Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Those You've Known

Ages ago, on one of my trips to SLC, I was talking with my dear ami Teresa. She bemoaned the fact that she probably wouldn't get to see "Spring Awakening" since there's very little chance of it touring in SLC. I pointed out that it was on the schedule for Denver at the end of this year.

And, voila! I got to play with Teresa last weekend!

She had not really been to Denver before this, so I tried to show her the best of my city in the 36 hours or so that we had to play. Thus, after I got down from the mountain on Friday, I drove downtown to pick her up at her hotel and we hit the town.

Stop #1 - Tattered Cover

I honestly had not planned on going here right away. I swear it. I was just driving aimlessly around while we figured out what to do when and suddenly there it was, right in front of us. How could we resist?

Stop #2 - The Shoppe

And while we were at Tattered Cover, how could we not visit the yummy cupcake/cereal bar down the street?

We each got 3 mini cupcakes to go (mine were dark chocolate orange, ginger, and pumpkin chocolate chip, if you're wondering). Then we sat down in the shop and ate one right away. Because we're adults and we can spoil our dinners if we want to!

Stop #3 - Watercourse

It was dinner time by then (despite the cupcake). Rachel had told me about a good vegetarian restaurant, and now seemed like as good a time as any to try it. It was excellent, and the murals were properly creepy. I plan on returning.

Stop #4 - Teresa's Hotel

We talked, holding onto our table a bit too long for a busy Friday night at Watercourse. We also both admitted to being exhausted, so once we had planned our Saturday plans, I dropped Teresa back at her hotel and headed home. We pledged to eat our remaining two cupcakes in our respective beds. And they were delicious.


After a much-needed sleeping-in session (8:30!), I picked Teresa up and we headed for our first stop of the day:

Stop #5 - The Denver Zoo

Dude. I haven't been to the zoo in years, but this was awesome. Brace yourself for an onslaught of pictures from this particular stop.

Lion Ladies
Teresa: Hey, ladies. 'Sup?

Sleeping King
Lion: zzzzz

Lionesses: Men!

1/2 Polar Bear
Teresa: Grr.
Polar Bear: ... (Is only a picture.)

Two Guards
Teresa: Hey, have you noticed the peacocks everywhere?
Amanda: Now that you mention it....
Teresa: Yeah (laughs), it's like they're the zoo mafia!
Amanda: Peacock mafia! (laughs)
Peacocks: (notes the two women who seem suspicious/aware of Peacock Mafia.)

Teresa: Hey, what's that noise?
Amanda: It sounds like ducks.
(We turn a corner)
Ducks! 1
Us: Holy crap!

Ducks! With Guard
Us: (Approach, amazed by number of ducks).
Peacocks: (Notes suspicious women. Remains in control of ducks.)

Peacock on Fence

Empty Duck Pond
Amanda: The ducks understand irony!

Owl: What?
Amanda: (Melts in owl cuteness.)

Teresa: (Buys fries for lunch.)
Amanda: (Buys corndog for lunch.)
Both: (Sit at table outside near the sea lions to enjoy the 45-degree weather) (That's not sarcastic, by the way. It was lovely!)
Teresa: (Gets up to get some ketchup.)
Peacock: (Sees pair have separated. Takes opportunity to demand mafia payment in return for safety.)

Peacock: (Accepts payment.)

Teresa: (Talks to monkey.)
Monkey: (Shows her his bottom.)

Blaaah! Cropped
Teresa: BLAAAHH!
Goat: (Blinks.)
Teresa: BLAAAHH!
(Conversation continues for several blaaahhs.)

Escape Route?
Amanda: (Figures out why that large pen is empty.)

Bathroom Guard Cropped
Peacock Mafia: (Controls bathrooms until further payment.)

Stop #6 - 16th Street Mall

After we shook off the PM, we zipped to the 16th Street Mall to catch a matinee of Fantastic Mr. Fox. As I said before, it was fantastic. Go see it.

From there, we walked up and down and up and down and up and down the mall before deciding on Chipotle for dinner. A Denver classic.

Oh, also in our walking, we found

Stop #7 - The Big Blue Bear

Blue Bear


Stop #8 - The Dancing Aliens

Dancing Alien 2

which are right outside

Stop #9 - DPAC for "Spring Awakening"



Spring Swoon

I enjoyed it. Even with the drunk man near us who apparently didn't see any of the warning signs going in to the theater and kept exclaiming "Oh, my!"

We hurried out of the theater and down the 5 blocks to the parking garage and down Broadway to arrive just in time for our last stop

Stop #10 -

Ice Cream

Wait, no, not liquor. Ice cream. From this place, in fact:

I had mint chocolate chip and Teresa had berry lavender. Delicious.

All in all, a delightful Denver weekend. And with In the Heights coming in the spring, we may get a chance to visit the places we missed this time!

Monday, December 14, 2009


I want to tell you all about my awesome weekend.

Because, well, it was awesome. (Hint: It involves a peacock mafia.)

I'd also love to do the dishes that are scattered around my kitchen, make a test batch of marshmallows, and work on the various Christmas projects I have going.

But I can't. Because I have to practice the accordion.

It's that time of year again - when I have my students (the speech class, in this case) do the Take-a-Risk Goal Project.

I am, of course, completing a goal right alongside them. And the risk I decided to take was to commit to learning to play a song on the accordion. It's a major and very scary risk because there's no way in cuss that I have time right now to learn a cuss song on the accordion (yes, my weekend also involved seeing Fantastic Mr. Fox. It's also awesome).

And so, I delay my weekend's story, my dishes, my marshmallows, and my projects. And I pick up the accordion and play.

Be grateful you can't hear me.

P.S. I received a large, long mysterious package in the mail today with no note or indication of who it is from. I also love it. Or, I should say, them. If it was you who sent it, will you please let me know so I can thank you properly? And I'm sorry I opened it before Christmas, but I was looking for a note and discovered the unwrapped present instead.

Monday, December 07, 2009

I'm Not that Smart

While poking around a little online this weekend, I found a blog written by a CCS volunteer in Tanzania this past summer. For reasons I am not sure of, I'm feeling quite drawn to this particular destination. Even despite reading stories like this one and reading her exclamations about having hot water while one safari one weekend (does that mean there's no hot water at the CCS house? Oh, dear.)

What may not have been smart is telling my parents the story. I know my mom frets while I'm traveling, so it was probably not the kindest thing to feed her imagination like that.

Speaking of unwise moves, I can add my sudden plans to craft a bunch of gifts for Christmas to that list. The craft-muses are singing, but I hardly have time to plan, let alone execute their ideas.

