Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy last day of 2013...

Many of us are bidding 2013 farewell and preparing to usher in 2014. I'm no exception. I've been reflecting on 2013 and the past several years, and thinking about how much my son and I have experienced, what we've gained, what we've let go of, and how we want to move forward.

In 2013, we made our second cross-country drive, saw family, made new friends, lost old friends, and got a second dog. I learned a lot about what I will and won't tolerate for work, and my son began learning more about things that might interest him as he gets older and begins college.

Cupcake Sprinkles Celebrate 8x10 art print by Dawn Smith Designs on Etsy

I know that I will never work in a cubicle again. I will never take a job just because it is available. I learned that sometimes people we think of us as friends don't see us in the same way (do we relearn this one over and over as we go on in life?). I learned that sometimes a toilet gets so clogged you have to give up and call a plumber, even if you can't afford it. Two dogs are both easier and harder than one. Two house guests are both easier and harder than five. A house isn't always better than an apartment.

I've also learned that I have more money than I realized. I just have to pay attention to what I am doing with it. I'm certainly not rich and still feel like I'm only getting by, but I no longer feel down-and-out-broke.

I learned that I'm capable of doing a lot with my time and energy, as long as I channel it in healthy ways that move my son and I forward.

I learned that having a gym membership is really important to me, and I need to schedule time to go. However, I need to pack my bag ahead of time and put it in my car. I thought I had once, and I got to the gym without it!

I'm looking ahead to learning new lessons in 2014, and putting into practice the lessons I learned in 2013.

What were your lessons in 2013?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Unexpected visitors...

Three nights ago, we had some unexpected visitors. While I was at work, someone rang the doorbell.

When my son went to open the door, this is what he found, along with a rather odd message reading, "Merry ****ing Christmas. I hope you **** someone. - Santa":
Weird, right? It was probably just some kids pulling a prank, but I found it upsetting, especially since it happened while my son was home alone. When I got home and saw the note, I called the police (non-emergency number, mind you), and an officer came out. He agreed that it was probably just a prank by some neighborhood kids. He took the visitors to be impounded as "found property" and said that he figured someone would call in the morning upon realizing that their holiday lawn decor was missing.

Bizarre, right?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays

Whatever you are doing, wherever you are, and whoever you are with, 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2014 Amazing Business and Life Workbook

I've mentioned Leonie Dawson a couple of times lately, and I thought I'd share my progress on going through her 2014 Amazing Business and Life Workbooks. Although there are two separate workbooks, I've sort of combined them into one big workbook. I'm out of printer ink, so instead of printing out all the pages, I've used the workbooks as a basis for putting together my own big workbook using a binder, paper, and page protectors.

Here's what it looks like so far:

The cover with my primary goals listed on the front.

Collaging "dream pages" on plain paper inserted into sheet protectors in place of dividers.

My fitness/health/body dream page in progress - get fit, eat well.

These are old financial goals. I've pulled together all the random scraps of goals and ideas I've had around the house from the past couple of years. Slowly, I'm going through and reconfiguring them. Until I've got it all reconfigured and ready to work on, I'm keeping those old pages in the binder.

I've been tracking ALL of my spending. I list my spending and income twice daily, and color code it. I'm extremely visual. The goal is to see more green than pink or yellow. Green is for income and necessary expenses. Yellow is for anything due to poor planning - for example, buying lunch because I didn't plan ahead and make a lunch. Pink is for wasteful spending, and seeing this much pink has been an eye opener!

Week by week savings goals. This is going to be tough, and I've got to find a way to cut back spending while also increasing income if I plan to hit these goals EVERY week!

Budget pages for every  month of 2014. I also did one for the current month.

A sample of my sections, all based on Leonie Dawson's workbooks. Each section also has subsections which are my goals. Under each goal, I am breaking down action steps month by month, week by week, and in some cases day by day.
I've only been using these workbooks and working on my 2014 binder for a few weeks, and I've already seen major changes:

  • My spending is more conscientious—I've resisted fast food and Starbucks temptations several times thanks to having the binder with me all the time and knowing I'd be logging those expenses and coloring them pink!
  • I've exercised more consistently by using workouts I've printed and put in the binder (see the picture above of my fitness/health/body dream page).
  • I've eaten better by planning better, and thus my jeans are fitting better!
  • I've made strides on several business goals, and am working on my business stuff daily instead of procrastinating and being too scared to do anything about it!
  • I've made more sales on Etsy than usual.
Overall, I'm loving this process, and feel more hopeful than I have in a long time. I feel my goals are more achievable because by writing them down and listing action steps, I've made them REAL.

