READ | Head & Heart {book review + giveaway!}

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Lately, with the holidays and a toddler who sleeps consistently (finally!) time has allowed me to dive into a few good reads. It’s a part of my 2016 goals to try and attempt finishing one book a month which I think is an attainable – depending on the book. I have been gathering a nice long list over the past few months of recommendations from friends, other blogs, and stories that have caught my eye while sifting through the shelves at local book stores and libraries. A few months ago, I saw a title a floating around a few Catholic circles I’m involved in that sparked my interest. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of this (really awesome, but we’ll get to the review in a second) book to read and share about in the hopes that it can give you the same inspiration it has given me.

Let me start this post off by saying that I have always been a fan the non-fiction, self-help book genre (which may explain my degree in psychology). I’ve always loved learning practical steps that I can apply in the daily practices of my own life that will hopefully lead me to becoming a better person. I love reading books that leave me inspired, refreshed, and ready for a change whether that be big or small. The Head and Heart is a practical spiritual guide written by Katie Warner that is filled with concrete steps that I can easily add to my daily practices.

An area in my life that has been lacking lately is major spiritual growth in my relationship with my husband. Sure, day to day we pray for each other when there is something big going on in the others life and when we remember (or stay awake long enough) we pray with each other before falling asleep at night. These are all really great things and I’m sure more than some couples do on a regular basis – however, for us it seems like we are meeting the bare minimum requirements of a couple’s prayer life together. We aren’t necessarily finding challenging ways or new innovative ways to pray with and for each other so we haven’t been seeing a very drastic change in our spiritual life together.

In comes this book. It really was delivered into my hands at the perfect time – right around the time I was having this realization that our prayer life was dwindling and right before my husband went on his annual silent retreat. I was able to read the book before he left for his few prayer filled days and he was able to read it while on retreat. We have both come away after reading this book with a refreshed sense of what we both need and desire to do for the spiritual growth needed in our marriage.

I think what I loved most about this book was that it broke down the spiritual roles of men and women in relationships so concretely and specifically; explaining why females and males are drawn to providing spiritually in certain ways. It can be tough being an active practicing Catholic today’s culture. Especially as a woman, when I feel like the media and the world is shouting at us to be independent to the point of shutting ourselves off from any help, even more so when that help is provided by a man. But as a woman I have always felt the need to be spiritually lead. I have a hard time keeping tabs on my own prayer life and need the reminder of another human person to keep me accountable. I’ve always felt a little self conscious about this personality trait of mine until reading this book when I realized that craving spiritual leadership and guidance from my husband is natural, normal, completely acceptable!

Another tidbit from the book that I think both Eric and myself benefitted from was the reminder it provided that prayer doesn’t have to be this beautifully eloquent production in order to be worthwhile. I have always thought that if I don’t journal at the end of the day or make time for some lengthy form of prayer every day that somehow my small and constant conversation with God throughout the day didn’t count. Often times the fear of providing inadequate prayer for my spouse is what keeps me from praying out loud with him – when I just need to remember that anything, no matter if it is a single Hail Mary or a sleepy ramble of intentions at the end of the day, is a beautiful and decent prayer in the eyes of God.

I thought it was only fair that the husband had a chance to share his thoughts on the book in case you are interested in a guy’s perspective (or if you are met with some resistance from your spouse about this book – maybe an alternate viewpoint might help;):

I have never really been drawn to self-help type books, usually preferring fiction, or non-fiction that educates me about the world around me – but as its title hints, Head and Heart really does have something for everyone.  The way the complementary roles of husbands and wives were described really resonated with me – and kept me reading with an open mind to learn something new about myself, and my marriage.

A standout feature of the book is twofold – the author suggests, and even insists that you don’t try everything in the book at once, and each area has tiered options for improvement, based on your current proficiency or comfort in that area.  I was able to pick and choose the pieces that were relevant and at my level, without feeling the need to follow a one size fits all path all the way through the book, which really helped me act on the content in a meaningful way.

