Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Brilliant Form of Bribery

Went to the dentist today for the first time in...too long. Over a year. I know. I'm bad. So they took the x-rays, informed me why I actually need to floss and proved it by showing me the cavity that's just beginning to form using their magical zoom-in x-ray photos of my teeth (SO COOL. TT, now I know why B gets so excited about his work). It was the first time I could see for myself what the dentist meant.

But the way coolest part? The hygienist had me watch a movie while she cleaned my teeth! Seriously, while she poked and prodded, I watched Enchanted, which I have never seen and now plan to rent because I found it, frankly, enchanting. The screen's right there and you either see your x-rays or watch a movie--whatever they need to do at that moment, obviously. It's not as though I would choose to stare at tooth roots instead of watching Amy Adams run around and sing. What a great way to calm children and the occasional nervous adult! Seriously, I will never miss my six-month check-up again. Now if only I had better dental insurance....Sigh. There's the catch, but it might be worth it to sit in the chair and chill to a DVD for an hour.

Oh, and go see The Curious Story of Benjamin Button. Amazing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Weather Weirdness

So you know how we had crazy snow days and over a foot of snow, what, a week ago? Right now it's almost 60 degrees and due to warm temps over the last week, I'm seeing green/brown ground and big-time flooding. The snow's almost entirely gone. We managed to have a white Christmas, but it was sort of a cruddy, dirty white. It's less of a complaint than an observation at how strange weather gets here. Is it global warming? El Nino (I can't put the ~ over the n)? I just don't know. At this moment we have gale-force winds whipping through, so the passing game of Bills and Patriots today will be pretty interesting. I'm not sure what to wear, but I think it will include my bad-ass foul weather gear that I got at a farming supply store in VA years ago. They don't mess around.

That weather made for a fairly uneventful Great Christmas Road-Trip, for which T, Penny, and I were grateful. On Christmas day we went from our house to Colden (~30 min.) to Batavia (1 hour) back to north Buffalo (40 min.) to our house again. As T's mother reminded us, it just means we have many people who love us and want to see us. Very true, and I loved spending time with each of them. My sister M and BIL C are on their honeymoon in Argentina, so it felt a little strange not having them there, but the rest of us all banded together and enjoyed each other's company. To me, that is what makes it worthwhile to have a large, crazy family.

Honestly, I have nothing too exciting to report, sorry. Um...Penny has a sore foot that we have to soak in soapy water or Epsom salts every day? I really want to see Gran Torino because seeing Clint Eastwood as a crusty old man with a shotgun going up against neighborhood punks will be awesome and intense in a way only he can create? I'm relieved to hear regular music on the radio again?

Anyway, if I don't get to you all before 2009, have a great and safe New Year's Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One of my Favorites

SD2: The Sequel/Utterly random

Point 1: We had ANOTHER SNOW DAY on Monday. This never happens. Mind you, I waded through snow literally up to my knees in my own front yard, so that may have had something to do with it. I will post mostly dog-related pictures soon, because my dog covered in snow is pretty darn cute. Now we're back in school for one more day, and I'm shocked at how many kids are actually here. Frankly, I'm impressed.

Point 2: With all this free time, I got organized and watched a few movies. I realize one of my all-time favorite scenes from a movie is the end of Crocodile Dundee, when Linda Kozlowski runs after Paul Hogan in the crowded subway station. "She says don' leave! She not gon' marry REEChard!" There's just something I love about it, the comedy and the love and the music...I just can't get enough. It's one of my secret favorite movies, along with Overboard. I know, I know. Terrible but I can't help it. Or maybe I just don't want to.

Any favorite scenes or secret favorite movies to share?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The best words a teacher can hear (aside from "you're hired")

Say, readers in northern climes, what were the two words you most hoped to hear just as you were getting up and ready for school? The words you prayed for, the words you wore pajamas inside out and slept with a spoon under your pillow (what this does for mojo, I don't know) for in hopes to induce this magical event to occur?

Picture me waking with my alarm, blearily getting dressed, letting the dog out, and turning on the radio, computer, and TV in the distant hope that we'd get called out. The forecast predicted 6-12 inches that would start at 8am and get particularly nasty in the afternoon, right about when the kids would go home. My superintendent is notorious for not closing even when everyone else does, so I held out little hope. As the minutes ticked on, the list grew longer. Then, my hopes rose: Iroquois and Frontier closed. They're close to us. Hmm. Should I even dare to dream? Then, like dominoes, East Aurora and Hamburg fell. They're the ones that, if they close, well, we HAVE to close. Right? Right??? Yet I remembered a day last year when this didn't happen. Two busloads of students got into minor accidents on icy roads that day. Would the superintendent remember, too? Would she remember irate parent calls about safety and endangering their children's lives? Pleeeeeeeeze? Suddenly, just as I was about to put on my work clothes, DH yelled out, "OP! OP Central!" I raced to the computer to confirm, and oh yes, oh happy day, hallelujah sing the praises of our benevolent and brilliant superintendent, we...were...CLOSED. As was every other district in the area except one, who stayed open, sent the kids home at 10 am, and apologized publicly on TV for his "poor judgment". Whoops.

I meant to write about this on Friday when it happened (YESSSSS!), but I was too busy racing to the grocery store at 8:30 with everyone else to get supplies, doing laundry, making zucchini bread, watching Penny frolic like a sweet little lunatic in the snow, reading, and shoveling. Right now it is a totally winterwhite-world, my favorite expression for this time of year. White Christmas? You betcha. I will also note that if any student of mine even dares to come in without a rough draft of the essay that was due on Friday, it will not be pleasant for him or her. Not at all.

p.s. Baaaaad storm hitting Sunday night. Could we go for a two-fer? Honestly, from a teacher perspective, I really need us to be in school so I can get those essays and correct them before the holiday starts, but a little part of me would love it. Maybe I'll sleep with a spoon under my pillow....

Monday, December 15, 2008

George had it right

This past weekend while T had a coaching conference in Saratoga, Penny and I spent a girls' weekend together. On Friday night I discovered NBC showing "It's a Wonderful Life". If you haven't seen it, well, you have to. You just do. In case you don't know the plot, we get to know George Bailey, everyman, who ends up wishing he'd never been born because he feels he just messes up everyone's life. Angel-in-Training Clarence comes down to show him just how much he influences those around him and what a great life he actually has. That's exTREMELY condensed, but it's the gist.

Obviously this is the season for showing it, but I wondered if they did it a little early this year because of the mess that is our economy. Either way, I watched and found it quite fitting for the times, even though it's at least 60 years old. Angel Clarence reminded me that no man is poor who has friends. And the way George and Mary made ends meet, having their honeymoon in their leaky home with posters of Hawaii because they couldn't afford the real trip, doing their best.... It all reminded me of how much I truly have and helped me to give a little more.

So many of us have so much in our lives we don't even consider. This recession won't last forever; I know it. The mob scene at the mall this Saturday confirmed that (I had to go--ten minutes in and out, thank goodness). We need to stick together more than ever and remind ourselves of the intangibles, the friendship and family and roofs over our heads. I feel extremely blessed that I'll have a job until next June at the very least, as well as love in my life both canine and human. I hope I don't sound too preachy; I think I'm trying to remind myself to think of these things more than any of you, though I hope I trigger something.

So I'll leave you with this final clip from the movie. Have a good day and try to enjoy as many minutes as you can.

p.s. Did you realize the cop and the cab driver are named Bert and Ernie? I love that.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Enjoy the Silence

A little 90s reference for all you Depeche Mode fans out there.

My life is run by bells. Clock-alarm bells, school bells, phone "bells", even church bells. I spend a great deal of my day in 42-minute increments. I surround myself with people, talk all day, sing twice a week. There's a lot of noise everywhere, both euphonious and cacophonous: lovely and jangling. It's not that different from many of yours, I'd guess, in that respect.

