Monday, January 20, 2014

Assignment One

I wasn't thrilled with my classes this semester; both of them are electives for me, as by the time the university decided my transcripts were real, all the English classes were full, and I had to sign up for electives, both of which are in the education school.
One of my classes focuses on reading instruction, and the other on assessment, and I'm hoping that even though they weren't my first choices, they can help me become a better English teacher.
So far, a week in, things appear to be going well.  I submitted my first assignment in my assessment course; I wrote seven pages for what turned out to be a five-point assignment.  Thank goodness I earned all five of them.  My professor also commented that I gave a great analysis, which was a nice boost for me - I was nervous about going back to school after (number redacted) years, even if it is online, and I can "go" to class in yoga pants if I feel like it.
Keep your fingers crossed that the rest of the semester continues to go positively - the essays haven't started yet!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reverb 14 · January Prompt · Routine

#reverb14 is an opportunity for participants to reflect throughout 2014.  Each month, the Reverb team will post a new prompt.  Join and write, or you can join and read.

January Prompt: Have you started a new routine this January?  Is this routine different from last year?  Is it the result of a resolution or goal you're working on?  Tell us about your days.  How do they flow?  If you'd like, maybe give us a full "day in the life" or just some snippets.

Routine is not something that comes easily.  As much as I'd like to be a little more regimented in my life, I fully admit that I let the small variables make a big difference in What Happens each day.  HRH was not a baby fed or put to bed on a regular schedule; we figured that when she was hungry, she'd eat (and oh, she did, until I stopped nursing her).  And depending on whether or not I run, I get up at different times in the morning.

Of course, now that I'm nursing shin splints (AGAIN), my routine is all thrown off, thanks to my Not Running At All.

However, I am working to settle in to a new - and workable routine in order to make sure that I have enough time to include my two masters classes into the week.

Just typing that sentence kind of makes me anxious, even though I've already gotten almost a week ahead of schedule in one class and am right on schedule in my other one.  But I'm not really taking anything OFF my plate.  HRH still preschool twice a week as well as swim and now ballet (a Christmas present).  I still have a job, and Husband has both his job and his new role as an instructor at the community college.

Staying busy is not a problem for us.

So far, if I get up when my alarm tells me to (which has been 50-50 of late), I'm able to get in a "regular" work day and get in dinner and HRH's bedtime (facilitated by Husband whenever he's home) before I sit down to study.  I'm planning to dedicate weekends and the hour I sit at ballet to the time that I get my required reading in.

In a nutshell, my weekdays go by thus:

  • 5:30: alarm
  • 5:30-7: run/walk/yoga/coffee
  • 7-8: HRH up, breakfasted, dressed, ready
  • 8-5: work
  • 5-8: HRH various activities, dinner, "hang out" time
  • 8: HRH bedtime
  • 8-10: study, yoga (as necessary), bedtime
I try to bank at least 20 minutes of relaxation time between when I am finished with work/school/HRH's bedtime and my own bedtime.  If I don't, my mind races, and I have trouble sleeping.  If I can, it's yoga or meditation, but some nights, I want ghost hunting shows (my favorite variety of fluff TV).

Weekends?  Currently a free for all.  Prayers for my shins to heal so that order may be restored are always welcome.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Kindness of Strangers

