Sunday, October 14, 2012

So what do they REALLY think of me?

Whoever said it gets easier in Year 2 is a lair.
My second year of teaching is just as stressful (and occassionally more) than my first year. Granted I haven't broken down into uncontrollable tears yet (well, there was that one time...) and I actually know what I'm teaching the kids each day.
But... that's the problem. Since I know all the horrible mistakes I made the first go around, I'm bending over backwards and practically killing myself to make improvements. I still find myself at school until 9pm and being the last car in the parking lot. I still find myself knocking out while grading and frantically waking up at 4am to finish lesson planning. And I still find myself to close to no personal life.
But I still love what I do. It's a lot of fun. It's fulfilling. I'm more confident. And over the last month, it really has gotten better. So maybe that person wasn't such a big liar after all. In Year 1, things only got better after the first semester.
The best thing about teaching is probably all the love and laughs you get out of your students. Like when for my birthday, a bunch of my old 6th graders (the new 7th graders) made a point to write on my board and make me cards. Or like last week, when I gave them a test. When I picked them up, one of the girls had drawn a heart around my name. It had me beaming the whole day long.
Later that same day, I learned that while they like me, a lot of the kids find me super intimdating. One kid goes, "She like THE GRUDGE!" I never laughed so hard... especially the next day when I passed back the test and since they didn't know I'd be taking them back up, a kid wrote "okay grudge!!!" next to the note I left him.
When I spoke to him about it after class, you could see the pure terror on his face. I had to hold in the laughter as I kindly, but sternly told him I wasn't mad. He could have whatever opinion he wanted of me, but... it may not be too respectful to voice that on your test. Just a hint, kid.
I expected him to go bolting out the door once I said he could go, but he actually asked if he could come see me Monday to help improve his grade.
So do they love me? Or do they hate me? Who knows? I love teaching them and I'm having fun either way :-)


Friday, July 20, 2012

Progress on my 1001

So... I've figured out 63 things to add to my 1001 list.

Thanks to Texas Monthly.

Apparently they've done issues like this here and there in the past. And maybe, if I find the time and go through all of them, they can help me add to my list. I forgot I bought this one and just found it as I was packing and purging my apartment.

And reading through it again, I probably don't have 63 things on my list because while I do want to take the ultimate road trip from Dalhart, Texas to Brownsville, Texas (apparently nearly 850 miles!), I do not really want to play Chicken Sh*t Bingo in Austin. Nor do I want to eat calf fries. And since I don't like beer or Dr. Pepper, I'd be willing, but highly reluctant to drink a free beer at the K. Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner or drink a Dublin Dr. Pepper.

And then some things I've already done. Like visiting the State Fair of Texas in Dallas (duh, that's my hometown! or region... Fort Worth is really home). And while I don't entirely remember how to do it, I did learn how to two-step with Todrick in Huntsville some years ago. And I did go to the Art Car Parade this year! And since my fourth graders recited every morning, I have the Texas Pledge of Allegiance memorized. I have often driven the freeways in Houston at night.

One thing on the list seems highly unlikely, although I would want to say that I could scratch it off my list: Be on the cover of Texas Monthly.

Maybe I should settle for simply, be in a magazine. Any magazine. And I don't mean my byline... that's already happened :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Last-minute Blessings

I'm in the process of packing up my stuff to get ready for my move in a few weeks and I've been unearthing quite a few things that have brought back tons of memories and tons of laughs. One thing I seem to have a surplus of is notebooks, notepads and journals. One I recorded interview notes from my active journalism days. Ones I wrote down plays or Biblical vignettes for church. And of course, the journals with all my thoughts and dreams.

I found my most recent journal. The last entry was dated a year ago.

It's incomplete. I'm not sure why I never finished it. Although, it doesn't really surprise me that I didn't. But reading over this last entry made me smile...

A year ago, I was offered my teaching job at YES. And much like with my magazine job, it all worked out at the last-minute. A blessing poured out when I was ready to give up.

The job at CURE came right on the heels of my internship with the Dallas Morning News. I remember, it was the beginning of my last week and I got a Facebook message from E-beth. Somehow she'd found me and she asked if I'd be interested in applying for the editorial assistant position. It was a job. In journalism. For a magazine. In Texas. Uh... yeah. An interview was set up on my last day at the Dallas Morning News. A week later, I had the job.

God knows I was thankful. I had been praying that something would come up. I had no clue what I'd do after the internship ran its course. Would I move back to Houston and bum around my sister's? Would I even stay in Texas? What would I do? As that last day drew closer and closer, I felt more and more desperate. But He stepped in. Offered me such a blessing at what felt like the very last minute.

And then I lost that blessing. There are days when I feel like I know what happened, what went wrong, and other days when I feel like it all doesn't add up. It's confusing. To know in some ways, it's your fault (and maybe all your fault), but also feeling the overwhelming unfairness. I remember starting this blog, trying to pick up the pieces, but also feeling like I wouldn't be given another chance. There would be no more last-minute blessings.

But I guess that's the best thing about serving a God full of mercy and grace. Because last summer came another last-minute blessing. Two really. First, the offer to work for Teach for America during its Houston Institute. Second, interviewing and getting my job at YES.

