Friday, November 29, 2013

I Wouldn't Trade This For the Best Shopping Deals

Despite the slew of Black Friday circulars flooding our doorstep and inbox, I knew that nothing--NOTHING!--was going to prevent me from spending one of my favorite holidays of the year the way it should be spent:

Surrounded by family and food (not by grumpy shoppers and long lines).

And I knew it wasn't just me who was noticing how much the consumerism was starting to encroach on this beloved American holiday--in fact, ever since I read this much-shared article, I haven't been able to stop thinking about how I am going to need to consciously choose to spend the day focused on loved ones, year after year (because heaven knows when this retail madness is ever going to end).

Before we said the blessing over the food yesterday, we did the usual thing:

We went around in a circle and said one thing we were all grateful for. And even though everyone laughed when I said that I was grateful that Matt was almost done with school, I was serious---the only thing worse than having to go through a tough school semester yourself is to watch the person closest to you go through it.

I had been a little grumpy Thanksgiving morning, despite a 6-mile run at 7 AM. It's like my brain was determined to focus on the things that were worrying me and causing me anxiety, despite my best efforts to be cheerful.

However, when we went around in a circle and everyone listed one thing they were grateful for, my crankiness started to subside, and I discovered that the old wisdom proves true:

It is impossible to feel unhappy or miserable while feeling grateful.

And I have a LOT to be grateful for.

I'm sorry if I've seemed negative the past couple weeks on the blog. I've never been one to handle stress very gracefully, but it's something I want to work on.

This year, I'm so thankful for the feeling I've been having especially strong the past little while that I feel perfectly content with how much we have.

Sometimes, when I start to think about finances too much or how much grad school is going to cost us, it gets easy for me to complain about our situation.

But this week, I'm feeling truly thankful---we both have jobs that not only pay our bills and allow us to save for a rainy day, but I can truly say that I am perfectly content with all that my life is. I am content---thrilled!--to be surrounded by so many good people in my life, and I was thrilled to be able to spend the whole day with them (especially my grandma, who hasn't been feeling very well lately).

And that's a feeling that even the most killer Black Friday deal could never give me.

(Of course, I DID go out today around 10 AM to pick up some stuff, and I was pleasantly surprised to find NO lines and pretty much almost everything I'd set out to get on my gift list. Yet another thing to be grateful for.)

I hope everyone had the opportunity to spend the holiday with loved ones, and I hope that everyone who had to work in the retail sector got a second chance at Thanksgiving today :)

Did you brave the madness on Thanksgiving Day and go out to the stores?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Who Invented Dodgeball Anyway?

It's finally come, friends---my Thanksgiving break! By far the best part about being a teacher is getting all these vacation days, and I am thoroughly planning on living it up by catching up on all my unread magazines, going running in the mornings (finally!), finding some time during the day to actually see the sunlight, and prepping my stomach for all the food it's about to take in.

You want to know how my school kicks off the kids for Thanksgiving break?

Today, in the last hour and a half (90 MINUTES, people!), we had a gigantic dodgeball tournament in which each class plays other classes for 2 minutes a game. Because I was in heels (conveniently), I opted to not play, but don't you worry---I was still getting hit about every two minutes by some "stray" ball. It seemed that literally every time I let my guard down for more than three seconds to yell at a kid or something, I got whacked somewhere.

The worst was at the end---I had just turned my head down to see who was next up to play, and BAM! A dodgeball smacked the side of my face like a rubbery hand, and I was left with a pink mark on my face for the remainder of the school day.

While I was watching the students line up (most of them timidly) against opposite walls and start pelting each other as hard as they could across the room, I wondered to myself:

"What kind of sick sadist planned a game where you just try to whack the tar out of each other with large rubber balls? What normal kid actually LIKES this game growing up?"

It's sick, I tell you. (Of course, I always hated dodgeball as a kid---I wasn't bad at it, but that was mostly because I learned the strategy of hiding not too close to people who get too into the game nor too close to people who are easy targets.)

My husband, of course, loves dodgeball. In fact, it's one of the forms of exercise he currently is okay with the idea of (unlike running, doing Billy Blanks videos with me, or dancing).

Did you like dodgeball growing up?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Importance of Making Memories (& Cookies!)

I've talked before about how much I love establishing new Christmas traditions with Matt that will hopefully become our future family's permanent traditions. Each year, I know I can look forward to a special dinner and Christmas movie or game night on Christmas Eve eve, going to the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas concert (followed up by a trip to Leatherby's where Matt proposed to me three years ago), and time spent together on the Monday nights leading up to Christmas reading picture books like 'Twas the Night Before Christmas or The Christmas Orange.

For many years before getting married, I had become quite the Scrooge during Christmas---I found myself griping about everything from the consumerism to the overplayed Christmas songs, and I wondered if I would ever feel the "magic" of the holiday again.

