Sunday, 30 December 2012

One Year Older.

One Year Older.

The end of 2012. Gone. Finished. Only memories. Like everyone else, I look back at the good, great, bad and ugly and think about how I will remember the year. I think about the major events and happenings which will symbolise this year. The good bits as well as the not so good, the bits worth cherishing, and the bits which we really don't want to think about. 
I look back and think "wow, that was this year", or "wow I forgot about that" or "oh yeah, that happened this year..". I look back and think "I wish I could change that" or "I wish I could do that again" or "I wish I had done that..". I wish... I wish... I wish... I pack all the memories and thoughts up into my 2012 memory box to be stored away next to all the other years gone by. 

This year smacked me in the face. It was a coming of age of sorts, and an unwanted one at that. It hurt a lot. I saw it coming and I knew it was going to sting. I forced me to look back, take stock, and listen to what that little something inside of me is saying. 

I tried and failed at teaching. Some love it, some hate it. I love it when it's great and hate it when it's bad. Sadly, I knew I wasn't going to last in the teaching world if I can't take the bad. For some reason, I just felt teaching just wasn't for me. So, as this year comes to an end I'm now searching for the right career path to follow in the new year. Once again, I have to listen to that little something inside of me.

At the end of my day teaching, I used to come home and ask maggie my cat if she would save the world. She never did it, obviously. And neither did I. You neither. Nobody did. We probably donated to charity, volunteered a bit, prayed a bit, and hoped a bit. And I like to think that those little bits made a difference. But the fact is, the world is still not saved, and it never will be. And it tortures me every day. My goal of 2013 is to try and work out how on earth I can make a bit more of a positive change in the world, somehow. Who knows if I will make even any difference. Who knows if what I do manage to do will satisfy me. I don't know. But maybe I will be tortured a little less. 

Next year is a blank. To be written. Next year hopefully I will see my parents, hopefully start a new career and hopefully do something worthwhile.
I'm hoping for more love, selflessness, and compassion, and less pain, suffering and greed and hatred.

I hope I hope I hope. I really do hope. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Is it ok to start again?

Is it ok to start again?

Start again from the beginning. Can I throw my hands up in the air and say, "Ok, that's enough of that, let's start again." I really hope so.
In a perfect world, I love teaching. I love it when everything is organised, everyone is enthusiastic, I am super prepared and it all smells of roses. But yeah, that's never the case. Monday mornings come round too soon, I have scratched down something resembling a 'lesson plan', and the kiddos are already doing this, doing that, doing the other; doing all the things they shouldn't be.
I started with such enthusiasm. It was all going to be great; my classes would be amazing, full of all the current teaching methods, full of exciting activities, and full of motivated students.
Oh my it did not take long for that to get thrown out of the window. Lesson plannings became such a chore, learning about all the current crazes in teaching methods seemed like a waste of time, exciting activities took way too long to plan, and hormonal kiddos stormed in.
Of course I knew middle school would be tough. I remember it well. I gave it a shot and realised that working in that environment each day really is not me at all. It's busy, hectic, non-stop, and energetic. You have to be more than organised, and ok with discipline each day. I didn't think I would have much of a problem with it until I tried it out. But it's every day. No change. It's not in my nature to be that type of person. I can't tell them the same thing 50 times without getting bored. I can't listen to their excuses, listen to their lies, and help steer them in the right direction. Some can. They have a special skill which for the life of me I just can't find.
Middle school in America is crazy. I really don't remember my school being this mad. The kids have to carry piles of books and textbooks around each day, even though they have lockers. Then, they scurry from class to class, passing by the lockers hurrying so they are not late. All they do each day is scramble from class to class, and learn material so they can take a test, and learn material so they can take a test, and learn material.... Maybe it's just me seeing it from a different perspective from when I was that age. Maybe when I was a 'tweenager' I was ok with all this running from class to class, from test to test (actually probably not from test to test, because I don't remember having as many tests as these kiddos. Times have changed!).
Then comes all the admin and extra bits. A lot of it is necessary, some of it I think is pointless and a waste of my time, and I don't have time for any of it. I'm currently working too many hours doing things which I see as useless and coming home exhausted after battling the day. Maybe a different school will be different, maybe I should try high school, or maybe I should specialise in another area. Maybe. But the fact of the matter is that I'm not enjoying working in that role, in that environment, as that kind of person. It's just not me.
So, where do I go from here? Good question. I took the whole of last week and more to mope around thinking about what to do, what to study, where to work, what I would enjoy. I need something quick fix, which doesn't take more than a year to study for, because I'm way too impatient for that. I need a job with variety, in which I see the results from each day. I need a challenge, but still something which doesn't involve me taking my job home, and taking over my own time. Lastly, I need a helping role.
Drum roll please. I wanted to become a nurse, but the courses around here are full time and I can't work a job around that. Hmpf. So my second choice is nurse assistant, which may be a possibility. Nothing concrete set yet, but just me and my ideas. Everything crossed that something works out soon, because if not I'm going to be more deflated than ever.
It's all about trail and error. Maybe I won't like it. Who knows. Some people just knew from when they weer young what they wanted to do, what they wanted to become. I changed my mind more times than I can remember and now I'm in this muddle. I wish I could go back and just decide on one thing and stick with it. Just like so many people I know. Oh well.
So, what do you think? Is it ok to start again?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Times Just Keep Changing

Times Just Keep Changing.

The past few weeks have been pretty tense for me. At the start of the summer I was on the search for a teaching position for the upcoming academic year. As we all know, looking for a job is stressful in itself, especially in this crazy economy, and probably even more so in the teaching field where the competition is pretty fierce. It will be my first position as the actual teacher in the US, as before I was working as a teacher's aide, which although is still in the teaching field, is pretty different to taking on the role as the teacher. You want find something which suits you well, where you will be happy, and have the potential to grow. Finding the right job no easy task.
As well as this, I've been driving round and around and around trying to master the techniques behind the wheel as well as grasp the Dallas road system. A skill the average American will probably take for granted, but when driving isn't in your blood from 15, it's not the easiest task to master, especially in Dallas, where the roads never end, the cars zoom, and the traffic is jam packed. Living in the US for over a year without driving (as an adult) and most of you will probably go stir crazy when you really can't leave the house alone to go anywhere because you can't drive. Add on some time when I couldn't work due to still awaiting a work permit and we may have some people losing their minds. Maybe I did a little.
No, it doesn't end there. Throw in some teaching exams which always make me nervous and the never ending paperwork required for visa applications, work permits, and who knows what else. No doubt there are millions of people with a lot worse on their plate, and I constantly remind myself of this, but these are some of my little life's stresses, and I have to deal with them.