Thinking about it now, I'm surprised I didn't write about it here. I'm surprised I didn't finish writing about it in my journal. Because it really was such a crazy, out of nowhere blessing. It was, again, my last week. The Institute was wrapping up and I was ready to go back to Dallas. And all the same questions were there: What would happen next? Where would I go? Would I find something soon?

A friend mentions her school director is looking for a social studies teacher and offers to e-mail him for me. He e-mails me and sets up a casual phone interview. Which leads to me going to teach a sample lesson and have a formal interview.

God worked a bit faster this time. I didn't have to wait a week. Not even a day. I was offered the position within hours after making it home and replaying it all in my head, hoping and praying for the best.

While I hate the waiting process, and it can often be painful and frustrating, seeing that journal entry and being reminded of last year reminded me of this: The blessing might feel last-minute, but He's really just right on time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Solitude

The short burst of fun and excitement,
bookmarked between stretches of infinite boredom,
a constant reminder of the loneliness.

Distant friends, and nearby strangers.
Unshared sorrows, broken heart.
Hollow laughter masking hidden sobs.

Solitude is overrated.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Not-So-Secret Addiction

I own a lot of books. The four bookshelves in my apartments are almost completely full, and this does not count the ones I have stacked on my desk, the piano or the floor. These also do not include the five bookshelves I took to my classroom, or the half a dozen or more milk crates I've converted into book storage. In both places, I've run out of space... and I just keep buying more books.

I can't help myself. It's like an addiction. When I'm feeling blue, the best pick-me-up is going on Amazon and with one click, filling my basket. It's even better to walk into an actual bookstore, flip the pages, and take in that new-book smell. I've had to ban myself from both in recent weeks. While my bank account is thanking me, my habit isn't.

The funny thing, perhaps, is that I actually haven't read all the books I own. I'm like a collector that way, I suppose. I buy books just to have them... although, unlike a collector, I actually do want to read them. I just collect way too many to keep up sometimes. I never buy only one book, there's always two. Like shoes, they are better when they come in a pair. And generally, I buy a couple of pairs.

I despise owning incomplete series (I currently own four at the moment, and it's killing me. If anyone wants to send me the first two books of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (hardback), the final books in both the Inkheart and Peaches series, as well as Gallagher Girl #5, I'd appreciate it), and since it seems everybody writes series these days, buying one book usually means I'm buying 10.

And, I supposed, it doesn't help that I'm a pretty regular patron to the library. Even if I've just bought a book, I often find myself inside that book trove, pulling a few books of the shelf to borrow. And when I return them, I can't help but check out another. I own the ones piling up on my bedroom floor, I can always read them later.

Plus, I like to reread books and will often shun a new one to curl up with one that has been tried and found true.

To make matters worse, I was given a Kindle for my birthday. And the danger there is that there are tons of free books to download. Which, of course, I do.

Books are the easiest, and the most common gift from family and friends. And when people are purging theirs, it doesn't occur to me that I should do the same. Instead, I collect their rejects and add them to my growing library. During long winter or summer days, I pull them from their place on the shelf and discover them for the first time.

I'm sure one day, I would have read them all. And if not, it doesn't really matter. I find joy in simply having them.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

There is a Well Here Somewhere

I haven't been to church in what feels like, and probably is, months. I just got tired of church hopping. After living in Houston for almost a year, I had been to at least eight different churches. And while there were a few churches I went to for weeks at a time, I hated the awkward, out-of-place feeling I had while there. I just wanted the whole thing to be over with. I just wanted to belong somewhere.

And then one Sunday, there was an excuse not to go visit a new church or go to an old one. Can't remember what it was. But oh, what a slippery slope that became. Suddenly there was an excuse for every Sunday. I was out of town. I didn't feel well. I was going to be late. And then the day came when I decided, why bother until I know where I'm going to live next? I was ready to put an end to the church hopping routine and settle down, but I couldn't do that until I was settled, right?

If my dad ever reads this, I know he'll be appalled. As would probably my sisters and some of my closer friends. Even I'm a bit appalled. Although, while this may bring little comfort, I must defend myself and say that I was not entirely a heathen. There were Sundays where I'd break out my Beth Moore Breaking Free Bible study, and once or twice I dragged myself to sit in the back pew of a nearby church. I'd put Pandora on a Praise & Worship station and spent the morning in prayer.

And then I was struck with the idea of live-streaming. Except... I never actually did that. What I ended up doing was listening to sermon archives from Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. The sermons were good and the series were pertinent to my life. I'd found my "out" for a while.

Excuses, however, only work for so long. And now that I know where I'm moving to, I know the church hopping is about to begin again. Others may think not going to church isn't a big deal. But for me, deep down inside, it's a very big deal. Having a church home is such an important steadying constant in my life. I feel lost without a place to meet and hang out with other believers, forge spiritually edifying relationships, and simply serve a God that I love.

I woke up this morning with all intention of going to church. But... first, I woke up late. And then, while I was in the shower, the skies started showering, too. If God is trying to test how much I love Him with this rain, then I fail cause I'm staying at home, I thought. Cause this wasn't just a drizzle. It was a wind-blowing, thunder-growling type of rain.

I got dressed and as I crawled back under my sheets and grabbed my Bible, the light bulb went off. I can actually try that whole live-streaming thing! Can I just say that I am so glad that the Lord sent the rain this morning?

