life beyond the well…

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25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

I have my dear friend Jovian to thank for this.  She sent these questions out in an email to a bunch of us, and I thought I’d tackle them in this space…because I feel that doing so makes me slightly more accountable than just answering them in my head or replying via email.

So, let’s have at it (warning- this is long):

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

1. What am I most proud of this year?

I am most proud of my growth as a wife.  Every day, there are new challenges and new opportunities for growth.  In our first year of marriage, we had experienced changes beyond what either of us could have imagined.  I’m proud of handling the change with faith, and by being on the same team.

2. How can I become a better person?

I ABSOLUTELY must be better by asking for help.  Note to self: It takes a strong person to admit where they are weak, and to ask for help to become stronger.

3. Where am I feeling stuck?

In my pursuit of having a more healthy lifestyle. My current reasons have not been compelling enough, nor has my discipline been where it needs to be. I’m looking forward to overhauling this area, and really understanding my “why”; as well as creating SMART goals to make sure that I see the progress I desire.

4. Where do I need to allow myself grace?

In my role as a wife. Preacherman knows this more than anyone, but I am incredibly hard on myself.  I’ve decided to adopt Emily Ley’s motto as my own: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION.”

5. Am I passionate about my career?

Yes! I love what I do, and who I serve. It’s been a huge area for growth, but it’s been rejuvenating and fun. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help students see the possibilities, and then make them realities.

6. What lessons have I learned?

Not so much lessons, but reminders: God is a faithful. God is love. God is a provider. God is…

7. What did my finances look like?

I’m extremely proud of our saving this year- we came up with a plan that works, and with God’s provision, we were able to handle a huge move in the short-term without taking much of hit.  This year, the goal is to live lean, save more, and to look for ways to build wealth.

8. How did I spend my free time?

Pre-move: lots of time was spent serving at church, and fellowshipping with friends and family.  Post-move: lots of time was spent on organizing our new home, getting acclimated to new jobs and a new area, and creating systems to make us more efficient.

9. How well did I take care of my body, mind, and soul?

I started out on a roll with all three- exercising and eating healthy, striving to learn new things, and purposefully seeking growth in my relationship with God.  As things got busy and life happened, I didn’t do as great of a job at balancing all three- I would maybe have 2 things going well, but missing the third one.  Again, I believe that creating SMART goals for 2014, along with clarity about what’s most important in this current stage of life will help me be better at all of these in the coming year.

10. How have I been open-minded?

In seeking, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God beyond what I can see or feel.  The circumstances of my life this year have required that I be more open to seeing, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God.

11. When did I feel most creatively inspired?

I don’t know if I can identify a time, but I know that I feel more creatively inspired to write (for this blog and otherwise) when I’m most balanced in my relationship with God and can hear Him clearly.

12. What projects have I completed?

Getting the new home organized and decorated.  It’s great coming home to a place that you love.

13. How have I procrastinated?

Dissertation.  See also #15.

14. In what ways can I re-structure my time?

Reducing some of the social media activity (although I LOVE the debates and conversations that take place on Twitter and FB), Scheduling meetings in the mornings, blocking out my day tasks- and not being afraid to say no to someone else’s “urgent” (your emergency is not my emergency) when it could be detrimental for me.

15. How have I allowed fear of failure hold me back?

Dissertation- the feedback that I have received while working on my dissertation has been the most critical feedback that I’ve ever received in academic work.  I’ve always enjoyed school, and I’ve always done well at it.  While I enjoy this, I find myself in a situation where I’m doing a ton of work that is extremely time consuming…only to get a significant amount of feedback of where you can improve.  It can be paralyzing to know that you’re doing all that you can to submit your best work and you KNOW that you’re going to get  a return email with your document…and even more corrections to make.  I definitely let this affect my mental approach to this work, and that CANNOT happen this year.  I need to keep the end goal in mind.

16. Where has self-doubt taken over?

In appearance- turning 30 in a workplace where the average employee is a female around the age of 23 or 24 and has their college metabolism and college body really forced me to think about what I wanted 30 to LOOK like and feel like for me, and how to really get to “my best self”.