Check out the workbooks HERE.

**Please note, I do have an affiliate relationship with Leonie Dawson. However, I LOVE LOVE LOVE her workbooks and highly recommend them!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tame that e-mail inbox...

I cut the messages in my e-mail inbox from over 600 to only 128. 

I was overwhelmed with not only the amount of e-mail I was receiving, but also by how many emails were in my main inbox. I couldn't find specific messages easily when I needed them, and a chore that should take minutes every day was consuming an hour or more at times.

It kind of made me want to scream...

Can You Hear Me Yet by STILphotography on Etsy

Last week, I decided to tame my e-mail inbox. 

I started by doing the following:
  • changed my spam filter settings;
  • review the spam folder once weekly, instead of daily; and
  • evaluated mailing lists I was subscribed to, and unsubscribed from any I wasn't excited to see in my inbox or that I hadn't used/read/looked at in at least a monththis alone cleared out a ton of e-mail!
After completing those three steps, I committed to focusing on individual topics each time I open my e-mail. For example, only dealing with personal correspondence or sorting through e-mails for deals/sales on shops/vendors I like, or focus only on work related e-mails. To make that manageable I did the following:
  • I created subfolders for specific topics and sorted almost all of the messages I wanted or needed to keep into those subfolders.
    • Examples of my subfolders: Amanda Genther**, Apartments, Financials, Freelance, Friend#1, Friend#2, Friend#3, Continuing Ed, Etsy/Half/Ebay, Leonie Dawson**, Michelle Ward**, Tutoring, Writing Submissions.
    • I also have a few hidden folders for things I need to keep but don't need to look at very often.
Once or twice per day, I sort new messages into those folders WITHOUT READING the new messages unless they are urgent.

Then, when I have time to dedicate to ONE CATEGORY of messages, or one topic, I go through that folder ONLY. As I go through that one folder, I also decide what to take action on (save/keep, what to print and then delete (so I have a hardcopy only), what to forward, what to respond to, etc.) and then I DO THAT ACTION.

I've gone from obsessively checking my inbox to now only checking and sorting new messages once or twice per day (total: less than five minutes of my time), and tackling one folder every day or two (with time varying depending on my goals). Most days this simple task has freed up anywhere from an hour to three or four hours! (Seriously, I was spending that much time just on e-mail! Ridiculous!) 

I now have a lot more time every day for my son, our dogs, fun, and working on my own interests.

**These three ladies are solopreneur goddesses! I love them, and hope you will check them out!  (Please note, I do  have an affiliate relationship with Leonie Dawson, but even if you don't purchase anything from her, I really do encourage you to follow her because she has tons of wisdom to share!)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Spay and neuter your pets!

This isn't the post I had planned to write this morning, but as I was driving home from work (night shift!), a little dog ran out in front of my car! Thankfully, I saw the little guy, but it sure scared me! The little guy ran across a hugely busy street during rush hour. I turned around and went to try to find him (or her?), and he darted across the road again! I found him scrounging around by a dumpster and tried to get the guy to come to me, but he darted away again with his little food treasure from next to the dumpster. He was so cute, but dirty, and terrified when I tried to approach him. The sweet thing obviously doesn't have a home. He took off again, and I wasn't able to find him again. :(  If you have a pet, please neuter or spray the little boy or girl!

Our little girls:

If you find a stray, please take them to a no-kill shelter so they can get spayed/neutered and possibly find a new home.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Realizations and ramblings...

I am tutoring the cutest little 8 year old girl. She is struggling with reading, and it has been a pleasure to see her working hard to improve her skills and to learn to ENJOY to read. Since reading is my favorite activity, this brings such joy to my heart! However, I realized that the combination of my great tutoring skills (not bragging - my families tell me I'm great!) and a motivated student means my job is really to put myself out of business!

Pillsbury peppermint sugar cookie dough smells great, tastes terrible (although my son likes the taste).

Watching cooking clips on Hulu is probably not the best idea when a) I've just cleaned the kitchen, and b) I'm ravenously hungry!

This person makes me smile every single day. I can't believe he's only 9 months away from being a legal driver (assuming he passes his driving exam).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Non-Family People I'm loving right now...

I haven't been blogging in a while. I've just been working, sleeping, working, sleeping, and taking care of my son and dogs in between.

