This girl loves…reflecting.

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Today I sat in the ballroom of a hotel.  Twelve years ago I checked into that hotel, unpacked the contents of my previous life in Florida, and readied myself for a new life in Arizona.

Today I attended a writing conference as a middle school English Language Arts teacher.  Twelve years ago I started an office job, temporarily abandoning my education degree.

Today I thought about all the stories waiting for me to write.  Twelve years ago I was still generating those stories.

Today I felt that I could do anything.  Twelve years ago that idea evaded me.

A lot has changed in the twelve years since I moved to Arizona.  In the span of a young adult’s life I have grown just as much.  My 22-year-old self is unrecognizable to me as I look back.  That 23-year-old girl was a child, a girl with very little real-life experience.  She couldn’t command a classroom of 35.  She couldn’t speak comfortably in a group of people she didn’t know.  She couldn’t see a happy life in the desert because she simply could not see the beauty of her surroundings.

I feel confident in saying that change has come.  That girl has grown into a beautiful, independent woman.  A woman that has started to take risks, to step just outside her comfort zone.  She has learned to grow where she is planted and see the beauty that Arizona has to offer.  She has learned to be a remarkable teacher with an incredible passion for education.

As I look back I wonder: if I told 23-year-old Sara that things would get better–that she would go on to have a wonderful life–if she would believe me.

Would she believe me if I told her that she would live out her dream and move to England for a short time?  Would she believe me if I told her that being in England would change her life?  That she would never feel quite complete unless she was walking the busy streets of London, or the quiet cobblestones of Cambridge?  That the air and the food and the people would brand her soul leaving her forever bound to that country?

Would she believe me if I told her that she would teach for the next ten years, receive her master’s in English education, and begin teaching middle school?  Would she believe me if I told her that she would have students who adore and admire her?  That students from previous classes would run up to her, envelop her in a hug, and say they were so excited to have her as a teacher again?  That they would tell her about a new book they just finished or shove their stories in her face awaiting her approval?  Would she believe me if I told her she would be teaching reading, writing, and Shakespeare?  That “If music be the food of love, play on…” would roll off her students’ tongues with ease because she taught them these profound words?

Would she believe me if I told her that she would volunteer at her synagogue, mingling with groups of people she barely knew?  Would she believe me if I told her that, while making small talk was still a challenge, she would be willing to task risks and attend social groups alone?  That she would engage her peers in discussions of the places she had seen, the knowledge she had gained, and the work she loved.

Time changes a person.  You grow, you explore, you learn qualities about yourself you never thought were possible.  While change does not come easy, it is a necessary part of life and it is time to start embracing it.

This girl loves…Shakespeare.

So many resources!

So many resources!

If you have been reading my blog this summer you’ll remember that I have spent the entirety of it at home instead of traveling to far away places.  With that said, I have been far from unproductive, in fact, I’ve probably done more research this summer than any other summer prior.  It is all because of a wonderful man, William Shakespeare.

For as far back as I can remember (in my English classes, that is) I have always been intrigued by Shakespeare.  I couldn’t wait to start Romeo and Juliet as a freshmen in high school and I read  Macbeth three separate times throughout high school.  I fell in love with The Merchant of Venice as a senior finding much sympathy for the character of Shylock.  My love would go further than that as I embarked upon my journey in England four summers ago.  It was there that I was able to learn about William Shakespeare as a person.  It was there that I was able to truly understand why he wrote amazing and complex characters like Iago and Caliban as well as hilarious characters like Bottom and Puck.  I read more Shakespeare in six weeks than I had in my life thus far and I LOVED IT.

Upon graduation from my MA program I decided I needed to make Shakespeare a part of my daily life.   I thought,  what better way to do that than to integrate it into my elementary school reading program!  I was lucky to be teaching in a school that would allow for this new vision and I’ve not been disappointed by the results.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my students have fallen in love with the texts I’ve exposed them to.  They’ve analyzed sonnets that most adults have difficulty even reading.  They’ve brought characters to life as I imagine Shakespeare’s troupe of actors did hundreds of years ago.

This year I have the opportunity to really make a mark.  April 23, 2014 will mark what would have been Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.  Celebrations are occurring all over England and I wanted to be in on the action.

