Life Choices and Teaching

I think I should have been an art teacher. Okay, besides the not having ever even taken an art class thing. Art teachers have a reputation. They are supposed to be moody, flighty and downright weird sometimes.

As a math teacher, I have expectations to live up to. Nobody expects math teachers to be bored some days. Math teachers are supposed to be oddly in love with teaching- like English and history teachers.  They are supposed to live for this crap. I mean, what math teacher did you ever know who didn’t get up ready to come to work every day to crush kids’ dreams?

Don’t get me wrong, I love math, but having to try to teach it to snot nosed kids who don’t give a damn about what I’m teaching or why something like math could even be important to them is a total pain in the butt some days. I like doing math. I like factoring quadratics. I like a challenging SAT practice problem. It’s like a puzzle but with numbers.

But trying to be super happy about getting up at 5:30 every morning to deal with teenagers who would much rather be face-timing with friends in other classes? Seriously? If I taught art, I could just pretend to have a meltdown and then play with water colors at my desk while the kids were left to fend for themselves on whatever project I had assigned. I totally should have taught art. It’s beside the point that I don’t know anything about oil painting, or paper mache or pretty much anything except for the little bit of water color painting I picked up on YouTube. I mean seriously, I could just assign them YouTube videos to watch and then give them the tools and tell them to have at it.

Most days I feel like a closet math-lover. The kids don’t understand why I get so excited about new calculators (especially since I don’t let them use calculators very often), but how could you not be excited when you find cool new calculators?

Ugh. Anyway, I think I should have been an art teacher. Then you get to see the creative side of kids instead of spending your day trying to get them to put their phones away for long enough to actually learn something.

I’m ready for Thanksgiving break!

Advertisements

Overflowing with Fall

I’m not going to lie, here in Texas, we spend half of the year wishing it weren’t so freaking hot. The past couple of weeks, we have been getting a small hint of cooler weather to come.

Fall has to be my favorite time of year. It all starts with Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and then it just gets better from there. I have read quite a few blurbs from people complaining about an overload of pumpkin spice, but to those people, I say Phooey! There can never be too much pumpkin spice. Thanks to Starbucks and their ubiquitous fall classic, Pumpkin Spice is the official spice of hope here in the south where we nearly burst into flames every time we go outside from May until October. Once the heavenly lattes show up, we can rest assured that there is light at the end of the sauna tunnel. Not long after they show up, there is high school football.

football

Homecoming Football Game

Then there is Talk Like A Pirate Day. And I mean seriously, aren’t all math teachers pirates deep down? Think about it. Do you really think it’s a coincident that the formula for area is pi Arrrrrrrr squared?

pirateday

International Talk Like a Pirate Day- because hello… Pirate hats.

Then, before long even the bacon gets into the spirit. At least the bacon here in Texas does. We have Hayride Bacon at the local HEB grocery stores that are seasoned with fall spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

bacon

They may or may not have been waiting for a tiny bit of Hayride Bacon at Grandma’s.

This fall brings with it the added anticipation of the first mass printing of my book Away Away. I’ve written two more since finishing Away Away and am in the process of editing them and getting them ready for publication too, but Away Away is still my first. I am in a slight state of overwhelm at the moment trying to decide how best to get the word out so that when the shipment gets here, there will be people already wanting to buy it. I don’t have kids, but I’m thinking this must be kind of what it feels like when they go off to Kindergarten.

While I’m waiting for the books to get here from the printer and working on a marketing strategy, I am going to keep on enjoying the fall flavors and the slightly cooler weather. Stay tuned for more updates. Here is a cute kitty picture just because.

cats

My parent’s normal size kitten next to their Main Coon Cat.

 

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Okay, so seriously, Mother Nature? We haven’t had much of a hurricane season this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with that. But today I was thrown for a loop. I went through Hurricane Harvey in my current house, and I didn’t have any damage at all. Then today, we have one little rain storm. My dogs and I had gone to my parents for coffee. Okay, really I went for coffee. The puppies got puppy treats because they are wild enough without caffeine, but that’s neither here nor there.

