Monday, August 31, 2009

Close Every Door

Saturday I arrived home to find this little guy waiting next to my door:

New Neighbor

The next morning, I stepped out the door to head to church, and when I turned to lock the deadbolt, I was startled to find the fellow had made progress during the night:

Doorbell Bug

I think he was just reaching for the doorbell when I opened the door.

Also? Please note my bravery. My iPhone has no zoom, so I had to get rather close for this photo. Like, tentacle-reaching-out-to-touch-my-hand close. Ew, ew, ew! And brave me!

Undaunted, I left, and saw no sign of my visitor when I got home. I made a pineapple cake and a double batch of cookies and headed out to a group dinner. As I approached my door that night, though, my stalker waited, like Cerberus, between me and my rest:

Doorstop Stalker

He was there again this morning, and again when I got home from school. He has not told me yet what his demands are. I think he's letting me sweat a bit first, but I have my suspicions:

When I was staying in that lovely, rustic cottage at Valdelavilla, I faced many spiders. One night, while getting ready for bed, I discovered a rather large one on the wall. I was in my pajamas, lacked cups and spare papers, and had no desire to get presentable; so I summoned my courage and killed it rather than finding a way to fling it outside and away from me.

I woke up suddenly a few hours later in the wee smalls of the night, with the distinct sensation of being watched. I turned on my bedside lamp to find four spiders hanging from the ceiling, directly above my head, watching me.

I think I angered the spider mafia, and they summoned their minions to get me. The rest of my stay there, they sought me out, threatening to land on me.

So my theory? The spiders finally managed to get word to Colorado. All summer, I have found more and more little arachnids in my apartment, but I ignored them (well, really I would shout, "Spider, Nash! Get the spider! Spider! Spider! Aah!" Natasha would look at me, look at my pointing finger, then rub her head against my finger to get scratches. I would get a glass and a piece of paper to fling them away).

I didn't heed their warnings. And now they've sent out their muscle.


P.S. Yes, I know that such creatures tend to be female. However, it is way too menacing to be female. Unless... wait! I have it! I shall christen it Mrs. Danvers. That's quite appropriate.

Welcome to the Theater

I've been amiss - a whole week gone by and I haven't told you about the play that was the entire point of my excursion last week.

First of all, the Chicago Tribune has a nice review of the piece here. It will be more detailed than mine because I am very sleepy right now. Just warning you.

The play was everything I had hoped it would be. And, as many of you who know me and/or have been to a play with me know, that is high praise.

One of Lookingglass Theater Company's mottos, it seems, is "theater without a net". They wove in lovely visual images, very simply done and often with intense, gymnastic choreographed blocking - Shahryar diving at the young women, holding a knife to their throats; a girl lifted up in the air, balanced on the upturned feet of a man laying on his back; royalty carried through the streets on the backs of slaves; a boat gliding along a cool river at night, created simply with a procession of people walking along small platforms as a servant moves the one the girl at the end has stepped off of to in front of the man who's leading the group and who has just put out his foot.

They created images, dances, music, poetry, and songs with great simplicity. It was funny, bawdy, touching, and very, very human. Above all, it was a celebration of storytelling, something I have been very interested in as of late, and something I want to study more.

I will definitely be going back to the Lookingglass Theater again, even if it's the only reason I go to Chicago.

P.S. Just for cryptic fun, here are the notes I frantically typed into my iPhone after the show to remember for future directing (steal from the best, right?):
  • Disguises=hat backwards
  • Sleepers in diagonal, same movement
  • Little girl sits on feet
  • Slaves carry women
  • Silent Servant hold back desperate master
  • Six men make waves (blue scarves?) with hands, seventh swims between (on shoulders?)
  • Wind noises from chorus; lovers blown away, rolling
  • Wrists - bones click, lantern going out
  • Platforms in places for river

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Girl That I Marry

I know some of you are also devote followers of the genius that is amalah, but just in case you're not...

I highly recommend these scanned pages and amalah's commentary on this 1962 high school textbook. Freakin' hilarious, people. Scary and sad and hilarious.

Seriously. Click here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

At the Gate

At the Gate
Originally uploaded by chitarita
See the woman in red? In the almost-two years that I've owned my
Kindle, this is the first time I've seen someone else reading one.

