Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Times like these...

...make me feel like all the experiences, goals and accomplishments, hopes, dreams and disappointments could be reduced to a single thing.  A never-ending to do list.  The list is daunting and it sometimes feels like the tasks will never be crossed off completely.   Super annoying. 

I am not the busiest person I know by a long-shot.  But I manage to fill my days more than most.  It's a real drag at times, but I suppose that's the thing about doing what you love and loving what you do.  Like any good relationship, it requires so much more that you think it will; so much more than you think you have.   

This time of year always puts me into a slight frenzy.  The school year has amped up enough that I find myself never really getting everything done, yet the ideas always flow so much faster.  A blessing and a curse.  I work with a group of truly astonishing women - we are all so different from one another, but we gel.  Effortlessly.  It is an incredibly collaborative experience and I'm so grateful to have such a great support group to spend my never-ending days with.  That said - even with my right hand girls - there are just a few too many things on the docket for my taste.    

The satisfaction of a job well done is soooo sweet.  But let's get real.  Sometimes the job done is sweet enough.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A State of the Union-Type Discussion

Lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking about balance.  Somehow finding the bridge between my internal workings and the external actions.  And I'm not sure I'm doing a very good job.  

You see, I consider myself to be quite the introvert.  It is only from years and years of forced practice that I've become the loud mouthed girl I am today.  Which is a shame, really.  Deep down, I relish the quiet.  I feel I am, at my core, a very quiet person.  I do.  My weekends and evenings are steeped in silence and calm that I relish. For all the song and dance I put on every day in my classroom, I sometimes feel like I'm watching someone else.  I feel very good about what I do and I'm proud of who I am as a teacher, but I still feel like something is missing... something's forced.  

And here's the strange thing... I find myself holding back every single day.  There is so much I want to do, but somehow haven't mustered the strength to do.  But every day, I go running my mouth again and again and again.  And it's not nearly the satisfying experience I imagine it to be. Rinse and repeat.  

There's no reason I can't find more of myself in my day to day life.  And damnit, isn't it about time? 

So... the plan: 

1.  Write more.  Write often.  Anywhere and everywhere.  
There may not be many moments of genius.  The subject matter may be mundane at times.  But when I write, I feel like I'm speaking the truth for myself.  If only for that moment.  So let's do more of that, shall we? 

2.  Listen more, think more, create more... but above all... shut. the. hell. up.  
I gave up acting because the spotlight made me uncomfortable.  I've never regretted that decision. But somehow, I've found myself somehow bound and determined to seek the lead roles in my life anyway.  It's time to step back into the chorus line.  

3.  Stop second guessing myself. 
There are quite a few things that I've really wanted to do for a long while, but have always found an excuse to say no.  So maybe now is the time to really look into finding that tattoo design and a great artist.  Now is the time to get up, get going and get healthy- for real.  Now is the time to make bold choices and bold moves - not because they're popular, easy or necessarily smooth transitions, but because they're right for me.   Now and in the long run.  

Ready, steady, go, eh?  

Dirty Little Secrets

At the risk of appearing a most old-fashioned biddy, I have something very private to admit.  

{photo source}

I love doing laundry.  It is by far my most favorite household chore.  It's been that way for years and years.  

Most of my friends roll their eyes and have an intense deep sigh moment over the need to participate in wash day.  I mean, they really, really hate it.   And I'm completely fascinated by that.  What's not to love?  This isn't toilet scrubbing, kiddos.  I can think of so many ways to spend my time that is less satisfying than doing laundry.  

But then again, I can be a bit of an odd bird sometimes.  

I remember being a very little kid and spending tons of time with my grandparents on their farm.  My grandma was a farm-wife in the truest form: she baked her own bread, made amazing meals full of food from the farm (meat, veg, berries and fruit, you name it), sewed up a storm, hung the wash on the line, and hosted a Sunday meal that could rival most Christmas dinner's I've had.  I loved helping her hang the sheets on the rusted metal clothesline just beyond the backdoor of the farm house.  The sheets and towels were always super stiff (I don't think Grandma has ever been much of a believer in fabric softener) and snapped in the breeze.  It was the perfect soundtrack for a summer day.    

