Thursday, January 30, 2014

These are the Action Words I Worry are Going Out of Style...

Image via

I will be (one of the) first to admit that today's kids have a lot going for them---they are remarkably tech-savvy, most of them look at going to college (or pursuing some other post-high-school degree) as a given, and many of them are pursuing more extracurricular activities and developing more talents than many teens had the chance to develop even fifty years ago.

However (and this is a BIG however), I have found myself increasingly worried that certain verbs seem to be going out of style with the younger generation (and some with the older, as well). Now, I know that not all kids struggle with doing these things, but I will tell you this---more kids struggle doing these than used to.

Five Actions that I Fear are Going Out of Style:

1. Listening

Teachers since the beginning of time have probably been moaning about THAT KID who never listens, never does his work, and seems to have no clue whatsoever what is going on at any given point. It used to be (at least while I was going through school and even last year in my first year of teaching) that you would expect about one (maybe two) of those kinds of students in every class.

(And really, if you think about it---1/32 is not a bad ratio at all.)

BUT, as I've talked to my fellow teachers and commiserated with them about how often I hear students ask a question that I literally just answered, we are ALL coming to the same conclusion:

Listening, it seems, is going out of style.

For every writing assignment I give my students, I give them a written outline of my expectations. I also verbally give them reminders every single day in the computer lab of the things I expect in their papers.

Less than half get full marks for following directions.

(Also, Matt and I have made a little "people-watching" game out of counting how many people bring phones (and check them!) while they're out on dates or out in a social group at restaurants. It's gotten so bad that there was this one time that Matt and I were the ONLY ONES in the entire section of a particular restaurant who weren't on our phones. I honestly wonder---don't people realize that when you pull out your phone when you're with other people, the message you're sending is, "You're not important or interesting enough to me to hold my attention?")

2. Maintaining Eye Contact

This one might be partly due to the fact that I teach an awkward age group (12- and 13-year-olds), but I have noticed that many people today struggle with maintaining eye contact. Sometimes I think that other people think I'm strange because I have no trouble maintaining eye contact (especially when someone is up in front teaching me something), and I usually don't pause too often to break it.

But more and more, I've found that I can be talking one-on-one with someone (student OR adult), and it seems like less and less, the person is looking me in the eyes.

What gives?

3. Imagining

In a world filled with numerous bits of data and information available to us by the touch of a button, I've found that more and more, people are more concerned with relying on facts and trying to be right than they are about wondering, creating, or imagining.

Last year, I taught a unit all about creating a story after the pattern of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." The assignment required the students to dream big, to use their imaginations, and to create basically an entire new world for themselves.

When I explained what they needed to do, I got a lot of blank looks and a lot of questions like the following:
"Well, what am I supposed to write about?"
"Anything you want to. You're the creator of your story."
"But what do you want me to write about?"
"Anything you want to. You're the creator of your story."
"But what's the "right" thing to write about?"
"There is no "right" thing. Write about anything you want. YOU ARE THE CREATOR OF YOUR STORY."
"Is it okay if I include a dragon in my story?"
"Write about anything you want. You are the creator of your story."

Most of my students still looked at me suspiciously, like I was trying to trick them into failing or something.

It's sad really how much we seem to condition kids to not imagine things for themselves---from the time they're young nowadays, kids constantly expect to be entertained by devices/means other than their own  minds. When school hits, they are rarely encouraged past the early grades to create, imagine, and think outside the box.

It's sad to think that imagining is a verb that is going more and more out of style.

4. Pursuing

I originally thought of putting "work" as a verb that's going out of style, but I don't think that's true---I think rather that many people (especially kids) nowadays are forgetting how to "pursue" something---how to keep on chasing a dream even when the path gets rough, or how to push through a task when it gets difficult.

I can be as guilty of this one as any---in a world so full of instant gratification, it starts to become second nature to think, "Eh, this isn't pleasing me. I'm just going to quit."

Running is one of the main ways I'm counteracting the lazy woman in me who just wants to quit trying things that are worthwhile just because they're difficult. It's a constant battle, but I'm finding that when I slack on my diligence, I'm often only too content to become lazy, unmotivated, and leisure-seeking.

Many of my students REALLY struggle with perseverance--if something isn't "easy," "fun," or in a passive medium (like a film clip or a slide show), they think it isn't worth putting in much effort.

Image via

5. (Self)-Denying

Hand-in-hand with pursuing, more and more I'm seeing that many struggle with denying themselves activities, objects, or habits that are harmful, addictive, or unedifying. It is part of the human experience to learn discipline, but once again, I think the "instant gratification" message permeating much of our society makes it all too easy to rationalize that "I deserve this" or "There will be time to deal with this later."

I know that as I get older, I seem to struggle MORE with denying myself some things rather than less, partly because I seem to have unconsciously bought into the idea that I somehow "deserve" that fifth chocolate chip cookie because I worked hard today, dang it! (And I ran 5 miles!)

And my students look at me aghast sometimes when I take something away from them that they know they shouldn't have with them (phones, iPods, candy...). I once had to change two students' seats when I was student teaching because they had just started a new relationship and were getting far too distracted in class. When I moved them apart, one of the other students piped up (after a big long gasp):

"You are a relationship wrecker!"

Why yes, yes I guess I am.


All in all, there are some days that I feel overwhelmed as a teacher because I feel it's somehow my responsibility to instill these "verbs" into my students before they are lost forever. I somehow feel that I am all that stands between some of these students and a life filled with video games, junk food, and mindless entertainment.

I know it's kind of a ridiculous idea when I come out and say it like that.

But I feel responsible for them---I DO.

Now the next question is---


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

50 Weeks to Organized: Week 49

I know that 2013 is over (and thus, also, is my "50 Weeks to Organized" project), but what I didn't tell you was that I still haven't finished posting about my last two projects.

So today, you get my second-to-last project of the year (Jewelry) that I had been putting off until the end only because I had to find the PERFECT box to hold all of my jewelry.

Now, when I started going through all my necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, I quickly realized one thing:

I had never---never!---gotten rid of any jewelry in my entire life.

I'm not even kidding---I had jewelry there from all the way back when I was in 7TH GRADE (the grade I'm TEACHING now), and I had necklaces that had been broken for 5 years and earrings that hadn't seen their mate in about 8.

My fear-based hoarding tendencies were at their strongest apparently when it came to holding onto the lovely, sparkly baubles that are so symbolic of womanhood and outer beauty---I kept having to quash down that voice in my head that kept insisting: "But what if you FIND that other earring?" and  "Surely it can't be THAT hard to fix that necklace?!"

