W is for Without

WAn exploded can of Diet Coke led to a conversation I had with my friend and co-worker Jeremy today. We started talking about soda and he remarked how bad it is for you. I acknowledged this and told him that last summer I tried to give up pop cold turkey but only lasted about 2 weeks before I just couldn’t take it any more and had to have some pop. For the record, I drink only diet pop, not regular, and yes, I know that diet pop is just as bad as regular.

He suggested I try allowing myself to drink soda only 1 day a week (he suggested Sundays, but I think I am going to pick Saturdays). Once I get used to that, then maybe I can cut that 1 day out as well.

I’m currently drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry, and I’ll allow myself to have pop tomorrow. And then Sunday starts my new attempt at life WITHOUT pop.

Wish me luck.

Media preview

Could this can of Diet Coke that froze and exploded lead me to a new life, soda free?

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V is for Vacation of my Dreams

VI am incredibly fortunate ti have been able to travel to some really amazing places. I’ve been to Disneyland AND Disney World.  I’ve spent time in Key West, Houston, Galveston, Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Atlantic City. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon. I visited the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. I’ve toured many, many places in Washington, D.C. I’ve taken family fishing trips to northern Minnesota. Internationally, I’ve been to Cancun and Cozumel, Mexico. I attended the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. I took a trip in high school to Geneva, Switzerland; Nice, France; Avignon, France; and Paris, France. I have visited Mumbai, India, twice; Delhi and Agra in India and the Taj Mahal once; and Dubai, UAE once. But I still have one dream vacation left to take.

Kathmandu, Nepal, and then somewhere to see Mt. Everest, maybe even trek to Base Camp.

In 2015, I traveled to India to visit my father who lived and worked there at the time. He had planned a trip for us to go to Nepal, tour Kathmandu, and spend time Nagarkot at a hotel in the Himalayas and be able to see Everest. But then there was a devastating earthquake which quashed my dreams, sending us instead to Dubai (which I adored, but it was not Nepal — my dream).

I started my dream of visiting Nepal and seeing Everest when I read the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. I can remember reading that book and thinking two things at the exact same time:

1.) You must be incredibly stupid to want to climb Mt. Everest.

2.) It would be so cool to climb Mt. Everest!

I know I could never climb Everest, but I could see it. Maybe someday I will.

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U is for Upstanders

UPart of my job as instructional technology resource teacher is to do technology safety lessons for students in grades 3 – 8 in order to meet our state mandate. For the most part, I really enjoy putting these lessons together, and I especially appreciate when the teachers let me come in and teach the lessons myself. In my current role, I don’t have my own class of kids, and that is one thing I miss about a traditional teaching role. So it is fun for me when I get to come be the teacher for a while!

These technology safety lessons are important. Ever since I started using social media myself and I saw firsthand the way some kids behaved online, I decided that teaching tech safety should be something that happened, and happened young before bad habits get formed. I can remember thinking that it would be something I cover less and less once the newness of social media wore off, but how wrong I was! Instead, bad behavior online has just gotten more common, more vicious, and more acceptable. And that is not okay when it comes to kids.

I teach cyberbullying lessons starting in grade 3 — stop and think about that for a minute. Kids the ages of 8 and 9 need to know what cyberbullying is and what to do about it. That’s some messed up stuff right there.

Most schools have anti-bullying initiatives, and cyberbullying goes hand in hand — after all, almost all typical bullying behaviors can also do be done electronically, thus becoming a subclass of bullying — cyberbullying. In most schools, the anti-bullying programs either focus on trying to get bullies to recognize and stop their behavior, or empowering victims to stand up for themselves to be victims no more. These programs are fine, but I think they approach bullying the wrong way. I think it is too hard to make bullies see themselves as bullies, and I think it puts too much burden on victims to make the bullying stop.

Instead, I’d rather see schools focus on upstanders. See, in any typical bullying (or cyberbullying) situation, there are 3 players: the bully, the victim, and the bystanders. They are the ones who see the bullying happen, and there are almost always way more bystanders than there are bullies or victims in any given bullying situation. I think we need to harness the power of numbers and turn those bystanders — who watch the bullying happen and do nothing about it — into upstanders — who stand up to the bullies to show them their behavior is not cool, not acceptable, not tolerated, and not going to continue. I believe that if schools purposefully created a culture where students felt strong enough to be able to stand up for the kids who are victimized, we might see bullying incidents decrease, and maybe that would even carry over to the internet where people would not tolerate the viciousness they see online. If adults in school, at home, and in society would just model for all the kids in the world what it looks like to be an upstander, maybe kids would emulate that and we could live in a more kind world both online and offline.

Be an upstander.

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T is for Toxic Relationships

TI value relationships very, very much. I am quick to trust and quick to love, and I am also slow to abandon people when they are not good for me. I have some toxic relationships in my life, and I have no real idea how to remove them.

