Hey, Jude.

I’m not Catholic, but if I was, I would’ve chosen Jude at Confirmation, patron saint of hopeless or desperate causes.

I have been adopting causes my whole life. Pets, people, issues…I become emotionally attached to the cries of the hurt, hungry & lost. When I was a toddler, I heard a tabby cat crying outside in the rain. I demanded mom let the cat in & I proceeded to name her Charlie.

My first friend, ever, was Grace. She was 82-years-old. My parents and I lived in an apartment, and one night they heard a crying sound. It was Grace. She had fallen in her bathtub, and since she lived alone, she could not get to a phone or to help. Had my parents not heard her, followed the cries & broken in to find her, she may have died from dehydration. But she recovered, and we became best friends. I walked next door every day to say hello.

And so began a slew of similar events and encounters in my life. Cory likes to joke that if it’s homeless, gay, a minority, elderly, at risk, unpopular, unsupported or underserved, I am all over it. Like, protesting-on-the-courthouse-steps, letter-to-the-editor-writing, bra-burning, picket-sign-holding, sit-in-organizing all over it.

So when I brought home a middle-aged Basset Hound from the local animal shelter, Cory was not surprised. After all, my knee-jerk rescue missions are how we got Mack. Cory likes to roll his eyes and pretend he doesn’t love my love of hopeless causes, but he does. Cory likes to act tough & mighty, but he’s as soft as I am. He cries during The Voice auditions & won’t watch the Wizard of Oz because it “scares him”.

I rest my case.

On the first night with us, Cory put on an almost convincing act that he was determined to take Teddy back after my Saturday morning ESL class. But, as fate would have it, impound was full. Teddy had to stay home with us, at least for a little while. Before I knew it, Teddy & Cory were snuggled up together in the recliner & Cory was giggling as Teddy licked his nose. They found love in a hopeless place.

So Teddy is ours for good. At some point in the future, I should probably come to terms with why I always do this rescue mission thing. I like to think it’s because I’m just a really, high quality kind of person. Or maybe I just enjoy investing in good karma. But, I think it’s all probably a manifestation of  deep internal guilt: I have a wonderful, happy life which has been completely void of tragedy or trauma. It’s the mom, dad, two kids and a dog in a little house with a picket fence kind of life. I don’t understand why it’s my life, and not others, or what I did to deserve it. I also have anxiety about when it will come to an end – it has to come to an end, right? – and what things will look like when the other shoe drops.

Sounds super unhealthy & messed up, right? I’ll work on that.

Jude, in a letter, told us “You must show mercy…Rescue others…Show mercy still to others…God is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence…”

Thanks, Jude.

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25 in 5

Every Sunday morning, I wake up around 11 a.m. & thank God I don’t have kids.

Yet, anyway.

Cory & I love livin’ our DINK (double income, no kids) life. We go where we want, when we want, take naps, drink wine, order pizza, watch TV unsuitable for children & spend our money almost completely on ourselves. It’s pretty self-serving. But it’s also pretty awesome, and I would argue, a necessary season of life.

Driving home to Texas late one night, we started up a common conversation: Will we ever have kids? Cory argues yes: one day we will wake up & feel a burning desire to have a child. I argue the opposite: we will never wake up at 11 a.m. on a Sunday & NOT be thrilled to be well-rested & completely free of obligations. Besides, let’s say Cory is right…What if by the time that burning desire happens, the eggs factory is winding down for good. Then what.

So in lieu of continuing this merry-go-round & around discussion, we decided to make a list of all the things we want to do before we have a child. With any list, you need a deadline for accomplishment. We decided to call the list “25 in 5”, as in: the 25 things we will do before we really, seriously, are-we-going-to-do-this consider having children (so, let’s say, five years from this day).

Stipulations of the list: both of us have to participate or engage in each activity, even if it wasn’t at an individuals own suggestion. i.e. shark diving. Personally, I think this is a terrible f%cking idea. One day Cory told me, upon his death, that he wanted me to throw him in the sea to be with the sharks. I say, “Oh, like have you cremated & throw your ashes into the ocean?” He says,” No, just throw my carcass out there & let the sharks eat it. You can get Shark Week to film the whole thing!”

