Friday, November 18, 2011

Week Twelve: Farewell

This week was the last week of field placement, and my reaction has been bittersweet. On one hand, I am excited to be back in the classroom learning new teaching strategies, interacting and discussing educational concepts with my peers, etc. On the other hand, without field I know I will have to wait to implement these strategies until my next field placement...and I don't want to wait that long! Despite my impatience to experience field on a whole new level with another group of students and a new cooperating teacher, I will really miss my students.

This past week has been an incredible opportunity to get to know my students. Because I didn't have many formal teaching opportunities in field early on in the semester, that meant I got to consolidate this experience at the end of field. This resulted in a fantastic final week, in which I taught every day! Unfortunately, while my final experiences were exceedingly positive, I desperately wished I had connected with my students earlier in semester.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Week Eleven: Intrinsic Rewards

This week was a rather unconventional week. It was my first experience attempting to co-teach in the field (I've done it in education classes before, but not with a cooperating teacher), I missed field on Thursday and class today due to illness, and now I am home recovering for the weekend. I probably would have written an extensive account of my co-teaching experience today were it not for a conversation I had with my dad this afternoon. Teaching and education are rewarding in so many ways, but I think sometimes we focus on what happens in the classroom and forget that there are an infinite number of ways that education can touch our lives without ever setting foot in a classroom.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my dad was a key resource when planning my topic lesson presentation and became my inspiration for the ineffective group work activity in my presentation. I had had every intention of giving him a full report (including Sam the "clown" and Dexter, our favorite "self-confessor"), but it completely slipped my mind...until he asked about it this afternoon. I gave him an animated account of the lesson and activities, and his face lit up! It was the most wonderful thing...to see how excited he was and how happy he was to be a part of it all. When my mom got home from work, he asked if she'd heard about the lesson and when she hadn't, he launched into an explanation of the lesson that HE inspired. THAT was my intrinsic reward for the week!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Week Ten: A Spiritual Occupation

In teaching my first formal lesson this week, I initially felt like I had more questions than answers. While I knew I had tools to use when things didn't go as planned (and most things went as planned so it wasn't necessary to use them), I also realized that I wanted MORE tools to choose from. The more experience you have in the classroom, the more tools you have developed to draw from, and the more successfully you can tackle problems when they DO arise. More strategies also means that you can implement ones that are more appropriate for a given situation. My lessons this week have also taken me on a personal journey as I attempt to view the positive (and sometimes mind-blowing) accomplishments of my students and ultimately come to the realization that (even if an activity doesn't go as planned) learning HAS occurred.

My professor's statement about teaching being a "spiritual occupation" stuck with me. It's something that I've been mulling over for the past couple of weeks, and I have to agree. I'm not sure I can describe why this is, but that I have no other explanation for the moments when I see that my students truly "get it", the feeling I get when I've taught a lesson, and the realization that I am happier on the days when I am in field and in a classroom, the days I am involved in my students' learning in one way or another. As I contemplated the implications of teaching as a "spiritual occupation" I couldn't help but wonder who else was affected by this statement; is teaching a spiritual occupation, and if not, how would you describe it?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Week Nine: Use Your Resources!

This week I found an unexpected source of inspiration...my dad. He isn't usually the first person I go to when I have an educational question (if it's one of my parents it's usually my mom because she's a professor), but I was stuck. I was trying to write two lesson plans, one for class on Friday and one a formal lesson in my World Studies class, and I had no idea what kind of activities I wanted to do. I was talking to him on the phone about my lesson on group work and remember saying something along the lines of: "So far all I know is that I need to USE group work in my lesson ON group work...but that seems fairly obvious." As a businessman and project manager, I don't see why I didn't think to ask him...he WOULD know about effective and ineffective teams, wouldn't he? After years of experience and countless professional conferences on effective management he definitely had a thing or two to say! What did I learn from this? USE YOUR RESOURCES! Sometimes what you really need is right in front of you.

I'm still struggling to come up with ideas for my lesson on unions and the rise of socialism/communism for my World Studies class. I firmly believe that the less time I spend in front of the class and the more they can teach themselves through activities and guided discussion, the better they will learn and the more they will be able to engage in text-to-self reflection. Unfortunately, my lesson is a transitory lesson that is strongly knowledge-based...but I don't want it to be. This is my chance to pique student interest for the rest of the upcoming union (in which they will be looking at the development of unions, socialism, and communism throughout the world). How do I engage students when my lesson is essentially a summary of British Industrialism and an introduction to new concepts/definitions/people? I can't expect them to be interested or engaged when I'M not interested or engaged!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week Eight: Q&A

It was definitely strange being back in the (college) classroom this week, but I enjoyed having the opportunity for discussion, particularly in writing our questions on the board and the ensuing debates! I sincerely hope we'll have a chance to address some of the other questions that people had (that was probably the most frustrating part...not being able to get to everyone's questions). I'm also enjoying the beginning of the new Feinstein book, though our reading thus far has largely summarized the last book. I think it will really help address issues that we are all concerned about having to deal with in our own classrooms, and I look forward to reading more!

