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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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! 

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!

 

Family

Adoption: Where to Start?

Today I’m sharing a piece of our personal life that I’ve been avoiding.  I’ve started and stopped this post over the course of the last couple months. It’s a difficult topic to approach because it’s a goal that we have as a family that’s not always well received. It’s a topic that a lot of people on this road aren’t open about, but that’s even more reason for us to share, so that others starting this path aren’t in the dark. So here goes. Here’s how we feel about adoption.


A Calling

In 2006 I started my first professional job in a field I’m passionate about- Marketing- for an incredible region- the Caribbean! I was also just embarking on my marriage, with my husband Daniel for almost 2 years. My first official solo trip for work was to head to Kingston, Jamaica to meet the Orbis flying eye hospital and handle sponsor coordination and support. I hadn’t been far from the US (my passport stamps included Canada and Mexico), I was 24-years-old, and I was excited to add that third entry stamp to my travel document! When I hit the ground in Jamaica, I got to work, organizing customer tours of the plane, coordinating support to help in the unloading process, and I attended a community outreach event where my company went to a local hospital with the Orbis team where we gave away goodies and good vibes to the patients.

Our tour of that hospital included an orphan wing, and I remember my disbelief that these children we were visiting didn’t have families. Some of them had severe medical conditions. I met a little girl who appeared to be six months old, by my estimate, but I found out from the staff that she was a little over twelve months. It was devastating and disheartening, and when I arrived home I announced to my husband that I wanted to adopt. He really wasn’t sure, we didn’t have any children of our own, and after years of discussion I agreed, with his guidance, that we would start our family on a more natural path and explore adoption later. I put my thoughts on hold, but quite honestly in, the back of my mind, adoption was calling to be a part of our story.


What we’re doing now

Right now there’s not much more to tell except the things we are doing to be proactive in this journey; here’s how we are being intentional.

  1. We’re doing research.

We are meeting with agencies and going to info sessions to learn more about the process. We are reading about people who have adopted. We’re meeting with people who have adopted. We’ve purchased books about adoption. Basically we are learning what this process would mean for us.

  1. We’re praying about it

Our life is a little hectic, but we know that this stage won’t last forever. So we are praying, keeping our eyes open for opportunities to learn more and we’re leaning in to what God wants for our family.

  1. We’re preparing financially.

Adoption is expensive. Although there are some tax benefits and my company offers reimbursement in some cases for a small portion of the cost, there is still an extremely large upfront contribution required. We are preparing for those expenses. We’ve set up a fundraising page and we’re thinking over fundraising ideas that we could potentially move forward with.

Although not immediate, we will be preparing our home study. There is an expense to that, and it also has an expiration date and could expire if not used within a specific time frame (with a small fee for re-activation), so we are trying to hit the time just right for that exercise.

Most of all we just keep moving forward. Even a small step is a step in this process.

We will keep sharing significant stages in our process through this page. Please keeps us in your thoughts as we find out more about what this means for us. And hey, if you have experience with adoption and would like to share, please send me a note through the contact section of this page or through IG or Facebook.

 

 

 

Career & Resources, Family

A Career Mom Turns Her College Gig into a Calling

This Mother’s Day my mom will be visiting. She used to visit me every year for Mother’s Day, but next year I will have to share her with my sister who is expecting her first baby in August (but I can’t wait for that!).

Being a mom can be one of the most difficult jobs, and I hope your Mother’s Day celebration, either with your mom, as a mom, or for another mom in your life let it be a wonderful celebration of love and merriment.

Today Cherisse Hixson, mom and resident of Tennessee, is sharing all about how she honors moms and got inspiration from her own mom. I chose her to share her story because she exudes an aura of overall cheerfulness in her community and she’s always taking care of other women and lifting them up. She has a way of shining light on her friends and generally everyone she meets.

She carries goody bags in her car and distributes them to strangers she interacts with that may be having a wicked day or season in life. As a Mary Kay consultant she volunteers at local elementary school career fairs to inspire young women by sharing the Mary Kay philosophy. She conducted a make-over challenge in March where she treated 100 women in her community to a make-over that she organized over wine, coffee, in the back of Panera’s and at her home. Her life is a testament to taking care of others. I hope you have a friend like Cherisse; someone that inspires you to live life shining light onto others.

Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Park Rapids, Minnesota and we moved to Naperville, Illinois when I was in Kindergarten and lived there until I was in 6th grade. That’s when we finally moved to Memphis and have been here since (or at least within a one hour radius).

Tell me something unique about your upbringing.