There are some people whom I have cut out of my life that have been deeply hurtful, but the hurtful things they did made it easy to abandon the relationships. But there are too many people in my life that I have relationships with where I know associating with them isn’t good for me because it just makes me angry, irritable, anxious, or hurt. Sometimes these people are family members; sometimes they are friends. I say “too many” because I’m thinking just one toxic relationship is one too many, but I am fortunate that I can probably count all of these relationships on one hand.

Right now, my methods for managing toxic relationships that I can’t end include things like avoidance (I just try not to interact with those people), compartmentalization (separating out the toxic part of the relationship from the part that does work), and self-protection in the form of trying my hardest to never be alone with the toxic person.

Anybody have strategies for how to manage toxic relationships? I’m open to ideas!

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S is for Song Lyrics

SI love words. I especially love words when they convey more than just their denotation, when they are combined to create something greater than their individual meanings. That’s why I love reading novels and short stories and poetry, and it’s why I really love song lyrics. My husband knows all too well how I will pick apart and obsess over song lyrics. Most recently, he has seen me do this over all the songs in Hamilton. I’d listen to the songs and then text him insights or phrases that grab me. My favorite song from that musical is “Burn”, and Jim said he knew it would be as soon as her heard the line, “You have married an Icharus. He’s flown too close to the sun.” And he was right (although that line actually only cemented my love for that song — the lines that actually hooked me were, “You built me palaces out of paragraphs. You built cathedrals.” To me, that is what words can do, especially when paired with music — build palaces and cathedrals.

I always wonder what the backstory is in song lyrics that catch my attention. The first song I did this with was the song “Fortress Around Your Heart” by Sting. To this day, I wonder what happened between the people in the song that caused them to separate and what he did that was so bad that she had to build a fortress around her heart.

Another song I wonder about is “The Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe. I remember saying to my brother once, “I wish I knew what happened in this song,” and his response was, “I don’t know, but it was something bad.”

I have always wanted to write the backstory for “Hands Tied” by Scandal. To me, it’s such a sad song that tells a story. I once tried to write a story based on that song — and it was awful! But It allowed me to act on an urge, and maybe someday I can write a better story based on that song.

Sometimes it’s not the story but the figurative language that speaks to me. “Over When It’s Over” by Eric Church does that for me. The metaphors in that song are so relatable and evocative. I’ve thought it would be a great way to teach metaphor to students.

These are a mere sampling of my song lyric obsessions. If you’ve got any songs with lyrics worth obsessing over, I’d love for you to share them with me!

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R is for Resolutions

RI am a day behind, but no worries. I thought it would be fun (for you — humiliating for me) to check up on the progress of my resolutions for this year.

Run 2 half marathons: well, probably not going to happen. Not going to be ready to run the one I wanted to in May, but maybe I can still do the one in September.

Lose weight: still on Weight Watchers, still can’t seem to stay on track for a full wee, still haven’t lost any weight so far this year. But hey, at least I haven’t gained.

Get my scared butt to the dentist: done. Went a couple weeks ago. I need a deep cleaning, a crown replaced, and 4 fillings. I am terrified for each thing. I really wish I could just ignore those problems.

Declutter: not so much. That sounds like an excellent summer vacation activity, though.

Attend church at least 25 times: nope. I’ve been once or twice. I might be a lost cause.

Read the Bible: more nope. In my defense, this IS a daunting task.

Reduce use of the f-bomb: another nope. I have moments where I’m conscious of it and try not to use it. But it’s just moments.

Looks like 2018 is going to be another year of mediocrity for me!

 

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Q is for Questioning Myself

QLast October, I ran the Chicago Marathon. It was my first (and likely only) marathon, and sometimes, when I think back on it, I get overwhelmed. The memories come back to me like scenes from a movie — seeing my cheering squad run out to me on the street, calling my name, my cousin holding a sign that said, “Run like a gazippo!” and me literally skipping up to him and my daughter when I saw them. Running past Lincoln Park Zoo and thinking, “I am all the way up by Lincoln Park Zoo!” Seeing my sister-in-law at about the halfway point and accidentally knocking her phone out of her hand when I ran up to her. Seeing the pace car pass me in slow motion and the realization I would be losing my course support. Seeing one of the aid stations being torn down as I approached it, watching in almost horror as an entire table of filled Gatorade cups was flipped over onto the street. The taste of warm Gatorade Endurance. Turning the corner and entering Chinatown, which seemed deserted. The taste of ice cold Coke. The angst I felt when I realized I still had a right turn to make before I could head north in the direction of the finish line. The actual physical feeling of exhaustion falling away from my body as I approached the finish line and the burst of energy I had as I sprinted across the finish line and collapsed, crying, into the arms of my friends waiting there for me. I can remember all of these moments clearly like they happened yesterday.

While I am proud of my accomplishment, sometimes I have these nagging doubts about it. I crossed the finish line 8 hours, 7 minutes, and 21 seconds after I crossed the start line. Here is a picture that haunts me:

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This is taken on “Mount Roosevelt” — a small incline literally right before you make the turn to the finish line. It is at like mile 26, so you are so close to the finish line you can taste it. I am walking here. When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, though, I ran. Sprinted, actually. And that action is what haunts me. Every time I think if the marathon, I question myself — could I have run this race faster if I had just pushed myself harder, if I had run more and walked less in the last half of that race? I felt so good the first half of the race, but the second half, I was so tired physically and mentally and emotionally, and I was so hot, and I hurt so much, I spent a lot of time walking. I feel like I remember not being in that much pain or in a state of that much exhaustion. I remember so many things so clearly, but why can’t I remember the pain and fatigue?

