The Life of Bon

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Bon's Book Club: Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin


Every month we read a book.  On the selected day, we talk about it.  Join in for whatever books you can.  I know you are all busy, and you might not be able to read all the books. (Or be interested in reading all the books!)  Read what you want and comment on what you want.  Some readers write their own review on their blog and then link up to it, others just write their thoughts in the comments- it's up to you!  If you write your own post and link up, please slap the image above on your post! Grazi!


This month's selection for Bon's Book Club was Happier at Home (or The Happiness Project) by Gretchen Rubin.  Happiness Project is the original, but I had already read that, so I opted for the sequel- Happier at Home with the option for you guys to read the original if you haven't already.

I really dig Gretchen Rubin.  She gets me.  I get her.  She and I are one.  Kind of.  I love how organized and slightly neurotic she is, and I love that she totally owns it. (Be Gretchen!  One of her commandments.)  The premise of both books is that Rubin decides to be more purposeful about being happier.  It isn't that she's not happy at that moment, she just wants to be happier.  I really love that.  I consider myself a pretty happy person, but the last few months in particular I've been thinking more about the psychology of happiness and I love the idea of making purposeful goals to hit my max level of possible happiness.

In both books Rubin takes a goal a month and conquers it with lots of mini goals.  For example, her goal in October is "Marriage" and her sub goals include things like "Kiss in the morning, kiss at night" "Give gold stars" (praising a partner for good deeds) and "Make the positive argument."  I love the way she breaks down the goals, and in fact one year I even tried this for my new year resolution. I failed miserably because that was the year of lots of happy curve balls.  New house! New baby! New job!  All were awesome awesome things that happened to our family, but it made for my little individual goals shot out the window.  You need a certain amount of stability in your life to worry about little goals like remembering to kiss your spouse in the morning.  ANYWAY, I am hoping to revisit that resolution/ goal habit with more success in 2016.  We shall see.

Some stuff from the book I really liked:
- In one section Rubin makes the goal to "embrace good smells." I had never really put words to it before, but I am a "good smell" fanatic.  I keep wanting to give up my strange little stint selling scentsy products but I looooooove good smells.  I feel comforted and happy when I walk into my house and it smells good.  I love my car to smell good, my clothes to smell good, my body to smell good.  Rubin talks alot about just being more aware of smells and allowing ourselves to take time to appreciate them.  I really liked that.  (And I don't mean to pimp my scentsy biz, but if any of you are as obsessed with fall/winter smells as I am, you can hit me up for suggestions.  I just got my fall and holiday scents for this year and they are to die for.  For fall I love autumn sunrise, autumn sunset, orange amber, and cozy fireside.  For winter/Christmas I love eskimo kiss, whiteout, snowy spruce, iced pine, and silver bells.  Scentsy really takes it up a notch when it comes to holiday smells. Seriously, check them out if you love good smells and let me know if you have questions/ want suggestions.)

- One of my favorite suggestions is to "Under react to a problem."  I tend to be a huge over reactor so I love the suggestion to downplay things.  In general, I think my life would be happier if I didn't think things were such big deals.  Because they're usually not.

- I really identify with Rubin when she talks about being frustrated with herself/ not feeling like she is making progress.  "I was weary of myself- my broken promises to do better, my small-minded grudges, my wearisome fears, my narrow preoccupations."  YES.  I am tired of myself all the time.

- I'm not happy unless I think I'm happy.  Recognizing moments of happiness are just as important as the happiness itself.  I feel like this is kind of an extension of being present/ mindfulness.  You can't be happy if you don't recognize that you're happy.

- On slowing down the pace of life:
"Really skillful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy.  I wanted a pace of life that was deliberate that felt neither fast nor slow."  

I love this.  I hate appearing busy, and I hate when I am spending time with someone and I feel like they are hurried, stressed, and already thinking about what they have to do next.  I want to hit that perfect middle ground- a life not too fast nor too slow. Lots of things contribute to a hurried feeling- including the space we are living in.  She mentions cleaning out closets, clearing clutter, selling old stuff, taking stuff to thrift stores-- it all gives us more space in our homes and minds and allows us to feel less hurried.  INTERESTING.  I cleaned out my closet the next week and I absolutely found it to be true!  Now if I can just get the energy to tackle the pantry!

"Be Gretchen"  Or in my case, Be Bonnie.  I think this might have been my favorite part of the whole book- to accept the things that make us happy and the things that don't.  Staying up really late doesn't make me happy anymore.  Waking up early and getting the house cleaned and having a few moments to myself to read does make me happy.  Doing puzzles makes me happy.  Spending time outside makes me happy.  Watching lots of tv does not make me happy.  (Although a little tv makes me very happy.  A lot makes me very grumpy.)  I just loved the way Rubin embraced who she is and worked her life and her happiness goals around that instead of trying to come up with some universal what everyone else wants happiness theory.

On Work v. Talent:
"Persistence is more important to mastery than innate ability, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is the willingness to practice."

Killer statement right there!

Alright, I promised Greg I'd be done with this review at 9:00 so we can cuddle and watch a movie together.  The point is I really love Gretchen Rubin and I really enjoyed this book.  I highly recommend it to anyone.  I actually think I liked it more than the original.  I don't agree with everything Rubin says- she is way too much of a structured person than I am- but I don't have to adopt everything she says, only the things that work for me (Be Bonnie.)  She talks about making a goal to have conversations with her parents about their wills which is something I will never do to increase happiness.  I simply don't care and I trust my mom has got it under control.  Rubin also talks about this huge writing project she undertakes with her sister.  Rubin clearly likes to be productive, successful, and busy.  I like those things, too, but in moderation and I certainly am not going to tackle huge projects with an already very busy plate like she does.  That makes me more unhappy than happy.

