Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vegging Out

The reason I became a teacher is because I love to read. The reason I went through two years of grad school hell was to better help teacher struggling kids to love it, too. Reading transforms thoughts, reading inspires, reading changes you in ways you can't imagine.

Enter Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals:

In Eating Animals, Foer writes a well researched account of the many factors that have led him to choose vegetarianism for himself and his family, in the hopes that his infant son may one day grow up and understand the philosophies that drive his family's food choices. Foer goes into the practices that drive factory farms, which produce so much of America's meats, and then delves into the mental and physical health repercussions for both people who process animals into our meat, and the effects that factory farming have on our planet as a whole.

Now, I will tell you, I am a bacon girl. A seafood girl. A sandwich piled high with meat gal. But after reading this book, I have gotten a lot more thoughtful about how my food is produced. Kev (the previously staunchest meat-eater I know, who used to make fun of me in our early dating days if I didn't order chicken or meat) inspired me to read this book, and together we have made some big changes to our eating. We've cut out meat entirely from our grocery runs, and we have begun buying free-range eggs (Foer mentions that free-range is essentially a hoax, but in the absence of farmer's markets in the winter, it is what we are doing). From now on, when I do eat meat or seafood, it is going to be for special occasions only, and I am going to make more of a concerted effort to find out where my food is coming from, and at what cost. I think most Americans are woefully out of touch with the food to table process, and I'm thankful that I read this book to help me think about it.

Do you consider yourself a food-aware person? Why or why not?

Have outside forces ever forced you to confront ugly truths about your eating?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Organization? Me?

Oh, friends, let me tell you. I suck at organization. My house is often hanging on by a thread. My work can quickly disintegrate into a pile of papers if I am not ever vigilant. I am a fly by the seat of the pants person. A procrastinator. Charmingly flighty. A hot mess. Call it what you will, but it drives my loved ones crazy sometimes. Poor Kev.

This year, however, I have a brilliant plan and I can't even believe how proud of myself I am. I made a list on Google Docs of people we needed to buy gifts for, and ideas that I had. THEN I shared it with Kev so that he could add/edit. Let me tell you, just having the list and some ideas jotted down has freed me. It isn't even December yet, and I have more than half of my shopping DONE. All of it was on sale. I am so freaking pumped that I can't even believe it.

More than that, having the extra time has freed me to get organized in other ways. Kev and I have decided that we are going to eat vegetarian (more on that tomorrow), and so today I made a shopping list. I even found two new recipes online and (wait for it) added the ingredients to my list. Holy freaking shit. I don't even know myself anymore.

I know you longtime readers of the blog hear me say all the time that I am turning over a new leaf, but its amazing how these two free, simple, stupid ideas have cleared up so much mental space in my brain. Can it really be that much easier to stay organized? How do I maintain this bliss?

What easy tricks do you used to stay organized? What are some stupid things that you know you should do and never quite get to?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

As a kid, I never really thought about Thanksgiving. It was nice. There were extra mashed potatoes and stuffing to be had. We ate. We thanked. We waited for Santa. The End.

Now, though, Thanksgiving has steadily moved up to my favorite holiday. We don't run around in a crazy Mimosa fueled sprint to see both sides of both of our families. We don't have the pressure of keeping everybody happy, or the need to organize endless lists of gifts for everybody. Instead, we get to spend quality time with the people we love while sleeping late and wearing stretchy pants. We catch up with our college-aged siblings and get coddled by our parents. We stop and think about what we've been through since last year and where we are going.

My students who are new to the U.S. were very perplexed by Thanksgiving, so we did a lesson. Pilgrims, Native Americans, travels to a new land, reasons to be thankful for new experiences. We watched Happy Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown, and the kiddos were perplexed by Lucy's meanness and Snoopy's lack of doglike qualities. Through it all, I was thankful for the new opportunity, and thankful for my professional journeys in the last year. When one of my kids said he was thankful for me, I realized that my own pilgrimage to a new school is starting to look like the best decision I never wanted.

