Friday, April 11, 2014

Hello Again, Let's Talk About Why I've Been Ignoring You.

Let's be honest. I've been avoiding you.

It's not that I don't care, it's just that I've been so underwhelmed here on vaca, that the thought of writing anything overwhelms me. That, and my life is about as interesting as dust collecting on the window sill.

Alas, I will update everyone on my latest obsession, which if you follow me on the Insta-gram or the Facebook you will probably have already seen enough of. Even so, here it is.

About a year ago I painted a calendar. And I loved it to pieces. I had the intent of framing each month in a simple and sleek black document frame from la dolla store, and to then create a gallery wall in my living room. Then, school caught up to me, I didn't have the digital design experience to fine tune it, and the year passed. Next thing I knew, my calendar was out of date and I had moved out of my beloved apartment in the ventures of higher educational requirements (aka student teaching.) 

With a move back to said apartment in Rexburg in about a week, and still I had these designs I painted over a year ago that I was not quite ready to part with. What to do with them was the question. The dates on the pages were for 2013, and frankly I wanted to use the floral scenes I'd painted for more than just a calendar. 

So, I put those bad boys into Photoshop and got rid of the old calendar dates, and played around with fonts. The possibilities were endless. Name placement cards, Table labels, invites, Calendars, handouts, quote backgrounds... call me conceited, but I've been loving these designs more and more. With a little help from google, I've managed to turn the various paintings into Microsoft Word header templates, PDF documents, and jpegs, and decided... hey, maybe I'm not the only one who may be attracted to this idea.

With that being said, I've decided to offer these designs with the digital downloadable files in my Valpo Studio Esty shop. 

With these templates, YOU can customize the page however you'd like, in the medium you prefer (ie word, photoshop, hand written, Picmonkey, etc.)

And if you really wanna be a pal, you'll help me spread the word! (What's that? You can pin the image to Pinterest by clicking on it? How conveeenient!)

To celebrate the event, I'm also giving you a free May 2014 calendar page (Using a not-yet-in-the-shop template!). Just drag to desktop and print :) As soon as I can figure out all that technical download bid-ness, we'll get an official download going. Or you can e-mail me and I'll send you the file. That works too.

I hope you love them as much as me, my mom, and my computer.
Happy Creating!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Because You Really Didn't See Enough People's Gifts Yesterday...

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentines day! For those who were single, that just means you didn't have to share your candy, right?! 

This was the 4th Valentine's Day since I met my now husband and the 3rd we've spent together (because he spend it with she-who-must-not-be-named one year (aka the man-stealing-mofohoe). 

So, in honor of my lover I continued with a tradition my mom has done ever since I can remember: The 10 things I love about (insert name here) card.
Let's pretend that you don't now know we are an annoying baby-talking couple, and that I've seen my husband's bum bum. Because, ya know, that would be TMI...

With that came a protein bar bouquet which I've coined "The Proquet". (I know, I know- so original.)

And for old time's sake here's a little throwback to our first Valentines day:

(awww he's just a wittle baby!)
 That Valentines day was the day I learned my man could COOK! So, I've forced him to make me that same delightful dinner every V-day we've had together since... except this one. We're living in a studio apt for 2 months in OC, CA while Ryan does an internship at PWC. Needless to say, we really haven't brought ourselves to buy any cookware or ingredients for such a short time. We are stingy. In fact, we sleep on a twin size futon on the floor (and love every spooning second of it!) haha

So this year it was stuffed crust delivery pizza. 
I had my man, my pizza, Netflix and a box of rocky mountain chocolates. I was the happiest girl you ever did see. 

Plus, he bought me my first massage! Stud muffin. 
It was the BEST. 

Speaking of stud muffins.... I made him this card:

And with an image like, I walked right into a Facebook bun-in-the-oven rumor mill! Whoopsie. haha You live and you learn, and sometimes you get knocked up. But not this time. 

I hope everyone's V-day was as good as mine!
(and if it wasn't, feel free to throw darts at a picture of my face :)

Saturday, January 25, 2014


YOU GUYS! I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this giveaway that is happening. When planning your wedding, you have to pick and choose the things that are really important to you and the things that you are willing to be indifferent about (unless you are me and your mother(s) are superwomen!) When it came down to my wedding, the theme, the dress, and the photography were the three most important things to me. To this day, I cannot stress enough to potential brides how important the photography aspect in particular  is. Choosing the right photographer is key!

These are the photos that you'll reminisce upon, the photos that those who could not attend your wedding will pour over, and the photos that will be blown up at your 50th anniversary party!

