Thursday, March 31, 2016

Spring Break Life

I am in full spring break mode around here and loving every minute of it. I have a lot of recap and this post is definitely a full one so I hope you're ready for lots of words and of course lots of photos! On Friday my parents and I loaded up and made the drive to Townsend, TN in the smokies, which is without a doubt one of my favorite places on earth. There is something so calming and peaceful about it and it always fills me with wonderful memories. We were there to have a big family celebration of my grandmother's 80th birthday. All of her children and grandchildren in one room makes her a very happy lady. My boyfriend (who we'll call G) made his way over Saturday and after some time relaxing around the house we gave my grandmother the sweet gift we had all worked to create. A scrapbook filled with a few pages from each of us.
As you can see, she was definitely surprised and touched by the gesture. Many tears ensued as she read through each page. We had also prepared a video message for her which led to some more tears but also some laughs. I have to tell you guys that I am so very blessed with all of my family members but this woman here is such a gift to all of us. 

Sunday called for Easter church service and a delicious lunch. Who else feels like when they're with family it is like one long meal? No? Just my family? Ok, moving on!  I had gotten myself a new dress and a shoes- because why not? So of course we needed some pictures! 
I think we clean up well! 

Everyone was clearing out Monday but G and I stuck around a little longer to do a little hiking. We got to see some gorgeous sites and really enjoy the smokies. We even saw a little wildlife- no bears much to our disappointment but we did see a pretty cool lizard which I may have thought was fake and tried to pick up only to discover I was very mistaken. 


G had planned a little spring break getaway for us so instead of heading back to Greenville we made our way to Asheville. We decided to take the scenic route on the parkways and we were not at all disappointed with our decision. It may have taken a little longer to get there but it was the most gorgeous day with the most beautiful views. AND as we were going through Cherokee we even got to see a group of elk! It was like they were playing follow the leader! 

They're a little hard to see but they're back there!
We did finally make it to Asheville and after getting cleaned up we headed to a late dinner at a local place G had found. It was definitely a hole in the wall but the most delicious meal. They have a lot of small plates so after a delicious appetizer of pork dumplings we shared three of the small plates. Our favorite was the beef tenderloin tartare- a dish so delicious I can't even do it justice by describing it but if you are ever in Asheville do yourself a favor and check this place out! 
Image Source
Tuesday was set aside as our Biltmore day. Neither of us had been so we were excited to be tourists and check it out. It is a beautiful house and the grounds are spectacular! They're currently displaying wedding dresses from film in the house which was also a highlight in my opinion- G may have a different view on that though ;)

Everything was so ornate- I loved
that almost every room had a different ceiling 

Walking around the grounds was my favorite part and we were lucky enough that many things in the gardens were blooming. We wandered, sat on the bench to people watch, took pictures and just enjoyed each other's company.
After touring the house and grounds we headed over to the historic Biltmore Village to check out the winery and do some wine tasting. We made friends with the couple next to us and enjoyed samples of all the wines they were offering. I definitely don't have a refined wine tasting palate and find them all to taste very similar but it was fun anyways!

After our wine tasting we were ready to do some more exploring of the local cuisine. We checked out a local brewery where we enjoyed our beer while sitting outside and doing some people watching. Then we headed to a local taco place that to me is the kind of place that might be featured on Diners, Drive ins and Dives. It was another little hole in the wall spot but with the most delicious food. Tacos made with creative and fresh ingredients. We stuffed ourselves with yummy tacos and local beer and enjoyed our date night out in Asheville. 

We finished out our trip on Wednesday deciding to stop at Sierra Nevada brewery on our way home for lunch. Well we ended up spending almost 3 hours there. What a fun place! 

