A BLOG ABOUT A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year of Growth

I love the New Year; it's a time to reflect and think about who we are and who we want to become.

2012, for me, was a major year of personal growth.

In work, I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of. I learned from each of my students and feel thankful for every one of them. I saw myself do things I never thought were possible. I looked in the mirror and felt professional, and, momentarily (at least once every day), I felt like everything was under control. I constantly was aware of how I could change and become better; I learned how to give myself kinder constructive criticism. I learned how to "just deal with it." I moved into my first real office. I felt brave. I tried to be the teachers I've always looked up to--kind, fun, understanding but uncompromising with high expectations. I tried to instill confidence in my students--show them their strengths and how they were improving. On the best days, I saw my students become independent. I heard some reiterate points we'd discussed in class to their peers and felt proud of them. I read some papers that were amazing, honestly outstanding, and I felt fulfilled. In the fall, I started with 175 students. 173 finished...90% of them passed with a C or higher; To see them succeed makes me happy. I feel that I am succeeding too.

I wrote things I was happy with again this year. I didn't write enough things, and I didn't make enough time for it, but I did some of it. I read it to other people, and I submitted it to many places. I got a lot of rejection, and actually, rejection didn't bother me too much. I told Brendan I'll be writing for my whole life...maybe I won't publish until I'm older, but I found writing fun again. I had missed that, and I felt it again this year. It made me hopeful--I realized there are so many reasons to write...and sometimes the doing is more important than the end result of what happens with the work. And what I've learned is to push myself further...to spend more time with the page, take a small piece of advice and run with it, be more precise with my word choice, and take time to fix all my horrible similes. Things will happen when they happen, and so much of it isn't up to me to decide; I can only find joy in the doing and then hope for the best.

I did a lot of yoga this year. 2012 was like my year on the mat. At least twice a week for one hour, nearly every week of 2012, I was in a yoga class. I credit friends Jill and Kristen for this, as well as outstanding teachers, Heather and Jessica. Yoga is the closet I've ever come to a spiritual experience. It makes me pause and reflect, take time to breathe, and stop (or attempt to stop) any annoying inner dialogue. I'm a big wimp, and I think I've improved--become a little less afraid and stopped holding myself back. Yoga never lets me have an ego...no one is ever the best at every single pose. I am humbled every day by it, knowing there will ALWAYS be something to work toward. I'm stronger because of it, physically, and I'm happier because of it too. I see yoga as the perfect metaphor for life...If I was going to explain that fully, it would take a few paragraphs, but basically, you need to stop thinking and start trying, and as soon as you get it perfect--wait 5 seconds and see what happens :)

Perfection is impossible, but in 2012, I tried to be the best friend, sister, daughter, partner, person in the world that I could be. I developed more self-control than ever before and more ability to say "okay, this isn't a big deal." I thought more of others and my world view continued to change, as I continued to see how complex and complicated this world is. I want the best for everyone--I want everyone to have chances and rights and opportunities. I want my students to still have a shot at the American dream. I want upward mobility for everyone that is willing to work for it.

I still don't have enough patience. I think it's going to happen one of these days, maybe.

This year, I filled my life with everything I wanted it to include. Travel to 15 states, good friends old and new, more cooking, more exercise, lots of family time, the man I love.

Brendan and I made a promise to each other this year to spend our lives together. I've never been happier. I finally found that person that loves me for exactly who I am (bad similes, lack of patience, and all). There was a time when I didn't think that was possible to find. The love I have for Brendan is indescribable: I look at him and know it won't always be easy, but I know we'll be there for each other. We're building our lives together. It feels all our own.

I know I'm ready to welcome 2013...I'm ready to teach 1302, to write more stories and keep submitting them, to get back to the mat and to the gym, to nurture my relationships with friends and family, to travel, to try new recipes and blog about them, to be grateful for everyday...to finally marry this man I've loved for a long time, to celebrate with everyone, to go to Hawaii...but I'm also ready to discover what unknown things will happen...what new people will come into my life...what new adventures are in store...

