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Ashley

Career & Resources, Family, Health

Why Limit Happy to An Hour: One fun interview

When I started this blog I was most excited about interviewing people about a range of topics from building their businesses, to tips on how they implement special things in their life that would benefit others, to general philosophical views on happiness and personal inspiration. I’m so excited, because today I’m sharing an interview with Brian, who shares his life with Tommy, and both are a couple of fun guys from North Alabama. When the blog first began, I had people that I know tell me that they would be the absolute best people to interview. They’ve been together for fifteen years and today they’re talking about a range of things, including their background, their spin on Dubsmash videos, their fun Christmas card tradition and how they stay positive.

Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

Tommy and I are both from North Alabama. Tommy is from Decatur and I’m from Moulton. Although we didn’t meet until college at the University of Alabama, our parents only live about 10 minutes apart. Tommy went to a city school and I went to county high and he’s two years ahead of me in school.

Tell me something unique about your upbringing.

Hahaha, neither of us feel that we had a truly unique upbringing. Both of us had amazing childhoods! Something we have in common is that our parents are still married. Tommy’s until his mother passed away and mine are still going strong! In this day and age, that is something that not everyone can say; not that it’s a positive or negative, it’s just a fact about us. Also, we both were able to know and spend time with all four of our grandparents and those memories are such a treasure!

Tell me a little bit about your daily grind.

Our days start early and finish late! Through the week, we wake up at 5 am, go to boot camp with Erin at 4 Shore Fit, back home to shower, grab lunches, and head to work; we own a hair salon. We work from around 8 am until about 8 pm, then head home to tidy up the lunch dishes, wind down for a few minutes with conversation about our day, and hit the bed as close to 9 or 9:30 pm as possible! On the weekends, we generally host company at our home or are out of town. Our shared hobbies include travel and entertaining. On those random down-time weekends, you’ll always find us by the pool or at the beach, Kindle in hand; we’re both avid readers! We don’t even own a TV, our house is filled with music from the moment we wake up until we go to bed.

People generally see you as a positive person. Where do you think your positive attitude stems from?

Having a positive attitude is a conscious choice! We wake up every morning with a purpose to be positive and share that same feeling! We also surround ourselves with people who share our same outlook- your vibe attracts your tribe! Life happens to everyone, but our reactions are what make us who we are and Tommy and I choose to be happy, positive, and outstanding! We’re the Sunshine Boys!!

Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Tommy and how that came about.

Tommy and I met in college and had a brief fling, but after college, I went back to North Alabama and Tommy stayed in Tuscaloosa. We would bump into each other periodically over the next ten years, in the mall, at a restaurant, anytime Tommy was home for the holidays. Then, one fall, I saw his sister and brother-in-law (whom I also knew) and passed my phone number along, asking them to share it with Tommy. I was planning to be in Tuscaloosa for a wedding and thought we could meet for drinks- no big deal. Tommy called and mentioned that he’d be in near my home in Decatur before the wedding and asked if we could get together then and of course the answer was yes! It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I was working late at a salon there, Tommy was doing dinner with his family and we agreed to meet afterwards. I get to the meeting spot for dinner and grabbed a table for four (Tommy said that his sister and brother-in-law wanted to come along). The two of them arrived just after I did, then another guy and his wife come in a pull up a table to join us- which turned out to be Tommy’s brother and his wife- then a cute blond curly hair gal comes in a sits down with us (Tommy’s sister from Memphis)- and finally, Tommy showed up, apologetic with good-natured laughter. HIS WHOLE FAMILY IS CHAPERONING OUR FIRST OFFICIAL DATE! But it all turned out as it should and that evening is our anniversary; we haven’t been apart since and we’re going strong 15 years later!

How do you and Tommy hold each other accountable for taking on a more positive spin for life?

We hold each other accountable through conversation and commitment, especially since we don’t have the distraction of TV. We do find that it allows us more face-to-face chat time and those moments and conversations are when we reaffirm our desire to be beacons of light and hope and kindness to everyone we encounter! Each weekend, we do long walks around our neighborhood or at the beach and just chat about the world and everything in it. Sometimes our conversations are light and sometimes we solve all the problems of the world; we can be very philosophical!

I understand you have a ritual for drafting up your Christmas cards each year. Can you tell me a little bit about that ritual?

Christmas cards are a big deal to Tommy! It’s something he looks forward to doing every year! We also work hard to be inclusive of all of our friend; we send Christmas cards, Hanukkah cards, Kwanzaa cards, Solstice cards, and Thinking of You cards. Receiving a card that lets others know we appreciate how a person celebrates the holiday season is exactly what is special about that time of year! We start writing the cards in August, collecting updated addresses, and sorting our list. This all happens on the beach or by the pool and some people have even commented about finding sand in their card! And to commemorate the season, we HAVE to sip on Poinsettias (champagne and cranberry juice) while all of this is happening!

You have a reputation for your humor. Tell me about your dubsmash videos and other things you do to keep things light and upbeat.

