A letter to 20 year old Elizabeth from **THE FUTURE**

14 Jan

Dear 20 year old Elizabeth,

Last night you and your friend Melissa lay on the grass in front of your dorm and star gazed as the minutes passed and you kissed your teen years goodbye.  You and Melissa discussed all the things that you would never stop doing no matter how old you got.  You were never going to stop climbing trees.  You were never going to stop tumbling around and doing hand stands up against the walls.  You were never going to be too old for braids or a side ponytail.  You were never going to be more comfortable in heels than you are in jeans.  You were never going to be a boring, stuffy, old grown up.  Oh, little girl, you have no idea how much you haven’t changed! In some ways you still are that crazy 20 year old who wears jeans way too much and still rocks a side ponytail.  But here’s the thing: Later that night I watched you verbalize only a fraction of the fear you had of growing older; of leaving the last vestiges of your childhood behind.  I listened as you silently wondered at the questions you could only ask in your head, because you were so afraid of not being taken seriously.  I agonized with you as you stifled your tears while on the phone with your family; tears which you could not fully explain, and yet tears that came from a deeply hurt part of your soul.  You were so afraid that the dreams of you imagination would pale in comparison to your reality.  You were afraid that you would never outrun your teen years. Well, let me tell you a few things about your life.

First of all, you can’t outrun your teen years. You sure made a noble attempt in college and for a few years beyond, but there will come a time in your mid-twenties when it will show up on your doorstep and lay around like a bad houseguest until you deal with it. And you know what? You DO deal with it. You lay it all out, you talk it out with trusted friends, you realize there is nothing you can do to change the past and you let it go. It will take a while, it will be painful and it will come in spurts, but you will get there. Best of all, in the process you will have one of the very best conversations with Teresa of your entire life and it will lead to a new level of sisterhood. Second, you are incredibly brave.  In a year and a half you will tear your ACL and will require surgery. You have said surgery 700 miles from home.  Without your parents there.  The sweet family of a friend of yours will take care of you and allow you to recover in their home.

When you are 23 you will go through a bit of a wild streak.  You will date somewhat inappropriate boys, you will get your belly button pierced, you will stay out all night long, you will discover a love of bellinis.  Fortunately, because this is you, your “wild streak” will be pretty tame.  And because of your wild streak you will learn much more about who you are as a Christian and how to love Jesus better.  Your “older friend” Stephanie will introduce you to MAC makeup and your life will never be the same.  She will also introduce you to actual fashion. You will learn so much, and yet you will continue to wear jeans and t-shirts and put your hair in a ponytail most of the time.  She will teach you how to throw the perfect Christmas Eve party and she will introduce you to the Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks.  She will be patient with you as you grow into adulthood.  She will ask thoughtful questions that help you to see yourself more clearly.  She will love you even when you are a nut case.  You will look back on your life and you will know that without her you might have turned out very differently.  You will grow up and grow in a different direction, but you will always know that she is near and she is only a phone call away.  And that will make you happy.

You will fulfill 12 year old Elizabeth’s (back when she was just Karis) dream of writing a book.  It will be everything you ever imagined your first book would be and you will be so proud of it.  You are still trying to work out how to get it published…

You will travel! Like, a lot! You’ll go to London and Paris and get stuck on New Year’s Eve in the Chunnel and you will celebrate the entrance of 1997 underneath the English Channel instead of in Trafalgar Square like you planned, but you’ll be with these friends, one of whom has a video camera and you will create your own crazy memories. You will go on an 11 day road trip with Monica (who was with you on the Paris trip and with whom you’ll also go to the Bahamas with for graduation) to the west coast. You will see the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Yosemite and Sequoia National Forests.  You will plan to camp every night.  In reality you will camp like, 5 nights. You will go to England and Scotland with Wes and Julie.  You’ll go on a college visit road trip on the East coast with Ashley. You’ll learn that Teresa is a fun travel buddy and together you will go to Washington DC, Italy, Boston, New York City and for Christmas when you are 32 you will go on a Caribbean cruise with the whole family. You will fly to South Africa for the wedding of your boyfriend’s brother. Oh yeah, you’re going to date a guy from South Africa. Let’s talk about that.

