Sunday, July 15, 2018

Welcome Back or Welcome *To* This Side of Perfect

Whew! It has been a *long* time since I've pecked out a few words on the old blog. In fact, it's been a whole year (plus a few days).

I want to welcome those newcomers who have begun to follow me on Instagram. For those small readers who have been waiting to hear from me, welcome back!

Where have I been? Sadly, right here. Paralyzed by fear. Fear of what, you ask? Fear of you.

Yes, you. Why should I fear you? Well, the short answer is, I shouldn't. But the longer answer is I've been inside my head for quite some time and you've been there with me.

What if you don't like what I have to say?
What if you don't like me?
What if you think my ideas are stupid?
What if you don't agree with me?

After taking a long hiatus from the blog and delving into a Bible study (several, actually) that have caused me to pause and really think about the questions above, I've come to the following conclusions:

You probably won't like everything I have to say. I'm recommitting my purpose for this blog. If you look toward the top, you will see the following:
Several (several!) years ago, this verse came to my heart when I began thinking about writing a blog. (Back then, my blog went through several names: Woman Within. Horizontal Yo-Yo.) My mission for the blog never changed: I wanted to showcase Christ's strength through my weakness. This is where I came up with the name This Side of Perfect.

I recognize that we will never be perfect this side of heaven. But the good news is we don't have to be!

I once read a review about my blog from a reader who questioned the validity of my mission. Briefly paraphrased she said: why would I want to be reminded of my weakness? Why would I want to celebrate weakness?

Valid points. Why would you want to be reminded?

My blog is geared toward women who (I'm assuming) are trying to keep one million and one plates spinning and failing miserably. (Or maybe she's rocking it - but she's failing in other areas.)

The truth is, as women we can do it all; we just can't do it all at once. No matter what we're doing at any given point, we are not doing it in another. If we're giving it our all at work, we might not be giving it our all to our families. If we're giving it our all to our families, chances are good, we're not giving 110% at work. And at the very least, we aren't taking care of us; refilling our spiritual buckets.

Which leads me to my next point...

There's a good chance, you might not like me. Oh, I don't mean personally. But you might not like what I stand for. That previous section might have ruffled your feathers or bruised your toes a bit.

But that's okay. If I say something that offends you, I'm giving you something to think about. To analyze. And maybe you'll come to realize that what I say has a bit of truth to it.

Of course, if you decide to completely discount what I write, that's okay, too. Because I might not be writing this for you right now.

I might be writing this for you. Or you. Or you. Yes, you. I see you over there.

For the longest time, I was the woman trying to spin all the plates. Only I wasn't succeeding. I was failing miserably. And what's more, I felt bad that I was failing. And that feeling bad was making me feel less than.

Less than a woman. Less than a mom. Less than a friend. Less than a Child of God.

If this is you, I want to encourage you. You are doing awesome! I can almost guarantee that you are your worst critic. Your people - your circle - think you're pretty amazing.

So, at the end of the day after I've spent some time with The Father, I've come to realize that this isn't about me. It's about Him. And I hope that through my words, He speaks to those of you who need to hear His voice.

And for everybody else, I hope I can encourage you that you aren't alone in your struggles. You are amazing. There is only one you - celebrate that! No one can do what you do in the relationships you have. Nurture those. Give them your 110%.

Until next time,
 photo TSOP Signature.png

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Countdown to my 41st Birthday

My birthday is in 10 days. There, I said it.

Birthdays are a big deal to me. They always have been. In my classroom, we celebrate everybody's birthday. The Man Beast started a tradition four years ago when I started my teaching gig. On each student's birthday (and lately, each adult's birthday), he makes homemade cupcakes to celebrate each birthday girl/boy's Big Day. During the years when I have a large caseload and multiple birthdays in a month, I choose one Friday out of that birthday month to celebrate.

This might sound a little ambitious to other teachers, but in my classroom, we celebrate life. In my classroom, I TELL my students I love them on a daily basis and mean it because there is no guarantee they will come back to me the next day. This is a heartache I choose not to dwell on for long. So, instead - we celebrate!

I will celebrate birthdays as long as I'm able. And in 10 days, I'd like you to join me in celebrating mine.

