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Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

I’ll skip the “omg so busy and that is why i haven’t updated in a billion trillion years” part since I’m pretty sure no one is reading this anymore.

Not much has changed since my last update. I am still working hard, still loving most of it and not so much the rest of it.

Things I love –

The kids. They are so cute and so much fun. Even when I’m tired and dreading work, being in class with the kids always perks me up because even if not all of them are on point, at least a few of them are going at life full tilt at any give time. That sentence is terrible, but I don’t feel like fixing it. Plus I feel that it gets my point across anyway.

The teaching. I find the subject matter interesting and I enjoy the process of teaching.

Things I don’t love –

Grading. Uuuuugh. No teacher loves grading. If you know a teacher, you’ve heard them bitch about grading. It is so boring, but it has to be done!

Coworker drama. I haven’t had any direct drama myself, but I’ve witnessed some. There is something specifically ugly about seeing teachers be ugly to each other. Most of my coworkers are lovely, but there are a few who could stand to chill out. People can also be weirdly competitive and insecure about their subject area and how much teaching time they get. It’s exhausting. The kids are fine! They are learning all the subjects just fine! If they like your subject, they’ll pursue it regardless of how many hours they spent on it in elementary school. But what do I know.

Things I hate –

Paperwork. Working in a public school means you have an insane amount of paperwork. As you slog through forms designed to hold you accountable for any small failure you might encounter, you have the odd sensation that you are doing someone else’s job as well as your own. Not to mention the fact that this is yet another in a long list of amazing plans to make each teacher the best teacher ever, and it will soon be followed by a new plan that means you have to recycle all your paperwork and start again. On the upside, I can complain about it. The administrators all have to pretend that they thing it is all an awesome idea. I’m frustrated, and I know that every single one of my fellow teachers is frustrated. We spend twice as much time filling out paperwork and sitting in pointless meetings as we do planning lessons, teaching, and grading.

All in all, I find it hard to believe that I’ll stick it out in public school for my entire career. The pay is much, much better (I’m talking nearly 20,000 a year better). But is it worth the trade off? It doesn’t feel like it right now.

And so I sit, the things that I don’t love and the things that I hate revolving around my mind, making me wince at the idea of going to work tomorrow. But I can find comfort in the fact that my classroom feels like a haven, even when invaded by evaluators, and I like standing in front of that room. It is tiring to think of standing in front of a class for hours tomorrow. In reality, however, I’ll be energized  by the subject and the kids, and too busy to think about being tired or hungry.

But I can’t just talk about teaching all the time, there are other things going on in my life! Just kidding, there really aren’t other things going on in my life. The cats are basically the same. They are cute and fluffy and scratchy and annoying and totally spoiled. SleepyHusband used to pretend that cats were, like, fine, like, I guess. But now he’s totally mushy about them.

I haven’t read anything new lately. Too busy reading stuff I’ll be giving the kids. Things I’ve read before. Soon I’ll be teaching a book that is totally new to me. It should be exciting, but frankly, it is just freaking me out at the moment. I keep feeling like I might snap if I’m given one more challenge, but so far I’ve just kept chugging along. Let’s hope my nervous breakdown is not incoming. And now I’m talking about work again.

I saw my whole immediate family for Thanksgiving, which was something that hasn’t happened in about 5 years. Amazing how time can get away from you like that. It was fun, and it was quite nice to be able to escape to our own house when the festivities were over.

We have a Christmas tree! SleepyHusband dragged me out on a Friday afternoon to pick out a tree and I may have lost my shit a little bit in the Christmas aisle of our local Walmart. But our tree is lovely. There is something soothing and charming about having a Christmas tree in the room.

I won’t end with a promise to post more. This blog is one of the last things I think of when I thing of ways to spend my free time. I’m also willing to admit that the recent release of two sequels in two of my favorite video game series ever has eaten up a decent amount of my lazy weekends. Uncharted 3, which I got through relatively quickly, is the last of a great platformer with fantastic voice acting and engaging plot. I don’t know if I’d say this was my favorite of the three, but the game play was noticeably improved and I was thoroughly entertained. Bethesda has also, FINALLY, released the next in it’s line of Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim. It is truly a game unlike any other. Apparently it is supposed to take 250 hours to finish every available activity in the game. I haven’t gotten even close to that, but I’ve been enjoying the heck out of it when I find the time. I’ll try to write a proper review sometime soon.