We stayed longer than normal because it was pouring outside. I wasn’t worried because it wasn’t hard enough to flood. I mean seriously. I measured over 33 inches of rain during Harvey without a single drop in the house. So imagine my surprise when I walked into the house only to discover water all over the floor in my front entryway and the dining room. The water was under the bamboo floor! WTF? I spent hours trying to squish the water out. I even drilled 4 small holes so that I could step around and soak up the water that came out. I thought I had most of it out until I noticed that the puppy bed in the living room by my desk was wet. At first I wondered if my dog had had an accident. Then I realized that the carpet all around the area behind my stand-up desk was also soaked. I soaked up several towels worth of water, but there’s still more…

I’m pretty sure that the firewall between my townhouse and the townhouse next to mine is to blame because my neighbor had water in her place too. So now, I am going to need to replace the floors downstairs. Why?!!

Okay. That was my excitement for the weekend. End of rant.

Instant Pot Where Have You Been All My Life?

Disclaimer: I am an Amazon Affiliate, which means that if you click one of the Amazon links and end up buying something, I get a tiny bit of money (at no extra cost to you).

So I’ve been hearing about this gadget called the Instant Pot for a while now. There was a time in my life when I would jump on any new gadget that came out. Magic Putty? Yeah, not very magic. Oxy Clean? Meh. When the Instant Pot came out, I was less than impressed. I already have a pressure cooker that I really like. So why do I need something that does the same thing as my pressure cooker?

instant pot

I’ve reached a point in home-ownership where my kitchen is in homeostasis. Pretty much, I have the pots, pans and gadgets that I need (and a couple that I don’t use at all…cough… toaster oven…cough) and everything has its own spot. I live in a townhouse (here’s my townhouse blog for things townhouse related), so my kitchen space is limited. In order to maintain non-hoarder status, if I buy anything new, something old has to go. So I was not at all interested in buying any new gadgets, especially something like the Instant Pot which is not small.

Then I started facing the task of being able to cook things on my boat. Normal people buy boats that are already fixed up and ready to go with new-fangled things like working galleys and actual bathrooms. Fortunately, or unfortunately, normal is not really something I do very well. So my little sailboat is a project boat whose galley stove was removed many moons before I came along. At the moment, I am not ready to go out sailing yet, so the boat stays at the dock most of the time. Okay, all of the time. And for the record, I’m ready to go sailing, but the boat is not. Long story.

Anyway, I wanted a way to cook on board so that I can take the dogs and spend more than one night without eating fast food. I also didn’t really want to use a camping propane stove because then I would need to also take pots and pans, propane, etc.

I am in several facebook groups for sailors, and in a cooking group, I kept hearing about this magical invention called the Instant Pot. I ignored it. Until I saw Instant Pots on sale at Costco. I went home and pulled up the posts that I had been ignoring and then did a search on Pinterest for Instant Pot Recipes, and the more I read, the more I wanted one.

I went out and bought one with the intention of just testing it out for the boat. Oh. My. God!

The one I got at Costco was similar to this one on Amazon. It is the 6-quart model. There are other brands that are slightly cheaper, but many of them have questionable materials- like aluminum that has been coated with enamel. The Instant Pot uses stainless steel for its components. When I got the cooker, I also bought this cookbook.

I am so glad that I did. There are some amazing recipes in this book, many of them submitted by bloggers who regularly use the Instant Pot. The first recipe I decided to try was a recipe for Chicken Lozano, created by the amazing chefs at Brennans in New Orleans.

