Thursday, May 31, 2012

Last Spring Day?

Today was a very nice spring day, and very refreshing after yesterday's 104 degree weather (honestly, I'm not kidding). It really hit me that Spring semester is over and Spring interim is almost over...where is the time going?
What is this called? It's growing at the apartment, so beautiful
I also started reading a book today. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't had any time to read this month (this is the first time I haven't read at least one book since August). I am going to try to finish in early June in time to do my normal book post, but I did have to be honest!

Given all that has gone on this month, I think I will forgive myself. We've done SO much wedding planning and secured a date, place (including catering, cake, linens, table settings, and a wedding planner), band, ceremony/cocktail music, photographer, hotel block, talked to our wedding parties, and made a guest list and most of the website/registries (which I won't actually put up until the save the dates go out). Plus, I insured my beautiful ring. Maybe it's the honeymoon phase of wedding planning? Who knows, but I sure feel productive! Brendan has been helping out too. It's fun to work out all the little details together. I cannot wait to marry him! (so mushy!).

I've also been trying to get through the online component of TESOL training. I used to think I was good at grammar, but I've learned so much more about it. Regardless of what I'm done with tomorrow, come hell or high-water, I start writing a book. I don't feel ready at all, but it's now or I'm just going to spend my life wishing I had done it (maybe that's a bit dramatic, but you know).

I'm going to start my writing time first thing in the morning. NO-phone calls, emails, or checking blogs, just getting down to business. NO blog posting until I accomplish something for the day! 1,000 words per day seems reasonable, but could be ambitious? (The whole project is a bit ambitious, but that is the point).

So, anyone else out there who can't believe it's going to be JUNE? So soon??

Then again, I guess if time is going fast it means you're having fun.

We sure are!
<3 S,B, L&Z

Monday, May 28, 2012

Yep, This is Home

We were in Austin for a little over two weeks, but it feels like we haven't been home in forever, especially with all the exciting things that have happened lately. In the last two weeks, I finished the in-class portion of a course I am taking, taught 2 weeks of a course I'm teaching (almost done!), got engaged, and made significant wedding planning progress. For me, summer is the ideal time to plan, since I start my new job August 13th, and by next summer, the wedding will be...well only a few weeks away! Planning mode is a predominate feature of my personality, and I couldn't be more excited about marrying my best friend, so I'm pretty much in heaven. That said, when we arrived home, I felt a total flood of relief to be back to life as "normal." True, our normal is still pretty hectic, but it's life as we know it.

We still have a few more days of teaching online, but June 1st is what I am considering my official start of summer date. I have BIG plans for summer 2012: namely, write a novel. I'm actually not kidding. I have carved aside 6 weeks for myself of the summer, and with discipline and dedication, I hope to get a first draft down. Have I done this before? Absolutely not. But I know how to do it. In theory. We shall see. Other goals (as if writing a novel isn't enough): see friends and family and workout. Brendan and I both feel we've been lazy with exercise lately, and we're going to make an effort to change that. Of course, we also have our big Northeast trip planned for July 18-August 11, so there will definitely be relaxing this summer. And even though I do want to accomplish work, summer will still be a vacation for me. It's a vacation from the norm of what we usually do, and already, I can feel myself decompressing from the insanity that has been May.

The cats are decompressing too from the long drive. It's funny how quickly a place can become home. I missed it here, and it feels good to be in our own space again. Come what may this summer, this place is home. When we moved here, I didn't know if it would feel that way, but it does. I feel that we have many homes, but this is just the one we've made for ourselves all on our own.

I'd like to say I'm going to bed, but there is still work to be done!
<3 from a sleepy S, B, L&Z

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thank You for Holding My Hand...

This is such an emotional and happy time in our lives. Brendan and I are so thrilled and over the moon excited to announce that We are engaged!!!

