High Five for Friday!

High Five for Friday!

It's Friday... but today is a very special Friday. Today is the last day of school before spring break!!! I cannot CONTAIN my excitement. This next week is going to be so awesome... we're not going out of town or anything, but my parents are coming and I am totally looking forward to just hanging out at home and relaxing! So, that deserves a high five itself! Now, on to the list...

1. I got to talk to my best friend Sara last night. (This picture is like 3 years old, but alas, we are never together these days to take a new one! And I like the birthday hats =) Anyway, we are both busy with our first year teaching and do not get to talk as often as I'd like, but we had a nice, long, newsy chat. Swapping classroom stories, quoting Psych, discussing the implications of Joseph's dreams (oh yeah, deep theological discussions went down)... it was a great conversation with one of my very favorite people. Love you Sahara!

2. I read this book in 7th grade and bought it on my Kindle this week. Beverly Cleary is my favorite children's author and a huge inspiration when it come to her writing style. One day when I write my children's book that my aunt keeps telling me to write, I will definitely be channeling my inner Beverly Cleary. Anyway, this sweet little book, published in 1959, is about a typical 15-year-old girl whose life is changed when a handsome, older boy singles her out of a crowd and asks her to dance. As she gets to know the boy, she learns that popularity is really not all it's cracked up to be. (Still true 50+ years later, huh?) What I love most is the adorable descriptions of teenage life back then. Pleated skirts, saddle shoes, sewing class, Cokes at the drive-in... what an innocent decade compared to now! (And yes, I did just post about The Hunger Games... I'm not a literary schizophrenic, I promise! I just have different books for different moods. Sometimes I'm in the mood for post-apocalyptic violence; sometimes 1950's Americana.) 

3. Ah, Easter... the season for celebrating Jesus' resurrection... and Cadbury mini eggs. These are seriously the best Easter candy ever. (I know it's un-American of me, but I think Peeps are so gross!) Anyway, thanks to my mother, I am completely addicted to these. I bought a bag of them on Tuesday night and... they're all gone now. And I didn't share. (Sorry, kids!)

4. I have been on the hunt for a pair of nude pumps for about three months now. And I've seen a million pairs that I like, but you know me... I'm the cheapest person ever I have to find a bargain! And most of the time, I refuse to pay full price for anything. But after this long and fruitless search, I broke down and paid full price for these pumps from Target. They fit well, are comfortable, were the shade and shape I was looking for, and the heels weren't too high (I know, I'm a wimp). Anyway, I debuted them on Sunday and I love them! For a long time I didn't embrace the nude shoe trend because I thought I would feel like Kim Kardashian (ew) but I didn't. Not a famous-for-being-stupid-and-skanky moment at all! =)

5. Baseball season is finally here! I am definitely not obsessed with into baseball the way I was at say, 13. You know, back when I used to have the Mariners 30-man roster memorized, complete with batting averages. These days, I follow more at a distance, and I have extended my fan love to the Braves since moving to Georgia 7 years ago. (BTW, am I the only person who's broken-hearted that Chipper Jones is retiring after this year? I know he's a dinosaur but he is truly a legend in the ATL.) Even though I don't know every stat these days, there is still something magical about the start of baseball season. It's one of my favorite things I share with my dad, and I love it. Anyway, the Mariners started off with W against the A's and the Braves... well, we'll just see. But here's to a great season for both teams! Can't wait to catch a few games this summer!

Well, folks, that's my High Five for Friday. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I will be spring-breaking it up here it Goldsboro! Woohoo!


A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words...

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words...

Earlier this week, I posted about my terrible stage fright malady, starting with my disastrous piano recital. Little did I know that I would be able to come up with the photographic evidence of that humiliating moment!

Friday afternoon I was at Mamaw's and picked up one of the photo albums on her coffee table. Lo and behold, what should be included in this particular pictures but photos from my recital! Talk about great timing! I had no idea they were there! So, for your viewing pleasure, let's recap my failure.

Check out that bow and frilly dress! Oh, and the poofy bangs in the corner belong to Amanda. (I think... it was the 90's, after all... could've been almost anyone!)

So far so good...


Embarrassed beyond words!!!! (By the way, wasn't my mom a little bit sadistic to take a picture of that pose? I mean really...)

Clearly no one told me that the best way to "play off" a mistake was not to run away with my hands over my mouth in shame and disbelief. Oh well. My mistakes may not have improved, but I'd like to think I cover them a little better these days!