Getting married and being able to celebrate with Matt though has reinvigorated the holiday for me--Matt's like a little boy himself sometimes when it comes to holidays and presents, and I have such fun playing Santa and surprising him on Christmas morning.

In the current December issue of Good Housekeeping, there's this awesome article called "The Root of All Things" that's worth checking out. The article talks all about how sharing family stories and memories aloud builds resilience and confidence as well as boosts happiness.

A part I particularly liked:

"New research shows [family stories] can increase well-being, reduce anxiety and depression, reinforce feelings of closeness among family members, and build resilience for navigating life's normal ups and downs. In fact, developing a strong family narrative may be the most important thing you can do for yourself and your family . . . It sums up what your family is about and what it means to be a member. 'We're about grit,' for instance, or 'We always stick together.'

"A family narrative is made up of all the stories that get passed on daily, weekly, and annually, from the distant past (Great-Aunt Millie starting a pie-baking business) to recent times (finding a $10 bill on the bus yesterday morning.) 'Any time you talk about what it means to be a part of your family, you strengthen the whole,' says [Bruce Feiler, author of The Secrets of Happy Families]. And the key? 'Talking about not just the good times, but the negative events as well--the broken leg, the lost job, the rain that ruined the perfectly planned outdoor wedding.' Stories about something good coming from something bad are particularly therapeutic."

Perhaps it's because I've really gotten into family history research the past two years, but lately, I have found myself especially strengthened by shared family stories.

So, this weekend, in a burst of positive energy, I decided to resurrect a Christmas tradition from my own family's past---making and decorating sugar cookies.

I still remember one particular Christmas when we went out as a family into the falling snow, taking plates of cookies around to people in the neighborhood who might be lonely or in need of cheer. We sang Christmas carols and joked along the way, and I'll never forget for as long as I live the feeling I had that night---I probably was only about 9 or 10, but I truly felt like there was magic in the air that night.

It's such a little thing, really---the act of baking a batch of cookie dough (half of which I ate--literally--before it ever made it into the oven) and decorating it, but you know what?

It began to feel a lot like Christmas.

(And even though I normally despise that song, I actually found myself humming along with it and making up my own lyrics to it as I blobbed some blue icing rather messily onto our slightly deformed cookies.)

Perhaps our cookie-making on Sunday night isn't a memory that I'll talk about forever, but it did serve to reinforce what our little family is all about---doing things together in love, and enjoying each day that we are given to the fullest (not to mention finding opportunities to sneak in some sugary goodness whenever possible!).

So with the upcoming holiday on Thursday, I think I'll make sure and take some extra time to relive some past memories as we spend Thanksgiving with my family---

I encourage you to do the same :)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Collared Shirts & I Have a Complicated Relationship

There was one year of my life (in 7th or 8th grade) where I went through this phase where I couldn't STAND to wear anything long-sleeved. No matter how cold it was, I would refuse to wear long-sleeved shirts, and even my coats had to be loose so that my arms (especially my forearms) didn't feel too restricted.

I eventually (kinda) got over that particular hurdle (although I will say this---long sleeves will never be my favorite), but there IS one particular wardrobe hang-up I've never fully overcome:

The feeling of material on my neck.

I own two turtlenecks that I rarely ever wear (and I mean RARELY--we're talking once every year or two) and about 25 collared shirts. Considering how seldom I put these items of clothing on, you'd think I'd have the sense just to get rid of them (and then stop buying them, for crying out loud).

The problem is this:

The time I always get the most compliments (seriously) is when I'm wearing a turtleneck or collared shirt. In fact, I once dated a guy who ONLY complimented me when I was wearing either a collared shirt or a skirt (or both). Additionally, it seems that those types of shirts seem to always be the easiest to layer, to make an outfit more interesting, and to make me look professional and polished with minimal fuss.

What gives?

Basically it's come to the point where I have to bribe myself---"If I wear this shirt today, I'll let myself change into sweats right after work, and I'll even throw a 7-11 hot chocolate in to boot."

I couldn't make up this stuff if I tried, people.

I'm assuming that the way to get over this ridiculous hang-up is to either A) stop being so vain and just wear whatever the heck I want already, or B) wear collared shirts so often that I would even feel comfortable (heaven forbid) sleeping in them.

Do you like wearing collared shirts and/or long sleeves? (In other words, are you capable of putting those items on your neck and arms and not even worrying about it?!)

If so, you should tell me your secret.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

September & October Reading

Since I only finished one book in September, I decided to combine all my reading for the last two months together. I think this smattering of books is the perfect example of how totally random my interests are--I'm basically all over the place, which is actually kind of helpful considering that I'm usually in the middle of several books simultaneously. (You see, if my books were TOO similar to each other, there's no way I could read more than one at the same time.)

