Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Goodbye, School Mom

My beloved school mom has decided that this will be her last year teaching at our High School.

Cue the waterfall of tears.

Originally she had planned on retiring at the end of next school year, which, to be honest, I still wouldn't have been ready for, even with a year's notice.  However, she had a change of heart over Christmas break and has decided to retire at the end of this school year.

While I am over-the-moon happy for her (the woman has been an absolutely fantastic art teacher for 33-freakin'-years!) I am also completely terrified to continue without her.

School Mom has been so much more than an endless source of incredibly helpful teaching tips.  She has been a huge emotional support during my first 6 years of teaching.  She's been my sounding board for all of the major work/art/life decisions I've made since working at my school.  School Mom has been so supportive of my out-of-school endeavors, and has encouraged me to continue the delicate balance of being the best teacher I can be, while not letting my job become who I am.  She is the voice of reason in our department, and has earned the utmost respect of everyone in the building. 

More than all of that, she ORDERS ALL OF OUR SUPPLIES!

I am going to miss School Mom so much, but the beauty of this is that she literally lives 5 minutes from school and has agreed to be "on-call" all of next year, which is perfect, because she has chosen me to take over her classroom, class schedule and duties.

This means that as of next year, I will be teaching Fine Arts 3, 4 and AP!

As teachers we don't really get promotions, but this is the closest thing to it!  I can't believe that after just 6 years, I have climbed to the top.  I will be teaching the most rigorous, intense, college-level art classes our school has to offer, and while I'm scared out of my boots, I am so extremely excited to get in there and give it my best shot!

Even better, the Fine Art 3 kids I'm teaching now, I also had for Fine Art 1, and will have next year in Fine Art 4/AP, which means I've *almost* been teaching the same group of incredibly talented artists for their entire high school careers!  Being able to teach this group in their senior year is such a gift.  Most teachers have a "best class" they remember right up until the day they retire.  THIS is my "best class."  Each student is uniquely talented and devoted to their work, and eager to listen to my critiques and earn my respect.  To know I'll have them again next year is just a dream come true.

And while no one could replace School Mom, the nature of things requires that a new teacher be hired to take over the classes I'll be leaving behind.

My school has hired at least one teacher in the Art Department every single year since the fall of 2009.

In 2009, it was me.
In 2010, it was a new Crafts, Chorus and Theater teacher.
In 2011, it was a new Jewelry/Ceramics teacher.
In 2012, it was a new Crafts/Sculpture teacher.
In 2013, it was a new Ceramics teacher.
In 2014, it was another new Ceramics teacher.
In 2014, it will be both a new Fine Arts teacher *and* a new Orchestra Band teacher.

It's been incredible to see and be part of this gigantic wave of *new* teachers in our art department, and I am going to continue doing my absolute best to make my School Mom proud.

She doesn't leave until June, but I miss her already. <3

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Brain Games

I've been MIA for a bit.  Here is why:

The spring musical is two weeks away and my duties of painting the set, selling and recreating ads for the playbill, taking/editing/printing head shots of the students, collecting/proofing/typing/laying out the playbill, printing and assembling hundreds of copies of said playbill, supervising the design/printing/dispersing of posters, selling tickets using our new online system, depositing all money eared from advertisements/ticket sales, designing the front hall display, trying to figure out how to teach my five classes after all of the instructional lost time due to snow and the PARCC exams (which started last week), my Monday night graduate painting class, my Sunday night band practices, my School Mom announcing her retirement, and SHOVELING SNOW EVERY DAY have made me a little insane.

Last week we had three delayed openings and one snow day! It was the craziest winter week I've ever experienced at school, but luckily, all indications are that spring is on it's way, and with one snow day left to use, I for one am relieved.

And then, there was that damn dress:



While my mind was absolutely racing with all of the aforementioned, this was the only thing my students thought about all week.  And of course, being the art teacher, I was asked approximately one billion times what colors I saw.

