A BLOG ABOUT A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Saturday, June 29, 2013

27 & Birthday Donation Time

This morning, it is hard to believe my 26th year has come to an end. My main challenge this year was to just enjoy the year, instead of being too focused on the wedding (we got engaged about 1 month before my 26th birthday, and the wedding is in 6 days).

Enjoying the year did not prove to be difficult. In July, Brendan and I took an epic trip across the Northeast, visiting 10 states in one month. In August, I started my first full time teaching job. In September, multiple friends came to visit us in Midland. In October, I gave a reading, and Brendan and I celebrated two years of dating. In November, I gave another reading, and we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. In December, we flew to CT and celebrated Christmas with Brendan's family (and my first Christmas there); we were also given a surprise couple's shower. In January, I finally started to see results from the weightlifting program I started in October, and we took trips to La Marque to see my grandmother and to Lubbock to see friends. In February, we took a work trip to Houston, TX and enjoyed the city too. March brought spring break and a trip to Austin and my best time yet on a 5K. In April, we took a trip to San Angelo to see family and were also kept super busy by the end of the semester. May was a blur between graduation, my bridal shower, and a week in Austin to take care of wedding details. And in June, I got hired on full time at Midland College.

My 26th year was wonderful, and keeping busy with work, friends, family, and wedding planning meant it felt like a very fast year too. I will definitely always have great memories of our engagement year.

Every year on my birthday, I choose an organization, and I give my age in dollars to that charity. My mom told me about this idea called "Donate Your Birthday," and I just loved the gesture of giving back to celebrate the year that you've been given.

Yesterday, Brendan and I went to the county clerk's office to pick up our marriage license:


It was awesome, and we're so happy and excited, but honestly, the only thing that made the moment bittersweet was the thought that not all of our friends had the right to do the same thing. That's why choosing the organization to donate my birthday to this year was easy. I picked the Human Rights Campaign, which is an organization that works hard to make sure every US citizen (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered) enjoys equal rights to marriage and is protected from hate crimes and bullying. Check out all the great work these folks have done.  The Human Rights Campaign has a four out of four star rating on charity navigator, which you always want to check before donating. Brendan and I have supported another equal rights project with our wedding, which I look forward to telling you about soon. This is something we believe strongly in: Love is for everyone, and every couple deserves the same rights and benefits. I really hope one day we can live in a world where every person can choose whomever he or she wants to marry and have that marriage recognized legally.

So, I donated 27.00 to Human Rights Campaign, and for a limited time (seriously, I'm not sure how long), someone is matching donations (so, $54.00 went to HRC today, yay!) If you are interested, you can find out about giving here. 

My plans today include lunch with my bestie, going out for my favorite sushi tonight with Brendan, and eating a piece of raspberry truffle cake tonight with my family (Brendan, the cats, and I are back in Austin as of Thursday night). It will be a happy 27th birthday indeed, but the best gift of all is still 6 days away :)

We dropped off my engagement ring yesterday to have it refurbished before the wedding, so I've been wearing my grandmother's (mom's side) wedding ring set (they are soldered together) so I don't feel too strange without my ring. They fit perfectly; beautiful, right? My grandparents were married June 2nd 1944, but they have both passed away. I am missing my 3 grandparents a lot lately, wishing they could all be at the wedding, but we got good news yesterday that my grandmother (dad's side), age 95, is planning to come.


Here's to all things happy, including birthdays!

<3 S, B, L&Z

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lucky News

This is a sequel to last year's post about our housing situation in Midland. As most of our friends and family know, Midland has a booming economy, one that is driven by oil and leading to outlandish increases in the costs of housing. Last year, our rent increased 40%...this year, the increase was set to jump 11% from our current rent (or a 56% increase from our original 2011-2012 rent, roughly).

We weren't happy about it. As a young couple, just two years out of graduate school, our priority right now is saving for our future. With these crazy jumps in the cost of housing, that is becoming harder to do. Literally, the only thing allowing us to cope with the crazy rent jumps is the fact that we've seen salary increases every year since we moved here (due to the combination of both new jobs for me and raises for Brendan).

