Zealand: The World’s Mosaic

Picture 31Imagine all of best travel destinations in the world.  Got them?……All of them?  Now, compress them to create one magical island full of awe-inspiring beauty.  This small country has everything you could ever want. It is a mosaic of all the best parts of the entire world.  It has the rolling green hills of Scotland, the volcanic mystery of Hawaii, snow capped mountains of the Swiss alps, palm treed beaches of the tropics, the majestic lakes of Minnesota, the ethereal quiet of the Pacific Northwest,  Alaska’s sparkling glaciers,  the rain forests of south America, New England’s harbors and Midwestern hospitality.

IMG_0716Can this place be real?  Every corner I turn and with every bend in the road I find myself in another world completely unlike but as equally stunning as the previous destination.   It feels as if this much beauty should not be allowed to exist in one place.   I have fallen in love with New Zealand’s beauty, I’ve been seduced by its variety and enchanted by its hospitality.

 IMG_9982
New Zealand is unlike any other country because it is like ALL other countries.   Everyone can find a piece of their home, and yet it is so majestically alien at the same time.  I think, like hobbits,  You can learn all there is to know about New Zealand in a month, and yet after a hundred years it can still surprise you.    Just when you think you are starting to understand this incredible land, there is another jaw-droping landscape that takes your breath away.   I felt truly blessed to have the opportunity to see and discover this land.
IMG_0491

 

 

Like most Americans, I knew very little about New Zealand pre- Lord of the Rings.  I had a vague idea of it being a small country similar to Australia, but not one I had a burning desire to visit.   However, from my first glimpse of the quaint green Shire in the movie the Fellowship of the Ring I became captivated by New Zealand’s beauty and innocence.   As the film series progressed  I became mesmerized by its variety and splendor to an almost obsessive state.   I knew that I had to visit this land that could be both Shire and Mordor, Rohan and Gondor, mountains and beach, winter and summer.  J. R. R. Tolkien never visited New Zealand, but I am certain that New Zealand was/ is Middle Earth.

IMG_8876IMG_8807

2013: A year of Adventures

Image

The first of the year always brings with it reflections of the previous year.  I started to get down on myself for not accomplishing everything on my lofty “to do” list for the year.  I may not have lost the weight I wanted, wrote a book, or learned a new language…but as I reflect on the things I did accomplish I realized it might not have been as unproductive as I originally thought.  It turns out I had quite the year!

Things I Accomplished in 2013

Image

 

 

1)  I finished my Master’s Degree and Graduated from Purdue University, ( I ran a race the day after I finished my degree.)

 

2)  I ran a two 5k races, two 10k races and my second 1/2 marathon!   13.1 Miles!

 

IMG_29923)  I returned to Spain….and it was even more beautiful and meaningful than the first visit. I visited my favorite parts of Madrid and we were reunited like the old dear friends that we are.  I also had the chance to make “New Friends” of the enigmatic Granada, the majestic Alhambra, and the leisurely Mallorca.  Most importantly, God spoke directly to me during this return pilgrimage to Spain, and I learned how to Abide in His love and through that, my joy was made complete.  This return to Spain last April was one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences of my life.  I will always treasure this trip, as I will always treasure Spain.

 

4)  2013 will be the year that I lived with my brother.  We shared an apartment this year and on top of being the best brother anyone could ask for, he has also been a great roommate! I respect and admire him so much for the incredible man he is. it has been great fun living together!   I will be forever grateful for the this time we spent together here at Ashley Place.  Derrek is more than my brother, he is one of my best friends.

Image

5)  I attended my first professional soccer game… a Quarter final championship league game at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid.  I  wanted to go but I couldn’t afford even the cheap tickets.  However, God provided above and beyond my expectations!  He took the opportunity to show off and I was GIVEN 14th row VIP tickets!  It was an incredible once-in a lifetime experience!

Image

Image

6) I was awarded the Lilly Grant witch funded my summer research trip to Asia. I planed and organized this massive 2 month expedition.  I found the schools, teachers, and translators necessary to complete my research, as well as plan all the travels, get my visas, and arrange all my 19 different flights.  It was a massive undertaking that included 15 different cities.  In two months I didn’t spend more than three nights in a row in the same bed. A large part of my year was dedicated to planning and implementing this project, but I learned so much about the Asian academic systems and the unique Asian Culture.   This trip also allowed me to add seven new countries to my map which include; Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, China, South Korea, and Japan.  It even extended my total country count to 25!  (I only have 5 more to go in my whole “Thirty before I’m Thirty” plan!)

Image

7)  It has been an amazing year of adventurous firsts! I walked the great wall of China and I explored the ancient temple complexes in the Cambodian Jungle.  I got a real Thai massage in Thailand. I navigated seas off the coast of Phuket in my Cave Canoeing adventure.  I rode (and fell in love with) an elephant named “Sabo”. I saw the most beautiful orchids in the world at the Singapore Botanical gardens and I journaled in front of my hotel room window that displayed the mighty Petronas towers of Kuala Lumpur.  I saw an epic light show dance across the Hong Kong Skyline,  I stood in attention with the ancient Terra-cotta warriors of Xi’An,  I explored the streets of old Beijing, ran to the birds nest and visited a real silk factory.  I attended both a dumpling feast and a tea ceremony.  I sailed down the river Li and witnessed its glorious 20,000 peaks!  I met the kindest people I will ever know in a South Korean coffee shop.  I ate a black egg that had been boiled underground in the sulfuric waters under Mt Fuji.  I attended a festival in Kyoto, saw the Golden Pavilion, stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan (inn) by the sea where I slept on mats on the floor and bathed in (public) natural hot springs.  I also visited a real Ninja House!

Image

Image

Image

8)  I also dated someone for the first time…it turns out I am not really good at that sort of thing. I really prefer my independence it seems.  However, it was a great learning experience and I am glad that I went on my first real date in 2013…..finally!

9)  I had a student teacher teach in my classroom. (I know! When did I become old enough to be the one imparting wisdom to future teachers?!)   I did not enjoy this experience as much as I had expected as it was more difficult for me to give up control of my classroom than I had anticipated.  Maybe there is a theme here and in 2014 I should work on being less independent and more collaborative.

10)  This year I also took a chance and applied for a Fulbright Fellowship in Finland.  This is perhaps the biggest adventure I have dared to pursue.  It would mean me leaving my teaching position in Westfield for a few months to head to the Nordic Country of Finland for a 4-5 month research project.  I will not know until April if I will be accepted into the prestigious Fulbright community, but I put myself out there and dared to dream.  Who knows what the next year will bring, but I think I can content that 2013 was an amazing year.       Image

HERE is to another great Year!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!