Last Sight of Downtown From the L

To the Icky Metro Stop

To the Icky Metro Stop
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Walking Down Michigan Ave

Walking Down Michigan Ave
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Actual Hotel Lobby

Actual Hotel Lobby
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Still nice, but I was confused before. What? There are three
Marriotts in a two-block radius here!


Originally uploaded by chitarita

A Treat After the Show

A Treat After the Show
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Hot Dog Tour: Chicago

Hot Dog Tour: Chicago
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Except there will only be one stop, since I'm hungry. :)


Originally uploaded by chitarita
Can you guess what they serve here, based on the mural?

Odd Fountain

Odd Fountain
Originally uploaded by chitarita

And Got a New One at the Giant Borders

At This Church

At This Church
Originally uploaded by chitarita

I Walked by a Wedding

I Walked by a Wedding
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Where I Left a Book Myself

I've heard of the world-wide lending library, and was finally willing
today to stick a "Free!" note on one of my books and leave it to be

Next, the Newberry Library

Eaten in this Park

Eaten in this Park
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Lunch From Here

Lunch From Here
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Mr. Beef's famous Italian beef sandwich

Lookingglass Theatre

Lookingglass Theatre
Originally uploaded by chitarita
4.5 hours!

Flowers on Michigan Ave.

Flowers on Michigan Ave.
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Interesting Street Name

Interesting Street Name
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Street Horse

Street Horse
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Is a Long Way Down!

Is a Long Way Down!
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Hotel Room View

Hotel Room View
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Hotel Lobby

Hotel Lobby
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Thanks, Mom & Dad for the upgrade from a hostel!

Murals in the Metro

Murals in the Metro
Originally uploaded by chitarita


Originally uploaded by chitarita
The halls to the L-train were rather deserted.

The Intrepid Traveler

The Intrepid Traveler
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Dawn Over the Airport Parking Lot

Friday, August 21, 2009

You Never Had It So Good

Because that's what this job is - so good!

I'm exhausted and I hate getting up at 4:45 every day and the drive is long but I love teaching again. And that feels so much better.

I want to tell you more about it, and I will, but I have to leave early tomorrow morning to catch my flight to Chicago (Early? Hah! I get to sleep in until 5:30!). I'll be live-blogging my trip, so stay tuned this weekend. There'll be pictures!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm Getting Myself Ready for You

My grayboard is ready.

Agenda on Board

My desk, the seating charts, and my plans are ready.

Desk Ready

The stars and the river are ready.

River and Stars

And the poster wall is ready.


But am I ready?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Marry Me/A Quiet Thing

A vignette:

I actually made it to Sunday School yesterday for the first time since I got my calling in January (that hour in between is just too tempting to use for getting other things done!). And what do you think the lesson was about? Marriage, of course!

The teacher handled it about as well as she could have in a singles ward. She showed a video at one point. In between clips from talks by Presidents Hunter and Hinckley, there was this awful, cheesy church music video. The kind with a synthesized, high-pitched sentimental song played over clips of a family going horseback riding and playing Frisbee. When they ran out of family activities, the video switched to a montage of chandeliers from different temples. It was terrible enough that my neighbor, Nick, nudged me.

"I'm actually feeling inspired," he whispered.

"Oh, yeah?" I whispered back.

"Yeah. You seem really spiritual, being Relief Society President and all. You want to get married?"

"Sure," I shrugged. "Why not? How's Tuesday for you?"

"Well, I have a doctor's appointment Tuesday, so maybe in the evening?"

"I don't know," I said, "I have to leave for school by 6:00 the next morning...."

"We can totally make it work. We meet at the temple around 5 or 6, and the ceremony takes, what, five minutes?"

"True. Plus, we'd get everyone off our backs."

"Exactly," he nodded.

So perhaps there was something to the connections my Young Women's leaders drew between going to Sunday School and finding a husband!

The Roses of Success

Still cautious, but so far? I'm loving this school.

By no means is everything perfect. But that's okay. In fact, I'd be a lot more worried if it was.

I'm going to lots of meetings still, yet I am getting things done. We have one more day tomorrow before the kids come. There's a meeting or two in the morning, then more time in the afternoon to work on our rooms.

My room's coming together. Here's how I set it up for Back to School Night last week:


And I think I discovered the reason to have a separate office:

Messy Office

That's where I stashed the unpacked goods right before the parents started showing up.

