Monday, December 31, 2012

Project 2013 Set To Begin Almost 8 Years After Conception

Every time I open the door to the office closet, I have to face the possibility that I made a mistake. Lurking in that closet are stacks of boxes holding school supplies, lesson plans, notes from former students, and 171 young adult literature books. Remnants from my time as a middle school English teacher. At this juncture, I don’t know if I’ll ever return the classroom as a teacher, but I keep clinging to my teacher “stuff.” I think I’m waiting for it to make a decision for me. Silly? Yeah. But I’m not quite ready to let it all go.

What I am ready for is to tackle a project I’ve wanted to complete since the day I became a teacher. In the beginning of my career, I had grandiose dreams (Ideal Reality) of reading everything my students read so I could give recommendations and help them select books that would motivate them to read and learn. I was the Queen Pack Rat of Young Adult Literature, foraging garage sales and used book stores for anything I thought my students would enjoy. I was going to read them all and write stellar summaries for each book.

That plan never came to fruition (Real Reality). Until now. I declare 2013 the year I plow through the 171 YA lit books in my closet (Ideal Reality becoming Real Reality!). At the minimum, I will list and link them on a YA Lit page on my blog. At the most, I will write summaries and offer my recommendation to read or not to read. I do reserve the right to abandon any book that doesn’t light my fire after 100 pages. I trained hard over the years to get myself to ditch yucky books. I can’t slip now.

I’ll also be reading other genres: kid lit, adult lit, professional development lit, non-fiction, memoirs, and who knows what else. I’ll pop these onto the site, too, on respective pages.

I hope you’ll follow – or even join me – on my journey.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing … Keep It Real.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Drinking in the Holidays

Photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc
We hosted the first of three Christmas celebrations at our house last night. What fun! We filled the evening with chatting, eating, gift opening, more eating, more chatting, and a rousing game of Bingo! I tested two new adult beverage recipes from the Hy-Vee Seasons Holiday 2012 magazine. My mixology efforts were well worth it because both were a big hit! I'm looking forward to imbibing a bit more of both delicious drinks during the winter months as well as adding them to my list of "must have" item each Christmas.

Sparkling Cranberry Martini
3 c. Hy-Vee cranberry juice
4 oz triple sec or other orange liqueur
2 tbsp grenadine syrup
2 (750 ml each) bottles sparkling wine, chilled
Citrus peel, for garnish

In a pitcher, combine cranberry juice, triple sec and grenadine syrup and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. At serving time, pour 1/4 cup of cranberry juice mixture into a sparkling wine flute. Top with 4 ounces sparkling wine. Garnish with a citrus peel.

White Hot Chocolate
2 c. Hy-Vee 2% milk, divided
3/4 c. Hy-Vee vanilla-flavored white baking chips
1 c. whipping cream
4 oz Godiva white chocolate liqueur*
4 oz Absolut vanilla vodka
Whipped cream and ground nutmeg or cinnamon, for garnish

*I substitued Bailey's Mint Chocolate Liqueur

Combine 1 cup milk and white baking chips in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until baking chips have melted into the milk. Add remaining milk and cream, and continue stirring until very hot but not boiling. Remove from heat. Stir in white chocolate liqueur and vanilla vodka. Serve in mugs garnished with whipped cream and ground nutmeg or cinnamon, if desired.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing ... Keep It Real!

Monday, December 24, 2012

From the Blog Archives: Christmas 2009: Ideal Reality Achieved

Image courtesy of gubgib/
I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I hope that at least some of your Ideal Realities become your Real Realities in 2013. Below is from my archives. Christmas 2009 remains one of my Top 5 Christmas' ever. Enjoy!

We wrapped up an extended holiday season today, just in time to start exploring the new year. Our Christmas celebrations started December 19 and were slated to wrap up on December 26. However, a blizzard of the snowed-in for days variety forced us to postpone the final celebration until today. I enjoyed each family gathering, but it's good to be done.

For the first time in many years, I eagerly anticipated Christmas. Not only are the peeps at an age where they know what's going on, but I got to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with MY family. And by "MY family," I mean it was just me, my husband, and the peeps. No one else. We didn't have to drive anywhere, bring anything, or tolerate anybody else or their holiday rules. The days were all ours. It was my ideal reality come true. A cherished event.

While I'm sure our celebration would not light the world on fire, it was the stuff my dreams are made of. Christmas Eve night we played a pre-pre-school version of Candyland by a semi-roaring fire. Each person got to do a victory dance when they won. When we tired of playing the game, we read "Twas the Night Before Christmas." The peeps sat through the entire story and loved it. Later, the peeps and I snuggled and played on the sofa, and when bedtime arrived the little ladies climbed into bed and drifted quickly off to sleep.

Cartoons in bed and Mark's homemade cinnamon rolls (a new family tradition) sparked our Christmas Day celebration. The peeps opened their presents and oohed and awed over each packaged and the surprise it contained. Hot Wheels. Thomas the Train. A saxophone. A kitchen and shopping cart. Games. Santa was kind to them. Not a lump of coal in sight.

On Saturday, we were stilled snowed in. We romped in the snow (approx. 9 inches!) and drank hot cocoa to defrost. Correction: Mark and I drank it hot. The peeps wanted "coldy" hot cocoa. I don't recommend it, but they slurped it down and wanted more. Late in the afternoon, I snuggled with the peeps under our "magic shawl" and watched "Cars" and "Snow White."

Did we squabble? If we did, I don't remember. Did cabin fever invade our cozy habitat? Yep. By Sunday we were all looking to fly the coop. Regardless, Christmas 2009 will go down in my personal history as one of the rare times that my ideal reality jived with the true reality.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays, and I wish everyone the best in 2010.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How To Work the Word "Dementor" Into Your Christmas Blog Post

Photo credit: 4rank via photopin cc
In my Ideal Reality, I love the Christmas season and all its trappings: the lights, familiar carols on the radio stations, chilly air, the excitement of the first snow. Fa la la la la.

But in Real Reality, the Christmas holidays make me a total Scrooge. There are days when I am filled to the brim with mean Christmas spirit. I bristle in crowds of shufflers, zombie gawkers, and photo-taking filibusterers who hold up foot traffic for as long as it takes to get a snapshot in which all 7 billion family members are smiling with their eyes open. The holiday season puts a spotlight on my misanthropic tendencies.

But I don't want to be a Scrooge, and over the years my family has developed  few traditions that fill our hearts and home with Christmas cheer.

