I'm Over It (Again)...

I'm Over It (Again)...

Well, friends, it's that time again... time for me to vent my spleen get some things out there that I'm pretty sure we're all thinking. Right? (Just smile and nod...)

I have put off this post for a little while (mainly because I've been horrifically busy) but I felt that today would be an appropriate time for it. (You know, because sunny Tuesdays are just ideal for a rant about my pet peeves.) So, without further ado, here are my newest grievances with humanity...

1. I am over songs that don't have an ending. You know, the kind that just repeat some type of tag line a zillion times as the music fades as if the artist is being carried away on a speeding train. This has bothered me since I was little (in age, not dress size!). Come on, people, is it too much to ask that you just simply end the song rather than slip away into the distance?

It's so much easier for us to enjoy the song if you will just end it properly rather than fade away like this.

2. I am over Justin Bieber (which I can say without any measure of fear of harrassment since, while my blog has no particular audience, my target demographic is decidedly not 14-year-old girls). I don't have anything against the Biebs personally (like the burning hatred some people seem to have towards him) but I just think the whole "white boi gangta" thing is WAY lame. I mean, really.

Besides, anyone who is responsible for the further perpetuation of words like "swag" deserves to be on this list. 

3. Speaking of "swag", I'm over it... along with the words/phrases "yolo", "seems legit", "like a boss", "that awkward moment when", and every other overused catchphrase made popular by Pinterest memes (or social media, or TV.) I understand that certain words just get popular (I remember when stuff was "tight", okay?) but these just seem a little out of control. Plus, they're annoying. (Right up there with "adorbs", "delish", and "EVOO"... oops, I guess I should have let Rachael Ray have her own bullet point! =) 

4. I am over the whole Magic Mike/Shades of Grey craze. I'm not about to get into all of the spiritual implications of this stuff that apparently some call entertainment (though you can read great posts about it here or here.) One is about strippers, and the other is porn... as a Christian, that's all I needed to hear to stay faaar away from them both. 

5. I'm over those who don't change the caption on their pins (on Pinterest, obviously.) I don't mean on EVERY SINGLE pin, because sometimes that's not necessary (for example, a pin that says "fall outfit" doesn't necessarily give a personal look at my opinion of it, so it's not really important for me to change it.) However, the re-pinning of the bookishly long descriptions are a little out of hand, or the ones that were CLEARLY not written by the re-pinner ("This would be adorable on my little Haley!" That's great, since you're single with no kids.) So, let's take a sec to change or abbreviate our pin descriptions, or at least rid them of personal anecdotes. Otherwise, a mysterious illness has befallen about 47 of my fellow pinners recently, because they ALL had surgery and they ALL had the same one-dish meal delivered to their house! What a crazy coincidence!

So, these are my jumbled thoughts for today. Not as many as last time, but maybe I'm growing more tolerant these days. (Ha, that can't be it.) Anyway, have a fabulous day and stay healthy... there's something going around (on Pinterest, anyway.)




Isn't it crazy how things can change so quickly that your emotions go from one extreme to another? Last July, Jonathan and I took a little trip for our first anniversary. We spent some time at the beach, shopped, and just had a great time together, especially enjoying the break from our summer job. That same weekend, things had worked out for my Mamaw to attend a family reunion in Tennessee. She had been caring for Papaw at home (he'd been bedridden for over 2 years) but at the last minute a spot opened up at the hospice center and he was accepted, so she made plans and (reluctantly) left to visit her family.

We got back from our trip in time for church on Sunday, and that night after church we stopped to see Papaw (and for me to feed him bites of my Wendy's Frosty). He seemed down, but since that was always the case when Mamaw wasn't around, I tried not to worry too much about it. The next day, my aunt mentioned that she thought he looked sick and spent some extra time at the hospice center. Again, I was concerned but certainly did not realize what was actually happening. 

Tuesday morning is a time I will never forget. I was at work, sitting on the playground (since we were trying to beat the heat, it was only about 9:00 am.) Aunt Peggy called and, sounding panicked, which is very unlike her, told me that Papaw was very sick and I needed to get down there quickly. I rushed to find Jonathan, grabbed the keys, and sped all the way to Kitty Askins Hospice Center. I can remember it so vividly... in fact, every time I drive past the exit for the center I relive that morning. I pulled in, not knowing what to expect, but when I saw him I knew it wasn't good. He was pale and drawn and looked significantly worse than he had a couple nights before. 

Aunt Peggy and I spent the next 14 hours in that room. I think we left a couple of times to get food. I was letting the family know, through lots of calls and mass texts, how Papaw was doing and updating them each time the nurses came to take his vitals. The next day was more of the same, but it wasn't until late Wednesday afternoon that the doctor advised us to call Mamaw to come home. Then, she shocked us by saying she wouldn't expect him to live past the next 48 hours. I'll never forget what I felt hearing those words. I'll never forget my mom and Mamaw walking in after a gruelingly fast trip home and feeling my heart break when they walked in the room. 

