A Little Golf Lesson...

A Little Golf Lesson...

Since Jonathan and I have been together (going on 7 years now) one of his primary interests, other than, well, me =), has been golf. And while I don't HATE golf... I'm just not wild about it. There's never time to go golfing during the school year, so he always finds himself going to the golf course in the summer time. Maybe I've just missed the whole point, but going to play a very slooowww game, OUTSIDE, in the wretchedly humid heat of summer, seems like something only a crazy person would do not the most appealing activity in the world. And don't even get me started about watching golf on tv. Oh. my. word. ZZZZZ...... well, you get my point. But Jonathan enjoys it, so I only complain at regular intervals try to endure it for his sake.

However, I've decided recently that I could apply the old adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." By recently, I mean it occurred to me about an hour ago when I walked in the backyard and Jonathan was hitting a few golf balls around. Then I had the sudden epiphany that it might be a good idea to at least get a few pointers and develop a deeper appreciation for the game my husband loves so much. (Truthfully, it just looked like fun and summer boredom is setting in. =)

So, I hired a really cute golf instructor (wink, wink) and got started.

You can feel the enthusiasm through the screen, eh?

Such form!

This is hardly a flattering picture, but it's funny because Jonathan happened to capture the face I made when I hit the ball really far (and into the neighbor's yard. Oops!).

The true master!

My instructor may or may not have a crush on me. (I'm a lucky girl!)

He thinks he's very cool because he can keep the golf ball bouncing on his wedge. (Like a hacky sack, but for golfers, I guess. Needless to say I failed miserably at this trick.)

And our lovely first (but hopefully not last) lesson came to an end. Happy golfing to us!

Anyone else have a new sport/hobby they're picking up these days? Maybe next I'll try my hand at crocheting! (Ha... that's a good one, even for me!)


Happy Birthday, Dad...

Happy Birthday, Dad...

I have had  a "dad" post planned for Father's Day for a while now, but I just hung up the phone with my dad and decided I couldn't wait. May 30th is a special day. MANY 53 years ago, my dad was born to Jack and Phyllis Baines, the second child (post-Debbi, pre-Jay). And he grew up to go to Bible college, meet my mom, fall in love, get married, and have me (post-Amanda/April, pre-Amy). And while I'm sure you think your dad is the best, and I do not begrudge you this faulty belief, I know that you are wrong. MY dad is the very best. I could go on about it for days, but will try to just hit the high points of his awesomeness. =)

1. My dad taught me that baseball is THE most important sport. Basketball and football are okay, but baseball is tops. (And soccer, of course, is for "sissies"... which he says because the one time he played he ended up in the hospital with an almost-broken leg. Ha!) There was a reason that I played catch endlessly as a kid, trying soo hard to get better, could name the Seattle Mariners 25-man roster complete with batting averages, and ate lots of peanuts and sunflower seeds (neither of which I am very fond). I loved the game, yes... but I wanted to impress my dad. I remember our very first Mariners game (in the old Kingdome, no less)... it was one of the last times Nolan Ryan pitched. That was the first of dozens of Mariners, A's, Giants, and Braves games we've attended over the years. 

There he is... Baseball Bob. Playing shortstop here, if I'm not mistaken. I'm glad Dad followed God's will and transferred from Mississippi State to Bible college, although I've thought many times of how cool it would be to have lived on a professional baseball player's salary with a professional ball player. =) 

2. My dad has never, ever, ever made me wish that he were not in the ministry. (Here he is in action! =) That may not sound that impressive, especially if your family isn't in full-time ministry, but I can't tell you how many friends of mine, with parents in the ministry in some way, have told me that they wished often that their families were in some other kind of work. For the first 21 years of my life, my dad was my pastor for 15, and worked in other staff positions for the remaining years. He has faced MANY situations that could have made him angry and bitter or wanting to quit, but he hasn't. He just keeps on. That's probably his best trait, to me anyway- my dad is one of the most consistent people I know. (As Coach Boone would say, "I may be a mean cuss, but I'm the same mean cuss with everybody out there on that football field." Only Dad's not a mean cuss, but you get the idea.) Not only did Dad not get mad or bitter, he never put the ministry ahead of us. He may never pastor a huge church or be a world-famous preacher (though he could be! =), but I'd say 30+ years of marriage and raising 4 kids to marry preachers (well, 3 anyway!) and serve God is a pretty noteworthy accomplishment. Thanks for making ministry look so good that we wanted the same thing, Dad! (And for channeling any anger into your game-watching and road rage. =)

3. Dad has taught me that I MUST have a drink wherever I go. It doesn't matter if it's an 8-hour road trip or a drive across town, stopping at a gas station for a fountain drink (Diet Coke is his beverage of choice) is mandatory. My poor husband did not understand this when we got married (still doesn't, really)... "We're just going to choir practice! We'll be there in 5 minutes!" But babe, I need that sweet tea! I'm compelled to do this. And it's your fault, Dad! I always loved riding home from church with Dad because it meant stopping for a drink at 7-11 (or for an ice-cream cone at McDonald's, if I was lucky!). So, for all my friends who make fun of the fact that I constantly have a Mountain Dew (or Diet Sunkist, these days) in my hand, now you know why. It's genetic. 

