Saturday, November 26, 2011

why we love Willow

When I was first getting to know Cori, I had a long list of reasons of why I could see a potential future with him.  Some were silly (like how he rode his bike to Home Depot to help me find magnets) and others were legit (like his deep love of the Lord).  On that list (no, it wasn't a written list- I may have been interested, but I wasn't obsessed!) was his love for cats.  I'll let you decide if that qualifies as silly or legitimate. ;)


Cori and I both grew up with cats and have always loved them, so when we got married, it was always a question of when we'd get a cat- not if.  In light of the crazy beginnings of our married life (we found out a week before the wedding that Cori had gotten a fellowship with the CDC and that we'd be leaving New Orleans- although we didn't know where we'd be going yet, 2 weeks after the wedding that we'd be moving to Tampa, and then 2 weeks after that we moved) we decided to wait until we had gotten a bit more settled before we went looking for a third addition to our family.  We were thinking a year, maybe more, since we're not sure how long we'll be in Florida.  That was the plan.


And then one Saturday morning, a month after our move, Cori and I were lounging around the house when someone knocked on the door.  Being that it was 9am and we still didn't know many people in Tampa, we weren't quite sure what to expect when we opened the door.  It was our across the street neighbor.  She explained that some of her family was moving in temporarily and had a cat, but since she already had a couple dogs and was not a cat person, they were going to have to get rid of the cat.  They had contemplated just letting it go feral, but decided to ask us if we wanted a cat.  Before I knew it, Cori- my always think it through first husband- was saying sure, and a cat was carried across the street and into our arms.  We agreed to keep her for a trial run- a day or so- but after just a few hours, it became clear.  We were cat owners.


Willow, our first weekend with her- you can tell in more recent pictures of her that we feed her well ;)


She came with the name Tabitha, but we had always wanted to have a cat with a New Orleans-based name, so we decided to call her Willow, after the street I lived on for 3 years.  (But shhh- don't tell our neighbors we renamed her!)


Willow is the sweetest cat in the world and we are absolutely in love with her.  She is playful and has definite spunk, but she's not overwhelming wild, like some cats I've known (R.I.P, crazy cat Flash).  She is definitely not afraid of people and loves to cuddle.  She's always anxious to go outside, and now that she's been spayed (because a cat in heat is not something we ever want to experience again) we let her.  We were nervous the first few times we let her out- what if she doesn't come back? what if she gets lost or hurt?- but quickly found out that while Willow might love being outside, she loves being the center of our attention even more.  If we go outside looking for her after a short stint outside, she'll come bounding up to us, desperate for some loving.  Her favorite days are when the weather is nice (which is often- thank you, Florida!) and we leave our doors open.  She'll wander outside for a bit, then come back inside to be near us, then venture back outside, then back inside... the only downfall is when another neighborhood cat, Ladybug, sees our open door as an invitation to come inside and visit Willow's food dish. ;)


Willow, right before we our weekend trip to New Orleans in September- she wanted to come with us!


In the mornings, Cori has nicknamed Willow 'Alarm Kitty.'  Willow will wait patiently for us in the mornings, snoozing on our bed, her spot by the window, on top of the refrigerator, or wherever her current hiding place is.  But once our alarm goes off, Willow takes it upon herself to make sure that Cori and I don't oversleep.  Cori and I are big fans of the snooze button, so Willow will come into our room, hop up on our bed, and do what she can to get our attention... sleep on top of us, attack our toes, nuzzle our faces.  As soon as we get up, she's either off to wait (impatiently) by the food dish, or follows us into the bathroom so she can try to drink water from the sink as we wash our hands/faces.  And on weekends when that alarm doesn't go off... well, she gives us a couple extra hours, but then makes her presence known.


We are so blessed by this crazy, adorable, loving kitty.  We're in it with her for the long run, and I'm already thinking about how much we'll miss her the week we're in Virginia for Christmas.  Sweet Willow, you bring us so much joy!


Love.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

no offense, Buccaneers

I may not live in New Orleans anymore, but I will always root for the Saints.  I know, I know, I'm in Tampa Bay Bucaneer country now, and yeah, I'll cheer for them during every game they play- except when they play my boys.

I moved to New Orleans a year after the storm.  Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on that glorious city, and among its innumerable wrongs, it displaced the Saints for a year.  They spent the 2006/2007 season practicing and playing out in Texas, but come fall 2007, they were back.  Back in the city, back in the Superdome, and back in action.  Except maybe they weren't back in action- maybe it was more like they were in action for the first time ever.  The Saints had been a notoriously awful team; they were nicknamed the 'Aints and their fans were said to wear paperbags over their heads to games because they were just so shameful.  But that first year back in the 'dome after the storm, they were good.  They were really good.  And New Orleanians everywhere noticed. 

I don't know how else to say it except that the Saints brought a ray of hope that year to a city that desperately needed it.  They went to the NFC Championship game and lost, which was devastating, but still- I've got to come back to it- they brought hope. 

The next two seasons, while not overwhelmingly awful, were also not particularly notable.  But then, in the fall of 2009, things got crazy.  The Saints were winning, and winning big.  They won 13 straight games, and let me just say, those games were incredible.  I spent Sunday afternoons with friends, eating jambalaya or gumbo, watching as Drew Brees and his buddies made one incredible play after the other, and more than once claimed a victory after starting the second half behind.  All over New Orleans, people were intoxicated by the Saints.  After so much heart ache, God had given 'the city care forgot' a reason to come together and cheer.  It didn't matter how old you were or what color your skin was- if you lived in New Orleans, you were a Saints fan, and that made you family.  It was the most beautiful thing to watch.

