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I was fresh out of college and had just completed my student teaching at an excellently rated suburban high school within a close-knit community. During my student teaching experience, I had technology and resources and administrative support! The kids thought I was cool (in a nerdy way)! They did their homework (most of the time)! I created these awesomely creative projects! I was officially the best English teacher ever (seriously a student gave me a mug on my last day to prove it)I was so ready to go out into the world and SAVE ALL THE CHILDREN BY FOSTERING IN THEM A LOVE FOR THE WRITTEN WORD!

Shortly after I finished my student teaching, I stumbled upon an English teaching position that was posted for a local charter school. I remember thinking, “Wow, there are a lot of charter school positions open! Whoever said that there were no teaching jobs out there was full of it.” I knew I was going to be “working with a different student population” than I had been during my student teaching experience. But, I mean, I’d watched Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers. How hard could it be?

After my first day, I quickly realized why there were so many charter school job vacancies. To put it bluntly, it was rough. I could tell you story after story about the fights I witnessed and the verbal abuse I experienced and the lack of administrative support I was up against. Honestly, my skin simply wasn’t thick enough nor my heart hard enough.  I had students from broken (more like shattered into oblivion) homes, students who were literally homeless, students who were fifteen and pregnant, students who came to school hungry.

Yet, I was supposed to make them give two shits about A Tale of Two Cities and proper MLA citation? I was supposed to prepare them for state testing? It all felt like some sort of cruel joke that I wasn’t in on. These kids needed so much more than I was capable of giving them. I drove home crying many days. Sometimes, I drove to school crying.

The day I decided I was going to finally give my two weeks notice, a particularly volatile young man in the 11th grade threatened me. “Man” is definitely the best way to describe him. He was at least two heads taller than me. He pushed a desk over and had to be escorted out of my classroom by school security. I was visibly shaken. This student had not liked me from the beginning. Maybe I reminded him of someone in his life who had hurt him. I had tried everything and failed to gain his trust. It destroyed me and I knew I couldn’t handle anymore of the stress or anxiety.

So, I gave up. I did. I quit mid-year and it was one of the most selfish things I have ever done. I left them. Because I couldn’t do it. I felt like I was doing them as well as myself a disservice by staying. But, honestly, I just couldn’t handle it. My heart hurt too much every day when I got home.

That is not to say that I didn’t experience moments of brightness. My students touched me in ways that I still am figuring out. They were so resilient. They opened me up to an entire world that I’d heard existed. However, to see it first hand is an entirely different story. Teaching also taught me a lot about myself as a person. It revealed both positive and negative qualities within myself.

I still stay in touch with some of my students. I had one of my seniors who is now attending college message me recently on Facebook to tell me that they were reading and discussing a book  that we had read together in class. She told me she felt confident and thanked me for preparing her. I teared up.

Would I go back? I never say never. I could see myself— years down the road—- going back. Sometimes, I miss it so much. But, right now, I’m just thankful for the experience and all that it taught me about myself.

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There’s no hiding my love for the written word. Books have an uncanny ability to pull at my heart strings. Although this is not necessarily a complete list, I have chosen ten books that have changed me for one reason or another. They may not all be great works of literature; however, they all came into my life at the perfect time & served a purpose. I could write paragraphs on each of these books. But, I won’t do that. Not yet anyways. I’ll just list them. What books have changed you? I’d love to know.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  6. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  7. Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
  8. About a Boy by Nick Hornby
  9. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
  10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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don'tgiveup

Hello, everyone! I'm back  & feeling inspired. We all know that the period of time after the holiday rush is a tough one. But, I'm trying my hardest to stay as positive as possible. I made this little desktop wallpaper for you to hopefully inspire you to keep going. Don't give up, my friends. Even though it may see like the easiest thing to do. I know I'm not going to. Feel free to use it & share it!

