Recovering from Failure

Completing last week's goals was a total flop. I didn't do well at all.
1. Only one treat per day. (F) I ate multiple treats every single day. I didn't think twice about a single thing I wanted to eat. 
2. Find a new fancy dress. (A) I got a new dress, I like it, I spent under $50, and I felt appropriate for the occasion. 
3. Take more pictures. (D) I took about three pictures this week, which is better than nothing. 

This week at work will be really unbelievably insanely busy. We're starting a new session of Sunday School curriculum, which takes an ungodly amount of prep work AND I'm co-teaching a weekend-long sex education class for the preteens and their parents. I'll probably work about 80 hours this week and then attempt to take off a day next week to make up for it. I need to make goals that I know I can actually accomplish. 

So my goals this week are just to keep myself alive:
1. Sleep a minimum of seven hours each night. 
2. Shower at least every-other day. 
3. Skip no meals. (Peanut butter does not count as a meal)

Roommate, Soulmate, Samesies

This Storytime Sunday post might as well be titled, Ode to Paige.

I met my college roommate Paige when we were seniors in high school. It was probably January-ish, and the stars aligned and were were grouped together with the same tour guide when we were visiting Agnes Scott. I actually still remember the experience pretty vividly, probably because we reminisce over it occasionally together. Wait, what? Why do you reminisce over a college tour? Because it was weird and weird things happened:

We were in a small group of five students and some parents too. I remember exactly who the five were:
  • Myself
  • Paige, a normal looking girl with a blonde bob cut
  • A very loud transfer student named Heather, who had purple hair at the time. 
  • Two girls wearing long fur coats who started every sentence with "I'm homeschooled, so...." 
Our tour guide happened to be some chick who was in a lot of the Agnes Scott propaganda (like the DVD they sent us of student interviews, the brochures, the website, whatever.) She studied something cool like astrophysics and she was from somewhere cool like Alaska. I think her name was Kate, but maybe not. 
Ignore the tug-of-war. This is just the prettiest picture I ever snapped of Agnes Scott so I wanted to put it here.
We went from the dining hall to a dorm to the science center to the athletic center... typical college tour stuff. The loud girl with purple hair scared me, because she was loud and because I was a very sheltered child and at my public high school you weren't allowed to have unnatural colors of hair. When we were almost done, one of the fur coat girls pulled a dog out of her purse. It was awesome and made no sense, and the tour guide was like, "Has that dog been here all along...?" That might've been what won me over to enroll at Agnes Scott. Who knows. 

Weeks later, we both came back to Agnes Scott to interview for some scholarships. We saw each other, (didn't have smart phones; 2009 was a dark time) and told each other our last names so that we could go home and become Facebook friends. We connected on Facebook and chatted with each other as we made our final decisions between colleges.

We recently scrolled back and found some awfully awkward chats. 

I'm laughing so hard at myself. I said, "China? How cool!" Little did I know, about a third of my classmates would be from China, and some of my good friends, and it's just a normal part of life to be friends with Chinese people. 

Anyway, long story short, we became roommates and it's the strangest tightest friendship I've ever been trapped in for four years. Just kidding, I've been trapped in it for seven years. Just kidding I'm not trapped.

We regularly had "awkward photoshoots" where we tried really hard to make the viewer feel awkward. It was art, okay?!

Also, for your viewing pleasure, one time we thought we were SO cool and went on a quick roadtrip to Knoxville to see Steve Moakler and Andrew Ripp play a show together. Also we kept repeating the terrible pun, "Knox Knox, who's there?" I do not know how I actually had time to put together this embarrassingly terrible video, but here you go. Paige and Kirby in their prime, September 2011:

Still a Fighter

The first image was made by someone anonymous, and posted online by PostSecret.
The second image is my own, inspired by the first.

Sometime I forget that when Brian and I started dating in college, he planned to be a firefighter. Of course it sounded *dreamy* to me but it also made me anxious thinking about our long-term future. In 2013, he got hired by a reputable fire department, started training, and realized he didn't want that to be his career. Now he has a job that's a million times better for his skill set and I'm PROUD of him. He's still a fighter, but instead of fighting against fires, he fights for kiddos with special needs to have better opportunities, friendships, and fun.

Dog Days

Happy Friday to you!!
Happy Foto Friday to me!

The cutest picture I took this week is of my parents dog. 
He is very needy, and has to be fed and given a shot every day at the exact same time. On Tuesday my mom got caught up and couldn't be there to feed him and give him the injection, so I drive over and took a turn. 

If I had to live with him and do it every day, I'd hate it. But I don't live with him so it's a happy little treat when I get to see him. 