Over the past few weeks, I've been working hard at breaking down a schedule for non-work, non-sleeping, non-child and non-dog care. I've been carving out bits of time to start some drafts of blog posts, to get started on an e-book art history project, and other non-traditional work and fun stuff.

While you patiently wait for the next great thing from me (it's coming, it's coming!), I wanted to share a few non-family people that I love.


First, I encourage you creative types, or anyone trying to escape the traditional 9-5 job situation, to check out this video series by one of my very favoritist of all people, Michelle Ward from When I Grow Up Coach. The series is called Grown Up Gigs, and I love it!  I hope someday to be one of Michelle's guests!
http://www.whenigrowupcoach.com/gug/ by Michelle Ward
I absolutely love this series, and I've gotten so many great tips about how to guide my own creative business ventures, how to stay sane while planning to leave the 9-5 behind, and just overall inspiration for how to live a better life.


Next, check out my beautiful friend, Marianne Bland, and her amazing cityscapes. She manages to capture San Francisco in a way that always fills me with awe.  Her work reminds me so much of Edward Hopper. Seriously, her work is amazing. Marianne took part in a project called Heroes & Hearts in San Francisco too, and as part of the project, she painted a giant heart that was on display in the city by the bay (I just had to throw in the rhyme).
https://www.facebook.com/marianneblandart by Marianne Bland
I love Marianne's art, but she's also been a great friend, and so supportive of my own endeavors. Check her out on Facebook, but also check out her website.


Finally, I adore Ms. Leonie Dawson. She is a creative biz genius, and has managed to keep growing her business even while being super duper sick with hyperemesis gravidarum (which I had during pregnancy with my son 15 years ago, so I know just how miserable Leonie is - giganto hugs, Leonie!).  Leonie runs the Amazing Business and Life Academy, and I can tell you that in the few short couple of months I've been a part of the Academy, I've been seeing lots of positive changes in my creative biz life, and in my personal life. Some changes have been little (taking a couple of minutes every morning to stretch and center myself for the day ahead) to larger (exceeding my earnings goal each month for my creative biz - seriously! Every month I've gone past my goals!). 
Check out the Academy HERE. It truly has been life changing!

My favorite benefit of the Academy though is available even without taking the jump into the Academy - the Amazing Biz and Life Workbooks.  These workbooks come out annually, and I just got the 2014 editions.  I snagged both the Life and Business versions, and combined them to make one huge workbook! They are such great tools to sort out what's important to you, what you thought was important but isn't, and to make a plan to get those things that you really want to go after. Check them out!

Seriously, these workbooks are fantastic! Get them HERE.


I hope you will go and visit these three fantastic women, and that you will love them as much as I do! They nourish my creative soul.

**Please note, the links for the Biz Academy, and the Biz and Life workbooks are affiliate links, so I will receive a little bit back if you choose to join the academy or purchase the workbooks. I really do believe in them though, and I hope you will check them out regardless of the affiliate status!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Dear Son...

Dear son,

You asked if I mind if you play some games on your PlayStation. I said, "I don't care." The truth is, I do care. When I say, "I don't care" what I mean is "I'm not concerned with whether or not you play video games right now. I am concerned with whether or not it brings you happiness."

Just as I spent a lot of time working on the skill of not apologizing for things I have no reason to apologize for, and just as I've worked at learning to not say yes to every little thing just to please others, I'm going to work on learning to be more precise when speaking to you. Instead of "I don't care", I'm going to work hard at telling you what I really mean.

When I hear someone say, "I don't care", even if I know that they don't mean any harm, I sometimes internalize the message, "I don't care about you." I know that is most likely not the speaker's intent, but I'm human. Sometimes that is the message I hear in the words "I don't care."

So, I'm going to be more careful in my speech from now on.

Instead of "I don't care", you'll hear:

  • Go ahead. Playing video games sounds fun right now.
  • Sure you can have the last cookie. I bet it will taste great!
  • Yes, you can stay up an hour later. I know you'll still manage to get up on time.
  • I love you bunches!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dear Son...

Dear son,

It has been amazing to watch you grow up these past 15 years. I can barely remember life before you.
Son, I want you to know a few things as you continue to mature and move into adulthood.

Son, if you have goals and dreams for your life, don't let others hold you back. There will be doubters, haters, and scammers out there. Most of them are simply afraid - afraid to be left behind by you, afraid that they won't achieve their own goals, afraid of what will happen if they do achieve their goals.

