Friday, June 19, 2015

Turning 33...

I haven't posted on here in forever.  There have been several times during the school year that I felt compelled to write, and then life took over and it didn't happen.  This morning I was thinking that maybe if I put my thoughts down somewhere semi-permanent, they would have a better chance of sticking.  Basically this is an experiment.  We'll see what happens.

In a few months I'll turn 33.  I don't feel old, or scared of getting older.  I'm fine with it.  However, 33 is a weird age for me.  I have known several people who died when they were 33.  It's always struck me as odd that all of these people died at the same age.  I know it has no real significance, but it makes being 33 feel strange.  They didn't get any further than this.

One of those people was my first piano teacher.  He died when I was in third grade.  We had just moved to Kentucky, and he died a few months later from pneumonia (he had AIDS, only a handful of people had known).  At the time I had no real understanding of how young 33 was.  Now it's very real.  Another one of those people was my first boyfriend.  Anyway, I don't want to focus on their deaths.  This morning I started thinking, I should be doing better.  I should be trying harder.  I often feel lazy, or overwhelmed with so much that it makes me shut down and I don't know where to start.  I really just want to feel better, and not spend my year of being 33 dwelling on the people who aren't here anymore.  So I'm going to try and set some goals.  I'm not good at goals.  I often give up and quit early.  For example, I'm about reach a milestone in my life: my third year of teaching also marks the longest I've ever had a job.  Yeah, you read that right.  I've never had a job longer than two years.  And I've never been fired, that's by choice.  I can't seem to stay anywhere very long.  So sad, but true.  But it's ok, we're going to try this anyway.

Goal #1 I want to be more flexible
I mean this in every possible way.  I want to be more flexible with my time.  I love a set schedule.  I love a plan, a to-do list, things I can check off.  I have anxiety when I am forced to just "go with the flow." But I can appreciate that there are times when a rigid schedule just ruins the fun.

I want to be more flexible as a parent.  Sometimes I feel like I'm forcing Ellie to do things my way and she is an extremely independent (seriously, I think she could live on her own by age 5), intelligent, creative individual.  If she can find a solution to something that isn't the same as mine, I need to learn to let it go.  I encourage that in my classroom, so why would I shut it down at home?  This is especially difficult when she won't sleep (which is often), but I should be able to trust that she knows how to get herself to sleep.  I don't always need to intervene.

I want to actually physically be more flexible.  At the beginning of the year, back in January, I did this 30 days of yoga challenge on youtube.  I love her channel in general, but I actually only made it to Day 19 (see?  I can't finish anything).  I guess I could blame it on school starting back up, but really I just got lazy and distracted.  I mean, the videos were only 15 minutes long, and Ellie LOVED doing them with me, I had no excuse.  I really loved how I felt for those 19 days.  My back and my head didn't hurt as much, and I just felt lighter.

Goal #2 I want to be healthier
This is easier for me during the summer.  The school year creates stress and chaos and I cave and order pizza too many times.  I try to prep on Sundays, but that only happens on the weeks when I feel like I'm ahead of the game.  I love to cook, and I would say 90% of our meals are home-cooked.  But Ellie is picky and creating one meal that we can all eat is frustrating.  We also often eat in front of the TV because I've been talking nonstop to teenagers all day and I don't want to talk anymore.  I want to sit and stair mindlessly at a box that will talk to me. (See? Lazy.)  However, I know that Ellie eats better when we're at the table, and if I've spent all day away from her I should probably enjoy some conversation over dinner before we begin our evening battle of getting her to fall asleep.

Goal #3 I want to be more organized
I love organizing.  I like the process of sorting everything out, figuring out the best arrangement for it all, and then putting it away.  The Container Store is my idea of heaven.  I can't get enough.  But lately I just feel overwhelmed.  I spent spring break cleaning out and de-cluttering our entire house: clothes, toys, books, dishes, craft supplies, everything.  We refinished the floors in the den and I feel like we've been attempting to put the house back together ever since that project.  I don't know if my entire house has been clean since last summer.  I get one room clean, and by the time I get the next room clean the first room is a disaster again.  Along with the fact that we don't have a dishwasher so I feel like I spend 1/3 of my time standing at the sink.  I can't wait to remodel that kitchen, but that's a dollar sign I just don't have right now.

