Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's more like being volun-told...

Day 14 -- Prompt: Is volunteering something you do regularly? If yes, where do you volunteer? If not, why not? Courtesy of Kassie @ bravelyobey.blogspot.com.

Hmm. This is an interesting question because my initial gut reaction to this question was, "Uhm. ::long pause:: Hmmm. ::thinking:: Um. No, no I really don't volunteer anywhere... is that ... is that something I should be doing? ::thinking:: Hmm."

And then I realized something. I volunteer a LOT of my time, but it's in the context of my actual non-volunteer career.

I am my school's Speech and Debate coach. While I do get a small coaching stipend for this job, it's not really enough to cover the sheer number of hours I spend on the weekends of tournaments supervising kids, judging, coaching, and helping. I do the things that a parent might do volunteering for their kids' school. Last year, for example, I served as a judge at the California State Speech and Debate Tournament -- and this was completely voluntary, given that none of my students were actually competing at this tournament.

I am also the teacher advisor for my school's Science Olympiad team, and this is not a stipend job. I volunteer my lunches when they need my room for a meeting, I've volunteered at least one evening a year so that they can have a parent meeting, and I collect forms and money and such to pass on to the parent volunteers who actually run the times.

And speaking of Science Olympiad, I also actually run one of the events at the regional competition, and, as I'm writing this, I realize this is probably the biggest volunteer endeavor I take on each year. I run an event called Write It, Do It, which involves technical writing and building something following directions. I competed in this event when I was a Science Olympian in high school, and now that my high school coach is one of the regional big-wigs here in San Diego, she recruited me a few years ago.

I've been doing WIDI now for three years -- this year will be the fourth year, I think, that I've done it. And every year I get a little bit better at doing it. But this, out of all the things I do, is truly a labor of love. It takes HOURS to prepare for.

See, there's this little detail: San Diego has the biggest regional Science Olympiad competition in the United States; each year, we have in the neighborhood of 75 teams from the middle school and 75 from the high school. So, 150 teams worth of kids (each team consists of 15 students...). For me, this means 70+ building kits. I build my "devices" out of those green floral foam blocks and all kinds of wacky materials, like pipe cleaners, straws, toothpicks, quilting pins, beads, paper clips, stickers, and anything else I can buy in bulk cheaply. I have to build at least 8 copies of the original device, and then I have to make enough kits for each team that has signed up to compete in the event.

This takes DAYS.

I'm not kidding.


And then the day of the competition (which, actually, here in San Diego, is now two different days, the middle school and high school competitions happening separately. Kinda sorta because of my event. Heh), I am there all day, first running the competition and then grading the devices. Thank god for my mom -- she's a trooper. I honestly couldn't -- and wouldn't -- do it without her. Luckily, she loves it as much as I do. Oh, and I also voluntarily wrote a coaching manual a few years ago. So I think this is were I pay my volunteering dues. I'm incredibly supportive of Science Olympiad -- I loved every second of it as a competitor and I feel so lucky to be able to be involved in it now as an adult.

Oh, and I also help with the San Diego Unified's Language Academy Spelling Bee! I've been the Wrong Answer Bell Ringer for three years running and have already signed up for my fourth! It's awesome. I do it to help my friend Summer, but it's really just a delightfully exciting evening. Except I always have to be the dream squasher. Haha. But it's a fun way to support programs in other places.

So there. I guess maybe I volunteer more than I think I do, I guess it just doesn't quite meet the connotation of "volunteering" that even I think of when people mention volunteer work.

Face It. I'm Just BETTER.

(I can barely pull off a title like that; I'm totally kidding, just so that's clear.)

Day 13 -- Prompt: What are three things you are better at than most people? Courtesy of Catie @ catiecake.wordpress.com.

Three things that I'm better at than most people? Geez.

Well. The most obvious one, for me, is Learning and Remembering Things. I've always known I was different than other people -- even as a very young kid, I had a heightened awareness that my brain worked differently than my classmates. My brain works faster -- maybe my hamster up there was given steroids, I don't know. But it became more and more clear as I got older into high school that I have a gift most other people don't have. Things that took most of my classmates, say, 30 minutes to do would only take me 10. And I'd get an A and they might get an A, but sometimes not. I barely every actively studied for tests and such, was usually done with my homework in class, and carried a 4.5 GPA by my senior year. I guess I'm wired differently, and so I think this is the biggest thing that distinguishes me from others. Plus, I'm a trivia boss in a lot of ways -- I was on the Academic Team in high school and am often people's "life line" for information.

The second one is, I guess, related to the first, which is that I read faster than anyone I know. Not too long ago, I was just arriving at the gym to meet with my trainer and there was one of those forwarded emails printed out (heh) and sitting on the counter of their little juice bar area. Chris, my trainer, and his friend Kyle, another trainer, point it out to me and want me to read it. It was about the difference between how men and women shower. It was funny -- and it took me all of maybe 10 to 15 seconds to read the 2 pages of bullet points. Basically, I picked up the page, read the front and back, and put it back down. They were both completely incredulous -- "there's no way you read all of that!" And I immediately set about reciting what I had just read. Nearly verbatim. It was fun -- not only did they have to eat their words, but it watching them roll their jaws back up the floor was awesome. I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in about 8 hours? I think? My book arrived from Amazon at around 3 in the afternoon and I finished around midnight. And I had taken some time out for eating dinner with my parents. I'm sorta scary.

