journey of doing »

Seeing as how I’m still down for the count (but rocked a parent presentation last night!), I thought I’d share some fun facts/quirks about myself.

journey of doing - 10 on Tuesday: Sara behind the blogP I N I T

Side note: I got asked for a bio and professional headshot for a feature from a university (read here!)  This is the closest thing I found to a headshot.  I should put that on my to do list once I’m well.

  •  My staff affectionately (and not so affectionately) refer to me as Mama Gator, Head Gator, and just plain Gator.  This has a lot to do with how I unapologetically pursue college access.  It doesn’t bother me a bit.  I even have my own emoji.
  • I hate running.  Sometimes I view it as a necessary evil (HIIT)… in which case, I will usually jack up the speed on the treadmill to impossible speeds to make it end faster.  I’ve always wanted to become  a runner.  I never will be a runner.
  • I have a degree in Petroleum Engineering.  I was one of 5 girls in the department.  I carried a pink messenger bag, wore dresses to class, and epitomized all things girly.  You think Elle Woods didn’t belong at Harvard law?  You didn’t see Sara in engineering school.
  • I have been actively doing community service on my own since I was 10-years-old.  Helping others is a HUGE part of my being, and I’m so grateful that I landed in a career that allows me to do exactly that.  All day.  Every day.
  • My husband and I have streamlined our daily lives in such a way that we can rarely find things to improve.  (I, however, can always improve on streamlining my work.  It’s an ongoing battle.)  One way that we’ve done this is to minimize our wardrobe choices.  My husband has three outfits.  I’m not quite there, but I’m close.  Laugh away, but it has helped clear the clutter of my mind.
  • I am most comfortable when I’m wearing a dress.  I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing casual clothes to the office if I don’t have meetings, but I always feel like I’m pretending.  I generally need to be wearing a dress to feel like I’m ready to start the day.
  • I get really nervous before presentations, but once it’s game time, I’m completely on.  I love presentations.  I gave a parent presentation last night, and it made me wonder why I can’t just give presentations every day.  I think that could actually improve college access… because I’m pretty sure there’s not a question I can’t answer.  Do you know how weird that sounds?  I’m an expert… in college admissions.
  • I am annoyed by aggressive drivers.  I don’t think I’m ever in so much of a hurry that I need to cut anyone off, flip them off, or make them uncomfortable with my driving.  I hate it when people do that to me.
  • When I get anxious or nervous (read: before presentations), I’ll pop my earphones in and jam out to music.  Sometimes that’s Disney music, other times it’s Eminem’s Lose Yourself (because I think I’m tough?  Idk…), and sometimes it’s T-Swift’s Shake It Off… either way, I’d probably be embarrassed if you grabbed my earphones to see what I was jamming to.
  • I’ve been trying to practice mindful meditation for the last six months.  I’ve heard that it can decrease your stress level and retrain your brain.  The problem is… I erupt into giggles halfway through.  Maybe it’s an inability to be comfortable with my own thoughts, but I just can’t ever get past the giggles.

In other fun news, this weekend I rediscovered the “blog” (live journal) I had throughout college.  There may be some fun #TBT posts coming your way.  In spite of all my angst, I was insightful occasionally.  I also made myself laugh with a series of passive aggressive emails sent to the group for one of my senior projects (who refused to meet or do work. Hrmph.)…. which, you guessed it, are chronicled on the blog.


share on Facebook.tweet to a friend
  • SMD @ Life According to Steph - I would rather do anything else in the world than a presentation.

    I also love dresses and overall feel the best in them.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - I would have loved to see you in engineering school, I bet that was fantastic and you crushed the boys. Girls can do everything. And in heels.
    I want to wear dresses every day, I think I’m going to start doing that. I just never feel comfortable in pants, I need to phase them out of my wardrobe.ReplyCancel

  • Kelsey - Oh girl, I bet your pink accessories & dresses did stand out in engineering school but I think that’s fabulous!! 3 outfits?! Wow. I’ve minimized my wardrobe a lot and it really does help me get out the door faster. Once i get to my goal weight I’ll be able to do this more but I need a few more options right now while I’m in between sizes!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Elizabeth - I always start to dose off when I meditate because I relax too much!

    I love the gator nickname – what an awesome reputation to have on your team!ReplyCancel

  • Jasmine - I’m with you on running!! Tyler is a huge runner (4 marathons since we’ve gotten married!) and I’ve tried so many times and it’s just not happening. Now if only Zumba were as impressive as marathon-ing…

    “You think Elle Woods didn’t belong at Harvard law? You didn’t see Sara in engineering school.” – totally LOLed at this part!

