Closing Time

Because moving on is part of moving forward.

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Today was quite the day, you guys.


It was my last official day as an agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor for Niangua R-V High School. {And before you say anything like “shouldn’t you already be off for the summer and toes-deep in the sand on some beach somewhere sippin’ a pina colada?” please note that ag teachers are on a 12 month contract from July to June, which basically means we are running on auto-pilot 24/7, 365 days a year. We also drink our coffee very very very very black, eat drive-thru’s on the daily, and have mastered the art of sleeping with our eyes open. True story. }

So June is already here and gone. This morning I took my last hour-long drive through all those hills, curves, and miles of countryside that I’ve come to know by heart – as they have carried me in their arms this entire year, pumping me up for my mornings and winding me down at the end of another long day. I threw away the last poster from my wall, peeled sticky tack off my bulletin boards, and cleaned the rest of my highlighters and sticky notes and bobby pins and scented Germ-X out of my desk. I loaded boxes and boxes of all my lesson plans, family pictures, Hobby Lobby decorations, plaques, and my old FFA jacket in the back of my car. I unplugged my coffee pot and emptied the mini fridge that hid my jug of sweet tea when I needed an afternoon caffeine boost and all my chocolate for when I needed that little sugar rush while staying late grading papers. I hugged some co-workers goodbye…and may have also left sappy notes in their mailboxes.

{ Yeah buddy, I’m THAT girl. }

I watered the greenhouse and swept my shop floor one final time. I turned in my keys for the new teacher coming along and took my name tag off my door. And I sat one more time in my squeaky chair and stared at all those empty desks that not too long ago were full of the students that became “my kids” this past year.

Right here in this little room that was home for so many of us who desperately needed it.

We did a lot of learning and growing in this tiny classroom. We lived, we loved, and we laughed.

Also, we killed LOTSSSS of spiders.

We had heart-to-hearts before the morning tardy bell sounded and deep life discussions before the last bell of the day rang. A lot of “your mom” jokes were fired {okay, so I’m not the most “politically correct” teacher there ever was…} and many General’s Orders for saying cuss words out loud were written. In this room I prayed in desperation, cursed in frustration, cried in defeat, smiled in proudness, and celebrated in triumph. In this room I sat in this very chair one year ago as a first year teacher – so fragile, like a paper airplane in a hurricane – thinking there was no way I’d survive it all.

But, here I am, still soaring.

Last year’s beginning is already today’s end…and I really can’t believe it.

And I won’t lie…I’m a little unsteady about what’s coming next for me as my identity will soon completely change from a high school ag teacher to a middle school math and science teacher.

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However, as this bittersweet conclusion to a beautiful journey I’ve experienced this past year has officially drawn to an end, I know it’s now the start of a new and exciting chapter in my life story. And for that, I am happy.

I am really, genuinely happy.

In a month I will hang different posters in my new classroom and decorate new bulletin boards. My pictures and plaques and little personal touches will be unboxed again, a million new nail holes will plaster the walls, and new students will soon come rushing through my door. My Pinterest Lesson Plan board will slowly evolve from “parts of a cow” and “welding tips” to all things osmosis, phases of the moon, solving inequalities, and the Pythagorean Theorem. I will exchange all those red staff polos and Cardinal’s T-Shirts in the back of my closet with purple and gold ones that say “Hermitage Hornets” on them. I will make new memories, befriend new co-workers, experience new challenges, and achieve new and greater heights.

And above all I will keep learning and growing and loving all those kiddos on my new class roster, even if I do roast them with a “your mom” joke from time to time.

{Don’t worry, I DO know when there’s a time and place for it…** insert eye roll here**}

I know good things are ahead for this girl, although some amazing memories and that old weathered “Welcome to Niangua” sign will soon be in my rear-view for good. 

It’s hard, but it’s time.

It’s time to roll the windows down, crank those speakers, and let my hair fly in the breeze as I press on down this new road, because after all; moving on is part of moving forward.

And what a coincidence that the song jamming on my playlist this very moment by one of my all-time favorite 90’s bands just happens to be the perfect summary for it all.

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So, what more is there really left to say?

Except…

On to the next adventure.

 

Oh yeah, and I also need gas…

 

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Fess Up, Get Up.


So it’s time I fess up.


I’ve not been {completely} honest with you all.