This book would be a fantastic addition to anyone’s Lent plans this year or a great Valentine’s present to give to your spouse and work through together! I really cannot recommend it enough. It’s a book that has brought some much needed inspiration to our life as a couple and I hope that it can do the same for you!

If you want to win your own free copy of this book leave a comment below and a winner will be picked next Thursday February 4th. Happy reading!

**CONGRATS SHARON! I will be contacting you about your free copy! (: **

 

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3 years

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This summer we have been fortunate enough to celebrate weddings and new marriages of family and close friends. I don’t think I am alone in loving a good wedding celebration. It reminds me of our wedding and fills me with all of the warm, fuzzy, butterfly feelings that I tend to have when thinking back on the day that started our journey down this exciting, unpredictable road called marriage.

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I remember before we were married, before we were engaged – seeing married couples at weddings and wondering what they could be thinking about. Watching them sway back and forth on the dance floor and stare lovingly into each others eyes. It always filled my heart to the brim with emotion. I wanted to be married one day and I wanted to be one of those couples on the dance floor, so in love with each other. While I am still practically a newlywed and my wealth of marital wisdom is relatively low – I think I am starting to realize that the looks those couples were giving each other were more so out of appreciation, admiration, and respect that any lovey-dovey-emotionally-fueled-feelings that I was probably experiencing as an onlooker.

Honestly, this third year of marriage has been by far the most challenging. New jobs, new roles, new home, parenting, growing, moving… so needless to say the past 365 days weren’t without stress or moments of anxiety. Something else the past year wasn’t lacking was a partner to weather the storm. Solid, unwavering, supportive, true. Sometimes I just can’t believe that my husband has continued to love me through it all.

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So much life has happened since August 4, 2012 and I hate to sound cliche but I really didn’t realize just how fast the years would fly. I wonder if I will feel the same way when we hit twenty or thirty years of marriage. I secretly hope that the feeling of “it was just yesterday that we were dancing at our wedding reception!” will permeate through those years. I never really want that newness, or shocking realization that we hit another anniversary to go away – I always want to be surprised that even though our wedding may have been a while ago…it still feels like it has been a relatively short amount of time.

Anyway, I’m rambling. I just can’t believe that I’m living this vocation. That God has provided for us in so many ways and continues to work through our marriage. I can’t believe that we are making it, that we are really living this good life and I’m just so grateful to be in this sacrament with such a truly fantastic person.

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I think C.S. Lewis does a much better job at constructing the thoughts I am trying to convey here in this post so I will end with this, it is one of my favorite quotes about love and marriage:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

I love you, Eric Martin. Thank you for choosing to love me. Happy Anniversary!

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2nd anniversary post

Right after we got married! 

FAMILY | mother’s day 2015

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Happy Monday y’all + a happy belated mother’s day to those who were celebrating the holiday yesterday. I have always loved this special day and a few years ago I even wrote a post about my feelings on this special day as an unmarried, childless person (if you want to take a peek click here). I vaguely remember writing a post last year about my first mother’s day but I think it was lost somewhere in the shuffle between sleep deprivation, hormonal mood swings that rivaled that of a 13 year old girl and always having a newborn attached to my person.

This year’s celebration was absolutely wonderful. I felt pretty celebrated the whole weekend and the best part was that we didn’t really do anything extravagant. For the most part it was a relatively normal weekend. We even had mother’s day brunch at our house instead of out because my brother-in-law and his family were coming over and two little ones were easier to entertain among the masses of baby toys at our house. I was able to sneak away for a couple of hours and enjoy some time with one of my best friends while getting my nails done and enjoying an iced green tea and then my husband + sweet girl surprised me with my own kindle for mother’s day! (Now I won’t be keeping my husband awake at night while reading on the iPad.;) The best gift though really was just feeling appreciated in the day to day this weekend. I have been in a bit of a funk lately and the past two days really rejuvenated my soul in so many ways.

