In 2013 blessed lessons learned planning

13 Lessons Learned in 2013

1.) You adapt to survive.
In January I was working night shifts at the Amazon warehouse in Lexington, coming home to sleep a couple hours, then taking care of my 9 month old the whole day. We needed me to be working, and I needed Jace to not be in daycare, so my body adjusted. As I look back I'm not entirely sure how I functioned on 3 or 4 hours sleep each day, but somehow I did.

2.) Hard choices have to be made.
When February hit I had been working at Amazon for four months on night shifts, including weeks of mandatory overtime resulting in 60 hour workweeks. I honestly believed that my body had adapted and held out as long as it could, so it came time to make a choice. Either I could continue working and earn extra money, or I could leave, knowing I would not have employment again until at least April, and adhere to a strict budget. Leaving for weeks without income was terrifying, but in the end it was so clearly the right choice.

3.) You never know what cause you'll end up an advocate for.
When we adopted Luna at the end of February, I would never have predicted that by March I would be the person advocating for pit bull owner rights and to end the discrimination. The fact that landlords can refuse to rent to you because of the breed of dog you own, cities like Denver, CO could create and uphold a pit bull ban, and that pit bulls have even less chance than other dogs to walk back out of a shelter sickens me because of Luna.

4.) Babies grow up faster than you'd ever believe.
 I was in shock when Jace blew out his birthday candle, announcing that a full year of his life with us had passed. I was so glad that I had made the choices to be home with him as much as possible so I didn't miss many of his first year milestones. He only gets one childhood, and I want it to be one filled with happiness and love.

5.) Overcoming the odds is possible.
 Nathan walked the stage to receive his Bachelor's degree in history this May. Why is that against the odds? Well, here's the short list of reasons:
- He had to go part time his first semester because of health issues.
- He found out he was going to be a father late summer before his junior year
- He got married while in his junior year, about a week before finals.
- And his senior year was spend being a student, a husband, and a father.

6.) Sometimes home surprises you.
When Nathan and I talked about the future, we had always talked about moving further south. In fact, in March we had met up with a realtor in North Carolina to look at homes. But, after Nathan's graduation, we realized just how much Berea had grown on us. We thought about what we would be leaving behind, we thought about what we had learned here and how much we had grown, and we realized that somehow, Berea had become home.

7.) When you enjoy your work, it reflects in your life.
I loved managing the pool this summer. Completely, absolutely loved it. Although it did not utilize my degree, it challenged me, grew me, and improved my skills in public relations, lifeguarding, and management. That joy of going to work reflected in the rest of my life: I was happy. I made new friends, laughed, swam, and ,with the other manager, saw the pool through a successful 2013 season. Even when it was busy, or stressful, the genuine contentment that I felt at my job carried over to the rest of my mindset.

8.) Your friends are still your friends, even if you see them twice a year.
This August I was able to go home to see one of my childhood friends get married in a beautiful ceremony filled with love. The group that was present that day was part of a group that had been friends since middle school. Some moved away, some stayed close by, and some I only see once or twice a year. But we're still friends. They are still the people I would call if something went wrong, the ones who would be there for me the same way I would for them.

9.) Get back to your passions and talents, they fill your life with joy.
In high school, I was a choir nerd, on and off through college I was part of a choir. I love to sing, can usually carry a tune, and love the sense of community that comes with singing. So I auditioned to join the worship team at church. Now every other week I am at practice learning new songs and singing excitedly alongside new friends.

10.) To have a good marriage, you have to work for it.
This fall our church offered life groups, one of which was titled "Real Marriage: the truth about sex, friendship, and life together." The group work and discussions were based on the book and workbook series by Mark and Grace Driscoll and I would highly recommend it. While not everything in it may apply to your relationship, it really gave Nathan and I a new appreciation for each other as well as a very refreshed attitude toward our marriage and each other.

11.) God provides in unexpected, amazing ways. 
 In November, while still living in the land of "what if," I was offered my full time position with the ACA. It was surprising, greatly needed, and has given us the gift to breathe a little as we provide for our family and think about continuing to grow.

12.) Sometimes you have to say no.
This year, for the first time, Nathan and I were not able to go up to Ohio either during or right after Christmas. We looked at our budget first, then still tried to make it work to the point where we would have spent more time driving than with any of our families.
So, we had to say no.
And, even though we did miss our families, we had an amazing Christmas with just us and our little one. We were able to enjoy time together, which became very precious when Nathan and I's schedules changed, and relax.

Bonus Lesson
13.) Plans change. And when you look back, you'll see why they ended up being better.
We planned to move to NC, planned to buy a house in McKee, planned for me to go to grad school, etc.
Not one of those plans actually happened, and when I look back on it now, I can see why. I am so convinced that where I am now is exactly where I'm supposed to be.

So what was 2013 like for you? What lessons did you learn and changes did you make?


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In Christianity hate observation people watching


I like to study people.
More than like, I feel compelled to study people.
I study my friends, strangers, basically everyone, and especially on social media.

All this time in observation, contemplation, and searching for connections and patterns have led me to believe a few interesting thing.

1.) Some personalities need someone to hate.
        For my super conservative, my-way-or-the-highway father-in-law, it's the "damned liberals." Not one of them could have an opinion worth listening to, not one of them could have a point, and when I mention that I would consider myself more a liberal than a conservative on many issues he pretends not to hear me.
        He has to hate someone, and since the "damned liberals" disagree with him, it's a whole lot easier to find every negative thing they've said and use it to fuel that hatred.
         If he couldn't hate them any longer, I don't believe he would know what to do with that energy or how to identify himself. Part of his identity is in his hatred.

2.) That blind hate dehumanizes people.
       All Christians are stuck up, holier-than-thou hypocrites!
       All feminists are bra-burning, man-hating lesbians!
       All liberals are destroying the values of this country!
       All republicans are so concerned with their own money they don't see anything else!

Ever heard any of the above statements? I've heard them, seen them and had them thrown in my face. I've discovered that in life, we are bound to be the victim of blind hate because of how we would identify ourselves.
But when we create one image for an entire group of human beings, we're ultimately doing a disservice to ourselves.

3.) You can't change everyone's mind.
     And you certainly can't do it by screaming, shouting or shaming.
You can't do it by shouting bible verses if they do not believe the word.
You can't do it by tearing down the bible if they do believe the word.
You can't do it with violence.
You can't do it with fear tactics.
And you can't do it refusing to listen to anything they have to stay.

Here's what else I've noticed though: we can be responsible for our own actions.
We can choose to respond to others with love.

We can refrain from seeing people as a group worthy of hate.

We can listen.

And we can accept that someone differs from us, but still love them.

I am a Christian, but I hope not to ever put anyone down or see myself as any better than anyone else.
I am a liberal politically, but I will not tell you that you're wrong if you disagree with me.
I live more conservatively because I believe in God and His word, but that does not mean I have any right to judge you for however you choose to live.
I am a democrat, an idealist, an advocate, a feminist, a mother, a wife, a believer, and a sinner.

I believe that we all use some of these words to identify ourselves, but no individual word defines us.

So why does one description make anyone worthy of hate?

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In baking buckeyes recipes

Apparently Buckeyes are an Ohio Thing?

One of my family's Christmas Traditions is making cookies for Christmas. The favorite? Buckeyes.

So I, of course, made some for the holiday's and sent a few to work with Nathan since he absolutely loves them. Apparently he spent part of the day explaining what buckeye's are.

First of all, how could anyone not know what a buckeye cookie is?

It's peanut butter, chocolate-y goodness enjoyed every Christmas!

But, aside from that, I now feel the need to share their goodness with the rest of the world.

Here is the buckeye recipe I used/put together/ tweaked.

2.5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
.25 cups butter (room temperature)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I also did a batch with dark chocolate)
Shortening or butter

In a large bowl (preferably using an electric mixer) mix together butter, peanut butter and vanilla.
Add in the powdered sugar and continue mixing.
Take the mixture and roll it into small balls between 1/2" and 1" (if it is too sticky, add more powdered sugar, too crumbly, add more peanut butter). Place them on wax paper to put into the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes. You should end up having between 35-50 balls.
Using a double broiler (or a saucepan with water and another saucepan in it) melt down the chocolate and shortening until it is proper consistency to dip. Using toothpicks, or a fork dip the peanut butter balls into the chocolate leaving part of the PB exposed to created the buckeye look. Let them chill in the fridge until the chocolate sets, then enjoy!

