October Review- November Plan

Last month, as part of my happiness project, I decided to reflect and journal daily. When given the chance to see the patterns of days in a month, things begin to appear. Things like negativity, chronic sleepiness, and lack of physical activity shine through. The exercise of recording positive things from each day is powerful, but that isn’t what I challenged myself to do. I’ve definitely learned over the years that when I am not pushed by myself or others to remain positive, I begin to steer down the negative path. There is much in life to complain about. But, there is also much to rejoice in. When I choose to complain, it snowballs. I’ve learned that I will probably always have to have check points, and push myself back to positive reflection.

In October, I finally settled into the routines of school. It takes awhile to get to know new kids. It is a struggle to realize that what worked last year, may not work this year. Honestly I spent August to October as a giant ball of stress. Giant balls of stress aren’t not part of happiness projects. Who can be happy when you are constantly worried about lessons, behaviors, and feedback?

In school, when we have problems we are asked to collect data. This is time consuming and often a nuisance. But, after the data has been collected, clear patterns emerge. This month, I suppose journaling allowed me to collect data on myself. Here is what I realized – I AM ALLOWING MY JOB TO OWN ME. I love teaching, and feel I am very dedicated to my class and kids (if you haven’t checked out my glorious classroom blog- do so here. I’ll share my enthusiasm about the site at a later time). But, arriving at 7:00am and leaving after 6:00pm and taking home work is not healthy. I do realize people do this everyday, but it is a quick way to become unhappy. I need to separate my personal life from my work life. I need to stop answering emails at 10:00pm. The answers can wait till the morning (although I know that to be true, I probably won’t stop). 

So, here is the November plan: MAKE AN EFFORT TO LEAVE IT AT WORK. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, I have commitments near school. So, it makes sense to stay and get things done before I have to be somewhere else at 6:00. That means, on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays I need to leave. My goal: before 5:00pm. This is not drastic, but a friend told me that when she made that rule for herself, she was much more productive. I chat and piddle around. I check on things, and organize. I procrastinate on things that really need to get done. If I know I have to get out by 5:00pm, I’m hoping it will trick me into working harder and staying focused. When I leave at 5:00pm, I can work out (which I’ve been missing actually),  I can spend time with JMO (he’s a pretty swell dude), or just relax.

Tracking is kind of difficult for this one. I’m just going to give myself a sticker on my calendar when I leave work, make an effort, and enjoy my day. Even grown ups like stickers for good work.


Friend Night October: Awesome game night, had a blast.

Mini Adventure: Didn’t do it, but I did go to a bridal Shower for an old friend, go to an awesome wedding, and start Spanish classes.

The Fear Stinks

I was wrong about the fear. There is no reason to fear! I always feel that way after the fact, but really? Why must I waste my time? Honduras was a great trip, I had a marvelous time, I grew as a person, I never got lost, was never hungry, and never felt scared. I could have spent the time and energy spent worrying doing something else. The thing is, will I spend that energy differently next time something scary comes along? I would love to say I’ve learned! No way will I fret my time away again! Honestly, I am who I am and my natural state is as a person who frets.

I have a lot to say and am at a loss for where to start. For now, I’m having difficulty uploading pictures. There is probably some easy fix that I can’t see at this point. I’ll fiddle now and will hopefully have a decent post shortly….

The Fear

One year ago I was doing contract work at my old office, I was attending every teaching job fair I could find, emailing every principal, and hounding my own principal about hiring me as a teacher. I was about to go back to work as an aide. Then, on the day I went back, I was making copies for for the teacher I was an aide for (Sylvia), when someone’s contract fell through. The intercom beckoned me to the office and there sat the decision makers of my school along with my future team leader. They were offering the fourth grade. I was supposed to teach special ed or younger kids, I just knew it. I needed a job and I fearfully accepted. Petrified doesn’t begin describe my feelings. Would they listen to me? These 9/10 year olds? Would they care what I had to say? Would they learn anything from me? I couldn’t eat, my stomach hated me, and I was shaking the night before the first day of school.

