Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm no poet

I am not a poet. I don’t think I’ve ever even claimed to be one, but I love to dabble in the art, especially haiku. I do like to read poetry though and the more bleak and depressing, the better. Yet, in my spring of perpetual idealism, I often find myself longing for a hopeful note, an ending that is not quite so bleak…not quite so soul-sucking sad.

While modern poets find outlet on the net, I tend to look at classic poetry found in hefty volumes and anthologies. Books where Lewis Carroll shares space with John Donne, Elizabeth Barrett Browning mingles with Walt Whitman. Crisp white paper, like fresh albino lettuce crinkles and flutters while I ponder the heavy words of literary giants.

In poetry it is often easier to find an expression of what you are feeling than try to come up with your own words. In poetry the voice of the poet speaks not just to the reader but for the reader, offering solace in expression and joy in thought. Overwhelmed with love? Turn to Shakespeare. Overcome with lust? Robert Herrick readily springs to mind. Concerned with mortality? Christina Rossetti tells it like it is. Question of faith? George Herbert can help you there.

With that in mind I present two of my favorite poems.

The first, “How Did You Die?” by Edmund Vance Cooke is less about death than one might imagine. When ever I feel backed in a corner, trapped by a decision, or faced with major setback, I think of this poem and remember that it isn’t what life throws at you; it is how you handle it that matters.

I first encountered the second poem, “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale, in a short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury in my 10th grade English class. The poem ought to remind us that we are fallible and our actions will have consequences for us, but the Earth, our only home, will continue far longer than we care to imagine. It is not necessarily a “hopeful” poem, but it leaves in me the sense that there is a possibility for renewal, of starting the cycle all over again.


How Did You Die?

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there -- that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts,
It's how did you fight -- and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war,
not one Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Boldly Going

I am not a Trekkie. I’m really not. I don’t go to conventions, I have never dressed up like a character and I don’t know the first thing about Klingon grammar theory. I’ve never even seen the complete original series, just random episodes here and there. Same thing with Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and well, I try to pretend that Enterprise doesn’t exist. It is easy to identify with the shows because as with all good (and, well, bad) sci-fi, it isn’t just about the future and technology, it is about teaching us about the human condition, helping us understand ourselves and our world, and most importantly it is about the effects of modern society and where we might “go” if as a people we make the incorrect choice.

Now I will admit that though I have not watched all episodes of Next Generation, it is by far my favorite, simply because 1) Patrick Stewart and 2) Brent Spinner. Picard is all that a Captain should be: bold, decisive, unafraid of making the hard choice. He is rigid in his expectations of his crew but he is also understanding and compassionate. He is defined by his adherence to principles-not just Star Fleet’s, but his own inner moral code of right and wrong. He does what is right because it is right, not because some rulebook told him to. As for Patrick Stewart himself, never have I been enthralled with an actor like I am with him. Maybe it is the accent, or his classical Shakespearean training, or maybe his bald head, but whatever the reason, I just find him pleasant to look at and watch.

Now, Brent Spinner, as far as the actor goes, I’m not really interested. But as Data, his character, I am fascinated. The concept of Data a machine trying to be hum is both endearing and frightening. Seven-of-Nine does the same on Voyager, but Spinner is more believable. His quest is more “human,” more touching, more vulnerable, than a Borg removed from the Collective, because he has more to overcome. He is not built to handle the human condition so when he does finally grasp a concept, like humor, it is all the more poignant and funny; whereas for Seven-of-Nine, her actions and development are more a remembrance. The audience knows she will “find” her humanity because she is human. With Data, although ultimately the audience knows that he will succeed, we have our doubts. However, Data firmly commits to being human in Star Trek Nemesis when he sacrifices himself for Picard.

I do love Voyager, though, don’t get me wrong, I NetFlixed every season about two years ago and made a marathon of each disk. The Doctor really made the show. He, too, searched for humanity, but his quest was more for freedom.

The movies fall into the same categories. I love the Next Generation movies. I wish they would make a Voyager movie. I’ve not watched all of the original movies. Where is this leading up to? The new Star Trek movie.

HOLY MOLY! WOW! Now to clarify, I’m not putting this in the same category as The Dark Night, but WHOA!! This movie was awesome!! The characters were believable. Each of the actors put their own stamp on their character and made them their own. Now, I’m not good at writing movie reviews. I never have been. But in brief I wanted to give some impressions.

Zachary Quinto, amazingly creepy as Syler in Heroes, steels the show as Spock. He was Spock. There was no doubt. In doing some research on the movie, I learned that Leonard Nimoy had casting approval over the Spock character. Quinto made Spock believable, attainable, and understandable. The cold exterior was softened a bit by the added twist of Spock and Uhura’s relationship.

