Lucky Seven...

Lucky Seven...

Last summer when Jonathan and I took a quick trip to D.C.,  we stopped at a huge mall somewhere in Virginia (you know me and my mangled sense of geography) and that mall, unlike any near us, had an H&M. Up until a year or so ago, I had never even been in an H&M, much less purchased anything from one, but I was always seeing really cute stuff from there in magazines and it was inexpensive. (You know me and my cheapskate mentality.) Anyway, long story unnecessarily longer we hit the jackpot at this particular one and I found some really awesome deals. One of them was this dress, which I absolutely love and have worn in fall, winter, and spring... a real winner.

Seven dollars, folks. A mere seven dollars for this lovely dress I have worn at least seven times. A dollar cost per wear? Done.

I love the colors and the shape and the sleeves and well, everything.

Also, I saw this necklace at Target a few months back and knew it would eventually be mine. I have seen a bunch of teardrop necklaces floating around the internet but I wanted one that was a little more substantial and, let's be honest, one that didn't look exactly like every other one I'd seen floating around the internet. This one was perfect. I love the color (more of a mint than how blue it looks here) and it was worth using a gift card on, for sure. The wedges are from Target too and aren't wedges just the best for wearing a dressier shoe without wanting to amputate your toes at the end of the day? Yes, they are.

Also, I would love your advice on a matter of great importance. (Clothes, naturally.) I bought this skirt:

....last week at Belk and it is every bit as bright and sunshine-y as it looks. It's a true neon yellow and I have tried lots of different tops with it (yes, including chambray, everyone's Plan B these days) and most of them don't look bad but I haven't loved anything yet. The pattern is noticeable enough that I feel like a patterned top is a little much. My ideal choice would be a simple gray t-shirt (like zis outfit from Kendi) but mine is in the laundry so that outfit may never see the light of day. Just kidding... but seriously. Any suggestions?

Happy Wednesday, lovelies! Two more days until school's out... I think I can, I think I can. =)


P.S. Linked up with Lindsey!

Memorial Day...

Memorial Day...

Our Memorial Day, in pictures....

Mamaw and Aunt Peggy

I love these ladies!

One of my favorite people, hands down.

Mamaw grabbing some corn...

The grill master!

Uncle Walt!

*Not pictured: a trip to Old Navy. =)

On a day like today, when we are able to be off school/work and spend time with family, it's easy to get sucked into the barbecued, discounted-shopping frenzy that is an American summer holiday, but think about it: we can cook out in our backyards without fear because our country is free and safe. Why? Because men and women have died to make it that way and keep it that way. We can shop with reasonable peace of mind because somewhere in a foreign country, or on an aircraft carrier, or stationed in a tiny, obscure military base there are people whose round-the-clock priority is preserving our national "peace of mind." 

To those who serve, and to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, thank you. Words do not... cannot... express just what your lives- and deaths- symbolize. 

The home of the brave, indeed. Happy Memorial Day.


Just What the Doctor Ordered...

Just What the Doctor Ordered...

You know what's worse than falling asleep worrying about something? Waking up worrying about the same thing. Yuck. 

So, I was a little down (worrying as only I can) last night, and it carried over into this morning, and I just needed a little cheering up. Knowing this, my sweet husband took me to Morehead City this afternoon. What's in Morehead, you might ask? Shopping... not any shopping to write home about, really, but better than the shopping situation in New Bern. Jonathan knows that when I'm sad/mad/upset/any type of melancholy that shopping is just the thing to lift my spirits. So, shopping was in order and shop we did.

We drove down and he proceeded to willingly walk through Hobby Lobby and Michael's with me, braved Belk with about a zillion women crowded into a teeny tiny area stuffed with clearance racks, and even ventured into Ross and TJ Maxx. He also waited outside several dressing rooms to offer his opinion, bought me some new things, and helped me pick out an awesome picture for our living room wall. Oh, and we even went to Lowe's to get paint to (drum roll.....) FINALLY paint our dining room table and chairs. Woohoo!

It's probably a good thing that it's a bit of a drive to the nearest Hobby Lobby, because I would be sorely tempted to spend lots of money and time there.

Choosing just the right paint for the table makeover...

Oh, I didn't even mention that Jonathan knows my love language is Panera. (What, that's not one of the five? Oops.) We ate an early dinner there and a broccoli cheddar bread bowl will perk me up when nothing can. My goodness, it is heavenly.

He's a good man, that husband of mine.

This turned out to be a really swell day. There really is a little truth to the term retail therapy, you know? Oh, I hope every one of you has a fantastic Memorial Day. Only 4 more school days before I'm free for the summer (free to work on other things, of course, but at least grading tests won't be one of those things.) 

