Use Your Noodles!

By: Shannon Shull

Who knew those good ole cheap pool noodles had so many uses? Upon using pool noodles as part of our Ghostbusters Proton Packs for my big 80s show this past school year, it came to my attention that these pool noodles can be used for TONS of things! Some uses are for pure fun, some are incredibly handy and some provide great safety pool noodlesmeasures. No need to go spend a fortune on anything fancy, check out the opportunities a 99-cent pool noodle can provide for you and your family! Below is just a quick list I pounded out to get ya brainstorming…

  • Tub toys
  • Pool throne
  • Toilet cushion
  • Hanger cushions, (no creases!)
  • Boot holder-uppers
  • Trampoline coil protectors
  • Quilt storage holders
  • Paint brush holders
  • Light sabers
  • Race car tracks
  • Pool serving dish
  • Pool cup holders
  • Cord holders
  • Jewelry holders
  • Garland
  • Rockets
  • Sword protectors
  • Wreaths
  • Child proofing

You can search Google for images of “pool noodle uses” and get a wealth of ideas. And don’t even get me started on the enormous possibilities provided on Pinterest! Below are just two links to some cool info on pool noodle usage. The possibilities are endless! So get creative, save money and enjoy the benefits of a good ole, cheap pool toy.

https://www.yahoo.com/makers/those-long-bright-and-foamy-noodles-that-spend-123675246885.html

http://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/Uses-Pool-Noodles-35666149#photo-35666167

Reading Makes You Smarter

By: Shannon Shull

Reading makes you smarter. Yep, it does. It’s a proven fact that the more you read, the smarter you become. You open your mind, broaden your vocabulary, use your imagination…in a nutshell, you increase your “smarts” the more you read.

Reading

And here’s the eye opener – most people equate “reading” with actually reading novels, so some people will respond, “I don’t read!” Nowadays every adult reads, whether a newspaper, a magazine, or articles on their phone. Just because you’re not reading an actual book of fiction or nonfiction, does not mean you’re not reading.

I dare you to keep a journal of each and every thing you have to actually read for one day. Most people will give up writing anything down after a while because the truth is, reading is a part of our daily lives. Think about it; whether it’s road signs, advertisements, documents, recipes, manuals, bills, emails, menus ….I could go on and on. Now think about your life if you could not read. If you could not process any of the words constantly placed in front of you, life would be incredibly difficult. One could only imagine how heartbreaking this could be for an individual.

Reading

I recently had the pleasure of taking a graduate course titled, “Reaching Readers,” taught by a brilliant and beautiful woman, Ms. Kayce Cook MacLeod. Her enthusiasm and knowledge on the subject matter was proof that she not only cared, but has a true passion for education and teaching. It was such a pleasure to learn with her! Our required reading for the course was a book called, When Kids Can’t Read by Kylene Beers. This was a required graduate course that I had to take and I admit, at first I was dreading having to go to school after I’d just finished up teaching a full school year!

I was very pleasantly surprised to not only learn an enormous amount of valuable information, but also to be inspired. I admit, I was not looking forward to having to read what I thought would be a boring textbook for yet another required course. Boy was I surprised – and happily so! Dr. Beers is an incredible teacher who poured her heart into writing this book, sharing her experiences and helping to empower all who read her words. This book is a testament to years of realizations, applying strategies, reaching readers, and teaching a priceless tool required for a successful life. Reading is no simple task and each individual learns, reads, and comprehends differently. And that is ok! We all learn in our own unique ways. What might be a challenge for one individual may come easily for another, and vice versa. It’s a fascinating issue and so incredibly important.

Reading

As good teachers, we must create opportunities for success and recognition. One of my acting mentors taught me that ‘Acting is Listening,’ always reminding me that in order to genuinely react and BE a character, you must listen. The same rule applies for teaching. We cannot help others without listening to them. We must listen so that we can truly discover our students’ learning needs. I could go on and on about this subject but the point I want to make with this blog entry of mine is the importance of reading. The more time we spend reading, the more words we learn, the more we broaden our imaginations and minds, and thus, the more we increase our intelligence. In a nutshell, reading is GOOD for us!

