Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy 2011!

Happy New Years (Eve)!



I hope you all have a wonderful new years celebration tonight and an even better 2011. It is always nice to start fresh! In case you are interested, my new years resolution is to use facebook less. I am limiting myself to once a day for 30 minutes. As I have stated in previous posts, I find that facebook does not make my life any better and often makes me feel angry or sad. So, I am going to use my time interacting with more people face to face and less on the computer. That is my goal for 2011- I do not want social media to really make me (and us all) less social.

And for a quick car update- I got my car all fixed yesterday (tire rotation, transmission service) and I got my ignition switch replaced because that seems to be the culprit for my car not starting (it has happened twice in 1 week). It all cost $346, so not too bad, but the ignition switch and inspection service cost me an extra $160 (at least I saved $100 on changing my own filters). I slid into a ditch on Monday because of ice and tore off half my hubcap, but I decided against getting a new one because they were charging too much, so I will fix that on my own (it also gives my car a little flavor). I don't mind paying all that as long as it is FIXED. So here is hoping that my car will not randomly not start in the cold and that I won't have to pay even more money to figure out what is really wrong. That would make this a long winter. So I hope 2011 also brings me good car juju:). And that my Lasik goes well (more on that coming up). And that I don't lose my job or get a huge pay cut from budget cuts...

...so basically I just want a good year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 5 of '10

My top five experiences/events of 2010!

5. Grandmom's 90th Birthday party in Nashville. Even though I was sick with a stomach bug (and missed walking in my grad school graduation), which made the actual traveling most difficult and unappealing, celebrating my grandmom's 90th birthday with my large extended family is something I will never forget. I hope I am like her when I am 90!

4. Getting my master in education. Education is a very big deal for me (obvi, since I work in education), so I am very proud of earning my masters at the age of 23, just 2 years after I graduated from college.

3. Moving out. Finally, at the mere age of 24, I moved out of my parent's home for good! Now I pay my own bills and take care of myself. I am very lucky and appreciate all the opportunities I was given by my family to be where I am today. Being able to live comfortably in this crazy life is something to not take for granted. And I try not to (even when I freak out about having to pay $300 on car repairs instead of saving for a house). Post here.

2. Getting a job. I realize how lucky even I was in my horrible job 3-month job search. I am thankful everday for my job. Even when I don't love it (but I normally do).

1. Going to Italy in July with my whole immediate family. See post here. Not much more else to say! I mean it's Italy. Come on.

So when I look back on 2010 what will I think of? I don't know. Probably the year I started my career. But then again, I never remember years as good or bad but just by their defining moments. This year was a year full of up and downs. But for the first time I feel like I became an adult. So watch out the rest of my years:)!

Christmas 2010

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!!

I really love Christmas because of the traditions and family. This year both my brothers and sister-in-law came to Richmond and we spent four days together drinking, eating, playing cards (I lost), and traveling to my brother's vineyard in Loudoun, Va. We do not all see each other but about once or twice a year as my oldest brother lives in Texas. This time all of us had not been together since July when we all went to Italy. So it was a good time. I always find it hard to get back to normal after the excitement and build-up of the holidays, but at the same time I am always anxious to get back to normal as well. I have had such a nice time this year because of my loooonnnngggg winter break. With school being closed the Thursday and Friday before my two weeks off, I have had a long break from work. It has been wonderful. I always worry that I won't have enough to do, but somehow I always find something and love the relaxation and break from work:).

The best part of my Christmas (besides spending time with family, of course) was adopting and taking care of two 3-month old kittens for my brother for a week. I have fallen in love and will miss them greatly. Meet Lloyd (black/white cat) and Linda (white tabby). Look how cute they are!





We brought them up to my brothers house in Purcellville, Va (Loudoun County aka Northern Va) on Monday and they will have such a fun life in the vineyard!!! But I will miss them!

 Texas Hold 'Em ("pass")


Our tree Christmas morning!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Becoming a Mechanic

OK, the one thing I really wish I could do is fix things in my car. I went for a routine oil change at the dealer last week because I got a $10 off coupon in the mail. I figured it would be a little cheaper than my normal oil change. Of course as they are looking at the oil, they tell me I need to rotate my tires ($22.50), change my engine filter ($56.00), change my passenger cabin filter ($56.00) and have a routine transmission check with new fluids and filter ($160.00). I was COMPLETELY blindsided by all this. I came in expecting to spend 30 bucks and go on my merry way, and they wanted to leave me $294 bucks lighter. I had an internal freak out, but said no and that I would come back another time.

I left on a mission: to find out what I actually needed to get done and to price shop. My car is at 50,000 miles, so it is time for a tune up and I know there are some things I need to do for upkeep. But $300 worth? Really? I looked in my owners manual for the maintenance schedule and found that it was time for filter changes and transmission checks, but I wanted to save money. I called my best friends boyfriend who is a car wiz, and he said that an engine filter is important to change but that I could buy the filter for $12.00 at a local autozone and do it myself. Done. I also conveniently found out my roomate's boyfriend changes his and hers all the time and he said he would do it. I went to autozone, bought a new air filter, and he changed it in less than 10 minutes. I saved $44. Holler.

Next was the passenger compartment air filter. This seemed more complicated. I googled it and found info on when/how to change it. It seemed important and pretty easy. I also looked in my owners manual which had easy instructions. It involved removing the glove box doors from their hinges and pulling down the filter from underneath the hood. My dad was able to move the glove box off the hinges fairly easily (I wasn't strong enough) and I found that the filter was way dirty. At least they weren't lying to me. I went to autozone and bought a filter for $14.99. I installed it the next morning in less than 1 minute. I saved $40 . Holler.

The transmission fluid and filter (or as Saturn calls it, transaxle, which I learned because my car is front weal drive) change is another story. After calling two autoshops, the price run from $150-$200 to do the service. And they all said it is necessarily every 50,000 miles. I caved in. I am taking my car in next week for that service and to rotate my tires (I got new tires in May, so I am annoyed I need to rotate them already, but I know it's needed about twice a year).

In conclusion, I saved close to $100 doing some work on my car myself. It makes you realize how much car shops make jacking up prices for things that are relatively easy to do. People just have to take the time to learn about what needs to be done, do it if they can (or have someone they know do it), and shop around for prices. I don't mind paying money to have something done well (I will even go to the dealer for big service things because they know the car the best), but I want to make sure it is necessary and that I can't do it.

And after doing all this, my car didn't start last night. Crap. But I checked and air filters have nothing to do with cars not starting. This is just my car being stupid (it's not the battery). So that $100 I saved might have to go towards something else...bummer. BUT at least I learned a lot about my car and maintenance schedule!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

High School Revisited

The one thing about living in the same city where you (mostly) grew up is that at any moment you have to be prepared to run into people you haven't seen in years. Since I was gone at college for four years, there are many people that I haven't seen in a loooonnnggg time. And this does not only apply to people your age, but it can also mean teachers and parents. I have run into many former teachers and friend's parents of mine since moving back home, especially since I have started working for the same school district I attended. Some remember you, some don't, but it's usually always a pleasant conversation and fun to catch up.

