Sunday, June 22, 2014

My writing on this little old page has been very sporadic lately, and I guess there are a few reasons for that. In all, I'm really trying to decide what I want to do with this public diary of sorts. I mean, I know I don't want to go the route of hosting a giveaway each week with requirements to like or follow, just to get numbers up in "readers." I'm not really looking for my site to get thousands of likes or reads either. It's just an outlet of sorts. But then I start thinking, who am I to put my life out there, and post it online asking (sometimes begging, it  feels like, desperate to get at least one click) for other people to read it, family, friends, and strangers alike... and what is really my goal in that? I mean, didn't I start the Facebook page for this site because I was taking part in a mega giveaway with other blogs...Where the only goal is to get as many followers as possible while giving away a material item? I need to shift my focus here.

Sometimes I stare at the computer screen for hours, editing pictures, writing, editing, re-writing, and finally publishing something.... And never go outside the entire day. That's not how I want it to be- technology needs to take a backseat for a while. This goes for my smartphone too, which means no more words with friends and minimal social media scrolling.... It's definitely a discipline. Look - there's my word of the year again (And yes, it truly has been my word of focus since writing out my resolutions in January) - discipline! I'm sure there are others out there who can relate with this media takeover our culture has experienced and ingrained in us within the past decade alone.

I haven't been writing much not because I don't have anything to write about (yeah, there's definitely plenty to write about!) but rather because I'm not sure what I really want to do. I guess you can say I'm looking forward.

I did start selling my paintings on Etsy, and so far I've gotten a few inquiries and lots of "hits" as you can see in shop stats, but no orders. I guess I haven't sold any then, so maybe I should re-word that one. Should I really sell my artwork and creativity to strangers, or am I just pushing it? Sometimes I wonder if maybe I'm trying to force this little blog and my paintings on others. But I don't want to do that, at all, and that's not my intention - forcing. On the other hand, sharing is, but maybe I should think on that one, too. Both - the painting and the writing - are more of just hobbies, hobbies that I wish I could get paid to do full time - so maybe that's where the unintentional pushing came from. Oh, it would be so nice to get paid to write and paint - perhaps even enough to make a living on that alone. One can dream, right? But no more forcing this stuff on y'all - self-promotion, in so many words. I want to associate furthest from the Pharisees as possible... Not giving in to pushing an agenda here!

This is, in many ways, why I haven't been around much on this blog lately. I'm not sure what I want to do with it - if I want to post the bare minimum -twice a month sounds reasonable, perhaps -mostly pictures and a few sentences about happenings in our nest... if I want to post purely book reviews (because let's be honest, I have enough reviews in the works to post at least 2 a week, or maybe one each day with the amount of books I read), or if I want to go all-out with this thing and try to build a brand and start sponsoring, to make a living through writing here, which will come with a lot of changes, I'm sure. Oh, there are other avenues or ways to blog on the side, but I guess these are the three "extremes" in any direction I'm deciding on taking as a path. Maybe more options, maybe less. I'm not sure where I see it right now. Though I think I'm leaning toward the pure book review site option...

But there is more to the crickets other than this contemplation about the future of this blog site.... We've been pretty busy around here, and that's part of the reason I haven't been around in the interwebs much lately. The stud was overseas on an exercise for a month and got back recently, so during that month my time was full of puzzles, movies, books, and the hammock in our yard.

After the preschool graduation (I'm off until summer camps start soon) my days consisted of church and small group twice a week, going to the beach with Scruffy, cleaning the house and de-cluttering.. Which means boxes of stuff (how did we accumulate so much stuff?) going to the donation truck down the road, and a lot of time of reflection and relaxation.  I did go on a milso retreat for SpouseLink, which I still need to blog about, and that will hopefully come soon!! After graduating, I've been looking forward to next steps - getting certified in Texas and finding a program to allow me, or qualify me, to teach preschool, not just as an assistant (since my major is elementary & special ed.. early childhood is pretty different in a lot of ways).And I've really just been taking a much needed break. It feels good for the first time since grade school to not have any homework to do!