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So much to say…

It has been a looong time. Turns out I had plenty of time to blog when I had a part-time job, but when I have a full-time job that is crazy busy, it becomes less important to record the minutiae of my life.

That was not, incidentally, a crack at bloggers. That was a crack at how pointless my blog is/was. I have lots of friends who do cool things with their blogs, and I still read several of them every day despite being too busy to write in my own.

I last wrote here over a month ago. So short version since then –

The apartment search continued to be a complete nightmare. At one point we planned to move to a place down the street, then into another place after that. Then the one month place emailed and said they had found someone to rent for longer instead. So bleh.

Then I had an interview with a school where my parents live. While I didn’t think I had much of a chance, I was more optimistic than usual. To explain –

There is one cliche in my life that has usually worked out for me. When one door closes, another opens. My husband and I got together a day after another relationship fell apart for the 20th and last time. When I got this interview, I had the feeling that apartment after apartment had fallen through for a reason. This isn’t to say I was walking around thinking, “hey, no problem, I totally got this.” It’s more that I felt that if this job worked out, it would make sense.

Lo and behold, I got the job. It couldn’t be more exactly what I was looking for. But, to balance out the universe, I got it in the most complicated way possible. For awhile it looked like I couldn’t take the job because of licensing issues. Then I had about 6 days to prepare. The coworkers are the nicest, but they can only coddle me for so long. I pop into various classrooms a million times a day, probably making them crazy, to ask a million questions. The kids are a.maz.ing. I mean, all 8th grade kids are going to drive you crazy here and there, and they do. But there isn’t a single student in this (admittedly, quite small) group who hasn’t made me smile and/or said something interesting and insightful in class.

When we got here, we stayed in my parents guest room. Another apartment was acquired and fell through. This was a moment where I really had just had enough… And when I got home that day, after hearing the “perfect” place we had found wasn’t going to work, I arrived and discovered that my mom and grandmother had cleared out all the stuff stored in the guest room and put away all our clothes in the dresser and closet, so we could stop living out of suitcases and feel like we were at least semi-home. They couldn’t have found a better way to keep me from melting down. At this point, SleepyHusband was still working at his old job and staying with our friends, so I was on my own.

At last, we found a place that is just great. While I’m sure it will have it’s downsides and quirks, so far the biggest problem is that we don’t have enough furniture to fill it.

As for my job, it is almost harder now that I’ve settled in. While I was working every waking moment to prepare and keep up, looking for some place to live, moving, so on and so on… That was adrenaline. I didn’t really have time to be stressed, tired, or frustrated. Now that things have calmed down, I feel all of that! This is not to say I’m not enjoying myself. I know how lucky I am, I really do. And I value my weekend sleep more than I have in years.

I did not see my life going in this direction. I loved Boston. I thought we’d be there forever. The apartment search led us further and further into the suburbs and I thought that would be a huge change, weird to be living so far “out there.” Now we are in a house (because here a house goes for what a nice one bedroom would in our old neighborhood) in a tiny, tiny town. Depending on whether the former teacher who had my job comes back, which is about a 10% chance, this could be my life for awhile. I couldn’t imagine being here forever, no matter how idyllic it is, but who knows how things will go.

No matter what, I’m taking cliches as my friends right now. One door closes and another opens, don’t count your chickens before they hatch, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth…

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Yesterday I wrote a syllabus for the job I have lined up for the Fall. It is a job I’ve done before. It is a job I even like most of the time. Unfortunately, it isn’t really the job I wanted. I’ve been avoiding writing that syllabus all summer, hoping that when it came down to it, I wouldn’t need to. I was hoping that I’d have full time work somewhere else, somewhere that was going to lead me down the path I want to take.

There were times this summer when I felt guilty. The woman I work under at this job is really nice, and very helpful. She’s gone out of her way to assist me when it comes to syllabi, students, and finding the right materials. It felt sneaky to be applying to jobs without telling her. I’m sure that is a little silly. I’m sure she knows I’d like to have a full time job. I still felt a little bad though.

