Monday, November 23, 2015

Now It's Done!

And now it really is all done. I rescheduled a meeting I had today because I found out our dining room table and chairs were done and I couldn't wait until after Thanksgiving for them to be delivered. Gotta love having a flexible schedule! They were just delivered a few minutes ago and I had to share these pictures with you.

Sorry the lighting is so hard to get in this room...

Hope you love it as much as I do!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

It's (Almost) Done!!

All of the house renovations are done and they look great! It had been 2 months since the original incident and it was certainly the process. We learned a lot about flooring, water leaks, and all sorts of other house things. There were certainly moments of stress and frustration, but it was worth it.

The entryway, love the floors!
We ended up getting a new light for the entryway since the electrician was
coming anyway. Love it so much more than the old one!
New dining room and light! And no hole in ceiling!

From the front door looking in; you can also see the new carpet.
New tile in the bathroom!

So there you have it! All that's left is for the dining room furniture to be delivered, and then we will definitely have people over to enjoy it with us. :)

Friday, October 30, 2015

House Update

On Wednesday our old hardwood floors were torn out of the entry way and formal dining room. That was quite the dusty process and also led to wasps invading our house. Fortunately we were able to stay at our church small group leaders' home that night! Yesterday they installed the new floors and I think you'll agree it made the whole process worth it!

I promise our furniture is black.
You can see the original color by the frame
This picture honestly reminds me of the lobby at the Tower of Terror
It is all over the kitchen tile and mats, so I could
only imagine our living room carpet is equally dirty.
Fortunately our contractor is getting us someone to clean the house :)
And the grand reveal-- our new floors!!! See the old ones here
Aren't they pretty?? It's hard to tell with these pictures, but
they have are hand scraped so they have some of the real wood look.

When we got home last night after dinner and saw them for the first time, I knew it was all worth it. Yes, there is still tons of work to be done and we don't want to use our living room or kitchen, at least something is done and it is gorgeous!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Oktoberfest in New Orleans

Because clearly New Orleans is known for its German food. Well, at least it should be. This past weekend, Matt and I took a whirlwind trip down to NOLA to visit my family. And I mean whirlwind-- drove down Friday, hung out Saturday, and drove home Sunday. Both travel days were in the rain for 75% of the drive, but it was well worth it. We had a great time on Saturday as you'll be able to see-- enjoyed a lot of great food (that I strangely didn't take pictures of, sorry) and had a great visit with my aunt, uncle, and grandfather. Next time we'll definitely stay a little longer, though! :)

We spent Saturday morning touring the French Quarter
And discovering cute alleyways
And watching street performers outside of Brennan's. They tried
to get Matt to dance, but he refused. After seeing what he
would have done though, I must say that was the right call.
And now Oktoberfest, where they had wiener dog races! Sounds strange, but is really fun!
They had several heats we got to watch, some more comical than others
The one on the far left was Layla. Her fans (yes,
she had groupies) had t-shirts that said "Lightning
Layla." She ended up winning the competition!
Of course they had to have the 'Hold the Beer Stein' competition. I have
no idea how much it weighed but it was quite impressive to watch them go!
Matt turned into Mad King Ludwig
Here's the same castle by the way-- Schloss Hohenschwangau;
picture courtesy of my trip to Germany in 2010. 
And our amazing host for the weekend, my aunt Paula, rocking the dirndl!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Impressions Thus Far

Today marks 1 month since classes have started, but it feels like it has been so much longer. So much has happened within the past month, but I can honestly say I really enjoy my job. On one hand it is very similar to what I've been doing (particularly last spring), but on the other hand it feels very different and new. I am independent in many ways now, but also have new responsibilities. I will say though, having my own office is pretty amazing! Since academia is broken down into 3 domains, that's how I'm going to discuss it.

This was the area I was most unsure about. I had only taught one class before this, so I still felt (and feel) like I'm going into things blindly. I can give a lecture, that's fine. I'm lucky enough to be teaching classes that I actually care about, so I think the students can tell I'm passionate about it. It makes it a lot easier to discuss things when you're nervous when you know it well! So far the students have been great and have participated a lot through in-class discussions. Yes, there are some that sleep or otherwise look utterly bored, but I try not to focus on them too much. There are several other students who do look engaged and ask great questions. 

So being in the classroom itself hasn't been too bad. Dealing with other issues that do pertain to students can get tricky. The amount of discretion we as professors are given is immense, so I've faced hard decisions over whether to let certain students make up assignments or exams based on different reasons/excuses. One of my mentors at my prior university advised me to do what other students would think is fair (even if I think that is too lax), so that's what I've been trying to base my decisions on. I guess time will tell how that goes!

This is one area that didn't really change much. I did research in grad school and I'm continuing several of those projects now. I just submitted several articles to be considered for publication, so keep your fingers crossed they get favorable reviews! The one thing that has changed has been being able to put "Assistant Professor" as my job title, as opposed to PhD student. That still makes me smile :) I have also gotten the chance to collaborate with others in other departments at my university, so that is a great opportunity!