I had many favorite quotes from Dr. Beers’ book. I literally marked that book all up as I got inspired and her words touched me in some way. But two of my favorite quotes include,

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for one day; if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime!”

We need to help create generations of readers! And in order to do that we must model good reading behavior and show others how to do it.

That brings me to another of my favorite quotes from Dr. Beers’ book,

“Education is not like a Nike commercial! We must show students HOW to do it.”

Reading

I’m so thankful that my own children love to read. I’m thankful that their father is an advocate for reading and has helped to instill in them a passion and appreciation for reading. I’m thankful that as parents, we both provide opportunities and inspiration that encourage our children to read, use their imaginations and actually develop a love for reading. I’m thankful that my fiancé loves to read and that we all just flat out enjoy the luxury of being advanced readers.

If you’re a teacher, I encourage you to add When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do to your must-read book list. I guarantee it will make you a better teacher on so many levels! And if you’re not in any capacity to teach someone, I’d like for you to take away the utter importance and value of reading. It is a priceless art, a tool, a necessity for success in life. And I challenge you to read more! Let your minds soak in words. Let text speak to you. Let those words broaden your mind and, in some beautiful cases, activate your imagination and inspire you!

Saying Goodbye

By: Shannon Shull

I experienced a bittersweet week recently in which I had to say goodbye to my students from this past school year and pack up my entire classroom. The middle school that I have the honor of teaching at is splitting into two schools – an intermediate school and a new middle school. I get to move my drama department to the new middle school. In preparation for this big move, I had to pack up literally everything.

my empty classroom

My empty classroom

es, I admit, my Thor poster had to stay up until I was ready to walk out the door that final time! ;-)

Yes, I admit, my Thor poster had to stay up until I was ready to walk out the door that final time! 😉

As I taped up the final box and checked out with administration, I took a moment to reflect. As I gazed upon the small, emptied space, I thought about all the incredible experiences I have witnessed and been a part of over the past two school years. Trials and tribulations galore! If the walls could whisper, I’d hope they’d say there was once a woman here that accomplished great things for and with her students. A woman who made big sacrifices to be an outstanding teacher of Drama.

A student note.

A student note.

Student notes

Student notes

It’s not until the room is quiet that some teachers will realize how much they will actually miss their students. Though we all desperately need a much-deserved break, there’s still a part of us that will miss some of our precious students. Only the day before, on the last day of school, my classroom was packed with energetic students singing and dancing, celebrating the end of a long school year. My honors students filled my room and as the last afternoon announcements of the school year ended, they literally recreated a scene from High School Musical II, in which they chanted “Summer, Summer, Summer…!” and then broke out into the song “Summertime” from the movie. What fun! And what a glorious, super-fun exit! Tearful hugs and best wishes for all things created a sweet final goodbye.

Precious Note from one of my 8th Graders

Precious Note from one of my 8th Graders

My wish is that we all have a productive, restful, and fun summer that reinvigorates us all! And I know this lady here will be happy to see some of those precious, smiling faces next school year who appreciated and adored their teacher so much!

Success in Entertainment

By: Shannon Shull

“I love watching school drama performances. I have seen many over the years at middle schools and high schools from many different districts. The drama performance from Friday was by far the best performance I have ever seen. It was so much fun to watch the performance, it was very creative, and I just didn’t want it to end. I was so proud of the students, but really impressed with how amazing this production was. I doubt any program in the state could compare.” 

It’s my second year of teaching in the public school arena and I somehow survived yet another enormous show. I took on the task of creating something truly entertaining while providing my 70 honors students with a fun learning experience. I about lost my sanity in the process, but hey, I guess any true, dedicated artist sacrifices their body and a level of sanity in order to create amazing things!

honors drama show

The quote above came from a respected fellow teacher that recently moved to our district. I was so pleasantly surprised to have him send this email not only to me, but to the principal of the school where I teach. Comments like these mean the world to me. Besides the standing ovation of an audience applauding your work, hearing the students brag about their incredible experience and listening to their parents thank you for all of your hard work, well…that certainly helps make the 70-hour work weeks leading up to the show a little easier to forgive and forget! And at the end of the show, upon completing all the bows of my young stars, a student proceeded to take the microphone from me and share lovely words about their teacher. Several of them passed the microphone around and spoke about how grateful they were for me – one even declaring that she was thankful that I taught her to embrace her weirdness and be confident in her talents. I cried as I felt validation for the hard work I’ve dedicated to teaching these kids!

