Andrew and I bought our first home in late May. It's a delightful 2 bedroom condo that is much closer to work. My commute to school will be down to 15 minutes instead of 40!
Renovations began the day after we closed escrow, and it's been a construction zone ever since. Today I thought that I would go through a tour our new home in all of its hideous glory.
I wrote this one year ago today, but I never posted it because I felt self conscious about my writing. I have been very introspective and grown a lot over the past year, and one of things I focused on specifically is my self-esteem. So I'm posting this because I don't feel any of what I felt this time last year.
I went to the DMV this morning to renew my driver's license. If you've not been recently, let me reassure you that nothing has changed. They still only have 5 people working even though they have 17 windows. The employees still take ages to complete simple tasks, whether it is to make a single page copy or get change from their supervisor. And yes, the people in line still stew in silent rage.
I sat down and pulled out the book I started last night - The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches - and waited. Save for the elderly gentleman a few seats down, I was the only one reading. People of all ages around us passed the time on their phones.
Fast forward to my kitchen table two hours later.
Andrew read "Please Stop Marrying Fictional Characters to People They Met as Children, It's Creepy" aloud as I finished a breakfast smoothie. In this rant piece (hey, not my words - it is labeled as such), author Katherine Trendacosta claims that a character marrying someone he or she met as a child is not only a "trope that is nigh ubiquitous in YA novels," but that it is also "creepy as hell."
I have very strong opinions on the matter for several reasons. First, I loved the Harry Potter series and delighted in the romantic pairings of Ron & Hermione and Harry & Ginny. Second, I am disgusted by our culture's current views on and portrayal of love, marriage, and sex. Third, my husband and I met 20 years ago on the first day of 4th grade.
Young Adult Fiction
As a voracious reader, lover of YA fiction, and English teacher, I have strong opinions about the options available to young readers. Not every YA story depicts romantic relationships, but given the raging hormones of the audience, it makes sense why many authors incorporate a romance into other fiction genres.
While Harry Potter is only one example, let's look at it closely. Harry and Hermione are friends for years with no romance between them. I think it is very important for people to see an example of opposite sex friendship, since it is very possible. Harry has two girlfriends during his time at Hogwarts. He dates Cho Chang and later Ginner Weasley. He breaks up with Ginny and leaves Hogwarts to find Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes. Ron dates Lavender Brown for a few months. Hermione dates Viktor Krum and Cormac McLaggen. Ginny dates Michael Corner and Dean Thomas. Although these relationships are not serious, they are important because they are typical teen romances. The characters make silly choices, have petty disagreements, and sometimes have dramatic breakups. The characters are playing at relationships. This is true of a high school campus. Teens "play" at relationships just like they used to "play" house in grade school. I believe that these immature relationships lead people to find out who they really are and what they really value. Someone can believe that looks are the most important thing until they find out what it means to date a beautiful moron or a gorgeous jerk. Sadly, some people never get away from this and actually base a marriage on superficial qualities. Man, will they be in for a huge shock! More on this later. For now, back to the Hogwarts gang. Readers don't actually get to see the growth of the relationship between Ron and Hermione or Harry and Ginny when the characters are in their 20s or 30s. Instead, Deathly Hallows' Epilogue is a flash forward to the two couples some time in their late 30s or early 40s with preteens of their own.
What these relationships actually communicate to young readers is not that a first love is a forever love. Instead, it reveals a true, lasting love is a connection that stands the test of time. Quite beautifully, this story depicts that love - whether it is a friendship or a romance - endures long after excitement and adventures end. Literature is not alone in this depiction either. Whether it is the Bible or Shakespeare, True Love is almost an entity unto itself and it does not fail. Ever.
What is Love?
One of Katherine's qualms with this pattern in YA literature is the depiction of love. She balks at the idea of friends-turned-lovers because it is "as if love is some kind leveled-up friendship." Well, that's exactly what love is. Love is a friendship set on fire. We all know that looks fade, but only some people are aware that passion is not sustainable beyond a relationship's honeymoon period. The real secret to a lasting relationship is whether or not it is rooted in true friendship. Some days, you will hate your significant other. Modern culture will tell you that not only do you deserve to be happy, but also that your happiness should come before anything else. While there are truly people who should not be together because the relationship is toxic or a partner is dangerous, most marriages fail because people did not expect that they would have to work at their relationship. When things get hard, people bail out. Here's what Disney and your mama never told you; happily ever after doesn't just happen effortlessly. Being an adult is hard work. Having the career of your dreams is hard work. Having a healthy marriage is hard work.