Salt-dough ornaments. My twin daughters and I have been making salt-dough ornaments since 2008, when the girls were almost two years old. The tradition started from my selfish desire to stave off the boredom that often clouded our winter days. Our family Christmas tree is adorned with these creations. It's been fun to watch the girls' artistic skills grow. Here's a sample from this year:

Harry Potter and a reindeer (clicking the link will take you to my other blog, Mind Full of Literacy, which explains the HP ornament!)
Visit With Santa. I just can't stand in a line that stretches from KC to Canada to spend 30 seconds with the fat man. Sorry, dude. Put coal in my stocking. Put me on the "Worst Mother Of All Time" list. Do whatever you have to do, but I refuse to stand in line. For the past two years, we've addressed this quirk by visiting Santa at The Kansas City Zoo. He's usually there on a weekend in December. Admission is discounted, crowds are low, temps are bearable, animals are out. And it's a good Santa, too. We can take our own pictures, or order one from the official photograph for $5. We go early, pop in to see Santa, zombie gawk at a few animals, and then eat lunch out. Love this new family tradition!

Eat Early/Drive Far. I also can't stand to wait more than 30 minutes for a seat at a restaurant. No restaurant food is that good that I should have to wait that long. So, we do what the old folks do and eat dinner early. Like at 3 or 4. Restaurants are deserted and quiet, and the service is typically spot on. As for driving far, this refers to a new tradition I hope to start this year. There are so many great drive-through Christmas light displays in my area. But again, the line thing. (An aside: I can only hope we will never see a bread line/gas line situation while I'm alive. I won't make it). When you decide to invest time in a drive-through display, you are stuck. In your car. With kids. No way out. No way to turn around. I've read about a display that's about 30 minutes north of us. Smaller town. I want to try my luck. Maybe between Christmas and New Year's.

Truthfully, I do enjoy the holidays. I just enjoy them more when I can celebrate without a slow-moving mass of people sucking at my Christmas spirit like Dementors.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Newtown, CT

It's 1:30 pm CST. I was out and about this morning, living my Real Reality. Yoga, returning shoes that were too small, finishing up some freelance work. I took a breather and checked Facebook about 30 minutes ago. A friend's vague status struck me as odd, and I knew instantly that something bad had happened. I scrolled frantically through the updates until I saw it.

A mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.

Someone brutally murdered little kids. Kids who were looking forward to mini corndogs and chocolate milk at lunch.Or a school party. Or a choir concert. Or recess.

My little ones are just up the street. I can just about see their school from the window in our office, where I am sitting and typing. I texted my husband to let him know. I typed, "I just sat here and cried. Just want to run up the street, get the girls, wall us in, and homeschool."

I won't do it ... but I want to.

Most days, I look at the clock at think, "It's almost 3:30. Where did the time go? I didn't get half of my To Do List taken care of, and it's time to get the girls." Today, I'm thinking, "It's only 1:37. I have to wait two more hours to get the girls."

Thoughts and prayers to everyone in Newtown, CT, and to their friends and family around the world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Stooped To Their Level, and It Felt Good

Photo credit: Chrispl57 via photopin cc
Things got ugly at the homestead the other night. Real ugly. In fact, our family reached a new low point. 

I won't bore you with all of the gory details, but here's the back story. Mark and I spent at least two hours preparing dinner (roast, mashed potatoes, gravy). The peeps kept strolling through the kitchen, badgering us for something to eat. Badgering. Badgering, I tell you. We couldn't get dinner on the table fast enough. And when the food was served up, guess what happened. They. Wouldn't. Eat.

Peep #1 did a fair job, but she spent most of her time playing around, waving her fork full of roast and singing I'm A Little Snowflake at the top of her lungs. Just jimmy jackin' like the Queen of Jimmy Jackers.

Peep #2 nibbled on a bite of potatoes. That's it.

Like all good parents, we begged, pleaded, bribed and threatened. But the peeps were impervious to our efforts.

Well, mama don't play that. I looked at Mark and said, "I'll take care of this." I calmly stood up, picked up their little plates full of food, and placed them on the floor. Nixon, the dog, was in heaven.  The peeps wiggled out of their chairs, chattering about what imaginary game they were going to play, thinking they were off Scott free.  Uh, not so fast. Oh no. Mama wasn't done. I looked straight into their sweet faces and said, "Please get back into your chairs. Dinner isn't over. Mom and Dad haven't had dessert."

We had about 15 Hershey's Kisses left, and I ceremoniously dumped them onto the table, where they landed with a tiny thud in all their shiny, chocolately holiday glory. Mark and I proceeded to devour  every. single. last. morsel. We slowly unwrapped each one, sniffed it, savored it and waxed poetic about how totally yummy it was in the tummy. The peeps went ballistic. They screamed, cried, and gnashed their teeth. They clawed at us and at the candy like zombies competing for the first bite at a brain buffet.

In a moment of desperation, I stooped to their level, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Was it a moment of immature parenting? Yep.
Did it feel totally awesome to stick it to the peeps? Yep.
Was it an effective form of punishment? 100%, baby.

The ugly night continued to get uglier, but I will spare you the details and me the embarrassment.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, Keep It Real.

Friday, December 7, 2012

How I Sort of Attacked The Stack

On January 8, 2012, I published the post, Stack Attack.I suggest you read it first so you will have a clue as to what I'm talking about. As the year winds down, I thought it would fun to see if I conquered or cowered. I'm proud to report that I did well! Check it out!
Sanctuary - William Faulkner Update: Read it, loved it, watched the movie again.
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Emmuska Orczy Update: Read it, loved it, want to read more!
Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins Update: Read it, liked it.
The Help - Kathryn Stockett Update: Read it, loved it. Even liked the movie!
Basic Teachings of the Buddha - Glenn Wallis Update: Didn't even crack it open.
Selected Letters of Martha Gelhorn - Caroline Morehead Update: Didn't even crack it open.
The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin Update: Didn't reread, BUT I read Happier At Home
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens Update: Didn't even crack it open.
The Wonders of Solitude - Dale Salwak Update: Didn't even crack it open.
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins Update: Finished it, finished series (see above). I'm 1 billionth on the library list for the Hunger Games DVD.
This isn't to say that I didn't read a ton of other stuff. Jennifer Brown's Perfect Escape, Seth Godin's Poke the Box, Lisa Lutz' Trail of the Spellmans, Anne Lamott's Imperfect Birds and Rebecca Nichols Alonzo's The Devil in Pew 7 are just a few that come to mind. 
I still plan on tackling Selected Letters of Martha GelhornI love Martha. Need to read more Martha. But, I also have a super duper giganto reading project lined up for 2013. I'm super excited about it, and I can wait to share it with you by year's end. I alluded to it in my Stack Attack post Can you guess? Can ya? Can ya?
Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hey! Unto You A Child Is Born!