Chris Pine is an equally believable Kirk. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first as I had only ever seen Pine in The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement. And while he was pleasant to look at, the movie itself was unimpressive. But as Kirk, Pine blew me away. Angsty, drama-ridden and the ultimate bad boy, the movie releases Kirk from his stereotypical captain with a girl in every port, and paints him in a new coat. He is dark, moody, drifting man with a nonchalant attitude toward life. It isn’t until he is approached by a Star Fleet commander who knew his father that he makes a decision to be something.

Overall, this movie was great; better than expected and one that I would gladly go back to see in the theater (and that hasn’t happened since The Dark Night). I was nervous about seeing Star Trek, as many true Trekkies were, not that I’m a Trekkie. What I loved best of this movie? The alternate timeline it has now created whereby the development of other movies and shows may occur without fear of ruining the continuity of the canon series. Time-Space continuum being what it is I wonder if this means we can expect a new Next Generation in the future.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Snags of Reality

The problem with reality? It keeps butting into my day. I have about four or five posts in the works, but can I ever finish one? Nope! Silly things like dinner...sleep keep interrupting my day. If only I could win Powerball, I'd spend hours upon hours followed immediately thereafter by days upon days writing and actually finish something. What I have found though is that I am finally getting back into a only took nearly 10 months.
In other news, Ashleigh has completed her last project for the 6th grade. Behold the awesomeness that is Little Miss Hula Spud!!

Why was she assigned a project to dress up a potato? I'm not sure I want to know, but she had a blast doing it. I helped by hinting at aesthetics and suggesting the plastic fish bowl that was gathering dust in the attic over an old shoebox. Other than that, it is all Ashleigh. Although you can't see it, the bottom is covered in sand and seashells.

Cyra completed her first year as a Daisy Girl Scout and her troop celebrated by going to Build-A-Bear with their cookie money. Again, as with Ashleigh, I had no input with her choice. So I present for inspection Major Bear:

Major Bear is so camoflauged, I doubt that even he would notice himself!! From his uniform to his boxers to his fur, this bear get a +100 to his hide check!

And that is that...for now at least.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Memories like Monopoly

I wanted to write something about my grandmother. But I’m not sure how to. I’m sure giving enough time I could write something a bit more meaningful, something that captures my memories better.

I know not one single bad person. Everyone has their good and bad days. My father’s mother was a difficult woman: demanding, critical and oft times downright spiteful. Despite that, I will not remember her like that. There is no point to it. It serves no goal or agenda. Instead, I will remember her through a child’s eyes. Childhood memories are faulty and scattered but the images are pure.

Memories like Monopoly

Monopoly, on an old card table in the living room
Owls, tiny collectables, high on a shelf
Scat, playing for pennies round the kitchen table
Skirts, always, I never saw her in anything but
Gardening, fiercely protective of her blueberry bushes

Soap Operas, like clockwork
Bowling on TV, I will never understand
Cucumber Spears, with practically every meal, crisp and fresh
Black Coffee, waking up each morning, Sanka on the counter, black coffee in the mug
Needlework, crochet and cross stitch, hands always busy

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Testing the Teacher

The Sixth Crazy!

I’m a pretty easy-going teacher. For all of my complaints, my kids are not criminals and in most cases, not delinquents. I could be in a worse school. And my advanced kids are typically good kids, albeit sassy smart-asses, but good. On Thursday, I had my 5th period advanced class working on an article about Elizabethan England, part of their mini-unit on Shakespeare. Now, Shakespeare is not really in the curriculum for 8th grade, but it is in 9th. My feeling is that if they get a little background knowledge on Shakespeare, they will be better prepared for the full Shakespeare unit in 9th grade.

So, they were reading this article when one of the kids, Z, asks why I am making them read. I say "well, I told you I’m preparing you for next year. And besides, you might see this on my end of quarter final." Well, that prompted a bunch of the kids into this, “You wouldn’t test us” mode. Now, I don’t give many test. Most of my curriculum is about writing so their big grades are writing projects, but an occasional test is not unheard of. Anyway, this conversation quickly degraded into a group of four boys, betting that I wouldn’t give them a test the next day. I said ok, you want a test, you got it. Then they proceeded to up the ante by stating that I wouldn't give them 50 questions. This prompted another to state that 50 would be too easy. In no time they talked themselves into a 150 question test with an essay.

Sound unfair? It was, but I said, okay, you want a test, you got it. They didn’t believe that I would do it, so now I had something to prove. First, don’t mess with me. Second, I keep my word. I was up until about 1 am writing this wicked fill in the blank/short answer test. Unfortunately I did not have enough material to get to 150 questions. I got to 110.

I went in yesterday, made copies and awaited 5th period. They all filed into class. They had heard rumors from their other teachers that I did indeed have a test for them. The first few in asked if I really did have a test. I held up the stack.

“Testing mode,” I told them and obediently they turned their desks from groups to rows and sat down. They took out pens and pencils. They waited.

