Sunday, November 29, 2015

Trying new things

Despite being sick, it was a weekend of firsts for me.

It was my first Thanksgiving not with my mom.  It was my first one with B and his family.  It was a little strange, not being with my mom, but his parents and extended family are incredibly welcoming.  I realize this is part of growing up and that holidays are about compromise.  We just saw my mom a few weeks ago and will see her again right after the holidays, so it'll be okay.  Plus I talked with her a good half a dozen times this weekend (sorry mom!).

We arrived early and I helped in the kitchen (this is big for me people!).  We brought a variety of bread, wine, and flowers for the table.  His cousin made the whole duck-chicken-turkey situation which I was not brave enough to try.  

Food was delish and I felt a bit like this:

Afterward, my allergies got the best of me and I napped.  To be fair, I had a full stomach, a warm blanket, and my football team wasn't on television.

Friday was the first time that I did not go Black Friday shopping.  We ventured out of the house around one pm to visit the post office (bestie's birthday is next week), pick up Chinese food, and some medicine from the grocery store.  I know, I live an exciting life people!  The rest of the day revolved around trying to grade, napping, and decorating for the holidays.

Saturday we did a Small Business Saturday vendor event at my house.  I had {Jamberry}, Amy (my upline) had {Younique}, Lisa had {31} and Janel had {Origami Owl}.  We split the set up, which worked out way better for everyone's budgets.

We had a great time and started brainstorming our next big Saturday event.  We'd love to rent out our school's multipurpose room and have a Saturday shopping event...when things calm down.  So, March?

Our set up is getting better and better each time!

Sunday I tried a flash sale for Jamberry online with a VIP group.

It went okay, but I have ideas how to make it better for next time.  I'm thinking of doing a make up and Jamberry flash sale in the middle of December for those procrastinating gifters.

I did decorate and wrap gifts! (3 for my mom, 1 for his mom, 1 for my bestie, and 1 for Leah, my brother's girlfriend and one of my bridesmaids).  Obviously solid progress.

The rest of the weekend involved napping, attempting to finish up this grading pile, snuggling with fur babies, watching television, yelling during football, and doing the minimum amount of school work that's required for Monday.

This week brings extra paperwork (student withdrew and we've got to get ready for parent-teacher conferences, which means sending out conference notes.  I've learned my lesson, mine will be pink to clearly identify that they get returned to me.).  I've also got Battle of the Books tomorrow (we're trying paper slide videos), a Discovery Ed meeting, and the possibility of visitors just popping in on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (no pressure there!).  I'm already ready for next weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Highest of Compliments

We recently had a teacher leave our school, which ruffled a few feathers.  He hadn't been there for very long and there was some miscommunication, but I did my best to stay out of the drama.  It's been a bit of a logistical nightmare trying to find subs to cover a short term vacancy that coincided with the holidays.  I did my best with the students that I had and was fortunate enough to meet some awesome new substitutes.

However, upon his departure, the leaving teacher sent me a very thoughtful and kind email.  He expressed his appreciation for opening my classroom door, for showing him new strategies, and for letting him learn from my teaching style.  

The warm and fuzzy feelings continued when he shared that I would have been that "game changer" teacher for him as a child or his children now because of the passion I bring to the classroom.  He commented that it was inspiring to see how truly excited my students were about their learning.  

That's why I teach. I'm humbled that someone who was in my classroom co-teaching for such a short amount of time was able to notice the effort I put in and the difference it makes for my students.

Thank you, fellow teacher, for your compliments on my craft.  I love what I do. I'm glad it shows, even on the most difficult of days.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Prepare Yourself

Black Friday is coming!  

I've got deals for {Jamberry} and {Younique}, but we can't forget about my first passion project of Teachers Pay Teachers!

In honor of Cyber Monday, my whole store will be 20% off on Monday, November 30th and Tuesday, December 1st.  That's right, the whole store!

Including...the brand new {novel guide} and {chronological order sort} I posted about ten minutes ago for Ava and Pip!

Start your shopping lists now, I know I've scoped out other sellers!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thankful November, day 21: Small Business Saturday

I posted this message on my facebook wall, but felt it warranted appearing here too.

I wanted to say thank you to those who have supported one of my small businesses ({Jamberry}, {TeacherspayTeachers}, and/or {Younique Products}).

