Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Your Christmas Gift From Me. :)

Ahh, Christmas my favorite time of the year! The smell of a fresh Noble Fir, the sounds of Christmas carolers, the taste of warm sugar cookies, the warmth of laughter around the fireplace, an excel spreadsheet to calculate the holiday budget for additional cheer...oh, wait, that is just reserved for my husband. Yes, my friends you heard correct. My husband has reduced Christmas to an excel spreadsheet complete with columns for amount projected and actual amount spent (this has been my life for the past year or so...excel spreadsheets). Since I can't give all my friends a gift this Christmas season (because we all know that is not what Christmas is really about, but also it's not in the excel spreadsheet), I will give you the gift of "smart" shopping. I have done a little, emphasis on the little, bit of research on ways to save money and actually meet your New Years Resolution this 2011 year...save more money. :)

General Savings:

Target.com get 10% off online purchases through AAA.com

Get 15% off fragrances through fragrance.com (enter coupon discount: TLC)

Coupons for food chains: eatdrinkdeals.com

Get 25% of Hertz rentals through AAA.com

Get 5 cents off every bag when you use a reusable tote at Target

Apple stores offer a discount to students, teachers, and administrators $50-450 off.

JCrew offers 15% off for educational professionals and students.

Loft offers 15% off (must enroll online to receive discount)

AT&T offers 20% off entire bill for educators

JCPenney enter code: thkscapc for 20% off of $100

Kohl's enter: EXTRA20/CONTACTFR  for 20% off plus free shipping

Enter: ncnvtndec2x for 20% off The Container Store

Forever21 is offering 10% off sweaters with code: COZY

LLBean is offering 10% off an order with LLBFRIENDS10

Gift Cards at a discount: plasticjungle.com, giftcards.com

Restaurants that offer deals for buying bulk gift cards with a savings (i.e. buy $100 worth of Outback gift cards and get a $20 gift card free).

Groupon and Living Social:

If you haven't joined groupon (groupon.com) or living social, what are you waiting for? They offer great deals every day like $30 for $60 worth of food at a great steakhouse in your area, bath products at BathJunkie, spa services, shopping deals ($25 for $50 worth of merchandise at GAP). I love buying these deals, especially the restaurant deals, and using them for an unexpected night on the town.

Kids Eat Free:

**This is mainly for the Dallas area, however, there are many websites that have compiled a list of places that "kids eat free," for many cities around the country (mykidseatfree.com). Also, you may want to double check your local restaurants to see if they are participating in these great offers for families. :)

Golden Corral
Buffalo Wild Wings
Dickeys BBQ

Jason's Deli
Dickey's BBQ
Black Eyed Pea
Backyard Burgers
Marie Callendars

Jason's Deli
Firehouse Subs

Cafe Brazil
Margaritas Restaurant
Captain D's (2 kids meals free)

Mimi's Cafe

Marie Callendars
Mimi's Cafe
Texas Land and Cattle (lunch only)

Dickey's BBQ
Hooters (I know, what kind of parents takes their children to Hooters on Sunday?)
Jason's Deli
Firehouse Subs

I am the queen of TJMaxx layaway! I get razzed by my monetarily well-endowed friends for placing items on layaway. If it's over $40 I think it's too much, however, if it's in weekly increments of $40 payments, with a minimal down payment, then I think it's a great purchase! I probably put at least one item every other month on layaway because after my plasectomy (that's right...when you get rid of credit cards), I have the old fashion way of paying for things...cold hard cash. I highly recommend layaway if you are trying to avoid going into debt. Here are a few stores that still offer layaway:

Toys R Us
Burlington Coat Factory

Birthday Deals:

Aveda offers free products up-to  $25 for club members

Baskin Robbins get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday (email subscription)

DSW reward members get a $5 gift certificate on their birthday month

IHOP eat for free on birthday (join pancake club)

Old Navy subscribe to emails and receive $10 off purchase of $50

Red Ribbon enroll in e-club and get a free birthday burger

Ruby Tuesday enroll in emails and get a free burger

Starbucks join "my Starbucks Reward Card" and get a free drink of choice

Petco register your pets birthday, or adoption date, for 10% off products duirng that month

My Resources:
Real Simple, October 2010 edition
Yours Truly, Charlene Stansberry

Thursday, November 25, 2010

30 Things To Be Thankful For

I am not the type of person that will post one thing a day on Facebook that I am thankful for in my status updates. However, I am the type of person that will compile all 30 things I am thankful for in a blog post. :) I tried to stay away from, "I am thankful for my daily McDonald's diet cokes," which of course I am thankful for, but I find little gratitude in those kinds of statements (and actually think they are bratty statements), and believe that you aren't looking inwardly, and outwardly, enough at all the blessings in your life. Therefore, this post took me some time to stop and really think about what I am truly grateful for this Thanksgiving. I hope you have a million things to be grateful for this year!! Happy Thanksgiving!!