Of course, you know our happy ending.  The Saints won the Superbowl that year, and never before have I been a part of such an amazing celebration.  We ran out in the streets, yelling and cheering and dancing and congratulating neighbors, and then we headed down to the French Quarter.  People everywhere were honking and laughing, running around giving strangers high fives.  Excited doesn't even begin to describe it.  For the first time EVER, the Saints had won the Superbowl.  The euphoria lasted for weeks, which was easy since just two days after our win, we had a parade for our boys, our heroes, and then Mardi Gras season was fully in swing, with most floats celebrating our beloved team. 

The Saints' journey to the Superbowl was one of the most euphoric experiences I've ever been a part of, and I'll never forget it.  My love for the Saints will always be a part of my love for New Orleans, and that will always be a part of me.

Bourbon Street in the French Quarter the night the Saint's won the Superbowl

Saint's Parade

Cori and I, celebrating the Saints- WHO DAT!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

how it all began...

I've been thinking a lot recently about Cori and how our relationship was beginning to unfold around this time two years ago, so I thought I'd recount our story.


I moved to New Orleans from Virginia in August of 2006, just months after graduating.  I did relief work for two years, and then began teaching.  In August of 2009, right as I began my second year teaching, Cori moved to New Orleans, also from Virginia.  He came to get his Masters of Public Health at Tulane, and the only person he knew in NOLA was Harris, a friend of his from his undergrad days at Virginia Tech.  He called him up when he realized he was moving and stayed with him for a couple weeks while he looked for his own place.  Harris and I had been involved in the same church and Bible study for the past two years and hung out in the same group.  When a group of us went to pint night at one of our favorite bars, the Bulldog, Harris invited Cori to come and hang out with some of his friends.


Cori and I were introduced, briefly bonded over the Virginia connection, and then talked to other people for the rest of the night.  Cori says that his first impression of me was that I was loud.  A fairly accurate impression, especially considering that I randomly met another JMU alum that night and loudly sang our fight song in the middle of the patio bar.  I thought Cori was cute, but was wrapped up in the beginning of the school year and other aspects of my life, so I didn't think much about it.


Without my knowledge, however, Harris and my best friend Kim had decided that Cori and I would make a great match and conspired about ways to bring us into social situations together.  One night in September, a group of us had dinner- a group that I would later find was specifically formed so that Cori and I could hang out without knowing we were being set up.  We chatted a bit and I shared about the difficult school year I was having.  Later that night, I got a text from Cori, sharing a Bible verse and that he was praying for me.  Some might find this cheesy, but for me, this was a major turn on.  The next day, I went for a run with my roommate Laura and told her that while I didn't want to read into it, I thought Cori was great and enjoyed him pursuing me a bit with that text message.  I decided to do my part to make sure Cori was included in group activities, and was happy when he joined our gang that Saturday at Oktoberfest.


This is where the story I love to tell happened.  Cori and I were chatting when Kim told me to come to the bathroom with her.  Apparently, our group had decided that I needed to 'get out of the friend zone' with Cori, and had voted that Kim be the one to tell me.  Kim instructed me to touch his arm while we chatted, and I obediently followed her instructions.  I was pleasantly surprised with the results- Cori bought me a drink and the two of us spent the rest of the night talking.  As I was asking him some questions about his life, for some reason, we decided that the best way for me to get to know him better would be if he made me guess random facts about his life, with me getting points for each correct guess.  If I got 10 points, he would dress up and sing the Schnitzel Bank song, which is a tradition at Oktoberfest.


Cori says that he underestimated my determination to win a bet; what he really underestimated was my desire to get to know a cute, funny, Jesus-loving guy.  We spent the next couple months texting and flirting, me advancing in our silly little game, and enjoying him.  But I was also confused- there were days when I was convinced he was going to ask me out any moment, and other days I was sure he wasn't interested at all.  I continued to be interested in him, but prepared my heart to accept that it just wasn't going to happen.  I did, however, when our little bet, and at our annual 'Friendsgiving' gathering, Cori dressed up in Leiderhosen and performed the Schnitzelbank song in front of all our friends.


December was an emotional month for me as I struggled through some huge drama with my job.  I didn't have the energy to worry about Cori, and had pretty much convinced myself that he wasn't interested.  But that doesn't mean I wasn't going to still give it a shot- if he flirted, I flirted back, which is why my friend Katie found herself uncomfortably in-between us when we went out for drinks and holiday lights to celebrate my roommate Laura's birthday.  She moved spots and Cori and I bantered about a little sword that was in my drink- he really wanted it, and I gave it to him- but only on the condition that he give me his word that he'd owe me.  This seemingly unimportant interaction was actually crucial for Cori and gave him the courage he needed to ask me out.  He planned to do it the next day, but after his car got flooded, his plans were delayed.  We didn't see eac hother for the next few days, but in a gchat conversation, Cori asked me what a girl would like best as a treat, music or dinner, and I straight up told him that I thought he was asking me because he was asking another girl out.   He avoided answering and assured me he'd tell me the next time he saw me.   He was also particularly interested in what I was doing that Friday, but I just couldn't handle the disappointment of him not being interested so I didn't let myself read into it.


A few days later, on December 16, 2009, a group of us went out to sushi to celebrate Laura's actual birthday.  I asked Cori what he'd been talking about in our gchat conversation, and he said, "It's my thing to tell and I'll tell you when I'm ready."  So I gave up and spent the rest of dinner talking with other friends; I specifically remember my friends Jeremy and Shannon asking what was going on with my guy life, and me saying that I didn't think anything was happening with Cori.  (This was from the other end of the table.)  We finished eating, and chatted outside for a few minutes before people started heading home.  Cori asked me where my car was parked and said he'd walk with me to it.  That's when it hit me- this guy was about to ask me out.