Since he's been back we explored downtown Del Mar, had dinner in downtown Carlsbad, went to the beach, and spent a lot of time in the backyard. It's been nice and relaxing, and we've worked through minor adjustments in each of our schedules since we were apart for that time. But really, a month is nothing compared to what it could have been, so in that respect, we were blessed.

But I'm getting beside myself... Time for some more coffee and to finish cleaning, I think. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks, and if I still feel complacent about it, by fall I may just look toward writing in a moleskin journal for each month with print-outs of pictures to go along - a hard copy blog, like before computers were a thought (so a scrapbook to keep it simple) -  instead of a public online diary. If you did get through all of that, I am curious as to what (if any) readers think! My summer will consist of pondering these thoughts while preparing for family visits and looking toward our next steps in my education, our time in the military, and more. And of course plenty of socal beach time! So no promises on future posts, except of course it is of a SpouseLink recap or a number of book reviews!! I will get to SpouseLink soon!!

And in case you want to know, I titled this reprise, partly because I couldn't think of a name, partly because I feel my head has this thread or chorus repeat (reprise) until I hear it enough times in which I'll know what to do. A reprise essentially means repeat (any musicians out there?), and these thoughts are on repeat and probably will be until I figure out what to do! Perhaps that makes sense to someone who's musically inclined!

Book Review: Spoken For

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A few months ago, I was getting ready for my last leg of finals fast approaching and was really in need of a break. During those breaks I read, and could do so for days and nights and on again. So sometime in April on one of those breaks, I decided to read a recent release at the time (well, this was one of those that I picked up the day it released!) and read the night away. From what I remember this was the same week as Disney week with Dancing With the Stars (which I only watched because of Candace Cameron Bure! Love her!) and I read this during the commercial breaks! It was a good time with hot tea, dances to Disney classics, and a good dose of Jesus books. I loved it.

Robin Jones Gunn & Alyssa Joy Bethke are two incredibly gifted writers and sweet souls whose God-centered love and friendship in fellowship is so evident in the pages of Spoken For. I soaked up every single word - oh, so refreshing!

Photo: So I took a break from studying and prepping for finals to read, as I do often. Spoken For was released today and I snagged it up as soon as I could. I just finished this book and absolutely loved it. Robin Jones Gunn & Alyssa Joy are two gifted writers whose God-centered love and friendship in fellowship is so evident in these pages. I soaked up every word! We are chosen and spoken for in God's image.. This book will lead you to discover that identity in him and learn to live in that truth each day. I encourage all you readers to grab a cup of coffee and turn these pages - It was a perfect way to spend my night. My own review coming soon on a blog, when I find the time that is!
So now for my thoughts...

We are chosen and SPOKEN FOR in God's image... The premise of the book... and in these strings of words you will be lead to discover that identity in him and learn to live in that truth each day. In these sweet pages you will learn to embrace who you are and whose you are... What it means to belong to Christ, who you are because of His love, and how that affects the way you live.

In these pages we read of Alyssa & Jeff's love story, how she and Robin met, and different life experiences that lead to the place these ladies are today in their walk with Christ. I don't know if anyone else has connected the dots... but Robin Jones Gunn is an incredible author of over 85 books, which are all spectacular! And you bet I am on my way to reading all of them! Her best-selling books include the Christy Miller series and the Sisterchicks series, either of which I haven't read yet. I have read Gardenias for Breakfast, Victim of Grace, and the Hideaway series, which were all so wonderful. I just really enjoy her way with words and how she sets up a story with so much depth and emotion.

Besides the point, this book was an incredible reminder of my identity in Christ, and how he longs for an incredible relationship with his children, his creation. I like how the back summary states that...

A great romance was set in motion before you were born. A relentless Lover is pursuing you, and He has made His intentions clear. He wants you to be His forever. How will you respond to the One who longs for you to be His with your whole heart?

It's not just a perspective, it's a way of life, of thanksgiving, of being ever-present in the situation knowing that God is in control and knows our desires and hearts. He wants to be included and reached for in our everyday lives, and the kind of relationship a Christian has with our God is an incredible, close, relationship, where each know where he belongs. We were made in His image and we belong to Him - the maker of the skies! How incredible is that?! We are spoken for by the creator of the heavens, made in His image all for His glory! If you read these pages you will truly discover your identity in Christ and learn to live by these words.

