Monday, December 3, 2012

The Debt Wall

Not long ago I listed all my debts, sat down and calculated how long or what it would take to pay them off, and what would be reasonable within my current income. I do that a lot; make lists, do calculations, plan and budget, etc. What I don't do very much of is making money . . .haha. I'm a teacher so it's public knowledge we don't exactly get rich.

So, to make this planning session a little more colorful and fun I made a motivational poster. I titled it "the Debt Wall." It has a list of current debts, the interest rates, payoff amounts, monthly minimums, etc. I also set a goal to have the smaller debts (non-college debts) paid off. The magic date is June 2014. About 20 months from the day. The poster also has a list of the months until then and an image to represent my reward (I would get to travel after June 2014).

Another neat thing is that if I teach for five years, the government will write off 5,000 dollars of my college debt. The government does that as an incentive for teachers to stick it out, and its funny I do remember a college professor saying something like 50% of teachers don't make it five years. I don't know if that's true or why he would have said that. Regardless, my fifth year of teaching would end just before June 2014 as well :)

So, the plan requires no travel until 6/14 and also an extra source of income. I need to sell some artwork or get a part time job on the side to meet the goal. And of course teach another year :) wish me luck because meeting a goal like that would be very hard, and I already have ideas in mind that would sidetrack me or force this plan to change.

I will share an image of "the Debt Wall" with you readers. I have seen a couple bloggers that subscribe to "financial transparency." It's interesting they choose to reveal all their debts as a form of accountability. I guess I am kind of ambivalent but maybe someone will think its neat.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Caffeine anyone?

I recently read a blog post by Steve Kamb of about the benefits of caffeine. He was talking about how helpful it can be if used in the right quantity and limited in sugar. I called bull $hi/. Life is better when we are free of any substances and high on healthy nutrition as well as adrenaline from physical fitness.

Then three days later I got a "White Christmas" white chocolate, chai tea, and coffee blend from the local coffee shop. I was feeling the Christmas spirit and planning to spend a day in the basement art studio. I was productive for a few hours then must have had a sugar crash that evening and went to bed no later than 7:30 pm.

Well today, I got hit by the Christmas coffee spirit again. This time, however, I must have found the perfect balance of caffeine and sugar because I am on an endless run of creativity! I just brainstormed no less than 10 future blog posts. I cleaned the art studio, set up piles of supplies for future art projects, wrote and wrote some more. Maybe Steve was right? This energy kick has been perfectly productive and just what I needed. Hopefully next time I kick off my art session with a jog instead of coffee though. My immune system needs the boost.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My bro is on Tv!

If you know me personally then you might know I have two brothers. They are both firefighters in Kansas City, MO and I am extremely proud of them. My family is awesome and always positive, supportive, and friendly. I know some people are not lucky to have a loving and supportive family so I never take mine for granted.

The past couple weeks my younger bro Danny has made us all proud in more than one way, but even more so he has helped inspire me to reach for my dreams. A week ago he performed with a band for his first public appearance as a drummer. We all have talents and hobbies and its great that he turned his into more than a talent. It was at the Voo Doo lounge located in a Kansas City Casino and his band did outstanding. They were the best performance of the night.

He and I are both still young adults and trying out new things, but I think there is more to it than that. He made a post on Facebook a couple weeks ago that said, "If you asked me when I was 16 what I wanted to do with my life I'd probably say be a firefighter, driving a 69 mustang, and playing the drums in a band. So by a teeanager's viewpoint I'm doin awesome!"
I know he auditioned for the band and was very nervous. He was also not the best drummer they have seen, and when he performed he was about to jump off the stage with anxiety. He hauled his persona drum set in the back of a pickup truck. But he did great and you should have seen the number of friends that came to support him.

When we first attempt something new, or something that we have always wanted but seemed unrealistic, the nerves can get the best of us. But Keep Going!

Now, Danny is going to be on Tv in less than an hour. World News with Diane Sawyer. It's not to play the drums, it's to show a video clip of him and some fireman buying Made in the USA products. He has a passion to convince everyone to buy local and support our countries businesses and he doesn't just talk, he purchases everything made in the USA himself. He also applied for the news clip and they jumped on it. I can't wait to watch, and I just have to give him credit for being inspirational. My last post talked about the people we know that are doing life right, and he is my favorite example. Love you bro and keep on living big.

Stop Reading and Start Doing

About a year ago I started reading blogs. It started with an author of a book about travel, freedom, and their website, followed by a link to another travel writer, and another. Now I'm a follower of a whole group of young entrepreneurial travelers and writers. They are very inspiring especially on days when I feel bogged down in my career. They keep telling me that I can do anything I want to, and sometimes I believe them.

A few of their names are Chris Guillebeau, Shane Mac, Adam Baker, Ramit Sethi, and Sarah Kathleen Peck. I get periodic subscription emails from all of them, as well as a few travel writers and a couple young girls that created a fashion "versalette." You can find them by googling them and I hope to share more of their helpful blogs using actual links in the future.

After reading constantly for over a year, one theme has finally motivated me the most: Stop Reading and Start Doing. My goals and ideas took a long time to evolve and I'm finally ready to make some of them happen. The year of reading was necessary because I didn't know how or what I wanted to do, and its not set in stone but I finally want to make a go of it with art and marketing. I also know too many people that feel trapped and like they can only do one thing, or too unqualified to try and do something big. For each of those people, I also know someone that achieves something they want and it's great when I find them.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Follow me!

If you are interested at all, I would love for you to "follow by email." Every blog has that option and I just added the gadget to mine. There is a space at the top right where you enter your email and each time I post you get a copy of it in your inbox. Easy! You do need to log in to your email and confirm that you want to follow this blog.

This blog is about two and a half years old I think. I use it for different purposes; to tell stories, talk about love, life, happiness, art, travels, etc. I started it when I saw my friend Whitney blogging and I loved her blog. Since then, I have started following a large number of blogs from people I admire. Many of them are focused on traveling, debt, careers, and they are great so I will try to share those over time as well.