Entertainment success

And the icing on the cake for me was the truly priceless gift of having my own children in the audience supporting me and seeing the fruits of my labor. Though I’m an artist and a teacher, I am a mother first and having my precious ones present to support me, well, let’s just say it helped to complete the moment. My babies know that I work incredibly hard on my shows and they adore my students, so it was important that they be able to see the finished product. Not to mention, I knew that this would be a show that they would actually like! This recent show was all about the 1980s and featured all sorts of 80s fun that is relatable to all ages. The thought of my own children not being able to come to my show was heartbreaking. My daughter had a make-up soccer game that threatened to keep her away. This was not easy on me, to say the least. Needless to say, when I saw my parents bring both my babies in before the show started, I broke down crying. It was a joyful cry at the sight of them, knowing my angels would be there to share this big moment with me!

Me and my girl, Mina

The greatest compliments I received all night, that truly made my heart swell, came after the show, when I asked my son what he thought of the show. My son, who is incredibly hard to please and typically has no desire to see any live show of any sort, responded with total enthusiasm. “It was the best show ever!!!!” And on the car ride home, my daughter said to me, “Mama, it was totally worth it.” I responded, asking her what was totally worth it? She said, “Missing my soccer game to come to your awesome show!”

Yep, gold…absolute stars and pixie dust… treasures. That was indeed the icing on the cake that took blood, sweat and lots of tears to create! It’s the little things, ya’ll. Entertainment success achieved. 🙂

Do Something

By: Shannon Shull

Well, this amazing society of women I belong to has managed to do it again! The Batesburg-Leesville Women’s Society in South Carolina hosted a lovely event that not only helped raise funds for two amazing organizations, The Epworth Children’s Home and Sistercare, they also inspired and empowered women with a great message. Under Mrs. Lois Black’s direction, they hosted a lovely PJs and Pearls event. Ladies of all ages – daughters, granddaughters, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, dear friends and colleagues, you name it – enjoyed incredible food, fellowship and entertainment, all the while raising money and awareness for two important causes and enjoying the comfort of getting to wear their pjs!

Batesburg-Leesville Women’s Society

I had the honor and privilege of performing at the event, singing a slower version of Sia’s song, “Chandelier,” accompanied by my amazing mother, Robin Vaughan Parler on keyboard, my fabulous colleague, Amy Reynolds, on violin, one of her lovely orchestra students, Riley Pratt, on cello and one of my brilliant honors drama students, McKenna Pratt, dancing. It was a touching piece that shed light on physical and emotional abuse. I also had the honor of presenting a very inspirational video that was edited by my awesome sister, Chelsea Vaughan Parler.

Batesburg-Leesville Women’s Society

All of our hard work paid off and I can only hope that the audience received our message of inspiration and empowerment! I often ask myself why I tend to overwhelm myself with work and activities that keep me so busy, but it’s events like these that remind me of the importance of getting involved, doing something, and sharing my talents.

Batesburg-Leesville Women’s Society

I’ve chosen to share the inspirational video with you Every Woman Blog readers because I know you all will hear the message, be inspired and hopefully get out there and do something! 🙂

Please do watch the video, you won’t regret it!

True Wealth…

By: Shannon Shull

I am rich. Not necessarily with money, that darn stuff that tortures us all and seems to be required to survive. No, I am rich with friendship and love. I have an incredible wealth of friends and loved ones that are here for me through thick and thin, who love me unconditionally, and care for me with all my imperfections.

best friends

When I really sit back and allow myself to think about the number of dear friends that I could call at any moment and would be there for me with an open heart, willing ears and a shoulder to cry on….whew… my heart truly swells. These friends I have do not judge me. They know that together we are human and I too will not judge them. These precious ones in my life know that the love and support is mutual.

