Saturday, December 31, 2016


Well, it's the last day. Once more, Holidailies has provided me with a place to dump thoughts, even if not all of them were terribly brilliant. I enjoy writing during this month, and who knows, maybe this time I'll even update more regularly than every 6 months or so!

After such a stressful year, I've tried to take the last two weeks to process what has happened and come up with a direction to go in for the next year. One of the curious things about humans is our general resiliency. We may have terrible experiences in one year, but still, at the end of that year, we have hope that we can do better, something will go our way. Some call this foolishness because it can never be perfect. I call it brilliance; without this hope, we would be dead in the water. 

Those with no hope never go anywhere, they never change their lives for the better. They may look like they're trying sometimes, but ultimately you can't move forward unless you can see an actual path to walk on. 

I try to enter each year with a lot of hope. At the beginning of 2016, my main hope was to survive school and accomplish the goal of completing my teaching credential. Maybe the other stuff surrounding that didn't go as planned, but as an overarching goal, it worked. I accomplished the goal and did a few other things besides. Almost won NaNo (winning would have been an actual miracle of extended time in the day), managed to write here 30 out of 31 days. Got more involved in the soccer world digitally and in person, which was basically my only hobby aside from school.

There were definitely things that I wouldn't like to repeat, but then again, that is a source of hope. Hope that I can do better in certain aspects. Aside from my major goal, The Thesis, my hope is to make sure I'm physically and emotionally healthy enough to get good focused work done without my brain self-sabotaging for days at a time. My hope is to write some fiction, lest I tend towards a soulless existence like I do. It doesn't have to be good fiction, it just has to function as my way of processing the world, as it has always been. I will need that in my life, undeniably.

My future goals include building relationships with professionals in the area and bolster my contacts in schools, so that when jobs come up I know where I need to go. My hope is to actually have relationships with my friends that include more than a sad, "I miss you..." "Me tooo..." every week or so. Despite my introverted nature and my tendency to take jobs that put me in casual contact with a lot of different people every day, I do actually need some of that small group or one-on-one friend time. I may or may not have forgotten about that need at points during the year, always to my detriment.

There is always something to improve on. On my good days, I don't take this as a terrible thing. Not ever being perfect is a part of being human. My hope is to have the good days outnumber the bad ones, even if I have to force it sometimes. 

Here's hoping that I'll be able to record some of that journey and share my road with you.

Until next year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Politics vs. Love

Disclaimer: I have been sorta okay at keeping politics out of posts where it doesn't belong, but there comes a time when I have to discuss it. I will also discuss religion in the course of it, and how I believe those two should intersect. I value respectful discourse and will do my best to keep my comments within that boundary, but I have strong opinions and often use strong language to support them. I would love to hear from different perspectives in the comments, however.

Okay, so I am starting to believe that Christians just need to take a step back from politics and reevaluate our life choices. Here's why: At the beginning of this year, I was rather desperately trying to stay apolitical. I didn't want any part of the shit show, for one. I also wanted to maintain relationships with those who may not agree with me. Then came Donald Trump.

Suddenly, not speaking out against him seemed impossible. As Brandon, the man who runs the popular blog/Facebook page "Humans of New York" (normally also a neutral site) said so eloquently, I considered the rise of Donald Trump a deeply moral issue. The rhetoric, the actions, the history of discrimination, the blatant misogyny, the Twitter account... everything about him deeply offended my sense of justice, love, and respect.

So I started speaking out against it. Not so far as supporting another candidate at first, but definitely always, "please start seeing this." I did this mostly on Facebook, because honestly, that's where most of my friends and family who are stoutly conservative and stalwart Christians are. I knew, even then, that the way that Christians - Evangelicals in particular - reacted to this election would sway the results. And sure enough, all the major Evangelical political players started aligning themselves with Trump, as he consistently won the primaries and eventually the nomination.

Not to say that Hillary was like, SO MUCH better. I mean, I will say right out that I voted for her because I started the year solidly on the "Anyone But Trump" train, and stayed on that train until the bitter (for me) end. I can't say for certain that anything would have been that much better with her at the reigns. I truly believe that no matter who won, at least half of the country would feel badly done by the results. This whole mess was too divisive to end any other way.

The divisive nature of this dumpster fire of an election cycle is actually what I really want to talk about, and why I think that many Christians need to reconsider how they interact with politics. I definitely have in the months of contemplation since November 8th.

Here is where I start: When we elevate politics and "patriotism" over Jesus, everyone loses. We lose our minds and our ability to love. The rest of the world sees this and loses all respect they may have had left. I have a number of friends who are outside of the "Christian bubble," and many of them expressed disgust Christians who were clearly letting their conservative political values outpace their love. Frankly, I was hard pressed to disagree with them.

I have said it before, and I will repeat it. I love the Church. We are a messy bunch. Not one of us has it entirely right, but I love the motley crew that brings in different experiences and opinions to the feet of Jesus and lets Him sort it out. At least, that's what I hope others do. This year, though, the community of the Church consistently saddened me and made me - a long-time believer, a lover of Jesus and of people, and a defender of the faith - feel as if I was the same as an outsider, unworthy of respect or consideration because I had come to believe a different way.

When I started posting about how morally repugnant I found (and still find) Donald Trump's actions and words to be, you know who responded with the most judgment, screaming comments, and disrespect to me and my friends - many who are also strong believers? Yeah. Conservative Evangelical Christians. Many of whom pastors and leaders that I have worked with in the past, respecting them for years. Some who were as close as family.

And that was before I started actively supporting Hillary, as the next best option, and most importantly, Not Trump. When that happened, the lids came off. There was no restraint. There was no love. People were unfriended because they proved over and over again that they could not see the people on the other side of the screen that they were screaming at as people. We were all just straw men for them to joust against, virtual windmills of wrongness that must be conquered. I did my best to maintain my own standards of respectful discourse, using and distributing multiple non-partisan resources and fact-checks, but it grieved me to engage with the hate over and over again. Eventually, as Election Day approached, I couldn't do it. I went silent and watched the country descend into a hateful frenzy.

Much has been said about the state of political discourse in general, in the internet age, the age of fake news, and anonymous comments, and the age of ideological echo chambers. I don't want to repeat much of that. What I want to emphasize is what I took out of the whole experience.

I am going to make a series of statements that you may or may not agree with. That's okay, but I ask that you thoughtfully consider them:

When Christians allow being right (or being on the political right) to overtake their God-given call to Love, we have officially missed the point.

When Christians allow our doctrine instead of our Love to determine our politics, we have also missed the point.

Christians are not being "persecuted" across the country by laws that provide protections for sensitive groups like refugees, LGBTQ+ people, or illegal immigrants. 

Furthermore, if we are using our FAITH as an excuse for legislating AGAINST those groups, we have DRASTICALLY missed the message of Love.

Your President does not determine how good of a Christian you can be. I plan on remaining a Christian for the next four years, despite my current and likely future disagreements with the administration. 

Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion apply to EVERYONE, not just Christians. That means that if a Muslim speaks out against oppression that is being facilitated by Christians, they are allowed to say that, and we as Christians should probably listen. If you think that a registry for Muslims is a good idea, consider how well that worked out for the Jews in Nazi Germany and consider whether it's something that an All-Loving God would condone.

Most importantly, whoever you voted for, consider the other side. If you voted for Trump, consider the minorities who are now terrified for their future under his leadership. If you voted for Hillary, consider how the blue-collar Americans in the Midwest felt ignored and devalued by the old political systems, enough to vote for someone who promised to change things (whether or not he delivers on those promises, consider what they meant to his supporters). 

As for next steps? My next step is always to keep calling out for Love. I believe the role of the Church is not to gain power in the political realm, honestly. Not that politicians who are Christians cannot run for office and raise through the ranks, and exercise love and humility in those positions. Frankly, we could probably all appreciate a few more people with the Characteristics of Christ in that realm.

But if your goal is to turn America back into a "Christian nation," may I humbly suggest that you start, not at the ballot box, but with the people around you who are hurting and disenfranchised. Put aside race, religion, sexual orientation, or political beliefs and listen to a story or two. Offer no judgment. Instead, offer understanding and empathy.

