Tag Archives: change

Nine by New Year’s Challenge


Here’s my newest video! Join me in this project! Peace and love.


Why I Am Transitioning to Veganism

I recently decided to become vegan. There were lots of reasons, a few of which I would like to elaborate upon. I don’t wish to offend anyone. I only want to explain my viewpoint.
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I went vegan because in my heart I could not reconcile slaughtering and eating a turkey with adoring and obsessively doting on my cats. How are they different from each other, except how we as a society view these animals (one being food, the other being family)? Many cultures, whether due to tradition or religion or necessity, eat different types of animals than people eating a standard American diet. Some chow down on cats or dogs or grubs or monkeys; others would never dream of eating a cow or a pig as they consider them sacred or unclean.
It hurt my conscience to know that I ate tuna fish from a can yet owned betas and guppies and other types of fish in tanks over the years. I couldn’t justify eating crab after owning and caring for hermit crabs. I’m a very principled person, and I couldn’t stand my own hypocrisy any longer. Just because I love my pets, it doesn’t mean they are in any way more valuable in the world than the cats people eat overseas. All animals are sentient beings who desire to live — they only want what I do, what my cats do, what all of us do: a long, full life, filled with days of no pain and no fear, and a peaceful end.
I “mother” my cats, making sure they aren’t scared or hurt; why should I pay someone else to kill any other animal, who wasn’t “lucky” enough to be born a human or a purebred, papered, expensive Saint Bernard puppy? Until I became vegan a month and a half ago, I was in an ethical dilemma centering on whether or not I truly loved animals. As silly as it sounds, I cried the day I hit a pheasant while driving to work last year, yet fried chicken was one of my favorite foods for a long time. They were both birds, so I should, theoretically, feel fine about killing both or neither, right? But it wasn’t like that. I felt awful about killing one, and intentionally bought and ate the other. In my head, it made perfect sense, until one day it just didn’t.
Plants have every vitamin and mineral necessary for a healthy life, without the health risks associated with eating meat (including obesity, Mad Cow disease, and high cholesterol, with its higher rate of heart attacks and strokes). The exception, of course, is Vitamin B-12, but most people don’t get enough of that whether they eat meat or not. Eating a plant-based vegan diet has been scientifically and anecdotally proven to have positive benefits, mentally and physically, for those who follow it.
The decision, for me, amounted to this: eat meat/dairy/eggs, with my family history of stroke, cancer, and other scary stuff, just because it tastes good, or save countless innocent lives and reduce my own health risks in the future by eating a full, well-rounded diet of plants. The choice was easy. I’m no longer emotionally conflicted. As an added bonus, I sleep better knowing I am “the change I wish to see in the world.”
Peace and love.

World’s Worst Jobs: Part 2


I am fairly certain that everyone will wake up at least once in the course of their lives thinking, “Man, I really don’t want to go to work today.” If you have not experienced the dread that follows a realization that you must, indeed, change out of your pajamas, take some DayQuil, trudge through the blizzard, and pretend to feel healthy for eight hours, you have likely not had a full-time job on which all of your bills depend. (Side note: if that feeling is a daily occurrence or makes you cry regularly, you probably should consider a life change and start updating your resume. You need to rectify your situation before an actual depression sinks its claws in.)

Carrying on, I will now delve into some more of what I believe would be the worst career choices possible. The options below would cause me great personal angst. If you have not read part 1 of this series, please check it out!

Stunt Double: I realize there are people in the world, known as “adrenaline junkies,” who enjoy jumping off really tall things and sitting in really fast things. I don’t. In fact, I don’t even like the view from a plane as it comes in for a typical landing. So, to spend a lifetime doing the dangerous things a rich celebrity is unable — or unwilling — to do for themselves sounds like a waking nightmare to me. I never want to be on fire, even in a flame-retardant suit while a director yells, “Action!” I will never purposely crash a car, despite the profits a blockbuster might make at my expense. I have a bad back; jumping from a moving train is no longer on my bucket list.

Funeral Director: This business is unappealing to me for many reasons. First and foremost, I cry at the drop of a hat. Sometimes I cry at sad commercials. Once, I was crying for no reason, then started laughing about how I was crying at nothing, then started crying because I was embarrassed. I cannot possibly imagine how people who work at funeral homes can bear to wake up and put on their suits each day. At best, their lives consist of dealing in death, with their entire focus always being consumed with the end of life. “Honey, let’s plan our future together,” exclaims the wife exuberantly. “Why bother?” her funeral home-owning husband replies dejectedly. At worst, they get paid extravagant amounts by grieving families to pretend to care about their lost loved ones.