I feel like the luckiest girl in the entire world, and I keep thinking back to the Fall Semester of 2010 when I had a crush on my best friend. We both had Tuesdays off that semester, and every week, we went for long 2-3 hour walks around Lake Charles. For the rest of my life, I will deeply cherish those memories. What did we do? We jumped fences, bought snacks, checked out garage sales, and went to parks just to talk, but most of all? We held hands. Brendan reached for my hand first. He told me that anyone would be crazy not to treat me well. At the time, I still thought maybe he was just a friend, but the gesture gave me enough courage the next week to tell him that I thought of him as much more than a friend. And on that Tuesday, October 12, 2010, we finally kissed for the first time. It was such a happy, thrilling moment. It was the kiss I had been dreaming about for months, but I still had no idea how things would progress. 

Fall turned to winter, and we flew to Brendan's home in Connecticut so that I could meet his family. I still remember holding hands while waiting for them to pick us up. It was so cold outside, and I was so excited and nervous. Brendan said last night that he knew he would marry me at a party earlier that year, but I didn't know he was the one until I met his family. Never have I felt so welcomed and such an immediate part of something. I had already watched Brendan interact with my family for a week in Las Vegas, so once I met his family, I just knew. Not only were we perfect together, but I saw that our lives could fit perfectly together too.  

We have held hands so many times since then. While skiing in MA, we attempted one black diamond that did not agree with me. I fell and was convinced that I would die if I tried to get up, but Brendan was right there holding my hand, and somehow, I made if off that mountain. We held hands while waiting to graduate from McNeese. The 5 friends in our class would give us a hard time about all the "mushy stuff," so it was only briefly, but it was a gesture that meant, "Even though we don't have jobs, and we're moving in with parents in a month, it's all going to be okay." Often times, we fell asleep holding hands, (which was mostly my idea :). 

Things weren't completely easy that summer, but we did find employment (or, as we liked to joke, a job and a half), and we moved to Midland, TX that August. After we drove separate cars and unloaded the U-haul contents into our 3rd floor walk up in the late August heat, we held hands and drank beer. I was totally freaked out, a mess of nerves and wondering if this could ever feel like home, but Brendan reminded me to be happy. He said, "This is the start of the rest of our lives. Just be happy about that and everything will work out." I knew he was right, and he was!

It has been nearly a year since then, and we've seen our own share of challenges, but mostly it has just been amazing: everyday of my life, I spend with my best friend on this earth. We've held hands on New Years eve, at friends' weddings, and the night before my big job interview. We held hands in the rent car from Houston to Lake Charles just a couple of months ago, and every turn was an absolute flood of happy memories. And just last night? Another Tuesday and we were holding hands, eating at a favorite restaurant in Austin called Wink. Except this time, Brendan took my hand in his, told me I was the perfect person for him, and asked me if I wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. He pulled the most beautiful ring I have ever seen out of his jacket pocket and handed it to me. He was a little teary, and I cried and promised him that I would always treat him so well. We could not stop telling each other how much we love one another, and we could not stop holding hands. This time it was another gesture: a promise we had made to one another that life has no guarantees, but that we would make it through life hand in hand. 

In true Stacy fashion, a date has already been set. We walk hand in hand as Mr. and Mrs. July 5th, 2013 :) 

It's a crazy world out there Brendan, and there is no one else on this earth that I would rather hold hands with. You mean the world to me. Thank you for taking my hand that day. You may not have known it, but that gesture started it all...

I know we will love each other for our entire lives. 

<3 Stacy 

About to be engaged! 
The ring in the beautiful roses that Brendan had already on our table :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mission Accomplished (For Now)

All of those weekends spent indoors from 9am-6pm have paid off. I earned my 60-hour certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language through Oxford Seminars after passing my teaching practicum today. Overall, I would recommend my experience with Oxford Seminars. The materials I received were very helpful, the instruction gave me a lot of good ideas for lesson plans, and I feel like it was a great introductory crash course into teaching ESL. But, I'm only halfway there. I will need to complete a 40 hour online component in order to receive my 100 hour certificate. The online component is mostly about grammar; oh fun!

Not much to report here. Brendan and I are still in Austin and teaching online for Midland College. I am enjoying my online course, and my students seem to be really bright and capable (the best kind!). We are going to see The Avengers tonight in 3D at the Alamo. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm so glad tomorrow is Monday! The best part about teaching online=sleeping in.

