Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Has Been Pretty Good to Me


The plan for today's post was to do a "year in review" kinda thing.  I even sat down, last night, with a notebook in hand so that I could go back through the year's blog post and make notes of the moments that I could recap.  About two months in, I realized that if they were truly memorable, and worthy to be recapped, then I should remember them.  Without the need for taking notes.

So, rather than just go month to month and highlight what I did during that time, I'm going to share my memorable moments from 2013 that are fresh in my mind.

First thing... my birthday.  The day I turned 31 years old.  For the first time in a REALLY long time (we're talking years, here), my birthday was made a big deal.  Not by my family.  Not by my friends.  But by my students and co-workers.  

My students showered me with little gifts, which they all worked together to coordinate in to a gift basket.  I received two beautiful plates of treats delivered by the last student I would ever expect to get me something so fancy.  A parent made a trip to the school to deliver me a Diet Dr. Pepper and a candy bar.  And, I had my heart melted when a student coerced with the school counselor to buy cupcakes for the entire class.   My co-workers also made me feel very special on that day with cards, treats and well wishes.

I will definitely say that I will not easily forget the first birthday I had as a teacher.

The next big event that happened during the same month of my birthday was the first time I walked in to my new house.  It was February, 2013 that I first walked in to the house that would become my dream home.  It was on a cold, rainy/snowy day.  I remember it very well, and no notes were needed to recall the way that day played out.

After a month of looking at different houses, none of which had any of the items both Hubby and I could agree on, my realtor set up three showings on one day.  All in the same town, all with similar amenities, all in the price range we were looking for (or close enough).  After looking at a couple of houses out of town and out of our price range, Hubby had finally agreed to consider a house within city limits.

Even before stepping foot in to the house, I knew it was the one.  My realtor had sent pictures of all the houses we were going to look at, but I knew which house was the house for me.  In fact, I had seen the pictures many times before, when I had done my own online searches for a house.  But, each time I had looked longly at the pictures, the house had been listed at too a high a price.  The pictures had shown a gorgeous brick home with laminate wood flooring, an updated kitchen, four spacious bedrooms, a large living room, dining room, and den, a huge back yard, a huge front yard, and a pool.  

Then, a few days before the showing had been set up, my realtor had sent me an email letting me know that the house had been drastically reduced in price - enough to be in our budget - and that we should move quickly if we wanted to look at it, because it wouldn't last long at that price.  Looking at the other two houses was just for me to really compare what we would be getting for the money.  I had absolutely no interest in those houses whatsoever, but I wanted to provide some choice for Hubby's sake.  

I had watched enough House Hunters and heard enough stories from people to know that I would walk in to the house I wanted and feel it immediately.  I would picture our belongings in the home, our family enjoying the space, a feeling of being home.  And that's exactly what I felt when I walked in to this house.  

Even though we looked at the house in February, it was March before our offer was accepted...after some negotiating.  But it would be a few more months before we would actually have the house in our possession.  

It was April that I gave my first MAP test as a teacher.  The big kahuna of yearly tests.  For four days, I read from prompts given to me in a workbook, and walked around the room for what seemed like hours as I watched my sweet little things color in circles to the answers of the questions.  I had been a part of Benchmark testing several times before, but this was the first time that my name was attached to those tests.  It wasn't just the kids being tested, so was I.  I was, in a way, going to find out exactly how good a job I had done teaching those kids what they needed to know.

Finally, in May we were able to close on our house.  It was May 10th, to be exact.  A couple of weeks before school got out for summer, which was pretty stressful.  Trying to move in and finish up the school year at the same time.  For the past few months we had been negotiating, filling out paperwork for our loan, having inspections done and then repairs, more paperwork, more inspections, and finally after I was about to rip my hair out from stress.... we walked into a small room, signed our names about a thousand times, and received the keys I had been waiting so long to have.  Thanks to an extremely generous loan from my grandfather, we were able to take care of paying all the costs we needed to pay on closing day, so we had absolutely nothing to worry about once we received those keys.

For the next couple of weeks, we slowly moved stuff in.  And thanks to an extremely generous gift from P-Momma, we were able to buy all new furniture for our new home.  New couch, love seat, arm chair, entertainment center, and rugs.  She also got all of us brand new mattresses for our beds, with new pillows.  She did so much for us when we moved in to our house.  Something I won't quickly forget.

Shopping was one of my most favorite thing to do while the moving was taking place.  I bought all new towels, bedding, and little things to make our house more homely.  I was so happy to get rid of so much stuff from our old house and replace it with new.  Buying our home was a new beginning for our family.  It wasn't just a major milestone, it was a fresh start.  To finally call a place home.  To have a place that was ours.  To have everything we'd wanted in a house, and then some.  To feel pride when inviting people over.  

At the end of May, I finished up my first year as a teacher.  It was tough saying goodbye to my very first class.  The students that had given me such an amazing first year.  I had been very blessed when I got those kids as my first class.  I never had to worry about behavior problems, stealing, lying, bullying.  They were all so nice to each other and to me.  They were honest, and caring, and always worked hard.  They gave me the confidence to know that I was definitely where I needed to be, and that I would spend years and years enjoying my profession.

You would think that once school got out, I'd be able to focus on moving in to our new house.  Yeah, I got a whole week to do that before I went on to my first ever experience of teaching summer school.  Being that we were in the middle of moving, I only volunteered to teach two weeks rather than an entire month... which is how long summer school lasts.  

Teaching summer school was one of the most fun experiences I've had.  For two weeks I taught Jr. High kids how to play frisbee.  It started out pretty rough.  The kids knew me as a 4th grade teacher, and tried to test my boundries.  But, it only took a couple of days of playing "mean teacher" that they started to warm up to me, and I started to warm up to them.  I found out some of their interests, and adapted my summer school curriculum to something they'd enjoy doing.  And Frisbee Football became the focus of my classes.  By the end of summer school, I was voted "most fun teacher" and had built lots of new relationships that would follow me in to my new school year.

For the remainder of the summer, my family and me enjoyed our new home.  We spent many days playing in the pool, having barbecues, having friends and family over.  On the 4th of July, I hosted all of my family for a day of fun.  And it really was a lot of fun.  No fights, no arguments, no drama.  Just kids playing in the pool, adults talking and laughing, and ending the evening off watching a huge firework display.  

