What toddlers taught me


By Heather Nelson

It’s common knowledge that your 20s aren’t always the best time of your life. Sure, you’re young, you’ve got time to adventure, to explore the world and its twists and turns… But, there’s something about your 20s that’s lonely, taxing and trying. 
If you would’ve asked me August 2011, where I’d be in four years after college graduation, I’d probably have guessed that I’d be working as a journalist full time. I’m two years removed from graduation; I’ve not seen a penny earned for my writing. 

But this isn’t a post about my writing. 
It’s been nearly two years since I took a teaching job at a daycare center. I recently earned title of full time classroom teacher in the toddler room; I teach 2 year olds. It’s quite the task, but I think the toddlers have taught me more than I’ve taught them. 


The amount of patience you need to work with kids is immeasurable. I never considered myself a patient person. I hate waiting for packages to come in the mail and for fresh baked cookies to cool. Two year olds require more patience than I knew I had. The kids are at a critical age of learning. They want to be independent; they want to feel important. I’ve found myself re-reading the same book 10 times because a child requests it. I merely laugh at spilled milk (and the post-lunch mess) that I clean up multiple times a day. I smile when a child repeats a statement or question, even after I’ve acknowledged him/her. And I’ve learned to embrace the question, “Why?” 


The children in my classroom have experienced a lot of change lately. The children seem to easily adapt to their environment. New teacher in the room? OK, let’s get to know her, ask her questions, make her read to us, play with us. The children in my classroom generally embrace change and are able to adapt rather quickly to any situation. I admire their willingness to embrace the new beginning of each day and accept (for the most part) what’s in front of them. As long as it’s not dried cranberries for snack instead of cookies….

This is, above all else, the biggest attribute I’ve gained from my toddlers. My heart grew 10 sizes on the day I became their teacher. Not only because I had to grow in humility, but because I felt like I gained 16 kids of my own. On the worst of days, I can look at my kids’ smiles, hear their laughter, feel the warmth of their hugs, and I’m comforted in knowing I’m loved. There’s truly nothing like walking into work each morning greeted by smiling faces and at least ten, “Hello, Ms. Heather!”s. I love my job more than I thought possible and it’s because of the kids. 

I’ll never regret the path that I’ve taken to get where I am today. I’m always learning, adapting, changing, loving harder…. And if I’ve learned anything about “adulting,” it’s that prioritizing your values and finding a job you love are more important than the salary you earn. 

Bye 2015, hello 2016


By Heather Nelson


Celebrating four years of friendship at our favorite place, The Sandbar.

Blogging about the year end makes me feel like a little piece of me has withered away. In a sense it has — I (could be) one year closer to dying.  (Or I could die in five minutes.) Regardless, I’m one of those people who hangs on to bits of the past. If you took a peek at my closet, you’d find my favorite Barbie doll from when I was three, an accordion folder of treasured schoolwork, and old issues of Sports Illustrated I can’t seem to throw away. It’s funny, though, because I don’t look back at 2015 with much endearment.

2015 kicked my ass.

I relate it to this: I fantasized that when I graduated from college, I would have all the answers. I’d have the dream job, the dream life that I’d long imagined as a child. I’m sitting in a coffee shop (writing this) six months later, and I have none of these things. 2015 got me on that one. I didn’t know what 2015 had in store — the possibilities were wide open. That’s the rest of adulthood.


Pledge class 2011 in initiation order for the pub crawl.

Life threw me quite a few curve balls. The first: I failed a journalism class, which left me three credits short of receiving my degree from the University of Kansas. The second: I quit my full-time job as a campus missionary to take care of myself, which leads me to…. The third: I was “diagnosed” with depression and general anxiety — I started seeing a therapist (major humility for me). The fourth: I spent two months in unemployment limbo.

Through all of these things, I’ve learned the art of vulnerability and humility. It’s important to share experiences that you’ve learned from so that others don’t feel alone. If 2015 taught me anything, it’s that. I’ve spent hours, days, weeks, thinking, “I must be the only miserable person on the planet.” (Really, what percent of 23-year-olds are working at their dream job?) It’s hard to exit the black hole in your mind.

So, here’s my suggestion for 2016: share life with one another. Worry less about closing yourself off from people who might hurt you. (Be less of a robot.) Pain is part of life. (Trust me, I’ve experienced plenty of this.) Listen to your gut. (*Shia LaBeouf voice* just do it.) If you feel that tug to share an experience, advice, a hug, a hand… Do it. The world needs extraordinary humans to spread love.