Here's to your weekend and whatever you accomplished!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lazy(?) Day + My 10 Savings Rules

We're having a lazy, rainy day in Austin, sort of. Since Brendan and I are both teaching online classes, we actually work all day from home, but it feels lazy, especially since I woke up at 10:30 and stayed in my PJs until 2:00. Oh, the future. If you could do your job at home, would you want to? I like it for a couple of weeks, but I wouldn't want to work only from home year round, because I like getting out and participating in the world.

In other news, I made Brendan this neat photobook  from our first year of dating, and gave it to him the other day. I created it using Shutterfly, which at first I found particularly discouraging to work with (having primarily used iphoto in the past), but now I see some advantages too. The primary advantage is price. Groupon often advertises coupons for Shutterfly books. This one I spent a total of $19 on, which includes everything: the price I paid on the Groupon, the creation of my extra pages, and shipping (without the coupon it would have been $50). iphoto books are usually $50 too, but they rarely go on sale. iphoto products are nicer, but almost TOO nice for a causal project. I would use iphoto for a wedding album or something. iphoto is much easier to use, but if you choose the custom path on Shutterfly and upload only the photos you want for each page as you create the pages, it isn't so obnoxious. I do not recommend uploading everything upfront because it simply will not work. In my case, my computer would just freeze and nothing would be saved. In conclusion: I like iphoto better, but if I had another coupon for Shutterfly, I would use it again because the price is about 60% less.

I am such a "saver" at heart. I will look for the best deal on absolutely everything and will not rest until I think I've found it. Here are 10 of my go-to tips that I'll share with you:

1.) If you have a gift card to a store, sign up for email promotions, and wait until there is a really good deal (like free shipping + a high percentage savings) and cash in your gift card then.

2.) Use Groupon religiously and you'll drastically decrease your need to pay full price for things like meals out, haircuts, or even vacations. Brendan and I love Groupon, because you pay in advance for your deals, so by the time you go on that vacation, it is already paid for!

3.) When buying airline tickets, use websites like Travelocity or Cheapo to find the best deal. Sometimes breaking up a longer trip and booking as 2 separate flights will actually save you money. For instance, when Brendan and I were booking our flight from Maine to Austin, it was actually cheaper to book Maine to Boston and then Boston to Austin (we saved about $45 that way). Always check Southwest too because bags fly for free!

4.) If you have a credit card that earns points or cash rewards, charge everything you buy, then pay it off in full every month. I have earned a few hundred dollars in cash in the past year through one credit card, and with another, I was able to get Brendan and I round trip airfare from Midland to Philly using points only flying Southwest. I have never paid one cent of interest in my life. I love my Southwest credit card! I would always fly Southwest, but it is not always the cheapest, so I don't. Price has to be the bottom line if you want to save cash.

5.) If you are not satisfied with something, write a kind letter of disappointment to the company about it.  I have being credited free flights, hotel stays, and t-shirts this way, just to name a few things.

6.) Shop at the cheapest grocery store and do a quick price check before you put something in your cart. When it comes to many things, you can get a better price if you are not picky about your brand. I don't buy organic. It is overpriced, and I really have never seen proof that it makes a difference in any way, and I've read too many articles about it. If you want to cut your bill down further, cut back on meat. We never buy or cook with meat since I'm a vegetarian; we always eat vegetarian at home and our bill is reduced.

7.) Don't leave the AC running while you're gone. Turn off all lights when you leave the house. Sounds basic enough, right? But it is also easy to forget. We leave a post-it note on the door to remind us.

8.) Don't buy clothing new. Instead, shop at thrift stores, Goodwill, or Salvation Army. I do most of my shopping this way and I make special exceptions for special occasions. When I make an exception, I buy things on SALE. Every single piece of furniture I own came from craigslist, estate sales, or a thrift store.

9.) If you have access to a free gym at work, use it, regardless of whether or not it is "less convenient" than one you could pay for.

