Posted in Challenge Accepted, Life Musings, This is real life.

29 goals for my 29th year

This weekend, I celebrated my 29th birthday (which was also my golden birthday, since I turned 29 on the 29th).

 

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The celebrations were delightful, but they also reminded me that I’m getting old…because I definitely opted for relaxing in lieu of half the plans that I’d made for the weekend, and I have no regrets about it.

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I know, Danny Glover. I know.

Anyhow, while I may need to tone it down a little bit on the turning up, I absolutely refuse to take a backseat at life – and so I decided to make a list of 29 things I legitimately want to do this year, before I turn 30. Not because life ends at 30, but because I want to have even bigger horizons to reach for at that point.

  1. Visit two new countries I’ve never been to before.
    • This better happen, I’ve already bought the ticket.Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 10.55.35 PM
  2. Take a cooking class.
    • I’ve always wanted to go, but I’ve never managed to rationalize the expense.
  3. Work out again. For at least a solid 3-6 months routine if not longer.
    • Nope, not a fun goal. But one that I need to make work.
  4. Attend a gala.
    • Because I’m fancy, bitch.giphy
  5. Plant a tree.
    • I took down four this year, it’s time I replace at least one of them.
  6. Do something that absolutely terrifies me.
    • Shouldn’t be hard. I’m scared of a lot of stuff.
  7. Write a new book.
    • I miss miss miss writing, but now that grad school is over, I have time to make it happen again.
  8. Learn how to do one fancy hairstyle really, really well. 
    • Not a ponytail, not just a straight blow-dry, but something special for when I need it. cd03499d2c16866c646b235ce4e89abd
  9. Make a pilgrimage to my heart-home.
    • Columbia, Missouri – I’m coming for you, fam.
  10. Re-read Jasper Fforde’s books I love and read the new ones for the first time.
    • Thursday Next is my homegirl, y’all. And I haven’t read his new stuff for YA, but I’m excited to see what else Fforde has dreamed up.
  11. While I’m at it, let’s do the same for Harry Potter.
    • If Thursday’s my girl, then Harry’s my boy.original
  12. Buy a stranger’s dinner.
    • It seems like a nice thing to do.
  13. Finally learn to use my sewing machine.
    • two years later.
  14. Complete a 30-day photo challenge.
    • You’d think I’d already done this, but you’d be wrong.
  15. Go clubbing.
    • It’s been a while for a reason, but I do enjoy dancing in spaces that are too crowded for people to realize how bad of a dancer I am.giphy-4
  16. Catch up with all the people with whom I never intended to lose touch.
    • Not the people I phased/cut out, but the people who drifted. It’s time for a check-in.
  17. Find a new volunteering opportunity.
    • Back at it with the more time thing. Plus, the need for something other than just my job that gives my life a little direction.
  18. Get a makeover, just for fun.
    • Not because I need one, but because I think it would be entertaining.
  19. Have a legit 12-hour movie marathon – topic to be determined.
    • Star Wars? Star Trek? Indiana Jones? 90s teen romcoms? Over-done indie movies of the early 2000s? So many options.giphy-2
  20. Finish my “Girl Power” wall of inspiration (for now, I’m never really done with any of my creative projects).
    • It’s well on its way and I love love love it, but I’ll need to complete some of the other items on my list before I can call it mostly complete.
  21. Write fan letters to the five people whose work I admire most.
    • Authors, artists, anyone who inspires me.
  22. Spend a day completely by myself.
    • This means no friends, family, or social media for 24 hours. Just me. Not sure how I’ll make this happen, but I will.
  23. Get another tattoo.
    • There are several vying to be next, but we’ll have to see which occasion presents itself first.dd29ca6dd0319bb016df21ab3452b196
  24. Color something every. single. week.
    • People know me well. I received many coloring books for presents during my 28th year, and I love them all. Plus, coloring is like a form of therapy for me, so I am super-into it.
  25. Throw a four-course dinner party that I cook myself.
    • The cooking class should help with that.
  26. Mark one more off my list of the “World’s Most Beautiful Libraries.”
    • I predict this will be the George Peabody Library in Baltimore – I’ve been to the New York Public Library, the Morgan Library in NYC, the Boston Public Library, and the Seattle Central Library.eastroom_0
  27. Learn to meditate.
    • This comes highly recommended from one of the three people I respect most in the world, so I should probably get on that.
  28. See at least one more live performance of *something.*
    • Musical? Play? Concert? TV taping? All of the above?
  29. Write a “29” blog post every month.
    • Last one is to get my ass back into blogging. Master’s degree ruined a lot of the fave parts of my life, but I’m reclaiming every part it tried to take – this blog included. So, each month I’m going to post about my “29 favorite/most important whatevers.” This list counts as the first one.

