Tuesday, December 24, 2013

{Merry Christmas 2013}

I took a little break from blogging. I've tried to sit down to write a couple of posts since July, but every time I did I would find myself distracted, or blocked and uninspired.

Truth is, as always, life has had it's ups and downs, but all in all, life has been mostly contented, and I haven't had anything to rant OR rave about.  I am however sincerely grateful for the last six months, and although things could always be better and I always have room to improve myself, I'm overall happy with where life has been and where we've been going.

Jeff has been driving for Schneider pulling Wal-Mart freight, and has been enjoying the switch from driving over the road and only being home once a month for a couple of days, to being home weekly. He gets along with the people he works with, which helps too. The only things he really dislikes about his job are the occasional routes into challenging delivery areas during inclement weather ( which I still think he secretly enjoys for the challenge), and the inability to be home nightly. More than that, he currently wishes he could be WORKING right now... after he hurt his arm falling out of his truck, he re-injured his shoulder and is currently out on workman's comp while he tries to figure out how to get better. We are lucky though, he is well insured, and has a good company that is supporting us, and right now, while things are tight, we are still in an ok position.

I L.O.V.E. my job. It is not the best paid I've ever been, but it's the most rewarding and gratifying work I've done so far. I have a fabulous set of peers that I work with. Sincerely, I have never felt so supported at work before, and it has taken a lot of getting used to. So has the optimism of getting to go to work each day. I love getting to work with animals, and talk to clients who are like-minded, and the opportunities to learn and do different things each day.

The dogs have been blossoming. Cooper is still my guy, and has continued to hone his patience and talent for impressing on-lookers as he follows directions. Katie has come SUCH a long way since we first got her, and has developed quite a personality. They have bonded together and are quite the sibling pair, and have been fabulous nurse maids and friends to foster dogs that visit the house. These guys continue to provide companionship, entertainment , and enrichment to adventures, and Jeff and I are blessed to have them in our little family unit.

As this year draws to a close, as we celebrate the holidays, we have chosen to keep things simple while building new traditions, honoring the nostalgia of older ones, as look forward to finding new opportunities to continue to grow together through new adventures and simple joys. Who know's what new twists and turns this new year will hold!

From ours to yours, we wish you love and laughter and simple pleasures.

Merry Christmas,

The McLemores

Thursday, July 18, 2013

{I Can't Help It} and Other Good News

I have a problem. I like animals. A lot. A lot, a lot. I grew up having dogs, cats, fish, and any combination therein. I have no less than THREE posts on this blog alone about petting zoos or zoos in general. The answer to the question " What's your favorite animal?" Is impossibly long, and much more list oriented than the questioner often intends. And even in China, we managed to have a pet, even though it wasn't quite practical. I can't help it! Animals are a driving force in my life. They are unconditionally loving, rewarding to take care of, and so.darn.cute.

A few months ago we adopted Cooper, the Blue Heeler/ Boston Terrier wonder dog. He's smart, devoted, and the first "goody-two-shoe" dog I've ever met. I can count the time's he's gotten into trouble on one hand. Seriously, he's the best dog I've ever had. A couple of weeks ago, We ( Tyler) adopted Kate. Kate's a sweet, but still timid 7 month old lab mix that's growing like a weed and coming out of her shell and gaining confidence a little more each day. She's smart, too. Smarter than Cooper, honestly, and is very observant of everything that goes on around her, trying to absorb what she is and isn't allowed to do.

As if that weren't enough fur in our lives, we also decided to foster animals for the Lexington Humane Society, where we got Cooper and Kate. It gives animals a chance to get a break from the kennels, or to get better from an ailment, or to get the extra socialization they need to be an awesome pet for whomever decides to adopt them into their home. We get to choose how often and how many we take in. This past couple of weeks we had a spirited little pit-bull mix puppy that muscled her way into the pack and bullied the other two into cuddles, play time, and every so often, an argument or two. She grew like a weed, was super affectionate, and I really think she's going to make an amazing dog for some family.

All of this canine affection started as a way to relief stress and anxiety while I was trying to plant my feet with my last job, and to an extent it helped. As things drew to a close, and Jeff and I had several long conversations about the future, long term goals, and what-ifs, and he had a revalation. Why don't I start looking for jobs working with animals? I brushed it off and said I wasn't qualified. I had always wanted to be a vet, but a lack of academic ambition and aversion to math/science discouraged me from ever taking that route. But with our experiences with adopting and fostering, I began to realize that there were many different options for jobs working with animals than just being a vet. So, I started looking around, speaking with some connections, and applied. and you know what, it worked! I'm going to be training to start in a vet office as a client services coordinator working with clients and pets on a daily basis, and that really, really excites me. I don't anticipate it to be the perfect job, but it's something I'm confident I'll be able to do well , and apply my passions to, and who knows, it may lead somewhere!

