Day Ten: 1 Thing You're Excited About

The first upcoming thing I can think of that I'm excited about is the Woodstock 5K in August.

Last year, I did Woodstock for the first time. It was my first ever 5K, my very first race. I was so terribly out of shape then. I'd never run before that day. I walked 97% of the course and, inspired by the other participants, I attempted to jog a little. My time was 46:23.

I've lost about 40 pounds since then. To date, my best 5K time is 34:50 (The YMCA Run Around Town 5K on April 20). I've come so far since last August. So, I'm totally excited to give the race a second try. To return to the event that really sparked my journey. And of course, to crush last year's time!

Day Nine: 2 Things You Feel Strongly About

At first, I found this to be a pretty difficult writing prompt, because I'm typically a middle-of-the-road, able-to-see-both-sides-of-the-issue kind of person. But once I got going, I found it hard to stop!

1. Setting Goals (And Working to Achieve Them)

I've always been pretty goal-oriented. I've always had big, slightly crazy dreams, and I've made tiny steps of progress, hoping to propel myself a bit closer to making them reality. But after reading Just Don't Fall by Josh Sundquist (a really awesome guy who lost his leg to cancer as a little boy, went on to become a Paralympic ski racer, and is now a motivational speaker and successful YouTuber), I grew a lot more obsessed with goal-setting. I made yearly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, and daily goals. I pretty much created my own overly-complicated-sounding, difficult-to-explain, goal-setting method. (Oooh, today is apparently hyphen day.) I want to share my method on this blog, and I'm working on that. But for now, I'll say that basically, you just take a big goal and break it down into mini-goals.


Setting goals is so important! Unless you think you're perfect the way you are and have no room for improvement, you should always be setting goals. Always. No matter how old you get or how rich you get or how far you get in life, you should always strive to be more.

Okay. I think this is sounding more negative than positive. I don't mean that you should always feel inadequate and not good enough, and that no matter what you do, you should always keep striving for perfection. You'll never be perfect, and you shouldn't be upset with yourself when you can't get there. I do mean that you (and I certainly mean we) shouldn't get lazy or complacent.

Working in a high school, I'm around teenagers all the time. I talk to them about their aspirations and goals for the future. I get excited when I speak with the ones who have plans, actual plans, to become something more, a teacher or a doctor or a lawyer or whatever else, someone who will really contribute to society. ("I'll graduate high school, then I'm planning to go to community college for two years, since it's closer to home and costs less, then I'll transfer to the University of Alabama to complete my undergrad degree. And I'm already researching a few law schools now.") I just want to pat them on the back, hug them, encourage the mess right out of them!

Then there's the other kids.

The ones who show up to school sleepy-eyed, hands in their pockets, no books, no pencils, not even a clue as to what day it is. They come see me, the nurse, during class for no reason except to get out of class for a few minutes. And I ask them (I really do), "What are you planning to do after this? If you hate school so much that you won't even go to class, what are you going to do whenever you don't have to be here any more?" I get lots of shoulder shrugs and 'I dunno's. They talk about dropping out of school entirely. They say, "I guess I'll get a job," to which I reply, "Where? How? Who's going to hire you when you don't even have a high school diploma?" And most of them say they're perfectly content flipping patties at McDonald's.

I hate it when people, especially these intelligent, talented kids, don't care. When they have no drive. No motivation. No plans. They just do not care. And I'm over here like, WAKE UP! YOU'RE ALIVE FOR A REASON! SET SOME GOALS! DO SOMETHING! 

So, er, yes. I suppose I feel pretty strongly about setting goals. And putting forth the effort and hard work to meet them. Let's clear that up. You can "set goals" all day, but if you don't do anything to get there, you're just making a list of wishes.

2. Being A Lady

Yeah, it's overdone and overused now. But read those words. Think about them. Keep calm and carry on. That's a ladylike, even Christian, response to a difficulty, an unpleasant situation, or any unexpected bad thing. Turn the other cheek. Keep your chin up. Don't complain. Don't pitch a fit. Maintain your dignity and grace. Move on. Remain on track, unaffected. It's a great quote to live by.

Now, I love wasting time on Pinterest as much as the next girl, but I get more distressed each time I get on there and see what other girls are pinning. Things like this: (WARNING: rude, foul language ahead)

I saw where girls had repinned these with hashtags like: #lovethis!, #sotrue, #f***yeah.

I'm really concerned about our society. Women are straying farther and farther from femininity, modesty,  tastefulness, and elegance. Things like this make me lose hope in humanity.

My best friend Anna and I have been doing a Bible study together on Proverbs 31. The Virtuous Woman. A wife of noble character. The famous role model for Christian ladies.
"(11)Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good not harm all the days of her life. ...(17)She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. ...(22) She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns. ...(25-27)She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."
I see her as this regal, majestic woman, clean and well-dressed, with bright eyes and a smile on her face. She has a soft voice, and she speaks with kindness. She doesn't gossip, blab, rant, slander, or bad-mouth. She certainly doesn't curse. She listens more than she talks, I'm sure.

(And before you try to argue about how sexist and degrading all this is, I'll point out in verse 17 that "She is energetic and strong, a hard worker." She is a very capable woman.)

I'm sorry if this offends you, but this is how we as women are called to behave (Really, we as followers of Christ in general, but I'm talking about being a lady right now). All the things your great-grandmother probably thought a lady should be? She was probably right. Cover up your private parts. Don't get drunk. Don't go chasing after men. Don't sleep around. Don't talk about sex. Or poop. Or gas. Don't curse. Have some manners and some decency.  Be polite. Be courteous. Have some sympathy for other people and do what you can to help meet their needs. Love your family. Take care of them.