Cori walked me to my car and said, "So, the reason I asked you what you were doing Friday is because I'm interested in you and I'd like to take you out on a date to talk about it."  I said, "I've been hoping you were interested..."  We talked for a little while and Cori filled in a few missing details for me.  My sweet intentional Cori hadn't been trying to confuse me by flirting and not asking me out- he'd been trying to make sure that he truly liked me before acting on it.  He was surrounded by girls in his classes, but found that his thoughts kept drifting back to me.  When he realized he truly was interested in me, at the advice of a smart guy friend of ours, he waited a few weeks for some of my work drama to die down.  Before that night ended, Cori handed me a blindfold and told me I'd need it for our first date.


I was absolutely giddy for the next two days, so much so that one of my students asked, "Miss Taylor, are you okay?  Why you smiling like that?"  My girlfriends giggled with me, and I was amazed to find out that Kim and my friends the Paddocks had known about Cori's plans to ask me out since Thanksgiving.


Our first date, Cori blindfolded me and took me on a tacky lights scavenger hunt.  We held hands and went back to his house and talked until 2 in the morning.  The next night, we went to our friends' Scott and Rebekah's wedding and danced all night.  I was smitten, but I was also overwhelmed.  I'd spent the last month convincing myself to not be interested in Cori, and then- BAM- there he was, crazy about me and wanting me as his girlfriend.  It took me a couple weeks- until New Years Day- to say, "Hey, Cori.... I want to be your girlfriend."


8 months later, we started talking about marriage and exactly a year after our first date, Cori asked me to marry him.  I love our story. :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

let's hear it for the girls

This past weekend I had the absolute joy of going to my dear friend Rachel's wedding.  As I was flying back to Florida at the end of the weekend, I reflected on my friendship with Rachel and our group of girlfriends.  I was reminded of the time Rachel came to New Orleans to run the Mardi Gras Half Marathon with me.  As I was introducing her to people, my friend Tori said, "Oooooh, you're one of the girls!"  The way she said it made it clear that no further introduction was needed, because anyone who knows me knows who 'the girls' are.  These 5 women have been in my life for years, many for decades (am I that old for that to even be possible?!), and whenever I'm in Richmond, they top the list of people I must see, right up there with my parents and Katherine (when she's actually in America, that is!).




me and Emily at one of our annual Christmas dinners, December  '08

First, there's Emily.  Emily and I met in first grade, although as I remember it, we didn't actually become friends until second grade, when we were the only two girls in our class who had been in the same class before.  All that I remember about our friendship then was that we liked that our initials both spelled words- RAT and EAT- and one time she rode home on the bus with me.  The following year I was transferred to another elementary school, and it wasn't until French class in 7th grade that we were reunited. 



freshman year at JMU

Next, there's Rachel.  Rachel was my first real friend when I joined Girl Scouts in 4th grade, and while I don't remember exactly what drew us together, by 6th grade, we were inseparable.  Even though we never had any classes together, we managed to see each other throughout the school day and had constant play dates after school, where we sold lemonade door to door, went to the pool, and made up ridiculous nicknames for each other, like Automobile, Locomotive, and Rachel and Rebecca Bailey.



Jenny's wedding, April 4, 2009

JMU Homecoming- freshman year

Even though Jenny and I first met when I joined Girl Scouts, we didn't actually become close until 6th or 7th grade when we had lunch together.  Pretty soon we were spending hours on the phone, talking about boys (always, always talking about boys!), Winnie the Pooh (classic Pooh, mind you- somehow that made it cool), Sanrio, and Beanie Babies.



me and lori at my rehearsal dinner
In 7th grade, I had science class with Lori.  We quickly realized that she had recently moved to my neighborhood, and being that we were only 12 and driver's licenses were far in the future, we would spend our afternoons and weekends walking around the neighborhood.  












Emily L. and me, celebrating Jenny's 26th birthday

In 8th grade, I had science with Emily L.  We already knew each other because she was friends with some of the other girls, but this was our first time getting to know each other.  We sat next to each other, and I'm pretty sure we didn't listen to our teacher very much that year.  We picked our favorite periodic elements (don't judge us- we were in science class, what else could we do?) and passed notes.


Throughout the years, our friendships have stretched and grown and changed.  There have been seasons that we haven't been as connected to each other, and seasons that we've been attached at the hip.  We've had stupid fights (I'll NEVER live down the time I dropped the f-bomb at Emily L. and Jenny!) and we've had joyous celebrations.  There have been marriages (Jenny, me, and Rachel) and there's been the sweetest addition of Ellie, Lori's daughter.  We've all lived within 15 minutes of each other, and then we've all been spread out across Virginia at various colleges.  


These girls have taught me about unconditional love.  They've carried me through hard times.  I'll never forget sending out an email during a particularly horrendous season of life.  Within 24 hours, the girls had put together a care package for me.  They've celebrated with me as I met and fell in love with Cori, being almost as excited as me when Cori first kissed me.  They breathlessly answered the phone with anticipatory, "Hello's?!" for at least 3 or 4 months before actually receiving my "I'm engaged!" phone call.  I know that no matter how far away I am, these girls will always, always, ALWAYS be there for me.  They are some of the most precious blessings in my life, and because of all we've been through, I can say with assurance that they always will be.  Love you ladies.