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In asking for help self reflection

Asking For Help

I suck at it.

No, there is no eloquent, beautiful way to phrase my mental inability to request and accept assistance.
I just suck at it.

From a young age, I always had to be able to do everything myself.
Which is why when I climbed to the top branches of the crab apple tree alone at age 8, I had to get myself back down.
 It's why at age 13 I took a 4 day a week babysitting job that required me to be up at 6am and babysit till 4pm.
It's why from age 16 on, I have always worked. Part time, full time, mandatory over time, multiple jobs, food, warehouse work, manual labor, night shift. I had to have my own income and if I couldn't pay for it myself, I generally didn't do it.

Adding onto my absolute need for independent survival, comes the overwhelming shame that comes from having the help you requested thrown back in your face.
Unfortunately, that has happened to me quite a few times, and when it does, it makes my ability to ask for help even harder.

There are few things worse than hearing, "But I did ______ for you, so now you owe me."

I've always worked hard to repay my actual debts, and to do for others without being asked. But the individuals that choose to throw their generosity back in my face and use it against me, well they have ruined me.

So now, even when I do need help, even when I am barely keeping my head above water, I can't ask for help. And unfortunately, the next month or so is going to be one of those tough times.

The comparison my sister and I came to, is that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Nathan will be working overtime, I will be starting a new job, things will soon be falling into place, but until we get there, we're in for a rough time.

It's one of those times where I may have to fight myself internally and ask for help. Ask and accept help while praying it won't be turned back against me at a later date.

And I realize the things I am complaining about are, in the larger scheme of things, not that big. But right now, at this moment, things just seem stressful and beyond what I can handle myself, which puts me in that scary position of reaching out to others.


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In books husband lists pregnancy relationships

I Give Myself Ten

There's been a recent surge on Facebook of lists. They're all the same concept:
X amount of things you didn't know about my relationship/pregnancy
X amount of books that touched your life.

So, instead of posting on Facebook, but still interested in sharing some details about myself, I decided to give myself the number 10, and post my lists here.

Ten Things about my Pregnancy
1.) My sense of smell was so insane that I would have to leave class to get sick if a fellow student brought coffee without a lid.
2.) Jace loved to kick me and move, but wouldn't move when anyone put their hand on my belly (including Nathan at first.)
3.) One of Jace's favorite positions was diagonal with his feet lodged in my ribs, which was really uncomfortable.
4.) When I took my pregnancy test, the second line was extremely faint, so I though there was a chance it was wrong. I went to health services and the doctor walks in the room saying, "Okay you should be due in April, when was your last cycle?" while I sat in shock.
5.) I lost a lot of friends during that time because they judged me for getting pregnant, and I decided I didn't need that in my life.
6.) Nathan was excellent with me, because I was a stressed-out, over-emotional mess the majority of the nine months.
7.) I had a severe aversion to chicken and the sight of raw chicken made me sick to my stomach.
8.) My pregnancy wasn't easy: I had morning (all day) sickness, bad swelling, terrible heartburn nearly every night, and toward the end signs of preeclampsia which ended up with me having a C-section.
9.) Despite the health issues, I loved being pregnant and talked to my belly constantly.
10.) I was so afraid to be the stereotypical "too young" mom that I spent hours upon hours researching everything about pregnancy and parenthood, and stocking up on all baby supplies. Ironically, my parenting books are now gathering dust because I had some motherly instincts to rely on after all.

Ten Details of my Relationship with Nathan
1.) He doesn't remember the first couple times he met me.
2.) He was too shy to tell me he liked me, so he told a mutual friend who then told me, making me super aware of Nathan since I didn't know much about him.
3.) Nathan loved that I didn't put him in front of my friends early on in our relationship, which made me fall in love with him.
4.) We never broke up, or took a break, or saw other people once we started dating in 2009.
5.) I knew after only a couple months that Nathan was the kind of man I could marry.
6.) Every date Nathan has ever planned for us has had something go wrong.
7.) Every time we were told we wouldn't work out or wouldn't make it, just seemed to have the opposite effect on us and brought us closer.
8.) The longest we've ever been apart was six months into our relationship when I went to Egypt for three weeks.
9.) We share a love of theater and have seen many productions together, including Phantom of the Opera.
10.) Nathan encourages me out of my comfort zone, which is exactly what I need so I don't stick too closely to my routine.

Ten Books that have Stayed with Me
1.) The Five People You Meet in Heaven-  Mitch Albom
2.) The Time Traveler's Wife- Audrey Niffenegger
3.) Memoirs of a Geisha- Arthur Golden
4.)  Kindred- Octavia Butler
5.) Proof of Heaven - Eben Alexander
6.) Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
7.) The Harry Potter Series- J.K. Rowling
8.) Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
9.) Her Fearful Symmetry- Audrey Niffenegger
10.) The Pact- Jodi Picoult

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In ACA full-time Work

Welcome to the Grown-Up World

So, I'm not sure why I was so reluctant to post about this until now, but I really was. It almost felt as though it couldn't be real, or something would change again and I would have to go back on what I said.

I'm not going to grad school this spring.

I had planned to, got accepted, and was mentally preparing for the concept of homework, working part time, and raising a toddler. And then, without applying for or searching...

I landed a full-time, salaried position.

I'm really nervously excited to announce that I will be the office manager/ administrative associate at the Appalachian College Association beginning January 1, 2014. I will work 8-5, five days a week, year-round (except all federal holidays and a week in December). There will be no more, "What do I do when this job ends?" No more praying and hoping that something will work out, no more paranoia over getting sick since I've been living without health insurance, and no more Saturday's saying, "Sorry, I can't, I have to work."

How did I get a job without applying for it? Well, when I was a student on Berea College's campus my first ever labor position was the ACA. It was a community partnership, and I was the only student that worked there. I made my own schedule, never had to attend a labor meeting, and really bonded with my 8 co-workers (plus I'm kind of awesome at that whole organizing office work kind of thing).

After graduation, I kept in touch and frequently stopped by to visit, so this fall when the current office manager left to move to another state, they asked if I could come in one day a week to help out and maybe help work the Summit (their big conference) in Knoxville. I said sure, especially since I had done most of it before, and started going in one day a week. Well a few weeks in, they said they would like me full-time starting in January.

What a crazy little world we live in.


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In advice anniversary husband love marriage

Cotton Anniversary!

It's my second wedding anniversary!
And in a mere two days, it will be four years since we stated dating.
I thought I'd write a little bit about what I've learned in that time for this blog post.

1.) Make time for date night.
   This was tough to learn, because four months into our marriage we welcomed our son into the world. As soon as I had Jace, he became my primary focus and concern. It wasn't until this fall I realized how important it was to set aside time to just be with Nathan. So now we have a date night every other Friday night. We have spontaneous dates too, but twice a month we know that whether it's having a movie night after Jace's bedtime with a glass of wine and our phones upstairs, or going out to eat and having an uninterrupted conversation, we will spend some quality time together.

2.) Ask questions.
    It's so easy to get lazy, and I did. But people change over time, and if you stop taking an interest in your spouses thoughts, you start not knowing them. So when we sit down to dinner at night I ask more than, "How was your day?". I ask him how he feels about our marriage, what makes him feel respected, and what he believes heaven is.
Don't get me wrong, we still talk about the casual day-to-day lives, but it's important to ask deeper questions.

3.) Show appreciation.
       When I'm mad, I'm the type that does the silent treatment. And kind of holds a grudge. So when I'm still a bit annoyed with Nathan, I would stop saying thank you. I would stop verbalizing the things I appreciated he did, and then even when I was done being mad, I continued to not tell him thank you.
    What was amazing was how much things changed when I made a conscious effort to start doing it again. Just verbalizing that I appreciated him taking out the trash after dinner, or taking the dog out before we went to bed made him feel good, and willing to do more. Plus it made him more appreciative of me, and getting a thank you and a kiss for unloading the dishwasher feels pretty great.