What's your definition of an ideal Saturday? Mine is a day spent with my husband (including, but not limited to, shopping and Panera.) Looks like we got it all covered today. =)


Gimme Five...

Gimme Five...

So, let me be the first to tell all of you lucky people who got out of school today- I hate you. Just kidding! Happy summer to you... enjoy your first week off while I don't. =) Really, we only have 4 days left (3 of them half day, praise God) so I can make it. It won't stop me from being jealous, though, no sir. Anyway, I had all kinds of post ideas this week and even drafted a couple of them but HA! Last week before finals/program practice/after school help class/general pandemonium and that didn't happen but soon I will have more time on my hands and will hopefully get around to posting some more interesting content other than how crazy my life is (which I'm sure you never tire of, but still... variety is the spice of life.)

SO on to some happiness from this week (other than the passing of each day bringing me closer to summer- given). 

1. My new floral espadrilles from Target were... wait for iiiiit.... one dollar! They were on sale for $5.98 and I had a coupon for $5 off Merona shoes so, these were indeed a score. Yay!

2. If you don't love Ben and Jerry's then I guess we're still friends but I'll have to ask myself if I ever really knew you. This is my very favorite kind of B& cousin Rachel used to buy it years ago and she would sometimes generously share with me (probably because I begged) but it's so good. It was also comforting the other night when I unable to sleep and found myself on the couch at one am eating ice cream and pondering things that you ponder at one in the morning. 

3. We hit single digits in the countdown to summer on Wednesday. Woohoo!

4. My poor dining room table, a garage sale find right before we got married, desperately needs to be painted because the legs are navy (and news flash, everything else in the room is red and black. Major clashing going on.) But to make it prettier while it awaits a makeover, I found this awesome runner at Target the other day on clearance. Black and white stripes? Obviously it was made for me.

5. And it case you were lacking some unbelievable adorableness in your life... I am ready to fill it.
This girl is sooooo cute. Seriously, I can't stand it. I love my Leslie! (And her ever-fattening brother that I need to see asap before he loves his other aunties more than me. Okay, too late.) 

Happy Friday, friends! Summer is so close I can just taste it (and it tastes a lot like Hawaiian Shaved Ice and homemade ice cream, so it needs to get here quickly.)


P.S. Linked up with Lauren!

Throwback (Waaay Back) Thursday...

Throwback (Waaay Back) Thursday...

Apparently it's a thing on Instagram to post an old picture on what has has become known as "Throwback Thursday." (Other photo opportunities of this nature include "Selfie Sunday" and "Man Candy Monday," neither of which I have been a participant of.) Anyway, I do enjoy "#tbt" because one of my very favorite things to do is to look at old pictures. Every time I am home I try to find time to dig out at least one big box of them. And while digital photography certainly has its advantages, there's just something about holding an actual picture in your hand. I don't know, call me sentimental (which I am.) I just like it. 

Some other blogger friends have been participating in what is called "Blog Every Day in May" (clearly I didn't jump on the bandwagon, since I have not blogged every day this month) but I enjoyed looking at the post prompts and one of them was "a favorite photo of yourself and why." I came across this picture on our stone-age laptop (the one I cheerfully use at school even though it doesn't print regularly and loses my lesson plans all. the. time.) 

(No, my eyes aren't brown... I had to do a quick red-eye touch-up since this was taken with  a... Wait for it... Disposable camera. How's that for a throwback?)

Why do I love this picture? 
1. This was taken at the probably the peak of my obsession with American Eagle graphic tees, and this shirt was my faaaavorite. I was learning to play the guitar that summer and thought the shirt was the coolest thing ever.
2. I am (comfortably) wearing what I remember to be a size 4 skirt and I'm pretty sure it was loose on me. Oh, for the days.
3. That ancient flip-phone wasn't even mine; it was Amanda's, I believe. I was one of the 3 seniors in high school in America without a cellphone. 
4. I was talking to my boyfriend (at the time) and that smile was as genuine as it could be. (The head cocked sideways might have been a bit much, but that was how I rolled back in '07.)

Do you have a favorite old picture? I definitely have my share of oldies that make me cringe, but this one makes me smile. Still love the shirt, and the guy on the phone. =)

Happy Throwback Thursday to you!


An Obsession (but the Good Kind)...

An Obsession (but the Good Kind)...

