Saturday, March 31, 2012

Recognize.





In the world I don't inhabit - that world where your job has an ending point and you're always on top of things - right - in that fantasy world, it's the first day of spring break.  After nary a snow day, the impulse to run like a bat out of hell out of the building on Friday afternoon would be logical.  But no.


Nopers, today I took my teacher work day early to do some end of quarter housekeeping and pre-spring break prep work.  Up before dawn, off to breakfast before work, and a solid 13 hours of work on my professional portfolio - it's been a very weird weekend day.


On the plus, after working so long on my portfolio, I feel pretty stinking accomplished.  Sometimes I forget that some of the things I've done and accomplished are actually pretty damn cool.  Gathering all my credentials and work samples in this silly little (read: larger than expected) portfolio was a beast of a job -  but I have to admit, it makes me feel kind of great.


In other good news:  Principal delivered a present on Friday - my 5 year service pin and a bonus check!!  It's kind of teeny and will barely pay for my airport parking this upcoming week, but who cares?!  It's awesome to be recognized - even if that recognition may or may not have happened in the dark, during a classroom dance-off to the afternoon announcement music.  True story.  :)


 Hope you find loads of awesomeness to recognize in your weekend!  

True Statement

 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Two Time!


Sometimes all you need to make your day bright is a dose of the unexpected: margaritas, bingo and unexpected connections?  Yes, please!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Tie That Binds

I wish there were words for the things flowing through my heart today.  But for someone as loud as I tend to be, I've found myself drawn to silence.  And it feels right.


There are so many things that we connect to in our lives and most of the time, I feel the need to justify my connections.  To process them.  To explain them.  To label them.  But despite these engrained impulses, for this weekend, if only for this weekend, I'm letting it pour over me without question.


Sometimes we just need to feel connected for connection's sake.  So the next time I'm grabbed by the gut and explanation fails, hopefully I'll remember these few days and accept the gift for what it is.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy Hunger Games!!


It's going to be a cra-a-azy long day, but I couldn't be more excited.... 
Happy Hunger Games to you and yours!!   


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Love/Hate Relationship

I've had the conversation a dozen times or more.  And to be honest, I don't really know how to respond.  Because it's hard to respond when you know the other person is right.  And yet...


You see, the way I see myself and the way I've prepared my life to be, and the way I'm currently spending it look to be in a bit of contrast.  I grew up a vintage-loving old soul.  I crave a more hand-made life, more organic, more intelligent conversation, more dinner party with food made from scratch, local mom and pop shops, and trips to the local farmers market on sunny spring days.  


But.  For the past four years, I've spent hours and hours and hours of my life surrounded by polyester, pom poms and rah-rah nonsense language.  For someone who considers herself to be reasonably cerebral, the words "ooh ongalah", "scurrd" and "we got spirit" take up a disproportionate amount of my life.




When I look at the opportunities in the competitive cheerleading world, I can't deny that there is a part of me that really, truly, wishes my parents had pushed me to do more.  I wanted to take gymnastics - so they let me.  For a year.  And I stopped.  I wanted to take dance classes - so they let me.  For two years.  And I stopped.  I never achieved any kind of success or ability.  I never learned to do the simplest of moves - I've never been able to do the splits, and for all my efforts, the time step was ever-elusive.  I kind of wish I could have been a part of something that big - that required that level of dedication - that they would have demanded that level of dedication of me.


But at the end of the day, when my family and friends say the inevitable statement:  "I can't believe you coach cheerleading," I can't help but agree.


It's vapid and superficial and suffocatingly demanding.  I absolutely resent that in my conversations among those I work with, I'm often reduced to "the cheerleading coach" and all conversations revolve around the phrase, "Hey Liz, how're your cheerleaders?" The amount of time spent on bows and lip gloss and the appropriate height of a ponytail is staggering.  Sure, I've got a flair for the dramatic.  I love a costume and showmanship and the art of performing.  But that 3% of my personality is currently taking up about 47% of my life.



But.  For all the long hours, the frustration and the hassle, there are bits of it that I truly love.   I took on my cheerleading squad because I saw the shambles it was and decided I could help.  What ended up happening is so much more than I ever expected.  The decision to take the squad on came at a very pivotal point in my life.  I was a little lost and lonely and trying to fill a space in my heart.  These girls and their families have become a part of my life.  They've been almost like a family away from home.  I can't imagine where my life would have turned had I not let them into my weird little world.