It was so important to me that we find a house that gave the kids a place that would provide years of memories.  In my mind, the way to do that would be to find a house that gave them their own rooms, room to play, and a place where friends and family could visit and stay comfortably.  

We got that.

We had one of the best summers we've ever had, and there was no need for fancy vacations or expensive day trips.  We had our own vacation right in our own backyard.  

The summer flew by, and before I knew it I was heading back to work.  A brand new class of students, and my second year as a teacher.  If I'm being completely honest, I will say that starting off my second year was far more difficult than starting out my first year.  And that's mostly because I had something to compare to.  If my new kids didn't act the way I expected them to, it's because I was comparing them to the class before.  If they didn't know as much stuff, compared them.  If their behavior wasn't near as good.... it's because they weren't as well behaved as my first class.  

Once I pulled myself together and realized that my new class was not my old class, I realized that starting the new year off with a new set of students was my chance to shake it up each year.  Try new things, explore new possibilities.  Once I did that, I was able to get myself in to my groove...and fall in love with a new set of unique kids that had their own talents, interests, quirks, and challenges.  

We have had a lot of fun together the first half of the school year.  I have absolutely LOVED the fact that I've got to keep all of my students all day (something that didn't happen last year).  We are completely self-contained this year...and I love it.  I feel like I've got to bond with my kiddos more, got to know more about them, and have let them be more of a guide to my teaching styles and the way I deliver the content.  We've had a lot of fun together, and we still have another 5 months to keep the momentum going.

In November, the first and only bad thing of the year happened.  My mom was diagnosed with a life threatening illness.  It was like sitting on top of a mountain, and then being whacked off by a giant plane.  After spending a year full of rainbows and sunshine, my whole world starting closing in on me.  Fears surfaced that I never thought I had.  Fear of losing my mother.  My best friend.  My confidante.

I took off work to be with her while she visited with doctors and had tests performed, and after many sleepless nights or nights crying myself to sleep, we received good news... it was curable, with surgery.  

A few weeks ago, we had our first bout of snow.  Snow that kept us out of school for a week.  Had this happened in my old house, I would have ripped my hair out and wanted to stick hot pokers in my eyes.  But, thankfully, I didn't feel that way in our new home.  I didn't get bored or inherit any cabin fever.  In fact, I went through the first four days just enjoying the rest and relaxation. 

It was also the week that my mom had to have surgery.  I think that snow was sent from the Man Upstairs so that I could get through that very trying time without the stress and worry about having a sub, and taking care of my students, and trying to figure out logistics of getting to work and back and to the hospital.  He was watching out for me during that time, and a week of snow days was His way of making sure that I could be with my mom.  I haven't prayed so much in one week.  I was able to be there the day she had surgery, and the next day, and the next.  I even got to spend the night with her for one night, so she wouldn't be alone.  It was a time that I could rebuild the relationship with my mom that had been a little tattered and worn. I kissed, hugged, and told my mom I loved her more in that week than I have done in the past ten years.  

I also want to point out the love, kindness, and prayers that were received by my co-workers.  During such a difficult time, it felt so nice to have that support behind me.  It brought fresh tears to my eyes each time I opened up my phone and read a text message or a Facebook message from one of my co-workers sending their well wishes.  They were such a major factor of helping get me through such a tough time, and I don't think they know that.

And finally, I just celebrated one of the best Christmases I've had in years.  A Christmas in our new home.  A Christmas full of surprises for the kids, and love, and happiness.  A Christmas Eve spent with P-Momma enjoying our time together.  A Christmas Day with my parents, despite a few kinks.  Just having my mom healthy and home was a gift in itself... something she had to remind us of, unfortunately.  But, Christmas just isn't Christmas without a little conflict, right?

Which leads me to this point.  Sitting here, drinking my coffee, comfortable and relaxed.  It's fun thinking back to how amazing this year has been.  The challenges I've overcome.  The obstacles I've fought through.  The happiness and blessings that have found me.  

It will be very hard for 2014 to top this year, but I'm all about trying.  Each year has been better for the past several years, so why stop the momentum now, right?

I truly have so much to be thankful for.  

This year hasn't all been roses and rainbows, but it's been a darned good year.  We've had our ups, we've had our downs... but we've had it all together.  

I have no idea what 2014 will bring.  I hope it is as good, if not better than 2013.  New adventures.  New challenges.  New goals and dreams to achieve.  

Yet, one thing that will remain the same?  The love I have for my family.  For the time we will spend together... the memories that are yet to be made.

I'm ready to get this new year started.


Nothing Like Ending 2013 With a Bang


On this last day of 2013, I've decided this is my last chance to get a few things off my chest.  Stuff I've wanted to say for a very long time, and not such a long time.  Stuff that I normally wouldn't say, because I always try and be so "politically correct" and non-combative.  But, stuff I want to leave in 2013.  Once it's said, it's said.  Done.  But, now is the time I move away from that "be nice" mentality and finally release some of the feelings I've been holding in for a while.

What I'm about to say expresses my general feelings, and some things I've wanted to say to some of the people in my life.  It's not with the intent to cause any harm of bad feelings... but enough is enough.  It's time to move on, leave the past in the past... but not before I've had my chance to let it all out.

If I'm going to start 2014 off the right way, then it needs to be with a fresh slate.  Hopefully you've got a fresh cup of coffee in hand, cause this one is going to be a long one.

So here goes....

First, let's start with my sister shall we?  The youngest one.  

You, my dear, are heading down a very dark path.  I've tried to be nice.  I've tried to be supportive.  But, enough is enough!  Whatever has happened to you that has turned you in to the person you have become, I don't know.  Maybe it's because you feel like you haven't gotten enough attention.  Maybe it's because you have some serious issues that need to be addressed with professional help.  Maybe it's because you're so dang spoiled you feel like the world owes you.  Whatever it is, it's not my problem...and I will no longer make it my problem.  It is VERY much your problem, and I wish you would consider finding someone to help you with it.  Because apparently, your family isn't good enough or trained enough to help.

