Sunday, September 23, 2007

Eating for Change

Nearly twenty years ago Wendell Berry wrote, "Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used." I agree with this wholeheartedly. In fact, it's precisely what I meant a few months ago when I dramatically announced to Chris that "food is perhaps THE most important issue of our time," although I hadn't yet read Mr. Berry's essay. Given my adoration of Wendell Berry, it should come as no surprise that he was quietly and articulately giving voice to my thoughts ten years before I even knew I'd once have them.

I've cared about how the world is used for almost as long as I can remember. It's why my favorite book as a child was Be Nice to Spiders and why my dad spent our pre-curbside pickup years shuttling me and a bunch of overflowing brown bags to the recycling center. It's why I started walking to work and why I stopped eating meat. It's also why -- after devouring a little yellow tome called Plenty and learning that each ingredient of our meals travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to table -- I abandoned organic and eagerly embraced local, and why I've been frequenting the farmers market ever since.

Oh, and it helps to explain why yesterday I woke up even before Chris, like a kid on Christmas morning, and shortly thereafter dragged him an hour south to to attend the Shetler Family Dairy's Open Barn. "You get to meet the cows!" I gushed excitedly.

And we did meet the cows who have been supplying our milk all summer, but more importantly, we got to see how the Shetler family treats its cows and to determine whether we're comfortable with that. We saw where and how the cows are milked, took a hayride through the cow pastures, and toured the bottling room. We were able to walk freely through the barn, meeting and feeding and petting the cows, one of whom liked me so much she licked me. And I tell you what, if I were a cow I'd want to live with the Shetlers.

I like knowing this; I like being connected to my food. I suspect that if most Americans had to actually witness their food being produced rather than dropping a pretty package into a shiny grocery cart, the world would be used much differently.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mission Accomplished

When we woke up Monday morning, the little brown mouse was cowering in the corner of our store-bought no-kill mousetrap. After an unsuccessful attempt to convince Chris that we should keep him, I released him (the mouse, not Chris) into the wild. I'm sure he's now frolicking happily with all his mousey friends.

Either that or he's since been eaten by a snake, but that's not on me.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Morning Punditry

Last night I dreamt that Hillary Clinton had plastic surgery and ended up looking like Heather Locklear.

Question: would that make her more or LESS electable?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Building a Better Mousetrap

There's a mouse in our house.

As Chris has already mentioned, the mouse was a gift from one of our cats. HIS cat, to be more precise. On Wednesday night we were sitting on the couch happily enjoying an episode of
Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Chris heard a hairball-type noise and got up to let Sam (the cat formerly known as "The Assman") in from the deck. I glanced at Sam as he came in and thought to myself, "hmm. . .what's that on his face?" Then Sam lowered his head to the floor and the something on his face became a little brown mouse on our living room floor.

"Oh, ewww, aaaaack, oooooohhh, MOUSE!" I shrieked as I moved from a sitting to a standing position on the couch. And then two things happened: A) the little brown mouse scurried across the living room to take refuge under a bookcase, and B) I realized how dopey it was to be shrieking and waving my hands around from the top of the couch in the face of something as mighty and fearsome as a little brown mouse.

So I hopped down and said something to the effect of, "Here, little mousey," and then Chris and I spent the next forty minutes or so trying to capture the poor little guy (could be a girl. . .I really don't know). It didn't work. For one thing, Chris is afraid of mice. I noticed him flinching every time the mouse poked his little head out from under the bookcase and I promptly relieved him of his mouse-catching bucket. "What? I just don't like mice," Chris responded. "Think of him like a hamster," I said, "he's really cute." I'm pretty sure Chris shuddered.

Anyway, Chris kept trying to scare the mouse out of his hiding place and I kept trying to reason with him (the mouse, not Chris). "I just want to help you, little mousey," I explained. But neither of us was successful. Every time the mouse ran out from under something I became more focused on not squishing him than on actually catching him, and eventually the mouse ran into a hole under our kitchen cabinets. "He'll have to come out eventually and one of the cats will get him," Chris said, relieved. "No!" I exclaimed. After all, if I wanted one of the cats to get him I wouldn't have just spent forty minutes chasing his cute little mouse ass around the house.

My mom told me recently that my dad had discovered two dead mice in a fabric-covered wastebasket in his study. They reckoned the mice had scrambled up the outside and fallen in, and then were unable to scramble back up the slick plastic inside. I figured this could work to our advantage, so I emptied our bathroom wastebasket, wrapped the outside in a towel, and placed it near the hole. Then I sprinkled a trail of cheese from the hole up the towel and into the wastebasket. Then I went to bed, worrying about the poor little mouse stuck under our cabinets. "He must be so scared," I said to Chris.

In the morning, there was no mouse in my trap and the trail of cheese appeared undisturbed. (Probably because I used shredded taco-flavored cheese -- it is a well-known fact that mice abhor monosodium glutamate.) So I dismantled my mousetrap and hoped that the little mouse had somehow found his way outside. Yesterday passed without incident, and today was fairly uneventful until I sat down to write this post, at which point I saw the mouse run across the living room.

Now, a mousetrap is obviously entirely out of the question. I don't even like killing wasps; I'm certainly not going to kill a cute little brown mouse who is probably more upset about being in my house than I am about having him here. No, we have to SAVE this little mouse.

So when I saw the mouse run across the living room this afternoon, I barricaded off the rest of the house and sequestered the cats. Then I overturned the couch and the cushy chair, leaving only the TV to hide behind (see, if we didn't have that TV, this mouse would be gone by now. yet another good reason not to own a television). Finally, I reached behind the TV and tried to catch the little mouse in a plastic cup. But he kept scurrying out of reach. I sighed and kneeled down near the little mouse. "Come on, buddy," I crooned as I gazed into his little beady eyes, "come on out of there."

But my little buddy did NOT come on out of there. Instead he wedged himself somewhere so far out of sight that, well, I can't even see him anymore. I know he's still back there, though. For one thing, I made it nearly impossible for him to get out of that corner without my help. Also, a few hours ago I put a bit of cheese (smoked Gouda this time) behind the TV, and the cheese has since disappeared.

So now what? I considered ordering this no-kill mousetrap, but it's Friday and even with expedited shipping we wouldn't have it until next week. I will most certainly run out of Gouda before then. Fortunately, my Google search for a live mousetrap turned up this:

So I've emptied the bathroom wastebasket (again) and rigged one up behind the TV.

Chris says if I actually get the mouse outside I get a BIG surprise.

I hope it's a cute surprise. I hope it's a pet mouse.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My First Day of Not Having a First Day of School

I didn't go back to school today.

