A BLOG ABOUT A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Monday, April 30, 2012

BIGGER News!

This post is the sequel to Big News! a post I wrote just 9 months ago. Back then, Brendan had  just officially accepted the position of Instructor of English and Creative Writing at Midland College in Midland, TX, and I was signed on to adjunct 3 English courses per semester. Well, things at Midland went better than expected, and I was actually given a 4/5 load (4 courses in the Fall, 5 in the Spring-legal with special permission) plus tutoring in the language hub (writing center) on campus. I had a wonderful, nurturing, fabulous experience at Midland College, and I wouldn't trade this year for anything

Recently though, an opportunity came my way to apply for a full time position teaching English at nearby Howard College's Big Spring campus. The process began on February 21st, and today, I am so pleased and full of joy when I announce that I have been hired as an Assistant Professor of English at Howard College!!! Big Spring is located exactly 40 miles from Midland, so Brendan and I will both be able to enjoy full time positions while continuing to live together. We are so happy that we found a situation that allows us to maintain our commitment to each other and our careers simultaneously (we weren't considering options that didn't, by the way!). I start in Fall 2012! 

I am SO excited about my upcoming work at Howard, and I leave Midland College on the best of terms, with full support from everyone there. We will likely stay located in Midland (where all of our friends are), but we're not quite sure, since the rent here is rising and the cost of living is more affordable in Big Spring, which is a cute little town of about 27,000 people (as of 2010 census). If we stay in Midland, I will be able to commute in to Big Spring Monday-Thursday (no classes on Friday). Check out the commute:

View Larger Map

45 minutes exactly in a straight line, with little to no traffic. Or, as my friend, Cole, says, "45 minutes, the average Los Angeles commute, no biggie!" PS-Think we should move to Stanton in the middle there? Population: "3,000 nice folks and a few old soreheads," according to the billboard on the highway. Could make for some writing inspiration?

Words cannot describe exactly how I feel, but if I had to pick one word: Thankful. I am thankful for the support from everyone at Midland College, for the opportunity at Howard, and for everyone who helped get me to this place (Thanks references!). I am thankful that Brendan and I have both found a place to do what we love in this wild desert. I am thankful for health insurance! I'm grateful for the challenge and excitement that comes with something new. Of course, trekking into the unknown is always a bit scary, but I'm confident that I can handle what comes my way; after all, I've been taught by the best!

So, apologies to my Facebook friends for last week's "vague booking." I wanted to shout my news from the rooftops, but I also wanted to make a careful, through decision, so I gave myself a week (sounds like me, right? :) I've been waiting for this opportunity for over a year (my job search started in December 2010), and I'm pleased as pickles.

Here's to all you folks who told me everything would work out. At times, I didn't believe you, but you were totally right.

<3 S, with support and love from thrilled B, L&Z 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Unwinding

We've had a great weekend so far. Our good friend and mentor, Amy Fleury, came to give a poetry reading at Midland College on Thursday, and our friends, The Shews, came in yesterday from Lubbock to see us and Amy.
Amy at her reading! Everyone clapped after every single poem. 
We had a great time with everyone, and by the mid-afternoon, we were on our own. Brendan had a ton of work to do, and we both needed to unwind from what was perhaps the most stressful week of the semester. While he worked at grading papers, I enjoyed some much needed down time (I don't have nearly as much grading): frozen yogurt with friends, reading, a workout video (do it 3 times), and a nice long shower. Even Zoe relaxed:

After that, it was time for Brendan to take a break, so we headed to a chick flick, my choice (thanks Bren!):

The Five Year Engagement was hilarious, and Brendan says it was better than he expected and he really enjoyed it. Though parts of the movie could have been edited out (it felt really long at 2 hours), it was just what we needed for a fun break. I was laughing so hard I almost cried at certain points, and Brendan laughed a lot too. Jason Segel is so great, and I thought Emily Blunt did good too. The movie is really silly and exaggerated, but it still manages to be relatable and touching too. I cried a few tears at the end. I'm glad we saw it!

The best part of this weekend? It's only halfway over. I'm planning on grading papers while treating myself to a pedi tomorrow, and if the weather is nice, we might go to the pool.

Hope your weekend is relaxing too!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

4 years ago today...