And because it's impossible for me to pick just one fun picture of us, here are some favorites, in no particular order.... if only we'd had digital cameras back in elementary and middle school, I'd really have a treat to share- but then again, the girls would probably kill me. ;)

beach trip, summer of 2010- lori, me, jenny, rachel, emily l., lovey



Jenny, me, Emily, and sweet baby Ellie, Christmas '05- Ellie's first!

my wedding- june 25, 2011- lori, jenny, me, rachel, lovey, and of course, everyone's favorite flower girl  precious ellie (she's been mine, jenny's, and rachel's!)


a trip back to Richmond to see each other during our freshman year of college- me, Jenny, Rachel, Emily L., and Emily- dressing up in hunting gear at Wal-Mart, just like any cool college student would

Christmas break, sophomore (?) year of college- Karen, Emily L., me, Emily, Jenny, and Jenny

visit to NOLA! summer 2007- Jenny, Emily, me, Lori


Ellie's birthday party- Lori, me, Jenny, Clarke (Jenny's now-husband), Karen, Emily, Rachel, Lovey, Emily L. 


one of our annual Christmas dinners- this year's was at Kabutos- Emily L., Lori, Emily, Rachel, me, Jenny, Karen


senior year of high school- Ryan, Chris, Jenny, Rachel, me, Emily L., Emily

high school- Karen, Emily L., Emily, Jenny, and me

Monday, September 19, 2011

a taste of home

If you've ever been to New Orleans, you don't need me to tell you that the food there is AMAZING.  There's some food that's unique to New Orleans- like beignets and crawfish- but other food that they just do better than I've ever had before- like paella, garlic shrimp, and sangria at Lola's or chicken schwarma at Babylons or the shrimp and steak and twice baked potatoes at Mulates or the fish at Jacque-Imo's...  I could go on and on.  We're heading to New Orleans this weekend for a wedding, and I've already started thinking through where I want to eat so I don't come back and realize I made a terrible mistake, like not eating a shrimp poboy.*  When we realized we were moving to Florida, I mourned the loss of all these great restaurants that were just right around the corner, but determined that I would bring New Orleans with me.


*For the record, while the food will be yummy, we are by far the most excited to catch up with some of our best friends and see my sweet relief team buddy Steph walk down the aisle.  If we had to choose between the food or the friends, we'd choose the friends every time. :)


I joked with Cori that we would make friends by having people over for a Cajun/Creole meal.  Surely, they would be so amazed by the food that they'd be our best friends for life, right? ;)


So far we've succeeded on several fronts.  We made sure to buy a big ol' bottle of Tony's seasoning before we left, and we incorporate that in a lot of our meals.  We also stocked up on some of Zatarains mixes, like shrimp etouffee and jumbalaya.  When we had our neighbors over for dinner last weekend, we made jumbalaya and not only was it easy to make (thanks, Zats!) it was a definite hit.


My other big flavor-of-New Orleans-in-Florida hit has come in the form of a little dish we call Shrimp Roban.  One of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans is Semolina's, and while I was forced to travel out to Metaire to eat there after their Magazine Street Bistro closed, it was ALWAYS worth it to go.  No need for a menu, just bring me a diet coke and some Shrimp Roban.  


Now, my sweet roommate Laura, knowing my slightly obsessive love for this dish, found a recipe for shrimp roban and made it for the bridal shower she and my other roommate, Kim, threw for me back in May.  So when we moved to Tampa, I had hope; maybe I too, could make shrimp roban.


I did a little online-searching and found the recipe here.  I got the ingredients, printed out the recipe, and was about to start cooking it when I realized something funny.  The recipe says that it yields 1 serving, yet it calls for using quantities like 1 gallon of Alfredo Sauce, a 1/2 pound of butter, and 4 cups of green onion.  Say what?!  I'm thinking their '1 serving' meant '1 serving for a party of 50' or something along those lines.  So, my sweet husband kindly did the math and reduced the portions to a more do able size.  It depends on how much you eat (i.e., my skinny but never gains a pound husband could easily eat about 4 servings), but I'd guess this probably makes enough for about 6.  Which works great, because I love leftovers!


So here it is:


Roban Sauce
1 pint or 16 fl oz or 2 cups of Alfredo Sauce
1/2 pint or 8 fl oz or 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped green onion, white and green
4 teaspoons blackened red fish seasoning (I found some made by Emeril's)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic


Just a few notes- I usually use a little less cayenne pepper; while I can handle some spiciness, I prefer to not drink 6 cups of water with my meal.  But if you love spice, go for it!  I also tend to go heavier on the garlic, because I LOVE garlic.  I think the few times I've made this, I've used more like 2 tablespoons of garlic, and it was wonderful.  Also, while obviously fresh minced garlic is better, I've gone the lazier easier way before and just used a bottle of minced garlic.


I will also say that you could just as easily substitute chicken for shrimp.  I use shrimp just because I adore shrimp and end up cooking lots of other dishes with chicken.  Honestly, it's the sauce that makes this meal such a winner... I think I could drizzle roban sauce on anything and I would love it.


So there you have it!  One of my all-time favorite meals.  I was thrilled when I realized I was able to make this- it's delicious, and honestly doesn't take long to prepare!  I made it last week for my Bible study and got compliments, which I think officially affirmed for me that this meal is a winner.





Monday, September 12, 2011

a house, a cat, a job, and a church.

I figured it was time for a little life update on how things are going here in Tampa.  We're pretty settled in and are loving our little house.  It definitely took us a little while to get everything we needed, (since a desk, 2 chairs, a twin sized bed, and a night stand were literally the only pieces of furniture we owned when we got married) but we've pretty much got everything we need now and are loving sharing this home together.  We love our neighborhood too; it's full of cute little unique houses that reminds us a little of New Orleans.  We're also loving our next door neighbors.  They're just a few years older than us and have two adorable little boys, ages 3 and 6.  We went to the beach with them on Labor Day and I'm pretty sure Cori is hoping we'll have boys someday (not for a while though, folks!) because he loved playing with them- they were way more fun than his 'I just want to lay out!' wife. :)