For, like, the first time ever. I went from high school to college to grad school to teaching, so for pretty much as long as I can remember the day after Labor Day has been The First Day of School, a day of both nervous anticipation and new beginnings. But today was just any old day, with nothing in particular to anticipate and nary a fresh start to be made.

And despite the fact that I made a conscious decision not to teach this year, I'm feeling out of sorts. Sure, I'm looking forward to a year without papers to grade or bratty students to reprimand, but I already miss the not-so-bratty kids and I haven't quite grown used to my new identity as someone other than a teacher.

So because I can't let go -- and because I never got around to it back in June -- please enjoy Exhibits D through K from last year's classroom portrait gallery.

Exhibit D:

What I don't like: Dude, I NEVER wear heels. Plus that apostrophe is totally unnecessary. And, um, I know I was concerned about the lack of teeth in exhibit C but these teeth are just weird. Oh, OH, and poor Luna!

What I do like: The GMOs! We were totally studying GMOs at the time, and this kid knows enough to know they're bad news.

Exhibit E:

What I don't like: Oh gosh, where to begin? Let's see. . .A) meat is NOT good, B) why is my face a different color than my body?, C) did I just decapitate my cat?!, D) belly shirts are SO 1994.

What I do like: Um? I see the word "organic." That's nice.

Exhibit F:

What I don't like: Whoa. Crazy hair! I look scary.

What I do like: Nice pink dress, plus this is the portrait of a chick who doesn't fuck around. I mean, you'd sit down if she said to, right?

Exhibit G:

What I don't like: Hellooooo, arms?

What I do like: "shhhhhhhh" sounds a lot more like something I would say than, "sit down you fooooolls!" Also red is a good color for me.

Exhibit H:

What I don't like: Um, hellooooo, ARMS? Also why am I twice the size of Mr. Michigan?

(sidebar: Early in the year I got so tired of trying to distinguish between the inseparable and nearly identical Blair and Ashby that I just started calling both of them Blashby. It worked.)

What I do like? Awwww, first portrait to include my totally awesome boyfriend! And I think he's making a kissy face. :-)

Exhibit I:

What I don't like: Dude, that ring is WAY too big for my nonexistent finger. Plus it is important for young ladies to understand that there's more to life than snagging a husband and scoring a nice rock. Seriously, is feminism dead?

What I do like: If I WERE getting hitched, the Outer Banks (or OBX in local parlance) would sure be a nice place to do so.

Exhibit J:

What I don't like: Am I wearing Timberlands with a DRESS? An ORANGE dress? And what is UP with my eyes?

What I do like: I'm rich! Look at all those dubs ($20 bills) I got!

Exhibit K:

What I don't like: At the end of a year-long Geography course, you'd think my students could read a map well enough to determine that Michigan does, in fact, have beaches.

What I do like: Is that a beer in my hand? Oooh, and I have a much nicer rack here than in real life.

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Brief Note to the Neighbors

Dear Neighbors,

We have a front door and it is perfectly okay to use it. There is really no need to stand in our yard and attempt to hail us through the windows, nor is it necessary to remain shouting from said yard for the duration of the conversation you've initiated. Seriously, we'd love to chat, but we paid good money for that door and we might as well get some use out of it.

Although the other day when you knocked persistently at nine in the morning that wasn't so cool.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Best Show on Television

After years of living a deliberately television-free existence -- years during which I frequently (and somewhat sanctimoniously) worked the phrase, "I don't even OWN a television" into casual conversation -- I now not only own a television but actually rather like it.

As it turns out, there are some damn good programs on television. Now, perhaps my recent obsession with reruns of Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Office does not quite qualify me as a TV critic, but as far as I'm concerned, there's not a better show on television than HBO's Flight of the Conchords. The dialogue is clever and witty and the humor is hilariously bone-dry.

Oh, and the songs are great. You can even download an EP from iTunes.

Friday, August 10, 2007

We Know How to Have a Good Time

It's 11:14 PM and we have just finished shaving our cat.

How was your Friday night?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lil' Bit of Film Review, Lil' Bit of Bitchin'

Yesterday the totally awesome boyfriend and I attended the final day of the Traverse City Film Festival, which is exactly like the Sundance Film Festival except that nobody's ever heard of it. Which is unfortunate because the Traverse City Film Festival is really a pretty cool thing. It's the brainchild of local left-wing pinko Michael Moore, who believes that "we need movies that seek to enrich the human spirit and the art of filmmaking -- not the bottom line."

So yesterday afternoon Chris and I saw two documentaries -- Chicago 10 and In the Shadow of the Moon -- that did just that. And although I didn't plan it that way when I bought the tickets, both films were set in the same time period and seeing the two together presented a really neat dichotomy of the late 1960s. While
Chicago 10 illustrated how fucked up and torn apart our country was, In the Shadow of the Moon painted a picture of oneness and. . .well. . .grace experienced not just by Americans but by all of humankind.

I've always preferred books to movies, but since Chris started sharing all his obscure documentaries with me I've realized that this is one of the coolest things about seeing quality films. Just like a good book, a good film makes you think, which I guess is the whole point of the Traverse City Film Festival and why the schedule includes panel discussions in addition to film screenings. Not that you need to attend a discussion in order to discuss; as they exited a theater, I heard some guy say eagerly to his companion, "Let's go sit somewhere so we can discuss, in depth, what we just saw." (PS - that guy was Chris).

We actually did attend a sort-of discussion -- an event called "Mike's Surprise," the surprise being that you end up seeing whatever Michael Moore feels like showing you, which in our case turned out to be outtakes from his new film Sicko. The cool part about this was that we got to see Michael Moore live in person (!) and to hear him speak, and that when he spoke he said lots of intelligent and funny things. We also (obviously) got to see quite a bit of interesting
Sicko-related footage that none of you losers get to see until the DVD comes out, including a lengthy conversation with the very wise, very British, and very articulate Tony Benn. Plus Mr. Moore took questions and answered them thoughtfully, and when -- for some odd reason -- he insisted that one little white-haired woman sing her question while sashaying down the aisle, she did.

Okay, so there was more than one cool part of "Mike's Surprise." The not-so-cool part, however, was Moore's response to a young woman who stood up and asked -- with a sort of helpless, hopeful urgency -- what we can do. The muckraking hell-raiser's call to activism?

Write your congressperson.

That's right. Write your congressperson and encourage him or her to co-sponsor HR 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act.

Gee, Mike, that'd be a really swell idea if the vast majority of our politicians wasn't languishing contentedly in the pockets of their corporate donors and actually, I don't know, gave two shits about what the average American wants. I mean, sure, I'll try it, but come ON. You can't go around making movies about how fucked up things are in our country and then pretend that things aren't SO fucked up that a quick little note to your elected representative won't make everything all better.