Last night was prime example of how easy it is to run into people from your past. Many friends and I went out in the fan (for those of you not from Richmond, the fan is an urban/hip part of the city with row homes and between the museums and VCU- it's where I hope to live at some point) to a couple of different bars that are all in walking distance of one another. At the final bar it was like a high school reunion. I ran into people I hadn't seen since we graduated in 2004. The funny thing was, though, that a few of them could not believe I drank because I never drank in high school. That is true, I never really drank. I never went out to parties with drinking in high school because it just always seemed stupid and not fun to me and none of my close friends drank. That is not to say that I never drank, but I did not showcase it and I hung with a different crowd. But this guy could not get over it! The whole night he would just comment on how he couldn't BELIEVE I was drinking. Finally I told him to get over it because high school was almost 7 years ago and people change and I have been to college and turned 21 since then. So it's ok.

But the whole experience got me thinking. When most people think of high school, do you think of people the way they were or do you think of them how they would be now? I remember how most people were, but I don't assume that they are the exact same way now. I do believe that people essentially stay the same their whole life, but their experiences and issues change and evolve. I still at heart am the same person I always have been, but that does not mean I have not grown up. Yes, I drank in college, unlike in high school, but I still never was wild and crazy. I never loved to do it all the time, and I still don't, but I had (and have) a lot of fun letting loose and being social that way. Accordingly, I am an adult now, so I drink and do "adult" things because of my age and life choices, but I think my heart and soul are still stuck at fifteen. So I hope that when people think of me, they don't just think of the things I did or didn't do (even though I am proud that I wasn't peer pressured and stood my ground). I hope they think instead of how I treated them and my attitude (which hopefully was nice)! I would hate for someone to think their whole life that I am a certain way because of how I was in high school. Let's face it, high school is not the best four years for many people, so the way they were is not how they actually are. Sometimes I think it would be fun to do it over, but then I work in a high school and am reminded why I am glad I am through that part of my life:).

Where am I going with all this? I have no idea. It was just an interesting and eye-opening experience, because I have no grudges with anyone I went to high school with. I assume we have all grown up now, so whatever you did or didn't do- I don't care. I think it is fun to run into people and catch up. Sometimes we block out the negative parts of our lives and only remember the good, so chances are when I run into someone, I am always excited, whether I should be or not.

And now a walk down memory lane...

 My 15th surprise birthday party.
 My 10th grade Algebra 2 class on the last day
 Junior Year prom
Some best friends going out to dinner

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

T.S. Squared

^1. Taylor Swift. So this year I joined the ranks of the prominent few who are able to participate in Christmas CD exchanges. Thanks to my bro, I was able to make a CD of my favorite/least favorite/themed/interesting/sad/happy/random songs and send an email with three of my most influential albums of the past 10 years. I felt pretty cool, because musical inclusiveness is the ultimate sign of being “in.”I took my CD song selections very seriously (even if anonymous, I still wanna have the ‘good’ album of the group). It was joked that even Taylor Swift could be included in our CDs or as our most influential singer in the past 10 years. I laughed. Hah! Taylor Swift, my butt! Then I thought about it…I actually really like Taylor Swift. I find myself replaying her songs over and over again because I identify with them so much. I feel bad, though, because she is 4 years younger than me. What does she know about life?! Apparently more than I do. Seriously, “Dear John,” Back to December,” “Innocent,” “Fearless,” and “Fifteen” are top notch. She may not be the best singer, but damn that girl can write a good song and make me like country music.


Curse you Taylor Swift for getting into my head and stealing my thoughts! 

But (in case you are worried), I did NOT include her in my top 3 most influential albums of the past 10 years. If you wanna know what I DID include, ask in comments (muahaha my tricky way to get you people to comment on my posts)!!!

^2. Tacky Sweaters. I love me some tacky sweaters. My favorite college date function was a tacky sweater party. The holidays are a great way to bust these out and curse the 80’s and 90’s for making such horrid sweaters (and the people that wear them and think they’re acceptable). My principal recently joked to a fellow co-worker about tacky sweaters and basically dared her to wear one to work. She did and got a couple of us involved in the tackiness. The only awkward thing about it, though, is that some faculty members actually wear these sweaters in their daily holiday gear. So it’s a bit awkward to walk around in them, because people don’t know whether or not to take us seriously. Some people immediately get it- others do not. Our administrators and department got a kick out of it (watch out- it may be a themed day next year), but walking in the halls, I am not so sure everyone got the joke. At least we’re young, so they do look pretty ridiculous on us. And we jazzed our ensembles up with  ridiculous necklaces and earrings.

Ohhhh, joy. Tacky Sweater AXO Holiday Date Function December 2007. Great stories from this night.



Tacky Sweater Day at work 2010. Holler.




T.S.^2. Who got all my references?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Teenage Dream


While at my parent’s house this weekend, I found some old high school assignments on my parent’s computer. I had not looked at these since high school (so over 7 years ago) and didn’t even know they were still on our computer. I had a good laugh reading old papers and projects (especially my writing), but the funniest part was finding an old journal that I wrote talking about the drama’s of high school life. Here is a sample (censored and cut down with names removed, of course):

10/16/02
        First off, whoever said high school was the best four years of their life has got to be joking. I hope it is the worst four years so I would have gotten it out of the way. My life is sooo boring…
Well one person in particular annoys the crap out of me. _____! all the sudden she thinks she’s bad and has to go out and do all this crap everyone else does…why does she all the sudden have to be like everybody else? Those are the type of people I am sick of… I just wanna meet new people…
        Ya sure there are some people like me like but they get in their little moods too when I just wanna live somewhere else. The only problem is I don’t see them as much as all the Humanities people so it still sucks…

11/19/02
I’m gonna do homework and school is gonna be my life till I get out of college in 6 years and then what? If I don’t fall in love with someone who will save me and turn my life around…nothing will ever happen but work…work…work…work. Ughhhh.

12/31/02
        This is probably one of the last thoughts on my mind this new year…I’ve had a wonderful holiday season!! The break has been great…I’ve seen family…I got new clothes and have been shopping!!!! HahaJ And I have taken a break from school…which I really need before exams!! Anyways here are my last thoughts about my year and the next (and these are my own quotes):
“Be true to myself.”
“LIVE LIFE TO MY FULLEST, NOT SOMEONE ELSES!!”
“Many years from now, what I did or didn’t do won’t matter. What will matter is what I have, and I hope to have friends that will last a lifetime. The only way to have true friends though, is to be true to myself, starting right now”
MY RESOLUTION: To not have anyone’s opinion infringe on my good judgment, to be true to myself, to accept myself and my abilities, to not worry, to take life as it comes at me, to be happy with all I accomplish and with who I am. I AM ME AND NO ONE, NO COLLEGE, NO PERSON, CAN TAKE AWAY MY UNIQUENESS!! Happy New Year! Bring it on 2003!!