Heck, maybe you are afraid too. I know I'm afraid...afraid of the unknown. I've spent a long time letting my fear of the unknown keep me for pursuing my goals. I've let others tell me that I'm not good enough, not smart enough, just not enough. Now, here I am at 39, less than six months away from 40, and I'm going after my goals - running at those goals I gave up years ago. There are still doubters, haters, scammers, and others who'd love to hold me back, but I don't care. Those aren't the people in my life that are important.

Choose the people that you share your goals and your life with carefully. Don't be seduced by slick words that aren't backed with real action and enthusiasm. If the people in your life truly care for you, they'll support you no matter what - even if they disagree with you or think you are crazy!

Plenty of people thought I was nuts for doing things as small as running a 5k and as big as moving us cross-country for graduate school. Plenty of people thought I was nuts for all kinds of things in between. But, I did them anyhow! The people who were truly worth my time are the ones that supported me along the way, inquired about how things were going for us, and encouraged me to keep at it!

If you have a goal or a dream, go for it!


Friday, August 30, 2013

Daily goal cards

I believe setting and working towards goals is an important skill in life. Sometimes those goals are HUGE and need to be broken down into smaller chunks. Other times, those goals might be small but feel huge. Regardless of the size of your goal, I want you to achieve the goal and to feel accomplished.

Lately, I've been overwhelmed by my to-do list. As a result, I decided to choose one goal for each day that must be accomplished. To help myself to be accountable and to actually achieve my daily goal, I created goal cards. I wanted the cards to be attractive so I would be more likely to actually use them too!

I love how they turned out so I'm sharing them with you for FREE! Scroll down to download one, two, or all three sets.

It would be ideal to print your goal cards on a heavy paper or card stock, but if you only have regular paper, that will work! Choose your color, print your cards, and cut them out. Each day, list the date and your goal at the top. On the subsequent lines, list the steps you need to complete in order to complete your goal. Mark off each one with the check boxes as you go.

To add to your sense of accomplishment, set aside a box, a drawer, a small basket, or some other spot in which to collect your completed cards. Periodically, go back through your cards and savor the feeling of achieving!

Please remember that this is my original work. Feel free to print as many copies as you would like, but please don't profit from my work. Please print them for your own private use. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On the topic of mothering

I try not to just put up posts that are ONLY links to other things, but I love these two links so much that I am doing just that! Today, I give you two posts about being a mother. These are two of the most important pieces I have read in a very long time about the act of being a mother and all of the things related to mothering.

"Mothers are not 'opting out' - they're out of options" by Sarah Kendzior


"Why being a mom is enough" by Rachel Martin

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Major and minor characters in literature

I once had a student in a literature class ask why the minor characters were part of the story. This question turned into a discussion that lasted for several days, and it was one that we returned to with every new short story that we read for the remainder of the semester.

While not all stories and characters are created equally, the majority of the time the minor characters serve to teach us something about the major character. Maybe the minor character has a secret to tell us about the major character's background. Perhaps the minor character is present to serve as a comparative device to help us understand the major character. Or, maybe the minor character is pivotal to a turn of events in the story.

The minor characters typically serve a purpose that moves the story along. Without the minor characters the story might not be as interesting.

With that in mind, I'd like to share a worksheet with you. Whether your teach literature in a school, are a student yourself, or use it in your homeschool, I hope you will find this worksheet of value.  Please feel free to make multiple copies for your personal use or for your own classroom use. This is my own creation, and I would greatly appreciate it if you would give credit where due should you share this with others. Please refrain from using this for your own profit. Thanks!

Also, check out my worksheet for short story analysis HERE.

Monday, August 26, 2013

College applications

In just a couple of months, many students in the United States will be sending off college applications. It can be a daunting process that unnerves even the most confident of students. Time and time again students second guessing their interests, abilities, and accomplishments when it comes to applying for college.

This weekend, I happened across three items that I'd like to share with you about college applications and narrowing down college choices. I hope you find these helpful.

First, "Writing the Right College-Entrance Essay" from The Wall Street Journal. I love the advice in this article. What it comes down to is being true to yourself. Click HERE for the article.

Second, NPR recently ran a story about using LinkedIn to learn more about different colleges. Click HERE for that story.

Third, if you have any literary interests, this list suggests the the top 25 most literary colleges in the United States. (Pssst...mine is number 7!). Click HERE for that story.

I wish you the best whether you are a parent or a student enduring the applications process!

