The Journey to Forever

For as long as I can remember, fostering and fostering to adopt has been on my heart. It’s been something as clear to me as breathing. Showing love to precious children who otherwise might not be shown love. Giving them a chance to blossom into the best version of themselves. Supporting and hugging them when they otherwise might not have the chance to feel what it means to be encouraged.

My husband, Adam, and I discussed my desire for fostering to adopt early in our dating years and he felt the same way I did. We knew eventually this would be how we chose to grow our family.

A little over two years ago, we began the journey having no idea how it would pan out or how long it might take, but we had faith that everything would happen when the time was right.

We submitted for different broadcasts, sent to us from our agency, which we felt we could take on, and waited. Then waited some more. Then everything started happening pretty quickly. We were picked as one of the final three families for 2 sisters.

2 sisters whose pictures I fell in love with the first time I saw them because they reminded me so much of my sister and me as kids.

They looked like us. It was uncanny.

Adam and I prayed, wished, hoped, and dreamed as we waited to hear the final decision. We dreamed of the life we could have with these girls in our home. The places we would take them, the music we would introduce them to, the activities we thought they’d enjoy.

Then we got the call.

We were picked!

We were overwhelmed with happiness, but also fully aware that we still had hurdles to jump as the journey was only beginning. We got to meet the girls at a McDonald’s playground for a few hours to introduce ourselves and get comfortable with one another. I’m not going to lie, this was forced and awkward. It’s an indescribably foreign (and supervised) situation that you’re never prepared for. We took little goodie bags for the girls with some coloring books and activities we thought they’d enjoy and, slowly but surely, they began to open up to us. By the end of the meeting, they were singing “Hello” by Adele to us and calling Adam goofy. Our hearts were invested. These were going to be our daughters.

A court date came and went and we got to have a few private weekend visits with them. We booked hotel suites and got to have time with them to play, laugh, sleep, and learn more about each other. We quickly learned that laughing was one of their favorite things and that they had a fiercely protective love for each other. They fell asleep cuddled up and hugging on the pull out sofa.

They told us they loved us.

Our hearts melted.

We couldn’t wait for them to be with us.

Weeks passed at a snail’s pace and eventually, we were given a placement date where they would get to move into our house. We visited the elementary school administrators where we’d enroll the oldest and got the youngest enrolled in a preschool.

We got their room ready.

And their closet.

Then our doorbell rang and they were here.

Cautious.

Scared.

Confused.

We gave them hugs. We showed them their room. We introduced them to our dog. They began to warm up.

The next 7 months have passed in a blur. Some days we wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into, but those are few and far between. Mostly, we just laugh, love and watch in awe at how resilient these girls are.

We cannot fathom what their life was like up until this point, but we try every day to meet them where they are and show them that they are safe, loved, wanted, and cherished in our home. By us. By our families. By our friends.

They’ve flourished since arriving in our home and just in the past few weeks (roughly 8 months post placement) we’ve had pinch me moments and met milestones with them we weren’t sure would ever come.

We’ve seen them dress our dog, Senna, up as a princess. We’ve taught them to ride bikes. We’ve watched them learn to swim. We’ve watched their complete and total excitement to see the ocean for the first time and learn to jump waves. We’ve heard them tell secrets to our parents. We’ve built hundreds of Lego projects and put together countless puzzles. We’ve taught them to jump into a pile of leaves without a care in the world and pushed them thousands of times in swings.

Crayons have taken over our coffee table and toys have taken over our house. Their beds are covered in a mix of my old stuffed animals and their new ones. Front rolls and cartwheels are daily occurrences. Pony rides, picking strawberries, calling the Hogs, and singing karaoke have all happened with glee.

Is the hardest part behind us? Who knows. Nothing in life is ever promised, but we’re so incredibly lucky that we were picked for these girls and are happy that forever has finally come for them.

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Gratitude

1148977_10100758582606377_1537477582_nHave you ever had a moment where you are overwhelmed with gratitude? As I sit in our upstairs loft, eavesdropping on Adam talking to our dog about “Top Gear” and telling Senna he’s a good pup, I’m overwhelmed.

Actually, it started yesterday, after our weekend guests headed back to Arkansas. As I was driving home from breakfast, I realized I’m grateful for so many things in my life right now.

I’m grateful for friends who bring light into our lives we didn’t realize we were missing.

I’m grateful for our new church – a place that just “fits” – and the people who have since entered our life.

I’m grateful for the city I call home and I’m constantly in awe of – whether it be breathtaking sunsets, amazing skyline views, or the almost perfect fall weather that’s finally arrived.

I’m grateful for our jobs which allow us to travel and see parts of the world we otherwise wouldn’t see.

I’m grateful for our dog. He’s a never ending source of entertainment and stress-relief.

I’m grateful for family and am excited that almost all of them are visiting us for Thanksgiving this year.

I’m grateful for a husband who makes me laugh when I’m at my lowest point, who loves me everyday, who tolerates 6 women in his house for a weekend and never complains, and who holds my hand because it’s there.

This overwhelming sense of gratitude has a smile plastered on my face.

I can’t remember a time I’ve been so content, so happy, so blessed.

A Year in Review

Instead of posting my normal Year in Review list I’ve decided to be a bit more long-winded. Humor me, okay?

This past year was almost like a reset for me. In the best sense of the word.

I moved to Austin in late October of 2011 and adjusted to married life – which I LOVE, but I never realized uprooting and acclimating to a new city would take so long.

I had gotten in a funk when we first moved here. I was adjusting (poorly) to working from home and was resentful for a few months that I had been “forced” to move to Longhorn Country.

Living in Adam’s old bachelor pad apartment didn’t help. I’ve told many friends that it felt like a hotel and not a home, I never felt settled. Luckily, we were able to buy our first house and that is what I consider the catalyst to my “reset”.

