Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Climate Change or Not? Does It Really Matter?

Here in the Midwest we are currently enduring the worst winter that I remember in 34 years. Sure, I've endured cold winters and I've endured snowy winters, but this winter takes the cake. Technically I have been back at school for 16 days. I have worked nine out of those 16 days because of snow/ice/cold days. We've heard about about the polar vortex, we've witnessed the weather reporters shivering in the cold all around the Midwest and Northeast, and we've seen the photos and memes advertising just how cold it is outside. With the last two days off of school I have stayed at home with my two young children, making the decision to not take them out into the cold to daycare. Yes, this winter appears to be quite the phenomenon. And it's not just because of the weather outside of our houses.

For years there has been a lot of discussion in the scientific community concerning first "global warming" and now "climate change." The argument is that the earth is warming due to greenhouse gasses produced by world wide pollution. Much has been made of this suggestion. Al Gore made a lot of money off of An Inconvenient Truth while several conservative pundits have pulled together their own "experts" to prove that there is no such thing as man-made global climate change. This winter's weather has given the latter a lot of ammunition for arguing against man-made global climate change. After all, how can one argue that the earth is getting considerably warmer when it feels like Dante's last circle of Hell outside?

But my response to all the bickering is, does it matter?

At creation God gave us ONE planet, ONE home on which to grow families, communities, cities, and countries. That's it. Until death and eternity we have ONE place to live. So shouldn't we take care of it regardless of whether or not we believe the temperature of the earth is increasing due to human pollution?

Clearly, my response to this question is a resounding yes.

I get it. We are Americans. We like our personal liberties. We like to be left to make our own decisions. We don't want people telling us what we can and cannot do. It goes all the way back the Revolution. But at some point common sense should prevail. If something will save money while at the same decreasing fuel and power usage and as a result decrease pollution and destruction of our earthly home, why not do it?

In our home we started moving to CFL and LED lights years ago. I realize that there are many who cannot handle CFLs because of migraines, but for us the switch has been good, especially in a house with a lot of lights. If we could afford solar panels we would buy them to get as much off of the grid as possible. We have a truck but are excited to find out what the new F150 holds with better gas mileage, and we will switch a more efficient sedan when our kids no longer need the space of an SUV. We recycle everything we can. And our favorite vacations involve camping and taking our kids out into nature to see God's creation. We want them to appreciate the world around them. We want to teach them how to take care of their earthly home. We want them to understand that until they are in heaven, this is what they have so they should take care of it.

This is a big world. There are a lot of countries that have both a negative and positive impact on our worldwide environment. And while some national laws may be extreme and have an negative impact on certain sectors of our economy, common sense must prevail. We have to stop looking at each other as adversaries. If we are more focused on how we can clean up our earthly home and keep it clean we all benefit. It needs to stop being about whether man-made "global climate change" is real and start being about preserving the beautiful world we live in for our children and grandchildren. We need to stop making discussion of environmental issues about national politics and make it about doing the right thing for us and the generations to come. This is just one place of many where we need more common sense, but it's a place to start.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Book Review - Insurgent

It's difficult when I start a trilogy and I am not "in love" with the first book, especially when there are enough unanswered questions that I want the answers to. I feel the need to go on to the next book. I want to know the answers despite my initial lack of full personal investment. I enjoyed Divergent. It was a decent book by YA lit standards and it had some good points going for it, which I laid out in my first review. That being said, I was still a little hesitant about venturing into Roth's second book in the series, Insurgent.

I exited Insurgent pleasantly surprised. I wasn't sure what to expect. The extensive exposition in Divergent related to the budding romance between Tobias and Tris prepared me for more of the same. Instead the book moved past the unnecessary sexual tension between the two teenagers and moved into the story of a utopia falling to pieces around them. Those who escaped the Dauntless/Erudite-led attack on the Abnegation sector are now trying to figure out their next move. What follows in the rest of the novel is a fast-paced build up to war/rebellion. Roth slowly reveals the purpose of the novel as Tris discovers more about herself as a Divergent, the underground factionless are discovered to have a larger than normal Divergent population as well as numbers that can easily defeat individual or even multiple factions, and the purpose for the society as it was presented from the beginning of Divergent is revealed in the final pages of the novel.

