Weekending

We had a busy week last week! Valentine’s Day brought little parties for both kids in schools, Joe working late and us attending a board meeting.  I did make a delicious lasagna for dinner and even both kids gave it “all the thumbs up!”

As for celebrating? I stopped into the Dollar Tree and scooped up just a few little goodies for our babes.  I knew they’d get a ton of candy at their V-Day parties, so I saw these adorable heart baskets, and filled them with a chocolate heart, a stuffed puppy, a little workbook and a balloon.  They loved it!  They even loved the workbooks; Brooke did hers right away and Bradley worked on his at lunch; he did a wonderful job tracing the words for each color!

Bradley did cry a little bit Friday morning saying his ear hurt, so my mom instinct kicked right in and I took him right into the Drs. Sure enough, he does have an ear infection.  I’m grateful it’s nothing crazy like the flu, but I know ear aches are awful!  Poor guy.

I am trying so hard carve out time to read our newest book club book. It’s a thriller and a page turner, but I can’t really read it at night–I don’t want nightmares!

  • Update: I actually was on page 77 Sunday night and decided to try and read a little…and well, I just stayed up until 1 am reading to finish it! If you love a page turning thriller, scoop this one right up!

Hubby and I did get out for our first date night of the year!! 2.16.19. We had not gone out since the weekend before Christmas, as he was so sick and life got crazy.  We had a delicious dinner at Good Luck and hit up our favorite spot, The Revelry for a few drinks.  We are old and were home by 11:30, but it was so nice to get dolled up, out of the house and having actual adult conversations!

Sunday brought some time for Brooke & Joe to spend together.  Since she’s gone to full day Kinder, she doesn’t get to see Joe that much and we could tell they needed some QT. She insisted that I took her and Bailey’s photo.

That left Mr. Bubs and I to cuddle on the couch. I hope he never gets to the point where he doesn’t want to snuggle!

He is all boy.  If he’s not dressed up as a superhero, running, crashing, shooting, jumping, then he’s tinkering with his trucks, cars and guys.

While Bradley played, I sat with the laptop and caught up on some blogs; I felt called to sit and write.  I have abandoned this little space here for some time, but I know that it always waits for me to return.  If you’re reading this, hello! Welcome if you are new, thank you for returning if you’ve been around for a bit.  Hubby swooped home to gift me with a Matcha Latté and it was divine.

I also worked on some advertising for our social media pages.  I’m on the fence about joining Rachel Hollis’ business coaching.  I really love her and I think I would learn so much!!

Recently a new BK went in around the corner from us.  The kids have been dying to check it out as they have literally watched it form from the ground up! I think they just love the crowns.

The rest of the day was relaxing, as you’re supposed to work 6 days and rest one.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2018

I started the year out with a goal of reading 52 books in 2018.  While I am bummed I did not hit 52, I did read 41 and I can’t be mad about it.  I would never have read that many if I did not set a goal to begin with! (I will share my full list on another post!)

Reading is a passion of mine and I am obsessed with getting lost in a good book.  Ever since I was little I remember falling in love with fictional characters, story lines and allowing my imagination to run wild as I read though words on pages.  It’s become tricky to make the time nowadays, but this is the year of #noexcuses.

I went to school for many years to become an English teacher and I honestly wonder how many books I read through my 4 years in undergrad and then a few more as I completed my Master’s Degree. I didn’t read many books for pleasure during those years, but I did read some great books!

Out of the 41 books, I chose these 10 as my “WOW” books.  These are books I think of often, connected with, learned something and really just had a great vibe with.  As you can tell, I read all types of genres!  I really want to up my memoir game, so if there are any you’d recommend, let me know.  I love me some professional development and typically listen to the audiobook version.  Hands down, my favorite way to read is an actual hardcover book, but I do use my phone/iPad with the Kindle app, Audible and Overdrive apps too.