There will be more to come later in this series, so please keep an eye out! Peace and love.12514074_10207720742392366_2457589951942948995_o.jpg


Why I Feel Everyone Should Read


I truly and wholeheartedly believe the world would be a better place if everyone considered reading as essential as other daily tasks. I realize that not everyone likes to read; some, in fact, claim to hate it and refuse to voluntarily skim through even a few books a year after they have completed high school.

The result has been, over the last few decades, a disintegration of our civilization on multiple — alarming — levels. As a society, our refusal to read has had detrimental effects: many people’s comprehension, vocabulary, communication, and logical thinking has suffered; they lack basic spelling, usage, and grammar skills; and they have trouble interacting appropriately with others because they are unable to empathize or connect emotionally. Additionally, while people turn away from books and embrace television and Netflix, for example, they are abdicating any responsibility for deep critical thinking or personal growth, as is it common knowledge that binge-watching American Dad cannot replicate the benefits of a focused long-term plot or the in-depth character study offered in books. Furthermore, by wasting time so contentedly on social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram, people are allowing others to dictate their ethics, self-worth, and interests. “Likes” are very important these days, and young people, in particular, will do or say just about anything to earn approval from strangers online.

Being an optimist, I refuse to believe this change to our culture is permanent. I know that reading offers too many benefits to allow it to “go gentle into that good night.” I will continue to promote reading and encourage my students to engage in it regularly. Below are a few reasons why.

Reading serves many purposes. Historically, story-telling was a way to preserve a culture’s beliefs and to pass on its values to younger generations. (In my opinion, it can definitely do the same today.) Problematically, modern-day reading is mainly seen as simply a leisure activity, done with the intention of providing entertainment, and therefore viewed as a “huge waste of time.” A lot of people would just rather “watch the movie.”

Many times, though, people do not realize exactly how much they can take away from reading, in general. We can study a character’s true motivations and analyze the factors that drive their behaviors. We can pick up on clues that a character may be “unreliable” (and, therefore, untrustworthy) through subtle hints and indirect characterization. We can assess the results of a character’s decisions and actions, examining how it impacts his or her life over a long span of time. We can gain insight by familiarizing ourselves with characters from all walks of life, with varying interests, abilities, and personality traits. This can train us for daily interactions with those around us and help us to better know ourselves.

For example, reading a novel which includes characters who are greedy or selfish can subtly demonstrate the danger of such behaviors in our own lives. Similarly, lovable characters can cause readers to forget their own loneliness for a short time, or lead readers to recognize desirable traits that they can adopt for themselves. Sympathetic characters can ease a reader’s feelings of self-pity by opening his or her eyes to other forms of pain and suffering in the world. Heroes fighting against villains — whether successful in their endeavors or not — can teach readers the importance of standing up for what they believe is right.

There are many genres from which to choose, so with enough searching just about everyone can find a novel that suits their interests. Some prefer true-crime documentaries while others enjoy romance novels. Mystery novels are fun because they enable people to piece together information and attempt to make accurate predictions — they keep people engaged. Science-fiction, fantasy, and mythology can expand people’s imaginations while, often, encouraging personal moral decision-making or ethical soul-searching. Nonfiction selections in the self-improvement, history, or autobiography categories are meant to provide useful information and can help people understand themselves and the  world around them more clearly. A few relate best to poetry, as they find that it succinctly expresses their own feelings in unique or unexpected ways, which can be quite comforting. Someone might prefer to read classics, from which they can deduce that, while the world itself has changed greatly over time, human nature and emotions have not.

Reading, most importantly, opens our minds. I have smiled when my favorite characters succeed. I have cried when innocent or helpless characters are killed. I have raged over the injustices characters suffer at the hands of their society. I have been uplifted when characters are able to turn their lives around and make a positive change. I have gained wisdom, courage, and strength from reading about the struggles in other people’s lives. I have educated myself on concepts, ideas, and philosophies about which I had no other way of learning. Reading lets me see the world from many perspectives and experience things I never would otherwise. It allows me to be part of other cultures and travel through time. It helps me to not only visit other worlds, but to live in this one more fully.