“Ok guys, here’s the deal: I do not have a 150 question test for you.” My ringleaders smirked. I waited a second. “I was only able to come up with a 110 questions.” Mouths dropped. “I didn’t want to end up just repeating questions, and I was up pretty late so, well, there you go.” I continued the instructions, including the instructions for the essay question.

Eyes got wide. Smirks fell. Hands tentatively went into the air. I called on A.

“What if we don’t finish?”

“Well, I guess that would be a problem for you, huh?” I smiled. “Do the best you can. You may start as soon as you get the test.” I handed out the test and as the kids flipped though the seven pages, they kept glancing at me as if waiting for me to get to the punch line.

When I said nothing more, they heaved a collective sigh and began working. All except Z. When he got his test, he clearly, boldly, loudly (how many more adverbs can I add here?) said, “I’m not doing this,” put his name on it and turned it over and sat there glaring at me as if he were a matador staring down a bull. But a Taurus has nothing on a Leo in terms of stubborness.

Ok, I thought, you want to play hardball…we’ll play. I set the timer for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, all the other students were working as quickly as they could to get as many finished as they could. Twenty minutes went by the only way it could during a test, crawling like a lame animal for shelter for the teacher, and flying by like an supersonic jet for the students.

When the timer went off a number of the kids looked at me horrified. I said, “Ok, for those of you who had the foresight to bring your notebook with you, as you are supposed to do each day, you may take it out and use your notes to complete the test.” Z glared even more. Guess who didn’t have his notebook?

The test continued. Z glared. It was a matter of principle now. Who would break first? Who would prove the point?

Twenty more minutes went by. I called time and collected the tests. After I had all the tests I addressed the kids.

“Now, how many of you think it was unfair for me to test you all when this whole thing was started by Z, D, D, and T?” All hands went into the air including the four troublemakers! I said, “You’re right. It really wasn’t fair; however, I made my point, right?” Heads nodded. “Good. Now, for those of you who attempted this test, even though it was unfair, for each correct answer you will receive extra credit on your end of quarter exam.” Smiles, except for one. “Now, I’m going to grade these, record your points and give them back for you to correct and use for a study guide for the end of quarter final. And if you turn this back in, corrected, on the day of the final you will receive additional points.”

The bell rang and students looked at me to dismiss them. I let them go, reminding them about the second part to their test to be completed at home and turned in on Monday: a brief summary of one of Shakespeare’s plays.

Later on, while I was outside with my 3rd period class doing art fest stuff, Z came up to me and apologized for "being a jerk." His words, not mine.

Exeunt stage left, pursued by homework.

a CrAzY wEeK

To say things at work are crazy would be far beyond an understatement. While the end of the year is always a bit stressful, more so than the beginning of the year, for some reason there is always one week in May that is psycho crazy!

First – This week was the 4th Annual Art Festival. Our art teacher, Mrs. C, works tirelessly all year round to raise money, plan and execute this week. She invites all sorts of artists, musicians, story tellers, and bands to come to our school and spend time talking about, demonstrating, and performing for our students. It is an awesome activity for the kids…if they would appreciate it. Unfortunately, the type of students I have…middle schoolers…are disrespectful, rude, obnoxious and downright nasty. And really this has nothing to do with race, gender or culture. It is all about the age! Middle schoolers are jerks. And truly as much as I love the art fest, I think it would serve better to do it for an elementary school. Little kids might not be able to sit still, but from what I’ve seen they show a lot more respect at assemblies than older kids.

So during this week, the teachers sign their classes up to go see and do different activities. The last two years it has been very easy to make sure that each class got to go to at least one thing because we were on teams and no one class or group of students went to the same thing over and over. My team last year had worked out a schedule to a perfect harmonious flow. This year because administration did away with the team concept, I had many classes I brought to events that whined they’d already been to that particular event three times already. And therefore, they took it upon themselves to act like the little jerks they are. And amazingly, it was my advance kids who were the worst! One of my worst classes, so grateful to not have to work, behaved so well I gave them extra credit!

So that was going one every day last week.

Second – Scott’s car is on its last wheel. So Scott and I have been talking about trying to figure out a way to acquire a new car. Carjacking and Grand Theft Auto aside, we don’t have much in way ability. We just got our tax refund which I was planning on using for my trip to New York, but we could use it for a down payment. Scott thinks the car will last for the summer, but the fact that the underneath is trying to escape containment and he has to disconnect the battery when he parks, makes it hard to justify keeping this old red death trap.

Ok…so that isn’t really crazy as much as frustrating.

Third – Scott has long claimed there is some sort of mystical energy transfer between the two of us. When he is exhausted, I am wide awake; the few times that I am tired and in bed before 9 or 10, he is wide awake and unable to sleep. This week, that has happened two times. So twice this week, I have been in bed before 9 – 10 (when I normally am writing) and thus have not done much writing this week. So my schedule has been thrown for a serious loop this week. Weird!!