Today at Oak Hills, the group Selah led the worship. If you know who they are, then I don't even need to explain how much of a blessing that was. But then, to add to that blessing, Selah's Todd Smith brought his wife, Angie Smith, along. Now, I've never been to a Women of Faith conference or anything like that, but after hearing her, I think I just might need to. She was real, she was funny, she was sincere, and her message on Fear was such a beautiful thing... I discovered my eyes were unexpectedly leaking sometime during the prayer.

I'm afraid of a lot of things. And most of these things aren't even ones I can control. The problem with being afraid is that I often let the fear dictate how I live. And my biggest fear lies in the "What if..." What if he breaks up with me? What if I don't get into graduate school? What if I don't find a job? What if we can't break our lease? What if I don't find a place I like? What if? What if? What if?

It's quite silly, when you think about it. I'm so wrapped up on what if it does happen... but what if it doesn't happen?

I'm not sure if I have it in me to eloquently explain all that Angie shared, but my heart dwelled on Genesis 21: 19, "The God opened her eyes and she saw the well of water..." (emphasis mine/Angie Smith's). The "her" here is Hagar, and if you know the story, she's in the desert with her son Ishmael and has walked away and turned her back to him, sure of his impeding death and not wanting to watch him die. And then God opened her eyes...

It's so easy to let the fears of "What if?" led us to cower to a fate that God hasn't imposed on us. I wonder how many times I have turned my back and closed my eyes and completely missed "the well" God has provided for me. So simple, yet so profound.

As I listened to Selah close out the service singing "How Great Thou Art" against the backdrop of actual "rolling thunder," I let out a prayer that I hope I clinge to for the rest of my life:

Lord, open my eyes to see Your well. Don't let me be overcome by the fear of "what if?" In my moments of fear, remind me that there is a well here somewhere. And help me drink deeply from it. Amen.

 I am so thankful the Lord sent the rain this morning.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ideas for the Bathroom

I still have weeks before I get the keys and can move into my new place... but that doesn't mean I can't dream of all the things I'll do to it once I get there!

Headboard is Big Project #1. But another thing I'll definitely need to work on is the bathroom. Cause, it's tiny.

Yup... that's it. Super narrow and not a lot of space for anything besides what's already in there. There is a small linen closet (which you can't see), and there is a little bit of storage space under the sink, but that's more or less it. So, I'll need to utilize the wall space as much as possible.

bathroom bucket Solution #1: Creative and Space-Saving Storage

I have tons of little buckets already, and tend to buy more from the $1 aisle at Target all the time (they are just too cute to resist!). And since there really is no counter space in the bathroom and the vanity/medicine cabinet isn't really usable, I thought this was a fun and cute solution. That fits my style, too.

bathroom shelf
Solution #2: Shelves!

Cube shelf
This is actually a plywood box wrapped
in newsprint. Spoke to the journalist in me :)
Adding some shelving is going to be a must. I wonder if I'll be able to find cute, decorative shelves for cheap at thrift stores. I probably don't want anything as girly as the picture... in fact, I might even be good with some plain or distressed wood. I'll have to start keeping my eye out for shelves I like (cause I plan to put some up in the kitchen, bedroom and living room, too).

Solution #3: A shower curtain with pockets!

I love pockets. They are the best... especially when they come with dresses (or I guess it's really the dresses that come with the pockets, but who cares). So I thought the idea of having pockets on my shower curtain would be amazing! But after seeing the picture on, I'm not so sure. But who knows, maybe my crafty friends can help me figure out how to make this idea cute enough to actually use. Any takers?

 Solution #4: Use the Door...

behind the doorAs Better Homes & Gardens was quick to point out... the bathroom door has so much storage potential. Will I be putting this much stuff at the back of my door? Heck no. But a few towel racks to hang stuff from would be cool. And since I am allowed to paint, I loved the idea of using magnetic paint!  
Solution #5: Bring in something from the Kitchen

Specifically, a pot rack. Fits in a corner, and can be used to hold toilet paper, among other things.  Quite genius...

 I can also bring in a kitchen utensil rack to hold stuff in the tub.
corner pot rackHanging metal shelf

Solution # 6: Baskets

Above the toilet is a little bit of a shelf/window ledge that I can definitely use for storage. And trust me, I will. Can't decide if I want to go the wicker basket look or the fun, funky storage boxes route. I guess we'll see...

I can't wait to put some, maybe all, of these solutions into action!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lost Time

It's so easy for me to put things on the back burner in my life. Even if they are important to me.

It's what I've done with playing the piano. Off and on lessons since I was six, a whole year of lessons in college, some months in grad school... and now I'm in group lessons. Am I any good? I wouldn't say so. Which is what frustrated me. And why it is easy for me to put practicing on the back burner. I mean, I'm never going to be a prodigy pianist and I'll probably never wow anyone with my skills with Tchaikovsky. But... I miss playing. Which is why I'm taking lessons again. And while my longing to play might stem from nostalgic memories of Mrs. Potter's home recitals, that longing is still there. Now that I'm taking classes again, I still probably don't practice as much as I should though. Having a roommate made me nervous to play and make mistakes in her presence. And even making mistakes on my own is frustrating and I feel angry and ashamed that I'm not doing better, that I'm not further along. Which is silly, considering if I didn't practice, I'd have to face the rest of my class and be ashamed that I'm the only one who is still making mistakes. If I don't practice today, I'll be just as ashamed, if not more, tomorrow.

