Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas breakfast

Thought I'd add this, since I said I'd give the recipe to my sister and now I just think you all should have it 'cause it ROCKED. This is what T and I made Christmas morning, the first Christmas morning in a long time that I didn't have to go anywhere. I love my family dearly, but the sheer number of places T and I have to go sometimes gets exhausting, so sitting around in uncombed hair and comfy jammies felt pretty great. Anyway, here's the pretty picture of the Jalapeno, Sausage, Jack, and Egg Breakfast Braid:

Ours didn't look exactly like that, but hey, it tasted just fine. It really didn't take a lot of effort to make, and it kept for breakfast the next morning leftovers. Yum!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oh yeah, this blog

I just have so much to tell, that I'll try to give a shortish version. As my father said, my last few actual posts have included a lot of...creativity because I'd kept something to myself that I wasn't ready to reveal. Therefore, I should probably start with that:

I'm pregnant. YES, I AM. Most of my readers already know this, but some of you may not, so there you go. I'm almost four months along and have a bit of a tummy, which is nothing compared to my sister M, who's due in about three WEEKS and looks like she's smuggling a basketball around. We took pictures together over the holidays and I mainly just look like I need to exercise more, but I know it's a BABY. T and I had the first trimester ultrasound and saw it moving and sucking its thumb and wriggling around. To quote Ragu (or is it Prego? HAH! That would be so funny if it was Prego), it's in there. So we're terrified and excited and in June, our lives will forever change. So that's pretty exciting, to say the least.

Other than that little tidbit, just life. I meant to post during our snow days about a month ago but I just couldn't get myself into it, for some reason. There was always something else to do. I don't know if it's nesting or what, but I've finally started to really, truly keep the house more organized on a more consistent basis, utilizing that nursery school mantra of "a place for everything, and everything in its place". I now mentally think, Does that shirt belong there, or hung up/in the hamper, hmmm? I have confused poor T on several occasions when I "cleaned up" (IE threw away) something he needed. But there are at least two loads of laundry sitting patiently in the basement waiting to be folded, so some things haven't changed.

We had a lovely holiday with family, who bestowed us with generous and thoughtful gifts, love, and more food than we could handle. Perfect. Even though this particular holiday included my grandfather passing away, Dad still had a good time and commented on the circle of life: He's got three grandkids and two on the way, and Grandpa's death wasn't unexpected. But I know he felt especially happy to have all of us there. Unfortunately, Christmas night ended abruptly for T, who caught an 18-hour bug which I then got yesterday. It was NOT pregnancy related. Trust me. Thank God for oatmeal. Penny also took it upon herself to snuggle with each of us during our bedridden stages, which truly did help.

Now, I just want to reiterate even before the beginning of the year how grateful I am for the dozens of little kindnesses that have come my way: congratulations from many, an unexpected Christmas card from former students, gifts for Penny, calls from friends about everything and nothing, silly e-mails that made my day, a giant bottle of ginger ale and a tummy rub yesterday from T, maternity clothes from my neighbor, and others I can't even think of. I have many, many reasons to smile during this time of year (and most other times, really). I'll try to post more often, too. Maybe it'll be one of my resolutions.

So if I don't post beforehand, have a wonderful New Year's Eve and try to look back on everything that happened to you in 2010, good or bad, and I bet (I hope!) you'll find that you had a good year. I know I did.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happiness for the Holidays

Makes me miss my choir, although I had to quit for good reasons. I've always loved the Hallelujah Chorus and I love these singing flash mobs.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Penny in the snow

Doesn't she look like a star-nosed mole? The snow gets caught in her fur like crazy.
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Winter wonderland

Part of our snow day!
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Something lost

A few friends sent me a note on Facebook of the 100 books the BBC bets most people have not read more than six of. While pleased to realize that I've read or half-read many of them, it made me realize something else: I've gotten away from reading. I used to be the consummate bookworm, waking up early in middle school just so I could read. I loved almost nothing more than books. They were my favorite gift. I still refuse to buy a Kindle because, to me, even though it's convenient, there's just something about the tactile feeling of holding a book and flipping pages that I will always love. My bookshelves show a life history.

I make excuses about why I don't read as much: I have lessons to plan and essays to grade, I have to clean the house, I'm not home all evening, it's too solitary.... But I took a look at myself this past weekend, and I had plenty of opportunity to read. Plenty. And what did I do? I tooled around on the computer and I watched TV. Lots of it. When did I become what I most feared? When did I allow screens to overtake ink and paper? I have books I received over a year ago and I haven't cracked them. As I get older and add more to my life, I know my own personal time will become even more limited. So I guess it's a question of how I want to spend the minutes to myself, which grow more precious and few (...wait, isn't that a song title?) as time goes on. And it's something I can do something about.

Therefore, after this, I think I'm going to go upstairs and read. Even if it's something I've read before but haven't read in a while (Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, if you must know), it's still me getting back to an essential part of me for as long as I can.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh boy

I think a month between posts really is too long, but I can't really write about my job too much for obvious reasons (as a teacher, I feel certain obligations) and grades were just due and, well, it's been a busy fall, kids. Quite busy.

But I felt I owed you all something because you seem to like my little witticisms and anecdotes, so I will try. I have to take a nap soon because we're going out at 9 to meet a friend at a bar for her birthday, and really, what crazy folks go out at 9 on a Friday!?!?! Oh yeah, normal people. So weenie me needs to get some time in because if I have more than two drinks, I will start to fall asleep at the bar. This actually happened to me once. I swear. It's why I don't drink more than one glass of red wine out because, for some reason, that stuff is like codeine for me: I was talking to this lovely woman whom I'd just met and began to fall asleep while I was talking to her. Hand of God, it happened. Deeply embarrassed, I lied and told her I'd taken cold medication and forgotten, and it must have reacted with the wine. She graciously waved it off, I went to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face, and drank club soda for the rest of the night. So, no wine for me tonight. I'll rally and have fun and act like someone who doesn't fall asleep with the time change.

What else, what else? Let's see...so excited about Harry Potter that I can barely contain myself. A, do you want to go with me on Saturday for a matinee? I do love seeing it at night, but it will be SO CROWDED. Plus I'm booked Friday night. Hell, I'll go by myself. One of my favorite movie-going ventures was seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on opening night by myself. I had no trouble finding a seat, the people next to me shared their popcorn, and we all cheered and marveled at the latest masterpiece. Dammit. Now I want to go on Friday and I can't. That really is fun, when all the fellow Potter nerds are seeing how it all unfolds, comparing it to the novel and all that. OK, A, want to go on Saturday night with me?

Honestly, the rest of my days and nights have been filled with small pleasures and work, which I love. Friends visiting here and there, winterizing the house, playing with Penny, the usual. I feel quite lucky and blessed to have this little life, so I'm off to enjoy it. Have a good weekend, my dears!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Advice from someone who knows

So we've started reading Tuesdays with Morrie in the one class I teach. If you haven't read it, I will write here that I truly did find it inspiring and believe that if we could all live a little more like Morrie Schwartz did, we'd all have much happier lives. Honestly, I found myself disliking Mitch Albom, the author, a lot, but loved Morrie. If you find this sort of stuff treacly and sappy, well, maybe you're just not ready to let in the life lessons? I don't know. I enjoyed it.

