Learning to Breathe

After a long artsy hiatus (I can thank institute for that), I am finally painting again. Words fail me when I try to convey how I feel when paint is dripping from my fingertips and onto canvas…there is an element that is so fulfilling yet decompressing about creating.  When I am creating I can lose myself in colors and textures, emotions and dreams.  All of the brokenness seems to spill out of me and is eaten up by the canvas; Love can bubble up and foam around me. 
Teaching has consumed my life for the last few months.  I am passionate about my career, passionate about closing the gaping achievement gap that ravages the children and community I work with.  However, when I made this move, I made a commitement to myself to find balance. As roomie would say, I made a commitment to “just do H.A.”  I felt really lost this past year; I gave up myself for a boy (do we all do this at some point?).  He never asked me to, but love makes you do crazy things. I moved away from everyone I loved to the middle of nowhere. I stopped painting, stopped creating. I was not on a path to further myself or my future. I was willing to sacrifice everything. I waited…and waited…and waited for him to ask me to stay. To not go. I waited for him to make the leap.
It never happened.
I am finding myself again, figuring out where exactly I lost myself and struggling to put the pieces back in place. I am intense; I keep people at bay and am quick to retreat into my shell when threatened. Painting allows me to breathe, it makes my diaphragm relax and the tightness in my shoulders loosen up. What helps you breathe?


I Survived Institute 2011 in the Desert

I survived Institute 2011 in the desert.

I seriously need a shirt with that caption. I just survived the most intense, stressful, sleepless, busy, crazy, ridiculous training of my life. I averaged 3 hours of sleep per night (what I refer to as "naps" rather than real sleep) for the last 5 weeks, braved the desert sun (one day it was 125 degrees, people!!!), and was pushed pretty close to my limit...and I am a better person for it. A better teacher. It forced me to put in 110% and be the absolute best person I am capable of being. Talk about reaching your potential!

So check it: I am officially an Elementary teacher. I had 20 little 4th grade faces that I was in charge of all summer; 20 little human beings that needed BIG change in their lives, who needed someone who was willing to go to all lengths for them. I had the honor of being that person. And I fell in love. I fell in love with 20 little babies who I absolutely adore and unfortunately have to leave...because I have 20 new babies waiting for me in Tulsa.
My fellow 4th grade teachers (I'm 3rd from the left!)

Homegirl never found balance this summer, so unlike the awesome Corps Members who blogged during the whole process, I'm going to have to catch you up.

Day (or shall I say night) 1: Homegirl arrives to campus around 11:30pm with no idea where to go. Roomie & TFABFF (That's Ashley Lite) rescue me. TFA peeps hand me a 500+ page book named BARB (Big Awesome Red Book) and tell me to be ready to go in a few hours--oh and p.s. I need to read this book cuz I'm a 4th grade teacher starting next week. Go!

Week 1: NEVER sleep. For rizzle. TFA gives us pipe cleaners and play-do to play with during training sessions, because there is no way in HECK that we are staying awake all week running on 2-5 hours of sleep each night. They tell us to stand in the back of the room if we just simply can't stay awake; no hard feelings. I stand in the back of the room. I make flowers out of pipe cleaners. I make a pretty awesome play-do man.

Week 2-5: NEVER sleep. Wake up at 5:15am & shower. Head down to Teacher lunch line: pack your lunch in a line up with 600+ other CMs...don't be late because then you don't get an ice pack. And let me tell you, warm turkey sandwich ain't good on the tummy come lunch time! Grab hot breakfast (holla!) & a hot tea for the road before gettin' on the Teacher Mobile (aka sweet coach buses we get to ride to school).

**NOTE: Hot tea calms my nerves. I drink it on the bus to school. I drink it after dinner. I do this to settle my nerves and emotions, which are running HIGH, my friends. We're talkin' Hot-crying-mess if sandwich man (My good man, Anthony, who likes when I tease him--I swear!) doesn't make my turkey-cheese-sandwich-dinner (cuz homegirl can hardly ever eat anything else) right.

