Hey friends, I'm sure this will be sort of a pain to the nine people who follow me on blogspot, but I'm switching from blogspot to wordpress.

Sorry to rock your world this morning, but it had to be done.

So, go on over to alovelyabode.wordpress.com and follow me over there. The good news is that thanks to the beauty of technology, you can still read all my old posts over on the wordpress site. Also, if you follow me on a reader (such as Google Reader, Feedly, etc.), you may want to switch that on over as well.

For those of you who just click the link on my Facebook posts, this will not affect you in the least, unless you want to become followers, and then you should hop on over there now and check it out!

You may now commence living your life...xx.


packing up.

I will forever remember the day I found out I got the job in Arizona. My principal called me at 4:00pm, asking if I would accept the job. As soon as I got off the phone, Aaron and I went around to every grocery store in town, asking for boxes. By 10:00pm that night, we had all of our books and board games packed and ready to go. We were more than ready to get out of there.

Eight months later, we are packing it all up again. Yep, we're moving!

Just a few miles away. (Did I trick you? I was trying...;)

Since Aaron and I moved into this apartment, we have been dreaming of the day when we would move to a place that didn't have scorpions, that had hardwood floors, and had a real kitchen that wasn't a hallway. And yesterday that day finally came! After lots of prayer, driving around neighborhoods, and searching the newspaper every weekend, we found the sweetest little home and it has everything we want (except the hardwood floors...but we'll take the brand-spanking-new carpet).

So, this morning, we once again drove around town to all the grocery stores and begged for boxes. When we got home, we packed up our books and our board games. Once again, I realize how moving sucks. I thought maybe having an entire month to pack up would be better, but it doesn't really help. I'm only on day one of packing and I already hate it. I don't know how my mother did it all those times we went back and forth to Australia.

I will post pictures, but probably not for another month or so, as we don't really move in until May.

I can't believe the time has come for us to live in a real house. We are moving up in the world!


cashier love.

I found THE ONE. See, I shop at Walmart. I don't know what it is about this particular Walmart, but they have the worst cashiers/baggers. I even specifically place items on the counter so that they all go together, and the cashiers still mess everything up and put the craziest items together. I just don't get it.

Well, tonight I went grocery shopping and Aaron picked line 12 to check out. The cashier was an older woman wearing six multi-colored earrings per ear, several brooches made from plastic canvas and yarn (one in the shape of a bunny), and a striped button up wool vest. Her name tag said 'Yulanda.'

I was really questioning Aaron's judgement.

But there she was, trekking along, looking at all of our produce, talking about how she can't stand to waste bags, but she doesn't want to overfill them. We had a great chat, actually. She mentioned about how I was buying tofu, and it reminded her of this man who bought chicken feet because his daughters always complained about their mom's cooking. And then, when she saw him again a couple weeks later, she asked him how the chicken feet went over.

She mentioned how she hated her bifocals because they make her feel old, but she figures she should have decent glasses since she finally has a decent job. She talked about her migraine. You know, just chit-chatty sort of things. I could just tell that she was a keeper. Finally, as Aaron and I were walking away, she said, "Well, you have a happy Easter if I don't see you before then!"

And that was it. I was sold. If she is going to wish me a happy Easter and remember me the next time I come in, I will go to her line every single time. And you know, she wasn't nosy and annoying. It was just really pleasant. I always try to be pleasant to the cashiers when I go through their line, but sometimes they are so grumpy. Not, Yulanda. She was friendly and colorful...I have a feeling we will become great friends.



Well, I said I would let you know how my menu/budget went the last time I went grocery shopping. I am happy to report that I spent $143! Only three bucks over budget. So, I have learned a lesson: it's better to cook awesome meals than crappy meals, because awesome meals cost just as much.

This next two weeks, I am going with the same philosophy and asking myself, "What am I craving?" Also, Aaron's parents are coming next week for spring break! And so I'm thinking about them as well. My next menu is....

(holy moly, I made this two weeks ago, and it was so good!)

We are going camping at the Grand Canyon, and my momma-in-law is going to be heading up that department, so our menu is pretty small. Check out the links for the recipes!