10.) Don't be afraid to communicate your need to save cash with friends. The number one reason people overspend (in my opinion) is because they are too afraid to be honest with people that they cannot afford at that place, go on that trip, go shopping, etc. There are many ways to be social without spending a lot of cash. I am always honest with my friends about my budgeting concerns. If they are good friends, they will understand!

Hope these tips help you save some cash!

Enjoy your day, rainy or otherwise.
<3 S, B, L&Z

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's day to all the mom's out there, and to all the moms in my life...

My Mom mom.

My mom and I about to go horseback riding in Puerto Rico, January 2011
You can read the mother's day essay I wrote for my mom last year here. 

Elda, my second mom since I was 10 years old and in the fifth grade. 

Elda and I on her son Jesse's greenbelt tribute bench, March 2012. We love you always Jess!

And Brendan's mom, Sharon, the newest mom in my life (we first met in December 2010) at first sight!
All of us in Monohans State Park, April 2012. 
We love you all! Happy, happy mother's day! Thank you for everything.
<3 Stacy, Brendan (and Lola and Zoe too!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reflections After a Year of Adjuncting

There are so many things one can do with an M.F.A. in creative writing. The program I went to (McNeese State University) was positive in so many ways. 1.) Because we gained teaching experience, and thus had at least one marketable skill upon graduating, and 2.) Because we didn't pay tuition, and, therefore, some of us (myself included) did not acquire any debt. These reasons are in addition to countless others, but my essay today is really employment after M.F.A. focused.

Graduating from school, I had a lot of high hopes for myself and my ability to find a full time teaching job. I applied to 60 jobs (starting in December), and I felt confident that my three years teaching experience, excellent references, teaching award, and dedication to academia would land me full time employment. Not exactly. I had 2 interviews I could attend (neither of which resulted in an offer), 2 requests for interviews I couldn't attend (our situations were already settled by the time I got the calls in late July) and 2 offers to adjunct. I took one of those adjuncting offers. 

I won't lie, adjuncting was never on my list of what I saw myself doing after school, and it took a few months for me to get comfortable with the idea. I'm an incredibly motivated person, and I saw my life after school going in this certain direction. I worked really hard, and I was incredibly determined, so not being able to land a full time job was a bit of a blow to the old (okay 25 year-old) ego. But you know what? I got over it. Times are tough (did you know only 51% of students who graduated from college since 2006 have full time employment?), and I started to count my blessings: 1.) I had some source of income 2.) I was going to be living with a partner that had a full income 3.) I would be gaining relevant experience teaching, which is a job I love 4.) I had something to do, something that would make me feel useful and productive, and 5.) I still had healthcare (thanks to a new law) for another year through my mom's policy.

Each day, I reminded myself of these five things. Yes, there were times it was hard. As happy as I was that Brendan had a full time job, seeing certain aspects of his experience (heck, seeing his paycheck), could be challenging at times. My first week in Midland, I was sitting in a cafe and saw a bus drive by from a community college that I had turned down an opportunity to interview at for a full time job. I felt my heart in my throat. Had I made the right decision? Would I eventually have the career I wanted? Growing up, I had always learned to evaluate people by the answer to that old question, "So, what do you do?" It was actually part of my own personal evolution that I came to realize that titles don't make you the person that you are (okay, this is also something Brendan told me A LOT). I also learned how to keep things in perspective. How many people have their career settled at age 25? Not very many. I began to go easier on myself.

A few months later, I began to feel proud of myself again too. I took on as much work as I possibly could, and I contributed an amount of income that was very significant, even if it wasn't as much as what Brendan contributed. I also realized, Brendan wasn't judging me because I was making less money. In fact, the only person judging me, was me. I focused on doing the best job I could do. Most of my students don't know I'm an adjunct, and probably do not even know what the term means. It never came up in class, and it never felt relevant. I was a good teacher, and I began to see, that was all that mattered.