But quash that voice I did---I started paring down with reckless abandon, drawing upon all the de-owning willpower I had gained over a year of heavy simplifying.
So what if those were perfectly good bracelets? I had never worn them once!
So what if those chandelier earrings were cute? I couldn't wear them for more than about 2 hours because they felt like they were going to pull clean through my ears! (a rational fear, btw, as it was something that happened to my sister)
Once I got everything sorted out (and had a stack of about 35 things to throw away or donate), I was still unsatisfied---I hated the ugly plastic drawers I'd been using to hold all that stuff before, and I hated how the top of my dresser had become a catch-all for all my lotions, spare buttons, and random socks.
But finally, after lots of throwing away and moving around and buying organizational containers, I was left to find the one last item to make this spot in my bedroom "finished":
The perfect jewelry box.
And find it we did, for a mere $35 at the local antiques store. Not only is it well made, lined in velvet, and totally classy-looking, but it EASILY holds all of the jewelry I had decided to keep.
I smile every time I see it.


Do you have a lot of jewelry you need to get rid of? Here is the process I went through:

To-Do List: Jewelry
*Separate out all the pieces of jewelry that are broken and deal with them right now. If you don't think you'll be able to fix them (or are not willing to try), throw them out now. If it's missing a piece that you're willing to buy to fix it, put it on your shopping list.
*Sort out all earrings that are missing a mate. If you haven't seen the other one in more than a year or two, chuck the ones you have left.
*With the remaining jewelry, ask yourself the following questions:
-is it still in style?
-do I wear it often?
-do I honestly love it?
-do I have clothes that go well with it?
-would I notice it if it were gone?
*If you answer "no" to more than one of the above questions, toss it or put it in the "donate" pile immediately (and don't even think about taking it back!)
*If you feel on the fence about a certain piece, issue yourself a challenge that you must wear it within the next two weeks. If you haven't wanted to wear it or found a chance to fit it into one of your outfits in that time frame, get rid of it.

I was able to get really ruthless with this particular project, and I absolutely love knowing that the only jewelry I have left is stuff that I actually love and that I'll wear frequently. It's so nice too that my necklaces aren't getting all tangled up together (partly because they actually have room to breathe now) and that I'm not having to sift through a bunch of random junk to get to the pieces I want to wear.

My biggest thought when I was finished was, "WHY ON EARTH DID I NOT DO THIS SOONER?!"

Are you a jewelry hoarder? Do you still have stuff in your jewelry box from when you were a young teenager?

Come on now...admit it...

I KNOW I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Tell-All

*Last night, I reached into my filing cabinet eagerly to pull out my book lists so that I could make that delicious check mark through yet another book title that I'd read. And there my highlighter sat--poised with eagerness over the columns of book titles--when I saw it:

I had read the WRONG book.

Apparently, there are actually TWO books that both go by the name of The Piano Teacher, and me, not paying attention to the author's name, read the WRONG one.

Go figure that the ONE goal this month I was actually feeling really motivated on is one of the only ones I probably won't be able to reach. Dang you, January.

*I ordered $50 worth of stuff from Old Navy last night and only had to spend $15 (thanks to Super Cash and Rewards). I am the queen of cheap living. (In fact, I think I might start posting more regularly about little tricks I've come up with for getting things cheaper--would that be interesting to you?)

*Signs that my hair is maybe getting a little too long:
-it frequently gets yanked when I take my purse off my shoulder since it's entwined with the handles
-it's gotten caught in the car door, the car window, and in normal doors (oh come on---I can't be the only one this happens to)
-when we kneel in bed to say our evening prayers, it always gets trapped under Matt's forearms, sometimes causing me to yelp "OW!" in the middle of a prayer
-my arms get tired when I actually try and legitimately style my hair because it takes so stinkin' long and my arms are almost always already sore from running
-when I turn around fast, it sometimes whips people in the face (funny for me, not so fun for them)
-I keep dropping food or liquid into it (and sometimes don't notice until hours later...yuck!)
-when I lean down to help students with something on their desk, my hair covers the book or paper that we're trying to look at, and I've started to find my hairs all over my students' stuff. Double yuck.
-(I'm sure there are many more, but my class is about to start. How do you know if your hair is getting too long?)

*I've been so busy at work and with everything else going on regularly in my life that Matt and I haven't even watched last week's episode of Biggest Loser. This is a first, people.

*I am just now---today!---getting around to grading stuff the students handed in DECEMBER 3RD. I've always known that I hate grading, but this year, it's reached epic proportions (and not just for me either---all the other Language Arts teachers are basically in the exact same boat). The problem is, whenever I tell myself that for sure today I will get such-and-such thing graded, one of two things inevitably happens: one, I am given other random things I have to get done ASAP by the department head or by the administration that take several hours after school to complete, or two, I get so hungry that I start taking points off the students' work when I probably shouldn't, which is a definite sign I need to get the heck out of the school for the day.

*(I think the grading thing will get a little easier when the sun starts setting later at night because on Mondays and Wednesdays, I have to go home at a reasonable hour--like around 4 PM or so---if I want to get an outside run in before I lose daylight. Of course, my final trimester grades will be due long before that really starts happening, so I don't really know what I'm going to do...maybe I'll just stop assigning my kids stuff...)

*Five years ago TODAY I went into the MTC  (Missionary Training Center) in Provo, Utah as a full-time missionary for the LDS church. A part of me can hardly believe it's been so long (partly because not a day goes by that I don't think of my mission). Whenever I think about my time in the MTC, there are a few things that really stick out to me that I LOVED about being there:

-all the study time I could possibly want! (I've always been a freak about studying, so I relished the chance to study something almost 24/7 and not feel one bit guilty about it. I know, I'm such a weirdie.)

-the excitement of singing missionary hymns with thousands of other missionaries. For those who have never been in the MTC, it is a powerful thing to hear hundreds upon hundreds of young adults (most from ages 18-26) singing with their whole entire hearts. It's something that I wonder if I'll ever really experience again.

-every mealtime being an all-you-can-eat buffet, which was always finished off with copious amounts of chocolate and/or ice cream. Some missionaries complain about the food in the MTC, but I loved it.

-receiving mail from home every day. Even though the MTC was located just over an hour away from my mom's house in Bountiful, missionaries choose not to have any face-to-face contact (and very limited phone contact) with their loved ones back home during their missions. Because letters were one of the few forms of communication allowed in the mission rules, I seriously LIVED for the mail. (It really helped that I was spoiled rotten my whole mission when it came to receiving letters and packages). I think my mission is part of the reason why I still have a major mail obsession today.

*It's strange to me how much has changed over the past five years, but I will be forever grateful for the chance I had to be a missionary for my church.

*Yesterday, I got a shipment of new books I'd ordered for my classroom, and it was like a whisper spread like lightning around all my students, and on everybody's lips were two words: NEW BOOKS. I'm so excited that many of my students get as excited as I do over new books. It makes me think that maybe I am making a difference in their lives, even if they would never, EVER admit it.

*One of the new book series I picked up was the Michael Vey series, by Richard Paul Evans. Seriously, my students are OBSESSED with these books, and I keep catching my kids surreptitiously trying to read them under their desks while I'm up front teaching. Have you ever read that series? If the popularity keeps on growing like it has been, I don't see how they could NOT make those books into movies...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Big Moments VS. Small Ones

Over the weekend, I had the chance to take some pictures for some pretty big milestones: my nephew Nicholas celebrated his first birthday (complete with fistfuls of cake that so thickly coated his hands that they looked like gloves), and I took some portraits of my nephew Logan who is about to be baptized next week. One thing I love about taking pictures is that it helps capture some of those "big" moments that come around in life--birthdays, anniversaries, milestones, etc.