I hope you have a lovely weekend! I will be deep cleaning my apartment and resting up from my millionth cold since teaching....



Tonight, I am thankful that God created mangos.

Have you had one recently?

Tonight I was making dinner and the recipe called for a mango. I have always assumed that I don't like mangos because whenever mango is in a smoothie, it just doesn't sit right with me. Anyways, I was peeling and cutting up this mango, thinking to myself, "Why bother taste it? I don't really like mangos...I hope I like it mixed in with this recipe, though. How much did this mango cost, again? Probably a waste, shipped over from who knows where..." But I kept looking at this mango, and it smelled so sweet and the juice was running all over the cutting board. It was...tempting. So I took the smallest sliver off my knife and put it on my tongue.

Friends, this mango was like a gift. Like, God blessed me with the only good mango in the world, just so I could have a silver lining in this week. God made mangos! And I picked the very best one out of the five that were sitting under the bright Walmart lights. So, I finished cutting it up, but I could tell there was still some good bits stuck to the pit...friends, I ate that mango, all the way down to the stringy, tough bits. There is nothing left of it.

Now, I have lots of friends who live or have lived overseas where they grow mangos and probably pick them up off the street because mango trees are just chillin' out everywhere. I have no doubt that your mangos from wherever you are taste ten times better than my Walmart mango. But that's the thing: knowing that my little mango was probably picked too soon, shipped over the ocean, packaged up in a box, sent on a truck, and arrived in the-middle-of-nowhere, Arizona and it still tasted so delightful, only makes me even more thankful that God created mangos. When He does something, He does it well.


little girl

Mama comes home from a long day of work
hits her baby, makes her hurt.
Then little girl, youngest of five,
comes to school and cries and sighs.
"My stomach hurts,
my tooth, it bleeds,
I have a fever,
please, Please, PLEASE! 

just let me lie down..."

Naive teacher doesn't know
the problem really lies at home.
'Cause Mama's been working so hard all day
and little girl's just in the way.
So little girl gets hit and blamed,
then comes to school, heart-bruised and ashamed.
Feels sick to her stomach
just thinking about going back.
Who cares about books and how to subtract?
This is a matter of LIFE!

...or pain.

Finally, naive teacher reads the signs
and asks what happens behind the closed blinds?

And little girl says,

"When Mama comes home from a long day of work,
she hits me all over, makes me hurt."

-Janel Westerfield


a few things.

1.) I have been seeing a chiropractor for two weeks now. Holy cow. It has been amazing. If you have never seen a chiropractor before, even if you feel like there is nothing wrong with you, I highly recommend you go. Your back and neck will feel so amazing. They did this scan thing on me to see how tense my muscles are, and mine were off the charts tense. Literally, the nurse thought the machine was broken until she started going all down my back and realized that I am just that tense.

2.) I also started going to Zumba this week. Actually, I only went once. But once was seriously enough to make me feel every other muscle in my body that the chiro didn't get. Have you ever been to Zumba before? I always thought that I was a pretty good dancer, but going to Zumba made me realize that I actually can't dance. Anyways, I really encourage anyone out there to go to a gym, even if you feel like you are so out of shape, everyone would stare at you and you would feel really dumb. While I was not the best Zumba-er out there on the floor, I guarantee I wasn't the worst! And I'm sure you will find that about yourself as well.

3.) Aaron is gone for drill this weekend and I am really going to miss him. However, last night I slept 14 hours. That would seriously never happen if the love of my life had been with me. See, Aaron and I have different philosophies about sleep. For me, if I am tired, it doesn't matter how early it is. I feel no shame about going to bed at 7:00, 8:00 at night. And I have no shame about sleeping in as long as it takes for me to feel fully rested. Normally, about 10 hours. But if I have had a week where I have not slept enough, it could go much longer. Aaron, on the other hand, has very clear sleep boundaries. 7 hours, tops. When his subconscious hears that first birdie chirping out the window, he is up, ready to start the day. One thing about Aaron is that he hates feeling like his day is wasted (whereas I do not feel like sleep is wasteful, especially if you are tired). So, as you can see, our sleep patterns are rather conflicting. I know Aaron works hard to be patient and let me sleep in on the weekends, but let's face it: when you are married, it's just not the same.