You may have noticed if you follow me on Pinterest (or Instagram) but I have a bit of an obsession with stripes. This causes me to be inexplicably drawn to any and all striped items when I'm shopping (and also causes my husband to roll his eyes whenever I insist that I neeeed yet another striped shirt or whatever.) Nonetheless, I have made several striped purchases in the last few months (how I ended up with three black and white striped dresses is a mystery, I swear!) and I would say I regret it or it's too much or something but, I don't and it's not. 

I snatched this skirt up back in January (when Target teasingly puts our their spring clothes while everyone's still bundled up) and wore it with a sweater and boots but (warning.. "23-19! We have a 23-19!" name that movie!) the static cling was out of control so it sat tucked away in all its cuteness in my closet for a few months. Now that it's warmer I felt I could wear it without going crazy and I did this week and I pretty much love it. Chevron? Hello... best skirt ever.

This dress, thanks to Kate, was brought to my attention and I just HAPPENED to have a gift card and (gasp!) I paid full price for it and I really love it. I do not love the picture above in which I look like a shower curtain (hips, much?) but it's so very comfortable and it has a slit to the knee on one side which makes it much cooler for our wretchedly hot summers here in the great North Carolina. (Oh, and Grace commented on the 'gram and said that this looks like something Kendi would wear so of course I love her even more than I did before, which was a lot.) 
AND sweet Carrie, according to Instagram, has the exact same outfit! Great minds, folks. (BTW, check out her shop for some great jewelry She runs the best deals!)

Don't you just love stripes? Of course you do. (Also, it occurs to me that I could have also written this about obsession with bubble necklaces, but I suppose that's a post for another day.)


Procrastination and a DIY...

Procrastination and a DIY...

Remember many, many moons ago when I resolved to actually make/wear/do things that I pin on Pinterest? Well, and I say this shamefacedly, I didn't exactly get around to all of that. However, a few weekends ago I did finally bring myself to make a Michael's run and buy some fabric paint so I could recreate this awesome graphic T that Merrick made a while back. I followed her tutorial and met with semi-sketchy results (since I am still a total crafting novice/ utter spaz) but regardless, I am pleased with the outcome.

The stuff: a paintbrush, freezer paper, fabric paint, and a plain white t. (Literally, not the group.)

A helpful husband with better scissor-using skills than a kindergarten student (unlike yours truly) is a plus. 

The finished product.... perfect for my love of nautical things.

So my lines aren't perfect and it's a little crooked. I'd hate for the work to mistaken as someone else's. I'd put a picture of Merrick's but that would make it glaringly obvious that my own is more than marginally inferior to her perfect results. =)

I won't even attempt to give you directions, but follow Merrick's tutorial and you'll be all set. I can definitely see myself using freezer paper/fabric paint for other projects. It's really fun and cheap and pretty easy (especially if you have any measure of talent in this type of thing, which I don't.) Now go forth and craft! (Wow... words I never thought I'd say/type. There's a first for everything.)


Running On Empty...

Running On Empty...

We started revival this week at church, and I'll have to be honest (when am I not?) and tell you that I haven't exactly been thrilled with the thought of adding "extra church" to my out-of-control end-of-the-year schedule. School program, finals, figuring out what my kids know before the finals, making up tests, grading that mountain of research papers... plus I've had a headache all day and just haven't felt great. (Yes, there is a rest stop between here and the end of this whine-fest.)

Ever have a moment that just kind of slaps you in the face? I had one tonight. Considering everything going on right now (oh, and I didn't mention that I'm writing another play this summer. ha!), to say that I've been stressed is an understatement. And then within moments of the start of his message tonight, the speaker asked a question.

"Are you running on empty?"

 It was all I could do not to jump up and shout, "YES!!!!" (I didn't, since that would have helped confirm the suspicion many people have that I am indeed crazy.) But wow... yes! It's so easy, especially when you work in full-time ministry, to do exactly that. Running on empty is tricky too, because when you're "running" around doing "church-y" things (you read that in a Nacho voice, right?) then it's tempting to deceive yourself into thinking that running on empty is okay. I mean, you're exhausted, crabby, and your family is scared to talk to you, but you're doing it all for the right reasons, bless God! (Right?)

I have been running on empty, and when I say running I mean it almost literally. There is just so much going on right now, as is the custom for the month of May if you're an educator, but between school, church, and my home, I have my plate full with a bowl on the side and a cup that I'm carrying between my teeth (like when you want to try everything at a potluck, you know?).

Go, go, go. Teach, teach, teach. Sing, sing, sing. Cook, cook, cook. (Fine, not really.) Write, write, write. Blog, blog, blog. Clean, clean, clean. (Okay, maybe one clean would have sufficed.) Worry, worry, worry. (Worry some more.) Plan, plan, plan. Run, run, run.