My top 10:

Braving the Wilderness

I do appreciate Brené Brown’s books.  She puts forth a lot of research and shares her thoughts unapologetically.  This book was really worth the read, especially if you’re someone who struggles with the past election.  She talks about how we can all be different, have different viewpoints, but we must stop attacking each other.  While I am not here to debate whether our president is a good fit, she makes some valid points about how we should act.  If you get offended over mockery of Hillary Clinton, then as a HUMAN you should get offended over mockery of Donald Trump.  I had a photo I thought about sharing, of a bunch of Women marching, with signs of genitals and horrible things said about Republican women and such.  It proves Brown’s point of how is that acceptable? What are we teaching our daughters by tearing down other people simply on their political views?  My favorite quote from this book, “Stop looking for ways you’re not belonging.”  Wow.  So true!! If you look for it, you will find it.

Educated

Wow.  This memoir is so beautifully written and Tara endured a life that doesn’t even seem like it could have happened–but it did.  She didn’t receive any formal education until the age of 17.  Can you fathom? The way her father controlled her and her brothers and sisters as well as her mother, was so bizarre and yet from Tara’s point of view, as the reader you can empathize with why and how this family lived (ie. Mormon survivalists)   Her will power and perseverance is undoubtedly some of the strongest I’ve encountered.  It has some hard to read moments, but at the same time is absolutely worth every page flip. Tara is an extremely talented writer and the literary elements are beyond expectations.  If you are a lover of words and language, she strings sentences together so beautifully to tell her story.

The Wisdom of Sundays

If you love Oprah and her courage, optimism and voice, get the audio version of this book!  There are many little interviews from other amazing people, authors with their spiritual lessons.  I will most likely listen to parts of this book again this year.  (You will find other books to read from these authors!) We only get one life and Oprah helps us uncover how to live our best lives and feel everything along the way.  Our spiritual connection with other humans and purposes is one that will elevate us to the next level.

Little Fires Everywhere

Get ready for a book hangover with this book!  It’s so wonderfully written–this story and its characters will stick with you for awhile.  This coming of age story, intermixed with interesting topics of adoption– is motherhood more about blood relation or is is the bond of love?  You will be turning each page in anticipation to see where the story leads and will not be disappointed.

The Last Mrs Parrish

Coming off of The Wife Between Us I had a total book hangover. I wanted to call the characters and see what was going on.  I didn’t think this next book could hold a candle to it as far as keeping my attention or desire to read another book right away. Boy was I wrong!! I read this one probably even faster?! It had such great detail, and right away your instincts and detective skills are trying to figure out what this main character is up to and what is really going on.  You love to hate some of these people and you really develop a desire to know how it will all unfold.  It will keep you up reading til midnight.   I loved how the book ended, and while I won’t give it away, I will say it was a little over the top…but in a good way.  Sometimes what seems perfectly perfect, may not be so perfect after all.  Definitely a must read in 2018!

Where the Crawdads Sing

This was one of my last novels of 2018 and it was a quick listen! I could not put it down.  I fell in love with the main character and felt for her every step of the way.  Basically abandoned at her home in Marsh, Kya’s tale of survival and success is so beautifully told.  You’ll empathize with her in more ways than one and I promise that it’s totally worth reading until the very last sentence!  You’ll love some characters and despise others; I recommend finding a reading buddy to chat about what happens.

Small Great Things

This is one of my first Jody Picoult books and wow.  Just wow! I listened to it over the Summer when we were in the South taking in all the history, so it truly was a perfectly timed read for me.  It delves into the topics of White Supremacy and racial issues; an African American nurse is refused by a white couple to deliver their baby, and the baby dies shortly after birth.  This story was well researched and beautifully told.  It gives insight as to how or why people act, say and do things they do.  I’m for sure not saying that they are right, but you only know, what you only know–and this book is a must read for everyone.  I absolutely loved listening to this book.

Girl Wash Your Face

Ah, Rachel Hollis.  I could and should devote an entire blog post or two to her.  She’s a firecracker for sure and lays it ALL on the line.  She tells ya how it is, like it or not, take it or leave it.  In my humble opinion, those that resonate with her, are like her.  Real, honest, raw & truth-seekers.  Those that continue to attack her, her Christian faith, her ideals, morals, her choice in running an empire and the ways she mothers, really blow my mind, but like I said, another blog post.  The book itself helps out women at any age re-discover that yes, her happiness matters.  Yes, it’s okay to put ourselves first as moms and wives.  It’s okay to want to work and build an empire–she almost gives permission to go out and fail, live out your dreams, no matter what the age. My mother gained a ton from reading this book, friends of mine have and clearly I am huge Rachel Hollis fan girl.  If you are questioning your life’s purpose, self worth or what the hell am I even doing?  Read her book.  She talks to you like a friend and spills a lot of her soul; you may just find out that yes sister, you were indeed made for more.

