Saturday, December 25, 2010

sunsets and gondolas

The first thing you have to know is that I had no idea Cori was going to propose until the moment he was on one knee.  We'd talked about marriage and I knew Cori was the man I'd one day marry, but he'd led me to believe engagement wouldn't be happening until later.

On Wednesday, December 16th, my best friend Katherine flew in from Virginia.  She's moving to Australia in January, and had told me she'd realized that in her several trips to New Orleans, she'd never been in my classroom.  Being Miss Taylor is a huge part of who I am, and she wanted the chance to see that part of my life before moving across the world. 

We had the best time during her visit.  I put her to work in my classroom, and my kids LOVED Miss Ross, or 'Katherine Ross' as they called her.  They quickly found that she was more helpful when it came to spelling (I make them sound out words, Katherine would actually spell them for them) and Katherine had no problems telling students to stay in their seats and stop fooling around. 

We also had a great time at our class Christmas party- what 6 year old doesn't love food, dancing, and watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

Katherine also got to join me as we celebrated my beautiful roommate Laura's 28th birthday.  We went downtown and enjoyed the Christmas lights at some of New Orlean's swanky bars.

The whole crew

Me and my man

Friday, Katherine's last night in New Orleans, we went to my school's faculty Christmas party and then to Cafe du Monde for beignets.  Saturday morning we got brunch and then picked up Cori to ride with us to the airport.  We said our goodbyes- not too sad, considering Katherine was supposed to pick us up from the Richmond airport on Monday- and Cori and I headed back to his house.  We picked up Chick-fil-A, our fave, on our way home.

We ate lunch while watching Community, and somehow I wasn't at all suspicious when Cori had wine for us to drink with our lunch.  We relaxed at his place for the afternoon since I was exhausted after finishing up a wonderful but long semester of school.  Then, Cori sent me home to change into a dress before we headed out for the evening.  He'd told me a while ago that he was planning something special for that weekend to celebrate us both being out of school, but I didn't think anything of it.  Cori enjoys planning fun things for us to do when he's out of school and has the time and brain power to research things going on in the city, so I just figured we were enjoying our last weekend in New Orleans before we headed to Virginia for Christmas.

Cori picked me and had me put on a blindfold.  I love surprises, so Cori will periodically have me do this with special dates so I don't have any idea what we're doing until we're there.  We drove for ten or so minutes and when we got out of the car and Cori took off my blindfold, I realized we were at West End Drive, a spot overlooking the lake.  We'd tried to watch the sunset there on Valentine's Day, but I took too long getting dressed and we'd missed it.  This time, however, we were just in time.  As we watched the sun set, Cori gave me a rose and a scrapbook full of pictures of our past year together.  At the end, there were verses, which we read and then prayed together.

Cori then informed me that we needed to get moving to our next spot, so we got back in his car and arrived at our dinner destination- Ralph's on the Park.  It was a very classy restaurant- we had two servers, the choice between still or sparkling water, and ate foie gras peanut butter and jelly (look it up! so crazy!), snapper, and New Orleans' BBQ shrimp.  It was absolutely delicious.

After dinner, Cori had me put on jeans under my dress and said we'd be outside for a bit.  While we were in the car, he put our song on his ipod touch (Dancing in the Minefields by Andrew Peterson- absolutely beautiful song) and we sang it to each other.  I know, I know, cheesy, but we're in love, so let us have our moment. ;)

We parked his car at City Park, which is gorgeous this time of year because it's all lit up with Christmas lights.  Cori got wine and a blanket from his trunk, so I figured we were going to sit by the lake and drink wine.  I was only partially right.

As it turned out, Cori had bigger plans for us.  We went on a gondola ride.  Let me just say, when a man takes you on a gondola ride, you should get suspicious... but I wasn't.  It was lovely... our wonderful guide, Robert, (New Orleanians, let me know if you want details on how to have your very own ride with Robert) took us out on the lake at City Park while we snuggled beneath a blanket and drank wine.

After our gondola ride, we started walking back towards the car.  Cori wanted to stop at a pretty little building with a mini waterfall, so we did.  Now, for the last couple of weeks, Cori and I had been playing a little game.  He'd ask me a question about our relationship, I'd answer it, and then he'd give me a slip of paper with the answer.  On Saturday, he handed me a roll of duct tape and asked me the questions again.  As I answered, he gave me the answer to tape up on the wall, except this time he'd printed them out larger.

Before Saturday, he'd asked me 3 questions.  1- Where was our first date? (Lafrieniere Park) 2- What parish did we have our first kiss in?  (Orleans Parish) 3- What state did we officially start dating in? (Virginia) 

You can tell where he was going with the clues when they're arranged like that above.  The last answer, Esplanade Avenue, was right where we were.  Cori told me that he loved me, then handed me the last clue, the answer being Esplanade Avenue.  It said, "Street that intersects with City Park Avenue at NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art) where our lives change forever."  This was where it finally hit me.