Anyway, the best thing about writing is receiving feedback. For that I enabled comments on blog posts so you should be able to comment anywhere at anytime. I'd love to know when you read something and have thoughts.

Peace and love

Friday, November 23, 2012

Creativity for Couples

I'm embarking on a fresh start with my Art as well as how I share it with others. I'd like to show others the processes of creativity and how I make certain items. Right now I'm focused on Christmas Gifts but I also have a few items in mind to sell in the future. So here on my blog I will attempt to delve into more detailed posts that show others how to make fun stuff.

I know it's contagious because Darrin is bringing out his creative side too :) Over the thanksgiving holiday I spent each day in the basement studio creating pottery. It was too cold for Darrin to work in the garage so he invested in a model car to put together for winter days. Darrin has a degree in auto-body repair and is an expert in the process of sanding, masking, painting cars etc. He would much rather be working on his full size automobiles but I'm thrilled he is bringing out his own creative side. His education definitely affects how he views artwork: he expects precision, smoothness, equal values, and perfection. That's how cars need to be. My lopsided or messy or imperfect edges in what I create is always what his eye sees first. I have to tell him to not apply his car judgements to my paintings lol.

So today we went to hobby lobby and got supplies. I bought Blue paint for the Royals painting, some fabric, hemp, thread, sharpies, and Mod Podge. I have some hand sewn bags in mind, some baked sharpie art (on plates or tiles) and an idea to test out the Mod Podge over watercolor paint (a possible sealer for my painted windows). The Mod Podge could potentially smear a watercolor painting into a blur, but maybe I can apply it with the perfect touch. I'll let you know. Below is an image of my purchase. I'm happy to say I spent only half as much as Darrin.

Homemade Christmas Gifts

They say the best way to learn something is to teach it. It's true, because I have learned so much from teaching Art. It has kept me accountable to keep making things, keep being creative, and keep learning new things. In college I specialized in painting and drawing, but what I have been able to do with sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, and fiber arts has been experimentally fun. The variety and new things are usually the best.

Last year I posted pictures of the prints I made for family for Christmas, and this year I have started new gifts. I thought I might share the process as I go along, even though it will ruin the surprise for my loved ones :) That is if they actually read my blog haha.

Below is the Royals painting, in progress, for Danny.
Also, a couple clay pots I'm working on, and a snapshot of the basement art studio. The red clay has to dry out so that's why it's sitting in pieces on the table.
Another note, the pots are hand built, not wheel thrown, so that's my excuse for their asymmetry and lumpiness :)
The best thing about these projects is that they feel like a beginning to a whole new level of creative output, hopefully beyond the Holidays.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Teacher Samples

I never did announce that I switched schools this year. A rare opportunity opened up in my hometown at the end of the summer, and though I had not planned on switching districts, it kinda just happened. I was in Switzerland riding the train along Lake Geneva and a friend contacted me; he said this is something you might want to look into so I did. A few days later I was phone interviewing, resigning from my old post, and the wheels just kept turning. By the time I landed back in Missouri I had a new job.

Both districts are great to work for but the chance to work for my alma mater, save gas money, and work with friends has been nice. Getting adjusted to the larger school has been tough but rewarding. In this post I would like to share my "teacher samples" of some of the projects I have taught. I teach only 9th graders this year and have gotten into the habit of making the project myself while they work on theirs. Also, I'm including an image of our "failed" project :) I don't recommend printmaking on a textured background, only a few of the kids had good results on that one. Thankfully the next project was redeeming and successful.

Friday, October 26, 2012

OMG . . . .I just planned my whole life.

OMG . . .I just planned my whole life.

I just spent two hours furthering my financial plan. Except this time, I was good enough with numbers that I didn't  stop until I had calculated my entire life. I figured up a plan to pay off my debt, my interest rate losses, the number of months for each debt portion, the age of my retirement if I stick with teaching, how long the gap is between retirement and health care, and how I pay for insurance in between, and how I pay for retirement. Yikes. I've never looked that far into my future. It kinda sucked. To actually see the end of my life makes it so much nearer. I had a feeling of, so this is it??

It's good to save and good to have a retirement plan. But now that I can see it clearly, yuck. What's the most enjoyable part of life? The 25 years of working full time and trying to live within my means? Will I be able to travel during that 25 years? Will I be able to travel when I retire? Is this how I want to spend my last portion of healthy adult life?

I listened to a great video from manvsdebt. He challenged people to decide what "freedom" means and then do whatever it takes to obtain it. For me, freedom is the ability to travel to my hearts content. My career allows me plenty of time to travel but not much money. If I refrain from debt I could potentially travel about six times per year. Hey, I think that would be good enough! Unfortunately, I do have to sacrifice the next 20 months to get out of unnecessary debt. After that, it will take about 7-9 years to pay off my college education. Should it take 7 years to pay for college? I guess so. I'm not planning to get a car loan or a mortgage, ever.

So, yeah, it's all figured out and that makes me happy and content. Thats a huge relief!Now it's time for action. I have big goals in mind and a list of things to do. I just need to step back now and decide: is this going to work and is this really what I want? This life is short and it's passing by at full speed. I'm looking at my future, at the next two decades and how much sacrifice I have to make in order to obtain "freedom," and making sure my commitments are worthwhile. When I'm old and bedridden, I want to look back on a life that makes me smile. Although I have a feeling I will just be planning, still planning what little time I have left.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My first show. . . . . .and a little on debt

Well last night I had my first Art Show. Actually I had two paintings in a group show, but I consider it checked off my bucket list and it was really cool. Thanks to a local artist and seemingly entrepreneur, Dustin Schmidt, ten young artists put together a collection of pieces. We were in the newspaper and had a great opening reception. Thanks to him and all the great people that came it was a success.

It has me thinking that I could paint a whole series or just paint and see what I end up making. It would be even cooler if I actually sold something and could consider it profitable and use it to whittle down my debt.

The reason it immediately goes to my mind to whittle down debt is because debt is my biggest obstacle to what I really truly want: traveling. I just want to travel. Plain and simple. It is my heart and soul and life fulfillment.