Be. A. Lady.

If you feel like you can't do those things, well, talk to Jesus about it. I read an article by Aubry Smith about the Proverbs 31 woman and really loved what she said here:
"When we read Proverbs 31, we need to remember to jump ahead to the New Testament. Jesus - not a list of rules – makes a woman into a Proverbs 31 woman. He takes a controlling woman and teaches her to put others before themselves. He indwells the lazy woman and provides her with purpose and perseverance. He gives her the mind of Christ and instills wisdom in her over time. He breathes warmth into her cold heart and helps her become compassionate. He gives her strength in her weakness. He gives her dignity in her shame."
Such a beautiful way to put it. I personally struggle with complaining and griping and saying things I later regret. I use sarcasm often. I have a really hard time focusing on helping others before myself. But the Lord can change that, if we will only allow His Spirit to do so. 

Oh, so many strong feelings here today.

Day Eight: 3 Things You Want to Say to an Ex

This is the most candid post I've ever written. I'm still trying to decide whether or not I should post it.

I'll warn you, this is will get cheesy, sad, and borderline pathetic, probably, because this is me spilling out some of my innermost truths. But I must say I am so, so thankful for the lack of bitterness and anger I felt as I wrote this. Time, of course, has changed things. But I credit God most of all. He has worked on me over these last few years, healing me, maturing me, and changing my heart. Dredging all these things up now makes me nostalgic more than anything. And for that, I am grateful.

I also feel the need to put a little disclaimer kind of thing here. I've technically never had an ex, because I've never really been in an "official" boyfriend/girlfriend relationship (unless you count that four-day mistake in February 2012, which I don't. ...Another conversation.) But this one guy, well, we were kind of "courting", I guess. I don't know what you call it. Anyway, even though he's not really an ex because we were never "officially" dating, I gave him my heart. And he is the only one I've ever cared enough about to have anything meaningful to say to. So here it is.

1. I miss you.

As much as I hate to admit it, I still think about you regularly. I'll see a box of orange push-pops in the freezer aisle, or hear "Peaceful Easy Feeling" by The Eagles on the radio, or I'll glance at our old table as I drive past Starbucks, and it will hit me again. That familiar sting. I miss you. I miss seeing your face and your contagious smile. I miss hearing your voice. I miss talking to you. All the confusion and titles and everything else aside, you were my other best friend. You influenced me like no one else did or could. You supported me and encouraged me and prayed with me. I miss that more than I can or even want to say. And it breaks my heart all over again to know that none of that is never coming back.

I know this for certain because the last time I saw you, the last time you came home, we had an unbearably awkward, painful run-in at Wal-Mart in the checkout line. The days of our closeness are long gone.

2.  I really did love you.

You said you didn't want to commit to me because you knew you were going to leave. You knew you were being given the chance to escape our crappy little hometown. You were going off to college. I remember you talked about scars. You'd been in a long-distance relationship that ended bitterly, and you didn't want to do it again. You didn't want to leave me with the kind of scar you'd been left with. Despite all this talk, when you moved away to school, we somehow grew closer than we'd been before. I found out how true the whole "absence makes the heart grow fonder" cliche really was. We stayed up late every single night talking to each other. When you came home, I was one of the first to know. At your insistence, I came to Jackson to see you, to check out your college because you kept begging me to transfer there. And after the night we spent exploring your new city together, I knew, I just knew, that you were the one. I knew I loved you, and I could so easily see myself becoming your wife.

Then what you'd warned me about became reality. I went back home to Alabama, as I had to, of course. And before too long, you found someone else. Someone better, someone you pursued and eventually married. And I was left here in our crappy little hometown, alone, confused, and heartbroken.

Because yes, I really did love you. I had a secret fondness for you from the moment we first met, when you were twelve and I was ten and you came running up to me in the church parking lot with a frog from the creek clasped between your hands. I should also say that even today, I still have a kind of love for you. I certainly don't hate you. I know I acted like I did for a while, but that was just an immature, overly emotional response to my hurting, and I'm sorry for that.

3. I'm happy for you.

It's hard not to be at least a little envious, since you married the girl I felt you picked over me. Since the two of you have created such a great life together. But I can honestly tell you that I am genuinely happy to see you happy.

You successfully escaped Alabama. You have a radiant Christian wife. An adorable baby boy. You're a leader. You're making a difference in people's lives every day you go to work.

You waited. You prayed. You listened to God's voice in your life and followed your convictions. You deserve all the happiness you've found. You really do.

Day Seven: 4 People You Find Attractive- Same and Opposite Sex

Opposite Sex

1. Ryan Gosling

Wow, big shocker there, huh? I hate to be one of the 95% of American females who get all googly-eyed over the guy, but I can't help it. He's handsome, he's got great style, he wears hipster glasses and tucks books under his arm as he roams the streets... I'm sorry. But from what I've seen of him in interviews and such, he seems like a pretty nice guy.

2. Jensen Ackles

Another big surprise, right? But I couldn't make this list without putting Dean Winchester on here!

3. Bradley James

Ever seen Merlin? Go watch it. And fall in love with King Arthur. Mmm. I'd be his Guinevere any day.