I don't know. Maybe it's just me, but "write your congressperson" seems like a pretty tough sell to a girl whose letters to congresspeople typically generate little more than a polite restatement of the congressperson's position on the issue. Surely there must be a way to convince our elected representatives to, you know, represent us.

If not, at least we can create disparaging likenesses of them to affix to local street signs, like this one we stumbled upon yesterday:

Which admittedly would be markedly improved if the culprit knew the difference between "murder" (a verb) and "murderER" (a noun). Fuck and alas.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

You Can't Make Me

Last summer I wrote a short-lived series entitled "Ten Songs I Will Play Over and Over Again if Nobody's Around to Stop Me." But this summer I live with my totally awesome boyfriend, so there's usually been somebody around to stop me. Only now he doesn't want to. Because listen:

Her album has been playing at our house almost non-stop for the past 24 hours and there's no end in sight. That's right, no no no end in sight.

That is all. Carry on.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Taking Inventory

Like many women, I prefer that my living quarters not in any way resemble a fraternity house, which is why all I can think about these days is paint. Not that a coat of paint (or three, as it turns out) completely eliminates that Delta Tau Chi sort of ambiance, but it does go a long way. Take, for example, our spare room (or the book room, as I like to call it). Mere weeks ago the book room was not a book room at all; it was a dumping ground for useless crap -- empty kitty litter containers, broken storm windows, several non-functioning vacuums -- all bathed in the shiny glow of fake wood paneling. But now. . .NOW. . .the book room is a lovely shade of Carolina Blue (hey, where I come from that's a proper noun) containing exactly zero useless craps and approximately 500 books. Oh, also there's a futon. For visitors. Feel free.

So anyway, my point here is that I painted the spare room. Actually my real point is that before I could paint the spare room I had to de-crap-ify it, and you would not BELIEVE the useless Chris crap I found in the top of the closet. Sure, we all possess a fair amount of useless crap, but we don't all write things on our blogs like, "People, I beg you. Stop buying shit you don't need!" while the following items languish in our crap room closets:

  • 13 unfinished fish carvings, with assorted driftwood
  • a bike helmet
  • 2 passports
  • a pin made out of a dead fish
  • an empty book of matches
  • 2 packs of Wrigley's Doublemint gum (for double the refreshment, double the enjoyment, etc. I suppose)
  • a stuffed teddy bear in Christmas attire
  • assorted cards, including a Christmas card from some chick named Gita
  • an invisible ink baseball game book
  • a deck of playing cards wherein our current president appears in drag
  • a little black book
  • four (yes, FOUR) beanie babies
  • a dirty dollar bill (with pictures of women licking VERY large penises rather than pictures of, say, George Washington)
  • condoms (1 vanilla flavored and 1 black studded)
  • 5 L.L. Bean catalogs
  • the nametag of some chick named Denise, who once worked at The Tannery
  • nude showgirl playing cards
  • a smoke detector
  • a pack of Dentyne Ice (avalanche mist)
  • a toy gun
Personally, I find the empty book of matches fascinating. I mean, why not just throw it away?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Don't Call It A Comeback

So. It's taken me two weeks, but I'm proud to say that I have visited every bar in Boyne City. And I did it all in one night. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I roll.

What? You were expecting a nice, long post about the big move, and how wonderful it is living with my totally awesome boyfriend, and all the romantic things we've been doing? Tough shit. I meant to do a post when we first got here, and I even had the last paragraph -- which included this closing sentence: "And then Chris gazed at me lovingly and said, 'You know, I really need to get an axe," -- composed in my head, but I just never got to it.

Instead, join me on a tour of the Boyne City bar scene. . .

PS: You have to click on that little talking bubble icon (second from the left) for my informative captions to appear with each photo.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Holy Hiatus, Batman!

Dear Blogfriends,

As you may have noticed, I ain't posted shit lately. And I couldn't tell you what's going on on your blogs.

Here's the thing: I'm moving in two weeks. And moving is kind of a clusterfuck even when you're not moving 1000 miles away from everything (okay, maybe not EVERYthing) you hold dear. For starters there's the packing, which if packing doesn't sound like a very big deal to you, it's only because A) you haven't seen my bookshelves and B) it probably hasn't occurred to you that books should be packed alphabetically by subject. So the packing is a bit time consuming.

It's not really the packing though, and it's not even so much the physical act of moving that has kept me from the internets. It's that I am consumed by the IDEA of moving. For weeks all of my mental and emotional energy has been devoted to what it means to move, and I have busied myself with a series of bittersweet lasts: my last weekend at the beach, the last time I'll make crabcakes, my last Cogan's Thursday, the last visit with my brother/sister/parents/friends, my last chance to tousle my pseudo-nephews' hair, the last time I'll see the Atlantic Ocean or walk down this particular street. You name it, I'm crying about it. Even the last rent check elicited a few tears. I'm obsessive like that.

I've picked up the phone at least 25 times to call my best friend -- a military wife who's moved five times in the past nine years -- and wail, "How do you DO it?!" But each time I've put it down because I know how she does it: by not picking the phone up all the time and carrying on about how much she misses us all. That and she has a husband who's just about as perfect for her as my boyfriend is for me, and when you find a guy like that you really have no choice but to follow him to the ends of the earth. Or at least to Michigan.

So the bittersweet lasts are tempered by an array of exciting firsts, none of which, I assure you, will involve jerky and some of which I may even tell you about.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Classroom Portrait Gallery: Exhibits A, B, & C

Several months ago, a couple students finished their work early and then used the PaintPad program on the classroom computer to create a likeness of me, which I later incorporated into my daily powerpoint presentations. Other students grew inexplicably jealous of this fame and insisted they could out-paintpad the original portrait-makers.

Paintpad is a difficult medium to work in, but my kids have never let the difficulty of a task stand in their way of completing it -- unless, of course, that task involves doing actual work rather than wasting class time -- and they are nothing if not prolific. Thus I've acquired an extensive series of portraits. And because many of these portraits are amusing, I thought I'd share them and some commentary with you over the next few weeks.

Exhibit A:

What I don't like: Okay, A) I'm naked. B) although I often yell at them to sit down, I NEVER call my students fools.

What I do like: Excellent use of the exclamation point, plus my eyes are a really pretty shade of green.

Exhibit B:

What I don't like: At the time this was created I was neither single nor particularly inclined toward mingling. Additionally, I am not a big fan of the rectangle + boots look. Lastly, studying has never been my idea of a good time. Unless by “studying” you mean “drinking.”

What I do like: First portrait to incorporate my cat, who's featured in most of the subsequent portraits.

Exhibit C:

What I don't like: Um, what's going on with my shoulders? And where are my teeth?

