Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Gift of a Goat

A few years ago, I was introduced to a true children's book about the chicken man. Basically, the man lived in an economically disadvantaged country, and he was having a rough go of it. Fortunately for him, a group came in and gave him some chickens. Those chickens reproduced, and now he is the largest egg and chicken supplier in his area providing a sustainable income to him and his family.

Fast forward to a concert I attended last November. My friend scored free tickets to see Lady A, so of course we went. While we were there, the groups were encouraging fans to donate to the group Heifer International. If you aren't familar with Heifer International, you can check out their website at In a nutshell, H.I. takes donations for animals, and the animals are sent to needy families around the world. Not only do the animals provide food, but they provide a steady source of income. I'm all about this program because when you donate you aren't artificially inflating their economy. This is a way to help folks in need and teach them a skill. To me, it seems like a win/win.

After a season of reading a bunch of books on volunteerism, I decided it was time to send the goat. I set aside some money and was able to send a goat AND a flock of chicks. I hope and pray these animals make a noticeable difference in the quality of lives they come in contact with.

I've also been working on my 30 volunteer opportunities. As a teacher, each of us had to create a club this year. Since I have a passion for volunteering, I decided to start a Service Learning Club. So far we have made Christmas cards for soldiers and baked cookies at the soup kitchen. We also plan to send Valentine's day cards to kids with cancer and oragami flowers for seniors in a local nursing home. My hope is to get the kids out into the community as much as possible this spring, but for now we have a limited budget, so we're doing what we can close to home.

Since we're getting close to Christmas and people tend to be more generous, I'm wondering what your favorite charities/organizations are. I'd love to hear about why you are passionate about them!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Finishing My Book

As the year draws to an end, I am finishing up the books I had on my 2012 queue. Current read? The Happiness Project. As a writer myself, I was intrigued by the author's decision to leave law and finally follow her writing aspirations. I'm so happy for her, but for me, I need financial stability before I can leave my job. In her book though, she has a list of Adult Truths she shares at the beginning of the book. One, for example is "what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while." If I'm being honest with myself, I am doing nothing to pursue my writing bug. You know this is a great source of conflict for me. So, I came up with an adult truth of my own. Are you ready for it?

It won't get done unless I do it.


You may be wondering, what is "it" ? Well, "it" could be anything. The dishes, for example, won't get done unless I wash them. The mail won't be dropped off at the post office unless I drive the letters there. Sure, sometimes my boyfriend helps me out with my "to do list" (he truly is wonderful), but at the end of the day, I can't make anyone do anything for me. Everything in my life that I want to get done ultimately falls on me to do. (Geez, that sounds so responsible!) Not only does this adult truth apply to chores, it applies to my writing. My book will not get written unless I seriously find time to sit down and write. I often stop myself before I even begin because I think "everyone has already written about this subject. I have nothing new to offer." I'm realizing my crippling mental conversation is a lie. While there are people who have experienced similar events as me, no one has had my exact experience, and no writer will portray my experiences the way I would.

So, does this mean I'm quitting my job to be a full time writer? Do you know me at all? Of course not. I like to eat, and I need to know where my next meal is coming from to feel content. This realization does mean, however, that I have been devoting time to writing. Every day this week I have written or edited a poem. Today I spent a good two hours working on my book. And, most importantly, I've set three very tangible writing goals for myself in the next month and a half. (Since I'm off Facebook until New Year's, I feel these goals are very attainable.)

I'm wondering if anyone out there has read the Happiness Project, and if so, what stuck with you most. Also, do you have any adult truths of your own to share?

Friday, July 6, 2012

30 Things Before 30

A month ago I turned 26. I'm not entirely sure how I got here, but I am on the downhill slide to 30 (remember when 30 was old?!). I pretty much epically failed on my last 101 things list not because I wasn't doing them, but because I wasn't blogging about them. I have decided enough is enough. I am now going to get back to actively blogging. I want to make the most of my my twenties before I get saddled up with more responsibility, so I made a list of 30 things to do before I turn 30. They are on the sidebar of my blog, but for those of you following on your mobile device, I will list them just this once here for you.

1. Finish my MFA in poetry
2. Finish my book
3. Travel to Iceland and see the midnight sun
4. Take a Yoga class on the beach
5. Try SUP (Stand up paddle boarding)
6. Compete in a triathlon
7. Visit and raft the Grand Canyon
8. Finish a 1000 things gratitude list
9. Backpack a week on the AT
10. Volunteer 30 times
11. Take a cross country road trip
12. Save a down payment for a house
13. Live somewhere else for a month in the summer
14. See Opaekaa Falls
15. Do a last minute trip somewhere cool
16. Create a new travel blog
17. Get a new stamp in my passport
18. Read 30 books a year
19. Send the Galax Goat via Heifer International
20. Participate in Relay for Life
21. Go on a mission trip
22. Splurge on myself!
23. See Third Eye Blind in concert
24. Zip line
25. Buy Christmas for an Angel Tree child
26. Learn a new instrument
27. Ride in a hot air balloon
28. Make a quilt
29. Get a tattoo
30. Spend my 30th birthday in Australia