We also got a cat!  It was completely unexpected; while we'd talked about getting a kitten sometime down the road, we certainly weren't thinking that it'd be after just a month of living here and 2 months of marriage.  But apparently God had different plans. ;)  Our across-the-street neighbors knocked on our door last weeked, saying they had to get rid of their cat, and did we want it?  Before I knew it, Cori was saying yes, and this adorable black, white, and orange calico cat was being brought across the street.  I have to say, she is the sweetest cat ever!  She came with the name Tabitha, but after some thinking, we changed it to Willow, after the street I lived on for 3 years in New Orleans.  She's 2 or 3 years old, so while she's definitely not a kitten anymore, she's still got a lot of playfulness in her.  She LOVES to be held, a quality I've never experienced in a cat before, and she's a good cuddler- when she wants to be. ;)  Our next door neighbors came over for dinner on Saturday, and we were so impressed by how well Willow did with the kids.  For 45 minutes, these little boys played with her... and being that they're 3 and 6, by played, I mean, chased around the house.  The 3 year old was so proud that he could pick her up- he walked around the house carrying her, and each time he'd say, "I'm strong!"  It was adorable.  And while Willow was more than happy to have some alone time when the boys got busy with dinner and the playing the Wii, she didn't once hiss or bite or scratch or snap at them.  Good news, since she should be around when we have kids of our own someday.

Cori is enjoying his job and has been getting familiar with the infectious diseases of Tampa by looking at DNA and blood cultures from chicken and geese around the city.  At least, that's my perception of what he's doing... my non-science oriented brain tends to dumb down his explanations a bit...

And- drumroll please!- I have a job!  I'll be the lead teacher in a 3 year olds classroom at a daycare here in Tampa, and will start later this week or the beginning of next, depending on when my background check clears.  I'm excited to get back to work and am looking forward to being with even littler ones than before.  Although I gotta say, after 3.5 months of not working, it's going to be hard to get back into the routine!

We've also been so blessed by our church here.  When I was in college, I went to a church called aletheia, and was reminded before we moved by a good friend that aletheia planted a church here in Tampa.  We went our first Sunday here- literally about 8 hours after our 3am arrival- and have been hooked.  It's been wonderful to reconnect with some JMU friends that are part of the church plant here, and also to slowly but surely make some new friends.  We've really loved the way they make it clear that this life is about Jesus and the salvation He brought us, and have been reminded by how much we need Him.

Phew, that's all for now!  It's time for this girl to do a little Bible reading and then look at her to-do list and make sure life is in order before work starts up... and maybe take a shower, too. ;)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tomorrow marks two months of marriage.  We're celebrating big: Cori is going to work, I'm going to look for a job, then we're going to make dinner, eat it, and probably play the Wii some.  Exciting stuff! ;)

Alright, so I'm mocking us a little.  But, I realized an anniversary that is almost more significant than the two months of marriage mark.  Right around this time last year, Cori and I had our first serious marriage conversation.  We'd been dating for about 8 months and Cori had recently returned from 2 months in Ecuador.  Those first weeks having him back were wonderful; it was a difficult summer being away from each other, and after making it through that, we were both beginning to think along more permanent lines.  After several casual conversations about the 'if' of marriage (can any conversation about marriage every really be casual for a girl?) I realized that as much as the giddy, girly part of me enjoyed it, we were going to a place where I would be devastated if our 'if thinking' didn't turn out to be a 'when.'  So I told Cori that I couldn't have any more conversations about marriage until he was sure he wanted to marry me.  Cori said, "What if I'm sure?"  I believe my response was something along the lines of, "Well, then we can talk about it all you want!"  (Insert giggly, blushing Rebecca here)

That was the beginning of a very fun, if not sometimes scary and new, season for us.  We dated for the next 3 or 4 months before getting engaged, intentionally talking about marriage and the future.  It was such a crazy season to be in, being fully secure of Cori's feelings for me as we moved towards a place in life neither of us had been before.

Right around that time, my friend April posted a song on her blog, dedicating it to her husband of 6 months.  I immediately fell in love with it and played it for Cori, who loved it too.  It became our song and was our first dance together as husband and wife.


Dancing in the Minefields, Andrew Peterson
I was nineteen, you were twenty-one
The year we got engaged
Everyone said we were much too young
But we did it anyway

We bought our rings for forty each
From a pawn shop down the road
We made our vows and took the leap
Now fifteen years ago

We went dancing in the minefields
We went sailing in the storm
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for

"I do" are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I've heard
Is a good place to begin
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/a/andrew_peterson/dancing_in_the_minefields.html ]
'Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down
And I believe it's an easy price
For the life that we have found

And we're dancing in the minefields
We're sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for

So when I lose my way, find me
When I loose love's chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days
When I forget my name, remind me

'Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man
So there's nothing left to fear
So I'll walk with you in the shadowlands
Till the shadows disappear

'Cause He promised not to leave us
And His promises are true
So in the face of all this chaos, baby,
I can dance with you

Please, listen to it, and get caught up in the sweet simplicity of it.  Cori and I love it because it not only talks about the sweetness of love, it also talks about the reality of being in a relationship in a messed up world with messed up people.  I adore Cori, but not every day of our marriage has been easy.  We've fought and cried and gotten frustrated.  As my pastor said at our wedding, "Not every day will be as happy as this one." 

Often, when I'm feeling like a complete and total mess, Cori will remind me that he's dancing in the minefields with me- even when I'm the one who put the mines there to begin with.  And the even more beautiful part is that we've got Jesus dancing with us too.  And He promised not to leave us, and His promises are true.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

...wherever you are.

I miss New Orleans.

Don't get me wrong; Tampa has been great so far.  We've got a cute little house in a great neighborhood, we're getting plugged into a fantastic church here, and we've even hung out with people a few times.  Not bad considering we got here 11 days ago.  I feel confident that Tampa is going to be a great move for us as a newly married couple, that Cori's job will be a great fit for him and that God is going to grow us in new ways in this different season. 

