Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Big Time Thankful

Hello and happy (almost) Thanksgiving. Brendan and I are teaching tomorrow morning, and then we will head to Austin to be with family for the holiday. I am looking forward to some MUCH needed rest and relaxation (and, of course, I'm also looking forward to the food!).

Before I leave, I wanted to reflect on some of the things I am thankful for this year. Here is my list of gratitudes, in no particular order:

I am thankful for my students. I ended up with some good groups this semester, and I have extended my efforts to really encourage them to come work one on one with me. They have taken me up on the offer this semester, and I have seen a lot more students in my tutoring and office hours. As a result, I've been able to really get to know them as the wonderful individuals they are, and their research papers are evidence of their hard work and personal growth. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to teach to, and to learn from, my students. I love getting to know a new group every semester and helping them grow as writers and thinkers. I often catch myself thinking "I can't believe this is my job." The classroom, for me, is a joyous place to be. I am thankful to be able to create a nurturing and positive environment for my students to learn in. We have computers in our classroom, a printer, and a Smartboard, and I am thankful for these resources that allow me to make learning hands-on, engaging, and fun for them.

I am thankful for all the things that keep me healthy: my weekly yoga classes, my free access to the college gym, my healthcare, and my dental care. I am grateful to have these resources and to be healthy. In the last few years, I have learned that my body is so much stronger than I give it credit for. I truly can do almost anything that I set my mind to.

I am thankful that we have a nice place to live and that we have transportation. These things are easy to take for granted, but our lives would be very hard without them. I'm also grateful for all the necessities: food, electricity, running water...so many people live without these things. I'm thankful for my ability to give back to my community and to communities outside my own. Lending a helping hand is always a worthwhile endeavor. As the Muppet Christmas Carol movie says "Live in peace and love."

I am thankful for our ability to travel, and, specifically, I am thankful we could take the trip to Europe this past summer. I learned so much about history and about myself on that amazing adventure. Visiting champagne caves, salt mines, museums, palaces, and castles, taking a hike through the Black Forest, driving through the Bavarian Alps...the whole trip was beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of. I am grateful to have those memories.

I am thankful for my family. Brendan is the best husband I could have ever asked for, and I love and cherish cozy nights with him, Lola, and Zoe by my side. Our relationship is supportive, loving, and equal, and I feel so glad to have him as a partner. I'm thankful for our parents and siblings. They are always there for us and make life exciting. I'm thankful for our grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We are truly lucky to have so many caring individuals in our lives. We are grateful for friends: old and new, near and far, friends add meaning to our lives.

I am thankful to be alive. Each day is a gift, so you have to get up and live it.

What are you thankful for? We hope it's a lot!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lola & Zoe's Holiday Boutique Sale with Chloe + Isabel!

If you are anything like me, you're already into holiday shopping. Also if you're anything like me, you're using said shopping as an excuse to buy a few things for yourself too.

My friend from graduate school, Angelina, teaches just like me, but now she has a part time business selling jewelry with Chloe + Isabel too. She asked me if Lola and Zoe wanted to host an online party where all our readers and friends would get four days of Chloe + Isabel discounts, and of course, they said "meow," which means "yes."

A little about the brand: It's a mix of the trendy (Chloe) and the traditional (Isabel). All pieces are hypoallergenic and come with a lifetime warranty.

About the deals (Good November 20-24 at  www.bit.ly/lolaandzoesshop:
Free studs for the first 3 orders placed (your choice):

Free shipping, all orders, use this link
Free shipping and free studs, orders of $125 or more
Free shipping, free studs, and $50 off orders of $200 or more
Each time you spend $20, you will be entered into a raffle to win $25 off of a $75 purchase

Also, this gift set of Lola and Zoe's favorite things is $158 and comes with free studs (and free shipping of course).

One thing I really like about Chloe + Isabel is that they have a lot of options under $25, which is perfect if you are exchanging gifts with a lot of girlfriends this holiday season. In that section, I'm really eying the aquamarine and teal studs, the braided double leather wrap bracelet in navy, and the art deco hair pin duo. What do you have your eye on? If you're on my X-mas list, you just might end up with it under the tree ;) but you gotta tell me! I can't read minds!

Shop for you and yours until November 24th at the link www.bit.ly/lolaandzoesshop

Merry wish fulfilling!


