Sunday, November 27, 2016

Post-Thanksgiving News

Last time, I left you with the promise that I'd tell you more about the impending changes for Thomas and me vis-à-vis where his job is taking him. So, without any further ado, here it is: in July 2017, I will become a resident of the state of Texas and move to Dallas. After a little bit of upheaval and uncertainty surrounding the details, it has been decided that he’ll move in the days leading up to Christmas, and will start at the Dallas office a few days later. For the time being, he’ll live with his parents, which will give us a little bit more time to find somewhere to live that is right for us in every way. Honestly, I’m equal parts excited and bummed about this. I’m excited because I know where we’re going (finally) and because it gives us a little more direction on everything else. (We have been decently concerned about post-wedding logistics, honestly.) Also, Thomas (and eventually me) will have the opportunity to get to spend more time with his wonderful family after the last few years of us only getting to see them sporadically. Furthermore, Dallas is full of adventure and opportunity—what an exciting place for us to start our marriage! 

However, I’m also a little bummed out, because this move will put Thomas a little bit farther away from me than he is now. Can you blame me? I love this man more than most anyone else, and I just want to live near him already! (I know, we’ll have all the time in the world after July…trust me, I know.) Also, I’m already trying to mentally adjust to the idea that I for sure won’t be able to live right by my family after the wedding. That stresses me out a little bit too. (Yes, I know that it’s almost 2017, and we live in a world that constantly connects us via technology. And we’d only live about 250 miles away. I’m fully aware, but still.) I’m working towards being 100% okay with everything, but I’m still a work in progress. Like I’ve said before, be patient with me and continue to pray for me. I need both desperately!

Okay, let’s move on to better things, only because I really don’t want to go into that rabbit hole right now. What else have I done since last time?

I’m coming to the end of my week-long Thanksgiving break. I’m very happy to be here, because I think we all were ready for it. As a student, I never realized that school breaks were every bit as much for teachers’ sanity as it was for student/logistical benefit. The days leading up to extensive breaks are chaotic, stressful, and leaves students difficult to contain in every way. It makes teaching anything of value nearly pointless, when you know that you’re about to be on a week-long break, during which time, students will all but forget your name, their schedule, and everything else you’ve covered already. I can’t believe that in three-ish short weeks, we’ll be starting Christmas break. I’m sure the time from Christmas break to the end of the school year will fly by in the blink of an eye!

I really had a great break! I was able to rest up, spend time with my family and a few friends, and just “recharge my batteries”, so to speak. Highlights of the week:
-I had the privilege to be a bridesmaid for my good friend from OSU, Maria! She and her husband had a beautiful wedding Mass! An added perk of attending her wedding was getting to see my other good friend, Celeste, who was also a bridesmaid! It was my first time being a bridesmaid as an adult, and it is equal parts delightful, fun, exhausting, and beautiful! I loved it, and I loved being there for Maria on her big day! I also loved getting to meet and be a part of her big, awesome, incredible family for the weekend! They have had lots of weddings in their family (there’s lots of girls), so they had lots of great advice and insight for my upcoming day! It was a blast all around!

-This definitely isn’t a highlight, but still…a couple of weeks ago, on my way home from visiting Thomas for the weekend, I had a literal run-in with a deer. I was only 4 miles from home, so it was a bit depressing. (Tangent: I’m becoming a statistic…both of my major auto incidents have occurred within 10 miles of my house.) Thankfully, there wasn’t much damage, relatively speaking. The deer struck the driver’s side of my car, mostly by the back door. At first thought, I really thought that it’d buff out, but a visit to a body shop quickly squashed that notion. Thankfully insurance will pay for most of it, and it won’t cause my premiums to go up. In good news (?) I will be taking my car in to start repairs, and hopefully it’ll be back to normal by the end of the week. I’m cautiously optimistic, at best! This whole ordeal has been largely annoying, but I guess I can chalk it up to life experience. So life goes!

-I’m almost done getting bridesmaid dresses fitted! Only one more to go, then I’ll be able to order and move forward with that! Woohoo! On a somewhat related note, I had a great lunch with Tonisha and Mary last Friday (Thomas fourth-wheeled…haha!). It was great to see and catch up with them again!

-Although it was a little touch and go for a short while, Thomas ended up being able to come over on Wednesday night and stayed through today! This was probably the longest stretch of time we’ve been able to spend together for quite some time! It was great to get to spend Thanksgiving with him and share our family’s celebrations. During his time here, we were able to find/buy his wedding band! We bought it from a lovely local jeweler. Even better, since we bought it during their anniversary sale, we got a pretty decent discount on it! Also, our photographer finally finished editing our engagement photos, so we were able to pick those up! After getting those, we started browsing ideas for save-the-dates. As it turned out, today was the end of a really good sale on Shutterfly, so we took full advantage of that and ordered those today! Thanks to some good planning on our part (and sheer luck), we managed to only spend $16 on our (huge) order of save the dates! Anyone who knows me knows I love a good bargain! I’m beyond pumped about all of this. I’m even more pumped that Thomas and I accomplished so much. I’m the most pumped that I get to marry this amazing man in 7.5-ish months! :)

-Our Thanksgiving celebrations this year were vastly better than last year’s, if only because we weren’t grappling with the sudden, tragic death in the family and because we weren’t in the midst of an ice storm. On the day of, my parents, Thomas, and I traveled to Perry to celebrate with Gina, Jeremy, and his family. We had our big family celebration yesterday, and it was about perfect! Dad cooked a turkey on his Traeger grill, Mom took care of stuffing and the other miscellaneous things, my sisters took care of the sides, and I had us well-stocked on pies! We had a great feast with tons of fun! We happened to pull out an old family video of my Grandma and Grandpa Hladik. The video happened to include footage of Uncle Joe (who died in the bicycle accident last September), Mimi, and Grandpa Rudy. It did my heart good to see their faces and hear their voices again. My heart was full.

-It turns out that for Christmas this year (weather permitting, of course), I’ll be spending it in Texas with the Lieses! Thomas and I realized that in the almost-two years we’ve been together, I’ve never spent a major holiday with his family, although he has spent many with me and my family. Since he’ll be moving back to Texas a few days beforehand, we felt like it was only fair for it to work this way. I’m hoping the weather will cooperate so I can celebrate with them!

I think that’s the extent of my life’s happenings from the last few weeks. I’m sure I’ll think of 4 other things I should’ve added after I post it, but oh well…story of my life! I’ll end by sharing a few of my favorite engagement photos! All picture credits go to the amazing Rachel Hawk of Hawk Photography! She is beyond awesome!

Back in the chapel at St. John's where it all began!

Taken on the park bench we sat on during our first date :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Early November Happenings

It's been a while since I've shared what I've been up to, so here goes!

October was a blur, as evidenced by my lack of posts. How is it that we're already in November? (Heaven knows it sure doesn't feel like it outside!) Work has been good, but crazy as usual. All in all, this year is really going much, much better than last year. If this year had been identical to last year, who knows if I would ever consider teaching again. Life is much better not being a first-year teacher. Furthermore, even with the craziness of my day-to-day life, I don't always feel like I'm drowning in lesson plans or anything of the like. Fall Break came and went we're on the countdown to Thanksgiving Break (16 days and counting, in case you were wondering). After having an 11-week-long first quarter, we now are in the midst of a 7-week-long second quarter. By the time you factor in semester and nine-weeks testing, you really only have six weeks to work with...yikes! I can't believe we're shockingly close to finishing the first half of the year...on a different note, I still adore the great team we have at my school. This year has really taught me the importance of collaboration and teamwork. I love it all!

Outside of work, I've gone on all sorts of adventures. Thomas and I attended an OSU football game with amazing seats. We went on a weekend excursion to Eureka Springs. My mom hosted the Hajek family reunion (Mimi's side of the family) at our shed. Jakub turned 3, and Dad turned 60. Cody finished his 6th grade football season undefeated. Thomas's parents went on an extensive river boat cruise of central/eastern Europe (including the Czech Republic...yes, I was jealous!) So many things have happened, it's all a blur!