Think your Way to Wealth

Throwing in some good stuff here.  This old school book would get some feminist panties in a bunch I tell ya! Haha.  I love Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, the “O.G.” as my husband calls it.  This is his interview with Andrew Carnegie so there are a lot of simialr themes throughout this book, but told slightly different.  I 100% agree with some of his philosophies on how to make money, stay wealthy and the steps along the way to get there. One of my favorite quotes from the book was, “Idle Minds tend to develop ailing bodies.”  Whoa, ain’t that the truth! If you surround yourself by garbage and feed your brain nothing but crazy, your body will probably fail you earlier than if you are constantly re-inventing yourself, becoming a better you each and every day.  So often I see people play the victim and sit back and give every excuse in the book as to why he’s not better, richer, smarter, more in shape, whatever.  Either you want it, or you don’t.  “Do the thing and you will have the power.” – Emerson, from this book.

The Wife Between Us

It’s been awhile since a book has really held my attention and made me devour it in a sitting or two.  This book did exactly that!! I couldn’t tell who was who, what was really happening, who was the crazy one?! It had so many twists and turns, that it kind of did feel a little loose at the ending. I won’t give anything away, but I am still left with questions…that are unanswered and that always annoys me!  However, this book was JUST what I needed to get back into the reading saddle.  I despised some characters, felt sorry for some, and really was thrown off by a few things that came up.  There was some bothersome subject matter, but overall this book kicked off our book club and if you like Gone Girl type books, I’d say totally pick this one up or at least at it to your TBR pile.

 

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Getting Quiet

If you happen to follow me on Instagram you may (or may not) have noticed I haven’t posted in a week.  If you know me well, Insta is my favorite slice of social media.  I started blogging back in 2011 and I believe it was that year that Instagram made its debut.  I loved my little blogging/insta community. It was real, raw, and pure.  Friends from all over could share their photos instantly with adorable captions.  I had so many amazing connections with women over fashion, food, family, husbands, you name it!!

Fast forward to 2018 and my feed was filled with overly airbrushed images, ads to buy something and picture perfect squares of everyone’s perfect lives.  I knew that when I would scroll, put the phone down and then only to pick it right back up and scroll again, it wasn’t making me feel good.  I kept brushing it off because I still do have some amazing, inspiring and uplifting people that I follow—but that wasn’t how I was left feeling after looking at Instagram.

Instead of feeling empowered, I felt insecure, jealous, envy and literally joy was being sucked out of me.  I’d wish that my house was more perfect, that my kids could strike amazing poses for photos and that I must not really be inspiring anyone because, well? To be honest, I was hung up on the numbers.  I don’t have 21k followers.  Hell, I don’t have 1,000.  And I was beating myself up.  I must not be helping enough people.

Regardless, I was going through a low point, feeling sorry for myself, oh woe-is-me, playing the victim, and if I’m being brutally honest? I was ready to go to a Dr and ask for a little magical pill that would maybe make me feel happier.

All because of Instagram? No.  Absolutely not.

But I can say that taking a little fast from Instagram, helped me quiet my mind, soul and allowed me to truly listen.  I have never been addicted to anything, but I believe that I had a problem with incessantly checking this silly app! So once I removed it off my phone, a lot of things happened.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling, I picked up a book:

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This book seemed to speak to me and allow me to reflect on what the hell was going on inside my mind.  I didn’t read it cover to cover, but I don’t think that I needed to or was meant to.  I got what I needed out of it.  People need other people in order to not only survive but also thrive.  Staying home I clearly don’t get as much social interaction as I used to when I was a teacher, but somehow I stopped going out pretty much all together.  I’d get the groceries.  Visit my husband at his work.  Do the school drop off/pick up.  Take the kids to the occasional park or library.  Dance class.   But when was the last time I did a mommy meet up?  Play date?  Had fun with the kids some place other than home?