See? I’m already on my way.

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Posted in Life Musings, This is real life.

Blank Space

Two and a half weeks ago, I believe it was a Wednesday evening, I was sitting in a bar on a cruise ship, listening to some frat guys do a terrible, horrible rendition of “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift…for the second time.

The second time, y’all. They were bad the first night, and absolutely nothing had changed the second time around.

Now look, I know karaoke can be really good when you’re off-key and drunk. But if you’re going to be that bad, then you have to be committed. Your whole soul has to be in it. These guys were just trying to be cute, and were not, even a little bit, committed to being bad. So they crashed and burned.

Twice.

Einstein is credited (with limited believability) with saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

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Whether it was really my boy Albie or not, I agree. Obviously, these guys were crazy. But it got me thinking.

Just before the cruise, I had decided that I was done with some old art as well as my little DVD case display that I’ve lovingly put up in every space I’ve lived for the past 8 years. It was cute, but I felt it was time to be done with it…but that’s all it was, just a feeling that told me to take it down.

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I didn’t understand my own reasoning, but I trusted my instincts.

Weird as it is, those frat guys helped me to realize why I needed to take those down.

You see, I’ve been doing a lot of metaphorical tidying up in my life – tossing out or at least downgrading the people who bring nothing of value to my life, people who attempt to bring me down and make me resist the healthy changes I’m making. It’s been so easy for me do this, because I’ve worked really hard at finding and surrounding myself with people who inspire me, who are there for me without addendum or agenda, and who show me that I am valuable to them as well.

And, because I’m a grown up, I’ve been doing this rather quietly over the past two years and avoiding as much drama as I possibly can without compromising myself. Grad school helped, because I have such a limited amount of time to spare that I didn’t have the availability to pretend or “make time” for those who I no longer benefit from relating to. As I get rid of negative people, I have more room in my life – more blank space – for the positive people to occupy, and they’re doing an excellent job of filling it.

That’s what I was doing with the DVD wall.

I’m getting rid of the physical reminders of people who are no longer important to my life – including the old me. Essentially, I’m taking the good memories down from their “place” and filing them away in the sepia-toned, where they belong, instead of allowing the relationships that once served a purpose but now are no longer important to have a spot of honor. It’s not that I’m upset or angry, it’s just time to move on…and an excuse to make a Fall Out Boys reference.

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Some of them were great, though, lyrics aside…and this doesn’t mean that I’m getting rid of everyone on that wall – there are some that I’m keeping close to my heart, that I kept out to use somewhere else in my home because they still give me joy. Like these:

PicMonkey Collage

I’m making my home a better reflection of my life. And right now, that means I have a lot of blank space on my walls.

I’m okay with this, because it represents potential. And I know that when I’m ready, I’m going to fill it with something amazing.

Photo Mar 27, 9 31 47 PM

Posted in The 12 Books of Christmas Break

12 Books of Christmas Break: The Missing Piece

“It was missing a piece. And it was not happy.”
The Missing Piece, opening lines.