I miss singing, too. Growing up with my dad as my pastor meant that my siblings and I were pretty involved in the church. Our biggest contribution was probably through music. My sisters and I sang a lot in church. And at some point led the children's choir and youth choir. We once were a part of a "group" and we'd perform at summer camp, or for every graduation, anniversary, or holiday party thrown. Outside of church, I was in choir. Definitely wasn't the star in the classical trained world of high school choir. But it was fun. I loved it. In college, I went for gospel choir... which was interesting since African and African-American are not synonymous and I was culturally a fish out of water. Again, no star, but had a blast. The biggest problem, I realized, was that I'm painfully self-conscious. With church, I was a shoo-in. I wasn't being judged or compared to others. I felt no pressure to impress. Outside of church that pressure crushed me. I remember Todrick forcing me to audition for Sound of Music and Godspell in high school. My name wouldn't have been on the audition list without him. And post-college, having to audition for praise teams at churches scared the crap out of me. I just wanted to worship... and even though I know I'm good, having to prove it suddenly makes me doubt that. So within the last few years, I've more or less stopped singing. Which is silly. And which sucks. Cause sometimes it actually hurts to listen to other people pour their hearts in song, while I stay mute and hiding.

Writing is another thing I've put on the back burner. Stories have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. From the paper dolls my oldest sister used to draw out for us so we could play our very elaborate version of "Life," to my cousins, sisters and I acting as "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago?"-esque detectives as we sought to capture Mad Mr. Moody-Doody. We'd type up stories on the computer, and once we even wrote out a fairytale that my sister illustrated. I've begun countless stories on my own, and unless they were for class, they have almost all been left unfinished. Which isn't necessarily a problem... until I began hiding behind school and being "too busy" to write. Not busy enough to edit other people's work and provide detail feedback, but somehow too busy to give my own stuff a chance. As much as I love reading and love editing... I used to love writing just as much, if not more. And that's a love I've definitely placed on the back burner. I'll be the first to admit that I don't write out of fear. But as one of my cousins once told me... if I never put myself out there, how will anyone be be able to tell me if I'm any good or not?

I may have wasted a lot of time on both of these things. And that time will forever be lost. But that doesn't mean the talent, the drive, the desire has to be lost. Or, at least, I've decided I won't let it.

I plan to make up for all that lost time.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Too Extreme, or Not Extreme Enough

I grew up in the church. My dad was my very first pastor. He gave me my first Bible. He baptized me. Most of my childhood was spent living in (or very close) to a seminary and therefore between home and church, I was surrounded by other Christians. In fact, it probably wasn't until I hit high school that I had any close friends who didn't believe in Christ and didn't go to church every Sunday (and most likely on Wednesdays, too).

I don't really remembered the day I definitely asked Christ into my life. Although, I do remember something about a 5,000 piece puzzle. Walking into our bedroom and watching sunlight filter onto the unfinished piece, illuminating it in a way I thought was beautiful. Somewhere in that moment, I knew. There definitely was a God and I wanted Him to make me just as beautiful.

Whether that's a figment of my overactive imagination, or how I really came to "accept Christ," I really don't know. But I do know that over the years, as I've grown older, my faith has transformed. It's become more and more about the relationship I have with God and not the relationship I have with my dad or the Church. Not that neither are important in my walk. But ultimately, it is solely my walk. Simple as that.

Now, since it is my walk, I have to admit that I'm not the perfect Christian. I've gone from dressing up on Sundays for church to simply making sure my jeans don't have holes in them and my t-shirt isn't wrinkled. I'm a pretty sucky prayer warrior (although I do tend to have a pretty good heart-to-heart with God in the shower. And can't help by send up a prayer when I pass accidents or see an Amber Alert on display). I once did, but no longer do not read my Bible every day.

And all of that, along with much more, makes me feel... guilty. Especially when I read articles or books by "perfect" Christians. Now, I can argue that there is no such thing. And I guess, there really is none but Jesus (who I guess, when you think about it, wasn't a Christian). But in comparison to some of these people, I often feel like I'm definitely a "bad" Christian.

For one thing, I don't necessarily dress modestly. Don't get me wrong... I'm not showing off my boobs (not that I have anything to show off), or wearing super short skirts/short that display my butt cheeks. You won't catch me dead in a bikini. But, at the same time, I don't have a problem with spaghetti straps or strapless dresses and shirts. I think they are cute. I like my collarbones... they are probably among my best features. And I don't mind showing of some leg, as long as I know I can bed over comfortably without worrying about flashing the world around me. Yet, after reading an article that completely condemns those clothing styles as "tools that lead your Christian brothers to having impure thoughts," I think, "crap... maybe I should clear out my closet." Too extreme? I don't know.

Is it wrong that I went galavanting around San Antonio wearing a halter-top romper that exposed a good portion of my back? Or that I wear skinny jeans or a form-fitting dress because I know they show off what little curves I have? I don't know.