What I do like: Like the Romans mimicking the Greeks, we're building on a previous theme here. More importantly, this was the exact outfit, right down to the bellbottoms, I was wearing on the day this was paintpadded. You may notice, however, that I'm not wearing any shoes. My kids explained this: it seems like I only wear shoes because I have to, so the portrait shows me without them in an effort to capture my essence.

Be sure to tune in next week for exhibits D, E, & F.

Why I Teach

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. I'm not gonna lie, I didn't feel very appreciated. My kids are more sick of school than I am, which means their whining and complaining would be at its yearly high even if we were doing something cool in class. Which we're not; we're cramming for next week's standardized tests (thanks, NCLB). They did ask repeatedly if we could have a teacher appreciation party, but that's only because they like A) bothering me and B) snacks. A much better way of showing how much you appreciate your teachers is just shutting up and not bugging the hell out of them. Listening to what they're saying would also be a refreshing change of pace, but let's not push our luck here. Anyway, my week pretty much sucked appreciation-wise.

And I certainly did not get an "I appreciate you" vibe during Thursday afternoon's meeting with my vindictive principal, wherein he scolded me for the unprofessionalism I had demonstrated by sitting on the visitors' side at last week's baseball game and then, considering my loyalties, barred me from graduation. He did, however, offer to procure me tickets to the other school's graduation. He's that kinda guy.

Long story short: school has been rotten lately.

I took Friday off and went down to the beach for the weekend, hoping to feel rejuvenated (or at least less likely to quit) by today. But driving home last night I was dreading returning to school, and walking to school this morning I was dreading it even more. To make matters worse, my morning class is my most obnoxious and difficult class, which makes me hate Mondays more than your average person -- perhaps even more than Garfield (who really has no reason to hate any day what with him being an unemployed cat and all). This morning I flat out did not want to go to school, and in the grander scheme of things, I caught myself wondering whether I can accurately say I even like being a teacher anymore.

And then I found a note in my mailbox from one of last year's favorites:

I cannot believe that you are leaving next year! I will miss you and the fun-loving atmosphere that your classroom provided. I appreciated your humor and insight that were woven into each and every lesson. I enjoyed spending time in your classroom, during and after class. . .

So often students think it's cool to disrespect teachers and their lessons, it's rare to find a student who truly cares. But, it's even rarer to find a teacher with such vigor and passion for learning and sharing. Your lessons carried over into a reality that each of us face every day. You opened my eyes to injustice in the world, and caused me to want to be proactive.*

Thank you for sharing your knowledge, but thank you, most of all, for caring.
This note -- just one little note -- made me feel so appreciated I cried. More importantly, it reminded me of why I do this. Thank you for that, awesome kid from last year.

*PS: I want this sentence engraved on my tombstone.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Actually, If They DO Win It's A Shame

A few years ago my friend and colleague G was fired from his position as baseball coach for our school. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but here's the basics: G was starting a promising freshman at a position theretofor occupied by a mediocre senior. The senior's well-connected parents and their well-connected friends pitched a fit, and the principal told G to start the senior instead of the freshman. Being both a man of principle and a stubborn Italian, G refused. Being, above all, a man of politics -- and a stubborn Italian to boot -- the principal fired him.*

G is an avid baseball fan who loves coaching perhaps even more than he loves teaching, so I probably don't need to tell you that he took this hard. (Although not hard enough to cave. When the principal asked him for a letter of resignation G scoffed, "I didn't resign; you fired me.") Anyone who knows G can see how much he's missed coaching baseball, which is why we were all so excited for him when a rival school hired him to coach their bad news bears this season.

G's Bears played our Silver Spoons on Friday, after getting trounced by the Spoons earlier in the season. Now, I'm no
Roger Angell, but I know a good baseball story when it bites me in the ass. So for the love of the game -- but even more for the love of G -- I lifted a long-standing ban on attending high school sporting events and ventured out to Silver Spoons Stadium on Friday afternoon.

The score was 1-0 Bears when I arrived at the bottom of the 1st. I crossed my fingers and sent up a prayer to the gods of baseball and justice as I joined the lone fan in the Bears bleachers. "Who are you here for?" this baseball mom asked me, scrutinizing me as if trying to determine which of the teenaged team members I might belong to. "I'm here for G," I explained.

Over the course of the next inning, the Bears bleachers filled with one part Bears fans and two parts fellow Spoons there strictly for G. And the Bears kept winning. Spoons heckled the cheering defectors sitting on the Bears side, shouting things like, "Mr. [Principal] says none a y'all are graduating" and "first one back on the Spoons side gets a diploma," which elicited laughter from both Spoons and Bears fan, but didn't even register with G's fans.

Oh, and the Bears kept winning. At least until the 5th inning, when the Spoons scored two runs on Bears errors and turned the game into a nail biter.

The score was 3-2 Bears at the bottom of the 7th (and last) inning. The Bears pitcher struck out the first batter. (I think. I was busy biting my nails, so I might be a little off. The first batter definitely did not get on base though.) The second batter hit a short fly to the pitcher, for two outs with no men on. Which brings us to the third batter for the Spoons, who, PS, is a kid I teach. There were some strikes and a ball and maybe a few fouls (I SAID I wasn't Roger Angell), and then, with a 1-2 count, my kid hit a line drive to third base.

The Bears third baseman bobbled the ball for what seemed like an eternity and then, when he finally got his hands on it, overthrew first base. By approximately 8012 miles. "That's it, it's over" I thought sadly as I bit my nails and watched the batter round first base. But then I heard G shouting, "Make the tag!" and I blinked back tears just in time to see a Bear (the first baseman, I think) make baseball's most beautiful tag. A tag that, if you've been keeping track, ended the game. 3-2 Bears.

G's Bears went crazy. G's fans went crazy. G himself went a bit crazy. "I love you, G!" a Bear yelled genuinely, jumping into his arms and remaining there until just before additional Bears doused G with the contents of the water cooler. I don't know that I've ever seen a happier G.

The best part, though? Two dejected-looking Silver Spoons broke with their team to shake G's hand and congratulate him on a game well played. Oh, and the second-best part is that the Bears are going to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. Because, as a poster in the stands noted, my buddy G rocks.

*from coaching, not from teaching

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Change Is Good. . .Right?

So. Remember back in January when I lamented my lack of direction and my inability to formulate any plans for my future? Remember how all y'all said plans are overrated and throw caution to the wind and other such nonsense? Yeah, well, you win. Although I AM currently in possession of both direction and plans.