30. The Internet. It has been such a great way for me to keep in touch with my family and friends that live far away. I absolutely love hearing and seeing what everyone is up to and feeling connected even though we are hundreds (even thousands) of miles apart.

29. Conveniences of our daily lives that save so much time. I actually take many of our modern-day  conveniences for granted and get highly agitated when they do not function correctly. For example, plumbing, electricity, automobiles, the ATM, self check-out lanes, the Internet, cell phones, auto-pay, drive-through, etc.

28. Beautiful weather. One of the fastest ways to a great mood is beautiful weather. There is nothing more blissful than enjoying the outdoors on a beautiful day, it refreshes and re-energizes the soul. 

27. Silence is golden. I love the quite moments when it's just me and my thoughts. So very therapeutic to have a moment to decompress from a chaotic day (I think this is why I love baths so much).

26. Having a day off. Being in the mental health profession, I can firmly say we all need a "mental health day," or a personal day, every now and then. How wonderful it feels to have a day to yourself, to do whatever you want to do, however you want to do it. Completely freeing and enjoyable, I live for my days off! :)

25. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. I am not one for cleaning, however, I appreciate a clean home. Waking up to a clean home is absolutely intoxicating. When my home is spotless, and I have put in the extra effort cleaning it, there is no where else I want to be.

24. Busy hands. Staying busy helps keep my mind occupied and reduces the amount of idle time (when I have too much idle time I tend to do counterproductive things). I believe there is a saying that goes, "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop." I am thankful for my "busy hands," (a.k.a. my job and all the busy day-to-day activities) I know there are many people around the world that would love the educational, career, and social opportunities I have been fortunate to receive. Stay busy my friends. :)

23. A great teacher. Hopefully, everyone has had a great teacher, mentor, or coach that encouraged and helped them during their younger years. I have had several teachers that I absolutely adore and I loved my high school cross-country coach. They all bestowed much to my character today.

22. Fantastic co-workers. A few years ago I read a book, How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton. The book is about work productivity and why certain people are more productive and happier in their jobs (and lives) than others. One of the key points from the book that hit home with me, people enjoy going to work with their friends. I feel very blessed to have met and work with some wonderful people that I consider great friends. Everyday they build me up, support me, and not to mention provide a great laugh every now and then.

21. Laughter. Moments in time with individuals that can only be described as a natural high. Laughing til your sides and face hurts, and you can see straight from the tears. Love those moments. 

20. Fond memories. I have such fond memories of my childhood, teenage years, college, and today. Another great way to put me in a good mood is to remind me of something funny, or memorable, from the past. I always tell my students that are grieving, no one can take away your fond memories, they are here to stay. Not sure if it helps everyone, but it helps me get through rough days.

19. Something that "speaks" to you. I love it when a movie, book, song, conversation, or piece of artwork makes me think, challenges my way of thinking, and helps me see things from a different perspective. I have been known to re-watch, re-read, re-listen to whatever is inspiring me in that moment. I consider it a growing experience, and I hope that I never cease to continue my personal growth.

18. A genuinely nice individual. There are people who are just genuinely nice people, good to their core. I absolutely cherish these individuals in my life. Their goodness is a beacon and many people come to them when in distress. I seek them when I am feeling blue because they are always so authentic in their words and actions. I go to them feeling hopeless and desperate and walk away feeling inspired and thankful. I inspire to be more like them in my life.

17. Mercy. I am thankful for mercy and grace shown by others when I have royally screwed up. For example, the other day I went to hear a speaker at our church with several of my friends from work. I told Todd to pick me up at 7:20, which was a completely bone-headed moment on my part because the speaker didn't even start until 7 (which I knew but just got a little confused in the moment). Needless to say, he sat in the parking lot for an hour-and-a-half waiting on me. When I came out to the car, it dawned on me that I totally screwed up and told him the wrong time, I apologized, and yet, he never said one word about making him wait, or how tired he was, just asked if I enjoyed the speaker as we drove home. Complete grace and mercy, something I should exercise more within my life.

16. Hardships. Ok, I hate hardships while in the moment, who doesn't? But, I must say they create an attitude of thanksgiving and joy. Hardships help produce patience, creates a colorful character, and I find myself being most resourceful during hard times.