And so, when Aaron is at drill, it's the one weekend a month where I sleep. And sleep. And sleep. And it feels so amazing. While I miss having my best friend around, I choose to focus on the positive, and for me the positive is 14 hours of sleep.

4.) Finally, I will leave you with this lovely exchange I overheard in the cafeteria this week:
Girl: I wish Mrs. Westerfield were my teacher. She's so nice!
Boy: I don't! She's mean!

And there you have it, folks. Have a lovely weekend!


Being Suzy Homemaker...again

Okay, remember that one time when I said that I cook the same exact things every single day of the week? Well that grew really old, really fast. Sure, it worked for a time. But now, just thinking of tacos and fried rice makes me want to throw up.

In fact, I knew it was time to start cooking again when last night Aaron and I didn't even have a real dinner. The thought of homemade pizza was so repulsive, we just ate crackers with Nutella and salt and vinegar chips and went to bed. That is not a lie, guys. It really happened.

So, I sat down to make up our meal plan this morning and for once, I am not repeating one single meal. See, when you live on a budget, and you go grocery shopping, it's like your meals have to correspond, they have to relate, even if they are just distant cousins. If I buy 5 pounds of potatoes, I will not waste a single potato. If I buy tomatoes, we are eating tomatoes, and you had better like it because that is my paycheck and it is not headed to the landfill!

Here is what I am making for the next two weeks:

Oven Fish 'n' Chips

Moroccan Stew with rice

Fried egg sandwich (for when Aaron is at drill)

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan with noodles.  

Aaron is making soup, hobos, and omelets.

As you can see, I went off the deep end, here. This menu couldn't be further in taste and texture than my go-to meals. I just want to taste again! My normal budget for groceries is $140, so I'm praying that it all works out...I'll let you know. (I realize that the "hope it all works out" mentality + strict budget are two opposite concepts, so I'll let you know how that works out, too ;)


to this day

I am frequently overwhelmed by my power in the classroom. Sometimes, I feel the weight of being the only chance a kid has.

Yesterday at school, I was on cafeteria duty. I paced up and down the lunch tables, opening ranch packets, picking up snippets of conversation here and there. When something caught my eye. I slowly walked over to a table, trying not to disrupt the conversation taking place. The power of observation, the power of waiting before acting, is often my greatest ally. It was a boy, not in my class, talking to my newest student. She was staring at him intently, fingering her pepperoni pizza. I have learned, through the last few months, that the slightest gestures often mean something is wrong. Those small fingers, nervously picking at the crust, was what grabbed my attention. Slowly, I walked up behind him, and heard him discussing a dog. Something about a dog and pizza. I was so close to walking away, to letting it go, but something about all the kids just staring at him, listening to him, told me that I only knew a fraction of the conversation. My little girl looked up at me and nervously smiled, and that was it. I drew her aside and said, "What was he saying?" She looked embarrassed, and said, "He was calling me fat."

"How did he say it?" I asked her.

"He told me that I eat more pizza than a dog. That I take two whole boxes of pizza and take them to my bedroom and eat all of it. That's why I'm so fat."

It's like a beast welled up inside me. And it was angry. I was angry at all the boys and girls who ever said that, and other cruel things, to all the other boys and girls. It was heartbreaking. She didn't even cry or seem upset. It was like she had accepted his words, swallowed them, digested them.

I told her that it was an absolute lie. He is lying to you, don't you believe it for a second. I don't even know what else I said. I just remember the desperation in my voice, trying to convince her to spit his words back up. Don't let yourself be poisoned.

I brought the boy to the behavioral support staff and she told me, "He is so low, he has no clue that what he said was mean or hurtful." Maybe. Maybe he has been called names, and the person who called him names was called names, and that person was called names, and that person. I don't know.

I saw this video today, and it saddened me beyond belief. It saddens me that for some kids, school is not a safe place. It saddens me that teachers can be perpetuators of bullying; ignoring, pretending like we didn't hear, like it was a joke, like the kid is too low to understand what he is saying, or just move the bullied student to the back of the room and act like that fixes everything.

