Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: Mission Possible & Giveaway!

When the opportunity to read and post about Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School presented itself, I was thrilled. It appealed to many areas of my background.  I studied Sociology/Social Work at Purdue University during which time I also completed an Americorp internship that involved teaching at a Boys & Girls Club in inner-city Indianapolis.  After graduating college I spent the first year and a half of my professional life teaching healthy lifestyle decision making skills in public middle and high schools in Hillsborough County, Florida.   

My experience with the public school system as well as my education and background in social work made me instantly curious about Mission Possible.  To say I was both shocked and disappointed with what I experienced first hand of the public school system in the area I now call home would be an understatement.  I quickly realized why my current coworkers were trying to get their children into Tampa's charter school options.  My heart went out to the frustrated teachers and the disengaged students I encountered during my time guest lecturing.  What I did find, however, is that students are hungry for knowledge and for high expectations to be placed upon them.

Eva Moskowitz founded the Success Academies, a Charter School system in New York.  Their schools do not 'hand pick' their students but rather use a lottery system to choose students from the surrounding areas.  The principles that make their school a success?  Education starts at the top where the principles attend focus groups and practice how to prepare their teachers as well as the students that will attend these schools.  The teachers attend a type of 'summer school' called T school, where they are amply prepared for what their school year will hold before their students set foot within the classroom.

Unfortunately, in America, we don't put a high value on preparing our teachers, yearly, to do their job.  While most professional jobs require training periods and many have yearly retreats, seminars, on the job, or internet training to be completed, teachers are expected to educate our children with little or no continued training and support from their individual schools.  I believe the results that the Success Academies have experienced are a direct result of enabling and empowering their teachers, which boosts the moral that is lacking for most public school teachers in the United States.

The unique perspective that the key to the success of the children is the adults that teach them enabled the Success Academies to take a Harlem charter school from a concept to one of the top schools in New York City and State in just three years time.  The system they have and the advice they provide in the book is relevant, fresh, and proven to work!

Another key ingredient that Success Schools has identified and tapped into is parent involvement.  They require the parents of all students enrolled in Success Academies to agree to a high standard of involvement which includes nightly reading and homework time with their children and they hold the parents to that high standard. Teachers are responsible for the education the students receive in the classroom but parents have to take responsibility for continuing that education in the homes.  

Excuses are constantly made for our education systems flaws and for the failed teacher involvement but Moskowitz and Lavinia's Success Schools prove that with the right approach students excel, teacher moral can be lifted and maintained, and students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, home lives, and neighborhoods can reach high educational goals and standards.

I agree with Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado who said:
'We need to create more opportunities to replicate what is working at places like Success Academies'


Along with the review copy of this book, I also received one to give to one of my readers.  If you are interested in reading Mission Possible, please comment on this post to be entered to win.  Please include your e-mail address so that I can get in touch with you easily if your entry is selected. Also, please note that the winner must be within the United States, for shipping reasons.  This will be open until 5:00 next Friday, August 10th.

Disclaimer: While I was compensated for this review, all thoughts and opinions stated are my own.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cheers to the Weekend.

As you all know I was away last weekend in Myrtle Beach, flew back to Tampa late Sunday night (well, later than planned thanks to delays) and threw myself head first into a busy, busy week both personally and professionally.  So when this weekend rolled around I was excited to play catch up with friends as well as to celebrate two birthdays, work most of Saturday, volunteer at church after service Sunday, work on my tan, and craft with two of my favorite ladies.  This was certainly not a weekend of rest but I will say, it was refreshing non-the-less.

Friday I celebrated the birthday of my new-ish and fabulous friend Patricia.  Patricia, Toni, and I's lunch dates have become a highlight of my life, really, and I love having them on the calender even when we have to put them there 2 months in advance to make them work with our crazy, busy lives.  I left that lunch so encouraged and wishing that I could have stayed all day with them.  I truly adore those two.

Friday night I went out to dinner to celebrate the birthday of my friend Preston with them and his friends at 'The Pub' on Bay Street.  My first time there were I was confused by the playing of the opening ceremonies and began to ponder if the Olympics were going to turn into the Hunger Games and I should learn to shoot a bow.

Saturday, as I said, I worked.  So yeah, not a ton to say about that.  However I did manage to clean my house on my break in the afternoon, so it is grateful after my neglect of the 2 weeks before.

Sunday was a perfect end to the weekend.  Loved sharing 'big church' with the kids this week and having Pastor Mike (who I went to Haiti with in April) share from the word.  I also volunteered after service distributing tees to the kids going to 'Summer Explosion' (our version of vacation bible school) this week.  It was so fun interacting with the kids, who I rarely see in my serving roles within the church, and getting to know Pastor Mike's son who was working with me.

Had lunch with friends at Beefs, went out for frozen yogurt, and then did a few things around the house before craft night.  Craft night was potentially the post exciting part of my weekend.  Kayla, Jessica, and I made coasters.  I made a set for myself and one for my sister who recently became a homeowner!

 (for my house)
 (For my sister)

We did pause to go watch the sunset over the water...

How amazing is that? I feel so blessed to live in Florida and experience beauty like this regularly.  I'm about to head into the office to lead our staff in a devotional time this morning, so I need to sign off by wishing you all a great Monday!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Writing My Story...

I attended my first memorial service this week.  Yes, my first ever.  It's not that I've never known anyone who's passed away before, it's just that when you more every 6 months-2 years the better part of your life, people usually die in other states and you can't just up and leave.

One of my coworkers Dad's passed away recently and since I work at a small office, we all attended.  The service was incredible.  Both an honor and testament to his life on earth and a celebration of the eternity he will spend in heaven.  There's a lot I could say about the service but what I really wanted to share with you was what stuck out to me, and what has followed me through the hours since.

The first person who got up to share memories of Mr. Woods was one of his oldest friends.  I forget now exactly how long they'd been friends but I want to say it was close to 60 years.  It was a lifelong friendship, literally.  This man was precious and I cried as he got choked up.  He shared briefly about what a dedicated friend Mr. Woods had been.  He said you would never find a better friend or a more generous man.  He gave examples from the time Mr. Woods gave someone his own car and then continued to pay the maintenance on it, 'because they needed one' to the time he saved this sweet man's life.  He was loyal, devoted, and willing.

I  have thought constantly since then about what kind of friend I am and if at my memorial service someday there will be someone who will testify on my behalf that way.  Would my closest friends say those things about me?  Will I be remembered as generous, kind, faithful, loyal, and loving?