If you, as a Christian, find that love difficult to offer, examine how you believe you are Loved by your Creator. Examine how you love yourself. If we are called to love your neighbor as ourselves, and we hate ourselves, we are starting at a pretty rough place. It is worth taking the time to get that sorted out so that we can effectively show the Love of Christ to those around us.

Because at the end of the day, that is every Christian's calling. To love. If we don't have that, then we may be hard pressed to maintain the facade of being followers of Christ.

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


I just realized that I missed yesterday. Dang it. So close to 100% this year. Oh well. It was a fairly productive/fun day, so I am willing to forgive myself.

I spent a majority of the day going hanging things up on my walls since I've lived in the same place for over two years now and I still had a pile of posters and assorted memorabilia waiting to be displayed. Also got all of my souvenir shot glasses displayed, and at least one corner of my room slightly controlled. Only three left to go.

My goal is to get the whole room worked through, because theoretically I am going to be spending much time here working on school stuff throughout the semester. I am not a HUGE stickler on work environment, but it definitely bugs me to glance around while I'm trying to focus and see multiple things on my to-do list not getting done.

I think my favorite accomplishment of the day - besides having stuff to look at on my walls besides my pretty green paint - is that I finally cleared out the trash can that had been used for storing a number of papers for the last 3 years, and can now be restored to its intended purpose: a trash can for my room. This wildly outpaces the snack-food bags I was using as temporary replacements in both capacity and utility. It seems like a small thing. But I very much appreciate having a receptacle for trash items larger than a used tissue.

This may seem like a fairly odd thing to be super happy about. A trash can is not usually that worthy of note. Yet, I am often fighting against a family tendency to avoid trash cans if at all possible, so having one that is big enough to handle the stuff I would otherwise find excuses to keep is somewhat helpful to me.

I realize that there are still many things that I hold onto irrationally; my bookshelves attest to this, being both used to both hold books and display various keepsakes and collections. But inasmuch as I can, I try and go through stuff every couple of years to ascertain if it is indeed worth saving. Particularly in my current situation, where space is precious, and any extra boxes often end up in the middle of my floor with no place to go. It's much easier to throw/give something away if you haven't seen it in four years and not missed it one time.

It's a slow process, but I am getting there.

In the meantime, pictures of what I did manage to find space for in my life:

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Two things hit me hard today. One, Carrie Fisher passed away today, which is a terrible loss to the world that needed her indomitable spirit desperately. If you only knew her as Princess Leia, take a second and Google some of her other life accomplishments, and some of the impact she had in a Hollywood culture that vastly favors men. Most importantly, look at how she talked about her mental illness candidly and with no apologies for touching on a subject so many view as taboo.

Second, I read another article about the Ghost Ship fire that happened in Oakland at the beginning of the month. It was an event that highlighted a lot of issues within the Bay Area, and urban areas in general. Gentrification, lack of artistic support, and no value for the creative people trying to eke out a living in an increasingly expensive and unsafe environment.

These connected in my mind, but I'll get to that in a second.

This particular article focused on this from a faith-based perspective, which I appreciate because I feel like very few people in the Church really harp on creativity. Sure we go on and on about doctrine and the fine points of theology. No one seems to mention the fact that we happen to believe in an inherently creative God, and it should follow that all our human creativity is God-breathed. It is an act of seeing something that does not exist in the physical realm and making it exist, whether it is a painting, a sculpture, a dance, or a book. Isn't that kinda what God did in Genesis? Bringing beauty and wonderous sights out of nothingness and making them real?

The argument goes that the Church should very much create a space for creative people. For those who living on the margins of society, because American society still has that great old Puritan legacy of art being "frivolous" or even better, "dangerous". Because it is ALWAYS dangerous to a black and white society to have people seeing things in the gray areas of life.

As it happens, creativity and mental health issues are often linked, though not how people usually think. Research shows that people with relatives who are mentally ill in their direct genetic line often display traits of being highly creative. The author of this article describes being creative as displaying the neurological openness that often characterizes mental illness but also having the positive intellectual traits that help navigate the chaos of all that stimuli and translate it into creative thought.

What links the two is the ability to see things beyond what others see. To connect ideas that no one else would think to connect. To create art that makes people take a step back and wonder, "why have I never thought of it that way before?" That is the beauty of viewing art. It takes us outside of ourselves and shows us new perspectives.

The beauty of creating art is often the same. As a writer, I create worlds that didn't exist before I dreamed them up. They may or may not make sense, but they're real to me. I can picture them. Or, I create versions of the world as I see it. I create people who end up doing things that I do not expect them to, even though I'm technically the one who is making them exist. In a rewrite of the novel I hope to publish, I realized that I had to completely rewrite the entire sequence of a relationship because I had both characters doing things they didn't actually want to do. When writing the new plot line, it became so easy to come up with how they would handle the situations that I barely had to put any thought into it. It just happened naturally.

This seeing of things is a theme throughout artistic expression. I was reminded of this, one of my favorite spoken word poems:

Carrie Fisher was another who spoke openly about living with bipolar, in a candid way that often made others much more comfortable discussing their own struggles. She was a highly creative person, with a devastating wit, and she used it to break down barriers that many took for granted. Talking about these issues so often paints those with mental illnesses as somehow bad for not being able to control what their brain tells them to do. She didn't care. She put them in a light that said, "this is what I have to deal with, and so I deal with it because I have no other choice." She is the perfect example of hitting the bottom and coming back stronger than ever.

Here then, is my question: Why aren't Christians talking about this side of creativity? The creative nature of hitting the bottom and coming back better falls into our entire belief system of the redemptive nature of God. It is a narrative that the American Church somehow suppresses, though. Particularly in the case of a drug addiction or mental health struggle. I don't get it. The amount of times I've heard either that there is no help for those people, or that they can somehow work their way out of it without help, "they just need a little bit of God's grace and mercy" is astounding. I'm not denouncing God's grace or mercy. I am simply pointing out that maybe, just maybe, God created us as a community to help those people complete His redemptive work in their lives through support, not judgment of things they cannot control.

I am fairly certain that Carrie did not believe in God the way I do. I don't actually think it matters. I find God even in the places He is not looked for - which, by the way, is another reason I believe the Church needs to support the artistic community even if they don't believe the same way. God is not restricted by the four walls of the church. I find God even in the work of those who vehemently deny His existence.

I find God's redemptive nature in Carrie's story. I find His passion for justice and an understanding of His beauty that few have. Carrie fought against those who criticized her appearance as she got older, speaking out against those who somehow expected her to stay 19 forever. She provided women with a strong female role model who lived outside of the box, something many female creators have valued highly, myself included. She proved that we don't all have to fit the mold of what people expect from women. We can be ourselves, loud and messy and brilliant, and that's okay.

This is where I see this connecting. Creative people are so often criticized for not fitting the mold. For not thinking the same way that most do, for seeing the world in a different light, often a light of their own creation. It baffles me. Why is this criticized, when this is the beauty of life? Why are we as a culture so afraid of people who see wildly radical things and have the audacity to believe they could be real? Why do we find it necessary to stigmatize anyone whose brain works differently?

I say this not only to the Church but to the world at large. I just think the Church has less of an excuse. If you say that you believe in a creative God, value what He values. Put down the Evangelical Puritan beliefs that produce the boring sameness of "art" that makes the rest of the world mock you.

Sit down and listen to those who are already creating new, innovative things. Listen to their perspective. Support their endeavors. Don't force them to live in the shadows, in communities that feed their souls, but put their lives in danger.

The same goes for those with mental illness. Sit down and listen. Let them tell you how their mind works, and hold off on suggesting ways that they can make it listen better - unless you have a background in psychology. Support via a kind ear often means more than anything. Letting them get their story into the light without judgment is the necessary first step to them meeting it head on.

I was not able to deal with my depression until I stopped denying that I had it. That denial took up much of the energy I didn't have, and made everything worse. I couldn't meet it head-on and flip it the psychological bird until it was out and I could see it in front of me, separate it from my identity and force myself towards optimism. I choose to find joy in situations that are devastating. I choose to find hope in hopeless times. I choose to find love, no matter what.

Maybe that's another form of creativity. Choosing to look at the world through a positive light, even when the world is anything but positive. In that case, it was a rough 2016 for me as a creative person. But perhaps I can, like Carrie Fisher, hit the bottom and decide to come back stronger and more beautiful.