I read somewhere recently that we rarely allow ourselves actual quiet time, time where we are alone with no outside sounds. No music to relax you, nobody crying, no phone ringing; just silence. When was the last time you actually allowed yourself to be silent--and still? It doesn't quite count if you're in the basement folding laundry because you're still doing something. It's become taboo in our society to simply sit and be, with no outside distractions. We think of it as wasted time, time when we could be doing something else like cleaning or working or any one of a hundred things we feel we have to do now, now, NOW.

If you think you can't get five minutes of silence in your day, find a way. It's so important to our wellbeing to simply focus on ourselves every so often, even if it's for a short time. I tried it this morning: As I waited for Penny to "do her business" outside, instead of griping to myself that I needed to get inside to getbreakfast-shower-dress-slaponmakeup-runoutthedoor, I looked up at the trees in the gray, early morning light and inhaled slowly a few times, savoring those two minutes when I got to be outside not rushing off to the next place. I may try to do that more often.

I'm one of those people who wakes up entirely, brain revving the minute I'm conscious. It's murder when this happens at 3am and I want to get back to sleep. I go, go, go. I think I do give myself quiet time when I read, but this happens only so often. I need to slow down every so often and just stand, just breathe. A sort of mini-meditation, if you will.

See if you can get yourself to do this at least once in your day. I really think you'll benefit from it. Now I'm off to the next class before the bell rings.

Enjoy the day--it's almost the weekend!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Penny Pics

A little before and after with Penny's "salon" visit. See how shaggy she was?

Like the jingle bells as the collar?

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Better than a Christmas Card

Well, not quite...I got my new voter registration card that FINALLY says I'm a Democrat on it! Hooray! I feel so empowered, truly.

Oh, and I've added the Free Rice logo to my site--please click on it and play. It gives rice to the UN World Food Program. They've expanded as well: You can do vocab, grammar, math, world capitals, and even practice a few different languages. If you want to play at work, why not save a few hungry people as well?

I love my dog

I open with a warning: If you do not want to read about puppies and puppy mess, stop right here.

Penny is a dear, sweet girl. She went to doggie day care yesterday and had a fabulous time playing with another Penny, a Sheltie who apparently doesn't play with just any dog. Yes, my dog's special. Fortunately they tired her out enough that she conked out when she got home.

Fast forward to 5:15 this morning when I awoke to her whining to go outside. She did this a few nights ago at 2am and I took her out then, waiting 15 minutes while she made about five separate piles. Gross. Sorry. I made T go out with her this time and she apparently stepped in some of it and we didn't realize it until the offending odor alerted us. Looking more closely, we saw she'd bespoiled the rug and the bedspread. Sigh. So at 5:30 T attacked the rug and I attacked the yucky paw and her hiney with a very wet washcloth. Fortunately she's getting a haircut today so they can wash her and make cleanup a little easier for us in the future. But don't worry--no showdog cut this time. We want her fuzzy and happy. Pictures to follow, I'm sure.

Enjoy the day!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


It's Thanksgiving morning, we're pulling a last-minute Louie realizing that cooking two different-sized turkey breasts is NOT the same as cooking one turkey, and I'm frantically searching the Internet hoping to find some advice.

UPDATE: We figured it out. Kept the bigger breast at room temp and the smaller one in the fridge, still brined them both, and used the recipe Toddler Tamer gave me last year to once again make smashingly good turkey. Everything took longer than we thought it would, but isn't that par for the course on Thanksgiving?

We had a delicious dinner at my parents' home: Eighteen humans and three dogs. All ate quite well and had a fantastic time. We had Mom and R, T's parents, my sisters E and M and M's husband C (Einstein, wait--?), M's in-laws (including her BIL and SIL), another family who didn't want to have just the four of them around a lonely table, and one medical resident whose plans to sit alone and watch TV changed when my stepdad invited her. She remained fairly quiet until I said the magic words "I love Stephen King". Then she perked right up. And a partridge.... Ohhh, the mashed potatoes! Ohhh, the stuffing using my parents' 30+ year-old recipe! Ohhh, the three kinds of pie! How fortunate I felt to need an elastic waistband on my pants.

Friday had me in bed all day with a crummy cold, but I again felt so thankful not to spend it slogging through work and sucking it up. Much better to finish my book and have a toasty warm puppy there with me!

I don't care if it sounds cliche'; I felt so thankful this past weekend to have so many places to go, to have people who love me sending me messages and giving me hugs, to sing with my choir on Sunday, to spend time with my family, to have the things that I have. I'm very blessed and lucky and fortunate at the same time (someone pointed out that being "fortunate" means you earned what you have, as opposed to "luck"), and I hope I don't take any of it for granted. I probably do, but I try to allow myself at least one reminder a day of what I have.

And now we put in a scant 25 days until Christmas. How did this year fly so quickly?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reality Check

I had a big, bad one today, at least in my book. In thinking about the economy, going to a union meeting and listening to them talk about massive budget cuts, and talking to a few colleagues who know their stuff, I realized, quite bluntly, that a position at my current job may well not exist for me next year. [J from work, if you're reading this, please, PLEASE keep this between us and the blogosphere. I know I don't need to ask that, but I do anyway.]

I've always known, somewhere in the back of my mind, that my tenuous situation may not work out the way I wanted it to. I've got other people vying for a position as well, but the fact still remains that we may have nothing to compete for. I can't go on taking others' maternity leaves for the rest of my life, and I can't wait around for others to retire. So, as frustrating as it may be, I may well have to start over at a new job once again. I can't tell you how disheartening this makes me feel, like some sort of glorified placeholder. I also worry because the more years of teaching I have under my belt, the more expensive I am to hire. Now, not all districts care about this, but it may narrow options a tad.

I got home today, assessed my feelings, went through one handkerchief and several tissues, and reassessed. I am very qualified to do what I do. Even in this economy, someone will need a teacher with my background. Circumstances may make it so that I can stay in my current district, though I'll still look elsewhere; it would be pure foolishness not to do so. I can get good recommendations and find something. It will do me no good to wail and gnash my teeth and complain about the unfairness of life. Whoever said life was fair? All I can do is give my 100% and make every single effort to secure myself a probationary (more permanent, with the chance of tenure) position...somewhere.

I still have some growing up to do. I did some of it today. Nobody owes me anything; I know this. Nobody will give me anything: I have to earn it on my own, based on what I do. I have no control over anyone but myself, and if I don't control my own actions, I don't control my destiny. I also have to accept the fact that I'm human and I make mistakes. However, I still need to listen to the inner voice that tells me how best to help myself; that other self-sabotaging voice needs to go on the back burner, the one who tells me to read a few more pages in my book or that I've earned a rest and don't need to grade those papers until "later". No regrets, no cursing myself for not doing what I could have done to help myself. There's no room for it.

So wish me luck. This being a grownup thing is awfully hard, but I think it's worth it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ah, the holiday season

Tell me if this happens in your town: Yesterday while flipping stations on the radio, I discovered that they've already begun 24 hour Christmas music. Sigh. Bad enough that it used to happen the day after Thanksgiving; now it starts mid-November? What's next year, Daylight Savings??!! What is this madness??????

Don't get me wrong--I love the music. I do. But if I overdose on it for over a month before the actual holiday (I happen to celebrate Christmas), I begin to dread those beloved songs. Ouiser, how does M feel about this? I know it's his favorite holiday. Doesn't this whole "start early" bit seem a little pushy as well? I'm sorry to complain; it's just a pet peeve of mine. Snow has started to fly and I'm already mentally planning my Thanksgiving contributions (found a recipe for whole wheat corn muffins with a dash of cayenne--I may do a trial batch to see if they're worth it) and gift-giving, but I can't do Christmas music yet. I make myself wait until Dec. 1. The only exception may include the Peanuts Christmas because Vince Garabaldi rocks that album.