You read my blogs. You compliment my latest engagement or wedding session on my photography page. You see my pictures on Instagram and follow my life on Facebook nearly every day from the other side of the computer screen. You shake my hand at church every Sunday morning and sing along as I play the piano for the congregation. You laugh at all my stupid jokes when we go out for dinner and drinks on a girls night out. You hear me reply “I’m good” when I check out at your register at Wal-Mart and you ask me about my day. You see me smile back at you in the McDonald’s drive thru when I stop for my morning coffee. You heard my valedictorian speech when I graduated high school and watched me walk stage when I earned that four-year degree. You pass me the salt and pepper at family dinners from across the table and ask about my future plans – and you think I have it all figured out. You see the smiles, sunshine, accomplishments, and happiness that I choose to show the world. That’s how you see me because that’s all I’ve ever let you know about me.

But what you don’t know is there’s more…so much more.

What you don’t know is that this morning I was late to work because it was such a chore to get out of bed and face another hard day.

What you don’t know is on my days off I am really spending about 13-15 hours a day in bed in my dark room alone while my husband is out making a living for us and being The Responsible One…until finally I scramble to get a load of laundry folded, wash the dishes from last night’s dinner, and grab a quick shower before he comes home so he doesn’t have to see me this way yet again.

What you don’t know is that while to you I often look like a chicken running around with my head cut off doing anything for everyone and trying to keep up with my busy schedule, I like it that way because it distracts me from feeling worthless.

What you don’t know is I love teaching because it gives me purpose.

What you don’t know is I love photography for the sole reason that it lets me capture the very small things in life that are rare and beautiful and often unnoticed and forces me to reflect on these tidbits of joy when I am at my weakest.


What you don’t know is the reason I have to constantly have music blaring no matter what I’m doing is because it helps drown out the silence and loneliness I often feel. And I don’t really care that it annoys you when you’re around me, because sometimes it’s all I have to get me through.

What you don’t know is that every time you stop and ask me how long I’ve been married and inform me that it’s about time to start cranking out kids because my biological clock is ticking I cringe and want to cry…because this darkness I am struggling through is completely diminishing the beautiful and exciting and fun image I once had of motherhood.

What you don’t know is that before I sat down to write these words you’re reading right now I called my doctor to schedule another appointment and renew another prescription. I’m not sure if it’s going to work, but I did it anyways.

What you don’t know is several weeks ago I had to gather any ounce of hope and strength I had left to really talk myself into choosing to live when I was at the end of my rope and suddenly didn’t want to anymore. 

And I did this alone, because you didn’t know. Because I didn’t tell you.

I never told you that I struggle with this battle.

Every. Single. Day.

I’m guessing if you’ve made it this far it’s safe to say this is definitely not what you were expecting to read from the girl who always seems to have something positive to say or a story to laugh about. You came here for inspiration or a good chuckle, not a re-enactment of a Cymbalta commercial, right?

But…as uncomfortable as it may be to read these words…it’s the truth – my truth. And the truth isn’t always pretty or easy to confess, which is why you’ve never heard any of this until now. I just wasn’t ready. And quite honestly I didn’t think you cared, because afterall my problems probably don’t hold a candle to what some of you face daily.

But they say the first step to a better tomorrow is recognizing you have a problem and asking for help today.

So, here I am.

Besides. I figure it’s much better for you all to read this than my obituary, right?

I will say that I do have strong moments, which I try to share with you all any chance I get. There are good days where I manage to find joy in the little things and genuinely feel happy…for example, yesterday, when my parents came over with my sisters and I was babysitting my niece. Dad cooked dinner for us on the grill and we spent the entire evening riding around the farm on four-wheelers, watching the cows graze and swim in the pond, chasing lightning bugs beneath the June sunset, and just, well, being together.


Yesterday was such a good day…then today was hard again for no reason at all. It ebbs and flows, I guess. And I swear if one more person tells me that “happiness is a choice” and that I should “count my blessings”, I am going to smack them in the face with my journal and chuck my pills at them.

Because if they knew anything at all about depression they would understand that nothing about it is a choice. I don’t recall pulling a twenty out of my wallet and saying “Sure! I’ll take it!” when the Devil came knocking on my door soliciting this emptiness and darkness that has been overtaking me for several years now. 