As we started the Thanksgiving lesson, one of my students looked at me thoughtfully. "But, Mrs. Gas," she said, "why do Americans need one day to be thankful? Don't they just feel it always?" A million dollar question that I don't really remember having a good answer for. Why, indeed? Shouldn't we always be this vocal about our gratitude? Why don't we shout to the rooftops our love for our families, our gratitude for our physical situations and our thankfulness for life's changes? This Thanksgiving, I'm most thankful for the reminder to carry that attitude through more of my daily life.

I am truly blessed. Thank you, thank you, thank you to life and love and new friends and old friends, to family and students and kittens for reminding me of it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friday Reads Updates and Newbies

Hey friendlies! Sorry for the lack of posts this week- parent teacher conferences are Monday, so I've been catching up with grading and so forth. Therefore, Friday Reads has now been moved to Monday this week, and I may try to sneak another one in on Friday, since I will be on a blissful Thanksgiving break and will have extra time to read. As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter (@Colie025) and to tweet your own weekend reading material with the hashtag #fridayreads. You can also find me on Goodreads, where I keep an updated record of what I am reading.

As of the last Friday Reads post, I was reading The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer and Positively by Courtney Sheinmel. I have happily finished both of those books, and while both were good, neither left me wowed. In The Uncoupling, a town is inflicted with a mysterious burn out of sex drive as a classic Greek play with similar themes is being rehearsed for and performed. My reading tastes have been leaning toward the fantasy/sci-fi lately, so I was intrigued by the supernatural elements in this realistic fiction book. I loved some of the couples featured (the gym teacher with small children, the married teacher couple), but overall I found their motivations and actions a little unclear. This book may have benefited from having the author explore fewer couples' sexuality in a more in depth manner. I do have a few literary-fiction minded friends that I would recommend this to as a way to dab a toe into supernatural fiction, but overall I wasn't wowed in any significant way, nor did I come away with any new ideas- a sure sign that this wasn't what I had hoped it would be.

Sadly, I felt even more apathetic towardsPositively. While I appreciated that Sheinmel tackled a challenging subject and chose to write about a girl that is HIV positive and struggling with the death of her mother from AIDS. Emmy (the main character) really irritated me, and I found her sudden switch to being at peace with her disease and her mother's death after attending a camp for HIV positive girls unbelievable. I think Sheinmel could have done a better job making Emmy's story more realistic, and that it all ended a little too neatly at the end. I would have liked to see some more research evident in the story, and the side characters were a little flat. I'm glad I have the book to add to my YA library at school, but I don't think I will be strongly recommending it to many students. Rats.

Since these books, I've also finished The Night Circus (loved loved loved) and The Leftovers (also fab). This week, I'm pouncing on finishing Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (who I have a huge crush on) and Everwild by Neil Schusterman who is coming to our school in December. More reports on those later this week.

Happy Reading!

What are you reading? Do you like this bookish talk, or should I go back to my usual crazy antics? Are you a reader? Would you like to be?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rewards, Sweet Rewards

Sometimes, I've been known to make terrible decisions. Like going out on a Sunday to watch the Bears game, staying through both lunch and dinner, and consuming at least 10 beers in the 6 hour span, plus shots. On a Sunday. During the school year. All of these things happened on Sunday. One of Kev's best friends, a guy he has known since kindergarten and an awesomely hilarious human being, came down from the suburbs. One of our other good friends, who Kev and I both met around the same time in high school, also came out. Together, we became a superhuman excuse for one another, and collectively decided to shun the fact that we had to work freaking early in the morning. The bar was just crowded enough to be fun and bring out the Miller Lite/Chi radio station folks to bribe us into staying, but just chill enough that we could catch up with one another. I haven't laughed so hard in quite some time. (Actually, that's a lie. I have at least one good face hurting laugh every day. It's sort of one of my guiding principles in life.) Sometimes the universe works in funny ways. Sometimes when you are in a beer and fried food coma, you hear your name being called by the Miller Lite girls. Sometimes you win TWO FREE TICKETS to the Bears game this SUNDAY in the Miller Lite PARTY DECK!!!! (random capitalization completely necessary) It just goes to show you that even if you've never won anything in your whole life of this nature, if you keep entering anyways, you will be rewarded. It also goes to show you, that sometimes God smiles on a little mischief.
It also went to show Kev that he should not make pacts while drunk with his friends. I say this because he apparently promised them that we would flip a coin to see who got the extra ticket, rather than automatically giving it to him. At least he can pick his friend Brian and I up from the game as our DD.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10 Things Thursday

