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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Gift of Giving

I love making/finding the *perfect* gift for someone.  When so many people I know get stressed out or frustrated trying to come up with a gift idea for someone's wedding, birthday or baby shower, I get super pumped!  I actually cheered out loud last week when I got the invite to a good friend's baby shower, because I'd been thinking about all the cool gifts I wanted to get/make her for the last seven months.

I've found that the secret to giving really great gifts is to make them funny and/or personal.  If you can manage to get a gift that is both of those things, you're golden.

I'm at that age now where several of my friends are first-time or soon-to-be first-time parents.  While Indy has been kind of freaked out that all of his friends are taking the dive into parenthood (I don't know why he's so nervous, I've got a good five years before I can even entertain any of that!) I've been over-the-moon.  Baby gift giving is the absolute BEST!

Here is a list of a few baby gifts I've made/purchased/given to friends in recent months:

My good friend from school, the Dance Teacher (who is also a Yoga teacher), had a baby girl in June. Dance Teacher is Italian, and her husband is Indian, and her baby is GAWGEOUS!  When I got her baby shower invite, I spent a good week pulling from both of the parent's personalities to create the perfect baby gift basket.  My first stop? Amazon.  You can literally find anything on Amazon.

Knowing Dance Teacher's love for Yoga, Indian culture, and that the theme for the baby's room would be Elephants (Dance Teacher sent me some texts for color palette advice early on in her pregnancy) I came across an amazing brand of baby clothing on Amazon called Yoga Sprout.  I saw this set and I knew they HAD to have it:

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ELEPHANTS! ON BABY YOGA CLOTHES!

In addition to some clothes, the teacher in me absolutely had to include a book.  When I found this one, I knew my search was complete:

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The book is so cute, has a bit of culture to it, and when it finally arrived and I flipped through it, I was obsessed with the art.  I was actually kind of sad I had to give it away- even better, when Dance Teacher opened it, she was all, "OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS GUY!"  She knew of the author and was super excited I found this.

I found a cute plush elephant and a super soft elephant printed baby blanket, wrapped all of the above in a big 'ol basket, and I was done!

Just about a week later, good friends of Indy's had their second baby.  They have a 2 year old boy who became big brother to a little girl.  As soon as I heard they had a girl (they waited until she was born) I picked up another Yoga Sprout set, and set out to find the perfect "Big Brother" book.  I didn't have to look far:

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Pirates Don't Change Diapers is actually a sequel to How I Became a Pirate, both written by Melinda Long and illustrated by one of my favorites, David Shannon.  In the first book, the little boy becomes a pirate when a ship picks him up from off the beach, but int he second book, he now has a baby sister, and she causes some issues for he and his pirate friends.  I thought it would be such a fun, cute way for our friend's little boy to discover what it's like to have a baby sister. (Don't worry, in the end, he learns to love her!)  

We stopped at Toys R Us to get him an extra little something (2 year olds don't always recognize the value of a good book right away) and we got him this:

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Cute, right? It's a pirate's telescope, complete with a compass on the top and a map that flaps open when you hit a button.  He was super into it.  And I was super into keeping with my theme.  You know, us art teachers and our themes.

The baby shower I got my most recent invite to is in September and I am super excited.  This friend is also expecting a baby girl (must be something in the water!) but what I love about this mom-to-be is how she and her four sisters all grew up as tom-boys, playing competitive sports, loving the outdoors- they're a bunch of ladies who aren't afraid to rough and tumble, and I know that's what she wants for her little girl.

Part of the baby shower invite asked instead of a card, to bring a book for the new baby's library, and after about five seconds on Amazon I found the *perfect* book:

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This book is everything! In fact, when the time comes, and if I have a little girl, I'm hoping I remember to get a copy.  It's all written in rhyme and it's about all the things a little girl can do, like "using power tools while wearing her best jewels."  

In addition to the book, a diaper bag from the mom-to-be's registry and a few personalized items off of Etsy, I made two gifts.  When I was a kid I was a "purple" girl all the way- no pink for me! So I kept both of my personalized gifts in the purple family. 