And those big moments are important---sometimes they are what we need to get us back on the right path, or sometimes they are so big they change our path entirely. A full life usually has many such "big moments" in it, each with its own contribution to our unique journeys.

But yesterday in church, we were asked to write down how we believed we could become the best version of ourselves---the self that we're supposed to be.

And this is what I wrote:

"I need to realize that seemingly small, daily habits eventually lead me towards lasting change (whether for the better or worse) just as much as the big, "defining" moments of my life. It's easy to rationalize that this particular day is no different from any other or that today is not really very important, but in the long string of days that make up a life, I will find that most of my ability to reach my full potential will come not from the triumphs and milestones that occasionally come my way, but from the power of harnessing the little moments of seemingly insignificant days. I become a patient person not merely by experiencing a major trial that forces me to wait on the Lord---I become a patient person by practicing patience each and every day. I become a loving person not merely by saying wedding vows or renewing them upon our anniversary, but by practicing moments of love each and every day, whether I consider those days to be 'significant' or not."

While the big moments are important, I am grateful for "typical" days like today, for I know that in them I also am becoming whoever I'm meant to be just as much as in the "big" days of my life.

(And congrats to my two nephews on their important milestones!)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Thoughts on Babies and Having a "Mother Heart"

Obviously it's been no secret (if you read Wednesday's post) that I've been a little gloomy, woe-is-me lately. Then today, after a third hour that dragged as slowly as tar drips (for me anyway---I can't speak for my students), I was just rejoicing in the fact that there's a weekend ahead of me that involves Leatherby's and a baby shower and a photography shoot and time with my family in Bountiful.

Then, to further lighten my mood from its dismal, January-ish state, I read this post on Bon's blog all about the tender mercies she's experienced lately from her Heavenly Father when it came to dealing with the anniversary of her dad's death (seriously, you have to read it).

And you know what?

I needed a reminder of that today.

I needed to be reminded that despite my own bad mood, I still have been experiencing multiple "silver linings" that have largely gone uncommented on because I've been Mrs. Grumpy-Pants.

Let me share one such example with you.

Since I was young, I always felt like I was never a "normal" girl---I never really liked weddings, I positively loathed bridal or baby showers, I usually said whatever was on my mind when it came to dating instead of "playing the dating game," and I absolutely had no idea of what it felt like to be "baby hungry" (although I knew that one day I wanted to have a family of my own).

Most of the time, these things never bothered me, but since getting married, I have felt an often-unspoken pressure that I "should" be baby-hungry or that I "should" be looking forward with great anticipation to the day that I'd become a mother. When other women talk about how they've always had those types of feelings or that they can't wait to start a family, I always feel a little inadequate, like I was born with a screw loose in my brain (or my heart) or something.

Now, don't get me wrong---it's not that I don't want those things for myself, but rather that I just never felt that intense desire to have those things NOW.

Honestly, this is how it's always been in my life with major decisions---when my Heavenly Father wants me to be ready for something (like getting married or serving a mission), he prepares me so that I'll FEEL ready (especially if I never felt ready (or even desired) some of those things before, or at least not for a long time). It's kind of hard to explain, but I think it's because He knows that I'm not one to just jump into anything willy-nilly---I'm the type that has to be 100% sure before I commit (but once I'm committed, I'm going all the way).

Because I've often felt guilty because we're waiting a little longer than some people to start our family, I've prayed often for the past two and a half years to be blessed with "a mother heart" and the desire to have children. For months and then years, those feelings didn't come, and I was happy to admire other people's babies and then hand them back when a certain time had elapsed, hoping that someday those feelings would change and that I wouldn't just have to force myself into the whole motherhood thing without really having the desire.

But lately, I've noticed a subtle shifting in my feelings towards the matter----although I'm not 100% there, my feelings HAVE drastically changed over the past few months, which I know is my Heavenly Father's way of prepping me for upcoming changes and starting the internal process that will eventually lead us to want to start a family NOW.

Now, this is not to say that these things will happen soon (or that we're trying to have them happen soon)----this is just me recording that my Heavenly Father does answer prayers, in His own time and in His own way.

And I'm beyond grateful for the knowledge I finally have that the path I'm on right now is right for us---even if it's not the right path for everyone.(And I'm beyond grateful to finally know that THAT'S OKAY.)

I hadn't planned on sharing this on my blog at all, but I felt like I should if for no other reason than for my own memory.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

These Pictures Kind of Sum Up January

Matt and I wanted to take advantage of the holiday on Monday (since both of us had it off), so we decided to finally catch Frozen (so cute!) and then attempted to go on a little photo walk after.

Honestly, I don't know why I even bother going on stuff like that in January---unless it's just snowed, January is generally quite an ugly time of year: grey skies, grey snow, and grey trees.

Therefore, I think it's only appropriate that I posted these photos in full-on greyscale since that's about all I see in January anyway.

You know, I don't know what has been up with me lately, but ever since the end of the Christmas holidays, I have been more unmotivated and more gloomy than I've been since---wait for it!---last January.

I've found that I'm only completing my to-do lists and January goals on autopilot, and I think the majority of my diet has been chocolate for the past 4 weeks (I'm not even kidding---we're talking over half of my daily calories). Last year at this time, I was at least cleaning up the apartment and stocking my fridge with lots of vegetables. This year, it's all I can do to haul myself to work every day and remember to feed myself regularly (even if it just mostly with chocolate).

I've been through funks before, and so I know this one won't last forever, but in the meantime, forgive me if my posts are a little lackluster. (And, by the way, I HAVE actually tried the usual tricks to snap myself out of it---vigorous exercise, walks outside, talking with friends, the works---to no avail.) So I guess this is just something I'll probably have to live with as long as I live in Utah.

Other January posts that will prove this funk might be an annual tradition:

*Thoughts on being out of touch (2013)
*Finding motivation (2012)
*Change It Up Report--a total fail (2012)

Do you feel a little "grey" come January?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Developing Talents: Easier or Harder With Time?

So I'm the type of person who's always working on something, right? Pretty much I can guarantee that on any given day, if you ask me what I'm working on as far as goals or hobbies or skills go, I will have a ready answer for you.

That's just how I am.

But something that's been on my mind a lot lately is this---does it get easier or harder with time to pick up new hobbies or develop talents?

The reason why it's been on my mind is that I am constantly around teenagers--not only do I teach 7th graders for a job, but I also hang out with teenagers during the week and on Sundays as part of my church responsibilities.

In other words, I'm around youth A LOT.

And in my time around them, I've noticed that most young people:

*are eager to try new things
*are influenced heavily by what their peers and/or the adults in their life deem "important" or "worthy"
*pick up on new skills relatively quickly, especially those having to do with technology
*are curious about many different things (and are willing to put time into exploring those different things, as long as they're interested in them anyway)
*have a hard time pushing through when the going gets tough (unless there is an external force--like a teacher or a parent--pushing on them to continue)
*are not overly concerned about failing---they are usually more concerned with solving the problem or exploring different possibilities

Now, I realize there are exceptions to these, of course, but like I said, from my experience, these characteristics are what I've generally noticed about young people (aged 17 and below).

