Thursday, November 28, 2013


I'd like to think I am a grateful person.

I have saved every note or card given to me by a student (even the one by a German exchange student that said after taking my journalism class, she knew she didn't want to be a newspaper reporter anymore).

The greatest moment of kindness in my life was eleven years ago. I was at CNU, about an hour from home, and as I was walking to the car at the end of the day, I was struck with such a wave of sickness that I had to lay down and rest before I could even begin to drive home. Then, I had to take several more rests from driving to nap before I could make it home. I went to the doctor the next day and he said I had the flu and pneumonia. I had/have never been so sick in my life. I had to drive myself to the hospital for a chest x-ray. I remember sitting in the car in the parking lot, just about to get out of the car, and I sneezed. It made my head swim with such dizziness that it took several minutes to recover. Eventually I made it through the bureaucratic process of hospital administrations and onto the x-ray table. The tech that was taking the pictures brought a cold washcloth and laid it across my forehead. Have you seen one of those movie moments when angels descend to earth, all aglow, and lay their hands on a mortal. Yeah, it was like that- an ethereal experience. It is bringing tears to my eyes right now to write about it... and making me realize just a little how sad it may be that one act of kindness eleven years ago meant so much.

I believe in Random Acts of Kindness. On the day last week that I received flowers for Teacher of the Month (yay me! I really avoiding giving myself the kudos on that, as pointed out by a reader... so kudos to me!), I also left a Seed of Happiness  in a co-worker's mailbox.

Check out the website if you want to more about them; it's a great story. Basically, it's a random token gift to bring a smile to someone's face. I saw a display of them last year and bought a bunch at Hallmark. I received far greater satisfaction from the co-worker's anonymously thankful comment on Facebook than the flowers sitting in my room for a week. Though it was nice to get flowers...

Perhaps though, I don't recognize the every day, every moment reasons to be grateful.

I dread November on Facebook. Worse than all the Pinkness of October... and cryptic messages about where we hang our purse... to promote Breast Cancer Awareness, are those dreadful "Thankful" lists that emerge in November. Every day for the month of November people post about what they are thankful for, from loved ones to coffee & chocolate, soft beds & warm blankets, to the simple act of waking up to live a new day. Well, I find the whole practice to be irritating and self-serving. If you lived a life of gratitude, do you need to proclaim it on Facebook for all to see what a loving and appreciative person you are? Does that give you the ticket to not feel thankful for those same things the other eleven months of the year? Do the very people that receive your accolades of gratitude on a social forum of an anonymous million, feel that from you every day?

I have always thought it would be much easier to make a month-long list of things that irked me for 30 days. I think it would be much more entertaining to read too. That would not be very holiday-oriented of me though, would it? Heh...

So, I decided at some point earlier this month, that I would challenge myself on Thanksgiving Day in this much smaller forum in a more condensed fashion to determine the 30 things in my life that I am most thankful for.

1. I am thankful for Second Chances, that we live in a society that allowed me to pick up and move into a new life- new husband, new home, new town, new career. The "me" I am today is a very different person than the "me" I was in my 20s.

2. I am thankful for Military Insurance. There are many benefits to Jason's military career but with his health issues over the past several months, I have felt the tangible benefit of health insurance- free and for a lifetime.

3. I am thankful for my Resolve, that I didn't live to repeat the cycle of dysfunction and abuse that defined my childhood; that even though it took too long into my adult years, I gave myself permission to divorce my family roots.

4. I am thankful for a Husband who likes to cook and lets others know how proud he is to have me for a wife. I wasted too many years of my life with someone embarrassed by me and not realizing I was too worthwhile to endure that. As far as cooking, I don't know how it evolved to this point- but the more I hated cooking, the more he enjoyed it, and the balance is working out well for our family right now.

5. I am thankful for my life as a Teacher. It was my dream deferred, one that I never thought the chances in life were going to line up and support, but eventually they did. And it was the right time for it, after over 35 jobs during my 20s, it is near impossible to believe I am in my 10th year of teaching... in the same school even.

