Thursday, April 30, 2015

A to Z - "Z" is for Zoo

We have the opportunity to go to the Indianapolis Zoo this summer. We last went to the zoo 3 years ago. My youngest claims he doesn't remember it. He hadn't even started school yet. I was hoping for a school field trip to get to go again, but they cut all those back.


The zoo now has orangutans, which will be fun to see. It's a fun place with a good bit of walking and my favorite animals, dolphins! They are impossible to photograph under their pool in the viewing area, so no pictures.

We could make this summer the summer of the zoo and go to the St. Louis Zoo. It would cost a little bit more, but would be worth it. It could even be a day trip if we needed to save money. But, going to this city could be a good mini trip. We could take a weekend and go to the museums and the Arch. I really want the boys to experience the City Museum.

If I really dream big, I'd stay at the hotel with the indoor/outdoor pool.

But hubby wants to go to a beach and do nothing but flop down on the sand and venture into the waves once in a while. I am not keen on going to a beach and doing nothing. I want to see or do something while I am there. He seems content to sit and stay.

While we hash this out, there is plenty of dreaming and planning to do. Not to mention trips to the zoo.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A to Z - "Y" is for Yard Sale

Maybe you live in a country where you can't have a yard sale, but around here, yard sale season has just begun.

Some people call them garage sales, but if you don't know, basically you gather up your things that you don't use any more but have some usefulness left in them and you price them very low and put them out on tables in your yard or in your garage to sell them to people who might be able to use them.

Whole neighborhoods might get together and have a neighborhood sale. Every few driveways along the street will be lined with tables of outgrown children's clothes and toys, unwanted pictures, tools, old lamps, vacuums, bikes, balls, shoes, and furniture. It's a treasure hunter's dream. The kids usually make out like bandits.

Not only does my family participate in buying other people's unwanted stuff, but we also have our own yard sale about once a year. I've already got quite a pile of stuff stashed away that we no longer use. This stuff can go to consignment shops or stores that buy back kids' clothes and toys, but they don't take all of it. The rest goes into the yard sale.

Another option for the things, if we don't want to get money for them, is to take them to Goodwill. This is a charity shop that sells items in decent condition. What usually happens is we have a sale and what doesn't sell goes to Goodwill afterwards.

You might be thinking, why go to yard sales when you can go to Goodwill? Well, a good treasure hunter does both. My town has 3 Goodwill stores, so you could go to all 3. Neighboring towns have Goodwill stores, too. Some Goodwills near nicer towns have better things because higher quality things get donated. The stock changes often. Sure, some ugly sweaters stay there for years, but the 'good stuff' comes and goes.

Unfortunately, we found that since Goodwill started using internet auctioning to make the most for its company, the really good stuff never made it to the shopping floor. You used to find bags of Hot Wheels and Legos. No more. Complete games in box? No more. They are all on the auction site.

Treasure hunt away, good neighbors. Have a sale of your own and make some vacation money. The time is now.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A to Z - "X" is for Sssh

X is for secrets we keep, things we don't talk about. X is for Sssh.

We all have secrets, or things we don't talk about. It would be rude to speak some things aloud in public or to share another's private business with the world. I'm not referring to these kinds of things.

I'm referring to the kinds of secrets we keep locked inside that no one ever hears. These are the things our pride will never let us admit, the things in our past that are too painful to bear, or things society tells us we must not share or we won't fit in. Sometimes it is not a past secret but a new one; a disease, an illness, a change going on that is best kept close.

We all need a secret-keeper, too. Someone we can talk to, share these things with, who will never tell a soul. Some secrets are too big to keep all by yourself. One body cannot hold the enormity of a big secret. Secrets can make you explode. The energy required to hold in the reminders of the secret, whether in thoughts repeated, things you see in everyday life that remind you of the secret, or random times it would be so easy to blurt it out but you can't. Secrets consume you from the inside out of you don't siphon some of that energy off.

Exercise helps. Get mad, punch a punching bag, ride a bike, go for a jog, swim, anything to work off some pent up stress.

And find a secret-keeper, maybe even a pet, to talk to. Write the secrets down. Pray about them. Confess to a priest. Talk to a therapist. Visit a loved one's grave. Whatever you do, share some of it.

These burdens do not have to be yours alone to bear.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

A to Z - "W" is for Write

For those who don't know, I am a writer.

Not just blogs. I write other stuff. Not all of it is good. Hardly any of it is seen by eyes other than mine.

