14 November 2006

A Suggested Reading List from WS

Oh, blog, how I've missed and neglected you!

Excuse #1 for not writing -- Well, I've been busy. First quarter grades were due last week, so I spent, um, all of last week grading papers until my eyeballs were about to explode. I graded: at Starbuck's; at the library (their chairs are very comfortable. No, really!); on the metro; during the intermission of Martha, Josie, and the Chinese Elvis, the PWYC preview at Woolly that I went to see with Jess, Steve, and Liz; and in the car at red lights. I finished fifteen minutes before the last deadline. And now they are done. Yay!

Excuse #2 for not writing -- Well, I have been writing. Just not blogging. On Halloween, Jess told me about NaNoWriMo (that's short for National Novel Writing Month), and I thought, "Hey, motivation to start that novel I've been outlining over and over for the last three years!" And on November 1st... I totally did not start that novel. But I did continue work on several short stories that have been "in progress" for a while and are now "nearing completion" thanks to my 500-words-a-day minimum. (It doesn't seem like a lot, but when you only really get to write from 10:00 to 11:00 PM, it's enough.)

Excuse #3 for not writing -- I'm so freaking tired. Quit bugging me, me.

But now I'm back! Hopefully more consistantly!

So remember, way back, when I confessed my crush on LG? Yeah, I'm still working on that. Trust me: I've taken my kids to the library more this month than I did the entirety of last year. But since I'm apparently not working it fast enough, my brother, WS, is still calling me several times a week to make helpful "suggestions" from, as he puts it, "a guy's perspective."

Here is the e-mail he sent me today:

Ros -- Make sure to check out a bunch of books from the library. Make sure to
check out Did you do anything fun this weekend? by Ida t. ealot and the classic
Let's go get some coffee by Mr. Smoot - Hopperator. Man, those are can't misses!
-- WS

Heh. Are those even in the library catalogue?

13 October 2006

Take My Blood-- Please!

Every year, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) holds a blood drive at school, and every year I swear I won't donate, as I hate needles-- especially needles intended to suck blood from my veins-- with a fiery passion. (I can't even watch the vet give Q his annual vaccinations; Q just looks at me like, "Seriously? They're petting my head and telling me what a good boy I am, and you can't even hold my paw?")

But every year, usually the day of the blood drive, the SADD sponsor, a fellow teacher I have great respect for, sends out an e-mail which basically says: "The students and community volunteers have signed up in droves; the faculty has not. You all suck. Get down here." And I feel guilty, and I end up in the gym during my planning period with a photo ID and a book, prepared to sacrifice time and fluid for the cause.

This year was no different. I meandered down to the gym, picked up a release form from a former student, who was running the sign-in ("You're donating, Ms. Ros?" she asked. "Awesome!"), and sat in an empty spot on the bleachers to answer the dozens of yes/no questions about any and all medication and trips out of the country I've been taking.

I finished quickly (it was a lot of "no"s) and glanced around the gym. And lo and behold, divine providence intervened, for who was standing at the mandatory refeshment table with a juice box? LG.

I waved, and he waved and made his way over to me. "Just getting started?" he asked.

"Yup," I said, and gestured at the blue gauze on his left arm. "You fnished."

"Yup," he said.

"I really hate doing this," I confessed. "Needles and me-- not friends. Last time I gave blood, it took them half-an-hour to find a vein, then once they stuck the needle in, it turned out they hadn't found the vein after all."

He seemed surprised (oh, God, I hope it was surprise and not "grossed out"), and I'm sure I would have come up with a wittier addendum to that little anecdote, but at that moment, one of the volunteers tapped me on the shoulder. "You ready?" she asked.

I sighed and steeled myself for what was to come. LG grinned at me. "Good luck," he said.

Sigh. I floated after the volunteer and barely noticed when she pricked my finger for-- what is it? Blood type anaylsis or whatever.

In the end, it wasn't so bad. I mean, the part where I had to sit with a former student to the left of me and the SGA president to the right of me, all of us answering questions that began with, "Have you ever had sex with...?" kind of sucked.

(I mean, what if I had had sex for money, or had sex with someone who had at some point had sex for money, or been in prison in the last ten years? Would I just have to lean in and whisper, "Um... yes. But don't let it get around"?)

Anyway, once we got to the blood-donating part, it was actually fine. They found the vein on the first try (yay!), and I totally freaked out a group of students who were watching my terrible grimace of pain when the needle first went in (hee!).

And when it was all said and done, I walked out of the gym with purple gauze around my right arm like a badge of honor. See, I can be a good citizen, too! Even if it's just once a year.

06 October 2006

Just a Little Crush

So I'll admit it: though I truly adore the school library in all its well-stocked glory, I have an ulterior motive for visiting it with the frequency with which I do. If anyone has a question about freshmen library orientation, I'll offer to take a stroll down the hall and ask it. If someone needs an overhead returned, I'm the first to raise my hand and volunteer to take it. If my students need to use the computers, to hell with the wireless lab-- I'll take them to the library lab!

Really, in the end, it's not about the library at all-- it's about Library Guy.

Library Guy (or LG) is, as you might expect, one of the school librarians. And I like him. I like him a lot. He started working at my school last fall, and I thought he was cute, but to be honest, I had a little too much going on at the time (like... taking over as head of my department, for example) to really make a go at pursuing him.

In the spring, we organized an overnight trip to the Big City, and LG and I were two of the chaperones. I thought, "Hey, this is my chance to get to know him better!"

My brother (the font of wisdom) suggested I try to sit next to him on the bus. "You know, make sure you're the last one on, and just ask if you can sit with him," he said.

Well, I didn't do that-- but I did make a concerted effort to spend some time with him. I sat next to him at dinner. We walked together (guarding the back of the pack of kids) on the way back to the hotel after seeing a show. At the rest stop on the way home, we waited in line at the Starbuck's for desperately necessary coffee.

This is what I learned about LG: he is an amazingly nice guy. One of the nicest I've ever met. He's got a sense of humor, and he can carry a conversation even when surrounded by forty shrieking sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds.

I also learned that he's about twelve years older than me. (Honestly, you'd never guess from looking at him. I had figured early thirties at the most. I was... wrong.) And that freaked me out a little.

Okay, that freaked me out a lot. I decided that no matter how nice LG was, he was too old for me.

Then I came back to school this fall, and I saw him at the faculty welcome-back breakfast, and I don't know what it was-- the way he smiled at me or touched my shoulder to say hello or held his plate of French toast-- but suddenly the age thing didn't matter.

And that is why my all of my students are doing research projects this quarter. And why I take my Xeroxing to the library machiens, even thought they're ten times slower.

My brother (I really regret telling him about this, by the way) is determined that I will ask LG out for coffee at some point in the near future-- preferably tomorrow. He has called every day this week to demand that I make my move immediately.

"I mean, come on," he says, "LG's just getting older."

"Eh," I reply, "I'm cool with it."

28 September 2006

Another Message for My Freshmen

Today we read "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury and discussed genre. "What are some plot and setting elements we see in science fiction?" I ask.

Beck raises his hand. "Science," he says.

"Okay," I reply, slightly annoyed, "thank you, Captain Obvious. Anyone else?"