4.) Hold hands.
      Somewhere along the years of our relationship, Nathan and I stopped holding hands. When we were first dating, we held hands constantly: walking to class, sitting at dinner, watching a movie, even sitting in the dorm doing homework. But the pattern fell away until this fall when we, together, made an effort to start again. We got an interesting piece of advice when we talked to our pastors about marriage, and they said to remember that you are a unified force fighting against whatever is against you. Financial stress, unexpected crisis, whatever it may be, you need to join forces and see that instance as the enemy, rather than blaming each other. Holding hands, for me, is that simple reminder that Nathan is my partner no matter what obstacle we come up against.

5.) Accept your differences.
   I still haven't totally got this one, but I know it's important. You don't end up with your spouse because you have all the exact same qualities. You end up with the person that completes you. It was, and is, unbelievably difficult to not wish Nathan were more like me. But when I actually sit and analyze my thoughts, I understand why it's good that he is different. I am a woman with a plan, but Nathan can easily go with the flow. I need to keep things organized, he is okay with a little chaos. I can get so caught up in the details that I can't see the big picture, but Nathan sees the whole thing, sometimes oblivious to the details. These differences make us an unstoppable force when combined, but it's just tough to see that when I'm picking up socks off the living room floor or not understanding why he didn't actually have a plan when we left the house for date night.

I still have a lot to learn, but I'm excited to keep learning and keep loving Nathan. I still get butterflies when he kisses me, and he's the first person I want to talk to when something big happens. He's my best friend, and I'm glad to get to share the rest of my life with him.

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In Christmas local shopping

My Christmas Challenge & Traditions

Thanksgiving is over, and it is officially permissible for me to move into Christmas mode! This year for Christmas I have given myself and my family a challenge.

Each year we all think about what another person wants, what they would enjoy, and what we can afford to get them. Personally, I love Christmas shopping for my friends and family.
I adore wrapping and boxing up the items purchased, and personalizing them as best I can.

But this year I have decided to take it a step further.
This year I want to do all (or almost all) of my Christmas shopping LOCALLY.

We spend more money at the holiday's than we normally would, and I want to see that money go to my local businesses and economy. So instead of ordering everything from Amazon, this year I want to shop at the locally owned businesses that help make Berea the wonderful small town that it is.

Nathan and I are going to spend some time in Old Town (the Artisan village in town), and perusing shops we haven't spent much (or any) time in. We're going to browse the local winery's and distillery's for some friends and family, take advantage of my working time at the Artisan Center, and support our state.

 We want to be able to give gifts that have a story, that have personality, or that we may even make ourselves (Make It, Take It Give It). And, since we hope to stay in Berea awhile, we want to make some family Christmas traditions that are local. Jace is still too little to really remember or appreciate the memories, but I have my own family Christmas traditions that I remember from young childhood on, and I want my children to have the same.

Here are the Traditions the Kouris Family will be starting (or continuing) this season.

1.) Take Jace to see Santa and get a picture with him and Christmas puppy.

2.) Go to Baldwin Farms (even if we can't get a live tree this year)

3.) See Southern Lights at the Kentucky Horse Park

4.) Bake Christmas cookies together

5.) Decorate the Christmas Tree together

6.) Send out Christmas Cards (including one to a solider)

7.) Do Five Random Acts of Kindness

8.) Watch Christmas movies (Rudolph, Charlie Brown, It's a Wonderful Life)

9.) Christmas Eve Box: New pj's, Christmas movie, book and snacks

10.) Leave out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer

11.) Listen to Christmas music as much as possible

12.) Remember the real meaning for Christmas, and read the biblical story

I hope as you head into Christmastime you enjoy your traditions, and maybe make some new ones!


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In being a mom toddler transitions


I write about my kid a lot.
I realize that, but that's not going to stop me at all from continuing to blog about him because I kind of love motherhood and seeing him grow.
Plus, I learn so much from him.

Last night we transitioned from the crib that he's been in since birth, to the toddler bed. It was the same mattress, the same bedding and stuffed animals, and in the same spot, but it was something brand new (to him. It was a hand me down to us). So it was super exciting to play on, climb on and off of, play with the doggy on, and explore.

It was not, however, nearly so awesome when he realized that he wasn't sleeping in his crib anymore: he was sleeping in the new thing.

Normally Jace goes to sleep without issue: we lay him down, turn the music on a timer, shut out the lights and close the door. Last night it took about an hour of rocking, reading, screaming (on his part) and tears to get him to sleep. It was a scary new experience for him, even with mommy and daddy right there.

But this morning (after sleeping through the whole night till 8am!), he woke up, crawled out of bed, and walked over to the baby gate at the door. He was no longer confined to his crib: he can get up when he wants to and go. That made it so much more awesome. So today at naptime, Nathan was prepared for another long (but shorter than last night) ordeal.

Nope. Jace laid down with his sippy cup and went right to sleep.

Tonight might be different, but it seems as though he's so excited about the freedom his big boy bed gives him that he's no longer worried about missing his crib.

I think there's really a lesson to be learned here, because I am bad for dragging my feet when it comes to something new. I don't adjust well to change and I do a bit of screaming and crying. But I hold on to that feeling a lot longer than my toddler did. He seems to have moved on to the awesome perks of the bed, and I think I need to have that attitude a bit more when I'm looking for the good parts of the changes I'm dealing with.


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In thankfulness Thanksgiving

Thankful Thanksgiving

During November a large number of my friends post daily statuses with something they are thankful for. It's a very nice change of pace from the usual melancholy, dramatic, "woe is me" type of posts that tend to clutter my Facebook feed.
But I didn't take part in that challenge because, honestly, I don't post on Facebook daily.
However, I still have 30 things to be thankful for to celebrate the appreciative month of November.

1.) Jace Alexander.

2.) A loving, patient, and spontaneous husband that I've been married to nearly two years.

3.) Understanding and caring friends.

4.) A spiritual home at River of Life.

5.) Good health and a strong body.

6.) The ability to help provide for my family.

7.) A warm and safe home.

8.) Family: both biological and chosen.

9.) Date nights with my husband.

10.) All four seasons and the unique weather that comes with them.

11.) Good conversations.

12.) Tea with honey.

13.) Books.

14.) Jesus.

15.) Old friendships that weather time and distance.

16.) The freedom to speak my mind.

17.) Pinterest.

18.) Forgiveness.

19.) Playdates for rambunctious toddlers.

20.) Girl time.

21.) A unique small town to call home.

22.) Hot bubble baths.

23.) Quiet, rainy days.

24.) New experiences.

25.) Honesty.

26.) Thrifty living and DIY projects.

27.) New friendships.

28.) Motherhood.

29.) Nourishing food.

30.) Life.

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In friends Friendship INFJ introvert


Something on Facebook got me thinking.
A friend posted a link about friendships, and how they change.
Add that to an ongoing theme of blog posts from friends, and a couple issues with feeling left out with friends, and, of course, I felt compelled to write about it.

See, I'm a living contradiction. Really, I can't even make sense of myself.

 I want to be friends with everyone. I see the groups of women hanging out together all the time, and I desperately want to be part of it. I want to be invited, I want to be included, I want to be the company that is desired. I want to be asked out for coffee (even though I don't actually drink coffee, I do enjoy tea and hot chocolate!), included in a spur of the moment trip to Richmond, and not have to be the one that asks to hang out. I want to be everyone's close friend, and I want to be the person that posts a picture on Facebook and gets 200 likes.

But, in the same breath, that's never who I've been. I can't see myself from the outside, but I have some suspicions why I am not, and will never be, that girl with the super active social life.

1.) I am introverted.
Which means, I'm not outspoken in a large group, I have a tough time opening up to people I don't really know, and social interaction exhausts me. See the image below for a little oversight on dealing with an introverted individual.

2.) I say no to going out sometimes.
 And, to someone who isn't one of my intimate friends, that may be seen as me not liking the person asking. But the truth is, since any social engagement takes a vast amount of energy, I need more time at home by myself than the average person.

3.) I over think everything.
If I see someone at Wal*Mart and they don't say "hi" as they walk past, instead of thinking that they just didn't see me, I immediately dissect our most recent interaction determined to discover what I must have done to anger them.
If I wasn't asked to bring food to an event at work when everyone else was, then clearly they must not have wanted to include me in their festivities because I'm not really one of them, and etc.
It drives my poor husband nuts when I analyze him, even though sometimes I'm right (sometimes before he realizes that an event and an emotion are connected).