Tell me I'm not the only one who does all of this. Like I said, when staying busy doing the "work of the Lord," it's easy to convince myself that I've got it together. But being busy does not equal being filled with the Spirit... not at all! I am only one person with very real limits, and without filling myself up with the Spirit and joy of God, then all my running is going to eventually land me on the side of the road waving for help (so to speak... maybe even literally. Who really knows, with me.)

I know that I'm young and supposedly should be full of energy (so says everyone older than me) and I know that if I had only half my responsibilities plus one child I'd be a million times busier than I am now, but stress is relative. And your kind of stress and mine are different, so while I'm qualifying my own I do realize that it's okay for me to feel overwhelmed. But thanks to the message tonight, I was reminded that I don't have to accomplish everything on my own. What a relief, especially considering how poorly I would be able to do such a task. Busy is not bad. But, busy without staying "full" can get bad really quickly. As our pastor said tonight, "The easiest way to avoid getting to empty is to stay full." I try to remind myself of this principle, and, in fact, even have written prominently in my home,

Not my best cursive, but still...

...even with this reminder of God's promise to ease our burdens where I can see it with my little blind eyes every day, I tend to forget, and I am so very grateful to have been reminded tonight.

If you're running on empty (or you're like my mom and it's BELOW empty, because you like to challenge yourself and your vehicle), remember that there's no shame in taking a breather and allowing yourself to be renewed by a fresh helping of grace. In fact, there's everything RIGHT about it. Whether you're a teacher (fist bump!), a mom, a dad, an office worker, a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker... we all have stress and it's just as impossible to get everything done on our own as it is to drive a car on empty. But since it's "ask, and ye shall receive" and not "whine but refuse to ask and ye shall receive," then I think it's safe to say that I have to remember to ASK the Lord for help, wisdom, self-control, patience, etc. and not just wish I had more of those things.

So, I will pray for you to stay filled up and you pray for me, and we will make it through these next few crazy weeks, together, okay? Yes, wonderful. I knew I could count on you. =)


Gifts and Gift Cards...

Gifts and Gift Cards...

One of the number one perks of being a teacher is definitely Teacher Appreciation Week. And while I am fully grateful for any expressions of appreciation, let's be honest... any teacher is going to be extra grateful for (drum roll...) gift cards! So, you can imagine my delight when I received several Target gift cards last week. "When in doubt, buy Ashley a Target gift card." Let this be your mantra and you will never go astray. Favorite present + favorite store = win/win.

This year, though, I actually did  receive a gift (other than a gift card) that literally had me doing a happy dance when I opened it. (Well, this gift and the cupcakes another student brought in. I do love some cupcakes.) So, I've whined like a baby mentioned a time or two before that I really wanted a floral scarf, and one of my school moms who apparently stops by el bloggo now and then remembered that and bought me this beautiful one and I love it.

Of course I immediately wore it with a striped top because that's how I roll.

I just love these colors... they're so summery! Plus it's light enough to wear on a warm day (like today) but full the way I like (I'm a picky pants when it comes to scarves.) This one is a winner, for sure!

And, with the help of my gift cards (and a sale!) I bought this dress that I've been eyeing for months now. Black and white stripes? No brainer. Plus it's a nice ponte knit that won't be terribly hot in summer but won't look dumb with a sweater and boots. When my husband, unprompted, looks at a purchase and says "That's so you," I know it was a good one. 

So, gifts, gift cards, new goodies from Target? It's been a good week for my closet (and Jonathan's wallet. =) 

Find any good deals lately? Do tell.


P.S. Linked up with Lindsey for WIWW!

Lessons Disney Taught Me...

Lessons Disney Taught Me...

If you know me at all, you know that I have a mild obsession with all things Disney. I credit this mostly to good parenting, since my mom and dad exposed us to the classics early in life. I also credit it partly to having a God-given ability to remember movie quotes at random, further deepening the richness of my Disney experience. The Baines family owned just about every Disney movie there was to own in our VHS collection, both animated and live-action. All three of us married sisters went on our respective honeymoons to Disneyworld (and may or may not get emotional every time we visit.) Our homes contain all sorts of Disney memorabilia. And while some people doubt the value of all of this Disney-mania, I am here today to let you know that, actually, those people are stupid and I hate them I have learned quite a few life lessons from these years of movie-watching, song-singing, park-visiting, and Walt-loving. Many words of wisdom can be found amid all the frivolity... and I am about to prove it.