Now for the third. Hmm. Making messes? Sitting on the couch? Procrastinating? I'm not sure I can really think of a third. Is that weird? I type really fast. I get ready for work really fast (I get out of bed at 6:15 and am generally in the car by 6:25/6:30). I certainly don't sing well. I play the flute well, but not better than anyone, really. I bake decently, but my mommy is better. I could be a good graphic designer if I had the time or the resources, but I don't, so I'm not that good.

How about this: I'm just better at being me.

(And I'll bet I'm not the only one who says this today.)

If Loving Toddlers and Tiaras is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right

I'm behind, but I didn't want to skip this one! It just ended up that way. So another double assault today.

Day 12 -- Prompt: Name and explain the one guilty pleasure you can't live without. Ie: that cupcake shop you visit weekly, a book you repeately read to find solace in, etc). Then explore the idea of how you would feel if you gave that thing up for a year. Courtesy of Neha @ whereyouarehere.blogspot.com.

Oh geez. I have so many guilty pleasures. It's possibly embarrassing. Therefore, I will be making a list.

  1. Starbucks. Grande Non-Fat Extra Hot Chai Latte. This is probably my biggest vice.
  2. Trashy Television and/or Reality Television (since they're not necessarily the same thing). In no particular order: Hoarders, Toddlers and Tiaras, Cupcake Wars, Intervention, Project Runway, Top Chef, The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs, Chopped, Obsessed, Dateline on ID, Solved, Disappeared, and most permutations of crime shows.
  3. Friends. As in the television show. I would be a very sad and unhappy person without this show. I fall asleep to it almost every night. It relaxes me.
  4. Crocheting. Though this may not be necessary a fully guilty pleasure, it is when I'm doing it *instead* of grading. It soothes me, but sometimes it's probably not the most appropriate use of my time.
  5. Sombrero's Mexican Food. I'll admit it. This is my Mexican food of choice. I've been eating it more rarely lately but it's definitely a guilty, guilty, delightful, delicious pleasure.
  6. Facebook. I'm not even going to pretend like I'm above spending hours a night on Facebook, at least while I'm doing other things.
  7. Disneyland. I have an annual pass and pretty much get withdrawals if I don't go in any given 4-6 week period.
  8. Golden Spoon. Frozen yogurt in general is a pleasure, but Golden Spoon, in my opinion, is the closest to ice cream as you can get and it's amazing.
  9. Diet Coke. I've really been trying to wean myself off. But it's too. hard.
  10. Christmas Music. Because I've been known to listen to it year-round. Well, maybe not year-round. From about September through the Christmas season. I'm especially fond of George Winston's "December" album. Favorite album of all time.
There. I think ten is sufficient. In terms of what I could or couldn't give up? I could probably easily give up Christmas Music, Sombrero's and MAYbe the trashy television. But give up Chai? Diet Coke? Disneyland? I think not. Pretty much everything on this list is a guilty pleasure because it all helps me relax and survive the hellishness that is my job right now. Though a lot of these things distract me from work, at least they're things that fill me with happiness and joy.

But if I lose my job this year, Disneyland will probably have to be the first things that goes. D:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Day 11 -- Prompt: How are you like your mother? And if you're a mother, how are your kids like you? Courtesy of Jessica at profbanks.com.

The honest to goodness answer to this is that I am ever so much more like my father than my mother. I have my dad's temperament, many of his mannerisms, and most especially his look: I am a carbon copy of my dad.

Yet, for as much as it often seems like I am 100% my father and 0% of my mother, I like to think that the intensity, the negativity, the short-temperedness, and the mercurial nature of my dad has been tempered by my mom.

My mom and I have the same sense of humor; we share many of the same favorite movies and especially favorite scenes of those movies. Galaxy Quest. The Princess Bride. Blow Dry. About a Boy. Star Wars (episodes 4-6). Legends of the Fall. The Shawshank Redemption. What a Girl Wants. Ghostbusters. Trading Places. We quote from these a lot.

My mom and I are both wickedly intelligent, good and dedicated readers, and are obsessed with word games and crossword puzzles. I've spent many a Sunday at my parents' house, with my photocopy of the same puzzle my mom is working, racing her to complete it.

My mom and I are both creative and crafty (certainly something I got in no WAY from my father). I may not be able to sew like her, but we can both paper and yarn craft quite impressively. We both generally try to make our own Christmas cards, and often make our own [fill in the occasion here] cards. We sent each other Halloween cards this year we'd handmade -- and it was entirely independent of each other.

My mom and I are both very picky about the art/decoration we allow into our living spaces. I think this is something I was taught by her. My mom will no allow "pre-fab" art in her home. Instead, everything that hangs in her living spaces -- which, in their giant house they share with my grandma accounts for almost four rooms -- has been meticulously selected, created, framed, and hung to suit an exacting eye for what she wants. My mom has been known to make her own frames, her own mats, and her own actual art. That's not to say that everything is 'handmade' -- my mom also carefully selects the kinds of art prints she hangs, and most of the actual store-bought printed material that hangs on walls was collected during our travels. She's got prints from all over the world. In my kitchen at my house (which is actually my parents'), there's a print of Monet's that I actually bought at Giverny, and a print by a Scandinavian artist she bought at an art museum in Lillehammer, Norway. She's got prints from Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark; the Tate Museum in London; the Bristish Museum in Victoria, British Columbia; a small art shot in Taos, New Mexico. I share this snobbery -- everything in my bedroom was created particularly by me.