This collection of reads also goes to show how much I'm influenced by what I hear or see---if I saw the movie and loved it, I have to read the book, If every magazine is talking about the latest novel, I have to pick it up so I won't feel left out. It's like I have the world's worst case of FOMO---but with books.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Anyone who has seriously considered becoming a writer has probably heard of this well-known volume on writing tips and hints. I personally have toyed with really trying to be a serious writer for years, but I've found that writing---as in running---often requires exorbitant amounts of daily motivation through textual material for me to continue forward. I'll say this though---the book must have done something to my brain because the very afternoon I started it, I found myself sitting at the computer and typing out 2-3 pages of "real," non-blog writing, which is something I hadn't done in years.

If you're wanting to hone your writing skills or just need an extra push to explore your creative self, this is a great book to pick up.

My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness Rating: There's quite a bit of strong language in this book, so tread carefully.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

I'd heard about this book long before the movie came out, but I'll admit that I didn't pick it up until after I'd seen the film. Since I couldn't remember the last time I'd laughed so hard during a movie, I just knew I HAD to read the book, so Matt was obliging enough to pick me up a copy for my birthday.

Although the writing was far from impressive, the storyline was pure candy---a Jane-Austen obsessed woman goes to a resort in England that is made to help you get the "authentic Austen experience," and she finds true love. What's not to like?

My Rating: 3 stars
Clean? Quite. Apart from some awkward almost-sexual-references, this book is about as clean of a modern book written for adults as they come.

Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott

When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I picked up this book and found myself delighted with the story of the four March sisters (largely because in my family, there were four of us girls). I remember loving the first half of the book, but as soon as the girls all started falling in love and getting married and all that nonsense, I was so bored that I simply couldn't pick the thing up again.

Until this year, that is.

It's funny how life changes our opinions about things. Of course, it DOES help that I could relate to the characters since I'm married myself. But my enjoyment of the book went far beyond just enjoying a projection of my own experiences in a fictional account---I loved how utterly WHOLESOME the book was; it's so hard these days to find a book that preaches and practices virtuous conduct in the characters, and I was delighted to see the four sisters as they progressed from self-centered girls to strong women. If you are a woman and haven't checked out this treasure, you'd best get on it quick.

My Rating: 4 stars
Cleanliness: Squeaky

Cooked by Michael Pollan

Ever since I read In Defense of Food by Pollan earlier this year and had my life changed because of it, I've been a big fan of Pollan's blend of journalism, research, and personal experience. So, when I found out that he'd recently published this book that explored the history of cooking and how cooking in general affects society, I knew I had to give it a go.

Although parts of it were more fascinating to me than others, I was overall very pleased with the book as a whole. I even picked up some awesome cooking advice along the way (and stuff I would rarely find in general cookbooks, too). And even Matt was pleased I'd read it because it meant that I started chopping onions and tomatoes much more finely than I used to after learning about their purpose in culinary dishes. (Matt hates being able to detect the texture of vegetables at all.)

The parts that talked about Pollan's personal experiences flew by, but some of the research parts did get pretty slow, so consider yourself warned.

My Rating: 4 stars
Cleanliness: I don't really remember, so that must mean it wasn't too bad...

Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

In the book Born to Run (which I read earlier this year), the author hailed Scott Jurek as one of the greatest ultra-runners of all time. After reading this account of his life and experiences with ultrarunning, I can see why---

This guy is a masochist.

I'll say this---I definitely admire someone with as much drive as Jurek. Not only does he regularly run marathon-length distances for fun and win many of the 50- or 100-mile races he enters, he does it all eating entirely vegan. I've looked into vegan eating (not as a serious lifestyle, but I like making the recipes), and most running experts say that a vegan diet is not ideal for runners since it is so generally low on protein. However, Jurek blows all that talk to pieces as he proved time and time again that the human body won't just survive on a vegan diet----it can thrive.

If nothing else, this book definitely got me off my lazy butt multiple times to go out and run since I figured that if Jurek could pump out 15-25 miles a day, I surely could churn out 4 or 5.

My Rating: 4 stars
Cleanliness? There is some strong language throughout this book.

Are you a random reader? Or do you tend to prefer the same "type" of book?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All

*What these pictures don't tell you is this---for the past two days, my left eyelid has been mysteriously puffy and swollen. It's almost imperceptible unless you're looking for it, but it has been preventing me from wearing any other eye makeup besides just a little mascara. As I mentioned in this post about my thoughts on not wearing makeup, I am MUCH more comfortable with my "face" on. The past two days, I've had to experiment more with just doing a really bold lipcolor and hardly any eye makeup. I'm not sure if it will ever really become "my" thing, but I guess it will do for the present.

*About the puffy eyelid though---has one of yours ever puffed up randomly? What on earth could be the cause? And when can I start wearing eyeliner again?!