    I think your walrus impression should be added to this list. 🙂

    These facts also just prove what I’ve always known about you – go getter with a big heart and a great sense of humor!ReplyCancel

  • Katie Elizabeth - Sara in engineering school might just be my favorite thing ever. Please bring back some TBT posts!ReplyCancel

  • Laura - I’ve reduced my wardrobe to 30 things and I LOVE it. The less decisions I have to make, the better.

    My sister is an electrical engineering major and I think there’s less than 20 girls in the whole major at Penn State!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Martinis & Bikinis - Wow you have an awesome degree and made sure to show the rest girls can exceed too. I’m the opposite of you with clothing, while I like dresses for parties and social gatherings, I always wear dress pants and cute (collared) shirts to work. The office is usually freezing so I can’t do dresses or skirts. lol

    Love and appreciate how much time you put into philanthropy….I enjoy doing the same and with my new job we focus on the Wheelchair Foundation to provide mobility to people around the world among other local charities.ReplyCancel

  • Mackensey - Okay the thing about you in engineering school made me crack up! Too funny! I hate aggressive drivers too. It is snowing here today and at an intersection a pickup truck FLEW by me. Never mind that there have been a bunch of fatal crashes because the roads are so bad. Do you ever run outside? I used to absolutely HATE it, but I feel like nothing clears my mind better than a run outside where I am not timing myself and can enjoy the scenery 🙂ReplyCancel

  • cara - I love this so much! You are awesome to put it simple, Sara! And how lucky are all those students that you work so passionately to help! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad - We share a lot of similarities! I’m definitely a dress person, not a runner, am all about simplifying things (still a work in progress but moving in the right direction!) and aggressive drivers are just unnecessary. I had some headshots taken at work recently and I look awful in Yours is lovely! Share your secrets??!ReplyCancel

  • Kate @ Green Fashionista - Congrats on rocking your presentation, and I love how you were the Elle Woods of your program! Pure amazingness! Feel better gurlie <3
    Green FashionistaReplyCancel

  • #TBT: The Case for Free Speech on Campus » journey of doing - […] last week I mentioned some of the silly things I came across when looking at my old livejournal that I started in […]ReplyCancel

I’m still down for the count with this stupid cold (but now with heat!) so my judgment has been little impaired.  At least that’s the excuse I gave myself when I nearly destroyed my entire blog yesterday.  I can’t remember what I was searching for when I stumbled down the rabbit hole of Creative Market.  I ended up finding a blog design that I liked AND that was on sale… so I immediately set to work customizing it.

Only I didn’t EXACTLY know what I was doing… so I managed to kick myself out of my blog and couldn’t get to my login page.

After much research, searching my FTP site, doing a little bit of CSS coding, and crossing my fingers and toes (and giving myself a frenzy fever AND probably annoying my husband who was trying to find food for me at the same moment), I managed to get back in…. then I had to subsequently get back into my FTP site, delete the coding changed I made, and hope that I could still log in.

I subsequently deleted all the changes I had made but I couldn’t get the blog back to normal… so I had no other choice but to fight through the new design.  I emerged (relatively) victorious… though I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about how I’m going to lay out this old blog ‘o’ mine.

Remember when HTML used to be easy?

Remember when I took classes in web design and considered myself savvy at coding?

Yeah… when did everything get so complicated?

Maybe I’m getting old.

Quelle horruer!

At any rate, if you have any feedback on the new design OR things you would like to see (OR ways to improve it), let me know.  If I don’t break it, maybe I can fix it (again).

Happy Monday folks, I’ll be here all week.

Linking up with B because this is the closest thing I get to a weekend recap.

share on Facebook.tweet to a friend
  • Katie Elizabeth - I LOVEEEE it! It’s perfect. And I’m so glad you got your heat working again! Now to feel better ASAP!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - I like it!! it’s really pretty, you did a great job!ReplyCancel

  • SMD @ Life According to Steph - I hate the panic associated with that type of thing. LOL, glad it worked out – I like the new look.ReplyCancel

  • Kelsey - Love the new design!!! Hope you feel better soon!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica (@loveyoumoretoo) - I hope you get better quick! Colds just linger and linger. Your new site and design look so good! Way to go!!ReplyCancel

