Girls

2012/12/31

Mall date with my girls. The mall doesn't hold the same allure for me that it did once upon a time, but I am happy to have a relaxing day with my girls.

Thoughts

2012/12/30

A few thoughts on teaching as I sit on top of my first semester in the trenches, all wise and worldly now. One of the main motivators for me to become a teacher, as I briefly mentioned before, is to take a personal stand against the epidemic of selfishness that I think our world suffers from. That I personally suffer from. It is an expression of my Christianity, where I put in to action the principles of service that I hold dear. But here is where things get squishy for me. Principles and ideals have been of little service to me as I deal with the daily realities of my job. The stress and overworkedness and general gritty realities that I wade through have blurred the lines of pretty much everything. There are too many immediate priorities to worry much about ideals. I'm talking both about the ideals of becoming a fantastic teacher and also the ideals of being an agent of good in the world. It's complicated.

 In my desire to become less selfish I think the reverse has happened. In reaction to the exhaustion of my job, I look for immediate comforts on a daily basis rather than managing my life in a holistic and strategic way.

 In my desire to be of service of those less fortunate than I, I have moved into a season of my life when I cannot serve my close friends and family. That is a privilege I took for granted and not realize I did not take full advantage of when it was more available to me.

 In my desire to incorporate good works as an expression of my faith, I have taken a job where the daily realities have made me question the clear lines of my faith. The world is a messy place. The Savior spent his time with the marginalized members of society, but I am having a hard time doing it (on a much lesser scale) without losing a little hope.

Lest I leave you with a sense that I am in the fits of despair or hating my new career, let me articulate that I am strangely but profoundly happy. It is exceedingly hard work but I am grateful to be doing it in the season that I am able. I know it will get easier. I know I will get better. I know in very small ways I am making a positive impact and in truth, small ways are all we really ever have at our disposal.

Rules of Civility

Rules of CivilityRules of Civility by Amor Towles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such a fun read. I don't know if it's my luxurious down time over winter break or if the book has a compulsive readability, but I breezed through it in just a few days.

What I loved:
The characters for sure. The author borders on throwing in too many minor characters for my taste, the protagonist especially was extremely likable and very well drawn. I enjoyed her so much that it almost came as a surprise to me when I realized that she wasn't all the perfection that I wanted her to be. Made it better.

What I learned:
The novel paints a good picture of life in New York in 1938. As is my beef with many historical novels, its hard to know how much of the characters' modern sensibility is authentic, but still I felt like I got a taste for life during that time and place.

A favorite passage:
Whatever setbacks he had faced in his life, he said, however daunting or dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke up he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee...
Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane- in the cigarette on the stoop or the ginergersnap in the bath- she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger... this risk should not be treated lightly: One must be prepared to fight for one's simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements;


View all my reviews

Happy

2012/12/27

I want to take a brief moment and just acknowledge how HUGELY grateful I am for some down time over winter break. It is transforming and a particular kind of joy to remember that I am not *always* cynical and stressed out. It feels so good to just be happy and remember what my self feels like under more humane circumstances. I have taken the most acute joy in small pleasures. I relish books and their beautiful words. Music makes me want to cry with it's beauty. Seriously cry. Running in the sunshine or working hard at yoga is joyous. Lots of full emotions lately and I am reveling in it all...

The Marriage Plot

The Marriage PlotThe Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though I adored Middlesex, I told myself to leave that preconception aside when picking up this book. I had heard mixed reviews and wasn't sure what to expect, but I enjoyed it greatly. There are a few flaws - I didn't love the main female character and thought she was a little thinly drawn, but there was enough else in the novel to leave me satisfied.

What I loved:
I am always a sucker for two things: explorations of dysfunctional characters and relationships, and changes in POV to achieve that goal. This book gave me both and did it well. I liked the way the author shifted the timeline subtly to let you see the same experience from different characters' viewpoints.

What I learned:
Even though it's only a novel, I thought Eugenides did a good job in his treatment of Leonard's mental illness and it was both academically interesting to see it explored and had me empathetically drawn to his experience.

View all my reviews

Baker

2012/12/25

How cute is my baker girl?

Favorite

My new favorite shirt. We can only be friends if you know why.

Gingerbread!

2012/12/24

Happy Gingerbread Day! Have I mentioned that I love gingerbread? Because I love gingerbread.