Back to Weeks 2-5: Get to school & teach my 4th grade babies who I LOVE and TRACKTRACKTRACK 'yo data, struggle to stay awake during afternoon/evening training sessions, then RUN to the bus. This part is important, 'ya gotta RUN to the bus, people. If you don't run, then you won't get a seat in the front, which means you don't get off the bus first, which means your ass isn't gunna beat the dinner crowd to the Caf (= cafeteria), which means you're standing in line for a good 45+ minutes for that turkey-cheese-sandwich-dinner. Eat dinner with adopted colab & personify everything in sight with Kylia (it's our thing, okay). Drink hot tea as you lesson plan the night away. Make the trek over to the copy center before they kick your butt to the curb at midnight (if you're not in by 11:40pm, you're not getting in, my friend). Pass out on bed for 2-3 hours. REPEAT.
Adopted Colab...me not pictured.
 (Kylia, my personifying superstar, is on the left)

Last day: Nearly cry when you have to leave the non-Tulsa people (WHY does TFA do this to us?! Why do they make us meet and work with awesome frickin' people only to be like "JK! They aren't in your region."???!!). Have a heart attack when you realize the clothes that you mailed are soooo not fitting into your 3+ suitcases (listen, the plus is my "personal item", okay? Backpacks totally don't count as a carry-on, they are a PERSONAL ITEM.) and throw out a third of your shit so that your suitcase will actually close. Get to airport and discover your bags are over the weight limit and open up all 3 of your suitcases in front of a crowd of strangers (yes, dude behind me, it is a little creepy that you're checking out my lacey black bra & undies that are conveniently packed on top) and start moving clothes around between the 3 of them to even them out so you don't get charged a MEGA fine (yo, Delta wanted to charge me $90, homeskillets...fly SouthWest). Dignity lost? Check. Do I have any shame? Nada. Finally, board your plane. Say peace to the desert.

Peace, desert.


Meet BARB.

This is BARB.

She's kind of a b*tch. Well, she's like that girl that you meet and initially write off as a b*tch, but then once you get to know her, you're like in love with her.

See, the thing is, BARB is really big. I mean we're talking mega-thick. She totally hurts your back when you're lugging her around for work training, and before you get to know her it's really hard to understand what her purpose is. I mean do we seriously need to trek around in the Arizona heat (which is like an oven, by the way) with a 50-lb book?!

(BARB, compared to an apple.)

(BARB--side view.)

But it turns out, BARB, which just happens to stand for "Big Awesome Red Book," IS actually awesome. She's super helpful and loaded with all sorts of good teaching stuff. Classroom Management plan? Check. Lesson Plan template? Check. Breakdown of the Culture of Achievement? Check. So, I was wrong, friends. BARB kicks ass. Girl's a teacher's best friend, loaded with secret weapons for unruley and disengaged students. You go, BARB.


Tie-Dye Slumber Party (& mini-tutorial)

Happy Memorial Day! I hope you're all spending time with your loved ones. The anxiety (and reality)  has just set in on me today--I have a million things to do and pack before I leave for 6 weeks of out-of-state job training! I've been trying to squeeze in as much time with my Michigan friends as possible before I leave, so last weekend we had a T1 Tie-dye Slumber Party. I tie-dyed a white dress that I've held on to for a year with the intention of dying it.


Step 1: Rubber band your clothing to create your design

Step 2: Check to see that you are satisfied with the amount of rubber bands used, and design created

Step 3: Make sure to wear gloves or your fingers will look like this once finsished

Step 4: Pour powdered dye into provided squeeze bottle; fill bottle with warm water and shake until powder is completely dissolved.

Step 5: Lay out plastic garbage bags to protect floor; one to set your dye bottles on and one for each piece of clothing (each piece of clothing should get tied up in a bag and set in the bathtub/sink for 24 hours before taking out rubber bands and washing)

Step 6: Start sqeezing your dye onto the clothes! Use no more than 2-3 different colors per piece of clothing & try using complimentary colors (this prevents brown results). Leave some white so that you will be able to see your design once completed.

Step 7: Leaving rubber bands in place, tie up each piece of clothing in its own plastic bag. Place in bathtub or sink for 24 hours.

Step 8: After 24 hours, open plastic bags and remove rubber bands. Rinse out as much dye from clothing in sink as possible. Wash on regular setting in washing machine. DO NOT WASH WITH OTHER CLOTHES FOR THE FIRST 2 WASHES!


Now on to Magnificent Monday Movie. I don't know about you, but homegirl here loves popular music played on obscure instruments. Think about Stiffler's "Play That Funky Music" bagpipe stint in American Pie: Band Camp or this ridiculously talented dude. Well, this duo knocks other cellists out of the park.

The cello is the most sensational instrument ever. After the bagpipes, of course.

I'd love any links to other music videos like this--you know, pop culture songs played on your not-so-every-day instruments. Does this bring anything to mind? I'd also love to hear about your tie-dying adventures and/or tips!