Over the next 24 hours, I'd continue updating the family when I could, making trips to the airport, and trying to get drinks and anything else to keep people in the room comfortable. (By the way, the hospice staff could not have been more sweet or kind or helpful. They were such a blessing, as were the dozens of friends from church who stopped by and helped in any way they could.) At 22, and the only grandchild living in town, I felt the responsibility of being "hostess" for the family members coming in- making sleeping arrangements, borrowing air mattresses, playpens for the babies, etc. I am so grateful to have been there with Mamaw.

By late Thursday night, we knew Papaw wouldn't be with us much longer. His breathing had continued to decline, his heart rate had decreased dramatically, and the nurses were just trying to keep him comfortable without drawing out the process. Saying goodbye to him, despite his years of illness and the measure of relief that accompanied the knowledge he would finally be "himself" again in heaven, was the hardest thing I've ever done. 

Typical "Papaw" and me.

Even though the first anniversary of his death isn't really until tomorrow, it was the a couple of nights before he went to heaven that I, alone with Aunt Peggy in his room, started this poem. I spent the next day getting it just right, and it was printed in the funeral program. These words sum up "Papaw" for me.

As I sit here and hold his hand,
The thought comes to my mind
That sometimes the type of life we planned
Becomes a different kind.

What should have been the golden years
Of travel, fun, and ease,
Instead have brought a lot of tears
And time spent on our knees.

Looking at him in this bed,
It’s so hard to compare
The Papaw who once boldly led
Through preaching and through prayer.

A man so full of life and strong,
His laughter full and loud;
With his quick wit did not take long
To be the life of any crowd.

He was such a funny mix
Of tough and teddy bear;
No problem that he couldn’t fix,
But with a smile quick to share.

He preached without apology
Against every type of sin,
But with a tear he’s humbly share
The work Christ did in him.

But then things changed and no one knew
Just where that man would go;
The problems that they faced just grew
And more began to show.

From month to month and day to day,
Things have slowly changed;
We’ve watched him as he’s slipped away;
Our plans again have rearranged.

But one thing has remained the same,
No matter how he felt;
His wife has never tried to blame
The Lord for what He’s dealt.

Her care has been the very best,
She’s with him day and night;
Rarely stopped to take a rest
From a burden far from light.

Like the lives they’ve always tried to live
Even in these trying days,
They’ve showed the joy that Christ can give
When we trust Him and obey.

I’ve sat here in this room today
And heard news most would call bad;
But knowing Papaw’s on his way
To meet the Lord, we can’t be sad.

There’ve been times for laughter,
And times we’ve had to cry;
But now the time has finally come
For us to say goodbye.

To our Papaw, husband, daddy, friend,
The list goes on and on.
His influence will never end
Even after he is gone.

If he could, I know he’d say,
“Oh please don’t cry for me!
 I’ve gone on the Eternal Way
To my precious Savior see.”

“The one I preached about so long
And shared with all I met;
Please let my legacy stay strong;
My message don’t forget.”

As he goes to meet his Savior,
And hear “My child, well done!”,
We’ll thank the Lord the battle’s over,
And the victory’s finally won.

No more suffering, no more pain;
While we’re grieving that he’s gone,
Our great loss is Heaven’s gain-
Our hero’s finally, truly home.

~Ashley Baines McNeese
  July 27, 2011


A Dream Come True...

A Dream Come True...

Two years ago today, I got married. Looking back, that was such a wonderful day; like any bride, I was floating on a cloud of love and dreams and had no idea what marriage was like (aside from the books I had dutifully read to prepare myself for this blessed event.) Since I was still in college and Jonathan would be teaching, I had a basic idea of what the next few months would be like, but anything beyond that was fuzzy at best.

A couple of kids, those two.

I would never have guessed the twists and turns our lives would take in the first two years of our marriage. From maintaining a full-time schedule at college (while taking a stab at the whole "housewife" thing) and starting off a teaching job (with no formal background in teaching), we both had our hands full. That transitioned to the two of us teaching, me for the first time, and an extremely rewarding but also uniquely challenging school year for both of us. And while we were certainly in God's will for us at the time, and serving Him full-time, Jonathan's dream has always been to be a children's pastor. He has an incredible gift (that I do not) for working with kids, and while he was involved in the children's ministry and had been for years, the desire to work with them on a full-time level was strong. 

So, in His wonderful way, the Lord allowed us a ministry opportunity where he gets to be just that- the children's pastor. And when I first heard that the dates of Vacation Bible School at our new church would coincidentally fall on our two-year anniversary, I was a little bummed. Through all the preparation (decorating, studying for lessons, buying snacks, etc.) I have been excited but, naturally, wished that our anniversary had fallen on, say, Jonathan's day off or something. 