I've submitted my letter of resignation, informed my kids that I won't be returning next year, given notice on my lease, separated books I'll likely never read from books I can't bear to part with, loaded up my CD player with
Eddie from Ohio in a fit of preemptive nostalgia, begun searching for good homes for my 40 or so houseplants, and struck up a friendly online relationship with the good folks at U-Haul. Oh, and I'm cheerfully burning through 25.5 days of sick leave. Because, as my boyfriend has already announced with his trademark brevity, I'm moving in with him. (He did elaborate on this exciting news by noting that he hopes I like frozen pizza, but that was pretty much the extent of his announcement. Now you know why I'm the designated detail-sharer. His detail-sharing lacks, you know, details.)

When Chris and I first started discussing the possibility of moving in together (back in January, actually, right before I started to lack direction), it kinda freaked me out. By which I mean it TOTALLY freaked me out, not just because it involved me moving to Michigan where I hear it's fucking cold, but because it involved me giving up some of my independence. "You know, you can live with a man and still be a feminist," my married friend G finally said, rolling his eyes after weeks of listening to me obsess and over-analyze. "I don't know," I responded, "one minute you're happily shacking up and the next minute you're shuttling a minivan full of kids from soccer practice to piano lessons to cub scouts, face to face with
the problem that has no name." This only elicited more eye rolling.

I pretty much got over that whole Betty Friedan thing only to begin freaking out about my living-with-a-man track record, which is not pretty: I tried it once, and I didn't like it. To be fair, it took a mere five days to confirm what I'd known long before the good folks at U-Haul got involved, and my fiancé was not exactly shocked when I called the whole thing off. "I'm going to stay with my parents,"I announced, duffel bag in hand. "Okay," he answered, glancing from the TV to me, "but do you want to watch The Simpsons with me before you go?" which I think we can all agree is not the way normal people react to their fiancés walking out on them six weeks before their weddings. But I digress.

I've never been good with change, and I rarely initiate it. I've lived in Virginia since I was five years old. My only major move was two years ago when I relocated a mere 188 miles down the road back to the place I grew up in, so while it was a self-initiated move it hardly qualifies as major. My family and almost all my friends are in Virginia, not to mention the mild winters and my proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. I really love Virginia, despite our propensity to elect morons like
George Allen, and I pretty much thought I'd stay here forever.

But then, I'd never fallen madly in love with a man who lives in fucking Michigan before. What's a girl to do but invest in a good pair of snow boots and throw caution to the wind?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My Students Are Funnier Than Yours

Last week I assigned my TA the tedious task of scanning old documents (of which I have no digital copies) and purging, then recycling, my paper files; I'm moving at the end of the school year and I'll be damned if I'm taking 14 boxes of vocab quizzes with me. Perpetually agreeable, my TA fell to this task with her usual good cheer. At one point she came across a typewritten overhead transparency and asked me what I wanted her to do with it. "Toss it," I answered, to the shock of a nearby student. "Why would you throw away a perfectly good transparency?!" he demanded, plucking it from the trash. "Have you EVER seen me use the overhead?" I countered. Nobody has, not since my first year of teaching.

Why anyone -- let alone a high school student -- would want a used overhead transparency is beyond me, but this kid did. He kept holding it up and laughing. "What the hell is so funny about a transparency," I wondered to myself, even after I noticed that he'd drawn thick, dark wavy lines in its blank spaces.

He kept laughing and I kept wondering. Soon all the kids around him were laughing too, some uncontrollably. (Oh, and PS, was this disruptive to the learning environment? Answer: yes.) I looked more closely at the transparency. "Mustaches? You drew mustaches?" I hypothesized, which only served to move the mirth-o-meter up a few notches. I remained puzzled. I mean sure, mustaches are funny, but not THAT funny. So, "What's so funny about mustaches?" I asked dismissively. My kids were now laughing so hard they were practically falling out of their seats.

And then, finally, I got it. Behold:

"The first mustache is my favorite," Mr. Transparency Plucker announced. "I like the second one better," another kid responded. They examined me, alternating mustaches. "Yeah, if she had a mustache she'd definitely have the second one," Plucker finally agreed, "it's snooty." "You think I'm SNOOTY?!" I demanded. They thought about it for a minute. "Well no. You're smart, not snooty. But most smart people are snooty."

So. What did we learn in class on Thursday? That mustaches are funny. We might also have learned why developing countries just can't catch a break, but I can't be positive. Oh, and I bet those pictures are all OVER MySpace.

Happy Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, here's a picture I took of some turtles the other day:

PS, Is it just me or does it look like two of those turtles are about to get it on?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Clotheshorse Calls It Quits

I'm pleased to announce that my federal tax return has been accepted. What I'm not so pleased about is that this year I owed money. For like the first time ever. Not very much money, but still. And it's not because I made more money either; it's because I fucked up my exemptions.

As you might expect, I've been bitching about this quite a bit. The other night, just as I was about to submit my tax return, my dad said to me, "You know, you could reduce your tax owed to zero if you contributed to an IRA," which sounded fabulous to me even though I don't know shit about IRAs. "Uh, okay," I responded, "how does that work?" I'm not sure why I asked the question; I totally tuned out the answer and waited while my dad cruched some numbers. "That's cool," I thought to myself, "I'll just put the $246 I owe in an IRA and that will be that. Even steven." But alas. "If you put $1500 in an IRA, your tax owed would be zero," my dad finally announced.


I laughed. Then I gave my dad my best are-you-fucking-kidding-me face. "You don't have $1500?" he scolded. "Um, no. I absolutely do not have $1500." "Don't you have a savings account?" he asked. "Of course I have a savings account," I answered indignantly. "Well, how much do you have in it?" my dad pressed. "At the moment? 67 cents," I said, "but I have a LOT of cute outfits."

And I do. I like having cute outfits. I like it so much that instead of saving money I hang it in my closet in the form of gauzy t-shirts and olive drab chinos and drapey skirts. Which is stupid for approximately 8012 reasons. For starters, I don't NEED any more clothes. I am currently in possession of enough cute outfits to last me years. Also, I'm 31, I could probably use a savings account. Not to mention the fact that some people can't afford dinner yet I find it necessary to own FIVE pairs of nearly identical pants.

I don't like this about myself. I don't like constantly wanting stuff I don't need. I don't like caring about something as silly as t-shirts. I don't like that I'm spending more money than I should be, and I certainly don't like the business practices of many of the companies I shop with.


I will not buy new clothes for the next six months. Starting now. Sure I could say a year, but let's not kid ourselves here. Also, there's a swimsuit exception: I'm allowed to buy a new swimsuit this summer. Maybe two. But that's it. No new clothes.

There is, however, nothing in the rules that would prevent other people from buying me new clothes. Just sayin'.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Ut Prosim

In the wake of this morning's shootings at Virginia Tech, President Bush reminded us that "schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community." For once I agree with him.