It's something I do pretty well.  I built that program from scratch.  It's well-respected and gains accolades left and right.  The relationships built through that experience are real.  The leadership, social, communicating and team-building skills the girls learn are real.  The responsibilities are real.  Regardless of whether you believe cheerleading is a sport or not, the athleticism it demands is very real.
Because it do it well - to be successful in this medium -  it requires strength, dedication, and a willingness to give 100% to your team 100% of the time.  It requires so much more than you think it will.  So much more than you think you have.   And I am proud that something like that is a part of my life.


 But.  Damnitall if it isn't expensive and shallow and vapid as all hell.  My parents never wanted me to be "that girl."  And frankly, I really appreciate it.  I don't want to be a stereotype of any kind, and I'd be lying if the cheerleader stereotype was anything but ragefully negative.  Even as a coach, there is an unspoken and ever-present defensive element to the job.  The number of times I've had to justify what I do, to legitimize my time spent, or the needs of the squad - from practice and storage space to required safety and skill training, choreography and music and fundraising- questions of legitimacy a basketball or football coach will never have to answer.   It is unbearably frustrating at times.


But.  But ...


How do you justify the simultaneous emotional split of embarrassment and pride?  How do you maintain a sense of self that is seemingly contradictory to the activity that has breathed life into your years?  How do you find balance between two opposing worlds, continue to grow, and cultivate individual passions without betraying one of them?


I just don't know.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Possibilities are Endless...

Music for a Moody Monday

Today has been kind of long and icky.  But so be it.  Here's to thwarting the Monday malaise...

Maple Glazed Deliciousness

Not too long ago, my afterwork days were filled with nothing but Food Network.  It was easily the bulk of my TV watching and the dinner hour was nothing if not inspired.  I have my list of Food Network crushes, but I gotta be honest, Rachel Ray is not usually one of them.  


I watched 30 Minute Meals because it always aired right before dinnertime.  But while Jamie Oliver makes my heart and lifestyle dreams go pitter-pat, while Paula Deen makes me want to declare butter it's own food group, and while Ina Garten makes me want to live a luxurious life of luncheons with famous friends in the Hamptons, well... Rachel Ray usually kind of makes me want to yell at the TV.  I hate her fascination with orange, plastic looking kitchenware and decor.  I actively dislike her kitschy love of honey bears.  And I loathe her pre-episode intros... full of the same three hand gestures and over-animated eyebrow acting again and again.  But I gotta hand it to her.  Girl can cook.  


One of my favorite things to make from crazy girl's repertoire is a part of a massive recipe... Maple-Dijon Glazed Pork Chops.  It is soooo good.  So when my cravings took hold last night, how could I resist?  


{get the full recipe, which includes apple sauce and mac-n-cheese, here}


So good, in fact that I forgot to photograph the evidence until it was nearly too late...  I call it dedication to the food.  Or forgetfulness.  Or just plain hunger.   Such is life.  



Rachel suggests this tasty treat be served with a topping of homemade applesauce and with a healthy (read: not at all) side of homemade mac-n-cheese.  That's a bit much for me and my simple Sunday solo suppers - but the pork chop recipe itself is easy-peasy to multiply or divide depending on the number of servings you're looking for.   It's the perfect sweet yet savory, won't bust your diet, treat.  Win-win-win.  


Maple-Dijon Glazed Pork Chops

4 large center cut pork loin chops (1 1/2" thick)
Salt and Pepper
2 T. olive oil
2 T. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. (real) maple syrup

Pat your pork chops dry with a paper towel and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the chops into the heated pan and cook 6-7 mins per side.  (If you're using pork chops thinner than 1 1/2", watch closely.  I usually drop the flame down a notch and shorten the cooking time a skosh.)  Add mustard and maple syrup to chops and glaze for ~1 minute.  If cooking fewer than 4 chops, adjust the mustard/syrup ratio to taste.  
Awesome served with green veg and potatoes of your choosing. 

Enjoy! 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend Mixtape 4 - For When There Are No Words

After successfully procrastinating myself into an essay and exam grading oblivion, well, I'm running out of time. So today's playlist is in honor of just one of what will no doubt lead to a series of marathon grading sessions as the quarter quickly comes to a close.

Full of songs to keep the energy up and the focus where it needs to be, this week's weekend playlist features a variety of non-classical instrumental tunes that guarantee no obscure lyrics will accidentally be written into my students' exam commentary.  Which is nice.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Oh what a beautiful morning/Oh what a beautiful day...

Here's to sleeping in, catching up on errands and taking a half a day off of work...


Relaxing trips to Starbucks and productive work days...


Midnight tickets to Hunger Games (squee!!) ...


The teensiest of sunburns after outside cheer practice and loads of kitten purrs...