So all summer I have been researching Shakespearean texts, watching movies, engaging in scholarly discourse with anyone willing to listen (namely Kate, Dylan and Tyler), and making plans for a ShakesYEAR!  Tomorrow I meet with my curriculum advisor to discuss my plans for the year and I couldn’t be more excited.

I cannot wait to impart my knowledge, my passion.

My goal is that by the end of the school year each and every student at my school will know one detail about William Shakespeare.  I don’t think that is too much to hope for in a world where Shakespeare can be found most anywhere!

This girl loves…writing at 5am.

The sun greets the day...

The sun greets the day…

I awoke early this morning in a bit of a start, 4am to be exact.  I blame the stress of buying a home along with being stood up by a guy I didn’t even want to date for my early start.  Luckily I am on summer vacation and can take a nap later should I feel so inclined.  Aside from a trip to the groomers for my dog, Bagel, and a tutoring session later in the day, I have nothing planned.

With this knowledge, I did try to go back to sleep but to no avail.  As I tossed back and forth, trying to get comfortable, I thought about my life-something I am sure most of you do at 4:30am when you can’t sleep.  I began thinking about England, as I often do, and how I wished so much that I was there this summer.

My summer plans do not include traveling because my plans this summer are all about buying a house.  Now, I am sure after I find the house there will be multiple pictures to take and a ton of material to write about but for now, there’s nothing.  I have put in a few offers only to be frustrated by them not working out for one reason or another.  I know that there is a purpose to all of this but it does not relieve the stress I currently feel about the unknown.  I am a planner and not knowing where I am going to live in the next few months is weighing on me a bit.  I am trying to relax and have faith but at 5am, my mind has other plans.

While traveling is not in my summer future, neither do my summer plans seem to include dating because, as I mentioned before, I was stood up.  What is most disconcerting is that I was stood up by a guy I was not even all that interested in.  I’d like to believe that something “suddenly came up” and our date just simply slipped his mind, but if I am being completely honest, I think it was from my apparent lack of interest in him that he just “forgot to call” to confirm our date.

So back to my tossing and turning session; It was during this that I  was reminded of the piece I am writing for a magazine contest.  I have entered this contest once before and did not win.  My heart was not in that piece, though so I can’t blame them for not publishing it.  This piece is very different because it is about the bravest thing I have ever done.  Can you guess what the subject of this piece is, those loyal readers of my blog?  If you guessed my trip to England, then you are spot on.

I’ve realized that the writing I do about England is probably my best.  It is the subject of the book I am working hard at finishing.  It is the subject of my most “liked” blog posts.  It is the subject of my life, pretty much.  I always find a way to come back to it and I believe it is because England has become my happy place.

When I was a kid, we had this relaxation expert come in to our school and teach us how to, you guessed it, relax.  She played soft music as she told us to lay down and think of a happy place.  I imagined a garden with flowers, a cool breeze, and birds chirping.  Little did I know that my happy place was a preclude to what my actual happy place would be: my flat in England.  It is such a comfort to know that I can conjure up that image and all is well in the world.  I won’t go into any more depth on that subject as that was the subject of my last blog post.

It comes as no surprise that writing about England would fill me with the relaxation I would need to fall back to sleep.  Maybe you will have a chance to read this finished product, published on those glossy magazine pages.  I can only hope.  So, it is with those hopeful words that I leave you.  I think I can sleep now.  Too bad it is already 6am…

This girl loves…letting go.

Problems just "drifting" away...

Problems just “drifting” away…

This year has been about self-reflection.  It has been about learning to just let things certain things go and not sweat the small stuff.  I am a worrier by nature so this task, simple as it may be for others, has proved to be a little more difficult for me.

I worked myself up this morning after reading a few emails containing information from various aspects of my life.  I felt my heart rate accelerate, my blood pressure increase, and my head ache.  The more I thought, the more worked up I got.  The more I talked about it, the more fuel was added to my fire.  Venting did not decrease the tension in the slightest.  No, the tension was alleviated with a simple thought: Keep Calm and Remember England.

It is amazing how escaping with a memory of your favorite place can make everything better; how it can allow you to just let go.  As my thoughts drifted back to my flat in England, the angry thoughts I had had a few minutes before, subsided.

