Sunday, April 29, 2012

Happy Now-April 29

These past few weeks have been a wonderful whirlwind.  Darren and I have been anticipating our move to Arizona with a lot of excitement, and have been blessed to have so many things fall into place recently.  Looking back on the past few weeks, I have been touched by how many little tender mercies Heavenly Father has chosen to put in our path.  Here are my most recent Happy Now 10:

1.  Night-time driver--A couple of weeks ago was Reagan's Spring Break.  Darren requested a couple of days off work that week so that we could drive down to Arizona, take a tour of the law school Darren will be attending (Phoenix School of Law), and do our best to find an apartment and teaching job for me.  Since our time was limited, Darren offered to start driving us down Monday night after he got of work.  He wanted to make it as far as Flagstaff where we planned to spend the night and continue on to Phoenix where I had a teaching interview the next morning.  I don't particularly enjoy driving through the night.  I enjoy a good night's sleep and with an interview the next morning I was worried about being groggy.  Darren, however, made a great effort to make me comfortable on the trip, leaving the backseat clear of luggage so that I could spread out and sleep while he drove into the wee hours of the morning.  As the first of many blessings on this Arizona trip, I am grateful for a husband who was so thoughtful as to make me as comfortable as possible while he did all the work.  We ended up making it to Flagstaff at about 4 a.m., at which point I had already benefited from several hours of restful sleep.

2.  Interview #1--To say I was nervous for my first teaching interview in Phoenix would be quite an understatement.  I had not done interviews for three years and was rehearsing every possible question I could think of with Darren on the last leg of the journey.  How relieved I was when we finally arrived at the school to be so warmly greeted and kindly treated.  I was humbled to receive a job offer at the end of the interview, which I told them I would have to consider.  It was certainly the boost in confidence I needed, and helped me ultimately find the right teaching job after an impromptu interview at the end of our trip.

3.  Phoenix, Arizona--Arizona had not been our first choice for law school locations.  In fact, it was probably third on our list.  I had never been to Arizona and really didn't know what to expect on our visit a few weeks ago.  I was amazed, however, at how much the Phoenix area felt like home as we drove into the city.  Loving very green, wet places, I felt sure that the Arizona desert would not be a good fit for me.  But Phoenix is beautiful.  The city has a beautiful landscape with so many social and cultural things to offer.  I now couldn't be more excited about our future there.

4.  Phoenix School of Law--One of our first appointments while in Phoenix was to take a tour of Darren's law school.  Phoenix School of Law has recently moved into a high-rise building in downtown Phoenix where it occupies the 13th-20th floors.  Our tour guide was a 3L student who had a lot of wonderful insights and advice about attending PSL.  It made both of us, but especially Darren, excited for a future life in the law.

5.  The Good Egg--As is wont for a breakfast-loving duo, Darren and I sought out a yummy breakfast spot in downtown Phoenix on our first morning there.  We succeeded in finding The Good Egg restaurant (where we ate twice) and enjoyed eating outside in the warm AZ spring weather.

6.  Apartment Hunting--Darren and I looked at many, MANY apartments during our few days in Phoenix.  It was a little tricky knowing where to look at first since we wanted to be relatively close to Darren's school but also close to my future job.  As a result, we ended up looking at apartments all over the Phoenix area and its suburbs.  After my first teaching interview on our first morning in Phoenix, we toured a Mark-Taylor apartment complex in northern Phoenix close to that school.  After looking at a few other places, we became more interested in seeing other Mark-Taylor properties.  This at least helped us narrow our search a little.  As I visited schools for interviews or to drop off my resume, we would look for Mark-Taylor rentals in that area.  We fell in love with many.  It was not until our second-to-last day in Phoenix, however, that we decided to visit the Gilbert area.  I had not applied to any schools in Gilbert, but I had been interviewed at schools in nearby Chandler and Mesa.  We visited the Azul Mark-Taylor apartments there in the evening (click here to see what they looked like) and, though they were similar in layout and design to some other Mark-Taylors we had seen, Darren and I agreed that these felt different.  After visiting the apartments, we drove to a nearby outdoor shopping area where we browsed the Barnes and Noble, fell in love with some puppies at the pet store, window shopped at some clothing stores, and saw a movie.  The area was absolutely charming!  I wish I had taken pictures.  We were both feeling great about the Gilbert area that night, but decided to sleep on it.  The next day we visited a few more apartments before returning to look at the Gilbert ones we loved.  A few experiences we had in Gilbert that next day (see the posts below) helped us seal the deal.  We chose an apartment and agreed to become Gilbert residents on June 8!