I have friends and family from all over the world (literally!). I enjoy reaching out to them through Facebook and Instagram. I enjoy seeing pictures posted and stories shared. I enjoy celebrating through technology. I would like to encourage you to celebrate with me.

Our local humane society is currently raising money in order to renovate their shelter. The Okefenokee Humane Society helps, on average, 2,000 animals a year. They boast (and rightly so!) that they are a no-kill shelter. This means that they do not euthanize animals to make room in their shelter. They do not euthanize healthy animals. In short, they do everything in their power to give animals a second chance at life to a Forever Home.

This shelter holds a special place in my heart. Seven years ago, we adopted a shelter kitty after my daughter's cat died in our pool. Last summer, our family fostered a mama cat and her EIGHT kittens. I'm not sorry to say that we are, indeed, foster fails as we kept Rachel and one of her sons, Tobi Wan Kenobi (Toby, Toby-Toby, Tobias for short). With five animals in the house, we're unable to foster this summer. I will miss it. Fostering isn't for everyone, but it despite the hard work, it is definitely rewarding.


So, how do I want you to celebrate? I want you to donate to Okefenokee Humane Society's Restoration Project in my honor. How do I want you to donate? Right here. (If you're local, feel free to donate in person). I want to take this challenge to the next step. (Women-of-a-certain-age get this luxury.) I challenge you to donate $41 if you can. Think about it: if just 10 friends/family donated, the shelter would have an additional $410. That's a lot of paint! If 20 friends/family donated (or got THEIR friends/family to donate) we could raise $820 for the shelter. (250 people would get them to their goal. That might be stretching it. But hey! This is the interwebs...stranger things have happened.)

I encourage you to take this viral. (Let's spread some decency for a change!) Animal welfare is something everyone can get behind regardless of which isle you sit, who you worship, or (!!) how old you are.

Thank you for considering this worthy project. Happy birthday to me!

Until next time,
 photo TSOP Signature.png

Friday, December 30, 2016

{Planners for the Rest of Us} 2016 Uncalendar End-of-Year-Review

It has been just about a year since I started using the Uncalendar my mother gifted me last year. I received another one this year (this time, from The Man Beast). I thought it would be an excellent time to update readers on my usage of the Uncalendar this past year - what worked and what didn't.

If you have fifteen minutes to spare, feel free to click on the link below in order to see the video version of this post.

The Uncalendar Lifestyles Pro is a three-ring binder undated planner that comes in red, blue, or black. I received the full-size version, but the company also provides a half-size version of both the Pro and the regular Lifestyles version. The Uncalendar website has pictures of their products as well as upclose screen shots of the pages. The company also provides a skills center meant to help Uncalendar users get the most out of their planner.

After watching just a handful of Uncalendar videos (seriously, there aren't a whole lot available - at least when you compare to other planners on the market), I learned that one user placed Post It Pockets in the front of her binder. I, too, placed two envelopes in the front of my binder - one which I used for different colored pens and the other I used for Post It flags and tabs.

Around July, I moved the guts of my Uncalendar into my own binder. It was a binder I had bought from Staples several years ago and at 1 1/2 - 2 inches deep, it seemed to be bigger and have more room in it than the Uncalendar binder. The plastic envelopes did not make it into my new binder because the whole thing seemed too cumbersome.

However, I did get this nifty Post It Note station from Dave and Busters. I thought it would be a great addition to my binder. Unfortunately, the post its and flags started crinkling and falling off. To be fair, I don't know if it was the product or it's the fact that this particular set up won't work in a binder. I have seen similar  Post It Notes systems at various stores around my community. If, after trying the coil Uncalendar system this year and deciding on going back to the 3-ring binder system, I will definitely be trying this out again.

The first part of the Uncalendar houses the weekly view. I chose to label the three sections "work", "home" and "me". I explained this in my other post and video. It made sense for me to divide my day like this because I woke up - I went to work. I came home and dealt with home stuff. And then I had my stuff - exercise, Bible studies, reading, writing, etc. that I tackled at the end of the day. While I was last on the page, I do not feel that my needs came last, by any means.