I don’t get it. I can’t really tell you when it all began and how it got to this point so fast. I mean, sure I’ve had my fair share of heartbreaks. I’ve lost ones I loved so soon and so tragically. I’ve experienced family drama and have lived through the destruction of divorce. Twice. I’ve dealt with the aftermath of my biological father abandoning me at four years old. Some of my closest friends have come and gone forever. I’ve been rejected and told no from some amazing opportunities I thought I had in the bag. I’ve came in second place against some people who wrongfully took first. I’ve had to say goodbye to my comfort zone and jump head first into major life changes I wasn’t prepared for. I’ve watched horrible people get away with horrible, unspeakable things and have let all the wrong people push me around in all the wrong ways. Nothing I’ve went through is too traumatic compared to what others have to go through every day, but it still all adds up, ya know?

But on the other hand I have a lot of great people in my life. I am smart, talented, and successful. I have salvation…though I’ve not been the most stellar Christian lately and can’t tell you the last time I knelt in serious prayer. I have a job, even if it isn’t the one I necessarily had in mind. I love my husband and my husband loves me. We have fun together and have a beautiful life. I just can’t seem to fully enjoy it like I want to because the good times seem to only be temporary. I don’t understand this pain and can’t give you a textbook answer for why I have it. All I can tell you is that it’s just here – living in the inner depths of my soul and heart and mind – and I want it to pack its bags and get the heck out so I can enjoy my life again like I used to.


Yeah, I struggle.

But despite how crummy I felt this morning as my familiar friends Stress, Anxiety, Guilt, and Shame came barging in at 7 a.m. to ruin my day, the important lesson I’m taking from today is that eventually I did get up.

I took a shower. Got dressed.  Ate some breakfast – which I never do. I went to work. Texted a good friend to invite her over to see our new house and eat dinner – after she cuts these split-ends off that I’ve been neglecting for a good year and a half now. I made that appointment….and this time I promise I will go and won’t make another excuse or tell myself to suck it up or spend another day like this. I wrote this journal entry and shared it with you just in case you needed to know that you’re not alone and this girl you look at as Little Miss Sunshine has her fair share of cloudy days, too, just like anyone else.

It’s reassuring to know I’m not alone, like I sometimes feel. And if you’ve been where I am or are there now, I hope you realize that, too.

And I know it’s hard. It’s SO. HARD. Getting out of bed and going to work when you’re already physically, emotionally, and mentally drained is hard. Going to therapy is hard. Taking meds is hard. Telling someone you love that you’re struggling is hard. Admitting it to yourself that you have a problem when you know there are so many beautiful blessings surrounding you is hard. And trust me when I say that writing about it and exposing it to the rest of the world full of your friends, family, and complete strangers is even harder – especially when some of them just don’t get it because it’s not a war they’ve ever had to fight.

But, it’s also absolutely necessary if we want to be one of the Lucky Ones. You know, the Survivors. The reality of this horrible illness is not easy to take in. For every person who gets their life back after depression, there are many others on the sidelines who do not. This has to change…starting with me and you.

We’ll get there.

I know I’m nowhere close to where I want to be…but I am making baby steps in the right direction. 

Day by day, right? 


That’s what matters. Not where I came from or even necessarily where I’m at right now, but where I’m going. Just the fact that I am still here today writing this and for once finding beauty in the rain coming down outside is proof that there is still hope out there for me.

The happiness is temporary, but that also means that so is the pain. And today, I’m going to focus my attention on that…and maybe even dance in the rain because right now I feel strong enough to do so…and there’s a damn good John Mellencamp song playing on my iPod.

So if you’re reading this and can relate at all – whether miles apart, down the street,  or in the very next room – please know that although you and I have our separate battles and I don’t have much energy left to get myself through most days, we’re not alone in this. My heart holds your hands through your toughest days and darkest hours.

And I can’t thank you nearly enough for holding mine at such a fragile and vulnerable time in my life as I am striving to get back up from the heavy waves that have held me down long enough.


A Brown Renovation Story

So the Hubby and I recently decided to tackle our first DIY project together in our married life.

 

Don’t worry…we haven’t killed each other and no one has had to attend therapy yet. (Stay tuned, just in case…)

 
Long story short, after some BIG career switches, we are now living on his family farm that has been in the family for nearly 70 years. On this property stand two houses – the main farmhouse that we are going to completely overhaul in about a year after we get our life and finances in a little better order and this little bitty studio home that we have been fixing up and are currently living in for the time being.

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For about the past month we have been {attempting} channeling our inner Chip and Joanna Gaines by trying to flip this place into something we can call home temporarily while we remodel our dream house, so we don’t have to live in the middle of a disaster zone.