Three Ways We Save Money on Groceries

1. We eat soup a lot. It's fast, cheap, easy, contains veggies... the only pitfall is outrageous sodium content, but at this point in our lives we're not that picky. We bring soup for lunch at work most days. It's way cheaper than picking up a fast food lunch each day and it helps us stretch our dinner leftovers longer, since we save them for more dinners. Also, eating soup instead of heavy leftovers for lunch helps me stay awake and productive instead of falling into a food coma from something heavy.
2. We disregard name brands. Did you know store brand foods are usually made by the same manufacturers as name brand foods? Sometimes they tweak the ingredients and the packaging... sometimes they only tweak the packaging. We are loyal Kroger customers just because Brian loves their store-brand peanut butter, and he insists it tastes identical to JIF. I would be 0% surprised if it is identical to JIF, just a different label on the front. Conveniently, at Kroger they always label the unit price (cents per ounce), so it's easy to compare brands and easier to pass on top name brands.
3. We stay flexible for sales. Often on our grocery list, we'll write very generic terms, like "fruit," "frozen meal," "meat." And we just look for whatever is on sale. I don't meal plan until after we get home with our discounted pork chops, chicken thighs, asparagus, pomegranate, whatever. If meat is on sale, immediately put it in the freezer, since it's probably close to it's sell-by date.

I use the app Ibotta. It is so easy to earn cash back using your grocery receipts. This is my referral link, please us it if you're interested, and we'll both benefit with a few extra bucks. (You get $10 for using that link, and I get $5.) I've earned $21 in two months, and it is literally free money, since I only choose to earn rebates on stuff I would buy anyway. Who ever thought free money could be a real thing.

Have any quick tips for keeping your grocery bill low? Let me know!

Dream Job

I used to think my "dream job" would be one that I love 99% of the time.

In October 2014 I quit my awful job, because it was sucking the life out of me. I got a nice paycheck, but that was the only nice thing about my situation. I knew when I quit I would look for a job that was in a very different environment, and would probably pay much less. I was unemployed four months before I started my current job.

During that unemployment, I got breakfast with my friend Jess a couple times. I asked her how her job was going, and she said, "Great! I really really enjoy it, about 75% of the time." And I was baffled.... 75% is great? And she was explained why 75% to 25% is truly an awesome ratio. Only 25% of the time you feel like you're actually doing labor that earns your paycheck. The other 75% of the time you're enjoying yourself. Anything higher than 10% enjoyment is a blessing. Anything higher than 50% enjoyment is actually luxurious. My gears started turning.

March 1st last year,  I started as an assistant director of children's ministry at a large church. Of course no job and no workplace is perfect, but right now this is my "dream job." I enjoy it 75% of the time, or maybe even more. I think I'm learning at a faster rate than I ever did in school. My paycheck is fair, my coworkers are kind, and my hours can usually be flexible when I need. Sometimes I have to spend hours doing crafts, organizing closets, writing lesson plans, planning retreats and activities. That's the 75%.

A photo posted by Kirby Darden (@kirby.darden) on

Of course I get majorly stressed out every Sunday morning around 5am, which I mentally categorize as the time I'm putting in to really earn my paycheck. And sometimes I don't get a weekend at all, and sometimes I have to manage sensitive situations, insanely detailed events, annoyed parents, and ornery kids. But as of right now, it's perfect for me. I don't have my own kids, so I can deal with the crazy ones for a few hours a week. I don't have money saved up for trips and adventures, so I can handle working a few weekends in a row.

It's not about how much fun I'm having or how glamorous the job feels. It's about finding a balance of enjoyment and challenge. It's about using all my skills in a meaningful way.

When I was a dummy, I was pining for a job that was 99% good.
Now that I'm slightly less dumb, I see I can really only aim for a job that's 50% good, and I'm lucky beyond belief to have anything higher.

Tell me about how you know your job is a good fit for you! (Or if you hate your job... tell me what would be different in your dream job.)

You're Possible

This week's Pep Talk Tuesday is brought to you by Jeremy Cowart.

Jeremy Cowart is a well-known professional photographer, but basically I just follow him on Twitter because he posts funny, encouraging, inspirational, and goofy things. Last week he posted a pep talk to the world and revealed his next big plan to help people who want to help people.

It's a long video but I enjoyed the entire thing and I hope you will too.

Finish February Strong

Two people I admire (my incredible friend Lauren and my high school English teacherhave separately told me that February is consistently the worst month of every year. The freshness of the year has worn of. It's cold and dark with no glimpses of spring yet. There are no school holidays. It's the shortest month but feels the longest. 
This year I think I've done pretty well at beating the February Blues, and I'm planning to finish strong. 

I mostly accomplished all my goals last week:
1. File Taxes. (A) We filed together. We are impatiently waiting for our wonderful check to come in the mail. 
2. Organize my desk and filing cabinet. (A-) It's about 95% done. The filing cabinet is all organized. I moved a bunch of clutter out of the desk into my craft supplies. There's just two more things I don't know where to put them, so they moved from the desk to the dining table, which is not an improvement. 
3. Finish joining finances with Brian. (B) Well, our first joint account was a Starbucks account. We finally are on the same car insurance payment. I didn't finish joining our bank accounts but I did start the process and it should be approved/finalized this week. 