One thing I hope you realize is the damage you have done not only to yourself, but those that care for you.  One being a very special 13 year old that would and has done everything in her power to try and be there for you.  You have caused my child more pain and grief than any other person she has ever met.  Ever.  And for that, I can never forgive you.  The sad part is, though, she would make me forgive you.  She would ask that I let bygones be bygones if you ever come to your senses.  Regardless of the pain you've put her through, she still has hope for you.  She still wishes that you'll realize the choices you are making are bad, and turn your life around.  I hope that for you too.  But, I truly believe that until you've had a small taste of the pain and agony you've bestowed on others... you will not understand the bridges that you are burning along your path of destruction.

But, one thing I can thank you for is that you have filled my child with the passion to NEVER turn out like you.  She has made it her early life mission to keep her head firmly secured on her shoulders, keep family first, and never allow herself to treat others the way you treat them.  And for that, I really do thank you.

Moving on...

While talking about my daughter, I'd like to make a statement to anyone that has or is treating my daughter unfairly.  And by that, I mean judging her, hurting her, or anything but giving her a chance to show you what a wonderful, smart, caring, loyal, and loving girl that she is.

Of course, I think she's perfect.  She really is.  She has a heart bigger than anyone I know.  She carries around worries and stresses that no thirteen year old should carry around.  She does so because she cares so much.  While she has inherited her mother's sassy mouth, her actions are ALWAYS motivated by passion.  Passion for her education.  Passion for her relationships.  Passion for what others think of her.  

No matter how much I try and convince her that it doesn't matter what others think of her, I know that I fight a losing battle each time I utter those words.  At the end of the day, what others think of her is a HUGE part of who she is.  She tries everything in her power to get people to like her.  She will bravely stand up for what she believes in.  She will defend against bullies, she will honor and protect her friendships, and she will fight tooth and nail to earn respect.  

My daughter doesn't have an ill bone in her body.  And anyone that chooses to push her out of their life is making a huge mistake.  She's not asking for anything but a chance.  A chance to show you that she cares.  A chance to show you that her heart is in the right place, and she has no intention of causing harm on anyone.  And I gladly stand by her and support her.  

The relationship I have with my teenage daughter is a rare one.  She really does tell me EVERYTHING.  I don't say that with naivety ...believing or hoping for it to be true.  I can say with 100% certainty that my daughter comes to me and shares all aspects of her life with me. The good.  The bad.  The ugly.  The scary.  The silly.  The awesome.  ALL OF IT.  I will never do anything to harm that relationship.  I trust my daughter.  I allow her to think for herself, make mistakes, and lead her in the right direction.  Sometimes I have to stand by and watch results play out...that I might have already foreseen... but apart of learning in life is learning through mistakes.  My daughter has made a few, but has learned from all.  

She is an awesome kid, and anyone that doesn't want to have anything to do with her is really missing out.

Moving on....

I, like my daughter, happen to care a little too much about what others think of me.  I try, sometimes too hard, to get others to like me.  I try and play fair, speak the truth, and show respect where respect should be given.  

But, sometimes, despite my efforts I know that there are people out there that will smile to my face but would gladly shove a dagger in my back the minute it's turned.  

To those people, I just want to say... it's OK.  I understand.  You don't think there aren't people I want to do the exact same thing to?  Maybe you are one of those people.  I encounter lots of situations where I have to "play nice" because it's what expected of me.  But, that doesn't mean I have to like everyone I encounter.  What I'm trying to say is to those of you that can't stand my guts... I have no ill feelings towards you feeling that way.  I am a tough nut to crack.  I know that.  I'm one of those people that you either love or hate.  And I'm totally OK with that.  And to those people I really don't care for, I will never disregard there being a chance that somehow my feelings could change.  I believe in giving everyone their fair chance.  I just wish others would do the same for me.

I've spent WAY too much of my life trying to please others just so they'll like me.  Well, I have no intention of becoming a nasty, bitter woman anytime soon.  I will continue to keep a smile on my face no matter who I am with... but the butt kissing to get others to like me?   Yeah, that's going to stop.  From now on you love me or leave me.  Period.  

I will gladly hand over any help I can offer.  I will do whatever I can to mend and repair relationships, or keep relationships in tack.  But, I will no longer be going to the ends of the earth to try and make people like me when I know I'm fighting a lost cause.  

If you are only polite to me because you have to be, I know.  If you are only friendly to me when others aren't around, I know.  If you act like you can tolerate me one minute, but give me the cold shoulder the next... I know.  I'm not stupid.  I've just chosen to fight through those situations because somehow, someway, I think that I might finally win you over and make you understand that I'm actually a really nice, fun person to be around.  But, not anymore.  I mean, I'm still going to be a really nice, fun person to be around... but you'll just miss out on knowing that.

Moving on....

I think it's time to bring my bosses in to the mix.

Let's start with my assistant principal.

Before August, I didn't know you.  I had met you when my daughter was in track, but that's it.  I knew nothing about your managerial skills, your professionalism, or how you would treat someone you didn't know.  

What I quickly found out is, you're pretty awesome. 

I just want to take this opportunity to just say THANKS.  For being there when I needed a situation taken care of.  For giving me words of encouragement.  For taking a second to discuss my kids (both biological and non-biological), and let me know that you have my back.  It means a lot to me, and I haven't told you that.  So, I figure I'll tell you now... even though I know you won't read this.  HA!

And my principal.

I can honestly say that I have never, EVER had a more caring, passionate, tell-me-like-it-is and move on boss than you.  I can always count on you to pick me up when I'm down, pull me down when I'm too far up, and JUST BE HONEST.  You have no idea how refreshing it is to just have a little honesty... regardless of how brutal it may be.  

I've counted my blessings a million times over since hearing you tell me that you wanted to hire me to be a teacher for you.  But, I had no idea how many blessings I was really getting until I really got to know you better.  

I'll admit, you intimidated the heck out of me my first year.  I walked around on eggshells because I wanted nothing more than to please you.  But this year, I can truly say that I think of you so much more than just a boss.  You are a friend.  A dear friend.  

What you've done for me these past few months has gone WAY above any expectations I had.  You've supported me, cared for me, looked out for me, and I don't know how I could ever repay you.  More than that, you have done something to my children.  Something amazingly good.  They absolutely adore you.  You are responsible for my youngest overcoming her fear of school.  She can't wait to get to school everyday just to see you, and can't wait to see you the minute she gets back.  You are responsible for keeping my son on the straight and narrow.  Not only that, but you managed to do something I never thought would be possible:  Make him LOVE school.  You have instilled a level of passion in my oldest daughter to be an independent and strong young lady.  I believe I had a fair share in instilling that in to her heart, but you have definitely instilled it in to her mind.  She looks up to you with high regard, and knows that even as she moves on to high school next year, you'll be watching out for her.  