This post is cross-listed at http://ursamajorconsulting.blogspot.com.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New projects - Literary analysis guides

I am embarking on a new project, and I could use a little help. I would be ever so appreciative if you would leave a comment in which you answer the following questions:
  • What books, articles, poems, or other material did you have to read in middle school, high school, or college English classes which left you either confused or bored to pieces?
  • If you are a homeschooling parent or a teacher, what do you look for in a good literary analysis study guide?
  • Do your students or kids like to incorporate artistic expression in their work? 
You see, I love to read. And, I love to discuss what I read. Of all the subjects I tutor, I love tutoring literature the most. A year or so ago, I had the idea to develop literary analysis study guides, but I didn't do anything beyond dream about it. Then, over the spring, I began making notes in my copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald while helping a student through the book. Those notes morphed into ideas for study guides, and I finally committed to making my dream into reality.

I've got my first few books, blank notebooks, sticky notes, and pens all ready to go. I started making notes in my books using sticky notes, and have begun to outline guides, vocabulary, thematic questions, and project ideas in the notebooks. I'm starting with:
  • William Shakespeare's Macbeth
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Homer's The Odyssey translated by Robert Fagles

There are just SO MANY GOOD BOOKS out there though! The ones I'm starting with just happen to be the ones I've used most recently in tutoring. When I'm done with these, what should I tackle next? It could be a book, an article, a poem, or something else related to literature.  Thoughts?  I'd love your feedback both as answers to the questions above, but also just general thoughts, concerns, and ideas.  Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond!

While I get working on the next steps of my study guides, feel free to make use of these literature related posts:
This post is cross-posted at http://ursamajorconsulting.blogspot.com/.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

College planning

Through tutoring, I've helped several students with college planning. As one of my most recent students began visiting colleges, I began to reflect on my own college visits years ago.  I wish I had taken the time to take notes about each visit.

Listening to my most recent student talk about his visits, I remembered how much information I was trying to keep straight when I was in his position.  As a result, I created a worksheet for students to use when they visit colleges.  I suggest you print the worksheet double sided so that you don't have to worry about the two pages of the document getting separated.

I also suggest that you get a binder and page protectors.  After every visit, fill out a worksheet and slip it into a page protector. In the same pocket, add any brochures, paperwork, or photos from the visit.  This way everything for each visit will be kept tidy and all in one place.

In the top box, the student should write their overall thoughts about the school, and then make a list of the pros and cons for the school.  In the next field, make a list of important faculty and staff met during the visit. Be sure to get contact information and send them thank you notes. At many schools, a thank you note will make an impression! It will show maturity and interest, and it is a step that many students won't take.

In the final field of the first page, make a list of any family or friends that attended the school.  The student should take some time to talk to these people about the school and the experiences that these people had there.  Send thank you notes to them too!  If they had great experiences, ask if they would be willing to write a letter or make a phone call to the school after the student applies - these are NOT letters of recommendation that many applications require!  These are on top of the required letters of recommendation. Some schools, especially private schools, love to have alumni recommend students.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Poetry for Young People by Carl Sandburg

Right now my favorite book is Poetry for Young People by Carl Sandburg. I absolutely adore this book. Sandburg's poems are accompanied by beautiful illustrations, and the book begins with a fantastic biography about Sandburg.  The poems range from extremely short to a few pages in length, and cover a wide variety of subjects.  Most are fairly straightforward, and for those that aren't quite as obvious, the illustrations will aid in understanding. 

If you were to use this book in a homeschool, I would suggest reading the poems aloud to one another, and then compare the poems to the illustrations.  Discuss the meanings of the poems and how the illustrations relate.
After every couple of poems, perhaps work on writing a poem reflecting the same style or imagery or themes of one or two of the poems read.

My own son and I enjoy reading poetry aloud to one another over dinner or dessert.  It is a nice way to wind down the day.

For other poetry inspiration and ideas, please check out these links:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The most important thing you can do today...

Next to telling your loved ones how much they matter to you, watching this video may be the most important thing you can do today.  It's only 34 minutes, barely a blip in the course of your day - you have time for this.

Watch it, share it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Literary analysis worksheet for short stories...

When I was teaching adult ESL students, I found that many had difficulty sorting out different aspects of short stories in my Contemporary American Short Story class.  As a result, I made up a worksheet for them to fill out.  This worksheet helped them to sort the aspects of the stories into categories and to see how different elements related to one another. During class discussion, the students could use the charts to help them discuss the stories.  This was also a good study aide prior to midterms and final exams.  I hope you will find it useful with your own students whether they be homeschooled, in public school, or in college.