Once we got settled in our house, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I could either learn to love this new awesome city I was living in (minus the university just down the road) or be a curmudgeon.I had never been a curmudgeon before – in fact I was usually the exact opposite – so why did I let myself get to that place now?

I learned it took more effort to be unhappy and find negativity in situations and it wasn’t necessarily the most healthy way to go about my day. I was FINALLY married to the love of my life, but I was punishing him because I was being a curmudgeon.

I started doing little things to brighten my day – things I used to love to do. I planted flowers around our yard. I learned to make homemade tortillas. I re-joined Jazzercise. I joined a stitching/fiber arts/knitting group. I hosted parties. I watched the Oscars.

Slowly, I began to feel like my old self and I was happy. Why had I let myself get that dark place when I’m having so much more fun now?

Adam, bless his heart, was amazing. He was patient for this entire year letting me find my place in Austin and our life together. He never became exasperated with my negativity and would force me on occasion to get outside or meet him for lunch. He was truly my saving grace.

This year helped me prioritize my life and my interests. I learned to drop the baggage of unhappiness and find the sun everyday. I learned a smile is the best way to change my attitude and I thank God everyday that I have a husband who can make me belly laugh for hours.

I can be awesome, everyday, and I owe that to myself and to those around me.

Year in Review

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for my annual year in review post. Let’s see what’s changed in my life in the past year, shall we?

You may see previous year in review posts here: 2011 | 2010


  • 2011: I’m sooo over drivers who drive slower than the posted speed. 10 in a 30 is not ok, but thanks for finally getting out of my way.
    2012: I’m not adjusted to the CRAZY traffic in Austin. Between the rush hour parking lots and the folks who don’t know how to drive it’s annoying.
  • 2011: I’m obsessed with the gorgeous clipart from pugly pixel! You’ll find that a lot of them are used throughout my blog 🙂
    2012: Still obsessed. But as I was planning my wedding, I found out about Wedding Chicks and their free downloads. Ummmm….lifesaver! I used several of them to design my own paper details for our big day.
  • 2011: I received an iPad for Christmas (Thanks, Adam!). I now drift off into dreamland playing Mahjong.
    2012: I received a nice upgrade to my work computer this year. It’s made my life sooooo much better. Who knew Captivate could actually run without crashing?
  • 2011:  What [American Idol] season is it this year?
    2012: Idol is old news. I’m counting down the weeks until the premiere of a new season of “So You Think You Can Dance”.
  • 2011: Ellen never fails to make me laugh, then cry, then laugh again as I watch her talk show.
    2012: Thanks to Ellen, I am now enamored by adorable little Sophia Grace Brownlee:
[youtube:http://youtu.be/0gmmRUqgsg4%5D
  • 2011:  Umm, “OMG” was just added to the Oxford Dictionary. I feel like everything I learned in English class was a lie.
    2012: This year, in dispute with everything I ever learned in English class, the Oxford comma was dropped. I feel like my whole life has been a lie. This poster summarizes exactly why this is so wrong:

  • 2011: Does anyone else see something wrong with Jim and Alexis’ relationship or is it just me? So. Wrong. Give her a voice and get your own dang orange juice, puh-lease.
    2012: Why can’t I convince Adam that the Real Housewives franchise is a legitimate television series?
  • 2011:  In a little over 6.5 months we will be married! And living in the same zipcode – yet to be determined.
    2012: Our zipcode was determined. I became an inhabitant of Texas. Lesson? Never say never when love is involved.
  • 2011:  The iPad is the single greatest invention ever. It’s practically attached to my hip when I’m at home. Is there anything it can’t do?
    2012: The App “Paper” is incredible, it’s literally like having an easel at your fingertips.
  • 2011:  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m obsessed with Jazzercise so much that it’s been mentioned on my blog at least 7 times. I will stop you in the street and tell you about it, if you’ll let me. LOVE. IT!
    2012: Honestly? I haven’t been to a Jazzercise class since January. The traffic to the nearest studio is so crazy that my drive time is just as long as my class time, which ends up equalling around 2 hrs. Instead, I’ve found a new exercise regimen in Yoga. I’ve developed a bit of a home practice and on occasion Adam  and I will catch a Vinyasa class at Black Swan downtown.
  • 2011:  Try as I might to not get sucked into the addiction that is Twitter, I’ve failed. And I sometimes clog my followers feeds with senseless live tweets for pageants, award shows and documentaries about ferrets. Truly sorry, y’all!
    2012: For some reason, I’ve kinda fallen off the Twitter world in the past month. I desperately want to get back in – I feel so disconnected – but something about only so many hours in the day…
  • 2011:  The Social Network was the best movie of the last year hands down. I wonder how many of the applications and games Zuckerberg uses on his profile and if he’s one of those every 5 minute updaters?
    2012:  The Hunger Games was incredible and ended up being a great date night movie. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that we saw it at Alamo Drafthouse. I think any movie seen there ends up being incredible.
  • 2011:  Gelato for ZAZA makes me happy, especially Honey Yogurt.
    2012: I long for ZAZA. At least once a week Adam and I crave their salads, but alas an 8 hour drive keeps us from giving into our craving. Of course, after I move they develop the gelato I suggested: Nutella.
  • 2011: Why have I not seen “Gone with the Wind”? <—Still true
    2012: Who cares? Thanks to Netflix I’ve developed quite the interest in documentary films. Some of my favorites? The Cove and Bill Cunningham New York. I’m also looking forward to seeing Girl Model when it comes out.
  • 2011:  A day without Jazzercise most often leads to a less perky version of myself. Need. It.
    2012: Well, I’ve had many days without Jazzercise and, while I think this is true to an extent, Yoga has helped me maintain a perky disposition.
  • 2011:  Still true, but I’m basking in my solo life since it will soon be coming to an end. Then I get to annoy Adam every. single. day. with my perkiness, random thoughts, and Bravo reality shows!! I know he’s excited.
    2012: No longer single, but instead happily married and I’m living the dream as stated above. Life is wonderful!
  • 2011:  Did you hear? Fanny packs are coming back. Which reminds me of the neon green one I wore on family vacations in the early 90s. I think it had “Marlboro” or some other brand of cigarette written across the front. My dad was a grocer and I was the walking underage billboard for cigarettes. [No one in my family smokes]
    2012: In just under 2 weeks we’ll be going to DISNEY WORLD!!! I looked high and low for a bag that in no way resembled a fanny pack for this trip. Lucky for me I found the perfect cross-body purse, it’s by pure coincidence that it’s green.
  • 2011:  Did I mention I’m getting MARRIED in October?!?! CAN. NOT. WAIT!
    2012: October came and went with a wedding. A wonderful celebration with family and friends followed by a perfect honeymoon full of wine and relaxation. I’m so incredibly blessed!

