Monday, August 25, 2014

Some Southern Style

Well folks, it's official. Back to school is kicking my tail. And today's only the first day with kids. Last week was a whirlwind, dusting the cobwebs off of summertime and setting up for another busy year ahead.

The end of summer is always bittersweet. It's nice to get back into a routine. I just wish that routine didn't start at 5:15 in the morning.

I also always wish I had had more time to get things done around the house. Remember that summer to-list I created? Yea...well, as usual, I veered off a bit and still have quite a few unchecked boxes. But I think I figured out my problem - my crafty eyes are always bigger than my patience. I have all these great ideas and then I realize how hard, and time consuming, executing them really is. Plus, nine times out of ten, the vision I have in my head is much better than what actually comes out.

That's why I am thankful for creative ladies like the one behind Some Southern Style. She not only has the amazing vision but she also has the skill to bring those visions to life.

Nicole specializes in custom pieces and turning old, boring furniture into true works of art. I seriously have found myself scrolling through her Facebook pictures in awe.

Up-cycled furniture is such a big thing right now. And for someone who comes from a family obsessed with antiques, it's something I personally love. Being able to take a piece and turn it into something new and unique to your home and your decor style is like the best of both worlds.

It's just hard to do on your own. Trust me, I've tried.

Some Southern Style also has the cutest pallet signs and canvases you could ever think of. And they're all custom ordered to your liking. Perfect for home decor or even adding that personalized touch to a wedding.

If you're like me, you can sit back in your world of denial and tell yourself that you'll eventually get around to re-doing that piece of furniture or you'll just paint something to fill that empty space on the wall above your couch. But let's be real. You won't. And neither will I. And if you do, you'll quickly remember how bad of a painter you are and you'll be disappointed in the "finished" product. 

Let's save us all the trouble and let Nicole help us out. She's got the real talent, plus she's just so stinkin cute and nice to work with. She'll put in the hard work and make it look ten times better than you ever could on your own. 

And while you're at it, go ahead and order this china cabinet. Can you say gorgeous? You know you want it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Shift in Perspective

I'm going to skip the "sorry I've been MIA" speech for now. I'm afraid that line is getting a bit redundant. My bad.

The best thing happened to me today.
Like so good....I was literally brought to tears.
And obviously encouraged to blog all about it.

This summer I did what unfortunately a lot of teachers do, I picked up a summer job.
I'm fortunate enough to teach in a county that will be take my ten-month salary and spread it out through twelve-months so I still get a paycheck in the summer.
Which is a God send for "budgetly-challenged" folks like myself.

But having some extra cash has been so nice.
And almost a necessity after the past few months.

I got a job waiting tables and I actually really do enjoy it, all things considered.
It's so different than teaching, which is exactly what I need.
Plus I get to interact with a bunch of different people, which most of the time is pretty fun.

I worked the lunch shift today and admittedly was kind of dreading it.
When I say I enjoy waiting tables...I don't mean I love waiting tables.
But I had a table today, that completely altered my mood and has given me a whole new perspective on things.

There was a table close by with two kids, one of which was going into first grade.
I told him that I was a first grade teacher and that obviously first grade was the best grade.
We chatted about that a bit and then I moved on.

My other table had overheard the conversation and started talking to me about it.
Turns out the lady at the table was a former third grade teacher.
She had gotten out of the profession for the many reasons that so many others do.

Unrealistic standards and expectations.
Ridiculously low pay.
Unnecessary politics.
Very little to no respect.
Limited resources and support.
The list goes on and on.

We chatted about some of that but also talked about how admirable the profession is.
And talked about all the good that's in it...that not every one always sees. Teachers included.

When they left and I went to clear their table, I found my tip, which was extremely generous.
But I also found a note.
And the note is what meant more than anything else ever could.

"Thanks for what you do. Keep touching lives."

It was written on their credit card slip, so I couldn't save it.
But the words are ingrained in my heart.
Not because the words are all that profound, or even because they're words I've never heard before.
It was just something about seeing them today.
At my second job. 
Two days before I start back at school.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in all the bullshit yep, I said it that comes with teaching and public education. 
It's hard. It's not ever fair.
It's actually quite depressing 98% of the time.

When I graduated and started teaching, I just knew I'd stay in it forever. 
Now, I admittedly take it year by year. 

But there's a voice inside of me. 
It's inside of every teacher.
It's not very loud and it gets drowned out a lot.
But it's saying "keep touching lives".

Because whether I see it or not, that's what I'm doing. 
I knew going into teaching that I wouldn't make a lot of money.
Does that justify politicians continuing to stiff my pay? No, not at all.
Does the fact that I knew I wouldn't make a lot of money make it okay that I've got to get a second job to make ends meet? Definitely not.

But, it is what it is. 
And that's what I was reminded of today.

Other people (who don't always know what they're talking about) can dictate my pay, can dictate what I teach, can dictate how I judge a student's success. 

But they can't ever stop me from touching lives. 

As a new school year arrives, much too quickly, I'm going to keep that voice loud and up front. 
The one that's telling me I'm touching lives. 
That's the perspective I want to focus on. 
All the other stuff is going to be pushed to the side for now.