  • Pamela - I think the new design looks great! Don’t you hate when you have too much free time and then you decide to change something and it turns into a much bigger task than you planned? Hope you’re feeling better! <3, Pamela Sequins & Sea BreezesReplyCancel

  • cara - I love the look of everything! You did a great job! There’s something so refreshing about a new design!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad - It’s such a pretty new design! You did a great job! And I feel your pain with the blog switch madness – I still have most of my old posts where the format has gone seriously wonky and I need to go back through and fix and I just can’t face it. Sigh.ReplyCancel

  • Kate @ Green Fashionista - You did an amazing job, it’s gorgeous! I’m such a dunce with technology, that I could never attempt a re-design in a million years! Sending hugs that you’ll feel better soon, and yay for heat <3
    Green FashionistaReplyCancel

  • Olya @ The Siberian American - I love the new site-so delicate and pretty! I hope you feel better ASAP!ReplyCancel

  • Biana - Loving the new look girl – so so clean and fresh! xo, Biana –BlovedBostonReplyCancel

journey of doing - manarola cinque terre photosP I N I T

journey of doing - manarola cinque terre photosP I N I T

journey of doing - manarola cinque terre photosP I N I T

journey of doing - manarola cinque terre photosP I N I T

journey of doing - manarola cinque terre photosP I N I T

journey of doing - manarola cinque terre photosP I N I T

For more Manarola Cinque Terre photos (and tips & tricks):
why you need to stay in cinque terre, making pesto in cinque terre, cinque terre trip planning,
manarola cinque terre photos, riomaggiore cinque terre photos, cinque terre hike photos, monterroso al mare photosvernazza cinque terre photos
share on Facebook.tweet to a friend

Bonjour, mes amies.


I’ve spent the past two days flat on my back, freezing, and fighting a nasty bug.  You see, temps decided to really dip this week… and when I tried to flip on the heater, I heard clicking and nothing happened.  (This is probably the first time we’ve actually tried to turn on the heat this year.)  After attempting to reset our furnace, I deduced that our igniter must be out.  Yesterday morning, the HVAC guys came and confirmed it.  (HAH!  I was right!)  Before they left, I asked them to check out the duct work that was done as part of the renovation and see what it would cost to balance our system because one half of the house seems to be getting all the air.  (At least that’s what our second contractor said was the problem when we brought it up on our walk through – even though it was working well before everything was replaced.)

Guess what they found when they went up there?

journey of doing - freezing on fridayP I N I T

A gigantic hole.  

As in… one half of our duct system was not connected to the other.

Which made me REALLY glad we didn’t have ASTRONOMICAL electric bills this summer… but it explains why I couldn’t feel any air conditioning in our room, too.

But it also made me *really* mad.  And sad.

It looks like someone just stepped on it and decided not to say anything… so we’ll be dealing with that fun bit of information now (Things to Know Before Remodeling anyone?  Maybe I should do things to do AFTER remodeling at some point… ugh.)

At any rate, since it’s expected to freeze this weekend, we have the HVAC company coming back today to fix this nonsense so maybe I won’t sleep in a room that is the same temperature as the outside any longer and I can kick this cold for good.  Unfortunately, I had to get up and out this morning for a meeting at one of my schools… because it’s back to the grind, my friends!


Also – be sure and check back tomorrow!  I’m relaunching my Saturday travel galleries… so there will be all kinds of wanderlust going on over here.  😉

share on Facebook.tweet to a friend

Joining Helene and friends today to share my 2016 wrap up.  I did a 2015 wrap up, and it was actually very therapeutic for me to look back on a really terrible year and remember all the amazing things that did happen… I had hoped to get this done last week, but I didn’t.

journey of doing - 2016 wrap upP I N I T

2016 Wrap Up – All the Good Moments


The first month of the year brought the end of 2015 sadness when I was able to give a beautiful eulogy and tribute to Julie Fonner, one of my dad’s best friends, who passed away right before Christmas.  Being able to do that for her sons, who are the closest thing I have to brothers, was especially rewarding.  It also brought about  the last all-nighters for us for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program as 2016 was the last cohort under the current program.  We had so many amazing kiddos apply.