New Goals for 2/22/16 to 2/28/16:

1. Only one treat per day. I love sweets and I love chips. And it doesn't help that I work in a children's ministry with never ending candy supply. It's very possible in any given day I'll eat three deserts and two servings of chips. Normally I'm all about treating yourself, but I've finally gained enough weight that my pants are getting tighter. Oops. I don't really want to loose much weight, maybe two pounds and stay there, just for the sake of keeping my clothes.
2. Find a new fancy dress. Brian and I have an elegant fancy schmancy event to attend this Saturday night, but I only found out about it a few days ago. Normally I order clothes online to find a good cheap deal, and return whatever I dislike. Unfortunately in this case I don't have time for trial and error. I hate shopping in person.
3. Take more pictures. Essentially the #1 reason I started this blog was to get better at documenting my own everyday memories. My picture taking habits (or lack therof) have not developed in any way. That's gotta change soon, for the sake of Foto Friday if nothing else.

Do you have any goals for the week?  Comment a link to your blog so I can see! (Unless you are Currently Kelli, in which case I check your blog every day anyway)

I Survived a Cult

I was recently texted a reminder about a certain horrific and hilarious experience of mine: one time I accidentally went to a cult meeting with my friend Sara in 2012.
A photo posted by Kirby Darden (@kirby.darden) on

At the time, we were interns at an after-school children's ministry, and we had a lot of time on our hands. We thought we were super social and super spiritual, so we went to churches, worship nights, small groups, and coffee shops a lot. I'd been attending some weeknight worship nights held at a few churches, and I'd heard about another one, and I talked Sara into trying it out with me.

At first it was totally normal. We walked in, it was crowded with all typical hipster Nashville Christians, there was a table full of donuts in the back, and there was a vibe-y band on stage wearing beanies and fedoras. Nobody said hello or welcomed us, but that's unfortunately kinda common in churches, so I didn't think much of it. The room was the size of a small gymnasium, and there were about 200 people present. The pastor started praying for the Holy Spirit to come... we started singing some worship songs... all seemed normal.

Then the pastor was like, "Raise your hand if you have not yet experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, and one of our Holy Spirit interns will come pray over you." What? We laid low, glanced at each other, and kept our eyes peeled. I tried to keep singing along to the worship songs, thinking, "Okay, sure, they're just slightly more Pentecostal than I'm used to, but it's all the same God, no biggie."

Then the pastor goes on, "Raise your hand if you have any physical ailment, and I will come use the power of the Holy Spirit to heal you." WHAT? This pastor gets to decide who God will heal? He can harness the power of God to do whatever he wants?

"Raise your hand if you are not yet experiencing drunkenness the Holy Spirit." WHAT? At this point the interns were rolling around on the ground, twitching, laughing, crying, yelling out at the Holy Spirit. Sara and I made eye contact, and she said, "Do you think we can leave?" Honestly I was getting so creeped out I thought they would stop us at the door. We bolted. No one looked at us. No one talked to us. The doors weren't locked shut.

The cherry on top...
As we were leaving, in the parking lot we saw another young woman leaving early, by herself. She saw us and said, half-laughing, "Were you guys in there? What was that? Look at this!" and she pointed to the handicapped parking sign right by the entrance:

We got into our car safely and couldn't stop nervously laughing.
"Was that a cult?"
"Yeah, maybe... let's say yes."
And we sped off quickly.

The next day, we talked it out with some of our coworkers, and upon further reflection, we realized more of why we were so freaked out. The whole, time they never once mentioned God or Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit. And actually, never the goodness or righteousness of the Holy Spirit, just the "power you can have" through the Holy Spirit. Because that's definitely what human people need and deserve: power. And that's definitely who should decide who gets miraculously healed: people.

A Single Valentine

The first image was sent to PostSecret by someone anonymous.
The second image is mine, inspired by the first. 

I was single on Valentine's Day for twenty-one years straight (age 0 through age 20). I was a very single pringle my whole life until around by 21st birthday. But... I've recently realized I don't remember at all what it was like to be single. Funny what just four years can do.

Mom Never Sleeps

Foto Friday has arrived yet again. I took this photo a week ago, right after my mom had foot surgery.
The surgery wasn't really a huge deal, she's totally fine, and healing in a boot for a few weeks. 
The reason this photo is hilarious: she had just woken up from anesthesia, and I was the "responsible adult" who had to sign her out and take her home. When the nurse saw me she was like "Your mom is very awake. I have never seen someone this awake right after surgery. Is she always... Awake?" 

Yes. My mom never sleeps. 

This face my mom frequently makes in photos is called Crazy Eyes. My whole family naturally smiles with our eyes almost closed, and we're still working on a remedy for it... Crazy Eyes will have to do for now.

I went under anesthesia only once, in 2009, for my wisdom teeth extraction. Afterwards I was SO sleepy, and I couldn't stop drooling (I think that was from the numbness though...). Have you ever gone under anesthesia? What was it like for you when you woke up?
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Three Foods I Rely On, and a "Recipe"

Brian and I are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to food. Normally when people write a food-related post, it goes something like, "For the past couple weeks I've really been digging (insert trendy healthy food like kale chips or lentil crisps or something made from cauliflower)."
Here I am writing my first food related post and it goes something like, "For the past ten years, I've really been digging (insert unhealthy snack food that I should be embarrassed of)."