1/31/03
        It’s been a while since I’ve written because of exams and all that not fun type of stuff. The year’s been average so far. I’m still not in a real good place with my friends or anything but I’m beginning to look forward to things and have new hobbies that keep me busy. Right now I’m not ashamed to admit that I have no life. For instance this weekend I’ll be baking for all my friends cuz I want to, I have an awesome book to read, volunteering and then everyday homework. This is all fine with me, because the last few weeks have been busy. I don’t need to get drunk, do drugs or smoke to have fun, which I think is not a bad thing but an accomplishment. Being a teen is hard and I think I am coming to accept that.

So dramatic!! The funny thing about all this stuff is that I forgot about it. You always look back and generally think about all the good things that you forget about the stuff that makes you mad. But reading all these brought it all back! SO much girl drama! This last entry is a random document that was probably for a school assignment, but I don’t remember what for. I think it is pretty good.

Ever since I was a young girl my dreams, ambitions, and goals have kept changing. The years turn many of my old ideas into dim memories. Right now I have basic aspirations for the future, but these do not involve a particular career. No matter what job I obtain or career I pursue, I want to be true to myself, for I have learned that doing so is the most important thing in life. If people do not learn to accept themselves for who they are, they won’t be able to accomplish anything truly meaningful. I feel I have become able to do this in recent years, and hope that I will continue to develop this characteristic in the future. Also, no matter what I become, I want to be happy, for happiness, not money, is key to a positive life. In addition to accepting myself, I want to be accepting of others and their beliefs. Everyone is not the same, and the world would be dull if we were all alike. I have noticed that many people do tend to be judgmental of others, and I hope that I do not become like that. I want to appreciate all people for their unique traits. My lifelong goal is to continue to work toward personal fulfillment, and hopefully this will enable me to become something wonderful, exciting and challenging. I know life will not be easy; I only hope it will be a great adventure and that I will not regret anything.

Poetic, huh?

The funny thing is, though, that some of the things I said in this journal (and not all was included here) still ring VERY true. Not the friend drama- that ends in college, but the wanting to find fulfillment outside of school/work and feeling so caught up in the academic aspect of everything. I was like that all through college, and still to this day I put more priorities on work than I would like. But I am getting better. It’s easy to want something else, but it’s harder to actually realize how you should go about doing it. It’s like you work your whole life to get somewhere, and then once you’re there you don’t know what to do. It’s hard to work for something and have it be your whole world, and when it comes and you’ve achieved it, you lose a bit of yourself. School was always a big part of me, so I am still figuring out how to channel that drive and energy into another aspect of my life. (Hobby suggestions anyone?) But I do find that things I wanted in high school are still the things that I want today. Sure, ideals may change forms and you may want them in different ways, but I guess the key aspects to who you really are really never change. You may get older and wiser, but your soul is still the same.

I guess in the end, we’re all just big kids with big dreams waiting for that fairytale life…

…. cue Taylor Swift song.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blueberries

I had a nice long post about my views on education after working in the schools for 4 months, but I thought I would save it for another time and share with you this awesome story. It touches on part of what I wanted to talk about anyways.
 
The Blueberry Story
A business leader learns his lesson.
by Jamie Robert Vollmer
Special Note: The author of this story was gracious enough to give us permission to reprint his story and added this comment. "I have received many kind words for telling the Blueberry story, but the real credit goes to the teacher. I took some license with her comments for publication, but she was eloquent and passionate; she did an amazing job of both crystallizing the message and waking me up. My teenagers would have called me a "slug" had I not been changed by her words."

'If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn't be in business very long!"

I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of in- service training. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.

I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that became famous in the middle-1980s when People Magazine chose its blueberry flavor as the "Best Ice Cream in America."

I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the Industrial Age and out of step with the needs of our emerging "knowledge society." Second, educators were a major part of the problem: They resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! Total Quality Management! Continuous improvement!

A school is not an ice cream company: It can't send back its inferior blueberries.

In retrospect, the speech was perfectly balanced—equal parts ignorance and arrogance.

As soon as I finished, a woman's hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant. She was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload.

She began quietly, "We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream."

I smugly replied, "Best ice cream in America, ma'am."

"How nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth?"

"Sixteen percent butterfat," I crowed.

"Premium ingredients?" she inquired.

"Super-premium! Nothing but triple-A." I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.

"Mr. Vollmer," she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, "when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?"

In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap. I was dead meat, but I wasn't going to lie.

"I send them back."

"That's right!" she barked, "and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all. Every one. And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it's not a business. It's school."

In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians, and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, "Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!"

Schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs, and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.

And so began my long transformation.

Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a school is not a business. Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night.

None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when, and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a postindustrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with the understanding, trust, permission, and active support of the surrounding community. For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs, and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.

Jamie Robert Vollmer, a former business executive and attorney, is now a keynote presenter and consultant who works to increase community support for public schools. He lives in Fairfield, Iowa, and can be reached by e-mail at jamie@jamievollmer.com.
 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ms. Walsh, the Inspirational


I have a dry erase board outside my office that I update everyday with a quote. I think it’s a good way to bring motivation or thoughts to ponder for the students. I use two websites and pick a quote I think is more relevant to high school kids. It’s been nice to have students and faculty read the quotes and then comment on them. Here are some of my favorites.

About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you.
Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won't like you at all.
-Rita Mae Brown

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Experience is the teacher of all things.
-Julius Ceasar

Failure is the tuition you pay for success.
-Walter Brunell 

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.
-Howard Thurman

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
-Henry Ellis


And then not for school but just relevance in life:

When I didn’t see you, I thought about you every day. I mean every day, in some way or another.
Same here.
-One Day

I can live without you; it’s just that I’m not sure I want to.

Time passes in moments. Moments which, rushing past, define the path of a life, just as surely as they lead towards its end. How rarely do we stop to examine that path, to see the reasons why all things happen? To consider whether the path we take in life is our own making, or simply one into which we drift with eyes closed? But what if we could stop, pause to take stock of each precious moment before it passes? Might we then see the endless forks in the road that have shaped a life? And, seeing those choices, choose another path?


Do you feel inspired? :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

COLD!

It's freakin' cold for Virginia in December. Highs in the 30's? This isn't Ohio, thank you. And not just outside. My office is FREEZING! I mean today I wore a turtleneck sweater with a long sleeved shirt underneath and by 10 o’clock I was in my jacket and gloves. My back muscles started aching around 9 and my nose started running. I couldn’t feel my toes. It’s not good. I can’t be productive because I want to move around all the time, so I end up leaving to wander around. I am in dire need of a space heater, but they are “not allowed” because they use too much electricity. Somehow I think my misery has to be unethical. Right? If I was in a skirt and thin shirt I might understand, but this is ridiculous. I am shopping for my illegal electricity sucker appliance this weekend, and I will not give it away! They will have to fire me first.

