An Ode to First Responders

Note: This is a post from 2016; it’s just now cycling over from my old site.

I have a confession to make…

A couple of days ago, I was on my way to work, following my normal routine… Just jammin’ out to whatever music was fitting my mood that day, I don’t remember exactly what it was… Classic rock, gangster rap, worship music… Ya know what, that’s not important.

So anyway, I’m driving along, singing to my steering wheel when I pass a dog standing by the road.  I watched the little fellow in my rear view mirror and all of a sudden it takes a step towards oncoming traffic.

In 2.5 seconds, I went from a Mariah Carey wannabe to a maniac screaming at that sweet little pup who could by NO MEANS hear me with TEARS running down my face.

Picture it now. Ugly girl crying while yelling “NO, NO, NO, NO!! Stop! Turn around, turn around, turn around!” as if I was in the most tragic made-for-tv movie to ever hit the Lifetime channel.

The good news is, the fur baby who almost broke my heart, the one I don’t even know, and have never even petted turned around and went back into its yard.

(The other good news is, I was able to dry that mess up before I got to school and no one had to know that I just spent a good chunk of my commute mourning the non-death of a dog who does not belong to me.)

Let’s move along, shall we?
So, here’s the thing:

1.  I am not an emotional person.
2.  It was a dog.
3.  It wasn’t even MY dog.
4.  It didn’t actually get run over.

But I was a big puddle of mush anyway.

So that brings us to today.  First thing this morning there was a wreck on Hwy. 27 and there was a fatality.

Upon hearing about it and considering the whole situation, a whole new wave of thoughts entered my mind.

How do first responders do it?

Policeman, firemen, paramedics, military men and women…
Let me also add nurses and doctors to this list of heroes in the midst of tragedy.

As a teacher, I hear all of the time “I couldn’t do what you do!” or “I don’t know how you do it!”

But don’t we all see some profession or another like that?

They say that teaching is calling and I believe that a little more with every day I spend in the classroom.

But I also have no doubt in my mind that these precious souls that are able to keep their sanity in the middle of an emergency were called to do what they do.

To wake up each morning carrying the images of yesterday and not knowing what you might see today, but pushing on nevertheless – now that is a calling.

I boohooed this week over an almost puppy fatality.

There was a brave soul that responded to a wreck this morning.
There was a brave soul who tended to the wounded and another who dealt with fatalities.
There was a brave soul that made a phone call to deliver news that no one wants to make.
There was a brave soul who directed traffic.
There was a brave soul who came in the aftermath to clean up the mess.

Just God’s earthly angels doing what they were called to do.

Thank you, first responders and emergency workers for your service!
My prayers are with you.

5 Apps That Will Pay YOU

All you need is love, said the Beatles…

And about a million other things, of course.

Like money.

With every passing year of my adulthood, I realize there are so many things they don’t teach you during your 13+ years of education.

I mean, sure… They teach you all about the Pythagorean theorem, and the elements on the periodic table, and how to find the square root of x… And all of that other really important stuff that you will totally use every. single. day. of your life.  (Insert eye roll emoji.)

I am so glad they skipped all that useless stuff we would never need… Like budgeting, filing your taxes, investing your money, how to build a resume, buying a house, etc..

Okay, okay.  Maybe I went too far with the sarcasm, but y’all get my point.

Money makes the world go ’round.

Some things you have option to spend your hard earned money on, while others… you have no choice.

Food, clothes, housing.. all necessities of life.

Ya gotta eat.
Naked is not acceptable.
Protection from the elements is preferable.

And unless you’re super outdoorsy and handy and can grow, sew, and build everything you need.. those things cost money.  Lots. of. money.

I know, I know.  You already know this.  Reminding you that simply living is expensive is not why I invited you here.

I brought you here to introduce the possibility of making money off your everyday gotta-have purchases!

Yes, you read that right.  There are ways to make money back when you buy stuff.

How?  Apps.  Free apps for your smartphone.  Free, easy-to-use apps.  So…

Here we go!

