Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We got cabin fe-ver!

I remember being a little kid and having snow days. They were the best ever. We would get bundled up and go outside, then have hot chocolate. Sometimes my mom would make it with milk and Hershey's syrup and whipped cream, so it tasted even better. Then we would watch movies. I particularly remember watching a Muppets movie where they were pirates on a ship and they sang, "We got cabin fe-ver! We got cabin fe-ver!"

I had a snow day today. Well, it didn't start out as a snow day. I had a meeting downtown, so I had to drive a half hour to get to it. They didn't send out an email cancelling it, so I figured, despite the inch or more of snow already on the ground and the snow still falling, I better get myself down there.

It took me an hour and ten minutes to get there. Fortunately the meeting was fairly brief at just about an hour. And then it took me about an hour to get home.

By the time I got to the exit for my house, my back and jaw were almost spasming in pain. So I pulled off, instead of continuing on to work. I came back home and declared a snow day.

And now I want to yell, "I got cabin fe-ver! I got cabin fe-ver!" I'm so bored. And cagey. It was a good day, I got to watch 2 episodes of What Not To Wear and I got all caught up on House, I read the textbook for one of my classes next semester. But it's just not fun like it used to be.

Final snow total: 3.5 inches. I'd take pictures, but it is 10 degrees outside. Way too cold to go out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Baby it's cold outside.

Today I learned that my car is just as Southern as I am.

When I got up this morning, it was a frigid 2 degrees. That is not a typo. Literally 2 degrees. The kind of 2 degrees where you walk outside and any exposed limb immediately feels serious pain. The kind of 2 degrees where 2 pairs of gloves, layered over one another, don't keep your fingers from being frozen within 4 minutes.

And my poor car was suffering.

I started it this morning, and it groaned. Then moaned. Then started.

I said, "I know, it's too cold to go anywhere." But I went anyway.

This afternoon it got up to a comparatively balmy 9 degrees. (At least my nostrils didn't freeze the moment I took a breath).

And my poor car still moaned.

"I know, but we have errands to run."

It started. And my car ran just fine. But I'm a little worried about the toll this harsh winter is going to taken on us Southerners.

Guess I'm done with the book learning!

Woo hoo! I'm done grading!

I am divided right now. Part of me thinks, "Wow, you were kind of silly, because that really wasn't a big deal." And the other part of me thinks, "I hate final grades! That was horrible!"

The part of me that thinks it wasn't a big deal is taking a stand now, because grading really didn't take me all that long. The exams were fast to grade (when you are marking most of them wrong, it's not that hard). I said that the part I hated was entering the grades into Blackboard and then posting them online. But I came in this morning and finished that in 2 hours. (For 5 classes, that wasn't bad).

The other part of me is trying to remind the first part of me what I had to deal with last week. And what started early this morning. Crying. I really had a student come in last week and cry because her grade wasn't high enough. Huh, now I am wondering what her final grade wound up being. At any rate, I told her tough. She cried. I wanted to say, "Get out of my office. There's no crying!" Instead I said, "Work hard on the exam."

But I am still entirely stoked that I am done. Yay! Yay for the end of the first semester!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Now you wouldn't believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows. From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!

It is reading day, so most appropriately I am reading. And probably doing way more reading than any students are doing today. I collected portfolios from each of my students - a collection of their writing. The only part of this I actually read closely is the reflective essay at the beginning, where they have a chance to comment on their own writing and progress.

I bring you one student's beginning:
"Have you ever ran a mile around a track? A mile is four laps around the standard track. Starting the first lap you're running hard and steady. It's all or nothing. Endurance is high, enthusiasm is high. You're prepared. You're sailing. During the second lap you're still flying. There is pain and suffering now, but you are still looking forward. It'll be alright. You've got it. Not to worry. Then, during the third lap, everything just hits you. Even though your legs are on auto drive, still pumping, still pushing forward, you slow down a lot. The pain increases. There seems to be almost nothing left. There's no drive, no enthusiasm, just momentum - and there's not much of that. When the fourth lap opens, even though suffering, you find a little spark. You can see the end. You should have been able to get through the third lap better than that. So you give it every thing you have left just to cross that line."

All errors are his. Now I have to give him some credit. It's a good beginning. He uses short, choppy sentences which do a nice job of simulating a runner's breathing pattern or thought process. But I'm offended. Have you ever run a mile?! Seriously? I run more than 3 miles every day! And secretly, I will judge you as a wuss if you feel this bad after running one mile.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

They're so friendly. Don't you think daisies are the friendliest flower?

This day is moving slow. No one has emailed me, so I turn again to the procrastination of blogging. Yay for blogging.

My office mate and I have been struck with the same cold/flu. So we are sitting here together, sniffling away, breathing really loudly through our mouths, and sneezing. We keep comparing symptoms. I couldn't sleep last night because I couldn't breathe, and work up really really sore. He can't breathe at all and had a sneezing attack in class. Which can just get gross.

But here we are. Because hooray, it's the last day of class for our Tuesday/Thursday classes. I'm really excited. I have really enjoyed my classes this semester, and I like my students. But I am ready to do a few things differently, so I am glad the semester is ending.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you're slightly more daring, O Captain my Captain.

We are winding down the semester (I am just like my students and am procrastinating. They procrastinate assignments, and I procrastinate getting grades entered into the computer system. My most hated task). So I thought I could tell a few student stories.

My current fav comes from my office mate. A student asked, "Is the exam going to be comprehensive, or just on what we learned?"

I asked my students to write essay questions for their exams. One that they all really liked was "If you were given $1 million, what would you do with it?" One student seemed to have a particularly hard time thinking of what to do with that amount of money, so he asked me what I would do. I said, "Buy a house with a garage. I am tired of scraping my windshield!" Then all the students began giving me suggestions on how to not have to scrape the frost and snow off the windshield, including pouring a bucket of hot water on it. Brilliant plan.

I walked into class last night and saw that my students had kept the tables in rows and columns rather than arranging a circle as we always do. As I walked toward the front of the room I noticed several of them watching me rather defiantly. I smiled and said, "Are you rebelling against the circle today?" "Yes! We hate the circle! You can't make us move!"