1. Peanut butter. It's possibly my primary source of protein. I eat a banana with peanut butter for breakfast each day, and some afternoons I eat an apple with peanut butter. I was raised on creamy peanut butter, but since marriage I've switched to crunchy peanut butter per Brian's request. I'm coping pretty well. 
2. Goldfish crackers. We buy a large carton every week. In an attempt to justify our childlike snacking habits, we now eat the whole wheat version. It has one more gram of fiber per serving, which totally makes a huge difference... I wish. 
3. Guacamole (and tortilla chips). Guacamole is so healthy!... If it weren't for the delicious chips that go hand-in-hand.  Every week we buy four avocados: two already soft for immediate consumption, and two that are still hard. We used to buy tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and a lime,which is simple enough but added up and took actual effort to chop. Our new lazy method of making guacamole takes under two minutes and it's just as delicious. 

-Two avocados, chopped or mashed however you prefer. 
-Half a container of pico de gallo. We buy a 7oz container from the produce section of Kroger, and it's the perfect ratio. 
-Salt and pepper. Lime juice too if you wanna be fancy. 
-Enjoy with one million tortilla chips. 

A Remedy for FOMO

I used to think I was missing out when other people were having fun. You've probably heard of the term FOMO: fear of missing out, and I used to have a case of FOMO pretty bad, pretty constantly.

If my friends (or even just some acquaintances) were participating in something I would've loved to be included in, I'd ache seeing tweets, Instagrams, and Snaps. Or even when my friends would hang out doing things I was not interested in, like kitschy bars, Beyonce concerts, Hawks games, and frat parties I'd wish I could convince myself to like those things.
Let's be honest, we've all been in a crowd like this and it's not actually that fun.

Social media always makes it worse. Everybody posts their smiliest group photo, and their wildest worldliest adventures, with the most flattering filters applied.

My best way to combat my FOMO feelings is to reflect on the fun I've had recently, and not put a scale on it. Break the scale. Throw away the scale. There is no scale. Fun is fun is fun, no matter how extravagant. Examples, if you please:

  • So what if someone else had front row tickets to see Taylor Swift? I was having fun in the nosebleed section, dancing the night away.
  • So what if someone else went on vacation to a dreamy mountain house with a few friends? I was having fun watching Downton Abbey, snuggling under a soft blanket, and eating goldfish. 
  • So what if someone else went to a romantic hip restaurant for Valentine's Day? Brian and I genuinely thoroughly enjoyed our frozen pizza. 
  • So what if someone else got an outrageously adorable puppy? I have a lot of fun not cleaning up yellow puddles on my floor. 

When I was a dummy, I thought that when other people had a lot of fun, it diminished the value of my own fun. I was such a dummy. 

A Crowded Room of Support

Think of how many friends you've ever made in your entire life: your preschool BFF, your church choir buddies, your neighborhood pals, your high school gang, your comrade from your first job; I'm sure if you thought about it for a while, it would be at least fifty people.

Imagine them all in a room together, even if you haven't seen them since you were four years old. This is an enormous amount of people who you've played with, joked with, and enjoyed their company. And they've all cared deeply about you at some point in time, as you have cared about them.

That makes you a people expert. You're great at meeting strangers (after all, they were all strangers at some point) and befriending them. You are a communication guru, well-versed in listening and speaking in ways that bring joy, wisdom, and clarity into any situation. You are experienced in forgiving and being forgiven. You are an expert in your own life experiences and you've loved your pals so well, you've lived some of their experiences too.

So today is nothing new at all. You can meet new folks, communicate with them, plan and work with them, ask for help, and joke around. After all, you have a figurative crowded room of folks who have your back. 

Saving My Sanity

This Past Week's Goals: 
1. Send emails the same day I realize I need to contact that person. (B) I thought I'd done a fantastic job of this, until Sunday morning my boss emailed me, "hey did you ever get in touch with so-and-so?" Whoops, nope, I'm sending an important email an entire week late. But only one email out of like a hundred. So that's okay. 
2. Bag Easter Eggs. (A) We had several lovely volunteers come to church Thursday morning and we sorted about 10,000 Easter eggs in two hours. It was awesome, monotonous, and a little bit fun. A huge relief to get done.
3. Get all the Sunday School supplies ready before the weekend. (A-) I still had a tiny bit of running around to do early Subday morning, but this was the first time in forever I didn't have to come to work on a Saturday. 

This Upcoming Week's Goals:
It's time to finally check off some stuff on the list that doesn't look very fun but I've gotta get around to it or I'll go crazy. It's for my own sanity I've gotta stop pushing it all off.

