Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I can't believe the last time I posted was over a year ago.  Ironically, it was about 2012 resolutions.  Last year, I planned to work on three goals.  These included:

#1: Incorporating more technology into my classes 
#2: Dressing up more often
#3: Keeping my car cleaner

Happily, I can report that goals one and three were fairly successful.  At the Faculty and Staff Awards in August, I was presented the Innovative Use of Technology Award at the University of N. Georgia.  This is a goal I plan to keep because I still want to learn additional tools to enhance and engage student learning. Additionally, I've gotten much better at keeping my car clean.  I still have stuff in it, but it is nothing like it used to be...that should tell you how bad it was before!  Consequently, I must confess that I was completely unsuccessful at dressing up more often.  I really think I could function in pajamas fact, I know I could!  Honestly, I think I'd be more productive too.

With the New Year already upon us, I've decided it is time to set some new goals for 2014.  This afternoon, while my sister and I were discussing resolutions, she made a great point.  She explained that she wanted her New Year's Resolutions to be something that enriched her.  I couldn't agree more.  So, I've decided to set the following goals...

#1:  Journal weekly.

Years ago, I journaled regularly.  Unfortunately, I stopped while in grad school.  I've tried several times to restart the practice, but I've developed a "perfectionist" streak that makes it difficult.  However, there is no time like the present to try again.  Hopefully this time I will be more successful.

#2:  Disconnect.

During Lent last year, I decided to unplug by a specified time nightly.  Although initially stressful, I quickly realized how pleasant my evenings were.  I wasn't getting frustrated from reading student emails late at night or getting sucked into some pointless surfing.  Unfortunately, after Easter, I picked back up on my extreme use of technology.  Well, I've decided to make a change.  One of the worst places for my tech use is in bed - when I should be going to sleep.  So, I bought an alarm clock (because the alarm on my phone is typically the excuse I use for bringing my iPhone to bed), and I've decided to charge my phone somewhere else.  This is going to be a really difficult goal for me, but I'm hoping putting it in writing will help hold me accountable.

#3:  Take more risks.

I am not a risk taker.  In fact, I am risk averse.  I like to be comfortable, good at something immediately, and I hate the feeling of failure.  For these reasons, I often dodge situations that cause me to try something new.  This is an issue I've been thinking and reading a lot about lately.  In fact, I just finished a fantastic book (Daring Greatly) about the importance of being vulnerable.  So, I've decided to approach 2014 open-minded and focused on stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolution

Are you the New Year's Resolution type?  I'm not.  However, every year I think maybe I'll give it a try.  So, I decided this year that I'm not going to have a "true" New Year's Resolution, but I'm going to set some goals that might suffice for resolutions.  Why am I so afraid of a true New Year's Resolution?  Well, probably because only 8% of people are truly successful with their resolutions (citation).  I guess if I set multiple, maybe I'll be more likely to reach one...this is what I like to call impossible to fail math.  Anywho, here are my "goals" for the year.

#1 - Use more technology in my classes.  Technology changes so much, that I feel like I struggle to keep up.  I encourage my students to use a wide range of technology, but I'm not always as good at taking those risks.  Two years ago, I instituted a rule in my class that you couldn't use PowerPoint for presentations.  You had to utilize something else.  However, it took me another year to get on that bandwagon myself.  So, I've downloaded a couple of new apps that I'm going to utilize this semester.  Honestly, they don't look too hard.  Here are the ones I've downloaded.

Socrative (Clicker)

Teacher Kit

Class Dojo


QR Reader

#2 - Dress up more often.  If I had my way, everyone would go to work in their pjs (preferably flannel at that).  However, nobody seems to be joining me on this endeavor.  So, I've decided to give in and dress up more often, albeit I'm doing this kicking and screaming!

#3 - Clean out my car regularly.  If you know me, you know the first thing I always say as you get in my car is, "Sorry, it is such a mess."  Recently, a friend of mine asked a good question, "Alyssa, why do you apologize?  It always looks like this."  Well, I guess I never thought about that.  So, maybe I could tidy up a little more frequently.

I'm also hoping to knock four items off my 20 X 40 List.  If you remember, this is my list...

