Friday, January 31, 2014

Juggling the Holidays Part Dos/Deux.

Anyway, Christmas Eve in my family has never been a huge thing. When I was younger, we would go to mass, set out our stockings for Santa (along with cookies and milk, as well as a carrot for the reindeer), and then would watch a holiday movie and go to bed. That's really all I ever knew, until I started dating an Italian guy when I was in high school and was introduced to an Italian Christmas Eve (the feast of the seven fishes), which is incredibly intense. 

This year, I spent Christmas Eve with friends and my second family. 

"Let's play Kings... with wine!" = worst idea ever. 

One of our Kings rules was that if you broke a rule, you had to put your chin on the table until someone else broke a rule. This was a horrible, mean, cruel rule to make - but a hysterical one (especially since the others included that you were not able to point at anyone, you had to call everyone Lord or Lady, and you could not use anyone's real name.. I was Lady BS - for beautiful sweater, of course and Edwin's brother was Lord Shinyhead - we get creative).

After we were way too many hands into Kings, we realized that it was midnight, which meant that Santa was arriving. He called all the kids out first, gave them each one of their gifts, and then they went back downstairs, while the adults exchanged their Secret Santa gifts (I wound up with an infinity scarf, so major win!).

Lucky me, sitting on Santa's lap where I assured him that yes, I have been pretty good this year. I was not expecting to have to sit on his lap though, so that was quite the experience.

I go to my parents the next day, for gifts and a TON of food.

My mom always decorates the casual dining room beautifully.

While the dining room is spotless, the great room and the angel on the tree in there could use some work (or I was too many beers in when I took this).

We still do stockings too, and my mom makes us each go in order (from youngest to oldest), and open ONE gift. Then we go around the room until our stockings are empty, so that we can each see and comment on what each other got. It takes a longggg time, but I get the sentiment behind it.

Cooper was very impatient.

He didn't even want to watch me open up the gift he picked out for me. Rude.

 Patrick got new snowboarding boots (and a new Burton board, not pictured because it was put onto his roof rack, and I was not about to go out there on a 23 degree day to photograph it).

We spent the rest of the time (before and after Edwin arriving) drinking, playing Catchphrase, and talking about our favorite gifts.

My dad and his friends go somewhere in South Jersey and stomp grapes, bottle their own wine - really have the whole winemaking experience. He kept trying to get us to drink his wine (he has a case!), but we passed and focused on the beer.

If you can still find this somewhere, pick it up. It's AMAZING!

Allagash.

My high school friend and I also wrapped up the day by speaking to each other ONLY in quotes from Elf. This lasted from Christmas Eve through the end of Christmas Day. We've already planned that next year, our quotable movie is Home Alone. Bring it on, ya filthy animal. 

So, over a month late, but it's better late than never, right? 
Are you missing the holidays? (or playing catch-up like me?).

Currently: Trying to push through work, despite a massive sinus headache.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Reflections.

I had a longer post that I intended to publish, but this past week has just left me with a few shorter thoughts, that I feel resounds more with me than what I had intended to post. 

Last week (and branching into this week) has really just reminded me that no matter what - no matter how healthy you are, how wonderful of a person, how loving or giving - life is just so short, and you truly never know what is going to happen. 

Remember to tell the people who you love and appreciate how you feel - it doesn't have to be in a big, dramatic, cheesy way where it's over the top and fake, but compliments or a comment like, "Thank you for __________, it means a lot" goes such a long way. 

Don't go to bed angry when possible - stick up for yourself and bring things up that bother you so that you can discuss them and move on. There is never a good result from holding a grudge, prolonging an argument, or being close minded when someone wants to discuss something with you. Allow yourself to move on from the things that are holding you back in your own life and relationships. 

Love and appreciate people more, and remember to keep telling people - in whatever way you feel comfortable - that you value them and their place in your life. 

With that being said, just know that I appreciate and admire you all, and your comments brighten my day - sometimes I forget to thank you, but I treasure each one of you. xox

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Books for Thought

I've always been a pretty avid reader - it was something came naturally to me, a skill that I'm extremely thankful for. 

I'm also in charge now of ordering all the books used by teachers in my building - so I get control over the novels, short stories, etc. that we have money in the budget to now possess. When I first started teaching, we did not have a single novel in our building; I was in fact given only textbooks (and not enough for every student to use one), and was told that nothing mattered besides getting them the scores to pass their GED. As an excited first-year teacher, that depressed me so much that I started using my own resources, my prep and lunch time, etc. to create more dynamic, text and story-based lessons that would hit on the skills needed for the GED, but in a more exciting way. This step definitely paid off, and I've enjoyed selecting and teaching the different works I've picked. 

Recently, a student came back to tell me that one of the books that we read last year, "still haunts her" and has really shaped her and how she looks at things. It got me thinking, and serves as inspiration for this post about books I've read that have shaken me, made me think, or inspired me to want to do more. 