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Yesterday I posted a photo on Instagram from the night Madeline was born. It was our first family picture and far by my favorite from the night. After so many hours of labor, so much pushing, so many scary new-mom-never-having-gone-through-labor moments I was so relieved to have my girl with us when I honestly didn’t think I was strong enough to get her here. I remember crying so hard with my husband after that final push because I did it! I actually did it! And I don’t think either one of us could really believe it. It reminded me of when I found out I was pregnant and I really couldn’t believe that there was a tiny little person starting to form right inside me and I had so many doubts that I would really be able to handle pregnancy and becoming a mom. Along with that picture I posted I found a quote that really encapsulated my unbelief of this whole motherhood gig, “The biggest surprise, which is also the best, is that I didn’t know I would love motherhood as much as I do.” – Deborah Norville

I need to have that quote printed in big bold letters on days that are tough and trying and down right exhausting.

Being completely and totally cliche here: I just never realized how life changing being a mom would be. I remember being so self conscious last year about my ever expanding belly and whether or not I was going to go back to work. When I decided to stay home (and eventually choose to work part time) I didn’t really know how to identify myself anymore. I wasn’t a teacher, I wasn’t working towards anything in that field, I was just a mom…but what did that mean? And I found out that along with the surprise that was being pregnant, and the surprise that was labor and delivery, it meant that I would need to surprise myself and challenge myself in ways that I never thought I would. It meant that I would lose a part of myself to gain a kind of love that only the grace of God could supply in my heart. It meant that I would sacrifice things that I worked hard for on my own so that another little person could thrive in our home. It meant surrendering all to His will and not my own. 10347082_2270901622236_7616151671525193603_n (1)

His will and not my own.

Words I have prayed over and over again, but not until now have I really realized that I am doing that thing.

Doing that thing, that motherhood thing, and really truly loving it.

Motherhood really has been the best surprise and I thank God for that blessing in my life, but really the best blessing of all was how much I love being a mom and caring for someone more than myself to give her the best life.

I hope you all had a lovely day filled with sloppy baby kisses, phone calls to your own mom, or just a celebration of life in general.

FAITH | ready, set, test.

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This week across the state of Texas teachers and students are at the point in the school year that they have been anxiously awaiting for the past 9 months. It’s STAAR testing week and from previous experience, I can say that testing days are by far some of the most mind numbing, feet dragging, soul draining days as a teacher. I have been seeing former coworkers posting on social media about their testing weeks and I can’t help but say a quick prayer for each and every one of them as I imagine their tired feet being kicked up after their tiresome days.

Testing is honestly, probably the biggest thing I don’t miss about teaching.

The concept that is standardized testing is still I continue to struggle with when I’m asked about my teaching philosophy/future plans as an educator. I won’t delve into too much personal detail but I (and I’m sure many others – educators or not) can see the positives/negatives to both sides of the testing line. One thing I did enjoy about getting to this point in the school year with my students is that it gave us an attainable goal we had to reach. It was a milestone for each student in someway and myself. It was a day on the calendar that we were slowing moving towards during the school year. We had finally made it to ‘that’ point in our planners and afterward there was always a sense of accomplishment – like, I am officially done with this grade level now and can move on. It was preparation in way, for bigger tests/milestones in life and I felt good knowing that I was there, getting to support my students in some way as they were finally able to jump over their personal hurdles in the testing environment.

Then there is the negative…the pressure on both students and teachers was and is something that I personally, and morally have a really hard time with. I know I have read articles about all of the unnecessary stress being placed on students at such a young age right now. Kids coming home and having panic attacks from a state test is obviously not the most optimal educational situation. Kids should be kids. Kids should play, and learn, and enjoy their educations to the fullest. But then how can we hold them accountable? How can we make sure that students are learning at least some of the basic strategies as their developmental peer group? How can we make sure that teachers are challenging them and pushing them to become the best educated members of society that they can be?

It’s so hard isn’t it. To find that balance.