This is a very new area for me. Sure, I served as an officer in my discipline's graduate student association, but as a professor you're expected to serve on various committees at the departmental, college, and university level. Fortunately my department protects me my first year from most assignments, though I have gotten the opportunity to serve on a few things. They haven't been too much work, but have been interesting and have introduced me to several new people at the university.

So overall I am happy with my position. Sure, there are aspects I don't like (having to tell a student they failed an exam is really not fun) and some decisions have woken me up in the middle of the night, but I'm figuring it out as I go. Our lifestyle has certainly changed as I am not able to work from home as much as I used to, but we're adjusting. 

Anyway, that's the update on my life, work-wise. And look-- 2 posts in September!! Hooray!

*Note, I am keeping some points vague. I realize I have no control over who reads this blog so I have to protect others as well as myself.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Love Home Ownership

Or not. I'll let you be the judge. 

So a few nights ago we wake up at 1:30 AM to what sounded like a heavy rainstorm, except the noise was coming from inside our house. Obviously not good. Come to find out the water supply line for one of the toilet upstairs broke, spraying a large amount of water everywhere. There was enough water to start leaking into the formal dining room below. And by leaking, I mean streaming. Out of the AC filter. And the ceiling. Yeah, it was fun. Matt quickly turned off the water and we were able to get a water restoration crew out to clean up the mess. 

This is after the water has been removed, but before all the fans were put in.
The vent where the water was gushing out. If you look
closely, you can see some cracks where the water was flowing, too.
The guilty water supply line...
And ALL of the fans and dehumidifier in the dining room.
Can't forget about the octopus, used to dry inside the wall.

Upstairs, taking up the carpet to dry the floors.
We had these large fans and dehumidifiers in our house for a little under a week. During this time, we were pretty much confined to living in either the study upstairs or our bedroom because it was quite loud. Seriously, when we cooked in the kitchen we wore earplugs. We moved a card table, chairs, and TV into our bedroom, so that certainly helped, but after 4-5 days, we started to get antsy. 

Fortunately, our insurance agreed to cover all of the repairs, so the deduction we have to pay will go quite far. Along with all the drywall repairs and whatnot, we'll be getting new carpet upstairs and new flooring downstairs. That obviously adds new complexity to our already-busy lives, but it is a good stressor when it is all said and done. We were very fortunate that we were both home when the burst happened (Matt had just gotten home from a business trip the night before) and we caught it fairly quickly. The damage could have been much, much worse so we count ourselves blessed!

I do have to say that while home ownership does have its downsides, we are still glad we bought this house. It's only been 5 months but we've had a lot of fun already and consider it home. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dog Update

For those that are curious, the dog that was featured in my previous post did make it back to his home!

On Saturday afternoon I received a call from the owner's daughter who said a friend saw one of my posts about the dog on Facebook. I had to tell her the sad news that we didn't have the dog anymore; he was with our city's animal control. The animal control's policy is they give a 72 hour window for the owner to claim the dog before they are released for adoption. It was literally just at 72 hours when I got the call, so I was hopeful they would be able to get their Yorkie back. I gave them the case number, and that's the last I heard.

Yesterday afternoon I texted her and asked if she had gotten him. She had! Yay! I was so happy and the daughter also got the dog chipped for her mom, so we/they won't have to go through this ordeal again. Even though he was with us for a little under 24 hours, we quickly fell for him and we're so happy he is back home where he was clearly loved and well taken care of. 

I mean, how can you not love that face??

First Day

Today is the first day of the semester! I went to campus 4 out of the 5 days last week to get into the swing of the drive and working from my office, but classes are starting today. My classes are on Tuesday/Thursday but I'll be going in today for office hours and to get some writing done.

My office! I have some things on some of the
bookshelves so it looks a little less depressing :)
I definitely have a lot of thoughts and emotions swirling around right now, so this post may seem rather fragmented. Last week was exhausting; more so than expected. I got home around 6ish or so, and all I would want to do is chill on the couch, eat cereal, and retreat into my introverted self. Not at all normal for me (well, I do love cereal) or Matt, so hopefully my energy level will be able to bounce back faster in the coming weeks. 

To sum up my emotional state, I would say I'm excited but also nervous. One of my classes is 122 students and the other is capped at 39. That is A LOT of students, and I have a slight fear of public speaking. You would think me teaching last semester would have gotten rid of it but no, still nervous just thinking about it. 

The one piece of advice I've heard the most has probably been that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I cannot let my perfectionist tendencies come out and expect my classes to be awesome, perfect, engaging, and that all students will love it. That is too high of a bar to set. Instead, the theme for this first year is survival. Seriously. That's what so many of my fellow faculty have told me about this first year. Survive because it will just feel like a blur. Not exactly encouraging, but everyone has also said I can call/email/visit them whenever and they are there for me, so at least I'm not alone. Plus prayer. And Matt. And exercise. 
So this guy stayed with us for a little under 24 hours last week. He was lost and we couldn't find his owners (PLEASE MICROCHIP YOUR PET!), so we kept him as long as we could until we had to have the city get him. He was the sweetest thing though so I'm 150% confident he will be adopted quickly.
I feel like my university is offering me so much support and they want me to succeed, I just have to navigate and learn my way around these new responsibilities, utilizing the resources that I can.  Learning the balance between teaching preparations and research obligations is certainly challenging and I'm kind of at a loss of how to know when I'm doing it right. Figuring out the social dynamics with my fellow faculty, with the students, with the administrators, etc. Figuring out how much work to do at night and on the weekends, balanced against spending quality time with my husband and keeping our house in a reasonable state. All decisions that will have to be discerned. 