When I was young, kindergarten or first grade, a few local fire fighters came to visit my school and teach us a little about fire safety.  Instead of leaving the assembly feeling well informed, I was terrified and became obsessed with whether or not the smoke alarm's batteries were working and devising an emergency exit from my bedroom in the case that our house caught fire.
Fire continues to dwell in the recesses of my fears; living in Arizona means that the threat is omnipresent, and I often think that a house made of cinder blocks is a good idea.
So my heart aches this weekend when a fellow coonhound owner, someone whom I don't personally know but have met through a Facebook group lost everything in a fire, including two of his three rescued hounds.
Andrew lived in an RV, as he had until recently been a government contractor, so in order to have his dogs with him as he travelled for work, he sold his home and bought the RV.  His hounds, Claire, Herbie, and Sadie, went everywhere with him.  A few weeks ago, he lost his contract and is currently without a job.  He'd been giving his dogs his food as money started to run out.
Many people in this situation would surrender their dogs, but Andrew had rescued all three hounds, and was willing to sacrifice other things in order to keep his fur-family together. 
When his RV was parked this weekend, it caught fire, and Sadie and Herbie were lost, along with all of Andrew's belongings.  Andrew has burns on his hands, and Claire, his surviving hound, also has some burns and is on antibiotics to ensure that she doesn't have lasting smoke inhalation damage.  Both of them are heartbroken, and so is our coonhound community.  Sadie was rescued from a situation in New Mexico and transported to Andrew in Illinois through the Colorado Coonhound Rescue and Pilots N Paws.  As his children are grown, these three hounds were Andrew's life, and to have lost two of them this way, I just…well, there are no words.
Perhaps because this group of coonhound owners is populated, for the most, by those who have rescued hounds (Zooey is one of the few in the group who has had the same loving home all her life), those dogs who have been "thrown away" by others, we knew we had to do something.  Doing something in times of crisis is what we do, and so instead of rising up to save a hound from an abusive situation, we took action to help our fellow hound lover.
A YouCaring page has been set up to help Andrew and Claire with veterinary and other expenses, and in less than 48 hours, we have already raised over $1800.  The page is open until Valentine's Day, so if you have a few dollars hanging around that need a good home, please don't hesitate to click on the link and donate; I know that Andrew and Claire will be more than grateful for your donation.
In the long run, less than two grand isn't going to be enough.  Andrew needs a new home.  He needs a job.  He needs to be able to buy food for himself and Claire.  He needs to have a change of clothes (how many times have we all taken all our socks for granted?).  He needs to feel whole again after this devastating loss.  But we've started a process to help him heal, and we have not only stepped up financially but also to help shoulder the immense grief he is feeling right now.
I know many people who don't like to watch the news today because it seems like it's only bad news - the murder of a college runner, the continued situation in Syria, and more.  But whenever I hear this, I am reminded of The Art of Happiness, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama; in it, he discussed that the daily news cycle is full of "bad news" because it is still in the minority of events that happen each day.  Certainly it's too bad that more attention is paid to these happenings than the good that can happen, so it's up to each of us to carve out that good news we seek, even if it's in the face of terrible situations.
I can't put the sadness I feel for Andrew and Claire into words, but I also can't find words for the immense pride I have in these people I have come to know, all of whom have come together just because of our similar love for hounds.  It's a positive daily reminder that the kindness of strangers is something on which everyone should rely, as without that kindness, there won't be any other.
If you are short of money right now - you may be jobless yourself, or perhaps some unexpected expenses have arisen, and that's OK - your positive prayers, thoughts, and messages will also make a difference for Andrew and Claire; the more positive energy we can put out there, the better our world will be.
Herbie and Sadie, you will be so missed by Andrew and Claire and those who helped you live with the love that Andrew had to give you.  We will see you again; wait for us at the Bridge.


Sadie on her "freedom ride" out of abuse

Herbie and Claire

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The End of More; the Beginning of Study

The word for 2014 is study.

Last year, my Word of the Year was More.

  • More miles
  • More family time
  • More charitable donations

I am happy that, for the most, I did more.  I ran more miles in 2013 (558.91) than 2012 (427.7).  I put a lot of emphasis on spending family time together, making sure that some fun activities like the Polar Express involved all three of us, even if that took a little more effort/planning to make sure Husband wasn't working or traveling for work.  I don't feel like we made a huge impact on the charities I had planned to focus, but with apps like Charity Miles and some other donations that came up mid-year, I feel like I have made a more positive impact on the world than in past years.

As I turn the calendar to 2014, I am also turning a page in my own life.  This semester, I am officially a Northern Arizona University Lumberjack, working towards my masters in English.