Let me back up a bit. When you are 24 you will have your heart broken.  Matthew* will be a smooth talker who says all the right things.  He also says many of the wrong things, but you will choose to ignore them.  He will stroke your ego, lead you on and carelessly play with your heart.  He will emotionally crush you. You will want to kick him.  Instead you will go out with his least favorite person.  Twice.  It is not your finest moment either.  But it will cause you to be more cautious in the future.  The future will come five years later in the form of Sam*. Sam will be perfect for you; or at least that’s the way it will seem. It will take a year and a half of long distance dating with occasional visits and hundreds of emails and phone calls for you to realize that Sam can’t freaking commit. Or figure out what he wants. Or tell you what he wants. You will have your heart broken for the second time on a bench in the Cape Town airport as Sam tells you that while he knows what the “right thing” to do is (propose and get married already), he’s too scared to do it. You will attempt to walk away with your head held high, but you will cry throughout the 12 hour flight to London and then through the 9 hour flight back to Houston. You will realize that he’s never going to be ready to marry you, so you will break up with him… because YOU aren’t too scared to do that. This time you will resolve to toughen up your armor. As such, when Sam emails you or calls you or writes you letters you will remind yourself that you deserve better.  And you will not fall back down the rabbit hole because you will realize that you dodged a bullet.

You will start working with the youth ministry and find your niche.  There you will meet people who will become some of your closest friends.  You will meet Julie whose children will one day call you Aunt KK. You will rediscover your love of retreats and summer camp.  You will learn to disciple others and in the process how to grow in your own relationship with the Lord.  You will live the youth group you always read about; you’ll just live it as an adult (sort of…).  You will find that’s only the beginning of a life built around teenagers. When you are 26 you will decide that you’d rather spend the summer in Massachusetts and you will find Lakeside Christian Camp in Western Mass where you will spend 2 amazing summers.  You will discover that teaching History is where your heart will find career happiness. It will frustrate you at times and it will bring you to your knees on multiple occasions, but you won’t be able to imagine anything better. You will work your tail off to take groups of kids to Washington, DC for 3 summers. Each summer you will tear up a little as you sit back in your seat on the airplane and listen to the sounds of first time flyers and know that you are giving them something they might not have ever had otherwise.  You will go to Spain to work at a summer camp for 2 weeks with members of the youth ministry.  You will go full-force into lock ins and sleepovers that will wreck you the next morning.  You will TP houses and write with chalk on driveways.  You will skip out on grown up New Year’s Eve parties to celebrate with the kids.  They will keep you young at heart.

When you are 35  everything will change.  Your beloved dad will succumb to kidney failure and pneumonia and will join the Lord in Heaven. You will be crushed and yet you will be overwhelmed with how blessed you were to be his daughter.  Conversely, three weeks later Teresa will marry a widower with 4 kids and you will enter one of your most fun roles to date- Aunt KK.  Kaylee, Carter, Lydia and Abraham will be the nieces and nephews you have always dreamed of and the loves of your heart.  A year and 10 days after the death of your dad, you will be present at the birth of his namesake, John Clark Hoffman.  It will be the greatest thing you will ever be a part of.  On your 38th birthday Edison will be born and 16 months later Bellagrace will join the family.  They will be the seven most amazing children on the planet and you will visit them and Skype with them as much as you can.  You will strive to fulfill the promise you made to your dad to take care of your mom and you will grow closer to her than you ever thought possible.  You will go on trips with her, you will experience role reversal when she breaks her hip and you have to be a grown up, and you will find joy in watching her be a grandmother.

