Friday, November 7, 2014


I created this blog to celebrate life -- with all of its beauty and its trials (and hopefully lots of wonderful and hilarious stories along the way). I've disappeared again, as is my habit, but I'm also back...again. While I have mostly found my footing since returning home, I also know that rather than ignoring them, it's time to start tackling those personal demons. Overall, I am relatively happy and am in a relationship with someone who loves and supports me, but it's time I start loving myself again and that means making changes in my life and finishing unfinished business. That means making a few very important promises to myself (and documenting them here, in writing, to help keep myself accountable) -- so, I promise to…

1. Focus on my health.

That means getting my weight back down to a healthy level and establishing good habits. More specifically, eating healthily and working out five days every week. This also means focusing on my mental and emotional health. Being in good physical health will help with this, but I need to go further than that.

2. Ask for help.

I was going to say ask for help when I need it, but that gives me a loophole where I can tell myself I don't "need" it even if I do. So, for the sake of my sanity, even if I don't need anything specific I will express any physical/mental/emotional (dis)stress that negatively impacts me for more than ___ minutes.

3. Maintain relationships.

Cutting myself off and trying to cope on my own works only for the little things and for very short periods of time. Sometimes there are bigger issues or ongoing issues and I need the support of the people who love and care about me. Not only that, but being connected to people is critical to maintaining mental/emotional health. That also means reconnecting with people and reestablishing those relationships when possible.

4. Keep busy and stay productive.

Feeling lazy does NOT make me happy; it makes me feel useless and it makes me feel like a burden (particularly during this transition period where I cannot yet support myself financially). Doing household chores and miscellaneous busy work is only a temporary solution…which leads to thinking about all the things I don't currently have in my life. That leads me to the next two things on my list.

5. Focus on the present.

This and look optimistically at the future, but stop thinking so much. Overthinking things leads to feelings of being overwhelmed (at the very least) and that does nothing to help me -- and ultimately is probably the root of my procrastination. Visiting the past/past mistakes is okay once in a while, living there is not. The future will be bright as long as I do what needs to be done NOW and start taking better care of myself in all aspects of my life.

6. Start tying up loose ends.

I know that some of the "loose ends" I'm referring to are going to take a lot of work toward the previous five steps before I feel like I can tackle them -- but even if they're stupid little things, it will still give me knot tying practice when I get to the big things. Seriously, start with filling out some forms and an unfinished knitting project or something. And when I move on to the big things I STILL need to live in the present. Yes, lay out a schedule and goals, but then actually take them one day at a time.

7. Keep adding to this list...

There is always room for improvement and I know that there is more I need to do -- but I'll start with these and see where it takes me and how far it takes me. I am lucky to have some wonderful people in my life AND some new additions, including my boyfriend, Chad, of over five months and my cousin's beautiful baby girl and my Goddaughter, Eleanor!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Think I'm Finally Home

So the last time I wrote, I was in the midst of NaNoWriMo -- geared up and ready to go, and probably honestly hoping that writing and incorporating my experiences would help me cope with the changes in my life. What I realized was that writing was not making me happy. I still have a story to tell, in fact, one that I am very passionate about. But what that meant to me was that I wasn't in a place in my life where I could give it the thought and attention that it deserved. Instead, perhaps I can find the time to develop the plot and delve into the world that I have created -- and truly understand the story I am trying to tell before I try to crank out the pages.

Ultimately, what I have learned is that it is much harder to come home than people realize. You would think that after a year of being homesick and trying to adjust to a foreign language and a culture very different from your own that it would be a relief to be home and be with family and friends -- the people you love. Instead, it feels just as much like leaving your life behind as it did the first time…in a way. In many ways you are very happy to be home, and at the same time it doesn't always feel like home anymore. It is an awkward and emotional process. Consider this:

1. Language

After a year of struggling to communicate every single day and celebrating minor achievements, such as ordering your coffee in the morning, this becomes the norm. You would think that returning to a place where everyone speaks your native language would be a relief…well think again. Ironically, you go from eavesdropping on people in public just to see what words you can understand (or enjoying the ability to just block it all out) to feeling like you are eavesdropping on everyone, everywhere you go, all the time. You find that while you have no desire whatsoever to hear what they are saying, there it is...there's no escaping it.