Our Dubsmash videos are a highlight of our life together! (PS- the Elvis version was linked for Memphis followers but follow their account for more videos). Laughter together and my persistence for prefect videos makes our dubs shine. We share the spotlight, sometimes the background dance moves can overshadow the lead performer! We take requests and if we go too long without posting a Dubsmash, friends always comment on how these funny snippets of our life are missed. We have been told that we make people’s days and how often they share them with others. We’ve done them by the pool, on vacation, in the car, on a walk, with friends- basically everywhere!! That app is endless hours of fun and excitement! We will think of a singer or a band and just have a weekend of dubbing with them.

Are you intentional about your interactions with others? Do you have a philosophy on the mark you hope to leave on others?

I can’t say that we actually and intentionally deliver happiness on others, we just simply try to share in our own passion for life and living each moment to the fullest. We saw a cocktail napkin once that said “Why Limit Happy To An Hour?!?” and took it to heart!

Any favorite shows, podcasts, books or music that you’d like to share?

As I mentioned earlier, at home our music choice is generally background, upbeat sound, but when we run our 5Ks, we have definite anthems we like to pace ourselves with. Working in a salon, our days are filled with conversation and pop hits so at home it’s a bit more subdued. As far as books go, we love to read for escapism and pleasure. Everyday life is real enough, when reading we look for adventure and get-aways. We love books that invoke emotion within us- laughter, tears, joy, peace- emotions are a gift, and we like to show and share ours freely!! There is a fabulous book by Giovani Livera called ‘Live a Thousand Years: Have the Time of Your Life’– we’ve both read it and do try to stay on point with the message of the book. It’s all about moments and experiences. We also share the book ‘The Five Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman with friends and clients often. It’s about how we each share and receive love, and how we aren’t all the same, but when we know another person’s love language it makes the communication so much more fulfilling!

Anything else to share?

We are currently working on being present in the moment, whether it be by ourselves, with just each other, with a group of people, or one-on-one with someone else, just focusing on that moment and the task or activity at hand. People truly appreciate conversations where you actually look them in the eye, don’t think ahead on the conversation, smile, and give them your full attention. When alone, we try to keep our mind focused on what we are doing at that particular time and enjoying the experience of it. For example, gardening is so much more fun when you put your full mind, body, and soul into what you’re planting. I guess you could call it mindfulness- that’s our new focus!

Career & Resources, Family, Health

Friday Favorites {7.14.17}

Hey it’s Friday! As my son would say, only one more day until we get to “just hang-out”. As working parents we sure cherish weekend family “hang-out” time with our kids.

This past week was my first week back to work after a long stay-cation and I’m hanging by a thread. I’m so thankful I’ll get to charge my batteries soon!

As for fun Friday favorites, I thought I’d share some of my favorite ways on how we recharge.

1.Coffee helps you live longer!

It’s no secret on this site that I love, love coffee. If you love coffee too then you’ll appreciate this new announcement that talks about the new-found benefits to drinking coffee. Coffee is my first line of defense for a mid-week recharge! In fact, our office carries the local brand Ugly Mug  (pictured below) which most of our office is extremely happy about. PS: If you live in Memphis, the I Love Memphis Instagram account is capturing Memphian’s favorite coffee spots.

 

2. This Book

I started reading this book this week and it has been captivating so far. It gets to the point immediately, doesn’t drag on setting up the opening scene and has me wanting to flip to the end to see what happens (no one else does that?) It’s definitely a great read for escaping a busy week.

3. This article

I am doing research for a project a work regarding mentoring and I came across this article. Listen, if you’re not in business that doesn’t mean you don’t need to rely on people to mentor you for guidance and insight. This article reviews ideas on what to talk about with a mentor (which can sometimes be awkward); I found it to be so refreshing. It actually got me excited about my next mentor conversation.

4. This podcast

This podcast was actually a recorded public speaking event for Jen Hatmaker. If you listen, keep that in mind that it was recorded at a conference and she does refer to a few things they put on screen that you’re obviously not going to be able to see on the podcast. However all that aside, I just loved the message, how she tied her knowledge and conclusion together, and I always love the personal insertion she incorporates in her speeches of her everyday family life. It is a Christian message and basically indicates the importance of being a faith mentor.

5. We’re gardening!

Well sort of. We bought plants at Lowe’s and we put them in pots with dirt. Every night my son is watering them. This is a huge step for us because I basically kill every living plant. Check out these plant boxes. Aren’t they inspiring? If we get serious we may upgrade to a more elaborate set-up. For now, we’re sitting on our porch, eating ice cream after dinner and watering our plants to help us recharge. I also found the pretty outdoor pillow pictured below at Lowes, because after all this gardening I need a chair with a pillow to relax in!

 

PS: This random picture just makes me happy! A petting zoo came to the kid’s school and my daughter ran right up to the Llama and gave him a big fat hug while screaming Llama Llama! She knows the animal from this book.

What are your Friday favorites? I’d love to hear. This weekend we don’t have much planned other than pool-time and family time. I also get to head to Dinner Club! Last weekend was pretty full so we’re looking forward to low-key plans. Stay tuned for a fun interview I’ll be posting this Saturday. Happy weekend.

 

Uncategorized

Friday Favorites {7.7.17}

Its Friday! I hope you’re having a great week! Today I wanted to share some of my favorites and fun things around the web. It’s a random hodgepodge of everything I love right now; hopefully you’ll find something you love too!