Well, a few weeks ago I can happily say I found a job. Since then, I've just been anticipating the start date: 6th August. So next week. I really and truly can not wait. Yes, I'm nervous, but I'm also so excited to enter this new phase of my career. What's more, yesterday I passed my driving test, after some previous flaws. We drove all the way to south Fort Worth, which is about an hour's driving away, just for a 20 minute test. Yes, I was incredibly nervous; just one mistake and I could fail. Luckily, it didn't happen, and I can now drive to Walmart alone. A pretty mundane task for most of you, but it means independence for me, even freedom. 
The exams are still ongoing, as is the paperwork, but a new phase is about to be entered in my little life: a new job to which I can get to on my own in a car. It's Tim's old car by the way, and we named her Black Beauty.
Times are always changing. New tasks come along with new challenges, and new doors open with new opportunities. We may prepare and plan for months, even years to guarantee our future, but really we never know what is going to happen; anything could, and does, happen. I could never have known I would end up in the job I am about to start, the challenges I am about to face, know in which direction my future interests will flow. I can take a guess, but I don't know. We are affected by so many little factors which steer our lives, our interests and desires, that we really don't know what's to come.
That's why the here and now is so important. We may be overloaded with paperwork today, but embrace it; tomorrow we may not have a job. Today we may have a free day, so use it wisely, we may not get another one for months. That book which really doesn't seem your cup of tea just may lead you to somewhere you have never been.
Our lives are constantly filled with challenges. We thrive off them and they make us stronger. They open doors and let out lives enter new phases. Yet they are our torture. They push us a little bit more than we think we can manage, but we can do it, if we focus. We just don't know what's waiting around the corner. After joining the gym just under a year ago I didn't know that I would benefit so much from yoga. Today I still have much to learn and much to practise, but I am focused on improving little by little. The poses Crow, Half Crow and Firefly are within my grasp and I would have never believed it. Then Tabata Training came along and I never thought my body could pound out so much energy in just half an hour. Not to mention CrossFit, which is a challenge for even the toughies. New interests and opportunities some along all the time. The same goes for my career. I still have much to learn and improve, but I see direction and possibility. However, saying all this, I really do know that it all could change in the blink of an eye, and it is so important to appreciate each moment as it comes, and be prepared to adapt to the future as it comes along.
Yes, our effort has a big impact on our future; hard work and dedication pays off. You can see it at the Olympics, but then some other star athlete could come along and steal your glory. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't try, that we shouldn't fill our lives with little challenges and goals, but we should just accept what comes and what life throws at us. Embrace even the negatives, as we learn so much from them and they can only make us stronger.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

U is for Ux

Ux, I found is the Latin 'legal' word for wife. Apparently. Well, soon I get to celebrate my first anniversary as an 'ux' with my husband (I don't know the Latin equivalent unfortunately..) August 7th. The day after I start my new job.. I will admit to everyone who reads this that I did not in fact remember the date, and had to check on Facebook for the actual date. I thought it was the 12th for some unknown reason. I know, an epic fail, but I think it is pretty hilarious. Anyway, nearly one year as an ux.
So what's it like being an ux? Well, that husband of yours is around a lot more. He becomes so engrained in your daily life, that he makes up part of it, so if he's gone for a couple of days, for example, (say on a 'business trip' if that's what they want to call it..otherwise known as 'boozin' with the guys') the daily routine wobbles a bit, loses its balance, and can't really stabilise until the other half returns (hopefully with gifts so we know we weren't completely forgotten amidst all that 'business'...). Then things fall back into that comforting routine of before.
The house is not just for you anymore; it's for two. All that mess you would rather leave and ignore until it suits you really should be cleaned up straight away because you don't want to be seen as
the messy one of the two. Then I'm blame free. Well, this is how it's meant to work, but obviously no one is perfect. Anyway, I just try to hide it by labeling all my 'mess' as 'organised mess' then maybe I can half get away with it and uphold my stature as 'the tidy one'. That's the plan, anyway.
Then there is all the 'boy' jobs which you can now create. Of course, the boys take on the role of bug-zapper, the fix-anything-to-do-with-the-car man, the reader of instructions, and the put-it-all-together-man. To be honest I'm fine with most of the typical 'ux' jobs, as long as the boy does all this other stuff. Stuff that I can't do and/or hate doing anyway. Very stereotypical, but it kinda fits.
So one year on, and yes, I've learned a lot about that man as a person. First off, sometimes he does things which make my head spin. Like putting the ice-cream in the fridge, or the dried pasta in the fridge, or not putting all those carefully folded (by me!.. because I'm nice) clothes away, resulting in a creased pile on the floor. Left to him, we would be living in a cup graveyard and eating cereal for dinner - every night. Our plants would wilt away and the bed would forever remain a ruffle, the veggies would rot and the milk would go sour. Everything would be forgotten... well, most things. I admit, he's pretty good at paying bills on time. :) But, I have to say, I like my role as an ux. I have a role, he has a role, and they (mostly) complement each other.
That other half, as I said before, well he's just always...there. In the evening when we are just reading, or watching a movie, at the store when he is huffing and puffing and I'm just trying to wander and browse, in the morning when he is a zombie and I am whizzing the blender. Morning afternoon, evening, weekend; just always there. To be able so spend so much time with that one person who compliments your life so well is such an astounding gift, and well worth celebrating. And maybe we will just do that on 12th, err, no, 7th. If he doesn't forget.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

T is for Tomates Make Gazpacho

T is for Tomatoes Make Gazpacho.