So when it came to photography, yea, I wanted the best. I wanted someone who made me feel comfortable, was reliable, and helped me to feel and look beautiful. And that's exactly who I got.

For that reason, I hired EllieAsher Photography and guys, BEST DECISION EVER! Since I'm so glad I chose them, I can't help but share this HUGE wedding giveaway they are currently running with Megan Saul Photography. (You may recognize some of EllieAsher's work from Pinterest!)

If you are getting married this year, or know someone who is, you HAVE to enter this giveaway! incredible, free photography? WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS?! Hop on your e-mails and enter away! You can thank me later :)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

3 Things That Will Inevitably Ruin Your Night.

It's Friday night.
I know what you are thinking (cue Rebecca Black's one-hit wonder...)
We gotta get down, It's Friday. (Have you ever tried speaking song lyrics? Comical.)

Getting down on Friday nights are obviously much different when you are married than when you are single. Rather than hitting the club, we were plunging a toilet. Instead of meeting up with the gang, we were meeting our work and homework deadlines. Dining at a fine location? Ha. Denny's it is.

Let's talk about Denny's. At BYU-I, Friday night curfew was the wee hour of 1 AM. That meant that if you were a serious rebel, you could drive a half hour to Idaho Falls to get a midnight milkshake, watch the awesome novelty waiter balance a chair on his nose, leave a crummy college student tip, and race back as the bad-A student to are-breaking curfew-arriving home at 1:15 am. Who doesn't have fond midnight Denny's runs?

Tonight Ryan and I decided to go on our date a little later and naturally at 10:30 at night, Denny's was looking pretty good. Ryan even coined the slogan "Denny's; when you're too tired to care" while we were pulling up.

We ordered some nachos that looked way good in the menu. Plus, every employee working there was a Latino male, so I expected some serious carne-delicioso-nacho-grande-goodness from these amigos. 

What we got was looked a lot like dried tortilla pieces with chili on top. Not even real cheese.

Nachos from Denny's: Way no. 1 to ruin your night.  

 We also split a burger that too looked a lot less gray and stale on the menu. I ate half of my half before I realized I wanted to live to see tomorrow and should just stop. Then, in an attempt to fix the already broken, I said I wanted dessert. Ya know, because nothing covers up a pile of day-old slime and grease in your stomach like a bunch of frozen sugar covered in high fructose corn syrup. Thanks to Ryan's better judgement, he convinced me that ordering anything else from Denny's would surely give us the same result as the 2 items prior: utter dissatisfaction and regret. So, we thought we'd hop next door to Burger King, they have good desserts, right?

The evening progressed as follows:
10:43- Walk into BK, ask female employee if they have a dessert menu. She points to poster on wall. Ask employee if they had prices for the dessert menu, she replies with the price of one item. Realize female employee is in fact a male employee. With boobs... and a lot of make-up. I have nothing against trannies, (tranny's? trannys'?) but I've seen so few in my life that it was noteworthy. Order oreo sundae.

10:44-Sit down with Ryan, notice that again, we are the only white people around (again, not bad, but I'm from Washington, this is kind of a first for me, so yes, noteworthy.) Then I ask him if he noticed that the guy sitting across the room looking at his phone and having ordered nothing, had followed us in. He was unaware, and clearly began scoping out the situation. (Really though, he looked like a cat, hair on end, about to pounce.)

10:46- Sundae in hand, Ryan get's up and says we are going to eat it at home. As we stand up to leave, so does suspicious young man. Ryan (very awkwardly, might I add)reaches the door only to turn around and sit right back down. Suspicious man also, stops, and sits at the nearest table. Make uncomfortable eye-contact.

10:47- I open the sundae and try a bite. It was, in fact, delightful.

10:48- Ryan is certain the man I've lovingly nicknamed "Diego" is intending on following us, shanking us, chopping us into little pieces, and tossing us into the ocean. And given his actions that mimic our every move paired with his watchful stare, I suppose it was possible.

10:49- I pretend to get a phone call, address my mother, tell her where we are, what we are doing, and ask if she's on her way. I know, textbook tactic, right? Who says I never paid attention in those stranger danger classes?

10:50- Ryan abruptly gets up from chair and whispers, "we're leaving with this family" as we follow a young family out.

10:50 and 30 seconds: We run to the car with our tails between our legs, looking over each shoulder for Diego's gang waiting to jump us, while rehearsing in our minds every move ever seen in The Karate Kid .

Being followed late at night in Santa Ana, CA: Way no. 2 to ruin your night.

