Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Writing a book and other stuff that is HARD.

I have an older sister named Becky who is intelligent and kind and extremely driven.  Sometimes when I am feeling none of those things I like to hang around her and then I feel all of those things again.

Here's my sister and me in all her glory.  She asked me this night if I knew how to take a selfie and I said yes, let me show you the ways of 21st century narcissism.


Below is all three of my sisters and me the day that Becky left to do an 18 month LDS mission in Guatemala.  As you can see, I wasn't handling it well.


Becky (you can read her blog here) and I are a lot alike in that we both love to read and we both love to write.  We are not a lot alike in that she is very brave and I am not.  I have had an idea for a book I've wanted to write for years, so with her encouragement and a lot of pushing from Greg, I finally started to work on it. Then Becky invited me to a writers' conference last spring- there would be agents and editors and lots of published authors that could tell us all about the ins and outs of the biz.  I was terrified to attend.  What if everyone knew I was a fake?  Somehow I worked up the nerve to go, (the night before I was searching frantically for ways out of it) and was absolutely thrilled that I did.  I was totally inspired and motivated.  I felt like I was finally releasing the writer geek within and giving her permission to go find like minded writer geeks.  It was wildly liberating. (Full post on the conference is here.)

Well, all work on the book stopped right after the conference.  May was an absolute whirlwind of buying a house, finishing the school year, and doctor appointments.  We spent June in Europe. In July we had a baby who decided to show up early, August we tried to learn how to be parents, September I went back to work.  Sufficeth to say life has been a wee bit crazy the past six months!

Now, deep in the heart of October I finally finally I feel like I can get working on the book again.  I have to finish it, even if only to quiet the voices in my head that keep nagging me to write it.

The thing is writing a book is really hard.  Have any of you ever written one?  It's a million times harder than writing a blog.  To start with, you don't get constant validation like you do with a blog.  You have no idea if it's brilliant or total crap.  It's also hard to keep it interesting for that long.  I can write a 1000 word blog post, sure, but 100,000 word book?  Ain't nobody going to stay interested for that long!  Also, it's very hard to just invent people and situations out of thin air.  And to make them believeable.  And interesting.  And likeable.  I am telling you, it's the hardest thing in the world!

Basically, if any of you have ever tried writing a book I want you to tell me all your secrets to success.   And while we're talking books, I want to introduce you to a blogging/writing friend of mine.  Jenn, is working on her book, and she is brave enough to share an excerpt of it with you today.  (She's trying to show me how to stop being such a sissy.)  I especially love her dialogue in this excerpt- it is so quick and easy to read.  I hope you enjoy reading what she has worked so hard on- stop over to her blog to tell her your thoughts after you've read it! 

(P.S. Don't forget we are discussing Z by Therese Ann Fowler for book club tomorrow.  Can't wait to hear your thoughts on it!)

---

so there's this girl, isabel, who likes this boy, reese. she's quite surprised to learn that he likes her, and not prepared--at all--for what comes next. their story begins three years ago, in the fall.

You’ve known him for years, Isabel. You want to know him better. Yall are just talking. She sucked in a breath, then another as she turned into his complex, sat in the lot with the engine running. Waited for Christina Perri’s Arms to conclude. She shut her eyes, rolled her neck, her shoulders. It’ll be fine. You can do this. “Yall are just talking,” she muttered as she shoved the door open and slid out, snatching her purse from the passenger seat as she did so, then slammed the door. Turned to find him waiting for her outside, seated at the base of the steps that lead to his apartment. Smiling. The knot in her stomach—the one that magically appeared every time she thought of him, saw him—tightened. She swallowed, tried a smile. Searched for something intelligent to say as she meandered over to him, but the damned knot had managed to jump into her throat. “Hi.”

“Howdy.”

She sat next to him, folded her hands in her lap. “What’d you do that for?”

“What?”

Isabel glanced at him, then down and out, toward the parking lot. “You kissed me. I wanna know why.”

“I’d think that’d be obvious.”

“I’m not your type.”

He arched a brow. “I have a type?”

“Everyone does.”

“No. Not everyone. Take Matt, for example.”

Her lips curled into a sneer. “I’d rather not.”

“I’m curious. That a good enough reason?”

“Curious,” she scoffed. “About what?”

“About you.”

She didn’t say anything. The way he’d said it, the way he’d look at her… there was a ball of warmth at her center that hadn’t been there seconds before. She couldn’t think past it.

“Alright,” he said. “What exactly is my type?”

She focused on the tiny weeds rising up out of the cracks in the concrete. “Someone like August.” Felt guilty for thinking it. For saying it. For being jealous of her best friend. The familiar sensation of inadequacy was a flood washing the warmth away.

“Ah. She’s pretty.”

“Mmhmm.” And fun. And feminine. And comfortable in her skin. And capable of having intelligent conversations with pretty much everyone.

He nudged her knee. “She doesn’t have your strength.”

Her gaze shifted to the point of contact, then briefly to his face though it never quite reached his eyes, then the concrete again. “I’m not that strong.”

“I think you are.”

“You don’t know me.”

“Not as well as I’d like, no. Hence, the curiosity.”

Her brow furrowed. She did look at him then. “Did you just use the word ‘hence’ in a sentence?”

“Well, technically, it was a fragment, but yes.”

“Reese.” She huffed out a breath, frowned. “What do you want?”

“Dinner. With you.”

“People tend to call that a date.”

He nodded. “They do.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“We can date, or whatever.” Irritation flickered across her face. “I don’t know what I’m doing, though.”

“Doing?”

She grimaced. What the hell did I say that for?

Gray eyes peered into black. “Isa?”

“Nothing. Never mind. I’m hungry.”

He waited a beat, kept his gaze steady on hers, even as he rose and held out a hand to take hers and pull her up. He didn’t step back, didn’t make room for her. For the longest moment, they stood there, facing each other, eyes intent, her hand held lightly in his.

She lifted her other hand, pressed it to his chest, near his shoulder, her thumb at the base of his throat. She felt his pulse, the warmth of his skin, the softness of the faded, cotton t-shirt.

But he didn’t try to kiss her. Instead he reached up, fingered the strands that fell near her temple, tucked them behind her ear, then stroked her cheek. Smiled and asked, “Who’s driving? Me or you?”

Isabel lowered her hand and put it to her stomach. Focus. “Mine’s a mess, and you know I’m a horrible driver.”

“Me, then,” he said and stepped onto the parking lot, tugged on her hand so that she walked with him, though she lagged a bit behind. “We could grab some food then catch a movie,” he suggested as they crossed over to his truck. “How’s that sound?”

“What?”

He turned to grin at her, then lead her to the passenger door, opened it. Finally released her hand when she’d gotten settled.

The contact had unnerved her. But she found she missed it when he’d let go.

Jenn's blog here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Art of Kissing

Today I was looking back at some of this blog's first posts.  Below is the first post I ever did about teaching- four years ago this month.  What a ride it's been!

---

It seems I may have failed to mention that I am currently spending all day every day with the riff raff of the city. I am officially a full time English teacher. An adult. Responsible. Legitimate. A career woman.

The kids are out of control.

The first ten minutes of class all kids are supposed to bring their own book and read. Most of them forget. Or just don't bring it. Or prefer to sleep. So I supplied some of my own books so that they don't have an excuse to not read. I guess I should have looked through the books a little more thoroughly before allowing fifteen year olds to let loose on them.

In my stack of books is The Art of Kissing. I stole it from my sister's house a couple of years ago, skimmed through it, found it interesting, and then threw it in a closet, not to be retrieved again until I was desperately looking for books to put in my classroom. I carelessly threw it in a box with other books, not glancing at the title or the scandalous pic of people making out on the cover. I carried the box into the school, the book never surfacing. An aide put the books on my shelves for me.

And that is how, without my knowing, The Art of Kissing successfully maneuvered its way into my classroom and onto my shelf, free for any horny fifteen year old to read.

This morning I was giving a passionate and intense lesson about effective thesis statements. The class was focused. In the zone. I had convinced them that creating a strong thesis would make their whole life complete.

I heard snickering from the corner.

"Yes? Is everything okay?" I asked P, the class clown.

"Ms. Blackburn this book is genius! It is changing my life!" Unlike the rest of the class, P. had not put his book down when the ten free reading minutes were up.(An interesting fact to know is that P had a fat hickey on his neck last week.)

"P., I don't think you need to read any more about that subject. Put it away and get out your notebook."

"But Ms. Blackburn. I mean wow! Why you even got this book?" And then reading out loud "A successful romantic kiss will take you to another world. You will be so involved in the kiss that you can't think about anything else."

 The whole class burst into laughter. I was biting my lip trying to fight the smile.  "P, if you can't be quiet you'll have to go out in to the hall." Usually this threat works. It scares them. Makes them think the hall is evil. Or possessed. Didn't work with P.

"Yah sure I'll go in the hall if I can keep reading this book!"

"Just go!" I demanded. P pranced his way out of the classroom, the book carefully tucked beneath his arm as if a fellow student was going to try to snatch it away from him. He stopped just outside the wide open door and started reading loudly "One of the most sensual places to kiss is behind the ear..."

"P! Close the door!"

At this point the class was gone, their raging hormones causing them to lose it completely in hysterics of giggles.

"Okay guys. Why is it so important that a thesis be debatable?" I tried in vain to get them back. To get them to concentrate. To convince them that they love thesis statements. They were all blushing and smiling and asking if P. could come back in and read more of that book. And then I realized that getting them to refocus on thesis statements was an absolute and utter lost cause.

I mean really... since when has a thesis statement ever been able to compete with the art of kissing?

Originally published November 4, 2010.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Marriage Differences: As Defined by the Myers-Briggs Personality Test

An ESFP in love with an INFJ.

There exists something in this world called the Myers-Briggs personality test.

It is a test that measures and breaks down four different parts of your personality.  There are four categories and a person is one of each category.  So you are either:

E- Extroverted- get energy from spending time with people or
I - Introverted- get energy by spending time alone,

S- Sensing- trust five senses to gather information or
N- iNtuitive- rely on intuition to gather information,
(N's are dreamers, S's are more about the here and now.)

T- thinking- make decisions based on logic and reason and not easily hurt or offended or
F- feeling- make decisions based on personal values and emotions, easily hurt.

and

J- Judging- more comfortable with scheduled, structured environments or
P- Perceiving- flexible and diverse, more comfortable with open, casual environments.

If you want more information (and more accurate information!) go here.  To take the test and see what you are, go here.

Almost every hurdle in my marriage can be traced back to this personality test.  I am an ESFP and I am married to an INFJ.  Greg and I are different in three of the four aspects.  Once I figured this out, it honestly made our marriage a lot easier.  Here's what the breakdown looks like and what it means for our marriage:

I am E (Extroverted) and Greg is I (Introverted).  I would say that this is probably the hardest difference in our marriage and one that we will be trying to reconcile until the day we die.  I don't think it'd be so tough if I weren't such an extreme extrovert.  I absolutely get my energy by being around other people.  Greg does fine around other people, but it drains him of his energy, and he needs alone time to refuel.  When I am alone my energy is depleting.  I never feel less energized than after I've been sitting around all day.  I feel lethargic and bored, whereas Greg feels relaxed and renewed.

What this means for us is a constant battle of how we spend our free time together.  I want to go out, Greg wants to stay in.  I want to throw a party with huge groups of people, Greg wants to hang out with just a few close friends. (Or even better, just watch a movie with the two of us at home).  I want to go to a restaurant, Greg wants to order in.  On our breaks I am constantly wanting to do something active and be surrounded by people- hikes, tennis, walks, museums, ANYTHING.  Greg begs to stay in and relax.  I am pretty sure this will be a perpetual argument of our marriage.  We both make compromises, but it continues to be hard.  Anytime I spend a beautiful Saturday inside I feel like the world is hurrying on without me.  Anytime Greg goes to a crowded venue with me his is worn out and miserable.  The other thing that has made this more difficult recently is that Greg now has an extremely extroverted job teaching rowdy high schoolers.  When he comes home from teaching, his energy is completed depleted for the day.  I, on the otherhand, am dying to get out, especially if it is a day that I have been home with June.  I keep very busy on my days at home managing the house and getting blog stuff done, but it is all introverted activities and by the time Greg gets home I'd do anything for some extroverted excitement.  These are usually the hardest days for us.  I have tried to start making sure that I have one extroverted activity on the days that I am home so that I am not an Energizer Bunny all over Greg by the time he comes home.

I am S (Sensory) and Greg is an N (Intuitive)  This is the difference in our marriage that I think is most beneficial to us.  Greg is an N- he sees the "bigger picture" while often forgetting about the mundane, every day chores of life.  S's are more caught up in the here and now, getting the stuff done that needs to be done right away, but often don't reach for those big dreams.  I short, N's are dreamers and S's are realists. I am an S to the max.  I get a lot of pleasure out of accomplishing the every day things- getting my oil changed, going grocery shopping, grading papers.  It feels like lots of mini accomplishments to me, and my days are always structured with big long to do lists.  Greg, on the other hand, feels weighed down by to do lists and the trivial chores of every day life.  The truth is, they depress the heck out of him.  He always has some grand vision in front of him, but the actual minute details of how to get to that "bigger picture" bog him down and bore him to death.  Without him I don't think I'd ever push for that big dream off in the distance.  Without me I don't think he'd pay the mortgage.

We are both Fs (Feelers.)  I love that Greg and I have this one in common.  Feelers are sensitive, and they make decisions based on how they feel about something.  Thinkers are much more logical and don't necessarily care about hurting others' feelings.  According to a thinker, if your feelings get hurt, it's your fault for being too sensitive.  Greg can always tell when I'm upset or bothered, and I likewise with him.  Because we are both feelers I think we try extra hard to accommodate each other and to not hurt each other's feelings.  We understand how bad it sucks.  I also love that I don't have to explain to Greg a decision when I say, "I just don't feel good about it."  Or "I know you didn't mean to do that, but it still feels that way."  We understand.  We don't get frustrated one with the other when someone is hurt because we know that's just kind of part of the deal with being an F.

I am a P (perceiver) and Greg is a J (judger).   Js like structure and rules and social protocol.  Ps like spontaneity and craziness and taking people by surprise.  Ps think rules are meant to be broken, Js value rules and feel safe with them.  This one continues to be a bit of a challenge for us, but I feel like we have both come a long ways and have kind of met in the middle.  I come from an entire family full of Ps and Greg comes an entire family full of Js.

I have shared this story before, but it is perfect to illustrate the difference in a P and a J.  A few months after we were married, we went to a movie with my side of the family.  Greg didn't understand why all of my aunts, uncles, and siblings thought it was okay to talk through the whole thing.

"I don't see anything wrong with it," I said, "I think it makes the movie more fun."
"This isn't your living room, Bon.  You are in a public setting."
"So what?  You can still talk when you leave your house."
"No.  Not in a movie theatre.  That's not following social rules.  It bothers the people around you."
"Oh.... I guess I never thought about the people around me."
"Exactly!  And you have to put your legs down too.  You can't just have your feet up on the seat."
"Seriously?"
"Yes.  And you can't kick the seat either."

He told me this after a movie experience that consisted of every possible thing a J could hate.  FIRST we arrived twenty minutes late because of poor driving directions.  THEN on our way into the theatre we saw my Aunt Reeta pop out of the theatre side door searching for her husband.  THEN we pretty much snuck into the theatre because the line was too long for us to wait for tickets, and we were already late.  THEN my mom kept talking to us in the theatre before remembering Greg's intense desire for silence while watching a movie.  THEN I started falling asleep in the movie.  THEN there was some candy being passed around the group that was a) snuck in from outside the theatre and b) in a very loud plastic bad.  THEN my mom answered a phone call in the theatre.  ("Hi Brother Jensen!  I'm in a movie, that's why I'm whispering!...")  THEN I forgot the rules and put my feet up on the chair in front of me.  Greg was mad that I had ruined the movie for him by not following social protocol, and I was mad that he had ruined the movie for me by being such a grump and not letting me talk through it.

Nowdays Greg has relaxed a little (he is okay with me sneaking treats into the theater) and I have learned not to talk in the theater.  He doesn't get embarrassed by me anymore when I yell obnoxiously in the middle of a grocery store and I have stopped cutting in line.  We're meeting in the middle, baby.

If you haven't already taken this personality test, you totally should.  Then you should make your significant other take it and then you can figure out exactly why you have the issues you do in your relationship.  Then comment and tell me all about it because I'm dying to know!

Fun fact:  My mom is the exact same personality type as me: ESFP.  She's about the easiest person in the world for me to get along with and understands me like no one else.

Another fun fact:  My bestie Amy is almost my exact same personality type which explains why we get along so well.  She's an ESTP.  The only difference is she's a thinker and I'm a feeler which is why I sometimes get my feelings hurt and she never does because she's not into feelings and stuff.  That's why I have Greg to be my feeler.

Some famous ESFPS:  John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Hugh Hefner, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Pablo Picasso, Paul McCartney, Steven Spielberg, Katy Perry, Will Smith, Mel Gibson, Beyonce, Leonardo Dicaprio, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and Cameron Diaz.  A group of pretty fun people, I must say!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Teenagers say the darndest things



I once heard someone say about teaching teenagers, "One minute they shock you with how brilliant they are and the next minute they shock you with how dumb they are."  Ain't that the truth.  My students are constantly amazing me by their level of maturity, their insight, their intelligence only to amaze me in the next moment by their absolute stupidity.

Here are some of the dumbest things my students have said lately: 

When I took her cell phone away for using it in an inappropriate time during class, a student had to write me an apology note to get it back.  The note read: "Sorry I was on my phone during class today. The reason is because I was texting Chandler and telling him why I put glitter and tampons and streamers and googly eyes on his car."  I'd hate to be Chandler.

Another student's apology note:  "Sorry for being on my phone.  I was texting my dad and letting him know where he could find the shovel.  I'm the only one in the family who knows where the shovel is."  Because no, that's not weird.

Another apology note from a student:  "I em sorry for haveing my phone out."  AM.  THE CORRECT SPELLING IS AM.

Listing sources on a research paper:  "Source #1:  Google  Source #2:  My imagination."  I don't know which is worse, the fact that he thinks google in and of itself counts as a source or that he thinks his imagination does.

Closing paragraph on a paper about the treatment of women in The Crucible:  "I am talking about this because I'm fed up with girls.  At this rate they get no rights.  No one is acting like Rosa Parks."  I suppose women in the 1600s are supposed to know to follow the example of Rosa Parks?

Another essay on treatment of women in The Crucible:  "I don't know, I was gone for when we read most of the book and I guessed on most of the test, so there is no way in hell I will be able to write this."  At least he didn't make me read an essay full of b.s.

A third essay on the treatment of women in The Crucible: (You can tell they really hit this one out of the park.)  "Nobody in the book treats the prostitutes very good.  The prostitutes have no respect for themselves and don't aspire to anything.  They are always stirring up trouble."  What prostitutes?!?!  Did we read the same play?

Student, when I ask him why he always talks so much in class when I'm trying to teach: "I just feel like I have so much to share with the world and so little time to share it in."  He was dead serious.

The students were allowed to choose topics for their research papers.  This student chose the topic of sex and violence in video games.  His opening line:  "I know damn well you don't want an STD."

Me:  "Alright students, for your prompt today I want you to tell me all about your moms."
Student yells out:  "My mom's a b****!"
Okay then...

In a discussion on The Crucible, about if the students agree with John Proctor's decision to die for telling the truth:
Student:  "I'm not going to lie... I would lie."

"Wait, is Harvard an actual school?"  Said by a seventeen year old student.  SEVENTEEN.'

A student writing in his journal:  "Jermerl entry #1."  JERMERL?!?  That doesn't even sound a little bit like journal.

A student, answering a prompt on what he did over his summer:  "This summer I made out with a girl in the walk in freezer at work.  Please don't tell my mom.  I'd like to keep that job. (For obvious reasons)."

Another student, answering the same prompt:  "This summer I got fired from my job at Arby's.  They fired me because I didn't show up to work."  Oh, so that's how that works?

And that's a wrap!  Stay tuned for the next edition- there is no end to the nuggets of wisdom that come flying out of their mouths.

On being nice to your body: From the postpartum side

The truth is, I think my body is pretty freaking rad.

A year ago my body started on its hardest task yet- making a baby.  From October to July my body figured out how to take the nourishment I was giving it and then use it to make tiny fingernails, a tiny heart, a tiny brain.  (Some things blew my mind about pregnancy- the fact the my gums would bleed easily because my body was taking any extra calcium and giving it to the growing babe.  How does my body know how to do that?!)  



After nine months of growing that baby, my body so graciously agreed to let itself get sliced open so that the docs could pull my stubborn baby out.  My abdomen muscles, my uterus, layers of fat were all cut through to retrieve the baby.  Now my body is working on healing it back together again.  The only evidence I have of that terrific feat is a five inch red scar across my bikini line.

My body continues to amaze me as now it produces milk for the child that it spent the last year growing.  Sometimes I just think about it all in awe-  how does my body know how to do all those things?  How does it answer my needs?

I have always tried my best to be nice to my body, but especially in the past three months.  I look at the extra roundness and squishiness in my belly, and it is easy to want it gone right away.  I am tempted to be frustrated with my body, to wish it back to its pre-pregnancy state.  But then I remember that the squishiness and the scar and the sometimes sore breasts are all evidence of what my body has done for me, how it has taken care of me and my child.

Because of this, I have gone easy on my body since I had June.  I haven't made it go running, I haven't forced any strict workouts on it.  I have allowed it to heal slowly and in its own way while I have enjoyed a sugar cookie or two.  I have not pressured myself to exercise or eat a strict diet- in a way I feel like my body has been through so much that heck, give it that piece of cake that it wants.

I am, however, finally feeling ready to push my body a little bit.  Yesterday I went for my first run in six months and while it was tough, it felt amazing.  My body has done so much for me that I feel like it is time that I give back to my body- give it proper exercise and start improving my diet a little bit.  My  body doesn't know this, but I'm going to want it to grow me a baby all over again in a few years here.

One of the big things that got me out the door and on a run was my new pair of running shoes.  A bit of advice for you- if you are dragging your feet to start working out, buy some new work out gear.  It always does wonders for me!  


I am especially proud to be wearing these running shoes as they are part of Skechers' campaign to end the fight against breast cancer.  (Notice the pink?)  They have three shoes this season that are all dedicated to raising awareness and lots of other fitness merchandise, too.




The shoe I am wearing is the GOrun Sprint Awareness Shoe and I love it.  It is extremely light weight and comfortable- the sides are made of a lightweight material that is very breathable.  My feet are always on fire when I work out, so I love that these shoes actually keep my feet cool.

Visit here if you are interested in joining in to support the fight to end breast cancer.  Hey, if you've gotta buy new running shoes anyway, why not buy a pair that is supporting such a great cause?

This post is financially supported by Skechers.

Monday, October 13, 2014

How do you get your baby to fall asleep without your help?



I love me a sleeping June.  It's about the cutest thing in the world.  My heart melts, my insides turn to puddy, and every little thing that's been annoying me throughout the day suddenly doesn't seem so important anymore.  All is right in the world when you're staring at a perfect sleeping babe.

Unfortunately, getting June to sleep isn't always such bliss.  The past couple of weeks she has given us a run for our money when it comes time to go down.  When she was just a newborn she would fall asleep anywhere, anytime and she would stay asleep.  Now that she's growing up a bit (it makes me want to cry just typing that) she doesn't fall asleep quite as easily.  If we're in the car she'll always konk out, and she loves to fall asleep in my arms when nursing.  That's the thing with June, though, the naps are always on her terms.  Her timing.  Her place.  If she gets to choose the conditions, yah, sure, she'll sleep like a dream.  But when it comes time for sleep on my terms- at 7:30 pm in the bassinet- she will have none of it.  Don't get me wrong, June will eventually fall asleep at bedtime, but not without the deluxe treatment.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  The bouncing, the rocking, the shh-shh-shhing in her ear. The holding of the pacifier, the cuddling close, the half an hour of pacing and rocking and soothing.  And don't even think about putting June down until she is in a heavy, deep, almost comatose state of sleep.  If you put her down a minute too soon, she'll wake up and start crying, wanting to be cuddled and rocked and soothed all over again.

I am making it sound worse than it is, I'm sure.  June is a really good baby.  Which is why I've been so alarmed the past couple weeks at her growing insistence that she be held and rocked to go to sleep.  The first couple of months she would fall asleep in my arms right after our last night nursing session, and when I put her in her bassinet, she stayed asleep.  Now she isn't as sleepy as she was as a newborn, and getting her to sleep that deeply has proved itself to be a lot of work.

Before I had June I was sure I would be a "cry it out" parent.  Just throw the baby in the crib and let her figure it out on her own, it won't kill the babe!  I still think along those lines- essentially that the baby needs to learn to self soothe- but putting it into practice is so much easier said than done.  June is still so little, and when I put her down and she immediately starts crying at the top of her lungs it absolutely breaks my heart.  She's just an itty bitty baby- I can't leave her by herself in there to just cry and cry!  I normally try it for ten minutes (and one time even did twenty minutes), but it is to no avail.  She is still screaming, and after listening to my baby cry for that long, all resolve is gone and I run to soothe her.  When I run to comfort her, I am mad at myself because I feel like I am creating bad habits- training my baby to need me to go to sleep.  But then I don't want to let her "cry it out" for an hour because she's still so little.  But if I continue to rock her and soothe her to sleep then I'm afraid that I will just further encourage the bad habits and create some kind of terrible June monster!  I don't want no June monster!

It is really important to me to have a baby who is a good sleeper.  I know some of that is just luck, but I have always believed that you could train and teach a baby to become a good sleeper.  Maybe I was just being naive?

How do you get your baby to fall asleep by him or herself?  Is three months just too young to try to start training?  Should I be punished for even trying to get my child to self soothe so early?  Or am I making it harder and harder on myself every time I rock her to sleep?  Should I give her more than 10 minutes to fall asleep on her own?

(But seriously, is there anything better than a baby falling asleep in your arms?)
(But seriously, is there anything worse than a baby who demands to be rocked for half an hour for every nap and bedtime?)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Blog is Solving All My Problems...



... but seriously.  It really is.

I feel like lately whenever I have a problem, I just take to my blog.  I pose the question and the answers come pouring in from intelligent, experienced women all over the country.  It's wild!

For example:

+ A month ago I asked you all why there weren't as many comments on blogs as there used to be.  I was floored when over 150 comments came rolling in about why there are no comments.  Talk about the irony!  I heard a lot of great reasoning but the two main reasons that appeared again and again in the comments was #1- It is too hard to comment on blogs and #2- It's frustrating to comment and never receive a reply back.  I am hoping that I fixed problem #1 by installing Disqus, although for some I may have made it more complicated.  All you have to do is sign on once through Disqus and then you can always comment on the blog after that.  I know it's a pain, but it's also awesome because then you get replies to your comments emailed to you.  It's awesome!  (A question for my Disqus pros out there... I have always had comments on my blog emailed to me so I can see them as they appear.  Disqus still emails me the comments but now it says every comment is from myself.  I can't tell who has sent the comment unless I go to the actual post and look at the comments through there.  Any suggestions?)

As far as problem #2- I am trying to be better about responding to comments.  I am so grateful to you for the thoughts and insights you leave on the blog, on Instagram, on Facebook, etc.  I read every one.  I have set aside 20 minutes every day to respond to comments.  Sometimes that is not enough time to respond to all the comments.  My blog is taking up an increasing amount of my time, and while it is so exciting and I'm so grateful for its growth, I also have to protect my time with family.  So 20 minutes of responding to comments, and if I don't get to them all, I don't get them all.  I hope you understand.

+ After I wrote this post about not getting a discount at H&M, many of you stated that you would go to the store and explain the situation to get the discount.  You gave me the push I needed, and I went to H&M Monday night and the lady who worked there was nice as can be.  She rang up my order, put $16 back on card and told me she was sorry.  I used the $16 to buy a Halloween costume for June and now all is right in the world.

+ Thank you so much for all of your comments on my post last week about low milk supply.  I am constantly amazed at the community of support there is in the blog world.  I received so many comments on that post and couldn't respond to them all, but know that I read them and was so grateful for the support and ideas.  A little update since that post- things that have changed since reading your comments:

1)  I changed my birth control to the mini pill- progestin- only pill.  I'll give it a few weeks and if it doesn't seem to help I may look into an IUD.
2)  I have figured out a way to pump in between first and second period the days that I work- eliminating the six hour stretch without pumping that was making my body all sorts of confused.  It's pretty awkward, I'll admit.  I sneak out of first period as soon as the announcements come on- a couple of minutes before the bell rings.  I pump in the English meeting room downstairs while kids are switching classes (I sit there with my back to the door, scared out of my mind that some seventeen year old boy is going to somehow come bursting in by accident.  The door is locked, but I freak out the whole time anyway) and am back upstairs to teach second period right as the bell rings.  It's only about eight or nine minutes of pumping, but it gives me about an extra ounce those mornings and I am hoping it helps my body more fully understand what is up.
3)  I am taking fenugreek.  So far I haven't noticed too much of a difference except for, yes, I smell like maple syrup.
4) I'm drinking more water.

I still don't feel like the supply is where I want it to be, but it seems to be increasing a little and I feel happy that I'm taking steps in the right direction and making some progress.  Nothing feels worse than feeling helpless.  Thank you all so much for your comments and suggestions.

+ And now,  a couple more questions I pose for you.  Question #1-  I am in the market for a new pair of tennis shoes and I have my heart set on a pink pair...  Tell me, which one of these is your favorite?

+ Question #2- If you are trying to pass in the left lane of a two lane highway and there is a car in front of you that is going the exact same speed as the car in the right lane is it appropriate to honk?   (Longest sentence ever!)  Not a mean, hostile honk, just a friendly beep-beep- I'm- behind- you- and- you- should- get- over- honk?  How long do you have to be behind the car before it is appropriate to honk?  Your answers will settle a very important debate.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

On what it's like to work at the same school as my husband and baby

School wide training or hanging with my family?  Why, it's both!

A couple of people have asked me on various social media outlets what it's like working at the same school as my husband.  The short answer: it's awesome!

The long answer:

At first I was a bit nervous when Greg took the job at my school.  I have always felt that it is really good for both partners in a relationship to have their own interests/ identities/ jobs/ friends.  Greg did was enjoying helping those with special needs and doing shows at night.  I did my thing at the high school.  We had our own circles and friends, and when the offer came to work at the exact same school,  I was undoubtedly nervous that we couldn't handle working that closely together.  Space is good for relationships, you know?  Would merging our lives together so extensively take a toll on both of us?  I have heard horror stories about couples that work together- after all Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz divorced after creating one of the most successful tv shows ever, I Love Lucy.

Turns out all of those fears were for naught.  To start with, even though we work at the same school, we are still very involved in our separate programs.  We also are not very physically close within the school-  Greg is downstairs on one side of the building, I'm upstairs on the other.  As far as "work" goes, we hardly "work" together.  He is busy teaching kids how to do monologues and directing a musical while I am teaching research skills and grading essays upon essays across the building.  It is during the "nonwork" time- lunch, after school, etc, that working at the same school really has its perks.  

We get up at the same time in the mornings and are out the door by 6:45. (Disgusting, I know.)  Most of the time we take separate cars because Greg has to stay for Les Mis rehearsal (the musical he's directing) and there ain't no way I'm staying at the school until 5:00 or later every night.  I take June with me in the mornings, mostly because her car seat is in my car.  I drop June off at the daycare downstairs in between 7:00 and 7:10 and then I'm off to do last minute preparations before first period starts at 7:50.

Greg's prep is second period and we both have lunch immediately following.  During his prep he always goes and visits June. (Most of the time she's passed out cold, though.  Not interested in her daddy's visit.)  The last five minutes of second period Greg pops in my room and sits at my computer while I finish up the lesson, and then we walk down to the faculty room together to eat lunch.  Most of the time we sit by each other, but sometimes I want to catch up with some of my other teacher friends who I don't get to see that often, so I sit by them instead.  It's really important to me that I still maintain relationships with my work friends even though it would be easy to just bag it and rely on Greg for my social interaction.  But I totally believe that while your spouse is your most important relationship, it is certainly not the only important relationship.  I am so grateful for my friends at school, (a group of intelligent, opinionated, and hardworking people) and so I am trying hard to still cultivate those relationships.  Greg and the other male teacher in our group usually just sit there and listens to all the ladies talk a million miles an hour.  And trust me, it is a million miles an hour.  You gotta fight to get your words in sometimes!

My prep period is third- right after lunch.  I don't see Greg because he's teaching a class, and I have to feed June and am generally running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to juggle feedings and grading papers and planning lessons.  I see Greg again after school.  He stays late for the musical rehearsals, so I pick up June from the daycare and then we stop by the auditorium to say bye to Greg and maybe sit in on a little Master of the House preview.  Greg likes to show off his baby and all his little actors swarm around her like they'd never seen a baby before.  (And by actors, I mean the actresses.  The boys couldn't care less about the baby; the girls all want a turn holding her.)  June loves it, naturally.  She's already priming herself for the attention of the stage.  (Also, the theater kids practically worship Greg- it's so sweet.  I've never seen a group of 17 year olds so gaga about anything or anyone before- they think Greg is a freaking hero.  It's seriously the cutest.)

I don't know how long this gig will last for us, but for right now I absolutely love it.  Greg's long hours at the high school would be much harder on both of us if we didn't get to see each other here and there throughout the day.  It also makes it so nice that we can see June often and be close to her in case there is any kind of emergency.  My principal asked me the other day how it was working out for the Larsen clan all being at the same school together, and I practically gushed all over him, "Oh my gosh, we love it!  We feel so grateful!  Thanks so much!  It's such a perfect set up I'm afraid to even breathe!"  He chuckled and replied, "Well, I guess I'll start holding my breath around you then!"

I know it was a joke and all, but still... just in case...

No one breathe.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

What Would You Do: Teacher Edition!

This was my classroom at my old school.  It was gigantic.  I miss its size.  But my new room has the sunshine pouring in in the morning, so should we call it a wash?

Time for another round of What Would You Do?- the truly riveting blog series where I tell you a very common and sometimes mundane situation in my life and you tell me what you would do in the same situation.  Past editions include not getting a discount at H&M and reacting when a man in a Wal-mart parking lot tells me how to load my baby in the car.  See?  Riveting!

This week's edition is the Teacher Edition!  You know, kind of like Teacher week on Jeopardy only there's a lot less money involved. (Sidenote: My dream is to be on Jeopardy someday, but I am nowhere near smart enough.  My little sister is definitely smart enough so I've been trying to convince her for years to audition.  I told her I'd even train her if she gives me 10% of her winnings.  She said 5% after taxes and I said no thank you, you're too cheap.)

We just finished The Crucible in my class, and today I had the students do a little research on what in the play is real life history versus what parts in the play are made up to make it more interesting.  We spent a bit of time talking about how to tell the difference between reliable and non reliable websites (Smoot.com- not reliable!  Yahooanswers- also not reliable!  Total buzz kill for those kids, I know) and then we were off to the computer lab, to research their little brains out.

I have one student who instead of working on the assignment sat at a computer in the back and doodled.

"Yo dude, where's your table you're supposed to be filling out?"  I try to act all casual in front of the students, but trust me I'm freaking out inside whenever they are just blatantly ignoring classroom instructions.

"Hmmm?  Table?"  He replied lazily, as if I hadn't just spent the last five minutes explaining what they were supposed to be doing.

"Your table that you're supposed to be working on.  Where is it?"

"Oh, that.  I think I left it upstairs."

"Do you want to go up to the classroom and get another copy?  They're sitting on my desk."

"Nah.  I'm good."

"You're failing my class, you know." I tried to push him. "This is a core class- you need it to graduate.  I'd love to see you pass the quarter, but you're not going to pass if you don't do the assignments."

He shrugged his shoulders and continued doodling.

I stared at him, wondering what I should do for a minute and then I just gave it up. I left him alone and instead wandered around the room, checking on other students.  Once I was sure everyone else was successfully working on the assignment, I sat down and graded papers.  My doodler was at a computer close to me.  I noticed that he finished his doodle and then began googling random sentences to see what google would suggest he search.  He wasn't distracting any of the other students, so I let him be.

I never quite know what to do in situations like this.  Should I force my students to do the work?  They are already forced to sit in my classroom, might as well force them to work on the assignment?  Should I have insisted he go upstairs and get the table, and then should I have sat next to him and worked with him step by step until he finished the assignment?  Is that what "good" teachers do?  Or was it okay that I just let him doodle, allowing him at 17 years old to make his own choice?  (Or is the fact that he wasn't interested in the assignment a clear indicator that obviously my assignments are way too boring?)  A lot of the other students noticed that he wasn't doing the assignment, and I'm sure they wondered why it was okay that he did nothing while they had to do work, but I didn't say anything and they didn't ask.

This year at my school our method of being evaluated has changed.  When we are evaluated, our administrators will be looking to see if our students are "actively engaged" "passively engaged" or "off task."  Ideally, a good teacher shouldn't have any students "off task."  Welp, my student was absolutely off task today.  And I was fully aware, and decided to let it happen.  I guess the question I always wonder is where is the line in teaching.  At what point do I expect the students to show initiative and drive and what point do I step in and make them just do the dang work?  If I let him doodle am I being a lazy teacher?  Or are they mature enough to make their own decisions?

So tell me, What Would You Do?

Related post I wrote last year:  I Let My Students Fail My Class.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Today, October 7, 2014, was a Perfect Day

Today was such a beautiful day here in Utah.  In fact, if I had to choose a prettiest day of the year award, I would have chosen today.  The weather was mid seventies, no wind, clear blue skies and fiery red leaves.  Is it any wonder everyone is in love with fall?

I spent the majority of the day in a training for school.  It was supposed to end at 3:30 and then by some kind of unforseen miracle, they let us go at 2:30.  Don't you love it when something like that happens?  It makes the rest of your day so much better because no matter what the delay is, you're still ahead.  Long line at the grocery store?  No biggie.  I gained an hour today.  Traffic?  Ain't no thang- I should be sitting in a meeting right now!  Extra errand?  No problem- I'm on someone else's time, baby!

When I got home I took Maverick and June for a little walk, and for those 20 minutes everything seemed absolutely right in the world.  Fall will do that to you, you know.  It almost makes me want to start giving away all my money and telling every stranger that I see that I love them.  It's a weird season.  But seriously.  The walk was awesome.  If you live in Utah I recommend you do it tomorrow as the weather is supposed to stay killer through the week.  I'm going on a walk every day this week and you can't stop me!

Also, I never thought this would happen to me, but I'm kind of running out of things to say on my blog.  That's not true, there's lots to say, but only so much that I'm allowed to say on the internet.  So if there's any burning question you ever wanted to ask me or anything you would like me to write about, fire it away in the comments and I'll answer it tomorrow.  Because I know you all sit there wondering about some total blogger-stranger in your free time and all.

And now, giveaway!  These ladies have all pitched in their hard earned cash to give you some extra money for the holidays.  I hope you enter the giveaway and make a couple of new friends because isn't that what blogging's all about?  Giveaway ends week from Wednesday.

Brought to you by...





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Monday, October 06, 2014

Grinding


This week I work four days.  I worked today and normally after a school day I get a day off, but I have to go to an extra training tomorrow, meaning I'll work three days in a row.  I don't think I have realized how much I need those days in between work days to recoup, to regather, to reenergize.  And to get my house and baby and life in order.  Thinking about going into work tomorrow and then going in again on Wednesday makes me want to cry.  How do moms do it with such little babes that work every day?  I give mad props- it is exhausting and a lot of work. All I want to do tomorrow is stay home and fold laundry and cuddle my baby and decorate the house for fall.  When a woman wants to fold laundry, you know there's a problem. Thursday, I keep telling myself.  I just have to make it to Thursday.

Thank you for all of your fabulous comments on yesterday's post about nursing and low milk supply.  I guess it's proof that if you really want to get a group of women to talk, just ask them about breastfeeding.  Notice that no men commented on the post?  I haven't had a chance to respond to your helpful comments yet, but I will hopefully tomorrow.  Eight hour trainings are good for something, right?

And now, I'm off to pump.
And then to shower because I smell like milk.
And then to bed.
5:40 comes so freaking early.


To get you out of your Tuesday grind:

+ Loved this link on using facebook to promote your blog.  I admit, there is so much that I don't know about facebook (and so much they won't tell us about their algorithm!) that I loved these helpful hints.

+ I have toyed with the idea of getting a separate Instagram account for my blog and for my personal life.  Would you ever do that?  Here's great advice on how to juggle multiple ig accounts

+Died of happiness when I read this article on the benefits of reading actual books.  I am printing 130 copies and studying this article with all of my little I-hate-reading! students.  That'll teach em!

This seven layer bean dip is my absolute favorite salty snack and Aubrey nailed the recipe.  If you don't already make this, you need to!

+ I am the worst at thrift store shopping, but this post makes me think there might be hope for me yet.  Who out there is good at it and tell us all your tricks!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Low Milk Supply: HELP!



CAUTION:  If you do not like tales of breastfeeding babes, then this is not the tale for you.  No it is not!

June doesn't mess around when it comes to eating.  From the day she was born she has enjoyed a hearty meal. She's a smart girl- she figured out real quick that one of the best things in life is kicking back and enjoying herself some good grub.

I am nursing June.  I will admit that I wasn't real committed to it beforehand,  but it turned out to not be too much trouble for me or June.  As long as my body could successfully make milk, and as long as June could successfully drink that milk, there didn't seem to be too many reasons not to go ahead with it.  In a way I feel like we kind of fell into breastfeeding.  We didn't choose it so much as it chose us.

About a month after June was born I gave away almost all the formula samples that I had gotten from the hospital.  We wouldn't be needing them!  June was eating like a champ and my body was making more than enough milk to keep her happy.  And away the formula went.

I'm sure you can predict where this story is going.  Two or three weeks ago my milk supply decreased dramatically.  There are a lot of factors that could have played into it.  I have gone back to work every other day.  The days that I work I feed June in between 5:30 and 6:30 am.  I teach two classes and eat lunch before I am able to feed June again about noon.  This means that she needs a feeding before I can see her again.  And so, on my day off I am constantly trying to get ahead of the nursing schedule and pump a little extra here and there so that I have a bottle to send her with on those mornings.  This makes my days at home quite chaotic as June wants every last ounce that I am able to spare, and is really quite a brat about donating her precious milk to future June.  She's selfish like that.

I'm worried that going six hours in the morning every other day without pumping or feeding and then frantically trying to make up for it on my off day has got my milk supply schedule all sorts of confused.  My body doesn't know what it's supposed to be doing.

Another factor contributing to the low milk supply could be that I went back on birth control. Freaking birth control- it's supposed to solve all your problems and instead it creates a bunch of new ones.  I told the nurse I was still nursing, and she said she would give me a pill with a low hormone.  Well, the other night I decided to read all the fine print and what do you know?  Side effect is low milk supply and you should absolutely not be taking while breastfeeding.  Thanks for nothing, nurse!  Needless to say, I will be calling the office in the morning to see about changing up the b.c.  (Always an awkward phone call to make during my prep at school.  I swear I feel like anytime I call my baby doc from school there's an unsuspecting 17 year old boy who walks in mid conversation.)

(Sidenote:  I know people say that breastfeeding in and of itself acts as birth control but I worried that my six hour stretch every other morning and the fact that June will go seven or eight hours at night in between feedings renders my breastfeeding birth control a bit too irregular to be effective.  Or am I still safe to just rely on breastfeeding?  The nurse said not to risk it, but we already figured out just how smart that nurse was.)

I wouldn't stress so much about all of this if June would just down some dang formula every once in awhile.  I've created a total snob, though- she only wants the bonafide stuff straight from her mother's bosom.  She spits it right out, scowls at me and then rolls her eyes like, "Please mom.  You know I don't take that stuff." My biggest fear that she is going to be an insanely picky eater like her dad is coming true before my very eyes. And no, that's not really my biggest fear for my daughter. But it is a fear. And it is real.  Because cooking homemade zucchini sausage soup for your husband and then having him say he'd rather have a $.25 cup of noodles is no fun.  NO FUN I TELL YOU.

A couple of people have suggested that we try mixing formula with the breastmilk so that's what I've started doing on some of my feedings.  June knows though.  She ain't no dummy.  She eyes me down like, "Woman?  You can't trick me!  I know this ain't the real stuff!"  She takes it, but is sure to leave an ounce or so just so that I know of her disdain.  If I'm lucky she spits a bunch of it up all over me- that will show mom not to mix to the golden breastmilk!

Anyway.  I am certainly open to suggestions.  I would love my milk to go back to its previous flows-like-wine state.  June has made it pretty loud and clear that she would like the same. I do plan on calling the doc in the morning and getting the dang birth control situation fixed, (and if you want to tell me in the comments something as personal as what b.c. you were on while you were nursing, I wouldn't object) but I'm worried my milk supply is never going to be what it once was.  Once your supply drops can you get it back up?  Are we doomed forever to a state of endless misery and half-breastmilk-half- formula woe?

Please send help.

But please don't send Dwight.   (And an extra ten points if you know exactly what episode that's from.)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

12 Common Grammar Mistakes Made by Smart Adults




I write this post not to be a pretentious jerk who gets joy out of correcting everyone's innocent grammar mistakes.  The purpose of life is NOT to make us all feel like idiots, remember?  We all goof up with grammar, and I am the last person to go around correcting people's grammar.  I do believe that most of us know the difference with most common grammar mistakes; we are often just in a hurry or don't think through it.  (Twice this week I used the wrong stalk/stock on this blog. TWICE!  The jig's up- I'm just some dummy pretending to be an English teacher!)

I do think, though, that there are a few grammar rules out there that are just confusing or maybe not widely known and because of this lots of us are often using these incorrectly.  The purpose of this post is to clear all those up tricky rules and hopefully make us all feel a bit more confident with our grammar usage.  No time to waste!

1.  THEN/THAN

Than= a comparison
Then= everything else

Example:
I need to do my homework then take the quiz.
Fine then, I don't want to go.
Do you like the salmon better than the steak?

You can remember this because than has an A in it and so does compare

2.  GENERAL POSSESSIVES.
Oh, the dreaded confusing possessives!

Dogs= plural
Dog's= possessive
Dogs'= plural AND possessive

I find that people really freak out when it comes to the apostrophe coming after the s, and I rarely see it used correctly, but the fact is, it is really simple.  Plural and possessive, that's it!

Examples:
I have two dogs.
I can't find my dog's leash.  (Only one dog missing a leash here.)
Both of my dogs' vaccines are scheduled for Monday.  (More than one dog!)

You can also use an apostrophe after the s if the word or name already ends in s.

Example:
Mr. Jones' car was stolen.
(Mr. Jones's car was stolen is also accepted- the grammar gods are so nice, they give us a choice on this one!)

3.  POSSESSIVES- DECADES AND ABBREVIATIONS

I often see an apostrophe added to a decade or abbreviation when it doesn't need to be.  If I am talking about the 1970s then I am talking about more than one year- it is plural.  It does not need an apostrophe, as that would make it possessive.  Same goes for abbreviations.

Examples:
RIGHT:  I love the music of the 1990s.
RIGHT:  I love the music of the '90s. (The apostrophe is used because of the abbreviation)
WRONG:  I love the music of the 1990's.

RIGHT:  I own many CDs.
WRONG:  I own many CD's.  (The CDs are plural, NOT possessive.)

4.  POSSESSIVES- ITS/ IT'S

It's and Its can be very confusing because it is one of the few times when a possessive form of a word DOES NOT have an apostrophe.

It's- contraction for IT IS
Its- possessive

Example:
I don't think it's a good idea to call. (Contraction)
Jealousy reared its ugly head. (Possessive)

5.  POSSESSIVES- WHO'S/ WHOSE

This is another time when the possessive form is without an apostrophe which makes it confusing and easy to mess up.

Who's- contraction for WHO IS
Whose- possessive

Example:
Whose purse is this? (Possessive)
Who's going to pick up the tab? (Contraction)

6.  COMPOUND OR JOINT POSSESSIVES 

When there is more than one person in possession, we only show the possession on the last person.  Every person's name does not need the possessive form.

Example:
RIGHT:  It is my mom and dad's anniversary
WRONG:  It is my mom's and dad's anniversary
RIGHT:  This is Emily, Sarah and Jane's apartment.
WRONG: This is Emily's, Sarah's and Jane's apartment.

An exception to this rule is when you are also talking of yourself.  In that case the first name has the apostrophe and you use my to show first person possessive.

RIGHT:  This is Brad's and my first date.
WRONG:  This is Brad and my first date.
ALSO WRONG:  This is Brad's and I's first date.  (I see I's used often because I don't think most people know what to do in this situation, but I's is never the answer.  IT IS NOT A WORD.)

7.  WHO/ WHOM

I would say the majority of adults get these mixed up just because we've never learned the correct way or someone tried to teach it to us and it was very confusing so we just gave up and decided we didn't care.  Good news is there is a super easy trick:  if the answer to the question or statement  would be him or her, use whom.  If the answer would be he or she, use who.

Example:
Who/whom are you going to prom with?  (I am going with him so I should use whom)
Who/whom was just on the phone?  (She was just on the phone so I should use who)
To who/whom it may concern.  (It concerns him so I should use whom)

RIGHT:  With whom are you going to prom?
WRONG:  Who are you going to prom with?

RIGHT:  Who was just on the phone?
WRONG:  Whom was just on the phone

Also, this is easy to remember because Him ends with m just like whom ends with m.

8.  LAY/ LIE
This one I have to make a concentrated effort to remember every single time I use it.  To me it is the hardest and most confusing grammar rule EVER.

PRESENT TENSE                                                   PAST TENSE
Lay- to put something (or someone) down                Laid- to put something (or someone) down
Lie- to rest                                                             Lay- to rest

The confusion, of course, comes because the present tense of putting something down is the same as the past tense of resting.  Whoever made up this rule is just sick.

I remember the difference between the two words because you always lay tile.  You never lie tile.

Examples:
Present:  When are we going to lay the carpet?
Past:  The carpet was laid yesterday.

Present:  All I want to do is lie down for a few minutes.
Past:  I lay down for three hours yesterday.  (This sounds incorrect which I think is why people mess it up all the time- it just sounds better to say laid.  But it's WRONG!)

I am going to lay myself down. (Correct because you are putting someone down, in this case yourself.)
I am going to lie down.

I laid the book on the counter when I walked in.
I lay down after I heard the terrible news.

9.  AFFECT/ EFFECT

These are some of the most commonly confused words in the English language.  My high school students mess them up constantly, and most adults aren't much better because IT IS SO CONFUSING!  Luckily, there is a pretty easy way to remember it that most people don't know.

AFFECT- VERB
EFFECT- NOUN

If you are clear on the difference between a noun and a verb then that's all you need to know, but for a lot of people it can get pretty confusing once the word is in a sentence to identify if it's a verb or a noun.

A couple of tips to help you identify if it's a verb or noun:
- A verb is the only word in the English language that we conjugate.  That means we can add -ed to the end, -ing to the end of it or we can throw a have or has in front of the word and it still makes sense.  A verb will often have a to in front of it as well.
- If there is an "a" or a "the" in front of the word, it is a noun.

Examples:
I couldn't believe the effect the drugs had on him.  (Here effect is a noun- it has "the" in front of it and it is a thing.)
I couldn't believe how the drugs affected him.  (In this case affected is a verb- it is an action and it can be conjugated- hence the -ed on the end.)
Just what kind of effect were you hoping to have?  (A noun- in this sentence effect is a thing.)
Just how were you hoping to affect him? (A verb- it has a "to" in front of it so that should tip you off that it's a verb.)

Let me know if you have more questions on this one- it can be really tricky but once it's clear in your head, you'll never go back!

10.  GOOD/ WELL

Again, knowing the difference in these two words comes down to knowing what parts of speech they are.  Good is an adjective which means it describes a noun.  Well is an adverb which means it describes a verb. (Or sometimes an adjective or another adverb.)

In layman's terms:
Good- describes things or people
Well- describes actions

Examples:
He plays basketball well.  (Describes plays- an action)
He is a good basketball player. (Describes basketball player- a thing.)
I am good. (Describes I- a person)
I am doing well. (Describes doing- an action.)

To help my students remember this I say that well describes verbs and w and v are right next to each other in the alphabet.

11.  DEFIANTLY/ DEFINITELY

Defiant means boldly resistant or challenging.  Defiantly is the adverb form of it.
Definite means positive, certain or sure.  Definitely is the adverb form of it.

Definitely never ever has an a in it.  Ever.

12.  COULD OF/ COULD HAVE

Could of is not a phrase.  Nor is would of or should of.
Could have is a phrase.

The contraction form of could have is could've which sounds an awful lot like could of, which is why the mistake is made.  

Just to clear this up- COULD OF, WOULD OF, SHOULD OF ARE NEVER RIGHT.

Any that I missed?  Or any grammar questions you have always wondered but never dared ask?  Fire away in the comments and I will do my best to answer.  Also, if you are a lover of good grammar like myself, I would love it if you shared this post.  Let's educate the world and all start speaking correctly!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

8 Tips to Dressing Like a Professional (Without Breaking the Bank!)



One of the hardest things for me when starting my first legit job was finding legit clothes.  Years of college meant my wardrobe was well stocked with great looking jeans, hoodies, and baseball caps.  When it came to dressing professionally, I didn't have a clue where to start.  I was overwhelmed and frustrated- not to mention totally broke.  Was I going to afford a whole new wardrobe?

Luckily, five years later, I have figured it out.  (I think!)   The hardest part about getting a cute, professional wardrobe for me was doing it without going broke in the process.  Sure, J. Crew and Banana Republic have plenty of drool worthy merchandise, but I can never justify spending that much money on my clothes.  I have found the trick is to get a few expensive "staples" and supplement the rest with cheapo skirts and blouses from Forever 21 and Target and call it a day!  Here's how I do it!

CATEGORY ONE:  THE SPLURGE ITEMS
The key to having a great professional wardrobe is having key staples that everything else can rely on.  I am all about saving a buck or two, but there are a few items that you just have to pay a little bit more for.  They will be worth it in the long run, though, as these are the items that last you YEARS and they make the rest of your wardrobe look sharper.

1.  Have three to four pairs of nice dress pants.  I get all of mine from Express.  They're around $80 a pair normally, but you can almost always find a sale to get them cheaper.  Right now Express is giving $30 off if you spend $75, and their pants are also buy one get one 50% off.  Combine the deals and you spend $45 per pair of pants instead of $80.  It's still expensive to me, but it's worth it because the pants are not frumpy, easy to clean, and last forever.  I love the "Columnist" pant- they are almost more of a skinny pant and they give nice shape to your rump and legs.  I also have a few pairs of "Editor" pants, but they flare out too much at the bottom for me.  I ain't tall enough to pull that shiz off.

2.  Invest in one nice white button up shirt:  I paid $50 at Banana Republic for a beautiful white button up my first year of teaching and I have used it ever since.  My only regret is that I didn't get the non wrinkle version- the only thing that ever prevents me from wearing this is I'm too lazy to iron it.  Still, I say it's way worth the $50 as it's a total staple and I use it often.

Favorite white button up on the right- it goes with EVERYTHING.

3.  You should at all times own a black pencil skirt:  I bought mine from Express, and I think I spent about $60 on it.  That was four years ago.  The zipper doesn't go up all the way anymore without sucking in, (oops!) but other than that it is in perfect condition.  I wear this probably at least once a week.  It does not look worn or faded at all even though I've probably washed it 100 times.  Worth the money for sure!
Favorite black pencil skirt on the right!  

CATEGORY TWO:  Items you should have a lot of but not spend as much on:
ONce you've invested in your key staples, it is time to knock yourself out by supplementing with any variety of blouses, skirts, flats, etc.  This is where I add my color and fun- I keep the staples simple and jazz it up with my accents.

4.  Stock up on flats!  (My personal rule- never spend more than $20 a pair):  For most professionals it's pretty hard to wear heels all day, but we still want to look professional. That is why I have about 15 pairs of flats.  Just about every store sells them and you can find them in any color or pattern.  I have a red pair and purple pair that get WAY more use than I would ever think.  Whenever my outfit is in muted colors I wear bright flats and it helps to brighten the whole outfit. My all time favorite place to get flats is called Forever Young.   They have so much variety, the flats run around $20 a pair and I've never seen the store not have a buy one get one half off sale going on, meaning the flats are only $15 each.   If you are in the Utah Valley area there is a store in the University Mall.  (They don't have an online site so I don't know what to tell the rest of you... does anyone know if this is just a Utah store?)

Gap Outlet has great flats (I scored a couple of pairs for $8 each last fall.  You just gotta hit the sales!) and Target can really surprise me with their flat selection as well, although they can be a bit overpriced.  One of my very favorite pairs of shoes is this scrunched nude flat from Target.  They are super comfortable and look great with seriously every outfit in the world.  The icing on the cake is is they are only $17!

5.  If you live in a cold weathered area, invest in tights for the wintertime.  This is a winter necessity for us Utah folk!  I don't always like wearing pants to work, (something about skirts makes me feel like I'm the boss!) but there is no way I'm going bare legged in the winter.  The solution is tights.  My nude fishnets are perfect for any hard-to-match outfit and I have found navy tights to be pretty much essential as well.  I've got black stripes, black fishnets, black eyelets, etc. Bright colored tights can be way fun too, but it's harder for me to figure out colors- I'm always going way too loud with them.  I have a red pair that's just been sitting in my drawer for two months while I figure out how to wear them.

The tight queen is Forever21.  They easily have the best selection and best prices.  Their tights get runs very easily though, so beware.  As soon as you take your shoes off, take your tights off!  Target's tights are a bit more expensive and they have less variety, but they last longer.  And I'm sure you could always spend $30 for a pair of tights at Nordstrom, but I like to keep mine in the $5-8 range.  I'm certainly not going to blow my retirement on tights!

So many tights, so little time!

6.  Don't forget the cardigans!  Again, this is probably more specific to cold weathered places, but I feel like almost any outfit can have a cardigan thrown over it and then if you need to take it off during the day, take it off!  Cardigans are perfect for layering and for when it's 7 degrees outside but in a room with 40 horny seventeen year olds it's 83 degrees.  Gap has great cardigans, although a bit more expensive.  ($30 range) Target usually has cardigans for around $20 but I find they look kind of dingy after three or four months of wear and washing.  (Also, in general my opinion on clothes from Target is that they are not worth the price if not bought on sale.  Target's clothes are cute, but the quality is not great and they charge as much as higher end places like Gap or American Eagle that are generally going to be much better quality.  That's just my two cents- I only shop clothes at Target if they're on sale.)

I have heard the Old Navy has a good supply of cardigans, but I can't vouch for this myself.

Middle cardigan is from J. Crew Outlet.
Right cardigan is from from Gap

7.  Buy cheap skirts.  I know a lot of women aren't crazy about wearing skirts and dresses to work, but I love it.  It makes me feel just a tad bit dressier and it is SO much more comfortable!  Again, the best place for me to pick up cheap skirts is Forever 21.  Most of their skirts are under $10- WOW.  The coral skirt and the turquoise skirt below are Forever 21 picks.  This year they have an incredible selection on any kind of skirt you could want.  (Here and here and here and here and here!)

Left and center skirt are both from Forever 21 and under $10.


8.  Top it all off with a few maxi skirts and dresses. I've just become converted to maxi skirts and dresses within the past year or so, but I can't get enough of them.  Not only are they stylish and professional looking, but they are insanely comfortable.  I could wear them all day!  I like to have a few dresses anyway to kind of round out my wardrobe, and lately any dresses I have been buying have been maxis.  My long black maxi from Downeast Outfitters (middle picture) is one of my all time favorite dresses.


Alright, there you have it!  I know a lot of you are big shoppers so I want to know where you score your best deals- especially for professional type looking clothes.  Tell us all your secrets!