Sierra's View: November 2016

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Friday, November 11, 2016

On Setting Boundaries.

A few years ago, when I would hear that word, I used to cringe. The idea of having boundaries made me sick to my stomach. I was not good at setting, giving, or explaining my boundaries to other people. When I heard the word "boundaries", I, in my brain, imagined a fence, literally and figuratively fencing me in. Boundaries, in my opinion, meant that I had to a "brat" or that I was being selfish.

I have explained my love for Brene Brown on this blog many times. I have read her novel The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong numerous times. Brene is a researcher who studies the idea of vulnerability. That idea then transformed into boundaries, confidence, and relying on oneself to be successful in this life. I am so fascinated with her research and this idea of boundaries and vulnerability as well. I think the reason why I am so entranced with it is because those are both things that are extremely prevalent in my life.

My friend sent me this quote that she wrote awhile back about boundaries and relationships: "I hope you understand that when I'm trying to be your friend I'm sharing your pain by choice because we are all here together so no one should hurt alone. I will defend you, uplift you, be a helping hand, motivate, appreciate and validate your existence. I will nurture you. I will, also, despite hardship,  appeal any wrongdoings unto you. That is my vow, those are my words. This is my promise to you as the most sincerest of love and devotion to a person."

I believe that a good friend is one who helps someone else see their potential and his or her BEST SELF. If you truly love someone, I believe that it is imperative that you are forming a relationship where you are uplifting them and not consistently tearing them down. I have quite a few people in my life whom, it seems, subconsciously tear me down. I don' even think that these people are even aware that they make me feel self conscious or uncomfortable and not completely myself. And, ultimately, that's not their fault. It is my choice how I feel. Ultimately, I determine how I feel about myself, regardless of the actions or comments or thoughts from others. With that being said, setting boundaries will always come into play in any relationship: platonic or romantic. If a relationship is no longer for you, it is okay to walk away. It is okay to say, "This relationship is not fulfilling me in the way that is healthy."

However, you cannot, obviously, walk away from every relationship that hurts you. That is part of being human and part of growing. This is where setting boundaries comes into play.  Those relationships that you cherish and want to keep around are important. It is imperative that you set up boundaries in particular circumstances. And stick to them. Whatever those boundaries are, regarding bringing up certain topics (finance, body image, religion, politics, etc.), you need to clearly state them  to these people. And from there, you need to remind them, if so be it.

Boundaries are crucial for healthy relationships and this is something that I am working on. Recently, in a book club with some friends, we were discussing that difficult part of transforming from "Best Friends" to "Acquaintances." Obviously, this is something that is inevitable for all of us. There doesn't need to be any reason for this happening, often times it just happens. There are times when we cannot and will not have the same relationship with someone as we did a few years earlier, and that's okay. Distance, age, and life circumstances causes this to happen all of the time.

Allowing yourself the ability to distance yourself from others is imperative in the process of setting boundaries. It is okay to say no. It is okay to not be as close with past friends. It is okay to move on to the next phase of life. Setting those boundaries, saying no, will, ultimately allow you to open your heart to new friends, new hobbies, and new experiences. Setting boundaries is not a fence, it is a door, that allows you to free yourself of any guilt or pain that others may cause you.

I challenge each of you to set a boundary this week. It will empower you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hi Friends.

Via Instagram 
Hi friends. It's been awhile since I've just written, huh? 
Here is a selfie of me. It is hard for me to be in pictures because I hate my double chin and my stomach and my imperfections. I look at pictures of me in high school and I want to laugh out loud because I thought I was fat. HA. If only my stupid 16 year old brain only knew the struggles of PCOS I would have later on. Sometimes, however, it is so important for others to see your imperfections because it helps them connect with you. Sometimes it is important for ME to see them, so that I can remind myself of the good things about myself. Does that make sense? I don't know if it does. My brain is a little scattered right now. 