I want my car to be clean, and I want it to stay clean.  I don't know how to do that apparently.

I want my classroom to be organized.  This is an endless battle.  I can't seem to stay on top of assignments and grading and returning graded work and having lesson plans actually written any earlier than the day before.  And now that I'm teaching AP, I'm a little terrified.  I'll also be taking two class each semester to finish my masters, and with theater department responsibilities, I have a feeling next year is going to be a total fail in the organization category.

Goal #4 I want balance
This kind of coincides with Goal #3, how do I balance work and home and grad school?  Usually during the school year I feel like either a bad parent or a bad teacher.  I never feel like I'm giving anyone 100%.

And this one may sound weird, but I want physical balance too.  Nathan convinced me to try out one of his bikes once maybe last summer.  It was awful.  Riding a bike used to be carefree and fun.  I felt extremely unsure and terrified of falling.  I want to be able to fall.  I want to be ok with falling.  I didn't trust myself or my legs to be able to stay up on that bike or catch me if I fell.  I want to be to know that my body can hold me and will catch me if I hit the ground.  Right now I just feel weak and out of balance.

I don't know if that makes sense, but I plan to keep these goals in mind for the year as I turn 33.  I will focus on what I can do, instead of dwelling on what those who are gone didn't get to do.

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year

Last semester left a bad taste in my mouth.  It involved one of the most challenging group of students I've had to date.  They were disruptive, vulgar, combative.  I mean, one of them ended up expelled for assault if that tells you anything.  I had no desire to come back this semester, but I also wasn't willing to quit.  I had to find inspiration somewhere.  I decided to incorporate some of my own personal goals into my classroom.

For myself, I want to be more positive.  I find myself often dwelling on the negative, which just feeds more negativity.  I don't expect that by focusing on the positive I will become Little Miss Sunshine, but I do hope that it will keep me from drowning self doubt and cynicism. 

For my students, we're going to start a practice of gratitude.  Everyday they will begin class by writing in their journal for 5-10 minutes.  I will have prompts on the board for those that can't think of anything, but the focus of this journaling will be gratitude.  No griping.  I have also decided that I'm going to join them in this practice.  It is so easy for me to use independent work time to do little chores, grade some papers, answer emails, etc.  But I think it would be to my benefit to take a minute at the beginning of class and focus on gratitude.  I hope to see a shift in behavior by the end of semester.  And I plan to share my journals on this blog.

For myself, I plan to practice yoga every day, even if it's only for 5 minutes when I first get out of bed.  I'm going to give myself time alone to just breathe.

For my students, we're going to spend one day in our States of Consciousness unit experiencing 20 minutes of guided meditation.  They'll probably think it's silly, but they're going to play along.

For myself, I plan to be more present with my family.  It's really easy to get home and just crash, let Ellie play on her own while I stare at the TV, then make dinner and put her to bed.  It's all just a routine, I'm just a robot going through the motions.  I need to do better, I owe it to them to be present. 

For my students, I will do the same.  I will make a better effort to get to know them.  I was very insecure about this in previous semesters.  It is my nature to be shy, and I was shy about getting to know these kids.  They intimidated me, but why should they?  I can do better.

Here's to a new year, with a positive mindset and a healthier outcome.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


This week a student was dropped from my roster.  This happens all the time for a variety of reasons: they moved, they transferred to another school in the district, they've been expelled, they dropped out of school all together.  This particular student was different.  He had already moved this year and started at my school after the first quarter.  His first day in my class he seemed on top of things.  He was quiet and very polite and did his work.  That same week I attended his IEP meeting.  I found out he lived with his mom and his cousin, and had been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  This surprised me because, as I said, he was so polite and well behaved in my class.  I also learned that my class was his favorite because he wanted to go to college to study Psychology.  I was hooked.  I wanted to do everything in my power to help this kid, and make that happen for him.

The next week he was suspended for fighting, threatening to bring a gun to school and use it.

I was shocked and disappointed. I then found out that his records from his previous school finally came, and his diagnosis was being re-evaluated.  He was now diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  In a lot of ways this made more sense.  When he came back after his suspension, he was different.  He refused to work.  He told me he didn't like my class anymore, or any class for that matter.  All he wanted to do was fight.  He was going to be a professional boxer.  That was his dream now.