1) Today, when one of my students asked what American teenagers listen to, we had an epic debate on American music. Thank you Spotify. I love working with junior high kids- they have so many opinions and so many passions!

2) Thanks to one of my students, my professional laptop now also looks like this:

3) The first flurries of winter coincided with the first time I busted out my Ugg boots for the winter. Coincidence? I think not.

4) Thank you, veterans, for your service. Thank you, public schools for giving me tomorrow off to sleep late in commemoration.

5) I hate Penn State. Stupid institutions. The lack of social morals and responsibility is really disturbing me.

6) My co-teacher who I love just asked me if I like sushi. Apparently, her husband is a sushi chef and frequently brings rolls home. Uuuhh...yeah....I'm all about that.

7) We are throwing my parents a 30th anniversary party tomorrow night at their house. While the details were stressful to pull together, I am so beyond excited to celebrate with my family and all of my favorite people. This is going to be awesome. I now consider my parents the anti-Kardashians.

8) Kev is having a hellish time with the end of his quarter. Group projects never work out well for anybody. Ever. I am staunchly anti-group project. Especially for adults. Grrr....can't wait until Thanksgiving break when we can spend some quality time together.

9) I've been strongly considering a blog makeover. I think I could get more readers if I didn't have such a ghetto header, but I also don'tknow enough about HTML to fix things. I also can't decide on what kinds of graphics, etc. I would use....comment with ideas!

10) My mom just asked me for ideas for Christmas shopping. I was able to come up with a list pretty quickly. Kind of scary. Actually, I guess that's a good thing since it means I haven't been going out and buying myself this stuff. Right? Right?

What random thoughts are on your mind today?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fantastic Facebook

Oh, Facebook. For as much idiocy as I find on your stupid network, which I check more than any human really should, sometimes there are amazing gems to be found. Like these (sources included in photo):

It would be so much easier not to make fun of them if I knew what their concrete plans for change were....

This happens to me constantly. #Colieprobz If Kev knew how many morsels could be found in there, he would be in heaven. For more reasons than one.

Yes, Kim Kardashian. Divorce is tragic. For people who got married for real reasons. Maybe if she had more crumbs in her boobs, her marriage would have survived. Big amen to this one.

Or maybe if they had gotten hot more.....I love puns.

Best thing about facebook- the amount of awesome book nerds who live there.

Indeed, freaking awesome.

Thank you, Facebook.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Social Justice


First of all- thanks to all you friendlies out there who talked to me about last week's depression post. Honestly, there are a few reasons I write this blog. One of them being that it's cheaper than therapy. Often, I start writing about things that I need to think out for myself, and voila the answer works itself out.

Today was one of those rare days where I attended a professional development workshop and I walked away dazzled. I participated in an amazing workshop for ELL teachers given by a woman who has been in the business since 1974. She was energetic. She was passionate. She was real. I want to carry her around in my pocket all the time. So many of the things she said resonated with me, and she delivered her thoughts with so much love.

One thing stood out to me in particular. Dr. Guzman said that you can't be an ELL teacher without the hunger for social justice for your students. She noted that part of our job is to make sure that our students are enveloped in and protected by the great laws that the United States has for our ELL students. She said that we can't just be satisfied by giving them a good education- that we must work every day to make sure they have an equal opportunity for success, for social participation, and for the opportunity to help enrich and open their native English speaking peers' minds.

Yes, I thought this is why I teach.