Also, to update those dying to know about my 4-year-old oatmeal breakfast last Friday, I did feel funny until lunch. I left my breakfast at home, so I was making some oatmeal we had lying around in my office. It smelled off, the sugar had solidified together in clumps, and sort of tasted like cardboard, and but I didn’t worry because oats shouldn’t go bad and it looked normal after it was cooked. Then I researched old oatmeal and got freaked out because apparently after 1 year, it can cause some not-so-fun things to happen. So in case you ever wonder if old oatmeal can go bad, it can!  

Happy Tuesday!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Leap of Fate

Being a single girl, I am usually on the look out for guys. I am not desperate, but I keep my eyes open and put myself out there when it is convenient. I do not shamelessly deny my friends the art of setting me up with someone, because the way I view it, the worst thing that can happen is you have a horrible hour or so with someone and never see them again. At least food and/or drinks is usually involved, which  makes it a better situation than sitting home alone by myself, eating with my cats. Though I will not deny that I don't love my nights home snuggling with my boys.

However, I do often wonder about how much fate has to do with meeting the right person. I do not believe that there is only one person out there for everyone- that just makes no sense to be. I think each person can love many (if not hundreds or thousands) people depending on timing and life situations. I think timing honestly is the key ingredient to a successful relationship (based on personal experience). But in regards to meeting that person, sometimes I wonder about how many times you actually pass by someone who could be someone special to you without knowing it. For instance, in movies the audience always knows two people who are supposed to meet one another, and, of course, they always do, whether it is at a random bar, in an airport, on vacation or just down the street. Last night I was out in Arlington with friends at a crowded bar, and there were tons of single guys and girls. Amongst my dancing and drinking, I kept looking around and wondering if there was anyone there I should meet and wishing I knew who that was. It is so easy to look past people and not know how they could be significant to you. It does not work out as easily as it does in the movies. It's so hard in real life to put yourself out there and give a number to a random stranger you just met, because you never know what it actually will mean or what will happen. But what if that random stranger is your next big thing? And how do you know when you should take a leap of faith and go for it?

Or is it all about fate?

Friday, December 3, 2010

'Tis the Season


Apparently, the holidays bring out the worst in people. I always thought of them as a happy, albeit slightly depressing time of year for those less fortunate. Never did I really think of them as an “angry” time of year. My favorite morning radio show, Elvis Duran in the Morning, the very first day of the holiday season, talked about how the holidays make people mean. They curse at workers in stores, yell at fellow customers (and apparently trample them to get to the best deal), and even STEAL TABLES!

What? Well last night I went to happy hour at a restaurant that I frequent with my friends. We got there a little later than normal (6 o’clock), so the bar was pretty full. We ran into a friend of mine, so we stood by her table near the bar and got some wine. We were scoping out open seats for a while when we saw that the table next to us was getting ready to leave. They saw us and we kept close to them. A nice couple who came after us even asked if we were waiting for that table and graciously found other seating. As the couple was just getting ready to get up, a new woman who had just got there (mind you it was about 6:40, so we had been waiting for a long time) went up to them and asked if she could have their table. The woman said yes. We nicely chimed in and said we had been waiting for a while for that table. The man said to the lady, “Well, you got to the table first,” and him and his wife completely left out the fact that they had seen us standing there waiting for 40 minutes! The woman claimed her seat and we were fuming.

Now, I was brought up (and worked in a restaurant for about 8 years, so I think I have a good point of reference) to think that you shouldn’t bother someone who is still eating to take their seat or table. People should be courteous to those around them and work it out amongst themselves leaving those sitting out of it. Apparently my thinking is totally wrong, because it is now OK to go up to someone and ask for their table before their even gone, butting in front of people obviously waiting. And then even if you do that, still stealing a table when someone politely told you they had been waiting for it. Apparently manners no longer exist.

So we gathered around the small table my friend was seated at and ended up enjoying our night, though for a while we were furious. I wondered if they didn’t mind taking it from us since we were younger, or maybe the women legitimately thought she was right because we never asked for it. Whatever the case, I thought the whole situation was a display of people not being courteous to others. Luckily, we had the wait staff and other bar guests on our side, so that table (aka that woman) heard about how we felt about them (though I’m sure they thought we were the rude ones). Still, it was a fun evening overall. 

Then showcasing how normal this is, right as I turn on my car to leave for work this morning, Elvis Duran is talking about stealing tables! Small world, but at least we’re not alone in our experience (though I don’t think that is a good sign for the manners of Americans). So I hope you will be polite and courteous this holiday season to strangers. And please, don’t be a table stealer!

P.S. I ate 4 year old oatmeal this morning. So if I die, Happy Holidays, and please still come to my funeral.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Charlie Bit Me- Remixed

You need to watch this first (if you're one of the few people who haven't):



To understand the amazingness of this:





HAHA!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!



I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday! I am thankful for the health of all my family and friends, and the fact that I have a job and can support myself. (awesome pic up top, right?)

A holiday note for me is that I am bringing Romo home to be reunited with his brother Milo. If they don't like or remember each other anymore, I might cry. But at least I will have pumpkin pie & pumpkin cookies to ease my sorrows.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Hodgepodge of Things

Hello! I hope your Monday is going smoothly and you had a great weekend gearing up for a short holiday week (Wooooo)! In keeping with the craziness of this week, I have an array of thoughts to share.
 
#1. HARRY POTTER. The 7th and second-to-last movie came out this weekend (as if you didn’t know that, right?). I prepared for this showing by re-reading the book last summer (see post here). I thought the movie did a great job of keeping with the book, but I still get annoyed when they change little details that I don’t think need to be changed (like the fact that in the opening chase scene, Harry is found out by Hedwig being killed and not the curse he sends out. Stupid detail, I know, but why did they change it?). That is one of the issues with reading a book close to the movie- you become picky. BUT even when things like that drive me made, I enjoyed the movie, though I must say that knowing it would not have resolution within it kinda made it a little less enjoyable. It’s interesting to split a movie into two parts. I saw it with a friend, and how we got two seats in the very center of the pact theater (without coming in very early), is beyond me.
 
Also, for critics of HP out there- I understand. I don’t read Twilight or see the movies and get annoyed when they come out and people go crazy. But don’t hate on the movie if you have never read or liked the books. Yes, we know they don’t follow the books exactly and that you need to have seen the movies and read the books to understand everything clearly. That’s why random people don’t go see the movie. But don’t be cruel (cue Newsweek review where I actually laughed it was so mean).
 