With all this being said, I completely understand why people leave teaching.
I know people, who are amazing teachers, who have left. 
Not because they stopped listening to the voice inside of them. 
But because they gained another voice. One telling them there's a better way for them to touch lives.
And I believe each one of them will.

That's the thing about teachers. 
We're doing what we're doing because it's ingrained in us. 
The outlet most of us choose to use is a school.
Until that one doesn't work for us anymore. 
Then we find another outlet for all our good life-changing lessons and hot-glue craft projects. 

One day, the rest of society will hopefully realize that. 
I just hope the schools aren't empty of all the great teachers by then.

For all the teachers getting ready to start school,
and the ones that have already gone back (ack)
don't let others drown out the voice.
Keep touching lives.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Things That (do and don't) Burn My Biscuit

Things that do burn my biscuit....

- Working during the day. Especially when it's sunny and 85. The. Worst.

- People who publicly start countdowns wayyyy too early. "385 days until I say I do." Hello? 385 days is still a long ass time. Public countdowns should not begin until we're in at least in double digits.

- The fact that so many people are already back at school setting up their classrooms. For one, it's too soon. Summer is still in full force...get out and enjoy it. For two, you're making the rest of us look like super slackers.

- When other people aren't on time.

- Crickets that chirp incessantly outside my bedroom window.

- The fact that I haven't been running in over a week and the fact that that bothers me.

- People who jump on bandwagons just for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon.


Things that do not burn my biscuit (and instead make me happy, happy, happy)...

- Dinners and drinks with teacher friends. Le duh.

- The Leadership Training I went to last week. So much good information. So many fun people. So much motivation for the year to come (that I'm bottling up and saving until August because summer is still in full force; see above.)

- Redbox movie nights at home with my family.

- Finally having making time for crafting.

- Robbie. Over and over again.

- Coming home to freshly mowed grass (thanks Carter).

- When blog friends write real books and get them published for the whole world to buy and read and love!

- Holding brand new babies.

- Listening to Pandora All. The. Time.

- Photobooths (only because these pictures are too funny not to share.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dear Robbie

Today marks our three year wedding anniversary. How has is already been three years?

Weren't we just leaving Tryon Palace, calling our parents, telling them that we were engaged?
And here we are - three years, two houses, one unemployment, three jobs, two careers, one back surgery, four cars, and countless kisses later. I couldn't imagine doing life with anyone other than you. I'm not sure I would even know how.

I am so blessed to have you as my husband and as my best friend. I have fallen in love with you harder than I ever thought I could.

Words can't express how proud I am of all you've accomplished, particularly in this past year. I know it's been crazy and nothing like we were expecting, but it has been perfect in every way. I wouldn't change one thing about these past three years even if I could.

I am so thankful for the way you love me, take care of me, make me laugh, and keep me safe. I am reassured everyday that God handpicked you for me and I could not be luckier to have you in my life.

Thanks for sitting through countless hours of Netflix marathons with me, for not laughing too hard at the ridiculous History questions I ask you, for being the best laundry folder in all the land, for making sure all our bills get paid on time because you know I have a mental block against numbers and deadlines, and really just for being you.

I can't wait to spend the next three times 30 years with you!

Love, M

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

You'll Never Guess What I Did.

Meet Juan.
The friendliest fish I've ever met.
Besides my college pet fish Bartholemew (RIP). 

Swimming with dolphins is something we've always wanted to do but every other time we've had the chance it's been ridiculously expensive. We never really thought it would be worth it.
In Cancun, it was included in our room credits, if we wanted to do it. So, obviously, we all signed up.
Robbie couldn't go because of his back surgery, which was the only bad part. 

I was terrified.
I have an irrational fear of sharks.
And therefore, am not a huge fan of the ocean.
I love love love the beach, but I'm fine laying in the sand or just wading in the water.
I have no interest in swimming out deep with all the critters.
The first time I went snorkeling in high school, I chewed a hole right through my mouthpiece because I was grinding my teeth so hard.
So swimming right beside, touching, and kissing an actual dolphin was quite possibly the most nerve-racking thing ever.

But it was also so cool.

Our instructor taught us a lot about dolphins.
He actually reminded me of one of my students last year who was fascinated with all things "ocean animals" and would spit out these random facts about them to me any time I'd listen.
Like did you know, dolphins have belly buttons?

Anyway...Juan was great and it was quite the experience.
However, we all learned that a family of mermaids, we are not.

Monday, July 21, 2014


The whole fam damily. 

Y'all. I don't even know where to begin.
There is not an adjective in the book to adequately describe our trip to Mexico.
Wonderful will have to do, but even that doesn't quite do it justice.

A little back story in case you're new around these parts....

My parents separated when I was 15 (whomp whomp) and it was then that my mom decided to start making meaningful memories with our "new" family unit. Not that the memories we had before weren't meaningful, we just needed some new ones. That summer my mom, my brother, and I went on a cruise and just like that we were hooked. White sandy beaches, clear blue water, all you could eat buffets. Sign us up.