Let's see what I can get done in ten minutes or so I have before bedtime, at least.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Five Forever

The Historical Society performances last night went well, despite my late realization that Historical Society = old people = people likely to be offended by performance of Reduced Shakespeare Co.'s "Complete Bible". The two boys doing that piece and I did a quick rewrite of most of the sex jokes, and they remarkably pulled off all of the changes without rehearsing them first. And we weren't chased out of the building with pitchforks, so yay.

Actually, it went really well. The woman who had first contacted me about it explained that they have all been reading about the speech team for years in the local paper, but had no idea what it actually did. In the shuffle of all of the kids I went through to get enough to show up to this thing, I wound up with one of each of the scripted events we do - duet, poetry, humor, drama, and original oratory. The kids did well (although not their best), and the audience was kind and receptive.

I drove home and collapsed in bed at 10 to wake up at 5 for the meet today. This meet small, but fun. They had an unusual feature - the pentathalon.

A bit of background - at tournament meets (those hosted by/for large schools), the students compete in one event for three rounds, plus finals. At festival meets, the students can do two events - one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each with three rounds but no finals.

Today's school is a tournament one, so most kids did one event. Students had the option, though, of of competing in five events simultaneously. They would run from event to event during the rounds. It also means having five pieces prepared to compete with.

Last year, when MTHS went to this meet for the first time, Ruth didn't let the kids do the pentathalon. I'm not sure why, but I heard it was because she worried about them being distracted and doing worse on their specialties.

I took a different approach, figuring that it would be a good exercise for the kids who wanted a challenge (I'm still not good at this whole perform-to-compete/winning-is-everything thing). So, 8 of the 24 kids who went today from my school were pentatheletes.

And we rocked it! We placed in every category we competed in, swept one category completely (meaning, all six finalists were from my school, something that hadn't happened before), won the pentathalon, got four Best of Events, and took first place overall with more than twice as many points as the second place school.

Not to brag, or anything.

Me, I spent the day dealing with typical student-issues, grading essays, and judging two rounds of Public Forum Debate and the finals round for Extemp. The PF debates gave me a headache. The topic right now is about merit-based pay for teachers, which is a tricky topic to be a good, fair, neutral judge on. It took more mental stretching than usual to make sure my evaluations were based on what was stated. Plus, I had to listen to team after team after team after team debate the same issue, making the same points. I don't like judging debate.

I'm happy for my kids - I'm glad they did well and are feeling good about themselves right now. I'm also tired, and I'm going to bed.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I Ham What I Ham

It's really cold.

My proof:

1. When I got in my car this morning, some snow fell off my boots onto the floor under my steering wheel. I drove to my fellow carpooler's house, rode to school, and returned to my car nine hours later. The snow was still there on my floor, in perfect condition.

2. When we left MTHS this afternoon, it was 0 degrees. 0.

3. My cat has developed a greater affection for my fireplace than my lap.

On a completely unrelated note, I used the leftover ham, onion, and bell pepper from Thanksgiving to make a very yummy dinner o' comfort food. With my mom's recipe and my food processor, I made a basic bread dough, rolled it flat, filled the middle of it with ham, sauteed julienned peppers and onions, and shredded cheddar cheese, cut and braided the sides of the dough to cover the filling, and baked it. With a side of boiled sweet potato slices, it hit the spot on this chilly, chilly night. I would have taken a picture of it to share with you, but I was too hungry. Instead, I'll offer you a picture of another baking item:

Photo on 2009-12-03 at 19.01
(Not dead. Cold.)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Found on my classroom floor this morning:

Did you go to the rodeo Saturday night?
Where @?
near the Denver colosium. I can't remember the name of the place. Did you go though?
no, I went duck hunting. I wish I did!
It was fun. I went with my girlfriend and her folks. almost got lost in the storm.
ya, it was fun because I was cuddling with my gf the whole time

I am impressed at the use of complete sentences and the occasional capital letter/punctuation mark. It also shows how different the lifestyle is of MTHS kids compared with STMS and DPJH! Some things never change, though.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Accentuate the Positive

+ Fell asleep just before 8 last night = 9 hours of sleep.

- Developed mild case of food poisoning

+ Planned out remaining three weeks of English class.

- Want to teach Othello, but there's only a class set of Julius Caesar. Might need to spend planning period tomorrow formatting and printing Othello script.

+ Arranged to have assistant coach ride the bus on Saturday, since the speech meet is at the school just down the street from my house.

- The Mountain Town historical society wants my speech kids to perform for their meeting this Friday evening (should be a positive, given the community involvement, but I'm begrudging the loss of my Friday night).

+ Speech kids are retelling myths/fables, and I'm reading a novel about the Trojan War. I love Greek mythology. I love it even more since I know what it's like to stand at the base of the Acropolis or wander around the labyrinth on Crete.

+/- I'm covering for a French class during my consultation period on Thursday.

That is all.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Goodnight and Thank You

Thanksgiving was lovely, but full. I cleaned my apartment on Wednesday, which was fortunate since I wound up hosting the family often over the days that followed. It was kind of nice to play hostess, though, and put all of my furniture to use.

My parents drove up Wednesday, the grandparents (all of them1) flew out Thursday, and Andy and Jen arrived on Friday. My parents, Grandma Cook, and I had Korean barbeque on Thanksgiving proper and the whole gang shared a lovely dinner on Saturday up at the condo in the mountains. It was a great weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone.

That being said, I am absolutely exhausted. Part of that is my own fault - I wrapped up the re-writes on the latest version of "Making Waves" last night and had to get it off to FedEx this morning to meet the competition deadline. As in, I was there shortly after 5:00 this morning. Oy and ouch.

I made it to my carpool in time, though, and it's a dang good thing, too. I dozed most of the way to and from school today, so I'm certainly glad I wasn't the one driving.

I was tired last night, too. I went to bed around 9:00, but just couldn't fall asleep. I don't know what's up with that, but I hope it won't be the case tonight. It's 6:00 now; I've had dinner and am heading to bed soon.

The play went off to the Shakespeare festival in Cedar City, who will notify winners after March 15th. While I was at it, I also sent the script to DCTC, who notifies on a rolling up-to-6-months basis. I'm in for a long wait on those, but I'll definitely let you know here when I hear.

Three weeks left of the semester - yay for that!

Okay. Bedtime. Hopefully, in any case.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm Blue

Check out my wound!

I have a few others, but not in places that are easy to photograph.

It reminds me of this:

Natasha is not amused. She is also not being petted. This meets with further disapproval.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Fall to Pieces

I divided my classroom into four quadrants - Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree. My speech class was beginning the unit on debate, and I wanted to let them move during the discussion. We pushed the desks into a tight square in the middle to make room and I read aloud the first prompt. As the students headed for their sections, I looked for a place to stand where I could guide the discussion, yet stay out of their way. I spotted it - the conglomeration of desks in the middle of the room had a convenient hole with a chair in it, three desks deep in on any side.

