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Budget-Friendly Travel: The Great Smoky Mountains

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Cade’s Cove

Budget-Friendly Travel: The Great Smoky Mountains

Witness and I recently traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains with our two friends M+S. It was definitely a fun trip, and one that I would be willing to make again, especially since it was a budget-friendly one! For two adults, the trip cost about $475 including the cabin, gas,
food, snacks, and souvenirs for our family back home.

Our Journey to the Great Smoky Mountains
The drive took about 9.5 hours from Chicago, IL. Witness and S took turns driving, and the trip went by pretty quickly with games, snacks, and music. I had packed breakfast and lunch the night before, so we ate as we traveled. We left at 7:30am (about half an hour later than expected), so we arrived at the cabin office at 5:30pm. We didn’t realize there was a time change between the states, so if you’re making the drive from the midwest to the south, make sure you calculate it in.

Travel + Food
There are roughly 589 miles between Chicago and the Smokies. Roundtrip, gas cost us a total of $83.55. Use this site to get calculations on your road trip. We took M+S’s cozy and gas-efficient Hyundai Elantra. We did have a little trouble packing everything into the trunk, but it was enough room for the four of us. If we had decided to bring another person or animal (like Cashew), a rented vehicle would have been the better decision.

We went shopping at Walmart and HMart for our groceries. The total cost for four days of meals and drinks was $216.33. If you want to save money, buying groceries and cooking is the way to go, even though it may be a bit of a hassle. It cost us $13 a day to feed one person on the trip, and we ate like kings!

Cabin: “On Eagle’s Wings”
We decided to book the cabin in Tennessee through Jackson Mountain Homes. Our cabin was called “On Eagle’s Wings” and nestled within the the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN, the Gateway to the Smokies. The cabin had two decent sized bedrooms, both with king-sized beds. There were three full baths, a hot tub (yes!), an outdoor grill, two patios (with porch swing), an outdoor table set, pool table, kitchen utensils, (free) soap, movie room, fireplace and towels provided. Both couches could also turn into beds, so technically we could’ve had two more couples join us. The grand total for the four nights and three days was $462.85. We got one night free because we were visiting off season. Each couple paid $231.42; not a bad deal for a home away from home!

Cabin View from “On Eagle’s Wings”
Warmth “On Eagle’s Wings”

Ramsey Cascades
After a filling dinner and some star gazing on the deck, we went to bed. The following day, we decided that my first hike ever would be an 4 mile hike up to Ramsey Cascades. According to nps.gov, “Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park and one of the most spectacular. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collects in a small pool where numerous well-camouflaged salamanders can be found.”

I wouldn’t suggest young children or people too out of shape (like myself) to take the hike up, especially if it’s your first time. It was quite difficult, challenging, yet rewarding. I would suggest you bring snacks, lots of drinking water, and a nice pair of hiking boots. Every time we climbed a mile or so, we’d meet a few hikers coming down from the cascades. Each one would tell us, “It’s hard… but it’s worth it.” Take a look for yourself!

Beginning of the Hike
Ramsey Cascades

We also saw some wildlife on the trails. This deer caught us staring at its cute curiosity.

Bambi in Headlights at the Great Smoky Mountains

Cade’s Cove
The following day we were all pretty sore. So, after taking some pain killers and allergy meds, we drove an hour to Cade’s Cove. Instead of walking trails, we decided we’d let the horses do it instead! We visited the Cade’s Cove Riding Stables. It was highly rated and an incredibly informative guided trail. The rate is $30 per person, and tip is appreciated!

After riding, we drove along the Scenic Drive, capturing gorgeous photos of the mountains plastered onto the backdrop of the beautiful blue sky. There was a lot of history regarding cabin life and the settlers who first made Cade’s Cove their home. We were also able to see a herd of grazing deer along the valley. Although we didn’t get to see any black bears, it was a beautiful and relaxing way to end our trip to the Smokies.

Scenic Drive at Cade’s Cove

We had a great time at the Great Smoky Mountains with M+S. When you’re traveling, make sure you bring a spontaneous spirit, food + water, and great friends to make memories! Have you ever been to the Smokies? What did you do when you visited?

