My Ariel-esque Weekend

I’ve been enjoying a new experience this weekend. Friday night, sitting around my in-laws’ dining room table at family game night, I noticed my voice crack like a pubescent boy a few times. I credited the Bud Light, and moved on. Saturday morning, I woke up feeling pretty congested, and with a bit of a scratchy throat. This has been a horrible year for my sinuses, though, so I popped a Mucinex, and went on with my day. However, after serving at the soup kitchen, and a seven-mile run, I noticed my voice was starting to sound quite hoarse. When I got home from grocery shopping, B laughed at my greeting and challenged me to my best rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone”. It wasn’t pretty.

This morning I woke up with absolutely no voice. B could hardly hear me across the table at breakfast, our waiter asked me to repeat my order about three times, there was no singing at church for me this morning, and my dogs shrink away from me every time I open my mouth to croak out a command. However, I’ve discovered there are some positive aspects to losing one’s voice: 1) My middle school bell choir was much less talkative (out of pity) and got some good practice at being less dependent on my counting aloud, 2) People are much more likely to say “yes” when you ask them to do you a favor (thanks for all the water, babe), and 3) I can justify having ice cream two nights in a row.

The Cost of Being a Grown-Up

Yesterday, I made an amateur mistake in the world of adultism. It was pay day, and that morning, upon logging into our bank account online, I transferred our traditional amount to “savings” and to “house savings”. I then complimented myself on the upward trend our accounts have shown these past few months. Wow! I thought to myself. Saving really pays off. It doesn’t matter that as a teacher and an environmentalist we made diddly-squat. With the wonderful budgeting plan I’ve created, we’re doing just great. I gave myself a nice pat on the back, and began fantasizing about the vacations we’d be able to take, the couch we could buy, and the dates we’d be able to afford in the future.

Then, approximately four hours later, I got an email from B:

…upon pulling out of my parking space at the site a belt fell off of my engine (it wasn’t broken) so I have been trying to find a place close by to take it, I found a place really close that I am going to drop it off at…

Not broken! I thought. That’s a good sign. I’ll bet they can just pop that sucker right back into place. I went on with my day, not thinking about this simple car issue.

Then I received this email:

…I talked to the car people. And apparently there is a part that keeps the belt on that broke and they quoted me at $2,494,382…

(Okay, it wasn’t $2,494,382, but it was a lot.)

Sigh. That’s what I get for intro-bragging about our bank account. I suppose that’s what savings are for, but really? A belt-keeper-on-er instead of a fabulous vacation, couch, or date night? Blech.

Now I’m wondering if this phenomenon works in reverse. If tomorrow I fire up the online banking system and think, Gee, we are just plain broke, will the Gods of Finance rain great wealth upon our heads? I can only hope.

Dirty Laundry

I have to take a few moments to brag about my husband. A few nights ago, I came home from a busy Saturday of running errands, and found this on the bed:


Yes, that is all my laundry. Cleaned, folded, and sorted into hangables and foldables.

This could get an “Awww, sweet…” if it were a one-time thing. But, instead, let’s give him a big HIP-HIP-HOORAY! because this is not a rarity. I honestly cannot remember the last time that I put a load of laundry through.

I felt a little guilty when I was having dinner with a friend recently. She’s about to move in with her significant other, and she asked: “So, how do you and B split up the chores? Like laundry, dishes, trash…”

“Um,” I responded, “We don’t. He just does them all.” She kind of gave me a funny look and I realized how horrible that sounds. How horrible that is, actually.

But, the thing is, I am the Manager of Life in our household. I pay the bills, manage the bank accounts, keep track of prescriptions and doctors appointments (for all four of us!), set up our social activities, and keep in touch with our out-of-town friends and family. I also do all of our shopping and cooking, and most of the deep cleaning and organizing.

B, on the other hand, does the laundry, the dishes, and takes out the trash. He lets the dogs out most of the time, and he makes the bed every morning. In addition, he does all of our ironing. (This is mostly because I’ve never even owned an iron, but he came from a family where socks and boxers were ironed weekly.) If it weren’t for B, our laundry would be piled up in the corner of our room, the dishes would sit in the sink for 2-3 days at a time, and the trash would stink up the house until I managed to drag it out to the curb. (Sounds an awful lot like my college dorm room, actually!)

Although it looks awfully uneven on the chore chart, this breakdown works for us.

I’m curious… How do you and your SO (significant other) split up the household duties?

