Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hibernation 101, or Why I May Never Wear Real Pants Again

Confession: I recently scored a pair of velour leggings from TJ Maxx for $12.99.

Double confession: Those, combined with my fake UGGs I recently found for $25 on ebay mean there's a high chance I may never leave the house again.

For like, ever.

Don't believe me? Check out the real-life text convo I had with my friend last night:

{source: my phone}

Because while I may have found my home in North Carolina, I'm still a Florida girl when it comes to wintertime. Meaning: a big baby who thinks school should be cancelled if there's so much as a touch of frost on my car. (But seriously....I'm supposed to scrape ice off my car AND educate the underprivileged youth of America? One thing at a time, people. One. Thing. At. A. Time.)

Plus, going out in the wintertime is a whole lot of effort for not a lot of fun. From what I remember, it goes a little something like this:

11:00 pm: Arrive at bar. Spend 5-7 minutes taking off coat, scarf, and gloves.

11:05 pm. Try to de-static your hair without being obvious. Fail miserably.

11:06 pm. Realize that, despite the fact that winter seems to happen around the same time every year, bars in Charlotte refuse to have so much as a coat rack for you to hang your stuff on.

11:06:30 pm: Pile your beautiful j. crew coat (that you got at a sample sale) with everyone else's on a sticky, questionable barstool.

11:07 pm: Get a drink. Look back at the coat pile to make sure no one's "mistakenly" picked up your coat for theirs.

11:07:05 pm: Look back at the coat pile.

11:07:10 pm: Look back at the coat pile. Was that someone touching the j. crew? WAS IT?

11:08 pm: Make eye contact with a cute guy. Smile.

11:08:30 pm: Make eye contact with his fiance. Frown.

11:09 pm: Look back at the coat pile.

And so on. 

Then, after all that fun, what's there to do but wait for a cab while trying to ward off hypothermia? (But really. Does the cab population of America significantly decrease from November to March or is it just me?)

Spare me. 

You people enjoy your cab fare, frosty fingertips, and spare tire from all that egg nog. I'll be curled up in front of my fireplace, wrapped in velour and imitation sheepskin. 

Oh, and as for all my real pants? They're hidden away until daylight savings ends. 

See you in the spring!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

21 Days of Gratitude: Day 5 {Setting Goals and Letting Go}

I've never been much of a goal setter.

(Upon reading the previous sentence, my mother will promptly be doubled over with laughter and shouting "Now THAT'S an understatement!")

But no one asked her.

As an undergrad, when well-meaning people what I planned to do after college, my answer was generally along the lines of "I want to live in New York and work for a magazine." (I say "generally" because I tend to err on the side of non-committal.)

And sure enough, I packed my bags and headed for the Big Apple Days after finishing my last class. I had a primo internship at Seventeen waiting for me, which I was sure would turn into a full time position faster than you can say "Was that Nina Garcia on the elevator with me?". (But seriously. I saw the back of her head once. From two stories up.)

Unfortunately, that was 2009, when a teeny-tiny hiccup called the recession happened. Heard of it?

Yeah. So...not only were magazines not hiring their interns, they were doing everything they could to merely keep their doors opened.

Three years later, when well meaning people asked me what I planned to do after I finished Teach for America, my answer was generally along the lines of "Anything but teaching!" There may have also been a few expletives laced in there.

Yet here I am, still a middle school special education teacher (albeit at a different school and back in Charlotte), and happier than ever.

I understand the need to set goals. We all need to have a destination in mind, even if that destination seems very far away. But maybe setting goals is merely a stepping stone to letting go. Sure, I would have eventually gotten a job at a magazine, but it might have meant years of waitressing and interning that I simply wasn't willing to put in. When I let go of that goal, I was able to get to Charlotte, the first city (and I've lived in plenty) that's ever felt like home.

Of course, Carrie always says it best:

And while I have no idea what I'll be doing in five years, I hope it has something to do with writing and reading and children.

The rest? I'm letting go.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

21 Days of Gratitude: Day 4 {Body in Balance}

Right out of college, I thought that "balance" meant the way that you divided up your free time.

_____ amount of hours at work, _______ amount of hours to play. For work-life balance to be achieved, the numbers would be as close to each other as possible.

Oh, younger self. (Shakes head.) Tsk tsk tsk.

If only you knew.

Now that I'm older and (only a tad bit) wiser, I know that "balance" is just the polite way of saying "How the @*$? am I going to get this all done today?"

Seriously, though? I've taken to writing "shower" on my to-do list. And I'm more than a little ashamed that it doesn't always get checked off. (Look for this in a possible second post entitled "This Is Why I'm Single Part 4, 987.)