#2. Social Networking. I found an interesting article by Newsweek  about how online socializing often makes people feel more lonely. In some ways I have to agree. I am a very social person- I do things with my friends or roommates most days or nights- but I do sometimes get on FB or twitter or what have you and seeing what OTHER people are doing makes me feel like I am leading a boring life (well, sometimes it makes me feel like I am leading a much more exciting life, too). It’s just something that I have noticed lately, which is why I actually use facebook less now, because I am happier when I am not on it as much. However, I do think it is also a choice- facebook can make you feel more connected or less connected depending on how much you use it and what for. I also agree with the author of the article that social networking has brought us closer to people who live further away. But if you live close to someone, facebook or twitter shouldn’t be the way you primarily contact them. It is sad that a random friend of mine, who I never see and haven’t seen since high school, knows more about me than my friends or family who aren’t on facebook. Or that the first thing I say when I talk with someone who I haven’t seen in a while, is something that they said or posted on their facebook page. Life is getting a little too out in the open to people who don’t know us.
 
Why do I feel this way, yet have a blog for everyone to see? Good question…I may change my mind about this in the future. For now, though, blogging is a hobby and a fun way to journal. At least I know that one other person may get entertainment from it. I also like to write, and I figure the people who know about this have either been told by me about it, or like me enough to find it on my facebook page, click on the link and come back frequently. So there you go.
 
#3. Planning. I have had conversations with people that I need to stop planning my daily activities and be more spontaneous. I find that certain friends, who shall remain nameless, do things at the drop of a hat, but when it comes to me organizing things to do with them, they never follow through and often don’t come because of other more spontaneous things that come up. It drives me mad, because I like to know what I am going to do, and, if I really want to do something, planning to do it so I am able to! Apparently, I am not normal in this sense. I am working on being more spontaneous.
 
#4. Holiday’s. This is the first year I actually have money to spend on Christmas gifts. I usually hate spending my own money, but this has been SO FUN. I already know what I am getting everyone, and I have gotten over half my gifts already. I am enjoying swiping the plastic. It is so nice to be able to support myself and my spending habits. I am very lucky.
 
Also, bring on the holiday music. Glee has a Christmas album out, so I am ready!!!!!
 
#5. LASIK. It’s official. I am getting LASIK January 17th. I have to go back out of my contacts after Christmas for 3 weeks (as opposed to 2 weeks this time), but it is soooo worth it. I am using the Flex Spending account I get through CCPS, so I will end up saving over $1,000 bucks. A little bit of money will come out before taxes of each paycheck, so I will pay it off over the course of the year. I am PUMPED. I am getting it done on a day off too, so I will probably only miss a half day of work (the following day I have to get an eye exam to make sure everything is good). After the surgery I can’t wear eye make-up for a week, and I have to make sure I don’t rub my eyes a lot for a while. I am becoming very conscious of that already, though. And eye drops, eye drops, eye drops along with no contact sports for a month, so no dodgeballL. Oh, well- small price to pay for perfect eye site without glasses or contacts!
 
Ok, I’m done!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A tell-tale sign that I am getting older...

...when the first thing I notice when I meet someone is if they have a ring on their ring finger or not!

Ahhhh when did this happen?

I honestly have NO idea when this began! But I have noticed it very frequently lately. I think it started once I graduated college and everyone started getting engaged and married. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but something I never did before. It's just a sign of the changing times and the life of a mid-twenties girl! I can only imagine that I will be doing this for the rest of my twenties until it is not even necessary because people will either all be married or their kids will be with them everywhere.

Oh, to enter adulthood. Again, when did this happen?!




Not too shabby of a look on my own finger, though....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Thoughts

My view of religion is a hard thing for me to put into words. I was baptized and grew up going to a Methodist church, but religion was not reinforced much at home. We were taught to be good people and could believe what we wanted to as long as we knew enough about it to reinforce our views. I never was forced to read the bible, and the most religious day-to-day activity we did was saying grace before dinner, which was usually just a mumbled quick few words so we could get on to eating. I always remember thinking in church, 'how can one religion be right at the expense of all others? How do we pray and praise a being that no one has even seen and we do not even know is real?' Therefore, I was open to spirituality but never strongly felt pulled towards a certain belief system. In my mind, praying to Buddha, God, Jesus or being Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist was fine, because being a good, kind person was above all the most important thing.

Through college I studied many religions and went to religious gatherings to learn about cultures and how other people think. It was like a history lesson- I could see what past people were drawing from and how it influenced their future. I stopped going to church sometime in high school, so I developed my views from what I learned in classes, in life, and from friends. Religion at some point, though, started making me uncomfortable because I felt it could push people apart. People believe certain things because of what their belief system says about them and can discriminate against others because it is not acceptable in their religious documents. I felt people did not get "with the times" on issues that have changed since B.C. when many religious documents and ideas were developed. Also, if you "confessed" you could be "forgiven of your sins" no matter what horrible thing you did. It didn't make sense to me- what happened to being a good person above everything? Did it matter if you prayed to someone or worshipped somewhere? Isn't goodness and kindness the most important? Especially in regards to the GLBTQ community and women's rights, I felt religions were lacking what they preached most about: acceptance and forgiveness.

Obviously religion is not cut and dry. Religious people can be more open and accepting than non religious people and non religious people can be better people than religious people. Your religion does not make you, but you can become a more satisfied person with some kind of belief and support system. Life is hard and what I am realizing is that religion, even with it's flaws, can provide comfort and support to make the journey a little easier. It can also teach us lessons about how to be better people and live more productive, influential lives.

Why am I talking about all this? Well, I went to church today for the first time in probably ten years (not including weddings, of course). I have been wondering if church would be a good place for me to learn and gain insight on my life now that I am an adult. I found the sermon and lesson to be very relevant to my life now. The sermon was from Luke 11:17 about leprosy and how Jesus cured ten lepers, but only one came to him to give his praise and thanks. The message was simple: Do not take good things for granted or think they are deserved. You should always give thanks to those (God) that have given to you. Don't always ask for more but be grateful for what you have. Don't relish on what you don't have. Want what you have.

Such a simple message, but one that resonated with me. I have thought for years that religion did not teach anything worthy to me, because of it's old and outdated books, but I am finding that it is more than just an old cultural establishment. Case in point: I have been walking around in a "funk" lately, where I have been wanting what I don't have and feeling sorry for myself. I have forgotten all that I do have and how great my life is. Sometimes, though, we can caught up on the little things and always want more. I am taking what I learned in church to get myself out of my "funk" and to be grateful for all the wonderful things. The message was so simple, yet powerful, and something I needed to hear.