1. Big Sur

I love this place! We haven’t had a vacation in a while, we’ve been traveling to see family at the beach, but it’s been three years since we’ve been to one of our favorite spots. I’m just itching to plan a trip there. Last time we went to Big Sur we ventured to this cabin on a bee farm up in the mountains with the most amazing view (Did I have to say more than cabin, bee farm or mountains?).

We woke up every morning to beautiful sunrises, fresh lemons, eggs and honey and a view of the bee keepers at work- my son learned to “smell” when he sampled a sniff of this fresh lemon we picked from their farm. There was a trail they had cleared through the redwoods and we took short walks with my son who was one at the time. They also had a beautiful claw-foot bathtub with the perfect view and this lavender soap that made the entire cabin smell amazing. If you’re contemplating your next vacation, this one’s at the top of my list; I never stop thinking about this place.


2. Made Me Smile

Love these two quotes; they made me smile. I included the Instagram handles in the photo to credit the source.

 


3. Fun Products I love

I don’t think we could live without Biofreeze in our house. They sell it on Amazon and tons of Chiropractors carry it. We buy the spray version but they also make a roll-on version and a lotion. I don’t want to sound old, but I can’t comment enough about how often this has come in handy for unexpected and debilitating neck and back pain!

I bought this necklace through Noonday at an adoption fundraiser and I can’t wait until it arrives!

I just bought this book and I’m really excited about starting it.

And isn’t this cactus romper so adorable!

I am also loving this washi tape on Etsy right now. It would be fun for wrapping and for bookmarking things in my work notebook.

This long-sleeve pineapple shirt could help me remember summer even in the coldest of winters.

PS: I don’t get paid for recommending these- they’re just fun to share!


Have a wonderful beautiful weekend! Be sure to comment below with your favorites- I’d love to hear! Also, when is Labor Day weekend??? (The answer is Sept. 4th!) Hold onto your horses- your next long holiday weekend is coming for you!

Family, Health

Life Lately {7.5.17}

Well the 4th of July is over, so naturally we should all skip to Halloween because summer is over and fall is the next best thing! Kidding. Except not according to Hobby Lobby. I went in the store for 4th of July decorations for our wagon and found pumpkins.

I’m off this week and I’m so excited to be doing fun stuff like: cleaning out closets, washing moldy bath toys and painting things. I promise we’re doing actual fun things here at our house if those things don’t excite you!

First, we had a fun video shoot last week at work. Each year awards are rewarded to employees throughout my work organization, which all happens through a nomination process, and these awards are usually a secret until the winners are announced. Before each VP gets up to present the awards for their work group, a short video skit is shown to introduce each Of their teams. This year I dressed up for our team’s video; the theme is Super Heroes. The skit usually makes fun of something work related, features people that report to that work group, and in past years these skits have even imitated various SNL skits. I think I am some sort of underwater dish queen here…

We committed to spending every weekend day possible at the pool and the weather cooperated. This one right here is a mess!

On Monday we did something we have never done… we sent our kids to school and took the day off to accomplish some things around our house.

Both kids had class parties for the upcoming 4th holiday so it worked out. We stopped to buy yummy cupcakes prior to drop off. It was the perfect day for this because it was rainy and the weather was horrible; it wouldn’t have been much fun for the kids to stay home with us.

After drop off I headed to meet my husband for coffee at Café Eclectic, except when we got there we decided to have breakfast too. I had the crème brulee coffee and the bacon and egg quesadilla and my husband had some sort of breakfast sandwich and we had the perfect little breakfast nook looking out at the rain. After that short lived relaxing moment we left to put in a hard day’s work at our house.

I am currently working through a mile-long home to-do list. Monday’s list included:

Washing all of the bath toys… This mom did a whole post on how to clean your kids bath toys and I can’t stop thinking about it!

Re-purposing a chandelier… I also found this one that is similar and would be fun to paint. I’ll be sure to post a follow-up of the finished product! This one was in our house hanging in the dining room. We replaced it with something more modern in that spot and will be putting this up in our guest bedroom.

Finally, Monday consisted of getting back on track with my workouts. This one is from fitnessblender.com.

That night we picked up the kids and headed downtown where we had dinner and rode one of the horse carriages together although our picture is a bit dark!

Tuesday it was time to celebrate our country. I talked about our fun neighborhood parade in one of my posts. This year it poured rain on the entire neighborhood right before the parade was scheduled to start, but cleared up enough for us to walk the parade route in our decorated wagon. The kids also got to play in the water from the fire truck, an annual tradition. This parade has been going strong for 68 years!

I got my husband his fun shirt a while back and he broke it out of the closet for the 4th– it’s the perfect shirt for Independence Day! Here are some other fun ones showcasing this favorite movie of ours.

Squints Shirt

You Play Ball Like a Girl!

Legends Never Die

Also, I had to stop and appreciate this Yard we saw on the parade route! I love it!

We closed out the 4th by putting together this huge puzzle while my husband indulged in the movie The Sandlot.

We never made it to fireworks because of the heavy rain and well, toddlers who head for bed before 9 pm.

I hope you had a fun long weekend. If you’re back at work, just remember, it’s a short week!