Reed raises his hand. "Fiction," he says.

Honestly-- shut up, you little smart-asses.

27 September 2006

Dude, Where's My Hair?

Jess' wedding is this weekend, and I decide that, as school has been kicking my butt recently and I really want to look good in the inevitable bevy of pictures that will be taken, this will be my week of grooming. On Sunday I get a pedicure. On Tuesday, Jess and I go shopping. And today, I go to get highlights.

I have actually gotten highlights before, albeit years ago, and I loved them but haven't had the energy to put the time and money into it since then. (Seriously, three hours in a barber chair is not my idea of a good time, especially after seven and a half hours of teaching.)

So I make an appointment with Linda, the stylist my mother has spent months raving about, skip out of school a wee bit early, and land at the salon around 1:30.

Linda is waiting for me, foil and combs on a little rolling cart. "What do you want done?" she asks.

I'm ready, too. "Highlights," I say, "subtle ones-- probably dark blonde."

"Okay. You want a trim, too?"

"Yep-- an inch, no more than an inch and a half."

"Okay," she says.

Look, I have complete and utter faith in people that I am paying to do me a service-- painting my toes, finding me a shirt in another size, whatever. I trust them to know what they're doing and not totally mess me up.

But after Linda takes the foil out of my hair and washes out the dye, she takes me back to the chair and starts cutting.

And cutting.

And cutting some more.

And I watch her in the mirror, my eyes widening with horror as my hair-- the hair that I have been deliberately growing out for the last year, the hair that is (was) the longest I've worn it since high school-- falls in tufts to the floor.

Linda takes a handful of hair, looks at it with a critical eye, and snip snip. Another inch.

Every so often, she puts the scissors down and picks up the comb, and I relax, thinking, "Okay, she's done." But no-- she puts down the comb and picks up another pair of scissors, and snip snip. Good-bye, long pretty hair.

It gets better. She finally puts down the scissors for good and says, "Okay, now I'm gonna put the color in."

Uh... what?

I meekly follow her to the washing station, and she grabs a bottle of chestnut-colored goo and begins slathering it all over my hair. "You want a deep conditioner?" she asks, her hands not-quite-so-full of my hair as they would have been fifteen minutes ago.

"Why not?" I sigh.

After she washes out the goo, we return to the chair, and she starts to blow dry my hair. Twice, she turns off the hair dryer and picks up the scissors. Snip snip snip.

Finally, it seems she's done. "You like?" she asks, holding up a mirror so I can see the back of my head as well as the front. "I took out all that old red and made it light brown instead. And I put in honey-colored highlights."

Okay, I'll be totally honest-- I do like it. It certainly looks more elegant than my previous, grown-out-dye, hasn't-been-cut-in-months look.

But oh! My hair doesn't swing across my back anymore! Instead, it sits sadly just below my shoulders.

As I drive home, I call my mother. "So, uh, about Linda?" I say.

"Yeah? How did it go?"

"Um, well, I told her to trim an inch, and... she did whatever the hell she wanted."

My mother is silent for a moment. "Yeah, that's kind of what she does," she finally says. "I guess I should have told you that before." She pauses. "But I bet it looks great!"

I look in the mirror again when I get home. Yeah, it totally does.

20 September 2006

A Message to My Freshmen

"Boring" is not a genre. It's an adjective, you little smart-asses.

Dance, Monkey, Dance!

Last night was Back to School Night here at school, which is a big ball of stress and Xeroxing but is also (I hate to admit this) a lot of fun. I mean, think about it: a captive audience, enclosed in a classroom, wedged into hard plastic chairs, with no recourse but to listen to me talk about curriculum for ten whole minutes. It's the performance to end all performances, and I get to do it every year! Yay!

I left school around three, returned home, and walked Q, checked e-mail, finished the fourth book of Fables (another great reading suggestion from Jess), and primped like crazy. I have to be very careful at BTSN: because I still get mistaken for a student every once in a while (honestly, I've been working at this school for six years, and there isn't a year that goes by without someone asking me for my hall pass), I feel like I have to put special effort into looking older. So that means makeup and curlers and the most suit-like clothes I own.

I returned to school around six-- okay, so there are also not-so-fun parts to BTSN-- and joined my fellow department members in our department workroom. Um, you honestly think I'm going to sit in my room while parents wander the halls, skipping the PTA meeting to catch teachers one-on-one? Hell no. We English teachers sit in our workroom and get ourselves ready to face the masses by laughing hysterically at things we wouldn't normally find funny. (This is a result of a combination of exhaustion and nerves.)

Anyway, I've never had any problems with parents at BTSN; I get up in front of the room, do my trained monkey dance (or, as Christine likes to call it, our "dog and pony show"), and leave as soon as the last parent of the night disappears out the door. Parents tend to like me because, if nothing else, I am wildly enthusiastic about what I teach. And because I know their students' names already.

And because, honestly, I do a great monkey dance.

15 September 2006

Fun with Puritanism

This week in AP Lang, we dove right into the ever-fascinating (does sarcasm bleed through text without the accompanying tone of voice?) American literary periods. Not to be down on American lit-- honestly, the longer I teach it, the more I appreciate it-- but out of all the cultures in the world, America has the most boring literary periods. But sadly, junior year in NoVA means American lit, and for every brilliant dark Romantic and Modernist movement, American writers inevitably followed with a Rationalist or, heaven forbid, Realist movement to put it to sleep.

And don't get me started on the Transcendentalists. (Go to hell, Thoreau.)

Anyway, this year I decided to follow the literary periods chronologically, so my juniors spent this week with an intro to Puritanism and the Age of Reason, then moved on to Mary Rowlandson's "A Narrative of the Captivity" (wife and mother kidnapped by Indians, suffers cruelly, lives to tell the tale), Equiano's "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Equiano" (African kidnapped and sold into slavery, travels the Middle Passage to America), and Jonathan Edward's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (sermon-- basically, God dangles us over the fires of hell and can drop us anytime he feels like it. Creepy!)


(Okay, fine, I'll give you Edwards. His hellfire-and-brimstone is entertaining, if nightmarish.)

So on Wednesday, my first period class is discussing the Rowlandson and Equiano narratives, and... zzzzzz... Oh! Sorry, fell asleep just thinking about it!

Anyway, my first question is always, "What did you think of the reading?"

Overall, the class agreed with my own (silent) assessment: Yawn. "Rowlandson just lists events and talks about God," says one student dismissively.

Oo, there's a lesson here. "How does that reflect the time period in which she's writing?" I ask.

The kids who actually absorbed the intro materials jump in immediately: Puritan writing is by and large in diary form, and writers were constantly finding the presence of God in everyday life.

"Okay, good," I say. "What about Equiano? What did you think of him?"

Cut, a curly-haired boy sitting in the back, raises his hand. "I thought it was cool," he says. "You know, he talked about all the fun adventures. Like being on the slave ship."

The other students giggle.

"The slave ship? That's was a fun adventure?" I reply.

"Fun... yeah, you know, interesting and... fun," Cut backpedals lamely.

Seriously, you can't script this stuff.