But there were two ladies who had moved and wanted recognition. "We hate the circle too, but we were the good children." They can say that because they are both at least 20 years older than I am.

There was much rejoicing in one of my classes last night. I handed back the papers, and when I passed one student his, he jumped up and cheered. "I got an A!" The rest of the class was happy for him and he got a few high fives.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"This, is the North Pole." "No it isn't! Where's the snow?"

First snow in Missouri.

Ok, these pics turned out way worse than I thought. In the bottom set you are supposed to be able to see the snow falling. And in the top one it is thick on the ground. I can't figure out how to upload the pictures the way I want them to be.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

I was invited to a coworker's house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was very nice of her to invite me and it was a fun group of people to spend the afternoon with.

It was really funny to compare the dinner with my family's traditional Thanksgiving dinner. My mom spends two days cooking. Wednesday she starts with pies. Always 2 apple pies, 2 pumpkin pies, and 2 lemon meringue pies. Then probably some hors d'ouvres and anything else that can be done the day ahead, like rolls. On Thanksgiving a 25 lb turkey goes into the oven.

My family starts eating as soon as we get up. We believe in pie for breakfast, so we might start with some pie for breakfast. But then the hors d'ouvres come out. There is always a cheese ball with crackers, usually hummus, cheese, and some veggies, chips and salsa or guacamole, sometimes there is fruit. All morning long we walk back and forth past the kitchen table and eat and eat.

Then it is time for the actual dinner. Turkey, of course, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, rolls, green beans, stuffing, salad, raspberry jell-o salad. And now my oldest sister also contributes side dishes to the meal, usually veggies or salad. It is an enormous amount of food and a huge variety.

At my coworker's house, four single people gathered and we just brought a few things. My coworker cooked a 14 lb turkey, and had a can of gravy and a can of cranberry sauce. Her friend brought mashed potatoes, apple pie, and cornbread. I brought green beans, brussell sprouts, and pumpkin pie (gluten free). And the other friend brought rolls.

The funniest part to me was that after passing the food around one time they all sat back and said "Oh, I am so full!" And I thought, wait, we're supposed to pass the food around a couple more times.

I did make a gluten free pumpkin pie which I took. It was pretty easy to make, except that it was impossible to roll out. Because it wasn't done with regular flour it just wouldn't roll and just mushed and broke. So I wound up just pressing it into the pan. It got rave reviews. I was so proud of myself because everyone really enjoyed it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger.

I was so excited last week because I drove home a different way and passed a movie theater. In passing, I glanced at the sign (of course) and noticed that The Dark Knight and Wall-e were playing. I thought that was odd, so when I got home I googled it and it is a $2.00 theater! Yay! Civilization!

So today, I decided to go to see The Dark Knight. Apparently I had a pretty crappy summer, and didn't see any summer movies. I walked into the movie theater and bought my ticket. I was the only person there, but it was 1:00 on the day after Thanksgiving, I just figured most people went to the real movies. There were only two people working and so they just handed me my ticket without telling me which theater the movie was showing in. I walked down the long hallway and found The Dark Knight in the last theater (there are only 6). I walked in and it was like 80 degrees! I was so hot in there. I picked my seat and sat down, and the seat flipped clear back so I was almost laying down.

I just started cracking up. But then I moved to the next seat, and it wasn't nearly as bad. I got all settled, and a couple other people came in and the movie started.

But then the movie started flickering really weirdly. One of the other people got up and told the manager, and then the manager came in a hollered "Just give me five minutes to change the lightbulb on the projector." Everyone was really patient. But there was a little kid and his dad sitting behind me. The little kid started asking his dad all these questions about the movie. Clearly the kid was too young to be there, because he didn't understand the movie at all. Then the kid finally said, "And it takes 10 minutes to change a lightbulb?!"

"How many movie theater managers does it take to change a lightbulb?"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I say a little prayer for you

I had an unusual morning this morning. I got suckered into going to the Mayor's Breakfast. Our college President reserved 3 tables at the Mayor's Breakfast, and needed people to fill them. He got quite a few administrators, but he really wanted some faculty. So, he sent Cheryl down the hall to the newest full-time faculty - me and my office mate. We tried to strike the delicate balance between willing and hesitant, while not honestly being able to say we were unavailable. I tried for unavailable by asking what time it started, my class starts at 11, I was hoping the Mayor's Breakfast could more appropriately be considered a brunch. And when I was told it starts at 6:30 am, I responded, "Oh no. I don't do 6:30." (Which brings up a whole other reflection for another day).

Still, I found myself with a ticket in hand, expected to show up at 6:30 am for the Mayor's Breakfast. And so I did. As the program started they said that they had over 700 hundred people in attendance. With that many people, there is no way I can complain about the food. It was good, and they seemed to have plenty of it. They had a choice between sausage or bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy. I had never seen biscuits and gravy before we moved to the South, and now that I have moved to the Midwest, I fully expected to never see it again (and I can't say that I would miss it). But there they were, traditional Southern biscuits and gravy. And my office mate claimed they were a traditional American breakfast. So I learned something. But I kept walking down the line expecting to see a basket of fruit. And when it wasn't there I thought, oh well, it's because this is the hot stuff, the fruit will be outside. No. Not a single piece of fruit.

All of which is not truly the drama of the Mayor's Breakfast. The drama started with the program. It turns out that the Mayor's Breakfast is a prayer service. And for some reason I am kind of bothered by that. Now, I generally consider myself a spiritual person. Most people would label me religious because I do attend church every Sunday. But I was kind of bothered by this whole service that started with a prayer, included a pastor reading a section from the New Testament and expounding on it, a singer singing some kind of crazy modern Christian music (which bothered me all the more because of the quality and she was singing along with a cassette tape) and the Lord's Prayer (the entire congregation was expected to join in singing the Lord's Prayer--since when is that sung and not just spoken?).