Here's what my students have to write about tonight:

On p. 42 Mitch considers again Morrie's statement that "The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say, if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it." Look not only at that quote but what Albom writes immediately before and after it. [he writes about how everyone was so wrapped up in the three-ring circus of the O.J. Simpson trial and how he writes stories about athletes and their celebrity... and who actually CARES about what house Andre Agassi just bought? Why does that matter?]

Do you agree with Morrie's statement? How easy is it to not give in to our culture? How does the media influence us to care about superficial things instead of what might be more meaningful? Any other comments based on Morrie's original are welcome.


So what do you think? I wrote a response about how our culture really doesn't make us feel good about ourselves a lot of the time...we should look a certain way, buy certain things, always look young, make tons of money.... How many of us know more about Lindsay Lohan's latest arrest and how many know about the fact that Chilean miners were rescued today after two months underground? How often does news start with a story that truly isn't newsworthy but is entertainment? We have become so used to being entertained and instantly gratified that I think we (well, I) lose perspective sometimes.

I had a wonderful time with T on Saturday just getting the yard raked and mowed, and winterizing the porch. I didn't want to do it, but I got outside, I accomplished something, and I felt grateful for the fact that I have a lovely, large backyard and a house to winterize. I think Morrie got me thinking about that. Went out dancing with the girls Saturday night--such fun. Then I had a rotten morning on Sunday and had a lovely afternoon with my dear friend M who took me out for comfort soup and shoe shopping because she knew I needed it. That's what's important, not an NCIS Columbus Day marathon or what some reality show star (now, there's an oxymoron) is doing.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just seeing how the Droid Blogger app works

My sweeties
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Advertising

I was home sick today (Wednesday) with laryngitis. This makes it extremely hard to teach, although, as I noted elsewhere, extremely creative. Fortunately most of my students were quite kind. Only a few kept muttering to their classmates, "Dude, I can't hear her." NO KIDDING. I also love, "Hey, Mrs. Frau, 'd you lose your voice?" No, I'm just mixing it up a bit. For fun. Fortunately I could glare and whistle, and those skills helped a great deal. Hot tea also helps. And frozen yogurt.

So as I lay in bed not talking and watching a bit of TV, I saw an ad and now will compile a list I call

Conversations Topics Women NEVER EVER Discuss in Real Life*:

- detailed birth control methods and their side effects
- the effectiveness of yogurt in digestive health
- women's vitamins
- anything where the phrase "just call your doctor" and "side effects" are used together
- how great chatting on a 1-900 number for singles was

That is all.

*All right, someone, somewhere may discuss them. But it's rare.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer Wrap-Up

Hi. Hi! How are you? I know I meant to post all the time during the summer and then...summer happened. And I didn't want to go upstairs to my hot computer and post. I'm sorry. Plus my laptop was broken, so I couldn't go somewhere cool to blog. I blame the laptop. Bad, bad laptop.

So I'll give you all a quick re-cap:
  • Once a week, I taught Alternative Ed to about five students. These kids for the most part are more academic delinquents than juvenile; they just didn't fit the mold for normal school hours. I found them both trying and endearing. The one kid who didn't do anything now has me for 1st period English. Keep your fingers crossed for him. And me.
  • Because I have an entirely new class this semester, I tried to spend 2 hours a day preparing for fall. A lot of this included reading new novels. I did pretty well--it also helps that I have no kids to take care of and that I live three hundred yards away from school, so I did a lot of photocopying over the summer.
  • On that note, with the help of a lovely doctor-lady, I found out that I do NOT have ADHD but do have deficits in organization and time-management. Case in point: I missed our last appointment because I forgot to put it on my calendar. That, kids, defines irony. Fortunately we did the appointment over the phone. So I've tried very hard to make my Google Calendar my end-all, be-all, updating it and color-coding it and using the Task list like crazy. It's helped tremendously. As a result, for the first time EVER I started the school year today totally ready and not mildly panicked because I had everything labeled, in its proper color folder, and ready to go. I still have a lot to work on, but at least I'm getting tools in place.
  • I worked out faithfully and lost no weight, nor do my clothes fit more loosely. So I went on Weight Watchers with T and got my trainer friend A to kick my butt. So far, so good.
  • This August T and I went to Denver, CO to watch our dear friends get married on the side of a mountain--just a lucky handful of us got to see them perform their own vows (legal only in CO and PA to do that!) and all of us wept at the beauty of the moment, the couple, the scenery, the love. Plus Denver's a cool town to visit AND, as I type this, the newlyweds are headed back to Buffalo to live, so we get them back because, as I told the bride last summer, WE HAVE DIBS. I'm sorry, Bostonian and Tennesseean friends. I CALL 'EM.
  • Got into the Stieg Larsson trilogy and cannot stop reading them. I just love Lisbeth Salander. LOVE her.
  • Also got into Mad Men. Don Draper is the man you love to despise. He's such a terrific flawed anti-hero. I also pledge here and now to stay far, far away from the Betty Draper Method of Parenting.
  • Speaking of parenting, my sister M and her husband C expect a baby in January! Plus they moved back to the B-lo as well, so it's happiness all around.
  • I decided to call people and get in touch more, take my own advice and make the effort. So far, it's worked quite well. I plan to keep it that way.
  • I finally found and began compiling our wedding pictures. Whoops. Looking through them and remembering the joy of the day, captured so well on film, has brought such joy. I'll try to put together an album soonish.
  • OH! T got a new job and loves it. It's at a similar company to his old one but gives him the opportunity to spread his wings a little. I am so, so proud of him.
That's it, really. I never got my garden started, but we have some fun and necessary house projects coming up. T and I decided to become more organized, together, for a lot of reasons, least of which includes less stress for us. Friendships waxed and waned, small decisions we made will have good ripple effects later....really, it's just life that happened. More to come.

T and me in Colorado

Monday, August 16, 2010

Four Things

Ouiser tagged me, so here goes:

4 things you'd find in my bag:
My bag is my school bag, so you'd find
- one green or purple pen
- a textbook
- stray paperclips
- bobby pins for hair emergencies

4 things you'd find in my purse:
- wallet
- glasses microfiber wipe thingie
- more bobby pins, a hair elastic
- mini Tide pen for self and husband stain emergencies

4 favorite things in my room (on the nightstand):
- a half-empty glass of water
- My St. Paul's Book of Common Prayer
- a list of things T loves about me, given to me on our first wedding anniversary
- My journal

4 things I'm currently into:
- cooking using my Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way cookbook
- actually organizing my life and teaching in terms of planning ahead, color-coordinating folders, and using my Google calendar like crazy
- Mad Men (I can't stand Don Draper, yet I am drawn to his perfect and flawed facade of a life)
- the Girl trilogy by Stieg Larsson

4 things you don't know about me:
- The movie The Blair Witch Project terrified me so badly, I almost had to leave because, for some reason, I truly believed it could happen.
- I have to fold my napkin in its original form before I leave a restaurant. I don't know why.
- Occasionally, for no reason, I will stand on one leg with the other foot balanced on the inside of the opposite knee (like tree pose, for those who do yoga). I am partially convinced in a former life I was a bushwoman who tended sheep, as I have often seen pictures of them doing this.
- When I walk to school in the morning, I sing Carole King's song "Beautiful" to remind myself to have a good day and to have confidence in myself.