Rachel came in after she finished work on Friday to help me decorate. She gave me good opinions on things (like moving my desk) and helped me hang stars.

Rachel Hanging with Goggles

(Note her safety goggles - she's so prepared, she must be a nurse!)

Here's the result:

Bursts of Light

I like it. I'm not certain about the student desks yet - I spent the last hour today fiddling with them again and wound up with this:

Stars and Desks

I might change it again tomorrow. As those of you who had me at DPJH well know, I tend to change my desks around a lot. Mostly, my puzzle here is how to fit all of the desks into this room without making the ones on the left seem like they're sitting in the hall. See?

Desks 2

The commute is getting a little old after a week. It's not bad, certainly, but I am tired at the end of the day, and it's a longer drive. Still, I did the math last week and I got 34.78 miles to the gallon. Not bad, considering that half of those miles were with a backseat and trunk full of books.

I'm happy to do the commute, though, for the sake of being at a school I like. I like the people, too. The other new teacher at the school and I have really hit it off (she's teaching Spanish and French), the orchestra teacher seems great to work with, and the secretaries are absolute delights. For example? When I walked into my room this morning, I found this on my desk:

Flowers From Mari

The note wished me a wonderful week and was signed by the principal's secretary. I KNOW! How sweet is that?

So, I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and to Wednesday, and to the rest of this year. And that's really, really nice after last year.

P.S. Weird blurriness with the last two photos, right? Silly iPhone doesn't like Mountain Town High School at all!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back to School

It's third period during our Back to School Night, so I've got a quick ten minutes in between class periods.

I met some of my English students (may 1/3 of them?) during the first period block and four of my Drama kids. The drama kids were quite the range - from a boy with skater hair who immediately put his head down on the desk and answered me with grunts, much to his dad's chagrin, to a vivacious girl who had one of the leads in the musical last year and was very excited to be in the class. Man, I love teens!

Speech is next, which I am the most nervous about. I've been cramming like crazy in between meetings this week, trying to learn all of the terminology and protocols. It's a very, very beloved program here. The class is huge (by Mountain Town High School standards, anyway. It's 35 kids, average at Dead President Junior High), and some of the students have even taken the class before.

I've been nervous about tonight for what may be a silly reason - I'm just not that used to educated, involved parents. At both of my former schools

(Oop! Interruption! I just met one of my assitants (MTHS' name for T.A.s). She's been assigned to me during my planning period. The counseling secretary raved about her, Ruth recommended her, and she seems delightful. Yay! Anyway...)

At both of my former schools, the parents just weren't that involved. Heck, at Small Town Middle School, less than 2% of parents in the district had a college degree of any kind. So, I've been intimidated all week by the thought of parents who are highly involved, who care, and who speak English.

On the other hand, and this is certainly a result of the former, I'm also delighting in being at a school that feels so normal. There are many things that make MTHS unique, which I'll elaborate on in a later post, but mostly it's a school that isn't so consumed by low test scores and high-need kids.


The bell rang just as I was typing that last sentence, and the classroom immediately filled up. The kids seem great, and the parent seem supportive, even of me. One of the moms who lingered stayed just to tell me that "We're excited to have you and we'll do anything to support you." How great is that?

So, yeah. I'm in a good mood, I'm feeling more confident about this whole thing, and I will definitely post more later when I have a bit more time sleep - ah, who am I kidding? I'll just squeeze it in sometime.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Room With A View

Here's my new classroom:

My New Classroom

Pretty, huh?

The school is designed so that each subject (English, History, Science, Math) has classrooms grouped around a central computer lab and a shared teachers' office. Here's a picture of the computer lab (you can see part of one of my walls on the right):

Split Computer Pod

Opposite from the entrance to my room are some large windows. They look out onto the library below, and if I stand in just the right place, I can see out of the library's windows onto the river:

Classroom View

You know the scenery around Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies? Especially the scenery you can see during the Quidditch matches? That's my school's setting now, baby - as close as you can get to England's hills in the Colorado mountains. It's definitely the best view from a classroom I've had so far, even if it can only be seen from one corner.