Then, I took this concept back to my own life. Although I feel I've gotten myself out of my recent funk, I know I can slip back easily. Even though I have more than I ever thought possible for myself in my life, I'm hot tempered. I'm jealous. I can get whiny. I'm stubborn. I think it comes with the territory of being intelligent, passionate, and opinionated. In short, I'm a lot to handle. But if I really want to find peace within myself, I need to make sure that I am treating myself with justice. Because a lot has been given to me, a lot is expected of me, as the saying goes. I need to pour my energy more into working for others, into making things better and not worse, and to focus on all of the things I do have, and suddenly all this popularity and has vs have not bullshit will fall by the wayside. I also need to be fair to myself- I need to know when I need to give myself a break, and I need to give it. I know when I need to give my friends a break, too, and I need to give that as well. If you want peace, Nicole, you need to start working harder at justice.

Who would have thought the time I spent writing sub plans yesterday would have turned out to be so, so worth it?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

You Can't Have It All

I've been in kind of a funk lately, and I'm not sure why.
Thanks, Hyperbole and a Half

I'm not even really sure why, but part of the reason I write this blog is that it's cheaper than therapy, and writing has always been an opportunity for me to channel my emotions.

Anyways, I have a lot of friends who are pregnant roaming around incubating feti. A. Lot. Those of my friends who are married without kids, like Kev and I, are starting to talk about when they are having them. It's like every time I check Facebook, a giant "YOU ARE ALMOST THIRTY" sign starts blinking at me. Ack. I am so not ready for children, and Kev and I have a timeline that is going to work for us, but still. People are moving on, and their time will be limited, and I'm scared that I'm going to be left in the dust for playgroups. Woe is me.

My friends who are single, or dating someone but not married, on the other hand, seem to be getting closer and closer, and I'm not always sure where I fit in. I love them, and I'm pretty sure that they love me, but I keep finding out about times they have all spent together without me, and it makes me sad. Kev and I have a crazy busy life, and I can't often make it out, but I want to. I really, really want to. I snapped at a friend about it while I was in a drunken stupor, and I feel like such an ass about it now. Seriously, Colie, grow the eff up.

I guess that's just it, really. Growing up is hard. For all of the really important things in life, I've gotten more than I ever would have dreamed of. I have a beautiful, albiet messy, home. A great family. A passionate, wonderful and challenging husband. Friends that I adore. But it's really hard for me to realize that I can't have it all ALL the time. I won't always be included. I won't always include others. People may come and go from my life, and that just has to be okay. Growing up is freaking hard, but it has come with some of the best rewards so far that I've ever experienced. I have to let go, and trust that it will all work out. It's okay, I'm okay, and changes are okay. Now, I must go remind myself to quit being so damn selfish :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I love my friends for many reasons. They are smart, funny, sassy, creative, outgoing and always push the boundaries of good taste and good grown up behavior. On the other hand, they can pull it together when a situation arises. They are loyal, loving, and empathetic.

However, we're going to talk about the crazy, sassy qualities today.

This is the pirate ship that my lovely friend Coco rented for her 30th birthday party. Her birthday is October 30th, so she always throw really kicking Halloween parties, and this one was no exception. We ate. We drank. I remember the ship being a good time. Don't remember much else, oops.

This is my friend, Patrick, and I. He is a bar of pirate's gold, and I am a gold digger. Kev refuses to dress up with me ever since I had the brilliant idea of being a couple from the short-lived VH1 show Tool Academy. It was awesome, and now he says we can't top it so he won't even try. Harumph.

This is my friend, Carl, and I doing some awesome pillaging of some Bud Light.

And last, but not least, this is Kev, Coco and I on the ship, being awesome. I love that girl and probably would not have survived my wedding without her. Happy 30th, Coco!

Full Disclosure: I was not paid in any way for this advertisement of the totally rad awesome Gypsy Rose II, but I wholeheartedly endorse this ship. The top picture of the ship is from their website . I wholeheartedly recommend this for fun of all ages if you are ever in St. Louis, MO. You don't even have to be drunken idiots like we were!