Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell to 2010

As 2010 draws to a close tonight I felt like I needed to do some reflecting. 2010 has definitely been a banner year in my life--with some significant highlights.
  • Traveled to Ireland and Germany
  • Purchased my first home
  • Began teaching at my third high school (in 3 years)
  • Started a photography business
  • attended two photography workshops
  • Visited all my family
  • Reorganized and balanced my finances
I feel extraordinarily blessed because of the bounty in my life. This has been a great year for me.

Fortunately I did have many learning experiences and struggles this year that demonstrated to me how much I need to learn to ask for help, to rely on friends and to become more patient.

Thank you 2010 and I look forward to the challenge of 2011.

Holiday Break

Christmas break is one of my favorite breaks from school. It doesn't hurt that two fabulous holidays are wrapped in the middle of it. This year I decided to head to the Pacific Northwest to visit my brother and his family as well as some of my oldest friends.

The first week (December 20-26) was spent at my brother Greg's house with his family. I loved getting to know little Ellie and playing with their other kids. I can't believe how old they are getting.

Most of the week was spent watching movies (Despicable Me), playing games (Yahtzee, Sequence, Harry Potter Uno), having parties (Christmas Adam - all appetizers, Christmas Eve - "Dinner like the time of Jesus") and of course the big event was Christmas Day.

Santa had a busy night at their house and Christmas morning was filled with all sorts of fabulous new toys and gifts. Robin's brother and his family also joined us so there was definitely a house full of people. I was really happy to have been able to spend so much time with them.

On Sunday the 26th I headed over to my best friend Chandra's house. The week of the 26th through the 1st were spent with her. I did manage to break away on the 27th to hang out with my friend Robert and his two kids. He lives right near downtown and so we headed into the heart of the city for a yummy lunch near Pike's Place and a visit to SAM (Seattle Art Museum) especially to see the Picasso exhibit.

Tuesday the 28th, Chandra and her friend Sara and the girls all went to see the new Disney movie Tangled and then had an enjoyable lunch and visit to the mall.

Wednesday the 29th, Chandra and I headed to the gym for a much needed post-Christmas workout and more shopping in the afternoon.

Thursday we hung around the house and just relaxed. In the evening, Chandra and Julie (another best friend) and I went out for a girl's night. We headed into Bellevue for dinner at Boom Noodles (absolutely delicious!) and then on to see the Tourist. After the movie, we weren't quite done with chatting and so headed to the Cheesecake Cafe for some late night cheesecake.

Tonight, Chandra and her family are hosting a small New Year's Eve party were we plan to shake our booty's to Just Dance and the DDR. I am looking forward to the party.

The time away from my stress and Las Vegas has been just the rejuvination I needed. I was about ready to have a nervous breakdown prior to the break. I also can't tell my friends how much I have enjoyed seeing them again. There is nothing better that a great conversation with a dear friend. I only wish we could see each other more often. I fly home tomorrow and leaving will be bitter sweet.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Wishes

The last two months have been a whirl-wind of activity in my life. Here is the the quick facts:

  • Traveled to Idaho for a much needed visit with my parents and brother's family.
  • Huge photo session on Thanksgiving Day (15 families photographed)
  • Entered the world of Black Friday Shopping (and vowed I'd never do it again) got some great deals for my new house, but only one Christmas present.
  • Completed the purchase of my first new home
  • Spent countless hours painting the house
  • One of my world history students was killed in a home invasion which ushered in the saddest two weeks of my teaching career
  • Spent an undocumented amount of time on my National Board certification
  • Traveled to Seattle to spend my Christmas vacation.
For most of December all I wanted to do was sit quietly in a dark room and cry from a combination of stress and exhaustion due to the house and then to the death of my student. I was very happy to leave Las Vegas. Today is in fact the first day I have spent online since I left on Monday. As Christmas quietly approaches tomorrow I have much for which I am grateful. I will be posting a year in review outline later next week as I finalize my goals for 2011.

May this Christmas be filled with love and peace!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Post-Election Thought

I don't usually get a kick out of forwarded email, but this one I thought was perfect...

What have we learned in 2,065 years?

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." - Cicero, Roman Philosopher, Statesman - 55 B.C.E.

So, evidently nothing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Moving, Muscles and Money

As of yesterday I was officially homeless. It is not that I don't have some place to sleep, but I am for the first time in my life without a permanent location. This past weekend as the rest of Nevada celebrated Nevada Day and Halloween, I was moving...although moving nowhere. My belongings are currently residing in two 10x5 storage units. A friend has decided to temporarily house me until my home purchase goes through. The tentative close date is November 30, but I am crossing my fingers and my toes that it will happen before Thanksgiving.