The answer is WHITE AND GOLD.  And while I know the dress is "technically" black and blue, the image is white and gold, irrefutably.  I refuse to even entertain any other opinions.  I have tried 9 ways to Sunday to see the black and blue, and all I ever see is a white and gold dress in crummy lighting.  The debate is over.

However, coincidentally, one day last week when I happened to have a few minutes to veg-out, I started watching an amazingly fun series called Brain Games on Netflix:


And the very first episode had all to do with the same issues this White & Gold/Blue & Black debate has caused.  Not specifically, but it was all about perception and how the brain works in regards to colors, feelings, reactions, etc.  It was SO COOL!  I have watched the entire first season and it's just awesome.  It is the *perfect* art-teacher-is-out-substitute-video, although, to watch a video in my room you have to set up the projector and use the laptop and it's just easier to leave paperwork instead.

But if you have a minute, hop onto Netflix and watch - it's awesome!

Friday, February 27, 2015

10 Questions

10 Questions I Ask Myself  or My Students Almost Every Day:


10. Why doesn't anything work the way it's supposed to?

(Usually referring to things that need to be plugged in.)

9. Why are you being crazy?

(Usually referring to students who
are perfectionists and getting frustrated.)

8. What number day is it?

(Usually referring to either the actual date, 
or the rotating drop schedule day.)

7. Do you really want to be that guy?

(Usually when I try to correct a student's behavior in class.)

6. Why are you here?

(Usually to past students who "visit" me in the middle of a class
when they should be at the nurse or the bathroom,
or wherever they asked their other teacher to go.)

5. Are you going to puke?

(When a kid asks to see the nurse because their stomach hurts.)

4. Is this going to be a thing?

(Usually when a student gets snarky with me, or talks back.)

3. Are you a bad person?

(Usually to a kid I've never met before who is doing me a favor, or asking to borrow something from my room. They're usually so thrown off I ask them this that they're extra careful/polite/respectful.)

2. What was I doing?

(Usually referring to when I walk from one end of the room all the way to the other,and once I get there, forget why I walked there.)

1. What is this, and why is it all over me?

(Usually when I find blue on my pants, or red on my sweater.  
Could be paint, could be blood, could be pastel.  
You never know!)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Working it Out

So I've been pretty good about regularly going to my Physical Therapy sessions for my IT band issue. 

My prescription was for 3 sessions per week for 6 weeks, but ain't nobody got time for that!  No, really though, even the center itself can't schedule me in that often.  But I'd say I've gone about 6-7 times since February began, and I definitely feel a difference in my knee, and overall leg strength.  PT is no joke, man, they work you out hard.

Additionally I'm still using my FitBit, and while I can't say I've had as many 10,000 step days as I had hoped, I'm definitely getting in about 7-8,000 steps a day.  Teaching two Photography 2 classes this spring semester in room 5, which is completely across the building from my regular room 110 at school, has definitely helped me in closing in on the 10,000 steps.

But even more than both of those, I've found that I can seriously increase my daily steppage by watching intense movies on Indy's iPad while on the stationary bike in our basement.

We got the stationary bike about a year ago in hopes to get me moving more.  For a while, as with most stationary bike purchases, it sat in the basement doing nothing.  I started running outside and didn't really have a need for it.  But then this whole IT band thing happened, and I was worried I'd lose all of the stamina and cardio training I'd built up with the running, so I started using the bike.  And to make it all worth a damn, I had to really push myself, which is kind of hard to do when you're pedaling in a basement, surrounded by cinderblock walls, going nowhere.

When I started with the stationary bike, I'd set the resistance on 3 (out of 8) and I'd pedal mostly in the 12mph range for a good 30 minutes.  If I worked out in sweats and a hoodie, I could get a little sweat going on.  Usually I'd watch a documentary or a recent episode of Modern Family, and before I knew it, it was over.

