Hello, 2013. Thanks for Visiting.

Ode to 2013

2013 is a year that taught
me copious lessons. It brought
hope and some trepidation,
faith and some affirmation.
A bounty of choices demanded attention,
giving my simple life greater dimension.
An unheard of act of risk taking
led to an act of decision making.
I cried, I cheered, and I laughed
(What the hell is a mosquito craft?
This rhyming dictionary is weird.
)
I frequently disappeared,
sinking into my protective shell
dealing with change and doing it well.
Today I celebrate the good
in 2013, just like I said I would.

__________________________

At the beginning of the year last year, I made a “Resolution to be Successful.” My goal was to concentrate on the great things that happened throughout the year. I had never done it before– usually ending the year with a “thank goodness it is over” feeling. I was tired of living my life, waiting for the year to end so I can start afresh. It was time to realize that every day is a fresh day and I needed to acknowledge and celebrate that fact. I made a jar and I filled the jar with wonderful things so I could write about them at the end of the year. I hope you enjoy my adventures.

Family

I am thankful every gosh darn day for my family. Without them, I would not have as much joy in my life. They keep me from staying in the darkness when I’m depressed, and still love me when I spend extra time there. Here are some highlights.

  • We have a little raised garden in our back yard. It has become a family project. Every season, we clean it out, hand till it, and plant it. Pretty much every season, we end up with very few veggies– they get creature-eaten or frost-bitten or die in the hot, hot sun. Yet we continue to do it. There is something about sticking your hands in the earth that reminds you how connected you are to everything around you.
  • The girl figured out how to tie her shoes. It may seem like a little thing, but she was determined to never learn how– at least not from me. Thank goodness Hubs has the patience of a saint or she’d still be in Velcro shoes. Now if we could get her to keep them tied…
  • We were able to send the girl to Camp Invention. It is a week-long critical thinking/problem-solving day camp. She learned so much, including how to work with others to solve real-life problems. It was fabulous listening to her stories about what she learned. Her excitement was palpable.
  • We took two camping trips. I am not very fond of camping, but I like to be outside with my friends and family. The first trip was with my brother, niece, and nephew. I had so much fun during the day. It was fabulous being with them in a different setting than the living room. I want to do it again with them before my brother moves on to his fellowship and my niece and nephew go to college (or wherever– no pressure, guys). The second time was with my BFF, Jen. It was freezing and relaxing and wonderful (for camping, anyway). We did decide that next time we’d camp in a motel. It’s so much better that way.
  • We actually had some weather this year. I love it when we have weather in the desert. After one seriously rainy day, the girl and I played in the puddles until she had mud up to her eyeballs. It was so glorious letting loose and getting dirty. I think my heart grew three sizes that day.

There are so many more, but I know that it’s important to keep posts short so people read to the end. 🙂 Maybe I’ll do a part deux.

Educational

Both my husband and I are pursuing degrees– his is a B.S. and mine is an M.A. I’m so proud of us for managing school, work, and family without wanting to hit each other in the shin. With a car. I celebrate the following:

  • After a bazillion years of study, I am so close to the end, I can see it. I submitted my application for graduation. This does not mean that I am done, but it does mean that, if I take the last FOUR classes that are required, I can graduate at the end of the summer term. FOUR CLASSES! I really need to be done because I’ve got such a serious case of senioritis (mastersitis?) that it makes my eyes burn.
  • I had to take a graduate research class. It was horrible and felt pointless to me. Focusing on the positive: I had one of my favorite professors again, I earned an A, and it is another class down. Only FOUR more to go!
  • I took the summer off. It was fabulous spending the time with my family. Even though it put me a little behind, I needed it. I still only have FOUR more classes until I’m done.
  • My degree program is online, so I miss the face-to-face interaction that I enjoyed with I was getting my B.A. This last semester, I had a colleague taking the same classes. It was wonderful! I had someone to bounce ideas off of for the first time in a bazillion years. I wish he was going to take my final FOUR classes with me, but he isn’t. Still– I had someone to kvetch with… er, share ideas with.

