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. ūüôā 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

Blog Reading

I’ve been remiss in reading the blogs that I follow. Things have been so crazy that I haven’t had a chance to visit my reader and see what my favorite bloggers wrote. Last week, I went through and set it so that ¬†I receive updates whenever something new is posted.

I didn’t get any emails.¬†Did you know that there is a box that, if you click it, blocks all emails, even emails that you’ve requested?

I do now.

I can’t wait to read what you’re writing, my wonderful bloggers. I’m sorry I was lost for a while.

Smart Phone Free: Day One

Today is my first day without my smart phone.

I can’t believe it. I actually gave it up. It has been bothering me for years. I was so disconnected from everything because I had the whole of the interwebz at my fingertips. I would sit on the couch, playing games, and checking my social media statuses. Last time I had a phone upgrade, I was so tempted to get a simple phone, but I chickened out and got another smart phone.

This time I didn’t give in to my addiction.

My hubby graciously let me use his upgrade to get a more simple phone. He was completely content to use my smart phone instead of getting a new one. I think he was really happy to get me back.

So, here’s my phone.

Isn't it shiny?

Isn’t it shiny?

I know it isn’t much to look at right now, BUT there are many colorful cases that are so inexpensive, I could buy a different one for every day of the week and only spend a little more than the black, boring case I bought for my smart phone. Imma be stylin’!

Get this! It has T9 texting! Inorite?!?!?¬†I remember when I could do that with my eyes closed. It is already coming back to me.¬†One thing I still have to practice is answering it. I always hang up on the person who is calling. I’ll get it though.

Another thing that is awesome: I have battery life again. I used it all day and still had the five bars of the battery. It really does wonders to not be on facebook/twitter all day. I am more content now than I have been in a very long time. I don’t have the urges to check and see what is going on with the my social media.

I’ve had time to write. Rather, I’ve recaptured the time I spent avoiding life. Writing is work if you want to do it well. My smart phone gave me an excuse to not do it. Maybe excuse isn’t the correct word. The obsessive/perfectionist part of my brain seized on it as a way to protect me from failing at writing. Yay, mixed up brain chemicals!

The only issue that I have had so far is a feeling of confusion in the morning. I would wake up, sit on the couch, and check my social media. Sometimes I would play a game or surf the web. It was my morning ritual. Instead of having coffee, I used my smart phone. I am sure that it will pass as I create new rituals.

My heart is happy with my choice. I feel like a burden has been lifted and I can get back to being me again.

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!

It all Started at 2:30 in the Morning

This will probably be a brief post (yeah, right). I woke up this morning at 2:30. 2:30! This is the second night in a row that I’ve done this. I wake up, thoughts racing, planning my day, figuring out what I need to do in order to get ready for the next school year. It is typical and happens every year around this time. I don’t know why my brain does this. Perhaps it feels the need to torture me more than usual. 2:30 is too early.

In the past, I’ve used this time to replay events of the day before, hyper-analyzing them for things I did “wrong.” Believe me, I perceived so much wrong. Once I’d determined where I had erred as a human being, I experienced those moments of imperfection over and over again in my mind. I couldn’t stop. Every thought fed into my feelings of self-loathing. I would start the next day overwhelmed, defeated, and exhausted.¬†This year is turning out to be different. It is weird. Instead of focusing on the bad, my brain is focusing on the good.

A little bit of back story is necessary. I have a new principal. Change is scary, as you well know. I wrote a post about it a while back. While this principal had a reputation for being fair, I wasn’t sure if I believed it. It has been so long since I had a principal who wasn’t … how do I put it delicately… a jerk-face completely centered on his or her own agenda, forsaking all thoughts about treating teachers like people, individuals who give up so much of their OWN time for the kids. Too harsh? It always felt to me that only certain people would get “props” for what they did. Usually these people did the least amount of work but were really, really loud about the few things they did do. I’m sure it is the same in every business.

This principal doesn’t seem to be like that. For example, I did some training today with my colleagues. My friend, S., and I worked really hard on a plan to not waste any of the faculty’s time and to meet everyone at their individual level of expertise. Our principal saw our plans and approved them. Then we met with the three other members of our “team.” We were outvoted and the training didn’t go the way we had planned it. Enough said about that; I don’t want to¬†disparage¬†anyone. It happens. Here is where it gets interesting. Our principal sent S. and I an email thanking us for our hard work. Thanking us! This is the third time in two weeks that I’ve gotten recognition for the work that I do. It wasn’t a grandiose statement in front of my colleagues (thank goodness). I don’t think that I’ve ever gotten more than one thank you in a whole year!