While I took the message as less of a religious message and more of an insight into life, I think that is my right. We all take what we want out of religion. Though I doubt I will ever be the person in church to scream and praise loudly with my hands held high, and I may never pray much outside of religious events, I do appreciate what I can get from religion, and I hope if I continue to go to church or read the bible, it will give me insight on life and how to be a better and happier person. Religion to me is about teaching myself how to live a better life. That's what I want out of it- to believe that there is something great I should strive for and to hope that someone is watching over me, when I can't control what is happening. I so often want to think I am in control of everything in life, but I am quickly learning that is not the case.

So as I have always said, believe what you want to believe, and religion should have meaning for you in your own way. Still, acceptance and generosity should transcend all religions, and I hope no matter what the texts of your belief system say, that you take them to mean something specific and meaningful to you while simultaneously taking into account the world we live in now. The writings of religions are old and ancient, so do not forget to live in the present and to bring what religions teach you to make our world a better place now, and not one of more hate and discrimination.

And if anyone wants to talk religion with me, I am open:)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Day in the Life #2

To piggyback on my post yesterday, I thought I would just let you know what a day in the life of a school counselor is actually like. It is always different, so this is just a snap shot of what my day was like today. If you’re not too excited I also included pictures of some of my saweeeet office:).

7:10- Arrive at work
7:15- Meet with students and/or parents that stopped in before school begins
7:30- Check and respond to email
7:45- Go to a UVA-Wise College Admission Counselor Visit with Seniors
8:15- Make passes for Juniors and Sophomores that are failing a class
8:45- Meet with upset student about fight at home
9:00- Meet with Juniors who are failing classes (what’s up with an F!?!)
10:30- Take pictures of counselors for our bulletin board “Counselor Bios”
10:35- Meet with a Senior who wants to drop a class
10:45- Continue meeting with Juniors
11:00- IEP meeting
11:30- Parent phone calls and student walk-ins
12:00- Lunch duty. Holler. Like I could do anything if a fight broke out?
12:45- Winston Salem College Admission Counselor Visit
1:05- Meet with student wanting to graduate early
1:15- Email people with questions on if graduating early for this student is a good idea
1:20- Finish meeting with my Juniors
1:40- Parent walk-in!
2:00- Meet with students as they leave for the day with various issues
2:10- Finish up on emails and other loose ends
2:30- Leave!

Some pics of my sweet office! Windows galore!






Oh, hey! Hard at work, as always:)

Monday, November 8, 2010

"So, what do school counselors actually do?"


People often ask me, “What do school counselors actually do?” There is this thinking that all we do is hang in our office, drink coffee, play on the computer and occasionally meet students. That is SO not the case. But it is still a hard job to describe.

We literally do a little bit of everything.

Being a school counselor is a multi-faceted job. It’s not like being a teacher (which is why when people say I teach, I quickly correct them). I don’t grade papers, plan lessons, or teach classes (well, sometimes I do teach classes, but it’s only one lesson at a time and usually only one week or so a month). It’s not an administrator job. I don’t have to expel students, deal with discipline and manage all the employees. But it’s also not strictly counseling. I am not legally authorized to counsel seriously disturbed students or handle certain issues. I often have to refer students out for services. It’s not that I don’t want to provide them. It’s that we are a public school and legally can’t provide them.

It also depends on the level. Elementary counseling is more like teaching- you go into classrooms all the time, you run groups, counsel students, and deal with more administrative issues like testing and discipline and just the day-to-day life of an elementary school. Middle school is more group work and individual counseling because of the age and issues (hello, bullying)! It also is scheduling, setting up community resources, SOL testing, and setting up students for high school. In Chesterfield county this also means SPECIALTY CENTERS!

High school is a whole ‘nother bag of goodies.

Sometimes I feel like a secretary, sometimes I feel like a social worker, sometimes I feel like a college admissions prep master, and sometimes I am a creative writer. I wear many hats. I schedule students, change schedules, plan student’s course of study, write college recommendation letters, plan and run testing (SAT, PSAT and some SOL), deal with emotional crisis’s, meet with parents, meet with teachers, coordinate meetings, work closely with the sped department, attend IEP/Triennial meetings, enter data for on-time graduation rates/statuses, enter and fix a student’s academic history (i.e. grades- sounds easy but takes FOREVER), go into classrooms (to talk about the PSAT, Senior year, Careers, Scheduling, ect.), have lunch duty, help out administrators with student data, help students with alternative education plans, helps students get online/night school classes, work with county attendance and homebound workers, send information to schools and agencies about the students, meet with students over a wide array of topics (and always with a smile on my face!), deal with courts/case managers/outside agencies, publish a scholarship newsletter, select students for scholarships, and anything else that has to do with a student and their success in high school. And these are things I have done during my first 13 weeks on the job. The list is constantly growing.

In grad school you learn mostly about how to be a counselor. I don’t get the chance to counsel students as much as I would like, because I really am favored more heavily for academic services, but I do deal with serious issues. They tend to come in waves. I do risk assessments for students threatening themselves or others, and I deal with depression, abuse, eating disorders, unhappy home lives and issues in school. But these do not happen all the time (well they happen all the time but students do not always seek my services). When they do, though, they are my focus to make sure the student is safe. Which means I have to contact the school psychologist, social worker and outside agencies if deemed necessary. It is never easy to deal with serious issues, but it is a huge reason on why I went into this field.

So as you see, it is hard to describe what a school counselors does and the role is ever changing. The work comes in waves- November and December are generally quiet months, but the beginning of the year and after January are insanely busy with finishing up college letters, scheduling for next year and summer school, and getting all the seniors graduated! It’s all fun though, and I try to do everything with a smile on my face.

But please don't call me a teacher!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Debbie Downer

I came across this sketch from SNL during its showing of the "Women of SNL" this past week. I have seen this sketch before but started crying from laughing so hard (it had been a while since I had seen it). Probably one of the top SNL moments of all time. Watch it to see why:


That should leave you with a smile to take you through (another) long week!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Tell-Tale Sign That I Like School Too Much

Not only do I work in a school and have only been out of school for 6 months after 19 straight years of education, but I already miss taking classes. I miss the friends I make in classes, learning from teachers, taking notes (weird, I know), reading books that left to my own devices I would never touch, and having to study. I think I just have the “school” gene. I love the environment and learning. I still am learning a lot at my job, particularly because I am new, but it’s not the same kind of knowledge. I like the theories and impractical stuff you learn in schoolJ. Screw the actual necessary mindless stuff I have to learn to do my job!

I have always thought I would go back to school. Either get another Master’s or get a Ph.D (if I have time), but I also know that life can sometimes get in the way of those plans. If I have a family it would be hard to do all that, but if I don’t or do it relatively soon, then I will have the time. But I also want the real world experience. I think that brings a whole new dimension to you as a person, and it would make me more sure of what kind of degree I want. Work experience is very important in higher education too- it makes research and theories and practical application easier to understand and apply. I was lacking that in grad school because I came straight from undergrad. So, while I was good at the school part of grad school, I wasn’t always as in-tune with the real-world experiences. I drew heavily from my own experiences in school, which was fine, but if I was further removed from school it would have been harder. But, school is school and you are either good at reading and writing and studying and researching or you’re not. Luckily, that all comes easy for me, so I am always motivated to do well. I think I could succeed in getting a Ph.D. if I get my mind wrapped around it. We’ll see when that happens.