I have hemmed and hawed over my masters for far too long; Husband graduated in 2007, and since then, it's been "my turn" to go back.  Some days I would think that I needed to get my masters in Something Practical (read: not English).  Some days I would think that I needed to study What I Love (read: English).  Finally, the days when I thought the latter far outweighed the former, and the decision was made.  I'll be taking all my classes online, which does restrict my class options a little, but I will be able to take some electives within the education college, which will in turn help me add some practicality to my new degree, which I should earn in December 2015.

As such, while I will continue to run more miles, spend as much time with my husband and daughter as possible, and give back when and where I can, my main focus for 2014 is on myself and my books.  Hopefully the work-life-school balance will be manageable in the first half of the year; I'm counting on HRH's entrance into kindergarten next fall to allow me a greater ability to focus on work during the work day so my school hours can be more tightly focused as well.

I've always loved learning, and I was a good "traditional" student (I still take notes when I'm reading books for fun), but after not having been in a class since 2002, I'm also a little nervous.  I'm not new to online learning (after all, I teach online now), but it will be a new perspective being a student.  That being said, I'm excited at this new chapter in my life, and I can't wait to see what doors it may open to me!

What is your word/motto for 2014?

It's a Wonderful OKMH

The holiday season is a time to reflect on the fortunes of good family and friends.  We are more than rich in both departments, and as such, this holiday edition of One Kitchen, Many Hearts was made  even more special knowing that I have been blessed with friends both near and far.

I adore shipping packages to people.  There something so fun and exciting about putting as much love in those "if it fits, it ships" USPS boxes and sending it away, imagining the glee with which it may be torn open in a few days.  Whenever I am saddened that we don't have all of our family near us, necessitating the shipment of Christmas gifts, I remind myself of the cheer that a package through the mail - instead of just those flyers that go directly into the recycling bin - can bring.
This month, I sent off a box to Mads.  Since she was actually in Minnesota, I sent it up there to meet her as she enjoyed a well-deserved vacation.
And as much as I enjoyed knowing that her package would be happily received, I have to admit that I really, really, REALLY looked forward to seeing what Jeanne sent me.  She is one of those amazing planners who can hoard away those "perfect" goodies for months on end.  I want to be her when I grow up.
And I was not disappointed.  Together, HRH and I tore into the package.  Jeanne always thinks of HRH when she sends her packages, and this month, among other goods, the purple sparkly nail polish sent her over the edge.  We've been playing "Beauty Shop" for days now.  My fingernails (and most of my top knuckles) look amazing.
Not to be left out, I also received red sparkly polish, with which HRH immediately absconded ("this is for me, too").  Someday I may be allowed to use it.
And as if Jeanne knew I would need something to make myself feel better after having so new a good stolen right out from under me, THESE MAPLE PECAN SHORTBREAD COOKIES:
These last three brave souls perished earlier this morning.

And for my breakfast biscuits (or straight from the spoon… whatever):

Status: hoarding
For those girl's nights in with me, myself, and I (which, in true OKMH mind meld, Megan also received from Kirsten - I'm dying right now):


But this apron.  OMG.  Jeanne said she found it months ago and KNEW I had to have it.  I mean, OBVIOUSLY.  You may have noticed that I adore Germany and German things and the German language (I have a degree in it and used to teach it).  True, Lederhosen is worn by men, but a dirndl apron may have been a little… risqué?  The beer stein pinned to it was Jeanne's addition, and I just LOVE THIS.  In fact, I'm terrified to wear it.  I don't want to get it dirty.  

Thanks so much, Jeanne.  I LOVED opening this package, and so did HRH. 
I'm so lucky to have met all of these ladies, four of whom I've even met in real life.  They are all wonderful women, and I hope that in 2014, all of my friends and readers will take inventory of the blessings we call friends.

Click here to see what I sent Mads.
Also check out what Mads sent Kirsten.
And what Kirsten sent Megan.
And what Megan sent Kat.
And what Kat sent Beka.
And finally, what Beka sent Jeanne.