My goal is to paint and fix up my house over the Thanksgiving weekend. I must say that moving over two very long days wiped me out. My muscles ache, thighs burn and I have number of fresh bruises over my body, but the work is done...until I have to move in, than I get to do it a second time.

Now for some very happy was a staff development day and as normal we had a series of meetings all day. Much to my surprise, the insurance company (whom I have my car and renters insurance with) was at lunch to award someone from my school with $250. I joked with the people I was eating lunch that I was the big winner. When the name was announced it was...ME! This is the second sweepstakes I have won this year. In August I won a pair of shoes from a sweepstakes with Oprah magazine. I have no idea why I am a having a mini-lucky streak. I am thrilled with this money. Although I have the big move and furniture to purchase I have been waiting to pay for my initial registration fee for my National Board certification and I believe that is how I will use the money. To top off the win, Channel 3 news showed up and interviewed me. You know it is a slow news day when a teacher winning $250 makes the nightly news. I haven't caught the news broadcast yet (it did air at 4:00 p.m.) but if I find it, I will link so you can enjoy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Challenge - Update

So this past week I have been trying to simplify my life, well it wasn't an easy task and I didn't get as far as I would have liked. One big problem of starting the challenge was that I failed to even look at what I had scheduled this past week and ultimately I was not successful. Here is a breakdown of what happened.
  • Daily meditation - This one was easy, with no radio in my daily commutes, I listened to my scriptures on c.d. and just quietly mediated the rest of the time.
  • Exercise five days - did not happen
  • Pack 20 boxes - 14 boxes packed!
  • Finish some lingering filing/file organization - did go through my files, however I haven't completed the document scanning and organization as planned. I did get my school file organization tackled.
  • Deep apartment cleaning - was able to get half of the apartment cleaned out and boxed.
  • Lesson planning for three weeks - completed organizing a major project for my students which will take 2 weeks; however I haven't gotten my stuff for AP World finished.
  • Finish photos books for past trips to Turkey, Paris, New York, Japan - did not get anything accomplished, I did start working on a photo book for a friend and with my slow computer I haven't gotten very far in that project.
Although I wasn't able to meet all of my goals I made for last week, I did accomplish the following items (not on the list).

  • Open house at school (my least favorite night of the school year)
  • 3-hour National Board meeting and outlining of my projects for the next couple of months
  • Professional development training meeting for a presentation I will be giving next Saturday.
  • Logo development for a client
  • Development of a business idea with a friend
  • Price comparison shopping for new flooring/painting on my new house
  • 3-hour meeting with my banker for the initial home purchase documents
  • 2 - 3 hour after school sessions with my students to work on a college banner project
This new week coming is substantially less busy than last and I am looking forward to continue to work on the goals I didn't complete. Little by little everything will get done. I have to be out of my apartment at the end of the month and some of my smaller projects I would love to get finished before then, so I don't have to pack all the junk for another move.

Going through my files this week I came across a document that listed all of my life goals as they were written in 1998. It was amusing to see what I had accomplished, what I no longer desired to do or own, and what I still had on my life goals chart. I was glad to see how I had grown since then and also how similar I was to the girl who originally wrote them. I like keeping this blog for the same reason to go back and see what I was thinking and feeling years later as I am a terrible journal writer.

Here is to looking forward to another productive week!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Inspired by General Conference this weekend, I decided to put myself to a little challenge.

Starting today, I will not watch any television, see any movies, listen to any music, and only have work related access to the internet.

I want to simplify my life and cut out some of the extraneous time wasting. With all the extra time I plan on accomplishing the following things this week:
  • Daily meditation
  • Exercise five days
  • Pack 20 boxes
  • Finish some lingering filing/file organization
  • Deep apartment cleaning
  • Lesson planning for three weeks
  • Finish photos books for past trips to Turkey, Paris, New York, Japan

When I am traveling I have no problem not watching tv, listening to music or sufing the web; however at home I love doing those things and spend an obscene amount of time engaged in the activities. I will continue to blog this week about how I am feeling, if I am using my time wisely and how much I am able to accomplish.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ireland - Day 6

The final full day in Ireland we took a drive along the Dingle Peninsula and saw some outstanding scenery. After the drive I was dropped off at a train station to catch my train back to Dublin. The next day I returned to Frankfurt and then back to the states.

I loved my visit to Ireland. The people were some of the friendliest I have had the pleasure to meet. I fell in love with their music, language and country. I can't wait to go back and visit again.

Enjoy the final pictures and thanks for sticking with me as I finally finished editing all 1500 of my summer pictures. Now my next adventure is the purchase of my first home. As soon as it is finished I will show all the pictures.