11 September 2006


Okay, so I fell into bed last night at 12:00(ish), and I slept five heavy hours in which I had the following adventure:

For some reason, Fidel Castro had arranged a marriage for me to one of his advisors. So I, of course, went on the run, cross-country style. There was some guy helping me at first, but he disappeared at some point, and I was left to fend for myself. I ended up hiding in a youth hostel, and, more specifically, in someone's luggage. Literally, I zipped myself into someone's duffel bag, which somehow ended up in an abandoned house.

And that's when Steve McQueen rescued me.

The rest was a lot of running from a crazy, Castro-supporting bus driver (who ultimately turned out to be a good guy and led my pursuers away) and holding Steve McQueen's hand as he dragged me through cornfields and such.

Is it any wonder that when my alarm went off, I could hardly drag myself out of bed? Honestly, I spent the whole night running away from Castro's evil minions.

For the first time in my life, I hit the snooze button.

Er, fine. I hit the snooze button twice.

09 September 2006

(The End of) My Summer Vacation by Rosaline

The first week of classes is over. I'm ready to keel over and die. Join me in my week (in a nutshell)--

Monday: is Labor Day. I don't have to work. I do, however, have to worry about work. For the first time in my teaching career, I actually left on the Friday before Labor Day having completed everything for the first day of school. Syllabus? Check. Policies and procedures? Check. First quarter calendar? Done and done. Boxes unpacked? Surprisingly-- yes! My classroom looked clean, uncluttered, and organized when I locked the door.
But that doesn't mean I don't worry. There are many other things to worry about. Like-- what should I wear? In what order should I present all the information about the class? Will the kids give me the "year from hell" vibe? (This actually exists-- I got it on the first day of school three years ago. That was the year I came within inches of quitting. >shudder<) Will guidance add more students to my classes? Will I have enough desks if they do?

So, yeah. I worried. I tried to distract myself with Stephanie Meyer's New Moon, the sequel to Twilight. (Um, more on that in a later post. Much more. And flip to Jess' blog for her eloquent gushfest about Twilight. She says all the things I would say. We're so psychically connected it's scary.)

Anyway, I went to bed at 11:00. I was still awake at 2:00

Tuesday: My alarm went off at 5:30. It's set on 104.1, a classical station, and the music kind of filters into my unconscious before I opened my eyes and looked at the time. "That can' t be right," I thought blearily. "Didn't I just fall asleep five minutes ago?"

Sadly, no. So I picked up the school day routine where I left off in June: walk Q. Make lunch. Shower and dress. Double-check to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. Stop at Starbuck's. And finally... to school.

My first period was juniors, AP Lang and Comp. They were quiet.

Third period was freshmen. All my freshmen classes are team classes (which means that I have a team partner from the special ed department. Let's call her Christine. We've been working together for four years, and I love her. We have a lot of fun, which isn't always easy to have when you're talking about fourteen-year-olds). They were also quiet. Is this a trend? No, it's just the first day of school.

Fifth period was AP juniors again. They were... lively. I asked them how they liked the summer reading assignment and was met by a cacaphony of "It was awesome!" I immediately decided that they will be my favorite class.

I had seventh period off. I tried to work on several things at once, but gave up when everything started to look and sound like gibberish. So I went to the library to, um, "Xerox" (yeah, there' s more to my frequent library visits than that. Later, I promise).

Wednesday: I was in meetings all morning. I saw my third period freshmen again (I see them every day), and we talked about their summer reading assignment, Animal Farm. At first they were all a little reluctant to participate, but I finally said, "Look, you want me to learn your name ASAP, you'll contribute to the discussion," and that got them started.

Fourth period was another freshmen class. They were also quiet and significantly less eager for me to learn their names.

Sixth period I was off again. I Xeroxed (for real this time) and watched the clock. At 2:30, I booked it home and spent the rest of the day finishing New Moon.

Thursday: My AP kids had their test on The Crucible, one of their summer reading books. We talked about rhetorical devices. They actually seemed interested. We'll see how long it lasts.

Third period we discussed writing good paragraphs. When I asked, "What should a good concluding sentence do?", I received the following response (say it with me, people-- I'm sure you can guess what's coming):

"It concludes."

"Ah," I replied, shooting a frosty glare of death at Beck, the unfortunate smart-aleck boy who spoke first. "Okay. Thanks for that, Captain Obvious."

I spent my planning period grading Crucible tests. Oy. John Proctor totally did not rip his shirt at the end of Act Two when his wife is arrested for witchcraft. And "torture" is not spelled "tochure." There were truly points when I wanted to cry.

Friday: When I woke up, I was in the shower. It's a good thing my routine is so automatic, I guess-- I really can do it in my sleep.

It took me half an hour to decide what to wear. My principal decided that casual Fridays shouldn't really include jeans anymore, but he never really said we couldn't wear jeans. And my jeans are nice, new, Gap jeans. I put them on and passed on the shirt emblazoned with our school mascot. When I got to school, it seemed like that's all anyone is wearing. I felt like a rebel. Then I walked past my principal and felt guilty. Over a shirt.

Meetings all morning. Again. Freshmen the rest of the day. Pep rally in the afternoon (I locked myself in my room and made the reading quiz for my AP classes instead).

At 2:40, I was in my car. At 3:00, I was home, and the first week was over.

And you know? Despite the zombie fog I'm currently experiencing due to lack of sleep-- it was a really great week.

31 August 2006

The Shape of Things

I could very easily write an epic post about the my first week back at school, but instead, I'm going to show you some pictures from my late, lamented trip to England (oh, if I could only be back there instead of stuck in my classroom). Well, okay, to be honest, the only pictures I'm going to show you are pictures from Stonehenge and Avebury.

I took an inordinate amount of pictures of all those stones. I love stones, and I love symmetry, and I love the heady sense of history that permeates the air.

So, anyway, this is Avebury:

These stones run a broken ring around the town of Avebury and sit in pastures, as you can see from the wandering sheep.

This stone is actually called the "Devil's Chair" because it has a creepy-looking place to sit naturally occurring on the side not facing us. Silly sheep, grazing so close to the evil rocks!

And, look! It's Stonehenge! I expected it to be a letdown in person, but even though there must have been hundreds of people there that day, it was still awe-inspiring.

(You can really see what the outer ring should be in this one.)

I especially love the arches.

Okay, now I'm seriously ready to pack my bags and take the next flight back across the Atlantic. Anybody want to come? Or, better yet, anybody want to be my long-term sub while I go?

28 August 2006

Move Along, Move Along

Yesterday, I helped my brother move into his third apartment in three years. I don't think he has a yen for the transient lifestyle, but his roommate situation has shifted slightly enough each year that a move was required. First he lived in a two-bedroom with B., then he and B. moved into a three-bedroom with Sy, then B. got engaged and moved in with his girlfriend, so Sy and WS had to move to another two-bedroom.

I have moved three times myself in the five years I've been out of college, so I know the drill. Forage for as many boxes as humanly possible, pack smart (that means "don't put all the heavy stuff in one box"), recruit many friends by bribing them with cookies and/or pizza, and make sure you're at the moving truck rental place when it opens.

Oh, and clean the apartment you're leaving till it shines.

But, wait! I forgot! I'm talking about moving my brother.