I immediately decided to take the kids to the Museum of Play that very next day since Brooke had a day off.  We had so much fun.  While they played in the “Vet clinic” for no joke, 45 minutes, I decided to look up the local gyms in my area.  Interestingly enough, the gym I was interested in was having a $1 sign up fee and $20 a month membership.  What?!  You know what I did? I took immediate action.  Why? Because that is how you conquer fear.  Anxiety.  Stress.  You do something. Anything!! After we left the museum I went straight to the gym and signed up. I knew that the classes would be excellent for me, I’d be more social and around happy, energetic and healthy people.

Know what? It’s working.

I’m not saying that medicine is a bad thing; if you honestly need anti-despressants or anti-anxiety meds then definitely take them!  I was at my OBGYN’s office Wednesday of last week telling him about how I had been feeling.  It seemed to coincide with my monthly cycle.  The sadness, crying, overwhelm.  He suggested I figure out the root of my problem, come to a solution and execute!  If that didn’t work then he obviously suggested that I go and talk to someone and maybe explore medicinal options if need be.

I can’t explain why I was feeling the way I was.  I have a beautiful life and everything I have ever dreamed of.  I listen to positive podcasts.  I read leadership books. I was grateful, writing gratitude lists, trying to cling to anything that seemed to try and help pull me from that funk.  The guilt I felt about just not feeling happy or well, was becoming overwhelming and only when I took the bull by the horns and acted upon something did it all change.

While I have only been going to the gym for a week, my body, mind and spirit are in so much better of a place.  I feel as though I’ve cleared some cobwebs, decluttered the social media accounts I choose to follow and have really begun to listen to what matters most.

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I’ve also started to listen to a little meditation on you tube each morning. Maybe about 10 minutes or so, and I just allow myself some time to wake up and listen to good things.  I feel like it helps our crazy morning routines go by with more ease, less stress and certainly more smiles.

As women, we can sometimes take other people’s problems on as our own.  It’s our job as a mom to fix boo boos, wipe tears and lend an ear.  I tend to be overly empathetic and while I know watching the news isn’t great for me, I didn’t realize how much toxic energy I was absorbing through social media apps.

I’m a little apprehensive in sharing all of this publicly, but as Brené Brown keeps speaking into my ear, the power lies in vulnerability. (I’m currently listening to her newest book, Dare to Lead.)  So I suppose I am sharing all of this on my blog so that if you’re feeling stressed, sad, overwhelmed or just not happy, I am suggesting that you get quiet.  I went and got a pedicure and put my phone down.  I read some of a book.  I listened to that still small voice that I don’t make enough time for.  It’s never too late to start something different.  To make one small change.  One step leads to so many more. After you get quiet, I also highly suggest you force yourself to work up a sweat.  10, 20 or 30 minutes whatever–get your body moving! Just as we were intended to be social creatures, our bodies crave movement.

I think I’ll be taking more “social media cleanses” and I know that checking myself has done more wonders than I could have imagined. Once I realized that time is our biggest gift and the one thing we can never ever get back, I knew I had to be more strict with my time.  Where my time goes, my energy flows.

 

And of course, in Jenn fashion, there are a few quotes that really resonated with me…

 

 

 

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You matter. You are beautiful.  You are strong.  You are brave.  You are real.  You are living this one life that is truly a gift.  When you fall down, brush yourself off and get back up.  You are not a victim; you and you alone are responsible for your happiness.  Happiness is your birthright.

All my love,
Jenn

Do you have a book you can read again and again?

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I bet this answer will surprise some of you.

No!

I hate, no loathe reading books over again and again.  I don’t think I have honestly read a book cover to cover more than once!  I will read chapters or sections over, but I have never sat down and re-read books.  Can’t do it, won’t do it, don’t like to do it. (Although kids books don’t count!! I can basically recite most of our well loved childrens books! Especially, Go Dog Go.)

I also struggle with e-books.  I love the convenience of reading on my i-pad mini, but do not like feeling the pages turn!  It is such a struggle haha.

When I was teaching, I’d teach the same books each year (if I was in that grade level again) and still I could not bring myself to re-read an entire book.

Now that I’m older and have seriously limited time, my TBR (to be read) list is so long I can’t afford to read a book over and over!  Plus, I have set my lofty goal of reading 52 books in 2018 and I’m at 31…can I do it?!)