Your support helps pay for books and supplies for my students.  (Specifically glue sticks, thousands of post its, and everything Rick Riordan writes in mass quantities.  You'd figure nine copies of the same book would be enough, but it's not enough.) You helped pay for Waffles's pet adoption fees, shots, obedience school, and toys.  (So many toys).  You're helping us pay for our wedding, because we're trying not to go in debt for this fabulous dinner party we're hosting.  Your support helped us afford the new computer B needed for college (because his laptop was eight years old).  Your support helps cover expenses because teachers took a pay cut this year and well, that sucked.  I need to double check my courses, but I'm pretty sure I just finished Masters +32, that I may or may not receive a pay raise small businesses help cover the difference. 

Thank you for supporting me.

Progress Reports

I send home progress reports at least once a month.  I teach in an inclusion classroom, which means there is usually a special education teacher in the room with me during core subjects of reading, writing, and math. 

Students get lots of time to ask questions and work with each other.

Students are allowed to retake any summative assessment before or after school.  Summatives are end of unit summaries that make up 90% of their grades.  The other 10% comes from formative quizzes throughout the unit.  I use these quick checks, exit tickets, and quizzes to pull small groups and reteach.

Progress reports are meant to serve as a check in point to show parents where their students are at.

But...then there are the replies, the emails, and the phone calls.

Some responses say "I'm worried, how can I help at home?"  which are wonderful! I post review videos and stay after to work with students.  Those families acknowledge that it's a partnership between home and school.  

But then...there are other types of responses.

"Please help ___". 
"Can you explain what ___ is doing wrong?" 
"Why don't you work with ___ in class?"
"What extra credit can ___ do?"
"Why is ____ getting a C in ____? The last test was an A. Are you grading right?" (The first two tests were Fs, so the A brought the overall grade up to a C.  That wasn't a sufficient response.)

One, I do my best to help every student. Every day. I do my best to work with them in small groups and individually, every day. I pull small groups.  Other teachers pull small groups. They have extra review opportunities online available at any point.

It's frustrating (and a bit insulting) when parents don't realize I'm doing everything possible to help their students.

But when students don't read or follow directions? When they don't ask questions? When they skip entire pages on the test? When they zone out during an entire lesson, draw pictures, talk to their neighbor, then complain they don't get's frustrating.  

At what point do students start owning their grades?  At what point do I stop becoming the bad guy?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Biting my tongue only works for so long

Quite frankly, the school district is a bit of a hot mess right now.  The most frustrating part is I don't know who to direct my anger towards.  Is it the superintendent and his cabinet for mismanaging funds? Is it the board of trustees? (One is an incompetent ignoramus who had the audacity to enter our school and tell fifth graders that the goal in life was to be rich and have lots of friends.  Petitions are circling to get this person recalled.)  Or should I be mad at teachers health trust? The union?

I know the one group I'm not upset about is my fellow teachers.  While I can't speak for all educators, but the ones I'm blessed to work with are some of the most passionate and dedicated educators.  They are there early, stay late, and reach into their own hearts (and wallets) to provide what their students need the most.

In one of the teacher support groups I'm in, I found this rather frustrating post.

I do not know the author in person and for that, I am grateful.  She's been rather hostile and aggressive towards other teachers, which serves no purpose other than fanning the flames of anger.

Her post:

"I ran into a nice kid yesterday who told me he hoped to get his degree and then apply to be a TFA. TFA is a scam. Please warn your friends and neighbors about this trap. It would be much easier for aspiring teachers and better for kids if the leader in the at-risk classroom was prepared.  Please forward to anyone who is considering this move and warn them."  

Below it, she attached a rather biased and negative opinion piece.  

Normally, I move on from these sorts of things. I try to take the high ground. I try not to engage with the irrational.

However, I've had enough.  Biting my tongue only works for so long.

Here was my response: 

"Don't paint all TFA teachers, or ARL teachers, with the same brush. As a TFA alum who's on year seven in the classroom, I take offense to my non-traditional career path being called a trap and a scam. Teaching isn't easy, period. Name calling and pitting teachers against one another doesn't make the situation better. Why not band together and inspire one another? Not all students have the same background, so why not embrace that teachers have diverse backgrounds too?"