The Devil's Highway

2012/12/22

The Devil's Highway: A True StoryThe Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful little book that really humanizes the issues at the border on both sides. The amount of research he must have done seems incredible. I have enjoyed his fiction so much, it was great to try his non-fiction as well.

What I loved:
His writing style is very engaging and beautiful even though it is informative non-fiction. I loved exploring the men involved as fully human characters.

What I learned:
A lot about the perspectives on both sides of the border. I think Urrea did a great job of staying impartial and showing the issues that all of the different parties deal with. I unfortunately also learned a lot about what it means to die of sun exposure and dehydration. Harrowing.

I love the very opening paragraph:
Five men stumbled out of the mountain pass so sunstruck that they didn't know their own names, couldn't remember where they'd come from, had forgotten how long they'd been lost... They were burned nearly black, their lips huge and cracking, what paltry drool still available to them spuming from their mouths in a salty foam as they walked. Their eyes were cloudy with dust, almost too dry to blink up a tear. Their hair was hard and stiffened by old sweat, standing in crowns from their scalps, old sweat because their bodies were no longer sweating. They were drunk from having their brains baked in the pan, they were seeing God and devils, and they were dizzy from drinking their own urine, the poisons clogging their systems.


View all my reviews

Final

2012/12/20

Last day of school before break. I've been giving finals all week plus we've had early release every day so from my perspective at least, the week has been super relaxing. Wonderfulness.

Perfect

2012/12/19

Dinner outside in 82 degree weather at Shady Grove before heading over to Zilker Trail of Lights. Austin, I love you.

Concert

2012/12/17

Tessa's middle school choir had their winter concert at a neighborhood church tonight. I am continually impressed by what her director accomplishes with crazy middle school kids. Here all four of her choirs performed together for the first time. It was a great show.

Year in Review 2012

2012/12/16

Is it the end of the world yet? The way things have been running in my head it would be entirely possible that I would have missed it. Crazy, yes. I feel like my blog has been even more self-centered than usual so let me take a moment to first recap things for the rest of my little clan.

I had made it clear to Dave that this was my year for crazy and he was on board for being the responsible and sane one in the family - a role he has excelled at. But on top of it all he got a big promotion this fall and his responsibilities at work have been huge. Outside of work he is still running lots, although he hasn't had a race in quite a while and I can see it messing with his running mojo. He's also been playing a lot of frisbee golf with friends as well as a little mountain biking. Austin is great for the outdoor pursuits. Dave also got a new truck this year, something he has been waiting for for a long time. Much deserved and a pretty sweet ride. He hasn't completely severed ties with the Del Sol, it still lives at our house and he's leasing it to my sister. Win/win situation as it gives Xandy a set of wheels and prevents Dave from having to sell his baby.

Tessa started 6th grade this year and she is completely rocking middle school. She has a lot more responsibility to get herself to school and stay on top of her school work, all of which she has handled magnificently. She is in choir and dance at school, loving them both immensely. She is still shy about singing in front of anyone, but she dances around the house almost always. I keep waiting for the emotional jag of hormones to set in, but she is still her easy going, friendly, and helpful self 98% of the time.

Sylvie is in 3rd grade this year and has really grown into herself. I thought being on her own without Tessa in elementary school plus the added change of after school care would make life pretty difficult for her, but she has adjusted wonderfully. She has recently blossomed with a crazy well developed intuition about and skill for math and her enthusiasm for it is a delight. We are on a hiatus for piano which Sylvie (and of course Tessa) is enjoying but I am determined to correct that sooner than later. Too much talent in this girl to let it go to waste.

Besides our little foursome, my mom and my sister Xandy moved to Austin this summer. My mom has an apartment a few minutes away and has been super helpful with picking up some of my slack since I started teaching. Tessa goes to her apartment most days after school and my mom is also generous enough to cook for us frequently and provides other general sanity boosts. Great having her here. Xandy is living with us while she attends Austin Community College (waiting to gain residency so she can transfer to UT) and works two jobs nearby. She is super easy to live with. Definitely easier than the last time I lived with her 17 years ago. Back then all she did was cry and poop in her diaper.