2. Routine

We all develop our own daily routine. We have little daily, weekly, or monthly traditions that (for some reason) make us happy. We have those favorite spots like the coffee stand that we pass on the way to work or the place you go when you're desperate for groceries and all the other stores are closed. It feels like it took you a whole year to establish this routine and suddenly it is disrupted. You may be moving back to your hometown, but suddenly you have no idea what to do or where to go. The coffee at your favorite coffee shop doesn't taste the same, and you can't help but thinking that the coffee you drank while you were living on the other side of the world tastes better than this crap. Not only that, but you desperately want things to be normal again and they are far from it.

3. Relationships

You need to constantly remind yourself that you have been gone for a year (even though you're trying not to think about it). After a year it would be logical to assume that your relationship with family and friends would be a little different, even with Godsends like Skype and email. However, expecting it to happen and experiencing it are two very different things. Not only have you been separated by thousands of miles, but you haven't had any shared experiences for at least a year. You feel self-conscious every time you start a sentence with "In *insert country here*…" or "When I went to *insert location in country here*…" because you don't want to be the person that only talks about their experiences abroad. Unfortunately, those are the only recent experiences you have to pull from so you just pray that you don't sound like a pretentious ass.

And to top it all off, you may actually have difficulty relating to people. Sometimes we experience things that the people we love won't ever fully understand, but the ones who don't pretend that they do and are willing to listen are worth more than you ever could have imagined. Things change, and sometimes it can be hard to take changes in stride. Things get disconnected and you have to figure out where things go and how to get things started up again (I'm sure the technologically challenged among us can relate). It's a long process and sometimes a slow process and it definitely has its ups and downs, but eventually you figure things out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


So, as I am sitting at a local write-in, supposedly writing a 50k word novel in a month, I find myself blogging instead (don't worry, I did some legitimate writing first). I love my story; I think I finally have an idea that has enough substance to actually become something, but there is SO much about the story I've created that I neglected -- not intentionally, I just had no idea where my story was going…and the direction it took me was one I wasn't at all prepared for.

For those of you who have never attempted NaNoWriMo, this is not where I sit down and write a publishable masterpiece in a month (and 50k words isn't nearly a long enough manuscript to begin with). It is a purely word-count driven, get-your-ideas-down-on-paper-as-fast-as-you-can, and don't you dare edit kind of affair. It's good for me, and good for shutting up my inner editor. Most of all, it's fun! You get to novel en masse with the best of them -- from published writers to college students -- share your ideas with other writerly types, and, if nothing else, drink a few good cups of coffee along the way. For the record, I have attempted NaNoWriMo a number of times and have never reached the 50k word mark, but such is life. In fact, I have gotten farther this year than in previous years.

The problem is that I never outline; I never develop my ideas before the November 1st start, and I have learned that I am terrible at developing plot. I may have a beginning, middle, and end -- but when I say middle I mean, "yes, at some point I know that my character will _____." I have no idea how they will get to _____. I have no idea how they will get from _____ to the end. I just know that _____ will happen. This year I fell into the deadliest of plot setbacks. I need to world build. Somehow I went from my "real world" setting into one of my character's design…that means she has to design it! (Which in turn means that I have to design a world for her to design, sigh). I could spend months on world building! And without a world, there is no story. It may be time to stop writing and starting world/plot building for the greater good of my poor, plotless story.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Title Of My Blog

I realized recently that: 1) I think I am at a place in my life where I want to blog regularly again, so you can expect regular weekly posts from me. 2) Sadly, many of the people that I used to follow and whose posts I read religiously are no longer writing…so I look forward to new blogs and new readers. 3) I have never explained the title of my blog.