Many things have changed in the past year. Growing into myself has been a long and steady process, but this past year, it sped up. I found an outlet for the person I am. I was able to turn to my support system and conquer my fear of failure. My love of people, reading, creating, and learning was put to good use. My mentor teacher, my teammates, the teacher I was an aide for, my mother, my boyfriend, my friends and my family all were there for me to sort out fear and help guide me. Learning, growing, and  making decisions have led me to now. I could not ask for a better life than the one I currently have. I have great love in my life.

Fear and anxiety have been slowly creeping up on me again. I invited myself to go with my mentor teacher (Lauren) and group of people from her church to Honduras. I had always assumed that I would have been on many great adventures before I reached my current age, but I have not. Tomorrow I leave for an adventure. My anxieties and fears seem trivial, first world problems as JMO has begun to say. What if I get car sick? What if they don’t have coffee? What if…. This will not be America, the place where broke means I don’t have money to take a vacation, broke doesn’t mean I can’t eat. I have spent a good deal of time reading about Honduras, reading the FAQs on the Mission Lazarus site, and looking at their postings on their blog. This month for my happiness project, I am keeping a prayer journal. Writing down my anxieties and asking God for guidance has truly helped me prepare for this journey. Gathering knowledge and addressing anxiety is the way to squash fears. So, as the fear is being squashed, there will be more room in my heart for the adventure and journey that awaits.

Photo from the Mission Lazarus Blog


A few months ago, my partner teacher signed up to be in the dunk tank at our school’s carnival. It was going to be hilarious. Then, she got tickets to Cirque Du Soleil, and you cannot miss out on that. So, in a haste to help my pal, I said, “I’ll do it for you!” I often commit myself in haste, and it is often not a great decision.

The principal at our school was before me; she was such a good sport! She smiled, egged kids on, and gracefully slipped into the water. She made getting dunked seem okay, even enjoyable. Getting dunked was not okay. When I stepped up for my turn, it was slippery, and the water was disgusting, and I had a nervous case of giggles. The boys in my class were lined up and stretching their arms. They were pumped, and the sight was pretty entertaining. My dear sweet boy that went first missed, so of course I let him know that he was my new favorite. Then a very athletic and awesome kiddo hit the button the first try, and I splashed into the water. It was gross. As I climbed back onto the seat, it wouldn’t latch. In fact, it became a recurring problem in my hour in the chair, the chair would spontaneously dunk me on its own. A father of one of my students stood by the tank and re-rigged the seat for me. Continually, I had to remind myself to put on my smile and appear to enjoy the process. The kids loved it, and I wanted very badly to love it too. One stinker in my class ran up and just pushed the button (at the encouragement of my fellow fourth grade teachers), I forced him to come around and hug me. Sadly, no one snapped a picture of that! Being in the dunk tank was a whirlwind of emotion, it sounds silly, but I felt attacked, I felt scared of not knowing when I would fall, I would fall, it was chilly, but it was reminder that when you put a on a face you can create something fun for someone else. The dunk tank was about good fun and creating a memory for the kids who paid four tickets to get me down. Signing up for the dunk tank wasn’t something I probably would have done on my own, but it was a memorable event, and at the end I felt like had accomplished something.

I tried to convince my assailants to come hug me, but there were very few takers.


Girl, don’t go there!

Spring is in the air and things are going a little crazy in the fourth grade. It seems everyone has formed an opinion on everyone else around, and it is not just the kids. As an adult, how do you explain that this is a problem you will face for the rest of your life? People are always going to say not so nice things about you. You might also be saying not so nice things about others, FOREVER! A friend may confide with you an opinion, and the worst part, is that you may find yourself agreeing with someone. Then you tell them you agree, and then they tell your best bud what you really really think about them!!!