And then there's me. How could I possibly recap what this year has meant for me? It is definitely the biggest transformation I've undergone in pretty much forever. I've never felt so frazzled or worn thin. But still happy in a very different way. It is a source of much contemplation for me to witness how much of what I thought was my "self" fall away due to the constraints of time and stress. And to wonder if what is left is a new person or just more to the core of my true Self. Hopefully this is not a manifestation of my best self because I am sloppy and brash and as I have mentioned too many times before, mediocre. Maybe 2013 is when I will reassemble into something a little more polished. I have some more thoughts on what teaching has meant for my psyche but I think I'll save that for another post.

In more logistical terms, 2012 has had some good changes for me. I have expanded my social network as I work with some incredible and highly enjoyable people who have become great friends. 2012 saw me pick up quite a bit on the running front. To date I've logged 568 miles and there have been very few of them that I have hated. I am still slow, slow, slow, but that suits me just fine. I get up most mornings at 5:15 so I can run before school and while I hate the early rise and the fact that my runs are in pitch black, it keeps my sanity in check. Essential. Yoga has been one of the things I have had to sacrifice some on the alter of teaching, which is more than a little heartbreaking. But when I am able to make it on the mat I am amazed at how good my body still feels. All of the hard work I've put in over the past few years has not been lost thank goodness. I have also lost 25 pounds this year and that transformation has been a particularly pleasant one. The first half was due to hard work on my part but honestly, the last 10+ has been with zero effort since school started. Being on my feet all day combined with chronic stress has melted away the pounds. Reading has been another hobby lost, at least in part. I am still reading of course but lack of time and lack of attention has made it slow going. I hate that but it is what it must be for now.

So there it is, or at least the version of it in my head tonight, in too many words as per usual. Lest I forget, there were a few other big events of the year, namely my (hopefully annual) hike of the Grand Canyon, our lovely and epic road trip summer vacation, and my poor Cricket passing away this year. Last December feels like a lifetime ago. Who knows what lies ahead?


P.S. It is very unfair that for the few of you that make it all the way through this lengthy post there are no cute pictures to reward you for your diligence. I have become somewhat estranged from my camera as of late but I will do my best to repair relations in the new year.

And no,

2012/12/03

I am not anywhere near to prepared for Christmas to come. Not. Even. Close.

Thanksgiving 2012

A lovely holiday for so many reasons. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorites but this year it was extra special. Not only was it an essential oasis in my stressful first year of teaching, but all of my siblings were together under one roof for the first time since 2008. Definitely cause for gratitude and celebration.

It's crazy to think how much my life has changed since last Thanksgiving. It was last November that I learned my job at GCC would be ending. Precious little in my day to day is even recognizable when compared to a year ago. But thankfully I've got family, friends, faith and hope keep me tethered to my self. Evolution comes in fits and spurts occasionally. The journey is a good one.








Frozen

2012/11/24

It is in my opinion too cold for frozen yogurt tonight, but Xandy is working at the yogurt shop and we all came to support her loneliness. Family!

Friend

2012/11/23

My sister and I made a new friend on our morning run through slaughter creek. Or I should say I made a new friend - Xandy hyperventilated and backed away in a panic.

Family

What is a family holiday without torture by uncle? My brother fills the roll exceptionally well.

Thankful

2012/11/21

I wanted to assemble a lovely little post focusing on what I am thankful for. I feel like my venting has been front and center on my blog (and in my life) and I want to balance that with some plain and simple gratitude. But am enjoying my first day of a blissful 5 day break from school a little too much and sitting down to be that thoughtful is not what I need right now. But I am thankful, for so much. My life is immensely full of good things - that needs to be said, even in inarticulate ways.

Life of Pi

Life of PiLife of Pi by Yann Martel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book. This read is number three or four and I loved it just as much. There are definitely some oddities in the story and I know it's not a tale for everyone, but I love the way Martel makes me think.

What I loved:
The story. The writing. The characters. And most of all the questions that the book raises. I like to wonder.

What I learned:
This time through I thought a lot about what it means to tell a story and what form truth takes. Can fiction be truer than facts?

View all my reviews

Still Life


Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1)Still Life by Louise Penny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't read many mysteries; this one reminded me why. The writing was fine and the characters interesting, but I just don't get enjoyment from trying to assemble a pattern or string together clues when the whole thing is just made up in someone's head. My personal preferences aside, the book was enjoyable.


View all my reviews

Good night

2012/11/08

Out with my sissy at Stubb's for a great show. Outside in great weather with great music makes me happy.