So to expand on #1 and #2, I am glad to be back! I am back in U.S.A. again (in fact, I returned home on the Fourth of July!) and am so thankful to be surrounded by friends and family again, even if I am shut up in my room writing papers and doing research most of the time. Adjusting to life here has been more difficult than I thought it would be, even though I knew it would be a transition. Even now, four months later, the past likes to tug on my heartstrings. I will go back, someday, because Israel has a special place in my heart.

As for #3, you may have noticed that there is little about the title that is outwardly represented in the content of my blog. You don't see me posting poetry. I don't talk about religion. There are a surprising number of promises -- to myself (unless you're counting the promise to write more often. In that case, dear readers, I have made a number of promises to you as well). The title of my blog is inspired by the John Denver song of the same name (lyrics here).

That is what my blog is about. It's about enjoying life and making the most of it through it all, and about sharing my story. It's a place where I can be thankful for everything in my life and full of excitement for the future…"For though my life's been good to me / There's still so much to do." -- and in turn, so much for me to share.

P.S. You might notice a few changes around here in the next couples of days…it was time.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hanging On...For Dear Life

My goodness, this past week has been packed with news and it's a little hard for me to take it all in right now. Here's what happened:

Monday: One of my former teachers committed suicide (the same day I was teaching and being observed)
Tuesday: My last day teaching in Tel Aviv and a lovely lunch with one of the teachers
Wednesday: My relationship of over three years ended abruptly and unexpectedly
Thursday: Mourning relationship termination, did get up and get dressed, watched Grey's Anatomy
Friday: More mourning, more Grey's Anatomy
Saturday: More mourning...but I left my apartment, got coffee and dessert with a friend, AND finished my presentation for class tomorrow (I call this progress).

Like someone told me just a few days ago: "Sometimes when one thing comes crashing down, everything comes crashing down." Right now, it feels as if those words have never been truer. For weeks now I have been digging myself out of the swampy black hole...with medical issues, academic problems, and a whole slew of emotional and social drama that I would be quite happy to avoid. And I know that breaking up with my boyfriend sounds like such a petty problem, but right now it is everything.

For three years, and almost four months this one person has been my everything and the love of my life.   So often I felt like he was the one thing that kept me grounded...particularly so far from home. I could go on and on about what an amazing person he was and how truly fortunate I was to have him in my life, but that would be accompanied by yet another crying spell (which is really the last thing I need right now). The point is, I've forgotten who I am. I feel lost and confused in a world that was already confusing enough. I need to be surrounded by the people I love, and I haven't even found the comfort of a hug.

I don't know why it is that the few people that DO know about what happened seem to think that I'm going to do something crazy (I have no history of diving off the deep end or anything), and I find inquiries such as "How are you?" and "Are you okay?" exceedingly annoying. What do you want me to say exactly? I'm too honest to lie just so that YOU can feel better about my suffering...seriously. If you were more realistic in your expectations, I would be happy to give status updates. I can't tell you that I'm "okay" -- I'm really not -- but I COULD tell you that I'm doing better than I was yesterday. I could tell you that I am satisfied with the baby steps I have taken toward okay-ness. I could tell you that I'm not okay but that I'm working on it...anything except "I'm okay."

Letting go was one of the hardest things I have done in my life. I said goodbye to someone that I loved deeply enough to marry and who loved me back. I said goodbye to a relationship that at one time we both thought would end in marriage. We went to hell and back together and leaned on each other when we felt like we could hardly stand. We endured thousands of miles of distance, air raid sirens, and the threat of war. I sent him off to the army and didn't know if he would come back. He supported me after I was injured in a car crash and lost my short-term memory. We have stood strong through all that life threw at us...and I just said goodbye.

I learned the terrible lesson that sometimes love is NOT enough -- that just because we loved each other didn't mean that we were right for each other. THAT is why right now I cannot stand, THAT is why I grieve, THAT is why I can't stop the tears. The more that that lesson sinks in, the more painful it is to accept...THAT is why I'm not okay and the reason why I need time to heal.