If you haven't read either of these books, I suggest you do.  They are both nonfiction, very readable, and you can start to skim parts when she gets repetitive.

Those of you who read it, what parts did you love?  Any suggestions you are going to take into your daily lives?  Can't wait to hear your thoughts!  Leave your comments and links to your blog site below.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Embarrassed no more!

Book Club on Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin will be tomorrow (Friday).
Can't wait to hear what you thought! 

Well guys.

I have thought and thought of creative, funny, cute ways to talk about this.

How in the world can I present it to you in a way that is witty and clever and wise?

I can't.  That takes skills that this blogger does not have.

I am also not about to tell you any personal stories with bladder control.  Please people!  I have my pride.  You might not believe me, but I HAVE PRIDE.

Well.  I won't tell you my own personal stories.  But I do have a friend.  Let's just say she recently had a baby and then we went to yoga class and.. well, we wished we had a product like Poise Impressa to help her with the bladder leaks.  It was not the best yoga class of our lives but we did laugh until we cried and that's all the details you are going to get because MY FRIENDS HAVE PRIDE!

So basically Poise Impressa Bladder Supports are for you if your bladder leaks a little when you laugh, sneeze, cough, dance, exercise, etc.  (READ:  WHEN YOU DO YOGA.)  The 1,2,3 sizing kit helps you figure out what size you will need so that next time you go to the store you can just get your right size. (Oh, and because you read this awesome post, you can get a $4 off coupon here.)

Thirty five million women experience stress urinary incontinence which is why talking about this product is really important.  It's not to absorb leaks, it's to prevent leaks and give women back the confidence and freedom to live the life they want.  You know.  Like yoga and laughing your head off at a stupid joke.

Writing this post is a tad bit embarrassing, I admit, but the purpose of this product is TO STOP THE EMBARRASSMENT behind bladder leaks and that's something I can certainly get behind.  Thanks for reading and always being the awesome blog readers of mine that you are.

An activity that otherwise might not be possible without the help of Poise Impressa.

Don't forget to get your coupon here!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Is Facebook Ruining the World and other Monday Night Ponderings

Last night Greg and I watched "Far From the Madding Crowd".  We watched this because my brother, who is a very manly man, had told me that evening at dinner at my mom's house that the movie was good.  We've been hard up for a good Redbox lately, so on my way home I stopped to get the movie and told Greg we were going to watch it for our movie night.  "But it's a chick flick!" he complained.  "No it's not!" I insisted.  "Dennis said it was good.  There's no way it's a chick flick."

Well.  It was definitely a chick flick.  Not the best one either.  Let me give you my synopsis and you can decide if you want to see it for yourself.  There are definitely some spoilers ahead so if you think you might want to see this movie in earnest, I'd skip this next snarky paragraph.  

The movie (which never explains its psycho title) is set in the olden days when the girls all wore the pretty dresses.  You know.  The gist of the movie is three guys all propose to one girl.  That girl is Carrie Mulligan, so I totally understand why they're all fawning all over her.  She also owns her own farm too, so $$$.  I'd propose to her too if I could.  Anyway, the first guy who proposes to her is a total stud and will take good care of her but she says no because of pride.  The second guy proposes to her and she says no because although he is kind, stable, madly in love with her, rich, etc he is too boring or old or normal for her.  The third guy who proposes her is a weirdo/ ex solider who is always waving his sword around and almost cuts her hair off.  He is ugly and disgusting.  She says yes to this guy naturally.  Two days after their marriage she discovers he's a jerk (shocker) just like guy #1 told her he would be.  Husband/ Guy #3 finds out his ex girlfriend died and then drowns himself.  As one does.  So guy #2 who is really the nicest but a little bit boring, proposes again.  Girl doesn't know what to do because she really loves guy #1 but guy #1 is too prideful to propose again.  Then, TWIST Husband/ guy #3 comes back from the dead/ we find out he was never dead and he tries to take all the girl's money.  Guy #2/ boring rich nice guy kills guy #3 in a fit of passion.  Super nice guy, Guy #2, is forced to spend the rest of his life in prison while guy #3 is now dead for real this time leaving the pathway clear for guy #1 to marry Carrie Mulligan.  She basically forces him to propose again, he does, and they make out.  Which leaves the question, WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST SAY YES THE FIRST TIME YOU DUMMY?

Movies these days.  They ain't what they used to be.

Speaking of movies, The Martian has gotten very very very good reviews.  Greg always likes to see the high profile, good reviewed movies so I'm sure he'll be begging to go.  But how many movies about space can one watch?  I sat through Gravity, I suffered Interstellar but I just don't know if I can do The Martian.  It's all I can do to understand what is happening in other countries, let alone other planets.

And that's your official Bonnie-movie-review.  You're welcome!

I am kind of tired of the internet lately.  Do any of you guys ever get that way?  The internet is just so in your face.  And sometimes it is just way too much.  But given that I make the majority of my income by stuff I do online, I can't really just turn off the internet for weeks.  But I wish I could sometimes.  Instagram, for starters, makes me just feel the worst.  Why does everyone look so hot?  And how does everyone have adorable booties and fall scarves and spiced latte on hand at all times?  And then half the time I am mad at myself- for buying into it, for mimicking it, for trying to fit in with everyone else and portray this perfect life that we all know doesn't exist.  Mad at it for allowing me to feel that way.  Instagram kind of feels like high school in a microscope.  And the people looking in the microscope are the popular kids.  And they're telling you that you'll never be cool enough.