6. I am thankful for my School Administration. I have certainly had my stressful years and my low years when I was unsure of what the next one would hold for me, by my choice or not. However, I have grown to a place with those people I work for that makes me feel like a valued and integral part of the school system. I feel a tangible support in everything that I do, every day.

7. I am thankful for Co-Workers who feel teaching is their privilege and not burden. Namely, I am thankful for Angela, our new English teacher, who I would like to call my first Mentee, but who has taught me just as much as I could ever teach her. It has been a long time since I have worked closely with who someone shared my student-centered views on  teaching. She enriches our Department and improves the entire school. I am thankful for the other teachers too that take engaging approaches to teaching, that have stories about their students to tell me because they simply love their job... or just don't ask me "How long until Friday?" every. time. I. pass. them. in. the. hall.

8. I am thankful for my Students. I truly believe that every single one of students has something to teach me. In some cases, their lesson may be more important than what they learn from the 90 days of mine. Unfortunately though too, I know many of those chances to learn from my students are lost to class sizes and curriculums. I am extremely thankful for the students that I am able to teach for two years and really see their growth in writing skills and just how they view the world. It validates my efforts. Those are the very same students that often influence how I see the world too.

9. I am thankful for the Key Club. There is a line in a praise song, "This is the air I breathe." When I think of my Key Clubbers, that is how I feel. Few people in this life are given the chance to learn their purpose, to see their legacy. I am one of the lucky ones. Most days I think I will retire from teaching high school. Some days I think I will move back to publishing or forward to teaching at the college level. Whichever path my life winds through, I am certain that I will forever seek opportunities to work with youth in volunteer service.

10. I am thankful for Former Students. Honestly, #9 can be broken down to a list of 30+ gratitudes all on its own. For now, I will only break away this one. I am thankful for Amanda, Leannah, Jordan, Jessica, Grace, Ashley, Christian, Kristen, and several others who let me know how important Key Club was to them, who let me think I had just a little influence on the amazing young men and women they have become, who remind me that it is worth the time, the frustrations, the effort.

11. I am thankful for books. A good book is one that you are as equally anxious to see as it ends as you are regretful that the end has come. I am thankful for those.

12. I am thankful to be a Home Owner. Childhood nights spent in the spare rooms of relatives and friends. Early adult years spent in a homeless shelter, a motel, an attic of a church member, in a roach-infested duplex. I am thankful not just to be in "a home." I have been in "a home" most nights of my life, but that this being the first home that had my name on the deed is big and beautiful and newly refurbished... and unique and quirky.

13. I am thankful for my car. (I know this is starting to sound superficial.) Most cars in my life were chosen for me. I had to find a dealership that would work with me and then pick among the ones I could afford on their lot. When it came time to buy my most recent car, which was actually nine years ago, I knew the specific car I wanted and went shopping for it. Now it has over 120,000 miles on it and has not cost me any money in unplanned maintenance. It did not even need new brakes until this year. The current plan is to give it to Cameron for college and I will buy a new one, but the truth is I'm a little hesitant to let it go.

14. I am thankful for life's unexpected surprise that is Benjamin. I always thought I wanted a third child, but Jason did not. I thought we needed "our" own child to truly define a marriage. Then there was this very distinct moment probably about five years into our marriage when I passed my reflection in the mirror one day and told it that we were done with babies. Life was entering a new phase when the boys were old enough to be home alone for an undetermined amount of time and it was a pretty great phase to be in... now, like when unexpected things often happen, I cannot imagine a life any different than the one that delivered me a newborn at 39.

15. I am thankful for my Health. There is no one that is going to look at me and think "healthy." Obviously I have issues to address. However, in the grand scheme of living life, mine has been pretty healthy. My only surgery has been a cyst drainage. I have never broke anything, had any major or long-term disease. My biggest battle is eye allergies. I have encountered so many people, so recently in life- those younger, those healthier- dealing with so. much. more.