I don't know what it is about age and experience, but there are some traits that tend to accompany most (or at least many) adults as they get older.

I've found that most adults:

*tend to resist change and usually crave routine (same food for breakfast every morning, same pew at church every Sunday, same type of t.v. show...)
*are not as influenced by what others deem "important" or "worthy" when it comes to choosing skills or hobbies to develop (in other words, they tend to gravitate towards what naturally interests them instead of wasting time on what doesn't)
*tend to pick up on brand-new things at a much slower pace than what a kid would need (especially having to do with technology)
*are curious about some things, but often would rather spend time doing traditional "productive" work like cleaning or answering emails than exploring new things
*have an easier time pushing through the difficult moments when learning something new without needing external reinforcement all the time (or even some of the time)
*are terrified of failing, even at the expense of leaving a problem unsolved or a possibility unexplored

So, in summation, I've found that most adults tend to have the perseverance and discipline of routine on their side, but they've lost the thrill of exploring and are crippled by their fear of failing. Most kids crave exploration and newness and are willing to fail and then pick themselves back up again, but they often lack the discipline to see something through until the very end and/or the discipline to develop a routine to regularly work on that skill.

So who should it be easier for when it comes to developing talents---adults or kids?

I know for me, I was pushed constantly as a kid (in a positive way) toward developing skills and working on my talents. It is because I had dedicated parents and teachers that I am able to play the piano, carry a tune, write well, and bake cookies and bread. I often wonder if I would have learned those skills as well as I have had I not had someone pushing me constantly to improve myself.
However, as an adult, I've also gained new skills: I've improved my photography drastically, I've become a runner, and I've really learned how to cook just about anything I put my mind to. But have I been able to develop those things as fast as I could as a kid? Or have I developed them FASTER because I have more discipline now?
It's something I'm still puzzling over.
What do you think? Is it harder or easier for you as an adult to develop talents and learn new skills?

Monday, January 20, 2014

8 Things That Surprised Me When I First Started Running

All posters via Runner's World
When I first started really getting into running, I was totally a newbie to the sport--I'd never done track in middle or high school, I'd never enjoyed any time I'd spent on a treadmill, and I'd never run more than 4 miles at a time EVER before I started training for a marathon back in 2012.
Therefore, it should come as no shock that I was in for some definite surprises in my running journey.
Here are eight things that surprised me about running:
1. Although running is supposed to be one of the best forms of cardio and one of the most efficient calorie-burning exercises, I usually don't notice any difference on the scale until I'm 2-3 months into some hardcore training regimen, and even then, it's iffy if I'll actually lose weight. The culprit is simple, really---
Running makes you really, REALLY hungry. Like all the time. So if you're running in order to lose weight, keep in mind that you can't come home and just eat whatever you want just because you went on a run.
(Hey, I never said these 8 things would be revelatory, okay?)
2. Running does, however, really tone you up well. Even though I know I should be doing strength training in addition to running, I very rarely get around to it. Lucky for me, running apparently is pretty much a total-body toner all of its own accord--I've especially noticed the difference in my arms.
(Which is weird, if you think about it----your arms really don't move that much during a run unless you're sprinting, which I'm usually not, or unless you're one of "those people" who run with their arms "like that." So how on earth running can tone them up so well is a baffling mystery to me, even still.)
3. I can run a lot farther than I think I can. Before I started training for my marathon, my usual limit at the gym on the treadmill was 2.5 miles--after that, I was convinced my lungs would collapse in a dying heap and I would have to be lifted off the treadmill by the sweaty guys who are always hogging the bench press machines.
Surprisingly though, when I started running really regularly (and--and I can't stress this enough--running OUTSIDE), I discovered that I was always capable of going much farther than I thought possible, especially if I slowed down my pace a bit.
So if you're convinced you can't run more than a certain distance, try taking it at an easier pace---I guarantee you'll be surprised at how far you can go.
4. Running longer distances requires intensive planning. To me, whenever I thought about running a half marathon or a marathon, I only considered the actual running part. Once I actually started training for a race, I realized there was a whole lot more to worry about---namely, what I ate for up to 24 hours before a major run and what I actually had to ingest ON the run.
I quickly learned that taking in the wrong food or drink before or during a run spelled disaster in the worst way, and I've had to cut many a training run short due to having an irresistible need to find a bathroom, and pronto.
Lesson here = watch your fiber. Don't eat whole wheat anything before a long run, and definitely lay off the beans (and in my case, leafy greens like spinach and kale).

5. Runners are actually supposed to run AGAINST the flow of traffic, not with it. When I started running outside, I figured that running should be like biking---stay on the right side of the road, as far into the gutter as possible, and pray you don't get hit. Apparently, that's a major no-on: runners are actually supposed to run facing traffic while still staying as close to the side as comfortable.

And now all you drivers can stop cursing at those dang people who run on the "wrong" side of the road.
6. Once I'm into a running routine, it actually becomes relatively easy to keep up. Once I'm out of a running routine, it can take months to undo the damage that only took weeks to do.
Case in point: I had to take off 3 weeks from running over the past month due to sickness and work responsibilities, and I added a minute and a half back onto my regular mile time.

7. Although most runners complain  about how hard running is on their knees, I actual feel the majority of soreness in my hips. I guess this one would depend on how much weight you're carrying around, how that weight is distributed, and what your form is like when you run, but for me, I've VERY rarely experienced any knee discomfort whatsoever while running (even after running very long distances). However, I went on a 4.5-mile run this morning, and I was feeling my hips by mile 2. Go figure.
8. Through it all though, the thing that surprised me the most about running is that I actually LOVE it. Considering how very much I was NOT a runner growing up (nor had any real desire to be one), I was shocked at how much it has really become a part of my life.
Have you ever given running a real shot? Did you learn anything surprising from the experience?


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Even Though I Know "Death By Phone" Is Not a Thing...