The food was yummy,  beer selection great and the atmosphere was so relaxing. After our lunch we headed out back to walk around and play some corn hole- an absolute favorite of G's. He beat me all three games but it was fun. Now that I'm home I'm left with the idea of unpacking but that can wait. Today is all about catching up and relaxing, soaking up every minute of spring break that  I can! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lessons Learned

Teaching has been everything I thought it would be but also a million things I didn't. They try to prepare you as best they can when you're in school and I was blessed to attend a school that provided me with over 200 hours of classroom experience before I began my teaching career. Yet still, each day I find myself learning more and more things about teaching as a profession and about myself as a teacher. So I thought I'd share a few of those here!

1. You can never have enough school supplies. Ok I admit it. I am a school supply hoarder. Do you mean to tell me I don't need 10,000 colorful pens or a million post-it notes? Because I most certainly do. I try to clean my desk out every year and you would think I've had these school supplies my whole life the way I refuse to part with them.

2. Organization will save your life...well your sanity anyway. I am the first to admit that my home may be a little disorganized and I may leave clothes on my closet floor and mail out on the table and I have definitely been know to leave dishes in the sink. But when it comes to my classroom organization is something I work very hard to maintain. Being organized helps my classroom run smoothly, keeps me from losing my mind and therefore makes my day much more pleasant. 

3. Patience is a virtue- my mom used to say this to me and I still have to say it to myself all the time. There are plenty of times where I am not patient but I work hard at it everyday and I apologize when I lose my patience with my sweet babies.

4. That brings me nicely to my next point- as an adult sometimes it is tempting to feel like we HAVE to be right all the time and don't want to admit to children that we were wrong. Especially as a teacher I think there is a worry that if I admit fault in something I may end up losing control of my class. This isn't true- and what I've learned is, that when I let my students see me as human- as someone who makes mistakes they are so much more likely to respect me and work with me. 

5.You need to take time for you. Teaching is unbelievably draining. And it is draining in every way possible. It is physically demanding. You are on your feet, running around, up and down off the floor and don't have time to really even use the restroom let along rest. It's also mentally draining needing to be on your toes while teaching, thinking on your feet to make last minute lesson plan adjustments as you see your students' minds working. Finally though it is emotionally draining- your students need so much from you and you become not only a teacher but also a mentor, counselor, custodian, nurse, mediator and a million other things. 22 little people need something from me every minute of the day and I love giving them every ounce of energy I have but it means I HAVE to take a little bit of time for me- when I get home or the weekends or whenever I can. When you give so much of yourself to others you have to refuel. 

Here's a bonus one!
Finally- teaching is without a doubt the best job there is. Even on the days where I feel like I want to cry (or really do cry) I am still so thankful for the sweet children that I have been blessed to work with and that I have a job that allows me the opportunity to be the bright spot in their lives.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Being Brave

When 2016 rolled around I decided my motto was going to be..."be you bravely" thanks to this wonderful shirt my sweet sister got for me! She's always known me so well so I think she knew I needed that message in my head all day every day this year.
I used to be someone who was fearless- ok maybe not totally fearless. I did used to hate going upstairs in the dark by myself but other than that- fearless. My mom describes my younger self as a more leap THEN look person. That is the opposite of the way that saying is supposed to go just in case you're unfamiliar with it.  Something wasn't going my way? No worries, I'd figure it out. Have to get a back brace at age 12? Yep, right during the middle of puberty...bring it on. Moving to England- an ocean away from everything I've ever known? Can't wait.

Ok sure there were definitely some tears- particularly on those last two but for the most part when it came to change I had a pretty good attitude. Then somewhere over the years, whether with age or experiences or both I have turned into someone that is quite different than the girl described above. Now I still consider myself to be flexible, someone who can roll with the punches when things aren't going quite right. I am a teacher after all. But I think if the me I am now had been me back then, my parents' lives would have been much more stressful during the back brace/moving to England phase of my life. Now, when I contemplate big changes I don't jump right in the way I might have in the past. I have officially moved into the camp of look BEFORE I leap and not after.

Now in some respects that is probably for the best. First of all, I am injured much less often. I had 3 sets of stitches before I was 3 so this whole fearless thing came at a cost (at least in terms of medical bills!).  I also work with children now and I am sure their parents appreciate that I am much more cautious, and aware than in my younger years.