1. File Taxes. Gotta do it. I've got high hopes for our tax return too. 
2. Organize my desk and filing cabinet. Overall our house stays pretty tidy, except the awfully messy desk and the filing cabinet that currently has all important papers thrown together. 
3. Finish joining finances with Brian. I'm still in the process of making my bank account into a joint bank account. And we need to get on the same car insurance policy soon since he needs to renew or switch by next week. 

How I Got My Thoughtful Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day! Of course I've gotta spend this Storytime Sunday talking about my handsome , thoughtful man. Here's how we met, became friends, and started dating:

We both attended Camp Glisson since we were in 4th or 5th grade. So we could have possibly met some time as children or teenagers but we don't remember it at all. Side note: Glisson is where we took our engagement photo session In March 2015. There's kind-of an old joke that when a couple is thinking about getting together at camp, they go over to the waterfall to "pray at the falls" but they end up kissing. So here we are, "praying at the falls."

We both came to serve on summer staff at Camp Glisson in 2011. We assume we met at a training weekend in April 2011, but we don't remember meeting. That year, my three best friends still also worked at camp, and Brian fell into a different friend group. So we knew of each other but we didn't know each other.

At camp, staffers are mostly (but not exclusively) closest friends within their own age group. Although in 2011 we didn't cross paths too much, when we both returned in 2012 our age group had dwindled so we sat at the same table more often, hung out in the same large groups more often, etc.   It also "helps" that my three best friends didn't return to camp that summer, so I was forced to branch out and talk to other people. Within the first two or three weeks of camp that year, I think I'd had about three  brief casual conversations with Brian, and I told my friend Erica that I though Brian was cute/funny/nice/whatever.

I was on "support staff," meaning I worked behind-the-scenes and didn't have any campers of my own. Brian worked as a Sparrowwood counselor, meaning his campers had special needs, and they didn't check in to camp until Sunday evenings. So he would help out with the typical campers' checking in the afternoon. My duty during check-in was to drive around the Gator, picking up suitcases from families that had to park at the bottom of a hill, and bringing their suitcases up the hill near their cabins. I could usually stack up about seven suitcases each load, including wedging one in the passenger seat.

One Sunday afternoon during check-in, I was driving past Brian, he waved me down, and he asked if he could ride with me and help with suitcases. I froze, and thirty things whirred through my brain: "I'd have to talk to him one-on-one," "Would I be showing favoritism by letting him ride in the Gator," "I don't think I'd fit as many suitcases in each trip," "Wait, he actually knows who I am?" I was obviously torn, but standing right behind Brian was my friend Erica, and she was emphatically nodding, mouthing "YES," encouraging me to do the obviously better choice.

For the last six weeks of camp, Brian and I loaded and hauled suitcases together every Sunday. We fit much more than just seven suitcases, because we would pile them high and he would hold on to them as we headed up the steep incline. I have no idea why, but we took pictures of each other one Sunday.

We talked during this time each Sunday, eventually exchanged phone numbers, and started texting to coordinate where we could spend our breaks together. Thursdays were always my toughest days when I had been up all night slow-smoking hundreds of pounds of meat. He would use his break to come check on me, help me with the firebox, and chat. It was very cute.

We discussed our mutual fascination with Fred Glisson's cabin- the abandoned cabin that the camp's founder once lived in. It is still fully furnished and even has dishes in the cabinets. It's a normal thing for people to try to sneak in, and it it spooky. A tradition is to bring a random thing and take a random thing. We decided we would go on a Friday nigh after work, but we didn't specifically discuss whether or not we would invite a pal along. Each of us was wondering whether or not this was "alone time," you know, like a "non-date." We met up, saw no other friends around, and explored the cabin. It was a fun mini-adventure and I remember being so nervous, trying to act normal.

Our next non-date made my heart flutter, too. Early on on our conversations, we talked about our "camp bucket lists," stuff we wanted to do at camp before we finished up the summer. Two of mine were riding on a creepy broken elevator in the dining hall and getting on the roof of a building. Mid-to-late summer, we went on a walk together. I didn't realize he remembered those things and hatched a plan to cross them off the list. It was very sweet of him. We broke into the dining hall, rode on the elevator, which was pretty scary, and we climbed on the roof of the Craft Shack, where he finally admitted he "liked" me.

We went on our first "real" date to Mellow Mushroom, and he accidentally dropped a piece of pizza on me. We went on our second "real" date to see Step Up 4, and he saved the ticket stub and gave it to me in a memory box on our wedding day. He is the sweetest, most thoughtful man. After camp ended, we met each other's parents and became "officially" boyfriend and girlfriend. He helped move me into my dorm room and carried my bed up a ladder, which won over my roommate. We went to colleges four hours from one other but it was worth it. We had a good feeling about each other, and we still do.

Little Kids + Big Religion

The top image is from PostSecret, sent by someone anonymous.
The bottom image is mine, inspired by the first image.

Nothing to Show for It

Foto Friday- when I share my best photo from the week.