Life is great and I finally feel like everything is in it's place except for one thing: the battle between traveling and debt. Of course I make the minimum payments, but I have that nagging feeling that it should be prioritized. And I will admit there is pressure coming from Darrin. I'm not sure why though, what's the benefit of paying it off early besides I will no longer feel guilt about living life the way I want? And why does it have to be that way, guilt and burdensome? Everyone has debt . . .our country is built on it, our government is the king of it, and it doesn't go away. Why can't I just travel when I have extra money without that being a bad thing? After calculations it would take 7 years of not traveling to pay for my education, which is the bulk of my debt. It would take 1.5 years to pay off the credit card and contract fine. But my biggest question is this. . . . . .why does it need to be eradicated so quickly and what's the reward of doing so? It seems more like self punishment to rush and sacrifice for seven years without any kind of life changing end result or reward. Just sayin.

Anyway, the art show was cool. Maybe I can do my own one day. But what's really on my mind is something else . . . . . .

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My first real hike . . .sorta.

My first real hike . . . . .sorta.

I've been home from Europe for two weeks. It feels very good. Darrin surprised me at the airport with a new car, a 1997 Suzuki X90. It's an adorable little two-seater jeep. I also came home to a new kitten :) I dunno which makes me happier.

Now, I may have found a use for my backpack since I got back. Like all packs, it was originally designed for hiking. Real hiking.  For carrying food, water, and shelter for about 3 days. So today, I went on my first excursion. The contents of my pack were: 4 beers, 2 waters, 2 tuna sandwiches, and chips, and a screwdriver. The screwdriver was a last grab from the jeep when I realized I needed a bottle opener. So, my pal Gracie and I marched into the woods and up to Sedalia's best in-town secret lookout point: Sunshine Rock. We climbed, dined, discovered some natural beauty, and took some pictures. It was all around a great time.

The hike is to be the first introductory trip hopefully followed by longer and longer hikes, with maybe a few overnighters eventually. I even imagine some wilderness survival skills being picked up along the way, is that realistic? At least it's a new adventure to get me along for a while. I'm supposed to be doing another round of beginners triathlons, but I've don't that already and now it seems so boring . . . . . . . .

What never seems to get boring though is the annual float trip which begins tomorrow, my last hoorah of summer! I may write again if I survive.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Home sweet home

Ahhhh . . . . .the joy of being home. I didn't write since before Switzerland, Germany, Amsterdam, and Paris. Each was unique in it's own way. Switzerland was full of scenic mountains and lakes, fresh mint glacial water, kayaking on the Interlaken current, and an untimely yet positive job opportunity back home. I emailed letters, references, and scheduled a phone interview while in Switzerland and started the process of a potential career change. The end result is still unclear, but the possibility of something new is as fresh as the Swiss green water.

Germany was full of bikes and nice people. On the train to Heidelberg, I chatted with an old lady. She was friendly and pleasant, but she was also something more. I kept thinking of my conversation with her later. It'd odd how you can connect with someone in such a rare way and not realize it until later. We talked about traveling, las vegas, family, the loss of a husband, careers, teaching, fashion, art, and love, in a matter of minutes. She understood me and I understood her despite living on different continents and being two generations apart. Is she that easy to know and talk to? Or did we really have an unordinary connection? All I know is that she stuck with me in a very good way. She wasn't the only person that was warm and kind in Germany, there was the married couple we sat with at the Irish pub in Frieburg while the singer rapped Jayz and played the guitar. In Germany we also spent a day with friends partying, drinking beer on the streets of a German town festival and climbing, wheezing, to the top of a castle. Germany was wonderful. It was filled with locks of love on the Koln bridge and so many fun memories.

Amsterdam, well. . . . . . . Amsterdam is for tourists. You can't walk the streets with a beer and party, yet you can stop in a coffee shop and buy a magic muffin or special brownie or joint or red light special. It wasn't my city. Very similar to Venice with it's canals and tourists, however it lacked the local touch. Where were the Dutch people in Amsterdam? I dont know, it seemed like I never saw one. At least Venice was full of Italians, singing, celebrating, pushing around, eating or steering boats. I liked Venice.

And last but not least: Paris. My last day in Europe was spent solo as Kelly sailed off to the Blue Lagoon. I heeded all the warnings about pickpocketers and strapped my money belt around my waist under my clothes and walked to Montmartre, the artsy and wealthy district and highest point of Paris. As I entered the most touristic church and beautiful sight, I was swarmed by a group of African hecklers. They stepped in my way, grabbed my arms, and started putting cheap string bracelets on my wrist. Being solo I was already in my self-defense mode that I perfected in my college days, so I did what a solo female should do, and started yelling. No!! No!!! Stay here!! Don't touch me!! If I had a bag their hands may have been in it. It's such an odd experience to be surrounded by tourists and hecklers at the exact same time. After I passed through the mob, I sat with all the other tourists in the shade, watching the spectacle, and fuming with anger. Where were the Paris police??? Why do they let this happen??? Why do they sit back, in this case not even physically present, and let tourists get attacked? A guy in our hostel had a swollen face and purple eye from walking on the wrong street. I was warned repeatedly when making a purchase or eating to not set my phone down or watch my back. It was completely out of control. Let me just say I hope Paris never gets the Olympics, because it would be like a piranha feeding frenzy.

It didn't ruin my day or my view of Paris, although you may find that hard to believe. Paris was kind of like an unruly young sibling that the parents have given up on disciplining. I still loved it. It was gorgeous at night. The thrift stores were my dream come true and the people that I spoke with were good humored. I'd love to go back and collect some more clothing, visit some more art museums, taste more food, and meet more travelers and Parisians. However, New York City is much, much, safer.

Now I'm on the plane over Missouri, looking at the most rainbowed sky I have ever seen, and can't wait to smell home again. I know it's been in a drought and heat wave and things aren't so green, but I have a feeling none of that will matter. I will kiss Darrin, see my family, meet our new little kitten, and prepare for the fall with new pets and new possibilities. Maybe even some new ducks? Who knows.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Veni vidi vici

Veni viddi vicci

In one day. We conquered Rome by spending a full day walking to the sights. We visited the Coliseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Navona. We drank Italian beer and wine, tasted Gelato, and even had time to relax. I did not like the Italian food, at least not yet. Kelly and I must be really, really, hooked on Greece still. We skipped pasta for some fresh market veggies and made our very own Greek salad. Then we even skipped our second day in Rome and went to the beach.