4.) I have strong opinions. But no idea how to say them without offending someone.
 If you're reading this, it means you are somewhat familiar with my blog. My extremely opinionated blog that doesn't even begin to show how strongly and passionately I feel about the world. The only two people in the world who have really seen and experienced the full depth of my passionate convictions? My husband and my best friend Lindsay. I don't filter myself at all with them, because I know that they take my opinions and ideas the way I mean them, and I don't have to deconstruct everything that I said later to see how I may have offended them. But with other people, I honestly regret half of what I say about an hour after I say it.

5.) I do honestly deconstruct everything I say later.
We had a girls night a few weeks back. It was great: the first time I'd gotten together in a large group in ages, and I really enjoyed myself. I was more quiet and observant the more people were there, but as it dwindled down I got to be more myself. Even then, I still went home that night and spent the next two days analyzing everything I had said, how I had said it, if it could have offended anyone, and if I shouldn't have said it to begin with. And, once you consider that, it seems pretty obvious why I limit my time out, right?

It's just been frustrating to me lately because of the way I participate in friendship. Basically, because of my aforementioned traits, I do friendship one of two ways.

Either I have an acquaintance friendship where I spend time with someone, talk about mostly light things, and hang out on occasion with (and greatly enjoy their company).
Or, I have someone that I pull deeply into my circle and trust so completely that I can be myself and not have to sensor myself, while holding them to certain standards to allow myself to trust them (I like to think there are some perks in this too, and it's not just me being crazy and having high expectations).

Most people don't have friendships like that. I know that, and understand it, but I know that's the manner in which I function. See, if I start to feel someone is heading in that second option, where I could really trust them and be myself, I start holding them to that higher standard. And when they don't live up to that generally unattainable standard? I start to pull back from them because I'm terrified of being hurt.

Yes, after writing and editing this, I'm kind of amazed I have any friends too. But it's much easier to have those light friendships when you're in college, and now that I'm past that stage, I'm at the point where I have very few friends still near me geographically. And I suck at making new friends.

But the friends that I do have, I am grateful for. And I'm hoping that, the more I spend time understanding myself and my friendships, the more fulfilling relationships I will be able to have.


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In being a mom confidence Motherhood social media

According to society, I'm a bad mom.

Every day on social media I see how I should and shouldn't parent. And it's made me actually feel terrible about myself of late. Because now I'm not a stay at home mom. And sometimes I just feel like I'm a bad mom. But I know that I am doing the best I can, and I know that my kid is healthy and usually happy.

So you know what, I'm just going to own up to it all. Starting from the very beginning.

I was too young (21) and not yet married when I saw the two pink lines.
I didn't always take my prenatal vitamins during pregnancy.
I had a C-section instead of a natural birth.
Even if I hadn't had the C-section, I was totally planning to get an epidural.
I breast fed and gave him formula.
I only made it to 9 months nursing instead of a full year.
I went back to work part time when he was two months old, instead of finding a way to make staying home work.
I didn't sterilize his paci every time it fell to the floor.
Even worse, I let him eat food that he's dropped on the floor.
Oh, and I didn't make my own baby food, I bought jars of it from Wal*Mart.
I let him carry a sippy cup around the house.
I still put him down for naps and bed with a sippy.
As soon as he turned 12 months, I switched him to front facing.
I let him watch tv (for more than an hour a day).
I let him cry himself to sleep on occasion.
I now work basically full-time hours away from the home.
And I let him eat Mcdonald's french fries.
I spank him when he throws his tantrums.
I have no intention of homeschooling him or any of my future children.
I let him fall and get (mildly!) hurt sometimes so he can learn
I lose my patience and have to walk away from him sometimes

I'm not a perfect mom, but I'm tired of feeling guilty for every "mistake" society deems I've made. So I'm going to start owning up to my concept of parenting. I'm going to say with confidence that yes, I work outside the home. And yes, I drop my child off with someone else a few days a week. Yes, I will be sending him to public school when the time comes.

And yes, I am still a damn good mother.

P.S. This is totally not directed at any of my mom friends (especially the awesome ones that do choose to stay home and help watch mine!). I'd like to support everyone in whatever choices are best for them and their little ones! This post was just to say that I am coming to terms with my own decisions and I'm not feeling guilty anymore :)

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In accountability Charity Miles fitness healthy workout

Check In #1

It's been almost four weeks since I decided to hold myself accountable for my fitness and health.
So I thought I'd write a quick post to update (and add that I actually have stuck with it!).

I am still diligently tracking my calories and exercise with Lose It, which is seriously the best app for me. I know how many calories I consume, and I can even plan out my day to see if I have room for a little treat.

I have become so mindful about what I eat (and the money I am saving!) Seriously, by not stopping for breakfast at McDonald's on my way to work, and not grabbing a Sonic Nerds Slush a couple times a week I am noticing that my bank account is much happier with me.

I wake up and work out 5 days a week. Some workouts are much more intense than others (I discovered Jillian Michael's workout videos on YouTube. They, without fail, kick my butt), but I do them. And, no matter how hard it is to start, at the end I'm convinced that it was well worth the time.

I still have my glass jars in the kitchen, and moving the marbles works well for me. So far I've only had to move one back because I gained instead of lost, and it hasn't happened again.

All those motivational quotes I pinned to my Pinterest board? I took them a step further by printing them out and putting them up around my house. I'm a visual person, so when I see those quotes, they help me stay motivated.

Here's my tracking from my starting weight to now:

Pounds Down: 7.2

Longest Plank Time:  1min 6sec. (originally 47 seconds)

Future Goal!
So, my initial goal was for my 24th Birthday and a 5K, which is good, but now I've found an additional goal to keep me going. Did you know that Disney has a Princess Half Marathon Weekend?

I didn't until very recently. and now I must do it.
I must dress like Princess Belle (Yellow running shorts, yellow top, and a red rose in my hair perhaps?) and I must run 13.1 miles through Disney.

It seems to be held in February, so my goal is to run it February 2015. Anybody wanna come with??

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In family good month marriage October travel

Ending October

First of all, Happy Halloween!
Whatever your plans are or were, I hope they provided great fun and memories.

October has been such a good month.


1.) I successfully worked three jobs! My usual hours at the Artisan Center, one day a week at the Appalachian College Association, and contractor work for ConsultWebs. I went to Knoxville to help work a conference and generally feel as though I learned a lot. Plus my personality loves to keep busy rather than bored, so this is a great thing for me.

2.) Lots of family time. My parents came down to spend a weekend, we saw most of Nathan's dad's family at a beautiful wedding in NC, and his mom will be arriving this evening. Of course, the majority of family time is spent with everyone fawning over the toddler, but I'm glad that Jace does get to build relationships with his extended family.

3.) Nathan and I are in a lifegroup at our church called Real Marriage. Can I begin to express what a blessing it has been? Childcare is provided and it meets once a week, it also requires dates and conversation and growth. Lots of growth. I've said it before: marriage is hard. It is good, wonderful, and the best decision I made, but it can be really freaking hard. So this group has made such changes in the way Nathan and I view our marriage, each other, and our family.

4.) I started living a healthier lifestyle: more active with better food choices, and it is pretty great. Well, sometimes I still miss my Mt. Dew and junk food binges, but mostly I am just proud of myself for actually sticking with it for more than a week.

5.) October starts the holiday months, and I love the holidays. We decorated for Halloween, are taking Jace (Scooby-doo!) trick or treating this evening (and probably tomorrow as well with Uncle Brendan), carved jack-o-lantern's, and started enjoying the many pumpkin spiced foods.

I hope your October was fantastic, and that your start to November is even better!


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In Church faith fall fall food fellowship fun River of Life

River of Life Love

This past weekend was the Annual Fall Fellowship at my church, River of Life. Two of the members offered  up their beautiful farm to have the entire congregation eat, sing, dance, and spend time together as a church family. It was beautiful weather, and a ton of fun, but it really made me think more about my church.