7.  Gilbert Temple--As we pulled off the freeway in Gilbert on our last day in Arizona, we noticed some construction taking place that we hadn't noticed the evening before.  It didn't take long before we realized that it was the new Gilbert, Arizona temple being built about a 1/2 mile from the apartments we loved.  Darren and I stopped to take some pictures of the temple and a little park (green space!) nearby.  We are so excited to still be so close to a temple!

Gilbert, AZ Temple

Park across the street from the Temple
8.  American Leadership Academy--Leaving the Temple grounds on our way back to the apartments, Darren noticed that a school building shared the lot next to the temple.  It was a public charter elementary school (similar to the school where I am currently teaching) called American Leadership Academy.  We joked about how no school name could be more appropriate for me since Leadership has been the theme in my classroom for the past three years.  I happened to have an extra resume in the car and we decided I had to at least stop in to introduce myself and leave my resume.  I jumped out of the car and walked inside to the school's front office where I happened to meet the school director.  He looked briefly at my resume and started laughing when he realized I was working at Reagan.  He and some other colleagues at the school had lived in Utah and donated money to Reagan when it first opened.  He asked me if I was available for an impromptu interview.  We talked for about a half hour and, having had some interview practice the previous few days, felt blessed to feel so calm and ready to answer his questions.  He finished the interview by asking me if I could come back for the second stage of interviewing to teach a lesson.  When I mentioned that I was leaving Arizona that afternoon, we agreed to have me video tape a lesson in my classroom early the following week and send it to him.  I think I literally floated out of the school.  Darren hadn't been expecting me to be gone so long so he was full of questions.  After so much uncertainty over the past year as to where we would be living and what we would be doing, everything seemed to come together in that moment.  We signed the contract at the Azul Mark-Taylor apartments an hour later.  Even though we did not yet know what would come of the job at ALA, we both felt we were making the right move.

9.  Video-tape Marathon--After returning to Springville, I spent part of Saturday in my classroom preparing for the video-taped lesson I planned to teach on Monday for the ALA job application.  On Monday I was at the school quite late trying to get the video into the right format to leave on my dropbox for ALA's administration to watch.  After a lot of hours and, quite frankly, tears, I accepted the fact that the video was too large to load onto dropbox in its entirety.  Darren, bless his heart, offered to run the flashdrive containing my video to the nearest FedEx store to over-night it to Gilbert.  I e-mailed ALA to let them know it was coming, tried not to worry about it, and hoped for the best.  Two days later, on Wednesday, I received a call from ALA's director saying that he had watched the video and wanted to offer me a teaching position at their school.  Not only that, they wanted to offer me a fifth grade teaching position. As Reagan and ALA teach a very similar curriculum in 5th grade, I was thrilled to realize that I could take many of my pre-made lessons plans with me and help smooth my transition into a new school.  I was SO excited.  I left work immediately to go surprise Darren at his job with the news--we will be living in Gilbert a 1/2 mile from the temple and my new job!