This is how it went down:

I arrived at his apartment at eleven in the morning. WS had gathered a small crew: our parents, Sy, Teddy, and N., a friend of ours from summers past. When I entered the apartment, everyone was standing around looking vaguely shell-shocked. It might have been the piles and piles of unpacked stuff.

Or the massive amount of crumbs, Cheez-Its, change, dust, and various other unidentifiable particles on the living room carpet.

"Wow, when was the last time you guys vaccuumed?" I asked, wrinkling my nose in disgust.

WS looked at me blankly. "We don't have a vaccuum," he said.

"Ah," I said. "Um.... how are you gonna get all this crap off the floor?"

Grinning, Sy hold up a mop-- yes, really, one of those metal-handled, sponge at the head mops. I remember my mother using one of those to clean the kitchen floor every Saturday morning when I was growing up. She poured Mr. Clean in the sink and mixed it with water, stuck the mop in every so often to rinse it. It squeaked when she ran it over the linoleum, but it did a fine job.

Something tells me a mop like that wasn't meant for carpet. Especially a carpet as grossly maltreated as WS's.

"You're gonna... mop it up?"

WS grabbed the mop from Sy and began dragging it through the ungodly mess. "See?" he said. "I make piles and then sweep it onto the balcony."

"Don't you mean mop?"

The rest of their apartment was the same. I found enough change on WS's floor to pay his first month's rent. When he and Sy turned their air hockey table upside-down to carry it down the stairs, quarters rained out. (I, er, collected them and kept them for tolls.) None of us would go near either bathroom, especially after my mother enquired after their Scrubbing Bubbles, and WS's response was, "Oh, yeah, I've been meaning to buy some of those..."

See, the thing is, I'm no priss. I lived in a pretty run-down dorm in college. The shower stalls in the bathrooms were a special disaster all their own. I'm talking mildew, mold, and crazy amounts of rust. I took four years of showers there with my arms squeezed tightly to my sides-- so I wouldn't touch the stalls-- and my eyes closed-- so I couldn't see the stalls. Sometimes I dream about those shower stalls; I'm usually flailing wildly yet scared to death some tiny part of me will come into contact with the decades-old rust.

The showers in my dorm were the things of nightmares. But WS's old apartment? Way, way worse.

However, his new apartment is shiny and bright. Well, it was when I left yesterday afternoon. I'm a little afraid to think what WS and Sy could have done to it in 24 hours.

Ugh. I need a shower just thinking about it.

27 August 2006


Okay, I am multi-tasking as I never have before-- five, count 'em, five tasks at once. Blogging. Baking cookies for my department meeting tomorrow. Doing laundry so I have something to wear tomorrow (heh, want to know what I'm currently wearing? A slip and a sports bra. Fashionable!). Paying attention to Q, 'cause I go back to work tomorrow and I feel guilty (ain't no love like guilty love). And watching the Emmys.

And while I'm watching the Emmys, Simon Cowell starts doing a tribute to Dick Clark, one of those "let's look back and show how influential and important he was and play super-sad music behind the clips so everyone is sad because he's dead."

Then Simon Cowell turns and says, "And here's Dick Clark." The spotlight turns... and there's Dick Clark!

I honestly thought he was dead! I mean, I knew he was alive at New Year's, but I could have sworn...

Damn, the cookie timer is buzzing and Q is freaking out. But, yay! Cookies!

And, er, a living Dick Clark.

25 August 2006

Oh, Pathos

So, yes, we've established that at this moment in time, I love my job. Probably because it's mostly theoretical right now, in that "Monday is days away" way. And I know, come Monday, I'll be smiles and sunshine (and yawns) because I really do enjoy

(1) the meet-and-greet, how-was-your-summer chatfest of the faculty breakfast;

(2) the inevitable "guess that TV theme song" that my principal puts together, usually with Starbucks cards (score, says the Starbucks-is-crack addict!) as prizes;

(3) the first few hours in my classroom, when I manage to do everything except unpack my five years worth of crap that I only packed up two months ago;

(4) the first department meeting (although I should strike this from my list, because although I usually enjoy this part, this year I actually have to lead the meeting, and that freaks me out);

(5) the aforementioned clean slate.

However, I do not enjoy

(1) the stress of learning all the kids' names in time for Back to School Night in September;

(2) the stress of interims in October, December, March, and May;

(3) the stress of report cards in November, January, April, and June;

(4) the long haul between February's President's Day and April's Spring Break;

(5) the stress;

(6) the stress;

(7) the stress.

And yet... I can't see myself doing anything else.

>waves Teacher Pride banner wildly in all directions and wishes summer were a week longer<

23 August 2006

Five Minutes

"... No...," one of the students says, "four and a half."

Four and a half minutes to convey the absolute horror I feel at being so totally at home in my classroom. Even though it is nearly six o'clock. (Four minutes.) Even though summer is truly winding down and I will have to forgo my two-in-the-morning bedtimes and eleven-in-the-morning awakenings. Even though I have yet to shed the lazy and get my act together on a number of different fronts.

Three minutes.

It's early yet-- students don't come back until September 5th-- but I'm already loving the new year. Clean slate! New students! New syllabus!

Oh, dear God! I love my job!

(Remind me of this in two months.)

21 August 2006

Snakes in a Blogpost

Teddy called on Sunday after I got back from Jess's shower. "So have you decided what movie you want to see?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied. "I really want to see Snakes on a Plane."

"Wait... Seriously?"




"Um, okay."

I'd been reading about this movie for months now, and I already loved everything about it: the title which was essentially a plot summary ("What's the movie about?" my mother asked me when I first mentioned it. "Uh... snakes on a plane?" I replied); the logo (snakes... wrapped around a plane!); and of course, Samuel L. Jackson, who reportedly signed on as Agent Neville Flynn based on the title of the script alone (and later demanded they change the title back to Snakes on a Plane when some dummy tried to rename it Pacific Air Something-or-Other).

Plus, I'm a real sucker for campy horror/action flicks. Hence my disaster movie collection: The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure (still way better than the remake), The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day. You name it, I love it.

So Teddy picked me up in his hot car-of-the-moment (an RX-8? Is that a car? Whatever), we grabbed a beer or two, and we went to the 9:30 PM feature.

It was awesome! Gross in parts-- I'll reluctantly admit to closing my eyes during some of the gorier moments-- but otherwise hysterically funny. I mean, come on, what other movie can top pheremone-laced leis, crazed snakes of a hundred varieties, "snake-o-vision" (where you see from the snakes' point-of-view; apparently, they all see in green and blurry), the classic "oh-god-we've-lost-both-pilots-who-will-land-this-aircraft?" plot device, a true willingness to kill anyone, even the nice characters (someone involved in the production must have graduated from the Irwin Allen school of disaster movies), and Samuel L. Jackson's FBI agent finding love while combatting-- say it with me-- snakes on a plane.

Not to mention Samuel L.'s immortal lines: "I've had it with these motherf***ing snakes on this motherf***ing plane!" And my personal favorite: "Just what I need-- snakes on crack!"


Anyway, Teddy hated it. But, as I reminded him several times, he forced me to go see Wing Commander with him years ago, and that was much, much worse. So as far as I'm concerned, we are so even.