So here's to fluff, dander, and four legged friends. They are comfort, inspiration, and a passion I look forward to pursuing!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

{A Letter to a Remarkable Woman}

I was feeling particularly blue in a strand of blue days and was thinking about life and the people that had influenced it. I decided to search out a my favorite teacher on Facebook. No easy task, since I hadn't seen her since 3rd grade, in another state, while she was still young and unwed. This was a woman who had made a difference in my life growing up and has stuck with me throughout my education. She is one of the few teachers my Mom spoke highly of, and when I, by chance ( and a little skill), found her, I decided to send her a message:

I'm sure you won't remember me, as it's been years and years, but I thought I'd seek you out and let you know how much of an impact you had on me as a teacher. You taught me 3rd grade at Cimmaron Elementary School. I was a tough student, I had problem behaviors, and I struggled every step of the way through school, right up to graduation with my Bachelors. Of all the teachers I've had throughout the years, you've always stuck out to me. You had a compassionate countenance, a way with making a student feel special, and a talent for instilling a love for learning.

My favorite book is -still- Lafcadio, and it still sits on my shelf of my complete Shel Silverstein collection. And while I've grown to love many genres of books I still have an affinity for children's literature, and have always sought opportunities to work with Children to share that same love you instilled in me.

I chose to get a degree in Elementary Education. My choice confused some of my teachers, and when a less supportive teacher confronted me with my choice I explained to her that children deserved to have teachers that had walked a while in their shoes, struggled as they had, and empathized with what they were going through, and yet could still inspire them to do better. I taught in title one schools before deciding that I needed a break from the bureaucracy. I spent last year in China teaching English for Disney, and am currently working as an independent case manager with individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

I want you to know, that you were instrumental in shaping the mindset I have when choosing my work, and my passions. Teachers like you made it possible for me to see myself beyond my behaviors and my problems, and instead focus on potential and the capacity for achieving.
I hope life has lead you to do much good with your talents, and that this finds you happy and content in life.
Thank you for teaching.
Ashley Dickinson McLemore
 It felt great to get to send her something I had been wanting to say for years, and was really moved by what she wrote back.: 
You made my day!! Of course I remember that face. Thank you for adding the picture. I just received news from my boss today that makes me feel like I failed and changes what may lie ahead of me for this next year, my 21st year of teaching. Bureaucracy... to the highest extreme!! I just moved to 4th grade after all those years at 1st-3rd. God had your message perfectly timed and I am so thankful that He blessed me with you.
Just for the record I don't recall seeing you as such a tough student either. I can name several others that took the place of memorable extremes of behavior even in the year that I had you at Cimarron.
Another co-inkydink is that I just placed a call to Cherry Creek today asking if there was a particular position still available. Texas is a different planet compared to Colorado and while there are plenty of wonderful things here, there's no place like home.

I still share Lafcadio with my students. I still have the same copy I read to you on my shelf. It still makes kids think and gives them a reason to laugh. Thanks for sticking to who you are and not trying to be someone else. I ran across a plaque last week that said, "Stick to being yourself because the job of of everyone else has already been filled."

My students are reminded, "Once you are mine, you are always mine... no matter how many years have passed, no matter if old age makes me forget a name, I will always love you and want the best for you."
Thanks for taking the time to find me and share with me. I would love to know more about what else life has brought your way.

Mrs. W (at least that is still somewhat the same:)


Life changes, children grow, plans don't always work out, but the influence we have on others stays and stays. I'm grateful that I was able to let her know that she had that lasting impact on me, and even more so by her uplifting words when I needed them most. 

Do you have someone that could use your praise, encouragement, appreciation, or just a kind word? Don't wait to give that simple gift, let them know that they are valued. We all need it. 


{Thoughts on Progress}

I have been working on overcoming a weakness of mine, in comparing myself to others. Sometimes I look around and see the milestones, the happy pictures, and lives people lead and develop this envy of those who seem to have it together with life. I marginalize my own accomplishments, I downsize my daily triumphs, and I under-appreciate my personal blessings. I'm working on it.