I also have goals before I go back to school. I want to work longer and maybe even in another job. I think it would be fun to work in student affairs or admissions at a college, and I think my experience in high school counseling would be good for that. If I don’t switch jobs, I also think I will want to switch schools or levels, to get a more well-rounded experience. I will stay where I am now for 3 years, but could have some options open to me after that that would be fun to think about. I also hope to take a Spanish class this summer through CCPS or JTCC. That would be a fun AND useful class, especially since I work with many Spanish-speaking students. It would just make our lines of communication easier and would make me more marketable. It will also satisfy my need for being in school without actually being a full-time student. If it goes well, I hope to continue learning Spanish as I find courses available.

As for now, at least I get to vicariously live through my student’s in their classes (I even have them show me what they are doing sometimes to see what I remember and still can do). And when they get F’s, I freak out- how can you get an F in school??!!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sample Personal Essay I Wrote for my Seniors

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."
- Martha Washington

        In my life, there is one thing that I have been called that I relish more than any other compliments that have come my way. It was not being called “kind” or “nice” or “hard-working. “ Instead one day my grad school classmate in passing said, “You are my perpetual ray of sunshine.” That was the most meaningful compliment I have ever received.
        It does not come easy being “a ray of sunshine.” It takes a lot of effort, especially on days when I don’t get enough sleep or have done poorly in work or in school. However, partly by nature and partly by sheer will, I am as cheerful as I can be. I smile, keep my eyes wide, laugh, listen and try to be kind no matter how I feel on the inside or what someone is saying or doing on the outside. I love it when people I was speaking to leave with a smile on their face and spring in their step. This feeling helped me find my interest in counseling.
        I wasn’t always this way. In high school my main goal was to get the best grades possible, so I didn’t worry so much about what kind of vibe I was giving people. Somehow though, I began to realize the comfort friends took in my positive attitude, my being on top of things, and how I was always just a little bit clueless, so as to provide a good laugh. I never realized I was doing it, but I always noticed other peoples’ negative attitudes (that I couldn’t stand) and the fact that whenever I was having a bad day, people were annoyed at me. As if I was never allowed to be down in the dumps? “No,” they said, “You are the one that pulls all of us together!” (They never said it in those exact words, but I took their looks to mean that). I hated the look on my friend’s faces when I was not myself. I tried with all my might to never have them look at me like that and to keep myself bright and cheerful. Of course that never completely happened, but it made me check my attitude at the door more often than not - no promises when the 5th million person asks for a piece of gum from my stash, though.
        I learned quickly that being happy was so much more fun than being mean or sad. Even when I was sad on the inside, or in a “funk” as I call them, I tried to bring myself out of it whenever I was around people. Even throughout college, I still loved when my friends brought up stories of things I did or said that made them laugh. I like to think that I brought them joy during those years, and hold a special place in their heart. It makes me feel unique and loved.
        Needless to say, I believe that while some people are naturally more cheerful than others, happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy even when you feel bad, even when it is the hardest thing to do. There is always something to complain about (believe me, I know). But there is so much more to be grateful for. So forget that your waiter messed up your order- enjoy the people you’re with for that meal. Forget that you got a bad grade- let it motive you to do better next time. I’m sorry you don’t like your job- at least you have one. Mad that you’re having a bad hair day? Well…(that sometimes does really stink)…put it up in a new do and wear great clothes! Don’t complain about the card you’re dealt- it could always be worse. You don’t want to ever look back and think, “Man, if only I’d known how good I had it.” At my age, I already see people doing that- we’re too young to regret what we did or didn’t do! Enjoy where you are and make the most of it. Happiness is more than a motto or a mood- it is a way of life. I know that if I am happy, even if there is no reason to be, I will make someone smile that day. And that makes the world, and my life, better and a heck of a lot more funJ.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cooking

I don’t. I microwave. I put things in the oven. I heat up soup. I put things on toast or bread. I cut stuff up. Breakfast for dinner? Why not! Cook? No. To me cooking is baking a turkey, having BBQ sauce to dip the turkey in, and making cous cous (aka boiling water and stirring cous cous in) as a side. Or making pasta and nuking (is that even a real word?) frozen veggies, and mixing it all together with marinara sauce. Then I proceed to eat the same thing the whole week, as I am just one person and a box of pasta serves like seven. To me, dinner isn’t about the creating part; it’s about the eating part. So why would I waste time making food when I could just be eating food. AND food that’s easy to make doesn’t even taste bad.  I mean really.

Not only do I not like to take the time to cook (Sorry, it just isn’t fun), but I hate having to buy food for specific recipes. When I go grocery shopping, I buy the main staples, like cereal, bread, veggies, yogurt, and fruit. Why would I waste my time and money on spices and random things that I would use once for one recipe and then have tons left over that would go untouched? I am basic. I don’t want to buy something and have it sit in my cabinet forever. I am only one person. Maybe if I was big into dinner parties or cooking for my roommates that wouldn’t be so terrible (actually, it would be kinda fun to put a huge meal together for a special occasion…hmmm). But as for now, it’s just me and having to buy a bazillion different ingredients and products that I would only use once in a while is not enticing. Baking, on the other hand, is another story. Though, as with cookie, buying ready-made baked goods is just as good as homemade stuff. This whole 21st century world of prepared foods sure is ingenious.

I know I have the time to cook, and I know that is all you really need As long as you can read and follow directions, you can make most anything.  I just don’t want to spend my time doing it. What do I do with the time I save not cooking? Not much. But it’s just nice to know it’s there. I can read or work out or watch TV or hang out with friends. Basically I can do what I want, because I will have already made dinner, eaten and cleaned up in about 20 minutes.

Now if you will excuse me- I have some microwaving to do!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Books for Free!

It blows my mind how amazing the library is. Why did I never utilize it before? I can actually go and bring home books and not pay for them? What?

I have become a Barnes & Nobles girl. I go to B&N, read some mags, get a Starbuck's coffee, browse the books, find a book I can't live without, and buy it. Then I read the so-called amazing book, sometimes find it awesome and sometimes not, almost always wondering "why did I spend __ dollars on this?" If it's good I give it to others to read and never see it again (thereby wasting my money). If it's bad I throw it in my Book Exchange bag, where I donate books to get a certain amount of credit at a used book store. Sure, that's reusing my money, but ultimately, even though there is a nice selection of used books, I never get my full money's worth on the book I bought. Yet, I never learn my lesson. I keep going to B&N and keep buying books and other random things I don't need. I mean, I know "sTori Telling" is an essential book to read and all, but should I really pay $15 for it?