In Stitches

I have this friend who has encouraged my addiction to needlework such that it’s now all I think about. In fact, it’s safe to say it was her misfortune that really sent me over the edge.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received countless emails from her introducing me to new needlework sites and amazing vintage Etsy finds.

If you had asked me a year and a half ago if I would like to learn cross stitch, I would have laughed in your face. What a difference time makes, as I made this sampler for my sister’s graduation from law school:

I’m also currently working on these projects for our little newlywed abode:

So as a fan of needlework, and a slightly better than amateur stitcher myself, I thought I’d share some of the fabulous needlework sites I’ve found. The inspiration is endless and I’m hoping the excitement I have to tackle all my new needlework projects holds through completion. Enjoy!

Feeling Stitchy – Features super awesome projects, tips and tricks, cool finds on Flickr and the web, and free patterns!

Mr X Stitch – “The number one contemporary embroidery and needlecraft blog on the planet!”

subversive cross stitch – HILARIOUS cross stitch patterns for purchase – be warned some use “choice language” 🙂

Scoot – An adorable downloadable PDF embroidery pattern from the Fat Quarter Shop I can’t wait to get my hands on.

Maricor/Maricar – Australian twin sisters who do some breathtaking hand embroidery.

Embroidery with a ‘V’ – This post over on papernstitch features an adorable Etsy shop. Seriously love!

This is what happens when you sing lustily…

I grew up in the Methodist church and have a ritual I follow before almost every service I attend. I sit in the pew and immediately reach for the hymnal.

One of the first pages of the United Methodist Hymnal is John Wesley’s Directions for Singing. Though written in the 18th century, they still provide great guidance to Methodist congregations everywhere, as well as a bit of humor relief. In fact, I remember several years ago a lay leader poking fun at a few of them when the  preacher was away on vacation.

Allow me to break these rules down for you.

I. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here (So even if the projector screen reads “Hark the Herald Angles Sing”, that’s what we sing? AWESOME!!! Is it almost Christmas?), without altering or mending them at all (This includes all unwritten runs that American Idol contestants add); and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can (Unless you think your way sounds better).

III. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you (Does laryngitis count as a weakness or weariness? What about those that are tone deaf?). If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.

(Essentially, sing out strong…)

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony (This needs to be explained to the child that always hogs the mic when the children sing. Admit it, you know there’s one in every church); but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in time (ahem). Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing to slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

In reality, the majority of John Wesley’s directions have very good points that are still applicable 3 centuries later, but there’s a reason I’m sharing these rules with you…

Adam and I have spent the last few months attending a church we have grown to love. It’s accepting, friendly, genuine, and thought-provoking. Plus, it helps that it feels like a small town church, which made it even more appealing to both of us rural Arkansans. We love the community outreach and mission work it does, though we have yet to get involved and we’ve found a Sunday School class that we truly enjoy. I’m actually surprised that we felt so at home at the first church we “auditioned”, but I’m also very thankful.

Every week we’ve meet new people and feel more accepted than the last. This past Sunday, proved this more than ever before…

You see, Adam and I were sitting behind this sweet elderly couple whose husband sang in the church choir. Before the pastor began his sermon, all those in the choir and serving in worship came and sat with the rest of the congregation – which meant that when it was time to sing the final hymn, Adam was singing directly behind a choir member.

The final hymn that Sunday was “Standing on the Promises”. It’s a classic hymn, best known for its chorus – which I warned Adam to control himself during prior to the song even beginning. Let’s just say that he sang lustily and with good courage.

And nowhere near half dead. 

We’ll also say that he had a head-bop going on in the middle of the chorus…

After the service ended, the couple in front of us turned and invited him to join the choir.

Full disclosure? They asked me to join as well, until I told them about my voice teacher going MIA after one lesson in middle school. True story. Hand to God. Ask my mom.

So, I got off the hook fairly quickly.

Adam was polite, told them he’d consider joining and confirmed that he could sing bass.

Too bad they didn’t ask how well he could sing bass.

We left the sanctuary and laughed about it in the car on the way to lunch with our Sunday School class; and haven’t thought much about it since.

Today, we received an email from the Music Ministries Director. In it, she tells us that she was sorry she didn’t get to meet us after church and hoped we are enjoying our worship and fellowship at the church. Then she tells us that she “watched Adam, as he very energetically sang the bass part in the final hymn” and extended a personal invitation for him to join the choir. She also said she spoke with the sweet couple it front of us who confirmed that Adam had indeed sung.

Truth is, Adam does sing, but it’s not often he’s in tune. He also isn’t the best at keeping time – a clear violation of directive number 6 above. I’m sure that the choir would accept Adam with open arms and I’m sure they’d never tell him he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket to his face. But secretly, I believe that they would regret extending an invitation to him.

Napa Valley Honeymoon

The morning after our wedding we hailed a cab, which had just dropped off Joe Jackson at a nearby IHOP (For real. A friend who was randomly at the same IHOP vouched that he was there) and headed to the airport. Apparently, Mr. Jackson was craving pecans and didn’t tip the cabbie.