I'm somewhat tempted after this week to start going to strangers memorial services because I'm fascinated by the concept of legacy.  That the way we live our lives, day in and day out, leaves an impression.  How we handle the small things, how we tackle the mundane, it matters.

Later that same night I was catching up with my sweet friend Daniel, who lives in Texas now.  We were comparing thoughts on a book called ' A Million Miles in a Thousand Years' which talks about how we are each writing the stories of our lives.  That idea has continued to come up again and again the past few weeks for me.  I feel like this may be in prep to enter a season of change in my relationships and perhaps in my life.

It was an honor to celebrate the life of an incredible man, who's remembered for being a loyal and loving husband, father, and friend.  I hope to leave an equally powerful legacy of my own someday.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Beach Reading.

Since our beach trip trip ended up being cut short by a day and a half I did a little less reading that I had planned on.  But never you fear, I still got 2.5 books read in 3 days I was away.  I know, I know...such a slacker, right?

I already told you about my swap book on Monday, which was my first read of vacation and you can find that one here.  And if you haven't already read that post and you're looking for a good summer read, check it out because I LOVED the book Nichole gave me.

I also talked a little about a book by the founder of TOMS shoes I read while away in a post this week.  So, for my beach reading that really just leaves one book left to discuss....

I'm only about halfway through this one because to be honest this week following vacation has been insanely busy both personally and professionally.  But so far, I'm a little baffled.  McMahon's writing style is dark, a little creepy, but quite entertaining.  Here's what Amazon had to say about it...

While parked at a gas station, Rhonda sees something so incongruously surreal that at first she hardly recognizes it as a crime in progress. She watches, unmoving, as someone dressed in a rabbit costume kidnaps a young girl. Devastated over having done nothing, Rhonda joins the investigation. But the closer she comes to identifying the abductor, the nearer she gets to the troubling truth about another missing child: her best friend, Lizzy, who vanished years before.

I'm sure I'll finish it this weekend because I'm dying to know what happened to both little girls!  Anyone else read this one or her other book, Promise Not to Tell?


Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's Ok Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

Thursday Thursday...

It's ok...

...to bring 2 Sonics to work with you when you have to work through lunch, and store one in the fridge until midday. Yes, I did this yesterday.

...to take a few days to unpack and recover from a 4 day vacation.

...to be sad that your families summer trip is over...Christmas seems so far away!

...to crave pizza almost every day (as long as you don't actually eat it every single day, right?)

...to eat Fro yo for dinner.

...to get overwhelmed here and there.

...to selfishly love having a friend who works close finally, so you have someone to meet you for lunch at the drop of a hat.

...to love hand-me-down clothes from friends.

...to wish you could buy new handbags pretty much everyday (again, as long as you don't actually do this).

...to unsubscribe to companies e-mail lists because it tempts you to spend money you shouldn't.

...to wake up in the middle of the night and write down what you were wearing in your dream, because it was awesome and you simply must have it.

...to say no.

...to take a night off here and there to recover from 15 hour days.

...to own way too much black.

...to chose not to respond to every text message.

...to make your own rules.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

If Only...

I know it's odd for me of all people to quote T Swift, although I do like her music as many of you know.  I spent a lot of my vacation thinking about and writing about fear.  As I read 'Start Something that Matters' by  Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, I realized how problematic fear is.  As I read story after story of bold leaders with big ideas who created something out of nothing (like Blake who started TOMS with a bag of shoes from Argentina and a couple interns from Craigslist) I realized that while I've always considered myself bold, much of my life has been determined by fear.

I am a planner.  I am an extreme over-thinker. And while I had a good, successful couple of years since college I realize that much of the path I've chosen has been out of fear of failure.  I have resisted opportunities, shied away from new endeavors, and stayed where I feel safe because of fear. I'm afraid of failure.  I'm afraid of debt  (which is good, in most ways).  I'm afraid of disappointing my parents, letting down my sisters, or leading my friends to question me.

One common trait that people who find success often have is this - they take risks.  Calculated risks mostly but risks all the same.  This is hard for me.  I'm not a risk taker.  I am a chooser of the 'sure thing'.  Even when I choose the sure thing though, I question myself.  I wonder what it would be like to cast off my cage of responsibility and be truly bold.  I wonder what giant, awesome, passionate things I could accomplish if I would let go of this fear of failure and go big.

I came home and immediately plucked the book 'Fearless' off my bookshelf.  It was given to me after hearing the author, Max Lucado speak at my work's banquet a few years back.  This book has resonated with my soul this week as I read about how fear holds us back, the overwhelming theme of this month for me.  The subtitle of the book is 'Imagine your life without fear'.  That's exactly what I've been doing.

I read this yesterday morning in Lucado's book: 'the worship of safety emasculates greatness'.  This is what I am realizing more and more.  As I read Blake's book and was challenged by his willingness to put himself out there for something he believed in and do the work, I realized I crave that.  I crave that level of passion.  I desire the opportunity to experience that kind of work ethic.  And I want to be a person who is more afraid of being average than of failing in a great attempt.

If only I were fearless, the great things I would do.  But maybe you don't have to be fearless, maybe you just have to be unwilling to be controlled by your fears.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vacation Recap.

Happy Tuesday to All!

I returned from vacation late Sunday night but since yesterday was the book swap link up, I'm using today to recap not just my weekend but my vacation.  I departed very early Thursday morning to  head to Myrtle Beach, SC for a few days with my family.

(this is my sweet niece, Noa June...borrowing my fedora)

The first two days of my trip were spent with views like this:

I sat out on the porch doing my bible reading, some pleasure reading, and on the beach finish my book from the swap (which my sister also read while we were there).  It was glorious.  To relax. To wake up without an alarm clock.  The veg with my family.  I didn't realize how bad I needed that until I stopped moving long enough to enjoy and even understand 'down time'.

We came in from long beach days for dinners out.  Delicious seafood and conversations with my favorite people.  It was glorious.  And I now have some tough workouts ahead and probably some hungry days as I get back into a busier, healthier routine again.  But it was worth it.

(Daddy, Noey, and I before dinner)

 (Just Noey and I - same night)

(my favorite of my pics with my niece from the weekend)

We also got to celebrate my older sister, Rachel (affectionately - Rae)'s birthday while we were there.  A little late but all together.

I'm so incredibly blessed to have her.  My hearts been aching since I left her Sunday night to be reunited.

This might be my favorite picture of the weekend.  My Dad (Noey's 'paws') snuck her out of bed for an early morning play-date.  I don't think her parents minded.  It was so sweet watching him spend the quiet morning playing with her and telling her what each and every item in the condo was.  Paws sure does love his granddaughter.  Noa will never hurt for love in this household, that is for sure.