Insurgent shows just how dangerous it can be to put people into narrow categories and leave them there, forcing them to emphasize their strengths, suppress their weaknesses, and conform to the standard norm for the common good. I see this too much as a teacher in a education system that is designed for a society that doesn't exist anymore. We offer kids on the low end all the help they need, push kids on the high end to be super-successful (although I would argue that it is not always to their benefit), and those in the middle, the "average" kids, get ignored because they don't have enough problems to "need" help and they aren't considered smart enough to be pushed into accelerated classes. We push kids at younger and younger ages to excel in specific activities, often forgetting that they are just kids and they need time to figure out what they not only are good at, but what they WANT to do. Just because a person displays aptitude in a certain area does not mean that should be their lifelong focus. Being a well-rounded individual is important to a healthy person-hood and society.

There are many questions left unanswered at the end of the novel, and so I have eagerly started reading Allegiant, hopeful that it does not disappoint as Mockingjay did after the fast-paced Catching Fire. Discovery of purpose has made this English teacher far more tolerant of the potential flaws and I will wrap of the series with my final review in a couple weeks.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

You Don't NEED To Go To College

Sounds like a strange thing for a high school English teacher with a Master's degree to say, doesn't it? After all, I spend two periods a day with AP students who are supposedly planning to use any credit they might get on a College Board test to help them get through college faster. I spend the other three periods a day teaching juniors American Literature, most of whom will go on to college to earn a degree in their chosen field.

But notice that I qualified that statement with the word "most."

We are in a strange place in American education right now. Some changes are for the better but there many more changes and reforms necessary if we are going to regain our position as a world leader in education, innovation, economics, and politics. There are too many reforms to discuss in just one blog post so I am here to propose one change.

Stop telling kids that the only way they can succeed in life is to get a four year college degree.

I'm not saying that a college degree isn't important. After all, I have two Bachelor degrees and one Master's degree. I loved going to school. I love teaching in a school. I want my students to be successful in higher education. I want to see my son and daughter go to college and get degrees in their chosen fields. A college degree is important IF it is necessary for one's chosen profession. But there are many skilled jobs out there that do not require a college degree. These are important jobs that are no less skilled than my chosen profession. Not just anyone can teach writing (contrary to what some politicians and non-educators believe) and not just anyone can fix my car, my plumbing, or my furnace. Those are skills I do not have. And just as I know there are people who have no desire to teach, I do not have the desire or aptitude for auto-mechanics, plumbing, or HVAC repair.

When I was a young and naive teacher I operated under the mistaken belief that all of my students needed to be prepared for college at a four year university. Each assignment was designed with the rationale "when you are in college you are going to need to know how to do this." It was a mindset that made my job more difficult, made some students hate English even more than they already did, and set up some of my students for certain failure. I had bought into the idea that a college degree equaled success and if I was to be a successful teacher 100% of my students would be fully prepared for college. My views concerning my responsibilities as an English teacher have changed over the last 12 years, but so have my views concerning what my students should be doing as they plan their futures. I've had many smart, innovative students who have the intellect to go to college, but they hate the structure of the classroom. They don't like sitting in classes all day long to learn things that they see as unimportant to their dream professions, many of which do not require a four year degree. And yet the government, national education organizations, and middle to upper class populations believe that students need to be strongly encouraged to pursue four year degrees that may or may not be useful once they graduate. Not only that, but many students are graduating with small mortgages. They graduate with crushing debt that will tie up their finances for years.