Fourth – Administration!! Once again, our principal has seen fit to redo the class assignments and arrangements for next year. Now I am not going to complain about this because I got back on the team I was on originally and that’s where I wanted to be. I will however, once again state that the man is trying to put his mark on the school and in my opinion the reason he split us up in the first place was because we are a really strong team and he is trying to conquer and divide. So during the week, he has been coming to us, talking about placement and blah blah blah while subtly still insinuating that it was the teacher’s fault FCAT scores weren’t as good as they should have been.

Meanwhile, in the 8th grade hall we’ve been holding these contests for the students. Every 15 days, whichever students have remained referral free get a reward. The first one was a field-day type event that was poorly planned and executed because the admin didn’t really communicate with us what she wanted u s to do. Ok. It happens. The kids had fun anyway. The second one was this week. During the art fest when the kids were already crazy. Once again, poorly planned. We weren’t told what was going on until Wednesday. We didn’t get to give any input. Ok. She’s the admin. Tell us what you need us to do. Nothing.

The plan was to watch a movie in the cafeteria. Now, it was a Bolt, which is Disney, but rated PG so the kids needed a permission slip. Those didn’t get handed out until Thursday last period, in the breezeway by the admin. So once again the teachers didn’t know who was allowed to go. Well, on Friday morning, kids who hadn’t gotten a permission slip asked to call home for verbal permission. I spent all morning on the phone with parents getting permission. When I went to lunch, I was told that I should have turned in that list by noon. And that she had clearly given me those instructions. Uh, nope, but ok, I’ve got a list even though it is one, and I turned it in.

Then, later on coming out of the hall for planning, I bore the brunt of the admin’s anger as she scolded that “all [she] wants is the teachers to cooperate. Is that really too much to ask? [She] clearly gave instructions to all teachers to turn in verbal permission by noon and now [she] had all these kids who claimed that had verbal permission running around trying to get into the movie” and on and on. Now, I am a team player. They ask me to do something, I do it, I might complain later about it, but I do it, no questions asked. So for the admin to claim that I refused to do what she asked in and of itself aggravating and insulting. But for the admin to then claim that I was giving instructions that I was not is ridiculous. In fact, another teacher had handed permission slips (verbal and non) directly to the admin who later sent in a student for the information that was already in hand!!

So that was super fun!!

Fifth - Never in all my great many years of teaching (four, for those who don't know) has a student ever cursed at me or called me a name to my face. I'm sure I get called all manner of things outside of class. This week, I had a group of students not return with me to class after an art fest activity. When they showed up about 5-8 minutes after everyone else, I stood at the door to write their names down to mark as tardy/skipping. One of them, a nice, quiet, sweet straight A student tried to explain why she was late. I calmly said that I didn't want an excuse, and to please go in and sit down. As she walk in she very loudly call me a "bitch" and sat down. I was speechless. Agast. Stunned. I said "What did you just say?" The class was silent all staring at me and back at her. She just glared at me over her shoulder. "Out," I said pointing at the door. I walked her across the hall to another teacher and said I did not want her back. I wrote her up and sent it up to the office. Later on I found out her punishment: one day suspension and her mom told her that she would not be going on the end of the year trip. Ouch! I felt bad about that, but I hope the message was driven home. It is one thing to grumble under your breath and think things, but quiet another to let stuff out without thinking about consequences.

The sixth and last crazy, deserves its own post. Tune in for part two in about 30 seconds.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Quiet Monday

Today was just a quiet day. The bug that caught Ashleigh last week finally settled in on Cyra and we stayed home today. So what did I do?
  1. cuddled
  2. played Neverwinter Nights (a new addiction that I totally blame on Scott)
  3. played Sims
  4. played Neverwinter Nights because there isn't any blood and gore in Sims
  5. laundry
  6. smiled when after telling Cyra to take a nap and she insisted she wasn't tired she passed out for most of the afternoon
  7. played Neverwinter Nights
  8. cleaned the kitchen
  9. played Neverwinter Nights
  10. cooked an awesome dinner - cheddar ranch burgers with ceaser salad and mac and cheese
  11. played Neverwinter Nights
  12. cuddled
  13. more laundry
  14. played Neverwinter Nights
  15. more cleaning of the kitchen
  16. blogged
  17. cuddled

So, a highly productive day in my honest opinion! And a very nice end to a now five-day weekend! I'm back to work tomorrow before my boss freaks out on me and little Cyra, if she is still yicky (which I don't doubt she will be) will hand out with Mom.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's A Brand New Game

If it is a brand new game, why do I feel like I’ve been here before? Is it that gamers fall into the same categories and types regardless? Will there always be a rules lawyer? A goofy geek that fondles the minis? An obnoxious loudmouth that always has to tell a story about what this one character did in a game unrelated to the current one? A self absorbed narcissus whose character is single minded in their own purpose to the determent of the group? A DM who takes far too much delight in our character’s deaths? It isn’t so much the stereotypes that are throwing me for a loop, but the memories they dredge up.

