the place between sleep & awake

where you can still remember dreaming

atticus told me to delete the adjectives and i’d have the facts

Harper Lee died this week.

I first read this laudable novel during my first year of teaching. It was around this time of year when I began my planning, reading it only two weeks before I would be teaching it and ending it right when the students were beginning.  The light-hearted tone of the novel made it an easy, enjoyable read; however, the political and moral undertones touched me more intensely than any literary novel ever has.

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

I remember the day I finished the novel. I sat in my office, so immersed in the story and blinded by my tears that I didn’t see one of my tenth grade students walk in. It was an awkward moment for both of  us as he witnessed my discovery of Tom Robinson’s unfair death. Unsure of what to do or say, he mumbled, “Uhm, are you okay?” And I laughed through my tears and told him that he would understand once he read the book. 

[Real courage] is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
This holistic novel exists as a contradiction within itself, demonstrating the varying perceptions and prejudices that encompass both the good and bad of human nature. The novel shows the blind hatred that exists within the confines of the human heart. It portrays the unjust treatment of those who differ from the norm, the accepted. It reveals the evil that a guilty and unforgiving heart is capable of. And it depicts men abandoning their integrity as well as their morals in a societal wave of discrimination. 
But Harper Lee equally balanced this hatred with showings of compassion and love: the high-spirited, whimsical innocence of being a child, the difficult and burdensome job of being the bigger person in the face hatred, and the determination of a father to maintain his self respect as a role model for his children. 
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. 
Using a setting nestled in darkness and surrounded by shadows, Harper Lee welcomed in the most beautiful light. And despite the cruelty surrounding the plot, despite the narrow-minded beliefs showcased by the characters, there is a glimmer of hope, insight into what the human race can and should be. 
Rest in peace, Harper Lee.

there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story

It seems lately that our world has become more confrontational, more problematic, and more self-centered than ever before. I’m not one to follow along with the news, mainly because the negativity overwhelms me and influences my mood; however, that doesn’t mean I am completely blind to the many different controversies going on in our nation. Whether it is same-sex marriage, the confederate flag, political parties, religious beliefs/rights, etc., someone always wants to be offended and someone always wants to hate.

To me, this hatred is built off of a foundation of ignorance, a strong base that begins with a lack of education in terms of both academics and experience. It also develops when individuals and communities resist the acceptance of growth and diversity, when they try to be and see only one thing in the picture rather than the picture as a whole.

“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.
They make one story become the only story.” -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Living in a small town myself, I have witnessed this behavior on a daily basis both in children and adults alike.  I see a small football town want to be nothing more than just that. I see uneasiness and prejudice when it comes to other races, other religions, other cultures. I see judgement for those not following “the right path” or those not dressing and looking “the right way.” I see one voice, one definition, one picture.  However, in defense, the area doesn’t offer much challenge in terms of diversity.

It wasn’t until I began taking classes to become a certified ESL teacher that I began to realize the limited life perspective so many hold close. This class exposes me to new ideas that I haven’t necessarily had to think about, all involving acceptance of other cultures and languages. When an individual comes to the United States, it is common for Americans to believe that person should be forced to learn English; and yet, what they don’t realize is that the United States legally does not have a set language. In theory, the country still prides itself on being the melting pot of the world, while meanwhile, many of its inhabitants wholeheartedly what that idea actually means.

Most people have at least once in their lives been in a situation where they have heard another language being spoken around them, and this bothers people. But should it? And if it does, why? Why as a nation do so many feel entitled to have their own strong beliefs, while refusing to accept or acknowledge the beliefs of others?

Recently, my husband and I took a delayed honeymoon to the Dominican Republic. While he spent a year in Afghanistan (with a few stops in other countries), this was my first departure from the United States, and it opened my eyes to the situations of those people from other countries who make the decision to move to America. Not only are many of those people leaving difficult or dangerous situations, but they are traveling to a country that expects them to transform 100% into “an American” upon their arrival.

The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country, and so many people we met there were genuine, friendly, and enthusiastic, but most of all, extremely accepting and cultured.

I never felt more ignorant and uneducated than during this trip.