4. I've written a few poems in the past several years, but my dad is the MASTER poet. Good grief, I start to feel kinda good about one of mine and then he'll write another one that reminds me I have a LONG way to go before I'm even close to that level. Perfect rhyme, perfect meter... he's the best. I'm just glad a portion of that gene trickled down to me. 

4. If I could take any trait from my dad, it would probably be his even temper. He really is laid back to a fault, a fact that has served him well in the past 30 years with my crazy mother all of us females in the house. Again, other than watching sports on tv or road rage (for years I thought that the proper response to a honked horn was "IDIOT!") my dad really is rattled much. Alas, I am not quite on his level for this one. I did inherit his non-confrontational side, but I still get plenty mad about stuff... I'm just all talk and won't do anything about it. My dad is able to remain calm and impassive amid a battle for the ages (remember how we fought over clothes?) and I try to be like that. I didn't say I'd succeeded yet, but I'm working on it. =)

I really can't begin to list all the other many, many things my dad has taught me or the countless wonderful memories we have. They'd include, but would not be limited to, a love for all Westerns (Big Valley, Wild Wild West, Bonanza, etc.), the Andy Griffith Show, the "Barney dance" (that's something for our family =), homemade orange sherbet, baseball caps, riding the lawn mower, a jarful of Starbursts, an open office door to help anyone who needs it, "Roll Tide", a huge collection of old movies (he's the reason I'm such a fan of the classics), hot hot dogs, an appreciation of my movie quotes, sarcasm that rivals mine, 32 oz. drinks, packed lunches and a clean kitchen every morning, calling me "sissie", whistling to find us girls in a store, reliving the "glory days" at Amory High, texting Google for the score, reading the Bible when we've all gone to bed, walking the auditorium and praying on Saturday nights, always having family devotions...
and on and on I could go. 

From a tomboyish little girl playing catch, to a teenager getting rides to work, to a married woman with her own house and husband, I can honestly say my dad has been there for me every step of the way, and been the SAME. Not everyone can say that, but it's true for me. We don't get to see each other enough, and our phone conversations usually consist of my telling him funny stories about my class or quoting large portions of The Incredibles, but I love it. 

Happy birthday to our dad, husband, Papa, preacher, friend, Uncle Bob.... everyone loves you, because "you're the best!" =) 


Moving Mayhem = Clothing Catastrophe

Moving Mayhem = Clothing Catastrophe

In case you haven't heard, Jonathan and I are moving in just a few weeks from Goldsboro to New Bern, North Carolina. We are excited about it but of course are sad to be leaving all our family and friends at Faith (a long, sappy post about that is coming soon, no doubt!).

Anyway, for the past few weeks we have been in the throes of chaos around our house due to packing and trying to decide what can be packed up for a month and what should stay with us. (We'll be living with Mamaw during the month of June because we're cheap to save rent. =) It's amazing how much stuff we've accumulated over the past 2 years... especially I don't really spend money on anything but clothes! (True story, really. Not that I'm proud of it, but still...) We filled box after box (and countless shopping bags... I knew all those trips to Loft were worthwhile!) with picture frames (wrapped in Target bags), dishes, shoes, clothes... and on and on (pardon my boring lists). We had a storage trailer ready to go this past Tuesday and started the loading process on Thursday, thanks to some help from our friends Blake and Brook (they are the very best!).

Well, as could be expected amid all the confusion of moving and packing and loading, a crisis has occurred. What could it be, you ask? Your wedding china broken? Your furniture scratched? A mirror shattered?

No, no, and no. Here's what happened...

Jonathan decided to take a load of stuff over to Mamaw's a few days ago. He grabbed several boxes, a couple of bags, and some wrapped pictures and took them to her attic. I distinctly remember telling him to let me grab something out of one of the bins and then letting him load it. (You know me and my infallible memory!!!) So, to my knowledge this bin was safe and sound at Mamaw's all week, and I put it out of my mind. Thursday we loaded nearly everything else onto the trailer and I didn't really take much notice of what was being put on it, since I THOUGHT all of my important items (aka CLOTHES) were out of the loading zone. Apparently I thought wrong.