Back story done, moving on. So, this morning (at 2:30!!) I woke up feeling proud. Proud. Not down on myself. Not frustrated or scared about what the day would bring. I don’t remember feeling that way, so I thought I would list the things that I felt good about. Here goes:

  1. I was able to help many people feel successful with the technology that was the focus of the training. Yes, I had to stay after the training and help them individually, but it was worth it.
  2. I reconnected with people that I hadn’t spoken with all summer.
  3. I was told that I was missed at the differentiation conference this summer. I dropped out of Collaboration Coaching because of many reasons, personal and professional. I figured that nobody would care. I was wrong. A person who I completely respect because she is an amazing teacher (and person) told me that it wasn’t the same without me. The insight that I bring is special. Wow, right? Here I thought I would just fade into oblivion, but I was missed! (I wrote about my feelings of not being missed in this post, if you are interested. Geez, I sure am referring to previous posts a lot! You’d think this was my blog or something.)
  4. I avoided the people who bring me down. You know, the people who complain all of the time and act like they hate their jobs. Quit, then.
  5. One of the teachers I mentored put down that my new teacher mentoring was one of the best things about last year.
  6. One of my colleagues actually requested that her child be placed in my classroom because she felt I would be a good fit. Inorite? Go me!
  7. I stood up in front of ~100 people, said “Excuse me” once and waited. They all stopped talking. For those of you who are not in education, teachers don’t usually do this. Many of them are the worst students.
  8. After they went quiet, I was able to actually talk mostly coherently in front of them. I didn’t get the typical upset tummy or shakes. I didn’t love it, but it didn’t make me want to vomit.
  9. I am respected. People look to me for guidance.
  10. One of our PE teachers actually came in after the training for tutoring (?). He wanted help organizing his website and learn more about his computer. On his own. Because he wanted to. And he asked me. Not anyone else. I impacted him enough that he trusted me to help him with something he was uncomfortable with.
  11. I was told repeatedly that people enjoy when I do training because I make it easier to learn. I “do” things and not just stand up in front of everyone and talk.
  12. I left at 2. This was a proud moment for me because I actually left work. This time of year I usually work so much, never taking time to relax. I relaxed!
  13. My principal noticed and THANKED me for what I do.
  14. I finally finished decorating my house in Whiterun. I wish making money was as easy as it is in Skyrim!

Those are the things that were going through my head this morning. I still hate the waking up at 2:30 part, but I am excited that I was able to look at the good instead of the bad. Even though I am exhausted, I’m excited to see what happens today. It is a nice feeling.

I know that posts are more aesthetically pleasing with pictures included but I’ve not got the energy to find some. I’ve already been up for 2.5 hours, people! Use your imaginations and choose the pictures that you want to put in. =)

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

I think my phone just called me fat

The other day, my little brother and I were having a fascinating conversation during my prep hour. He’s decided to change his major to something that he actually loves instead of something that he is good at but is bored with. I am so proud of him for making this choice. Because my prep hour was about to end, I was texting him to let him know.

My phone does a thing where it tries to predict the word that I will text next. It is very rarely accurate, but sometimes it is helpful. Trust me, this is an integral part of the story. I promise I am not just bragging about having a smart phone that is occasionally psychic.

So I text the sentence “I have to get back to …” My phone suggested my next word be “eating”.

Yeah. That’s correct. Eating.

I don’t think I’ve ever texted the phrase “to eating” in the entire time that I have had this phone. I think my phone was judging me. Seriously. There wasn’t even any food around me. I mean, I know that I could stand to lose some weight, but still. I think I need to trade this phone in for one that is less judgmental.

Philly "Phirsts"

Okay… I know that was a bad joke, but it made me giggle.

My district sent me to the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference in Philadelphia. I was one of the lucky ones that got chosen. I was very excited to go. What I didn’t realize at the time that I was chosen is the fact that this trip would change my perceptions of so many things.

First off, Philadelphia is an awe-inspiring city. I didn’t realize how much history and diversity is packed in the small area where we were. We stayed at the DoubleTree on Broad Street. It is a gorgeous facility with a lobby that is great for people watching and hanging out. The best thing about it is that it was within walking distance of so much. I took advantage of it as much as I could.

Here are some of my firsts in Philadelphia:

I had my first Philly Cheesesteak at Spatoro’s in Reading Terminal Market. Let me tell you, the experience was definitely an interesting one. I waited in line for 45 minutes for the steaky-cheesy-oniony-peppery deliciousnes. Believe me, it was worth the wait. I now have a baseline for what a good Cheesesteak tastes like.

The buildings had murals on them!

I had my first ride in a taxi. It may sound corny, but it was something that I’ve always wanted to do. Luckily, I was with a very city-savvy young lady who made sure I didn’t die (thanks, Tracy).

I walked around a big city by myself. Previously, I wouldn’t be caught dead by myself in a place the size of Philadelphia. Here is the back story: My travel companions didn’t want to go to a gift shop that I wanted to enter. Instead of just passing it by, I told them that they could go ahead without me. It was a phenomenal feeling not having the pure anxiety that I used to have when walking alone. By the end of the trip, I was completely comfortable with being on my own.

Broad Street

I talked to people I didn’t know at all. In fact, I made first contact. Usually I sit back, observing everyone, thinking things in my head that I want to say aloud, and keeping silent. I pushed myself out there and struck up conversations with complete strangers. I decided that this ISTE conference would be one where I focused on my networking skills. It was very enriching. I think I get why people do it now. I am still not 100% comfortable with it, but I’m closer.

I took my alone time when I needed it. I am not good at taking myself out of a situation or a group because I don’t want people to think that I am not social. I’ve come to realize that I need my solitude in order to process. If I don’t get this, I go into a sort of a panic mode. By giving myself permission to go be by myself without feeling guilty, I was able to avoid some of the troubles that I usually have when dealing with large groups. It also helped that the great group of people I am with didn’t take it personally when I didn’t hang out with them.

Overall, the ISTE conference really enriched my life, both personally and professionally. I am so very thankful for the opportunity. I think I am going to have to figure out how I can attend next year’s conference in San Diego!