I have been thinking about this all day, and wondering why I was bothered by the religious aspects of the Mayor's Breakfast. And I think it simply comes down to the fact that I feel duped. I was asked to go as a representative of my school, a public community college with no religious affiliation at all. It was organized by the Mayor, an elected official who was elected despite any religious affiliation he may have. And it was simply called the Mayor's Breakfast, with no indication at all that there would be any religious aspect, and I was told it was simply a time for the muckey-mucks to rub shoulders. I think I just don't like being tricked into participating in religious events.

Although, if I could look past all of this, the keynote speaker was very interesting. She was traveling in the Philippines with her husband and they were taken hostage by a group affiliated with al-Qaeda who kept them for more than a year. After a year, she was freed by the Philipine military, but her husband was killed in the last gun battle. She had a fascinating story and was a good speaker.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If I cook the stuffing inside the turkey, can I kill all my dinner guests? That's not necessarily a deal-breaker.

I was getting so excited for Thanksgiving. You know, I'm the kind of person who can just really embrace a holiday that's all about eating. To prepare, I've been watching the Food Network, basically all the time. They are doing all kinds of Thanksgiving specials. I watched Paula Deen fry everything possible (which frankly is a little gross, and I think Paula is pretty annoying), but I enjoyed watching Rachel Ray doing Thanksgiving in an hour (while she is also annoying, it's an idea I can get behind). I watched some spiky haired guy make pastrami turkey, which was a little weird. But they were all just fascinating.

I have also been doing a bit of recipe searching. Of course, I can't eat all of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, so I have been searching for recipes to do some alternatives. My sisters have given me gluten-free cookbooks, so I am trying to decide between yogurt-apple pie and pumpkin pie. I know, just make both right?

So, I was getting excited. I like trying new recipes. And I am planning on going down to the Plaza for the Christmas lights show that they are doing.

But then my students asked me if I am going home for Thanksgiving. I responded that no, our break is too short and it is too expensive, so I am staying here. And they all said, oh no. And I was sad. And then I talked to my mom, and my littlest sister is very sad, so that made me sadder again. And then I talked to my office mate yesterday. He started the conversation and said, "So when are you going home for Thanksgiving?" And I said I'm not.

"What?! That's terrible! Why?"

So I had to explain the whole thing, and I was even sadder. Now I am not excited.

But there will be pie.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How often do you look at a man's feet? Update

I really just have to update you on this. Back at the gym this morning, I saw the same old man in the grey track suit. Still wearing his black dress shoes! And this time he was on the stairmaster!

I really thought it was a fluke. You know, like the time I forgot my belt. ... Or my bra. ... Or my towel. But those things NEVER happened twice.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I mean, how often do you really look at a man's feet?

I like to watch people at the gym. Sometimes I feel a little creepy about doing this, because I definitely don't want people to watch me when I'm at the gym. Because, ew. But most of the time I pretend that other people can't see me, and I just watch them to my heart's content (ever thought about what a strange phrase that is?).

This morning, well, let me start at the beginning.

I go to the gym about 7:30 in the morning. I'm a professor, I don't have anywhere to be. I am still surprised at how many old people are at the gym when I am there. I know the demographic is skewed based on the time, but it's still amazing to me. So I go to the gym and work out with all the old people. Let me tell you, it's doing wonders for my self-esteem.

This morning, I was doing crunches on the mat, when an old man walked over. And I started cracking up. He was dressed in a coordinated grey tracksuit. You know the kind, short sleeve shirt (I'm sure it has a jacket, but at this point he had ditched it), grey pants with the stripe down the side. And, on his feet, shiny black dress shoes.

And I'm serious about shiny. I'm sure he had just polished these nice dress shoes.

As I was laying on the mat, chuckling about the man and his dress shoes, I couldn't stop thinking about The Shawshank Redemption.

So for now the dress shoes have become my top favorite gym moment, and last week's moment has fallen to a distant second place. But I'll tell you about it anyway.

Again, I was on the mat stretch or doing crunches or something, and two girls walked over to use the mat beside me.

One was in a tube top.

A bright pink, terry-cloth-looking material, tube top. I just laughed and laughed. Who works out in a tube top? If you run (which she probably didn't), everything would just fall right out!

I guess that's one way to get some attention.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Excuse me, do you have any candy corn?

If a picture's worth a thousand words, then I better start writing fast, because I didn't have my camera with me.

Tonight I have my night classes. My early one is one of my favorites, the students are active and funny, although they can get a little rambunctious (secretly, I really wanted that to be spelled with a k).

So tonight, we were writing a little bit, and one of the students finished so he got up and walked out. (This does not bother me. I don't want 20 year olds asking me if they can go to the bathroom). He --let's call him Jacob-- came back in with a bag of candy corn. I was observing my class, and so I watched him open it. He offered me some, and I declined. But then I said, "There's still candy corn in the vending machine?" And he said, "Yeah, and jelly beans."

He turned to the kid beside him --we'll call him Joseph (wow, picking fake names is harder than I thought, because I keep rejecting different names because they just don't fit personality-wise)-- and gave Joseph a handful of candy corn. Joseph takes them, turns away, then turns back with 2 candy corn stuck over his teeth to make little vampire teeth.

It was hilarious. Not original. But they are just so goofy that it was really funny.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I enjoy having breakfast in bed. I like waking up to the smell of bacon, sue me.

As part of my quest to be a grown up, I bought a big bed. I don't remember if I have mentioned it before. I used to have a twin bed. It didn't fit in the Honda. And I simply decided that I would buy a new bed. My dad seemed pretty upset by that and couldn't understand why I didn't want to bring my bed with me. I told him that I was going to buy a big bed. A queen size bed.

He made fun of me.

But I love my new bed.

Since I bought the bed, I have been searching for a new comforter (I did just buy the sheets from Wal-mart, but I wanted the comforter to be something I like). Fortunately for me, Linens'n'Things is going out of business.

Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

They've got corn, they've got meat, they've got fruit and drink.

I have already talked a bit about my food issues. But they were brought up again last night by my roommate.

I've been living with this girl for a whole two weeks now, but we basically never see each other (which is kind of perfect). She's a high school teacher and leaves the house at like 6 am. I teach college, and with my night classes I don't get home until after 8 pm.