The amazing thing about the library is, since you're not paying for the book- you can read whatever you want and not feel guilty! Do I really need to read Kristin Chenoweth's bio? No, but, heck, it's free so why not! Do I really want to buy a cookbook and start cooking? No, but heck, maybe if I have some free time one day I'll use one of the recipes. As long as I renew the books before I have to pay late fees, I am good to go. I also feel that by going to the library I am somehow helping the world become a little more green, because I am reading reused books instead of buying them, which ultimately wastes more paper (oh god, not the trees!). Also, going to the library is like a civic duty or something to help my community. Isn't it?

So, as I am busy changing the world by becoming an avid library-goer, you all should really join in on my discovery. Don't let bookstores suck you in (but going to them is still acceptable if you want to read/use the internet whilst drinking good coffee or reading mags and not paying for them. I don't judge anyone about that. Magazines are too expensive to keep up with).


Tori Spelling the author. Is she a good writer? Not really, but hey, I didn't pay for it so you can't judge me!

Friday, October 22, 2010

UVA

As most of you know, I went to the University of Virginia for undergrad. I have been doing senior meetings at my high school this week, where I meet with my seniors students to discuss post-graduation options and to make sure they are getting all the classes/SOLs they need to graduate before June. Talking with all these students (and having been to UVA for homecomings last weekend) brings back a lot of memories about my college journey.

I don't know what it was about UVA that made me want to go there so bad. Probably the fact that my oldest brother started going there when I was only 12, so a lot of my teenage years were spent going to events in Charlottesville. I also saw how much he loved it, which ultimately made me more and more excited to go there (well, until the pep band was no more, and then his opinion changed). Then as I got older I realized how UVA was more than just a normal college- it was a prestigious Univeristy, with great academics, athletics (more than just football), and social organizations. I quickly became a Wahoo fan in high school and began my life-long view of hating Virginia Tech, but I really had no reason to like UVA so much. The only person in my family to go there was my brother, and my parents (and most of my extended family) were Ohio State grads and fans. I really didn't have much affiliation with the school.

Whatever the reason, I really loved UVA. I wrote in an 8th grade time capsle that I wanted to go to school at UVA, and I know my goal all through high school was to become a Wahoo. I worked hard, and probably didn't enjoy high school as much as I should have, because I had to get great grades to get into UVA. At some point during my Junior year, though, I remember changing my affiliation to Clemson (I somehow got it in my head that I wanted to go there) and began pushing UVA under the table. Then I went on a college roadtrip the summer of 2003 with my dad, and we visited the Univeristy of Georgia, Clemson, Elon, and UNC. After this trip I came to a very important conclusion: Why would I want to go anywhere else when UVA was the most beautiful and prestigious of all those schools? I loved Elon and applied there, but UVA quickly became my #1 again. I applied early decision and was lucky enough to get in.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like had I gone to another school.  I also got into Elon and JMU (I applied both places early decision too), and I was also interested in Mary Washington, but Elon was the hardest to let go of. I instantly fell in love with the school, and it would have been a completely different college experience- smaller school, private, and further away. After a rough first year at UVA, not academically but socially and personally in regards to adjusting, I wasn't as happy as I thought I would be for many different reasons. I was wondering if I had made the right decision.

However, quickly into my second year, I knew I had made the right choice. Living outside of a dorm and having a car allowed me to explore more of Charlottesville and feel more like an adult. Every year at UVA was better and better for me, and I am glad it happened that way. I got a broader group of friends, but I also became tighter with my close friends, mainly those in Alpha Chi Omega- my sorority. I was never crazy about the drinking and partying, but eventually I got better at that too and was able to loosen up and have fun. And I had a lot of fun:)!

Now when I think of college, I only think of the good times (but isn't that how it always is?). I don't think about the homesickness, the struggles of my first year, the occasional loneliness, the hard classes, the stress and the drama (though I surprisingly had very little). I think of the amazing friends I met, my sorority, date functions, parties, social events, the classes, fun in the library (yes, it could be fun), the beauty, my awesome job at UVA catering, the roadtrips and how every day I knew I would end up smiling (I know, it's cheesy, but it's true). I also recognize that I would have been happy at many other colleges and that UVA wasn't the only right college for me. But I know that going there was the best decision I have ever made.

This past weekend at homecomings, my closest friends from near and far (NYC, Florida, San Francisco) came to UVA and we all got to spend the weekend together. We went wine tasting, shopped and ate on the corner, tailgated and partied and enjoyed the beauty and environment that is UVA. One of my friends and I reminisced while walking home from the football game about how we miss just about everything about the University. I think I will always miss what I had at UVA, but I know it was more than just the school- it was the amazing friends that I made that made my college experience what it was. In some ways I glad it's over, because I know it was only as special as the people I met there and couldn't last forever, but I know I will always miss that time in my life. Ultimately, though, UVA brought me to where and who I am today. I love who that is.

I feel honored to have gone to UVA, and only hope that my students can have the kind of college experience I did- where ever their paths lead them.

 






But, as for me, God bless Mr. Jefferson's University.

Monday, October 4, 2010

House Hunter

It's a big step, but ever since I moved into my new townhouse and gotten my first job (and realized how much money you can save if you watch what you spend), I have become obsessed with buying a house. I want to own a home in the summer of 2012. So that gives me 2 years to save. Right now, I am saving about 40-50% of what I make (having ridiculously cheap rent and a side job makes saving very easy), so I hope to be able to put a down payment of 20% on a $200,000 house.

The most fun part about buying a house is THINKING about where I want to live and what kind of house I want! I definitely do not want anything big. Nor do I want a big yard or big land. So that basically means that I want to buy a townhouse, a house that is connected to the houses next to it (it's like a townhouse but bigger and designed more like a house), or just a small house on small land. I am thinking a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house with garage OR a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo. But I also have to think- do I want an old house or a new house? I originally thought I wanted a new house in a new neighborhood, but something about older neighborhoods with more trees brings me a cozy feeling, probably since that what I grew up living in. But older houses have older plumbing and older structures which brings their own set of problems.

Part of THINKING about where and what I want is EXPLORING websites and neighborhoods! I find great deals all the time- this housing market is just fabulous for buyers (literally there are tons of options from $180,000- 200,000).

How cute is this house for $179,000?


I am bummed I could not afford a house sooner to qualify for the $8,000 tax credit, so I am just hoping that the market doesn't bounce back too much in the next 2 years. Obviously, where I live will depend on my job situation and other life factors, but this is a big goal that I am excited to start planning for.

First off, though, I am spending my first few months of savings on LASIK!!!! I have wanted it for years, can officially afford it, and have a consultation in November. Bye-bye contacts and glasses. Hello, new life (and soon to be new house)!