Thursday, December 22, 2005

David's Wedding

My cousin David got married to his long-time girlfriend Mary a few weekends ago, so the entire clan made the road trip to Greensboro and spent some quality time together. The northern and southern portions of the clan hadn't seen each other in almost ten years, so it was very nice to catch up with cousins, especially our super-fun cousin Kate. The extended family was the last to leave the reception (imagine that), and then we closed down the hotel bar. (Many thanks to my dad for picking up everyone's bar tab!) Kate was in big trouble with her husband for behaving badly, but for the record I thought she was pretty fun. And she was probably in better shape than my sister Laura, who -- while getting ready for bed -- tripped over her own pants, fell down and hit her head, and now requires a CAT-Scan to ensure that she's done no permanent damage.

The only permanent damage I did was to my digital camera, which I dropped at the reception. I took it to a camera shop to see if it could be repaired and they just laughed at me, so it looks like I'll be buying myself a new camera for Christmas. In the meantime, here are the pictures that survived:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

J. Crew

J. Crew's late September catalog included about seven fur items, despite the cruelty inherent in the production of fur and a long-standing pledge on the part of J. Crew NOT to sell it. Real fur has been taboo for quite some time, and the fur J. Crew was selling came from China where the fur industry is largely unregulated and animals are often skinned alive. We all know how much I love J. Crew, but I love both animals and principles more. So I boycotted, threw around words like "unconscionable" and "reprehensible," then wrote some angry letters to J. Crew about how I was thoroughly disgusted by their promotion of cruelty to animals and by their implicit message that being fashionable is more important than being ethical.

However. . .

Steve just informed me that, in response to mounting pressure from PETA and concerned citizens like myself, J. Crew has abandoned its evil quest to profit from the pain and suffering of innocent coyotes and the like. Good news! This would have been nice to know yesterday when I was at the mall -- instead of walking by J. Crew and glaring I could have popped in and fed my cashmere sweater addiction. And the rest of you may now resume shopping at J. Crew with my blessing.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thanksgiving Weekend

My weekend began around noon on Wednesday, when I headed over to Cogan's (my new happy hour spot with a Fats-like vibe) for some beer and pizza, and somehow got sucked in to playing air hockey with Steve. Needless to say, he totally kicked my ass. There are several factors that account for this ass-kicking: 1) Steve is VERY serious about air hockey, 2) my hand-eye coordination isn't even that good when I'm 100% sober, and 3) I SO don't care about winning.

Late Wednesday night I headed down to the beach for Thanksgiving with the family. Thursday and Friday were fairly uneventful. The most excitement we had was watching the cat and dog try to figure each other out. Sadie so wanted Luna to play with her and she kept barking at her, which scared Luna who hissed and ran away, thus beginning the cycle anew. I spent most of the weekend reading the 5th Harry Potter book. (I think Harry Potter should be grounded for like a year, by the way. What is his problem and why can't he freakin stay out of trouble?! I imagine it gets worse in Harry Potter #6.)

I came back up to Norfolk on Saturday with Brian in tow, and Laura drove down from Dean's to meet us. We walked across the street to my beloved Colley Cantina for some dinner and quite a few beers and were joined later by my oh-so-casual boy Dave, who had the pleasure of meeting Laura and Brian while they were on their VERY best behavior. There were definitely some stories shared that I was saving for later. It couldn't have been that bad though because Dave and I then had dinner together on Sunday night.

So that was my weekend.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Random Thoughts

  1. I SO love living in Norfolk.
  2. Yesterday (November 20th) I filled up the gas tank in my car for the first time since October 9th.
  3. Which was also my last trip to the beach. Remember how I used to go to the beach ALL the time?
  4. I'm on an Elton John kick, and I've decided that "Rocket Man" is ever-so-slightly better than "Tiny Dancer."
  5. Since the beginning of the school year, I've been observed by 6 different people: 2 administrators, the AP coordinator for the district, my department chair, a student teacher, and the "gifted" resource specialist for the district.
  6. I TOTALLY do not believe in "gifted" education. Or AP.
  7. Recently I've gone on three dates. With the same guy.
  8. While I've made some good new friends, I still very much miss my old ones. And since I don't have any pictures of the new friends, here are some of my old favorites:

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Okay, I promise I am not becoming a cat lady (you know: 27 cats, 0 boyfriends) but some people (namely my sister) have been bitching that there are no new pictures of Luna. The thing about Luna is that she's weird. You know how cats are supposed to hate water? I guess if anyone's cat was going to turn out to love water it would be mine, given my near-worship of said element. Luna spends a considerable amount of time hanging out in the shower and the sink. In fact, as soon as I turn the water on in either she rushes from wherever she is to hop in. Weirdo.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Things I miss about living in Northern Virginia:
closet space
Sweetwater's crab fritters
my friends and family
Whole Foods Market
in-house laundry facilities
the Washington Post
happy hour on the patio at Fats