4 years ago today, I walked into a coffee shop and bakery in Austin, TX to meet the guy that would become one of my best friends and then the love of my life...but back then? We were total strangers with an erie amount of things in common: We'd both studied at NYU, both lived in Austin, and both agreed to live in Lake Charles, LA for the next 3 years for graduate school where we'd study, of all things, fiction writing.

I think my first ever words to him were: I swear I'm not high, I just finished hot yoga, and I'm totally zenned out <a phrase I made up? I'm sure he thought I was crazy, but our conversation, even that first meeting, was totally frank and honest, a laying out of who we were at the time. We discussed what we dreamed, what we planned, what we loved and hated about our current situations, and the biggest mistakes we'd made recently. It was pretty intimate for a first time meeting you coffee. But at the end, we just went back to our lives for the next 3 and a half months, and it wasn't until August that we met again.

Our first year of graduate school was intense, and we shared all the same classes. Our class (then 8 people and after that only 7) probably saw more of each other than was healthy. Brendan knew everything about me: my obsession for web MD, my penchant for Smoothie King, my love of straight As, etc. I knew Brendan didn't cook much (and I brought him leftovers weekly), worked harder than anyone I knew, and was, hands down, the smartest person I'd ever met. But we were just friends. Into our second year, I knew I had an innocent crush because I enjoyed being around him so much, and would eat lunch at his desk most everyday (much to his "I have stuff to do" dismay) but even through the coffee shop meetings, and the outings with friends to eat alligator or ghost hunt in abandoned graveyards or attend the strange Contraband Days carnival, we were just buddies. I was dating someone else, and at times, so was he.

It didn't occur to me until the summer after our second year that my crush on him was really serious. By that time, my relationship had deteriorated, and everyone had seen it coming long before I had the courage to actually end it (even my Dad, ha). The realization of my feelings for Brendan hit me really hard, in a smokey bar, typical hangout of all places, but, by then, a dysfunctional relationship had left me emotionally drained, and I knew I was in no place to act on my epiphany, nor did I have any idea if Brendan would feel the same way. I focused on getting better because I had to. It was really hard, and maybe the most uncomfortable period of my life to examine the past two years seeing reality and not just what I wanted to see. Luckily, I had friends (including Brendan) and family to help me through it (Thanks Will & Missy, Erica, and the Price-Woods especially). It wasn't easy, but once I was better, I still had a lot of soul searching to do. 

You know the rest is history, but it's not really the whole story, because before Brendan and I kissed, we still had these months of just being regular old long walks, tipsy talks, you have to read this, oh my god, your poetry presentation sucked, best friends. And those are maybe some of the best memories ever. Even though at the time, I wanted to know if he held my hand because we were friends or something more, now, I wouldn't trade those months for anything on this earth. By October, we had kissed and I'd invited him on a first date: We attended my favorite two year old's birthday together. So, somewhere in between the jump-jump and the drive home (at 3am-crazy two year-old!), two weeks after said first kiss, we figured this was the real deal. It felt like such a relief to know it (not that we said it, but we just knew it). I'm not a high-risk kind of person, and the courage it all took was scary as hell. In the end, it was more scary to not do anything though. I'd usually reserve song lyrics for an AIM away message when I was 15, but the Counting Crows summed up the situation pretty damn well: 

All my friends told me, you don't need laws to tell 
that if it feels like falling, you probably already fell 
the whole table saw your hand, you might as well just play it 
and you ain't fooling no one, you might as well just say it 
so, I guess I'm in love
I guess I'm in love. 

And that was that. 

The middle of our semester, the end of our "just friendship," and the beginning of our something even greater ship. Now, 4 years later, I remember that first coffee shop meeting exactly. I know what I was wearing, what I ordered, and exactly what he looked like, and I remember everything he told me. I'm glad I didn't know the rest of the story though, because I couldn't have written it better. 

<3 S

"If you stayed around here, you might wind up by my side
and that's true. 
that's true. 
so come on out tonight."

Buds: Will, Erica, Missy, Stacy, Brendan, and Jolene


Sunday, April 22, 2012

End of the Weekend

Fun fact: my favorite poem is "End of the Weekend" by Anthony Hecht. In graduate school, I spent a weekend doing an analysis of it, and the poem remains, in my mind, like a memory of something that happened. It sounds strange, but all reading does that, right? I feel like I've lived far beyond my own experiences.