Until tomorrow.

Monday, December 26, 2016


I am home. Not unpacked yet. But home. I am so looking forward to my own bed tonight. Their beds were comfortable, but I am picky. I like my bed.

Beds aside, I am so thankful for the mental vacation, and for the time to catch up on what people have been doing over the last year. Lord knows I wasn't super tuned into what was going on with much of the world. I mean, unless it was on Facebook or something related to soccer.

I don't think I really grasped how totally done I was until I finally let myself just take a few days off of stressing about stuff. Like, I knew in some sense, but I was just holding it off with a stick that was slowly getting shorter. Now I know because I collapsed pretty hard energy-wise.

It made me feel better eventually. I am more ready now to take on the next week, and then the next year. It'll be a long one. Hopefully, I'll squeeze in some more weekends like this to just fully rest. I did not get that so much this last year.

And tomorrow I swear I will try to write about something deeper. It will be a nice introduction back into deep thought.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Merry Christmas everyone! I spent the day relaxing and eating (again, this seems to be a theme here). I go back to regular life tomorrow, sadly. So hopefully I'll think of something on the drive back to talk about here.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Food is my favorite. I mean, food is a necessary piece of life. But also, food is amazing. Especially when it's food that is free (because I am a student, and free is my favorite also). My uncle's way of showing love is taking people out to dinner, and I have to say, after this meal, I feel loved:

Yes, that is a yam that is battered and deep fried. Whoever created this is my hero. Also, the steak was exquisite. I cannot come up with the right adjectives to describe the steak. Definitely best meal of the year.

There's something about good food. It really is like love. So often I just survive, try to eat reasonably, and cheaply at the same time. I am not the best at cooking, so... it's often quick and simple and not really spectacular. So when I get a chance to really enjoy food, I take it. And then I let it sustain me for months at a time.

I am obviously overtaken with this food (seriously, still full 4 hours later). I really cannot think about anything to write about other than how juicy that steak was... so...

Until tomorrow.

P.S. Merry Christmas Eve/Happy first day of Hanukkah!

Friday, December 23, 2016


I did nothing of lasting importance today, and it was great. I didn't even open the internet browser on my computer until I realized I should probably write this blog post. Not that I fully disconnected, because I still have my phone. I interacted with the world. I just also interacted with this video game called Stardew Valley.

Seriously, this game is quickly becoming my favorite. It's a farming simulator meets an adventure RPG, with some suspense and mystery tossed in. It also looks super cool, like a smoother retro 8-Bit DOS game. Very simple, but with a lot of different options for gameplay. Very fun.

Anyways, aside from tending my digital farm, I also hung out with my family some. You know, because human contact is sometimes a helpful thing. I'm in Reno, and my uncle is a member of a casino, so I got to play some slots for free and get $5 out of it (the only way I gamble because otherwise, I don't have the money to burn). Then he also had a gift card for their regular kid-like arcade, which I used to much better effect. I think it's safe to say that there is a part of me that is still 10 years old and loves getting tickets and then buying candy with those tickets (which I will probably share, unlike when I was 10, lol).

This whole week, I was getting things done. Taking care of the life stuff that fell to the wayside during the semester/year. Today I declared vacation from everything. I will do more tomorrow probably. And Christmas Day will be more family coming in for festivities, which will take me away. Monday is back home and back to life. So I figured today was the best candidate for a true off-day. Brain turned off, talking only when necessary, and playing a lot of games more than even reading because it takes less mental effort.

I don't think I realized how tired my brain really was until this week. Now that I have had today, I think I'm finally reaching the point where I can come back. Start caring about things outside of myself again. Start planning for the months ahead more in-depth. Start working ahead on my thesis and figuring out what a studying schedule reasonably looks like.

It will be fun. But for now, I'm going back to my digital farm in Stardew Valley (seriously, one of the best cheap Humble Bundle finds ever).

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


You know that song in Les Miserables? "Turning, turning, turning through the years..." It's a bit of a sad song about the seasons of life, and how things never get better. Not exactly how I feel right now, but it is stuck in my head, so here it is.

I thought of it because I was thinking today about how things seem to turn out how we really kinda want them to, even if we're not going to say outright that we want them that way.

For instance. I was stuck yesterday between hoping that I would get the long-time sub position that I had interviewed for, mostly because it would have been nice to have something like income for a couple of months. But on the other hand, it was going to significantly push the boundaries of what I could handle, juggling the demands of the job with my classwork, and thesis work, and probably push everything else that I love to do out of the picture.

Then today, when I got the call that I didn't get it (for pretty good reasons, ones that I am not sad about at all) my first reaction was "oh, thank God." Which I think was a pretty good indication that I wasn't ready for it yet. Not that I am not in love with teaching, or that I am not willing to work hard. It just didn't feel right for the season.

I would have had very little in my tank to give to the job, which isn't fair to anyone. I wouldn't have seriously struggled to balance the work, and I have a feeling my own schooling would have been the thing to drop. I wouldn't be able to justify things like coaching soccer, which I seriously love. Dropping that, as I would have had to, would have made me sad, and made it harder to give everything to the job and school.

So life turns on. I am happy with the plan that I have. I already have at least one job lined up with a teacher from the school I student taught at, because my one of my master teachers is also the department head and she put out a good word for me with all the other teachers. I now have a pretty good in with the school I just interviewed with too, because they said I was solidly their second choice for the position, and if I wanted to apply for other things later, I would be welcome.

And now instead of spending the next week madly curriculum planning, I can spend it jumping into my thesis research, getting a feel for what I need to do, and how much time it will take me, and all that fun stuff. And maybe playing some video games before that becomes less of an option again. Maybe.

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


So you know that post about how I was listening to tons of Christmas music because I just wanted Christmas to BE HERE already? Well, now that I've actually had a few days to rest and catch up on stuff, I have changed my mind. If this week could last forever, that would be great. I have no Christmas spirit.

This week has been the week of being able to schedule appointments without three other commitments crowding in on it. This week has been a schedule on my terms. It has been a week of sleep. A week of having time to both accomplish all the things on my lists AND get some zone out time in. I love this week. I would like it not to end.

Alas, end it must. For soon, Christmas will encroach, and with Christmas comes the end of my self-imposed mental break and the beginning of prepping for the semester, whatever that looks like. Fun story, I still don't actually know.

My plan was to just do normal subbing when I could to earn a little extra on the side while working full-bore on my thesis. Yet somehow, I just went to a job interview for a long-term sub position that would be full time, require a lot of planning and the inevitable grading. It would pay a LOT more. Like, enough to maybe get me through the summer without getting a job so I could work on my thesis THEN. But it would also reintroduce insanity into my life a little earlier than I was planning. Which is fine. I long ago learned to thrive on insanity or else live really, really stressed out all the time.

I find out tomorrow if I get it, and honestly, I am fine either way. I already have a plan in place for if I don't get it, because this kinda came out of the blue. I can make a new plan if I do get it. I just get to live for the next 24-ish hours in limbo, which isn't my super favorite. But I can handle it. That's what all my plans to occupy my time are for.

Still, even with all of this, I can't help feeling just a little bad that I'm not more Christmas-y this year. I can't help it. I try and be as enthusiastic as I can when people wish me a good holiday or a Merry Christmas. But I think the most enthusiastic I've gotten over anything Christmas related is the fact that I got Christmas tamales at the farmer's market at Kaiser today and an amazing Secret Santa gift.

Seriously, everything about this is perfect.
I've never been super big on the traditional Christmas stuff anyways, but I try to at least pretend. This year, I don't even have the energy to pretend. I am kinda at the point where I don't care. Christmas is not my favorite. Talk to me on St. Patrick's Day (because hello, GREEN!). I have no children to impress with good holiday memories, be it Club kids or biological children. I will take my time and rest and be thankful for it.

If you want some Spirit, wait until next week because I will know what my future holds and be rested enough to rustle up some enthusiasm about it.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


I've gone this whole month without posting anything super firey on this blog, which has got to be some sort of record for me. I blame school.

It's obviously time for this to change. Conveniently, I spent part of my official Day of Resting yesterday watching Netflix, which did not just consist of rewatching Friends. I watched the documentary called 13th which was super well done and very eye opening. Not in the sense that it was telling me things that I didn't know, but that it was pointing out things I have known inherently for my entire life and never really considered as particularly harmful because they didn't affect me. Let me explain:

(First off, you should watch it yourself, because it's amazing.)