From about the time I can remember (starting at around 5 years old until I was about 11 years old) I spent the summers at my grandparent’s lake resort. They owned Big McDonald Resort in Dent, Minnesotta, with eight cabins right on the water, and a lodge for people to come play cards, games and watch TV and it was attached to my grandparents’ home. My parents would bring me up in May and I came back home right before school started in August and I learned at a very young age how to serve others and make them feel important; that was what my grandparents did.

Tell me a little bit about your philosophy on interacting with others and how you find a way to spread joy.

I think it is just something that is inside my soul or in my blood. My mom has raised us to recognize that everyone we come in contact with has a sign around their neck that says “make me feel important”. Not only did she teach us those values but she SHOWED us by example, whether we were at Walmart, checking out at the grocery store or if it was a friend or neighbor, my mother knows no stranger. Even though I rolled my eyes as a teenager, I came to find that more is CAUGHT than TAUGHT.
It is simply the Golden Rule and what we deeply believe inside our hearts exudes out of us and unto others. I am also religious and I truly believe through my faith that we may be the only Jesus that anyone knows. I MESS UP all the time but as a general rule I really do intentionally try and get out of my own head and make someone that I’m interacting with feel special on a daily basis.

Where does your positive attitude stem from?

My mom started her Mary Kay business when I was 5 years old; a business model that adopts the Golden Rule and prioritizes faith first, family second, and career third. My mom also had positive affirmations and scripture all over our home, leadership training tapes playing during our rides to and from school, and goal posters up on her office/laundry room door. This played a huge role in how I learned to have a great attitude.
I remember one time in particular, during a cold winter day, my mom drove me and a friend to middle school, and she had finally heard enough of our bad attitudes. She rolled down all four of the car windows and said, “Girls negativity out the window! Until you girls change your attitude, these windows stay down!” I don’t think my friend ever said another negative word around my mom again; she knew there was no room for that in our home.

Now I’m the one enforcing positivity towards my own son these days.

I know that you interact with your community quite a bit. How are you intentional in sharing your joyful philosophy?

I wish I could take credit for my community involvement, but to be honest it I am not that intentional about making it happen. I stand in awe of the friends, women, relationships and interactions that the Lord puts in my path daily. Honestly, my biggest prayer lately is, “Lord just let me slow down, be still, and be aware of your presence, and walk in obedience. Let me steward these sweet relationships you place in front of me well”. I hope to be known as the woman who loves others really well, encourages them, and when they leave my space, they in turn can pour back into someone else what they have received.

Tell me a little bit about your career and how that came about.

I really started my own business with Mary Kay unintentionally. I called home as a scared, broke and very lonely 18-year-old, living in a new city and reporting to a college campus, complaining about all of the above to my mother. I mentioned to her that I had looked everywhere for a part-time job that would work around my school schedule and I kept coming up short and frustrated.
Of course, my mother being who she is, saw an opportunity for me to meet friends, learn business skills, people skills and Mary Kay values, all while earning the extra income I needed in college. Unbeknownst to me, my mom filled out my MK paperwork and gifted me a MK starter kit and business! At the time I was not very grateful, scared out of my mind, and feeling inadequate, but she believed in me and never let me quit on myself.
I am forever grateful that she always told me “you can do it” and “just keep going”. It was her encouragement along with the other women I had the opportunity to interact with through the MK business, that have mentored me for over eighteen years, why I have been forever changed. My son Drew, and husband Matt, have also been impacted by thousands of woman I have been able to meet and come into contact with over the years. They have influenced and inspired all of us.

Mother’s day is a special holiday and you’re a mom. What are you especially thankful for this year on Mother’s Day?

This year on Mothers Day I am thankful all of the blessings I have been graced with! I feel so many prayers I have prayed about over the last decade have come true: closing on a home of our own in a neighborhood we have aspired to live in, having a community of friends who gather at our home weekly and encourage us in our marriage, as parents and as individuals, and a church family that surrounds us and helps us grow. As I go through this list of things I am most grateful for, I could sum it up by saying that I am most grateful for the relationships we have an opportunity to experience.

What does your Mother’s Day usually look like?

This is so funny to think about, but if my mom were in town she would say all she wants for Mother’s Day is to be with her kids, but she would also say she wants some KFC! I have no idea why she thinks that is so incredible but that is what she has always wanted on Mother’s Day.

How do you honor other moms on mother’s day through your business?

Honoring moms should be something all of us do more than just one day of the year because being a mom is seriously one of the hardest things we as woman do. The best way I know how to love on moms all year long is to invite them over, allow them to slow down, brew them a cup of tea or coffee and place it on a girlie cup and saucer, and serve them well. I allow them time to share their hearts with me and just listen. Sometimes I even share their story and encourage other moms! What a gift to allow women a break from serving someone else for even just an hour and allow them time to share their heart.

