Thursday, June 18, 2009

reviving the blog

one might think i DIDN'T survive that grading i posted about just over a year ago, but i survived that and worse. i'm back after one of the most challenging years of my life; i moved to a new home back in the city (!), i moved to a new school, learned the community and the curriculum, and said a very, very sad goodbye to my dear, dear grandfather who died just a week after being diagnosed with leukemia. he is the man pictured in an earlier post called "family (this is not a metaphor)". i think that photo captures the essence of our relationship: we were at once tender and antagonistic. he raised me first in the absence of my father and then in the absence of my mother after her death when i was 18 and i am heartbroken that he will not get to walk me down the aisle next summer. i was able to be with him in his last hours and then with my family for the week following his passing, only to return to five classes of term papers and plenty of assignments i had put off and left behind, all of which threatened to drown me. but i swam, tread water, and kicked my pinky toe there at the end to make it through.

i'm now a few days into another summer which isn't feeling at all like i expected it to. i am planning the aforementioned wedding for the summer of 2010 and preparing myself to make some major revisions to my curriculum. next year i will be teaching the same two courses that i taught this year: sophomore american lit & comp and sophomore introduction to expository comp. (yes, all sophs!) the new wrinkle is that next year our frosh and soph classes will be 1:1, hence part of my motivation (mandate?) in making changes in the way i teach.

i'd like to rededicate this space to all things teaching related and invite conversation about teaching lit, about the trials and victories of being 1:1, and about teaching lit and comp in a 1:1 environment. welcome aboard! thanks for joining me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

summer milestones

today was the last day of final exams and the official end of the semester at school. I didn’t have to proctor or give an exam today, so I went to campus for the end of the year faculty lunch and was showered with hugs and praise and good byes since I will be leaving my school this year and joining a new community. days like today are especially difficult for me because I am very emotional and sentimental and I am particularly bad with goodbyes. I inherited this terrible weakness from my grandmother who is also a notoriously emotional goodbye-er. sigh

I thought I would try to up my blogging over the summer and keep track of some milestones, both mundane and significant. here's a very indulgent capturing of today, the unofficial start of "summer vacation."

I received roses from two students in the last days of school. I am so grateful for my girls and I will truly miss them.

this was a farewell gift from the administration and a nice nod to the irish sisters who run the school I’m leaving. my grandfather will appreciate learning about it as he is especially proud of his irish heritage and often calls me his irish colleen.

I stopped at the market on my way home this afternoon and could not resist indulging my inexplicable craving for chocolate covered gummi bears. since the market doesn’t sell them and I couldn’t justify making another stop (at the mall no less), I decided to make them. here is a photo of the army of chocolate bears on the top shelf of my fridge. I estimate that they will last approximately one day.

and here is the work I have to do over the next five days. this doesn’t include the big stack of essay process in my classroom that I couldn’t bring myself to lug home. I will go back to campus to take care of that and enter those scores last. update to follow (if I’m alive after all this reading…)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wishlists and other various things on my Sunday night brain

As I lurk on various style blogs (these being among my recent faves) I have realized (although I suppose I have truly long known this to be true): I am a wishlister. I want. I want! I WANT! I am trying to decide if this is a good thing; evidence of motivation and drive. Hey! I know what I want. Or maybe it’s a sign of greed. I’m trying not to be a consumer. I really want to live simply. I just like pretty things.

And I want to look put together. (this latter desire is more often than not tempered by my desire to be comfortable. Style vs. Comfort, Comfort wins)

Perhaps a little update on the 26 before 26 list (just weeks to go… it’s time to renovate those goals and deadline!)