More of a real entry soon. I've got some things I'm mulling over for entries; just have to sort it out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Death...I mean Dirt Bike

First of all, I will freely admit that the inspiration for this post comes from the latest post at Hyperbole and a Half. I dare you to read it without laughing. However, I haven't posted in a while and, while I cannot draw the pictures as Allie can, I have my own traumatic story.

The summer after I'd turned six, my dearest wish was to spend the night at YMCA day camp. They did one sleep-over every summer where we'd all spend the night OUTSIDE! in SLEEPING BAGS! and it was the highlight of my summer, possibly my year. I wanted to go even more than I wanted to meet Big Bird. Daddy had one stipulation: I had to learn to ride a bike first. Cool; I wanted to do this! Riding bikes meant freedom and wind in my hair and awesomeness! Yay!

So...

He taught me on my older brother's shiny silver Huffy dirt bike. It had hand brakes and semi-working foot brakes. I was too little to get on it by myself; my dad had to balance the bike and lift me on. Thus, I could not get off, either, without the bike falling on me.

God, how I learned to hate that bike.

I can picture it now, haunting my six year-old imagination, leaning against the garage all shiny and tall, waiting to tip me over. Laughing at me. How it taunted me. Bastard bike. No lingering mental scars here.

I quickly learned to fear the sound of Daddy's car coming home from work: The door would slam and I'd hear the dreaded words: "Let's practice bike riding!" I would run screaming in terror and try to hide. (It's true. Ask my mom.) I think part of the reason it took ALL SUMMER was that I would leap off the bike before it had a chance to eject me, and Dad would curse and make me try again, implying this time, I'd better stay on that bike.

Finally, the day before the sleep-over arrived. I uttered a final prayer and was told that if I could make it all the way up the driveway and into the garage, I could go. Only the thought of me in my Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag, my stuffed monkey Rocky by my side, allowed me to wobble my way quickly up the driveway...YES! I HAD MADE IT! I RODE A BIKE! I...rode right into the side of the garage and fell. However, Daddy took pity on me and let me go. He probably would have, anyway, but I didn't know that. It was a proud moment for me, folks. I had achieved two dreams that day.

...Never mind that the counselors let us stay outside for about an hour and then announced that the weatherman had forecast rain and we had to go inside and sleep on a crummy basement floor. I never realized until later that that had been a big fat LIE. The fact that they pulled the same line the next year may have alerted me. But I learned to ride and eventually got a coveted pink bike with streamers AND a flowered banana seat.

Final note: My sisters learned to ride using a neighbor's teeny weeny, barely-six-inches-off-the-ground bike. Each of them raced around like Lance Friggin' Armstrong in an afternoon.

Oh, I like to think that summer of '83 was just a starting point for me, a stepping stone, if you will, in life. Truly, all obstacles since then have simply been one death Huffy to overcome in order to attain that symbolic sleep-over....

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Perils of Voice Technology

My dad sent me this. It's funny yet makes quite a comment on how we treat people from different cultures.

P.S. the right side gets a bit cut off--you can also see it on YouTube.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cool Technology

In my quest to become more organized, Google has given me a new tool: the wonder wheel:


Has everyone seen this? It's so handy. It makes me giddy with organized happiness. Use it. Just do a regular Google search and then click the "Wonder Wheel" option on the left, and it organizes everything into little components. An old site, Grokker, used to do this, but the site shut down for reasons unbeknownst to me. Anyway, extremely nifty.

And I know I've written about this before, but if you're not using Delicious for your bookmarks, you are MISSING OUT.

That is all. Stay cool. Literally.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Undecided

I saw this on The Bloggess, and I just can't decide how I feel:

On the one hand, if it gets kids to read, FANTASTIC. Perhaps it'll start an entire wave of young readers hankering for Victorian fiction and the like. I can see it now...throngs of my students delving into Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Dr. Zhivago. Not bad, actually.

On the other hand, I don't know how Emily Bronte would feel about this. It seems a little sad that Harper Collins has chosen to decide that the only way a young person of this generation would even read the classics is if fictional characters give it a thumbs-up. I shudder a bit.

I think I have to grudgingly go with my first "hand", however. If it gets kids reading good literature, run with it. I can't wait for it to seep into their writing....

What say you, readers?

UPDATE: My two commenters thus far have caused me to expand on my position and my thinking, and I have responded in the comment section. I think it adds a lot to the original post. Thanks, ladies!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Utterly Random Questions and Observations

1) Has anyone else ever noticed that in B-grade movies, the characters overuse each others' names to an obnoxious extent? Next time you watch a movie that you realize is mediocre at best, see if this is true. Case in point: From Paris, with Love. Not my choice, BTW.

2) Does Miley Cyrus not see the pattern of child-star-turned-sexy-bad-girl that others have left in her wake? She's heard of Lindsay Lohan, right?

3) What, truly, is the appeal of Silly Bandz?

4) When will we ever get this giant oil spill stopped? Can we? What will the repercussions be? And how in the name of heaven could the oil companies be so blind and foolish and arrogant not to plan for something of this magnitude?

5) Can the next two Harry Potter movies truly live up to the last book?

6) I've often posited that e-books and 3-D television simply a secret plot of the world's opticians and ophthalmologists to cause eye problems and therefore increase the need for corrective lenses. Think about it.

7) Can Andy Murray win Wimbledon, breaking the U.K. champion drought?

8) If I look sad and downcast, look longingly but quickly at someone, and then look down, bite my lip, and look away, can I be cast in the next Twilight movie?

9) When I have kids, I don't care what sort of hovercraft-transportation-screen-within-a-screen crap they have out. They're playing outside with sticks and rocks.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A short list of happy

1) I made blackberry muffins yesterday based on an old recipe I found from Ouiser, using blackberries from our bushes outside and a few of the reviewer substitutions. They tasted quite delicious. We've had a rainy spring/beginning to summer, but boy oh boy, it's making those berries grow.

2) Penny finally gets her stitches out tomorrow and can take off that stupid Elizabethan collar and play with her buddies. I find it adorable that the one chocolate lab has been looking toward the treeline, waiting for her to emerge because he misses her.

3) My sister and her husband will have officially moved back to Buffalo as of next Thursday.

4) Spending extra time in the evening with T. because we have neither coaching nor teaching responsibilities is lovely.

5) The thought of going to Office Depot with my hyper-organized mother to get myself ready for the upcoming school year makes me absurdly excited. As I believe I have mentioned before, places like Office Depot feel like a teacher's Graceland. We walk in and just stare at the rows of colored pens and files, breathing in the possibilities....

That's all I have for now. Off to the farmer's market to perhaps buy some plants for my long-overdue garden. Yes, I realize how late in the season it is, but who cares? I'll give it a whirl.