Besides the hours I'm at work everyday, I try to accomplish a to-do list that looks something like this:

1. Exercise
2. Feed/water pets
3. Feed/water self
4. Read
5. Shower
6. Write (ha!) 
7. Clean something (doesn't matter what...just SOMETHING)
8. Socialize with others humans (this is only on the list every few days)

Most days, #1-3 get crossed off and then it's time for bed. Or I start Facebooking, which means I start defriending people who put up more than one engagement ring picture/sappy "I CAN'T WAIT TO MARRY MY BEST FRIEND" post per day. (But I'll save how I really feel for another post entitled "I'm Single and Wish You Were, Too".)

Everyone's quest for the elusive "balance" is different. For me? It means saying no.

Since own personal nightmare is when I feel like I'm missing out on something fun somewhere, I tend to say "yes" to everything. Free tickets to a Panthers game? Yes. Book club? Heck yes. Another book club? Sure, why not? Drinks after the gym? Yes. Two nights in a row? Extra motivation. Babysitting after school? I'd love the extra cash. Tutoring on the weekends? More money to put towards Carolina Barre and Core!

Which results in a whirlwind of a week or two, at the end of which I'm up to my neck in piles of dirty laundry, my mom is calling the police to see if I'm still alive, and I can barely hold my eyes open.

Despite my excitement at actually having stuff to do (unlike my two years in the sticks of North Carolina), I have to continually stop and remind myself to build in downtime to my days and weeks. And if turning down the occasional babysitting job means I don't have the extra cash for something social, then so be it.

Maybe it'll even allow me to check "shower" off my list more often.

Here's hoping!

Monday, November 18, 2013

21 Days of Gratitude: Day 3 {A Driving Passion}

{Note to readers: I'm participating in a 21 Days of Gratitude Meditation Program, which you can access for free here.}

Yes, I recognize the irony that I wrote a blog on the power of focus and then stepped away from my computer for a week. (Like I said: those Frasier reruns don't watch themselves.)

I was in a bit of a quarter-life crisis when I wrote those first two blogs. I was tired, cranky, and overwhelmed with the amount of work on my plate everyday. I was aggressively texting anyone who would listen that I no longer wanted to be a teacher. (When I say aggressive, I mean all-caps/depressing emojis sort of stuff. Not cool.)

Then I woke up last Wednesday and read this in my meditation email:

Today we look at the subject of passion. How do you know if you are following your passion?

  • You look forward to your work
  • You are incredibly happy
  • You feel fulfilled
  • You know success is imminent

I realized I needed to snap out of my self-absorbed pity party. My work was (and is!) incredibly fulfilling, while also being incredibly difficult.

The bottom line: reading and writing are my passions. I'm lucky enough to wake up each day and have the chance to ignite that same passion into a group of rambunctious, hormonal middle schoolers. My kiddos face more challenges before breakfast than I have in my entire lifetime and yet continue to show up and give me 100% everyday. (It's not always my definition of 100%, but it'll do.)

No, it's not honors English. No, we aren't debating the nuances of contemporary literature. But more often than not, we are getting absorbed into the world of language and books and storytelling.

Yes, sometimes the kids drive me so crazy that I literally have to bite my lip from saying something I regret. (Sometimes I still say it.) I have mounds of papers on my desk that I will throw away rather than grade and parents whose numbers are in my phone that I still haven't reached out to. Everytime I do something well, I have to acknowledge there are still about 10,000 things I could be doing better.

On my best days, I laugh and high-five and hold back tears at the end of a beautiful book. And on my worst days, I go to bed knowing I'm at least attempting to make a positive difference in our world.

And in the end? I don't think one can find much more passion than that.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

21 Days of Gratitude: Day 2 {The Power of Focus}

{Note to readers: I'm participating in a 21 Days of Gratitude Meditation Program, which you can access for free here.}

I'm not sure what the opposite of focused is called (blurry?) but I'm it.

Case in point: On the weekends, I'll make myself a short, run-of-the-mill to-do list with a mix of chores and school work. Fold laundry. Take out trash. Read next chapter in book for Language Arts.

The only problem is that my brain works something like this:

Example 1:
10:19 am: Fold two tank tops.
10:20 am: Wonder if Target has fake UGG boots. Drop laundry and walk to computer.
10:23 am: Realize Target does not, in fact, have fake UGG boots and spend an hour gettin' feisty on Google.
11:30 am: Look around living room and think "WHY IS THERE STILL SO MUCH LAUNDRY TO FOLD?"

Example 2:
4:01 pm: Decide bathroom and office trash cans need to be taken out.
4:02 pm: Walk into bathroom. Forget why you were there.
4:03 pm: Decide to self-tan to eliminate pasty-white winter skin.
4:10 pm: Remember you were in the bathroom to take out the trash, but now you're covered in self-tanner and the back of the bottle says not to touch anything for an hour.

(Maybe my memoir should be called "The Brain of a Hummingbird: How to Stay Busy Without Actually Accomplishing Anything".)