On the note of gift giving, in this time of economic crisis, do we really need to spend a ton of money on gifts? I've been reading in my magazines about how to give back or use that money to make a donation to a food bank. Or give the gift of your time, like offering to babysit or help someone clean her house if you're super organized. I can't see myself giving nothing, but honestly, I may give this year in the form of something edible for the most part. My sister has no cash but she gardens--I told her to get us some seeds. You know, give something really thoughtful that has more effort than consumerism involved in it. I admit, I look through the catalogues and dog-ear pages, but this year I want to try something different, or at least more thoughtful. I'll let you know how it turns out. Any thoughts?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Two Things, Quickly

1) I got new glasses. For those of you with 20/20 vision, first of all, go away. Second, getting new glasses is very important and slightly stressful because they GO ON YOUR FACE. So you have to take great care in choosing the frames that will GO ON YOUR FACE, where people look the most. I tried going alone--fool! Foolish fool! Fortunately Mom came with me the second time to help me choose. The sisters tried to make me wait until they came home for the holidays, but once I got the ball rolling, I couldn't wait. See, I've needed a new pair for, oh, about two years or longer. I think my previous pair had a fourth birthday. At the very least, I found out that my left eye had gotten all wonky and astigmatic, if such a word exists.

In looking, I wanted a pair NOT like my old ones. What did I keep picking out? Pairs like ones I'd previously had. Do you have any idea how many styles they have out there? And how many will make me look like a bug or that I'm wearing goggles? You'll all be thrilled and relieved to know I found a pair that looked just different enough, flattered my face, and had just a wee bit of edge to them. I got compliments from students--now, that's saying something. That they even noticed says a lot.

OK, so you just read about me buying glasses. Clearly I need to find something else to do. But seriously! It's a big decision! Like buying a house! Erm....

2) They caught the kid who posted the bomb threat. I won't tell you the kid's name, but everyone, EVERYONE knows him as Sketchy ______. As in, if the kid's name was Ed, everyone knows him as Sketchy Ed. Even the teachers call him this (not to his face, of course). Due to bad decision making on his part, this kid had carved out a path to juvie and our correctional system quite some time ago. I don't like to think that, but he really didn't leave me any other choice. (Aside--when I write "correctional facility", I think of the euphemism of "correcting" people the one evil character used in the novel/movie The Shining. Hmmm.) He'd been busted for drug deals, robbing houses in the area, and a couple other things. It was a progression.

I don't think I should divulge the details of what happened, suffice to say that he, himself, made the call and someone recognized his voice on the tape. They confronted him yesterday, he tried to run, the policeman chased him and threatened to shoot him in the posterior (not kidding!) and the boy dropped to the pavement like a stone. So he's in jail for a while.

I realize there's no congruity at all between those two stories, but that's just how my mind worked today. What can I say? Have a great weekend!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Newspaper History

My dad told me of the site www.newseum.com. If you click on this link, you can look at hundreds of newspaper headlines from the election. It's rather awe-inspiring. I chose a few at random for you to see (I'm sorry they're so narrow; I had to make them fit.). Well, I chose San Francisco's because all it has is a picture and a name. Pretty amazing:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Not your typical day

Yesterday we had someone call up the school and issue a bomb threat, saying there was a bomb in a locker. I can write this because we had to do a press release, so I think it's public knowledge. Pretty scary--we went on shutdown and kept all the kids in their classrooms until the bomb-sniffing dogs went through and ascertained that no bombs indeed existed. Nobody had any idea what was going on. Fortunately it was during my lunch, so I didn't have to attempt to keep 27 kids calm and off their cell phones.

Why did we keep the kids inside, you ask? Several reasons:

1) Making that sort of announcement would have incited panic in our 1700 students. Keeping everyone calm is easier when it's in smaller groups.

2) It's part of our shutdown plan.

3) It kept the kids out of the dogs' way so they could do an efficient search.

4) (and this scared the bejeebers out of me) In Paducah, KY, within the past year or so, someone issued a bomb threat. When they evacuated the kids, snipers in the woods began taking shots at the kids. I'm not kidding. What sick people. So, we felt it best to keep the kids inside, as we knew of no imminent threat. The police showed up immediately; I feel they would have told us to evacuate had they thought it necessary.

Needless to say, today felt a little weird. I let the kids talk about it; they felt fairly rattled too, though they tried not to show it. You know, I experienced fights in the Buffalo city schools; we went on lockdown for that often enough that it wasn't a huge deal, but this felt a lot different because it was so much bigger. I think kids knew about it--I wonder if they'll find who did it.

Anyway, it gave us an extra day to input 1st quarter grades. That's my weak attempt at humor, heh heh. I smile like a lunatic when I'm extremely nervous (it's totally a muscle thing, not deliberate or even voluntary), so I had a Joker-like rictus grin on for about an hour yesterday. Ech.

I'm glad nothing happened. Really, really glad. I'm off to pet my dog and hug my husband.

Pictures from last weekend Halloween

Well, my brother T and his wife W had a very fun Halloween party last weekend. I promised you pictures, so here are a few. I won't post all of them (like my friends who dressed as Hugh Hefner and a bunny, but reversed--he was the bunny; she was Hef), but I think you'll like them:

Madonna and her security, circa 1985

Halloween card my brother's mom sent

Of course someone dressed as Sarah Palin

Our friend M (T's fake twin--don't they look alike?) as Canadian hockey broadcaster Don Cherry. "Ginger" got tired of her wig, so T put it on for fun

Good times, lots of dress-up!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change is Here

I'll post very, very quickly and write that, while I fell asleep (at 9:30--It's been a long week, so far) before seeing the results live, before seeing Barack Obama's amazing acceptance speech, I awoke at 3am, turned on the news, and fell asleep excited by our future and awed by our voting process.

I felt such pride voting yesterday, such hope. I still feel that today. I'm so glad our country chose a leader who has an open mind and, more importantly, who got so many different groups of people involved in the political process, including me. I could go on and on, but I have to read for next period because I got so caught up in watching election stuff that I didn't do it last night.... I do have fears that hatred will rear its ugly head in ways which stop our hearts, but even more so I have that hope that Americans will see what we're capable of as a country through the leader so many of us chose to elect.

At any rate, yes we did. For the next four years: Yes, we can.

Friday, October 31, 2008

M and C's Wedding

What a glorious weekend! Despite the torrential rain, everything went wonderfully. M looked stunning, C made everyone cry during his wedding toast as he talked about how much he loved M (and a special toast to my parents--he choked up; we all got teary), the wedding pies ROCKED and so did the band....

They had a dual ceremony because C is Jewish, so they stood under a chuppah (canopy spread over four poles that symbolizes the home they'll build together), signed a ketubah (Jewish prenuptial agreement, but it's a lot more--it's about pledging your love and faith, etc.), and had this pre-wedding meeting, the name of which escapes me. That part I loved because it came from ancient times when Jacob was married to older sister Leah (who wore a veil so he didn't know) instead of the younger Rachel, whom he'd been promised. Basically, the bride and groom have this meeting to ensure they're marrying the right person! Then they sign the ketubah and the parents all give advice to the B&G. Both of them got to break the glass because they had a feminist rabbi. Yeah!

On the Christian end of things, they had a minister at the ceremony (along with the rabbi) and some beautiful Bible readings. As M pointed out, they wanted to give equal time, but the Jewish faith happens to have more overt customs than the Presbyterians do. As they left, we bridesmaids and groomsmen all lit candles of the guests and the newlyweds left the ceremony in candlelight. Gorgeous.

I've never seen my sister look so entirely happy. Here are just a few of the pictures so you can see what I mean:

flowers--so beautiful!

Getting ready

Mmm...pie...(so delicious!!!)

C's father, M, R

Another good-looking couple (ahem)

First dance (Bonnie Raitt--"Not the Only One")

Crazy on the dance floor

The happy couple!

Sigh...what a happy weekend.

Happy Halloween, folks! I dressed as mid-80s Madonna today and will do so again tomorrow night with T as my roadie. Of course we'll post pics.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Hellooooo, international readers! Glad to have you along! Hope all is well in your respective countries and lives. I appreciate your reading. :-)

On a totally different note...

