I’ve done the calculations. On any of my finals, I can get a 69% and still have a decent grade. I really don’t need to stress much, yet here I am. At the moment, I care more about passing than I do learning. Don’t get me wrong. I love to learn, but at the moment, learning isn’t the goal; passing is. That is the mindset of nearly every high school student.

Just thinking about finals, I felt sick to my stomach. In my brain, I started calling myself stupid. Finals haven’t even started yet, and already I’m feeling physically sick and I am criticizing myself. 

I am in an AP English class. I am not an AP material student. I just am not. I love to over think and analyze stuff, but in English, I go blank and suddenly can’t do it. I love to write, but assign me an essay and I suddenly forget how to write.

I am in advanced algebra. I like math, and I would like to know how to do it, but I struggle a lot, and if I’m being honest, I’m just trying to pull a C in that class. 

I am in chemistry. I try hard in that class. I want to do well on tests. Really I do. But I honestly hesitate to ask my teacher any thing. It doesn’t help when your teacher warns the class not to ask a silly question. What’s a silly question?! I don’t ask questions to be funny! I ask questions so I can pass the test!

I am in Spanish II. I have nothing to complain about in that class. I’m not the smartest student, but if I try, I do well in the class.

I’m in US history. Again, nothing to complain. US History has always come easy to me as I’ve always had an interest in history and politics.

I am in advanced drama. Again, really nothing to complain. I’d do better if my confidence would grow, but it is in no way a difficult class. 

You know what sucks? When I write for fun, it comes out great. When I am enjoying the topic, I write really well. I love to analyze things. I like figuring out how things work or why they work. I like figuring out why people do what they do. I can tell you a lot about the heart and how it works, and I know a lot about CHDs.  When it comes to politics, I can back up what I believe. I love to work with kids. I love to think about theories and philosophies. I can memorize a script quickly if need be. There are so many things I am good at. But I constantly criticize myself for everything that I am not. I am so incredibly mean to myself. I can do so many things, yet I call myself stupid. 

Why do I call myself stupid?
Because in English, almost everyone seems to be able to analyze the text really well. They do so well on the practice AP exams. They write incredible essays. I don’t analyze text the way I should in class. I get 30% on the practice AP exams. I thought I was a good writer, but what if I’m not as good as I thought I was? Take a look at my essays.

Why do I call myself stupid?

Because I studied for my chemistry test. I thought I knew the material. I failed the test. And that was with the curve.

Why do I call myself stupid?

Because my math teacher has explained the concept multiple times and I still don’t understand it. I looked through my study guide and couldn’t remember how to do most of the problems.

Why do I call myself stupid?

Because the government has told the school what I need to know in order to be smart. And I’m not completely sure I know the curriculum. 

But here’s the thing… I am smart. I may not have a 4.0 gpa, but I am not stupid. So I’m not great at math, and so I have to work a little harder in chemistry. I can still tell you a lot about history and politics. So I’m not great at writing the essay topics my English teacher assigns. Give me a creative writing topic, or better yet, no topic at all, and I’ll write an amazing paper. 

Instead of hating myself for everything I am not, I should be loving myself for everything that I am. And I know that especially around finals time, it’s so easy for us students to be mean to ourselves and think we are stupid. But we are not stupid. 

So during finals time, study, but don’t stress yourself to the point that you’re crying on the bedroom floor. Take a ten minute break every 45 minutes to an hour and drink some water. Don’t stay up half the night studying because you need sleep too. Eat breakfast-even if you just force yourself to eat a piece of toast and water. 

And remember: no matter what you get on your finals, you are not stupid. I believe it was Albert Einstein who said, “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Happy finals everyone. You are intelligent.


Faith Sparkles



A catherization is a minor surgery, in which the doctor makes an incision in either your neck or upper leg. Through this incision, they can fix certain things in the heart, or in my case, they can send a camera to the heart to take a closer look-kinda like an upclose x ray. 

 I had my third catherization(cath for short) in September of 2016. I found out in January that I would have this procedure done. According to my doctor, I need a catherization every five years. I was supposed to get it done over the summer, but I explained to my cardiologist that wouldn’t work because I had commitments to Camp Taylor, a camp for kids and teens with congenital heart disease. My doctor was understanding, as he knows how special Camp Taylor is to me, and worked around my Camp Taylor schedule. 

September came. I was only about three weeks into the new school year(I’m a junior) when my surgery happened.  The day before, my parents and I ordered pizza and watched The Jungle Book. It was a nice way to relax before my procedure.