Life has been good. I wouldn't say it's amazing and I wouldn't say it is terrible. I just feel content. In my mind, that is a perfect way to be. Because I tend to feel things so deeply, I tend to have "Extreme" time periods--where things are terrible or wonderful, there doesn't seem to be any in between. (Which is one of my vices. I am working on it!). So the feeling of just being content makes me happy, if that makes sense.  
It has been abnormally warm here in November. Today, as I am typing this, it is 70 degrees! In Utah! And it's almost winter! I am not complaining though, if I'm being honest. I am a sun worshipper, so I will do anything to have warmth stay as long as possible. However, it is a little difficult to feel the "Thanksgiving and Christmas feeling" when its warm, I have found. How do you Californians and Arizonans (Arizonians?) do it? 
I have been working out like crazy. My BMI has gone done 5 points since last October, which is awesome, but my weight is not going down! It's frustrating, but I am trying to exercise to feel better. I am a better wife, teacher, friend and person when I exercise regularly, even if it's just a 30 minute walk. 
I am reading like crazy as well (what's new?). I have this terrible habit of avoiding things and reading books. It's not good. I spent all Saturday cleaning my house an going on a gorgeous hike though, so I'm not completely negligent to my responsibilities. Ha! I am currently reading the new Harry Potter, Bud, Not Buddy (sixth grade book for my students), and Big Little Lies. I can't wait to share with you my monthly reads at the end of November. 
I am learning to put myself out there and continue to make new friends. I tend to get stuck and want to keep the same friends that I always have, but I have learned that it doesn't necessarily work that. I love my college friends, but It's time to find other friends, new friends, to relate to and connect with as well. I am loving my monthly book club and Bunco group with other fun, intelligent, beautiful women who get my crazy sense of humor and deep thoughts! 
I am working on my scripture study and trying to really take to heart what the prophets and apostles of my church are saying. I am not a perfect Christian, but I am working on trusting my leaders and taking what they say with a positive outlook. This is hard for me because I am a stubborn one. 

I hope things are well for you. I know that I have not written in awhile, but it's mostly because I don't really know what to say. Come follow on Twitter and Instagram for more daily updates! 

What's new with you? 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Things That Make Me Happy.

via Instagram 
I absolutely love the quote that is posted above. I feel like it encompasses my view on life perfectly. More comfort does not bring more happiness. I have come to find that to be incredibly true. Right now, in my life, I feel like I am at a little bit of a crossroads. I am trying to figure out what the next step is going to be. A family, changing jobs, etc. I sort of, in a way, feel stuck. I don't want to go into too much detail because I'm still trying to figure out why I feel this way, this "stuck" feeling, but I think it's time for me to do a little soul searching to find out what needs to happen. 

With that being said, there are so many things in life my that make me happy right now. Because it is the month of Thanksgiving, I wanted to talk about all of the little (and big!) things that make me happy (I really need the gratitude bug right about now! Ha). 

-T Money. He just got a new job and is working part time and going to school full time. I love watching him do things that he loves and learning to "find his thing." He wants to do well and I am grateful for that. 
-My job. I love teaching sixth graders. I love all of their personalities, funny things that they say, and their insights into things. They are smarter than what they give themselves credit for, sometimes. 
-My adorable house. I cannot believe the amount of leaves that are falling on our house!!! We have so many gorgeous trees which is amazing for privacy and beauty, but the leaves in the Fall are absolutely terrible. We will spend 3 hours cleaning them up and literally one week later, our entire backyard is filled with leaves again. I'm avoiding it until it gets cold and then I'll just clean them all up before it snows. Ha. Even though home ownership is a ton of work, I am so grateful for my little home and my backyard and that I have a space that is mine! 
-Saylor the pup, of course. She's the best doggy. Even if she does need a bath right now. 
-The crisp Fall air. Even though it's hot right now, I love the crisp Fall mornings, where it's not too cold to do anything, but it has that chill in the air. 
-Ice Cold Dr. Pepper. Duh. That's all I have to say about that. 
-Photography and taking gorgeous photos of nature!!! 
-the gym (so I can get strong and skinny! haha). 
-My amazing bed. 
-When my student brings me cups of just plain pebbled ice because he knows I love it. 
-Laughing so hard playing cards with friends the other night that I *literally* almost peed my pants. 
-Sunday naps 
-New downloaded music. 
-Well written books. 
-Crunchy fall leaves. 

What are some of your favorite things? 

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Benefits of the Common Core (!!!).

via Instagram 

Common Core. Some people hear this phrase and instantly freak out.  Before you have a heart attack, I wanted to explain my input from a sixth grade teacher's mindset. I understand that others disagree with this and I appreciate thoughtful responses, but, just as I teach my sixth graders, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. Or, in this case, if you cannot state your opinion or thoughts respectfully, than please don't comment. I think some adults need to learn this on social media, don't you think? ;)

The other night, I was reading a post on Facebook (I should know not to do this during the election! Haha) about how Hillary Clinton is for the Common Core so that makes her evil. I am not here to talk politics (although, I so want to, I won't. It just breaks my heart to see that this is where we are as a country with our leaders....), but I don't think people really understand the common core.  Now, I realize that the common core has some flaws. I will be the first one to admit that. However, with that being said, I have seen, over my five years of teaching, some wonderful benefits and positive aspects of it. I have seen positive changes particularly in the enhancement of critical thinking skills in my students, the benefit of students in every grade learning the same thing across the nation, and the opportunity for students' to challenge themselves and grow academically.