1. Honesty from Pinocchio- "A lie keeps growing and growing 'til it's as plain as the nose on your face."

2. Kindness from Bambi- "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." (My life's motto, obviously.)

3. Dedication from Mulan- "The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all."

4. Self-awareness from Winnie the Pooh- "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

5.  Perseverance from The Lion King- "The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it."

6. Strength from Hercules- "A true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength but by the size of his heart." 

7. Diversity from Pocahontas- "If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew."

8. Discernment from Aladdin- "Like so many things, it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts."

9. Patience from Cinderella- "Even miracles take a little time."

10. Reality from Peter Pan- "Dash it all, Nana, don't look at me like that! The children aren't puppies, they're people. And sooner or later, Nana, people have to grow up."

11. Work from Mary Poppins- "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and.... snap! The job's a game!"

12. Self-worth from Bedknobs and Broomsticks- "You must face the age of not believing, doubting everything you ever knew, until at last you start believing there's something wonderful in you."

13. Forgiveness from The Incredibles- "I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now."

14. Wisdom from Alice in Wonderland- "If you don't think, you shouldn't talk."

15. Contentment from The Little Mermaid- "Such wonderful things around you... what more is you looking for?"

16. Adventure from Tangled- "Ah, the things we've seen and it's only eight in the morning!"

17. Priorities from Up- "That might sound boring, but I think that the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most."

18. Friendship from Toy Story- "Some other folks might be a little bit smarter than I am, bigger and stronger too... but none of them will ever love you the way I do."

19. Change from The Fox and the Hound- "Darlin', forever is a long, long time... and time has a way of changin' things."

20. Curiosity from Beauty and the Beast- "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere... I want it more than I can tell."

Well, there you go. As if you needed another reason to love Disney movies and characters, now you have proof that your life will be enriched by doing so. (You know it's true.) 

Seriously though, I think all Disney characters are embodied by the spirit of Walt himself, who said, "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." It's not just about being a princess or having an adventure, but working hard to achieve something you believe in. Even those of us who have relunctantly left NeverLand can relate to that. =)

Now, I've got Peter Pan waiting on DVR and, well, you know... 


Floral Skirt, Four Ways...

Floral Skirt, Four Ways...

When I went home in February, I visited my favorite store (Loft!) and fell in love with this skirt. Of course, at the time it was full price (ha!) so I waited patiently and finally it was on sale online. I spent more than I normally would on a skirt, but a) I loved it very, very much and b) I had some birthday money and c) I knew I could wear it enough ways to defray the cost (bring down the cost-per-wear, to borrow a term from Stacy and Clinton.) So, it came in the mail and I immediately started playing dress up and knew I had made a wise choice, indeed.

The Skirt:

It's a little brighter in person, but that was fine with me!

Chambray- Target
Cardigan- Target
Flats- Target

Lace top- Belk
Necklace- Belk
Shoes- Target

Tshirt- JCrew Factory
Hat- Target
Sandals- Target

Striped top- Old Navy
Wedges- Target
Bubble necklace- Caroline G

Really, I could have made several more outfits, but decided to keep it brief with four. Also, my inside Loft source (that would be my cousin Anna, who works there) tells me that this skirt along with quite a bit of other merchandise was marked down TODAY! So get yourself to the mall (or the www) and get some deals! Stretching your clothing (and your money) doesn't have to be that difficult. If you really love something, spending a little extra (whatever your definition of that is) will be worth it because you'll want to wear it. (Consider this your inner voice that justifies all those unnecessary purchases that you definitely need. I'm your wallet's new best friend, right?) 

Happy shopping and happy mixing!


Why I Teach...

Why I Teach...

All kids talk about what they want to be when they grow up, but I'd say the majority of them end up doing something very different. In fact, when my students write about this subject, I tell them that whatever they write will probably change before they reach adulthood. (I'm not a dream-crusher or anything, just practical. Also, I'm sure I'll make a terrific parent... "No honey, you are not going to grow up to be a dinosaur.")

Anyway, unlike the majority of the population, not only did my job of choice never change throughout my childhood, but I actually grew up and became what I had always wanted to be- a teacher. You know, as a dumb innocent kid, and even as a naive college student, teaching couldn't have sounded better. Inspire! Mentor! Encourage! Instruct! By the time I was a senior in high school, I was convinced I'd be the next Ron Clark, taking my future classroom by storm and changing the world one English class at a time.

This picture has nothing to do with anything except that I wore this dress my first day in the classroom and it just screams "teacher" to me.