But New Orleans was my heart and soul for 5 pivotal years, and when we left, a piece of my heart stayed there.  I miss the friends who were family, I miss driving down St. Charles Avenue, I miss our favorite restaurants, I miss the familiarity and the settled life I had there.  It's been so weird to realize that school has started back up in New Orleans and that there's this rhythm that I lived and breathed for 3 years as a teacher, going on without me.  New Orleans is where I became an adult, where I learned to delight in who God made me to be, where I made some of the best friends ever, where I ate some of the most amazing meals in existence, where I ran a marathon and became a teacher.  It's where I met Cori, where I fell in love with him, where he asked me to marry him.

Things weren't perfect there, and the truth is, for as much joy as I experienced in New Orleans, there was heartbreak and pain as well.  But it was my home, and I love it, will always love it. 

This week, I've been reminding myself how I never could have predicted the beauty that God brought in my life these last 5 years, and I have to trust that He's got good plans for me in this new season as well.  When I miss New Orleans, I try to turn it into a prayer of thanksgiving, because how blessed am I that I have so much to miss?  My sorrow reflects the joy that I was given for 5 years, so I take my homesickness as a reminder of an amazing season of life.

There's a popular bumper sticker in New Orleans, particularly after Katrina, when so many New Orleanians were displaced across the nation.  It said, 'Be a New Orleanian, wherever you are.'  And so I will.  Just as I left a bit of myself behind in New Orleans, I'll take a bit of New Orleans with me... in my cooking (Cajun spices, shrimp creole, and jambalaya!), in my obsession with fleur de lis and the New Orleans Saints, in the phone calls and visits and pictures, in the way I'll always honor August 29th as the Katrina anniversary, in my fondness for Mardi Gras beads, and in my heart.  I'll always be a New Orleanian, no matter where I am.

Be a New Orleanian. Wherever you are.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

practice makes perfect.

Our rehearsal was your typical wedding rehearsal... we ran through the order of the wedding, with the church's wedding coordinator and my pastor telling us where to stand, when to hand over my bouquet, etc.  Here's a few snapshots.




so much love.

I was overwhelmed by the people who traveled from near and far to celebrate with us.  We had guests come from all over the country and we were so honored that they would be willing to go to such lengths to watch Cori and I get married.

The definite winner of the travel award would go to my best friend and maid of honor, Katherine.  We became friends at JMU and were inseperable our last two years of college.  Since then, despite my move to New Orleans after graduation, we've grown even closer as friends through phone calls, visits, and vacations together.  If any picture characterizes our friendship, it would have to be this one from a visit Katherine took to New Orleans.


Katherine flew all the way from AUSTRALIA to be a part of our wedding.  I hadn't seen her since before she left in December, so not only was I thrilled to have her at the wedding, I was so excited to get quality time with my BFF.  She got in late Monday night, spent Tuesday with her family, and then she was all mine for the rest of the week.  :)  We had long talks, at lunch at our favorite restaurant, the Galaxy Diner- hello trailer trash pancakes and fried oreos!, ran wedding-related errands, and soaked up the time together.

On Thursday, two more precious friends flew in.



Katherine, Laura, and Amy

Laura was one of my bridesmaids and has been one of my two roommates for the last two years.  She flew into Richmond from New Orleans.  Amy was also a roommate of mine in New Orleans, but got married two years ago and now lives in Texas with her hubby.  I hadn't seen her since right before Cori and I got engaged and was so happy she came in a couple days before the wedding so we could get a little time together. 

Friday morning, Katherine, Laura, my mom, her best friend from childhood Carole, headed to Vy-Vy's salon to get mani/pedis.  We were stylishly late to the bridal luncheon (and by stylishly, I mean our mani/pedis took longer than we thought and we were 45 minutes late) that Katherine and her mom threw for me.  A few pictures:



The luncheon was great- yummy food and wonderful girlfriends.  It was so sweet of Katherine and her mom to throw for me, and I was so thankful for the chance to be with some of my best girls before the craziness of the rest of the weekend started.

Next up: rehearsal and rehearsal dinner!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

the weeks before the wedding...


I know, I know... I have so much to update on!  I'm going to start in chronological order, so be patient- it may take a couple posts to get to the actual wedding.

The beginning of June, Cori and I headed back to Virginia for a crazy wedding month.  Seriously, everything about June was weddings for us, and I don't just mean our wedding.

On June 11, we traveled to Virginia Beach for Mike and Brittany's wedding.  Mike was one of Cori's close friends at Virginia Tech, so we loved the chance to celebrate with them and get quality time with some of Cori's best friends- who are also becoming some of my good friends as well, which is fun.



Then, on June 18th, we traveled back to Virginia Beach for another wedding.  Danny was one of Cori's college roommates and also one of my teammates during my first year in New Orleans, doing relief work with Campus Crusade for Christ. 


When we weren't attending other people's weddings, we were busy working on our own.  We went to every craft store in Richmond, searching for the supplies needed for our programs.  We went to Party City to look for cake toppers and champagne glasses for our toasts.  We met with our fabulous photographer (http://www.rebekahgoldman.com/).  We listened to potential songs for our father/daughter and mother/son dance.  I looked everywhere for the perfect earrings to wear on the wedding day, and shopped for a rehearsal dinner dress and bikinis for our honeymoon. 















Our programs!  Much thanks to Caitlyn, Rachel Bishop, Katie Howe, my mom, and her friend Nancy for helping Cori and I put them together!

I was also so blessed by a surprise bachellorette party from my best girlfriends.

  



   


Next up: bridal luncheon and rehearsal dinner!  Stay tuned :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

showered.

I know, I know.  I am such a delinquet blogger.  Between wedding plans, school wrapping up, and enjoying life in New Orleans, things have been busy.  Busy, but wonderful.

As for wedding updates... I have been thoroughly showered by both Virginian friends and New Orleanians. 