4. Colin O'Donoguhe 

Captain Hook on Once Upon a Time. Ohhhh man. Eyeliner, hook-hand, and all, he is one incredibly hot pirate.

Same Sex

1. Karen Gillan

I think Karen is adorable, and I pretty much wish we could trade faces. And lives.

2. Bryce Dallas Howard

She has a unique look. And great hair.

3. Amy Adams

Clearly, I have some creepy obsession with redheads.

4. Amanda Seyfried

Well, even though she's not ginger, she has gorgeous blue eyes and seriously amazing hair. Arguably the best hair in Hollywood. I'm jealous.

Day Six: 5 Favorite Names

Alrighty. If you know me, you know about my name obsession. I'm not pregnant, and I won't be any time soon, but I visit and almost daily to see what the names of the day are. I enjoy watching the trends, reading the name lists, and stumbling upon rare names I've never seen before.

This isn't a new thing for me. I started making my own favorite baby name lists when I was really young. I mean, I have some dated as far back as 1996. In 1996, I was seven. Seven.

My favorite names are always changing, so here's the ones I'm currently loving:


1. Gracie

This one has actually been my top favorite girl name for a while now. I've actually had several vivid dreams in which I've had a little girl named Gracie. So this one has become kind of sentimental to me.

2. Willa

I don't know if I could pull it off or not, but it's a pretty, soft, feminine name that's not used much.

3. Amelia

An elegant, vintage name with nice namesakes like Amelia Earhart. It does remind me of Amelia Bedelia, though.

4. Pearl

I really can't believe Pearl has made it to my list, but it's a classic, and I'm liking it more and more. It kind of ranks with Willa in the Not-Sure-I-Can-Pull-It-Off category.

5. Ada

I recently heard this on House Hunters International. A young couple moving to Italy had an adorable baby girl named Ada. It's a great alternative to one of my favorites that's gotten way too popular, Ava.


1. Nate

This one has been a favorite of mine even longer than Gracie has. It started when I was about thirteen and in love with Plus One's Nate Cole. But I still love the name today. It's short and easy, and it has a friendly quality about it.

2. Ephraim

I started loving this name after hearing it on Everwood. I love the way Ephraim sounds, but I'm just not crazy about how it looks/how it's spelled. But I really can't stand alternate spellings of names, like Efrem or Efram either. So...I am torn over Ephraim.

3. Collin 

I love Collin. I prefer the spelling of "Colin", but some people, including my mom, pronounce that as "Colon", which I do not like for obvious reasons. I'm pretty sure I used Collin for a baby boy I had on The Sims.

4. Finn

This is a trendy one, but I love it anyway. I'm thinking it may be taking off right now because of Finnick in The Hunger Games. (Finnick, btw, is also a cool name.)

5. Callum 

Did I mention I also keep up with the top baby names in the UK? That's where I heard about Callum, a lovely Scottish name that means "dove". It's kind of a mix between Ephraim and Collin, now that I think about it.

Okay, I wanna hear some of your favorite names in the comments!

Day Five: 6 Fears

I don't wanna get too intense or emotional or anything with this, so I'm just going to deal with a few of my dumbest phobias. You're probably thinking, "A few? How many fears do you have???" Yes, well, let me just remind you I didn't get sorted into Gryffindor, okay?

1. Rats/Mice

This is number one. Seriously. This is a legitimate phobia for me. I don't know what it is about them, but I can't even look at them in person. One time (embarrassingly recently), my sister's cat killed a mouse and left it on our front doorstep. I found it when I came home from work one night, and I, er, started screaming and wouldn't go in the front door. It was like I was paralyzed. I could not physically step over it.

Just a warning: don't ever joke around with me about this one. Rats and mice turn me into a mad woman.

2. Big Dogs

Most animals make me really nervous and jumpy, but I'm truly scared of big dogs. I'm certain this is because I was attacked by a Rottweiler as a young kid. I was okay, thanks to my dad, who was right by me and kicked the crap out of the dog, but I have horribly vivid memories of that moment that have scarred me for life.

3. Clowns

Uh, self-explanatory.

4. Marionettes 

Also self-explanatory.

5. A Ghost Following Me Home From a Cemetery

This one's pretty dumb, considering I'm not sure I even believe in ghosts. But still. I like to visit graveyards. I enjoy reading the names on the tombstones and admiring all the sculptures and statues. However, I've seen enough episodes of Celebrity Ghost Stories to have this nagging, disconcerting thought that some lingering restless spirit might latch onto me while I'm wandering among the dead, follow me home, and haunt me.

6. Falling on a Fork

...They're sharp. And I'm clumsy. So it's easy to imagine this happening to me. And it would be such a sad way to die, especially as an overweight person. The fork was ultimately her downfall. Just too ironic.

What are some of your fears?

Day Four: 7 Things You Miss

1. Doing Things with My Parents 

I miss when my parents were healthy and able to do things. My mom would take me and my sister on day trips to Birmingham or Atlanta, and we'd go shopping, we'd go out to eat. And of course, the four of us had some great family trips. We used to have a camper that we'd haul to the Smoky Mountains or to the beach at least once a year.

Now my parents don't even leave the house unless it's to go to the doctor, and sometimes they don't even feel up to that. I can't express how much I miss doing things with them.

2. Having Friends

You might need a Kleenex for this one too. When I was growing up, I had one best friend, about three or four very close friends, a circle of fair-weather friends to go out to eat with and such, and several church/work acquaintances to talk to regularly.