It is talking about how the criminalization of African Americans is basically an extension of slavery, because of the clause in the 13th Amendment that states that slavery is illegal, except for those who are proven criminals. So naturally, law enforcement in the South (especially) started arresting black men in droves to put them to work as slaves.

This documentary makes it clear that this trend extends through all of American history since then, through the Civil Rights movement, through every major "crime reform" bill or "law and order" philosophy. I can't explain all the pieces, which is why you should watch it. It all comes down to one thing:

Whenever a politician has proposed a bill concerning "prison reforms" or "sentencing reforms" or something to be "tough on crime," it has DISPROPORTIONATELY affected PEOPLE OF COLOR. Especially black men, especially those who are already living in poverty.

This seemed so simple to me when I watched it. This police brutality towards black people that overtook the internet this year is not a new phenomenon. It came to light because of new technology, just like the Civil Rights movement used TV to show peaceful protesters being brutalized by those who opposed them.

This semester I taught through To Kill a Mockingbird and did my best to let the students know, the issues of racism in this book are not resolved. If I were still with that class, I would make watching this documentary a full-credit assignment, because I think it is that important. We as a country need to grapple with this reality. It needs to start now.

Unfortunately, we just elected the worst of the worst "law and order" candidates as our President. The list of why I loathe Donald Trump is long, and gets longer just about every time I hear him speak, but this issue is near the top: He has a long history of discriminating against people of color in his business practices, he spouts xenophobic rhetoric that white supremacists eat up like candy, and he actively encouraged people to violence against Black Lives Matters protestors who showed up to peacefully demonstrate at his rallies.

The videos of white people ganging up on blacks throughout history, especially during the 60s, and the videos from his rallies were only differentiated by the quality of film.

I hold out that the very fact that he was elected means that this country is a whole lot more racist than most white people are willing to admit. I include myself in the ranks of those who weren't willing to admit this, by the way. Because honestly, it never affected me. I saw these things from a distance, and there was no personal experience of the systematic oppression.

I am starting to come around. It's hard not to when you see the vast difference between how a white boy is treated in schools for persistent disciplinary issues vs. how a black boy is. At all levels of school, by the way. Particularly in an area like mine, where the students of color are few and very far between.

I have some other bad news for you. This is not going to get better. Not until everyone sits down and takes some time to speak to the other side. I posted on Facebook yesterday, "when does anyone make a major decision without hearing BOTH sides of the issue?" The answer to that was, unfortunately, the election because it got so toxic that no one wanted to listen to the other side. No one could be civil. No one could see the other side's people as people, not just talking mouths.

As a Christian, I'm starting to understand that this is a personal issue for me, whether or not if affects me personally. I am instructed to mourn with those who mourn. There are countless mothers, wives, children, and other family members mourning every day over men who were killed because we have historically viewed all black men as criminals, before viewing them as humans.

I am reminded of this quote from To Kill A Mockingbird from Atticus. It struck me while teaching, and again while watching this documentary:
"You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire."
This is what we need to remember. We are all humans. One race of people is not made less human by their skin color. Not blacks. Not Arabs. Not Natives. Not Asians. White people often think, as I once did, that we have moved past that, it's not a big deal anymore, or that "I wouldn't have supported that brutality if I had been alive." We need to grapple with the fact that we are just as vulnerable as our ancestors, and it's not our fault. It's in the culture, it's in our upbringing, it's in the way the news covers crime, it's in the way our political system is constructed to skew towards those already in power. But even if it's not our fault, it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to change it. 

It can be small. It can be making a concerted effort to personally treat everyone you encounter equally. It can be standing up to someone who is spewing bile at people of color, letting the world know that is not okay. It can be by supporting organizations that focus on rehabilitation vs. punishment for those who have been convicted of crimes or supporting education programs for poor children.

Find a way. I am planning on making education my goal, not only for my own students, but also for myself. If I can move to education in those communities, that would be ideal. Find what works for you.

But first, confront your own participation in the system and vow to stand up for actual justice. Please.

Until tomorrow.

Monday, December 19, 2016


That's what I spent a good portion of my moment doing so far. Holding, on the phone, while talking to various people about all those little bits of life that I kinda sorta forgot about taking care of while I was in school. Or my favorite, the places that were only ever open while I was in school and/or at my various after-school activities. Or the ones that I forgot to call in my margins of time between stuff...

Anyways, so far today I have paid bills, canceled various things, and scheduled appointments for myself and my car to make sure it's not going to fall apart on me anytime soon (something it threatens to do every few months or so). So far, it actually feels restful, which seems odd to me. Doing all these errands are usually the straw that breaks my proverbial camel's back, as it struggles through school commitments. Maybe because I actually have a morning to dedicate to it, with a side of catching up on other computer stuff.

Or maybe it's because I feel like I put a lot of things on hold, even things like physical health which probably shouldn't have been on that list, reasonably. Who needs to go to the doctor when they're under constant stress, don't have time or energy to eat as healthy as I could, and have a history of mental health struggles? NOT ME! (Oh wait, yeah, me. Totally me.) I mean, I went to the chiropractor, and I used essential oils. But like, medical doctors are sometimes good too. Just in case.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to think my plans to wait to go for my walk until it is slightly warmer than "oh God why" outside are in vain, because the high is only 50 today (if you live somewhere else, don't judge. I am a Californian Cold Wimp 100%. There is a reason I don't live anywhere else). So I'll probably just have to layer up and get over it. Walking makes you warmer, right? That's a thing?

I am probably just rambling at this point because my plans to get sleep were slightly upended by my kitten. This morning, he was desperate to make sure I was alive, which manifested itself in a half an hour of meowing, scratching, and occasionally flinging himself into my closed door (which I keep closed to minimize Nighttime Cat Disturbances, HA). Normally, I would be touched by his concern, but he is used to me getting up at 5 am, so his panic happened from about 6:30-7 am until I realized he was determined and begrudgingly opened the door to let him ensure that I was alive to feed him later. Plus side, I had three blankets on my bed (see above, Cold Wimp), so when I tried to go back to sleep and he decided to attack my feet, he couldn't actually do any damage.

Also in kitten adventures, while I was on the phone making appointments, he decided to try a new thing and jump on my shoulders, which didn't work like he had planned and resulted in him sliding in between me and the chair back until he got wedged there. It also resulted in me exclaiming and having to apologize to the guy on the phone. Good times.

But he is REALLY cute
Now it's off to the next order of adult business, finding a way to make money between now and when I start getting paid for subbing next semester. It's always fun trying to find income stop-gaps, when you can't really commit to anything long term. Hopefully something will work out. We'll see.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Despite the mental attitude of being DONE with student teaching, I have not really been able to rest yet, aside from sleeping in yesterday and watching Netflix for a few hours before starting my day. Today is also no good for that, on account of it being my last day of going down to the Bay to sing (LAST LONG DRIVING DAY!)

But my brain still thinks it is done. It is ready to be done. It is tired. The struggle to resist turning on a video game and tuning out of life is real. At least not yet. I think I'm due for at least, like, one tune out day this week.

This next week will also be me trying to block out what the new normal looks like, schedule-wise. What does it look like when my day isn't dictated by both when I'm in school, and when I should be doing something school related? Well, it will still be dictated by when I should be working on my thesis. So I guess not that much will change. Still, that's also a rhythm that I have to establish in my day, so that when I jump in to the semester, the rhythm will already be there, to fall into.

My initial thought in that rhythm is to kill a lot of trees at first. I noticed that when I read all these long, dry articles on my computer (like I did for the thesis prep class last year), I am much more prone to distractions because there are a bevvy of activities available that are MUCH MORE FUN. My idea is to print out a bunch of articles, using that printing balance I have so much of at school, and then make sure that my phone is across the room playing music and I am sitting with just paper and a notebook and pen. This is just an idea. I haven't studied like this since high school, so it will be something of an experiment. If all distractions are tossed aside, or systematically erased, can Alanna focus on dry research articles for longer than three minutes at a time: A study

So, at least one day of my week of rest is probably going to be spent at the library prepping for that. It'll be fun, or something.