Recognize that line? It's from the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, written by Barbara Robinson in 1971. I had forgotten all about this little gem (a tidy 80 pages) until I stumbled upon it in a box of books while gearing up for a personal project I'm going to launch in 2013 (more on that later).

If you haven't read this story, or if, like me, it's been decades since you have, you owe it to yourself to grab a mug of hot cocoa and dive in. Written from a child's point of view, it's a hilarious and realistic take on the Christmas story, complete with cigar smoking, baby burping, and collection plate stealing. It made me giggle, and it sparked my Christmas spirit. It's also a charming example of Real Reality Vs. Ideal Reality.

I must confess: I also like the story because it takes me back to my childhood and my own experiences with the church Christmas play. I was always tapped to play Mary, and my friend, Kurt, suffered the role of Joseph year after year. (To this day, I do not believe this seasonal pairing was a coincidence. I highly suspect his mother had visions of the two of us hooking up in real life.)

In the 80s, the novel was made into a television special, starring Loretta Switt. You can watch it here.  


Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Me? Meditate?

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Most Friday mornings you will find me indulging in a yoga class at my local YMCA. I love it! What a fantastic way to challenge my body, stretch my limbs, and relax my mind  ... all without breaking a sweat. That's my kind of exercise, baby! When I stroll out of the gym after class, I feel like I've just enjoyed a one-hour massage. No joke. Love, love, love me some yoga.
So when I heard about the Creating Abundance Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge™, hosted by Deepak Chopra, I signed up. I thought I was ready. I envisioned solitude, mindfulness, and the discovery of great inner peace.
Um ... take a peek at my e-mail to see how it turned out. 
This is a not-so-brilliant screen capture of my folder for the 21-Day Meditation Challenge. If you squint and turn your head slightly to the left, you will be able to see that messages have not been read. I opened the introductory message, but didn't make it past Day 2. And I didn't even meditate those first two days. I clicked and dragged everything into a folder with the intention of starting my meditation practice LATER. You know, LATER, as in when I have more time. And that's the hilarious part because isn't meditation all about slowing down and making time to just BE? Apparently, I am not the meditating kind, as much as I like the idea of it.
What I find interesting is that my Ideal Reality (becoming some maven of meditation) really wasn't any better than my Real Reality (I only need my weekly yoga fix to rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit). Lesson learned? Sometimes what we already have is what we already need.
Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How Do You Know If You've Chased the Wrong Dream?

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/
Several years ago, I decided to ditch the private sector world and a career as a magazine editor to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. At the time, my husband and I had just moved to a town outside of Philly. I enrolled in a  teaching program and earned my certificate. While I thought I wanted to teach middle school English/Language Arts, I was offered the position of  7th grade remedial reading teacher. From the day I started until the day I resigned to return to the Midwest, I loved it. It was truly my dream job, and I was good at it. I couldn't learn enough fast enough. My passion and enthusiasm was over the top!

As soon as we got settled back in Missouri, I began looking for a teaching position. My goal was to replicate my PA experience and find work as a reading specialist. Around this time, the economy began to show signs of softening, and education was taking a huge financial hit. I taught as a long-term sub for about a year and a half, with no sign of landing a permanent position in sight. Meanwhile, I earned my graduate degree in literacy education, holding onto my dream of working with middle schoolers who needed help their reading skills. Nothing. No interviews. Barely any jobs to interview for.

About a week before the 2011-2012 school year started, I was offered a position at a charter school. I accepted it because it came with the opportunity to teach both English/Language Arts and Remedial Reading as well as tinker in the library. Was this another chance at a dream job? You'll find the answer to that question here and here. The remedial reading aspect of the job never materialized, and my passion and enthusiasm quickly disintegrated in an environment of constant stress, mismanagement, and unnecessary competition.

I made the decision not to return to the charter school this year, and it was the right one for me. But now, I'm left wondering if I chased the wrong dream. I just finished reading Ron Clark's book, The End of Molasses Classes. In one section, he writes about his hiring process for teachers.
There are a lot of teachers who are passionate about their curriculum, and there are some who like the idea of teaching more than they actually enjoy teaching children. Their classroom is very neat and their lesson plan is crisp, but they act as if the kids are ruining the scene by having the gall to simply be there.
As Iread these words, and the read them again, I couldn't ignore my inner voice, which screamed,  "That's you! That's you!"

Did my Ideal Reality and my Real Reality clash in the ugliest of ways? Or is that me because of last year's experience? Am I just suffering from temporary burnout? Or is it me because I chased the wrong dream? I'm back to writing and editing right now. Is that what I'm supposed to be doing? How do I know?

How about you? Have you ever chased the wrong dream? Or thought you did, but didn't? I'd love to hear from you.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... keep it real.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Do The Wallflowers, Chimneys, and Nixon Have in Common?

It's been an adventurous, albeit random week, here in Real Reality week. A pictorial for your viewing pleasure.

We had both of our fireplaces repaired this week! Cha-Ching! Just in time for winter in the Midwest. This is the downstairs hearth. It reminds me of the one in Citizen Kane ... on a miniature scale.

Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers! Third row, standing room only, on a THURSDAY night. I "poked the box", said "Yes" to an invite and had a blast! Read here about poking the box.

Meet the newest member of our family, Nixon! Before you ask, or in case you are wondering, he came with that name. Although, as someone pointed out, we do live in a white house. Heh heh heh. He's a shelter dog. Yep! We busted him out of the KC Pet Project. We are just super excited to have him around!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Real Reality Thursday

Hey, there! How's it going? Today brought news that I didn't land the full-time position at my former company. I'm ok with that because as I thought more about it, I realized how much I enjoy my freelance gig and the flexibility and variety it offers. I'm finding ways to make my days more productive, and I'm looking forward to digging into freelancing a bit more. Plus, the door isn't shut all the way at the publishing company. Stay tuned...