This makes me crazy. It irritates me when kids talk about each other, when grown ups talk about each other, and when I find myself saying or agreeing to something regrettable. It is truly a hard lesson to realize the impact of your words on others. It is very easy to say that Steve (the stuffed shark in my class is the go to made up name for everything) is a terrible person because he said I had ugly hair. But, when I say that I hate Steve’s lopsided fin, I’m just being honest. We all do this. We lie to ourselves about what we are doing. THEY are mean, but I am honest.

Last week my partner teacher and I gathered our girls and talked about the impact of gossip. A girl asked what to do if she was the victim. Another girl said she would never ever do such a thing. Another drew a picture in her notebook. Can you really teach a girl not to put down another girl? Or does she have to learn it herself? Does she have to be caught saying something? Then get in a nasty argument to even begin to learn the lesson?

I told the girls that it is easy to fall into negativity, I told them that this is often something I am guilty of. I get frustrated with people. The first instinct we have to vent. Although every now and then we need to get it out there, venting doesn’t really help. When we vocalize that negativity, it spreads. I told the girls that I have a few good friends who remind me, “Girl, don’t go there!” A good friend will listen, but a good friend will also stop you before you say something mean or regrettable. I am blessed to have a few people who do that for me. I want to be that person for others. I want to challenge my girls to be that person for their friends.

Maybe it is impossible to encourage ten year old girls not to talk about each other, grown women can’t stop themselves. We all just have so much more going on in our lives than what we happen to think of other people. If the image I put out, is one of discussing what I think of other people, then what does that make me?

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said,

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

I’m not sure if what we said made an impact, but hopefully it is a conversation they will remember and reflect on as they grow. In the mean time, my mother suggested I write, “Girl, don’t go there!” on a sentence strip on the back of my classroom door as a reminder. I think I will implement that suggestion early this week.

*”Boy, don’t go there!” can be used as well, sadly, the boys aren’t as guilty as we are.



Disclaimer: If you have never heard me talk about CARPOOL, these videos will explain to you what it is and how it is fabulous. Also, I linked to CP about a million times, because I wanted you to be tempted to click on it and learn about how it is truly awesome.

The CARPOOL GALA was last weekend in College Station. This year it was in The Zone at Kyle Field, it is an amazing venue. Going back every year to celebrate CARPOOL always makes me feel very grateful to have been a part of the organization. It is still one of the best things I have ever personally been apart of.

Last year, CARPOOL ran out of money. The staff had to stop operations for the first few weeks of the Spring semester. The organization got so much support from the Aggie community and was able to raise $115,000 in the Spring alone. It never ceases to amaze me what a determined group of people can do. The current staff, of which I no longer know a soul, is working to create a buffer of funds. They hope to have enough money to pay for two years out, instead of just the next couple of weeks.

The vice-chair (Ryan Mieras) gave a speech about how CARPOOL has impacted him. While CP has impacted thousands and thousands of people (the website currently states they have given 183,658 rides home), it also profoundly impacts the people who chose be members and pursue a leadership role. At the age of 20, I had a group of 25 people to lead. At the age of 21-22, I was in charge of fundraising efforts and led operational nights. We organized who would drive, who would go out to bars, we organized calls, and what to do if something went wrong. I planned a 5k and wrote grants (I raised lots of dough – still proud). JMO built a caller record/ride sort program and built the website. We were running a business, and not really a small one. CARPOOL is expensive to run, we maintained donor relations, obtained sponsors, and begged for money. CP was an amazing learning experience, I grew tremendously as a person. The experiences I had will never be forgotten, and I am proud of the person CP help mold me into.

So, basically CARPOOL rocks.

GALA helps make money for CARPOOL, and it is fun… here are a few pictures from the evening….

GALA 2011

Mrs. Oswalt and her fabulous new bench.

Gala 2011

JMO and his fabulous mother.

GALA 2011

JMO and his fabulous girlfriend.

P.S. CARPOOL ROCKS. If you watch this video, you can see me for all of 2 seconds on a computer, and JMO for all of 2 seconds on the phone, we are much younger. Plus awesome quotes from Jeff, the founder, at the end.