What an incredible blessing! I mean really – to have the gift of true friendship is a priceless treasure.

Over the course of our lives, we make friends left and right, on different levels, of course, and in different circumstances. Some friends come and go due to our complicated lives getting in the way… and that’s ok. Though they may have moved on or you’ve lost touch for whatever reason, the memories will last and they’ll always have a special place in your heart.

There is a quote by Elisabeth Foley that states, “the most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” These are the friends, who best friendsfor whatever reason, you just never lose touch with, because no matter how far apart you live from one another or what opposite directions your lives may take you, you still have a bond that is so strong that no time, distance, nor circumstances can interrupt the bond that you have. Months can go by without contact and you get together and fall right into a beautiful, comfortable whirlpool of true friendship that soothes the soul, warms your heart and puts pep into your step. These are the friends that lift you up, allow you to open up, and engage in that deeper act of friendship that embodies the definition.

The Urban Dictionary states, “friendship is actually a form of love, and without such a form of love as friendship our societies would be unbearably dull and alienated from one another.” Don’t you know it!?! Can you imagine your world without friendships and without those key friends in your life who help you hold on to your sanity? I don’t want to dare imagine my life without my most precious, dear friends who are truly priceless treasures in my life.

When this blog entry posts, I will be celebrating one of my very best friend’s 40th birthday. She will have joined me in the ranks of middle age and we plan to not only celebrate turning 40 together, but we also will celebrate our friendship and the fact that it has withstood the test of time! We’ve been best friends since the 1st grade. Considering we’re entering our 40s, that’s an incredibly long time! I won’t go into all the ups and downs we’ve survived together, our many accomplishments, and our precious moments, but I will say best friendsthat we have an indescribable bond that truly upholds the definition of friendship.

 

They say you can always tell when two people are best friends because they are having more fun than it makes sense for them to be having. That is the case with my BFF. We are Shannon & Tammy…Salt & Pepper…Double Trouble…Liz & Tam…we are best friends. And I have no doubt that our friendship will last forever.

So here’s to the beauty and gift of friendships! Treasure all the friendships you have. I know I am ever thankful for them all, because they indeed make you a wealthy person. 🙂

Oh Stop It! Not 40! Seriously???

By: Shannon Shull

Ok, so I admit it, when people say to me, “Oh stop! You are not turning 40! Seriously!?” well, I secretively like it, even if they are totally faking their sweet shock. Of course, it’s only after I’ve broken in and divulged the information to some endearing person that can relate, that I ever tell anyone my age.

Sssssshhhhhhhh!!!! Don't tell anyone

Sssssshhhhhhhh!!!! Don’t tell anyone

I quite enjoy not letting anyone know my real age. In fact, I refuse to tell my students how old I am. Kids can be brutally honest, so when my students discover that I have kids of my own and make claims about how they can’t believe I have an 11 and 9 year old, then proceed to guess my age in the 20s or early 30 range, well, let’s just say I prefer to keep their thoughts thinking just that! Suits me fine, I’m won’t lie about that.

So why is that? Why am I literally dreading turning 40?!? Ugh… I get a bad taste in my mouth when I even think about it. Sad, I know. It’s just that I eternally think of myself as a young person. I can’t help it. And now the harsh reality of life is smashing a pie in my face and it’s not funny. How can I seriously be entering my 40s? I mean, I still think of my own mother as being in her 30s!

My Mama & Lil Shannon - Oh to just be a child again!

My Mama & Lil Shannon. Oh to just be a child again!

It’s been an interesting adventure witnessing other friends turn 40. Everyone seems to have a different take on some level. Some, like me, dread it. And, some even go so far as to refuse to talk about or even dare celebrate it. Others go all out and throw down, rockin’ the town with their besties. Some take it very seriously and torture their bodies so that they can enter their 40s with a bod they can also celebrate – we’re talking botox, liposuction, harsh diets and exercise, the whole shebang. And then some let the day pass like “it ain’t no big thang,” it’s just another birthday to them.