So now comes the part where I accept that I am where I am. There is no perfect job coming along before September. Instead I will be teaching two classes (I hope, fingers crossed I get enough students in both) and making respectable money for doing it. I’ll probably post on craigslist or something and offer my tutoring services. We really want to move to a nicer, bigger apartment in the Fall so we really have to redo our budget. Not even sure where to start, as we admittedly live paycheck to paycheck and everything tends to work out ok. That isn’t going to be the case when our rent is higher. We’ll actually have to keep track of our money… Ha. We aren’t big spenders, just disorganized ones.

It stings not to have the income from my old ESL job. I liked that job, and the longer I go without working the more annoyed I get that I was fired in favor of cheaper teachers. They didn’t even ask if I would work for less, maybe there are rules against telling someone you are going to pay them $5 less an hour and if they refuse they are fired. I really have no idea.

The last couple days I’ve been cleaning, which makes me feel a bit more accomplished. I’ve adopted a strategy my mother uses to get my butt in gear. She’ll tell herself she’ll do a certain number of things, and when those things are finished, she can stop cleaning for the day. The number is usually high, in the 40s or so. But each shirt she folds or scrap of paper she picks up will count as one thing. That keeps her house, currently occupied by three of her children, three dogs, and three cats, relatively under control. For me, doing 40 small things a day keeps everything pretty much clean. Most of the time getting started is the hard part for me.

I also tend to leave small messes until they become big messes. One dirty tea mug on the table is no big deal, I can get to it later. But then there are two, also no big deal. Then there are three, really should get to that… Next thing you know our entire mug collection is sitting on the table and then it is a big job that I don’t want to do. Don’t even get me started on vacuuming the carpet. With our terrible vacuum and our shedding cats (a definitely downside of hot weather) and too much furniture… I have to berate myself into doing it every two weeks.

So, long story short, my life is just as boring as usual. Our anniversary had some good, some bad. We went to the aquarium during the day and had a great time. Unfortunately, our dinner was really subpar. Bleh food, bleh service, bleh drinks… It was kind of a bummer to have a crappy dinner on our anniversary. We might do a bit of a redo on Sunday, when SleepyHusband has a day off.

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1. The word “digging”

2. Dorothy Sayers. I bought a book of her short stories at a used book store while we were in Chicago. Love her stuff, she is a better Agatha Christie. I’ve read some of the short stories before (and all of the novels) but some of these are happily new to me. I’ve been reading a story or two a night before bed, and I am almost done. So not excited for that! What will I keep next to my bed next? Short stories are perfect because I can’t get sucked into reading too many chapters.

3. Bright lipstick, still. Kind of. I can wear it to go on walks. Working my way up to actually wearing it out with friends.

4. The Bruins. I am watching game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs right now and TENSE! Bruins are winning 3-0 right now, I hope it stays that way! With the way I write blog entries the game might be over before I finish and I’ll have to edit this. Edit: Bruins are Stanley Cup Champions! Won 4-0, what a series!

5. Restaurant patios. A place we really like down the street opened a new patio and it’s great. It is huge and has all these lights and plants and so on. Really pleasant way to spend an evening. The weather needs to be friendlier though, come on summer!

6. Curry and Greek Salads. Not at the same time, but just in general I’ve really been craving curry dishes and I’m still on my endless Feta cheese kick. I bought a Greek salad the other day and threw it in the fridge for the next day. Sleepyhusband ATE IT WHILE I WAS SLEEPING. Rageface. I’ve also been into anything really spicy. I pretty much dump cayenne all over everything I eat right now.

7. Nights out with friends. I tend to be the one who brings my group of friends together because a) I am sporadically employed and have a lot less to do and b) I get bored really easily and immediate start thinking of ways I can get people to enable my restaurant addiction so I don’t have to cook. On Saturday I managed to get two sets of couples to get Indian with SleepyHusband and I. It was my college best friend and my childhood best friend and their significant others, and we had a fab time. Then CollegeBest and her SO came over to our apartment and we played monopoly on xbox (and I won, long live the top hat!).

8. Travel plans. We finally got our act together to get tickets to fly over to see SleepyHusband’s Dad for his birthday in August. SleepyHusband’s brother and his girlfriend will also be there. We all have a fantastic time together, so excited to see them!

9. Summer TV. Standards are lower, because it is summer TV, but light, fluffy summer shows are perfect for a warm evening. Covert Affairs, White Collar, Memphis Beat, The Glades… Yes, I have a crime show problem. This is a cry for help!

