Sunday, July 20, 2014

Life as of Late: Striking a Balance

This summer has challenged my pursuit of the intentional life, a life where I feel in-tune and connected to the moments as they fly away.  We have had a lot of fun and made a lot of memories, but I have had to work hard to make sure all that happened.  It has definitely been intentional--as in I had to basically force myself to take a time out from my responsibilities to my education and make an investment of time in my family and my own well-being.

It's been rough, but even the workload from my graduate courses has been contributing to my spirit; though stressful and time-consuming, I truly love what I do.  I love the reading and writing and researching that come along with advanced studies in English.  It's why I look forward so much to teaching at the college level, and why I dream about someday pursuing my Ph.D.  The unexpected thing has been how interested Adam has been in a lot of my studies.  He has asked questions and listened patiently as I explained the plots of several books, and even filled in some gaps in my knowledge of British history.  It was kind of endearing to see how proud he was of me when he practically forced me to explain one of my theories about Uncle Venner from The House of the Seven Gables to my mom during breakfast on vacation.

So while life as of late has involved lots of sitting and turning pages and squinting at computer screens, it has also brought a tremendous sense of accomplishment and balance to me and my little family. Here's a rundown of what has been making us feel so great.

A New Favorite Book! 

In some ways, that's not saying much because I have quite a few favorite books.  But in other ways, it's pretty spectacular because it's been a long time since I have added to my list of favorite classics. Interestingly, this one was published around the same time as one of my other all time faves, The Great Gatsby.  I haven't read anything else by Willa Cather (I know, I can't believe it either!), but I feel like I will now...once I get finished with all the other reading I'm required to do during the next ten months. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about this spectacular novel, check it out on Goodreads.

Other books I've read and actually liked this summer: Oroonoko, A Simple Story, Northanger Abbey, The House of the Seven Gables, The American. And a killer Hemingway story called "Big Two-Hearted River" from In Our Time.

Some New Favorite Recipes & Kitchen Organization! 

I've been cooking up a storm!  I'm actually kind of proud of myself.  I really enjoy cooking, but it's one of the first things that goes when I get stressed out and overwhelmed.  It's so easy to get in a habit of ordering out.  Last week, we really enjoyed feta-stuffed chicken burgers and lots of grilled veggies.  We also had chicken stir-fry with broccoli, yellow bell peppers (the red ones at Kroger looked old), and cashews.  

As an evening treat, we tried popcorn sprinkled with PB2, and it turned out really delicious. If you haven't tried PB2, I highly recommend it as a diet alternative to full-fat peanut butter. I know there are some debates out there regarding its elimination of the healthy fats in the original, but as long as your diet is balanced elsewhere and it is used during dieting rather than over the course of your lifetime, I don't see the harm. 

Another simple treat we tried just today was pretzel nuggets drizzled with melted chocolate chips. Of course some of us ate more chocolate than pretzels during the process, but it was a really fun low-point snack to make with Bella.  

I've been making my meal plans and grocery lists on Google Docs these past couple of weeks, and I have to say that I love how organized it makes me.  Tracking points and keeping track of recipes has been effortless.  Keeping my plan, recipes, and list all together has helped me stay focused on healthy eating, and I have lost five pounds since I got back on Weight Watchers, so it seems to be working!  I really like the portability, too, since I scan foods in the grocery store with the WW app and then can switch back over to my grocery list in the Docs app.  I think it will be great during the school year, because I can recycle weeks that I've already created.  Here's what the upcoming week looks like, in case you're interested: 

Getting a Little Crafty!

I can't believe I actually took the time to do it, but we made our first seashell stepping stone.  It was actually way easier than I thought...probably because Adam gladly did the hard work of mixing up the concrete.  We only had enough concrete on hand to make one, but we are going to make more because it was so easy and fun! We used a disposable baking pan as the form, so it ended up having these really cute scalloped edges, and because it was quick set concrete, we were able to remove it from the pan after just a few hours.  

Obviously we have more than enough shells to do this again...

How stinking cute is this?

Bella also finally decorated her daisy pot and planted the flowers.
Now I just have to overcome my black thumb and help her get them to grow. Oh, boy. 

Lots of Planning, Listing, and Pinning!