There are some voices out there promoting the idea that not everyone needs to go to college. Yesterday a friend posted an article about Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs and Deadliest Catch fame). He is making it his mission to encourage young people to pursue their profession of choice, whether or not that means a four year degree. His mikeroweWORKS Foundation offers scholarships to young people who want to go to trade school to learn a trade, finish training much earlier than they would if they were to go to college, and get to work without tens of thousands of dollars of college debt. In my AP classes last semester we looked at both education and the economy, encountering articles that suggested to my college bound students that maybe they didn't need that four year degree after all. One particular article by Matthew Crawford, a writer with a PhD who decided to quit his desk job to work on motorcycles, suggests that there is nothing wrong with pursing an education that requires working with one's hands. Both units sparked a lot of discussion about what it mean to be successful and what they need to do to pursue their dreams. Most of them will go off to college and finish a four year degree in a timely manner, but they need to know that a degree doesn't determine success. Hard work determines success. Acquisition of skills pertaining to a chosen field determines success. Willingness to learn and grow as a chosen field changes determines success.

I have seen this in my own life. My husband started college and never finished but he is one of the smartest people I know. He is a computer whiz who reads constantly and if he doesn't know the answer to a problem, he researches until he finds the answer. He goes to trainings when sent. He's taken classes when required. And his intelligence isn't just related to computers. He reads everything and anything, often reading books before me to let me know if they are books I might be interested in. He reads fiction and non-fiction, magazine articles about sports, media, technology, and politics. And he has a good job that allows him to provide for his family. I have also seen students graduate and enter trade school or the military finding fields that they love and find personally fulfilling. They are happy and successful in their own right, and that is what I wish for my own children. Do I want my son and daughter to go to college? Of course! But more importantly I want them to find professions that are personally fulfilling while also allowing them to be financially independent. In other words, I don't want them moving back in with us once they graduate. I want to them to love what they do and be proud of their work. If that means that they do not need to pursue a four year degree, so be it.

College is important, but more important than college is lifelong education. One does not need to acquire a four year to degree to be a life-long learner, but one does have to decide to learn and grow as a job requires. Instead of telling students that they need to pursue a four year degree we need to be encouraging them to be learners in pursuit of knowledge. We need to encourage them to WORK hard. We need to encourage them to pursue their dreams regardless of the education required, whether it is eight years of college or an 18-month training program. If we do this we may just end up with the workforce necessary to regain our position in the world.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Book Review - Divergent

I love dystopias. I always have. I love the idea of looking at an utopia gone wrong. Dystopias are proof that our sinful natures prevent any kind of perfect world and they warn us against trying. When we try to create a perfect world we inevitably screw it up. Authors use dystopias to criticize society, to point out flaws with much more serious undertones than satire allows.

So for my first book of 2014 I dove into a new dystopia, the Divergent series. The first book opens with 16-year-old Beatrice contemplating her future. She is approaching the choosing ceremony during which all 16-year-olds decide which faction they are going to join. This faction may, or may not, separate them from their family and determines their future lifestyle and occupation. Before they select their faction they take a simulation test that is supposed to help them determine which faction best fits their abilities and desires. Beatrice discovers that she isn't fit for just one faction, but three, making her divergent. She is immediately told to keep it a secret from everyone, including her family. To be divergent is to be a threat to the political and social structures put into place. The rest of the novel stems from her decision to leave her family faction and join another faction all while keeping her identity as a divergent a secret.

I enjoyed the book. It was a fun read and the fact that it took place in Chicago, one of my favorite cities, made it all the more enjoyable. But I would not lump the book in the category of quality dystopian fiction. 1984 warns against a government that is too involved in people's lives, and modern surveillance of the internet, phones, and roadways makes Orwell's warnings and predictions all the more relevant. Fahrenheit 451 warns against the dangers of censorship and the limiting of abstract thought, and our ear buds, big screen TVs, and interactive technology show a present similar to the future that Bradbury predicted. The Giver warns against a society that suppresses human emotion and devalues human life, something that we see through the use of some psychiatric treatment and in discussions of life issues. Even The Hunger Games, enjoyable but not without flaws, warns against our current society's obsession with materialism, violence and reality television, the modern Colosseum that proves that we are not that much better than the Ancient Romans. While reading Divergent I struggled to see the critique. It is an alternative United States, but what human folly created that alternative universe? What is Veronica Roth's message?