  1. Ebates – This website allows you to shop through their website and earn cash back on your purchases.  They have a wide variety of stores to choose from, or you can shop by category.  Better yet, they have a selection of stores that offer DOUBLE cash back, such as Expedia and Shutterfly.My favorite part of this website/app is that you get $10 just for signing up, AND when you refer a friend you earn $5.  But, that’s not all.  If they also shop through the website, you can earn up to $25 in bonuses!  You can sign up for Ebates here.
  2. Be Frugal –   This website is super similar to Ebates!  You shop through their website and earn a percentage of your purchase back.When you sign up, you earn $10, when you refer a friend, you earn $15!  You can sign up for Be Frugal here.
  3. Receipt Pal – This app is my FAVORITE by far.  Why? Because all you have to do is snap a picture of your receipt using the app and you earn points.  Once you earn so many points, you get to redeem them for gift cards!  I’ve already redeemed several Amazon gift cards using this app alone at no cost to me.  Plus, you can now submit your online receipts via email.  #gamechangerEasy peasy, lemon squeezy.
  4. Shopkick – This app is perfect for you if you’re out and about a lot.  This app has a lot of features, but the best is earning “walk-in kicks.”  It’s as easy as it sounds, you just walk through the doors of certain stores, open the app, and earn “kicks,” or points.  You can also scan different items once you’re in the store for additional kicks.Like Receipt Pal, once you earn so many kicks, you redeem them for gift cards.  So far, I have used my “kicks” to buy a coffee maker and a pair of shoes.This app also offers the option to scan receipts and connect your credit card, but I have not tried these options.
  5. Ibotta – This app allows you to earn money off of everyday purchases such as groceries, electronics, clothes, etc.  You simply select your store, claim the rebates, then once you’ve shopped, scan your receipt.  PLUS, you get $10 just for signing up and $5 for every friend you refer.Within just a few hours it will put the money on your account.  I like this app because you truly get money back.  It will send your earnings to your PayPal account. I cashed my earnings in when we moved back in July.  It helped tremendously with all of those pesky expenses you don’t think about when moving, like new curtain rods and pantry shelves.
    So, guys… there you have it.  Five apps that will help you earn money on things you are already purchasing!

These apps are user friendly, and take up very little of your time.

Give them a try and let me know what you think in the comments!

OR if you have another favorite money-back app, let us know!


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6 Meal Prep Hacks to Make Life Easier

Meal prep has become a huge part of my weekly routine.  Why, you make ask… Because…

I love food.

And I hate cooking.

Well, not necessarily cooking… but coming home after a long day and then having to cook.

I situation-ally like to cook, I guess you could say.

Surely I’m not the only one with this problem…

Raise your hand if you’re also tempted by those oh so yummy, quick, effortless runs to get takeout… Or those pop-in-the-microwave freezer meals that are always BOGO at Publix.

Yes, I too am sitting here with both hands in the air.

Our society is one of instant everything… Food, shopping, free two-day Prime shipping… don’t get me started on the instant gratification of social media.

I’m not saying everything instant is BAD, but when it comes to food, quick and easy is often expensive and loaded with a bunch of yucky, hidden, bad-for-you ingredients.

(Insert research about the rise in obesity, the rise in ADHD, the rise in about a million other diseases… all connecting back to our food.)

So, where am I going with this, you ask?

Meal prepping.

It’s 100% the only way I manage to eat healthy… Even healthy-ISH, if I am honest.

About a year ago, I did the 21 Day Fix meal plan (Just the meal plan, because those workouts SUCK and make you want to die, so I sold those bad boys on the Facebook marketplace and made a quick $25.  Anyway… Kudos to y’all that stuck with those… I liked Country Heat better.)

Anyway, when I started the 21DF, I was a little overwhelmed and quickly realized I couldn’t do all that cooking and measuring every. single. day.  I am not that disciplined.

So, I started researching this whole meal prep deal and got started.  I tried lots of different methods, but here’s what has worked for me… Let’s get started!

  • First things first – plan your meals ahead of time.

This should be a DUH moment, but I’ve tried heading to the grocery store without my meals planned and it was a disaster… I came home with about 1/2 the ingredients for three different meals.  #FAIL

So naturally, I needed a meal PLAN for my meal PREP.

You can find some of  my FAVORITE and EASIEST buffalo chicken recipes here.

  • I do 90% of my meal prep on Sunday.

    Steamed cabbage and turkey meat is one of my favorite, easy, clean meals!

What this means, is I choose what I want to eat every day for lunch and every  night for dinner.

Then, I go ahead and cook it.  And I divvy it up in containers.  All of it.

Yes, it seems ridiculous.  Yes, I sacrifice a few precious hours of my Sunday afternoon to do it.  (Aka, I listen to Netflix from the kitchen as I work, instead of laying on the couch watching it.)

I promise it’s worth it, though.  At least for me!

  • I eat the same things for multiple meals throughout the week.

Yes, you read that right.  I eat the same things over and over.  It makes my meal prep routine so much easier.  Some people can’t do this, but if you can… Go for it.