The past couple of months have been tough, in this area. Since at -least- college ( at which time it became an acute problem) but certainly before, I've had anxiety. I worry about things that a rational person would normally worry about. I stress over hypothetical situations. I paralyze myself in accomplishing simple tasks over the fear of failure, ironically spiraling me into that direction anyway, and I overwhelm myself with tasks that seem daunting or challenging and run into wall after wall of frustration. This has done me in and caused great struggle in most of the things I've tried to accomplish in life. over the past couple of years, it's become progressively worse. I used to take medicine, but stopped when I thought I had it managed. I became ambitious at work, and bit off more than I could chew, and after months of crippling anxiety attacks, small failures stacking up on each other, and a couple of tough crisis moments, and I realized I couldn't continue the way that things were going, and started the transition out.

Immediately after making the decision and talking to my boss, it felt like an elephant had stepped off of my chest. I could breath, my heart rate settled, and I felt at ease. This frustrated me. I loved the job. I loved what I did, and I hated that I wasn't successful in this particular endeavor. I felt feel like a failure. If not this, than what? What am I supposed to do with my life? Am I ever going to be good at anything?

This is what started a still continuing contemplation about what I'm meant to do with my life, my past failures, my successes, and what I'm supposed to do with it all. What AM I supposed to do with it all? I know that while I loved teaching, I am not going to be a successful teacher in a traditional setting, but that I have the skill set to effectively teach people, children in particular new knowledge, and that I have an intrinsic need to do so. in the little jobs I've had here and there I've learned that I'm good with talking to people, customer service, putting people at ease while they take high stakes tests, relating to people across cultures, alphabetizing, and many other little tidbits that by themselves look unimportant. In case management, I learned that I have a love for all people, and an advocate's heart and a need to improve the lives of others in whatever work that I do. I'm never going to be the best at paperwork, or organization, or filing. I'm never going to be the best at lesson planning. I'm never going to be the best with politics.

Perhaps all this is going to lead to something better. Perhaps these experiences are just meant to teach me humility, and how to accept failure gracefully. I do know that I'm grateful for a husband and family that are supportive as I explore new options and interests for myself, and have helped me to grow through the struggles, the anxiety, and grief of evolving as a person.

I may not be where I pictured myself being at this moment in my life, but I look around and realize I'm surrounded by people that I love, who are genuine. I have my needs met, I have an enriching life, and I am progressing a little more each day. There always seems to be something on the horizon to look forward to, even now, and I'm excited for things yet to come. It's not easy to be optimistic all the time, but it is worth stepping back, examining life, and adjusting what needs to be adjusted and prioritizing the things that really matter.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

{This & That}

 1. I doubled my case load this past month. Which, really, was is a blessing. After months of stagnation, things are finally getting to a point where I'm making more money than I put out just to travel to see my clients. It's great... but at the same time I feel overwhelmed with the work load that goes into getting that many clients situated at once. The work never ends, and just as you finish one task, there are 12 more waiting in it's place. I find it hard to stand back and feel good about what I've done, because I never really feel like I'm getting anywhere. There were a couple of weeks where I felt like I met my breaking point, and heaven bless the people the kept me sane. I really owe them one.

 2. This weekend followed the climax of those rough couple of weeks. I felt so emotionally and physically spent that it was nice to have a couple of days to recoup and recollect myself. I started off with a mini shopping spree/ self pampering session Friday afternoon. I bought a few things for my office that I have wanted or needed, and did a little something for myself, that gave me a sense of control and artistic expression. I will say, that I'm grateful for a job that is overall embracing of everyone's individuality in nature. Jeff teases me that I'm going through my half life crisis... it's honestly something I've toyed around with for years... and after all, it's just hair. :)

3.After an exceptionally good lunch with my dad while he was in town for meetings, I threw myself into an easy to finish project that I could feel a definite sense of accomplishment. I marched into Lowes, grabbed a fistful of paint chips, and roped Tyler into helping paint my living room. I love my mom, but her sense of style varied significantly from mine, and the room needed an update. I get the motivation in spurts, but slowly the house is coming together, evolving, and feeling more like home. And it worked - I absolutely feel like I accomplished something this weekend, and it felt fabulous.
It was pointed out to me that it looked like he did everything while I took pictures .. but  I painted everything 5'3 down... and he went behind me and got the top part of the walls. So there!

4. Baking always seems to pop up, especially when I'm stressed. There was the huge batch of cookies for Jeff to take with him on the road, and this wonderful recipe posted by a friend that seemed to fit perfectly at the time and made for one awesome desert.
Also pictured - yummy, craving satisfying, probably terrible for you, mac n chees dogs and brats. 