You Are...
Have Been Called
Of Great Value
A Peculiar Treasure
Set Free
Spoken For

Re-Blog: Getting My MRS Degree

First off, I wrote a guest post for Chelsea over at Anchors Aweigh a few weeks (months) ago. She is a fellow milspouse to a Navy pilot and both are also fellow Aggies...And from what I collect our husbands knew each-other to some extent while in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, so that's fun! There are a lot of mutual friends, here. (Both were in Navy-Marine outfits, too --- Marshall was in Trident P-2 and her husband Parker was in N-1 Knights. Is it weird that I just typed his name even though we haven't met? Maybe..)Though, I didn't know either of them while we were at A&M, we actually met through blogging. She was actually one of the very first milso bloggers I connected with back in the day! Small world, right? I'm sure I've seen them both at march-ins before games and even at commissioning ceremonies, but that whole acknowledgement just wasn't quite there yet. Anyway. They lucked out and have been in schools in Texas lately, home sweet home, but are now settling in to a (very) recent move to the east coast, home sweet Virginia; I know they're excited! Read up on Chelsea's blog for more!

Anyway again. I really truly LOVED this post I wrote and knew right away that I wanted it on my own blog, too. So I asked permission (if that's even a thing for this kind of thing) and timed out to re-post this later on...Okay, so I wrote this originally for Chelsea in March, and it's mid-June when I'm finally getting around to it.. But, hey! At least I'm writing again, right?!

So here we are. Getting my MRS Degree...Read all about it: It's a real thing, yall!


I was just barely over 19 when we were married (2011), and Marshall was 22, by only a few days. We were babies. And anyone who didn’t know us thought we were cra-zay to get married so young. If you actually did know us and spent time with us, then there was no problem to be seen. We are thankful our parents and siblings saw the love and understood this all. Perception is everything. (And to this day, people still think we’re both 18 and in high school- I’m sure this will be the case for some time...Good genes!) 
We got engaged right after spring break my freshman year (his senior year...I know, right?) at Texas A&M, and decided we were getting married that summer 2011. Why such a short engagement? It happened this way because Marshall was on contract and was commissioning into the Marine Corps upon his August graduation. We didn’t know what would happen next. So we decided to have the wedding 2 days after that. And honestly – who wants a long engagement? When you know, you know- you know?

If you’ve been following along, you will see that I’m still in school. If you are any good at math, yes, I am (was) in my senior year now, right on track with where I would be otherwise. I continued at Texas A&M the fall we were married, then that spring we moved to Virginia, so I took that semester off while searching for options to continue school. Everyone who didn’t know me well and saw that I was leaving school said that I would never go back--- um, excuse me? I knew I would never let that happen, proved them wrong, transferred it all over to Liberty, and jumped back on board the next summer, 2012. I only took one semester off. And yes, I am on track to graduate right on time, same as before, this May- in less than ONE month!

So if you’ve got any of that so far, I am still getting my academic degree. But I actually already have a degree! I picked up my “’MRS degree” when I married Marshall, and this was set in stone when we moved away from our home state in 2012. (Because I was married and so young and hadn’t finished school at that point!)

I was SO confused the first time I heard the term, because you really have to think about it. M-R-S – what’s that spell? Mrs? Mrs! I have a strong feeling my dad is the one who coined this term, because I have heard it countless terms throughout my life via him only. It was often a topic of conversation when talking about my future- My mother and paternal grandmother did the same thing – they each found the man of their dreams while at Texas A&M, got their “MRS degree,” and moved away, leaving school and their sophomore year behind (Yes- same school, age, and timeline, too. The coincidences are a little freaky, to say the least)

Back to the point – My dad always told me that I would never do what my mother and grandmother did and get taken away from school because of a boy. Under no circumstances! My mom also helped this along by telling me to finish my degree all at once, because if I leave, who knows when I’ll be back? She was originally class of ’91 at A&M but finished as class of ’98 at Mary-Hardin Baylor, after moving with my dad in the Army many times and having babies (my brother and I), of course. That was her big selling point! To this day, I don’t know how she finished her degree in Math, of all areas, as a military wife during a deployment with two toddlers in tow, not to mention all of our activities like T-ball, soccer, and dance. But she did. Military spouses have to be superwoman sometimes (many times) – it’s in our job description (yes, like a real job – we wear a lot of hats). And keeping busy never hurts, too!

