Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Today my students asked me how Earth was created and who the first person on Earth was.  They, in fact, wanted to ask me question after question to which I did not have the answer.  I finally asked, "Does anyone have a question I can answer?"  What I did do was applaud their curiosity and encourage them to do some research (vocab word this week) and grow up to be the kind of people that find the answers to those questions.

I had a former student, a now 5th grader, come to visit me today.  I don't know what it is that I did right as his teacher, but he has such great respect for me.  He dropped in to say hello and tell me that my costume (yesterday was Make Believe Monday for National Literacy Week) was the best.  :)  To this day, he visits me and calls me Ms. G (which only certain students do).  His mother had a baby the same year I had him as a student, which is also the school year I conceived Ayla.  He always looked out for me, telling the other kids to pick up things and treat me with care because he learned from his father that that is how you treat pregnant ladies.  What a sweet, sweet child, with a wonderful family that has what really matters: motivation for their children, kindness, and respect.  Those things mean so much, especially in today's society.

I keep thinking about purpose lately.  I started this blog talking about purpose, but I deleted it all.  Somehow, I feel like if I talk about fulfilling a purpose I am invalidating what I am doing now or making my career seem like it is not "good enough" for me.  That certainly isn't either of those things.  There isn't even a way to put into words what it is I feel...

I feel like there is something I am supposed to do.  I feel like my life has a purpose.  Being a mom, a (soon) wife, and a teacher are all purposes that have been set before me.  Is it wrong to have this constant feeling that I am not yet done?  Am I going through a late-20s crisis (eek)?  It isn't that I think about this all the time, but it is a thought that keeps coming back like a boomerang in the wind.  Just as I think those things, there is also the voice that squashes that urge to fulfill a purpose.  A voice saying that what do I have to offer that is absolutely unique enough and important enough to matter.  And I don't have the answer to that challenge/inner critic.  I know I'm not the only one that thinks like this or wonders these things, yet I don't overhear people having these conversations or making these assertions.  I guess, like my students, I am full of questions I cannot answer.

So for now, I will do my best to do the best I can do on the path I am traveling. And I imagine I will learn the things I need to along the way to where ever it is that I am going. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone." -Mitch Albom

Another day, another migraine.  As I tried to soak my pain away in the tub this evening, I got to thinking.  The thing in life that satisfies me the most is feeling as though I have made some sort of difference in another's life.  I don't mean that I took someone who was on the wrong path and helped them start anew.  Wonderful as that may be, I would just like to think that I am leaving footprints on the lives of some of the people I encounter.  

My life has been impacted by so many people in ways both big and small, I couldn't begin to tell each tale or thank each one, but here are 5 people who have changed my life (obviously I've blogged much about my family-so here are some others).

1. My brother Denny.  I don't actually blog or talk about my brother Denny very often.  He is 23, and he is an awesome kid.  He will always be a kid to me.  His charisma and sense of humor are totally original, and people just love to be around him.  We've been through many ups and downs over the years, but I'd like to think we're in a good place.  We don't talk as much as we'd like, but I know he has my back and would do anything for me.  Throughout my illness, I feel as though Denny often had to take a backseat to me and the issues of my RSD, even during times when he should have been front and center.  When I think of the times in my life that I've laughed the hardest, it probably involves him.  Not a year goes by without mention of the "macaroni-and-cheese-chocolate-milk-food-fight" we had as youngsters.  He might not even know how much joy and laughter he has brought into my life, but he really has (especially the repeat viewing of his traffic camera red light running recently).  But really, he's a great guy and I imagine my mom was onto something when she named him for her father because from all stories I've been told of my Grandpa Denny, he was a jolly man.

2. Bobby.  When I was in high school, I dated a guy named Bobby, but more importantly, he was just my friend, a true blue friend.  He is one of the only guys, aside from my Brandon, who has seen me for who I am.  To my shock, once the first week of school was past, he stopped coming to school in preppy clothes and started coming to school in his gothic wear.  My self image and aspiration to be popular got in the way of my individuality, but he never let it stop him.  He was perhaps my very best friend in high school, and he was one of the few people who knew the real me and affirmed for me that "me" was more than enough.  That changed my life.  We rarely speak, though I am connected to his sweetheart of a wife on Facebook, but we will be life-long friends.

3.  Erin.  Erin was the first friend I made when I moved to Florida.  We had lots of fun together going out and enjoying the nightlife.  She and I have always had very different viewpoints on things, which was not always easy for me because believe it or not, I was the less outspoken of the two of us.  I can thank her for knowing my way around town; I still have the hand-drawn map she made for me to prove it!