He continued to get in trouble, get suspended, or just miss school.  The cousin he moved here to live with could no longer deal with his behavior and his mom was fed up too, so he was moved to foster care.  He turned 18 this month, which meant he could now refuse services that came with his IEP and he was free to leave school.  Last week I attended another IEP meeting with him.  He chose to continue services, but transfer to adult day school where he could finish his credits in a non-traditional setting.  This is probably better for him, but it leaves me feeling a bit empty.

At the same time that all of this is happening, my father-in-law was experiencing a manic episode.  In an attempt to relieve his tremors, the doctors had introduced a new medication and lowered the dose of previous medications, which resulted in a manic episode.  He was fully aware of the beginning stages of the episode.  He asked my husband to watch out for him, be on the look out for manic behavior.

Within a few days, the symptoms were worse.  My husband tried to remind him of his request, but now he just wanted to call it his extra energy.  Over the next couple weeks, he's signing up to audit a class, he's not sleeping, planning business presentations, and then the big kicker: he buys two cars.  So today my husband and his sister spent almost 12 hours at the hospital going through the ridiculously long process of having him admitted.  This is after weeks of daily phone calls, visits and doctors appointments trying to get the right dose of medication.  The mania won, they're at the hospital, but the battle isn't over.

I can't help but think about my student.  His mom and cousin couldn't deal with his behavior anymore.  They left him.  The school system doesn't know how to deal with his disorder.  They punished him.  He's 18 now.  Our country doesn't know how to deal with his disorder.  We have quit on him.

I'm not saying I blame his family.  It is not easy to be the one on the receiving end of the behavior, the mood swings, the recklessness.  But I realize how lucky my father-in-law is to have family that will sit all day at he hospital.  That is love.  It is painful, relentless, difficult, unconditionally supportive love.

What about Keeshawn?  Who is going to love him unconditionally?  Who is going to support him when he's down?  Who is going to monitor him when he's manic?  Who is going to take him to the hospital and get him the help he needs?  Who is going to sit there all day with him?  What will happen to him?

The reality of his future is too overwhelming to think about.  He is a victim of a lack of mental health awareness in this world.  We are not equipped to help him, so we just don't.  We assume his behavior, his choices, his outbursts were of his own volition, and so we punish him.  We punish him for his chemical imbalance.  We punish him for being born different.

On this day of thanksgiving, who will be thankful for Keeshawn?  Where will he be?  Will he be eating a big meal, surrounded by family members?  Will he feel loved?

He will be in my thoughts, and I hope that he has a happy day, a full meal, and a warm bed.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Zucchini Linguine

How to turn this:

 Into this:

This is actually my version of a recipe my mom used to make (back in the day before Celiac Disease).  It's super simple and a really nice, light summer dinner.  You could easy add some grilled chicken to this, but I love it just the way it is.  My favorite thing is that we are growing all the produce for this recipe in our garden, so if all goes well, I'll be able to make this with my own zucchini, tomatoes and basil! (Actually I made it with my basil this time, but the rest of our garden isn't ready) I did get the zucchini from a local co-op, along with some super yummy peaches.  Trying to to decide if I'll make something with those…or just devour them.

Anywho, back to the recipe.  

Zucchini Linguine (serves 4-6)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 zucchini (or any similar squash), sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (you could also use a can of diced tomatoes)
1 pkg linguine (or just your favorite pasta, but, come on, linguine rhymes)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (extra if desired)
1-2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)
1 tsp red pepper flake (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Fill a large pot with water for the pasta and put it on high heat.
  2. When it reaches a rolling boil, drop in the pasta (be sure to move the pasta around several times so it doesn't stick).  I do cook the entire package because the leftovers are great for lunch.*
  3. Add the olive oil to a large pan over medium high heat (I use a large nonstick skillet.  Whatever you use needs to be large enough to toss the pasta in at the end).
  4. Add your zucchini slices (and your red pepper flake, if you're using it).  Usually when I make this recipe I use one zucchini and one yellow squash, but I had three different kinds here, so I used half of each.  The amount isn't crucial.  If you love zucchini, add more!
  5. Sauté the zucchini for 5-7 minutes.  You're not looking to brown them or cook them down a lot, just soften them.  
  6. Toss in your tomatoes, and add a ladle full of pasta water.  Then place a lid on your veggies and turn the heat down to medium low.
  7. Your pasta is probably ready, so go ahead and drain that, but do not rinse it.
  8. Dump the pasta into the sauté pan, add the parmesan cheese and basil and toss.  If it seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  I use tongs to toss it together, it's just easier with long pasta.
  9. Serve it up and top with extra cheese!

