Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#25 He Tells Me I've Accomplished Something

My basking in the sunshine of freedom has found its demise; I have finally returned to work. It is with great delight that I reminisce on my summer as I share what I have accomplished.

Truth be told, at one point I did feel as though I had accomplished not a lick of what I had set out to do. Try as I might, I never could get a solid summer schedule working. Each day was so different from the next because of other commitments that I could never sit down and decide on a set schedule. I tried to occasionally set a daily schedule--an hour doing this, an hour doing that, but let's face it, there were no demands forcing me to do this and that. I had no deadline except my final day of summer vacation which, when summer began, felt miles away. And a deadline felt so not summer-y.

After all, my summer off wasn't supposed to stress me out. It was supposed to be a chance to do things I couldn't do during the school year, and to complete tasks that had been put off. So the philosophy I soon took on was that as long as I was not sitting around twiddling my thumbs as I stared at the TV or sleeping poolside, I was ahead of the game.

Since I love bullets, here is my bulleted list of my accomplishments, notice that most, if not all, of them are not throw your hat in the air and hoot and holler kind of accomplishments, but they still are something to be proud of.
  • I Read.
One would think as not only a teacher, but a writer and lover of books that I would read all the time. Sadly, it just is not so. This summer I hoped to eliminate that truth about myself. I read four books, all completely different, and am in the middle of three (Don't worry I'm not crazy, this can be explained). Not fantastic, but a start.

I finished off Little Women which I say with red cheeks that I started in December '10. I read through The Giver in two days to remind myself of the story. I have always moaned that I wish I lived in a society that gave out careers as they are given in The Giver, and my husband always points out the lack of freedom that such a society would have. This I know, but feel life would be so much simpler if we all grew up knowing what career was destined for each of us.

I read The Beginners Guide to Chickens because I bought it two years ago when I first decided I wanted chickens and was tired of seeing it propped up between my bed and nightstand. And finally, I read SuperFreakanomics per my husband's suggestion. It'a pretty good book if you want to be enlightened about statistical craziness that occurs in the world around you.

Now, the three books I am in the middle of. Each night I have been reading little by little The Groucho Letters: Letters From and To Groucho Marx. It's not exactly a book that requires to be read cover to cover without interruption and it provides a good laugh here and there. Second, I started Dante's Inferno that my older brother loaned me probably over a year ago. (Hopefully he won't remember that I still have it...shhh, don't tell!) The problem is that I either get spooked out or get tired from flipping back and forth from the text to the end notes that I don't have the umph to continue on without breaking for a day, week, or month. Lastly, I started reading 1, 2, 3 Magic for Teachers: Effective Discipline Pre-K Through Grade 8 towards the end of summer. I have been reading it here and there as I take an occasional break in putting my classroom together before the start of school. So far it has been pretty good despite two typos I caught in the text (This is not exactly something that someone who WANTS to be published wants to see when reading something that someone else ALREADY has had published.
  • I Wrote.
My full intention for how to spend the summer was to put all my efforts into rewriting a book I completed a little under a year ago. In essence, it is my memoir of growing up with a brother who has Down syndrome. After opening the continued gift of rejection letters, I decided that it was time to change the book around, drastically. This required an entire rewrite cover to cover. I felt a little like a failure as the beginning weeks of summer passed and I still hadn't found my start. Everything I wrote felt forced or too happy go lucky. In the mean time, I worked on a children's Christmas story that I began last Christmas and when writer's block took hold of that story I then wrote another totally different children's book. This one I sent to eight publishers and have gotten my rejection from two. Here's hoping to hear back from all eight. It was probably a little over a month into summer that I got my inspiration for improving my memoir and then finally began attacking the original document with full force. I'm about a third of the way towards completion.

(Pictured: My desk mid-creative process).
  • I Cleaned.
This was one of the first things I did in my days off and it never ended. It is extremely hard for me to do anything else if there is a mess lingering in the next room. Somehow deep inside as I try to get something else done I know the mess is there and it takes over all of my attention. It was when my husband commented that he hadn't washed a single dish since my summer vacation began that I knew I was doing extremely good.
  • I Cooked.
In addition to writing, cooking was one of my top priorities. I've already mentioned my obsessions to The Pioneer Woman Cooks and The Farmer's Almanac Everyday Cookbook, but there were so many many others involved in the cooking madness--websites like and included.