In case you didn’t notice, I have only FOUR classes left until I’m done. Not that I’m excited or anything. Not me. Not at all.

Professional

This is the aspect of my life that changed the most. This is where I took a leap and let the Universe catch me. I don’t generally do that because of my anxiety. Here are some of the positives:

  • I finally said no more to the job that was disintegrating my being. I was turning into a person who I didn’t enjoy being and it affected every aspect of my life.
  • I woke up in the morning and didn’t have a debilitating panic attack thinking about going to work. After I decided it was time for a change, I began to repair myself. This was the first sign that it was working.
  • I got a new job. Even though I felt beaten down and almost destroyed, I was able to keep my head straight during interviews. Even though I felt like a fraud, I was able to tell potential employers how wonderful I was. It worked. If you want to read about it, I wrote a couple of posts about it: Part One and Part Two.
  • I made a decision about my professional goals. The public education system no longer suits me. I can’t do what they ask me to and still live with myself. I finally decided to leave the public school system. After 13 years, I am taking a break from it. I may come back, I may not. It just depends on where life takes me. Once again, when I made that decision, another layer of anxiety and fear disappeared. Once again, I have no fear that my decision is the wrong one. I have no clue what the future may bring and that doesn’t scare me. Weird for someone who’s live her life in fear that she’ll make the wrong decision and destroy the world.
  • Hubs attends one of Embry Riddle’s satellite campuses. He is good friends with the director there. They are in desperate need of English teachers. Hubs has worked his magic and there is a great possibility that I will be teaching some classes for them when I’ve completed my M.A. (FOUR more classes!). This is a wonderful opportunity and I hope it comes to fruition. I’m trying not to want it so much.

I haven’t felt so sure of myself professionally in a very long time. I am thankful for the year that passed and am definitely looking forward to the future possibilities.

Other Awesome Stuff

Not everything fits into lovely categories, so here is the potpourri of great things that happened this year that don’t fit anywhere else.

  • I got a new, used car. It is the car that I’ve always wanted. It has a sun roof and, because I’m spoiled, brand new speakers and a kick-ass radio. It also only started with 30,000 miles. Because it’s a Toyota, I will get to enjoy it for many, many miles to come.
  • I’m getting crafty up in the hizzouse. I started crocheting again, something that relaxes me and makes me feel productive. Hubs got me a sewing machine for Christmas and I’ve already made myself a purse. Creating is such a wonderful feeling and I am glad that I’m doing it again.
  • I was brave enough to put my writing out there. When I won NaNoWriMo in 2012, I had a mostly, sort-of finished manuscript. I’ve been sitting on it, fearful of letting it go into the world. I decided to share it. There are so many plot holes and loose ends that I need to tie together. I wasn’t able to do so objectively. Hopefully it’ll get worked out. Either that or my readers will tell me that it’s too convoluted in its current state and will need to be disemboweled and reanimated in another configuration. I’m comfortable with either possibility.
  • One of my students graduated this year. This young lady has been in my life since she was a sixth grader. I love her like she was my daughter. I’m so proud of who she has become. She honored me so much when she asked me to escort her to senior night basketball game. Her mother and I proudly stood next to her before her final game of her senior year. I felt truly blessed that I meant so much to her that she asked me to be there. Teachers don’t always see how they affect their students’ lives. Chelley made sure that I knew.

There are so many other things, but brevity is the soul of wit (so they say).

The Girl’s Celebration

The girl was so excited to participate in this project. For the first seven days. Because she was six. I told her I’d post everything that she wrote down. Here it is:

  • “I have school.”

She’s so awesome.

Final Thoughts

This was a great exercise for me. I am thankful for my blogger friend Danielle for making the commitment to do this with me. If it had not been for her, I am pretty sure I would have stopped writing the good things down about the same time that the girl lost interest. I’ve decided that I am going to do it again in 2014. I think it is part of the reason why I’ve been able to make the positive changes in my life. It helped me live in the moment.