That said, I do have some favorite books that I certainly wouldn’t mind reading sections of.  I will forever love these novels and they hold a special place in my heart.

The Great Gatsby was a major turning point in my life.  I fell in love with literature my Junior year of High School.  The thematic elements, symbolism and imagery of this novel alone made me want to become a teacher.  Of course, it’s an excellent story and I certainly don’t mind that Leonardo DiCaprio remade the movie version.  Ol’ chap.

 

My favorite author of all time is Jane Austen.  If you’ve never read any of her work, it really is beautiful! I was slightly obsessed with her female characters and the intricate love stories of all those involved.  Oddly enough, I do not enjoy watching movies based on her novels!  Persuasion is my favorite book of hers.


I love love loved The Notebook! I remember being single, curled up in my big green arm chair, laughing, sobbing and wishing for a love like Noah & Allie’s one day… I loved this book so much I used a part of it during our wedding ceremony as a reading.

“The best love is the kind that weakens the soul, that makes us reach for more, that plants fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. And that’s what you’ve given me. That’s what I hope to give to you forever. Poets often describe love as an emotion that we can’t control, one that overwhelms logic and common sense. That’s what it’s like for me. I didn’t plan on falling in love with you, and I doubt that you planned on falling in love with me. But once we met, it was clear that neither of us could control what was happening to us. We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me love like that has happened only once, and that’s why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory. I’ll never forget a single moment of it.”

And as for a recent read, this one.  Wow.  Tara’s memoir was such an excellent read.  It was one where I couldn’t just ‘rip right through it’ like some of my other books this past Summer.  I wanted to slow down, savor each sentence, each paragraph.  Her writing style is simply beautiful and her story is like no other.  It really resonated with me for many reasons; it really shows that how we are brought up and taught to believe does begin to shape us. However, if you can escape the crazy, you can make something amazing out of yourself.  The stories Tara shares are gut-wrenching and more than anything she makes you feel like you’re going through them with her.  I highly recommend it.

 

Is there a book you can read again and again? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Boone Hall Plantation

While down in South Carolina this past Summer, Joe and I really wanted to check out a plantation.  We figured the kids would be too little and it just so happened that my mom (Grandma) and her new husband Mark (Grandpa) wanted the kiddos another night!

My mom said of all the plantations she could think of, Boone was the place to go.  It also happened to be filmed in one of my favorite movies, The Notebook, so I just had to see!

Obviously the home is stunning, and learning the history of what it’s been through the years was quite amazing.  You can’t help but just stop at the gate in awe.

The Avenue of Oaks was also quite breathtaking; I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

As much as we enjoyed our day together, it was quite a somber experience.  The deep history of slavery was all around us.  I swear I could feel something a little different in my soul.

It was such an odd feeling, admiring the gorgeous home and beautiful views, but my heart was heavy thinking of all the people who were considered property here.

The trees were so old and breathtaking.  The little smokehouse below fascinated Joe, since we love our little smoker so much, how crazy that’s how they used to preserve their meats etc.

I had a hard time even smiling while standing in one of the slave cabins; I still have trouble wrapping my brain around how humans treated other humans so inhumanely.

But I suppose that is why we teach history, so we can learn and not repeat past mistakes.  My favorite part of the day was the Gullah presentation.  A lady sang and shared stories of her people. I had no idea that when the slaves would go out into the plantations and work, they’d often sing a song; this song would many times tell a story of what would be happening later that night or day, like an escape.

Above you can see the water way; that was the main source of transportation back then as there were no roads.  Slaves would try to escape that way, but it was so difficult!

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It was interesting because I was just finishing up a book, Small Great Things and it delved quite deeply in racial issues, white supremacy and was quite fitting for me to be thinking about all of it as I walked the cabins.

When I got home, I started a fiction book on slavery, which was honestly quite hard to stomach at times.  Again, I felt the importance of reading it as it is part of our history and it’s history that schools don’t really teach…we definitely give the watered down version to our students, understandably so.

If you’re ever in South Carolina, I’d make time for a stop here at Boone.  It’s one of the memories from our trip that continues to pop up in our minds and hearts.  Joe and I have had many beautiful discussions about it and how grateful we are to be living in a time period like today.