Thursday, December 18, 2014

Overcome with Joy

Last week, I told you about the Joy to the World project that I assigned to my juniors. This week, my students have brought me so much joy that I finally understand the cliche "makes my heart sing." My students possess so many talents that they leave me feeling a sense of wonder and pride. How did I get so lucky to teach these awe-inspiring teenagers?

Here is a list of some of the many projects this week:
* Student brought in materials for the class to make cards for the under-appreciated custodial and cafeteria staff at our school. (Another student had them make cards for the military and another had them make cards for children in children's hospitals.)
* Student told jokes for five minutes. (My favorite? What do you call Santa's elves? Subordinate clauses. BAHAHA.)
* Student, who is first-chair cello in the state orchestra, played four Christmas songs to which the class sang along.
* Student played the piano beautifully and sang even more beautifully.
* Student played the ukelele (fun fact: bought for $25 at a drugstore in Hawaii) and sang "Riptide" and "White Christmas."
* Student constructed an angel out of cardboard that lit up to the tune of a song he mixed digitally.
* Student made a computer game that other students could play. It required the player to dance on the music notes to "Joy to the World" while the song played in the background.
* Student made a huge sheet with pockets labeled with all of the classmates' names on them. The student collected kind words other people said about the students and put the notes inside of the pockets.
* Student wrote spoken word/Slam poetry and performed it for the class.

So many more musicians, joke tellers, gift givers, cookie bakers, and etc. They continue to amaze me with their kindness, creativity, and talent. I love the risks that students took in approaching this project accompanied by NO rubric. (I explained that a rubric for such an assignment would cheapen its value. Instead, I gave them a goal to achieve, not a set of criteria to check or points to earn. They do, however, receive credit for completing the assignment.) Some of them left themselves so vulnerable to their classmates, and I appreciate their bravery.

Needless to say, I plan to assign this project for many years to come. Far into 2015, I will float on the joy these students have brought to me.

My outfit is underwhelming compared to the wonderful things my students have contributed to our classroom, but here you have it anyway.

The Look:
 Top (actually dark green): LOFT
Skirt: Elle via Kohl's
Boots: Etienne Aigner via Macy's
Earrings (old): New York & Co.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The most beautiful thing I've ever seen

I am laughing right now because I spy, with my little eye, a thredUP bag in the hallway. Yeah, I've had that thing packed for over a week now, which is an extremely conservative estimate, and have yet to put it in the mail. Good job, self.

Anyway, my Dad installed phase two of my closet system today. Yes, he built and stained the entire shelf system! We planned out phase three: the jewelry station. Oh, the scarf I'm wearing? My mom crocheted it. Seriously, my parents possess so many talents. I need to start figuring out how they accomplish these tasks so perfectly.

The Look:
Cardigan: J.Crew Factory
Long-sleeved tee: Target
Skirt: Francesca's
Tights (fleece lined): The Limited
Booties: Nine West via DSW (they're navy)
Scarf: Mom's handiwork right there (she tried out a new design, and I love it.)


I thought you might want to see the closet installation because it really is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen:
My patterned scarfs are in clear boxes atop the shelves.
All of my heels, flats, and booties are on the shelves. (I keep my tall boots in the coat closet because they are dirtier; I don't want them up in my bedroom. Eww.)

Dad and I designed the shelving system so that it wouldn't extend so far to the right (on that wall) that I would lose access to stuff hanging on the rods. It ended up being the perfect width. I have zero problems seeing or reaching clothes on the far left of the closet.  All of my bras sit in a basket on the floor (far left). All of my socks are in that brown basket just beneath my cardigans. I plan to get another basket for all of my tights so that they can sit next to my sock basket.

(My most-used scarves are in a pretty basket underneath this shelf that we designed just for my long skirts and dresses. My belts are in a little drawer system next to the scarf basket.)

When the final phase, phase 3, is complete, I will give you a little peek. 
I might just take naps in my closet now.