On a different note, as sad as it sounds, I'm really doing everything I can to avoid thinking about the upcoming presidential election. We're one week away, and it couldn't come any quicker! I've avoided the topic as of yet, but I have to take a moment and say a few things. Sadly, I cannot wholeheartedly stand behind any presidential candidate. Donald Trump is a raving, pompous, madman who should NOT be this close to being the leader of the free world. Hilary Clinton, in my eyes, is untrustworthy and has always left me with bad feelings. I could stand behind Gary Johnson, but I don't agree with most of his stances on issues relevant to me. Furthermore, I can't even stand to "vote for the Vice-President", as some have suggested. (That doesn't completely make sense to me, honestly.) I feel like the only option I can, with a clear conscience, stand behind is to not vote for a presidential candidate. However, that goes against everything I believe in. Regardless of me not wanting to vote, this election will still take place and a winner will be decided. Furthermore, I will effectively cede all rights to complain if I don't take part in the democratic process. Most of all, this is my constitutional right to vote. Women have not always had that freedom, and I'd be doing a disservice to the pioneering women to not vote. I'll vote, but I'm still not sure who I'll choose. I'm guessing it'll be a gut feeling when I get to the voting booth, if anything. It is what it is.

Furthermore, I'm tired of everyone being so divided. I'm tired of hearing the media twist everything around or only report on things that support their rather obvious biases. I'm tired of seeing people blindly share propaganda from either side, and also of seeing people become armchair political analysts, calling people out that they need to "fact check", when they probably don't do much of that themselves, especially in years that don't include elections. I appreciate that people are taking an interest in the election, but I hate how much hate it is causing. No one likes to mention this, but I think the explosion/misuse of social media and pervasiveness of media are key parts of the problem. Everyone constantly has a place they can get on his/her soapbox. (As I'm doing now...the irony isn't lost on me, I promise.) Everyone is constantly partaking in the steady stream of vitriol from both sides. I understand that people want to share their opinions, but no one can seem to be okay with the fact that others disagree with them. More than ever, I have seen many people empirically believe that if someone doesn't support x candidate, then they are an awful human being who is part of the problem. I hate it. I hate all of it. As childish as it may sound, I just want people to get along and be kind to others, regardless of their opinions/beliefs. We are all children of God, created to live lives of love and service to others. I think it's time we start acting like it. Okay, I'm done talking about politics online for now.

I'll end with happy thoughts, because that was a somewhat depressing rabbit hole I just went down.

In a few weeks (2.5 to be exact), I get to be a bridesmaid in my friend Maria's wedding! I'm so excited that she has asked me to be a part of her big day! I can't wait to stand beside her as she joyfully enters into the sacrament of marriage! This weekend is her shower, and I'm excited to get to see her and try on my bridesmaid's dress!

One other exciting happening is that Thomas and I will (weather permitting) have our engagement photo shoot this Saturday! I can't wait to see the end product!!! After we get these photos, we can really start rolling with more planning...think save-the-dates! Currently, my plans for Christmas break mostly consist of addressing those. Otherwise, there are lots of big changes looming, but I'll wait to announce those until everything is a little more ironed out. (Basically, I know where we're moving, but I'll tell you more about that next time...promise!) It's an exciting, yet crazy time...all a part of our journey. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wedding Planning: Expectation vs. Reality

I have a million other things I should be doing right now, but oh well. Inspiration struck, and, well, here we are...enjoy!

Ever since I was a little girl I have dreamed of getting married. I mean, I practically grew up around weddings. From the ages of 3 to 13 I was a consistent member of wedding parties as a flower girl, junior bridesmaid, and altar server among other roles for cousins, friends, and (of course) my sisters. Truth be told, I would always tend to get a little salty when I wasn't a part of a wedding as a child. I always went to weddings fully prepared to take over in the event that the flower girl couldn't uphold her duties! (I never went full Tonya Harding, but still...) Anymore, I'm a huge sap when it comes to weddings. I cry at almost every wedding, just because I can identify with the way the couples feel, especially now.

Like most girls, I had many aspects of my dream wedding mentally planned out, all I needed was to find someone willing to marry me! Any detail one could think of, I had it all planned out. I knew exactly what I wanted, even in my future husband. I had so many plans, and I never wanted to deviate from them. I wanted bridesmaids to wear all black, non-matching dresses with multi-colored flowers, I wanted the men to wear black tuxes, and I wanted everything to be Pinterest-perfect. I wanted to marry a man who was older than me and from somewhere near to me. I wanted to date so many guys who I was convinced would be perfect for me. I wanted so many things that I overlooked the most important thing--what God wanted for me.

God knew exactly what he was doing when he brought Thomas and I together. All of the details surrounding the beginning of our relationship couldn't be any better. Believe it or not, Thomas met (almost) every detail on my list of what I wanted in a man. (Yes, this is a real list that I wrote the day I decided to break up with Tevis. I still have it, and Thomas and I have read it together multiple times. It makes me happy!) Funny enough, I would dwell on this list every time I met someone new, but I put it away for a while, because I felt like it was holding me back in terms of who I wanted to date. About the time I quit focusing on it, Thomas came around and shocked me by asking me on a date. After dating him for a month or so, I came back to it and realized it described him almost to a tee. But by that point, I realized that I loved him immensely and the fact that he matched up with my "expectations" really didn't matter too much. That was one of the first times in our relationship I realized that it was better to set aside any unnecessary/unspoken expectations and fully experience the reality of our relationship, which was beyond amazing!

Immediately after we were engaged, we started making little decisions about the wedding. I told Thomas about my visions of all black, non-matching bridesmaid dresses and tuxes, and he looked at me, and said, "Black? In July? In Oklahoma? That sounds too hot." Then he proposed the idea of navy, perhaps with gray suits...I liked it a little more than I was willing to admit at the moment. The more we discussed together, the more I parted ways with my childhood visions. In fact, planning with Thomas was even better than my original plans, because we both had input on a day that was for both of us, not just me. As we've continued in the planning, I've tried to ensure that Thomas is an active part of planning our big day, unless he explicitly states that he is indifferent on the matter.

A few weeks ago I found my wedding dress, as I mentioned last time. Admittedly, I spent a ludicrous amount of time browsing Pinterest in search of a dress I thought would look perfect on me. I mean, it was helpful so I at least knew what styles appealed to me, but beyond that, it didn't do much besides setting up lots of expectations in my mind. Ultimately, I went to the dress shop, let the lady who helped me get dressed work her magic and bring me dresses I might like. My only stipulation was that I didn't wear white, because I thought with how pale I am that I would look even more pale. Yet, my dress is seriously white. And it looks perfect. And I love it! After finding my dress, I promptly deleted that particular Pinterest board, because I no longer needed it. It was freeing, honestly!

I'm always trying to work to not rely so much on my expectations and to keep an open mind. Some days that's more of a struggle than I'm willing to admit, but I like to think I'm getting better. Moreover, I've loved getting to make these choices with Thomas, not by myself. Granted, we definitely have our fair share of "creative differences", but we usually come back to a compromise/ agreement of some sort, and one of us always manages to put it all in perspective the end of our wedding day, we'll be married, and we'll get to spend the rest of our lives together. No more long-distance, no more constant goodbyes. It'll all be worth it, and nothing else will matter. That sounds like a pretty amazing reality to me!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Wedding Planning Updates (and Then Some...)

Hello all! I'm back again!

School is going fairly well for me. We're well into our four-day weeks, and I think we're all starting to adjust alright. It's not bad at all (I mean, three-day weekends are the best!), but it's a little weird. The longer days (8:00-3:45) make it tougher to stay motivated throughout the day, especially after school. Not to mention that I usually have to stay later than I care to to get done what I need to so I'm not constantly bringing stuff home. I've learned that the less work I bring home, the happier I am...sometimes there's no other option, but that's how teaching goes. One of my least favorite parts of teaching is the fact that work-life balance sometimes isn't a thing. It weighs heavy on my mind as I consider what I'll do next year (and beyond). So far, I'm definitely more inclined to keep teaching than I was, oh, say, 3 months ago, but I'm still going to weigh my options. If I am to keep teaching, a Master's degree is definitely in my future, if only for better pay/job options. I've also considered going more into tutoring, but that could be better for the future, if you catch my drift. Many of my students have made it known to me that they're not ready for me to leave in May. I know I've mentioned that already, but it bears repeating. I'll admit that it is a bit gratifying to know that in one year of teaching, I already have made a positive impact on students' lives...that'll always mean more to me than any math I'll teach them, as odd as that sounds. Sometimes it's all about perspective, you know?