I wasn't introduced to regular church until I was about 15, and I went with my friends and their families. After coming to college I bounced around a little bit, trying to figure out where I felt most at home. I questioned a bit of everything, and if I heard something I disliked, I moved on. But now, well this church is one of the main reasons we decided to try to stay in Berea, rather than try to move away. I'm so thankful for it, and I've started to really pinpoint why.

1.) We celebrate our kids!
I've been in so many social situations where you feel totally unwelcome as soon as your little one starts crying/fussing/throwing a tantrum. But at River, all the noise and chaos that kids bring is not only tolerated, it is a vital part of the church.

2.) Men and women are equal.
Our senior pastors are a married couple, and both preach, pray, give the word, and lead the service. Our worship team leaders are both men and women, scripture is read by men and women, and that is one of the reasons that I feel so completely positive River is my spiritual home. So many of the churches I have visited or seen only allow men to speak to the congregation. They only allow men to pray. To me, that is an outdated ritual, and my church family agrees.

3.) They preach love, not judgement.
Anyone that knows me at all, knows that I feel strongly for equal rights. I tend to lean to the liberal side of issues, and I can't stand to listen to condemnation. The people at River aren't perfect, and some little phrases still bother me from time to time, but I know that none of our members would jump up to declare that we are called to hate all Muslims/Atheists/gays. I won't sit through a sermon that's point is to tear down another group of people. And when we fall short, which we all do, it's met with love and grace, not condemnation.

It isn't perfect, and I've written before that sometimes I don't agree with everything said, but the thing is, I don't have to agree with everything to still be a part of the church. I don't have to lose all my own opinions to be thankful for what I've found. So I've just been feeling grateful lately, for the friendships, for the growth it has encouraged in me, and for the worship and praise I can look forward to each week.

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In animal advocate bully breed don't bully my breed neuter pit bull awareness Pit bulls Rescuing animals spay

Happy Pit Bull Awareness Month!

Yes, in addition to being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is also the month designated to bring awareness to the pit bull breed.
I've posted before about this, but being a bully-breed owner makes me a little bit, well, passionate about the subject.

In case you forgot, here's my pit mix:


She's about one year old now, been living with us since March, and was the first dog I've ever owned.
So, not only did I have to learn how to be a dog owner, I had to learn to be a an owner to a strong, larger, misrepresented breed.

When I went to the shelter there were a few dogs there: young and old, big and small. Luna was the only one I wanted, and she loved the boy. Critical to living in a house with a toddler.
So we paid her adoption fee and brought her home.

Let's talk about some of the stereotypes.

1.) Pit Bulls Fight Other Dogs

Let's think about this, compare your personality to your spouse or your best friend. My guess is, one of you is the most passive, one is the most aggressive. You are both human beings, but you are not going to react the same way in any given situation.
The same would go for any dog. So, if a dog is encouraged, trained, and forced to go head to head with another dog that has been encouraged to be aggressive, then of course that dog is going to fight. If a dog is well-socialized and has the personality to like other dogs, then that dog probably isn't ever going to pick a fight.
I'd like to be very clear that dog-aggressive does not mean human-aggressive. All the pits I've met aren't stupid, they know the difference between a human and a dog, and they love people. I firmly believe the most dangerous part of Luna is her tail: it wags viciously at the sight of a new friend. And basically any human that enters our home is a friend (she does have reservations with tall men at first, we think she may have been abused or mistreated before we got her).
Personally, I would call Luna dog-tolerant.She avoids dogs that bark aggressively and stays close to me, acts submissive to a dog larger than her (like the giant dog at the end of the block) and usually seems curious about the tiny dogs living two doors down.

2.) Pit Bulls Do Not Feel Pain
     This is a moronic justification for using them as fighting dogs. THEY FEEL PAIN. When Luna got home from surgery she curled up in her blanket and let out the occasional whimper, because she was IN PAIN.

3.) Pit Bulls Cannot Be Controlled or Trained.
     Really? Then how come Luna can sit, lay down, shake, knows to back off when I clap my hands and say "No" and knows she isn't allowed on the couches? She's still a puppy, so she's still learning, but with patience and time, she is going to be a well-trained dog.
      What I've noticed is that pit bulls are people pleasers. They want to make their human happy and love rewards. That makes them a little easier to train because if sitting makes you say "Good Girl" and give her a belly rub, then she is going to want to obey.

Luna is the best first dog I could have gotten, and the same goes for Jace. Luna loves, protects, and plays with Jace. She is a true, loyal family dog.

But, here's the really sad part, pit bulls have been over bred, and because of their reputation, get put down in shelters with hardly a chance.

So, because we want this problem to get better, not worse, we took Luna to get her spayed.

Even if your dog isn't a bully breed, I would still implore you to consider spaying and neutering, because the reality is that there are more dogs than there are homes that want them.

The surgery can be expensive, but for those that are struggling with money (and who isn't really?) here are some programs around Kentucky to help with the cost.

1.) Spay's the Way- low cost spay and neuter surgeries for dogs, cats, and rabbits.
2.) Spay our Strays- this program is for stray and feral cats that can help prevent litters of unwanted kittens outside you home come springtime
3.) Woodstock Animal Foundation- low cost spay and neuter
4.) Caring Heart Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic
5.) Go to your vet for recommendations.

We've used Spay's the Way for our cats and for Luna, and each time it worked out without issue, and we have healthier animals in the end.
Nathan and I are both huge animal advocates, which is why we have fostered animals, we adopt, and we make sure our pets aren't going to create more pets that we wouldn't be able to handle.

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In Charity Miles healthy Weight loss workout


I like to feel strong and in shape.
But I also like to lounge on the couch with the hubby and watch the newest episode of Nashville.

As I've mentioned before, I really don't play sports. Getting screamed at (even encouraging words) is overwhelming for me, and when I fail to hit/catch/score the ball, I feel a great sense of personal failure. I'm not graceful (curse my luck) and my coordination is far from fantastic.

Yet that's how most in-shape, healthy people stay that way. They play football at Thanksgiving, softball in the spring and fall, soccer on the weekends etc. and that's how they stay active. I completely see why that works: you have a built in team that counts on you to participate and doesn't give you that wiggle room to stay in and sleep on the couch. It's harder to work out on your own and hold yourself accountable.

But because I'm not a sports team personality, I have few other options but to hold myself accountable. However, for my friends that see me regularly, I would like to ask for a bit of encouragement and accountability from them. And if you need someone to encourage you, I would love to be that person!

Recently, I made a decision to get fit.

I'm using an app called Lose It (if you use it too, please request to be my friend!) to track my exercise and my calories.

I went a little crazy on Pinterest picking up workout tips, motivation and ideas.

Here are the top ten that were most valuable to me:
1.) In the kitchen I have two glass bowls with pretty marbles in them. Each marble represents one pound. I weigh myself in the morning and each day that I'm down I move adequate marbles over. The best part of keeping it in the kitchen? It's a wonderful, visual reminder of what I'm working toward.
2.) Working out in the morning (sleep in your workout clothes for encouragement!)
3.) Drinking ice water. Lots of it.
4.) Not cutting out my favorite foods/desserts, just limiting my portion size.
5.) Getting adequate sleep
6.) Make an awesome playlist that I want to listen to for my workout.
7.) Don't eat while watching TV (it encourages mindless eating)
8.) Make it an exercise you enjoy (I love swimming, so on Friday's, I will swim!)
9.) Eat breakfast.
10.) Take progress pictures and measure more than what the scale reflects.

If you have any other tips that have helped you, or ideas for motivation, please share!

So far, I am down 4 pounds. It doesn't seem like much, but it's progress toward my eventual goal, which has an end date of March 22 (my 24th birthday) and a 5k run in Berea that I am determined to do, and do well.


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In fall food pinterest recipes soup vegetable soup

Frugal Vegetable Soup

Fall foods are so comforting.
Really, I love the hearty soups, spicy chili, and pumpkin spiced desserts.
Of course, my Pinterest feed is overflowing with new recipes. So when I saw a recipe for vegetable soup, I pinned it, and then tweaked it based on what I would actually want to eat.

Brave for me, but in the end totally worth it because it was delicious!

So here's my recipe:

1 Can Corn (drained)
2 Cans Mixed Vegetables (drained)
2 Cans Diced Tomatoes
4 Beef Bouillon Cubes
2 Cups Water
1 Bag Baby Carrots
Onion Powder (a few shakes)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients into crock pot and cook on low 4-8 hours.