Download desktop wallpaper:
1280×1024 | 1024×768 |  iPhone

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I was first introduced to the lovely Jessica Robinette months ago when she sent me a friendly message asking for information about my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. She was planning on moving here from Kansas City, Missouri to pursue her MFA at the University of Cincinnati -- which just so happened to be my Alma Mater! I could tell right from the start that Jessica was a genuinely kind and creative soul. Although we haven't gotten a chance to meet in person yet, I know we will get along wonderfully when we finally do! As for her work, it's simply beautiful. It is delicate and thoughtful and has this warmth to it that makes you really stop and take notice.

Jessica was gracious enough to sit down and answer some questions for me about her photography and her plans for the future. For more information, check out her portfolio website or visit her blog to see her latest work. I hope you enjoy!

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself. (Where are you from? Where are you currently living? What did/are you going to school for?)

Until recently, I lived in (beautiful!) Kansas City, Missouri. I received a BA in 2010 and recently got married. My husband and I just moved to Cincinnati because I’m beginning an MFA program here in the fall.

How did you become interested in being an artist? What inspired you to pursue this career path?

I credit a lot of my path to good mentors. Back in high school I was lucky enough to have an art teacher who sort of let me have free reign and she encouraged me to continue with art. I knew that it made me happier than anything else, and that was enough for me. In college I had a professor who clarified everything for me. As silly as it sounds, I looked up to her and wanted the life (of an artist) that she had. I have never looked back and I’m grateful that I’ve always felt deeply and honestly that this is the path for me.

 

What material(s) do you use to create your pieces? Why do you choose this medium?

In school I mostly took photographs, but I was careful to learn what I could about printmaking, drawing and painting because I knew that I wanted my future in art to be interdisciplinary. My recent work is still rooted in photography but most pieces get manipulated with string, ink, paint and/or additional paper.

I use photos because I’m interested in their realism and also the romanticism that photographs can evoke. The photos show what it is that I see…but I also like the work to be abstracted and sometimes the photographs are “too real” so I take it back a little with the abstraction. I also like the additional process that the sewing, collaging and painting takes. Sometimes a photograph lacks process.

 

Describe your artwork.

I’m very interested in human emotion and relationships. For years I have been making work about personal places (specifically the home) and how people connect with their most private and treasured spaces.

My work is often suggestive but not specific. I want the pieces to feel like a memory, a familiar place the viewer has been before. It’s all about the emotional connection and stimulating some sort of comfortable feeling.

What inspires you?

Other people’s work spaces, random and simple connections with strangers, and watching people do what they’re passionate about.

 

What are some other things you enjoy doing in your free time (aside from art, of course)?

Lately I’ve been exploring Cincinnati and trying to find those hidden gems that every city has. I love going to farmer’s markets, traveling, reading and lately I’ve become interested in baking…mostly because I’m interested in eating.

 

Who are some of your favorite artists right now?  

I spend a lot of time looking at photographs by Uta Barth and Laura Letinsky. I can’t get enough of Cy Twombly’s paintings. For things on the more conceptual side, I love Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July.

What's your favorite thing about being an artist? What's the most difficult thing?

Since I’m still in the early stages of my career, I haven’t had the opportunity to make art full time– until now. I’m just so excited to begin the MFA process and make art my full time job.

There are definitely times art making seems harder than it should. As an artist, I essentially run my own small business. I have to be the publicist, bookkeeper, secretary and the artist.

 

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to have the time, space and money to make art. I also want to be teaching art to college students and raising a family.

 

If you had an entire day to do as you pleased, how would you spend it?  

I would sleep in, eat Thai food for lunch, maybe visit a museum or a park and then have friends over for dinner and cocktails on our balcony.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself/your work that you think we should know?

I just want to thank you and your readers for taking the time to learn about my work! I’m always interested in connecting/collaborating with other artists and creative types—feel free to shoot me an email!