Fast forward to my sophomore year of college when my mom got remarried and we gained not only a stepfather but two new step-siblings. Another shift in family dynamic meant another need for "new family" memories.

My mom and stepdad knew that with four busy teenage schedules, coordinating a week alone would be difficult. We took a few week-long trips to the beach, but living only 45 minutes away meant everyone was constantly coming and going or bringing friends for the day or something else that restricted us from completely "unplugging" as a family of six (seven once Robbie officially came along).

Dragging us out of the country seemed to be the only logical option. Plus finding something all-inclusive was a no-brainer in the money department.

Cue the Domincan Republic in 2012. Our first official "Stedunbert" (our mixed family name) vacation. We hadn't been there two days before we already knew we were going to have to plan another, equally amazing all-inclusive family vacation.

Which brings us to today, well a month ago...when we traveled to the Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexcio.

The food was delicious.
The pools were beautiful.
The alcohol was unlimited.
The people were amazing.

Overall, it was another perfect trip.

Disclaimer: My camera stayed in the room during the day because I was a bum and didn't feel like carrying anything around. Sooooo I have zero pictures of the actual resort, pools, beach, etc. I think my stepdad has some on his camera that might make an appearance in the near future.

5AM flight...ready to go!

As soon as we landed, my brother and I got a cold Corona. The only one I drank while there. It was the domestic beer on special, which kind of blew my mind. 

Night one at the lobby bar. 

"Mar" - my nickname!

Night two (I think).

The ladies. This was right before we ate at an Italian place. The food was delicious, but it was a little too fancy for me.

The cutest boys around.

Love my mama.

Brother/sister tequila shots. Judging by my face...this should have been the end of the night. It was not. I half way regretted that the next morning. 

This might have been our last night? It all kind of runs together. 

Our favorite bar by our favorite pool with our favorite bartender, Alberto (not in the picture). 
Live and die by the swing bar.

I really wanted this sombrero ha. We snagged a picture instead. 

KKCO in Mexico. #hottie

A few notes: Robbie and I traveled all-inclusive for our honeymoon for the first time and we are both such huge advocates for it now. It's a lot of money up front and airfare kicks you in the gut every time (woof) but it is worth every penny and more.

The simple fact that you don't have to worry about money at all once you get there is enough peace of mind for me, the girl who subconsciously keeps a running record of everything spent in her head.

We've now been the Hard Rock in Punta Cana, DR and the Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico and both of these offered such a wide variety of everything. There's literally something for everyone. And it's all included. Massages, manicures, pedicures, paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling.

If you're feeling adventurous there are a ton of different "excursions" you can sign up for (two years ago my stepdad and brother swam with sharks)! Or if you're looking for some serious R&R, you can take your pick of pools, park your tush, and enjoy the free drinks coming your way.

And the food. Y'all. The. Food. There are so many different types of food, you're guaranteed to find something you like. My mouth is still watering over the sushi we ate while we were in Cancun.

Obviously the best part of our vacation was the time we got to spend together. We're all so close, it doesn't take a lot for us to have fun together. It's fun to be able to experience new things together. It's also, always nice, to be able to "escape" for a little while.

And what better place to escape to than something this beautiful?

Come back tomorrow because yes, I am actually blogging AND I have one more really cool thing to tell you about Mexico!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Football Wife - Tami Taylor, Watch Out

"54 days till football season."
Those were the first words I heard the other morning from my sweet, sweet husband. 
Good morning to you to my dear.

Wee wittle babes.

Football is a big deal in our house. 
Schedules and budgets revolve around football games.
Once upon a time, I wanted to have a fall wedding. 
But was quickly told that could never happen.

We recently got rid of cable.
Which means we got rid of our ginormous sports package. 
It hasn't been a big deal so far, however fall is quickly approaching 
and I can feel Robbie's anxiety rising at the thought of missing some game on ESPN.

Don't get me wrong...I love it and couldn't imagine our lives any other way.
Our "football family" are some of the best friends we have.
And the Saturdays we spend tailgating are too fun for words.

Plus, there's something totally hot about seeing Robbie so passionate about something.
He literally lights up anytime he talks about a game or a play or a team or something else I don't always understand.
But his passion for it is probably one of my favorite things, and one of the things that makes me love it so much too.
Well that and all the delicious tailgating food.

The obsession is about to take on a whole new meaning as we kick it up a notch in the Dunn household.

Robbie got a job!
And not just a job, the job.
The job we prayed for and wanted for him, without even really knowing we wanted it.

He'll be teaching high school American History at a school about 35 minutes from our house.
And he'll be coaching football.
So many dreams come true.
Because you see, as passionate as Robbie is about football, he's equally passionate about History.
That same light comes on his eyes anytime he talks about it.
After all the struggles that we've been through these past few years, and after all the hard work I've watched Robbie put into this, I am so proud to finally see him doing something that he not only loves, but is called to do.
He is going to be an amazing teacher to those students, both on and off the field and I could not be prouder.

I also don't hate the fact that I am one step closer to fulfilling my dream of becoming Tami Taylor. ;)