Being in a skirt, I opted to walk over the desks rather than scoot. I'm often standing on top of things in my room, and I'm usually pretty good at standing on the part of the desktop that is directly over the legs. But the chair in the hole in the middle of the desks that I was aiming for was off-center, and an OCD-ness tickled me.

I stretched my left foot down to try to hook the chair and nudge it to be in the center. One of its legs caught on a desk leg, though, and it wouldn't budge. I reached a little farther, then a little bit more...

Then, in sudden slow motion, the desk I was standing on tipped one way, the chair I was adjusting slid out from under my foot the other way, and I toppled Alice-in-Wonderland style, head over heels down in the middle of a pile of desks, papers, my skirt, and that off-center chair.

The students froze for a moment, staring at all they could see of their speech teacher - two black-tight-clad legs and a pair of Clarks shoes waving up in the air from the middle of a collapsed pile of desks.

After the moment of disbelieving shock, several of them dashed to my aid, picking up the equipment and papers that I had knocked to the ground; while I righted myself, giggling. I kept laughing as I reassured my students as they asked over and over again if I was okay.

And I am. A lovely big blue bruise is blossoming on my arm with a companion on my leg, but I'm fine. I keep smiling, though, at the image of myself turned properly upside down.

Oh, and I'm also grateful that I wore opaque tights today.

I Could Write a Book

I'm grading suspenseful short stories from my English class tonight. While the level of writing is certainly improved from last year's grading, they are still entertaining in that "Oh, teenagers!" kind-of-way.

Here's a passage from my favorite so far, written by the same girl who when I was listing candidates for authors of The Great American Novel ("Twain, Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck") she solemnly raised her hand and added "Meyer".

I've had many a chuckle at these papers, but this is the first that made me wish I could read it out loud with Teresa and mercilessly mock it/turn it into a screenplay.

([sic] from this point forward)

We were along, defensless. We both had fear streaming down our bodies in the form of cold sweat. My heart skipped one, two, maybe six beats. I might die here. Before he even touches me. He came closer, his empty eyes on mine, I felt them invading even in the dark. I smelled death, and decay. I sat motionless like a manican in the mall. Un-alive. He stopped and said in a low, husky, unfamiliar voice "Kelsey will not be attending prom. And Brad... eh.. undecided" We stood up like light, and ran like never before. My legs pumped like Seabiscuit on the last stretch. I saw the black trees dashing by my head. Heard my hollow breathing. Shockwaves traveled to my feet. I lost the trail, and Brad screamed somewhere behind me. It was blood curdling, it sounded like it came from hell. I shuttered in fear. I dove into the nearest bush. I was crying, no sobbing. Sweating, thinking. Why me? Where was he? What happened to Brad? I want someone. Should I move? I was paralyzed in fear. I saw him walking very slowly in my direction. The faint outline of his body eaten by the dim moonlight. My body shook form the core out. I wanted to die right there before he had the chance to do it. I wanted an escape route, just pass out so I don't feel this painful fear. His breathing deep, a limp in his step, and a clenched teeth expression in his face revealing his strong jaw muscles. He can closer and closer and eventually passed by bush. I prayed for him to keep going. He stopped, and stood in silence. God, this was the most intense silence I've ever heard. His ears moved noticeably upwards like someone scratched his back and sent shivers to his head. He darted my way and I sprung like a bunny from a fox, but he grabbed my hair. I punched, screamed, but, kicked, but he was so strong. Silly strong, like Muhammed Ali, against me , a teenage girls. He was so cold, like a rock, and had blood, sticky blood all over his arms, which wrapped around my neck. Suddenly, I hear a whoosh! Sound. He releases my neck and falls to the ground. Motionless. Brad stood over me with a log. We took off like a top Kenyan marathoner in the last mile.

I need to have a chat with her about similes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Human Again

I love this snowstorm!

After calling everyone associated with the speech meet to pass along the word/console the disappointed students, I slept for 12 hours Friday night. Upon waking, I made myself some scrambled eggs for breakfast and enjoyed some good lap time with Natasha. Just when I was thinking about getting dressed, brother-in-law Ben called and invited me to get some Japanese food with him for lunch (Rachel was off visiting friends in Ft. Collins). We tried a new place by me that, sadly, was only so-so.

After bidding farewell to Ben, I ran a few errands and treated myself to a steamed milk at Borders along the way. There, I discovered that the new Audry Niffenegger book is out. Finally! I also bought myself a space heater at Target so I could have a toasty bathroom in the mornings when I get out of the shower.

At home I put on some holiday music and tackled the piles of laundry and dishes, hauled out some trash, put together some goulash, and put some magic bars in the oven for Sunday night. Rachel called and I talked her into coming down for dinner, since Ben was gone for the evening. She brought me some pretty fall flowers and we ate, watched some TV, and caught up. It was fantastic.

I got up at 8 this morning to get ready for church. While I was eating cereal, though, Bishop called me to say that church had been canceled due to the storm. I made the necessary phone calls to all the sisters in the ward who hadn't been contacted yet, then did another load of laundry while using my new food processor to make a few baguettes (or at least the dough the will become baguettes later this afternoon).

I'm going to go workout now, then shower, finish scrubbing down my kitchen, put my bread in the oven, and curl up with Her Fearful Symmetry and my cat.

In short, this is the best snowstorm ever; and after weeks of just scraping by, I am finally feeling human again.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

I just got off the phone with my assistant coaches and the head of transportation for my district - given the weather forecast for tomorrow (we're supposed to get slammed in the afternoon, and this speech meet requires going over a perilous pass), I made an executive decision and canceled our attendance at the meet.

Good grief -that means I don't have to get up at 4:00 tomorrow! And I can do laundry and dishes and work out and maybe even vacuum! It's enough to make me feel 50!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a whole lot of phone calls to make.

What a Grand Old Age

I ate dinner at 4:30, and I'm going to bed at 7:30.

Apparently, I turned 90 on my last birthday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Proud of Your Boy

What I find most important is creating an environment in which students can feel safe and secure enough to allow themselves to be vulnerable.

That's a quote from my dear Meg's blog, and it is a lovely illustration of the techniques I learned at Camp Shakespeare. It's the reason my students and I check in each class. (I think most of you know about "check in" since you either experienced it yourself, or you've heard me describe/rave about it.) I'm a big fan of check in, but even I question it sometimes. I wonder if it's worth the time and the effort it takes to encourage the students who are oh-so-reluctant and complain.
Yes. Yes, it is totally worth the time.

The day after Romeo and Juliet, I asked my students to do the following for check in:
"Give kudos to anyone who deserves props for what they did yesterday. Then give some props to yourself for something you did in the show."

I braced myself for the arguing and the reluctance. But before the last words had left my mouth, the toughest kid in the class jumped in with "I want to go first!"

And he did. He complimented four of his classmates, then congratulated himself on being there, on showing up with his lines memorized.