By the way, I sounded all big and bad the other night talking about how "I don't shake as much when I sing." I definitely ate those words this morning when I sang with a trio and felt lucky that my legs supported me on my way back to my seat. I was shaking all over by then. Poor quirky little me. (I appreciate those who commiserated with my weirdness through your comments. Makes me feel better about myself!)

Have a wonderful week everyone! Glad my embarrassing childhood photos bring joy to your lives! =)


Shakes and Stage Fright...

Shakes and Stage Fright...

When I was a kid, I totally identified with this book. Poor Sister Bear, who loses it in front of all Bear Country at the school play. Other than my earliest Patch performances, in which my biggest worry was winning Super Sailor (didn't happen as often as you'd think, what with Captain Baines at the helm and all), I don't remember much about getting nervous in front of crowds until my piano recital in 3rd grade. I can't remember what song I played, but I remember being so scared that I messed up and literally ran away with my hands over my face. (There is photographic proof of this moment.) From that day on, I knew I was plagued with a serious and incurable case of stage fright.

For the next few years, it wasn't that bad. I mean, sure I got nervous, but it didn't like immobilize me when I performed. (By the way, I didn't have a Charlotte Church-type childhood full of solo concerts... I'm just talking Patch performances, piano recitals, etc.) But when I go a little older (junior high-ish) I ran into a major problem.

I shake. Even when I'm not nervous, there is a slight shakiness (called technically a "fine tremor", although if you ask me there's nothing fine about it) to my hands. All the time. I basically resemble a Parkinson's patient at times. (No disrespect to actual Parkinson's patients.) And I get some really great responses.

"What is wrong with you??" (Hmmm.... I'll have to get back to you.)

"Stop shaking, Ashley!" (Oh, sure, let me turn it off like a faucet!)

"Are you nervous?" (No, I'm completely at ease... which is why my hands are so wobbly my drink is sloshing over the side of my cup.)

"You'll grow out of it." (Am I teething or something?)
 Basically, I look like a total spaz even trying to open a bag of chips, let alone trying to get up in front of people for any reason. (Except for teaching, for some reason. I'm totally at ease teaching. Good news, eh?)

So, despite my early foray into piano recitals that was hardly fantastic, I kept on with the whole piano thing from 1st grade until I was a senior in high school. (Not every year, but about 9 years total). The first 6 years were with actual teachers, and the last few were spent with my sister Amanda.

There are several pianists in my family (all my sisters play, several cousins are quite good, my mom plays Indian Wigwam at an obnoxious tempo...), but Amanda is the Mozart of us all. And while her talent was never lorded over me by anyone but myself, it wasn't really a motivating factor in my own musical journey. I didn't resent her talent, but it just made me feel like there was already one accomplished pianist in the family, so why bother? (It didn't occur to my omniscient 15-year-old self that one day we wouldn't all be under the same roof and I might need to be able to play without her. So, our lessons were spent less on piano and more on my extremely successful ability to distract Amanda with my witty banter. (Have you ever tried to teach your sibling something? It's usually a lost cause.) 

Not that she didn't try. The poor dear certainly tried. She bought me books, she let me play what I wanted (mostly Disney songs), and she tried to pound into my head that I would in fact need this information one day. But then I'd start making jokes and the lesson would head south. (Poor Amanda... she's really a great teacher, just not strong enough to resist my hilarity... which is why she's usually my best audience for a story. =) And I really hated practicing! (Doesn't everybody?) I really just wanted to be able to sit down and PLAY, without all that work! Ha! Clearly it doesn't work that way.

So, my lazy streak towards the piano, combined with my freakish nervous habit of shaking (passed down from my dad and Amanda, ironically), did not really lend themselves to a bright future as a pianist. I get just as nervous singing, but I've done enough of it over the years that I'm not totally paralyzed when I sing. Plus, I don't do solos and I picked up a trick from my friend Melissa of holding the microphone in both hands so the entire audience doesn't have to watch it shake with me. At least if your voice shakes, you can kind of plow on through. If your hands shake, it kind of affects the whole piano thing (since you play with your hands!). 