It's neat, there is a beach only thirty minutes away from the center of Rome. We took a train straight there. The locals go often, so most on the train were doing the same thing. Kelly and I found a not so crowded spot, got Italian drinks, and tanned. This beach reminded me of California coast, wavy, rough, and surfy. Far from the turquoise calm water of Greece, but still enjoyable. We stayed until ten pm, and even got massages on the beach for cheap.

Next stop: Venice.

Adventures in Greece

Adventures in Greece

I usually get inspired to visit a place when I see a movie that was filmed there. My trip to Cuba was inspired by Dirty Dancing 2. My desire to visit greece was spurred by an even more embarrassing movie: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Yep. I saw scenes of stair stepped cliffside white and blue buildings surrounded by cobblestone and blue ocean. It was the most beautiful film set, and I will be honest me and my college roomies enjoyed the traveling pants too, ha. Interesting they are both sequels, hmmm.

Greece turned out to be exactly as I hoped. As soon as we arrived I was high on everything, the language, the way people look, the Acropolis, the food. I drank Mythos beer, ate gyros, swam in the ocean, shopped, and met people.

Kelly and I stayed our first two nights in Athens, our third night in Mykonos town, and fourth and fifth nights by the beach. I want to go back big time. We had spats with the post office lady, I got heat rash on the Acropolis, and we partied a little too hard, but it was all worth it.

A couple things we enjoyed: never getting carded anywhere in Europe when buying a drink and walking around town with your drink in your hand. Sometimes, adults are treated like adults and everything is just fine isn't it?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A day in London

A day in London

After our grueling road trip across the U.K., my dad and I checked into our hostel in London where we met up with my travel pal Kelly. We arrived at 11 pm. The hostel is the cutest building, narrow, white, three stories, with a downstairs bar and restaurant that played a lot of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I ordered a bloody Mary and chatted with Kelly before bed. When you stay in hostels, you store your belongings in a locker, sleep on bunk beds (this hostel had three decked beds), share coed rooms and a coed bathroom/shower. The two so far have been very nice, clean, safe, convenient, and London's is a great atmosphere. I definitely recommend hostels.

Kelly and I set out on our only full day together in London to watch the "Changing of the guards" at Buckingham Palace. The queen lives there. We were late and they only do it once per day, so we had to run full speed a few blocks. We arrived panting and sweaty, and laughing but just in time. The crowd that had already gathered must have been at least two thousand strong. The guards stand at attention in their fancy red uniforms and bear fur hats, some new guards march in on horseback and they have a group of soldiers playing band instruments. What was also very entertaining, during the ceremony traffic flows by, and we saw another wreck. A guy on a motorcycle and a car collided, he was able to hop right up but looked like he would be banged up under his leather jacket. The security made sure to move the wreck out of the way so the soldiers could still march through, the show must go on you know :)

I should describe the wreck that dad and I saw in southeast London the day before while driving. We were on wet pavement, a pretty road lined with trees and curvy, and came upon a fresh accident. It was an overturned car, wheels in the air, and two people still inside, strapped in upside down. Dad helped and they climbed out through broken glass windows. It was very shocking, and made me fear I would see something gruesome, but fortunately they were okay. We drove on to our castle.

The rest of the next day with Kelly was filled with walking thru sights, biking through Hyde Park, where we saw another wreck! This one two bicyclists were laying on the ground with injuries and bandages, and bleeding from the collision. After our bike ride we bought wine for a lovely friend that took us in for our first night and she met us for dinner, and always made sure we had easy travel in the city.

London was full of polite, friendly people. We were often asked if we were there for the Olympics. I'm glad I went, and very happy that none of the accidents involved us! Unfortunately my dad got sick this morning, a severe migraine, and had to miss our flight to Athens. Kelly and I pushed on to Athens and hope that dad can catch a flight the next day. He flies home from Athens back to Missouri, while Kelly and I begin our Greek Island adventure. Let the real party begin!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Driving in London

Yesterday was the most stressful day I've experienced in a long time. I drove in London. Yes, I was sitting in the right side of the car, what would be the passenger seat in the states, but that's only the beginning. I was driving a manual, and shifting with my LEFT hand. And then the most challenging part of course, driving on the left side of the road, in tons of traffic, trying to decipher foreign road signs, going on huge roundabouts. I did it.

Doing something so challenging for the first time requires an exhausting amount of concentration. Once you get tired or mentally bogged, you turn into oncoming traffic, or down a one way street. And unfortunately, I had planned a trip with six hours of driving! (And it took us seven hours).

But, I got to see the Raglan Castle! In wales, England. It was beautiful. I climbed stairs up towers, walked through stone tunnels, crossed a drawbridge, and Raglan Castle is officially the coolest Castle in the world because it actually has a MOAT!

We signed a couple Ragland descendent books, on the fourth of July of all days, met some very neat people, had a true English tea in a descendants large historic English home, and set off driving once again. On a journey like that, I have ten other stories that could be told, such as a wreck we came upon, a brief moment of road rage and my defensive response, the story of the English tea, our proudest moment of navigating an hour through central London, etc. My dad and I took turns driving versus navigating, and we survived the day. It really was dangerous and exhausting, but I'm proud that we still did it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Irish Pub

So we walked into an Irish pub. . . . . . . Or should I say, "two American girls walked into a pub." haha. Okay, on with the story. So Kelly and I walked into an Irish Pub. We had picked the joint out earlier while jogging through a castle, yes, jogging through Dublin Castle. Anyway, the sign out front said they had corned beef, and it was our only full day in Dublin, so I donned my one green shirt and green scarf and we were excited about corned beef and fish and chips. As soon as we entered, we saw smiling faces everywhere. Smiling Irish drunks, singing, drinking, raising their glasses to us! One very drunk gentleman shouted for all to hear: American Girls! I love American Girls! How did he know we were American? Apparently we had it written all over us, although we had yet to speak a word. We smiled politely and walked straight to the empty table at the back of the bar, waiting for my slow old dad yet to enter the bar. A middle aged Irish couple near us smiled warmly, the woman looking at us with extra friendliness and saying hello. The drunk gentleman with culture sense begged us to join him and the four guys at his table, saying there was plenty of room.

