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I heart our new living room

As I posted about yesterday, we finished the painting and ceiling in the living room. It was a HUGE improvement over the horribly painted pale yellow walls and the popcorn ceiling...but we still needed some accessories to tie the entire thing together.

So, I took it upon myself to dip into savings and finish out the living room. I'd had my eye on several items for a while, so it didn't take long for me to pick up the things I wanted: a rug, some throw pillows, a small Moroccan-inspired mirror and a side table.

Here's the non-accessorized version:

And here's the finished product (!!!):

I love every single bit of it! The only things that are missing now are another chair in the corner next to the bookcases, a tv over the fireplace...and a few more accessories on the side table in the entryway. In time...

Father's Day Photo Shoot

A few of the shots from Father's Day at my grandparents' house:

The New Teaching Gig!

My last day as a college professor was last week; I turned in final grades over the weekend, so I am DONE with all of my job requirements there.

I definitely loved teaching at the college level. There were many times that I felt like I got paid to hang out with my students and we just all happened to learn about literature in the process. I think a large part of my connection with my students was the fact that I was so close in age to many of them. I met some amazing people--both students and co-workers--during my time at both colleges where I taught. I will definitely miss that atmosphere as I transition into my new job. 

However, my new teaching position has me so excited for the new school year. At the most basic, I will have guaranteed teaching hours--the home school is set up just like a traditional school with a Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule. I will get my own classroom (one of the kids' rooms...but still! No more hauling books and papers every single class period!). I have a small allowance for materials like paper, binders, educational posters, etc. 

I am also so excited to work with three incredible children--they are all in a gifted and talented curriculum; I know they will teach me as much as I teach them. The oldest is Katherine* whose unique need for a specialized program created the need for the Rogers School (what they call it to make it seem more like an actual school rather than a home school program). Katherine is almost 10, and should be working at the 4th grade level, but actually works closer to a 6th or 7th grade level. 

The middle child is Mack, who is 8 and is interested in math, writing and agriculture. He even has a little garden in his backyard, and he's cultivated quite the stockpile of fruit and veggie plants. He informed me the other day that the blackberries and strawberries were coming in. And then he told me that--come fall--he was going to plant pumpkins and sell them to his friends and make "nine million dollars" (his words, not mine). He's quite the schemer. 

The youngest (of my students, not of the family's children) is Casey, who is 6 and technically going into the 1st grade, but reads on a 6th grade level. Last year, she read between 18,000 and 20,000 pages! I've been told that she's really interested in reading and writing. She loves Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia--a girl after my own heart!

The other core teacher and I presented our preliminary curricula to Mr. and Mrs. Rogers this past weekend. Everything that we had prepared was met with incredible enthusiasm. I, for one, am so excited about my curriculum this upcoming year: we're doing a Shakespeare unit, a poetry unit, an author studies unit and a British authors unit. Each child has a different approach to these units, of course, but all of them will be reading Shakespeare, Poe, George Orwell and the like. The parents very much believe that good literature can be accessed at any age--and I wholeheartedly agree. 

Here's to the 2011-2012 school year!

*All names have been changed

Happy Daddies' Day!

I know everyone says this, but I have the best dad in the world. Really!

He's endlessly supportive of everything I do and (along with my mom) has always been my biggest cheerleader.

He was the first person I could get ahold of when I decided to quit law school several years back, and he told me: "Natalie, I will support you in whatever makes you happy." He was there at all of my birthday parties, all of my graduations (kindergarten, eighth grade, high school, college and grad school), every ballet and piano recital. He walked me down the aisle at my wedding, but only after checking one more time that I wanted to do through with it (his words: "You know, we could just go get ice cream if you're not up to this!").

So, thanks, Daddy for always being there for me!

(can you tell we're related??)


Landon is quickly working towards breaking or seriously injuring every bone in his body. To date, he's broken two vertebrae, shattered one of his fingers, bruised/broken ribs, broken a toe or two and now...his right hand.

Exhibit A:
Poor, sad Landon.