I tried to set my desk up in the back so I could look out there, but the phone jack is up front. They moved my desk to the front of the room last night and set up my computer (it's now in front of and parallel to that corner cabinet you can see in the first picture). I'm torn between being able to look at the river and trees while also keeping an eye on students from behind (which I prefer when I'm at my desk during class), and the inconvenience of having the phone across the room from my computer.

Oh, also? Did you notice the lack of doors? Behold:

No Doors!

That's the entrance to my room. I'm skeptical about the practicality of putting the drama and the speech class in a room with no doors in a shared pod.

I'll probably put up some more pictures here next week when I get the room all decorated and such. They've booked us pretty full of meetings this week (naturally), so I've only had time to haul boxes of stuff from my car up to my room. I'm taking my theater books from my bookcases at home to the (should-be-arriving-Friday) bookcases at school. I have a lot of theater books.

On the plus side, I'm liking this school far better than STMS (FAR better), despite my I've-been-burned-before caution. I'll tell you more about this later, but as a teaser, here's a direct quote from the head of the English department today:

"I'm not going to tell you exactly how to teach or that you should be on this page by this date. Teach your students how to write, how to read, and how to think. How you do that's up to you."

Sound cue: The "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah

P.S. Check out those boards in the first photo again. Oddly, those aren't chalkboards - they're white boards.

Gray boards?

I'm confused by them.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I Guess This is Good-Bye, Old Friend

This is my old reading chair:
The Old Reading Chair 1

My parents gave me the money to buy a reading chair for Christmas five or so years ago. Inspired by a similar chair at my friend Annie's house, I picked out this over-sized chair-and-a-half and I've loved it. Natasha has, too, as you can tell from that picture. See her peeking over the red cushion? That's her favorite napping spot. You can also see the corner she shreds and the stain left from a little fight she got in with Roman (Andy's cat).

The chair is really too large for that room, and it's been well-loved; so I finally gave in and decided it was time for it to go. Oh! It was comfortable, though.

The problem was how to get rid of it. It's awkward to move by itself, let alone hoist up into a dumpster. I got the ottoman out without any stress; then I pulled off the cushions and took a pair of scissors to it to see if I could break it apart, make it smaller.

45 minutes and a hacksaw later, and I had this:
Cutting Through

The back view isn't as neat:
The Back

Next was the seat:
The Seat

Which I also attacked from below:

Two hours into it, and I finally had it split in half:
Almost There

Split in Two

I suspect the only function of that red wire is to annoy me. But I shall not be foiled!

I fetched a file and some wire clippers and, finally:

I hauled the two halves out to the dumpster and crossed my fingers that I wouldn't get in trouble for disposing of a chair in the bin.

Next up, I cracked open the boxes for my new chair from Ikea. When I cut the tape and lifted up the flap, a red spider dropped from the packaging onto the chair parts. I squashed it with a flip-flop, wondering if it came from Sweden and whether it had a name like "Årächne".

I had spent the first part of the afternoon sorting through my music on iTunes. That's another big project I had been putting off. I found an app that lets me control the music from my computer via my iPhone - nice, right? But for putting a chair together, I wanted to watch something. I have been slowly catching up on the "So You Think You Can Dance" (DANCE, Dance, dance) I missed while in Utah, but I wanted something I could listen to without being glued to the set. Browsing the On Demand listings, I found that some episodes of Series 3 of "Torchwood" was listed as complimentary. Mmm... John Barrowman....

This is a picture-laced post, so I'll find one of him for you, too.....

Yummy, right? Captain Jack ties the dear Doctor David Tenant for cuteness in my book; and although I haven't tried "Torchwood" yet, I was certainly game for some more Captain Jack.

What I didn't realize is that Series 3 of that show was done as a 5-episode story arc. I'm almost to the end of the third episode now, and I'm wrestling with whether to stay up and watch the whole thing, or drag myself to bed at a reasonable hour to nurse my blistered thumb. It's my last week of summer, so I'm thinking the first option will win.

Oh, yeah. It's going to be a late night.

(Also? You youngins can keep your Edward. I'll take the musical John Barrowman over Robert Pattinson any day)

I did get the chair assembled, though. I moved my Turkish rug into the room as well, although I'm skeptical about the outcome:

New Set-up

It's an improvement, space-wise, but the layout isn't quite right, is it? The rug is a little small, and I'm not sure about the light wood/dark cushion combination. What do you think?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm being summoned....