Peace and love.11215807_10205957227265590_2406978983197072906_n.jpg


Ways We Can Improve Our Society: Part Two


Check out part one for more ideas!

Thankfully, the number of potential candidates for the Presidency has dwindled slightly. Unfortunately, most of those who remain are the loudest, angriest, and most arrogant.  If I actually believed politicians would be willing to listen to the desires of the people they claim to represent, I would offer them the following suggestions for how we, as a nation, might grow and change. Instead, I am relying on the people to change what we can, provided we can stop insulting and berating each other on social media for how our political policy beliefs differ.

To begin, I believe our country (our world, in fact) would be a better place if everyone was required to give another human being a genuine compliment every single day. I’m sure there is a government bureaucrat out there somewhere who is tired of getting paid for reading magazines and pretending to file paperwork. Let him be in charge of tracking how quickly general happiness, self-esteem, and optimism skyrocket under the new Renee Fornelli Love agenda. There’s some type of computer program that can make graphs and pie charts, I assume. He could even create a survey — and we all know how important polls are these days — and build data. There would be so much more paperwork to “file” (and, by file, I mean lose/shred/stick in a box in a warehouse)! What an exciting job for that formerly bored government employee!

Next up, we can easily improve our world through the utilization of recycling centers. Last summer, my husband and I decided to make regular recycling a part of our lives. I organized a small corner of our home to store paper, cans, and plastic bottles. I have a couple pictures of my bins below. It takes, maybe, twenty minutes a month to gather up and drop off all the items that, previously, would have gone towards filling up our landfill. Instead of having companies make new things, they can refashion and reuse old things. Isn’t that “shabby chic” idea all the rage right now? Please consider making a better effort to go green. I was surprised — pleasantly — by how little effort recycling actually takes. Save our planet — it’s the only place we have to live!

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Last on the agenda today is the need and desire for our society to consider pet adoption. Statistics show there are many benefits to owning a pet. They can help to lower blood pressure, ease depression symptoms, and detect an owner’s serious illness, for starters.  Cats and dogs, especially, are excellent companions for children and adults, and offer a wide array of services to offset any minor inconveniences that go along with pet ownership. Dogs provide protection and a sense of security to people with disabilities and those living alone; they also learn tricks and make for great exercise buddies. Cats are useful for killing rodents and are particularly good snugglers. For example, my cats are great foot warmers in the dead of winter, though they do often steal all the blankets and fashion a nest for themselves, leaving me to shiver uncontrollably through the night. Be that as it may, I know they love me because they show it in other ways. They meet me at the door when I get home from work. They lay beside me and purr when I’m sick. They “sing” with me and often answer when I talk to them. They “pet” my hair and give me kisses. They leave fake mice in my purse if I leave it unzipped, and I often find toys in the toe of my boots when I slip them on. They are content to lay in my lap for hours. They fill my heart with joy and happiness.

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So, to all of you petless people, I will encourage you to go to a shelter and adopt a pet. You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to buy one from a dealer or a pet store. Often, people give pets away for free. Pets provide comfort, acceptance, and companionship to lonely people. They give entertainment and add excitement to daily chores. They offer unconditional love. People with pets are almost always happier because of them. That’s why they fill your Facebook news feed with so many pictures of them.

So, if we can change our attitudes and behaviors, we can change our world for the better. I’m willing to give it a try. Are you?

P.S. We don’t actually need the government telling us to compliment each other. Just do it on your own. It feels great for the recipient as well as the giver. Make each other happy today!

Peace and love.



Ways We Can Improve Our Society: Part One


As election time rolls around and debates separate the wheat from the chaff and political ads slander opponents mercilessly, it becomes apparent (particularly on social media) that everyone in America knows what is best for the country and if you disagree you are a worthless pile of fool. To add to the “excitement” of another 11 months of campaigns, here is the first stage of “making America great again,” and if you disagree, you are a worthless pile of fool.

First up, budget cuts. I hear about this concept of “budgeting” and apparently it means “planning for a fiscally sound future by not buying so much makeup,” according to my husband’s line of thinking. What it actually means is balancing income and expenses — in other words, allotting an adequate amount of money to each area in order to responsibly pay bills in a timely fashion. The following are some ways I think the local, state, and federal government could increase revenue or cut needless expenditures, or improve our society as a whole.