Quite rightly, Katherine asks, "What percentage of the population marries their childhood sweetheart these days?" I have to agree with her on this. Marrying a person you met when you were young is rare. But what does it say about our culture when swiping left is more legitimate a dating method than falling for a childhood friend? I have lost count of the number of articles I have read where millennials are complaining about the current dating culture because it's confusing or unfulfilling. So many people are tired of flirting through social media because it's lazy. Liking or commenting on a photo takes very little effort. And let's face it, a clever comment on Instagram is not as impressive as a clever comment in person. Most people, when given enough time, can come up with the "perfect" thing to say. It takes both wit and guts to say something amusing to your crush's face. In an age of "Netflix and chill" and "sliding into the dms," it's really nice to have a sincere and meaningful interaction with someone. However, meaningful interactions seem to be on the decline.
Let's revisit the relationship based on superficial qualities. It simply cannot stand the test of time. Washboard abs don't pay the bills. Bedroom eyes won't take out the trash. Unfortunately, the media emphasizes, and modern dating reinforces, that physical attractiveness is the single most important factor. Unfortunately, the media portrays a very one-dimensional romantic relationship. It's exciting and it's hot because it's based on chemistry. Sure, a romantic relationship has those things going for it, but those are not its foundation. A straw house that is not tied into a foundation will fall over in the slightest breeze, while a fortress well entrenched in the earth will stand tall. Likewise, a relationship built on mutual respect will weather the storm.
The Future of YA
Katherine finishes her article by proposing that YA authors "reduce this trope’s prevalence to how often it happens in real life. Or at least closer to a generous 10 percent of the time." I don't know about you, but I think movies, television, and music glorify hooking up enough already. I don't think there is anything that great about fiction reflecting life with precision.
Today's preteens will have their own set of issues, unique to their generation. Thankfully, there are plenty of authors who write realistic YA fiction and tackle issues beyond finding a soulmate like having an unhealthy body image, substance abuse, rape, depression, bullying, and unhealthy relationships of all sorts. Stories like Before I Fall, Looking for Alaska, and Speak are powerful and necessary. Love stories that don't depict the two main characters falling for one another also need to exist.
But I also hope that there will also be a place in the world of fiction for tender love stories where love and friendship overlap. There is something quite nice about getting lost in a fictional world where things are just a hair unrealistic, ever so slightly out of reach. Unfortunately for today's millennials, a lasting love seems to be the one thing that taunts them because is just a hair unrealistic, ever so slightly out of reach.
My original plan was to cook one meal a week and then update my blog and Instagram with each meal attempt. But my journey so far has not gone this way.
On Saturday, February 11th, I went shopping for the ingredients to make two appetizers because my plan was to cook both Saturday and Sunday that week. It’s ambitious, I know. Later that evening, I made Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Soup and tritip for dinner. I got the soup recipe from Tastemade and followed the directions exactly. As a baker, I am used to following recipes precisely, so my approach to cooking was the same. I quickly learned that this is not how cooking works.
The recipe calls for two sweet potatos, so I followed that even though it looked like one sweet potato was enough.
What this means is that the sweet potato flavor dominated the soup, and the consistancy was closer to a thick puree than a liquid soup. The flavors were decent, but I would not make the recipe again because it was not a hit with the family.
I woke up that Sunday very sick, so I did not cook the second appetizer. I was sick for so long that I did not cook the following weekend either.
There has been unexpected learning throughout. We made Ribeye steaks, french fries, and asperagus on Friday the 24th. We did not follow a recipe, but Andrew walked me through every step. He used the Socratic method, which I have found helps me as much as direct instruction does.
On Sunday the 26th, Andrew and I made Garlic Clove Chicken and Almond Pear Tarts. They were delicious! Our family ate the leftover tarts for breakfast this past week.
I can’t cook. It’s not because I don’t know how. I watched my parents for years, and Andrew and I have spent the last decade cooking together. I know my way around the kitchen; I’m familiar with different cooking techniques and all of the cooking equipment we own. I even have decent knife skills, and I know the difference between a dice and a mince.
So what’s the problem?
I’m a perfectionist.
Sometimes when I have tried to cook on my own, I have run out of the kitchen crying. While I hid in the bathroom, Andrew swooped in and fixed what was wrong.
This is not a new experience for me. It happened when I was a little kid too. I’ll never forget the art project I couldn’t complete. I was using oil crayons to draw a winter landscape with mountains and pine trees. I had the whole picture in my head, but when it came time to making my creation come to life on the page, it didn’t look anything like the picture in my head. I had a hysterical meltdown. So my mom swooped in and saved the project.
I have grand ideas, I cannot execute what I envision, and I flip out. I really hate this pattern.
Most of the time, my pursuit of perfection means that I freeze up before I can even start. This is especially ridiculous to me because I know the importance of failure. I even teach an entire unit to my seniors on success where we read an article on failure.