Whatever, freak.

So, here it is. Our 25 in 5 bucket list:

    1. Ride a Greyhound bus
    2. Visit both coasts
    3. Shark dive
    4. Christmas in New York City
    5. Visit Yosemite
    6. Volunteer together
    7. Take a boxing class
    8. Take a pottery class (a la Ghost, anyone?)ghost
    9. Salsa dance
    10. Participate in an open mic night
    11. Skydive
    12. Do real camping
    13. Attend the Olympics
    14. Smithsonian in DC
    15. Go on an organized ‘Squatch huntorigin_2186704726 copy
    16. Go on a safari
    17. Assist in carrying out someone’s final wish
    18. Buy something at an auction
    19. Own a classic car
    20. Do a police ride-a-long
    21. Jess cuts Cory’s hair
    22. Attend a broadway show
    23. Join an adult softball league
    24. Help build a Habitat for Humanity house
    25. Be an extra in a movie

photo credit: TheeErin via photopin cc

The Vendor Machine

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I get a ton of questions about who did what for my wedding and for how much. In today’s post, I’m going to give you the lowdown on vendors I used for my southern Oklahoma wedding. People value the almighty dollar in different ways, and I may have divvied up the budget differently than you see logical or worthwhile. But, this is just a representation of my priorities for my wedding day. Yours may be different, and in that case, power to ya. But for all my photography snobs & fresh flower fanatics, this one is for you.

Category One//Photography

Every time I log onto FB and see some really cheap wedding photography edited in picstitch & then put out for the world to see, I want to claw my eyes out. Bad photography is my equivalent to Mama June’s cammo wedding dress. It’s a definite don’t.

At the end of your wedding day (if it’s anything like mine): glassware will have broken, your dress will be ripped from people stepping on it, the bouquet has wilted, the band will pack up & leave & most people will be too drunk to remember what you served them for dinner, let alone how it tasted. The memories, captured in photos, will be all you have.

I used Kayla Hoffsommer with Kayla Marie Photography. I paid a little under 3k, and got the following in return:

  • Travel to my home for full engagement shoot
  • 100 edited engagement images
  • Travel to my home for the rehearsal dinner
  • full rehearsal dinner coverage with two photogs
  • A wedding day itinerary, planned by Kayla. She made the day go seamlessly all thanks to her advanced planning and scheduling.
  • Two photographers to cover the entire wedding day, sun up to sun down & beyond. I’m talking getting ready, family pics, first look, reception and late night dancing.
  • All the images from the day, edited, in high resolution jpg images on a CD. I have thousands of pictures.

At Kayla’s suggestion, we did a first look, wedding party and family pictures before the ceremony. Post ceremony, we probably spent 10-15 taking traditional extended family photos. It was completely stress free and flowed perfectly. I couldn’t have been happier or more comfortable.

If that price point freaks you out, here is another thing that makes Kayla great to work with: she is 100% flexible on payments. If you want to book her a year in advance, pay $25 dollars one month & $300 the next, she’s completely cool with it as long as you have paid in full come wedding time. If fantastic photography is your dream, no one can make it happen like Kayla can.

(PS – The first time we met Kayla for our engagement shoot, she peed in some bushes down by the river. That really sold Cory that THIS was our kind of photographer)

Category 2//Band

I have been to some really lame and painfully awkward wedding receptions. And the only solution….is more cowbell. Just kidding (sort of).

Really, what you need is a live band. After the cake cutting and first dances, the band started up. And which band did I choose, you ask? Strongwood (not to be confused with morning wood). They play all over SE OK. My uncle Kevin, or “Rock ‘N’ Roll Kevin” as I’ve always called him, is the bassist. At this particular gig, he wore a shirt that depicted the phrase “I don’t give a rats ass” which he traded in later in the reception for a Macklemore-eque, knee length faux furr coat. Rock on.

0G8A7476 Having a band kept the mood light, and it really felt like a party. Everyone moved out of their seats and onto the makeshift plywood dance floor for a good time. It was far superior to sitting in a church dining hall, making awkward conversation with Granny Mae just to fill the silence. Get what I’m sayin’? Party people, a live band is a must. Go here to book Strongwood!