This has actually been the most eventful and social week that Brian and I have had in a long time. Unfortunately I have nothing to show for it. We hung out with friends Friday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, which is a LOT for us. You'd think that'd mean I have more exciting photos in my photo library... Unfortunately I only took one photo besides the selfie I posted yesterday:
I took this photo to text to Sara, because we were making desserts at the same time, each for Superbowl parties. These are chocolate, peanuts, pie crust, and toffee. Recipe found here. If you don't mind my bragging, they were a total hit.

Three Things You Love About Yourself (& Three Things I Love About Myself)

As a woman, sometimes I feel like it's my job to dislike myself. The magazines photoshop stars, the movies promote unrealistic personalities and sexualization, and the "politician" Trump creates a rating scale for women.

Here's how to find things you love about yourself:
1. Pick something physical about yourself. I imagine this is the hardest part for many women, but pick something. If you're feeling stuck, ask your partner what attribute first attracted them to you. If you don't have a partner, pick something you know you get complimented on (e.g. your smile or your hair). If you're still not comfortable admiring your own natural beauty, pick something you work really hard on (e.g. your eyebrows or your fingernails or your posture or your muscles). 
2. Choose one thing you're proud of in your past. Is there a project you showed perseverance through? Do you have a history of seeking friendship with people who feel unlovable? Did you throw an awesome party and show off your skills at cooking/hosting/cleaning? Zero in on what helped you in those accomplishments (never gives up, defender of the downtrodden, ultimate home-maker). Or even more simply, let the accomplishments be what you like (project completer, friend maker, party thrower). 
3. Focus in on a task you enjoy doing, and pinpoint what characteristic comes out when you are your best self. If you love piano, maybe it's your creativity, or attention to detail, or emotional connection that makes you your best self. If you love giving gifts, maybe it's your generous spirit or your ability to infer people's wants and needs. If you love listening to friends and/or giving advice, maybe it's your patience, humility, wisdom, or humor. What trait emerges most when you're being your best self?

Without further ado,
Three Things I Love About Myself
1. I like my stature. Like, the general build of my body. I like my height and my shoe size and my torso:leg ratio. I've only ever fell into self-consciousness over little details of my body, not the whole general thing. 
2. I like my education. It seems to be the only difficult thing I've ever earned in life. Sure I've earned money too but it all goes towards dumb stuff like groceries and rent and concert tickets. I haphazardly picked my schools but I think Agnes Scott and Belmont helped make me into a more compassionate person. I actually use my degrees every day, which makes it feel worthwhile. 
3. I like my creative side. I always have some side project brewing in my mind, keeping me entertained. Most of my wild ideas never come to fruition (e.g. Paige and I planned an hour-long Taylor Swift impersonation comedy act / sing along that we never performed...) but I think I'm my best self when I'm letting my imagination find new projects (like this blog). At any given moment I have three or four creative projects whirring in my mind. Right now it's: hand-making a calendar/planner, quilling, and printing tee shirts that say HufflePunk.

What are your three things? Leave a comment!

"Teaching is Easy," says Dummy

"When-I-Was-A-Dummy Wednesday" is turning into one of my favorite weekly tags to write about. Because, well, I've been a dummy about a lot of things. Inspiration is not hard to find here.

When I was a junior in high school, I was stressed about college and AP classes, and I told my mom, "I want to go to an easy college and I want to be a kindergarten teacher. That'll be easy. I don't have to really learn anything."

I went on to only apply to five colleges I was sure I'd get in, no "reach" schools, and then I decided on the mid-level of pretentiousness between the five, because I didn't want to ever feel like the dumbest person in the room. I had grown to love math in my last two years of high school, so I fine-tuned my life plan to become a math teacher. Being a math major was not that hard. For me, it was easier to learn mathematical processes than to read and analyze history or literature or social theories.

Then I went to grad school. Again, I only applied to schools I knew I'd get in. And I chose the school that looked more appealing just because it's in Nashville. Even though it cost 4x as much as the other school, I was "prepared" to take on a mountain of student loans (that's another When-I-Was-a-Dummy post in itself).Grad school classes weren't really that hard. In fact, they were easier than undergrad. But then I got thrown to the piranhas school children.  Teaching is the hardest thing anyone can ever imagine. Every day you have to crawl inside the brains of a hundred kids and convince them to grow. Every day you are the enemy of several parents who insist you are not good enough for their perfect angel. Every day you are judged by administrators who are worried sick about test scores.

I graduated by the skin of my teeth, narrowly missing falling into a back hole of, "I can't do it... it's way too much... I think I actually died four days ago."

Skipping the most dramatic part of my story, we'll leave it at this: I have mad respect for public school teachers. It is the hardest job on the planet. I cannot do it. You are all amazing. 

You Fine Wine, You

You are a fine wine, better with time.

When you were a tiny tot, you couldn't feed yourself. When you were in preschool, you could barely dress yourself. When you were in elementary school you would still accidentally wet the bed every once in a while. When you were in middle school you thought you'd never be able to write an essay longer than three pages. When you were in high school you weren't great at subduing your awkwardness around strangers. In college you made questionable choices with your clothing and your money.