I felt for the very first time in my life like a true outsider, like how many foreigners coming into the US might feel when encountered with others. Most at our resort spoke fluent Spanish along with a plethora of other languages. Unfortunately, my husband and I know only one language: English. We struggled tremendously to accomplish even the smallest of tasks, like asking for more water or directions. We were the foreigners, and yet, because our culture didn’t supply us with the tools necessary to interact with the rest of the world, we were not prepared to adjust. Being on the outside do to a language barrier is difficult and frustrating, but it taught me more than any class could. Eventually, we did adjust and did our best to learn the language and communicate as efficiently as we could, and all the people we interacted with were extremely understanding, accepting, and helpful. Rather than pushing us away and dismissing us immediately, most embraced us and did what they could to make things easier.

The small kindnesses–whether it smiling and using body language to understand us, speaking English to us, or involving us in activities and games (even if we needed our own set of spoken directions)–transformed our trip from what could have been a horribly frustrating week into an eye opening, adventure.

It is easy to dismiss those who are different than we are.
It is easy to pretend we are not the same, that our actions and impatience aren’t hurtful.

But the truth is, we are all the same–no matter how cheesy that sounds. We have people we care about. We have obligations and priorities. We want to enjoy our lives. We may have different frames of reference, but we are all human. We all struggle in the same ways, and if we could all truly practice tolerance, if we could go out of our way to help make life easier for those who are floundering, the world could and would be so much different.

Here are some of my favorite personal photos from the trip! We tried to experience as much as we could–from a boat ride past the wealthiest of the Dominican Republic to buggy rides past those in the most need, the experience was truly eye opening, educational, and life changing.

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words are both the weapon & the cure: the art of manipulation

Everybody does it at some point: We manipulate others regarding all aspects of the world around us.

We attempt to skew the perception others have of us by showing them what we want them to see.
We influence others to agree with us, to see acquiesce to our ideas, views, and beliefs.
We change moods, provoke action, and inspire thoughts that we’ve given birth to.
We spread the contents of our mind around us like the plague, all the while, never claiming them aloud as our own.
We lie.
We cheat.
We change.
We infect.

How often do I sit quietly (and patiently), listening to a student attempt to manipulate me by telling me a story in hopes  I will change a grade, accept late work, or allow a special circumstance?

How often is a person overly pleasant to another’s face, only to turn around and disparage them?

It happens.
It happens a lot, and reveals itself in many different forms.


According to the Google dictionary, the meaning of manipulate is as follows:

manipulate: verb

1: handle or control (a tool, mechanism, etc.), typically in a skillful manner.
2: control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously.

Most people only have a vague realization of how manipulation plays into their everyday lives. Because it has a negative connotation associated with it, most people distance themselves from the world. They define it with specific instances or experiences: being cheated, being lied to, being tricked. While these are all very obvious examples of how one may be manipulated, most fail to see it on a smaller, less visible scale.

When I was younger, I had a friend who would often get irritated or moody (for seemingly no reason from my stand point). These moods would often be taken out on the inner circle surrounding her, and because we were close friends, I experienced the snarky, agitated behavior directed my way quite often. Being young, naive, and insecure, I did what I could to rid her of those negative feelings directed towards me. I would try sucking up, in hopes she’d find favor with me again. I’d stay away from her, hoping the next time I ran into her the mood would have shifted. On occasion those worked, but often, they only fueled her power.

But one day, I took a different approach. I wouldn’t necessarily say flattering was the road I traveled down, but it was definitely a parallel twin. This girl pretended to those around her that she hated a specific part of herself (I’m avoiding getting too detailed); however, it was obvious in an underlying way that she actually loved it, mainly I think for the attention it brought her. People would joke with her about it often or “make fun” of it in a non-offensive way, and she soaked up the attention and comments. So one day during one of her moods, I nicely made my first comment about it, too.

It was like someone hit a light switch. The darkness transformed, and she was illuminated. Suddenly, I was no longer the scapegoat for her misery, but a confident to share it with.

How interesting. All because I was able to read her reactions, understand her thought process, and build off of it.

This approach never failed, and I would have been a fool to stop using my newfound ability. Instead of realizing that maybe she just wasn’t as good of a friend as I thought, I unknowingly manipulated her so that she would treat me in the manner I wanted her to. Like most of the world, I didn’t see that as manipulation. I wasn’t hurting anyone. I wasn’t lying or being mean. I was just changing her behavior so that it fit my needs.

How often do we make bad news out to be a smaller deal than it is?
How often do we exaggerate something to make credit seem more deserving?
How often do we purposefully highlight things about ourselves on social media, ignoring the bad, so that others view us the way we’d like them to?