So far, I've only received positive replies and other teachers mentioning the great work that the TFA teachers have done in their buildings.  Turns out, spreading positive vibes and emphasizing diversity as a positive attribute is more well received by the public then rage-filled vents that seek only to hurt others' feelings.

Yes, teaching is quite frustrating at times.  Low pay and a lack of respect don't help.  But when teachers start bashing other teachers, how does that make the situation any better?

Instead, I choose to spread good vibes.  I hope this rather angry teacher finds something positive to share with others.  Being irate all the time isn't the way to live.


Lots of items come in sets of dozens.  

Roses. Eggs. Muffins. Donuts. Soda (and beer). Pencils.

As of tomorrow, my students will fall into this category.  

Number thirty six comes tomorrow. It's easiest to say I've got three dozen students.

It's getting a bit crowded in room 71.

How big are your class sizes?

Thankful November, day 18: time

Today, I'm thankful for time.

I'm thankful for the time I get with my students. It's not enough time to get all the learning done, but I'm thankful that seven hours of each day is spent with relatively good munchkins who are eager to learn.

I'm thankful for the time I spend in the car to and from work.  I have about a ten minute commute and that's enough time to jam out to some music, make a (hands free) phone call, or vent my feelings to the universe before arriving home.  There are three stop signs and two stop lights between my school parking lot and drive way.  For this, I'm thankful.  I do not miss a seventeen mile freeway commute each way, which would often result in an hour-long drive home.  I have more time for me because it's not spent in the car.

I'm thankful for the time me and B have to plan the wedding.  I'm in no way rushed to make any decisions and have the time to shop around, look for sales, and slowly check things off my list. Last weekend, I picked up our champagne flutes at TJ Maxx.  They've got gold polka dots and were significantly less than the ones online.  Score!

I'm thankful for couple time in the evenings.  Monday we watched football.  Last night, we watched Inside Out (my choice).  Tonight he has class, tomorrow I have class, Friday he has softball, and Saturday we've got a double date with some friends to have dinner and watch Mockingjay Part Two.

I'm thankful for me time.  B has class once a week, leaving me free to binge watch Once Upon a Time or read in a blanket fort without guilt.  I'm thankful that we're both mature enough to give each other alone time and not feel bad about spending time apart.  Sometimes, he just wants some video game time and I just want to nap.  We're a couple, not the same person.

What I'm not thankful for? It's time to leave the comforts of my polka dotted bathrobe and pajamas to get ready for work.  It's very, very hard to be motivated when it's so cold outside.

(I'm a child of the desert. It's in the forties. It's cold.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Where was admin?

I had a beautiful conversation erupt during math time today.

Here was the problem:

They were solving with a partial products array (they're not quite ready for traditional or standard algorithms for multiplication) and a very loud, very passionate conversation erupted.  One student argued that having the "zero tens" row in the second factor (409) wasn't necessary.  Another passionately disagreed.  

Soon, I lost the whole class to this beautiful, loud conversation about if zero is a value or simply a place holder.  

Did it need to be represented? 

Could it be skipped? Always?

I reeled them back in after about five minutes of debate, much to the horror of the original instigators who hadn't successfully defended their perspectives.

What a beautiful, natural example of the math practices coming to life.

Now, where was admin?! That would have been a lovely example of math discourse in the classroom for my end of year evaluation.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


It took a bit of time, but my teacher guide for The Sword of Summer is finally done and available {here}.

The matching chronological order sort, which my students use to check their comprehension, is available {here}.  

My goal is usually to get a novel guide out within days of finishing a book, but I've been a little distracted by these helpers:

Sydney, who we're pet sitting for the weekend:

Crookshanks, who likes to help me type:

Waffles, who is very excited about her new toys:

I love them. I just don't always love their help. Thanks Chloe for letting me work with minimal distractions!

Good for the soul

It's Sunday. I spent an hour this morning (yes, before 8 am) grading, entering grades, and doing lesson plans. I did what was due today for homework for my grad class...and that's enough.

I'll look at Thursday's homework during prep this week.  

In terms of other "school prep", I'll make my lunch in the morning and go to the grocery store today.

I work really, really hard during the week. I am there early, stay late, help when I can, volunteer to do more than I should, and sometimes feel like I'm carrying the weight of others.  Okay, I often feel that.  But enough is enough.  