Now, I’ll admit, I’m sure I also fall into a category. But for right now, I am quiet at the gaming table, almost unbelievably so. I watch the others, see how they interact, and merge, while I am trying partly deliberately and partly subconsciously, to keep my distance.

Without diminishing what Sara went through (and honestly, I have no idea how she managed to be so calm through it all, I’m still seething about it for her and for me) I’m still really upset about how my last group fell apart. As much as I disliked D I didn’t like “firing” him, and I really miss J. She was fun to hang out with, witty, amusing and an all around nice person. But when D went, J went too. It was a choice between Z and C who really merged well with us and D, who just drove us crazy with his self-absorbed rules-lawyering.

I can’t hold a grudge against Z and C. I mean they had job opportunities that were just too good to pass up and from what I hear they are doing well in Cali! I miss them a ridiculous amount! Both are good guys and I hope that they have found groups that appreciate them as much as I did and that play to their strengths.

And then there was E. Out of all the old group, never would I have pegged E for being a dickweed. It was bad enough what he did to Sara. For that alone, I wish him ill. His actions though affected not just Sara, but my whole family as well. We were all close with him, spending time with him away from the gaming table, hanging out late into the night, going out as a group. Cyra especially loved the man. God, she spent time crying over him when he was on deployment, not just because she missed him, but because she kept having nightmares that something happened to his ship or that he fell overboard and was eaten by sharks!

And then there is Sara. What can I say about her that isn’t obvious? My first grown-up BFF (how childish does that sound?). I don’t blame her for high-tailing it out of here. In fact, I am more than a little envious of her opportunities to travel and explore the world. I took her departure harder than I thought I would. But 13 time zones are piddle-squat when it comes to friendship! And before I start mushing and gushing, I’ll leave it at that.

So, when it came time to regroup, to find a new set of gamers I found myself very hesitant. I didn’t want to invite people into my home and get close, be friendly, get hurt. What finally convinced me was Scott. He has been dying to play Pathfinder and he kept checking the message boards looking for a group in town. When he found a message that looked promising, he immediately drew my attention to it and all but begged and pleaded with puppy eyes (not that that works) to see if we could set something up.

I capitulated and emailed and then met part of the group at the bookstore to see if we’d be compatible. Much to my dismay, I hit it off with them. They are nice guys, so far that I’ve seen. They can only game two or three times a month and only on Sunday afternoons which works out really well for Scott and I. And, yes, they fall into stereotypes and after two gaming sessions it is hard not to make comparisons.

S reminds me a great deal of E. Goofy, playful, geeky. I know I’ll get along famously with him.

E reminds me of C. A rules lawyer who doesn’t work the rules so much as reminds the DM as needed, or looks up a stat for the DM as requested.

The DM reminds me of Sara. He is a great storyteller and weaves us into the fabric of the story. Unlike Sara, he uses the critical hit deck-OUCH!! And he takes gleeful delight in pulling out those cards!

C reminds me a great deal of D. He always wants to talk about what he once did in a different campaign. He is loud and boisterous, which could be taken either way, good or bad.

J reminds me of the very first Jess we had at our table in the apartment. Self-absorbed, her character is conniving and won’t engage in battle unless forced. She is also single-minded in her own personal side quest.

So where does this leave me? I’m friendly; it is hard for me not to be friendly. It is easy for me to keep my distance since we only meet every other week or so, and because we have such a short time to game, we are all focused on the game as soon as everyone gets here. I’m not entertaining as I once did. It is a strict BYO: if I don’t feed them, I don’t adopt them. And in an unfortunate side effect from our last group, I am a bit fearful.

I am a loyal friend, fierce and devoted, once I have given friendship; it takes a lot to break it. It is the Leo in me, I think, and really, I’m not sure I willing or able to hand over friendship as I once did. And that, I think is what kills me the most. I am friendly and outgoing by nature, and right now, it is taking all I’ve got to not be.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"I've Got a Miniture Secret Camera"

One of the reasons why I love my husband’s job: bonuses!! Now unfortunately the bonuses are not given as cash which, seriously, I could totally use right now. Instead, his company gives gift cards. Now, we get to select which stores the gift cards are for, and most of the time, we opt for Best Buy, Borders or Sears. This time around I went for Best Buy. And hoo boy! I’m glad I did!

I’ve been toying with the idea of a new digital camera, nothing big and flashy, but an upgrade from my 6 megapixel, hesitating camera. After spending some time playing with cameras in Target, Sears, and Best Buy I knew I was leaning towards the Samsung SL620. So when I went in to Best Buy yesterday, I once again looked at and played with all the cameras at least once as I walked around.