I actually didn't know anything was amiss in Blacksburg today until late in the morning when my students started receiving text messages from friends and older siblings at Tech. "Can we turn on CNN?" once typically tough guy asked me anxiously. "Why would we do that?" I wondered. "Look at this text I just got from my sister," he answered, explaining the situation as he handed me his phone. "Dougie, I'm scared. 20 people are dead," I read.

And I didn't turn on the TV, but I have spent most of the day doing something I ordinarily hate: tracking the news in the hopes of receiving some actual news. I've watched the death toll climb from one to thirty-three and noted the headlines growing increasingly sensational -- the shooting of 11 AM is now a mass-murder, a bloodbath, and a rampage in which the victims were not shot or killed but massacred and slaughtered. I've quickly grown disgusted with folks on both the left and the right who seem to care about this act of violence only for the fodder it provides for the gun control debate. I've thanked my lucky stars I'm not a Hokie parent awaiting word on my kid and blinked back tears as I've remembered those who are.

Of course, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Virginian who doesn't know somebody at Tech, so I've also sent emails to beloved former students asking if they're okay. I really hope they are. But even if my kids are okay, somebody else's aren't.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Back In The Saddle

I've been accused of "Family Circus"-like lameness by a disgruntled fan (namely my boyfriend), chastised by CP for my complete absence from the blogosphere, and implored by Lulu (via top secret email) to get rid of Jeffy or Billy or whoever that is because "his sorry little ass" is just too depressing. So fine. Here's a post. I can't guarantee that it will be any good, but at least it'll get Billy's lame little towhead out of sight.

Randy hypothesized that the steamy romance with my (disgruntled?) boyfriend was perhaps sucking the creativity out of me, but that's definitely not the case; I feel just as creative as ever. Hell, I have a veritable shit-ton of blog material kicking around in my brain, and a plethora of stupid letters to the editor stacked next to the computer awaiting my response. But here's the thing: blogging is something I do more as an outlet for myself than as a means of entertaining others. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE that people both read and respond to what I write -- and that's certainly part of my motivation (otherwise I'd just keep a journal) -- but the ole' blog is not something I really want to feel obligated to keep up with.

Plus, check out all the cool stuff I've been doing lately during times I might otherwise have devoted to crafting lengthy (but witty) posts:

1. Spent a weekend at the beach with my sister and several girlfriends from our middle school years. We drank a lot.

2. Saw My Brightest Diamond and The Decemberists, the best show I've seen in quite some time. If you get a chance to see either band live, GO! I meant to post about just how awesome said show was but then I got sidetracked doing other cool stuff. Fortunately, this person was not too busy to detail the awesomeness and this person (from whom I swiped the above photo) was not too busy to post some great pictures.

3. Spent a couple afternoons wandering around the city taking my own cool pictures. Which means I've recently updated my Flickr site.

4. DC Cherry Blossom Festival, which included visits to both the FDR Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. Of course. Oh, and about 14 tramillion tourons, none of whom understand how to use the Metro despite its complete lack of complication.

5. Introduced the family to the boyfriend over dinner (and plenty of beer) at our friendly neighborhood seafood dive. It went smashingly.

6. Languished on the beach with said boyfriend for a week.

7. Read two books: A Girl Named Zippy, which was fine, and The Bell Jar, which was considerably more than fine.

8. Introduced the boyfriend to my NoVa friends over dinner and plenty of beer at our friendly neighborhood brewery.

9. Spent the weekend with my sister and her boyfriend. We drank a lot.

So there you have it. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Which means I guess I'll start posting again. . .

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


At this point, Megan is approaching a lameness of "Family Circus"-proportions with her utter lack of posts, don't you agree?

A Disgruntled Fan

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there*

I haven't read the newspaper in days. It's not that I don't think it's important to be informed. I do. It's just that some days I can't take it. Like many citizens of humanity, I often find myself feeling depressed and hopeless about the state of the world. But I am routinely reminded that this sense of despair exists only because my attention is focused on the wrong things. Like newspapers instead of people.

Newspapers provide valuable information about what's going on in the world around us, but they rarely tell us much at all about the tiny slivers of the world we each inhabit. It is from these little patches of the world -- OUR patches -- that we can draw inspiration, because it is here that we're most likely to encounter everyday people doing small things with great love.

Take the man I met with this afternoon, for example. He's an organic farmer who runs a small
Community Supported Agriculture program. He is also, as he told me, "committed to being a force of education in this world," which is why he's willing not only to come talk to my city kids about farming but also to allow them to visit him en masse and tromp around on his farm for a day.

Farmer John is as committed to organic agriculture as he is to education, and his CSA program is small simply because his farm is; in his second year of business he has a waiting list 200 families-long. That's not just cool for Farmer John, it also means there are at least 200 other everyday people out there who care about supporting family farmers, preserving our environment, and making the world a better place.

Wendell Berry would be ecstatic. And because I was reminded of Mr. Berry as I talked with Farmer John about farming and sustainability and peak oil and voting with your wallet, I give you this, one of my (and everyone else's) favorite Wendell Berry poems:

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry, 1973

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

*another poetry reference: "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" by William Carlos Williams, 1955

Monday, March 26, 2007

Biblio- What?

I've been doing a lot of work with word roots in my class lately, mostly because my kids keep calling me over during tests and asking me what certain words mean and then, when I explain, growling, "Dude, why can't they just SAY that then?" through clenched teeth. So I'm trying to teach them how to figure out what words mean without having to ask me. Thus the word roots.

On Friday I gave a test on a variety of different word roots, including biblio (book), phil (love), and mania (craving or obsession). Most of the test involved little more than matching words to their definitions, but I also included a few short answer questions to make sure the kids really knew what the word roots meant. I like to give questions that ask kids for their opinions -- for one thing this freaks them out ("wait, is there a right answer for this?") and for another thing, because there ISN'T a right answer they can pretty much get credit for anything as long as they justify their opinion.

And although I did not intend for the last question on Friday's test to be a source of mirth, many of the answers were indeed humorous. Behold:

Miss F. adores books. She loves to read books, she loves to talk about books, she even sort of enjoys writing reviews of books. In the summer when she's not teaching she works at a bookstore. She owns a lot of books (in fact she owns two copies of some of her favorite books) and rarely visits a bookstore without buying a new one. Would you classify her as a bibliophile or a bibliomaniac? Explain your reasoning.

I would consider her a bibliomaniac because of the word "maniac" which means someone who's crazy. Anyone who spends so much time with books has a big problem.

Bibliomaniac cause she is a maniac for books. You are a FEIND! [sic]

Bibliophile because she likes books so much like a pedophile likes kids. That is my reasoning.