Favorite Parts about Autumn
  • Fall colors: the bursts of color in all trees. How could I live in Florida, where this never happens?
  • The light in the afternoon with huge clouds on one side of the sky and sunshine on the other
  • Rainy days when you get to curl up with a mug of hot [your choice] and a good book
  • Crisp autumn days with bright sun but cold enough temps to finally pull out that fun jacket
  • Little kids in pumpkin patches
  • Pomegranates
  • Stew and other comfort food
  • The smell in the air. I can't describe it; I think it's a combination of turned earth, sun, and a hint of cold air
  • Pulling out my sweaters even though I know I'll wear them for the next six months
  • Football
  • Stopping every so often to appreciate all of this; allowing myself some introspective moments
What about you? This is my favorite time of year; if it's yours, what makes you love this season as much as I do? Or, why do you love your favorite season? It's a little elementary, perhaps, but give it a shot.

A few election thoughts or, let me briefly get on my soapbox

So Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama this past weekend on Meet the Press, in case you live under a rock and did not hear. While I think that will make a difference in his campaign because, according to NPR, a lot of Independents like Powell and trust him, he made two significant points that I'd like to mention:

1) Barack Obama is not an Arab, as many who dislike/distrust him say. He's an American.

2) [More importantly, in my mind] Why should it matter if he is? He's STILL an American, despite the doubts that others have about his birthplace and his parents' legitimacy of marriage. But again, why should it matter if he is? We still, in our great and enlightened age where everyone gets to vote and we call ourselves a melting pot or a salad bowl or a choose-your-metaphor, we still have a great deal of prejudice against Arabs or anyone who "looks like one". Particularly since September 11, 2001, many Americans have had deep-seated prejudice against Arabs and Arab-Americans. To say that Obama is an Arab and have that not qualify him for presidency just shows me that we still have a lot of hatred and bigotry running through our veins, and we cannot grow or even survive as a country if we allow others to harbor these feelings. Arab still equals terrorist? Have we really gone back to WWII when we interned all the Japanese-Americans? (Yes, I know some may point out we're doing that now in our military prisons.) How do we unify as a country when we refuse to let someone who isn't an American of European descent run it?

Perhaps I'm acting naive. I don't know. I'm not sure if I agree that we should become a bilingual country or if we should unify under a national language and I'm not sure I entirely disagree with former Sen. Richard Lamm (CO-Dem)'s fears of multiculturalism. I believe that people come here for a certain kind of freedom that they can't get anywhere else. I think our country's pretty fractured right now, on various fronts, and I don't know what to do to "fix" that, for lack of a better word. How we can unify while still allowing people cultural autonomy. I go about my day, just like everyone else, and I do what I can to make it a good day and a good place for myself and those around me. But we need someone larger than us to do that for the country. We need the best candidate. Ethnicity shouldn't matter; a love for this country and a willingness to do what's best for it should.

I usually keep my opinion pretty tame on this blog with regard to these matters. Perhaps it's because I hear these sorts of narrow-minded comments at the same time we're reading To Kill a Mockingbird, where a jury convicted Tom Robinson of rape simply because of his skin color, based on the Scottsboro Trial where a similar real-life event happened. I just see too much parallel thinking along similar race-based lines.

I hope we can rise above our prejudices. I hope we can choose a candidate based on who will do the most for our country. I have an idea of who I think that person is, and it's because he's most qualified. He can lead this country in the direction it needs to go.

Whew, OK, I'm done.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Last Weekend's Fall Fun

We went to my FIL's for a visit and for Penny to race around and generally act like a dog with his three dogs. I'll treat you to a few pictures; he has a pond, which she found immediately and had a happy time racing around becoming completely muddy filthy. She did NOT like the bath she had to take as a result....

I wish I'd gotten pictures of the glorious leaves; you can see them a little bit. I love this time of year most, even though (because?) it's so fleeting.

Tonight we'll have dinner with my dad, who's in town, and my 93 year-old grandmother, who still has a sharper mind than most people I know. She's been around a while (OBviously) and, as an aside, says that while she doesn't entirely like either candidate, she's voting for Obama. I laughed my head off when, before the VP debates, she said, "Maybe Sarah Palin will bring her baby up on stage to get a few more votes." How fantastic.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Strange but True

Apparently, a doctor in Hawaii found that doing chest compressions for CPR to the beat of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" allows for the right rhythm and the proper number of beats per minute. I'm not kidding. Check out the brief article.

How bizarrely appropriate. I love it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

How did it go?

Well, we lost the dance-off, but we did the sophomores proud. I just hope I haven't lost all credibility as a teacher by struttin' my stuff in front of a gym full of teenagers. Frankly, they screwed us by sending all of us to the "second round", which we had not prepared at all. I was transported right back to college as I attempted to dance to "Pump Up the Jam". Yikes. Sorry, J., no video footage of my amazingness. Now I'm off to watch the Homecoming parade, which goes right by my house.


I always love the parade. They're so proud and they do like to see me waving on the sidelines. I stood in my neighbor's driveway in the slim hope that I can keep people from knowing where I live, but I'm not sure it worked. The best part was the cast of our fall play marching and screaming "One! Flew! Over! The! Cuckoo's! Nest!" over and over.

Didn't make it to the football game because we had to clean the gutters (wheeee), but the dance, ah, the dance. Perhaps I've become an old fuddy-duddy, but good Lord, the fashions have become ugly. Apparently the new dress of choice is this banded bottom dress, which to me looks like a large sweatshirt cuff tacked on to the bottom of the dress. I found a few pictures:

Do you get how short and unattractive these make you look unless you're model-thin, and even then they're not that great? I saw TONS of versions of these dresses. Apparently leopard-print has also made a comeback. I think they theorize that they can wear a shorter dress because it won't ride up as far due to this ridiculous cuff. Some girls looked lovely, but many chose to show off their assets, if you know what I mean. The boys looked pretty standard, nothing exciting there. On the whole it remained a pretty tame experience, with a few kids smoking cigarettes and two who came back drunk, chose to fight it rather than 'fess up, and suffered the consequences. My favorite parts of the night:
  • -Colgaters, they played "It's Rainin' Men"! (Hallelujah!) And the kids knew it!
  • -I did the "Cha Cha Slide" with four members of my Brit Lit class. It rocked. You know, that slightly obnoxious but fun (yes, fun, honey--T can't STAND this song) song that tells you what to do: "One hop this time! Cha cha now, y'all. Two hops this time! Take it back now, y'all." I think I liked it best because it's impossible to dance suggestively with your date during this song.
  • -I ended the night in the foyer instead of the hot, sweaty, hormone-filled gym. Seriously lucky, folks.
  • -Some kid asked me to dance. I don't know if he got dared to do it or what, but he seemed sincere. Kind of cute, really. No, I did not dance with him.
Meanwhile, while I chaperoned, DH spent his evening at an Octoberfest our friends had and talked with Ryan Miller and Paul Gaustad (two of our best NHL hockey players) for ten minutes. Lucky jerk.

So, that's Homecoming. A little bit of Americana, kids.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Traditions both good and bad

Well, yes, time does fly! What with watching political debates, cleaning the gutters, frantically lesson planning, and having a cold which I'm forcing myself to think of as allergies, I haven't given myself a minute to write.

This weekend is Homecoming, which includes all sorts of Americana, including tonight's pep rally and Powder Puff football game (junior girls play senior girls); and parade, football game, and Homecoming Dance tomorrow night. I will chaperon the Powder Puff and the dance. Yes, they pay me, but I find it fun to do these things, particularly since I had no such events in my tiny high school. Oh, and I chose to compete in the teacher Dance-Off, which has me and two colleagues pitted against others while we do "choreographed" dance moves to the song "Cotton-Eyed Joe" and "Pump up the Jam". Anyone who's seen me do modern dance knows it's going to be quite a scene....Sisters, stop laughing. My little team will ROCK. I'll let you know how it all goes.

Today included a rather mean tradition called Freshman Friday, where upperclasspeople haze the freshmen, calling it a "rite of passage". What a crock. As I wrote before, if there's one thing I cannot stand, it's bullying of any kind. Mostly it includes writing with markers on kids, squirting them with water, and using those bingo daubers on them. We warned the students over and over again not to do it, were out in full force today, and sent at least four kids home, banning them from any Homecoming events. It's mostly sophomores and older siblings, but it scares the freshmen and I do not like them to feel unsafe. As far as I know, we just had those few incidents, but I'd love that little snippet of Americana to go away. At least my little froshies in my homeroom made it through OK; I checked on them as I saw them.