5. While keeping up with the blog, I've neglected traditional journaling. I picked up a couple this month. I have a terrible memory, and if you asked me what I was doing three days ago I couldn't tell you. The first journal is a line a day journal that keeps track of five years. A nice, easy to commit to journal that makes it easy to look back and remember any given day. The second journal is more stream of conscious, and makes it easy to vent during frustrating moments during the day, listograming different subjects to add to or look back on, and anything else that is too personal or irrelevant to share on the blog. It helps with anxiety, clearing my mind, and I'm glad I've started it back up .

Monday, April 29, 2013

{Thank You}

With Jeff away more, and all the travel time I have myself, I've had a lot of time to be left to my thoughts. I've been particularly introspective about the supports that have been there for me over the past few years as I've gone through huge and difficult changes in my life.

Jeff has been a rock the past couple of years, and has truly become my best friend and the person that I can rely on and tell just about anything to in confidence. Then again, that's what a marriage is. But he's not been the only one to lift me up, and show up in moments of need.

First, I have some amazing family members. Although we have our dysfunctions just like the next family, I've always been able to rely on my Aunt, Lori to be there as a supportive and creative outlet, and mother figure, particularly after Mom's passing. We've always had similar interests in movies, literature, and design, and when I got married she stepped up and created a wedding dress that I adored, and really all of the dresses that went with the wedding. Always tolerant and accepting of others, she's always been a positive and encouraging factor in my life. I'm really grateful for that.

My mother and grandmother, both gone now, were strong and singular women who made an impact wherever they went. I often clashed with what I wanted to do and what they thought was the right thing for me to do, but regardless of my follies, they stood by and supported me, and were driving forces in my life. While I think I've done remarkably well handling the void they've left behind. I really, really miss them pushing me, and life has changed dramatically without them in it.

My immediate family has as if over night turned completely male. With that said, I have three amazing men to rely on day to day. My father, who has always supported me unconditionally, my brother, who probably understands me better than anyone in the world,  and Jeff - the worlds most steadfast husband, have created a wall of protection and support that has become the new familiar, and evolving family unit.

Then, I have some amazing friends. and  I think this is where my biggest reflection has been lately. To be honest, I've been secluding myself away the past few months. I've been trying to keep up with work, missing Jeff, and really lacking the energy to put myself out there to interact with others. There have been a few that have been consistent in trying to drag me out of this, who reach out and check in, and I really, really appreciate you. Please don't give up on me. I  really do want that girls night.

When Jeff and I moved to China, we had friends that jumped in and helped us move, helped us learn Chinese ( well, gave it their best - I'd liken it to teaching a box of rocks, though. They never really stood a chance), and then a special few that even came to visit us. In a foreign place where one stands out as much as we did, seeing a familiar and friendly face made life easier, and renewed downtrodden spirits. We were just as grateful for the friends we DID make in China. Without them we would never have been able to order food, navigate the transit system, haggle the best deals, find the best pearls, discover places out of our comfort zones, and most of all, we would have been very, very lonely. Seriously, we look back extremely fondly on our experience in China, and it is entirely because of the network of people that surrounded us while we were there.

Coming back for my mother's funeral was surreal. I put all of my focus on getting out of China, getting back, getting a job, getting a place to live, that I didn't really allow myself to absorb the whole thing. The visitation and the funeral were tough. I had family not speaking to me, people I had never met or barely recognized striking up conversations with me, and exhaustion from the week of chaos. It was such a little thing, but two friends who I had not expected to see, showed up at the perfect time, sat on either side of me, and ran interference on the well intentioned, but overwhelming condolences. I don't think I ever expressed to those two how much that meant to me, but I don't think I would have gotten through as well as I did without that.

As we grow, evolve, and transition to different phases of our life, different people enter and exit, having left their mark. I think it's understatement to say that I have gone through several periods of deep immaturity, and it has been a refreshing comfort to rekindle friendships with the most unlikely people, and to gain a better insight into myself, as well as what I was too self involved to realize at the time. Being able to reflect, apologize, and move forward with more humility has been a great gift, and I'm so grateful for the friends that have allowed me to grow through knowing them.

I'm not the best version of me I want to be - yet. I have a lot of growing yet to do, and look forward to the journey. Still, it is amazing to have the ability to look back and recognize points of growth, and the individuals that have made a difference along the way.