Fast-forward to yesterday afternoon. We attended a wedding in the morning, then stopped back by Mamaw's for me to grab a shirt out of this perfectly accessible bin. I pulled down the ladder to the attic, climbed up, and started digging through the ginormous pile of our stuff, certain I would locate it within moments and we could be on our merry way back to the apartment. As I opened bin after bin, finding only sweaters and winter clothes, my undercurrent of worry that had begun when I didn't see it immediately began to swell into a tide of panic.

See, this wasn't just a bin with a few tops in it. This bin contained EVERY one of my summer t-shirts and tank tops. Like, several dozen. (I know I have too many clothes, but that's a lecture I'll give myself another day.) Solid t-shirts, printed tops, tank tops... etc. I immediately asked Jonathan where it could be, since I just KNEW that he had brought it over here. He swears he didn't... I say he did. It will remain one of life's mysteries. (And I won't lengthen this post by many paragraphs by talking about miscommunications in marriage!) However, the problem at hand was that my bin was not in Mamaw's attic and somehow had inadvertantly been loaded onto the trailer with every one of our other possessions, meaning we would have to unload EVERYTHING to find it. And while I am certainly not above some extra work to get my stuff back, I felt it would be a little cruel of me to subject my husband to 2 more hours of manual labor just for my clothes.

So, I took it upon myself to climb up in the trailer and start looking. I felt like I was digging through the rubble of an earthquake, not to mention it was about 136 degrees in the trailer. (Can you tell I grew up on the West Coast where there's no humidity?) After several minutes, and nearly breaking several things, I decided to give up. Now, I have not yet admitted that there is even a possibility that the bin is actually gone. That's unthinkable, and the thought of replacing my entire wardrobe of casual shirts is more daunting than I care to consider.

To my credit, I didn't cry... which is saying quite a bit considering I wasn't feeling too hot anyway and was already emotional about leaving our first apartment. And I am painfully aware that crying over a box of clothes that I (fingers crossed) will get back in four weeks is just silly. (Not quite "catrastrophic", as this post's title suggests.) But, these are the problems of a clothes-aholic such as myself. I'm convinced that the Lord has been orchestrated this whole mix-up to teach me a lesson in vanity, since I'm death on repeating my outfits (not other people doing it, just me). So, if you see me looking overdressed over the next few weeks, I'm not trying to look fancy... I just don't have any casual clothes right now! =)

Oh, and there is an upside to this story... I get to go shopping!!! My poor husband feels terrible about this entire ordeal, so he's letting me increase my shopping budget for the month? Actually, he's giving me a shopping budget for the month; it's normally nonexistent. (Don't worry, I'm squeezing everything out this I can I have assured him that all is well. =) If I were clever and crafty like my friend Cheryl, I'd just whip up a few things on my sewing machine (she regularly makes me feel lame by posting her adorable DIY clothes on Pinterest)... but alas, I am certainly not. So, shopping it is!  Any suggestions for pieces that will be super versatile, since I can't buy too much? I'm thinking some solid tops (boring, I know, but I have to have some to wear with my printed skirts) and a few with patterns. Hmmm.... I guess there are worse dilemmas to have, after all! And of course I'll share my deals as I find them... I like to pretend that you all care. =)

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!


A Nearly Disastrous Field Trip, with a Happy Ending...

A Nearly Disastrous Field Trip, with a Happy Ending...

I can hardly believe that the last week of school is here! I would be lying if I said that the first day of school "seems like yesterday", because... well, it doesn't seem like that! It seems like it was a long, long time ago! This year has been wonderful but I am certainly ready for summer (and what teacher isn't? the one we all love to hate! =). Anyway, I have known for a while that an end-of-the-year party is practically constitutional law so I started thinking about mine a few weeks ago. I wanted to do something simple yet memorable but that wouldn't require a lot of travel (for me) or money (for the parents). Since my classroom has had a picnic theme (a word I use loosely since I really only changed 2 bulletin boards and one wall decoration!) for the last month of school,  I decided a picnic would be nice. It would also relieve parents of having to provide chips, desserts, etc. by just having each kid bring his own lunch (I know, I'm a party pooper!). I planned on taking them to my Mamaw's house (well, back porch) to eat, followed by games in the backyard. 

Then, for the best part, a trip to Sprinkles. Now, if you're not familiar with the greater Goldsboro area, you might not be aware of this little jewel of an ice cream shop located at the edge of Fallingbrook neighborhood, which just happens to be where Mamaw lives. Sprinkles is just a cute little shop with hand-dipped ice cream and the prices are very reasonable, so it seemed like the perfect treat for our field trip. Kids + ice cream = happy. Right? 

Well, funny story....