Other than that, I'm anxious and excited to be teaching in field next week, right now more anxious...the excitement will come when my lesson is planned and I'm not worried about the "how am I going to make this interesting" portion. I think having some time off and hearing about other people's experiences has inspired me to try to get even more involved in my classroom. I should be excited about going to field and in order to get to that point I need an "I made a difference moment" IN the classroom as well as outside of the classroom!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week Seven: Making A Difference

I'm home for Fall Break and my brain is slowly shutting down, so hopefully I can remember everything I planned to write about...hopefully! Here it goes: Field this week was very much like field has been every other week. I didn't get to be as active in the classroom as I would have liked (though my cooperating teacher had intended to have me help this week, we just ran out of class time). On the flip side of that, however, I have a topic and date for my first lesson, which will cover unions and the rise of socialism (post-Industrial Revolution in Britain) in my World Studies class. I'm excited and am brainstorming possible activities (unfortunately every time I do this I get "Food, Glorious Food" stuck in my head...which might also have something to do with my grumbly stomach).

The thing that had, by far, the biggest impact on me this week was not something that happened in the classroom, but while attending my professional activity (a *INSERT NAME OF ORGANIZATION HERE* meeting). The *INSERT NAME OF ORGANIZATION HERE* is a group comprised of the mothers of *INSERT NAME OF HIGH SCHOOL HERE* graduates who have since joined the military. They organize activities for Veteran's Day, hold a Military Appreciation night, organize donation drives for care packages, send letters (written by the younger students) to military members, and organize a "50 Flag Salute" for soldiers' homecomings.

The women at the meeting explained the tradition of the “50 Flag Salute” in which they place three signs on the lawn of the returning soldier reading: “*INSERT NAME OF ORGANIZATION HERE*”, “Welcome Home”, and “50 Flag Salute”. Around the signs they place fifty flags representing each of the states the soldiers fought to protect. I was given the honor of creating the "Welcome Home" sign that would be displayed on the lawns of all of the returning service members. I cannot even begin to describe how meaningful this was for me! I had the opportunity to talk to the mothers there, listen to their stories, and do something I am passionate about (and I got to COLOR)! There is no feeling more wonderful than the feeling that comes from knowing that you made a difference, and I MADE A DIFFERENCE! However indirectly, I know that through that sign I am welcoming each of those soldiers home...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Week Six: Tedious But Worth It!

The mentor teacher interview this week really helped reassure me and make me think about field placement this week. I think that now I have a better sense of the class and maybe a better sense of how to approach teaching my lessons. If nothing else, I know that the door is open and I can continue to ask questions of him in the future. I had requested permission from my cooperating teacher to record the interview and realized as I was asking questions that this was very much practice for my I.S.. Then when it came time to work on my reflection and submit my questions I decided to take it a step further and use this assignment as an opportunity to practice my interviewing and transcription skills. Just to provide some background, I am conducting an oral history I.S. in which I look at the changes in veteran perspectives through specific, personal "turning points" in the conflict.

Other than that, my field placement has been very similar to field the past couple of weeks. I would like to be more involved in the classroom, and am going to take this up with my cooperating teacher again next week. In the meantime, however, I'm slowly getting to know my students and was particularly optimistic when I got one student to open up to me. She is one of the students that often doesn't participate in class and is generally quiet and unengaged. She's also usually one of the first students in the classroom every morning, so I have had a chance to talk to her and get her engaged in the mornings. Lately she seems to be more vocal in class and more engaged and enthusiastic!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Week Five: The Substitute

This week in field, my classes had a substitute teacher on Tuesday and Wednesday, so my week went something like this: planning for substitute, substitute, and post-substitute review of worksheets completed while there was a substitute. What did I learn from this experience? I will absolutely NOT give my students worksheets when there's a substitute unless there's no way around it! The worksheets were all either clearly created at the last minute or taken from the book and weren't enough to keep the students occupied for an entire class period.

Additionally, it is SO important to have a backup plan whenever you're using technology...even if you, as the teacher, aren't there! My cooperating teacher planned to have one of his classes complete worksheets on the library computers. First, he neglected to reserve the computers for the class either day (though luckily it was a small class and there were enough). Second, there were problems with the internet both days and the network started blocking ALL of the websites except for Google. This meant that the students had to try to search for everything on Google and find the answers in the short blurbs under the links.

Besides the worksheet chaos, the students in World Studies started industrialization...the unit I will be teaching formal lessons from. My cooperating teacher showed me the list of lesson topics he wants to cover within the chapters and I have absolutely no idea how to teach any of the topics I saw on that list. I have a couple of concerns. First, I don't feel like I can easily spend a whole period teaching just one of the topics on his list. Second, I was bored just looking at the topics...how am I going to make them interesting for my students? Even he thought they were dry topics and encouraged me to try to be creative with them (a good sign, but I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to do that). In the meantime, I'm reading the chapters and I hope that there's something there that piques my interest!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Week Four: Mmm...Peaches! :)

This week was week one of field placement! Though there are times I think that I may be learning as much about what I do not want to do in my classroom as I am about what I would like to incorporate in my classroom, it's a positive learning experience either way. Watching the students hold a mock Congress, follow basic Parliamentary procedure, and debate/vote on the bills they created certainly gave me valuable insight into my students. It highlighted what issues they feel are important, and in listening to their debates I got a sense of their beliefs and those of the community as a whole. The hardest part was keeping my mouth shut and letting them take the debate wherever it was going to take them!

My favorite debate, by far, was the representative democracy debate where the bill (presented by the representative from Georgia) proposed making peaches the national fruit. To hear their conversations, with comments ranging from "I like strawberries better, can we make it strawberries?" to "But I don't like peaches!" to "If we make peaches the state fruit that will boost the economy of states that produce the largest quantity of peaches" was a priceless teaching moment (not to mention hilarious)! It blew my mind that a class of ninth grade students would be contemplating the economic implications of declaring a national fruit!