I'd like to think that I'm loving and caring like my mom. My mom is the best hostess, and I try to emulate her accommodating and welcoming ways when I host things (to the point where I think sometimes I overdo it). My mom is an awesome cook; I'm not that good, but I have my moments. But she makes sure that you're well fed and not hungry and that any dietary restrictions are taken into account.

My mom and I also share an irrational fear of lightning. I don't know if I learned my irrational fear from her, or if we just both happened to have terrifying experiences with lightning during the same formative periods of our lives. Either way.

And of course, my mom and I share a deep and abiding love for Harry Potter. Otherwise, I'd probably disown her.

Short and Sweet

Day 10 -- Prompt: What is the best and/or worst thing about your life right now? Courtesy of Dana at simply-walking.com.

The Best: Christmas is in the air, Netflix is available on every device I own, and I'm *thisclose* to having a vacation.

The Worst: The stress of my job. My job is sucking the life out of me every day, and it just makes me sad that my job is the worst part of my life right now.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Breathe Books

Wait. I can only pick ONE?!


I'm an ENGLISH teacher. This is an entirely impossible task for me.

Ergo, I will be picking ten.

1. Katy No Pockets by Emmy Payne.
I loved this book because my name was in the title. I didn't really get much more sophisticated than that as a three year old. MY NAME IN A BOOK!? COOL! But really, it's a pretty cute story about a kangaroo who has no pockets, but needs a pocket for her baby. So she gets an apron with a ton of pockets and becomes everyone's mom!

2. The Story of Ping by Marjorie Flack
I just have incredibly strong memories of my mom reading this story to us at bedtime. I love the illustrations and the cute little duck.

3. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
If you don't love this book, you don't have a heart. The end.

4. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Baillet
This one is for a slightly older crowd; I first learned of it from a sixth grade teacher I was working with early in my career. It's sorta like pre-teenager's first mystery novel. And the illustrations are beautiful and actually part of the story. It's delightful.

5. Corduroy by Don Freeman
I just find this book so delightfully lovely. The pictures are adorable and I feel warm and fuzzy inside even when I just see the cover.

6. The Little Prince by Antoine de Ste Exupery
We had to read this as core lit in fifth grade, and though I don't think I fully and completely grasped the whole idea of the book then, I knew it was something special.

7. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
This makes my top list because I remember reading it for the first time: in my first grade teacher Mrs Iler's trailer classroom at Sunset Hills. I still picture the inside of that room whenever I see this book on a shelf.

This is a link to the iPhone app I discovered that is based on a book and cassette set I had as a kid. It's the story of the Steadfast Tin Soldier read by Jeremy Irons. I repeat: JEREMY IRONS. When I discovered the existence of this app, I downloaded it in a heartbeat. I LOVED listening to this story as a kid, and I loved the pictures in this version. Plus, Jeremy Irons's voice adds such a creep factor to the story.

10. The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This is one of the few books I have memories of my mom reading us faithfully several times through, and then as an older child, reading them on my own. Last year, in the spring, one of my students organized a used book drive to benefit a local children's hospital and one of the students donated the entire set of Little House books. The book drive went for a few weeks, so I actually ended up reading the entire series again from the donated books -- I borrowed them over a weekend and inhaled them and then put them back in the pile. Loved them even more than I had as a kid.

As a sidenote, as a teacher of English, I was curious what the interwebs has to say about "good" children's books and came across this list of the NEA's top 100. SO MANY GOOD BOOKS ON THIS LIST, including many of the ones I already listed.

Hey Teacher! Y U BLOG?

Day 8 -- Prompt: Why blog? Why do you or why do you like to blog (recognizing that these are not always the same thing)? Courtesy of Kristen, kristendomblogs.com.

I think my first blog was a DeadJournal, started in January of 2002. The first post, though, inexplicably, says "This isn't much different than blogger," which begs the question: did I, at some point, have a different blogger site? ... That's a little creepy to think about. (I also just weirdly fell into the old DeadJournal site. Reading things from Sophomore Year me is just hideously bizarre).
I transitioned to Xanga at some point in September 2002 (guess DeadJournal was unappealing). I actually had decent bouts with consistency on my Xanga -- pre-facebook, it was a decent way to communicate with some of my friends who were at that point spread around the country. I sometimes still update it, but not as often. I guess the microblogging done through Facebook these days suits me much, much better.

I started this blog as the educational unrest in California continued to plague my life plans. As a teacher, I often feel completely and utterly powerless to do anything about the situation. It's like a free fall all the time, which is pretty horrible when it involves not just your job, but your calling. Not being really that protest/political-outcry inclined (not that I don't have opinions, but I just think I don't have the civil disobedience gene), I felt like blogging was at least a teeny, tiny way to get people paying attention to the humans behind the supposedly-power and money hungry, vacation-getting, lazy-after-tenure teachers that apparently pack our schools and drain our state budget. I am really, really good at what I do (most of the time) and I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that teaching is my calling. I can remember having dreams of teaching as early as fifth grade, and I know that this is the one single profession that fulfills me and propels me and sustains me. So blogging on this particular site enables me to do that.

The problem is, though, that teaching, especially this year, renders me so tired and with so little free time that trying to keep a blog in my free time, on my home computer, is nearly impossible. It's sad, really, that it's so sporadic because I always feel so empowered when I update it. But it's sort of a weird paradox: Decide to write blog to demonstrate how much time teachers spend doing their job. Discover that this time you spend doing your job is what prevents you from blogging about the time you spend doing your job. Le sigh.