First, I knitted a 0-3 month baby bonnet from this *free* pattern I found on Ravelry.com.  I've actually made this once before, for my nephew, so it was a quick and easy job- I finished it in just one day.  Here is a nice, clear, professional shot of a completed bonnet from the ravelry site:


And here is a low-quality iphone photograph of my bonnet, being modeled by my stuffed Koala from Australia...I had no 0-3 month babies on hand to model for me:


I loved working with this fun, girly, but not PINK IN YOUR FACE yarn.  I especially like that there are some blue bits in there.  I hope it'll fit!

Finally, I made a "Sleeping Baby" sign for the new parents' door so that visitors and delivery men don't accidentally ring the doorbell and wake the baby.  I'd seen tons of these on Etsy for sale and I thought, "I think I could make that..." so I did!

I already had this wooden plaque from Michael's Arts & Crafts for a project long-forgotten about, so when I decided to make my own sign, it was partly because I knew I already had most of the materials.  I measured out where to drill the two holes for the ribbon loop, and drilled them.


Then, I primed it with two coats of white acrylic paint.


Next, two coats of the gray base color.


Then I fiddled around with some wording and different fonts in Photoshop, printed the template and used my  my beloved projector tracer to project the text onto the board, which I then traced out onto the plaque.



The text was the most difficult part, by far.  I had to use teeny tiny brushes and take my time.  Each letter took at least two coats, but I was so relieved to find that when I had to touch up some parts with the gray base color, it dried perfectly.  I was worried I'd have all these darker gray blotches everywhere, but I had no issues at all. (I used Liquitex Basics Acrylic paint).

After I painted in the letters, I used India ink pens to outline them and give the purple letters some drop shadow to make them easier to read.


Once the lettering was done, I decided the plaque looked too flat and painted two tones on the beveled edges- at first I had white on the bottom and purple in the middle, but it just didn't look right, so I took the risk and switched them- purple on the bottom and white in the middle, and it looked much better.


After lacquering the sign (so the weather wouldn't damage it if they hang it outside) I traced, cut and glued some gray felt to the back (so it won't scratch whatever door they hang it on.)  I was careful to remember not to block off the drill holes for the ribbon.


Finally I looped, knotted and cut the purple hanging ribbon.  I also used a match to "seal" off the ends of my ribbon so it wouldn't fray, but I couldn't take a picture of myself doing that...didn't want to risk a house fire!

Here is the completed sign, being modeled on my own front door:



In photos the purple text on gray background is a little tough to read, but in person it's much easier. It says, "Shhh! The baby is sleeping... (You wake her, you take her!)"

When I was all finished, and packing it away, Indy recommended I change the text color to pink as opposed to purple, and after I gave him the death stare, he corrected himself by saying, "It looks great! She's gonna love it!"

Friday, August 29, 2014

What I Learned in Summer Camp...

Like most teachers, this year I had to get a summer job.

With Indy not working the majority of last year, we decided over Christmas break that I absolutely had to get a steady job with a paycheck so we could survive through to September.  In February I poked around a bit and found a few different summer camps with art programs and emailed them describing my situation: Certified art teacher looking for part-time summer work.  I think I emailed about five different places, and I got only two responses.  Unfortunately the first place already had a full-year staff and didn't hire summer-shifts. (I say unfortunately, because it was in a nearby strip mall wedged between a Cups and a Chipotle, with a Michaels Arts & Crafts around the corner.  In hindsight, it's a good thing I didn't work there.  I'd be 100lbs heavier and dead-broke.)

The other place I got a response from is a 15-20 minute drive from my apartment, and while I'd never seen the place, I'd heard great things about it. It is a year-round art school for adults and children.  They offer so many wonderful classes- life drawing, ceramics, sculpture, painting- they even have a fully loaded jewelry studio!  This place has a reputation, so I was both surprised and a little nervous when I got a response to my e-mail asking me to come in for an interview.  After about 20 minutes of explaining what I do at my school, and showing some samples of student work to the woman who runs their summer camp, I left with the job- two, actually! I was hired to work as an Art Camp Instructor during the day, and Teen Drawing/Teen Painting Instructor two nights a week.