4. Mr. McBride.  My Comm I, Comm II, and Success Strategies professor in college pushed me.  I've always gotten great grades, but he really made me stretch myself as a writer.  He pushed me to be a better person.  His example of transparency to his students, discussing his ups and downs in life (in my Success Strategies class) helped me become more transparent, helped me overcome many of my own inner struggles, and changed my life forever.  I still have the journal we kept in that class, and I am so glad that I signed up for that "easy" elective because it pushed me to look inward.

5. Ms. Brown.  My art teacher/gifted teacher in middle school.  What an evil, evil woman.  I will never forget the day she became so exasperated with me, due to the fact that I had an unfinished assignment (imagine that, when you miss weeks on end of school due to illness...) she blew up at me.  She exclaimed (in front of the whole class), "Well, I guess you won't get married then since you're sick.  Or you won't have kids or drive a car since your sick."  The venom and ugliness in her voice has pushed me at times when I felt like giving up, pushed me to prove her wrong.  I attended schools where my 504 plan was ignored, where I was belittled and cast aside because I was a very ill young lady.  What a shame!  I'd like to take those lemons and squirt her in the eye.  How does the saying go?  A life well lived is the best revenge?

I hope that the positive times I leave an impression on another outweigh the times I leave behind a scar.

I leave you with this...

"But there's a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begin." -Mitch Albom (For One More Day)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"The great joy in life is doing what people say you cannot do."

Wednesday.  Happy hump day!  My day has been rather uneventful, though my frustrations about teachers in my county not getting a pay raise or level of experience "step" and the public's negative reaction to teachers in general (i.e. "Get over it teachers, enjoy your paid summers off"--which by the way are not paid!!) has me hot under the collar.  But I'm not going to expand on that.

My sweet little Ayla is a hitting, kicking, mean-machine.  I arrive to pick her up.  Slap hello.  Buckle her in the car seat and lean in for a kiss.  Slap.  Take her to the park for a half hour and amazingly do NOT get smacked.  Arrive home to get her a snack and milk.  Slap me, slap my laptop.  Time out number one.  Sorry, hugs, kisses.  Two seconds later, she is swinging a book at me.  Time out number two.  Make Brandon talk to her.  

The frustration level I have with her over these behaviors is boiling.  Last night, she hit my mom's dog (Molly, who Brandon and I rescued when I was 7 months preggers) with the lid to the lego box.  Time out.  Then, when trying to talk to her at the end of her time out, she held her hands in the "clapping" position and slapped both my cheeks simultaneously.  She clapped my face!  

I am not pro-spanking or pro-hitting, at all.  I have a background in Early Childhood Education.  I don't believe in those methods.  But I will admit, I have "slapped" Ayla on the hand twice.  It is a very light tap, but I'm not justifying it.  The first time, I hated the fact I'd done it.  I did it again last night, and let me be the first to tell you, it didn't work.  She screamed in my face.  She didn't flinch or cry or do anything except scream.  When she went into time out, that's when she screamed.  She screamed for 2 minutes solid.  I usually get her after 1 minute (literally with a timer), but I had to let her screaming settle down a bit.  Her cheeks were bright red.  

Everyone has advice and has me convinced I'm just a terrible mom.  I mean, she only does it to me, so it must be me right?  Whatever.  It hurts my heart because she can go from sour to sweet to sour again (think of those Sour Patch Kids commercials) in the blink of an eye.

Brandon and I have many very good systems in place with Ayla, such as always letting the other know when she has been dropped off/picked up to assure that we know she is not in the car.  We also take over for each other when our patience has been taken to the limit.  So Brandon took Ayla to take her bath.

Like amnesia, my memory disappeared as soon as my cell phone rang.  Brandon called me (from the room next door-haha) and told me to come to the bathroom.  Ayla pooped in the potty!  She kept looking at it and saying "Ew," but we couldn't be prouder, clapping and exclaiming, "Yay!"

What a rollercoaster this parenthood is...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wedding & ooey gooey love stuff

We met with our wedding caterer on Friday, and she prepared a smorgasbord of delicious foods for us.  One dish in particular, has me wishing that it was our wedding day already!  

We've also met with our photographer and made a final decision on her.  I am so excited to have found very talented and kindhearted women who also actually fit into our budget!  It is amazing how quickly the expenses of a wedding add up!  However, we are doing our best to be frugal and get things done ahead of time.  I am a big planner, a trait inherited from my dad (who always has to have a PLAN!), and it feels good to get the ball rolling on these things.