When I grew up (or last year, to be exact) I realized I might actually need to have some small piano ability for my future in ministry (we plan to start a church someday) and goodness knows my limited guitar skills  are not accompanist-worthy. So, I decided, at 21, to take up the piano again. This time, our music minister's wife, Susan, had the misfortune good luck to be my teacher. She was great... she put me at ease, made me feel like I still had some measure of ability, and taught me alot in the pitifully short amount of time we had to work (just one semester!). All went well until the end of semester "final" (yes, this was a class for an actual grade) when I had to perform in front of the music faculty. Too bad I was shaking so bad that I literally lost control of what I was doing and had to stop by the third song. So much for "making a comeback" into the piano world. My face turns red just thinking about it! 

After all that, imagine my chagrin when I was asked to play the keyboard for church on Wednesday nights. Mind you, it's only once a month, and it's just playing the chords of each song to back up the piano. And after a decade of piano lessons, if I can't at least bang out some chords then I should probably never have the nerve to touch a piano again. So, I agreed, if only for the sake of my pride. And the fear that God would allow an accident to break all my fingers if I didn't.

Bad move.

The first time I was on the schedule (last month) I was in full-out panic mode for the entire week before. I forced my friend Brittany, who was scheduled to play the piano, to practice with me (I'm pretty sure no one else does that for any length of time) and then took the music home and set up my Mamaw's tiny little keyboard and practiced long enough to drive myself and my husband crazy. All this for a 15-20 minute song service on a Wednesday night. And all because of my ridiculous shaky hands. (It doesn't help that we have a zillion awesome pianists at our church... I always feel like Toy Story when Andy gets a bunch of cool presents and then he opens bed sheets and all the toys shout "Who invited that kid?!" Not to mention our music minister, whose opinion I value enormously, is sitting close enough to actually hear the keyboard. I typically putter at the piano only when I'm alone and scurry away like a frightened mouse if I hear footsteps approaching. I know, pathetic.) 

All too soon, this month's scheduled Wednesday had arrived and I was going into lock-down again. Only this time, instead of my college buddy at the piano, it was one of our church secretaries. She is the sweetest person ever but I'm not as comfortable demanding  requesting a practice. I did, however, feel I should at least give her a heads-up that she had been saddled with the spastic shaky girl for her turn on the rotation. (This involved my needing a detailed list of the songs for the prelude, order of service, etc.) So the past couple days I have dragged out the keyboard and set up shop in Mamaw's room, again practicing for what lasted all of 20 minutes and what probably only a few people noticed. (I did survive, thanks to a patient Mrs. Maddox, the pianist, with only a few glaring errors that hopefully didn't make too many people wince.)

But I am glad I did, if only to say that I actually went through with it (As if I have survived the apocalypse!). Psalm 35:4-5 has become my theme verse... "Strengthen the weak hands, and steady the feeble knees." That's me- weak hands, feeble knees, and all. And for a few minutes on the third Wednesday of each month, God strengthens them. It has to be Him, because otherwise I'd be a basket case. But I just have to tell myself that maybe someday I will actually play, if not beautifully, then perhaps without the shakes. Who knows? I doubt it, but I can hope. And practice on my tiny keyboard in the meantime.

Or just say no to all piano opportunities that come my way. 
Yeah, maybe that.

Later, people! If you have a paralyzing fear of performing (or a freaky quirk like my shakes), let me know before I get a complex and join the circus. 


Famous Chicken, Biscuits... and Savings?

Famous Chicken, Biscuits... and Savings?

After a great (and busy!) day at church, Jonathan and I were both starving as usual and although we just resolved last night that we would not eat out this week, that resolution lasted for all of 24 hours. I really planned on going home and unwrapping a frozen pizza cooking something, but we were both really hungry and didn't feel like waiting on the oven to preheat. Plus our preacher happened to mention Bojangles tonight, and that really started me thinking. The nasty old Bojangles in town that smelled more like cigarette smoke than it did chicken was finally "overhauled" after a long overdue remodeling job. Since it just reopened recently (and it's conveniently located on our way home), it seemed like the best pick for dinner.  (Oh, the way I justify these things...) 

So, there we were at the new, clean, dare I say... classy (?!) Bojangles, me enjoying my Supremes kids meal, Jonathan scarfing down his Cajun filet biscuit, when I took a break for a refill and noticed a rather curious sign. (I am still kicking myself for not taking a picture, but I couldn't figure out how to do it without looking like a total psycho!) There on the menu board, an entire portion was designated to introduce a new, lower price for one of the value meals.