 

 

7 Ways to Make Long Distance Relationships Work

 

7 Ways to Make Long Distance Relationships Work

You met online, and you’re nowhere near each other. Or maybe you just started dating, and suddenly, one of you is moved halfway across the country for a new job. There are also those who have been dating for a while, and one of you needs to go to grad school (or whatever else) in a different state. You can either break up, be “friends,” or you can do things to make it work and stay together.

  1. Focus on a Goal
    • The pain and difficulty would be pointless without one. Build together towards something, whether it’s the promise that you’ll move to the same city, get married, or start a family together soon.
    • Often times, individuals with different goals and agendas will most likely not be able to stand the test of time. Ensure that your relationship lasts, set a goal, and take concrete steps to make it happen.
  2. Text + Call, Communicate!
    • Communication is king in relationships. Tag Facebook memes, write blurbs and cute “thinking of you” messages to your loved one, just in case they forget they’re the center of your universe.
    • Call during lunch breaks or on the way home. Make sure she/he is one of the first things you wake up and fall asleep to.
  3. Skype and FaceTime Daily
    • Fact: Things get lost in text-translation. (Especially if you don’t believe in emoticons). Being in the same room and face to face would be ideal, but the next best thing is ironically, another tech feature, Skype and Facetime! Whether you use the app Tango or stick to a more traditional Google Webchat, do it. Make sure to have conversations where you get to see one another and talk with tone, voice, and facial expression.
  4. Visit Each Other Monthly
    • My boyfriend at the time would visit me every other month. I would also travel back to Chicago on those months where he couldn’t come to Atlanta. It was also nice to have weddings and events to attend together, giving additional reason to travel and party with your significant other.
    • Traveling, flights, and rental cars can definitely get expensive, but it’s almost always necessary for most couples. Put your money where your heart is, literally, and go see your SO!
  5. Ask Good Questions
    • If you talk on the phone everyday, won’t you run out of things to talk about? Yes, if you’re asking the same questions everyday. Make sure you listen to how they’re feeling, what happened during the day, and dig deeper into how it affected them.
    • Active listening means staying engaged in the conversation (and not browsing on the internet), asking good follow up questions, and summarizing and understanding the information. This will allow you go leaps and bounds toward building the “us” mentality, beyond the miles between you.
    • Here’s a list of questions you could ask: Interesting Questions to Ask a Guy
    • Here’s some more: Questions to Ask Your Girlfriend
  6. Send Snail Mail
    • Don’t you wish those credit card companies would send you gifts and encouragements rather than bills, bills, and more bills? For any friendship, college bound student, or relationship, good snail mail is usually a highlight to one’s day.
    • Package baked goods, snacks, photos, or stuffed animals. Anything that allows your bf/gf to remember the good times, and soften your heart before the next time you see one another. Make sure to write a poetic letter too! Those make any girl’s heart melt.
  7. Savor Your Time Together
    • When you do get to see each other that one weekend a month, make it count. Don’t get upset and fight about the fact that one of you is suddenly leaving on the next flight. Make the most of your time, give your undivided attention, and hug his/her tears away! That one moment of love and affection can give you the strength to endure through the next month without each other.

What are some other ways you stay on the same page with your boyfriend/girlfriend? If you’ve been in a long distance relationship, what kept your relationship together?

Our Wedding Day: September 19, 2015

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I just wanted to share our wedding video. There are a few things I regret in life (like my not bringing my hair accessory for the wedding, silly girl), but marrying my husband is definitely not one of them! To think that God planned such a person at such a time to carry me, love me, and accept me is an incredible miracle.

We started dating after about three years of friendship. I realized that he was a person that I wanted in my life… basically, forever. I couldn’t imagine going through mundane, difficult, and exciting times in my life without telling him about it, asking for his opinion, and gaining his insight. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, second to following Christ.

After a month of dating in Chicago, I was led to Atlanta, GA, where I would pursue my calling for music. I got a job at a restaurant, trying to live sparingly in my one bedroom apartment and going to nightly performance and artist training camps. I struggled emotionally, mentally, physically, and at times spiritually when I was unable to find a stable community and church. I was especially mortified when giant 2-inch, flying, nasty, cockroaches would infest my apartment, one at a time… waiting until I got back home from a long day to terrorize, taunt, and forever enslave me to the fear of quick, flying organisms.