(Photo taken with friends 3 years ago on New Year's Eve 2010)
Here is a great secret of adulthood: maintaining friendships sure is a lot harder when you don't have school together every day and church activities together every week. But here is another great secret of adulthood: we all need friends beyond our spouses (and our coworkers).
Admittedly, I've realized over the past two and a half years of being married that I'm not the best at maintaining old friendships. Maybe it's partly because I consider my husband my best friend, and maybe it's partly because we're living pretty far away from many of my old high school friends (with the exception of one), but I have definitely realized that unless I make concerted efforts real soon to continually strengthen those bonds, they will, over time, dissipate more and more until I'm barely seeing my so-called "close friends" once or twice every couple years.
I've been lucky enough to have maintained mostly the same friend group since elementary school---even though recent years have found many of us married, starting families, buying homes, and moving away from our hometown of Bountiful, I still consider my childhood friends to be among the best I've ever had. I'm thankful for the efforts of some of them to really make sure we all stay in touch, even if it's just holding a little get-together once or twice a year.
But as I get further along in my marriage, I realize that I still really need girlfriends in my life. My husband fulfills many of my emotional needs, but there is something that only female companionship can bring---something only a friend who's known me for years can spark within me. And lately, I've really grown to miss that feeling.
So, with that in mind, I guess I unconsciously kind of made another new year's resolution (although I'm not calling it that)--even though I despise talking on the phone (I pretty much always have, with the exception of when I would talk to my first boyfriend for hours by phone because he was forbidden to see me), I know that in the end, it will be way more meaningful to call up an old friend and chat for half an hour rather than just catch up through text or Facebook.
And so that's what I've been trying to do---every Sunday afternoon this year so far, I've picked a different person I want to connect with, whether it's one of my parents, siblings, or a friend I haven't spoken to in awhile. At first, the phone conversations always seem to be a little awkward (mostly because I'm just SO awkward when it comes to talking on the phone), but then, five minutes in, the most magical thing happens---we start connecting again, and I realize why I've kept these people in my life for so long (and I'm reminded of how well they really know me).
So even though I'd usually prefer to scrub the toilets AND do the dishes rather than make a phone call, I've made a firm decision to give a higher priority to my relationships this year.
And I'll say this---
I've already noticed a difference.
What about you? Have you discovered that it's harder to maintain friendships once you're older?
(Photo below taken summer 2008. I'm in the middle in the blue shirt, btw.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Blogging is a Daily Exercise in Vulnerability

Back when I originally started my blog in 2007, I didn't have any definite plans for it---in fact, I wasn't even sure I was planning on telling anyone I even had a blog because I kind of liked the idea of just keeping it private (kind of like an easier form of journaling, but with pictures). Eventually I started telling some people (close friends and family) about it so they could catch up on my life if they wished, but I honestly wasn't even aware that blogging for profit was a thing.

When I returned home from my mission in 2010, I discovered that people actually wrote on their blogs almost every day (!), and that some people had thousands---even hundreds of thousands---of what were called "followers." After I clicked onto my first fashion blog late in 2010, I was hooked--I had had no idea of all the potential that lay in wait in my blogging adventure, and I was determined that I too was going to "make it big" and determined to start blogging 4-5 times a week starting January 2011.

And here we are, 3 years later, still plugging away. My following has grown quite a bit since my humble beginnings (when only my roommates and my mom read my blog), but  here is something I've learned:

Each and every day, blogging is an exercise in vulnerability.

Each time I post something new, I am opening myself up for potential criticism or--even worse--no response at all. This is something that not a lot of bloggers talk about---that when you blog, you're putting your heart out for everyone to comment on, "like," or share via various forms of social media. Every time I post, I hope somebody will be affected in some way; I hope people get enjoyment out of reading the thoughts I've put so much time into writing, and I hope that I maybe spur my readers to think and ponder on things they normally wouldn't.

The problem with blogging though, is that it can sometimes feel like a one-sided conversation. There are some posts that are one long frustrating conversation, where I've eagerly shared things that I've never shared with anyone only to have . . . no response (or some generic response like "Nice!", much like a half-listening husband murmurs when he wants to appeared more engaged in the conversation than he actually is).

Now, this is not to say that I'm the perfect blog reader myself---I read several blogs nearly every day (sometimes as many as 15-20), and it would be pretty difficult for me to comment on them all every time. And there have been many times a post has brought up some definite thoughts or feelings in me, but I only keep those to  myself and don't bother sharing them because I'm either lazy or I think that what I have isn't worth sharing.

And that's where blogging gets hard---sometimes I feel like a party hostess trying to get people to mingle who just want to eat the appetizers and leave. Sometimes I think that if it weren't for Facebook (where most of the comments seem to happen), I don't think I could handle the one-sidedness that it all feels like sometimes.

I know this is silly. I know that I spend far too much time thinking about and worrying about what is still a hobby (as I haven't tried to turn my blog into an actual money-making venture yet). But sometimes I feel like my life is like one great big episode of me continually sharing things and getting minimal feedback on whether or not anyone's listening. (I mean, I AM a 7th grade teacher after all. You think those kids ever admit that I actually taught them anything?).

I guess I just wanted to write this to say that blogging---especially the further along you get into it and the more "followers" you get---gets complicated. What used to be something I honestly only did for myself and the sheer pleasure of getting to type out my thoughts rather than writing them down in a journal now sometimes just feels like one more risk that keeps leading me to feel like I'm failing.

But the wiser part of me knows that continually allowing myself to be vulnerable by taking risks and putting myself out there is a skill that can only benefit me in the long run---after all, if I never try, I will never succeed.

I promise I'm not trying to guilt-trip you into commenting more on the blog; this has just been something floating around in my head that I needed to get down.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tuesday Tell-All

*Well folks, it's one of those weeks--a week when the universe conspires against you to make all of your least favorite things happen all at once: parent/teacher conferences, hall duty, monitoring lunch detentions, and midterm grades being due. It's the perfect storm, and I can't believe it's only Tuesday.

*I've been thinking a lot lately about personal growth and how it so often seems to happen imperceptibly until one day you realize you've completed changed. Story behind this: I was reading in my old journal from 2008 on Sunday, and I had written down a few things I was hoping to work on (being more assertive, being less critical about people in my head, etc.). And you know what? While I'm not perfect, I hadn't realized what large strides I'd made in those areas until I looked back now, 6 years later, at those goals. Take yesterday, for instance---I sent two students to the principal and didn't even bat an eye. At the beginning of my teaching career, that kind of thing terrified me, and it often ruined my day. Now, I just accept that discipline is a part of my job and take it in stride.

*I sent two more students to the principal's office today too, so you might even say I'm getting a little TOO comfortable with the idea of discipline...

*Nope, make that three students. I just sent one while I was monitoring lunch.

*(I also made my 5th hour "practice being quiet" yesterday after the bell had rung before I'd let them go to the computer lab. And I probably should have felt guilty for getting a kind of sick pleasure out of the forced 3 minutes of silence that followed, but I didn't. Being a teacher is ruining me.)

*I am ashamed to admit that I have been eating pizza every day for the past 5 days. I guess that's what happens when the perfect storm of a week hits and I have to plan time to even go to the bathroom.

*I finally was able to go running again last Saturday (I hadn't gone for 3 weeks because I got so sick), and it was fabulous---I got to test out my new running watch, and I got to enjoy the most perfect sunrise. Of course, the problem with the watch is that it made me realize how slow I'd gotten from taking just 20 days off---I'd gone from averaging about 9:40 a mile to averaging 11:15. Yuck.

*Since the holidays got over, I have felt like my regular house decorations need a little sprucing up--I mean, I've had the same 3 candles as the centerpiece on my kitchen table for like 4 months now. Any ideas on what I could use as a centerpiece this time of year besides candles and/or a vase of flowers?