It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized the true power manipulation has over each of us, and how much knowing the art of it can sway those around us.  When looking back, the classes I did the worst in were the classes in which I sat in the back and blended in with the class. During my sophomore year I made the jump from back row sitter to front row sitter. I also made sure to raise my hand at least one time during the first class. My grades rose. While I am still unable to prove this, I found there was some sort of relationship between my seat location and participation in class and my grades on papers, essays, etc. Naturally, I did become more intelligent as I progressed through college, but ultimately, I think I remained fairly consistent.  These changes were the slightest of accidental manipulations, and it wasn’t until I was able to see the result did I realize their effect. By sitting in the front and making an initial attempt to participate, I created a perception of myself as a “smart person” (even if the answers I provided were not always correct), and more often than not, my professor willingly embraced it.

While most manipulations that happen on a small scale are hardly noticeable but often negative, there are manipulative techniques that serve as an aid for humanity. With an abundance of English classes, I developed an intimate relationship with language. I became an expert communicator. With every paper, I became more eloquent; with every sentence, more precise; every word, meaningful. My eyes opened to the fact that language, word choice in itself, was an invisible, yet fiercely influential manipulator.

Manipulation in this context shouldn’t hold that same negative implication; albeit, it should be viewed as a tool to help each individual become more accurately expressive.  For example, when a thought is in our minds, it is specific and exact. When we go to translate our thought, we often lose precision, either because we are lacking to vocabulary or communication skills needed to pass the information along exactly. The person receiving our idea ends up getting something less, as some essence of our initial idea is lost due to our less-than-accurate description.

Strong idea >  vague description/word > less accurate understanding > result

Because there is no person able to see into the inner workings of our minds, it is almost impossible to completely convey a thought in its entirety. And yet, one word, one single word, could change that. Having the vocabulary and knowing the influence certain words have on people could completely alter the outcome of a conversation in the communicator’s favor.

Strong idea > precise description/word  > closer to accurate understanding > new result

Communication is holistic. While we can manipulate our wording to get certain points and emotions across, it is also important to have an idea of how the listener will interpret the message.  Knowing a person’s background, mindset, or personality acts as a large factor when determining word choice and communication techniques.

Strong idea                       > description with accuracy                         > best result
+knowledge of listener      +in a language the listener understands

While certain points throughout this may seem as though I have a strong opinion regarding the subject, I really have no one stance on manipulation. Just like all things in life, it is something to be explored, to be questioned and examined.  I enjoy understanding the people around me and figuring out the ways their brains work. This topic/skill is worth reflection so that we may improve our own individual living situations, despite whether we are using our manipulative powers for good or evil.

drifting through the windy city

While this is not my usual post, new opportunities for travel have encouraged me to add a new section to my blog specifically for these experiences of adventure! This blog was meant to be a challenge for me–a challenge to write more, to explore more, to read more, and to experience more. Adding a section for travel, at this point in my life, seems appropriate in the larger scheme of this blog’s purpose. After a small hiatus from writing, I hope you choose to continue following my journey as a writer, reader, and life enthusiast.


Last May. I traveled with my husband, sister, and the high school speech league qualifiers to Chicago for the National Forensics Competition. Here, we got the unique opportunity to witness some of the very best high school speakers the United States has to offer.

This was my first visit to the windy city, so while we were booked and busy for the majority of the weekend, we did make time to do some touristy things. We stayed at the Hilton in downtown Chicago, so we were within walking distance of a lot. The hotel was beautiful, and my sister got the exciting experience to play her signature piano song in the extravagant lobby. We visited the Buckingham Fountain, the Navy Pier, and the Chicago Art Institute. We also got to experience Chicago’s well-known deep dish pizza…which was delicious and something I highly recommend if you are ever in the city!

The visit was short, so unfortunately we missed out on a lot of sights and opportunities that I would have really enjoyed such as the Sears Tower, a bar-stop bike ride along the pier, night shows, and Millennium Park. Such is the case when traveling with a group!

Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip, courtesy of both my lovely Nikon and trusty Iphone. Enjoy!


The Windy City:

Adventures at the Pier, Hilton, and Art Institute:

let the moment live

Photography is an art.

I’ve always viewed myself as an artist of sorts, despite having no talent in the fields most associated with the word. I can’t paint. I can’t sculpt. And any student who has ever witnessed my stick-figure horse will attest to the fact that I certainly can’t draw.