At home, my mom has always been quirky with the laundry... not a big advocate of ironing, and definitely not a fan of dryer shrinkage, she made it a habit of taking out all clothing that could be hung dry after a mere 7 minutes in the dryer.  Instilling this technique into my dad and I  was not really a request from our loving mother/wife - more of a command.  Was it annoying at times?  Absolutely.  You could almost guarantee that pesky seven minute mark would hit at the most engrossing point of anything you were doing.  But it worked.  And as I went away to college and took responsibility for my own laundry full time, that seven minute mark stuck.  I saved big bucks (er.. quarters) out of my laundry budget in the dorms and in my sorority house.  I inherited the quirky laundress label.  It is one of the few quirks of my mother's that I have actively embraced as a grown person.  

In college, whilst living in the house I fondly (well... maybe not so fondly) called "the hut", I spent a lot of time out of the house.  That's a bit of an understatement.  I lived at my sorority house, only returning to "the hut" for sleep, shower, and computer-related tasks - and never before 10pm.  I pulled many all-nighters that year.  Many, many.  And laundry was my salvation.  During a paper writing session in the middle of the night, I would do my laundry. It was the only time I took a break and I learned to cherish those moments... in a house that was old, perpetually drafty, smelly and stale, that time was mine.  And it smelled good.  I associated laundry with a break.  Relaxing.  Reclaiming my brain in the midst of an academia-induced fog.  

A few years later, when I moved to Ukraine, the act of doing laundry became more of an adventure.  And by adventure, I mean a three+ day hand-washing process that more often than not included rubbing the skin off the top of my fingers, hanging it on the balcony in freezing temperatures only to return it to the apartment to thaw and dry on the radiators in shifts, and at least 2 hours of ironing.  For those playing along, that's a per-load synopsis.  You would think I would have hated it.  You'd think.  But I didn't.  Don't get me wrong, it was a hell of a lot of work.  Hard work.  I would work up a full-body sweat and my arms and fingers would burn and sting in a way that I've not felt before or since. But it was satisfying as all hell.  What started as a disgusting mop of dirt and funk became well-organized and good smelling.  I loved the ironing most of all.  After the laundry had hung on the line (~ a day in the summer time, at least 3 days in the winter), I would bring it in, dump it on the couch in a stiff, wrinkly mess, and pop in a movie (Trainspotting more often than not).  In those two hours, the mess became usable again.  And THAT was very satisfying.  

Now that I'm back to using machines and dryers and fabric softener again, I don't do so much ironing anymore.  My washer has a hand-wash cycle, which deep down, I do feel is cheating... but who am I to judge.  I still hang my clothes to dry, and cannot wait to have a space of my own where my dream of an outdoor clothesline can come to be.  And I still get a huge sense of accomplishment as the weekly pile of mess slowly turns into a usable, good smelling, well-organized thing again.  I love the way clean laundry makes my whole space smell new again. With last week washed away, anything is possible.   

It's a fresh start every week.  How can anyone hate that?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend Mix Tape

Because nothing beats a relaxing weekend with some great tunes... 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Productive Day Squashed

I had big dreams for the past two days.  I really did.  To do lists filled with meaningful yet manageable tasks, a detailed plan for cheer practice (it was genius, I swear), thoughtful meal plans and a successful diving off point to begin crafting the aprox. 18 zillion short essays on every job application lurking on the interwebs.  

But then.  The cold cometh.   And faster than I could drive to school and stock the classroom mini-fridge (high school graduation presents live!), I felt it.  That achy, yuckiness that, accompanied with sniffles and pressures in a few too many varieties, left me a whiney void by mid-day.  As much as I try oh-so-hard to keep my day to day angst from coming out against anyone else, I am a whiney three year old with a head cold.  So I carried my weak-willed achy rear end to bed and have stayed there for the last day and a quarter.  

So much for big plans.  Ah well.  I've eaten ridiculous amounts of chicken noodle soup, drank obscene amounts of tea, rifled through the archives of one of my favorite blogs, gave myself a mani-pedi, watched some long ignored Netflix, and stocked up on kitten cuddles.  

Ready to start anew tomorrow, I suppose.  May the twelve year olds be kind (read: quiet. Please, please let them be quiet) and the medication be long lasting.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Possibility and Perspective (Happy late Valentine's Day!)

Valentine's Day is a tough holiday for lots of us single folk.  Not necessarily because we're lonely or embittered or even jealous for those who are sharing with others on this romantic day of days.... but because there's just so much more out there that might be worth talking about than chocolate, flowers, expensive restaurant reservations and, dear Lord, lingerie.  Yeesh.