As I mentioned earlier, one of my bigger struggles as of late has been finding the right balance between work, home, and cleaning the church (which I still do). I perpetually feel like something is always lacking. If I get ahead in one place, I'm way behind somewhere else. Then I just struggle a little bit to decide when I want to take the necessary 1.5 hours to clean church. It's all a balancing act in the end. Really I'm not stressed out by any of this, not like you'd expect, at least. It just takes a lot more effort on my part to put all the pieces together each week, especially once you toss in the fact that either Thomas or I are traveling to see one another, which often throws my weekends into a little bit of a tizzy. For now, this is my life, and I know just as soon as I'll find a rhythm, the wedding will be here! Speaking of, we're only 4 days away from the 10-month mark! Good things, right!

In other news, Thomas and I went down to Dallas a couple of weekends ago. We had a successful trip, although it was a little disappointing that we couldn't travel together like we usually do. I had a lovely time getting to see his parents, as usual. Thomas arrived late Friday night, so we had to cram all of our Dallas activities into Saturday. The biggest highlight of Saturday morning was going to the jeweler and buying my wedding band! It was really a quick process, only taking us about 15-20 minutes. I guess when you already have an engagement ring and you want to match everything up, your options are somewhat limited. I love my wedding band, but for the time being it'll stay there. The jeweler didn't seem too concerned, and honestly didn't feel like we really needed to buy anything yet. Since we didn't know the next time we'd both be there, we figured we'd just go ahead and buy it. One more thing off the list!

The rest of the afternoon was a flurry of getting Thomas's car washed at his car dealership (where he used to work) and getting a haircut with his lifelong barber. The real excitement of Saturday was the Coldplay concert that brought us there in the first place! It was held at AT&T Stadium (Cowboys Stadium/Jerry-World/the Death Star/etc.), which happens to be next door to Globe Life Park, where the Rangers play/were playing that night at the same time as the concert. Traffic was pretty nuts to say the least! When we finally got into the stadium, it was pretty overwhelming, as the concert was sold out. Thomas did a fantastic job of picking seats! The opening acts weren't bad, but they were NOTHING compared to when Coldplay finally took the stage! I probably didn't enjoy their first two songs as much as I should have because I was so ecstatic, I couldn't stop crying! From start to finish, the concert was absolutely amazing!!! It was easily the best concert experience I've ever had! Even Thomas, who wasn't totally on board with it all, loved it. If nothing else, he loved seeing how excited I was. He was a trooper! I love him so much for taking me there! I'm so happy we could experience it together! What a great time!

Labor Day weekend was spent with the Lieses at a cabin near Beaver Lake. We were mostly off the grid (minus the TV with Dish) for three whole days, which was very refreshing. Steve, Diana, Elizabeth, Thomas, and I converged there on Friday afternoon/evening. Saturday was mostly spent exploring the property. We had a failed attempt at attending Mass on Saturday night. The closest church was 30 minutes away in Eureka Springs. What we didn't realize was that the roads taking us there were extraordinarily curvy and/or hilly. This didn't bode well for Elizabeth or me, who are both prone to carsickness. We took a couple wrong turns once we made it to town, and we ended up taking a street called Mountain Street to get there. It was accurately named, and I'll leave it at that. I truly thought we'd meet our demise once or twice on that road, but we didn't. We finally arrived at the church, and frankly, we needed it at that point. We read that on Saturdays Mass was held at the parish center, which we assumed was on the same property. That's where we were wrong. We unloaded, somewhat road-worn, and were greeted by a nice older gentleman with a camera who informed us that Mass was held at a place 8 miles away. We opted to just visit the chapel, pray, and call it good. It probably wasn't "right", but had we got back into the car, we'd have been late and either Elizabeth or I would have barfed. We tried, right? We settled for some quick sightseeing, then went off to supper at a place called the Bavarian Inn. It was a delightful supper! We all enjoyed some libations, which really made the trip back much easier to handle for me. The rest of the weekend was lazy and relaxing, just how we liked it. It was sad to depart, but the real world beckoned us back. So life goes, I suppose.

My favorite update to share with you all is that I said "yes" to my dress!!! Yesterday, my parents, my sisters, Diana, my Aunt Pat, and I descended upon the local bridal shop, where I found the dress to end all dresses! It only took me about an hour to do so, surprisingly. Everyone agreed that this dress was their favorite. A couple of fun facts, since obviously, no pictures. (Thomas is one of my most loyal readers, so why would I even think of posting it?) First, it is pure white. I didn't think it'd work on me since I am really pale and know I won't tan. (I only burn out in the sun, and I'll never allow myself to set foot in a tanning salon, since melanoma, you know?) I thought the white would wash me out, but it actually made me look a little darker than expected. It was a great color on me! It isn't strapless, which was one of my few stipulations. Every prom dress I've ever worn was strapless, and I was miserable all night, worried that I'd "fall out" of my dress, so I decided not to even fuss with it this time. Best yet, the dress is the perfect mix of modern and vintage. The train is longer than I thought I'd get, but it's absolutely perfect!!! Better yet, we also found the bridesmaid dresses. I thought I wanted everyone in different dresses, but I decided against that in the name of simplicity. I regret nothing! :) Fun fact: my dad found the veil I ended up picking! I know that I'll appreciate that as time goes on! I'm so excited!!!

In other good news, I found out that Thomas and I will get to attend an OSU game next weekend with incredible seats! Our great friend from OSU, Sierra, called yesterday and told us! It was like winning the lottery, what with getting my dress AND free tickets to an OSU game! I'm so excited and so unbelievably blessed beyond measure! I can't wait for that!

On a last, somewhat sad note, I can't believe that this coming Friday will mark one year since my beloved Uncle Joe passed away. So much has happened since then. Honestly, my life is completely different now than it was last year. It probably would have still been different had he not died, but it all still seems much more different. It seems sad thinking that he won't physically be at my wedding, but I know he'll be watching from afar, along with everyone grandparents, Michelle, Aunt Carol, Thomas's deceased grandparents, and so many others. It hurts to think about this, but I can't let myself dwell on it too much. Life continues even after death, and life is too beautiful to dwell on the past. My life, even with all of the hurt, is beautiful, and I'm so excited to marry Thomas!!! Only 307 days left!!!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back to School News

Yes, I'm still here. School has started once again, need I say more?

The last two weeks of my summer were jam-packed with everything I could have possibly crammed into it before I started back to school.

I'll give the quick run-down of those two weeks for those keeping track of my life from afar:
-Jeremy (Gina's husband) turned 40, which spurred me on to finish his OU quilt from 3 Christmases ago. I'm happy to say that it turned out really well. Unfortunately, I didn't snag any pictures. Instead of paying the $100+ it would have cost to teach myself how to use the quilting machine at the quilt store, I decided to shell out the big bucks to have someone do that for me. I definitely wasn't disappointed! However, I did decide to make the binding myself. I should say that it was a task in and of itself. I cussed, cried, and was generally frustrated for the better part of the binding construction, but when I finally finished it, I was so proud of myself! Jeremy couldn't believe it when I brought it over to him, I think he had lost hope. Oh well, one more thing off my plate!

-For Andy's birthday, I took him on a day-long trip to Stillwater to visit OSU and get school supplies. It was the first time he and I had a day to ourselves in a long while. We walked ALL over campus, and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. I think we just might have a Cowboy in the making...he has already told me how beautiful of a campus it was and how much he wants to go there! He also told me that that was the best day of his life ever. At one point, he leaned over, hugged me, and thanked me for our day of fun. My love bucket ran over that day!!! :)

-I was able to catch up with lots of friends! I was able to see and talk to Katie (who's living in Chicago and loving life), Maria (who is always such a kind, joyful person!), Rebecca (who's always a bright spot in my life), Nick (who is Thomas's best man and a fun person in general), and, best of all, Tonisha (my best friend ever :) )! My heart was overflowing with joy with seeing some of my favorite people!