He passed it to his neighbor. And one by one, the students named each other and named what they had done for their show. I was ready to balance the compliments, to rescue the students who might get left out in the kudos; but there was no need - the kids did it for themselves. Every student was genuinely recognized and validated.

I was so much more proud of them for that than for the show they had created.

The show was good. It was much more farce than tragedy, but the audience loved it and the kids took risks and succeeded.

Somewhere along the way (like when I found out I was going to be directing high schoolers. As in not-middle-schoolers), I decided that the risks the students should take would lead to art, to theatre at it's purest, to beauty and tragedy and Shakespeare as I've always wanted to create.

In other words, I wanted to my students to take the risks I wanted to take, rather than the ones they needed to take.
Which is a big part of my frustration the last few weeks. The show was nothing like I had imagined, and I felt like a failure as a director.

But then. After the morning show, one of the teachers who came to see it sat down to talk after school. She told me the backstory - the details of my students that I had only guessed vaguely at. Here's a rough list of situations I learned about my 14 actors:

- Asperberger's (diagnosed)
- Asperberger's (undiagnosed)
- Just moved to MT a few months ago so the family of 12 could get off welfare
- Parents moved away and left kid to live on own
- Lived on streets when under 5 years old
- Lived on streets for a few weeks this summer
- Constant runaway, including three times in the two weeks prior to the show
- Works at local restaurant to support his family
- Eating disorder (diagnosed)
- Eating disorder (suspected by school admin, but not confirmed)
- 16 office referrals so far this year (that's one kid, not all combined)
- Literally did not speak a word to anyone for entire 8th grade year. That was two years ago.
- Never acted before. Never spoken in public before. Terrified of being on stage.
- Flunked every single class last year.
- Flunked every single class last year.
- Flunked every single class last year.
- Flunked every single class last year.

"They set you up," my teacher-friend said as she wrapped up the narrative of my kids' histories. "They set you up, giving you those kids all together in this class, and you made a miracle happen this morning."

And I suddenly let go of all of my directorial dreams and remembered my dreams as their theater teacher. I wanted my students to take risks, to feel safe, to be successful, to create a play that they are proud of, and I want them to enjoy theater.

My students met every single one of those goals in exactly the way that was right for each of them. And the audience knew it just as well as I did, and they loved the show, too. By that evening, I had the right perspective and the right attitude that time. When Actor F showed up at call time, I knew he had just taken the biggest risk of all, and I cheered his arrival with total joy.

And when I asked them to check in the second day after the show by sharing what they planned to work on for the next show, their goals were the goals of actors.

Food, Glorious Food

Back when I was teaching at DPJH, a colleague congratulated me on losing weight. She said, "You'll see - nothing tastes as good as being skinny."

My first thought: Oh, you poor woman. You've never been to Italy.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Painting Her Portrait*

As I mentioned yesterday, I now have a lovely list of websites to browse. I've been looking, and I've already set my sights on this program. Using medieval stone masonry techniques to restore a village in southern France? Yes, please!

The new plan:

Step 1: I fly into Paris and kick around there for a few days. Maybe with Jason? Maybe with my parents? Maybe with another one of you I can talk into joining me? (Not that that worked last summer when I tried to talk y'all into coming to Spain with me. Or Chicago this fall. But PARIS! C'mon!)

Step 2: I take the train to Avignon to work on the Sabranenque project for a week or two (I'm not sure what the length is). Cut stones and build me some buildings in the morning, take in the Provencal countryside in the afternoon. And I imagine there'll be some good things to eat, too.

Step 3: Train back to Paris and from there fly to Africa to do some more volunteer work for three weeks!

Why Africa?

Honestly, I don't know. I had been planning for Thailand, and India's been a temptation, but lately something's pulling me to Africa. Although the preliminary plane ticket searches I've been running hardly support that idea - Paris to Dar es Salaam is not cheap, my friends (initial results: $2340). Still, I'll try for it. I'm not sure which program yet - working with humans? Working with animals? Working with teenagers?

Oh, and one of my friends from Pueblo Ingles just reminded me that I need to come visit him in London. Again I say: Yes, please!

So, I've got somethings to think about for next summer. I'm not sure if I can save up that much by then - at least $7000 for the two-legged trip I'm hoping for. But it's nice to have something like this to research right now.

(Warning - self-discovery and long-windedness ahead!)

I've been planning a trip for next summer since, well, about halfway through my trip last summer. 'Tis my nature. But it came to a bit of a crisis mode last month for me. A few different things triggered a bout of feeling very much not married.

When I'm thinking rationally, I'm fine with being single. I'm happy, and I have a fantastic life - I have a good job, I own my home, I picked where I live, I have a terrific family and good friends, and I get to plan vacations to Paris and Africa and such.

Still, I never planned on being single now. In high school, all of my friends kept telling me what a great mother I'd be. And that's what I planned - I would go to college, get married, then be a great mom and maybe teach or write on the side.

And then I went to college, and I didn't get married.
And I went to teacher college, and I didn't get married.
And my sister got married, and I didn't get married.
And I started my career, and I didn't get married.
And I finished grad school, and I didn't get married.
And I moved to Denver, and my brother found an awesome girl, and I made a life of my own, and I still didn't get married.

Gah. Part of me hates that list. I don't want to measure my worth by what I haven't done. See the footnote for the title of this post. Moreover, I don't want to even consider for a moment that I have failed because I haven't gotten married. What kind of person defines herself by that?

What kind of person? Well, frankly, a Mormon person. For Pete's sake, they group members into wards based on two factors - 1) geography and 2) marital status. In church yesterday, I heard a phrase I hear every week - the speaker referring to us as "singles," literally identifying me and the people surrounding me by that one (ONE!) facet of our lives.

Look, I want to get married. I'd love to date, to learn that kind of relationship and to have that level of friendship, trust, and love with someone. It's something that everyone tells me I should have, and it's something that I can't get, and I can't figure out why. It's like I'm in school again, but this time I can't figure out why I'm not getting the answer that matches the one in the back of the book. Back then, if I didn't get the right answers in Calculus or Physics, I'd check my notes again, get some help from my dad, and do the problems over until I figured them out (albeit with some tears and a lot of scratch paper). And I always figured them out.

So I approach this the same way - what's the problem, what mistake am I making, and how do I fix it?

The well-meaning advice I get from people suggests the same kind of philosophy - "You're too smart," or "You're too independent," or "You're successful - that's intimidating," or "Men aren't attracted to heavy girls," or "Pray that you'll learn what you need to learn in order to move on to the next level," or "Just stop looking - it always happens when you stop looking."

I appreciate the advice, but here's the thing: all of that advice tells me that it's me - I'm doing something wrong. Or, worse, that it's something about my very nature that's wrong. And, I'm sorry, but I just won't believe that it's not possible for someone to love me.