So you see, little girl, your life is good. At 20 years old, you can’t even wrap your head around how much you have to be thankful for.  Sure, there are going to be tough times and there are going to be times when the doubts creep back in and threaten to take a strangle-hold on your life.  But you are strong and confident and when you are not, you have amazing friends who remind you that you are loved.  You have a mom and a sister whom you grow closer to every year.  You have a pile of nieces and nephews who KNOW you love them.  You have a job that is secure.  You have a church who is like a giant extended family.  And you have a Savior who has always taken care of you.  You have the whispers of hopes for the future. You are blessed.  Remember that, kid.


Sort of grown-up, but not willing to call Thirty10 by its real name Elizabeth


Writer’s Block

6 Nov

Well, just by starting this entry I’m contradicting the title, huh?  I have all these thoughts in my head, but when I try to organize them and crank out a coherent post, I’m at a loss.  This is partly the explanation for my 2 year absence.  Every time I thought about blogging I just couldn’t.  Remember that book I wrote?  It’s still sitting on a flash drive (and on the hard drive of my old laptop)  waiting for me to DO SOMETHING with it.  Sometimes I think the stories in my head, which are numerous, are gold mines.  Then I remember that I am in the “middle” of a trilogy of which only the first book has been written and not even shopped to publishers or formatted for kindle because I have no idea what to do or how to do it and I don’t want to write chapter summaries for like, 34 chapters and I can’t get past chapter 3 of the second book even though I totally know the events that need to happen and I know how it will end and if I can’t get through this book how am I going to finish the trilogy and I can’t start on a new topic until Sunny Flannigan gets her due which is an end to this trilogy and then I think that I can’t blog when I have so much other writing that really needs to get done but my head hurts so maybe I’ll just watch Netflix instead….

But then, someone inevitably asks me about the book that I wrote 2 YEARS AGO and whether they can expect to see it in print anytime in the next decade and a feeling of mortification washes over me because I have done nothing to further the cause of my dear protagonist, Sunny.  Her story needs to be heard.  Her story needs to be written.  Her story is amazing (though fictional) and involves cross-country moves and cheerleading tryouts and country clubs and debutante balls and relationships with family members and relationships with Jesus.  I can’t even handle how much I love this girl, and yet I can’t find the motivation (or maybe the courage) to take the steps to tell her story.

So that’s where I’m at.  I need a plan. I need a plan to get the ball moving on this whole thing.  I found ways to get the book written.  I made the time necessary to actually write the book.  I think somehow I have to find the time necessary to get it out there.  Sunny is too good to live forever inside of my old MacBook.

The Return of Elizabelle…

23 Oct

Amusingly, if you look at the date of the post just prior to this one, it doesn’t look like I’ve been gone that long.  But it’s been 2 years!  Yes. I am back from a two year hiatus. I was really tired? I forgot how to write? I was on a secret mission to Jupiter? Take your pick.

So what brings me back to the blogging world? After all; I didn’t return when Clark became a big brother to Edison on my freaking birthday in 2013. I didn’t return when I made the conscious decision to give up my limited free time and work with the youth ministry again. I didn’t return when my first biological niece (Bellagrace: she gorgeous!) was born last May and I didn’t return when I had the best summer in over a decade. So why now?

Because of timing. Specifically God’s timing. Last spring and early summer I interviewed at 10 schools for jobs. TEN. I interviewed for just about everything; high school history, middle school history, middle school language arts, 5th and 6th grade social studies, 5th grade social studies and writing and a “what do I have to lose” shot at an instructional specialist position. I didn’t get any of them. I got 10 interviews, but couldn’t close the deal on a single one. I was pretty crushed. Some of the rejections were a lot harder to take than others. I joked that God was probably like, “Seriously, stop interviewing! You aren’t going anywhere!”  But there was a whole other part of me that felt like I needed to persevere and keep trusting that the right job was out there. And it was. It just wasn’t the job I expected.