 
Because let’s be real…ain’t nobody got time for not being able to use the shower or toilet for a week, scraping popcorn ceilings all over their nice furniture, or wiping sheetrock dust off the kitchen counter just so they can make a flipping peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

 
Although I’m pretty sure we could star in an episode of “Tiny House, Big Living” this place has so far worked out amazing, considering all it really needed was some paint, new flooring and trim, a couple new windows, and some MAJOR cleaning.

 
It has been quite the learning experience thus far, from tearing out linoleum to hanging ceiling fans to trying to find any place at all to put the coffee pot and all the Tupperware. (Never underestimate a woman with decorative baskets and cabinet organizers from Bed Bath and Beyond!) But after several exhausting weeks, we are FINALLY moved in and it’s starting to feel like home sweet home!

 
Now, before I get too far into this, let me just clarify some things so we’re all on the same page here. If you came here for a professional design blog with very detailed DIY instructions of how to flip a shack into an immaculate HGTV worthy mansion by two highly skilled and reno-savvy people, you’re DEFINITELY in the wrong place (although we would feel pretty honored). However, if you came here to watch the hilarious but totally honest journey of two completely inexperienced homeowners with a tight budget who had their fair share of struggles, epic fails, and head scratching moments while taking on this crazy adventure, then welcome aboard the hot mess express! We’re your kind of people!

 
Se here it is, the Reality of Home Renovations, as told by The Browns.

 

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PART 1: The Overhaul, A.K.A Mission Impossible

Someone once told me I could make even a port-a-potty look cute, which I about died laughing because this place was definitely not much of a step above that when we first began. I remember when we first got the idea of fixing this little house to live in for the year until we could remodel the big house…and then basically crying when we walked through the front door.

 
This place sat vacant for years, after my husband’s great aunt passed away. Now please understand that NONE of her clothes, furniture, dishes, or even food in the cabinets had been cleaned out for all this time, not to mention the fact that several windows were busted, screens were torn, mice had defecated all over the kitchen countertops and carpet, and spiders and flies plastered about every square inch of the floors – some dead, some alive.

 
Why smell four years of abandonment when you can practically taste it?


It was rough, yo. I remember standing there thinking, we’re nuts! There’s no freaking way. It was 450 square feet of filth and pure horror. I mean, you practically needed a tetanus shot just to even turn the light switch on! I swore there wasn’t enough bleach, Febreze, Scentsy cubes, or pinesol in the world to fix this mess, let alone make it livable.

 
But my ever-so-calm and always reassuring husband convinced me that we really could do this, with a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of elbow grease.

 
And so, it began!

 
First task was to empty the place one Hefty trash bag and truck load at a time, then tear out the disgusting carpet and linoleum. That alone made the place smell A LOT better – and made for a hellacious bonfire!

Part 2: The Make-Over

Next all the trim and outlet/light switch covers were removed and the walls were scrubbed so we could begin painting! I knew from the get-go that this place was going to be a farmhouse-style cottage when I got done with it, so picking just the right colors for the walls and cabinets that would complement all my furniture and décor and not make this tiny space feel even more closterphobic was critical to the end result.

The cabinets were definitely the most exciting part of the entire project – not to mention WAYYYYY easier than I expected! And trust me when I say that I am definitely no Picasso and have absolutely ZERO experience when it comes to painting and distressing things. I just picked up the paintbrush and taught myself, and it was definitely do-able! I changed my mind a couple times once I actually began painting and didn’t like the color, but in the end decided to paint the bathroom vanity with Indigo chalk paint from Market 116 in Buffalo (really looks more like a charcoal gray, not blue – thank goodness because that’s what I was going for!) This paint is ahhh-mazing! It’s no sanding, no priming, and advertises as only needing one coat, but I did two to be safe! 😉 There are so many colors and they also have tons of cheap sample sizes you can try out before you commit to a full sized can, which costs $35 but is TOTALLY worth it and goes really far!


