Friday, November 28, 2014

Yes, It's Another "I'm Thankful" Post

Every November, my Facebook newsfeed is filled with friends listing all of the things/people they are thankful for. There’s the 25 Day Thankful Challenge, the 30 Day Thankful Photo Challenge, and the #IAmGrateful Challenge.

Fortunately, I’ve never been tagged on social media to comprise any of these lists. I would have declined which may/may not cause me to feel guilty (see recent post: No More Guilt!). I tried keeping a gratitude journal back when Oprah was all about doing one. I listed five things that happened each day that I was grateful for. After a week, I decided that I didn’t need to focus so much on the past, even if it were just one day at a time.

Social media/technology has made me lazy in many ways but especially as far as thank-you messages go. I was raised to write a thank-you note if I received even the smallest gift or gesture. Now, I tell myself that I don’t have time to actually write and mail a note, that an email or a sincere public statement is enough. I know that’s not correct etiquette, and I promise to do better next year.

I’ve avoided the public showing of all that I’m grateful for, but since I’m into that huge transition into retirement, I felt compelled to list a few of the people/things I’m thankful for.

My family is the best. Like most of you, we have many dysfunctional people in our group, but we love and tolerate them or they do a good job of tolerating me. They/we provide lively conversation, whether they/we are doing the talking or family members are talking about them/us.

I’m so grateful that I got to raise children. Watching children grow and develop is the greatest joy. I only wish I had slowed down and appreciated it more instead of worrying about work or having a clean house. Now that I’m raising my grandchild, I hope I’m doing a better job of living in the moment.

Kelsey (8)
Kelsey (1)

Kevin (9 months)

Sweet Drew (9) giving a hug to his baby sister (3).

Kevin (3) bringing in the newspaper on a Sunday morning. This memory of Kevin is one that is frozen in my mind. It's like I can remember everything about him when this picture was taken. Such a sweet baby and little boy.

Kevin (6) and Drew (2) Check out Drew's ortho shoes. He was born with clubbed feet and had to have surgery as well as wear those shoes made for braces.

My nieces, Grace and Mary Griffin, and Kelsey eating watermelon.

Cloee's 4th birthday at Disney World. This trip was the best ever. It cost me $1,000 but when it was over, she said, "Thank you, Honey. I love you." It was worth every penny.

I don't mean the following statement to sound egotistical. I’ve accomplished so much in my life, and I’m truly thankful for all the help I’ve gotten from friends, colleagues, family and students. Many of my greatest accomplishments didn’t make the news; however, they have seemed really great to me. I’m so proud of what I’ve been able to give to all the people I’ve taught during my career. Any old teacher loves hearing from former students, especially when they tell us how much they loved the class, about how much they learned or about how much they connected to us. What a huge ego trip!

This may sound like an acceptance speech on some TV award show, but I want to say that I am thankful for my Lord. I may not make it to church every Sunday, may not read the Bible daily and may have agnostic periods, but when I sit and am still, I can hear Him. When I look at the majesty of this earth, I can see that someone had a hand in it. One of the greatest parts of worshipping a common power is the togetherness that you find in a church. I feel sad for people who do not have a place of safety that belonging to a church provides.

A beautiful tree in Perote, AL.photographed by my daughter.

My Top Five Contacts – I talk to these five people almost every day, and on really good or really bad days, I talk to them two or three times in a day. They are my blessings and my security.

I’m finished. I could go on and on about all the people, things, and experiences I’m grateful for in my life, but I’m afraid there’s not enough space on the Internet. Does that make sense? Does “breaking the Internet” by showing your butt make sense, Kim Kardashian? I was going to put a link to a site explaining about KK's naked photos, but I didn't want to give her any more exposure (pun intended).

Anyway, please know that I’m grateful for all of the people who take the time to read this blog. You have made these past several months some of the most interesting ones. I couldn’t have done this blog without the help of my editor/husband. Each week, he  proofreads all of my drafts and gives lots of, sometimes too much, advice. I frequently tell him that he should just start his own blog because he often tries to overtake mine. However, I’m forever thankful for him and that he picked me.