16. I am thankful for Technology. Being part of the 80s generation saddled between staying up for all night talks stretched to the couch with the long winded cord from the wall phone to brief text conversations with a phone shoved in my pocket, I have first-hand experienced the shifts in society from ovens to microwaves, from TV Guides to DVRs. I know the benefits and conveniences of technology, and I am thankful.

17. I am thankful Justin asked to come for Thanksgiving. No, he doesn't have to "ask" to come home but I am glad that he sought out the opportunity to come home for a week. I won't use the trite phrase "Tough Love," but when unexpected turns took his life off-course, he fell into a holding phase that he had to just be kicked out of. And, he's still figuring it out, but things are looking much better.

18. I am thankful for Cameron's sense of inclusiveness. I would worry at times that Cameron didn't have friends. He could be an awkward child. I learned my lesson with Justin and just stayed out of his social life and let him make his own decisions, his own mistakes. Now that he is in high school I see that it is not friends he is lacking, but a clique... and that is not a bad thing. He considers everyone a friend, and treats everyone as a friend... even when that can be a very irritating thing.

19. I am thankful for Night Skies and Roaring Oceans and other majesties of nature that remind me how insignificant we are and how temporal life is. I could never live too far from the ocean, even though I rarely visit it, I just need to know that I can. And some of my favorite memories with the boys are laying outside during the early morning hours to watch meteor showers.

20. I am thankful for Dishwashers, Washers and Dryers. This is our first home with a dishwasher. Oy vey! Welcome to the 20th century! I spent childhood hanging out laundry to dry (into stiff sheets of fabric during cold weather) and had far too many visits to the Laundromat in my early adult years.

21. I am thankful for uncontrollable outbursts of Laughter. Let's face it, I'm a bit of a cynic. So when something takes me by surprise that I can't help but laugh about, it's a good thing.

22. I am thankful for Relay for Life. Cancer is a beast. Its scars are visible on its victims and the families of those victims. No one is outside of its grasp. It paints a scary world to live in, but through Relay I am able to help empower hundreds of people in our community, many within our own school, to thinking they can do something. From scooping spaghetti, to washing cars, to doing the Wobble on a Relay field at midnight, they can raise the money to provide the services and research to conquer this beast. It is all we can do... but it is a lot.

23. I am thankful for my freedom. I know that sounds trite, but I mean it with sincerity. I spent half of Jason's military career with him. Our family knows first-hand the costs of freedom paid by our military men and women, and their families. I am thankful for every single one of them. There is no single more tangible feeling of freedom than a military Homecoming following deployment. I am thankful for every one I was able to experience and only wish we could have did it together for the full twenty years.

24. I am thankful for People who are Good at their Jobs. Sofrina, my favorite barista at Starbucks. Amy, our favorite waitress at Applebee's. Tommy, who manages our car repair shop. Jason and I often have a conversation about the myth we feed children that the goal of every one of them should be to go to college and get a white-collared job. We, as a society, devalue so many jobs, yet we could not function as a society without the people to do them. I make a conscious effort to show my appreciation to anyone that has an optimistic and responsible work ethic, from our custodians at work to the girls at the drive-thru window.

25. I am thankful for Reality Television. (Ha! I know some folks expected to see that one!) It is my drug of choice. It is my guilty pleasure. Project Runway, Real Housewives of New York City, Dance Moms, Extreme Cheapskates, Million Dollar Shoppers, America's Next Top Model, Snooki & JWow, the list goes on- anything that doesn't involve alligators or long beards.

26. I am thankful for Office Supplies. Seriously. The way some women have that stereotypical genetic predisposition to shoe addictions (missing that!), I'm like that with office supplies. If I were to win a limitless gift card to any store of my choice, it would be a hard toss-up between Barnes & Noble and Office Max... although, Barnes & Noble would win because they do carry a limited amount of office supplies. Pens for color-coded agendas, journals with inspirational or quirky covers, funny folders, most of which I will never use but fill my closets and filing cabinets, I. must. have.

