Monday, January 23, 2012

A Little at a Time

Whew! Glad that project is over. Now I can focus on what I am really supposed to be doing - Second Language Acquisition.

So, after listening to my favorite podcast, the Digi Show (a podcast about digital scrapbooking), I realized that in order to link my scrapbook pages to my blog, I should technically be crediting the designers of the templates, papers and elements that I use. I used to do this when I posted individual pages on my blog, but since linking up to Picasa slide show, I have done nothing to properly credit the designers.

This project took about three weeks of diligently work - a little bit every day. I have over 500 templates and over 500 digital kits, so it was a lot to go through and match up. I know I missed a few things, but after all this work, I now have a much better handle of my digital inventory. I didn't even know I owned certain things, so it was a nice surprise to come across various items that I thought were so beautiful and wonderful.

One more step in this project was to protect myself a little bit. I noticed that on Picasa, anyone can download a photo and do whatever they want with it. This might be okay for family and friends, but I would prefer that anyone asks my permission first, so I added a watermark layer to all of my layouts that go on the blog. The AJY2012 is there just to deter people from using or printing my layouts, but for family and friends, if anyone wants something, just ask and I'll email you or snail mail you a normal layout.

Now, on the left side of my blog, there are 5 slideshows. The most recent is the one called "Theme Albums", which features the Daily December album I did at the end of 2011. This is the only family-oriented album I did in 2011, so you won't see an Everyday Life Album for 2011.

Good news though! You will see one for 2012! I am working on Project Life, which is the system designed by Becky Higgins. Each month, I'll do a couple of lay outs relating to our daily life and daily routines, our thoughts, goal progress, and developments. So, I'll be adding a new slideshow called Everyday Life 2012 and it will feature these lay outs along with any random ones that I feel like doing!

Look, I don't know how it will be possible to fit this in, but really Project Life does not take a lot of work. It does, however, require an awareness of one's surroundings. Now, I have a reason to jot things down - new words that Luka says, funny questions that Ailin asks, progress of my goals, bad days, good days, basically the little stuff that makes up life.

Where do I jot things down? I found two ways to do this that seem to work for me. I downloaded an App to my iPhone called DayOne. DayOne should be syncing to my dropbox, but so far I cannot get it to work. For now though, DayOne allows me to type in what ever I want and it keeps track of the date and time, keeping the entries organized like a diary. It is not meant to be shared, so I can write whatever I want without worrying that it is too mundane, too conceited, too happy, or too depressing!

The second way is to open up the Journaling Card templates on the computer, save them in my drop box and have them ready to complete at any time. Last weekend, Ailin helped me fill them out by helping me recall various details of the last few weeks. Even Luka got in on the conversation by telling me all the words he knows, so I could pick out the new ones to add to the list.

One more feature of Project Life is to use ephemera (real stuff) from your life. I want to do the entire album digitally, so I had to find a way to do this properly. After much ado, I made some decisions about the types of things I want to save, and these things must be scannable. I keep a large ziploc bag in the kitchen and I fill it with items that can be scanned later. Some examples of items that I saved recently: the report of my weight/measurement for my first visit to the gym, a to-do list, a cool clothing tag, a recipe, and a menu from a new cafe in our neighborhood. On the 15th of January, I scanned all the items I had so far so that it wouldn't be overwhelming at the end of the month.

The photos - well, each time I upload photos to the computer, I choose a few representative ones and drop them into my Project Life folder.

Here is the key to getting stuff done though: I keep all Project Life-related stuff in my Dropbox folder so I can work on it from my laptop or from my desktop computer, anytime, anywhere.

Hopefully, at the end of the month, I can easily pull everything together into two double lay outs and that will be it!

A little at a time. That's how to get stuff done.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My One Little Word: Shine

Last year, my word was LEARN, and you can see many of the scrapbook lay outs in my slideshow (upper left corner). I explained a little about this experience in my last post. With the help of several good friends, I have chosen a new word for 2012. I wanted something positive and optimistic. Here are the lay outs for January.

