January 2014 archive

January Resolutions Update

If you recall from a previous post entitled “Welcome 2014,” I made three resolutions for this year. I resolved to publish this blog every week, to read 80 books by the end of the year, and to create a piece of art or a craft project each month. To keep me honest to these resolutions, I’ll be posting my progress each month on this blog. Here we go!

You can tell by my previous posts that I have kept up with posting at least once each week if not more.

For January, I’ve read the following books:

  1. Anderson, Laurie Halse. Prom
  2. Bauby, Jean-Dominique. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  3. Beukes, Lauren. Fairest Vol. 2: Hidden Kingdom*
  4. Brin, David. The Life Eaters*
  5. Gaiman, Neil. The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes*
  6. Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes After*
  7. Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War*
  8. Meyer, Marissa. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles)
  9. Meyer, Marissa. Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles)
  10. Roth, Veronica. Allegiant
  11. Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven Boys
  12. Willingham, Bill. Fables: Snow White  (19)*

*These are graphic novels.

Here are a few pictures of the craft projects I’ve completed for January to go in our guest bedroom that was bare. I started the animal project in December but finished it in January. The other two I started and completed in January.

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Six Tried-And-True Relationship Tips

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about what it takes to have a happy marriage, and while I agree with a lot of what I read, I think it boils down to just six simple things. My husband and I have only been married for a little over three and a half years so we in no way have all of this figured out. There are some big life moments waiting for us in the years to come, I’m sure, and as we’ve done so far, we’ll face them together. Marriage isn’t about “unconditional” love or about “falling” in love. Marriage is a very deliberate love. It is a love that you enter into with your eyes wide open and one that you choose to continue with every day. Because of this choice, the love in a marriage should grow stronger with each year and should be constantly evolving.

As with all advice, these might not all apply to every marriage or relationship. After you’re in a marriage/relationship for a while, you begin to realize what works best for you. These six things are what work best for us. They are the roots for our happy marriage. We have learned from past mistakes and are working toward a happier us.

1. Communicate. This one should be common sense and shouldn’t even need to be stated, but it’s so important that it deserves #1. Also, it’s sometimes the hardest one to do. As two different people from different backgrounds, it can be difficult to communicate with one another and understand what the other one needs. This takes time, effort, and, most importantly, patience. You have to both be willing to talk things through from the really big issues (like religion, politics, education, children) to even the small things (like who cooks and who does the dishes). You both also need to communicate about affection and intimacy with one another. Is PDA (public display of affection) a yea or a nay?  What’s the expectation of sex after marriage? And then after children? (A difficult yet important question especially once you’ve been married for a while.) Communicate openly, frequently, and authentically, and put away those electronic devices while you’re at it.

2. Don’t Expect to Change the One You Love. This goes back to a previous post I made about the importance of loving ALTHOUGH versus loving BECAUSE. If you’re entering a relationship thinking you really like this person and can see it working out if just this one thing would change about him/her, run. Get out while you can. People don’t change. And to be brutally honest, the feelings you’re experiencing for that person aren’t authentic if you’re still thinking you need certain things to change in that person. Real love accepts the person as he/she is. Period. No exceptions.

3. Trust. This isn’t something that has to be earned, but in a lot of cases, it is something that has to be learned. Learned by us. Your significant other should have your trust from the starting line. They don’t have to work for it; they don’t have to earn it. Trust should already be there because there should be no reason why it isn’t there. If one of your exes cheated on you in the past and you have a difficult time trusting now, that’s not on your significant other to heal that wound. It’s certainly something that should be discussed and should be out in the open, but making your new love pay for your old wounds isn’t fair and will cause problems down the line. Until the trust is broken by a REAL situation in your relationship with this new person, there is no reason to mistrust him/her.

4. Don’t Always Agree; Just Always Respect. You’re not always going to agree with your partner even on the big issues. It’s human nature. However, we must always remember to respect our partners. This respect will help tone down arguments and will translate into respect for the beliefs and opinions of our partners. I’ve found in some cases with my husband that we’ll get into a heated discussion, and the only thing left for me to say is that I respect that he has a different viewpoint than me and exit the room. We’ll revisit the topic later when we have time to collect our thoughts and get a hold of our emotions. When we forget the respect for one another, fights can get out of control, name-calling can start, nags can be born, and hearts can be trampled. There’s nothing wrong with not seeing eye to eye, but there’s a big problem when you can’t respect one another.