Last year, I failed my 20Time project because I didn’t even try. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but something has changed. Maybe it’s turning 30. Maybe it’s the spirit of 20Time where failure is an option. Whatever it is, I’m ready for a change.
I pitched my project to my kids last week, and I told them that my 20Time project is to learn how to cook. But I don’t think that’s accurate. Reflecting on this, it’s more precise to say that my project is to stop being a perfectionist in the kitchen.
I know it’s not going to be easy. Actually, I think the first few weeks are going to be miserable. Candidly, I’m terrified to let go of this part of myself. I’ve been obsessed with perfection for three decades. I also know that it’s not a healthy mindset. It’s not one I want to model for my students, and even more importantly, it’s not a mindset I want to pass on to my future children.
Last Saturday, I completed my first dish, and I did not need rescuing. Here’s to learning new things and having a growth mindset. Until next time friends.
Friday was the last day of first semester, and I am so excited to start second semester tomorrow!
I introduced 20Time to my students two weeks ago so that my students had plenty of time to brainstorm. We’re on block schedule, so my odd day classes will pitch their projects on February 6th and even day classes will pitch on the 7th.
Until next time my friends.
Last time, I explained what inspired me to bring 20Time to my classroom, so today I'm going to explain what 20Time is and how I've incorporated it.
What is 20Time?
In order to really wrap your head around what 20Time is, first you need to understand the history of 20Time.
Clearly, there are many reasons to incorporate this into the workplace, but why the classroom? Well, since the classroom is what is preparing students for the workplace, why not incorporate this in the classroom?
20Time in My Classroom
First, students had to decide on their project, which needed to be a cwere passionate about creating. Students had to pitch their idea to the entire class and have 2/3 of the class approve their project. Once students received the green light, they began working on the project, which means spending 20% of our class time working on it. 20% of our time translates to students working for an hour the last day of the week (since we're on a block schedule, that means every Thursday or Friday).
I decided to complete my own 20Time project alongside my students, so I am learning how to sew clothes and blogging about it. I am also blogging about my experience teaching 20Time for the first time. I'm excited to share this adventure!
It has been a while since I posted anything, and I'm happy to be back. I haven't had time to maintain my blog because of work, but interestingly enough, I'm blogging today because of work.
When I started this blog, I knew I wanted it to be a lifestyle blog, which to me meant sharing my hobbies, adventures, and various projects around the house. I never wanted to blog about teaching because I already struggle to strike a balance between my personal life and work. This really can be attributed to my natural tendency to fixate and obsess, which makes it incredibly hard to do anything in moderation. I tend to throw myself into a new hobby with complete conviction. I research like crazy, buy all of the materials I need, and then eat/sleep/breathe this new thing. Sometimes, I get so filled with excitement that I cannot sleep because my mind is whirring with plans. Work is no exception to this pattern. I get inspired by an article I read or an advertisement I see and then I'm off planning. Even though I try to keep them separate, my personal and professional lives are so intertwined that it really is impossible to make a clear distinction. Even though inspiration waxes and wanes, I inevitably eat/sleep/breathe my work.
My newest obsession? 20Time.
When I was in school for my teaching credential, I was inspired by a video my professor showed in class one day. In the video, one of the most fascinating concepts Sir. Ken Robinson shares is how we teach divergent thinking, and therefore creativity, right out of children. At the time, I had no idea how to fix that problem. If the education system was the same, how could my teaching be different while still meeting standards? My inability to generate even one idea revealed my own lack of divergent thinking skills. This question has plagued me throughout my (short) teaching career. So when I came across Laura Randazzo's 20Time materials, I was open to the crazy concept of not only giving students the freedom to choose their own project, but also grading their process instead of the final product. With this project, there is no single approach and no "right" answers. Of course, this terrifies me, which is exactly why I am doing it.
I have also committed to doing a 20Time project alongside my students, which is why I am back on the blog. I have so much to share regarding our projects, but I will save it for future posts. For now, I will leave you with my takeaway so far from this adventure with my students. Instead of fighting to keep my personal life separate from my professional life, I have decided to embrace the fact they enrich one another. My quirky and obsessive mindset makes me a better teacher, and my kind, creative, and witty students make me a better person.
I have always loved gardening. Andrew and I have tried our hand at gardening over the years with varying success. Sage and thyme were a huge success, while brussels sprouts and broccoli were a disappointment.
Last summer we built a planter box that we filled with herbs. The basil got overwatered and the tarragon got an aggressive mold. Overall, the plants have done well and have added a richness to home cooked meals.
Nothing quite compares to the ease of walking out to your patio and gathering fresh herbs. And while store-bought herbs are fine, they can also get pricey.
After the success of our herb garden, we decided to grow some new things we have been wanting to try. We have red onions, carrots, rainbow chard, beets, and corn.