But first, off to the singing of the songs, and the driving of the miles to and from.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


I feel a little better today. Sleep, good advice from people who have walked this road ahead of me, and fun, non-school-like things to do today all help.

I went to Rocklin High School's Winter Concert, which reminded me how much I miss singing in my day to day life (especially since they did multiple pieces I've sung before). Next, I'm off to the annual half-reunion/half-Christmas party for a group of college friends whom I love dearly. Always a good time.

I have very little else to say today, so I will leave you with a line that I came up with in the car on the way back from the concert. I have no idea what inspired it, or where I will use it in the future, but I love it. It will certainly make it into a novel some day.

"You are gas station sustenance. You're cheap, I'll probably die from eating you, but you taste so good in the moment."

Until tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2016


This week has been a bit of a transitional time for me. I went from fully focused on just getting through the day to day of student teaching for the next two weeks, then being informed that I only had a couple more days (long story), then realizing that as this experience ends the next one is right around the corner: The Thesis Process of Doom.

I say of Doom, because going to the meeting last night where we confirmed our topics and were given a "quick" overview of what was in store for us wasn't particularly encouraging.

For one thing, we discovered that the timeline of this whole process that we had been sold a couple of years ago when signing up for the program was a little bit... obscured. They recruit you by saying you'll be done with your credential and degree in 18 months! Just like that! Sure we only schedule a semester for the actual writing of the thesis, but you know, it's okay. You'll finish!

To be fair, I know people who have gotten advanced degrees. I know how long it took some of them to get their thesis done. Still, somehow my brain failed to address the disconnect between that knowledge and critically considering their claim that a thesis could happen in a semester, start to finish.

Last night, the head of the thesis program at the school sat us all down, and the first question asked was, "what will it take to get it done by April 21st, so we can walk next Spring like they told us we could?"

The answer was, "you should have been spending the last year writing your Lit Review."

You can imagine the shock on our collective faces. See, at the end of our first semester, when we had our research class with this professor, she told us that we should probably like, try to read an article a week, or something like that. It would help us out a lot. At least, that's what most of us heard. We heard, "you'll still be fine if you don't, if you focus on all the other wild amounts of work, and not to mention the student teaching experience which is a little bit all consuming."

We did not hear, "if you want to finish by the date we told you is a possibility, you must do this or else your chances are zilch."

We did not hear, "only ONE person in the history of the program [albeit still young] has ever started from just an idea for a topic and managed to get the whole thing done in a semester, and she basically didn't sleep."

We did not hear, "by the way, if you don't finish on time, you have to re-enroll for another 5 unit class to be able to defend it when you do finish [which is currently about $3K]."

All of this would have been super useful to know a year ago. Not because I would have approached the year entirely differently, though I may have at least tried. Honestly, the way the year went, I don't know if I could have changed anything, even if I wanted to. Even then, it would have been nice to know that I was likely looking at a longer process if I didn't put in the extra effort during this year.

It's terrible to learn you could have done something if you had understood the full situation, well after the fact.

So now I have to decide. I will sign up for the classes this semester no matter what. It's the way to get access to a thesis mentor which seems to be the best way for me to have 1) accountability, and 2) a sounding board when I'm stuck. Those are both extremely valuable to me. I know myself too well to forego that support system.

But I have to decide.

Do I try and beast through it this semester, at the cost of what sanity I have left, and a lot of other things like money, social life (what's left after this year, which isn't much anyway), and any plans for volunteering or writing, or anything that really helps keep me sane?

Do I slow the process down, work more this semester, and have to pay extra when I get the whole mess done and I'm finally ready to defend?

Do I forfeit the goal to be over and done with at the end of next Spring, to be free and clear to pursue a teaching job without that pesky elephant in the back of my mind of, "but you haven't finished the thesis yet!"?

The thing is, I am truly terrible at doing two things at once. At least, two huge things. A lot of my stress of the year was from the drastic mindset shift from working on school to my part time on the same day, even at a job I was established in and comfortable in. Also, still only part time.

Based on my student teaching experience, I think it's fairly safe to say that I will not be successful at working as a full-time teacher AND writing a thesis at the same time. So then, my option is to not work any more than strictly necessary as a sub for as long as it takes? Also not great.

This post is basically me trying to work out these choices in writing. Yay for insights into how my brain works!? I don't know, honestly. This all came down at the worst time possible. I am already physically, emotionally, and mentally shot from this semester, this year, this whole school process up to this point.

I think my first decision is going to be this: I'm going to take a week. Take a week to see my friends. To sleep. To mentally recharge. To zone out reading a book that has nothing to do with education. To play a game or two. Clean my room. Impose some organization on my life. To process the magnitude of the whole situation.

And then I'll make the big money and time decisions. When I'm not in shock. Which will hopefully be soon.

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


That's about all I got right now. Long, emotional day. Long, cold, wet night (with soccer being a bright spot even though I got soaked). Really long, extra stressful evening. More on that later. But for right now I just have to sleep, process, and make it through the end of the week so I can seriously consider my life choices. Good times...

I'll leave you with a video of a song that I highly enjoyed this year. Another that blasted into my life this summer and left its mark, getting me through a lot of stuff this semester.

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


It's funny what endings do to you, even if you see them coming. Friday is my last day of my student teaching placement, and I am stuck between extremes of feeling. Between being relieved that the end of this insane year is in sight and being incredibly sad because I will miss students and my CMTs. Between needing a mental break from the madness and realizing that I am meant to be in teaching, if only because I endured all manner of madness for it and still loved the experience.

It feels like now is *actually* the time for reflection, instead of a week ago with the letter, but whatever. I am planning on doing a couple of things to help myself along the road of reflection on my own time. Probably the biggest of all is creating a survey to give to the students I worked with, asking them to tell me what they liked, what they didn't like, what they wish I would have done, etc. I may add a fun question because I am me and I like fun.

The main purpose though is to get some honest evaluation from the people I taught, because I feel like it's as important as all the observations I had to go through with my CMTs and my supervisor. They're evaluating me from a technical, professional standpoint, which is obviously important. Especially since professionalism is sometimes still a struggle for me. But if I'm not getting through to the students, professionalism and all the other technical stuff doesn't mean a whole lot.

So I will be creating that, probably tomorrow, as I work to run through my last minute end of the semester checklist. If only it would stop growing...  And also, writing better blogs in the near future, when I time to compose them. As opposed to tonight when I am rather desperate to go to sleep, and cannot fully develop the thought. I may come back to it, though. I feel like this is a pretty important one.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


I have a bit of a personal creed when it comes to my internet interactions. While those who know me personally can attest to my occasional (or frequent, depending on the day) usage of profanity, I personally hold myself to a higher standard in places like Facebook, Twitter, and this blog most of the time. I believe it's more productive for discourse with a wider range of people. I also believe in choosing my words carefully which usually results in synonyms for those words being used to greater effect.

So when I say that I'm breaking this rule today, believe me when I say that I chose these words carefully:

What. The. Fuck. 2016. Why?

Okay, so I've chatted a bit on here about my own struggles this year. It basically boils down to having to prioritize school over just about everything else, including self-care at some junctures (which I stopped because that was not working out for anyone). But I'm not even talking about my life. Just this year, for so many people, and for the world at large has been so spectacularly shitty.

I saw this video today (warning for those who don't like profanity, you shouldn't watch this. It's way less reserved than I am). I felt like it pretty concisely summed up a majority of the truly messed up things. Celebrity deaths aside (RIP Ron Glass and Alan Rickman), let me list out the tragedies:

- Pulse Nightclub shooting
- Police Shootings galore, both black people shot by the police and police being shot at.
- Brock Turner being given a slap on the wrist for the violent rape of an unconscious woman.
- Kaepernick and the circus (not his protest, but the response from the peanut gallery. I'm 100% supportive of his freedom to protest in that way, as I've talked about here).
- Brexit giving the finger to the younger generation of Brits.
- Terrorist bombings in a variety of places.
- Columbian's rejecting a peace deal that took four years to orchestrate because it wasn't harsh enough on the former aggressors (who had already given up their weapons).
- The massive earthquake in New Zealand.
- The myriad of human rights violations in Aleppo and other battles throughout the Middle East.
- The Standing Rock stand-off, with military force being used against a group of peaceful protestors trying to defend land that was given to them (where a group of white men in a much more aggressive, armed protest were treated with much more respect just earlier this year, I might point out).
- Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) about the Presidential Election cycle, results, and the fact that white supremacist groups are still alive and well in this country and they are stoked about the next four years.