*Today, to open up our new unit on research (which will culminate in the students turning in a research paper on the person of their choice), we're exploring the question: "What makes a person important or significant?" Today, to get them thinking about that question (since they'll have to argue why the person they've chosen is significant/not significant), I had them split up into groups and come up with a list of criteria of how they could judge if a person is important or not. Then, based on their list, they have to rank the following five individuals in order of importance: Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, Lady Gaga, their great-grandfather, and Susan B. Anthony.

Needless to say, it has been FASCINATING  to hear their reasoning. In almost every case, Abraham Lincoln is chosen for the #1 spot, but beyond that, the students will almost always have Hitler in either second place or last place, depending on their criteria. After, I've made them share their thoughts with the class and subject themselves to some on-the-spot questioning from me (which almost always involved me playing devil's advocate and being completely a pest with them). In fact, in my third hour, I had one group so tangled up in their reasoning that they were forced to admit, by their criteria, that I was at least as important as Abraham Lincoln.

*So there---I'm as important as Lincoln. Who knew?

*I think my favorite argument was the one I used with the group who insisted that importance was determined almost solely by the number of people you affected. So, using logic that I knew would drive them crazy, I posed the following statement: "I have almost 800 friends on Facebook. Someone else might have only 200. Does that make me more important than that person?"

*Their answers were priceless, as you can probably imagine. It's on days like today that I think being a teacher is the funnest job in the world. (And yes, I know that "funnest" is not a word.)

*I'm curious as to how you would rank those five individuals. If you have a chance, leave a comment below ranking those five individuals in the order that you find them the most important: Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, Lady Gaga, your great-grandfather, and Susan B. Anthony.

*(I'll even share some of your responses with my classes tomorrow, especially if you include reasoning. Consider it homework!)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Is Exercising While Listening to Music Really Better?

Image via
The research on listening to music while exercising is a bit confusing if you've ever taken the time to wade through it. Even while googling "exercise while listening to music" for an image, I saw multiple posters with sayings like "Listening to music while exercising can increase endurance by 15%" or "Music blocks out noise, enabling better focus during exercise."
In addition, walk into any gym and you're bound to find at least half of the members plugged into some device, bobbing their head to some beat only they can hear. It would seem obvious based on the prevalence of iPods and other devices during exercise that music must positively affect workouts. If not, why would so many people continue to insist that music helps them work up a better sweat?
However, it's not as cut and dry as you might think. Sure, there's some research to back up the assertion that music makes it "easier" to work out for longer amounts of time. In the July 2013 issue of Self, they quote Dr. Carl Foster, an exercise science professor at the University of Wisconsin as saying, "Manipulating tempo can work like a remote control, telling your body to speed up or slow down without a heightened sense of exertion." In other words, you can basically force your body to work harder without feeling like you're working harder just by increasing the tempo of the beat you listen to. 
I can definitely attest to that fact---I had actually never listened to music while exercising until last summer, when I started taking an iPod I'd just acquired from an old roommate out on my morning runs. I was AMAZED at how much more quickly my runs seemed to go by, and it definitely seemed like I could push harder without really feeling the extra exertion.
But then I started coming across some articles in Runner's World (which I basically consider the Bible for all things running-related) that severely cautioned against the overuse and overreliance on music during runs. And the more I looked into it, it seemed that the greatest "ultrarunners" (like Scott Jurek, who regularly runs crazy-long distances of 100-150 miles at a stretch) don't listen to music at all during training or during races.
There are a couple reasons given for why listening to music might NOT be the best idea during exercise:
First, there's the obvious issue of safety, especially if you're exercising outside. Anytime you start multitasking, whether it's running on a treadmill while listening to music or watching a t.v. show while lifting weights, there is definitely going to be reduced focus to BOTH activities, which could result in possible injury. I can't tell you the number of times I was at the gym trying to watch the t.v. in front of me while running and almost rolled my ankle because I wasn't paying attention to where my feet were stepping. Outside, the safety issue gets even worse---even though I listen to my iPod on low volume, it still muffles sounds of possible danger like oncoming cars or unfriendly dogs. Luckily, I haven't had any close calls outside yet, but I could definitely see why running with music outside would be unsafe.
A second argument is one that I find over and over again in Runner's World----exercise expert Jim Deniso, Ph.D., summed it up best with this statement:
"One big problem is that listening to music can remove you from the other sounds that running produces, such as breathing and footstrike, which are essential cues. They give you feedback on your effort. Running while listening to music also removes you from the environment you're in, which can be unsafe. You may not hear a car or person behind you. You may not hear thunder in the distance. And in races, it makes you oblivious of other runners and you can't hear the directions being given by officials. Would you ever drive or ride a bicycle with headphones on? Not likely, because doing so reduces awareness and increases reaction time. I want those things working for me. Finally, I believe runners can become dependent on music. Eventually, you can lose a sense of what might be truly motivating to you, such as the energized feeling you get on the run."
While he's mostly talking about runners, I think the same principle could apply to a lot of different "traditional" exercises, like cycling on a stationary bike or working out on an elliptical---listening to music distracts us from what we're doing, which might lower perceived effort but also produces a disconnect in our focus since we're multitasking. So, in other words, it might SEEM like we're not working harder when we are, but how much harder could we work if our entire focus was in whatever we were doing?
Speaking from my own personal experience, I usually choose to run or weight-lift (my exercises of choice) without music---I've found that it allows me to give full focus on the various components and physical feelings of what I'm doing, which keep me in tune with things like sensitive areas or really pumping out an effective rep with my weights.
Now, just to be clear, I'm not condemning the practice of listening to music while exercising--in fact, on the days when I'm feeling totally unmotivated but am determined to get out the door and run, the ONLY thing that will get me to go out is music. But I've usually found that the most efficient, head-clearing workouts are almost always the ones where I allow my thoughts and footfalls to take center stage, rather than the latest pop beat.
What side do you fall on? Do you listen to music while working out?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Yes, I'm Crazy . . . More Goals (January)

I discovered a recipe of what to do when I'm feeling unmotivated:

Set yet more goals for myself.

Weird, but I'm hoping it's going to work---like reverse psychology or something.

If you remember back from my new year's resolutions post, I mentioned that every month I want to set sub-goals to help myself start crossing some items off my bucket list. (Note: most of these goals won't actually allow me to immediately cross anything off the bucket list---rather, they'll allow me to get a little bit closer every month to eventually reaching those goals.) I've also determined that each month I'm going to set one goal related to becoming a better homemaker.

Therefore, without further ado, here are my bucket list goals for January:

*Sign up for a half marathon. This is to help me eventually reach my goal of running a sub-two-hour half. I'm trying to decide which half to run at this point---the Salt Lake (since I'm familiar with the course)? The Ogden (cuz I've heard it's beautiful)? If anyone has any suggestions, drop him my way!

*Take photos of at least two families/people to practice my portrait skills. One of my bucket list items is to one day start my own photography business, but I feel like I need to get more experience under my belt first. This would help. (That said, if you live in Logan and would like your picture taken, message me!)

*Read through Deuteronomy. I am determined to read the entire Old Testament at least once in my life. It's taken me a lot longer than I'd like to admit, but I'm currently at the end of Numbers, so I feel like this is doable.