*Reheats easily in the microwave, but I recommend adding a bit of water to your microwave safe container as this pasta recipe tends to get a little dry.

-->If you're interested in nutritional information, leave a comment and I can figure that out for you!<-- font="">

Thursday, June 05, 2014

30 Day Ab Challenge: Day 3 & 4

Yesterday was Day 3 on the Ab Challenge, so I did 25 sit ups, 10 crunches, 10 leg raises and a 15 second plank.  I've noticed that, for me, the sit ups and leg raises are the most challenging.  Is anyone else following along?  Which parts are you finding most challenging?

We also took a trip to the zoo yesterday, which involved a lot of walking.  Nothing fast paced, since we were frequently stopping to look at animals, but 3 hours on your feet is still burning calories.

Today was Day 4, rest day, so I spent my day working on another project: organizing.  Another one of my goals this summer is to get the house more organized so that we can more easily keep it clean.  The last few days I've been focusing on clothes.  I went through Ellie's clothes, organized and stored her baby clothes and sorted out some to give away.  Then I went through the master bedroom closet.  I do this pretty regularly, but I still managed to fill three bags to donate.  I kept one small bin of clothes that are too small.  If they don't fit by this time next year, they're out (including my favorite pants from college).

Tomorrow I'll be working on the guest/craft room.  That room is always a challenge.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

30 Day Ab Challenge: Day 2

You may have noticed I'm already a day behind on my challenge. 

Yesterday was my last day of school. I spent the day cleaning up my classroom. I wasn't required to clear out my room to the extent that I did.  I'll have the same room next year and is not being used for summer school, so I was free to leave posters up and such.  However, I want to paint over the summer and just start fresh so I took everything down.

I didn't work a terribly long day.  I was finished by 1:30. I dropped off paperwork at Ellie's school for her summer program.  Isn't the playground awesome? She's moving up to a new class and I'm so excited for her. Her best friend from he previous class will be in this new class with her.

I had big plans to work out when I got home, but I felt awful.  Seriously awful. No idea why.  So I did nothing.  Actually I took a nap.

So today we're starting back up with Day 2. I just finished it (20 sit ups, 8 crunches, 8 leg raises, 12 second plank).  Today was busy in general.  We finally got the raised beds planted! That was a workout (as was chasing Ellie in the sprinkler). 

I'm considering going to the gym tonight. Ellie didn't nap today, which saves me a struggle at bedtime. I'll either put that energy towards the gym, or a relaxing glass of wine.  We shall see.

UPDATE: I chose wine.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

30 Day Ab Challenge: Day 1

So I decided to do this 30 Day Ab Challenge.  It's like a kick-off to my summer exercise challenge.  My goal this summer is to go to the gym every single day.  Yeah, you read that right.  Every. Single. Day.  I know it's summer and I could exercise outside and nature blah blah blah, but Tennessee hates me.  I'm pretty sure it's trying to kill me and despite allergy meds, outside makes my eyes water, I sneeze, all that phlegm, and that humidity…UGH!  So yeah, screw nature.*  If I have to get sweaty, I'll take indoors and air conditioned.

Back to the Ab Challenge.  This is the entire 30 Days:

So today I'm doing 15 sit ups, 5 crunches, 5 leg raises, 10 second plank.
It seems like a really easy day.  I mean, I am really out of shape, but I know I could do more than this.  However, I agreed to the challenge, so I'm sticking to the rules.

We're also going swimming today with my brother, his wife and their daughter so…two toddlers and a pool should be a pretty good workout.

*I love nature, but only when it's below 80 (or snowing!)