Learn to can fruits and veggies
Sew a quilt
Sew something for me
Take a calligraphy class
Complete a triathlon
Learn to use power tools
Shop the World’s Longest Yard Sale
Write a children’s book
Make Gran’s cookbook
Adopt from Africa
Improve my digital photography skills
Learn to use Photoshop
Become a foster parent
Travel to 6 of the 7 continents
Write 365 thank you notes
Take 365 photos
Learn to UTILIZE my serger
Visit a fortune teller
Live in another country for 6+ months

I'm hoping to accomplish the following:
-Learn to use Photoshop (taking a class as you read)
-Make Gran's cookbook
-Travel to 6 of the 7 continents (applied for a conference on my final continent)
-Take 365 photos (got my Project Life materials ready to go)

That brings me to seven goals/tasks to complete by the end of next year.  Hopefully, when I look back in 365 days, I'll be able to mark off a few of these items.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Top 10 Favorite Children's Holiday Reads

As a former elementary school teacher, it is impossible not to love children's literature.  I don't visit a bookstore without at least a quick browse through the kid's section.  Even as a college professor, I use children's books in class to represent a concept or theme.  Honestly, being a children's book author would be in the top three of my most dreamed about professions.

Last week, my sister called to tell me that she and her three little girls spent the evening snuggled on the couch in the pjs, reading our favorite childhood Christmas book (see #1 below).  This conversation made me contemplate my favorite holiday texts.

So, welcome to my top 10 favorite holiday reads...

By: Gloria Houston

When I was in fourth grade at Mableton Elementary School, Gloria Houston visited the school to talk about the process of writing a book and share The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree.  I left school that afternoon with a copy of her book, and I enjoyed reading it with my mom that evening.  The book still sits on my bookshelf today.

By: Richard Stack

The year before the visit from Gloria Houston, Richard Stack came to share his book and talk about being a children's author.  Hearing the story was the first time that I learned about the saint bernard dog breed.  I was fascinated by the this tale of rescue.  I remember taking home my autographed copy, and cherishing the book.  It, too, still shares a space on the shelf.

By: Barbara Robinson

I first read this book as a child.  Well, honestly I wasn't a big reader as a child.  So, to be truthful, I listened to the story as a kid.  After I left teaching, I ran a small book club of former students that met monthly.  It was a great opportunity for me to remain in contact with some very special families.  This was one of the first books chosen.  We read the book and of course watched the movie as a holiday celebration.  It has such a great story line and theme.  Who couldn't love The Best Christmas Pageant Ever?

By: Caralyn Buehner & Mark Buehner

This was a book that I stumbled upon while teaching.  This rhyming story encourages creativity by portraying what snowmen might do at night.  It is an adorable read.

By: Jonathan London

Froggy books are one of my favorite series.  During my first ever teaching job in Atlanta Public Schools, I had the most adorable young boy who absolutely loved Froggy.  I'll never forget when I would read him a Froggy story, he would act out each part.  I loved Froggy before that year, but I really connected when I saw the joy it brought to one student.

By: Eric Carle

This is another book from my teaching years.  I don't know how I came in contact with this book, but I loved the illustrations (who doesn't love Eric Carle illustrations?).  There is a clear plastic page with snowflakes painted that covers multiple pages throughout the book.  There are some great art/crafts activities that can coordinate with this text.

By: J.otto Seibold & Vivian Walsh

I learned about Olive the Other Reindeer after reading its cousin, Olive My Love.  The book is based on the idea that "Olive" is the "other reindeer" portrayed in the song Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer.  It is fantastic.

By: Janet & Allan Ahlberg

The Jolly Postman books were always great for teaching about letter writing.  A play on fairy tales, the book portrays characters from Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.  It is a fabulous book and reading the letters to each of the fairy tale characters is really neat.  The one negative about this book...I've lost some of the letters.  Well, let me rephrase that.  Some of my students "misplaced" the letters over the years.

By: Rachel Isadora

I never had this book while I was teaching, so I am sad I was never able to share it with my students.  Two Christmases ago, my preacher gave me this book.  He knew my love and passion for Africa and said he thought of me when he saw it.  It was the most thoughtful gift I've ever received.  The book features the traditional 12 Days of Christmas song, but the illustrations are based on African heritage and culture.  So, the five golden rings are actually rings around an African woman's neck.  The book is beautiful, and I love it so much.

By: Patricia Scarry & J.P. Miller

The Sweet Smell of Christmas is my favorite book for several reasons.  My mom was a teacher too, so as children she constantly read to us.  This book was always a favorite during the holiday season.  The book includes scratch and sniff stickers of different holiday scents.  There are gingerbread cookies, oranges, apple pies, hot cocoa, and others.  I always loved the orange sticker the best.  I forgot about the book until two years into teaching.  I was browsing through the children's book section at Barnes and Noble, and I stumbled upon it.  That day, I bought three copies.  I kept one of the copies, and I distributed the other two to my sister and brother's families.  I wanted my nieces and nephews to share in the tradition I remember.  This will always be my favorite book because I will remember the MANY times my mom patiently read it to me, and we shared the scratches and sniffs of the holiday season.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Worst Christmas Gifts

I hate to buy Christmas presents for men.  It is always so difficult.  Annually, I make these my last and final purchases, and typically I think they're my worst gifts.  I love to buy meaningful presents, but sometimes I feel like I fall short.  