Now, I won’t eat just anything every day.  It has to be something that is not only good, but good leftover.  There is a difference!  Some meals aren’t good leftover, but some are, and some are even better leftover.  (Think soups, chilis, and saucy things like spaghetti.)

So after a lot of exploring, I found meals that I don’t get tired of and I eat them for lunch five days in a row.

  • I portion out and pack up everything ahead of time.

I usually only do this for lunches, because mornings are such a struggle. 

That means I portion out everything from my “meal” to my dressings to my snacks.  (By portioning out, I mean MEASURING how much you’re packing.  This is super important, because even if you’re eating healthy, that doesn’t stop you from overeating.)

If the 21 Day Fix (note the green container in the middle) taught me anything, it was about eating the correct amount of each food group for my body type.  There are other ways to measure out your food, though.  (Note the measuring cup on the right.)

So, with all of that being said, I have also explored a lot of storage and packaging hacks, because meal prepping proposes a problem with space and uses a lot of dishes…. And I really hate doing the dishes.

So, here are my tried and true meal prepping must-haves:

  • Containers for portioning

I’ve found it’s better to use containers that are about the same size as the portion you should be eating.  If your container is too large, you will feel the need to put more food in it even though you measured out your portion.  Not to mention,  research shows using a smaller plate or bowl tricks your brain into thinking it’s eating more… so choose wisely!

Here are some of the containers I use:

  • Diamond Disposable Containers with Lids – 2 oz. – You know when you order food to go and they give you the little dressing containers?  That’s what these are!  I have found they’re perfect for dressings and nuts.  Plus, you can throw them away when you’re finished… I may hate washing dishes, but those little dressing containers are the worst to me.  If you’re super eco-friendly and don’t want to be wasteful, baby food containers like these would work as well!
  • Portion Control storage baggies – These little ziplock bags are great for meal prepping because they have measurements on them.  If you can’t find the portion control bags, the snack size bags like these are great as well.  They will hold about 8 oz.  And again, they’re disposable!
  • Reusable Compartment Containers – I order these off of Amazon and they are great.  For $12.99 you get 10 containers.  My roommate and I share these to pack our lunches in sometimes and we still have plenty of refrigerator space, as they’re stack-able. We wash them in the dishwasher and they’ve held up fine.  We’ve only had them since August, so I’m not sure about the longevity of this product, but for such a low price they will be easily replaceable. They also come in different sizes.
  • Organization

Organization is not my strong suit.  I know y’all probably thought I chose my blog name because I thought it was cute or catchy, but really… my life is literally organized chaos.  So when it comes to being organized, I have to be super intentional about it.

While organization isn’t 100% related to meal prep, it does save me a ton of time while I’m cooking, preparing, and most importantly, when I’m running out the door in the mornings.  At the beginning of the year, we revamped our pantry and then used the same set up in our new house, even though the storage space was way smaller.  Here’s what we use:

  • Hanging Shoe Rack – I am sure you’ve seen this one floating around Pinterest and social media.  We have one hanging on our (very tiny) pantry’s door and it makes organizing and pre-packing everything quick and easy… Which is important because we both prefer to trade in 5 minutes of packing lunches for 5 minutes of extra sleep… #priorities
  • Baskets/bins – This is simple enough and doesn’t need much explanation… plus the teacher in me REALLY loves a good basket.  As I stated earlier, our pantry is TINY… Like ridiculous little, plus we had to put our own shelves up.  So, with those shelves we added plastic bins and, like the shoe rack, this has offered easy access to those things we need on the go! I got ours at the Dollar Tree (hello, ballin’ on a budget), but I’ve also seen where people use plastic drawers like these.

This is what the end of my lunch time meal prep looks like…

One lunch, fruit serving, and healthy fat serving ready to go for the week!

My dinner meal prep is a lot easier and less detailed.  I just cook whatever dish I planned and portion it out as I eat it, since there are no early  mornings involved in dinnertime!

So, there you have it.  A few easy peasy ways to make healthy(ish) living a little easier.

What are your best meal prepping hacks?  Comment below and share what works for you!



*This post may contain affiliate links.  If you purchase using these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.*

5 Tips for Reading the Bible

I have a confession to make… reading the Bible is not my favorite thing to do.

It’s hard.  And I mean that in several different contexts.

It’s hard, because watching Netflix on the couch is more appealing.
It’s hard, because 10 extra minutes of sleep is sometimes too tempting.

It’s hard, because well… sometimes the Bible just doesn’t seem to make sense to us.