Sick and Tired and Mediocre

2012/11/04

I have been sick this week and it has added a whole new dimension to teaching that I could have lived without. I did take a half day off on Thursday, but really needed more than that. Insert here copious whining and complaining about how hard it has been. I bore myself.

It came at a not so great time emotionally for me and served as one more example of the epic mediocrity that I'm wading through. I feel like I am thoroughly mediocre in every aspect of my life right now. Not an easy pill to swallow for a girl who likes to think she's got her life together. I feel like I am doing bare minimum or worse in each of my roles. I am a mediocre teacher, mother, friend, daughter, wife, congregation member, neighbor, you name it. And even worse, I just don't see another path through it. It's just a function of the resources available to me right now. Despite my whining, I'm not even overly upset about it. I am even mediocre at giving a damn right now.

Part of my sour mood is also a function of this stupid cold and the fact that I haven't been able to exercise for almost a week. Always makes me depressive. There are two things keeping me going right now. First, the lovely weather outside and the promise of a run when my cough goes away. Please be soon! And second and even bigger, the promise that Thanksgiving is coming soon and the prospect of five lovely days with nothing to think of other than my family, friends, and pie. Please, please come soon!

Love

I saw an amazing show at the Moody Theater last week. That is a fantastic venue to say the least. Is the new theater where they tape the Austin City Limits TV program and the lobby is filled with incredible photography from the performances. Blew me away. Anyway, the show was spectacular. An acoustic set by two amazing song writers. I love Austin. Love...




Happy Halloween

2012/10/31

My girls are all smiles as they head out with the largest pillow cases they can find.

Carving

2012/10/28

Pumpkin carving. Chili and cornbread. Temperatures in the 60s. These are good things.

Pumpkin

2012/10/22

Picking pumpkins.

Best

2012/10/21

A less than fabulous day salvaged by a walk to the greenbelt. Glorious.

How Firm a Foundation

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, Thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

Sing

2012/10/17

Tessa had her first middle school choir concert last night. It was wonderful watching her perform. She won't sing much at home or at church, but she takes choir very seriously and loves it much. Proud of my girl.

ACL

2012/10/14

What a great weekend. I opted for two instead of three days at ACL this year (as per usual) so I'm home today resting and churching while the rest of my crew is back at it for day three. I had a great time this year. The weather was hot at times and pouring buckets at times, but nothing so terrible as to ruin the day. The crowds were beyond insane, but the sound seemed better this year and the cigarette smoke that made me decide to skip last year was not an issue at all. It was incredibly fun to have my sister Xandy at ACL this year. I hung out with her and my friend Taylor most of the weekend. We seemed to almost but not quite cross paths with Dave and his friends all weekend. Cell service at the festival is magnificently unreliable. Guess that's what you get when 75,000 people are trying to text in the same time and the same place.

It's hard to pick favorites, but there were some definite highlights to the weekend. I've included sketchy notes and impressions below. One day I'll invest enough to do a full scale review, but mostly I just want to remember who I saw a few years from now.

Friday:
  • The Wombats - Good way to start. I've only heard a few songs but enjoyed their performance.
  • Los Campesinos! - Another fun band. No one I'm going to fall in love with, but fun to watch.
  • First Aid Kit - A favorite of yours truly. Their harmonies are magnificent. Xandy I and got up close for this one and I'm glad I followed her lead to do so. Makes a big difference. Just love, love, love them.
  • Delta Spirit - I like them better live than I do their albums and it was a good show. The lead singer is a bit of an ego and I tired of his antics by the end, but still enjoyable.
  • Ben Howard - Didn't know him but I think I could. I was a little distracted and not giving the show my full attention.
  • The Afghan Whigs - A little loud and not always my thing, we only stayed for a few songs.
  • Tegan and Sara - The music was good but their stage conversation was annoying to the point of distraction
  • Alabama Shakes - This was one of the biggest disappointments of the festival. I love their latest album but the crowd around the stage was crowded to the point of personal danger and it took all we had just to get in and out. Couldn't see or hear anything.
  • Weezer - A definite highlight of the weekend. I have never seen them live and what fun it was. Just song after song that I love. They are impossibly entertaining.
  • M. Ward - A little disappointing just because the stage and the time slot made the sound awful. I love M. Ward but it just wasn't happening.
  • The Black Keys - Would have been a great show but Taylor and I were tired from the day and chose to sit back in the chairs rather than fight for a good view. We needed to leave early to get to an after show too so we just weren't fully invested in the show. But still, it's the Black Keys and they are amazing at all times.
  • The Shins - An after show at Stubb's. Which is a mistake I will never make again. Why ACL has "official after shows" that start early enough that you can't actually attend the festival and the show is a mystery to me. We left Black Keys early to make it and still ended up missing the opener and almost half of the Shins. I was super upset about it but there was really nothing to be done. It was great seeing the Shins at Stubb's. Such a fantastic venue and the Shins were of course perfect. Swoon.