But then I post pictures of June playing peek a boo and I don't hate Instagram anymore.  WHAT IS THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN?  WILL ANYTHING EVER MAKE SENSE AGAIN?  (Also, If you want to see June playing peek a boo, follow me @thelifeofbon.  Or not.  Whatever floats your boat.)

Facebook also wears me out sometimes.  The highly offensive/ offended matter of facebook gets on my nerves.  I think facebook might be the worst part of all of us.  Someone is always chastising me for something I am doing wrong on facebook and I am constantly getting offended.  Sometimes they even tell me that I am doing my facebook statuses wrong.  I feel like we live in this world where everyone is offended at everything (including me!) and I feel like the bottom line is we all just hate each other?  Maybe that's why I should just stick to twitter.  Is twitter the purest form of social media?  Or maybe I should just finally convert to snapchat and that will solve all my social media woes?

Also sometimes I miss blogging.  The old blogging, you know.  Blogging before you had to do every post "8 ways to be happier" "7 things not to say to your mother in law" "6 tricks to clean your kitchen".  I write these posts like everyone else because these posts get the hits but then I miss the days where I felt free to come and ramble on my blog to my heart's content without being afraid that I didn't have a clear enough focus.  That people were bored.  That people wouldn't click my link  I would like to go back to 2011 blogging por favor when I wrote about leaving my wallet at Wal-mart.

But you know what part of the internet doesn't make me tired?  Shia Labeouf.  I might be the last person on the earth to see his "Just Do It" video and I could not stop laughing.  I see crap like this and my faith in humanity + the internet is restored again.

This post turned into something quite different than I thought it would be.  This is what happens when I sit down to write and don't have a scheduled post.  The shiz hits the fan!  Tomorrow my students are reading the "Get thee to a nunnery" speech in Hamlet and I am stoked because I love me some crazy Hamlet any day of the week.  Also, I just started reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.  So far I don't hate it!  Which is what I was expecting based on all of the reviews.  Have any of you read it?  I'm interested in your reviews.  And speaking of books, don't forget that on Thursday on the blog we are having book club for Happier at Home (or The Happiness Project.  You could choose either.)  I really really enjoyed this book, so I am excited to hear what you guys all thought of it.

I feel bad now for being such a whiner about the internet.  Most of the time I am really glad for it and I love it.  I especially love this blog and you guys who read it.  My life is so blessed by you.  And then 1% of the time I am so exhausted with the whole thing that I start to go a little bit crazy.  Tonight is that 1%.  Lucky you to read what I write while I'm on the 1%! (Also, while we're talking about internet meanness I want to tell you that I am 3 months gomi clean- haven't visited the site for that long.  Yea for happiness and not caring what weird internet strangers think of you!) 

NOW, before I sign off to watch a Mindy Project with my husband I want to show you what I have been working on all day.  SILVER!

When we rolled out our Hey June necklaces two weeks ago, a lot of you guys asked for silver necklaces.  I have to admit, I didn't think they would be that pretty, but these sterling silver swarovski crystal necklaces are gorgeous!  They are the same price as the gold option, and because we gave a discount for the gold, we are doing a 20% discount on silver necklaces for the first week only.  We have to be fair, you know.  Use code SILVER20 on any silver necklace from now until Tuesday October 13.

And thank you so much for all of your support thus far.  You guys are so great.  Every time I see an order come in my heart jumps with gratitude.  THANK YOU.

Tomorrow:  We talk about what no one ever wants to talk about.  Get ready!

6 Tricks to Getting an At-Home-Looks-Like-The-Salon Manicure

One of my favorite ways to splurge is by getting my nails done.  I love to get my eyelashes done, too, but when I am feeling really selfish, I'm all about the fingernails.  You see, eyelashes are more for everyone else's pleasure- my face, which other people are often forced to look at, looks better with those long, thick lashes.  But the thing is I rarely look at my own face, so the eyelashes are purely for other people's enjoyment.  Whereas my hands, I look at those bad boys hundreds of times a day.  When I'm changing a diaper, when I'm grading an essay, when I'm washing the dishes, when I'm reading a book.  I am constantly looking at my hands, and by golly, I like my hands to look pretty!  

Unfortunately, I am a chronic nail biter so my fingernails pretty much never look awesome.  I need a manicure once a week to keep these guys looking pretty, but ain't nobody can afford to go to the salon every week. 

So I do my own nails.  And I actually really enjoy it. There is something very calming about doing my nails.  I like working with my hands, paying attention to fine details, and I like that I can turn my brain off and just relax.  I love evenings where I have finished all my work- blog posts are done, jewelry is made, papers are graded, June bug is asleep, and I get an hour or two of me time.  My two "me time" go tos are pretty much always 1) hot bath + book or 2) nails + magazines.  Nothing beats them!

Through the years I think I have finally mastered an at home manicure that looks like it was done at the salon.  No joke!  People ask me, "Oh, who does your nails?"  And I say, "Me, duh!" Here's some little tricks I've figured out over the years to get your at home nails looking salon worthy every time. 

1.  Use pure acetone to remove old nailpolish, not regular nail polish remover.  Regular nail polish remover is an exercise in patience, I tell you!  I don't want to spend my one hour of me time painstakingly trying to remove old nail polish.  Acetone gets it off with a quick swish swish.  Make the switch and you'll never go back to regular nail polish remover.

 My before-manicure hand.  Not looking so hot!

2.  Do manicure after getting out of the tub or shower so that you push your cuticles down easily.  Getting those cuticles out of the way is one of the hardest parts of an at-home manicure, and if your cuticles are soft it is soooooo much easier.  I never do my nails without first showering or taking a bath.