But tonight, the kids gathered in the auditorium, and there was my husband, decked out in his Hawaiian shirt, lei, flamingo tie (which he was very proud of) and straw hat, welcoming the kids and basically having the time of his life (minus the nervous breakdown in the days leading up to tonight.)

He was loving it!

And at the moment (I know this is so sappy) but I almost teared up... mostly because I was proud of him but  also because I got to spend our anniversary helping and watching Jonathan serve in the way he has always dreamed of. And "Promise Island" was enough of an anniversary getaway for me, because it is the best feeling to see your husband throwing himself into serving and teaching kids about Jesus.

So, his "dream come true" was, by far, my best anniversary present. (Plus I got to teach wearing a straw hat, which I may do during school this year, because I was digging it! =)

I'm so thankful for these two years... and the many more to come!




Don't we all have that one person in our life that we try to avoid, simply because being around them is tedious at best? For me, at least when I lived at home, that person was Susan. She started attending our church when I was in high school, and to say the least, my already limited patience did not extend to her quirky ways and often embarrassing remarks.

This afternoon I was shocked to receive a call from my sister with the news that Susan died today.

What? Susan? How could this happen? She had provided us with plenty of stories over the years, from her point-blank honesty to the numerous, extra-long voicemails that always started and ended the same way, with some random message in between. But... dead? All of a sudden I was overwhelmed with sadness and began to think about Susan as a person.

She had a willingness to help, but in her own way- "Can you bring a bag of candy for VBS, Susan?" No, but 75 cans of Chef Boyardee were her contribution. Or an Alabama football mobile for my niece's princess-themed nursery. Or, after Dad mentioned a singer in church, a deluxe collector's edition of that person showed up on his desk. She was never one to bring what she was asked for, but what she did bring was always super generous. (Her "$20 pound cakes" were legendary! =)

She'd miss church for weeks but then show up with her multitude of bags, sitting in the back with her boyfriend, Trey. When she did come, she'd make sure that Preacher was taken care of, especially at fellowships. She'd check on his drink, dessert, whatever she thought he needed. She always talked to the kids, always had a greeting for everyone... even if that greeting was one of her less-than-subtle observations about someone's appearance (which were classic Susan).

Since that phone call, I've felt really down, and it's not just because Susan is gone. It's because I so regret the fact that I was really never that nice to her. Oh, I never told her she was annoying or that I would rather avoid her, but I basically ignored her when she was around. Looking back, I feel like a really selfish person. I mean, how hard would it have been to show kindness to her? She didn't have many friends, or even close relationships with a lot of her family. I know she loved my family. We didn't have to be best friends... but I could have at least spoken to her more than occasionally.

I can't believe that Susan is gone... that she won't be bustling into church with her plastic bags or bringing a case of some random item to the kitchen. Or that she won't be leaving messages for my mom... "Hey Mrs. Ginger, it's me Susan...", or giving baby advice to the moms in the nursery. What I really can't believe is that I won't have the opportunity to undo the way I viewed her, because it took her being gone for me to change my perspective. I very much regret that. But I will no longer put people in a box and convince myself that I don't need or have to talk to them, or show kindness. Everyone deserves a smile and a hello, no matter what they say or do.

That's what Susan taught me.


High Five for Friday...

High Five for Friday...

Woohoo... it's Friday! (That opener was approved by Captain Obvious.) This has been a REALLY, REALLY great week... mostly because the writing project I've been working on is finally DONE!!! THAT deserves its own spot in the line-up, because I feel like an enormous load has been lifted off my shoulders, but on to the rest of the list...

1. I made homemade bbq chicken in the crockpot (using the awesome Janssen's recipe... hers were prettier =). Oh, and those are garlic mashed potatoes (which I ate an embarrassingly large mound of... but it was worth it!)

2. I picked up this little blouse at Target today... for $6! Yes, I know... I totally don't need another coral shirt. But Since it's a darker color (closer to orange) that will also work in the fall, I fell for it. (I can pretty much talk myself into any Target purchase... Ob-viously.)

3. We had breakfast for dinner tonight (Jonathan's favorite) and I tried these amazing strawberry-banana muffins. I was nervous about them because I've never made muffins from scratch before, but they were so moist and yummy. (Oh, and I didn't exactly follow the recipe, since  I used regular flour and 2% milk.)

4. I got to Facetime with this little lady Tuesday night... she's such a ham. (Though she still refuses to say my name, she does sometimes start singing the Psych theme when she sees me, which is actually cooler. And she's adorable as always.)

5. Oh, and no big deal... just my early anniversary present... AN IPHONE 4S!!!! Yes, I am now one of those crazy iPhone people, and yes, I am ridiculously excited about it. Woohoo!!!! (And yes, my husband has earned himself enough brownie points to last a lifetime.)