Well, fast-forward a few years and picture a week when I have mountains of tests to grade, I'm avoiding research papers to be corrected, discipline problems abound, and I could wallpaper a large home with the demerit slips I've written, and suddenly that starry-eyed teenager ready to educate the eager masses is looking like a distant memory. I don't feel bad that I feel this way, because I know every teacher goes through seasons like this at least once a school year. (If you're a teacher and you've never been stressed about school, well, you're a big fat liar. =) To quote Princess Bride, "Life IS pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.")

 But when this happens, as it happens to every teacher, I have to remind myself of a few things. I read a post by Molly recently about asking ourselves WHY we do what we do. Now, she was talking about blogging but it got me thinking about teaching. Why do I teach? What possesses me to get up every day and talk myself hoarse about grammar, literature, history, etc. to a bunch of teenagers? Why do I spend a zillion hours working on bulletin boards? (Because I'm stupid, that's why.) Why do I teach?

1. I teach because I'm crazy. (As if that's news to you.) Do you know how many people tell me (sometimes proudly) how much they HATE English? And yet not only do I love it but I love it enough to talk about it for several hours five days a week? Every time I think about not teaching (like when I stay home with my kids someday in the distant future =) I get sad thinking about not being able to talk about grammar on a regular basis. Yes, there are difficult parts to teaching but standing up and explaining noun functions and adverb clauses and misplaced modifiers (I know, I'm speaking a foreign language to some of you)... that's my happy place.

2. I teach because I love the kids. It's pretty funny how even the most exasperating students can worm their sneaky little way into your heart. Recently, I put up a bulletin board with pictures of each of my students, and I surprised even my own cynical self by how nostalgic I felt looking at each one of them.  I talked last year about how my students are "my kids," and they really are. I spend more time with these kids than even some of their parents do, and for better or for worse, they are mine and I love them. All around, they are a group of really fun, bright, sweet kids (and they appreciate my humor, so that's a plus.)

3. I teach because that fired-up high school senior is still inside me (she just likes to hide sometimes!). All my lofty goals and ambitions back then make me laugh a little now, but honestly I am still as passionate as ever about education- more, actually, since I actually have some informed opinions after time in the classroom. (It's amazing what I "knew" at 17 with zero teaching experience.) The reasons I wanted to teach- inspire! mentor! encourage! instruct!- haven't changed. It's just easy to let the day-to-day grind of it all blur the overall objective, which really is to accomplish those things (inspiring, mentoring, encouraging, instruction, etc.) Hence, this post... the "reminder."

4. I teach because it's who I am. When I was in college traveling with the ensemble, Heath Ferguson would tell us every week, "Remember guys, this is not what we do; this is who we are." When asked to described myself, I always include "teacher." It's just written in my DNA (literally... there are a lot of teachers in my family!) I'm pretty sure I couldn't NOT teach (how's that for a double negative, 7-8 grade?). I will always be a teacher, even if it's just educating the general public on proper grammar

5. I teach because it's my calling. No, I didn't have a vision where it was written on the wall. God never soaked a fleece for me or anything. But I know as surely as I know I'm addicted to Mountain Dew that I am called to be a teacher. (You should know how sure that is.) God has made it abundantly clear through the years that this is what I'm supposed to be teaching right now. Now, if a full-time shopping position opens up, then I may sense a shift in God's will for my life, but for now, teaching is it. I'm not going to elevate the position of teacher to that of a saint or anything, knowing my own weaknesses, but the Bible is very clear about the importance of teachers and education AND I feel very strongly about sharing not only English and history with my students but also as much practical, biblical knowledge as possible. (I could talk about this subject for hours and won't for brevity's sake. Yes, the air is fine up here on my soapbox, thank you.) But I do realize the HUGE responsibility God has given me with these kids. Like it or not, some of your biggest influences growing up were your teachers (good and bad.) I owe to the Lord, to my students, and to myself to teach them to the best of my (meager) ability. 

As a high school senior, I wrote my "vocation paper" on "Teaching: Holding the Key to the Door of Knowledge." (Um, minus ten points for the cheesiest title EVER.) And while I certainly had more zeal than knowledge back then, I did have the right idea about one thing- teaching is a calling. It's a ministry. It's the opportunity to touch lives, sometimes with results that I may never see. It's divine appointments with 38 kids (right now) that the Lord has placed in my path. This year has been quite a learning experience for me. I thought that majoring in secondary education would prepare for me, I don't know, secondary education, but there are some things you just can't learn until you are "in the trenches," so to speak. (Hey, middle school is a battlefield, okay?) And on those days when I just want to throw my red pens out the window and run for the hills, I will refer to this list, knowing that God wrote this chapter of my story a long time ago and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. 