But last night, we were standing around in the kitchen. She was trying to convince herself to wash the dishes, and I -- of course -- was eating. She says, "You eat a lot of fruit." And I wish mere words could convey the tone and expression. She attempted to say it - say as in a calm and casual observation of fact, but it came out in partial disbelief and partial disgust. I must have just looked at her, because she continued. "I mean, when I got home on Sunday, I thought that was a total mountain of fruit, and now it is gone."

I snorted, and pointed out that the majority of what was in the bowl on Sunday were vegetables, which I chose to put in the fridge because vegetables just rot after they are picked (let's review the difference between fruits and vegetables), and a big squash.

But she did succeed in making me totally self-conscious of my eating habits, which I recognize are not normal in any way. I loaded my bag up this morning with my usual food for the day: a cup of yogurt for breakfast (which I eat after my workout at the gym), a cup of rice'n'beans for lunch, and then I paused and looked at the two bananas in the bowl. Normally, I would have just shoved both in my bag, one for elevensies, and one for my afternoon snack. But I actually stopped and thought about it, no, I should only take one. I was rushing though, so I grabbed both.

And I'm glad I did! I was hungry at 3, and that second banana was all I had! And what's so wrong with eating fruit? If I'm enjoying myself and am happy with life, why do people have to be judge-y?

I'm gonna eat whatever I feel like, gosh!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

In times like this, I realize that I should've kept that teaching job.

I was asked the most outrageous student question today.

I got an email that went like this: "I had the chance to visit my father this weekend and I haven't seen him in a really long time. If I move to be closer to him, can you arrange the class so I can submit the work online so I won't have to drop?"

We'll ignore the fact that there was absolutely no greeting to this email, nor was there a signature, and we'll focus instead on the absolutely extreme demand.

It took me a while. I just stared at the screen. And then I was like, whoa, let me get this straight -- Emily, can you rearrange the class so that I can pass without bothering to show up? Yeah, because that whole attendance thing is so overrated. Emily, can you set up and run an online class just for me, because the whole coming to class thing just isn't working out. Sure, since I've never taught an online class I'm sure it will work out great. And since you are being so successful at coming to class and turning in the work in person, it sounds like a great idea.

So I wrote back and said, No, it isn't possible.


Decisions are made by those who show up. You gotta rock the vote!

I'm feeling a little let down. This election has been hyped and hyped. Everyone has been talking about it for two years. The "battle" has been dissected a million times. "They" said there would be record turn out, that more Americans are involved in politics than ever before.

I was one of two voters at my polling place.

I was so prepared! I took a book. I ate a snack. I was ready to stand in line for an hour. I wanted to see lots of people engaged in the political process! I'm a little sad that I didn't get that experience. I mean, really, it was supposed to be an Experience (which I capitalize on purpose)! A historical election. One that will be remembered. Instead, I walked straight in to my polling place (a University), showed them my driver's license (which they did have to check for validity, because I haven't updated yet). They handed me a ballot, I walked straight to a booth, cast my vote, and walked out two minutes later. So unmemorable.

Although, I think I have a great job. At 1:00 pm, I said to my boss, ok, I'm going to go vote now. He responded, "Oh great! That's good, go get it done!"

I realize that reads a little flat, but he was actually enthusiastic.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Anyone can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best information possible.

It feel like time to write a new post, but so much has been going on that I don't even know what to write about.

The major excitement is that my sister is visiting me again today for the second weekend. I know she thinks they are overrated, but yay for business trips! We had a ton of fun last weekend, and got to explore my new city a little bit more.

In addition to the cool WaterFire show we went to (I'll post some pics at some point - which I can do now because we hooked up my internet last night, even though it really frustrated my roommate), we rearranged the living room. After watching HGTV, I asked what my sister thought of the new apartment. She simply grimaced. I know, right! So we got a little gung-ho, and rearranged the whole thing. I was really worried that my roommate would flip, but she seems to like it.

I had a lovely dinner with my grandparents who passed through town on their way home on Monday night. I will not spend time here extolling the virtues of Carolina Barbeque as opposed to all others. Let it simply be said, Carolina BBQ is better. As evidenced by the fact that the majority of the week was spent under the dark cloud of a gluten reaction. I haven't had an episode that bad in a year (I can actually tell you the last time, it was Thanksgiving, and I went to a potluck dinner). It actually took me a little while to figure out what was so horribly wrong because it's been so long. Good news is this morning I feel waay better.

And a funny class story for you, to top off the week's news.

We are working on arguments in all of my classes. So I have required them to do research (I'm hoping this makes the arguments more reasoned and less inane blather). I have a simple lesson on research and choosing valuable sources. To begin this lesson, I like to show a clip from "The Office" when Michael Scott talks about wikipedia. "Wikipedia, is basically the best thing ever." So I showed it to my first class, and to set it up, I asked "Do you guys watch 'The Office'?"

No. Not a single person.

Ok. I can overcome that, some background on "The Office" and why Michael Scott is just funny. We watch the clip.

"What's wikipedia?" the students ask.

WHAT?! Ok. It's a fluke. I just misjudged my demographic here. That's all. It is after all my slightly older class, the majority are between 25 and 45. That's why.

I try it with the next class. It's a day class, they are mostly 18.

No. Same reaction.

Same reaction in every single class! At most I had 2 students per class who knew what "The Office" is and what wikipedia is. So rather than a quick introduction to evaluating sources, it wound up being a long introduction to "The Office" and wikipedia, and a short discussion of other sources.

Less than effective. I might have to retire the clip.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A good pilot is compelled to evaluate what's happened, so he can apply what he's learned.

It's time for evaluations. First we went to lots of meetings about evaluations. Now my students are evaluating me. Then my boss will evaluate me (whenever he decides to). At least with my students there's some payback. They evaluate me, I grade them. Fair's fair.

Until they make me really uncomfortable.

I'm not actually in the room when they evaluate me. And I'm not actually supposed to know anything that goes on while they evaluate me. But one of the secretaries is kind of chatty. So she told me all about it.