Happy Wednesday, dears!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Making fun of technology

Recently I met a delightful woman I met at a party and we decided we had a funny SNL skit that really could work. We were bashing Twitter and Facebook a bit. Not to get hypocritical, I admit freely that I do have accounts on both. HOWEVER: I do not check Facebook obsessively every ten minutes--I probably look at it every few days. And I don't remember the last time I checked Twitter. I know each has its uses and I have gotten in touch with old friends and even thought about using each medium for teaching. So there.

HOWEVER...we were making a bit of fun of the users who feel the need to type every little bit of mundane crap that goes on in their lives, giving the rest of us the blow by blow. When did this desperate need to tell all and sundry about minute details arise? I must admit I'm in awe and impressed (truly, not ironically) that people make a living doing this. For crying out loud, Dooce [very famous blogger who now has her own show on HGTV] got a friggin' free washing machine when she complained about crummy service via Twitter. That's power.

Now, our skit consisted of this same spewing forth of our daily gems...about ten years ago, when we were still using telephones and e-mail was hitting its heyday as a regular means of communication. Here's a sample, although I think it would be best as a visual. Use your imaginations. All names will be made up-ish.

From: Meg
To: Jo, Beth, Amy, Marmee, Laurie, JBrooke, Sallie
Subject: laundry
Time: 10:03am

Just did four loads of laundry! Will these twins ever get potty trained?


From: Meg
To: Jo, Beth, Amy, Marmee, Laurie, JBrooke, Sallie
Subject: laundry
Time: 10:07am

And now Demi just pulled half the laundry off the line and Daisy just threw up, so you know what that means!


From: Meg
To: Jo, Beth, Amy, Marmee, Laurie, JBrooke, Sallie
Subject: laundry
Time: 10:12am

Now someone's at the door!


From: Sallie
To: Meg
RE: laundry
Time: 10:14am

Ugh, yes, laundry is the worst. That's why the maid does ours. P.S. that's me outside ringing the doorbell.


From: Marmee
To: Meg, Beth, Jo, Amy
RE: laundry
Time: 10:21

Now, Meg, you know that laundry is just part of your wifely duty. Of course I'll help you if you need it, but you should really try to bear the burden cheerfully.
* * *
[phone conversation]

Harry: Hello?
Hermione: Hey, Harry! Just finished Snape's latest essay on wolfsbane potion!
Harry: Um, ok....Is there anything else, Hermione?
Hermione: Nope! Ok, now I'm off to call Ron, Ginny, Padma, Neville, Luna, and everyone else in my contact list to tell them the same thing. [click]

* * *
[voice mail from me to everyone I ever met from Colgate]
"You should really start watching Lie to Me. It's a cool show and it's got Tim Roth, the dude who was in Pulp Fiction robbing the diner, in it. By the way, this is Die Frau*, Class of '99."


Doesn't it seem weird? Is it just me? Why do I really need to tell people that were in my sister's class in grade school about the fact that I have wild strawberries growing in my back yard? (OK, I do, and it's so cool.) How far will the madness go?

Now I have to run and update my Facebook profile for the day. GTG, CU L8R. [shudder]

*not my real name

Friday, June 25, 2010

Making the Effort

So, I have another school year under my belt, and, in Jeff Probst-Survivor style, I have managed to stay on another year. It's my first fourth year (in a row) anywhere, so that feels pretty damn good. I'm also teaching two CTD classes (blended special ed and regular ed) next year, a nod to my special ed certification, so that also feels extremely gratifying. I know that I've put the work in and the higher-ups have recognized that and given me the chance to put my knowledge into practice--I feel supercharged already. Even now, while I'm still in teaching mode, I'm thinking of plans for the fall, what I'll change, what I'll keep, and it gets me excited. I guess that means I'm in the right profession.

The year had its ups and downs, as is always the case. I got to know some great colleagues and shifted away from others--not always because I chose to, but in life there's always that ebb and flow, and geography plays an enormous role, I think. For better or worse, simple proximity shapes our relationships; at least, I find that to be true. I realize it's not rocket science to see that working (or living) in the same room or across the hall from someone allows a relationship to grow. But what happens after that? After you've been shifted to another room or another floor or another city? Then the real work begins--you have to decide whether you want to stay in contact with that person and how much contact you want to have, and then you choose to make the effort to do so. I think the sad part is when you realize you put more stock in the relationship than the other person did...you want to make the effort but the other person doesn't. No matter how old we get, there's still that feeling of let-down, that secret "Why doesn't s/he like me as much as I like her?" thought. Of course, there's rarely an answer to this question, but then you have to figure out whether to continue making the effort and see if it's returned or simply move on to the friends who want to reciprocate.

It can be exhausting.

Nowadays we have wonderful technology to keep in touch, which narrows that distance. I love that I can communicate with people I love and miss through e-mail, Skype, this blog, and that old stand-by, the phone. It does help. Even then, though, you make the decisions: Whom do I send this e-mail forward to? How many people really want to hear about my latest "big" news? How many people do I care to tell directly? Why didn't she answer my text? I KNOW she got it. When did I become "Christmas card friends" with this person? Do I care or just let that one go?

Again, the exhaustion. It really does mean something--I realized this one time when, in my fifth attempt to get hold of a friend who either 1) rarely returned my calls or 2) tended to have all plans remain soft unless her Option A fell through (therefore making me Option B), T. said to me, "Honey, why are you wasting your time? Call the people who call you back." And the light bulb went on. So obvious yet so not. I took the advice and have felt a lot happier since.

This started out as a post about my school year wrap-up and took a totally different turn, but I think I can get it to circle around: I'm always going to act friendly and nice to those I work with because that's who I am. I don't see a point in blowing anyone off or treating anyone shabbily unless given a serious reason to do so, and even then I would remain civil. But I have to accept that some people will accept my friendship and make the effort and others won't, and that has nothing to do with me, 95% of the time. It's that person's decision. Really, this post has a lot to do with self-esteem, something I recently realized I lack. I have always been my harshest critic, but I think this summer I plan to love myself a bit more and surround myself with others who will help with that.

Suggestions are welcome. I took a self-defense course a few weeks ago (YOU ALL SHOULD DO THIS. IT WAS AWESOME AND SO EMPOWERING!!!!!), and I'm doing a follow-up next month. I'll phone some friends who will phone me back. I'll plan for the fall. I may do more yoga and just let me be me.

But right now the screened-in porch and the rest of my John Irving are calling my name, so I'll stop ruminating and begin enjoying the weekend. You do the same, my dears.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Two quick thoughts and an exclamation

1) There is little that's more pitiful than watching a fluffy dog stagger around, post-anesthesia, with a large shaved patch on one side of her and an Elizabethan collar (one of those cones) on, catching said collar on doorways. (She's recuperating today--they cleaned her teeth and removed a cyst; hence the surgery.)