3.  Trim cuticles!  This one for me is key in getting nails to look salon-worthy.  It's not enough to just push them back, after I push them back I take my small nail clippers and just clip that dead skin right off.  It makes my nails look 100 xs better.

4.  Consider switching to gel nail polish/ buy LED light.  After getting a gel manicure in the salon I knew it would be tough for me to ever go back.  I still do regular nail polish when I'm in a hurry, but if I have a solid 45 minutes, I almost always pull out the LED light and gel nail polish.  It's a bit more of a process but my manicure lasts 2+ weeks instead of 4 days.  Worth it!  I want to say my LED light was around $40.

5.  Be patient/ Have something to do while you wait for nails to dry or set. Whether you are doing a gel manicure or regular nail polish, probably the most crucial step in a manicure is to WAIT.  When doing a gel manicure, you have to wait for the light on your nails.  When doing a regular manicure, you have to wait for the nail polish to dry.   Either way, it requires you to be very patient- if you mess this step up your whole manicure is shot.   I can not tell you how many manicures I have ruined by not letting the stupid polish dry.

I've figured out that for me one of the ways to best be successful in the waiting nail game is to have something to keep me busy while waiting.  I love to read, but books can be a bit tricky with wet nails, so I almost always  splurge on a magazine.  A magazine can lay flat and it doesn't require me to be super focused.  I can break and come back again a minute later.  While I wait for my gel to dry (60 seconds on each hand for two layers + 30 seconds on each hand for top and base coat) I love to flip through magazines.  It feels so good to just totally relax and not be thinking of a million and one things I should be doing, but instead to just allow me a few minutes of uninterrupted me time. 

 Nothing like a little Sofia Vegara cleavage to help me wait for my nails to dry.

6.  Clean up around your nails.  Once your nails are all dry/ set, drench a tiny piece of cotton in acetone.  Wrap the cotton around the end of an orange wood stick and use that to go along the edges of your nails.  That will quickly and easily clean up any places where the nail polish missed the nail!

And you're done!  An at home manicure for a fraction of the cost of a salon and it looks just as good.  

I stopped  by our nearby Albertson's to grab my "me time" magazines.  Take advantage of $1.00 off participating titles (PEOPLE®, InStyle®, People StyleWatch®, Real Simple®, and Sunset®) with this digital offer at your Albertson's until 10/18/15 while supplies last.

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and PEOPLE® and InStyle® Magazines but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #BacktoMeTime

Thursday, October 01, 2015

8 Things I Do for My Blog & Business that Have Nothing To Do with Blogging or Business

Lately the blogging about blogging posts have been all the rage, and you know what?  I like the rage!  Let's hear it for rage!  It's so much fun!  If you can't talk about blogs on blogs, where can you talk about blogs since the rest of the world thinks all bloggers are crazy?  I kid.  I kid.  Kind of.

There's been a lot of how to posts going around so that we can all figure out how to be terrific bloggers.  And the truth is that you really do have to do all those things that everybody says- comment on other blogs, make your site look nice, sponsor, etc.

But the best stuff I do for my blog I do away from my computer.  It isn't the pretty blog aesthetic and the twitter account and the countless comments on other blogs that make people stay on a blog.  It's the blogger.  The person.

And so, I announce to you...

1.  I read.  Like a freaking fiend.  If you want to be a good writer, I think you need to read a lot.  My sister once told me that John Grisham reads two novels a week.  You have to be immersed with language, surrounded by words.  In addition to making me a better writer, reading gives me lots of ideas for things to write.  I can't tell you how many posts have been triggered by something I read.  It opens up so many more doors to you and makes your world so much bigger.  If you're looking for some great books to get started with, join in on Bon's Book Club!  We're discussing Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin on October 8. (A week from today.)

2.  I walk the dog.  For some reason it's when I'm walking the dog all by my lonesome that some of my best blog ideas are born.  Lately I've been all bundled up, just walking along, enjoying the rare sunshine when some inspiration hits.  The fresh air clears my head, and I'm allowed to think uninterrupted. You see, lots of ideas try to creep into my head all day long, but the problem is I'm usually so busy focusing on a lesson on parts of speech or a left hand turn lane that those thoughts have no room and quickly leave.  When I'm walking the dog all by myself those thoughts are welcome to come in.  If you don't have some quiet time for clearing your head at least once a day, you should!

3.  I hang out with my friends.  Hanging out with my friends is crucial to the quality of my blog for a couple of reasons.  One reason is they help my social skills.  Isn't that weird that we have have to continually hone and work on our social skills?  But we do.  Hanging with my besties on the regular I feel like keeps me not only socializing correctly, but grounded and sane and happy.  Plus, they're a huge support.  They always tell me they read my blog and then they make fun of rude commenters for me and tell me that anyone who hates my blog is an idiot.  It's good for the soul.

4.  I teach high schoolers.  There was a day when I wanted to blog and blog only for a career.  Then I realized that being confined to the internet full time would be my own version of hell.  I love this blog, and I love the people who read and comment.  This community means the world to me.  But there's a lot of junk that comes along with having a big life online and I think I am in as deep as I ever want to be.  Also, I really enjoy leaving my house, talking with real people, and helping solve real problems.  I love teaching and don't know if there will be a day when I want to be done.  For now, my part time gig is everything to me.  And I feel like teaching only makes me a stronger blogger.  My time management is MUCH better when I have to juggle so much, and besides that those young bucks keep me hip.  How would I ever know what on fleek means without them?  I mean, come on, these are crucial skills!