27. I am thankful for the perfectly carbonated Diet Coke. Again, yes, seriously. A poorly carbonated fountain Diet Coke can ruin my day just as quickly as one well-balanced in carbonation can make my day a little better.

28. I am thankful for Days when I have Absolutely Nothing To Do after coming home from school. These days are rare and treasured. No pressing household needs. No school work or Key Club or Relay to-do's. Just my bed, lap-top (not for work), television, and Benjamin snuggles.

29. I am thankful for the Gift of Animals. I wish I could be a pescatarian, but am not. I don't feel guilty for eating seafood but am riddled with guilt when I think about the meat I do eat. I love all animals. All except the occasional insect. I am filled with joy to come home and see a wild rabbit in the yard, and will just sit in the car and watch it for a while. Wow, that sounds corny, but it is true. Zoos make me sad, and hunting season even more sad.

30. I am thankful for Moments of Calm. My life is bordered by stress. I have an ongoing internal dialogue filling my mind with chatter. Prattle. I mute the television during commercials and rarely listen to music because the influx of information, in addition to my internal dialogue planning the next event, the next day, the next few minutes is just too much to work with. So, those rare moments when life is just calm, my mind is just calm, I am thankful.

Ok, confession... this list wasn't so easy. I found myself walking away from it a few times and having to come back. I don't think it's because I'm not a grateful person (the lady doth protest too much?) but that doing it in this format was hard because it called for much bigger umbrella examples (not that I am claiming in any manner these are all gratitudes of great or equal worth) rather than a lot of the small or immediate things that you think to note when doing it daily.

That, of course, causes me to begrudgingly admit that those expressing their gratitudes daily have a purpose... however, I still don't think it needs to be publicly broadcasted, on a schedule, highlighted during one month of the year.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Grinchy Krank... or a Kranky Grinch?

As the first day of Thanksgiving Break comes to a close, I have to say that this holiday season isn't kicking off as I had planned.

Following my abbreviated summer, I promised myself not to bring home work for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, and really enjoy the time away from a classroom. Yeah... anyone that knows me in the least knows how that plan ended. Let's put it this way, we were unable to take my car to dinner last night because three of us could not fit in my four-door station wagon due to the amount of school stuff... stuffed in there.

I was a bit out of sorts yesterday and couldn't get into the swing of my routine to line up the day as I wanted, which would have helped in bringing home less work. First, was just some of the teenage drama that is occasionally expected of being immersed into high school life, but secondly Benjamin was at home sick. I was getting updates and pics from Jason at the doctor's office throughout the day as they gave him breathing treatments (his smoke-breathing dragon mask) and ruled out asthma - pneumonia - bronchitis...

There are moments in life when you are reminded how distinctly motherhood has changed you. Diving beneath your toddler with cupped hands to catch his vomit would rank high on that list of moments... each of the three times I did it last night.

The long-standing plan had been to take the boys and a friend to see "Catching Fire" today. Not knowing what Benjamin's condition would be today though, those plans got changed because I didn't want to leave town.

Jason and I grabbed breakfast at Fred's, where he told me how much he would like to get the house set up for Christmas this weekend... ... ... I haven't mentioned lately how much I hate the holidays (Doesn't count).

Justin is in town for Thanksgiving week. One of our primary goals during his visit here was to get his driver's license straight. We went to DMV today and found out it would be a pretty easy feat to accomplish... if we only had one more day. They are not open tomorrow or the next day for the Thanksgiving holiday. When did the Friday after Thanksgiving become a state-observed holiday? Grrr! Of course, this issue could have been easily solved too if we had went one of the past two days, but Monday was Key Club commitments x 3 until 7:30 at night, and Tuesday everything was thrown completely out of routine with a sick Benjamin. So, unless Justin's schedule will allow him to stay through Monday, this might be an issue left unresolved.

On a more productive, less stressful note... I did watch a couple of movies (that's the less stressful, not productive part of the day).