About 2 months ago I started my 9th year at Northbrook Middle School. I can’t believe  going to say this, but I am so glad I am there. From the beginning of inservice week I could feel that something was different, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I think it was Wednesday of the first week of school when all of a sudden I realized… My attitude was so different! Gone were the days of being frustrated by a student’s lack of English proficiency. All of a sudden I took every opportunity available to TRY to speak to them in Spanish. I found myself googling phrases that I didn’t know in Spanish so that I could tell a kid how proud I was of his hard work or how much i appreciated the risk she took to answer a question in class. I found myself going above and beyond to reach every kid. Y’all this is not how I ran my classroom before. Now it’s 2 months later. I have made parent phone calls to moms who only speak Spanish without a translator. I have attended so many trainings on strategies for reaching our ELL kids. My students have invented a thing they call “Ms Clark’s word of the day”. This is where they teach me a new Spanish word every day and I have to use it 5 times before the end of the day.  My vocabulary is so much bigger than before!

It’s funny; while I was in Spain this past summer I found myself wishing I knew more Spanish and wanting to be able to talk to the parents on drop off and pick up days. I’ve always been someone who tries to speak the language when I am traveling.  I don’t ever want to be an obnoxious American tourist, so here I was in Spain, and I can’t really talk to the people.  It made me feel so uneducated…. actually that isn’t accurate.  I’ve had 3 years of high school Spanish and 2 years of college Spanish.  I am not “uneducated”, I am “woefully deficient”!  Anyway, then I marveled at my hypocrisy.  Yes, these were different kids, and yes they came from a totally different culture than my little Central and South American kids, but HOW was I that concerned over communicating with these kids who had been in my life for less than a week, and I’ve never given the kids and parents here at school the time of day when it comes to knowing Spanish?   I realized that my attitude had been really poor for several years.  Yes, the behaviors had been atrocious in those years, but that didn’t excuse my apparent apathy toward them.  So I have to give a little bit of credit to that trip.  I’d like to think I would have come to the realization anyway, but who knows for sure.  It was definitely the beginning of the turn in my attitude and for that I am so grateful.

But it’s more than the language.  I somehow genuinely care more for the kids.  I think that I really believed that I cared about them before and certainly on some level I really did, but not as fully as I do now.  I am so much more patient with the kids.  When I am frustrated I am handling things much better.  This is seriously one of the biggest answers to prayer I have ever seen in my life. I keep waiting for the adrenaline to wear off and it just doesn’t.  I knew that God had a reason for keeping me at Northbrook; He had to have!  With all the opportunities that were set before me and all the doors that were blatantly closed I knew that this was going to be big.  But this experience has been beyond my wildest of expectations.  I am so thankful.

Now, I still think that my time to move on is coming, but there is no denying that this is where I needed to be this year!

Hanging with Hannah

19 Oct

What are you doing this weekend?

Nope, don’t care… mine’s better.  I am hanging out with my cherished “niece” Hannah Grace.  She is 16 and awesome.







Jealous?  You should be.  We’re awesome.  We might go get tattoos that are the Native American sign for being wasted.  Or we might not.  Currently Harry Potter 6 is occupying our attention.

All we need is the Kik-ster and some Hoedown Throwdown to make this party even more legit.


Catching Up…because, you know, it’s been a while.

18 Oct

I’m going to ignore the fact that you are dying to know how I managed to climb back onto the planet I fell off of 6 weeks ago.  Just so we’re on the same page.  I have my reasons. Moving on…

School- I still like my kids (for the most part).  That’s it.

Volleyball- We don’t suck!

Bible Study- I make it on the Monday nights I don’t have a volleyball game.

Friends- See them less now that school started, but still making the effort.

Mom- keeps forgetting she had hip surgery 3 months ago, so she tries to step up onto things with her right leg.  She cracks me up.

Sister- entering her 3rd trimester with baby Peanut Aloicious Hoffman. (this may not be his actual name once he is born.  I mean, don’t go getting anything monogrammed or whatever…)

But you and I both know that this is what you really care about…







Clarkie has teeth!!  And he can (sort of) stand up!  And he’s still SOOO cute!  And TODAY he is 10 months old!!

