“How do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume?”

“Those schoolgirl days of telling tales and biting nails are gone, but in my mind I know they will still live on and on.  But how do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume?  It isn’t easy, but I’ll try….” –To Sir, With Love

I’m not a fan of the modern American school system, by any means.  Regardless, certain teachers, coaches, directors, etc.  have had a tremendous impact on my life, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

These men and women have taught me that it’s perfectly okay to do your own thing.  That nobody is special enough to be entitled to everything, no matter what they may think.  That perspective changes everything.  That no matter how much the real world sucks, you can hang in there.  That you can’t take everything at face value.  That it’s okay to be loud.  That Audrey, Seinfeld, and tea can fix nearly anything.  That normality is highly overrated.  And their respective subjects, of course.  These amazing, inspirational people don’t get half as much appreciation as they should.

I’m bound to miss a few, but here goes nothing:

Thank you, Professors Titus, Booz, Martin, Piniak, Carmichael, Brown, Isherwood, Foster, Krysiek.  Thank you, Mrs. Derck, Mrs. Ulsh, Mrs. Yuengling, Mrs. Hale, Miss Jones, Miss Mogish, Mr. C., Mr. and Mrs. Grabusky, Mr. Snyder, Mr. Soister, Mrs. Yuengel, Miss Shane, Miss Nichol, Mrs. Lantz, Mrs. Laubenstine, Mrs. Weston, Mr. Yashinsky, Mrs. Dautrich, Mrs. Luckenbill, Mr. and Mrs. Moyer, Mr. Siket, Mrs. Huegel, Mr. Sabol, and Mrs. Advensky (plus an honorable mention to Miss Tretter!).

Thank you, Miss Hoppes, Mr. and Mrs. Dietz, Mrs. Cappella, Mr. Evans, Mr. Kahl, and Mr. Sanders.

Thank you, Ms. Moran, Miss Savage, Mrs. Slovick, and all of those nameless faces left in my hazy memories of elementary school.

Thank you, Pete, Jared, and the many amazing CWI historians.

Thank you, Dr. Yashechak and the wonderful Schuylkill County historians.

Upon hearing my majors/minors, many people ask, “Oh, so you want to teach?”  I may not, but I have the utmost respect for those who do.  Thank you all.

It’s the little things. #TFT

The title of this post, a favorite phrase of my grandfather’s, rings true.

I recently downloaded an app called Grid Diary, in which you answer a series of simple questions each day.  It’s unbelievably relaxing, incredibly cute, and helps me focus on the best parts of the day, even when it seems that there are none.

One of the questions is simply “What are you grateful for?” Each day, without fail, are the basic “friends, family, etc.,” responses.  Many days, Gettysburg is specified.  Most often, though, are the more insignificant things, those that could be easily overlooked.  Thanks to this app, they aren’t anymore.

So, what are these little things?

  • Coffee:  Yes, I’m well aware of my addiction.  No, that doesn’t make me any less grateful for its existence.
Chirpy Bird agrees.

Chirpy Bird agrees.

  • Oregano: Call me crazy, but I have an intense love for this spice.  My go-to order at any sandwich shop is full of vegetables…and nothing else.  Now, as much as I love vegetables, they don’t make for a very exciting sub/hoagie/grinder. Add a drizzle of oil and some oregano, however, and you’re in for a treat!


  • Bullet:  My wonderful little fishy dude.  A lot of people discount fish in the grand scheme of life. Pescatarians exclude ten in their “meat-free” lifestyle (dear world:  there’s no difference between claiming to be a pescatarian and claiming to be vegetarian, “except you eat chicken.” One of my biggest pet peeves.).  But these little fellas are pretty great. If Finding Nemo hasn’t already taught you that, you should meet my Bullet.  My neighbors probably think I’m either crazy or smuggled a dog into my room for how much I talk to him.  Strange, yes.  But comforting nevertheless.  He’s a great listener!


  • Cooper: In the same category, is Cooper.  For all he’s featured here at TO&E, I still don’t do him justice.  He’s pretty great.


  • Marty:  Yes, I named my iPod.  Fancy college student or not, I refuse to forget how hard I worked for him and all of the convenience he brings.

Photo on 6-3-15 at 9.15 PM

  • Dixon Ticonderoga pencils:  I may be one of the only people in the world with a favorite pencil brand.  In fact, I won’t use anything else if I can avoid it!


Of course, I’m still incredibly grateful for the more noticeable things in life, like food and water, shelter, health, happiness, liberty, life, property (sorry, my history major may be showing!).  At the same time, I can’t help but be thankful for the little things.

“For those whom we’d give blood.” #TFT

“Family not only need to consist of merely those whom we share blood, but also for those whom we’d give blood.” -attributed to Charles Dickens

Recently, a particularly special person in my life welcomed a beautiful baby girl into her life.  She and her husband had been praying for what seemed like an eternity, and God has surely listened— little Hattie is proof.