15. Furry companion. Love my dog! She warms my heart everyday (even though she peed on the carpet this morning and jumped up on the dinner table and ate half of the pumpkin pie roll), I am very thankful for her companionship, playfulness, and loyalty.

14. A challenge met. I love it when a task that seems so daunting at first becomes a challenge met and defeated. For example, fundraisers within the community, starting a new program, or beginning a new and uncertain adventure in life.

13. Feasting. I love me some green bean casserole on Thanksgiving day, but who am I kidding? I feast every day! I completely take the next meal for granted, I gorge myself at every meal, I look forward to "what's for dinner" options with Todd, I'll drop a dollar in the vending machine because I am bored so I guess I will eat, and I have never unwillingly skipped a meal. I must say I am not only thankful for this Thanksgiving dinner today, but for all the meals I consume without much of a second thought to how easy I have it.

12. Children. Life is about simple pleasures and children bring such simple happiness into our lives. They are little comedians and will say and do the most hilarious things. They have such an innocence about them, loving everyone for who they are, overlooking ones status, color, or religion. They help keep us grounded and remind us of whats really important in life.

11. Foundation Group. I touched on this in my last blog, about the importance of finding a group of individuals that will care about you and have your best interests at heart. I am appreciative of the individuals in our foundation group that support Todd and me in our walk with Christ.

10. My little apartment. I enjoy coming home to my little sanctuary with my little warm bed and the comforts of my own place. When I feel like complaining about my little apartment, I remind myself about the families that are living in shelters, in their cars, or on the streets and then suddenly my little apartment fills my heart up with complete contentment and satisfaction.

9. Great friends. My friends are the best! They know exactly what to say and how to cheer me up. They make me laugh and there never is a dull moment. I look forward to the moments I have with my good friends.

8. Modern Medicine. Many may, or may not, know my sister Kaitlyn, was diagnosed with a very serious disease this year, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. In a nut shell, overtime it leads to liver failure.We do not know what the future will bring with this disease, but I am forever grateful that we live in a country were she has access to some of the best medical care in the world, and that alone gives me much hope for her future.

7. Good Health. I think this is so taken for granted on a daily basis. Having been blessed with good health, I am at fault for rarely taking the time and thank God for this blessing. Yet, when others you love are suffering in pain from less than fortunate health issues, it totally brings a new awareness to how fortunate you are to have your health.

6. Power of prayer. I am overcome with the love and support so many individuals have shown my family and me this year, by means of prayer. It's extremely comforting to know that I have such wonderful people in my life that are praying for me. In a future blog, I might write about my case for Christ and how He is working in lives everyday.  

5. Freedom. Extremely thankful for the military men and women that serve this great nation. I know that many of the service men and women are away from their own families this Thanksgiving, true sacrifice for my daily freedom and I am forever indebted.

4. My family. I have the best sisters a girl could ever ask for. The are smart, witty, creative, and beautiful inside and out. I, also, have the coolest, hippest grandparents ever! I hope you get to meet these wonderful people that have shaped so much of who I am today.

3. My parents. They are the epitome of sacrifice. They always put us before themselves, giving of their time, money, and energy. I know it may not have been easy at times, raising four girls, but they were selfless, courageous, and did their best. They always have been supportive and a great source of direction when I feel lost in a sea of decisions. Truly blessed.

2. Supportive spouse. My best friend, knight and shining armour. The one I come running to when I need a hug and to tell me everything is going to be OK. My husband who has endured and witnessed some of my worst moments, yet forgives with such grace it brings me to tears. The man who has biggest heart of anyone I know and loves to help his family and friends. I am beyond blessed with a great life partner.

1. My salvation. The best blessing of all when you receive Christ, but even sweeter when someone you care for receives Christ. Truly the best gift of life and my number one reason I am thankful everyday!

**1 Thessalonians 5:18

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two Years In Review

Tomorrow will mark our second wedding anniversary.  Here is a glimpse of what's been going on in our lives since we've said, "I do."

We've Only Just Begun
As we approach our second wedding anniversary the Carpenters song, We've Only Just Begun, perfectly describes my sentiments. Allow me to sing to you for a moment, please think of Cameron Diaz in My Best Friends wedding when she is forced to do karaoke, and that will give you an idea of my tone-deafness as I sing a few of my favorite verses aloud.

            "We've only just begun to live,
              white lace and promises,
              a kiss for luck and we're on our way."

             "So many roads to choose,
              we start off walking and learn to run,
              and, yes we've just begun!"

             "And when the evening comes,
             we smile so much of life ahead,
             we'll find a place where theres room to grow,
             and, yes we've just begun."