*Well, Matt and I have heard back from one of the five schools he applied to, and his application has already been denied. I'm totally bummed about it because it was actually the one that I thought would be the EASIEST of the five to get into, so the whole thing doesn't bode well. I'm trying really hard to not panic and just let whatever happens happen, but after how hard my day at school was yesterday (the first day of the second trimester), I just don't think I can handle this for another year. Sometimes I feel like total weak sauce because I let a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds get to me so much. I mean, I just need to grow a thicker skin I guess so that their stupid antics don't drive me so stinkin' CRAZY.

*But how can they not when like yesterday, I catch a student writing in one of the classroom dictionaries one of those stupid little "search" things---you know, like "Turn to page 255 for a fun search." And what has he done? He's directed the search so that the student following along is turning to the pages with all the sex or reproductive anatomy words on them. I mean, really. How I'm NOT completely crazy yet is beyond me.

*Along with all the stress that's come the last week from helping Matt apply to PT schools and trying to get this dang grading all finished for the final grade report, I haven't been able to go running at all, which I'm sure has only exponentially increased the amount of stress I've felt since I have no way of blowing it off. So, in an effort to not put on stress weight, I've been trying out a new thing---during the work week, I basically haven't been eating any sugar (or very, very little), and then I've just been having a little on the weekends (a couple bites of a milkshake here, a cookie or two there). And you know what? Running didn't make me lose any weight, but going without sugar most of the week has melted off all those pesky pounds I've been trying to lose for a year. Go figure.

*I mean, I haven't been able to fit into this pencil skirt in ages (despite running 10-15 miles a week), and all it took was about 10 days of sugar restriction to slide it back on. Body, you are SO weird.

*In other health-related news, ever since my visit to the GI doctor, I haven't drunk a single Diet Dr. Pepper (or any other carbonated drink for that matter). It was largely because I felt guilty admitting to the nurse how much pop I was drinking a week (it didn't help that she gave me a disapproving, judgmental kind of look---obviously SHE doesn't teach 7th graders), but I'm still pretty impressed that I've managed to go from having a 20-oz. DP a day to not having anything at all (AND managed to not smack anyone. Yet.)

*And you know what? My stomach has felt LOADS better from just doing that. Once again, I almost feel stupid of how long it's taken me to figure this body stuff out.

*Like I mentioned earlier, yesterday was the first day of the new trimester, which meant that all of our classes got switched around so the student mixes are all different (even for the kids who I have all year-round for Language Arts). My Spanish class is looking to be quite the nightmare though---not only is it a huge class for me (with 34 kids, every single desk I have is filled), but I only have eight girls in the class. And as far as the boys go? Over half are known to be major behavioral problems and/or kids who really, REALLY struggle with Language Arts (so why not throw another language at them, eh?). I keep trying to soothe myself with the knowledge that I'm just over a third of the way done with the year, but with no chocolate OR caffeine to give me a false feeling of comfort, I'm starting to have a deep sense of foreboding...

*(You know it's bad when several of the most rambunctious boys shout right after the dismissal bell rings: "This class is going to be AWESOME!")

*Sometimes I think that the only thing carrying me through the school day with sanity is the fact that I know I have a 35-minute drive home every day where I get to listen to Harry Potter on c.d....

*Speaking of audiobooks though, I am quickly realizing that there won't be enough Harry Potter to last me the entire school year. I don't know if you are an audiobook fan, but do you have any good audiobook recommendations? I'm SUPER picky about the readers, so basically the reader needs to be awesome (like the guy who reads the HP series) for me to get into it. Any suggestions?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Deadlines and Stress Sickness

When I was still in college, I would get "stress sick" literally almost every single finals week (or just before). Normally, I could easily (well, relatively) handle my 18-credit-hour load and two part-time jobs, but during finals week, I can count on maybe two fingers the semesters I DIDN'T get sick and/or have nervous breakdowns.

Apparently, life in the "real" adult world hasn't been much better---

After getting laid up by food poisoning last Tuesday, my week only seemed doomed to go the same way that so many college finals weeks had gone---

I was trying to frantically finish up grading since the end of the trimester was Friday, my husband's physical therapy applications for all his schools was due Friday, and I was still battling stomach issues and weakness from whatever had given me problems on Tuesday (not to mention having to deal with a bunch of really jittery 7th graders who were just ready for it to be Thanksgiving already).

Basically, I was doomed to the same outcome I'd seen time and again, every December and April:

A serious case of stress sickness (congestion, lightheadedness, stomach cramping, sore throat, the works) and mini sessions of panic and anxiety attacks that seemed to come on---when else?----always when I was trying to get to sleep.

It didn't help that the PT school application process was about the most complicated thing I've ever had to deal with, nor did it help that less than 24 hours before the deadline, we were running into major glitches that could have cost my husband any chance at all of getting accepted by a school this first year.