In the foreground are the ruins of a house from the potato famine in the mid-1800's.

My fun travel group.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ireland - Day 5

This was the most arduous day of my journey. The morning began early with a quick traditional Irish Breakfast (eggs, bacon [more like ham], sausage, beans and blood sausage).

All of us in our group decided that we would enjoy going to the Skellig islands. Our tour guide said that they don't often go to the islands because the weather is often too poor and it is not safe. There are two islands that make up the Skelligs--Little Skellig and Skellig Michael. The smaller island, Little Skellig is closed to the public and holds Ireland's largest Gannet colony with almost 30,000 pairs of birds. There are also seals and other wildlife that make their home on the island.

On the way back from Skellig Michael we drove past Little Skellig and all the white flecks in the picture are the Gannets.

The island we visited was Skellig Michael. After a daunty, wet and nausea producing boat ride for 1 1/2 hours we finally reached the island. It was inhabited in the 7th century by Christian monks who created a monastery at the top of the island.

Due to the extreme remoteness of the island, UNESCO discourages visitors and will only allow a little 100 people to visit at one time. The monks lived in beehive huts perched on the vertical cliff walls and to reach their monastery it was a difficult climb up slate steps they had laid into the cliff. Not all of the steps are stable and with the strong wind the day we were on the island, it was a very slow climb for me. It took me about 40 minutes to reach the top.

Skellig Michael is also a home for a variety of wildlife such as seabirds, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Common Guillemot, Atantic Puffin, Storm Petrels, Manx Shearwaters.

Pictures of Puffins.

The long trek up the hill.

The view from Skellig Michael to Little Skellig.

After we arrived back in Portmagee from our trip to the islands we made our way to the city of Dingle. Dingle has only around 2000 inhabitants but has at least 100 bars. After such a difficult hike and a long day, I went to a nearby grocery store to pick up some food for dinner and I went to bed early.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ireland - Day 4

Day 4 of my Ireland adventure began with what was described as "a brief walk." I assumed I would have a casual stroll through a park. What ended up happening was a 3 hour hike. I was not prepared for a hike and was a little put off because I didn't have my sunblock, water, hiking shoes, etc.

The hike was through the Kilarney National Park and although I was a little miffed, I still enjoyed the hike.

The mascot of the day was sheep. As we hiked, there were a variety of sheep wandering through the rolling hills and we even saw a demonstration of a shepherd as he tried to round up his sheet. I was amazed at his ability to command his sheep dog from a considerable distance away.

At the beginning of the hike I came across this interesting spider web with dew still trapped in it. I have never seen such a sight before. Pretty incredible stuff.

After the hike our tour guide had arranged an official sheep herding visit. The wife of the rancher explained that the price of wool was practically worthless and so to make ends meet the family decided to allow tourists to visit and see demonstrations of sheep herding.

This sheep dog was incredible and we were all really impressed with her skills.

As the day progressed and we contiuned our journey around the Dingle Peninsula we saw even more sheep.

That night we stayed in Portmagee a town so small that they don't have an ATM.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ireland - Day 3

Day 3 of my adventure tour had us driving to the town of Glengarriff. The day was overcast and rained on and off. We were warned to bring waterproof clothing especially for a day like this. I was ill prepared, but I did have an umbrella, which helped a little bit.

In Glengarriff we took a lovely walk to see the coast.

After the little hike we drove a little farther to participate in some lake sports: kayaking and canoeing. I opted for canoeing and was pared up with the 10-year-old from Abu Dhabi. We were ill matched due to our strength and size, it took all I could muster to keep us from tipping over. We had fun, but didn't venture out to see the seals because I was afraid I wouldn't have the strength to row us back to the dock.

Lunch was eaten at McCarthy's bar where we enjoyed some warm soup and sandwhiches.

After lunch we continued to drove around the Beara Peninsula and went to see the ruins of Dunboy Castle.

The final stop before heading to our hotel that evening was to see the stone circle of Uragh. Our tour director described it as "a little smaller than Stonehedge". That was an undestatement. I noticed throughout our trip that our guides descriptions of things were underplayed. As you can tell from the picture below, the stone circle was not that impressive.

We spent the evening in the town of Kenmare and we were treated to hear the music stylings of Michael O'Brien, described as the "Alice Cooper of the steelbox accordian." He was amazing. Sorry for the poor picture, but there wasn't much light in the bar.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ireland - Day 2

On Day 2 of my adventure in Ireland I joined the "To The Edge of the World Tour" with Vagabond Tour Group. Vagabond caps its tours to 13 people and uses a Land Rover to leave the beaten path. On the tour there was a family of four (mom and three kids) from Abu Dhabi, a couple from San Francisco and three married couples from Alabama. Our tour director was also the owner of the company. He was with us for two days before a new tour guy joined our group. The group was lots of fun and certainly made the trip exciting.