It wasn’t until I got my first camera, a basic digital Canon camera, that I fell in the love the art of taking pictures. Initially, I wanted to record every moment, keeping a collection of stills from every occasion in fear that I would forget the time of life. It wasn’t until later that I realized I wasn’t saving the memory of these moments by documenting them, but solely creating moments for picture purposes only. I was killing moments left and right in order to achieve a photograph. And this brought about my philosophy when it comes to photography:

Let the moment live.

Taking pictures isn’t about freezing the moment, but rather, giving that moment life. Giving the silent a voice, the small the space to dance.  Photography makes life simple. It takes the big picture–our existence and environment–and breaks it down into the tinier, but most essential puzzle pieces.  To quote one of my favorite poet’s, Tyler Knott Gregson, “I’ve always tried to reduce big moments that are filled with emotion, to tiny fragments. Show the whole by showing the parts, as it were. In the same vein, I have always tried to show tiny moments, little blink-and-you’ll-miss-them seconds, as the big, important things that matter most.”

A look.
A memory.
A connection.
A feeling.

It’s the simple things we often overlook, and the big things we never fully see.

Photography has been a passion of mine for some time, and it is something that I’ve shared often here at the place between sleep and awake. Lately, with more people to take pictures of, a better camera, and more opportunities to get out and about to shoot, I decided to create a special place solely for picture purpose. A site that has less to do with words, and more to do with visuals.

Take some time and visit let the moment live. Enjoy!


The Hardest Part of Growing

It’s rare for me to find writings that whole-heartedly consume me, or that I’m able to relate to on such an intimate level…but this page captures everything, and the writer of ‘the flawed twenties’ does so in such eloquent and artistically unique ways. Go visit and see for yourself.

The Flawed Twenties

The people I love, I want to carry them with me; through every experience, through every big moment, through every start. I wish they could see what I see and feel what I feel. I wish they could be right here by my side, inside my mind, share my thoughts with no explanations needed.

I wish I could carry the people I love inside my suitcases; better than pictures and knick-knacks… But an essence of person  is so much harder to bottle. I have boxes of souvenirs and papers-most I never look at- but I can’t bring every person I love with me on every journey. At some point we have to part.


Sometimes my mind is filled with memories. I think about conversing over Turkish coffee with my grandfather, wondering what would be his thoughts on my pursuing a PhD, what advice he could give me since he’s the…

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she did not need anyone else’s love when she had roses

I don’t like animals.

That sounds slightly cruel to state aloud, but it is the truth. I don’t get the urge to pet cuddly puppies or kitties, I don’t care to visit farms or zoos, and I’ve never been the child to want to bring home every living creature I’ve encountered. Maybe it is because I’m slightly allergic to most fur I touch, or maybe its because I was chased up my hill by a dog when I was younger; but either way, pets have never been for me.

Until June 25, 2009. On that day, something big happened. Bigger than Farrah Fawcett’s death. Bigger than even Michael Jackson’s passing. On that day, Chloe Farrah Petrunak came into our lives. Chloe was the sweetest, most beautiful puppy in the world. She was a black Pomeranian princess who looked like a little bear. We would compliments about her all of the time: how beautiful she was, how unique she looked for a Pomeranian, how friendly and cute she was.

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But for all of her beauty, she had an ugly past.

After suffering losses of two other pets, my parents originally decided we were finished with animals. There never was an option that we would have a cat, but after losing both Tramp and Benny, the idea of getting another dog was no longer realistic. That was until my aunt and uncle shared a story and a photo with my family that melted our hearts.

Neighbors of my grandmother can barely take care of their children, so I will never understand what possessed them to purchase a newborn puppy. During Chloe’s time with her first “family,” she was extremely neglected and abused. She was never given a true name, and her home consisted of the one-foot chain that allowed her to sit outside on the porch each day, in heat or cold…it didn’t matter. Half of the time, Chloe only got food or water because my aunt or grandma would walk over and give it to her. I don’t even like thinking about this part of Chloe’s life. She was with these people for seven months before they couldn’t afford to have her fixed, and as a requirement of their living situation, they had to give the sad-eyed beauty away.

My mom had always liked the name Chloe, and we always joked about adopting a Chinese child and naming her that. After seeing Chloe’s pictures, we used that little detail to persuade my mom to let us get her. My mom and dad agreed to let us visit with her; however, no promises were made that we would be taking her home.