How many people are doing what they planned on doing when they grew up? Good thing Young, Naive Ashley and Grown-Up Ashley were on the same page. (Well, about teaching anyway. Grown-Up Ashley does not approve of Young Ashley's wardrobe choices while Young Ashley would be utterly appalled by my current ignorance of baseball statistics.) 

Why do you do what YOU do? I'd love to know. 


Another Birthday Post....

Another Birthday Post....

Today is my Mamaw's 83rd birthday. She is, by far, the most extraordinary woman I have ever met. She is the world's best cook, can work any younger person into the ground (me included), can strike up a conversation with just about anyone (and does, regularly), and most of all she is probably closer to Jesus than anyone I know. From the time I was very young, I knew she was just special, and if you've ever talked to her you know that's true. She is loving, but honest. She is kind, but will tell you the truth (even when it hurts.) She's absolutely not afraid to invite people to church (or ask them where they go, or why they don't go to church. =) With four children, 14 grandchildren (10 of us married), 10 great-grandchildren, and other extended family, you'd think someone would slip through the cracks, but she (with the help of Facebook and her poor over-worked cellphone) keeps track of every single one of us. I think she must be psychic or at least have some kind of sixth sense because she seems to know the family news before it even happens (plus always has the DL on her neighbors, friends, strangers at the post office... you get it. She's the Information Superhighway.) If you have a prayer request, she's the person to call, since I'm convinced she has a special line straight to Heaven. Also, she's pretty much the most unselfish person ever... her care of Papaw for so many years was unbelievable, and she'd do it again in a heartbeat. She serves because she wants to. The woman is 83 (!!!) and she will tell me that she's been "out of it" because she's "only" made three hospital visits this week. (To visit the "old" people, one of which she clearly is not.) She gives hospitality a whole new meaning... the number of people that she has fed and housed over the years could attest to that. When she says "Make yourself at home," she means it. Her house has notebooks scattered through each room, full of prayer requests, praises, and just her conversations with the Lord, mostly about those of us fortunate enough to be her family. 

God has a plan for my life, and I truly believe that one of the most important and special parts of it was the opportunity to live very close to Mamaw for four years- two in college, two right after we were married. Three of those years were spent with Papaw, too, and helping her with him when I could. As newlyweds, we were at her house every day... watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy while eating Mamaw's food. (Who could pass up a setup like that?) I would not trade that time for anything in the world. Being the closest grandchild around, I like to think I'm her favorite (not really, but we are closer than we've ever been.) I have been privileged to watch her closely, spend time with her, and be on the receiving end of her wisdom many times (and the receiving end of her chocolate gravy, which is a whole new level of blessing.) She loves me unconditionally and spoils me and Jonathan (although her intolerance for my shopping habits has been a point of contention now and then. Ha!)

I could talk all day about how much Mamaw has encouraged ME, but let's be honest... if you know her, she has encouraged you too. This is one incredible lady, and I am one lucky girl to call her Mamaw. Happy Birthday, Nina Marie! Your family (and so many others) love you more than you could ever know. 




One thing I rarely do here at the Dash is talk about my husband. I mean, sure, I mention him, but I don't spend much time (any, really) bragging about him or raving about how wonderful he is. I could, but I don't... mainly because I don't want anyone to gag and PDA on the www is a little nauseating, right? So I refrain.

BUT today is Jonathan's 25th birthday, and since this is my blog and I make the rules write the posts, I have decided that just one over-the-top mushfest in honor of the greatest guy I know will not be superfluous in the grand scheme of things. So, here it is: on his birthday, 25 reasons I love my husband/think he is the bomb. 

1. He is, without a doubt, the hardest worker I know. Teaching, church work, grad school, stuff at home... he always gets his tasks accomplished (and done well) and hardly breaks a sweat. Maybe it's because...

2. ...he's super organized. As in, he has a million things to do and he somehow does them all without any of it falling through the cracks, all while keeping it all straight in his head (and making ridiculously good grades in his freakishly hard classes.) 

3. He knows what a baby I am about interacting with other humans that I don't know and takes care of all phone calls/mail regarding, but not limited to, appointments, insurance, bills, car repairs... whatever. I hate making calls like that and he knows it and does it for me, God bless him.

4. He handles all our money. While this is only a burden to me when I'm standing at Target with a basket full of stuff and Dave Ramsey Jr. is frowning at me, it is a huge blessing the rest of the time. I have no patience for or skill with math or money, and it is far safer for our finances (and our marriage) that I am hands-off in this area. 