We had a great, splendid, relaxing weekend. We saw several movies: Melancholia was stunning, and I'm still thinking about. It's streaming on Netflix, and you should watch it. Be prepared, it may leave you a bit...weary. We took a trip to the Big Sky Drive-in movies where you can see a double feature for $7.00. Cabin the Woods is skip worthy (despite the good reviews it got, I wouldn't even Redbox it), but 21 Jump Street is fun (until it goes overboard in the last 20 minutes or so, but still some good laughs).

Brendan at the drive-in. His station wagon is perfect for making a bed to watch the movie in! 
We also made this again (sooooo good), and did our typical sushi on the porch Sunday. I went to yoga Saturday morning (and meditation always makes a huge difference in how I feel-noted) and we breakfasted with friends. We did the open house at MC yesterday, and sat out by the pool today (I feel sun drunk). All in all, a weekend like this reminds us that summer is fast approaching, and I can basically imagine us there. Lots to look forward to before that though: our mentor, Amy Fleury, is coming into town on Wednesday (and giving a reading Thursday night at MC) and our friends, The Shews, arrive Friday. April is like a never ending party...

For now, it's the 1990s on Pandora radio and a much needed shower before bed.

To be tired from doing all that you wanted to do is a great feeling.
<3 S, B, L&Z

Thursday, April 19, 2012

8 months in Midland

Well, we've lived 2/3s of a year in the desert!

In case you're behind: why we're here, thoughts from 1 month, thoughts from 3 months, and on living together for 6 months.

 It's hard to believe how fast time is passing; we're almost done with our first year of teaching here. I really am starting to feel at home in Midland. What I've learned from this experience is that having the person you love most with you can make anywhere feel like home. There are things that I do find totally surprising about this place though. One is the rising cost of living! Our apartment rent will increase over 40% next year, so we're already thinking about alternative living situations for the fall. Why is Midland, a small town of 100,000 people, so "in demand"? One word: Oil. It is everywhere and people are coming from everywhere to profit off of it. We just have no idea what is in store for us in a few aspects, and part of my experience this year has been learning how to "just go with it." I'm such a natural planner at heart, but I'm really working on accepting that life beyond school entails having a lack of control over a lot. But so far, I'm still surviving! Part of the reason is because I've made so many good friends here. I'm 100% grateful for that, as I've always heard making friends outside of a school environment is difficult. For me, it just kinda worked out:

Girl's night or Wine night? :) 
Love the faces here, not sure what's going on! 
 I need pictures of Jennifer, Amanda, and Heather too, sorry ladies :) It also helps to have our friends the Shews nearby and to be close to my family in San Angelo, TX.

The Shews-it was either this one or Michael closing his eyes

My little cousins and their friend (who I used to babysit for)-they're all so grown up, it's crazy! 
I've even been able to involve myself in the community here. I was in a Posh Pony fashion show today to benefit the women and children's shelter here in Midland. Here's me in one of my outfits:
Of course I had to buy this dress, thank you modeling discount :) 
Other good things: No matter how far you are, your family will still come see you!


Other observations: the other day I was thinking, "wow, spring in Midland is really nice," and then today it was 95 degrees. Feels like summer already. Glad our lease does not end until August, so at least we'll get to enjoy this:

I'll try to enjoy it all!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Celebrating 30 Years of McNeese M.F.A.

Brendan and I made a pilgrimage "home" this past weekend to celebrate 30 years of the McNeese M.F.A. program. The trip was amazing. McNeese is the best decision I ever made: 1.) I was able to spend 3 years of my life surrounded by like-minded, but diverse people who all share the same creative interest in writing, 2.) I cultivated my passion for teaching and gained 3 valuable years of experience, and 3.) I met the love of my life :) There are actually more than 3 reasons...best friends of my life, best town to live in EVER (ghost hunting, crab catching, etc.), kind, nurturing teachers that really care about students individually, full funding <okay, okay, enough with my graduate school nostalgia! Enjoy these pictures from our awesome weekend.

What's Louisiana without a crawfish boil? 