All those people that once made up my life have moved away, gotten married, and/or had babies. My current best friend is the same best friend from my childhood, but she's been married for a year and will be moving away soon. Everyone else has already forgotten me. They've grown up and gone on with their lives.

I just miss when we were all single, and we all went out together and had fun as a pair or a group. We were so involved in each other's lives. Now we're not even friends on Facebook.

It's hard for me to find people I can be close to. I have very little in common with the few people I know right now, and I don't really know how to meet new people. So yeah. I miss having friends.

3. Swapping Stories with my Best Friend

For years, one of the coolest, cheapest ways my best friend and I entertained ourselves was by writing stories and sending them to each other. I remember checking my email with anticipation, hoping Anna had sent me the next chapter of whatever story she was in the middle of. We'd read each other's work, then discuss it excitedly. Those were the days.

4. Supernatural When It Was Good

A show about two good-looking brothers road-tripping across the country in a sweet '67 Chevy Impala, hunting demons, ghosts, and various monsters out of classic American folklore. There was lots of humor and good music and family bonding and, well, Dean Winchester.

It was awesome.

Then after the first five seasons, they got new writers, a new executive producer, and a new showrunner, and it turned it something...different. It got to be too "different" for me, and I quit watching. I really miss the way the show used to be.

5. College Classes

I know, I know.

I don't miss writing papers. But I miss learning things. I miss my literature and art history classes. I miss meeting with a group of people to talk about the books you're reading. Hearing a professor explain the parts that didn't make sense. Analyzing ancient pieces of art and searching for symbolism. It was always so interesting to me.

6. Church Youth Camp

The arrival of summer has me thinking about it. Every June, Brother Craig would load us all up in a charter bus and take us to Laguna Beach, Florida, for some of the best times of our lives. Everyone would come home closer to God and to each other.

I have so many wonderful memories from these camps.

7. Eating Whatever I Wanted and Not Thinking About It

Well, we all know where it got me, but yes, I miss it. I miss the days before I became aware of calories and nutrition and exercise. I used to eat a Big Mac combo with a Dr. Pepper for lunch, then pizza, breadsticks, and another Dr. Pepper for supper, and I thought nothing of it. Now I feel so stinking guilty if I even have one Dr. Pepper a week. (And I gain weight from that one, too.)

Day Three: 8 Ways to Win Your Heart

1. Speak with a British accent (real or fake, I won't judge.).

2. Suggest we do a Bible study together.

3. Make me laugh, genuinely. And often.

4. Be a fashion-forward man. (Or let me take you shopping!)

5. Create/make something for me.

6. Invite me to do a 5K with you.

7. Suggest we have a Harry Potter movie marathon because you love it so much. (And don't forget to quote it and make obscure references!)

8. Take me out for good Mexican food.

What a fun list to make!

Today was the last work day at school, so I am officially OUT FOR THE SUMMER!!! Woohoo!!!

Also, found out today that I am almost certainly going to be rehired for the next school year. The Board of Education still has to vote on it though, and that meeting is June 3. But the superintendent seems confident that I will have a job with them next fall.

Day Two: 9 Annoyances

Nine things that I don't like, that get on my nerves, that I think the world would be a better place without:

1. Mosquitoes, Fire Ants, Wasps, and Hornets

Notice I didn't say anything about bees. Yes, they sting, but they also pollinate flowers, so they can stay.

2. Sweating

This is gross, but I really don't like to sweat. It's one thing when you're running on the treadmill, giving it 110%, listening to the Rocky theme song. It's another when you've just gotten a shower, straightened your hair, put on makeup, and it's 95 degrees outside, so you sweat your makeup off, your scalp gets moist and gross, and you have to change clothes even though you just got dressed. (And when you're fat, this problem is even worse.) UGH. Another reason summer in Alabama isn't always a good time.

Also, I'm self-conscious about my sweaty hands. I avoid handshakes and hand-holding, and that makes me sad. :(

3. Inconsiderate, Loud Neighbors

I am a quiet person. I don't like loud noises or loud people who make them. I have always lived very quietly, on purpose, out of respect for the other people around me who might be trying to sleep, study, watch their favorite show, read, or whatever.

I've lived in three different places my entire life. Strangely enough, the quietest place was at my college dorm in Mobile at the University of South Alabama.

At my parents house, it's barking dogs. And I don't mean 3 annoying little shih tzus who won't shut up. No. My parents live next to an insane couple who think it's their job to "rescue" all the dogs in the universe. It's like 101 Dalmatians over there. Our last count was 27; those are the ones we can see outside. Who knows how many they have inside. And they're in the city limits, so there's not much space. All these dogs are kept in a fence, some in smaller pens, all squished together. Not sure how that's any more humane than the shelters they were coming from...but yeah. There's always dogs barking. Always. And let me tell you, going outside is a nightmare.

Now at the apartment, we live under a d-bag (sorry; know nothing else to call him that fits so well) who likes to sit on his front porch, get drunk, and blast Van Halen throughout the complex. His stereo is apparently in his living room, so he'll turn it up really loud and leave his front door wide open so he can hear his tunes nice and clear out on his porch while he downs a six-pack. For us downstairs, OMG. It is sooo loud. I'm not exaggerating when I say our pictures shake on the walls. When the music is at its loudest, if you sit in the furniture in our living room, the seats will literally vibrate beneath you. This happens about two or three times a week. We pay the same rent he does. We signed the same lease he did (which plainly included a noise ordinance). Yet he gets to have a party for one, and we're stuck putting in headphones and waiting for him to go to bed.