Ninja Turtle In Need

Okay friends, if you've been wallowing in the Monday blahs, I have a quick story to pull you outta that! I was driving down a busy road today when I see a little turtle in MAJOR crisis mode. Poor little ninja was right in the middle of the road, all tucked inside his shell in distress :( I was about to swerve over and rescue said ninja, but low and behold...the Red Bull Man had screeched his huge truck to a hault and was running over to the little guy. That's right, Red Bull Man pulled the hero move and dashed out of his truck to save the frightened turtle! He safely tucked Donatello in the brush next to the "swamp" of the nearby apartment complex. There's proof that there ARE still kind-hearted people out there :)

I also have Magnificent Monday Movie for you, but first--I attended the East Lansing Art Festival this past weekend and snagged some amazing stuff! 
(Simply adorable brass-looking robot necklace)
(Pocket watch necklace)
(Awesome music-note headband that ties at base of neck & Elastic wooden bead belt)
(Snazzy purple flower hair clip)

I also went antiquing after the festival and got a bunch of cool stuff, including some sweet skeleton keys. Here are the nifty maps and skeleton lock I bought (all of which to be used in various mixed media projects):

Some of you may have just skipped right down to Magnificent Monday Movie, so let's do it. We all know I adore cats, but even if you don't, you have to love the ridiculousness (is that even a word?! It's an H-A word) of this video. You have to watch it at least twice to fully appreciate it; I guarantee if you do you'll laugh. My mom and I laughed until we cried :)

Because every cat needs a human to narrate for them.


Puffy Painting Party

There's nothing like a Ladies' Night that turns into a Puffy Painting Party! I can always count on my T1 ladies to keep things interesting (and artsy, at that). Our Ladies' Night began with dinner and ended with margaritas, good conversation, and some glow-in-the-dark puffy painted shorts.

I was pretty pumped that Cee sewed on my adorbs flower after the iron failed to deliver.

Having a glow-in-the-dark butt was at the top of my priorities.

Cee was much more practical and planned out her designs as I debated color schemes...

Kay is a master seamstress & the best wifey ever!

Based on previous puffy painting history, Kay insisted that I paint her T1 writing (I'm kind of a letter writing rockstar when it comes to puffy painting).

My glow-in-the-dark butt...and signature handwriting that I use in all of my art :)

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

Hey it's Monday!!! You know what that means...Magnificent Monday Movie :) Have you guys ever heard of free-running? I hadn't until just recently, but it's pretty much the coolest sport EVER. Watching people free-run makes me feel like I can run up walls and take on the world! Well...maybe after I finish physical therapy...

Didn't cha here?! I'm the next Super Mario Brother! Errr I mean sister.

Have you guys ever heard of/seen anyhing like this before?! Uuuuummmm reactions please, because this is incredible!


Letting Go of Childhood

With less than a month left in Michigan, the countdown has really begun. Although I am excited to be moving to Tulsa, a piece of me will always remain in MI. My parents are selling my childhood home, which has been incredibly difficult on all of us. It's funny what "makes" home for each of us...the wild violets that stubbornly appear in our yard each year and the old vine that creeps across our brick with outstretched fingers--these are symbols of home for me. What are some symbols of home for you?

(Click on each photo to enlarge)


Tiger background

I officially have time for everything artsy, now that finals are over :) I finished another background, of which I believe will likely be a tree. It didn't turn out quite the way I had intended...in fact it rather looks like a tiger, haha! But everything changes once you add new textures and materials to a mixed media piece. You never know what you will end up with! I took some pictures of the finished background outside, but Mr. Sun created quite a few shadows...including a dark spot near the bottom that was in nearly every shot:

Okay, I know you're all waiting for Magnificent Movie Monday--so here it is!

Think your Monday is bad? This bride's having the worst day ever...


Oh hey, they're playing my song!

Guess what's happening this month, friends...It's the East Lansing Art Festival! I'm excited because this is the first year I'll actually get to attend. How silly considering I lived in EL for 6 years; now that I don't live there, I'm going. College always kept me too busy!

Anyone else have the Monday blues? Well I've got a cure for that--Magnificent Movie Monday!!!

Because everyone needs a cheerful song to do a happy dance to :)


Cookies & Hats

I've been missing O terribly since my brief Detroit move, so yesterday I bought him these cookies from TheHomeBaker:
Don't they look delicious?! I hope she sends them out to O soon so he has some goodies to munch on while he studies for his SuperImportantLifeDetermining exam.

Here's O and I in the wonderful winter hats that my mom knitted for us:
She's a crazy-good knitter and makes all sorts of things from mittens to sweaters to purses! I've been encouraging her to make her own Etsy shop because her stuff is incredible.