5. Spend Time Together…And Apart. My husband and I try to carve out time together each weeknight and every weekend. (Keep in mind that we don’t have children yet, and I realize that this will be more difficult if we ever decide to go down that road. However, it’s still a necessity.) We try to at least eat dinner together during the weeknights before we go our separate ways. Each Friday night, we try to have a date night. If Friday is booked with friends, we move our date night around. We know it’s important for us to have time together, and during this time, we focus on each other. We ask each other genuine questions so we know what’s happening with each other. This is our time to have our authentic communication. However, it’s important to note that healthy relationships don’t spend all their time together. My husband likes to have game nights with his friends, and I enjoy going out with my friends. We have at least one, two, and sometimes three nights a week where we are apart from one another. And when we are in the house together, we are not spending every waking minute together. It’s also important to have individual time. Balance is the key.

6. Don’t Bring Others In. Humans are social creatures (for the most part). We like to get other people’s opinions. We like to let other people know what’s going on. However, bringing other people into your relationship issues is a big no-no. Do not broadcast your problems to all your family and friends. It is never a good thing for everyone in your life to know what’s happening behind your closed doors. For one, you can bet a lot of those people are continuing to talk about you and your partner after you’re gone. Secondly, this can create sides amongst your family and friends. They either pick your side or your partner’s side. This may sound like a good thing (especially when they’re all picking your side), but when whatever issue is resolved, those feelings that your family and friends harbored won’t just suddenly dissipate. They’ll still feel animosity toward you or your partner, causing prolonged issues. Lastly, people may start avoiding you because they don’t wish to talk about your relationship AGAIN. When you bring others in, it can get uncomfortable for the others, and these people may start avoiding you.

If you need someone’s opinion, have one—yes, ONE—person you talk to. Sometimes we all need a trusted friend to talk to, but just make sure this trusted friend is someone who won’t put your relationship issues on blast either (or else you’ll have the same issues as listed above). It also may be beneficial to seek couple’s counseling rather than relying on friends. The help of an unbiased specialized outsider can be very beneficial if the relationship is something that both you and your partner have agreed to fight for through counseling.

Throwback Thursday – Word Photos

It’s been a week since my incarceration. No, that can’t be right. It’s been a week since my surgery. It just feels like a prison sentence since I can’t get up from the bed except to gimp my way to the bathroom. Last night was the first night I slept all the way through, and I think the lack of sleep is sapping my creative juices. I’m waiting on them to start their flow once again, waiting for the needle to find the vein. Until then, I thought I would post a “Throwback Thursday” post on a piece I did on Word Photos. As you can guess from the title, when I wrote this piece for a writing class I was attempting to capture a specific moment in my life through words as if I had the snapshot that I was passing around. I chose three significant events that have shaped me into the person I am today. Enjoy!

June 22, 2010

 Word Photos

Red.  Cramps.  Pads.  Pride.  Mama and Grandma taking care of her.  Grandma whispering to Pop what was going on.  Shaving her legs for the first time.  The bouquet of pink roses* and fourteen karat gold hoop earrings from her Sue-Sue, a grandmother who’s now in the frozen Omaha ground.  A shiny gift for becoming a woman.  The first granddaughter to cross this bridge.  Proud little sixth-grade voice telling Daddy who’s somewhere in the Pacific about the news.  Pride from a father with a hint of sadness.  No longer his little girl but always his baby girl.

 ****

SmallTown, GA, that backwards town that values tradition over happiness.  Cold, brisk spring night.  Looking into his eyes to tell him the engagement was off.  Tears streaming down both their faces.  “I want your stuff moved out by tomorrow afternoon,” she whispers.  Hearing his sudden breath inhaled.  This time was for real.  No more harsh words.  No more charges by him for hotel rooms they didn’t share.  No more control.  Would he leave her alone?  No.  She’d have to move away.  Would she have to change her name to really escape?