I learned a lot of little things about my teaching style, what my classroom will look like, and how I want my students to learn. In short, I'm developing my teaching philosophy. Wednesday morning, I was the first one in the classroom; I got to turn on the lights; I got to greet the students. It seems like such a little thing, but for a few minutes I owned that classroom and those were MY students. That's when I realized how vital the "little things" are to teaching.

That morning, I realized that I would be the teacher with the to-go cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate/whatever (that morning it was chai) in hand, and I recognized the significance of something I would never have thought of before. How often do you have a chance to contemplate the symbolism of a to-go cup? Yes, I actually sat around and thought about it. What does that to-go cup say to your students when they walk in the door? How can something as simple as setting down or picking up that cup be used as a teaching tool? It's all relevant...maybe contemplating my morning chai isn't the most important thing to consider, but it got me thinking!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Week Three: Anticipation

Right now, I am mostly just excited (and a little scared) to be in my field placement starting Monday. I miss being in a classroom, miss working with children, and I miss the way I feel when I'm in a classroom working with children...I won't say teaching because I don't feel like a teacher yet. I still very much feel like a student, and I'm not sure when I'll actually cross that line between student and teacher. I hope to get at least a taste of it this semester, but I know I won't really be there until I'm student teaching and then when I have a classroom of my own. At the moment I'm just trying to grasp how very much I have to learn!

This semester has already changed the way I think. I've learned so much more in my classes because I took the concept of text-to-self to heart, facing my own personal demons while learning, and ultimately realizing that everything in our lives is connected. Life is interdisciplinary. It's amazing how much you can change if you "be the student you would like to have in your classroom", whether that means participating more in discussion or reading ahead in the textbook. Everything in my life suddenly became educational. I had a rough week, but it doesn't look so bad when I realize just how much I learned from the setbacks. No, I certainly don't want to repeat the experience but at least something beneficial came of it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week Two: Asking For Help

Sorting out my thoughts long enough to write even a comprehensible blog post is a challenge. My brain keeps tugging me in completely different directions and I'm getting input and advice from so many sources that it's hard to synthesize all of the information tumbling around in my brain. I think perhaps that alone has taught me more from an educational perspective than anything else this week. Students get overwhelmed, whether they're college students tackling Senior I.S., classes, and life or they're high school students navigating their own classes and personal lives. The actual events, the actual problems, the actual circumstances may be different, but ultimately we face similar obstacles and challenges.

So often it seems as if teachers only recognize that a student is having difficulty and take action when it's too late, when the student has already fallen far behind. What we need to recognize is that the easiest time to address potential problems is when we see that a student is overwhelmed but not yet to a point where they cannot function effectively in the classroom. I wasn't even aware that this academic limbo existed until I found myself stuck in it, and maybe that's because it is usually such a short window (either because the student pulls him/herself out of it or they fall quickly). Regardless, it's something that should be addressed when possible, and there are warning signs in student behavior even if they're still handing work in on time.

Yes, it's imperative that students learn to ask for help, but speaking from experience...that isn't always easy, especially when that means that you have to open up to a person you may or may not completely trust. It's hard for some students to admit that they have too much on their plate and they don't know how to handle what they already have. This is just one more way in which teachers must understand the needs of their students on an individual basis. While some students thrive under pressure, others may crumble. If a teacher can establish rapport with students, it makes it infinitely easier for a student to approach a teacher and ask for help when it is needed.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Week One: Initial Thoughts

The first week back has been characterized by a plethora of emotions; it has been exhausting, wonderful, terrifying, and completely overwhelming both on a personal and an academic level. While this summer I grew in so many ways and on so many levels, both as a person and as an educator, I was ready to be back in a classroom...ready to learn...ready to be back in field placement. Returning to Wooster isn't without its burdens, like chasing a cockroach around my room at two-o'clock in the morning, but being in an environment that promotes critical thinking on a daily basis more than makes up for it.

From the very first day of class I was struck by the sheer amount of knowledge and skill sets I have yet to acquire. It's impossible to sit there and NOT realize that one day I will be responsible for my students' brains, for that gray matter, for establishing foundations for the rest of their lives. I knew that as teachers we had the power to make a difference (a difference I have experienced firsthand), but the physical evidence is overwhelming.

From that very first chapter of reading I realized that in this class I would be learning as much about myself as I would about the teaching profession. Under other circumstances, learning about the parts of the brain and their various functions might not have made such a profound impact. Now I know that the hippocampus is responsible for my short-term memory loss after the car accident last semester and that I may very well be able to thank brain plasticity for my ability to return to the college and pick up where I left off.

Despite all the emotions, I am thankful to be back, and as daunting as the prospect of one day being responsible for the minds of my students may be, there is no doubt that I am in the right place and ultimately pursuing a profession that I love even now.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Overwhelmed

I'm overwhelmed and have no good reason for all the emotions I'm feeling...perhaps it's hormones; they're easy to blame, let's go with that. I'm sure that there is much more to all of these feelings than simply classes, some sort of transference of emotion from the aspects of my life I don't understand to the parts that I do. All I know is that they're there...I'm not in a state of mind where I can really pick them apart and analyze where they're coming from or what they are right now...though I have a few theories.