Happily, I will be going to Italy in two days, so I will begin my list/count down with an amazingly good trip in the company of great friends.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

baby steps in the right direction

Since my post about my slump into grump, I've taken some steps to increase my happiness and pursue my writing goals. First, I submitted four poems to a literary magazine about two weeks ago. I am still waiting to hear back, but the magazine said it could take two months, so I'm trying to be patient. I've researched some other lit mags to submit to should this not work out, and I've compiled a list of five magazines that I think would be a good fit for my work.
I have also contacted the MFA program that accepted me a few years back but for financial reasons I was unable to attend. They still have my application on file, and I can begin in January.
Since it's summer and I'm done teaching for two months, I have been actively writing. I'm trying to write one poem everyday or at least every other day.
I feel more content with how things are progressing. I feel like I'm leading my life again and not the other way around, and that is certainly a step in the right direction.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

It’s Mother’s Day again. One of the worst days of the year for me. I am always made aware of this day two weeks before it actually occurs (thanks commercials!), and then, I swear, I hear “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” every day leading up to the dreaded Sunday.

18 Mother’s Days have come and gone since her death. I was seven when she died, and I am very thankful for the years I had with her, but I’m also frustrated because I never got to know her. So many of my friends are entering that phase where they can be friends with their mothers, starting to know them as real people. Here’s what I know about my mom:

1.She frosted her hair.
2.She liked to tan in the sun with baby oil, frying like a chicken in southern heat and humidity.
3.She wore yellow rubber gloves when she washed the dishes.
4.She must have been a good friend because women were always coming over to wash walls or can beans.
5.I think she was funny. In pictures, her smile looks like she had a sense of humor.
6.She had a bit of a temper.
7.She was competitive in sports (I only know this because Dad told me recently a story about playing doubles with Mom where she threw her racket in frustration).

I have clearly inherited her love of the sun, her humor, her anger, and her competitiveness. Thanks Mom!
Lately, there have been quite a few moments where I would give anything to dial up heaven and talk to her. I’ve wanted to ask her some questions. Here are some things I’d like to know:

1.How do I curl my hair? I am almost 26 years old, and I still have no idea how to make my hair pretty.
2.How do I get spaghetti sauce stains out of Tupperware dishes?
3.How did you deal with losing a baby?
4.How did you and Dad resolve fights? Did you ever want to leave?
5.What was your biggest regret?
6.How did you hold on to your faith in God during the hard times?
7.What’s the recipe for those stuffed shells you used to make? Those were good. I liked them.

I may never know the answers to these questions, and that’s going to have to be ok. I can’t dwell on the past and on the unknown forever. If I’ve learned anything these 18 years, it’s that you have to keep moving forward. So here’s to you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day from Earth.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Kid's Got It

As I continue my struggle to write and be satisfied with my career life, I happened to stumble upon a student's paper today. I'm terribly behind on my grading, and I'm finally getting to grade a packet of original poetry my students wrote a week ago. Overall, I was extremely pleased with their work, but one boy in particular caught my attention. He wrote about how he isn't totally pleased with where he is, but he feels like he is heading in the right direction. I was especially moved by his insightful line:

"I pray for the future, give thanks for my past."

Yes. This sums up so much of what I need to be doing. Things aren't horrible. I've got a job, a place to rest my feet, a little change in my pocket, and supper on the table. I'm not where I want to be, but I'm still running the race towards my destination. I can wallow and feel sad, or I can have hope for the future.

For now, I choose hope. Thanks kid. Today you were the teacher.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Crossroad to Bliss

Today I started reading a new book entitled The Geography of Bliss. As I read the introduction, I have to say the author’s plight registered with me on a deep level. Just today, I found myself crying over how unsatisfying my life has become. For the past fifteen years, all I’ve ever wanted to do was write. I scribbled poems on the inside of my binders and notebooks, on thin white napkins from restaurants, on receipts from local establishments. I kept a cardboard box full of all this writing from middle school and high school (which I eventually leafed through and discarded when I graduated college). And now here I sit, a quasi-adult, almost twenty six years old, and I couldn’t be farther from my dream.

I wake up at 6:30 and go teach 9th graders how to construct complete sentences. I spend my afternoons assisting a soccer team (a sport I couldn’t master when I was in high school). I dream of students tying me up to the ceiling and leaving me for dead. There are whole weeks where I don’t even touch my blog because I’m too emotionally tired from work to put the effort into writing.

Lately I’ve been irritatingly following “friends” on Facebook. Of course, everyone posts the very best of their life for the public to see. One friend is always going to parties, another is bouncing a joyful baby on her knee, while yet another is planning the adventure of a lifetime. And I have my happy moments too, but lately I’ve been feeling a pang of jealousy that embarrasses me deeply, and this jealousy stems from the steps I’ve taken that have put me so far away from my childhood dream. Most days I wake up and wonder, “How the hell did I get here?”

Don’t get me wrong: I think my job is valuable, and in the past week I’ve experienced an outpouring of gratitude from a special group of students which has really given me a boost in morale. But the fact still remains that I’m not pursuing my talent with all of my heart and energy.

I feel like I’m at the crossroads of some big career decisions. I’ve either got to Vita Abundantior or get off the pot, so to speak. As I begin The Geography of Bliss, I have to wonder where exactly my bliss will take me. To a new job? A new town? That M.F.A I’ve been wanting for three years? While my destination is uncertain, one thing I know for sure is that I’m ready to begin.

Have you ever faced this problem? If so, how did you deal? Did you give up your dream or pursue it?