5.  I take baths.  Lots and lots of baths.  Probably three to four a week if you want to be technical about it. Baths are a reward for me.  They are a relaxation.  My me time.  I have to have rewards for my work (as is teaching) (as is making jewelry) (as is being a mom) or else I am not as motivated to work as hard.  Also, I think the break is good for me.  If I am online blogging, networking, emailing, etc all night I go crazy.  And start to feel really depressed.  Hence, bath time= happy Bonnie= better blog.  (Also, why I will never blog "full time")

6.  I go on trips.  As often as the budget allows!  I (like every other blogger in this world) love traveling.  In August we went on a seven day cruise and I didn't touch a piece of technology the entire time.  It was wonderful!  The blogging and social media world can get so wildly insane, and I feel like sometimes you just have to take huge steps back, go away for a little while, and remember who you and why you are doing what you are doing.  I had some experiences on the cruise ship, all alone enjoying the sunset on the deck, where suddenly life seemed so clear and simple to me.  I was more than excited to get back to blogging after the seven days were up, but that time for just me was absolutely necessary to keeping me happy and balanced.

But it doesn't have to be huge trips! Sometimes you just need a vacation from social media.  A two or three day break from instagram often leaves me feeling refreshed and clean.  Also I just stopped following a huge amount of people that I realized it does nothing for me to follow them on social media.  Most of these are huge bloggers with 100K+ following and I just realized there was no reason for me to follow- no connection, no inspiration, no motivation.  So I stopped.  And I haven't missed it one bit.

7.  I hit up the gym.  (Sporadically).  I don't know why I put this in here.  Mostly I just want to brag that I have set foot in a gym.  Applause!  Applause!

Um... actually the exercise feels really good to me.  Wearing myself out physically somehow makes me stronger mentally.  I can't explain it, I just know that I feel so rejuvenated and cleansed after a good work out, and I come to my blog with more to offer.  Isn't that crazy how that works?!?

8.  I spend time with Greg and June.  Greg gives me confidence and he is always interested in the progress of my blog.  He was far and away the biggest supporter of me starting Hey June.  (And he also makes and packages a lot of the necklaces!)  It's cute how he asks me how many page views I got and what blog I'm sponsoring next and how many necklace orders we had for the day.  His support is a huge help to me.  But it's not only the support, it's the time that I am able to focus on and love someone and I guess just feel so totally human.  Having someone to love and care about so deeply enriches all of my human emotions and allows me to be a more honest, real, and vulnerable writer.

And June Bug... well she just makes everything better in life just by being there.  Even when she is destroying the pantry.

Anything I missed?  Fill me in on what you do to keep your sanity in the ever crazy world of blogging and small business.

(As always, if you enjoyed this post please share on your twitter, facebook, instragram, etc.  I can't thank you enough!)

(Excerpts of this post originally posted on March 12, 2013)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reflections During Parent Teacher Conference

It's parent teacher conference night, which you can imagine is always an onslaught of excitement, wonder and glee.  The night usually goes something like this.  Sit for ten minutes.  Talk to a parent for one minute.  Sit for ten minutes.  Talk to a parent for one minute. Sit for ten minutes.  Are you following this very complicated pattern?

Really parent teacher conferences aren't horrible.  We stay two nights an extra four hours each and then we get Friday off.  It does make for really long days.  But the gym is air conditioned and it is admittedly much easier to sit at a table and talk to a few random parents than it is to teach four 85 minute class periods in a row, so I don't complain.  Also they give us dinner and snacks.  Also because I'm part time I only have to be here one night instead of two.  Part time is basically a basket full of perks and dreams and white gummy bears.

I like to play a game where I look at the parents flooding into our gym and then I look at their child and then I try to figure out exactly how and when that parent found out that they were expecting said child.  Was the baby a surprise?  A much awaited piece of good news?  Were they alone when they found out the happy (or not so happy) news?  In a gas station bathroom?  On a vacation in Europe?  How did they come to know that for the next couple of decades (and really forever) their lives would be dramatically different?  Did they ever think during that moment of "oh my gosh I'm pregnant!" that sixteen and a half years later they would be wandering aimlessly around a high school gym, tracking down teachers, trying to figure out why this said-pregnancy-now-turned-high-schooler has a 66% in Art?  DID THEY EVER THINK OF THAT?

Speaking of finding out you're pregnant...

I'm not pregnant.  And for a long time I really wanted to be.  But June has turned full blown toddler on us.  She daily empties out the cupboards, throws her food from the high chair, and squeals like a pteradactyl when I have the audacity to try to close the fridge door while she is busy getting her little hands on a jar of mayonaise.  She's gotten quite unreasonable.  So I think I can wait a little while for baby #2.  I hear that all kids only go through one difficult stage and then they're perfect angels for the rest of their lives so I'm just going to wait until June comes out of this stage.

Other things you might want to know but probably don't need to know but maybe you are in a state or place where my life minutia is somewhat interesting to you... (?)  I don't pretend to understand the way the world works.  But just in case.  Here you go.

+ After reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, I cleaned out my closet.  (Book discussion on this is on October 8.)  And it felt so gooooooood.  Like all my extra clothes and shoes were this physical burden on me and now that they are gone I don't have to feel it.  And every time I saw that shirt hanging in the closet that I don't like anymore I felt guilty for not wearing it.  But now I gave it away to a thrift store (in theory.  In reality it's in my car trunk but IT WILL BE at the thrift store) and it just feels right, you know.  Like I have no more weird shirt guilt. 