Thank YOU, for making a difference in my life.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

{Catch Up}

 Jumbled thoughts in no particular order:
1. I'm cold. I really do alright with winter. considerably more so than with the summer heat, ESPECIALLY better than the summer we spent in Suzhou. I don't know, something about this lingering cold weather has just seemed to affect my mood, my behavior and my motivation to get up and do. There have been a couple of spectacularly mild days sprinkled in and I have taken full advantage of the vitamin D and serotonin boosts that the sun has to offer.  Maybe that's it, I'm just not getting enough sun.

2. Jeff's gone... a lot. Every time I get a twinge of frustration about it I remind myself that it was MY brilliant idea to encourage him to take up this job, and that it is benefiting us. I do get to keep regular contact with him, and I'm doing fine, but it has been a decided adjustment. After two years of nearly constant companionship with the same person, I'm almost having to re-learn what it's like to be independent again. Not to say that I was too co-dependent - but there is definitely a change to how you live and behave when you're in a partnership as opposed to living wholly on your own 3 1/2 weeks out of the month.

3. Cooper has a case of the clingy. Even the trainer that we work with made a comment the other day that she found it remarkable the bond he's been forming with me as the weeks progress. He's very particular, although friendly with everyone. He really does have a hard time listening to others, and if someone gives him instruction, he always looks to me for approval first. It's made training both easier, and much more difficult all at the same time. He is generally eager to please, but some aspects of training, like staying as I walk away to a good distance, is a continuing struggle and forces him out of his comfort zone.

4. SO.MUCH.MOVING. At the end of February as Jeff left to start his job, I moved back into my parents home and out of our town house, and moved all of our things into a storage unit. My dad bought a farm in Monticello, and was supposed to move out a month ago , but due to an oversight didn't move until this weekend. Poor Jeff was home for three days and each of those days was spent helping load, unload, load some more and unload, and set up right up until he had to leave again. He's a good sport. We managed to get the majority of Dad's belongings to the farm, as well as get everything of ours out of storage and into the house. It was a long, tiring weekend for everyone and left us all more tired than when it began. Over the next couple of weeks I'll finish purging, unpacking, arranging, and returning the house to a state of normalcy.

5. WE got a new bed. I'm positive this isn't half as interesting to anyone else as it is to me, but I'm elated. After spending a year as two fat people in China, Jeff and I have developed a deep respect for well made mattresses. They certainly weren't built in China to handle our size... and with Jeff's dilapidated back, it was a long year of mediocre to restless sleep. It has been a markable difference to have a solid, supportive, and comfortable bed that makes for substantial and restful nights sleep.

- Ashley

Friday, March 15, 2013

{Business Cards}

I know it's a little silly, but somehow finally getting these makes me feel just a teensy more established than I did before.


I know it's a little silly, but somehow finally getting these makes me feel just a teensy more established than I did before.

It was definitely a welcomed package on a day that has been full of unpleasant tasks.

 Happy MUCH needed Friday.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

{Matriculated Canine}

We've both worked hard, and have come a very long way in the last two months of getting to know each other. We've still got even more work to do before Cooper is ready to get certified, but This weekend he graduated from his first level of classes, and it certainly felt like a triumph for the both of us.

He's a good egg.

Friday, March 8, 2013

{Merrily We Roll Along}

Sometimes, I just feel stumped on how to start or focus on a post. There ARE things I'd like to talk about, but my thoughts don't always organize themselves the way I'd like. This leads to frustration, and gaps in my writing. Which of course, leads to more frustration.

Ah well.

We keep our selves busy and ever so slightly chaotic, as usual. Life is never boring for us, even though I think we'd like it to be once and a while. Jeff's gone for several weeks at a time, getting started on his new job, and is excelling at it, not that I had any doubts about that. It's really tough having him absent so often, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. I teased him the other day by explaining that all I really need to do is pretend he doesn't exist and go back to living life like when I was single. I still don't understand what he got so huffy...

Things here in Lexington are in a state of flux. My dad bought a farm in Monticello where he's going to relocate to, and Tyler, (Jeff), and I are taking over the Lexington house. The mortgage is paid off so all we have to handle will be the utilities and incidental bills. Tyler is working on getting into school, and finding gainful employment after returning from his mission and will take the upstairs, which really is already set up much like an apartment, and Jeff and I will maintain the down stairs, which does much of the same thing. It works out great for us because Tyler will  be able to save on living expenses as he starts school and his life as a semi-grown up ( man, I miss college), and Jeff and I can continue to save up for future expenses planned, as well as whittle away at our debts.