It's amazing how after two years we've accomplished so much, yet so little if you take a different look. I will start off with the obvious, since I probably get asked this question at least twice a week, "When are y'all gonna start a family?" Such a complicated question, you have no idea. I will say, Todd and I have talked more seriously about starting a family this past month then we have in our entire relationship, and yet, we are no closer to hearing the pitter-patter of little feet (sorry Mom). Well, see, children go with the other things we still have yet to cross off our to-do list, find a place to settle down (permanently) and buy a house. Not to mention, have you seen the cost of daycare lately? I am not sure if we are ready for that monthly "treat." Or maybe I am not ready to grow-up just yet. Stay tuned, we've only just begun. :)

I am not kidding when I tell you that my husband looks at homes on the Internet every day. Sometimes for hours and we still are no closer to buying a house then we were the day we got married. I am beginning to think it's a fun hobby for him to look at properties, and that maybe he has missed his calling in becoming a realtor. But the most frustrating part of his screen-sucking hobby is that he will get super excited about a property, become very proud of himself because he has found "a deal," and call me over to look at it (making me drop whatever I am currently doing), and I immediately hate it! He then becomes extremely agitated with me thinking I am some prima Donna, house snob. No, I just hate the 1960s, dilapidated Brady-bunch-style foreclosures he always shows me. I am sure our first home will be the ugliest on the block, Todd seems to have a soft spot in his heart for those houses. Stay tuned, we've only just begun.

I feel like every other month we are faced with making decisions regarding Todd's career. Practices for sale, office transitions, possibility of going back to school.  "So many roads to choose" it's exciting at times and completely frustrating at other times. I must confess, I am working on releasing my controlling ways and letting God take care of the rest, but it's not easy. I know these next few years may bring many changes regarding life choices, and I am not good with change. I am the girl that cried every school year for the first two weeks of school because I had all new classes, and I would have to start over with new teachers and classmates (all the way up until my freshman year of college). So you can understand that this ambiguity brings a lot of anxiety within my life. Stay tuned, we've only just begun.

Adjustments That Have Been Made

I have many annoying habits that exasperate Todd to no end. I kick my shoes off and leave them strewn about the house for him to trip over, I never floss my teeth, I leave refrigerated items out (sometimes overnight to completely spoil), I will leave wet clothes in the washer for days (resulting in re-washing of the load because they reek of mildew), I will have mountains of clean/dirty clothes piled high in our bedroom for weeks, I will drive through any nearby McDonald's (sometimes multiple times a day) and order a $1 diet coke and charge it to our debit card (having multiple $1.08 purchases over the course of a week). BUT, if I had to identify the one thing that annoys Todd the most it's my baths. 

Hi, my name is Charlene and I am a bathaholic. I LOVE BATHS! Yes, I am a certified bath junkie (but I never shop at that store because it's overpriced). My baths are really more like very long soaks and I take at least one bath a night.  Almost immediately after dinner I hustle up to the bathroom to begin my pruning-of-the-skin process, thus leaving Todd alone with the dog for what he over dramatizes as, "the rest of the evening." I have tried to adjust my bath schedule around more convenient times, like if he falls asleep early on the couch or if there is a big game on TV, I will quietly recede to the bathroom to begin my ritual. I am not quite sure what it is about my bath time that I love so much. It might be the solitude after a chaotic day, or the smell of relaxing bath products, or the warm water, or the time to decompress and reorganize my thoughts, but whatever the reason may be it's gonna be a hard habit to break, and I wish him the best of luck! :)

For those that have had the unfortunate experience of hearing my hyena cackle, as my family lovingly has named my laugh, know that I love to laugh and I laugh loudly! When Todd and I first started dating, I didn't quite get his humor and I was very worried that he wasn't a jokester, like myself. However, over the years I have learned that he has a very dry sense of  humor and it's completely hysterical to me today. One of my favorite things about Todd is he makes me laugh every day; it's good for my soul.  Here are some of the funny moments that have taken place over the past two years (some of them were too inappropriate to put in a blog, but none-the-less hysterical).

Todd has a sick love for cracking backs, toes, or any other crackable bone he can get his hands on. One particular night we were on the couch watching, yet another, sporting game and Todd decided to crack my toes (which is completely painful most of the time). After he was done being a chiropractor for the evening he then took my toes and did the Vulcan salute (with my toes, did I mention that) and said, "Live long and prosper."