We began weighing other options, and got pre-approved for a loan on a house. A house would be more expensive, but, we figured, at least then we'd have an investment on our hands and more square footage.

Then, something really lucky happened. I went in to the leasing office to talk about our options. The woman there knows us well by now. I sat with her and was totally honest: we were going to look into a house...the month to month rent (which would be a 25% increase on current rent) was almost un-doable for us. We didn't want to be rushed to move if we couldn't find the right house (we have to give a 60 day move out notice). The situation seemed bleak. I mentioned some students in my building who where getting a slight discount on their month to month rent. Suddenly, her eyes lit up. "You guys are teachers!" She exclaimed. She cracked a smile and then said five words that were music to my ears, "Our teacher discount is back." That's right, as of last week a new property manager and new managers at the management company decided to bring back the teacher, police, and fire department discount, which we had benefited from in 2011-2012. I literally gave our new manager a hug and asked why she did this. She had read this article and had been asking for permission to reinstate the discount since March, telling the property management,"We could do something good for this town."

Today, Brendan and I signed a 13 month lease. Our increase? Less than 2%. We breathed a huge sigh of relief. At our apartment, breaking a lease is doable, (with a financial plenty of course), so we can still look for a house, and in the event that we find a perfect home for the right price, we can take the plunge.

But if we don't...we have a comfortable place to live. A place where we are happy.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my best friend, Corley. My job situation wasn't settled, the housing situation wasn't settled, and I was feeling the stress of it all. "It will all be worked out soon," Corley said to me. And within a few weeks, it was.

We get married in 9 days, and I'm so happy that these big issues are off my radar. I can fully enjoy our day (and the honeymoon!) knowing where I'll be living and working when we return.

We are very thankful to the property management, and I fully intend to write the new manager there a letter of gratitude, as well as our manager here. In times where great profit can be made, there are still some people who can see past that to the bottom line: It feels good to help people. And good things come from helping people. And that is something I want to pass on. This is a great reminder to do as much good as I can, whenever and wherever I can, and especially in this community.

We may still be paying more rent than friends in Brooklyn or Paris (or so I'm told), but despite that, we consider ourselves lucky. We've made a home here and many good memories too, and for now, it's nice to know we can stay.

<3 S, B, L&Z

Friday, June 21, 2013

Never Been Busier?

The summer...always imagined as a time for rest and relaxation. This summer?

Not exactly.

I swear, my weeks have never felt busier or like they were flying by faster. With the wedding just weeks away, there is so much to be done. On top of that, we have been working out intensely, so I feel quite sore (luckily our gym is closed Friday-Sunday, so walking or indoor biking at the apartment gym will prove a needed reprieve from weight training). I also moved out of one office this week and into another. I had to meet with both human resource departments and get new changes worked out. We leave for Austin in 6 days, and I wanted to have work things squared away before we left.

The idea that we need to pack for the wedding week AND honeymoon is totally overwhelming. For so long, both events have felt so far away that it just doesn't seem possible they're actually almost here. I'm not sure when it will feel real, but it doesn't yet, despite the fact that our apartment is filling up with wedding gifts, the wedding coordinator is contacting me daily, and every check of my email brings up new tasks that need to be done. I can barely check off one task before I remember another that needs to be accomplished!

All in all, wedding planning is fun, but certainly a full time job as well. We are both looking forward to actually being married.

In awesome news, my best friend released her single off her new EP today. I can hardly stop listening to "Catacombs" off the Underworld EP.

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/corleypillsbury/catacombs then head to her website for more information: http://corleypillsbury.com/

Happy listening and TGIF!