I think 2013 will be a year of adventures. I'm ready to take them.
<3 S, B, L&Z

Wishing a peaceful and safe New Year to all! May your year be filled with happiness.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Surprise Wedding Shower

On Brendan's birthday, we thought we were headed to a holiday cocktail party before a birthday dinner, but instead, we were surprised by friends and family in the northeast with a couple's shower. Here are some pictures from the fabulous evening hosted by Brendan's mom and sister, Annie (our Matron of Honor), at the home of family friends, The Brennan's:

 These beautiful invitations were designed by Brendan's cousin, Katie, and included our wedding colors (Boston Red Sox red and blue). The banner on the invite was made out of book pages and the invite says "please join us in showering stacy & brendan with gifts for the next chapter of their love story." We both love to read and met in graduate school for creative writing, so this was so cute/fitting.

 I've always totally loved these fruit bouquets. 

Presents galore! We managed to get everything home in 4 carry-ons and 1 checked bag, plus shipping some items. We got so many beautiful presents and were overwhelmed with all the love and support. 

 Our beautiful cake looked like 2 pages from a book and included a birthday message for Brendan and our wedding colors. The same baker made the beautiful cupcakes for our engagement party.

I love a good cheese and fruit tray! 

The shower also had some of our favorite foods like sushi, egg rolls, and hummus. 

The lovely table.

Red Sox helmets made perfect candy dishes.

Me and my soon to be mother-in-law. Yeah, that's a tiara on my head.

We were so surprised with the shower and amazed at how many people came! Brendan had family and friends in from out of town, so the evening turned into an even bigger celebration than we had imagined it would be (when we thought we were doing a birthday dinner) and was a perfect way to celebrate our upcoming wedding both with people who will and will not be able to make the actual wedding. 

We spent the day after the shower (Friday) packing and relaxing and flew back to Austin yesterday. We'll be here tomorrow for New Year's Eve (we're having a romantic dinner out) and then it's off to Houston to see my grandmother. Wow, I'm tired just reading about it! 

Needless to say, a trip to Austin's most lovely stationary store is in my plans for tomorrow, because after our wonderful shower, I'm ready to start writing thank you notes. The best gift of all, however, is truly the loving, wonderful people that we have in our lives. We are so happy to share this journey with everyone by our side, and the support truly means the world to us. 

Thanks to all that were involved, 
<3 S&B (and now reunited with L&Z) 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy 31st Birthday Brendan!

Today is my wonderful fiance's 31st birthday and we're celebrating in Connecticut with family and friends. It seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating 30. 

Brendan has had a great year, and while he's not one to talk about his accomplishments, I am! I couldn't be more proud of him: he landed 3 poetry publications this year, presented at his first conference this fall, and taught creative writing this semester for the first time.

Brendan said that his 30th year was the best year yet. We got engaged in May and celebrated 2 years together in October. In his 30th year, we traveled to West Texas and Big Bend National Park, Lake Charles, LA, the Texas hill country, 10 states in the northeast (NY, NJ, CT, ME, RI, NH, VA, D.C., MA, MD), Pennslyvania, New Mexico, San Antonio, and Connecticut! In our down time from traveling and work, we've planned a large part of our July wedding. We've shared so many good times with friends and family, and I know Brendan is excited to see what's in store for next year.

And I'm excited to see all the good things that come his and our way. Happy birthday, Bren. I love you so much! Here's a look at some wacky moments from your 30th year :)

We don't need an explanation for this. 
Remember how you got so mad making these awesome veggie burgers? They wouldn't stick together! 
Remember how you finally got me a pillow pet? 
Remember taking your parents to the Antelope Lodge in Alpine Texas?? And the shower was all leaky? Yeah, that one was my idea. 
Remember this awesome ice cream? 
And how we only got pictures of the small fish you caught in Maine...but there were totally bigger ones. 
Remember how happy you were the morning we took these? 
Remember when you ate that Prickly Pear after I told you I wouldn't do that if I were you? LOL
Remember carving this with a tiny knife in the freezing cold? 
What were you again? 
So happy picking out the tree! 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Make It Merry!