 ****

Nip in the air but sun shining bright.  Children laughing, playing in the park.  Freshly cut bright green grass.  Heels clicking, black dress swaying.  Hard wooden picnic table welcoming as before.  Hard grains of sand felt through the flimsy dress.  Laughing, joking, as they watch the families and the birds.  He getting up to “stretch,” taking a knee in front of her.  Pulling out a box, asking a question, and putting a shiny diamond on her bare finger.  Tears of joy mixing from both.

*I have just a quick correction to the pink roses since I wrote this piece back in 2010. My father sent the roses, and my grandmother Sue-Sue sent the earrings. I had forgotten that in all my wanderings, so I’m sorry, Dad! I still have all the letters you wrote while you were “somewhere in the Pacific,” though! :-)

Also, I’d like to say a special thanks to my mom and my husband, who also stars in the third word photo, who have been taking such good care of me. You both are awesome!!

Hydrocodone Haze of Mushiness

I woke up the morning of the surgery because I was dreaming one of my butterflies was trying to escape from my stomach through my back. It was just Bella’s ear tickling my back. (Bella is my dog for those who don’t know.) I figure this was a good sign, and it was. I survived the surgery. Woot woot! It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The anesthesiologist gave me a relaxing concoction through an IV, so I was out the entire time or as close to it as I could be. The first thing I remember after the surgery was asking, “Where’s the cheesecake?” The nurses laughed, asking me what cheesecake I talking about. I then replied that we should all go to the factory. One nurse asked me what my favorite cheesecake was since hers is dulce de leche caramel. “The banana cheesecake is my favorite because it’s the healthiest. The bananas and all,” I explained, without missing a beat. There’s no telling if I was talking throughout the surgery, and if so, what I said. Oh boy!

ImageI’m so thankful that the surgery went well, but this experience has brought thankfulness to a whole new level. And this new level is for my family and friends. My husband has been my rock through this whole ordeal so far. He has even helped me in the restroom (I know, too much information), but for those out there that have loved ones that have done this or have friends that have ever held your hair back as you puked your guts out while having a severe migraine and then rushed you to the ER (ahem), you know this level of thankfulness. They can see you in your absolute most private, most base moments and still kiss your forehead or cheek, holding your hand afterwards, wiping your tears, telling you that you have nothing to apologize for because it wasn’t your fault. Everyone needs help, and they were there to offer it. No questions asked. No bargains made. Just there for you.

I have a mother that has taken off a week from work and is willing to be apart from her husband after celebrating her two-year anniversary only days ago to come take care of me when my husband goes back to work. She’s armed with movies and English meat pies to share, and she’s even ready to wash what-will-then-be my very dirty hair. I have a father who was willing to take off work and travel from Arkansas to Georgia to take care of me as well. My mother-in-law also offered to come all the way from Michigan to help me out during this time of need. Not everyone is blessed with in-laws like that, but I am. Knowing that these parents were willing to drop what they were doing to help me out made me stronger than they know.

I also have friends that invited us over for a chili dinner right before the surgery and then sent the leftovers home with us (enough for at least a meal for three). I have friends that are also offering to cook and/or come over to visit to break up the monotony of my seclusion (and probably to visit with Hans and Bella, too!). I have family and friends that have reminded me that they’re only a phone call away and are available whenever Hans or I may need them. I have a grandmother who has called multiple times to see how I am doing even though she can barely hear to talk on the phone. She’s worried, and even though my mother gives her daily updates as well, she needs to hear my voice.

It’s easy to take people for granted in the easy times, but during this time, I see how truly blessed I am by the people around me. The encouraging posts, silly comments, and likes on Facebook have not gone unnoticed and are much appreciated. The Google chats, calls and texts are brightening my day. All of these things are taking my mind off the pain and focused on the love I feel from this network of people I’m blessed to have in my life. I can keep telling myself that this too shall pass, and if I can handle horrendous migraines that require ambulance rides to emergency rooms, I can handle this. Go team healed heel!