I promise more uplifting news in the future...but today, I needed to tell this chapter of my life.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pausing to Give Thanks

There are so many things in my life that I am thankful for, but there are also days when -- even though you know that you are thankful -- you just can't feel it. I may have had a few too many of those lately. I am aware of all of the blessings in my life, of the wonderful people who have crossed my path over the years, and I have become even more acutely aware of the little things (having been away from many of them for so long now). But right now, I just want to be thankful for LIFE. I may be so very alive that it hurts, but the pain and hardship is part of it all...and I have to believe that it leads to bigger and better things.

Today I learned that my high school geometry teacher took his own life. That's the news that I started my day with...the day I needed to be 100% focused on my lesson (and, of course, the day I would be observed). Death, three hours of sleep, and the profound question: how could someone who has touched so many lives value his own so little? My teachers have shaped the person and the educator that I am today, and he was one of them. I learned something from him, not about geometry (well, that too), but about life. He was a teacher who advocated for his students, who made them laugh, who rewarded correct answers with Jolly Ranchers, and who threatened to take away your chair if you didn't keep all four legs on the ground...and it wasn't just a threat.

I learned something about myself today too. I was reminded of the importance of valuing yourself and of recognizing the difference you have made in the lives of others, particularly your students. They DO remember the little things...they'll remember the Jolly Ranchers, not to lean back in their chair, and how hard you worked to explain new concepts so that they would understand. They may never know your first name, but they will know you -- the teacher, the coach, the mentor. Today I taught my last lesson with my eighth grade class; it was a lesson about superheroes. They may not remember the lesson, but if they use just one piece of knowledge that I have given them...maybe that's all it takes to touch a life.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Have...

I always have the grandest plans to chronicle my travels and experiences, and then I find myself too caught up in life to preserve those moments, let alone share them. So I find myself almost at the end of my journey in Israel and a bit at the end of my rope (though I'll manage). I am homesick, but with the knowledge that when I return home in about a month I will miss Israel. The United States will always be my home, but Israel hasn't been a bad second home...all-in-all. My experiences here have been intense and diverse, from the incident with Gaza and the air raid sirens to teaching in the Israeli school system to weekends in Jerusalem.

What have I done here? I have taught in both Arab and Jewish schools, grades 7-12, Jews and Christians and Muslims. I have taken classes in all things language education related. I have walked the empty streets of the Old City in Jerusalem at something out of a movie. I sang, I prayed, I lived and ate shabbat dinner with families who were kind enough to welcome me into their homes. I attended classes at a yeshiva school, just to see what it was like. I learned to embrace a new culture and sometimes grumble about it. I learned that Israel will always have a special place in my heart, and I know that someday I will be back.

When I have time I plan to compile a complete "You might have lived in Israel if..." list, but for the moment, I will leave you with these five:

1. Eating or considering eating non-kosher food makes you feel guilty
2. For you, Jerusalem is a weekend getaway
3. You only remember non-Jewish holidays because of Facebook
4. You no longer believe in the existence of lines (it's more of a funnel effect)
5. Shekel no longer sounds like just a funny word, but an actual form of currency

Tonight I might add "...If your arm is lumpy, swollen, and itches like crazy because the bugs here apparently have especially potent venom" but instead I'll try to ignore the itching and get some sleep!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

No Longer A Stranger

I have now been studying in Israel for over a month, and it still feels like I only just arrived. Occasionally, the truth will hit me and something will remind me of home...a world where Jerusalem is NOT an hour away from campus and where reading bus signs and buying groceries isn't a linguistic challenge. Nearly five weeks ago I began ulpan (an intensive Hebrew language course) with absolutely no knowledge of the language, and it amazes me how I have transformed. I find myself scribbling away, using characters that were once merely a curiosity rather than an effective form of written communication. I open book covers from left to right and write from right to left. This is now MY world.