I like blogging about my life as a teacher because I'd like to think that it's clear that despite complains about the non-teaching things (making my own copies and such), I love what I do. I am still incredibly proud of this post that I wrote because it so well captures me and my students at our best; more my students, actually. I still beam from ear to ear when I think back to this day, and I'm so, so, so happy that I committed it to memory through setting it down into this blog. Even if this blog doesn't necessarily achieve its envisioned purpose, at least I'll always have that entry -- and a few of the others -- to look back on and be proud of.

And then there was YouTube. And life was never the same.

Yesterday was Wednesday, which is my world is my weekly hectic day from Hell. Wednesdays are my days where I teach straight from 7:30 to 3:35 with no break except lunch and no prep period, then sometimes I have Department Chair meetings until 4:30, then I have rehearsal a little over half an hour away in El Cajon. Yesterday, though, was our Winter Concert, so I rushed home from school and changed into my concert black dress and attempted to rush down to Cuyamaca College and ended up being 20 minutes late for call time (which basically made me stressed out the rest of the night). I didn't get home until about 11, and then I went straight to bed, so the blogging thing didn't happen. But this was a prompt I very much wanted to write about, so I'm just going to do two day.

Day 7 -- Prompt: Who or what makes you laugh so hard that milk shoots out your nose and why? Slapstick, dry witty comedy, your kids, Monty Python? Courtesy of Kassie @ bravelyobey.blogspot.com.

I'm a good laugher. I laugh at lots of things. I'm fairly easy to make laugh, I think, and since I tend towards collecting people in my life that I genuinely love and enjoy, I laugh frequently.

* My brother makes me laugh with his grumpiness and sarcasm. My brother also collects odd turns of phrase, which, while not necessarily always his own, just make me giggle. The newest phrase I learned from him was "Oh, it looks like that guy's really ridin' the Struggle Bus." And also, "Okay, okay, I'm smellin' what you're cookin'" -- which means "Oh I get it now." He's just a hilarious kid. And he's especially funny when he's telling a story about his life, and his stories about working as a bartender at Island's are PRICEless.

* Jack makes me laugh pretty much daily for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes he's grumpy like me at things, other times we laugh together watching our favorite YouTube videos, sometimes we laugh just generally at each other or with each other. We laugh together at The Daily Show, at The Big Bang Theory, at random things we find online. And Jack has the best laugh -- it's somewhere between a giggle and laugh and it's awesome and infectious.

* My mom makes me laugh because she's just awesome. She's brilliant, which makes her witty and she's awesome at making the most random references to things, especially Galaxy Quest, Friends, and The Princess Bride.

* Summer makes me laugh with her snark and her wit. We pretty much spend most of our time together laughing. If we're in good moods. And not complaining about work. Heh. She has a great laugh, too. And we tend to find many of the same things funny.

* I will NEVER NOT find a well-placed "That's what she said" funny. Ever. I'm such a bad teacher; I will laugh hysterically when a student effectively deploys the "That's what she said".

* My students. For many, MANY reasons. This is both a blessing and a curse.

* Eddie Izzard, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Margaret Cho, Bill Engvall, and Greg Beherendt will always make me laugh. I love stand up comedy when it's smart and realistic.

* I will always laugh at Tom Hanks laughing in The Money Pit.

* I laugh at idiocy.

* I pretty much always laugh on Disney's Tower of Terror. I don't really scream; I giggle like an idiot.

I laugh at almost everything. But these are the things that make me happiest to list.

Enjoy the YouTube videos. :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

La la la you can't make me la la la

Day 6 -- Prompt: List 10 things you would never do. Courtesy of Katrina at katrinatripled.blogspot.com.

1. Have a surgery that wasn't life-saving or ultimately absolutely necessary. I'm terrified of anesthesia.

2. Quit my job and strike out on my own as a nomad. As delightful as it would be to have no responsibilities and travel around, it's just not how I'm made.

3. Go spelunking. Jack wants someday to do the underground tours of Carlsbad Caverns, and to this, I give him a hearty "No thank you."

4. Celebrate New Year's Eve in Times Square. Or, really, even in Las Vegas. (I think this might make the top three Worst Nightmares I Can Imagine list.)

5. Not take care of my parents when and if they needed it, or allow anything to jeopardize the relationship I have with my parents. More and more lately, I recognize how lucky I am to have such a good relationship with them.

6. Jump willingly from a plane, platform, mountain, or otherwise high place that would require a parachute and a change of underwear.

7. Run for President. Mostly of the United States, but really of anything, probably.

8. Compromise my beliefs for any one or any thing.

9. Give up teaching The Great Gatsby in any American Literature-based course I teach. (courtesy of Emily Beaver, my former APEL student and published authoress)

10. Blindly allow an affiliation (political party, religion, job status, union, membership, etc.) to define what I think about an issue, the issues that I care about, or how I live my life inside my brain.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Day 5 -- Prompt: What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you were going to do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do? Amy, 2bperfectlyfrank.blogspot.com

Though it doesn't necessary fall into the category of "things I always wanted to do," it does fall into the category of "things I would never, ever, EVER have thought I would want to do." This year, I trained for and ran the San Diego Rock N Roll Half Marathon.

I am not a runner. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I weigh more than 2oo pounds right now and heft about my person a set of DD breasts. And yet, I completed a half marathon in a little over three hours this past June.