-I also took Evan on a tour of OSU. He's planning on transferring there next year to study Landscape Design and Sustainable Horticulture. He too was in awe of campus. I'd like to think I'm just doing a fantastic job of showing off the campus, but I know first-hand that it really just has a way of selling itself...ask me how I know! :) I loved having an evening to catch up and just chat with Evan. He is wise beyond his years and is a light to me. Our trip wasn't without event, as I got a flat tire, and he saved the day by changing it for me. What a trip!

I know I'm missing lots of other stuff, but those were the high points. We were back in school for in-service days the first full week of August. We started classes on the 10th, so we're already most of the way through our third week of school. Sheesh! So far my second year is going much better for me. I feel much more confident than I did last year at this time. Obviously, I know pretty much all of what I'm doing know, from a curriculum standpoint. I'm also a little more confident from a classroom management standpoint. I guess you could say it's easier for me to be "mean" this year than it was last year. I mean, I'm definitely not a dictator, but I like to think it's coming a little more naturally for me to be authoritative in my classroom, as I should be.

Along with Algebra I/II and Geometry, I am teaching a Consumer Math class this year. It is showing lots of promise, as it is practical, real-world math that I wish I could teach to the majority of my students. The kids love it, because they actually can see an application to what we're doing. I'm also planning on bringing in professionals throughout the year. Here's hoping!

On the first day of school alone, I had four students tell me they didn't want me to leave after this year. That filled my love bucket. So did seeing a few kids tell me on their first-week survey that they wanted me to stay. My heart is full already, and I wouldn't be surprised if I'm a blubbery mess at the end of the year. Let's hope not, but I'm just putting that out there. Last week, I had an unexpected bit of good news. To be vague, but informative, I found out that one of my bigger classes was going to be split into two separate sections, only one of which I would teach. It was a huge sigh of relief for me. This week has really been one of my better weeks of teaching in quite some time. I'm so glad for that, because I was starting to question whether or not I was really supposed to be teaching. I have a renewed sense of enthusiasm for this year, so let's just hope and pray that it stays that way. On a separate note, I love my co-workers...they make my job even better. I'm REALLY going to miss them after this year.

In the time since school has started, we've celebrated Gina's birthday with unseasonably cool weather and a fun cake, Thomas and I attended our pre-Cana day for marriage prep (kinda anticlimactic, but oh well), and I've scheduled a dress shopping appointment! Huge things! Also, this weekend, Thomas and I will be traveling down to Dallas for a Coldplay concert. I'm beyond pumped about it!!!

Big things are happening all around! Unfortunately, I need to cut it off here so I can do some grading. Ugh, I'm always behind on grading ever since we changed our time schedule...we now go from 8-3:45 every day, and we start our four-day weeks this week, so no Friday for me! I know it'll be great, but there's definitely been an adjustment. Okay, no more procrastination for me...we'll talk next time, hopefully without as much waiting! Have a great week!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

One Year Left!

As I've mentioned, Thomas and I are officially under the one-year mark on our wedding countdown! In less than a year, my life will be completely different than it is now. I'll have a different last name, I'll live in a different place, I'll be looking for a new job, and, oh yeah, I'll be married. Huge changes are imminent for me.

Anyone who knows me and has loyally read my blog knows that my mental state leading up to a huge change is sketchy at best. I over-think every possible aspect of the change, often expecting the absolute worst to happen, often worrying myself sick. I get worked up into a tizzy, often feeling like my life is spiraling out of control. Situations that come to mind include starting college, choosing a college to transfer to, moving to Stillwater, starting student teaching, graduating, starting work, and now, getting married. The thing about these changes is that I'm absolutely excited about getting to the big event, but the details terrify me. Not once have I come to one of these huge changes that I haven't overcome. Have I faced struggles initially? Definitely. Have I downright failed? Never.

Think back to it, I was scared about living away from home when I started college, worried about getting along with roommates and thriving in PLC. What happened? I moved in, put my best foot forward, and dove in. End result? I graduated from NOC with high honors and incredible transfer scholarships. After graduating, I prepared to move to Stillwater, terrified that I'd get lost in the swarm of faces, end up broke, living a lonely, friendless life. What happened? I moved, found St. John's, and stayed driven in my academics. End result? God provided me with a renewed faith, incredible friends, great learning experiences, ample finances, and, best of all, my future husband! I could keep going, but you get the picture...

I can't know what will happen immediately after the wedding. I already know generally what'll happen, but I don't the logistics. I don't know where we'll be, what I'll do, or how married life will work. The biggest difference between this change and all the others is that I'm not facing this change on my own. Thomas will be right there with me, muddling through the tough times and being overjoyed about any small (or large) wins we come across. It gives me great comfort to know that even if I find myself missing my family, helplessly searching for a job, or whatever else, Thomas will be right there with me, being my personal cheerleader, among other roles, as I'll be with him.

In most ways, I'm excited! I get to live in a new place and make a home with Thomas for the first time. I have the opportunity to start a new career, hopefully finding something I'm even more passionate about, with potentially better earning/advancement opportunities. (No offense, but I'm somewhat ready for a different challenge.) I'm excited to be able to host my family in our new location. I'm generally just excited to be married, to not have to spend weekends scrambling to spend every viable moment with Thomas before having to fall back into the reality that we live 3.5 hours apart. I'm excited to not have to spend Sunday evenings feeling lonesome and full of dread. I'm excited to get to fall asleep and wake up next to Thomas (most) every night. I'm excited to build a life, and (God willing) a family with Thomas. I'm excited to become a wife, Thomas's no less!

I know, if I'm so excited and if so many good things await me, why am I letting myself become so wrapped up in these details? I guess it's just my nature, a trait I'll likely always possess. I know the only way to overcome these challenges is to place them in God's hands and move forward, letting him provide for our needs as only he can. I know I'll spend the next year or so at varying phases of transitioning. I'll be sad thinking about all the times something will happen that'll be my last to experience it as an unmarried woman. I'll be sad thinking about all the events from my nephews' lives that I won't get to share as easily (if at all) after I move. I'll be a nervous wreck until I know where Thomas will be relocated. I could potentially be even worse after he moves, depending on where he goes. But I'll also get to plan the wedding, attend shower(s) in our honor, and find a million little reasons to celebrate the fact that Thomas and I are about to be united in marriage.

The next year will be a mixed bag of emotions, not only for me, but likely for everyone around me...especially the people who will have to deal with my sometimes fragile emotional state. They'll likely lose patience with me at some point, but will still (hopefully) love me unconditionally and want me to be happy. (I love them so much for this...I'm DEFINITELY not an easy person to love!)

Here's to this next year, with all of its ups and downs! I'm praying and hoping that there'll be far more ups than downs. I'm praying that I'll truly savor each moment, trying my best to be fully present wherever I am, and in whatever I'll be doing. I'm praying that Thomas and I (our families, too) will handle these changes gracefully. I'm praying for a good year, full of great new opportunities. If you would, join me in this prayer that these good things will continually come our way, and we'll overcome any struggles we're presented just as God intends us to!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Early July Fun Stuff

Okay, as promised, I'll tell you all about our celebrations since I came back from out east! Coming back home was nice, but the next few days were packed with cleaning and preparing for our Fourth of July celebration (held on the 2nd). In the midst of cleaning, a trip to OKC had to be made to procure supplies/food from Sam's. It was a welcome break from our preparations! (Note-The squash dish I posted yesterday came from our desperate attempt to cook an easy meal that wouldn't create a ton of dishes!) We had lots of help from my sisters and their families, as always. One of the stars this year was Cody, who was energetic enough to man the weedeater and mow the last half of the lawn. It's nice having the nephews be old enough to be of substantial assistance to us! Kyle also did a great job of helping Mom and me in the house. It was great to have extra hands around! Since everyone was over and helping, Mom and I decided to have a lasagna dinner for us that night. It was extra easy as I made it the night before and just had to bake it that night. It was definitely well-received by all!

The following day, which was the BIG day (the 2nd) was full of last-second prep work. I made a couple of batches of our traditional grape sherbet that morning while Mom finished some tidying and my dad and Thomas sprayed outside for bugs. Everyone was over at some point helping, which is probably why it seemed like the morning and early afternoon flew by! The first of our visitors, Thomas's parents and sister, were well-received by everyone. Even if it had only been a few days since Thomas and I had seen them last, we were still excited to see them here! I took Elizabeth (who had never been here) on the grand Kubota tour of our property. I think she enjoyed seeing our farm and cattle. Little by little, everyone showed up! I'm not sure how many people came over, but we had a crowd. Jeremy headed up grilling the hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken, which all tasted great! I also was able to visit with Liz, Jake, and Evan, which I hadn't done since December. As always, the fireworks show was spectacular! Most everyone cleared out by 11:30 or so, and I collapsed into bed a little after 1. Whew!