Night by Elie Wiesel

This was actually the work that the student came back to speak to me about. We read this aloud in class, which gave such a haunting feel to it. Reading something to yourself is totally different than hearing someone else - especially when they get choked up, or horrified by what they have read. I make each of my classes read this, and there has never been anyone who has said, "I wish we never read that." They may not love the book, but they learn from it, through Wiesel's harrowing account of Auschwitz. It's a book that just baffles you that something like the Holocaust and the treatment of human beings in this manner could even be possible. It's one that will make you think of what you would do and how you could help/what you would have done to try to change what was going on and acceptable, and it's important to read just for that reason alone. 

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

God, I love Steinbeck. I read this my senior year of high school - we were all thrilled because we had struggled through "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe, and this one was only 99 pages long, so it seemed like a winner. What we didn't expect was for the story of Lennie and George to be so beautifully disturbing. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and one of my favorites to teach - when it first starts, the students aren't usually so into it (Steinbeck tends to be slightly wordy with his descriptions, which isn't for everyone), but less than half way through, they want to keep reading. 

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Okay, so legitimate warning first-  I still don't know how I feel about this book and I read it over the summer. My emotions and reactions included the following: what the fuck?!, horrified, disturbed, never sleeping again, disbelief, needing to speak to someone else who had read this book, depressed, saddened, shocked. 
The fact that I had such a strong reaction to this book though, means that Shriver did something right. I wouldn't recommend this one to everyone though - it's extremely difficult to read because the emotions conveyed are so intense that you may need a whole bottle of red wine to erase this one from your memory for the day - or a Xanax.

You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn was an absolutely incredible human being. I'm so awed by him and have such a sense of admiration for what he stood for and that he was so present in such a vast majority of history. This is his reflection on how taking a stance when you're in disagreement with things really can make changes - how conforming is one of the worst sins that can be committed by mankind.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

I don't know how I missed out on reading this book. It's a memoir of a white journalist who decides to go undercover to find out what life really is like for African Americans during the 70's. He goes to the extreme of taking medication to alter the pigmentation of his skin so he really does transform into someone with darker skin. He goes from place to place in the South (which is a terrifying thought to begin with!) trying to experience life and race relations. It was a fascinating read, and one that really made me want to do more with my life and not just talk about things.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I was late to the party with this one. It was another one that just totally and completely messes with your head. You'll think one thing, then another, then another.. It was so well written and well crafted that it stirs up such a variety of emotions within you (seriously, I think I went through the full spectrum of ups and downs). Such a fast-paced read that you will want to bring to the gym so you don't have to put it down (I brought it to work and ate through lunch so I could keep reading).

Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury

Confession: I never know how to actually spell Fahrenheit - I just wait for auto-correct to fix it for me. Oops. Confession aside, this book has remained one of my favorites since I first read it in 8th grade. It's just SO good and so thought provoking. I'm a huge fan of Bradbury as a human being, and this work is just quintessential Bradbury. If you avoided this one during high school, I'd definitely recommend checking it out.  

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

I'm only 100+ pages into this one after a friend sent it to me for a book swap, but I'm in love. The writing style of Márquez is unbelievably beautiful, his sentence structure is flawless, and although I get the characters mixed up (because they all seriously seem to have the same name), I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Even only 100 pages deep (out of 400), I have no hesitation in saying that it is becoming one of my favorites. 

Have you read any great books lately? I'm ALWAYS looking for recommendations (and for friends on Goodreads, if you have an account!). What have been some of your favorite reads as of late? 

Currently listening to: Video Games - Lana Del Ray

Monday, January 6, 2014

Juggling the Holidays Part I.


We would have Christmas with my dad's side of the family the Sunday before Christmas (we always celebrate it that way), then Christmas Eve I would go to my parents for dinner, then proceed to go to Er's for his family's huge celebration. Christmas day, I would have breakfast with his family, then leave by 11ish to spend the day with my family, where he would join us at 4ish for dinner.

The crazy thing is - it all actually went according to plan, and we were both able to be totally unstressed, and able to really enjoy the time with family.

My gift wrapping this year involved a lot of kraft paper and branches (and bags when I got really lazy).

Patrick and I wore our ugly sweaters (from an ugly sweater party that never happened due to a terrible snow storm) without telling anyone else that's what we were planning on doing. Obviously we were the belles of the ball.

 

The holidays are always marked with the absence of Poppy, but now we can share stories and memories and laugh about them. It doesn't take away from missing him terribly, but helps to make him a part of our celebration.
 

Opening gifts, drinking beers, and laughing together - plus, everyone was really into selfies this year. 
 

We take gift wrapping VERY seriously.

When your cousin is 6'5", the ceiling is the focal point of a selfie.

I will not miss the gift buying and transporting element of the holidays at ALL. Not pictured: everything in my trunk. Also not pictured: the four trips it took for me to get my stuff from my apartment down to my car. Holiday season = you better work, bitch.

Currently listening to: The Vent - Big K.R.I.T.