The teen classes were a cinch! Every Tuesday night the drawing kids came in, and every Thursday night it was the painting kids.  They were all teenagers, and I'd introduce a project concept and for two hours they'd draw/paint their little hearts out.  It was so similar to what I do all year that the class pretty much ran itself.

The Art Camp was a little different.

It ran for 8 weeks, and each week had a theme: Animals, Mini Masters, Art Around the World, Music, etc. The camp kids during the day were broken into about seven different groups based on age (5-13 years old) and each group was named after an artist- Matisse, DaVinci, Seurat - that way all of the work they created could stay organized.  The days were very well structured: the first class began at 10 am, ran for an hour an a half, then the kids would go outside for lunch for half an hour.  The second class would last for an hour and fifteen minutes, then the kids would have a snack.  The last class would last for an hour and a half, and by 3pm the parents came to pick them up.

The instructors teach the same lesson three times a day, each time to a different groups of campers.  Each group of campers came with a high school or college-aged Counselor and a Volunteer to help with tougher art projects, bathroom breaks, behavior issues, etc.  What was really great about their system is once the instructor was assigned their project for the day (a collage, a painting, a sculpture, etc.) you took a large laundry basket, went to the basement and "shopped" for the materials you needed.  I loved their basement.  Aisles and aisles of materials- it felt like you were in an art store!  That way the kids would switch in and out, and the instructor could stay in their room and prep for the next group without running around to get more stuff.

I have to admit that I was a little turned off when I started working there, as it seemed very cookie-cutter:   each camper from each group made the same project.  Coming from teaching high school, where no two projects are alike, I was surprised and a little disappointed.  Where's the individuality?  Where's the exploration?  Where's the self-expression?

And then I taught my first group of 6-7 year olds, and I shut my mouth.

So, what exactly did I learn about teaching art from my time at Summer Camp?

1. Patterns are not the enemy!  They help develop fine motor skills like tracing, cutting and gluing, and they make the artwork look more unified in terms of sizing and placement. They worked really well for my lesson on Australian Dot Paintings where I wanted the kids to have a definitive shape where they could concentrate on their dot patterns and colors:




2. Step-by-step projects make it easy to teach more complicated concepts like symmetry- or techniques like creating textures with watercolor.  I was able to teach both of those when we used patterns and step-by-step instructions to make our Matisse fish bowl collages:



3. Variety is the spice of life! When I did projects that involved using patterns or collage, I'd often have multiple steps that incorporated different materials and processes.  This made a relatively simple design look much more interesting.  It worked really well with our Van Gogh Sunflowers, which was a mix of painted paper, construction paper, and oil pastel:



4. Go BIG or go home!  Little hands make little projects, it's that simple.  My examples had to be BIG and LOUD and IN YOUR FACE, and I constantly had to encourage the kids (especially the younger ones) to work nice and large.  I learned this the hard way with my first group of kids when my project was "Angry Birds."  Because the "real" angry birds are so tiny, my first group made theirs super small, so I had to make a large demo piece during my lunch to get the next two groups to work larger:


5. Each project was as unique and different as the artist who made it!  Like I said above, I was irked by the idea of having all 45 kids I taught each day make the exact same work of art, but when they were all hung together at the end-of-the-week Art Show, you could see each camper's personality shine through on their piece.  I loved seeing the parents carefully study each piece before pointing and asking their child, "Is this one yours?!"




I can honestly say that Summer Camp taught me there is a time and place for that type of art education- one with patterns and step-by-step instruction.  Not only that, but also, there is room for individuality, exploration and self-expression within those pattern-based, step-by-step instruction lessons- you just have to do it right.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Never Say Never!

Indy is a runner.

He's been running since he was in high school.  It started with the track team, and even though he didn't continue through college, he consistently ran on his own.  It is nothing for this man, after an 8 hour day at work, to come home and call up to me from the basement, "I'm going for a run!"  I'll ask, "How far?" And he'll shout, "6 miles!"

I do not come from a very active family.  I can remember when Indy and I first started dating, I told my mother that he was a runner, and my mother replied in a surprised, almost concerned manner, "Why?"