I truly believe the Lord lays friends on our heart that could use some extra prayer or even just an invitation to have coffee and spend time around a table visiting and sharing life. I am so guilty of being on my phone or computer and I intentionally work on being more present by getting off of social media and reaching out to a friend by saying: “Hey would you like to come over for coffee. It would be so nice to just have time with you”. I heard the best quote from a man named Soup Campbell (really that’s his name) and he was teaching that “we are known by the feet who are gathered around our tables”. I love that!!

Anything else to share?

I heard a great piece of wisdom from business coach, Bob Williumsun, who is an Executive Coach for many CEO’s here in my city and also a dynamic marriage coach. He said that two things to focus on daily that can have a compound effect on our lives immensely are these:
1. Make it a goal daily to grow in a personal relationship with Jesus and get to know him more through spending time in His word.
2. Ask yourself daily: Have I added value to someone else’s life?
If those are my ONLY two goals each day, I can lay my head on the pillow at night and know that I had a win for today and over the entire course of my life!

Thank you Cherisse! I am so inspired by your positive attitude and positive influence over others! Have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend everyone!

Family

Toddler Boot Camp: One Fun Aunt Lives to Tell Her Story

My son is four, and he has been going to visit my sister, Erin, and her husband Justin, since he was two. So far these visits have been working out, and people often comment about what a fun aunt my sister is and how creative she is at finding fun ways to entertain a toddler. We even joke about how she needs to start a kid’s camp, and her Facebook comments have hit an all-time high for photos featuring my son in his element during his stay with her [I’m not gonna lie, some comments are from jealous adults  asking for permission to join her camp]. She’s great about going out of her way to make the weeks she spends with my son very special, tailored just for him, and inclusive of all his favorite things. I asked her to share her experience and tips for running a toddler boot camp.


I heard you run a camp for toddlers (wink, wink). What made you decide to keep your nephew for spring break and during summertime?

My nephew, Graham, lives far away and I don’t get to see him that often. Since the day he was born I wished he lived closer so I could have a relationship with him. I’m fortunate enough to have a week off every four weeks and I thought it would be a perfect time to spend some quality time with him.

You have a plan when he comes to visit. Tell me about your goal for the week.

Graham goes to school everyday when he is at home, and I know that kind of schedule can be taxing on a kid of any age.

My plan involves relaxing with him in the morning. We take our time eating breakfast and getting ready, and then we get out of the house to do something fun and exciting the rest of the day.

Is there anything that worried you the first time you kept your nephew?

I worried that he would miss his parents and want to go home. Since he lives seven hours away, getting him back home wasn’t really in the cards for us, but surprisingly he has always been comfortable being away for a week since a very young age.

How do you decide which places to explore?

I see stuff that my friends do with their kids (posts on Facebook) and save them on a list for the next time my nephew comes to town. I look at my local city kid’s activity page (Pensacola With Kids Facebook page) for ideas as well. It usually has events that are going on each week so I can plan accordingly.

What are your top three favorite places to take/top things to do with a toddler?

  1. The beach! I love the beach and so does he….it’s a win, win!
  2. The bounce house (in Pensacola). It’s not necessarily MY favorite place to be, but I love seeing how happy he is when he’s there and it seems to really get all his energy out, which means an extra-long nap in the afternoon.
  3. The zoo. As an adult you just don’t go to the zoo and I hadn’t been since I was a kid. Even I enjoyed seeing all the animals and riding the train.

What do you pack for your outings?

Healthy snacks and bribery snacks. Also a change of clothes.

What is your success criteria for the week?

I like to make sure we meet up with other kids, try a few new places/things, and of course I have a personal goal to wear him out.

For the meet up with other kids, we try to schedule a play date with my friends who have kids at least once while he’s with me for the week. Trying new activities can be a struggle, since Graham usually wants to head back to the places where we’ve had so much fun already.  He usually ends up loving the new places too, once I talk him into going.

Do you have any rules for your camp?

No whining, no hitting, say please and thank you.

What are the top three most requested snacks at your camp?

Cheetos, Orange Chips (Doritos), gummys, jelly beans, and mac and cheese.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing with your nephew next time (or when he gets older)?

I can’t wait until he is old enough to take him to a water park, bowling, putt-putt golfing, and roller skating. I know his Uncle Justin is looking forward to teaching him how to surf.


Thanks Erin! Erin’s camp is expecting a brand new camper in August, the month she will be welcoming her new baby girl. My hope is that if you’re a parent, you consider letting a fun, responsible and capable family member take your kids adventuring! If you’re a fun and energetic family member to a kid, take the opportunity to treat them to their own special day or week!