Don’t forget to enter the contest if you would like to try to win these two books and a $10 Starbucks gift card! Just follow me on Instagram or Facebook to find out more about how to enter.

 

 

 

Uncategorized

What’s Up Wednesday {6.28.17}

This Wednesday I’m writing about what’s new; here’s what I’m sharing!

It’s a fun way to check in with all of you to share just what’s been going on; I’d love for you to share what you’re up to in the comments!

What we’re eating this week

Right now one of my favorite things to eat at home that keeps us from going out are these meatball bombs. My kids love them and it fills our craving for pizza. I also have spinach salad on repeat for lunches at work and I had this amazing sandwich at one of my favorite places, Java Cafe for lunch last week. It’s a hot ham and cheese- yummy!

What I’m reminiscing about

We are knocking things off our summer bucket list and we had so much fun at the Redbirds baseball game earlier this month. The weather was just perfect and someone gave us free tickets at the gate because they purchased too many for their group! How lucky is that!

What I’m loving

Everything and anything summer. The beach, the pool, the sunshine and not having to find matching socks for my kids #justsayin

We have flip flops and native summer shoes on repeat here.

What we’ve been up to

We have been jumping into summer full swing. My kids get to attend the same school during summertime which means less drop-offs in the morning for me. We’ve been trying to spend the extra time going on walks in the morning before work and school. I’ve been doing my normal workout and then walking like it’s my part-time job just trying to shed some summer pounds.

My son also just finished Vacation Bible School in the mornings last week; it was his first official camp.

And we’ve taken two trips this month to the beach to my hometown of Pensacola Beach, Florida.

What I’m dreading

Right now I can’t even think about days that don’t involve pools or sunshine and flip flops or popcicles. We sure are enjoying summer.

What I’m working on

Right now, I’m working on career development and what my career path looks like. I’ve been preparing my development plan.

What I’m excited about/ What I’m looking forward to next month

I’m so excited for the 4th of July. We have this little neighborhood parade every year and it keeps getting better and better. It always feels like we time warp to the 1950’s for a day and it’s a full blown red, white and blue extravaganza. Here’s some pictures from previous years.

 

I’m also excited about trying a fun Colombian place we have lined up for Dinner Club. Here’s one of their spreads.

 

What I’m watching, reading, and listening to

We just finished up The Crown on Netflix and I’m sad there aren’t any current episodes. I just finished listening to What Got You Here Won’t Get You There in the car on the back to back road trips to the beach and I’ve been reading The Woman in Cabin 10 at night and finally finished it last night. It had a slow middle section, but chugged along with a suspenseful ending.

I also just listened to this podcast where themindbodygreen with Jason Wachob interviewed Melissa Hartwig, co-founder of Whole 30. She talks about a difficult childhood she experienced, her recovery from drug use, how she created Whole 30 and her “church” outdoors where she claims to have a deep, spiritual relationship with God. It is incredibly authentic, inspiring and insightful.

I’m switching it up between my audio book, my Salsa station and Shawn Mendes on Pandora.

What I’m wearing

We just moved into a new work facility and it is cold cold and blizzard cold so I pretty much have layers on repeat. I also got this cute shirt that I’m loving for Saturdays mornings.

What I’m doing this weekend

We just left my hometown of Pensacola, Florida last week where I helped to host my sister’s baby shower to bless my first little niece Sloane. We drank champagne and I had a few hours away from our kiddos. This upcoming weekend will probably be low key and full of park time and pool time, still unpacking and washing clothes from our trip.

What else is new?

We headed to a friend’s adoption fundraiser last weekend where vendors like Noonday, Matilda Jane and Lula Roe and Mbabazi House of Style featured their goodies with a contribution of their profits all going to the adoption fundraiser- what a neat idea! Click the links if you’d like to see some of the goodies and shop these retailers for a good cause.

My husband and I have also been volunteering to make coffee at our church pretty regularly this summer. I also just posted about how we feel about adoption and all about how I lived through a rare medical disease.

I also bought this foam roller off Amazon a few months ago and it is a beautiful thing for a person who holds a desk job! It arrived straight to my door in 2 days.

Happy Hump Day. I hope you’re all having a great week! If you’re visiting this site I’m glad to have you here, feel free to take a look around.

 

 

 

 

Health

Heath Check: How I Survived a Rare Medical Diagnosis

This month is Myasthenia Gravis month. I am sure you are thinking: WHAT IS THAT???

And this is why they need an awareness month…

In 1997 I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis. I was 17, ran high school track and field and participated on a cheer-leading squad, but physically things were not going well for me. My legs would collapse when I ran, I couldn’t clap my hands together correctly, I had trouble with my speech, an extremely hard time swallowing food, and I had some serious facial indicators such as droopy eyes and trouble smiling.

This is all to tell you that even with these symptoms I doubted whether there was something wrong with me. I thought I was tired or stressed. I thought maybe I was out of shape. It was extremely frustrating to read aloud in class, not being able to perform at sports practices, and to have licensed health care providers tell me that absolutely NOTHING was wrong with me.

During this very despairing time, a significant event occurred. I had head shots taken for an organization I was a part of. The proofs that the photographer showed me had a full collage of a my facial expressions and there was no denying something was incredibly wrong. I was a teenager and I was embarrassed, but now that I look back I’m so thankful to have had that realization that something was truly wrong and I needed to seek help.