I love Shel Silverstein. Always have, always will. But I have to be completely honest and admit that my love for him is incomplete, because I haven’t read all the books he’s written, though this one brings me a step closer.
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Title: The Missing Piece
Author: Shel Silverstein
Genre: Children’s books
Erin’s teaser synopsis: That circle over there on the left? It’s missing a piece and it’s looking for the rest of itself through this pretty epic journey (some may call that journey life).
Why I relate to it: I firmly believe that part of “becoming an adult” is that you realize that you’re not exactly that whole person you always pictured you’d be once you grew up and you know that you need to search for what will make you complete. So missing a part and looking for it? We all get that. (Hence why Jerry Maguire is considered so desperately romantic despite the fact that it’s a terrible film.)
Judgement call: I’m sure that you could all guess that I thought it was adorable and meaningful and all sorts of things. But I can’t tell you what actually made me cry a little without dropping a huge spoiler, so I’ll just say that sometimes, despite being their champion, children’s books can still surprise me with how deep they dig and how much they can heal something that you didn’t even realize was broken. 🙂

I mean, yeah, it’s at the library, but I’d just go ahead and order it at Amazon. Save yourself the trouble of a due date.

Posted in This is real life.

Walking the Balance Beam

I haven’t posted in a while, I know. Blame grad school – not my crazy job, not writer’s block, not anything except all the classes that have me completely swamped online.

In any case, I feel like I’ve been teetering on one side or another of a balance beam lately. Not a tightrope, mind you, I could never even stand on one of those. And not the Olympic balance beam, either. We’re talking one of those barely-off-the-floor kinds you find in kiddie gyms. Or the one this dog is about to fall off of.

That’s my kind of balance beam.

Either way, today, for some reason, everything balanced out.

Seriously, everything. And I wanted to take five seconds to just appreciate it.

This morning, I realized that the healthy debate I was planning on having at work was too little too late and I was stuck with what someone else had decided. I immediately dreaded having to tell the person who recommended my course of action what happened. Later this afternoon, said person emailed me, thanking me for my input and letting me know that even if I couldn’t sway the group, she would help me figure out how to help my kids. All before I had a chance to tell her.

Then, I had my first day teaching my extra tutoring group, which was a beating, but on the way out, one of the kids told me that now he understood what it meant when his thesis “wasn’t supported.” (Baby steps, y’all.)

Second period, I had to write up a kid who JUST came back from … not here … because he was losing it in class, but by the end, he’d come back, apologized, acted out again, checked himself, and had a long talk with me about his struggles. By the time he left, he told me that we probably wouldn’t be friends, and that he’d probably end up in the office from my room again soon. 

Not the outcome we look for after that much work. 

Thankfully, the very next class period, I found a note on my desk from a student that made me literally cry in between class periods. I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it. The kid wasn’t one I put a lot of work into, but according to the note, I’m a teacher who kids can trust just because I’m honest and genuine with them. 

Balance, right there.

I made a list of possible projects that I have no idea whether or not will be acceptable for my grad project last year and then also a list of back-up professors to have on my grad committee. Then, as I went in to draft an email to basically “propose” to these professors, I opened an email from my fave prof that started “Thanks for helping me cry today,” in reference to the rather hearten-my-sleeve paper I submitted and ended with him asking for which font I would recommend he print his favorite line out in to hang up in his office.

Finally, I realized that I had unfortunately booked my massage at a time that ended in the height of rush hour. Then I decided that instead of sitting in the stand-still traffic for an hour, I’d head up toward Plano and get to listen to a little “librarian” read me a story about puppies.

It almost makes me feel like I’m ready for the grown up version.

Almost.

Posted in Deep deepness, Humor, Life Musings, Life's A Trip., New But Not Improved, This is real life.

27 lessons I learned at 27

Happy birthday to me!

I’m 28. Which means that there’s no longer any pretending, at all, that I’m not in my late 20s.