4. On that note, Loud People in General

The ones who complain because I'm so quiet. The ones who accuse me of being shy, and continually pick on me because of it, when in reality, I just don't have anything to say to them because we have nothing in common. How do I know we have nothing in common? I don't need to open up and have a conversation with them; they blab everything about themselves to anyone in a half-mile radius.

You know absolutely nothing about me, but I know how many guys you've slept with, where all of your tattoos are and what they look like, that your favorite shows are Teen Mom, Toddlers in Tiaras, and Duck Dynasty, where you like to go deer-hunting and mud-riding, how many times you've seen Kenny Chesney in concert, and that one time, you had C. diff and got diarrhea in Fred's while you were wearing a thong and a miniskirt and it made a HUGE MESS. UGGGGHHHHH.

My dad always told me, "An empty tin can rattles." Think about it. If you don't get it, you probably need to shut up.

5. People Who Hate You Because You're Pale

Okay, I deal with this crap a lot. I'm naturally fair-skinned. I don't tan, I burn. When the burn goes away, I'm left only with freckles. I used to hate this, but I'm proud of it now. I have a Scottish heritage! I'll have nice skin when I'm old! And for now, I'd much rather look like Lady Mary on Downton or Amy Pond from Doctor Who than one of the Kardashians (I know, they're like, Armenian, or something, please don't think I'm hating on their natural skin color).

No one around here gets it. People have actually offered to pay my membership to a tanning salon. They've said about my legs, "Ah! You're blinding me!" There's this one janitor at work that walks by my office every day and says, "You gonna get outside today? You need to get some color in that face." Okay. How is that not racist?

The "nicer" people tell me all about self-tanners that don't have the risk of cancer that tanning beds/laying out do. But I still refuse to do that. In fact, I wear sunscreen every day, even though I work in an office. I just don't understand why I should have to change my skin color. I already have to pluck, shave, and dye my hair. Put on lotions and makeup to make my face look acceptable. What is wrong with my skin color?!?

And BTW, throughout 97% of all history, the fairer your skin, the more beautiful you were considered. It was a mark of high status. Wealth. Royalty. That changed only recently in the 1960's.

6. Live TV

I get really irritated by commercial breaks and those pop-up ads that take up half the screen. When we had cable, I got spoiled by the DVR. You could fast-forward through commercials. Now we watch our shows only on Netflix and Hulu (and Hulu is annoying with it's two thirty second ads each commercial break). Netflix is really the way to go.

7. Traffic

Pretty sure everyone is majorly annoyed by this one. I stress out and turn into a crazy person in congested downtown areas of big cities. Even on the lonely country roads I travel on my way to work, it seems like someone always comes out of nowhere and rides my bumper, even though I'm usually speeding a little bit myself. Just pass me, dang it.

Ever seen I Am Legend? That's how I wish the roads were. (However, I guess that'd mean the end of the world. :/ ) So maybe I just need a flying car like the Weasleys' Anglia. That'd be nice.

8. Grammatical Errors

I'm so judgmental of other people's grammar and punctuation. When I say "uses proper English" is a requirement in a future spouse, I'm not kidding. It has honestly affected my real-life relationships. For example, consider the following Facebook messages:

1) Hey, how are you? It was really great to see you the other day.

2) hey tator tot how r u? it was real good 2 c u da other day

I'm sorry, but one of those is not going to be taken seriously.

9. Political Discussions

This should be much higher on the list, but I didn't think of it until now.

Another reason I think I was born in the wrong time- I often wish it was still considered impolite for people to discuss their political views. I think it's impolite, but no one else seems to share this feeling. Who you vote for is no one's business; that's why it's called a private ballot. Hmmmm....

Where I live, my personal views are quite unpopular, so I keep them to myself. Meanwhile, 9 out of every 10 people I'm around openly attack the party I associate with, bash the president, and boldly proclaim their own views, assuming everyone they encounter agrees with them. Every now and then, I'll take all I can take, and let them know I disagree. But I usually just stay out of it, because I've lost friends over this in the past.

Someone actually refused to speak to me when she discovered my political leanings. She continues to ignore me to this day. Ridiculous. I don't hate you because you think differently than I do. I don't agree, but I get it. I do hate when you continually degrade me for my convictions, when you keep trying to change me. Why can't we all just agree to disagree, leave politics behind us, and focus on the things we do have in common?

Sadly, I think this list was a lot easier to make than the Ten Loves. Time to go play The Glad Game.

10 Day Blog Challenge

I did one of these things a year or so ago on my old blog (which is now deleted). I sometimes wish I hadn't deleted it, because I know I'd enjoy going back and reading my old posts, if for no other reason than to feel better about myself nowadays... Anyway, that's why I do these somewhat pointless "challenges" every now and then; it's so interesting to come back to one of these after some time has passed and see how much I've changed. It shows growth. And hopefully maturity. (But probably not much of that.)

I'm going to be doing this myself, but it's also a great opportunity for me to get to know any of you bloggers out there reading this. So please help yourself to the image up there and get busy answering these questions on your own blog! Leave me a comment if you decide to, so I can go stalk your page.

Well, without further ado, I shall commence Day One: Ten Loves, a list of ten things I love right now in random order, enhanced with photos I *borrowed* from and Bing Images.

