Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Things I Learned in 2008

  1. If you overextend yourself there is nothing left in the tank. Saying yes to everything at work, makes me very successful at work but it means I sacrifice my personal life.
  2. Greatness is attainable – as witnessed by the Beijing Olympics and the triumphs of Michael Phelps and Dara Torres. I don’t have their athletic ability nor do I really want it – but they set goals for themselves which others ridiculed and deemed impossible and then they rose to the challenge. Just because my dreams and goals are lofty that does not mean they are not attainable.
  3. Ask for help. I still have a hard time with this one, but when you reach out to others they can often surprise you by their compassion and love.
  4. Enjoy the moment. This year I was able to attend performances by individuals I didn’t think would ever happen – George Michael and The New Kids on the Block. I am a huge fan of both and to be able to see them in the same year doing what they love and excelling at it - is thrilling. They feel like older brothers to me, and I have loved cheering as I have seen them grow and become more successful. The soundtrack to some of my most cherished memories of my childhood and adolescent years is their music.
  5. Be silly. I got to spend time with each of my nieces and nephews this year. I love that as we played together we could just be silly and there is such joy to be had in looking at life through the eyes of a child. I can understand when parent say that watching their child succeed is far better than if they had achieved it themselves. Watching my nieces and nephews reaction to different events and activities was more exciting to me than my actual participation in the event.
  6. Do things that you aren't good at. I often only participate in activities and hobbies where I can succeed. The only way we can really grow is to go out on a limb and try something different. It is through doing something poorly that we can experience the real thrill of success and accomplishment. I painted my first picture this year and began to write my first book. Neither would be considered a triumph by the world, but by pushing myself I inspired myself again.
  7. Always make goals. I am a goal setter, but I am not always a goal finisher. I am working on keeping my goals more attainable and realistic. My book writing taught me how I can structure my time more efficiently. Although I didn't finish it in 30 days, it will be done soon and that is a huge breakthrough.
  8. Say thanks. As the financial world was crumbling this fall I started to directly focus on all the great things I have been blessed with. My father in heaven has been generous to me. Far more than I deserve most of the time. My blessings are more abundant than my trials.
  9. Remember. I am terrible at journal writing, email writing, letter writing, and any kind of writing. Although I credit myself with a good memory I don't remember everything. The process of writing a blog this year has been a good reminder to me to reflect and remember my life. It is only through writing down all the blessings I talked about in point eight that we can really see the guidance and support from god and others in our lives.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Interesting Discovery

I am not one to throw things away, but since arriving back home from my short trip to Idaho I have been determined to go through all (or most of) my stuff and get rid of it. Yesterday I was knee-deep (no joke) in my closet rifling through all of my crap and today I spent the better part of 8 hours taking pictures and posting items for sale on ebay. Those items that I can't sell will be donated to DI or thrown away. I enjoy the process of deep cleaning and I don't do it very often because it takes a long time, but with the break I had no excuse.

In the midst of all my cleaning I decided to look through my letter box. Going back to my first statement...I don't usually throw things away and as I read through years of birthday cards, Christmas cards, get-well cards and other miscellaneous cards I made some interesting discoveries.

I need to disclose some information first...I don't make friends easily. I think of myself as a friendly person, yet I am usually quiet and I am not terribly assertive in relationships and often that means that I don't accumulate a large number of friends. I also have a circle of friends that I think of as my "best friends" and all the rest of my close friends circle just outside my inner group.

With that explained I will go back to my discoveries. First, I was amazed at the sheer volume of cards and letters I had. Of course some of my cards date back to high school and I have had plenty of years to accumulate them. Second, I have amazing people in my life not only my family but also my friends.

I am not a person who dwells on the past or spends much time being sad, but even just reading my get-well-cards when I had cancer made me feel special and loved. Third discovery I made, was that my circle of friends, I don't often think of as my best friends, are the ones that have actually been the most stable, supportive, and communicative friends. Now, I don't say this to criticize my best friends. Lives change, stresses come into our lives, relationships evolve. I am aware of this and I fully acknowledge that I'm not a perfect friend. Maintaining my relationships with my inner circle has been one of my great regrets over the last few years. But looking at all this stuff made me realize that I need to nurture and develop some of those relationships that I haven't paid much attention too and learn to let go of those relationships that aren't growing anymore.