Other than that bit of news, my Real Reality Thursday included a hair cut, laundry, and lugging the peeps to tumbling.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, Keep It Real.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Where's My Change? (A Non-Political Post About Change)

For the longest time, I've been wandering around life with this feeling that something has gotta change. I just feel unsettled most of the time. Not really anxious, but like I'm at the tipping point of the next big thing in my life. It's like I'm waiting for something to flick me into the next phase. I feel like I should be doing something, but I don't  know what that something is. I keep thinking it will come to me. Just show up on the doorstep and yell, "Here I am! Now get on with it!" So, I don't do anything. I'm stuck. By now, you are likely as confused as I am.

But, that might be about to change.

Recently, I started reading Seth Godin's blog to gain industry insight for some freelance blog posts I'm writing for a marketing firm. While Seth writes very simply and matter-of-factly about business, his musings also apply to life. His writing style hooked me; his advice keeps me coming back because it makes me think.

Last week, I discovered that Seth writes books. So I checked two out from the library: Poke The Box and Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? I started with Poke The Box, a book about taking initiative and being curious in a time where most people don't and aren't. Basically, Seth's premise is that if you want change in your life, then it is up to you to make it happen. Otherwise, you are just wandering around life with this feeling that something's gotta change. Keyword: Initiate.

As I read the book, I began to remember what it was like to initiate projects, share ideas, and ask questions. I used to do all of that, but somewhere along the way, I gave up interest or power. Maybe both. And as I read, I realized that even though it is in small ways, I am still an initiator. For example, most mornings, my girls and I walk to school. Our path is strewn with litter. For the first month, I kept thinking, "Someone should pick this up." Finally, I clued in. Why shouldn't I be the one to pick up the trash? And so I do. And my girls help, too. What a great way to set an example about taking care of our world. It feels good.

Here's another one: We moved to our new old house in May. We did a bang-up job of unpacking, with the exception of a box of framed artwork which sat in a corner of our dining room for 5 months. I kept wondering, "When is Mark going to do something about that box?" Yesterday, I took the initiative. I unpacked the box, enlisted Mark's help in haning the artwork, and claimed my corner. It took only 10 minutes,but it made a world of difference.

My biggest initiative has yet to play out. About a  month ago, I reached out to an old high school buddy who needed a freelance writer. He jumped on my offer, and we've been working together. Last week, I got a lead on a full-time position as well as some part-time work at my former publishing company. For whatever reason, I "poked the box" (thanks, Seth) to see what would happen. I interviewed, and now I am I'm freaking out because I don't know if I really want to go back to work in an office. Or back to work full time. Or just explore my freelance career from the comfort of my own home. This is why people don't poke the box: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of happiness.

Regardless, it feels good to take some initiative after a long hiatus.

What about you? How have you Poked the Box (thanks, Seth) recently?

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, keep it real.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Finding Peace and Perspective in Unusual Places

Happy Friday! We are having an authentic fall day here in the Midwest. Chilly. Mostly overcast. A peek of sunlight here and there. Our trees have rallied in spite of the summer drought and are treating us to a gorgeous light show. Sigh.

I totally blew Real Reality Thursday, didn't I? That's because I was dealing with ... my Real Reality this week. Mark was off work this whole week. It is highly unusual for him to take that much time off, and while I enjoyed having him around, it really threw my routine for a loop. And I LOVE my routine. And one of the peeps popped up with strep throat, so that threw me for a loop-de-loop. She's all better now. But it's good for my schedule to be tossed up in the air and scattered like the falling leaves once in awhile. It gets my brain out of a rut.

One cool thing I did get to do this week was volunteer at our school district's clothing center. What a fantastic place! It's available to any student in the district, and it's supported solely by donations. And you should see the donations. Piles and piles of white trash bags stacked almost to the ceiling of the center's garage. It's a "green" operation, meaning everything is used one way or another. Any clothing donations that can't be used are picked up by the Salvation Army to turn into rags or something else useful. The gals in charge of running the center really have the operation down to a science.

I worked for two hours in the room set aside for older boys' clothing. I sorted, organized, and hung clothes. In peace. And quiet. Very few interruptions. My two hours there completely satiated my need for order, coordination, cleanliness, peace, and quiet. Did I mention the peace and quiet?

My two hours there also gave me a chance to reflect on how truly blessed I am to have a choice of where I shop. So many people and families don't have that choice, and they depend on services such as this clothing center to meet the needs of their kiddos. That's the Real Reality of today's world. Sometimes when I'm knee-deep in my own Real Reality, I forget that. I was thankful for the reminder this week.

Have you found peace and perspective in an unusual place? I'd love to hear about it.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Real Reality Thursday: Fried Laptop

We had an unexpected death in the family today: our beloved laptop. MY beloved laptop. The one I snuggled with on the couch. The one that held all of  my dreams. My e-mails. My e-mail addresses. My pictures. My documents from the past four years. The same laptop that gracefully took daily abuse from my PBSKids-playin' peeps. (Apparently, the inclination to push every single keyboard button super hard when the computer freezes is human nature. Who knew?)

Sadly, when I turned it on this morning, I could hear it breathing, but the screen remained black. Death black. But the weird thing is, I didn't freak out. Part of that might be because I had recently backed up most of my "stuff." But I think part of it is that I took a deep breath and listened to the little voice in my head that said, "Put this in perspective. How big of a deal is this really?" I made a choice to not make it a big deal. And it feels good.

Ready for a deep thought? If my biggest problem is that my laptop crashed, I'm doing OK. Because I imagine that my step-sister, who just finished treatment for breast cancer and is preparing for another reconstructive surgery, would take a crashed laptop (my Real Reality) over her situation in a heartbeat. Ditto for the teacher who just found out she has breast cancer. And ditto for my friend who has been up five nights in a row giving her asthmatic son breathing treatments.


How are you spending your Real Reality Thursday?