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After reading all of the astoundingly positive reviews for John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, I eagerly bought it for my Nook to read on our long road trip to Baltimore. Now, I must let you know that I rarely ever actually buy books for my Nook. I usually just wait and download them for free from my public library (which is awesome, by the way). However, I thought that this book was going to be important enough to spend a little money on. And, well, I was right.

This is not the type of book that you think it's going to be from its plot description. When I tried describing it to Kevin, I said something like, "It's about two teenagers who have cancer and fall in love". The premise makes it sound so unimaginative and dull which could not be further from the truth.

It's about so much more than just that. This book is about loss, hope, anger, humor, courage, acceptance, beauty, as well as all the normal complications that go along with being a teenager and in love. John Green somehow manages to make you emotionally invested in his characters in an impressively small period of time. By the end of the first chapter, I was ferociously rooting for the star-crossed Hazel and Augustus. Certainly, as a high school teacher, there were some moments in the novel where it was hard for me to imagine such articulate and brilliant teenagers; but then again, Augustus and Hazel weren't supposed to be your average teenagers. So, it worked.

As I mentioned, I read this book on a road trip with Kevin. I was so engrossed, I forgot that it was well-past my turn to take the wheel. I think he could tell how crucial it was for me to finish this book. He didn't say a word. Maybe it was the intermittent crying and exclamatory "Oh my God's" that convinced him to keep quiet. Oh, and don't even get me started on the beautiful writing in this book. This thing is full of quotable passages that are begging to be highlighted.

In short, you must read this book. It will be slightly painful and hard for you to get over, but I promise you it will be worth it. If you do read it (or already have), tell me your thoughts on it!

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(Download: Life is Sweet" by Creature Comforts)

I love changing my desktop wallpaper to match the seasons (or my mood)! I try to change mine at least once a month; it's a small and simple way to feel fresh and inspired. With that in mind, I've rounded up some of my favorite free summer desktop wallpapers for you with the hopes of making you feel a little more inspired. I'm currently using the "Life is Sweet" one myself. I hope that you enjoy them!

 

(Download "July" by Llew Mejia)

(Download: "Flow Forward" by Solefield)

(Download "Mini Strawberry Print" by Cath Kidston)

(Download: "Summer Patterns" by Alma Loveland)

(Download: "Macaroons for my love" by 5inthemornin)

(Download: "Cloud" by Helena Bello)

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Yes, folks, it's that time of year again. The time where I pretend as though I have all the money in the world and can truly spoil myself rotten on my birthday. I'll be turning the big 26 in less than a week (July 8th). Below are some items I would undoubtedly buy myself if I had unlimited funds to spend on the things I want but don't need!

Three Vintage Posters | $79

Count Me Indie Dress | $49.99

Triangle Day Bag | $65

Reclaimed wood wall clock | $25

Penguin Classics Hardcover Collection |$239.95

Petite Buttons Necklace | $39


You know all those crazy fancy nail tutorials you constantly see all over Pinterest & the blog world? Well, I decided to finally try one instead of simply staring at them in open-mouthed amazement. I used Keiko Lynn's "Moon River Manicure" tutorial & I'm beyond pleased with the results! The secret to the clean lines are those round reinforcement labels that I don't think anybody really ever uses (except for sweet manicures, of course). You can buy them  anywhere office supplies are sold. I'm not going to go through a long tutorial because Keiko Lynn's is already amazing & needs no improvements.

Here are few tips I'm going to keep in mind the next time, though:

  • A base coat & a top coat are essential to getting your nails looking much more polished & finished at the end.
  • Make sure the first coat is completely dry before putting the reinforcement labels on them or else it gets messy.
  • Make sure to peel off the labels before the polish dries-- which means doing them one at time (it really doesn't take very long).

Let me know if you try this tutorial yourself! Seriously, if I can do it & make it look half decent, anyone can!