First, when an individual is caught speeding, he or she should be required to pay a fine of no less than $50 for every excess mile per hour an officer clocked their speed. (Bonus: the main roads will be much safer, as compulsive speed demons will likely stick to back roads — I’m not convinced they can change.) That money can be earmarked for educational funding, including a newly required defensive driving course for all caught recklessly risking their own and others’ lives by cruising along at 75 in a 65 zone.

Second, why do prisons provide cable television? Many hardworking, law-abiding citizens can’t afford such a luxury. My cable bill each month is astronomical (particularly after adding an additional box) and increases semi-annually. Felons don’t need cable, they need to sit and think about what they did wrong. If they get bored with repenting, they can pick up a book and read. Our world would be a better place if everyone in it read a book a month. Rather than setting up convicts with expensive entertainment, force them to watch local channels and, when they tire of that, to educate themselves. I know, the option of schooling already exists in the joint, but I feel more people who are incarcerated would put forth the effort of seeking an education to better their lives on the outside if it was the only option available during their free time (and by free time, I mean the time they don’t spend lifting weights and fashioning shivs out of toothbrushes). Admittedly my knowledge of the inner workings of life in the clink is limited to, ironically, what I have viewed on cable networks. What would the government do with all the funds they freed up by making the pen “hard-copy only”? They would redirect that cash to fuel public education. By funneling more money into our children’s schooling, we could hope there would be fewer ex-cons in the long run — and wouldn’t that make for a brighter future overall?

Third, hire only highly skilled and professional construction companies who will work on one mile of road at a time, from dawn until dusk every single day until the job is complete. The longer that stretch of patch work takes, the more road rage I suffer. The citizens pay taxes to fund quick, sound reconstruction of the roads, not to hire a bunch of sweaty, chain-smoking sign holders. When I drive by at 10:15 in the morning, I know they cannot possibly be legitimately still eating breakfast. So why are they just sitting in their trucks, laughing at my aggravation? Why do they tear up twenty miles of the interstate at a time if they have no intention of fixing it that week? Why must I slow down to twenty-five miles an hour when workers are nowhere to be found? Why doesn’t the foreman insist they remove the “reduce speed ahead” signs before leaving for the afternoon siesta (which is the only logical explanation for why machines are sitting empty in the ditches when I drive home at 4:30 in the afternoon)? Why is my tax money paying for months of unnecessary inconvenience to travelers and a lack of oversight resulting in lazy incompetence from poorly managed road crews? I’m becoming suspicious that maybe they intentionally take so long because they get paid by the day. Government officials, do some reference checking on the companies you pay with my money, or I will vote you out.

Check out part two here.

Peace and love.



What I Have Learned From My Kitten


11162081_10205935851051198_2565505048927328346_nI have recently acquired a kitten; he is nearly two months old. His name is Hannibal, because my husband and I were betting that he would have to be a warrior in order to stand firm against his much bigger brothers (Archimedes is 19.5 pounds and Magellan is 14 pounds). 10922872_10205907810470201_7914865518395219764_n

I have never really had to introduce new cats to each other before; previously I had a single cat, and after he died I got a pair of litter-mates when they were tiny. Furthermore, having not had a kitten in about 9 years, I guess I had forgotten what bringing a baby into our home would entail. Over the last three weeks, I have learned just what acquiring a “free” kitten includes.

A kitten comes with a monetary cost. Immediately upon his arrival, it was necessary for us to purchase another litter box, as vets recommend having one for each cat and an extra. We also discovered we had to buy a “potty training” box: a used 9″ x 13″ cake pan, as his little legs would not enable him to scale the walls of the full-sized boxes. We bought a bag of kitten food and a new food bowl (so he would not be afraid of the scent of the bigger cats). We also took him, within a day of bringing him home, to the vet for his first check-up and to get his shots. The next week we had to bring him to the vet’s because he had a respiratory infection that is common to cats who are born on farms. Free kittens will cost you quite a bit of dough up front.