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Heal the Heel and My Hubris While You’re At It

I’m scared. I’m afraid. I’m terrified. I am having surgery on Thursday. It’s not major surgery. The anesthesiologist isn’t even putting me under, just numbing my leg from the knee down. It doesn’t matter, though; I’m still nervous as hell. My stomach has become an atrium full of butterflies. My once restful nights are now full of twisted bed sheets and fitful nightmares. I am a mess.

Let me back up for a moment to tell you why I’m having surgery. About seven months ago, I started having trouble walking on my right foot. I thought this was because of my new exercise routine, but when I continued to have trouble with it, I decided to go to a podiatrist. I figured there’s a reason why we have the cliché, “Better safe than sorry.” After a x-ray and sonogram, the podiatrist found that I had a huge heel spur and a horrendous case of plantar fasciitis. He decided to treat these by giving me an injection into my heel on three different occasions. This would work for about a week or two, but the pain would come back like an annoying coworker, always knowing where my cubicle was and deciding to stay and visit even though it was unwelcome. I did ice rolls and stretches. I’ve worn night braces and day braces. Nothing helped.

Eventually I had a MRI on my foot, and the podiatrist found that I had scar tissue all around my tendon. Although my scar tissue will become pliant when I initially get up and as I walk 30 steps (though I have pain through this process), it will begin to harden in the near future and not allow me to walk at all. The only option at that point is surgery. I decided it was better to get the surgery over with before it got to that point. I’ve been living with the pain for too long.

The surgery—the plantar fasciotomy—is just an hour long, in which the podiatrist will go in through a small incision, cut out the scar tissue, and snip some of the tendon and/or muscle (if I understand the procedure correctly). The idea of cutting me open in any capacity is daunting enough, but I’ll be in a cast for four weeks and will have to start stretching exercises the day after surgery (ouch!). I will not be able to put any pressure on my right foot during this time, will not be able to drive, and will be basically confined to the house. I’ve been practicing on my crutches for the past two days, and it’s a lot more difficult than it looks. I’ve almost fallen countless times, and I’ve found that I have the upper body strength of a ten-year-old. How am I going to dress myself? How am I going to make meals for myself? How am I even going to manage in the bathroom for at least the first few days? I’ll have to depend on others for quite a lot of things.

At this point, I believe I’m more terrified of the recovery period. I don’t do well relying on others. I’ve always been independent. I’ve always been the hostess. Maybe more importantly, and more difficult to say, I like being in control and don’t trust others to do things to my standards. I’m proud of the way I do things and the standards to which I hold myself,  including my hygiene and my household. Relinquishing my reins of control, even to the man I love most, will be a challenge. Relying on another, even if it’s the woman who gave me life, will be difficult. Admitting I need help will be something new. Perhaps through this experience not only my foot will heal, but I will also learn to give up some of my control. I can shed some of my hubris and replace it with humility. I will learn that trust is a two-way street in ALL things, not just the things I choose. And I will be thankful that this is a surgery on my foot and nothing life-threatening.

Flashback Friday – My Grandmother Sue-Sue

I missed Throwback Thursday yesterday, so I’ll settle for Flashback Friday today. I wrote a poem back in 2010 for my paternal grandmother who I lovingly called Sue-Sue and who died when I was in high school (keeping in mind I graduated from high school in 2003). She was one of the people who encouraged my reading and my writing. From the time I could start reading, she would take me to the library. She lived in Nebraska, and we always lived states away, so this was a big deal. Whenever we’d visit—which was usually just once a year—I’d get at least two trips to the library. Just Sue-Sue and me. She delighted in seeing me read and hearing all about the books I was reading. I’m sure I wore out her ears talking about them, but she never let on that I was boring her. I got in the habit of telling her about my reading list every time we’d talk on the phone each week.

Sue-Sue was also one of the main people that encouraged my writing. She explained that good writers become great because they know their craft, and they do this by being voracious readers. I already had the “voracious reader” part down; now I just needed to start writing, so I did. Every time I would write a poem or short story worth sharing, I’d call her in Nebraska to share it. She would love it of course being the supportive grandmother that she was, but more importantly, she would ask questions like, “Where did you get the idea for that? What more could you do with that? What are you working on now? How long did you work on editing it?” All these questions shaped my mind into the mind of a writer’s and more importantly, into the mind I have today.