I get pretty excited when I decide it's gazpacho time. I'm not sure if many people feel the same way as me, probably because 'cold tomato soup' doesn't sound so appealing. As a result, it gets more than its fair share of bad press. Well, Im standing up for gazpacho. Mine in particular. I'm the last person to blow my own trumpet, but I think that my gazpacho will please many taste buds. And no, the name 'cold tomato soup' gives it no credit whatsoever. 
My recipe is by no means rigid. Actually, I rarely measure any of the quantities, which will make it a little bit more difficult to share, but 'add according to taste' may be some good advice to start off with. My recipe generally revolves around what I have left over in the fridge, so if you think some other vegetable may work, then I wouldn't be too afraid of trying it out.
My most recent recipe consisted of these ingredients:

About 4 medium sized tomatoes
About 1/2 cucumber
About 1/2 bell pepper (any colour)
1-2 sticks of celery
Some onion (I use red) maybe 1/4
A carrot
Some parsley
Some basil

These are more or less in order of largest quantity to smallest, just to give you a rough idea of measurement.

Other possibilities may include green onion, garlic (I prefer it without, but it is your preference) and I don't know what else..
Chop them all up, and blend them either in a blender (with maybe 4-5 cups of water) or with one of those amazing hand blender things.

Then comes the fun part. Some olive oil, some black pepper, and some salt. Taste as you add it, so you don't add too much! I like doing this! Oh, also bread crumbs. One of the best parts! Today I ripped up two slices of bread and dumped that into the blender too. It gives it more consistency.
Another ingredient I like to add is crushed red pepper. I just sprinkle some into the mixture. It just gives it a little kick, and I think it works well with the chilled gazpacho.
And so that's the next step, chill it for a couple of hours, and serve with warm baguette bread.
Not just 'cold tomato soup'. It's a whole lot more, and whats more, you get a great serving of your veggies for the day. Even if you are not keen on tomatoes, you may like this, because obviously it's not just tomatoes. One more thing to add... for some reason I always seem to make a big mess in the kitchen when I make this! I think it's because I have a blender, and not one of those hand blenders, so I end up with some spills. Oh well, that's just now part of my gazpacho making tradition then.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

S is for Something to Think About

S is for Something to Think About.

The school year has ended and summer has arrived. The end of one more era, and soon to be the beginning of a new one for all those who follow the academic year. For me it marked the end of my first position as a teachers aide in an elementary school, and yes, it was an eye opener into the educational system in America and also Texas. I would have never seen myself teaching (or even living for that matter) around here. I would never have imagined myself in my role. I see more for myself; achieving, developing, leading. But this is where I am, and it is my task to honor this and adapt myself to what is laid before me.
Sometimes this can be one of the hardest things for us to do. We look at ourselves, and we think "Why can't it be like this?" "How did everything end up like that?" "Why do they have that and I don't?" We do it every day. Me included. Being able to accept where we are and who we are is sometimes one of the hardest challenges we may face. We always want more, and we are hardly ever satisfied.  Once again, me included.
I have a job. Some don't even have that. I want more. I want a career, and one which fulfills me, makes me feel like each day I am making a positive contribution to the world. Is it wrong to want that? Is it wrong to want more, more, more? Why can't I just be satisfied with what I have? Why should I be so selfish when others are struggling just as much, even more than me? What gives me the right to be more successful than them? Maybe they even worked harder than me, and so deserve success more than me. These questions roll around in my head, making me dizzy.
Slowly I'm learning how to answer these questions. I'm learning that there really is no answer. Whether or not we are content with what we have or don't have, we need to honor where we are, and accept. We ourselves should be our one and only focus. Each and every one of us is different, we all arrive at our destinations through different pathways, and it is our journey which needs to be honored, not solely reaching the destinations. So what if someone else gets there first or gets there quicker, we need to recognise the path we took and take from this all the experience we can from our ventures.
You may have a little snigger, but a great deal of this I have learned through my yoga classes. No, we don't just sit. No, we don't just meditate. We stretch, balance, build muscle, and most importantly, we focus on ourselves. We focus on what is within us. We focus on where we are now, we accept, and we look towards where we are going. I am also learning about how to honor others and who they are, without casting judgements and criticisms. I am coming to realise that through honoring each other and our differences, working with these differences rather than against them, it is possible to successfully adapt and effectively work together with ease.
The sooner we can accept who we are and where we are, the easier it will be for us to carve out the path we wish to follow, without judging ourselves against others. I still need to remind myself of this on a daily basis, and true, sometimes it is not easy, but I would like to think I am honoring my efforts and moving in a positive direction.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

R is for Reading

I'm sure many other people our Reading for R. Well, now I'm another one of them. It's a popular subject for a very good reasons, whats more, very good 'good' reasons. Reading offers such satisfaction on so many levels.
I work with some children who are still learning to read, and they really are eager to learn. They have reached the stage where they realise the value of reading, that by being able to read they will have available to them a whole new world of knowledge and opportunity, and they want access to it. Some of my students follow the words as I read with them, and they 'pretend' to read along, sounding out the words to the best of their ability. It really is sweet to see. I encourage them to read as many of the words as they can, so they understand that yes, they are getting there, and they are progressing. One girl said, while I was talking to her "I still don't know how to read" (which sounds quite blunt, maybe, when written, but when it comes from a seven year old, it really did sound sweet). I hope I get to see her break the reading code, it would make me so very happy!
For me, I would be pretty happy spending a whole day reading. I'm the kind of person who has about three current books I am flicking between. I have my 'relaxing' book, generally my fiction story book, my 'learning' book, which is generally something related to my career path in some way or other, and probably another non-fiction book to hand. I have a book to suit every mood and occasion. They can slip into any part of my day. Also, I'll generally have some magazine floating around (no, not trashy fashion magazines, but quality ones which offer interesting articles which can be read during a lunch, or a quick coffee break). Reading is everywhere.
Reading offers so so much. It offers not only an immeasurable amount of knowledge, it offers a world away from reality. A private just for you escape from all those daily demands which, even though they will still be there when you finish, are forgotten during that precious reading time. During that time, your world is in the book. All that we ingest when we read shapes who we are. Our learning, our practice, molds us, stimulates our interests, our decisions, our thoughts and beliefs. Our reading directs our future choices. It affects our life.
My visits to the library often overwhelm me. The towers of books surrounding me cry out to me, they beckon me to read them. Yet it is near to impossible; our daily lives will not allow it. I would love to take time to create a reading list, but there would be so many entries the list would be a book within itself. My little mental list may have to suffice until I find another viable option.
Reading, something so personal and individual, forms a great part of my life. It reflects and creates who I am, and who I would like to be. I feel it is part of my purpose to foster the spirit and love of reading in as many people as possible.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Q is for - Qu'est-ce que c'est que ca?