*Read two books on my lists. I figured I'd better set at least one "easy" goal for myself this month, and this is about as easy as they come for me.

*Learn one new piece in my Piano Classics book. This goal 'should' be really easy, but it's been ages since I've really sat down and learned a piece, which is a shame considering how much I used to play the piano...

*For my "homemaking" goal for January, I've decided to try and lower our monthly bills if I can. I've been meaning to call Verizon and Century Link for AGES to try and lower our monthly costs, but it's a sign that I truly hate talking on the phone that it's taken me so long. I'm determined to keep some more money in our bank account next month!

Hello, January!)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Marriage May Not Make You Blind, But...

One thing I love about blogs is that they've opened up little windows into a lot of issues that many people don't talk about too openly: money, marriage, parenting, fears--they're all out there on some blog, all the time. Call me a nosy bat-face, but I kind of love to hear about the little details of other people's lives. I think it's fascinating to see that while many people in the world deal with similar things on a daily basis (close relationships, financial worry, what to eat for dinner), we all do it in such different ways.

So, when someone posts an honest look into their marriage, I'm all over it---I love reading other people's views on this most important of human relationships. Just last night, I came across a blog post I haven't been able to stop thinking about entitled "Marriage doesn't make you blind." In the blog post, Lauren points out that being married doesn't mean you automatically won't find anyone else attractive ever again. She talks about how she's learned to talk about the "hard things" in her marriage, one of which is 'fessing up when she thinks someone else is attractive.

I do agree with her basic premise that marriage doesn't make you blind to attractive people of the opposite sex. I mean, we're all born with natural tendencies to be attracted to some people and not to others, and those impulses don't go away after marriage.

However, I actually do not agree at all with her premise that it's something that needs to be brought up in a marriage.

Let me explain myself a little more clearly just so no one gets the wrong idea:

If one of the spouses found themselves in a compromising situation because they were attracted to someone else, YES that should be talked about. If you start discovering that you're sliding down a slippery slope on your question of loyalty to your spouse because you can't stop thinking about that person, YES you need to talk about it.

On the other hand, though, I don't think you need to tell your spouse every time you see someone who you think is attractive. To me at least, that would just make me pretty self-conscious all the time if my husband was constantly remarking that he found such-and-such actress attractive or that he saw a really beautiful girl at school that day. Honestly, I don't feel the need to know about that kind of thing at all.

The truth is, I completely trust my husband. I acknowledge that I'm sure he occasionally finds other girls attractive. But guess what? I know without a doubt that he finds ME attractive and that he's 100% committed to our marriage, just as I am.

So, in the name of keeping this particular marriage solid, we don't feel the need to bring it up.

Of course, just to be on the safe side, I did actually bring this topic up with him last night. Although I was pretty sure he agreed with me, it was reassuring to find out that we saw exactly eye-to-eye on this subject (because let's face it---I really didn't want him to start telling me about all the girls he's ever found cute).

But in the end of our conversation, my husband brought up the most pivotal point in this whole matter---that every marriage is different. For us in our relationship, we are happiest NOT mentioning when we happen to find someone else attractive. For other people in their marriage, they might find that open lines of communication help them feel more secure. Whatever you do in your relationships, I just hope that it's for the best interest of both parties.

What do you think about this? Do you talk with your significant other about people you find attractive? Or do you not bring it up?

Also, feel totally free to disagree with me---I get that there will be a lot of people who don't see eye-to-eye with me on this one.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

November & December Reading

I've been going back and forth lately about whether I still want to be doing these book review posts this next blogging year---while I freely admit I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to reading (and book lists), I realize that not everyone shares my same obsession. So, on that note, I'd like your input---yea or nay on the monthly book posts? Or would you rather I only recommend something when it's out-of-this-world amazing? Or, if we're feeling really brave, would you rather that I do a little "book club" discussion every month?

Let me know your thoughts!

And now, for my latest reads:

Atonement by Ian McEwan

I'm pretty sure I've heard it said (but you probably shouldn't quote me on this) that Ian McEwan is considered one of the greatest writers of our day. You'd think with such a statement, I would have been reading all of his stuff cover-to-cover for the twentieth time already, but this book is actually the first I've picked up of his (although I do, in fact, own 2-3 other books by him).

My feelings were pretty mixed about this book. I thought the pace at first was a little too glacial for me (and I'm a pretty darn patient reader), but by the end, I could see the brilliance in the writing choices, including the slow pacing. There is also a pivotal scene in the book that was a little uncomfortable for me to get through---while I'm not always as "clean" as I probably should be with my reading choices, I do try to avoid books I know will have graphic sex scenes or strong language.And this book had a little of both.

However, all that aside, I thought the ending was pretty stunning. It kind of reminded me of what I said about A Handmaid's Tale---that at the end, I just wanted to say, "Are you KIDDING me?!", but at the same time, I kind of loved the fact that my mind just got blown. I don't know if anyone else has read this, but I'm super curious to hear other people's opinions on the end; it's definitely one of those things that could bring up a pretty strong love/hate reaction, depending on how much you feel you need closure.

My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness Rating: There are a couple graphic sex scenes (not super long but that are pivotal to the story) and some moments of strong language. Tread carefully.

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

This novella is on my 100 Most-Recommended Classics list, and I'd been intending to pick it up forever (especially after I found out how short it was!), but I just hadn't. And truthfully, this book is not what I was expecting AT ALL.

The premise of the story is about this middle-aged guy who is in a total funk---he feels like he's wasted a lot of his life, and he continues to blame his father and his almost-ex-wife for all his problems. The story follows him through every step of a momentous day in his life.

Sounds like it could be pretty great, right? Well, I'm not gonna lie---this took me awhile to muddle through. It's not that the writing is difficult at all: it's the fact that the plot moves R E A L L Y slowly, and by the end, I wasn't even sure that there was a clear resolution to any of the conflicts that had been brought up. You know back in school, how you learn to plot out stories on one of those little checkmark chart things? And how every story should have a conflict, rising action, climax, and resolution?

Well, this story didn't.

There were some really cool thoughts in it (which I highlighted in my copy of the book because I'm like that), but by the end, I really wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel---it was as if I'd followed a stranger around all day and then randomly decided I was sick of it and left.

So do me a favor---someone read this book and then explain it to me. Mmkay?

My Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness: From what I remember, this book's pretty clean.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Each year, I read this book with my students, so this is my third year in a row reading it. If you want to read my full review of the book, click here.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

I can't believe it took me so long to discover Margaret Atwood---I mean, her books are on all my modern classics lists and on most readers' choice lists too, so I don't know why it took me so many years to get my head into one of her novels. Last year I read The Handmaid's Tale by her (which I mentioned earlier in this very post), and it was one of my favorite books of 2013. Heck, it might even be one of my favorite dystopian novels of all time.

Although I didn't love The Robber Bride quite as much as Handmaid's Tale, her writing is delicious enough that she could be telling me about paint drying and I'd like it. This book was the story of three college friends who meet up later in life when a fourth college friend (who they thought had died and who had basically ruined their lives) turns out not to be dead after all.