Indy has tried on several occasions throughout our near 7 years of being together to get me to run.  I think I tried it once or twice, but the attempts were always halfhearted.  You see, not only is my family rather inactive, we're also a bunch of quitters.  I know it sounds really negative, but I'm actually quite proud of being a quitter.  We were raised to try our best, work hard, and persevere, but the main thing my parents reminded us was, "If you're not having fun, don't waste your time."

The few times I tried, running was never fun for me.  It was long, and boring, and I could think of a myriad of other things I could be doing with my time than miserably trotting along the sidewalk in the hot summer sun or cold winter air.  Not to mention my family also has a history of bad knees, and both of my sisters have had corrective surgery before they were 20.  I certainly didn't want to risk that doing something I hated.

About a year ago Indy and I bought myself a stationary bike for the basement, because I decided I wanted to get a little more active.  I was very happy with it.  It has several resistance levels and I would work my butt off for about half an hour every other day of the week.  What was great about the stationary bike is I could read or watch a t.v. show while working out and the time would fly!

And that's how things were for a while- Indy running, myself biking, both of us content in our ways.

That is, until this summer...

Very good friends of ours, a married couple, had begun to make a concerted effort to lose weight.  They were very open with our group of friends about their eating work out habits.  It took a while, but over the course of about a year, they'd both lost around 40 pounds... each!  They've done more than just dieting, they've changed their lifestyle, and every time I see the pair of them I'm so pleasantly surprised and happy for them.  They're reaching their goals through consistent hard work, and even more amazing, they seem to actually enjoy their new lifestyle!

We threw a graduation party for Indy in May and while talking to the couple, they told me they'd begun running.  I was shocked- they were nearly as anti-running as I was at one point, but they told me they were working toward running a 5k (that's 3.1 miles!).  I was happy for them and their new goal, but what they said really resonated with me.  I thought, man, if they can run 3 miles, I should be able to, too...

It wasn't a competition thing as much as it was a realization that if they could create more healthy habits for themselves, and actually enjoy it, I had no excuse.  I started researching "How to start running" (which sounds silly, but there are TONS of sites out there with suggestions and plans.)  I turned to pinterest and found the program I wanted to try:


In the past, when I tried running, I'd set out to run as far and long and fast as I possibly could until I couldn't do it anymore.  Not surprisingly I'd last about three tenths of a mile and quit.  This time around, I wanted to try running in a way that felt comfortable.  I wanted to set small, attainable goals and go up from there.

I started my couch to 5k program on May 26th.  I made a goal for myself to run each week's run/walk interval at least 4 times before moving up to the next set.  The plan recommends each set take a week, but depending on my schedule, sometimes it took a week and a half or so.

I think the most effective part of this program was that Indy ran with me every day for every set until around week 6.  He knows my tendency to quit things, and really wanted me to stick with it, so he made the time to not only do his own 3, 6 or 9 mile runs, but would come home and set out again with me!  The man is a machine, what can I say?

The first few weeks were pretty easy, and I guess that's the way the program is designed.  I did start to feel some knee pain around week 3, so Indy and I did our research and got a good, high-quality pair of running shoes and supportive in-soles, and I've been consistent in icing my knees after each run.  I haven't had an issue since! *knock on wood*

Around week 6 is when things started to get pretty tough.  Making the jump from running 9 minutes/walking 2 minutes to running 12/walking 1 was a struggle.  Each time I had to increase my running time I'd start the run assuring myself that it didn't matter how long the run took me, just that I completed it.

During my couch to 5k, I logged all of my runs/progress with a website called MapMyRun.  Indy swears by it, and now I understand why.  It's a super easy program to use and lays all of your statistics out so nicely.  I would do my run, keeping my time with Indy's watch, then come home and log my route, enter my time, and it would calculate my distance and calories burned- even my average minute per mile!  Better yet, they have an app for your iPhone.  It will track all of that in real time, so when you finish your run, all you have to do is hit the "Save Run" button, and it's all done for you!  I think what I like best about MapMyRun is looking at my runs in the month format, which right now, looks like this:









I actually get excited to see all the blue lines, and my distance numbers slowly increase over time.