<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The New Rules of Weight Lifting for Women, Stage 6 Recap

My Stage 1 Recap is here
My Stage 2 Recap is here 

My Stage 3 Recap is here

My Stage 4 Recap is here
My Stage 5 Recap is here

I thought I would NEVER make it through this stage. Out of town trips (Las Vegas, Austin), the end of the semester, and going through a job application process basically meant it took me a month and a half to finish the 10 workouts of Stage 6 (I kept doing yoga and cardio workouts in addition). At least I made it! This stage was one of the easier stages for New Rules, honestly. The workouts were short and sweet (I like that), but packed a punch. Here's a look at how my measurements changed:

                     This Stage                        Total Change 
Bust              -1"                                        -2"                     
Band              No Change                          -1.25"
Right Bicep     No Change                      No Change 
Left Bicep       No Change                     No Change 
Waist             No Change                             -1"
Right Thigh    -1"                                       -1.50"
Left Thigh      -1"                                       -1.50"
Hips               No Change                             -2"
Weight           -2.5lbs                                 -5 lbs 


Could I really have lost 9.25" off my body since October? If the way my clothes fit is any indication, then yes! I never knew it was possible to lose that many inches while maintaining almost the same body weight. New Rules has completely changed my outlook on the importance of weight lifting. The physical changes happen slowly, almost to the point where I don't notice until I look at pictures, but having more energy and feeling stronger has been noticeable throughout the whole program. I never used the recommended eating plan, but instead ate healthy (and the larger commitment to that in the last couple of months likely explains most of the small weight loss). I am happy I will be strong on the honeymoon because Brendan has a lot of adventure planned! 

Here's a look at how my strength increased:

Workout A


Reverse Pull Up: From immediately dropping to holding for 10 seconds. Not bad, but this exercise never got easy for me. 

Underhand Grip Lat Pull down: 70 lbs (holding one second, taking 4 seconds to return to starting position made this exercise more challenging).

Lunges with barbell: From 20lbs to 40lbs.

Push-ups...Max out around 25. Held the down position for 6 seconds...made it much harder! 

Workout B

Reverse Lunge with Dumbbell on One Shoulder: From 15 lbs to 25 lbs.

One arm dumbbell pull up: from 15 lbs to 25 lbs.

Dumbbell push press: from 20 lbs to 30 lbs.

Back Extension (with 10 lbs).

Incline Sit Ups....I had to add some other ab work, these just didn't do it for me! 

I am ready to move to Stage 7, and unfortunately, won't have the luxury of breaking between stages. I am ready to complete the 6 workouts in Stage 7 so I can be done with New Rules! It will be a weird experience printing my last 2 training logs off. 

Here's to the last few workouts and finishing a big goal! 

<3 S, B, L&Z 

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Weekend Away

This weekend, we spent a much needed weekend away with our friends in Lubbock, the Shews. It was mostly happy and a little sad too, as the Shews are moving in the fall to California, where Michael has a prestigious Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. This was the last of the swimming pool visits, board game playing, cooking together, and movie watching weekends for a long while. We will see them for one last hurrah at our wedding, in which they are both participating, before they move.

I wish I had taken some pictures, but our memories together are unforgettable anyway. We are sad to see them go, but oh-so-happy to see them "spread their wings." There are certainly many changes in life; remembering that helps me to appreciate every single stage of it.

A picture from a previous trip: Me, Shew, Bren, and Em...some of our besties! 
There are some big changes heading our way soon: marriage, new job (for me), and potentially, a move to a new residence. It was nice to take a weekend away to just forget about it all and do something very familiar.

We arrived home last night, and Brendan whipped up an instant Kashi dinner. Thankfully, the Shews have been into eating healthy lately, so we were able to stick to our pre-wedding slim down while away. Today is consisting of doing laundry, writing thank you notes (I am 100% caught up, yay!), snuggling with the cats (who missed us so), and working out. A much needed yoga class will follow it all tonight.

Time seems to be moving faster than ever. Hard to believe we'll be leaving for Austin in just 10 days!

Hope your weekend brought a "break from it all."

Happy start to the new week!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Thursday, June 13, 2013

BIG Changes

This post is a sequel to posts BIG News  and BIGGER News:

I am very happy to announce that I got a full time job at Midland College as an English Instructor and will begin teaching there in the fall! 