So what was happening? Myasthenia Gravis is often called the silent disease. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says this about Myasthenia Gravis:

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles, which are responsible for breathing and moving parts of the body, including the arms and legs. The name myasthenia gravis, which is Latin and Greek in origin, means “grave, or serious, muscle weakness.”

The hallmark of myasthenia gravis is muscle weakness that worsens after periods of activity and improves after periods of rest. Certain muscles such as those that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, chewing, talking, and swallowing are often (but not always) involved in the disorder.  The muscles that control breathing and neck and limb movements may also be affected.

Only 20 out of 100,000 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with MG, although the disease is extremely under-diagnosed. I had the benefit of an early diagnoses, thanks to my relentless father, and a surgical procedure which has significantly improved my quality of life. I am blessed to be in remission from this disease and I had the most incredible Neurologist and surgeon team at USC Children’s Hospital that I will forever be indebted to. I have been considered high risk for both of my pregnancies and I do have to try to maintain my stress levels, but otherwise I’m lucky to be a surviving without any required medication.

Paying attention to your health and any alarming health indicators is incredibly important. Here are some health considerations to ponder.

  1. Make sure to have an annual physical. Sometimes symptoms that are easily ignored like being tired or unexplained weight gain can actually be attributed to something medical (such as anemia or thyroid activity). Most health insurances cover one per year at 100%.
  2. If you have a nagging and annoying symptom that will not go away, don’t ignore it. Go to a doctor. If that doctor passes you off, go to another doctor and keep on until you find someone that will listen to your story with consideration and concern.
  3. Be cautious about medication. I’m not saying to avoid medication. What I am saying is that sometimes medication can cause additional lasting symptoms so be sure to be your own healthcare advocate. Ask questions and positively challenge health care providers so that you understand all the treatment paths available, any side effects and long term plans when it comes to prescriptions to medications. (In my case, my first doctor recommended steroids, and my second doctor recommended surgery. When I went the surgery route I was able to avoid the steroids.)
  4. If you are diagnosed with something serious over the course of your lifetime, seek out others that are experiencing or have experienced something similar.
  5. What you put in your body impacts how you feel. Be kind to your body, treat it like a temple. Eating well, taking vitamins, allowing yourself enough rest, exercise, all these things are important for your daily performance as a human being on this earth. How you feel impacts your attitude, your energy, your productivity and your relationships.

If you have been diagnosed with MG I’d love to hear from you. Be sure to reach out through the contact section of this site.

Career & Resources, Family

This Mom of 3 heads to China Each Day

Today I am interviewing Hope O’Briant. She recently moved with her family to New York, but she’s originally from the small town of Milan, TN and spent most of her entire childhood there. She has an interesting new job that allows her to support her families’ schedule and I thought it’d be fun to share her story for those readers out there that are looking for a similar, more flexible work schedule.


Hi Hope! Tell me a little bit about your background.

I am new New Yorker/city girl! I spent nearly my entire childhood in the tiny town of Milan, TN where my dad is still an optometrist and mom was a special education teacher before leaving that profession to run my dad’s office.

I moved to Oxford, MS for college at Ole Miss and then to Memphis for law school where I stayed for nearly 20 years.  We recently moved to NYC for my husband’s job, he’s in the financial industry. He’s been wanting to make the move to NYC for at least the last couple of years.

Our middle child, Lily Brooks, is a professional actress and was ‘Matilda’ in the US tour of the Broadway show ‘Matilda the Musical’. I am not a big fan of cold weather so I was a holdout.  After Lily Brooks finished her run as Matilda, my husband said it was time for the move and I realized it was time for me to let go of things I love and find new things to love, because a move to NYC was truly the best thing for the majority of our family.

While I still REALLY don’t like the cold weather, I do LOVE NYC and we are thankfully settled into this lifestyle.

I do NOT miss driving everywhere and adore the subway and endless cultural opportunities at our fingertips.

 

 

Tell me about your unique employment background.

I was an attorney until the birth of our second child when I moved to practicing on a contract basis and stayed home with our children.  When our 3rd child turned two years old, I quit practicing law and started a swim lesson business from my home.  I had taught swimming lessons in high school and had been a life guard.  Around the time I decided to stop practicing law, my dear friend, Erin Bladon, who had taught swimming in Germantown for 15 years, announced she was moving to Texas and I asked Erin who I should send other moms to when they ask about a good swim instructor.  She said, “Hope, you should take over for me.  You are a great teacher and would love this!”

I was reluctant because it had been so many years but I also had worked with my own children and other friends’ kids.  It seemed to be a gift and I was passionate about making sure children knew how to confidently swim and enjoy it.  I took my re-certification class and started teacher later that summer.  I have always been intrigued by marketing and worked hard to build Ms. Hope’s Summer Swim School through social media and staying true to my philosophy to give parents the tools/information to help their swimmers to safely and confidently succeed as happy swimmers.

I posted tips every day and shared as much as possible to help parents understand what their children were learning and ways to help them improve their swimming skills before and after my classes. My first goal was to make a difference in these children’s lives and I wanted the parents to know every trick in my book to help their children to become safe in the water. The business part was second.