Things I don't miss:
fabulous people
"4 tucks" bars
driving everywhere
the Rock-It Grill (kill me now)
paying too much for everything

Friday, October 28, 2005

Recent Developments

Lots has happened in the past week or so. I've reduced my car usage by perhaps 75%, attended Cole's 3rd birthday party (Cole is Nisha and Trey's kid, for those who don't know), adopted a kitty cat, and sort of quit smoking. I say sort of because I will probably start again. Like tomorrow. It just occurred to me that I haven't had a cigarette since Saturday.

Last week I started walking to school. I live maybe half a mile from school and it takes me four minutes to drive, what with the stop lights and the one-way streets and all. If I walk, it's a straight shot that takes 6 minutes. Pretty sweet. (Also, apparently in the last few weeks I've started saying "sweet.") Walking gives me the opportunity to pet a few friendly dogs along the way, plus I'm totally saving the planet.

This past Saturday I went to Cole's 3rd birthday party at the Herndon Hacienda. If this doesn't sound like a fun way to spend a Saturday night, you've obviously never met the Herndons. Cole was the only child at this birthday party, and probably the only one not drinking, although he did request that his juice be served in a Jack Daniels cup. In addition to the usual cake and presents, there was also plenty of alcohol, excellent music, and a pumpkin carving contest. . .

Which Trey and I won. We (and when I say "we" I mean Trey) carved a Steal Your Face with shamrocks for eyeballs. (For you non-Deadheads out there, steal your face is that skull w/ lightning bolt thing associated with the Grateful Dead). To be honest, I did very little work on our pumpkin aside from scooping out a few guts, but I think I've demonstrated that alcohol, sharp objects and I are not a good combo. I did have the IDEA for the pumpkin, minus the shamrock eyeballs, which were Trey's idea. While there were some other good pumpkins, ours definitely kicked ass and we won a very nice bottle of vodka. I think the vodka went home with Trey, which I guess is only fair since he did all the work.

The biggest recent development is my new kitty cat. I've never thought of myself as a cat person, but my apartment doesn't allow dogs, I'm at work for 12 hours a day, and if I had a dog I'd have to get up early to walk him (and we all know that's not happening). So while I may not be a cat person, I certainly don't have a lifestyle conducive to dog owning. Thus I became a cat owner. I also had lots of encouragement from new pals Steve and Jen, who ARE cat people. Jen went with me to the SPCA to help me find the right kitty or, as Jen tells it, to help the right kitty find me. And she did a good job. On Tuesday, I officially adopted a kitty who's probably very confused about her name. Apparently her original name was Midnight, but the shelter renamed her Sassy, and I have since re-renamed her Luna. She is an awesome cat! She is so sweet and cuddly and she follows me everywhere. I absolutely adore her already.

So that's life in Norfolk. Pictures below. . .

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Virginia Wine Festival

Lately my life has consisted of school (about 12 hours a day) and sleeping. However, I did take a break from both over the weekend to attend a Virginia wine festival with some new friends. The wine festival is an annual event held at a park in downtown Norfolk along the Elizabeth River. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, the wine was good, and fun was had. Check out some pictures. . .

Monday, September 19, 2005

Welcome to the Neighborhood


The past two weeks have been spent getting to know my new neighborhood and my new students. The former was made especially easy by the fact that my apartment lacked an operable oven/stove until September 13th. My stove (unlike anything else in my apartment) is a gas stove. I returned from work on the day the gas service was connected and thought I detected a strange odor. When I called the gas company to inquire if this sort of thing was normal, the response was, "Don't touch anything. Exit the premises immediately. Someone will be there within 30 minutes." So I guess it wasn't normal. In a nutshell, I had a gas leak and it took quite some time to repair. In the meantime, I believe I dined at every establishment within a stone's throw. I've grown particularly fond of a place called the No Frill Grill, and apparently the feeling is mutual. The last time I went, which was perhaps the third time in a five day period, the host greeted me with, "You like to sit on the patio, right? At this table?" So yeah, I'm here and I'm a loser. I'm not at ALL the dining out alone type, as you well know, but what can you do?