11329764_10205906092067242_644109690277529000_nA kitten disrupts the flow of the home into which it is introduced. Each comes with its own temperament, and, therefore, its own rules, by which all household members must play. When we brought Hannibal in, we had all the fears and hopes of any new pet parent: would he be healthy, would he create tension, would he get along with our other cats, would he love us? The first few days were rough, to put it mildly. Tiny little five-week-old Hannibal was terrified, hostile, and fiery. He spit and hissed and bit and scratched everyone; he hid between the door and the wall; he ran from anyone approaching him.

But my husband and I were head-over-heels in love. It’s exhausting keeping watch and standing guard, so Hannibal often fell asleep while sitting up. After he ate, he let me hold him and sing to him and would snuggle in and fall asleep. He often got so caught up in his playing that he would fall asleep in the middle of it. In essence, he was an angel when he was asleep. How could anyone not fall in love with a sleeping ball of fluff? Even more endearing was his tendency to nuzzle in when his guard was down. He showed that, although he was afraid, he could learn to trust us; it was the first sign he was accepting his new family.  11377099_10205927908052628_4119230687361810319_n11429088_10205994352033686_7724427361259011556_n

A kitten costs peace of mind. The constant worries pile up; it is especially true for new mommies. “Why is the baby sneezing so much?” “Where is the baby?” “Did the baby use the litter box yet?” “Did Archimedes just hurt the baby?” “What if the baby uses his claws and scratches out Magellan’s eye?” “If the baby sleeps with us, you’re not going to roll on him, right?” “When are the baby’s next shots?” “Did the baby just hurt himself jumping off the couch?” “What if the baby falls down the stairs?” “How do we get the baby to stop chewing on cords?” “The baby isn’t climbing up my curtains, is he?!” Well, ok, that last thought isn’t so much a worry as a threat, expressed in the form of a question. If you get a kitten, be prepared to replace curtains, move furniture around, cover the couch in blankets, and, essentially, baby-proof your home.

A kitten costs time. It takes time to potty-train a baby. It takes time to feed him in a separate room, watching to make sure that he eats and doesn’t get distracted by other cats’ paws under the door. It takes time to teach him his name and to teach him not to scratch the furniture and to teach him not to bite his brothers’ tails unless he wants them to fight back. I also had to specifically carve out alone time to spend with my other boys (both the other two cats and my husband) and ensure that my time was not consumed with the new kitten. I often had to seek out the other cats, who hid upstairs and downstairs (where Hannibal was, for a time, unable to go — he has since learned to maneuver stairs and is an unstoppable force). I had to reassure them that, although I was spending so much time with the baby, it didn’t mean I loved them any less.11215807_10205957227265590_2406978983197072906_n11254288_10206161078001731_47836632477146075_n

A kitten costs all your peaceful, quiet afternoons. Kittens love to play — to scratch, bite, pounce, and bound away. They particularly love to ambush whoever accidentally moves in their vicinity. It is how they learn and it is their instinct. They are the masters of guerrilla warfare. If you bring a kitten home, be ready for nonstop attack mode. Unfortunately, not everyone in this house enjoys playing. In fact, no one does. We have learned diversion techniques (tossing toys across the room). We have bought mechanical toys to distract his attention for several minutes at a time. We have cruelly but without regret drawn the other cats into the “game” through the use of feather wands and food (which, notably, they did not appreciate in the least). Fortunately, over the past few weeks, all three cats are starting to become much more accustomed to each other and are spending some time together voluntarily. The older ones might even be starting to like the baby, despite his never-ending energy and their complete lack of desire to play with him…or with each other.1471338_10206070604059939_4157556326881593652_n11659317_10206153293127114_6421831474576771216_n


A kitten will prevent you from doing many things that need to get done during the day. As previously stated, they enjoy playing, and it doesn’t matter with whom: with people, with other cats, with their own tails. They tire themselves out through play, and thus (like all babies) tend to sleep afterwards. You will get nothing done when a kitten is sleeping on you, because you are terrified of disturbing it, waking it, and being forced to fend off the needle-sharp claws and teeth with which it will retaliate. So you will just lay quietly and let it sleep.


Finally, a kitten will cost you sleep. Kittens are basically nocturnal. They sleep a lot during the day and are far more active at night. Your new kitten will keep you awake by bringing toys with bells into the bed for playtime. It will bite your toes if you happen to shift them slightly. It will scratch you as it climbs you like a mountaineer on Everest. It will knead you and chew your hair. It will wake you up several times a night (though, perhaps not intentionally). It will purr loudly and make you love it. It may even put you to sleep by doing it. 11665747_10206160606949955_6609770067023629341_n
Enjoy your new kitten, but know that it is not, technically, “free.” That is the best part.