Saturday:

  • Quiet Company - I hadn't heard a lot of their stuff, but this was a great way to start the day. Great sound and an amazing show.
  • Wild Child - Loved them. Beautiful vocals and great instrumentals.
  • Bombay Bicycle Club - This was a great show. I was surprised by some of their material that I wasn't as familiar with and it was a lot more eclectic than I expected. Great time.
  • Rufus Wainwright - This was one of the most pleasant surprises of the day. I have heard good things about him but not really familiar with his stuff. He is amazingly talented and highly entertaining on many levels. Crazy good musicianship in his band.
  • Father John Misty - Only stayed for a few songs. I'm not a huge fan but it was okay.
  • Metric - Another highlight. Xandy and were concerned about getting back for Band of Skulls so we didn't really press the crowds and consequently did not have a great view. It could have been the best performance of the festival if we were better placed I think. This is one of my favorite albums of the year right now. She is a great presence on stage.
  • Band of Skulls - This was an epic moment of the day. Started out great and should have carried through but the heavens opened and it was raining so hard for a while that the band had to stop because the amp shorted out or something. They eventually came back on but ended short for who knows what reason. Lame. I was damp and sticky for the rest of the day which kinda sucked. Oh well.
  • Punch Brothers - This was a fun show. I was tired by this point and not super into it, but fun to watch.
  • Steve Earle - Love his songs and it was great to see him. More sound issues with competing bands, so it wasn't great, but still good.
  • Jack White - Again we sat back and didn't push for a great seat which affects sound quality a lot, but Jack White is still awesome. He hit a lot of his catalog and it was great to hear it all.

Update

2012/10/07

I've been feeling like an update is overdue here on le blog, but I'm just not feeling very inspired to provide it. I eat and breathe teaching yet I feel like that is old news. I never intending this to be a teacher blog, but it has been an all consuming transition for me. I had lunch today with dear friends after General Conference and it felt a little like stepping back in time to glimpse at my past self. It's hard to articulate, I just feel life is so drastically different than it was a few short months ago it is a little jarring to slip back into old roles. Dave has had a promotion and big transition at work these past months as well so between that and Tessa heading off to middle school and my sister living with us now, very little of our life is the same as it was. I don't feel like I'm articulating myself very well, but suffice it to say that I am dealing with a little existential angst. Not necessarily bad, just feeling a little off center.

So more to my point, things are pretty good, if still hectic beyond reasonableness. I am feeling a modicum more relaxed in my job as I'm sitting on top of our first six weeks. It is still more work than I can do and all of my flaws at a teacher are staring me in the face on a daily basis, but the bad days aren't trashing me emotionally and I have a few nights a week where I'm not working straight through until bedtime. Baby steps.

My beautiful girls seem to be thriving as always despite the crazy of their parents. Tessa is working hard at the transition to middle school and the uptick in required personal responsibility. There have been a few minor bumps but really nothing to speak of. Sylvie's biggest hurdle has been adjusting to the longer hours of her day (since she is at after school care now) and she is doing well. She has been super responsible and helpful in general. I love those girls fierce.

So there you go, brief update gone long as per usual. Some things never change.

Birthday

2012/09/25

My birthday, saving this most lovely hour or so at dinner, has been slightly south of mediocre. Ah well. Despite it all I am incredibly warmed by the outpouring of well wishes. I am amazed by all the love...

Why

2012/09/21

An excerpt from a reflection paper I am writing for my certification program:

All of these facts are readily available from a web search or performance measures reporting. They are significant to understanding the student population. But statistics are deceptive in that they offer only superficial understanding. I have learned much more from just talking with my students. I knew from the outset that building relationships was job number one and efforts in that direction have paid off well. Each student I get to know in a personal way is one that I want to help.