As a single girl in her thirties, of course I'm not immune to the pressures of the woulda-shoulda-coulda's the big V-day has to offer.  But I'm trying to focus on the here and now - the things that I have, instead of that which I have not yet attained.  It sounds lofty, that.  It's actually really hard.  And I'm not always super good at it.  It's really easy to say, ok world, I'm thankful for what you've offered up and I look forward to seeing what's next... but really loving it in the moment can be a different story.
At the end of the day, Valentine's Day, like most days, isn't really about being lovey-dovey or having that certain romantic someone in your life.  It's about finding like-minded people.  Sharing ideas.  Being inspired, as well as inspiring others.

I had a bigger, more drawn out plan for this post... (not to mention the grand intention of actually posting on Valentine's Day)  But I stumbled upon a beautiful post from fellow blogger, Kyla Roma, who I think may have just trapped my inner thoughts and feelings and slapped it out there into the world.  She's savvy, spunky, stylish and all kinds of other fun 's' adjectives.  So in lieu of my own muddlings, I highly recommend checking out Ms. Kyla's here.  She is my winter inspiration these days.  Hands Down.
{photo source}

To inspration, creativity, kindness.  And above all... love. 

Weekend Adventures: Baltimore

This past week was super busy - loads of school work, tutoring and baking, cheer parties, grading, planning and some slight angst toward the man.  (come Friday, I was definitely having a  Damn the Man, Save the Empire! moment). You know, a normal week.

But weekends are here for shaking it up, so this weekend I made the trek to Baltimore to meet the padres for a couple days of amazing food, drinks, about 8 trips to the world's coolest Barnes & Noble, lots of history, walking, museums, great views, dueling pianos, and chilly breezes off the Inner Harbor.  Fantastico.

Oh the wit...

Because if you can't poke fun at scary world leaders, what kind of world are we living in?   

Touché, TIME Magazine.  Touché. 

Book Lust - Thirteen Reasons Why

{photo source}

Suicide is a mysterious thing.  On one hand, it is an end, an outlet for people who believe there is no alternative.  And yet... for those left behind, there are so many questions left unanswered.  Jay Asher's debut novel, Thirteen Reasons Why sets it's eyes at answering these questions.  Before following through on her plan to end her life, teenager Hannah Baker documents and shares the thirteen events/reasons that inspired her to make her final decision.  Sent directly to those who affected her most, Hannah puts blame and credit where they are due.  Rife with the potential to sentimentalize and glorify, Asher instead maintains a distance in his writing.  Neither condemning nor excusing the act, this narrative brings into question our own choices in how we relate and react to others.  

No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same... You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.” 

Told in a dual narrative style, Thirteen Reasons Why not only poses an explanation for one of humanity's most inexplicably unsatisfying actions, it allows room for opportunity and hope for the future.  Those who receive Hannah's tapes will be forever changed; their secrets have been outed, the truth has been released.  Yet each person on the list is offered a chance that Hannah does not have the strength or the wherewithal to create for herself.  It is an opportunity to start over.  To make a change for the better.  

Need to talk?  
1-800-SUICIDE -

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Homemade Valentines

Despite years of playing the role of the disgruntled single girl on Valentine's Day, I secretly love it.  What better way to show the people you love them than with something handcrafted?    

Inspired by a great valentine's treat idea found on Craftgawker, I decided to send my love this year in it's own special little envelope.  Despite looking a little rough and tumble and clearly lacking the appropriate lighting to fully capture their cuteness on film, I'm quite proud of them.  Little bundles of love.  

The Inspiration:

Here's what I did ...  

The tools:  
*  a medium to large cutting mat (mine is actually way to small, but it did the job)
*  scissors (or a rotary cutter, recommended if you're making large quantities)
*  pencil for pattern tracing
*  traceable pattern in the size you like (I used a quilter's block I had on hand).
*  confetti punch  (mine is from Martha Stewart Crafts and can be found here.) 
*  colorful scrapbook paper (I used three different shades of pink and reds - but definitely do NOT recommend using glittery card stock unless you're willing to have achy hands for a few days.)
*  velum or translucent scrapbook paper 
*  textured heart stickers
*  silver paint pen 

The process:  
1.  Use your confetti punch to create a wealth of heart shaped confetti to stuff your envelopes.  This step takes a little while, but is very fun.  The kitten was very impressed when I had to battle my craft punch to release the glittery card stock I chose;  the little hearts went flying all over creation!  

2.  Using a ruler, pattern, or quilter's block, cut your velum to the size you like.  I wanted a smaller envelope, so I cut mine to 3" x 4".  I highly recommend using a cutting mat and a rotary cutter - makes the process soooo much quicker. 