Adventures with my mom: cell phone edition

2 Sep

A few weeks ago my cousin Valerie posted on her wall a picture with the caption, “Mother-Daughter Car Purchase”.  She and her mom had bought matching (although different color) cars.  I thought to myself, That’s cute.  Mom and I will probably have to stick with matching flip flops from the Bass Outlet Store or something.

On a somewhat unrelated note, my mom has had issues with her “cell phone” for months.  I have to put quotation marks because… well, here.  See for yourself.

This is called a Doro Phone… so that’s cute since my mom’s name is Dorothy.  This is from a company called Consumer Cellular.  They cater to senior citizens and it was simply a very basic phone.  I told her when she got it that it might  not be super-reliable for very long, and she admitted that I might be correct, but she had to do it her way.  But seriously?  I was right and she told me so last night 🙂

Let me point a few things out.  I’ll start with the most scandalous.  Yes, there is scotch tape holding the battery in place.

There is a camera.  I think it is just for show since photos were never eligible to be used in any way, shape or form.  This meant that she couldn’t send pictures she took anywhere.

She also couldn’t receive pictures that were texted to her.  Now 9 months ago this was hardly an issue, but then Clarkie was born and out of nowhere a working camera was a ncesessity.

She also had a really hard time texting. I don’t know why.  I mean, look at that keyboard.  It is freaking STATE OF THE ART!!!!

Anyway, back in July we made plans to go get her hooked up with a new phone.  I was going to put her on my plan.  We were going to go on July 16.  Do you remember what happened July 15?  That would be the night that mom tripped while emptying trash and trashed her hip instead.  So we decided that Sept. 1 would be out new Phone Day.  Since I was eligible for an upgrade we went shopping last night.  I got a Samsung Galaxy.

So did mom. (!!!!!)

So she went from the aforepictured to this:

Now THAT’S a phone!


And yay me for getting to teach her how to use it…..

My mom is so cute!

One day short of a full week of school… yay Friday!!

31 Aug

As promised I took pictures of my room at school.

More importantly, after 2 days running a regular schedule I have decided that this group of 8th graders is about as awesome as they come.  For serious.  I don’t know that I will feel this way every single day so today I made something.  It is a sheet of paper that reads:

“These kids….”

Are totally awesome!

Follow procedures really well!

Are well-behaved and do their homework!!

Then I dated it, and any time I feel down on these kids I’m going to look at it and remind myself that they are COMPLETELY capable of doing the right thing and I just have to be firm and stick with the program.

Okay, here are the pictures of my classroom.

This is from the door to my classroom. Note the window… there’s a close up later. Note the bulletin board. 2 boys in my Advisory (homeroom) put the whole thing up!

Okay, this is standing at the front of my room. In the picture, the door is just to the right of the American flag. Check out my Homework that like, 90% of my studnets completed!! WOO-HOOOOOO!!!  Oh and my presidents board topper!

CABINETS!!!! I almost hyperventilate just thinking about them! Also underneath the Texas flag is my technology cart thing. It stores TONS of devices which I am apparently getting tomorrow or something…

Ohmygosh. My favorite thing EVER! The amazing blue/green/teal wall. It is just so pretty! Also, eventually there are going to be small white boards on either side of my Activboard which is why there is nothing in that empty space. Oh and the perspective is from the back of the room next to the bookcase.

My command center. It’s hard to say what my favorite part is…. no it isn’t. It’s the multi-colored drawers next to the mini-fridge. I love them!

From my desk, looking out the door.

My window. The flag…. thing… whatever was given to me by another teacher!! This window also now sports blinds. It didn’t yesterday 🙂

I (try to) run a tight ship. These are my class procedures.

Have I mentioned how glad I am that tomorrow is Friday???  AND… bonus!!  Monday is a holiday!!!