Richard and I eloped on Dec, 21, 2010. We were married in the judge's chambers in Apalachicola, FL.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Any Time, Any Place, Any Where

Every five years, we teachers have to accumulate enough continuing education points to renew our teaching certificate for the next five years.  We can get those points by physically attending classes or in-service trainings, but now many classes are offered online and are free. I have to renew soon, so I enrolled in an online class to get the necessary points.

The online class I’m taking sounds so appealing: free, work at your own pace, work at your leisure, interesting topic. I have from October until January 5 to get it all finished. I’ve got this covered, I thought.

Like most people who first get into a project or class, I was super excited to get started. I worked hard for the first couple of weeks and got everything in on time. I was feeling proud of myself because I was making great scores since the assessments are mostly essays, which is a piece of cake for an English teacher.

But then the reality of work deadlines, flu, and just life in general took precedence.  My momentum dropped to nil, and I didn’t work on the online class until I got a friendly reminder from my teacher. At that point, I fooled myself into thinking that I would get busy and finish a majority of the work; however, I collected research papers from my students that I had to grade and return. Now I’m behind again, and I think my Thanksgiving holiday with family will make the assignments even later.

Online learning sounds great. It is convenient and with free wi-fi available most places, you can literally work on the Internet anywhere.  Remember the TV ads for Pajama University? 

Many of the online courses available are free, as well, which makes them attractive. Also, the variety of courses means there is something for everyone, for class credit, for your own information or just for fun. 

One site,, has a very inspirational statement on its home page: 
Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.  We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.
If you have ever dreamed of going to Yale, now’s your chance. Other universities offering classes which are taught by top professors are Emory, Georgia Tech, Duke, Peking University and of course, the University of Florida (“GoGators!” from proud Gator mom) to name a few.

Another well-known free online learning site is Khan Academy. Started by a man wanting to help his niece with math, Khan Academy has grown exponentially to include courses in just about everything. 

The institution has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the White House to provide online academic help to all ages. Khan Academy states that it offers “A free world-class education for anyone anywhere" and:
is an organization on a mission. We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the site's resources are available to anyone. It doesn't matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. Khan Academy's materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.

Khan Academy sounds great, and several of my students attest to the program being useful and easy to navigate.

The largest on-line instructor by far is Who hasn’t searched YouTube for tutorials in knitting, making balloon animals, clogging or repairing your 1976 BMW motorcycle? 

I use YouTube several times a week to show my students movie clips or when my granddaughter asks me how to do something. YouTube videos are posted by normal people who have the same issues that you do, which makes them easy to relate. 

Will virtual school take over and be the death of the tangible teacher and traditional classroom? I don’t know. In my 34+ years in the classroom, I’d like to say no; however, more and more classroom instruction is tied to online sites. Our new literature textbooks have online, interactive components which I assume are included to better engage students in learning. It’s the new way of going to the board and writing your answer.

The best/worst point of e-learning is that, for the most part, you have to teach yourself even if there is a teacher sending email reminders or calling once a month for a required phone conversation. Some people work better simply reading the material and answering the questions. Others, like me, enjoy the human, physical interaction in the classroom.

Success in an online class (like the one I should be working on right now instead of writing this post) rests on the student, just like education in the traditional classroom. With young adult and old adult learners, it’s their choice to stick with the program, suck it up and complete the work in the online class.

That’s just what I have to do. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

This shouldn't make me feel guilty!

About 20 years ago, I was in a confused and somewhat depressed place in my life and made an appointment with a mental health counselor. This woman was great, cutting through all the crap in my head and getting to the point that was bothering me, namely the guilt I was feeling because of events happening in my life. I paid her $80 to tell me the best advice I have probably ever gotten, that I was the only one who could make me feel guilty.

I couldn’t believe it. I had a choice in feeling guilty or not? But didn’t that make me a self-centered, uncaring person? Wouldn’t people dislike me? Maybe, but she assured me that I would learn to like myself if I let go of the guilt, that I would feel empowered and self-assured.
It’s true, isn’t it? We allow people to make us feel guilty. These feelings start when we are young, and they seem to just snowball as we get older.
One of the first people in our lives to make us feel guilty is our parents. When we are young, parents make statements like “I’m so disappointed in you” or “I can’t believe you did this to me.” It’s hard living up to the expectations our parents have for us. If we choose a path they didn’t envision for us, we might live the rest of our lives hearing about how we failed them.