She gave the evaluations in my "rowdy boy" class. For some reason in this class, the number of boys drastically outweighs the number of girls, and the difference is made even more dramatic by the personalities of the boys (I say boys, most of them are between 19 and 25). So I have (lovingly) termed it my rowdy boy class.

When I got back to the office after class, I expected a full report from the secretary, but she started off.

"That class isn't rowdy. They're so cute!"

I just laughed. Of course they can be well-behaved for strangers.

"You know I tell them to write in comments, because that is what is useful for you. So I was telling them to write in comments on the lines, what they like, what they don't like, what you do well. And the big guy said, 'Can I just put that she's easy on the eyes?'"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good.

Yesterday, I forgot my belt.

You may be wondering how this happened (and more likely, why it is newsworthy). It happened because I joined the gym (and I'm loving it) and I get dressed for work at the gym. I forgot to put a belt in my bag. While I will be the first to admit this is way better than the time I forgot my bra, or the time I forgot my towel, it was nonetheless kind of irritating.

I dried my hair, and then stepped back so I could see myself in the mirror, so I could try to decide whether I had to go home and get a belt. I couldn't decide, and there was a girl standing next to me drying her hair, so I said, "I forgot my belt. Do you think I have to go home and get it?" She looked at me (not the "you are a crazy person" look, but a genuine appraising sort of look), said, "Turn around." [Pause as I did so] "No, you're fine." Ok, thanks!

And I left the gym, continuing with my morning commute to work.

Well, I didn't factor in that I would be at work for the next 9-10 hours, and that my pants would grow! I was finishing class at 7:45 pm, and my pants were at least a full size bigger than they were when they started the day. I kept pulling at my shirt so that I wasn't constantly hiking them up, but it was a real problem.

I remembered my belt today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I like to move it, move it. I like to move it, move it. I like to ... Move it!

I moved on Saturday. Again. I think this is the fourth time in like 2 months. I hate moving! I should be really good at it by now, but it still took me all day.

The best part: Everything I own still fits in the Honda, most of it was still in boxes, and I can carry everything myself.

The worst part: I still have to go back there... ugh.

But I love my new place. It is on the other side of town -- the nice side of town. It is surrounded by nice single-family homes, and my next-door neighbor is a cute little white-haired lady named Faith who has fall decorations outside. (Is anyone else shocked by the sudden proliferation of Halloween decorations? When did Halloween become a major holiday? It's not even a day off work!) I have a cute room with a really big closet (my roommate is totally jealous of the closet - but she gets a bathroom attached to her room). And the totally best part - my new bed! I bought a queen-sized bed, and it's pretty fabulous. Ok, maybe the totally best part is that I got to unpack all my boxes. I have books on my bookshelves, my nice pots in kitchen cupboards, toiletries in the medicine cabinet.

It's not my job to coddle my students.

"It's also nice because it doesn't draw a line between rich and pool racers."

I have been grading student papers this afternoon. I don't know why this struck me as so funny, but it did.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

People! I ain't people!

I work at a community college that is a part of a district of community colleges with 5 campuses. For those who are interested, yes, we are accredited as a body, which (for those who are not interested) means that we are a closer system than, for example, the UNC system. Because we are a closer system, they -- the great powers that be who hold so much power over our small lives -- like to make us do things together once in a while.

What an undertaking.

Today we had "district in-service." Which means that all the classes on all the campuses were canceled, all the services on all the campuses were shut down, so that every single employee could attend an all-day meeting.

1,500 people converged on one campus. I'm sure that we disrupted traffic flow for that section of the city, because I was sure stuck in it. And wow! There were thousands of people! People everywhere!

So that was my main amazement.

Otherwise the day was pretty typical meetings. They had a keynote speaker talk about the things that we need to do to prevent campus violence (by which I mean shootings). He was good, and had done a lot of research, but most of it didn't apply to most of the people there, so they didn't pay a lot of attention. And with that many people it's kind of distracting. Then we had smaller sessions and I attended one on service learning, which could be a good thing. My second session was information about new machines that they have at one of the campuses, that will tell you exactly how many calories you need to eat every day, and exactly what your heart rate should be at when you exercise. Really interesting stuff, but they billed the class as one where you go and actually get tested and leave knowing what you should change.

Then all the English faculty had a meeting. I'd heard rumors that these can get pretty contentious. And they weren't exaggerating. So that was interesting to listen to.

All in all, it was a very full day. It was nice to see and meet people, and amazing to see how big the district actually is. I think if the campuses were all combined, it would be bigger than the University where I did my masters.

Monday, October 13, 2008

That is not spoken correctically. It goes: How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail.

Tonight gave me a glimpse of how nice it would be to handpick my classes. I realize that probably sounds terrible. But you already know I am terrible. And it is not that I don't like my students or that I don't care about them. But certain combinations just don't work together.

And tonight, all the right combinations weren't there.

Most of my students like to blame lack of attendance on the weather. It is raining. Horizontally. And it's a little chilly - but the news reported on Utah's snow, so it's probably downright balmy. I'm more likely to blame lack of attendance on the fact that there isn't any school tomorrow, or on the fact that a paper wasn't due today. But however the planets align, the majority of my "rowdy boys" were not in class tonight. And it went so smoothly.

Students participated without complaining. They wrote and shared their writing. They responded to questions. They took notes!

It was nice.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hello Newsies, what's new?

So many new things to blog about. I am getting out there, being involved. Ok, not really, but I made an attempt.

On Friday, I went and got my haircut. I took the advice of a co-worker on where to go, and it was good because I could just walk in. It was rather an interesting place. It is a very large salon, like a Mitchell's or something, but also a very large beauty supplies store with all the fancy brands like... Bb, and Paul Mitchell, and others that I don't even know (because I buy the $2.00 shampoo at Wal-mart). The salon part was very nice. But the stylist was horrible! A few things to know about me so this story will make sense: 1. I have very thin hair. Very, very thin. 2. I have rosacea on my forehead. This is a strange rash that just looks like a group of zits. But it's not, and it is kind of sensitive.