I got to spend a great amount of time reading and writing.  Getting a plan and some direction for the rest of this year and possibly the next few to come.  I was grateful for the chance to clear my head, and remove outside influences and really think clearly for the first time in a while.  My new life plans are here:

Perhaps the greatest blessing of all was that through some odd circumstances, I ended up being able to spend a night in Rachel, Chris, and Noa's new home!  It was so fun getting to see it and be an over night guest there.  I was able to do church with them, eat frozen yogurt, play with Noa a little longer, and be part of their life and their household for 24 hours.  It was truly a treat.

It's been a little hard to come back from this trip.  While I came back with a better attitude, better perspective, and a head full of big ideas and plans ... I also came back sad to go a few months without being with my family again.  Living away from them has been truly the only drawback to my life in Florida.  But I am incredibly thankful for the effort each of them makes to be part of my life here and to stay in close contact as well as the effort my whole family makes to be together as often as possible.  God is so good and that continues to be easily evident in my family.

I hope you all enjoyed your weekends.  As hard as the return has been, it's good to be back here with you.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Swap Loot.

Manic Mother

I tentatively signed up for this book swap last year and it brought me a new blog friend I adore, Darby.  Because I enjoyed the book she sent me and the friendship that developed from being book swap partners, when it came time to sign up again, I was in!  I was at the pool sunning with my friend Jess when I received the e-mail containing my book swap partner.  I giggled when I saw I'd been paired with Nichole, my blog friend turned walking partner, turned in real life friend.

Nichole and I met to walk Bayshore and we helped form the first Tampa Blogger Gal's meet up - so we're well acquainted.  And even though it was funny to be paired by Katie and Heather with someone I actually know, it worked out well.  Nichole, in her brilliance, suggested that instead of mailing each other books we meet up face-to-face and exchange both a book we purchased for each other (from our Goodreads To-read list) AND lend each other a book we own that we've already read and enjoyed ourselves.  I loved the idea, especially with my vacay to the beach coming up when I knew I'd be in the market for as much reading material as possible.  I'm in the middle of reading 100 books this year so the more books the merrier.

We met up at Yogurtology with Kari and that's where we exchanged books and got to hangout and stuff our faces with amazing frozen yogurt, of course.  And this is the loot I got from Nichole:

One Breath Away was from my 'to read' list from Goodreads (thanks so much Nichole, I'm stoked about this) and the Brightest Star is on lone from Nichole for me to read and return (again, love that idea friend). I didn't have time to read both of them for this post so I chose the one she bought me, One Breath Away, to read first and I will hopefully post about the other on a future Book Club Friday.

I wanted to read this book because I have read Heather Gudenkauf's other two books - The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden.  I really love her writing style and I find that she picks topics and story lines that hold my attention (not always an easy thing to do).  One Breath Away is about a small town that is rocked when a gunman enters the town's elementary school.  The book is told from multiple perspectives (much like a Jodi Picoult novel) and takes you through the back story and present day feelings of multiple families.

This was by far my favorite of Gudenkauf's book and I finished all 370 pages in about 48 hours.  Afterwhich I made my sister read it in the 2 remaining days of our vacation so that we could talk about it and I could still bring it back to lend back to Nichole to read!  

It was well written, a little unpredictable, and wickedly entertaining.  I even 5-starred it on Goodreads!  I highly recommend this one to anyone looking for a summer read.  Here's what Amazon says about it:

In the midst of a sudden spring snowstorm, an unknown man armed with a gun walks into an elementary school classroom. Outside the school, the town of Broken Branch watches and waits. Officer Meg Barrett holds the responsibility for the town’s children in her hands. Will Thwaite, reluctantly entrusted with the care of his two grandchildren by the daughter who left home years earlier, stands by helplessly and wonders if he has failed his child again. Trapped in her classroom, Evelyn Oliver watches for an opportunity to rescue the children in her care. And thirteen-year-old Augie Baker, already struggling with the aftermath of a terrible accident that has brought her to Broken Branch, will risk her own safety to protect her little brother. As tension mounts with each passing minute, the hidden fears and grudges of the small town are revealed as the people of Broken Branch race to uncover the identity of the stranger who holds their children hostage.

So thankful for another great book swap!  Can't wait to see what everyone else got and probably double my to-read list on Goodreads!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Spending Experiment.

I shared last week that I put two friends and myself on a spending experiment.  This idea I basically jacked from dieting (which I've done my fair share of).  They say if you write down everything you eat then you quickly realize why you're overweight.  Turns out you eat more calories than you think.  As I've spent some of this year studying millionaires habits in an attempted to glean knowledge from those who have gotten ahead and stayed ahead, I thought maybe money works like food. I've always said counting calories works like budgeting so maybe I can use what I've learned from losing weight to figure out how not to lose my money.

So, for one week (Thursday to Thursday) we wrote down every single dollar we spent.  Every single dollar. This is a great challenge for any of you who may think to yourself 'I don't spend that much money' and yet can't quite figure out where your money goes.  If you spend every single cent you make but you're not really sure how, this experiment is for you.

Immediately I was hyper aware of my spending because I had write it down.  I would wonder if it was worth reporting it to someone or if I could just go without it.  This cut back on eating out, stops for drinks, and 'quick trips to Target' where I would end up buying more than the 1-2 things I 'needed'. In fact, we all started to find that we didn't even want to spend the money we needed to spend because we were so sensitive about it.

Here's a few random notes from this experience:

Day One: Was pretty much overjoyed when my friend bought me a diet coke with cherry from Steak N Shake.  Free drink free drink! And I don't even have to right it now.  My glee at this 2 dollar win is probably a little terrifying.

Day Two: May have dressed up like a cow for Cow Appreciation Day at Chickfila and brought home a wrap to eat for dinner, for free.  Yes this is something college freshman should/would do but now that I'm so aware of spending money I don't want too.  My goal for day two was to have a 'no spend day', as in didn't spend a cent.  No spend day - success!  I made coffee at home, packed my lunch, went with my coworkers to cfa on lunch where I acquired my dinner for free, and used a sonic survey coupon to get a free route 44 on my way home from work. It wasn't totally a no spend day, since I actually did pay my mortgage and car insurance on this day.

Day Three: Biggest win of this day was two used books for $1 each at the libraries used bookstore.  I love that place.  I'm always in need of reading material.  Did NOT want to get gas on this day because it counted against my spending. Boo.

Day Four: No spend day! Completely.  Did not send a single dollar on this day. And honestly, it was a great day! So far this week I've already put about $300 in savings though.  Working extra hours is making my savings account very happy.