I have to say, I have some of the most amazing girlfriends in the world!  My BFF and Maid of Honor is currently living in Australia and won't be back in the U.S. until she flies in for the wedding, so my Richmond girls immediately stepped up and told me they wanted to throw me a shower.  Wonderfully sweet!  I'll have to post pictures later- I'm at school and don't have access to pictures here- but let me just say, they went all out!  Beautiful invitations and decorations, delicious snacks (Ukrops cake, anyone?), hysterical games (including one where I ended with over 10 pieces of bubble gum crammed in my mouth), and the sweetest of friends who came to celebrate.  It was wonderful!

My other two bridesmaids are my roommates, Kim and Laura.  They went all out for my N.O. shower, cooking shrimp roban, which is one of my very favorite dishes, a Whole Foods cake (seriously, if I could just eat Ukrops and Whole Foods cakes the rest of my life... well, I'd weigh 800 pounds, but I'd be a happy girl!), a word scramble about Cori and I (and it's sad to say, but I lost!), a surprise appearance by my handsome fiance, a question game, and again, more fabulous, fabulous friends.

I can't tell you how blessed I feel to be celebrated by such wonderful women.  Love love love them.

Other than that, we're in details stage... hair appointments, shoe ordering, dress fittings (I go today!), rehearsal dinner invitations, working on our favors, etc.  31 days away and it can't come soon enough!  I am so very ready to have Cori be my husband!

Friday, April 29, 2011

an absence

No excuses for the long time in between updates; I was gone and now I'm back. :)

Life updates, part 1.

School.  I'm currently on spring break and loving the life of a teacher when we get week-long vacations.  It came at a much-needed time; I think every teacher and student was desperate for the time off.  In early April, our 3rd through 8th graders had state testing.  What does that mean for first graders?  Well, we were effectively banished from the school building and went on field trips every day.  The park, the zoo, the insectarium, the Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, and the movies to see Hop.  If that sounds like an easy week to you, you clearly don't work with children.  ;)  It was a fun week and soooo nice to have a break from the typical week of planning lessons and saying things like, "Sit down," "Pay attention," "I'm up here!" and "Seriously, your pencil broke again?"  Buuuuut it was definitely thoroughly exhausting- constantly counting children to make sure no one jumped in with the lions, trying to maintain the reputation that McDonogh 32 does have decently behaved children, being in the sun, and convincing children that is only 9:30, and while yes, they brought their lunch, that no, it is not yet lunch time.

My amusing story of the week centers around a little girl we'll just call M.  M absolutely cracks me up; she's the youngest in her family and also the only girl, and she's adorable... and knows it.  Earlier in the week, she heard Cori on the phone with his mom, telling her he loved her, and she was ready to pick a fight with him, thinking he was talking to another girl.  She's got Miss Taylor's back. ;)  So here we are, Thursday morning, over halfway through our week of field trips.  I'm rushing around before school starts, making sure lunches and buses and money are all ready for the hour drive to Baton Rouge, when I see M... with a rabbit.  She insists that it is a fake rabbit... and that the poop coming out of it is 'fake poo.'  I almost believe her- because really, what child, even at age 6, brings a bunny to school?  I pick it up, and discover that it is, indeed, a live bunny.  I carry it out into the breezeway, absolutely befuddled over the fact that a student actually brought an animal to school, and wondering what the heck we do with it while the rest of the school is taking their most important tests of the year and we prepare to go on a bus trip.  M spends a few minutes denying that it's her bunny, but finally gives in, insisting that it 'accidently hopped into her lunchbox' and that she 'didn't know' until she got to school.  Please note that this lunchbox is a small tin box with a latch... so M evidently has a very talented bunny.

I know this should have been the moment for a stern lecture, but really, the situation was just too comical.  We arranged for the bunny to stay in a teacher's classroom for the day, and I called M's mom so that she wouldn't worry if she noticed that the family bunny was missing.  Mom picked up the bunny later that day, I don't believe M will be bringing any more pets to school anytime soon.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

just like Spongebob

Yesterday, I went to the beach with some of my favorite New Orleans friends.  We had a great time and it was everything a beach day should be- napping, reading, playing in the ocean, and of course... getting burnt.


Ladies and gentlemen, I am red.  Painfully, awkwardly, awfully sunburt.  The kind of burnt where it hurts to walk and where you live for the moments that you slather aloe on yourself. In retrospect, 15 SPF wasn't quite strong enough.


It will be amusing to see my kids' reaction to my sunburn.  Since most of my kids have minimal interactions with white people, sunburn is a new phenomenon for them.  My favorite story was an interaction between one of my kids and a co-worker last year.  This was right after I'd run the Mardi Gras Half Marathon, so I came to school with a burnt face.


Waynetrell: Ms. Holmes, what happened to Ms. Taylor's face?
Ms. Holmes: She was out in the sun, so she got red.  It's called sunburn.
Waynetrell:  Oh.... that happened to Spongebob once!


This cracks me up beyond belief... Waynetrell's only context for sunburn was an episode of Spongebob.  That's right, Waynetrell.  I am just like Spongebob.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

note to self.

For anyone that has a glass door:

Do not press hard on the wood frame of your door, even if it is just so that you can get the door to stop sticking so you can deadbolt it.  Your hand just might slip and might go through the glass.  If you are fortunate, you'll just get minor cuts, but you'll still have to pay the maintenance guy to fix it, and you'll be scared for 2 nights that someone is going to realize that they can easily cut through the bag you placed over the window, unlock the door, and rob you.  They won't, but you'll be scared that they will.

I may or may not be speaking from personal experience...

Monday, March 7, 2011

the most wonderful time of the year.

I have so much love for Mardi Gras.

Seriously, it is one of the most fun times of the year.  While it can be sketchy- mainly for the college students and tourists- for much of the city, it's a hugely family oriented holiday involving grilling out, eating King Cake, and yelling, "Throw me something, mister!" in order to get beads and other fun prizes.