Or... Rated 'R' movies. I don't have a problem with them. Personally, I am against scary movies. But that's because I don't like being scared. And I know that while it's "fake," in that moment it feels extremely real to me and I don't like the idea of being in fear at all. But if being scared didn't bother me, I'd say, "bring it on." I'm also not really into too many sex scenes... it's just uncomfortable to watch. My friends will tell you I'm an easily embarrassed by such things. I can't even talk about kissing without getting a little bit red-faced (figuratively, not literally). And as a Christian, I will say that I would prefer not having some of those images stuck in my brain. Cuss words make me cringe, and I'd rather do without them, but as long as it isn't basically every other word, I can handle them. But then, I have friends who have completely cut out any movies with the "R" rating out of their viewing spectrum. Their reason: The content of those movies don't glorify God. Too extreme? I don't know.

I mean, would it be wrong for "The Notebook" to be my favorite movie even if it more or less promotes pre-marital sex and adultery? (It is NOT my favorite movie, but I do like it.) Is it wrong for me to love the Harry Potter or Twilight series since they both are tales that "glorify" the occult? (Harry Potter is among my favorite books; I've yet to crack open Twilight.) I don't know.

I remember one year after youth camp, watching one of the girls break all of her non-Christian CDs in half and tossing them in a gas station trash can. No more junk was going to filter through her ears musically. How noble of her, I thought. And there was a time when all I did listen to was Christian radio... and I felt good about myself. But do I feel any less "good" when I'm jamming out to Jessie J or the Blackeyed Peas? I don't know.

What I do know is that what I wear, say, or do, isn't what makes me a Christian. It's my commitment to Christ. To follow Him. To love Him. And hopefully because of my love for Him, His love is reflected in everything I wear, say, or do. So... does me wearing short shorts or reading Harry Potter mean I don't love Him enough?

I'll admit that sometimes I'm jealous of the Christians who seem to abandon "normal" for Christ. Who spend days in prayer before making any decision, who surrender every moment up to Him. But sometimes, they seem so... alien. Because that's what I'm trying to do... surrender every moment to Him... but I am in no way that "radical" or "on fire."

Christians do come in all different shapes, sizes and personalities. And I think that's the beauty of life in general. But that doesn't mean that God doesn't have a standard that we should all attempt to daily strive for and live up to. Is the standard of purity about what you wear (or don't wear), how you date (or don't date), what you eat (or don't eat), what you watch (... you get the picture)? Or is it simply about a purity of heart?  And while I do think it is definitely the latter... what then does having a purity of heart even look like? Would it not be reflected in what you wear, how you eat, what you watch, what you listen to, how you date... in every single aspect of your life?

I guess this is what the Christian journey is about, huh? We know we are called to a higher purpose. We know there is some calling on our lives. We know that His will is the best and we should seek to follow it. But... it is a journey

I just hope I'm not taking a walk that'll make me happy, but one that will make Him happy.

101 in 1001

I have a friend who keeps an ongoing "bucket list." Her name is Lizzie. She's quite eccentric for barely being over 25, but that's one of the things I love most about her. In her life it seemed that every day was a dream being lived out and fulfilled. She made plans... and she executed them.

I always got a slight chills whenever she'd pull out her journal full of things she planned to do before she died. And I'd love listening to some of the bizzare things, as well as the mundane ones she had written down. The chills came whenever she was checking things off.

I noticed a similar "bucket list" of sorts on a blog I follow... allison writes: 101 in 1001. And now I really want to make a list of things I'd love to have done by the time I'm 30, or 40, or just before I'm dead, haha.

At the moment, I can't think of much. So... wanna help? Leave me a comment with some things you think I should add to my list. Adventures. Travels. Creative undertakings. Whatever you think I might enjoy... even if (and maybe especially if) it pushes me out of my comfort zone!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Place, New DIY attitude

In exactly a month, I'll be getting the keys to my new apartment. And I can't wait.

It's in the Heights, which is one of my favorite neightborhoods in Houston. The houses have such old charm and I love the bright exterior colors. There are some newer builds, too, but even they have quite a level of charm. I drove some friends around the neighborhood over the weekend and we "oohed" and "ahhed" at the wrap-around porches and the stately exteriors.

Example of a Heights Home

My little home lacks the same level of charm on the outside, but once I saw the inside I was sold. It's hardwood floors throughout, which are old and in some parts a little uneven, but obviously in good condition. And while the bathroom is kind of tiny/narrow and there isn't a lot of cabinet space in the kitchen... it's a place I can make home. And home isn't something I've had... well, since 2006.

The other day, my brother compared me to a Fulani. I'm the nomad in the family. I've moved every 6 months to a year since finishing my undergraduate at Texas A&M. Whether it has been for an internship, a job, graduate school, or family... something has led me to never stay put in one place for more than a year. Dallas was the longest at two years, but even then, the longest I was in one apartment was 15 months.

While there is no guarantee that I'll be staying in the little house I'm renting for more than a year. I'm kind of hoping that this is where I'll settle for a while. And since I have permission to make whatever improvements/changes I'd like, I plan to go crazy and really give it my stamp of ownership. I'm already envisioning the kitchen island I'll bring in. And how I'll add towel racks to the back of the bathroom door. The gorgeous rug I'll use to set off the living room. The art work I'll hang up.

Mostly, I'm kind of excited about possibly trying my hand at some DIY projects. The first on my agenda is making a headboard for my bed. I've found some ideas on Better Homes and Gardens that I really like.