Peace and love.17668_10205979425740538_5577552344138097590_n


Project Use It Up Summer 2015


Here is a new project I’m working on. Peace and love.


Why Teachers Get Burned Out


In the fall, I will start my tenth year as a teacher, as unbelievable as I find that to be. I still remember the jitters I felt when my student teaching mentor told me she was going to have me take the reins at the end of September. I still remember the nervousness of starting my first job (in March — not exactly ideal) in a town I’d never heard of before, with only a few days’ notice. I still get that “first day of school” bubbly excitement and that “when will summer finally be here” longing. I still think about the mistakes I made early on, the struggles I’ve overcome, but also the victories and success stories that make my job worthwhile. I still love school, just as I always have since starting kindergarten at age four. But I am beginning to feel burned out.

We have, in America, a mindset that our educational system is failing our students, and, by extension, our teachers are failures. There are several widespread beliefs about teachers, none of which are flattering or even remotely accurate. The first is that teachers are exceptionally lazy — how hard can it be to be a full-time babysitter, right? Plus getting the summer off?! Some people think teachers are power-hungry dictators who like to throw their weight around or are only in it because they can’t make it in a “real” job. Everyone has heard the phrase, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

Let me address these outlandish misconceptions. Admittedly, as with any profession, there are those who excel, those who are mediocre, and those who are ineffective. To paint all with the same negative brush is absurd. Did I have bad teachers when I was a student? Unfortunately. Did I have exceptional ones? Absolutely — and I feel blessed to be able to say so. But the majority of my teachers fell somewhere in the middle.

Most of the teachers I’ve known as coworkers are incredibly hard-working, dedicated, and selfless. Therein lies the problem. They are willing to come in far earlier and stay far later than is contractually obligated for meetings, for tutoring sessions, for correcting papers, for entering grades in the grade book, for writing improvement plans and newsletters for parents and reference letters for kids’ scholarship applications. They put in long hours of unpaid time, to spend their “summer free time” prepping and planning and taking extra classes and organizing their classrooms, because it is what is best for their students. They are willing to accept the criticism from outsiders who don’t know what occurs in their classes on a daily basis. They are willing to take phone calls right before bed from angry parents. They are willing to swallow the thinly-veiled insults on social media about how they are letting down America’s youth. They are willing to suffer personal attacks on their character or intelligence or ability level from strangers. They are willing to let go the insinuations of lawmakers that teachers don’t do enough to prepare students for the new world, the global economy, the military, college, or the workplace. They accept the blame that should be shared around.

Teachers are getting burned out because the expectations we have for ourselves and our students are already high enough without pressure from outside sources. We administer weeks of testing — state tests, national tests, tests that affect college and military entrance, tests in the form of surveys, tests that reflect the school’s “annual yearly progress.” Most of these tests don’t actually impact the students directly; if they don’t understand the tests’ relevance, many don’t take them seriously. But teachers do, because we have to.

Teachers are getting burned out because of all the other roles we play throughout the day. In addition to “educator,” I am supposed to be a mediator when there is an argument, or, more rarely, a physical altercation. I am a detective, searching for signs of abuse or neglect, and searching for “lost” homework and “misplaced” books. I am a counselor, discussing with students the many options for their futures. I have been a taxi, driving students to events I am chaperoning or coaching. I am a champion for encouraging new thoughts and ideas. I am a sympathizer for students and staff who are struggling. I am a cheerleader for those who lack self-esteem. I am an artist, coming up with new ways to teach that will keep students motivated, interested, and learning. I am a technology coordinator. I have been a nurse when students have been injured — one unfortunate nose-breaking incident far exceeding my first aid training. I am a guardian for children whose parents are, for whatever reason, unavailable physically or emotionally. I am a rock when I would rather be lax and laid-back, because I know that strength is what my students need. I am a role model, whether I wish to be or not.

Teachers get burned out because we are only human, but we are expected to be the perfect blend of the best qualities of all people. We are forgiving and compassionate. We are consistent and fair. We are adequate disciplinarians. We are experts in our fields, but we are knowledgeable about potentially “teachable” topics. We are “hip.” We are extroverts, who make new students and staff feel instantly welcome and cared for. We are in tune with our emotions and capable of reading others’. We are decision-makers and trust-earners and skills-builders. We are motivators. We are inspiring and memorable. And we do it all for some of the lowest paid salaries offered for professional careers.