The next morning, we promised the Liese's that we'd meet them for Mass at Bison. As it turned out, Fr. Ed was feeling ill, so our deacon held a Communion service for us. We were finished around 8:15 or 8:30 (it started at 7:45), and decided it was time to grab some breakfast. We headed back to Enid and beat the Sunday morning rush at IHOP. We had more great laughs and conversation. I've said it before, but I so love how well our families get along! It truly is an answered prayer, among many! After breakfast, we bid them adieu as they hit the road back to Dallas.

Afterward, my parents, Thomas, and I came back home to get some much-needed rest. After a short while, Thomas and I had to be up and at 'em again to have our final marriage prep class. It was a great time as always. I admire them greatly and am quite grateful for investing in us! Now, we're awaiting our Pre-Cana day later on in August, after which we'll be pretty well finished with all of our preparations!

When we came back home, we feasted on leftovers and continued to relax. Gina and Emily and their kiddos came over also. While they were over, Dad decided to pop in the first "Back to the Future" movie. We found out quickly that Wyatt and Andy liked it (Cody and Kyle have enjoyed it for quite some time). Wyatt was heartily disappointed to have to leave before finishing the second movie later on that evening. They came back over the next day and were able to finish the trilogy. Wyatt especially loved the fantasy side of it! I loved seeing them enjoy a classic!

The day of the 4th was still full of lots of happenings. The men were busy installing their new toy, a hydraulic car lift. Meanwhile, us ladies decided to start planning supper for the evening, steak, Hasselbeck potatoes, salad, and brownies. Jeremy once again came through with being our resident grill master and grilled the steaks to perfection. Unfortunately, Thomas had to head back to NWA before we enjoyed that meal. After dinner all three families piled into our respective utility vehicles and drove up to a nearby hill where we could sit and watch all of the area fireworks. That alone provided us with an hour or so of entertainment! We came back to the house to eat some dessert (brownies and grape sherbet) and for the boys to set off the fireworks Dad set back for them. All in all, it was a great Fourth of July!

The days following the fourth were much less eventful, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Otherwise, my excitement didn't pick up until the following weekend. Thomas still had to return his apartment key to his Stillwater apartment, so he came down to return it. While we were in town we were also able to have lunch with our best man, Nick! After lunch, we hopped over to Enid to catch the evening portion of the annual Carr pool party. The pool felt great in the oppressive July heat. I loved getting to see Tonisha and her family once again!

In other great news, we've scheduled the next phase of our marriage prep, the pre-Cana day sponsored by the archdiocese. It'll have to be a lot quicker than we anticipated only because of the difficulties of Thomas living a state away, so it's on the calendar for August. In the same vein, we also scheduled engagement photos! We're going to take photos in Stillwater, and I'm excited to see the end result!!!

Possibly the biggest exciting thing that has happened is that we are now officially under the one-year mark!!! In less than one year, I will be a married woman. Wow! After months of lamenting the fact that there's little we can really do to plan for the wedding, we're finally at a starting point! I'm still trying not to let myself get so caught up in the details that I forget what it's all about--me getting to marry the man of my dreams!!! This probably warrants a post of its own, which will come around at some point in the near future!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sausage & Squash Skillet Meal

I'm LOVING our summer garden we have! As I had hoped upon planting, our staples of squash and zucchini are not disappointing me this year! Granted, they grow like mad in the Oklahoma heat and humidity, so we're at the beginning of looking to find creative ways to use it up. (You can hardly pawn it off on anyone...everyone grows it and is overrun with it too...) One night, my mom and I thought up this simple dish that was a huge hit for us! Hopefully it'll work for you/your family too!

1 tube Italian-style Sausage (JC Potter)
1-2 Squash, sliced thin                                      
1-2 Zucchini, sliced thin                          
1 onion, chopped                                               
Olive Oil/Butter (if needed)
Assorted Seasonings: 
    Salt, Pepper, Garlic Salt, Italian Seasoning, Oregano, Seasoned Salt, Cajun Seasoning, etc.

In a large skillet, fry sausage until no pink remains. Place sausage into a paper towel-lined bowl/plate, leaving grease in skillet. In the same skillet, add in the squash, zucchini, and onion. Add some olive oil or butter, if needed, to coat everything. Season as desired and let cook over medium heat until squash and zucchini are tender and onion is translucent. When vegetables are fully cooked, pour sausage back into the skillet and stir everything together. Season mixture to taste.

Recipe Notes: 
-I’m sure you could use any type of sausage, but this is what we had on hand and thought it tasted good in this dish. Full-blown Italian sausage would be great, I'm sure, but we don't like it much at our house, so we don't use it. Turkey sausage or even ground beef would probably be fine too...basically any ground meat you have on hand would work. 

-Everything in my seasoning list is merely a suggestion. If you want to try something else, feel free to...this is just what we had on hand that fit our taste. 

-As you probably noticed, there aren't any hard and fast measurements here. This recipe can be stretched or shrunk as needed to suit everyone's appetite. At a minimum, I'd suggest at least 1 good sized squash and zucchini as well as a 1 lb. tube of sausage. Otherwise, do what you want! Mushrooms or other garden veggies might be good additions too! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Okay, I'm finally back from my adventures out east. I have lots of other adventures that have taken place since then, but those are for another time. I should preface this post with the fact that this is in no way intended to be a political post. If you have any negative comments/thoughts regarding what I'm about to write about, I'm really not interested in hearing them. Sorry, not sorry...the situation is what it is. With that in mind, here is my story about visiting Connecticut.

I should start by clarifying the exact reason Thomas's family was converging on Connecticut. Thomas's uncle, Jay, was getting married to his partner of 25 years, Mark. There it is. Now that that's out in the open, we can proceed.

My trip started with the drive to NWA, which was uneventful as usual. Thursday night was a calm, relaxing night for Thomas and me. We went for a swim in the pool at his complex and finished some last-second packing, since we had to leave no later than 6:45 to catch our flight the next morning. Nothing too crazy at all. The next morning (Friday), we woke up, got ready, stopped in for a quick breakfast from the Braum's drive-thru (breakfast sandwiches and hash brown tots w/ OJ). From there, we were off to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, which was only about 25 minutes away. We made it there without any issues, parked, and toted all of our bags up to the airport. I should mention that I haven't flown commercially since I was a baby, so I was out of my element when it came to finding our gate and going through security. It turns out that it was pretty simple, especially at such a small airport. Once Thomas showed me where everything was, I felt pretty confident about the whole process. Everything was made much easier by the fact that we managed to fit everything into carry-on bags. (I wasn't crazy about it, but I begrudgingly made it work.) Boarding the plane was simple, and our takeoff was smooth. I slept quite a bit on the flight, and woke up about the time they started distributing drinks. (No snacks, since we were on a baby plane.) We hit a little turbulence, but nothing too crazy. We flew into LaGuardia Airport, which marked my first time to be in NYC! I was pretty pumped, especially once we came upon the skyline!

All smiles and ready to embark on our journey!
We made it!
When we exited the plane and emerged from our gate, I quickly realized that we were in a completely different place. The building was a swirl of people of all cultures, noise, and general chaos. Our first order of business upon landing was to locate the ground transport terminal so that we could board our shuttle to Connecticut. This had been a small snag earlier in the week whenever Thomas realized that our ETA was in Central Time, not Eastern Time. The shuttle service assured him that we'd be fine upon landing, but never secured a definite time. By the time we hoofed it over to the ground transport terminal, it was about 1:30 EST. We went through two different lines before a lady informed us that we narrowly missed the previous shuttle and would have to wait about 1.5 more hours for another shuttle. She printed our ticket, which gave us a departure time of 2:10 PM (only about 40 minutes later). Since there was a little uncertainty, Thomas said that we both needed to stay close to the terminal in case they called for us sooner. We were both fairly hungry, but weren't really able to go anywhere. Besides, the best places to eat were past the TSA checkpoint. Oh well.