We aren’t close but I know that one day it will be figured out. I have faith in that. For now, I’m going to keep offering up my days for my teacher friends and teachers everywhere as they actively monitor their students take the biggest test they have had to take thus far in their little lives. I’m going to continue to try and set an example for teachers and parents (especially when mine is in school) that while the system is far from perfect, a little grace goes a long way and if we all just stop and realize that we all want the same end result… I think we’ll all do pretty ok on a much more important test that life offers us.

Just my two cents. Happy Wednesday!

FAITH | mom friend dating + self discoveries

The idea of friendship and what it takes to make new friends is something that has been on my mind for the past several months. The concept of connecting with people is something that I feel like I am constantly thinking about and interested in, but the actual act of making new friends as an adult person has really been getting to me lately. I finally crossed this book off of my reading list and it gave me some new found encouragement in my pursuit of new friendship.

I knew that this past year would throw me for a loop in this area of life because I wouldn’t have my coworkers to lean on for my daily social interactions (with adult, non-baby people:). And, if I’m being completely honest with myself I didn’t realize just how MUCH I relied on my coworker friendships and my job for my identity in life (that could be an entire blog post alone). But really, before making the decision to stay home, I felt like I had a ton of friends outside of work that I could rely on. I wasn’t too worried about the transition I was about to make and figured I would just start tapping into some of my other social groups more often. But something I didn’t think about was… those people all have jobs of their own, families, other friends, and don’t necessarily have the time or freedom of schedule that I did in my new little SAHM world. So where did that leave me? It meant that I would need to get my butt in gear, pack up my baby and start getting involved in the world around me if I really wanted to get out and meet some people going through the same things I was going through.

And It was really hard. It was hard to pack up an 8 week old baby and get out the door in the mornings. It was hard to find groups of moms that were a) in my interest b) had similarly aged children and c) didn’t cost me an arm and a leg to join. But I learned something about myself and that’s always beneficial. I have always thought of myself an an extroverted person. I love being around people and soaking in everyones energy in social situations. But as I was going out to meet new people I was coming home exhausted. Now I realize this was also during a time where I was getting *maybe* 4 straight hours of sleep at night, so there were other reasons for my exhaustion. But I really felt so emotionally and socially expended at the end of the day. It was tough, and that’s when I realized that maybe I was not as extroverted as I originally thought I was.

In college I had to take a multitude of psychology classes for my major and inevitably during the course of the semester, no matter the class, we usually had to take a Myers-Briggs personality test. Without fail I always came back with the same personality type: ENFJ. We even had to take the same personality test for our marriage preparation and again: ENFJ. Extroverted, intuitive, feeling, judging. Essentially, I was typed as a person who likes to get out there. I like to interact with others and work with people and I do! For the most part. I love teaching and working with others…but it wasn’t until I was in this situation of making new friends that I realized…I only feel comfortable putting myself out there and getting to know other people when I am completely comfortable in my environment.

I joined a mommy bootcamp of sorts and always felt myself feeling shy. I was find working out with these other ladies but never felt myself being completely open and out there as I had in other situations. I also joined my church’s mom’s group and felt instantly warm and welcoming to the people around me. I tested the waters with a few other new social settings and found the same to be true: I was more extroverted in extremely comfortable settings, and more introverted in extremely new settings. Which would make sense because looking back on all of those personality tests I always towed the line between extrovert and introvert. But it wasn’t until I was put through the test of new-friend-making that I really figured this out about myself.

So anyway, moving on from my deep self discoveries. Back to the actual friend making. No matter the situation I felt myself seeing other mom’s that I would potentially want to be closer friends with and feeling like I was on the hunt. Almost like I was dating to find other mom friends that I and my child would be compatible with. I felt pretty crazy at first but the more moms I met the more I realized that they felt the same way too. I even had a few conversations like this with other moms about how you are taken completely out of your comfort zone and how it is a strange mix of dating and making friends like you would in elementary school. It has been a really interesting journey thus far and I have met some really wonderful people that I am so thankful I have had the opportunity to meet. I know that this is only the beginning of many seasons in life where I (and we as a family) will experience crazy amounts of transition, meet new people, and have to push myself in ways I never really thought I would have to, so I’m going to continue on with my new found knowledge and continue to put myself out there as best I know how.