Q is for  - Qu'est-ce que c'est que ca?

Actually, Q is all about the French language. If you don't speak French, then many of the words look like a stream of joined letters, or unpronounceable sounds, with far too many o, u, ou, ent, ant, re, en, sounds which when spoken, produce this nasal, indistinguishable sound all merging together, forming what the Frenchies call their language. Yet it is beautiful. I love love love practicing my French 'la-de-da' sounding skills, which my sound pretty fancy to a non speaker, but to a native Frenchie, will probably be hysterical. The French are very particular about their language, the vocabulary, pronunciation, the invasion of foreign words, everything. Many will probably pretend not to understand until you say it 'correctly', many will correct you straight away, and a some will probably just take pity on you, as you are not French, therefore can't pronounce those complicated but beautiful sounding words. It's a tough process to learn French. You have to be prepared to get it wrong most of the time. You have to be prepared to make mistakes which are hilarious to the French. To risk sounding stupid and saying something stupid. To risk making a grammar mistake and saying something completely different from your intentions. Many do understand the uphill struggle to learn even the most basic of language skills in French. These are the compassionate ones. They have probably learned a foreign language before and can sympathize, but a lot will have no idea of the language learning struggle.
In my opinion, French really is a beautiful language, and when you reach a stage where you can understand all those nasals, all those delicate but meaningful sounds, and comprehend them, and actually respond, with even somewhere close to the correct pronunciation, then it is like entering a secret world. Full of French beauty, and only understandable by someone who can speak the language, and therefore a gift which really is worth all that effort.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

P is for Photos

P is for Photos.

I wouldn't really say photography was a hobby of mine, merely an interest in which I like to dabble when I have some spare time, and some unedited pictures available. My little camera serves for some acceptable photos; it's not one of those impressive black sophisticated looking devices, just one of those simple silver ones, (you can tell how much I am out of the techno loop by my camera descriptions!) but it's pretty good for what it is. As for editing, again, I'm no expert, I just like to play around and see what I can produce. I'm not the type of person to the 'read the manual', or 'read the instructions' or sometimes even 'watch the tutorial'. I learn by doing, and even though sometimes I know I really should just read it so I know what I'm dabbling with, it is often a chore. Well, anyway, I play around and see what I can produce.
I put some of them on Flikr, and here is a link to my little site if it is of interest to you:


Thursday, 19 April 2012

O is for ok, I'm behind.

O is for ok, I'm behind.

It's called life. Busy being a bee. Days pass by so quickly I can't jam enough into them! But, I love it. I wouldn't have it any other way. When I was waiting for my visa, I had so much free time on my hands, and even though I did my best to fill up, I was still in surplus. It really and truly stressed be out, because I kept imagining all of the things I could be doing, learning, people I could be meeting, life I could be experiencing. Even though I filled up my days, I still felt like a whole bunch of life was missing. In a way, I still feel this way. There is so so much I want to do, to learn, and all those other action verbs, and even though I know it is near impossible to do everything, I still want to do as much as I can. This is one thing which stresses me about my little job right now. I feel at times I could be so much more useful, somewhere, doing something. I like to be involved, integrated, interwoven with all the happenings, and playing a valued role. I like to think I am moving in that direction, but sometimes progress can seem slow. However, I do value quality over quantity, and I would prefer to do something small but 'wonderously super duper amazing' than many flimsy, good for not much tasks. I think striving for perfection in what we do is crucial, otherwise we will end up with a huge pile of junk.
I think my brain is starting to ramble, so maybe this a great place to say goodbye.
Take care:)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

N is for - Non Profit

N is for Non Profit.

It's a late idea, on a topic which is extremely dear to my heart. Doing something for the sole benefit of someone or something else. No financial gain, incentive, wage, salary, paycheck. None of these. Just because the cause is dear to you, it plays an important role in your life, and you hope that in some small way your actions will make a difference. You are concerned with the welfare of the elderly and want to make their lives as comfortable as possible. You want to help people with disabilities to live life to the fullest. You want to make an effort to keep your city clean and safe. You want to promote healthy living. I'm sure there are more than thousands of different opportunities, different types of causes which would be worthy of support. All unique and precious in their own way.
So why do it? Why put in time and effort for something which we can choose to ignore, something which doesn't necessarily have to affects our lives? Because it warms our hearts to do good. Because it gives us a sense of fulfillment to know that something which we do, something we create, some gesture we offer, will make a positive difference. We have the power to help someone. We have the power to make a change, to make a difference. Be it helping with the smallest and seemingly unimportant task, or heading the most complicated task, we are a cog in a chain. We all contribute. We all make a difference. It is all valued.
I love volunteering. I love being a small part of something big. I love knowing that my efforts are valued, and will benefit someone or something, somewhere. I would invest all of my efforts into the volunteering I love if I were not bound to financial obligations. Money isn't everything, but it unfortunately it plays a crucial role in our lives. Those who have managed to find a career or job which incorporates both is most people's dream. This is my dream too.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

M is for - Maggie

M is for Maggie.

Maggie is our cat. I thought I would write about how she really is a bizarre little feline, even though she really is quite weird. We love her!
I don't know how old she is. Pretty old though. She is a grey, fat, old cat. But we love her!
She is known for just 'hanging out. She will sometimes have her moments when she darts from room to room, on the sofa, and poke around investigating, but she more than often just wanders around, lies around, and hangs out. She will sit and stare at you, her eyes glaring, staring you down. She often just stares at the wall. Yes, the blank wall. I often wonder what she would say if she could speak. It would probably be 'What on earth are you humans doing?" or 'Feed me" or "Pet me"
She loves loves loves her food. Yet she can be quite fussy. Any changes, or anything she's not so fond of she will shun. But what she does like, she gobbles up without much delay. As I said, she is rather chunky. She does this 'low walk' when she is scared (mostly when there is a storm, but sometimes at random moments), creeping slowly along the floor, to her usual spots.
And like most pets, she loves attention. Pet her, scratch her chin, her neck, her head. She will be content, asking for more. She purrs away like the little cutie she is.
Morning purrs are common, too. When my alarm sounds in the early morning, she often comes to me in bed, and stares. Until I get up. The weekends, she will come and sit on my pillow, purr away, pat my head with her paws, and often chew my hair. "It is time to get up", she says. She wants her breakfast, then she will take her mid morning nap like a little baby, her breakfast filling her belly.
She doesn't just chew my hair. She chews plastic. Anything like plastic bags, or wrappers. She is also known for chewing tennis shoes. We have to de-Maggie-hazard the apartment. If not, she will find it, and chew it. She plays with that paper tissue for gifts, (which we give to her; this one does no damage), she rolls around on books, or piles of paper, and will sometimes even tear up paper. But still, we love her!
She will sit almost human-like, with her back legs sticking out, licking herself. But, she is particular about her stomach, don't touch her stomach, she will not be happy. She scratches above her eyes far too much and we are in fact a little worried about this, but we have tried so many things, and nothing seems to change, so this is our little issue for the moment.
So many things to say about our little Maggie! She doesn't bite, she will just lick you. and miaw for food. And maybe chew your hair. She even comes to the door every time to greet us when we come home. We love our little Maggie.