It's exhausting to constantly shout down the doubts and deprecations. There's a lot more voices saying that it's me, I'm wrong, than the ones saying that I'm doing something right.

But then, quietly, last week a thought occurred to me - maybe there's just more that I get to do first.

Did you catch that? It's such a subtle shift - a slight change of tone, a more precise vocabulary. Maybe there's something more I get to do first.

The thought caught me off-guard, like a fish you're trying to grab with your bare hands brushing right up against your fingers (I don't know why you're trying to catch a fish with your bare hands. It's my metaphor - just go with it). I've been playing the thought over and over in my head this last week, trying it on secretly and admiring it.

Maybe there's something more I need to do first. Maybe there's something more I get to do first. Maybe it's not that there's something wrong with me that I need to fix. Maybe I'm just different in a totally-okay no-need-to-fix-it kind-of-way and that means that I get to take a different course. Maybe I get to go work with orphans in Russia and teach English in Spain and direct middle schoolers in Shakespeare and feed lions in Africa and maybe all of those things count just as much as being married does in the end. And maybe I get to do those things, not because there's something wrong with me that I haven't figured out how to fix yet, but because I have something else to offer the world.

So that's the new philosophy I'm trying on. It doesn't really change anything, but it kind of changes everything for me. And it's okay if you don't get it - you don't have to. This is about me figuring out what comes next.

* "(Jane, to herself) 'Listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence: tomorrow, place the glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture, faithfully, without softening one defect; omit no harsh line, smooth away no displeasing irregularity; write under it, 'Portrait of a Governess, disconnected, poor, and plain.'

"Afterwards, take a piece of smooth ivory--you have one prepared in your drawing-box: take your palette, mix your freshest, finest, clearest tints; choose your most delicate camel-hair pencils; delineate carefully the loveliest face you can imagine; paint it in your softest shades and sweetest lines, according to the description given by Mrs. Fairfax of Blanche Ingram; remember the raven ringlets, the oriental eye;--What! you revert to Mr. Rochester as a model! Order! No snivel!--no sentiment!--no regret! I will endure only sense and resolution. Recall the august yet harmonious lineaments, the Grecian neck and bust; let the round and dazzling arm be visible, and the delicate hand; omit neither diamond ring nor gold bracelet; portray faithfully the attire, aerial lace and glistening satin, graceful scarf and golden rose; call it 'Blanche, an accomplished lady of rank.'

"Whenever, in future, you should chance to fancy Mr. Rochester thinks well of you, take out these two pictures and compare them: say, 'Mr. Rochester might probably win that noble lady's love, if he chose to strive for it; is it likely he would waste a serious thought on this indigent and insignificant plebeian?'"

"I'll do it," I resolved."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

What I've Been Looking For

I was talking with my parents tonight about how I needed to figure out where to go next summer. Then, I went to dinner at my bishop's house, where some people were asking me about the trip I took last summer. Pam, the bishop's wife, said she had a book I might want to see.

Just What I Wanted!

Dude! It has exactly what I was looking for!

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Miracle Would Happen

I don't have time to write the full story today (tomorrow brings another early speech meet). Hopefully I'll be able to tomorrow. But the last entry was so negative, I wanted to put this out there.

The show went really, really well.

I put credit in three places:
1) The kids stepped up. All of them.

2) I changed my attitude. More accurately, I remembered what my philosophy of theater education is.

3) The absolute miracle of theater that makes everything work out.

"Everything will be all right."
"How will it?"
"I don't know. It's a mystery."

(Man, I love that movie.) (Bonus points if you can name it!)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Send in the Clowns

Romeo and Juliet is tomorrow.

It's going to suck.

Those of you who know me (or know theater) know that there is always a phase where it seems like the show won't work, it will never come together. Usually my dear mother gets the panicky phone call about that, and she talks me down.

This isn't the same thing.

When I recognized the star-crossed fate of this show, I went into survival mode - I stopped caring about it.

Seriously, no panic at all. My speech class asked me today when I would get all stressed out, if the show is tomorrow. I said that this is it - this is me stressed pre-show. And I smiled at them, then continued class.

No last-minute crafting of props. No fretting. No running about frantically to get it all done. Nothing.

I do feel regret that this is my first production at MTHS. I have certainly been less-than-enthusiastic in promoting the show to my colleagues - I don't want them judging my abilities based on this.

I was very tempted to give the directing credit in the program to Alan Smithee.

I feel bad for some of the kids. The girls are great, truly fantastic and trying their very best; and one of the guys has been incredible. He memorized all of his lines early; then, one day a month ago when one of the punks didn't show up to class again, this guy offered to fill in for the scene and did so almost flawlessly. When asked, he told me that he had started memorizing the punks' parts "just in case."

Those kids deserve a good show. Damn it, I deserve a good show. I've put my time, energy, money, and name into (onto) this thing.

So why won't it work?

Actor A - one of the better male actors; not the least bit memorized. We talked one-on-one about memorizing techniques and tricks. Didn't try one of them. At his suggestion, we reassigned his part so he only had one beat with lines. Still didn't know a word by heart. Has missed 75%+ of class. Told me he might not show up tomorrow since the next day is his birthday and he plans on getting drunk to celebrate.

Actor B - Joined the class three weeks ago, bragging about his past acting experience. Hasn't memorized a word of his parts; spends rehearsals goofing around and talking backstage, despite specific instructions to sit in the audience and run lines. Informed me today that he has to work tomorrow night.

Actor C - Joined the class three weeks ago. Hasn't memorized a word of his part. Doesn't follow along in his script, so when it is his turn to go on stage, there are awful long stretches of an empty stage before he strolls in, flipping pages in his script, trying to find where we are.

Actor D - Has been in the class the whole time. Claims he's memorized, but constantly forgets his lines on stage and totally drops character when trying to remember what comes next. Has had three tantrums on stage (over things like my telling him "try that part again, this time say the words in character, with emotion") - he flounces off-stage, locks himself in the bathroom, and refuses to rehearse for the rest of the class period. Is sarcastic and mean to me when I help him one-on-one; claims he doesn't need to say the lines in character, since he'll be fine as soon as there's an audience. Seriously. 16 years of theater, and I've never met a diva as big as this guy.

Actor E - Refuses to look anyone in the eyes; refuses to touch another person, which means instead of handing Juliet a bottle, he throws it at her; vocalizes the lines well, but lapses physically into either examining his fingernails, fidgeting with clothing, or just sits down on whatever set piece is nearest. Brought on a rubber severed leg as a prop yesterday for his scene as Romeo, because he thought it would be funny. Didn't understand why that was wrong.

Actor F - Gets distracted if he doesn't talk for more than 5 seconds. Often walks out on stage in the middle of other people's scenes to ask me questions. Has been suspended for about 60% of the year; was suspended for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week.