He fought a wall and the wall won.

This should make the rest of our painting and renovations a little trickier!

Under Construction

Welcome to the construction zone that has become our home:

Note the popcorn-free ceilings (yay) and the bunched up furniture so we can work on the kitchen ceiling (boo).

Phoebe just tries to stay out of the way as much as possible:
while wondering, "What has happened to my formerly clean and organized home?"

For more pictures and info on our home remodeling, visit my design blog, Envied Designs.

To Everything There Is a Season

These last few days have been really hard: the wake, the funeral, the gravesite. But the hardest part of everything was going back to my grandma's farm Tuesday night after the visitation and not having her there.

I know she'd been in a nursing home for a few years, but I hadn't been to the farm in longer. In my entire life--without exception--if I was at the farm, so was my grandmother.

It smelled like her. All of the furnishings looked and felt the same. The electric piano in the den sounded the same. Her bed was made up, just like it always was. Her clothes were still in the closet.

But no Grandma.

I stood outside of the farmhouse late Tuesday night, in an effort to compose myself before I went back in to see my aunts. I'm a private cryer, and went outside to share my grief with myself. As I stood there, tears streaming down my face, I saw lightening bugs in the trees next to the house. And a breeze came up to dry my tears. I felt like my grandma was there with me, if only for a tiny moment.

I always knew that my grandmother had been a huge part of who I'd become, but I never realized how many people she had truly affected until the service yesterday morning. Everyone--including the two men who performed the service--spoke so highly of her. And every bit of it was true with no exaggeration. She was that full of life. That loving. That caring. That joyful.

I wholeheartedly believe that Grandma peeked down from heaven yesterday morning and smiled. The service--which she had the opportunity to plan--was done to perfection. The flowers were beautiful, her family was all together (for the first time in probably a decade), and her memory was lifted up in such a pure, loving way.

Grandma wouldn't want me or my sister or my dad or my mom to cry for her. So we didn't. We cried for us because without her, our days aren't as bright or beautiful or simple anymore.

Last night, after Landon and I had returned home from the funeral, I realized that the grieving process doesn't end just because the funeral is over. All of this is new to me because I have been so lucky: no one close to me has ever died. The new reality of life without my grandma is just beginning to sink in with me and with the rest of my family, and it's going to be a tough road ahead.

Stop All the Clocks

I found out a few hours ago that my grandma had passed away. It was really, really sudden--we'd just found out that she'd had pneumonia last Friday night. She was admitted to the hospital just last night, and my mom, sister and dad saw her this morning. They reported that she was tired looking, but she was talking with everyone and alert. They headed home (from where she was, about two hours away) and by the time they'd come back to Charleston, my aunt had called to tell us that the doctors had pulled her off of all the medicine since she was a DNR.

I doubt I'll be asked to speak at her funeral, so here's what I would say if I had the opportunity:

I loved my grandma. She had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever known. I never, in the entire 26 years that I knew her, ever heard her say a cross word to anyone, not even me after I carved my name in her kitchen furniture. She was a masterful seamstress, and a fantastic cook. She had five children, eleven grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.

She worked hard every day of her life, taking care of her children, running a farm, working as a seamstress, and participating in her church. She was a giver of hugs, Sunbeam bread and the best strawberry cake you'll ever eat.

Some of the best memories I have of my childhood involve her--my sister and I would always go to visit her at the farm when I was little. She would let us play on her piano, and then she'd give us a concert. My sister and I would, in turn, make up plays to perform for her and our parents. Grandma watched every single one of our silly productions and laughed and clapped in all of the right places. My grandmother, who was a devout Christian, never preached what she believed, but she always showcased it through her actions: she was gentle, forgiving and endlessly patient. She has been a huge influence on who I am today, and the person I will grow into. I only wish she could be here to see all of it.

If I have half the life that she had, I will consider myself lucky. I love you, Grandma. Watch over all of us as we try to figure out what life should be without you in it.

Alma Vaught Vereen
July 21, 1914-June 5, 2011