I digress…

Our honeymoon took us to Napa Valley, where we holed up for 5 days at The Cottages of Napa Valley, eating, drinking, and generally being married.

Cottages at Napa Valley

I had a small weight gain during the trip, which I attribute to the daily pastry baskets which were discreetly delivered to our doorstep each morning. They looked something like this:

pastry basket

Our first full day in the valley took us to Sonoma. I absolutely adored their quaint downtown area full of locally owned boutiques, museums and tasting bars. On this day we also had a stroke of amazing luck. We drove by a little hole in the wall restaurant called Schellville Grill and decided to stop for lunch. Turns out, Guy Fieri has featured it on the Food Network. I opted for a salad while Adam enjoyed a sandwich. After our meal, we paid (including a tip, don’t call us Mr. Jackson) and headed to our car. That’s when “Uncle Bob” ran over to greet us from his Prius.

Uncle Bob: Are you folks wine tasting today?

Adam: Yes sir! We’re on our honeymoon and just getting started for the day.

Uncle Bob: Congratulations! You should make a stop at Ravenswood. Take my card and tell them Uncle Bob sent you.

Adam: Thanks so much, we’ll be sure to check them out.

Me: So nice to meet you! Have a good day.

We went our separate ways and as we were pulling out of the parking lot, I looked at the card and saw that it was not only Uncle Bob’s business card, but handwritten on the back was 2 free tastings courtesy of him. Typically in Napa Valley you pay anywhere from $10 – $25 per tasting, some wineries let you split tastings, but not many. Thanks to Uncle Bob we saved $30…and used our savings to buy the best Moscato either of us have ever tasted. We’d have never gone to Ravenswood if not for Uncle Bob.

Kaz Winery was also an off-the-beaten path find for us. When we passed the painted wine barrels at the entrance? Adam made a U-turn. Thank goodness for that. Kaz was an understated, no frills winery and had a metal chicken greeting guests at the front door. Though they specialized in dry wines, I was entertained by their random assortment of 80s vinyl while Adam sampled wine. He even got to cork his own bottle!

Sonoma

Day 3 is better known as the day Adam tried to kill me. Ok, not really, but it sure felt like it – and it was my own fault. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Adam’s an avid cyclist. Me? Notsomuch.
  • Adam wanted to rent a tandem bike in Yountville and, being the head over heels in love new wife that I was, I cautiously agreed.
  • Adam wanted us to ride a short 14 mile loop and promised we’d stop at wineries that look appealing along the way.
  • Adam and I are both 6’2″. The back seat of a tandem is not built for a 6’2″ person, so I got to ride for 14 miles with my mid-thighs on a bike seat.
  • Adam failed to mention…err, remind me…that cycling typically means you ride on highway shoulders as cars zip past you at the marked speed limit, or faster. Including large trucks.

Let’s just say I freaked. out.

And could barely walk for a day and a half after the ride.

But hey, we got some good pictures.

Winning.

Day 4 was our last day in the Valley and we made the most of it. We woke up early and headed north. It’s safe to say I drank tasted more wine that day than I have in my entire life. I was quite the cool cucumber.

We walked into a castle, but decided to save our tasting money for a winery up the road we had heard a lot about, Sterling Vineyards. We splurged at this winery, getting the full package for tasting which included an additional 3 tastings after the winery tour – for a total of 7 tastings. All were fantastic, but the highlight of this winery for me was the gondola ride from the parking lot to the winery. It was so serene and beautiful.

Chateau Montelana was also a highlight for us, as we had just watched the movie about it on Netflix in our cottage the night before. The grounds of the Chateau were absolutely breathtaking.

We ended our last day in Napa Valley with dinner at Bottega. We shared our first risotto and indulged in some amazing truffle-parmigiano fries. Adam ordered “Smoked & Braised Natural Short Ribs” with a whole grain mustard spaetzle, Sicilian pickles, quince paste & smokey horseradish jus, while I ordered the “Forno Roasted Chicken Breast” with “Marsala” sautéed forest mushrooms, marinated grilled onions, truffle honey and sherry vinaigrette. Both dishes were exceptional and at the end of the meal our waiter convinced us to order the house chocolate “cake” that wasn’t listed on the menu. It. Was. Phenomenal.

Our final full day in California took us back to San Francisco, with a slight detour thanks to Adam. Turns out Highway 1 is Adam’s dream road. At least in the US.

My hubby is a HUGE Top Gear fan and took this opportunity to channel his inner Stig. Let’s just say I have never seen him so chipper and filled with glee than I did while he was driving on Highway 1. Meanwhile, I was busy saying “OOOHHH! Pull over, I need to get a picture” or “OMG!!! REAL SEALS!!! IN. THE. WILD!!”

Highway 1 was incredible and I think Adam summed up the scenery best when he said, “This is proof God exists.” I have to agree, as I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Mid-way down Highway 1, I mention that I’m feeling a bit hungry and since it was almost time for lunch, Adam informs me that he already scoped out a place for us to eat in Bolinas. Unbeknownst to me, Bolinas is costal community known for its reclusive residents – I’d call them full out hippies, but that might not be PC – who TEAR DOWN any sign providing directions into their unincorporated community.

Thanks to Adam, we managed to find the town just fine.

I think the status I posted to Facebook as we were entering the “downtown area” sums up my feelings perfectly:

I have officially never felt more out of place wearing J Crew than I did when Adam pulled up in front of a “think globally eat locally” cafe for lunch in a very hippie “socially acknowledged nature loving town” called Bolinas. Needless to say, he loves me so much he didn’t make me get out of the car.

And it’s true, I was so scared of what the hippies reclusive residents might do to me that I refused to get out of the car for lunch.

It was a wonderful trip and was exactly the relaxation we wanted after the hustle and bustle from our wedding festivities. Now I just have to figure out when we can go back – I miss our cottage…and the wine.