Cori got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.  I believe I said, "Are you serious?" about 10 times before I actually said yes.  We reveled in our engagement for a few minutes...

Cori told me we had one more stop to make, but first... I had to sit down.  I literally could not feel my legs, I was in such shock!

We walked back to his car, and Cori had me put the blindfold back on.  As he drove me, blindfolded, I called my family to share the news.  They had been expecting my call, and I think my mom started crying the moment I told her I was engaged.  So sweet!

After parking the car, walking across the street, and up some steps, Cori took off my blindfold.  We were at my house.  After getting my keys from the car, we walked inside my dark home.  I turned into the kitchen, and saw a crowd of people, waiting in the dark for me.  The lights got turned on, congratulations got told, I hyperventilated, and I got to celebrate with some of my very best friends.



The whole gang!

So many engaged couples!  Andrew and Katie, Danielle and Andrew, Cori and I

And, one of the very best parts of the whole night...

Katherine was still there!  Our friend Katie Howe had picked her up from the airport 15 minutes after we dropped her off.  My sweet fiance knew how important my best friend is to me and wanted her to be there for our night.  He arranged for her to come in but knew the only way he could steal me away for a day was if I thought she'd left.  Katherine was actually in New Orleans until Monday.

A few pictures to leave you with...

My ring!

The day after- me and my future husband!

Needless to say, this Christmas break has been a blur of phone calls, staring at my ring, getting used to saying 'fiance' instead of 'boyfriend' and thinking about the future.  It's been such an exciting season and I am so very thankful for the Lord has brought this incredible man into my life.

Stay tuned for wedding details. :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

back in the swing of things

Phew.  I've successfully completed 3 work days (although I'll be at school for another hour) since returning from Virginia, and I am pooped.  I always know that my kids will come back from Thanksgiving, psyched for Christmas and full of energy, but I'm never quite prepared for it.  Last year I didn't notice it so much; my class was crazy all day, every day.  But this year, dealing with my little angels when they're unable to sit still on the rug or walk in line straight... I'm just not used to it and it is exhausting!  The countdown is 12- 12 more days until 2 glorious weeks off.

Cori reminded me this week of Philippians 4:4-7- Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, in prayer and petition, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I'm definitely clinging to that... to the offering of thanks, and the longing for peace.

Friday, November 19, 2010


First grader: "Ms. Taylor!  He called me a white American!"

Me: ?!?  "Um... I'm a white American.  We're all Americans..."

My job cracks me up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


One of my very favorite holiday traditions is Friendsgiving.  My roommate Laura started this a few years ago, and now that she lives with Kim and I, it's been such a joy to host it at our house!  We open up the invitation to all our friends and any of their friends, and simply ask that everyone bring a dish to share.  It is always a delicious meal, and this year was no exception!  We had baked macoroni and cheese (my contribution), green beans wrapped in bacon, shrimp casserole (a recipe from Laura's grandmother that she beautifully recreates every year), a smoked turkey (thanks, Michael and Rae Wong!), a yummy chocolate pudding creation (yup, my boyfriend can cook!) and so much more.

As much as I loved the food, what I loved the most was the fellowship.  We call it Friendsgiving because it's Thanksgiving shared with friends, and I'm so thankful the opportunity to celebrate with the friends who are my family while I'm in New Orleans.  We had old friends, new friends, friends we see every day, and friends we see once a month.  Our upstairs neighbors came (we live in a duplex) and getting to know them and their almost 2 year old daughter was a special treat.  This was her first time having turkey (her mom is a vegetarian) and when her dad originally offered her some, she said, "No bird!"  Such a beautiful little girl!

It was also neat to reflect on how much things have changed since our last Friendsgiving.  Last year I was miserable with my job and despite how great I thought Cori was, I was convinced he only saw me as a friend.  This year I'm in a totally different place: I love my students and I'm absolutely crazy about this Cori kid.  Like I've said before, I'm in a different season of life, and I'm loving it!

I loved every minute of my first Thanksgiving celebration of the year- next up, celebrating with my Richmond girls.  I can't wait!  :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chicago, really?

The truth is, first graders have a very small grasp on time.  As soon as you tell them that something is going to eventually happen, they will ask you every day, 4 times a day, until the event occurs.  Example: last week, we passed out field trip forms for a trip we're taking to the Lousiana Children's Museum after Thanksgiving.  My students ask me constantly, "Is the field trip today?"

First graders also have a very small grasp on distance.  One of my students asked me this morning when we were going to take a field trip to Chicago to see the snow.  Please note: we live in LOUISIANA.  Well, his question spread like wildfire, and in the successive moments as I attempted to quiet my students and usher them into class, I was asked by 5 other students, "Yeah, when are we going to Chicago?"  I'm betting most of those kids don't even know if Chicago is a city or a restaurant.