It is easy to dismiss a student as lazy for missing most of his junior year and having to make up lost credit. But when such a student came to talk to me at lunch and told me about his junior year when his mom had a heart attack that landed her in the hospital for several months and he had to drop out to get a job and support his two younger siblings since his dad is often drunk and does nothing at home to contribute. And how that same year his three older siblings were all killed in violent and tragic ways leaving him the only role model for his younger siblings. That is a student I want to help. I have another student that I started to think poorly of because of her spotty attendance and lack of participation. Today she came to see me about an alternative to my before school tutoring hours that she can’t attend because she works every day from 2 am to 8 am before school. That is a student I want to help. Another student was showing signs of frustration with the work I am assigning and the non-relevance of my class. I felt like she was disrespecting me until I spoke to her and learned that she is supporting her 1 year old daughter, taking college classes, and working after school each day on top of high school. That is a student I want to help. Yes, there are students in my classes with poor behavior that is a result of bad choices, but many of them are doing the best they can with difficult circumstances. For me, getting to know my students individually changes the entire landscape of teaching.

Blurg

2012/09/19

I composed a lengthy rant this morning which seems to have been garbled by my phone. Which is probably well enough since the heat of emotion is never a good place to compose one's thoughts. Suffice it to say things are not entirely rosey this week. Chronic overwork is setting in and my mood has soured. I had my first real cry about the job last night and I'm having difficulty maintaining perspective.

On my drive in this morning I asked myself to really answer why (Why!) I made this choice. It seems more than a little crazy from the vantage point of this week. But here it is: I feel like the major ailment of our world is pervading selfishness. This sacrifice I am making is my personal protest against that. One day at a time I make that choice. And one day at a time I am surviving.

Cricket

2012/09/16

My poor sweet Cricket died early yesterday morning in his sleep. We are all a little heartbroken.

I got up around 3:30 because the dogs were begging to go outside. It is unusual for them to wake up in the middle of the night, but certainly not unheard of so I didn't think much of it. But Cricket's breathing was scary and I could tell something wasn't right. He has had labored breathing for some months now and his general health has deteriorated quite a bit, but this was something different. I let them outside to do their business and then made Cricket a more comfortable bed and stroked him a bit to make him more comfortable. Then I went back to bed. When I woke up at 6:30 to go running he was gone.

Telling my girls he was gone was among my most difficult parenting moments. They are dealing with their grief in very different ways, but needless to say it's been a somber weekend in our house.

Here we are in early 2007 the weekend we adopted him. (Which happens to coincide with one of the worst haircuts I've ever given, poor Sylvie.) Cricket had a lot of neurosis that drove me crazy, but he truly was the sweetest dog and loved his family fierce. Sylvie and I decided that he's in doggie heaven now eating all the ham he could dream of.




Beautiful

2012/09/08

Crazy beautiful (for once) weather. Crazy beautiful sunset. Crazy and beautiful girl.

Big day

My beautiful Sylvie was baptized a member of our church last Saturday. It was a great day for sure. Both of her grandpas traveled to Austin for the event and took part in the ceremony. Truly wonderful to have them here. We had a lovely long weekend visiting with them (while I unfortunately sat to the side and lesson planned a good chunk of the time) and enjoying the family vibe.

I am tremendously proud of my girl. She knows her own heart and makes so many good decisions without my prompting, I am amazed by her maturity of spirit.


Unbroken


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and RedemptionUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Just an amazing story on so many levels. I was perpetually amazed by what the main character (and everyone else) went through. Every turn the story took I was blown away that the ordeal was not over yet. The author did a wonderful job of assembling it all into a sweeping narrative. Great book.

What I loved:
This is simply put, a great story. It's hard to believe it's not fiction, it is just jam packed with great characters and heart wrenching experiences.

What I learned:
The takeaways were huge. The actual events were very educational as it is told from the point of view of a WWII POW in Japan. But also the human elements, humanity and dignity at their very core, were on display in great glory.


View all my reviews

Everything

Hot

2012/09/05

I don't think anyone is a big fan of reading a lengthy complaint about the weather, but I feel the need to document how insanely brutal running had been this summer. Then perhaps when I'm whining about the cold this winter I can go back and read this for some perspective.