My mom always jokingly told me when I was growing up that she wanted me to be a pharmacist so I could afford to put her in a nice nursing home when she’s ready to go there. When I decided to be a teacher, her hopes of a nice nursing home went out the window. I joke and tell her that on my salary, she will get a single-wide trailer in my backyard. She just smiles, but what is she really saying in that smile? 
Various religions also use guilt for leverage, which is ironic. Since the Bible says our sins were wiped away when Jesus died, we are not supposed to feel guilt. I attended a few churches in the past that left me feeling apologetic because I didn’t give my entire 10% tithe and didn’t go down to the altar at the end of the service even after singing “Just As I Am” several times. Once I missed a couple of Sunday services, and the deacon actually asked where I had been and why hadn’t I been in church. Did he realize what he said?

Since I’m a parent, I can honestly say that there is nothing and no one who can make a person feel more guilt than her children. When they were growing up, I never thought I was a good enough mom and that I should do everything for them. Now that they're adults, I find myself with those same feelings of inadequacy every day because now I can see exactly what I should have done. That old hind-sight stuff stinks. I decided that I’m going to keep the guilt I have about the mistakes I made in parenting. I’ve tried to let this particular guilt go, but I don’t see it leaving; it's just too big.
I’m sure all employees feel guilt at some point. How can a doctor make a mistake with a patient's health and not feel remorse? I used to feel guilty when I didn’t get papers graded as quickly as the kids thought I should. If I didn’t have a dynamite lesson planned, in my mind I was a total failure and the worst teacher ever. When my students did poorly on a test, it must have been my fault.  How much of this is in my own head and how much did the kids even care? In my last year of my career, I believe I have a handle on the work guilt.

My husband said that we are all motivated by guilt. Otherwise, we’d tell the whole world to go to hell. He might be right. Guilt makes me want to do better, to make amends, to clear my conscience, so can’t some guilt be good?
What started my trip down guilty lane? I was considering not writing a post this week because I’m really slammed for time. I have research papers and journals to grade. I’m teaching a book next week that I’ve never even read. I’m going out of town tomorrow when I should stay home and clean my dirty house.  I’m feeling the stress, but I didn’t want to let down my readers. I actually felt guilty about not writing, but since I’m the only one who can make me feel guilty, I decided not to even consider the guilt and just write the damn post.

So here’s to guilt and to my therapeutic venting! Thank you.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Epic Weight Loss Failures

All of my life, I have been overweight.

In elementary school, I knew I  was different from my other friends, and it wasn't a good feeling. I was "Fatty Four Eyes." I saw the normal-sized girls eating their lunches that contained celery and carrot sticks, dainty sandwiches with no crust, and apples, oranges or other fruit. My lunch was usually a hurriedly-made sandwich with a bag of chips and a much-hoped-for cookie. 

Everyone in the family always said I looked just like my grandmother, Nana, who was a big woman at 250 pounds. Her name was Hattie but everyone called her Happy because she was always smiling. I assumed that's why they said I was like her until I realized that we had more than a smile in common. We also had a penchant for ice cream, sitting all day and watching TV or doing some other sedentary activity. She drank Diet Rite cola, which was the only dieting she ever did.

My dad gave me a back-handed compliment once when he said that my fat was ok because it was hard fat. I guess he meant that it was firm, not jiggly, which made my fat good fat. My dad wasn't the best at giving compliments.

My weight didn't get any better in middle and high school. Around 7th grade, I started trying to lose weight, but I thought there was some quick method and I tried them all over the next 20 years.

I was class secretary in 7th grade and got a picture in the yearbook. Maybe this picture guided me to  became a yearbook sponsor for 33 years so I could keep other children's yearbook pictures from being cropped like this.

The first item I purchased to help with weight loss was AYDS, which was advertised as an appetite-suppressant candy that came in chocolate, caramel, butterscotch and peanut butter flavors. Now that was my kind of diet -- one that allowed me to eat candy!  The only problem was that I was limited to two small pieces a day. Even though it wasn't the best tasting candy, I was tempted to eat more than the two little pieces every day.

AYDS went away in the 1980s because of its name association with AIDS, the most feared disease of that time. It was a truly unfortunate product moniker.

I tried other quick-loss methods. I ate special cookies, drank meal-replacement shakes, and even had my ear stapled. 