Without further ado, here’s the list of the 27 most important (debatable) things I learned this year:

27. Everything is better when it’s dyed purple.
10304638_10102355702669920_7018318408632320615_n 26. How to use a floor sander. No, really, I did.
25. Never use a toaster if you’re even a little bit distracted.
24. Any shirt I ever thought was awful and tacky can be easily surpassed by searching “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars” on lookhuman.com, and I want to own them all anyway.
horrifyingness 23. How old Pharrell actually is.
22. When it comes to chicken biscuits, or lack thereof, people are quite unforgiving.
21. The best way to intrigue people is to let all your eccentricities show – wear them proudly!
Photo May 04, 5 12 36 PM (1) 20. I have the sense of humor of a high schooler – which, by the way, I didn’t have when I actually attended high school. (reference #24)
19. The best way to ruin a bar is to add a DJ.
18. I own CDs that are older than most of my current students.
old albums 17. Much like celebrity deaths, coworker pregnancies can also come in threes, making for an interesting last six weeks at your new job. #loveyouguys #butreallythough
16. I am not above ordering and then using a selfie stick, though I desperately want to be.
15. Remodeling your bathroom is really effing expensive but totally worth it, if you like daily indulgences. And I do.
Photo May 09, 4 59 34 PM 14. I can easily relate to 90% of male hispanics by casually dropping the phrase, “I mean, he’s no Messi, but…” into a conversation.
13. There are some things that even dads can’t fix…like when a tree falls on your house.
12. People who say “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” are either lying or just plain wrong (probably both). If that were true, we wouldn’t need willpower.

Did I eat a piece of this made-from-scratch coffee cake at 12:15am today? Yep. Do I regret it? Not even a little.
Did I eat a piece of this made-from-scratch coffee cake at 12:15am today? Yep. Do I regret it? Not even a little.

11. The definition of “thot,” according to today’s youths.
10. There is, in fact, a limit to my generosity.
9. Even though they’re horrible people, the Underwoods are actually the ideal couple. #houseofcards
 8. Vodka is not now, nor has it ever been my friend. I need to accept that and move on.
7. Getting a third dog pretty much guarantees that you’re going to be vacuuming your house every other day. Accept it and get one anyway.
Photo Feb 27, 9 47 09 PM6. Some friendships deserve second chances.
5. Some don’t deserve the third, fourth, and fifth chances you gave them.
4. How to operate a real-life popcorn machine (highlight of my teaching career, ladies and gents).
hUw2gw 3. I’m the ultimate female sidekickGet in line, ladies.
2. Believing that you have value is a lot easier if there are others who believe it, too, but it’s not impossible if there aren’t.
and
1. The older I get, the younger I feel.
1969160_10102877040090550_2545704298991365085_nHappy Friday, y’all.

Posted in Life Musings, This is real life.

What I Wish Someone had Written to Me

First of all, let me just say that I had some truly amazing teachers during my time in public school. Honestly. I remember every bad teacher I ever had because there were so few of them. And I hope, especially as many of them are not only my friends in social media, but also my coworkers now (still a trip, I gotta say) that they know how much all the little things they did meant to me.

Because really, that’s what we are, as teachers. We’re people who do a million little things and say a million little words to a million little kids and sometimes, some of that matters. This year, working at my alma mater, I was able to choose a Lighthouse Award recipient. Basically, a Lighthouse is a kiddo who you feel should be recognized just for being a good student. Ideally, it’s also someone who may have been overlooked or doesn’t get recognition in other avenues. But no matter what, it’s ultimately up to the teacher‘s discretion who they pick.

The fabulous kiddo I picked is the ideal Lighthouse candidate, according to me. She’s not perfect, but she works hard and always has a smile on her face when I see her. Yes, she’s a teenager, so she has her moments, but she also has a very sweet spirit and in a way, she reminds me of why I enjoy teaching – to educate kiddos like her and get them excited about reading and writing for just a little while. Maybe even social justice stuff, if you’re really lucky.