Kelly and I laughed, in shock, in hilarity, in enjoyment of the jolly, yet drunken, mood. It was unreal. I said to her, let's just wait and see what reaction they have to my dad when he finally enters the bar. . . . . . . .even more hilarity! He came in his matching khaki shorts and khaki collared top, gray hair, grinning, and taking pictures with his giant canon camera! I recorded the event with my phone, as they sang and as my dad took their pictures, while an attractive waiter informed us of the worst of all news: the cook was gone, they had no food.

No!!!! No corned beef? No fish and chips? What of our traditional meal?? We knew at that hour, the surprisingly small entity of Dublin Ireland was quickly running out of pubs that still served food. Food is exactly what they call it, not entrees or dinner menu, just food. Like the toilet, you don't see signs for a restroom, they call it what it is, and they know what people need. Anyway, that's a side note. The waiter didn't expect us to stay and drink beer on an empty stomach out of politeness. We gathered our belongings and left waiving goodbye and smiling to all present in an uproar fashion, just as we had been greeted as we entered.

Outside, Kelly and I waited for my dad once again. What was taking him so damn long? Minutes passed . . . .and I finally went back in out of worry to meet him at the door. He was thrilled, shaking hands, and they had stopped their singing to ask him where he was from. "Missouri? Sing us a Missouri song!!!" alas, he could think of nothing besides the Mizzou fight song, which thankfully he didn't sing. Haha. Ohhh, the memories. We ended up eating smoked salmon at the touristy Temple Bar, surrounded by non locals but still a huge impressive bar and good atmosphere. Nothing as good as a drunken Irish pub though. Cheers! And I wish we sang at the bars back in the U.S. The way they sing.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

First stop: Dublin

I'm in Dublin! It's our first day here. We flew overnight, walked to our hostel in south Dublin, ate sandwiches and chips with garlic mayonnaise, drank a guinness in an old Irish pub, and napped already. Dublin is chilly, cloudy, quaint, small (compared to New York), and historic. It's full of Europeans. It also feels Extremely safe. Just leaving New York City, I look at this quaint town full of tourists and youth, and feel no threat from strangers. I like that. I don't like the cool temperatures.

My dad, he is around 57 years old, joined us for the first leg of this trip. He is well traveled and helped us along with currency exchange, postage stamps, and ground transportation. It's nice having him, and his polite demeanor makes so happy. What's funny about him is that he is already kicking our butts (Kelly and I) in terms of experiences. He went straight to his first destination, St. Patrick's Cathedral, for mass, while Kelly and I lumbered around in an exhausted condition looking for beer and food. After that, Kelly and I spent two hours sleeping in our room while my dad has already made friends with some lads and joined them for beer and soccer at a nearby pub. Ha! Way to show us up pops. We may join him soon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I can still hear them quacking

I can still hear them quacking. I walk out to my car or out on the porch, and I hear quacks. I look around, tear up a bit, and remember my lovely ducks. They were good pets they really were. They followed me around, nibbled on our feet, splashed and played, and they would never hurt a thing except for bugs :) They were raised by my brother Jesse and his 4 kids; completely domesticated. They never flew. They walked into their pen each night and waited for us to shut the door. And that's the saddest part. . . . A raccoon tore through the back of their pen and carried my babies off for dinner. Ugly duck was slain and too big to carry off. My mallards left behind only blood and feathers and a trail of being dragged through brush.

Pure devastation. I know people are tired of hearing me talk, whine, cry, about my baby ducks, but after this blog I promise I will let it go :) The duckies deserve this post though, they were with me for a year, and I need to work on closure, lol. I can laugh about it too, so don't think I'm too crazy.

People talk about how happy their dog is to see them when they walk in the door, and my ducks were the same. They seemed always happy to see us and quacking when we walked up. They are very peaceful (except in mating season) and will sleep, splash, play, chase bugs, and quack away. They had an adventurous year, met and played with other ducks and geese, disappeared a couple times to the creek bed, and survived dogs, fox, and snakes nearby.

Darrin and I let them down in the end. We threw pet food on the porch or in the brush, saw raccoon poop and thought nothing of it, patched a weak spot in the pen poorly, and after a full year, the raccoons did what they do. They ate my ducks.

They were beautiful green headed mallards, brothers, and of course I don't need to describe poor ugly duck. He was something else. They loved watermelon, fish food, noodles, tomatoes, and fresh water. I loved them and I will always remember them and cry, just like with Monster Kitty and Dopey. I'm sorry I let you down duckies, and I will always hear you quack. Next time I will do better, if there is a next time. In the meantime, dear family and friends, please do not surprise me with any gifts that breathe, have fur or feathers, or anything similar. RIP duckies.

Sedalia baseball history

During my first couple days of Summer break, my aunt and uncle and cousins came to Sedalia for a baseball tournament. They let me know what the kids game times were, and I made sure to attend a couple games. It was fun and nostalgic walking down Centennial Park, saying hi to friends, and watching my young cousin play. My uncle coaches, my aunt and her parents sat in the stands. The kids played in the creek and everybody screams when their are foul balls. I remember playing in the creek when i was little and a kid screamed bloody murder, and his knee was actually bleeding a bunch! I had been mesmerized by some rock or bug. His dad came running up and screamed at me, "What'd you do?????" I was shocked. The kid had been catching crawdads, which had bit him and made him bleed, and his dad blamed me? The girl sitting nearby? Haha. Parents can be crazy.

There were many adventures and odd happenings. I was impressed by the growth of little league baseball. My family had traveled from Lees Summit, and most teams were from out of town. The teams pay a hefty entrance fee, run immaculate concession stands, and buy the nicest uniforms. A lot more sophisticated than the local teams my brothers played.