Tonight, I went and saw Valkyrie with my friend Travis. We only see each other every couple of years, but it is the kind of friendship that seems to defy time. We can pick up right where we left off as though no time as passed at all. I love hanging out with him because all I do is laugh. He and I had a long conversation about this topic and I think he gets me because like myself he is also single. With no husband or kids in the picture all I have are my relationships with my friends and my friendship with my family.

I am blessed to have a large network of people who love me. I sometimes forget this because the vast majority of my network don't live close and I rarely, if ever, get to see them. With a new year ready to dawn soon and new adventures and journeys for me to take, I need to always remember and cherish those that enrich and bless my life.

So to my friends and family, thank you for what you teach me about myself and about life.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Favorites

The items on my list appear in no particular order.

Favorite Books:
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Roma by Steven Saylor
Pillars of the Earth & Worlds Without End by Ken Follett

Favorite Movies:
The Dark Knight
Iron Man



There are a few more days left in the year and I have a few more movies to see, so this list might change.

Favorite Albums:
19 by Adele
We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. by Jason Mraz
The Block by New Kids on the Block
Viva la Vida by Coldplay

Favorite TV Shows:
The Office
Pushing Daisies (will be canceled in 2009)
Top Chef

Most Interesting Places Visited:
Guggenheim museum in New York City.
Salem, Mass.

Best Shows/Concerts:
George Michael, June
Michael Buble, May
New Kids on the Block, September & October

Best Restaurants:
Grimaldi's Pizzeria, NYC & Las Vegas
Boat House, NYC
Serendipity 3, NYC
Pelligrino, NYC

Saturday, December 27, 2008

White Christmas

This year I traveled to the snowy paradise of Rexburg, Idaho to spend Christmas with my parents and my brother Doug and his family. Like last year there was tons of snow and we had fun just spending most of our time indoors. One of the highlights of visiting my parents is the $3 movie theater. Matinee prices are only $2 and so I was able to see 5 movies during my stay; The City of Ember, Eagle Eye, High School Musical 3, The Duchess, and The Secret Life of Bees. I enjoyed all the movies and had I stayed longer, I would have seen even more.

Saturday, December 20th, everyone except my father (who was working at the temple) drove to Inkom, Idaho to have an early Christmas dinner with my aunt & uncle and with my cousin and her kids. The dinner was delicious and we had a great time chatting.

Christmas morning we awoke to yet another foot of snow and the dilmena of getting out of the driveway to drive to my brother's house to open gifts. After 35 minutes of shoveling to get out of the driveway we managed to make it to Sugar City and we enjoyed the morning opening gifts and chatting.

Doug & Marnie's Christmas Tree and all the gifts

Doug and Marnie's highlight was a very long phone call from my nephew Scott who is currently on his mission in North Carolina. I was able to spend a few minutes chatting with him and it was wonderful to hear his voice.

Here are pictures of Christmas morning at my brother's house...

The view from Doug's front door Christmas morning.

My mom got this tiny shirt from her sister-in-law...who knew it would fit!

My niece Taylor getting emotional over the framed drama picture of her high school's performance of Les Miserables. She played Fantine.

My dad got an awesome suede 49er's coat from Doug and Marnie.

Doug and Marnie looking at their gifts.

With a day of continued flurries we left in mid-afternoon to drive back home before it got dark. This time we got stuck getting back into the parking lot of my parent's town house and some neighbors came out to give us a push to get back to my parents garage. My mother who didn't want to drive asked me to take the wheel and steer the car back to their house, but she made the unwise decision to push the car from the driver side window. Of course as soon as the car started moving she went down, but she dropped and rolled like a commando, kicking her legs out of the way of the tires and just yelled "Keep going!" I worried I had killed her but like a good daughter I kept driving. Fortunately we got the car into the garage and my mom was fine, just a little wet.