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Building a House Month 7.5: Would You Like Walls With That?

When we last left off on October 27th, the house had plumbing and electric in place, a failed fire inspection had caused things to slow down a little, and the insulation would waiting in the garage.

I returned to the house on November 5th in between trips to Orlando and Boston. I walked through with the builder and his assistant; they had questions about where we wanted the cable hookups in all the rooms. Though we will have hookups in the living room and all three bedrooms, I know the living room is the only room that will likely have a TV in it as long as we live there, and I don't think we'll ever pay for cable. The builders also delivered the good news that our HVAC, electric, and plumbing inspections had all passed: we were ready for drywall.

November 5th 

Our house had its very first leak. A plumber had to be called in to fix it. 
2nd bathroom 


Master bath
The builder also told me they were planning to start on drywall that week and finish the next week. He told me once drywall goes in, we can expect 75 days until closing. In my mind, I calculated a late January closing: perfect. However, when I ran that by the builder, he said more like late February because they would "lose a lot of time for Christmas." Even with losing a week for Christmas, 75 days should still put us at the beginning of February. I don't know if he was just being conservative in his estimate, or if construction workers take off a month at Christmas, but I told him March 1st was the latest we could close on the house (our lease at the apartment ends 3/5/14), and he seemed to think that was doable. I was a bit disappointed in the news because I don't want to wait, but I was also relieved to hear we might not be wasting as much rent money on the apartment as I had suspected (we cannot break the lease without more financial penalty than just paying the lease off). The builder also told me he would be living across the street from us in a house that was closing next week. I wonder if he realizes that I will now be at his door anytime something goes wrong?

Brendan and I visited the house together on November 10th and saw the first stages of insulation and drywall going in: 
November 10th 

Skylight with insulation 

Master bedroom with insulation 

Hallway view 

Hallway with drywall

Kitchen area with drywall

garage with drywall

Laundry with drywall

Breaker box 

We returned again yesterday on November 15th, and we were able to meet our neighbors on the right side (The Johnsons). They seem like a nice couple. They have two young boys and a dog. I said a silent prayer that the dog isn't the yappy type. They told us that they were supposed to close in August but ended up closing in October. We knew the building process would probably be slower than expected, which is why we signed the apartment lease through early March, though we were told to expect an early January completion. 

November 15th 
Inside, the drywall is about 90% complete. 

View from entry 

Master bedroom 
And the big development: we have cabinets! Of course, they haven't been stained yet.

Cabinets and kitchen island unstained
Master bathroom:
Master bath cabinets unstained
The second bathroom is the one place still needing drywall.
Second bathroom cabinet 

Living room 

Bedroom 2

Bedroom 3

Garage with attic 

Yesterday, our lender CCed us into an email to the building office asking what our expected closing date would be, and the building office wrote back and said "looking at the end of December." What? I wrote back relaying the conversation with the builder the week before, in which he said the end of February. The office emailed the builder asking him to confirm the closing date, but he hasn't responded yet. End of December would be way too early for us. We won't be in town for a good half of the month! 

So, in summary, in less than three weeks, our house got insulation, drywall, and cabinets, and we will close on it sometime between the end of December and the end of February. According to my research, up next is primer paint, brick, interior doors/baseboards/decorative trim, and paint. 

Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I did it! 4th 5K day!

I felt insane when I realized I had scheduled a 5K (Face the Race) for the first weekend in three weekends that I would be in town. As I mentioned, Midland had a recent cold front, and my training plans went out the window with my trip to Florida 2 and 1/2 weeks ago, so these factors made me unenthusiastic, but there was one motivation stronger than all the deterrents: we had already paid for the race!

With my mind made up that I wasn't skipping, I set my Saturday alarm for 7:00am. Lola had other ideas and woke me up at 6:00am. It was 36 degrees. I ate an English muffin with peanut butter, hydrated, and made sure my iPod was charged. I dressed in running shorts, multiple layers on top, a band to cover my ears, gloves, and sunglasses. It all seemed like a good choice...my legs were numb the first mile or so, but they warmed up as Brendan promised. Brendan decided to run with me, which was cool. He wanted to pace me and help me beat my previous best time. I kept pace really well on my own (despite having to pass around lots of walking traffic) and listened to my Ipod but had a really tough last 0.5 mile. Brendan didn't let me walk though and kept reminding me how close we were. So much of running is mental. I know things were feeling worse than they really were, but I really wanted to slow down, and I was arguing with him (I'm so stubborn!). The cold wind in my face when we made the second to final turn was not helping, and there were no mile markers, so it was hard to tell just how far the finish was. The bottom of my foot had a blister, which didn't help matters either. But Brendan had the watch and assured me I could beat the time if I just pulled ahead, so I gave it my all at the end.