I let the paint COMPLETELY dry then I brought out the detail and grain with this alsphaltum antiquing gel (SUPER easy to apply and also available from Market 116 in sample and full-can sizes for around the same price as the paint!) Basically you brush it ALL over the paint then use cheese cloth or something that doesn’t shed fibers (like old T-shirt rags or those soft blue shop paper towels) and wipe off what you don’t want to keep to create a distressed look to your liking! The key I learned with distressing with the gel is to move WITH the grain and wipe as straight as possible. What I love is that it is very forgiving in that if you apply to much, you can easily wipe it off or if you want to add more you can easily brush more on until you get the desired results. And if you mess up? Who cares! Just paint over it, let it dry, and start again! 😉

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Originally I had picked out a creamy tan for all of my kitchen cabinets, but I ended up loving the dreamy charcoal look so much on my bathroom vanity that I decided to go two-tones with my kitchen cabinets, using the Indigo chalk paint on the bottom and the Gray Taupe for the uppers. I LOVED the end result and the two colors really matched my ugly laminate countertop and made it look so much better! After distressing everything and adding some new hardware, I had new kitchen cabinets and a bathroom vanity that looked like a million bucks – for less than $150 altogether!!! #BargainStatus

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So basically I am now addicted to chalk paint and have since also redone ALL of our dressers, the bed, and TV stand…and believe me when I say there’s plenty more where that came from!IMG_5202

For the walls, I ended up going with Valspar Blue Twilight for our bedroom and Stone Mason Gray for the rest of the house (From Lowes, which I’m pretty sure we kept in business during this entire adventure!) I was very pleased with the results against the white trim and new cabinets!


Next challenge was the flooring, which we also purchased from Lowes. We ended up going with these vinyl click together planks that look like real barnwood by Shaw – which any farmhouse-look addict can definitely appreciate! We loved that they are durable, waterproof, beautiful, and not to mention – affordable! We did the entire house for about $800. DISCLAIMER** we are definitely NOT pros, and my hubby had to tear it all out a couple times and restart, but he did such a fabulous job! And we are thoroughly convinced that God created knee pads just for this job and trim to hide all the imperfections of accidentally cutting the pieces too short! 😉


Now, let’s backtrack a little so we don’t lose the effect here….
Before……

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And after! What an AMAZING difference paint, floors, trim, and cleaning can make!

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Part 3: The Staging and Decorating

One of my FAVORITE things to do after moving in is finding the perfect places to put all of my flea market finds and Hobby Lobby treasures. It’s so amazing watching a room completely come to life with hanging a picture here, adding some greenery there, and throwing in a fun rug and some accent pillows. In this case, these finishing touches were exactly what we needed to make this tiny place cute, quaint, country, and cozy! **Side note, this is usually a matter of arranging and re-arranging about ten times and adding about a hundred new nail holes until I am completely satisfied!

Part 4: The Deleted Scenes and Bloopers

I saved the best part for last with this blog, lemme tell ya! As with about any catastrophe in life, I always try to find the humor or lesson learned in each situation to make the most of it – because after all there is no such thing as perfect, there’s only reality!! So as for the things HGTV doesn’t show you about the truths of renos….you’re welcome!

 
1- When patching holes that go COMPLETELY through the drywall and even expose to the world outside, duct taping the mesh patch on the wall without correctly puttying and sanding over it is NOT how you do it….

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2- When your husband is laying the floors, do NOT point out that he cut off too much and that even though it is in the back of the closet behind all the shoe racks and hampers and closed doors and no one will ever see it, you will still always know in your heart the flaw is there. Yeah, that one doesn’t end too well!

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3- When touching up paint after the new floors and trim are installed, you might want to check and make sure you are indeed using the correct shade of paint…or your wife will yell for having to redo it herself…and DON’T tell her just to cover it up with a dresser, because she will totally bring up the messed up floor in the closet…

 

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He’s been told he’s color blind, but he doesn’t seem to think he is…
4- Painter’s Tape – the biggest lie ever.

 

 

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NOTHING about this is straight….
5- Understand that clothes WILL get ruined forever and you’ll be scraping paint off your hands in the shower for weeks.

 


6- Cleaning up first requires making even bigger messes.

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7- Never underestimate the power of using a level when hanging things.

 

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Fail.
8- Believe it or not, cabinet and furniture hardware doesn’t always come in standard 3-inch sizes, so measure first.

 

 

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Well, crap….
9- Sometimes your weatherproof tarp sticks out from your siding and you’re too frustrated to fix it. Thus the Lord invented the X-acto knife.

 

 

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I don’t know what’s funnier…the fact that we did this or the fact that we tried to paint over it to hide it better.
10- When installing a stove in a place that is too small, be prepared that your husband will probably just cut the trim off {noticeably too short} to force it to fit…

 

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11- When revamping a dresser into an adorable TV stand with convenient DVD storage because your old entertainment center won’t fit in your new house, you might want to first double check that your TV isn’t too big and will just hang off the edges.