But then, a few weeks ago, I started watching Divergent while on the bike.  I hadn't read the trilogy but heard pretty good things, and Indy didn't want to watch it, so I figured it'd be a good bike-movie.  I'm all about that dystopian future genre, and I was so swept up in all the action and adventure that at one point I glance down and realized I was going 15mph!  I was soaked and sweaty and I loved it!  Even better, I biked three days in a row that week, because I really wanted to know what happened.

That started a trend.

The second movie I watched on the bike was The Normal Heart.  Starring Mark Ruffalo, it's about a gay activist who fights to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in the 1980's.  It is beautiful, and dramatic, and intense, and let me tell you, it got me moving!  Ruffalo's character is so strong and passionate for his cause, I found that every scene in which he was yelling at someone (there are several) I was pounding the pedals, sometimes even getting so caught up I had to consciously think about my breathing.  Whether you want to watch this one on the machine or on the couch, do it.  It's amazing.

After that three-day session, I started a new movie today: The Fault in Our Stars.

Now, I'm gonna stop you right there.  I read the book.  I blubbered like a baby through out most of it and know that I'll be sobbing on the bike as well- probably more so than when I read it in the comfort of my own bed.  But I haven't even gotten up to any of the really sad parts yet (I stopped today at the part where she's already met Augustus Waters :::swoon::: and they've both written to and heard back from her favorite author in Amsterdam) and I was STILL going at a solid 15mph.  I'm concerned about when I hit the seriously sad bits whether I'm going to pedal through them stronger than ever, or just dive onto the floor and cry it out.  I'll let you know how it goes.

What about anyone else- does anyone out there have any other tips/tricks to motivating a more intense workout?  Is it a tv show, movie or type of music?  What gets you moving?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book News! Again!

Before I get into the nitty gritty below, the point of this post is to let ya'll know that if you've downloaded my self-published book on Amazon (thanks, btw!) that version has been unpublished, and a new version has taken its place.  None of the content has changed- same story, but it will be available for *free* download from Wednesday, Feb. 19th - Sunday, Feb. 22nd so you don't have to put out any money for it.  You can get it here. If you look right now (9:30 pm on Tuesday night) there are *two* versions of it available- you want the one published on February 17th. The other one won't work.  By tomorrow the bad book should be no more and the good book should be your only downloading option.

Now, allow me to explain:

This was not only my first novel, but also my first go-round with self publishing.  As with anyone's first time with anything, I've learned a LOT!

First and foremost, I had definitely not done all of the research I needed to before embarking on this journey.  I finished the book and thought, 'I'm ready to do this!'  And while Amazon's self-publishing feature is free, fast and easy, if you're not all read-up on the specifics, you can end up in a mess.

My first problem was that Technology is the devil.

When I uploaded my book, I downloaded it and realized there was an issue pretty much immediately.  On my Kindle, the text wasn't all big and pretty like in the other books I've purchased.  There were weird, gray margin lines and you had to manually zoom in to read the text clearly.  It was frustrating and I reached out to Amazon immediately to fix the problem.

My second problem was that I am extremely impatient.

When you reach out to Amazon, you get a notice saying in 24-48 hours they'd get back to you, but for a perfectionist like me, that's an eternity.  I was determined to fix this issue myself. After a long while of googling and email exchanges, I determined that it must've come down to my formatting.  I spent the next several days saving and resaving my manuscript in upwards of 7 different versions- .Doc, .Pdf, .Html, .Epub- I uploaded each of them, waited the mandatory 12-24 hours for it to show up in the shop, only to delete it from my device, re-download it, and find that the same problem was STILL THERE!  It was a rough few days.  At least one fo the nights, I was literally in tears from frustration.

My third problem was that I have too many e-mails.