It was important to me to differentiate myself from Brendan. I didn't want to be the woman that got an adjunct position because of her partner, I wanted to be seen as an equal asset to the college. When I heard the Department of Adult Education needed someone to adjunct in the Developmental English courses, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I have relevant experience, I also knew that I had the patience and dedication needed to work with the most unprepared, at-risk students. I took on teaching 2 sections, in addition to my 3 sections of comp, and I made it a priority to meet with the Dean every Friday to show her the student's progress. The course was a huge success. I took 70% of my Developmental Writing II students with me to 1301, and I'm proud to say that of those, 86% passed my 1301 course. The Dean arranged for the college to pay for my TESOL (teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) training. Meanwhile, I had definitely proven myself to the Dean of Fine Arts. My 1301 and 1302 classes went really well, and my evaluations reflected that.

I also made it a priority to never say no. I graded CLEP tests, worked at college open houses, and even stayed late on a Friday to serve on a committee. I took on 8 hours of tutoring a week. If someone asked for a favor (substituting, etc.), I did it. As it turns out, having my foot in the door did not get me a full time job at the college, but showing that I was a great employee did something better for me: it helped me further create a reputation of excellence. And you know what? Titles are great, but all anyone really has is the reputation that proceeds him or her. I did a good job because that is the kind of teacher, colleague, and person that I am, regardless of whether or not there will be an immediate "pay off."

My other tips for adjuncting? I did not complain. Let me clarify: I complained to Brendan, family members, or even friends occasionally, but I never complained at work. Even if I didn't have the salary or benefits that I wanted, I had enough things to be grateful for, and complaining around colleagues certainly wouldn't change my situation. I thought about how I accomplished anything else I wanted to in my life: did complaining get me anywhere? No. What did? Hard work. Did hard work always result in what I wanted? No. But, that's life. And hard work is always beneficial. If anything, hard work makes me feel sane. Plus, people were nice to me, and I was genuinely thankful for that.

I also kept up with academic accomplishments. For example, I jumped at the chance to do TESOL training, and I presented at 2 conferences (one regional, one national) last Fall. I agreed to be a session chair and got a paper accepted for a conference for next Fall 2012. I kept submitting my work for publication (sure, all I have to show for that is a pile of rejections, but all anyone can ever do is try). Mostly what I did to survive was try to focus on my personal and professional growth rather than my paycheck. I stayed in touch with friends, made new friends, kept reading and writing (not enough, but that's another essay), traveled. I finally realized everything Brendan told me was right. The only difference between Brendan and I was that he had already gone through the humbling job experience (working for J-Crew), and this was my first experience like that. But when I wrote last week that I wouldn't change the experience of adjuncting for the world? I meant that. I needed this. I don't think I've ever grown so much in one year.

The way I would have written this ending before is that I worked hard, and it paid off, and I got a job. Simple A, B, C. But you know what? That isn't the truth. The truth is, I worked hard, it paid off in its own way, and in addition I had some luck, and I got a job. I know people who are just as capable teachers as I am that do not have full time jobs yet, and that doesn't mean they are any less wonderful at what they do. This is just the reality of living in our country right now. In order to get a job, there have to be jobs to apply for, and that isn't a reality for many colleges and universities right now (and I'm sure many other fields are experiencing similar hiring freezes, etc).

The fact of the matter is, if I saw that same bus from X college today, I wouldn't feel my heart in my throat. Part of that is because I've secured full time employment, but part of it is also because I survived and thrived without full time employment. Also, I've grown to realize adult life is about choices, either/or situations, and sacrifices. You can't always have the career, the relationship, the place you want to live in, all in the same place. In my case, I made my relationship my first priority. For me, that was hard. I was raised by a single, working mother who always made a career her priority (after the priority of raising my brother and I). I also look up to my mother in every way. But, I love Brendan, and even though parts of this experience were hard, I was always really clear about my feelings for him and thus my reasons for doing what I did. I said to my mother, "Maybe you think I'm crazy, but I'm doing this." My mom said she didn't think I was crazy, her quote was something like, "You're not crazy because it's Brendan." You know what? There's only one of him. And you know what else? A job is just a job. Some of us make it feel like our whole lives, but a job doesn't have to define you (and if it does, and you're happy that way, then that's fine), but I'm here to tell you, after a year of adjuncting, a title is a title, and a person is a person. A title doesn't make a person, and a person...doesn't need a title.