My stylist apparently did not understand how to treat thin hair. At all. As she was styling, she gunked a huge amount of some really sticky gel through my hair. Of course, this just weighed it down and made it really, really flat. Which she then tried to counteract by using one of those gianormous, really prickly round brushes and ripping most of my hair out. That was entirely ineffective. So she teased my hair. Literally. I am absolutely not in any way exaggerating. She took a comb and teased my hair! Hello! Teasing was banned in like the 1970's. It has never come back in style. After she teased my hair (for some volume, as she told me), she still didn't like how my bangs look (because she did a bad job of cutting them), so she proceeded to sweep them off to the side, clawing my rosacea numerous times in the process. I am left trying to figure out if I can return to that salon and request a different stylist, or if I have to completely cross that one off the list.

The second new thing I did was try to find a gym. After getting a couple suggestions from co-workers, I went to a 24 hour fitness. It seemed nice and big, but I wasn't going to committ right away. So the young man showing me around (and trying hard to sell me a contract), gave me a pass for 14 days free. Awesome. I am not the kind of girl to ignore a free pass, so I have been going to the gym all week. They sure know how to sucker you in. At the time I want to go, it isn't busy, there are plenty of machines, never a wait for the shower, and I like the gym. I like running on a treadmill so I know exactly how far and how fast I ran (a 9.13 minute mile - woo hoo). I also like weights. Makes me feel so buff.

Third new thing, and possibly the one I am most excited about. Background: My grandparents came to visit me yesterday. They are living (for another 2 weeks) in Illinois, so they drove down yesterday afternoon and left again this morning. I feel kind of bad, because it is a long drive, especially when you stay less than 24 hours, but they didn't seem to mind at all. They told me, as we were planning the trip, to pick a restaurant to go to for dinner. As mentioned in other posts, I have food allergies, so this is not always the simplest thing. But a co-worker (don't I have such good co-workers?) told me that there is a pizza place (that also has pasta and salads) that serves gluten-free pizza and pasta. I have been looking forward to trying it, so I suggested it to my grandparents and they agreed. Best pizza ever! They thought it was a really long drive out there, and it was longer than I thought. But it was totally worth it.

I have been reading all these food blogs (see my favorite things), and so many of these gluten-free people write these fabulous reviews of going to these restaurants and having waiters who step up and know exactly what they can and cannot eat. The gluten-free person will ask one little question, like can I have the salad without croutons? And the waiter will say, let me make sure that your salad is in no way contaminated by the bowls, utinsils, etc, and I know that you need to choose this dressing or this dressing because they are the only gluten-free options. I have never had that happen. Ever. But last night, I ordered a gluten-free pizza, with the tex-mex toppings. My waiter said, Great, but we will have to substitute ground beef for the chorizo so that it is gluten-free for you. I was amazed. And the pizza was fabulous!

Trying new things is tiring.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there.

I'm laying in bed on Sunday morning. My excuse for this could be that my roommate - in this temporary habitation - moved out this week, leaving not a single stick of furniture behind her (even though she left a lot of other crap). But I will admit that I am back under the covers, just listening to the wind blow through the trees outside my window, and feeling it blow the cool air inside.

It's been a great weekend.

Actually the week ended quite well too. I planned a celebration of Banned Books Week for my class on Friday. On Wednesday, I asked each of them to pick a book from the list and bring it in with a passage to read to the rest of the class. I walked into the classroom Friday morning, rather burdened down by my own stack of banned books (who can pick just one? And I guess I should be glad for a moment that I do not have all my boxes of books here, because I would have been carrying even more, but I wasn't really happy about that at the time), and one of my students said to me "This is the best assignment ever! I had so much fun reading about banned books!"

I almost dropped all my books.

At first I had no idea how to respond. No one has ever said anything like that before. Liking an assignment? So then I just grinned and said I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Now you have the ability to keep me from graduating. You can keep me from getting the title and the white coat. But you can't control my spirit.

I got my diploma today. I'm so excited! I think that secretly, somewhere deep in the back of my mind, I was afraid that they would call me and be like "Just kidding!" You didn't really graduate, you didn't fill out this paperwork that we told you you must fill out in 6 point font on the bottom of the sheet that you did fill out, or you owe us $5,000 more, or worse that someone would reread my comps, and now that the summer is over, they would realize that they were just in a fog from needing a break and that of course I didn't actually pass.

This part of my mind routinely likes to ignore all the evidence that demonstrates that I did pass and did graduate (among other things, like gravity sometimes...). My transcripts went through HR. I know they received them because I called and asked. (Hey, better to know than to get to the 8th week of school and be fired for falsifying documents, right?).

It's a very pretty diploma. And now I can put it in my frame, in my fancy office, and look at it regularly to remind myself that this is real.

I need a new way to celebrate tonight. I've given up sugar, so ice cream is out - bummer. Maybe I will buy that necklace I've been looking at.

I want, I want, follow-up

And now I realize why we can't say what we want. Because what we want is totally unreasonable. We make demands of other people, and it is just unreasonable and impossible for those demands to be fulfilled the way we want. In an attempt to hedge our bets we play passive-aggressive games, and hope that in a charitable mood someone will offer what we want. And it is still a lose-lose-lose.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things

Now that I've ranted, and graded a few more student papers. I'll try to be more upbeat, and write about some of my new favorite things.

- The Gluten-free Girl's blog. Seriously, check it out, food has never been so amazing.

- The Name of the Wind. The only thing I don't like is having to wait for the rest of the series to be written.
- Banned Books Week. It's just so funny.
- 10% off days at my local Whole Foods. Except I did try some new crackers and they are gross!
- Cooler nights. I like being snuggled under my blankets.

I want, I want, I want, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now

It's been a horribly long week. Yes, it is only Wednesday. How does this happen?

I feel the need to rant. I would like to just rant and rave and wave my arms around (in my typical, exuberant fashion), but I'll try to tone it down.

Why can't people just say what they want? Why can't they just tell you what they want you to do? Why do they have to couch everything in these passive aggressive terms so that you don't know what they want? Doesn't anyone realize that this just frustrates all parties involved?! I'm annoyed, because I know that you want something from me, but I don't know what, and you are frustrated because you are not getting what you want. That's what Michael Scott likes to call a lose-lose-lose situation.