 

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Just flipping fabulous….looks like we’re buying a mount!
12- Measure twice, cut once. Enough said. 

 

 

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Why use a ruler when you can “eyeball” it….
13- What happens to the stuff that doesn’t fit in your tiny house? It gets crammed in your husband’s shop.

 

 

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Don’t worry, he’ll have this spotless in no time so his truck can fit in here!
14- If you are lazy like us and don’t wash the brushes and rollers out to re-use, you might want to get ahead of the game and buy plenty upfront.

 

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15- No matter how much you beg and bribe your husband to hang up the new ceiling fan, it will probably sit in the shop and collect dust for weeks because he has other “priorities.”

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16- Face it. It’s nearly IMPOSSIBLE {despite your valiant efforts} to cover all the eyesores in your house and land the perfect lighting to capture perfect shots of the finished project that you would feel confident enough submitting in a magazine. So, ya might as well embrace it!

See if you can spot all the eyesores in my little I Spy game here…

 

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For example, toilet paper rolls and toothbrushes…
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Freaking flies…
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Trash cans, air conditioners, outlets/cords, and dirty dishes…
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The unpacked amazon box I tried to hide from the photos, but made it in one anyways…
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Annnndddd of course, the hubby’s hat.
 

 

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So here we are, about two weeks in to living in our new home, which we’ve nicknamed as the Little House on the Prairie. (And our new motto is, as Alan Jackson would say, it’s alright to be little bitty!) While we have to take three minute showers because our hot water heater is small enough to be a footstool and we have to walk up to the main house to do laundry and eat off TV trays because we can’t fit our washer and dryer or kitchen table in here, this place is becoming home sweet home and we are LOVING it!

 
When I reflect back through all these photos it’s almost impossible to believe we can now confidently sleep at night, cut vegetables on the countertops, or even walk around barefoot in here. It’s been a wild ride, but through it all we have definitely changed out outlook on what it means to work hard as a team and have a vision for what could be.

 
Of course, pictures are never the same as the real deal so come on over sometime, have a cup of sweet tea, chat with us about our experience, and see it for yourself! Our door is always open to friends and family! {Except those crazy mother in-laws….kidding!}

 

Chances are I’ll be sitting right here with my feet kicked up watching competitive tennis on my too-big- TV  because we don’t have Dish and our X-Box isn’t hooked up yet to play movies and stream Netflix. It will probably be this way for a while because, you know, my hubby has “other priorities.” 😉

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Tough Decisions

“Dear Mr. Bransfield…”


There I sat, blankly staring at my computer screen in my classroom with sweaty palms, trembling hands, and a heavy heart that felt like it was going to beat itself right out of my chest no matter how hard I desperately tried to hold on and told myself to just breathe.

In a matter of minutes I would be printing that letter and sealing the envelope – no, my fate – to the profession I loved so dearly and worked so hard for since I graduated high school five years ago.

I was about to officially resign my position as the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Niangua High School for the next school year.

And the scarier thing? I didn’t have a clue what my next move was going to be.

For weeks my husband and I talked about this after he received an amazing and unexpected job opportunity for a new line engineering position in his company that would allow us to move back home to our family and the farm over an hour away, which we’ve always wanted from Day One. As new and exciting as we knew this journey would be, it required both of us giving up the current jobs we loved and excelled at to take a new path in a new place that was well out of our comfort zones. For me it was even harder, as no other ag teaching positions were open in the area we were moving to and I didn’t know what I was going to do for income the next year.

Now if you don’t know much about Cross Timbers, Missouri, I will simply tell you this. I absolutely love love love living in this little corner of the world. However, finding good job opportunities here is hard to come by and often times requires about a 45- 60 mile commute no matter which direction you go. Welcome to Small Town, USA! (And don’t even ask what happens when you run out of milk or toilet paper…)

So, yeah. To say I was a bit stressed out is the understatement of the year.

Do I quit? Do I tough it out and stay at Niangua and drive almost an hour and a half every day one-way? Live with my grandparents in the town next to where I worked or buy a small apartment to live in just for the week? Become self-employed and pick up my photography business again? Substitute teach? Go back for my Master’s Degree? Do we start a family and I just stay at home for a while? Can we even afford that right now?

Wait, wait, I’ve got it. I’m going to make my break and audition for The Voice. Problem solved.