We spent a good portion of our first day driving, although it was broken up with a variety of stops until we reached the charming little village of Gougane Barra.

First stop was at the ruins at Dunamase Castle.

Rock of Cashel - where St. Patrick baptised the first Irish man.

Blarney Castle, where I was able to kiss the Blarney stone.

The view from the hotel at Gougane Barra, talk about gorgeous.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Two Weeks of School

It might not come as a big surprise to you, but I have switched schools yet again this year and I am teaching at another technical academy in the southwest part of Vegas. The school is Southwest Career and Technical Academy.

The school is very similar to the one I taught last year, but the campus is incredibly different. The program areas are all broken up into different buildings and it definitely has the feel of a college campus (only smaller). I teach in the Design academy (majors include: web design, video game design, entertainment engineering, fashion and interior design, broadcast communication and film studies).

I don't know my students incredibly well yet, but I enjoy their quirky sense of humor and their general enthusiasm. I am teaching 6 sections of world history (2 AP classes, 2 honors classes and 2 regular) with about 190 students. I love my classroom, it has tons of natural light and I even got a SMART board this year. It works like a big computer screen and so I can surf the internet with the students and do other fun stuff with it. I need to get some training on the board this year so I can fully utilize its abilities in my classroom.

I spent a good two weeks getting my classroom set up this year and I am glad that I gave it the TLC that it needed. Everything is organized and well-situated. I have been able to successfully keep my desk clean this year, all my grading is caught up and I even have my lesson plans written in advance. My goal is to keep this momentum up so that I can always feel I am on top of the work, instead of drowning in it.

In two weeks the principal is taking a group of the new teachers to San Diego for a day to check out High Tech High, a school she would like us to model ours after. My friend Julie went last year and was really inspired what what they are doing with their students. I love getting the opportunity to grow and be challenged and I am really looking forward to this trip.

The other big school related news is that I have decided to work towards my National Board Certification this year. It is the highest certification a teacher can get in the United States. There are only 210 teachers in Clark County and 2% of the teachers in the nation with this honor. I have been to a couple of the trainings so far and it will be a daunting task, but because I am so organized this year and with doing a little bit at a time, I think I can get my rough draft portfolios completed before winter break. There are 10 portions to the application process; 4 portfolios and 6 tests.

There are four other social studies teachers that I am friends with in the district that are also planning on working on their certification as well, so it will be nice to have some support from colleagues.

I will take some pictures of my classroom this week and get them posted so you can see where I work. I am excited for what is in store of the rest of the school year.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sand Art? Who Knew!

I don't spend a lot of time watching youtube clips, but this one I recently saw and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

This is from Ukraine's You've Got Talent and the woman is creating sand art depicting scenes from WWII. Watch and enjoy!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ireland - Day 1

After my exhilarating two-weeks in Germany I decided to venture off and visit Ireland. I had originally planned on going to Prague, but in the end I felt like I needed to spend some time in nature and away from big crowds.

I flew into Dublin early on Saturday morning the 26th of June and by the time I got to my hotel and settled in I was exhausted. It didn't help that I had to wake at 4:00 in the morning to catch the shuttle to the airport outside of Frankfurt.

I took a brief walking tour of Trinity college and around the center of Dublin. I had intended on seeing more of the city but I was exhausted and there were so many people in town that I decided to retire early and just watch a little football. Plus, I was leaving the city early the next day for my big adventure tour.

Entrance to Trinity College.

Main courtyard at Trinity College.

One of the many, many pubs in Dublin.

The big event while I was there was the extensive Gay Pride Parade. In fact, the weekend before I saw the Gay Pride Parade in Berlin.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Final Germany Pictures - Day 13

I know it has taken me forever to finish editing my Germany pictures, but I am finally finished. Next step will be to work on the 400 images from Ireland. The goal is to have them done before my big move at the end of September.

Although I spent some additional time in Germany after my journey to Ireland, these pictures represent the final Germany images I took.

Our last full day took us to the city of Mainz which was beautiful. We visited the cathedral, a Catholic library and met some children, the Gutenberg Museum and then we took a gorgeous river boat tour of the Rhine river. It was stunning.

Replica of an old printing press at the Gutenberg Museum.

Courtyard of the Cathedral in Mainz

Our tour leader kept saying "nothing more quintessentially German than the flag, the Rhine and castles" while we were cruising.

It was an incredibly sunny day on the river--but I loved it anyway.