It’s hard to connect that King James Version language, those Old Testament rituals, and Jesus’ parables to our life here in 2017… with our iPhones, and self starting cars, and microwavable everything.

So what do we do?

K.I.S.S… Keep it simple, silly.  (Yes, silly… what’d you expect from a kindergarten teacher like myself?)

So, sticking with our theme… here are 4 simple ways to strengthen your spiritual walk.

1.  Find the right Bible for you.

This is so very important!  Bibles are not one size fits all, which is why there are so many different versions.  (I googled it to find you an exact number, but I quit counting at 20, so… there’s that.)

If you’re like me and need a Bible that’s a little less “churchy” and a little more “peopley,” there are plenty of options to choose from.  I personally use the English Standard Version (ESV), but I also like the Message, NLT, and NIV versions.

I bought my Bible off Amazon.  It’s the Crossway Single Column Journaling Bible (ESV).

2.  Use a devotional or study guide with your Bible reading.

This one is a complete game changer.  There is no sense in any of us suffering through reading the Bible when there are plenty of resources out there for us.

I don’t know about y’all, but if there’s someone out there who can help me find meaning in something that made me just scratch my head in confusion, I am ready to listen and learn.

There are tons of free options and apps, as well as great books!

If you’re a techie (also, free) kind of person, here are a few apps/email subscriptions that I personally recommend.

  • Proverbs 31 Ministries – This women’s ministry is amazing!  They have daily devotions written by a variety of ladies.  You can either follow them on Facebook or sign up to receive the devotions every morning in your email.  You can sign up here.
  • The First 5 app – This app is a product of Proverbs 31 ministries and is similar to their daily emails.  The difference is, they take a book of the Bible at a time, break it into lessons, and offer teachings and devotions.  This is a GREAT tool for someone who wants to read their way through the Bible.  If you sign up, you can join in on the current study, or pick one out of the archives to do.
  • Waking Faith by Steven Furtick – These daily devotionals can also be sent straight to your inbox every morning.  Steven Furtick is the pastor at Elevation Church.  His morning devotions often vary between a few written paragraphs, video clips from sermons, and other media types.  This particular devotional is great for everyone – men, women, adults, teenagers.
  • YouVersion Bible app – Not only does this app allow you to view different versions of the Bible and search for certain books/verses, they also offer FREE reading plans!

3.  Get out your pen.

Get out your pen.  Yes, it’s worth repeating.

(Micron Pigment Ink Pens are my favorite, because they don’t bleed!)

Why?  Because we’re human.  With about a million things on our plates.  It’s way too easy to forget what you read. So…

Underline key words.  Draw brackets around important verses.  Take notes in the margins. Draw pictures.  (Hence my need for a journaling Bible.)

OR if you just cant bring yourself to write in your Bible, take notes in a journal or notebook…

But for the love of fun colorful pens… do yourself a favor and USE ONE!

4.  Find an accountability partner or group.

I can’t stress this enough.  When I have someone to help me, read with me, pray with me, answer my questions, and just do life with on a spiritual level, life is so much better!

Those people, whether it’s your Sunday school class, small group, or just a friend who shares your love for Jesus… They are a precious and vital part of your spiritual walk.

If you’re like me, you’re way more likely to read that chapter in the book of John if you’re expected to talk about it over coffee with a friend.  If you haven’t found an accountability partner or group in your area, get connected at a local church or schedule Facetime/Skype dates with a long distance friend.

5.  Prayer.

Naturally I saved the most important for last.  How can you worship a God you never talk to?

I know, I know… It cannot be that easy.
But it is.

Now, I am from the south where prayer is not a dirty word, but even some of us who grew up in the Bible belt “don’t know how to pray.”  Or at least we feel that way.

But can I tell you something I have learned?  Prayers don’t have to be eloquent and full of churchy language.  In fact, my prayers are often more like a conversation with a friend.

A couple of things that have helped my prayer life the most:

  • Praying out loud – YES, it was so awkward at first, but try it anyway.
  • Finding somewhere with few distractions – my faves are the shower and the car (which is also where my favorite worship jam sessions take place)
  • Writing prayers down – this goes along with my reasoning for praying out loud – it helps keep your thoughts organized.  It’s hard to start thinking about what’s for dinner if you’re actually speaking or writing.(Why yes, I just admitted to getting distracted if I just pray inside my head… #Christianconfessions)

Well, there you have it guys.  My K.I.S.S spiritual walk strategies.

What are YOUR routines and strategies that help keep you on track?  Feel free to share them in the comments!

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase using this link at no cost to you.)

5Tools to Help You Read the Bible