Again. Oh. My. God. So yummy! The Instant pot made it so easy. You can sauté in it then then just select what function you want to use. In this case, I needed to brown the chicken first and then cook it in a pressure cooker. So, I sautéed it right in the pot, then put on the lid and pushed the button for pressure cooker. It takes all the guess work out of whether or not you are cooking at the right pressure. I love my stove top pressure cooker, but it’s always a little confusing when they say that the weighted top should be gently rocking. I’ve seen my mom use her pressure cooker and her version of gently rocking is way different than my interpretation. (Yes, I know that sounded a little dirty. Thank you). With this, you just tell it whether you want high pressure or low pressure and how long you want it to stay at that pressure. It does the work for you.

20180802_174757

My chicken seasoned and ready to go

20180802_175712

Being sauteed in batches right on my counter

20180802_181003

Coming up to pressure

20180802_183334

Thickening the creamy sauce

20180802_185130

Served over chickpea pasta

Trust me, this tasted ten times better than it looks. If computers had smell-o-vision, you would have already gone to Amazon and gotten one of these! It was that good.

I bought it just last week, and I have already made Chicken Lozano, beef gyros, one-pot lasagna and Dr. Pepper pulled pork (this one I found on Pinterest). I am planning on trying carnitas tomorrow. This thing is truly a game changer.

I decided that this would be the perfect solution to cooking on my boat. It will even cook hard boiled eggs! The best part is that it cooks all kinds of stuff without needing to store any other pots and pans. I ordered the 3-quart version on Amazon for the boat.

This has definitely earned a coveted spot on my kitchen counter. I moved the 4 cup coffee maker out of the way to make room (I’ve been making my coffee using a single cup pour-over filter anyway). If you haven’t tried the Instant Pot, I really do recommend it. I think Instant Pot should pay me to advertise! Or sponsor me with goodies.

The Ever Illusive Work Life Balance

The school year is quickly approaching. For most people, that doesn’t mean much. If it means anything, it means that their kids will be out of the house again, and peace will reign. For us teachers, it is a nightmarish time that points out the fact that we were so exhausted at the beginning of the summer, that we didn’t really even do much of anything at all until about July. Then July flew by like the Frappuccino’s at Starbucks on BOGO days. Now it’s August.

When I was little, I had the weirdest misconception that the teachers loved school and that they were always super happy when school started and a little disappointed when it was time for summer break.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I was so misinformed. As a teacher, I can honestly say that I look forward to the breaks more than the kids do. I’m already counting down in my head until our next break- which is Thanksgiving.

The dread of going back to work has conjured up all kinds of flashbacks to the days when I worked in the corporate world and longed for work life balance. Back then, I had more money, but I had very little free time and next to no vacation time. Now, it’s the opposite. I have more chunks of time off, but I don’t make as much. So, I’ve been thinking.

There has to be a way to achieve work life balance even though most of us are restricted by time or money or both.

What is work life balance?

So, what exactly is this balance? I’m not sure that I ever put much thought into it before. When I was working as an engineer, I just assumed that it meant having enough time to do fun stuff. Now as a teacher, I have time, but I still don’t feel very balanced. My personal definition has started to shift a little. I think that work life balance requires time to do things not related to work, but it also requires actually doing the things that make you feel refreshed as a person.

We’ve all heard the clichés like, “if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” but really? I’m skeptical that very many people are actually doing what they love. I’m also skeptical about most people figuring out their purpose in life and doing things along those lines. I think the majority of people end up in jobs that they may or may not like. They may be high-paying jobs, but just because a job pays a lot, doesn’t mean that it leaves you feeling fulfilled as a person.

Many moons ago, I worked at Continental Airlines (which is now United). The work was a little boring, but working for an airline, you can’t help but tip the work-life-balance scale a little toward the life side of things. I would work my shifts and then travel. I didn’t travel every weekend, but for a while I was going back and forth to France about twice a month, or Germany, or Puerto Rico…

The point is that even though I didn’t have a lot of money, and I didn’t have all that much time off, I was living. I was expanding my horizons, seeing new places, eating new food, meeting new people. Somewhere along the way I turned “sensible” and stopped doing those things. And now here I sit, my work life balance all out of calibration.