I'm reclaiming my weekends.

I'll do what is necessary, but I'm capping work on the weekends to two hours between Friday afternoon and Sunday night.  

Other than that? It will have to wait.

I'm not being valued by my district. I'm not being treated with respect and compensated fairly.

So I'll take more time for me and fuel my soul with things that make me happy.

On today's agenda? A hair cut, checking out TJ Maxx, taking a nap, starting a new book, and watching football this evening with B.

What are you doing for you today?

Saturday, November 14, 2015


I previously {shared a letter} that my coworker, Erika Barber, penned and sent to the governor, the superintendent, the state senators, the board of trustees, and local media outlets.

She was invited to appear on John Ralston's show on Vegas PBS.  Her nerves got the best of her, so two other coworkers (and a third teacher I have no relationship with) appeared on the show.

View {here}.

I've never been more proud of some of my friends.  Teressa and Rob remained calm, didn't place blame, but firmly shared the unfortunate facts of this depressing scenario.

It's not just about the repeated pay cuts and increased wages.

It's not just about the increased class sizes and responsibilities. 

It's not just about the ridiculously high number of substitutes in the classroom.

It's not just about the misinformation we receive from those who are supposed to support us.

It's not just about the unfair allocation of funds.  Why do new, out of state hires get a hiring bonus while everyone else takes a pay cut?

It's not just about teachers who are single parents needing to get second jobs to afford health insurance for their dependents, while married teacher couples pay nothing for their families.

It's about the unfair treatment of teachers.  I am a professional, with college degrees, and don't think fair compensation for my work is asking too much.  

Our next Rally for Respect will be at 8 am on 11/25. I'm hoping it won't be so ridiculously cold outside.  I'm also hoping parents stand with us. 

Thankful November, day 14

That {parent-teacher conference} I shared about yesterday?

Not only did it go wonderfully, but the mom brought me hot chocolate:

Score! It's nice to feel appreciated.  It was a very positive conference.  The student took responsibility for his actions and we talked about ways to help him improve.  It was presented as a united front, she told him she was proud of him, and thanked me for my hard work with him.

I wish all my parent teacher conferences were like that: parents working with me, supporting their kids, appreciating my efforts, supporting education at home.

Most are like that...but there's a few hostile ones I dread.

Good thing parent-teacher conference day isn't until December!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thankful November, day 13

First and foremost, I'm thankful it's Friday.  Even though it was only a four day work week, having Wednesday off (in honor of Veterans' Day) threw everything out of schedule.

My students are getting antsy for a break and the number of write ups is increasing. I've got a parent-teacher conference this morning, but luckily I'm optimistic.  This parent is honest enough to know her son can be a stinker, but I approached it as a problem solving meeting so we could figure out some strategies that will help him be more successful.  The student is also coming to the meeting, which I think is important.  He needs to be accountable for his actions, but also know we're on his side and want him to do well.

I'm thankful for the weekend.

 B has a bye week for softball, so we're trying a new restaurant and ice cream place with some of our friends (and bridal party).  Tomorrow brings a joint birthday party for some of the cutest three and seven year old munchkins.  Sunday we're participating in a cut-a-thon:

Nothing major (don't worry mom!), just getting hair cuts and supporting a good cause.  I also plan to finish my teacher's guide and chronological order sort for The Sword of Summer to post on TpT.  Fifty pages and counting!

I'm thankful for my coworkers and their activism.  One penned an amazing letter that's going viral.  Because of that letter, two more were on PBS last night.  They did an amazing job of not placing blame, but rather talking about how these teacher shortages and money mismanagement is impacting them personally.  I'm quite proud and eager to see how the school district and union respond. I'm thankful my admin is totally on board, otherwise that could be uncomfortable at work.

What (or who) are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

One Year

I chose to have a long engagement (over a year). 366 days from now I'll be walking down the aisle and I couldn't be happier about it.

I have dress appointments next month. I know the style I'm leaning toward. I know my budget. I have my choices narrowed down to two stores.

Next month I'll be finalizing colors for my bridesmaids and get ideas for the groomsmen.

I've got my {photographer} booked for our engagement shots.  (We're using the venue's photographer for our wedding).  It's one of my friends and she was one of the first people I told after my first date with B.  Nearly three years later, she's shooting our engagement shots.