I used a color-coding system in my Uncalendar. At the beginning, it was consistent, but toward the middle of the year, it fizzled out to a very basic color-coding system. Work has always been blue. I've off-set any special education events in red. It's a system that I adopted my first year teaching, it made sense to me, so it's stuck. This was before I even began using the Uncalendar. At the beginning, each family member had their own color - The Man Beast had orange, Baby Girl had green, The Man Child had a variation of blue and I had purple. This system didn't stick much at all. First, the colors didn't make sense. They weren't favorite colors (except for Baby Girl's), so there was no emotional attachment to the colors. I know it sounds weird, but it's how my mind works. Everything has to have significance. If it doesn't, then I want nothing to do it with. (That's an epiphany I just had while writing this out! Amazing how writing frees the mind).

Moving on...
Because my system was new, I developed a key for it. I also used the chart to track habits - at least in the beginning. It, too, fizzled out mid-way through the year.
A key for my weird system
 After seeing a fellow Uncalendar user use the big space on the bottom of this page to track her food on a Post It Note notepad, I adopted the system, too. Unfortunately, what I found was it was just as easy, if not easier to track food directly into my phone. I'm unsure of what I will use this area for this upcoming year.

During the summer months, my Uncalendar hardly got used. I didn't have any work related tasks to track. I didn't set any personal goals for myself in the summer, so there was nothing for me to track for me. Even my home appointments didn't get tracked in the Uncalendar. I found it easier to sync Google Calendar with everyone in the family.  This year, I think I will track habits for me personally in my Uncalendar. This way, it will be used during the summer. Of course, I plan on laying eyes on my Uncalendar much more frequently this year than I did last, too.

Over all, however, most of my summer weeks were kept blank. I believe this is why the people at Uncalendar suggest only filling out your planner for a few weeks at a time. I started doing that at the beginning but what I found was, it was just another item on my to-do list. So, around July (it must have been a magic month) I filled in the rest of my Uncalendar. I will say this: filling it out on a weekly basis did force me to interact with it more than when I filled it out for the whole year. Still, I just do not see myself going back to the weekly system. However, my main goal for the upcoming year is to really utilize the Uncalendar and touch it and interact with it several times a day verses once a day or (wore) once a week!

This area is for monthly planning. I didn't touch it. I don't even know what to do with it. I'm going to try to delve deeper into all things Uncalendar and really try to utilize this for a goal. I think the reason why I never used it is because I never had any real goals. I wasn't a goal setter last year. I was all talk - and even after awhile that fizzled out. I welcome any suggestions on how you use the area. Please comment, below!
Left side goal page

Right side goal page - top

Right side goal page - bottom
The monthly view layout was consistently used throughout the year. I guess I'm just a Big Picture kind of girl who has no interest in breaking the picture down into manageable goals. (Ironic considering I'm a SPED teacher whose whole world revolves around year-long IEP goals that are broken down into bite-sized pieces). I kept the color-coding - the basic color coding - throughout the year in the month view - blue was work and red was SPED (Hey! I rhyme!) All the other color-coding went by the way side.
Monthly view
Do you see that area on the far left, highlighted in red? This is where I put my weekly to-dos on the monthly calendar. For example, when my son graduated high school this past May, I needed to be sure to get out invitations and announcements and consider sleeping arrangements at the house. I placed these things on my "big calendar". They did not, however, consistently make it to my weekly to do lists.

To make the monthly calendar section easier to use, I used these tabs. They come in four colros: red, blue, green and yellow. I divided my months according to "seasons" (read: as the colors made sense to me). Blue were the cooler months, yellow were the spring months, green were the summer months, and red were the back to school/fall months. I stuck the tabs in the Uncalendar and they never once came loose the whole year (and remember, while the majority of my Uncalendar went untouched, the monthly view got *a lot* of use.) I will transfer these tabs over to my new Uncalendar. If they end up not sticking, I will be buying more. The system really worked for me.