All of my Amazon stuff is linked to my Yahoo email, which just recently I decided to stop using so I could join the "real world" with a Gmail account (according to Indy.) Of course, the back-and-forth with Amazon over troubleshooting my book issue all had to be done with the Yahoo account I originally started with, so even though I have my Yahoo account set up to forward emails to my Gmail account, when I reply, it's still from a Gmail account, and every.damn.time I responded to Amazon's help desk people, they'd respond saying, "Sorry, can't help you from this email."  Do you feel crazy reading that last paragraph?  Imagine how crazy I felt.  All the back and forth and changing and saving and uploading and deleting and repurchasing.  I was becoming a crazy person.

FINALLY today Amazon reached out to me and very politely and succinctly explained everything to me, most notably that my very first attempt to upload my book should have been *fine* if not for an error on THEIR END!  All this time I thought I was doing it wrong, and THEY made the mistake!  This kind of made me happy, but also made me mad.

Anyway, unfortunately they couldn't fix the book as it exists on Amazon, and I was instructed to re-upload it as if it were a totally new book.  Also unfortunately, because the list of people who downloaded/purchased the original book is on that original account, Amazon cannot reach out to any of those people to let them know that a newer, better, faster, stronger version of said book is available.  So that has become my job now, and that's what this post is about.

SO YEAH!

I quickly downloaded a sample of the new book, and I'm glad to say that it looks SO MUCH BETTER!  It's all big and pretty and the pages work just like a real e-book.  There is *one* itsy bitsy issue I have with the copyright message not all fitting on one page, but SCREW IT! If I've learned anything from this nearly month-long ordeal, it's that I should be happy I accomplished writing the book at all, and that technology really is the devil, and that my life will not end if one word from the copyright message is on a different page than the rest of it.  Probably.

Anyway.  Thank you to anyone who read this long and ridiculous post, and thank you even more to anyone who did/will download the book.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Only In Dreams: Lance Bass' Wedding

As mentioned in an earlier post, I've started a series of posts entitled "Only In Dreams" where I describe my most recent, vivid, lucid dreams.  This one is all about Lance Bass.

So before Indy and I decided to cut the cable cord a few weeks ago, we made list of pros and cons. On the "cons" list was a bunch of shows/channels/special TV events we would be unable to watch if we got rid of cable.  Needless to say, our pros list was longer than our cons list, and we cut the cord.

Shortly after doing so, I realized I would be missing the televised wedding of former N'Sync boy band member, Lance Bass.

I was a pre-teen when I fell under the spell of N'Sync, and I thoroughly enjoyed them through my teen years.  Heck, even now when one of their songs comes on my iPod when it's on "shuffle" I sing out every word, and bust out the music video dance moves (when I can remember them).  That being said, my group of friends and I each had our favorites.  For example, I truly and whole-heartedly believed I would be Mrs. JC Chasez one day.  In my group of friends there were two Mrs. Chasez's, a few Mrs. Fatone's, Mrs. Kirkpatrick's, several Mrs. Timberlake's and one, just one, Mrs. Bass. 

We all knew there was something a little different about Lance.  My friends and I would often poke fun at our Mrs. Bass and tell her, "He isn't straight, he likes men, you can't marry him!"  It was never in a hateful or disdainful way- we just didn't want her to get her heart broken, because it was very clear to us that he wasn't like the other four guys.

When Lance Bass came out in 2006, I totally had to text Mrs. Bass (we grew a part over time, but always remained close enough friends to exchange birthday/congratulatory texts) an "I told you so!" with a winky face emoji.  She replied with a sad face emoji.

Anyway, as any true N'Sync fan, I am super happy for Lance.  However, when I realized cutting our cable meant I'd miss his televised wedding on February 5th, I was so sad!  I didn't realize how sad I was about it until I had a dream that week...

In the dream, I was invited to Lance Bass' wedding!  When I got the invite, I was jumping around the house, freaking out, and Indy couldn't have cared less.  I explained to him who Lance was and why this was such a big deal, but he didn't get it.  Of course, as dreams work, the wedding was the day I got the invite, and not three to six months away, so Indy and I quickly put on our wedding wear and headed into NYC.