Sometimes I am so haunted by the questions, the feelings of doubt that I really did need to walk that I feel like my accomplishment is somewhat dubious, or that the marathon ran me instead of me running the marathon. I hate that anything mars the memory of that momentous event in my life.

I wonder if I will always question myself on this.

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P is for Politics

PPolitical discussions that get hot are nothing new. There’s an old mantra that the three things you should never discuss at cocktail parties are sex, religion, and politics. And if your family is like mine, there have probably been plenty of family fights over politics. If you know my family, then you are likely familiar with the infamous “go to war” fight my parents had (my dad is a pretty conservative guy; my mom is a liberal lady).

But it seems that after Barack Obama was elected, political arguments started to take a turn for the really nasty. And since the election of Donald Trump, the fights have become absolutely vicious and downright divisive. I see it firsthand. I see people in my family being horrible to each other because of differences in political ideologies. I see friends of many years hurling the most awful  and personal of insults at each other over differing political agendas. And the fights happen in person sometimes but too often on social media which invites a gang mentality — people feel the need to rally around their peeps and defend them which just escalates the situation. And it’s all so public and won’t ever go away when people screen shot the discussions or they come up every year in your Facebook memories (if that’s where the fight took place).

The vitriol that often accompanies the expression of one’s political opinions keeps many people going the opposite direction — keeping their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves. I tend to fall into that category, only sharing my thoughts on politics with a select few people. Not because I only surround myself with those who agree with me. I do it to avoid the personal attacks that come with me putting myself in such a vulnerable position. I know that some would find fault with me for keeping quiet. I get it. But I am the kind of person who takes things quite personally, so I find it easier to just shut up.

Sigh. Politics are exhausting.

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O is for Odetta

OMy post for the letter O is my sneaky way of sharing a relatively new musical love of mine, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. I happened to be flipping through my Sirius XM Radio stations one day when I heard a voice that immediately caught my attention. it was this song, “Odetta” by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. All it took was hearing this one song to be immediately hooked on his music.

After doing a little digging, I discovered some more of his music. His voice is so incredibly rich, and his lyrics are powerful and affecting. It is easy to become lost in the sound of this man’s voice — it is actually one of my favorite things to do, envelope myself in his music, letting the sound of his voice fill all my senses. I’m sharing some of my favorite songs by him here, and I hope you love Rag ‘n’ Bone Man as much as I do.

“Skin” is a song that reminds me very ,much of my husband.

“Human” is an incredibly real song.

And the lyrics to “Hard Came the Rain” are like a punch to the gut.

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N is for Novel

NWriting is my first and most passionate love. If I could do anything in this world, I would write. I have dreamed for years of writing a book. I’d love to write a novel more than anything. In April 2014, I started writing my first novel, and it is still in progress. Honestly, the last time I worked on it was on 2016. I just don’t have the time to devote to it like I want to be able to do.

Much like Stephenie Meyer did for Twilight, I got the idea for the novel from a dream. But unlike Stephenie Meyer, I likely won’t write a blockbuster novel and make millions!

The working title is Living Without Dying. I would classify it in the genre of women’s fiction. Here is a synopsis of the storyline as I envision it right now:

“Some people find comfort in the familiar, in routine. Not Lianne. Despite having a wonderful marriage to a devoted husband, a daughter with a promising life ahead of her once she graduates college, a steady job, and terrific friends, Lianne yearns for more. The comfort, the familiarity is suffocating her. As she looks for ways to shake up her life, she finds herself seeking out more and more extreme experiences. Her husband Mark tries to be supportive through it all, but Lianne’s dissatisfaction with the life they have is baffling to him and it becomes harder and harder to be the supportive husband. Mark and Lianne need to find their way back to each other, but it is possible that they will be lost forever if they can’t find some way to continue living life together instead of separately at the same time.”

I started one draft and had a friend read it — a very high risk action for me as I am incredibly sensitive about my writing, especially my creative writing. She gave me good feedback which required a major overhaul of what I had originally done (and an overhaul I suspected the novel needed). I am still in the middle of trying to complete that overhaul, and to be honest, I know how I want the story to end but I am still unsure about how I want to get my characters there.

My husband recently had a dream of his own that he shared with me that he thought would make a good topic for a novel. That one needs a lot of pre-writing work yet, but I’ve got a bunch of ideas in my head that I desperately need to get written down before I lose them. I already developed a working title for that book — Meeting the Child I Never Had. I wonder what he will think of that idea 🙂

Until I get some dedicated time, my novel ideas will have to come to life slowly. Maybe they will only live in my world, but who knows. Maybe someday, if I get them finished, they will live in your world, too!

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