{EDIT: Looking at this picture of my little ampersand tattoo made me realize how badly it needs touched up. So, please ignore how wonky it looks in this picture. Perhaps this is just the motivation I need to actually grow a pair & get the retouch done! Alright, carry on.}

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One of my favorite things about our apartment is our lovely patio overlooking downtown. Yeah, it's probably seen better days & needs a little work (ahem! landlord, if you're reading this, I'm looking at you). But, I still love it to pieces. It's our tiny slice of the outdoors in the heart of the city. It's no yard, but we're doing the best with what we've got. So, we finally got around to buying a proper (albeit inexpensive) patio set & have been trying our hand at gardening this summer!

Our first attempt was a bit of a failure. We didn't do our research and ended up buying the wrong  kind of flowers for the amount of sunlight we get. The issue is that our patio gets full sun basically all day long. So, our poor little flowers fried. This time around, we decided to ditch the flowers. Instead, we bought some herbs and a couple tomato plants! I'm eager to see how they do on our patio. I'll definitely keep you posted!

Do any of you with a green thumb have any tips on patio gardening? Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated!

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I saw this amazing blog project originally on Erin Loechner's blog. I followed the link & read Ez's blog on Creature Comforts. I immediately felt humbled & inspired by how brave all of these individuals were. I'm not very good at writing about my feelings. My boyfriend would find this ironic because I always like talking to him about my deepest thoughts (he's such a patient guy). But, my fears are private & generally heard only by my closest confidants. The internet seems like such a scary place to expose yourself. However, with the staggering number of individuals who were willing to respond, I thought I'd like to share as well. Better late than never, right?

So, here are some things I'm afraid to tell you:

1. I was brought up in a fairly conservative home. My family went to church every Sunday & are still deeply saturated in their faith. But, I always felt like a sort of black sheep. They didn't treat me differently. I adore my family & have never felt as though they labeled me the "black sheep". It was something within myself; something I couldn't put my finger on. I never quite fit in at church. I just never felt comfortable when I was there. Now, I'm not going to church. I know it hurts my family & I know they worry about me. I will say that I still believe in God, but I don't know if that means I have to go to church every Sunday to a place that makes me feel really, really awful inside. Basically, I just am admitting that I don't know. And, not knowing scares me.

 2. On a work-related note, I often fear that my students will be woefully unprepared for life after they graduate from high school. Certainly, as their English teacher, I know that I am not solely responsible for their success once they go out into the real world. However, I can't help but fear that I haven't done enough. It's something I worry about quite a lot actually.

3. I have body image issues. I've never been able to look in the mirror & feel good. I am an average size & have never rocked a two-piece swimsuit in public. When I go places, I see woman larger than me wearing two-pieces & looking just fine! But, I know I could never do it. It's something inside my head that keeps telling me I'm too big & that everyone will stare. I fear that I'll never be able to accept my body as it is & celebrate being a woman. I fear that I'll try my whole life to get to a certain weight & never be satisfied.

4. I fear failure. More than mostly anything else. I fear not accomplishing anything noteworthy in my life. I want to write a book.  I've always wanted to. However, I haven't really done anything toward this goal & I don't think I will accomplish it. Honestly, I'm too afraid to try because, if I fail, then what? I have to admit to myself I'm not good enough? That's freaking terrifying. I'd rather not try than fail.

5. I often look around my apartment & feel disgusted. Honestly, I've done pretty well with my income. I have a nice flat-screen TV, cable, internet, decent furniture, & I've decorated it fairly well. But, I'm often not satisfied. When I look around my apartment, I see the clutter, the pet hair, & the laundry that is very rarely put where it should be. I feel shallow because I worry so much about what my place looks like. I want it to look like the magazines & the blog photos. I know it never will. I wonder if anyone's home actually looks like that.

Wow. That was extremely cathartic. I am very tempted to just delete this entire post. Pushing the "publish" button is much harder than I expected. I also realize that, compared to some of the other posts I've read, my "fears" might seem shallow. But, that's alright. I'm hoping you won't judge me too harshly. If you want to join in, leave a link to your post below.