New Year’s Resolutions Part 3

put down the iPhone

In July, after a three-year-old baby-sitting charge dropped my cell phone in a pile of wet sand, I became a smartphone user. And it’s since then that I’ve realized the real danger that is smartphone-use while driving. In the past, I’d never had much of a problem leaving my phone in my purse while in the car. Sure, I’d answer the occasional phone call or send the a quick text while sitting at a stoplight, but I never considered myself one of those “dangerous” cell phone drivers.

All that changed, though, when Gmail, Facebook, and WordPress landed straight in the palm of my hand. Available to me at any time, the urge to check my email and scroll through status updates is far too strong. I find myself subconsciously reaching for my phone while behind the wheel entirely too often. I know the statistics. Seriously. (If you leave me some long-winded comment citing percentages of accidents, trying to force me to see the error of my ways, I’ll be really annoyed. I get it.)

So, I’ve decided it’s time to change this habit. So, in 2012, my iPhone will be riding in my trunk any time I’m traveling solo. No text, no call, no status update is vital enough for the distraction and risk that is smartphone-use while driving.

New Year’s Resolutions Part 1

be less prejudiced

prej-u-dice /ˈprejədəs/ Preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience

So often we think of racial, religious, and sexual prejudice. Though the word is often used in regards to one’s bias towards a group of people, my trouble with prejudice is largely more personal.

Allow me to illustrate this point with a stoy…

One afternoon in the weeks before Christmas, I rushed off to Target between work and handbell practice to pick up a few things–namely, gift wrap, Play-Doh, and a book for my book club’s Christmas exchange. With less than 20 minutes to shop and get to church, I quickly chose the latest Lisa See novel, Shanghai Girls, sped through the aisles, and was disappointed to find only three open registers. I chose the shortest line–and quickly regretted my choice. The sales associate was an older, larger woman with huge, thick glasses. She had a nasally voice and was talking in a slow drawl with the customers in front of me. Each conversation seemed to go on far too long–every item she scanned invoked a story about her grandchild, or a discussion about the sale price. I considered jumping in another line, but at this point felt like I’d invested too much time waiting. Compulsively checking the time on my phone (and realizing I was, without a doubt, going to be late and hungry), I had certainly pre-judged this woman. From her appearance and the comments I’d overheard, I’d (unconsciously) decided she was uneducated, unintelligent, and just plain a hindrance to my busy evening.

Finally, it was my turn in line. I placed my three things on the belt and greeted her with a cursory “hello,” meant to indicate my hurry. Picking up Shanghai Girls, the woman commented, “Oh, this is a fabulous book.”

I looked up, a little surprised. “Well, good,” I replied, “I’m looking forward to reading it.”

“Have you read any of her others?” she asked me.

“Actually, I did my junior project on Snow Flower and the Secret Fan in college,” I answered.

“Oh, that one was wonderful. You know what else I just read that I really enjoyed? Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”

“I love that book!” I gushed. “I just read it a few months ago.” The woman, who was so clearly the opposite of all the preconceived notions I’d made about her, went on to name two or three other books that are on my To-Read list.

“Well, honey,” she said as she handed me my back, “you come back and tell me about what else you’re reading!”

“I will!” I said. As I walked out to my car, amidst the other holiday shoppers rushing to and fro without an ounce of patience for one another, I thought about how that experience at the register had really put me in my place. Who was I to judge someone based on their appearance or their career? How unkind, prejudiced, and un-Christian was that?

I truly feel as though God chose my line at Target that Wednesday. Since that evening, I’ve thought of that woman often; I even considered returning with an invitation to join my book club, since I know it would match her tastes. So, one of my 2012 resolutions is to judge less, practice patience, and endeavor to see the good in people.

Resolutions Revisited

If you have a Mac, you are probably familiar with Stickies. For those of you who still live in the PC-world, Stickies are basically ePost-Its that you can use on your computer. I LOVE stickies. I use them for usernames/passwords, Christmas wishlists, books to read, hotel confirmation numbers, etc. Upon opening Stickies today, I found one I created last year at this time. I must have know this was going to be a more permanent sticky, because I took the time to add a title in a fancy font. The sticky reads:

eat less processed foods
walk delilah daily
run another 1/2 marathon
make time for myself
be more tolerant (of others and of myself)
form & maintain friendships

Now, being the last week of 2011, seems to be a good time to reflect on this particular sticky. I clearly remember typing this list; feeling inspired by my success with my 2010 resolution (drink only one Diet Coke/day), I was feeling particularly optimistic.