On the very back page of the monthly view is a next-year-at-a-glance page. As a teacher, this page was invaluable to me! Since I began my Uncalendar in January (the middle of the school year), I have future dates that do not fit in my current Uncalendar. January through May/June dates are listed on this page in my Uncalendar and now that I have my new one, I'll transfer these dates over. And, in August, when I get dates for next January through May/June, I will place those dates on this page in my *new* Uncalendar. My only regret is that half of this page ends up going unused. I hardly ever get dates further than a year ahead. I suppose I could use this area for more goal setting in the new year? I will have to give more thought to this. I used color coding in this area too - but very basic. Again, blue for work, red for SPED, etc.
Upcoming year-at-a-glance

I think my biggest issue with my Uncalendar use this past year was just not using it as much as I should/could have. The phone book feature in the back went completely untouched because - you guessed it - all my contacts were in my phone. This was one reason why I opted for the coil-bound Uncalendar this year. It's more streamlined and it doesn't have a lot of features that the Pro does, but it still has the writing space I crave (but apparently don't use) that the half sized version does not.
Waste of paper for me
My over all opinion about the Uncalendar after one year of "use": I really like it. I will continue to use it this year, too. (Be sure to be on the lookout for a video and blog post outlining my plans for the upcoming year in more detail).

Pros: Blank - start whenever you'd like; spacious - a lot of room to write; durable pages - aside from a few coffee stains, my pages look just as good as the unboxing last December; affordable - with several versions, you can find a planner to fit any budget.

Cons: Blank - a lot of space means there is a lot of opportunity to be overwhelmed; Bare Bones - it's not very pretty as planners go BUT you can always decorate it to your liking; Color Scheme - a lot of people are put off by the red, blue, green and yellow color scheme. I contacted the company and they said that a grey scale was in the works for 2017, so that's promising.  I'll be sure to keep you updated if I hear anything.

Until next time, photo TSOP Signature.png

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Making it official: NaNoWriMo Participant Announcement {NaNoWriMo 2016}

I am making it official and just three short days from the official kick off of National Novel Writing Month (henceforth lovingly referred to as NaNoWriMo): I am participating this year!

For anyone not familiar with the project, NaNoWriMo is an opportunity for anyone crazy enough to attempt the goal of writing 50,000 words in a 30 day period, which roughly translates to 1,667 words per day. Sound easy enough, right? I suppose it is. Except that the month of November is one of the craziest and busiest months of the year, professionally AND personally.
But participate, I will.

If you're brave, watch my official video announcement.

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This year will bring forth a number of challenges. Most of the participants write fiction or sci-fi. I will write fiction, based on life because this is what I have. I'm using this past year's heartaches to create a story. I think it's going to be a very loose sequel to Uncharted Dreams, my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel. (It's unpublished, please do not look for it. You won't find it. And if you DO find it, please tell me immediately.)

Aside from the emotional aspect of writing this year, I've also got the general busyness of life. This will be my first year participating as a lead teacher. It will be a challenge, but I want to get back to writing. As I mention in the above video, I'm giving myself permission to completely suck at writing next month. I'm putting away my inner editor and just writing. I don't have delusions of grandeur. I know that this piece will not get published. Not right now. Maybe not ever. But I'm giving myself permission to write it.

There are three ways that people approach writing 50,000 words during the month of November.

1. Planner - These people completely plan out their novel weeks (maybe months) in advanced and use pages of outlines write their novels.  Many authors have up to 60 pages of outlines detailing each and every event in their novels and write from that.

2. Panters - These people sit down at their computers and begin typing. I wrote my 2007 novel like this. It worked. As I was nearing 50,000 words, however, I felt like my novel needed to be finished, so I rushed the ending. I don't like the ending at all and I feel like my story could be and should be "fleshed out" more to include a stronger story with a stronger plot and stronger characters. Also, as I was writing it, I felt that it would be part of a series, following the main characters through many of their adventures through life as young adults.

3. Planters - These people are a mix of Planners and Pantsers - hence the name. They flesh out a basic understanding of their story, but let their characters determine the story. Pistol Packin' Annie wants to travel to the big city? Okay, let's do that.

I will be plantsing my novel this year. I have a basic idea of characters and plot, but really want to see where I "go" with it. I used a new strategy this year that was completely foreign to me in years past: deep character development. Not only have I fleshed out how my characters look, but I have their bad habits, overall mood and mannerisms as well as internal and external conflicts. This was a fun exercise to complete because it forced me to think about my characters. As such, I feel they are already stronger than my characters in my first NaNoWriMo novel. So, I see myself already improving in my craft.