I had been praying like a maniac for weeks that it would all work out, and I'll admit, my faith started getting shaky come Friday morning---everything seemed to be going wrong, and I didn't see an end in sight. It seemed that we'd wasted so much time and money only to be told that he wouldn't be able to apply to PT school this year.

Then I got a text from Matt at about noon on Friday (on my lunch break), and lo and behold, everything had miraculously come together---his volunteer hours had been verified by the physical therapist, the errors we had made on the application had finally been taken off, and he had been "magically" able to get in the class he needed next semester without actually having taken the prerequisite.

Years of experience have taught me that my Heavenly Father ALWAYS comes through for me---that if I'll do my part and have faith, everything will indeed "work together for my good." I have learned that it is not usually in my timing (almost never, actually), but it always does work out.

Ending of this long story: we were able to submit his application about five hours before the deadline on Friday night, and we went out to celebrate, despite my sniffles and near-fever.

It is SUCH a relief to have those applications done. I was feeling so relieved, in fact, that even all my medical bills coming due and us getting a nail stuck in one of our tires and us having to replace all four tires when we went in on Saturday (because they were getting so bald) didn't even phase me as much as it normally would have.

It's stupid really how many times I have to re-learn that I just need to trust that everything will work out in the end.

Do you get "stress sick?"

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

Yesterday, during one of the rare lunch breaks I actually take in the faculty room near other humans, we were griping about how little time we have to get in our grades for this first trimester, and I said something like the following:

"I kind of just want to take a sick day so I can spend all day grading; otherwise I'll be here at the school til like 11 PM on Friday night trying to finish up."

Now, I'm not too superstitious (just a little stitious), but I'm thinking I should never have said that because last night, I was stumbling to the bathroom every hour due to what seems to be an odd case of food poisoning (possibly from some Olive Garden leftovers?).

At 3:00 this morning, you would have found me here at this computer, groggily typing up a lesson plan so that my panicked brain would stop thinking over and over again about what on earth my Spanish class was going to do for the day with a sub.

Unfortunately, as anyone who's ever had a 24-hour-bug knows, it doesn't exactly leave you much energy for grading papers (or doing anything else productive, for that matter). In fact, I've spent the majority of the day flat on my back since that seems the least offensive body position, and even now, as I'm seated at our computer desk, I'm starting to get queasy once again.

(I also am in that awkward state where I'm totally starving but am terrified to eat anything. Stomach bugs are the WORST.)

Oh, I just heard something---

The sound of a free and lazy weekend being yanked out from under me with an evil cackle (that oddly seems to have just come from my stomach).

Anyone got any suggestions of what I can eat/drink and not upset my stomach?

Monday, November 11, 2013

How Do You Know If You've Chosen the Right Job?

I've been doing a lot of soul-searching recently, about a lot of things. I've always been pretty introspective, and when my heart of  hearts starts to get that familiar unsettled feeling, I start to go even deeper into my own head.

When I was younger, that feeling most often came up in my dating life---it let me know that who I was dating at the time wasn't really the one for me, and even though I was usually terrified to break off those relationships, I knew that in the end, I couldn't live with myself if I let it keep going when I knew deep down it wasn't right.

Thankfully I don't have to ask that question anymore. (Yet another perk of marriage!)

However, I HAVE been feeling that familiar unsettled feeling lately nearly every day after work. I find myself asking the same questions over and over and over:

Am I happy doing this?

Am I making a difference?

Am I utilizing my talents to their fullest extent?

Do I look forward to going to work? (Or at the very least, not dread it?)

Most days, I feel like the answers are no, no, no, no. And it's kind of heartwrenching: I've spent most of my life dreaming of the day when I'd be a teacher because I was so sure---POSITIVE---that my "calling" in life involved teaching others.

But more nights than not, I come home discouraged and distressed. I find that there are so many days that at the end of it all, instead of feeling like I've been doing this great and noble thing, I just feel depleted of absolutely everything---energy, motivation, passion, goodwill.

Everyone keeps telling me to just stick it out past the first three years. Everyone else keeps telling me that I just need to try a different age group---maybe high school (like I've always thought) is the place for me.

And maybe those things are true.

But lately, that's what's been on my mind. And even though all of this is rather circular and doesn't really lead to any great big revelations, it feels good to just get it out there.

Have you found a job you love? How did you know you'd found THE ONE?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Money, Money, Money Must Be Funny...In a Rich Man's World

According to a study cited in the November 2013 issue of Shape magazine, the average woman will spend 355 days of her life worrying about her weight (about 21 minutes per day).

I'd like to see the study that measures how many days of our lives will be spent worrying about money.