I was also slightly troubled by the emphasis on the emerging love story, as if the alternative universe was a backdrop for a teen romance. I love a good love story, but I struggled with the amount of story telling that focused on the developing romance between Beatrice (Tris) and Four. A good romance can be an excellent subplot that keeps readers interested, but it should not drive the story, especially in fiction that has been categorized as "dystopian."

Do I recommend the book? Yes, I enjoyed it and will read the next two books because I am curious about what will happen to the story. I want to know why Lake Michigan has been reduced to a marsh and where the bustling city of Chicago disappeared off to. I want to know what led to the decision to break society up into five distinct factions. And yes, I want to know what happens to Tris and Four (I'm still a sucker for a good love story, after all). But I would not put this book at the top of my list of "The Greatest Dystopias Ever Written." That list is reserved for the books that truly make me worry about the future.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Learning to Budget

Budget. It's a dirty word for a lot of us and it's taken me some time to figure out why. We're all told we should do it. All the financial advisers on TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines tell us that we NEED to budget. To not follow a budget is to commit financial suicide. And they're right, yet so many of us, yours truly included, have failed to do so.

It's taken some soul searching, but I think I may have figured out why I, at least, have failed to budget for my entire life. Much of it has to do with my misconceptions about what budgeting is and what it means. This is what I believed about budgeting three months ago.
  • A budget means penny pinching. My dad has been a churchworker most of my life and my mom stayed at home. I loved growing up with my mom at home. It was a gift and now that I am a parent with adult responsibilities I understand how much of a personal and financial sacrifice that was. But that also meant that we didn't have much money growing up. Now that I'm an adult I think it is probably safe to say that we had very little extra money growing up. To this day I am still shocked/impressed that we managed a trip to California and British Columbia when I was fairly young. I spent most of my life watching my parents carefully watch every penny that came in and out. While I am by nature a saver who does not like to spend money, once I was married and we had two full time jobs and no kids, I discovered financial freedom that I had never had before. And I married a spender. And I don't like conflict. Let's just say that all of those things were an eventual recipe for some kind of financial disaster when we moved and I wasn't working full time, we had two mortgages, a house falling apart around us, one toddler, and a baby on the way. That's not to say that all churchworker's kids struggle with finances. My cousin is a pro at this with her own website. But my form of rebellion was a lack of desire to sacrifice as much as I did growing up. I don't want to indulge my children (we say no way more than our children want to hear) but I also don't want them to hear a constant stream of "No, we can't afford it." I finally changed the way I saw budgets when I heard Dave Ramsey saying "A budget is you telling your dollars what to do." A budget doesn't have to be about pinching pennies. Instead, a budget is about controlling what those pennies are doing. That switch in thinking has made a huge difference.
  • A budget means difficult sacrifices. We all have wants. I want: a new kitchen, new living room floors, a new master bath, a trip to Australia, a trip to several countries in Europe, and the list goes on and on. All of those wants might be fulfilled someday, but not all at once and they need to be fulfilled when we have the cash to do each one. And the reality is that unless a person is a multimillionaire with money burning a hole in his or her pocket, one is going to have to make sacrifices and decisions about what one can and cannot spend money on. But they don't have to be difficult sacrifices. They just have to fit into the budget. We encountered this last month when we were trying to decide what we were going to do to celebrate our twelfth anniversary. My husband really wanted to go to the Colts playoff game. In the past the discussion would have included me saying that I wasn't sure that we had the money, my husband reminding me of his end of year bonus money, and me eventually mopishly giving in all the while uncertain if we actually had the money and waiting for that dreaded overdraft text alert. This time we looked at the budget, moved things around, and confidently bought the cheapest tickets we could, all the while certain that the money was there. A budget doesn't mean sacrifice. Instead it helps one make confident, informed decisions about the money that is there. Yes, there are things that we want that we can't have. But going on a budget doesn't mean I have to give up Starbucks Java Chip Frappuchinos. It just means I have to be selective about when I get to splurge on them. And if we stick to our budget, pay off the debt, and then make deliberate decisions about how we are saving our money, I might actually get that trip to Australia.