If you are interested in this concept, Ali Edwards teaches this class at Big Picture Classes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bring it on 2012!

Before I dig into my next grad school class and my regular teaching schedule begins again, I wanted to post an update and some interesting tidbits about 2011. After my fifth grad school class finished on December 19, I have had the last three weeks to play catch-up in other areas of my life. I got a few extra days off of work as well, so that gave me an actual two-week vacation! How rare that is!

Here is what I did during my 2-week vacation at home:
  • Watched 15 DVDs during my morning "study" time and one movie at the theater.
  • Cuddled and played with my kids as much as possible.
  • Cleaned and re-organized several areas of our home.
  • Created several scrapbook pages (digitally).
  • Read 1 1/2 books. (Ha....I guess reading wasn't a priority this time.)
  • Updated our budget for 2012.
  • Roasted a kick-ass turkey for Xmas dinner.
  • Took the kids on a short trip to visit friends in Odawara.
    Work in 2011
    Last year was a toughie. I am hoping that 2012 will be a little easier and that I can focus on more important things. I was forced into supervising the Debate Team at my school, which I spent most of the year feeling very bitter about. Good things did come out of it though. I got to work with a great group of kids and then we made the trip to Kanazawa together. Kanazawa is a snowy area of Japan and I had never been there before, so I was excited about that. The Debate topic for the year was "Death Penalty", and let's just say it is a depressing topic that made me feel even more bitter and down in the dumps than I already was. I am glad it is over, and I hereby would like to announce that I will NOT, under any circumstances, allow myself to be forced into supervising the debate team for another year. I need to focus on other things this year.

    One Goal for 2012

    So, one thing I want to focus on is my health. It's difficult when you are working full time, parenting two small children, juggling grad school classes and cooking and cleaning daily, but I found that my health declined greatly this past year. Call it the Freshman 15, but it was crazy how much weight I gained just in one year of sitting on my butt studying my a*# off. I know it will continue unless I take some action soon. I hereby declare that I am joining Curves and will go after work at least twice a week. Since my contract says that I can leave work at 4:05 every day, I plan to actually DO that and take advantage of that extra time I have before going to pick up the kids. Curves is only a 30-minute workout, but it is a start and it will get me up and moving around more often. Fortunately, our local Curves is in the same department store building where I often study for my grad school classes AND it is next door to the grocery store. Ailin's English class is also in that building, so I might be able to fit in a workout while she is at her English class.

    Savings Plan
    Another issue we are having is saving money, specifically for these astronomically expensive Disney World trips to the USA! I mean, we don't actually go to Disney World, but I think that we have to spend twice the amount that a typical American family would spend on a trip to Disney World, so it feels like that's what we are saving up for every year. Last year, I opted not to travel to the USA because it is so expensive and I was way too busy and stressed to deal with it all. This gave us several extra months to save money for our next trip. That said, I am balking at the amount of money we have to sock away each month in order to make our next trip in July. (Then, Yusuke came along and insisted that he also go with tack on a car rental, his plane ticket and the pet hotel fees for Max. Oy vey.)

    Grad School Update
    So, how did grad school go this past year? It was difficult and demanding. I have never worked so hard in my life, but it was gratifying and true to my "word of the year" which was LEARN, I did a whole lot of learning. The great thing about studying while working is that you can immediately apply what you learn at work, and I saw a lot of positive changes in my teaching approaches and my classroom management. I did well in all of my classes, but it was never easy. Any time that I spent on grad school was at the expense of my children and my marriage. People often asked me how I could do it all. The truth is that I couldn't and I'm not going to lie about that. There were Saturdays and Sundays that I spent all day at the library or an internet cafe stooped over my computer while my husband and his mother took care of the kids. When I could, I would take a day off work in order to make progress on a paper. Most courses required two extensively-researched and well-documented was hell, I tell you. But, I am proud of my work, and with every course coming to a close, I know that I am closer to my degree.