That was all just off the top of my head, and I probably missed a lot. It just feels like this year has been a constant barrage of news that makes my heart hurt, or highlights the vast injustices still present in this world on a larger scale.

As someone who believes in seasons of life, all of which have lessons to learn, I have to wonder, what the heck were we supposed to learn from this? Did anything positive come out of this year, or was it just a lot of internet outrage and people dying?

Did we finally learn that perhaps (just PERHAPS), the white population as a whole isn't as completely over racism as we liked to tell ourselves that we were a few years back? Did we learn that this country is increasingly divided, and it's very hard to convince people that we're "One Nation" anymore? Did we maybe, maybe learn that perhaps internet outrage is not the best way to communicate a point?

I realize that I'm posting this on the internet, but I'm also trying to keep the outrage to a minimum. And I'm not limiting that last bit to just one side of the aisle either. There was plenty of it on both sides, and it was unproductive and resulted in a lot of large issues being debated to the point where I started questioning the humanity of people on both sides. Because honestly, how can you say THAT?

This year has been unfortunate in that it has normalized a lot of hateful speech. There was no safe corner here. Whatever went wrong immediately had people on both sides screaming at each other without listening. At one point, I started to jump in the fray on Facebook. I got tired of not speaking up. Despite my intentions to keep it civil, in inevitably resulted in people using a string of terrible logic to defend increasingly irrational opinions as if they were pure fact. Does that mean I stop posting what I believe? No, it just means I moderate those posts more closely, and try to step in to maintain discourse.

Because at the end of it all, after this dumpster fire of a year, I still believe in certain things. I believe in rational discourse. I believe in NOT living in an echo chamber of people who believe the same as I do. I believe in hearing other's opinions and considering them respectfully. I believe in them being equally respectful if I don't agree.

There are a lot of hot-button issues. Actually, it feels like literally every issue right now is hot-button for one reason or another. There's really no way around it. The issues are clearly there, and now we need to talk to them, in a respectful enough way to start finding a middle ground.

It requires everyone getting off their high horses and coming to sit at a table, build the respect necessary for a productive conversation, and then being willing to make some compromises. It requires everyday people taking a stand against echo chambers, and inflammatory rhetoric that builds more walls than it burns down.

I have no confidence that the current political system is going to teach this. Already, it is very, very, very difficult for me to keep a lid on it basically any time I hear certain politicians speak. The outrage is there, and it is banging on the door, and I am trying to funnel it into real rhetoric, real arguments, that actually take a point, expand on it, present evidence, and raise the level of discourse around the issue.

This is not easy for me. I am very frustrated by the increase of hateful speech I've heard around my school towards certain groups of people after this election. I am very frustrated by the inability of Christians in America to calm the heck down about certain issues long enough to actually love people. I am really frustrated by the fact that I still can't look the girls that I teach in the eye and promise they will be given a fair shot in life, because the evidence is currently very much to the contrary still.

I am trying, though. I am trying to funnel all that frustration into rational thoughts, statements, evidence, and solutions to suggest. I am trying to formulate how to communicate respectfully with those around me. As school winds down for me this week, I'll probably end up with slightly deeper posts for the rest of the month. Hopefully. There might still be a few posts that are related to what books I'm (finally) reading, or what games I am taking the opportunity to play, short as it is. Aside from those, I'll try and address some things that are finally starting to trickle through my slightly less taxed mind. So... something to look forward to!

Until tomorrow.

Monday, December 12, 2016


So I was going to write something else tonight. A bit of a rant post about 2016 (it'll be fun, eventually). Totally even started it. However, it got late, and I want to give myself time to finish the thought without rushing. So instead I'm going to post the song that got me through some of the roughest months in the midst of 2016 and leave it at that.

This song came up on my Spotify while I was walking tonight (part of the reason I have minimal time to finish this post). I first heard it over the summer during my crazy and slightly longer than planned trip to camp. These trips have happened a couple of times actually, where I go up for "a day or two" and end up staying for at least four days. In this case to the detriment of my work schedule, but it was totally worth the lost day of pay. Awesome weekend.

Anyways, I heard this song that weekend and proceeded to play it on repeat for most of the next two weeks because it was exactly what I needed to hear right at that moment. Jesus is often very cool like that in my experience.

What I love most about the song is that it is so clearly speaking against things that we have accepted as love in the past, that ended up wounding us. Then it clearly says, "God's Love is NOT like that," and affirms what Love should actually look like. And if you don't need that reminder every once in a while, I kinda want to live your life? But not really, because I'm a fan of the reminders. They tend to be the most awesome moments in my life.

They're the reason I can still be something of an optimist after this year is said and done. But, like I said, more on that later.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Today was another caroling day, which is why I'm just now starting this post at 8:45 pm. Thankfully, this weekend and next I only have one gig a weekend.

Pros: I get to sleep in my bed every night, and my voice isn't nearly as trashed when I have to teach during the week.

Cons: 2 hours of driving, 20 minutes of finding parking (because this place is crazy busy every weekend), 30 minutes getting dressed and waiting for people, 3 hours of singing, and then another 2-2.5 hours back home depending on traffic and how long it takes me to get dinner. Long day.

One other pro though is that it gives a lot of time to think about things, time to process being a commodity I am otherwise really short on. So... does that mean I have something to write about? No, not really. Not more than little wisps of thoughts that didn't stick around long enough to become anything. Welcome to my brain on school.

I will try and start writing stuff down in notebooks this week. Maybe that will help break down this wall against deeper thought that I seem to have put up, perhaps out of survival after last month. Who knows?

Part of it is that I had a lot of beliefs shift and gain nuance, and I'm trying to sort out how best to express them. Part of it is that a lot of things this year were rough, and I'm still trying to figure out how to talk about the ones I'm even allowed to talk about. Part of it is I am having trouble even fully remembering things that I thought were super important to talk about two months ago, or a month ago, because so much has happened even in just that time to push it all out of the way. Thus, the wall. Which I will break done. Eventually.

But now I guess it's probably time to go to sleep so I'm not super groggy tomorrow morning when I'm trying to get work done.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Rest (Really)

You know what I love? Sleep. I really love sleep. Sleep and I, we get on great. Especially last night. I woke up this morning, not quite bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but definitely less zombie-esque than pretty much this whole week.

Does this mean I know what to write about today? Absolutely not. My brain is still in recovery mode, a necessary stage before I can process any topic at a higher level. Expect a lot of long, deep posts from me in like... a week and a half or so, when I'm done with most of the madness and will have time to process the magnitude of everything that's happened this year.

I have dedicated the rest of the day to soccer, because not only do I have my girls game at 1 pm, I told the guys in one of my senior classes that I'd go to their game which is at 7... So rainproof clothes are my friend. California has decided that weather is a thing that we should probably have now, finally.

Also, in between games I should probably dedicate time to my next task, trying to create innovative ways to teach about figurative language that differs from the "fill in a worksheet" model... or maybe more accurately, Googling innovative ways to  teach about figurative language because as much as I would like to create my own stuff, my time to do so is a little lacking.

In the meantime, I'm going to go back to thinking about nothing right now. Get that last little bit of real rest in before having to leave the house and be an adult again.

Until tomorrow.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Rest (Sorta)

I finished grading papers at about 10:30 am this morning. After staying up until well after 11, getting just over 5 hours of sleep, and starting my day with the third of the energy drink that I didn't consume last night (opened after I realized that the only way I was going to make any progress was with some significant caffeine). I also then got a wonderfully large cup of strong tea on my way to school, that got me through the last 8 or so papers that I didn't manage to force myself through.

If it helps my sanity at all, my master teacher was definitely impressed that I managed to get through the whole stack in the two days like I promised. I don't know how much that actually helps my sanity, maybe it just helps my pride. My sanity is still being debated.

The upshot of finishing all the papers was that I got to come home and do nothing. I watched two episodes of This Is Us, played some games on my computer, drank some rum since I didn't have anything pressing to focus on. It was a beautiful, quiet evening.