Here in the west, it’s easy to have your focus shift from doing things and having experiences, to just having things. We start out wanting good paying jobs so that we can afford to go do things and really live. Then we get the jobs, and the cars and houses that seem to go along with them, and next thing you know, we are working for the paycheck so that we can go out and buy more things. Vacations become things that other people take. We are much too dedicated to our jobs to bother with such frivolous things. Since we aren’t taking time off or going on vacation, you would think we would all be rich, but instead we spend the money we worked hard for on new gadgets, new phones, new stuff.

How do we fix it?

Out of boredom, I pulled up the Galveston webcam website This is what I saw.

seawall080418_4

My heart strings were instantly pulled in the direction of the beach. I grew up going to Galveston as a kid. It doesn’t have pretty clear water like the beaches in Florida, but it has soul. Galveston is its own being. It has a past. There were pirates, mafia, bootleggers, cannibalistic natives, and of course plenty of people who just liked being near the water. Walking down the street in the historic Strand district, it’s not hard to imagine people stepping out of horse-drawn carriages onto the super high curbs.

What does that have to do with work life balance, you ask? I think it is the key to the problem. You can’t feel balanced if you don’t spend a little bit of time in places you like, doing the things you like doing, or at least dreaming about them. The thing that kept me sane while I was working as an engineer was dreaming about setting out on a sailboat one day. I kept track of my grocery shopping- I even made a spreadsheet to track what kind of foods I ate most, and how long they lasted when I bought them so that I would know what I needed to buy. I subscribed to sailing magazines and read books about people who had dropped everything to go off sailing.

When our species was young, our lives were filled with a little too much adventure. Now that we’ve been around a while, our lives aren’t as exciting. I don’t want to go back to living in caves or having to hunt for all of our own food, but I think that most of us need a little more fun in our lives. We need to breathe in the crisp air on a fall morning after spending the night in a tent. We need to see the wind fill our sails as we set off across oceans. We need a little bit of adventure.

Not too long ago, I bought myself a small sailboat, with hopes of sailing around the bay on the weekends to hone my sailing skills while I save up for a bigger boat that will take me wherever my heart desires. Instead, I ended up with a never-ending string of projects. The line that raises and lowers the mainsail is jammed. I need to unjam it, but it requires figuring out a way to get to the top of the mast, and it is just to freaking hot for that right now.

I have four outboard motors for the boat, but all of them are old and crappy, and I haven’t been able to get any of them to start. So instead, my boat sits tied up at the marina. I have only spent the night on it once all summer because the Texas summers are just too hot. I have a little portable air conditioning on board, but it would mean spending all day just sitting inside in the small space with my three dogs waiting for it to be cool enough to go outside.

The point of all of that is to say that work life balance isn’t about just having things. It’s about doing things. It’s about storming the ramparts on your days off. It’s about sailing off into the sunset and then sailing back in time to be at work on Monday morning. My little sailboat isn’t doing me much good tied up at the dock permanently.

So, until it gets cool enough to work out on deck without bursting into flames, I am going to go back to what worked for me before. I am going to launch myself back into the planning phase of cruising. I think I also need to get back to taking pictures. I like doing that. It doesn’t make sense not doing the things that you like doing and that make you happy.

For me the key to the whole work life balance conundrum is figuring out what little things you can do here and there to keep you happy and recharged so that you can get to the point of being able to do the big things. Find what makes you happy. As Adriene on Yoga With Adriene always says, “Find what feels good.”

Be you. Do the things you like- even if it is just in short intervals. Keep yourself going so that you can really arrange your life in a way that works for you. To me, that’s work life balance.

sailboatElissa

 

Random Rant

Okay, normally I like UPS. I’ve never had problems with them in the past, but today I’m not happy with them at all.