The real neat part of the day, though, was when I went to my younger cousins game at Jimmie Vansell field. I remember the name Jimmie Vansell from a father and son that my dad and my brother played baseball with. I'm sure I had a crush on Jimmie Vansell Jr. My cousin was playing against Sedalia Bandits, and he had a great hit and run in the first inning. I was the only relative watching because his brothers game went into overtime. The Bandits coach told us about the high school baseball stadium, and how the WPA built it and it's only one of a few remaining, and how they might put matching green fence around the little field. I got much more nostalgic at this field watching my uncle show up, the Sedalia coaches cracking jokes and calling him the big boy. It was refreshing to watch how things had changed and stayed the same. The history of it all actually made me want to have a son and watch him play baseball and carry on the tradition. But naaaa, watching my Ragland cousins was good enough :) after Europe I plan to buy a nice reliable car and travel to many more games in Kansas City, and watch nieces and nephews as well.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Four Factors of Happiness

As I merged into summer break the last week, I have defined what makes me most happy. I think it would make anyone happy, and it makes me grateful that I have all four factors of what constitutes happiness, because not everyone does.

First, I would start with Fitness. The reason I think Fitness comes first, is because I have to put myself first and so do you. You know what they say, you have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with others. I also think Fitness is most important, because it is the absolute quickest jolt into an energy high . . . . . .which feels great. It catapults us through the dark tunnel of stress and negativity into fresh air, bright light, and need I say? Happiness. Lastly, fitness is most important because good health means you feel good. I read somewhere that the biggest obstacle to quality of life as we age is poor health, sickness, injuries, etc. Sure, we may have a great life, but if we don't feel good, that great life will always be overshadowed.

The second factor to happiness is family. This is where I feel most lucky because many many people don't have family, or supportive family, or family that lives nearby. I really don't think there is more of a genuine love than for family. When I see my brother or dad or mom, I get a little overwhelmed with joy, especially when we are all together.

The last two, friends and fun, really go together and need no explanation. We need friends in order to get away from the bore of everyday living. A night out, a backyard barbecue, a bike ride, whatever it takes to exchange ideas and experiences. Where family brings love, Friends bring excitement.

It's easy to focus on the good things when you're on an extended vacation. Our country needs more breaks, vacations, and time off from work. At the very least, I hope you plan your next jog at the park :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Blue Clouds

So turning 30 was great. It really was! The Golden birthday party was all I could have asked for, and it made me feel young. I wasn't expecting that at all, so afterwards I was on such a surge of happiness and energy. Thanks to all of the friends and family that attended, and especially Tino for making the entire weekend rockstar great. Having the extra two days off work made the weekend long enough to relax while hosting a large number of people. We watched roller derby in Kansas city Saturday night, then came home and hosted our friends, we girls glammed up in gold like I hoped, and the party at Fitters was a perfect time. Like I said, it couldn't have been better.

After the party, I only have a week left of teaching now before summer break. It's great being a teacher! The last two weeks of the year have been super hectic, stressful, and quite a letdown compared to the calm ease in which I coasted through the rest of the year, but at least the end is near. I have turned to a private written journal in order to release and clear my thoughts as I get through this last week. It's been so long since I had work stress I almost forgot what it felt like: Nausea, anxiety, a rotten feeling in my gut, a heavy feeling on my chest. Thats the kind of stress that shortens a persons life. Teachers aren't allowed to complain about work though, people won't put up with it since we have summers off :) haha. Maybe so.

On another note, I want to declare to the world how awesome Darrin is. He welcomed me home from my last trip with so much love that I tear up with happiness. I love returning home to him, to Missouri, the fresh air, the ducks and pond, the calm and steady gleam of nature surrounding our house. We spent the weekend together visiting friends and family and making sure our mom's were spoiled for Mothers Day. Darrin really took care of me and I'm so grateful for what I have.

Now to survive this final week: I know I can do it. I will continue my early exercise routine, do a couple chores each night after the other jobs, and take constant deep breaths. I've also started a personal meditation exercise I named "blue clouds" when I worry too much. I imagine rolling blue and white puffy clouds in fast motion. If I have time, it would be nice to do a painting of the blue cloud images. What do you do to clear your mind? Until next time: Love, calmness, and Zen to you all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Boo hoo. . . . .

Boo hoo . . . .. . .

So I hate that I'm turning 30. I'm not the graceful person that embraces ageless beauty, nor the grateful person that claims to have the best life ever and no number could bring me down. I do have an awesome life and great friends and family, but I'm still turning 30!   Who wants to leave their twenties? The decade of partying, beauty, endless opportunity, a road with a hundred paths to turn on, the decade of college, finding yourselves, and the last decade of your true youth? Am I the only person that properly values the twenties?

The first time I cut my hair super short, the first time I truly had a good time and just let go. Experimental jobs. College classes that I miss dearly. The college lifestyle of leisure and learning that I seem never will be replaced. Drinking beers at Royals games, being a hundred percent spontaneous, decorating my bedroom with magazine pictures, wearing odd new clothing styles, knocking over one personal challenge after another. Living alone in the cutesy apartment.

Okay, so I know I'm being too focused on the past. My crisis is driven by multiple factors and the loss of a lifestyle as it sinks in more and more that I am really settling down. The timing of everything along with the 30th birthday probably makes the age seem more than it is. And many of the things I listed can still be done in the thirties, right? But does anyone actually continue to do so? Come on ppl, help me out.

Each day I realize how old I am in another way. This week, it was the mere shift of my regular routine to include a morning workout. Suddenly I am a morning person!!! It feels great! But it also depresses me. Does that make sense?

Well, I can at least end this with the announcement that I have met most of my 30 day challenge goals. Yay. Sarcasm. . . . .I beat my mile time of 9:40, with a time of 9:31. I'm pretty sure that I ran a 9:25 a couple months ago. I did ten decent pushups this morning. I listed mat exercises to add to the routine and enjoy doing them. My plank is weak but I'm getting there.