I think she's a bibliophile, because at the beginning it says she "adores" and "loves" books. And I'm sure bibliomaniacs would probably try to work at a bookstore full time. A bibliomaniac would just be more severe than this situation. And because Miss F. doesn't own a TV, there's not much else to do, besides play with her cats that is.

Bibliomaniac because it sound [sic]
like to me your whole life is about books because who loves books doesn't really go about liking books the way you do. You would probably marry a book if it's good enough (LOL)!

Bibliomaniac b/c her obsession over books and her being a phene. [sic]
P.S. Ms. F. you are WACK for that! :)

Clearly a bibloid. As we all know, Miss F. has spent so much time with books that she has come to resemble them. Though slight at first, for example, black hair (the color of ink in most books!), symptoms will gradually become more pronounced until. . .we turn around one oddly quiet day to find only a monograph on the psychosomatic effects of neologisms in her desk chair, neologisms such as "bibloid."

Well honestly I didn't study but like a pedophile usually likes kids so a bibliophile would probably just LIKE books but a maniac is someone who is like a feighn
for something so I think she is a BIBLIOMANIAC!

In this case, I would say that Ms. F. has a SEVERE case of bibliomania because all she does is spend time looking at books, talking with books, reading books, writing stuff about books, working around books. I wouldn't be surprised if she was teaching her cat how to read. She is obsessed with books basically.

I would classify her as a dork.

So. As you can see, it's not just the word roots. Clearly a quick lesson on how to properly spell fiend is in order as well.

Also, if you're new here you might want to read up on my students' perception of me as a crazy cat lady. Especially considering that one mostly un-funny answer contained this: "PS, Miss F. is also a felinomaniac (obsessed with cats)."


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

And For Some Kids, Only A Swift Kick In The Ass Will Do

Okay, I know I just talked about tardiness yesterday, but I have another tardy story. Rest assured, however, that it is not my intention to turn this blog into an all-tardies-all-the-time kinda place -- at some point I plan on talking about politics or telling stories about my weird-ass family or writing a mean letter to some retard who wrote a letter to the editor and, of course, posting pictures of cute little puppies.


I have this kid (we'll call him D) who's late all the time. I mean EVERY fuckin' day. And not just a little late; we're talking like 10 or 15 minutes late, class has already started late. Most mornings I see him get off his bus as I walk into school, so that's not the issue. What IS the issue is that after he gets off his bus he stands around outside talking to his friends, and when they head for class he heads for 7-11. (I know this, by the way, because I have spied on him from my classroom window, which overlooks the bus drop-off.) Then he and a large coffee -- for him, not me! -- materialize in my class 20 minutes later.

None of this would be so bad if D could manage unobtrusive tardiness, but the general disruption of his tardiness is exacerbated by the fact that D smokes copious amounts of weed and never seems to have any clue that class is actually in progress when he arrives. "Uh, hey, what's up?" he says as he enters the room like a stoned Kramer.

Every. Fuckin'. Day.

So you can see how this would get annoying. And how the whole sticker thing might be sort of lost on him.

A few weeks ago I assigned D detention. The next day he was on time. In fact, he was on time for several days in a row before his scheduled detention. "Were you thinking that if you stopped being late you wouldn't have to serve that detention?" I asked him. "Uh, that's fine with me," he answered. "Tell you what, we'll go double or nothing," I offered (stupidly). "Okay, but I don't really know what that means," D agreed, bleary-eyed. So I explained that he was excused from detention for as long as he continued to come on time, but that the next time he was late he'd have DOUBLE detention. I thought I was incentivizing him.

I'm sure it will not come as a surprise to you that D was tardy again. He was supposed to serve his double detention yesterday and today. I'm sure it will not come as a surprise to you that he didn't show.

Ergo, I called his dad. Who kicks ass. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Me: Mr. D's Dad? I'm D's Geography teacher. I'm calling to discuss his tardiness.


Me: Yes. D is tardy to my class on a regular basis. In fact, he's been tardy to nine of the last ten classes. It's very --

D's Dad: Can you hold on a minute?

Me: Uh, sure.

D's Dad: (shouting) D!

D: (in the background) Uh, hey, what's up?

D's Dad: (to me) Thanks. Can you start over please?

(I believe at this point I was placed on speaker-phone.)

Me: Sure. I was saying D is tardy to my class almost every day. He's been late nine times in the past ten days.

D's Dad: How late are we talking?

Me: Often as late as 15 minutes.

D's Dad: That late?

Me: I'm afraid so. Does D ride the bus?

D's Dad: Yeah, so I don't understand why he'd be late.

Me: Well, he usually comes in with coffee from 7-11. Perhaps he's walking over to 7-11 after he gets off the bus?

D's Dad: Thank you for calling. I'll take care of this as soon as I hang up the phone.

Me: I really appreciate that. However, D still needs to serve his detention.

D's Dad: I understand. What's tomorrow -- Thursday? You want him Friday, Saturday, and Sunday too?

Me: (laughing) No sir, I'm afraid you're stuck with him then, but I'll take him tomorrow and Tuesday.

D's Dad: He'll be there. You won't have this problem again.

Dude. I LOVE parents like D's Dad. Well, assuming he didn't beat the shit out of D once he hung up the phone. And assuming D's ass is on time tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sticker Shock

Long, long ago in a galaxy not so far away, some educational theorist or early child development specialist or what have you proposed that we modify children's behavior not by punishing them when they do wrong but by rewarding them when they don't. While this "catch them being good" theory was the object of my derision back in Ed. school ten years ago, it today helps to explain why I've just spent 20 minutes sitting on the floor of the Dollar Tree scrutinizing their sticker selection and then devoted an additional hour and a half to sitting on my couch cutting sheets of 1000 stickers into easy-to-distribute squares of one sticker.

I've never been big on behaviorism. Sure, it works fine for training dogs and toddlers and the like, but for more highly evolved beings a behaviorist approach has always struck me as insulting. Of course, this was before I began teaching tenth graders, so I couldn't fully appreciate the beauty of behaviorism. Nor, as a fairly anti-establishment and perpetually late student myself, was I able to appreciate the importance of being on time for class. But both behaviorism and punctuality have grown on me (which I'm pretty sure makes me the man, but that's another story for another time) and I have found my pedagogic bliss in stickers.

Actually, I can't take credit for the sticker approach to classroom management. It was my colleague and friend Steve's idea. (Steve, I bought you some stickers at the Dollar Tree! They have monkeys on them! And ducks!!!) Steve teaches next door to me, and a few weeks ago I noticed him handing stickers to students as they came into class one morning. "Uh, whatcha doin' with the stickers?" I asked him as I prepared to make fun of his answer. But then Steve explained that the stickers represented bonus points and that he was giving them to his kids for being on time, which reduced my witty retort to a lame, "Huh. That's a good idea." And the next day I totally stole it.

