Thursday, January 30, 2014

Run Away!

Tomorrow I'm flying to Chicago.

It's a quick weekend trip - out Friday, back Sunday.  I'm meeting Jason (naturally) and my parents (yay!) to see Lookingglass' new adaptation of The Little Prince (a book whose adaptability is still uncertain to me; but if anyone can get it right, Lookingglass can).  We'll also be eating delicious food and catching up and generally enjoying running away from home and work for slightly under 48 hours.

Granted, Chicago is perhaps not the first destination that springs to one's mind when one thinks about a mid-winter getaway.  It's snowing in Denver right now; it's supposed to snow in Chicago tomorrow and Saturday.  Since our planned itinerary minimizes outdoor exposure (i.e. the distance from building door to cab door), I'm not too concerned.  Rather, this trip has been the light at the end of the Speech season tunnel, and my eyes have been fixed on it for a long while now.

To make it even more shiny, just moments ago I got a call from MTHS.  I answered, expecting a delayed start.  Nope!  They're closing the district tomorrow!  Snow day!

The moment I hung up I was on Frontier's website looking for earlier flights.  Well, first I checked my school email because I always panic that such phone calls aren't real and that I won't show up for a day of school that should have been.  Once I confirmed that school is indeed closed tomorrow, I booked myself an earlier flight.

I'm pretty stoked that not only do I get a weekend away; I get a weekend away without rushing to the airport after rehearsal AND after getting a good night's sleep.  Such luxury!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

5 Seasons

Another speech season is over!  Well, mostly.  We do still have to do the banquet (which is one of those sports things I only understand enough to know that it's important that I do it), but when I spoke with the seniors about it a few weeks ago they were in consensus that they want to wait until after the musical to deal with it.  Which is fine by me.

The last three weekends of meets have been bearable aside from the fact that I can't quite stand up straight.  The bus rides are not so good for my back (straight-backed seats + narrow leg room that forces me to sit at an angle + no shocks).

State wrapped up yesterday.  The Festival Committee asked me to run the judges' table, which meant I was the one fielding questions, distributing ballots, and checking said ballots after every round for errors, missing information, rule violations, suspicious judging, etc.  The meet director said she specifically put me there because when I worked that position at her meet I was "on top of it and kept the judges in line and accountable."  Which means 1) I read fast and accurately, 2) I'm a stickler for rules, 3) I'm not afraid to ask people to fix things or confront issues, and 4) I'm actually pretty good at doing those things politely.  Enough so that at the State meet Friday night the head dude from CHSAA (the state activities/athletics governing board) watched me power through questions and issues with six or seven people in less than a minute all the while maintaining a cheery. professional demeanor (or what I think of as my "Relief Society President Voice"), then shook his head when things calmed down and said, "Wow.  You're really good at that."

My students did well.  We had 19 competing, and 16 broke semi-finals or finals.  We took Best in State in two events (out of 11).  The Duet Drama scene was a cutting from Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, one of the top plays on my "never-seen-but-really-want-to" list.  It was performed by a sophomore boy and a senior girl, and they really do a good job with it.  We worked in a lot of creepy voicework and dance-y moves, which always go over well with the drama judges.  The same sophomore boy also took Best in State for his Poetry performance of three songs from "Flight of the Concordes."  It was a risk to have him run with humorous poems, and there were times this season when more traditional judges really didn't like them; but it paid off in the end, especially given that Poetry was this year's hot event with over 40 competitors in the category.

We also had a slew of 2-6 places (1-6= "Finals") in all of the categories in which we competed, and only one teary breakdown.  A senior girl who took Best in State last year in Creative Storytelling wound up getting 4th this year.  She took it pretty hard, and while she kept it together on stage she broke down weeping once she was off.  I was surprised - she's usually more poised than that, but I imagine it's hard to go from 1st to 4th.  The lovely part of it was watching my team in action.  The nearest teammate to  her immediately pulled her into a hug and let her cry on his shoulder for a few minutes, despite him being a socially awkward sophomore boy who really doesn't run in her circle of friends.  She needed someone, though, and he was there for her even though he had gotten 8th in the category (also a disappointment to him, I'm sure) until her senior friends could take over.  I watched them from my seat in the auditorium and wondered what I could say to help her feel better.  I knew what she needed was the comfort of her friends and a night to take the sting out of it.  