That's it, everybody! As always, I'm linking up with the lovely Lauren at From My Grey Desk. Happy weekend... let's all enjoy these last few weeks of summer, since (groaning and moaning and gnashing of teeth) school is starting back all too soon. Sorry for bringing it up!


An Adventure (and the Black Eye to Show for It...)

An Adventure (and the Black Eye to Show for It...)

This past Friday, I experienced something that I honestly never thought would happen to me. (Although my rough and tough 12-year-old self would probably have consided it some type of "honor badge". Yes, I cringe.)

I got a black eye. And since my lovely mother posted a heinous picture on Facebook, I thought I'd go ahead and share how it happened. (Okay, I posted a picture too. I can't always let her take the fall for unwanted attention.) Really, I need to tell what happened so I can avoid responses like those I've already given a gazillion times...
"No, Jonathan didn't hit me."
"Yes, it hurts."
"No, I didn't try to cover it with makeup; that made it hurt worse."
"Yes, you should see the other girl. Eh he, hehehe." (insert fakest of fake laughs.)

Here's what really happened...

Well, I must start by saying that I'm not much of an adventurous person. (Conversely, my 12-year-old self is now cringing.) I mean, I ride roller coasters, I enjoy watching athletic events, and I do love the occasional adrenaline rush (and by adrenaline rush I mean the feeling you get jumping off a swing on the playground.) But when it comes to "thrill seeking" I am not your girl. Maybe I'm growing boring (or just old) but the idea of an activity that momentarily makes me feel like I've lost control of gravity is just not my idea of a good time.

For example, last Thursday my mom, sister, Mamaw, and friend Claire, and I all went to the beach up at Fort Macon. While Amy and Claire begged (Please, Ashley!) and insulted (You're so lame!) at regular intervals, I refused to actually get out into the water. Why? Well, because I do not enjoy the taste of salt water (gag) and also, I would DRINK saltwater than be thrown against the bottom of what has to be the rockiest beach of all time. Sure, I'll swim out and the let the undertow drag me across sharp shells and rocks. No thank you... experiencing what feels like bags of loose gravel being poured across my legs is not appealing to me. No, I'd much rather sit on the sand with Mamaw, whose requests to leave and question, "Do you think they've had enough?" were like clock-work every 5 minutes.

Okay, wow.... all that and I still haven't even told the story. Here goes... Friday we were at Lake Gaston and had the wonderful opportunity to ride jet skis (this is the exception clause to my unadventerous contract... because I LOVE JETSKIS. Last year I got to drive one for the first time and I was pretty much a wild woman for the rest of the day.) However, this year we had the chance to also ride on the inner tube, pulled by the jet ski. Well, the girls had been out on the tube a couple of times, but I was hogging still having my turn on the jetski and hadn't tried the tube yet. Finally, Claire and I jumped on and off we went, after I asked her repeatedly, "Is it scary? Will I get hurt?" To which she earnestly replied, "No, you'll be fine!"

Lies, lies, lies.

After being tossed to and fro by the tube multiple times (and screaming and laughing, because, I can't lie... it WAS fun), the driver of the jet ski achieved the ultimate goal, which is to throw off the passengers in the tube. Off we flew, and (this is the "out of the control" part I just hate) for about 3 seconds I had no idea what was happening. Then I felt what felt like the fist of the Incredible Hulk make contact with the right side of my face. (Turns out it was most likely Claire's elbow, though she bears no resemblance to the Hulk.) As I was shoved underwater I thought, "My cheekbone is broken" and immediately reached up to touch it (which would have been super helpful had it indeed been broken) and in seconds a lump had already formed. And it hurt. (No time to discuss it now, but my threshold for pain is tiny... practically nonexistent.)

So, I reappear from the water, floating and trying to make sense of the last few seconds. Oh, and trying to maintain my composure or make anyone feel terrible. So, I struggled back into the tube and our driver, sensing that a meltdown was immiment, hauled us back to shore. I held it together pretty well until I saw Amy and she showed a measure of concern, at which point I began to weep. (I know, I'm pathetic.) It wasn't even as much because of the pain but because I had been pretty scared by the whole experience. (What... a broken cheekbone isn't one of your greatest fears?)

All this took place while I was mourning the loss of my favorite sunglasses, which were cast asunder when we hit the water.

While our hostess got me a bag of ice and I sat, sniffling, on the dock, I managed to call Jonathan and tell him what had happened (he was sympathetic but could hardly show the appropriate amount of concern considering he couldn't SEE the great damage) and my mom finally came back off the jet ski and kissed my injury. (And yes, it helped, so there. You know it did.)

After an uncomfortable hour of sitting up in the beautiful, comfortable lake house with an ice pack on my swollen face, the others in my party (who were sympathetic to my injury but not nearly enough to let it stop their fun) decided to join me and head for home.

Such a placid setting for such a traumatic experience!