Right now, I have one gift left to purchase.  Guess what...yup, it is for a man, and I'm stumped.  I honestly cannot think of anything good.  So, I've been perusing the internet for some ideas that might work.  During the search process, I've found some TERRIBLE gifts.  Some of them are funny, but most of them are downright ridiculous.  Of course, I have to spread the wealth.  

Actually, they'd probably be great white elephant gifts if you're looking for something funny!

(1)  Yes, a nose hair trimmer.  I mean who doesn't want that?  I think I would die if somebody gave me that.  (2)  How dorky...a beer holster.  That is definitely a gift for someone who has everything.  Frighteningly, I just went back to link up to the web-site, and it is SOLD OUT.  Seriously!  (3)  This is one of my favorites.  I do at least find some humor in this one.  It is a flask that comes right out of the front of a man's pants.  There is some benefit for this type of least at a college football game, but I think I'll leave that gift to someone else.  4.  This is just bizarre if you ask me.  A Bacon of the Month Club.  Honestly.  Do people really purchase that?

5.  I love a good thumb war, and I'll share a quick game or two here and there with my nieces and nephew.  However, I think I'll leave the thumb wrestling ring to someone who plays more often than me.  6.  Bob Ross and his happy little trees were always fascinating.  However, if I want to gift painting lessons, I'm going to find someone still alive to teach them.  7 & 8.  Yes, you can purchase an acre of land on the moon...and if that isn't good enough for you, how about Mars?  Who owns the moon and Mars and in turn has the right to sell this acreage?  Also, what are you going to do with that land?

Hopefully none of these gifts is on your "to purchase" or even worse your "wish list."  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Holiday Party

About six months ago, I was reading one of the million blogs I follow when I stumbled upon this post.  Blue Eyed Bride created a post of the ten people she'd invite to a dinner party.  What a great idea!  

I often daydream about people I'd like to meet, become best friends with, learn from, etc.  So, I decided to put together my very own list.

My ten folks range from musicians to missionaries.  Here is a little snippet about each of them...and why I chose them.

1.  Kate Middleton - who isn't fascinated with a real-life princess?

2.  Brian McCann - A good ole' Georgia boy and definitely my favorite of the Atlanta Braves.

3.  Janet Evanovich - Definitely my favorite author.  The person that comes up with the crazy adventures of Stephanie Plum must have a wicked sense of humor.

4.  Michelle Obama - I love the woman behind the man.  I've met the man.  I want to meet the woman!

5.  Mark Richt - Go Dawgs!  What an amazing example of being a person in power  and a Christian example of giving back.

6.  Willie Nelson - Those who know me, know there is no need to say more.

7.  Katie Davis - If you've never visited her blog or read about her ministry, you should check it out.  She is an inspiration of Godliness...period.

8.  Tim Gunn - Classiness exemplified!  

9.  Ellen Degeneres - I love Ellen's motto, "be nice to one another."  She truly believes everyone should be treated equally...and we should all have a little fun along the way!

10.  Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh - I've followed beach volleyball for years.  These two are so competitive, yet they are always supportive of one another...a great example of true friendship.

So, what about you?  Who would you invite to your holiday party?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The New Digs

Although it was difficult to leave Normandy Drive, I'm excited about what life has in store.  After a long process of having a contract on my house and then having it fall through, I was pretty disappointed.  I knew everything was happening for a reason, but can sometimes be hard to swallow.

So, a couple of months later I sat down with my dad and we ran the numbers.  What if I rented my current house (that I had luckily paid down and refinanced after my grandmother passes away) and bought the house I had fallen in love with while my house was previously under contract.  

Long story was feasible AND here I am now.

For those of you who know me, you know I love Marietta.  In fact, I have a list of "Top 10 Streets" that I'd love to call home.  One of my "Top 10 Streets" is Atwood Drive.  So, when I was meandering through Marietta one day and stumbled upon this house, I immediately wanted to see it.  Who knew I'd one day be calling it home?

The house had a lot to offer.  So, let me take you on a quick tour...

I love the entryway.  The glass door is very inviting.  I didn't have this type of entryway on Normandy, so I'm looking forward to the formal entrance.  