We have our date (Saturday, October 8, 2011) set and our venue reserved.  I've ordered the Save the Date magnets (from VistaPrint, thanks to my BFF Ette who recommended them) and got them for 50% off!  I don't see any purpose in spending a great deal of money on invites and save the dates because if people are anything like me, they feel so guilty throwing those expensive little suckers away.  But that's what happens-they get thrown away!

My wedding dress is hanging in Ayla's closet, right next to the overpriced (boo) veil that goes so perfectly with it.  I'm still on the quest for the perfect shoes, and I google searching for them on a more than regular basis.  I even dream about them!  

It is hard to believe that in October, not so long from now, I will be a married woman.  It feels indescribable to have found the one that I want to spend my life with.  The search, the awful dating scene...for that to be done.  That is one phase of my life I certainly don't miss.  

Even though he will probably never read this, I just have to say...I love you Brandon, you are my home, you are my happiness on a dreary day.  Long before Ayla was conceived, I saw her in your eyes.  I am so glad we get to share this crazy journey called life together.  You've already proven yourself to be true to all the traditional vows.  Through good times and bad, through poorness and poorer (LOL), and especially in sickness, sickness, and occasional bouts of good health.  Ich liebe dich!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Terrible twos!

My household is experiencing a case of the terrible twos...about 5 months early!  Ayla's latest obsession is hitting, kicking, and slapping me.  Also, when she finds something she isn't supposed to have (usually something expensive and/or breakable) and is told to give it back, she instead runs and LAUNCHES said item at the nearest hard surface.  It is exhausting.  She is so smart (all moms think that, but I've had non-biased parties tell me so, so it must be true-wink) so we spend a lot of time talking about her behavior.

Me: "Do we hit?"
Ayla: "Nooo!"
Me: "Is hitting nice or..."
Ayla: "Meeeen!"
Me: "What do you say?"
Ayla: "Sawddy" (sorry)

Then, she says "aww" and hugs me.  Which is sometimes followed by another slap.  The struggle is day-to-day.  Do I give her a mean mommy face?  Do I ignore her since she's looking for a reaction?  Do we do (another) time out?  I vary my strategy because I'm trying to figure out the most effective one so we can use that one and stick to it.  Except that there isn't really one good strategy-she is an ever-changing being, reacting differently as quickly as she grows.  Dr. Sears has a great post about time out that I really enjoyed reading.  Right now, we are working on more "time in" because at the end of a long day of work, mommy and daddy want to unwind.  But little bitty wants our attention.  Of course, when we sit down to give her our undivided attention, she doesn't really want anything to do with us.  It is frustrating, but I know it is a stage.  That it won't "be like this for long."  

On a high note, Ms. Sassy never ceases to amaze me.  She says so many wonderful words-her vocabulary just grows and grows and grows!  

My current favs:
"Lub you"
"Two" (when asked how old she is...she jokes around and says 'two' and we always say 'not yet'...but it isn't long!)
"Moe-ning" (morning, as in "good morning")
"Goo-de" (when asked, 'how are you?')

She also has taken to making a fish face when kissing, a big change from her big ol' fat pursed lips.  She's a big fan of baby dolls, wrapping them in blankets and giving them lots of hugs and kisses (before violently dropping them on their heads in abandonment).  It makes me excited for when she will become a big sister.  

I guess when she's going through an episode of terrible two-dome, I can think of all the ways I get to embarrass her when she's older.  Or how when she wants nothing more than to sleep in, I will insist that she "rise and shine valentine" so she can have a productive day.  (Not sure who I'm kidding on this one...sleeping in is my addiction, right up there with chocolate!)

Of course, some mom out there is reading this right now thinking to herself, "Just you wait honey.  You think two is bad?  Wait til she's THREE!"

Monday, January 10, 2011


I received a most unexpected compliment the other day. Someone said, "My life has been full of goodness since I've met you."

It made my day-it made me feel so important and validated in such a significant way.  I wanted to remember that moment.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nothing special

My weekend has been very busy, but I feel accomplished and had a great time in the process.  Friday, I stayed home from work with Ayla because Danni's grandfather passed away last month, and the family all joined here after the holidays to have his celebration of life, starting on Friday and lasting over the weekend.  Ayla and I pretty much napped the day away, which we obviously both needed.  Ayla has been hard hit with being sick, getting a cold immediately following her recovery from her first ear infection.  She must be like her mama-sleep to recover.  