But I own the title. I love to write. I desire to write. Despite my career that pays the bills, at my core is a writer. If I could get the place where writing pays my bills, I think I would. Not just any writing, but writing that makes me happy.

If you want to be a writer, then you have to do one thing.


It really is that simple. Being a writer doesn't mean that what you write is any good. You will sound ridiculously immature when you first start out. As you go along and read over what you have created, you will be embarrassed for yourself. But it's all part of leaning and growing.

Keep at it.

One day you will be awesome. Practice. Write everything. Type, calligraphy, shorthand, write.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

A to Z - "V" is for Vulnerable

I've been pretty open on this blog, sharing some depressing moments and  a little about being a parent, a wife, and a teacher. I share my knowledge of nutrition, whether I follow my own advice or not! As I scroll back, I find some pretty embarrassing posts. Having a blog is showing some vulnerability. It is sharing part of yourself with the world.

Comments can hurt, in the real world or in the virtual. When you share part of your heart, it can get stomped on. You can be insulted. When you are vulnerable to attack, you will feel pain.

But no one grows without pain.

I could blog about the mundane stuff, or other people's problems, but you would find me gossipy or boring. That's not what I want.

I have to be vulnerable to feel real. Note: if you have flat characters, give them a vulnerable side!
Humans are not invincible.

We all have weaknesses. One of mine is chocolate. :) Vulnerability is weakness, but without it, we would be closed off, without friends who trust us, and the opportunity to feel joy.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

A to Z - "U" is for Undecided

I'm not self-proclaimed the Mistress of Well-Intentioned Indecision for nothing!

I have a hard time making decisions. I want to weigh every piece of evidence, scrutinize every detail, and listen to every side of the story. I want to hear other opinions, debate with my head and heart, and then come to a very educated conclusion.

Sometimes there is no time for that.

I am the queen of the pregnant pause. It is better to not say anything at all than to say the wrong thing. I process things quickly, but I process many things, foreseeing many possible outcomes in that long pause in which the poor recipient of my decision must wait and must think I am ridiculously slow. My answer must therefore be eloquent and well-thought out, sensei-like, when I finally open my mouth to speak. I hope. I know this is not often the case, but I tried.

There are many areas of my life I am undecided on. I look back and see that my choices for my life have been good, but they may not be the same choices I want to keep making now. Facing change is difficult. It can be both exciting and terrifying.

Being on the cusp of something but in the shadows and unable to see it is not a comfortable place. Not having someone to ask questions of or any kind of guidance but your own intuition is risky. You could fail.

The trick is to learn to not fear failure. I'm not there yet so my decisions are made out of safety and not wanting to fail. There is plenty of room for improvement here! But that means I have to start failing. Gulp.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

A to Z - "T" is for Travel

Since I am so 'stressed' as my last post mentioned. I need to refocus on getting away from it all!


You've read my bucket list, most of my travel plans include the sea and the sand. Any water will do, as I want to do some simple boating as well. A nice forested park with a large lake and some hiking trails in a pinch, but ideally, a getaway is a long anticipated event in which I can leave it all behind for a length of time.

I have 2 concerns, the dog and the culture shock.

Maybe by not having anyone willing to take care of feeding the dog for a length of time, I have procrastinated on really going for a long vacation. Maybe it's that when we talk about it, the hubby and I ultimately end up with some other reason, more financial than pet-related, not to go.

Either way,  the big travel plans have never some to fruition.

Then there is the culture shock of being in a different place with different foods, plants, dangerous insects, accents, mannerisms, and sticker shock. I live in a part of the country with a lower standard of living, so things cost a bit less. Traveling to a bigger place where incomes are higher means everything is priced higher. But enough about money, the culture is just completely different.

Not that different is bad. Far from it. It's just uncomfortable. When you stay in one place your whole life, dreaming big, you often forget those minute details that make a place foreign and not home. When you picture yourself there, you don't picture those cultural and regional things you didn't know existed that make the area distinctly 'not-home'.

These are easy concerns to overcome and deal with. If there is a will, or a plan, there is a way. Embracing a new place can be enlightening. The dog can be boarded if need be. The vacation can be done.

Still, the idea remains daunting, like staring at the open space blow your feet before you jump.

So I am watching Travel documentaries and learning what I can about places that make them seem more universally welcoming and less daunting.

Then I make some more lists of dream destinations. :) If you can think it...

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A to Z - "S" is for Stress of Being A Severe/Profound Teacher - 5 Things

Writing these blog posts in addition to all the stuff I have to do related to work and home is stressful. But I think my career is even more so. How?