Money has fascinated and worried me ever since I opened my first bank account when I was probably about ten. I liked knowing---even at that age---that I had enough money to feel "secure." The problem was, the older I got, the less "secure" it seemed I felt, despite my increased earnings.

I'm gonna be honest with you---

Teachers don't make a lot.

I know, you're shocked, right?

In fact, my take home pay every month is just under $1800, which is hardly more than I made as a secretary.

Just so you know, I'm not complaining. (Well, I kind of am, but overall, I AM really grateful to have a stable job.) However, my frustration seems to lie in the fact that there's always so much uncertainty---I like knowing that I've saved enough to cover an emergency, but on my small salary, it's hard to create much of a cushion from the blows of the financial world, you know?

This year as one of my resolutions, we've been following Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. By December 31st, I was determined to do the first three steps of his plan:

1. Save $1000 as quickly as possible for a baby emergency fund
2. Get out of debt, paying off debts from smallest to largest
3. Save 3-6 months' worth of expenses

I'm happy to say that as of now (largely thanks to a decent tax return back at the beginning of the year), we are on step #3.

Boy, does it feel like we'll be here forever.

You see, I've been saving $300 faithfully almost every month for the entire time I've been a teacher. Problem is, LIFE HAPPENS to us---the car needs a $300 replacement part, I have to get a colonoscopy and the insurance I have is only so-so, Matt needs to drop about $150 for each grad school he wants to attend...

It can be overwhelming.

For the past 8 years that I was a student, I remember thinking: "When I'm graduated, I won't have to live the "poor college student" life anymore---I'll be able to buy whatever I want at the grocery store, I'll be able to not live in cheap student housing, and I'll be able to leave the heat (or A/C) at whatever the heck temperature I want.

(Well, I did get one of those things---because of the way our utilities work, we've never worried about the heat or A/C since being married. That's pretty much been one of the awesomest things ever.)

But I'll admit, I spend way more time than I'd like worrying like crazy over money: How much debt will we have to take on to cover Matt's grad school? How are we ever going to start a family when he has so much school left and I'm the main breadwinner? How are we possibly going to be able to have a decent emergency fund when my salary is so tiny? Will I be living in an apartment for the rest of my life?!

This week, as I started getting some of the bills from my recent medical visits and treatments, I had to take a deep breath and remind myself of a couple things:

1. We're not nearly as bad off as we used to be (like we were last year before my teaching job started)

2. Getting completely out of debt has made me hate debt enough that I no longer charge my credit card every month like I used to. (Even though I paid off my credit card in full every month, I would still make charges to it all the time, so every single month, I always had that bill hanging over my head.) For about 6 months now, I've only used credit cards at Old Navy and Kohl's to get massive store savings, and then I've made myself go home right afterward to pay it off in full so I wouldn't have to worry about budgeting it in for the next month.

3. We faithfully pay 10% of our income every month to our church, which has blessed us in ways both huge and small. One of the biggest blessings was stated best by a church leader at our last General Conference: "[Some of the more subtle blessings of paying tithing are] an increased spiritual and temporal capacity to do more with less, a keener ability to prioritize and simplify, and an enhanced ability to take proper care of the material possessions we already have acquired." I have found that in the past year especially (since I've gotten into the idea of minimalism), I have learned to be much more content with the simple pleasures in life that money can't buy and not focus so much on the things we don't have yet.

4. Even though it's not much, we do save a little every month (and I contribute the maximum amount to my 401(k) to get the full employer match). It may not seem like much, but it's amazing to see our savings gradually keep increasing with time.

5. Since I discovered, I have felt much more at ease knowing where each and every penny has gone to. Call me a sick control freak, but I really spaz out when I have the feeling at the end of the month that I have no idea where our money's all gotten to. has really helped to alleviate a lot of that anxiety, as well as helped feed my OCD tendency to need to list everything.

I could talk on the subject of money forever, but I've already written a novel, so I'll end here.

What's some good financial advice that you've taken? Are you a Dave Ramsey fan? (If you're not, you should definitely check him out!)

And, just because I'm curious, do you spend more time worrying about your weight or your money? (I'm a little embarrassed to say that they're probably about even as of late...)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why Getting a Puppy May Not Ever Be For Me

Ever since we got married, Matt has begged me for a dog. Since two of his brothers have recently acquired puppies (like the one pictured here), the begging has only gotten worse.

I get it---they're cute and cuddly and totally lovable.

But here are some reasons that a puppy may not ever be for me:

1. I can barely clean up after myself (and my husband)---and now you're telling me you want me to care for an animal? Something that will pee in the house possibly for weeks, something that will poop in our yard for as long as it's alive? Listen, I know myself---I would just reach a newer, lower standard of living the second we got a dog because I just wouldn't be able to bring myself to do any more cleaning than I already do. No sir.