I've always been heavier than average and have always hated running. Middle school PE was a hellish nightmare of torture and humiliation because we ran twice a week, every week, unless it was raining. And I grew up in San Diego: rain is a rarity. I remember the ONE SINGLE TIME in my life I ran a mile is less than 10 minutes. I was in eighth grade and my time was 9:59. Most of the time, I averaged between 12 and 15 minutes (and not much has changed).

Then, in high school, I was in marching band and as my school had a huge and intense marching band program, that was our PE, so enforced and graded running became a thing of the past. And stayed that way for a long time.

Then, about five years ago, I started working out with a personal trainer and lost over 80 pounds. It was then that I realized I could probably run. I could do an hour on the elliptical no problem and started casually running occasionally just because I could. I didn't like it; at least, I didn't like the running part, but I did like the part where I wasn't dying while I did it and where I was doing something I never really thought I would do.

Two years ago, my best friend Bri asked if I wanted to run the Rock N Roll Half Marathon. This would have been the 2010 one. I agreed, grudgingly, but then within a week or so of that decision (which has been either January or February before the race) I got really, really sick with strep throat and it lasted forever -- I was sick for almost a month. By the time I was better, I fell and hurt my ankle, and so between the sick and the broken, I lost training time and ended up not being able to train for or run the race. But my parents and I went to cheer her on at the finish line ad after the three hours or so that we stood there and spectated, I realized how stupid it was that I didn't just run the damn race. Or at least walk it. I was angry and mad at myself for not taking the risk, even with the problems I had encountered.

So as soon as it was possible to sign up, I signed up for the 2011 Rock N Roll Half Marathon. I started training really early -- December or January, I think -- and just plodded along on my training. Soon, I was running five and six miles at a time, shocked at myself and my ability to persevere through a run. It wasn't fun -- my body hurt for weeks leading up to the race because, as I said before, I'm on the heavy side. I'm not super muscular, though I am freakishly strong and have been told by my trainer that I routinely lift (with his help) heavier weight than many of the men he trains. But heaving that weight for miles at a time takes a toll. My feet always hurt in the morning and often my back and hips hurt, too.

I remember the first ten miler I did. It was the worst run of my entire training adventure because I wasn't fully aware of the absolute necessity of food in a run that long. My body completely locked up around mile seven and I could barely force it to plod through the last three miles (but I had to; I was on a circular route around a lake...). The second ten miler was a litter better, but not much. And I only did two before race day.

Race day was terrifying but exhilirating. I made it nearly eight miles before really starting to feel like it was a really stupid idea... and then around mile ten, I just sorta lost my willpower. The last three miles were agony because I hurt everywhere. Plus, unlike MOST June days in San Diego, where the fog never, ever goes away and it's in the 60s all day, this year, there was not a cloud in the sky even at 6 am when we were lining up before the race. It was in the upper 70s and lower 80s and heat is my kryptonite.

But I freaking finished. I crossed the finish line running -- er, jogging. Pretty slowly. But finish I did. And I burst into tears as soon as I crossed the finish line because I couldn't believe I had just carried my body 13.1 miles. Running. On purpose. I was so proud of myself.

But then, immediately, I was pissed as hell at myself because my time was over three hours. My goal had been three hours or less. I was frustrated with my time, and of all the people I knew running the race -- my boyfriend, Bri again, and my brother's girlfriend -- I was last. It was annoying and saddening to me that for as far as I'd come, I didn't achieve the goal I'd set for myself. And I know that's stupid.

But regardless of that stupid, crippling hate of failure, I'm incredibly proud of myself that I did it. I pulled it off and I've even signed up for another half marathon this coming January. And I'll certainly be signing up for the Rock N Roll again. And I certainly never EVER thought I'd run a half marathon. If I went back in time and told 22 year old me or 24 year old me or even 26 year old me, "Hey! You're gonna run a half marathon in your future!" I would have laughed SO hard because it wasn't anything I'd ever considered doing before 2010.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

In Which I Utterly Suck At This Whole Actress Selection Thing

Day 4 -- Prompt: In the movie version of your life, which actor/actress would play you and the significant players in your life? What kind of movie? What would the major plot points be, and how will it end?

I know lots of people think about this kind of thing often; I really don't. This seems an impossible prompt for me. I love television and movies and used to have a rather unhealthy trashy magazine habit, so I'm pretty familiar with a lot of actors and actresses that I might use to populate my movie.

My gut says to go with Sandra Bullock for me for my main adult life. She hasn't done a teacher movie yet, right? Haha. After that, my brain goes buzz. My brother would probably love to be played by Ryan Reynolds. But who to play my parents? Grandparents? My friends and lovers? I'm tapped out. So I'm choosing to slide right over the casting list and focus on the major plot points.

I think if you asked my parents, the beginning would be reminiscient of a horror movie, since apparenty I was a terrifying kid. Not, like, possessed terrifying, but just scary. For example:

Scene 1
Setting: Disneyland's The Haunted Mansion
Year: 1985
Age: 2.5

In line, about to ride The Haunted Mansion for the first time

Mom: Okay, Katie, now, this right might be scary, but just remember, it's just a ride. It's not real -- nothing will hurt you.
Katie: looks up, smiling. Exasperatedly. I know, Mommy. It's just a three dimensional, computer-generated, holographic image. It's not real.
Mom: long pause. Sighs. Okay, welp, I'm more afraid of you now than I've ever been of this ride.