You would not BELIEVE how into stickers 15 and 16 year-old kids can be. Even before today's visit to the Dollar Tree I had a decent variety of stickers -- apples, stars, George Washingtons, and Abe Lincolns -- but kids are fussy about their stickers, asking, "Can I have a pink star instead of a green one?" or "Can I trade in this Abe Lincoln for an apple?" Some even ask for an extra sticker to WEAR.

More importantly though, this sticker thing seems to be working, at least a little. The other day a frequently tardy young lady was chatting with her friends at the end of the hall just before class. I had merely to raise my eyebrows and wave a sticker in her direction to send her scampering in mine. "Oooh, I gotta go," she said seriously to her friends.

And this afternoon, another student who is ALWAYS late stopped by after school simply to tell me, "I'ma be on TIME tomorrow." "Oh? What's the occasion?" I teased. "I gotta get me that sticker," she answered emphatically.

Damn. And she doesn't even know about the brand new SPARKLY stickers! Or that tomorrow I plan to award stickers not only for being on time but also for not bitching about everything.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lazy Sunday

If You Seek A Pleasant Peninsula (or some exotic jerky), Look About You

So. I'm back from Michigan. Actually, I've been back from Michigan. I've just been busy working and drinking and petting my cat, who was beside herself with loneliness by the time I returned late Tuesday night.

My trip to Michigan was great. Even the airplane part wasn't so bad. I hate to fly and I'm a nervous wreck every time I have to get on a plane. I worry that even though I've purchased a ticket, some computer glitch will prevent me from being allowed on the plane. I worry that I'll miss my flight. I worry that the plane will crash. I worry that even if the plane doesn't crash, they'll lose my luggage. In short, I'm not good with flying.

So I sort of freaked out after it took me 30 minutes just to check in for my departing flight and I noticed as I was rushing to the gate that I hadn't been assigned a seat on the plane. And when I say sort of I mean totally. Unfortunately, there was only one gate agent at the gate and he was boarding the plane. I waited until everyone had boarded, thinking, "Ohmygod I'm not gonna be allowed on the plane! I'm gonna miss my flight!" and then I approached the gate agent and said frantically, "I don't have a seat!" He glanced at my boarding pass and smiled at me. Smiled! Then he handed me a new boarding pass and chirped, "You're flying first class today." Jesus! Could they not have mentioned this during the 30 minutes they spent checking me in?!

First class was nice though. Right up until the end of the flight when the captain announced that all the luggage that was supposed to have been put on our plane had accidentally been put on a plane to DC. "Ohmygod, they lost my luggage," I panicked. But when I got to Michigan, there was my bag in baggage claim, just as it should have been. The travel gods must have been smiling upon me.

And where they left off the weather gods took over. Michigan was unseasonably warm and therefore extremely pleasant. It was sunny and in the upper 40s/lower 50s for most of the time I was there, so those snow boots I bitched about? Totally unnecessary.

Oh, and did I mention my super-dreamy boyfriend?
Chris and I had a great time. We drove around checking out cute little towns, we had dinner with his aunt and uncle, we walked along the shores of several different lakes, we did the daily crossword together and yelled at FOX "News" together, we checked out places Hemingway used to frequent, AND Chris let me go in THREE different bookstores without even rushing me out of them. Also we sat around in our pajamas and made out a lot.

I could get used to that. Although I draw the line at elk jerky.

Friday, March 09, 2007

in Just -- spring

My world is not quite mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful yet, but buds are starting to appear on trees, daffodils are poking out of the ground, and robins are flitting about. It's one of my favorite times of the year. You can practically smell Spring.

And I'm off to Michigan -- land of icicles, axe-murderers, and bacon-flavored bedspreads -- for five days.

It must be love.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

I am a teacher. I'm aware that regular readers already know this, but I just like saying it. I almost always find a way to work this bit of information into conversations with strangers, not in the hopes that they'll nominate me for sainthood or marvel at my dedication or leer at me and make suggestive comments about what they would have done if I'd been THEIR teacher but simply because it's who I am.

And although it may not always seem like it, I LOVE being a teacher. Not every minute of every day and certainly not when there's a mountain of papers to be graded, but ultimately teaching rocks. And on the good days I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I mention all this because
Dave asked me last week if working with today's teenagers makes me worry about the America those teenagers will create for us in the future. His comment got me thinking, and I realized that most of the school stories I tell do not paint a particularly flattering picture of America's youth. But it's not because there are no flattering pictures to be painted, it's because those stories aren't funny.

They are, however, important. And I have lots of them.

Just this week alone I've been approached by seven kids looking to start various clubs or campaigns to improve the world around them:

  1. One of my girls from last year stopped by between classes on Monday to tell me about Turn Beauty Inside Out and to ask me if I would help her create a schoolwide campaign. She was so excited about the possibilities that she could barely put a sentence together. And PS, this same student brought me a bagel last Friday morning for no reason other than that she's just an all-around awesome kid.

  2. At the beginning of 5th period on Monday one of my students -- a kid whose main hobbies seem to be skipping class and smoking weed, not necessarily in that order -- asked me if I knew about the Invisible Children movie and announced that we should learn about it. I called him over to the computer later to look at the website and he said, "Yeah, we should really do something. I mean, I was thinking about doing something. Like maybe a project? For your class? We could get the whole school involved." And then he was off and running about film screenings and awareness bracelets and fundraisers. Oh, and extra credit.

  3. Tuesday morning brought me two little blonde field hockey players who I've been teaching since September and STILL have trouble telling apart. They're fired up about Sudan. "You know how we watched that movie about the lost boys?," they asked, "well we wanna start a club to help them." Their pitch was interrupted by another girl who'd asked me in October to sponsor her Human Connection Project, a fundraising club she created after we watched Sarah McLachlan's "World on Fire" video (administrative approval STILL pending, by the way).

  4. On Tuesday afternoon two of my favorite girls took a break from coloring their maps to whisper excitedly to me about their plans for an environmental club. "We want to recycle," one girl said. "And plant trees!" the other added gleefully. I explained that the Young Greens, an existing club that I co-sponsor, has just recently begun talking about an extensive schoolwide recycling program. A potential partnership was born.

And yesterday, when my first period class unexpectedly lasted an hour longer than the normal 90 minutes and I popped in the monkey chant to keep my kids occupied, even the coolest of the too-cool-for-schoolers sat enthralled. At the end of the monkey chant one of my problem students, a perpetually unenthused boy, shouted, "Whoa! Cool! Can we watch it again?" So we did.