Atwood is a stunning writer, and this book has some pretty awesome characters in it. If nothing else, check this book out for a good study in what good characterization is all about.

My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness Rating: This is definitely a novel for adults due to certain thematic elements, strong language, and a few graphic sex/violence scenes.

What have you read lately? Anything good?

And don't forget to put in your two cents on my questions at the beginning---I really want to know!

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's Only January 6th, and I'm Already Unmotivated

These pictures might make it look like I'm feeling all sorts of inspired to take on the world in my power pencil skirt and coral boho top, but the truth is...

I'm feeling a little spent.

Which totally doesn't make sense, by the way, because I've just been on holiday for a week and a half and made a whole slew of resolutions that I'm firmly intent on keeping.

Maybe it's the nagging sickness that's been beating me down for two weeks, or maybe it's the fact that 5:30 AM just seems a whole lot earlier after a holiday of doing next to nothing, but I'm really feeling out of it.

I've got to say though, I'm not entirely surprised---there's something about the month of January that's always seemed a little depressing to me. I blame it partly on the fact that the excitement of the holidays is past and gone and that the weather outside is below freezing and the skies are grey.

(Of course, in saying that, I just realized these pictures are in sunlight. So...)

The fact is, I'm feeling burned out, and on a lot of levels, too---I'm feeling major blog burnout, major work burnout, and it's been weeks since I was able to go running (which I know is contributing to everything I'm feeling).

So I'm asking you for your help---

What's your best way to get out of a rut?

And . . . go!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Stuff You Should Stop Assuming About English Teachers

If I had a quarter for every time someone started freaking out about their grammar or their lack of good reading/writing habits around me the second they found out I was an English teacher, I could eat out every meal for a year.

The truth is, we often define people by their jobs:

Oh, you're a doctor? You must be smart.
Oh, you're a lawyer? You must be cynical and argumentative.
Oh, you're a teacher? You must love children, have a heart of pure gold, and be a huge sucker for choosing jobs that don't pay you for what you're worth.

Perhaps there is some truth in these stereotypes. After all, if there had never been any truth to any stereotype, why would it keep getting perpetuated?

However, there are a few little things I would like to clear up between you and me.

1. The fact that I'm an English teacher doesn't mean that I'm automatically judging you on how correctly you speak (or write).

This is the biggest misconception people have about English teachers. Perhaps some of you have some lovely friend or other in your life who feels it her personal duty to correct you every time you confuse "I" and "me" or "lay" and "lie."

Guess what?

I'm not that lovely friend.

You are not my student; therefore, I am not going to act like your teacher. So please, for the love of all that's chocolate and good, STOP FREAKING OUT about your grammar around me already.

2. I have not, in fact, read every single book ever published.

I  know this might come as a shock to some people, but there are AT LEAST a thousand books I haven't read. Maybe even two thousand. So stop assuming I've read Da Vinci Code, because I haven't. (And I probably never will.)

3. Just because I chose to teach doesn't mean that I can't do.

You know, like that saying--"Those who can't do, teach"? Well, I've got news for you:

Don't ever say that to a teacher.

Because guess what?

I can read AND write AND probably make a living besides teaching doing those things.

But I'm not.

And I'm fine with that.

4. Not all English teachers love Shakespeare.

Although I've been heavily trained to appreciate Shakespeare, I don't exactly LOVE Shakespeare.

I really needed to get that off my chest.

5. Just because I'm a teacher doesn't mean I'm poor.

Ha ha. Yes it does.

6. Because I'm human, I am still entitled to make mistakes. Yes, even grammar mistakes.

And no, that does NOT give you the right to gloat over those mistakes when they do happen.

Seriously. (One of my biggest pet peeves of all time.)

7. Teaching is not my mission---it's my job.

A lot of people seem to expect teachers to put in all sorts of hours at home and on weekends to keep up on the endless grading, planning, and preparing. I for one almost never take any work home because I firmly decided during my time student teaching that I was going to try and separate my job and my personal life as much as possible.

And while some people might think that it's my mission to put in 80 hours a week planning these crazy lessons for my students and helping them put on Shakespeare plays and tutoring each student one-on-one, it's just not.

Yes, I still put in a lot more than 40 hours a week to do all the stuff mentioned above. I just don't go crazy about it.

8. Although teachers might be the closest thing to superheroes (next to moms), it does not, in fact, mean that we ARE superheroes.

I went into teaching thinking that I could "save" every student, light the fire of learning in every child, and still be considered a "cool" teacher.

I realized the error in that thinking REAL fast.

I can't do everything for everyone--I can only do the best I can, and that just has to be good enough. (At least until I discover some radioactive chemical that will magically give me those superpowers.

Hey, it could happen.

What do people automatically assume about you based on your profession? Anything I missed that people always assume about teachers?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year, I'm Ready For You

Yesterday was the first day I'd ventured outside (or bothered to dress) in almost a week--this flu I've been riding has really been something else.

But, despite my sickness, I still feel the familiar enthusiasm that always accompanies a brand new year---the world around me may be gloomy and well below freezing, but my motivational fire is always at a high come January 1st.

This year I feel like it's especially so; perhaps it's because I'm coming off of a year where I actually completed all (all!) of my new year's resolutions, but I am SO ready to tackle this latest batch of goals.

So here you go--my official new year's resolutions for 2014:

1. Keep a running diary

All the serious runners do this (or so it seems). It's about time I considered myself a "serious runner."

My diary will include the following:
*how many miles run
*overall time
*fastest mile time
*type of workout (speed, tempo, long, slow, etc.)
*races run and race times

2. Completely fill out and finish the Gratitude journal I got from my sister

My sister got me this awesome journal for my birthday last year. My goal is to have completely finished filling it out this year. I've been trying for awhile now to get back into a regular journaling habit as well as trying to be more positive in my life, so I think this goal will help me with both resolutions.

3. Clean or organize our home for at least 20 minutes on most days

Now that my house has been picked over, simplified, and (mostly) organized, I need to work on upkeep. I think twenty focused minutes a day should do it. Let's see if I can finally make cleaning a habit!

4. Complete a monthly goal related to being a better homemaker

I think I do a pretty good job as a homemaker on some fronts, but this is an area I really want to improve on, especially before we start having kids and I have less time. Each month, I'll be specifying which homemaking goal I've chosen for the month, be it something with cooking, sewing, cleaning, decorating, finances, or so on.

5. Make monthly progress on Bucket List items by setting sub-goals every month for some of them.

You may have noticed a new tab on my blog's home page: my bucket list. Perhaps this is the goal I'm most excited about this year--I've been intending to write a bucket list forever (and I kind of wrote one when I was 16, some of which I've completed), and I've finally done it. I'm sure I'll add more dreams to the list as time goes on, but my bucket list is going to serve as a reminder of what this blog is all about: striving to be self-taught and a self-starter when it comes to reaching my goals.

My specific goals for January when it comes to homemaking and my bucket list will come in a future post :)

I'm always on the lookout for more things to add to my bucket list and would love some suggestions from you! Have you ever created a bucket list? What is something you've always wanted to do?
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