10. Now that I’ve come this far, I want to post 10 things… Uuuuum… I’m digging that my week is half over! I am currently doing a 6 day week because of a weird scheduling thing with the 3 week program I am teaching for right now. It is only 3 days in, but I’m finding the psychological effects of knowing I have that extra day coming are making me a bit twitchy. I’ve found this job really, really intense because the kids are so low level. I never have a second to sit down and I have to be so hands on that I’ve started buying a smaller coffee because I don’t have time to drink my normal size before it gets cold. (hi teachers who work with young children! I don’t know how you do it! I would lose my goddamn mind!) This really isn’t a “things I’m digging” entry is it? Yay for my week being half over!

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I’ve started and abandoned a few blog posts in the last month or so. Somehow, I just couldn’t get focused enough to finish any of them. They are lurking about as drafts, maybe I’ll finish and post some of them eventually.

This, incidentally, is what unemployment does to me. I suddenly can’t focus, can’t finish anything I start. And look, I’ve been working for three days and I’ve already cleaned the apartment and now I’m writing a blog post. I have no idea why this is. I can do only nothing when I am doing nothing.

I now have a three-week gig teaching a group of Japanese teenagers. They are giggly and spacey and always speaking Japanese to each other. Typical ESL class when it comes to teens. But I’m having a great time, and I’m already getting rather attached to them.

It is amazing how quickly you can suss out someone’s personality in a classroom. W, who will always at least try to answer my questions, even if he isn’t sure. S, who will never answer my questions, even when she knows exactly what the answer is. I, who is whip smart and has a fashion sense that is bizarre and fun and somehow temporarily blurs the line between overalls being a terrible idea and a great idea. K, who always greets me with a huge grin when I catch him messing around instead of working. J, a genuinely nice kid whose name I must be butchering because the other students giggle every time I say it. The list goes on.

I am also volunteering at a local animal shelter. So far I’ve been on kitten duty, which, as you can imagine, is terribly difficult. I pop over for an hour or two a few times a week and let tiny kittens crawl on me and pounce on my feet so they will get used to people and be good pets. I don’t know how I soldier through, but somehow I manage…

I applied to my dream job the other day. I heard back from them a couple of days later when they informed me that they had selected someone else. The job search over the last two years (wow, have we really been back for two years?) has been, in a word, heartbreaking. If I could have back every minute I’ve spent applying to jobs that I didn’t get I could probably learn how to play the goddamn piano.

I’ve had moments when I’ve thought about quitting teaching altogether. I love teaching, but I am tired of being on the periphery of what I really want to do. Sometimes I think I should just look for a new thing that I really want to do. Law school was always a thought in the back of my head, I bet I would enjoy publishing, I’ve already written one crappy book and maybe the next one will be better… And so on.

Two saving graces at a time when I thought I might give up altogether –

1. My college reunion. I knew this would be a weekend of old friends, reminiscing, drinking, and so on. What I didn’t realize is that it would also be a weekend full of 27 year olds who, for the most part, are as lost and frustrated as I am. If not more so. I read somewhere recently that we are a new Lost Generation. We were set adrift just in time to see the economy fall apart. But what I think is that to be a 20 something after college is to be a member of a lost decade, no matter the generation.

My Mom likes to cheer me up with stories of her own 20 something years, when she lived on a friend’s unheated porch and worked as a cocktail waitress. Not to mention the 20 something years of her friends. At 25 one of her best friends (and still a best friend today) was working at fast food joint that specialized in salads. She had to wear a special salad themed hat. The place was run by evangelical Christians who hired mostly other evangelical Christians. So she spent her workdays surrounded by salad and colleagues who were hyper-focused on spreading the good word. Once, when a successful woman whom she had never liked in college walked into the place, she stuck herself head first and waist deep into a bin full of lettuce and stayed there until the woman left. The happy ending here is that this woman now has a fun husband, three great kids, a convertible, and a house here and there. Not that houses are everything, but if she went from salad ostrich to that, I can go from ESL to English lit.

2. I read a blog post a friend of mine wrote. Like my college reunion, it reminded me that I am not the only one who is adrift. It also reminded me that platitudes like “it could be worse” or “you are still young” can get really stale, but you will still find yourself thinking them when your friends have the same issues you do. The entry is here – http://andrewivers.typepad.com/theblog/2011/06/methods.html

I recommend reading it, it is good stuff. Andrew can turn a phrase.