Honey, I’m home…

With moving and marriage also came a bit of a change to my work environment. I switched from corporate cube monkey to secluded homebased associate. I’m not complaining, I got to keep my job and I can work in my PJs whenever I want. 🙂

Here’s the thing, though, I’m not exactly the homebody type. I like to be social during work. I like knowing there’s someone I can yell pointless facts to over the cube wall. At home, that person for the better part of 8 hours everyday doesn’t exist. Unless you count the voices in my head.

Friday, in an effort to entertain myself and have a productive lunch break from work, I unpacked boxes. Progress feels good. Really good. Plus, I needed to know what we don’t have – decor wise – so that we could have a successful flea market/vintage shopping trip last weekend.

Then, as I was walking back to my desk to respond to emails and get back in the work groove I had an idea:

That’s right. A floor to ceiling “wall” of boxes built by me to greet Adam when he arrives home from work. I placed it strategically in the front door so he can open the door without actually knocking down the boxes.

I’m a genius.

And the funniest person I know.

Halloween Honeymoon Horror

Yep, I’m officially a married woman – the wedding and honeymoon were absolutely perfect, and I plan to share a series of posts about them in the near future. Literally, I’ll be writing a series of posts, because I never want to forget certain moments or details from my wedding weekend.

Adam and I returned from a picture perfect honeymoon exploring Napa Valley, CA to a weekend of packing up my apartment in preparation for my move to Austin, TX.

Yeah, you read right – I’m becoming a Texan and moving to Longhorn Country. Last I checked, the world is still spinning.

Sunday, Adam headed back to Texas to clean and make room for my stuff to be moved in this weekend. When he arrived back at his apartment he called and told me that he was “perplexed” because his kitchen was in disarray. His blinds had been ripped to shreds, his desk area was disheveled and there were black spots everywhere.

Growing up in an old house, my immediate thought is a bird somehow got in while he was gone for the wedding and honeymoon. He’ll just need to find it and throw it away. Unfortunately, according to his stellar shit observation skills, he determines these droppings are not the kind most commonly associated with birds.

Ok, then. What is the culprit?

A mouse. He tells me he has had a mouse destroy his kitchen.

I’m immediately all, “I’m not moving to TEXAS to work FROM HOME with MICE!!!!” Seriously, little mice co-workers running beneath my feet throughout the day? No thank you. The move to Texas? Is off. For reals.

He tries to console me in a somewhat stressed voice, “Don’t worry my sweets, I’m headed to Wal-Mart to buy extermination supplies and will have this solved before moving you in Saturday. I promise, there will not be mice in my apartment by the time you arrive.”

Adam goes to Wal-Mart to buy supplies in Texas while I’m back on my couch in Arkansas procrastinating packing, reading blog posts about unwelcome guests and putting myself in her shoes. It’s not a good image in my head – I can assure you of that.

He calls when he gets back home to tell me he’s identified the “Bait”. His cycling energy bars that were left unopened on the kitchen counter. This is good, right? Never leave energy bars on the countertop. Lesson learned. Now let’s trap this mouse. Pronto!

He hangs up and spends the next 30 minutes cleaning and disposing of all food and other ruined items in his kitchen and desk area. Then calls with an update.

“Megan. It’s not a mouse.”

“It’s not?”

“No. I’m a little freaked right now”

“Why?”

“There’s a squirrel in one of the wedding gift bags.”

My first response is “WHAT?! Which bag? Are the gifts* okay?”

My second response is “YAY!!! NO MICE!!!”

My third response is “Is it dead?”

Adam responds, “I’m not sure. I’m gonna kick the bag.”

I wait…

“Ok, the squirrel didn’t move but I’m still afraid I might get attacked by it. What else should I do?”

This is when I suggest he take a broom and push the bag across the floor. He does so, deems the squirrel “dead as a doornail”, uses a garbage bag to pick the squirrel up and places it on his balcony as evidence for the apartment manager Monday.

Here’s the crazy part: No one has entered Adam’s apartment in 10 days. All of the doors and windows were shut and locked and the dryer vent appears to be properly connected.

In other words, there is no sign of forced squirrel entry.

But hey, at least I’ll have a really clean new kitchen to use once I get moved to Austin.

*No wedding gifts were harmed in this story

Tailgate [Dis]Agreement

Full disclosure? It’s rare that Adam and I don’t see eye to eye about something, I guess we’re lucky in that regard. But this week? Notsomuch.

You see, we are huge Razorback fans and  have a shared dream of a tailgating vehicle. Originally our dream was to find an old University of Arkansas Transit bus or school bus, but given the difficult game parking scenarios on campus – not to mention the gas bill – we have decided to forgo that option. For now.

Since this realization, we have been brainstorming other ideas. First, I thought we could convert an old VW Bus. I had the whole plan in my head, it was going to be amazing. That is, until Adam’s brother reminded us that they are rear engine and crushed my dreams.

Then, I had the idea to save up and buy one of those pimped out Ultimate Tailgater trailers. I mean, have you seen these things?

They smoke your BBQ. While. You. Drive. For serious. And they come with 3 TVs, surround sound, refrigerator/freezer, taps for beer and soft drinks, and much more. It’s PERFECT. However, the price tag deters us. As do the university tailgating restrictions for our parking lot. But it’s ok, there are other options, right?

According to Adam, YES!

We could buy an ambulance and convert it to the “Razorback Fanbulance”. In theory it’s perfect. You can buy used ambulances for next to nothing on eBay – I’m talking $255 and they already have a/c power adapters so we can sink the majority of the budget into tech-ing it out (him) and making it super cute (me). There’s only one problem with this vehicle: most likely someone DIED there.

Adam isn’t convinced though, as he responded, “They probably would appreciate you partying in the ambulance. Joy out of heartache.”

Responses like this will become my forever in one month.