20 August 2006

Another Conversation with my Brother

I'm at Jess' family shower when my cell phone rings. I run for my purse and dig frantically through it, thinking, "Everyone who calls me is either at this shower or knows I'm at this shower. It must be an emergency!"

No, it's WS. "HI!" he shouts into the phone. There is music playing at full blast behind him.

"Um, hi?"

"I was gonna leave you a funny message, but this is better! LISTEN!"

He turns the music up louder. Suddenly I recognize the song. It's "Flashdance (What a Feeling)." And it's right at the lyric...

Take your passion/And make it happen

I start to laugh. WS comes back on the phone. "Did you hear it?"

"Yeah! The greatest misheard refrain of all time!"

He laughs, too. And rightfully so. We used to listen to The Full Monty soundtrack in the car on the way to work when I was in college, and whenever "Flashdance" would come on, WS would sing right along: Take your PANTS OFF! And make it happen!

"That is so not what she's singing!" I said once.

"Uh, yeah, it so is," he replied with such confidence that I believed him. For a long, long time.

"Anyway, it came on the radio, and I wanted to share," he says now. "Gotta go, bye!"

God, I love my brother.

18 August 2006

Teddy Returns

My friend Teddy finally got in touch with me last week. He text-messaged me on my birthday to say:


I text-messaged him on his birthday two days later to say:


He called me twenty minutes later and left a message in my voicemail (it was almost two in the morning):

"Hey, why you not answering? OK, whatever, just gimme a call sometime so we can get together and catch up!"

Ah, yes, to catch up. We only see each other roughly every six months. Sometimes not even that. I think we've gone a year at least without speaking once--and yet we live only ten minutes apart. But it isn't because we have a particularly volatile relationship; we just have a... weird... relationship.

Teddy is my oldest friend. We met when we were fifteen, and the pattern we've found ourselves reliving over and over started at that moment in the theatre room. Teddy had a crush on me; I was madly in love with his friend Matt; and Matt liked my friend Jenny. (Ah, high school.) We had a big falling out when he asked me to homecoming and I went with someone else. And then we mended our friendship, and after we graduated, Teddy became my every-six-months friend.

This is what we do when we get together: drink. Teddy works for a big-time, fancy-dancy restaurant, and what he loves more than anything is to show off his connections with the various restauraunts and bars around town. So inevitably, he picks me up in whatever hot car he's happened to fall in love with, we hit a myriad of bars, he pays for everything (and I really, truly try to buy a round or several, but he tells the bartenders right off that they are not to take my credit card, under pain of death), we talk about our love lives (he, much like my brother, attracts the crazies, and I-- um, am boring) and about how we're just going to marry each other when we turn thirty, because it's not like we don't know and like each other.

Once we got so drunk that Teddy couldn't drive home, so he parked his car in the parking lot of the community pool, opened the sunroof, and turned on my favorite classical music... And I don't remember how it began or ended, but we had an intense, two-hour makeout session under the stars.

Afterward, it was cool. We laughed about it and went out drinking the next weekend, too, after which he tried to teach me to drive stick. (ETA: No, I mean that literally! His car has a stick shift. Much thanks to Jess and Steve for pointing out the double entendre and not laughing at me... too much.)

Then he disappeared until my birthday weekend.

See? Weird.

So anyway, I called him back on Wednesday night, and now we're supposed to get together for a movie on Sunday. I'm hoping I can convince him to go see Snakes on a Plane with me, because (1) no one else will and (2) there is nothing better than seeing a schlocky horror flick with Teddy. We're those terrible people who sit in the back and giggle throughout. Mostly because we drink copiously beforehand.

In the end, Teddy is a terrible influence and really not very dependable, but I do love him dearly. Even if it's only twice a year.

Inanimate Things I Love #101

My parents got me an iPod nano for my birthday. I love, love, love it with all my heart and all my soul. Well, no, part of my heart belongs to my gold sandals, and part of my soul belongs to my books, but the rest is in the cold, slim hands of my iPod.

Ye gods! My materialism is at an all-time high. It's really time for me to go back to work...

13 August 2006

Conversation with my (Drunken) Brother

This weekend I turned 27. I could go on and on about how I hate the thought of being in my mid- to late-twenties, but that seems silly. I have no control over my age, so why should I rebel against it? It would just be whiny.

But I haven't felt this way about my birthday since I turned 23. That was the year I really freaked out. I remember driving with T2, the guy I had just started dating (not to be confused with T1, my college boyfriend of the same name), and having what can only be described as a meltdown in the passenger seat. (To T2's credit, he talked me off a ledge and continued dating me for many months more. I think he found the whole thing kind of charming. He was great that way.)

Anyway. This year I did not freak out in any discernible way, but I have felt tailed by a certain melancoly since August began.

And then my brother, WS, called on Saturday morning. He left this message: "Hello, birthday girl! Where are you? Why aren't you picking up? I can't believe you're 27... Man, you're getting old. Okay, I'll talk to you later!"

Compare this to the message he left me last year: "Hi, birthday girl! Happy 26th... Now you're in your late twenties. All right!"

He means well. He even made a cameo appearance at the birthday party which Jess was cool enough to host-- how fantastic is she? So WS brought me a bottle of Boone's Farm ("'Cause I know you like fruity!") and Glen Ellen ("For old time's sake!"-- we used to sell it at our old summer job). He said his round of hellos, then left to "drink a couple brewskis before I head out to the city."

It was a little after 11, and two V&Ts later, when my phone rang. It was WS. "Happy birthday, birthday girl!" he shouted.

"Um...," I said. "Didn't I just see you? Why are you calling me?" (This sounds harsh, but it isn't-- WS only calls me if he needs something or if we haven't talked for a while.

"Just to say 'hi'! And to see if you and your party posse want to come out to [insert bar name here] with us!"

"My party posse?"

(In the living room, my friends hear me and start laughing.)


"Have you been drinking?"

"Well, we did a power hour before we left... And now we're walking!"

"Okay," I said. "That's good. That's better than driving, I guess."

"Yeah! And you know, if we were like eighteen and under, we'd be like a gang!"

"Um," I said.

"And if your party posse would come out, you could be like the rival gang!"

"Um," I said. "I don't think my party posse would be too into that tonight, but thanks."

"Okay!" he replied. "See you later! Bye!"

And he hung up. And that is the first conversation I have ever had with my drunken brother. Even now it makes me giggle and forget that I am indeed 27 and almost-- but not quite-- in my late twenties.

07 August 2006

The Perils of Trashcans

So I bought a new trashcan on Thursday in preparation for hosting Jess's bridal shower this weekend; in fact, I whiled away a significant amount of time in Bed, Bath, and Beyond picking up new pillows for the couch and other householdy-type things. I only do this twice a year: clean my apartment to the bare bones of shiny newness and buy a round of appropriately seasonal tablecloths, etc. This time around, I started on Thursday and didn't finish until Saturday morning. This might be because the last time I really settled in to clean my apartment from top to bottom (or should I say front door to bedroom window?) was just after Thanksgiving, when I put up all my Christmas things.

I am never going to win Housekeeper of the Year.