One of the memories that stands out in mind (among many) of Sue-Sue was when I was in sixth-grade. My father was overseas on a special assignment for a year with the Army, and we lived with my maternal grandparents. I started my period at the beginning of the school year. I was a little embarrassed by it because everyone knew about it in the household. How could they not? However, they were very nice about keeping it quiet. Within two days, I received a package in the mail and a delivery of a dozen pink roses. My father sent the roses, explaining that every woman should be celebrated as his mother had taught him. Way to go Sue-Sue! In the package, Sue-Sue had sent me 14-carat gold hoop earrings to celebrate my womanhood. She wanted me to be proud of who I was becoming and to cherish being a woman. It would only get better from here.

Thank you, Sue-Sue, for helping me to see how wonderful the gift of womanhood truly is and for helping instill the writer’s heart and reader’s mind in me.

Metaphor Piece
July 15, 2010

When Sue-Sue was here, she was like a hot mug of chocolate filled with too many marshmallows,
Like cold peppermint ice cream paired with hot apple cake,
Like the clanging popping buzzing beeping of a good game of pinball,
And Ms. Pac-Man’s greedy little mouth gobbling up the yellow dots and depriving the ghosts.
She was the rush of a sled slicing through the thick, cold air,
Like waking up on Christmas to a snowy day, beckoning to go play after ripping open your presents,
Like patiently perusing the library shelves for hours,
And hummingbirds flitting anxiously to gouge themselves on sugary water.

Now that she’s gone, it’s like dead flowers callously decorating freshly plowed soil under new marble,
Like a snowman without buttons or a top hat,
Like warm memories under six feet of frozen dirt,
And a single pianist in an empty music hall.

The Transparent Blindfold

What is faith? Merriam-Webster defines faith as a “strong belief or trust in someone or something.” By this definition, we put our faith in various things and people every day, even hourly. I have faith that I’ll have hot water to shower, that the coffee maker will turn on, that the refrigerator will keep my cream for my coffee chilled, that my car will start, that my husband will make it to and from work safely based on a number of factors, that my health will sustain, that we’ll always have food on the table.

Yet I personally also pray to God for some of these things, too. Even though I have faith in the people and the things to work as they should, I know that life is full of expected twists and turns. The way I get through the expected is through my faith in God. Merriam-Webster defines this faith as a “belief in the existence of God; strong religious feelings or beliefs.” (Side note: If you don’t believe in God or are still wrestling with the idea of a God, stay with me through this post. I’m not arguing for His existence or trying to convert my readers. I have a different agenda in mind. Just keep reading until the end; you’ve lasted this long.) While I agree with this definition as a basis of what faith is, it is so much more when it comes to my belief system.

My husband and I have a different marriage than many of my friends. We have opposite belief systems as far as God is concerned. I belief in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—while my husband is an atheist, meaning he does not believe in the existence of gods. He is focused on the progression of science and cannot logically make sense of my belief system. However, he has never disrespected my beliefs, and I have never disrespected his. We have always talked openly about our beliefs, and we have known about these differences since our first official date. My husband even attends church with me when I ask him to, and we have agreed on a specific way to raise our future children (if we ever have any) that takes into account our belief systems.

Many people do not understand how this type of marriage could work. In fact, when we were first talking about marriage, some of the church officials at my old church said there was no hope in a marriage like this, turning their backs on me. I even feel as if I lost some friends over this when I had to leave that church. I struggled during this time, wondering why God had brought such an amazing man in my life if so many people were telling me this was a bad idea. But even with all this turmoil, I still felt that God was telling me that he had provided me a man to marry, and I decided I would marry this man.

I’m so glad I did marry him, and he agreed to marry me because my marriage has made my faith stronger. My husband asks me questions about my beliefs, some of which I don’t always have an answer for, and because of these questions, I’ve grown as a believer in Christ. He has made me question my faith, question my very belief in my Savior. Yet every time I question, I return back to my God a stronger believe than before. This is because faith is meant to be questioned again and again. How do you know your faith is authentic if you haven’t questioned it, if you haven’t scrutinized it under that microscope of doubt? Ignorance is not bliss as a Christian. It makes us weak as a community of believers. This is what my experience with my atheist husband is teaching me.