Once we are in our car and peel out of the parking lot we turn the corner and find ourselves witnessing the first few minutes of an accident. A few cars have stopped creating a fence-like road block around the lifeless man. Face down, arms at his side, legs still around his bike. Skull broken open. Frozen. No one is touching him, another man on a bike is behind him a few feet in shock while everyone else stands there dumbfounded. I let out a gasp, and Ryan tells me to look away.
I've never witnessed death so close before. I can hope for the best, but there was little evidence leading to his survival. Heart in stomach, stomach in throat, nervous from running, sick from eating, devastated for those who will soon receive a life-altering phone call, our night is officially ruined. Heart-broken for the guilt of the person that hit the biker... so many emotions. 

Seeing first hand how frail life is: Way no. 3 to inevitably ruin your night.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Keep Score In My Relationships, Do You?

I stood there after having just presented my year's Paypal earnings to my husband. 
"So... we owe X amount in church tithing for my income on Paypal." I said.

"Good." He said matter-of-factly.

.... "Look, I made X amount of money from such and such."

"That's good, baby." He said.

.... "And I made X amount of dollars from drawing portraits!"

"Yea, good work."

"I got a job... with a raise!"


And for a few seconds, there I stood... waiting. Finally I said "Babe, I'm contributing. I have skills. I'm a contributor." 

And then I saw it all click in his mind. Face lighting up he leapt from his chair,  gave me a hug, and said "I know baby! Good job! You are making money, that's really good. Look, how impressive!"
Like a parent doing to the happy dance for their child who just peed in their own little toilet for the first time; he knew the routine. He knows it by heart. He does it when I give him that look after I ask him if he liked the dinner I made. You know, the glazed-over eyed, creepy chesire smile, is that all? look. 

This is pretty close to what  it is. Subtle right?

It's the look I give him when tell him what I cleaned today, or when I show him the little knick knacks I spent hours sewing, or present a good score on a test. He's VERY well versed in this look and what it means. So much so, that sometimes when I stand somewhere in silence a little too long after saying something, he'll actually go into auto-pilot mode and praise me for nothing at all.

 "Have you tried the brownies at the school cafeteria? I tried one today, it was pretty good."
.... "huh? ... OH! Good job baby! That's awesome... that's really good."
"Babe, I just said I ate a brownie."
"Oh, sorry."

It's funny really. He's an amazing husband, and an excellent cheerleader, but an even better babysitter for my 5 year-old look what I did self.

When it comes to the way we act towards one another there are certain statements that often slither from my uninhibited mouth, such as:
"We don't say that in our marriage", 
"We don't treat each other they way that couple does, do we?", 
"In our marriage, we don't keep score."

They don't saunter about in any attempt to piously build myself up, but rather as a reminder to myself, like every "10 things you should NEVER do in your relationships" or "How be a better spouse" blog post that are popping up on Pinterest and Facebook these days.

And then I find myself right back there, giving my husband the look. Truth be told, Saturday night was the first time that I realized I had a look at all. Saturday night was the night I realize IT. After I asked my husband to throw in a load of laundry and felt that immediate pang of guilt, it was made clear to me. When I got irrationally upset after he said, "I'll make you a deal, I'll do the laundry tonight if tomorrow you do yaddy yadda..." and I said "It's not a score. We don't keep score in our marriage", I heard it loud and clear.
I keep score. 
I keep score all. the. time. 
It's not the score that everyone warns you about. In my opinion, it's much worse. You see, those articles trending on Pinterest, being reposted on Facebook, going viral on twitter, and airing on the up-to-the-minute news on Mars, all warn couples not to keep tally on what they do for each other. They remind us that a relationship is not a score board where I did the dishes, walked the dog, and squeezed husby's butt leaving me with 3 total points for the day, when he made breakfast, but did NOT hang up his bath towel leaving him with only one point total (really ruffling my feathers.)

I really don't struggle when it comes to that kind of score board.

The way I see it is this:
I did the dishes, walked the dog, and squeezed husby's butt leaving me with 3 total points for the day... but I also didn't make him breakfast, I slept in an hour later than him (lazy butt), I nagged him to pick up his bathroom towel, asked him to get me a glass of water, and made him watch what I wanted to watch on Netflix. After much contemplation and deciphering my maze of a mind, I have figured this: According to my score-keeping, I have -2 points for the day (positive points for things I did to improve his quality of life, negative points for things that inconvenienced him) resulting in the grand prize of getting to go to bed feeling like a failure of a wife. That is, if I don't find some reason to give my husband that look to which he will reassure me that I am good, I am useful, and I am kind.
Translation: I am worth something.