Linguistically, I have discovered that I would rather know the nuances of English grammar implicitly, even if I must teach grammar explicitly. I have learned that I do, in fact, know how to do research...making the 3.5 hour required research methods course less than thrilling. Most of all, my experiences here have confirmed that I have truly been taught by the best and that I am incredibly fortunate to have the foundational knowledge and experience that I have in education (I have also discovered that I am extremely possessive of this knowledge).

So far from home, it's difficult not to search for meaning and purpose in my experiences and presence here. There is one course, The Israeli Educational Context, that has helped me find this among the slew of introductory courses required during summer term. It has given me a glimpse of my future in this program, and after one short meeting with my professor I realized what has been missing...a classroom.

I will begin teaching in October and will be working with a "particularly difficult" group of junior high students at a religious boarding school outside of Tel Aviv. I will be teaching a subject I have never taught before, in a foreign country, with limited knowledge of my students' native language(s), as a non-Jew in a religious Jewish boarding school...who needs to shop for "teacher clothes" suitable for such an environment (no pants, long skirts or dresses, high necklines, and longer sleeves). What a cultural experience! :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A New Journey

Looking out over Tel Aviv (taken in Jaffa on my trip this Spring)
In one word, this summer has been...busy. I started off the summer clawing my way out of a particularly bad downward spiral after a "trying" final semester. I walked at graduation knowing that, while I would be done soon, MY journey was not yet ending. However, I finished and defended my senior thesis this summer (in record time, I might add) and now the summer is drawing to a close (yes, I know it's only July). And yes, the summer I most needed to recuperate has been anything but relaxing, because instead, I will be embarking on a new and exciting journey as I begin my master's program at Tel Aviv University...that's right, I will be moving half way across the world in only about two more weeks!

Moving does, of course, comes with its own set of fears and anxieties, especially for those of us who despise packing but are hell bent on packing everything that we could ever plausibly need (all while trying to efficiently utilize valuable suitcase space). Anyhow, I'm not even there yet...only dreading the inevitable approach of packing phobia. I am also moving to a country in which I am, for all practical purposes, illiterate. I never wanted to be "that" person, but "Thank God they speak English!" or I would be a nervous wreck. Wrapping my mind around the fact that I won't be seeing a familiar face for the next year has been a challenge (evidently, Israel isn't their destination of choice). I will dearly miss friends, family, and loved ones, but I could not be more excited about the adventure I will be undertaking. I wanted to say quest, but that just reminds me that I will be missing the release of The Hobbit! *sigh* ;)

Back to education... My program is in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), and I will have the opportunity to teach in Israeli schools while getting a masters degree in an education-related field (woohoo!). I can't wait to elaborate on these experiences as well as my own experiences learning Hebrew and studying abroad. I'm sure that soon you will be introduced to a slew of new people, a new and exciting backdrop for my educational experiences, and a very different side to my quest for worldwide educational geekiness! For the record I'm not crazy, just enthusiastic... and desperately longing to be in a classroom again. :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Week Thirteen: Final Thoughts

It was hard to grasp the fact that this week was my LAST week in field, especially because I won't be going straight into student teaching. I miss the classroom already, my cooperating teacher, and all of the middle schoolers whose classes I'd taught and whose papers I had graded. I finally realized just how much I had connected with the students in my classroom. The students' responses to my last day girl  didn't know it was my last day and had been planning to bake me a cake, one boy jokingly cheered (and then told me he'd miss me), another called "have fun in college...if that's possible" as he walked out the door.

This semester I felt like I found the perfect balance, connecting with my students but still maintaining authority in the classroom. For the first time I had a chance to experiment in the classroom, and I had a cooperating teacher that was able to stress the fact that "you don't need to teach it like me." She gave me the freedom to discover what my identity was in the classroom. I made mistakes, I learned from them, and even though I didn't see it happening, I grew as an educator. It's fantastic to be able to look back and realize that I wasn't nervous getting in front of my students, I finally reached the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the semester and I'm not really sure when it happened, just that at some point I reached the level of comfort in the classroom that I was hoping to attain.