Happy weekend!

FAMILY | lately

Lately… there has been a lot of transition and not a whole lot of predictability in our days. We made our big move to the house last week and are currently swimming in boxes. We chip away at the constant need to unpack and yet I feel like things continue to be a mess. I keep trying to remind myself that in all of this chaos is our new home. The home we have been wanting for so long and the home that we already love and adore despite our messes at the moment.

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Lately… I have been thinking a lot about my Lenten goals and hopes for this season. Last year I was more pregnant than I ever thought I could be and so my sacrifices for those 40 days revolved around sciatic pain, childbirth and new born sleep deprivation. I was able to fit in a couple of holy hours before M made her arrival but for the most part I was far too involved in the life of my new baby to really focus on much besides the daily offerings of a new parent. This year I am attending a lenten bible study with my mom’s group at church as well as diving into some deeper prayer. I’m really looking forward to what this season will bring and I’m ready to be more aware of my relationship with God.

Lately…I feel like I am getting back into touch with some things I have let go for the past few months due to house hunting, house buying, and house moving into. We are making travel plans for the summer, talking about some long term goals, and I’m starting to focus on these weddings we have coming up in the next few months!

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Lately… I have been thinking a lot about our NOLA family and friends who just finished up the Mardi Gras season. It has been way too long since we have been down there for some parades. I feel like next year we are going to need to make that a priority because I need some tailgating + bead catching + king cake eating in my life. Here’s a blast from the past for you, a picture from my first Mardi Gras – we had only been dating a month! What babies! (:

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Lately… I have been thinking about this blog and my purpose for it. It’s a question that is constantly buzzing around in my brain and I’m always looking for inspiration and direction for it. Hopefully now that our big move is over I can start carving out some regular writing time again and get back into the swing of this little hobby.

Happy Monday everyone (:

FAITH | humility of house hunting

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I think the title gives enough explanation as to what has been going on over in our neck of the woods lately. We have been house hunting for almost a month now and man, I knew it would be tough…but I think in terms of the emotions that come with finding a house that the word tough is a understatement. I am going to start this with a disclaimer that I am fully aware of my overly sensitive nature and that the combination of looking at house after house and being repeatedly disappointed in conjunction with my ever emotional self is starting to take it’s toll. I’m sure I am not alone in my sentiments of wanting a house search to be over (it could have been over on our first day of hunting and that would have been fine with me!), but I am not so sure that it is normal for me to be feeling so DONE after only ONE month.

Everyone I have talked to has warned me about how terrible the search can be – with a few exceptions of those who truly did enjoy the process. I was really hoping to be a member of the latter and envisioned Eric and I looking at a handful of houses and finding an adorable abode in no time. Honestly, thinking about how naive that sentence is makes me a little sick to my stomach considering the past few weeks. I feel like we have seen a little bit of everything from scary houses that do NOT match the listing description (note to self: if the seller hasn’t posted any pictures, it’s probably for a good [ugly] reason) to completely wood paneled living rooms (and bathrooms, and bedrooms, and…every room), to homes that we could imagine actually living in and planning future weekend projects together.

The last one was a kicker. Two weeks ago, after a crazy weekend filled with family and other non-related house hunting events we ended up putting an offer on a house; the first house that we BOTH loved – only to be turned down a few (excruciatingly long) days later. It really hurt and it took me a couple days to get back in the saddle and even browse through new listings from our agent. But of course, with struggle and sacrifice come the greatest of life lessons and I can honestly say that these past few weeks, while tough, have been yet another much needed lesson in humility.

Humility. Oh, how I wish this were not a lesson I had to learn over and over and over again. I feel like I am constantly needing a reminder from Him that I am not the most important. I do not know what I really need in this life. I need to trust more. Be more willing to go with the flow and live the life that has been so greatly provided for me. I’m not always going to get what I want, especially when it’s not what He wants for me or our family right now. I know that years down the road I will look back and know why we didn’t get that house, but right now it’s hard to think about it too long. My heart was in it. I really wanted it, and I think it’s ok to admit I am more than a little hurt by this process and what we have had to deal with lately. But if I am being completely honest, this is not the first time I have felt this way.