When we moved into our new apartment, Todd petitioned to have the master bedroom dedicated to a home gym complete with pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which I reluctantly conceded. Ironically, our home gym is something we rarely use, but it makes us feel good that it's there if the mood strikes us to work out. In the meantime, Todd is constantly looking for new equipment to add to our workout collection and loves hitting up the athletic superstores and dreaming of his next big purchase. One particular day, we had decided to go to Dick's Sporting Goods; the entire car ride to Dick's he was quoting lines from Rocky to himself, "Big deal, you wanna fight the fight? Yeah I'll fight the big fight. I'm gonna go and fight that big fight and you know what's going to happen to me? I'm gonna get that!" As he air punches a pretend boxing bag, "I'm gonna get that!" The kicker, he didn't even workout that day. Ha!

Like most couples, we have pet names for each other. However, Todd has taken it a step further and has unconsciously given me a pet name for different situations or my many mood changes. Here are just a few of the pet names I can recall off the top of my head: Bebe (uses this pet name when being affectionate), Bubbee (uses this pet name when he wants something), Bubs (when he wants to tell me something very matter-of-fact), Buzzbee (this is the name he uses when I am in a bad mood and he is letting me know he picks up on my bad mood), ChumBob Millionaire (uses this name when he is joking around with me), Chum (uses this name when he is trying to correct my thinking/rationalization to align with his way of thinking/rationalization). Below is an example of how Todd has used each pet name in conversation:

"I love a Bebe."

"Bubbee, will you make brownies tonight?"

"Bubs, I am watching the game."

"Ok, calm down Buzzbee, I can see you're starting to get fired up over nothing."

"Look who it is, it's ChumBob Millionaire!"

"Chum you have 100 pairs of shoes already. You don't need anymore shoes!" (which I don't but that's what he thinks)

When Sinners Say, "I Do"
Shortly after we were first married, Todd and I started attending the church that we were married in. After several months, we weren't making a connection, we weren't actively engaged with Christ as a newly married couple and it bothered me.  We would find excuses not to go, or go several weeks without attending and never felt like we were missing out on anything when we would miss church (I feel really bad admitting that).

Have you ever gone on multiple dates with someone, and there is nothing overtly wrong with them, you enjoy the presence of their company, yet there aren't any sparks between the two of you? And finally one day you can't take it anymore and decide to move past the awkward pleasantries to admit, "sorry, it's not me it's you." :) That's how I felt about attending our holy matrimony church, very nice people, but something wasn't clicking. I was yearning for spiritual guidance, and quite honestly, I knew God was not an active participant in our new marriage. So, we had to move on.

Being the gregarious individual that I am, I was looking for something more in touch with our age group and interests. In January we starting attending Watermark Community Church, we absolutely adore our church home, and welcome anyone to join us. I give the individuals that we have met at Watermark credit for encouraging and rekindling our walk with Christ, it's not only the best wedding gift we've received, but the best gift of life. Please do not read this the wrong way, we are by no means perfect, and our marriage is not all sunshine and roses, but when we have our moments of discontentment with each other we now turn to God for guidance, answers, and peace, which is something we had never done before. One of my favorite parts of having a God-centered marriage is our time of prayer, it's the most intimate part of our marriage.

I can't speak highly enough about the importance of finding a church home, and other Christian individuals, that will help lead, encourage, and support your family and vows of marriage. Life is too short for awkward pleasantries.


About six months into our newlywed marriage, I started begging Todd for a dog. Within weeks, I had made a new pen pal with the breeder, abrading her with questions and comments about Tula's litter. Todd pleaded with me not to get a dog, and was down right against the idea of getting a dog. I refused to listen to him and put a deposit on Tula days after she was born. We both agree it was the best decision I have made!

She can be the most stubborn animal. She completely disobeys and does what she wants to do. She will annoy you non-stop with her whining and crying until you give in. Without any shame, she will jump up on the kitchen table and help herself to table scraps. When she is angry with us she will potty on our bed just to let us know we've pissed her off (pun intended). We find ourselves completely restructuring our schedules to accommodate the dog. Yet, with all that being said, she truly has brought so much joy to our lives, and our marriage, we can't imagine life without her.

I Hate Chores

I must be honest, I am not the Betty Crocker wife. I really do not find fun in organization, cooking, or cleaning. In fact, after two years of marriage I am beginning to think I might have an extremely large lazy streak when it comes to chores.

My sisters and I use to watch Sleeping Beauty, we watched it ALL the time, and were completely enamored with the Disney movie. I remember always thinking how cool it was that the three good fairies, that raised Aurora in the woods, had magic wands and could make anything happen instantaneously. If I had a magic wand, like Flora, Fauna, or Merryweather, I would use it everyday for cleaning!