One thing I've learned from this whole year of school-related madness is that you have to take these evenings when you get them. Refuse to touch anything school related. Let your brain wander for a bit. Zone out. Relax. Otherwise, you get something that looks strikingly similar to me that last couple of weeks: Whenever anyone asked how I was doing, I just stared at them blankly with a small, desperate chuckle. Two weekends in a row with minimal rest took their toll on me during the week.

So this weekend, I'm going to try and do better. I mean, I still have to do things. I still have to be at a game tomorrow for soccer, but that hardly counts as work. But I get to sleep in. I get to do some things at my own pace. I get to sleep in my bed every night (HALLELUJAH! I love my parents, but I hate their couch). My list of school things to do is finally - FINALLY - getting slightly smaller, and that light is getting brighter.

The more rest I get, the brighter it glows.

And on that note, my bed is screaming my name. Ima go answer it.

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas in October

I have been listening to Christmas music since October. If you know me, or have talked to me about music and Christmas anytime in the last 15 years or so, OR have read this blog where I inevitably touch on the subject as least ONCE, you know this is very unusual. I am typically the Scroogiest of Scrooges about Christmas music, particularly when I am involved in performing it during the season, and therefore required to sing certain songs repeatedly.

Yet there I was, on October 20-something, listening to Christmas music happily and liking it. 

So weird. It honestly freaked me out a little bit.

But then I started thinking about why. For one, a ton of Christmas music came out early this year, at least from the artists I like. Late October saw JJ Heller and Pentatonix come out with full-length albums, both of which I am contractually required to acquire ASAP and listen to until the cows come home. It's in the fangirl contract. And honestly, how can you not want to listen to this song 50 times in a row? 

Then, of course, I committed to singing for my mom's business, but because I had such a short lead in time in terms of rehearsing, I hadn't been hearing these same songs since mid-October like normal. So there wasn't the traditional over-saturation that I usually experience at this time. 

The biggest reason though is more likely that this has been a really, really, really long year. Starting in January, when I decided that doing an intensive workout program at the same time as school, through the summer where I was working 30 hours a week, and in school for 15 weeks straight with no breaks, and jumping right into Student Teaching after about 4 days of a break... Add in a generous dose of personal drama, and the worldwide dumpster fire of the year itself, and you have a very weary Alanna, even by October when Christmas music started coming out.

At that point, I started listening to it and thinking, "what is wrong with me? I never do this..." It wasn't just because I love JJ and PTX (or Josh Garrells and Rend Collective when they released their albums later). I think it was also largely because I was so desperate for the year to be over, even in October. 

It's not because I didn't enjoy the last bit of my Student Teaching. In fact, it was considerably more fun than the first half of the semester, because I was more settled into the routine and I got to know the students better. I got better at teaching, and hopefully better at adulting to some degree, inasmuch as the definition of doing hard things even when you REALLY don't want to.

I was ready for the year to be over because the weight of everything that's happened this year is making it hard to convince myself that continuing to get out of bed is worth the effort. That will change with actual rest and time to process everything, I know. It's just a matter of getting through this last little bit without going insane.

And on that note, I have to step away from this mental break to go grade essays. Speaking of lessons learned... Yesterday, I foolishly boasted that I could manage to grade all the 20-some essays I had still on my docket by tomorrow, not realizing that it would take me much longer to work my way through full essays vs. paragraphs, which took me awhile. So I'll be up for awhile, due to my overdeveloped need to keep my word, even if my word was really dumb.

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I should not be writing a blog post right now. This is me being a typical student and finding everything I can possibly do to put off the inevitable writing assignment looming. They tell me the semester ends tomorrow, which I laugh at because I'm not really done until the 22nd.

Yet, I still must produce a Reflection Letter about the second half of the semester by tomorrow. This seems like it should be a fairly easy task, no? I write every day (especially during Holidailies). I reflect on things all the time. Writing + reflection = Easy Assignment!

Except for one minor fact. It is really hard to reflect on something when it is still happening at such a pace that you haven't even really had a solid 20-30 minutes (their recommendation) to just sit and think about what you've learned, what you've gained, what Blessings you've encountered in the process. Their language not mine. Mine is closer to, what didn't kill you, because that probably made you stronger, right?

There have obviously been good things. As I reported earlier in the week (can I just use that as my letter?), the amount of time and energy spent on this endeavor is being rewarded, by students who are miraculously showing progress, even with my teaching style that sometimes feels as wobbly as a toddler learning to walk. By getting to glean from teachers who have figured out more than I had realized I needed to know (a very scary prospect for a know-it-all in recovery, let me tell you). By getting opportunities to continue working with the age group even while I'm mega-focused on getting my impending Thesis done and written, through soccer and substitute teaching for the district.

On the other hand, there are nights like tonight when I get home after 8 pm for the third consecutive night (no end in sight for that stat either), freezing cold, tired, and brain dead. Suddenly, the prospect of writing something coherent and positively tinted seems a little bit more difficult, while the fact that I've had this *mumbling* document open and basically blank for the last 5 days is frustrating me to no end.

So I guess I should go do the damn thing so I can stop ignoring my sleep tracker app (downloaded to help me make sure I'm getting enough sleep, or at least track my lack of enough sleep...) which is telling me that I should have gone to bed 20 minutes ago. Poor sleep tracker app, so ignored.

Also, this song is totally stuck in my head now because of the title of this post. So enjoy.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I swear, someday I'll have time to write a blog post about something other than what is happening in the moment. I miss my days of long, well thought out, in-depth posts on the deep topics. But seeing as my fingers are still kinda tingly while they're warming up from being cold, it seems like that's not going to happen tonight.

See, I left the house pretty early this morning, per the usual, and my brain got about to 5 o'clock in the afternoon when it came to planning ahead. I dressed for or brought clothes to satisfy all situations until then. I just kinda forgot to plan for it being frigid at soccer practice at 6:30 (despite it being just as cold yesterday at the game, at an earlier time), and on top of it all, didn't even have all the clothes that I thought I did. The jeans that were "in my bag" did not exist. So I ended up out there with just leggings and workout shorts layered on top of each other, no hat, and no gloves, though I did at least have a sweatshirt and a jacket.

I need to just start packing a bag to keep in my car at all times with a different type of soccer gear: gloves, scarf, hat, extra socks, a long sleeve undershirt, hand warmers... this all seems very practical. At least tomorrow is an away game, which is a bit sad in terms of travel time eating up my grading time. It does have one good point: extra time in a well-heated car to thaw out a little bit, because I definitely was not fully thawed when I got home tonight after a 10 minute drive.

Second thing to do is make a hot water bottle or some sort of travel thermos with just water, honey, and some lemon to make myself a nice throat saving concoction. This is necessary because 7 hours of gigs last weekend + cold + teaching + having to have normal conversations + reflexively singing along to the radio even when my throat hurts = Croaky voice.

I'm going to climb under my covers now and pray that warmth comes soon to save my poor tingly fingers.

Until tomorrow.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Why Not?

My title is indicative of my attitude about a month ago, when, while in the middle of not only Student Teaching, but NaNo as well, I agreed to also try to fit volunteer soccer coaching into the mix. Because why not? I mean, who needs time at home to do work?

All joking about my insane schedule aside, I actually said yes to the offer because I missed doing things that I love. Not that I don't love teaching. I do. Every time I'm at the front of the classroom or working with students, I'm pretty stoked about it. It feels like the payoff for surviving on peanuts doing anything and everything I could to just be around kids, teaching kids, even if they weren't the age group or subject matter I'm ending up it.

Every single time that I've gotten a job that didn't involve working with kids in one way or another it has petered out within a few months, tops. I think the longest I've made it since graduation college was 5 months in a job without kids. It's either been kids or (often) nothing the rest of the time. And really, it's because nothing else drives me like that possibility for life transformation. The prospect of being "that person" for even one student, the person who said something that changed how they think about the world or helped them understand something... It's a heady idea to think about.

Coaching soccer is my other happy place. Or rather, my happy place has always been a soccer field in some way, shape or form. The first practice I went to was actually on Election Night, and despite all the stress of the day for me and many of my friends, being out on the soccer field was like the best anti-depressant ever. It is a place where I can give my brain a break from focusing on all the things about my life that are out of my control, and focus instead on the sights and sounds of drills, or a game being played. I lose myself, in a good way, and I missed it when I was away from the game.