1. Coldplay
We'll start with an easy, obvious one. My favorite band of all time. After a decade of hoping and trying, I finally got to see them in concert July 2012 ( words can describe the awesomeness.). Hoping intensely that I will have the opportunity to see them live again! Few popular musicians these days are true artists, but they are. They haven't written a song yet that I don't like; I listen to all their albums without skipping songs. That's rare. "Green Eyes", "Fix You", "Yellow", "Talk", and "In My Place" are my top 5 favorites. No, wait. Add "Violet Hill". And "The Hardest Part". And you can't forget "Clocks".

I'm done.

2. Green
Since I was a little kid, green has been my favorite color. I always asked for a green sucker at the bank (back when they used to give those to kids). I wanted green Jell-O. Green hairbows. I seriously remember riding in the back of our big brown Astro van, staring out the window, watching the grass fly by in a beautiful green blur, thinking to myself, "Whoa. Greeeeen. So pretty." 

I still sort of do that. 

3. Sunrises
I'm ashamed of how many I've slept through over the years. I drive through a local state park on my way to work every morning and go right past a scenic overlook. When I first got this job, I whined about having to leave for work at 6:05 AM. But getting to see the sun rise above the mountains at the scenic point every single day is absolutely incredible. It's my favorite part of the day. (And I can't wait until school is out so I can do sunrise workouts again! Talking to God while running in the cool morning air, watching the sunrise...a wonderful experience.)

4. Yoga
Speaking of workouts, yoga is the best. I always start out kind of dreading it (like any other exercise). My body's tired, my joints are achy- I feel like I'm seventy-four instead of twenty-four. Then a few asanas and some deep breathing later, I'm magically cured. I feel warm and tingly all over, I'm more mentally alert, and my aches and pains are gone. And I'm also loving how I can bend a little farther and stretch a little deeper each time. The flexibility improvement has been really cool.

5. The Book of Romans
God has been showing me so many new things lately through the Scriptures. I started re-reading Luke around Christmas time, then after finishing it, I went on to Acts. Now I'm halfway through Romans. This time around, I really feel like I'm reading it for the first time. Like I've never even truly heard of Jesus until now. In Romans, it's all about the Christian life. The struggles of the first Christians; explanations about sin, salvation, and the law. I don't know. It's making sense like never before. I'm loving all the hope and meaning I'm discovering right now. 

6. Old Houses
Okay, so, while I'm being honest here, I'm going to admit that this is probably the root of my feelings for Ryan Gosling. If you've seen The Notebook, you know what I mean. I've always dreamed about my future husband buying me a rickety old house we've adored from afar for years, then fixing it up for us to live in. That's pretty much what Ryan did. He put a face to my dream... 

Anyway, they just don't make houses like that any more. Old homes have so much character. So many interesting little details. This renovation thing is a life goal for me.

7. Rainy Days
Comfy pants and an oversized sweater. A cup of steaming Earl Grey. A window with a view of rain showering down against the world outside. So nice. I love rainy days when I don't have to go anywhere. They're perfect for staying in and watching movies. 

Also, one might also recall the scene in The Notebook with the boat and the swans and the rain. 

8. Art History
I didn't know anything about art until I took a random Humanities class to fill up an extra elective spot my last year at community college. I had a fantastic teacher, Dr. Charles Hill. He focused on art history, and I grew just as passionate about it. At that time, I was president of Phi Theta Kappa, and the school paid for me and three other officers to go a PTK conference in Philadelphia. Dr. Hill and his wife were the chaperones on this trip, and they took me to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (home of the famous Rocky steps). Seeing the works of Monet and Degas and Dali in person, with my favorite teacher there to narrate, was one of the coolest things I've ever done. 

After that, I decided to minor in art history. My favorite period is probably the Renaissance. I'm a big Michelangelo fan. 

9. The Eleventh Doctor
Last year, I discovered Doctor Who and quickly went from, "This is cheesy, Rose is annoying, the makeups are lame, what the crap- attacking mannequins/living plastic?!?" to buying t-shirts, a bumper sticker, and saying "Allons-y!" all the time. It was all kicks and giggles until The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) died and regenerated into Matt Smith. (If you don't know, The Doctor doesn't die; he "regenerates", as in every cell in his body recreates itself and he gets a new look. And a new actor plays him.) This is a quite painful transition when you get attached to the current doctor/actor. (And I did; I have a slightly embarrassing shirt with David Tennant's face on it.) So I quit watching for a while. Then, after a period of healing, I came back. And the obsession got worse than ever.

The Eleventh Doctor is clumsy, twitchy, and ridiculous. He's playful and silly, yet there's a real sadness and an oldness about him at the same time. And really, how could you not love someone who pops up holding a mop and wearing a fez with no explanation?

10. Bacon Cheese Fries
It's sad how many times I stopped myself from listing food items on here. At number ten, the last one, I'm finally giving in.

This is one of those dishes that puts on three extra pounds, makes your stomach hurt for a day or two, and keeps you from using the bathroom for a week, but man, oh, man, is it tasty. Dip those bad boys in some ranch and you've got yourself a deliciously greasy heart attack on a plate. 

Why does the best-tasting food have to be so bad for you?

That's it. What are ten loves of yours? Take the 10 Day Blog Challenge with me!

I just stumbled over something I didn't see coming.

Just hours after I published my last inspirational post about being thankful regardless of the circumstances, the superintendent of my school system (the name of which I'm blurring out and not revealing; too many creepers in the world) came by my office and handed me this (sorry it's a cheap cell phone pic):

Didn't see that coming. AT ALL.