    My grad school requires us to attend two residential sessions somewhere in Asia. This past year, it was a four-day session in South Korea. It was my second time to visit Korea, but I was scared out of my mind. I had never traveled anywhere in Asia by myself before, and I was nervous about getting lost or not being able to communicate. I know that's stupid. I am an English teacher, for god's sake! It turned out to be a simple trip where I met many of my classmates and three of my professors. I was so excited and happy to meet these people in person, and I felt like we already knew each other so well. I also met my soul sister...a woman who lives in Kamakura, not far from Tokyo. We got along really well, and we've been able to encourage each other and give each other advice since then. Aviva rocks!

    Ailin and Luka Update
    Now, to my first love - my kids. They have grown and thrived, despite my being so busy and irritated! I try to give them lots of cuddles and kisses, so they know how loved they are. Luka began talking about half way through the year, and he is a great communicator. I am not sure if others can understand him well, be we sure do. He uses gestures and facial expressions to along with his sentences, and it is just comical. Ailin is starting to learn to read and write, but it is a slow process. I know that if I was home with her more, I would be able to teach her, but that just isn't going to happen any time soon. She is now attending an English school once a week with a boy who recently returned from the USA. I like the English school because they study a variety of subjects - liberal arts, math, science and art. Each month, there is a topic, such as "Sensory Organs". I think she enjoys going, but Yusuke wants to enroll her in some kind of dance class as well. We'll see if that will pan out.

    And, now for my second love - scrapbooking. I thought I would have to put aside scrapbooking for the entire time I am in grad school, but seriously, I could NOT escape from my desire to do it. Of course, I didn't make pages on the scale that I was doing before, but I did two projects. One was Ali Edward's One Little Word which is an easy project that kept me on track with my new year's resolution. I only had to make one lay out a month, and it was quite enlightening. My favorite assignment was making a soundtrack of music that reaffirms our word in some way. I love my soundtrack. Then, we had to make a lay out based on our song choices by choosing some of the lyrics that really stands out to us. I love this lay out because it made me realize that the ONE THING I was learning about was how to be more independent. That is something I never would have realized without seeing all those song lyrics excerpts on one page. The second project I did was Ali Edward's December Daily. You guessed it, this is a 31-lay out project for the month of December. I did every day except for the 13th. I thought of this as a way to tie up 2011, seeing as I had not done any other lay outs throughout the year, and it was a way to celebrate the end of the Debate Season and my first year of grad school.

    I have updated my Scrapbook Pages slideshow on the upper left corner of my blog. Please click on that to see many of my pages from the last two years, including the two projects I did in 2011.

    So, what's on the agenda for 2012? Aside from no debate team and a promise to leave work at 4:05 every day, here is what Yusuke and I have in the works:
    Tokyo Disneyland for Ailin's birthday in February
    A Women's Education, Language and Learning (WELL) retreat in February (Adie and I are scheduled to present at it.)
    A trip to Miyagi (Yusuke's mother's hometown) in May
    A big trip to the USA in July and August (also cousin Ashleigh's wedding)
    A residential session for grad school some time in the fall

    Personally, I am hoping to control my weight better, or to at least not gain more, and to eat more vegetables. Ailin will be in her last year of kindergarten, so I hope she learns to read and write. Luka should be potty-trained some time in the next year...fingers crossed. Yusuke will be coming home earlier than before due to a cut-back movie schedule. Let's hope it stays that way...he could use the rest. And, I will keep on plugging away at grad school so I can tick off another five courses this year!

    I want to thank all the friends and family who have supported and encouraged me over the years. I only wish we all had more time to keep in touch, even with all the technology out there, it doesn't matter when the huge time difference still exists. Still, best of luck to all of you in 2012 and I hope your lives are filled with joy and love.