I am waiting on a document that I needed during business hours today. I paid $25 extra to have it sent next day air instead of normal. It is now 7:08pm. Where’s my f&^%$#@ package?!!!

Is it really that hard to assume that if a person pays extra to have a document sent next day air that maybe they might possibly want to use that document during business hours?

Seriously, why would you pay to have something sent next day if you didn’t want to use it the next day. “Next Day Air” is not supposed to just be a clever name.

To make matters worse, I live like 10 minutes from the airport (if you get stuck at all of the red lights, shorter otherwise). I literally watch UPS and FedEx planes fly over my house all day long.

So why is my package still not here? I could have walked over to the runway and back and still have been here before noon. WTF, UPS?

When I called customer service to ask where my package was, he said that my area is residential and that probably the driver will stop by on his way back to the office. He said it will probably be after 8pm. Really?!!!!!

Why the f&^% did I pay extra for next day?!

I’m seriously mad right now. I can honestly say that I have never had this problem with FedEx…

#nextdaymeansnextday    #wheresmypackage

 

To be a lifestyle blog, Or not to be a lifestyle blog?

When I think “lifestyle” blog, I normally think about Martha Stewart or the super cute mom blogs that give you an overload of happy family/ perfect kids. A little confession here: I’m no Martha Stewart. Don’t get me wrong. I love Martha Stewart. She has the best ideas ever, but I’m not that organized. Also, I don’t live in a giant house on a giant piece of land in a climate where you can actually entertain outdoors.

I also wouldn’t be a good mom-blogger because a.) I’m not a mom, b.) I’m not a mom, and c.) if I were a mom, I don’t think I would want to post pictures of my kids all the time. Plus, I’m not convinced that most of the moms in the mom blogs have everything as smoothly running as it appears. I’m convinced that most of the pictures are highly staged and involve lots of threats and bribes (for the kids and the spouses).

Blog about life

Anyway, I like the idea of blogging. It’s fun. It gives you an outlet for writing random stuff and posting random pictures. The main problem I have seen is that my life is way more complex than a simple blog niche. I sail. I work on my sailboat. I have dogs and cats. I like traveling- especially with my dogs. I also like to cook sometimes. I also quilt, knit and crochet.

I’m not just a crafter, or just a sailor, or just a writer, or just a baker, or just a dog-mom. I’m all of those things. On top of that, I’m obsessed with hurricanes and am a bit of a closet prepper. Even on top of that, my activities kind of revolve around my mood. One day I’ll be in the mood to try a new waffle place I’ve been wanting to try (stay tuned for upcoming post), one day I feel  like setting up a water catchment system so that I can harvest rainwater during a storm. Another day, I may waste the entire day trying to get the cockpit drains in my sailboat working right again. Then again some days, I just feel  like complaining about jobs or traffic.

I am pretty sure that most of you have varied interests too, which made me think a little bit. I don’t want to have a blog about just one thing. I want to write about everything, even if the posts aren’t really connected to each other. It’s much more representative of an actual life that a “lifestyle” blog that only deals with renovating a small townhouse in the suburbs somewhere.

So, I am going to think of my blog as a lifestyle blog, but in a more wholistic kind of way. I do have other more niche-specific blogs that I don’t necessarily want to abandon. So, I think what I am going to do is post all of my stuff here, but then if it’s something that involves  how-to, I will post the summary here and have a link to a more detailed post on the other blogs. That way if you want to read more you can, and if you don’t, you can just skim the overview post here and then move on.

Blog about Frankenstein?

On a funny note, I google “blog about…” to see what would come up. Strangely enough, blog about Frankenstein was the number one result. Blog about me, blog about food, blog about love, blog about life and blog about dogs were also big topics. See? I knew people had more interests than would easily fit into one category. But Frankenstein? Really? I’m a little confused on that one. Maybe there’s something I don’t know. Conspiracy theory, anyone?