It's a great ideal, and we'll get to it eventually. UNTIL then, however, life is a little more hectic. Currently, We're sharing the house with Dad as he packs and prepares to move, my things are in storage, and I'm occupying one of the smaller rooms upstairs. As we all got excited for the closing date yesterday, Dad realized the day before that he had missed the clause in the contract where he had to wait 30 days after closing to move in. It... was a grumpy day in our house. As much as we all love each other, it's a bit cramped, disheveled, and calls had to be made to re-coordinate moving assistance. We'll get through it, hopefully with a stronger sense of patience.

My job is starting to pick up... slowly. I've got 7 clients now, and I'm now trying to figure out how to juggle and multi-task as the case loads get complicated. I love what I do though, and if I could just learn to get over my well ingrained sense of procrastination, I'd be really, really fantastic it.

Cooper is doing pretty well, too, so far. Today he gets to graduate from his first set of obedience classes. Aside from my dad's uncanny ability to negate anything I do with training, he's learning fast, and seems to really enjoy the bonding we get from it. He's a GREAT travel companion, and has already made the trips to Ashland and Bowling Green with me without complaint, and has already gotten to interact with some of my clients. He loves the attention and it's a lot of fun to see how happy he makes others. I really look forward to getting him certified, and seeing his progress as we go along.

I'm So ready for spring. So ready for warmer, sunnier days, and windows down road trips!

What are you excited for?


Thursday, February 14, 2013

{ The Best Thing about Ruts}

The best thing about ruts is that they eventually end. Last week was miserable. I was lethargic, pouty, and unmotivated. I accomplished absolutely nothing at work, even less at home, and spent 90% of my time on the couch curled up with Cooper watching chick flicks.

Apparently Jeff picked up on this, so he drove down for the weekend to cheer me up, spend time with Tyler, and get me back into my big girl pants. And you know what? It worked. I've been getting things accomplished at work, rather than staring into the void located on the wall slightly above my computer, I've gotten my mound of crap moved out of the living room and into appropriate places, and I've started cooking and baking again, freeing myself  from the greasy fast food vortex that I got sucked into.

I think we all deserve our ruts once and a while, to feel yucky and dejected, long enough for us to fully appreciate how wonderful life is outside of the occasional off day week.

Happy Valentines Day.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

{To the One I Love}

Two years and counting. Hopefully those who bet on the shallow end of how long we'd last didn't loose too much money...

It's amazing just how much two years can hold. I've tried twelve different times to write a post that could somehow express just how much my life has changed since meeting, marrying and living with my best friend. We've seen hardship, arguments, joy, grief, change ( OH so much change), and I am just enthralled with this man that is my husband. Life is sincerely sweeter and more worth living when you have someone that you can and want to share it with. 

Jeff - THANK YOU for being my lean to, my rock, my punching bag, my object of affection, and my eternal companion. I cannot fathom doing this with anyone but you.


Monday, February 11, 2013

{Things that make my life better:}

1. Furry cuddles

2. Brothers coming home after two years away

3. Husbands who drive 4 hours just to give you a hug and cheer you up.


Sunday, February 3, 2013


As much as Jeff cursed and grumbled about Jack, his stubborness, his inexplicable ability to find what made Jeff tick, He really did love that little bag of fur. When we knew we had to give him away, I chickened out and hid behind work, leaving Jeff to shoulder the awful task of physically handling the transfer from one owner to the other. Those who don't know Jeff on a personal level see a big boistrous and charismatic man's man. The rest of us who know him a little better know him to be a deceptively big teddy bear. While he'll fiercly deny it to keep whatever reputation he thinks he has, he likes romance, tender moments, and is deeply sensitive. On our wedding day, HE cried first. While I was sad to let Jack go, I knew he'd be fine, and we'd move on. Jeff handled it a lot harder.

I started itching for a new furry friend soon after we got back into Kentucky. I missed Jack, and missed having canine devotion in our lives. Jeff shot the idea down. Several times. Emphatically. He gave me every reason under the sun, but mostly, he wasn't ready to have another dog after giving away one so soon.

Still, I'm persistent. Eventually, asking enough, geting the right timing, and have a husband as awesome as mine,  I managed to get him to agree to looking for a new dog.  There was online browsing, and some visits to the humane society. On a particularly bad day at work, Jeff kidnapped me for the afternoon, and we spent it petting kittens and puppies (smart husband, right? ).  That afternoon we found one dog that caught our eye. Bonnie was a sweeheart, and smart. We left, excited to think about whether or not we wanted to adopt her. Things didn't quite line up, and we didn't go back. We were disappointed.