I will never forget our first meeting with her. We sat outside with her, and it was obvious immediately that she had the sweetest soul, but she was also incredibly sad and timid. She flinched a lot and didn’t like to be restricted. There was no question about the fate of the little puppy. As soon as each of us looked at her, held her, and watched her play, we knew she was ours to take home as the newest addition to the Petrunak family. Because Rose had beautiful hair that reminded us of Farrah Fawcett’s (and it also happened to be the day of Farrah Fawcett’s death), we gave her the middle name Farrah.

Walking into the house that first night, we set her down on the ground for only a second before she bolted. We spent the first hour after we got Chloe running around our neighborhood attempting to catch her. That first night only proved to us that there was so much Chloe had to overcome, and simply giving her a new home wasn’t going to change that right away. It also taught us that she was a smart, fast little bugger, and we’d have to be extra careful with her.

Chloe was shy and fearful of so much. She refused to walk in tight spaces, hesitated through doorways, and jumped sky high over every loud sound. Fourth of July was always the worst holiday and truly terrified her. She would shake incessantly, and the only way to calm her was to blast the television loud enough to drown out the noise of the fireworks, or gunshots, or thunder, or whatever was bothering her. I can’t even imagine the things that provoked these reactions out of her.

But these things were all minor in comparison to everything else. Once we got to know her, we quickly realized that Chloe had more personality than most people. She became the thing we all loved most, our Queen.

Queen Chloe. Rose. Chlo. Rowie. Chlois Loco (alter ego). Rosie. Roses poses. Row row.

She was always a source of happiness and had an uncanny ability to read the moods of those around her. I shared a room with her for many years (actually, she let me sleep in her room), and she was always able to tell when I was upset or happy. She would play this game where I would kiss her, and as I would go in, she would POP up and give me a kiss before I ever got to her. She tried her best to please everyone, and at the same time, she demanded that you please her as well. During a heavy snow, she once had my dad (slave #1) shovel pathways all around our yard so she could race around without a leash. I don’t know how I’m going to ever look at snow the same again. Her love for it was unparallelled; she’d run around it like crazy, walk on top of it. or push her face in it so that she’d have a Santa beard. When she need outside for the bathroom at 4am, everyone knew it. When she wanted to go outside to play at 4am, everyone knew it. When she wanted attention, she got it.

She was so human. So alive. So expressive.

I had never realized the benefits of having a pet. I never understood the deep pain that is left once they are gone.  They love unconditionally and try so hard to make lives better.

I find myself just missing her gentle presence. I miss her kind soul, her knowing eyes, and her sweet kisses. There was so much more to Rose than just being a simple pet. What animal is capable of giving off such a caring vibe? Of responding to situations with the compassion that most grown adults lack? She made each of us better people, and she provided each of us with what we needed, whether as a friend, a confident, a reason to to make life a celebration, or a soft push into responsibility.

Chloe was taken from us too soon, and the only explanation I can come up with is that she mastered being human. She succeeded in changing from the timid pup we first encountered into the calm, powerful nurturer she left us as. She overcame her fears, especially once Mila joined the family; simple things like watching her walk in the tight space between the end table and couch or seeing her not respond as visibly to a thunderstorm could provoke such emotion. She helped each of us, and I like to think that we also helped her not only by taking her out of a bad situation, but by giving her the love and confidence she needed to truly live a fulfilling and happy life.

I love you, Rose, and I will miss you everyday.
Rest in peace, my queen. I hope to see you again.

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sometimes we have more faith in each other than we do in ourselves

Alcoholic. Sex Addict. Smart ass. Virgin. Jackass. Daredevil.

My, how perspective can change a story.

Easier and more unnoticeable than anything else is the ability to get lost in one’s own mind.
To become blind to the box we are caged in.
To only view the world through the tiny telescope we are given.

It’s natural to close our eyes and forget to question. It’s more simple to ignore the different components that separate one from another, the different feelings that may clash as a result. The first instinct of the human race is to focus on one’s own individual needs, to rely on what one sees and hears rather than speculate, communicate, and interpret that which may seem foreign.

So, when a book’s content slams into me, makes me reassess my views and reevaluate my own outlook on the world, I consider it a success.

 “I want to be the accumulation of my failures, my successes,
of all the people I’ve ever met, of the man I love, and the life I want.
I want to be defined by so many factors that it’s too complicated f
or any mathematician to piece apart. That would be the
perfect life. Not good or bad. Just complex.”