But I'm not there yet and I'm totally okay with that. As I explain in my video, I want to use this year's NaNoWriMo to jump start my writing habit. The more I write, the better I will get. It's science.

So, there you have it. My official announcement. I'm looking forward to writing every day. I look forward to creating a new (healthy!) habit. I do not look forward to traveling back home and figuring out how to get my daily word counts in. This should make for good blog reading or video viewing...

Until next time, 


Saturday, September 24, 2016

I Tom Hanks'd My Kitchen {Saturday Brain Dump}

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Back in 2009, I went back to school. It was about that time that the kids picked up some of the "mom chores". Up to this point, I was doing everyone's laundry and helping little hands clean their rooms. Dad thought that if the kids picked up these two chores, it would lessen my load, considerably.

He was right.

The Man Child started washing his own clothes. He had been cleaning his own room with little help from Mom for a few years.When I went back to school, she wasn't quite ready to wash her clothes, so she started by cleaning her room, solo.

Skip ahead to the kids getting a little older and mom getting a lot busier. Suddenly, most chores were divided between the two of them. They did dishes together every night and on Saturdays (fondly called "Saturday Chores" - inventive, eh?), they swept, mopped and vacuumed floors; dusted; and cleaned the bathroom. When they got old enough to wash the dogs, they did that, too.

And of course, they got paid for these chores when we could afford to pay them (which was about a year after I started teaching).

Things change, as they are wont to do and the chore list has once again changed.

In The Man Child's senior year, when he was working and involved in the school play, Baby Girl took over most of his chores. She got more money and he got less (he was making his own, after all). Then he graduated.

And now we have an adult Man Child living in our home. And, up until two weeks ago, was only working part time. But we wanted to give him the time and opportunity to work more and/or go to school, so we absolved him of all of his household chores (aside from his laundry, bedroom, and bathroom because...well, he's an adult).

And now Baby Girl is a sophomore in school, taking challenging classes, and attempting to find "her pace". Sooo...

The Man Beast cooks every night. I do dinner dishes every night. Every Saturday, Baby Girl does her Saturday chores. I take care of the kitchen.

And I say all this to give you a back story which leads you, dear readers, to the setting of my *real* story.

Do you remember that opening scene of Turner and Hooch where Scott Turner (played by Tom Hanks) opened his refrigerator and found a disgusting mustard mess? He started by wiping down the bottle and the puddle of mustard on the shelf. But the next scene shows Scott completely emptying out his refrigerator, wiping everything down, and reorganizing his refrigerator.

All because of spilled mustard.

I did not have spilled mustard in my refrigerator. In fact, this story doesn't have anything to with the refrigerator. Instead, my story begins with the microwave.

On Saturdays, in addition to putting up clean dishes and loading the dishwasher, I also sweep and mop the kitchen floor. After I emptied the sink of dirty dishes, I decided to clean the dish drainer because it was looking a little sad with some hard water stains. And then since I did that, I pulled out the carrousel plate in the microwave, washed it with soap and water, dried it and wiped out the microwave. Before replacing the plate, I decided to wipe out the microwave with disinfectant, noting that flu season was starting soon and it would be a good idea to "deep clean" once a week to keep the really bad germs at bay.

And then it just went downhill from there. It was like a really bad rendition of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie:

If You Give Mom a Saturday Chore

If you give a mom a Saturday chore, she’s going to make sure she does it right.
And because she’s going to make sure she does it right, she’s going to deep clean the microwave.
And when she cleans the microwave, she’s going to have to rinse out her sponge.
And when she rinses out her sponge, she’s going to notice that the shelves above the sink are dusty.
And when she notices the shelves are dusty, she’s going to be compelled to clean them.
And because she’s compelled to clean them, she has to clean the right.
And because she has to clean them right, she has to remove everything from each dusty shelf.
And because she has to remove everything from each dusty shelf, she’s going to notice that the objects are dusty, too.
And because she’s going to notice that the objects are dusty too, she’s going to have to clean them.
And because she has to clean them, she starts looking around at what else needs to be cleaned.
And when she starts looking around at what needs to be cleaned, she notices several things.
And because she notices several things, she cleans several things.