Even with rain in the forecast, we headed to Mamaw's today with high spirits (well, the kids had high spirits. I was mentally worrying and praying that the weather held out so I wasn't stuck with a 2-days-away-from-summer-hyper class INSIDE for the entire day.) Thankfully, it stayed sunny while we ate our lunch and played wiffle ball, which, by the way, most of my class had never played before and I felt morally obliged to teach them how. After a couple dozen innings or so, the kids were getting hot and sweaty and I felt I had worn them down enough before our Sprinkles excursion began. We rounded up our lunch boxes and, because our summer vacation tradition has always been to WALK to Sprinkles from Mamaw's, we set off down Trappers Run Drive. 

(Before you indignantly cry, "What a mean teacher... making those poor kids walk in the heat!", it's only about 125 yards from Mamaw's driveway to Sprinkles. No worries!)

Here we go... our long parade to Sprinkles! 

Now for the "funny" part... we walk up to the door and one of the kids says, "Mrs. McNeese.... they're closed!"

Of course I, being the all-wise teacher, say, "No they're not! Let me see."

And I walk up to the door and it is indeed locked, with no ice-cream-scoop-in-hand employee in sight. Seriously? I'm racking my brain to try to remember any holiday I've missed, glancing around for flags flown at half-mast or some other indication that I have forgotten some important event that would close Sprinkles' door at 12:30 on a Wednesday afternoon.

Turns out, they don't open until 3:00 everyday (who knew???) while school is in session. So, what to do now? I have 10 very hot, very disappointed children on my hands (and a disappointed teacher, because my class is going to miss out on this magical Sprinkles experience!). 

Our faces when we realized Sprinkles was closed! 

Never fear... Mrs. McNeese to the rescue! We're headed to McDonald's instead!

The girls with their ice cream.

Some of the boys being... boys!

Thanks, Brookie, for coming and keeping me sane as always! My class loves Miss Brook!

Ice cream is ice cream, I guess! 

I love these kids.

We also missed Hayden and Karsen very much today! They had to miss the trip to attend their great-grandma's funeral, but were able to catch up with us back at school for a little while! I love these two!

After that emotional roller coaster, made better by chocolate shakes and hot fudge sundaes, we finished back at school by watching Up, which was a perfect end to our last full day.

When I decided to become a teacher, I studied secondary education in college. I was "on my way to Sprinkles" for four years, learning about English, history, and all things "high school". A year ago, if you had told me that I would be teaching any elementary grade, especially third, I would have laughed and given a rousing/definitive, "No way." Funny how the Lord sometimes has very different plans for us, huh? I thought that, not only did I not WANT to teach 3rd grade, that I COULDN'T do it. Well, now I know that not only can I do it, but I have absolutely loved it. When I got to the point that should have been "Sprinkles" (or, a high school teaching position), it was closed and I ended up at "McDonald's" (third grade). And, like our field trip, it turned out just fine. It's amazing what happens when you do something you "have" to do and it turns out you wouldn't dream of anything else. 

I can't imagine having spent this very important, first year of teaching with any other class. I  wouldn't have been able to hide a laugh at Devin's comedy routines during snack time, or hear Andrew's rare but amazingly deep Bible answers, or receive Hayden's little presents, or see Summer develop a love for science and God's creation, or crack up at Karsen's funny faces, or smile at Meghan's sweet notes, or experience any of the other thousands of little moments that have made this year such an incredibly special experience. 

There was no class, no textbook, and no lecture that could have prepared me for the feelings that accompany being a "real teacher". No one told me that I would suddenly turn into a worrywart, viewing playground equipment as deadly. Or that my heart would stop beating when a student got hurt. Or that one minute I would be so frustrated I could barely think straight, then have my class in stitches with a joke moments later. No one could have described the fierce protectiveness I feel about each of "my kids". Or that I would refer to them as my kids, because in a way they are and always will be. They are my first class, and God kindly gave me 12 very special gifts to start on this crazy journey called teaching. 

Me, Meghan, Michael, Hayden, Ryan, Silas, Devin, Dalton, Summer, Aleisha, Andrew, Karsen, and Elizabeth.
Love them- and their parents! (Yall are important too! =)
Saying goodbye on Friday will not be easy!

What a year this has been! If every class is like this one, I'll be just fine for the next 30 years. =) 

Happy summer, everyone! You deserve it!


High Five for Friday...

High Five for Friday...

Oh, Friday. I am so happy you are finally here! This week has been nuts because 1) it's the last "full" week of school and getting 8 and 9-year-olds to concentrate with summer beating down their doors is impossible quite difficult and 2) we are in the throes of packing up our apartment for our move in June and I have literally been surrounded by piles of STUFF for the past 5 days. I may not be a Betty Crocker when it comes to cleaning, but one thing I can't stand is clutter... so that much is driving me crazy. 