Seriously, it's that simple. You could also cook in on the stovetop and have it in probably 45 minutes, but I'm really big on the crockpot because if I work 9-5 I love coming home to dinner that's ready to eat. And (since I already had the beef bouillon) it only cost about $5 and was enough for three adults, two toddlers, with leftovers!


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In being a mom Motherhood parenting toddler

Dear Non-Mom

Dear not-yet-a-mom,
   I see you give me that look when my toddler is screaming loudly through the juice aisle of WalMart. That look that plainly says, When I have children, they will not act like that.

I'm torn between laughing at you and feeling sorry for you. See, you have no idea what it really means to raise a toddler.

Maybe you've spent some time babysitting, or helping out in the nursery at church. You think you have some idea how to make children mind. But until you have your own, you don't have a clue.

A toddler is a trying little creature: they are adorable, they give hugs, and they are just starting to understand things. They can have preferences in food and toys, and they are getting acquainted with their desires. But they do not understand that screaming and running around at the park is acceptable, while doing the same thing during a prayer at church is not. The concept of "wait" is pig latin, and "patience" is meaningless.

The other thing to know about toddlers? They all have distinct personalities and react to different things. Some babies pick up on sign language and use that to convey what they want. Some scream. Some cry. Some throw an all out tantrum.

Personally, mine uses sign language when he's calm, but if he's already upset, he screams. Loudly.
So when he doesn't want to be strapped in the buggy at the grocery store anymore, he screams and cries and, if he can get close enough to a shelf, tries to knock things off.

And, before you suggest that when he throws a tantrum I should pick him up and leave to teach him a lesson, I must ask you for your time-turner. Because I don't think any mom has time to leave and come back every time her child decides he or she isn't pleased.

I do take a little joy in knowing that you will one day understand this, because if you ever have children of your own you will rethink nearly all of what you believed prior to motherhood. And I hope that you find a group of supportive mom friends like I have to assure you that no matter how you choose to discipline and raise your child, you are still a good mom.

A real mom of an actual toddler

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In INFJ introvert Myers Briggs personality test


So a friend of mine recently posted a blog about the 16 personalities, and her exploration of her own personality type.

I didn't want to copy her (sorry Gabby!) but ever since I took the test, I have been amazed at what a difference it makes to understand myself a little better.

The Myers Brigg personality test has you answer many multiple choice questions and in the end gives you a four letter identity. I took the test multiple times on multiple sites, and every single time, I was an INFJ.

This type of personality is the rarest, making up between 1 and 3 percent of the population and has a unique way of looking at the world.
INFJ's are introverted, but can be confused and thought to be extroverted because they enjoy observing and taking part in the social world.
They hold strong in their beliefs and morals, can be stubborn, must have a plan, take to leadership well, and tend to have strong written skills.
INFJ's see pattern' and connections easily, and store details about people.
They don't open up to just anyone, and when they do let someone in, they hold that person to high standards.

Any of this sound right?

Because as I was reading multiple sites with information, I couldn't help but be surprised at how dead on it was. I read some to Nathan, and he completely agreed. I am stubborn, and a compulsive planner. I take on projects and I am firm in my moral beliefs. I know Nathan and Lindsay (my best friend) so well that it sometimes surprises them.

But what surprised me the most was how much it helped me to read all of the information I could find. I knew that I needed downtime after any social engagement (even if I just go to Wal*Mart and run into several people I know). But I had never actually planned for it. Now I have started to make an effort to spend thirty minutes a day by myself, reading or writing, and thinking. It has made me calmer and gives me more energy.

It has also helped me to realize that, not everyone thinks like I do. I get upset when Nathan can't remember what I order at a favorite restaurant, but not everyone studies people the way that I do. I study their interactions, style, expressions, phrases, preferences, and beliefs. I store that information, which (I admit) is a little weird. It's helpful to me, though, because I like to plan surprises and sweet gestures for friends, and if I don't know them well, I couldn't do that.

I would encourage you to go take the test, it may be completely off base, or it may help you to understand yourself a little better, and who wouldn't want that?


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In food stamps. judgement


I live basically paycheck to paycheck.

I'm not a frivolous, illogical, spend-money-on-whatever-I-want person. I make sure my family, my pets, and my household, has what it needs to function. I keep a small savings account so that when my car breaks down, my child needs medicine, or I get too sick to work for a couple days, I can still survive.

But there was a time when my family and I couldn't even live paycheck to paycheck. We had to get help from the government in the form of food stamps so we could all eat. And every time I went grocery shopping with it, dressed well from a class presentation, and yes, with a smartphone, I got looks. Judged.

Clearly I was abusing the system.

Or, I cleaned up good for a drug addict, because of course someone that can't afford to feed their family must be spending their money on something illegal.

Or I was just to lazy too get a job, I mean there are "We're hiring" signs at every fast food joint in town.

And obviously I had to be a single mom and slut if I was shopping with my son using food stamps, because a family wouldn't have to rely on the government for their groceries.

I'm not kidding, I started only using the self checkout and trying to hide the card I was using just to avoid the looks I got and judgement I clearly felt.

My husband and I both have bachelor's degrees from a reputable college. We both have strong resumes, good references, and skills that would make us valuable employees.

We work hard, watch our spending, and care for our son.

By all means, we should be living the American Dream.

Two well-educated, hard working, married individuals, and we have had to rely on a program that people are begging to be cut funding.

I am tired of shaming those that are brave enough to go find help for their families.
Trust me, it is embarrassing enough to hand over your paystubs, your identification, and answer endless questions about why you need help. To sit in a bleak, clinical office with metal folding chairs for furniture.
Sitting in that office is not the first choice of anyone, but sometimes there isn't another option.

So next time you see a girl in front of you pulling out her EBT card, consider there is more to her story. Don't be that person that makes it worse by looking down on her while she tries to ring up her milk and bread at the checkout.

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In learning marriage standards

Learning to Give in my Marriage

I keep very high standards for myself.

Sometimes, unrealistically high.

My house has a certain standard of cleanliness I strive to maintain at all times.
My appearance has a certain criteria to meet before I can go to work.
My blog writing has to be proofread and edited many times before I can post it.

It's partly my personality:
I lean toward perfectionism and live in constant worry of being deemed inadequate.

But that isn't my husband's personality at all (Opposites attract, right?).
To him, there's no problem going to sleep with baby toys strewn about the living room.
Heading to work and haven't had a chance to shave? Not a big deal.

Though we try, neither or us really understand why the other acts the way they do.
At first, it was a little infuriating for me. I wanted him to change and become more like me: I wanted him to have high standards to live up to. But I'm sure he wanted me to relax. To let the toys lay on the floor overnight, especially since they aren't hurting anything.

So I'm trying to learn to give.
To not critique him for not loading the dishwasher the same way that I would have done it. To refrain from getting upset when I find his socks on the living room floor again. These actions aren't hurting anything, they just don't fit in with my view of how things should be done.

Nearly two years into marriage, I'm finally realizing that maybe I don't need him to live up to all my standards, but to give him some grace and let him live by his standards. And maybe it's time to give a little and let go of some of my ideas of how things should be, and instead be happy with how things are.


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In blogging facebook instagram oversharing social media twitter


I love blogging.
And Facebook.
And Instagram.
And Twitter...

I enjoy getting to see what is happening in everyone else's life. I like posting pictures of Jace, writing about events I'm passionate about, and feeling connected to people that I don't always get to see face-to-face.

But I have discovered a problem.
Let's call it "oversharing."

For example:
I do not need to know the intimate details of your fight with your significant other (if he left you at home to go to the bar again, that sounds like a conversation you should have with him)

I really don't care to see the 75 pictures you took of your child in the same place and pose (seriously, one or two will suffice of her on the same swing.)

It doesn't matter to me that feel your girlfriend doesn't adequately show you love (maybe you should have that conversation with her instead of shaming her online?)

And I am genuinely scarred by the picture of your boyfriends body hair. (Yes, you find his body cute. I don't need to see it thanks)

Sometimes, though, I worry that I press the border of becoming that person. Reading this blog allows for anyone to know about my husband and my son. About what I believe in. What I think about. My work, plans, and sometimes day to day life.