"The Internship" was an interesting look into the world of Google. While free cafes, Quidditch intramural games, and nap pods may make it one of the most desirable and competed-for employers, I just cannot imagine I would be productive in that environment. I need absolute quiet and no disruptions in order to get "real" work done.
"The To Do List" was set in the post-graduation summer of 1993, which was only a few years after my own high school years. So, the nostalgic nod to lots of music and icons from my teens years was totally awesome. However, the extremely vulgar sexual nature upon which the whole movie was centered was a bit over the top, especially to watch with the boys, of legal age to watch rated R movies though they may be.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Just Dance.

Let me share Thursday's events, which preceded this particular event and can perhaps shed a little backlight on the situation... Wednesday night some of my Key Clubbers helped the high school's Teen Library Council with a program at the county library. I stopped by to take some pictures and show my support, as I try to do for any of the events other school groups have for our kids.

Fast forward to Thursday evening, following Movie Night with the Key Clubbers when I am sitting in a restaurant with Jason and thumbing through Facebook on my phone (romantic, I know). I see that the librarian has linked a page of event pictures to her Facebook, so I flip through those. And. there. I. am. I am highly skilled and extremely talented at detecting and deflecting any camera in my vicinity. I have been this way for a long (LONG) time. I joined the Yearbook Staff in high school for the main purpose of making sure my photo appeared nowhere other than the mandatory mug shots. In my ten years of teaching at the high school, I'm pretty sure I only managed to endure three photo day pics. This, was not one of those years.

There are people who don't like to have their pictures taken... and there are folks who just can't take a good pic. I am both of those people... but so SO much more. I am not one to exaggerate medical (or psychological) conditions, quite the opposite. I am very quick to minimize and ignore them. However, I think it is quite possible that I have true blue panic attacks about having my picture taken or seeing my picture when I can't avoid it. Thursday night at the restaurant after seeing the unexpected picture, which I didn't even realize was taken, I began to hyperventilate. I had to talk myself through calm breathing and try not to look to psychotic in public... or before Jason, who just wouldn't understand. He doesn't like his picture taken but thinks my response is over-reactive. But I just can't help it. I have cursed at elderly family members that wouldn't stop pointing cameras at me. I have avoided attending events that I know would have cameras flashing.

Is it a weight thing? Sure. But it's not "just" that. I have been this way for a long time. In the last ten years I have voluntarily posed for a casual picture far less than 10 times. Each time was so hard for me that I remember the details succinctly. If I were to die soon, yes I know how melodramatic that sounds but I am making a point... my children would have not pictures to remember me by. And? I'm FINE with that. Perfectly fine with it. I have toyed with the idea of making 2014 the year I overcome my Fotografizophobia (yes, I just Googled that... and the first listing was a Social Anxiety Disorder forum...).

The thought of addressing it, even though at a later date, is causing me to feel a little nauseous now, so let's move on....

Friday night, following our Red Cross Blood Drive (yes, it was a busy week), the Key Clubbers were guests at Zuni Presbyterian Homes for a Thanksgiving Dinner & Dance.

The older Cameron grows, the more differences I see between him and Justin. One thing they definitely have in common though is their ability to dance.

At Friday night's dance, I told Cameron they must have "got it from somewhere." While I was being facetious, I did love to dance. I so(!) loved to dance. I don't think I missed a single dance from junior high through Senior year. I had no qualms about jumping on stage and shaking my booty. And once I could get into clubs, I found every chance I could to go and hit the dance floor. As long as I could just drag one friend along with me (I wasn't that much of an exhibitionist), I didn't care if we were the only two on the floor all night long.
I guess it was post-married life that the chances to lose it all on the dance floor came fewer and farther between... until they just no longer existed. Don't get me wrong... I have zero delusions that I was ever good at dancing. Ever. But I just didn't care. It was fun and I enjoyed it and that was always enough. I never learned any of the line dances, not even the Electric Slide. I always told myself I would go on Youtube and figure out how to do it before the next school dance, but I didn't. I think I could get out there on the floor with the kids and have some fun doing that... but actually would be too self-conscious learning it on the dance floor, or not looking like I knew what I was doing, in general.
It is something far greater than the fear of feeling self-conscious in front of the kids that stops me... it's the fear of their... social media.
I was reading, took a break but will be going back, to a memoir called "I Dare Me" about a woman who tried something new every day for a full year. Why it wouldn't technically be "something new," I was really channeling the things she wrote about- what she got from the experiences- to try to knock down some of the barriers I built around myself and enjoy myself Friday night. I do not think I will ever be presented with a less judgmental atmosphere to enjoy myself dancing. The mentally-challenged adults who are the residents at the facility certainly were not that interested in my "moves." As far as the kids there, I have to allow myself to think as far as "my" kids go, they are a group that respects me enough that they wouldn't take videos of me dancing and post on-line. But they might... So I couldn't...
Last song was called, The YMCA, and I nestled myself into a tight group and had some fun on the dance floor. It was short-lived but brought back some of those liberating free-spirited times of years before. I think I need to find ways to embrace chances at those moments more...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Glass Half...?