So, actually getting my MRS degree? What’s that? Does anyone see something in that title… a title in itself, perhaps? I left school without a degree but with a new title and name – as a Mrs. Thus, my dad has always called it an “MRS degree.” He even spelled it out (M-R-S) while telling me to never follow in my mother’s footsteps by running off with a boy before finishing school. It usually took me a while to realize he was actually saying “Mrs.” He was pretty adamant about that not happening to me, even though he did so with my mom and took her out of school (See the irony?) He even had me promise all while growing up that I would never get my MRS degree, and being the daddy’s girl that I am I would ecstatically say “I promise I will never get married and always be your little girl, daddy!” Not an exaggeration, y’all- this is what my childhood was like! With him being gone quite a bit with deployments, drill, etc. while I was growing up, I was attached at the hip. Which is why it was so hard to tell my parents that I had gained a boyfriend my second week as a freshman at college and he just so happened to be a senior and was also just coincidentally in the same Corps of Cadets outfit my father was during his time at Texas A&M, Trident P-2, and was also on a military contract. WOAH. Those senior boots get ya every time. You can see where I’m headed with this.

Naturally, after Marshall proposed to me in Corpus Christi (March 2011), I was ecstatic. Then it set in. I would become a Mrs. I knew what was happening soon – he would graduate, commission, and leave for training in Virginia soon after. What kind of a timeline does that look like for us? Would I stay behind at school until I finish, or leave and go with him- then when would I finish my degree, if ever? I surely didn’t want to take 8 YEARS to finish it like my mother did. I always knew I would never take that long! But wait, I have to tell my parents I’m engaged! Of course they have to know. My dad would be so upset! He made me promise I wouldn’t get married and run away before I get my degree. I am his only little girl, after all. He surely isn’t going to give me away just like that! What am I going to do?! You can imagine how nervous I was making that phone call to my parents (I called them in Whataburger- have to get some honey butter chicken biscuits for breakfast, y’all! We went there to celebrate after we got engaged that morning at the beach...Corpus Christi is the birthplace of Whataburger, y'know, so we went to the original 2-story location which is pretty much epic).

All that to say, that this is all worth it. That internal battle I know I was going through when the engagement sunk in that morning was only a shadow of what was to come – the uncertainty, the excitement, our future. At this point in time Marshall and I have been married for over 2 and a half years. We are both still young in our marriage and have a lot of learning to do, but it’s so wonderful to be able to learn and grow together. We love where we are now in our relationship and work, and we both know that this growth wouldn’t be possible without what brought us here – getting married young, moving together; Putting my husband’s career before mine. Now, I have his support while finishing school, and he has my support while leading his platoon. Yes, I have an “MRS degree.” I use it every day in marriage (do you ever use your degree?) And yes, I’m also getting my actual bachelor’s degree in education in just a few weeks (So as of this posting, yes, I have graduated!!! On time!!! Blog to come soon all about it!), and I will use parts of that every day in working at a preschool, as I do now. But the fact of the matter is, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I take pride in my “MRS degree” because it is who I am – a Mrs. and a wife!