3.  Stitch together two pieces of velum on three sides to create a pocket for your confetti.  I used a 1/4" seam allowance and carried the stitches all the way across the velum, tying each seam at the back, for a home-spun feel.  

4.  Once the pocket is created, place a small pinch of confetti inside the envelope and stitch the fourth seam to secure in place.  

5.  Decorate the outside of your envelope as you like.  I used simple textured stickers...  

... and a silver paint pen to add my message.  Because the velum is so translucent, the signature and personal message is hidden behind the heart sticker at the back.  

Here's to making your Valentine's Day something special!  

Not Yet. (pretty please...)

One of my all-time favorite things to do is so simple.  Sometimes all it takes to make me a happy camper is a quick trip to the bookstore.  I'll browse, grab a cup of coffee, and always end up feeling a little bit better about the world.  

But of late, that feeling is changing.  I went to my neighborhood Barnes and Noble tonight seeking a little rest, relaxation, and inspiration.  But I can't deny I didn't feel overly rested or relaxed.  

I just can't shake this feeling that the bookstore is dying.  Every time I walk into a Barnes & Noble, there are fewer and fewer books - more games, more random accessories, more electronic doo-dads.  And hands down, the worst of it all, more empty space.  It puts a pit into my stomach.  

I realize the naivete that went into my thought process when Borders went under.  I actually thought something along the lines of "oh good, Barnes & Noble should get a boost."  And sure, they probably got a few new customers as a result of the closeout of my former employer.  I suppose I was hoping the death of a huge conglomeration of booksellers was an anomaly.  

I'm having a difficult time coming to terms with the truth.  

I'm just not convinced everything is better in electronic form.  I am actively against eReaders of all kinds.  I realize that that statement may well make me as antiquated as the very thing I'm trying not to let go of, but I can't help it.  Some things are just better in real life.  Music and dating come to mind... but books are right in there.  I am absolutely unconvinced that the digitalization of the world is a positive thing.  

In my classroom, I am a paper and pencil kind of girl.  I dislike power point presentations and fail to see the need for a Smart Board.  Give me chalk and a chalkboard, a dose of creativity -  we. are. good. to. go.  In the rest of my life, I cook from scratch as much as I can.  I make handmade cards.  I write letters - by hand.  All of which play directly into my preference for real books.    

They're personal.  They're tactile.  They incorporate all of the senses.  And perhaps most of all, they create and help to sustain human interaction.  Shopping at a bookstore, just as perusing through a record store was before the ipod,  is a social experience.  There's a possibility for give and take and sharing with others that a digital experience simply cannot duplicate.  

While I cannot deny the digital age has made my life more convenient, and certainly more travel friendly,  I'm just not ready to give up the real thing.  Not yet. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Words to live by.

Lessons Learned

The past few days have been overwhelming.  I've lacked inspiration on nearly all levels.   On the plus, I've managed to learn a few things!  And isn't that inspiring in itself?  

1.  It is possible to resist the doughnut.    
Sad, but true - one of the few things I have no self control over is a delishous, circular baked good.  But in an effort to get back on the healthier side of life, I embarked on a smarter meal plan this week.  Less sugar. Less junk.  Less bread (for now).  So when my friend Emily came to my classroom munching on a tasty doughnut treat, I was slightly worried I would cave.   But I am proud to say, not only did I not cave, I didn't miss it at all.  Eat that.  

2.  Sometimes saying no is a big YES.  
My cheerleaders work really hard.  And I'm so proud of that.  It's a beast that I created with the help of my co-coach and there are a lot of rewards for it.  Case in point:  my principal announced at a meeting today that I, yes, this girl... "Liz and her cheerleaders have completely turned around the climate of this school."  I wish I was joking.  Awesome though that is, it also can be very, VERY uncomfortable.  There's a lot of pressure that comes along with that level of compliment.  And the pressure I put on myself and my team can be more than helpful sometimes.  This week, we had to pull out of one of our favorite competitions - one that we've been working for and towards for a couple months.  Even though I knew it was the right decision,  it was really tough.  But in the end, pulling out of this competition was perhaps the best decision of the year.  We actually have time to mend, heal and re-re-adjust.  Yes to this.  My shoulders have also relaxed for the first time in months, which is a lovely perk.   

3.  You never know how you appear to others.  
I am my own worst enemy sometimes.  I want so many things and want so badly to be better than I am at so many more... But at the end of the day, maybe things just aren't as bad as they seem.  Turns out (this week, anyway), I'm coming across as a very organized person.  Who knew?  I feel I come across as a giant mess, but I suppose I'm wrong.  Today, anyway.  