When you moved to New York, what inspired you to start working again?

Well, NYC is super expensive and after getting the family settled into life here, I knew I needed to find part-time work. I am licensed to practice law in TN, MS, and AR but not NY, so finding an attorney position wasn’t likely.  I love to teach swimming but I realized it wasn’t exactly economically feasible with such limited access to pools.

A theater mom friend whose daughter was in the national tour of ‘Annie’ told me about VIPKid and how much she loved it.  So I thought I would give it a try and see if it fit my schedule. I needed something flexible because we have three children, two who I home-school and one who has auditions often at the last minute. VIPKid has been the perfect fit.

Tell us a little more about the VIPKid program and your daily work life.

VIPKid is a virtual classroom for Chinese kids (approximately ages 4-12) to learn from native North American English speakers. The company provides pre-made lessons for students with varying levels of the English language. Each class is 25-28 minutes long and you (the teacher) click through the lesson slides with the student via a video chat program.

The teaching schedule is based on the needs of the students in China. Right now peak times on CST (I’m on EST time) are 6am-8am and also Friday and Sat evenings. My typical schedule right now is Mon-Sun & Friday from 6am-9:30 am and Saturday evenings from 9pm-11:30 or midnight. There’s a shift in the summer which begins July 1st and lasts until September 1 when their schools starts again.  I hear the summer schedule can be as full as you would like.

VIPKid pays $14-$22/hour, depending on your experience, education, interview success, and work ethic each month. Since it is a Chinese company, the pay is a little different than what Americans are used to. Pay starts at $7-$9/lesson. Remember, each lesson is a 30 minute time block.  Here are some specifics of how the bonus pay works.

*Not showing up for classes and/or not fulfilling your requirements results in a pay deduction. That said, if you are committed to the job, don’t let this pay process concern you.

What are the requirements to start working as an instructor with VIPKid? 

The minimum requirements are to be a native North American English speaker (although you do not have to currently reside in North America), a Bachelor’s degree (does not have to be in education), and at least one year of teaching experience (does not have to be a formal public school teaching job). In my interview process I referenced my 8+ years of teaching swimming and my homeschooling teaching experience.  You don’t have to have a teaching certificate. You do need a webcam and very reliable high speed internet.

The lessons are all pre-made, consist of approximately 25-30 slides, and are based on the student’s current level. They are meant to be very interactive so you may be singing, playing charades, drawing, and otherwise having fun with the students. Teachers are required to have at least a white board, flashcards or letter magnets, and a plushy/puppet – all of which can be purchased very inexpensively at the dollar store, or “borrowed” from your kids.

What advice do you have for someone that would like to get started with VIPKid? 

  • Find a mentor to help you
  • Do your homework
  • Practice, practice, practice for your interview demo lesson and mock lessons

A fellow theatre mom helped me along the way and I know it made all of the difference.

This isn’t a traditional classroom setting.  My friend Sarah says it is 1/2 teaching and 1/2 acting or improv and she is completely right! You have to use your hands to act out a lot to help the child learn. VIPKid has grown so rapidly that their founder is SUPER concerned about finding quality teachers who can adapt to the online classroom style that VIPKid demands. They want positive, encouraging, friendly teachers who make this fun for the children.

 

I am sure the students appreciate your teaching heart so much; what are you learning through the program?

I have REALLY REALLY missed teaching my swim babies. Ok, so I know most weren’t really babies, but I saw each sweet student as my own and I miss their smiles, their victories and being able to feel like I was making a difference by using the gifts God gave me.

I love being able to be goofy and make these kids smile and help them learn in a fun way. I love to help them learn and watch their victories just like I could with my swim students. Most of the Chinese students’ school atmosphere is usually the traditional and a very regimented Chinese mindset so VIPKid wants very positive, encouraging, fun teachers to help the children love to learn English.

What type of qualities do you think it takes to work for this program?

Patience is KEY, lots of energy, great listening skills, the ability to be super goofy to get a smile and not care how silly you look. Being sincere and encouraging is important. Most of the Chinese children see us at 7, 8, 9 or even 9:30 at night when they have class during the week. A lot of these children wake up at 6 am with a school day that runs up to 10 hours, and they have even more lessons after school with a LOT of homework. It is our job to help them enjoy learning at the end of a long day, and most of the time that takes just a little effort to be goofy to get a smile from them.

Are their opportunities for advancement or expansion with the program?

Occasionally VIPKid offers additional positions to teachers who have been around for a while. Typically, these are Practicum Evaluators and Teacher Mentor positions. Contracts last 6 months at a time, and teachers have an opportunity to receive a raise when their contract is renewed, based on their performance during the previous contract period.

There are also a LOT of options for bonuses and incentives. For example some teachers have received bonuses for their 3 month anniversary, substituting, working during the holiday season, referring “amazing teachers,” and if a new student signs up after taking a trial class with that teacher. Every month VIPKid seems to offer some sort of competition, bonus, or incentive program.

Anything else?

People may be interested to know that VIPKid pays once a month via direct deposit by the 15th of each month.

If you’re thinking about applying, I would LOVE for you to use my referral link OR referral code-033FLQ.