Day Five: 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Gone Girl.

One of my clients recommend this book to me after picking it off the New York Times bestselling list.  She was less than 100 pages in at the time but she said she thought I'd enjoy it.  She's given me several books before and hasn't steered me wrong yet so when I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a book for the book swap (more on that Monday), I thought, why not?  I rarely buy new books, I'm used, hand-me-down, ereader kind of girl but this one was 40% off and I really wanted it before the end of the 2243989023 person library wait-list.

Here's what Amazon had to say about it:

Marriage can be a real killer. 

   One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn. 

   On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 

   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Well I really can't say it better than that.  But I will add that whoever wrote that description was right about it being unputdownable (is that an actually a word?)...I finished the last 250+ pages in a day.  It is obviously dark in nature but I was fascinated. It had the feel and drama of an insane Lifetime movie (which I'm also famous for loving) - I was into it!  Thankfully, it was well written which really added to the interest factor, for me.  If you like murder mysteries and psychologically driven novels, you'll enjoy this one.

Happy Friday from shore of Myrtle Beach and the happiest of weekends to you all!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's Ok Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

Happy Thursday.  As you're reading this I'm most likely flying through the air or in an airport or possibly if you're late, at the beach in South Carolina.  Hellllo four day vacation in Myrtle Beach, I am happy to see you.  But for now I leave you with this (and 3 other blog posts to follow before I return)...

It's ok...

...to be exhausted just thinking about 6:30am flights, but comfort yourself with the idea that you can sleep on the plane...or the beach.

...to be stoked to be spending the next four days with your sweet family including the parentals, 2 sisters, 1 bro in law, and a sweet baby niece.

...to pack bathing suits, workout clothes, and like one appropriate for being in public outfit and call it a day.  My family will be lucky if I try my hair and wear makeup once on this trip.

...to be more concerned about what books to pack (and how many) than about clothes.

...to love your life in Tampa but also love getting away now and again.

...to hate flying anything but Southwest.

...to feel all grown up when you have to take a taxi cab (hello, I'm Blaire Waldorf, I get driven places)

...to have prescheduled all your blog posts this weekend but already know you'll spend much of your beach time brainstorm ideas and writing.

...to have a million things to think about on this trip.

...to unfollow blogs you don't actually read (I check with Twitter world and you all said it wasn't rude, so it really is ok)

...to not follow all the people who follow you on twitter. I follow the people that interest me.

...to be excited to slowly but surely be finding new blogs, with CONTENT.  I've been craving some good blogger reading material these days.

...to be a little sad the 'spending experiment' is coming to an official end.  Maybe we'll extend it?

I am so so happy on this Thursday morning as I head to North Myrtle for some sun, fun, and time away from the grind.  Hope you all have wonderful weekends.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is That What You Really Think of Me?

Reputations.  Stereotypes. Labels.  We've all had to deal with these.  You hope after high school that this gets better but it doesn't really.  It shifts shapes but the idea remains the same.  We all fall victim to this.  So why am I writing about it now?

I was out with a guy friend of mine last week and we were discussing someone I've never really felt likes me.  This person is more his friend than mine, which is why I brought it up.  Now I pause here to say that one of the cold hard facts of life I've had to deal with is this, not everyone will like you.  I'm a people pleaser and so this wasn't an overnight acceptance for me but I have finally come to grips with the idea that I don't have to please everyone and not everyone has to like me.  In fact, I'd rather have their respect - but that's another entry.

Finally after several years of wondering why this particular acquaintance doesn't care for me my friend said, 'well, she thinks you're spoiled and entitled and you didn't have to work to get where you are'.  Now this really knocked the wind out of me.  I'm usually pretty in-tune with people and I'm rarely caught completely off guard but this one shocked me.  She thinks what?

Pause again, I need to tell you that I've met this person maybe five times total over the course of 2-3 years.  This is not someone who's heavily involved in my life, has ever had an in depth conversation with me, or is part of my social circles. In other words, she doesn't really know me.  But apparently she think she has me pretty well figured out.

Normally as a fiery young lady this is the part where I would go on the defensive and list all the reasons that her assessment of me is completely off base.  But I've learned and grown considerably this year and so I calmly turned to my friend and said, 'what do you think?'  See I could spend the rest of my life defending myself against the people who think they understand me or the world I live in but what I'm more concerned with is what the people who know me think.  I also appreciate honestly and this particular friend is painfully honest.  He once told me 'well Becca, you were in pretty good shape but I can tell you've been slacking'. Yeah, that honest.  So I will admit that while I waited for his response I was little afraid to hear what he might say.

He thought for a moment and he said, 'You know, when I first met you I might have thought that.  Before we met I knew your Dad was an NFL football coach and I guess I kind of assumed what you'd be like from growing up in the lifestyle.  But honestly, you're not.  You work hard, harder than most people you're age.  And while you probably could have leveraged your connections, you haven't - you've worked to get what you want and to be where you are.  You're smart and you're always making plans and goals and working towards them. I think you deserve what you do have and I wouldn't say you're spoiled or entitled at all, just determined'.

I felt satisfied with that answer, I'll admit.  From someone who basically told me I was pudging up, to be called smart and hardworking was a huge compliment.  See, I didn't pick where I came from but the life I've built?  That has been a direct result of my choices, effort, and work.  I moved here to build a life on my own.  That's not to say that my parents aren't supportive and that they haven't been incredibly encouraging and had my back over the years.  But I came here to do it on my own, to prove to myself that I could.

I've done a lot of things wrong.  I've made mistakes.  I've screwed up. My pride has caused me to fall.  I've poked holes in walls, fallen down stairs, spilled drinks on new carpet, over withdrawn a bank account (several times actually), and a whole slew of other mistakes.  In fact, I recently let the cat out of the bag to my Mom about how after buying a house I got myself into a little credit card debt and how long it took me to get back out.  My Mom sounded surprised when she said, 'you never told me about that' to which I responded, 'that's because it was my mistake to fix and I knew if I told you, you'd want to help'.

It has always been important to me to be independent.  To earn what I get and to work for what I want.  That is not to say that I don't appreciate that the Lord extends me grace and hasn't given me what I ultimately deserve or that I'm not grateful that my Mom sacrificed her career to homeschool me and my Dad worked hard to provide for me growing up.  I have an incredible family and I wouldn't trade them for anything.  My life is truly blessed in so many ways and I might even go so far as to say that I'm spoiled in that way.