Now I'm off to take a nap before tonight's events...thank goodness it's a three-day weekend for us because I need the rest! Fortunately the weather people predicted a glorious, warm three days, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Do the same, my dears!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Domestic Doings

This past Sunday we did what everyone says they're going to do but does not: We cleaned our basement. Actually vacuumed, got rid of numerous daddy long-leg communities, threw things away, and set up our gym equipment, complete with treadmill, bike, [used] rowing machine, and weights. The former two pieces came from R., who acquired them from a previous trainer. We do not have piles of money to buy equipment. Oh, and we set up the iPod dock for tunes while we work out. Love it! Used it! Rocked out! Mind you, it's still concrete floor and the insects will try to stage other coups, I'm sure, but it looks fantastic compared to the mess it was. The process involved a lot of

"Why the hell do we have this?"
"I don't know. Maybe one day we'll--"
"No. Throw it out."

I wanted to take a bunch of stuff to Goodwill, but DH pointed out that at this time of year (and at other times, if I'm honest), my good intentions will sit for months until we inevitably DO throw them out. I'll work on this, promise. We also got a new filter for the vacuum cleaner and, at the risk of sounding totally 1950s, I loved vacuuming after we switched it in. I felt inspired as it zipped across the rug, sucking in any and all dirt, as opposed to the effort it made before, like a small child trying half-heartedly to use a straw on a piece of ice: Maybe something gets sucked up, but only by accident.

Plus we've got guests coming for dinner this weekend, so we HAVE to clean. It's one of the reasons I invite people over. I'm not kidding.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My continued green quest

In checking out old Green as a Thistle posts, I came upon a few finds for clothes:

Better World Shopper has a list of the most environmentally and socially responsible large companies (not just for clothes, either!):

It's based on "Data...collected over the past 20 years from a wide range of nonprofit sources on the social and environmental responsibility of more than 1000 companies", according to the site. I'll have to peruse the site more thoroughly when I have time. I'd never heard of some of these companies, but I just got a long sleeved t-shirt from Maggie's Organics, on sale. They don't have a ton of choices, but it saved me from going to Old Navy, where I'd planned to get said shirt. I'd like to buy more locally made clothing, too, and we have some great secondhand places around here that I'll have to check out. American Apparel has some good things, too. Will I give up my Ann Taylor Loft? Probably not yet, if I'm being honest, but I'll try to make more conscious purchases. Baby steps.

p.s. Sam's Club may be hard to avoid, too....

Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day

It's a real day. It even has an official website.

We did have kids dress up for this day. Not a lot, but the history club also held a special meeting. I'm sure it involved students going, "Arrrr!" and "Gar!" (a la Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball) a lot.

Here's one of my favorite pictures from the actual Flickr Talk Like a Pirate Day photostream:

Notice the dog is blowing a raspberry? Other fun pictures include an entire pirate family and an office guy named "Maaaaaaaark", of course.

DH's birthday is this weekend: Dinner out and the Bills game on Sunday. Perfect.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Our Little Pup's Growing Up



I swear it is the same dog! It's Penny! We got her adult Wheaten cut, and they had to take more off than usual because she was just covered in knots, which, frankly, is part of the reason why we got the cut in the first place. She's still her sweet self, but I admit I called T and blurted out, "She looks weird!" I just have to get used to it, and it will grow out a bit. We're also looking at doggie daycare at least once a week because 1) she needs supervised socialization, and 2) the dogs at the neighborhood Evening Get-Together seem to look at her as a Live Moving Chew Toy, and we'd rather not make her afraid of other dogs. PetSmart has one that we'll check out; not sure others exist around here that DH can easily drop her at on his way to work. We'll check it all out carefully, don't you worry. (Papa, S. herself told me to do this, so I trust her advice. Everyone else, S. is a dog expert who ran a dog daycare herself and now does private training in Atlanta. She knows what she's talking about.)

I am sure we will still get crazy poses on the couch with new, chic Penny. And yes, I will post them.

P.S. How cool is it that I teach a class where we get to watch snippets of Shaun of the Dead?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Of Shoes and Schedules and Teacher Things

I'm not sure what to write about today; I just wanted to let you know I'm still here. Just finished the first week of school and it's kind of nice to get back into the swing of things, although my daily schedule has me running all over the third floor from place to place to the point that I think that, to go along with my prior post, I will pull out the lovely Earth shoes (got 'em crazy on sale) and my Dansko clogs a lot more than I did last year.

The students' first assignment had them telling me what they considered as "good" teacher qualities and writing about their favorite teacher and why they liked that person. I found it quite eye-opening that so many of them appreciated a teacher who struck the balance between work and play: They wanted a teacher who could make the class interesting and fun, but they also appreciated a teacher who made them work hard and made it clear when they had to buckle down. Now, of course I had kids who wanted no homework and more movies, but the majority seemed to value a teacher who really made them learn...in an entertaining way. Many also like group work, which is kind of how they grew up learning in grade school. Why not? Don't you often have to work with others in your job? Collaborate and all that? It makes sense to me. So now I have more of a direction to go in, plus practically all of them got 100% simply by doing the assignment, so they start off feeling good. Will I fulfill all of their expectations? Probably not all of them, but I agreed with a lot of what they said, so I think we'll be ok.

Most of this week will involve intense scheduling: T and I both have very full autumn schedules, he with work and coaching, I with teaching, my book group, and choir, so we plan to sit down every Sunday, sketch out a few meals, exercise time, and "us" time. His birthday's this weekend, so that will be fun, but it also means I don't have a lot of the weekend to lesson plan. Sister M., if you want to help with the calendar, please do. (M. is great at this, so I gave her access to my Google calendar. So far she's added her wedding date. Seriously, she's been so helpful!) This whole organization thingie all seems terribly adult to me, really. Is this how it works when you actually know what's happening ahead of time but keep the flexibility to know that life throws in a curve ball whenever it feels the need?

So on that note I'm off to input grades and figure out lesson plans for Brit Lit, because my kids are waaaay too bright for the lesson plans the previous teacher used, so I have to make new ones. Thank God for the Internet. Have a good week and don't trust the media. That's my two cents on politics; commenting on the presidential race would merit a separate post.

Happy...third week of September and happy birthday, M.!

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I surrounded myself with a swirl of Back-to-School Mode, which for a teacher includes getting used to the schedule again, making seating charts, sweating my way through the first two days (no AC!), reassuring freshmen that it-will-not-always-feel-this-way, and keeping my own head above water. Pant, gasp. I think I can make it. Just call me the Little Engine, 'cause I'm chugging along here, doing my best to get up the hill of September, which other teachers will sympathize with especially.

While I prefer to write only obliquely about my job, I will tell you all a few things:

- My freshman homeroom seems awesome and eager. They've got all sorts of ideas for our homeroom banner which incorporate the Olympics and them (they're the class of 2012. I KNOW! WHAT?!) going for the gold. I love it.

- I have a student with the same name as a famous TV show child character. I won't mention the show but I will mention that "it's a story..." and someone on that particular show is in a long-term, going-nowhere relationship with a butcher. Why his parents did this to him, I don't know. I managed not to chuckle. I'm sure this boy is very nice.

- Several kids wrote that their favorite part of English was "movies". Sigh.

- I may have to reconsider wearing heels because I walk around so much from class to class. Haven't decided yet if this will give me better calves or podiatrist bills.

- Our football team rocks, both high school and NFL.

- The Crock Pot also rules, unquestionably.

- I think I came up with a fairly cool assignment, if I do say so myself, that leads into To Kill a Mockingbird:
  • Explain racism to a first-grader using pretty much any method you want (dialogue, how-to book, simple explanation), keeping in mind that you're talking to a kid about pretty heavy stuff.
I didn't word it quite that way, but I think it'll get them going on their writing and being creative, and it will link into the beginning of TKAM pretty well, yes? It's my attempt to combine teaching them writing, creativity, and actual learning at the same time.