It has been awful. Lows around 80 and humidity in the 90s is just stupid hot. Brutal. Insane. Profanity is truly required. Sometime around last May a miracle occurred and I decided to actually like running. And my weekly mileage more than doubled just in time for the stupidy of summer heat. Even now, running in the dark of 5:30 there is no relief to be found.

Even after 13 years living in the sunbelt I get grumpy every September when the temperatures refuse to cool off. My birthday wishlist now includes a run in 60 degree weather. Think I'll get it?

Amen

2012/09/03

Sweet

My dear friend made me math teacher cookies. Win!

First week

2012/09/01

One week down! This has been without a doubt the most overwhelming and difficult week of my life. Yet I am smiling at the end of it and that is a wonderful thing. I knew teaching would be hard but it really is something that defies words. The only experience to compare it to is parenthood - people can talk and talk and talk about the transformation but until you experience it you just can't understand. It is a job like no other.

Other than the chronic stress and criminal level of overworkedness, it has been most difficult watching the toll on my family. They are truly on my team but it is excruciating telling Sylvie that I'll be late for the dinner date I promised because I simply can't get away or that traffic is at a standstill. Or not being able to invest fully and revel in Tessa's triumphs as she navigates middle school. Tough stuff. I know it will get smoother and that's really the only thing pulling me through.

Without getting too political or irate when I'm fresh out of the gate, the amount of work truly is obscene. I consider myself above average when it comes to problem solving and designing systems to get stuff done, but there is simply no way to get it all done in day. My few planning periods are eaten up by meetings leaving me to do a gigantic amount of prep on my own scant time. This is a truly broken system. The personal economics of the job are in my opinion perverse if we really want the best and the brightest to teach the future generation. But for now I just have to set all of that aside and make my peace with it. As best as an opinionated girl such as myself can do anyway :-)

I am despite all of that immensely happy. I love being with the kids and I've had a great week in the classroom with a few small exceptions. I have tons to learn about my craft, but its rewards are already apparent. I am looking forward to finding my feet and becoming equal to the challenge. Everyone talks about how the first year, the first semester, the first month is so brutal. So I it can only get better as I go along.


Firsts

2012/08/27

It feels like we've done hundreds of first days of school. And our professional status certainly came in handy today. It's always been one of my favorite days of the year but it was a whole new beast today with me headed back to the classroom as well. To be honest, it was hard for me to focus at all on my girls, I've been so singularly focused on my own preparation. But miraculously the morning went off without a hitch.

Tessa is riding the bus for the first time as she heads off to middle school and I wasn't even there to see her off. She is amazingly responsible when it comes to time and she got herself out the door on her own to the bus stop while Dave and I took Sylvie to school. Made me a little weepy thinking of her so grown up.

I was prepared for (but not necessarily anticipating) a rough morning for Sylvie. She loves school but new situations are not always easy for her. She had asked us to walk her to class (3rd grade now!) and I was fine with that. But the minute we hit the front doors she saw her best friend and tore away. She came back when she remembered she had left us in the dust, but she didn't seem to want or need any parental company so we gave her a hug and left her to do her thing. Makes me proud to see her gaining confidence.

The new found minutes in my schedule were all for the better since it gave time for me to arrive at school in plenty of time to take a breath and organize myself for the day. High school doesn't start until 9:00 here so even with dropping off Sylvie and my medium commute I arrive an hour before school.

All three of us girls had a great day. Tessa said the bus was full of scary 8th graders, Sylvie was mad that her play scape is under construction, and I am pretty sure I'm going to lose my voice by the end of the week, but we were all smiling this evening so that is a win.

The girls on their way this morning.




Dave and the girls in front of his brand new truck, another first in the house considering we haven't bought a new car since I drove home my CRV back in 2000.


And a few pics of my classroom I took last Saturday. Why yes, that is my clock collection making a reappearance. After leaving our Phoenix home the clocks had a diaspora of sorts. Makes me happy to see them reunited. I added some new ones too, look closely on the left and you can see my new favorite Math clock. I'm pretty sure I'm already known as the "clock lady" at school. Well, that and the "pink/purple hair lady". (Funny story: my department chair actually has purple hair too. I was worried about covering it up when I was job searching, but I'm pretty sure it got me the job in the first place.)




And for no related reason, a shot of the beautiful sky this morning. Good day all around.