Monday, December 15, 2014

This past weekend, we celebrated the first birthday of one of Jeff's (second) cousins. In total, between his sister and his cousins, there are seven little kids, and the two of us somehow ended up hanging out with all of them. There we were just sitting on the couch, and one was climbing behind me, another was making googly faces at me from the Lil Tikes picnic table across the room, and another was sprawled out on the ottoman in front of us. I guess there is something really appealing about adults without kids? Or we just ooze coolness. Well, Jeff might ooze coolness. I like to refer to myself as being endearingly awkward. My brother, however, inherited the cool genes in the family.

Today, Dad installed phase two of my closet, and it is SO BEAUTIFUL. Honestly, I might sleep in there. I chatted with Mom for awhile. Dad, Jeff, and I plotted phase three (the final phase) of the closet, the jewelry station. All four of us ate dinner. It was a glorious day, and I finished almost all of my grad project due on Tuesday.

Hanging out with family this weekend reminded me how excited I am for winter break because I can spend time with so many people I love. Plus, my intern and I planned it so that we will take home no grading over break! :) Now that is a Christmas miracle right there.

As for today's outfit, it is reeeeeally comfortable. I bought this sweatshirt thing in black as well. Such a good decision.

The Look:
Cardigan: LOFT
Sweatshirt: Target (recent)
Jeans: American Eagle (recent)
Boots: b.o.c. via DSW
Necklace: Lauren Conrad via Kohl's

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I am fully aware that a smudge exists on the middle of my mirror. It makes me laugh every time I look it it (and I keep forgetting to grab the Windex from the kitchen), so I let it stay. You see, my two-year-old niece loves to kiss herself in my mirror. She winks at herself, smiles coyly, and then gives her reflection a big ol' smooch.

Now that we're on the subject of my niece, let's talk about the conversation we had on the phone the other day when my parents were watching her. (Recently, her vocabulary has exploded, so she is a chatty mcchatterson.)

My mom: Tell Aunt Danielle hi!
Me: Hey, Tater Tot! (my nickname for her)
Me: Hey, kid, say hi to me!
Juliana: HI! ... HI! ... HI! ... HI!

Best conversation I've had in weeks.

I loved this outfit with the blazer, but it did what the name says: set me ablaze. Whew, it was hot. 

The Look:
Sweater: Forever 21
Chambray: J.Crew Factory
Blazer: Target
Jeans: American Eagle
Boots: Etienne Aigner via Macy's
Necklace: gift from my Momma, I mean "Santa." (last year)


Wednesday, December 10, 2014


When I first bought this coat about seven years ago, I told Jeff that it made me feel like Paddington Bear, a beloved cartoon character of my past. He had no idea who this furry creature wearing a toggle button coat was. What a shame. Obviously, I educated him. He has an official site if you would like to meet him, too.

I am going to go sleep now because I took off work and grad class today for some awful grossness plaguing my respiratory system. (I am also confusing myself because I wrote this post on Tuesday night but scheduled it to go "live" on Wednesday morning.) Later, gators. 

Oh, if you're curious, I did not wear this outfit to work. I wore it for a rainy day of errands.

The Look:
Coat (so old): Michael Kors via Filene's Basement, I think
Jeans: high-rise "jeggings" from American Eagle (they're skinny jeans, honestly)
Boots: joules (won them in a giveaway two years ago)
Sweater: St. John's Bay (bought it on thredUP a year or two ago)
Necklace: Lauren Conrad via Kohl's

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Joy to the World Project

My juniors finished the book I assigned to them, they took the test on it, and this week they debate on controversial topics from the text. So as not to punish them for finishing everything we "needed" to accomplish before winter break, I decided to do something fun for the seven days before break. Enter "Joy to the World Project." At first, I called it the happy project, then I wanted a more holiday-ish ring to it, so I called it the joy project. My co-teacher suggested I dub it, "Joy to the World Project." That has the best jingle bell ring to it of all, so there you have it.

Anyway, what is this project? Well, it's two-fold.