2) Jillian Michaels should stay the hell away from yoga. I did her version this morning and she took something that involves stretching and holding poses and strength and...jillianized it. Doing three sun salutations in a row at top speed "because that's the only way you melt those pounds" is not inspiring or pleasant. She also had disdain for yoga speak, preferring not to say phrases such as "bring your heart center to your knee" because it wasn't "English". I'll do the Shred with her all day because then I feel justified in thrashing around to the beat as I try to copy Tami in the corner who's doing the beginner version, sweating, and occasionally gasping obscenities at Jillian and her blazing eyes and killer abs and tattoos. Yoga, not so much.

Here's the exclamation: We have strawberries randomly growing in our yard! I have no idea how they got there; one of us must've chucked a bad one and it took root or something. It is SO COOL. And our blackberries are growing! Yay, wild berries!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One of my favorites

No words needed. I've always and will always love Kermit and the rest of the Muppets.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

So much...

...to try to compile. But right now I'm at work so I will make this short. I'm grading exam essays. Lots and lots of essays. And as I read them, I'm questioning my own skill as a teacher because some of them are making me cry....

I think the reason I haven't posted as much is because 1) it's the end of the school year, and 2) our laptop has gone on the fritz, so I'm not as motivated to go upstairs away from husband and dog (and cool air) to write. Sorry--I love you all, but I love my comfort more. Is that wrong? No. No, it's not.

However, summer recipes and pictures and stories are soon to come, so stay loyal, dear ones.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This about sums up how I feel today


It also explains why I haven't posted in a while--I'm trying to avoid such a scenario. And Flickr is annoying me. Anyone know how to upload a bunch of pictures to Blogger all at once, or do I have to do it one at a time?


(click to enlarge)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Simple Joys

I need to write this quickly because I'm on my way to do several extremely important errands that could be life-changing. Not kidding.

I've got some worries going on because of school budget woes--it's coming out soon, and things can go a few ways. One of those ways may well include massive cuts, and those would probably include me. Instead of worrying about what may or may not happen, instead of freaking, T and I are being proactive and doing what we can in the meantime--we can only control so much, so we're making sure we do and letting the rest come as it will because, honestly, that's all we can do. I mean that in a calm, ride-it-out kind of way.

So last night we ate dinner out on our porch complete with candles, a good bottle of wine we'd been saving for "something phenomenal", and a terrific thunderstorm. We ate, drank the wine, listened to the storm, and played cards all evening with Penny sometimes jumping into our laps.

That's what it's all about.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pictures


Here's the deal: Now that it's almost May, the end of the school year will come on with great, hurtling force, so my already-sporadic blogging may well become even more so. I will do my best--truth be told, I'll probably need to post just to keep sanity.

In the meantime, as promised, a random assortment of pictures:


This was what I came down to on my birthday from my dear husband.

Our new indoor-outdoor rug--made completely from recycled plastic bottles! Not kidding--it ROCKS.

The greenie decided to get bags to separate glass from paper from metal. Unfortunately, the trash collectors made off with the orange one, even though I'd put our address on there. They probably just THREW IT AWAY, TOO.





Ohhhh, gracious--this was my sister and BIL's Christmas present to us-- pancake making apparatus!


Banana pancakes! Yeah!

Raisin bread for Grandma--when you turn 95, you get whatever you want. This was what she wanted. :-)

me, Grandma, my aunt Deborah

Oh, and our anniversary dinner--thanks for the help, Yum! We decided instead of going out, we'd cook something we don't usually, so I made stuffing to put in our yummy grilled quail.

Preparing the quail

...grilled with a bit of olive oil and rosemary

...and jumbo shrimp, baby! Oh yes, and a salad, but that wasn't quite picture-worthy

I am an extremely lucky person.

Perspective

"Real" post coming soon, probably with a lot of pictures. In the meantime, a colleague sent me this e-mail today and, in this constantly upgrading world, I wanted to share it and hear your thoughts:

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device, trade named: BOOK

BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use, even a child can operate it.

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere -- even sitting in an armchair by the fire -- yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc. Here's how it works:

BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder, which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, BOOKs with more information simply use more pages.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. BOOK may be taken up at any time and used merely by opening it.

Unlike other display devices, BOOK never crashes or requires rebooting, and it can even be dropped on the floor or stepped on without damage. However, it can become unusable if immersed in water for a significant period of time. The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session -- even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOKmarkers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (PENCILS).

Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. Also, BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking. Look for a flood of new titles soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

another way to take away from productivity

If you haven't checked out this blog yet, do so immediately for laughs. You really need the audio for the full effect.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Banana Bread

Brownish bananas lead me to find this recipe, in case you need one. Apparently it's from Cooking Light 2003 and it's quite tasty. I didn't use a cup of sugar; in my mind, bananas have quite a bit of sugar in them. I used a heaping 1/2 cup. I also only had vanilla yogurt, so I used that and added 1/4 t vanilla extract.

Enjoy!




Banana Bread
MAKES: 14 servings CRISPY RATING: The best recipe I've found.

Ingredients 2 Cups All-purpose Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Light Butter, softened
2 Large Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Mashed Bananas, about 3 bananas
1/3 Cup Plain Low-fat Yogurt
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°. 2. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. 3. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. 4. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. 5. Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Per Serving: 171 Calories; 3g Fat (14.0% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 33mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1/2 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wow

The only reason I follow Twitter is because I sometimes run across gems such as this one, linked by The Bloggess:

Instructions Book by Neil Gaiman

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Movies, TV, Books

Just a random assortment of suggestions and non-suggestions. Basically, it's Saturday morning and I'm avoiding cleaning my house and grading. You're welcome.

Books

Last Night in Twisted Riverby John Irving

Is it all right that I'm giving this review and I'm not done with the book? Because I already love it. This may have something to do with the fact that, as a rule, I love John Irving's novels. He's sucked me in right away (although it does begin with a lot of history of the logging industry)--he'll have you going along, thinking, "OK, good plot, memorable characters..." and WHAM! He throws a curve-ball at you. Let me put it this way: I've read ahead in about four places because I can't wait to see what's next.

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Admittedly, I am also not too far through this novel (that I'm reading for my book club. Whoops. J, you've probably finished it AND made copious notes. But you are a human dynamo), but I'm enjoying the lack of completely linear writing. The narrator interjects himself a lot, working two intertwined plots at the same time. I happen to like that. I find his writing here very lyrical in spots. Hopefully it will continue. I'm going to hear Rushdie speak next Friday, so that should be fascinating.

I suppose I should add the caveat that I may like Midnight's Children so much because most of what I've read for our book club I (and others) have not enjoyed, so perhaps part of my feeling toward this book involves sheer relief, but I don't think that's entirely why I recommend it.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I'm reading this one as my summer reading book for the students, and I find it riveting. It's a collection of short stories all based in one small town in Maine, and they're all intertwined. The main character, Olive, is a retired schoolteacher who's a bit crusty, a bit domineering--I alternate between utterly disliking her and feeling sorry for her as the author drops more and more bits of Olive's life into the stories. It won the Pulitzer Prize, and I can see why.

The cool part is that this year we had the students come in and recommend books (an idea both obvious and innovative), and I believe a few kids recommended this one. Thought-provoking and at times bitterly sad, Olive Kitteridge also has its bright spots. I've truly enjoyed it. Plus it's not terribly long, so it's one you can keep on your bedside table and read a story a night.