Beyond seeing this program through to its completion, improving my health and developing an understanding for something Indy cares so much about, I've actually found that I....dare I say it....enjoy running!

Certainly not while I'm running...at least, not most of the time, but I've found that I have days where I think to myself, "I need to get out there and run!"  I love being able to listen to music for half an hour undisturbed, I love being able to just get in my own head for a bit and think on things, I love the feeling of accomplishment I have once I've finished a run, and I love that I can now get up and down our two sets of stairs, while holding the laundry basket, and not get winded!

Even better than all that, I think I'm finally starting to understand the "running" culture.

When I started my couch to 5k program Indy and I signed up for a race as a means to give me something to work toward.  We will be running it this September, and I can.not.wait!  After you watch this, you'll know why:



Monday, August 25, 2014

The Summer of "Scarface"

Every once in a while a theme pops up in my life for a few weeks, and no matter what I do, I can't seem to escape it.  This summer's reoccurring theme was Al "Scarface" Capone.

To celebrate Indy's graduation, we planned a week-long trip to Chicago in July.  Indy had been to Chicago a few times in the past during his first set of college years to visit friends who attended North Western, and even an old girlfriend *eyebrow wiggle*, but I had never been.  We decided it was an affordable, fun way to get a little time to ourselves and explore a city filled with great food, art and culture.

On our first night there, after an action packed day of sight seeing, we settled in at our hotel and Indy had us watch The Untouchables.

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 If you're unfamiliar, The Untouchables is a film starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and Robert DiNero made in 1987.  It tells the story of how Federal Agent Eliot Ness was able to take Capone down for good.  In my humble opinion, it's just okay, but for some reason Indy loves it.  It was a nice way to get some more insight into what Chicago was like back then, and see how far its come.

-I'd like to just take a moment here and let you know, if you don't already, that it is quite impossible for one to go to Chi-town and not get completely beat over the head with stories about Al Capone.  Every tour and museum we went to- regardless of their specialty -had their own unique way of incorporating stories about America's most notorious gangster into their agenda.  After watching The Untouchables, and walking around Chicago for a few hours the next day, I kind of felt like I knew all there was to know about the man.-

While on our Ghost Tour of Chicago (Ghost Tours are kind of our thing) we stopped by the site of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929.  On that day seven members of the North Side Irish gang were murdered by two members of Al Capone's South Side Italian gang, who were disguised as police officers, in a Chicago garage.  Al Capone was in Florida at the time, which is how he was able to escape the blame for the hits.  Here is what the garage looked like back then:

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And this is what it looks like now:

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It's basically an empty lot.  Our tour guide had a lot of extra juicy details and funny tid-bits to go along with the events of that night.  As far as the area being haunted, there have been claims that dogs (who are supposedly very sensitive to the supernatural) often avoid the area completely, scurry by, or whimper/bark incessantly when they have to walk through it.

When we got home from our trip, Indy began watching a program on PBS called Al Capone: Icon.  It's a one hour documentary about the impact Capone had on American culture.  I watched about half of it with him when I decided I'd officially had my Al Capone fill.  For whatever reason, Indy didn't get to finish it, and likes to watch it in 5 minute snippets here and there.

I thought that was it, that my Al Capone summer had been complete, but then Indy and I took a weekend trip to Philadelphia with some friends, and we went to the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Let me start off by saying that the Penitentiary is AWESOME and if you haven't been, you should go.  The audio tours they have are really wonderful (and narrated by Steve Buscemi!).  It's full of interesting, detailed stories, and the place itself is just so beautiful! (In that creepy, decrepit, falling apart kind of way.) I plan on putting together a Philly post chock-full of photos from the tour, but for now, let's stick with our theme.  In case you forgot, it's Al Capone.