My schedule this fall's pretty crammed, so I'll update as often as possible. I can't really do this at school, so be patient with me, please! I know I'll need it as a release, so you'll still hear from me; don't you fret. Have a great week, you groovy people.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Whew! (quick update)

So sorry; I've been busy with getting last-minute lesson plans together and my brother got married this past weekend, so I haven't had a lot of computer time. More work and family time, and enjoy-my-last-days-out-of-school time.

I will post the wedding pictures ASAP. It was a lot of fun and the ceremony included my brother giving his new wife's young (7?) daughter a ring of her own right after he put one on his bride. So sweet. Lots of dancing, lots of sisterliness, good times.

Minor tragedy: As I spent the weekend at my mom's, we came home Monday to find my luxurious tomato plants once again ravaged by persistent deer combined with poor deer netting. They look so sad and barren, although the lower-growing tomatoes survived. I admit it--I burst into tears and then realized (thank you, DH) that as my first year doing this, I would figure a few things out. Thus we've repositioned the netting and put down more dried blood. Back off, Bambi.

I heard an interesting bit on NPR today that has to do with the Bechdel Rule of TV and movies: A cartoonist, she created one that had a woman saying to her friend, "I'll only watch a movie if it has

1. At least two female characters, who ...
2. talk to each other about...
3. something besides a man.

It then went on to point out major shows (Sex and the City, Grey's Anatomy, and even my new fave, The Closer) that do not do this at all. It comes down to who's writing it. The point was that people like to watch shows that mirror actual culture or else they feel disconnected from it. For example, very few shows exist with "fully realized" African American characters. The article then asked people to make up their own rules. One included something I've mentioned before: The commenter won't watch shows with men who act like complete idiots and have no involvement in their kids' lives. I'd add the henpecked, sassy wife--it's straight out of The Honeymooners. We're not in black and white anymore; can't we update the trends here? If I made up a rule, it would run something like this: In a TV show primarily about teens, there will be

1. no central theme having to do with sex or heavy flirting/petting
2. parents who look more than ten years older than their children
3. a setting somewhere other than Pots-of-Money, CA

What about you?

P.S. We will miss you, Don LaFontaine (aka The Voice of just about every promo you've seen in the last 25 years "In a world...")! Here's something to remember you by, even if it's from Geico:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Look at my sister!

First of all, I lost a bunch of my widgets when I changed layout, so I'll have to put those back in. Boo. But I do like the new look.

Second, and more importantly, my sister E. and her boyfriend J. are FAMOUS. OK, well, they have an article that J. wrote on the Slow Food Nation blog, and I hope it gets them lots of publicity and work. They're trying to make creating small vegetable gardens in people's homes a business, and frankly, I think it's a good idea that will hopefully take on. Click here to go directly to their website. Just look at the pictures if you want. I think I'm going to ask E. to help me can a bunch of stuff--it's one way I can think of to keep this great local produce around for the winter and utilize it, and it won't take up all the room in the freezer.

Oh, and another green tip: I found a stapler that doesn't use staples. Cool.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What do you think of the new layout?, Part II

My dad said it was way too green, so I'll try this.

And be honest. I think it might look too green. Also, if anyone has tips on how to get a picture to stretch out (like yours, Scarlet), that would be great. Princess Powerless, thanks for your help from last time!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One more reason why my husband is cool

Well, we had the Masonic picnic this weekend and it went quite well, due in large to my lovely parents lending us two gigantic coolers and a 20x20 tent, the kind you pay about $100 to rent. Thanks, Mom and R! We had nice weather, the dog was good with the little girls, nobody got hurt, and no toilets overflowed. To me, that's success. Next year: more tables. We didn't have enough.

Here's the cool part, with a little background: T's friend M. has lymphoma and had to shave his head for the chemo. In a move of solidarity, T. and his friend E. both shaved their heads so they could look like M. Admittedly, T. did not have long hair to start with, but I still love that he did it and I know that he would've no matter how luxuriant his tresses. I do have to give serious points to E., who had been growing his hair for seven years; it was about as long as mine. He donated the majority to Locks for Love, and the rest will line various bird nests, I guess. I'll post pictures tomorrow. In a funny side note, he didn't tell his girlfriend [of three years] of his plan and freaked her out when he came home. As he said, "I can grow my hair; I can't grow another M." Well put.

In other news, today Penny got her cone off and got her staples out. Sigh. After tomorrow I think we should start asking for Frequent Flyer discounts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I just realized something

I mentioned Penny's in the cone again and had to get staples because her surgery incision opened up. Now I think I know why: It was already a little shaky and then, THEN, the other day I had the Scary Neighbor Dog Walk:

We were almost home from a walk when the Airedale on the corner comes running at Penny. She's always been a little afraid of this dog; he's bigger, barks aggressively, and Penny's a beta if I ever saw one. Well, this time the dog keeps coming and I realize not only does the invisible fence not seem to work, the dog has no collar on. My first thought is to grab this other dog before he runs into the street, but there's nothing to hold on to. Next thing I know he's got Penny on her back, she's making this horrible, high-pitched squeal-bark which I now interpret as, "I'm terrified! Get away from me!", I panic and try to pick her up, and the owner comes running over and finally gets her canine menace away. She's asking, "Oh, is she ok?" over and over again, truly feeling terrible about this (and I don't care about her feeling bad, I am shaken and angry, and she better feel bad), and fortunately Penny is unharmed. I say, "You know, usually when we walk by here the invisible fence is on. And he has a collar of some kind," and she responds with something about them showing the house and the fence must've been turned off and your dog is so cute, and I just want to get away from her and get home. So I get Penny out of there, even crossing the street because she's still so scared. She had no visible cuts or scrapes, but I bet all that thrashing around caused her incision to open further. That's my realization.

When I told T about our walk, he got very quietly angry: I could see his body tense up and I felt this tangible fury come out of him. Uncanny, really. He only said in a low voice, "Boy, was that dog lucky that I wasn't there." Yikes. If there's a next time, I'm sorry, I will grab the other dog's tail and bodily pull the animal off my dog. In a somewhat delayed reaction, I also burst into tears an hour after it happened as I realized what might have transpired. But we gave her lots of treats and love, and she seems fine, except for staples and that dumb collar she now has to wear AGAIN. Good thing these people are moving and taking their mongrel cur with them.

People, please, PLEASE train your dogs and keep them leashed if needed. I'm doing the best to train mine so these things don't happen to other dogs or people, so please do the same. Now I'm going to pet my girl and prepare for the Mason picnic, which should be lots of good, clean fun.

Have a good weekend, folks! Play nicely!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Seven Things About Me, Part 2

Although first I have to tell you all that poor Penny had to get staples in her little spayed area because the stitches reopened (yuck) and she has to wear The Cone again. Poor wee pumpkin. Plus we're having T's annual Masonic picnic at our house this weekend, so everyone gets to meet Her Elizabethan Collarness while she's not quite her sweet, perky self. We'll get her a lot of sympathy petting.

All right, I did 1-4, so now it's time for 5-7.

5. I love words, wordplay, etymology, all of that stuff. Words fascinate me. How can authors put words together in such beautiful, interesting, funny, awful, puzzling, enthralling ways? Aside from that, I love knowing facts like the word disaster literally means "a bad alignment of the stars", from dis-, meaning "not" or "bad", and -aster, meaning "star". Isn't that cool? The word sinister comes from the same Latin word, which meant "left-handed" or "unlucky" because left-handedness was considered unlucky or evil. I also love other languages and accents--connecting English to other languages gives me such a kick. I should have taken Latin. I speak Spanish and German, plan to learn French, and would like to learn a non-romance language such as Chinese. Now I just have to find places to speak my languages so I don't lose them completely. As always, suggestions welcome. I think my passion for words extends to all parts of my life: I teach English, I sing, I do accents, I admonish my students for using the same words in their writing over and over again when so many others exist. My favorite word I taught my husband?