The eye started off like this:

Don't I look pretty? Don't be jealous. Hahaha. (In case you can't tell... and you probably can't, given the grainy photo quality... the eye is not very dark here but red and very swollen.)

This was the next day... as you can see, the color had darkened considerably. (You can also see that I probably should have sub-titled this post "Unflattering Shots of Ashley's Ginormous Nose.")

This was Saturday night, after turning a darker shade of purple throughout the day and prompting sweet Amy to demand that I leave my sunglasses on at all times. She's a peach.

I didn't know that my mom was taking a picture of my whole face, hence the STUPID expression. But that's how it looked Sunday.

That's from this morning. There's now a sickly yellow tinge to my pretty bruise.

So, folks, that's the story. I doubt you googled "play by play of tragic tubing incident" this morning (but if you did, you were pleasantly surprised. If not, you have been unpleasantly bored. I apologize.)

Will you catch me on an inner tube again? Eh, maybe. I'd have to really psych myself up for it though. Although, this experience has led to lots of good things for me (really, it's led to my holding my hideously marred face up to my husband and saying, "Please? My face hurts." And, since he is a sweet guy, he refills my Dr. Pepper. I plan on keeping him. =)

In the meantime, I'll continue to wear eyegear that hides my purple bruise from the world and garner unnecessary sympathy. Because, well, I deserve it. Have you seen my black eye?


Blessed are the Merciful...

Blessed are the Merciful...

Right now, our pastor is preaching a series on the Beatitudes, and I've really enjoyed it (you know, for the 3 Sundays I've now been here =). Each message has been great, but this morning, he mentioned tonight's topic as "the hardest one to live." That intrigued me, because I knew the next verse talked about mercy. (I was pretty sure applying "meekness" was more of a challenge!) Anyway, from the very beginning of the message tonight, I felt a little squirmy inside. I won't give every point (sigh of relief from everyone =), but Preacher was talking about enemies of mercy, and the first one he mentioned was pride. Something he said really struck me- he was talking about how we indignantly exclaim, "That person doesn't deserve mercy!" To which he replied, "If they deserved it, it wouldn't be mercy."

Wow. How many times have I said the same thing? "They don't deserve my forgiveness." "She doesn't deserve another chance." "They aren't even sorry... why try to reach out and make things right?"

We don't give mercy because someone deserves it; we extend it because they don't. It's easy to forgive or reconcile with someone who wants it, who has asked for it, or who has repented. What about those who don't? What about the people who not only don't deserve mercy but don't even think they're in need of it? I've found out something about myself in the last year or so- I am not a very forgiving person, especially when a wrong was done to someone close to me. If it's done to me, I'm non-confrontational enough to let a lot of things go, but hurt my friends or family and it takes me a while to get over it. Beyond that, I'm not so good at "looking past" things about people. I recognize that everyone deserves second chances, that God forgives and restores, etc. So why do I hold on to things, at least in my mind?

As the sermon progressed, so did my discomfort. Especially because the main point Preacher was making was that we really, as Christians, have no choice but to be merciful when we measure any wrong towards us against what Jesus went through. One of the best examples of this is Isaiah 53, describing the way Jesus was abused, humiliated, and ultimately sacrificed just for us and our sin. Not only did He extend mercy to those who rejected and hurt Him, but He extended the same mercy to the cause of that indescribable pain- me. And you, and every other sinner (so, everyone ever).

The best part of God's mercy? It knows no bounds.... so neither should mine.

If Jesus can show me mercy after I sent Him to the cross, can't I show mercy to someone I felt has done me wrong? Someone who has fallen into sin? Someone who shows an unkind spirit? Someone who rejects my faith? I've never really thought about it before, but our pastor said tonight, and I agree, that this attribute may be the most "Christ-like" a person can possess. Why? Because personal holiness and righteousness are crucial, but worthless without mercy. No one cares that you portray Christ's holiness (to an imperfect extent) if you do not also extend His mercy.

So, sorry about the mini-sermon. I'm rarely serious here, and will be back to the funny soon. (Most likely while sharing how I obtained a black eye this week. Yes, that's a cliffhanger there.) If nothing else, I needed it. But this week, I'm working on being merciful... judging and "conclusion jumping" a little less while praying and showing kindness more. "Blessed are the merciful." Check out the rest of the verse... "for they shall obtain mercy." Why be merciful? Because we are ALL in need of mercy. And if Jesus could show it us, surely we can show it to someone else. Right? I think so.


High Five for Friday...

High Five for Friday...

The past couple of weeks have been a blur with the move and all, but lots of pleasant things have happened over the past seven days. (However, since my days are running together some of these might be from before last Friday, but don't hold that against me. =)

1. I made these "Hawaiian Chicken Burgers" for dinner this week, and they were ah-mazing. I adapted the Pinterest recipe and just grilled the chicken (rubbed with seasoning salt and paprika) on the stove with a little butter and about a tablespoon of teriyaki sauce. Then I grilled pineapple rings, added slices of pepperjack cheese, and mixed a little seasoning into the mayo we used. And it was delicious, thank you.