There have been a couple of times this week when I have wanted to blog that "It is a good week." Then, just a few moments before I take the time to write... something blows that mindset to smithereens.

My English classes are enduring enjoying their poetry units this month. Each year, the ninth graders read the poem "Making a Fist," which creates an extended metaphor between a car journey and the ultimate journey... life. One of the questions accompanying the poem asks if it ends with an optimistic or pessimistic tone. And, each year I have to explain what pessimistic means. Unfortunately I am all too familiar with this term and at ease in explaining what it means.

The great metaphor, the not-so-great cliché, we all are familiar with is... that glass of water. Is it half-full? Is it half-empty?
If you're thirsty, does it really matter?
I wish my glass was more "full." I wish I didn't allow negativity to be so draining. I have said about my own kids before, or to parents about their kid, that "he adapts to his environment"- meaning around good influences, he behaves. Around negative influences, not so much so. I can't say that I am so much different.
I try to be conscientious about removing myself from environments charged with negativity. Sometimes... that is not an option. And often, I can deflect the negativity around me - not even just ignore the negative talk, but combat it with excessive cheerfulness so well portrayed that the dripping sarcasm is not obvious.
Externally though, I often find myself falling into the pits of negativity. Making comments I wish I could retract. Taking part in conversations that I wish I had walked away from... or not started. However, even though that is the case, it is still far more easier to avoid the external negativity than the internal negativity forever churning within.
I wish I could see the positive in a difficult situation, the humor in a frustrating one. Although I can be an objective and sympathetic person and put myself in the place of others to understand their viewpoint (although many would tend to disagree)... when I am looking at something from within, from my viewpoint, it is often tinged with the negative. I implode, not explode. So, all the "good" of a day can be ruined by one brief frustration, or all the "fullness" of a good week can be tainted by one stressful conversation.

There was a movie in the 80s called "Mask." It starred Eric Stolz (pictured above) and Cher. Rocky is a high school boy, strong student with big dreams, but hindered by his extreme facial deformity. His cranial bones will not stop growing and ultimately lead to him having a pity-induced shortened life span. Following his death, his alcoholic slutty mother, Cher, finds a poem he had written and reads it at his graveside. There were two stanzas, things that were good and things that were bad. Both stanzas ended with "sunshine on my face."
I get that.
I wish I could squelch that internal dialogue though... so the good is just... good. I guess I can work on that. I have done well at curbing my knee jerk reaction to responding to situations... sometimes.

So, the good...

I was awarded Teacher of the Month for November. This is something the new Superintendent instituted, so I'm not really sure of the parameters or selection process. I think the administration just decides who to award it to since there's been no "voting" amongst the staff for it. The boss gave me flowers and I have a luncheon with the other county recipients and the Superintendent on Monday. Acknowledgement is a good thing. I would work as hard and long without it, but it's nice to get the nod that your efforts are not unrecognized. (See how good I did there not footnoting it with complaints of the picture required for it today?) (No, this doesn't count.)

Our New Mom in the English Department has returned from Maternity Leave. So, we have an intact English Department for this school year finally and I only have to worry about my four classes again. (Some funny perspective at work there to make me "thankful" for four classes, when the norm is three.)