Muses, one of my very favorite parades, was Thursday night.  Cori and I went together and successfully caught a shoe, the prized throw of the Muses.  Saturday, we went with a co-worker to NOMTOC (New Orleans Most Talked Of Club) on the Westbank, and while we got soaked, it was worth it- we saw our school's band.

Saturday afternoon, I made a tutu with these lovely ladies.


And Sunday night, I wore it.  A whole group of us went out to Napoleon, made our way to the front, and left with all sorts of loot.


Tonight, we'll go to Morpheus (or is it Orpheus? so many different krewes that put on parades, I get confused.), then tomorrow we'll celebrate actual Mardi Gras day with Zulu and Rex.  Here's to hoping we get a coconut!  Coconuts are the prized throw of Zulu.  I've gotten several in my years of Mardi Gras... here's a throw back with a picture from my very first Mardi Gras.
Between Ken's sign- it says, "We want a lovely bunch of coconuts"- and Danielle and I getting on the boys shoulders, we scored 11 coconuts that year.

Here's to friends, food, fun, and celebrating!  Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

the one where everybody cried.

As a teacher- in general, but especially in public school New Orleans- I am often faced with situations where I have to choose to either laugh or cry.  Over the past 2 and a half years of teaching, I have chosen to laugh at several situations that could have easily sent me to the fetal position. 

Situation 1: first year teaching.  A child is upset with me because I made him listen to me as I read a test aloud to him (he was a non-reader).  Afterwards, this child is drawing a picture.  I hear him tell his neighbor, "This is Miss Taylor getting run over by a truck."  And if you look at it, sure enough, there I am, getting run over by a truck.  When I called him out for this particular offense, he insisted it wasn't his picture and blamed another student.  Which, of course, could be the case... if it wasn't that I didn't see him draw it, hear him describe it, and... his name was on the truck.  Laugh or cry?  I laughed, told everyone I knew, and was disappointed to find out when my roommate, who was worried about psychological damage, secretly threw it out.

Situation 2: this year, third year teaching.  (I have fewer memories of laughing during my second year... let's be honest, I mostly just cried.)  I come back to my room after car riders duty to find a student (not one of mine) scrummaging around my bookcase, clearly looking for candy.  When he sees me, he says, "Oh, Miss Taylor!  I was looking for you!"  Really?!  Really?  You were looking for me?  On my bookshelf?  Where I keep my candy and snacks for my kids?  How interesting...

Situation 3: today.  Let me set the scene.  Every Wednesday, from 1 to 2:30, I join all the Kindergarten to 3rd grade teachers, plus our master teacher for a meeting.  We learn new strategies to better teach our kids, examine reading scores, and generally try to become better educators.  During this time, my kids are in Spanish.  Let me say that our Spanish teacher is fabulous.  She has my kids singing, dancing, swatting Spanish words with fly swatters, and making shapes in the air when she gives the Spanish command.  My kids love Spanish.  Well, this afternoon, I make my way to the Spanish room, ready to pick my kids up, do a little math, then pack up and head home.  No big deal, right?  Stress free last hour of the day.  Wrong.

I walk into the Spanish room and am greeted by a class full of crying first graders.  Literally half of my class was crying, some full out sobbing.  I think the final assessment was a combination of hurting tummies, needing to go to the bathroom (although we went right before Spanish...), and $5 that had been confiscated.  Honestly, I think these kids are just ready for a vacation from school, from each other, and from sitting in desks.  Thank you, Mardi Gras break.  I can't wait for you!

But back to all the crying children.  I quickly realize that there's no way my kids are going to quietly make it back to the classroom like this, so I do some damage control.  I turn off the lights, and then run across the hall to borrow a book from one of my fave coworkers, Sara.  I explain the situation and the other adults in the room (Sara is a special ed teacher so her classroom often functions as an office) and am told that the crying noises had started about 20 minutes ago.  One of them compared the noise to a nursery.  I couldn't agree more.  So, I get my kids calmed down with a soothing reading of Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, take them back to class, let those who need to keep their heads on their desk do so, and teach a 15 minute math lesson to the class before we pack up.

So laugh or cry?  Well, everyone else was already crying... so I instead I chose to stifle my laughter.  Just another day in Miss Taylor's first grade classroom...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

fingerprints

Phew.  Cori and I got back to New Orleans yesterday after our busy wedding planning week in Virginia.  Later this week I'll post about all that we got accomplished, and add some pictures as long as I can steal them from Cori's camera.  But for now... some serious thoughts.

I've been praying that God would put His fingerprints on our wedding; that as we talk about how things are coming together that it would be so evident that the Lord was a part of it.  

Well, the reality is that while some things have come together easily, a lot has been difficult.  We've struggled to find reasonably priced bridesmaid dresses, registering feels overwhelming, and 150 guests is just not enough to accomdate all the people in our lives.  I got frustrated this week, and realized that I was frustrated with the process, but also frustrated with God.  Hello, God, where are those fingerprints I've been asking for?  Then it hit me- I've phrased it very spirtually, "Oh, Lord, be glorified through our wedding!" But really, that's not what I've been wanting.  I just want the whole planning process to be easy.  In reality, I wasn't asking the Lord to make Himself known- I was asking Him to be a magic genie that would grant me all my wedding wishes.

It was humbling to realize that was where my heart was.  So my new prayer is that Cori and I grow and learn in this engagement process.  I want us to know ourselves, each other, and our God better.  I want Jesus to prepare us for the lifelong committment of marriage, and if that means learning to better love each other in stressful moments, then I want that.  I want people to know more about Jesus and His goodness to us. 

...and you know, if He wants to make those bridesmaid dresses I love go on a huge sale, that'd be great too. ;)