Or at least it would be if I could sing.…

Dang. **Back to the drawing board**

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People would stop me out and about and ask me all the time what I was going to do when they heard the news about us leaving and starting this new journey. I would just fake a smile and tell them I wasn’t sure, but was trusting it would all work out. I replied kindly and tried to hold it together, but in all honesty I just wanted to curl up in a ball on the ground and cry…because as much as I knew people meant well by asking me all these daunting questions about my future, their words also felt like daggers ripping through my chest.

Because the truth was I was completely clueless.

For weeks it was endless days and nights of deliberating at the kitchen table over dinner. Weighing pros and cons in the car on our way to the grocery store. Thought-crunching in the shower. Praying and asking God for any ounce of enlightenment while updating my resume and desperately stalking the moteachingjobs website. Dancing around like fools in our living room as we were celebrating the fact that we were packing boxes for the LAST time to move into our forever home. Holding each other and crying together in bed wondering if we made the right decision when the reality of it all finally hit and we both said our goodbyes to the co-workers that became friends and students that became the kids that weren’t ours but we claimed as our own anyways.

Yeah, it was hard, I’ll be completely real with you. And I’m pretty sure we kept the Kleenex company in business during those long weeks as I boxed up my classroom and he cleaned out his work truck and we took this giant leap of faith into The Unknown.

I’m not even sure Siri could define the perfect word for how we were feeling about this situation without having some sort of technical/robotic/psychotic breakdown trying to sort out all our thoughts and feelings.

We were no doubt riding front seat on the emotional roller coaster of Adulting and Life. Hands in the air, screaming at the top of our lungs, full-speed through all the loops and drops and turns that lay outstretched before us.

Which is kind of ridiculous considering that leaving is definitely not out of the ordinary for us. I mean, we have packed up our life and moved for our jobs literally every year since we got married three years ago, so we’re basically experts. Seriously, I should have some sort of professional certificate in cleaning rent houses, painting walls, and patching drywall. (Ugh, WHYYYY do I even bother using a hammer and a nail when we are going to just leave again in nine months and I’ll have to take it all down again…)

And as for packing boxes onto trailers and using ratchet straps? Let’s just say U-Haul ain’t got nothing on this homegirl…

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This is nothing new. We’ll be fine. We’ve quit many jobs before and have moved a million times, and it’s always worked out, we kept telling ourselves. But somehow…it was different this time. We both felt an uneasiness about not knowing what would happen next for me and what that would mean for our upcoming finances with investing in a farm and renovating a new house. But, we tried to write it off as much as possible and just keep riding on faith and gas station energy drinks.

That’s when I got the message.

Remember when I listed off all those things I considered doing with my life this next year? How ironic it is that the one thing I never considered would be the next opportunity to come knocking on my door, or in this case, popping up in my inbox?

A good friend of mine who I’ve always loved and respected as a professional in the education field informed me of an opening at her school district for a middle school math and science position that still remained unfilled for the upcoming school year, which I was very apprehensive about at first. She explained how they needed someone passionate and energetic to step up to the plate and kindly encouraged me that she felt like I would be a great fit for the job, even though it wasn’t a content area I was used to teaching and would require quite a bit of a learning curve on my end.

“Would you have any interest in applying at all? I would love to talk with you about the options!”

I about fell out of my chair.

Options?

Here I was, feeling all bitter and defeated that I was giving up a job that I really enjoyed with students I really loved to just sit at home for a year until another agriculture teaching position came open close to home – whenever and IF ever that may be. Don’t get me wrong, I completely supported my husband and was thrilled for his new adventure, but couldn’t help but feel slightly envious deep down that I didn’t have an exciting opportunity lined up to help fill the void of missing my old job and no longer contributing substantially to our income. I had given up all hope and accepted the reality that I would just have to leave the profession of teaching for a while and make my living by some other means. Then suddenly I have…options??? Options that were only FIFTEEN minutes from my doorstep for that matter???

Could I really do that? Teach something….new? Different? Hmmm…

The next day I received a phone call from another school district with similar news, asking me to consider applying for another possible job opportunity as a high school special education co-teacher.

More options? Sweet Jesus, it’s like Christmas!

So once again, my husband and I found ourselves carefully weighing the pros and cons of each position, just like all those nights before when we deliberated about whether or not he should consider his new job offer. It seemed like yet another impossible decision, as both were such great and unexpected opportunities that each came with their own set of challenges. No matter which way I went, I knew was going to have to face change.

And change is, well, scary.