My supervisor kind of freaked out. She had no idea and really, truly thought the nursing staff was safe. But the nurse who works at the middle/elementary school also received one of these. With no warning.

However, the superintendent told us this is a formality, and there's still a good chance we'll be able to be rehired if they can adjust the budget accordingly. We will know for sure whether or not this will happen by next Thursday, and for that, I'm so glad. They're making most pink-slipped employees wait until August for the final word. Imagine having to wait all summer to know whether or not you're going to have a job when school starts. All the stressing and pinching pennies... Torture.

Well, I have an amazing boss. I really do. She is incredibly kind and easygoing, and she has helped guide me with no pressure or intimidation these first few months on the job. I could see how genuinely upset she was today for me, and she proved it when she surprised me with this:

She showed up to my office with lunch; she'd sneaked out and bought it from one of my favorite places. She even got me dessert: a scrumptious piece of freshly-made strawberry cake. And she refused to take any money for it.

I am so, so thankful that even in the midst of what seems like constant adversity, God still brings little joys like this into my life. He's placed me with Godly co-workers who are trying to lift me up. And they're praying with me about this.

So. Now I just wait. And pray.

The Glad Game

           I hate pity parties. But for someone who hates them, I sure do throw them an awful lot.

          Some things have happened that have caused me to take a step back and look at where I am in life. To evaluate my current situation and ponder the choices I’ve made to get here. That’s healthy. Reality checks are a good, necessary thing. But they can also be quite depressing.

             I got myself in a funk when I spent too much time analyzing these truths can’t be reversed:

1) I made it all the way to my senior year of college, had a 4.0 GPA, but I didn’t get to finish my bachelor’s degree in English.

2) I never wanted to be a nurse, yet that’s the education my parents would pay for, and that’s what my job is now.

3) I still have to pay Sallie Mae a good fraction of my paycheck despite having no bachelor’s degree.

4) My parents are chronically sick, and the future doesn’t look too bright. My friends’ grandparents have healthier, more active lives than they do. 

5) I’m 24, I’m still single, and I have no prospects.

6) I should weigh around 175 by now. Instead, my laziness and lack of self-control allowed me to balloon back up to 190.

7) I always found my identity in my writing and music. But I’m empty when it comes to those things now. I have nothing to offer.

8) The one life goal I actually met, moving out, has only created more new problems. The guy upstairs plays rock music so loud, our pictures on the walls quake on their nails. My dorm at the University of South Alabama was quieter. Oh yeah, and toilet water didn’t leak all over the place.

            After reading all that, can’t you feel the mud and mire sucking you down into the Pit of Despair? Jeez. These are the thoughts I’ve been dwelling on for the past few weeks. And I’ve been mean to everyone because of it. I’ve been emotionally binge-eating. I stopped caring about exercise. I started slacking in my Bible reading and prayer time.

            I’ve just gotten myself into a mess, and I’m ready to get out.

            So, I thought I’d take a little inspiration from Pollyanna and play The Glad Game. If you haven’t read the book/seen the movie, Pollyanna is an impossibly optimistic little girl who brings sunshine and rainbows into the lives of everyone she meets. Here’s a nice little summary I stole from Wikipedia:

Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers on what she calls "The Glad Game", an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel (her father was a missionary), found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna's father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because "we didn't need to use them!"

            I've never read the book, but I've seen the movie like 75 times. It really does make you think about things. I've decide to post my own version of The Glad Game right here:

1) I made it all the way to my senior year of college, had a 4.0 GPA, but I didn’t get to finish my bachelor’s degree in English.
I didn’t have to write any more research papers! And I am SO thankful I didn’t take out another $17,000 in loans from Sallie Mae, because that’s what I would have had to do to finish that last year.

2) I never wanted to be a nurse, yet that’s the education my parents would pay for, and that’s what my job is now.
At least my parents had the money and willingness to pay for some education. It may not be what I want to do, but I have a job. And on top of that, it really is a good job, with health insurance and great hours. Not to even mention the fact that so many of my co-workers have been pink-slipped this week, and my boss tells me I'm safe.

3) I still have to pay Sallie Mae a good fraction of my paycheck despite having no bachelor’s degree.
Once again, finishing that degree would have cost $17,000 more dollars in loans, and I would be in twice as much debt as I am now. Plus, $200 a month is a lot less than some people are stuck paying for loans. And because of the Lord’s provision, I’ve never missed a payment.

4) My parents are chronically sick, and the future doesn’t look too bright. My friends’ grandparents have healthier, more active lives than they do. 
Thank God my parents are still alive. And for now, they're well enough to talk to me, and we continue to share a close bond and a special relationship.

5) I’m 24, I’m still single, and I have no prospects.
I’ve never settled for any of those few creepy Mr. Collinses who have pursued me. I’ve stayed true to myself and never lowered my standards. I’m still faithfully waiting and praying for my special man.

6) I should weigh around 175 by now. Instead, my laziness and lack of self-control allowed me to balloon back up to 190.
I used to be 240 pounds. I couldn’t go upstairs without getting out of breath, I couldn’t run more than a few feet, I despised pictures, I suffered heart palpitations, excessive sweating, and acid reflux. My life is radically different than it was a couple of years ago.

7) I always found my identity in my writing and music. But I’m empty when it comes to those things now. I have nothing to offer.
I suppose I’m glad I’m spending more time in the real world these days than I am in my head, making things up. That sounds healthier. Less mentally unbalanced.