Oh, 6 year olds... :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

cute kids, hot date, and Halloween

Just wanted to share some highlights from the past month or so of my life...

3 of my precious first graders this year- Tatiana, Kiya, and Kenshawn.  This is at a sock hop- aka, an hour on a random Friday where the pre-K to 3rd graders pack into the cafetorium (cafeteria + auditorium), blast music, and either bust out dance moves you know they learned from watching their mamas or just race around the room.  Very fun, very hectic.  Cori came to this one, and my kids loved meeting 'Mr. Cori.'  Their assessment?  "He's really tall!"

Speaking of Cori- we celebrated 9 months on October 1.  I know, I know, since then we've celebrated 10 months, but 9 months felt like more of a mile marker.  The beginning of the month was hectic for us, but a few weeks later, we were able to spend the whole day enjoying each other.  Cori planned a day of surprises for me with little clues- the farmers market, lunch at a yummy deli, the zoo, and finally, dinner at Tommy's.  My parents had kindly given me a gift card months back so that Cori and I could have a fancy dinner out (teacher's salary and grad school loans only stretch so far!) and we finally took advantage of it.  Tommy's was absolutely delicious, and we went all out- wine, appetizers, and amazing entrees.  It was wonderful to get dressed up and go out in style with my favorite!

And lastly, Halloween.  Our friend Craig had a cd release show at Carollton Station on October 30th, so our crowd donned costumes and went to his show.  For those of you non-New Orleanians, these are my precious roommates- Laura (Carmen San Diego), Kim (a flapper), and me (a princess- yes, I wore the crown that my girls wear on their birthdays and used it as an excuse to wear a pretty dress.)

And now?  Counting down the days until Thanksgiving break!  I absolutely adore my students this year, but Miss Taylor needs a vacation!

Monday, October 11, 2010

through the seasons

4 years, 2 months, and 12 days ago I arrived in New Orleans for the first time.  I was fresh out of college, unsure if I was ever going to use my Early Childhood Education degree from JMU, uncertain about how long I'd be living in Louisiana, and both extraordinarily excited and anxious about the new chapter I was about to begin.  One of the few things I was sure of was that God had called me to make this move.  My senior year had been a crazy one where I had considered everything from staying in Harrisonburg to moving to China, but when I was offered the chance to be on a relief team with Campus Crusade for Christ, something in my heart immediately clicked.  During a rough season that year, I'd clung to Jeremiah 31:3-4, that says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love.  I have drawn you with lovingkindness.  You will be built up again, and you will be rebuilt."  Those promises had resonated deep within me, both for myself and for the hurting Gulf Coast that had been broken by Hurricane Katrina's detrimental hit on August 29th, 2005.  Somehow, I felt a certain kinship with Katrina's victims and knew that my passion to share Jesus' redemptive story could easily combine with my desire to care for people in a tangible way.

So I made the move and quickly fell in love with my new home.  That first year was difficult; budgets, potholes, the weight of being part of a city still recovering, my first Thanksgiving away from my family... it wasn't easy.  But somehow, it was so good.  I found joy in times with Jesus on the porch, over-looking the city from the overpass, my relief team that quickly became my family, learning to be a capable adult, the strength of a city determined to come back, gaining confidence in who God made me to be, Cajun food, and LOTS of laughter.

But after two years of relief work, it was time for something new, so I decided to revisit my life-long dream to be a teacher.  That first year teaching was hard, and honestly, my second year was even harder.  I had bruises from breaking up fights, the steady pressure of academically behind students, a lovingly made picture from one of my kids of me getting run over by a truck (although I have to be honest- that one made me laugh!)... it was enough to bring anyone down.  I fell apart and I persevered and then I fell apart again.  I drew on the strength of friends and family and learned the joy there is in allowing others to carry you when you are too weak to carry yourself.  I learned that even in the hardest moments, Jesus is the same, absolutely the same, and even in the hardest seasons of life, He is the same loving God that He is during the seasons of laughter.  Ecclesiastes 3says that there is a time for everything, a time to dance, a time to cry, a time to heal, and a time for peace.

Right now, I'm in a time of peace.  My third year of teaching is a completely different picture from my first two.  I come home, bubbling with cute stories about my kids, and while I wish my alarm didn't have to go off at 6am, I can genuinely say that I like my job.  I am blessed with friends and family that I adore in Virginia, and am equally blessed with beautiful, rare friendships here in New Orleans.  My boyfriend is the most wonderful man and I am excited about the path that lies ahead of me.  But I'm reminded in this season of joy that God is good, He is the same, and I will praise Him in every season.