Greetings from cold Connecticut! I've totally adjusted to the temperature here. 40 degrees doesn't feel so bad, and I much enjoy snuggling up by the fire with some blankets.

We arrived here on Wednesday. Our flights were both delayed, but we made it. We've already fit in so much fun stuff since our arrival. Brendan's parents waited for us before decorating, so our first step was to deck the halls. We went with them and his sister, Annie, to pick out a tree from a Christmas tree farm.

Brendan looked mildly disconcerted in all 3 pictures, but I'm thrilled enough for both of us.
This was my first time going to pick out a tree. We had a lot to choose from:

I love the smell of a real tree! So wonderful. Then, it was back to the house for some decorating:


On Friday, we saw Brendan's mom's new shop Anna Pearl's Curiosities. If you live anywhere near Niantic, CT you must check it out. There are a million treasures in there: Jewelry, pins, toys, antiques. You literally have to look around at least a dozen times, and you will still not have really taken everything in.

Yesterday, Annie, Brendan's mom, and I went shopping for a wedding veil. Brendan's mom wanted to buy my veil, and I'm so glad we got to do this together while I am here. Having the veil is yet another thing that makes the wedding feel more real. We were all a little bit emotional about it. We found the perfect one that was exactly like what I had in mind at The White Dress by the Shore. Everyone at the store was nice and helpful. My beautiful veil will be shipped to Austin and will arrive there in about 2 months. I can't wait until I can try on everything together!

We finished yesterday evening with a Christmas party at the Wagner's. Brendan has 3 best friends since childhood (the 3 best men in our wedding--Justin, Billy, and Curtis), and all of them were there. Billy and his wife Megen had a baby in September, so we got to meet Lilly for the first time. Brendan's mom has many pictures from this event, so I'll try to get some to post later.

In our spare time we've been grandparent visiting, present wrapping, Star Wars and football watching, and we even managed to squeeze in a jog this morning (there are a LOT of hills here). All in all, a fabulous first few days.

And the best is yet to come...
Countdown to Christmas: 2 days!

We hope you make it Merry!
<3 S, B, and the rest of the Egan family (L&Z are safe in Austin with the Austin's)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Blonde Ambitions

This morning, I found myself at Bob Salon in Austin with James for color and cut. It was out with the old and in with the new, and I found myself enjoying the 3-hour ritual I splurge on a few times a year (my highlight jobs typically last 3 months, impressive!). Thank you, James! I finally had time to get my eyebrows waxed too.

The results:

Linking up with The Paper Mama for her Self Photo Challenge! 

My New Year's Eve dress from Modcloth arrived just in time for me to try it on before we leave for Connecticut tomorrow, and it fit perfectly. We spent the rest of the day catching up with my friend Cole, and submitting manuscripts to a writing contest. 

Good luck! 
All in all, an ambitious day for the break. We're off for some Indian food with my family, and then laundry and packing for our flight to Connecticut tomorrow! 

We celebrated Christmas with my family on Sunday. This year was Maisie's (Graham's girlfriend) first Christmas with us, so that was special. We also went to the trail of lights last night. My new iphone5 has me excited to take pictures again (the camera is much improved from my 3G model). The trail of lights is back after a 2 year hiatus, and it was so fun to visit the trail, which was a yearly memory from my childhood. 

Zilker Tree 
Happy holidays, from our home to yours: 
<3 S, B, L&Z (and the Austin family too!) 

I'm off to my other home tomorrow, and I couldn't be more excited! 

Wishing for safe, non-delayed travels. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

New Rules of Weight Lifting for Women (Stage 2 Recap)

My stage 1 Recap is here. 

Stage 2 of the program was much shorter. There were only 8 workouts, but the time each workout took was longer. In stage 1, I spent 9 hours in the gym with 18 workouts. In stage 2, I spent 8 hours in the gym with just 8 workouts.

The moves definitely got more complicated and this stage added some interval training as well. Throughout stage 2, I continued to spend 2 hours a week in yoga class. So, in total this semester, I logged 46.5 hours of exercise (either strength training or yoga class). Granted, when strength training, I must rest between each set, so not all of that time is physically active, but still, way better than what I normally average for a fall semester.