If you keep walking straight into the house through the entryway, you come upon a living/dining combo.  The room is fairly long and somewhat narrow, but it is fairly similar to my previous setup.

Turn left and continue through the dining room, where you will come to my favorite room...the den.

The den is a cozy, little room with a lovely fireplace.  I know already that this will be my go-to place.

The den overlooks the sun room.  This room is lovely, but I just haven't wrapped my head around how I'll use it.  I'm sure my mom will help me come up with something.

If you swing back around and head to the right of the dining room, you come to the gorgeous kitchen.  I really love the cream cabinets, and the counter tops really make them stand out!

If you keep heading straight through the kitchen, you are right back in the entryway.  Walk straight down the hallway to the master bedroom and bath and two of the guest bedrooms.

Master Bedroom

Master Bathroom

Guest Bedroom #1

Guest Bedroom #2

So, that is the house...well, the upstairs.  Yup, walk back down the hallway and you'll come to the stairs to the basement.

The previous man cave...soon to be sewing studio

and another guest bedroom

There is a laundry room downstairs, and I wish I had a picture.  I can only say it will be 100 times better in just a few weeks.

One of my favorite parts of the house is the outside.  The backyard is really an oasis.

Yes, a koi pond.  The koi have a new home (thank goodness), and the pond won't be staying.  Addie is already trying hard to get rid of it...yes, picking up the rocks with her mouth and trying to move it.

The fenced area to the right will be a great outdoor oasis for Addie and Munch.

A lovely little deck...which may be the home of my new garden next year.

I look forward to showing you the finished product in several weeks, but as for now...let me get back to the onslaught of boxes.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Many of you are probably aware of my love and passion for Africa.  If not, let me catch you up...

In sixth grade, a unit/lesson about Africa sparked an everlasting interest in me.  From that day forward, my dream revolved around going to Kenya and experiencing her culture.  

This opportunity was awarded to me through a generous grant during my second year teaching.  I spent a month working on an Earthwatch Expedition investigating the Grevy Zebra (before going, I had no idea that there were different types of zebras).  

After the grant concluded, my parents joined me for two weeks of traveling through Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.  The experience was life altering, and I know many of you are rolling your eyes thinking everyone would say that.  It honestly was the best experience of my life.  

Since that trip, I've pined for opportunities to get back.  Unfortunately, the opportunity hasn't arisen.

The story continues about a year and a half ago, when I went to Nicaragua with a group of educators to provide professional development to teachers in a rural village.  

The trip was so uplifting and sparked a passion inside of me. Because of this experience, I decided to explore options of places to go and serve.  I began talking to my sister and through her understanding and encouragement decided I was going to take a leap of faith and spend up to a year working some place outside of my comfort zone and simply serving.

So, I began praying for guidance.  I didn't know where to go or how everything would happen, but I knew God would provide guidance.  I vividly remember during a trip back to Nicaragua last summer, I sat on the rooftop patio on a dark and hot evening and prayed ferociously for this guidance.  In tears, I begged God to show me the path he had in store for me.  Yet, I heard and felt nothing.  

I continued this process over the course of the summer.  One day in New Zealand, I landed in a gorgeous Methodist church, sitting on the back pew praying again that God would show me his plan and help open the doors.  Still nothing.  

I must admit I was beginning to doubt.  Here I was begging to go somewhere and serve, yet I felt no guidance of how I should proceed.

Several weeks after the New Zealand trip, I was reading a magazine article entitled, The Way Home.  As I read the article, tears filled my eyes (as they are now) because I finally felt the call.  My call wasn't what I expected, wanted, and hoped for...instead it was a call home.  As an adventurous person, I admittedly felt disappointed.  But I'm growing to realize the importance of being content wherever God leads you.  

Shortly after I returned home from New Zealand, I sat in my dad's office describing the unbelievable beauty I witnessed during my travels.  Dad quickly snarked, "Where are you off to next?"  I explained that there were no trips on the horizon, and he commented back, "Well, maybe now you can reconnect with your family."  That comment stung for a while.  I'm family oriented, and many of those who know us Barnes's, know that we stick together.  But later I realized this is God's intent.  His purpose of calling me home is to reconnect and find peace with the present.

So, although I'm closing the chapter on Normandy Drive, I'm not opening the chapter to the world (like I thought I would be doing now).  Instead, I'm opening the chapter to Marietta, family, contentedness, and peace.  I ask that you pray for me on this journey.  It is not what I expected or hoped for, but it is where God is calling.