But back to the trashcan. So I fell in love (as much as one can love an inanimate object-- which is a lot, I guess, considering the fierce devotion I show my books) with a stainless steel cylinder trashcan at B, B, and B. It's taller than my now-dumpstered plastic one, and very sleek. It fits in my very tiny kitchen and takes up the absolutely minimum amount of space. It is, in a word, fantastic.

Q hates it.

As soon as I took it out of the box, he started barking and didn't stop for forty minutes. And he only stopped because he was so worn out from all the barking. He just collapsed in front of the door and looked at me as if I had brought a dog-eating monster home.

I told him he would just have to get over it. I even tried to force him into a confrontation with it; waving a Greenie around that night, I said, "Do you fear the trashcan as much as you love the Greenie?"

He refused to come near the kitchen. I knew then that this was bad. Rejecting a Greenie? Seriously?

Q spent the weekend with my parents (there was no way he would be allowed back to the apartment until after the shower, what with all the copious amounts of dog hair he would no doubt shed on my vaccuumed and shampooed carpet), and when he returned, it was with renewed fear of the trashcan. He barked all night.

It finally occurred to me around nine that his food and water were in the kitchen, blocked by the scary, scary trashcan. So I moved them beside the front door, and Q fell on his food like he was starving (probably from all the barking, again), and since then, he seems to have made his peace with the trashcan.

By which I mean he won't go within ten feet of it. But the barking has blessedly stopped.

03 August 2006


I say this every summer-- but c'mon already, fall, bring on the cooler weather!

When I left for London two weeks ago, it was 100 degrees here, and I remember saying to my father as he dropped me off at the airport, "Well, at least it'll be cooler over there."

Ha! So wrong! As soon as I was on the plane (sandwiched between two very nice but very space-invading guys), the pilot announced the current time at our destination-- midnight-- and the current temperature-- 100 degrees. I turned to the guy on my left and said, "That can't be right."

Oh, but it was. England was undergoing a heat wave no one seemed particularly prepared for. Every few hours I would buy (1) a bottle of water and (2) a iced juice thing from one of the many coffee chains dotting the country (my favorite was Costa Coffee's Summer Berries). I dreamt of swimming every night. When I got to Portsmouth after two days in London, I was so excited to discover that my B&B was about a five minutes walk from the seafront. The first thing I did after unpacking was put on as little clothing as I could get away with. Then I walked down to the seafront promenade, where I seriously considered stripping down and diving into the sea even though it never crossed my mind to bring a bathing suit.

(I didn't strip down, unfortunately, because there were families enjoying their vacations everywhere. Instead, I rolled up my jeans, sat on a set of wide stairs that led into the water, and read for about two hours while the sea washed up against my feet. Mmmm, not swimming, but close enough.)

Here is what was good about the sun: I got a simply fantastic tan. (And I was finally responsible about wearing sunscreen-- thank you, Glamor, for freaking me about about skin cancer!)

Here is what I learned while I was away: The Tourist Information Center doesn't always know even the basic stuff about their city. Case in point-- I had no clue where the Bath youth hostel was, so I dragged my bag all the way to the Bath TIC and asked.

The (admittedly very nice) woman explained and said, "It's about a twenty-five minute walk."

I looked at her and said, "Uphill?"

(If you've ever been to Bath, you know why that's an extremely important question, as the city almost spirals out and up around its center.)

She replied, yes, it was uphill.

"Okay," I said, "is there a bus I can take there?"

Well, no, apparently not, because it was up around the university and in a "bad area." Fabulously encouraging!

I couldn't face a twenty-five minute uphill walk with my bag into a "bad area," especially as I had forgotten the directions as soon as the TIC woman had said them, so I did a little detective work myself. I went to the bus station and looked at all the bus schedules until I found a bus that not only went up Bathwick Hill but also had a stop right outside the hostel.

After I showered and changed (into as little as humanly possible but still decent yet again), I went back to the TIC, and they were actually very helpful in other ways, so I try not to judge them too harshly.

20 July 2006

From London

Hello from London!

Just a quick post to say it is damn hot here and that I climbed to the tippy-top of St. Paul's yesterday afternoon. The brochure said it was 523 steps, but it felt like a million, all uneven and stony and curved around the core column. Still... the view was amazing!

Today I'm off to see Salisbury and Stonehenge (and some other things). Crossing my fingers that the temperature will finally go down, or else I need to buy the biggest bottle of water in the world!

17 July 2006

Aaaand... We're Off!

My flight to Heathrow leaves in less than twenty-four hours, and I'll admit: there are still a hundred things I need to do. But what's more important, really? Blogging... or packing?

Blogging, of course.

I am ever a last-minute packer. This time, I haven't even made a list to check off as I hurriedly smash clothes and books into a suitcase. I figure that as long as I have my passport and my credit card, I should be fine. Oh, and three pairs of shoes. (Jess and I had this discussion last summer before a group of us went to New Orleans. We decided that three pairs of shoes were the ideal number; more than that is obsessive, less than that is unreasonable. And even with three pairs of shoes each, we still managed to pack for carry-on. How's that for the modern woman?)

So tomorrow I'm on my way to England for ten days. I do this every year-- just pack up and travel around the U. K. for a week or two, staying at off-the-beaten-path youth hostels and living out of my suitcase. Riding the bus, counting the sheep, hitting every tea shop within a ten-mile radius. Pretty soon I'm going to run out of places to visit, but for the moment, as long as I keep reading my British history (I'm super into Alfred the Great right now), there will always be ruins and battlefields of note for me.

This is my best memory out of all my trips over all these years:

It was 2002, and my first trek by myself (I'd been when I was 16 with my parents and again when I was 20 with a group from college-- we read Wordsworth in the hills and valleys where he wrote). I was making a circuitous route around the country; I started in London, then traveled south to Dover, then north to Bakewell (still one of my favorite places), then even further north to Aysgarth, a little out-of-the-way town I chose because it had the closest hostel to Middleham, which had a ruined castle I wanted very badly to see because of its connextions to Richard III.

The hostel was formerly a tuberculosis hospital (lovely, right?) and stood right above what really made Aysgarth famous: the Aysgarth Falls. It was also a mile downhill from the town itself... and the bus stop. So each day I was there, I would make the uphill trek past the winking barn, past the cowfields, and into the town to wait for the very reliable bus.

Well, the day before I left Aysgarth, it started to rain-- and rain-- and rain. It rained all day and all night. And in the morning, when I walked with my suitcase and my carry-all up to the town, it was still raining. But by this time, there were huge rivers running alongside the sidewalks and where there was once a cowfield was... also a river, of sorts. As I walked, cars drove by and splashed huge amounts of muddy water on me like something out of slapstick.

I finally made it to the bus stop and onto the bus. But the adventure was just beginning...

For, as we began our journey to Leyburn (where I'd change for North Allerton, where I'd train to York-- honestly, I had a lot to learn about traveling around the U. K. in those days), I watched as the water on the roads grew higher and higher. The bus driver-- a younger man than I was used to seeing driving the buses in the north-- navigated his way through them the best he could, but finally, we came to a stop in a bank of water three feet high. He leaned out his window and shouted to the cars on the other side of the bank, "You can't make it through here!"