Becca and Krista Ritchie’s Addicted Series is a character based novel revolving around two characters, Lily and Lo. Lily is a sex addicted, Lo an alcoholic. Both love one another, but they use their relationship as a shield to hide their addictions from their loved ones. They are one anther’s biggest enablers. As the story progresses, the list of characters expands to create a Friends-like vibe. Lily’s sisters Rose and Daisy are added into the mix, along with genius Connor Cobalt and hardass Ryke Meadows, all of whom carry their own stories and secrets. The Addicted Series takes place over about four years, and includes a spin-off series called the Calloway Sisters that still focuses on the main six characters, but changes the point of view from which the stories are told. The order of the books is as follows:


1: Addicted to You (Addicted Series)–Lily and Lo’s POV
2: Ricochet (Addicted Series)–Lily and Lo’s POV
3: Addicted for Now (Addicted Series)–Lily and Lo’s POV
4: Kiss the Sky (Calloway Sisters)–Rose and Connor’s POV
5: Hothouse Flower (Calloway Sisters)–Daisy and Ryke’s POV
6: Thrive (Addicted Series)–Lily and Lo’s POV of the events from the spin-off books
To be released:

7: Addicted After All (Addicted Series)–Lily and Lo’s POV
8: Fuel the Fire (Calloway Sisters)–Rose and Connor’s POV
9: Long Way Down (Calloway Sisters)–Daisy and Ryke’s POV

Moving through this series has been an odd experience for me. I wasn’t addicted from the get go. I was intrigued, but I didn’t originally connect with the Lily and Lo and their situations. I couldn’t relate, and instead of trying to expand my mind to understand, I rolled my eyes and pushed myself through to the end. But I had heard great, great things about this series. So one three star book turned into two books, which expanded into a slightly better third book…After three decent books, the point of view changed and my opinion of the series sky rocketed! Finally, people I could relate to! A storyline that interested me! I loved reading through the eyes of Rose, Connor, Daisy, and Ryke. The next two books (both told from the POV of these characters) were easily five star novels. Lily and Lo still played a large role in each book, but they weren’t the man focus; regardless, I found that even as background characters, they were able to grate on my nerves.

” I think, sometimes, we have more faith in each other than we do in ourselves.”

And then, the sixth book and reason I am writing this review, Thrive, was released. I started off skeptical, as the storytelling returned to the original protagonists, but I had built up enough love for the other characters that I thought they’d carry me through. What I ended up with was a love for the original protagonists, Lily and Lo, new appreciation for the series as a whole, and a slap in the face regarding my original judgments.
I took my time with this book and devoured every word. I reread chapters, highlighted constantly, teared up over the simplest of things, and laughed out loud. The character development demonstrated in this story blew me away, and the believability of the writing had me feeling as though I too was struggling right alongside Lily and Lo. Because Thrive spans over the same time period of Kiss the Sky and Hothouse Flower, I already knew the major plot events; however, that took nothing away from the story! Weirdly enough, knowing what was going to happen in the plot just made reading this more fun. I found myself constantly going back to Kiss the Sky and Hothouse Flower in order to compare how the same scene changed when I was given a different narrator. Seeing the same events happen through different eyes just made me feel as though I knew the characters so much better, and it opened my eyes to many doorways within the plot that I had previously overlooked. It was a new reading experience entirely.

“Freedom doesn’t come with age. It doesn’t magically
appear when you’re a legal adult. It comes when
you stand up for what you believe in.”

The strong grip that the Ritchie sisters have on their characters is amazing. Each of the six has a unique, distinguished voice that flows so naturally when telling the story. I don’t know why I couldn’t feel the passion for Lily and Lo in their other books, but Thrive really revealed them to me. It is such a lesson to take away–it’s human nature to only see our side, to only see what we are told or what we know. I was so willing to jump on the Raisy and Coballaway trains that I forgot all about LiLo and the intensity of the problems they were facing. I didn’t empathize with them at all. Hell, I barely even sympathized. But I’m grateful the authors gave us this opportunity to see things in a new light.

It was a success and an eye opening journey I urge everyone to embark on. The best books are the ones that influence the reader and his or her reality. To some, this story may be nothing more than a written version of the television Friend or just another quick read. But to me, the character growth, the bond between the six of them, and the different voices expressing the same story have weaved their way into my life, adding another layer to what I know is true.

“You’re a hothouse flower. You can’t grow under
natural conditions. You need adventure.
And security and love in order to stay alive.”  