Look at how far you've come. That's just the beginning.

Already, you listen to better music than before. You are a better driver than before. You are better at playing on your strengths and asking for help to cover your weaknesses. You know yourself better than ever before, and that may be your greatest strength of all.

Super Profesh

Last week's goals were about hobbies and concentrating on me. This upcoming week I'll set some goals for work.

1. Read 6 more chapters of Blue Like Jazz. (C) I only read 1 more chapter, BUT I'm not counting this goal as a failure because Brian and I started reading another book together, of which I read 4 chapters. Jury's still out on this book, not sure I'll recommend it, but I'll probably try to finish it with him anyway. 
2. Participate in the daily lettering/doodling challenge called #DNDchallenge by @bydawnnicole on Instagram. (A) I tried it out, and I enjoyed lettering, but I didn't enjoy posting them in my Instagram feed, so I think I'll stop now. Here's what I came up with for the three prompts, "We belong together," "All you need is Love," and "Live, Love, Laugh."
My responses to the #DNDchallenge for hand lettering.
3. Finish up loose ends on this blog. (B) I bought a domain name, and hooked it up to this blogspot account, which was the biggest task at hand. Still not completely done fixing it up though.
4. Get my fingers in shape. (A) I cleaned, trimmed, and painted my nails. I've been playing guitar enough that I can finally feel my callouses barely forming on my left hand again. 

This week I'm focusing my attention on my job.
1. Send emails the same day I realize I need to contact that person. Like when I know I need a substitute teacher on Sunday, contact the sub list immediately instead of procrastinating til Thursday...
2. Bag Easter Eggs. It's intimidating and it's been looming outside my office door for two weeks. We bag up empty Easter Eggs in quantities of 30, and then members of the congregation fill them with candy and bring them back for the egg hunt in March. We have about 10,000 eggs, which need to be divided into bags of thirty... I'm dying thinking about it, but we have volunteers coming to help.
3. Get all the Sunday School supplies ready before the weekend. Normally this is the one task that gets away from me and makes me have to come in to work on a Saturday. Not this week, no way. 

The Personality of a Sneeze

Sneezes tell a lot about someone's personality.

I sneeze whenever I walk out into some sunshine, which goes along with my whole what-as-a-sheet, possibly-a-vampire thing. My sneezes stay up in the top of my nose, if that makes sense, and people sometimes ask me, "Are you okay? Was that a sneeze?" Brian always tells me not to hold in my sneezes, but I'm really not trying to; that's just how I normally naturally regularly sneeze. I also usually sneeze three to five times in a row, which matches my characteristic of almost exclusively listening to songs on repeat.

In my 9th grade math class, there was a outgoing, tall, slim, popular, acts-ditzy-but-actually-smart girl whose sneezes literally sounded like she was screaming the word achoo. She got detention for sneezing because it sounded so fake, but honestly it was real. The whole class would laugh at her and she always looked 35% embarrassed and 65% unfazed.

My college roommate sneezes very forcefully and always apologizes afterward. My old roommate is awesome, headstrong, and ambitious just like her sneezes. But also she's also highly considerate of other people and she consistently prioritizes others' needs over her wants. Like, how dare she make me listen to her loud sneeze, of course she would apologize for that.

When my family's dog sneezes, his entire head shakes like someone is vigorously twisting a locked doorknob. He is the most timid, terrified, shakey, whiney dog in the world, so this makes sense.

About a year into dating, Brian told me, "you sneeze like your mom." And my own personality is slowly but surely morphing into my mom's as well.

P.S. I'm noticing my interpretation of Storytime Sunday is turning more into "random thoughts with a few story-like elements in them"... It doesn't really bother me, and I hope it doesn't bother you either.

Not That Good of a Friend.

The first image was made by an anonymous person and posted online by PostSecret.
The second image is by me, inspired by the first.


I love this photo. Out of context it looks like a sheepish guy waving "hello" at the camera. In reality he was trying to cover my camera and stop this photo from being taken. When I saw the result, I could not stop laughing for a good solid minute, and Brian got mad and told me to delete the photo. NOPE.
Also, I just downloaded VSCO to try to edit all my pictures like the trendy kids do these days. Why do all my edits turn out blue tinted? I need tutoring.

Three Things I Learned from Three Months of Marriage

This Sunday will mark three whole months of marriage. Brian and I love being married and we plan to keep our newlywed status for 75 more years.

1. Say "thank you" for something new every day. Nothing makes you feel more loved than your partner noticing something you did with them in mind. When you strive to appreciate the little things about each other, it really isn't hard to find new things to say thank you for. Thanks for emptying the dishwasher. Thanks for turning on my half of the heated mattress pad. Thanks for texting me during your lunch break. Thanks for making me finally do that thing I was putting off. Thanks for hanging up my coat. Thanks for talking to that lonely kindergartener about Star Wars in Sunday School. Thanks for spending time with my family. 