TV

If you haven't gotten into LOST yet, well, I don't understand why not. Rent the DVDs and watch it from the beginning and see if you don't get hooked. In a sea of crime and doctor dramas, it has a sometimes confusing but never boring storyline.

I never thought I'd feel sympathy for a serial killer, but we love the Showtime series Dexter. I warn you, it's extremely dark and sometimes unnerving, but we think the acting is great and the plot often blackly humorous. Lots of blood, though (obviously), and lots of swearing, so if that's not something you like, don't go for it. Tell you what--if you could get through and enjoy the movie Fargo, I think it has that same air about it. These are also on DVD.

I just got into Modern Family after hearing three people (whose opinions I trust) rave about it within as many days. We watched it the other night and laughed a lot. I think someone finally hit on a combination of families that are exaggerated in just the right way and got away from the "dumb-husband/shrewish, acerbically witty wife" combo that's been around since The Honeymooners. And I think Ed O'Neill has gotten funnier as he's gotten older-- he's improved on his timing. Honestly, some of it was so hilarious because it seemed familiar.

Movies
  • I don't have much here except to write that apparently the movie Crank 2: High Voltage
    is, according to my husband, "the worst movie I've ever watched all the way through," and he's let himself watch some real stinkers. He said it felt as though a fourteen year-old boy had written the script: bad one-liners, explosions, fast cars, sex, scantily clad women, and bad guys...all to a soundtrack that featured lots of electric guitar. But worse.
I have become convinced that the reason I like the movie Meet Joe Black as much as I do is solely because of the soundtrack by Thomas Newman, who's done the music for American Beauty, Finding Nemo, The Shawshank Redemption, Road to Perdition, and others. I just love how hauntingly beautiful it is. Otherwise, it's not that terrific a movie.

Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet confuses 9th graders because they can't reconcile Elizabethan English with modern scenarios. The men need to be in doublets and tights (although the codpieces are a bit much), not gang-wear, for them to get it.

Honestly, I haven't seen anything in the theater lately, so let me know what's good.

So there's my two cents. Do with it what you will. I'm off to clean and bake cinnamon-raisin bread with my mom for my grandma's 95th birthday tomorrow.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Birthday

Well, yes, I had a birthday last week. It was lovely and fun and I totally forgot to take any pictures except one of my mom and T, so when he gives me back the camera, I'll post it. But I had a great dinner the Sunday before, cooked specially by T.: a buffalo steak, Israeli couscous, and asparagus; the last two being special favorites. We also had a delicious bottle of wine, the name of which escapes me now, but I will get it. Promise. Wow, no pics and no wine--this post is not informationally sound.... He also got me a gift that's really for both of us, an iPod nano. This means we don't have to argue when we go to the gym about who gets the iPod, so it's the gift that keeps on giving. I had great extended birthday with a delicious dinner at one of my favorite restaurants (The Left Bank, for those who know it) with our parents--just a very nice, low-key time. I even had a colleague bake me cookies, even tastier because they were unexpected. There's something about unexpected cookies. Basically, so many wonderful calls, texts, cards, and e-mails and other acknowledgments of my birthday really made it a great one.

For about 90 seconds, I got a little...negatively pensive this birthday. I'm not where I thought I'd be at this age--I think I figured I'd be a little further along in the whole family path and more secure in my job. And then I thought, Let's see...I am fortunate enough to have an excellent, secure marriage, a nice house, a sweet dog, a fulfilling job, loving family and friends, health, and so much more... so I think that I'm doing quite well. To think anything else is foolish and ignoring all the wonderful parts I have in my life.

So happy birthday, me.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Play Nice

I've been reading a few of my usual blogs lately and have stumbled upon the mommyblog difficulties that have arisen between a blogger called Chicken Liver and various other bloggers. I realize that I've seen some of her negative comments on blogs before and I always vaguely wondered why she would bother. I now understand she had an entire blog devoted to bashing certain women whom she felt were abusing their power as writers, neglecting their children or families in some way, etc. While I recognize that in this country, everyone has a right to her (or his) own opinion, in reading some of her prior posts, I personally found them to be vitriolic and hateful on an unnecessary level. She verbally attacked these people's children, posted home addresses, and wrote commentary on a level I find unnecessary--and growing.

I just don't understand it. While anyone who posts writing on the Internet has the right to express her feelings because it's all opinion and personal experience, and that person may well have detractors who vehemently disagree with said opinion and personal experience, why make a point of spending time and energy writing down mean comments about other people whom you don't know? I also see this constantly in reading comments on news articles. People are so quick to judge without knowing a whole situation, so quick to put their two cents in in a negative way, writing about how someone is stupid or wrong or racist or Socialist or what-have-you.

Why do it? Perhaps I'm naive, but when did we become so mean? What purpose does it serve?

I think this has come to mind as well because we've had more fights in my school than in times past, and I asked the kids why they thought this was happening. I got a whole host of answers ranging from "they're just being stupid; the fights are pointless" to "he was defending his cousin because someone said bad stuff about her" to "because it stops that person from talking trash about you" to "because they're new and being picked on". (People still pick on the new kid? How cliche'. How lame.) As T said, "I have to respect you for you to be able to offend me." So why bother? When I pointed out T's position, they said, "Yeah, but if you walk away, then you're weak/wimping out". It doesn't surprise me, but it saddens me to hear that perspective.

I never got into fights when I was younger. I didn't see the point, and I stuck to people who were nice and liked me and whom I liked. My rationale is that if you're nice to people, it creates a ripple effect and everyone benefits from it. Finslippy posted about this recently in the vein that we need to recognize that when people act snarky, there may be a reason for it. Perhaps that person's having a bad day and chooses to take it out on the other guy. Perhaps she's just found out some terrible news. Or stayed up all night sick. Who knows? That's the question, isn't it?

I try--I really, really try--to not react too quickly when confronted with meanness or rude people, and I try not to snap at others when I'm in a bad mood myself. When a student snaps at me, it takes a lot for me not to have a knee-jerk response; I've tried to train myself to ask, "Are you ok today? Because the only reason I can think of that you would talk to me that way is that you're having a bad day." Admittedly, my tone of voice ranges from genuine concern to I'm giving you a chance to apologize for acting like a twerp, so be smart and shape up, kid. It tends to work. I've used it on non-students as well, usually taking the less confrontational tone. It still works pretty well. I'm not perfect; I've definitely snapped at folks, but I don't make it my M.O.

I guess what I'm trying to point out is that if we act nice to each other and treat each other kindly, it will continue, just as negativity breeds more of the same. So be kind and reap the benefits. You'll live longer. There's just no point living an angry, bitter, constantly-on-edge life.

Now I'm going to go hug the dog and give my husband a kiss.

Friday, March 19, 2010

So the reason I haven't blogged in a while is because 1) I don't like blogging at work because I shouldn't and I try to get work done, and 2) when I get home, I want to spend time with DH and Penny, so I forget to update this thing. Whoops. I'll try to be better, 'kay?