It doesn't.

Check out To This Day Project if you're interested in learning more.


paying The Man sucks

Exactly a year ago, Aaron and I started on an incredible journey. We were broke and arguing over money. In desperation, I headed over to the public library and rented the first book I saw on money: Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I had heard of him before, so I grabbed it and Aaron and I began reading it that night.

It really changed our lives, friends. We drank his Kool-Aid and never looked back. We went from being $48,635 in debt from school loans (mine) and a "Career Starter loan" (his) and today, we stand at  $21,447. One more year, folks, and we will be free from the awful burden of that debt (I fondly refer to it as The Man)! I think about how a year ago, we would get so stressed when our monthly bill of $489 towards some loan would come around and we would argue and feel so stressed about how we were going to pay it. And now, only a year later, we pay more than twice that amount and don't sweat it a bit.

I admit that it hasn't been easy. We basically stopped going out to eat. We stopped assuming that we had enough money in the bank. We stopped eating meat every night. We did everything we could to not spend money and pay off the debt, and it really sucked at times. We moved to Arizona and payed for the entire move in cash, about $5,000. Our couches are starting to sag, and our cars are starting to sound a little funky, but we press on and live on little so that later we can live on and give God much.

In fact, every month I am amazed at how much God provides for us. We pay 36% of our monthly income towards debt and we tithe more than 10%. And God continues to give us extra money here and there every single month. It's been amazing and humbling! God has blessed us beyond belief! I sleep peacefully, knowing where every penny is going and how every bill is getting paid. And Aaron and I love talking about money and our budget.

I know it's considered taboo to talk about personal finances in a public setting, but I really get so excited when I think about the freedom of being debt free. Call us crazy, but we are sold out to this new freedom and it makes all those little sacrifices worth it. I really hope that this post has been encouraging to you to start thinking about your own finances. Whenever you are faithful with what God gives you, be it small or great, God will bless you more and more!

"...the borrow is servant to the lender." Proverbs 22:7


Miss Janel

I taught Sunday School for the first time today. I was really looking forward to it, 'cause, you know, kids are my jam. Well, there are only four kids in our church, so I figured it would be fun and relaxing. One of the kids came up to me first thing this morning and said, "What do you want us to call you?" and I said, "Just call me Janel." "Miss Janel?" In which I replied, "Nooo, don't call me Miss Janel!"

I don't know what it is about the name "Miss Janel".....wait, I do. There was a person way back in the day in my youth group that we all called Miss________ and it bothered me on so many different levels. So, I decided that I did not want that certain title for me. I would just go by Janel. No big deal, right?

Wrong. The mother of this child comes up to me and says, "I want the kids to call you Miss Janel, okay?" I told her I would think about it. And now, I feel very conflicted and a little annoyed. I completely understand why parents want their children to call adults by their title. In fact, I think that all parents should teach their children to do it.  However, I truly feel like if that adult says, "Just call me by my first name," then the child should respect that. It is, after all, my name. Don't I get a say in what I am called?

When I was a kid, we had this family friend named Geoff. My parents kept telling me and my siblings that we had to call him Mr. Rayment, or Mr. Geoff, or something like that. But he insisted that we call him Geoff. I remember as a kid feeling like I was betraying my parents if I gave in to his insistence. I looked hesitantly at my dad, wondering who I should obey. It felt really uncomfortable from then on out what I called him, so my decision was pretty much to avoid calling him anything after that. 

I would hate to put these kids in that position. Who should we obey: parents or the person to whom we are addressing? Personally, I plan on teaching my kids to always address someone by the most respectful title/name first, unless they give you permission to call them something else. 

I don't know...am I wrong? I ended up telling the kids that I strongly prefer to be called Janel, but if their parents insist that they call me Miss Janel, they should respect their parents. But even with that, it feels like I am selling out. I have always been the person who never wanted a nickname. I just love my name and don't care for any deviations from it. To be honest, Miss Janel feels like a deviation.

*sigh* Help me out, folks...