Our menu is pretty finalized and we've begun brainstorming bridal party gifts and the DJ list.  Our registry is in progress and I've got some crafting ideas for center pieces.

As of right now, there are two other weddings we'll be attending together before our own, so I'm excited to borrow ideas from friends.  There's also a big bridal show in January that I'll be attending (and trying not to be horrified by these "ideas").

I'm excited to be taking this slow and enjoy taking my time. I haven't felt rushed with any of my decisions and that's the way it's supposed to be.

Cheers to the next year! We've got lots of happy moments between now and our wedding.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Thankful November, Day 9: My Work Wife

Today, like most days, I'm thankful for my work wife, Mrs. H.  (Her husband, who also works at our school, knows we are work wives and accepts our constant collaboration).

She keeps me on task. She reminds me of work obligations that I've written down, then ignored. She motivates me to look for ways to improve and continue to improve my knowledge as an educator.  We're currently taking our fourth (?) grad class together and we keep each other accountable to deadlines.

She is very linear and sequential in her thinking and planning.  She is organized and on top of things.

I am organized in my own, slightly chaotic way.

See, I'm a squiggle and she's not.  That's why we work. 

I live in right brain, global thinking, big picture land where we try new things and make lots of connections.  She lives in scaffolded, sequential land and that's very good for students.  Together, we make some awesome learning opportunities for our students.

Sometimes I have to go to trainings and she's not there.  This is how I cope:

Those of you who also have work spouses, you get it.

I am thankful for the continued collaboration with my work wife.  We plan every subject together, share the SPED kids, and constantly bounce ideas off of one another.  My strengths compliment her areas of growth and vice versa.  She's my sounding board, my back up, and the person who willingly takes that kid when he's having that kind of day. 

I'm thankful for a majority of my coworkers, but she really stands out as one that consistently encourages and motivates me to be the best teacher I can be.  I hope I do the same for her.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Enough is enough.

We're in a crisis here in our school district.  There's a lot of name calling and dishonesty over funds.  One of my coworkers penned this letter and is sending it into all the newspapers in addition to the board of trustees, but it's worth sharing here:
"CCSD Board of Trustees,
I am writing to you today on behalf of many fellow teachers who share similar concerns regarding the salary freezes, PERs cuts, salary schedule and the meager monetary contribution to our health care.
Perhaps the most troubling problem we have run in to is the failure on the part of CCSD board members to answer emails, return phone calls and address these issues with us. The lack of transparency about why and how decisions are made with respect to appropriated funds for education is appalling. The public sees the budget set aside by legislators for education and they assume it goes to pay raises for teachers, contributions to health care and investments into retirement plans. What they don't see is where the money ends up after the board has reallocated the funds to other areas.
Your failure to use Clark County's education budget to give teachers a respectable salary, contribute fairly to their health care costs and invest in their futures by contributing sufficiently to PERs is unacceptable. Your mission statement, "All students progress in school and graduate prepared to succeed and contribute in a diverse global society" should be considered at the very least unsupported, if not unrealistic considering the lack of reinforcement given to the people who actually make your vision a reality. Your priorities are undeniably out of order when there is a teacher shortage and yet decisions are made that make the profession less and less desirable. We are losing teachers and degrading the ones who stay. Many of us have to reconsider whether we can AFFORD to be teachers!
The blame is aimed at us when the community reads the data about graduation rates and test scores. The demand to improve this situation is placed on us. The insults and negative attitudes about Nevada's educators are directed toward us. The burden to do it all, while barely making enough money to buy groceries and pay for health care is placed on us.
Now we are all facing some big changes. Changes to our health care system and, as a result of salary freezes and health care costs rising, for many of us this may be our financial undoing.
Some of the board members may read this and maybe none of you will. The consensus among CCSD teachers is that you do not care. You attend events and thank us. You shake our hands and tell us that we are appreciated. You smile for photos with students that we work with, educate and care for everyday. Our students. Our works of art.
Now it is time for you to show us that we are appreciated. Smiles, visits and handshakes are great. Keep them coming, along with the salary increases our union respectfully requests, restoration of our PERs cuts, a larger contribution to our health care costs (a contribution comparable to that of other employers), compensation for our continued education that we obtained to help ready every child for graduation (we invested with the expectation that we were investing in a better income), compensation for our years of experience, and some basic sense of security and respect from the CCSD board of trustees!
Erika Barber"

I added my name to this list.  As of posting time, over 120 other educators have signed as well.
She contacted one of our state senators.  The rather rude response was the implication she was fabricating and that these other names were either falsified or she lacked permission to sign their names.  This is not the case, at all.  