She apologized to me at the end of the evening though, saying that she was sorry she "let me down by crying in front of everyone."  I was pleased that she recognized that I do expect my students to maintain the poise and showmanship, even though I rarely mention it to them; but I hugged her.  "You didn't let me down," I told her.  "I'm as proud of you as ever; and more than that, I like you an awful lot."

We went to dinner at a nearby mall.  I handed out the ballots and did my usual post-meet jobs - translating judges' handwriting, defining words they don't know ("self-deprecating" and "meta" this time), pointing out and celebrating their victories for them ("You got first in a round!  At STATE!  That's terrific for your first speech season!").  They need time to process, they always need time to process, but in the meanwhile I'm there to say over and over again that they did well, that I'm proud of what they accomplished, that I like them an awful lot.

They did, I am, and I do.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Something is Rotten

I was glad when I got sick over winter break because I couldn't imagine how I would cope with an illness during the madness of work in January.

You would think that as someone who enjoys Shakespeare as much as I do, I would know better than to tempt the fates like that.

I wasn't feeling quite right at school yesterday.  Not entirely unusual - sometimes getting up early just makes me nauseous.

However, some rumblings down below made for a tense 1st and 2nd period.  In fact, I had to scrap my originally-planned activity for the latter half of 2nd period in favor of something that would allow me to stay seated.  Once the class ended and my planning period began, I started making far too many dashes to the faculty restroom that is happily close to my classroom.  I figured I could make it through the day.  I only had two more classes to go and musical rehearsal.  Doable, right?

And then I started vomiting.

I briefly considered sticking it out.  Vomiting makes you feel better, right?

And then I vomited again.  So I threw in the metaphorical towel, called down to the main office (not daring to venture that far from the restroom), and typed up some rapid sub plans for 4th period.

There are exactly four stoplights on my 33 mile drive from school to home.  Three of them were red.  I almost made it, and I like to believe I would have if the fourth light hadn't turned red on me at the last moment.  Fortunately, I was able to open my car door and lean out in time.

My cat was baffled at seeing me during the daylight hours, and even more confused when I ignored her greetings to dash for the bathroom, then shoved her out of her very comfortable spot on my pillow.  I spent the rest of the afternoon dozing, making regular dashes to the bathroom to vomit again, and trying my darndest to get warm.  According to my parents (yay, long distance diagnostics!), that last part is what makes stomach flu the likely cause instead of my first suspicion of food poisoning.  Given my shivering state under three layers of clothes and five layers of blankets, including one electric cranked up to high, they may be right.

They tried to talk me into calling in sick last night.  I protested - I had no plans I could give a sub (the curse of teaching non-textbook-based classes), I had too much to do, so many deadlines, I need to go to school, etc.  Plus, I hadn't thrown up in almost two hours.  Surely I would be better in the morning.

Not so much.  I did consider going in despite an unpleasant wakeup with my alarm, but the thought of exposing my cast and colleagues to this bug led me to haul my laptop back into bed to piece together whatever pitiful plans I could five days into the term.  I emailed them off, wrote a couple of notices to try to deal with musical rehearsal and speech practice; and then crawled back into bed for another four hours of sleep.

Happily, I do seem to be on the mend.  After a trip to the grocery store that convinced me that not attempting the far longer drive to work was the right choice, this afternoon I successfully ate one Jello-O cup, half a cup of applesauce, and a piece of toast.  Whoo!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Gift Tags

Rachel invited me over for an afternoon in early December.  I rarely go to her place without bringing a craft, but at that point all of the crafts I was working on were gifts for her/her family.  So I decided on a whim to embroider gift tags for everyone this year.  I used leftover burlap from crafting with Lisa this summer, and I attached them with spare buttons.

A purple crochet hook for Rachel's rag rug

A paw print for Andy's pet triptych 

A cashew for Grandma (she got some treats from the Spice Shop)
A Tolkien reference for Samwise's painting

An Eiffel Tower for Mom (I gave her some fun wee art books I got in Paris)
A frosty Apple for Dad (touchscreen gloves and new earbuds)
A tea leaf for Jenn (I picked up part of her very British gift at Harrods's this summer)

A tree for the rope swing I made Jack
And a paint brush for Ben's portrait


I was more successful with my other handmade gifts.  Inspired by my art classes, my subsequent supplies, and by Rachel's offhand comment this summer that "Ben has always wanted an oil portrait of himself," I decided to do some painting for my siblings.