We made the trip to Copperas Cove to celebrate my nephew’s Signing Day.  While he’s no longer a Baylor Bear, we are proud that he is a UT Longhorn.  I surprised my grandmother with some tasty red velvet chocolate chip cookies for Valentine’s Day… which she decided to share with her friends.

journey of doing - Red Velvet White Chocolate CookiesP I N I T


One of my kiddo’s mom’s convinced me to spend a long weekend with her in Boston… so, after seeing 6 of our amazing kiddos become TCU Community Scholars, I jetted off for a few days at The Charles Hotel, eating delicious meals, and pretending I was still a college student.  We also got our first green tags on the renovation (that was supposed to take 12 weeks at most… but ended up taking 9 months).



I nailed another TACAC presentation with my favorite group of people before immediately heading back to Dallas and boarding a plane for Europe for most of the month.  We had an amazing time traipsing around Italy again (and learned why you need to stay in Cinque Terre), and we fell in love with Budapest and Prague.

journey of doing - manarola cinque terre photosP I N I T


We came back from Europe to find out that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she came through surgery in May with flying colors.  I headed to DC for a few days with the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success and found myself encouraged by the commitment of the college leaders I spent time with.  JP graduated, Julian got promoted, and I hosted a co-ed baby shower for my in-laws IN OUR HOUSE and we finally moved home.



After being out of my house for the entire school year, the realizations at the end of the school year brought me to my knees as I realized how grateful I was for my communities and villages – and all the people that make my life better by being in it.


Principal’s Presentation consumed July more than usual because of new requirements… but true to form, I rocked it out… because I learned to embrace the idea that there’s no day but today to make a difference.

journey of doing - 2016 wrap upP I N I T


The realization that we had 20 schools left me hiring furiously… before starting two weeks of intensive training that one of my staff members took the reins on organizing.  I had the privilege of visiting Smith College and finding an incredible value in single-sex college educations for girls.


We celebrated our third anniversary with a northeast road trip… and it was amazing.  I fell in love with Hanover, fell in love with Yale, and finally got to experience Boston with my husband.  From there, I headed to Michigan and Ohio for TWO national conference presentations and WON a national college access award… and then boarded a flight to China for work for a grand total of six days.  It was exhausting, intense, and absolutely exhilarating.



I showed little interest in trying to fight jet lag and flew to Chicago twice for college access related activities…  On the first trip, I impulsively bought a journal and tried to convince myself that everything was going to be okay… even though I wasn’t sure it would be.  On the second trip, I found myself inspired by meeting some of the people read and awarded our students the Gates Millennium Scholarship.


At the end of the month, Tom, my mom and I boarded a plane to Germany for a European Christmas market extravaganza…  that was certainly the high point of November, lol.

journey of doing - budapest at nightP I N I T


We retraced our steps from earlier this spring (and added some new ones) through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.  I spent my birthday in Budapest.   I ended up getting to semi-host Christmas though I didn’t end up using my holiday table settings.   True to form, I sent out a Christmas card that captured one of my favorite cities in the world – and a wish for peace, love, and joy for 2017.


2016 Wrap Up

Whew.  This past year was oh so many things… but it helps to take the good with the bad.  And, if I may quote my 2015 wrap up:

“I have been through a lot and have suffered a great deal. But I have had lots of happy moments, as well. Every moment one lives is different from the other. The good, the bad, hardship, the joy, the tragedy, love, and happiness are all interwoven into one single, indescribable whole that is called life. You cannot separate the good from the bad. And perhaps there is no need to do so, either.”

— Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis


Helene in Between
share on Facebook.tweet to a friend
  • Hena Tayeb - Wow what a wonderful year.. Germany for Christmas sounds perfect.
    Hope your mom is well. Happy New Year!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren Scorzafava - Sounds like a great year!

    Lauren Elizabeth
    Petite in Pearls ReplyCancel

  • Kelsey - I’m still amazed by all of your travels this year!! I’m glad everything turned out well for your mom and I hope it will for your friend as well. Many hopes & prayers that 2017 will have even happier moments than 2016!ReplyCancel

  • Biana - It was a trying year for you and your family, but I’m so hopeful that 2017 is filled with only the best!! xo, Biana – BlovedBostonReplyCancel

  • Amanda - You had quite the year! So glad to hear your mom is okay. And wow – you traveled so much! Exhausting for sure, but totally worth it! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Bradshaw (@loveyoumoretoo) - The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places I have visited. It sounds like this was a much better year than 2015. 🙂 Lots of great moments!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Elizabeth - What a full year! I love how much success your students and organization achieved this year! I am in awe of the immense amount of travel you balanced this year with everything else. Here’s hoping 2017 is full of continued success and deep joy!ReplyCancel