The real point of this post isn't about whether that girl has me pegged just right or whether I'm, in fact, the opposite is true.  The point is that labels, reputations, and stereotypes are a fact of life but they're also a dangerous game.  Judging people you don't know based on their backgrounds will keep you from appreciating who they are now.  Perhaps where we come from effects where we go in life but our pasts don't define us.  If there's one lesson I've learned in my 20s it's this - you choose who you are and you create the life you have with choices that you make.  What priorities you make and how you spend your time will in the end be the life you lived.  That's on you.

I feel like I come from the generation of blamers.  Nothing bad is ever our fault.  We blame our parents.  We blame our friends.  We blame the economy and the job market and the federal government.  We blame our colleges or the bad choice of major.  But the truth is, we're responsible for us.  And while I can't change that particular girl's mind about me if she wants to believe I'm a certain way, I can keep working towards being someone of character.  I can't control what people say about me, but I can control who I am.  I left that conversation encouraged and challenged. I have the freedom to control who I am.  I may even be a little drunk with power on that topic lately.  But I've been putting a lot of thought this week into what labels I want and how I would define myself.

So for any of you who have recently thought, 'Is that what you really think of me?', take heart!  You're not alone.  The rumor mill has given each of us the occasional swift kick.  But while real life is unfortunately not always more advanced than high school, you control who you are.  Don't let anyone make you think otherwise.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Friendship Model.

When I think about friendship the model I always imagine is my Dad and Tony.  Over the past week or so I've been reading Tony Dungy's first book, 'Quiet Strength'.  It's been an amazing trip down memory lane for me as Dad coached under Coach Tony his entire career as an NFL head coach.  From start to finish of the 'Dungy era' we were there.  So it's been full of wonderful memories as well as some tough times of losing, firings, and the loss of Jamie.  Going back through that as I read that book has brought all of it back to me.

Perhaps what stands out above all else is the model of friendship that I've watched these two have.  As I was reading the chapter in which Coach Tony describes how he and my Dad would take a long walk before every game and talk about life, their faith, and their families I find that more than ever I respect their friendship.  It's always been based first and foremost on their shared love the Lord.  As he talked about their bible study in which they read through the bible in a year, every single year, I was inspired...I've watched my Dad do this every single year of his NFL coaching career and this will be his 17th time, I believe.  When we talks about how they started All Pro Dad (where I now work) because of their shared belief in the importance of family, I teared up.

Friendship.  I've talked about it on this blog hundreds of times.  But as I read about their friendship over the course of life - from getting fired in Tampa, to winning a Super Bowl in Indy, to losing a child, 4 adoptions, 2 marriages (of kids), and countless highs and lows these two know what friendship is about.  I realize that I want that.  That level of commitment and accountability.  Someone who's desperate for the Lord and always leading me back to that place when I struggle.

These two have weathered a great many storms and having had the insiders look I can say they are both men of unwaivering faith.  God is first in their lives. And after that their families, their friendships, and somewhere far down the line is football.  It's what they do, but it's never been who they are.  I find that as I get older I'm even more impressed by their friendship and I have a deep desire for something like it in my own life and walk.

Perhaps there will be more about Quiet Strength as I finish it up this week but I had to take the time to talk about friendship, one more time.  These guys, they know how it's done.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Weekend Recap.

Thursday night while driving around with one of my guy friends snooping apartments (for him, not me) he asked if I wanted to go look at one on lunch with him to which I replied, 'Can't. Gotta be a cow on lunch tomorrow. Literally'.

My coworkers and I went to cow appreciation day at Chickfila Friday for lunch.  I actually got a wrap and brought it home for dinner with my freebie (you get a free meal if you dress up as a cow).  I thought you all would enjoy sharing in this ...moment...with me.  Note: my shirt reads Leesa, which is not my name. ; ] The cheap part of me was tempted to stay dressed and go back again.  Is that wrong? Say yes.

Saturday was a workday for me.  I had tons to get done (and money to make) before my vacation starting this Thursday.  I also went to church Saturday night since I had to work up that way, so Sunday made for a relaxing day by the pool with my friend Jason.  I always have the best conversations with Jason when he comes to my pool.  Never a dull moment.  I also got to do some serious damage on this insane book I've been reading, Gone Girl.  Literally insane. Stayed up to finish it last (so, read about 250 pages of it yesterday).  Managed not to spend money on Sunday at all (spending challenge win) and on Friday I only spent money on my mortgage and a few bills, no food or fun stuff.  I will be giving you all a spending challenge update later this week.

I'm ready to grind it out for 3 very full days this week and then hit the beach Thursday morning - Sunday with the Christensen/Breslin crew in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Vacation or bust!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Week Unplugged.


Oh, hm...unplugged.  Well, this was inspired by my desire to spend less time texting and more time actually living my life.  I figured this week would be perfect because I have fun things planned during the days and evenings pretty much all week, so this will give me the opportunity to actually be present with people.  I'm dragging Amber along with me because there's safety in having someone else be tortured with you.

Unplugged means phone on silent, in my purse, when I'm with other people.  It means finally calling back the people I need to actually speak too.  It means facetime with close friends.  It means thoughtfully written cards instead of snarky lunch time twitter mentions.  It means a little more depth and a little more wisely spent time.


After starting the hair-brained scheme to be more present in life I made a list of 10 people I needed to have conversations with this week.  I'm going to call them.  Yes, all 10 of them.  Yes, me, who loathes the phone. I loathe the phone but I love these 10 people and so I am going to call them.  I'm mostly convincing myself here.

I called my grandpa on my lunch break yesterday.  He just went to Washington DC with a group of 35 vets of WW2 to see the new memorial they put in there.  He had called me a few weeks back when Tampa was having terrible storms and so I thought, I should call him and ask about his trip!  He was going to see this memorial, where I was in May of this year during my trip...

I could tell it meant the world to him that I remembered and called back for a chat about something we've both been part of this year.  My grandpa is an incredible man of God and hearing his perspective on the memorial that recognize and honors his sacrifice and the lives of many of his friends that were lost in honor of our freedom was touching.  I may have been on to something with this unplugged week.

I spent last night at Yogurtology and Bath & Body works with Nichole and Kari, so that made it easy to want to put away the phone (other than needing to read them something from the internet) and just enjoy being with them.  Nichole and I exchanged books for the book swap, and Kari and I got to share our love of  wall flowers and scented lotions.  It was a surprisingly perfect Monday night, sans texting (with scheduling exceptions, naturally...).  Maybe I really can do this!


Tuesday made for an easy day to go without texting.  I spent my lunch break with Jess and Delaney, catching up about life.  Jess is one of my longest standing friends and I adore her.  I realized and pointed out last week that she is the person I tell things I wouldn't tell any of my other close friend, if that makes sense?  She's my secret keeper.