Lover of Coffee, Part 1 (...Well, Mostly Titanic Day)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Somehow, over the years I've grown to be a coffee lover. More-so just recently. I guess you can say it's been a gradual process, and over time I've been drawn to the smell of freshly ground beans and the soft noise of chatter and pages turning that you find just so pleasant in a local coffee shop. Favorite place ever, beside Texas and (generally) the beach, of course...
Here is where it all began...
During Titanic Week in May of 6th grade... Just week before school was out for summer... We had a fun project in math class where we mapped out the length and width of the Titanic in real life, using the school football field. (So it sank April 15, 1912, which probably means that Titanic Week was mid-April..) 
Intermission: Now in Sugar Land (and most of Texas for that matter) it was called middle school, and it went from 6-8th grade. There was no intermediate school (names depended on district, I guess), and yes, unless you were in a private school, you left elementary after 5th grade- and generally had a fantastic graduation party and ceremony that was a huge deal, seriously. Class soundtrack, slideshow, awards, singing, dancing, skits - the whole shebang. And I still have the CD with the slideshow - love the music of my youth! I'm pretty sure one of the biggest songs of the year was "All Star" by Smashmouth and "World's Greatest" by R. Kelly. Yes, it was the early millennium, I guess you can say (I know I'm a youngster). It's also when the first Pirates of the Caribbean came out, well around that time... Fifth grade was probably my favorite year of elementary school though! Mini society and learning how to write checks correctly (anyone else?) were the best of times. So much fun.
This and the fact that it's a school in Texas means that football is a huge part of it. Which is why school football (and cheerleading) starts in middle school... Well, in 7th grade, but still middle school. And so do pep rallies... so fun!! I point this out because I split middle schools when we moved to Wisconsin for 7th grade and partly on, and there wasn't a football team. Not even soccer, at that school. At least from what I recollect. Just volleyball, basketball, wrestling, and snowboard/ski club. And a few others, but the point of the matter is that football isn't much a big deal for schools (that I experienced) in places other than Texas. At least, not as big of a deal. Same with pep rallies- instead of one before every football and basketball game, there was maybe 2 a year. Crazy talk. We really should just stick in Texas..
So we had football in middle school, which ran from 6-8th grade, and there was of course plenty of interest to make an A and B team (at least) for EACH grade level. Yeah, big deal. And it was a big school too... Bigger than the high school in Wisconsin that my brother and I both went to, as well. A nice building, two stories, never-ending rows of lockers, ridiculously wide hallways, amazing cookies (on Fridays only.. The cafeteria always sold out; They were very delicious and gooey... Still not able to duplicate them, I miss those cookies! They compare to the Sbisa cookies at A&M, y'all, that's how good they were), and the best vending machines ever (I loved Fanta! Anyone remember that drink... and the fun commercial jingles?) in the cafeteria...Everything's bigger in Texas, y'all.
Anyway, for a day during Titanic Week in 6th grade math class we went outside to the giant football fields (there were at least 4...) to measure the length and width of the Titanic, to get a bigger picture of just what we are looking at and studying. This is seriously the most vivid recollection I had of something I did in a regular class in 6th grade, save reading Tuck Everlasting (and watching the movie after) in ELA, which was a sweet and wonderful book (And also where I got the name Winnie for my piccolo). And watching Mythbusters in Science. Of course, I say general class, because I remember every little thing from beginner band in 6th grade with my precious Walter... My flute, which I still play now and then.
So we were told to dress the part, and that we did. We each picked an individual who was actually living and breathing when on the Titanic maiden voyage. We picked numbers out of a hat, and this stood for which class/type of passenger they were. So we picked names that fit the bill from a running list and got to researching. We wrote in journals as the person depending on the stories and artifacts we found online, and our studies of the Titanic throughout the week. There were a couple journal entries a day. And we decorated the journals in ways so that it looked straight from back in the day in 1912. Meaning that at home, we burnt pieces off cardboard and brown paper bags, taped them to the composition books, and glued old flowers and lace onto the front.. Maybe adding a few pictures and things on there, too. Probably one of my favorite parts was decorating the journal. And I still don't remember where I got the clothes to look like (whomever I was supposed to be.. I think her name started with a W, and she was a 2nd class passenger). I know that Titanic journal still exists somewhere, bound and in my parent's home.. If only I had it here with me, I'd post a picture of it!