For weeks before we had the ceremony, I thought about what I would write in her final little card from me. Sure, I gave her a note with her ceremony invitation about how she’s awesome, but I didn’t feel that it was time to really go all-in, so I kept it short and sweet. In the card I handed her today, however, I wrote what I think every student at my school needs to hear and accept. I know it’s something that as an adult, looking back on my life, I wish someone had written to me. And that I had read it and believed it.

Here’s what I wrote:

letter one

letter two

Posted in Deep deepness, This is real life.

Appreciation is a Cycle

This week, I’m co-piloting Teacher Appreciation for the school I work at and once attended. Which, by the way, makes me feel a little like a kid who snuck into the teacher’s lounge sometimes.

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What? You ask. Aren’t you a teacher? Why are you actually doing things for Teacher Appreciation Week? Shouldn’t you just be kicking back and enjoying?*

Oh, friends, no. Earlier this year, I offered my help with STUCO, which my new coworker, knowing she would be going out on maternity leave this spring, readily accepted. So now that she’s at home with her adorable baby boy, the second string is in the game, and we’re doing alright, I think.

But even before I worked at MHS, I always took time to have my students (yearbook, usually) do something for teachers on this week. Why? Because teaching is a team effort. It’s not something you can do completely alone. I know. I’ve tried.

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I may be a teacher, but I still appreciate amazing ones – whether they taught me, or they taught my kids. You see, it’s very tempting to act like a natural when I get things right, and I do like to make things look easy for myself, but that’s only because people outside the world of education don’t truly understand what it takes to be a teacher.

The thing is, we don’t just walk in the door, teach a lesson we slaved over the night before, stay for hours to do tutoring or recoup hours, attend games and performances, grade 180 research papers, and also have a life because we’re excellent at time management. Because we have life all figured out.*

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All of that is work and the reason why many of us are the very definition of “hot mess.” But that’s not really the hard part. The hard part is helping people understand that we want to do all that.

That we crave the crazy.

Because in the end, we’re not just there to teach kids how to write a persuasive essay, balance a chemical equation, find the x, or describe the various aspects of the subsaharan climate.

We’re not there to only teach anything, really.

We’re there to care.

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I can’t be that person for every student. It’s too much. I don’t have enough in me to do it when I teach almost 180 students. And honestly, I just can’t find a single ounce of love for a handful of them.

But that’s why I have a team, or as some people refer to it at my school, a family. They pick up where I leave off, they reach the kids that I can’t, and often, they’re even there when I need them. Together, we can do some pretty impressive things.

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This is why it’s not a problem for me to recognize this for everything they do, even if I’m the same. I couldn’t do what I do without them.

My closure, for the one class I taught after standardized testing today, was this:

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. In your notebook, describe one trait that you have that others should appreciate you for.

The blank looks abounded, folks. They didn’t get it.

“Don’t you mean a reason why we appreciate a teacher, Miss?”
“No,” I told them. “True validation comes from within yourself, and I want you to take a minute and recognize what makes you a special, valuable, and important person. Because many of you have told me why you appreciate me, or even made me something. I just want to make sure that you also appreciate yourself.”

I’d love to tell you that the kids were awestruck and some of them cried and there were hugs and it was like a scene from Stand and Deliver or some other cliche but beloved educational staple.*

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But that’s not how things always work – sometimes teachable moments are a little more real.

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In this case, it was just awkward and uncomfortable because the kids don’t know how to handle what I told them. But they’re not alone – sometimes even adults are awkward and uncomfortable, but we know how to make it funny and sweet, thanks to life experience. For example, a very sweet coworker of mine, who may or may not have witnessed my displeasure at someone being a tad negative told me yesterday:

“I appreciate everything you’ve done for Teacher Appreciation Week.”

And she was being cute, but she meant it. So did I, when I said:

“I appreciate your appreciation of the appreciation.”

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Because really, folks, it’s so much easier to appreciate the good things and people in your life when you feel appreciated by others.

* These are not real things teachers know how to do anyway.