Today, I think I know what's bothering me. I cannot even begin to produce the background necessary to fully explain why all this is significant, but it is, it's all in my head and it needs to escape one way or another so if this post deteriorates into incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo verbal diarrhea I apologize in advance. First of all, I'm having car crash flashbacks...not literal flashbacks, but the same fears are there. For those of you who don't know, I had problems with short term memory loss and trouble focusing, among other things. Yesterday was "day one" of classes and I kept getting distracted by the feeling that I wasn't retaining information. It scared me. I didn't feel like myself and I don't know how much of it is real and how much of it is in my head, but the fear of repeating a semester like the last one is interfering with my ability to think about the situation calmly and rationally.

All of that certainly affects my reactions and emotions, but there is still so much else happening, today in particular. While yesterday was my first day of classes, today is the day that Joseph officially enlists in the Israeli Army...today is the day I have a real reason to be worried (not that I'd been worried before now *cough cough*). There's a part of me that wishes it wasn't affecting me this much, but there's also the realization that if it didn't I would have completely lost my sense of self. I recognize that he made an extremely difficult decision and whether or not I agree with his actions I can also respect that.

My life right now is playing out in extremes. It's hard to reconcile overwhelming joy with fear, anxiety, worry, and in a sense, loss. Sometimes I wonder how it is possible to feel so much at the same time, and I certainly don't know what to do with those pieces except to try to put them together in writing...it's a puzzle that may never be completed, but at least I still have perspective. I still have the picture on the box as I try to fit the pieces together.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Change...It's A Wonderful And Terrible Thing

So much has happened since I last blogged...the main reason I haven't done so, there just hasn't been the time. Soooo, here's a summary of what has been going on in my world! I did, in fact, finish packing and am settled into my new "home". The night I finished packing my beautiful godson, Sebastian, was born. Unfortunately, I had to move in the next morning and didn't have a chance to see him before I left...well, I did get to see pictures before I left, but it isn't quite the same. Once (mostly) settled in, I quickly began eight-hour-a-day marching band rehearsals (and survived), and today is the first day of classes.

There are so many things that have happened in between all of this that I cannot even begin to describe it all. There are so many emotions, so many times I have wished I could read people's minds, and plenty I wish I could change (though if given the opportunity I still wouldn't). Life is confusing, change is exciting and yet terrifying, and there are so many thoughts chasing each other around my head it's a wonder I can still function sometimes. But here I am, functioning and tackling this crazy life one day at a time...and realizing that the crazy isn't all bad. Everything that has happened has taught me something, and some wonderful things have come out of the most difficult times.

Just so you all know...I am back, I am writing, and I'm full of some kind of crazy-nervous-excited-terrified-insane energy. Expect more from me soon! I'm sure I will have plenty to talk about...

Friday, August 19, 2011

One More Cup Of Tea

I hate packing...I always have, I probably always will. Most of my packing is done already and I still hate it. I had the foresight to pack what I could at the beginning of the summer, so now all I have are the items I use daily...and clothing. Should be easy, right? No. No, it isn't, it's a packing nightmare! Also, I still need to fit all those previously packed boxes into the trunk of my SUV. And, even if I forget about how much I hate packing, I get to think about carrying everything up three stories to my room. Yes, I am complaining (I will admit it). That, unfortunately, doesn't change the fact that I have zero motivation to do anything packing related today.

There is a long list of things I wish I was doing today that keeps stubbornly scrolling through my brain. Guess what? Packing isn't one of them! Neither is moving. I cannot even express how relieved I will be when everything is packed, moved, and unpacked. I don't particularly enjoy the unpacking either, but I think I can handle it. It's frightening to think that all of this needs to be done by early tomorrow afternoon. By about four o'clock to be precise. Oh, woe is me (now I am being dramatic)!

I suppose it's time to just buckle down and start packing, right after I eat a big spoonful of Nutella (I am human, I have weaknesses) and chug a glass of milk. After packing, if it doesn't take all darn day, maybe I'll have a shot at some "me time" before I take the plunge and start a new year! In the meantime I will have to plan my "last supper" before it's back to cafeteria food (where I can eat frozen Chinese food and crappy chicken to my heart's content and beyond)! Just one more cup of tea and I'm ready to go...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hello And Goodbye

My life has been a landslide this summer, but summer's almost up and I'm facing a new year and a whole slew of hellos and goodbyes...more goodbyes than I think I'm prepared to handle. I'm facing a lot of personal ghosts but also some amazing prospects for the future. While a part of me wishes that this summer could last forever and I could forget about leaving and classes and figuring life out all over again, logically, I know that everything will work out (one way or another). Yes, there are things I am looking forward to, but in order to reach those I need to let go and plunge myself into a year that, quite honestly, scares the bejesus out of me!

I'm in a much better place than I was before. I've been forcing myself to let go (or at least put some things on the back burner), and it's helping me find a bit of clarity. I know it's going to be a stressful year; I know I'm going to be worried about a thousand things...but there's no point dwelling on the ones I can't change. Yes, they will always be there in the back of my mind, and yes, once in a while they're still going to get to me but I can't change a darned thing! *sigh*

On a more positive note, I only have a few more weeks before I'll be back in the classroom! I'm soooo close...and still incredibly impatient. Even more impatient to have my own classroom, but that's a whole different ballgame. What matters is that I will BE IN A CLASSROOM!!! Part of me is still terrified, but I'm oh-so-excited at the same time. I keep wondering who my cooperating teacher will be. What class will I be teaching? What school will I be teaching in? How old will my students be? I love that I'm getting another field placement this semester, and I'm full of that ready-to-go-out-and-change-the-world attitude! Maybe if I focus on that I can forget about all the other stuff that's bouncing around my brain...more on that another night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Note To Self

I think I've finally found the solution to all my problems...stop looking for a solution. That isn't to say I don't have a lot to do and there won't be a lot on my mind, but I need to stop looking for answers where there are none. I need to be patient, give things time, and understand that sometimes we all have problems that won't just go away, that can't just be solved. That doesn't mean they won't go away eventually but it takes time...time, effort, and dedication. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes we all need a good cry, and sometimes we have to accept that we may never have the answers.