In competence- my school work transitioned from classes to sole work on my dissertation.  I thought that without having classes, I’d miraculously have more time and the ideas and words would flow freely.  But that’s totally not what happened…and while I had moments of progress and inspiration, it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d hoped for.  When I coupled that with my inability to really master my time in the best way, I began to doubt my ability to complete the task at all.  I ended this year on a high note, making much progress and getting positive feedback from my dissertation chair.

17. When have I felt the most alive?

In moments with Preacherman and/or our little- working on math problems, making funfetti pancakes, watching the Cosby show, helping to wrap Christmas presents, singing “Jesus Loves Me” before bed, reciting our confession of faith together in the mornings.  All the little moments that I won’t always have.

18. How have I taught others to respect me?

Setting appropriate boundaries- especially at work has been extremely helpful here.  Being vocal about what I need, and refusing to take on too much has been incredibly helpful here also.

19. How can I improve my relationships?

Be more diligent in maintaining and creating them.  This is a challenge as an introvert, but it’s one that I need to overcome…particularly if I want to keep friends and make new ones.

20. Have I been unfair to anyone?

I hope not (LOL!).  I’ve probably been most guilty of being unfair in not extending the same grace to others that I would want extended to me.

21. Who do I need to forgive?

There are a few people who really hurt me over the past few years, and while it doesn’t hurt anymore; there are times where I find myself angry or frustrated about the way things panned out, especially after doing what I could to reconcile the situation. I need to be better about taking any negative thoughts captive and committing my mind to complete forgiveness.

22. Where is it time to let go?

Overworking/being a workaholic.  I need to place better energy on being productive while at work, and not always allowing things to carry over into home life. My first responsibility is to be the wife and steppie that God has called me to be.

23. What old habits would I like to release?

Being mean to myself/being too hard on myself. Grace, not perfection.

24. What new habits would I like to cultivate?

Consistency in reading: The Bible, devotionals, and other books to promote learning and growth

25. How can I be kind to myself?

As mentioned above, I think Emily Ley’s motto sums it up perfectly: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION”

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The Name Conundrum

What’s in a name?

The “name issue” is one that is frequently discussed among people of color (particularly African Americans), where we sometimes find ourselves confused and baffled by the names that our counterparts have chosen for their children to bear for their life (or until they are old enough to get a legal name change).

I remember being in college, and having two unique experiences in regards to “ethnic names”- one where a friend eloquently argued that “ethnic” names should be celebrated for their creativity as opposed to looked down upon; and another experience after research indicated that having an African American sounding name resulted in less call backs for job interviews. As an educator who has done the majority of work in schools that are predominantly African American, I have looked at many names on bulletin boards and class rolls and have been absolutely baffled by the names that I see before me- which in some cases, look like a random combination of consonant and vowels thrown together.

The struggle is real.

And I say that because it REALLY is a struggle.  The shift toward “ethnic names” is born out of the Black Power movement, and the desire for Blacks to distinguish themselves as separate from their white counterparts.  As our culture has evolved into one that is more “self-centered” where people desire to assert their uniqueness and individuality, I believe that reflection exists in naming trends also- but not just in African Americans, but in whites as well.  I believe this helps to explain names that are “common” (or more mainstream) but are spelled differently (i.e.: Lindsi, Lindzi, Lindsey, Lindsay or Madison, Maddison, Madisyn, Madyson or Erin, Aryne, Eryn, Eryne, Erinn).

Yet and still, there is still a difference that exists.  I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed in this article in the Daily Beast, and found this to really get at the heart of the issue:

“If there is a question worth asking about race and naming, it’s not “why do black people use these names?” it’s “why do we only focus on black people in these conversations?” Indeed, there’s a whole universe of (hacky) jokes premised on the assumed absurdity of so-called “ghetto” names. Derision for these names—and often, the people who have them—is culturally acceptable.

But black children aren’t the only ones with unusual names. It’s not hard to find white kids with names like Braelyn and Declyn. And while it’s tempting to chalk this up to poverty—in the Reddit thread, there was wide agreement that this was a phenomenon of poor blacks and poor whites—the wealthy are no strangers to unique names. The popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black, written by a Jenji Kohan (a white woman), was based on the experiences of a Piper Kerman (also a white woman). And in last year’s presidential election, nearly 61 million people voted for a Willard Mitt Romney, at the same time that the current head of the Republican National Committee was (and is) a Reince Priebus.” – The Daily Beast

I think that really hits the nail on the head.  The article goes on to equate the name issue to that of a racial caste system where blacks are at the bottom, thus explaining the extreme response to the name choices of people of color.