Spring is here, and I couldn't be happier. Usually around my area we have 40s and slop, about two-three weeks of actual spring, and then it's May, so this whole sunny and 50s gig is lovely and wonderful. I don't even care about the mud--it means everything's growing, so if I have to keep a towel at the door to wipe off Penny's little paws, so be it. I love to watch her run around unencumbered by crusted-over snow (although watching her fall through to the bottom every few steps as she tried to cross the snowy yard was fairly comical). I especially love the light in the evenings--even if we still had tons of snow, the light would remind me that spring was coming! I prefer to get excited over the little things--they make life so worthwhile and it gives me a lot more happiness overall. I never could understand the point of acting jaded all the time. Where's the pleasure in that?

On a totally different note, my birthday's coming up and I think the only indication that I feel old is that I really do think a lot of the music on the radio these days is noise. I never thought I'd think that, but come on. I won't even share any YouTube videos with you because it's too cruel. I occasionally listen to the songs so if my students reference them and they're inappropriate, I can tell them not to mention the song, but the lyrics most of the time are absolute rot. I do like some of it, I admit, but half the time I think, "I could do this. If I get a beat and some extremely repetitive lyrics or some that make absolutely no sense except that they rhyme, will someone pay me, please?" Silliness, I tell you. Just pure silliness. Now I have to go secretly rock out to Beyonce because I like her.

It's Friday, so enjoy the day. Hopefully I will see my new little niece and nephew soon--born five days before their daddy's birthday, no less! Enjoy the weekend, my dears.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Funny yet thoughtful


Click to see the whole thing

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Senses

When you live where I live, winter is long. L-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-N-G. We get used to March coming in like a lion and going out like...a lion. Covered in wet slush and the occasional extra foot of snow. Poor lion. This past weekend we got an extra foot or so of the wet, heavy snow. Notice how I toss this off ever so casually because, hey, I'm from WNY. No biggie. Mind you, if it still looks like this 28 days from now, I may weep. Considering once when I was 11 or 12 it snowed IN MAY, I can prepare myself for anything. Or take a side trip to Florida.

Thus I have begun to concentrate on what will not go back: light. I have become a huge fan of the earth's rotation because that makes it so I can still see at 6pm. Let the storms come (please, please go away, winter weather. I am so sick of my boots.)! At least I will be able to use sunlight when stepping into knee-high drifts! (That's not an exaggeration, by the way. Knee. High. Yeah.) When I let the dog out in the morning, I no longer have to turn on the floodlights! Today I even needed sunglasses. Spring is coming.

Then, today as I walked home, I listened to sounds I hadn't heard in a long while: heavy snow falling off the trees as it melted. I haven't yet felt that breeze that really tells me we're done for another year, but I know it's on its way. As an aside, this reminds me of the Laura Ingalls Wilder book The Long Winter, where they all almost froze or starved to death out on the prairies and then, finally, one night, Laura hears the spring wind that means the thaw is coming, and calls out to Pa, "Pa! The Chinook is blowing! The Chinook is blowing! Winter is over!" and they all rejoiced and Pa pulled out his fiddle, which he couldn't play for so long because his fingers were too cold and stiff, and they sang and made merry and baked pies and sewed calico aprons or something like that. Thank you, Grammie, for sending me those books so long ago. How well I remember! In all seriousness, I loved them. And I like having that Long Winter link with Laura.

Every little sign helps, whether it's a few minutes of daylight here or the actual sound of snow melting elsewhere. So in a few weeks, when I put into my Facebook comment, "PA! THE CHINOOK IS BLOWING!", some of you will know what I mean.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oh yeah, I have a blog (and happy belated Valentine's Day)

See, I'm trying to concentrate more on getting my work done during the week so I can relax on weekends, so I don't blog a lot during the week. Then I relax on the weekends, and I forget to blog.

However, this week I'm on break, so in between studying for my upcoming certification exam and getting a super fun, 24-hour stomach bug yesterday that had me eating nothing but white rice and feeling wretched on the couch, I thought I'd get some blogging done. I am feeling much better, thank you.

This past weekend we celebrated Valentine's Day by going away for the night to the same B&B that T took me to when we got engaged. We haven't been there since, so considering that was almost four years ago, I took it upon myself to book the room again. Such a nice little place, and it was only 40 minutes away in Lewiston (about as close as you can get to Canada without crossing the border), an historic little town with lots of charm and wineries nearby. Perfect. Plus this time T wasn't incredibly nervous--remember, he was about to propose--and I wasn't incredibly sick. Yes, in case you didn't know, about two days before we went away for my birthday weekend/engagement weekend, I became sicker than I had been in YEARS. This greatly helped T because I wasn't alert enough to notice he was acting odd. Anyway, it was a lovely weekend--plus sneaky T had a dozen roses waiting for me in our room. He does like the flowers. AND he wrote me a little poem. For all of those people out there who say, "Well, wait ten years/twenty years. You won't get that stuff any more," please, please shut up. Let me enjoy my flowers and poem. I'll find out if you're right or not on my ownty-own.

We just had a nice dinner out and then a glorious breakfast, cooked by the owner of the B&B, who's also a friend of ours. It was a perfect little getaway, and Penny was extra glad to see us when we returned. Then the next night we went to women's roller derby, which is a ton of fun. The place is packed when they have their bouts (that's what they call the matches) and I have to say, as I posted on Facebook, there's just something about watching women on roller skates knock each other over that captivates me. Plus we got to cheer for our friend M, as it was her first bout. They all have derby names, like Ivanna Killem and Claire Violence, and they wear fishnets along with their uniforms. It's awesome. If you come to visit me, we'll go.

You know, I've had nice Valentine's Days and crummy ones and non-celebratory ones, and what it all comes down to is that you're with someone you love, no matter whether it's romantic or not. T and I did it up for this one, but we're pretty low-key and would have been happy with just a fire and the couch. For me, it's more the acknowledgment that I'm so fortunate to have those who love me that I can't even believe it, sometimes. I got a card from Mr. Ouiser thanking me for being such a good friend--I almost burst into tears, it was so sweet. My mom sends multiple cards. My dad always sends something from a "secret admirer". So I'm pretty lucky and I want to extend that love to YOU, folks. LOVE!

p.s. I also love the Olympics. And baking cheese bread. Recipe to follow--it is SO EASY.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Memoir in Six Words

Pretty fun article from NPR about writing a six-word memoir. Smith magazine has compiled a collection of some truly great ones. Here are examples from the article:

Found on Craigslist: table, apartment, fiance.
Becki Lee

Met wife at her bachelorette party.
Eddie Matz

Family portrait: everyone smiles but me.
Ian Baaske

I picked passion. Now I'm poor.
Kathleen E. Whitlock

Normal person becomes psychotic on Twitter.
Robin Slick

Yale at 16, downhill from there.
Anita Kawatra

Here's mine: I live life off the cuff.

It's not great, but it's a decent first try, yes? My one colleague thought we could do it for all the students and fill the English wing of the school. We all liked the idea a lot--we'll see what the kids come up with.... Now you, readers! What can you come up with?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

nicknames

I got nothin'. I'm trying to work a lot harder during the week so I can have my weekends back, so that may cut down on blogging a bit. Right now I'm avoiding grading some rather dismal poetry quizzes, so that's my excuse.