As congratulations and some of the cutest baby pictures I’ve ever seen garnished my newsfeed, a feeling of  elation came over me.  She may truly be the luckiest little girl in the world.  Mara and Chad are absolutely amazing people with so much to give, not to mention their two fantastic fur-children (meet Wiley and Jenny here!).  

Deep down, this happiness extends even past my excitement for Hattie’s arrival.  I can relate to her story in an unusual way, and it makes the feeling so much stronger.  

This could have been me.  I came as a total surprise to my mom, and she nearly died while having me.  My birth father left early in my life, leaving a few scattered memories and a Playstation.  For years, it was just me and Mom, bringing us Gilmore Girls-close.    We met my Dad when I was in kindergarten, and he joined us, with my sister following suit.  

Note that he’s my Dad.  Many people in this kind of situation prefer “stepdad”— I don’t.  Those are too often the same people that have their “real dad” in their life, or hold onto hope that he’ll be back.  It took me more time than I’d like to admit, but my dad took that position over permanently;  there isn’t a chance in Hades of the idiot who left taking his place.  

There was no guarantee of it working out this way.  My Mom could have given me up when we struggled through the hospital in ’95 or given up on single parenting when the going got tough.  She didn’t.  Dad could have balked at the concept of taking on a woman and her six-going-on-sixteen daughter.  He didn’t.  

I wasn’t traditionally adopted and I recognize how unbelievably lucky I am that my mom never gave up.  My dad and I don’t always see eye to eye on things, but I couldn’t care less.  
So, today’s Thankful Thursday belongs to my parents, to Mara and Chad, and to all other parents who, in one way or another, persevere and give their all to these little girls and boys.  Thank you for everything.  


“Let me tell you that I love you….” #TFT

“Let me tell you that I love you, and I think about you all the time…. Caledonia, you’re calling me, now I’m going home, and if I should become a stranger, know that it would make me more than sad;  Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had.”  –CaledoniaCeltic Thunder (Celtic Woman’s version is great too!)

In my first #TFT, I talked about my grandfather and all of the wonderful things he’s done for me over the years.  I also promised that my grandmother would soon get one of her own!

She's not a huge fan of having her picture taken, but I've managed to snag a few !:)

She’s not a huge fan of having her picture taken, but I’ve managed to snag a few !:)

Nanny’s the reason I love Irish music.  She’s the reason I want to go to England, to Ireland, and so on so incredibly badly.


She’s supported me in my many endeavors over the years, with anecdotes and words of wisdom.


She’s done some amazing things!

Miss Schuylkill Haven,  1968

Miss Schuylkill Haven, 1968

She married this great guy....

She married this great guy….

And has stuck with him through the years!

And has stuck with him through the years!

She only laughs a little bit when I enthuse about my life plans:  “…I’ll meet Harry and live happily ever after!”


She introduced me to the greatness of NCIS, Midsomer Murder, Murder She Wrote, The Artful Detective, Bones, Castle, and more!


She’s faced countless unnecessary hardships and overcome every single one.

Love you, Nan--- thank you for everything!

Love you, Nan— thank you for everything!

“Just what makes that little old ant think he can move that rubber tree plant?” #TFT

“Next time you’re found with your chin on the ground, there’s a lot to be learned, so look around! Just what makes that little old ant think he’ll move that rubber tree plant? Anyone knows an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant, but he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes;  he’s got high apple pie in the sky hopes.  So any time you’re gettin’ low, ‘stead of lettin’ go, just remember that ant…. Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant….” -Frank Sinatra, High Hopes

This song, along with the wonderful Frank’s Greatest Hits, immediately brings to mind images of car rides with my grandparents.

When I was very young, my mom and I lived with her parents, and they and I have been unusually close ever since.


Though they’ve both had a tremendous impact on me, this particular post is about my grandfather (Nan’ll get her own soon enough!).

Pop and I have plenty of memories. When I was little, he and I had a tradition of recording tapes (yes, on a little cassette recorder!) together.  Even today, “This is Pop-pop signing off!  This is Julia, signing off!”


Pop and I after my high school’s production of “The Pajama Game.”

He & I share a love of books.

Post-book sale :)

Post-book sale 🙂

Possibly the most notable of his inspiration is my love of history;  I don’t know if I would have discovered my love of Gettysburg without him.


From music to books to presidents, I owe plenty to Pop.


Thank you, Pop, for everything!


Throwback Thursday has been a trend for quite some time.  People love reminiscing with the “perfect” picture.

For example:

#ThrowbackThursday to this little kid!  #TBT

#ThrowbackThursday to this little kid! #TBT

Earlier today I asked myself, “Why not take advantage of this trend?”  And so, TFT was born.

For as long as it lasts, I’ll be posting #TFT posts here at TO&E.  A rather obvious play on Throwback Thursday, Thankful Thursday will give me a chance to highlight some of the awesome people in my life and to share them with you all!  Feel free to try it yourself— let’s spread the love!