As many of you know, Brendan also teaches at Midland College, and I taught there as an adjunct during the 2011-2012 school year, so the campus and all the people there are very familiar to me. My new position will be a combination of teaching developmental and credit English courses and overseeing the re-organization of the campus writing center, and I could not be more excited about the opportunity. My fall schedule includes teaching Integrated Reading and Writing, Composition, and American Literature, and my new office will be next door to Brendan's. I was truly beaming when he woke up this morning and said, "Now I'll have someone to talk to everyday while I eat lunch." That hadn't even really occurred to me, but I feel so lucky that we are a couple that can work together well, as we will also be advising the English honor society, Sigma Kappa Delta, together.

While I am thrilled about my new position, I also know that I am leaving behind a wonderful position at Howard College. I will always remember the friends I made, the exceptional faculty and staff I worked with, and gifted students that I taught. I learned so much from that experience that I will carry with me into my future career, and I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to work at Howard. I plan to keep in touch with all of my colleagues there; I am going to miss them all.

I believe that everything works out in the end how it needs to. For Brendan and I, it is going to be a great thing for us to both work in the city where we live, and I also know that Howard will find the right person. It will be a new beginning for us all.

I am again in debt to the wonderful references who agreed to write letters and provide character references on my behalf. I am truly lucky to have so many wonderful people pulling for me. I owe them all more than I can pay back. Brendan and I have so much to be thankful for and so, so many people who have helped us along the way.

I am truly exhausted from a very eventful week. With 22 days until the wedding, I do not predict things slowing down anytime soon around here, but for now, I must rest.

Here's to opportunities: Both the opportunities ahead of me, and the opportunities that will now open up for someone else. In this job market, new opportunities are certainly something to be celebrated.

<3 S, and a very happy B, L&Z

Friday, June 7, 2013

Storms Rolling In

There are two reasons that people who live in the desert do rain dances: 1.) We really need the water, and 2.) Storms bring a break from the heat. After several days above 100 degrees, a couple of days of cloudy skies and sprinkles of rain have brought days in the high 70s.

Yesterday, I could actually walk outside comfortably. And today, I have plans to get out again. Currently, it's 68 degrees, and THAT is something to be happy about.

Even if the cats woke me up early (Lola due to thunder fear, Zoe an hour later due to a desire to play fetch), the toilet is running again, the blender might be broken, and we're still waiting on 23 RSVPs (which we need to order alcohol, finalize the menu, and start working on seating)...despite all of those things, our rain dance perhaps worked.

So today, I'm all about keeping positive and focusing on the good. Or at least, that's the direction I'm steering myself in. Brendan is making some homemade potato salad for a cook out tonight, and I plan to spend the day reading, writing, and organizing.

And that's something else to give thanks for. Summer and the gift of a day that doesn't have to be planned. The weeks are going by fast: I keep reminding myself to be thankful and hold on to these glorious moments of summer.

Living here in the desert has shown me a lot about patience. You may not get all the rain you want, but you take the breaks where you can get them.

<3 S, B, L&Z


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wedding Checklist: One Month To Go

Between 2 Months to Go and 1 Month to Go, We: 

Bride: Attended Hair and Make up Trial 2 
Bride: Attended 2nd fitting 
Met with Officient
Groom: Altered Suit
Ordered Ring Bearer Gift 
Finished Up Other Attendant Gifts
Walked through schedule with Day of Coordinator 
Decided on Menu for Reception 
Decided on Menu for Rehearsal Dinner 
Bride: Purchased Groom's Ring
Decided on Alcohol Order for Rehearsal Dinner & Reception 
Found Card Box 

We Still Need To: 

Write Vows 
Meet with Florist (Mom's doing this)
Bride: Attend 3rd fitting (it is scheduled) 
Shop for and Stuff Welcome Bags
Write and Copy Note for Welcome Bags
Create Programs for Wedding (Brendan's Working on it now)
Create Personalized Table Numbers
Create Escort Cards (supplies are ordered) 
Make Seating Arrangements 

Groom: Purchase Bride's Wedding Gift
Purchase Alcohol for Reception/Rehearsal Dinner