__________________________

Resolve to be successful

Dunkin’ Donuts Drama

Earlier this week I was sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts, drinking some tea, and trying to get caught up on my homework. It is usually a fairly serene place to pretend like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. There are few things to distract me from surfing the internet… ummm… I mean answering discussion posts that aren’t really like discussions but more like people trying to prove that they are smarter than everyone else but that doesn’t make me bitter oh no it doesn’t.

This day was different. There was a young lady sitting in the corner working on her homework just like me. Okay, maybe not *just* like me. She didn’t have a computer and was actually using paper and highlighters. Crazy, right? She paused in her pursuit of learning and made a phone call. Here was her LOUD side of the conversation:

“So (insert name here) told me that you were looking for friends with benefits with her. Is that true?”

[pause]

“Well, I didn’t think so. I told her that there is no way that you would do that. I told her that we were engaged and you would never do that to me.”

[pause]

“Don’t get mad at me for asking! I just wanted to make sure. I figured that she was just confused with the old you. Why would I believe her?”

And more along those lines. You could tell that the person on the other end was getting more and more defensive. Finally, she finished the conversation. Then, when she was done, she made another phone call and was talking about how someone had a disease — not sure what it was exactly– and that she would be pissed off if she had it too. There are so many inferences I could have made from the conversation.

Thank goodness I had my back to her, because I would have embarrassed myself. I was uncomfortable but entirely too amused for polite company. I couldn’t help myself. I awkwardly chuckled. I couldn’t believe that she felt that Dunkin’ Donuts was the appropriate place for conversations like that.

It got me thinking, though, about the differences in generations. Very few people who share my age bracket would have done as she did. Most of us would take conversations like those and conduct them in privacy– or at least not loudly. My teenage students have no such compunction. They share entirely too much for my comfort. They share everything on their tumbly-thing, bookface, tweeters, and whatever else social media they use.

(Putting on my grumpy old lady pants) YOU SHOULD HAVE SOME SECRETS! Nobody should ever know that much about you. It’s like not buying the cow because you’re getting the milk for free. Or judging a book by its cover. Or some other cliche that fits better than the ones I came up with. It just isn’t right and it makes other people (me, at least) uncomfortable. (Taking off my grumpy old lady pants)

Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe having everything out there is better than keeping secrets. Maybe full disclosure will help solve the worlds ills.

What do you think?

Reason 23 Why I Love Teaching

I have a student who carries a towel every day and whose favorite answer is 42. Enough said…


words to live by

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels. A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble‐sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand‐to‐hand‐combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

Zombie Kitteh Will Eat Your Face

Awww. Such a cutie-pie!

This is Frodo, our new-ish kitten. He looks innocent, doesn’t he?

Appearances can be deceiving.

One night (morning?) at 3:00, he crawled up next to me on the bed purring loudly. I love snuggly cats but I’ve not had one in a long time so this was exciting to me. His little whiskers tickled my faced as he moved closer. I figured that he would just rub against me and then settle down for a good sleep. I laid there, waiting to see what my cuddly, itty-bitty kitty would do next. Then, I felt a tongue in my nose, literally. He was trying to find something in my nostril with his tongue. It was not at all enjoyable; cat tongues are quite rough and- yuck- in my nose! I reached up to pull him away but, before I could, something startling happened.

The little turkey bit my nose! Not just a little nip, oh no, not for this fella. He was full on gnawing on the tip of it. The zombie kitteh was trying to eat my face!

Luckily, I was awake enough to not throw him across the room. I gently took him and placed him on the floor by my bed and tried to go back to sleep. This is when I discovered that my little Frodo furball is a zombie. He is not the typical zombie in search of brains, though. He mindlessly seeks nostrils and the tips of noses. Obsessively, even. It usually takes about five times removing him from the zombie-feeding zone before he gives up. It has been four weeks and he still does it three or four times a week.

Have you ever had a zombie pet? How long did it take for the face eating to cease? Do you think the rules from Zombieland would help? Cuz I’m getting a little bit desperate.

I’ll see you in your nightmares!