Maybe you need a job: a source of income/benefits, etc. But just remember, you can find a job. Sometimes, you just have to be willing to do something you didn't expect to be doing. Or, you do what you expected, but you just change your exact, detailed specifications about the way that will look. After all, many of my students still wrote in evaluations that I was the best English teacher they'd ever had. And that's worth more than they could know. But me finding a new way to define my sense of self? That's worth more than anything.

Here's to life lessons, however you learn them.
<3 S (with support from B, L&Z)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Student & Teacher

One of the greatest things about teaching? You never, never, never stop learning. In graduate school, this was very literal. I was teaching two sections per semester while taking four of my own classes. Somehow that worked. I know it involved working hard seven days a week, putting in some LONG days, and lots and lots of coffee.

Flash forward one year out of graduate school, and I've already become accustomed to my role as full time teacher. I learn everyday from my students, and I read (and re-read) all of the material with them and constantly think of new, creative, and exciting ways to teach and engage them. This weekend though, I went back to class, a 100 hour class to earn my TESOL certification. Now, I find myself grading to submit final grades, prepping for my online class that starts Monday, and taking on a new (since last year) role as student again.

My day looked something like this:

Administering finals/grading research papers (my 1302 students rocked their papers-so, so, so proud of them) 8am-noon. A lunch break. A trip to Howard College (45 minutes away) to visit campus, sign paperwork, and check out my new digs:

Brendan came with me and was very jealous of my window. The office is part of a suite (2 other offices in the suite), so it will be really nice to be next to colleagues. Of course, I also purchased a sweatshirt and t-shirt. I already need to be working on my Hawks pride :)

We drove home and I collapsed (napped) for at least 45 minutes (Zoe was not cool with that plan though). Then, woke up and hit the books:

I am doing my TESOL certification through Oxford Seminars, and I plan to write about how the course goes, for others who are interested. The primary reason people take this class is to teach English abroad, something I'd love to do one day. I, however, am taking the class to better meet the needs of my ESL and foreign exchange students.

I've been working on the homework since Sunday. It involved reading 4 chapters, watching the DVD from my book, and answering 8 separate "sets" of questions. Very involved. I had to read the questions and answers out loud too (poor Brendan, he just had to tune me out). Unfortunately, that's all my handwriting:

Luckily, while I was working, sweet Brendan made us dinner. BBQ tofu, purple and yellow potatoes, and salad. Delicious! BBQ tofu "recipe" or as Brendan says "how to" to come, I promise!
soooo good
More homework after dinner, and then finally a day complete.

But I can't sign off without sharing this picture. Zoe had a bath yesterday, and now, both cats are obsessed with the tub.
They like it when I run some water in there for them to play in.

Anyway, what is your favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging?

Here's to a day well spent!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Few Good Things...

Brendan and I are surviving the end of the semester rush. We finally booked our trip to NYC for July 18-26. Fun fact: We'll be traveling from July 18-August 11 and are going to visit NYC, Washington D.C., Connecticut, and Maine. We'll be able to see Brendan's family, plus the whole Egan family (at his cousin Jack's wedding) and his grandparents and friends from high school in CT. We are quite excited. Other travel plans this summer include some time in Austin to see my family, and a trip to La Marque to see my grandmother. 

Do you have lots of people to see that you love? Or maybe just a travel bug? There is a $100 Jetblue giftcard giveaway over at the blog Oh, Hello Friend. Maybe you want to enter?

In other news, if you have been looking for a way to support the arts lately, consider this: Our friends in Lake Charles are trying to fund the 4th year of vision/verse, an amazing community event that pairs poets and artists to create new works of art and literature. Brendan and my brother, Graham, have both participated in years past. Brendan and I donated $25.00 to their efforts. Can you give just $5.00 to help the cause? Think of it as good karma! Click here to help fund vision/verse 4 through Kickstarter.  They have already met 20% of their goal!