It's Key Club week. We have had a jam packed week of achievement and fun. I have allowed myself to be more laid back, not get stressed about the event details, and let the kids step into their leadership roles. They were outstanding at Induction Monday night, and I use that word in its literal sense- they stood out amongst their peers. Breakfast on Tuesday and Movie Night tonight were just plain fun, with many guttural laughs. And tomorrow will be a long yet rewarding day with the Blood Drive, followed by a Thanksgiving Dinner & Dance with our adult mentally-challenged friends at Zuni.

Then on Saturday, Justin will be coming home for Thanksgiving week.
I haven't seen him in almost a year.

So much GOOD to reflect on...
I just need to drink the dang glass of water and be over it already.
I definitely need to drink more water seriously though, relying far too much on caffeine this week (always)!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Play time before homework?

I cannot believe that when I finally take a pause to note what I did last weekend that the week is almost over and a new weekend in dawning. Time sure flies when you're... well, time just flies.

Last Saturday, despite feeling dreadfully tired at 4 p.m. after doing nothing more strenuous than emptying a few slots on the DVR by catching up on Grey's Anatomy and America's Next Top Model (yes, exciting, I know. Be jealous), on a whim, I decided to get out of town. I had Special Olympics the week before and Habitat for Humanity the week after, so it was a rare free weekend during a busy season, and I didn't want to regret on Monday having let it dwindle away.

Jason wasn't feeling up for the adventure, so I enlisted this McHottie.

We quickly changed into more publically presentable clothing and hit the road before I could change my mind. Although we departed without any real plan in mind, knowing we'd have an hour drive to figure it out, the abrupt change to Saturday's leisurely pace was energizing in and of itself.

First stop became Barnes & Noble. If such a thing as Heaven truly exists, mine will be the ethereal version of Barnes & Noble. Just to walk in and smell the store... and not even the Starbucks... is a little glimpse of Nirvana for me.

I have been suffering Book Hangover, you know, the last book (actually two) having been so great - The Weird Sisters and Running with Scissors - that I haven't been able to find a new one to capture my attention as equally. So, I grabbed a stack of those that caught my eye, or interest, and parked for a while at Starbucks to peruse the merchandise. I really hate that my favored B&N got rid of their big comfy chairs. I could spend a whole day kicked back there, thumbing through books... of course, reasons such as that may very well be the reason they disappeared. Regardless, I did find three that I was anxious to read- THREE! THAT I BOUGHT! Seriously, did Santa come early or what? (Ugh... let's not think about how close the holidays are.)

Then, we tossed back & forth the idea of whether to grab dinner or just get snacks at the movie. When decided that simply popcorn and drinks at the theatre would likely cost as much as a smart dinner, we opted for the latter plan and hit Panera. Although not of equally Nirvana status as B&N, I do really adore Panera also. Especially cheap Panera! Cameron had an unexpected gift card tucked in his wallet from International Convention over the summer. He wasn't sure if it still had money on it... but when we checked.. cha-ching! Five dolla' dinner!

Lastly, we went to see "Gravity" with Sandra Bullock. I have had a girl-crush on Sandra Bullock long before she became a Mega-Star. Yet, I still wasn't overly eager about seeing this particular flick. It didn't seem the plot was going to be much more beyond Sandy floating around in space... and it wasn't... and yet SO good! Despite how enamored I may be with her, I would not call Bullock a "serious" actor. It's her awkward kooky-ness that I love... but if she does not get a nod for and Emmy, or  Oscar, or whatever it is actors get, she will have been robbed. This movie just PUNCHES you in the gut. Everything about her character is so believable (despite some ridiculous criticism I heard about her hair not floating properly in zero-gravity). I just cannot imagine how someone would embrace the real-life terror of going into space and looking down on Earth as a career aspiration, let less if something went wrong in that predicament. It is completely unfathomable, and yet so believable in how it is portrayed. For as much as I am singing the praises of this movie though, I have to admit the lost screws floating through space was a gratuitous and trite use of the 3-D effects.