2. I got to wear my yellow Loft skirt on Sunday. Call me materialistic (and I probably am) but it just makes me very happy. And the polka dot shirt I wore with it (also from Loft) made me even happier.

3. Since we've been married, I had yet to attempt a roast, partly because I'm a 'fraidy cat and partly because  I never had to, thanks to Mamaw. However, it hardly seems feasible to drive an hour back to Goldsboro for Sunday lunch, so this week I took the plunge. And (hallelujer) it turned out very well. Add green beans and macaroni to the roast/potatoes/carrots in the crockpot (and enough gravy to float a boat) and you have one happy McNeese household.

4. Thanks to my blog post on Wednesday, my friend Rory decided I needed to be meme-ified and to my great surprise, I found this little treasure on Pinterest. I'm pretty sure I laughed for a while when I saw it, mostly because it's true.

5. Yesterday was a beach day with my mom, Mamaw, seester Amy, and adopted seester Claire. It was beautiful- perfect weather, practically no one around, and (shocker) I got a sunburn. (Because I'm stupid and I forgot sunscreen.) And although Mamaw was ready to leave after half an hour, a wonderful time was had by all. =)

It's been a great week- parents, Amy, and Claire are in town and got to see my apartment for the first time, we've tried a few new fun places around New Bern, and basically (other than a mini-meltdown over my writing project, which was greatly helped by Brook and some cookies), it's been a glorious seven days. I am trying to savor all this down time before school starts back! (Ugh... too soon!)

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody! I plan to! =)


A Miniature English Lesson...

A Miniature English Lesson...

...Or, "How to Not Sound Like an Ignorant Dweeb In Person or Online."

(You choose your favorite title.)

I have put off doing this post for quite a while now, mostly because I while I am certainly a fan of correct grammar/punctuation, I'm not such a fan of those who consider it acceptable to take out a personal vendetta against those who make mistakes when speaking or writing. I mean, I do it mentally all the time... but to actually verbalize (or type) such corrections can come off extremely snarky slightly condescending. So, I don't do it. I promise I'm not a cyber bully, even the corrective kind. I am a grammar Nazi, but sort of a closet one, if you will. My meek spirit never wishes to offend.

But, recently, I said to myself, "Don't worry about offending anyone. It's not as if you are trying to teach table manners to native Aborigines. You are simply reminding (because if you completed the third grade, you've heard this stuff) people of a few rules that some seem incapable of following inclined to forget." And thus ended my inspirational pep talk.

So, I'm putting on my stern teacher face:

And getting down to business.

Being the wimp that I am, I have resorted to a cowardly, semi-anonymous (gotta love the internet) way to confront the problem. What problem? Oh, you know... just the problem that a significant portion of the population has with sounding as if they might have received more than less-than-pathetic education. And while Facebook and other social media is typically the highest traffic source for these atrocities, we see them everywhere... stores, advertisements, etc. I'm not even talking better/best scenarios here- just plain WRONG usage of various words. Yes, some can be tricky, but that's why I'm offering my refresher course- right here, free of charge. So, let the war on ignorance begin. (Consider me the Katniss Everdeen of District Grammar.)

1. There/Their/They're

I thought I'd start off with a favorite of mine. I'll keep things simple.

-There is used to show where something is. "My purse is over there."

-Their is used to show possession. "That is their new car."

-They're is a contraction of the words they are. "They're coming with us to the mall."

Really, it couldn't be easier. My 3rd graders grasped this concept within a couple of lessons, so let's strive to beat that record, eh?

2. Your/You're

This mistake might be my number one pet peeve of all time. Let's clarify:

-Your is used to show possession. "Is that your sandwich?"

- You're is a contraction of the words you are. "You're almost finished with the test."

If you are trying to say "you are", then add the apostrophe and the e. It's just that simple. Seriously... do it.

3. Saw/Seen

Nothing sounds more "I just stepped off the train from Ignorantville" than a sentence beginning with "I seen...". Clearly, the sentence would not end with the words "the inside of a book on proper English." Come on, people! Seen needs a helping word- have, has, had, etc. You saw something; you did not seen it. Remember this one, just for my sake.

4. Apostrophes

Really, there is so much I could say here. But the fact is this: apostrophes are used for two purposes: to show possession, and to create contractions. For example:

-the car belonging to Mike= Mike's car, the shirt belonging to Jane= Jane's shirt

The "apostrophe s" ('s) makes a word possessive.

-it is= it's, would not= wouldn't, they have= they've

See... apostrophes fill in the missing letters in a contraction.


"Merry Christmas- Love, the Smith's". Um, the Smith's what... the Smith's dog? Because the apostrophe and s is indicating POSSESSION of something, not PLURAL of anything.