To Teach or Not To Teach

I recently read an article on the Washington Post website that a teacher friend of mine posted on Facebook. It made me ill, it brought tears to my eyes, it brought bad memories of a past experience, but mostly, it had me scared for my future children. Although a longer piece, I encourage you to read the article because it captures what teachers go through day in and day out, at least the teachers that give a damn. As you know from my About page, I am a substitute teacher and I have my Masters in English Education. I love subbing because I avoid most of the horrible issues brought up in this article, but I hear about them every single day I’m in the school. And I’ve experienced them firsthand.

To sum up, the article makes a few major points.

1) Teachers are told that no student is allowed to fail regardless of whether students hand in work or not. Failure is not an option, so students are just given grades at this point through no fault of the teacher.

2) Teachers are overworked. You think they’re lucky getting all that unpaid time off? Think again. Teachers put in around 80 hours a week but don’t get compensated for this extra time. Those planning periods they have don’t actually go to planning lessons. They exist for meetings, PLUs, conferences, etc.

3) Teachers get blamed by parents when their children are not making the grades the parents expect. If Johnny doesn’t turn in an assignment, it’s the teacher’s fault. Not Johnny’s fault. However, Johnny still gets a grade for the missing assignment. See #1.

4) Instead of teaching meaningful things that harken to learning about humanity, such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, Twain, Poe, and Dickens, teachers are now expected to teach meaningless things geared solely to passing tests and gauging shallow objectives.

Again, I encourage you to read the article.

ImageAll of these things rang true in my short two-year teaching experience. I even gave up a teaching position, went back to being a teller in bank for a while, and then came back to substitute teaching because of a few of these issues. In a previous position a few years ago, my classes were taken away in March, I was given new students who had not completed a single assignment all year long, and I was told to help them pass by May. If these students so much as completed one activity and passed the End of Course Test (EOCT) in Ninth-Grade Literature and Composition, then they passed for both the Fall and Spring Semester. That’s all they had to do to pass. All that other work the other students completed, they didn’t have to do. All that curriculum planning I meticulously worked on throughout the year didn’t apply to these students. It was like winning the lottery for the lazy and unmotivated. I couldn’t have my name associated with that so I quit. I was also having stress-related health issues and was working 60- to 80-hour work weeks without being compensated beyond my 40 hours.

Reading this Washington Post article brought up the memory of all this, but again, this wasn’t the worst part of reading the article. It was the thought of my future kids. If the students who really deserve F’s are given C’s (because D’s don’t actually exist in most schools anymore at least around where I live), then what does that do to the students who actually deserve C’s? Do those students who deserve a C then automatically get a B, and those students who deserve a B then get an A? And worse still, those students who should get an A, are then told they’re perfect? Giving students false grades is skewing the bell curve for all the students. This doesn’t just hurt the lazy students who aren’t handing anything in; this isn’t just teaching hard work doesn’t matter, which is bad enough as it is. It is also giving false hope to those students who are receiving high grades who might not actually be earning quite as high of a grade as they should get. If you’re giving students who deserve to fail a passing grade, then you’re bumping all the other grades up as well. However, this may be hurting the other students rather than helping them. If they’ve been told all through grade school that their work is A-level work based on this skewed grading system, they’re in for a rude awakening in college when their professors tell them their work is B, maybe C, work. This “new” system is not adequately preparing any student for the great beyond from high school.

Furthermore, this system shits on hard work. Sorry for the language, but like the language, it is deplorable. Studies have been shown that it’s important to tell your children, especially your girls, that when they do something well, instead of “you’re so smart,” you say “you’re such a hard worker.” This encourages them to work hard on everything they do rather than giving up if something is difficult, thinking they’re just not smart enough. However, if they constantly see in their schools that regardless of hard work, they can still pass the course, what kind of a message does that send? Teachers should be teaching hard work along with their subject area, but their hands are now tied. Parents should be teaching hard work, but they now blame the teachers if hard work is not done, in fact if no work is done.