We waited somewhat impatiently for our shuttle. In the meantime, we watched CNN coverage of Brexit (I'm still a little lost on all of the implications of it...), texted our respective parents, and got hungrier. As time went on, Thomas became more and more impatient with the shuttle service. (His breakfast sandwich was wearing thin.) Steve tried his hardest to give Thomas bright sides, like the promise of food upon our arrival in CT. Thomas and I both became hangry, although I tried to contain myself a little bit more for Thomas's sake. Finally, around 3:30, they called our name and escorted us to the shuttle. Our driver pulled up, looking fairly frazzled, and asked us in broken English where we needed to be dropped off. Our destination for dropoff was Southbury, CT. The driver was initially concerned about this (Thomas almost lost his mind), but eventually loaded us up. Thomas was seated in the very back, next to a lady who was having a loud, explicit conversation with someone named LaShanti. Meanwhile, I got to ride shotgun, which is good because I tend to get carsick in the winding roads up east. The first fifteen minutes of the ride included us hearing all of the lady's convo with LaShanti, our driver pulling up directions on Waze (whilst driving in Queens), and the driver having various phone conversations in Arabic. Traffic was thick and our driver was somewhat erratic on the roads...the shuttle also smelled weird. All of these factors, combined with mental fatigue and hunger (we were going on 8 hours since our last meal), were making me feel queasy and ready to be done traveling. I prayed pretty intensely during that drive, mostly to keep me from thinking about how hungry I was and to keep my sanity. Around 5:30 we were finally dropped off, but at the wrong location. We were a mere half mile from where we were supposed to be. Thomas had the driver take us to the real dropoff location, where Diana and Jean (one of Thomas's aunts) picked us up. The two of us were hangry, tired, and done with that shuttle. They greeted us with hugs, smiles, and pizza. (Guess which one we were most excited about!) I think they were being extra positive since we had such a rough day so far. I tried my hardest not to misdirect any of my irritations on them. By the end of the drive to Jay & Mark's house, we were both in a much better mood!

Citi of the few highlights of the treacherous drive to CT.
We were greeted by Steve, Elizabeth, Jay, and Mark. It was about 6 PM, and a rehearsal dinner was going to be held at either 6:30 or 7, I can't remember which. This meant that Thomas and I had limited time to unload bags, change clothes, and freshen up a little bit. Diana and Steve took us in their rental car to the dinner venue. Luckily, there was a cocktail hour, so it was alright that we were a little later arriving. I've never been so happy to see an open bar and appetizers in my life. I could have had about anything, but I settled on a glass of wine, which was exactly what my nerves needed by that point. I admittedly felt a bit out of my comfort zone since I knew only Thomas's immediate family members who were there, which amounted to 7 people out of the 50-75 who were there. Dinner was lovely, as was the Connecticut climate. Temps were in the mid 70s with no humidity. I loved it! I met quite a few people, mostly family friends. I also had a great conversation with Elizabeth, which was easily one of the highlights of my whole day. The only downside to the evening were the mosquitoes, which were out in droves that evening. As usual, I ended the night with about 10-15 bites on my legs/feet. We all were staying at Jay and Mark's, which was also where the ceremony would be held, so upon returning, it didn't take us too terribly long to settle in and crash.

We all slept pretty well that night. Okay, we did until Thomas woke Elizabeth and me up at 6 AM with the pump from his air mattress, which deflated through the night. I know, it was no picnic for him either, but still. Saturday morning was jam-packed with last-minute preparations. Jean and Mark's sister Jennie were busy all day creating beautiful flower arrangements. Everyone else stayed busy preparing things outdoors for the early evening ceremony which was held in their meadow. At some point, Thomas, his parents, sister, and I stepped out for a quick lunch. I loved seeing the quaint little town and wished that I had more time to sight-see. After lunch, Diana drove us around Lake Waramaug. I was in love with the gorgeous homes and scenery it had to offer. We made it back just in time to start getting dressed before pictures at 5:15 that afternoon.

The photographer was brought in from Colorado, no doubt one of their friends whose work they admired. She posed the whole family from both sides together for what she called a "Vanity Fair Cover Shot". It was unconventional, but she swore it looked amazing. I'm pretty pumped to see the finished product! It was weird to be included in their family pictures, but it was also a lot of fun! After pictures, we all shuffled over to the meadow to be seated for the ceremony. It was fairly quick, all things considered. I think it only lasted about 20 minutes. Afterwards, we gathered around their pool for a cocktail hour. I still stuck with wine. (It's an easy go-to, and I know what I'm getting. Also, bartenders really can't mess up a glass of wine...) I chatted more with Thomas's cousin, Nicole and lots of family friends I had met the night before. It was great...the endless appetizers made everything even better! After some time, we were whisked to their immediate yard, where dinner was served. It was an intricate, four-course gourmet meal, but was absolutely delicious. After the meal, we listened to the cabaret singer they hired to perform. Because dinner ran long, her act was unfortunately cut short. Because of that, Elizabeth and Mark's nieces took it upon themselves to hijack the music and play some songs we could all dance to. It was tons of fun and only made Thomas and me that much more excited for our wedding! We crashed hard yet again.

About the only picture either of us got from the night.
We look pretty glamorous, if I have to say so myself!
There was a brunch held the next morning, but Thomas and I couldn't go because we had to meet our shuttle so that we could make our 2:30 flight from LaGuardia. We were pretty bummed about that, but were happy to have had a smoother ride back to NYC. Our driver was less erratic, we were the only ones in our shuttle, and there was much less traffic. We also had eaten well before leaving...I made sure of that! We even soared through security. We sat down at our terminal around 12:15 PM. We joked that we probably could've attended the brunch after all! As time passed, we grabbed some lunch and kept waiting. Our flight was already a little bit delayed, but we weren't worried. Well, then it was about 10 minutes til boarding and our plane was nowhere to be found. Hmm...

A nearby couple remarked that our plane (which was coming from NWA, where we would be heading) had to stop in Nashville to refuel. Um, what? Who missed that in their pre-flight checklist? Oh well. Then it showed up that departure was pushed back til almost 4 PM. Yeah, we probably could've attended the brunch after all. Thomas's family was on their way back to LaGuardia to catch their flights, all leaving around 6 PM. We were about 20 minutes from boarding when departure was pushed back to 4:30 ish. Someone said that everyone was ready to go, but they needed to find a captain for the plane. What?! How do we not have a captain? Weird... We kept occupying ourselves until I finally had to get up to find a snack, mostly for my sanity's sake. I was getting really sick of the terminal and needed an excuse to leave. I was about ready to make my purchases, but called Thomas to check on something, when he informed me that our flight was canceled. Never mind, I put everything up and left immediately.

I realized in those moments that I don't ever want to be responsible for telling people their flight was canceled. People turned on that poor guy quickly. He was the recipient of lots of misdirected anger/frustration. We received an 800 number to rebook our flight and take care of accommodations. By some miracle, Thomas got through almost instantly. At this point I realized two things: 1) I'm really glad that Thomas spends tons of time on the phone at work and has great phone business skills. 2) I'm REALLY glad we only had carry-on luggage. Both of these factors played to our advantage, because we had nothing holding us back at the terminal, and he got right to work negotiating new flights for us to take home. Since the airport in NWA is only a regional airport, there aren't a ton of flights going in or out with much frequency. (About once a day each way is typical) This and the fact that Thomas wouldn't accept a flight without room for us both were limiting factors in our options. Ultimately the hotline booking agent snagged us a couple of seats on a flight leaving Tuesday morning at 6:50 AM, getting us back by 8:30 AM (CST). It would be a couple of days more than we anticipated, but it was the best we could do. Besides, since it was an issue on the airline's end, they were responsible for covering any extra expenses we incurred. We thought quickly and determined that we could stay at Jay & Mark's NYC apartment in the interim, as it would likely be nicer/less sketchy/safer than any hotel they'd put us up in.