Some Of My Favorites:

*Tex-Mex Chicken: A simple simple slow cooker recipe. It was basically chicken, salsa, corn, and black beans mixed together and cooked four hours on high, then poured over white rice. Yum!
*Pesto Sauce: Paired with, die, for.
*Pineapple Coffee Cake
*Perfect Chili
*Chocolate Sheet Cake: This is heaven spread thin. I don't even have words for how wonderful this was, but if you ask my thighs they might have an answer for you.
*Knock You Naked Brownies (pictured below)

The Stinkers:

*Dinner Pasta Salad: Slow cooker recipe gone bad! Italian seasoning and pasta sauce cooked on low do not blend into anything but a bland irritation.
*Peanut Butter Cup Cake: Bland and boring.
*Easy Cranberry Chicken: My first disappointment from the Farmer's Almanac. It wasn't horrible, it just wasn't amazing like all the others.
*Soft Pretzels: Not horrible, but I could have just made bread and dipped it in salt. The next time I'm thinking about getting down and dirty and coating them in butter and then pan frying them after baking---to give it an Auntie Anne's type feel.

Last, I've been working on perfecting my own pizza pie. I'm doing my best to model off of the holiness that is Kate and Al's pizza, but I haven't gotten it quite right yet. I'm almost there though, I can feel it.
  • I Exercised.
Last summer, my husband and I attempted to complete the workout course titled, "Insanity". Unfortunately, the only insane thing I've discovered about that program and any type of exercise is that it is nearly impossible to keep up while working full-time and keeping two additional part-time incomes. Let's face it, exercise is the last thing I really want
to do at the end of the day. But despite the excuses, I need it. So after the first week off, I had the time, so I began taking walks everyday.

While walking one day I watched as a girl jogged at the slowest pace ever and then realized the beauty that is jogging. I've always avoided running like the plague. After about three seconds I'm dripping in sweat, gulping for air, and pretty sure that I will expire if I continued any longer. Perhaps it is just the over achiever in me that didn't realize there was an in between to walking and running named jogging. I started jogging for about a mile and then walking another mile everyday. The problem I'm facing now is that I desperately want to keep it up, but now would have to get up extra early to do it before work, or give up relaxing in the evening to do it at night.

  • I Played.
  • There are only two things I could ever do and be 100% passionate about. Writing (about things I want to write about) and music.Marriage, a new home, yearly job changes, and just about any other excuse I can think of kept me from keeping that passion occurring in my daily routine. By the middle of summer, I dusted off my violin and began chugging away at exercises that eventually made my wrist sore as a subtle reminder that yes, I had indeed been away too too long. By the third or fourth day of practice, I was close to my usual strength and intend to keep at it hoping to eventually audition for a chair in a local orchestra.
  • I Day-tripped.
Don't think I've forgotten about my list of inexpensive fun things to do (see post under June titled "He Lets Me Have The Summer 'Off'".) Not only did I get all the above done, but I managed to do 9 out of 23 things on my list.

* A Day at the Beach
*A Night at the Beach
--I Got to experience my first ever room service. Totally in love with it.
* Picnic at the park
--Done on one of my first days off with hubby.
* Go to the Local Farmer's Market
--Just about every week! We were stocked with local produce throughout the summer.
* A Day at the Pool
--Let's face it this should really be "Days at the Pool". My grandmother has a nice in
ground pool which I visited frequently (*note, only after I had accomplished a lot
already in that day.)
* Shopping
* Farm Fairs
* Festivals
--A rodeo counts right? Totally an out of the ordinary, yet fun experience.
* Go to see Fireworks
(Philly as the sun sets before fireworks come on the Fourth of July)

Of course, there were things that I wanted to do from my list but didn't get to, but only a few. The ones I wish I had done were: Grounds for Sculpture, the Freehold Racetrack, and NYC. Don't worry for me though, I'm sure I will get there eventually.

Overall, in retrospect of my time spent at home I have to say I loved it. (But, you knew that already didn't you?) I guess after years and years being just a housewife might get boring, but being a housewife my way I don't think could ever get boring.

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