Friday, 13 April 2012

L is for Learning

L is for Learning.

This is what we want. This is why we blog, why we write, why we read, why we take on our challenges. We want to learn about ourselves, others, the world. We are thirsty for learning. We want to learn how to improve our skills. We need to learn about the big wide world out there in order to become part of it, in order to become a noteworthy contributor to something worthwhile. Everything we have learned and practised makes us what we are today.
It all matters. With each new skill learned, each new piece of information, we root ourselves into our chosen paths. We develop, blossom, and strive to reach the peak of our potential. Our learning is the key to our success, and without it, our desires will forever remain just that: desires. No use to anyone, not even ourselves. Our ability to learn such complicated skills, concepts, techniques, and knowledge makes us probably some of the most fascinating known beings in the universe. And there are billions of us. We have so much potential. An inconceivable amount of potential. We just have to keep on learning in order to make any of it possible.
This is my blurb about learning.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

K is for - Keep Motivated

K is for Keep Motivated. 

It has been a rather stressful day. I wasn't crazy busy, I didn't have lots of pressure upon me, yet the events of the day made me feel like I could burst. Several of those moments when all you want to do is scream, and question what on earth is going on and why. I bit my tongue a good deal; it wasn't really my place to be questioning things, but that's what we do. It's only natural. This, in a way can relate back to my post on C, for communication. These pathways don't seem all that strong at the moment, but hopefully they can be strengthened. I like to hope so. This is where my motivation plays a key role.
I arrived home, feeling a little dismayed, as I felt that I really hadn't had much of a productive day. The passion inside of me which drives my motivation was a little weaker. Yet I know it can be improved. We just have to push ourselves a little bit to make the improvements. We have to make that bit of extra effort. In my case, I read, researched, an how wrote down my ideas about to make things a little better. I'm a little more tired, but I feel like even something small was constructive in my day.
Our motivation is so so important to us; we can trail off so easily without it. Our goal is our motivation, and it needs to be achievable. Our goals remind us that that we are doing, what we are attempting, what we would like to achieve really is important. It really is beneficial. It really will make a difference, to ourselves and others. Our motivation brings us to life and brings us fulfillment.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

J is for - Just my day

J is for Just my day.

I'm a little stuck, so I decided just to write about some of the little events in my day. (Just so you understand, I work with different students in an elementary school).
The morning started with a not so bad drive to work. I'm still learning, but very slowly but surely mastering the motorways (or highways, if you please). Finally! First lesson was maths, and I saw students either wizz their multiplication tables, or flunk them. The only way I was able to learn them was through songs. Otherwise, I would still be counting on my fingers.
Then came time for a little story. She can't read yet, but she follows the words with her finger, and imitates the sounds, reading the words she knows. It was a sweet little moment.
Then came the test. Yes, it was much too hard for them. Yes, they have to do it. Yes, to me it is a little pointless. Yes, I feel sorry for them.
Lunch was pretty sweet. I had lunch outside with two students eager to eat with the teacher. It was calm, warm, and falling from the sky there was those little white fluffy things from trees (or flowers, I'm not sure) and it looked like it was snowing. Salad again for me. I am the salad queen these days. Then I don't feel so bad for my little treat later in the day which I so enjoy.
My afternoon, well not much exciting. Not even worth typing about. The evening is full of reading and organising, while listening to my hubby play the same tune over and over and over on his guitar. I'm one of those people who reads several books at the same time, so that I have something for all my moods. I started a book yesterday called 'Yardsticks' which is non-fiction, and it describes the traits of children at different ages. I read yesterday that 5 year olds sometimes fall out of their chair sideways, and 6 year olds sometimes fall out backwards. This cracked me up!
Well, that's it... back to my evening.. all to myself.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I is for Ideas

I is for Ideas

I decided to write about ideas because I personally think that being able to think of new ideas for whatever project we are working on keep us motivated, engaged, and inspired to continue working in our fields of interest.
For me, when I worked in Prague teaching English as a foreign language to children and adults, most of the time I had to create my own teaching materials and activities. I often found this quite difficult, and I was searching for people with whom would share their ideas and suggestions. As time went on, I did manage to build up a little repertoire of materials. In fact, this was also the case when I taught in France, in two primary schools; I struggled along by the skin of my teeth.
Towards the end of my stay in Prague, I coined the phrase 'les idees sont les epices de la vie' which is French for 'ideas are the spice of life'. I put it in French becuase I was feeling in a French mood that day, plus I think it sounds quite intelligent in French. I still really do think it is true; ideas are new creations in their embryonic form. New creations bring about variety, and as we all know, 'variety is the spice of life'.
As I have been studying for my teaching qualifications, I have been noting down the ideas which I have learned about, and also conjuring up what as of now are my new ideas for the classroom. Not put into practice yet, but maybe some point soon I will try them out. If they don't work, I'll toss them out and work out what will actually work. If they do work, then share, share, share.
That's what ideas are all about. Well, most anyway. If you are stuck for ideas on whatever, then someone, somewhere will have a bucketful to share. Hopefully.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

H is for ... How do you...

H is for ... How do you...

Almost everyone I know here has it running though their veins. They are born into it. They have grown up with it. They are surrounded by it. They know how to do it. It is part of them, their love, their foundation. How do you believe? How do you believe in God? How do you believe the Bible? How do you believe its stories? How?