To me, the power of focus really comes down to the power of saying no. For instance, I told myself I wanted to spend this past weekend cooking, blogging and doing a small amount of school work. Then I decided to spend my Sunday at the Carolina Panthers football game.

Fun? Yes. Worth spending the rest of the week trying to play catch-up? No.

Other things I need to say no to on a regular basis: Facebook, television, randomly surfing the internet (fake Uggs or no).

After two years of living in the middle of nowhere, it's also hard for me to turn down social invitations (it's just so exciting to have something to do!), even though they can sometimes distract from my focus.

My two goals for the week: 
1} Choose one task at a time, and complete it before I start another. 
2} Say no to at least one distraction each day.

In short: less hummingbird, more zen.

Where can you improve your focus for the week?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

21 Days of Gratitude: Day 1 {Finding Your Purpose}

{Note to readers: I'm participating in a 21 Days of Gratitude Meditation Program, which you can access for free here. }

Ah, purpose. The word that brings up the "why am I here/what am I doing with my life" questions. (Aka, the mantra of your 20s. )

Generally, I've already asked myself these things before I've finished my first cup of coffee. (Now, I may not know much, but I'm pretty sure no one should discover their purpose before the first 80mg of caffeine hits their veins in the morning.)

I've never been that person who's been on the straight and narrow path since childhood. While some people have always known they've wanted to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, etc, I've just been hoping for my parents to reveal the fact that I have a secret trust fund and therefore will never have to work another day in my life.

(Still keeping my fingers crossed for that one.)

So the real question is: if I do have to show up to work everyday, what is it exactly that I want to be doing?

In todays meditation, Tim Kelley asks: what is something that you do that seems to make time stop? My answer: reading, writing, cooking. (Reading and writing about cooking also counts.)

I feel lucky that I get to teach reading all day, since it's truly something I'm passionate about. But I also find myself watching the clock during the school day, and saying things like "only one more class to go"! Not exactly Chapter 1 in "The Purpose-Driven Life."

When I was in Teach for America, I was too busy to worry about my purpose. My energy was totally devoted to getting myself out of bed and making it through the day. Now that I'm an alum and back in Charlotte, I have more time to myself and more to enjoy outside of work. And while teaching is fulfilling, it's not something I think I'll be able to do in the long term. (Because seriously? Some days I am just

In my ideal job, I don't count down the days to Friday. I have flexibility in my day and a good mix of time to myself and interaction with others. I can mix my passions of reading, writing, and vegan food into some sort of money-making venture.

Now if I only had the first clue how to do that, I'd be set.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Haute Reads: The Lions of Little Rock

So cancelling my cable? 

Best choice ever. 

Last summer I wasted many a precious day wandering in and out of conciousness as the Food Network droned on in front of me. I'm not really sure where all the hours of every day went, but I can tell you where they didn't go: towards reading, writing, or any sort of social interaction. 

Cancelling cable was going to be my excuse to finally make a dent in the endless "to read" lists I create on GoodReads that never seem to get any smaller. Plus, now that I'm back in the big city (after a loooong two years in rural North Carolina) I also have the power of a library that is able to aquire books relatively soon after they've been published. (By "relatively soon" I mean at all.)
One of the first books on my list: The Lions of Little Rock by Kristen Levine. Recommended by a fellow middle school Language Arts teacher (so you know that shiz is good), it's the story of two junior high students the year after the Little Rock Nine integrated into Central High School in Arkansas. Before I read this, I really only knew the basics of what went on in Little Rock in 1957: Nine African-American students. Integration. Mass chaos. I had no idea that the very next year, high schools in Little Rock closed for the entire year rather than allow integration, forcing most families to send their high schoolers elsewhere to attend school. (Seriously, people?)

But I digress. Since I wouldn't do it justice, here's the blurb from Park Road Books:

As twelve-year-old Marlee starts middle school in 1958 Little Rock, it feels like her whole world is falling apart. Until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is everything Marlee wishes she could be: she's brave, brash and always knows the right thing to say. But when Liz leaves school without even a good-bye, the rumor is that Liz was caught passing for white. Marlee decides that doesn't matter. She just wants her friend back. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are even willing to take on segregation and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

Here's my description: freaking tear jerker. 

Let me put it this way: I read. A lot. There are very few books that inspire me, much less move me. This book? Caused me to wipe away silent tears with one hand while I balanced my hardcover in the other. It was that good. Reading about middle schoolers not only reminds me of how I experienced the world at that age, but also how much more my students can handle than I give them credit for. Marlee and Liz are rare finds among young female characters these days: smart, rebellious, and vulnerable. They're as concerned about social justice as they are what other people think of them. (That's probably saying a lot for anyone, much less middle schoolers.) 

So I'm one book down, about five hundred to go. And I haven't missed cable once.  

Find your copy at an independent bookstore like Park Road Books

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