Again, I kept coming back to the SL620. Product information that really I have no clue as to what it all means: 12 megapixels, 5x optical zoom, 3.0" intelligent LCD, Dual image stabilization, Smart Auto, Perfect Portrait System, Frame Guide. It was in my price range, shiny red and didn’t have that hesitation when snapping a picture.

It was quite amusing while I was in the store fiddling with the cameras: every few minutes a sales geek...uh…man…boy…would come up to me asking if I needed help. I said, “Not right now, I’m still just looking.” For twenty minutes I was stalked by the lurking blue shirts. The second I decided that, yup, the SL620 was for me, the guys disappeared. I mean it wasn’t even a case that they were helping someone else, or in another aisle. They were just gone! I spent another ten minutes hunting down someone to get the darn camera and ask a few questions about it.

And granted just because I had the gift cards, didn’t mean I wasn’t looking for a deal. In fact, Best Buy was having a sale on cameras, so really I couldn’t have planned it any better. I picked out a new camera case, an upgraded memory card, and the fourth season of Stargate: Atlantis for Scott and Ashleigh, and left with almost half of one gift card unused.

So here are the first pictures I took with my new camera.

Mother's Day Brunch

It is not often that I have the chance to go to my daughters’ school activities. So when the opportunity arose that I was home with Ashleigh and there was a Mother’s Day Brunch in Cyra’s class, I jumped at the chance. Mom had originally been slated to go in my place, so instead, Mom stayed with Ashleigh and I was able to go to school.

Sara often says that Cyra is terminally cute, meaning her cuteness is apparently fatal to others. I wouldn't know, of course, becuase I have survived 7+ years of it. But it should be obvious then that Cyra plus 30 other pretty cute kids is 30 times more fatal. We moms were entertained to tears; thirty six-year-olds singing an updated “Wheels on the Bus” and reciting a poem about how hard moms work. Cyra was a ballerina on the bus who twirled around…I can’t help feeling that this would be a dangerous activity to participate in; especially if one is a ballerina; especially on a moving vehicle. In any case, it was adorable. I have pictures of her twirling and singing, but as other children, who don't belong to me, were also in the photos, I will not post them here.
Throw in a PowerPoint, set to highly emo music, with then and now photos and it is no wonder Cyra’s teachers made sure there were tissues at every table. The kids took great delight in pointing out each child in the classroom as their picture came on the screen.

Each mom was presented with a card with one of the songs that they sang printed inside, as well as a little matchbox painted silver with the child’s school picture glued on the inside.
We also got a poem about little handprints and a yellow towel with a “dirty” handprint on it.

The kids served the moms a plate with a mini bagel, mini muffin, mini donut and a scoop of fruit. They served drinks, cleaned up afterwards, thanked us for coming and ushered us out the door. Apparently, they were eager for their lunch which they wouldn't get until after we left!

At the end of the day, when I picked Cyra up, I received the following pictures that Cyra had made in class.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Where the day leads...

I spent the day home with a sick Ashleigh. I had grand plans…laundry, dishes, vacuuming. But in the grand scheme of things, I ended up spending most of the day working on lesson plans and researching Twilight Zone episodes for my Drama unit. Interestingly, that led me to research gremlins which led me to reflect upon modern technology, specifically when modern technology fails, which in turn got me thinking about how we would deal with a sudden absence of all technology.

All those people running around without their cell phones and their apps; mobile blogging and twittering. How would be people who are used to being in contact 24/7 handle the void? Obviously there have been stories about this before. I think I’d like to try my hand at it too. I’ve always had a fondness for end-of-the-world stories and one without technology is one that interests me greatly.

I’d like to imagine that I’d be a-okay without my geeky gadgets, but I think I’d miss my computer…my stove…ohh…my AC. Do appliances count as geeky gadgets? I can do without a cell phone. I have one but don’t use it all that much. I could do without my MP3 Player. I’ve been without before, so I think that while I’d miss it, I could deal. The more I think about this the more I think I’d like to read one of those “living off the land for a year with no modern technology” books.

Needless to say, the dishes are still taking over the kitchen, the laundry is still piled up like unpaid bills and the dust bunnies, without fear of the vacuum, have left the security of the dark underworld beneath the couch and are blatantly mingling with the dog and cat hair balls.

Other than that I really don’t have much to say today. So I will leave you this thought:

"We all live in suspense, from day to day, from hour to hour; in other words, we are the hero of our own story." — Mary McCarthy, American author (1912-1989).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Going to School

I miss school. More specifically, I miss going to school to learn, not to teach. I’ve been on both sides of the desk, and I have realized that I am a better student than I am a teacher.