It was the morning of my cath. I woke up and took my usual medication. My pill was swallowed with water, and I enjoyed every last drop of that small drink I took. It would be the only liquid I could have until much later. Let me tell you something. When you can’t have water, you realize how much you take it for granted. Same with food.

My parents drove me to the hospital. I had my teddy bear that I’ve had since I was not even a year old. I also had a stuffed lion, which had been given to me days before at my pre op appointment. The social worker had been talking to me, and he noticed my bear and said he’d get him a friend. He returned with the stuffed lion which I have since named Stitch because he has a little heart sown on.

We got to the hospital. As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t had any food. You can’t have food or drinks before surgery, but my parents promised me Chic Fil A for when I was allowed to eat solid foods later that day.

We checked into the hospital and went to the waiting room. It didn’t take too long for them to call my name. Eventually, I was in a surgery prep room. I was given a hospital gown and had to change out of my clothes. I got onto the gurney after changing into the totally fashionable gown. My parents and I took a few pictures and had small talk as we waited for the nurses to come in.

A child life specialist entered the room. I liked her. She has the career I want. We chatted, and she was very sweet. She even gave me her email so I could ask her questions about her job since she knows I want to be a child life specialist too. Next, a nurse came in. She, too, was very kind.

The nurse gave me a… I forget what it’s called. You know the blue cap nurses wear with their scrubs? Well, I had to wear a blue cap as well. I wasn’t happy about it because I had my hair straightened, and I didn’t want to mess it up. Priorities.

The specialist asked what she could do to distract me from the needle they were about to place in my wrist. I explained I couldn’t be distracted. I have to watch the needle enter and exit my body. Still, the specialist talked to me, attempting to calm my nerves. She was asking me about theatre, as I participate in my school’s advanced drama class. 

I told the nurse she’d be better off placing the needle in my right arm as my left arm tends to be stubborn. She didn’t listen and inserted the needle into my left arm. Usually, I’m pretty okay with needles. This time was different. It was inserted into my wrist, which I am not used to, and it hurt. The specialist tried to talk me, but I didn’t respond as I was a bit freaked out about the painful needle in my wrist. The needle didn’t work in my left arm, so it was taken out and had to be placed into my right arm. The nurse was very apologetic, and I wasn’t angry that she didn’t take my advice. She put it in my right arm and was successful. 

Throughout this ordeal, I tried to be positive. On the inside, I was nervous. I didn’t want to show it though. I carried on, laughing and making jokes. At one point, tears were even welling up in my eyes(not the tears you get from laughing so hard), but I smiled and laughed through them. I’m not sure if anyone could see through it or not. If they did, they didn’t bring it up. 

The doctor came in and started up the anesthesia. That was nice. Within a minute, I had fallen asleep(we got some lovely footage of me going on and coming off the anesthesia) From there, I was taken to the operating room. I won’t go into the details of what happened because it is unnecessary and truthfully, not something I am totally comfortable talking about.

A few hours later, I woke up in the recovery room. I was heavy on the pain medications and still coming off the anesthesia, so I was starting to understand what was going on, but I was still out of it. I asked the nurses if my heart was okay. She said yes. I said yay. I said yay a lot, and the nurses thought it was cute, so on a count of three, they all said yay too. I asked where my parents were, and soon, they were brought to the room. 

I was happy to see them. I wouldn’t stop talking. I didn’t have anything important to say. I just wanted to talk. I talked about pigs, Camp Taylor, Chic Fil A, and other things. Speaking of pigs, anyone who knows me really well knows that I really want to own a pig someday, so I appreciate the fact that, even in the midst of coming off of anesthesia from a heart procedure, pigs were still on my mind. At some point, I started getting frustrated. My brain was understanding what was going on, but I was still kind of out of it, so I felt like no one understood that I was understanding. I’m not sure if that sentence made sense to you, but it’s how I felt. I started to cry, and the nurse stroked my hair in an attempt to comfort me.

Eventually, I was brought to my own hospital room. I was placed onto the bed. Once again, I won’t go into all the details because it’s not something I’m totally comfortable talking about yet. I was an emotional wreak. I was crying and felt awful. It honestly is awful when you can’t get out of bed by yourself. It’s awful when you lift your head up, and the entire room spins. It’s awful when you can’t do the simplest of things-things you were doing that morning. I was hooked up to a few machines-nothing too major-just an IV, EKG stickers, a pulse ox, and a blood pressure cuff. To someone unfamiliar with hospitals, that might sound like a lot, but I’ve way more and way worse. It still wasn’t very comfortable, but I was aware that it could be worse. And there was a restraint on my right leg so I wouldn’t move it because I wasn’t supposed to move it after the surgery. I also had a huge bandage over where the incisions had been made. 