And we turned around and drove back to Aysgarth. I wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen-- I thought perhaps he would drop us off at the bus stop and... make us wait until the water dried up a bit? Instead, the driver made a sharp right onto the road past the hostel and over the Aysgarth Falls. It went up higher, he explained to those of us along for the ride, and would likely be less flooded.

As we rode over the Falls, the water was gushing with a strength it had lacked only the day before. Another few feet and it would be over the bridge. But the driver got us over quickly and soon, we were on our less-watery way to Leyburn.

It was amazing, too-- we were only a few minutes off the bus' normal schedule. As the driver parked the bus in the square, we passengers burst into cheers for him before dispersing to our next destinations.

I've seen a lot of the world, but sitting on that bus in the middle of nowhere as the rain poured down and the waters rose around us, scared at times that the bus would tip over or float away with everyone still aboard-- that was my favorite adventure of all time.

14 July 2006

Take Me Out...

My softball double-header scheduled for tonight was cancelled for... reasons unknown. I think the field was inspected and deemed unplayable. Honestly. A month ago we played in a thunderstorm, and tonight the grass is just a little too wet? Since I'm going to miss four games while I'm overseas, I was really looking forward to this weekend's set of double-headers (we play on Sunday, too-- rescheduled games from three weeks ago when the weatherman predicted "severe storms." We got... um, clear skies all night).

I played baseball and softball until I was ten; that was the season where my batting average dropped so drastically that my parents took me to get my eyes checked. Turns out I needed glasses. And that was the end of my team sports career. (I often wonder why I let it be the end; probably because my glasses were horrible, huge pink-rimmed things, and to add insult to injury, I would have been forced to wear horrible, huge chemistry-lab-esque googles over them to play. That was enough to kill my very real dreams of being a professional ball player.)

So it's been a couple years... or fifteen. But when my brother, WS, first mentioned the idea of putting together a co-ed league softball team, I was on board immediately. My father, who coached both of us in the early days, took it upon himself to mold me back into the softball player buried beneath the years of sedentary activity (um, reading on the couch). He took me to the batting cage and played catch with me-- wow, it's almost like a sports movie montage. And I improved significantly, and now all I want to do is play softball.

WS is the team's manager/coach, and the team itself is mostly made up of people with whom he works and their significant others. We have a continually rotating roster in which WS and I are the only people who have played in every game. This is both good and bad: good when the absolutely sweet but truly terrible players can't make it, and bad when the I-played-softball-for-my-state-champion-team-in-college players can't make it. Last Friday, so few of our players showed up that we had to recruit two-thirds of our team from our fans. Really. People came to cheer us on and ended up playing for us.

It's was actually my favorite game of the season so far. Ultimately, I am forced to let go of my super-competitiveness (blame WS, whose mantra is "life's a competition") and accept that we are a ragtag bunch. The Bad News Bears of the adult softball league. Only we don't win games. Ever.

But yay! There is still one team in the league with a worse record than ours.

Okay, I can let go of some of my super-competitiveness...

Cold Shower

I love a long shower. When I lived with my parents, those eighteen years before college, no one in my family could take a shower for at least an hour after I had-- I used up all the hot water once or twice a day at least. Once, when we trekked to Nebraska and got snowed in (eight family members--rather, say death!) at my uncle's one-bedroom house for what became the Worst New Year's of All Time, I took at a minimum four showers a day because it was the only place in the house where I could get away from everyone.

During the school year, I have very strict shower times. First at five in the morning. Second at eleven o'clock at night. Since this is my summer vacation and I can stay up as late as I want (honestly, I'm almost shocked at how insignificant time seems right now-- it could be five in the afternoon for all I know or care), I've taken to showering in the wee hours.

But I'm quickly discovering that one- and two-in-the-morning showers yet surprisingly little hot water. And for some reason, half the water is coming out of the faucet instead of the showerhead, so the water pressure is terrible, and I can't get all the conditioner out of my haven't-worn-it-this-long-since-high-school hair.

I like my showers hot and my water pressure hard, dammit.

(Hm, it sound slighty dirty, but it's very true.)

13 July 2006

In Praise of Project Runway

Okay, so I'm totally lame, but here it is: the highlight of my yesterday was not the library or driving my car to the library or sitting outside Starbuck's in the sun (this was of course before the storm), drinking a raspberry black iced tea, and reading about Wales.

No, the highlight was curling up on the couch at ten o'clock and turning on the season premiere of Project Runway.

I love this show above all other reality shows (yes, even The Amazing Race, which, over the course of the last two seasons, is working it way to "dead to me"). This is what got me to fight through my often unfightable Wednesdays during the second half of the school year: the prospect of an hour of Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, and fashion designer wannabes/fame whores who have to step up to whatever wacky challege they are given that week.

I love that designers aren't voted off the island or forced to make alliances that last all of two seconds or required to eat bugs in order to remain in the competition. They just have to... be good designers. And so little of the show is dedicated to what so many reality shows these days thrive on-- the personal drama. No, the focus here is on

(1) how the designers create and implement their respective visions, like when they go to Mood, the fabric store, and pick out their materials,
(2) the runway show (my favorite part!),
(3) the judging, which seems to me an excellent critique by people who know what they're talking about, and
(4) Tim Gunn, whom I love with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.

I'll also admit that I scoffed at Project Runway's premise when I first heard it (much in the same way that I was digusted by the idea of America's Next Top Model, which I, um, now love not quite as much as I love Tim Gunn but more than I love, say, coffee. I know-- sacrilege!). But I turned it on a couple of episodes into the first season and was hooked immediately. Now it's just starting its third season, and I am so there!

Project Runway's greatness is not only felt by me, however. This past March, I was chaperoning a trip to NYC for our publications students, and at one point, we were waiting in line for the theatre we where would be seeing Rent to open. Suddenly, a group of our girls started shrieking and running up the stairs of the building we were standing in front of. Of course, everyone in line immediately stiffens, looking around (and up) suspiciously.

"What is their problem?" asked one of the other chaperones a little nervously.

I looked over, and lo and behold, the girls are jumping up and down in front of Parson's New School of Design, where all the Project Runway designers do their work for the show (and where Tim Gunn teaches, or directs, or does whatever it is his kick-ass self does). "Oh, that's the Project Runway place," I replied casually, not quite willing to admit to my fellow teachers that my nightly programming involves "Where the hell is my chiffon?" and not interviews with scholars about Shakespeare's works.

But now I feel I can declare my love in the open. So, thank you, Project Runway, for returning early to Bravo and especially for including Tim Gunn in the credits.

And a quick note about those shrieking girls-- the security guard eventually let them into the lobby of Parson's... AND gave them Austin's button. If you watch the show, you know how absolutely, totally cool that is.

12 July 2006

Grrr and Argh

Bah! I got a call from one of the assistant principals at school today-- my AP is retiring (which I've known for a while now because I've got "insider sources," i.e. a very close relative who works at HR), and the admins wanted me to sit in on the panel interviews for his position on the 26th.

But I can't! I'll be overseas on that day, and while I'm super-excited about my trip (super-duper-uber-excited, in fact), I'm disappointed to miss this opportunity. I've never sat in on an interview panel before, and it's really important that my department have a representative who can contribute. I recommended a few teachers who could take my place and who will do a great job... but I still wish it could be me.