First, the common core is beneficial to students because it allows them to work on their critical thinking skills. One of the biggest struggles that I have seen in my classroom is the lack of critical thinking from my students. In our society, we have a tendency to shut down when things aren't given to us immediately. Some people have a sense of entitlement of having things here and now (which I am guilty of). These students are being bombarded with technology. They are overtaken with instant gratification. They want things given to them now and they don't want to figure things out on their own. The other day I had a sixth grader (a 12 year old!!!!) come up to me and say, "Uh, I broke my pencil." I looked at her and simply said, "Okay, I want you to problem solve. Where do we go for a new pencil? What do we do in this situation?" I wanted her to learn to problem solve on her own. I wanted her to learn how to critically think. In the past, we have taught our kids in just plain simple answers (2+2=4).We haven't taught them to THINK. We need to teach our children to think and to process. The common core takes a problem and expects the students to be able to explain it further then just a simple '4'. It asks them, "HOW did you figure that out?" When you are able to explain WHY you are doing something, then you are able to truly master it. Instead of a simple 2 + 2, it gives you real, applicable circumstances in which you would use that. For example, it will say: "You have two apples, you need two many total apples do you need?"  Isn't that more beneficial to the students? Our students are being overtaken with everything being handed to them instantly. They don't want to think about anything. They want the internet to work right away, they want the answer instantly, they want someone else to solve their problems. Aren't we, as adults, guilty of this too? The common core allows those critical thinking skills to still be a part of this "Instant Gratification" world that we live in.

Second, the common core allows students to learn the same thing across the entire country, no matter what grade they are in. I have 9 new students in my class this year (Where I teach is a growing area). NINE. That is such a large number. Because of that large number, I have had to try to figure out what these students know and what they don't know. Because of the common core, I know that they should have learned a specific thing in fifth grade, whatever state they were in. I will give you two examples of this. I have a new student, let's say, from Georgia. He came to me with an understanding of multiplying and adding fractions, which is exactly what he should know. He was ready to learn what was in sixth grade, even though he just moved here. I have another student, let's say he's from Iowa. I'm not entirely sure what happened, but he has come to me not knowing much about adding, multiplying and subtracting fractions in fifth grade. At all. So, I know, his fifth grade teacher didn't help him master this concept. I am not blaming the teacher in this circumstance, but I am showing that these two examples help us see that having the same common core, and having teacher's know the core, helps these students as they progress through the grades, no matter where they are at throughout the country.

Third, the common core allows for a higher level of standards in these students. I have had, this year and in years past, students come to me in sixth grade without knowing their multiplication tables. This makes it difficult for them to master sixth grade math material. The common core material is, actually, very similar to the material in the past. Most of the differences with the new common core its that it challenges the students to THINK about they are doing, as opposed to just solving the problem blank. The common core material is very similar to years past, with an expansion on the WHY,which is what my students need. The common core allows for students to, in a way, "raise the bar." They are expected to be able to know more material and challenge themselves in positive ways academically. Isn't that something that parents want? Don't they want their students to succeed academically?

I have heard parents claim that their child is coming home crying because the work is too hard or too challenging. I get that. But there could be many factors affecting that. It could be the way that the teacher is teaching it. Perhaps the teacher is not understanding what the core is saying, or the teacher is not fully teaching the concept. I think it is important to remember that teachers are human ;). I am not a perfect human and definitely not a perfect teacher. I am guilty of this.  Also, it could, perhaps, simply be the child. That particular child could struggle without the common core being a part of the equation (no pun intended).  It could be the child that would struggle with the topic regardless of the core, it could be the teacher, or it could be lack of skills that your child possesses. It's not JUST the common core.

I think part of the reason why people are so against the common core is because it's new and different, which scares a lot of people. Parents tend to be afraid of 'new' --a new teacher, a new principal, etc. But, as the common core has progressed and teachers are starting to understand the material more, I think that it has shown a higher level of thinking in the children.

Also, I believe that it is important to remember that it could specifically be teachers coming about it could be wrong. The books they are choosing is NOT the common core. There are plenty of scholarly, well written, good texts that the child can read. That is a teacher flaw, not a common core flaw.

Yes, I understand that there are parts about the common core that are not perfect. I'll be the first one to admit that. I have experience with it...I'm TEACHING it. But, I do think that maybe instead of just sitting there and bashing it, it is beneficial to remember that so many of these skills are helping the students' critical thinking skills, level of ability, and overall understanding of the material.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this. I have a biased, different opinion being a teacher. These are just some of the things that I have noticed. What are your thoughts on the common core? What parts about it do you love? If you struggle with it, why? Are there certain aspects that you just personally disagree with? I am geniunely interested.