Young and young at heart-it's like one big family :) 

Brendan 

3 of my favorite people-Becca, Ezra, and Baxter :) 

Fun Fact: I threw a baby shower for every baby in this picture! Baxter with twins Roan and Rhys

 Fun story: The whole reason I ended up at McNeese? Adam Johnson, a McNeese alumni, wrote an essay in this book about his decision to attend McNeese, and I read it and contacted him via email. He sent me Neil Connelly's contact info, and the rest is history. Adam gave a reading from his latest book, The Orphan Master's Son, a fictional novel set in North Korea, and talked about his research process, which actually involved a trip to North Korea. The reading was fantastic, and I was fascinated with all that Adam had to say. Even though he is highly successful and in demand right now (he is even meeting with Hilary Clinton to discuss North Korea in addition to giving readings all over the place), Adam was exceptionally down to earth and kind. McNeese wouldn't raise them any other way! We also enjoyed readings by Neil Connelly, McNeese M.F.A. founder John Wood, and a lecture by Daniel Westover. The programming did not disappoint!

A picture of Adam Johnson taking a picture of us...


With our former professor, Neil Connelly 

Me with current M.F.A director, former professor, and poet Amy Fleury-PS-Check out our class t-shirt I designed
Aw...can't believe it has been one year...

M.F.As, Class of 2011 
Thanks for letting us crash at your place, Erica! And happy 30 years McNeese M.F.A! I'm already counting down to the next reunion...at which, I'll be old. But Brendan (and the rest of our class) will be ancient :) (maniacal laugh)

<3 S, B, L&Z

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This Desert Life: West Texas Road Tripping

Greetings from the desert! Sorry about our 11 day blogging hiatus, we had lots of life to live in the past 9 days: Brendan's parents came in town for a west Texas visit and then we took a long weekend trip to Lake Charles, LA for the 30th anniversary celebration of the M.F.A. program at McNeese. I dubbed this past week and a half "spring break part 2", and it was just as busy (actually busier) than part 1. Lucky for you, I have some awesome pictures from our trek across the desert with Brendan's parents in tow. I think they loved the trip as much as we did, which is good because they came all the way from CT for it! Enjoy!

We started out at Monahans State Park, which Brendan's parents had read about on the blog in November and were eager to experience firsthand. This time, we rented the discs that you can use as "sand sleds" for a couple of dollars for 2 hours. Let me just say: it is NOT worth it. Brendan and I tried climbing to the steepest peaks to sled down, and nothing came from it. Those things don't work at all, so do yourself a favor and skip the disc rental.






Love this picture of Brendan and his parents laughing 

<3 Cute! 
 After Monahans, it was on to Alpine, TX where we had reservations at the very special Antelope Lodge. The lodge had some hilarious reviews (which I read to Brendan's parents in the car on the way there), and I couldn't wait to stay there. Overall, it was maybe a bit pricey for what you get (not a lot of other options in the area though), and I felt bad that the shower was leaky, BUT the place had tons of character and was cute and comfortable enough, so, all in all, it was good. The beds were comfy, there was free coffee in the morning, Alpine was a perfect central location (near Fort Davis, Big Bend, and also Marfa), and there was a nice little garden area. The staff was very nice and attentive. One thing I love about Brendan's parents: They are always up for an adventure!


The cute town of Alpine. Happy Easter :) 



The first night there, we went to McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, TX, which I wrote about on the blog back in October 2011. We were so excited to take Sharon and Tim, but unfortunately, we got a very cloudy night, so the stars weren't quite working out for us. The drive up there sure was pretty though, and we got nice weather all weekend mostly, so hard to complain!



 The next day was Easter Sunday, and it was on to Big Bend National Park (please note, it's not Big Ben and it's not a state park!). My pictures don't really do the place justice, and I know there are more to come, as each of us went true tourist style with our own cameras in hand.





Pretty much think I'm talented to get this photo from an i-phone 3G!


We stopped and had the most charming Easter lunch at a little place called India's. It was true home cooking and it was FANTASTIC! Can you believe I found a vegetarian burrito on the menu all the way out in the middle of nowhere?

Seriously, the view from our table. 

In the other picture, Brendan closed his eyes. Go figure! 
 One thing I was really excited about: Swimming in Big Bend's natural hot springs and in the river (fun fact: Mexico is right across the river). The springs are supposed to be natural and healing, but at 105 degrees, we couldn't stay in for long. I loved cooling off in the river though; it was all absolutely magical. A funny story: after I changed into my swimsuit, I came out of the bathroom and this woman goes "hey, did we go to high school together?" It was so crazy, because she really was one of the only people we'd seen all day, but it really was my friend Beth from McCallum High School in Austin, TX. We had to get a picture together to celebrate the weirdness of it.