2. My gift is in disciplining 12- and 13-year-olds in a structured Language Arts class, not an adorable little creature who looks at me with those big, brown eyes that always seem to be saying, "I love you unconditionally. You would be the cruelest person on the planet if you punished me." I've learned to have a heart of steel when it comes to students begging to go to the bathroom without a hall pass or talking too much to their friends in class, but my heart turns to pre-set Jello when faced with a puppy in all its perfection.

3. Matt is basically the dog whisperer, so our puppy would always--always!--prefer him over me. Since I have issues with needing lots and lots of attention and/or needing to be the most-liked at certain things, I just couldn't stand for that.

4. I have incredibly thick hair, which translates to long, multicolored strands being left all over the house. My husband once put it this way while talking to a colleague at school and pulling several hairs off his backpack: "I'm always thinking of my wife throughout the day because she's constantly leaving me little things to remind me of her everywhere." I can only imagine the nightmare of hairballs that would happen if you got me AND a dog together in the same room for any length of time. Basically, our vacuum would cease to work for all time, and my mom would be even more horrified than she already is when she steps into our bathroom next.

5. I am constantly worrying about the next catastrophe that will happen in my life, and a puppy just seems to spell catastrophe---not only could I come home to find that it has chewed its way through every piece of furniture we own, but---horror of horrors---one day (not in the too-distant future of a decade or two), I would have to watch the thing die. Why would I willingly put myself through that grief?

6. I sometimes have trouble setting boundaries, and if we got a dog, all boundaries would probably fly out the window. The puppy wants to sleep in our bed? It's so cute, how could I say no? The puppy likes to lick my hands right after I've washed them? Why not? Bring on the germs! Basically, a puppy would be code for me driving myself crazy because I could just never say no to a face this cute:

Who's with me? Any other no-thanks-to-dogs people? Or are you all going to convince me why dogs are so great to have?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Re-Reading Conundrum

Picture from back in 2008 when I still had a female roommate :) 
My dad once made a comment to the effect of, "Whenever I'm around, you are ALWAYS reading. I think you have a book in your hand in almost every picture I take of you."
I argued with him for a second, but then I checked---
He was totally right.
Lately I've been thinking morbid thoughts along these lines:
If I only have 60 or 65 years more to live (give or take), how am I ever going to find time to read all the books on my recommended reading lists?!?!
It's a question that's been seriously freaking me out.
If you don't believe me, let me tell you this----I've actually started to do the math to see if it's possible, and the numbers aren't pretty.
If I manage to knock out roughly 25 books average a year for the next 60 years, that's only 1500 books. To anyone else, this probably doesn't seem like a catastrophe. But between this list of 1,001 books I must read before I die, and this list of 100 most-recommended classics, and this list of all the young adult Newbery winners and runners-up, I have AT LEAST over 1500 books I need to read before I kick it.
And we can't forget the fact that I actually like to, you know, pick up a random book that's NOT on a list (heaven forbid) and read that, too.
So this is what I've tentatively decided:
I basically can never re-read any book ever again. (I'll make an exception for the scriptures.)
Or, if I'm really desperate to read something again (like Harry Potter, which I've read books 1-4 at least 20 times a piece, no lie), I have to find it on audiobook and enjoy it again that way.
It's the only way.
The problem is, I actually really LIKE to re-read books---I ALWAYS get more out of a book the second or third time around.
It's basically the greatest conundrum of my intellectual life right now.
So here's the real question---should I just simply accept the fact that I probably won't be able to read all the books I want to in my life? Should I up my ante and discipline myself to read 100 books every year? Should I just throw caution to the wind and READ WHATEVER THE HECK I WANT?
I need answers, people.
What are your thoughts on re-reading? Are you a re-reader?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All

(Random pictures courtesy of a trip to Europe way back when I was a wee lass of 19)

*Here's how my day went yesterday:

-I learned that all of my craziest, rowdiest, most hard-to-contain, drive-me-bat-crazy kids who all have me for Spanish also all list Spanish as their favorite class. Go figure. It made me wonder aloud to Matt tonight if that means I'm going way too easy on them. I'm thinking I'd better throw in some boring days now and then so maybe they'll stop thinking the class is so fun, eh?

-That'll teach 'em to like my class.

-I personally had to get in between a hissy fight that broke out between a couple in my swing dancing class. The boy kept blaming the girl and everyone else in the class for why they weren't following the routine we're trying to practice, and I had to threaten to kick him out because the girl looked like she was about to get emotional. Life is never dull with this year's country swing group.

-Also happening with the country swing group: apparently, a power struggle has broken out every day during lunch on the stage, where the people in the class who think they're the best dancers won't let any of the other, non-best dancers up on the stage to practice. Aren't you so glad you're not in 7th grade anymore? I mean, where do they get these crazy ideas from? Where is the rule book for life that says that 7th and 8th grade experiences must include one of each of the following: petty drama between friends, weird hierarchies that are built on shallow skills like dancing or dressing well, intense focusing on every single little thing that everyone else is doing, and laughing every time the teacher says the word "but" when talking about conjunctions? WHERE IS THAT RULE BOOK?!