Friday evening, Brandon, Ayla, and I went to go meet with Indica Woodruff, a wedding photographer.  I really adore her work, and I've realized recently that I know over a half dozen people she's done wedding photos for.  She's so personable, and I am really excited to have my heart set on a photographer.  I also ordered our save the dates and got a great deal on them.  I've slowly started getting addresses together, and we've been checking over the guest list.  Funny how you start realizing people you forgot as you check over the list!

My mom, sister Alexis, Ayla, and I went to David's Bridal to pick up my wedding dress (I don't like calling it a gown...sounds like a nightgown maybe??) and look at a new style of bridesmaids' dress that has come out since we ordered my dress 2 weeks ago.  My wedding dress is just stunning-even if I don't manage to lose a pound, I will look terrific.  The place was packed and every woman that walked by me stopped to turn and look at my dress.  So exciting!  I love the bridesmaid dress that Alexis tried on, so I can check that off my list once I get all the girls in there to get sized and order their dresses.  After David's Bridal, we headed across the way to IKEA.  We mostly went into share a piece of their decadent chocolate cake (probably the best chocolate cake I've ever had), but we ended up shopping around.  My mom found a great shelving unit to get her couponing stash organized, among some other fun things like fabric we've loved forever that is finally on sale (but sadly being phased out).  I was very good and only got 2 things.  I got a power strip with 3 outlets for in my bedroom to keep all my electronics charging, and I also got a really lovely wooden step stool that I need desperately for our kitchen.  I'm so short, I can never reach anything!

My migraines have been pretty awful recently, and I'm not sure why.  We've had some fires lately which have caused suffocating and disgusting amounts of smoke in the air, which I think triggered the avalanche of migraines I've been having.  I've also been stressed and am in desperate need of a good chiropractic adjustment and massage.  

My sources of stress are pretty typical: managing tight finances, managing household and work responsibilities, and the never-ending task of trying to lose weight and get in shape, which I'm failing miserably at.

I don't know why I can't get motivated to do the things I need to do to lose weight.  I've been better about watching my food intake, but I obviously haven't been strict enough.  I have totally failed to get into an exercise routine, in part due to tiredness/laziness and in part due to be incapacitated from these hellish migraines.  I've struggled so much to lose weight in a number of different ways since having Ayla, and I know the areas I've fallen short, but it really discourages me and snubs out any motivation I may have had.  I guess today is a new day for me to brush myself off, plan to try something new, and have the optimism that I can be successful if I really put myself into it.  

It is just painful to be in this body, and I am sick of continuing to talk and think about it.  The energy it requires is just draining.  The summer before I moved to Florida (2002) I went from being 115 lbs at graduation to 155 lbs when we arrived at our new home.  I put on 40 lbs in 4 months.  My weight became a struggle in my teens, which is pretty typical I imagine, but I also had a number of factors that put my weight out of my control.  I was on dozens and dozens of various medications to manage my disease, some of which made me balloon in weight (steroidal medications, which I had injected and in pill form for quite a length of time during those years) and others (self-injectable pain medications during one of the worst times of my illness) that made me wish and pray to be hungry because nothing tasted good and my weight plummeted to about 95 lbs. 

When I moved to Florida, I decided enough was enough.  I wanted to take my life back after reaching my highest weight ever.  For a couple of months, I pretty much starved myself.  It was horrible.  I stressed about everything I did and did not put into my mouth.  I also started going on 6 mile bicycle rides with my brother.  The weight started coming off, but then a wonderful thing happened.  My first semester in college, I took a health analysis and fitness class, and my teacher was wonderful.  He encouraged me to workout however I was able because at the time, it was near impossible for me to do much strength training.  So, I started off doing a little, then a little more.  The weight continued to come off, but I also noticed some other amazing benefits.  My depression, which I have struggled with ever since becoming sick, subsided.  My energy level was terrific.  My focus was sharp and my motivation level high.  Eventually, I began volunteering in the gym at my college.  I LOVED IT.  I loved being around the people there-it wasn't a "meathead" gym.  It was people of all ages and body types who were, in large part, focused simply on healthy living.  My work was simple; I kept the machines clean and was there for the gym members.  But I also worked out daily.  If it was slow, I worked out while I worked.  I worked out and showered before going to class.  My fitness was totally balanced.  I always did cardio and strength training.  I worked out all my muscle groups.  I was the poster child for reforming one's health.   