Headboard close-up
One of my favorites, using old dresser drawers, and it'd definitely help take care of some of my book storage issues.

Shutter headboard with green fabric
Headboard from fireplace screen
A fireplace
Curtain panel with words
blue bedroom with cushion headboard
Another one of my favorites, and I might already have all the materials for this one available.

Letter Perfect
This speaks to the geek in me, and while I actually
don't like it as a headboard, I think I might end up with
a wall of letters somewhere.

I'll keep you up-to-date on what I decide to do. And post before and after pictures, etc. I'm just so excited and can't wait until August 3rd when I get the keys and can begin!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Why I'm Okay Being Single

It never fails that within a given week someone seemingly has to ask me, "So... do you have a boyfriend?", "So who's the lucky man?" or something along that lines. It doesn't matter if we've been friends for ages and just haven't seen each other in a while, or you've just met me a few months, days or hours ago. It somehow always creeps up. And when I say, "No... No one..." with a sweet smile on my face, the answer is always a variation of three things:

1. "Don't worry, your own time will come soon." (Really? I wasn't worried until you said that, now I'm worried that something is the matter since "my time" hasn't come yet. Thanks.)

2. "Oh, why are you being picky? Or are you just waiting until you're sure? (Actually, no one is even remotely interested in me. Or at least no one I'm aware of. Thanks for reminding me of that fact.)

3. "We've got to find someone for you!" or as one of my friends puts it, "You need to get chose!" (This is probably the best response. While it does make me think, "Obviously no one currently wants to "choose" me," it mostly makes me feel like I am an awesome, desireable woman... and boys are just blind.)

But regardless of the response, they all seem to say one thing: That being single isn't "good enough." That I must want more in life. And without a tall, dark and handsome man to marry and bear children for, I am somehow incomplete. Or unhappy. Which, I'd like to point out, I am not.

This doesn't mean I don't want a boyfriend or a husband. It just means that I've learned the art of contentment. Or at this article put it, I'm waiting actively. Being single right now means I get to pursue things that are important to me. I also get to work on myself and be the person I want to be, so if and when Mr. "Right" (which this article claims there is no such things as) comes, I'm ready.

Let's face it. I'm not terrible domestic. And while I don't think a woman needs to be. I kind of want to be for my family (with his helping hand, of course). I'd like to know how to hem pants, sew on buttons and fix tear. I'd like to be able to create family dinners we can share around the table. I'd like to have a home that while it may look lived in, doesn't look like a war-zone.

I'd also like to be better at the piano (I imagine us gathered around having sing-a-longs... or at least gathering around it during Christmas time and singing some carols). And maybe even learn the guitar. I'd like to get down a writing routine I can be proud of (cause I will not compromise and let that dream die). I'd like to have a clear idea of my dreams and where I'd want life to lead me.

I'd like to actually use and stick to a budget and have all of my debt paid off (minus the student loans... that will probably take 15-30 years unless I become rich). And honestly, I'd like to get a handle on my own emotional baggage and feel 100% worth it (which most days, I do. But sometimes, in my head, I hear one of my cousins saying, "Man, Bunmi... whoever marries you must really love you.") and not beat myself over the head for past mistakes and stumbles (relationship and non-relationship related).

Most importantly, I want to be better at putting God first. And living my life for His glory and not my own. It's easy to get thrown into the church environment where you go to church "looking for a man." (I actually HATE the idea of singles groups and avoid churches with them. What? So singles don't want to be friends with married people?) And yes, I do plan on marrying a Christian. But that doesn't mean I have to find him at church.

I guess... I know I'm flawed. And I know he'll be flawed. So what's more important to me is that we're both surrendering our flawed selves to the One above and letting him guide us. Cause ultimately, no matter how cute I think you are. Or how nice you are to me. Or how much you make me laugh. Whatever chemistry between us isn't going to matter if we can't put God first. And by putting God first, it'll help me love whoever I'm supposed to love completely. Even if he leaves his dirty laundry on the floor.

I've more or less been single for six years. And in that time, there was a potential relationship. And a part of me feels like I (maybe, we) sacrificed that potential relationship because I was so bent on "guarding my heart." Which at the time might have seemed like a good idea. But now (and this article agrees with me) I think it might have been a pretty silly idea. For one, nothing is a guarantee. And how do you have an authentic relationship with anyone if you're guarded and have walls up? And more importantly, how are you putting God first in doing that? If God is first in my life, I shouldn't be so concerned about getting hurt. He's got my back. And if I'm focused in living out His will for my life, "all things will work out for the good..."

And now I think it could have been a great relationship. In fact, I still do. But that's besides the point.

The point is this: Yes, there are some days I envy my newly-wedded friends. Yes, there are some days that I wish that "he" would just show up already. But most days, and even on those other days, I am perfectly content in my singleness. I've got my priorities, and dating/marriage isn't at the top of that list. God is. Plus, I get to be selfish and just worry about me :-)

And maybe one day, I'll meet a guy who would do something like this for me, hehe:

The proof that we are soulmates from Emanuele Colombo on Vimeo.