Friday night I flew back to Las Vegas and I will attempt to get a mountain of work accomplished before school resumes on the 5th of January. My Christmas was wonderful and I hope yours was as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow Day

Yesterday Las Vegas received an incredible amount of snow and by the end of the day there was very little visibility. The school district decided to cancel all sports games and other on-campus activities Wednesday evening.

The district announced that they would decide by 4:00 a.m. on Thursday if school would be canceled. All evening my students were calling and texting me to see if there was going to be school.

At 8:30 p.m. the announcement was made that there would be no school on Thursday "for the protection and safety of the students." Tiffany and I were thrilled. I had a stack of projects that needed to be completed before I left town for the holidays and having the extra day was a much needed blessing.

The amusing part of this story is the fact that when I woke up on Thursday morning there was a little bit of snow on the ground and by mid-morning everything had melted. I have included two pictures; the first shows the only snow at our apartment and the second picture shows the view of my high school from my front porch...not much snow to be seen.

Tomorrow is our last day of school before winter break and I am curious about how many of my students will end up attending.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


For the last few days I have not felt well. Not too unusual given the time of year. This morning when I woke up I discovered that my voice had vanished. I have to say that it is extraordinarily difficult to teach by speaking only at whisper level. In fact, during my regular world history classes, I still had a lecture of sorts to deliver.

I will give credit to my students, who were fantastic all day. My two regular classes which have been a handful all year have settled down for me and today they were perfect angels. It was virtually silent all period in class with the students doing everything they could to help interpret for me.

Tuesday, I had a sub because I was giving a presentation for AVID schools in our district with my new position as an AVID Leadership Cadre member. Today, the office manager stopped me to inform me that my sub said that my classes were the best she had ever seen in high school. She loved my students, thought my room was cozy and lovely and she stated that she would love to come back and sub any time. I'm glad that my students are living up to my expectations in regards to their behavior, now if only that would stem to their grades and homework.

I am hopeful that my voice will return tomorrow. Forced silence only makes me appreciate the fact that I have a voice. I spent most of my day thinking about my little nephew Garrison, who was diagnosed with autism this past year, and is only now beginning to speak. I was frustrated by a few hours of being unable to communicate so it gave me a small glimpse into what he must have felt not being able to say anything.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Morbid Fascination

Tonight, for some reason, I was wasting time online (instead of writing my novel) and I decided to look at Rueter's images of the year. Initially, I just thought that the pictures would be a collection of some of the most beautiful and striking scenes/people taken this year. I wasn't wrong, but I did not take into consideration the utter destruction, mass chaos, wars, refugees and natural disasters of the past year. The pictures were both horrifying and humorous. From the picture of a frog riding a small motorcycle to children crouched in horrendous living conditions and bathing in putrid water the pictures never failed to astonish me.

Although I teach world history and ready history books all the time, nights like this remind me of about how little I know and about how little I am teaching my students. Often times I complain about how many things are going wrong with my life until I realize that I have never feared for my life, watched a family member gunned down, lived through a natural disaster, or been forced to starve.

We live in a big, messed up world that is sometimes tragic, but can also be overwhelmingly beautiful. There are hundreds of countries, languages, religions and ideas that I know nothing about - but with our wonderful modern technology I can know what happens in Kenya, Thailand, Romania or Qatar.

This Christmas season is not like others I have remembered in years past. I have friends who are dealing with the devasting illness of family members, relatives forced to make difficult decisions about employment and a job that never gets any easier; however, it is imperative that I look at what Christmas means. Not in the commercial "what will I buy my brother" way, but in the true message of hope, peace and love.

It is never going to get any prettier out there, but it is up to me to find beauty every day even if it isn't obvious.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Holiday Get to Know You

I pulled this off my friend Lisa's blog and I decided to complete her challenge.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I love gift wrapping and I don’t often use bags, unless it is an oddly shaped item and I can’t find a box.