There it said, in big, bold print: 

4-piece Supremes Dinner: $4.79 NOW ONLY $4.75! 

Now I don't know about you, but I really would love to have been a fly on the wall at that high-rise corporate board meeting. 

"Hey guys... the marketing department has been a little dry lately... What can we advertise that's a real zinger?"

"I don't know, Bill... maybe a price decrease of FOUR PENNIES! People will come running for that!"

So, if you are looking for a really great deal, head over to Bojangles to get the $4.79 Supremes meal for the low, low price of ONLY $4.75! At a price like that, how can you afford NOT to??

Have a wonderful week, and buy yourself something nice with the money you save at Bojangles!


High Five for Friday!

High Five for Friday!

First off, let me apologize for the length of my previous blogs.... I was just glancing through and thinking "Holy cow... these are like 13 paragraphs long. Everyone go grab some popcorn and pull up a chair while you spend an hour reading each post!" So, I guess I should attempt a shorter post every now and then, which is where "High Five for Friday" comes in.

I want to be best friends with really like Kate Bryan at The Small Things Blog (who doesn't? Her hair tutorials have pretty much changed my life. Which will be the subject of a future post, no doubt.) Anyway, she and her sister Lauren (who also has a cute and fun blog) both do a "High Five for Friday" post and have gotten a bunch of other bloggers to join in. (I genuinely never thought I'd include myself in a sentence about "bloggers".... ha! So it's come to this!) Basically, "High Five for Friday" (or HF4F, if you want to be clever and shorten it) is just a list of five cool/fun/exciting/interesting things from your week (usually in the form of a picture and an explanation). In my case, it will ensure that my post be no longer than those five things (so you don't have to designate a huge chunk of your life to read it!) 

So, drum roll... my first High Five for Friday!

This picture is from about a month ago, but it still makes me happy today! This is my ADORABLE and FAT nephew, Steven Michael Montepeque. He loves his Auntie Ashley! And I love dressing him in preppy little man clothes. In fact, I literally had to tear myself away from the baby section at Target tonight. He is the sweetest baby boy ever and I cannot get enough of his fat little cheeks!!! (Okay, enough baby-gushing. But seriously... those cheeks! Ah! I'm done now.)

I read The Hunger Games series about two months ago, but I'm including it because the movie comes out next week and I am SO very excited! If you haven't read these books, you must! I won't go into all the details of the plot (because I am committing to a shorter post) but they are excellent. And I'm pretty picky about my literature. (Says the girl with the Beverly Clearly and Berenstein Bear series on my favorites list!)

For whatever reason, Target does not sell belts online. Who knows? But tonight I got a belt similar to this one from J. Crew (but less sparkly... more of a black under the gold sparkles) for $3.55 at Target. That's right, less than four bucks for a great belt for fall and winter. As Stacy and Clinton say, metallics are neutral! I can't wait to wear mine (and I may sneak it in during summer... who knows?) I've seen belts featured nearly every outfit board that I like on Pinterest and other style blogs so I'm trying to build up my belt collection. Here's to more $4 additions!


My little sister Amy posted this video and while I think it's slightly sadistic, I was literally in tears I was laughing so hard when I watched it. Definitely worthy of a High Five!

Finally... this still was from the latest episode of Psych... the hilariously witty James Roday as the hilariously witty Shawn Spencer, psychic detective. Truly one of the funniest people on the planet.

Anyway, I'm proud of myself for writing a shorter post (if you don't count the pictures, I guess it's not too long! I just don't want anyone to accuse me of being long-winded like a certain parent of mine... and it's not the preacher!) That's my High Five for Friday!  If you have something awesome to share from this week, do tell! =)  Happy weekend, people!


Spring is In the Air...

Spring is In the Air...

Am I the only person who is tremendously excited about the arrival of spring? While I can't say that spring is my "favorite" season (I really don't have a favorite... Unless you count Christmas), I always anticipate the arrival of spring with much excitement and little patience. By March, the charm of bundling up in 3 or 4 layers has completely faded and I am ready to break out the sandals and short sleeves.

 I have never been more ready for spring than I was this year- as a teacher, I had grown weary of freezing my tail off shivering through recess, or worse, having gym time. *cue doom music* Have you ever been in a gymnasium with 45 screaming children? It's no picnic. But, I digress. (Hey...It could always be worse! Ha! I knew this post would come back to haunt me!) More than anything, I was ready to change my winter bulletin boards. 