Ok, I'll explain. My roommate (of an entire month and a half) decided to move to Utah. She decided this way before I moved in. She has tickets to General Conference (jealous) and decided that she would leave on October 1. She decided this months ago.

She finally started packing on Saturday. And by started I mean she took the pictures off the walls, and decided that she should organize her DVDs. I don't think anything was actually put into a box. I prefer to do things myself, so I just left her alone.

Last night she asked me to box up some dishes. So I did. Then I went to bed. I got up this morning, and offered to carry some boxes down to her car (she has a bad back, and I was attempting to be kind). She said she still needed to take a load of things to Goodwill, so we talked for a minute about what time they would be open, and then she was like well, I guess, nevermind. So I went running. I came back and she was reading. So I had a shower and got ready and left for work.

But I feel like the whole time she was expecting me to start carrying her stuff to the car. But (besides the fact that I am really not kind, despite any meager attempts) I felt the whole time like she had said no and still wasn't ready to go, so I wasn't going to hang around.

And I am horrible and mean, but I hope that by the time I get home tonight, she's gone.

But really, all this just brings me back to why can't we just say what we want? When did it become wrong to say what we want?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I hate snakes

I was walking out of work tonight, and nearly stepped on this guy.

And I was reminded of a story.

Many years ago, Heather and I went to Wilmington, NC for a short weekend. While we were there, we were staying with friends of a friend. By which I mean, we were staying with complete strangers. We went over to the house early in the afternoon to meet the people and get the run-down on where they wanted us and what they wanted us to do, and then we left and didn't return until probably 1 or 2 am.

We walked up the driveway to get into the door on the side of the garage, like they asked us to. As Heather reached out to turn the handle, I noticed a pretty sculpture of a tree frog, delicately wrapped around the door jam. The light (that they had kindly left on for us) lit the frog very subtly and showed its nice green color. And then the frog jumped.

It was alive! Totally a real frog. I think I screamed, and I know Heather almost died, and all was chaos as we tried to get inside and escape the sudden alive-ness of the outdoors.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

For Sale: Baby Shoes (Never Worn)

I get super excited about new writing prompts that come to me in little bursts of inspiration, and it is always entertaining to try them out on my students (at these moments I almost pity them, they seem so much less excited than I am, and then I just chuckle inside).

My latest:
I found this competition in Wired magazine, based on Ernest Hemingway's six word short story. Hemingway says it is the story he is most proud of, so Wired challenged a group of (pretty big) writers to attempt the six word short story.

I made my students do the same.

Mean, right? Yeah, I thought so too, and I am always quite concerned about how these things are going to turn out.

They were fabulous. I was truly amazed. In six little words, my students were able to create images and ideas, to get their audience thinking. It was great. Unfortunately I can't share them with you, I let them keep them. So write your own.

What I can share with you is part 2. I asked them to take one of the six word short stories from Wired and write the full story behind the suggestion. So here is mine, using Orson Scott Card's six word story: "The baby's blood type? Human, mostly."

"The baby's blood type? Human, mostly," the doctor, in his immaculate white lab coat responded off-handedly.

Part of my mind wondered, how is he so clean after what he just did? I didn't have much experience with these kinds of births, but the births I had seen were very messy affairs. But the rest of my brain forced itself to the front, "What do you mean, 'mostly human'?" I demanded, rather more loudly than perhaps necessary, because the aloof doctor was already turning away.

"We have been working with Verbena for at least 20 months of her 24 month gestation term. With some experimental treatments--" My attention was caught by the gleam in his eye. What did that mean? Was it the passion of the researcher, or was it an acknowledgment of the danger? My mind kept pace with the doctor's words, while I continued to ponder his attitude, "we have been able to modify the DNA so that the father's genes are dominant in the child. At this stage, it appears we have been remarkably successful," the doctor finished, and an unmistakably proud smile surfaced on a suddenly weary face.

Remarkably successful? I thought as the doctor made his exit. I needed to see for myself. Would the child be in the nursery?

That's the end. At least it's as far as I got in class, while I was trying to watch them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You chose me... so you recognized the skills, so I don't want nobody calling me son or kid or sport or nothing like that, cool?

As I mentioned, I had my first business trip last week. It was horrible. Ok, it was actually really good once we got there, but getting there was really really difficult. And the whole time we were messing with the canceled planes and messed up tickets, I was just volunteering to go back to work. Maybe it's a teacher thing, but I was worried about my classes.

But I went, and eventually arrived at our destination. We were learning about a new reading program, which actually seems really cool to me, but I teach writing. I was with 4 other women who work at various campuses in our community college district, and the whole thing felt like the scene from Men in Black where J (Will Smith) claims his skills, and the others call him Sport, and Kid, and Tiger.

The other women (who were extremely kind) were all about 60, and kind of seemed bothered by the fact that I am their children's age (I wanted to point out that my own mother is significantly younger than they are - but I didn't). Anyway, they spent the whole trip talking about how young I am, and my generation, and how old people talk, and stuff like that. It was really strange for me to be at the other end of the spectrum, because before this trip I had been hanging out with people from church, who are all quite a bit younger than I am, which makes me feel kind of old. Young people can make me feel old, but older people didn't really make me feel young.

Friday, September 19, 2008

That just popped right out there, sir

I probably should blog about my adventurous trip this week (my very first business trip, how exciting). But something far more dramatic is currently unfolding at my apartment.

The man who lives downstairs was found dead in his apartment this afternoon. We even had the detectives come up and ask us if we noticed anything. I have been out of town all week, but I did notice that his dog wasn't around when I went running the past two days, so I told them that - not very helpful.

Of course, I probably want this to be more dramatic than it is (he was an elderly man), because I watch too many crime TV shows. TV is causing the downfall of society. At least until the Office comes back on.

Fallin', yes I am fallin'

All I can get is those two lines of the Beatles' song, anyone know which it is? And votes on whether it's 'fallen' or 'falling'?

I fell.