Also, check  out my Major and Minor Characters in Literature worksheet HERE.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thankful and excited...

I've been feeling down all morning. I haven't been motivated to do much of anything, including writing the homeschooling related post I had planned for today.  To try to bolster my spirits, I'm going to steal an idea from my friend, Sheri: to list five things I'm thankful for and five things I'm excited for.

Next time you are feeling down, I suggest you try this exercise as well.

1. I have a home
2. My son
3. My parents and siblings
4. One best friend mere blocks away
5. Another best friend just a text message or phone call away

1. A project I have planned called "Path to Awesome"
2. Plan to visit a museum on Wednesday
3. A new job
4. Seeing friends from out of town at the end of the month
5. JP turns 15 on the 24th of this month.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Planned August reading...

My July reading didn't exactly go as planned. I had to return almost everything on my list to the library.  I could have renewed, but would have had to pay down some fines first (oops!), and thus decided to just return the books instead.  I should plan better, I suppose!

July 2013 reading:

  • The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff 
  • Meet Me At Emotional Baggage by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella 
  • The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones by Anthony Bourdain 
  • Celia the Dark and Weird by Karen Finneyfrock

Abandoned/Returned to the Library:
  • The Hit by David Baldacci - I would like to finish this one eventually.
  • The Butterfly Hunter by Chris Ballard - Eh, it was ok, but I probably won't check it out again.
  • The No Asshole Rule by Robert J. Sutton  - Definitely want to finish this one! Gotta pay down those library fines and check it out again!
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Not what I was expecting, and I probably won't finish it.

Continuing into August:
  • The Owl and Moon Cafe by Jo-Ann Mapson 
  • The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg 
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini 

Planned August 2013 reading:

Continuing from July:
  • The Owl and Moon Cafe by Jo-Ann Mapson - This is one of my go-to books when I need something familiar and comforting. I've read it several times.
  • The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg - Another go-to for comfort and familiarity.
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini - I loved Hosseini's first two books, but am really struggling to get into this one.  I want to love it, but so far I'm not even lukewarm.
Other planned reading for August:
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson - I started this one months and months ago, but put it down when life got too busy. Time to pick it up again!
  • Matar Un Ruisenor by Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird in Spanish.  My Spanish skills are elementary for speaking and writing, and probably low-intermediate for reading. However, I know the original English version of the book so well that I'm going to attempt to read it in Spanish.  I'm hoping that this will help improve my Spanish skills dramatically.  Anyone know where I can find copies in Swedish or Turkish? I'm not having much luck finding To Kill a Mockingbird in either of those two languages.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Whisper your worries...

I created another motivational/inspirational/meditation poster this morning.  The next time you are worried about something, or feeling overwhelmed with worries, I want you to close your eyes. Imagine that you are a child again, and blowing on a freshly picked dandelion. Every time you blow on the dandelion, and the little bits begin to float away, imagine that they are carrying your worries away with them.

Whisper your worries to the wind

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Getting published feels nice

Several months ago, I submitted a poem to The Blue Lake Review, an online literary journal. I was thrilled to have the poem accepted for inclusion in their August edition.  It came out today.

Backstory: while riding the 7-train in New York City from Time's Square out to Queens, I happened to be sitting across from a woman that reminded me so much of my grandmother who had passed away several years earlier that the ride was an emotional one.

Click HERE for the front page of the edition, and click HERE for my poem.  Please read through the other works that are in this edition as well. The Blue Lake Review is a lovely journal and deserves your time and attention.

Thanks for checking out my work and The Blue Lake Review!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Amazing FREE online art gallery...

I am not feeling well today, so this post will be short and to the point! I am enrolled in a class called "Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies for Your Classroom" via Coursera, and another participant shared this amazing resource: Google Cultural Institute's Google Art Project. If you love art, are teaching art history, can't get to a museum, or whatever else the case might by, check out this project!  It brings art and major museums right to your computer.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trust the universe...

Lately, I've felt like just about everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.  Nothing major has really happened, but things haven't been going the way I hoped for.  Woody Allen once said, ““If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” And, I feel like I've been making God laugh a lot lately.