Oh, and? The actor I mentioned who has been great? He's been out of school for a week with the flu.

I know these kids have issues. Family, social, metal, emotional, behavioral, academic, legal issues. You know what? So do the others who are doing a good job on this show. And I just don't have sympathy for those excuses.

I'm fighting against a tradition of very low standards for theater here ("We don't need to be quiet backstage now. We always get quiet for the performance itself.") (Yeah, right. Because habits are so easily broken, especially when you're under pressure?). They don't see why it's wrong cross the stage itself (mid-scene) to get to the other side. They don't get why I stopped prompting them when they ask for "Line".

Here's the danger of a small group of kids - 3 punks in a group of 30 kids? Not a big problem. 3 punks in a group of 12 kids? Huge problem.

So when Actor B informed me today that he's working tomorrow night, I just pointed out the consequences to him and then turned back to rehearsal. I really didn't care. There was nothing I could do.

But here's what I love: At the end of the class period, two of my actresses met me at the front of the house with a script in hand. As soon as they had heard what Actor B said, they had decided to divide up his part between them and memorize as much as they could tonight. They asked if that was okay. I said that was fantastic.

Those are the kids I do this for.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Be Happy

We took first place as a team at the meet yesterday, even though we only competed in half of the events.

I'm kind of annoyed with the kids, though. Most of them sulk if they get anything less than first individually. I pointed out that there were 22 schools in competition yesterday, and taking 5th, 4th, or 2nd place is pretty awesome. "Whatever. I better get first next time," will be the pouty reply.

They are 1) spoiled by having done well in the past and 2) basing all judgment on how they did on the opinions of random individuals (and, seriously? The judges are often idiots. One of the wrote "my itetion was caught' (attention?) and another wrote "You were the cutest competitor in the room!" on two of our ballots.) (They used student judges at this meet, so that last one isn't quite as creepy as it sounds.) (But still).

I don't like it.

I want to go away next summer. I'm booked to volunteer in Thailand, but I'm not sure if that's the right place to go. Africa is enticing. I want to see a new place, to do some good work, and I want to look forward to something next year. Place tickets are pricey. The program I'm booked with is also expensive. What I should do is research other volunteer programs. I've done a little looking here and there, but I'm too tired to do the research I should.

I don't have a point to that last paragraph. Thanks for reading, though!

I'm going to bed. Good night!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monorail Kitty Claims the LoveSac


Seems to be the theme this week. Not that I don't have a lot to do - I just keep getting stuck in places where I can't do anything.

Right now, for example, I'm at a speech meet. It's the last novice meet of the season, but it's also a tournament meet (Schools under 1440 kids = Festival, over 1440 = Tournament. MTHS is so not tournament in population, but a lot of meets are "invitation" = open to anyone who wants to come and this one was only 1.5 hours away. So here we are). I already finished the book I brought with me.

I had hoped to watch a round or two of debate, so I can figure out how the heck to teach that, but they put me in the tab room. Which means for about 5 minutes out of every 90, another coach and I enter the rankings and schedule the next round. The rest of the time, I sit here. Luckily, the computer we're tabbing on is online, so I have decided to write to you dear folks.

After two snow days in a row, it was kind of nice to go to work yesterday. The kids were in a weird place, energy-wise. Who can blame them with such a week: two snow days, then school on Friday, then Halloween on Saturday? Oy. They were restless and didn't want to focus on anything. Felt like junior high again.

The storm knocked out the power at the school a few times this week. That, apparently, threw the server out of whack. Which meant that we had no internet and no access to the network all day yesterday. Which made it very hard to do any of the work I needed to do.

I have missed being online this week.

Ooh! The final results for poetry just came in. My kiddos took 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th in that event. Woot.

I woke up at 4 AM. I don't like doing that.

The snow is rapidly melting, so after we wrap things up here and I escort the kids back to Mountain Town; I'm going back to the condo to pack things and Natasha up. I haven't been home in 5 days, so it will be nice to get back to my place.

The condo's been really nice, though. The bed was pretty comfy, the place was warm, the 10-minute commute to work yesterday was heavenly, and I'm totally addicted to Zelda again. I'm tempted to pack it up and take it home with me so I can play more. I was going to leave it up in the condo as entertainment when I'm stuck up there, but I want to keep playing it now. That desire is in total disregard to the fact that I have owned the game for two years without playing it because of a lack of free time.

I better go. Blogs are probably verboten on school computers, and I should probably go figure out something to do.

P.S. Happy Halloween!
P.P.S. Don't forget to set your clocks back tonight - it's one of the happiest times of the year!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


They've canceled school tomorrow (Thursday).

I paced myself today - there's still a lot of books to read and DVDs to watch.

Am I awful to complain about a forced vacation? Oh, woe-is-me, I had to take a two-hour nap today?

It looks like the storm will end sometime early Friday morning. If they cancel school Friday, I'm canceling the speech meet Saturday and headed slowly home. Otherwise, I'll stick around up here to avoid the commute and to be ready for that 4:00 AM wake-up on Saturday.

Despite the cabin fever, it's been really nice to catch up on sleep.

Speaking of, I'm off to bed. Stay warm, all of you, and think of me as you enjoy your internet.

Nash Discovered the Birds Outside

7 Inches So Far!

7 Inches So Far!
Originally uploaded by chitarita

You Have to Admit It's Pretty

Checking Out the Accumulation

A Day of Long-Time-No-Do

A Day of Long-Time-No-Do
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Frozen pizza, hot chocolate with mini marshmallows...

School's cancelled for the day, I'm stuck up in Mountain Town, and I'm
experiencing things I haven't for a while. Like free time. And
sleeping in until 8. And a cat trying to suffocate me in my sleep by
sitting on my face. And video games (Twilight Princess and Rock
Band). And, dare I say, a nap later?

I'm bravely battling the Cook genes that make me panic at the thought
of free time.

Snow Day!

Snow Day!
Originally uploaded by chitarita

A Spy

A Spy
Originally uploaded by chitarita


Originally uploaded by chitarita

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan

Sometime tomorrow night, a two-day snow storm is supposed to begin.

Saturday, I have another early speech meet (leaving at 5:30 AM).

Given those two facts, I've decided to move to the condo for the rest of the week.

I was hesitant to do this. There's no TV reception and no internet at the condo. Call me technology-dependent, but I wasn't looking forward to five days without access to the outside world. Aside from school, that is.

Moreover, what if it snows so much they call a snow day? I'd be stranded in the (newly furnished) wilderness for an entire day without my DVR or Hulu or all the comforts of my home!

I was debating this tonight before I started packing, when I spotted a solution: my Wii! My poor, underused Wii! Suddenly, the possibilities abounded - I could play Rock Band and Twilight Princess and Mario Galaxy for hours on end with no guilt because what else could I do? I'm stranded at the condo!