Eventually, I started my university classes, which left me with less time to workout.  Later, it turned into no time to workout between working and being a full time student.  Luckily, my coffee shop jobs kept me very physically active, running around like crazy.  Then I got a teaching job, fell in love, and spent my weekends commuting to maintain my long distance relationship.  I don't regret those things because I have a wonderful fiance', beautiful daughter, two dogs, and a home of our own.  I just wish somehow that I hadn't lost the fit, active, and healthy me...because once you fall out of that habit for so long, it is 100 times harder to get back into it.  I want to make a real change, one that I can live with for my life.  I just don't know how to get there.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wishin' and hopin' and thinkin' and prayin'...

I wish I could enjoy a nice pedicure...but my naked toes are a badge of motherhood and laziness.

I wish I could sleep in every day...but then I'd miss my happy, early bird baby girl.

I wish my bed was a California king instead of a full...but I'm glad to be next to Brandon. And Boo.  And Oscar. 

I wish my jeans were smaller...but my heart got bigger every day I grew Ayla in my belly.

I wish to never suffer a migraine again...but my I refuse to believe my suffering is without some bigger purpose.

I wish I knew my real purpose in life...but then I wouldn't have to work for it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Life is a Verb...

Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally

I'm reading a new book on my Kindle, and I'm really enjoying it (thanks to Ette for funding this special birthday purchase) so far.  It starts off talking about how the author's stepdad was diagnosed with lung cancer and died 37 days later.  It goes on to talk about how eventually we are all 37 days away from our own death...

The question is not a new one: how would you spend those days?  The author goes on to explain that as a mother of small children, we probably wouldn't spend it doing wild, crazy, extravagant things like going around the world.  Nor would we spend the time dusting and scrubbing and organizing and straightening the house.  Instead, we'd eat more pancakes and play harder and all those things we do on "special occasions." 

Another point the author makes is that what we write is the legacy we leave behind.  She even went on to talk about how our children deserve to know us as humans, to know our stories, to know the people we are separate from them.  Now, I don't know if I will ever feel separate from my daughter, but as I've blogged before, there are things that have made me who I am, things that have created and are creating the mother she knows and loves.  The book has sections and writing prompts that are supposed to encourage candid and genuine writing to leave behind or spark something else that we can leave behind...

In the upcoming year, I hope to blog many stories and thoughts that I can someday leave behind as a legacy to the generations to come after me.  For Ayla and the sibling(s) I hope she will have in the future.  More than that, I hope to photograph the "little" things in our lives because those things, the little ones, are often the treasures I wish I had in some tangible way, through a richly written memory or a photograph capturing the moment.

37 days.  I know if I had 37 days left, I probably wouldn't waste my time in front of the tube, the FB, or any number of things that are not really the priority.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Reflection on 2010

2010 was a year full of ups and downs, as many of them are.  As I happily begin 2011 by sleeping in after a day full of birthday celebrating, I am going to bid 2010 farewell by reflecting upon the highlights of the year gone by again so quickly.

+ Ayla turned 1
+Spent time with Martinez family over the summer
+Got engaged on October 8th
+Henriette got engaged!
+Celebrated our 3rd anniversary
+Purchased my first laptop
+Welcomed a new niece, Elisabeth, into the world
+Spent time visiting with family in Iowa over the summer
+Started couponing 
+Got Oscar, my sweet Boston terror, er terrier, for Mother's Day
+Ayla was spaghetti & meatballs for Halloween
+My good buddy Tonia teaches across the pod from me
+I have a really sweet class
+Brandon is teaching the Cambridge program this year
+Dad turned 50
+We both turned 27
+Boo turned 4
-Grandpa LeRoy died
-Water heater broke
-Mom endured months and months of suffering and devastation with her dental issues
-Our house was broken into
-Flat tire
-Lost my wallet
-Ayla's first ear infection
-Brandon lost his cell phone
-Dryer broke
-Found out an old friend is struggling with some scary health issues 
-Found out a former student of mine died of cancer at age 15
-Oscar the puking dog

Overall, it was a good year with its share of challenges.  For the most part, we all stayed mostly healthy and mostly happy.  I was very sad to lose my grandfather, but very glad that God reconnected us before he did (see more in previous post: On Death and Dying).  We've had many things in our home break down, but we still have our home, which we are so grateful for and so glad we are able to afford it in this economic time.  Stuff is just stuff, and it is replaceable.  I hope for my family a healthier year with less financial stress, and I hope that we spend lots of time together laughing and enjoying the blessing of being so close.  Many exciting things are ahead in this fresh new year, including my wedding, my best friend's wedding, Ayla turns 2, and we hope to be able to grow our little family after we get married.  2011 is going to be a wonderful year.

By the way, today is Oscar Mayer's (our dog) birthday, he is one!  Happy Birthday, little man!