1. At any one time I can have any number of people mad at me. 

Sometimes the lessons we teach during Social Skills class include lessons where people would 'look at you funny' or 'think bad thoughts' about you. These lessons include dressing appropriately, hygiene, talking out of turn, staying on topic, and other things. But lets face it, no matter who you are, someone out there is going to 'think bad thoughts' about an action you make or a conversation you had.

Students can get mad at me for making them work. They usually get over it pretty quickly.

Parents can get mad over a disciplinary tactic they feel is inappropriate. These are the worst.

I get really stressed when people think I'm a bad person, or if I think others are thinking I'm a bad person behind my back. I haven't grown my thick skin yet. I'm learning.

2. At any time and for any reason a student could suddenly have a bad day.

We could be sitting and working on a lesson and suddenly the student grabs me; or maybe someone dissolves into tears over a direction given; or even a change in the routine causes someone to begin banging their head on the floor. When they have a bad day, I have a bad day. I may have to physically intervene or coach someone out of an emotional breakdown.

Something physical could happen, like a seizure, in which I have to call the emergency phone number.

A tantrum could lead to a student missing the bus.

3. Events outside my control could lead to a stressful situation.

The bus could be late, making my day longer as I wait with anxious students for their parents to pick them up or the bus to finally arrive.

The fire alarm could go off for no reason and the school need to be evacuated.

A storm could knock out power for hours and the students would have to sit in the dark and listen to the thunder and lightning. Some of them are really afraid of storms, too. A teacher has to be quick on their feet.

4. Homework!

All the tests, paperwork, grading, and planning provide plenty of homework for the teacher. Sometimes it is too much all at one time. People needing things done can stress you out in any job.

5. Money!

Teachers have to pay for a lot of supplies. My students may need special tools and utensils, art supplies for making individualized schedules, systems for learning hands-on job skills and life skills; and I provide all these things out of my own pocket. I have bought sippy cups, toys, hardware (locks for the fridge and cabinets, as well as things to sort for vocational skills), kitchen supplies, timers, art supplies, and office supplies like duct tape, folders, binders, and notebooks.

Sometimes my team of Therapists and Curriculum Specialists and Autism Specialists will come in to help solve a problem and they will say, 'hey a pool noodle works great for that!' or 'you need to make an object schedule with items and foam board' and I have to go out and buy these things to help the student. Sometimes the experts will buy them, but there is a budget and when it gets used up, I'm on my own. Sometimes the ideal thing hasn't been invented yet!

The point is to learn to deal with all these things in a healthy way. This is the nature of the job. This is what happens. How you respond to it is the key.

Maybe you just look forward to Summer Break!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A to Z - "R" is for Reading

Reading is good.

Reading makes you a better writer. It shows you the possibilities of other worlds and provides great examples of good writing. Reading is studying in the most fun way.

In fact, I was so enamored with the gems in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and the Sloppy Firsts series, that I took notes! It's okay to jot down lines other writers use in your Writer's Notebook to inspire you to greatness. Just no plagiarizing!

What are you currently reading?

I'm working on the Maze Runner series, the Septimus Heap series, and I read to my class The City of Ember a few days a week and my son Harry Potter nearly every night. The last two I have read before, but it always worth a re-read.

I have a stack of books on the shelf to dig into this summer. Most were bought for Christmas. One of the perks of being a teacher is a summer to read. :)

Monday, April 20, 2015

A to Z - "Q" is for Quiet

As a Mom, quiet in the house is a sign of danger. Something is going down.

However, as a writer, I revel in the quiet. Some people can write better with music, but not me. I need silence to hear my thoughts. Seriously. Sometimes it is too noisy to think.

This is probably why I come up with great ideas while driving or using the restroom. I have to be in a place where I can listen to myself think.

This also happens when weeding the flowerbeds as well as when I am working a jigsaw puzzle. My logical mind is occupied on some monotonous or mundane task and the creative side opens up and takes over.

One of my goals is to create for myself a mini writing retreat.
NY Times

So far, I have not yet been able to accomplish this task. I know I will have to A) plan and B) get away from the house. I was thinking of going to the library first and foremost, then maybe a jaunt to a park for a walk. I can type up things at the library and write, draw, or photograph things at the park.

not my park, but you get the picture

First and foremost I need a goal for the retreat. At this point, I don't know what that is, and I think this is why I have put it off.