I wish that I lived in a society where I knew for certain that I could name my children with as much eccentricity as my imagination would allow without having to think about the effects they may experience later in life.  Unfortunately that’s not the case.  And the truth is that the issue is NOT with the name, it’s with racism.  I can’t “name my child” out of racism.  While a more “mainstream” name, might open a door, the racism on the other side could slam it shut.

What I can do, and what I’ve planned to do is this- name them whatever Preacherman and I agree upon.  And then educate them.  Teach them about the systems that exist that have been designed to keep them down as young people of color.  Teach them how to navigate a world where they will still have to work twice as hard to get half as far.  Help them to understand that because of your color, there will be people who will choose to view you as less than, but that is not the place from which you receive your worth or your identity. Help them to be thinkers and doers, who won’t accept the status quo, but will fight to change it.

All that said, I can be honest and admit that as an educator, I encounter these “ethnic names” and part of my heart breaks- because I know what the expectations of them are, and I worry about doors that may disappear or be totally locked shut because of something they had no control over.  And then I get back to work preparing them to exceed expectations on every level, doing the best that I can with my “generic” name to open as many doors as possible for them, so that they have one less hurdle in their way.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings…


And Then I Won a Liebster Award?

liebster-awardLast week A couple of weeks ago, Hayley from A Beautiful Exchange nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is another way for bloggers to connect, encourage each other, and find new blogs to read.  It was a total surprise, and I was humbled to know that other people besides Preacherman and my close friends and family read my blog!

Here’s how the Liebster Award works:

-Thank your nominator! Include a link back to their blog with your appreciation
-Answer the 11 questions given to you by your nominator
-Post 11 facts about yourself
-Nominate 5-11 other up-and-coming blogs with less than 200 followers for the award–no tag backs!
-Come up with your own set of 11 questions for your nominees to answer
-Let your nominees know you nominated them so they can pass it on
Thanks, Hayley!  I love reading your blog and learning about your life in NC as a new wife and a new mommy!  Your faith and your reflections on life are refreshing!
Now for these questions:
  1. What is your favorite meal?  This is tough because I love food a little too much to be healthy. I definitely try to save most of my calories for dinner (although I know I should eat more at breakfast).
  2. What is the most embarrassing moment of your life? I’m not sure that I have one.  Maybe because I’m not easily embarrassed or anything that may have been embarrassing at the time is just funny now?  I asked Preacherman to remind me of an embarrassing story I told him, and he couldn’t find one either.  The time I almost choked during communion?  I’m just not sure.  I’m sure this means something embarrassing will happen really soon!
  3. Tell us about your first boyfriend ever. Please include the juvenile, gushy details.  My first real boyfriend was in middle school- we met at a dance and “went together” all through 7th and 8th grades.  We both played sports, and were tall and skinny.  We went to our 8th grade Prom together and my parents rented a Lincoln TownCar and chauffeured us to the dance. We broke up because he kissed another girl (my “friend”) on the bus.
  4. What is the story behind the name of your blog? You can find that here.
  5. If you had to live with 3 celebrities, who would you pick? Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Kelly Ripa- I think they’d be a lot of fun, and I would totally want access to their stylists and makeup artists!
  6. What are your top 3 favorite blog posts you have written? That’s tough, but I’d have to say this one on making marriage look good, my reflections one year after losing a student, and my thoughts on losing a friend.  
  7. If you had to pick a name for your next child right this second, what would it be? Boy- Esias, Girl- Elliana, Embry, Emery (see a pattern?!)
  8. What’s your favorite type of ice cream? Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or Breyer’s Oreo Blast
  9. What are your everyday shoes? Hmmm…either my platinum Jack Rogers flats or my black C.Wonder flats or my red TOMS wedges
  10. What was the last purchase you made? Groceries (other than lots of goodies for Preacherman for Father’s Day)
  11. If you could go back in time and tell the 16 year old you one thing, what would it be? Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world.  What you’re searching for can only be found in an authentic relationship with God.  Pursue that, and you’ll have your heart’s desires.
And 11 Facts about Me:
  1. I gave my life to the Lord at age 20, and it’s been on the up and ups ever since.
  2. It’s almost impossible for me to turn down a cupcake- especially one with buttercream frosting.
  3. My favorite color is pink.
  4. I love school supplies (pens, notebooks, cutesy supplies…)
  5. I used to be a horribly clumsy, uncoordinated tomboy.
  6. I believe that unequal access to a great education is one of the biggest civil rights issues of our time.
  7. If I had to be a superhero, I’d choose to be WonderWoman.
  8. I hate paying full price for ANYTHING- the sale and clearance racks are my best friend.
  9. I love sports- particularly college basketball and college football.
  10. I LOVE to read.  I mostly read blogs now since there’s not much time other than reading for my dissertation or reading my word.
  11. Soon, I will be Dr. Erin (once I finish this dissertation!)