Category Three//Flowers

People, I know weddings are rough to budget for. I get it, I do. But for the love of love, DO NOT use fake flowers. Calling them “silk” flowers does not make them any less fake, either. I always heard that fresh flowers were so expensive, and I know that in and of itself can be intimidating enough to opt out of them altogether. I was quoted 10k by one vendor. Hell to the no.  But I’m about to let you in on a little secret, and once I do, can we all collectively agree to NEVER use fake flowers again unless we are decorating a cemetary? Okay, deal.

I was a bridesmaid in July of 2012 and got to know Bokchito Flowers & Gifts. When Morgan (the bride) explained to me her vision for her flowers, I was anxious to see how they’d come together. Morgan had some big ideas & a unique vision. But when the shop showed up with the arrangements, I was blown away by how eclectic and yet cohesive they were. All the colors Morgan envisioned, with texture and fullness to each arrangement: it was all there. I was sold.

Bokchito Flowers did all my wedding arrangements for a few hundred dollars. I’m talking altar arrangements, bridesmaid bouquets, corsages, table decorations and roses for all the special women in our lives (grandmothers, mothers, my Mimi aka Rock ‘N’ Roll Kev’s lady). I remember first laying eyes on the flowers for the big day as I walked out to the woods for our first look. I was, again, blown away at my vision-come-to-life.

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The florist, Tammy, doesn’t shit around. And that’s something I appreciate. I came to her with ideas of peonies, garden roses and baby’s breath. Of course, I’m not a florist: simply an avid Pinterest user. But Tammy knows her stuff, and she helped me see the light. She said garden roses and peonies would break my budget, and baby’s breath was nice to look at but smelled like ass. Who wants to smell like ass on their wedding day? So we decided on light pink roses (which he let mature & open up to give me that garden-rose look I wanted), antique hydrangeas, larkspur (totally her idea, LOVED it), a little baby’s breath, wax flower (for fantastic texture) and for the bridesmaids bouquet’s only, white tiger lilies. Gorg.

If you are in SE/Central OK, you MUST use her. She is wonderful to work with, affordable & so very talented. Check her out here! 

Category Four//Hair

Fidela at Effectos Hair Salon is the only way to go. She showed up at my house on the wedding day, SICKER THAN A DOG, and proceeded to do seven women’s hair. Like Tammy knows flowers, Fidela knows hair. I wasn’t so sure about it when it was first done…It seemed too hard, structured. But that’s why I’m not a hairstylist, because come wedding time it had relaxed to a perfect messy perfection. She also knew just what to do with my french net veil.

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Wondering why the hell I wore those awful mismatched prints to get ready in? Yeah, I don’t know either.

Other wedding day vendors:

Dress, sash, jewelry & veil // JJ Kelly Bridal Salon in Edmond, OK

Make Up // by Laura Neal, Mary Kay Consultant

Tent, tables, chairs, groom & groomsmen attire  // A1 Rentals in Sherman, TX (affordable & great service!)

Cake // The Classic Cake Company in Ada, OK

Altar Construction // McW Construction based in Coleman, OK

Food // “Uncle” Benny Lewis, catered by Sodexo & Murray State College

Bagpipes // Bennie Hill from Norman, OK ($300 for the most beautifully badass entrance in Johnston Co. wedding history? Done & Done.)

My biggest advice for throwing a meaningful, beautiful & affordable wedding: call on your tribe. So many wonderful resources are just a phone call away. Every detail of my wedding was made possible by a family member or friend, or small businesses within my own community.

Also, give the vendors some creative license. You are hiring them for a reason, so sit back, relax a little & watch them make magic. 

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photo credit: hiromy via photopin cc

Lucky Rose+Love

Y’all. I’ve almost been married a year.