This is a story about love, sex, perseverance, addiction, and loyalty. It is about the choices we make and the domino effect they have regarding those around us. It is about the pressure we feel from ourselves, those we love, and those we don’t even know. It is about forgiveness and acceptance, and all of the heartache that occurs in between.


art enables us to find ourselves & lose ourselves at the same time

“She was fascinated with words.
To her, words were things of beauty, each like a magical powder
or potion that could be combined with other words
to create powerful spells.”
-Dean Koontz

The motto of my teaching philosophy includes the idea that teaching and learning are holistic to one another. In order to truly learn, one must teach; as one teaches, he or she learns. As an educator, this concept is a relevant and obvious component to my every day routine. I am a better teacher when I, alongside the students, am discovering. At the same time, being required to teach the content I am discovering helps me to learn it more efficiently. Two halves of the same whole.

Often, I find myself struggling with a (self titled) “word slump,” hindering me from writing blog posts as frequently as my recent norm. Many people may generalize this as writer’s block, but the title is much too broad as it only refers to writing. It is true that I haven’t been able to write much of anything–blog posts, poetry, self reflections, etc.–but I’ve also been struggling with reading as well. In these past couple of months, I have found it difficult to truly connect with a book, some because of the content, others the writing style, but most my mood.

This week, after struggling to get through another failed novel, I picked up Thrive, a continuing novel in the Addicted series by Krista and Becca Ritchie. I’m not going to discuss the book today–the series is strong enough that it deserves its own review post–but I found as I read the character-based story, as I finally connected with people, places, and situations, as my previous assumptions were challenged and my perspective altered, words began tumbling out of me. I was finally given the chance to breathe. As words soaked into my pours from the novel, words from my soul spilled out.

It led me to a conclusion, a self discovery I unknowingly rely on for inspiration: reading and writing are holistic within my being. I always knew that the more a person reads, the better he or she writes. I whole-heartedly believe that. However, the part I ignored was the fact that the more I read, the more I want to write and vice versa. Reading inspires me to write. And in turn, writing inspires me to read, to find more out there to connect with and live through. In turn, the more I do both, the more inspired I ultimately am.

She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t suppose to look nice; it was suppose to make you feel something.
-Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

My photography and poetry have revolved a lot around nature lately. Whether its because of a change in season or a change in me, I’ve been picking out and noticing the smaller details around me. I’ve been noticing the livelihood of the wind, the power of the sun, and the magic of the moon.

Maybe my metaphors and words make no sense. Maybe they make too much. I don’t know. I’m not a poet of perfect structure and form, just one who feels and tries to transform emotion into words reflecting their rawest forms.

The Shadows

The brazen sun shines,
rays blanketing the Earth
demanding all lying in it’s path
to stand at attention
to reach it’s peak
to be it’s best.
A race for the spotlight.
A fight for the glow.
Pressure to be taller, more vibrant than the rest.

Charging for illumination,
no one notices my radiance,
dancing alone in the shadows,
waiting for the grey,
the rain,
to sprinkle it’s magic over my soul
and allow me to grow
to flourish
apart from the rest.
My spirit doesn’t set with the sun.


She dreamed in color.
Vibrant, bold hues that overpowered the grayscale tones threatening to cave her world in.
Reality had a way of sneaking it’s black heart in through the disguise of a rainbow,
a beautiful jacket to conceal an ugly core.
Only alone could she build fences,
strong enough to allow rhythmic dances of red,
hearty laughter in shades of blue,
a river of colors moving gracefully in time with the ocean,
to the tick tock of the clock,
a perfect match to the steady beating of her heart.
A glowing existence of magic and hope, she never wished to leave.
Despite a cold perimeter, she kept a warm heart.

I write in riddles.
Pretty words in
pretty phrases within
pretty sentences
that convey meaning not always
but always profound,
but always buried amongst metaphors
but always layered with a thick coat of unrelated in order to shed the layers of varying dimensions
in order to establish my depth
in order to carry forth my breath
in order to relieve the space in my chest
to allow fresh air a new place to hide for a while.
Clarity is muddled
in a syntax foreign
to dancers, gliding on the surface.
Meaning is lost
to dreamers, hiding in the box.

let the beauty of what you love be what you do

Like the seasons, people change.
Or is it…
People change with the seasons?
Because of the seasons?

I am able to distinctly define myself and my characteristics in four different ways, all dependent upon the weather outside.