What are your tips for fun things to do with kids?

Family

Seasons

When we moved to Memphis and had kids, the idea of seasons, literally and figuratively became the better part of our life. Miami is a tropical city with one season and I had greedily started to yearn for all four. For me, weather is my internal compass; it helps me track time.

When we first had my son, I didn’t really get the “season of life” concept until he turned about 18 months. I guess my half-functioning, baby brain didn’t absorb enough of the baby book mantras that first year. You can imagine how enjoyable it was when I realized that everything comes to an end, in regards to difficult things of course, which included tantrums, late nights, early mornings, throwing food, clumsy egg-head bumps, and all the exhausting things about being a first-time parent the first few months.

I feel extremely optimistic about this particular season I’m in of my life and this season on the calendar, because the two have finally met up- it’s Spring and my children are finally old enough to enjoy some of my favorite family outdoors activities. I still get to worry about sunscreen application, bug spray, humidity, spills on the playground and all the spring things, but being with my family outdoors is bring back some fun memories from my own childhood.

Just to give you an idea about how my children actually feel about seasons, and their particular acclimation to spring versus other seasons, you should know that…

Graham is a beach person and this actually depicts his feeling towards winter perfectly.

 

Can I get an ocean and some sunshine stat!

 

And my daughter doesn’t vary too far from his opinion. She is pretty much into any season that will get her playing outside.

She is telling my husband, “I cannot do one more winter like this again!”

 

SPRING is the season that I am so excited about right now, and my kids are both on board.

 

Spring cleaning is all the rage

Here are some fun things that we do during Spring that I am really enjoying right now.

Baseball at the park- yes!

 

Rocking chairs, snacks, cool shades, check!

 

Chalking it up

 

Fishing and relaxing is so in for spring

 

I don’t know the last time I flew a kite, but my son thinks it is amazing!

 

Tire swings for the win!

We are really enjoying our front porch right now in the evenings and weekends and have it stocked with bubbles for a lazy time of hanging out and blowing out the largest bubbles we can set our sites on. Every Sunday afternoon we have also been making a commitment to spend time at our large, iconic park in Memphis soaking in Spring and just relaxing after church. That means online grocery shopping during the week and chores all the other days to keep our Sunday afternoons clear.

Some of our favorite goodies include a Frisbee, balls, a large grass blanket, bubbles, extra snacks, kites, chalk, sunscreen, and lots of cash for ice cream and Popsicle’s (and extra towels for these messy treats). Strollers for walks around the park’s man-made lake are also a must. It really has been a treat to make time to be outside with the only plans on our agenda to relax (and chase kids) while we forget chores and lists and commitments for a short, but well-needed time away.

This weekend we’re inviting our friends and their families to join it, making this our biggest meet-up yet. We hope it keeps the young kids busy and the adults entertained, with great company and fun outdoor time for all.

 

 

What are your favorite activities to engage with in Spring? And most of all, what are your favorite items to pack for outdoor activities?

Family

Celebration of Life: A Montessori Birthday

Have you ever attended a Montessori Birthday celebration? We had the opportunity to participate in our first ever experience a few weeks ago when my son turned four. It is definitely a different from your traditional bring-the-cupcakes and “party down like it’s your last sugar high” type of party.

The ceremony consists of the child holding a small Earth replica while they walk around a symbol of the sun (in this case it was a candle). They do this the number of times they have actually traveled around the sun while they have been on this Earth. After each year, and each time my son walked around the candle, we (his parents) provided a fun fact, significant for my son that year, and showed a picture representing each year to the class.

What a beautiful way to display the child’s life for their peers. My son’s classmates had an opportunity to hear about the unique things my son has experienced that make him the sweet and special individual he is today. I want a Montessori Birthday celebration! Too bad it would take forever for me to do my walks around the sun.

Here are some things that we showed and talked about with the class. We also brought graham crackers and raspberries to share, as they are some of Graham’s favorite snacks. We were instructed not to bring just any treat, but to bring something specific to the child’s life.

 

Birth: This seemingly small child weighed almost 10 pounds!

 

Year 1: First road trip up the coast of California. Location: Big Sur.

 

Year 1: Road trip continued. Location: Getty Museum, LA

 

Year 2: Sister Haddie is born and Graham was in love!

 

Year 2 (cont.): Always such a helper (a little forceful with the paci- yikes)

 

Year 3: Toy Story obsession continues. And Graham recruits his sister in their Halloween duo.

 

Year 4: Birthday Celebration with friends

 

What a fun way to kick off the 4th year of life. What a fun kid Graham has become. Thanks for reading along.

 

Do you have any special traditions for celebrating birthdays?