I remembered a particular day at the start of my British summer.  It was the first rain England had seen in week,s as they were experiencing an unusual dry spell that summer.  The grass was brown; the heat most oppressive.  The day the rain began started like any other.  The sun shined as I walked to class.  The air was stagnant as I read in my room, windows opened to full capacity to allow what little breeze there was, to come through.  Then, the clouds increased, the sky darkened and the rain began to fall.  The breeze picked up, as did the rain.  I leaned out the window allowing the rain to spray my face, cooling me.  Keeping the windows open, I read Shakespeare’s inspiring words.  The pitter-patter of the rain lulled me into the deepest sleep I can ever recall.  I awoke hours later, book draped across my chest, blanket drawn up to my chin, and rain splattered against the window sills.  I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with the freshest air imaginable.  I walked along the rain soaked streets, breathing in the life that this summer shower had created.  The trees bloomed fuller it seemed; the grass shone brighter.  The world had come to life again; the oppressive heat a distant memory.  I ate a local pub that evening, allowing the warmth of the liquid restore strength and vigor into my body.  I watched as the punters drifted down the river, laughter and smiles enveloping them.  I felt ready to tackle the world.

Reliving this memory reminded me that letting go is good, that bad things are always replaced by good.  When I have allowed myself to let go of the things I cannot control-people, circumstances-I feel peace of both mind and body.

This girl loves…Harry Potter.

Escaping...

Escaping…

It was a trying day at work which warranted an escape.

Movies and books are such an escape and my favorite escape is into the world of Harry Potter.  The musical score has the ability to calm my nerves-each da dum, da dum, da dum, di dum, da dum, da da da da washing over me like waves washing upon the shoreline.

Unlike most fans, my love of Harry Potter started with the movies.  I loved the characters and settings the film makers created.  It wasn’t until the plot began to thicken a bit more (in The Prisoner of Azkaban) that I decided to pick up the books.  Having a picture in my head of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hogwarts, and Diagon Alley helped me to imagine the books in a different sort of way.  In a sense, the books provided the deleted scenes that the movies could not include.  The movies, however, provided the soundtrack and the vocals that made reading the books all the more real and inviting.  When I pick up one of the books, as I like to do every so often, I can hear their voices, their intonations, the cadence in which they would speak the words.  I can then, truly escape into this brilliant world created by the genius, J.K. Rowling.

Some of my favorite parts of the movie are the scenes inside the great hall-particularly the meals and how they magically appear on the plates.  The scrumptious leg of lamb  is a particular favorite of mine.  I love the train ride to Hogwarts and how we have a chance to glimpse a bit of the English countryside.  It reminds me of my own train riding through along the very same paths.  I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Quidditch.  The film captures the essence of the game that was so complicated to read about.  Finally, the ending scene when Harry says goodbye, never fails to grip my heart-the score evoking emotions of homesickness for a country I like to call home.

Sometimes it is true that seeing is believing.  I am just happy that, with both the movies and the books, I don’t have to choose-I can see or read and still I believe.

This girl loves…rainy days.

Raindrops on Wellies...a few of my favorite things!

Raindrops on Wellies…a few of my favorite things!

Waking up to clouds in the sky and rain puddles at your feet probably does not do much for your attitude. You are thinking about the traffic that will ensue, the water that will inevitably soak your socks and shoes, and the mist that will either frizz your curls or flatten your straight locks. All of these are the general result of a rainy day in a normally sunny state.

Waking up to clouds, though, for me has the opposite effect. Instead of dooming me, a rainy day means I will get to remember my favorite place: England.

The smells, the sounds, the feeling of raindrops upon my head or the cool breeze prickling my skin allow memories to literally “flood” back.

I can remember walking down a street sodden with rain, dodging puddles of muddy water, on my way to class. I would clamber into the classroom, instantly shrug off my rain coat and settle in for the latest lecture about the life of William Shakespeare. To learn such things in the land of the Bard, while rain gently tapped at the window, would engrain itself forever in my memory. After class a walk over to the nearest pub for hot soup and drinks with my friends would energize me enough for the reading that awaited me back at my dorm. Falling asleep as the wind blew lightly against the heavy felt curtains, the rain fell softly, and the sound of a nearby owl hooted would lull me into the deepest, most peaceful sleep of my entire life.

These rare rainy days are ones I look forward to for in them I get to time travel through my most favorite memories, reliving the most important and exciting time of my life.