I live in Dallas, where the bible belt is tightly fastened. Christianity reigns. Yes, in Europe people go to church, yes people are religious. But no, the numbers do not compare.
I was not really brought up in a religious household, just like most of the people I grew up with. I didn't go to a religious school, I wasn't taught much about religion, I wasn't surrounded by religion. I've learnt a lot since then, but still, I never developed this idea, this belief, this knowledge, which belongs to being a Christian, or a Catholic, or whoever. Obviously, the UK is more Christian and Catholic than any other religion, but ask me to become a Hindu or any other religion and it may be as equally as hard as becoming a Christian, or a Catholic, because I just do not have that foundation. To have this core ability to believe in my opinion is such a gift. You have faith, you have something which bonds you together, which can guide you. It really is a strength.

It is Easter. Churches are full with people in their Sunday best. A pretty regular scene. Yet for me, to see churches flooded with people is not so normal. Whats more, the services here almost seem futuristic. More like a concert. Singers, videos, an upbeat choir. I'm not saying either service is 'right' or 'wrong', 'good' or 'bad', I'm just pointing out a difference. Going to church in Dallas just may be a little more like a form of entertainment than in Europe.
It just may be that this makes a difference. There have been studies that have shown the effects of choral singing can have a positive effect on someone's well-being. I'm not going to refer to any particular one, but if you are interested, I'm sure Google has the answers. Well, it just may well be true. I see people in church, and they really do seem to be gathering positive energy from singing in unison. Hands in the air, singing up to the sky. The music enters you. It vibrates inside you. It makes your stomach tingle. Whether you are a believer or not. We come together together to praise the Lord, and we go away feeling good. If you are a Christian already, this may be exactly what you need: some strength to guide you in your spiritual journey. I feel it too, but I still have this fundamental question to answer: How do you believe?

I went to church today. I listened and watched, and thought. Good Christians should be good people. That's not always the case, but that is what I think the majority of Christians strive to be. I however, am not a Christian, or any other religion, but that doesn't make me a 'bad' person. In fact, I may even strive harder than some Christians to be an all round good person. I feel I have good values in life, and this really does make me the person I am today. I'm not perfect, but I work on my weaknesses, and admit when I am wrong. So, do I really need to believe? Do I really need a religion to hold me accountable, when I can do this myself? Maybe some people do. Maybe they need this unison of people, this support, this foundation to grip onto so they do not lose their way. Would I go to hell for not believing, yet trying my best to be good in every way? Would I be in limbo? So do you only go to heaven if you believe in God, or can good people get in too? This may sound like a silly question, but to me it really is worth considering.

To be able to believe in something as -I don't know - immense, grandiose, nearly abstract, amazes me. In my opinion, you really need to have grown up surrounded by it, or slowly grow into a believer. I don't see how such a belief can be acquired overnight. However it is achieved, to me this belief is almost a precious gift.
Happy Easter.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

G is for Gifts

G is for Gifts...

I decided to write about gifts because last night a friend of mine gave me a little plant, just because she wanted to. I'm not sure of the plant's name, but it looks a little like ivy. She has the same plant, and all she did was cut some off this one, planted it, and it now I have a mini version, growing and rooting. Such a simple, yet lovely gesture. Plus, we received wine glasses and tumblers as an unexpected birthday gift. What makes these gifts a little bit more special is that they weren't expected. In my opinion, spontaneous gifts are the most precious, truly are a sign of friendship. Of course, exchanging gifts during celebrations such as Christmas are given with love and affection, well thought out, and wrapped with care. But that is our tradition. That is what we know. We are grateful that we are loved, we appreciate such thought and attention, but those simple yet powerful gifts we are given spontaneously have that extra spoonful of consideration which comes from someone thinking about you when they really do not have to. I can think of several times when I have received such gifts, and I am very grateful to have such special friends.

F is for Friends and Family

F is for friends and family.

Oupsie, this is a day late, because we have a very temperamental Internet connection right now.
I found F really hard. I could think of lots of words, but I couldn't think of something solid to write on just one of them. So, I'm going to try and write some kind of little poem about friends and family. Lets see...

A friend will be your foundation,
when you are fragile and frail
They will fight for you when you fall
no longer standing tall
They will be forever faithful
never fleeing when faced with fear
A friend will forgive,
each and every one of our flaws
Already forgotten,
Floating far away
Friends are forever,
That is fair to say.

Whoopla! here is your family
Say hello don't dismay.
No, you can't choose them,
This one is yours,
Good luck!

So much to learn, so much to do,
To make it work, to make it strong.
How do we do this?
Where do we start?
What if this? What if that?

My boys are eating spiders!
My girl keeps wearing my shoes!
And my husband, well I don't know,
He just looks confused.

We are all so different,
Yet squidged together under this roof.
Fumbling about, tripping and slipping and sliding,
But somehow we seem to manage,
To grow together as one.

Our bonds cannot be broken,
We are woven together too tight.
My family is part of me,
My underlying support.
Without them I am just nothing,
Like a stray cat wandering in the night.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

E is for Exams

E just has to be for Exams.


Tomorrow I have my exam for my teacher certification in bilingual EC-6 education. Actually, the first of a few exams. The speaking and listening exam is in a few weeks and the others will probably be a while away. At least that's what I think.
And yes, I'm writing a blog instead of doing some last minute cramming.
The exam is 5 hours, multiple choice, and I think 185 questions. Sounds easy. Well, we will see. The thing is, the questions are worded in a way that if you don't read each and every miniscule detail, then you will probably get the wrong answer. Plus, the questions can be quite specific, and the content is quite broad, so you really do need to know your stuff. Suffice to say, I'm nervous. That being said, I'm nervous about nearly everything.
I do, however, think (I'll say that again. I think...) I have studied enough. I hope. We will see how my brain survives tomorrow. Eeek lots.
The poor students at school get tested about a gazillion times a week. If they can cope, then maybe I can too??
So, I'm keeping this one short, so I can get back to studying. I can think of lots of other more interesting topics than 'Exams' but this is relevant to me right now, so this is what came out.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

D is for Decisions

D is for Decisions.