 Now, I don't like to brag (doesn't bragging always follow those words?), but one thing I take great pride in is my bulletin boards. I work really hard on my room decorations, which is not entirely unselfish. I figure I have to stare at this stuff for 40+ hours a week, so I should probably like it. Plus, there are too many "teacher genes" in my DNA for me to slack off in this area. However, due to laziness "winter-itis" (or as I like to call it, post-Christmas depression), my boards for January and February kind of slipped off the awesomeness radar. Basically my room was a hodge-podge of snowflakes, snowmen, hearts, and dead Presidents. (You know, the typical Washington/Lincoln portraits. I was sorely tempted to put the caption "Party in the USA"... But I resisted the urge. Seriously... wouldn't that have been hilarious???)

 So, after this wintery randomness I was more than ready for spring boards. Off I went to our local teacher supply store, The Learning Center. (Check them out here for some great stuff!) I may take pride in my bulletin boards, but I definitely don't take pride in my ability to draw/cut out/make any bulletin board items. I am THE world's biggest spaz with a pair of scissors. So, even though it costs an arm and a leg (not literally... How sick would that be?), I buy as many materials as possible. After tossing around a few ideas (I work best with a theme) I decided to go with "green" as my main idea. Totally outside the box, right? Or as Miranda Priestly says, "Florals.. For spring. Ground-breaking." Nontheless, I got frogs, bugs, and other springy stuff and went to it. And I love the results! I actually look around the room with a smile now (a far cry from those depressing snowflakes!) Here are a few samples what's new in Mrs. McNeese's room:  

I am so proud of the notebook paper background, because I came up with it by myself, and only had to cleverly position the pieces to cover one hideous mistake! =)

I added writing papers here (OBVIOUSLY. Sorry, I hate insulting your intelligence.)

This is above the bookshelf.

You can't see it, but the baseballs say "Eyes forward, back straight, feet flat, hands folded, ears open, mouth closed." I also added some grass to make it look like a ball field. I'd put the new picture, but some of my downloads are malfunctioning!

This board is always my "sacred" or spiritual board... except at Christmas, when it had a big Grinch on it (which was SO cool!). However, I had a really hard time coming up with something for spring. I know there are tons of Easter boards, but I wanted something a little different from the typical Easter message. (Not that there's anything wrong with those... I just have to complicate my life. And I have an unfortunate penchant for extremely long captions. It's a problem.) I finally landed on this idea at the last minute. On the hearts, I had each student write the day they got saved. I like it! (Minus the lopsided cross... I told you I am the opposite of handy when it comes to hand-made things!)

Our school hosts Grandparents Day every spring; it includes a formal invitation, a big breakfast, and a program with performances by the K4-6th grades. I stole this idea from a Hallmark card (and I got the idea to look at Hallmark from my mom. Thanks, Gigi!) The little cloud shapes have names for grandparents (Papa, Nana, etc.) It turned out pretty cute! Although I wish I had a picture of my best friend Brook's Grandparents Day board. She made (because she is crafty and talented, unlike me!) two kids playing dress-up and the caption was "Our grandparents are just antique little boys and girls." How cute is that??

Well, that's just about it, except for one wall decoration with a big bee and the kids' names on bee hives, with the caption "Bee Yourself!". (Of course this is less of a self-image message than it is a tribute to Aladdin. Some things I do for myself. Heehee!) Finally, thanks to my genius aunt, Mrs. Sloan, I have added a spring behavior incentive board. But I think I'll wait and see how well it works before I advertise it. =) 

I hope you enjoyed a peek into my classroom! I am so loving the new spring look! Now if I could only find a cure for the spring break fever that has infiltrated lately! (Not to mention those kids are getting a little restless!) See what I did there? (insert cheesy laugh) Oh, dear. I think it's time for bed. 

Happy Spring!!!


Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week

This week at Faith Christian Academy has been designated Teacher Appreciation Week. Officially, the week falls on the calendar sometime in May, but hey... we dare to be different.
Let me just tell you... I got SPOILED. Breakfast and lunch provided several days this week, drinks, gum, enough candy to rot every tooth in my mouth, gift cards (woohoo!)... and some really sweet notes from parents and students. Funny how a simple card can mean more than anything else (but I like the gift cards, not gonna lie =). It means so much to hear from a parent or a student that you are making a difference in their lives. A couple of my favorite comments from students:

"Mrs. McNeese, I have really enjoyed being in your class for all these years." I guess the past seven months have dragged a little, eh? =)

"Mrs. McNeese, even though I have a B in your class, as a teacher you deserve an A+!" I thought that was adorable! 