But when it comes to being brave and needing to make decisions that will alter the direction my life is heading I think my new sense of caution, in some ways, keeps me from being confident. It keeps me from being brave. The last few months I have been working so hard on changing some of that about me. Working towards moving a little bit closer to the girl I used to be. I'm making big changes. Well, maybe not big but they're changes.You've got to start somewhere right? Like deciding to become a beachbody coach- it was a change, it was a risk for me and I did it. Oh and I love it! Other changes I can't share just yet but they are also blossoming into awesome things for my life. Things that I think God placed on my heart and He wanted me to be brave and make them.

I've been reading a new book called "Let's All Be Brave" by Annie Downs. I bought it at the Lifeway Abundance event I wrote about  here and it is echoing loud and clear all of the things that my heart has only been whispering to me.

I am so excited about what this change in perspective is going to do for my life. It's one of the reasons I started blogging again (another change- yay!) so I am also looking forward to sharing all of this with you in the blogging world.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Learning to Live Abundantly

As I'm sitting down to write this I am filled with peace and joy following the weekend I had in Asheville. I got to spend it with my mom, both of my grandmothers and my aunt- oh and 3,500 other women.
As a gift to my grandmother for her 80th birthday my mom treated us to this girls weekend at Lifeway's Abundance Event. A 2 day conference for women of faith filled with inspirational speakers, awesome music and sweet time with family.

Speaking of that family part of it- did you catch the part about my Grandma turning 80? Guys, my grandma is the coolest 80 year old there is and I am so lucky to have her!
She is still up for anything and everything and the time I spent with her this weekend was so precious. 

On Friday we headed up to Asheville and checked into our hotel before heading to get our seats at the event. They had it at the US Cellular Center and we wanted to make sure we got good seats. The event began at 7:00 and we spent the next three hours worshipping together and hearing two incredible speakers. Oh and did I mention Natalie Grant was there to put on a concert?! That was an awesome experience- her voice is so powerful!  Our worship leader for the weekend was Christy Nockles and she was incredible! She had a beautiful voice and I loved that she taught us a few new songs but also sang some of my favorites. My mom and Grandma got to meet her and get her cd signed too! 

Our speakers for the evening were Annie Downs- an author, speaker and blogger and Curtis Jones- a pastor from Texas (also the son-in-law of Beth Moore). Both were great but y'all Annie Downs. I seriously want to be best friends with this girl. She had such a genuine personality and you just know that the person talking to you on stage is the same as if it were just the two of you. On the way out I got to get a copy of one of her books- "Let's All Be Brave- Living Life With Everything You Have".  This book could've had my name written right on it and I am so excited to dive into it. AND on top of that I got to get it signed and meet Annie. That confirmed my belief that she was just as sweet and genuine as she appeared on stage.  

By the time we were heading back to the hotel it was getting close to 11 and we were all pretty hungry. What do you do at 11:00 on a Friday night? Go to Waffle House of course! My Mema had never been so it seemed like a good always does until the next morning right? Waffle House is always a good spot for people watching but if I'm being totally honest, with how silly we were being we may have been the ones being watched! 

Saturday meant an early morning to get ready and head back to the event. Our morning brought more worship music and the women of She Reads Truth. If you haven't heard of She Reads Truth you need to go online right now and check it out. I have been using She Reads Truth for several months as a devotional and it is awesome! I was so excited to get to hear from these two ladies AND meet them in person. 

They were the sweetest women and I am so excited about the new study I picked up- Open Your Bible. The goal of She Reads Truth is to encourage women to be in The Word on a daily basis together. They remind us that the Bible is for us and for right now. This study helps us dig in to those words. 

Later on in the morning we heard from two more excellent speakers- Lisa Harper (who also was our host for the weekend) and Lisa Terkeurst. Both of these women are hilarious first of all. And they also both have amazing stories to tell. The wisdom gained from these two speakers was inspiring and convicting. It brought me to tears but also had me bent over with laughter as did the whole weekend. 