Needless to say, after two interviews, one LOOOONNNNNGGGGG weekend, many sleepless nights, several phone calls to friends and family, and a rather detailed pros and cons chart later (yeah, yeah…I’m a nerd, don’t laugh…) I decided to trust my gut feeling and accept the middle school science/math position.

Now, I tell you all this not to ramble on for over 2,000 words and waste five minutes of your life reading about two complete strangers and how they’re practically driving the struggle bus off the nearest cliff. (Yes, I’ve been told I’m a bit dramatic…)

I tell it because in the aftermath of it all – through all the tears, heartbreak, excitement, and fear of the great unknown –  there were lessons learned. Lessons worth sharing because my guess is like us, YOU too have experienced your fair share of tough decisions in your own life. And if you haven’t yet? Well saddle up and get ready, because your wild ride is sure to come around someday!

So, basically there are four morals to this story worth talking about. And I’m not the most eloquent or profound writer ever, so I’ll just borrow a few quotes from the pros to summarize my general thoughts.

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#1 ~ There will come a time when you think everything is finished. That will just be the beginning. – Louis L’Amour.

I won’t lie. It got pretty dark for me there for a while after I turned my letter of resignation in. I felt like I had just signed my death sentence. I knew it was all a blessing in disguise and we were making the best decision for our future by making this big change, but I thought it was all over for me because I didn’t have a job lined up at the end of my contract with Niangua. I was really going to miss my students, the community, and all my work friends. More importantly I was going to miss the sense of belonging I had by impacting students lives every day – so much that it broke my heart and I balled like a baby every day on my way to and from work. I felt like I somehow failed when I walked away from it all, even though I obviously couldn’t control the fact that there wasn’t another job opportunity waiting for me when we moved.

But you know what?

Opportunity found its own way to me in God’s perfect timing. And the end of that chapter is just the turning of a new page for what’s coming next in my story.

I can feel it.

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#2 ~ Be willing to be a beginner every single morning. – Meister Eckhart

When my husband and I decided to make the big switch with both of our careers, we realized how overwhelmed and under-qualified we probably were, but we didn’t let that stop us from taking the risk anyway. We knew were both about to become something that we weren’t, something that we never had experience in being, and something that we would both have to work our absolute hardest to become if we were going to do it right.

Now don’t get me wrong, we are both still VERY nervous, but somehow we both know it’s going to be okay. We are willing to learn from mistakes we make today so we can be better tomorrow.

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#3 ~ The weaker we feel, the harder we lean on others. The harder we lean on others, the more we grow. – JJ Packer

Stop it.

Stop thinking that your problems are yours to face alone.

Stop  thinking that you can’t ask for help, because it’s a sign of weakness.

Stop thinking that just because you’re an adult in the real world you have to make all the big decisions yourself, because after all it is YOUR life.

Stop feeling guilty about expressing your fears and worries to others because their problems are way more complicated than your own.

Just stop.

We would have never been able to reach a rational decision that we felt good about if it wasn’t for the outpouring love, support, advice, and prayers from our loved ones and co-workers. We thankfully didn’t have to do it alone – and neither do you!

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#4 ~ The only way to know you’re making the right decision is to trust that you are. (Okay, so I really did come up with that one on my own. Go me!)

The moments leading up to calling both schools to tell them my decision were stressful, I won’t lie. I had spent so much time carefully considering all my options to make the decision that I felt was the best for me. But when I did finally decide? Suddenly I had peace of mind. It was like the fog was lifted, the void in my heart filled, and I learned how to trust fate and be bold again. I made a decision – arguably one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever had to make – and actually felt extremely confident and excited about it afterwards.

Why?

Because deep down I trusted my heart, which is ultimately always the right call.

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So as for an update on our current situation, we are both learning to simply be content right where we are in our life. We are taking this new adventure by the horns, one day at a time. We are accepting the fact that every time God closes one door in our lives, He is showing us the way to a new one that will soon be open for us to walk through. We are both learning and growing in our new professions and are excited to see where they will lead us in all our future endeavors. We realize that more challenges are ahead and more even complicated decisions are inevitably going to come our way.

That’s just life.

But no matter what happens next, we know at the end of every day we are learning and growing – together. For that, we are blessed. For that, we are thankful. For that, we are leaving it all in the hands of the Man Upstairs, because after all He’s never done us wrong before.

And for that, we are sure to conquer all the tough decisions life will throw our way for years to come.

 

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