A couple of weeks ago we went through another transition. Jeff was working two jobs, working 70 hours a week, and exhausting himself. After a turn of events, discussion, and contemplation, He took a new job. He's is going to be gone, a lot, for the next year. It's not our favorite decision, but will be something that will help us now and for the long run. Still, as I told a friend, marriage has somehow made me into a more codependent person than I remember myself being, and the thought of Jeff being gone three weeks at a time has been somewhat difficult to process. The day we made the decision, we had lunch with my dad to talk it over. Jeff went back to work. I went to pet puppies.

Initially, I walked passed Cooper. I had a concept of what I was looking for my mind and was seeking out specific breeds. I stopped at one dog who looked perfect. I walked him and took him into a quiet room to try to get to know him. He wanted nothing to do with me. NOTHING. His temperment was all wrong, and he was far to interested in what all the other dogs were doing to give any attention to me. I roamed through the place, made the ritual stop in the puppy room, and then had the inkling to circle back to Cooper. For some reason, he was the ONLY dog that I had taken a picture of to send Jeff ( for approval), and seemed to warrant a second look. He gave the impression that he was a little coy, but interested. He patiently waited for me to open his gate, quite unlike his cell mate, and attentively walked with me to the meet and greet room. In the first five minutes together, he was on his back, in my lap, doling out kisses. An hour later, I was sold, smitten, and determined to bring him home. Jeff somewhat begrudgingly came over to the shelter to give his seal of approval, and agreed he was a pretty fantastic pup.

We charged to the desk to fill out papers, grins on our faces, only to be told that we couldn't take him because of some confusion over our residence. I left frustrated, peeved, brokenhearted. From what I've been told, I was apparently short tempered, and pouty the rest of the night. The following day was meant to be spent getting things in order for Jeff to head out of town for training the following week. I went to work to get a few things done, and to wait for Jeff to bring some things to fax. Hours later, and annoyed that he was taking hours longer than he said he would, I was out of patience when he walked in. Which is probably why it took me a solid 30 seconds to process that he had a dog, Cooper, with him... in my office.

Apparently he had spent the entire morning arguing with the girl at the humane society, her boss, and her boss's boss until they let him leave with Cooper. How could I stay frustrated with a man that shows up with a dog when he's late? I spent the rest of the day off kilter and completely thrown off schedule.

And so here I am, with a long legged pile of fur who insists on being involved with everything, is eager to please, with a stubborn streak a mile long when it comes to doing something that isn't what he wants. He's affectionate, patient, and protective. He makes Jeff's absense a little easier, and gives me something to focus on so that I don't over think the more stressful things going on right now.

I'm glad I took my time finding him, and even more so that he's here with me. While I'm happy with my life, this next stretch isn't going to be the easiest, and I look forward to having the unconditional comfort he offers with me on a daily basis when Jeff can't be. Goodness knows I'm going to need it.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

{Acts of Kindess}

So, I got a package today. It's a pacakge that I was really, really excited about. You see, a while back a friend of mine was a victim of a random act of kindess. As a result, she chose to pass it on, and made me a pair of mittens, with colors of my choice, because she could, and because she felt that she needed to share that kindness with others.
Well, I can't knit... i can't sew, I can't trust myself to craft anything of worth for another. But I can bake! So let's have a edibly sweet giveaway, shall we?
It's pretty simple. Leave a comment letting me know your favorite cookie (and if you absolutely hate cookies, you're favorite baked good), for one entry, and if you follow the blog, or are already following the blog, you can get a second. This giveaway will end February 2nd at midnight!
*Sorry Expat friends, USA only*
Well, What are you waiting for!?
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, January 27, 2013


Changes have been a common theme in our lives. I suppose it's one of those things that connects people together.

Jeff took a job this week. The events leading up to it are complicated, and honestly going into detail right now would lead to saying some particularly unkind things toward another, and I don't believe putting those kind of things in writing out of anger... so, suffice it to say, it's a long story.

This job is out of state, and involves three weeks of "training"... unpaid... so to speak. He'll get a signing bonus after, which is great, but in the mean time, we just aren't going to be able to make ends meet. So, this weekend was spent packing up our apartment so that I can move things into a storage unit for the next month or so, until we're settled into where we were already planning on moving (another story for another time).