My parents would clearly be prominent figures in this movie, as well as my brother. There would be a lot of traveling, and thus my grandparents would also figure prominently as well. I'd probably want some of the focus to be on my high school experience, and also on my college experience. My adult life is pretty boring, but it would kick a lot of ass to end up having a biopic about me because of my teaching life. You know, for revolutionizing teaching or something. But I'm not Dangerous Minds gnarly or Freedom Writer's Diary free to do what I want, really. So it's probably unlikely. But it could be fun.

I'd like it to be comedic at it's essence, because that's who I am, but a documentary also feels fun, too. Interviews of people -- as I'm thinking about this option, I'm loving this idea more. Why bother with actors and actresses? WHy not just actually have the people I love featured, telling stories about me, while at the same time, getting to tell stories about themselves and my family? I guess I've landed at the realization that I'd rather my movie be about me and how I fit into my family, rather than just me.

And the soundtrack will be AWESOME. Obviously. Lots of Paula Abdul and Hanson and No Use For a Name and the original Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack and Tracy Chapman and Huey Lewis and Paul Simon.

Roll credits

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Live In My Parents' House.

Day # 3 -- Prompt 3: How did you become more of a grown-up this year? Or did you pull a Peter Pan and stubbornly remain childlike? -- from Bethany.

This is a tricky prompt for me because I feel like my life definitely straddles both sides of this coin, so in my rather tired state, I shall attempt to look at both.

I am, and have always been, an Old Soul, which I've been told was partially inherited and partially because of my intelligence. My mom recently unearthed some baby pictures of me she'd lost track of, and when she was narrating her way through them to me, she came to one that was taken around the first few weeks of my life, and she told me that she felt like I was starting into her soul -- knowingly -- at that moment, and she felt like it was weird and freaky and an indication I had knowledge beyond my ... well, days, at that point, but eventually, when I was older, years. I've always been the girl that colors inside the lines, that liked it -- well, more like reveled in it -- when adults paid attention to me and included me, and I know from both stories and memories that my brother and I have always been very well behaved, grown-up acting people. My grandma likes to tell a story about the owner of a restaurant once complimenting my grandpa (and my parents, ultimately) for my brother's and my behavior at the restaurant table; the owner said he'd never seen such young children (I think I was maybe in 2nd grade and my brother was a Kindergardener) behave so well and so maturely in his restaurant. My brother and I are both just like that. So to think about how I became MORE of a grown-up this year? Maybe in subtle but significant ways -- my boyfriend and I have been more and more integrating his kids into the fabric of our relationship this year and now they spend at least one of the nights he has them every other weekend here at our house. I recently also found myself in a situation of having to take my mom down to urgent care because of an issue, which wigged me out when it probably shouldn't have, but the dawning realization that your parents are going to someday reach a point where you'll have to take care of them was unnerving to me, despite having watched my parents care for my mom's parents for the last seven years (well, grandpa for five of those; he died two years ago). So I guess that changes have been at once major and minor -- major because they involve pretty significant steps forward in my life, but minor because I don't think they've necessarily altered me as a human; not fundamentally, at least.

Yet, the sticking point to this prompt for me is that I don't really often feel like a "real" grown-up, but not because I obstinately refuse to act that way; I don't fancy myself to be Peter Pan. It's just that the way my life is working out has made me feel sometimes like I'm hovering in a persistent state of reality limbo. I live in my parents' house while they're living with my grandma fewer than three miles away; I try to rationalize this as "caretaking" of the house, when there are other times I just feel like a loser who doesn't have the grown up responsibilities of things like paying rent. Granted, I pay all of the utilities, and so since I live in a full-sized house, water and electricity and such are, all combined, probably as much as someone's normal rent would be, but still. It's the house I've lived in since I was 2, I just occupy a different room.

I also have never yet owned my own car; I've always driven a hand-me-down or loaned car from my parents. I was seriously considering buying a car right as school started, but decided against it for now. Lately, I have, however, assumed the responsibilities of paying for whatever goes wrong with my current car, and as its a BMW, this is a fairly expensive adventure, but still. I still ask my dad what to do, where to go, and how to take care of it.

It's really all just weird -- I have a career that I love, and I've been at the same school now for six years, but also, that feels weird too because I live currently in budget crisis limbo-land where my job is always at stake, so it's hard to fathom what I would do instead, and it also makes me very, VERY cautious about taking on any other kinds of responsibilities like buying a condo or even a car.

I'm realizing that a LOT of this is relating to money, as if somehow I equate "being a real grown-up" with "able to spend money on sensible things like homes and vehicles" ... I don't really; in my head, though, it's more about the responsibility that is connected with those kinds of investments. I see other people -- and other people much, MUCH younger than me, buying homes and cars and going on big vacations and I can't wrap my head around getting myself into those situations with such financial uncertainty in my life.

But essentially, my point in this second half is that it's hard to feel like a "real" grown up when I haven't really transitioned out of being a kid living at home. It's different, of course -- I don't live with my parents and I've had pretty free reign to make changes to the house that aren't terribly permanent (paint color, furniture, etc.) -- but really, it's not. I live in the 'burbs, which I guess might make some people feel really good, like they were successful, but not me. I guess the difference is that I haven't had to work to come back to the 'burbs because I never actually left, really. ::shrug:: I guess it's all perspective. Some day, maybe those things will happen for me, but maybe even then I won't feel like a "real" grown up...

Oh. But if it matters: I totally still color in coloring books. Take that, grown up me!

Friday, December 2, 2011

How Can Smart Be So Stupid?