  • A budget is a way to control my free-spirit spender husband's spending habits. Yeah, this particular lesson was a huge thunk on the head. I'm by nature a saver. My husband is by nature a spender. He can be cheap about his spender tendencies (he is Dutch after all) but he loves gadgets. I knew that before I married him and I still married him. That doesn't mean it hasn't been the cause of headache and heartache in our marriage. When we moved nearly four years ago I tried to put a budget together to get our out-of-control finances under control. Part of the reason? I was trying to use it to tell my husband what to do. It wasn't about opening up communication and making financial decisions together. It was about telling him what we could and could not do. I set myself up for failure from the beginning. This time around the budget isn't about controlling my husband, it's about open communication and financial freedom. I make the budget and my husband approves it. Every month we get an equal monthly allowance. I get to use mine for as much Starbucks or Partylite as I want; he can save his up for a new bike jersey or gadget and I can't complain. The same thing is now true for his weekly Friday lunches. He gets the same cash amount every week. If he spends it all he doesn't have extra for the next week. If he doesn't spend it all he has more for the next week. Now I don't get irritated by him choosing to eat out at Red Lobster or Red Robin. It's his money and he faithfully ate leftovers all week so he could splurge. The same was true when he told me that he wanted to go to the playoff game next week if the Colts win tonight. I said we didn't have enough money in the entertainment budget and he reminded me that he had saved allowance money. Suddenly it shut me up. He was right. He had money. A budget isn't a control device; it is a communication device. This kind of lesson could change every marriage.
  • A budget is set in stone and any deviation means a failed budget. I love to plan. It is one of my favorite parts of teaching. In fact, the four days off last week due to snow are complicating my carefully designed AP lesson plans and trying to figure out how to make up those four days is really messing with my head. I can be flexible, I have to be flexible, but I don't like doing it. When I first worked out a budget without any guidance it was quickly blown out of the water because life happened. I failed before I even started because I didn't understand that numbers could be moved and amounts could be changed if they needed to be. This lesson was especially important since we started doing a budget in October, one month before we hosted Thanksgiving at our house and two months before Christmas. Suddenly we had to figure out how to work in two expensive events into a set budget. Add to that new winter wardrobes for the kids (including winter coats and boots) and we did a lot of number moving in those three months. That's ok. It taught me to be flexible. Now I make changes all month long depending on what comes up. But what matters is that we keep track of every expense and all money coming in and out. Budgets are made to be changed and adjusted based on life happening. And that's ok. Much like I had to learn when I was dieting and losing nearly 25 pounds, some weeks and months are going to be easier than others, but in the end it's all about making the numbers behave and making the changes necessary to ensure that happens.
And that leads us to how I got to those realizations. After nearly 12 years of marriage we decided it was time for us to get a handle on our finances. We came to that realization years ago, we just never did it. I think we were both afraid of what we would find out about our current finances and habits. I'm now to the point that I believe that all couples should take some kind of financial planning class. For us it was Financial Peace University at our church, but I've come to believe that we should have taken the class over 12 years ago when we were going through pre-marital counseling. That would have been practical. That would have saved us a lot of heartache over the last 12 years, especially over the last four years since we moved. When we moved, our finances fell apart, and we've been digging ourselves out of a deep hole caused by a combination of life happening and poor decisions ever since.