VIPKid encourages current teachers to help new teachers with the process by rewarding us with a little extra bonus each month. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested and would like coaching through the application process or a mentor once you get started with the program.

So far it has been a wonderful journey for me!


Thanks Hope! What an inspiring career you have had fulfilling so many children and clients with your energy and passion in all these fields. And what a fun and interesting new job you have! 

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Friday Favorites {6.23.17}

Today I’m sharing Friday favorites! I’d love to hear your favorites too so be sure to share in the comments.

We just arrived back from a weekend trip to the beach to visit family and attend my sister’s baby shower.

 

Just two weeks prior we were in the same spot for vacation. Being back to a routine means I’m taking full advantage of getting back in shape, focusing on a healthy diet and scheduling adequate time for relaxing from our busy schedule.

First up on my favorites list is date night!

1. Date Night

We try to schedule a regular date night once a month. It has to be at LEAST once a month. We’d sure love to do it more, but right now that’s our cadence. This weekend is our date time and I’m so excited. It really is important that we get out without our kiddos and have adult conversation; this down time is important for our health and sanity and really does make us better parents. Think of it like getting an oil change for your marriage. Although, you don’t have to have kids to have a date night- we used to have them before kids! Here are some things we are sure to apply for our time together.

 

 

  1. Something fun for the kids: I try to be sure to get a new movie or pull out a toy the kids haven’t played with for a while. Sometimes it’s homemade pizza or making a gingerbread house during the holidays. Whatever it is, I try to make our date night away fun for our kids too.
  2. A clean house is a happy house: I love to clean our house before date night, that way when we come home from our evening it’s to a clean home where the kids are asleep and we can continue relaxing at home the rest of the evening.
  3. Date night doesn’t have to be at night. We have gone horseback riding, we rode our bikes to the park once and had lunch, and even went restaurant hopping via Uber trying out different spots our city has to offer for drinks, dinner and dessert. Whatever you do, be sure to make reservations if your spot is expected to be busy so that you aren’t spending your date waiting in line.

2. Health Revamp

Post-vacation is always the best time for me to focus on my health. I’m rejuvenated from my time away and I’ve rid myself of some of my habits already since we’ve been out of routine. For example, I usually don’t eat the same stuff on vacation that I eat at home; it’s a chance to evaluate those routine things with fresh eyes to gain a different perspective and be intentional about what I want diet and exercise to look like. I also seem to be more adventurous after vacation, making it easier to try new fitness routines or food.

    1. New eating plan. I tried Whole 30 before and it was extremely difficult. And then someone told me that they tried it the first time with the mindset that they’d do every part of it possible, but if they slipped up they’d just continue again and keep trying. I quit after I had one bad day because I felt like I had to start over. It’s amazing how a change in perspective can set you on track. I’m trying it again and doing my best to complete it even if I have slip-ups.

     

    1. New recipes. I researched tons of new recipes and I’m excited to build them into my weekly meal planning. Here are a few below that I’m trying.

     

    Lettuce Wraps
    Spinach-stuffed artichoke potatoes
    Kale Caesar Salad

     

    1. New exercise plan. My new plan is to walk like it’s my job. This makes exercise possible with or without kids. I’m taking breaks from my desk and walking at work and we’re taking the kids walking at night. I’m also trying to walk some mornings before work. I’ve also blocked off time on my calendar for my regular exercise plan (running, weights, etc.) so that I’m intentional about how many times I can get a workout in a week. These shoes my sister gave me make me smile and get me to the gym.

     

    1. New coffee order. They say, if you drink or eat something habitually, changing that item in your diet can make a big impact over time. I removed sugar from my coffee and added cinnamon.


3. Celebrating Happy Things

I am trying to take time to squeeze in things for me that make me a better mom, a better wife and a better employee. Here’s 3 things that made me happy this week.

  • I love my necklace from Destiny Ray Jewelry. I actually got it at Beautiful Soul Boutique in Germantown, TN but she also sells her jewelry through her Instagram page and it makes me happy to celebrate her beautiful art every time I wear my necklace or look at her latest posts of her new creations. Here are some similar.

  • Nail time! I broke away at lunchtime to get a quick fix in the nail department and it was worth the 30 minutes. I usually go with some shade of pink.

  • I get compliments on my coffee travel mug all the time. It makes me happy to celebrate with my coffee and comes in different colors. It’s dishwasher safe and keeps my coffee hot; it also has a built in coaster pad.

That’s all for this Friday. I hope you can find something fun in the post this Friday. Also be sure to comment below on what you’re celebrating.

Family

From a Father’s Perspective

I married my husband  Daniel 13 years ago, we’ve been together for 15 years, and  prior to having kids I never had a doubt in my mind that he would be a good father. He’s patient and intentional, and seeing him interact with my kids inspires me to be a better parent. I thought, what better way to celebrate Father’s Day than to interview him about being a dad. Here’s his take on parenting. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Did you always think you’d be a dad?

I knew I wanted to be a dad but I also knew I needed to be more mature, so I could be the best version of myself for my kids. That maturity took some time which is why I will be the almost-60-year-old dad at my daughter’s high school graduation- Oh boy!

What’s one of your favorite memories with your dad?