To throw something out a window. Think about it: The word for window in three different languages is ventana (Spanish), fenetre (French), and fenster (German). It all adds up! Isn't that thrilling? I think so.

6. No matter how old I get, no matter how many places I go, I still find simple joys the best. Jaded, utterly sophisticated people must live such sad lives because it takes so much to make them interested or happy, if they even allow themselves to feel those emotions. I've had people laugh at me because I got excited about something they found ridiculous or unimportant: What do I care? I see it as me getting a lot more out of life than they do. The sound of wind in the trees, the curve of a shell, the emotion of a beautiful song with my choir, the feel of eight people rowing totally in synch, my puppy's wagging tail, the weight of my husband's hand on mine, the feeling of euphoria as I laugh with friends....Those joys fill me with life and make me whole.

7. I procrastinate. A lot. And I often feel like I'm faking it, and that it's just a matter of time until everyone finds out. I've started to figure out why I do this: At one point in my life, when things were rocky at home and I was away at school, I made a point to be "fine" so nobody worried about me. I was smart enough in school and life to get by, often doing things last minute but pulling it all out in the end. I didn't want to ask for help because of the previous point of appearing to deal with everything and because some part of me thought, "Well, you should know how to do this, so don't ask or you'll look foolish or feel ashamed." This of course led to a shame spiral, I now see. I think the procrastination has to do with avoidance, a technique that probably shielded me from some tough stuff at one point but that now sabotages me. The part of me that learned to deal with everyday life never asked for help and never learned to deal with things as an adult does. I have the little voice inside me that says not to open the mail, to play one more game of Solitaire, that I have plenty of time to grade those papers and doesn't stop to think that I have to get 100 of them graded by the end of the quarter. Then I pay the bill late or don't cash a check, stay up late doing lesson plans, and grade 100 papers in two days. So I've started listening to that voice and responding with a better way of doing things, or ignoring the child voice altogether. It's hard. She's been there a long, long time and she has a lot of say, but I think I can drown her out or at least turn her down. I've also realized that I'm not alone, I don't have to be perfect, and I have to forgive myself for being human. I have remind myself of that a lot, but I have wonderful people who do it for me when I forget.

Whoa, I didn't know I was going to let that last one out right there, though I'd been planning to write about it at some point. So now you know something about me, and maybe I made you realize something about yourselves. I tag any of you out there who blog to do this although, as Scarlet Lily pointed out, I think we all know the same bloggers, more or less.

I'm going to go check on Penny and grab a nap; that took more out of me than I'd thought. Happy Wednesday, dears.

Time for change

I'm bored with the look of this blog. How do I make it look like the rest of your cool blogs out there without taking a tech course? I can change the template, blah, etc., but how do I add fun pictures and things?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"That's worse than Murphy's Law!"

So I actually copied Scarlet Lily and got The Shoes. Quite comfortable, I will attest, very attractive. I wore them for the first time tonight. Walking back to the car, I caught one heel in a sidewalk crack and the bottom cover part came right off. Upon calling Scarlet to tell her this story, she replied with the above statement. I could not disagree.

Fortunately I know of a cobbler to fix the problem, but, come on. Well, as I say to my students, "If that's the worst thing that happens to you all day, you've had an excellent day." Again, I cannot disagree: I did have an excellent day. Yay.

Seven Facts About Me, Part 1

OK, Feather Nester asked me to do this, so I'll let you all know seven facts about me (hence the title) that I think you might be interested in.

1. As my friends and family know, I have a bizarrely accurate memory for birthdays, movie quotes, song lyrics, and random actors. The song part has gone down as of late because I listen to current music mainly so I know what my students should not sing in class. However, if you ask me who that guy was in that movie with Michael Caine, I'll probably know who it is. DH is also strangely good at this game with movies--he can recognize faces like that. I can quote entire chunks of certain movies, as Greenlight and others will attest. My sister M. once called me from a bar to ask me an actor's name and won a bet as a result. Unfortunately, that memory prowess does not extend to bills, dates when grades are due, or where I put my glasses. I've begun to work on this: I tend to remember things that are important to me, so I need to work on making those other things more important. Suggestions welcome.

2. My left eye does not actually move to the left. I have something called Duane Syndrome, a rare congenital defect that basically means my eyes are miswired and my left eye muscles never had a chance to develop. It used to be slightly crossed in, but I had surgery at age 2 to help with this and I've worn glasses since then. As a result my right eye is my "seein' eye" and I use the left only for peripheral vision, which I have very little of. Thus when I drive, I have a gigantic blind spot and have to crane my head around before I switch into the left lane. It also makes me look cross-eyed if I cut my eyes to the left. I cannot do any of those Magic Eye puzzles because my eyes do not work in tandem. Oh, well, no magic eyes for me.

3. When I'm alone, if it's there, I will eat elbow macaroni with my fingers. The macaroni can be hot or cold.

4. Few things get me angrier than bullying of any kind. I think I've written about this before, about the time I screamed at this huge football player friend of ours in college because he made Feather Nester cry, making fun of her for failing a class. It's one act I will absolutely not tolerate in the classroom in any form; my students know this. I don't scream then--instead I go into a cold rage and get very stern, the temperature drops about five degrees, and I radiate anger until I'm almost shaking. I know this happens because the entire feeling in the room changes and my students get quiet. A professor of mine once said, "If you are intelligent and you use that intelligence to make someone slower than you feel inferior, you are the ignorant person." I could not agree more. Ditto for any kind of using of superiority to make someone feel inferior. Don't do it in front of me.

I have to run, so I'll do the rest later.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Am I creating the future in this blogosphere?

I've read a bunch of educational articles recently, several having to do with how to assess reading in the digital age. Do we look at digital literacy as something different from reading literacy? As I understand it, digital literacy has to do with reading a lot of information quickly, often assessing it and interacting with others through sites that allow it. Thus people can look for a topic, say, "Olympics", and come up with all sorts of sites and information, and glean what they need. My problem with this (and others' problem as well) has to do with several facts:

1) People may not know the difference between legitimate, accredited sites and ones that have either incorrect or unsubstantiated information.

2) This sort of quick jumping around, while causing certain neurons in the brain to fire and react, certainly doesn't help with sustained attention. It may even hinder it, according to certain experts. [NB 1: I find it mildly ironic that I learned about this while reading it online in the NYTimes.]

As a teacher, when I write people, I really mean students because that's who this concerns. If, as I wrote before, a decent chunk of the working world increasingly requires its employees to be Internet-savvy, doesn't it also require them to have an attention span longer than ten minutes to complete a task? Doesn't it require them to sometimes analyze data properly and put that data together? Thus it's up to my profession to do that. What am I really trying to express here? I think it comes down to the fact that I believe today's youth need to practice activities that grab their attention for a sustained amount of time, and I believe teachers need to incorporate more Internet-based strategies in their teaching. How to do this? Not sure. My dad made a point on a previous entry that I'll put here, with his permission, that I think has a lot of merit as well:

While I usually agree with your take on things, and not just because I’m your father but because they are thoughtful, I have to disagree on one of your concerns. You say that when your students go out into the working world they will be dealing with IM, texting, blogs, Facebook, my space etc . No, actually they will not. Whether they are in a steel plant or an investment banking house or a law office, those things are by and large not part of the real work-a-day world; they are a huge part of their social fabric of the non working world of the generation that you teach. For that reason they are important, but they must know that the vast number of employers, except for a few newly rich 20 something entrepreneurs, do not use those things in how they do their jobs. The internet is the key to accessing facts which with thought may turn to knowledge but those other devices/tools are social facilitators.

He's right. The working world certainly is not all about social networking; it's about knowing a skill and sticking to it to get things done.