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, keep it real.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Resistance is Futile

Meet my latest arch nemesis, BOSU. Or, as I like to call it, the bulbous blue blob of blech.
I first met BOSU at the Y over the summer when I started taking fitness classes. We were casually aquainted. No big deal. But in the past few weeks my pilates and H.A.B.I.T. (hips, abs, butt, inner thighs, baby) instructors have been forcing me to make nice with BOSU in EVERY. SINGLE. SESSION. Not only do I have to make nice with this torture device, I have to play with BOSU's posse: the balance ball and the pilates ring. *shudder* Apparently, these are all tools of resistance training, designed to enhance balance and strength by making me look like an unbalanced, unstable fitness training freak.
Here is what proper BOSU use should look like:
Here is what my BOSU use looks like:
I am old school. To me, resistance training involves trying to resist punching Denise Austin (the 80's version) in the face or kicking Buns of Steel Greg in the Yoo Hoo. (To be fair, Denise has toned down her enthusiasm over the years to an appropriate level. One of my favorite home workout DVDs is her Hit the Spot Pilates.)
But I have resolved not to let these new-fangled devices win. One day soon, I will stand confidently on top of BOSU perfectly balanced. What is interesting about the BOSU battle is that it mirrors my personality. My natural instincts make me resist anything or anyone that tries to control me, even if I know it's good for me. Usually, I come around. Complicated and confusing? Yes, but it works for me. Between us, I know resisting BOSU is futile, and while I would never admit it, BOSU has given me killer abs and some rockin' thigh muscles. But let's not let the bulbous blue blob of blech know, OK?
Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... keep it real.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Real Reality Thursday: A New Coffee Mug!

Today is just another typical day. Target. Laundry. Blah. Blah. Blah. But it was made all the better by this little gem I found at Target. It caught my eye right off the bat, and I tried to resist it. I did. I strolled by, stopped, drooled, kept going. Got two aisles past it and had to back up. I stopped, stared, fondled, talked myself out of it, and strolled on. Made it one aisle past and said, "Oh what the heck. My cart is already full. What difference is another 5 bucks going to make? Lousy rationalization, I know. But it's mine. And I'm happy. I mean, the dudes are orange (my fave color), and one of them is holding a hotdog. It was meant to be.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, I hope you.are keepin' it real.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Real Reality ThursdayFriday

My Real Reality Thursday posts have been hit or miss lately, haven't they? Well, I have a reeeeeeeeeeeealy good reason this week.

Last night, my friend, Heather, and I listened to Gretchen Rubin speak about her new book Happier At Home. Gretchen autographed our books, and agreed to take a picture with us. No one else was getting their picture taken, so we thought maybe she didn't do that sort of thing. But Heather said we should ask (Heather is brave, and she embraces life). So, I blurted out, "Do you take photos with people?" Eloquent, yes? And Gretchen said, "Sure!" We started a trend. Lots of people behind us started having their pictures taken with her.

It was a lovely night. Gretchen came across as an articulare, intelligent, curious person. I am fascinated by how she grasps onto seemingly simple ideas, researches them, dissects their different angles, and shares her findings and thoughts. Her voice is rather relaxing and calm, and she possesses a wonderfully understated sense of humor.

I can't wait to dive in her book!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Uh ... Where's the Chicken Exit?

Photo courtesy of

This past weekend, I roadtripped to Ponca, Arkansas, with some good gal pals. We rented a cabin from the Buffalo Outdoor Center, and spent time catching up, shopping, eating, and zip lining. It was a fantastic getaway! If you ever get the chance to head south to the Ozarks, I highly recommend the BOC. Great lodging, fantastic hospitality!

Zip lining was a new adventure for me. I like to challenge myself whenever I can because I'm realizing that, while my level for risk taking was never sky high, it's definitely sank lower as the years have passed. Zip lining sounded like the perfect way to pump up my lackadaisical adrenaline.

The morning of our zipping adventure, I geared up and was ready to go. And then I realized that we were going to be way high up on a teeny weeny platform. And I was supposed to jump off this teeny weeny platform and careen through the forest on a cable. Say what?

Here is what I looked like on the first three zips. (I had to make it big so you could see me. I forbid my friends to post of any close ups because then you would see what a true scaredy cat I was! As in, my eyes were closed.)
I was scared to death! See how I'm clinging to the rope for dear life? Because had that steel cable snapped, my death clutch was going to save me as I plummeted to the forest floor. Yeah. Right. After the first zip, I gave myself a mental pep talk like no other:

"You can do this. You can do this. You don't have to love it. There are only six zips. Besides, there is no chicken exit. To get down, you would have to zip back the way you came, so you might as well just keep moving forward. Do not be a sissy."

Somewhere in cyberspace there is a picture of me zipping in straight line formation. Like a pencil. Did I mention I was scared to death? I don't think I have ever puckerd my hiney so tighly in my life!

But I rallied. Here is a picture of me on the zip No. 4 - the length of two football fields. My goal was to let one hand go off the rope. But look at me! All four limbs are waving in the wind (and rain; it rained). And .. I loved it. YeeHaw! I was sad when zip No. 6 brought us back to the ground.

This was one of those times when my Real Reality (fear of heights; fear of falling from a teeny weeny platform and smashing into the ground) almost kept me from achieving my Ideal Reality (trying a new adventure).  Chicken Exit? Not for this chick. I realized I had a great opportunity in front of me, and I took it. (**insert pat on the back)

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, I hope you're Keepin' It Real!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11

On this day, those of us who are old enough to remember the events of September 11, 2001, relive the horrifying images we have pushed away for 12 months. Our hearts break all over again, and we succumb to the overwhelming feeling of helplessness that engulfed us that day. We spend most of the day living our Real Reality, but tears simmer just under the surface, blurring our vision at unexpected times. We are a little kinder to each other today. At least, I hope so.

On this day, we remember the people who lost their chance to achieve their Ideal Realities 11 years ago. And we ache for the people who were forced to forfeit their Real Realities and their Ideal Realities when they lost loved ones or suffered life-altering injuries of every kind.

We remember. Always.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

With Friends Like These ...

A couple of weekends ago, Mark and I attended a dinner party thrown by a friends of ours. The gathering consisted of five couples, most of whom I met eons ago when we all attended the singles ministry at a local church. That particular ministry was pretty successful seeing as how all of us at the party, with the exception of one gal, married someone we met in the group.

At the time, these people were my core friends. We hung out together quite often. We held each other accountable for our actions and our words. We laughed , traveled, and talked together. As it often does, life led us down different paths, and we lost contact with each other. Our common link was the dinner party hostess. She has kept in touch with everyone over the years and keeps us all up to date on who is doing what. She thought it would be grand fun to pull us all together again. I was pretty excited until ...

"Oh! I like your tablecloth dress!" my friend exclaimed when we walked through the door. I looked at Mark; he looked at me. We were both thinking, "Huh? Who says that to a guest?" I smiled and let it slide. After all, the hostess isn't known for her filtering.