My results were normal and in line with what Meghann at Meals and Miles experienced, however, even though I feel physically different (stronger), I still don't see much difference in my appearance. Then again, I do see myself everyday, so it's hard to quantify.

Here's what the measurements said. Measurements are discouraging because they are hard to get accurate (I have Brendan help, but still). We also took pictures, but we didn't do it very precisely. If I could start over, I'd figure out a better way to quantify results, like maybe get a body fat percentage test.

                       This Stage                      Total Change
Bust                    -.50"                                 -.50"                      
Band              No change                           -.25"
Right Bicep    No change                           +.50"
Left Bicep     No change                            +.50"
Waist                    -.50"                               -.50"
Right Thigh     +.50"                                   -.50"
Left Thigh       +50"                                   -.50"
Hips               No change                            -1"
Weight           No change                            +2 lbs

So, my measurements still show that I've lost -2.25" from my body since starting this program. Not bad.
(I know the thigh measurements are confusing, basically, I lost 1" on each thigh after stage 1 and gained .50" on each thigh after stage 2--hopefully muscle, so I'm still down -.50" on each thigh from when I started). With weight, I gained 2 pounds after stage 1, and that 2 lbs has stayed, but I have not gained any more.

I guess one thing I should say about this program is that you won't see the same "miracle" results that you would with a diet. I'm trying to get results that will last over time (I don't think I could restrict calories for a long time), so it is a slower process. That can be frustrating, since I didn't really know what to expect, as this is my first time really strength training since high school.

Here are my strength results. Some of the exercises were much harder to increase with than others.

Workout A 
Front Squat Push Press: From 25 lbs to 30 lbs
Step Up: Stayed with 30 lbs this stage, but used a higher platform in this stage vs. last stage
Dumbbell 1pt Row: From 20 lbs to 30 lbs
Static Lunge with Rear Foot Elevated: Stayed with 20 lbs the whole time
Push Up: This stage required 2 sets of 10 each workout. I feel like I'm going lower/getting better at them.
Plank: From 60 sec to 65sec
Horizontal Wood Chop: From 20 lbs to 30 lbs (used 40 lbs one set, but decided form was compromised).

Workout B
Wide Grip Deadlift from Box: From 40 lbs to 50 lbs
Bulgarian Split Squat: From 4 lbs to 20 lbs
Underhand-grip Lat Pulldown: Stayed with 50 lbs this stage
Reverse Lunge from Box with Forward Reach: from 10 lbs to 20 lbs
Dumbbell Prone Cuban Snatch: from 10 lbs to 20 lbs
Swiss Ball Crunch: Stayed with 10 lbs
Reverse Crunch: BW
Lateral Flexion: BW
Prone Cobra: From 20 sec to 75 sec
Interval training: 15 min: From intervals at level 4 (setting of 4.5 on treadmill) to intervals at level 7 (setting of 6 on treadmill).

Tips for Stage 2:

  • ALWAYS have a snack in your gym bag. I've had to ask to borrow a dollar because I was too starving to make it through my 1 hour, 15 minute workout. 


  • Enjoy the 75 sec rests between each set. In workout B, it's best to just get comfortable with having some mat time. 


  • Pick an interval activity that is hard for you. (Elliptical or bike would have felt easy to me, so I opted for running, which is always a challenge). 

Well, that's all I've got. I'm supposed to take a week off now, but I have 3 weeks off, so I'm not really sure how Brendan and I will cope with being away from the gym or how much access we'll have over break. My friend is going to let me borrow some P90X videos. Anyone have experience with P90X? Tips?

Here's to getting stronger, slowly, but surely. When I think of how much I've improved in 2.5 months, I do feel like this program has helped me get much stronger.

Now, time an end of semester celebration, complete with some mimosas!

<3 S, B, L&Z

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Halfway Through Engagement/Semester Complete!