After driving on an unpaved road for 14 miles (Great tip: Do not attempt this) to get to Santa Elena Canyon (it's worth it, just go back the long way!) we stopped at the Starlight Theater in Terlingua Ghost Town. We loved the music, the drinks, and the food, but fear the ice in the margaritas may have caused some indigestion? <Not confirmed, but the 3 of us who had them were a bit sick. Check this place out though, it was so cool, just maybe drink bottled beer.
We ended the night with the curse of the Easter day flat tire. I have only ever had one flat tire before in my life, and it was on Easter Sunday (I believe 2009), then we're driving back to Alpine and low and behold: a flat tire in the middle of the night. I was a little freaked out, but we got it fixed. We blame the unpaved road in Big Bend. The next day, the other back tire was also flat: thank goodness I figured out those puppies were insured (thanks Dad and Discount Tires!) All in all, what's a road trip without some misadventures? PS-I highly recommend joining AAA before taking this road trip!

We had a very thrilling time and spent the rest of the vacation antiquing, eating, and relaxing (though I worked Tuesday and Wednesday and Brendan worked Wednesday). Then, we all left Thursday morning. (Pictures from Lake Charles, LA coming soon).

Thanks for road tripping with us through the desert Sharon and Tim, love ya!

Now, it's back to life as normal we know it.
<3 S, B, L&Z

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book I Read in March


Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Sorry this review is a few days late. April is already flying by over here! This was my second read of Oryx and Crake. The first read was during high school, when I was about 16 years old, and a lot has changed in almost a decade, but this book still has such a powerful affect on me. I remember reading the book by flashlight in my front yard and screaming when someone walked by walking his dog. I became so immersed in this end of the world saga both times around; Oryx and Crake makes for a terrifying read. You may remember my review of Year of the Flood, which is part of the trilogy. It honestly does not matter what order you read this trilogy in, but I'd start with Year of the Flood (even though it was published second). So, what is the premise of Oryx and Crake? A super virus, manufactured by a Crake, a mad-genius at a vitamin company, wipes out the human population, only to be replaced (?) with a new species of human designed by Crake and taught by former child porn movie actress Oryx (it's complicated). Jimmy is left to deal with the ramifications of Crake's actions, and the end of the world does not look pretty, but then again, the flashbacks about life before the "flood" are just as unsettling. Oryx and Crake is my favorite of the series so far, but I'll issue this warning: there are parts of this novel that disturb me deeply, on multiple levels, but yet I'm SO glad I've read these novels. As always, Atwood creates a world like no one else. Her language is flawless, her characters, very flawed (in the best kind of way-they seem like people I could know and meet), and the story is one I will never be able to forget. This book changed me, and that is what makes Atwood my all time favorite author (If you haven't read The Handmaid's Tale, that is a good Atwood starting place). Do yourself a favor and read these two books.

Happy page turning!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fresh Starts :)

Here's to the new month! Did you get April fooled today? I convinced Brendan that a guy I went to high school with was one of the mega millions winners and I just found out via Facebook. He stopped making brunch to come see the "proof." Good thing he quickly forgave me and resumed making eggs, grits, and salads for brunch :) It was a nice start to the day. We straightened up the house, read for class by the pool (so hot here!), did laundry, went grocery shopping, and ate sushi on the porch while watching the sunset. It was a perfect weekend, the best kind, and the only reason I'm not totally bummed it's over is because next week is only 3 days. However, I do have a lot to get done in 3 days!

I have a feeling April is going to be a great month. I absolutely love the beginning of new months, and I actively look forward to them. Here are a few things to look forward to from Lola and Zoe this month: a book review for another steller Margaret Atwood novel, easy tips for how to get active now, host an easy girl's night, A trip across the desert with Brendan's parents, M.F.A. 30th anniversary readings/return to Lake Charles, Amy Fleury's reading at Midland College, skincare tips for problem skin, beating the blues (buddy system style), and tips on turning a friendship into a relationship. In addition, you can submit questions to He Said/She Said Relationship advice by emailing us and see your questions answered on the blog. Anything else you'd like to see? Email us now, and we'll plan on it.

And now, I'm off to watch some Sunday night television with Brendan. Fun fact: This time last year, I was a brunette. Weird huh? Before I sign off, a big thank you to everyone for making March the biggest month yet for Lola and Zoe. 1,361 pageviews, not too shabby!

Thanks!
<3 S, B, L&Z
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