In other news, did you catch the latest book review? It always disturbs me how few page views these reviews get (8 since yesterday), only because when I get my hair done, I get about 70 pageviews in a day. It makes one begin to ask the depressing people read anymore? Or, do I just have really, really good hair? Thoughts?

PS-I never said Thank You for making April our biggest month ever. 1,411 pageviews. You guys are awesome, even if all you care about is hair. :)

Seriously, is there something you would like to see more of? Let us know at

What can you look forward to in May, you ask: I'll be writing some Mother's day awesomeness personal essays, doing a beauty product review, giving my tips to save $$ on travel and dining out, and a lot more that I would tell you, but it would just blow your mind right now, so I won't.

Goodnight world :)
<3 S, B, L&Z

Monday, May 7, 2012

Book I Read in April

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

Sorry I'm late on this review, but better late than never, right? St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is a total treat for the brain, and you should click on this beautiful picture of the cover and order it immediately from Amazon. (If you don't see a picture, try viewing the blog using a browser other than Chrome). I bow down to Karen Russell, who has managed to create a collection of short stories that feels completely fresh, unique, and entertaining. At the center of the collection are young protagonists with fascinating stories: A girl watches her teen sister enter into a relationship with a ghost, a little girl is trapped in a giant shell, a boy whose father is a Minotaur makes the journey west with his family, and of course, a girl in a rehabilitation home for girls raised by werewolves struggles to adapt. The stories are so unique and often start in the middle, forcing the reader to quickly adapt to the new and strange surroundings. The characters are so memorable and so wonderful. The endings are the kind that M.F.A. program directors dream about getting their students to write, though sometimes you are left quite short of closure, and yet, the endings feel spot on. The only thing that made me feel better about finishing this collection, was the knowledge that I had a copy of Russell's novel (Swamplandia) with me in my bag. If you've never read a collection of short stories before, this is a wonderful collection to start with. Short story reading is satisfying, because it allows you to pick up a story and finish it all in the same seating. They are especially great for planes or the beach! So, pick up a copy of this book and pack it in your carry on.

I'm home for my trip to Austin. Spending the next 4 days in Midland to give finals and get grades submitted, and then off to Austin again on Friday. May is going to be a chaotic month over here. We're doing our best to hold on!

<3 S, B, L&Z

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's May, You Say?

My book review of Karen Russell's short story collection is coming soon, but I wanted to start off this month with some inward reflection. As I've mentioned before, I always find that new months are a great time to stop and reflect. If we don't think about how our lives are going, how can we make sure we are living the life we truly want to be living?

We are already 1/3 through 2012, and some really great things have happened in my life. I landed my first salaried position, and I am making a lot of forward progress in my teaching career. Brendan and I have almost completed our first year of teaching full time, and we passed the 6 month mark of living together, which was smooth sailing. Life is going well, and we've already made so many great memories in 2012.

That said, looking back at my resolutions, there is still a lot that I want to accomplish. My writing has fallen by the wayside lately, and that 5K I wanted to do? I never even started running again. I feel better when I think that I still have 8 months left of the year. My plan is to write intensively this summer, which will begin for me on June 1st. Midland has generously agreed to pay to send me to TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) training, and I will complete the 100 hour course (which starts this weekend) this May. I will also teach a spring interim 1301 class online, which runs May 14-31. I do feel overwhelmed thinking about how I'm going to get all final grades entered, get this online course set up, and be a TESOL student and online teacher, all in the next week or so, but I know everything will come together. For now, it's just nice when I can find a moment to breathe!

We've already had an exciting start to the month:

Brendan's parent's friends, Gail and Mark, are on a month long road trip, and made Midland (and us) one of their stops. It was great to see them, and it definitely gave us wanderlust. Take us with you Gail and Mark!

Luckily, we'll get to squash our own travel bug this summer, when we travel to New York City, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, and Maine and spend some time in good old Austin, TX too!

Did you make New Year's resolutions? Did you stick with them?

Here's to checking in!
<3 S, B, L&Z
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