For all of that, I truly thank you.

(And how many people thought I was going to commit career suicide?  HAHAHAHA!!)

I forgot to mention that this post isn't going to be all bad, didn't I?

While I am on the good stuff, let's send a message out to the few people that have taken the chance to get to know me this year, and seem as though you do actually like me.

One person has always been nice to me, but up until a few months ago I would have just referred to us as friendly co-workers.  But, I feel like that relationship has grown, and you are one of few people that has actually taken the time to get to know me a little better.  It all started during a touchy situation that happened with Peanut.  You spent the evening listening to my concerns, providing your own opinion on the situation, and helping me realize that sometimes stuff is blown way out of proportion.  Since that day, we have enjoyed almost daily chats at the end of the day....and I really look forward to our time together once work is over.  We have quite a bit in common, and I love the way you're always willing to provide your input to a situation..and are OK with me giving my input.  I just want to say thanks for being one of the few that has actually opened up to me and let me in.  

Another person is a mother to one of Peanut's friends.  It's so nice to actually have friends that are parents of my kids' friends.  We have a lot in common, and enjoy each other's company.  She makes me laugh, and I know that she is and will continue to grow as a very good friend.  Someone I spend time with, hang out with, do stuff together.  She's always willing to help out anyway she can, and I appreciate everything she's done for me this year.

And I have several other people that I could single out right here that have made this year so much nicer for me.  

Another mother of Peanut's friend, who I actually started a friendship with last year when her son was in my class.  So nice, so caring, and even though I don't get to see her near as much as I did last school year, I very much enjoy her company.  Team members who are ALWAYS there for me, not just for work related stuff, but stuff that happens outside of school.  Checking on me, offering words of encouragement and support, sending a quick message just to say hi and that they miss us if we're apart.  And so many others, during the tough time I was going through with my mom that offered words of support, care, and encouragement...and genuinely meant it.

Which brings me back around....To my parents.  Both of them.

I love my parents, more than anything... but there's so much I want to say to them.

First, this year has been tough.  Especially these past couple of months.  But, before that I was having a really hard time with our relationship.  I hate knowing that I pushed everything I was feeling aside because of a bad situation that happened.  Yes, bad news tends to bring people together... but not necessarily for the right reasons.  I am so thankful we were able to mend any broken pieces to our relationship, but it doesn't negate the fact that they were there.

Call me selfish, but I envisioned your home being a place where all of your kids would grow up and move out leaving you with time together.  A place where your kids would visit, often, and grandkids would spend weekends with their grandparents.  Where holidays are always spent together, either at your house or mine.  Mom would finally get out and start participating in some activities she enjoys.  Dad would spend his free time working on the odd jobs around the house and doing stuff that he enjoys doing.  And then, time would be spent with both of you together doing stuff you enjoy, together.  Traveling, maybe.  Or getting out of the house together just to do something.  

And I know that once you became the full-time parents of two of your grandchildren that my envisioned plan wouldn't happen.  And maybe my plan would have no appeal whatsoever.  But, I honestly didn't expect it to get to the extreme that it did.  Sure, the foster kids you have right now are good kids.  But when do you get your time?

Also, you have got to take the ownership of your house back.  As hard as it is for me to admit, I can say that too many of the decisions in your house are not made by the people that SHOULD be making them.  You guys.  At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what my brother or sister want...or me..or anyone else that feels the need to add their two cents... you are the adults.  You are the ones in charge.  So you might upset them/us... big whoop!  

One thing I learned from my childhood is that I often thought you treated me unfairly, not letting me do everything I wanted to do.  You know what I figured out, though?  I was a kid.  I needed direction.  I needed rules.  I needed boundaries.  I couldn't always have what I wanted, and that was a good thing.  It taught me responsibility, dependability, and that I have to fight and work hard for what I want.

And when you do have problems, they need to be worked out.  Not buried over, pushed aside, or swept away.  Those problems need to be worked out between you both.  Not with me putting in my input, or your other kids sticking their noses in... but you both sitting down, hashing it out, and coming to a compromise.  I know that you both have so many pent up feelings that you need to get out... but you don't.  You just let them fester and grow.  That's not healthy.

Mom, what happened to you this year was a severe blow.  None of us could have ever expected it.  But, you know what I got from it all?  You were given a second chance.  We were all given a second chance.  You are still so young and have a long life ahead of you.  Now is the time to start thinking about things you want to do with your life.  When you were going through the upset and fear, did you ever stop and think about all the things you wanted to do with your life that you never had the chance to do?  If you did, well then it's bloody well time you did them!!

You are going to get better.  Get your strength back.  And then, when you do, start doing whatever it is that you want to do.  There's no time for feeling sorry for yourself, living with regrets, wishing how you'd done things differently.  NOW is the time to get out there and do something for YOU.  Take classes, join a club, be a part of a cause... I don't know.  But, whatever it is... DO IT!!!  I would actually love to be apart of it.. I'm always up for doing new stuff.  And if you sit there reading this with a list of reasons why you can't...then start working on eliminating them.  

Dad, what mom is going through effects you too.  Nobody has actually stopped and asked you how you feel with all of this.  And if they have, I doubt you were honest about how you actually feel.   I know you were probably scared, maybe you still are.  I know that you love Mom, and sometimes you have a hard time expressing your true feelings.  That's often misconstrued in to thinking that you don't care, or you put up a front shielding everyone from knowing what's really going on inside.  

I know that you would gladly lay your life on the line for Mom.  You'd do it for any of us.  And just know that your rugged strong exterior isn't fooling me.  I know how you really feel.  While you weren't diagnosed with the illness or had to go through a nasty surgery... you also have your own healing to do.  You deserve some of the love and care that's being given to Mom during this time.  

I wish you would both take a second to realize how much you love each other, and when push comes to shove... you couldn't live without each other.  

Money isn't important.  Who's doing what around the house isn't important.  There are no sides to take.  Neither one of you are more important than the other.  