Secondly, I put it off because it means tearing myself away from my boys and the myriad of responsibilities at home. There are projects to do, cleaning to finish, organizing to accomplish. What was that about unrest being good? :)

But so are quiet times. There are so many benefits to taking time for your passions. I know this, but I deny myself the bliss. It's time to give in.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

A to Z - "P" is for Pay It Forward,

Pay It Forward Redux

I posted previously on teaching my kids to pay it forward. I also made this one of my New Year's Resolutions.

So how have I done?

Not very well..

Admittedly, I have not gone out of my way to try doing something new that is nice for others. I've been busy working in my special needs classroom, tutoring special needs and 'regular' kids 3 days a week, raising my boys so that they do their homework and clean up the house, and joining my husband for trivia one night a week. I type up blog posts and do research in my spare time and still get to garden (haven't bought plants yet), and watch TV on Hulu or Netflix when my brain is fried of an evening.

But that's no excuse!

While I still do the things on the list from the previous post that I mentioned earlier, so I can give myself points that don't matter (like on Who's Line Is It Anyway?) for those tasks, I'm missing the imaginary bonus points for doing something new. I'm missing the good feelings of pride in myself for being kind to others.

Right now my focus is on throwing my graduating students a fabulous party. I will miss them, but I know they are going on to bigger and better things.

But surely I can think of something else to do, something small, but impactful.

 Thursday, April 30th is the official Pay It Forward Day. I have 2 weeks to plan!

Pay It Forward Foundation

Really Good article on the Science of Paying It Forward: Bad Behavior Gets Paid Forward More Than Good.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

A to Z - "O" is for Organize!!

Oh how I love it when I feel organized!

The first step for me is to get a planner.

I can spend hours filling in all the things I need to do; from lesson plans, to appointments, to writing dates with my laptop. My planner is my brain!

Organization for me can also mean simplifying and de-cluttering my life. My planner says it's Spring Cleaning Time! If you haven't done a Spring Cleaning yet, you should.

 Here are 10 questions to help you de-clutter:

Start with one room and dump everything you can into one space. Yeah, it's messy, but you are getting ready to clean it up. Ask yourself -
 1. Is this something I use every day?
I like to think of de-cluttering as packing up as if to move. What do you NEED to take with you?

2. If not, is it something I love?
What do you HAVE to take with you?

Put these items in their place in your home.

Now come the hard questions. Look at everything you have left.

3. Am I keeping this out of obligation?
4. Am I holding onto this because I think I should love it?
5. Am I saving this 'just in case'?
6. How many of these do I need?
7. Can something else I already own do the same job, maybe even better?
8. Is this broken and I want to fix it one day?
9. Is this worth the time I spend cleaning/fixing it?
10. Could I use this space for something else?

I kind of think the last question should be your motivation if you have big plans. Let's say you really want to park your car in the garage... yeah, you see what I mean?

If you have to be cutthroat, set yourself a number of items to get rid of from each room.

But Spring Cleaning is way more than just de-cluttering. When you pull all that stuff out, dust, spray, wipe, and disinfect that space!

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

A to Z - "N" is for New

One of my New Year's Resolutions from last year that I kept for this year was to Try New Things.

How did I do?

Well, let's see.. I tried some new foods, like hummus and red bell peppers and popcorn shrimp.

I tried a new restaurant, which involved more new foods; a hibachi grill.

I started using an elliptical and a punching bag in my workouts; not that I workout nearly as much as I should.

The hubby and I started going to Trivia Night at a local bar with some of his friends. It's the one 'adult' thing we do where we can talk about non-work-related things and feel human and normal. It's also kind of like a date night.

Perhaps I need to up my game.

After searching for 'new things to try', I looked up lists of suggested things. Most of them are things that people wish they had time to do and things I have already done.

  • bake a cake or cookies for someone else
  • make your own greeting cards
  • go hiking
  • go on a picnic
  • roller skate
  • shop at a farmer's market
  • play a board game
  • donate to charity
  • take your camera out for a day
  • attend a food tasting festival
  • start a daily journal
  • plant a garden or a flower bed
But there are a few things I still could do:
  • volunteer at a shelter
  • visit a museum or art gallery (with the boys)
  • visit a new town (i'd take my camera, too)
  • join a community class
  • have a major de-clutter and donate to charity
  • try a new water activity
  • take a road trip
  • try a new look, hair or wardrobe
  • re-read an old favorite book

Perhaps I shall get out my notebook and jot these down.. :)

What other things can you think of that I could try?

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A to Z - "M" is Money

Why are our lives so controlled by money?!?