But not Ben's portrait first - too daunting.  I decided to warm up with portrait subjects who don't care how they look:

Andy and Jenn's pets - Linus, Roman, and Lucy

 Here are the original photos I stole from Jenn's Flickr account, for comparison's sake:

Frankly, I was surprised by how well they turned out.  Time to tackle a human!

Rachel sent me a zip file of photos of Ben, and I decided to go with the most dramatic of the lot:

And so that became:

I think I did a better job with the animals, but it is at least identifiable as Ben.  Plus, the lady at Hobby Lobby who saw me carrying the portrait through the frame aisle looking for a fit was "super impressed."

With four paintings down, I had one to go.  I got the idea for this painting when Rachel first told me Sam's name, and I also had the most fun making this one.  I took Tolkien's original cover art for The Hobbit, which looks like this:

... sketched a cropped version on a larger scale, added two hobbits, a quote from Lord of the Rings, added the Denver skyline and replaced Lake-town with Lakeside.

I then neglected to take a decent photo of the final product.  Whoops.

UPDATE:  Rachel kindly sent me a better photo of the finished painting.  Yay!

Again, I'm pleased with the results.  I liked imitating Tolkien's art style, and it was fun to figure out and replicate his watercolor techniques.  Plus, I got to play with frisket again.  That's always fun.

Technically, I painted six items this year.  I made Jack a rope swing and painted the wooden seat but again I neglected my photographerly duties.  Ah, well.  Perhaps I'll get a shot of it in action in a few months when it stops being 10 degrees outside.

Rag Rug

Surprisingly, the gift that wound up taking the most time to make was the rag rug I made for Rachel.  I began it back in the summer time, after Rachel gave me all of her old scrubs with instructions to make a rug for her kitchen out of them (which made my present to her a real surprise this year I'm sure).

It started well.  Over the course of many episodes of Gossip Girl, I snipped and shredded the scrubs, then sewed all of the scraps together into a giant chain:

When I finished, I divided the rag strips according to color:

... and then I started braiding them.

Natasha finds all craft projects suspicious

Then I ran the whole thing through my sewing machine, laid it out on my floor, and voila!

It was lumpy and drastically asymmetrical.  Dang it.

So I unpicked the whole thing, bought the biggest hook I could find, and tried crocheting the long braided rope:

Nope.  Too small, too thick.

It took a lot less time to unravel the rug shape that time; although now I needed to unbraid the whole mess as well.  Since some of the sewing from version1.0 criss-crossed the braids, this meant a lot of picking and ripping with my pointy scissors.

Finally, three days before Christmas I had the whole thing back to the point it was a month ago.  Once more with the giant crochet hook, and this time it worked.  A bit of blocking, a bit of steam, and I had a rug that fits nicely in Rachel's kitchen:

Hmm.  Although those raggedy edges bug me the more I look at them.  I might do a bit more work on it the next time I  babysit.

New Term Starts in 3...2...1...

I'm finally crawling out from under the rock of my latest illness.  Hoorah!

And by "crawling out" I mean being forced by the end of winter break to rejoin the human race.

And by "rock" I mean my electric blanket-covered bed with not one but two humidifiers running next to it (one for cold vapors and one for hot steam) while watching QI.

And by "illness" I mean bronchitis.  Whee.

On one hand, the timing of my disease was nice - it's not interfering with school/practices/rehearsals/the madness that is January, nor did it interfer with celebrating Christmas.  Sure, I went snuffily to bed at 10:00 PM on New Year's, but that holiday's not very important to me.  It's not like I was going to ring it in with artichokes or anything.

Still, I had plans, dang it.  Things to do, people to see, oil to change!  None of which happened while I was being snuggly humidified.

I did get to have dinner with Lisa, Tammy, Fara, and a gaggle of other friends from the ward on Saturday.  The food was eh, but the company was good.  They went to see "Saving Mr. Banks" after dinner.  Since I had already seen it with Rachel while in Junction, and since my voice was on its last legs again, I went home instead to drink hot chocolate and watch the latest episode of Sherlock.

Mmm.  Sherlock.

The new school term kicked off with a teacher work day.  I went in excited to leave at 2:30 with the rest of my colleagues since I didn't have rehearsal; and I wound up working until after 4.  See: the madness that is January.

It's time for my Humanities class again (yay!), as well as new sections of all of my drama classes.  Other highlights (and blog fodder) of the next four months include the last three speech meets, the musical, three field trips, a visit from my would-be Fulbright counterpart from England, and a drama production.  And it all begins in 11 hours.

Here's hoping my voice lasts through the day!