But we do it because we love it. Or, at least, we used to. Please don’t make us regret it.

Peace and love.11058377_10205556576209564_1109540006035127487_n


Success Series Part 1: Happiness


People are always looking for the “key” to success. I am by no means a “life expert” — a term I’ve heard thrown around but don’t actually fully understand. How does one become a life expert? By living? In that case, all who are currently alive would qualify, technically. I digress. I am just going to do some thoughtful analysis (let’s call it creative and active thinking because it has an acronym of CAT) in a new blog series.

What determines whether someone is “successful” in life? There are far too many variables and opinions to give a definitive answer; that being said, a point on which most would agree is “achieving happiness.”

What makes one person happy would, however, not necessarily be fulfilling, exciting, or satisfying for another. I can state with complete certainty that I would not be happy as the ring leader of a rodent circus; someone right at this moment, though, is elated that they have finally realized their lifelong dream of dressing up, training, and touching rats all day long (I just can’t even…oh my word).

Unfortunately, people often rely on others to make themselves happy. They “need” a boyfriend or girlfriend, they “wish” they were popular, they “can’t live without” their cell phones, and they “would just die” if they were publicly humiliated. This type of mindset is detrimental to true happiness, which can only be found inside oneself. Other people’s opinions of my life are not something I care to lose sleep over; I do what makes me feel good, and surround myself with like-minded people. I wasted a lot of time in the past, trying to please everyone else (which, as has been famously said by one far wiser than myself, is an impossibility), and my personal happiness was often placed as the lowest priority. That, I realize now, was a mistake.

I am not attempting to say that one should always thoughtlessly choose his or her own desires over others’ at all times. That would be selfish and narcissistic, and would inevitably lead to unhappiness in the long run. I am saying that, in general, the things on which we should focus the most time and energy are the things which provide not just short-term happiness but will also lead to contentment and satisfaction over time.

Let me elaborate a little on this point. To use an analogy, I love cheesecake (I am pretty sure it loves me, too, but is afraid of commitment). Eating it makes me happy. Imagine this scenario: I choose one evening to eat an entire cheesecake for dinner, blatantly refusing to share any with my husband. It is fulfilling and full of creamy deliciousness right away. But it makes me sick when I attempt to sleep, and my husband is tossing and turning from hunger. The sicker my body feels, the more I regret the cheesecake; the more tired my man grows, the more he resents me. We end up divorcing. He moves on with someone who (begrudgingly) gives him a sliver of her cheesecake. I turn to cheesecake for comfort. I continue eating cheesecake for dinner every evening of my long, lonely, self-centered existence, because I know it makes me happy in the moment. I rue that decision every night, like a vicious cycle. My clothes stop fitting. I stop combing my hair. I can’t understand why I have no friends and am unattractive, so I drown my sorrow with more cheesecake to make myself feel better, if only for a few minutes. Even my many, many cats eventually leave me, refusing to watch me destroy myself. I can’t grasp the reality that something that makes me so happy (cheesecake) causes me to be so unhappy.

Through my long-winded explanation, it is clear that there are many different types of happiness, and even some emotions are mistaken for happiness when they are actually something entirely different. So, how can one avoid the pain of a “false” or “temporary” sense of satisfaction and focus on legitimate, lasting contentment? Henry David Thoreau once stated, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Put simply, honestly self-analyze and figure out what will make you genuinely happy and healthy, and do it as much as you can.

I believe that planning one’s future is essential to his or her future happiness. I don’t mean plan out every last detail down to the exact date (I was supposed to be independently wealthy three years ago, by the way). I mean, one must know what types of things will bring future happiness and what will not. Then, keep focused to make the good things happen and eliminate the bad. We must actively tend the metaphorical garden of our lives: plant our goals on the sunny side, water the dreams daily, fertilize the passions regularly, pull the destructive weeds as soon as they crop up, and watch your happiness bloom.  531553_3963563483314_1887143721_n

One final vow: I will always share my cheesecake with my husband. He makes me happier than all the cheesecake in the world.

Check out part 2 here. Peace and love.404285_2799947473641_945394804_n