Three months in, and my mom calls to tell me my father was diagnosed with the fourth stage of prostate cancer. The cancer had spread to his stomach and lungs, and the doctors were giving him about 2 years to live. I was afraid, 750 miles away from home without a real friend, and I didn’t know how to handle it. Witness was there, each day, consoling and comforting me to be strong and press on. Those nine months were such a hectic time, but a time where I was birthed to be a more stable, practical human being.

My wonderful church friends from Immanuel stopped by to help me pack and stuff everything into my Jetta. Witness flew in at 12:00am and drove about 14 hours straight back to Chicago, IL. I was back at home with my family, my dad doing much better. A week into being back from Atlanta, he asked my parents for my hand in marriage. And a few days after that, we were engaged! The man is relentless and thorough, I tell you.

Vendor Information
Ceremony Venue: Blanchard Alliance Church
Reception Venue: Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse
Videography: HWu Studios
Photography: Christina Cee Lee Photography
Floral: Vale of Enna
Photobooth: Simplebooth Co.
Party Bus: M&M Limo
Honeymoon: Hyatt Zilara Cancun

Here are some links on why and how we planned the wedding:
10 Reasons Why You Belong Together
10 Things to Do Before and After Your Wedding (Part 1)
10 Things to Do Before and After Your Wedding (Part 2)

6 Financial Tips for People in Their 20s

Your 20s are a time of discovery, identity, and formation. You’re learning about the real world outside your campus bubble; you’re a real, human adult. You’ve graduated, landed your first job, and are making a pretty decent living. Here are a few financial things to keep in mind while you’re still young (as it won’t last for eternity):

  1. Invest in Your Future (Old, Retired) Self
    • 401k: Often times, companies will match your investment by 3-5%. Take advantage of your company’s match, and start investing in your future now. Compound interest exponentially grows in time, so if you can afford it, make sure to get Father Time on your side. Invest when you’re young.
    • If your company doesn’t offer a 401K or something similar, invest in a Roth IRA. These accounts “enable you to save money into an account you have paid taxes on already, whereby you benefit from growth free of more tax implications. Moreover, when you withdraw your money at your retirement, you pay no taxes.”
    • Check out this link on the Best IRA Providers.
  2. Save 10-30% a Month
    • And yes, your retirement savings are included. This may be difficult with student loans, new Yeezys, and Apple Watches, but those who save tend to be those who accumulate the most wealth. Why? It’s pretty simple. Save money, and you don’t spend it on useless frivolities.
    • One way to do this is to stop your binge-watching and eating, and pick up a side gig. Whether it’s tutoring or getting gigs on Fiverr, get to work while you can! If you’re talented in makeup, nails, and have a decent personality, start a YouTube channel or blog and provide tutorials. Use your time wisely, especially in your youth.
  3. Keep an Emergency Fund
    • If it costs you roughly $3,000 a month to pay for rent, groceries, insurance, and that gym membership, make sure you have an emergency fund up to 3 times that amount. That’s approximately $9,000 of emergency funds, and the more the better. Life happens, and you never know what will happen tomorrow. Embrace the motto #YOLO, and save your $$$ to live a life that’s free of financial curve-balls.
  4. Get a Point-Earning Credit Card
    • During our wedding planning, my fiance and I made over $1,000 by, in essence, planning and spending for a wedding. It was ridiculous how opening up a credit card like the Chase Freedom or Sapphire could allow us to gain bonus points for travel, restaurants, and entertainment. It was definitely one of the smartest choices I’ve made in my 20s.
    • Another thing that I have is a Target Red Card. If you love shopping at Target, get 5% off every time you shop! And if you fill prescriptions on the regular, every 5 fills you get another 5% for a day. The Red Card in conjunction with Target’s Cartwheel can save you a pretty penny.
    • But always remember to pay off the balance for each of these! Don’t get yourself into (more) debt!
  5. Have a Budget
    • This doesn’t particularly work the best for me (as I am very much a sporadic and emotional buyer), but I’m working on it. I have an amount I save with my income, and I tend to spend the rest depending on my mood, hah. My husband has a set amount he uses for the week. He even breaks it up into days, calculating how much he should be spending on his lunches. He’s basically my math hero (since I studied English).
    • There are apps like Mint which can automatize payments and keep you on task of saving for that extra purchase. If you have a Chase account, there’s a free program called Chase Blue Print that helps you plan to pay down debts and gives you a clear picture of where you’re spending your money.
  6. Take Risks
    • If you have a consistent income, take risks with investments. One practical way to do this is through buying a home. Right now, it’s a buyer’s market. That means, you get more bang for your buck. Research all that you can, but in the end, you’re ultimately not in control. So take the risk. Try the more aggressive investment, buying that new place, or opening that business while you still can manage to fall, get back up, and try again. And for all the 90s kids, hum this song to yourself: Aaliyah – Try Again.
    • One thing you need to remember is that in actuality, you are still young. You still have room to learn, grow, and thrive. You’re in the process of meeting your potential, and at times, you’ll have to step outside your comfort zone to get there. You don’t have any real responsibilities like a child or helping with your parent’s retirement… so the possibilities are literally endless.