Wow, it's hard to believe I'm already writing this post. When Brendan and I got engaged, I calculated the length of our engagement using an online duration calculator, and it was 409 days. That seemed like FOREVER away. However, today, there are only 204 days left, so we're beyond the halfway point. We've made a lot of wedding planning progress: 

In addition to the tasks mentioned hereherehere, and here, we've: gotten my dress (it arrived after being ordered at the end of June), ordered and received part of my bridesmaid's gifts, scouted out rehearsal dinner locations and after party locations, 4 of 6 bridesmaids have received their dresses (all have been ordered), and we've made our getaway plans. We have plans to take care of even more wedding related tasks over the holiday break, so I'm looking forward to that. 

The wedding has definitely started to feel more "real" as of this week, with my dress and the bridesmaid's dresses all arriving at the same time, and with 5 of my friends having already booked plane tickets from NYC to Austin to be at our wedding (I have the world's most amazing friends, but that is another post entirely), I have that "Wow, this is really happening" feeling this week. I definitely think once 2013 is here, the time will start to go SO fast, especially because I have my job to keep me busy. It is hard to be patient because I'm so excited to marry Brendan, but I know that we'll be happy we planned the wedding so far in advance so that we can be surrounded by our friends and family when we say our vows to each other. 

In other BIG news, I have officially completed the Fall 2012 semester! That's right: all of my final grades are entered and my grade books are turned in. To say it feels like a major accomplishment would be a huge understatement. I started this semester with 175 students and finished with 173. I am proud of my students and very proud of myself. This semester has instilled me with so much confidence in my teaching abilities. I was worried about having so many students, but it turns out, I am very capable of handling it. This semester was such a lesson in adaptability, as I realized that yes, I did have more students than usual, and yes, many of them were high school students, but I figured out how to design my course so that both teacher and students could be successful. I want to thank Brendan for a pep talk. He knew I could do it and always encouraged me. I also feel like my students really enjoyed my courses. I heard some very nice feedback from high school counselors, students, and parents, and those comments were nice to hear. I'm happy at my new school, and wow, it went by so fast.

I'm very ready for a break, and as of now, I'm on break until January 7th! This fact definitely has NOT sunk in yet, but I do have that "cloud 9" feeling. 

I hope you find some reasons to smile today! 
<3 S, B, L&Z 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Holiday Switch

Many of our coupled friends do the holiday split every year, in which, they share both Thanksgiving and Christmas with both of their families. As Brendan's family and mine live nearly 2,000 miles apart, we knew the holiday split would never be an option for us. So instead, we opted for the holiday switch, in which we spend Thanksgiving with one family, Christmas with the other, and then switch which holiday we spend with which family the following year. 

Picking our schedule was simple: it was important to us to be on the same schedule as Brendan's sister, Annie, who also does the holiday switch with her husband's family as well, so last year, our holiday switch schedule began. 

Thus, on odd years, we'll do Thanksgiving with Brendan's family and Christmas with mine, and on even years, we do Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his. Of course, soon they'll both be "our families" ;)


haha!

So, this year will be my first Christmas in Connecticut and my first away from my own family, and I couldn't be more excited. We feel like the holiday switch is a good solution for now. Plus, our friends that do the holiday split claim it can be detracting, distracting, and exhausting having to go back and forth, whereas the holiday switch allows us to enjoy the holiday and the family we're spending it with. So how do you do the holidays? The split, the switch, or something else? 

Either way, we hope you're ready: 16 days until Christmas! 
<3 S, B, L&Z 

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Can Love You Like That

When I was a little girl, the most romantic song in the world was John Michael Montgomery's "I can love you like that." Dancing around in my room, there was no doubt in my mind that love was this magical thing, and this song reinforced all of my ideas of love as a "move heaven and earth" fairytale. Granted, love is a magical thing, and this incredibly cheesy song still can make me tear up because of my childhood memories of it, but that's not what I'm writing about right now.

Tonight, I came across this article about a wedding photographer who tracks down some of the couples he photographed years later. I won't give it away, but the article is incredibly emotional and interesting and reminds us that real life, marriage, is not the carefree fairytale photographers aim to depict in wedding photos. Even the best marriages are still bound to reality. All couples that have celebrated many anniversaries will say marriage takes work.