I can't stand wrinkles! I have been known to not wear an article of clothing because it's hanging in my closet wrinkled. Therefore, before any clothes can be put away they must be wrinkle free, this means I have a ton of dreaded ironing every week.

I also hate cleaning the kitchen, but more specifically doing the dishes. Every time I cook a meal, I curse myself. Apparently, I have a knack for using every dish in the house to make the most basic of meals, such as mac and cheese. Not to mention, our dishwasher is always full and needs to unloaded before it can be reloaded.

Laundry hamper, have one, don't use it. Instead, my floor has become my permanent laundry hamper. Why use a hamper, when your clothes will end up crinkled at the bottom of a hamper? You never know when you may want to wear those jeans again, or when that particular sweater may come in handy. Better to have them strewn across the floor for easy access.

Love my dog, hate walking her (three to four times a day). She thinks our walks are a time for exploration, and she feels compelled to sniff every leaf and every tree along the way. Totally frustrating, especially when it's freezing cold outside or scorching hot. Definitely need a backyard.

He loves his live-in maid. :)

***These pictures were taken by my good friend Amanda. She always supports my harebrained ideas. ;)

Here's to the beginning!! Looking forward to more adventures over the years!! Happy anniversary to us!! Cheers!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Number 3: A story about one of my many sisters.

***I am standing behind my parents, Stephanie is the sad one in the picture, and Courtney is in the stroller.***

A week ago Saturday my sister, Courtney, celebrated her 24th birthday. As I got off the phone with her I started reminiscing about all the torturous, yet completely hysterical, things I did to her growing up. Allow me to digress for a moment and explain my family dynamics for those that may be less than familiar with the Woodson family. I like to fantasize that we are the modern-day version of Little Women. Unfortunately, the similarities between our real-life family and the March family, from Louisa May Alcott's novel, are few and far between. But, we did love watching the movie growing up, relating their sisterly quarrels to our own, and calling our own Mom, Marmee for the proceeding week after. In comparing our family to the characters of Little Women, I am Meg, the oldest, most boring sister. Stephanie is our Jo, the entertaining, outspoken sister. Courtney has Amy-like tendencies, being reserved, yet can hold her own if necessary. And, Kaitlyn is our Beth the kind, shy sister. Alright, now that you have the Woodson family dynamics down, let me share with you some of my favorite memories harassing our "Amy" growing up.

Courtney and I are almost six years apart. So about the time Courtney was four years old I was the ripe, annoying age of nine or ten. It was during this time that most of my sisterly bullying took place. From about three to who-knows how old, Courtney had this pillow that today resembles something very similar to Sponge Bob. It was square, yellow, and had appendages coming out of it's cartoon body (very disturbing if you ask me). However, Courtney was obsessed with this pillow and she lovingly named him "Happy." When Courtney went to bed, Happy was there with her. If we went on a family trip, Happy went too. If we were watching cartoons, there was Happy sitting and enjoying Saturday morning cartoons with the family. I realized very quickly that not being in the presence of Happy, because he had been forgotten in the haste of getting out the door, caused her great anguish and emotional affliction. These were the moments my ten year old pea brain looked forward to capitalizing on!

I recall one time in particular we were in North Carolina visiting our Great-Grandmother and Courtney was busily playing with something else and had momentarily set Happy aside. I quietly snatched Happy and hid him in a secret location. Then I came back to Courtney in her cheerful moment playing and announced, in my most somber of voices, "Courtney, I have some very sad news. Happy is dead. Mom and Dad didn't want to tell you but I knew you would be wondering where he is, so I thought I should tell you, we buried him under the crab apple tree in the backyard." I could barely contain a straight-face delivering the sad, sad news. Immediately, Courtney dashed out the door, ran to the crab apple tree, dropped to her knees and began to wail, "Happpppeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Happpppeeeeeeeeeee!!! " Within moments my Mom arrived on the scene, my cover was busted and I had to retrieve Happy from his secret hiding location. I am sure some sort of punishment ensued afterwards, but it was worth every moment.

Another one of my favorite Corkie memories involves a family trip we took in our early 90s Ford Escort Station Wagon. Which looked very similar to this vehicle pictured below. This car was also the car my sisters and I learned to drive a stick shift with. I swear if you were to visit my parents house on Gillings you would still see the skid marks from Courtney left by this car. She was "special" in learning a standard. :)

That particular family trip, I will lovingly dub the "American History Tour," I can't remember how old we were when we packed up and trekked half-way across the country in our Ford Wagon. As a kid, I felt like we visited just about every battle site from the Civil War and every national monument possible. From the Vicksburg National Park to Washington D.C. and rounding out our "American History Tour" in Philadelphia with the liberty bell. It was at the liberty bell tour that one of my favorite big sister memories took place.