Hopefully those tips were helpful to the wary twenty-something year old. Which ones are you already doing? What else have you found helpful during this transitional time?

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5 Thoughts on the 2016 Grammys

  1. Make sure to bring an umbrella just in case the unforeseen glitter shower appears, courtesy of Taylor Swift.
  2. Stevie Wonder, I applaud you for your voice, life, and spirit. Amazing performance!
  3. Kendrick Lamar’s performance was the epitome of art and culture in one. Thank you for sharing your experience and telling it so vividly and unabashedly.
  4. Adele’s “All I Ask” featuring Justin Bieber is a clear demonstration of the power and necessity of the skilled sound engineer/producer. You guys are the heroes.
  5. Two words, Alabama Shakes. Yes.

And oh, apparently Adele’s piano mics had fallen on the strings, but the Justin Bieber story is a better one🙂

 

5 Reasons You Should Break Up

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Love can blind you, and often times, you can be so blind that you don’t know you’re hurting. When you’re dating, always listen to the honest opinions of close friends and family members who see the things you clearly can’t. When you get three or more negative confirmations from your accountability regarding the girl or guy you are dating, you have yourself a problem. So then what? Fix it (there’s a limit to this), or get out while you can.

Here are a few ways to reflect upon your relationship. Do you or your significant other feel any of these things?

  1. You Feel Unsafe
    • Either he’s verbally and emotionally abused you or taken a weapon and threatened you with it… get out now. Guys, this goes for you too with your girlfriends. If you feel anxious and worried about seeing her because of fear, don’t be with her. You, reader, are fearfully and wonderfully made, created to experience and taste the goodness of the world in which you live. Do not waste your time with someone who makes you believe otherwise. Don’t waste your worth on someone who can’t see you for who you truly are. Find help, reach out to a friend, teacher, pastor, or parents, and make the change you need to move on and heal.
  2. You Don’t Communicate
    • When there’s shallow communication or no real face-to-face conversations with your significant other, there’s a possibility that you two don’t understand one another nor do you intend to. Texting, messages, and email can be methods of conversation, but they shouldn’t be the basis of how you communicate.
    • Communication is a two way street, and the harder part is listening. If either you or your partner don’t do your part in listening to the other, it might be an unnecessary relationship.
    • There are also times when one side of the relationship is unable to speak honestly or openly with the other. This also leads to a break down in communication and ultimately the relationship. He or she may not be ready for a real relationship.
  3. You Can’t Trust Him/Her
    • Whether it’s because of infidelity, numerous partners, or incessant flirting, you can’t trust him/her. There is a healthy amount of “jealousy,” one that brings about desires of being with one person and one person alone. But if it’s to a point where you (or the bf/gf) have become overbearing, constantly texting, asking about whereabouts, or even stalking, you obviously don’t trust him/her.
    • Without trust, a relationship cannot stand. One person cannot build and hold up the relationship on his/her own. It takes two to tango, and if he/she cheats on you, bring your worth to someone who will cherish it.
  4. It’s an Unhealthy (Physical) Relationship
    • With recent trends of couples moving in together, living together before marriage, and sleeping together before committing to one another, the culture has set the tone for relationships to be unhealthy off the bat. Once you’ve crossed it, it’s nearly impossible to uncross it if you continue to be with him/her. The best way to heal is to take time off.
    • But when it comes to “Netflix and Chill,” and the guy/gal just can’t chill and keep his hands to himself, you need a reality check. Every time a physical act happens between a man and female, a part of him/herself is forever lost. That one moment of fiery passion can ruin your lifetime of true intimacy and marriage with your future beloved.
  5. You Can’t See a Future with Him/Her
    • If you can’t see yourself growing, loving, and committing to this person in the next ten years, you shouldn’t be together. Yes, there’s a period of time in which one should get to know someone, but if it’s been 3-5 years of “getting to know one another” aka being together without intent to get married, don’t waste your time.
    • People can say lofty things to get you to do things you don’t necessarily want, but have respect for yourself and just say no. Remember, it’s never official until there’s a ring,  and you’re going down the aisle.