As it stands, I’ll try not to let the job search break my spirit. I also promise to come back and read this entry in ten years and laugh at myself for being dramatic enough to use the phrase “break my spirit” in my blog.

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Job Woes

Bad news today.

Last month my awesome boss (no sarcasm, really love her) called me into her office. I was a little worried because I was making some last minute copies and she’d recently commented that I was leaving my lesson plans to the last minute (I went through a couple weeks of stress over something, I definitely let my job fall by the wayside a little and her comment got me back on track). Turns out I wish that was the problem.

Instead she had called me in to talk to her and another guy who works with the students outside the classroom. He does discipline, outings, and so on. There had been a couple times over the last few months when my boss had warned me that they might have to put me on “furlough.” In other words, temporarily lay me off. Summer is their busiest time, so when she called me in and regretfully told me that they had to let me go for May and June, I have to admit I was blindsided.

It wasn’t the best feeling, but they told me over and over that they loved having me, it wasn’t their choice (my boss’s boss made the decision, apparently to save the program), they thought I was a good teacher, and they would recommend me to anywhere.

I started applying to jobs for September. I figured working July and August would be good enough, and didn’t really look for summer work. Unfortunately, I got a sad email yesterday. Boss wrote to let me know that boss’s boss had decided to not rehire any of the old staff (I wasn’t the only one “temporarily” let go). Instead, she is going to hire a bunch of recent grads who will work for 3/4’s of what I was being paid. They didn’t ask me if I would take less money, but there is a good chance I would have said no anyway. I can hopefully get that salary or at least better than 3/4’s of it elsewhere.

I’m sad because I did love that job. It was a small, intimate program with a group of teachers and students who had a great rapport. I genuinely hope that the program stays afloat because I think my boss and the other guy who works with the kids are great people who really care about the students and want to create a great experience for them.

So now instead of being temporarily unemployed, I’m actually unemployed. I am teaching two classes at a local college in the fall, but honestly, I’m already losing my mind. I hate being unemployed, always have. June 2009 to February 2010 when I got this job were some of the most miserable months of my life.

Things that suck about being jobless –

1. Boredom. I try to stay occupied, but on a rainy day with no new books (I need to join a library) and no good TV, there is only so much to do.

2. Lethargy. Without structure, I am bad at getting things done. Maybe this seems counter-intuitive, but the more I have to do in a day, the… more I do. If I have nothing to do all day I’m likely to do nothing. But when I work, I get home and go for a run, then do some dishes, etc. Not sure why that is, but it is the way I am.

3. Broke. How can I justify a new, fabulous cocktail ring when SleepyHusband is the only person bringing in a paycheck? To be clear, he would never have a problem with me spending money he earned as long as we could afford it. But I don’t feel comfortable spending money on anything frivolous if I didn’t earn it. If I was taking care of kids or better about cleaning or so on, I would probably feel differently. But as it is, no, I’m lame.

4. I love teaching. This one is simple. I love teaching, I don’t like not being able to do it.

Ok, for balance, some things that aren’t so bad about this situation –

1. As corny as it may sound… I truly do believe that when one door closes, another often opens. Sure some things are just straight crappy, but I’ve run into a few situations in my life where a good thing (like getting together with my husband) would never have happened without a bad thing first (getting dumped shortly after meeting my husband). I have real hope that this sad experience will lead me to a happy future somehow.

2. I have time! I am not going to have a meltdown this time. Last time I was unemployed I was totally unprepared for how much I would hate it. This time I know what is coming, and I’m making a genuine effort to put this free time to use. I called my Mom today to tell her about what happened. I’d already decided that I wouldn’t go for a run today, even though it had been over a week. What was the point? I could always go tomorrow. But one of the first things she said to me was, “don’t let it get you down. Organize your bedroom, go for a run, use this time in a valuable way.” I never would have put on my running shoes without that comment, but I did and I’m glad.

3. I should write something. I tried to do nanowrimo this year but I was genuinely too busy with work and family obligations. I should revisit that novel, or start a new one. I doubt I’ll ever get anything published, but I enjoy writing and this would be a good time to put some serious time into it.