Apparently, neither are very many people at the party. By the time the dinner was over, I don't think there was any part of my belief system or life that hadn't been hatefully criticized. (To be fair, the comments came mostly from one person.) Here's the rundown: 
  • Democrats are jackasses ... and it wasn't a reference to the Democratic party symbol.
  • If you choose to live in Missouri vs. Kansas ... you suck on all levels.
  • People who work in the field of information technology (which Mark does), are geeky nerds.
  • If you mention on your Facebook page that you enjoy alcohol on occasion, then it is assumed that you spend most of your time hammered.
  • If you are gay, you are the root of all evil.
And they shared other opinions, plenty of others. Here's the real kicker: Every other sentence was spent praising God and bragging about how often they attend church, and which Bible study or small group they were a part of. It was almost like a competition amongst themselves to see who was the best Christian. And apparently, if you go attend church on a regular basis, that makes your hateful and hurtful comments OK.

I sat rigidly silent in offended shock through most of the dinner. And, I was kind of embarrassed at the closed-mindedness of some of the people at the table. I don't know if they thought we were all like-minded because we all knew each other, and that made their comments acceptable. I don't know if they live in such a small bubble that they truly have no awareness that other perspectives exist in this world.  I do know that Mark and I try to be very careful with our words in mixed company, especially when we are around people we consider friends. And while I am certainly OK with viewpoints that differ from my own, I believe there is an intelligent way to communicate those ideas.

So, lately I've been wondering if these friends always held these views, and I was just oblivious. Or, maybe they have changed and I haven't. Or maybe I have changed and they haven't. Not sure what the Real Reality is here, but I know that evening was far from my Ideal Reality.


Real Reality Thursday: What'cha Up To?

Welcome to Real Reality Thursday, where I offer you a snapshot of what my Real Reality looks like at this one moment in time and encourage you to share as well.

Did you read that? SHARE, people! For those of you who are not yet sufficiently caffeinated, that was a semi-polite way of saying, "Chime in with some comments, folks!"

Today, I am:
  • Walking the peeps to school ( I love doing this more than I ever thought I would)
  • A-washin' and a-dryin' the laundry (made more fun by the portable drying rack I found at Target)
  • Blogging (duh)
  • Organizing the pantry (again)
  • Organizing the office (finally)
  • Fixin' up my Reading Nook curtain
  • Weeding the front landscaping
What are YOU up today? Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gone Girl Interruptus

I've been meaning to jump on here and dazzle you with my stories of powdered peanut butter and dinner parties gone wrong. But my friend, Heather (of Battery Brains fame), challenged me to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn by September 20, so we could discuss it over din din before we see Gretchen Rubin, (author The Happiness Project and Happier At Home). I told Heather I would TRY to get it read, or at least most of it.

Uh, well, reading this book is almost all I've done for the past several days. I usually shy away from books that everyone and their Aunt Millie like, but I gave this one a chance. A big chance. A "Why  must life interrupt my reading of this book?" chance. All I can think about is when I will have another opportunity to sneak away with my book. Can we say ADDICTED?

I'm almost done ... and then I'll be back to regale you with stories about powdered peanut butter and dinner parties gone wrong.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When Ideal Reality Becomes Real Reality: Home Improvement

It's done! Our new basement floor is done! Yee Haw! Hip Hip Hooray! The crew from Big Red Decorative Concrete finished its work last week Friday, and our dungeon looks phenomenal. Don't you just love it when a home improvement project ends up beyond your wildest dreams? Here's a look ... before and after.

Photo 1: Basement with carpet
Photo 2: Basement with carpet
Photo 3: Basement with black mastic. Yes, folks, under the carpet we found asbestos tiles. This is what the floor looked like after the tiles and carpet were removed. Pretty, yes?

Photo 4: A close-up of our stamped concrete. Check out the detail!
Photo 5: Our finished basement!
Photo 6: More of our finished basement!

Photo 7: The sunroom with carpet
Photo 8: The sunroom with the new floor!

We are just thrilled with how this turned out! The completion of this project means I get to go shopping for new furniture!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Real Reality Thursday

Here's what's up today:

The peeps started Kindergarten yesterday, so I am in full home-alone-in-the-house party mode!

Wahoo! Rockin' It!

Of course, that depends on what you call a party. So far today, I've done a load of laundry, paid bills, drank coffee, ate a peach, ate a handful of almonds, thought about eating cookies (willpower, willpower) played with my Twitter account, took a sip of water (I'm trying to drink more water) and researched roman shades for our office.

Essentially, I'm lollygaggin' around. And lovin' it. Because I know in about two weeks, I will be bored out of my gourd.

I'm also waiting for our floor crew to arrive. We are on Day 4 of the new flooring installation. I am super excited about this project! We are having stamped concrete floors installed in the sun room and basement. The stamp is of an 8-inch-wide hardwood floor plank! They stamped the floors yesterday.  Amazin!. I think they are going to stain them today. Can't wait! Especially because to get to the deep freeze and laundry room I must go out the front door, down the walkway, and into the garage. Nothing like carrying a basket of your unmentionables across the front yard for everybody and their brother to ogle!

By the way, you can now follow me on Twitter! I finally had the chance to explore a new social media outlet. But I can't figure out how to get the Tweet button on my website. So, for now you can find me here:


Please be kind because I am so new to Twittering and Tweeting.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real

Monday, August 6, 2012

Real, Ideal, or Denial?

"Joy is the best makeup."

I came across this Anne Lamott quote one day last week, and it has stuck with me. When I feel my face scrunch up in annoyance or anger or realize I'm clenching my jaws, this simple phrase pops into my head. And it helps. I ry to smile. I relax my jaw. I wonder what a crabby apple I must look like to those around me.

I've only read one of Lamott's books, Imperfect Birds. I can't say whether I enjoyed it, but I found it interesting enough - intriguing enough - to keep reading. At the outset, I dismissed Elizabeth as a silly mother in an agonizingly drawn out denial about her daughter's drug addiction. But as I continued reading, my inner voice kept whisperhing, "What would YOU do if you were in Elizabeth's shoes?"

As I continue to reflect on the novel, I find myself wondering if Elizabeth was in deep denial, or was she everymother, a woman just trying to turn her real reality into her ideal reality? And if that's the case, who among us hasn't attempted that great feat?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ideal Reality Becomes Real Reality: Meeting Gretchen Rubin

 I've mentioned several times around this blog how much I love the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It's one of my all-time favorite books because it just makes sense to my world. It's well-written and well-researched. It's just a uniquely intelligent literary work.