Teaching is incredibly hard work, but I can't think of a more rewarding ministry. Proving to kids that they can do things that they weren't aware they could do... watching things "click" for the first time... seeing a triumphant smile when they finally get the answer... there are 100 little moments like that every week for me and those are just the "short-term" results. There's no telling what my kids will take away from the classroom this year and carry with them for life. (Yikes... that's a scary thought!) If anything, this year has shown me that kids really do pick up things you do and say! I overheard one of my boys telling a second grader recently, "Is that really necessary?" I realized that one of my "catchphrases" was being passed along. Ha! (Don't worry... I really do keep my sarcasm to a bare minimum with my munchkins... but they are getting better at catching it! I'm proud of them! =)

My class:

Anyway, in the spirit of Teacher Appreciation Week, I couldn't finish this post without thanking a few teachers who have really inspired/influenced me over the years. I catch myself constantly doing and saying things that I can attribute to specific teachers I've had. More often than not, it's my mom. (Help me!) Seriously though, I've had the privilege to learn from some of the best, and for the short time I've been "at it", my respect for them has increased exponentially. 

I appreciate my mom for being the first teacher I ever had... and being the best. She is a truly brilliant educator. (I've met my nice quota for you this month now, Mom. =) Seriously though, she's the best there is!

I appreciate my Aunt Nancy for being my earliest school teacher and for being so consistent. I say things to my class that she said to us in third grade. ("Participate, participate, participate... everybody does!" Isn't it funny what you remember?)

I appreciate my Aunt Peggy for the countless questions she has answered this year, and for having an "open-door policy" for all my troubles. And for sharing her endless classroom resources. =)

I appreciate Miss Schweitzer for instilling in me love of English in 7th grade, and for making grammar exciting (to me anyway... I can't speak for the rest of the class!) I use the term "red blinkie light" all the time! =)

I appreciate Mr. Carey for being one of the most unbelievably smart people alive, and for showing me that faithfulness is worth it. Mr. Carey, you are a hero to me and so many other people! I haven't had the nerve to throw a marker at anyone yet... but someday!

I appreciate Marc Holloman for teaching me to "autograph my work with excellence"... and for accepting my hideously long essay answers in US History.

I appreciate Mr. Moots for teaching me that apathy is, indeed, an admirable quality and for speaking the truth in every circumstance. 

I appreciate Dr. Paramore for so many things... but a few are teaching me that puns are an art form, that a quick wit is a gift to be shared, and that I am capable of writing creatively (which I was unaware of until Advanced Grammar and Composition... I'm still not great at it... but he helped me tremendously). 

Where would any of us be without our teachers? These people make a lasting impression on their students... and I am one who has been blessed, encouraged, scolded (rarely =), challenged, and inspired by my teachers. Both the positive and negative experiences were necessary to make me the person and the teacher that I am. To quote one of my favorite songs,

 "So much of me is made of what I learned of you; you'll be with me like a hand-print on my heart... because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

My teachers changed me for good. What about you?


It Could Always Be Worse...

It Could Always Be Worse...

Ever seen this picture?

 I think we've all had those days when it seemed like if one more thing went wrong, we'd just scream. Something as seemingly small as a bad hair day (which is the WORST... And guys have it so easy. No fair!) to spilled coffee, oversleeping, or searching frantically for the dreaded "other shoe". All of these little "inconveniences" can add up into a pretty yucky day. 

 But what about when things go wrong... Like, really wrong? Not just a bad hair day, a run in your hose (which is more obnoxious than nearly anything in the world!), or even a downright unpleasant encounter... but an actual crisis? When I was in the tenth grade, my family went through a very difficult time. Without going into all the details, it's sufficient to say that it was the hardest thing I had gone through up to that point in my life. In the space of about 3 weeks, I had said goodbye to all my friends, moved 3,000 miles across the country, and started going to a new church and school. (This included coming from California to North Carolina, where everyone talked exponentially more slowly and every introduction to a new person included the question "Carolina, State, or Duke?" Major culture shock for this West Coast girl!) 