I had a few bucks in my pocket, and I am sure just like I feel now with money, it was burning a hole in my pocket. So, at the visitor gift shop I purchase a replica of the Declaration of Independence for one dollar. It was a steal! With it's think parchment paper and coffee stain coloration it looked like the real deal! As we loaded in our car, and were concluding up our American history lesson for the day, I marveled at my new purchased and carefully examined it in the car. I am sure Courtney asked me at some point what I had in my hand, being the brat that I was, I decided to have a little fun with the Declaration of Independence. 

"Courtney, Mom and Dad don't want you to know, but these are your adoption papers." It was the perfect set up, how could she deny the Declaration of Independence with it's fancy, formal cursive, thick paper, and it's numerous signatures at the bottom?  But, more importantly she couldn't read yet, so my fabrication was solid. "See here, this is where everyone signed to have you adopted," as I pointed to names like Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock. She totally bought the lie and started crying, I figured maybe she would be glad that she wasn't related to me, and had another fun, exciting family out there looking for her, apparently not. :)

It was after Easter probably in the early 90s (again), and among the many Easter candies I hate, such as Peeps, I despise black jelly beans. Much to my chagrin they always made it into my Easter basket each year. This particular incident, I was enjoying my jelly beans and carefully sifting the black jelly beans to the side and watching TV. Courtney laid on the couch completely passed out with her mouth agape and a thin stream of drool trickling down her cheek. All of a sudden, I had the brilliant idea to gingerly place a few of my discarded black jelly beans in her mouth to see if she would wake up. She kept snoozing completely oblivious to the nasty licorice I had just placed in her mouth. Thirty minutes later she now had black drool on her face. Ha!  

I know I must sound like the meanest sister ever, but I hope Courtney has forgiven my immaturity back when we were younger. :) On a serious note, I am extremely proud of the woman she has become, as I am of all my sisters (and I will post my favorite memories of the other two near their birthdays). Here are a few of the things I love about Courtney:

1. She is fluent in sign language and will sign to me (if I ask) while we talk. Always makes me smile.
2. She loves nursing and did outstanding in nursing school.
3. She is my little "Narkie," (our nickname we gave her for her love of sleeping after narcolepsy) she could out sleep anyone. One time we were discussing the longest we had ever slept; I thought I had her beat with 14 hours and she well surpassed my record. 
4. She can always make me laugh. The sentence generally starts off with, "Oh my."
5. My students at school every year ask if she is my twin (I have a picture of me and my sisters on my desk).
6. She loves an old school rap tune just as much as I do.
7. She was an amazing cheerleader back in her day. She would stomp around the house non-stop practicing her routine (sometimes drove us crazy). ;)
8. She is a gifted artist and drew some really cool stuff in high school.
9. I had so much fun jumping on our trampoline and double-bouncing each other growing up.
10. I can remember the day she was born and proudly announcing to my kindergarten class that I was a big sister again. :)

Happy Birthday Courtney!! I thought about keeping your gift in Dallas so you would have to come visit me to get it, but I decided to go ahead and put your Furr's cafeteria gift card in the mail; you should be getting it soon. Enjoy!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Comical Calamities

If a pictures worth a thousand words, then my work here is done! This picture was taken during my family trip to North Carolina this summer. And yes, the picture is real! The past few summers I have met my parents in North Carolina for some rest, relaxation, and quality family time. Before I left Texas, my Dad and I had every day planned out with various activities (we both love a good schedule). During one of the days, we decided we would go white water rafting down the Nantahala river. When the words white water rafting come up, most people probably instinctually think of Colorado (as do I). However, do not be confused, (like my family and I were) the Nantahala river is quite impressive. Apparently, the Nantahala is a training river for olympic and professional kayaking (information that would have been helpful before we launched into the river). Hopefully you are starting to see the enormous error in judgment, thinking this was going to be a fun little splash down the river.

The day started innocently enough. My mom and I went to K-Mart and purchased the cheapest water shoes we could find, we meticulously packed our bags with sunscreen, bottle waters, snacks, and jubilantly headed out the door. As we approached our destination, an hour later, we realized that our GPS was giving us some inaccurate directions. I decided to call the Paddle Inn, our rafting company, to help with the final, last bit of directions. In explaining our location, "Mama" the owner of Paddle Inn, in her husky, Marlboro man voice tells me to, "turn off the GPS and listen to me, I said turn it off right NOW!" At that point, getting my feathers extremely ruffled, I passed the phone to my Dad to handle this crusty, old bag!