I was going to write a post about names and nicknames, but I got so bored writing it that I couldn't bring myself to have all of you read it. I'm bereft of ideas and I don't like writing about work for obvious reasons of getting fired or sued. I have no fun child stories and I won't write about Penny even though I could go on for pages about how sweet she is and how I can't believe she just had her second birthday. When we first brought her home, she was small enough to wash in the kitchen sink. Whoops, there I go again. Maybe Facebook has ruined my ability to write in more than one to four sentence increments? Gaaaaahh. I'll think of something soon. Here are some more tidbits.

  • Here's a thought: I found yet another reason to actually like Facebook: An old friend from high school with whom I'd lost touch over ten years ago found me. Just made my week. Plus one of my dad's friends from college found him (OK, I'm not sure if it was through Facebook, but it's still cool) after 38 years of not having seen each other. How awesome is that? I told my mom and she got so excited that all she could say was, "Oh my God!" over and over and began telling me how he'd been her date to some formal and what fraternity he was in. It was very sweet.
  • I had trouble with a particular student on Thursday and went to talk to my vice principal about it. He doesn't know me well at all, but he sure as hell knows what he's talking about. I gave him the rundown on the boy's behavior, he assessed it correctly and then told me where it probably came from (basic lack of disrespect for authority, no true role models at home), and proceeded to tell me my instincts were correct and that I seemed to be doing exactly what I needed to. He pointed out that we don't just teach our subject; we teach a lot of behavioral traits as well. I've always believed that, but it's great to hear someone who has 40 years of experience confirm my beliefs. He said, "You are not the fixer; you are the doer," meaning I can only do my best and the student will either respond or not. As long as I'm trying my best, that's enough. I can't fix anyone. It's a good rule of thumb to remember.
  • I don't have a third tidbit. Help me think of one. I feel I should have three; three means a list. Two means you just can't think of anything. Umm...Oh! It's really a question: Why do they keep putting more and more damn doctor shows on TV? Can't we think of a new genre other than ERs and crime dramas? This is why I like LOST and Heroes!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

This is a favorite recipe from Savory and Sweet, specifically from her mother's cookbook. I'm posting it with her permission because it's perfect for fall/winter and it's just so easy and tasty!

- 2 lbs butternut squash, shredded or cut into small cubes and cooked until soft (~15 min. in a pot with 1/2 cu. water on low-medium heat, covered)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- butter or olive oil
- chicken broth/stock
- 1 ripe pear, any kind, diced
- coriander, salt, and pepper to taste (I guess I add about 1 t of coriander, but do it however you'd like)

In a large pot, add butter or olive oil and saute the onion until soft over medium heat. Add the squash and just enough broth to cover everything. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the pear and spices and puree until smooth. You may eat it hot or cold (I prefer hot). It also freezes well. H, let me know if I forgot anything!

It's so hearty and delicious and one of our favorites--enjoy.

Sundries on Sunday

I have a few ideas and thoughts that have been rattling around in my head, so here they are.
  • Every morning I walk to school. It's a mercifully short walk; I never have to worry about traffic or the car not starting. In the winter I do have more likelihood of a broken ankle slipping on ice, but that's it. In those minutes that I walk to school, it's absolutely quiet and it's my time that I don't have to share with anyone. Depending on what time I get out the door, I either walk in the dark of the weak early morning light or I walk with the sunrise. I can listen to the wind, watch the light play on the snow, or just think my thoughts. I gather myself for the day and whatever it will bring.
  • When T and I cook together, it's always such a pleasure. Even when he can't find the sugar when it's right in front of him, or I squirt ketchup all over the stove, myself, and his socks (as I did tonight), the meal is something we create together and take joy in. It's those small pleasures that make our life together as special as it is.
  • Yesterday I had to go to an unexpected funeral. A friend of ours had a darkness in himself that he couldn't shake. The service allowed those who loved him to both mourn and celebrate his life in a way that I hadn't expected possible. It just makes me want to hold onto those I love even closer, and for any of my friends or people I know who hold a similar darkness inside yourselves, please know that I and others are closer than you may think.
  • My sister's getting married in June. Recently she contacted me to ask if I would read at her wedding. We've drifted a lot in the past few years due to geography and life, nobody's fault, really. She asked me because she remembered how we loved books together when we were younger and we still do today. I'd forgotten that we had that tie. It just reminds me to reach out to those I care about--relationships take effort and care if you want them to continue and grow. So I want to make more effort with those who have become "Christmas card friends", if you know what I mean.
  • Penny loves to look out the window. She especially likes to sit on the pillows of our bed and just watch the world go by. Saturday night I woke in the middle of the night to her having snuck up on those pillows, right above my head, and she sat there like a little canine sentry, watching over us. Even better, she fell asleep on the pillow and woke T up by licking his head. Pets make every day better, don't they?
  • I know I've mentioned this before, but driving past the General Mills plant when they're making cereal still makes me smile.
Have a good Monday! I'm off to bed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Your Feel-Good Friday

If you haven't seen this Pixar short film yet, here it is. If you've already seen it, enjoy it again. I just love the little girl's expressions throughout, especially at the end.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Speaking of Poems...

...have I told you all/do you know about the Poetry 180 website? I bet I have, but I want to mention it again. I just love it because it makes poetry accessible to school children...and adults, frankly. The point is to have schoolchildren read one poem every day school's in session, adding up to 180. Sure, I don't like some of it, but a number of others appeal to me because it's not high-falutin' or impossible to understand. It's a nice change from the lofty poetry that gets shoved down your throat as a student, the poetry you have to analyze and examine and find all the metaphors and symbolism and uuuggghhh. Granted, I still make them do that, to some extent. I kind of have to. The greatest irony was looking at the first poem, by former Poet Laureate (2001) Billy Collins:

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

...And then we examined it. But not too closely. We looked at the first thirty and I enjoyed "Did I Miss Anything", "The Partial Explanation", and "The Distances", to name a few. Check them out. I often feel daunted by poetry and this website helps me find access to it as well. This is also why I have the kids write "found poetry", which is simply poetry created from words that someone else has written. Again, because I don't consider myself a poet myself, I find creating poetry difficult...but if you give me words to work with, I can come up with something. It's why someone created magnetic poetry for the fridge--that little bit of inspiration. I equated it to Legos (I have to get creative to reach the kids): Even if you all have the same set, what you do with them is quite different. Check out this site to see what others have made up--although I warn you, I have no control over any of the content, so I'm not responsible if any of it is questionable. Some of it's quite lovely. Here's one I came up with that comes from the Amazon.com review for Reading Lolita in Tehran. I promise nothing in terms of quality, but I'll give it a shot:

The Book Group

An inspired blend

A moving testament

with the ability to change and inspire people's lives

Azar Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of
great Western literature

banned by the government

forced to meet in secret

They met to talk
share
and burst into color

These books "were not a luxury but a necessity."

Try one yourself!