You are a team.  A couple.  Husband and wife.  You are parents and grandparents.  Stop worrying so much about what you can or can't do for the other, but work together.  Stop letting the minor be major.  Stop letting small disagreements become huge wars.  

You love each other....and it's time that you started thinking about that and how to show it.  It's OK to be young at heart, carefree, and careless sometimes.  You don't have to be so darned serious all the time.  ENJOY YOUR LIVES TOGETHER!!  

I want 2014 to be one of the best years yet.  Building stronger friendships, repairing and building stronger family ties, keeping in mind what is important but also embracing the not-so-important.  I truly feel that my life has been so blessed because of my ability to find the good in the bad, facing challenges head on, and not letting anything or anyone stand in the way of enjoying my life.

And, now I feel like I can get 2014 started with a clear conscious, a clear mind.  I've said what I've needed to say.  I've let out what I've been feeling.  

My intent with this post wasn't to hurt or upset.  It was to free myself.  If I want to spend 2014 caring less about what others are thinking about me, and focusing on bettering myself...then I had to let some of this go.  

Writing really is therapeutic.  I truly feel better. 

That's exactly what I need for my fresh, New Year.  


Monday, December 30, 2013

Fifteen Resolutions for 2014 That I Can Actually Keep

So, I saw this amusing post on Facebook the other day that gave me the idea for today's post.  And that would be a list of resolutions for 2014 that I can actually keep.  I will work on a more serious list of resolutions I'm going to try and achieve, but to get me in the mood...let's psych myself up with these realistic aspirations.

1.  Spend Less Time Wearing Pants

Having a pool in my backyard has it's perks.  I don't have to wear a bathing suit in public.  With that being said, I want to spend 2014 wearing pants less, and my bathing suit more.  Of course, it has to get warm enough for us to clean out our pool and fill it with water.... but, you get the idea.  Until then, I'm perfectly content with wearing pajamas and sweats more.  Technically they are pants, but they are comfy pants so that's not the same.

2.  Forget past mistakes.....and press on to greater mistakes.

It's no secret that I like to make a fool of myself.  I don't mind one bit dressing up and looking like a total moron for the sake of amusing others.  I never seem to take pictures of a lot of memorable moments in my life, but it always seems as though I have pictures of my various spirit days.  One thing I have no intention of giving up in 2014 is my passion for acting the fool.  If anything, I'm just going to go on to bigger and better.  What will I think of next?  

And to go right along with that, I intend on making plenty of mistakes and learning from them.  I truly, 100% believe that my life has turned out as great as it has due to the mistakes I've made, and my ability to move on from them taking away any lessons I need to learn.  I don't dwell.  I don't give up.  I know that 2014 will hand me my share of mistakes to learn from...and I'm ready for them.

3.  Don't waste time!!!  Use time wisely doing something silly.  Or sleeping.  

I am the worst when it comes to complaining about wasting time.  If I really think about it, I waste a lot of time whining about wasting time.  There are a lot more productive uses of my time.  Like being silly, or sleeping.  Sleeping is always good.  But, one thing I really want to focus on in 2014 is having a little more fun, and not just for spirit days at school.  

I may be pressing in to my thirties, but that doesn't mean I have to act that way.  I want to spend more time with my friends and family, having fun, and letting my hair down.  Time seems to fly by so quickly that I need to take a few seconds to stop and smell the roses.  Or roll around in them.  Although, rolling around in roses would probably hurt...maybe I should stick to rolling around in the grass.  

4.  Take every disappointment as a reason to grow....or hit something.

I have somehow perfected the art of masking my emotions.  Even on the toughest of days, I have the ability of keeping a smile on my face.  These past few months, I have become an expert at smiling on the outside while crying on the inside.  I'm tired of being that way.  I'm tired of acting that way.  Instead, I'm going to start focusing on channeling my energy to more healthy approaches.  Like hitting stuff.  Not violently... just metaphorically.  Maybe.  I'd really like to get back in to boxing.  And running.  And finding other ways to release stress and anger so that I'm not bottling stuff up.  

But, one thing I know I can do is start telling people how I'm feeling.  Rather than just being polite for the sake of keeping the peace, I can find ways of sharing disappointments, letting out my frustrations, and moving on.  Disappointments come...they're inevitable.  But, they tend to get worse when they are just pushed down to the pit of the stomach awaiting more disappointments to be piled on top. That's not happening this year.  My stomach is going to carry a sign saying "NO DUMPING OF DISAPPOINTMENTS ALLOWED!"

5.  Don't let anything get in my way....of eating an entire pint of ice-cream in one sitting.

I like to think that I've always had a "go get-em" attitude.  If I have my mind set on something, I continue working towards it until I have it.  I wanted a teaching job...I worked my behind off until I got one.  I wanted a new car...I did everything in my power to get one.  I wanted a new house.... I hunted high and low until we found "the one".  I just don't give up that easy.  If at all.  

Except in one area, and that seems to be losing weight.  No matter how much I focus my mind on it.  I always lose weight, but it's keeping it off that's the problem.  This year, rather than start the year off with this "I'm going to lose tons of weight" attitude, I'm going to start the year off focusing on getting healthier.  Give up some bad habits, focus more on exercise, blah, blah, blah.  But, I also want to know that I'm not going to be all crazy about my diet.  Sure, I will try and eat better... but I'm refusing to go through any fad diets, eliminating anything from my diet, and making harsh rules that I won't end up following.  I doubt there will be any consumption of entire pints of ice-cream, but if there is?  So be it!

6.  Take a walk everyday.... or briefly consider it.

I don't really need to explain this one.  I know that I will talk a lot about wanting to walk more.  I will even spend many days actually following through and going out for that walk.  But, if I can at least think about doing it, I'm not giving up hope.  

My doctor says I should be walking 3 miles a day.  At least three times a week.  And all the walking I do while I'm at work doesn't count, because I'm used to doing that much walking each day.  Oh yeah?  If that's the case, why the heck am I so stinking tired at the end of each day?  I'll start the year off with the intention of getting in more exercise, but on the days I'm exhausted... I'll consider doing more exercise.  That will be a resolution I KNOW I can keep.