I ended up beating my personal record by 10 seconds, which was awesome. I was in better shape in March 2013 too, so it feels like a big accomplishment to beat that time. I came in at 35 minutes, 28 seconds with an 11 minute 25 second pace. I placed 7 out of 14 in my age group. Afterwards, I was very tired and very ready for breakfast. Brendan said he was proud. 

We had a good time, and the race benefits self esteem programs for local junior high girls. Many of the girls ran in tutus and glitter today. It was pretty cute! This is cute too: 

I love my husband :) 
We met a co-worker for after race breakfast, and then we checked on our house (update coming tomorrow). I'm feeling a day on the couch for the rest of the day (I am already sore). I have no plans other than movies and magazines. Happy Saturday! 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

16 Things I've Learned From Mimi

A week ago tomorrow, my grandmother turned 97.

I was in Boston for a wedding and unable to attend her party, but she was certainly in my thoughts all weekend, as she is most everyday. My Mimi and I have always shared a strong connection. In honor of her birthday, I'm reflecting on 16 things (9+7) that I've learned from Mimi. In no particular order, here they are:

1.) Reading is the best way to escape to somewhere different and keep your mind active. Don't keep reading a book if you don't like it, life is too short, and there's no point in that. Find books that you love and read them as fast as you can. Develop a lifelong love for reading, and your mind will stay sharp.

2.) Smoothies are the best kind of breakfast. Blend up fruit and juice, and it's ready to eat.

3.) Always send a thoughtfully written thank you note. Late is better than never.

4.) "Hiring movers now is cheaper than paying for back surgery later." Well said, Mimi, well said.

5.) You don't have to make promises that you will be anywhere. It's okay to say no or say that you are not sure.

6.) You can disagree with someone's choices and love them at the same time.

7.) Life is too short for regrets. Stop focusing on what could have been and accept what is with as much grace as possible.

8.) If you are not a good fit with someone's family, save yourself time and end the relationship. When you marry a person, you marry that person's family. Unless being close to family isn't important to you, this will be a big source of conflict.

9.) Never read your partner's mail or email or pry into that person's personal business in any way. You have to trust the other person fully to have a happy relationship.

10.) Heartbreaking, difficult, and hard things will happen to us all. This is a part of life. When bad things happen, you have to continue living. A tragedy shouldn't define the rest of your life.

11.) Don't be a person that talks constantly. This is exhausting to other people. Stop and listen.

12.) Buy things at places where you can get the best deal, even if this means making trips to multiple stores.

13.) Save your money. You never know what is going to happen to you. Being self sufficient and financially secure are more important than anything material that you could buy.

14.) Find a lot of people to love. Whether you have a family or develop rich friendships, being invested in other people will add quality and quantity to your life.

15.) Keep busy. Schedule weekly bridge games when possible.

16.) Never say no to playing a game of Scrabble.

Photo taken by my cousin, Amanda Figueroa. 
Happy belated birthday, Mimi. Thank you for all you continue to teach me. I hope I get to be 97 and just like you one day!

In other news: we got Brendan's car back from the shop today. Three cheers for having two cars again! It has also turned very cold in Midland (currently 31 degrees). I am not ready for it to be this cold, but I have no choice, so I took my boots in to be repaired, and I took my work pants to the dry cleaners. Winter is coming. Stay tuned for a 5K recap (spoiler alert: I don't think we'll be breaking any records) and a house update this weekend. Happy almost Friday!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Katie and Anthony's Wedding Weekend

Happy Monday...

If you don't think those two words go together, then just make the executive decision that they do. I'm having a good day because I decided to approach the day with positivity and energy, even though I am, admittedly, feeling a bit drained.