And we're getting there. We have a long road ahead of us but for the first time ever we have a plan. We know where we want to end up and we know how to get there. We will slip up but we know what we have to do if we want to get out of debt and have a secure financial future for us and our kids. The biggest key to that is making and sticking to a budget. We are faithfully using You Need a Budget (YNAB) and I have learned to be flexible from month to month. I like the numbers game. It's one of the things that made losing weight last year so much fun. Not only was I losing weight but I was constantly trying to beat my numbers. I may be the English teacher but I am definitely the nerd in this household. I enjoy doing the budget and my free-spirited computer nerd of a husband is happy to let me do it as long as I don't use it to beat him over the head with it.

We're learning. It's better late than never and hopefully we will develop habits that we will pass down to our children so that they can learn to love living debt-free too. I didn't make being debt-free a goal for 2014. I would love to see that happen but I'm not completely confident that this will happen by December 31. But we will be close and that is our goal. My blog post the day that happens will not be a post to brag but instead to celebrate the first debt-free day of our marriage. And that, my friends, will be a good day indeed.

A New Year - 2014

Yes, it is January 11 and we are nearly two weeks into the new year, but that doesn't mean that it is too late to announce my goals for 2014. I did a decent job with my goals last year. I made progress and while some of my goals were not nearly as successful as others, I worked on all of them and can honestly say that I am still trying. But that doesn't mean that I am finished with the goal setting. I have more goals for the next year and I am already hard at work to accomplish some of these.

So here are my Sarantees for 2014:
  1. I will declutter. My husband will laugh at this, if only because this seems like the impossible dream (cue Man of La Mancha). Here's the thing, I have a paper problem. I joke that the only thing that could get my husband to divorce me might be my paper problem. I make piles in my house, I make piles in my classroom, and everywhere I go those piles spill over into other areas of my life. Important documents get lost and sometimes bills even get missed because, surprise, they are in a pile somewhere. The clutter also spills over into my packrat tendencies. I am far from a hoarder but there are things I have a hard time getting rid of. During one of the many snow days I had this last week I cleaned our bedroom. I don't know how many times I thought "What is this thing and will we ever need it?" Another part of my decluttering will be going through clothes and toys and trying to sell them online. Extra cash and less clutter = win for the whole family. I don't want my kids to take on a habit that I learned from my own parents (sorry Mom and Dad). This will take a lot of work.
  2. I will work on my spiritual life. This should be a goal at all times but this is something I really need to work on. I need to work on my devotional life and living it so that my children see it as well. I know I'm not the only churchworker who has struggled with this. In my 10+ years working in Lutheran education I've too often found myself focusing so much on pointing my students to Christ that I haven't taken the time to work on my own relationship with Christ. Instead of finding a weekly Bible study, I was too busy directing, planning, or grading to do so. It was time to change that a long time ago, but it's really time to change that now.
  3. I will submit for publishing. This is the professional goal. Last year I submitted an article to English Journal. It was a good article. I was and am proud of the work I did on the article. But it got rejected with some very helpful feedback. I will go back to reworking it at some point. I will also work on new article ideas that I have. Finally, I have six days to work on my proposal for NCTE National Conference 2014. You can't get published if you don't try and try and try again. And that is what I plan to do.
  4. Finish back hallway project. We have other projects we want to start and finish but we are on a budget now so I have to stick to it. We will finish that back hallway first and hopefully I will have a blog post about that within the year.
  5. Stick with doing our budget. We started this in October when we took a Financial Peace University class. We will continue to work on this budget and not give it up. We've come a long way in three months and I don't intend to ever go back. Now that it's in writing it will be harder to do so...
  6. I will write an average of one blog a week. There, how's that for being more realistic? And I would say that last year I nearly met that with all the writing I did over the summer. I have to give up the teaching blog I optimistically started at the beginning of the school year, but that's ok. I want to write. I need to write. But I also need to be more realistic about life happening and being good at my jobs as wife, mother, and teacher. Blogging isn't my job, it's my outlet, and committing to writing 52 blogs during 2014 will help me remain committed to my jobs and my favorite hobby.
  7. I will read 12 books that I am not currently teaching and blog about them when I am finished reading them. This may not seem like a significant number of books for an English teacher, but believe me, it is. I have struggled with pleasure reading for years, not because I don't like to do it but because I reread everything I teach and between undergrad, teaching, and graduate school I have given myself very little time for reading for just me. I also am going to commit to getting back into the classics. For 2014 that means, GULP, Charles Dickens. I have not read Dickens since high school. I didn't like him in high school and the thought of picking A Tale of Two Cities back up again is slightly terrifying, but I will do it and I will let you all know when I finally finish.
There. That is my plan for 2014. Wish me luck. I'm really going to need it for some of these, but I also know that everything on this list is important for my personal and professional development. I will keep you updated on my progress during the year. Until then, Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Year in Review - 2013