There is so much pressure on him that he may, or may not, even be aware is there, and a score board against myself that he couldn't possibly know I am keeping. (cough-Imapsycho-cough)

 I've realized that I see life represented in the image of a cup.

There is an opening on top, and a crack in the bottom. The liquid inside is the equivalent of the worth I bring to my marriage, my job, and essentially the lives of others. When I do something "right" or "good", a drop of water is put in the cup.

Yay me!

But when I do something wrong, or "bad", a drop drains from the crack in the bottom. This would make sense, right? With this logic, you would think "ok, so I take out the trash: 1 drop in my cup!" Which is true...
That logic would also mean that if my husband takes out the trash, or if I ask him to take out the trash and he does it, he gets a drop of water too! (Good job babe.)
My realization is however, that I don't see it logically. This is where the problem lies: If I do something "good" I get a drop of water, but in my mind if my husband does something that I should have done, or something that takes time out of his day in the service of me, I view it as a double whammy: one drop being sucked out of his cup (I draining it), and mutually, a drop draining from mine for wife-duty-failure. I suppose it's these instances where those nitty burdensome thoughts derive from. And, if you are human, these situations are everywhere.

Let me tell you, it is exhausting.

It's the reason I can do seemingly nothing one day only to hit the sheets tired, worn and depressed at night, and likewise the reason I can be really productive another day and go to bed feeling like a great asset to my husband's life, and the lives of others. It's probably why I try to (and enjoy) going "above and beyond" what is required in tasks I am given, and look for opportunities to serve others, take on extra duties and often "bite off more than I can chew".

Because I need the drops going into my cup, to exceed those dripping out!
Because it's worth it.
It's worth it to feel like you are contributing to something, more than taking from it.
It's worth it to not feel worth... nothing... right?

I've come to the conclusion that I'm not alone in this. I believe my theory (to someday be referenced in TED talks, quoted in psychology textbooks, and explained to confused husbands all over the world) is a complex epidemic that plagues a lot of us self-proclaimed perfectionists.

 It's the reason I hear a lot of moms say they feel like failures because they didn't have a chance to clean the house that day.

Or why a lot of wives go to bed devastated because the meal they prepared wasn't perfect.

Or the result of multiple students walking out of the testing center, considering dropping out of school all together, because they just couldn't figure this stuff out...

Or maybe, just maybe, I really am crazy and fishing for reassurance that I'm not a psychopath, because my husband is out of town and I have no one to give that look to. :)

In which case you could be thinking "Yea, that's just you sister."

You could be thinking "Well, I really don't do that in my marriage."

Or you could be thinking "You just need a prozac and Xanax cocktail, Lady."

And if that is so, I suppose I should have stuck with my gut and kept this thought to myself. I mean, how embarrassingly transparent amIright?!

Or is anyone thinking... yea... I do that too.

Who doesn't love to serve, improve, and be better? We are humans and by nature we want to excel, progress, and please others! But in all that, do you find yourself keeping a score for or against yourself as a whole? 
Sure, we go to the gym, prepare nutritious lunches, take extra shifts at work, finish the laundry, watch a friend's child so they can have a date night, study our scriptures, attend church, stay up late preparing that presentation that will KNOCK OUR BOSSES FREAKING SOCKS OFF, and that is great, makes us better people, and often times can ease another's load... but does a little piece of us do that just so we can feel better about ourselves? Is that how we are measuring our worth?
Not all the time, but I think I do find myself doing that pretty dang often. 

I cannot be the only person who keeps score, knowingly or not. Women are hard on themselves. SO hard on themselves. If they weren't, there would not be a market for self-help books, fitness and weight loss, and dare I say it? Anti-depressants. 
So, amongst the new years resolutions, self-improvement ads, weight-loss fads, and endless marriage/relationship/personal advice articles, I think I will commit to trying a little harder to be a little easier on myself.
Who's with me?! 

So, in leu of a long overdue merry Christmas and happy new year's post, what I'm trying to say is this: 
You are good, you are useful, and you are kind. 
Or as a sweet african american maid in modern day cinema-graphic entertainment once said: 
"you is kind, you is smart, you is important." 

Read it, believe it, look in the mirror and repeat it. (Or shoot your husband the look, if you are like me.)
Because with how easily we tend to discredit ourselves, it sure doesn't hurt to be reminded. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Student Teaching as Told by GIFS

I am an easy, skeezy, GIF over-user and dang proud of it. It's for that reason I can see no better way to sum up my student teaching (and basic teaching) experiences than in a series of GIFs! So, all you teachas in da cluuub, please stand up and give a holla of agreement if any of what I am about to express is at all accurate. If you are a teacher, you have probably experienced one or more of these situations:

When a student raises their hand, and then says "Never mind, it's a dumb question..." You, as their educator and cheerleader just wanna say:

Then they say the question, and you... well....