It feels blah. There is a relief that I met my goals, but not a huge sense of pride or accomplishment. More so the sense of giving in. I'm no longer resisting. I'm getting old. Ugh.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bucket list renewed

I decided to renew my bucket list and started brainstorming. While doing so, I realized I am settling down and very career oriented. Some wishes were materialistic instead of experience driven. Many others were career goals. What I am missing are the exciting things though. I couldn't even think of any! The last time i wrote a bucket list was in college, and I know it was crazy. See a giant alligator or lion, check. Make out with someone in an elevator, check. What else? I also think . . . . . .I have done most of those crazy things. I must have, right? Regardless, here is the new version with thoughts included.

Bucket list or things I have considered, or things I want. . . . . . In random order.

Learn Spanish, preferably while abroad in puerto Rico, costa rica, or elsewhere.
Market my blog professionally
Teach English internationally
Visit Asia: Thailand, hong kong, china, Japan, etc
Visit argentina and the south American inca ruins
Complete another triathlon of equal length, hopefully 2013
Payoff debt: one credit card and two degrees
Have lots of duck babies, from my own ducks
Go on a cruise or resort stay, without worrying about expenses

Is this really all I can imagine????? Keep trying . . . . . .

Ride in a hot air balloon that lands safely
Create a painting/art series and my first show in a gallery
Work in a college atmosphere
Research and write papers or conduct research surveys etc
Learn art therapy

Geez my first bucket list in college was so much more interesting. I guess I am getting old and realistic... .more brainstorming.....

Home desires that are materialistic and don't belong on a bucket list:
A walk in closet
An office of my own at home with a reading window nook
A second level master bedroom/bath with a balcony overlooking the pond
A gas saving new car

More bucket list?
Startup my business idea . . .its a secret :) get the two related books to read
Have an orange male tomcat indoor/outdoor
Have an endless pool or access to something just as good.

I give up. This is plenty to pursue until i think of more extravagant experiences.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

30 days . . .

30 days . . .

I created a Facebook event for my upcoming birthday party, and I was able to time it so the invites sent out exactly thirty days ahead. It's also my 30th birthday, as well as my golden birthday, and some special people are coming so . . . .it's kinda a big deal :)

As it has been sinking in how old I am going to be, I debate on how much I should give in to old age and let myself go :) ha. Maybe I should give up the tanning salon and start wearing sunblock to prevent wrinkles? Wear capris instead of short skirts? Flats instead of heels, quit wearing makeup . . . . . I am ashamed to admit I have already changed. I'm old, and nothing makes it more clear than to look at myself from the perspective of a 22 year old, or even worse, from the perspective of an 11 year old.

Regardless of the obvious reality, I continue to fight on. From the midst my mind has formed a thirty day challenge for myself: one last tanning package, one more fitness challenge, one more night out in a sparkly dress.

The thirty day fitness challenge I have formed for myself is this: I want to be able to do pushups. I want to beat my fastest time on the mile run. I want to kick butt on burpees, do two minutes of planks, sprint up hills. I have done small challenges each day now for 7 days. Slowly increasing my time, my form, my number of correct pushups. There is no big goal like the triathlon, just a lot of small goals building up to create one big plan.

I love it.

Another thing helping me is the government website: Supertracker, created by the USDA. It counts your calories, but does a lot more. It graphs your nutrition intake, fitness, and sends tips and reminders. It also congratulates me when I meet goals :)
The downside to super tracker, like any calorie counter, is the time I spend entering meals and exercise. But I do know that I eat enough iron, protein, and too much carbs. It's fun for thirty days at least.

So next, I'm going to start logging how many pushups I did this morning, and try to do more tomorrow. At least I'm motivated right now, and the best thing about it is how good I feel.

30 day fitness challenge and goals:

Do ten pushups in a row, breathing the whole time, with good form.
Run sprints up hills in order to improve my running speed.
Beat my fastest mile time of 9:40.
Hold a plank for two minutes.
Practice doing burps, squats, and other researched mat exercises.

Long term goals:
Be able to do pull ups in good form.
Acquire the bar or machine that I can begin doing pull ups on.
Do another triathlon in 2013.

Friday, March 30, 2012

I love Missouri

Either I really do love my home state, or I'm just experiencing spring euphoria. Lately I have been driving with the windows down, and in awe of the beautiful green grass, golden sun, fresh smells, blooms, pretty lakes and ponds, I even admire the barns and animals. Our house and yard is alive with flowers, trees blooming, ducks, geese, horses, deer; it's shockingly beautiful every day.

As I rode my bike yesterday on the Katy Trail I couldn't stop admiring the sights. I have seen them all for years, and it still seemed new. The smells also bring back attached memories, and each time something looks beautiful even though I have seen it many times, just adds to the glory. I definitely love Missouri. Some parts of woods are so dense and viney it seems like a jungle. The wild deer that I see every few days always amaze me.

Last weekend, two wild geese played with my pet ducks for a whole afternoon. After hours of swimming and napping, they finally honked and flew away. It was exciting company, especially for ugly duck, he loved them.

I guess when I travel to neat places, it is making me appreciate my home state even more. Every time I step outside of Kansas city airport, I'm so glad to be home. I hope I have the means to travel for the rest of my life, but I will always live in Missouri.

Monday, March 12, 2012

In a better place

Woa, is it possible that my calendar is already filled up to August 4th???? What happened to my lazy summer? Oh, yeah, Europe!

I'm relieved to report that trip planning is more than halfway finished. Kelly p and I have worked super hard to get flights lined up and paid for. It's a huge time commitment to plan a trip like this, believe me! Saving up money is only half the work, trip planning can overwhelm.