7.  Stop being afraid of what could go wrong.....and just focus on Channing Tatum

How can anyone think about problems while looking at him?  He has the power of making all the bad disappear.  Even on my worst of days, I know that I can look longingly into those gorgeous pecks eyes and make myself feel better.  While some people will be counting to ten to release pressure, I'll be repeating my soothing mantra "Channing Tatum, Channing Tatum, Channing Tatum".  I guarantee that as long as I keep those words running through my mind, I will stay calm and relaxed all year long.

Seriously, though, I do tend to worry way too much about stuff that could go wrong.  That's for the birds, this year.  My boy, Channing, is going to help keep my mind focused on the positive things in life and away from the what if's?  The only "but" I'm going to be thinking about is his!

8.  See the world....with the magic of the internet.

As much as I'd love to travel the world, the chances of that happening in 2014 is none.  No chance.  But that doesn't mean I can't stay up to date on the happenings, and being in contact with my family who live on another continent.  I've found a lot of new uses for my iPhone, recently, and it's become a big help with a lot of my daily tasks.  This next year, I'm going to continue finding new ways for my phone to keep me entertained.

But, I do plan on being out more.  Locally.  I'm going to use the power of my phone to find me some ideas on where the kids and I can go that doesn't cost too much, but gives us a chance to be silly, have some fun, and explore.  You'd be surprised how much something as simple as an iPhone can be when planning small adventures.

9.  Hold someone's hand at sunset.... Just kidding.  That's dumb.  I'm just going to post more pointless photos to Facebook.

I want to take more photos of memorable moments this year, and share those memorable moments with family and friends on Facebook.  However, I have every intention of continuing the fad to post photos of just about everything.  Everyone needs to see what I'm eating.  I'm sure all my friends are interested in the two snowflakes that fell from the sky and got everyone worked up.  I just have to post all the pictures of my cat asleep in various locations around the house.  And I'm positive I'll find some clouds that look ominous enough to get opinions from everyone on Facebook about whether or not a tornado could come out of them.  And, now, thanks to the awesome new photo editor that helped me create the photos for this blog post, I can even include funny little captions and cool effects.

Photos are a way of capturing memories.  Preserving them.  Even the silly ones that make no sense to many people.  To someone scrolling the Facebook feed, a picture of a person walking along the beach at sunset holds the same amount of significance as the picture of my cat sleeping upside down on the couch.  I like to see what other people are doing, but that doesn't mean I really care.  The same way I'm sure people don't really care about all the stuff I post.  But, it means something to me... so I'm going to keep doing it!

10.  Spend more time doing what really matters.....Watching Netflix.

Another resolution focused on time.  And what better way to spend spare time than watching Netflix?  I spend so much time working on the weekends and stuff, I want to spend more time just relaxing in front of the TV.  I've been neglecting my regular shows that I DVR, but that's because Netflix has added shows that have really caught my attention.  Even Katniss has taken a liking to Netfilx.  

As much as I want to fill my time doing silly things, and having fun, and exploring... I also want to just relax.  Take a load off.  Not having to be go-go-going ALL the time.  Hubby tells me all the time that I always have WAY too much on my plate (and he's not talking about eating).  He's right.  With school events, sports, and visits with family, there isn't much time carved out just to sit and do nothing.  Well, 2014 will have time for me to sit and do nothing.  Well...watching Netflix, anyway.

11.  Lose 5lbs a month, then gain it back, then lose 10lbs, then gain a few pounds back.

I'm not going to pretend that losing weight is a big joke to me.  In fact, I know that I will once again focus on trying to lose weight the minute the clock strikes 12.  It's just what I do.  I have done it every year for as long as I can remember, and I'm convinced that one year I will actually lose a bunch of weight and actually keep it off.  However, I also know that I will have success and I'll have failure.  I'll lose weight, and I'll gain some back.  It's just what I do. This post is all about resolutions I'll actually keep, so I might as well be honest with myself from the get-go.  

January through March are usually pretty good months for me, in terms of weight loss.  Then, I tend to slack off a little. When it's time to bring out the bathing suit in June, I will find some more motivation that will last until the bathing suit has to be put away.  Then, I'll start focusing on holidays, and know that some weight will creep back.  Again, one year I'll actually change all of that... will it be this year?  Who knows.  But, if I can end the year lighter than I started... I'll take it!

12.  It's never too late to learn a foreign language....there's an app for that.

A few days ago, I downloaded Duolingo.  It's an app that's completely free, and teaches foreign languages.  I've been playing around with it every day, and I'm actually learning some Spanish.  So, I'm making the resolution that I will not necessarily learn Spanish, but will give the app a good go and see how I do.  Move aside Rosetta Stone, I can actually try and learn a language without it costing me a penny.  

What I like about the app is the fact that it promotes translating from English to Spanish and Spanish to English.  So even though I can't necessarily have a conversation with anyone in Spanish, just yet, I am getting pretty familiar with what certain words are in Spanish.  However, for a totally free app, it's pretty fun and educational.  I'm even considering downloading it on Jelly's Nook.  It's done in a level/game style, earning points and prizes.  I'll give them a free plug.  It's worth checking out by anyone who has a slight desire to learn some words in a different language... Spanish, French, Italian...and more!

13.  Read more books.... or restaurant menus.

I had no intention of so many of these resolutions to be about food, just so you know.  It seems like since becoming a teacher, I've had a lot less time to read for fun.  I read to my kids each day.  I read books for book studies.  But, when it comes to just picking up a book I want to read, and reading it all the way through.... well, let's just say it's been a while.  In 2014, I want to read more books.  For fun.  Just because.  

If for fun reading also includes menus at new restaurants, I'm totally up for that, too!  But, that was merely to add some humor.  I don't plan on spending 2014 eating entire pints of ice-cream, sitting in front of the TV, and perusing new restaurants to choose from their vast menus.  Just in case anyone was worried about that.  I have no intention of gaining tons of weight in 2014, despite how these resolutions seem to be pointing towards that.

14.  Something, something, saving money.

Every single year, I make the resolution to be better with money.  Either budgeting, or saving, or decreasing spending.  Three years ago, I spent a year making absolutely NO money because I was going through my senior year of college.  Two years ago, I made $13,000 that year working as a teaching assistant because I couldn't find a teaching job.  Both years, money was extremely tight.  We tightened the purse strings, and there was no spending on anything but necessities.  Then last year, I bought a brand new car.  That hit our budget pretty hard.  This year, we bought a new home.  That took it's toll on rearranging the budget.  