The nurse gave me jello. I didn’t want jello, but they weren’t going to let me eat solid food until I slowly eased my way in with softer foods. They wanted to make sure my stomach did okay with the anesthesia. So I ate the jello so I could eat Chic Fil A. My parents left to get me my promised Chic Fil A. I posted onto Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat about what was going on. As many people know, my favorite singers are twin sisters Megan and Liz. On Instagram, Megan Mace(from Megan and Liz) actuallly follows my personal Instagram, which is really cool. She commented on my post, and I was so excited. She commented “Proud of your pretty girl. You’re stronger than I ever could be❤️”. After the day I’d had, it brightened my mood a bit to see her comment. It’s a pretty awesome thing to receive encouragement from someone you call your role model. I later posted a video of me going on the anesthesia, and I mentioned Megan and Liz. Both twins saw the video.

Throughout the day, I received many loving text messages from people, hoping for the best for me. It all meant a lot to me to receive so much love and encouragement from so many people.

I received tons of kind comments from so many people. One girl, who I don’t talk too often, messaged me saying that even though we don’t know each other well, she hoped I’d feel better. I replied back thanking her of course, to which she replied” drama fam sticks together.” Yes, she’s in my advanced drama class. 

I was so incredibly tired. And I don’t mean the tired you feel after a long day. I mean the tired where you’re emotionally and physically exhausted, but can’t sleep.  I ate my Chic Fil A and watched Pitch Perfect and That’s So Raven. 

All night long, nurses came in and checked my vitals. The team of nurses were so awesome. I loved them. They were so kind to me, and even though I wanted to sleep, I enjoyed whenever they came into my room. My nurses seemed happy to see me, and I was happy to see them. A couple of weeks later, they even sent me a card.

That night, I got hardly any sleep. Sleeping in a hospital is next to impossible. I used to think patients were tired because they were sick. Yes, that’s part of the reason, but the fact that a nurse enters your room at least every hour affects your sleep too. Not to mention when one of your machines starts beeping loudly for no obvious reason.

The next morning, my parents went downstairs to the hospital cafeteria for breakfast. The nurse brought me breakfast. I had only a few bites of yogurt. Hospital food isn’t terrible, but it’s not that great either.

The nurse took the bandage off my leg. Before she did, I asked if it would hurt.

“You’re gonna feel a pressure,” she answered.

“So it’s gonna hurt,” I replied. It felt like ripping off a band aid(except like ten times larger) It didn’t exactly hurt, but it didn’t feel too good.

After a few hours, I was finally allowed to go home. The nurse asked if I wanted a wheelchair, to which I declined. Though I was exhausted and still weak, I felt strong enough to walk. My parents and I walked through the endless hallway. As I walked, I realized a wheelchair may not have been such a bad idea. Why was walking so hard? Walking is so easy. I’ve been walking for so many years. The doctor makes two incisions and suddenly I can’t walk anymore? I was not happy.

When we got home, I ate some McDonald’s for lunch before taking a shower. I thought taking a shower would feel great after a long day and a half. That shower was awful. I could barely move. You know when someone walks with a limp? I was walking with one of the worst limps ever. I took my shower, and cried through it. It was so frustrating to me that everything was seeming so difficult. After my shower, I got into bed and fell asleep for a couple of hours.

I didn’t go to school for the whole week. The surgery was on a Tuesday, and we didn’t have school that Monday before. I rested in my bed, and everything gradually got better. My emotional state went back to normal as I recovered. To explain why my emotional state wasn’t exactly awesome, let’s put it this way: mix a ton of pain medication, spending a restless night in a hospital hooked up to things, not being able to do hardly anything on my own for that period of time, going through a couple of embarrassing things(that I am not willing to talk about yet) and being exhausted. With all that combined, my emotional state wasn’t too hot. I hated the feeling I had. I don’t even really know how to accurately explain how I felt. After being home for about a day though, my emotional state got better. 

The next week, I went to school with Starbucks in my hand on a Monday morning. It felt good to be back at school. As I entered the school, a senior saw me and approached me. She was in my advanced drama class. She asked me how I was(she’d seen my Instagram post) and said she was surprised our teacher didn’t say anything. For those of you who don’t understand, advanced drama is like a family, and our teacher usually would tell us such things. The girl was happy that I was back and doing well. Throughout my first week back, students (mainly from drama) asked how I was doing, and teachers were happy to see me. Though I was doing better, I still wasn’t 100%, and I was tired after my first day back. That next week, I performed in my advanced drama class’s annual Bad Talent Show to raise money for our drama program. The junior scene(the scene I was in) won first place!!!