While we waited in line to get our new tickets printed, we told our families of the developments. At this point, his parents and sister were somewhere in LaGuardia about to board their flight back to DFW. It was about 6 PM, I think. We finally reached the front of the line and were sent to a nice agent who got us an even better deal. She looked through her computer and determined that if we were okay with taking multiple flights, she could get us back to NWA as soon as late Monday night. It would only put us about 9 hours ahead of our original plan, but it was better for Thomas in terms of his work life. One option was to leave LaGuardia the next morning heading to Chicago (O'Hare), then to DFW, then to NWA. After checking even further, she found an option to get us to O'Hare that night, then to DFW and NWA the next day. We opted for that plan and ran with it. We happened to have ample time to go back through security and wait at the terminal for our 9:30 PM flight. (It was about 7 at that point.) Even better, Thomas's cousin Nicole lives in Chicago and she had already offered her spare bedroom to us in the event we made it there that night. After clearing security, we happened to run into Jean, who was about to board her flight to DFW. We also found out that Nicole's flight to Chicago (supposedly leaving by 7:30 or 8) was severely delayed due to mechanical issues. A short while later, Thomas and I found food and waited some more to find out that Nicole's flight wasn't going through as planned. She exited the plane and got on the standby list for our was a long shot, but worth it, as she snagged a seat! Her luggage situation was ironed out about as well as it could have been. We finally left LaGuardia about 10 or 10:30 that night, and I was ecstatic to leave that horrid place.
Thomas, Nicole, and me...courtesy of Snapchat.

Throwing up the deuces to LaGuardia!

Picturesque O'Hare airport! What a sight for sore eyes!
Upon landing, we claimed our carry-ons that had to be checked because it was a full flight and opted to leave quickly, as it was about 11:30 or so. Nicole was going to get a Lyft driver, but realized that they jacked up the prices due to the late hour, so we found a taxi. I'd never ridden in a taxi before that night, but found it to be a good experience overall. She also ordered us a pizza to eat upon our arrival. It was so nice to be able to spend the evening in a home and sleep in a bed after our whirlwind day. Thomas and I realized that after it was all said and done, we DEFINITELY could have attended the brunch that morning...

We had a 2:30 flight out of O'Hare, so Thomas wanted to get there as soon as possible. Sadly, this didn't allow us any time to explore Chicago...I took it as a sign that we needed to return to visit Nicole! Our best bet of getting to O'Hare in a quick and economical fashion was to take the El Train. I had never ridden in a subway either, so that was another exciting adventure! We made it to our gate around 12:15. I was equal parts happy to be early and disappointed to be spending even more time in an airport terminal. Our late "breakfast" of cold pizza (our choice, just to be clear) was running thin, so I treated us to chocolate from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. We were well on a sugar high afterwards, but decided we'd earned it after the trying last few days. Also, his parents were taking us to dinner upon our arrival in DFW, so we didn't want anything too heavy. The O'Hare to DFW flight was pretty uneventful, although less exciting because we didn't have adjoining seats. My seatmates were uninteresting as one slept the whole way and the other played computer games the whole time. I eventually slept a little bit too.

What happens when your 1-quart bag splits down the resort to painter's tape to make do.

Chicago skyline from Nicole's rooftop!

Cool building across the street from Nicole's apartment!

I slept in the airport too.
As can be seen, Thomas wasn't mad :)
I was very excited to arrive in DFW if only because I was in familiar territory for the first time during the whole trip. I knew the layout of the town and plenty of people to call in case of emergency. Our dinner that night was amazing, mostly because it wasn't airport food. Also because we had Steve and Diana's company :) We had a six hour layover and still had three hours left after dinner, so they decided that we needed to drive around so we weren't so cooped up in airports again. Diana drove us all around Grapevine, TX, including their lovely residential areas. We happened upon a small, yet gorgeous botanical garden tucked away in a neighborhood. It was nice to have fresh air!

Courtesy of my Snapchat...

Isn't it lovely?!

Literally the largest koi I've ever seen. 

What an oasis in the middle of the bustling city!
Around 8:30 or so, they dropped us off so we were well on our way for our 10:10 flight. We waited patiently at our gate, when we found out that our flight was going to be delayed first because of some weather and then later again because our flight crew needed to eat. Ultimately, boarding time was pushed back to almost 10:40. We were a little on edge because of the added delays (it felt much too reminiscent of the day before), but our worries were all for naught. It was the shortest flight of all, thank God! I feel like we barely reached cruising altitude before we began our descent. It was the only flight that we didn't even bother with complimentary beverages. We finally left the NWA airport around midnight Tuesday morning and ended back up at the apartment by 12:30 or 12:40. We both slept well!

These are our "we're so happy to be back in Arkansas" faces!
The next morning Thomas went off to work and I headed back home around 10:30 or so. I drove quickly and busted my tail to get home before anything else could happen that sabotaged my travel plans. Whew!!!! What a trip! I was very happy to finally make it home and sleep in my bed, although I did miss Thomas. (Of course I did...I always miss him when I leave!)

A few takeaways from the trip:
-It's annoying to constantly tote around carry-on bags, but it has its merits.
-I don't EVER want to work at an airport. It's a high-stress environment. I especially don't want to have to work at a boarding gate and have to tell people their flight was canceled. I felt really bad for the guy who told us that at LaGuardia...LOTS of people were unnecessarily mean/rude to him when he was really just the bearer of bad news.
-An addendum to the previous note, people in airports often SWEAR they need to be at a certain place and have unmovable plans awaiting them. Oftentimes, they're not telling the full truth. I overheard a lady who swore she had to be in Arkansas with her daughter the next day for college orientation. Later, she told me that it was the optional introductory day and that they didn't have to be there til the day after (Tuesday).
-When traveling, it's best to be flexible when making plans. It'll get you much further than you'd realize.
-Never let yourself get too hungry, it'll make stressful travel even worse.
-Mad Libs make for great fun during layovers!

This easily provided hours of entertainment!
-Never trust "charging stations", electrical outlets or USB ports in airport terminals. I was let down more times than I care to count by outlets that didn't work and was left with an almost dead phone because I was constantly roaming. Also be wary when wi-fi is advertised. It's almost NEVER free...
-Throughout all the twists and turns of this trip, Thomas and I never once got into an argument. We made it through everything and when we made it back to Arkansas, we were still happy and loving. If we can make it through that and not want to kill each other, I think we're going to make it just fine! It was a very good test of our relationship that we passed with flying colors!

Of course, lots has happened since then...namely the Hladik 2nd of July party. I'll tell you all about that next time! Until then, stay cool in the heat!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Late June Fun

Ugh. I was doing so well on keeping up, and then life got busy again. So it goes. Anyway, I'm back for a short while!

-Last week, I did something I haven't done in a long time. I went running. I had quit as of late because it inevitably caused me acute outer knee pain for a week afterwards, but I hoped that it was because I needed new shoes. I bought new shoes back in April and finally took them on a run, and guess knees didn't hurt!!! Unfortunately, I haven't ran since then because it has been WAY too hot to spend any time outside. I wished that I could, because it felt nice to be moving like that again. I did a little bit of Zumba too, which was nice. Now if I could just sustain the motivation to keep moving, I'd be great. Small victories, right?

-I've been doing my best to help my mom keep up with our small summer garden. We have assorted flowers, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and a lone jalapeno plant. I picked the first cucumber this morning, and the squash aren't too far behind. I'm already ready to eat our first harvest from the garden! It's given me some extra purpose this summer.

-Last week I took the four older boys to Totus Tuus at church. They all loved it and their team. We had lots of great discussions on the way to and from each day, even if there were times that everyone had a little too much togetherness. Our talks covered the gamut from angels, to miracles, to heaven, to purgatory, and stories about saints. Deep stuff for little guys! Our morning rides usually consisted of our own version of Carpool Karaoke. We jammed out to "East Bound and Down", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Shut Up and Dance", "Hey Soul Sister", and, of course "Uptown Funk". Shout-out to my XM radio for giving us great morning tunes. It was a great week overall!

-Last Friday I spent the better part of the day in Edmond because my car was due for its 6000 mile oil change/tuneup. The real reason I went was to see Tonisha and Mary! I literally couldn't remember the last time I saw both of them together. I had an AMAZING time just getting to be with them! We had fun hitting up happy hour at TGI Friday's! It was just like old times...a true sign that we're real friends, no matter the time or distance, we pick up right where we left off! Love those two so much!