As most people know, despite the fact that he was running the biggest illegal alcohol ring in the country during the time of prohibition, and was responsible for countless murders as a result, Capone was ultimately taken down under tax evasion.  When they finally nabbed him, he ended up in Alcatraz (another amazing prison to visit if you haven't yet), but what most people don't know is that before then, he was arrested on the smaller charge of carrying a gun illegally, and he spent a small stint of time at the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Now, despite my growing disinterest in all things Capone, I do have to admit that one of the things I found and still find most intriguing about him was the fact that he was treated by the public, even by the police, as a celebrity of sorts.  Before he was arrested, he would openly brag to reporters about how smart and cunning he was, insulting the cops left and right.  Everyone pretty much knew this guy was a criminal, and he didn't really do all that much to hide it. Even after he was arrested, he got special treatment.  Here's a visual example:

Most of the cells at the Eastern State Penitentiary looked like this:


 Imagine it a little less paint-chippy, but still empty, dank, dull and jail-like.

But Capone's cell?  It looked like this:


The man had a working radio in his jail cell.  The Penitentiary even has music from his time period playing so when you peek in you get a feel for what his stay there was really like.  I've been in hotels on vacation that weren't this nice!

Anywho, as far as Philly goes, that's as much Capone exposure as I got, so when we returned home from our trip, I really and truly was over it.

Except, remember that PBS special Indy was watching?  It's still unfinished and still on our DVR, and he still will watch it in 5 minute snippets.  It is to the point now where if I can hear it from the next room, I yell at him to turn it off.  It is the longest one-hour documentary I've ever seen in my life, and the only thing keeping me from deleting it without his permission is that I know in a heartbeat he would even the score by deleting an episode of Project Runway from my set of recordings, and I will NOT do that to Tim Gunn.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Okie Dokie, Dr. Jones!

For those of you who followed me in the past, you'll remember that I lovingly refer to my husband as Indy. He is enamored with all things archaeology, adventure, and of course, all things Indiana Jones.  And I can't even take credit for the pet-name; my father, ever the nick-name-giver, christened him as "Indy" within the first few months of our dating.

Indy on our trip to Costa Rica in '11.

Still of Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark
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Do ya see it?  Do ya? 

Indy graduated with a B.A. in Studio Art in 2004, and within a few years landed a good, steady job as a graphic designer for an advertisement agency, which existed within a local business college.  Indy is a very talented graphic designer, and enjoyed the majority of people he worked with.  However, as time went on, I noticed every year her grew more and more discontent at his job for a myriad of reasons- the most prominent being that he didn't agree with the "corporate" environment he worked in.  He was marketing ideas he didn't believe in, and wasn't passionate about.

In January of 2010, while on a skiing vacation in Vermont, Indy was griping about his job, and at some point (I don't remember this, but he reminds me of it rather frequently) I suggested, "Why don't you go back to school and become a history teacher?  You love talking about different cultures and geography and traveling- you could do it every day and get paid."

I must've really hit a nerve, because just two months later, we were sitting with his aunt, a former NYC deputy superintendent, in a diner in Manhattan, talking about the possibility of him going back to school.  She was supportive, but a little apprehensive.  Changing careers is always a risk, and she knows more than anyone how challenging the world of education can be if you're not prepared for it.

That summer, Indy began taking his first set of education classes.  He was officially going back to school.

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We actually watched this movie not too long ago.  Hilarity.

For three and a half years, Indy worked full time and went to school full time.  That's right, both, full time.  There was one semester where he took six classes. SIX CLASSES! He woke up, went to his 9-5, went to class at night, came home, and went to class online.  This went on for three and a half years.

In that span of time, we also got engaged, got married, and moved.  Talk about stress!  (We also traveled to Costa Rica, Australia and Scotland...but those don't really count.  Vacations are always welcome!)

I mentioned in my last post that I stopped blogging in August of 2013, because I knew the year ahead of us would be rough.  Indy was about to start his student teaching experiences, and we were both nervous.  It meant he could no longer work full time, which meant we would have to survive the year on one income.  As anyone whose been through it, you know student teaching is by far and away the hardest part of becoming a teacher.  None of the college classes or observations or books or reports can prepare you to be a teacher the way actual teaching can.

As with all things, Indy took these new challenges head-on.  While he wasn't working his old 9-5 any more, the man still found time to get some freelance graphic design work, which, combined with my stipend for painting the fall and spring play/musical sets, and my taking on a 6th class to teach at school for the extra money, and the generosity of family, we managed to eek by financially.  It was hard, and there were a lot of questions and tears and frustration, but we did it.