During the fall, I am extremely organized and productive. I’m much more outgoing than usual and truly enjoy being around people. I like being busy and I like to plan for everything ahead of me, no matter how far in advance.

When the winter approaches, I shut down. Rather than indulge myself in the world around me, I prefer to play in the world inside of my head. I am always most inspired in the winter—the amount of blog entries I write during this time is living proof—and I feel like it is during this time that I produce my best work. I don’t enjoy leaving my house, and I don’t enjoy socializing. I would rather read or write.

Spring is full of contradictions. I am still tempted to hide myself away, but at the same time, I start to come alive again. I feel inspired, but when it comes to productivity, it feels more forced than natural. I run out of things to write, so I usually change artistic mediums and take pictures. I want to wear bright things and plan adventures with those around me…but, still recovering from my winter hangover, I don’t do any of these things as often as I’d like. I want to photograph the sun, but I secretly cross my fingers for rainy days.

And finally comes summer. I have no inspiration at all. It’s like the sun sucks out any existing art hiding in the cracks of my soul and disposes it. I’m social and enjoy being around people, yet at the same time, I’m bored because although I’m off, no one else is. I can’t write. I can’t read. I can’t socialize when I crave it most. And I hate the words “Go outside and enjoy the sunshine!” more than words can truly describe. The only thing I am inspired to do during this season is braid my hair as many different ways as possible—I’m still not quite sure why. Summer is one of the most fun seasons, but it also makes me antsy, knowing that the school year is looming not far ahead…

During the summer months, I have plenty of time for self reflection, and I started thinking about what particularly stumps my artistic growth and inspiration each season, especially because I have so much more time available to devote to my favorite pastimes. And I came to a simple, yet surprising conclusion.

Most believe that teaching is an easy job, mainly because teachers get summers off; however, during the school year, teachers work more than just one job. In this occupation, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes, so much more than what meets the eye. Teaching is a balancing act. It is a learned skill that requires one to be able to juggle multiple tasks at once. There’s creating materials, checking assessments, planning lessons, restructuring lessons when school schedules change, modifying and handling student behavior, meeting special needs of students, responding to urgent emails in a timely manner, completing in-service homework assignments, becoming certified to give standardized tests via video exams, attending meetings and book chats and professional development sessions, collaborating with same subject teachers, implementing changes in curriculum and teaching strategies, balancing the needs of the students who are struggling with those who are moving faster than planned…and the list could go on and on and on and on…. As the year progresses, this juggling routine becomes more difficult, and often, some of the things we are juggling start to fall or are caught only at the last minute.

Not quite two months ago, I was ready to flee the school year without looking back. Teachers and students alike crave the break like a light at the end of a dark tunnel. This year, my students and I had a count-down chain. Everyday we would cut a link and read an inspiration quote that was written on it in order to stay motivated as the year winded down. This year there was so much productivity and the results of everything far exceeded my expectations. The break for these students was well deserved.

Each year, when that break comes, I dance and sing my way into summer, but the silence that awaits me hits me like a ton of bricks. Just as juggling a million tasks during the year is difficult to do, having nothing to do is difficult in its own way. I often find that while I love the much needed break, I miss the madness of the classroom.

After looking at myself over the changing of the seasons, I’ve come to the realization that the madness, the challenge, the juggling is what is inspires me. Adding structure to my classes, planning and utilizing teaching strategies, watching students produce their best works, having academic conversations about literature and writing and life—all of those things add a certain element to my life that inspires me to create, to breathe my heart and soul into my work. I am inspired by students, by coworkers, by my job on a daily basis.  And it is during the winter season, when I know my students well enough and am not yet exhausted from the year, that I am able find ways to empty myself of my thoughts and ideas and beliefs.

So, while my blog entries may currently be few and far between, I now at least have the peace of mind in knowing that a creative streak isn’t too far off, that my artistic side hasn’t been extinguished.

I once had an English teacher whose classroom motto I truly admired. The rule for his class was that everyone in the room LEARN. The reward for following this rule was that one become enlightened. The consequence was to remain in ignorance. Now, as a teacher myself, I understand that he expected himself to follow this rule as well, this rule that one always keep his or her mind open to new information. As you can see in my pictures below, I adopted this classroom motto and hold the same standard and expectations for myself.  I am inspired by learning, and every day in the classroom–whether I am acting as student or teacher– I learn something new or gain some new insight.

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