BUT the weekend is here and with it a brief respite from school (which I will fill with more packing... joy.) I have to say, though, that this week has included some good moments, which I will now divulge. (You know, the "high five" part). Oh, and humor me... because this post is mostly about stuff I've bought lately. But I have a gift, as I've said before. The deals just find me!)

1. I have gotten some MAJOR clearance scores this week!!! Call me crazy, but I just can't pass up something under $4! Target and Old Navy, thanks for allowing me to get several new items for little money! I am your humble servant. =)
$3.88 at Target (shop) 

I know fedoras aren't for everyone (maybe they aren't for me either, and I'm just blissfully unaware!) but I love this hat! I'm looking forward to wearing it this summer! 

$2.50 at Old Navy (shop)

I loved this bright orange color and I couldn't beat the price! It's casual but cute and comfortable ( aren't those are the 3 c's?)

$3.50 at Old Navy (shop)

I got this color (the pink and brown) and also the same one in a bright yellow/pale gray which wasn't featured online for some reason. I thought I'd save the pink and brown for fall but I wore the yellow and gray today with a pleated denim skirt and navy flats, and it was ah-dorable. With the sleeves rolled up it wasn't too warm at all and fit really well (without being itchy... who likes itchy sweaters?). Great buys, both of them!

2. I got brave on Tuesday and decided to mix patterns. I have seen pattern mixing in a million places, but always feel like I can't "pull it off". I had a black dress, tan cardigan, and striped scarf picked out, but the sweater is a little baggy and it just needed some shape. So, at the last minute I added my leopard belt and I actually liked it. Since the leopard is the same colors as the sweater and dress it didn't feel too crazy to me, and I was really pleased with how it turned out. (I hear leopard is considered a neutral these days... right?)

You can tell from my split ends that it's time for a trim. I'll add that to my list.

3. A friend recommended this book to me last week and it was FABULOUS. It's a fictional adaption of the story of Rahab, and it was an intriguing at redemption, prejudices, and forgiveness. It's excellently documented detailed historical facts, but doesn't feel like a history lesson. Still, I learned quite a bit about the Israelite culture that I hadn't picked up in Sunday school over the years. =) It also happens to be a beautiful love story that I couldn't put down! I highly recommend it! (Oh, and it was FREE on the Kindle! Woohoo!)

4. I decided to make homemade salsa for some friends of ours on Tuesday, and of course made a double batch so I could have some for us! This stuff is soooooo good, and I must confess that I may or may not have already eaten most of it. It's super simple too!

Ingredients: 2 cans Rotel, one small can tomato paste, 1/8 cup finely chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onion, one tbs sugar, salt and pepper to taste. (You can also add chopped jalapenos, but I don't because I don't like it super hot!)
Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. 
Devour all in one sitting enjoy ladylike portions with tortilla chips.


5. I got to go spend a brief but so-fun weekend with my bff Sara. We only had 24 hours to hang out but we squeezed every bit of fun in there that we could, including our traditional Saturday morning McDonald's breakfast, traditional Chickfila lunch, and lots and lots of shopping (in fact, it was with her that I found some of those deals). It was so fun to see her cute little house and adorable classroom and of course just talk for hours, which we never have time to do anymore! I'm so thankful for our friendship! God knew I needed her as a homesick little 15-year-old unaccustomed to Georgia ways many years ago. =) 

Friends for life!

And that, folks, is my High Five for Friday! Happy weekend, everyone! (BTW, did I mention there is ONE WEEK of school left before summer??? Woohoo!!!!)


Happy Mother's Day...

Happy Mother's Day...

I try not to put too much pressure on myself when it comes to my blog. Since I don't get paid to do it, I have no sponsors, and no empire rises or falls on what I write, I shouldn't worry too much about each post. Right?

Wrong. For while my typical fare is written for no audience in particular (just those who enjoy my babblings, I guess), there happens to be a special holiday today that has created a very unique sense of panic within me as I struggle try to find exactly the right words.

"Good grief, Ashley... it's just Mother's Day!", you say. "Your mom will be happy to get a card and the present you got her (which is great, by the way)," you say. "Your mom will love whatever you write," you say.

Do you know my mother?

Here's the thing... I spend a large portion of my time mocking my mom in various ways. Don't worry- it's not secret. We're very open and above-board regarding these matters. It's never with cruel intentions that I make fun of her, just light-hearted teasing to point out the many quirks trademarks for which she is famous. (Boisterous laughter, ability to converse with total strangers, tears at the end of nearly every animated movie, sappy FB posts, etc. Hey, I feel like she's in the room!) And if this post isn't JUST RIGHT... she'll get the whole wobbly chin thing going and, just like that...