eat less processed foods

One of our favorite fresh vegetable dishes--found in this cookbook

I’m feeling pretty good about this one. Although I still enjoy the occasional Fiber One bar or Goldfish cracker snack, my intake of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats has gone up, I’ve switched from instant to regular oatmeal, and I’ve nixed the 100-calorie packs.

walk delilah daily

Cannot honestly cross this one out… We got into a pretty good habit this summer when the weather was nice, but now that it’s starting to get colder (and we’ve gotten busier), we use the excuse that our 5-lb. dogs get plenty of exercise just playing in our apartment.

run another 1/2 marathon

No, I do not know that guy--but he sure seems intent on beating me!

Woo-hoo! Goal achieved.

make time for myself

My favorite way to relax

One word I’ve learned this year is one that I hear most people actually acquire first in life. I guess, in this instance, I was a little behind the learning curve. The particular word I’m talking about is “No.” At the time that I made this resolution, I was working four jobs on top of student teaching, planning a wedding, on a church committee, involved in three choirs, and job searching. This year, I learned that it doesn’t mean I’m a failure, it’s not going to offend anyone (and if it does, oh well!), and it’s actually quite healthy to just say no. I now know that the time I spend catching up on my Netflix Instant Queue or reading a book just for fun is actually just as important as my other commitments. Why? Because I’ve made a commitment to myself, to keep my sanity, and out of respect for myself, I need to keep it.

be more tolerant (of others and of myself)

In all honesty, I cannot say that I accomplished this resolution this year. If this blog post has any truth in it (and it does), I still have a ways to go. A step in the right direction: I now realize when I’m being impatient/judgmental/unfair (most of the time). Now I just need to figure out how to turn those thoughts around…

form & maintain friendships

My bachelorette party

First of all, I have to say that this resolution was not some kind of “I have no friends” pity party. In December of 2010, I was in that awkward in-between stage; I’d just graduated college, where I had a group of friends, and moved home, whereas most of my high school friends were still living out of state. My goal in 2011 was to meet or reconnect with some KC-area people, while maintaining my friendships with those long-distance people. This December, I am feeling much more settled in KC. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other women in my Thursday night Faith Club, I’ve reconnected with some friends from the past, and kept in touch with those who still live far away. So, all in all, I would rate this resolution a success.

In the next five days, I’ll be coming up with my resolutions for 2012. Some will be re-commitments, others will be new… I’ll keep you updated. In the mean time, what are your hopes, dreams, or goals for the new year?

Playing Catch-Up

Well, my goal to post once a week didn’t quite work out. Here’s a quick catch-up of the five weeks I missed:

Week of Nov. 20:

ImageCelebrated Thanksgiving with B’s family in Des Moines. After a scrumptious feast and a rousing game of Quelf, we continued the annual tradition of a Thanksgiving bowling outing. This year, though, we upped the ante by playing “Funky Bowling.” Pictured here is the Team Bowling event, which required each competitor to bowl between the legs of their teammates.

Week of Nov. 27:

ImageChristmas decorations went up. We have quite the hodge-podge of decor after raiding our parents’ retired items, things we bought on clearance last year, and a few DIY Pinterest projects (like this wreath):

ImageThe advent calendar that my mom made for us:

ImageEat one candy cane each day of December to get in the holiday spirit inside AND out!

ImageMy wonderful husband is secure enough in his manhood that he let me have my Barbie tree this year. I’ve collected Barbie ornaments my entire life, and have always wanted to have a mini-tree on which to display them all:ImageWeek of Dec. 4:

ImageImageNora has won over her father’s heart.Image

She’s still working on her mom. If I just didn’t have to clean up so much poop, and if I could just sleep past 6am during my Winter Break, she might be a little more successful in her attempts…

Week of Dec. 11:

ImageWatched the Chiefs surprisingly bring the Packers’ undefeated season to a grinding halt. A joyous Christmas miracle for the Kansas City fans, but a seasonal tragedy for the Cheeseheads.

Week of Dec. 18:

ImageMy new mom-made Christmas sweater. I requested it, as I feel that every first-grade teacher needs a tacky Christmas sweater. (Apologies for the horrible picture quality–this was a cell phone pic.) What makes it even better? B’s matching one: Image

The awkward cropping is to protect the anonymity of my students, as B was currently managing Pin-the-Tail-on-Rudolph at our first grade Holiday Party.