The supplies are in my car (along with 5 books, some craft projects, and a bunch of DVDs). (What?)

Of course, this plan guarantees that there will be no snow day.


P.S. Natasha is freaking out because I'm packing. Little does she know, she's coming with me. Bwah ha ha.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Soup's On

Some good things:

- I put together a loaf of no-knead bread last night and had beef stew simmering in the crock pot while I was at church. Perfect food for the snowstorm outside.

- I bought snow tires yesterday.

- I read a book-and-a-half yesterday.

- I bought a new TV yesterday.
(They're predicting snow Wednesday and Thursday, and I have another speech meet on Saturday, so I wanted to take my old TV up to the condo.)

- My RS counselors showed up at my house unexpectedly Wednesday night with hot cocoa in hand and a birthday card.

- Two of the three bishopric wives and the bishop pulled me aside to see if I was okay. They all said that I looked... different (exhausted?).

- My speech team took first place at the meet this week.

- After the speech meet I gave them an hour at the mall to get dinner. I went to a bookstore.

- Oh, and there was this:

Speech Meet Birthday from Amanda W on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chain Gang

Morning. Early morning. A young, energetic teacher is dreaming of an alarm clock going off. In her dream, she is dismantling the alarm clock piece by piece, and yet it does not stop ringing. Eventually, after 8 minutes of blaring beeping, she figures out that in order to silence the alarm clock, she needs to wake up and turn the actual one off.

Recalling the forecast from the night before, she immediately looks out the window. The weather is not bad at all! It's wet, it's fuzzing, but the itty-bitty flakes aren't even accumulating yet.

Still, she leaves for school 20 minutes early, just in case. No problems as she exits the neighborhood and gets on the freeway. Then, as her car begins to climb the mountain, the snow begins to accumulate.

The traffic on the other side of the road is heavy. On her side, there are not too many cars, and the ones that go by quickly pass her. This is normal - her car is not that great at mountains.

The road turns slushy as the steepness increases; then, impacted. Suddenly, her wheels lose all grip and she slides. She keeps it on the road, but the car refuses to go uphill anymore. She slowly, windingly, slides off the road onto the shoulder of the just as she comes around a corner to see two police cars flashing their lights at a car accident in the median.

Young, Energetic Teacher: Huh.

Wheels: Whirrr. WHIRRRR.

Young, Energetic Teacher: Huh.

She watches three snowplows drive by on the opposite side of the road. There is no one going the direction she's heading.

She opens her car door and looks at the inch of snow on the ground. She pops the trunk and gets out the snow chains. Groping in the murky pre-dawn light, she puts on the chains. She tries to drive back onto the road, and the chains slip off the wheels and onto the axles.

Young Energetic Teacher: Huh.

Snow: HA!

Just then, a bundled figure approaches from the direction of the police cars ahead. He carries a flashlight. Our heroine gets out of the car and tries to untangle the chains to try again. The policeman shines the light at her.

Policeman: You okay?

Young Energetic Teacher: Yeah, my car just slid off the road. She manages to unhook one of the chains and yanks it out.

Policeman: You should try to stay off of this part of the road He indicates the snowy shoulder with his light, this part's better to drive in He aims the light at the road proper where her sliding tracks are still freshly imprinted. She tries to find the other side of the hook by touch alone, since she can't see anything in the dark.

Y.E.T.: Cheerfully, reminding herself that if she gets grumpy, he's less likely to help her Well, I wasn't trying to go on this part of the road Laughs. Alone.

Policeman: Looking around Yup. It's snowing pretty hard.

Y.E.T.: Indeed. She wrenches the chains loose and resets them.

Policeman: You sure those are the right size?

Y.E.T.: I sure hope so! I don't know what I'll do otherwise.

Policeman: Well, you could get towed out. Or you could leave your car here and get a ride with someone. He watches her hook the chains on again, much tighter this time. You know anyone who could tow you?

Y.E.T.: Nope.

Policeman: Huh.

A second policeman walks over. He joins his companion in watching the young, energetic teacher rub her hands together to try to get enough feeling in the fingers to hook up the second chains.

Y.E.T.: Do you know what the weather's like past here? She points in the direction of Mountain Town High School.

Policeman: 'Sposed to be bad. Worse. I'm heading up that way to another accident. I'd go back if I were you.

Y.E.T.: I might, but I'd need to get my car going, first.

Policeman: You might need a tow.

Chains in place, she gets back into her car and tries again. This time the chains stay put and she starts making her way onto the road. She looks at the constant stream of cars heading towards her home, and figures she can't turn around here anyway. She starts to rattle up the mountain.

Y.E.T.: Yelling out her window at the policemen Thanks!

She continues up the mountain as cars passing her slow, noisy car. She doesn't care - she's got chains. She calls her school, principal, and principal's secretary to try to see what the weather's like ahead. No answer. She rattles past Conifer, and the snow stops. The road is merely wet. With no shoulder, she drives on her chains for another 10 miles before reaching a gas station. Chains removed and tossed onto the floor of the passenger seat, she hits the road again, almost going the speed limit.

She reaches the school at 7:30, exactly when class starts. She parks her car and dashes in to the building, calling out a thanks to the secretary who arranged for someone to be there for her first period. The students greet her cheerfully as she runs into the room. She tells them the story, showing off her muddy, greasy, scratched, and bruised hands.

The students tell her that's what she gets for living in town.

After speech practice, she heads out to the nearly-empty parking lot. The roads are wet and it is snowing still. She eyes her car warily.

Y.E.T.: Now. You got me here this morning, and I'm glad. You're going to get me home now, right? She gives her tires a particularly strong LOOK. They do not respond. That's what I thought. Let's do this!

The drive home is better - she only slides once. Many, many cars pass her. She decided to spend her one free day this month shopping for snow tires.



A student comes into second period. She smiles when she sees the teacher and exclaims happily.

Student: You're here!

Y.E.T.: Smiling back I'm here!

Student: I heard you weren't here today. That made me sad. I'm glad you're here!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oh, by the way...

I fixed the settings so all of you can make comments, even anonymously. I didn't realize those were blocked! Sorry about that.

Happy Birthday to Me

I'm 30 today!

And I'm totally not freaking out. I came close a few days ago when I realized that I am now equidistant from 20 as I am to 40. But, like usual, I started feeling like this was the right age for me a few weeks ago.

List time!

Ways I celebrated:

- The Yay, 30! trip this past summer
- Rachel and Ben took me out to dinner tonight, and we're enjoying ice cream cake and HIMYM right now.
- Family all got together this weekend to celebrate (it was Andy's birthday Friday).
*Had Fondue
*Put together all of the furniture at the condo
*Went to the ballet
*Enjoyed each other's fabulous company!