So you can imagine how super excited I was to read that she has a second book coming out on September 4: Happier At Home. I cannot wait to get my hands on this!

But wait, there's more ...

Gretchen, a  KC native, is coming to Unity Temple on the Plaza! She will be in town September 20 to talk about her new book. I ordered up a couple of tickets and a copy of the book yesterday from the local bookseller, Rainy Day Books.

But wait, there's more ...

My friend, Heather, who writes the brilliant blog, Battery Brains, is driving up from Jefferson City to come with me! I love spending time with Heather and hate that our visits are way, way, way too rare. (By the way, if you haven't been reading Heather's blog, you are missing out. She is a crazy-talented writer with life wisdom beyond her years!)

It doesn't get much better than this!

Oh ... and I have an extra ticket to the event if anyone is interested!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, keep it real.

Monday, July 30, 2012

First Ladies: Just Where Are Those Love Skeletons?

While watching the movie J. Edgar the the other night, a curious thought popped into my brain: Why don't we ever hear about the love affairs and sexual scandals of First Ladies? Think about it. Our presidential history is bloated with the tales of indiscretion chalked up by our male leaders. But we rarely hear about the missteps of their female counterparts. Some of these gals had to have slipped a time or two. Why don't we ever hear about it? How do "they" keep these affairs under wraps when every teeny tiny bit of every famous person's life is fodder for the news media?

I tried various Google searches on the topic, but came up with very little. featured the most info in a little ditty called All the Presidents' Wives, but even that article is lacking.

I have no idea why I am stuck on this idea right now. I have about 10 million other things I should be thinking about. I think it has something to do with the fascination I have with seeking out the "human" in people who live extraordinary lives. I find comfort in knowing that, at our core, we are all humans who laugh, cry, love, and screw up big time.

If you are wondering how watching a movie about the head honcho of the FBI led me down this bizarre path, I'll tell ya: In the movie, President Roosevelt asks Hoover to meet with him. Hoover is certain Roosevelt is going to ask for his resignation. Hoover loves his job and the power it brings, and he not about to let it go. So during their meeting, Hoover shows the president a secret file of information on his wife that includes a love letter from journalist Lorena Hickock. Apparently, some historians believe that Eleanor had a lesbian love affair. Who knew? Certainly not me! And now I'm wondering what else has gone on in that big White House. Hmm .... Inquiring minds with nothing better to do want to know!

By the way, I highly recommend the movie. Leonard DiCaprio is unbelievable as Hoover. The movie intertwines events from both Hoover's professional life and personal life. I found this glimpse into a icon that I knew nothing about both fascinating and educational.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, keep it real!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ideal Reality Vs. Real Reality: Me in the Kitchen - Again

In my Ideal Reality, I fancy myself a foodie (please stick with Definition 1 as I find it to be the most flattering and accurate depiction of my Ideal Reality. I am most certainly NOT Definition 2. At least, I don't think I am!?). In my Real Reality, I would rather ram hot pokers in my eyes than cook/bake/fix/plan/shop for/serve food. I just want it to magically appear.

Occasionally, I get the urge to whoop up on my kitchen. And, on occasion, I'm successful. See here.

Since I'm home more often these days, it only makes sense that I, by default, am the one doing most of the kitchen whoopin' these days. And I struggle. The whole planning/cooking process feels so chaotic to me. People who plan their meals weeks in advance truly fascinate me. Some people I know have planning down to a science. I love the idea of meal planning, simple because it feeds my craving for organization and structure. Or control. Whatever you want to call it. But, I'm terrible about it.

But that's about to change.

The other day, I finally decided to get serious about figuring out how to make meal preparation more tolerable. (Perhaps I'll only gouge one eye.) I went on Google Play and found Food Planner. Boys and Girls, Let the choir sing! I'm completey addicted to this app, which is FREE. Yeah, baby! I can add recipes, convert the needed ingredients to a shopping list, categorize that shopping list and then organize the categories in the order I shop in my grocery store. I can inventory my deep freeze. Oh, and I can plan meals with just a few taps. This app totally feeds my compulsive organizational addiction. I've been filling my recipe inventory and whipping out culinary delights like it's nobody's business this week.

Ideal Reality, meet Real Reality. Love it when that happens!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... keep it real.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Whew! And I'm Back!

That was some hiatus, huh? It was not without cause. All good cause, too.

You know about the crazy-busy teaching job from previous posts. True to my word, I resigned at the end of the school year in May. Just in time for us to pack the house and move! The move happened rather quickly. Long story short: We wanted more land with a cool house. Couldn't fulfill that dream with what was on the market so we decided to stop looking and stay put. Only I kept browsing.


Surfing the Internet while home witha sick kiddo one day last spring, I found it. THE house. Built in 1942, sitting on one acre with park-like setting, tempting us with hardwood floors and dripping with charm ... we had to have her. So on Easter weekend we made aThat was some hiatus, huh? It was not without cause. All good cause, too.

You know about the crazy-busy teaching job from previous posts. True to my word, I resigned at the end of the school year in May. Just in time for us to pack the house and move! The move happened rather quickly. Long story short: We wanted more land with a cool house. Couldn't fulfill that dream with what was on the market so we decided to stop looking and stay put. Only I kept browsing.


Surfing the Internet while home with a sick kiddo one day last spring I found it. THE house. Built in 1942, sitting on one acre with a park-like setting (hello, woodland deer), tempting us with hardwood floors and dripping with charm ... we had to have her. So on Easter weekend we made an offer. We moved Memorial Day weekend. Our other house sold in a week.

WHAM BAM! Grab that Ideal Reality when you can!

So my blazin' hot summer is me hangin' with my peeps in my new old house, fixin' and sprucin' stuff. And that is coolio. So now I'm back.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real (and cool. Did I mention it's blazin' hot?)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Living Vicariously

Traveling the world is my Ideal Reality, ya know. But, my Real Reality kept me here. Which is not to say I didn't have a great spring break. I had a fantastic spring break! We spent some time in Minneapolis and just hung out and relaxed.

Anyway ... one of my colleagues went on the trip and smuggled me back a kilo of kickin' Turkish coffee from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul! He bought it at the most famous coffee shop around. He said the ordering process was similar to that of the Soup Nazi episode from Seinfeld. Wish I could have experienced that (sigh). The tightly-packed coffee grounds resemble cocoa powder. Slugging a cup takes the phrase "hopped up on caffeine" to a whole new level!