Basically there is a lot of change. I will try to keep this blog updated as to my progress with this transition along with anything interesting we're doing. We'll be celebrating my brother's birthday this weekend so I'm really excited to spend quality time with my family. I know I will have work to do, but I'm not sure even at this point how much and how to balance that with actually seeing my family. 

OK, enough stream of consciousness for one post. I hope you are all having a great August and welcome to the beginning of a new school year!

Monday, July 20, 2015

PhD Celebration Trip

This past weekend, Matt took me on a trip to celebrate my graduation. He had asked me several months prior if I would rather have a physical gift or an experience as my gift and I'm so glad I chose the latter! He planned this getaway for us and it was absolutely perfect. At first, all I knew going into it was this:

Then a few weeks ago, he let me know the first night was at the Fort Worth Omni, a hotel we had been to a couple of years ago. It was awesome to have one concrete thing to look forward to, given the rest of the trip was a complete surprise. My husband clearly knows me well as he planned the perfect trip for me. It pretty much consisted of amazing food, physical activities (to work off all the food), relaxation, and fun adventures. It is hard to believe it is already over and I'm so grateful to him for the time and effort he spent planning it for us.

The trip began Friday after lunch when we drove to downtown Fort Worth and checked into the Omni.

View from our room
Fort Worth Water Gardens
After checking out our amazing view, we went up to the rooftop pool area to enjoy the view and some tasty snacks. We hung out there for a few hours (got to see 4 F-16's take off), and then left to continue the rest of the evening. Dinner was at a local burger restaurant called Rodeo Goat, known for its deliciously unique burgers. 

At the roof top grill
Such good burgers!
My burger- the Chaca Oaxaca: beef & chorizo, avocado, pico de gallo,
fried egg, queso fresco, & tabasco mayo
Matt's choice, the Cowboy Murrin: applewood smoked bacon, tomato, jalapenos,
fried onion, cheddar, pickle chutney, housemade BBQ sauce
After dinner, we wandered around the downtown area some more, before coming across some fun arcade games. Along with playing the largest version of Jenga I've ever seen, we also played a few rounds of skee ball and air hockey! Made for a fun end to our evening.

It eventually came crashing down...
The next day we worked out at the Omni's fitness center (yes, Matt knows I need some form of physical activity every day), had a quick breakfast, and then went to spend the rest of the morning poolside. The water was a bit too cold to get in, but we were very happy to lay out and read our books. It was so relaxing and peaceful out there so I'm glad we took the time to just be quiet and enjoy the sunshine. 

We eventually had to check out, so after leaving the hotel and grabbing lunch at Sweet Tomatoes (all of the salad!), we hit the road for destination #2! I was driving and Matt was navigating, since he knew where we were going and I still didn't. However, after a little bit on the road my suspicions were confirmed-- we were going to College Station! We had a great drive back to the area we met and then did a driving tour of the area. We checked into our hotel and then got ready for our fine dining experience of the trip. 

That evening, Matt took me to Christopher's, an amazing restaurant that is perfect for celebrating special occasions! We had been a few times before but it was so nice to be back, especially to celebrate me earning my PhD. Texas A&M is where I first learned about criminology so being back in the area carried with it a nice symbolism. Plus, the food is absolutely delicious!! 
Our appetizer: almond baked brie.
Why don't food pictures ever look as good as it does in real life? This
was my dish, the Italian Braised Beef Ribs. The boneless ribs were
melt-in-your-mouth tender and the polenta hiding underneath was
SO good. Easily one of my favorite dishes ever.
Matt's equally awesome dish: South American Marinated Beef.
Our dessert- chocolate & peanut butter cake

The next morning we took a 2-hour walk around campus. Even though it has only been 4 years since we graduated, a decent amount has changed both on and around campus. Yet it was still nice to be back and very much made us feel at home. Until we saw the new Kyle Field! My goodness is that place huge! 

Matt in front of Bright, his AERO building
The Administration Building in the early morning
Only we would take a picture of the library :)
Inside the Flag Room-- figure it's rare to see it with NO ONE ELSE
Kyle Field!

About 6.5 miles later, we eventually wandered our way back to the hotel, got cleaned up, and headed out for lunch. We went to Fuego's, enjoyed some delicious tacos, then headed home. It was very bittersweet leaving, knowing we were headed back to real life after such an amazing trip. Throughout the weekend, Matt made a point to make sure I felt celebrated and that was certainly fulfilled! Guess it makes it really official now, right?