One-Third Life Crisis

I think I am going through a ⅓ life crisis. In preparation for a much needed fun weekend up north, I decided I wanted to dress for the occasion. Meaning, NOT like a teacher. Don’t get me wrong. I am a pretty stylish teacher, and there are students who have intentionally emulated my style although it is nothing unique. Skinny jeans, heels, flowy tops, cardigan, scarf- those are pretty much the staples in my closet. A far cry from the image one may have of a “teacher”- shapeless khaki or black pants, a blouse, and maybe a vest or sweater emblazoned with school buses, apples, and rulers. But as I scanned my closet I found 2 extremes: teacher and casual, conservative flowy tops and flannel shirts.

It sunk in that I am almost 40. I am at that age where the line between stylish-yet-age-appropriate and 37-going-on-17 is blurry. And as 40 approaches like wolf on the heels of a wounded deer, I am struck with the realization that I can be eaten by my 40s allowing them to swallow up every ounce of youthfulness, or I can give them one hell of a chase. This is a fight worth fighting.

So I head out to go shopping with one mission: do NOT buy teacher clothes. I tried on bohemian style dresses that I mistook for shirts and shirts that revealed my shoulders (a fashion I have yet to understand- is it a tank top with sleeves?). I found a few items that didn’t make me look like I was trying to be a teenager again, but were still youthful and fun. But no matter how hard I tried, I found myself strangely drawn by some incomprehensible magnetic force to every cardigan in Target. It’s like they ended up in my cart without me even realizing I had put them there! I suddenly realized that I was subconsciously looking at every dress and top with the question, “How would this look with a cardigan?” or “How will these sleeve fit comfortably into a cardigan?” I put them all back, I am sorry to say, with a degree of sadness. I am happy to say, however, that I was not at all drawn in by any khaki capris or high-waisted mom jeans.

In the end I did find some things that will pass for not being “teacher clothes” (although I will still wear them to teach) and ONE cardigan. I mean, c’mon, it’s winter and I am bound to get cold. I can still be youthful AND practical.

Yet another attempt

It looks like the resurrection of Christ was more successful than the resurrection of my blog. I guess it’s a good thing I am not sent here to save the world via clever writing.

Initially I wanted to start fresh, but I struggled with a theme/title (as always) and as I looked back at my previous (few) posts, I felt sentimental and wanted to keep them. So here I am, back at the original blog.

Why do I want to start blogging…again?

I do this almost every year (as evident from the previous resurrection that lasted all of one post). This year I am going to start/restart/redo/renew my blog. Why? And what makes this time any different? Well, I am not sure. Maybe it will be like all of the other times, and I will give it up after about a month or less. Maybe this time I will actually keep going, and it will be awesome! Or terrible. Here is the thing…I have NO EXPECTATIONS! I feel like writing, so I will write. Sometimes I might even bother editing my work. Or not. Just keep your expectations as low as mine, and you might possibly enjoy my blog.

I have thoughts. I would like to share them. People don’t want to read long posts on social media, and I am getting pretty burned out from social media (note to self- rant for a future blog post here. Why Social Media is a Big Fat Liar…or something to that effect…and looking at previous posts, I realize I have some beef with social media). Anyway, unfortunately I am kind of socially awkward. Not always. Only when I care what people might think. You know, when my awkwardness is most detrimental to my self-esteem and social status. So I have a story to tell, or thoughts to share, and I get all nervous about how they will be perceived, then I can’t articulate exactly what is in my head the way it is in my head, and my tone is all wrong, and I question myself, and I finally end the story or thought without totally completing it, and the point has been completely lost in some pointless story because I was too concerned about what sort of judgment was being made about me as a result of this terrible story that was so inspiring and interesting in my head…kind of like that dream you wake up from in tears because it was so funny, and you try to explain it to somebody, but for some reason your boyfriend wanting to wear women’s deodorant was much more hilarious in your dream, and let’s face it, nobody is ever going to understand.
So please don’t judge me. This is a judgment free zone. Unless you are judging me and decide I am awesome. In that case, keep judging and tell your friends.

The Resurrection.