Beyond that, however, I am having a relaxing, if not particularly proactive, day. I went to Wegman's-- I worship at the altar of Wegman's, by the way-- for some fruits (black plums!) vegetables (mashed cauliflower!). After lunch and some reading, I went to the library to pick up some books for my trip. Most of which I will have finished before I leave, but it's worth a shot.

I was surprised how crazy-crowded the library was; I could hardly find a seat, let alone a computer on which to search the online catalogue. At one point, I was walking past a desk with two computers where a group of teenagers (I just can't get away from them, even in the summer) were all hovered around one but weren't using the other, so I asked one of the girls-- because I'm polite that way-- "Are you using this, because I need to do a catalogue search."

She glanced at the desk, where she had her sunglasses and wallet piles, then at the computer, then at me, and said, "Yeah, I'm using it."

I looked at the screen. It was still on the intro page-- do you want to search for title, author, keyword, subject? "Um, okay," I replied. So not worth getting into, even though the girl turned right back to the other computer and her friends.

When I left the library half an hour later, those kids were still "using" the two computers. Must have been one advanced search they were doing.

Well, it's been thunderstorming for the last two hours, and my poor Q is sitting at my feet and shaking so hard the desk is moving. He hates the thunder, and he's come to associate it with heavy rain and heavy wind, so any usual weather leads to tail-between-the-legs, hiding-in-the-bathroom, refusing-to-go-outside. I've learned in my two years with Q that the best thing to do when he gets like this is to sit on the couch with him and rub his head. Which is what I am off to do.

11 July 2006

A Scholarly Night Out

I went to my first book club meeting tonight, and it was brilliant. I've always wanted to be in a book club (with the amount of reading I do on a weekly basis, I could join five), but the opportunity never came about until now. Well, that's not completely true. A group of teachers at school started a book club two years ago, and I was excited about it... But I never attended a meeting. Why? Because they met after school at school-- and I spend enough time at school as it is.

It's also because I've come to the conclusion that I can't be friends with the people I work with (there are some notable exceptions to that rule, but sadly, very few). I wish I could, but I'm surrounded by the in-it-for-lifers (some of whom have been teaching at my school for twenty to thirty years), and all we have to talk about is work. I envy my friends who work with people their own age and grab a happy hour together and hang out, but for the moment, that is so not possible for me. Ah, well.

One of those very lucky friends, Liz, is the one who got me into this book club in the first place (it's made up of mostly people she worked with at her old job). As I mentioned in my last post, the book we were discussing was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, a very poignant piece about what makes us human. The characters in the story grow up at a school where they are encouraged to be creative and appreciate each other-- like normal students-- but their ultimate purpose in life, what they are being raised for-- is much darker. (I'm not going to give it away in case you haven't read it, but trust me... It's upsetting but thought-provoking.)

We met at Elephant and Castle and enjoyed cider and English pub food while we discussed the book. I ate chips with massive amounts of vinegar in preparation for my U.K. trip next week and talked way more than I expected to-- sometimes I'm more shy in theory than in practice. The conversation went in fits and starts, but overall it was interesting to hear what other people thought about some of the issue Ishiguro brings up.

And then Jess and I rode home on the metro together and discussed her upcoming move... while two men took pictures of each other posing at the pole people use to keep themselves upright when the train stops suddenly. Yeah, I don't know, either.

A New Set of Wheels

I woke up at 10:30 this morning-- unusually late for me, but then again, I was up until 1:30 rereading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go for my book club tonight. I actually finished it for the first time two weeks ago-- nearly making me late for a friend's wedding-- but I thought I should revisit so I'm really ready for some adult conversation about literature. I mean, I get to talk about books all the time with my students, but it's somehow different when you're dragging the discussion out of them with threats about their grades.

Anyway-- I walked Q (who, quite adorably, has finally realized that smacking me with his paws when he's ready to get up is useless and now curls up next to me and waits patiently until I manage to drag myself out of bed) then hopped into my car and headed to Starbuck's for my morning grande almond skim latte.

My car. >sigh<>

See, I've driven my gold '95 Saturn since I was a senior in college-- it was my mother's car, and my parents gave it to me when I started my student teaching-- and I liked it, mostly because it was paid off when I got it and all I had to worry about was repairs and gas. But it had been giving me problems for a while now (most noticably, it vibrated wildly when I went over 50 mph and stalled out when I was stopped at lights), so when it failed its state inspecton, I took it to the dealership. I thought, "Well, service costs have to be cheaper than getting a new car. Right? Right?"

Apparently, not so much. Sean the Service Guy called me on July 3, and when I asked how much it would cost, he laughed at me. No, seriously, he laughed at me.

It seemed fairly obvious at that point that I had no choice. So I picked up my poor old Saturn, took it home, and tried not to drive it for several days while I figured out what to do. For the first time in my life, I was checking out cars as I walked Q and made one slightly perilous trip to Safeway. In the end, my best friend Jess suggested I looked at Hyundai (her fiance drives one), so I did a little research and realized (1) the cars were nice and came in cool colors and (2) they were in my price range.

Sold! I hit the dealership on Friday and left a shocking two hours later (I couldn't believe how quickly they managed to sell me a car, transfer my plates, work with my bank on my loan, etc.) with a 2006 Hyundai Elantra in Tidal Wave blue. I never thought I was the kind of person who would drive a blue car, but then again, I thought I'd be driving the Saturn till I died.

Well, I'm off to the library... not really because I need to go but because I need a reason to drive!

10 July 2006

To Blog

I have never been a diary-keeper or a journal-writer. I've tried over the years-- and valiantly-- to keep records of my life, but I'm inconsistent. And I tend to misplace the spiral notebooks in which I keep my confidences. And my hand gets tired easily.

But there are no excuses with a blog, so I'm making the-- yes, valiant-- attempt once again. Mostly because I can stay up late now that it's summer.

Ah, summer.

It's currently 10:30 PM, and I have no plans to head to bed soon. During the school year, this is the point in the evening at which I begin watching the clock. Thinking, "If I shower now, I'll still have fifteen minutes to read before I really should go to sleep." I try very hard to have lights out by 11 on weeknights because I get up at 5 AM to be at school by 6 AM and ready for classes to start at 7:20 AM. (I would really rather start early and end early, but on those winter mornings when the cars are coated in a thick layer of frost and the act of breathing is like dragging an ice cube down the throat, I can see the value of starting school at 9.)

But work is behind me (for another month and a half, at least), and I can forget time and date and even the day of the week right now.

I'll be honest, though-- I still check my work e-mail. I know that I shouldn't; I know that I don't have to; but I know there will be at least one e-mail daily that will annoy the hell out of me, and I would rather take care of it ASAP than have a huge pile of them waiting for me when school starts again in the fall. Practicality beats all.

Okay, so I'd like to write more, but my dog (Q) is sitting very patiently beside my chair, every so often glancing up at me with "If she doesn't get off the computer soon, I'm peeing on the curtains" in his eyes. So Q and I are off for an evening walk in which he will fertilize every bush in the neighborhood and I will try to avoid Post-It Guy, my across-the-hall neighbor and story for another time.