So, on this one day devoted entirely to praising our mothers, I am drawing a blank not sure what to say. After all, I so often make it a point to give her a hard time, so how to do I do a paradigm shift and talk about her wonderful qualities? Ah... I can't promise I'll make a habit of it, but at least annually, I'll give it a go. And I'll try to limit myself to a few paragraphs (though it would take an encyclopedia to truly describe my mother to you, as anyone who knows her could agree.) 

A lady told me recently, "You remind me of your mom!" After I laughed heartily, I started thinking about the implications of that statement. Oh no! Did someone catch me laughing at a joke ten minutes after it was delivered? Did I shed tears over a Hallmark commercial? Did I do the most horrible parking job in the universe? (Okay, that we have in common.)

But if I really am like my mom, or at least becoming like her, I realize that, frighteningly, I have big shoes to fill. (Literally, she's a size bigger than me!) Really, though... 

-I will have to be willing to do just about anything for a church member, at any time. Babysitting, counseling, shopping, cooking, transportation, etc... she has done it all. Sometimes I, in my selfishness, am puzzled by the way she gives to people, many whom never return the favor. But she always dismisses my questions with the response that it's just the right thing to do. I'll have to work on this one if I'm going to "be like her." 

I remember when I was in high school and my mom invited a few college girls over for lunch. Somehow, her invitation for a "few" got lost in translation and about 30 girls showed up. I was not happy to be sharing our Sunday roast with all these loud, giggly college girls. (I was not a very hospitable child!) As they kept coming (and coming... and coming...) I wailed to Mom in indignation, "They're eating all the roast!" (Apparently I was pretty hung up on the roast.) My mom just said that it would be okay and she would make it up to me. I was probably placated by a Mountain Dew or something. But I will never forget how she multiplied that meal to feed everyone and was happy to do it. I didn't understand it then (and honestly... still don't feel like I could do it now) but she just wanted to help those girls, so she did. I should be more like that. 

But come near my roast and you'll lose a hand, I promise. 

-I will have to get over looking crazy in order to be a fun mom. (I'm not one who's big on costumes, silliness, etc., at least in public.) The first time I remember my mom doing something like this was when I was in probably the third grade. She came and picked up me, my sisters, and my cousins from school and took us to Dairy Queen for ice cream. But she was dressed as a CLOWN. (Seriously, full clown suit, hat, big shoes,  red nose... the whole shebang.) While my sister and cousin (a lofty 13 at the time) refused to get out of the car, I remember thinking it was the coolest thing in the world. Costumes to follow would include a bag lady at the airport, a Middle Easterner at the airport (bad idea, Gigi), some weirdo at the airport (holding a sign that said Free Michael Jackson), a bird watcher for a ladies meeting (that one was a doozy) and most recently, a Who from Whoville the last Christmas I came home from college. 
It may take a few years for me to adapt to this one. But in the spirit of being fun, I shall try. ( Well... maybe not.)

- I will have to learn the lesson of "loving people where they're at." I don't remember how many times I've heard her say this. "Did you see what that lady had on?" Love people where they're at. "Why does he live that way?" Love people where they're at. "Their kids are awful!" Love people where they're at. (That was what people said about the pastor's family. Hehe) I have to admit I'm not very good at this. I'm more quick to jump to conclusions, rather than forgive or be made aware of someone's situation. But I need to remember my mom's words, "Love people where they're at." I think of our church in Washington, where my hick Southern mom with her perm and thick accent loved and mentored those very opinionated, Northwest-to-the-core ladies by loving them and their families where they were at. (We always wished she was as patient with us as she was new converts... but we didn't have the gift of ignorance. =) 

- I will have high expectations for my children. Unlike many parents today, who constantly heap praise on their children without demanding very much, my mom, who did praise us, had very specific ideas of how we should be. Piano practice, studying, reading, and devotions were not optional... they were required. I was in junior high before I realized that other parents were actually HAPPY with a B report card. (Imagine that!) 

My mom would have been a great Chinese parent.

But seriously, my mom (and dad) demanded our best and, yes, praised us when we gave it. But they were honest and BALANCED... and we were not made to think we were God's gift to humanity for making good grades or singing to playing an instrument. As mom would say, it was our "reasonable service." I hope I remember that when I have kids.

-If I'm really going to be like my mom, I am going to be crazy. Let's just accept the fact... Gigi is crazy. I remember being very young and thinking that my mom was not like other moms... she would be the one to suggest going to teepee someone's house late at night. She was the one making the silly jokes, or striking up a conversation with anyone within hearing distance, or bouncing around in front of 70 kids to play a game. She was the ladies speaker who'd come in wearing a costume, or teaching a corny song, or talking about the stuff everyone was really thinking. (Sounds familiar!) In fact, I sometimes think I became sarcastic as a kid just to be an antithesis to her... which I would say worked out pretty well.