Thankful November, Day 8 My Students

With so many students, it's easy to get bogged down with all the demands.  Grading thirty five of anything gets rather tedious.  When it's thirty five essays, I have to give myself small rewards for persevering through the task (and no, I'm not kidding).

So instead I'll share how truly wonderful my students are.  On average, they're pretty great.  They're also people, so we have good days and we have rough days.  They're pre-pubescent and sassy.  It's November and they're antsy for a break.  It's a tricky time.

However, I get hugs on a daily basis. I have, at any given time, thirty students who are truly happy to see me.  

They are so ridiculously excited about every little thing we do.  Commas? Thrilling. Multiplication warm ups? Amazing, especially if they are allowed the extra special treat of writing on their desks.  Our read aloud? Nothing quiets them faster than me pulling out a well loved copy of The Lightning Thief.  

Plus, cute gifts like this sweeten the deal:

How adorable are my families?

I'm using class dojo and it's really helped improve my parent communication this year.  I'm also using it in conjunction with my class blog (weebly), which is passcode protected because I post students' pictures.

Here's a snapshot:

Plus they reply! How fun. We've talked about online norms and appropriate ways to communicate with one another, so it's nice to have an authentic way to embed lessons on digital citizenship and online responsibility.

The one comment?  One of my students said she's going to beat me to graduating Storm.  My response? I hope she does. She's been on fire and it's great.

There are many things in education that are wearing me down.  Luckily, for the most part, my students aren't part of those problems.  They are the part of my job that I consistently love.

In an effort to focus on these happy moments with students more consistently, I found this adorable notebook at TJ Maxx:

I'm going to keep it at my desk and record those happy moments in the classroom.

What are you thankful for today?

Did you think that one through?

One of our back to school surprises from our administration was new electronic pencil sharpeners.

Secretly, I was thrilled.  My one last year was broken by a student (yes, he did it on purpose) and I really didn't want to buy another.

We were gifted with these:

However, while it looks nice in my classroom:

It's beyond impractical.

This is the plastic portion that holds pencil shavings:

That's it.  I can sharpen maybe four pencils before it's time to dump it and start over.  In an elementary classroom with three dozen students (yes, you read that correctly), this is just silly.  The capacity is ridiculously small.  

Bostitch, did you think the design through on this?  What teacher sharpens only four pencils at a time?!

I miss my old sharpener:

If you're upgrading classroom supplies, don't upgrade to this product.  The only upside I see is that it was a gift.


I'm having a sale!

From November 10-12, everything will be ten percent off in my {store}.  Thank you Veterans!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Thankful November, day 7: Teachers Pay Teachers

I've found some amazing freebies on this site. 

I've found some paid products on this site.

I've also put my {own products} on this site.

Three years ago, I took a risk.  I was bored over the summer and wondered what I should do with all these resources I'd spent hours making.  After much deliberation, I decided to start this blog and put resources up online.  

My first month, I made $5.

Yes, $5 whole dollars.  Considering I uploaded three dozen different projects and spent hours uploading products, I was disappointed.  I checked my work email daily and considered quitting.  It seemed like a lot of work with no reward.

But I stuck with it.

I kept uploading products that I'd made for my students.

I braced myself for feedback.  There were some particularly harsh reviews.  But there was also an overwhelming amount of appreciation, which is sometimes lacking in a teacher's life.

As of right now, I have a 3.9/4 rating with almost sixty followers and over 300 reviews.  My favorite part is knowing that what my students love is also being enjoyed in classrooms all around the country.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Thankful November, day 6: Family

I love my mom. I love my brother. I love my best friends.  The family that chooses to be in my life is amazing.  I have no hard feelings toward the "family" that is not in my life...their loss, not mine!  I have boundaries and it's perfectly healthy to set limits with people.

And for those moments that I start to have self-doubt...

There is Taylor Swift.