We are not rich, by any means, but we have lived a pretty darn good life these past couple of years.  Even with all the budgeting and new car and new house.  Sure, I've had to use credit cards a little more than I'd like, but I've also kept the balances paid down and I'm not maxing out my credit cards for the sake of spending money, and we've been able to take care of situations when they arise.  My goal for 2014 is to not be so aggressive with the money saving.  Of course, our budget has to be a priority, but I wouldn't mind having a few dollars each month to do something fun.  Whether it be a trip to the zoo, crazy golf, bowling, dinner, or a movie, I just want to be able to not worry about money so much and just have fun.

And last but not least...

15.  Laugh more.  Actually laugh out loud.... instead of just typing "LOL" all the time.

I am one of those people that overly abuse the "LOL" abbreviation.  I'm not really laughing out loud each time I type those three letters.  I don't know why I type it if I'm not actually laughing, but I'm going to actually make the conscious effort to either laugh out loud when I type "LOL" or only type it when I'm actually laughing.  If it's not funny, it doesn't warrant a LOL.  Period.  I actually laugh all the time, but I never actually seem to be when I'm telling someone I am via text message or Facebook.  

2013 Conversation:
FB User:  Did you see the weather?  We might get snow tomorrow!

Me:  YAY!! Bring on the snow!!! LOL

2014 Conversation:
FB User:  Did you see the weather?  We might get snow tomorrow!

Me:  That's not funny whatsoever and I'm not currently laughing out loud about it, but I would be happy if we get snow.  

All texters have a bad habit of over abusing those quick abbreviations.. LOL, OMG, JK, BRB, IKR.  Texting jargon is killing conversation.  But, I'm not going to stop using them.  I just want to be more conscious of using my texting appropriately.  Again, LOLing when I'm actually laughing.  Laughing is my favorite, so I should have plenty of opportunities to use LOL.  Just not when something isn't funny.

OK, I think I might actually be able to keep these resolutions.  Tomorrow, I'm going to make a list of my real resolutions.  And before anyone starts sharing concerns about some of my plans for 2014, know that this post was all in good fun.  Do I intend on actually following these resolutions?  Absolutely!  Most of them, anyway.  

I always get so serious around New Year, and I wanted to shy away from that...at least for a day.  Making New Year's Resolutions can be fun.  They can be silly.  They can be honest.  

Who knows, maybe this is the year that things will be different.  Maybe I'll actually be able to keep ALL of my resolutions.  Both serious and not so serious.  We shall see.

Either way, I'm excited about what the new year has in store for me.... new challenges, new adventures.  Bring it, 2014!!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Christmas to Remember - Christmas Day Part II


Yesterday, I caught you all up on my Christmas Eve and Christmas morning festivities.  It's hard to believe that it's already been three days since Christmas Day.  But, I promise, once I get through today's post I'll leave Christmas alone and start focusing on the new year....as much as I don't want to.

When I left off yesterday, I had recounted the tale of how I had a wonderful Christmas Eve with P-Momma and how awesome Christmas morning had been once "Santa" had come and the kids had opened all of their presents.

We finished unwrapping around 9AM, after getting up at 6:30AM, and so the kids had a couple of hours to try out their new toys before it was time to head to Grandma's house for Christmas Dinner.

We arrived at my parent's house around 1PM.  Everyone opened up the gifts that had been bought for each other.  Peanut and Butter were happy with the gift cards they received, but Jelly was a little shocked and not sure what to say about hers.  After having surgery only two weeks before Christmas, I didn't blame my mom one bit about opting to buy gift cards for the kids.  She was hardly in any condition to run around looking for Christmas presents as it was...and Jelly was a little more understanding when she realized that she could use the money to pick out a gift that she wanted.  In fact, once Jelly realized that she had a gift card and money from my grandparents AND money she still had left from her birthday, she spent the next hour devising a list of all the things she could buy for herself.

Christmas dinner was wonderful, like always. My dad had worked hard all day preparing a feast of turkey, ham, roasted potatoes, boiled potatoes, cooked carrots, green beans, corn, brussel sprouts (yuck), Yorkshire puddings, stuffing, and turkey gravy.  The feeding of 16 people wasn't near as bad as I thought it would be, and it wasn't long before everyone had their plates and were chowing down around the table.  

After dinner, my parents fell asleep.  My dad because he'd been slaving in the kitchen since the butt crack of dawn, and my mom because so much excitement had wore her out.  Any kind of activity still takes it's toll on my mom after her surgery, and it will for a few more weeks...maybe even months.

Hubby had to work Christmas night, so he decided to head on home.  I had decided that the kids and I would stay, as is our tradition.  It had been something I'd been thinking about for a few weeks, and originally the plan was that we'd go home on Christmas Day.  With Hubby working, the kids decided that they wanted to stay after all.

I wish I could say that the rest of the evening was spent full of fun and joy... but that's just not the way it's done in our house.  Christmas just isn't Christmas without at least one family fight.  And nine times out of ten it's usually between my brother and me.

The brother closest to me in age lives in Virginia.  He usually comes home for Christmas, and that's about all I see him.  The relationship that my brother and I have hasn't changed since we were kids.  Back then, we fought like cats and dogs.  Constantly.  My parents used to pull their hair out trying to break up fights between my brother and me.  Once we became adults, we were able to be polite to each other for a small amount of time, but it's only a matter of time before one of us says something that ticks off the other...and the fireworks start.

This year, the fight all started because of a disagreement about who knew more about computers.  Well, that's not true.  More about my brother knowing more about computers, and him telling me that I  knew nothing about computers.  Which is neither here nor there, because either way you look at it, it's a ridiculous reason to fight.  

But, one thing my brother and I have always been is competitive.  It's a constant parade of who is doing better for themselves whenever we are around each other.  He likes to parade around that he can party 24/7, makes a lot of money doing whatever job it is he does, has a DJ gig that he does now and then that brings in even more money, and life is oh so grand a small drive away from the beach.  