Brendan and I have had an incredibly busy week since my previous post last Monday. We worked the first half of the week (Monday through Wednesday), and I even fit in a quick look at the house on Wednesday (update post coming soon). After his night class on Wednesday, Brendan's car was giving him some trouble, but we didn't have time to do anything about it because we had to pack for our trip to Boston. We set the alarm for 4:30am on Thursday morning, and we caught a 6:00am flight out of Midland. We were headed to Boston to celebrate the marriage of Brendan's cousin, Katie, to Anthony, and we were both excited to be a part of the day.

We arrived to Boston in the afternoon, and we were lucky that the groom had some time to pick us up from the airport and give us a ride to our hotel. We checked in and met up with Brendan's parents and sister Annie later that night for our version of Thanksgiving. Brendan's parents treated us to an AMAZING meal at a really exceptional Italian restaurant called Davios. I highly recommend it if you are ever in the area. What followed? Bowling of course, with all the Egans that were in town.

On Friday, we got to spend time with family, and Brendan's mom treated Annie and I to manicures, pedicures, and eyebrow waxes at a fancy salon called MiniLuxe. Then, Brendan, Annie, and I rehearsed for the wedding and enjoyed a most delicious rehearsal dinner hosted by the groom, Anthony's family. My gosh was the pizza and pasta good. It's a wonder any of us could fit into our wedding outfits! The bride made us the sweetest gifts: personalized make up bags (filled with lip balm, nail file, earrings, and bracelets), personalized stationary (each bridesmaid's stationary looked different to match her personality), sour patch kids, and the sweetest card. Brendan got journals, a bag of miniature cats (don't ask), and cards shaped like business cards that simply read "Stop talking." I think he should pass them out when students talk in class.

Saturday, the girls met early for hair and make up at the BeStyled Salon.
Becky (bridesmaid/cousin by marriage), Carol (mother of the bride), and Katie (bride)
Annie (cousin of the bride/bridesmaid), Me (bridesmaid/cousin by marriage), and Katie (bride)

After hair and make up, there was lunch, a few set up things, getting ready and lots of photos. Check out these amazing paper bouquets the bride made. I love that it will last forever.

And each one was personalized:

I don't have photos of the ceremony because, well, I was in it! But I can say it was beautiful: Brendan wrote and read a poem for the occasion, and friends of the bride wrote and performed a song. The vows were written by bride and groom and were funny and sweet. I definitely was teary eyed. Afterwards, I was ready to party. There were buses between ceremony, reception, and hotel, so none of us had to worry about transportation all night, which is awesome.

At the cocktail hour, there was an amazing board that just had tons of different cheeses, chutneys, and toast on it. It was heaven. Sorry the photos are a little dark!

The space for the reception was decorated beautifully:

Katie added so many little touches. The favors were spices that were personalized with our names and also served as escort cards. The food was served family style and was very tasty. The band kept us all dancing and even let the wedding party join them onstage for the final song (Journey--Don't Stop Believing).

It was a magical night to remember, and I was very honored to be a part of it. Being a bridesmaid was definitely another "official Egan" moment for me, and I loved it. After the after-party Saturday night (you didn't think we'd go to bed before 1:00am, did you?) we were very tired on Sunday morning and very glad that a delicious breakfast was included in our stay. We were also glad that we sprung for more expensive 2:00pm flights instead of early ones.

We had to take three flights to get home yesterday (Boston to NYC, NYC to Dallas, and Dallas to Midland). We made it back to the apartment around 11:30pm last night, slept, and woke up bright and early to teach at 8:00am this morning. Complications: we were completely out of water, so had to leave early and stop at 7-11 for coffee (and they only had decaf!) AND we are sharing a car until the shop can get Brendan's back to us (fingers crossed for the repairs being easy, inexpensive, and relatively fast). All in all, I'm just so thankful our travels were not delayed or complicated.

There was also a big celebration in my family this week: On Friday, my grandmother turned 97, and my family threw her a party on Saturday. I decided I want to do a separate post on my mimi later, so here is a pic of her cake in the meantime.

Tonight, I am off to yoga and Brendan is teaching until 10:00pm. I have big dreams of cooking us a healthy and delicious dinner (even though Brendan will have to eat his late). Brendan and I are also signed up to run a 5K Saturday morning (sigh). I have no idea what I was thinking when I scheduled this, but by golly, I'm gonna make it happen.

By the way--If you are interested in paper flowers, personalized stationary, or personalized wedding invitations/menus/escort cards/thank you notes, etc., Check out  Katie's website. She does custom jobs that turn out extraordinary.

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