It's funny timing, me reading this, because just tonight, as we were folding the second load of laundry...after present wrapping, dinner making, cleaning the kitchen, working out, dropping off dry cleaning, and working most of the day (grading, grading, grading--crazy time in the semester that it is), I started to laugh. "This is life," I said. It's not always that romantic, (but there are wonderfully romantic moments, like the awesome dinner Brendan made us)...and that's okay.

This article made me appreciate our love and upcoming marriage even more, but it was a wonderful reminder that marriage is just two people--day in, day out. I know that I've found my life partner in Brendan, but the truth (one I always struggle to accept) is that no one can predict the cards that will be dealt to us. We hope they are mostly good, and I know we can weather anything together, but, this reminds me to appreciate all the time we have, which is sometimes hard with the wedding countdown in the back of my mind. As much as I cannot wait to wear the white dress and exchange wedding rings, I need to enjoy all the days Brendan and I have together.

This quote stuck out to me:

"Go to enough weddings and you realize that photographing one is like photographing the coin toss before a football game: Nothing's actually happened yet." 
This made me smile. I don't think of our two plus years together as "nothing happened," in a way it feels like everything that ever happened to me happened in these two years, but it's true that love is easy when you are young and healthy. Do only young people count down days? I don't know, but I've always been guilty of it. 210 days until the wedding. See? I just know.

Here's a thought: I think the reason we make weddings mirror fairy tales (you know: the kiss, the dancing, the toasts, the tossing things, the getaway)...it's nice to have that one story book memory that fits neatly into an album, because life does not do that.

You find someone that you can share your real stories with, that will be there for you. And you hope you get lucky, stay healthy...you hope that other person knows how much you love them always.

Of course, I look forward to having our beautiful day, and I want the photos to look back on...but what I want even more is to just spend everyday with this wonderful person who will fold my underwear sometimes, make me coffee in the mornings, and feed my cats. He doesn't have to be "prince charming," and I don't need to be "rescued," (see: song); I'm just happy he thinks I'm beautiful with tangled hair, and lets me watch terrible TV sometimes, and doesn't mind that I think it's fun to pay off credit cards.

I can wait for those perfect few hours...in the meantime, real life is perfect enough.
<3 S, B, L&Z

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Give If You Are Able

As children, Brendan and I were both fortunate enough to have wonderful Christmas mornings filled with family, good meals, and new toys. During the holiday season, it is so easy to get wrapped up in our lives. I don't have enough time to do everything is a constant thought running through my head lately. However, as I faced the choice to either go home, or spend 15 minutes to go buy some toys for the local Town Square Cares Toy Drive, the choice was easy to make.


I had tons of fun picking out these toys and even more fun thinking about making Christmas a little better for a child.

Every child deserves to feel loved and happy on Christmas morning. Please, give if you are able. You can help out in the Midland/Odessa area by bringing a new, unwrapped toy to Midland College, Alison Fine Arts building tonight (enjoy the student art show and choir concert too-all free) or to Walmart on Friday from 6-9 (I'm assuming PM). Nationally, you can find a Toys for Tots drop off or donate money to the cause.

Up next: Donating our used but still useable coats to the Howard College coat drive.

Here's to the spirit of giving.
<3 S, B, L&Z

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Welcoming December

I love new months and fresh starts. This month, especially, there is so much to look forward to. We had the perfect, restful weekend. I hosted a girl's holiday brunch party this morning (thanks to Brendan for helping me prep), and Brendan made this amazing vegetarian pot roast for dinner tonight.

Looking out at our beautiful lights, I couldn't help but feel so much joy (even though it is Monday tomorrow).



I'm ready to take on the week ahead. I know that this week is when things get serious. 12 days left of the semester, and I know we have to buckle down and get a ton accomplished. I'll try my best to take it one day at a time. As my wise mother always says "The only way out is through."

How did you welcome December this weekend? We hope it was with open arms.
<3 S, B, L&Z
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