Now, a month later, I'm finally starting to learn some things. Learn the girl's names, learn what a coach actually does (because I really had no clue), learn the differences in gameplay and expectations between the different levels of play, learn all those nuances of the team and the relationships, and the league.

Who cares that I could have actual evenings at home if I wasn't doing this? I really don't right now. I was suffocating under a blanket of JUST SCHOOL AND WORK for months, and I was making it, but I didn't have any activities that actually gave me some sort of outlet and it was killing me. Now I've gotten another NaNo, and the associated temporary social life that helped breathe a breath of life into my weariness. I've gotten into a place where I get to know more people in the community, something I've done a stunningly poor job at since I moved to this area. I've gotten a place where for an hour and a half most weeknights I can give my brain a break from the constant chatter of to-do lists and lesson plans and scheduling time into my life to grade papers and...

And it's wonderful.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Of Kittens and Couches

I've realized that the last two posts have ended without a real point, or reasoning for why I tied all those thoughts together. Mostly because the addition of caroling to my weekends (first post) makes my insane schedule even crazier, for all that it makes me money, provides some fun, and is good leadership experience when I'm singing gigs where I'm the defacto leader by virtue of experience and knowledge of the music. 

Then that leads to extra exhaustion (second post), because not only am I expending the energy of performing, but I'm also doing super fun things like sleeping on my parent's couch. The couch is not like, my favorite couch in the world. It is designed to be sat on in the specific sections, not slept on length-wise. It also puts me in the middle of all the hub bub of six people on diverse schedules, two dogs, five resident cats, and one foster kitten who spends the night in a crate in the living room being very loudly sad that he cannot be out wandering the house and sleeping on top of me. 

I'm still trying to figure out if I get more or less rest during the week, where my sleeping schedule has degraded to around 6-7 hours a night, waking up at 5 am when my poor night owl body is still very happy being in bed. It's kinda a toss-up, honestly.

Thankfully, the next couple of weekends I'm just singing Sundays because I have places to be on those Saturdays. Which simply means long driving days, which I can handle. 

And now it is time to start getting ready for gig #3 on the weekend. And driving home after that, to hopefully get a reasonable amount of sleep in my quiet, comfortable bed.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


I've spent a lot of my life being pretty exhausted a lot of the time. Having depression and not knowing it for almost 10 years through junior high, high school, and college will do that for you. My depression has always, always presented as bone-crushing weariness with life that makes it difficult to actually do anything productive, let alone get ahead in stuff like chores and homework.

I didn't really understand why I somehow couldn't make myself function at the level that was expected of me in my youth without caffeine; even as early as 12 or 13, I had discovered that soda could not only make it easier for me to focus but also make it possible to attain the level of hyperactivity my friends naturally exhibited. When I got home I could collapse, but when I was hanging out with people, it was all about getting enough fake energy into my bloodstream.

Same with homework. If I could drink enough soda to kick my brain into gear, I could get everything done. More often than not, though, it was just enough to get by, and frustratingly not the extra that I knew I could do if I just could have gotten around to it perhaps the night before it was due.

I have always been very analytical about my caffeine consumption. I almost treat it as another over the counter medicine that I take. I know about how many milligrams of caffeine is in the coffee I drink most mornings versus how much is in an energy drink, tea, or a regular soda. I know which drinks affect me fastest, ala different types of hard alcohol. If I want to get buzzed super quick from booze, I drink tequila because one drink is more than enough. If I want to get that mental zing in the next half an hour because I have a paper to write, I slam a half an energy drink or a shot (or two) of espresso.

Starting in college, it became about the most efficient ways to get it into my system. Caffeine pills were not out of the question, though I recognized the slippery slope there and avoided them unless something like a sickness or trying to keep my voice alive for a performance kept me from drinking my normal stuff. Excedrin became my emergency, "I have nothing in the house and a caffeine headache" go to.

At some point in those four years, I realized I was probably legitimately addicted to caffeine and made attempts to either go cold turkey or back off my consumption severely on breaks to at least try and salvage some semblance of natural energy production. Whether or not that actually worked is somewhat up for debate, because I always go back.

I worked hard after I moved out of my parent's house to deal with this because 1) I had less than no money, and 2) I needed to be able to be more consistently functional to do fun things like hold a job and support myself on some level. A combination of actual depression medication and working out a lot of my previously totally ignored emotional issues helped with that. Did you know that completely repressing a lot of different strong emotions all at once is kinda exhausting? Neither did I, until I started working through them and noticed the difference. I even managed to get off the meds after a couple of years, which was a goal because I wasn't a huge fan of the side effects, as much as the meds helped.

I had also managed to successfully taper off my usage of energy drinks for a good couple of years before starting my Masters program. I still had them every once in a while, but not with the frequency, and often I would open one can and just sip on it for like, three days whenever I was feeling slow. I never fully got off of it, though, unfortunately. And then school hit.

Suddenly it was all back. Too much stuff to do, too many new tasks to handle, and I jumped on the energy drink train hardcore. Also the coffee train, which was one that I had stayed away from, not liking coffee for most of my life (this changed when I went to Italy and discovered real espresso, but that's a different story.

I have spent a good portion of this semester trying to moderate my consumption, after a summer of pumping myself full of various high-caffeine drinks to survive my newly early alarms, my ridiculous school workload, and the summertime drama that made all of that even more difficult to process. I even went completely cold turkey for a couple of weeks, until my first assessment was due and I realized the reason I still drink caffeine is because higher level thought happens much better with it than without it. Unfortunately, I don't see that changing any time soon, though I am still going to try and keep it at least within the bounds of moderate consumption, instead of, you know, 4 shots of espresso a day in various forms, or a couple of energy drinks instead of just one. It gets to a point where it's just not worth it anymore, and then I'm still tired.

That's what it all comes down to, really. Even with all this, I'm still tired all the time. It's been quite possibly the longest year of my life, with the possible exception of the year my sister and nephews died. But that happened in May, and this year has pretty much been insane since January. It's been school, yes. It's been work, and the drama associated with getting prepared to leave in August for student teaching, which brings us back to school... and on top of that, you know, still trying to be a person with functioning feelings and the time to occasionally stay at home for a few hours to rest. Minor details.

So exhaustion is where I'm left, clinging to the last vestiges of my willpower. Even though has grown a LOT out of necessity this year, it's almost gone. I'm starting to feel like I'm going to need a full week of just absolute nothing except for self-care activities to decompress from this year. Whether or not I'll get that is still up for debate, but at the very least, I get Christmas, a day which I'm looking forward to not out of a super-developed Christmas spirit, but because it represents the time when I finally, finally get to stop for a minute and just be.

Until tomorrow.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fa La La La La...

For some reason, there's a major part of my life every holiday season that I rarely talk about. Perhaps because it is something I've done for so long, I never think about my involvement. I sing in my mom's Dickens caroling group, at malls and events, somewhere between 1-3 weekends a year in December. They've been rehearsing in my house since I was 8, and I've been singing with them since I was 13.

This year in particular, it actually is notable that I'm doing this. My schedule is so absurd with student teaching, volunteer soccer coaching, writing about soccer on the side, occasionally trying to spend time at home... add that to the fact that I sang a grand total of two gigs last year and haven't sung in a professional or choral context since then (aside from running a kid's choir at my work, which doesn't really count) and I was thinking, "this is insane, my voice won't survive, I don't have time to drive down there any weekend, why would I do that?" The answer turned out to be money. I haven't been making any as a student teacher and loans only go so far, and inevitably the end of the semester is when that reality starts to set in.

Which is why my Thanksgiving break started with a mad dash to get my voice back to something vaguely resembling good again. The first rehearsals were... rough, to say the least. Not only was I practicing ensemble pieces on my own without any support, I was practicing with a pitch pipe app instead of a piano. The cats were very confused. They kept sitting on the music, which was generally unhelpful and hilarious and made it difficult to focus on the notes.

I powered through, got my voice to a point where I could jump back in to a group and hold my own. Which is good because I sang two three-hour gigs last weekend. And another 7 hours this weekend, one of which is already finished thankfully.

I feel like I had a point to this whole thought, but I have no idea what it was now, hours after I started writing. This is your brain on low sleep, high busyness quota, or something like that.

Until tomorrow.