Then, two nights ago, as I was stirring a pot of soup, the phrase, "Let go, and trust the universe" popped into my head.  I don't know why.  What I do know is that when I gave into that idea, I felt better.  Yesterday, whenever I began to feel stressed, I went back to that thought, closed my eyes, focused on my breathing and meditated on the meaning of this little idea.  My day went significantly better than expected.

So, if you are feeling stressed, worried, anxious, here is a little PDF poster I created for you.  Feel free to download it and use it as you need to.  All I ask is that if you share it, you give credit where credit is due.  Thanks.

Monday, July 29, 2013

May, June, July 2013 reading

Today, I am focusing on:

Let go, and trust the universe.

This is a hard one, but I think it is necessary.  The line came to me last night as I was making dinner and fretting about money.  Once it popped into my head, and I didn't argue with the thought, a weird thing happened ~ I felt calm and at peace.

So, this morning, my mantra is let go, and trust the universe.  I am a control freak, so this is a hard task, but I am doing my best.

In other news, I was looking back over my Goodreads.com book list, and realized that either I didn't read as much as I thought I had over the past three months, or I didn't update my list for every book that I read.  Not sure which is the case...  I'm usually really on top of things like that as you can see in these posts:
To say I read a lot would be, ahem, an understatement.

Looking over my Goodreads list, I am sure there are books listed that I didn't list, or rate, or mark as finished, or something.

July 2013 reading:
In progress:
  • The Hit by David Baldacci
  • The Butterfly Hunter by Chris Ballard
  • The No Asshole Rule by Robert J. Sutton
  • The Owl and Moon Cafe by Jo-Ann Mapson
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff
  • Meet Me At Emotional Baggage by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella
  • The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones by Anthony Bourdain
  • Celia the Dark and Weird by Karen Finneyfrock
June books finished, according to my Goodreads list:

  • Blue Nights by Joan Didion
  • Open Heart by Elie Weisel
  • Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan
  • School of Fear (book #1) by Gitty Daneshvari
  • Go Your Own Way: Women Travel the World Solo by Faith Conlon
May books finished according to my Goodreads list:
  • The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
  •  Hold the Cream Cheese, Kill the Lox by Sharon Kahn
I am SURE I read more than that in both May and June though! SURE OF IT!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Deleting old posts, updating my focus, and moving forward

I haven't posted regularly in months, maybe even a year.  Life wasn't fun.  We were always too busy, too rushed, too broke, too unhappy.

The past two or three months, I've had a huge amount of time on my hands and it has been an adjustment.  It has been a period of reflection, deep thought, zoning out, and regeneration.

I'm cleaning up this blog, deleting posts that no longer seem relevant, narrowing focus, and making changes.

The first thing you'll notice is that I'm deleting Etsy tags on posts, and deleting posts are that are 100% about Etsy.  I haven't quit Etsy, but I've dramatically shifted my focus away from that forum as a creative outlet.  I found that I was focusing more and more on the business side, and losing my joy in creating as a result.  So....pretty much no more Etsy on this blog unless it is super relevant to something else, and not at all my main focus.

Secondly, I'm eliminating some posts that were relevant at the time but are no longer relevant...things that had time lines, for example.

Thirdly, we moved.  Like, we literally no longer live in that craphole of an apartment with the poopy landlords who never fixed anything unless I withheld rent and threatened repeatedly to sue them (those of you that donated a bit of money to help...THANK YOU!!!!).  We live in a mold FREE, pretty, fairly new house now! YAY!  We are still renting, but this is so much nicer!  We even have enough room for a second dog! DOUBLE YAY!

I've put myself on a schedule, and outlined blog posts for the next few weeks.  My goal is to blog DAILY so that it becomes habit, and to view this as part of my daily, right after morning coffee but before morning yoga routine.  I could really use some cheerleaders though.  If you see me lagging, PLEASE NUDGE ME!  PLEASE!

I want to bring my focus back to things I love -  homeschooling my beautiful son (he turns 15 this August!), literature/reading, writing, drawing, and building my dream life.

I've missed you all, my blogging friends!

In our HOUSE, I no longer have to worry about bothering downstairs neighbors with noise when I jump around exercising; however, the dog thinks my mat is a good spot for a nap.  Haha!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Being "bored" means you are wasting precious moments of your life...

I acknowledge that we all need down time in our lives.  We need time to relax, refresh, recharge.  But, do we need to be "bored"?  There was a time when I would have said that boredom is valuable.  It teaches us to appreciate the times when we are not bored.  It helps us to self-motivate to undo our boredom. Blah blah blah.