It was late spring/early summer, the weather was a *perfect* 75 degrees, the sky was bright blue, the birds were singing and all the flowers were in full bloom.  The wedding was at the NYC Botanical Gardens (which, in real life, I've never been to).  There were bright colors and butterflies everywhere!  All of the guests had beautiful sun dresses and large straw hats on- it was simply picturesque!  I was practically tripping over myself trying to get into the wedding venue with the other guests, I was so excited.

We went into the reception ballroom, which was huge and gorgeous.  It had a white and pink tiled marble floor, large marble columns at either end of the room, a gigantic crystal chandeliers above the dance floor.  But the most beautiful feature were the floor-to-ceiling french doors all along one side of the room, which were all propped open, leading to small, stone and marble balconies overlooking the gardens.  All of the guests were asked to stand on the balconies while Lance and his husband were married- the best way to have a public/private ceremony- and then they joined us inside for dancing and dinner.

I must've been very good friends of Lance's because Indy and I were seated at the long bridal party table at the head of the room.  Lance burst into the ballroom beaming from ear to ear, and he was wearing white tuxedo pants and the most amazing bright, pink, sequined blazer.  His hands were in the air and he ran straight over to Indy and myself and gave us a huge hug and a kiss, thanking us profusely for coming- he even got teary eyed!

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, dancing and eating and singing and laughing until I woke up.

I never got around to searching for Lance's wedding online, but after I post this I definitely will.  It was *the best* wedding I've been to yet- even better than my own!  And I hope it was just as enjoyable for him in real life.  I'd love to go to another dream wedding.  You can eat all the desserts you want and never feel sick!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Obsessed

Indy is smack in the middle of his first year teaching.  He love his school, his students and the job itself, but as most first year teachers, he's had a rough go of time management, lesson planning, grading- you know, the nitty-gritty of the job.  He's spent many-a-weekend holed up at home, grading papers upon papers, getting length power point presentations ready, searching for videos on youtube to share with his kids. (Side note: Watching him grade essay after essay has only further instilled in me that choosing to teach art was the wisest choice I could've made.)  

Indy's school is about half an hour west of mine, and the area is a good 5-10 degrees cooler than where we live.  So whenever we get the threat of snow, there's more of a chance he'll get the day off than I will.  Because of this and the wacky winter weather we've been experiencing, I got to witness the joyous reaction to his first snow day as a first year teacher.  Of course, it was on a day when my school was in session, which totally sucked for me, but still, it was pretty awesome.  Like a kid on Christmas morning, he lit up, smiling from ear-to-ear, excited to tell me the news.

What struck me was not his excitement for sleeping in, or not sitting in his car for the 45 minute commute, it was his complete elation over the fact that he had one more day to work on lesson plans, power points and instructional videos.

He's such a nerd.

Anyway, I didn't know it at the time, but that first snow day was the start of an obsession.  An obsession that has only grown in leaps and bounds over the last few weeks. An obsession that has quickly begun to take over every last one of his brain cells.

Indy has become completely and totally obsessed with the weather/impending snow storms/hourly forecasts and doppler radar.

When I say "obsessed" I mean that a solid 60% of our conversations have started with him saying, "They're saying...."  or "It looks like...." followed by a completely unrealistic estimation of snow accumulation in the next 24-48 hours.  He checks the weather every 15-30 minutes on his phone or iPad.  He closely analyzes the hourly forecast, calculating the time and percentage of freezing rain or light snow, figuring how that will effect a delayed opening or complete closing of his school.

It's to the point where I've asked him to stop.  Or at least, I've asked him to stop telling me his weather updates.  Sometimes I ignore him completely, showing no reaction at all to what he's saying.  At the end of this week, I actually told him he sounds like an old woman, and he needs to stop.

It hasn't stopped.

I've never wanted spring to arrive so badly in my life.

Anyone need to know the precipitation predictions for tonight?  I know a guy...