No, not the Biblical resurrection. This is the resurrection of my blog. The one that I always have good intentions to keep up on, but lose interest because I can’t come up with a great “theme” to write about, or because life happens, or I am too self-conscious about my writing and know people are extra judgy (that’s not a real word, I know) because I am an English teacher. But who cares, right?! I am writing this for me! No thematic ties. No eloquent language unless I am feeling inspired and have the time (which, of course, is never). Just me, being me. {because, let’s face it, I’m probably my biggest fan and sole reader}

I always feel inspired to write when I am doing something “country” on the ole homestead- which is probably why I am in resurrection mode. This past weekend was all sunshine and warmth, and where we live, that means it’s time for sugarin’! Last night, after running around begging coffee shops for empty milk jugs –  “Yes, it’s ok if they have been in the trash. No, I don’t mind that they are crushed,” – I finally got some taps put in the trees. I got to about the 10th one when I heard a pack of coyotes across the street. Too close for comfort. I would be lying if I said that I finished the job and casually walked inside. Nope. I heard the wild barks, and my head snapped up from what I was doing. Mid-drill in a tree. I pulled it out, grabbed my bags and ran like they were coming after me. I would also be lying if I said my imagination didn’t get the better of me, and I did NOT consider that they might actually be werewolves…it was a full moon, after all.

Those 10 taps yielded a whopping 7 gallons today, and we added 15 taps more to the total this evening. I am still collecting and begging for milk jugs (I would like to say “Thanks, Starbucks, I owe you,” but I have probably given them their fair share already in overpriced lattes). 25 taps left to go and a fire pit still under construction, but the season has begun!

Quick recap:

2013: 6 taps and 3 pints of syrup

2014: 26 taps and 2 1/2 gallons of syrup

2015: 46 taps and 3 gallons of syrup (we should have had way more, but our evaporation process was inefficient, and we lost a LOT of sap)

 

From Flock to Feast

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Let me preface this post by saying I do not intentionally seek out ways to be frugal. To imply that what I am about to tell you was based on a practice of frugality would be a lie, and my mother would laugh at the notion. In all honesty, I do this because I thought that’s what most people did. It is easy, and it just makes sense. In fact, I didn’t realize that this was NOT the normal thing to do until a friend pointed it out to me. So this is how I make the most of my chicken…

You start with a chicken. Hopefully by this spring all the chicken we consume will start in our basement by raising day old cornish chicks to maturity, then butchering them. For the sake of this post, let’s say you pick up a roaster chicken from the local supermarket.

Phase 1: Roast that Chicken!

It’s sooooooo good. Especially if it  has been farm raised, free range, in your own backyard. Clean it out, pat it dry, sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper, quarter and onion and a lemon, stuff it in the cavity, tie the legs shut, and sprinkle a little thyme and garlic powder on top. Cook at 350, 20 minutes per pound.

Serve it up with some homemade mashed potatoes with garlic and butter. Maybe some carrots. I like to sprinkle mine with a little ground ginger. Enjoy!

This is where most people stop I have realized. What doesn’t get eaten is thrown in the trash.

Phase 2: Pick it apart

This is probably the most difficult phase. Unless your family has truly picked that bird apart, chances are you have a lot of pieces leftover. Pick at it, get off all the good meat you can find. You may have to dig, but chances are you will end up with a solid cup of shredded chicken which will make an excellent chicken salad.

Phase 3: Broth

You are SO not done with that carcass. Put the carcass, fatty juices, skin and bones and fats, gizzards, any other nasty looking thing you didn’t think you could eat, and put it in the crockpot. Now give it some oomph. Take 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 onion, a couple bay leaves, 6-8 peppercorns, some kosher salt, and a nice herb blend (thyme, marjoram, and sage are some good ones) and add some to the pot. Make sure you wash the vegetables, and just quarter them. Fill the crockpot with water, set to low, and let it simmer for 12-18 hours. Once it is cooled, portion 1 cup of broth in ziplock freezer bags, and freeze. I strain mine through a mesh sieve before it goes into the baggies.

Why is this necessary?

1. It’s delicious. So much better than the prepackaged broth or bullion cubes you buy in the store.

2. It’s healthy. Remember when people used to drink chicken broth when they were feeling sick and it made them feel better. There is a reason, and that store bought junk doesn’t have it. The bones provide minerals from the marrow, and the skin provides good fats your body needs, plus it is animal-based so it also contains protein.

3. It’s cheap! A 4-cup box of organic chicken broth will cost you easily $5. If you buy an organic roaster at $14, you will not only have a meal for a family, possible leftovers for a chicken salad, and enough broth to equal 4 of those boxes! (Cheaper still if you don’t care about organic)

I use my broth for soups (obviously), many recipes call for it, sometimes I use it to cook chicken chunks on the stovetop (it enhances the flavor), drink a cup when I am getting sick, and it can be used to replace white wine in recipes (but who would want to do that?!).