Last week we harvested our second round of beets and two bunches of chard. So far we have made sautéed chard, roast beet salad, and borscht. I am excited for what else our garden will produce this summer!
"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The past month has been very busy! As school ended in June, I did not have a job for the 2014-15 school year because of low enrollment. However, in mid-August enrollment was up, and I applied and interviewed with my high school again and got the job! I spent a week planning and setting up my classroom, a week in Las Vegas on vacation, and then school started! We are starting our 7th week of school tomorrow and things are still as busy as ever!
I have my own classroom this year, so I have been slowly accumulating furniture and decorations. I can't wait to share pictures when I have the time to take them.
Friday was Andrew’s grandmother’s 87th birthday, and we thought she deserved a special hand crafted gift from us. Since we bought all of the materials for the ladder planter box, but did not make all five boxes, we had an extra cedar fence post. Again, I found the plans on Ana White’s blog for a cedar planter box.
I never thought about reading romance novels, although I knew two (very good) girls in high school who read them constantly. I wound up reading my first romance novel by accident. Andrew’s grandmother trades stacks and stacks of books with her friends. One summer, about 4 years ago, she gave me a stack of five books to read, and unknown to me, two of them were
This week I read several short stories to broaden what I teach to students. I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of the stories because they depict situations which are miserable or embarrassing for the main character. However, these stories are well-written and are perfect for meaningful discussions about core values, family, love, relationships, and class divides.
Here is what I read this week:
"The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant - Matilde is a beautiful woman from a lower class family. She believes that she deserves pretty and expensive things, and resents her husband for being unable to provide them. When they are invited to a fancy party, Matilde buys an expensive dress and borrows a necklace from her good friend in order to fit in. It is hard to like Matilde's character, or to feel sorry for her, when she has an unfounded sense of entitlement.
"The Stolen Party" by Liliana Heker - Rosaura is invited to a birthday party for her friend Luciana, but Rosaura's mother insists that Luciana does not see her as a friend, but as the maid's daughter. It is interesting to read a story in which a slow understanding rolls over you instead of the author revealing all in a dramatic pivotal moment.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber - Walter daydreams more than he experiences real life. Whether he is saving the patient in the operating room or flying solo in a bombing mission for the war, Walter's secret daydreams are as fascinating to readers as they are annoying to his wife.
"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry - A poor couple sell precious belongings in order to afford Christmas presents for one another. This story is more frustrating than heartwarming to me because I think the couple could have spent their money more wisely.
"Woman Hollering Creek" by Sandra Cisneros - Cleófilas hopes to find passion like she sees in a telenovela - a man to take her away from her endless chores - and instead winds up in an unfamiliar country, trapped and miserable. I have mixed feelings about this story. It not easy to read because of the loneliness Cleófilas feels and the abuse she endures. However, I don't believe in only reading happy stories, and this story is well-written and a fast read.
I am so excited that the wedding gift my friend Lauren has been working on has arrived today!
A short while after Andrew proposed in March, Lauren started making our wedding present; one of her famous handmade quilts. I have secretly wanted one of these beauties ever since she started quilting almost ten years ago.
This quilt will be loved by our family for years to come.
Thank you Lauren!
This week I did not finish my challenge on time. I will update when I have!
*Update Wednesday 7/16*
I have finished reading the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. The play portrays the circumstances of the Younger family, a typical African American family living Chicago’s South Side. With five people in a two bedroom apartment, spirits are down because of dreams unrealized and deteriorating family relationships. Hansberry’s realistic portrayal of complex family relationships is refreshing and insightful, but the subject matter is on the depressing side. This is not the play to read if you are looking for a light read, but it is definitely worth reading.
As I mentioned before, I began reading a book three days into my summer vacation because I finally had the free time to do so. Three weeks later, I have decided to continue by reading a book a week.
Here are my first three in review:
Week 1: Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot
Week 2: Persepolis by Majane Satrapi
Week 3: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Today was a very exciting day because we received our marriage license in the mail and our wedding photos are finally available!
As my first year of teaching came to a close, I realized how little time I had made for myself and my interests. The first week of summer was the first time I had read a book for fun in over a year. Growing up, I was a voracious reader, so this realization was disheartening. After my second week, and second book, came to a close, I realized that I could keep up the pace. There, my summer challenge was born; I will read a book a week.
Every Sunday, I will check in and tell you how successful (or unsuccessful) I was, as well as give you a quick review of the book I devoured. Later this week I will fill you in on my first three reads.
Have you set a challenge for yourself recently? Do you have a novel suggestion? Let me know in the comments!
This lifestyle blog is focused on sharing my adventures in travel, food, and DIY home projects. Since I am a teacher, I am sure that some of my teaching philosophies or favorite things to read will make their way into my posts as well. I hope you are entertained and inspired!