This isn't some copout, stop-caring-about-life solution...it's about accepting the truth. There are some things that we can change and some we can't. We can change our lives, we have the power within ourselves to do incredible things, but we can't change other people unless they are willing to accept change. We can show them, teach them, lead them down one path or another, we can give them opportunities, we can support them, but we cannot change them. I suppose that means I have a life of showing, teaching, leading, and supporting ahead of me.

Sometimes the right answers hardly seem like answers at all. They're hard to live with, hard to wrap your mind around, and hardest to accept. The right answers are neither logical nor emotional but a balance of the two...logical results with emotional acceptance (or resignation). I have accepted that what is right is not always easy but that I know, deep down, that I wouldn't have it any other way. I know this sounds obscure, but I needed to get it down in writing. I need to know I can come back to these thoughts and remind myself "why" when things get tough.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Madness

Life has been absolutely crazy lately. The heat isn't helping and, looking back on the week, I'm not really sure what I've accomplished. Maybe something, maybe not, but it feels like we've been running around non-stop, with or without purpose, in order to escape the heat. I don't remember the last time I felt clean and dry. I really was not built to withstand hundred degree temperatures and humidity...I think I'm melting.

I am still loving the time I get to spend with Holly, Parker, and my grandparents. There have been numerous trips to the "baby doctor" (in Parker's words) and I got to hear the baby's heartbeat (and look for cute, handsome, single airmen). I can't WAIT to be a Godmama again! I was volunteered to make Holly's belly cast so got to work with plaster strips for the first time, and I think it turned out well...I was happy with it at least. I don't know what I'm going to do when summer's over, I know I'm going to miss them and I know that they're the main reason I've been able to keep it together this summer. I suppose I'll have to worry about it when I get there.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my Senior Independent Study (basically a senior thesis). It's hard to think of a topic that will get you through endless hours of research, will capture your interest for a year, and allow you to write nearly a hundred pages of original research. It's a big deal; I just don't really know where to start looking. I would love to work with veterans, but I'm not sure there are a lot of WWII veterans around who would be willing to work with me on a project so extensive. Yes, I recognize that there are other wars...but WWII fascinates me. I'd love to find someone with stories to tell, maybe a wartime journal, someone who hasn't had an oportunity to tell their story and wants to write it down. I'd love to help someone tell their story, write their memoir...I just don't know how to find someone, particularly someone in good enough health. *sigh* I'll keep brainstorming.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It Was Love At First Sight...And Still Is

I know it's been a couple days since I last posted anything, but I promise I'm still here! Right now I'm thoroughly occupied visiting my grandparents, Holly, and Parker. I have the most wonderful, precious godson in the world and there's nowhere I'd rather be! Needless to say, I have many, many stories...he is two after all. There are so many moments that I wish I could share but I certainly can't share them all. Today he was running around with a pair of freshly laundered underpants on his head, yesterday we had a music lesson on recorder (he danced and jumped up and down every time he made a sound), tonight he crawled into my lap and cuddled with me...I was enthusiastically hugged to death. I will remember every moment I spend with him, and I'm so blessed to have him in my life, even if a few months from now he will be thousands of miles away again. I love that little boy with all my heart!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When Words Fail...

...Music Speaks! It's just a part of who I am. I've always loved music...loved playing it, loved listening to it, everything! I could go on and on about all the ways music has changed my life, but the point is...it has. Whether it's sitting down and wailin' some blues on my trumpet, cruising down the highway blasting a favorite tune, or dancing my heart out, music will always be a part of my life. Music is my obsession. Not my only obsession, for sure, but it's up there! Being the theater geek that I am, I would venture to say there's a Broadway tune for everything...I can say with certainty that there is a song for everything.

Today was one of those "What the heck do I feel like listening to? I NEED MUSIC!" kinda days. I reluctantly selected a playlist on iTunes, and I found the perfect song for me right now...two songs actually...make that three. *sigh* There are a few people I've been struggling to find the words to talk to, and I think I may be sending out a few music clips. Sometimes, you just can't say it any better. Landon Pigg...you have a ridiculous name, but I love you right now! You may not be my typical listening material, but for some reason I always come back to your music. Right now, it speaks to me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

God Bless America...

...Land That I Love! Happy 4th of July! I completely forgot to write yesterday until I was already curled up in bed, comfy, and far too lazy to get back up, get my computer, and think about writing a post. Soooo, I apologize for my laziness and I'll try to make up for it with a quick summary of yesterday's activities. Ready? Nothing...I did absolutely nothing! I walked around the house in my pajamas all day and, besides some minor cleaning and sorting, did nothing. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I told everyone that I planned to do that every Sunday and declared Sunday "Pajama Day"!