After settling down and deciding that this was not, after all, the end of my existence as I knew it, I began to look around and see what other people were going through. There were two other teenagers in our youth group, a brother and sister, who had moved to our town at the same time as my family. However, theirs was quite a different story from mine. Rather than coming here for a "transition time" between ministries, they had moved to Goldsboro because their dad was dying of cancer and they wanted to be near family. 

Woah. While I was griping about leaving behind my friends (which was hard, for sure), these kids are faced with the reality that their dad has a few months left on earth. One Wednesday afternoon, on Teen Evangelism, the girl shared about how good God had been to their family and how she was thankful for her dad's cancer because God had used it in their lives. This testimony prompted me to stand up and share what God had dealing with me about... that even when I think I have it hard, someone around me probably has it "harder". Then, as the sage 15-year-old I was, I made a statement that has become a running joke between me and my youth pastor: "It could always get worse."

Now, we say that to each other jokingly, and have for years, but just recently it really hit home. A few different instances have occurred in the past few months (to people I know) that have made me realize that yes, it could always be worse. Tonight at a ladies event at our church, a lady named Tabitha Groeneveld stood up and praised God despite the devastating house fire that claimed every one of her family's material possessions in December. Last week, a missionary family on deputation was in a car accident that took the life of their precious 3-year-old daughter. These are two examples of events that can really put things in perspective for me when I feel like complaining. Think about it! If you look around, someone always has it worse than you. It helps to remind myself of this regularly:

- I sometimes wish my apartment had a dishwasher... but I've never picked through the charred remains of my house and found little if anything that is salvageable. 
- My husband doesn't always validate my feelings.... but my husband loves me and I've never had to deal with infidelity.
- Sometimes my family just doesn't understand... but I've never had to watch one of them lose a battle with cancer. 
- I can't seem to shake this sinus infection... but I don't deal with chronic pain that some days makes getting out of bed an ordeal.
- I don't always feel as happy as I appear... but I've never been immobilized by depression.
- I can't afford to buy that dress I want... but I've never been humbled by losing all my clothes and having to wear whatever people bring by.
- I sometimes get frustrated with my students... but I've never had the euphoric joy of a pregnancy ripped away by the crushing blow of a miscarriage. 
- I wish I understood why a certain person dislikes me... but I have never had to plan a funeral for my toddler.
- I may have to deal with an unreasonable person... but I haven't raised a child in a godly home and then had to watch him forsake the faith I tried to instill in him.
- I often question people's motives when I see them make what I consider foolish decisions... but I've never received a life-changing call telling me someone I love has been killed in a car accident.
- I may grow weary at my job sometimes... but I've never faced unemployment and wondered how my family would make it financially.
- I don't always understand why things happen the way they do... but I know Someone who does.

I know many people have dealt or are dealing with some of the "serious" problems I mentioned. I also know that everyone's problems are personal and that what is important to me may not be important to you. I am certainly not trying to make anyone's problems seem insignificant, because sometimes I need to someone to sympathize with me over something "small" too! But I just feel lately that any complaining I do is completely uncalled for. (And I still do complain, because some lessons take a while to sink in!) But I have been reminded tonight by Tabitha's testimony that when it comes down to it, what do I really have to complain about? 

So, though I am rarely going to be this serious on here (or preachy!), just take a minute to look around and put things in perspective. Is the situation really worth "losing it" over? Remember, things really could be worse!

Oh, and if you have a bad hair day, call me. I will totally bring refreshments to your pity party! =)


It's Friday, Friday...

It's Friday, Friday...

     In case you don't know, my title is a tribute to that chart-topping, show-stopping (ear-splitting, groan-inducing) hit by Rebecca Black... "Friday". In case you haven't experience this horrifying "piece" of what is defined by some as entertainment, take a look at it sometime when you want to feel really good about yourself.  It's really an autotune wonder. I actually laughed aloud when I read a quote from some celebrity who listed it as a "guilty pleasure". I'm like, yeah, you're feeling guilty because of the brain cells you destroyed while you listened. If nothing else, it's good for a laugh, and my sister and I quote its insanely ridiculous lyrics to each other most Fridays. =)

   Ah, Friday. Although this day didn't start off too well- which I'll save for another post, perhaps... but let's just say that my class seemed to be having a contest to see who could come the closest to driving me insane. ("That's not a drive, it's a short put!" Sorry, just a little Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis humor... couldn't resist.) Anyway, after being at school until after eight o'clock almost every night this week (which was well worth it, since my classroom is now spring-y and totally devoid of snowflakes) and after the day I had, I was definitely ready to hit the road once I got rid of safely deposited my children to their parents.