ImageNow that you feel as though you’ve lived these past five weeks with us, I vow to update more regularly. I promise I’m always thinking about a blog post and coming up with ideas… I just need to make the time to sit down and write them.

Merry Christmas to all!

If you could say anything to anyone without consequence, what would you say and to whom?

This topic, prompted by WordPress, intrigued me immediately. As I shared with my husband last night at dinner, I probably censor and decide against verbalizing 40-60% of the things that come into my mind. What’s amusing to me is that I’m still consistently described as a straight-forward (or, negatively, a brash) person. You don’t have to worry about me skirting around the truth–I’ll tell you like it is. I have the personality of a lion, according to a self-assessment we take at work. Not surprisingly, the majority of my elementary education co-workers are golden retrievers; so, basically, I have the potential to eat them alive. Although the lioness in me was extremely annoyed at wasting half an hour of a staff meeting choosing words that most described me to determine my animal personality, I have to admit that picturing myself as a lion in a cage full of golden retrievers has helped me to empathize with and better understand relationships with my co-workers. While I may just walk into another teacher’s classroom and ask a blunt question, the golden retriever in them needs me to first say “Hi” and ask how their day’s going. Then, when we’ve got those pleasantries out of the way, we can get down to work.

This came up last night at dinner when B and I visited our favorite pizza place. We sat down with our bottle of wine (you can bring your own wine at Spin!), and started in on our first glass. However, after 25 minutes we’d yet to have a server check in with us. I began getting anxious that our salads were going to come at the same time as our pizza–one of my biggest pet peeves when you’re trying to make a date night out of dinner. When our waitress finally did appear (after asking two different servers and a manager to find out who was assigned to take care of us), she brought our salads and within one minute our pizza, as well. Grr. Well, it turned out our pizza was not on the whole-wheat crust that we’d asked for, so they took it back to make us another one. The manager brought us a $10 gift certificate for compensation. Of course, the whole situation had actually worked in our favor since we had been hoping to linger over our meal in the first place. Twenty-five minutes later, however, we still hadn’t seen our pizza, and the manager brought a free bottle of wine to our table, apologizing yet again because they’d burnt the remake of our pizza. Again, we didn’t mind (especially since we were now about to break into our second bottle of wine). The intriguing conversation, however, started when B confessed that he feels guilty taking gift certificates and free bottles of wine as repentance for poor service. “I could never be a jerk when someone is clearly trying to smooth things over. I mean, they’re just doing their job the best they can,” he explained.

I was floored by the fact that my husband is clearly such a better person than I am. You see, when I’m paying someone for a service that they fail to perform to my standards, my impulse is to let them know exactly where they’ve failed. As a matter of fact, I’d wanted to walk over to the manager as soon as that server had failed to appear at the beginning of the evening and explain that we had ordered multiple courses, yadda yadda yadda. When I pay $35 for a meal, I expect it to be served properly. But, not wanting to embarrass my date, I’d contained myself.

You see, I feel as though I have to make a conscious effort not to be a total… well, you know…

So, if I could say anything to anyone without consequence, what would I say and to whom? Well, a lot of stuff to a lot of people, let me tell you. I may start with the guy who lets his motorcycle idle in our apartment complex’s parking lot at 3:30am. Then I may move on to the woman in the office who keeps writing up a maintenance report for our clogged toilet–when it’s not clogged, it doesn’t flush. There’s a big difference!!!! Next would probably be the high-school bagger at the grocery store who placed a twelve-pack of soda cans on top of my meat and cheese bag today. Grr. For that fact, it may have been the grocery store manager for putting black olives with condiments instead of canned vegetables and beans, losing me 10 minutes of precious errand-time as I endlessly searched every aisle. Subsequently, I might just call up the cable company and let them know that the WiFi in our apartment hasn’t been working for over 24 hours and that is completely unacceptable. Are they planning to deduct a day’s worth of payment from my next bill? I sincerely doubt it, yet I’m not receiving the service I’m paying for…          And that is just today!

I know, I know. Patience is a virtue. Love your neighbor as yourself. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I get it! And I follow it the best I can–at least outright. However, on the inside? Geesh!

Life: A Balancing Act

Seeing as I published my last blog post over two months ago, you can probably infer that the new job has been keeping me pretty busy.  I now spend most of my “free” time lesson-planning, grading, or arguing with Microsoft Word over the formatting of a math worksheet (WHY can’t text boxes and auto-shapes just stay put??). However, as the weeks go by, I’m slowly re-claiming those evenings and weekends as my own. This weekend, I set aside my curriculum guides–I didn’t even bring them home with me–and enjoyed spending some time doing un-pedagogical things.