On a similar note, I discussed something with Scarlet Lily recently that has me concerned. Bear with me a moment as I ask: Have any of you seen or even heard of the movie Idiocracy? Not surprised if you haven't; it went pretty much straight to video and the parts I saw annoyed and alarmed me. It's not a quality flick. However, the basic premise comes from the stereotypical idea that uneducated people seem to have more children on the whole than educated folks do. Thus, over time, the educated population will die out, leaving the world filled with, shall we say, less-than-bright people. The idea of the movie is that this guy gets cryogenically frozen (always a recipe for an Oscar-winner) and wakes up 500 years later in a society so dumbed down that he's the most intelligent person on the planet. Wacky, zany hilarity ensues, of course. [NB 2: Do you agree with me that when a comedy is labeled as either "wacky" or "zany", it almost guarantees that it's terrible?]

While Idioocracy will never win any awards, part of it names a possibility that scares the heck out of me. Can that happen? I know intelligence is a dominant trait, but if procreation continues on this track, what exactly will happen in 500 years? Please feel free to tell me I'm an alarmist. I think I see tests and material being watered down because kids "just don't get it" and everything's too hard, and we have to make sure their little egos stay intact so we give every kid a trophy and bring down the bar so it's easier to reach. What good does that do anyone?

I don't mean to gripe, honestly. It's what makes me want to be a hardass teacher because when a student gets an A in my class, she knows she's earned it. I don't care if it means they don't like me--I watched it happen this year. I'm not as bad as my Ethics professor who notoriously said, "God gets an A, I get a B, and everyone else gets Cs and Ds" (Remember, Feather Nester? Good ol' Terrell), but I make them work. I praise them like crazy when they do well, so it all balances out.

What do you all think?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Funny old commercials

Just popped into my head:

This is one of my favorite commercials ever, mostly because it's one of the most random I've ever seen. Robert Loggia? What?

Another one I enjoy is the original "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker" that first ran during the Superbowl a few years ago, even with the use of the word Penny (Ok, that's not the word but it's what Penny technically is). I also don't espouse violence, but there's something bizarrely funny about this:

Speaking of sports, don't you love the Olympics? We have the added bonus of Canadian coverage, which I often prefer. This may have something to do with the fact that they show rowing at normal hours. Anyway, enjoy the beginning of your week!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Summer cleaning

As part of the campaign to clear my head and declutter my life, my mom helped me organize my office. She lives for this kind of thing. We bought a nice, comfy desk chair (the old one was too low for me--it's amazing what a crick you get in your neck when it's craned at even a 60 degree angle for an hour or more while looking at the monitor), a filing cabinet, and folders for organizing my teaching stuff--yay!!!! In case you don't know this, teachers get giddy with excitement at going to any Office Max-type place. We live for it, standing starry-eyed as children in front of a candy store at the sheer variation and volume of pens, dry-erase boards, and organizational files. You give us a choice between a gift certificate to Office Max and one to a nice clothing store, and we'll agonize over which one to choose.

More importantly, Mom helped me purge my old files of about ten years' worth of stuff-I-might-need-or-use-someday. Right. I had notes from college. Old mail. Notebooks from grad school. Receipts. Staff information from two jobs ago. Dried out glue sticks. Student work from 2001. VCR tapes--we don't even have a VCR anymore. Things I didn't even recognize. I did keep some of it, but most went happily into the trash or the recycle bin. See, I'm both a packrat and a piler, which means I have numerous piles of stuff. I am convinced that one day I will go through the pile, pull out the stuff, and use it. This rarely happens. Thus it felt wonderful to unburden myself of years of useless junk and organize what I kept into files and compartments.

I think if I start using the kindergarten mantra of "Everything has a home" and then keep those things in their homes, I may have a lot less stress. Those who know me, of course I'm not going to go all Type-A; it's not who I am. What began in college when my roommates T. and Greenlight finally designated one place only for my constantly missing keys has finally begun to creep into other aspects of my life. For instance, Greenlight, my keys reside in the bowl DH made, in the living room. For others, this idea may seem obvious and simple; for a scatterbrain like me, I have to concentrate on making little changes like this as common as brushing my teeth. It's all part of a revelation I'm having that I'll write about later.

Next stop: The closet. Do I really need the sweater I wore once last winter because I felt guilty about having not worn it the previous year? Probably not.

I'm off--my Six Plus One Traits of Writing book is calling my name from its home on my educational information bookshelf.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

You snooze, you lose

Scarlet Lily and Feather Nester have beat me to it, but just in case, please feel free to check out these "informative" [deliberate quotes there] and funny blogs:

Cake Wrecks

The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks

Cake Wrecks had DH and me laughing so hard we almost cried, and I'm using the latter blog as an example to my students about how not to use quotation marks.

Thanks, ladies!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The ins and outs of living next to a high school

I know it's closing down on summer because two days ago I heard our awesome marching band (#1 in NYS last year! They even got to play Main Street, USA in Disney World. Pretty cool.) practicing. If you're going to live next to a school, it's good to listen to a quality marching band as opposed to ones that "try really hard".

On the flip side, I just heard a girl screaming at her apparently very recent ex-boyfriend in the parking lot. If you're going to dump someone, maybe don't do it in a place where there's good echo quality. I didn't get a lot aside from repeated "WHY!?!?!? Right before school?!" and a lot of F-bombs from her, and "I don't want to talk to you!" from him. Ah, young love, so complicated. I don't mean to sound callous; I just didn't expect the literal Young and the Restless soundtrack to come floating through my window.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Canine Indignities

Well, as I write this, Penny lies curled up as a groggy doggie on the chair behind me, as she just came back from the vet: We took Bob Barker's long-touted advice and spayed our pet. Aside from yucky sutures down south, she has the added humiliation of having to wear one of those cones, or lampshades, as some call them, because she kept trying to pick at them:

Doesn't she look out of it? :-( Her little pupils are all dilated and she can barely stand up, poor sweet girlie, but she should get relatively back to form by tomorrow. At least we got her a new bed: She peed in the old one, unbeknownst to us, and we had to throw it out; no amount of cleaning product could get the eau de chien scent out for love or money. Eurgh. Now we can start her on adult food, too...our little girl's growing up! It happens so quickly....

My Take on The Dark Knight

I don't use this blog for movie reviews, but I'll make an exception.

We saw The Dark Knight yesterday. Wow. It rendered me speechless, I have to say. When we came out, we both remained fairly quiet because we both had to process it a bit, which always marks a quality film for me. Without giving anything away, I'll write that Christian Bale did it up right as the Caped Crusader, complete with gravelly voice (I think it's a bit much, but I understand the need for it, I guess) and tortured dual life. I really liked Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes; her feistiness worked a lot better than sanctimonious Katie Holmes' version. Morgan Freeman, well, do I really have to say anything? He's Morgan Freeman.

Aaron Eckhart worked surprisingly well as Harvey Dent, the alternate White Knight of Gotham. Won't say much more than that, but he played his part admirably, as did Michael Caine and Gary Oldman, who I think can do just about any accent or role he chooses and do it well, even his ridiculous Dracula. [Sidebar: F.F. Coppola chose Keanu Reeves for that part solely for box office draw; he didn't seem him as right for the part of Jonathan Harker at all. Neither did anyone who wasn't a teenage girl. But it worked.]

But I have to give the greatest credit to Heath Ledger. His version of the Joker blew me away. It was brilliant: psychotic, diabolical, evil to the core. I don't take anything away from Jack Nicholson's, but Jack's was bright-colors-comic-book, over-the-top in an obvious way. I think what made Ledger's Joker so frightening, at least to me, was that this type of person could almost exist in real life. He played it darker than I'd ever imagined, and it made the entire movie. His family should take pride in the fact that his last role, though not a happy one, was unquestionably triumphant in his portrayal of this demented character.

All in all, good script, solid acting, and a lot of thought about the dual nature we all have, and which side we'll go to in a given situation. Oh, some reviewers complain about the 9/11 vibe in the beginning with mention of terrorism, but I barely noticed it. And there's this whole mob side plot that does fit in, although it's a little garbled. Just focus on the Joker. If you have any interest in the new Batman series (and thank goodness we got away from the stupid Clooney-Schwarzenegger-one-liner version, ECH), you should see it. It's the full 2.5 hours, but you won't care. I say best film of the summer, hands down.