I can remember numerous times in my short life getting way too emotionally invested for my own good. Whether it be something I wanted, a friendship, or a relationship. I’ve never been afraid to jump the gun emotionally and start investing more of myself before the time is right. And time and time again, God humbles me and tells me to be more careful with my heart. To really consider what is going on and to give it prayerful thought and anticipation. Rather than be heartbroken repeatedly. How human of me but how perfectly does it exemplify my relationship with God. I need him and He wants me to realize it – if only I realized it more regularly and without the need for these big lessons.

I know that the perfect home is out there for our family. We aren’t looking for our forever home, we aren’t looking for absolute perfection, we are looking for a place to grow and learn in love. To make friends and family feel welcome and to live this abundant life. Although, as I keep thinking about our search and what we have endured thus far – I realize that we don’t need a house to have all of this. I already have it in my heart.

“His dwelling shall be glorious.” IS 11:10

 

Photo by Kate Love Photography

FAITH | my first non-first day of school

 

classroom1 Today is the first day of school for the district that I was a part of not only as a teacher these past few years but as a student growing up. I knew that when I made the decision to stay home that this day would come and feelings were going to be felt. It has been hard to wrap my brain around the facts that I am not with my staff, I didn’t set up my classroom, and I won’t be welcoming a new bunch of 8 year olds into a new year of third grade learning adventures. But then again I have had this overwhelming sense of peace about this decision to stay home with our girl.

A friend texted me this morning offering his prayers for me today. His mom is a teacher and he knows. Teaching isn’t just another job – it’s a vocation, a calling in life for those people equipped with the gifts of impacting students lives in such a way that they are willing to put up with the many (MANY) hardships that come with the job. He said something that made me feel a little bit more sane about this situation.

“Sometimes even when you know it’s the right thing, and you really are happy about it, there can still be a twinge of pain from missing something.”

So I’m not crazy.classroom3A part of me was feeling guilty for being bummed about the start of the school year. I mean, I am the one who decided to stay home – this was MY choice. I should be happy right? I shouldn’t even be thinking about school, right? Wrong. I was so relieved to read his words today because they were the best reminder and exactly what I needed. It is ok to feel like I am missing something. I AM missing something. I’m missing people and kids and my job that was everything to me.

There are people that would give anything to be in the position we are in. I know it breaks so many of my friends hearts when they have to drop their babies off at daycare to continue working and I know that I will never regret a moment spent at home with our family as it grows in these early years. But there is something missing. I missed the days this year when I would spend long hours up at school before the start of the school year setting up my classroom in the unairconditioned heat. I missed the staff development week for teachers  – learning about everything new that would come with a fresh new school year. I missed reconnecting with coworkers and hearing all about their summer escapades. I missed the jitters I would feel trying to fall asleep before the first day of school – knowing that my future students were probably feeling just as excited and nervous as I was.

And yet I know that this is where I need to be right now. Not in the classroom but learning new lessons at home. I am learning more about myself, life, my family, and God’s will each day that I stay home in this new role. Like I said before, I feel a sense of peace about this entire situation but that doesn’t necessarily excuse me from feeling a little left out of the new school year excitement.classroom2So to all of my former coworkers and teacher friends (and family!): I wish you the best school year yet. I hope your students have a great first week back and that you enjoy getting to know them and all of their little quirks. You are doing a job that you are meant to do in every way. But remember that it is so much more than just a job and when things do get tough this year (because “that point” always comes during the year) know that you are appreciated by many even when they may not say it and you are needed by those around you even though you may not believe it. I can only hope and pray that Madeline gets teachers as amazing as the ones I know and love.

To parents dropping off their kiddos for their first day and teacher friends alike – Happy 2014-2015 school year!