It’s too late to say sorry, 2015, but we’re gonna have an adventure of a lifetime, 2016.


Nelson family Christmas 2015.


I’ll never forget 9/11


By Heather Nelson

Richard Deitsch’s tweet last night prompted this post:

Screenshot 2015-09-11 12.39.06

I reflected for a few moments, and I realized that 9/11 is something that I’ll never erase from my memory. I wasn’t directly impacted by the attacks. I didn’t know anyone involved. The way I viewed the world — at age eight — was shattered, though. As far as I knew, there was no place safer than the United States.


“Please send Sam* to the office. Her mom is here to pick her up.”

About two hours into the school day, people started going home. It was an exodus. I remember thinking it seemed abnormal that all of my friends got to leave school early. I was jealous of them.

Then, the principal came over the intercom, “The school is on lock down, and there will be no outside recess today.” Indoor recess in September? I was confused but too young to understand the atrocities that happened.

In my third grade classroom, the day continued as normal. Mrs. Zimmerman, one of the third grade teachers, walked into my classroom; she had tears in her eyes. I distinctly remember that. My teacher, Ms. Guinn, sat at her desk crying, too. They whispered about something….I didn’t know what that something was until I got home from school.

My mom normally sat downstairs awaiting the arrival of my sister and me. That day she was in her bedroom. She was crying. I hadn’t seen my mom cry before. I turned my attention to the TV, and my eight-year-old eyes saw one of the towers toppling, smoke billowing in the air. She wasn’t watching Oprah.

I asked my mom what happened, why she was crying. “Something bad happened in New York.” I didn’t press any further.

I remember the neighborhood streets were empty that night, which was a rare occurrence. The beautiful autumn days would soon be coming to a close…. I didn’t realize until years later how this national emergency could’ve affected my hometown.

My house is a few miles away from Offutt Air Force Base. Offutt AFB is the headquarters for U.S. Strategic Command and the 55th Wing of the Air Combat Command. The 55th Wing happens to be the largest wing of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command. And President Bush flew there on 9/11.

My hometown wasn’t under threat that day, but President Bush flew here to safely speak with his correspondents. He was prepared to address the nation just mere miles from me. Looking back, it makes sense why all of the adults were scared. So much was unknown. I remember being scared to walk to school and scared to play outside. What if something scary happened here?

14 years have passed. Each year on 9/11, I flashback to my third grade self and how scared I was to step outside in the weeks that followed. I’m grateful I don’t live in this fear, now. (Thank you to the service men and women who protect this country.)

It’s interesting to consider this as a piece of national history, but it is. My two youngest siblings don’t remember 9/11, but I do. I’ll never forget.

America EP by Ryan Star, download here

*Fictional name

Internships provide skills needed for the workplace, school


My last paycheck came in the mail today.

I knew my days as an intern at the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel were over when I said my goodbyes over a week ago… Now, I feel there’s closure on my chapter as a summer intern.


I walked out the heavy, blue door with thoughts swirling around in my head. Did I leave the building for the last time? Did I make lasting impressions during my two months in Junction?

I could only answer “yes” to both because I continue to aspire for more.

My supervisor left me with kind words, and promised me a Letter of Recommendation. (She even offered to have me come back as an intern next summer. This happened in a later email exchange).

My time at the Daily Sentinel seemed too short. I’d like to think that’s because I kept myself busy with stories while adventuring Western Colorado’s beauty…

My first story, when I attended an Emergency Medical Services Week BBQ, taught me to turn stories quickly and efficiently. My first story being published was just an incentive and a confidence-booster.

My last story helped local petitioners get the word out. The petitioners, who were skaters from around the area, started a petition for new (or to revamp current) skateparks in Grand Junction.

I spent more time on my last story. I didn’t have writer’s block; I was sad that my internship was ending. When I finally turned the story in, my supervisor was pleased with my final article.


I cannot thank my supervisor enough for giving me the opportunity to intern in Grand Junction.

I grew as a person because I forced myself into a new environment. I learned to create conversation with strangers. I learned to maneuver a new city (even though Junction is actually pretty easy to navigate).

I learned to check the spelling of every name. Three times. And check it again. I learned to research before interviewing my subjects. I learned to work in a newsroom environment, which is quite fun, actually. There’s always food….

I loved my time at the Daily Sentinel. I feel better prepared as a journalism student. I will continue to apply things I learned in the newsroom to my school-life. I will keep improving my writing and editing skills.

Writing is my passion. This is the most important thing I have learned.

I’ll end with a quote from my favorite author growing up because he depicts my feelings before I departed for a new town:

If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” — Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator