The Life of Bon: April 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I have learned from criticism

Having a blog is weird.

Five days a week I open up my life to the eyes of perfect strangers.  Anyone in world who wants to can read what I think, what I love, what I fear.  Isn't that just about the weirdest, stupidest thing you've ever heard of?  And yet I keep doing it.  Day in and day out, I allow my most private doings to be publicized.

With living a "public" life, comes a certain amount of criticism.  It makes sense that some will disapprove of what I say or think or do and criticize me for it.

There are a couple of lines that I often hear in regards to negative blog comments that I used to believe that I don't anymore. The first line is, "Don't worry about what that person said!  They are just a jealous hater."  I used to find comfort in hearing this, but I don't anymore.  Mostly because it's not true. I don't think that anyone who criticizes is automatically "jealous."  I realized that disregarding any negative comment as just being some "negative hater" didn't allow me to progress or grow at all.  It mostly just fed my own narcissim.  "She doesn't like me?  She's jealous!"  No.  She doesn't like me because I said something offensive, was insensitive in my blog post, or did something I shouldn't have.

The second line that I don't believe anymore is, "If someone doesn't like your blog they should just click out of it!  Why leave a negative comment?  Just go away and don't visit anymore!"  I get that idea to some extent, but at the same time, how am I ever going to improve if no one ever gives me suggestions for improvement?  A huge part of my job as a teacher involves my principal observing my teaching and then giving me critical feedback.  Also known as... criticism!  Shouldn't I welcome criticism in my blogging profession as well?  (Given, my principal is much more kind with his criticism than many blog and gomi commenters.)  I also think there can be people who like many parts of my blog, but are maybe bothered or offended by one aspect of it.  That doesn't mean they should just "go away and never come back", but they are welcome to leave honest feedback that they believe would make them enjoy the blog more.

Of course there are limits.  Not all criticism is healthy, and its crucial to be able to discern between the helpful and the hurtful.  Today I'm going to look at how I have dealt with three different types of criticism 1) The ridiculous criticism  2) The offensive and hurtful criticism and 3) The healthy criticism.

(All criticism that I will be talking about today has come comments that readers leave directly on my blog posts, (This post and this post have lots of mean comments. I also kind of deserved them.)  anonymous comments on a site directed toward blog criticism called getoffmyinternets, (abbreviated from here on out as gomi.) and from friends and family.  These three sources are very different, but they have all allowed me to be a better blogger and even a better person.  The criticism from people who love me is the most helpful.  I know these people genuinely care about me and are sincere and concerned when they give feedback.)



1.  I once wrote a post about how I tricked Greg into letting me cut my hair short.  He likes it long so I gradually cut it shorter and shorter in hopes it wouldn't seem too drastic to him.  An anonymous commenter said about it on gomi,  "And I'm done. I'm not interested in the life of anyone who lets their husband dictate what they can do with their damn hair. Ridiculous."  At first I was hurt by this, but then I realized how little this person knew about my own marriage or the innerworkings of my relationship.  Greg (no offense, babe) dictates very little of what I do.  The comment was absurd and didn't apply.  One nightt my friend, Mandy, was over and she was yelling at the top of her longs in a low, gruff voice "Don't let your husband dictate your damn hair!!!" And we laughed and laughed.

2.  A commenter on gomi once complained that I put a comma in the wrong place.  I laughed.  If that is honestly the worst thing they can think of to complain about, then I guess life is pretty dang good, huh?

3. "Her selfies are seriously unfortunate."  HA!  Ya got me there, I don't take no sexy selfies.  

4. "How does one manage to become an English teacher without ever learning the meaning of the word "fortnight"?"    This is another comment I like to make fun of in stupid voices with my friends.  Usually it's a drawn out British accent, a la Downton Abbey.  "You don't know what fortnight means?!?  My darling, how will you ever get a job?  That is such a useful and common word- oh you must be a true idiot!  What do we do with you?  There's no way you're qualified to teach high school English, why, that's just out of the question!"

5.  A comment about the below picture read:  "this picture is terrifying…I see a woman who is going to eat a baby with a taco salad side and then steal some souls."

My response was to share it with my blog readers and all laugh together.  The comment was hilarious, it deserved a public laughing.  And yes, I will eat your baby if you don't give me my Cafe Rio salad right this second.

1.  "Also, if you really want to rage, read about her mission trip. I'm not religious at all so stories about someone CRYING because the impoverished migrant farmer in Argentina didn't buy your pitch and chose his family and friends over The Mormon Church made me laugh and then cry for humanity."  This comment was extremely hurtful to me.  I poured my heart and soul into my mission..  I don't think any stranger has a right to come in and criticize what I did there or make fun of me for crying while in Argentina.  I don't care if you're religious or not, to me that's just disrespectful.  But no reason to stew on this one.  I had to ignore it and realize that what this person thought of my 18 months in Argentina has no effect on who I am as a person or my life.  Move on.

2.  "I just can't fathom her being a good teacher. The cool teacher that tweets with you and lets you get away with everything? Sure. An actual GOOD teacher who challenges you and helps you grow? I doubt it."  Again, this is the kind of comment that just hurts.  I had to sit and reevaluate for a minute.  It didn't take longer than that minute, though, to realize that the comment wasn't grounded in truth at all.  I don't let my kids get away with everything.  Or anything, for that matter.  I am strict and structured in my classroom.  I watch them like hawks.  I can't say for certainty that I'm successful, but I do try my damndest to challenge them and help them grow.  I do everything I can to keep them engaged.  Students often tell me they enjoy my class and that they learn a lot.  We don't waste time.  I know that I give 100% to my job.  So I can ignore the comment- it has no truth to it.

3.  Some criticism is directed toward my religion or toward Mormons in general.  That is definitely best ignored.  One commenter said something mean about Greg, who certainly never asked to be on my blog.  To me, attacking a blogger's family or religion is disrespectful and tasteless.  BUT.  There's nothing I can do about it.  People are welcome to say whatever tasteless or inappropriate things they feel like, so I have had to learn to just completely ignore comments such as these.


1.  I have had many commenters on my blog, on gomi, and friends and family who have expressed concern over what I have posted about work/ school.  This is what I get the most concern over, and understandably so.  I have posted stuff that was probably not my right to post.    Because of this criticism I have made changes and have started being extremely careful with what I say about school.  I have never used a student's real name in a post, but I realized that this wasn't good enough and I couldn't tell specific stories about specific students.  I used to post pictures of students on my blog. I have since gotten written permission slips for any student pictures I use, and even now I mostly use old pictures of students who have graduated just to be extra careful.  I don't mention coworkers without permission and when I talk about school, I just have to do it in much more vague or sweeping terms.  I do miss being able to really describe what it is like here in this jungle of a high school, but I realized that it was unfair to my students, their parents, and my coworkers when I wrote about them on my blog like that.  So I stopped.  (This line I still struggle with and probably always will...)

2.  "RARELY, do I see Bonnie using happy and great things about her students. It's usually just complaining."  This comment, while initially biting, was extremely helpful to me.  Mostly because I don't think I complain about my students very much, and if I do, I try to do it in a fun, playful way.  But obviously I wasn't coming off that way.  If I am coming across as someone who hates her students and is just always annoyed with them, then I'm not presenting myself accurately.  I don't think one of my students would say this about me, so this is my own fault that I am writing about them in a way that would make others think that that's how I felt about them.  I still joke and make fun of my students a lot, (some of the gold that comes out of their mouths is too good not to!) but I make more of a concentrated effort to show how much I enjoy teaching.  Because I do.  I absolutely love this job and want to convey that in my writing.

3.  One commenter said somewhere that it made her cringe when I called Greg "Hubs".  I thought about it.   So, for a few posts I started referring to Greg as Greg.  I liked it.  It felt more sincere.  So I sent "hubs" to the curb.  Easy enough.

4.  A very helpful comment was from someone who said that I didn't respond to comments very often.  That person was absolutely right.  I am terrible at responding to all of the above: phone calls, texts, emails, comments, ETC.  I hate this about myself and am trying to be better.  As far as the blog comments go, though, I guess I didn't realize that blog commenters would even care if I had responded or not.  Obviously they did.  I definitely still don't respond to all comments, but I have made a concentrated effort to respond to certain posts, especially ones that are more discussion based.  I also always try to make an effort to respond to direct questions.  I have built great relationships from these responses and have been able to much better connect with my audience.  I am so grateful to that one commenter who took the time to tell me that I need to step it up with my responses.  It has made a huge difference for me.

5.  Probably the most helpful criticism has come from friends and family who have been hurt by how I have portrayed them on my blog.  I have had to realize that the way I see something is not how others see something and that I must be very careful in how I talk about the people who are constantly coming in and out of my life.  I try to represnt all people in the story fairly.  I have learned to ask permission before telling certain stories or posting pictures, especially of my friends' kids.  If I talk specifically about marriage or my relationship with Greg, he has asked me to let him read it first.  There have been times he has read something and then told me he wasn't comfortable posting it.  I learned this only after I had hurt him by posting something that wasn't my right to post.  I once had a friend tell me that she felt like I was using her as "blog fodder".  This was hurtful, and while I didn't think I was doing this, I obviously was making her feel that way.  So I stopped.

There's kind of this idea out there that critics just exist to tear other people down, but I don't believe that at all.  It is through healthy criticism that I feel like I have been able to really progress as a writer, blogger, and even as a human being.  Through learning to accept blog criticism, I have been able to be more open to criticism in general.  I try to not let my first response be to get defensive or immediately start explaining myself.  It's not easy, but it gets easier.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.  Any suggestions/ stories you have about dealing with criticism?  And because I am so good at taking all criticism to heart I WILL be replying to all comments on this post.  Huzzah!

(P.S.  If you agree with or like this post I would love it if you would share it.  THANK YOU!)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What did you do TODAY?

TODAY I beat my best friend in tennis.  The wind was a blowing like crazy and I'm pretty sure it was working to my advantage, but still I beat her. I ain't never complained about winning!  Also, it is getting harder and harder to bend over to pick up tennis balls.

TODAY a senior boy unfolded to me the reason why it is easier to be a girl than a boy.  Everyone in his P.E. class apparently thinks he's an idiot because he has no athletic ability.  Well, if he were a girl than he would be treated normally because "everyone just assumes girls have no athletic ability and it's okay."  He said this with a completely straight face.  In front of the entire class of 40 eighteen year olds.  And how does a teacher respond to a thing like that?

TODAY I had to talk to one of my favorite students who plagiarized his most recent paper.  I always hate those conversations.
"Dude.  I can't give you credit for this paper.  You plagiarized it." I said
"Which part of it is plagiarized?" he asked sincerely.
"The entire article."
I guess he had nothing to say to that.

TODAY Greg cooked a frozen pizza and vacuumed the floor while I tried to teach my dog how to stay with a little piece of Italian sausage.  The moment felt perfect.

TODAY was magic in my fourth period.  The discussion was excellent, the students were engaged and curious, everyone was deeply immersed in the book.  It didn't feel like school gets out in a month and it didn't feel like everyone had senioritis.  It was 30 minutes of fourth period bliss.

(And are all these TODAYs jarring your eyes?  I'm doing an experiment to test some things I learned at my writing conference.)

TODAY I wrote fifteen minutes in my book.  If I can write at least fifteen minutes a day then I am still working toward my goal.

TODAY I had a 20 ounce diet Dr. Pepper at lunch and it was divine.

TODAY I had extra traffic on my blog from a guest post I did over on Helene's blog.  Thanks Helene for having me and welcome new friends!

TODAY I've got Kylie telling every married person out there why they should be glad they're married and making every single person realize they're dating life ain't that bad.  Here with the worst dating story of all time is Kyyyyllllllie!

Hey guys! I'm Kylie and I blog over at Kylie Gwen. I'm super excited to get the chance to be here on Bonnie's blog today! I figured I could spend time introducing myself but when I thought about it I realized a disastrous dating story will always be more entertaining. 

I'm sure by now you have all heard of a little app called Tinder. It's basically a newer improved version of "hot or not". Swipe right if you're interested, swipe left if you're not. I'm guilty of using this app, even though it immediately got deleted after it provided me with this gem of a guy. It was back in December. We started talking and I agreed to a date. He seemed normal. Key word being seemed. We had plans to go to dinner and a movie. Even though I'm not a fan of a movie on a first date I decided I had nothing to lose.

This date happened to fall on the biggest snow storm we had had all year. We're talking snowing for hours, 6 inches on the roads, you probably shouldn't go anywhere cause you'll probably die, snow storm. He picked me up and we headed to dinner. I'll be honest, it was one of those dates that was awkward from start to finish. The whole thing was pretty much doomed from the start. We got to dinner and he wasn't super talkative. He wasn't completely quiet but quiet enough that I had to continually come up with conversation topics to the point that it was anything but a naturally flowing conversation. 

We ordered and it wasn't less than 2 minutes later I looked over and saw my aunt, uncle, and cousins across the restaurant. I was actually relieved to see them because it gave me a slight distraction from the impending awkwardness at my table. We got our food and he barely ate any of his sandwich. We're talking he maybe took two bites and I'm sorry but if you're going to put an Applebee's oriental chicken salad in front of this girl, girl's gonna eat. He basically sat there and just stared at me while I downed my salad. Normally, I would've been super self conscious and all but at this point I had kind of already realized that this date was just not happenin'. A few minutes later our waiter came over and told us that someone had paid for our dinner. It was obviously my uncle. My date didn't say two words about it. At. All. It kind of shocked me. We were getting ready to leave and he didn't want to take his practically untouched meal home with him (I'm a big believer in doggy bags haha) and he didn't even think about leaving a tip. I mentioned something about leaving a tip and he just kinda stared at me. I wasn't about to leave without acknowledging the decent service we got so I grabbed cash out of my wallet and left it on the table. End dinner scene. 

We got in the car and I figured we would be on our way to a movie. I asked him what movie we were going to and it was then that he informed me we'd actually just be going to his house to watch a movie (he still lived at home). I was in shock and didn't know what to say because when he asked me out he specifically said we would go see a movie in theaters. He lived across the valley from me which made for a scary drive in the snow and I was sure I was going to die. Part of me was wishing we'd get in a fender bender so that this date could end right then and there. That's how incredibly uncomfortable this date was. Little did I know how much more awkward it would get in the next half hour. 

We got to his parents house and we went into the TV room. His mom and dad were cuddled up on the couch watching the old school Rudolph movie. So what did we do until their movie was over? We stood in the room awkwardly. We're talking 15 minutes of just standing there hovering over his parents. I can't even express the level of awkward at this point in the night. 

Their movie finally got over and they got up and left the room. I asked him what movie we were going to watch and he told me he was super laid back and didn't care and that I should pick. I was trying to be nice and asked his opinion on movies while trying to pick one out. They had a stack of Christmas movies sitting there and I figured this was a good way to go. I instantly snatched them up, started flipping them over, and looking for that microscopic number that told me just how much longer I'd have to be there. Yes, I was basing my decision off of how many minutes the movies were. I was trying to decide quickly and chose How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the one with Jim Carrey. He looked at me and then informed me that, "well, I don't like that movie." So, I picked another Christmas movie. He proceeded to do that to all three movies I picked. I finally told him to decide. You know what he picked?  The Lake House.

Unfortunately the story doesn't end there. It also unfortunately didn't end after he dropped me off that night either. If you're interested in what happened you can check it out here

Monday, April 28, 2014

I went to a writing conference and it was terrifying: A true story.

On Friday I went to a writing conference.

It was not a conference I was paid to go to by my school.  In fact, I had to pay to go to it- 130 big ones!  AND I had to use a personal day.  For a conference! I've lost it!

My sister invited me to go with her back in February.  My sis is very good at doing things that are totally out of the comfort zone of 99% of the population.  She talks to anyone and everyone, starting up conversations with total strangers on the street.  She had a wide variety of friends- one time she invited me and my friends over to Sunday dinner and we were surprised to find that the other dinner guests were the people from Israel who sell lotion at kiosks in the mall.  My sister had made friends with them and invited them over.  I mean, why not?

My sister knows I like writing and has invited me to writing groups and collaborations and all that jazz before.  But mostly I've said no.  Not because I don't have an interest, but because I'm terrified.  If I go to a writing group, then that means that I am actually trying to be a writer.  That makes it harder if I fail, you know.  On the contrary, if I never make a solid effort to be a solid writer than I don't have to feel too stupid when the whole thing doesn't pan out.  Flawless logic.

Obviously this is a real crappy way to live your life- not taking opportunities so that you don't have to tell people that you took the opportunity and sucked at it.  Plus, I have been working on this book since January and I needed a push.  Or some motivation.  Or some fear.  Something.

So I paid the money and signed up.

That was in February.

By the time Thursday night rolled around I was totally regretting the whole thing.  I'm an extrovert, yes, but is there anyone in the world who likes showing up to a conference with hundreds of people they have never met for a skill that they are not at all confident they have?  The night before the big day I was feeling very intimidated, scared, and out of my element.  I already had my personal day for school approved.  I considered just staying home- sleeping in, playing some Mario, treating myself to a little 1:00 ice cream.  It couldn't hurt, right?  I mean, it's just $130 to the drain, I make that much an hour.

Wait.  No I don't.  I make piddly squat.  $130 is hard earned cash.

And so, in the end, I dragged my butt to the conference.  To be totally honest I checked the refund policy and only once I saw it was too late to get a refund did I really commit myself to going.  I'd like to say I went because I was brave, facing my fears, chasing my dream, yada yada yada.  I went because I'm cheap and I couldn't stand the thought of losing that chunk of change.

Let me just tell you this, if you have ever been to a "blogging conference", a writing conference is very different.  A good different too.  I showed up in yoga pants and a hoodie because I wanted to be pretty incognito.  And guess what? I was pretty much over dressed. People were in jeans and sneakers, over sized T shirts, and mismatching socks.  Anything went.  Some people, were dressed extremely well., but no one really seemed much to care what anyone else was wearing. I didn't see any red lipstick or top knots or bubble necklaces, I promise you that.  No, these were not bloggers.  (DISCLAIMER:  I love bloggers.  But sometimes I feel very intimidated by them in large doses.  So many bloggers!  So much cuteness!  So much lipstick and puppies and DSLRs!  It can just be very overwhelming.  That's all.)

The day ended up being fantastic- it surpassed my wildest hopes for the day.  Within 20 minutes I realized I had nothing at all to be worried about.  The day consisted of six hour long classes on a variety of subjects as well as lunch and snack.  Yea for snack time! I was supposed to stay Friday night for the nice sit down dinner and the keynote speaker (Orson Scott Card!) but my cousin was getting married, so I booked it after the classes.

Still.  I learned so much.  So much! I felt inspired and motivated and like my brain was just soaking in all this knowledge of the terrific writers around me.  These are people who are successful in their field, writers who have been published, agents who accept or reject thousands of books a year.  I wondered a million times why I haven't done this sooner. There was an energy and electricity about the conference.  It was fun to be surrounded by like minded people.  To be honest with you, I'm usually really embarrassed to tell people I'm writing a book.  Probably the whole fear of failure thing.  But here it wasn't embarrassing- it was acceptable, it was exciting.  People were open, warm, inviting.  Everyone there was doing the same crazy thing I was and I guess I just liked being surrounded by the craziness.

Now!  For some things I learned!  Writing lessons and some life lessons too, because everyone needs lessons on life!

  • Readers like to feel smart.  I understood this somewhere in my brain, but never really put it together like that.  That's why I hated Divergent.  The writer was too obvious and I felt like she was talking down to me, like she didn't trust me to figure it out on my own.  I didn't feel smart.
  • Exclamation marks and caps locks are jarring on the eyes.  Don't use them.  (BUT I AM STILL GOING TO USE THEM IN MY BLOG POSTS!)  (See.  Point proven.  Jarring.)
  • Characters are better if they are plagued with discomfort, problems, and inner demons.  Make them struggle throughout the entire book.
  • Why agents stop reading (and ultimately reject) a manuscript:
    • Too much internal dialogue
    • Too many typos
    • Not enough physical context
    • Too much information in the first chapter/ too heavy on logistics
    • Not hooky enough
    • Nothing special about it
    • Borders on cliche
    • Not enough dramatization
    • Characters not likable or redeemable.
  • Do research on agents- find someone who is a good fit for you .
  • Be willing to be vulnerable and open to critique.  Don't jump to explain right away, listen to suggestions.  (Also great rule for blogging!)
  • Don't worry so much about being right, but worry about getting it right.(Also feels like a great life rule.) 
  • Writers learn by intimidating writers they admire.  It's not cheating.
  • When reading, put sticky notes on the pages where you had an emotional response and mark the passage.  Then go back and analyze it- what about the writing caused you to react that way?  Mimic that writing.
  • Tighten your writing- use specific nouns and beware of pronouns.  Use verbs, but go easy on the adverbs.  Instead, find a better verb.  Every word needs to be doing work.  Brevity is the soul of good writing.
  • When writing dialogue, just use said.  Don't use mutter, whispered, shouted, etc.  These words draw the reader away from the conversation and distract. (I thought this was especially interesting.  I have never thought about it, but it makes sense.)
  • Tell stories out loud to becomes a better writer- notice your natural pauses and you convey meaning.
  • Don't treat your protagonist as an emperor- love all your characters equally.  Secondary characters can't exist only to serve the protagonist.
  • Your book is about a group of people, not just one person- good writers always use minor characters well.
  • Make your characters REAL.  Ernest Hemingway-  “Don't let yourself slip and get in any perfect characters... keep them people, people, people, and don't let them get to be symbols.”
That's a wrap!  I went out of my comfort zone and I lived to tell the tale!

Wanna go to the next writing conference with me?  If I haven't convinced you yet, maybe this will do it for you- they give you soda all day long.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A success story.

Do you like success stories?  Cuz I got one for you.

Ever since I made the decision to work part time next year, I have been praying and hoping that a great opportunity would come up for Greg.  Right now he works in the day with adults with special needs, and at night you can find him at one theater or another performing.  A few months ago he was in The Foreigner.  Now it's Peter Pan. 

While both his "day job" and his "night job" pay, neither pay extremely well.  And his night job is not exactly steady.  He's usually in a show, but not always.  Sometimes there is a lull for a few months.   Sometimes he doesn't get cast. The money comes when it comes, but it is impossible to plan when his next paycheck will come or how much it will be.

Greg has always wanted two things in a career:

1) To do what he loves.
2) To be able to provide for a family.

Pretty basic, right?  The problem is that what Greg loves is theater and doing theater and providing for a family almost seems to be a paradox.  We have wondered countless times if it is really possible to do both.  Last year around this time we nixed our decision to go to California and chase the big time acting dream.  It didn't feel right at all, and only when we decided to stay here did we feel relief and peace that had been evading us for months.

So he found a daytime job and continued to build his resume with local plays and commercials.

With a baby on the way, our plans changed a bit.   Our hope for next year was to try to find a theater teaching job for Greg.  There were two big problems with our plan.  Problem #1 is that Greg doesn't have a teaching license.  So, he figured out the process to do an ARL (alternate route to licensure), which would allow him to start working full time and work on obtaining his teaching certificate at night.  It's not an easy process, but it's doable.

Problem #2 is that there are very few theater jobs that open up each year.  There is typically one theater teacher per school.  These teachers usually stay decades at their schools- they build up an entire program.  As teaching jobs have opened up this spring, Greg and I have looked anxiously for any theater teaching jobs.  As of a few weeks ago there had been two positions that opened up- one full time position two hours north of where we live and one 2/3s position about half an hour south.  It was a frustrating process.

In the middle of all of this, I decided to go part time next year.  Naturally, there was a huge part of me that worried.  Would we be able to make ends meet without my ultra steady paycheck coming in?  Any time I felt this stress and nervousness, though, I remembered how I felt when I told my principal I wanted to go part time and how I felt when I decided to marry Greg.  Both times I felt incredible peace and joy- signals to me that I was making the right choice.

So I have tried my best to not stress and to put it in Greg's hands and God's hands.  The two of them could figure it out.

That's not to say there weren't stresses.  The night of our anniversary, for example, when Greg was trying to attach his transcripts to a teaching application.  Stress, tension and frustration was at an all time high.  We were celebrating three years of marriage, and I was certain we would never see four.

A few weeks ago, I casually scrolled through the new jobs that the school district I work for had opened up for next fall.  There, at the end of the list of job openings was a full time theater position.  I clicked on the link to see where.  My eyes about dang near popped out of my head to read that the position was at my very own school.

I thought for sure it was a mistake.  This is the theater teacher's first year here.  There was no way he would be leaving.  He'd be here another 20 or 30 years for sure!  As soon as lunch was over I hurried down to find my principal.  He told me there was, indeed, an opening.  I asked him if they had anyone in mind for the position already.  He said no, the job was totally open.  I told him my husband was interested.  He said to make sure Greg did the screening interview with the district so that his name could be added to the pool of candidates.  (In my school district all teaching candidates must complete a screening interview at the district before they can apply for individual jobs at the school.)

In the middle of all of this we were waiting for the state of Utah to send Greg his official letter of acceptance to do the alternate route to licensure.  Without this letter the school district wouldn't even allow Greg to do the screening interview.  Every day we checked the mail.  It didn't come.  It didn't come.  It didn't come.

These were stressful days.  Days of quiet panic.  Every day that the letter wasn't in the mail was one more day that got away from us, lessening the likelihood that Greg would be able to apply for the job.

Finally, on a Friday, Greg got the letter.  He scheduled his screening interview for the soonest possible time- the next Friday.  The Wednesday before Greg's screening interview I looked at the job posting online again.  My heart sunk to see that all names had already been sent to the principal for consideration and the open window to apply was closed.

I panicked.  I hurried down to find my principal.  It was almost 4:00.  No one was in the office.

The next morning, Thursday, I rushed down as soon as I got to work.  Principal wasn't in his office. "Where's the principal?" I asked anyone who would listen.

"He's out for the rest of the week."  Someone answered.

I almost started crying.  Right then and there at 7:20 in the morning in the middle of a busy high school office.  Our chances were slipping right out of our fingers.

On my way back to my room I saw my favorite vice principal in her office.  I decided to see if she knew anything.

"When are you doing interviews for the theater teaching position?" I asked.
"We already have."
"Seriously?"  There couldn't have been a worse answer
"Yes.  Yesterday.  We interviewed three people.  Why?"
"My husband is trying to apply for that job!  I told the principal about it!  His screening interview is tomorrow!"

I think my vice principal could see my utter panic.  That I was on the verge of some kind of awful pregnancy breakdown.  She wrote down some notes, said she would call the principal to see if they had already chosen the new teacher, and get back to me.  I tried my best to remain calm, but I was a hot mess.  The window on our very best possibility for a job was slowly, but surely closing.  Right in front of my very eyes.

She emailed me a few hours later, "Have Greg send me his resume and tell him to go ahead and do his screening interview on Friday."  I didn't know what this meant, but I replied instantly. "Yes ma'am."

I called Greg and told him during his lunch break he was going to have to fly home and send a copy of his resume to the vice principal.  He flew.

Greg called his top reference that afternoon to tell her she may be getting a call from a high school.  She said they'd already called.

By that evening my vice principal called him and scheduled an interview for the next Monday.

On Friday, he nailed his screening interview.

The window was closing, but it wasn't closed.  Not yet.

Sunday the nerves started kicking in for both of us.  We told very few people about the interview.  I told my mom, he told his parents, and other than that we were kind of just afraid to breathe.  As if any slight breath would forever knock over our carefully stacked blocks.

Sunday night I asked Greg every question I can ever remember being asked in an interview, "How do you help your students who are failing?"  "What are your best classroom management techniques?" "What do you do to engage your students who don't care?" "How do you use technology in the classroom?" "In what ways do you collaborate with your peers?"  We went over questions until we both felt sick, and so we put it in God's hands and watched Netflix the rest of the night.

Monday I was a nervous wreck at school.  His interview was at 2:30.  I didn't breathe a word about it to anyone at school.  I watched the clock.  I tried to participate in the lunch conversation with my fellow teachers.  I got totally lost in the book I am reading with my seniors to not over think the damn interview.

Greg popped in my class to say hi at about 2:10.  That boy is always early for big events.  He watched me teach for a few minutes and then snuck out to go to his interview.

When it was all said and done, about 3:00 he came back up to my room.  By that point the last bell had rung and I was putting in grades.  Greg looked beyond relieved.  He told me that he felt he had done as well as he possibly could have- that if he didn't get a job it wasn't because he hadn't accurately presented himself.  It was out of our hands now. Greg said he'd know by Wednesday at the earliest, Friday at the latest if he got the job or not.

And so the waiting commenced.

Tuesday I couldn't help it- I checked my phone every 20 minutes to see if Greg had called.  I knew he would call me as soon as he heard anything.  I also knew it was very unlikely that he would hear back today.  No calls.  No texts.

About 3:00 Greg called me on his way to his afternoon shift.  Still no word yet, but that was to be expected.

At 3:20 I was driving home when Greg called again.  He never calls 20 minutes apart unless there is a special reason.

"Greg?"  I answered.
"What's up?"
"I got the job!"

There was shock and excitement and relief but mostly immense gratitude.  An overwhelming sense of gratitude.  Mostly we can hardly believe it.

It is overwhelming for me to think about how everything came together so perfectly.  It was the opposite of a perfect storm- everything came together just right to allow Greg the job. Had one element been missing, he wouldn't have gotten the position.  The letter came in the nick of time.  I happened to check the posting online the day it closed and talked to my vice principal before the job was filled.  Greg's screening interview was already scheduled for that exact same week.  Not to mention that my vice principal worked many years at the school that Greg graduated from...  she worked closely with one of Greg's huge mentors and teachers- a mentor who certainly gave Greg a positive referral and had a huge hand in him getting the job.

And so, that is where you will find Greg and me next year.  He'll be at one end of the high school every day of the week practicing monologues and putting on plays.  Every other day I'll be at the other end, grading essays and analyzing The Scarlet Letter.  On those days our baby girl will be downstairs in the daycare.  We couldn't have asked for a better situation for our little growing family.

I don't know how long Greg will teach.  He might love it and stay forever.  Or in five years he might decide he wants to do grad school.  Maybe we'll end up in California after all. The future is totally open.  Above all we are beyond blessed and beyond grateful.  God is certainly looking out for us.

Life is good!  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

21 things parents should know about their teenagers

I don't have kids of my own and I don't profess to know a thing about how extremely difficult it is to raise them.  But I do teach kids.  180 of them, in fact.  I teach English in a suburban high school in Utah- five senior classes and one junior classes.  Every day I interact with hundreds of teenagers- your children.  I talk to them, I read their papers, I get to know them all.  By the end of the year I am shedding tears as I say goodbye to them- over the nine months we have connected and bonded, and I feel like I am saying goodbye to my own kids.

I am finishing my fourth year of this gig, and I don't see myself quitting anytime soon.  I adore these teenagers.  They may be a bit of an enigma, but I think after four years I have learned a few things about teenagers and the way they work.

Sometimes parents will ask me for advice.  They'll come in harried looking and frustrated to parent teacher conference or they'll write me a frantic email.  "Ben doesn't open up with us, I don't know how to help him- anything you think I should do?"  or "Have you noticed John has been moody and sad lately?  Do you know why?"  They have questions about their children, and they think that because I see them outside the home that I may know something about their children that they don't.

Maybe I do.  And maybe I don't. Who's to say?  I do know that many are willing to tell me things or open up to me in ways that they might not be willing to with their parents.  I don't have the power to ground them for the weekend, after all.  Plus, I have the added benefit of being younger than 40- a fact that certainly makes me a much more likely target for their tales of worry and woe.  I observe a lot of students and their parents and the way they interact.  I hear about a lot of home situations... kids fill up notebooks telling me all about their life experiences.  And so, I never feel totally qualified to answer parents' questions about their teenagers, but I have started to catch on to a few things.  With the huge disclaimer that I have never myself raised a child, I give you tonight what parents should know about their teenagers.  If I were a parent to a teenager, these are the things I would want my child's teacher to tell me.

1.  Teenagers are not nearly as "bad" as you think they are.  As a whole they are kind, loving, funny, vulnerable, quirky, scared, anxious, and very very sweet.  They are likely not up to half of the mischief you think they are.
2.  Teenagers are seeking your approval and your love.  More than anything, they want you to be proud of them.
3.  Teenagers lie because they don't want to disappoint you.  They don't want to ruin their relationship with you and are afraid if they tell you the truth it will damage the relationship you have.  They aren't trying to be deceitful, they are trying to protect their relationship with you.  (Read Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman for more on the study of why teenagers lie.  It's fascinating.)
4.  Teenagers want to go dinner with you or catch a movie with you or just "hang out" with you.  They want to spend time with you even though they would never tell you that.
5.  Teenagers want you to ask them questions about their lives.  They might not open up on their own, but with a little prodding, there is likely so much that they want you to know.  More than you realize, they crave a close relationship with their parents.
6.  Teenagers are smart.  And manipulative.  Even when they don't realize it, they are often subconsciously trying to manipulate adults.  Give them clear limits and boundaries and don't let them take advantage of you- that is the only way they can really thrive.
7.  It's okay for your teenagers to be bored.  Teach them how to deal with boredom and how to entertain themselves.  It's also okay for them to be frustrated.  You don't have to rescue them from all of their bad experiences.
8.  It's okay for your teenager to go without his or her cell phone.  Set limits on it (Turn off texting after a certain time at night) and even make him help pay the bill!  Have no texting zones like the dinner table or the family car so they learn how to hold conversations without checking their phone every two minutes.
9.  When a teacher calls home because of a problem with your teenager, take the teacher's side.  Nine times out of ten, the teacher is in the right and the teenager needs to know that you are not going to save him from every situation.
10.  Teenagers are like babies- if they are grumpy, it is likely because they are hungry or tired.  Feed them dinner and make them take a nap and they will likely be much more reasonable.
11.  Teenagers are mostly motivated by three things: money, food, and the opposite sex.  Use that to your advantage.
12.  Teenagers want to be seen as adults, even though they're not quite ready for that responsibility.  Their two greatest needs are 1) Love and 2) Freedom- in that order.  Give them as much freedom as you can (within clear limits, of course) and let them have a voice and a say.  A lot of the times they just want to be heard.
13.  Not all teenagers are having sex and getting high on the weekends.
14.  Some are.  But that doesn't mean they're not great kids.
15.  Teach your teenager how to have a conversation with an adult and how to be polite to adults and other authority figures.  This will get him further in life than any tutoring service or extra curricular activity.
16.  Teenagers are moody.  If your teenager is lashing out at you today that means nothing about how he will treat you tomorrow.  Most of the time, it has nothing to do with you.
17.  Don't let your teenager come home, go into his room with the door closed, and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening on his computer.  Just don't.
18.  I can tell the way you let your child talk to you by the way he talks to me.  Don't let your teenager call you stupid or any other derogatory name.   It is amazing how quickly I can tell which parents put up with demeaning talk and bad attitudes from their children.  Countless times I have had a student be rude, sassy, or disrespectful to me only to later see him interacting with his parent in the same way.  Demand respect and give it back.
19.  You don't have to be the cool mom or cool dad.  Just be a parent who will listen to their teenager.
20.  Your teenager is likely the busiest and most stressed he has ever been in his life.  He is juggling more than ever before.  Be patient, loving, and kind with him and validate his stresses.
21.  Your teenager adores you.  He only wants the same from you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bon's Book club: NIGHT CIRCUS

Welcome to April book club, chicas!  (All book club details can be found here.)

 (If you link up I'd love you to slap this image on your post somewhere.  Please and thank you!)

2014 Book Club Schedule:

January: The Husband's Secret by Liane Mortiary (January 30)  Discussion here.
February:  I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (February 27) Discussion here.
March: Divergent by Veronica Roth (March 27) Discussion here
April:  Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern (April 24)
May:  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (May 29)
June:  Matilda by Roald Dahl (June 26)
July:  In Cold Blood  by Truman Capote (July 24)
August:  Brain on Fire:  My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (August 28)
September:  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (September 25)
October:  Z by Therese Ann Fowler (October 23)
November:  Wonder by R.J. Palacio (November 20)
December: My Story by Elizabeth Smart (December 30)

You are welcome to answer any or all of these questions.  (Or none of them.  Do whatever you want, people.  I'm not your English teacher!)  I've decided to limit questions for the book to five questions each month- that way it can get our brains moving without being too overwhelming or burdensome.  I answer some of the questions below, not all of them, and I jump around and do whatever I please.  Feel free to follow suit.

+ Who is your favorite character in the novel and why?
+ What about the main romantic relationship (Celia and Marco) did you like or not like?
+ Did you like the writing style?  Why or why not?
+ What is the significance of Celia's and Marco's relationships with their father figures? (Hector and Alexander)  In what ways are these relationships healthy or unhealthy?
+ Anything else you want to say, add, admit, confess?  Now's your time to shine!

You guys I don't know what's wrong with me.  I haven't loved any of the books we have read for book club in 2014. I'm sorry! I had such high hopes for Night Circus and went in wanting so badly to like it.  But I just couldn't.  I know a lot of you love it, and I feel like I need to sincerely apologize to you for not liking it.  I am starting to feel like this book club is one big epic fail.  Let's see, I tell you all I love to read, make you all read a bunch of books with me, and then tell you why I hate every single book we read.  I'm the worst!

WRITING STYLE There were some things I did like about the book, so let's start with those.  I think Morgenstern is a terrific writer.  It definitely blew the writing in Divergent or I am Malala out of the water.  The writing was lyrical and at some points even felt like poetry.  It felt good to read something again that was truly well written.

That being said, the pace was SO slow.  While I did enjoy her writing, there were so many things she wrote about that were just totally unnecessary to me.  I felt like the reading got bogged down in these tiny details that didn't matter.  Sometimes I felt like Morgenstern was trying so hard to write beautifully that she was sacrificing plot.  The pace was terribly off... it moved so slowly with very few events actually happening.  

Sometimes I tease my students that they can't read anything if it's not more than 160 characters.  We live in a twitter universe where everything has to be condensed, shortened, easily digestible.  So part of me feels really bad for wanting this book to move quicker- like maybe I should've just slowed down and enjoyed it and just let all that beautiful imagery seep into my bones.  But I couldn't do it.  There just wasn't enough of a plot behind it to keep me really interested so I ended up skimming parts with too much detail.

BAILEY  The other part of the plot I really liked was Bailey.  Maybe he was the only part of the book I really understood?  With all the other characters I felt like I was constantly supposed to be understanding all these nuances and balancing tricks of theirs, but Bailey was just a normal kid.  I loved loved what Celia said at the end when she asks Bailey to take the circus: "You're not destined or chosen... You're in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done.  Sometimes that's enough."  I guess I have grown a bit weary of books and movies where someone is "chosen" and must live up to his destiny...  I like the idea that so much about greatness is just being where you need to be and caring enough to get it done.  I suppose it takes away some of the "magic" of being great, but to me it makes it more real because it's obtainable for anyone.  It becomes more a matter of willingness and choice, not predestination.  I especially liked the bit about him caring enough to do it.  It made me think about how many great opportunities I can have and will have in my life simply by caring enough to act.

CELIA + MARCO  I suppose I'm a hopeless romantic, and I always love a good love story.  This one just didn't do it for me.  The kiss in the ballroom was stunning, but that was really the only thing that really impressed me.  The relationship didn't feel developed enough for me to care who won in the end.  It was rushed and sloppy.

TOO VAGUE  I will be the first to admit that I have a hard time reading science fiction or fantasy novels.  I am too much of a realist, so I take all of the fun out of those books.  I can enjoy fantasy however, if it is extremely well done.  For me to enjoy fantasy, there still has to be rules within the fantasy and everything has to make sense, even in a world that is impossible.  For example, Harry Potter.  Everything in that book makes sense.  There is a system for everything.  There are spells and potions, and you have to learn the spells and there's a school you go to to learn spells.  It isn't just random, unexplained magic.  Which is what I felt like all the magic in this book was.  Why could Poppet erase Chandresh's memory at the end of the book?  Never explained it.  Why was Marco able to make some random bonfire that somehow controlled the whole circus?  Never explained it.  Why did Isobel keep the balance of the circus going- what was her role in all of it?  Never explained it.  This was beyond frustrating to me, to the point where I wanted to quit.  I don't think an author should be able to get away with making up a world that is not clearly explained to us.

Another thing that drove me crazy was how she'd use descriptors to describe people instead of their name.  "The man in the grey suit" "The girl with the red hair" "The illusionist."  For pages and pages she would do this, as if adding some great mystery by not saying their name. Mostly it just confused me as there were already a lot of names to remember and I was having a hard time keeping straight in my head who was who without having to remember their stupid descriptor phrase.

"THE GAME" I felt the same way with "the game" as I did with the book in general- just way too vague. I didn't even know what I was reading about.  There was no clearly explained moves, no clearly explained rules, etc.  I get that the game was supposed to be like that, but to me that was a weak choice on the author's part.  It didn't give readers something concrete enough to grasp on to.  The entire time I was reading I felt like I was frantically trying to grasp onto this very hazy idea, never clearly seeing or understanding where it was going.  That is a very frustrating way to read a book.

Several times during the book someone asks for an explanation of the game.  When Bailey asks Tsukiko she replies, "That is somewhat difficult to explain.  It is a long and complicated story."  I felt like this was the answer that was given for the entirety of the book!  An author can only get away with that for so long before she has to explain to readers what is going on.  I never really felt like Morgenstern did this.  Part of me wonders if she herself knows what the game is or what it actually entails.  What are the moves?  Suddenly there's an ice garden?  That's a move?  The game doesn't end until someone dies?  How is someone going to die by making ice gardens or a carousel?  And what if the two contenders just refuse to play?  It never explained why they were forced to do the game... Why couldn't they just stay in the circus as lovers and ignore it?  Couldn't they just live out their lives (Which are longer than normal lives?  They don't age?  It never explained this either.) as normal and forget about the contest?

OTHER UNEXPLAINED THINGS  What did Isobel have to do with anything?  I kept trying to figure out why she was in the story, and it never made sense to me.  She had something to do with the "balance" of the circus, but what, I have no idea.  What was Marco always writing down in his books?  Why did Celia have control of the circus at the end of the book... everything was weighing on her?  Did Celia and Marco end up as ghosts then?  Trapped inside the circus?

Okay, I am seriously sorry.  I wish I liked this book more, and I would love to hear your reasons why you enjoyed the book, or what you found enchanting or magical about it.  (It's gotten terrific reviews, so I'm clearly in the minority.)  I don't know why I can't just sit down and enjoy a book lately.  I need to shoo my inner critic away because I'm obviously way too harsh.  Either that, or I need to start making money from being a book reviewer.

Can't wait to read your comments!  Leave them below and if you wrote your own post make sure to link up!  I am looking forward to reading all the reasons why you loved this book! :)

The stuff of insanity and frenzy.

Announcement #1:  I am accepting sponsorships for May.  Here's the info on it.  
Email me at if you are interested.

Announcement #2:  Book club tomorrow!  For the how and what of book club go here.
We will be discussing The Night Circus.

Life has been a bit insane this week.

Actually.  Totally insane.

I got home from California Saturday night and ever since it has been a mad dash of run run run RUN.  Sunday we did Easter with Greg's family, Monday was big and important stuff that I can't quite talk about yet, (oh, don't you love it when bloggers are so ultra vague?!), yesterday was more important stuff in addition to the opening of Greg's show Peter Pan.  I haven't gotten to bed before midnight once, I haven't had time to grocery shop, fold laundry, or even paint my nails, oh my!

Add to this that I am back in the teaching saddle.  My student teacher finished up the day before spring break, and here I am gladly taking the reins again. I love teaching. I am so happy to be back. It is thrilling to be in front of the kids again and teach and laugh and joke.

But. My teaching stamina isn't up.  I've been used to a work schedule that consisted of hours of leisurely reading and writing in the teacher's lounge, observing someone else teach, milling about the hallways, and making frequent stops in the main office to make sure the secretaries are all alive and well.  All of a sudden I'm back to the crazy and frantic pace of teaching- preparing lessons for 90 minute class periods, negotiating with students over grades, putting on a constant horse and pony show to try to keep all forty kiddos in a class period engaged.  I feel like it's the first week of school again and I'm totally exhausted.

Oh!  And then there's this. Friday is a writing conference I am trying desperately to get a manuscript together for.  It's Greg's story idea and it's a brilliant plot, I just don't know if my writing does it justice.  Writing is an arduous and tedious process.  I've got about 55,000 words, but the story is nowhere close to finished or edited.  It's a hot mess and right now I don't want to touch it with a ten foot pole.

And where does this little blog fit into this crazy scheme of things?  It doesn't really.  It has gotten totally pushed to the wayside- I'm barely pushing out mediocre posts, stamping publish on them, and then continuing my sprint toward some unknown destination.  Emails are going unanswered in my inbox!  I keep forgetting to Instagram selfies!  Sometimes when big things are going on in my life, I just have to be quiet on the internet.  Let myself figure it out first before I throw it to a pack of internet wolves.  (Wow!  I just called y'all wolves!  How do you feel about that?!?)

I guess I just wanted to thank you for being patient with me while my life gets crazy around me.  It's a good crazy, it's a happy crazy, but it is crazy.  Thanks for continuing to read, for slogging through mediocre posts, waiting for a good one.  Thanks for showing up here day after day.  It means more to me than you know.  And there are more good posts to come.  I promise you that.

Now.  I've got to finish planning a lesson and make some copies.   Here are two other ladies you should be reading in the meantime. (P.S.  I am trying to make my group posts as "readable" as possible.  Please let me know in the comments if the new format of the posts makes you more or less likely to read.  Thanks!)

Blog strengths (according to her):  Blogs consistently, makes friends and connections through blogging

Why I love her: Aubrey is right on the connections thing- she is the queen of quality blog relationships.  She knows everybody!  She is a good friend of mine, (met through blogging!) and she constantly pushes me to get out of my blogging shell and meet more people.  Stop over at her blog to say hi and before you know it, you'll have yourself a lifetime friend.

Don't miss these posts:  Is Online Dating the same as making friends from blogging?, "Do you ever want to get married?", What would you do with a yard of fabric?

Also found here:  Bloglovin// Twitter

Blog strengths (according to her): Finding humor in all situations, sharing things that make her laugh, contributing to the blogging community, having a space of constant joy 

Why I love her: Erica is a fellow high school English teacher so of course, I already feel a kinship with her.  Her posts are high quality- I never get that awful feeling that she just threw some post up without thinking much about it.  She is hilarious and creative and you can tell puts a lot of time and effort into making her blog such a positive place on the internet.

Also found here: Twitter// Instagram

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Popsicles and Beaches- in other words how to make a great big mess.

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Wet-Nap but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #showusyourmess

One of my favorite parts about visiting Akasha in California was hanging out with her kids.  They're seriously adorable.  And they let me hold them!  Most kids nowadays are very picky with who they will let hold them- even some of my nieces and nephews make me pretty much do backflips before they'll give me the time of day or sit in my lap.  But Akasha's kids seemed to give me a couple of glances, shrug their shoulders and say, "Yah.  She'll do."  I had so much fun playing with them and laughing with them and cuddling them.  It definitely made me excited for my own little girl to get here.

Wednesday was filled with angst and stress over the car accident.  Thursday was waiting around for a rental car and a cloudy day.  But Friday!  Friday was perfect!  Sunny and beautiful and we were determined to spend the whole darn afternoon with the kids at the beach.  Who can resist a Friday at the beach?  (Also this beach does this amazing thing to the kids where it entertained them for HOURS.  No complaining, no whining, just happy kiddos playing in the sand and water. It was magical!)

We knew we'd be spending a bit of time at the beach on Friday, so we decided to grab some treats beforehand.  Our treat of choice- Popsicles of course! It was hot and sunny, and what sounds better at the beach than Popsicles?  We made a quick stop at Wal-mart for the cold treat and some Wet-Nap wipes too because something told us the Popsicles could make a mess...  

As you can see, the mess was pretty much inevitable.  ENTER:  Super hero, Wet-Nap!

Having Wet-Nap hand wipes on hand took all of the stress away from snack time.  We didn't care at all if the kids had Popsicle juice running down their arms (and they did!) because we knew it'd be such easy clean up.  I especially loved it because we could just give the wipes to the kids, and they cleaned themselves up (I'm all about self sufficiency here, people.)  Even Madi, who's not yet two, could clean off her own little hands and mouth.  There could not have been or easier or simpler way to do treats at the beach.  No stress, no mess.

Wet-Nap hand wipes come in a canister to carry with you in your car or stroller, or if you want to just throw a few individually wrapped wipes in your purse, you can get the packettes.  Like I said, it could not be easier to keep kids cleaned up!  Right now, Wal-mart has a coupon too, for any Wet-Nap hand wipes while supplies last.  (They only cost $2 to begin with, and with the coupon for $.55 off- you are getting a steal!  Espeically if you double your coupon on Tuesdays... does your Wal-mart do that too?)  CLICK HERE FOR COUPON!

Thank you so much to Pollinate and Wet-Nap for sponsoring this post and allowing me a stress free and guilt free afternoon at the beach.  Life is good!