I am so thankful for the time spent with family and with the Lord this weekend. It has set my soul on fire and I am eagerly anticipating what is going to develop in my life from this experience. I started my morning with both of my new books and it was a wonderful way to begin my day and the week ahead. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Linking up with the Hodgepodge!

Hello again! I'm still trying to get back in the swing of things in the blogging world but I certainly have appreciated all the drop ins and hellos! Today I'm linking up with my mom'sblog for her Wednesday Hodgepodge. 

1. March is National Women's History Month. In that vein, who are three women who've been influential in your life? How so? 

It was so hard to choose just three but I'm going to have to go with my mother, my cousin Anna and my 5th grade teacher.  I was blessed to be born into a family of strong women and if I was allowed more than three I could have easily listed all of the women in my family- and there are a lot of them. My mom has shaped me into the person I am in so many ways, so much so that I wrote a blog post about it that you can read here

My cousin Anna passed away almost 4 years ago from AML and that event could certainly count as influential on its own. Anna though, she was incredible. She had an unfailing strength in the Lord that I admire and try to emulate as best I can in my daily life. 

My 5th grade teacher is who really inspired me to pursue the profession and who I think first instilled in me my passion for teaching. I think it was that year that I asked for an overhead projector for my birthday and I can only hope that my kids look back on their time in my room in the same way that I look back on my time in her class. 

2. In what ways do you think women have it easier than men? 

This question has me stumped. I've been racking my brain all day and the only thing I can come up with is maybe it's easier/more accepted for girls to show their emotions more openly? That doesn't seem like a great answer but it's all I've got! 

3. What do you need most right now: faith, love, hope, or peace? 

I have to go with peace on this one. I am a worrier by nature and often find myself praying for peace over whatever it is that has me worried that day. With everything going on in the world these days, I think we could all use a little peace. 

4. Do you have a collection? If so, what do you collect and why? 

Yes and it is thanks to another strong woman in my life! My grandmother on my dad's side got my sister and I into collecting beautiful, hand-painted, antique teacups. Now when I say collecting I really mean she has done most of the actual collecting and most of my collecting has been out of her living room but I have a good amount proudly displayed in my apartment and would love to find some of my own as well!

5. Plaids, checks, polka dots, stripes...your favorite?

Polka dots- I love them!! I have several polka dotted things in my closet and they are some of my favorites. 

6. In what ways are you the same as your childhood self? 

As evidenced by some of my mom's blog posts I have always been stubborn and I remain quite stubborn to this day. I have a hard time giving in and often just want to dig in my heels when faced with a challenge. 

7. You're a contestant on the TV game show Jeopardy. What category will you ace?  

It certainly won't be French Literature or any number of the categories that make me wonder how all of these people store these facts in their brain. I would ace any category related to Harry Potter, Disney or how to wrangle third graders. Are those coming up on any Jeopardy shows in the near future? 

8. Insert your own random thought here. 

This post needed a picture so I present to you one of the many beautiful sunrises we see here in South Carolina. What a joy it is to walk out of my apartment and see this! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Getting Organized!

There comes a time each year in teaching where my brain starts moving out of the current year and into the following year. I guess this may seem crazy but it always helps me push to summer and end my year with a positive, hopeful attitude. It's arrived a little early this year as I'm contemplating moving grade levels and so I'm starting to get all excited thinking about different things I can do, changes I'll want to make etc.

One thing I am extremely excited about for next year already is the new teacher binder organization I am going to put into place. I found this awesome teacher binder on teacherspayteachers and it has everything I need, but much prettier than I could ever make it.

I have envied these teachers binders for the last several years but could never bring myself to buy one when certainly there were other things I needed instead right? But something I've learned in my teaching career is that being organized is worth the cost. I'm also much more likely to stay organized using something pretty like this! 

If you're interested the link to the blog I found this on is here and the link to her teacherspayteachers website is here. I can't wait to put this in place come August and some of the pages are going to get to work right away in my current classroom!