Anyway, on this day, we- the entire 6th grade - dressed the part. In math class we measured the size of the ship outside on the football fields; In social studies we read journals from the people we picked online; In science (with Mrs. Veneziale.. Fun that I still remember that name. She was new that year, and no one liked her at the beginning, but I know we really enjoyed that class by this time in April) we watched documentaries of submarines or what have you excavating the remains of the ship in the deep ocean blue; And in ELA we wrote journals and things about our studies, and read them to each other. Of course, there was more than that, because we also had music electives (band was mine, duh) and P.E. but that's the essentials of it.
Titanic Day was kind of like a giant fun field day. In every class we were doing fun projects and kind of had free reign in creative problem solving, how we finished it. The point was that we learned a thing or two about the Titanic's maiden and only voyage, and we immersed ourselves in that history in all these different ways. It was pretty awesome, if I say so myself.
So at the end of Titanic Day.. School let out at 3:50 (It started at 8:50, which was awesome, because I could sleep in!), then I generally found my brother in the band hall, practiced Walter in the practice rooms if I had to (if he had concert or ensemble practice or something) then we walked home. It's fun, from our kitchen window, we could see the middle school across the levee. Which meant it took minutes to get there, which made my mornings easier. That house was probably my favorite we ever lived in! And that's a lot saying since we lived in at least 9 (yes, nine) different homes throughout my childhood years. At the end of the staff parking lot at the school, which was right outside the band hall, there was a bridge/road going over the levee, then we were on our side of town, I guess you can say... 'Cause that levee separates two different elementary schools in that area, and whichever side you lived on determined which school you went to. And we went to both, because we lived on one side renting before my parents bought the house with the kitchen view of the middle school on the other side. It was an awesome house, right next-door to a giant park, with a pool we built, backing up to the levee - which gave us many visitors over the years, including giant turtles (seriously, like a foot in width.. We couldn't get into the pool those days!) and tons of frogs... The visitors mostly came on days is was raining, which happened quite a bit, actually. (The levee grew in capacity by feet on days it rained, since when it rained in southwest Houston, it poured. I'm pretty sure if we didn't have that levee there, the streets would flood every time!)
Talk about throwback! Each instrument/group had it's own beginner class
I usually stayed at 6th chair but periodically made it up to 2nd chair.
Music was extremely competitive in Texas!! And so fun.
Huge difference once we moved to Wisconsin since there I was generally 2nd or 1st chair.
Beginner band was very thorough: My freshman year of high school I played better than most seniors!
But I said that I generally walked home with my brother - well, this day was different. Goodness, it was Titanic Day! It was almost as great as a field day! It was a big day, y'all! So instead I met with some friends (Kathryn and Kaci.. Haven't heard from them for a while) and one of their parents took us out for snack and a movie. It was pretty cool, to be honest...
This is where it all started. We went to Starbuck's for that snack. So this is my first memory of going to Starbuck's, or at least of getting a drink there. I know, Starbuck's is basically the coffee shop guru company.. Huge deal now. Well I probably went there a few times with my dad but didn't think much of it. I had no idea what to get, and I didn't really like coffee at the time, so I just got what my friends were getting - Vanilla Bean Frappuccino. It was delicious. Like a vanilla smoothie. I loved it. I went back with my dad, but he didn't like it. Too sweet for him, and no coffee. If only I had tried a shot of espresso with it then... How much time with coffee I have been missing out on during those years! But I did love the smell of the coffee shop, it gets me every time. Such a warm, happy smell.
All of that to say how I first made my way into a coffee shop, and was exposed to this incredible, smelly (but in a good way) world of coffee grounds and soft music, light conversation, and the turning of pages of glorious books. I'm thinking there is going to be a part 2 soon... On how, in the 10 years since then, I've gone from vanilla smoothies, to mochas, to coffee with just a smidge of creamer and milk, occasionally a cup of joe by itself.. And somehow I like it....Yeah, I like it a lot! I can't get up in the morning without getting some coffeemate in a cute mug and filling it with blonde roast or a vanilla blend from our Keirug. I seriously use that thing daily, yall. But since this is getting long... It will be continued... Part 2 to come soon!
Pictures via
Did anyone else have fun "field days" like this in school? Or a unit that expanded throughout every subject and class? Or what about your first experience with coffee, or just being at a coffee shop? Stories are fun!
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