Purchase Marriage License 
Purchase Garter
Photo for Guest Book Table
Purchase Pens for Guest Book
Confirm Plans With all Vendors Prior to Wedding Day
Get Favors Ready 
Get Flower Girl Baskets 
Have Cake Server Engraved
Bride: Get Ring Cleaned and Ready! 
Confirm Honeymoon Arrangements 

With only 30 days until the big day, we are ready for it to get here. RSVPs are due in 2 days...unfortunately, we're still waiting to hear from 70 people, so I see a lot of phone calls in my future. I'm ready to find out who is coming, so I can do seating arrangements, which I've heard can prove challenging. A few days ago, our room block at the hotel sold out...that's a lot of people coming in from out of town! I've been writing Thank-Yous and trying my best to keep up with them. We've definitely been kept busy with wedding plans! 

Everyone says the next month will fly by. Hard to believe that I'll be marrying the love of my life that soon. 

<3 S, B, L&Z 

Lola and Zoe Turn 5!

I cannot believe my cats are 5 years old today! Seems like not too long ago that I adopted them. 

These bundles of fur have filled our lives with love, and today I celebrate what I love about these two trouble makers!

Zoe and Lola 

Lola! L-O-L-A Lola!


Lola is single handedly the most loving but high maintenance cat I've ever known. She has the loudest meow you'll ever hear, which typically means "I'm bored!" She likes to start fights with her sister that she cannot win. She loves to knead on people and will cuddle for hours (and drool too!). She's the softest of the two cats and the best jumper. Sometimes, she drives us absolutely crazy, but we love her! 



Miss Zoe (Zo-Zo) 

Zoe after her bath 
Zoe and Mom 

Zoe is a real sweetie. Whenever Lola meows (which is about every hour all day long), Zoe always comes in the room to check on her (despite the fact that, in 5 years, nothing has ever been wrong with Lola). Zoe has dandruff, so she has to have monthly baths and get shampooed...she deals with it pretty well. She loves cans of food and is always the first to eat. It's funny to me that she's the alpha cat because she was the runt of her litter. She loves to play fetch with hair ties or rubber bands. She is the only cat I know that sleeps under the covers! 

Happy birthday Lola and Zoe! You get two cans of food tonight ;) 

We have some other good news around here too: Brendan's Poem "In Devil's Hopyard After the Fire" is in the Summer 2013 issue of Threepenny Review, out now. Click here to order a copy or get a sneak peek at the amazing contents of the issue. 


Lots to be happy about today! Stay tuned for the wedding one month to go checklist! 
<3 S, B, L&Z 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Home Sweet Home

What a whirlwind!

Brendan and I attended a full tasting at our venue in Austin last night. We ate way too much, slept for a few hours, and then woke up at 6am to pack our bags. We hit the road back to Midland at 7am and drove into the afternoon.

When we arrived home, we had about 7 packages waiting for us!


We had a blast tearing into the belated shower and early wedding gifts! We have some amazing friends and family, and we're floored at all the well wishes and thoughtful presents we've been receiving. It is outstanding to feel so loved and supported!

As soon as we finished opening gifts, I drove off to help host Jill's baby shower.


Let me just say, her daughter already has a better wardrobe than me, and she's still in the womb! What a loved baby!

I drove home after the shower, took a few minutes to input some wedding RSVPs into the computer, and then we headed off for a marriage celebration party in honor of some friends. We had a delicious dinner there and got to visit with friends....we got home about 15 minutes ago, and I all but collapsed on the sofa to write this blog post. I know who is sleeping like a baby tonight!

There is no doubt about it: we're exhausted! But we're also so happy...happy to have much more of the wedding planning accomplished, happy to have so many great friends and family near and far, and happy to be home!

It seems Lola and Zoe are happy to have us back too. They were pretty good while we were gone...except for knocking all the clothes off the top shelf in the closet...sigh, I'll clean that up tomorrow.

Wishing everyone a happy remainder of the weekend. It's a busy one for us...but for tonight, we're all about relaxing. I also wanted to say thanks to all the blog readers! Last month was our busiest month on the blog EVER with 2, 075 pageviews! Thank you for being with us on this crazy journey!

<3 S, B, L&Z
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