Who I’m Nominating for the Liebster Award:

  1. Chamel from Chamel’s Creations
  2. Hannah at Wonderfully Sewn
  3. Jessica at Forever Convinced
  4. Quana at The Accidental Military Wife
  5. Mionna from JustMi


And My 11 Questions:

  1. What’s the best dish that you cook?
  2. What was your favorite subject when you were in school/growing up?
  3. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?
  4. If you had the opportunity to start your own business, what kind of business would it be?
  5. What’s the best piece of advice you received from your parents?
  6. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  7. Cats or Dogs?  Which one would you prefer as a pet?
  8. Did you play any sports while in school?  If so, which ones?
  9. If you could have an all-expenses paid vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you choose to go?
  10. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  11. Chipotle, Qdoba, or Moe’s?

Thanks again, Hayley for nominating me!  I appreciate your support!

Be encouraged!  Peace and blessings!


Who Should Pay for College?

A hot topic this year leading into the election has been that of student loan debt.  As the number of people defaulting on their student loans rise, there has been increasing concern about the ability to provide those people with a feasible option to repay their loans and still be able to live decently despite the challenging economic situation we have been facing.

What has been largely ignored in this conversation about student loans and college debt is the amount of debt that parents are taking out to help their children pay for college.  The New York Times printed this article earlier this week about the looming debt that parents are facing after assisting their kids in education costs.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“There are record numbers of student borrowers in financial distress, according to federal data. But millions of parents who have taken out loans to pay for their children’s college education make up a less visible generation in debt. For the most part, these parents did well enough through midlife to take on sizable loans, but some have since fallen on tough times because of the recession, health problems, job loss or lives that took a sudden hard turn…

In the first three months of this year, the number of borrowers of student loans age 60 and older was 2.2 million, a figure that has tripled since 2005. That makes them the fastest-growing age group for college debt. All told, those borrowers owed $43 billion, up from $8 billion seven years ago, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Almost 10 percent of the borrowers over 60 were at least 90 days delinquent on their payments during the first quarter of 2012, compared with 6 percent in 2005. And more and more of those with unpaid federal student debt are losing a portion of their Social Security benefits to the government — nearly 119,000 through September, compared with 60,000 for all of 2007 and 23,996 in 2001, according to the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service.”

The struggle is real.

As someone who works in higher education (financial aid, to be specific); I’m left to ponder the question of, “Who should pay for college?”  Is it the responsibility of the parent to do so in full?  Does the student have some sort of financial responsibility/obligation? If so how much?  Should the student pay for their education in full?

All of these are legitimate questions.  From a financial aid standpoint, we (at my institution) consider it to be a family contribution, where both students and parents contribute to the cost of the student’s education.  That said, I cannot tell you the number of times I see families (parents) incurring insane amounts of loan debt because they don’t want their students to be saddled with the debt later.  I also cannot tell you the number of times I hear parents preparing to make ridiculous sacrifices for their child to attend a college when the child has received a significant amount of scholarships to another institution.

Now, I’m not all for telling people how to raise their kids and how to handle their finances.  To each his own.  However, I believe that parents should not incur so much of the college costs for their child that it puts their financial freedom in jeopardy.  And I believe that students should share in some of the college costs- even if it means working jobs on campus/during the summer, or taking some loans out in their own name.  When your name is on the line, you’ll take things a little more seriously.  And, merging finances and family is an easy to for resentment and all sorts of negative feelings to creep in.