Or, we could buy a 15 passenger van and take out the bench seating. Build a party deck on top and attach a grill to the back end. Put a little seating inside and install  TVs on either side. He was so excited about the party deck that I called him a frat boy and he immediately began to pop his collar.

Someone please help. I need ideas. Ones that don’t involve death or wannabe frat boy dreams…

And if we choose yours? You’ll get invited to the first official tailgate in our dream tailgating machine.

Until this gets resolved we’ll be picking up pizza and tailgating from a Coleman folding picnic table – like amateurs. Woo Pig Sooie!

Not Just a Dance Teacher

Warning: An uncharacteristic “sappy” post follows. My dance teacher of 7 years, Shirlene Gills, passed away Saturday, August 20, 2011. Ever since I learned of her death it has been on my heart to write down just what she meant to me.

In 1995, I changed dance studios to a relatively new one in my hometown. Rather than have my mom traverse 45 miles – one way – at least once a week for classes, we joined Shirlene School of Dance and never looked back. At the time I would never know what a blessing it was that she would be my teacher, nor would I realize what a positive impact she would have on my life – not only as a dancer, but as a human being as well.

Her studio was across the street from the courthouse in an old office building. The door was painted hot pink and in the window she had placed a “life-size” ballerina sculpture she had created in college from scrap metal that sat atop a record player. If it wasn’t for that sculpture, you’d never even know it was a dance studio.

Her studio was nothing fancy – the waiting room held dark green plastic patio chairs, but once you passed the half wall that separated the waiting room to the studio and watched Shirlene teach you knew something amazing would go out that hot pink door. When she wasn’t she was sitting in her vintage wheeled office chair taking choreography notes or picking out costumes, she was on the plywood studio floor dancing full out with us. Whether it was for a fair talent show, a regional dance competition, a nursing home performance or her annual recital, every piece of her choreography was special.

Shirlene was a rare talent in a small southern Arkansas town. She had studied dance under some of the greats, like José Limón and Bill Cratty, and imparted so much of her training and knowledge to small town girls who otherwise would have never been exposed. Mrs. Shirlene is the reason I know who Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan are and I credit her for my appreciation of contemporary choreography today. In any genre of choreography, Shirlene was never afraid to stretch our abilities, never afraid to think outside of the box. From ballet, tap and jazz, to hip hop and modern to liturgical, we danced it all under her guidance.

She challenged us, especially the seniors by requiring us to choreograph our own solo. It was like our dancer’s rite of passage. She was there to offer suggestions and encourage us along the way but ultimately the piece was up to us. From the style, to the music, to the costume, we owned that piece of the recital and while stressful, I think every senior who had to go through that process came out more confident and creative.

I remember my senior solo rehearsals like it was yesterday. I wanted to do a tap piece, so I rented all of the great Gregory Hines videos I could get my hands on, ultimately falling in love with the movie “TAP!”. I came in to my first “rehearsal” with Mrs. Shirlene excited about all of the steps I had seen in that movie and impatient to begin working them into my solo. The whole time, she sat by her desk to the right of the studio floor – which was covered in mountains of CDs – while sipping on her Sonic Route 44 drink, smiling and offering gentle guidance here and there. We’d listen to the music together, I’d try to fit a step in and when it didn’t work we’d start the process over again. She had more patience than anyone should be given.

No matter what, Mrs. Shirlene supported us, not only in the studio but outside of it as well. She had a vested interest in each and every one of her students. She wanted us to succeed.

And at that final “senior solo” rehearsal? She’d present a graduation gift: “Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives” by Laura C. Schlessinger. She made me promise to read it before going off to college. It was her way of pushing us out of the studio nest and I still have that book to this day.

Mrs. Shirlene, Thank you for being such an amazing role model for all of your students. Thank you for challenging us, listening to us and molding us. I hope you know just how many lives you impacted through your dance and your character. You will always be an inspiration in my life and for that, I am forever grateful. May you rest in peace.

If you ever did a warm up with Mrs. Shirlene, chances are you danced to “Wasted Time” by The Eagles at least once. It was one of her favorite songs to use and has been in my head ever since I learned of her death. It’s only right that I end this post with that song.
(the song begins at the 1:26 mark)

I’ve been tagged…

A friend who shall remain nameless tagged me in a Q&A Facebook note. On Monday.

Today, I’m just getting around to posting my answers. Yes, it’s been that kind of week. I should also state my “shall remain nameless friend” is leaving for vacation tomorrow and I am insanely jealous about this. Consider this your bon voyage present.

Name: Megan

Age: 27

Birth date: June 7, 1984

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 92 Truths about you. At the end, choose at least 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If you’re reading this and you have a blog, consider yourself tagged. You’re welcome.

WHAT WAS YOUR:

  1. Last beverage = Sweet Leaf Organic Tea
  2. Last phone call = Adam, giving me advice for a grad school paper
  3. Last text message = Twitter alerting me @kerrijack replied to an earlier tweet of mine regarding hammers
  4. Last song you listened to = Goody Goody by Marie Adams & The Three Tons of Joy

HAVE YOU EVER:

  1. Dated someone twice = Nope
  2. Kissed someone & regretted it = Not at all
  3. Lost someone special = Unfortunately, yes.
  4. Been depressed = Clinically? no, but I’ve definitely had a few “blah days”
  5. Been drunk and threw up = Honestly? Never.