Now, I do think blogging is a little different than other social media, because you must choose to go specifically to my blog. But on Facebook you can be scrolling though your news feed and be instantly subjected to any number of images and text that you simply did not want to encounter.

Why do we do that? Do we no longer enjoy a private life that actually leaves the world out of some of our business?
Maybe it's because I tend to be introverted and enjoy time to myself, but I don't want the world to know every detail. I like that there are details of my life that only my husband knows. Because, to me, some thoughts and memories are meant to be kept to yourself.
Not to mention, there would be a whole lot fewer embarrassed people if they thought twice before they hit "post."

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In observation phone Technology

Phoneless Freedom

On Saturday morning I woke up to find that my phone refused to charge. I plugged it in, it didn't recognize that it was plugged in. We attempted to switch the battery to see if that was the problem. It is, but it's not the only problem. So, since Saturday, I have been without a phone.

Strangely, I kind of like it.

I have actually been so much more productive and engaging without the option to zone out into Facebook for 10 minutes. And, of course, once I check Facebook, I have to look at Instagram. After that I might as well check Twitter. Then it makes sense to look at my email, make sure I haven't missed anything important. Oh at that point I may as well look on Pinterest too.

Next thing you know, I have totally disengaged from whatever I wanted to work on to stare at a tiny screen for 30+ minutes.

But for the past few days, if I wanted to check my online accounts, I had to get out my laptop, and it was more purposeful. I intended to get online, not ended up there on accident.

As a result, I have done more reading, more projects around the house, and made more of an effort to focus on what I'm doing. It's been nice.

Of course, there are also inconveniences that result from being so dependent on a phone for so long. Like, setting an alarm to wake up. I've used my phone as an alarm for ages, it's just easy and effective. I can't send a quick text or call anyone, which makes my reliability limited. Plus, I keep a calendar on my phone to help me stay organized. I have missed all those details, and for those reasons I am looking forward to getting a new phone very soon (hopefully tonight or tomorrow).

But it was interesting to see just how much I could accomplish without the constant distraction that is my phone, and I would like to make an effort to limit the time I spend on it. I think that disconnecting from my phone will help me better connect with what I'm actually doing in the here and now, which is a much better way to live.


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In fall food peanut butter soup recipes

Peanut Butter Soup!

This is a fall and winter favorite in my house, and I will just admit now that any guest I have every prepared this for has asked for the recipe. So here it is, step by step.

Peanut Butter Soup

1 C onion diced
1 Tbs. garlic
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
.5 tsp. cayenne pepper
.5 C carrot
.5 C celery
.25 C red bell pepper
2 C sweet potato
4 C chicken broth
2 C cooked chicken
1 can diced tomatoes
.5 C peanut butter (or more if you love PB)

Chop up all veggies into bite sized pieces (as small as you want.)
Saute onion, garlic, chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper until onion becomes soft.
Add carrots, celery, red bell pepper, sweet potato and cook for a few minutes.
Add chicken broth, chicken, diced tomatoes and peanut butter and bring to a boil.
Then reduce heat and let simmer for at least 10 minutes.

Yesterday when I made it I decided to make it in the crockpot instead, so I cooked all the ingredients on high for 3 1/2 hours and enjoyed :) Either way it tastes great!

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In career jobs post-grad student

When are you going to get a grown up job?

First of all, ouch.

This has been weighing on me heavily of late, and after a conversation with my sister, I better understood why. We were talking about how tough it is to find a job and get into grad school, and figure out what you will really be successful at in a career. And she told me what my parents have said about me, but not actually to me.

They're afraid I'm not going to make it.

I went to college, but since I decided not to complete the program to become a high school teacher, they now seem to doubt I will do anything with my life. Right now I work seasonal jobs, with no medical benefits or retirement hopes, and those are clearly not "grown up jobs."

This is not due to a lack of trying on my part. I have applied for full time employment, but it has yet to happen. And I have a plan that makes these "not so grown up jobs" make perfect sense. While working part time and seasonally, I can go back for my master's, something I have always wanted to do. I can do online courses, get my degree, and then get into what my real dream job is: teaching at the college level.

I want to be an English professor, and to work at a major university I would need a doctorate, but to start out teaching a Master's would suffice. I can see this happening, and I know the work I would be required to put in to make it happen.

But my parents, and many other adults in the world, look at me and see a 23 year old mother who has yet to grow up.

It's insulting.
It's frustrating.
And it is a completely unfair judgement.

So the next time you see someone that has yet to embrace a 40-hour a week 9-5 for the next 40 years job, consider that maybe there is something else happening in their life. Perhaps, just perhaps, they know more about their plans than you do, and maybe they are going to make it after all.


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In faith reading recommendations

Book Review: Proof of Heaven

I don't read nearly as much as I would like to. Honestly, I barely have time to post a blog now and again or write in my poor neglected journal. I do try to carve out the time to enjoy a book, but when schedule's get hectic, reading for pleasure is the first thing to go!

Which is one more reason I'm lucky to have my new job. I get a mandatory three breaks each day, and I have chosen to use that time to read. This past week I managed to finish a book I've been wanting to read for months now, called Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander. I'm not a super scientific person, but the chance to read a neurosurgeon's experience into the afterlife just seemed too important to pass up.
First, it is a little self-indulgent. The author really is telling his experience, and his own life story. It is a cross between an autobiography and the account of this experience. But it is still well worth the time, in my opinion. Personally, I believe in heaven, but the author had a more scientific point of view until his brain stopped functioning and he experienced what happens beyond earthly life.
What was really interesting to me was that Alexander clearly could not find adequate words to describe his experience. Anyone that writes can tell you that there are moments you just cannot find the right word to capture the emotions and importance of the message you are trying to convey, but I did appreciate Alexander's effort.
To me, the most important part of the book was the message that there is nothing you can do to separate yourself from the Creator and that you are loved. You are loved unconditionally on earth and beyond. It's a message we hear in church, but if you take the time to think about it, it's a beautiful reassurance in life, and it helps me to live more optimistically and show more compassion.


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In controversy feminism Motherhood my experience raising a boy sexism the future generation

The Viewpoint of a Woman with a Son

Not trying to be white noise, but over the past few days a couple blogs have gone viral regarding how men look at women. Specifically young men looking at women who wear less rather than more.
For me, I see both sides.
I know what it is like to be the teenage girl that is ignored by boys. That sees all the attention going to a girl that accentuates her cleavage, and wanting to do the same. But I also know that it is even harder today, because our society is so clicked in to social media. Even today I fall victim to the trap of "How many likes/retweets/favorites can I get on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram?" Growing up when MySpace was just beginning, I got a small taste of the desire to be liked via social media. I cannot imagine if it had been a major influence in my life from my pre-teen years on.
Yet at the same time that I understand it, I also want to encourage girls to have the self-worth to ignore the beckoning of IG bra shots. Try getting likes for a brilliant status update, or a breathtaking image showing your creativity rather than your body. It's hard in this time to get a boy's attention without showcasing your physical attributes, but that brings me to my next point.

I have a son. While he is too young now to understand, it will not be too many years before he begins to look at women differently than men. I will not block one of his friends if she posts a seductive image on Facebook, but I will have a conversation with Jace. I will not shame him for looking (because as humans we ALL notice each others physical attributes), but I will ask him if he sees his friend as more than a body. Does he know her hobbies, her passions, what books she loves to read? I will ask him what he has in common with her, what does she believe in, and what does he admire about her personality? I will help him to see her as a person, no matter how she portrays herself online. And with many of the generation I know that are raising young men today, I have hope for the little girls that so many of my friends are about to bring into this world. I have hope that the young men growing up will see women as equals and as partners, whether they wear a hijab or a bikini top everywhere they go.