Things started looking up rather quickly... on the way home, Jonathan informed me that we would be having a date at Chili's... yay! Am I the only person who is mad about their chips and salsa? (And by mad I mean crazy... I just love inserting Shakespearean language into everyday conversation.) I could eat Chili's chips and salsa just about every day and not get tired of it. I really wanted a molten lava cake too, but I hated to completely throw my diet out the window, especially since I am still using every possible excuse to eat my Valentine's candy. ("I'm sad... I need chocolate; I'm happy... let's celebrate with chocolate! Devin made an A on his spelling test; I'll reward him by eating some chocolate!" See my problem?) Still, the promise of a Chili's date was definitely a pick-me-up.

The best kind of pick-me-up is always a nap, am I right? Hence, I slept for about an hour (okay, it was two hours... don't judge me!) as soon as I got home, kicked off my shoes, and face-planted into bed. Now that is what I call refreshing. I woke up totally ready to feast on chips and salsa... and by feast I mean completely spoil my appetite for the entree. Which I do, every time, after reminding myself not to.

Chili's, as usual, did not disappoint. One of the best parts of going to Chili's here in Goldsboro is checking out the local "flavor" (and by flavor I mean fresh pickings from the loony bin). Wayne County crazies really are like none other, especially on Friday night. Here is one example from the waiting area: 

Apparently, she answered "Chili's in Goldsboro with my girls..." when asked the question "Where would be an appropriate place to wear knee-high metallic gladiators and a slutty revealing dress?" (which I tactfully refrained from photographing). This girl was ready to party! (And my husband says I really need to stop taking pictures of unsuspecting strangers... but I can't! It's too easy!)

After gorging myself on chips and salsa having a lovely dinner with Jonathan, a stop at Target was on the agenda. Now, let me say up front that anyone who knows me knows that I am slightly addicted to Target. I really have gotten better (as in, I go maybe once a week as opposed to 2-3 times). I can't really congratulate myself about that, though, since it's only because our Target is pretty much the bottom-dweller of all Target stores when it comes to their clothes. We don't even get about half the apparel that other Targets do. (Example: not one bit of the Jason Wu line that was released in February made its way here. I guess they figured that people like my homegirl at Chili's weren't interested in designer collections at affordable prices. I mean, that's why we have a Rainbow store, right?) Sorry, that was a mini-rant. 

Anyway, stopping at Target on a date is pretty much compulsory. Unfortunately, my husband does not ever usually feel compelled to purchase anything. But last night, I found a couple of great deals that he just couldn't pass up. One of them was this AWESOME scarf: 

I absolutely love the colors: hot pink, white, an aqua-green, camel/taupe, black, and a touch of neon yellow. I have been a little afraid of trying out the neon trend but it feels very doable in a few stripes like this. The best thing about this little number? It was $4.48. Yep! Plus, I had a "$3 off Merona apparel" coupon, which means I paid a grand total of $1.62 for this scarf. (I have a problem when it comes to clearance. The clothes just come to me. Honest!) 

Of course, I couldn't find the coupon right away, after bragging to Jonathan that of course I had remembered to bring it. So I found myself on the floor of the accessories department digging through my cavernous purse and finding every other possible Target coupon ($1 off Market Pantry item, anyone?) until I reached it at the bottom of my purse and triumphantly held it in the air like Charlie Bucket with his Golden Ticket. (It helped that the girl at the register loudly praised my deal-finding abilities and instructed my husband to "Keep her... she is such a good shopper!" (We're well acquainted, the Target cashiers and I.) I enthusiastically agreed. Sometimes guys have to be reminded that they are married to a real gem. (Ha!)

The day ended with what was supposed to be a movie night with our best friends. By supposed to be, I mean we just ended up talking for four hours and never actually got around to the movie. But that's just how we roll sometimes. Plus, there were chocolate chip cookies present. You can't beat a night of great conversation and some Pillsbury's. Who's with me?

Overall, it was a great Friday. Started off painful, slowly got better, ended up really great. Was it great enough to sing about? Oh yeah.

Happy weekend, everybody!