Day # 2 -- Prompt: What is the stupidest thing you did this year? What about in your whole life? You can take stupid to mean: embarrassing, dangerous, funny, lame, whatever you consider "stupid."


Heh. Well, I'm not a stupid person. I'm actually a really, really smart person -- really smart. But there are definitely stupid things I've done, and just like yesterday, I've been ruminating on this prompt all day (and now it's after 10 pm) trying to decide what to write about.

I think this year, there have been two stupid things that I keep coming back around to, but really, in their essence, they aren't all that stupid at all. But they seem more than a bit stupid in retrospect.

Thing #1: Deciding to Run a Half Marathon.

Obviously, this isn't really all that stupid. Hundreds -- nay, probably thousands -- of people a year train and run half marathons and full marathons and all manner of ridiculously long races for really no purpose but for the ability to say that you did it. I decided late last year and early this year that I needed something new to motivate me to stay active. After having lost almost 80 pounds four years ago, the last two and a half years have seen my weight creep back up and it's really pissing me off (you could probably also categorize that under "Stupid Things" also...), so I needed something else to focus on. My best friend ran her first half marathon two years ago -- she did the 2010 San Diego Rock N Roll Half. I was initially going to sign up for that one, but ended up getting really sick for a really long time during the crucial training part. I did, however, go and spectate, waiting for her at the end of the race, and I remember being really disappointed in myself for not just sucking it up and doing it anyway. So this year, I did it. And really, it was awesome and also stupid. I just still can't really wrap my head around the fact that I willingly dragged my over-200-pound body through 13.1 miles of running (er, the last two miles, it was less running and more hobbling...) -- I just still think running is stupid. But maybe the stupider thing in all of this is that I have recently signed up to run my next half marathon. I guess the stupid thing about this is that I really and honestly barely have the time to eat and bathe and sleep, let alone run the amount I need to run to get ready. I have no idea why my schedule is so stupid right now, but I'm struggling to eek out the time I need to train for this race -- and it's happening in January. I'm wishing now I'd just held off for the Rock N Roll Half, because it doesn't happen until January. But I guess a related stupid thing is that I'm way too nice and don't always put myself before other people (in fact, that really should be I don't often...).

Thing #2: Deciding to Radically -- and Publicly -- Change My Sophomore Curriculum

Oof. I classify this as stupid of the overly-ambitious and possibly-idiotic kind. Last year, my mom sent me a video that the teacher that she worked for had seen about gamifying education. It's a really great theory, and for a partial gamer like me, it makes total sense and it seemed like an excellent way to re-invigorate what I've been doing for a long time and would be a fun experiment. Plus, the theory was that it would help students be successful. So I tried it. And it's wearing me out. Completely. Don't get me wrong, it's been an awesome and completely fascinating experience, but there are so many moving parts to it that I didn't even anticipate -- my class sizes of over 40 being one of the biggest and most critical hurdles -- that I can't really keep up with the way it needs to be kept up with. It was stupid of me to decide to take this on in the hardest year of my career. The biggest classes I've ever had, therefore the most students I've ever had at one time, with three sections of sophomores instead of the two I've been having that last three years. So I've been nothing but overwhelmed and frazzled trying to make it work. It's been like throwing spaghetti at the wall. But I have hope for the system, and have hope that it will eventually work, and I trust my students enough to ask them for feedback and help. But I really am kinda wishing I hadn't undertaken it in a year like this. But oh well.

And stupidest thing in my life? Meh. Weirdly, nothing is leaping immediately to mind, which is both unnerving and totally misleading. I've done plenty of stupid and embarrassing things. I forgot the words to the poem I was supposed to recite in my fifth grade talent show. I once said -- I think when I was in 7th grade -- that if "Granny were alive today, she'd be dead by now," which is a quote my family STILL uses against me. I once tried to leap from one end of the monkey bars to nearly halfway across, obviously missed, and landed on the sand so hard it knocked the wind out of me, all in front of the boy I had a huge crush on. (<--- it's fun to link to people you know on Wikipedia. I had the biggest crush on him through almost all of elementary school. After I fell down the stairs in second grade (this was not a stupid thing, it was a horrifying accident), he made me a get well soon car with a picture of an ambulance. I swear I still have it somewhere.) ANYway, I digress. Where was I? Oh, right, stupid things. It was stupid that it took so long for me to figure out that I'm allergic to vodka; no wonder any time I tried to play the part of the "cool kid" in college I got violently ill and hated every second of it. It was stupid not to have told boys I liked that I liked them.

But you know what WASN'T stupid? Changing my major from Aerospace Engineering to English, despite having wanted to be an astronaut and aerospace engineer since first grade. I don't regret it, not one tiny little bit, even though my job right now is beyond stressful and I'm nearing my breaking point with my workload. I still love what I do now and have never, ever regretted not continuing on to become an engineer. I know I'm smart enough to have done it; I probably could have been really successful. But I wouldn't trade any of that for what I do now -- especially since my job now allows me to wear a felt Roman helmet (purchased at Michael's, of course), a black cape, and carry a plastic sword around yelling "FRIENDS! ROMANS! COUNTRYMEN! Lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him!" I mean. I could have done that in an Engineering job, I guess, but it would have a much different outcome. It would have been stupid not to have listened to my heart.

And so now I will leave you with the Stupid-Looking-But-Actually-Awesome image of me, dressed up in all of my Julius Caesar glory, banging on the desks of the students not working on their assignment and yelling Shakespearean insults at those who dared mock my amazingly silly looking outfit.