Today, however, is Monday...which means I'm awake, dressed, and ready to go! Not quite sure what my plans are today; I suppose I'll have to figure that out. Most of my town's 4th of July festivities are pretty much over already though there are still a few things going on. But before I figure that out, I wanted to share some fireworks! Yes, I was one of the nerdy people taking firework pictures, so all the pictures are mine...and I'm proud of them! :)


Have a fantastic 4th of July, and please don't forget the wonderful men and women who are fighting and giving their lives for their country each and every day. They pay the ultimate price for our freedom, often thousands of miles away from their loved ones, and expect nothing in return. The least we can do is recognize that sacrifice while we enjoy all of our 4th of July festivities!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Speechless Gratitude

A couple of weeks ago I was ready for change, ready for my life to turn around, ready to put the past behind me, and I was living in a world full of inspiration. I made a 180 degree turn for the better, but I'm starting to feel like I'm losing that...sometimes it feels like I take one step forward and two steps back; I'm ready for TWO steps forward and ONE step back. It's time. Life just seems so limiting right now. I feel like I'm living in the past, and that isn't entirely bad. I'm seeing parts of my life differently, and I recognize how fortunate I've been to have certain people in my life to help out along the way. I have so many people to thank!

I went from feeling like I had no one to turn to, to realizing just how many people care and how many doors are unlocked if only I had the courage to open them. Finding that courage and the words to thank these people means digging into memories I'd rather not touch...the accident, the memory loss, everything. It's all flooding back and it's emotional, not so much because of the accident itself, but remembering just how painful the aftermath was and how thankful I am for the people who helped me, pushed me, let me make my own decisions, but weren't willing to let me fail. I just don't have the words to express my gratitude...they come out in pages and pages of mental fragments.

If only I could find a way to to verbally express tears of gratitude, to tell them just how much they mean to me and how much of an impact they have had on my life. How do you tell someone they've changed your life forever? It isn't easy. My experiences have shown me just how many ways people can show support...and I appreciate them all. From the warm and fuzzy to the people who pushed me and didn't cut me slack because they knew I could do it and needed me to believe in myself. I couldn't have done it without any of them. If only I had the words...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Getting Crafty...Photos At Last!


I've been promising photos of my latest crafty endeavor...so here they are. In fact, I got a little carried away with the clipboard photoshoot, so I have A LOT of pictures. I'll try to resist the urge to post them all. I also realized I didn't take pictures of the backs...which are ALSO decorated (I was on a roll)! Oh well, I'm done taking pictures for today and now it's late.

Today has definitely been a "Photography Friday". Soooo many pictures, so little time! In the next few days I'm sure you'll be seeing more...and I promise firework photos, lots and lots of firework photos. I was trying to decide whether to go ahead and post them tonight or hold off and get some sleep. I choose sleep...

So, back to the clipboards. These were super fun, super easy, and super cheap to make! I have a fourth clipboard waiting to be decorated but need to pick up some more ModPodge first. It is a magical substance. I also have individual pictures of all of the clipboards...SEE!?!? Yes, I am aware that they have bows on them...don't judge me. I had ribbon. It seemed logical at the time. Also, now I have less ribbon, and for me using up a few miscellaneous craft supplies is a good thing!


That's it for now! I had a million things I wanted to write about today...this is probably the least exciting, but I still need some time to think before I can put those thoughts in writing. There's still a lot of muddled up information in my brain that I need to sort through. All in good time! For now I'll enjoy the Fourth of July festivities, fireworks, and all that jazz...

Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chocolate On My Mind...

...And other things too, but we'll start with chocolate! I've been craving chocolate all day and it's driving me absolutely crazy. My house is chocolate-free at the moment...correction, it was chocolate-free until my dad brought home some scrumptious-looking two-bite brownies! I am resisting. Must...Resist...Temptation! They look so good, and they're just sitting there, sad and lonely, saying "Eat me! Please, please eat me in all my chocolaty goodness!" and then "...you know you want to." At least, that's what my chocolate deprived brain has decided.

Other things. I have an overactive brain...it needs to knock it off and let me live my life in peace without the constant chattering and "what ifs". Whew, it's exhausting! It reminds me of when I was working at the nursery school with half a dozen children standing around me. They all want something, but they're talking at the same time so you can't make out what any of them is saying. One at a time!

Also, I have been busy, busy, busy slopping ModPodge all over the place, slapping down scrapbook paper, and punching holes with my Crop-A-Dile "Big Bite"...and still getting a kick out of the name (I know it's cheesy, I just can't help myself). So far, I am pleased with my results, using up supplies I've had lying around for a good four or five years, and overwhelmed by the endless crafting possibilities. I decided to go ahead and add a couple more protective coats of ModPodge, so the pictures will have to wait until tomorrow when everything is dry. They are simple, but they appeal to my love for relatively easy, quick, messy, fun projects to take my mind off of things for a while!

And, because I can't help myself and it continues to crack me up every time...



If you've been having a long week, I hope this put a smile on your face and a spring in your step! I discovered Dinosaur Train while touring with the college Symphonic Band. It was on TV in our hotel room and we thought it was hilarious. I distinctly remember singing the words "Wahhhooooooo, we love to chew! That's what we do, we love to chew!" repeatedly despite funny looks from those who apparently had NOT yet discovered the magic of "Hungry Hungry Herbivore!"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Française et Américaine

The past couple of days since I've been home from camp counseling have definitely been a challenge. I drastically switched environments from a place where I was constantly active and in a position of authority (I miss those kids!) to a place where I feel I have relatively limited freedom. Not only that, I walked into a half French speaking household. This can mean only one thing...relatives are visiting. The first question everyone asks...don't you speak French? My answer: I can understand it, and I can speak it if I have to.