 ... damn good day.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Self Portraits


I am a firm believer that every single girl (or any girl, for that matter) needs to be able to take a good-quality self portrait.  Taking photos of our many adventures is all well and good, but documenting life from behind the camera eliminates the possibility of being in front of it; which kind of sucks.  Enter the self-portrait.  




One of my favorite things about looking through these photos are the little things, those little details that mark the passage of time: the hair color, the skin changes (pale like Casper!), the hair, the itty bitty differences in expression, etc.  Those teeny differences help shape the larger ones, especially those you've lived with so long you barely notice.  


Because you should be in your photos.  And you don't need to depend on someone else to take a photo that you love.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wanderlust

WANDERLUST
{I am sooo excited to get a map pin board going soon!  WANDERLUST}


For a while now, I've found myself feeling like things have been the same for so long... I get the itch to change, to evolve, to pack up everything I own, grab the cat and strike out anew.  And there's good reason for that: I've been living in the house I share with the roommates for longer than any place I've lived since living at home in high school.  I've lived in Virginia longer than anywhere else except for the prairie homeland.  I've been nearly stationary for 4 years.  

In the previous four years, I'd lived in 9 cities in 4 states/regions in 2 countries and called 13 dwellings home.  

I have a pretty healthy dose of wanderlust for a long while.  But my wallet... well, she's more of a homebody.  We're in a constant state of flux - there's a lot of bickering and back and forth between wallet and I.  And we've sort of come up with a compromise - until her needs are satisfied, well, I'm just gonna have to suck it up and stay put.  Wandering must remain a lust for now.  Dreams of travel and adventure await!!  And... well, wait they shall.  

But in the meantime, I am allowed loads of time to ponder and think.  Thoughts of what and when and where and how are in constant rotation.  I have big dreams - though, admittedly, they have been tempered over time.  Where just a few years back I ached to set up a life of transiency and scattered adventure, I feel more and more domestic these days.  I want a home.  I want a family.  I want all of those responsibilities that make packing up an apartment, saying adieu and backpacking across Europe on a whim - well, if not impossible, pretty darn implausible.    But I also don't want to ever become stagnant - so settled it's out of the question to uproot and start again.  

I know once I leave my current city, the chances to wander increase dramatically.  And frankly, so do the possibilities of my falling in love with settling in for the long haul.  But in the meantime, a girl can dream.  

And dream she does...


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend Mixtape 3 - And Your Bird Can Sing



When I was in high school, I truly believed I was born in the wrong generation.  I had a penchant for 60s music, the hippie lifestyle, and a burning desire to somehow bend the space-time continuum and go to Woodstock.  

I learned every single Beatles song.  I loved, swooned over, adored and obsessed about John Lennon.  I grew my hair out long and burned incense.  Lots and lots of incense.  I wanted to live in avocado green and orange forever.  I have no idea how my parents survived it.   I'm sure my mom secretly harbored some silent resentment toward my dad for introducing me to the music scene and all, but they were nothing if not supportive.  

But something strange happens as we grow.  As I continued into college, my love of the era didn't change, exactly, but shifted.  It was something less literal, more... me.  And in the years since, these million moments and distractions in glorious vintage heaven have somehow combined into something that fits right into today's world.  A little enclave of society where old-fashioned habits and lifestyle blend quite well into the new-age technology and morays of the 21st century.  

These days, I crave a much more Suzy-homemaker existance than a co-op living hippie one. And I suppose that's the way it goes.  The principals I loved back then defintely still drive me - I'd love nothing more than to find myself a little hippie enclave to call my own: a place full of indipendent shops, farmers markets full of organic food and people who strive to live a local and well-balanced life.  But like most free-wheeling, long-hair and love-bead sporting hippies, eventually we all gotta get up, get out, and grow up.  


This week's mixtape is inspired by the band that set my cravings and inspiration in motion.  


The Beatles live on, friends!  Enjoy! 

Brother Sparrow



A perfect addition to a low key Saturday morning...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Guilty Pleasures: Kiss Kam!

I may just be the antithesis of my generation, but ooh, I love Tom Hanks.  I'm serious.  I'm using the word love here.  And Rita Wilson is just the cutest thing.  Put them together and you just have the most wonderful ball of niceness and love.  So please pardon the cheesy celebrity gossip-ness of this post, but I just can't help it.  It makes me happy.  From the Los Angeles King's game last week, pay I present to you Kiss Cam: the celebrity edition.