Nitey nite!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

To Me, At 18.

Once again, I'm signing on for a project that I hope to see through to the end, but we'll see how that goes: when I went and looked at my Xanga (which atrophies as easily as this blog... ::sigh::), I think I made it all of two days through trying to post every day for a month. Such is life. If there's anything indicative of why I NEED to continue posting to this blog -- especially blog posts that help capture the life of a teacher -- it's that I don't have time to do so. Blargh paradoxes.

Anyway, with renewed focus (and the fact that two of the four weeks of December will be spent in vacation), I am embarking on a month-long daily blog posting project as part of the Reverb Broads. You can also read the post that inspired my joining here -- thanks, Kassie!

Day # 1 -- The Prompt: "If the you of today could go back in time and give advice to any of the previous yous, which age would you visit and what would you tell them?" via Kristen at kristendomblogs.com

I read the prompt for today's blog at about 6:30 this morning and it's about 6:30 in the evening, so I've spent most of my scant unoccupied minutes thinking about which Past Me deserves a good visit from Current Me. Most of my day, I've been composing letters in my head to 12 year old me and 16 year old me, but then when I really started to think about it, I think it's actually 18 year old me that probably needed the most help and also could have benefited from the most advice.

Dear 18 Year Old Me, in the Fall of 2000, During Your First Week Away at College:

Get a life. No. Seriously. Get a life. A real one. Stop being afraid of EVERYthing and get a life. Leave your dorm room, and not just to go to class. When someone invites you to a frat party, just go. You are still allowed to say no to the alcohol. But go, to have the experience. You'll learn that it's really just innocent fun and that college isn't about being able to tell stories about your professors or your assignments or the carrel you inhabit in the library (by the way, to save you some time, you'll eventually discover that your favorite carrel is on the sixth floor of Olin, on the North side, by the power outlet and the window that overlooks Sage Chapel. You're welcome.)

Stop being so afraid of failure. You DO already know this, but you will be a teacher some day -- and yes, a teacher of English, not of science, and it's okay when the time comes to let go of the Engineering dream. No one is going to be mad at you, no one is going to be offended or hurt because they bought you astronomy books when you were 10 and took you to every Science Olympiad meeting before you could drive and tolerated your science nerdiness and invested in your dream to be an astronaut. Your family doesn't care about any of that crap, so don't waste the next five months crying yourself to sleep out of the sheer terror of disappointing everyone who has ever pinned their hopes of having a world famous scientist on you. You are smart enough to do it -- you're good at it. Close that chapter in your life happily and willingly and hunker down into the novels you'll be teaching eventually. Don't waste your life dwelling on the potential of disappointing your parents, because eventually, when you have your dream job of teaching English at a high school that values your hard work and your intellect and your talent, you mom is going to write you an email that makes you cry, because she tells you how damn proud she is of you for doing what you do for kids. In fact, if you want to know the truth, 18 Year Old Me, your parents are going to be even more supportive of this career path because they know it's what you will end up living and breathing and loving.

Also, I hate to break this to you, 18 Year Old Me, but you will still be struggling with your weight when you're about to hit 30. There have been ups and there have been downs, but someday, though you won't believe it right now, you will successfully complete a half marathon and three 5Ks and will be in the process of training for a second half marathon as you approach your 30th birthday. Your body is awesome, and though you will continue to battle it and fight against your genetics and your hormones and your stupid inherited issues and your own stupid choices, know that you are freakishly strong and incredibly healthy, regardless of the size of your pants.

Speaking of your body, 18 Year Old Virgin Me, sex is not as scary as you keep thinking it is. You're in college now: get some. ... Okay, maybe that piece of advice is silly while dealing with your weight issues and your homesickness and your intense desire to be academically successful. But seriously, don't be so damn afraid of boys and men and sex and your body. Like I just said, your body is powerful and you will actually end up enjoying sex, so stop being such a prude and such a scaredy cat and allow yourself to be available and dateable.

But if you don't, know that you'll meet an amazing man who shares so many of your interests and quirks and appreciates your intelligence and your curvaceous body and your love of sex (heh) and your love of all things Star Wars and Star Trek and, eventually, grudgingly, Harry Potter. He'll make you laugh, he'll bring you fro-yo when you've had a terrible day, he'll bring you Tylenol AND Advil at 2:00 am because you're sick and having a melt down, and he'll help your parents and your grandparents with their computers and he'll talk you down out of Crazy Head when you are about to explode from your fear of failure.

18 Year Old Me, get a life -- or, at least, get living the one you have, because spending the next year of your life (your entire freshman year of college) because a reclusive, crying, depressed, anxious mess is going to do no one any good. Trust me: eventually, the crippling fear of being laid off that seizes you EVERY year for four years and the enormous stress of ever-increasing class sizes and your two-teachers-worth workload will make you REALLY wish you'd done at least some partying in college because by the time you're a grown up with real responsibilities, you'll be too damn tired to do anything but watch TV...

So go. Get out. Meet some friends, have a drink, go to a frat party or two, flirt with some boys, and enjoy the parts of college that you should be enjoying. I'm here to tell you, as Almost-30-Year-Old-You, you'll look back on college fondly, thinking about it every day, but also desperately wishing you'd done things differently in the beginning of it. Ultimately, your hard work paid off and you are allowed to be more than proud of your gnarly Ivy League academic achievements, but holy crap, girl, get out, get down, get funky, get kinky, and get living.

Current Me