When I graduated from college in ’04, I was ready to go, but I regretted not being able to complete my plans of duel major in English and Religion&Philosophy. How was I to know that there was such a thing as “lifetime student loan limit?” Really?? Why limit my ability to learn when I am obligated to pay back my loan? How much money could the government have made off of my student loan interest if they kept lending me money? I could have single-handedly saved us from the economic recession! I could have been a hero!

Over the past few months I’ve been toying with the idea of going to grad school. I always planned to continue with my education, but money was always an issue. Guess what? Money is still an issue. Scott says we can figure out something if I really want to go. I suppose if I budget even more and oh I don’t know, cut out food, I might be able to afford a class each summer. It is a nice dream that I’d like to see realized sooner rather than later, but I am willing to bide my time.

I longingly perused university websites tonight looking at requirements for grad students and overall, I could easily qualify for a number of schools around me. I would love to get my Masters. Even better, I’d love to get my Masters in English and complete my Bachelors in Religion&Philosophy.

My colleagues urge me to go to the University of Phoenix to get a Masters in education. I keep telling them that I don’t want to be in education my entire life. I’ve got plans beyond where I am.

I dream big. My plans are always complicated and intricate. I know there is a way for me to return to school. Now I just have to research. Maybe I’ll find a grant for broke English teachers who work at ghetto schools and have way too many bills but are really adorable, smart and deserving!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Holiday Rant

I love holidays! If it was up to me (and I had the money) I’d be celebrating something everyday! I’d throw a dinner party with food that was traditional to that holiday. My problem comes from the news…they way they pick and choose what holidays to recognize as important. So, if we make a big deal about this:

Cinco Day Mayo – celebrates the Mexican Army’s defeat of the French Army in 1862

Why not these?

Bastille Day – July 14 a celebration of the Storming of the Bastille, a prison fortress in Paris.

Yom Kippur – Jewish Day of Atonement, 25 hours of prayer and fasting revolving around atonement for sins committed in the prior year.

Greek Independence - Day March 25 – celebrates Greece’s independence from Turkey.

Blessed Rainy Day – the Buddhist celebration of the end of the monsoon season which involves bathing outdoors and washing away bad deeds, obstructions and defilements (which as a side note sounds amazingly similar to a certain End of Hurricane Season celebration but without the bath).

Karthikai Deepam – an Hindu festival of lights that celebrates an astrological alignment between the full moon of November/December and the constellation Karthigai (Pleiades).

Swedish National Day – June 6th – this started as the Day of the Swedish Flag, around 1900, and it also commemorates the election of Gustav Vasa as King of Sweden on this date in 1523.

Ramadan – is an Islamic religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar; the month in which the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It is a month of fasting, in which participating Muslims do not eat or drink anything from true dawn until sunset. Meant to teach the person patience, sacrifice and humility Ramaḍān is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. Much like Yom Kippur (although more drawn out) Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

International Day of Peace – September 21 – Peace, or specifically the absence of war, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone. If we celebrated this every day, what a world it would be!

Ninja Day – December 5 – Started by the Ninja Burger guys, this correlates to a long standing argument between Ninja fans and Pirate fans and can now be viewed as a counterpoint to…

International Talk Like a Pirate Day – September 19 – Ahoy and climb on board for mayhem, looting and pillaging.

Pi Day – 3/14 celebrates one of the universe’s more amazing numbers and by happenstance is also Albert Einstein’s birthday. And just think of all the pie you could justify eating!

Towel Day – May 25 – a celebration of Douglas Adams – on this day make sure you know where your towel is.

Now for a tangent side note and the “ranty” part of my post…

America is a melting pot. Indeed, The Great American Melting Pot is one of my favorites from School House Rock, and one thing that I think we all need to remember is that everyday is a holiday somewhere and paying more attention (news coverage wise) is both insulting and demeaning to people. America is the sum of its parts, is not Christian, Jewish or Muslim. It is not black, white, European or Asian. It is not one thing that makes us American; it is all things about all our people that make us great. Being able to respect and celebrate with friends who may not share our beliefs is amazing and often times a humbling experience.

While I do not profess a belief in any one particular religion, it is interesting to note that all religions seem to hold dear the same motifs and themes but those entrenched and indoctrinated in their religion don’t seem to notice. Then they get mad when the similarities are pointed out. Ironic? Indeed! We (please note, the “we” implies “me” too) spend far too much time looking for differences; looking to categorize “us” and “them,” we forget that at the core, we are all human and have all of the same needs. Atonement, is after all, the same regardless of when, how and why you atone. So really, does it matter what label you slap on a religion?

(Sites cited….Wikipedia)

Monday, May 4, 2009

With Apologies

Nearly nine years ago I moved from New York to Florida dragging along with me and my daughter, my BFF Manda. That first summer in Florida in our little brick house we turned an ugly little coffee table into a fantastical art piece: Bright yellow, with purple legs and astrological chunky stamps on the top. Around each side ran star related quotes from Shakespeare. And underneath, we each signed our initials: HLM, ARN and AWW.