And so I did clean several things. I noticed the window sills because I wiped the shelves above the sink. Then I cleaned the backsplash by the sink. This led me to the outside of the kitchen cabinets.

By the time I got finished, my kitchen looked pretty good. While I was scrubbing dust off my kitchen surfaces, I thought about how crazy it is that someone would paint kitchen cabinet white. This is not our house. We've been renting for several years. If it was our house, I'd like to think we would not have white kitchen cabinets.

We are not White Kitchen Cabinet People. We just aren't. In fact, we don't have a lot of white in our lives, period. I have very little in my wardrobe. If I wear white, it doesn't stay white for very long. Our furniture is brown (it's not as drab as it sounds; I happen to like it). We had a white living room suite once. It was beautiful. It didn't stay white for long. I think, when we traded it in, there was a chocolate streak on the front of it. I'm pretty sure it wasn't my chocolate. But it was just the proof I needed to get a darker set of furniture. So, brown it is. It doesn't show chocolate. But it does show white (!!) dog hair.

While I was cleaning, I was thinking of what it would take to redo our kitchen cabinets. We'd have to ask permission, of course. The chances are good that we'd hear a "yes". When you look at the inside of my cabinet doors (which are dust-free at the moment, thank you very much), you'll notice a muted yellow color. It would seem that the kitchen used to be a muted, baby yellow. (Why are kitchens yellow? Is it so they are sunny and bright?)

As I'm scrubbing tea stains that had dribbled down the cabinet (I'm keeping things completely real, here), I wondered how many times the cabinets had been painted over. I thought, "Maybe, they could be stripped down before they were repainted." And then I noticed some of the natural wood and considered staining them after stripping them. Unfortunately, I also noticed where some of the wood was flaking and thought it might be more damaging to the wood to completely strip it.

Maybe a new coat of paint would do the trick?

Maybe some updated hardware, ala Fixer Upper on HGTV?

By the time I finished doing the cabinets, sweeping and mopping the floor, and wiping down the kitchen mats, I forgot all redoing the kitchen cabinets.

Apparently, my DIY bug has the lifespan of a mayfly.*

Until next time,
*The average lifespan of a mayfly is 24 hours. (source)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The List {Book Review}

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The great thing about being a teacher on summer break is the ability to read books on your own time. I've read several books this summer but haven't completed any of them.

I charged my kindle two weeks ago and saw that I had downloaded a book. I don't remember when I downloaded it or from where I downloaded it. Originally, I thought that I might have requested to review the book from NetGalley - but it's not listed on the site.  I figured I would read the first couple of pages and figure out why I would have downloaded it.

I read the first line:

"I found the head."
With a great first line like that how could I not continue reading? So, I continued reading. And I found myself going back to read it when I had time. I even took my kindle with me to Atlanta when I attended a conference earlier this week.

The List, written by J.A. Konrath is a labelled as a "techno thriller". It's a who done it with a scientific twist. It also happens to be a book I would not pull off the shelves and read, so the mystery remains: what was I thinking when I downloaded this book?

The story revolves around several individuals who have one thing in common: a mysterious blue number tattoo on the bottom of their left foot. The book opens with one of these individuals found dead in his apartment which starts the lead detective's investigation, who also has a tattoo on the bottom of his foot.

The reader discovers the connection rather quickly but Konrath doesn't divulge the whole plot until the very end of the book, which leaves for a great opening for a sequel. However, as far as I can tell, there is no direct sequel to this book. It's a real shame, though. It leaves a few loose ends to tie up that never get tied up. (According to Amazon, Konrath has written 11 books in the collective as stand-alone novels.) As I said, it's a real shame because this could have easily become a series of two, if not three, books.

The book is rather graphic. The head from the opening line is the head of the first victim which has comically rolled under a chair. The language is rough at points but the dialogue is strong through most of the book. Some parts of laugh-out-loud funny while others are groan worthy. There are some rough patches that don't quite "flow" as smoothly as they could and the ending felt pretty rushed. It was presented to the reader in rapid-fire, which considering it was the ultimate climax, would have been okay. But it didn't seem to flow with the rest of the book. The additional story toward the end was good and was a complete surprise to this reader but felt thrown together like the author was nearing a word limit or a deadline.

However, overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Will I read it again? No. But to be fair, I rarely read books for a second time. But I would definitely recommend this read to anyone who likes thrillers/mysteries. I'd also recommend this book to anyone who doesn't. I am this reader. I read this, completely out of my comfort zone, and I liked it.

Sex - 1
Violence - 10
Gore - 10
Language - 10

Until next time...
This post may contain affiliate links.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Sky is the Limit

I've been sitting on this idea for a couple of weeks. I've been trying to formulate words that would adequately express my thoughts on the subject without cheapening the idea. The worse thing I could is to share something that would totally turn someone off an idea. Of course, to be fair, I'm never going to have everyone agree with me or even like what I have to say. This is par for the course, I suppose.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled out of town for a week-long conference, which focused on educating all students, regardless of disability. The conference focused heavily on what a huge impact assistive technology can have on individuals. It's an excellent conference and I always walk away amazed and empowered to...yes, I'm going to say it...change the world.

Having just finished my third year in the classroom, seasoned teachers probably still consider me a novice. I consider myself a novice. Still wet behind the ears. That's me. But that's okay. I'm also somewhat of an idealist and a dreamer. I know that my ideas would be considered "out there" by some people. I understand that while my classroom has challenges of its own, I am ultimately sheltered from mainstream education. Well, as an educator. I still have one child in the public school system, so I'm still a vested stakeholder as a parent. But for all intense and purposes, I'm a dreamer and an idealist.

I recognize this and embrace it.

One thing about living in the community I do is that in order to get to anything "good", a drive is involved. Just this past week, I took Baby Girl and some teacher friends to the beach. It was about an hour and a half drive. The conference I attended was also an hour and a half drive. This year, I opted to drive rather than stay on site.

Workshop schedules began at 8 in the morning and lasted until 4:30 in the evening. They were long days that meant getting on the road by 6 am. I'm an early riser, for the most part. And getting up at 5ish to get on the road by 6 should not have been a stretch for me. I do it every day during the school year. But there's something about those summer months. I drug myself out of bed every day despite the fact that I was excited about the workshop. The drive wasn't so bad, either.

In fact, the drive gave me an opportunity to think and contemplate things. Sometimes, I just mindlessly listened to the radio. Sometimes, my mind drifted to places I don't even remember. But one thing I do remember was looking at the sunrise every morning. If I timed my drive just right, the sun wasn't in my eyes. Rather, it was off to the side.

Aren't sunrises beautiful? Sunsets are pretty but sunrises feel so promising. The dawn of a new day. Endless possibilities.

As I drove, I came to a realization. How beautiful the sky became was dependent solely on where I chose to put my focus.

If I looked to the left, I was greeted with a bright sun and beautiful colors. If I focused my gaze on the road ahead of me, I still saw the light from the sun, but the colors were muted, significantly. Finally, if I looked to my right, it was light, but not bright. The sky was blue, but the kaleidoscope of colors from the view on my left was missing completely.

As I looked, I came to realize that it was a perfect representation of perspective. Everyone looks at the same sky, but what they choose to see depends on where they focus their gaze. How significant is this in my own life?

Every morning, the sun rises. Every evening, the sun sets. What I see that day (and night) depends on my focus. During the week of the conference, I was actually awake to view the sunrise and I did, gratefully, every day. Since then, I haven't been up early enough to see the sun rise.  I haven't seen many sun sets, either. But as I sit here writing, I am observing the sun set right outside my living room window. But even as I look at it, I realize that I've missed the most beautiful part of the sunset. Sure, it's still pretty...take a look for yourself:
Sunset from my front yard

But it's not as pretty as it was.

And so it is with my perspective, oftentimes. Some days, I'm spot on. I see the beauty in all its glory. Other days are like today where I see it, but I don't see it quite in all of its glory. Still other days, I miss it completely because my focus has been elsewhere. But it's always there for the taking. I just need to choose to look.

Until next time...

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