5. Its/It's

Similar to numbers 1-2, this item of business is possibly the most abused. However, let's clear up the confusion, should there be any.

-Its is used to show possession. "The dog chased its tail."

-It's is used to form the contraction "it is". "It's very hot outside!"

If you are trying to use one of these words and can't remember the correct one, try replacing the word with "it is." If correct, you will know. If not, your sentence may sound like this: "Our car is on it is last leg." See... just taking a moment to check will prevent you from sounding stupid to anyone but yourself. Embarrassment avoided.

I promise, everyone... I'm really not trying to sound arrogant or mean or make anybody feel like a loser. But really... after teaching every one of these concepts to THIRD GRADERS (who are a mere 8 and 9 years of age), I feel like it's not really too much to ask of responsible adults. So, if you are guilty of one of these errors (and we all have been, at least once) or know some poor, unfortunate soul who is... let's stop the madness, shall we? Don't be unkind or picky, but take responsibility, at least for your own grammatical well-being.  For the love of King James, just think for a moment before you type something that indicates that you are, in fact, not an educated American.

Your third grade teacher will thank you.


Late to the Party...

Late to the Party...

Should I be amused or offended by the number of my friends who tagged me when they pinned this?

(Oh, and it's only partially true, since I am downright obnoxious when it comes to cleaning. Ask my husband, who is constantly followed around with a dishrag and vacuum cleaner to remove any crumbs or spills he may possibly leave behind.) And I can cook, I just didn't do it very often until recently.

But... I have a little confession to make. I feel like I've only recently (as in, the past 2 weeks) entered the realm of "housewifery" (why I'm so amused by that word, I'm not sure). If that sounds terrible, it is... our 2-year anniversary approacheth (on the 23rd, if you care). Ever since the move, I have been mysteriously motivated to cook, clean, organize, and decorate (gasp... more on that momentarily) than ever before. Let's discuss this phenomenon, shall we? (Of course we shall!)

When I got married, I had absolutely no very little interest in decorating my house. I know, that's sooo lame of me. However, I had never seen our apartment until we got back from our honeymoon and since my mom and mother-in-law fixed up almost everything while we were gone, I was lazy more than happy to leave things as they were when I arrived. Within just a few weeks, I had resumed my life as a full-time student (only now adding a 2-hour commute... oh, and a husband. No big deal.) And while some girls (not me) might have laid aside U.S. History notes or Teaching English lesson plans for Better Homes and Gardens, I remained obnoxiouly loyal to my GPA. Then I graduated and began teaching for the first time (STRESS ALERT) and, again, other things (grading, bulleting boards) shoved my sweet little house to the back burner (or possibly off the stove.) Shameful, really, especially consisdering how I grew up in a house that was always magazine-worthy in the decor department. Not that I wasn't interested in making our house "homey", but that just wasn't my "thing".  Plus, our apartment was very small, we weren't really allowed to paint/mount anything, and basically I was just not motivated to add to the itsy-bitsy collection of decor we received as wedding gifts. (Hence, I didn't hang curtains for the entirety of the 22-month period we lived in Goldsboro.) So, between the time we moved in and the time we moved out, I purchased maybe 4-5 items for our home, and those were mostly seasonal.

I know. I'm not winning any Suzy Homemaker awards over here. (Although, an award for Laziest Housewife would be mine, hands down. Don't be jealous. I've had 2 years to work on my acceptance speech.)

Anyway, when we finally nailed down our new space, I knew some changes were in order. And, while it seems that I have gone a little Martha Stewart here lately (decorative Martha, not convicted felon Martha), I must remind you (as I have frequently reminded my dear, sweet husband) that if all my purchases were spread out over our 2 years of marriage, they would seem nearly insignificant. (A pillow here, a knick-knack there, and boom! Fully decorated space!) Instead, I've accumluated probably 75% of our decor in the last 6 months. Why the change of heart, hmm???

 Honestly, a lot of my inspiration (pathetic, I know...) was Pinterest. I mean, how can you not become just a teensy bit interested in home decor when it's constantly bombarding your pin boards? Next, it helped that for the past several months Target has had 2 or 3 collections of home stuff that already coordinated with my meager pile of decor and was exactly what I'd pictured all along. Clearance-stalking (aka making multiple trips to Target each week until what you're too cheap to pay full price for goes on clearance... and yes I made that up) has totally made my purchases possible.

Then there's Ikea. Oh, Ikea... have you ever been? It's SO cool. Awesome furniture, fixtures, art, storage... everything you can think of and SUPER affordable. We spent about 3 hours at the one in Atlanta and I racked up on everything from shelves to my crazy cool candlesticks to my music throw pillow, one of my favorite things in the house. Love that place.