As we arrived at the Paddle Inn, thanks to Mama, to retrieve our raft and paddles pure adrenaline was in motion. We signed our lives away in the two-page contract and gladly paid our money. Before we left the Paddle Inn to load unto the converted school bus that would drop us at our river departure, we needed to be briefed by "PawPaw," the husband of Mama. Just envision an auctioneer, and that's about how fast PawPaw was giving instructions about the river. "Now when y'all see Turtle Rock stay left, that's where we had our last drowning in 2008, but then immediately stay to the right after Turtle Rock. Then stay left, after that stay right, left, right. Then when y'all see a sign nailed to the tree...MAKE SURE Y'ALL STAY TO THE LEFT, yers gonna get yerself caught up in some rocks if yers don't."
"Now listen, once you hit the big rapid yers wanna stay to the right, unless of course yers wanna get a fun ride in the whirlpool. It will suck yous in, and spit yous out, and suck yous back in and take yer shorts, and spit yous back out. It's yer choice, I've only done it once in my many, many times down the river and that was enough for me!"
 "OK, any questions? Let me get Mama over here to pray for us." By the end of his briefing, and Mama's prayer, my family and I gave each other the, what-the-hell-did-we-get-into look. I believe it was at that moment fear set in.

Within minutes of ascending into the river we were faced with our first class II rapid. Curse words flew, emotions ran high. It was not the Woodsons' finest moment. As we watched other families, with their paid guides help them leisurely traverse down the river our hatred for each other grew with each passing paddle. "I swear to God Kaitlyn if you don't start paddling I will drown you in this river right now!!" I am such a wonderful big sister when provoked with fear and anxiety (NOT)! I would like to take a moment and apologize to my youngest sister for any mental anguish I may have caused her during this rafting trip.  :) Shortly after the first extreme rapid, we decided to follow one of the "smart" families that paid for a guide and do everything JUST like they were doing. We lovingly named our unpaid guide, Curious George because he was wearing a hat like Curious George's owner from the books. "Keep up with Curious George! We gotta paddle faster, Curious George is getting too far ahead!" This plan seemed to work the rest of the way down the river, until Curious George and his family pulled over at "Chicken Beach" and we stupidly paddled right past him!

Saying farewell to Curious George and approaching our doom, the class III rapid, we idiotically took the wrong turn and ended up stuck in the rocks just like PawPaw said to avoid. That right there should have been a omen from above, as if God was saying to us, "I am giving you this chance to avoid what is coming next. Quietly take your raft out of the river and get on the converted school bus back to camp Paddle Inn." Did we listen to this omen? Of course not! We spent the next fifteen minutes trying not to slip on the rocks and walked our enormous, five hundred pound raft back to Chicken Beach to re-enter the river for the Class III rapid. We are dumb.

Kaitlyn and my Mom's expressions are priceless is this picture! I think it was exactly what was going on in every one's mind, they were just the first to express it outwardly! We tried our darnest to stay to the right, and avoid the whirlpool, but it was too late! Things happened so quickly after we hit the rapid I really only recall thinking, "I am going overboard," and then seeing nothing but white. The water not only swirled and churned with extreme force, but it was ice cold. For the first time in my life, my body went into shock. All I could think to do was tuck my legs up and float. Hoping and praying that I would float to the bank of the river where a permanent ambulance stood to help idiots like me. I could not catch my breath, I could not feel my body, and my neck was mysteriously throbbing in pain. My only thought was getting the hell out of the Nantahala river.

Out of nowhere, a boat floated by me and a girl, probably no more than sixteen years old, grabbed the shoulders of my life jacket and hoisted me into their boat. Safe at last. My poor sister and mom clung to our raft for dear life and my Dad was the only one in the boat to save both of them. Luckily, another man swam over to help him get my sister and mom back into the raft.

Once we were on dry land my body stood there shaking. I contemplated crying to let everyone know, who didn't have the pleasure of experiencing the rapid, just how distressing that rapid really is, but decided to suck it up. After loading into the converted school bus, we assessed the damages. Three paddles lost, a pair of broken sunglasses, and two water shoes missing (one from my sister and one from my mom). No one spoke the entire ride back to camp Paddle Inn. I think we were in complete dismay of what just took place. After changing into dry clothes and loading into our car to head home, we realized that we were going to be alright and we started laughing, hysterical, crying laughter...and haven't stopped laughing about this calamity ever since.