Monthly Archives: May 2011

Beware of Thorns

Since beginning this Post A Week Challenge, I have received updates with ideas for blogs. Normally I just skim them, then do my own thing. But this week’s got me thinking: How do you decide who to be friends with?

It’s an interesting question. When I think about the people I actually consider friends, the list is relatively short. Part of it is that I suffer from social anxiety (a diagnostic way of explaining shyness). Parties and social gatherings make me extremely nervous and I deal with that by either talking about things in my comfort zone or avoiding talking at all. Now I can focus on my kids instead of making awkward communication. If there’s a dog, I’ll spend time with it. This gives the impression that I am cold, detached, or snotty. Most people leave it at that.

People who end up as my friends do so because they are patient. My husband once told me that he always knows my friends are worthwhile because it takes me so long to warm up to people. By his estimation, if I have warmed up to someone and they have taken the time necessary for that to happen, they must be good people.

I don’t really decide to become friends with people, at least not consciously. Rather, if there is something about the person that intrigues me, I might let them in, little by little. What engages me is some level of intelligence, a sense of shared values (not politics or religion, but values), and a sense of humor akin to my own.

Like most people, especially in the social networking world, I have a large number of acquaintances. Colleagues, ex-classmates, ex-students, family, other wives and mommies–these are people I know and can talk to briefly about the limited things we have in common. My true friends can be counted in the single digits. I am an only child so perhaps that is why I am fine with my own company. I don’t fear being alone. And I have little patience for spending time with people who are not worth my effort. If I spend extended time with people, it is because they are able to make me forget my anxiety and be myself. With that comes loyalty and complete acceptance (even, or especially, when I disagree).

I’m a prickly pear to be sure. So to answer the question of the week, I decide who to be friends based on who can stand the thorns.

XO

A

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Categories: Life and Other Nonsense | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Destination: Disney

We are on our family vacation to Disney World this week, but I didn’t want to give up my Post A Week plan. So, I thought I’d touch briefly on a question that I am asked frequently: How do you guys afford to go to Disney so often?

It’s true, we do love the Disney. Generally, we take some sort of Disney trip every year. The duration and the coast depends on the year. In recent years we have alternated between Disneyland (2008, 2010) and Disney World (2009, 2011). So how do we afford to go so often? When I try to answer that question, people start to tune me out. They want some code, some secret thing that makes the whole trip cost $200. It doesn’t really work that way. I do have a long list of suggestions, but for those who might want to look into a Disney trip, I will just give my very basic steps:

  • Plan way in advance. If you don’t want to spend a fortune, you can’t just decide to go to Disney 2 weeks before the plane takes off. Disney, especially Disney World, is not like bopping to the zoo or Six Flags for the day. It is a undertaking. And the more you do your homework, plan, and prepare, generally the better the trip will be. Be spontaneous once you’re there. Prepare like you are invading another country before hand (because you are).

What precisely does that entail? First of all, learn your Disney Speak. Go to http://www.DisneyWorld.com or http://www.Disneyland.com and order the vacation DVD. Figure out what parks there are, how the tickets work, and what options are available from Disney. Use websites like All Ears Net to understand what you and your companions want to do and how much Disney will charge you to do it. Look at the options and decide your priorities: How important is having a hotel close to the parks? Do you plan to visit more than one park per day? Do you want to see anything that isn’t on Disney property? What types of places do you want to eat? What are your must-see, must-do items?

Why is this so important? Because you need to know where your money needs to be spent. For example, if eating at a sit down restaurant every day is important to you, start looking for deals that include the dining plan or look to stay off property. Also, Disney passes are like a buffet–you should only get what you really need to avoid wasting food (or in this case money) on things you don’t really want.