-I had to "bench" everybody in my 3rd hour during a game of Four Corners because they just couldn't handle it. Not only were they trying to sprawl on the floor and all over their friends (despite me repeatedly threatening to stop the game if they kept it up), but no one was getting the whole purpose of the activity, even after multiple, slowed-down explanations. None of my other classes had any problem whatsoever, and it seems like the other classes all had a good time with it (and actually learned something---gasp!). I don't know what it is, but something is sure funky with my third hour. It's like there's something in the water that makes them unable to construct full sentences, listen to more than a half-sentence of directions at a time, or observe almost any normal social protocols.

-It really is the weirdest how different combinations of kids produce such completely different results.

-In my 6th hour, I had a kid (who I had singled out and "benched" during the game for being too crazy) actually take off his shoe and start sniffing it right in the middle of the room.

-Why do I DO this to myself?

*In other news, I found out yesterday that I've been deferred from donating plasma for the next four months due to the colonoscopy I had to have last week. Lame, lame, and LAME. Now I'm actually going to have use my paycheck to start paying for our groceries (something I haven't done for almost two years, ever since I started donating). Although I don't mind the theory of a budget, it's just been so nice to know I can just spend whatever's on my plasma debit card and get whatever I want up to the amount on it. No budgeting other than blood budgeting to worry about.

*Another financial woe: apparently, my health insurance isn't as hot as I thought because I have to cover my full deductible before they'll start kicking in and paying for some of these procedures I had to do lately. Bye bye, two years' worth of savings. Bye bye prospect of actually getting a second car so Matt can have a form of transportation during the week. Bye bye hopes of keeping our student loans low during Matt's time in PT school.

*Later this week, to get some of my financial frustration out, I'm doing a post on money. So here's what I want to know:

-What's your biggest money concern?
-Do you keep a budget?
-How much do you pay for health insurance a month? (If you're comfortable sharing)
-What are some ways that you manage to earn a little extra money when times are tight? (Or ways that you cut corners on expenses when times are tight?)

*anxiety moment*

*Changing the subject (so that my heart rate can return to normal), I know you're all just dying to know, but we did, in fact, NOT dress up for Halloween this year. We've pretty much got to be the biggest party poopers of all time, but it's just so much extra WORK, and I'd rather spend all that extra time making chocolate chip cookies that I can down by the handful and watching Season 4 of Chuck. Ya know?

*(Of course you don't know, because it seems like everyone and their dog---literally---dressed up for the holiday this year. How do people do it?!)

*Matt and I got in a little tiff over squash last night. I guess it's a good thing when the majority of our bickering is about vegetables, but really---SQUASH? I blame it on my day yesterday. (Plus I was right anyway :P ).

*What was the last thing you argued/bickered with your significant other about?

Monday, November 4, 2013

The First Snow

Well, it happened yesterday:

The first snow.

I woke up feeling refreshingly well-rested thanks to Daylight Savings, and the world seemed a little brighter than normal outside our windows. I gasped a little as I opened the curtains---the world had received its powdered sugar coating from the King of all creators, and it was stunning.

Even though the magic of snowfall tends to wear off for me as soon as Jan. 1st hits, I am not yet jaded by its appearance.

But here's something these pictures don't tell you:

As I stole out of the house early yesterday morning with Matt to take some pics, I asked him as I was heading out the door, "Hey, where do you think a good spot would be?"

All of a sudden, literally no more than about a foot from where I'd just stepped, I heard, "Right here."

I'm shocked I didn't let out a scream, it scared me so bad---I looked around, and there was a strange man sitting cross-legged just outside our door who was obviously drunk or just very, very hungover. I don't know who found the other more strange at that moment---me finding him drunk on my doorstep, or him seeing me all dressed up posing for the camera.

It's a strange world we live in.

It was a lovely weekend, though---despite Matt and I spending 7 hours on Saturday being test proctors up on campus (an easy $200!), we had loads of time to read, cuddle, and catch up on America's Next Top Model.

The weekend was just what I needed to prep for the next two weeks, which should be a bit grueling---not only am I finishing up the first trimester at my school (which means that I have hundreds upon hundreds of papers, essays, and tests to grade and enter into the computer over the next 10 work days), but Matt is also coming up on his first PT school application deadline.

I've been praying for months that everything would work out, and even though we're both super stressed out, things are finally starting to fall into place.

I don't imagine that our lives will get too much easier with the holidays descending upon us, but for now, I'm enjoying the freshly fallen snow and the first cups of hot cocoa.

How early is too early to put up Christmas decorations? :)

01 09 10