8) The one life goal I actually met, moving out, has only created more new problems. The guy upstairs plays rock music so loud, our pictures on the walls quake on their nails. My dorm at the University of South Alabama was quieter. Oh yeah, and toilet water didn’t leak all over the place.
I’m glad I actually met one life goal! That my sister and I are finally at a place where we can pay our own bills. And these problems could be so, so much worse. At least we feel safe. And there’s no rodents or bugs. And the guy upstairs likes classic rock, not country. Or rap.

            Wow. I seriously need to quit whining and shut up. God has taken care of me and blessed me so much, yet I ignore it constantly.

            I guess most of us do that, though. It’s difficult to find the silver lining, especially when you don’t really want to. It’s somehow obscenely comforting to feel sorry for yourself.

            But that’s not what God wants us to do. Bitterness isn’t healthy for anyone. It starts in your heart and infiltrates every part of your life, then spills over into the lives of people around you.

            So I invite you to do this yourself. Play The Glad Game. Play it every day. Do what you can do to change things, but force yourself to stop complaining about the things you can’t change. Stop dwelling on where you think you should be. Focus on where you are. Remember that God has a plan; He meant for you to be where you are right now. He has a reason for all these burdens and roadblocks and seemingly pointless detours.

The Dead Beginning

            One of the most painful experiences as a writer is staring at a blinking cursor on a blank Microsoft Word document and having no idea what to type.
            This seems different from what people call writer’s block. Writer’s block is going somewhere then running out of ideas, coming to a fork in the road and not knowing where to go. Reaching a dead end. 
            This is a dead beginning. This is an uncomfortable emptiness, a feeling of having nothing to tell, nothing to offer, nothing to give.
            This is where I am.
            I can’t remember a point in my life when I wasn’t writing something. From impossible-to-film movie screenplays to mediocre songs to embarrassingly pathetic fanfiction that should have never seen the light of day, I’ve always been in the middle of some writing project. Always.
            Until now. I haven’t written in several months.
            It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’ve had a few vague ideas for movies or novels that I’ve toyed around with, but the excitement faded before I even got going. And the excitement is what it’s all about.
            So, I’m trying to get to the root of the problem.
            I have had a lot of life changes recently. For example, it’s clearly taken a lot of life changes to lose these first fifty-five pounds. Maybe getting up from the computer and going to the gym has shifted my method of catharsis. Perhaps all the feelings and emotions I’d usually work out through a story have been let go through running.
            But if that’s the case, should I stop exercising and go back to being the lonely fat girl who lives vicariously through her fictional characters?      
            Um, no.
            So how do I revive the creativity?
            I just don’t know.
            All I know is how much I miss writing! I miss the adventures. I miss the plotting and planning. I miss the flow, that rush you get when you sit down to write and the next time you look at the clock, two chapters and eight hours have passed.  
            I want to get back into it. It's who I am. 

            Sorry. Just really needed to vent.

May: The Month of No Spending

I think I've only vaguely mentioned The Twelve Monthly Challenges I'm doing this year. Completing these self-assigned challenges is #2 on my 2013 goal list. So far:

January: The Month of No Desserts
February: The Month of Yoga
March: The Month of No Bread
April: The Month of Physical Training

Pretty self-explanatory, but in January, I cut way back on desserts. In March, it was breads. In February, I did yoga for at least 15 minutes every single day (and got hooked!). In April, I practiced military physical training three times each week (1.5 mile run, sit-ups, push-ups).

And now, it is....

May: The Month of No Spending.

Why the sudden departure from a weight-loss focused goal?

Well, basically, I'm broke.

I've already been in despair over my smothering student loan debt. Then last month, I lost track of my purchases and payments and let my one credit card bill get waaaay out of hand. And, to top things off, last week, the central office informed me that if I want to keep my insurance with the school, I owe $400 a month over the summer.

I literally do not have the money for that.

Times is hard.

And you know, now that I'm working in the school system, I'm off all summer (YAAAAAY!). There's so much I want to do! So many places I want to go. But right now, I don't have money to do anything but stay at home watching instant Netflix.

I need an intervention. I have to pay my bills. I have to keep from adding more debt. And I'd really love to have some fun this summer. So. Here are my rules for the month of May:

1. Unless some nice person offers to take me out and buy my dinner, eat out only one meal each week.

2. Cook with groceries I already have in the pantry, fridge, freezer, and cabinets before buying more. (Exceptions: when I run out of staples like bread and milk).

3. Save all receipts and log all purchases and payments in a designated spiral-bound notebook.

4. Don’t buy anything unless it is an absolute necessity.

5. If it is an absolute necessity, pay for it with cash.

6. Each Sunday, take out $30 cash from checking account for the week’s “discretionary expenses”. Whatever is left the following Sunday goes in the travel fund. The goal is saving as much of that $30 as possible for a summer trip.

7. The credit card will be used only for gas. (Exceptions: legitimate emergencies).

8. When boredom sets in and I get the urge to flee my crappy hometown and drive to Birmingham, Douglasville, Atlanta, or anywhere else, gear up and head to the nearest 5K course. Or hiking trail. It’s workout time. As a reward, put an additional $5 in the travel fund for each 30 minutes of this exercise.

If I stick to these things, it will make a difference in my weight loss progress as well. I blow so many calories eating out.

Not to mention how it will provide another obviously much-needed lesson in discipline, self-control, and contentment.

"Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."
Phillipians 4:11-13 

The challenge begins today.