Now, I'm not so sure.  I have spent a lot of time in my life sitting around, bored.  Wasted time.

I saw this on Facebook, and looked it up on the 'net to see if the attribution is correct. It appears to be from comedian Louis C.K.  And, I love it!

So, if you are sitting there, feeling bored, do something about it!  Realize how lucky you are to just be here!  Take a moment to THINK.  WRITE your thoughts.  TELL someone a story.  Take a moment to formulate a plan, then go DO something about it!  Whatever it is you decide to do, LIVE this life that you've been given.  Don't waste it being bored. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

December 2012 and January 2013 Reading...

I love to read.  No, scratch that.  I LOVE TO READ.  The only things I love more than reading are my son, my family, my friends, and my dog...and believe me, the difference between my love of all of them and my love of reading is TINY.  The difference is absolutely TINY.  I love reading that much.  

If I could eat written words for nourishment, I would.  

If reading would re-energize my body the way sleep does, I would read instead of sleeping.  

If I could earn a living from reading (from reading what I want to read...not just whatever lands on my desk), then that is all I would do.

Have I mentioned how much I love to read?  Really, there are no words to explain...

I have talked about my love of reading before.  I've talked about my reading, suggestions for children, poetry, and so on.  Read those posts HERE

Unfortunately, because of my work schedule, since October, I've read almost nothing compared to my normal amount of reading.  Sigh...  It has been depressing.  Really depressing.

Here is an update...my December 2012 and January 2013 reading list, and my plans for February 2013.  Titles with a line through them are books I've managed to finish.  No line? I'm still reading it.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Reread because I just love it.
  • The Appeal by John Grisham - Loved it until the end.  The end just pissed me off!
  • Extreme Measures by Michael Palmer - Eh.  It passed the time.  Not great, not terrible.
  • The Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass - Read along with a tutoring student.  Everyone should read this!  I put together a Frederick Douglass study guide.  Check out HERE
  • Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain - I was reading along with a tutoring student; put on hold, but plan to finish eventually
  • Cider House Rules by John Irving - Love!

  • The Innocent by David Baldacci - I normally don't read spy and espionage type stuff, but this was good.  I passed it on to my son.  He's enjoying it.
  • The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinsky - A favorite for when I need to relax.  An easy, humorous read.
  • Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto - I love Banana Yoshimoto.  Her work is somewhat depressing and mellow, but it is also full of an odd fantasy life that is so tied in to reality that I can't call it "fantasy" in terms of genre.  Unique and beautiful.
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright - EVERYONE should read this!  Read Frederick Douglass first, then Black Boy.  They go together so well.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Reading along with a tutoring student
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larson - I originally bought this for my son. He loves military history, especially if it is World War II related.  It reads much more like a biography, and I love biography.
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson - I am an avid fan of Larsson's trilogy.  So much so that I am studying Swedish, and hope to eventually read it in Swedish!  I also reread the series anytime I feel stressed, weak, or angry.  Sometimes I just need some "angry chick who overcomes the odds" type of energy.  This series fulfills those needs!
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - continuing
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larson - continuing
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson - continuing
  • Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain - hope to pick it up again and finish it.
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare - Typically I only read Shakespeare with tutoring students, but while doing research on Sylvia Plath's Ariel, I found that "Ariel" is a character in The Tempest.  I think too many people focus on Plath as a depressive woman with a chaotic life who committed suicide.  There is a tendency to lump most of her poetry into her psychiatric problems or her relationship problems.  I think Plath is so much more!  Many people who read, and even study Plath, tend to overlook the fact that she was a true literary scholar. She made it her mission to learn as much as she could from her literary ancestors, including Shakespeare.  I believe that many of the elements in her poetry that are attributed to her personal problems are actually rooted in other literature.  As a result, I'm slowly making my way through much of that same literature.  
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath - See note above.  I plan to go back through her journals, letters, and any other documents I can get my hands on, to tie her work and studies to literature she studied.  The problem, however, is that Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes, are both known to have destroyed some of her personal writings (journals, letters, etc).

Also, if you did not see my previous post, I am fundraising to help one of my English students as well as one of my best friends.  My student is in dire need of help to avoid becoming homeless, and my friend is trying to get through a bitter divorce and custody battle with the minimum of damage to her children's emotional well being.  Read more about it all HERE, or click the Donation button below to help them out.  You can also visit my Etsy shop and make a purchase.  All profits purchases from now through June will go towards my student and my friend.  Click HERE for my Etsy shop.