Thanks, Mom. Your dysfunction made me funny.

On this Mother's Day, I am faced with the reality that I am becoming like my mother as the world's end approaches time goes on. And if there is a funny, caring, loving, beautiful (I have good aging to look forward to, that's for sure- doesn't she look great at 50?), and, yes cool- person to become, I'm glad it's her. She's a big bottle of crazy sauce, but that's why we love her! No matter what happens, she is there for me and my sisters, giving us unheeded lots of advice, wisdom, spoiling us and our families, and just being pretty wonderful in general. We love her!

How'd I do, Mom?


Don't Be "That Customer"...

Don't Be "That Customer"...

Or, the tales of a Chick-fil-A drive-thru...

Whether or not you've ever worked in an eating establishment of any kind, you have doubtless come in contact with a person who has been an embarrassment to himself and those around him at a restaurant. "I don't want excuses... I want my fries!!" You probably even pointed him out to someone... "did you see that customer?" Whether the person was rude, impatient, obnoxious, or just plain ridiculous, we've all experienced "that customer." 

When I was 16, I decided I needed a job. While I'd love to say that I just had an incredible work ethic that needed to be exercised, the truth is that my shopaholic tendencies started to develop around the same time. Unfortunately for me, my mother did not consider American Eagle graphic t's a worthy use of her money. (Thank goodness, I no longer do either!) So... Ash needed some cash! Along with about half our youth group, I decided to apply at Chickfila. After a 3-hour interview, during which I said virtually nothing, I had the job. 

("Holy chocolate chip cookie, Batman!", you say. "Three hours for an interview at a fast-food restaurant?!") 
Well, first off, friends... don't dare insult us by calling it "fast food." It's "quick service", thank you very much. =)  Also, it would take an entire post to describe the man behind such madness as these lengthy interviews... our beloved owner, Mr. Mike. (Just an fyi... he conducted the same interview with his very own mother. No joke!)

Anyway, after a shaky start (it's amazing how even the simplest arithmetic flies out of your head when you're trying to give someone their change for the first time), I got pretty good at this gig and started enjoying myself. I ended up working at CFA for the next 4 years, through my sophomore year of college. During this time, I learned quite a bit about people in general... how to treat them, how they treat you, etc; enough that I have deemed it worthy of a post shared with the general public that includes some of the very important, if overlooked, manners that all customers should try to remember. 

*Disclaimer: before I begin, let me say that clearly there are horrible employees everywhere, and you can encounter rudeness on both sides of the counter. I also understand that some people have actual special needs that need specific help. That being said, at our store the general attitude of the team was helpful and friendly, so my experiences are coming from the right place. =)

There are several types of customers, both good and bad, that I learned to identify over the course of my Chickfila career. For your reading ease, they are organized into a list of memorable names. =) Also, all of these stories are 100% true! I promise!

- Evasive Ellen: the vague, undecided customer who is shocked to learn you aren't a mind reader! Here's a typical conversation with the Evasive Ellen type.

"I'd like a large drink."
"Okay, what would you like to drink?"
"A large."
"Right, but what would you like to DRINK?"
"Um, a large."
"Right... inside your large cup, what type of beverage would you like???"
"Oh!!! (insert dumb laugh) A Coke."
Seriously... these people just need to turn their brains on. Enough said.

- Babyish Bart: Oh. my. word. This story should not even exist, yet it does! One time a guy came up to me and was like, "Will you squeeze my ketchup packets into a cup for me?"
To which I sweetly and graciously replied, "No. That would get my germs in your ketchup." (My tone said, "Do it yourself, you MO-RON!")
Thankfully, his girlfriend was equally appalled that he had made such a ridiculous request. Seriously though, alot of people do stuff like this! I genuinely didn't mind helping people who legitimately needed help (moms with little kids, old people, etc.) but if you are able-bodied with the use of all of your appendages, don't ask employees to do things you can quite capably do yourself. 

-Picky Polly: the queen of special orders. "I'd like a Chickfila sandwich lightly breaded, no butter on the bun, no pickles,with fries with no salt and a sweet tea, light ice, with just a splash of lemonade. Did you get that? Just a splash."
If you have to have everything "just so", no problem. Just come inside and don't cause half-hour waits in the drive-thru while we "lightly bread" your sandwich! (Oh, and my favorite response to the "Chickfila sandwich, nothing on it" order was an aghast "Not even the chicken??" haha)

-Confused Charlie: the poor sap who would ask for a bucket of chicken (no sir, that's KFC across the street), McNugget Happy Meal (try McDonald's across the parking lot), or (gasp!) a burger. (Um, have you noticed our nationwide EAT MOR CHIKIN campaign headlined by COWS???) Try reading the menu, or better yet, noticing exactly which restaurant you pulled into.