One of the scariest moments of my life. I was doing my regular morning run, and was running down the last hill to my apartment. Because it was the last hill I sped up to the finish, and also because I was finally going downhill (it's uphill the whole run until that bit, I swear). And then the sidewalk jumped up and grabbed me. I just laid there for a minute, with my heart pounding so hard that I couldn't even hear my iPod anymore. "Am I ok? I can't be ok, because I really hurt bad!" But I couldn't see blood, so I decided I must be ok and tried to stand up.

I was having a hard time standing upright, my heart was really not quieting down at all, and I was a little shaky. A woman stopped her car in the middle of the road to ask if I was ok, and I was just like yeah, I think so, but I really need a minute. She was really concerned and actually stayed there for a little while.

I walked home, fortunately it wasn't too much farther, and found that I had taken all the skin off one knee, and most of the skin off the palms of my hands. And today all kinds of places hurt.

Old people should not fall. We're just not equipped for it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

When you used to tell me that you chase tornadoes, deep down I thought it was just a metaphor

Now that I live in the Midwest, I'm excited to report I had my first tornado experience yesterday. I was driving after finishing up an intermitably long meeting, and the DJ kept saying that there are tornado warnings. I wasn't too worried. But then he said that a tornado was spotted on the ground, and he started to sound a little nervous. So I got a little nervous. He kept saying which areas need to take cover - and of course I had no idea where they were! But I got to my friend's house, and hung out in the basement for a while, and everything was fine.

In other news, a shout out to Amelia Jane Cowart, who made her grand appearance in the world yesterday. Check her out here.

And I'm very excited to relate that I found a natural foods store that is fabulous! Absolute favorite shopping destination.

I want you to look deep into her eyes

It is raining. It has been raining for 3 days (and 3 nights). This is not to complain, it is merely a statement to explain. Because it is raining, I have been exercising inside.

My roommate has this bizarre machine, called a Gazelle, which functions somewhat like an Elliptical, except not. I was attempting to exercise on said machine yesterday morning and was bored out of my mind, so I turned on While You Were Sleeping, and it happened to be at the scene where Saul (the godfather) confronts Peter (the coma guy) for being a putz.

Saul tells Peter, "Lucy is going to come here today, and I want you to do yourself a favor. I want you to look deep into her eyes with the heart of a man who has just been give a second chance at life."

In the next scene, Lucy comes in and Peter (because he is a putz) stares at her, and Lucy looks away because she is clearly uncomfortable. This got me thinking again about staring. So I was in class the other day, and one of my students was staring at me the entire time! For 50 minutes! Now, I am a teacher, I do expect to be looked at every once in a while. But there is a big difference between looking and staring. And ever since I have been wondering what it is. So why is staring so creepy?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Food, glorious food!

I'm trying hard not to craft any kind of list about the things that suck about moving. You know - think positive and all that. But one thing keeps coming to mind (or stomach) over and over. Grocery stores.

Ok, so I lived in one (small) town for two years. Fortunately this small town was in the same state that I had been living in for 10 years, so the grocery store chains were the same. I got very comfortable with my neighborhood grocery stores. Grocery stores are good when you can walk in and know exactly where to find the items you need. It's never anything so conscious as "Rice is in aisle 2," but as you walk through, you know just where the items you always buy are.

Now, I have moved 1,000 miles away, and none of my grocery stores exist here. How did this happen? Day 1, I went to Wal-mart. It's a super Wal-mart, so there's a good selection of food. But it was a Saturday night at about 7:00, so I can never go back there. It was an upsetting experience.

Week 1, I got the recommendation of going to Aldi. For those who are unfamiliar, this is a German store, and forcefully reminded me of the tiny stores that I would shop in when I lived in Europe. Let me expand that short definition: 1. You can't trust the produce. There is very little of it and it quickly rots. 2. There is no selection. Conducting my first major grocery shopping venture, I was simply interested in staples. Like rice. They only had one option - white minute rice. That's not ok! I need a grocery story with at least half an aisle of rice!

Week 2, I found a Shop'n'Save very close to my apartment. Deja vu of the Aldi experience. But I can't remember if I found any rice at all.

Week 2 continued. Later that same week, in a desperate attempt to find some kind of real food (because now I am only eating peanut butter and yogurt), I tried the Price Chopper. For the full effect - imagine pulling into the parking lot of a very large strip mall, where fully 1/2 of the strip mall is dedicated to one store, the heavens open, a shining light falls on the roof and illuminated red sign, angels sing praises. For surely, a store of this size will have real food, real variety, and even (I dared to hope) gluten-free options. Foolish youth. For no such paradise exists at the Price Chopper. Real food, real selection, I even purchased some brown rice, and for a fun treat - polenta and pesto. But my hopes were dashed as I wandered up and down every single aisle searching for some gluten-free bread, cereal, anything!

Week 3. My students continue to ask me if I have settled in. I shared with them the short version of my grocery store woes. They looked puzzled and perplexed. Then said there are two grocery stores nearby that I have not yet attempted: Hy-vee and Thriftway. I equated the sound of "Thriftway" with Aldi and Shop'n'Save, and decided that (since I was running out of yogurt) I would attempt the Hy-vee.

Clearly I don't learn very quickly, because I walked in a saw an entire section of the store devoted to Organic/Health Food, and was immediately hopeful. Surely with 5 aisles of organic food, they have included gluten-free options. No. I wandered up and down the shelves, no gluten-free cereal, no gluten-free pasta. But then, I turned the last corner, and a small shelf dedicated entirely to gluten-free food.

But I still can't find the salad dressing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

In the beginning, there was the Word

In The Sound of Music, Maria/Julie Andrews sings "Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start," so I think I'll begin with some musings on blogging.

A few years ago, a friend told me that her husband kept trying to get her to start a blog. She suspected it was because he didn't want to hear her complain, while he kept claiming it was simply a good outlet.

I don't feel like I have a lot to complain about, but I'm at the start of something new, and since I am a writing teacher, I think writing about it is the best way to begin to comprehend it. I'm also trying to feel some sympathy for my students. I make them write journals, and this seems to parallel their experience.

"Let's go exploring" (Calvin to Hobbes in the first strip)