…insert deep breath accompanied by a dramatic moan…

I’m thinking I may be a combination of all these different takes. If money was of no concern, I would go full out with body improvements and take myself on some fabulous trip in which I’d do nothing but eat, drink and live up every moment celebrating my grand entrance into the 40s. But alas, my busy schedule will not allow for that. Not to mention, anyone who has an inkling of how us teachers get paid for all our hard work… well, you get my drift. So no fanciness for me, but I do have all the things that money can’t buy!! And that, my friends, is what makes life worth living! All these beautiful things in my life, for which I am ever thankful, will make entering my 40s not-so-bad after all.

I came across this fabulous article written by a lady who has quickly become one of my favorite writers. Christina Vuleta has a fantastic article on the Huffington Post called, “15 Things to Love About Turning 40.” I’m really thankful I came across this article. Let’s just say I needed to read these wise words of hers at this time in my life! I want to share some of the incredible points that she brings to our attention because, well, they’re pretty priceless.

Some things to love and embrace about turning 40…

“You realize that all those people you think are so confident and lead perfect lives… are just as screwed up as everyone else. 

You learn that it’s a waste of time comparing the worst of yourself (your insecurities and flaws) with the best of others (their Facebook profile, family pic, etc.). And on top of it all you realize your flaws may just be assets.”

You know it’s true! People put their best on Facebook and all those other social media sites. Can’t blame them and I’m not slamming anyone, but it’s certainly not fair to compare ourselves to others, ever, because the truth is, we all have our issues! No one is perfect and if they claim to be, de-friend them and RUN – cause they’re not living in reality.

“You ask.
You know your worth and you aren’t afraid to ask for it. You realize that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” and there really is nothing to lose.”

I can relate to this one because I have certainly learned by this age that we might as well reach out for what we want, reach for those dreams and take chances, because gosh, what in the world do we have to lose!?! The worst we can be told is NO. Better to have tried than to regret not trying.  

“You get your silly on again.
You learn not to take yourself too seriously. You really do dance like no one is watching. You are like a teenager again… but less loud. It’s not for show. It’s for smiles.”

I LOVE this one. Get your silly on! For smiles, NOT FOR SHOW. Amen to that, heh!? The more I’ve learned to just let go and have fun, the more I benefit from it in so many ways. There’s no need to take everything so seriously. If only everyone could just loosen up, the world would be a much better place. 🙂

“You have resilience.
Nothing is the end of the world. You have been through enough downs to know there eventually is an up. Life is long. Time heals. So just give yourself time… and accept your sadness. It’s part of life.”

Oh do these words ever warm my heart. “Life is long. Time heals. Give yourself time and accept your sadness. It’s part of life.” Man, that’s beautiful.

“You respect yourself.
Meaning you can see when someone else isn’t respecting you and value yourself enough to form an escape plan. Get a mantra. Remind yourself daily of your worth.”

Whoa, now that one is deep and so incredibly true. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. But that mantra worked and I do try to remind myself daily of my worth.

“You are more beautiful.
Any 40-something woman who decides to eat well and find one exercise they like to do, looks better than they did at 20. Yes, you may lose the baby fat or spring, but there is beauty in living a full life. You see yourself more kindly. You feel at home in your body, and it shows.”

Oh what a lovely one to wrap this up with! I look back at old pictures and yes, my lines are less deep, there are no grey roots… but I do indeed feel more beautiful now. I’m working on getting back to exercising again like I should be to feel and look better. But, I am more comfortable in my skin. I have a confidence I never had when I was younger and it feels so good. Sure I might be tempted to try out Botox and such if I had the fearlessness to actually try some medical procedure! But for now, I have decided to embrace my lines, imperfections and effects from age. I guess I don’t have much of a choice! Ha! But hey, it sounds and feels better to declare that I am embracing my age.

The 40-year-old happy Shannon

The 40-year-old happy Shannon

So there you have it. I’m going to decide right now that my 40s are going to rock. I am making a promise to myself right now that I’m going to make the best of it. To the best of my ability, I’m going to live my life to the fullest! Daggomit, I’m 40! Just don’t tell anybody, ok? 😉