(...you're welcome) 

The Day in an Instagram Life: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Just a hint of springtime snow...
 I know I put that card in a safe spot...  I know I did.
   The roommate's new clock - trĂ©s geek chic
Homemade marinara mini-fail (sad face). 
Grading thwarted by the hideous beast!  Sooo lovable.   

Do What You Love...


There's a lot of negative talk in teacher land in my neck of the woods these days.  A lot of anger.  Resentment.  And most horrifying for a group of people who, in my opinion, should be striving to inspire goodness, hardwork and integrity to the wee ones (ha - I've got four 7th graders in my classes this year who are well above 6' with full beards) who grace our classrooms every single day and who look to us for guidance - with all of this responsibility on our shoulders, there is an alarmingly high number of teachers who are willing to let their duties suffer in the name of nameless politics and circumstance.  Sending a message to the higher-ups is the American way, after all.  But what of it when the only people it hurts are the people we are supposed to be supporting?  The kids we're supposed to be helping?


Do I wish educators were more highly regarded?  Absolutely.  Do I wish I was making half of what my supervisors make and do I wish I wasn't in the 3rd year of a 6 year pay freeze?  Heck yea.  


But...
*  I believe that I took this gig - I sought this gig - because it was inwardly satisfying.  And it was the right reason for me.
*  I believe I have the opportunity, every single day, to learn and grow and change and challenge myself.  And that is a gift.
*  I believe that teaching is an art.  And because of that it is sometimes unbearably difficult.
*  I believe you never know what itty-bitty moment of your day is going to change someone else's for the better.  And that's worth going back for.
*  I believe that watching and sharing with a group of unruly and sometimes truly annoying 7th graders as they cheer and laugh and celebrate because they've just completed massive projects (and did them well) is a feeling that beats every sports victory ever witnessed.  And that analogy came from the most annoying kid of the bunch. (truth!!)
*  I believe that I am lucky to be employed doing something that I truly love.  Working for the weekend seems like an awfully skewed balance in the effort-to-payoff ratio.  And I am grateful that I found something that inspires me and creates fulfillment in my life every. single. day.


I know I don't get paid 'fairly' according to the work I do or the hours I put in or for the results and growth I see as a result.  But I do believe that there are days I should be paying them for allowing me to come in, learn, create, inspire, and have fun.


It's all about perspective.  You see, I'm one of the lucky ones...  
I do what I love.  And damnit, I love what I do.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Weekend Adventures - DC Big Flea

This weekend was so fun.  My good friends Dana, Raegan and I ran around all day on Saturday in the name of Raegan's birthday.  And run we did.  Ok... it was more of a steady stroll - but it was a 12 hour steady stroll, so I feel it definitely counts.  


One of my favorite things about these two ladies is their uncanny ability to do things unexpected by the average professional person.  We don't look at the world with the same eyes at all.  We couldn't come from more different circumstances, have a wider range of expectations or outlooks on life.  But it just works.  


These are my go-to girls when I'm too tired to do anything but sit and glaze in front of the TV on a Friday night.  But come Saturday morning, they're also my go-to girls to jump out of our professional hats and sprint toward every roller coaster, pet expo, family fun zone, or silly/serious/scary/sentimental movie in range.  So when Raegan suggested we go to the DC Big Flea this weekend to celebrate her birthday, we went!  And it was awesome.  


Hundreds of booths crammed with goods of every vintage (and some not-so-vintage) piece imaginable attract quite an eclectic crowd and the wares are as varied as the patronage.  


I'm a bit of an old(-fashioned) soul and genuinely prefer a lot of older products to their newer, more plasticine comrades.  So looking through the kitchenware and uber-practical furnishings is a highlight for me.  And this weekend, I totally scored!  



For just a few dollars, I found these awesome pyrex bowls.  Sturdy, and super stylish with their stripes and dots, these two cuties are sure to make my meals bright.   They're just perfect for a big dinner salad or bowl of yummy soup.  I can't wait!  

Weekend Mix Tape 2: A Memorial

Some weeks are harder than others.
Some days bring back more memories than others.


This week was full of hard, memory-heavy days.   But through it all, it ended up really good.  Which is kind of how things go, isn't it?


March 1st is a day that I will always remember.  But what once was a day full of sadness and awful memories of what it really means, the costs of losing a friend and a great human being, has shifted over time.  
As it should.  It's been a long time.

Every year, I think of him.  But more and more, I remember the wonderful person he was and the strange and wonderful quirks that I hope to never forget.  It's the little things.   The silly moments that make me laugh 12 years later.  And those moments are the reason this weekend's mix tape is in honor of him.  {photo source}
Songs in the key of Josh.    

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