I went from being a camp counsellor to visiting with my French grandmother who only speaks a language I don't speak...at least, not on a regular basis. My French is rusty, my brain is about to explode (or implode...not sure which one), and my mother and "mamie" drive me batty whenever they get together. Do I love them both dearly? Yes. Can I stand them together in two-week doses? No. Also, my mother has started accidentally switching languages when we go shopping or out to eat. Though I will admit it's amusing, it's also a bit embarrassing when she starts speaking to the Bob Evans waitress or Walmart clerk in French.

For those of you who would like to tell me how lucky I am to have grown up with a French mother, it isn't that I'm not grateful for my French heritage or that I don't appreciate the language opportunities I have had. I just never fell in love with the French language...I fell in love with English. The complexity and beauty of English have always thrilled me. Where the English language spoke to me, French never did. While I think my dual citizenship is super cool, I will never identify myself as French. I am a PROUD American...a heart-thumping-out-of-my-chest, freedom-loving, anthem-singing, loving, patriotic American. Nothing will ever change that.

And now for something completely different...

While there are foreign-language-speaking relatives present and I have no social life, two things tend to happen. First, I have a lot of bonding time with my dad (who never learned French beyond basic phrases). Second, I have a lot more time to do things I've been meaning to get done because I'm required to "visit" even though everyone's sitting around the house in relative boredom. This means time to finish projects, start new ones, and hopefully take pictures and post my creations! It also resulted in a strange conversation with my dad in which we decided to eliminate contractions from our conversation...and created some rather odd sounding sentences.

Anyhow, yesterday I became the proud owner of a Crop-A-Dile II "Big Bite". BEST NAME EVER! When I talked about going to JoAnn's to buy one (they had the best price AND it was 40% off) my dad decided that I was, in fact, in desperate need of a crocodile cutout. Though I am now tempted to go buy a crocodile cutout, I am rather pleased with the actual result of my project using my new Crop-A-Dile! It's incredible...I can't wait to punch more holes and try setting eyelets, grommets, and snaps! I know, I'm nerdy...but I LIKE being nerdy so it's okay! If the weather/light is good I will take pictures and post them tomorrow.

And now for something completely different...again!

I know this is entirely random, but since it occupied my mind for at least (if not more than) a couple hours yesterday I thought it was worth mention. The dance scene in The Mask of Zorro is INCREDIBLE! I love the music, the dance is captivating (and oh-so-sexy), and I couldn't stop watching it on YouTube...over, and over, and over again. The whole movie is amazing and I have a couple other favorite scenes, but I must have watched it AT LEAST fifty times. I remember thinking...I won't have truly lived until I dance like that! Did you know that Zorro is also a musical?!?! I will be looking into this. Yes, I am also a theater geek.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Word Of The Day: Pedagogy

As promised, the story of the education student who didn't know the word "pedagogy"...brought to you by Facebook chat! If you are an education student reading this and do not know what pedagogy means please LOOK IT UP! It's an essential addition to your educational vocabulary!

Person 1: So, one of my coworkers just finished her junior year in AYA Math Ed at *insert name of college*

Person 2: Nice!

Person 1: Yeah, except *insert name of other college* is better. Case and point: I have previously relied on her to be my education buddy.

Person 2: Well, yeah...that was obvious!

Person 1: Because let's face it, I need one, otherwise I have nothing to say to the world.

Person 2: Education buddies are important. They're my favorite people!

Person 1: And we were discussing the table graces we sing before meals. There are poster that have them written out which we have, in previous summers, not used. But our boss wanted us to get them out and use them. *Anonymous* asked why we were taking time during training to do so. I said, it was important because not everyone has been to *insert name of camp*. Besides, "it's good pedagogy!"

Person 2: Haha.

Person 1: Anonymous: What's that?
Person 1: What's what?
Anonymous: Whatever that word was you said.
Person 1: Pedagogy?

Person 2: Hahaha.

Person 1: Anonymous: Yeah...never heard of it.
Person 1: How are you an ed student and you've never heard the word pedagogy?!
Anonymous: I dunno...I don't know all that theoretical stuff.

Person 2: My ed soul is cringing.

Person 1: Person 1 (mentally): What expletive can I use that will not be offensive? MUST TELL *INSERT NAME HERE*. Text message was sent moments after.

Person 2: Wow...

Person 1: Yeah

Person 2: *Insert name of other college* is looking better and better. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dear God

During Christian Education at camp one day the children were asked to write a letter to God, thanking him for all the things they were grateful for. It was the one activity with my kids I remember passing up (besides swimming three times a day). It wasn't that I didn't want to write it, I just knew that I had a lot more to talk to God about, a lot more to work out in my head, and a lot I was still so unsure of. I am not a person to whom faith comes easily, but I also believe that nothing worthwhile comes easily. I had a lot I needed to get off my chest and that letter seemed like the perfect place...so I wrote it while watching the kids at the pool. I wasn't going to share my letter, but looking over it, I realized that I may not be the only one asking these questions and facing these problems. Here it is:

Dear God,

I know I have a lot to be grateful for, but it's hard to know where to turn when my faith journey has been so rocky...faith just doesn't come easily to me. It never has, and sometimes I feel like the harder I pray and the times I need help the most are the times my prayers go unanswered. Maybe you ARE there guiding me, maybe there IS a reason, maybe you're preparing me for something wonderful. I just don't know how to build a relationship with you, and sometimes I'm not even sure I'm ready...but I think I am.