On Friday night, the hubs and I went to the homecoming football game of our alma mater. We try to go back every year, since we’re still in the area, and always appreciate running into old friends and teachers. (Although with every year, we find ourselves feeling older and lamer. This year, I pondered the question of at what age I’d transitioned into worrying more about being warm than being stylish, as I sat bundled up in my jeans, hoodie, and fleece jacket while high-schoolers paraded around us in shorts and bare bellies.)

Saturday morning my alarm went off in time for me to meet my fellow runner friend, Amy, for a 9-miler. (Btw, I’m currently training for two half-marathons in the next few weeks. More about that later.) I managed to fill the rest of the day with a nail appointment, a bridal shower, and a bachelor/ette party for B’s brother and his fiancé.

Then, today, B’s whole fam, plus some of our good friends from STL, and more, got together to watch the Chiefs trounce the Vikings. (Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t a trouncing, but I was proud of my boys in red, even if I was wearing purple.)

Needless to say, it was a busy weekend, but refreshing in its own way. Sometimes I need to break out and step away from my role as Katie the Teacher and be Katie the Runner, Katie the Football Fan, Katie the Wife, Katie the Bridal Shower-Jeopardy Player. It’s sometimes tempting–even easier–to work, work, work until the to-do list is finally complete. However, the nasty joke is that the to-do list is never going away. But sunny 75-degree days? Those won’t last forever. So, here’s to finding the balance in life…

– Katie the Blogger

Timing is Everything

You might remember back in February when I was really stressed out, and then we had a stroke of good luck, which resulted in a new apartment and a new job. I can now say with certainty that God has a sense of humor.

If you know me, you know I’m not naturally a sit-back-and-see-what-happens kind of person. I’m a go-getter; if I want something to happen, then I make it happen. However, you also know that I try to combat my tendency to take this personality trait to the extreme–and sometimes life (God) has a way of keeping me in check.

I’ve been totally on top of this whole wedding business. I mean, seriously, check out my to-do list, and tell me that you’re not impressed. I’ve even had time this week to spend extra time at the gym, watch some Netflix, and take my baby D for plenty of walks. I can credit my organization to my need to feel in control. I love things (like my wedding) that I can control. I can stay relaxed, knowing that I’ve done everything I need to do in plenty of time, and I don’t need to worry.

What bugs me is when there’s something I can’t control (i.e. an airplane, the weather, my immune system, and A JOB SEARCH). However, as all of us searching for employment in this crazy economy know, it’s just not that simple.

Recently, I’d been feeling pretty down about the whole job situation. “Don’t take it personally,” a co-worker kept telling me. But it’s hard not to take it personally. I knew it wasn’t too late to be hired for next year, and I knew I had other opportunities to fall back on, but I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it–which was NOW. A good friend of mine signed a contract with an area school district a couple of weeks ago, and I immediately started kicking myself. Why didn’t I apply with that district? What had I said in my interviews I’d had so far that had turned the interviewers off? Was it because I had stumbled over the reading instruction question? Dang it, I had a better answer to that…. Maybe I could email that interviewer and tell him what I meant to say…

Another co-worker kept reminding me, “You have so many wonderful things going on in your life right now. Concentrate on those things. You’re living such a blessed life.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. That wasn’t working.

I finally came to a point where I had accepted reality–for the most part. This week, I’ve been focusing on the wedding and my upcoming marriage, packing for Hawaii, and looking forward to seeing all of my extended family come together this weekend. I had almost forgotten about the job search (almost). Then, on Monday, I got a call for an interview. Not another screening interview, but a real interview for a real teaching position with a real principal at a real school.

To be honest, my first thought was, This week??? Really??? But I quickly re-adjusted my priorities and spent my ample free time (haha) updating my portfolio, and formulating strong responses for those questions I knew they’d ask. I’d hardly even mentioned my interview to anyone because I didn’t want to jinx myself.

And this is the part where God says, “I told you I’d take care of it.” Yesterday, I aced my interview, and by the end of the work day, HR had called and offered me the position. I literally could hardly believe it. B was, of course, at the gym. After calling my mom, my aunt, and my best friend, I paced the apartment like Scrooge waiting for Bob Cratchit the day after Christmas. As soon as D whined at the window (my never-failing alarm that B has pulled into the parking lot), I flew down the stairs of our building.

I got the job, I got the job!!