If you have any thoughts on the topic of break ups, feel free to leave a comment. If you don’t find yourself agreeing with the 5 points on this post, perhaps you’ve found the one! Here’s my link to another post on 10 Reasons Why You Belong Together.

10 Reasons Why You Belong Together

 

Christina Cee Lee Photography
Christina Cee Lee Photography

With Valentine’s Day coming soon, one can’t help but walk through the aisles and aisles of chocolates and enormous stuffed teddy bears. (And I’ll admit to it, I always eye a grand hug from one of those fluffy monsters.) Flowers, cards, and candy aside, I want to dig into the deeper topic of love, marriage, and joy in companionship.

From experiences and stories of 25 years of single-hood, being “taken,” engaged, then happily married, I’ve compiled a list of why a couple should be together. If you have at least a few of these, you’re on the right track to finding “the one.”

  1. You Communicate Well
    • Texting, Facebook Messaging, and AIM Messaging (for the 90’s kids) can be tricky. Without tone being present within the means of electronic words (unless you’re using expressive emoticons in each message), many misunderstandings can loom under the surface of the relationship. Tone may not be as important to some men, but for ladies, in my experience, how you say something is more important than what you say.
    • Although it may feel particularly awkward for the technology-ridden generation, if you make sure the two of spend time together, face to face, you’re building the foundation for an open relationship. Messages like, “Hey, can you grab some popcorn before you come?” are reasonable through text and messages. Talks about “Hey, where are we headed as a couple?” or “I want to marry you, and here’s why,” should probably be done in person or at least through FaceTime or Skype (if you’re in a long distance relationship).
  2. You’re Committed to One Another
    • Google defines commitment as the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc. Its synonyms include dedication, devotion, allegiance, loyalty, and faithfulness. The questions one should ask in deciding whether or not you’re committed are, “How long have I been with this person?” and “Can I see myself with this person for the rest of my life?”
    • If the first question is answered by a somewhat inconsistent or conditional answer like,”On and off for one year,” or “We always break up during the difficult times and then get back together again,” you may want to consider whether the relationship is really worth the heartache and most importantly, your time.
    • If your answer to the second question is, “Yes, absolutely, yes! I cannot imagine life without them,” then you’ve got yourself a keeper.
    • It’s hard to imagine couples getting into a relationship then married within less than a year’s time. It’s very difficult because you may possibly be in the “honeymoon” phase of the relationship. You may be obsessed with one another, without real knowledge of how that person really is in times of struggle and trial.
  3. You Trust Each Other
    • For some, trust is easily gained and given. For others, trust is built through time, trial, and error.
    • If you’re okay with your lady/gentleman going to the mall without worrying about who she/he is going to meet, talk to, or end up sleeping with (yes that’s quite a jump), you’re in a good place.
    • It’s a great sign when both of you know everything about one another, and you still choose to love and spend time with each other. Infidelity, numerous partners, or even emotional attachments (yes, this is a form of cheating) to someone other than your significant other can create barriers between you. And at times, the barriers can be so high that it may be time for you to move on to heal. Trust takes time, but it’s one of the most rewarding foundations of being in a good relationship.
  4. You Enjoy Each Other’s Presence
    • If you’re watching a movie and wonder about what he/she thought about the line Leonardo DiCaprio said, then you probably enjoy spending time with your significant other.
    • If you look forward to seeing him or her at the end of day, and it’s one of your highlights, then you enjoy being with one another. That in it of itself is a good reason to be together. If he or she makes you happy, then go be with him/her!