Lately I've started to differentiate between "knowing" and "believing". I know that life has thrown me obstacles I thought were nearly impossible to overcome. I know that after overcoming those obstacles I felt close to you for the first time. The trouble is believing that you are there for me, that you will stand by me through the good times and the bad.

I keep asking why. Why me? Why do you let me suffer through the pain and self-doubt? Why am I here? I have to wonder if someday everything will make sense, if all this suffering leads to happiness and clarity. I wonder what role the people in my life play and whether or not they're here to stay. I have so much love in my heart and sometimes I wonder if I've given it all away. I don't know how to save some of that love for myself, to learn how to love myself when I know who I want to be and what I want to believe...but I don't believe that she exists in me.

There are times when I feel like there is so little in life that I truly believe. I believe in beauty, in the little things, in the validity of both logic and emotion, in love...even if sometimes I don't believe in them for myself. I feel so weak and helpless, and sometimes I wonder if I need to redefine strength. Maybe I see weakness in the things I cannot change when I should be looking for strength in the things that I can. But how do I do that? How do I teach myself to "believe" without undermining the way I "feel"?

I have a thousand questions, a thousand doubts, a thousand emotions. And then I wonder...Why is there a smile on my face when there aren't tears in my eyes? Why is there always hope when I don't feel hopeless? Why are there always people when I'm not alone? Will I ever use that knowledge to heal rather than escape? I always ask you for strength, but this time I'm asking for a different kind of strength...the strength to live life to its fullest and live without regrets, to let go but love the memories, and to open my heart and mind to change.

Love,

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Big Elephants Can Always Use Scrambled Eggs

I am back! I only wish I had had a computer and internet access at camp so that I could relay each day's adventures to all of you, but alas, no such luck! I have survived a fabulous week at camp with seven (mostly) fabulous nine and ten-year-old girls. We got off to a rocky start, but things calmed down and we ended up having a wonderful time! There were moments where I just wanted to pack them up and take them home with me. They made me smile, they made me laugh...and sometimes they made me want to cry tears of frustration. Does it make me a horrible person to think that nine and ten-year-old drama is amusing? I understand that a fear of bugs or a stupid comment from a fellow camper is very real to them (and I'm sure I felt the same way when I was ten), but after all that I've dealt with in the past year I can't help but smile a little. Their world is so very different from my own.

I learned so much about the children, about classroom management, about life, and about faith during the few short days I spent with my campers. It's incredible what children are capable of; it never ceases to amaze me. They are capable of such depth and understanding on issues that even adults struggle with. I know that I learned as much or more than the girls I was responsible for, even if I understood the lessons on a different level than they did (simply because I see the world differently and have the experience to back it up). There were moments of inspiration, life lessons learned, and new understandings even for me...every day. I know that I have grown as a person and that camp quickly reminded me of so much that I had forgotten about life and living.

I'll try to keep this relatively short, but there are a few things I learned at camp that I'd like to share...a bit of wisdom (errr...silliness) I've picked up along the way.

1. The word "fart" is still hilarious...especially when your counsellor says it. Also, I thought boys were always the ones who made fart noises. Apparently I was mistaken. I may have been a rather unconventional counsellor...but if the prospect of hearing me say "fart" gets them to do what they're supposed to, I'm all for it!

2. Bugs are fine during the day but terrifying at night...at which point you must follow the bugs with your flashlight until they go away, thereby attracting more bugs (despite warnings from your counsellor that the light ATTRACTS the bugs).

3. Nine and ten-year-old girls talk about boobs. These conversations are particularly amusing coming from a cabin full of flat-chested girls...I'm pretty sure I was the only one there who could justify wearing a bra.

4. Big elephants can always use scrambled eggs. Remember that.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

Life has, as I'm sure you've gathered, been pretty hectic lately...but the bulk of my cleaning adventures have come to a close. I am resigned to the fact that the cleaning and sorting and reorganizing will never truly be finished, but my clutter is now consolidated (in the form of about three garbage bags and a couple of boxes) in the corner of my room. The deep cleaning will have to wait a week until my camp counseling duties are finished. Also, I believe a thorough dusting is in order...I can't believe I've been breathing in this crap (well, now I can...the sneezing and itchy eyes gave it away)! The fact is, I'm happy to at least be able to walk across the floor in the dark and not stub my toe! Yippee!!!

Unfortunately, having spent the majority of my time cleaning and doing monotonous housework the past few days, I haven't had much else to talk about. Well, besides camp...which I am sooo excited about! In fact, tonight I'm finishing up camp paperwork and packing. That also means fun camp stories when I return (children always do find ways to amuse us adults)! My point: now that I've gotten my life relatively under control I can start focusing on all the other things. I wouldn't want you to think that ALL I ever did was housework (in fact, I tend to do housework far less than I should).

Whew! So now that I got all that off my chest, here's what's coming up...camp stories, craftlifting (some great ideas that I've been meaning to try out but just haven't had the time), recipes (both tried-and-true and experimental), the story of the education major who didn't know what "pedagogy" meant (NOT ME...just wanted to clear that up right now), adventures with French relatives, a baby shower (again, not mine), and bonding with Holly and Parker (my cousin and two-year-old godson). I'm sure I'll be adding to that list, but for now I think I'll see if I can get started on that craftlifting!

Thank God It's Friday!