Honestly, it would be so much easier to live in some kind of utopian cult where we all use our talents to balance each other and support and aid each other without needing to beg, borrow, steal, and trade or barter with printed paper dollars to afford the comforts we desire.

You can't argue with money, though. I suppose back in the days of the barter system it was much easier to hurt people's feelings in dealings. Asking for more eggs or an extra lamb in exchange for the new dress you are to make was sure to put a wrinkle in someone's brow. Price tags don't haggle.

Sometimes I get so caught up in this cycle right here that I wonder why I bother doing it. But, as all cycles, there is no easy way to get out of it. I just have to make the best of it. No use complaining.

Is having more money worth it? Most people would say yes, because they feel they would spend it on the fun things they dream of doing and items they dream of owning. What happens when you get a windfall or a raise?

When you get a windfall, say a large tax return, or a sudden inheritance, you don't often pay off your debts, or even pay down your debts. You might put some of it towards the debt, but then some part of you says "I could still pay on that debt and take the rest of this chunk of change and buy something nice for myself." Or you look at that thing, that one thing you have been wanting for so long, and you buy it. Could be new windows or something practical, so you feel it is justified, but in the end, you still have the same debts and the same income amount coming in. Did you really make headway?

When you get a raise, you often re-acclimate your spending to include the extra money. Now you get used to one extra night a month of eating out, going to the movies, or buying the more expensive snacks. You figure you can affort to charge one more outfit, or that new cell phone, because you can afford to pay it off.

Money takes an extremely huge amount of willpower to save. Unless you have it taken out of your paycheck before you even see it and get to use it, you probably will spend it.

Check out a lifetime annuity. Seriously. That is the way to save for your future, your children's future, and your grandchildren's future. Then put money into it before you even see it.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A to Z - "L" is for Love

I've wanted to write a book about Love for a while. I don't yet know my angle. Will I write about the forms love can take? How about the love that withstands the test of time? I've used this tag many times. Love is very important. I don't think one can truly live without Love. It's a festering, dark, miserable existence.

I've researched some of the forms of Love. Here is what I have found:

Eros: This is a hot, passionate, rip-each-other’s-clothes-off, intense sort of love. The focus here is passion. The Greeks viewed it as a dangerous, fiery, and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and possess you. 
Ludus: This type of love is playful and revolves around fun, laughter, shared connections. Practical jokes are totally welcome. We've all had a taste of it in the flirting and teasing in the early stages of a relationship. But we also live out our ludus when we sit around in a bar bantering and laughing with friends, or when we go out dancing.
Storge: Originating from friendship, this is the sort of love that develops slowly and is based on support and affection. We're talking about 10 years from now. This also is a familial love between relatives.
Pragma: Practical, collaborative, partnership—couples with this kind of love are a united front, driven by the same goals. If your relationship were a business, one of you would be the CEO, the other the president. Pragma is about making compromises to help the relationship work over time, and showing patience and tolerance. 
Mania: Dramatic, this sort of love is punctuated by highs and lows and intense emotion. Hello, roller coaster!
Philautia - or self-love. The Greeks realized there were two types. One was an unhealthy variety associated with narcissism, where you became self-obsessed and focused on personal fame and fortune. A healthier version enhanced your wider capacity to love. The idea was that if you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of love to give others.

Agape: Selfless, supportive—this type of love is all about focusing on the other’s needs, often at the expense of personal needs. 
Agape was later translated into Latin as caritas, which is the origin of our word "charity."
Sources: Yes Magazine and (because I liked these articles)

Maybe I will get to writing this one day. 

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Monday, April 13, 2015

A to Z - "K" is for Kids (Being the Mom of 2 Boys)

Ah, Kids.

I have two boys. Boys are little bundles of energy; even when they grow as tall as you. Skills I have learned as the mother of boys:

  • How to tell Legos from Mega Blocks
  • How to distinguish Daddy's Transformers from their Transformers
  • How to refer to a penis using ANY word
  • How to change any subject into a fart, poop, or pee joke
Other life lessons:
  • Butt humor will always be funny, laugh at it and you're one of the guys
  • Everything is a weapon, grab a wooden spoon and join in!
  • Pants, or any clothing, is optional. Not for me, but for them.
  • A quiet house means a dangerous situation about to go down.
  • Boys are remarkably sensitive
  • Boys will hug with 100% sincerity every time.
  • Running in the house, even it's across the hall, is mandatory.
  • A soft rebuke is just as damaging as a loud yell.
Just remember to teach them compassion, generosity, as much cleanliness as they will tolerate, and to hug back, even if you are angry or hurt by their words or actions. 

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