Part one of the project requires students to keep a journal for at least seven days and focus on positivity for all of the entries. I gave them a fairly long list of prompts to use for inspiration. If you would like to use any of the prompts, here is the list I provided to the students:

o   Make a list of all of your accomplishments/successes for the day (aced a test, woke up on time, actually did your hair that morning, made someone laugh until they cried)
o   Write a list of everything that you currently love (snack, song, style, TV show, class, color, etc.)
o   Focus on narrating one event that happened and brought you great joy
o   Write about your plans to bring joy to the actual world (not just our corner of it).
o   Find a quotation that makes you happy and write about it!
o   Write about someone whom you love, someone who brings you great joy.
o   Write about all of the places to which you would love to travel and why
o   Talk about tradition of which you are a part
o   Write about your qualities that make you who you are, qualities of which you are proud! (It’s okay to pat yourself on the back sometimes, you know.)
o   Create a bucket list 
o   Freewrite about what joy/happiness means to you

 Part two of the project requires students to achieve the following goal: present the class with something (of your own creation--so, not just a video of someone else's stuff) that spreads joy to the world, even if it's our tiny corner of it. Some students want to bake things. Some students are dancing for the class. One student is in all-state orchestra (first chair!) and plans to play something for us. Some students seem excited to bring in something for the class to do for someone else (ex: wounded warrior) that will spread joy after I suggested taking a different approach to the project. I told them about this sweet, little girl who is asking for a lifetime of Christmas cards in the year or less that she has left to live.

With all of the negativity in the media, I want my students to focus on the positivity that they can share with the world. There is no shame in being angry over injustices or heartbroken over a loved one's death. However, if we can carve just a fraction out of our days to consider nothing other than what brings us great joy, then maybe the burden of that anger, or that heartbreak, or that pervasive negativity becomes a little lighter for us to carry.

When people find out how riddled with health problems I really am, I think they fall somewhere on the spectrum of disbelief. Either they think, "no, she cannot really feel that sick," or say, "how do you do it?" Admittedly, I sometimes have a pity party for one because I know how poisonous bottling up emotions can be, but I allow myself to feel all the feelings and then allow those feelings to pass. I have to. There is too much good in my life to focus on the negative for too long. Plus, how beneficial is that negativity? Not at all. Instead, I choose to remind myself of the following: I have a funny, considerate husband (despite some of his obnoxious, though endearing, qualities); witty, thoughtful students; caring, supportive family; and kind friends (many of whom are colleagues).

Also, I have a dress made of sweatshirt material, and I wore it on a Monday. I tell you what. Nothing makes a week start off better than a comfortable outfit. Like how I transitioned there? I thought you might. I thought I might have also lost you amongst ALL OF THE WORDS. SO MANY WORDS. I think they proved their worth though. I hope. Just like this dress did today.

 The Look:
Dress: Old Navy (over a year ago)
Sweatshirt thing: Gap Outlet ($11, woot woot)
Scarf: Crocheted by my momma
Boots: Etienne Aigner
(Note: I am wearing tights; the tights are gray.)

Monday, December 8, 2014


The heating in my classroom "magically" went from frigid to comfortable.  I wore this outfit before I realized the metamorphosis that had taken place. Needless to say, I ditched the vest for the remainder of the school day, but the inside is lined with this very soft cotton, which felt quite nice to lean against when I sat in my desk chair. 

I decided to keep things pretty simple. You know what happened as a result? About fifteen people complimented my outfit. Just like we tell our students when they combine sentences, it's best to follow the KISS principle: keep it simple, stupid. Another teacher told me that the full saying is KISS ASS. Keep it simple, stupid, and don't assume anything. I guess I should not assume a simple outfit is an unworthy outfit. Typically, my favorite outfits on other people are simple combinations I never thought to try. Or, I think, "aha! I have something just like that, and I plan to wear it tomorrow." May you feel inspired by this simple combination.

Also, random side note: I can't wear form fitting turtle necks. They make me feel like hands are around my neck. This kind of looser turtleneck, however, keeps me warm and does not make me feel like an extra on Hannibal.