It's another bittersweet move. Jeff will be gone for three to six weeks, I'll have to handle a lot of things on my own, and not to get overly mushy, I'm going to miss the big guy. But, he'll have a steady job, making decent money, and we'll be able to continue to save up for future plans.

If a new job, packing and moving weren't enough, Jeff also had one more surprise up his sleeve. Part anniversary gift, part companion in his absense, part "I'm tired of saying no", lead him to show up at my office with an adorable striped, spotted and very sweet gift.

 Introducing: Cooper.
Super affectionate, energetic, but a fantastic couch buddy. Prefers balls above all other forms of entertainment. Conquered "Sit" in ten minutes. Has a stubborn streak, but generally is eager to please. Loves to lean, suck up any and all affection offered, rarely barks but audibly grumbles when he isn't acknowledged. Beautiful amber eyes, the brindled body of a boston terrier, mottled with the spots and head of a blue heeler. All in all, one adorable and fantastic almost full grown pup.  I'm smitten.


Monday, January 21, 2013

{What's for Lunch?}

I've never been a good "New Years Resolution" type of person. I know myself well enough to know that I'd never hold myself accountable. That's right, even myself knows I'm lazy. It's a character flaw... I'm working on it.

Still, Jeff and I had a really good series of conversations ( coincidentally around the new years) about changing some of our habits regarding food. I had done really well in the year before I met him doing something similar, and got comfortable with old habits and stopped pushing myself. I've never been a fan of diets, and know that I can't trick myself into justifying a three month anything diet just to drop a few pounds that I'd never notice anyway. And while I don't enjoy being fat, I don't have the insecurities of self image that I assume drives people to jump from fad diet to fad diet. My ( and Jeff's) desires lay with wanting to feel better, have more energy, and eat BETTER food, on a regular basis. I want a lifestyle change, not a diet. I want to make changes to habits that will be long lasting and sustainable, and changes that can be integrated into our lives easily instead of counter-intuitively.

So, I'm starting easy. No more soda ( I got too addicted to it in China, where it was cheaper to drink than water), controlled portions, learning to listen to my body, and partake of more wholesome foods whenever possible. And lastly, to make eating intentional, and not emotional.

Diet coke was the hardest thing to kick, so far. It took me a good week to get it out of my system, and there were a couple of days were the cravings and withdrawal were mean nasty elements to deal with. I bought a waterbottle that I love to help prompt me to drink more water. It's glass with a silicone wrap, so the water stays colder, and doesn't have that weird taste that it gets in a plastic waterbottle( Jeff claims I'm crazy and there's no such thing, back me up!). It has markers on the sides that measure ml and oz, which gives me a visual marker and goal to drink so much water each hour. It makes drinking the recommended 64 oz of water a day a lot more manageable.

I got a lunch box that has the perfect portion sized containers, so each day I pack food that I can break down and eat smaller amounts throughout the day instead of bigger meals three times a day. So far, I've liked this a lot better, I don't feel as many cravings, and I don't feel bloated or tired like I did when I ate big lunches. It's also forced me to be more intentional with what I choose to eat, which has helped me make better choices.

Today's "lunch?"
*Top to bottom, left to right*
Peach flavored apple chips, sour cream and onion bunnies
Grilled brie and avocado sandwiches  



Thursday, January 17, 2013

{On the Move}

Little Miss Sunshine's travel route this week.

I have been all over the state this month, but no more so than this week. It's part of my job, and I love driving, and getting out of the office setting and meeting people, but in doing so this week and will be every month, I've come to the conclusion that I need new music. Badly. 

I need recommendations. What do you like to listen to? What keeps you awake in the car when you hit that wall of "man this moment right here would be perfect for a nap" sleepiness?

I'm eclectic, and love to listen to music across genres, but do particularly well with the indi folk genre. Preferably something positive and upbeat, but I'm not opposed to something sappy or pensive mixed in. 


Friday, January 11, 2013

{Kentucky Love}

It's been a heck of a week. I've quite frankly been a sourpuss . This week's therapy has been drives through the countryside of Kentucky. Man I love it here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

{Clear Head,Clear Skies}

Sometimes, when you're having a rotten day, the best thing you can do is ditch the rest of it, have lunch with your dad, and go for a long drive in the country.

I'm happily married to my best friend, and I love having him to turn to in all situations. Still, some days are just made for being a daddy's girl. Jeff rolls his eyes and calls me a princess. I call myself lucky.