5. He's smart... really, really smart. It drove me crazy in college because he would "study" (aka barely glance at his notes) and ace every test. Lucky for him, he married me- a word nerd, so we get along splendidly trying to outdo each other with big words (I usually win.) Seriously, the guy's a brain.

6. He's athletic. You'd think such a brain would be a less than stellar athlete but I love knowing that whether it's soccer, basketball, tennis, golf... I can proudly watch him play sports because he does well in all of them. (However, due to his STUPID injury I have banned him from the basketball court for life.)

7. He is probably the least picky eater on the planet and has enthusiastically devoured everything I've ever cooked in nearly three years of marriage.

8. He tolerates my love of shopping and will even offer his opinion when I try things on (even though sometimes that input is half-hearted at best, I do welcome it.) Come to think of it, it's not my love of shopping he has a problem with... it's the spending money part that he isn't a fan of. =) 

9. He is a die-hard Carolina Tar Heels fan, thank goodness. I just don't know if I could have married a Duke fan, honestly.

10. He has an immense knowledge of the Bible and always reading and studying to learn even more. He's definitely my go-to for any Bible/theology questions, and I love that we can talk about these things together.

11. He offers input (when asked) about the blog and even takes my outfit pictures with minimal mockery.

12. He is really a lot more like me than most people think. I am the more outgoing of the two of us, but in reality we have similar personalities- I'm more likely to voice a sarcastic comment, but I can guarantee you he's thinking it! 

13. He lets things go. Seriously, the man rarely lets anything "get to" him, and this both inspires me (to do the same) and frustrates me (when I want to be offended on his behalf.) 

14. He adores my nieces and nephews as much as I do. He is nice enough to not gloat (most of the time) that they all prefer him to me, tolerating me on the phone for about two seconds before they begin clamoring for "Uncle Jonafan!" Little jerks. But really, he is so good about playing with them and talking to them on FaceTime and just generally being a very sweet uncle. 

15. He dresses well. (Well, he dresses up well... we are working on his casual style. =) But really, one of the first things I noticed about him as a teenager (!!!) was that his suit and shirt and tie were so sharp, and I still love that. I've even got him wearing cardigans now, so score one for me.

16. He is so great with kids... good thing for a children's pastor, right? But really, the way he can be silly with the kids and still get serious about the Bible and tolerate all their kid-ness (that generally I have about zero seconds of patience for) is awesome. 

17. He is the king of random, trivial knowledge. As possibly the only person in New Bern under the age of 50 who reads the local paper, he is always up on the latest obscure news story or tidbit of information. Although this is tiresome at times, I imagine one day I will be needing an answer to some random question (perhaps on a game show) and lucky for me he will be around.

18. He is not one for surprises, flowers, or "just because" gifts, but a) he knows that I would rather have clothes than flowers because flowers die and b) he really does treat me like a princess around here, serving me daily and spoiling me in a million little ways all the time. 

19. He is so talented- he can sing, play sports, act (for real... he's been in a bunch of Christmas plays and he's really good!), preach, teach... (yes, this is straight-up bragging. Calm down... it's his birthday.)

20. Not only does he appreciate (well, acknowledge, anyway) my endless offering of movie quotes, etc. but he has gotten quite good at naming the movie, and sometimes even contributes one himself (which I find adorable.)

21. He has made my family his family. That means so much more than I can even express (since we're a crazy bunch) but it's true and I love him for it.

22. My family adores him, and are quick to remind me how lucky I am to have married him (yes, I know) and that he is practically the fourth member of the Trinity (sure, okay) and that he sure has to put up with a lot (hey! watch it!). 

23. He makes me laugh every day, and more importantly, laughs at my jokes, which you can imagine is crucial to our relationship.

24. He indulges all of fictional obsessions... like my depression when Psych ends for the season, for example.  He only calls me crazy occasionally.

25. He is the sweetest, funniest, hottest (yeah, I said it!), coolest, godliest man in the world... and I just happen to be married to him. 

Allow me to gush for just another moment and say that I'm not exaggerating or being facetious when I tell you that I still wonder how in the world I ended up married to Jonathan McNeese (I guess in my mind, I'm still 14 and thinking "There's no way he'd like me!") But not only did he like me, he loves me and shows me daily how to be a better person and a better Christian (and tells me I'm pretty... am I lucky or what?). I really could not ask for a better man to spend my life with, and I am sooo thankful that God gave me this guy.

Now, show's over. Non-sappy Ash will be back tomorrow. But for today, happy birthday to my sweetheart. I love you!