LIST THREE FAVORITE COLORS: (In order)

  1. Razorback Red
  2. Turquoise
  3. Gray

LAST YEAR (2010)

Have you EVER:

  1. Made a new friend = Yep! She tagged me in this note.
  2. Fallen out of love = Nope!!
  3. Laughed until you cried = Of course! Best tears ever!
  4. Met someone who changed you? = I’m marrying him 🙂
  5. Found out who your true friends were = Oh yes.
  6. Found out someone was talking about you = Yep.
  7. Kissed anyone on your FB friend’s list = I’m marrying him 🙂

GENERAL:

  1. How many people on your FB friends list do you know in real life = I know all of them in real life, but only about a quarter do I regularly have the opportunity to get together with in my day to day life.
  2. Do you have any pets = That live with me – no. But I have 2 adorable dogs that live at my parents’ home.
  3. Do you want to change your name = Come October 15th I ‘ll have to…
  4. What did you do for your last birthday = It was very low-key. I had dinner with my parents and then dinner with Adam.
  5. What time did you wake up today = 7:00
  6. What were you doing at midnight last night = Watching episode 3 of Dallas while trying to fall asleep
  7. Name something you CANNOT wait for = My wedding day and subsequent Napa Valley honeymoon
  8. Last time you saw your Mother = Yesterday
  9. What is one thing you would change about your life = Not a thing!
  10. What are you listening to right now = Strawberry Swing by Frank Ocean
  11. Have you ever talked to a person named Tom? = yep, used to work with one.
  12. What’s getting on your nerves right now = Not knowing the whereabouts of my wedding dress…
  13. Nicknames = Meg Tay, Tay Tay, Moose, Meggie, Megs, Meg
  14. Relationship Status= happily engaged
  15. Zodiac sign = Gemini, the BEST one
  16. He or She = He, if it’s talking about who I’m attracted to.  She, if it’s what I am. <—What she said.
  17. Elementary = Prescott Elementary
  18. Middle school = PMS (Prescott Middle School)
  19. College = University of Arkansas. WOOOO PIG SOOIE!!!
  20. Hair color = dark brown
  21. Long or short = longish
  22. Height = 6’2″
  23. Do you have a crush on someone? = I’m marrying him 🙂
  24. What do you like about yourself? My eyes.
  25. Piercings = ears
  26. Tattoos = NO!!!
  27. Righty or lefty= righty

FIRSTS:

  1. First surgery= Jaw surgery #1
  2. First Piercing= [and only] ears.
  3. First real best friend = Lauren
  4. First sport you joined = T-ball.
  5. First vacation = Jekyll Island, GA
  6. First pair of trainers(shoes) = More than likely Nike, bu I can’t remember.

RIGHT NOW:

  1. Eating = Nothing.
  2. Drinking = Nothing
  3. I’m about to = Watch So You Think You Can Dance?
  4. Listening to = Imogen Heap
  5. Waiting for = The weekend and our first official wedding-related party!

YOUR FUTURE:

  1. Want kids? = yep
  2. Get Married? = October 15, 2011
  3. Career? = As long as I can write and work with graphics I’ll be happy.

WHICH IS BETTER :

  1. Lips or eyes = eyes
  2. Hugs or kisses = kisses, but sometimes a hug is exactly what you need
  3. Shorter or taller = As if there is any debate, TALLER!
  4. Older or Younger = Older
  5. Romantic or spontaneous = Spontaneous
  6. Nice stomach or nice arms = Arms
  7. Sensitive or loud = Sensitive
  8. Hook-up or relationship = Relationship
  9. Trouble maker or hesitant = Hesitant, I’m not a good enough liar to be a trouble maker.

HAVE YOU EVER:

  1. Kissed a stranger = Nope
  2. Drank hard liquor = Yep, love a good martini.
  3. Lost glasses/contacts = Who hasn’t?
  4. Sex on first date = Never.
  5. Broke someone’s heart = Probably.
  6. Had your own heart broken = Nope.
  7. Been arrested = That’s a negative.
  8. Turned someone down = Yep.
  9. Cried when someone died = Oh yes.
  10. Fallen for a friend = Sort of. If co-worker = friend, in which case I’m marrying him 🙂 (Are you sick of me saying that yet?)

DO YOU BELIEVE IN:

  1. Yourself = Yes!!
  2. Miracles = Yes!
  3. Love at first sight = Yes, [one last time] I’m marrying him 🙂
  4. Heaven = Yes.
  5. Santa Claus = Duh! I want presents!
  6. Kiss on the first date = Depends on how the date went.
  7. Angels = Of course.

Happy Love

Here’s the funny thing about getting older – you become yourself. You get comfortable in your own skin and care less about trying to “fit in”. You realize that when you are yourself people naturally accept you, they enjoy your company and they appreciate what you have to say.

Growing up, I often confused confidence with fitting in. I thought, “if only I could be accepted, X would happen” instead of embracing who I was. Granted, I wasn’t your typical teen. I didn’t enjoy “going out”, “defying my parents” or hanging out in the bank parking lot – it wasn’t me. In fact it’s safe to say I was quite the goodie goodie. [I was voted “Teacher’s Pet” in high school]

Most nights, when I wasn’t playing sports, at dance lessons or cheering at a game, I stayed home or drove around my small hometown by myself blasting whatever music was playing on my Chevy Cavalier’s radio and happily singing along at the top of my lungs. Even though now I look back with fondness on those days, at the time I was desperately seeking acceptance by my peers.

Through college, much of the same happened, though I found friends – lifelong friends – who shared common interests. I finally gained the acceptance that I wished for for so many years. Professors recognized my talents and I received summer internships in AWESOME cities which allowed me to grow into my own skin naturally. I slowly became more of my true self.

Then I entered the “real world” and something clicked. I realized everyone, in some way, is a misfit. Everyone wishes they were someone else. Everyone wants to change something about themselves.

This was a profound realization for me. I realized I could be myself without fear of rejection. I realized that people actually enjoyed my personality and wanted to be around me. I realized, the geeky wannabe from high school might actually be a “cool kid” to some people and if not, so what!

Over the past 5 years, I’ve grown so much as a person. I’m more confident in my opinions. I’m sarcastic. I laugh at myself. I relish the little things. The only person I want please is myself, everyone else is a bonus.

I’m me and it’s the best feeling in the world.