Tragedy in Aurora (A Little Political)

This morning I heard news about the horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. You can read the article on CNN.com if you want more information. An armed man entered a theater full of patrons who were watching The Dark Knight Rises midnight showing. He wore a gas mask. After he entered, he threw tear gas into the theater. He then proceeded to shoot, killing 12 and wounding 50 people. The  descriptions of terror given by the victims horrified me. They also made me so very, very angry.

What in the world possessed this man to take the lives of so many people into his hands? What made him so disturbed that he felt the need to perpetrate so much destruction? Who made him the person who chooses who gets to live and who dies?

I know that mental illness causes people to do commit atrocities and that, sometimes, we don’t discover the motivation behind such acts. He may not even know directly why he broke. It just isn’t fair. Those people were excited to see a movie that they’ve probably been waiting a while to see. They stayed up all night, waiting in long lines, and enjoying the comradeship that comes with being around other fans. Families, friends, and strangers were drawn closer together because of the time spent in anticipation of the opening of this movie. So much synergy destroyed by a single act of violence.

I have never been one who advocates gun control. My family is from the country. Usually hunting and country go hand in hand. My husband has guns; he was in the military and hunts on occasion. I’ve been around guns for as long as I can remember. I have chosen not to have my own guns because it never really interested me. The thing is, gun safety has always, always been taught and we are doing the same with our daughter. Respecting the power of firearms is the only way to be safe around them. Now, though, I wonder if anyone focuses on that anymore. Should there be stricter rules for owning a gun? Should there be a limit on how many guns a person can own? Should a psych evaluation be required?

This is the third time in my life that I’ve asked these questions. (Political viewpoint coming up, bear with me.) I am not big into governmental control over certain things. Growing up around so many responsible owners of firearms gave me a sense of security. If everyone was like my family then there would be no need to control guns. I am doubting that now. There have been entirely too many instances of mass murder by one person with guns. Where do we draw the line? I am not saying that guns should be banned. I think they are entirely too easy to acquire. I don’t have the answer about how to fix this problem, though I wish I did.

Then I started thinking about what people will say about this tragedy. Right now it is fresh, but in a week or two, it will be over. There will be another event somewhere that makes this one fade. That is when the comments will come, making light out of the situation. I know that humor is a way for people to deal with input that their minds are having difficulty processing. What about those who have lost family and loved ones? This will NEVER be humorous to them. Ever.

I know people who had family involved in the Columbine shootings. One of my friends used to coach swimming there. Her mother worked at Columbine when the shootings occurred 13 years ago. She still cannot talk about it because the pain is so close to her heart. You can see it in her eyes. Our students were babies when the shootings happened. They sometimes joke about another Columbine. It is not real to them and therefore it is a source of macabre humor. They don’t know how much it hurts.

I guess the point of this rambling post is that we should not forget this. There has to be something we can do to prevent events like this occurring. I don’t want to live in a world where fear permeates every thing we do. I refuse to be afraid.

Merida: A New Princess?

My daughter and I went to see the movie Brave on its opening day. The first time I saw the trailer, I’ve wanted to see this movie. Even more than I want to see Magic Mike! Inorite? Whodathunk? There’s not even a hawt guy in it (Oh no! I seemed to have slipped into teen-speak right there. Ops. I must be missing my little rapscallions. Apologies, dear non-judgemental readers.). My daughter wanted to see it even more than I did. She would ask to see it every time she saw the movie trailer. We went. We loved it. We wanted to see it again. The girl usually tells me about all of her favorite parts of movies that we see. She essentially retold the entire movie. It was good. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

However, that is not the point of this post.

I started doing some research after the movie to see what others thought of it. I was shocked at some of the responses I found. Many blog posts and articles that had a feminist slant bashed the movie. Here I was, thinking that Merida was a fabulous alternative to the typical swoon-and-wait-for-rescue princess. She takes matters into her own hands. She’s brave, strong, and determined. Merida can take be victorious when faced with danger and stands up for what she believes in. In essence, I loved her and was excited when my daughter began to emulate her.

Apparently I had it all wrong. There are so many things wrong with Merida.