(P.S. If you go to any of the links, you'll notice they mostly all come from RELEVANT magazine. I fell upon one of their articles and then just kept reading through the night (good thing I don't have work right now! Haha). It's a good magazine. You should check it out.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Beauty and the Beat"

One of my high school BFFs is a GENIUS. As you know from previous posts, Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Disney movies. Todrick made a parody of the opening number. Watch it. Be amazed. And laugh your butt off.

I did.


Besides Todrick's many costume changes, there are just so many great one-liners! I think one of my favorite lines is the "Look... isn't this a hot mess. Who would name their first child Blu Ivy?" Hehe.

P.S. I know it's like 6 months early, but if you're looking for a new Christmas album to buy. You should check out Tod's :)

Dream Libraries

I've yet to jump on the Pintrest bandwagon, but my cousin sent me a link to a Pintrest page that I am in LOVE with. As people who know me, and anyone who has followed this blog long enough, know... I am a big reader. I own a lot of books and have the "bad" habit of constantly buying more. I'm currently out of shelf space in my apartment, and half (maybe more) of the books I own are at school.

One day, when I build my dream home (or renovate whatever home I end up in), having a library will be essential. Or at least having a place to put all of my books (with room for growth) is essential.

Here are some of my favorite ideas from Pintrest:

Great use of space! If I have stairs in my dream home, this is totally happening!

One day I hope to have a little "Writer's Nook" in my house. Something like this would be perfect.
And again, great use of space!

I dream of having a bay window with a window seat that I curl up with a good book in.
On a sunny day, or even when it's raining.
Or at night, with the moonlight streaming in...

Closet transformed into a home library
"With floor to ceiling shelving and a couple of lamps, an extra closet or alcove becomes a library."
(Real Simple)

Another staircase idea... if I have a cellar or basement.

These last two are whimsical and probably would have no place in a home. But they are so fun, I had to add them!

Reading Wheel

In love! I guess it could go in the actual library
... if I ever make millions and have a big enough house for one.
Or I can save it for when I open up my own bookshop in retirement!


What can I say... I LOVE to read!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Scary World of Budgeting

I have never kept a budget.

Appalling, I know. Numbers just stress me out. I've always liked words better. I mean, I can't even remember a 10-digit phone number. It took me years to memorize my social security number. One of my exes was always irritated that I wanted directions to include exit names and not the exit numbers (still do, by the way).

And let's not even talk about sticking to the budget. I'm not very good at coloring within the lines (figuratively; I actually am slightly OCD about doing that literally). I've planned to only spend X amount of money on something and then completely go crazy once I start spending. I always find a reason to spend just a little bit more. And not necessarily on me (although, when it comes to books, it's always one me). I just see things that I think people in my life would like and make the purchase. This definitely comes back to bite me on the butt later.

For the 10 months, I haven't thought much about how much I spend. I had a roommate, we split the bills, and so I kind of hand quite a bit of "extra" to throw around, I suppose. Now I'm wishing I saved more. Because what I did save I just spent on my European tour (which was totally worth it).

Now it's back to me. And living alone in Houston is kind of expensive. I've been looking up apartments and rent for 1 bedrooms within the loop are excessive. It's like Houston thinks it's the New York City of Texas (which it isn't. If anything, Austin or Dallas should get that title). Granted there are cheaper places... but I'm struggling to find one that's cheap and nice. I'm what my friends would call slightly bourgoius. I have high standards. Standards that are apparently higher than my bank account.

So living alone again is definitely taking me down a notch. I already don't have cable. And internet alone seems like it's costing a small fortune!

So with the help of one of my accounting buddies, I've just created a budget. And the plan is that all decisions made will adhere to this budget. Including where I end up moving to...

Here's hoping I can survive and stick to it!

Right now, I really do feel like I'm trying to shove pieces of a puzzle together.
And while, I generally like puzzles, they aren't easy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Me Before You

It's half past 3. Morning, not afternoon.  And I've just finished reading "Me Before You" by JoJo Moyes.

It was one of the books I purchased in London. (You might think it silly, but my very first purchases, besides train tickets, were books. Even though I had my Kindle and I had brought a few real books, too. My second was a cute satchel to put the books in... Ha!) I began reading it this morning, and could barely put it down. Of course, I did to take care of my growing pile of laundry and to spend a few hours with friends after a clothes swap (my first! But more on that later). I got home around 11pm, and just couldn't stop reading this book.
You might remember how I felt about "Thanks for the Memories" or "Sweet Love"... this was better.

I can't really tell you what the book is about. To do so would give it all away. The blurb on the back did it very little justice... I thought I'd be a silly bit of chick-lit (which I love, so no problems there), but it was so much more. In fact, I can't even classify it as chick-lit. Although, there is a twenty-something year old, and there is a bit of romance.

I laughed. I cried. Actually, I'm still a bit weepy.

And while there are some things in the book that might make some people mad, uncomfortable, troubled, oppositional... it reminded me that very little, in fact almost nothing in this life is black and white. In life we often find ourselves standing in different shades of grey (or gray; there actually is a difference between the two on the color spectrum) based on the choices we make. But ultimately, that's the thing... they are our choices. And we can't always expect those around us, the people we love and care for, to always stand in the exact same shade.

All I can say is that you really should read it. Really. If i could, I'd make you promise that you would.

And now I'm going to try to stop crying and go to sleep.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eiffel Up, Effiel Down

Paris was not a part of the original plan.