Specific Sam: the opposite of Evasive Ellen, Specific Sam likes to think that you're not really aware of what's actually on the menu, so he orders like this-
"I'd like a number one Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich combo meal, with fresh, hot waffle potato fries and a medium freshly brewed sweet iced tea."
Oh, thank you sir. I wouldn't have dreamed which combo you were talking about if you hadn't named each item in such great detail! Bless you!

Social Sally: usually teenagers, the raucous crowd who treated the place like their own personal nightclub (except it was lemonade they were drinking!). Oh dear, the prom groups, the softball teams, the emo clusters, the cheerleaders... it was like a competition to see who could possibly make the most noise. No, this is not your bar mitzvah. It's Chick-fil-A. If you need a dance hall or party venue (and you're over the age of 5) this is not the place for you.

Finally... "Impossible Isaac": Nothing is ever good enough, hot enough, fast enough, etc. Or, in our case, this was the "drink guy". At least once a week, this grouchy old man came through THE DRIVE-THRU of all things and order (if I remember correctly)- a large coke, a large coke no ice, a large sweet tea, a large sweet tea no ice, a large lemonade, a large lemonade no ice, a large sprite, a large sprite no ice, a cup of ice, and a cup of lemons. Something like that. Well, unless we saw his old truck sputtering in and raced to our battle stations, we obviously wouldn't have his order ready in seconds! He would be furious that his large, ridiculous (really... all those drinks for whom?) order ready before he was finished putting it in! Oh, the injustice!

Now, don't get me wrong... there were plenty of "Polite Pam", "Sweet Sara", and "Kind Karen" types that came through too. And believe me... when you've been working all day and it's freezing (or burning up) and your arms are sticky with milkshake mix and you have burned your fingers on hot fries and you have dropped an entire gallon of sweet tea on the floor AND a kid has thrown up in the playground... you appreciate those sweet customers. Truly, there were more good than bad, and the bad ones made for some funny stories (hence, this post). 

But, the moral of the story is... don't be THAT customer! Which type are you? (We've all been one or the other at some point.) Thankfully, my experience at Chickfila has given me a heightened sensitivity to fast food quick service restaurant employees. Let's be honest, even though "the customer's always right" (so say the training videos)... the customer is NOT always right! Some customers are sweet, friendly, thoughtful... and other's aren't. So, in the spirit of making the lives of these people who keep us in chicken happy, let's remember a few guidelines.

- Smile. Seriously, even if you don't feel like it, I promise it helps. We are always unconsciously nicer to people who are nice first. Trust me when I tell you that I was willing to go the second and third mile to people who actually treated me like a person and not someone they were doing a favor by speaking to. Although, you can be too friendly... like reading our name tags. That always freaked me out a little. But, to each his own. =)

- Have your coupons/change/order ready. Nothing is more frustrating than a customer, especially in the drive-thru, who has to pick through 14 different purses and all the carseats to find their coupon or whatever. There is no prize, bounty, or crown in Heaven given for exact change... so don't kill yourself looking for that extra penny.

(And don't get me started on the indecisive order-er- "What do you want? Well, you won't eat 12 nuggets. Let's just get 8. If you're hungry you can get more. I don't care if you want 12. Keep it up and you'll get 6." And so on. Settle your debates before you get to the speaker!  Oh, and we can hear you if you only move up a few inches. "Richard just needs to understand that he is a huge part of this issue!" Pull around... "Hello ma'am... give my regards to Richard.")

- If you must complain, do so politely and not arrogantly/ignorantly/unkindly. For example, if bringing back a Chickfila sandwich that you ordered "without pickles" to complain about the pickles, it kind of shoots a hole in your argument when you thrust forth a greasy, crumpled wrapper around a fourth of a sandwich. Hmm... those pickles didn't bother you too much, did they, Hoss? I never spit in anyone's drink or anything, but I was sorely tempted to... and I certainly didn't try to do any favors for people who belligerently approached the counter as if they were about to go at it Chuck Norris-style. (About the worst thing I did was occasionally return someone's debit card and ID, telling them that "This is clearly not your picture" before sputtering into laughter. Yeah, that's mean, but we had to make our own fun.)

I really enjoyed my time at Chickfila and feel like I am a little more understanding because of it. (And yes... I have been sorely tempted many times to reach across and do my own order when someone doesn't know what they're doing. "Just push promo free, you dork!") Still, I learned a lot about "the other side of the counter", and that perspective has made me more aware of how people who serve me would like to be treated.

So, to wrap it up... be kind, be understanding, be thoughtful... and for heaven's sake, squeeze out your own ketchup packets!!! =)