  • She’s a princess (gasp)!
    • Some of the writers hated the fact that she was a princess. (They suggested that she be a serving girl or a toaster or something. A frikken’ toaster! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really been able to relate to inanimate objects, no matter how likable they are.) *Warning: Nerdiness approaching* At the time that the movie is set, the only women who had any leisure time were those of noble birth. She would have to be a princess in order to have enough spare time to have an adventure.
  • Merida wears dresses.
    • Once again, time-appropriate clothing. A serving girl would have had to wear a dress as well. Not sure about the toaster, though.
  • Her hair is too unrealistic.
    • Ummm… so is Lady Gaga’s but she is still seen as a strong woman. Plus… animated. Duh.
  • She does “boy” things and they are celebrated.
    • Their concept of boy things is shooting a bow and riding a horse. This seems anti-feminist if you ask me. I know plenty of women who are masters at archery and are expert equestrians. Why are these boy activities?
  • She has a simple problem and all she does is have to fix it.
    • If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the conflict in it is anything but simple. Character development occurs in both major female characters. I guess it isn’t conflict enough unless you have to beat down “the man.”
  • There are men in the movie.
    • Okay, maybe this comment wasn’t said outright, but still. I get so tired of some feminists being anti-men. Men are essential to life. Literally and figuratively. I would not be the strong woman I am today without the influence of some of the men in my life. Yes, there are some men who are jerk-faces. Guess what? Some women are jerk-faces as well. Get over the man-hate, please. It ruins my love everyone vibe.

Part of my frustration is that this is a movie in which a young girl stands up for herself and solves her problems with a little help. Isn’t this how we want our daughters to behave? Why in the world should this movie aimed at children be expected to change the world for women everywhere? Let them be children for a while. I was allowed to do so and I turned out okay.

Thoughts about Reaching my XXth Birthday

Today is my 39th birthday. I know. Women aren’t supposed to tell anyone their age. I don’t really subscribe to that thought. I have worked hard to make it through my 39 years and I am proud of that. Plus, I’ve been saying I was 39 all year and thought I was going to be 40 today until I did the math.

I’ve heard the memory goes as you age, but I didn’t think it would go this quickly!

I now have a second year of being 39! Inorite? I get one more year before the dreaded 40, an age where I’ve heard that everything starts falling off (but not the things that you want to fall off– like the middle-age spread). I might have a 3rd year of 39 just to be safe.

Not enough candles, but you get the idea!

In the past week leading up to this glorious day, I’ve done some thinking. I don’t know about you guys, but this is the time when I look back at my year and see how I’ve done. Forget New Year’s Day– that is for everyone else. I’ve got to be different! Oh, side note: July 2nd is halfway through the year. I didn’t know that. My friend told me. I didn’t research it so if I’m wrong, let me know. I’ll probably forget though. Because I forgot I was 38, remember?

This year’s taking stock of my life has been very different from all of the others. Usually I get very depressed and think of all of the things that have gone wrong. I focused on how worthless and imperfect I was. Death loomed ever closer in my mind and I would never be able to make something of myself. I usually spent a whole week alternately crying and getting angry. I hated my birthday and never wanted to celebrate it. Well, this year I did none of that. Okay, that wasn’t completely true. I did cry a little last night, but I think it was more because I was worn out and it was late and I forgot to eat dinner. Probably. Still, it was only about ten minutes long, if that, and I fell asleep right after.

Instead of looking at my life negatively, I’ve chosen to look at it differently. Even thought there were difficult times, I made it through them. Sometimes I learned something about myself. Sometimes I was just happy to get out of it with only a few scratches on my psyche. Amazingly, the scratches were few. I’ve become a much stronger woman because of it. The difference is that I’ve actually been in a state of mind where I could actually see the strength. Part of it I attribute to finally finding the correct melange of medicine. The majority of it, though, is all me. Yes, my meds have balanced my brain chemistry, but I have chosen to do the work to make myself stronger.

Happy birthday to me.

__________________________

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All photos that are not mine are under a CC license. For more information about this wonderful resource, go to www.creativecommons.org

Cake Photo: Neil T via flickr