for my spirit
1. read Daily Om daily for one month – Jorge just chastised me because i have 228 unread Daily Oms in my gmail inbox. I will read them starting tomorrow. I will link to those that resonate.
2. write 20 minutes a day for one month – if only I could stick to such a schedule. I have been writing for myself more often than usual and that’s about all I can ask for at the moment. The current project is letter writing – letters to myself at both younger and older moments, letters to loved ones, handwritten letters left in colleagues’ mailboxes, emails that actually get sent and are received in the hopes of replies… it’s fun to have a theme. While I may not be writing daily, overall, it’s working. Check.
3. read for pleasure one chapter/essay a day for one month – I did this in the fall. I read all of Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this way and soon after start Don Quixote. Not going so well. Will update as I go. Check (for the Kingsolver).
4. write 2 episodes of memoir – probably not going to happen for a good long while. I’m going to shelve this goal for the time being.
5. crochet a blanket – my cousin E has already commissioned me for this, so as soon as we can save enough pennies, I will drag him to the yarn store, we will buy skeins and skeins of luxurious yarn and I will get to work. I am definitely not expecting a finished product by May. This one gets a raincheck.
6. learn to sew. Also getting a raincheck. J’s mom is holding my machine hostage (I’m lucky she’s not charging me to store it at her place – I have no space). I will need to enlist the help of someone who sews to inspire me. Raincheck.
7. make one new recipe a week for two months – I don’t cook every day but I have adventurous periods in the culinary cosmos. My recent experiment was a quiche made from scratch (and with a modified recipe). Eggs, half and half, onions, and fresh spinach in a frozen pie crust. I cut it up and froze the slices individually and enjoyed my delicious creation for a whole week. Next up: break out the new food processor. I LOVE vegetables! Close enough. Check.
8. attend services at 3 different places of worship – I’m not worshipping anything these days except my couch and my yoga mat. Raincheck.
9. yoga once a week for two months – Friend Jen and I had a coupon for two weeks unlimited yoga at a nearby studio and I went to 5 classes in that time. I’m trying to fit yoga into my budget, but I am planning on going to class either at the studio or at the very least at the gym at least once a week from here on out. I’m calling that a check.

for my peace of mind
1. finish global citizenship project – in the midst. It’s morphing. I’ll get there.

for my brain
1. attend meetings with like-minded political activists – J and I agreed that as soon as he finishes the bar we will read up, pick our candidate and do something. Temporary raincheck.
2. find a news source i trust. read daily for one month – not doing it, know I should.
3. do a book club with christin 6x – this started as a writing group which quietly disbanded, then morphed into book talk which also hasn’t happened, but as I head into spring semester having read all but one of the texts that I’ll be teaching from now until June and having made a promise to myself that I would read the books on my shelves before buying myself new books, I’m going to say that at least the reading half of this equation will be fulfilled shortly. If nothing else, I’ll be busy over at goodreads.

for my environment
1. buy live plants and keep them alive – I have a plant! J’s mom gave me one that is easy to keep alive and familiar to me – I just learned through the magic of instant internet research that it’s called a Pothos (Epipremnum) and oh how I’d love to have a lime or neon colored one!

My grandmother has had this kind of plant for as long as I can remember. We had one in our last house that sat at the top of the stairs in the foyer and we let it grow about ten feet down to the entrance. It’s not fancy but it’s very green and hardy and serves its purpose: bring energy and fresh air to my space. Mission accomplished. Check.
2. organize family photos and hang them – not going to bother with this until I move. I don’t think it’s worth putting loads of holes in the wall for my landlord to patch if my stay seems to be temporary. More time to look for and invest in classy (matching) frames.
for my community
1. volunteer 3 hours a month for duration – haven’t. hard to do during the school year. Hoping to get a start during the summer and gain momentum that will sustain me into the next school year. Raincheck.
for my family
1. call madison once a week for a month and call taylor once a week for a month – all the girls should be included in this one since they are all verbal enough to communicate clearly.

