Visitor #3

The third OPG (Original Parma Girl :)) and my final Texas roommate, Megan, came to visit the first weekend in October. She got here in time for a late lunch on Friday and flew back to Dallas Sunday morning, so it was a pretty quick trip! We managed to pack in plenty of fun, though.

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My Madam Secretary-watching¬†friends know this as “where Henry writes sometimes.” ūüôā

After lunch at the 24-hour diner down the street from my apartment, we took the metro to the Archives station and then walked to the International Spy Museum.

When you first get into the actual museum, you are instructed to choose an alias and memorize the information because you’ll “need it later.” We didn’t know it at the time, but Megan and I both chose “Greta Schmidt” as our new identity. After choosing our new name, we watched a short video about the history of spycraft (which now has me super suspicious of everyone I meet here) and then entered the first exhibit.

There is SO much to see and learn at the spy museum! At one point, we crawled through an air duct to spy on the unsuspecting tourists below. We were excellent at staying in the green on the noise meter until a group of rowdy kids came in behind us and jacked that thing up to the uppermost red level. Boo.

Along the way, there were two or three computer checkpoints where we were asked questions about our aliases. This was a little disappointing because we were expecting to be stopped by real people and quizzed or something. Neither of us passed our exit questionnaire, though, so apparently we don’t have futures as spies! LOL.

We walked around a bit after leaving the museum, and then we grabbed pizza from the place below my apartment before starting season 3 of Quantico on Netflix.

Saturday morning we stopped by campus so Megan could get a GW t-shirt for her school’s college shirt day. While we were there, we took the requisite pics with George Washington himself. ūüôā

After GW, we went on a food tour in Old Town Alexandria. We ate some good food and then finished with some fantastic desserts! The tour lasted around three hours, and then we went back to Gadsby’s Tavern and took a tour there. It was really cool to see one of Washington’s hangout spots! Old Town has some fun shopping options, so we walked around a bit before taking an Uber back to my apartment. We promptly switched into our pjs and watched three or four more episodes of Quantico. (We are nothing if not committed.)

Sunday came too quickly. We took the metro to the airport and said a quick “see you later!” before parting ways. I made it to church a few minutes late and then had two meetings after, so I didn’t get home until after 3:00. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but it was worth it!

You could make this place beautiful,

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Good Bones

(The title of this post is borrowed from my current favorite poem, introduced to me by my current favorite TV show. More on that later.)

I love stories. I’m a life-long avid reader, TV watcher, and movie goer. My list of favorite, formative books is too long to mention, so I’ll stick to TV and movies. As a kid, I rented the same Strawberry Shortcake, Popples, and Care Bears videos so often that I had most of them memorized.¬†In middle school, Walker, Texas Ranger was my show. (I do not need your judgement. It was a simpler time.) The movie Dangerous Minds made me want to teach English; then high school brought JAG¬†and during college came¬†Law & Order: SVU.¬† I also have a well-documented love of NCIS, Hamilton, and most recently, Madam Secretary. Different shows for different stages of my life.

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My childhood faves notwithstanding, all the others share two things: careers in public service and strong female leads. I think most people who know me will agree that I clearly watch/read/obsess over too many¬†A LOT of stories. (I haven’t had cable in 3+ years, but Netflix and libraries are enablers. What can I say?) Thankfully, my family and both of my church homes also made sure I knew the Bible — lots of individual stories pointing to the greater story of Jesus and God’s love and redemptive work through him. When I look at my life today, I can’t help but see a tangle of all these stories.

I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was in first grade, but I didn’t know I wanted to teach high school until Dangerous Minds. Then, during our junior year, my friend Amy and I served as pages in the Mississippi Senate. It was so fascinating to me that I almost went to MSU as a political science major. (I didn’t get their specific scholarship, so I went in undeclared. Praise God, every credit transferred when I switched to secondary education sophomore year.) I didn’t join the military or the police force or become a lawyer like my favorite leading ladies. I did become a public servant, however, and my years as a teacher irreversibly shaped who I am.

Teaching is a difficult profession for many reasons, and sometimes teachers just need to commiserate with colleagues in the lounge between classes. But in their classrooms with their students, good teachers push everything else aside and respond to what matters: the kids. Occasionally that means they teach a state-sanctioned subject, but more often it also means being a parent, a nurse, a counselor, a confidant, a coach, a judge, a cheerleader, etc. until the most pressing needs are met. (Students do not care about a state English test if they have not eaten since yesterday, just broke up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and/or have no idea where they will sleep tonight.) In addition to concerns about their own families and themselves, teachers bear the burdens of many of their students. It is an awesome responsibility, and it can wear on you after a while.

In a season 3 episode of Madam Secretary, a policy advisor reads an excerpt from Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones”¬†after a particularly tragic day at the office. The last part of it resonated with me during a difficult part of last semester, and I kept the poem open in a browser tab for pretty much the remainder of the school year. The speaker talks about how the world is dark and dangerous, but she keeps that from her children because she’s trying to “sell them the world.” She compares herself to a realtor walking a buyer through a terrible house but trying to point out its good bones: “This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.” Each time I walked into my classroom, I had the opportunity to make it more or less beautiful based on my attitude and actions. It didn’t matter what was going on outside those walls; I was only in control of me. So I did what I could in that classroom until I couldn’t anymore.

Public education has a long way to go, but I believe it’s worth fighting for. So here I am, beginning work on a policy degree. Doing my best to make public education — and my corner of the world — more beautiful, not less.

You are where you are, with your specific gifts, loving the people and things you love for a reason.

This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.

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