  5. You Feel Safe With One Another
    • If you feel that the other protects, nurtures, and loves you in the best and worst of times, you’ve got a keeper. Whether it’s judgmental words, fits of frustration, or an admirer bothering you, you know that your boyfriend/girlfriend has got your back.
    • If either of you have been mentally, emotionally, or physically hurt or abused by the other, you should look into finding accountability or help. If the negative behavior persists, then you need to remove yourself from that person straight away. I do believe in second chances, but that person may need to find it by himself/herself.
  6. You Have Similar Interests and Goals
    • Although opposites attract, you need something to talk about and work towards together. Whether it’s avid video gaming, playing sports, reading, watching movies, or knitting, make sure you have something in common.
    • If one person is incredibly ambitious and type A and the other is not, it may be difficult to the two to survive together in the long run. Make sure you’re both willing to meet on common ground to be together.
  7. You Work Well as a Team
    • Go run a marathon, bowling, or play basketball together. Find out if the both of you can work as a team. Eventually, if things go right, you’ll be married and have kids. Raising kids is a team effort. Know how you both stand in the realm of teamwork and working things out together.
    • My husband and I would play in a band together, so we instantly knew we clicked. Find what makes you two peas in a pod.
  8. You Prioritize One Another
    • Time and money is usually spent on things of utmost priority and importance. If you’re going on regular dates, consistently talking, and conscious of how the other person is feeling, you’re prioritizing your significant other above other things.
    • If work, hobbies, or friends is always the absolute priority, you are not one of the most important things to him/her. Yes, there is reasonable amount of time to spend with each of these good things, but if you’re not being prioritized during the week, it may not be a good fit.
  9. You’re Attracted to Each Other
    • Attraction can be instantaneous, from the first vibes or impression that you get of that person. It can also take time, growing as you get to know one another. If you feel that after you’re married, you’ll still be attracted to this person and perhaps make some babies, then you’re good for one another.
    • If everything looks good on paper for you two to be together, but you’re just not feeling his personality, then you probably aren’t attracted to him. Fashion and hairstyles are things that can be changed in the long run, but if even over time (and with the changes) you can’t stand him/her, then they aren’t the one.
  10. You’ve Found a Best Friend
    • You finish each others sentences, and you can laugh and talk about nearly anything with him/her. You can’t imagine life without them. If you didn’t marry him, you’d probably ask him to be your maid of honor. That’s a little silly, but you get my drift. He’s your bestie, and you know it within your innermost being.
    • Ladies and gentleman, sometimes the person who’s stuck around in the friend zone for years on end can quite possibly be “the one.” Don’t write off those faithful friends who’ve been with you for 5+ years. He/she can be the one who’ll give you joy for the rest of your life. Have an open mind!

I hope these 10 reasons are helpful in taking the next step with your loved one. Let me know in the comments if you agree or think something else should be added. Thanks!

10 Tips to Plan Well for Your Substitute Teacher

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I’ve been subbing for the past four months, and here’s what I’ve learned so far. I like teachers who are detail-oriented, organized, and (overwhelmingly) over-prepared. Teachers, imagine being put into your sub’s shoes. Can you imagine being thrown into a den of 25+ hormonal adolescents who act as wolves in sight of prey?

For those teachers in need of a sub, here’s how to avoid a mess and retain your subs for all future sick, professional development, or “teacher ditch” days:

  1. Lesson Plan & Attendance
    • I love lesson plans. I love organization. Most teachers cannot survive without either. Classroom instructors have had the whole year to figure out what their students are like and how to teach them effectively. Subs have exactly 45-50 minutes to do that. Be nice; leave a lesson plan for your substitute.
    • I also appreciate it when classroom teachers leave general knowledge and tips on fire drills, tornado warnings, and with the recent turn of events, school shootings and lock downs. It doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed, but make sure you put emergency instructions it in your general sub folder so your admin knows you’re prepared for all situations.
    • Make sure you address student attendance! How can the students learn if they’re not in class? Prepare printed rosters for the sub to deliver to the attendance office or give detailed explanations for how to do it online.
  2. Expectations for the Students
    • Once upon a time, there was a teacher who left a set of expectations and objectives for me, and it nearly made the substitute cry tears of joy. She gave her clear communication for what the classroom guidelines were and her expectations for the sub as the adult in the room. The students knew what was expected from them, and it made it easier to know how the classroom teacher usually runs the classroom.
  3. Seating Chart
    • Every time I sub in a new classroom, I get asked, “How do you know all of our names?” And to that I respond, “I just know.” But realistically, I only know because great teachers leave a seating chart or create “name tents” (tri-folded piece of paper with student’s name) for me to read. I usually take notes about talkative students and those focused on being quiet and doing their work so having the names are helpful to connect, even though you may only see them for 45 minutes. The thought goes a long way.
  4. Student Helpers, Troublemakers, and Helpful Teachers
    • Some teachers leave a list of good and bad apples of the classroom. This allows for your sub to be attentive to those who have a tendency to break trust and integrity while their usual classroom guardian isn’t around. Taking a lesson from Santa Claus and having a list of naughty and nice informs subs to know who to trust and know when the student may be taking advantage of the sub.
    • A short list of 2 to 3 teachers and their locations can also be helpful, especially when it’s the sub’s first time in the school. This allows the substitute to build some camaraderie with teachers, build rapport, and not screw up your lunch duty/supervisory/advisory periods.
  5. Schedule
    • Teachers, leave your class schedule with times and endings to each of the school periods. This is self explanatory, so substitutes don’t need to keep asking their students when the period ends.
    • It can also be helpful to leave a heading in your lesson plan regarding times and subject matter. (Examples below)
      • Period 1: Advisory: 9:00am-9:45am
      • Period 8: 8th Grade Language Arts: 2:00pm-2:45pm
  6. Extra Copies
    • Does your copy room have a code to get in and make copies? Your sub probably doesn’t know that code. Make sure you leave enough copies for each of your classes. Include extras for absentees who didn’t attend school, otherwise, you sub may be scrambling to find where they can get those assignments.
  7. Create a Key
    • Sometimes students need a little guidance on how to to each problem. You as the classroom teacher know this. Leaving a key and allowing the sub to have the answers gives them room to be a teacher like yourself. When I’ve been given answer keys, it’s easy for me to walk around and inform students when they’re on the right track. It also gives me room to correct and help them get the correct answer.
  8. The Just in Case Assignment
    • Sometimes the students are incredibly focused and quiet, and they finish quickly. In preparation for those times, make sure that you leave an additional assignment, worksheet, or set of instructions to lead and facilitate the remaining 10-15 minutes. If you don’t want to leave your kids to have 15 minutes of unorganized, free time, plan ahead.
  9. Rewards or Hard Candy
    • In addition to expectations, you can also leave rewards. Let the substitute know that you’ll reward your students for doing what’s expected of them the following day, or leave tangible rewards for the sub. Some classrooms have team names and points, fake money, or candy to give as rewards. This gives substitute teachers something else to work with.
  10. Be Positive
    • Leave a positive note just to make your substitute feel prepared for the day. Let them know you think they’re going to do great, or say something about having a great schedule. Your substitute is never a robot, rather a person with feelings, principles, and a life. Never forget the common ground on which we meet as humanity.

What are some other tips you’d give teachers as subs or yourself as a teacher? How do you plan for your absence? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

The Faithfulness of Furry Friendship

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We always have the same routine. Witness and I wake around 6:30am, and he saunters to the bathroom to get ready for work. Cashew starts whining in his crate, and I slowly get up to release him from his nighttime ground cradle. Every morning I walk over, his tail wags energetically from one end of his house to the other. His yearning, black eyes meet mine, and he stretches to say good morning. I open the door to let him out, and he does three swift laps around my legs, all the while his tiny tail beats me with rabid joy. How such a small creature can have such energy is beyond me.

Every day it’s the same. We walk out the bedroom door. He wouldn’t dare go anywhere where I’m not. He makes sure I’m in his sight. He continues to wag his tail as he brings over the little tennis ball and rolls it toward my feet.

“Can we play?” he eagerly asks as his tail continues to swing in bliss.

“Let’s go outside,” I say in response, and he happily concedes, creating an invisible maze around my feet.

We put his harness on, and I ask him to sit properly in front of the door.

“Sit, Cashew,” I open the door, and he jolts toward the morning light.