for my wallet
1. budget $100/month for clothes/shoes/ accessories/jewelry – putting this off for very good reason. I’m trying something radical. I’m going to try to live with what I have for one whole year. This, of course, does not include necessities or something needed if a special occasion arises, but I’m going to make good use of what I have and not just in clothes, but in many corners of my life. More on this to come. I’m striking this from the list altogether.
2. begin savings plan for new car – done! Well, not the savings plan but I’ve got a new ride. She’s sweet. Still considering names. Check.
3. save $$$$ for costa rica in 2007 – done! No money saved, trip went on my credit card. So I’m paying for it now, but it was ten days of tropical paradise and worth every penny of interest I am still paying.
for my friendships
1. write a letter every week 8x – haha! Working toward this one already!
2. call one person a month with whom I haven’t spoken in awhile – this is a nebulous goal. Stricken.
3. call monica once a month for duration – Moni’s been busy with her precious new little one, Dario, but we IM and send emails. She’s about to finish her thesis and become a PhD in Archaeology. Woo hoo!
4. send birthday cards to family and close friends – I was planning to start this with the first of the year and I already failed! I’ll pick up a few belated cards and start again.
for my body
1. limit soda to once a week – switched to diet. Stricken.
2. take vitamins every day – waste of money. I’m trying to get as much raw nutrition from my food as possible.
3. eliminate fast food for two months – I have most definitely gone two months (maybe longer) without fast food but J has been craving McDonald’s lately and I have caved. I’m a sucker for the fries and then I see the menu and think a cheeseburger sounds so good right now. Weak, weak woman.
4. gym 3x a week for two months – I’m going to start with a slightly modified goal and say gym 2x and yoga 1x. that starts this week. Honest.
5. get a one hour massage every other month – not going to happen. Can’t afford it. But I refuse to strike this goal – it gets a raincheck. Furthermore, in the months without a massage I’d like to get a facial. One day, poor teacher lady, one day.

for my job
1. Grade/plan 2-3 hours day at school 2x a week – this is an awkward goal. I should plan as much as I need to. It’s the at school part that’s tricky. It’s an effort to leave more work at work, but usually at the end of the day I just want to get home and get into my sweats and watch reruns of Without a Trace (newest guilty pleasure). I am still working toward maximizing work at work time and smartly designing lessons and assignments. I would say so far a mild success but there’s always room for improvement – both in my lesson design and grading load. Not a permanent check-able goal. It’s a daily battle.
2. Plan one fun activity each week for one month – between movie clips and games, I think this is a check. I see my students enjoying what feels like a break to them and what is often a bit of a break for me. They are amazing people and I like to see them happy. Check. And a continuing goal for the future.

That’s a lot of checks! It’s time to make a new list! I’ll write about 2008 resolutions soon.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

end of october-fest

what's happening now... (well, what was happening a month ago).

i am grading (as usual) and trying to plan unique lessons (more than usual). students were working on the scarlet letter and i had them do a marketing project connected to the text. i told them to imagine that sales of the book were at all all-time low and that they were charged with the task of inventing products to sell that were connected with the text in some way that would boost interest in the book (much like is done with new movies, especially when children are involved. i used harry potter as an example). so the girls were to consider who their target demographic would be: who is/should be reading this novel and to whom would they sell their products? i put them into groups and they decided upon this together and then each of them was to invent her own product and tell me all about it: size, materials, cost, use. then they designed mock-ups or tangible prototypes and designed a tri-fold presentation board which they used in pitching their products to the class (an imaginary board of investors deciding whether or not to fund the production of their products). they had some very clever presentations. i did notice, however, that there was a distinctly sexist quality in just about all of their products and presentations.
i instructed them to rehearse their speeches as they were not to read them from cards or a page and they did EXCEPTIONALLY well with this. this was really the ultimate goal in this project; we do not require public speaking in our general curriculum and this is something that i think they sorely need. i will continue to require a presentation of some sort on each of our works of literature this year, each time adding a requirement (eliminating "like" and "um", being persuasive, etc). it is fairly easy for me to do this since i have a class of only twelve (i know, i'm a lucky bastard). this class followed hawthorne with poe's "the fall of the house of usher" and i had them imagine that they were the music director for a new film version of the story and i asked them to make a short playlist that would be used for the soundtrack. they wrote brief explanations of their selections and then we played one of each students' songs. we talked about where each song might best fit, which scene they envisioned it working best with, and we unpacked the mood of the song and how it did or did not reflect the story. this took a full 85 minute block, but i think that a day like this (a bit lighter seeming but still encouraging critical thought about the work) is sometimes necessary. i'm learning to release the reins a bit as i fancy myself a bit of a task master.