I look back at the ear stapling and just shake my head. My grandmother found a dentist who shot a surgical staple into the cartilage of my ear.

The staple was supposed to stimulate a pressure point that controls appetite. Every time I felt hungry, I was to push on the staple. Now, let me tell you, getting the staple put in was painful and pushing on it for the next few weeks was also painful. 

If I still had that staple, I'd be totally in style with all of the multiple piercings people have now. My students would think I was one of those cool teachers. If the staple had delivered an electric shock, much like an electric cattle prod, it might have worked.

I jumped on the low-fat diet, the low-carb diet, and the cabbage soup and grapefruit and banana diets. Like most diet fads, after the newness wore off, I was back to my old eating patterns.

I tried Weight Watchers about a dozen or so times over the next 30 years. It's a wonderful program that I have had some success with; however, I got tired of paying so much for something I felt I should be able to do on my own. Yeah, right. Isn't that what most addicts think?

Another weight-loss method I had a lot of faith (no pun intended) in was at my church. It's a program called the Weigh-Down Workshop. Weekly, I met with a group of women and watched a video of other groups discussing the scripture of the week that was supposed to give us encouragement.

I enjoyed the meetings and enjoyed learning all the different scriptures and lessons. I did not, however, lose any weight. 

So what seems to be my problem? I am addicted to sugar but I also like salty, crunchy foods. I use food as my comfort. I don't eat to live but instead live to eat. It's taken me a long time to get it through my thick skin (again, no pun intended) but I have to expend more calories than I consume if I want to lose weight. I also have to do that every single day. Duh! 

I also have another problem of not looking at the day but instead I look at the whole. In other words, I don't consider just one day of being conscious of my eating/exercising pattern as being an accomplishment. I see it as an epic failure because I couldn't last for the long haul. 

Will I change my way of thinking? I hope so and I'll try again on Monday to have a fresh start. I'll vow to exercise at least 4 times a week and not to eat sweets.  Maybe this Monday will be the one. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Rolling Through a Busy October

To be honest, I couldn't think of a really WOW topic for this week's post, but I had to put something out there for my five or so readers, so here's the best I could come up with -- an October review.

Oh my! October was packed with events for my family. In addition to Cloee's and Richard's birthday, we also included a trip to Gainesville and cataract surgery. At times during this hectic month, we survived by putting one foot in front of the other.

The month began with a visit to the veterinarian concerning Cloee's Sweet Pea. The mini dachshund was very much in pain and refused to walk. The very nice vet determined that she had a slipped disc in her neck, an event that is very common for this breed. In hopes of preventing the $4,000 surgery for repair, we were instructed to keep her in a kennel for two weeks, giving her the prescribed steroids, muscle relaxers and pain meds. I started preparing Cloee with phrases like "She is a dog, not a person," "Sometimes there are hard decisions in life," and  "$4,000 could pay for a nice vacation" in the event the meds didn't work.  I'm happy to report a full recovery.

In early October, we made a trip to Gainesville to visit my daughter Kelsey for the day. After lunch out, we explored Payne’s Prairie via the La Chua Trail. If you have never been there, this Florida State Park is really something to see. According to the website, “More than 20 distinct biological communities provide a rich array of habitats for wildlife and livestock, including alligators, bison, horses and more than 270 species of birds.” The day of our visit, part of the park was closed for a restoration project so we didn’t see the bison or horses and only saw one gator. Still, it is a beautiful place to visit.

Cloee had an exciting month which began with her getting her braces off. Now she has a beautiful smile with straight teeth. 

Her birthday is October 26 so that meant a party with six friends. This was her first party with just friends, no family, so she decided to celebrate at a local pottery painting center. Little girls get excited about turning double digits.

Our next major October event was Richard’s cataract surgery. This procedure is not a big deal anymore to most people, but it was a first in our family. He recovered in time to celebrate his birthday on the 29th with his favorite – a pineapple upside down cake.

We closed out the month with Halloween and Cloee dressed a Native American princess. She and I made the costume together. She designed it, I sewed it and then she glued the ribbon on. It was a very inexpensive costume and a lot of fun to make together.

October was indeed busy, and I'm sure events will be nonstop for November and December because of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We'll handle them like we always do -- step by step and together.