Remember, there are always two sides in an argument. Comment away! But, please, be kind :) 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


via Instagram 

October books were either super amazing or incredibly boring. Yikes. I had a combination of lots of different types of books. Are you ready for this?

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand // Helen Simonson 

Genre: Realistic Fiction 

Rating: 1/5 stars (see more on GoodReads)

Summary: Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

My thoughts: Uh, I'm not entirely sure where to begin with this. We read this book for book club this month and I stopped after chapter five (and it was difficult for me to get to chapter five!). Yikes. The author was so incredibly descriptive that it was too much description. I kept wanting this book to get better, but, alas, it did not and I had to put it down. That is really saying something, because I really have to not like a book in order for me to just give up on it. But, as I have learned, life is too short to read books that you don't like. Other members of the book club that it was endearing and I could see that. Personally, I found Major incredibly negative and boring. I also found the author's writing to be way too detailed. You know those times in English class when your teacher told you to erase out a million "extra details?" That's what I wanted to do to this novel. Like, I'm pretty sure we don't need a two page description on Major's tea. Ugh. Any who, yes, so boring. I love British culture--I am a huge fan of Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice; anything old English, but I could not get into this book. My book club mentioned that it did get better in the last 75 pages, but that is entirely too much work for a reader to put in in order to get to the "exciting part." Nope. Blah. 1 star.

Note: I could see this being an adorable movie or mini series on Netflix. I am all about that Old English television. One of those stories that would be good Sunday TV...boring Sunday reading, though. 

Favorite Quote from the book: "You are a wise man, Major, and I will consider your advice with great care—and humility." He finished his tea and rose from the table to go to his room. "But I must ask you, do you really understand what it means to be in love with an unsuitable woman?" 

"My dear boy," said the Major. "Is there really any other kind?"

After You // Jojo Moyes 

Genre: Realistic Fiction 

Rating: 2/5 stars (see more on GoodReads)

Summary: For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await. 

My thoughts: Let's just start with my two least favorite books of the month. I loved "Me Before You." Even though I didn't necessarily agree with the ending of the movie and the novel, I loved the writing and the story. This was supposed to be a sequel to it, but like many sequels, I was nervous to read it. I had an incredibly hard time finishing this book. I felt as if the author was trying way too hard to make a story out of nothing. The story was raunchy and read like fan fiction, which I do not like enjoy. I did not enjoy Louisa in this novel at all...I felt like although she was trying to deal with the death of Will, it was extreme and uncalled for in many regards. Very disappointed. The story itself was okay, but definitely nowhere near the first novel. 

Favorite Quote from the book: “You never know what will happen when you fall from a great height.”

More Than the Tattooed Mormon// Al Caraway 

Genre: Biography 

Rating: 5/5 stars (see more on GoodReads)

Summary: Being baptized and following the Lord has made Al's life harder than it ever was before. She endured criticism from friends and family for becoming a Mormon. She faced harsh judgments from Church members for her appearance. She gave up everything and felt more alone than she ever had in her life. All because she chose God. Now she shares an up-close look at how trusting God has led her to places she never expected. As a blogger, YouTuber, and award-winning public speaker, her message has reached millions. Sharing her love of the Savior, Al goes beyond her own conversion and encourages readers to choose God above anything else. This uplifting book inspires readers to build a true relationship with the Lord that will bring them real, lasting happiness.

My thoughts: Although the writing in this was not incredibly academic or brilliant, Al has a way of saying things that completely speaks to my heart. I am normally incredibly cynical about novels like this because I feel like these types of novels aren't authentic, but I did not feel this way while reading. I truly enjoyed reading about her conversion story and the experiences that she has had throughout her life. Some of the aspects of the LDS gospel that she talked about were things that I definitely needed to hear (or read). Although the writing felt more like a blog post and it was a little sporadic, it didn't seem to matter, in my opinion. She was writing things that were insightful and close to my heart. I was moved by many of the things that she had to say, and if there is anyone who is struggling with their faith in the LDS gospel, this is one book that you need to read. I follow Al all over social media and I loved to hear her experience. This autobiography helped me understand and love her more. 

I encourage everyone to read this, Mormon or not. She has great insights to the hardships (and wonderful aspects!) of being LDS-- and many aspects taught and believed in the church. Some thoughts regarding this novel will be on my blog later, but these are my thoughts on being offended. I can't stop tweeting this book!
Anytime you feel offended by something someone else says or does, ask yourself: "Is this worth giving up my eternal salvation?" YOU CHOOSE to be offended. You choose who you want to follow. Don't let anything get in the way of your relationship with Heavenly Father. As she states, "God is for us, so it doesn't matter who is against us."