Here's to keepin' it real ...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Morose and Melancholy

UGH. What is my problem? It is 82 degrees outside, the sun is shining, and I'm on break from school. I should be basking in the gloriousness that is today. But I'm not. And I don't know why. From the time I stumbled out of bed this morning until now, I've been morose and melancholy. Worse than usual. I didn't want to talk to anybody or see anybody. I just wanted to wallow. Wallow, wallow, wallow. Wallow.

What's a girl who has everything but is still miserable to do? For starters, I invited myself on Mark's motorcycle ride this afternoon. I used to love riding passenger. But with the peeps, it's tough to ride. With the little ladies at school, there really wasn't a reason not to. So, I piled on that pink gear and went for it. Wind in my face, alone with my thoughts, no chance on interaction. Until ... Mark pulled into Ladoga Ridge Winery, a brand new winery just miles from our house. What was he thinking? I told him I didn't want to talk to anybody, see anybody ... I grumbled, I shuffled, I frowned my way to the door, dead set on being miserable and taking everyone else with me. Yeah, I was THAT person today.

And dammit if we didn't have a great time. Get to this place fast! So friendly. So beautiful. And delish wine! We bought a Strawberry Rhubarb and a Norton. I left with a smile on my face. No song in my heart, but at least a smile. I hate it love it that Mark knows what I need more that I do sometimes.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Deja Vu a la Job

I made the decision not to return to my current teaching position next year. I'll finish out the year, and then I'm done. I have no idea if the school would have even "invited" me back, but now I don't have to worry about it. The school is not a good fit for my teaching philosophy or my family. With that decision behind me, I can slow down the tap dance I've been performing since August. But, that decision also puts me right back where I was this time last year, which is engaged in a fruitless job search for a teaching position. I've been toying with the idea of chucking the classroom altogether and going back to editing/publishing/writing. We'll see what turns up.

Last month,  I posted about the stack of books I want to read this year (see Stack Attack). I'm happy to say that I've made a nice little dent. I finished the Hunger Games series (awesome) and the book about starting a hobby farm (addicted). I just started The Scarlet Pimpernel. Love it. Such rich, intelligent writing. Now that my position as middle school librarin has kicked in, I'm fighting the urge to delve into YA lit. As much as I want to stick to my pre-set list, I imagine I'll be feeding my YA habit here and there. Such good stuff!

As for my kind of sort of New Year's resolutions, I think I'm doing pretty well sticking to them. I have not let my job be my life. Yes, I still let it stress me out, but not to the point where I was before Christmas. I'm also exploring my interest in gardening at a deeper level. I subscribed to Urban Farm magazine, a sister publication of Hobby Farm magazine. I bought the cutest kitchen composter from Uncommon Goods (one of my favorite online stores). Instead of buying all of my veggie garden seeds from the local home improvement store, I'm buying from a seed company! I'm going to have purple carrots! And chocolate cherry tomatoes! And chocolate mint in my herb garden!

I'm still struggling with being in one moment at a time and with being nice. But I keep trying.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... keep it real.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stack Attack

That stack of books represents my reading list for 2012. A few I received as Christmas presents this year. Some I've had for months. Some I've had for years. Yes, years. Only one will be a reread. I am determined to get through this pile. I am going to try really hard to resist the siren's call of book reviews, book recs, book stores. That said, I already know one book that I must have this spring:  Trail of the Spellmans. It's the fifth book in the Spellman series by Lisa Lutz. Love. That. Series.

Here's the list. Sorry, no links. I'm typing fast and furiously while my vat of Three-Bean Pumpkin Chili with Turkey simmers on the stove (another endeavor: try more new recipes) and while Mr. Mark and the girls are playing some sort of dungeons and dragons game on his phone.

Sanctuary - William Faulkner (saw the B/W movie Temple Drake awhile back. It was made from this book. Love me some Willie F.)
The Scarlet Pimpernel  - Baroness Emmuska Orczy (read a excerpt while I was tutoring 7th graders; up my alley)
Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins (third book in The Hunger Games series)
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Basic Teachings of the Buddha - Glenn Wallis (I find the basic concepts on Buddhism interesting.)
Selected Letters of Martha Gelhorn - Caroline Morehead (Love me some Martha G.)
The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin (reread)
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
The Wonders of Solitude - Dale Salwak
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins (second book in The Hunger Games series; 50 pages left to read)
Hobby Farm: How To Create and Maintain Your Hobby Farm or Great Estate - Kristen Hampshire (gardening is a hobby that I'm going to cultivate this year - pun totally intended)

I am fighting a big SHOULD with this endeavor, as in "I should be reading all sorts of Young Adult literature so I can make great recommendations to my students." But I don't want to. And I'm wondering if that's a sign that teaching is no longer where I'm supposed to be. Or maybe it's just a sign that I am burnt out.

Whatever you do this week, wherever you are, whatever you read - keep it real!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

And the Shine Has Worn Off

"The grass is always greener on the other side." Truer words words have never been muttered.

Long story short, it's been a long few months at my not-so-new teaching job. The glitz and glamour that attracted me in August have faded. Actually, they have disappeared completely. Tonight marks the last night of a 18-day (counting weekends) winter break. I head back to the classroom tomorrow, and I'm just not ready.  But, go back I will, in true Trooper Mari style. With a smile on my face and an eye toward the last day of school in May.

I know it's up to me to sink or swim the next few months. I'm going to do everything I can to keep my head above water. I believe attitude is everything. I just have to figure out how to maintain a positive one in an environment that is so overwhelmingly not positive.

What a bummer post for the Happy New Year, huh? Overall, no complaints. My family is healthy, wealthy, and wise. I found a teaching job in a market where teaching jobs are super scarce. My furnace works, and my 'fridge is full. Under the veneer of complaints, I know I'm blessed beyond belief.

I kind of sort of make new-year resolutions. Really, I make resolutions all year long. Ever changing. Ever evolving. Ever tweaking. Here's what I'm thinking right now:

1. My job will not rule my life. That is one thing that will most definitely change, starting tomorrow.
2. Be in one moment at a time.
3. Make time for hobbies. I'm discovering an interest in gardening, and I hope to take some time to read and learn and see where that interest takes me.
4. Be nice.

That's it for now. My hope is to post about once a month. We'll see!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... keep it real.