And it’s been fantastic. I’ll be celebrating on the blog from now until the big day (October 13!) with wedding & marriage-related posts. Some topics will include money, shitty marriage advice you probably shouldn’t take from strangers, save vs. splurge decoration and vendor ideas & last, but not least, “12 Months, 12 Answers,” a post where Cory & I will honestly answer some of the crazy-honest questions about what the first year is like. You can submit your questions in the comments!

But today, I want to talk about the Lucky Rose. This boutique in Tishomingo, Oklahoma is my absolute favorite. People travel from all over the country to visit Miranda Lambert’s store, the Pink Pistol, but the Lucky Rose is the real gem in my hometown as well.  And I like nothing better than a couple business women kicking ass. Lisa Rose, the LR owner, has managed to stock her store with things for every age & taste. The Lucky Rose is also the go-to place for spa services. (Again…the vagina blog, anyone?)

Lisa was kind enough to let me use some furniture from the store to keep that antique-chic look for the wedding.

0G8A67590G8A6751IMG_2873Check the Lucky Rose out online at their Facebook page. They just moved their store from the east end of mainstreet to the heart of it: right across from the Pink Pistol. The tall ceilings, stained concrete, mason jar lights & exposed brick take country chic to a new level. The renovated architecture inspired my graphic design for the big online announcement of the opening.LR_banner2

now_openFINALSo if you plan to travel to the Pink Pistol, be sure to check out the Lucky Rose, too. You’re sure to find something for your closet, home or even wedding.

I’ll be back later this week to talk about other fantastic wedding vendors in SE Oklahoma (that won’t break the bank).

-J.

J Teaches ESL

esl

I never thought, seriously, about teaching.

When you come from a town of 3,000 in southern Oklahoma teaching is a pretty common career choice. You get to go to school, get a degree, come back home, become a teacher, marry a coach, have some babies & live happily ever after. Women feel comfortable pursing this career to the full extent because it’s one that lends itself to raising a family and being involved in your children’s lives while also working. For a lot of people, teaching is not only a passionate career choice: it’s a practical one.

Briefly, before graduating college, I debated Teach for America. I was drawn to the idea of working in the trenches to bridge the achievement gap in schools. I spent some time volunteering in local elementaries, reading to children. I was shocked that, in one classroom, children who could read seamlessly and children who could not sound out a single word sat side by side. It disturbed me to the point I debated applying to TFA.

I decided to pursue a career in public relations instead.

Fast-forward a few months. I am in a job I enjoy, and assisting the local library in planning a roadmap for their communications and promotions goals. They mention their English Second Language program and Adult Literacy program.

“We always need volunteers,” said the librarian. “We start the ESL program Saturday, and we will have hundreds of students and only a handful of teachers.”

Boom, I’m in. This program is free to anyone who wants to speak English, whether they are beginning, intermediate or advanced speakers. Hundreds of people showed up to take the placement test, but not everyone will get in the program due to limited resources. This fill-in-the-blank test asks simple questions in English. Possible scores range from 1-20 (the highest score). The six students I was paired with made scores ranging from 2-4.

We meet every Saturday at a local center. It’s barely big enough for the 12 or more groups of students and their teachers. People have to park down the street & walk to the building because the parking lot is full.

We all begin classes by singing together. We sing simple songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” and “If You’re Happy & You Know It”. It’s pretty comical to watch a roomful of adults singing nursery rhymes with gusto. But, no matter how old or young a student is, we all like to learn the same: by doing and experiencing firsthand.

I then meet with my six students. They are all Spanish-speaking. One woman is fairly proficient in English (more than she gives herself credit for) while others cannot string a sentence together. Regardless, they are all extremely willing to learn. They want to hear words and write them. Some get frustrated when unable to correctly pronounce their “w” or “th” sounds. They correct each other, more often than I correct them. It’s hilarious when they do….Like the “queen my dishes, please” AT&T commercial. Maybe, one day, I’ll be able to explain to them this joke.

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One student is my age & could probably star in every female’s south-of-the-border fantasy. Ladies, he is muy bueno. But, he gets frustrated when he has pronunciation trouble & becomes discouraged, reduced to speaking sentences only softly to himself. When practicing saying “I like to…” phrases as a group, he said “I like to fight.” After some work I discovered what he means is he likes to watch UFC.