4. Day drinking. Kidding! But I will have a lot more time for my friends, which I am happy about. Some of them have weird schedules, and now I’ll be free to hang out whenever.

5. My parents live in the UK but spend a lot of the summer in the US. If I am still without a job at the end of June, my Mom offered to take me back to the UK with her to hang out while she does a few things she needs to take care of before spending the rest of the summer here. Europe! So in.

Maybe my dream job is just around the corner, or maybe I have another year to wait. We’ll see. Either way, I won’t stop hoping that my future is going to start any minute now.

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Work and Week 2 of C25K

I recently didn’t get a job I’d interviewed for. It stung a bit, but it would have involved moving to a totally different city so I got over it fairly quickly. I was a bit annoyed to find out recently that they hired a teacher who literally worked at a different school down the street from this one. I had to take a three hour flight to get there and they hired someone from 5 minutes away?

The hardest part about not getting the job was facing the fact that the jobs I have will still be my jobs in September. One of them, the one I’ve had longer, is a decent job and I like my coworkers/boss a lot. But it is kind of a no brainer at this point, I could teach those classes in my sleep. Since I am constantly getting new students, stuff that seems new and fun to them is stuff I did last month, and the month before. These are good lessons and they work, so I stick with them, but it can get a little boring. My other job I don’t like as much. I’m teaching writing to a bunch of college freshman who are majoring in business. They basically treat the class like a giant waste of time (good luck with that I say, to the ones who refuse to learn the basics of good writing, not like that will come up in the business world). I’ll have some of the same kids in the Fall, and that is just a little hard to face right now.

On the other hand, the end of the semester is near and I always get a little burned out at this point. I’m trying hard to remember that 90% of the time I enjoy going to work and battling my students over homework assignments isn’t so bad.

Today we got some bad news work-wise. Sleepy Owl Husband was supposed to substitute for my boss during her vacation. Unfortunately, my boss’s boss decided to take the shifts herself to help save the program some money (we are low on students at the moment). All this would be fair, if disappointing, except for these things –

1. They asked him to do this over a month ago.

2. He cut down on shifts at his other job to do this.

3. They didn’t tell us until today and he was supposed to start on Wednesday, so he can’t get those shifts back.

4. We will be in a tight place financially for weeks, if not months, because of this due to car trouble and a trip we bought tickets for back when we thought we’d have extra money.

My boss is a really cool person, I think I’ve mentioned her before how much I like her. She’s a great teacher and she’s always gone out of her way to help me. This includes trusting my judgement about my husband and hiring him as a teacher whenever they needed someone extra last summer. If I were to guess, I’d say she probably was really unhappy about doing it this way. I’m not mad at her for having to do something the higher ups ask her to, but if they are going to nitpick the budget to this extent this is something that could have been decided weeks ago before Sleepy Owl Husband gave up a bunch of shifts.

The whole thing just annoys me. I’m a little worried about my capacity to tell said higher up exactly what I think when I see her next.

Today I did the last run of week 2 of the C25K program. This week was alternating between 90 seconds of running and 120 second of walking. It was a bit harder, and I’m starting to notice that I get winded a bit quickly. Not sure how to work on that other than to keep exercising. It is frustrating, however, when I know I am physically capable of running for long periods of time, aside from being able to catch my breath.

I am a little surprised by how fast my body gets stronger. Not just my body, presumably, but many peoples. When I first started out I was skeptical of the idea that I could do all this in 9 weeks (I still am, incidentally). But when I asked several friends of mine who’d done it, they said that they were surprised at how quickly they improved. After my first run my thigh muscles were screaming, but after my third they felt completely fine the next day. I’m a little more sore at the end of this weeks runs than I was after the first weeks, but I still managed today’s run more easily than Thursday’s run.

Certainly I am still in the easy stages, there are much scarier stages to come. Supposedly three weeks from now I’ll be running 20 minutes without stopping. Some of you are likely thinking “…so?” But as someone who hasn’t counted running among her regular exercises since grade school, this is scary stuff. Dr. Trollop is also sticking with the program so far. We occasionally send each other post run emails along the lines of, “Hills = NO.” and “challenging yourself is overrated.” (the first was Dr. Trollop, the second me).

Keep on truckin’ is increasingly, and worryingly, become the theme of my life.

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