I got:

- A Cuisineart Food Processor! (I've been lusting after Rachel and Miranda's for a while)
- Stamping supplies
- Gift Cards (J.Jill and Amazon)
- A baking cookbook (such pretty pictures!)
- A sweater/shirt
- A check (which will go towards Spring Awakening tickets)
- A lot of very sweet messages from y'all

And the best present I gave myself
(aside from the Turkish rug and the trip):
I worked all day today and totally caught up with my grading!


Major events of the past year:
- Changed jobs (thank goodness!)
- Taught myself a new curriculum (Speech!)
- Called to be RS President
- Performed "Waves" for SLAC peeps, for Pueblo Ingles people, and saw it performed by a different company
- 359 entries on this blog (live-blogging while traveling sure racks them up!)
- Saw Obama and a lot of other famous people live at the Inaugural Concert
- Got snowed in at UNC job fair
- Went disco skating
- Did some more international volunteering
- Rode in a hot air balloon
- Discovered how awesome I am at being naked

Places traveled:

- Salt Lake (4 times)
- Grand Junction (4 times)
- Washington, DC
- New York City
- Madrid, Spain
- Valdelavilla, Spain
- Prague
- Athens, Greece
- Crete
- Rhodes
- Ephesus, Turkey
- Cappadocia, Turkey
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Chicago

Number of books read:
>69 (I didn't list books for about two months - shame on me... probably around )

I promised last year that this one would be better. I certainly beat my old record for blog entries, and I made up for the lack of international travel. My job situation is better (despite the depressing nature of my recent entries), and I'm looking forward to more adventures to come!

So again I say, Yay 30!

30 Cake
(Is ice-cream cake with sprinkles from my awesome sister!)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's a Privilage to Pee

Pioneer Woman has a post today that begins like this:

Mrs. G. loves books. Her house is filled with them. Her car is filled with them. She even carries a couple of them in her purse. While some people fear heights and great white sharks, Mrs. G’s idea of terror involves being stuck at the DMV or Jiffy Lube without a book to read. Rather than sit quietly and enjoy a moment of self-reflection, Mrs. G. will pull out her Chapstick and read the instructions.

I read that today and thought, holy crap - that's me! Seriously, replace "Mrs. G" with my name, and you have an extraordinarily accurate description of me. I have been stuck in places without a book and have meticulously read the labels of all items in my possession and within reach - instructions, ingredients, Spanish and French translations of instructions and ingredients....

In the past, the first quality I would look for in a purse is it's capacity for holding a standard paperback. The dawning of the Age of the Kindle (and it's handy-dandy iPhone app) has opened up many fashion choices to me, yet that phobia remains. Many of you know of my talent for being able to read while showering, let alone walking. But here's a biblio-secret I haven't shared yet: there have been numerous occasions where I have had to go to the bathroom so very, very badly, and yet I'll dash about my house with my legs desperately clenched together, delaying the inevitable a few more seconds to grab my current reading material before heading for the bathroom. For #1, by the way. It's not even like it's a long distance call. I just can't stand the thought of sitting there for 20 seconds without a book in my hand. Yes, keeping a stack of books in each bathroom helps with that thought, but I usually have to have the one I'm currently reading to feel best.

Too personal?

Still, it's nice to know there's others like me out there.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Man's Gotta Do

Dilemma #1

My philosophy of teaching theater has been to
1) Help my students create beauty
2) Teach collaboration
3) Celebrate the arts and
4) Push my students to discover their own strengths and talents

To succeed at coaching speech, I need to
1) Make winning a priority
2) Hand-pick pieces for my students
3) Tell them outright when the pieces they pick are wrong for them
4) Pick the pieces that will win, which are typically not the ones that make good theater, in my book.

For example, one of my students had an excellent version of "Harrison Bergerard" for the meet Saturday. The pieces that won were a) a piece about a girl committing suicide by slicing up her arms, b) a piece about a girl getting an abortion, and c) a piece about the Holocaust.

I spent some time Saturday night when I got home from the meet digging through my files, looking for depressing stuff. What I wanted, sadly, was the screenplay for this:

I can be competitive. I know how to do this, and I know what it'll take. I just have to box up my ideals and tuck them out of sight.

Dilemma #2

My English students need to write more to improve. And they need good feedback on their papers.

I barely have time to do my laundry, and I haven't done dishes in a week. I'm so far behind in grading that I'm considering taking a day off this week to catch up on grading papers. I don't want to assign any more papers, at least not until I catch up, but I'm feeling like a bad English teacher.

Dilemma #3

My speech team didn't do as well at the meet this weekend. 19 awards, 2 Best of Events. I despondently reported this to my friend Madam Senora this morning.

"But that's great!" she exclaimed.

"Well, it's not as good as it should be," I responded.

"What? It's not like they're state champions or something."

I gave her a look.

"They're state champions?"

"For several years now."

"Oh, honey," she said, patting my arm. "I'm so sorry."

Exactly. So, yeah, some of them did fine, but the rest need to get their butts into gear. I talked with Assistant Coach Paula on the way home, and I listened to one of my speechers today talk about her concerns - "Everything's falling apart, including speech. And speech is really, really important to me." She said the kids just want to give up on the team. It's not going to be how it used to be, so why bother.

Which, honestly, is not unexpected. It is also totally unfair. Especially when I hear about a meet LAST YEAR where they only got one BOE.

So, I need to kick their butts a little, remind them of what they can be, and give them some incentive to keep working.

The incentive they need, though, is more meets. So I pulled up the schedule today, sent some emails to coaches, and talked with my team captains about it. They perked up throughout the conversation. It's what the team needs to get through the year, I think.


The theater will suffer. Romeo and Juliet is already hanging on by a thread. My English class will probably suffer (see Dilemma #2).

I think I can do it. I can push myself to keep working, to run on fumes. But I'm afraid I'll burn out. Soon. Moreover, I already feel so out of balance - the last two weeks have been entirely about school, mostly speech. I'm working all of the time, I'm exhausted when I'm not working, and I spend my one day off in meetings at church all day. Which doesn't make me a very good RS President, either.

I want to find balance in my life - to have time to sleep, to be a good teacher in all of my subject areas, to eat healthier and exercise, to socialize and work on that major weakness of mine. I'm an introverted homebody by nature. I've been trying to fix it - trying to be good about meeting new people and being outgoing and such. But this job is eliminating all hope of that.

I want to keep this job. I know it'll get easier after the first year. But I don't know if I can keep doing this.

I feel guilty stopping my grading to write this blog entry. But I needed to process these thoughts a little to deal with them. And now I've written it, so it's back to grading for me.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Clothes and a Chocolate Kitty

The kitty's from one of my chaperons. The clothes are from an Eddie
Bauer outlet I ducked into after dinner last night.

Taping Students In

Taping Students In
Originally uploaded by chitarita