(this is Delaney, Jess's beautiful niece...well one of them!)

Tuesday night after work I got to have fro yo with Thomas to celebrate the end of his clinicals!  He is almost a murse (male nurse).  If he reads this he will probably hate me for saying that almost as much as my neighbor hates me every time I introduce him as my murse neighbor.

Wednesday was equally fabulous has I got to have lunch with my friend Preston who recently took a job at a building right by my house/work (I work and live about 2 miles apart so it's the same area).  We met at the mall food court and talked money and business plans because, well, he's my only friend who's as interested in that stuff as I am, I think.

Wednesday night I used my time between jobs to have an hour long chat with my bestie who moved to Austin, TX recently, Auburn. It was so good to hear her voice I literally cried a little bit.  And then spent the rest of the time talking like we would have over fro yo before she left.  It was perfect and much needed.  And followed that up with a call to my friend Jon, in Indy, who is literally one of my most perfectly timed friendships. I'm not sure I could love him anymore than I do...he is truly an amazing friend and I'm grateful for him.  Maybe I'm really onto something with this text-less-talk-more thing I'm working this week.


Whew, Thursday was a bit of a blur to be honest.  I probably texted a little more than I should of but I was literally on the go from 8am-10pm without stop.  I did call my best friend on my way into work (when I also drove through sonic and got a diet coke, of course).  I had lunch with the Crimellas - Jess, Noah, and Emmie, which was awesome.  Love them.

I had a meeting after work, then fro yo with Bryn (I love every second I get with her, she's so special to me), and then drove around and looks at apartments with a friend (not for me, I'm staying put).  I've become semi-obsessed with real estate over the years and since I'm not selling my place, buying a second, or probably ever renting again - I live vicariously through bossing my friends around about what they should by, where they should rent, and helping them get good deals.

Thursday was also the start of Amber, Candy, and I's spending project.  We're tracking every dollar we spend for a week.  Mildly terrifying.  But I think it'll be good.  Maybe.  Or depressing. We'll see.  Depending on how ashamed I am, I may post about this later.


I have a surprisingly small amount to say about Friday for once.  It was busy, it went quickly, and I didn't have many chances to text anyway so it wasn't a bad day for that.  The spending project is taking more of my attention than not texting.  Managed to get a few of my phone calls made.  I really used my time in the car wisely this week (unless you subscribe to the camp of not talking while driving, in which case I failed in your book).  I got to catch up with a huge list of friends I'd been meaning to call....and I'm inspired to hit up a few more in the next few days before I head off to Myrtle Beach.

I'm ending this experiment, officially today, but I actually think it's more of a beginning for me.  I have a few days left before I head on a 4 day get-a-way and I plan to spend very little of that time text, or really being on my phone at all.  I guess if my family read this blog, which they don't, they'd hold me accountable.  Since they don't I guess you all can.  

The best takeaways from this week have been - conversations are better than text messages, any day.  I still don't love the phone but I will say this week went a long way in encouraging me to use it more often.  It doesn't take a ton of effort to make people feel special and involved in your life.  I'm realizing that more and more.  I don't want to be a slacker on the small things that make up the bigger picture of my relationships.  And I should also confess, the world didn't stop turning while I was texting absent.  So I guess that's good news, it really doesn't revolve around me and my witty texting banter.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Reading: July Part One.

Summer reading lists are a dime a dozen and I've noted that people don't seem particularly interested in reading a review of a book here every single week.  So I'm going to lump them for July and give you the first half of my July reading list today and perhaps after I return from Myrtle Beach I will give you part two ( I expect I will devour a few books on that trip).

I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan as many of you know.  Lone Wolf, which I finished over 4th of July weekend and her newest book, coauthored by her daughter are the only Jodi's I haven't read yet.  My Mom is faithful to buy me all of Jodi's books, or was, until the one she bought me for Christmas turned out to be about a lesbian couple and my Mom was tempted to steal it back and rid the house of it, I'm pretty sure.  She may not be buying me any more Jodi's now.

Anywho, Lone Wolf was not my favorite Picoult novel (that title is split between Salem Falls and Nineteen Minutes) but I will say, it only took me 3 days to finish so it obviously wasn't boring either.  It was a nice read for my pool side holiday and the story-line interested me, I just didn't care for the family to wolf pack parallels that overwhelmed the first half of the book.  I'm glad I read it and if you like Picoult's style of writing, this one won't disappoint.  If you like wolves, well, you'll probably love it.

For the first half of this book I didn't like it and thought 'why am I reading this' but the second half really brought it all together in  way that made me a. give it 4 stars on Goodreads and b. feel glad that I finished.  I'm really working hard at writing a good story and so Miller's dialog about how to write a better life story really hit home with me on many levels.  His theology is shakey for me but he makes some good points.  My feelings on this book are about as muttled as what I just wrote about it.

This book was a blend of scandel and somewhat unexpected plot twists.  I read it in 24 hours, mostly by the pool.  I really enjoyed it and it kept my interest from start to finish, which I feel like is no small feat.  I was glad I found it (at the used bookstore in my library) and I'm considering reading a few more of Hilderbrand's novels now.

Hilarious. I wanted it to go on forever.  I absolutely loved this one and thought it made for a perfect summer read.  Get it.

Note: After deciding to do my reading updates in lumps, I realized I've been dominating a crazy amount of books lately, so this list doesn't include all the books I'd read in the first two weeks of July, there have been a few others. But these are the ones I felt like highlighting.  This is my blog and I'll do what I want.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's Ok Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

Ah, Thursday.  It's ok...

...to be excited to have lunch with Jess and her kiddos today. (blogger friendship for the win!)

...to be stoked about Yogurtology for the 3rd time this week, with Bryn after work (thanks Kari, Nichole, and Thomas for the first 2 nights).

...to be slightly ashamed to be the mayor (on foursquare) of your bank, sonic, yogurt hangout, and gym.  Odd combo, I know.

...to finish books weirdly.  I finished 3 yesterday after going a few days without finishing any.

...to have Amber and my bff tracking their spending with me so I'll be better and better.

...to be on a new budget/savings plan.

...to be hungry whenever I'm counting calories.
...to be proud of yourself for having 5 phone conversations this week, when you usually ignore your phone calls and dodge talking on the phone during non-working hours.

...to keep a to do list, a planner, and a book in your bag at all times or feel naked (usually here's also an iPad or Kindle in there too).

...to be stoked to read the books I got from the book swap (thanks Nichole!)

...to be looking forward to a busy, productive weekend.

...to be giddy over travel plans that are finally approaching.