That little yellow table became a symbol of freedom, independence and our irrepressible natures. For the past eight years and ten months, that yellow table has held a prominent place in each house that I’ve called home. Living in my current neighborhood is an older woman who has “adopted” me for all intents and purposes and every time she cleans house, I get new furniture. Her recent spring cleaning brought me three tall media towers. Each one about four to four and half feet, two feet square, with frosted glass shelves and pitch black.

Fortunately these towers came at a time when our old media center was falling apart. After Scott gleefully and with such unadulterated pleasure destroyed the old entertainment center (I really should have taken pictures of that) I set the new towers up with the idea of using the yellow table to put the TV on. The height and length are perfect to fit between the two shelves. When I set it up it was exactly what I needed and the best part? I didn’t need to spend money on a new table. Needless to say, so I’ll say it anyway, it looked silly and rather misplaced.

And so for the sake of continuity and the fact that our little yellow table was looking pretty beat up, I bought some paint. Standing in front of the rows of spray paint in Home Depot, I was overcome with such melancholy and sadness. With tears in my eyes, I choose a nice premium primer and black semi gloss. The salesman who earlier stopped to ask if I needed any help kept glancing at me with concern from the paint mixing station. I grabbed some sandpaper and a drop cloth and left before I truly started crying. Who would have thought painting a table would be so emotional?

And so, Dear Manda, with apologies, our yellow table in no more. It is now pitch black and shiny. I think that we both knew this day might come but I left our signatures on the bottom. And though I still have a dorm-room feel throughout my house it now fits in with some of my other furniture.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Derby Part Two

Isn't it always the case? The one year that I don't pick a longshot is the year that a longshot triumphs! Good for Mine That Bird! Too bad I didn't pick him. Of course, even if I hadn't picked Dunkirk, my second favorite was Chocolate Candy ridden by Mike Smith, and he came in 18th! Ouch!! Maybe I ought to listen to Sara and base my choice not on how pretty a horse looks, but on pedigree and previous race stats.

Regardless of the loss, we still had fun. Dinner was delicious! Hot browns, corn pudding, and A Run for the Roses pie. Yum!! It was my first year making everything alone, and I think it turned out quite well.

The girls and I painted our horses and this year we thought to add their names on the back so we could remember who was who.

Next year, we plan on new Derby hats and maybe we'll have the time, money and desire to host a bigger party than just Mom and Sis (who wasn't really here, but we spent the entire time on Skype with her).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Kentucky Derby

Part One:

Just so we clear, because I don't retcon...My favorite to win the Derby is Dunkirk. Ashleigh is pulling for Flying Private. Cyra is going for Friesan Fire. Mom likes Mr. Hot Stuff and Big Sis is opting for Join in the Dance.

The winnings is a bag of old-time be shared of course.

The Run for the Roses pie has been made, I am working on the corn pudding and onto the hot browns. It feels weird without Sara here and she can't even join us through Skype. But we've forged a tradition and it would be even sadder to not continue with it.

More to come later!

Friday, May 1, 2009

First of May

May Day Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are so yesterday! Instead, I’m going to try May Day resolutions.

1. I am going to post to my blog everyday in May.
2. I am going to write 1500 words everyday, words, I declare, that are unrelated to my blog.
3. I will truly begin stockpiling supplies for anything that might come up. Zombies, Nibiru, Yellowstone…
4. I am going to reestablish my good habits.
5. I will not let the laundry get that high ever again. It is unreasonable!
6. I will craft more!! I have so many scrapbook supplies it is ridiculous!!
7. I will care more about the house and try to take a more active role in fixing what is broken.
8. I will try a new recipe at least once a week. This one shouldn’t be too hard especially with all the cookbooks I’ve got around here.
9. I will remember that Junie is just a dog and she really does not do things deliberately to piss me off.
10. Everyday I will say something nice to someone I don’t really like.
11. I will try not to hold grudges. I tend not to, but there are a few…
12. I don’t know how I’ll do this, but I will try to not be so idealistic since it leads to disappointment.
13. I will train diligently with my weapon of choice.
14. I will think before I speak, especially when I am mad.
15. I will remember that while the internet is a quick and easy way to keep in touch, nothing beats getting an old fashioned letter in the mail.
16. I will back up my hard drive every week! And while I’m doing that I’ll cheerfully hum, “Never Again!”
17. I will not stress over my job. I know that I do what I can and numbers be damned!
18. I will remember that life is fluid and malleable. I will not be rigid in my expectations nor will I berate myself for trying but not succeeding.
19. I will have more fun!
20. In the words of my favorite D&D character (and Chumbawumba) if I get knocked down, I’ll get up again, you’ll never gonna keep me down!