The original plan was simply London. Arrive a week before the wedding, spend time with the groom, meet the bride, get in some good family bonding time. Cheer them on their special day and then back to the States!

But then my friends got whiff of my plans to jet to London and insisted they come along. And since one of them happens to be a French teacher, who just happens to take a group of teens every Spring break, but hasn't really gone kid-free in a while (if ever), Paris of course got added to the list.

One thing Becky (the French teacher friend) insisted we do in Paris is climb the Eiffel Tower. She had never done it. I didn't tell her this, but that fact appalled me considering how many times she's been. Wouldn't the Eiffel Tower have been a mandatory stop on a school-related trip? Apparently not.

So, on our second full day in Paris, we took the subway down to the Eiffel Tower and began our quest. It was bright, it was sunny. It really was the perfect day.

The day really couldn't have been more perfect
When we got to the tower, it was bustling with people. There was a long line stretching out from underneath the tower, starting from its southeast leg. It was the line for the elevator ride up. Becky balked. "I'm not waiting in line forever," she said. But I was determined to go, so I suggested we try the stairs. Only one stairwell line was open--the one on the southwest leg--and it was considerably shorter. So we got in line and began patiently inching forward to get our tickets.

It actually went really quickly. Especially since about 5 minutes after we got in line, the sunny skies vanish and thunderclouds came rolling in. It didn't exactly begin pouring, but the wind was strong and the tower itself offered absolutely no covering, so we were getting quite damp. Others ran out of line, pushing us closer to the front, but it was still slow going. The whole time we stood shivering and rolling our eyes at the screaming girls running around the pavement, Becky kept saying, "I'm not climbing this thing in the rain. I'm not doing it." I convinced her to let us at least get to the front of the line. We can always buy our tickets and come back later, right?

The lady in front of us had a slightly different perspective. "In 20 minutes, the rain will be completely gone. And in 20 minutes we'll be in the front of the line. So don't worry." Her husband and kids scoffed at her. I began praying she'd be right. And just when we got to the front of the line and began to pay for our tickets. The rain stopped. The sun came back out. It was perfect.

The climb itself felt like torture. It's a lot of stairs. Our tickets would let us climb up to the second stage and then from there we could take the elevator to the top. I don't think we made it halfway up half the way to stage one when we both had to stop to rest our burning thighs and catch our breath. It didn't help that although the sky had stopped raining, the tower was still dripping on us. Nor did it help that the higher we got, the more the fierce French wind made our already cold bodies even colder. We scowled at the little kids who ran by boasting, "I'm not even tired!" in their little French accents. And I'm pretty sure I looked very hateful at the group of Asians (who were considerably older than us) that passed by us looking not even remotely out of breath. But eventually... we made it to Stage 1.

I wanted to curse Effiel as I climbed.
I didn't. But I did stomp on his face :)
This is how we both felt.
And we still had a stage and a half to go!

We finally made it! If you look to the side of the stairs... 328 stairs!
We spent some time on Stage 1 walking around a bit on the West and Northern sides. There's a little Eiffle Tower museum for kids along the southern and eastern sides, but I think we both knew that if we stopped too long in our journey up, we may have not made it. So after a few pictures... we continued to Stage 2.

If we went to the museum, this would have been our tour guide.
Such a little cutie!
I forgot to take a picture of the stairs when we got the Stage 2. I was too tired. Really. I think I registered it being around 660 or 665. I tried to look it up (and was told 674), but it turns out the number of stairs is different depending on what leg you climb, so I'm not sure how accurate that number is. (We climbed the western leg from Stage 1 to Stage 2.) Either way, we climbed somewhere between 988 to 1002 stairs. I think I got my workout for the rest of the year in.

Even though we were cold. Even though we were still a bit wet. And even though our feet and thighs were cursing us. The view was spectacular. It was worth it. It was worth it at Stage 1, too. But even better at Stage 3. I couldn't wait until we reached the top!

Arriving at the Second Stage in the West

Western view of Paris
Northern view of Paris

Eastern view of Paris

Southern view

And off we go to the top!
Because of saftey reasons, you're not allowed to climb the stairs to the third stage. So we got into a line and rode the elevator up. I loved the ride... it was kind of fun to zoom upwards and watch Paris get smaller and smaller between the metal beams of the tower legs.

The top itself was like a little museum on its own. There was border lining the top of the glass observatory that compared the heights of other famous buildings and monuments around the world to that of the Eiffel Tower's. There were a lot of informational boards and stuff. And in one corner of the tower is Eiffel's actual office! Apparently he used to work from the very top of the tower and had a little apartment there and everything. There's a wax recreation of his office showing the "famous" (I never heard of it until that day) day Thomas Edison came to share his phonograph with Eiffel and his daughter. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I was geeking out and having a blast.

I made it to the top! :)
Edison and Eiffel (with Eiffel's daughter) in
his office at the top of the tower
The dotted line is the height of the Eiffel Tower

The elevator ride down

It was still pretty windy. And we were still cold. But as we took the elevator down to the tower's base I asked Becky if she was glad we did it, she said, "I may not ever do it again... but it was worth it." I agree.

There was a couple taking pictures at the base of the tower as we were leaving.
Talk about a perfect ending.
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