-This past weekend we had our Father's Day extravaganza. Saturday was pie baking for Gina, Emily, and I. We made cherry, peach, chocolate chip, and chocolate mint pies, which were pretty well-received! Saturday night, Emily and I got a crash course in how to cut up whole chickens for frying. All in all, I feel like it was a success for us both! I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to cut up any more, but I think I can remember with only a little prompting from Mom! Sunday was our annual fried chicken feast. It was all lots of fun, and ended with food comas from everyone. It was great!

-On Monday Mom and I decided to start a project we've wanted needed to do for a VERY long time. We started cleaning in Emily and I's old bedroom, which has been in DESPERATE need of cleaning. I'm very happy to report that we've made tons of headway and we've already taken lots of stuff to the dumpster or to Hope Outreach. There's still lots to do, but I'm proud of us!

-In very big wedding news, we booked our photographer! She is super sweet and has been extremely workable with us! I'm so excited to work with her over the coming months! I think we'll be doing our engagement pictures sometime in the fall. We've already started conjuring up ideas for what we'd like to do...I'm excited to share that whenever the time is closer!

-Yesterday was a full day for me after booking the photographer. I received a certificate for a massage from Thomas for my birthday, and I finally used it! I've never had a massage before, but I definitely LOVED it and will be going back! It was the most relaxed I've been in some time. I may or may not have fallen asleep during the last half of the massage. It was amazing! Afterwards I had a hair trim appointment. It was a nice day of pampering! Also, on a whim, I bought some red lipstick, which looked a lot better than I anticipated! I think I'm entering a lipstick phase...this could be interesting.

-Today was a preparation day for me. Tomorrow I leave for Arkansas, and Friday morning Thomas and I will fly out to Connecticut to visit his uncle along with the rest of the family. This will be the first time I've flown commercially since I was a baby. I'm certain this flight will be vastly different from that flight. Thomas decided that we need to only pack our belongings into a carry-on so we don't have to fret about the potential for lost luggage. I'm happy to report that *most* of my things will fit into my bag. I guess the TSA's 3-1-1 rule helped me downsize everything. I'm a little cranky about that, honestly, but I'm also a rule follower, so I'll oblige. I may need to put a couple pairs of shoes in Thomas's luggage though. Times like this make me hate wearing a size 10 shoe...they NEVER fit nicely in bags...ever, especially if you have multiple pairs of shoes, which will be necessary for this weekend. Otherwise, I'd just wear one pair of shoes and make do. Oh well!

-This week I suddenly started getting into a book I've been half-heartedly reading since April. It's a biography of Fr. Stanley Rother, the priest from Okarche who was a Guatemalan missionary and was martyred in the 1981. Also, the Catholic church is in the process of pronouncing him a saint! He's kind of a big deal! I've written about him before, but I have gained a much greater appreciation for his life and his struggles through reading this book. The biography is mostly narrative, but consists largely of excerpts from letters he wrote to his beloved sister, Sr. Marita (who I have actually met, believe it or not). (Yes, she's a nun. And an incredibly sweet, humble woman. I was a more than a little starstruck when I met her. We had a great chat.) I haven't quite finished it, but I'm almost done. The beauty of biographies is that you usually know how the story ends, so it isn't terribly suspenseful, but still interesting because you can read the details surrounding their final days and the time thereafter. His life and the way he loved the native Tz'utujil people in Guatemala are equally inspiring. If I've happened to pique your interest at all, you can purchase the book, "The Shepherd Who Didn't Run", by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda here!

Alright, no more procrastinating...I need to whip up some supper! I'll be back as soon as I can be!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Catching Up on Wednesday

It's been a short while since I've posted, so here's what I've been up to!

-Last week was mostly spent shuffling Kyle back and forth to baseball camp. This is his second year to attend and I think he enjoyed it pretty well. It was interesting for him because he doesn't play on a little league team like pretty much everyone there and never has...he just enjoys baseball! It was interesting to see the dynamics of this camp, as everyone there was kind of clique-y. Most kids have played on the same team since they were barely potty-trained, and it wasn't quite as geared toward kids who don't play much baseball. I could easily get on a soapbox about my thoughts on little league, but I'll spare you for now and say that I'm happy that Kyle enjoyed himself!

-Upon coming home last week, I was informed that I inadvertently acquired a summer job--I'll be cleaning my church. It doesn't require too much work, but it'll give me something else to do to keep me occupied this summer! I'll probably go up there tomorrow and get started.

-It's June, which means that wheat harvest has swept across the area! This year my dad cut most of the wheat for hay or put it to pasture, which left us with about 30 acres to harvest. The good news about this is that it took him about 2.5 days to finish, which is almost record time for us! Honestly, I think we're all happy about it not taking much time! The time after harvest is always much more relaxing because there really isn't much of a rush to get much done in the field until it's time to sow.

-I have two roles that I usually fulfill during harvest. The first is washing combine windows. I've washed windows for as long as I can remember, but the beauty of that job is that as long as someone younger (and more agile) comes along, your job can generally be outsourced to them! (That's how it worked for Gina and Emily when I came along...) My other role is harvest cook. Back in the day, we'd have to move meals out to the field, which takes quite a bit of doing if we're being honest. These days, since it's a shorter harvest and only the three of us here, we just eat our meals whenever everyone comes in for the night. Granted, I don't go out to help as much, but I pick up other inside tasks, like laundry and dishes so that everything can stay afloat. I was pretty proud of myself and all that I came up with for meals, but I was the most proud of my shrimp stir fry that I made! My dad appreciates good cooking, but isn't always quick to throw out high praises. He raved about the stir fry for a couple of days, even telling me that "it's better than what he makes". (That's saying something!) Stir fry is becoming one of my new favorite things to make, as it's easy and decently healthy. Maybe I'll get around to posting my recipe sometime soon!

-I'm not sure how I got this far without mentioning it, but Thomas is LOVING his job! Last week and this week are the two introductory weeks, where the company eases them into everything. I'm impressed by how well-planned and comprehensive this training is. I think he's starting to adjust to life in NWA, although it is his first time to ever live completely on his own without anyone he knows well nearby. There's a bit of a learning curve there, for sure. I remember how I felt moving to Stillwater, and it took a few weeks for me to feel completely okay with being "on my own". He'll get there, I'm sure! He also informed me that his relocation to a field office will likely take place in about 8 months, which puts us in February. I don't know what to think about any of it, but I'm trying not to stress over a situation that hasn't happened yet. For all I know, his relocation could be better, but it's too soon to say. Stay tuned for more on that as it unfolds! Next week will be his first week actually in the corporate offices full-time, so I can't wait to update on how that goes!

-To celebrate the end of harvest, Dad decided to have a fish fry last Saturday. I was very pumped about this...I LOVE fish fries! It was originally going to be for all of us except Thomas, who was staying in NWA for the weekend. It ended up being all of us except Gina's clan, but WITH Thomas. They celebrated Jeremy's dad's birthday last weekend, and Thomas was lonesome in AR, so they went to the lake and he came here. I was excited to get to see him after not expecting to, but I missed seeing the Mattsons. Cody was fresh from a week at scout camp, so he was full of stories about his time in the great outdoors! We had catfish, jalapeno poppers, coleslaw, french fries, tater tots, fruit salad, and Mom's peanut butter cake. Surprisingly, we made just enough of everything and had almost no leftovers! It was a great evening!

-This week, Mom and I are shuffling the four older boys to Totus Tuus at church. Wyatt and Andy went last year and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. This year, Cody and Kyle joined them. All are seeming to love it! This year, they've raved about Tomas, the seminarian, and all that he's taught them about Mass. I can already see a positive change in them...I'll forever love this program!

-On Friday, I get to visit three of my long-lost friends, Sierra, Tonisha, and Mary! It worked out that I was able to schedule a car service appointment in Edmond and get to have lunch with Sierra, then meet Toe and Mary later in the afternoon. I'm SO looking forward to seeing them...I can't wait!

-On a last note, we're gearing up for our Father's Day fried chicken feast! Thomas has never experienced this, so he's pretty excited. We have the traditional menu of fried chicken, potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn, and assorted pies. I'm already looking forward to it, even if I know it'll be crazy's short, eat the good food while you still can!

On that note, have a great week and try to stay cool out there!