finally, i've been reading around some new blogs and they are rife with poor grammar and spelling. egad, people. you are writing in a public forum - SPELLCHECK, for the love of pete!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

one more (this is the look i give impudent students)

funny cat picture - ur insolence  displeases meh

never been more tired

dearest faithful reader (singular),

i know i have been a bad blogger. the end of the first quarter finds me up to my neck in quizzes and student writing, flitting to and fro sporting events and various extra curriculars and trying to keep up with friends. i will have smart thoughts again soon and promise to write them here. in the mean time, enjoy the funny cat posts and see some more for yourself at this is hands down the funniest website i've ever seen and definitely the one website i visit most often.

this is me

sup cat

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Day Six, August 9th

This was perhaps our fullest day yet. We booked a canopy tour, a horseback ride, and spa appointments without much down time between. Jorge had already completed the canopy tour during his previous visit, but he kindly repeated the Tarzan-style tree hopping for my entertainment. The guides encouraged us to be a bit daring. As if zipping through the treetops clipped to a pulley high above the rain forest floor isn't enough, we both did so upside down and super bird style (see videos below).

Jorge = Super Bird

amy zipping away into the trees

This experience didn't afford for much wildlife viewing, but it was a thrill and a half.
Immediately after the canopy tour we met Roy, our stable guide who took us on a horseback tour around the volcano. Breathtaking views but ouch. We payed for this two hour excursion for the next two days.

Jorge and Roy

Volcano View during horse ride

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Day Five, August 8th

The drive from Manuel Antonio to Arenal started well. On the highway from Quepos to Jaco, I got pulled over for speeding by a state policia. A close retelling of this conversation, translated from spanish, follows (the part of the state trooper is played by an older, more distinguished Eric Estrada)
"Can I see your license and passport?" (a stern question, posed by a portly dark skinned man with pink cheeks)
"Of course!" (uncharacteristically cheery, the copper is suspicious)
"Where are you headed?"
(unnecessarily detailed description of our trip)
"I'm stopping you because you were going 92 in a 60 zone" (this was true, although KPH, not MPH, which is less exciting)
"Oh, well I was trying to pass that bus back there, I apologize for that" (this is a lie)
"Well, it's going to result in a fine. A ticket."
(nodding) "Of course. Well, just write it up for me and I'll take care of it."
(long stare) "Well, you're going to have to go to either the bank or the car rental place to pay for this, and the rental place will charge you extra to do it."
"That's fine, we're going to be here a while longer. I'm studying here for a few months at the University near San Jose." (another lie)
"Well, let me tell you something. I want to help you out."
(long pause)
"I won't write you a ticket, but you need to slow down. This is the number one road for fatal car crashes."
"Oh I know, I've been reading about them in the newspapers." (this is true)
Then we sped away, I kissed my girl, I put my pilot's goggles back on and put the top down (none of this is true). Amy thinks he wanted me to bribe him, and that might have made for a better story. How does one even do that? Do I do the handshake thing like you would a host when you're trying to get a table at a restaurant? And how much would I offer? I'm not fit for a life of crime.

After not creating an international incident, we drove north back to Orotina. On the map below, you can see a purple line where we should have gone, were it not for road construction that sent us on a detour to the right. This little setback set us back around 2 hours, as we found roads that went from paved, to potholed, to trails, to a pile of mud in someone's backyard. Lather, rinse, repeat. This happened to us over and over as we were stuck in these little mountain towns south of San Ramon. A closer look at the inset map gives a better idea of what transpired, without including all of the dead ends or cursing that was going on.

today's route

highway through hell

Eventually, we made it through and arrived at Los Lagos, really only by luck. The hotel was at the base of Volcano Arenal, which means we have learned absolutely nothing from the tragedy of Pompeii. This part is actually not funny; they used to have a cabin or two much closer to the volcano itself, until an avalanche of lava a few years ago ended up killing a guide and some other people. So they no longer rent that room. The only tragedy connected to our room was that some kind of critter kept running across the roof at night and it gave me nightmares. Other than that, the swim-up bar made it totally worth the risk.

Volcano Arenal

Upon arriving in Arenal, we dumped our belongings in the room and headed to the swim up bar (!) which borders the heated pool. We alternated between this pool and another which was a bit chilly but boasted a long water slide. This night satisfied my recent (and foolish) desire to visit Raging Waters.