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In appreciation Berea Kentucky small town

Appreciating Your Surroundings

This is my second week working with Berea Tourism, and I like my co-workers, enjoy the job, and am adjusting to the hours and scheduling. But what I am enjoying most about my job is how it is making me appreciate my little town.
At age 18, upon arriving in Berea, it was my college town. It had a Wal*Mart within walking distance and that's all I really needed to know. Being from Northern Ohio, I believed some of the Kentucky stereotypes, and didn't have much desire to interact with the world outside of the college campus. Obviously, over the last five years that has drastically changed, but I don't think I really appreciated the uniqueness of this small town and the beauty of the state until I began learning more about it and talking to others about what to see and do in Berea.
See, I spend nearly eight hours a day telling travelers and tourists about what makes Berea unique. I get to talk about our studio artists down in Old Town, the college and it's tuition-free approach for low-income students, and the plethora of events going on across the state at any given time. I've learned so much in my short time working for tourism and it's made me determined to take advantage of the opportunities that come with living in a small artist town.
So today I made a "Fall To-Do List" for my small family to enjoy. Here is a sampling:
Visit Flat Lick Falls
Hot Air Balloon Glow
Spoonbread Festival
Glass Blowing Class with Michelle Weston

All of these events/places are so close to us, and I want make the effort to go out and appreciate them! Who knows, maybe I'll stumble upon a new artistic niche (since so far writing is my only one!).


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In God hope optimist patience trust


I'm not a patient person.
Yes, that is a flaw. I own up to my flaws, even if I am working to change them, I accept what they are. But sometimes I need to learn to trust that things will work out. That if I am willing to do the work and put forth the effort, things will fall into place.
Since my pool season ended, as I knew it would, I began looking months ago for part time employment, all the time hearing nothing back from anywhere. It was discouraging and frustrating, but I kept doing the work. I filled out applications, sent in resumes, then when the pool actually closed, panicked a little.
But sometimes timing is so poetic.

On my last payday from the pool, I got a phone call for an interview.

I went to that interview today, I was hired in the room.

I start my new job, which sounds wonderful, has good hours, and even a mostly set schedule, on Wednesday. As in, two days from now. Which means I was officially out of work for 13 days.

I'm choosing to believe there is a reason things happened the way they did. That I needed those 13 days as a break from working because I had worked so many hours this summer. That God knew what he was doing as I worked on my applications and LinkedIn account. And now I can stop panicking, and trust that there was no reason to panic in the first place, just to work diligently and learn to trust.


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In adventures being a mom books library reading

Off to the Library We Go!

 Today has been a lovely Saturday for Jace and I. We met up with a couple friends for lunch at BC&T then, on a whim, went to the public library. This was Jace's first trip to the library, and he loved it.
I picked up a couple books I've been wanting to read, then we hit the children's section. First, I'd like to give serious props to the Madison County Library for having a wonderful, diverse, and engaging children's section. There are educational computer games, toys, puzzles, and of course a ton of books. Jace picked out a Curious George book (which may have had something to do with the bright yellow color), and made friends with a little girl who was putting together puzzles.

It's weird that I hadn't thought about taking Jace to the library before now, because I have such fond memories of my own childhood in the Newton Falls Public Library. I remember getting the Boxcar Children books, taking part in Summer Reading Contests, attending programs, and learning how to use the computer. I would meet up with my friends there during middle school to study and work on group projects, and would struggle to walk out the front door because of how many books I was carrying. My mom took us once a week during the summer so we could all get books, and one of my prized possessions was my library card. 
I want Jace to have that as well: I want him to feel comfortable checking out books and reading what he wants. And I think starting now is as good a time as any for him to learn the magic of the library. 


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In change changing seasons lifeguard managing pool summer Work

Changing Seasons

My work-too-many-hours-a-week-get-an-awesome-tan-learn-to-manage-a-pool-summer has ended.
The pool closed on Sunday, and Justin and I are just about finished with the winterizing process so the pool will be set to open and run for the 2014 season. I'm so thankful for this summer: it provided great laughs, good work experience, awesome stories, and led to great friendships. As usual, I have some common sense rules that we should apparently post after some of the crazy instances we had at the pool.

My Adjusted Rules
- If your belly covers the bottom half of your bikini so well that the guards freak out and think there's a half naked woman walking the deck, it's probably time for a new swimsuit (maybe a one piece please?)
-  If you weren't allowed to have a Polar Pop on the deck because it isn't water, you're probably also not allowed to have the blue slushie you bought. Yes, even if it is from the pool's concession stand.
- If you chose to tattoo the word B*tch on your back in pretty cursive, you cannot blame the guards for giggling when you walk past. Please remember, they've worked 8 hours in the hot sun before you even arrived for Free Family Swim.
- If you jump off a diving board into 12' of water feet first, you're not going to just hit the bottom and push up. And when that happens, you probably shouldn't fight the lifeguard that's trying to save you.
- The lifeguards yell "Don't run" for a reason. Seriously, unless you enjoy the sight of your own blood, just slow it down.
- There is no music in the world that makes everyone happy, so showing up to the manager's office to say that our music sucks, is not going to help your case. It's better than silence, so enjoy the family friendly music and remember, you haven't heard this CD 4,298,557,503 times like all the guards here.

But, I have some wonderful memories from this summer. Our staff beat my highest expectations and it was so clear that they had become friends by the end of the season. We played foursquare on slow days and thunder breaks, found a slip'n'slide, played sharks and minnows, and bonded in the horror of Free Family Swim. I loved my summer, and I'm adjusting to the idea of "What's next?". My schedule may have changed week to week, but I was very comfortable at my pool. I'm trying, however, to be optimistic and confident that something will come along for me next.


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In Crohn's disease relief


I was rarely sick as a child, not often at the doctor's, and was excellent at avoiding the hospital. I am lucky to have good health, a strong immune system, and the stubborn belief that my body can heal itself. My husband was not so lucky: he is so comfortable in a hospital that it sometimes frightens me.
So when we got news that his medicine had stopped working for his Crohn's he was prepared for it, and prepared for the idea of surgery or a stem cell transplant.
I was not.
We have spent the last couple weeks living in a world of "what if," while juggling scenario's of moving, of complications, of never naturally conceiving more children etc.

Thankfully, Nathan's doctor from childhood is very thorough. Nathan was able to talk to her yesterday and find more livable options for us. She found two medications that are rather new and that may work for him. Even if they only work for a couple years, that would give us the time we would need to settle more with our family and have the chance to have more children. It would also give the stem cell trials time to become more routine and more widespread, possibly eliminating our need to move in order for Nathan to have that treatment. Of course, nothing is set in stone, and things could change, but this gives me hope that there are more options and as time goes on we may have better choices for Nathan's health.

I cannot find the words to correctly express the amount of relief that I feel knowing that our lives do not have to get suddenly uprooted. We can continue to live in a town that we have grown to love, with the friends that have become family, and the community that we are proud to be part of. I can work part time and be with my toddler. My husband can be healthy (by his standards) and we can work to watch diet and activity level to help the new medication work. I am grateful, I am at peace, and I am so relieved.


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In being a mom blessed Fair love toddler

My Child is a TODDLER.

My baby isn't really a baby anymore. Seriously.
He is full on into toddler-hood.
And I have evidence.

1.) He walks. 
Yep, it's no longer a couple little steps here and there, he stands up from a sitting position and GOES. He is fearless, no matter how many times he may fall.

2.) He makes decisions. 
He will go out to the cupboard in the kitchen, open it (if I've forgotten to baby-lock it) and retrieve a packet of fruit snacks which he will then bring to me so I can open it.

3.) He has a wicked little sense of humor. 
He knows what to do that's funny but troublesome. For example, the other night we went to our church pool party. Arriving home, I just put the bag of towels, keys, sippy cups etc. on the floor. Without me knowing, he got into the bag and grabbed my keys. My house, car and work keys. He crawled upstairs and hid them. The next morning I literally crawled around my house for over an hour hunting for them. I found them: hidden in my bedroom.

4.) He gets excited and happy.
We went to the Madison County Fair tonight: Jace's second time to a fair. Last year he was a three month old baby: it didn't matter to him where we were as long as he got fed and was able to sleep. Tonight I could see joy in my little one's eyes as he rode his first rides, got a balloon animal, and played at the petting zoo. The ride home he babbled and smiled, and I swear I could see appreciation there. He was grateful to have gone with us and had such a good time.

On one hand, I miss his infant-hood and his dependence on me. Because he is a very independent and adventurous little toddler. But I love to watch him learn and grow. I feel so much pride when I see his desire to walk on his own, but look back to make sure Mommy is following. I truly could not have imagined a better life and family than I have, even in stressful times.


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