2. Never let something little turn into something big. No, don't sweep it under the rug; really let it go. Little things can get under your skin if you let them. Thankfully we are blessed with easygoing personalities, but I notice myself having to purposefully let it go when we are cooking together. He thinks it needs two more minutes in the oven. I think we shouldn't salt the vegetables. Little things that don't matter, and no matter who "wins" the disagreement, we'll have a tasty dinner. No matter who picks the TV channel, we both have lazy time to wind down together. No matter who drives to our friends' house during rush hour, we both have fun with our pals. 

3. Be alone together. When I'm mad or stressed, usually all I want to do is retreat from the world. Before marriage that was very easy; I could sit alone in my room for hours undisturbed, isolating myself. Honestly it's not that healthy for me. I would usually get madder before I felt any better. Now when either of us is mad or stressed and needing alone time, we hug it out and then spend our alone time together: sitting in a room together, not speaking. Just reading or typing or sleeping or watching TV. It helps to recharge but skip over any possible downward-spiraling that could happen in isolation. For us, the two most comforting things are alone time and time with our spouse, and those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Marriage is awesome, partly because they're each completely unique. Do you have any of these points in common with your relationship? Let me know about an important lesson your partner has taught you!

Pick Your Critic

As a young adult I'm constantly given two bits of cliché advice: 

  • You are your own worst critic. 
  • Don't care so much what other people think. 

In a way, they contradict each other. If you aren't supposed to be your own worst critic, then someone else is supposed to be. Or maybe everyone else. But you're not supposed to care what they think... so... um... where do we go from here?

As a recovering perfectionist in my first real full time job, I'm really experiencing the old adage, You can't please everybody. Accepting that has been tough, but it makes my job so much easier. Thankfully my boss is experienced enough to understand that, and when a parent complains about something I've done, she's always the first to remind me I'm actually doing a good job.

I can't please myself (my own worst critic). I can't please everybody (and I shouldn't care what they think, anyway). I'm learning to just please somebody. One person I care about. One person whose opinion actually matters. I pick my critic– whoever seems most important in that moment.

Cooking a new meal, I pick Brian as my goal to please. Yesterday I made some sweet potatoes in the crock pot and thought they were gross but he liked them, so I'm calling it a success. Planning an event at church, I make sure the new kid is happy and makes a pal. I have a major event coming up in March with two non-members already RSVP'd, so I'm planning for them to be grouped with some nice kids their age, making sure everybody wears name tags, etc.

When I was a dummy, I thought I was supposed to be my own worst critic. Give yourself a break from critiquing yourself, and let someone else take that role. Then decide whether or not you care.

You are Rechargable

You don't have to feel worn out and worn down. You are rechargeable.

I know some days it feels like you will never recover from your sleep debt. It feels like you'll never catch up on work. It feels like you'll never get back in the swing of things. It feels like you can never muster enough energy. But you can and you will.

Don't assume your recharge button is the same as anyone else's. If you need to be alone, be alone. If you need to be with people, be with people. If you need to read, write, doodle, daydream, sleep, bake, run, complain, shop, chat, veg out... do it. Fully charge and then fully use your charge.

The thing about batteries is, if you take care of them correctly, they hold better charge and have a longer lifespan. If you let them drain til they are actually very low (but not dead) and then fully charge them, and repeat, the batteries keep their full range of power.

Similarly, if you work hard and rest hard, you will have a fuller battery.

If you let your battery get pretty low, like 30% and then charge it up to 80%, and repeat, eventually your battery "forgets" it's full capacity. No really, this is a real thing.

Similarly, if you don't put in your full work effort, and then just halfway charge yourself, you will be left feeling like your charge (and temper) are growing shorter by the day.

So charge up, and use your charge for good.

Self Care

My Goals from this past week:
1. Eat two vegetables a day: C+ I ate a salad every single day, and another vegetable about half the time, but for the most part I failed at getting two veggies in. It was so easy to come up with excuses. ("Oh I packed a vegetable medley for lunch, but everybody's going out for Mexican food for a coworkers birthday"... you know what I mean)

2. Read 4 more chapters of Blue Like Jazz: A The book it very interesting, and a light enough read that I don't get frustrated.

3. Play guitar 3 times, 20 minutes each: A My fingers hurt so badly but so goodly. 

My Goals for Feb 1- Feb 7:

1. Read 6 more chapters of Blue Like Jazz. There are 12 chapters left, and I want to finish it in two weeks.
2. Participate in the daily lettering/doodling challenge called #DNDchallenge by @bydawnnicole on Instagram. (Even days only: lettering, not doodling) I've never done a photo-a-day challenge or a hand-lettering challenge, and it just looks kinda fun. 
3. Finish up loose ends on this blog. I think I like blogging. When I set out with this daily project ahead of me it seemed daunting, but I actually enjoy it by now. So, I'm going to try to buy a domain name and polish up the website.
4. Get my fingers in shape. I loved playing guitar this past week, but would constantly need to take breaks from my aching fingertips. I'm going to keep playing, at least a few minutes every day, keep my fingernails trimmed and polished.