2013 was a good year. It was full of challenges and successes, but overall I can say it was a year during which things were looking "up".

A year ago I wrote a list of "Sarantees" for the year, things that I wanted to accomplish by the end of the year although I refused to make them official resolutions. So, how did I do?
  1. I will strive to be a better wife and mother. I am constantly working on this one. Even yesterday this proved to be a struggle as my sweet, sick little boy misbehaved in every way possible for the last couple of hours before finally falling asleep. It's almost as if sleeping for nearly 48 hours straight makes even the littlest amongst us less desirous of sleep. But I always need to be better. I need to put my phone away more, play with them more, and talk with them more. I did much better this year and being done with grad school has definitely helped! I've also been better about date night, making it a priority in our monthly budget to ensure that I can't say to my husband "we don't have money for a date." But this is something I will always have to work on.
  2. I will work on my spiritual life. And this is another thing I keep working on. Last year I described my struggles to find a church home after moving. We finally joined a church here and we're working on it, the introvert in me is still struggling to make church friendships. I need to read my Bible more and I'm hoping to find a good Bible study in the next year. It is one of thoe things that will help me spiritually and personally.
  3. I will get to my pre-baby weight. I did that and then some! The holidays have been a little bit of a trial (I've put on somewhere between 3-5 pounds) but I'm back to tracking on My Fitness Pal and plan to beat my last tracking streak, which was well over 200 days. Hopefully with my husband renewing efforts for the yearly contest at work we can get the junk back out of the house and start doing better.
  4. I will continue to work to cultivate new friendships here, and I will be better about communicating with old friends. Another constant work in progress. Again, it's that whole introvert thing; I just don't get out there very easily. But I'm working on it.
  5. I really will try to blog once a week. I did a fantastic job of it last summer and then school started. I had this great idea that I could blog every day and have a separate teaching blog. Yeah, that fell through in no time. Something about actually being good at my job meant that I didn't have time to write about doing my job.
  6. We will finish the living room and at least one other major house project. Living room is mostly done, but the last blog post is waiting for a clean room, a rarity. The next house project is waiting for cash, which brings us to the next goal...
  7. We will pay off credit cards and pay for things with CASH. House is refinanced and we are working on paying off the debt. As of this writing we have closed and cut up four credit card accounts and we should be down two more credit cards by the end of January. We made two huge purchases this year (the trailer and new windows) and while we don't regret either purchase, they put us behind on the pay-everything-off goal. The biggest change we made was taking the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class and it has turned things around. For the first time ever we actually have a plan on where we want to end up and how we are going to get there. But more on that in a future blog post.
  8. And here is the life goal that I will work towards in 2013, but if I don't get it done this year, I will keep working towards it: I will get published. I submitted my first ever article to English Journal and while I got rejected, I will continue to work on it. I have an idea for my next submission and plan to rework my first submission to make it more publishing worthy.
And now it is time to get to grading papers. I will work on my goals for 2014 later tonight!