I remember going to Birmingham Barons games at Rickwood Field with my Dad, Uncle and Cousin Free. That’s where my love for baseball started and continued to flourish; my dad was my little league coach. Growing up, I remember it was such a great feeling I would get when I’d make a play and get to look over and see how excited my dad was for me. It was a special thing that my dad was, not only passionate about me, but just as excited for all the other kids on the team.

What’s one thing that’s surprised you about being a dad?

I guess some things do surprise me, but not by much. It feels pretty natural.

What is your favorite thing to do with the kids?

Finding different ways to make them laugh. There is nothing sweeter than to hear that laugh.

Do you have a technique that you use for toddler tempers?

I try to reason with them. Disclaimer: Don’t do that, it doesn’t work.

What are you most looking forward to doing with your kids?

I really just want to let them find their passion and try foster that passion. When you see a kid start to put so much effort into something and really start to grind toward that goal, you want to do everything you can to help them realize their dream.

Thanks Daniel! He gets to spend Father’s Day bonding with my daughter this year; my son and I are out of town. I know she’s over the moon to have some quality time with her daddy. He didn’t mention this as being his biggest surprise about being a father, but I bet he’s surprised about how many times he’s had to climb up to the roof to grab toys our kids have thrown up there!

 

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Friday Favorites {6.16.17}

Today I’m sharing 3 Friday favorites! This time I’m sharing things that really are my favorites because if I stopped incorporating these things in my life I’d really be out of balance. I’d love to hear your favorites too, so be sure to share in the comments.

 


ONE

Weekly Meal Planning

I feel like lately, meal planning is all everyone talks about, I don’t have an extravagant or long drawn out method. For a few weeks I made all the meals in advance and that really didn’t work for me. Here’s how I manage meals as a working mom on a budget.

  1. Search Pinterest for some meal ideas.
  2. List the meals out by day in a Word document with the links to the recipe.
  3. Click each link and search for ingredients I may need to purchase and list those out in my Word document.
  4. Then I head over to my online grocery ordering site and start searching and adding the ingredients I need there. This allows me to price compare and the site also saves things I buy every week which makes shopping super quick and easy, and I’m less likely to forget something.
  5. Finally, I check out through my online grocery ordering site and select a pick-up date that’s convenient for us.

Here are a few things I consider when selecting meals for the week.

  • Balance of easy vs. more complicated meals
  • My week schedule- are we going to be home and are there days we’ll have less time to cook dinner?
  • I try to make sure to add some healthier options along with some options that will keep us excited and less apt to head for a restaurant.
  • I add one or two meals that could be pre-cooked in a crock pot or ahead of time (like chili or salad).

This method helps me save money (since I’m able to price shop better and throw less of the things I don’t need in my cart), saves me time, and keeps me from throwing away a bunch of things we may have otherwise bought that go bad. Our meals were also getting kind of borning. This way I’m mixing it up and I have been saving all the weekly menus for future reference in case I don’t have as much time to meal plan; I can just repeat a week later on.

AND I can pull up my menu document at any point throughout the week and link straight to the recipe to quickly get my meal started. I also pre-read all the recipes before so I have kind of an idea of what I’m getting into each night. Sometimes I don’t even have to have the recipe up.

I heard Memphis is getting a grocery delivery service soon… WHAT??? #lifechanging


TWO

Zero Base Budgeting

We took a Financial Peace class about 7 years ago and we’ve tried to stick to the basic principles we learned. We took a refresher course this past January and it was a great way to start incorporating some of the things we weren’t able to get to the last time around (like will planning).  One thing we have really tried to be consistent with is the zero-based budget. Basically here are the steps:

  1. List out all your expenses. There’s a form on the site.
  2. Then list out all of your paychecks and start incorporating which items need to come out of which check.
  3. Pull out the money in cash that is not paid towards specific bills and assign envelopes to those categories. For example, cosmetics, haircuts, and gifts are all categories where you could assign envelopes for this method.
  4. Don’t forget to incorporate one-time items like tax preparation and car registration and divide those things by 12 months so that you don’t have to cover the bulk of these expenses at once. By saving for them each month in an envelope you’re less likely to have a heavy hit with unexpected expenses.

Here’s an example snapshot of a portion of our budget template.

If I stopped budgeting it would really stress me out. We tend to spend a lot more on entertainment and eating out than we realize and that stuff adds up quickly. By doing it this way it keeps our whole family sane and then we also budget for things we may otherwise forget about like vacation and cosmetics! I think there are easier online ways to do this instead of on a spreadsheet, but I’ve been doing it this way for so long that it’s hard to change over to something new.

 

 


THREE

Kids Quiet Time

My older son is not so keen on naptime, so I stopped fighting it. We have an extra bedroom and when my daughter napping, my son knows it’s time for quiet time in that room (so he doesn’t distract her from sleeping). We try to be consistent with it, instituting it every weekend day, and we allow him to play with toys and look at books. We set a timer for one hour and he has a chance to decompress and relax for that hour doing one of the things we’ve put in the room for him (magnablocks, puzzles, a stack of books, legos, etc.)

This gives us a quiet house for at least one hour on the weekend days. And sometimes, I get to take my own nap in my own bed. Sometimes.

What are your favorites?