In addition to all of that, Indy and I began applying to schools for him in February.  At that point Indy was knee-deep in his full-time student teaching experience.  It was a challenge for him, for sure. He would come home doubting himself all of the time, and maybe this is me being biased, but I felt like his less-than-stellar student teaching experience was making an already tough job even harder.  I was frustrated for him.  It was rough, but as with everything, he did more than just "get through it."

On May 14, 2014, Indy graduated, Summa Cum Laude, with his second bachelors's degree and teaching certification.  He didn't even get to throw his hat, because after he grabbed his degree, he left the ceremony to go on his first interview!


By July, we had applied to 40 different districts in our state.  He had gone on three interviews, done two demo lessons, and for each one got the polite, but dreaded "we've decided to go with another candidate" phone call.  I'd be lying if I said we weren't scared.  We had mentally prepared ourselves for the worst: If he didn't get a job offer, he would substitute locally, try to coach, and continue applying.  If it went on for longer than a year, he'd go back and get his masters, while subbing, coaching and applying.  We talked about ways to cut costs, to take on extra job or volunteering opportunities.  We had our worst-case-scenario plans, and we were ready.

After his graduation, while job hunting, he began preparing to volunteer at a local national park, and took on some freelance work at the job he left to become a teacher.  We took a trip to Chicago to reward ourselves for the hard year we barely got through, and when we got home, he got two more interviews.  After that, he got called back for two demo lessons.

The first was for a full-time, tenure-track 6th grade ancient history teaching position.

The second was for a 3-month maternity leave 8th grade U.S. history teaching position.

We were excited, but careful not to get too hopeful.  We'd been through this twice  before.  He prepared two great lessons and practiced them on me several times, as he had with all the others.  As if the pressure wasn't enough already- he had to have both demo lessons on the same day.

He went in and presented for the tenure-track position first.  He called me afterward, while on his way to the maternity leave demo lesson, and said felt good about it. He did his second lesson, and again, called me on his way to his car, saying he also felt good about it, but when he got in the car, he noticed he had a voice mail.  It was from the principal at the tenure-track school, and all he asked was for Indy to call him back.

Indy did, and they offered him the job!

Indy is now, officially, a 6th grade Ancient History teacher in a town not too far from the one I teach in.  All of his hard work has paid off in spades, and we can't wait to start the school year as teachers together!

For a while he's going to put away his fedora and teach, but don't worry, it won't be gone for long.  He's already started planning our celebratory trip to Africa next summer.

(via.)


Thursday, August 21, 2014

She Returns...

As if from the dead, like a zombie fresh out of the grave, and looking for brains to paint with, I have returned.

August 21st of 2013 was the last time I posted on this blog, and when I decided to leave, it was with a heavy heart.  I had begun blogging at this same site two years earlier to share my successes, defeats, trials and tribulations as a high school art teacher.  I was just hoping to create a little space on the internet where I could reflect on and further develop lessons for my students, but I got so much more than that.  In the two years I was consistently blogging I made a slew of internet friends- some art teachers, some artists, and some regular ‘ol people, who not only made me feel good about the things I wrote, but also taught me so many things about teaching, art and life in general.  My decision to stop blogging was a tough one- something I had contemplated over weeks, months even-  but I was at the end of a rather tough year, and was about to begin an even harder one.  I was having a difficult time finding balance in my life and got rid of a few things in hopes of lightening my load.  Blogging was one of those things.

For a short while I felt pretty good, but sooner than I had imagined, I realized I truly missed writing.  Not just writing, but also the conversations, the exchanging of ideas, the expression of self and all the other wonderful things that a blogging community has to offer. The empty space I had created in ending Painting with Brains didn’t leave as much time for other things as I had hoped- in fact, it just left me feeling incomplete and in a lot of ways, even more unbalanced than before! I wasn’t sure if I was just going through blogging withdrawl or what, so I challenged myself. I said, “Self, I challenge you to not blog under Painting with Brains for one full year.  If on August 21st, 2014 you still miss blogging as much as you do today, then you shall return!”

So here I am, one year later, and I’m so happy to be back!