One of the things I have learned from meditation is that when thoughts arrive when you don't want them or need them, you have to address them anyway and then let them go.  So when you're meditating and you start trying to remember if you put butter on the grocery list, you acknowledge the thought and file it away for later as quickly but gently as you can, so you can get back to the important business at hand.  Thinking about August has been like that for me all summer.  It keeps creeping up and threatening to derail my focus, but I address it and let it go.  

This means anytime I think about something that needs to be done around the house or something I need to work on for school, I have to do something about it, but that "something" can't be too intrusive because it's not yet the time or place for me to worry about it.  For me, that means planning and listing. I try to give my mind over to those topics when I'm doing something mundane like washing dishes or vacuuming.  Then, I go to my running list on my phone and add whatever seems pertinent before moving on.  I know I can safely focus on today and that those thoughts of the future have been preserved.  Because I'm a big time planner, this is really important to my sanity.  Pinterest works in much the same way for me. When I know I'm pinning things for my classroom or for the re-decorating and cleaning projects I'm planning for next week, it's safe for my brain to move on. And that helps me on an even bigger scale because it allows me to live in the moment, something that can be hard for my planner's brain to do!

It's pretty harmonious around here. Striking this balance helps me feel powerful, effective, and well-rounded.  Gotta love summer, right? Here's to hoping my tune is this positive a month from now!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My life in these verbs

Thanks to Ashley at Mrs. Mama for this idea. She's the only blogger I read consistently. Click here to check her out!

Making: Well, we haven't started yet, but we have gathered the materials to make seashell stepping stones for the yard using shells we collected last week at the beach. There were so many shells all over the place every day, and I was really surprised at how disinterested Arabella was in picking them up. She changed her tune a little when I told her we could make something with them when we got home. 

Cooking: I have actually been cooking! The past few months were plagued by a cooking rut, but my recent (like, in the last couple of days) rededication to Weight Watchers has motivated me to get back at it. I started out by choosing recipes from the WW site on Sunday before going to Kroger. Tonight we had chicken with grape tomatoes, garlic, and basil, grilled in foil packets, along with brown rice and fresh veggie kabobs courtesy of Nana and Poppy's garden. 

Drinking: Lots of flavored water and coffee. I'm trying not to drink pop, even though I drink diet and it's usually caffeine-free. I'm in love with Simple Truth blueberry blackberry flavor and the Metro Mint brand orange spearmint flavor. I also like Skinnygirl white cherry. 

Reading: Today is actually my day off from reading since I had a writing assignment due. Yesterday I read several short stories by Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, and Ernest Hemingway. I liked them all very much. Tomorrow I begin the novel The Professor's House by Willa Cather. 

Wanting: To go shopping. Both my budget and my diet are keeping me in check on this one. I don't need any clothes for work, but there's just something about going back to school that fuels the shopping bug. I guess years of advertising and ingrained consumerism are working on me. I'm hoping that I can make it until late September or even October before I really invest in my wardrobe. Even then, I know I will be as thrifty as possible, and I will hopefully be a few sizes smaller!

Looking: At beach photos. I've spent a few hours tonight getting photos from both of our phones and our camera into our Dropbox and on Shutterfly. I usually procrastinate a ton on uploading photos and doing anything with them, so I thought now would be a good time to get the ball rolling. I plan to make a 20x30 collage print with the best ones and get an extra copy to display in my classroom. 

Playing: Anything outside. I'm trying to get Arabella outside every day for as long as I can get her to stay there. We have spent some time at a couple of parks this month, and obviously we were outside a ton last week in Ocean Isle. Today was gorgeous and cool with a great breeze, so she played in the backyard with the dog while I worked on my assignment. This evening, she rode her bike a little. She gets really frustrated with it and tries to give up, but she did the best tonight that she has ever done with it. 

Wishing: For everything in the next year or so to work out as I'm hoping. This fall, I'm taking Shakespeare and Technical Writing (two separate courses, though the combination might prove interesting) and teaching about four times more AP kiddos than last year, and I'm scared to death. I'll take two more classes in the spring, plus studying for and *hopefully* passing the exit exam. In the midst of all that, and no one better tell my mama this because she'll kill me, I'm hoping to have another baby next year. Plus, after this upcoming school year, I hope to be teaching College English. I feel like if I can make it through the next two years, I can make it through anything. 

Enjoying: Summertime! There simply isn't anything like it. Summer vacation is a poor reason to become a teacher, though I've heard some people confess it as their motivation, but it definitely makes up for the stress of August to May. 