So, after my exhaustion and breakdown from overworking myself lately, which I clearly saw coming! I decided it's important that I put all things aside and make time to indulge myself. Really. I need to jog. I need to sleep. I need to read a book. I need to clean my house. I need to spend some time just sitting, resting, or being outdoors. No matter how many things are on the to do list, there are moments when you gotta turn off the phone and disappear. Friday was one of those moments. I was stressed, people weren't doing what I hoped, I had been completely go go go for days, and after the distressed phone call to mom, what would I do without her??? I completely disregarded her advice, lol, and went to the park. I jogged for thirty minutes, then did some sprints, and then had some of my little students follow me like Forrest gump . . It was hilarious. They all yell, look! It's miss Ragland!! Hey, look! Then of course, they are running in a herd with you. Luckily I had already finished the bulk of my workout. They thought it was odd that I was sweating, and pointed out exact beads of sweat, lol. I raced them, bid them farewell, and returned to work the rest of the evening.

It was enough to get me through the next day. Sunday, I had to request some time off, and I'm so glad I did. I cleaned, cooked, read, and recuperated. Now, time to get caught up at school, grading, and pack for the weekend. Preparing for a vacation is a lot of work, whether a big trip like Europe which takes months, or a weekend mini vacation like Phoenix, which takes a few hours, they are all worth it. This Friday I will be standing at the top of an Arizona mountain with Kelly and Darrin. Saturday we will be looking at the rainbow of colors across the grand canyon. It's sooooo worth all the trouble.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Daily writing is supposed to be helpful . . . .

Whew. . . . . . .I am tired. My time management skills are getting me through each day, just barely. I work each weekday, then go to the second job, or have appointments, or scheduled workout sessions. Every minute of each day is planned weeks in advance. I have school functions on some of the few nights that would have been time to rest. Would I have it any other way? I am starting to think so, because I am soooo tired. This can only be done for a little while, before it catches up to me.

So, I should focus on the good things that are planned this month. Thursday I get a much needed day at the spa. I had to take a personal day from work, but at this point it is necessary. There is also the trip to Arizona over St. Patricks Day, of which I hope to sleep in, go for a morning jog, hike kelly's favorite mountain, and take in a deep breath at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Kelly and I will also get fitted for our Europe backpacks and share a brew in honor of St. Patrick.

The rest of the month of March, should be . . . .let me say it again . . . Exhausting. I sense that the end is near, and a certain part of it is due to some work related stress. I am going to have to work less in April if I wish to maintain status quo, and if I plan to recover a little bit. Ohhh I can't wait for some rest and relaxation, and most of all, some mental clarity. I am mentally bogged down with some fear, some drama, some trivialties, and keeping up. I read a pleasant blog today about the rejuvenating benefits of exercise, travel, and daily writing, so today, I did what I can, and that is writing this. I love exercise, and I love travel, because I know how good it feels.

So this post is a true ramble in every sense of the word, isn't it? Haha. Rambling tiredly about the daily grind that i chose for myself . . . . .hopefully my next post is full of energy and creativity.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The artist temperament?

I have a lot going on in my head right now. Its all so mixed up I don't know where to begin or how to write this, so I will just start hashing things out and we will see where I end up . . . . . .here goes.

I have been working two jobs, teaching art during the days and covering the desk at Brian's gym on weeknights and weekends. So needless to say, most of my freedom is gone, as well as most of my thinking time. When you are working, it takes up not just your time but your thought processes. I find my brain swirling after nine clock pm, with thoughts about preparing clothes, meals, plans, etc for the next day. Because of the busy schedule, my brain is backed up! Does that make sense? So this weekend i have been mentally unloading and feel like my mind is a tornado. I don't know what thoughts are real and what thoughts are reactionary to a busy schedule.

I like being busy, though, don't get me wrong. It's better than going home at four pm and being a lazy couch potato, eating huge dinners, laying in bed with the space heater. At least right now I am earning extra income and the gym is VERY motivating to stay fit. I remember learning things about Kelly Ripa, not long after she replaced Kathy lee on the morning show with Regis. Kelly was super fit, an actress, a tv personality, had a gorgeous husband, three kids, and her schedule was publicized. She worked out couple hours a day on top of all those responsibilities. I remember wondering how she handled that kind of schedule mentally and physically, and call me stupid, but I feel like I have a similar schedule. I have even considered rising at four am to squeeze in a morning workout (of course I didn't). But i figure, to be like that you have to really want it, and get used to it. So I'm trying for now.

Some of the thoughts are about career, actually most of them. When I say career, I am including a lot of things with that term. I believe in striving for happiness in all areas of life, especially professional. So I have a strong desire to love what I do, why not???? My entire schooling and college years were centered on finding a profession that I would enjoy, so now that I have graduated and begun work, I'm going to continue looking for professional happiness. Isn't that why people admire Steve Jobs? I love reading his advice to other adults about doing something they are passionate about, his life and accomplishments are inspiring, and I think it's so funny that his last name is JOBS. People that hate their job will distinguish between a Job, and a Career. There is a difference, I agree. But all people get tired, bored, frustrated, at times, no matter what they do. Some people keep striving for happiness, other give in to the dispassionate boredom and routines in exchange for stability. I am not that person. At least not yet. I still have Huge dreams, big hope, and a youthfulness from my college years lingering on. I have high expectations, and sometimes it feels very selfish and ungrateful, but that doesn't stop me. It's my life, it's a short life, and I am not going to settle.

So, I continue to find ways to stay physically active (hard to do when you have a sedentary 9-5 job!) and I don't just mean hard, I mean dam near impossible. I also strive to be personally creative when my job is to teach others to be creative (draining!) and often it requires forcing others to be creative (or at least try). .....which seems even more impossible right? Pretty much. I also continue to try and travel as much as possible, on all those school holidays, breaks, and weekends. I keep saying, I have plenty of time, just not the money, hence the second job :)

I also try and make time for research, I love learning! My training in history sometimes feels like my foundation, calling my name, hinting that I might be most happy when I am researching?? I am excited with knowing what my next research topic is: the artist temperament. I am even considering writing an article or short paper on this one, and can't wait to launch into online research. Woo! I have a feeling the artist temperament might be behind my never-ending search for fulfillment? Maybe .... . . We artists are never happy enough lol.

So I know I love traveling, fitness, painting, research, and I know I'm good at teaching. But do i get enough of all the things i love? Truly, not yet, I know I don't. I need more of certain things, and I am searching endlessly for a solution. To be continued in the struggle of daily life. . . .:)