2. Real or Artificial tree?
Real trees smell amazing, but I always have an artificial one.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Normally the weekend of Thanksgiving, but this year my roommate and I decided that because we would be in town less than three weeks before Christmas that we wouldn’t bother.
Now that she discovered mold in her closet, we can’t access any of our stuff, so it works out.

4. When do you take the tree down?
New Year’s Eve, it is a good way to get ready to usher in a new year.

5. Do you like eggnog?
No, never have.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
The Barbie house my dad made for me.
I had always wanted one, and he built this gigantic contraption. It was awesome. I ended up making furniture for it.

7. Hardest person to buy for?
I have a hard time buying anything for my dad, because he never asks for anything.
Of course he loves everything I get him (or so he says) but it isn’t easy.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
My mom, all year long I gather gifts together for her.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes I am really picky with the style, but I finally bought one that has Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
I want to get one that includes a stable, shephards, wise men, and everything else, but I haven’t found one set that I love.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
I started sending out Christmas cards as soon as I moved away from home as a freshman in college.
It is always lovely to get a card in the mail.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
As a child it was a fake cabbage patch doll. I was in the second grade and I was so embarrassed when I got the generic doll. My friends at school brought their dolls one day to play with at recess and I felt ashamed to bring mine. Of course, I didn't realize how much they cost or what my parents had to do to get it....all I thought about was how different I was from my friends. My parents knew of my anger and for my birthday 4 months later, I got a "real" one.

During my adult years, the worst gift ever gotten was from a coworker. We had the annual "Secret Santa" gift exchange and I dutifully filled out my inventory list of easy items someone could purchase for me and the person had gone to the nearest Deseret Industries and stocked up on $0.25 items (cheap frames and vases). I know how much they cost because the price tags were still affixed to the bottom. I am positive she knew this and wanted to let me know just how much she liked me.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Who doesn’t love a “Christmas Story?”
I think I have seen it more than 30 times, but it doesn’t get old. My new favorite movie is “The Nativity Story” it is a beautiful telling of the biblical story.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I think about my shopping all year, but it usually doesn’t start until August or September.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Yes, I think it is perfectly acceptable, especially if you know someone else would love the gift. I don’t recycle anything that is crappy…those things I just donate.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
White chocolate covered popcorn, toffee, cookies, cranberry-orange bread, hot chocolate, and anything else that is sweet.
Christmas is a great year to load up on all the yummy treats possible.

16. Lights on the tree?
All white- my favorite thing to do is turn off all the lights in the house and just sit and look at the Christmas tree.
Seeing the ornaments glow is magical. Every year I try to wake up early on Christmas morning to look at the tree and all of the gifts before anyone else is awake.

17. Favorite Christmas songs?
“O Holy Night” by Josh Groban or Pavaratti.
It always makes me cry. I also love “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Now that my parents don’t live near me, I travel to be with them for Christmas.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?
Of course.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
A star.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Commercialization of the season, tacky displays, rude people, and Black Friday.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
My ornaments are based around a color scheme, white, red and lime green
- I enjoy that my tree has a fun, hip look. However, my favorite Christmas was the Christmas of 1991 when my parents decided to get a new tree and ornaments and everything on the tree had to represent Christ. We had so much fun going shopping an decorating that year.

24. Real Reason for Christmas?
Christmas is celebrating the birth and life of Christ.
Although we should do this on a daily basis all year, it is nice to have a special time when we can focus a little more intently and recommit ourselves to be like him. It is about love, patience, kindness, forgiveness and charity.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
I would love to connect with my friends who I never get the chance to talk to and to spend some time with my family.
I have been blessed this year and that is all I need.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ataturk's Dream Part 1

End of day 1 and I am at 3,467 words of utter crap, but I am loving it. I have been so excited all day to get home and start writing even though I know none of it is very good. I expect that the editing process will take me ten times as long as the writing process and that I might one day have a half-way decent novel.