Where does it end? And how do I teach my future children to be hard-working, self-sufficient people in this educational environment gone mad?

There is no easy solution for fixing the educational nightmare we face in our country. The documentaries, such as Waiting for Superman, try to pinpoint what should be done, but no method can fix every little issue. Furthermore, it looks as if more and more teachers are leaving the profession for others either on their own accord or because they are forced to due to budget cuts or the like. The educational world is losing good teachers because the headaches and heartbreaks that come with teaching just aren’t worth the return. For those thinking about getting into teaching, think long and hard about this professional field. It is not for the weak of heart. I have seen many great teachers have to leave because they just couldn’t take it. However, I also know quite a few awesome teachers still shaping young minds and trying to work within the system. For those teachers who still teach, I applaud you.

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Welcome 2014

Celebrating the new year is always a big deal in our society. We usher in the new year with open arms while reflecting on the past year with nostalgia and glassy-eyed reminiscence. We feel this year is the year we’ll finally do it, whatever “it” may be, and write out our resolutions. But what is it that makes the new year so welcoming for all of us? One word — HOPE. It’s a blank canvas upon which we can paint our hopes. It’s the lined journal beckoning for words with which to fill its barren pages. It’s an untarnished future upon which we can right the wrongs of our past and become the superstars of our present. All of this is achieved by that bird who has broken out of her cage called Hope. She may not have made it out last year, but she’ll make it this year.

I was researching resolutions for the new year and came across the following list from USA.gov:

  • Lose weight
  • Volunteer to help others
  • Quit smoking
  • Get a better education
  • Get a better job
  • Save money
  • Get fit
  • Eat healthy food
  • Manage stress
  • Manage debt
  • Take a trip
  • Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
  • Drink less alcohol

While I can see why these are amongst the most popular resolutions, I feel as if a lot of these should be things we should be doing throughout the year. Perhaps instead of resolutions, we should title these “reminders.” Remember to manage your stress and your debt. Remember to recycle. Remember to volunteer and to save money. Remember to eat healthy and to go to the gym. These popular resolutions also seem quite vague. In order for a resolution (or any goal for that matter) to be attainable, it needs to be measurable, timely, and achievable. We already have the timely piece of this worked out when we set our resolutions; we wish to attain these within one year at the latest. However, do we take into account measurable, practical, and achievable?

Your resolution must be able to be measured. For example, you may wish to lose weight. That’s all well and good, but there’s no point to making this resolution if you don’t make it measurable because there’s no way of telling whether you’ve achieved your desired outcome. Change your resolution from “lose weight” to “lose 25 pounds.” As far as achievable, it isn’t always a good thing to shoot for the stars. You have to shoot for a goal you know that’s within your grasp.  Going back to the weight-loss example, if you set the goal of “lose 150 pounds” and you only weigh 250 pounds, this is most likely NOT an achievable (and rather unhealthy) resolution. Change it to something you know you attain. Once you achieve your resolution, you can always make a new one if you want to push yourself farther or just be happy in what you have achieved. Yippee!

After all that writing and throughout the week, I’ve been pondering on my own hopes for this year and my own resolutions. In 2013, I read 79 books, 16 of which were graphic novels, that I can remember. Therefore in 2014, I resolve to read 80 books. I already have a list started of books I wish to read. My husband has resolved to not buy any more video games and work his way through his backlogged collection. I thought of doing this with my book collection and then thought of the “achievable” aspect of resolutions, realizing this was not possible for me. My second resolution in 2014 is to blog at least once every week. This will keep me honest about writing, and as I consume the reading around me, I will also produce a little something of my own. My third and final resolution of 2014 is to make a new art project every month. I sometimes neglect this part of my creative side, but I find this artistic avenue cathartic in ways that writing cannot be. Although I wasn’t able to produce as much art and/or crafts in 2013, I want to have at least one new piece per month by the end of 2014. I wish for 2014 to be a year of balance between my consumption and my production. That is my hope for 2014. What’s yours?