10.  Planning with Darren--In the days since our Arizona trip, Darren and I have done a lot of talking about our future.  We realize that the immediate future will hold many challenges in law school and work.  We can't help but smile every time we talk about what's ahead, however.  We know that even when things seem unclear and difficult, as they have many times over the past year, that things always work out.  We are so grateful for that knowledge.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Now-Easter Weekend

Darren and I returned last night from a very fun Easter weekend.  My dad's  cousins own a winter ranch near Milford, Utah.  Darren and I were invited to spend the weekend with our extended family out at the ranch and had a great time!  I loved being able to spend time with family, enjoy the open space, and see the animals.  Darren was in cowboy heaven. :)

1.  Welcoming Wintches--Darren and I were touched by how welcoming the Wintch side of my family was to us.  I didn't know several of my extended family members on this side of the family, and they had never met Darren, but they welcomed us with open arms and immediately made us feel comfortable and a part of the family.

2.  Wide Open Spaces--I love traveling to big cities that are full of culture and history, but there is something about getting away from everything and being surrounded by nothing but land that is refreshing to the soul.

Me and Darren with some Wintch relatives at the winter ranch.
3.  Cowboy Heaven--Darren's family owns a dry farm in Idaho, and Darren has often talked about how much he would love taking over the farm and making a living from the land.  It was fun for me to watch Darren walk around the ranch this weekend.  He is now totally committed to the idea of owning cattle, in addition to the dogs and horses we have already discussed. :)

These bulls were absolutely massive.  Darren (who also dreams of bull riding one day) actually pet one of them.  Seeing how strong they were with only one metal bar separating us from them, however, I decided to keep a safer distance.
4.  Baby Colt--There were some animals on the farm, however, that completely won me over.  It is calving season, so there were several baby calves at the ranch for us to see--they are much more endearing than the big bulls.  The highlight for me, however, was being able to see a baby colt that had been born two days before our arrival.  It's mother was very protective and kept the baby out of our eyeshot for most of the day, but we were able to get a couple of good shots.

5.  Saturday Picnic--The Wintch family hosted an amazing picnic lunch and Easter egg hunt at the ranch on Saturday.  After eating, while some of the adults were hiding the Easter bags for everyone, Darren and I took a hike with some cousins to a little rock peak.  The view was amazing!  Mary Wintch got this shot of us at the top.  Darren and I are the little dots to the far right. :)

6.  Easter Egg Hunt--It is a Wintch family tradition to hide little Easter bags for everyone on the mountain side on the Saturday before Easter.  The Wintches were kind enough to make me and Darren our own bags.  We had a lot of fun searching the mountain for our bags with the kids. 

7.  Family History--The ranch and it's surrounding areas are filled with history.  I loved listening to my dad's cousin, John Wintch, tell us stories about the history that surrounded us.  The home they live in on the ranch used to be an old train station, and there are remnants of old potato sheds and lambing shelters that my great-great grandfather used on the ranch.  Richard Wintch, another of my dad's cousins, told me I was the 5th generation of Wintch/Sonne's to visit the ranch.  There is something special about walking in the same places my ancestors walked and made their living.

Laura, Dallin, Richard, Darren and me in front of the old potato shed
8.  Old West Music--Mary Wintch set the perfect mood as we drove into the ranch Saturday morning by playing a CD of Old Western Music including songs like "Cold, Clear Water" and "Home on the Range."  It was hard to keep a straight face while listening to some of the songs, but it sure fit the setting perfectly.

9.  Easter Dinner--We returned to the Wintch home in Manti, Utah on Saturday night so that we could attend church and have Easter dinner there on Sunday.  Mary prepared an amazing meal of ham, potatoes, salad, and rolls with ice cream, banana bread, and strawberries for dessert.  Needless to say, we did not leave Manti hungry!

10.  Manti Temple--I absolutely love the Manti Temple.  It is so beautiful.  There is a beautiful view of the temple from Mary's Manti home.  On our way out of town Sunday evening, we drove around the temple grounds.  We didn't get any pictures of the temple on this trip, but here is an old favorite that Mary took of us a couple of years ago when Darren and I visited Manti for the 4th of July after becoming engaged.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend, as well!
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