4.  Karma comes in many forms.  
To a certain degree, I do believe in karma - the idea that what goes around, comes around.  And as a result, I've spent more time than is altogether necessary trying to find that balance in my life.  A self-imposed checks and balances system, if you will.  When I was in Ukraine, I spent a ton of time alone.  That kind of intense solitude forces you to deal with your shit.  There's no option, there's no distraction.  It can make or break you.  But back in real life, most of us don't have the time or inclination to do that kind of heavy self-work.  Until my mood hit a strange and new low, I hadn't either - not for years.  But this week I took that time.  And as much as the process kind of sucks, I feel like I found the explanation I was looking for.  For the first time in a long time, I feel ready for whatever life has for me.  Which is a pretty big deal, actually.  

5.  Sometimes DIY projects are more work than they're worth.  
I love a craft and have always kind of wanted to be that girl... you know who she is.  She's new fangled, independent, intelligent, and stylish, but also has a heavy dose of 50s homemaker in her - the girl who cooks, cleans, can whip up a dinosaur costume for the school play, a casserole for the church pot luck, and a few dozen cookies for a school bake sale in nothing flat.  I have big dreams and big to do lists, but it doesn't always work out so amazingly.  I'm quite proud of my homemade valentines this year, and I know, know, know, that my hand-stitched baby quilt will turn out crazy good.  But it takes so much longer than I ever plan for.  Since I have no real crafting space, working on my bed or the floor sometimes makes for yucky neck pain.  So for now, those 25 mini-mailboxes sitting in my room waiting for a valentine's day makeover for my upcoming cheer party... well, they can sit.  It's gonna be fine.  

6.  Experience is worth a hundred-million-bazillion blog posts.  
I'm new to this silly blog world.  It's fun and I like it and I hope to continue for quite a while.  But it seems I've joined the party a bit late.  So many of the blogs I read (and love) fall into three groups:  
1.  Ladies of the (very) early twenties persuasion - they're young, their fun, they all have amazing          boyfriends/fiances/husbands/whatever, they have cameras worth more than my car and they rack up sponsors faster than I can teach a 12 year old how to spell onomatopoeia.  
2.  Ladies of the mid to late twenties with 1-3 (always adorable, and often home-schooled) children and uber supportive husbands.  Lots of crafting, baking, traveling, and cutey-patootey pictures of the wee ones and their projects.  
3.  The lovely combination of both - the super young, super fun, super crafty mom of 1-3.  Oft under the age of 25.  
And let's be honest, as a single gal of 30 who spends her days with other people's children at the most awkward and arguably, the worst, moments of their lives... it can be intimidating.  And finding the inspiration to blog as much as I'd like is difficult.   I see what they do and I want it.  I do.  But the fact is, that isn't my life.  And that's ok.  Because as much as many of these women have the life resume I want to call my own someday, I'm pretty sure I have a few things on mine that they wouldn't shy away from either.  I'm quite proud of what I've done, what I've accomplished and how I've spent my days.  So... yeah me!  Who knows, this could be the start of a whole new enclave of bloggers.  Or not.  You know, whatever.  

7.  Pinterest is virtual crack.  
You start with one pin... next thing you know.. you're hooked.   Worse than a facebook game, this is.  Infinitely more engaging.  Really, I don't think this one requires more elaboration than that.

What did you learn this week? 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

May the Odds...

If there is one thing that has me simultaneously jump-out-of-my-skin excited and tummy-flip-flopping nervous it is the new Hunger Games movie coming out in a few weeks.

I was slow to hop on the Hunger Games train - for a middle school teacher, I'd been inexplicably, yet  actively, avoiding young adult literature for years.  After the Twilight phenomenon spread beyond the middle school/high school girl set and actually began spreading to the boys, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about.  And I've been loving young adult literature ever since.

Genre not withstanding, The Hunger Games series is perhaps the best series I've ever read.  Period.  I'm not sure I would have loved them as much as a young adult - it's a story that I do believe is best appreciated as a grown up; one who's been through a few tough spots.
It is a series that is incredibly difficult for me to talk about.  And as a girl who has conditioned herself to talk far more than I'd like, that says a lot.  I connected to these books in a way that I haven't to others.  And it's because of this that I find the movie so exhilarating and terrifying.  It would be so easy to mess up...

Luckily, all material and trailers released to date look nothing short of amazing.  I know it sounds silly, but it makes me feel very relieved.   Not to mention covered with goose-bumps.

May the odds be ever in your favor. 
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