I like to parade around that I spent four years going to college, while raising three children.  I then found my dream job, and even though I don't bring in big bucks, I am very happy with how my life turned out.  I have a man that loves me, kids that are amazing, my dream job, my dream house, a new car, and I'm near my parents so I am there when they need me.  And I like to rub it in that he has no business showing up once a year acting like he owns the place, and knows absolutely nothing about what life is like the other 358 days he's not around.

This year, however, a small disagreement turned in to major blowup when he made the BIG mistake of yelling at Peanut.  

Last year, a similar fight broke out.  Again, it's tradition in my house.  At that time, he called Peanut a fat, spoiled brat.  Something that poor child has carried with her all year long.  Her own uncle saying something about her weight, and making judgements when he knew NOTHING about her.  

Since then, let's just say that Peanut's feelings for her uncle have been very similar to mine.

One thing I've always instilled in to my children is that respect isn't just something that's weighed by age.  I don't care how old a person is, if they don't respect my children respect will not be returned.  My kids have been raised with the mentality that you get respect when you give it.  My kids would NEVER be intentionally disrespectful to anyone, but if they are being disrespected, they will disrespect right back.  The way my father taught me.

My brother's way at looking at life is that he can treat children anyway he chooses, and they WILL respect him because he's an adult.  WRONG-O...as he found out when he told Peanut to shut her mouth and watch her place.  

All she had done was make a comment about how stupid it was that my brother and I were fighting over something like who knew more about computers.  My brother looked at her and told her to mind her own business, shut her face, and don't interfere with "adult conversations". 

My back immediately went up, and I told him that he would NOT speak to my child that way.  And then... BAM....release the fireworks.  

Out of his mouth, once again, was the "spoiled brat" remark.

Now, let me take a second to share a little about Peanut.  For being 13 years old, she's well ahead of her years.  She's smart, caring, extremely mature for her age, and takes on worries that no 13 year old should ever take on.  She also HATES confrontation.  She can be mouthy, but she's a lover and not a fighter.  She bottles all of her feelings inside (something I wish she wouldn't do) sometimes, because she'd much rather keep her thoughts to herself than cause any problems.  And, at any given time, she is usually the most mature and level headed person in the place when it comes to being at my parents house.  Even around all the adults present.

She would give the shirt off her back to help someone if they needed it.  She would pack up every belonging she owns and hand it over to someone that wanted it, if she knew it would make all their problems go away.  And even though she's pretty spoiled in the way her life is playing out, you would never know it by spending any amount of time with her.  Which is the main point to all of that... he knows/knew NOTHING about her.

Well, once he made the remark that he did, I didn't have a chance to get anything out of my mouth.  My youngest brother had jumped to her defense before I even had the chance to breath.  And in a matter of a few minutes, tempers were flaring, and I was packing up my stuff ready to take my kids home and away from the volatile situation.  

Peanut told me that there was no way I was leaving with the situation being the way it was, and that it was going to be resolved before she step one foot out of the house.  Right there, doesn't that just ring out "spoiled brat"... seriously...most mature, I tell ya!

Very long story short, the next hour was spent yelling and screaming.  My brothers were duking it out, I was duking it out with my brother, and finally Peanut took her place and let my brother have all the anger that had been bottling up inside of her.  To the utter shock of me and everyone else in the room. And she didn't just let my brother have a piece of her mind, she let out all of the feelings she'd been bottling up about my sister, my mom's situation, the way my youngest brother treats his parents.  It was her time to shine, and she wanted everyone to know exactly how she felt.  

I have to say that I couldn't have been more proud of my daughter than I was in that moment.  But, being Peanut, she instantly regretted it and felt awful for acting the way she did.  What she didn't realize was how much her outburst would do.

Which, actually became the moment when everyone took a step back and realized what was happening.  Peanut took control of the situation, comforting my mother who was heartbroken by all the fighting.  My mom gave a very tearful, and heart wrenching speech about how difficult the last month had been for her, and how we can't take our family time for granted anymore.  It was then Peanut who starting initiating all of the "make up" that would then take place between all parties involved.

My brother got a glimpse about how far off base he was about Peanut.  She sat him down and gave him a piece of her mind, but in a calm and collected manner.  She told him that he knew nothing about her, how he doesn't get to see what all takes place while he's off living his life in North Carolina, how when he shows up he demands respect even though he does nothing to earn it, how he is not the savior that can swoop in and try and fix all the problems that have been months in the making.

She then sat me down with my brother and made me tell him how I felt.  I explained and reiterated everything Peanut had already said.   He didn't know us, he didn't know what we'd been through, and to show up for one week out of the year didn't automatically give him a free pass to cast judgement and expect life to be any different just because he was there.

Then it was my brothers together that had to repair their problems.  My youngest brother explaining that he'd been raised to defend women, and he would never sit by and watch a girl or woman be attacked verbally by a man... regardless of the situation.

All in all, after a lot of tears, and heartfelt explanations, everything was opened up and all was forgiven.

My Peanut had managed to accomplish something that my parents had been trying to accomplish for 30 years!  Spoiled brat?  No.  Loving, caring, mature young lady?  Absolutely.

Then, and only then, did Christmas Evening festivities get started.  We all played board games until the wee hours of the night.  Laughing, joking around, teasing, and having probably one of the best Christmas evenings we've had in YEARS.

The next day, we all decided to stay for Boxing Day dinner.  Hubby came over once he'd gone home and got some sleep, and shortly after dinner we decided to head home.

Christmases aren't always perfect in my family, but one thing I can say is that they are always memorable.

Since Boxing Day, the kids have enjoyed playing with their new toys.  Peanut, Butter, and I sat down last night and tried out a couple of Peanut's new board games.  We ordered pizza, Hubby played his new video game, Jelly played with her new Furby, and the kids and I laughed at trying to guess words on cards that were attached to our heads.

After all the playing and eating, we all sat down together and watched Turbo. A lovely family evening.  Something I cherish when they happen.

I plan on keeping some Christmas fun going until Tuesday.  Then it will be time to box up the tree and the decorations, and focus on making plans for 2014.  While I promised I won't talk about Christmas anymore, it doesn't mean I'm ready to give it up just yet.  I don't see why we can't celebrate Christmas for a week after it's over.

OK, I really need to clean my house.  P-Momma is coming over today, and the house is quite the disaster zone.  

Have an awesome Saturday, everyone!