(The gush-session for Ikea is over. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

And in case you're wondering (as I'm sure you are), I have not gone on a wild spending spree or anything resembling one. Nearly every item we've bought has been very much reduced (usually 50-75% off, except for a few very recent purchases that I "had to have" and were filed under "anniversary present to myself"). The only thing we paid big bucks for was our new couch and loveseat (which I adore), but I figured since our first living room furniture was a garage sale find that still faintly smells of smoke (despite bottles of Febreze) that we were deserving of something not "pre-owned" now. =)

I should probably go ahead and address the real reason that I've finally started decorating, or at least decided it was worth the money. Don't get the impression that I was a poor little newlywed without even enough money to purchase a new picture frame now and then. What is Ashley's favorite activity? Yes, you there with the raised hand. *Shopping??* Yes, you bright and intellegent student. You know me so well. While other newlyweds were regularly scouring the local shops for super "finds' for the house, I was scouring Old Navy for "finds' for me. (Yes, I am the Queen of Selfish Materialism.) Finally, I realized that, indeed, my new shirts could not be used as curtains and that while my closet is certainly a contender for the 8th Wonder of the World, it didn't exactly scream "lovely home". (It did, however, scream "Please stop adding to me! I DON'T NEED ANYTHING ELSE!!!!" Or maybe that was just Jonathan, aka my Jiminy Cricket.)

So, I realize that the appropriate ending to this post (which is inappropriately lengthy) would be some pictures of all my "stuff", but I haven't gotten around to taking any that are not of the hideous, iPad-quality variety. I did upload about a million of the house on Instagram the other day (stricly for Mamaw's benefit) so if you're on the 'gram feel free to peruse them at your leisure.

The moral of the story? It's best to spread out multiple purchases over a long time-span so as not to attract unwanted attention of your husband/financial taskmaster. Just kidding... there is no moral. Except maybe that I am finally learning that "housewifery" is actually kinda fun. Plus, since nearly everything is new I am definitely more motivated to keep things clean and my own appearance near-perfect.  In fact, I am typing this wearing a freshly pressed dress, pearls, and kitten heels with my ankles crossed demurely beneath me, a-la-June Cleaver. (I'm really in sweats, but that's hardly exciting, is it?)

I'm definitely no pro here... totally a newbie at the whole home decor thing! And even if I'm late to the party, I'm glad I decided to join. (Although this punch could use a little help.)


Chocolate Eclair (aka Fancy Pudding)...

Chocolate Eclair (aka Fancy Pudding)...

Call me crazy, (Okay..."Ashley, you're crazy!") but this week I have been feeling especially Betty-Crocker-like and have actually ventured into the kitchen several times. And by ventured, I mean actually preparing food that required a recipe and not a pair of scissors to remove the plastic wrapper or cardboard (although, don't judge me... you know frozen pizza is a staple for you too. No? Then, judge away...)

Anyway, I won't ramble on about my forays into housewifery (more about that sometime soon, though)... I now present you with the recipe for the yummo dessert we had yesterday. (Though sadly, nothing about it fashioned summer fruits into the likeness of a flag... I know, how un-American of me.) I actually made this Tuesday night (and the recipe makes an ENORMOUS amount, so I'll be halving it next time) and we shared it with friends and ate it for our family dinner last night, too.

This is good stuff, people! (And thanks to Mrs. Ann Reid for introducing this to me as a teenager, and for passing on the recipe to me in my old age. =)

Chocolate Eclair

Round up your ingredients: graham crackers, Cool Whip, margarine, cocoa, vanilla, sugar, milk, and vanilla pudding (if you are cheap frugal like me, you can buy all that Great Value stuff, but if you are very fancy, splurge for the real stuff. =)

Mix 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/4 cup milk, 1 stick margarine, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Set aside and cool completely.

This is the part where you will want to tip the pot up and drink the chocolate like the fat kid on Willy Wonka. It's just that good.

Then mix up 2 boxes of INSTANT vanilla pudding (not making the mistake as I may or may not have in the past of buying "cook and serve" and having to travel back to Walmart at an ungodly hour to buy instant. Ugh!).

Then stir in 24 ounces of Cool Whip. (yes, it's A TON... hence I will make half of it next time.)

Then, you'll layer graham crackers and the Cool Whip/pudding mixture until you reach the top of your dish. Refrigerate JUST this part for a couple of hours.  

Then you will pour the chocolate awesome sauce on top and put it in the fridge overnight (or at least several hours, but I leave it as long as possible because I'm a weirdo and I just really like it super cold). Plus the wait kills you with suspense and taunts and torments you builds your self-control, er whatever.

You will end up with this masterpiece!!!

Aside from changing the amount next time, I might layer the chocolate throughout instead of just on top, if only for more deliciousness in every bite. And if you're wondering, the full recipe could easily feed 10 people generously, I'd say.

Happy eating, lovelies. Feel free to lick the bowl (not that I did, or anything, but you feel free to.)