My students occupations include plumbing, factory work, installing floors, cleaning houses and being a stay-at-home mom. We (read: white people) treat Spanish-speaking immigrants as less than human at times. But they are kind, funny, family-oriented and so, so willing to be more active, integrated American citizens. Which is why when my teaching partner got irritated with the class & popped off a snarky comment, I debated laying her out right then & there in front of everyone. UFC style. Since my group already knows the term “fight” in English, I’m sure I could instruct them to give the teachers some space because its about to go down.

In crisis communications, they say the most important attribute to have is compassion. My ESL mentor, who has taught in many countries, gave me similar advice for teaching: Love them. Human connection can only happen when compassion & love are shared. Differences & frustrations can be easily overcome when we all dedicate ourselves to each other.

My students promised me they would come back to class next Saturday. I can’t wait.

J.

SO true!

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“…loyal & true…SO TRUE!…”

That’s my favorite part of the Oklahoma State University Alma Mater.

It’s cheeky, it’s impromptu, it’s us. It’s our personality, as students and alumni. Even though we are prone to tearing up with university pride & puddling into a sappy mess on occasion…We also don’t take ourselves too seriously.

But Sports Illustrated did.

When word of “The Dirty Game” series leaked, I was ferociously combing Twitter & texting alumni. I have been to a number of risk & crisis communications trainings & am now in a master’s class – while football doesn’t necessarily blow my skirt up, conflict communications does.

Now that part one has been released by SI, I only have a couple concerns in how the issue is resolved from here.

1.  Ole Pappy Boone needs to do some talking. A statement of support would put the public, and the Cowboy nation, a little more at ease in regards to the allegations of paying players. With all the money T.Boone has pumped into the university – with a focus on the football program – I am sure nothing gets past him. To date, he is responsible for the largest donation in OSU history: nearly $500 million. Over 66% of that went to athletics.

He is surely briefed on the status of every nook & cranny in Stillwater, Okla. And if someone did T. Boone dirty, he would cease to support the university financially. His verdict will be the most damning if it is not in our favor.

2. Sure, this first report is shoddy at best. Quoting bitter players, pointing fingers at the deceased & earning backlash from successful graduates of the program are all characteristics of a (mostly) bogus story. However, it does not mean it’s not true, or peppered with bits of truth, and it does not mean the coming installments of the series are not going to be backed up by more credible sources.

There, those are my concerns. And whatever happens, I am a proud graduate (soon-to-be twice graduate) of Oklahoma State University. I will always love my university & what it gave me: a chance to be better & do better, to get more & to give more, to grow & champion others. Those are honorable things.

I won’t defend any illegal or immoral actions committed by university officials, donors or students. I can only continue to believe & trust in the integrity of the university & those leading it, until proven otherwise. Oklahoma State, like all land grants, was founded with a purpose to take what we learn & use it to empower & serve others. & whatever happens, good or bad, our duty to that mission will remain the same.

Go Pokes!

September Sounds

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Every season deserves a playlist.

Fall is my favorite. It’s a cool, crisp 93 degrees here in Texas, and I’ve composed a playlist to celebrate the season’s arrival.  I find these tunes worthy of any mid-day coffee run or stroll through store racks of new, autumn trends. On it you’ll find the latest indie hit,  the newest UK obsession and some oldies but goodies.

I guess I should mention that I rarely, if ever, listen to country music. Most of today’s country applies to a cute little saying of my favorite local DJ’s: “Yeah, it’s catchy. But so is herpes.”

Best I Ever Had//Gavin DeGraw

Royals//Lorde//The Love Club EP

Safe And Sound//Capital Cities//Safe And Sound

Thinking About You//Calvin Harris//18 Months

Levels//Avicii//Levels

Dancing In The Moonlight//King Harvest//Paul

Let Her Go//Passenger//All The Little Things

Dancing In The Moonlight//Thin Lizzy//Bad Reputation

Northern Wind//City and Colour//Little Hell

Jolene//Ray LaMontagne//Trouble

 

You can find all these & more on our Spotify.

 

 

 

photo credit: Chapendra via photopin cc