Catching up was way harder than I anticipated it to be-partially because I got strep throat a week later and missed even more school. It took me about a month to catch up. I was fortunate to have a few teachers who were understanding of the fact that I was trying to catch up but struggling. I slowly got back to being 100%.

Exactly two weeks after my catherization, my dad took me to see Carrie Underwood in concert! We had really good seats, and I had a blast watching her perform! It was a nice way forget about school and the catherization for a while.

As for how the surgery went, I had my second catherization back in 2011. The doctor said this cath was even better than 2011(and 2011 was pretty good). My heart is healthy, and that is all thanks to God. He has continued to keep me healthy and strong. A fourth open heart surgery is NOT in my future!❤️

Me with my teddy bear; right before my catherization

Megan (of Megan and Liz) commented this when I posted about my cath on Instagram❤️

Carrie Underwood concert! This was exactly two weeks after my catherization 

My friend and I after the junior dance scene won the Bad Talent Show! This was just over two weeks after my cath!



“Be nice or leave.” That was an important rule in my eighth grade English class. It was said constantly by both my teacher and the students. Though us students sometimes said it as a joke(and the teacher too), our teacher did take that rule very seriously. If our teacher was around, no one could get away with saying putting down another student. Our homeroom was a fun class. We weren’t all close friends or anything, but we all got along fairly well in that class, and that had a lot to do with our teacher. She wanted to have fun and be serious. She was laid back, but had control over the class. We knew we could joke around, but she made it clear when it was time to be serious. Most of us considered it our favorite class. It was the one class I absolutely hated having a substitute in. Though I haven’t been back for a while, I still go and visit that teacher. I feel like I can tell her almost anything. She made a lasting impact on me. I couldn’t tell you any vocab word I learned that year, and I still can’t tell you what a direct or indirect object is(though she tried many times to teach me) but I can tell you how important it is to be kind. If there’s one specific thing I remember happening in that class, it’s this:

I had my hand raised, and I was smiling. My teacher knew I was either going to say something stupid, or ask a deep question. We both knew she was trying to ignore me, which only made me laugh harder. A student behind me told our teacher I wasn’t going to calm down until she called on me. I don’t remember if she called on me or not, but I do remember laughing really hard, and somewhere along the line, my teacher started laughing, and I’m sure other students were laughing too. My teacher, smiling and recovering from laughter, looked at me and said,” Faith, the world is a better place with you in it.” She probably doesn’t remember any of that happening, but I have never forgotten that day.

In the ninth grade, I was blessed with yet another awesome English teacher. She was fun and had a lot of school spirit. She liked to joke around, but she also had very serious moments. At least once a week, she’d spend the entire period telling her classes that it was up to them to do well. It didn’t matter what our situation was-we could somehow get out of it. I always enjoyed those talks she had with our class. The government wants us to learn a very strict curriculum, but some teachers(the most passionate ones as I’ve noticed) want us to learn about life. They want us to have values and morals more than they want us to have a five paragraph essay in MLA format. They want us to do well, but they also want us to do good. I spent many lunch periods as a freshman in that classroom, just talking to my teacher. And I did the same sophomore year. And now I’m a junior, and I still go to her class almost every lunch and talk to her. She’s the teacher I can joke around with about almost anything, ask for advice on anything, talk about politics with, and when I’m having a rough time, I can vent to her. I don’t really remember what I learned English wise in her class, but life wise, I’ve learned a lot. She’s given me really helpful advice that I will continue to use throughout my life. I’ve gone through some tough situations, and her advice greatly helped. 

There’s another English teacher who I’ve never had, but hope to have as a senior next year. On social media, she constantly says how much she loves her job. I’ve never once heard her truly complain about her job. And the students love her too. I’ve never heard a negative thing from the students about her. And you know something? They don’t love her because she’s really good at English. They love her because she’s the kind of teacher you can talk to about anything and, like the other teachers I’ve mentioned, wants you to learn more than the mandated curriculum. 

The government gives public schools a curriculum that teachers are required to teacher. I’ve had teachers who go strictly by the curriculum, and that’s fine. They’re doing their job. But the teachers who teach more than the curriculum are the teacher who have the greater impacts on their students. When a teacher is really passionate, a student have a higher chance of being more passionate too. The teacher who goes strictly by curriculum and the students don’t exactly feel like they can talk to her is not the teacher best remembered. The teachers who tell you you’re worth something and teach about life are the teachers you don’t soon forget.