...to have boycotted free Slurpee day in honor of my sister, because I want me next one to be with her.

...to keep your dating life on the DL.

...to have the most amazing friends in the world (this is not in contrast to me friendship post earlier this week, this is in addition too)

...to hashtag things #allidoiswin - right Amber?


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Weekend Recap.

Since I had a serious topic I wanted to go ahead and write about yesterday, this post is a day later than would normally be appropriate.  It's Tuesday, not Monday, I know.  I'm hoping you can all handle that like mature adults.

This weekend was great in that totally normal, simple, I was actually in town and not overloaded with plans kind of way that is rare in my world.

While shopping for gifts on Saturday at Nordstrom Rack I ran into Alicia, whom I haven't seen in about 15 years and who honestly looks exactly the same! (Alicia - I assumed you wouldn't mind that I stole your photo of us)...

It was so great to see her and to talk about where we're each at in life.  I loved getting to catch up with her and I hope that we'll have time to do more of that very soon!  If it happens to be at Nordstrom Rack again, that would be just fine too!

I got in a lunch and some sun time with my friend Jason, whom I'm sorry to say I've barely seen this year!  We live literally 10 minutes apart if we were biking and I still hardly ever see him.  We've committed to do better at this and I really loved getting some facetime with him over sushi and in my favorite place to spend time with anyone - the sun. 

I finished three books last week and started a whole new set of new ones over the weekend.  I also tortured Amber all weekend about her reading goals.  She bascially loves to hate me now.

Sunday night was spent celebrating the birthday of my sweet friend Kayla, who turned 25 this weekend!  We had sushi in Soho and then watched Bride Wars over coffee and cupcakes.  I'm really grateful for her friendship, she's been such a blessing in my life.

(mmm, cupcakes)

Like I said, low key weekend.  I have a semi-low key weekend coming up followed by 4 days in Myrtle Beach with family the following weekend to look forward too.  Oh happy day. 

I'm 'unplugged' this week to be present in real life so you can probably expect better blog posts than usual after today.  But who knows, maybe not.  I may be alone with my thoughts this week and they may still be shallow.  We'll see.


Monday, July 9, 2012

The Friendship Crisis: Revisited.

After a long conversation with a friend this weekend I went back to find this post I wrote in February of 2009 titled, The Friendship Crisis.  My heart was breaking for this friend who's experiencing much the same growing pains that I was back when I wrote the original post.  This remains to this day one of my favorite and perhaps most honest blog posts here.  The friendship crisis is real and as I try to encourage several of my friends through these trials it brings it back to the surface for me, as well.

The Friendship Crisis isn't over.  It's now 2012, halfway through actually, and I'm still hitting weird patches in my own friendship crisis.  I've lost and gained friends since 2009 and my feelings about how hard it is to find, keep, and be a great friend remain the same.  I recently had a conversation with a friend in which I voiced this frustration: I feel like I never know who I can trust anymore.  This could potentially be the theme for the phase of the friendship crisis I am currently in.  Trust.  How DO you know who you can trust and what do you do when that trust gets betrayed?

I've had a few good slaps in the face from 'friends' in the past 3.5 years since writing The Friendship Crisis.  People I trusted.  Friendships I valued.  I've been blindsided  by people I truly loved and didn't think twice about trusting.  When this happens you have to face the tough challenge of how you handle them.  Do you forgive and forget?  Do you forgive and remember?  And sometimes I feel the way I can only express by giving you the semi-immortal words of Lauren Conrad, 'I want to forgive you and I want to forget you' (said to Heidi Montag in the Hills, of course).

Rachel, my older sister and closest friend, could attest that I am a champion grudge holder.  I can't remember what I ate for breakfast on any given Monday but I can tell you exactly why I quit liking each of her high school boyfriends.  I am fiercely loyal and my memory of those who wrong the people I love runs deep and stays strong.  In fact, this will be the first year I bury the hatchet on my long time grudge against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for firing some of my favorite men more than a decade ago.  I'm burying it in honor of a few of their new hires that I adore.  It's time.  I'm letting that one go.  But it's been a fierce 10 years of grudge holding, be assured and I think it's proved it's point.  You know, to me.

I've written before about the lessons I've had to learn about forgiveness and most importantly about forgiving people who may never be sorry.  That was a tough life/spiritual lesson for my grudge loving self.  But the friendship crisis and especially this chapter on trust, isn't really about forgiving.  See, I've come a long way in the forgiveness department.  The crisis comes in what you do after you forgive. The damage has been done and forgiving someone isn't the same as rebuilding.  I find it almost impossibly hard to decide which friendships to rebuild and which to let go.  Letting go not out of hate or anger, but in gentle, respectful forgiveness.  Parting ways doesn't mean you haven't forgiven, sometimes it's the final step in the process.

Unfortunately I can't wrap this chapter up for you and tie it with a neat bow because I'm still living and learning it.  So let's talk about another chapter I'm experiencing of the continued saga of the friendship crisis...the priority chapter.

I shared in 2009 that I have been surprised by some of my friendships that have lasted and some that have not.  Three years later this remains true.  I'm surprised by the people who have made staying in touch with me a priority, and those who have not.  I'm surprised by the people who make the effort to see me when I'm home, visit me here in Florida, and call me more than I call them.  I'm equally surprised by those who do not.  In fact, what may be true as I write this is that I actually stink at knowing people.  Maybe this should all have been obvious and I think the opposite of what happens because I'm an idiot. I'm not beyond believing this could be true.

I have said, written, tweeted, fb posted, and said again: people's time and money are a perfect way to measure their priorities.  They spend both their money and their time on exactly what they value.  Before you start thinking of someone else's out of whack priorities know that you and I have some work to do too.  But the more I identify and pinpoint people's priorities in this way the more guarded I feel about my friendships.  I know who values and prioritizes me and I know who doesn't.  I warn you that allowing yourself to realize this stings.  It also leads to some tough choices that start with - so what do you do now?

There's one last chapter I'm currently writing in my friendship crisis that I want to talk about briefly.  What happens when you out grow a friendship?  This is a weird one to write about because some of you probably don't believe this happens.  But it does.  I've been on the fast track for as long as I can remember.  I started college at 16.  I moved to Florida at 22.  I bought a house at 24.  I've always been in a hurry to be grown.  This is not necessarily a good quality, I realize.  But honestly, that growth hasn't caused me to outgrow nearly as many friends as this year has.

This year has been a year of tough self awareness.  In the wake of Haiti and all the spiritual growth that has come for me as a result, I find that the direction my life is taking is in direct opposition of the path many of my friends are taking.  I find that I'm increasingly uncomfortable in some of my relationships and now I'm faced with the question:  am I outgrowing this friendship?