But seriously, if it is MY college education, why shouldn’t I contribute to it?  It’s mine.  My name is going on the degree.  My mother clearly articulated this to me when it came time for me to get a student loan.  She reminded me that this was MY education, so the loans should be mine as well.  I don’t think that’s a horrible move on her part as a parent.  I think it was smart.  You best believe I worked my tail off because that money that had to be repaid was gonna come from my wallet.  And when it came time for grad school, I still incurred loans, and what I couldn’t take care of myself, my parents covered.  But there was no situation where they (parents) incurred loans first, and then I helped out.  I don’t feel that my parents did me a huge disservice by having me contribute to my education.

As college costs continue to rise, and we continue to face economic challenges, this question will have to be answered; especially if we continue to desire to provide access to college for increasing numbers of students year after year.

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Justin Combs + UCLA: What’s the Big Deal?

This blog also appeared at Up4Discussion, an excellent site that strives to promote positivity, peace, laughter and love.  Make sure you check it out!


It’s no secret that I love education and that it is one of my passions.  I believe that unequal access to public education is a huge civil rights issue.  I have studied education, I have spent my professional career working in education, and many hours volunteering to promote education.  I’m most likely to peruse the education section of a major newspaper first…every day.  I just wanted to put that out there.

I heard this news about Justin Combs, son of entertainment mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, being accepted to UCLA and awarded a full football scholarship.  And people were mad about it.  And I couldn’t understand why.

This kid worked really hard at one of the top prep schools in the country, earning a 3.7 grade point average; and excelling as an athlete- earning scholarship offers to places like The University of Virginia and The University of Illinois.  And we’re mad about this?  Hmmmm…

There are a few things that I find disturbing about this.  I feel that the underlying implication of all of this conversation is that he didn’t EARN this scholarship.  That he got it for who he is, or because of who he is related to.  Interesting.  The other thing that I find to be disturbing about this is these conversations that are saying that his father should donate the money back to the school, because he can so clearly afford to do so.  While that may be the case, you can’t go around here telling people what to do with their money.  It just doesn’t work that way.

And besides- we weren’t upset when Eli Manning was awarded a scholarship to Ole Miss, while both his father Archie Manning and his brother Peyton Manning were earning NFL money.  I’m just saying.

If there’s anything we should be upset about, it’s the system of education in our country that makes it difficult for those who are not wealthy to achieve a decent education that places them anywhere close to the same education that Justin Combs was able to receive at his prep school.  The truth of the matter is that people who are wealthy are able to afford resources that help their kids be in a better position to earn merit scholarships such as the one earned by Justin Combs.

I refuse to be upset at Diddy because he can afford to send his kids to the best schools, and he can provide them with resources and experiences that set them apart from other students.  When I’m in the position to do the same for my kids, you better believe that I’m going to do my best to provide them with every opportunity necessary to help them be successful and to afford them as many opportunities possible.

Do I think that Diddy should donate money to UCLA? I think it would be a nice gesture, but he doesn’t have to do it.  Besides, what would it prove; other than something that we already know, which is that he can afford to donate a large sum of money to UCLA.

Bottom line- I fail to understand the big deal in this kid earning a scholarship.  Let’s focus our energy on education reform.  When we can prove that UCLA or any other school is awarding merit scholarships to students who don’t meet the appropriate criteria, then we can be upset.

Just my thoughts.


Question: Is “smart” something you ARE or something you GET?

As a teacher, I’m a firm believer that smart is something you get.  You can work hard, push your limits, read more books and become “smarter”.  It’s one of the reasons that I push my students so hard- because I’m understanding that there’s always more knowledge for them to acquire, thereby making them more knowledgeable and smarter.

However, when I posed this question to my students last week, their answers differed from mine.  This isn’t wholly surprising- I’m coming up on 30, and most of them are between the ages of 15-18; therefore our life experiences and thought patterns are different.  Nevertheless, I was surprised at the number of students who believed that smart was something you are inherently; in the sense of, either you have it or you don’t.  Quite the interesting mindset, to say the least.

So, I’m posing this question to you: Is “smart” something you ARE or something you get?