I also had the pleasure last week of doing my laundry at the "Coin Laundry" across the street. After spending $2 a load just to wash my clothes and being surrounded by literally a truckload of military guys (Army, Navy, Marine Corps? who knows?) who arrived in a Ford Expedition sporting "Official US Government Use Only" tags and who were somewhat unclear on the difference between fabric softener and laundry detergent, I opted for the laundry facilites at the Herndon Hacienda (Nisha's parents' house). I figure if you're sending guys out on the official business of doing laundry (whose laundry were they doing anyway, GW's?!) they ought to at least know how to do it. The Herndon Hacienda is far more pleasant in that there's a swimming pool, you can drink wine while you launder, and the only military guy you'll encounter is Col. Herndon (USMC, Ret.) and he's probably asleep. BTW, I owe my mom $25 if I so much as go on a date with a member of the US Armed Forces, and $100 if I marry one. Norfolk is, of course, the heart of Navy country.

It is also, as my next door neighbor at school described it, a pocket of hope in a state known (notorious?) for its conservatism. Or, at least this particular area is. Everywhere you go they're playing a song I loved in the tenth grade (dude, who knew how cool I was in the tenth grade? Certainly not me.) Aside from the plethora of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, the presence of PETA, and the local paper whose cover story this week was entitled "Equality Now: What local gays want and why they're not giving up the fight," it is a freakin HIKE to get to anything like a Target or a Best Buy or, god forbid, a Wal-Mart. Everything around me is a small, independent, locally-owned business. Everything, that is, except for the Total Wine, which is half a mile from my place. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I can walk to the wine shop. I was there today and I didn't even get carded, despite the big signs indicating that if you are under 30 you should be prepared to present your ID. Since I'm under 30 for ten more days, I was watching the cashier ring me up and silently wondering if, after years of looking young for my age, I had suddenly started to look like I was actually 30, or worse, OVER 30. The guy must have been reading my mind because he assured me that he didn't ask for my ID because he recognized me from my previous visits. See, two weeks and they know me at the wine store. My kinda town.


I think I'm up to 62 students now. And I'm not even sure these are real kids. Seriously, these kids are so amazingly good it's spooky. On the first day of school I asked the kids to participate in establishing the expectations for the class by sharing what they needed in order to learn and what they think helps a class run smoothly (thanks, Karpicus). Here's the kind of stuff I heard that day:

"I think a good class is a class where the kids pay attention."
"It helps if everyone respects the other students and doesn't put down their ideas, even if you disagree with them."
"If someone is talking, you should be listening."
"I think if the teacher asks you to do something you should do it."
"Even if you disagree with someone, there's a nice way to say it. Their opinion is still valid."

So yeah, I have it pretty freakin good at school. This is not to say that these kids have no personality. They're a pretty fun bunch. I have one kid in my last period who every day, without fail, starts requesting "closure" with 20 minutes remaining. Norfolk is big on having a warm-up and closure activity, so I always have both on my agenda, and I believe closure is his favorite part of class. I also have another student who complimented my lipstick the other day. He actually raised his hand to say, "I really like the shade of lipstick you're wearing today." For the record, it was lipGLOSS, but I'm a big hit with the 15 year old boys. And the girls have clued me in on the best places to shop.

However, my kids are definitely not an accurate reflection of the school's populuation. For starters, they're mostly white and the school is mostly black. There've been several fights day since the beginning of school, including one on the first day that was apparently gang related (we're talking real gangs here, not Dan Meier gang paranoia) and that had six kids suspended before they even reported to their first class. Suprisingly, at least to me, the school does not have a mediation program. But we do have security cameras, a very proactive approach that's clearly doing a lot of good. . .

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Settling In. . .

After moving from the suburbs of Northern Virginia to a very cool part of the city of Norfolk, I'm settling in to my new place (pictured here). It doesn't look like much from the outside, but the inside is pretty cool -- I even have hardwood floors! And, um, the whole building isn't mine, I just have the two windows on the middle floor of the far left-hand side of the building (but my apt goes all the way to the back of the building). This morning I got up and walked a block North to Elliot's Fair Grounds Coffee, a coffee shop that sells ONLY organic, fair trade coffee and that has a sign by the counter that reads, "Be Nice or Leave -- go to Starbucks" (which is across the street). I'm plenty nice, and of course I opted for the non-corporate coffee. Then I walked two blocks South to the health food store. After a long day of unpacking I headed back a block North and had dinner and a very good margarita on the patio of a little Tex-Mex place called the Colley Cantina. So this is definitely a good spot for me.

My school was built in 1918 and the building is BEAUTIFUL. As if that weren't enough, I have an incredibly sweet schedule -- I'm teaching one prep (AP Human Geography) and, at last check, I have only 60 students. Since the course is double blocked, this is actually a full schedule. AND I have my own room. Things have been going well so far. My Social Studies colleagues have been very helpful, especially my next door neighbor who teaches World History and Government and is the sponsor of the Young Democrats (which I've already agreed to help out with in the Spring).

So yeah, things in Norfolk are pretty freakin awesome.