Don't take this to mean that I think I'm above or beyond my friends.  I'm not.  The more I learn the more I realize how little I know.  I am a work in progress.  I am, in fact, a hot mess.  But perhaps the main difference that's driving a wedge is I'm not content to be that way anymore.  I'm constantly feeling challenged and trying to meet those challenges and I find that my desire to quit justifying and just grow up frustrates certain friends as much as their contentment to wallow in their problems instead of fixing them eats at me.  I don't know if I'm outgrowing them or they're outgrowing me or if perhaps where's just growing apart.

I hate to offer these kind of insights without giving you some kind of solution but again, I'm learning because I don't already know.  I wanted to come back and revisit this as I continue to realize that I'm one of many people my age and beyond who are experiencing these same tough situations.  I plan to take a big step back this week to consider and pray about my relationships.  I recognize that I will continue to gain and lose friendships throughout the rest of my life but I want to be mindful of them and make each one a deliberate choice not something that 'just happens'.

Friendships are hard because relationships are hard.  They take work, real work.  They also require the extension of grace and forgiveness because we all screw up.  So don't read this and think that I ditch every friend that messes up.  In fact, it would probably be more accurate to describe me as a doormat.  I tend to over forgive, over justify, and over blame myself.  I'm working towards a healthy medium now.  I want to continue to expect more of myself than anyone else. I want to be gracious.  But I desire to live a purposeful life and this includes placing the right amount of time and effort into the right relationships.

And so, the friendship crisis continues.  3.5 years later I am battling with who I can trust, who to put my effort into, and which friendships to let fall by the wayside.  It is a struggle.  It comes at a cost.  And I know that many of you feel like you're in the same place.  Know that my heart hurts for any of you struggling through similar situations.  I'm glad that so many of you have come to me to talk about these situations and I hope that as I figure them out, I'll be able to help you do the same.  We'll see where we all are the next time we revisit The Friendship Crisis.


Friday, July 6, 2012

SUYL: Bathrooms.

I'm linking up with Kelly again this week for Show Us Your Life: Bathrooms.  I took last week off because it was kid's rooms and well - yeah, some of you are laughing at that idea.  Anyway.  Bathrooms.  Here's mine:

The guest bathroom (which actually looks quite a bit more put together than the master, at this point)....

And the master (still a work in progress):

I forgot to take a photo of my black leather shower curtain and the toilet area.  Oops.  But you get the idea.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's Ok Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

It's ok....

...to be totally confused about what day of the week it is.  A midweek holiday throws everyone off!

...to not stay awake long enough to watch fireworks (and be so tired from being in the sun all day you slept right through the noise).

...to be so excited to finally be tannish again.  I'm hawaiin, I should never be pale.  Ask my neighbors, they were concerned.

...to be excited/ready for family vacation in 2 weeks.

...to be obsessed with reading and also with not having Goodreads yell at you for being behind.

...to be excited to be crushing your savings goals for the year.

...to think your niece is the cutest kid the world.

...to have spent last night (yes, the 4th) planning out your next two weeks between now and vacation.

...to be more in love with life everyday.

...to randomly be sipping coffee in your living room and realize how grateful you are to have a home.  I spent yesterday morning praising the Lord for my dreams that have come true.

...to be grateful to live in the USA.  As much as I want to travel the world, there's no place I'd rather live.  Ok fine, maybe Europe.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

But This Isn't How I Pictured It.

Monday night was perfect.  I've been giving myself Monday nights off for the last few weeks to workout, catch up on chores, read, and get some sleep after busy weekends. It's been amazing and this week was no exception.  That carved out time has been really refreshing.  Know that I don't think that 'down time' should be every night of anyone's week. I think it's important to spend time with your friends, take care of yourself, work hard, have hobbies and interests, volunteer, etc.  Time is far to valuable to waste.  But I do see benefit in the occasional time at home, alone even.

Tuesday morning rolled around and I was feeling refreshed and inspired after spending 2 hours of Monday night reading in bed and waking up early to spend time in the word.  This is the first week I've made my wake up time even earlier because I had started to enjoy my quiet times so much, I was looking a hot mess for work.  It was time to start having enough for both my reading AND wearing some makeup and doing my hair for my workday.

I was having an early morning chit chat with one of my besties as I got ready for work (maybe this is part of why I run out of time to get ready?) and we were talking about how this year is turning out.  As I texted back, 'But this isn't how I pictured it' I stopped and thought about that.  2012 has been a year of experiences, adventures, learning, growing, stretching, and I admit that recently feeling a bit like a failure in a few aspects of life.  It's been overwhelmingly good but as always with a pinch of challenges and trials always in the mix.

So maybe it's weird to say this but it's true, this year isn't how I pictured it.  I'm healthier.  I'm happier.  I'm more motivated.  I'm finally dreaming again.  Somewhere along the way in my four years of being in the 'real world' I felt like I'd lost my nerve to dream big.  Maybe it was the weight of responsibility or maybe I just got such a big dose of reality my first few years after school...but I'm finally back to having dreams and it feels good.

This year isn't how I pictured it, it's better.  I thought I'd take this year off of dating, after being in a serious relationship that didn't work out last year I thought 'why not take a break' but potentially what they say about finding people when you're not looking is true.  I will confess, I'm not on a dating break this year but I'm also not ready to commit to a serious relationship, yet.  I thought that as I grew to love my life more and worked on myself I would be less drawn to dating but that hasn't been totally true.  I may actually be reaching a point in my life where I see great value in having someone to share your life with.

I've never felt more comfortable in my own skin.  I love life more than I ever have.  I'm more grateful than ever to have a 'home' after a childhood spent packing and unpacking - the consistency has been a blessing.  I'm actually enjoying each year that I get older, as I watch the people in my age range struggle with it, I feel grateful that I'm farther along than I dreamed of being at 26.

In realizing that I am more afraid of regretting not living than in taking chances that don't work out, I find that I am traveling more, loving harder, and reaping the benefits.  I have simplified my 'stuff' and increased my experiences.  More than ever I appreciate the value in spending (or not spending) my money wisely so I can spend my time the way I want.

Whether or not we tell others or write it down, we all had a picture of what our lives would look like.  My 20s aren't how I pictured them but I'm grateful that they're so much bigger and better than I imagined.  Many of you have been a huge part of this year and how well the first half of it has gone.  I'm thankful for that.  For each of the amazing people in my life and for what I learned from those that had to be left behind.  This year isn't how I pictured it...it's better!