I chose to write about decisions because I wanted o to reflect on how much they can affect every aspect of your life and also other people's lives. Also, some seemingly small decisions can still have a big impact on your life, and it is important to really consider the value of each and every decision we make each day. Are we going to read, or study, or watch TV, or go to the gym, or help our friends, or make that little bit more effort in our daily tasks? It may seem like just one little decision, but putting forth that little bit more effort to make positive decisions really can make a huge difference, and will give you the motivation to continue heading in this positive direction. It's a case of just knowing where your weaknesses lie, and making a conscious effort to overcome them little by little.
Well, what about those crazy big life-changing decisions? Who to marry, where to live, what career path to take... This kind. That was me just under two years ago. My now husband asked me to marry him. This meant moving from Europe to the US, adapting to life in America, turning down my plans to study for my masters in France, finding a new job.. and the rest. I love love love my husband (even though it still feels strange to officially call him 'my husband' now), but I still wonder what my little life would be like if I had made a different decision. I would probably still be living in France studying, but how would I feel? How would the masters programme be going? Where would I be going with my career? Who would I have met? What else would I be doing? So many questions which I will never have answers to. And if I had made the opposite decision, I would never know how my life would be in the US. Would we have ever married? Would we have married after my masters? Would I have regrets? I remember talking to a lady a few months before my husband proposed, and she was from the Czech Republic, with an American husband. She was telling me how who you marry really decides which direction your life will take. In my case, it really is true.
I am probably one of the most indecisive people when it comes to decisions. I have a mini battle in my head over what to do. I contemplate until I muddle myself up with my options, even for the most inconsequential of decisions. I am terrible. I need to learn to make a decision and accept the consequences, positive or negative. This is my challenge. Lets hope I make the right decisions.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

C is for Communication

C is for Communication.
Just like my past few posts, I have so much I could say, but I really can't be writing essays, so I really need to keep it concise and brief.
This, in my opinion, is one of the most important principles to healthy working and also personal relationships. Just because I think this, doesn't mean I have it mastered. Far from it. I think a good amount of us would say the same.
I want to work smoothly with my colleagues. I want strong and positive relationships with everyone in my life. I want to understand what they want from me, and vice versa. I want them to understand me well, my point of view, my opinions and my reasons for my beliefs. I want to be able to share my thoughts and opinions, my ideas and suggestions without fear of being laughed at, dismissed, ignored, rejected, or overlooked. I feel that many of us fail to fully understand all aspects of colleagues, friends and family because we are presumptuous and fail to make the time to dig a little deeper and maybe discover something new and different.
Do you really know what that other person is thinking? Do you know their opinions? Have you taken the time to ask them what they truly think? Would they feel comfortable expressing their opinions? Everyone has an opinion, everyone has ideas, everyone has thoughts. The more open the communication, the stronger the bond. Even if the opinions are different, at least they are not all kept locked up, building up, waiting to explode. Then we may lead to problems.
I can think of many personal and also professional examples of when the problems which are the hardest to tackle are probably the ones that need it the most. They rest inside me, expanding, pushing, yet they are the hardest to release. But when they are released, it feels like helium. Maybe even there is an easy solution to a troublesome problem, maybe not, but at least it is out in the open and progression can be made. I love it when this happens.

Monday, 2 April 2012

B is for Bilingualism

B is for Bilingualism. I chose this because I'm currently studying for my elementary bilingual teacher certification. I could write about so much here; bilingual education in general, what constitutes bilingual, how do you become bilingual... so much to delve into, and by no means enough time or space. But, I would like to relate it as much to myself as possible.
In my opinion, and probably everyone else, bilingualism means to be completely fluent in both languages, as if they were both native to you. This is not the case for me. I learned my second languages as foreign languages. The best chance someone has to be bilingual is to learn both languages together, while growing up. Both should then progress more or less at the same rate, in all areas, such as reading, writing, comprehension etc. This would be the goal, and this is possible with a good support system. As I did not grow up in this environment, I will always have to work hard with accent, comprehension, learning new words, and the like. Even a bilingual person will need to practise both languages equally. I see bilingual adults forgetting the language they use the least. Use it or lose it. But to have that opportunity to learn more than one language as a child is precious. It just really needs the structure and support of a great education, great teachers, and phenomenal parents. Otherwise, the child will end up lost and confused with a jumbled up mess of both languages. Unfortunately, I see this quite regularly.
I remember students from university who spoke 5, even 6 languages. They were lucky to live in countries where more than one language is common, and also have that support system in place. Furthermore, someone, or something somewhere inspired them to learn more, study more. I also remember other people who may not have been brought up in a multilingual environment, but they tried and tried, and practised and practised, and with their continuous efforts they managed to become bilingual or as close as possible to bilingualism. I admire these people immensely.
Even just to speak another language is like entering another person's world. All of their language intricacies, differences, accents and irregularities amaze me; what is natural to them is awkward and strange to me. Languages can be as deep and complex as a Greek philosopher's mind, so to master even part of it really is quite an achievement.
Bilngualism truly is quite an achievement. It takes a lot of work for both children and adults to acquire such skills, and it can help train the brain to become stronger and faster. It just by no means occurs naturally and will not work without dedication and a strong support system.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A is for America

A is for America. More to the point, Texas. I've lived here for just over a year, and people always ask me if I enjoy living here, what are the differences between here and the UK, and many other questions on the subject. I love that they are interested in my life, my story of how I ended up here, and how I'm 'adapting' to America and Texas. Yes, there are similarities to the UK, and yes, of course there are many differences. Too much to discuss right here right now, but I can mention a few.
New, new new. Almost toy-town like. I honestly get that impression in some places. No back street hidden pubs to stumble upon, just the giant restaurants lining the highway with their towering signs and maybe even flashing arrows. Globalisation in action. Drinks the size of buckets. Seriously. It shocks me every time I see it. I don't think I could drink that much in a week. Fast food is just too easy to mention, but it is true. There are so many different names that just do not exist in Europe. And people get excited to go they never get the chance. Patriotism running through all those American veins. Flags everywhere, patriotic songs in school, and a never ending supply of memorabilia celebrating America. And not to mention the voice of the people. Americans are not afraid to express their passion for their country. Brtis are probably in general patriotic creatures, but I don't think we are as expressive as this side of the pond. Oh my, so much more I could say, but it would take too long.
Similarities? Well, we work hard too, in Britain. That's why we all don't pack up and move to the beach and drink Mojitos. We need to work. Believe me, I'm sure so many Brits dream of just that, given Britain's reputation with the weather, but it's just not possible. The economy is in great need of some support right now. I would like to say that language is a similarity, and ok, it is, but when I speak often people look at me like I am speaking Greek, so it can't be totally true. Actually, most things seem to be 'similar but different'. On the surface they seem the same, but you bet something will shine through as a difference. Moreover, the more profound differences are harder to describe; they are more related to my experiences. So when people ask me "what are the differences between the UK and America?", they generally don't want a long discussion about my experiences, so I just stick to the obvious. And when they ask me if I like living here, well, seriously, what would happen if I said no? It would be similar to if someone were to say "no, I'm awful", and list their ailments when responding to the simple question of "how are you?".
Of course, I would love to live by the beach in a hot Mediterranean country, or live back in England, even for a short time, where it may be old and cold, but that's just the way it is and you love what you know. In fact, I would love to live in lots of other places, but America is where I am, even if it was never my plan, and I am grateful to be able to experience living in a country desired by so many.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