Waiting: For Arabella to fall asleep. The last month has gotten our routine all out of whack. And what little bit of routine we clung to was destroyed by late nights and sharing a bed on vacation. I've spent the last two nights insisting that she sleep in her own bed and she's resisting. 

Needing: A great idea for my next big paper. I got a good grade on my last one and I was super proud of it. I had an idea for the biggie, but when I ran it by the professor, he said he liked it but that I should branch out and write this one about a different book rather than focusing on The House of the Seven Gables all month. I don't really want to LOL. I have a vague notion about Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River," but I don't have time for vague notions since the annotated bibliography is due Friday. And it's a major conference-style paper, which I've never written before...basically, it's like a twenty-minute speech. Cray. 

Smelling: Coffee. Specifically Peet's Coffee, Major Dickason's blend. It's a dark roast that I make in the Keurig, and that I definitely should not be drinking at 11:00 at night. 

Wearing: Shorts! I don't usually wear shorts, and I still avoid wearing them in public, but I have embraced at least wearing them around the house this summer. I got a couple of pairs of Everlast shorts at K-Mart a few weeks ago and I'm loving them. I also have some that are technically pajamas that I wear around here on lazy days when I have reading and writing to do. And since it's cold tonight, I'm wearing a new jacket I got last week on one of our trips to Sunset Beach. Because that's the beach where we got married, I love that this jacket says "Live Love Forever." 

Following: I've started following the Tone It Up girls on Spotify to get their workout playlists. I use the free version of Spotify, which means I can't download the songs to access them offline and I have to use the random shuffle on playlists, but I don't mind one bit. I also follow fitsugar playlists, which include music for cooldown and relaxation. And for our vacation, I found some cool roadtrip soundtracks on Spotify as well. 

Noticing: My blonde roots are coming back in. I'm going to try to hold off on coloring it for a few more weeks since I've spent way too much time and money on dying the underneath purple this summer. P.S. next summer, I might dye all my hair purple. It makes me so happy. 

Knowing: That summer is almost over. But that's okay. I'm ready for my Spaniard to get home! I will probably be camped out on her front porch before her flight even lands. No joke. 

Thinking: About what tattoo I want to get next. Adam has a great idea to get a compass on his shoulders with the coordinates for the spot where we got married. I was planning to get a tattoo in homage to my mama, but since he's getting one about us, I kind of feel obligated. And since he's going with the beach theme (seems like that's on our minds a lot lately, LOL), I thought I'd go the same route. I found a quote a like from a Tyler Knott Gregson poem: "the ocean was always you." I've also always liked the idea of his "You are the poem I never knew how to write and this life is the story I have always wanted to tell." Still undecided though. 

Pinning: Weight Watchers recipes, tattoo ideas, and school stuff. My Pinterest followers are probably super annoyed with me right now. 

Giggling: At this video a former student sent me on Twitter. I'm going to use it on the first day of school. 

Feeling: Empowered and at peace. 

June Goodbye, Hello July!

**Though published in July, this post was started in June amidst internet issues. When I logged in tonight to write a post, I found it hanging out in the drafts. Enjoy!

I'm tempted to ask, "Has there ever really been a bad June?" I mean, it's the harbinger of summer dreams and perfect time for sipping tea. But I do know that I have had a couple of pretty yucky Junes in my life. With that in mind, I look back on the last month with a tremendous sense of accomplishment and peace. It was a pretty exceptional 30 days.

It all started with Adam's birthday, which we celebrated by having dinner with friends and buying a new car. Yep. I got a car for Adam's birthday. Ha ha. It wasn't quite under the circumstances we originally planned, since we wanted to wait until next year, but ye olde Grand Prix decided it didn't like us anymore and we drove away with this gem.

Notice how I don't have any photos of his birthday dinner, but I have one of our car. 
In my defense, he took this and sent it to me. I promise. 

Now, as I've mentioned before, it has been a busy summer with my coursework, too. Still, we have manage to put 2000 miles on this bad boy since June 2nd. Remember, I'm not working. That's pretty impressive. So, in the midst of studying in about a gazillion random places, like friends' couches  and coffee shops...

we have also had adventures! 

the aquarium 

the Lexington Legends

the nature preserve 

storytime at the library


playing at the park with Aunt Shelley

and finishing up the fish pond

With all that excitement, I say bring on July!!