Alas, we returned home late in the night... and I spent nearly 12 hours Sunday on lesson plans and grading. I must admit though... the stress of the school grind was a bit lighter Sunday after having relaxed and played Saturday night. Sometimes play time does need to come before homework ;)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I Kicked the Bucket

I should be a List Maker. Heck, I should be The List Master!

Alas, I am neither. I have to much going on (in my head, and in my life) to just try and remember it all... but I try... and usually I do. That is not because I am able to calm my scatterbraininess enough to do so, but because I function only worrying about the next task at hand (for the most part). I don't do well with long-range planning because there is too much in the immediate to take care of. So I allow myself only to worry about the now, now and postpone worrying about then, until then.

I have the very distinct feeling though that life would feel a little less stressed though if I did allow myself to look ahead of the "Now Showing" to the "Coming Soon" features of my life.

I believe it was Dr. Phil (don't judge) that I heard once advise to imagine your perfect day and to start making small changes in your life to make that day happen. I think about this often. Actually each night as I lay my head to rest, I visualize what the next day will be like... and that's usually boring enough to put me to sleep.

That "Perfect Day" for me begins with getting up after just one assault on the Snooze alarm (as opposed to the normal five, or so)... Then, there's the image of me eating breakfast at the kitchen table looking over my calendar and making a Priority To-Do List for the day. I tend to waiver back and forth as to whether this would make my day more or less stressful. Needless to say, this has yet to happen- the morning To Do List or the single assault on the Snooze alarm.

I do, however, indulge in the occasional "Bucket List"- not in the grand scheme, as in quirky life goals- but in a shorter and much more manageable time frame. I haphazardly robbed one from The Martha for summer before I knew how condensed those free days were going to become.

So, when it came time for Autumn, I was kind to myself and only pledged two goals (small bucket)- Drink Apple Cider and take Benjamin to a pumpkin patch. I bought apple cider for the Keurig and have had it many times since. I don't know that I had tried it before and am very yucked out at the thought of drinking apple juice, so liking cider was an interesting twist. Pumpkin patch, I was not as successful with. I let myself cop out to Benjamin having gone already with the Pre-School class when things got busy in October. (Thus, "I kicked the Bucket... List")

We did manage a fun Halloween despite the lack of craftiness and pageantry. I didn't even both pulling out the decoration tubs this year. Early in the month, at the dinner table one night, I asked Benjamin what he wanted to be for Halloween and after thoughtful consideration, he replied, "I want to be a red dinosaur. I'm going to scare people."

I was really surprised that he had such a defined and thought-about idea about what he wanted to be. And, a few Google clicks later, I found the perfect red dinosaur. The following weeks (after having ordered the costume) had many conversations like this-

Benjamin: I want to be a blue dinosaur for Halloween.
Mom: No way dude, red dinosaurs are much cooler.

Benjamin: I want to be a witch for Halloween.
Mom: Nooo, girls are witches, you want to be a red dinosaur!

Benjamin: I want to be a scary monster for Halloween.
Mom: Dinosaurs are way scarier than monsters! Especially the red ones.

Thankfully, when the ridiculously oversized box arrived with the costume (which I thankfully ordered in a size too big because it was still too tight) arrived, it didn't take much more convincing that he still wanted to be a red dinosaur (ROAR!) for Halloween.

I didn't bother with the Downtown Trick-or-Treating this year. It felt a little too much like the "More Porridge Sir" scene of Oliver Twist to stand in such long lines for a Tootsie Roll or Peppermint. Instead, I just took Benjamin to Sedley for the community party the Key Clubbers run games for each year. He played some games and then went Trick-or-Treating at the houses near the fire station hosting the party. This after a Pre-School day with a Halloween Party and Costume Parade at the local nursing home made for a pretty full day for The Red Dinosaur.

Coolest Trick-or-Treating House EVER! - Three pieces of candy, pencil, book mark, BOOK! and movie!