A Blog About Blogging

Tomorrow starts the A-Z Blogging challenge which I signed up for, so I thought I would get warmed up and write a mini blog about it.
Basically you write one article a day using the corresponding letters of the alphabet. So, tomorrow it will be something starting with A, all the way to Z, with Sundays off from scribbling (apart from tomorrow). Hopefully a great way to practise some writing skills, along with a starting point and a little bit of motivation to go ahead and do it. I often have a big case of writer's block, so knowing me I will be doing my best to squeeze something out, but I hope at least it will give me some writing ideas and practise, along with some more impetus to work on my writing skills. This would be nice. I often have so many ideas about things I would like to write about, but I never get around to formulating them into a concise and organised structure, so this mini challenge will hopefully push me in the right direction. At school children have to write every day. They are still learning, but they as children have such great creative potential, and if directed well they can become great writers. As adults we can now write with much more ease, yet there is so much to learn for most of us. Yes, writing is bound by rules and grammar, but there is so much creativity just waiting to be born. Hopefully this will be a great way for me to work on all of those many different aspects of the writing process, hidden behind my computer screen, yet still exposed to the world of the internet...
I'm ready for my mini challenge, lets see what is written.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Year On in Texas.

In a way I can't really believe that I first got to the U.S. over a ago. When you look back, a year seems to pass in the blink of an eye, but then while they year is playing out, the days can drag like years. It was one of my stranger years, if I do say so myself, filled with too much waiting and not enough progress.
Looking back, I went on two jaunts to Spain, the first because my tourist visa expired, the second in order to finally get my fiance visa. Each trip lasted much longer than expected, with the second trip incorporating a random trip to Prague. I worked in a hostel in Spain, in a car park in Prague, I couch-surfed, took planes and buses and planes, got lost, was nearly robbed, was spat upon, had my rear groped, and wandered inescapable cities. Living out of a suitcase exhausts. I had so much 'ganas' -and still do - to get some kind of career blooming that it was literally making me scream from the inside. Yet I was basically stuck in limbo, awaiting that visa. Oh the visa. Everything relying on a visa. What does a person do with so much time? Not as much as they could is the answer. Well that's my opinion. That was me. Give someone who works full time some free time and they will squeeze as much into their seconds as possible. Be it as much of their tasks as possible or as much of their relaxing as possible; it is used. Give it to someone without this fast paced full to the brim life, and it will probably drift away having never been used. My lesson is don't waste your time; use it wisely. When it's gone, it doesn't come back. So that was a good part of my year. I feel I could have done so much more. So much I could have learnt, read, practiced, made, sewed, baked, written... and time passed by.
I did office work myself out at Christian Community Action as a volunteer. I was a baby cog in an extended family chain, and so even though I didn't really see the benefits of my actions, I just have to believe that I played even just a little part. To me, office work is as fun as staring at a grey wall all day; it's just banal. We get up and drive to push papers, write emails and punch numbers, all with the goal of the company in mind. Miraculously, it can actually work if we are efficient, when all our little cogs come together, but in the meantime, I was pretty familiar with that grey wall. At least that's what it seems like to me. That's enough of that.
So when my visa and work permit eventually came through, the world of work seemed like a distant memory. Then in January, just over a year after my initial tourist in Texas stint, I find myself a little teacher's aide position in an elementary school. An eye opener into Texas public schools, as well as a great learning opportunity for future prospects. Whats more, it's something to shake the cobwebs off my rusty brain, and lets me try out my worker hat and teacher hat once again. It has only been a couple of weeks and I feel like I could write pages and pages just on my experiences and thoughts as a teacher's aide, so I'm evidently not going to attempt that now, maybe later.
Life in America, more to the point, Texas, even more to the point, the 'big D' (as Dallas is known) seems to be pretty much it's usual self. I'm slowly sinking into it all, getting a handle on everything. Powdered coffee creamer is still gross, there is still too much ice in my drink, trucks are still growing, as are the people, and the meals, and most other things. I still think free refills should be banned; I have no idea how a person's stomach doesn't pop after even one of those gigantic sized soda mega-cups. Those Styrofoam cups make my skin crawl, and it pains me to think they will probably just end up on some waste dump somewhere. The push for recycling still seems limited to paper, which is pretty depressing. I sometimes feel like the "European Hippie Vegetarian Eco-Warrior" with my 'modern and alternative' beliefs. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but these really are some of my values, which I do no seem to notice in many others. Dallas seems to me like a good city to get your head down and get to work. Save, save, save, for the holidays, the reserve fund, the retirement plan, the future offspring, the crazy university fees, and who knows what else. Texas isn't really a tourist destination, just a Mexican destination, so people just seem to save up to go and spend their holidays somewhere else.
Yes, the summer was brutal. Then you are blasted with the chilly air conditioning. I don't know which one is worse. Either way, the long summer made me yearn for the chilly winters and wrapping up with a hot chocolate.
That's basically my first year in Texan land. Some new experiences, thoughts and opinions to work with and get my teeth into. I'm always on the lookout for new activities to try out, and one of my most recent ventures has been attempting some photo editing (I thought I would give Mr M a run for his money!). The only issue is that I'm not too interested in researching and studying the different editing techniques, which seem to exist in copious amounts. I kind of just want to play around and see what I can come up with. Given this, they may not be the most amazing editing out there, but I took a stab at it. Have a look at them if you like and let me know what you think.
So basically I survived the eternal wait for that visa thing, and now it is full speed ahead with new things. At last!