***Next steps: cleaning out pantry, coat closet, and fridge.

+ Greg and I are so grateful for how supportive you have all been of our little jewelry venture.  I have been blown away at the blog readers who have left sweet notes on orders.  This is such an amazing community, and I am honored to be a part of it.  We are hoping to get to a place where the jewelry provides us a kind of self employment that fulfills all of our wildest dreams...  Could little dainty necklaces be capable of all that?

+ Speaking of jewelry, we unrolled our little gold ball and gold square necklaces earlier today.  They are 14 karat gold filled and stunning little pieces perfect for the holiday season coming up.  And any time we show a new piece, we like to start with a bang so use code BLING20 for 20% off your gold ball or gold square necklace.  The code will be good for a week.

+ I'm still at parent teacher conferences.  My conferences with students usually go one of two ways:  #1:  Parent + student come.  Student has an A.  I tell parent their student is a very hard worker.  Parent + student leave happy.   #2: Parent + student come.  Student has an F.  Parent is mad at student.  Student tries to explain himself.  I watch in discomfort. I tell parent and student everything that student needs to do to no longer have an F.   Parent + student leave unhappy.  I don't know why, but I rarely see my B,C, and D students.

+ This weekend Greg and I are headed to a High School Shakespeare festival with his theater rugrats.  Nothing is better than watching 16 year olds pretend to be Lady Macbeth.  And I say that in earnest.

+ Today I am feeling really really grateful for the strong and understanding people in my life.  I draw a lot of strength from my mom because nothing ever stops her.  I am also really grateful for my boss this week who has been kind and understanding in a way that I have really needed.  It is a really great thing to be surrounded by good people.  I try to draw from their strength so that later I can have the strength to give to others.  Like some kind of awesome strength parasite cycle.

+ Tomorrow I have to miss teaching my classes and instead go to an all day training.  I'm not happy about it, especially since I haven't taught my sixth period AP class for the past three class periods due to counseling presentation, graduation assembly, college day,  in that order.  Sometimes there is not enough teaching going on in teaching.

+ Forty more minutes of parent teacher conference.  I can do this!

Monday, September 28, 2015

What we did in class this week + What I wore (AP Lit edition)

What I wore:
Blouse: Banana Republic
Pants: Walmart (these bad boys are stretchy and I loooooove them.  They are $12 and feel amazing.  They don't last longer than several washes, though, so try not to get them dirty!)
Sandals: Gap
Necklace: Hey June (20% your order ends TODAY.  Well it ends today if today is Tuesday.  It ends Tuesday!  September 29!  Get your order in before prices go up on Wednesday.  And thank you so so so so much for all the support we have received so far.  This blog has been amazing.  Remember to use BLOG20 on your order to get the 20% off)

A note on clothes- I am adopting my stay-at-home clothes strategy with my work clothes a little bit, and that strategy is to SIMPLIFY.  Simple blouse, simple pants, classic jewelry and we're set.  I am leaning away from wearing bold colors and instead using those colors to accessorize.  For me, I have found that this takes the stress away from dressing and strangely it helps me feel more calm and at peace when I am wearing neutral colors.  I don't pretend to understand, but I go with it.

What we did:
Last week I told you what we'd been doing in my regular juniors class, so today I'm spilling all the beans on AP Literature.  This is my second time teaching AP Lit.  My first time was two years ago.  Last year there were not enough kids signed up, so they swiped the program completely. Then, this year 50 kids signed up!  Hooray!  The program is back on!  The 50 kids were definitely due to heavy recruitment on my part and probably some illegal bribing on Greg's part, (about half the kids who signed up are his theater kiddos) but I ain't complaining!  I am beyond thrilled that the program is back at our school because it's something I feel very passionate about, and when they closed the program a year ago I was afraid we'd never see it again.  But it's back!  And I feel goooooooood.

We started our year off right away- there's not a lot of time to waste in AP because there is so much material that must be covered by May.  Our first book was Lord of the Flies.  I love starting with this book because it pulls the readers in immediately- they know it's not a matter of if crazy happens but when crazy happens.

Teaching this class to 50 AP class students is a lot different than teaching it to 50 regular class students.  In AP every single kid does the reading every single time.  This kind of blows my mind.  I start going over the reading together and they all just look at me like, "Yah, we know Mrs. Larsen.  We read.  Just like you told us to."  And I'm like, "What?  All of you?!  Everyone read!?!"  It is thrilling in the most geeky way.  We all gather together for class and they're ready and excited to talk about the book, infuriated by a character who died, anxious with predictions for the end of the book.

This, obviously, is very different from the way regular class students approach a book.  A lot of my guys in my regular classes have never read a book start to finish.  I beg and cajole, entertain and promise in order to get them engaged with the text.   I put on the whole horse and pony show, begging them to read a few pages.  And when they do it's very rewarding!  When they leave my class in May a lot of them tell me that they have had very positive experiences with reading- something they maybe haven't had up until this point.  Some enter my class hating books and they leave at least liking one or two books.  There are some of those "regular" kids who you make such progress with, and it is extremely rewarding to see the change in them.

That being said, it's so much work!  It's like I'm putting on a show all day, trying to get them excited, checking up on them, explaining and re explaining assignments.  The work is greater, but maybe so is the reward?  I haven't quite decided yet.  Teaching the AP kids is a dream.  It is amazing to teach people who appreciate reading on the level that I do.  I don't have to convince them to read diddly squat.  They're excited and ready.  I love being surrounded by other who love reading as much as I do.  HOWEVER... they don't need me.  Does that make sense?  A lot of these kids would pass the AP Literature test even if a brick wall were their teacher.  I am just one in a line of many people in their lives who help and support them.  If I were to teach the class or if someone else were going to teach the class, they'd still do just as well because it's more up to them and not as much as me.  With a lot of these kids, I feel like they will succeed no matter what.  So I guess in many ways it feels like I make more of a difference to the regular class students, but gosh, teaching those kids who love to learn is fun.  It's all fun.  And it's all rewarding.  But in different ways.

Anyway... coming back from that tangent.  We just finished and tested on The Lord of the Flies last week.  I always love the discussion in this book.  Is man inherently good or evil?  What would we do if left without rules, without government?  Are we mature enough to handle ourselves without a clear system?  I also love the gender discussion as it ties in to LOTF... why did Golding leave out women?  How would the story have been different if they were little girls stranded on an island instead of little boys? 

For one of the most climatic scenes in the book I had students "paint" their faces with eyeliner and lipstick.  We tied ties around their heads to represent the savages (I've got some ins with the drama teacher) and certain kids volunteered to read the parts of Jack, Roger, Ralph, Piggy, etc.  I always love doing this during the most exciting parts of books.  I almost always read the climax of a book in class with my students.  I tell them, "In every book there is a part where the shiz hits the fan.  And when that shiz hits, you know I want to be there.  Front row. Popcorn. Watching it all go down."  Because I do!  That's what reading is all about!

 All pictures are used with written consent from parent and student.

Now that we're done with Lord of the Flies we're moving right on to Hamlet.  I have such a love hate relationship with Hamlet.  I had planned to do Othello as my other Shakespeare, but our school doesn't have enough copies.  I'm looking at doing Macbeth or possibly Twelfth Night or Much Ado About Nothing if I go the comedy route.  Any suggestions?

Also, I was going to teach And Their Eyes Were Watching God, one of my absolutely favorites.  I love the dialect and I love that it's written by a black woman to give some variety to our onslaught of white men.  BUT.  About a third of the kids read it in tenth grade.  Do I carry on anyway?  Or do I try to find another book by a black woman?  I have considered Toni Morrison but don't know that I have the stomach and stamina to teach her.  Or do I just ditch the black woman altogether... I wouldn't mind teaching Kite Runner but it doesn't really fill the niche I was trying to fill.

Your comments are appreciated, as always!

Today is the last day of this campaign that I have been loved being a part of.  Somehow more people clicked on my campaign for salad than for this one and I'm all sorts of confused.  Just when you think you have the world figured out!


8 Easy Ways to Start Living a More Natural Lifestyle (Dummy Edition)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias and its advertiser. 
All opinions are mine alone. #NaturalGoodness #CollectiveBias

I must admit that living "naturally" has a certain appeal to me.  Cleaner eating, a more healthy lifestyle, less toxins... it all sounds awesome.  Like all of a sudden maybe my life will be filled with peace and harmony and yoga in the middle of a tropical rainforest?  Maybe not, but  maybe I'll have more energy and feel better and not pass out at 4 pm the second I walk in the door from school?  Now that sounds like something I could get used to.

But the thing is that the steps to starting a natural health journey are very overwhelming for a regular gal like me.  I think people who live an entire "natural" lifestyle might sway me more in the other direction, to be honest with you.  It feels so intense!  I want to try a couple of things to living naturally and then I see a natural living instagram and I think, "ah sheesh I'm never going to own chickens or spend $200 on an oil diffuser!"  (And I'm sorry, but I will NEVER have it in me to use cloth diapers.)  It seems too big of a commitment, too hard, too expensive, too, well... weird.  But that doesn't change the fact that I do want a lifestyle with less chemicals, less toxins, less processed food for me and my family.  So... I made some baby steps.  Stuff that is getting me there without being too overwhelming.  In case there are any regular joes out there like me who want to take steps to living more naturally, but don't exactly know how, I offer a few baby steps to get you in the right direction.

1.  Drink more water.  Duh!  This one is a no brainer, but it is always difficult for me.  I always want something sweet or something with caffeine so I tend toward a really gross amount of soda.  For the past few weeks I have tried to limit myself to 1-2 diet cokes a day and the rest water.  (Which I know doesn't sound that amazing, but for me it is quite the step up.)  The trick to drinking lots of water for me is to always have an ice cold water with me.  I fill my water cup up in the morning and carry it around with me for the day to get my H20 in.

2.  Grow your own garden.  Probably the biggest step I took this year to living more "naturally" was that for the first time ever, I grew my own garden!  I did this in pots in my backyard- if you've got even a little bit of outdoor space (and lots of sun!) you can do it.  I grew cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes, green peppers, mini orange peppers, and zuchinni.  I felt so proud of myself and the vegetables were fresh and delicious and had no toxins!  No chemicals!  It wasn't even that hard.  I promise!  Nothing tastes better than the fruit of your own labor.  (Next year I am ditching the mini orange peppers and doing cucumbers instead.  I'm also going to try to do a little herb garden in my upstairs window sill.)

Grown by yours truly.

3.  Recycle.  In Utah it can be kind of a huge hassle to try to recycle... I wish there was a little more emphasis on that here.  A couple months ago I took an entire full of aluminum cans 25 minutes away to recycle them.  I received a whopping $7 in compensation, and then I realized I certainly am not in this for the money!  BUT I am thrilled that in the community where we live a recycling truck has started coming around every other Thursday.  We've made added efforts to recycle our plastic, cardboard, aluminum cans, etc.  All it means is that we put them in a separate can as our regular garbage and save them for recycling day.  Something small, but something big too.

4.  Get moving!  A little exercise goes a long ways.  If at all possible, we try to get our exercise outside.  We love to hike and every day we take Maverick for a walk.  When we are feeling more adventurous we play tennis, and I've even gone to a yoga class or two!  These things are little and basic, but they do so much for making my body feel strong and healthy.  And the vitamin D does wonders for my mood.  (I'd love to get a fitbit and work toward getting 10,000 steps a day... I feel like this would definitely get me moving a bit more.  But I'm too cheap.)

On a hike on St. Maarten's

6.  Eat less processed food/ more "real" food.  Since having June I have really enjoyed my days at home because they allow me to cook real food for my family a little more.  We are nowhere close to 100% away from processed food, but we are leaps ahead of where we were two years ago.  When I want a mid afternoon snack now I go for an apple instead of a bowl of sweetened cereal.  Dinner always includes a fresh vegetable and healthy protein.  Baby steps!

Fresh grown green beans and onions (from my mom's garden!) with bacon

Salmon in a cream cheese leek sauce

7.  Make your own baby food.  Some may consider this one a tad bit more on the "extreme" side of natural living, but to me it is one of the biggest and, surprisingly, easiest things you can do to live a more natural lifestyle.  When June was six months my friend Sarah gave us a baby bullet and that changed the world for us.  95% of June's food from then on was natural.  We'd steam and then blend all sorts of fruits and vegetables for her, oatmeal with bananas is a go to,  and rice with chicken was a total fave.  I promise you it is not nearly as intimidating as you think to make your own baby food and it saves you from the processed, not-that-yummy baby food in stores.  It is much more healthy AND a million times cheaper.

8.  Begin to sub out cleaning and hygiene products.  This one may seem like a big step because you are purposely buying a "natural" product.  The key is to start simple!  You don't have to suddenly revamp your entire house with natural products, but start with something easy and something that you use often.  For us, we started with toothpaste.  At my last trip to Walmart instead of buying our normal toothpaste, I took a little extra time and spent one extra dollar to buy Tom's of Maine® natural toothpaste.  (That's one thing I love about Tom's of Maine®- I don't have to go to a special natural food store, I can just pop on over to Walmart and get it while I'm doing my regular shopping.  No hassle!)  Tom's of Maine® products do not contain artificial colors, flavors, fragrances, preservatives, animal ingredients or animal testing.  We loved the Simply White® Clean Mint Cavity Protection Toothpaste- tastes clean and fresh.  And if toothpaste isn't your jam, Tom's of Maine® also offers other natural hygiene products like deodorant, bar soap and mouthwash.  Seriously such an easy switch to start living a little more naturally. 

(You can learn more about their ingredients, including their purpose and source, by visiting

You can find Tom's of Maine toothpaste in the toothpaste aisle at Walmart.  The Silly Strawberry® Anticavity Toothpaste variety that we will use for June when she turns two we found in the kids' toothpaste section, right across from the adult toothpaste.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

We are living in the best kind of zoo and other news

Hello all!  Sorry for my brief sabbatical mid week but it has been a total zoo over here.  A good zoo.  But a zoo!

We are overwhelmed with gratitude, excitement, humility ALL OF THE ABOVE at your response to our jewelry line HEY JUNE.  It has been so sweet for me to watch orders come in over the past couple of days and to see your sweet comments "I've been a blog reader for years" "Love reading your blog" "Your blog made me leave my husband and take up a new lover"  That last one might have been from a spam spell caster.  But you get the gist.

On Tuesday June and I went to story time while I watched orders trickle in.  I couldn't believe it!  People liked what I liked!  And liked what I made!  The last two days since have been a crazy cycle of printing shipping labels,  responding to questions, feeding June, grading papers, wiring necklaces, preparing snacks for a scentsy party (because I decided it was a good idea to host a scentsy party in the middle of all this hooplah.  I HAVE ISSUES),  arguing with school counselors over students missing my class, packaging necklaces, giving bubble baths, and collapsing into bed at night.  It was a whirlwind of crazy and happy and busy and total gratitude.

I had a male friend/ acquaintance from high school share my shop on facebook and I was kind of blown away.  I haven't seen or talked to that person for 12+ years.  And there he was, supporting our silly little shop.  I guess some days I am kind of pissed off at all the people in the world.  Dumb drivers, inconsiderate people at the grocery store, people who make up meetings that I have to go to for no good reason.  And then I see this and I see how many people are supportive and how many people genuinely sincerely wish success for others and I am reminded that people are basically good. (We've been reading Lord of the Flies in AP Lit so I've been doing a lot of soul searching- is man inherently good or evil?  Which one is it?!?) 

Then I find out I have to go to another meeting and I question everything again.

But thank you.  Thank you for your support and your love and your comments and the general good juju that you have been sending my way.  I send it right back to you.  I am so honored to be a part of this blogging community and totally humbled and blown away that you show up here every once in a while to read my ramblings.  When and how did this blog get to be such a big and happy part of my life? 

I don't know. 

But I'm grateful.

TOMORROW:  What I wore + what we have been doing in AP Lit this week

- The dinner struggle is real.  I've made this for the past week straight week.  I never get sick of it, but Greg is about to stage a revolt.  I might be in need of more (easy + fast) suggestions.

- One of my favorite men, Richard G. Scott, died on Tuesday.  He was an apostle in the LDS church, He always gave the sweetest talks and was so sweet and tender toward his wife.  I mourn for me at his passing, but rejoice for him.  He is finally reunited with his wife after 20 years.

- I bought a bunch of these for Halloween treats.  I have since eaten them all.  #adultfail

- Loved this article on 15 things happy people don't do.  Do you do any of those things?

- Speaking of happy, are you reading The Happiness Project or Happier at Home for book club this month?  Book discussion is October 8.  I'm about 100 pages in and you better believe I already organized the crap out of my closet.  Gretchen Rubin will do that to you!