Phase 4: Circle of Life

This only applies to those with chickens. Once my broth is removed from the crockpot, I walk my carcass and vegetables out the the chicken run and let the chickens go to town on it. Nothing but bones will be left. Sounds morbid and cannibalistic, I know. But NOTHING goes to waste when we cook chicken at our house.

I wrote “boob” on the board

Don’t write “boob”, Don’t write “boob,” I thought to myself. “Book” not “boob”. Seriously, why would it even cross my mind to write “boob”? But I did it.

“Bring your BOOB”

Once upon a time in the land of chalkboards that would be an easy mistake to correct before any student saw it. Just a quick flick of the wrist, a smear with the edge of your palm, and nobody was the wiser. I don’t teach in once upon a time. We have “smart boards”. In order to erase on a smart board, you must move your hand away from the “boob” and touch the eraser icon with your stylus, then go back to your error to erase it. By this time, the whole class has seen “boob” glaring at them in large red letters.

“I’m sorry,” I squeak out trying not to laugh, my face red and hot with embarrassment. “I mean b-b-b-booK. Please,” wheeeeze “bring your” squeak snort “BOOK tomorrow.” By this point, I’m doing that silent I-can’t-breathe laugh and clutching my aching sides, with tears filling my eyes. My class was laughing hysterically, but I’m not sure which was more funny to them- “boob” or seeing their teach embarrassed and laughing to tears. There is no recovering from writing “boob” on the board in a class full of freshmen, and you can’t pretend it didn’t happen. You just have to roll with it. Acknowledge that it was embarrassing, and funny, and obviously unintentional. Laugh about it and move on when you’ve recovered your breath, “Well, that’s one for the books.” (or blog in this case)

I’d like to say I rarely make embarrassing slips, but in reality I think it happens at least once a year. It’s been a poorly chosen word or phrase or blend of words. I’ve tripped over backpacks, drawn awkward pictures (I drew the same illustration in 3 classes before I realized it looked like a butt), forgotten to edit out a scene in a movie, and written “boob” for all to see. I’ve had my share of embarrassing moments as an educator, but at least I haven’t farted.

The Problem With Social Media :: 1

What happened to critical thinking? When did intelligent people start taking what they hear and see at face value in such excess?

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WHAT HAS SOCIAL MEDIA DONE TO US?

A friend posted a funny political meme on Facebook, and my first reaction was, pleeeeaaase don’t let this be true! So I checked the reference. Not much to my surprise, it was in-fact false. For some reason, even the most intelligent of us, blindly follow the lead of others on social media. Because we trust our friends….who are also blindly and ignorantly following somebody else who they trust. So-and-so wouldn’t have posted it if it weren’t true.

My feeds are daily inundated with quotes, memes, photos, statistics, legal and political claims, warnings, and other various tidbits of information. And I wonder how much if it is true and accurate, and how much is just feeding me false information that I have just scanned through and is now somehow subliminally imprinted in my brain.

If we as adults can’t be critical of what we see on social media, how can our kids ever learn to be critical of the things they see? Seriously people, let’s take some caution before we hit that button. You know the ones….

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…check your references. Stop the cycle of ignorance on social media.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

A good reminder

I don’t love teaching. Don’t get me wrong- I do like it, truly. But I didn’t go into teaching, because I had a passion for teaching. I had a passion for kids, and teaching gives me access to the same kids on a daily basis. And a daily opportunity to get to know them and build a relationship with them and help them any way I can.

Today the teaching profession has changed. I’m not going to get into a rant of how politics has changed the job of a teacher. That’s not my point. But the stress and pressure put on teachers today has certainly made me question my career choice at times. Until I am reminded why I wanted to do become a teacher in the first place- kids.

Today a former student walked in during my lesson (during which I swear every student was quiet and engaged). Now, I teach freshmen, and the slightest change in pace during class can turn them into wild animals (no seriously, I had a student making animal noises earlier). When she came in, she threw her arms tightly around me and sobbed. This was not a just-sayin-hi hug as I expected. It was goodbye. My class was silent. Respectful of the moment they sensed was happening. After she left, there was only one astonished question “What was that all about?” I simply said, “she was saying goodbye.”

Here is the thing- my class knows nothing of my history with this student to cause her to have such a heartbreaking goodbye with her former teacher, but I do. And THAT is why I became a teacher.