“No,” I respond sternly, “Sit, Cashew. Have a little patience.”

He reluctantly sits.

“Okay, let’s go!” as the little puppy runs out into the morning dew.

I take him for about five 10 minute walks a day. He romps and plays in our little living room, creating dust storms of tennis ball fur. He climbs everything, goes over and under; there isn’t a space he hasn’t explored. He’s thorough and authentic, honest and curious, shy and loud, and a big sucker for treats. He refuses to eat his kibble, unless it is spread randomly across his paw-print mat. He hides every bone I give him in the most peculiarly conspicuous places.

I’m lucky to have such a joyful little creature in my life. Despite his inability to speak English, we communicate in intimate and kind ways to one another. My duty as master is to be the hands that feed, clean, groom, and keep him safe. His duty as pet is to give consistent companionship, joy, and stories of incredible messes to clean in his lifetime.

Every day, Cashew is the same, and every day, I need that consistency to keep me sane.

 

Snowboarding 101 at Devil’s Head Resort (Wisconsin)

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Hello friend,

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted. I’m happy to be in the new year and be given the opportunity to start a new hobby! My husband has always had a knack for very random things (like billiards, tennis, and guitar), and snowboarding happens to be one of them. He has had his own board and gear for a while, so we decided to make the investment for me because apparently, it pays for itself within ten or so snowboarding trips… and I plan on going a lot!

We first visited Dick’s for some snowpants, and in the end, bought a snowboard. I really liked having my own stuff from the onset, a sort of emotional attachment, the idea that I’m growing with Delilah, my snowboard. I’m looking forward to many more trips with Witness and Delilah. Perhaps we’ll even get to visit a real mountain one day… one day!

For equipment, here’s what we bought:
Burton Genie Board – $170 at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Geneva, IL
Burton Citizen Bindings – $90 at Dick’s
Burton Mint Snowboots – $150 at Dick’s
Columbia Women’s Snowpants – $70 at Dick’s
Dakine Women’s Camino Mitts – $21 at 20% at Wildside in Wisconsin ( THEY HAVE AMAZING SERVICE!)
Missing Channel Inserts – $30 installation at Wildside

The missing channel inserts were due to Dick’s Sporting Goods not having the inserts attached to the new board. It’s usually in a 3-inch by 2-inch plastic bag attached with a sticky adhesive to the back of the board. Apparently, this is a common occurrence amongst Dick’s Sporting Goods and their boards, so make sure you ask the store manager about it or order through Burton (for free) in advance. We paid $30 for the inserts and installation because we were going snowboarding the following day.

In total, we spent around $531 on my snowboarding gear that’ll be used for years to come. It wasn’t a bad deal!

The Resort
We went to Devil’s Head Resort in Merrimac, WI. It was about a three hour drive from the Northwestern suburbs of Illinois. The lift ticket was about $50 for 8 hours, $108 for the both of us… I kind of wished we hadn’t spent the $54 for me, since I spent half the day on the bunny hill. There was also a sale going on Liftopia for 2 days at Devil’s Head for $60. We only went on Saturday though.

Witness was my teacher for the day, and he was an amazingly patient one as I slowly realized that learning something new is difficult, frustrating, and incredibly painful. I think my greatest injuries were from getting up from my knees and falling (very hard) on my bum. Two days later, I’m still sore from four hours of snowboarding. I spent two hours on the bunny hill which consisted of two moving walkways and 2 semi-steep hills. Many children and novice snowboarders/skiers stayed in this area. We even saw a little child with a pacifier and her mother. Devil’s Head staff were also giving some lessons for $30/1.5hr. I liked this area because I could easily see the end of the hill, and it felt like something I would be able to complete on my own.

Through all the falling, I learned that I’m better on my toes than on my heels, so somehow I learned the opposite way than what most begin with. Overall, it was a frustrating, rewarding, and exciting experience. I’m looking forward to our next trip sometime in February to learn the other half of snowboarding, haha. Two more purchases we’ll make are some butt padding and knee pads. I look forward to the day I’ll be able to go down a black diamond on my own!

I hope this was an entertaining and informative read for you. Share with me your first snowboarding or skiing experiences! Let’s learn together🙂

Sincerely,

Tabitha