Great read and super easy. Read it one night (I couldn't put it down!)

Favorite Quote from the book: "Is this worth giving up my eternal salvation?" YOU CHOOSE to be offended. You choose who you want to follow. Don't let anything get in the way of your relationship with Heavenly Father. As she states, "God is for us, so it doesn't matter who is against us."

Ready Player One// Ernest Cline  

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy 

Rating: 5/5 stars (see more on GoodReads)

Summary: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

My thoughts: I don't know where to begin with this book!! I was entranced with it from the very beginning. This book is very well written, captivating, and exciting. I felt like I was a part of the story and wanted to figure out the game myself. The novel was hilarious--the main character is, especially. It was a novel that I was not expecting to love, but I absolutely LOVED it. Great book for all people to read. Although it has some inappropriate material and swearing, a book that seriously most people would love. 

Favorite Quote from the book: “Whenever I saw the sun, I reminded myself that I was looking at a star. One of over a hundred billion in our galaxy. A galaxy that was just one of billions of other galaxies in the observable universe. This helped me keep things in perspective.” 

Increase in Learning // David Bednar

Genre: Nonfiction/Self Help/Religious

Rating: 4/5 stars (see more on GoodReads)

Summary: The overarching purpose of Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness is to provide His spirit children with opportunities to learn,” writes Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. But how can we best learn the things we need to know and do? Elder Bednar emphasizes concepts, patterns, and processes that invite each of us to act and learn fundamental truths for ourselves. Declaring that answers to our questions always are found in the doctrines and principles of the restored gospel, he provides a framework in this book for learning those doctrines and understanding with our hearts.

My thoughts: This book was not one that was a quick read for me. If you know Elder Bednar, the LDS apostle, then you know that he is very doctrine-minded, which, I am not. I loved to read his thoughts on how to learn and process the information in the scriptures. This was a novel that I read over the course of a few months because I could only handle a few pages at a time, due to its intense doctrine and gospel-oriented material. Alas, Bender's thoughts and words were fantastic and incredibly helpful as I continue to grow in my studying and learning when it comes to Gospel topics. Great book.

Favorite Quote from the book: “Each and every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bears a personal responsibility to learn and live the truths of the Savior's restored gospel and to receive by proper authority the ordinances of salvation. We should not expect the Church as an organization to teach or tell us all of the things we need to know and do to become devoted disciples and endure valiantly to the end (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:29). Rather, our individual responsibility is to learn what we should learn, to live as we know we should live, and to become what the Master would have us become. . . .

The Homework Myth // Alfie Kohn

Genre: Nonfiction 

Rating: 4/5 stars (see more on GoodReads)

Summary:  In The Homework Myth, nationally known educator and parenting expert Alfie Kohn systematically examines the usual defenses of homework--that it promotes higher achievement, "reinforces" learning, and teaches study skills and responsibility. None of these assumptions, he shows, actually passes the test of research, logic, or experience. So why do we continue to administer this modern cod liver oil--or even demand a larger dose? Kohn's incisive analysis reveals how a mistrust of children, a set of misconceptions about learning, and a misguided focus on competitiveness have all left our kids with less free time and our families with more conflict. Pointing to parents who have fought back--and schools that have proved educational excellence is possible without homework--Kohn shows how we can rethink what happens during and after school in order to rescue our families and our children's love of learning.

My thoughts: There is a lot of controversy regarding homework, especially in the teaching world. I am a teacher who does not believe in bombarding my students with homework. I do think that it is important for them to work on material a few hours later and to spend time going over math, reading and spelling. However, I do not believe that it is imperative for a child to succeed in school because they do their homework. I know that not all teachers agree with this mindset, but I think its important for me to remember WHY I am giving homework and this book helped reiterate that with me. I loved the thoughts of pushing your students while int he class and going over material a few hours later WHILE in the classroom. (example: do math at 9, then do a review at 3 before they go home!). There were few ideas that were a little "liberal" for me, but I loved this idea that he talks about regarding not wasting your students' time. Do not give homework JUST TO GIVE HOMEWORK. But if you are going to give homework, give a small amount and do not overburden the child. 

Favorite Quote from the book: 
“But as I mastered the material, homework ceased to be necessary. A no homework policy is a challenge to me," he adds. "I am forced to create lessons that are so good no further drilling is required when the lessons are completed.” 

What books did you read in the month of October? Have you read any of these? What did you think? I would love your thoughts!