The coolest part? Someone actually likes the real me enough to marry me. I’m not sure how I tricked him, but golly gee I sure am glad I did! I’m the luckiest girl in the world. I’m lucky that he laughs at my corny jokes, smiles when I sing him my awful made-up songs, hugs me when I need comfort and supports me no matter what. I’m lucky that he loves me.

I guess it really is true what they say about love.

You must love yourself before you love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy.

Let the Music Play 2.0

Happy Fourth of July!!!

This weekend was a time of road trips, cookouts, laughter, humidity, buying wedding bands and being us. There was also a little dinner meeting of our parents – wherein I learned a secret about Adam and his family.  It was low-key and perfect, even if Adam had to drive back to Texas today…

Oh well, his loss, as I’ve spent the afternoon watching DVRed episodes of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and cross stitching a sampler for our home. I know he’s jealous.

I also spent today reflecting a bit on my blog. It was during this reflection that I realized it was time for my traditional “30 songs” post. For this post, I put my iTunes library on shuffle and then [stupidly] tell you the songs that play. You may click here for last year’s post.

I’ve told you before that my taste in music is schizophrenic, so let’s see just how random it is this year!

  1. Breakout – Swing Out Sisters. Am I the only person who thought this was Gloria Estefan? Shamefully, I admit I just realized it’s not.
  2. Speak Like a Child – The Style Council. This is 80s pop music at its finest. This song is like candy.
  3. So Lady – Mary J. Blige. I looooove Mary J. Her songs always have a great beat and you can always count on her vocals to be spot on.
  4. I’ll Never Be – Reel Big Fish. You can thank Adam for this one, he insisted I put Reel Big Fish in my library earlier this year. Truth be told, they aren’t that bad – in fact, I might kind of like them…
  5. Irresistible Delicious – Missy Elliott. I’ve loved Missy Elliot ever since high school. I remember wearing out her Miss E…So Addictive album while driving around town in my Jeep Liberty with the windows down during the summer of 2002.
  6. Rumors – Timex Social Club. When I rediscovered this song a little over a year ago I cannot stop jamming to it EVERY. TIME. IT. PLAYS. Have I mentioned I’m a hip hop fan?
  7. Straight Up – Paula Abdul. And then the cat gets let out of the bag. Yes, I have a Paula Abdul song in my iTunes library. In fact, I own every single one of her albums and I’m not at all ashamed.
  8. I’ll Be Doggone – Marvin Gaye. R&B music is the most versatile genre out there. You can dance to it, you can chill to it, you can cook to it and you can drive down scenic highways while it plays in your car. Marvin Gaye delivers every. single. time.
  9. Missing You – John Waite. 80s. Enough said.
  10. I Can’t Wait – Nu Shooz. Yet another hip hop/pop tune from the 80s. Are you sensing a theme yet?
  11. Better be Good to Me – Tina Turner. I would give anything for her legs. Seriously.
  12. Blame it on My Youth – Jamie Cullum. I will take Jamie Cullum over Michael Buble any day of the week. If you haven’t ever heard of him or his music, YouTube him immediately. You’ll thank me and I’ll say, “You’re welcome”. And thus will begin our mutual appreciation of Jamie Cullum.
  13. Graceland – Paul Simon. I was raised on Paul Simon. I will forever be grateful for this.
  14. I’m a Believer – The Monkees. I was also raised on oldies like this. Many a summer vacations were spent stuck in a van [or suburban] being forced to listen to these songs. Now, I’m glad I was – they just don’t make music like they used to. (For the record, I’m 27 not 72)
  15. 1, 2, 3 – Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine. Gloria is my go to karaoke artist. Speaking of which, it’s been over a year since I’ve sung karaoke. Who wants to go??
  16. A Fifth of Beethoven – Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band. Yes, I have 70s remixes of classical pieces in my iTunes library. You don’t?
  17. Heavy Traffic – Elton John. After seeing him live in concert with my sister, I appreciate Elton even more than ever before. He’s a legend, an entertainer and a chameleon. Plus, who can’t resist a guy behind the piano decked out in bedazzled jackets?
  18. Get Up! (Before the Night is Over) – Technotronic. Early 90s dance music = it’s how I clean my apartment.
  19. My Guy – Mary Wells. Every time I hear this song I think of “Sister Act” and sing “My God”. It’s a classic.
  20. Hole in My Life – The Police. Favorite! Band! Of! All! Time!!!
  21. Hate on Me – Jill Scott. After a rough day at work, I get in my car, roll down my windows, open the sunroof and BLAST this as a I drive home. I may or may not also sing along at the top of my lungs. Oh, who am I kidding? I SO sing along. Works. Like. A. Charm.
  22. It Takes Two – Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock. Another 90s dance track – for use when cleaning my apartment.
  23. Joseph’s Dreams – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. After seeing this musical over 4 times, and being of the children’s choir in middle school, it’s safe to say it’s in my Top 5 favorite musicals. I know every word to every song, and I’m close to knowing the choreography too.
  24. Elenore – The Turtles. Another oldie from my childhood. Thanks Mom and Dad for showing Maddie and me what real music sounds like.
  25. It’s Not Right, But It’s Ok – Whitney Houston. In her heyday, she could not be touched. As far as I’m concerned she’s still on top of the pack when compared to most everyone who has followed her.
  26. Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) – Digable Planets. Old school hip hop delivers yet again.
  27. All Day – Lisa Loeb. Ever since the summers of my childhood, when I listened to her cassette tapes in my Walkman while reading The Boxcar Children, I have loved Lisa and the simplicity she has in her music. It’s like medicine to me.
  28. You Got Yr Cherry Bomb – SPOON. Another band I’m thankful Adam introduced me to – or rather informed me that they had good songs other than I Turn My Camera On.
  29. Overkill – Men At Work. Have I mentioned I looooove 80s music? 🙂
  30. I Need A Man – Eurythmics. Actually, I don’t, but this song rocks – as does the band.