 When students get mad at you for: assigning homework, showing them they received a poor grade, trying to help them, not letting them go to the bathroom, telling them to sit down, breathing their air and heaven knows what else and they say "Hey, I thought we were friends!"

Or better, when they try to friend you on facebook: 

 Whenever students quote a Youtube video, or mention Slender Man, the new Call of Duty, Minecraft, or Vines, I, in all 22 years of my prehistoric existence say:

Basically every Monday morning, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Really, Tuesdays are the only safe days of the week. OR when a student asks if "this" is ok on their artwork when it's  clear they must not know which end of the pencil was for drawing:

When you present a new lesson you have spent forever and a day preparing and think it is just has to be the greatest thing they have ever laid their eyes on since sliced bread: 

When students say "But Mrs. Stratford, it's the weekend!"

When you are grading a REALLY easy test, your reaction after every wrong question is:

Then when most of the class bombs it, you come to terms with the fact that you, in fact, have failed; not them.

When the principle asks you if you will be in charge of an after school club or extracurricular activity, or even better, take on an extra morning/afternoon duty shift. 

When you let the students choose their own seating chart, get out paint, or let them do anything involving scissors and glue:

 When you tell students to write their name on their paper:

Every time you overhear the latest middle school gossip:

When a student asks to go to the restroom right after the bell rings:

When you hear someone receive a text message during class:

 When a new student adds your class in the middle of the semester:

 When a student in the hall says "Wait, you're a teacher? I thought you were just another student. How old are you?" 

When one of your 8th grade students proposes to you... 
or says pretty much anything else you really just cannot believe left their mouth:

 When you leave the room for 30 seconds to get a new bottle of paint and come back to all sorts of what on earth have you all done?:

 When a student sasses you, and you just can't help but sass them right back (because, you know, you're a professional):

When you tell the students you are leaving, and they legitimately seem sad about it, and write you goodbye cards of tender innocent goodness:

 When you are DONE with student teaching:

Heaven knows I could go all night, but for now I think this just about sums it up! There are so many wonderful things to be thankful for this season. As for me, I'm thankful to be living with my husband again and to be done with student teaching FOREVER!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

So. Much. Hatred.

Guys. YOU GUYS. 
I am one of the single most pathetic beings on the face of the planet. It all started about a week ago when my husband sends me a random e-mail with a marathon training for novices work out plan in it. Dropping hints much? "Let's train for a marathon", He says. "It'll be easy", He says. And in my mind I'm thinking, yea! That'd be pretty bad-A, and seeing as I'm the least bad-A person, oh, ever... this is a great plan. So there I go, looking up marathons, and imagining myself checking that bad boy off my bucket list. 
I ask him when we should start and he says 2 weeks. See, when he said 2 weeks, he meant we start the program in 2 weeks, but are running up until then. When I hear 2 weeks, I'm thinking how many chocolate dipped ice cream cones do I need to eat before I feel guilty about it again? You can only imagine my surprise when my husband asks me if I've been running. HEEEEYYYAAALLLL NO, have I been running (scoff*). I still have 2 weeks until my imminent doom begins! Then there is this 3 day weekend and that little voice in my head is saying if you won't run now, when will you... yadda yadda. This is my really long way of saying that I went for a jog. A ONE mile jog. I took about ten steps when I remembered why running a marathon was in fact NEVER on my bucket list. What is on my bucket list is eating a whole bag of kit kat minis in one sitting. I've done the preparation for that! (p.s. There are 1270 calories in an entire bag. In case you were wondering.) The more I jogged, the more that little voice in my head stopped encouraging and started saying something that actually did make sense for once. It was along these lines:

And that little voice continued to say this repeatedly for all 10 bitter minutes of my jog. I want to like running. I want to like running so badly, but every fiber of my pear shaped being is totally against any form of exercise whatsoever. I used to work out all the time, and I daresay there was a point in time that jogging wasn't too bad... but that point in time has long since been replaced by New Girl and sweet Lindt Lindor truffle dreams. With that being said, in relation to my sweet husband Ryan: I love you, but you are seeeeeriously pushing those limitations if you are really set on this marathon dillusion that involves my milkshakes and Apple Bottom Jeans.

*Encouragement and cute running apparel readily accepted.