  • Once you know the basics, comparison shop. One of the best things you can do is sign up for the Mousesavers newsletter. They will send you updates on specials for everything from tickets to hotels to stuff around the parks. They also provide you with comparisons of different deals. Sometimes there will be great ticket deals through Under Cover Tourist; sometimes they are just the same as Disney. This is where doing your homework pays off because you know what the actual cost is and if the deal is worth it.
  • Figure out what it’s worth to you. This is probably the one people least like to hear. Part of the reason we can afford to go to Disney so often? Because we plan for it and don’t spend money in other areas. Our cars are 10+ years old and we plan on driving them until they are beyond repair. We don’t indulge in the latest technology. We have a decent sized TV that was purchased in the early 90s. Until it dies, we see no need to replace it. We don’t care about surround sound, HD, 3D, or the a new car every three years. My husband has an iPhone because we get a discount from his company. The result is that we have a fab family vacation once a year (with mini breaks) because that is a priority for us. Next year, we’re headed to Scotland, so we’ll skip the Disney trip. But again, we can afford it because we are already saving and planning ahead.

Over the coming weeks I will posting more travel tips, stories, and tidbits. Stay tuned.

XO

AKA

Categories: Life and Other Nonsense | Tags: | Leave a comment

Sometimes We Forget

As educators, by the time the last comma splice is marked, the last grade entered, and the last form filled, sometimes we forget that we were excited for the first day of class, to see what glories the semester would hold.

When we get the 5 millionth email telling us that we are unfair, asking us how to pass without completing any assignments, or telling us what grade the student deserves based on their desires rather than their work, sometimes we forget that we got into teaching because we love learning and helping others learn.

When we find ourselves squabbling, defensive, or feel all alone in our professional frustrations, sometimes we forget that teachers are part of community.

With the pay cuts, benefit cuts, freedom cuts, and emotional cuts, sometimes we forget why we got into this profession to begin with.

But sometimes . . .

That student who has been struggling all semester finally gets it right.

We get that email from a student thanking us for challenging them, even if they haven’t taken our class in three years.

Across the hall might be a friend to share ideas with, who won’t judge when we mess up, will listen when we need it, and remind us we are not alone; that colleague who becomes a friend to nerd-out over the same things with, and laugh with until we have tears of joy instead of frustration.

That student sitting two rows back, who seemed so quiet at first, almost lost, comes into their own. We watch them grow and blossom, in the most remarkable way, and we can’t help but feel pride. We come to find that when we thought we were just talking to the wind, they were listening, absorbing and that somehow, we made a difference. And we might just let our guards down, push away the cynicism, and allow ourselves to be changed by the simple beauty of watching a person become a better version of themselves. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, they become the teachers and it is us that are changed.

Sometimes we forget what it is to feel hope, compassion, humor, and joy. Not just in our jobs, but in life–in who we are.

Sometimes we forget.

And they remind us.

XO

A

Categories: Get Smart | Tags: | Leave a comment

She Bop

My husband and I were taking an outing with our kids one Sunday when, watching my daughter dance to non-existent music, I had a shocking realization:

We’re raising Cyndi Lauper.

Let’s begin with the hair, shall we? Unlike Cyndi, Lili is a blond, but her baby fine hair tangles easily. Add some serious cowlicks (7 at last count) and it is impossible to part it, really get it smooth, or get it to stay in one place without glue. So her messy ponytail had shifted from dead center on the top of her head to the side.

It was not too much of a stretch to say her mod-style floral print capri pants kind of went with her bright blue shirt. And those color blind observers might not realize just how vividly red the tulle dance skirt she wore over the pants was.

But the real wow factor was, as it should be, in the accessories. See, for a recycling fundraiser, I had made bracelets and necklaces out of t-shirts. And so she had several t-shirt bracelets on each wrist and several braided t-shirt necklaces around her neck.

And she looked good.

These kind of outfits are the norm for Lili. I let her pick out her own clothes and dress herself. Sometimes she matches; sometimes she doesn’t. There are times when I have caught people eyeballing her, especially Judy McJudgerson at preschool (my mommy nemesis). My thoughts on the matter are simple.

Who cares?

She’s clean, the clothes fit and are in good shape, and she’s happy. And you know what? I’m jealous.

She was so joyous, spinning in her red skirt on that afternoon. There were no considerations of brand names or what other people might think or if it was appropriate or that she might be ‘too’ [insert body conscience term here]. I can’t remember the last time I felt like that about my appearance. I’d be willing to bet I’m not the alone in that.

She wasn’t anyone else’s expectation. She was just my Lilibug, my wild little free-spirit.

My girl just wants to have fun. Don’t we all?

XO

A

Categories: The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: | 1 Comment

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