Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010, 2011

Accomplishments of Varying Import and Gravitas

  1. Survived Snowpacolypse '10.
  2. Integrated into a new and crazy elementary school.
  3. Um, planned a wedding.  A phenomenal one, if I do say so myself.
  4. Finished my first year of teaching!
  5. Got married to the love of my life; celebrated with many of those nearest and dearest to us.
  6. Rode horses!
  7. Climbed the Billy Goat Trail!
  8. Had my name thoroughly misunderstood the same way by several completely independent people (get this -- "Tambal").
  9. SAN FRANCISCO.
  10. Sent our first batch of homemade, married couple Christmas cards!
  11. Hugged, a lot.

Resolutions.  Goals, more like.  You know the drill.
  1. Greenhouse.  Duh.  (UPDATE:  Talked to Frank at Janco Greenhouses today!  He is very nice and wants me to send pictures to avoid the estimate fee!  That is the first thing I will do when I set foot back at school!  I am MORE EXCITED THAN I CAN SAY)
  2. Moisturize.  I hear that's kind of a big deal.  Especially in winter.  Justin doesn't understand why I just spent $9 (with a coupon!) on a bottle of moisturizer with SPF 15 -- and it's not even the face-only kind that I probably should have gotten! -- but he'll be fine.
  3. Dude.  (Try to) buy more organic.  Or at least, grass-fed/reasonable conditions type of food.  I always made fun of those hoity-toity types but we just watched Food Inc. and it was pretty ridiculous.  Something simple but profound that they said (at the end, which attempted to be uplifting) was that every time an item is scanned at the grocery store, it's a vote to keep that item on the shelves.  Hm.  Yes.  Yes it is.  I remain blown away by this silly fact.  There was this whole thing about corn being subsidized by the government, and some form of corn is in 2/3 of all items ever, and that's why junk food is so cheap and healthy food is so expensive and it was super dumb.  What a dumb idea.  Also it turns out everyone in the FDA used to work for the very corporations they're supposed to regulate.  Again, crazy dumb.  They are so dumb, they are really dumb, for real.  Sigh.  Anyway!  All that to say, not to be a health freak, but try to buy more organic.  Also, warn Mint that we're about to buy more organic.  Oops.
2011: Bring it.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    CHRISTMAS HAS COME EARLY

    So remember that fateful snow-likely morning where there was supposed to be a greenhouse meeting?  WELL.  Just as we all feared, there was a two-hour delay and definitely no meeting.  The counselor and the principal decided it would be rescheduled.  MEGA SIGH.

    Then.  I got sick and tired of it all and started Googling greenhouse companies in the area.  I found a couple, the most comprehensive-looking one being "Janco Greenhouses."  They are based in the northern parts of PGC.  Oo, say I, this could be useful.  At school the next day, I peer out the cafeteria windows to see any signs or hints.  I just barely make out the label above the door -- "[something blurry] Greenhouses."  !!!  I sneakily checked all around me -- the coast was clear.  The door to this blessed courtyard, perfectly enough, was not shut tight but resting against its latch.  Gently, gently! opening the door; gently, gently! watching it close so it neither slammed nor locked me out; I tiptoed outside.  I crept up close.  Wouldn't you know it.  Janco Greenhouses.  Triumph! I recognized it!  This is all so positive!  I debated what to do for the next 36 hours.  Take matters into my own hands, contact the company?  Would that be betraying this well-meaning but molasses-slow "committee" I supposedly had?  Would counselor or principal see this as going behind their backs?  Could I pass it off as a productive, efficient step that got us that much closer?  I thought.  I wrote.  I asked Justin.  I asked Andy.  And when I had gathered up confidence and the right moment, I asked the guidance counselor.

    SHE FLIPPED OUT WITH JOY.  "Oh I am so impressed!  Wow!  Look at that!  That is so wonderful!  Go ahead, tell them our situation, tell them we have these orthopedic students and this autism program, maybe they have a community service project!  Oh I am so excited!  We'll get this up and running for the spring!..."  I have her blessing!  I cannot believe my luck!  Now things can happen.  Their site's contact form has been filled out and submitted.  I called, but didn't leave a message, at 4 pm on Christmas Eve Eve.  They exist!  And they made our greenhouse!  And certainly they can give us glass and installation at a greatly reduced rate and we will put that reduced rate up on Donors Choose and THEN everyone will donate like a dollar AND WE WILL HAVE A GREENHOUSE AGAIN.  One fine day.

    But re: my paranoia -- spotlight effect, really.  I just want to do this really cool, big thing!  And for some reason I'm always ready for people to be like REALLY MAD at me.  In retrospect, it's awfully silly that I was that nervous to ask about this step.  Here is another metaphor for life.  Calm down, self.  Do your thing.  Your efficient, productive, eco-friendly thing, and let go of your worry for others' supposedly volatile reactions.  Ain't got no time for no haters.

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Three rhetorical questions!

    You know what I took in to my own hands, again?  Shortly after that last post, I waltzed up to the guidance counselor and said, "Greenhouse meeting!  Friday morning!"  And she dutifully emailed the principal to get her approval and eventually that all happened and then she sent out an email to our trusty team of like twelve teachers (neglecting to mention the location of this meeting, which in our enormous building is actually somewhat of a concern, but you know what, A HIDDEN MEETING IS BETTER THAN NO MEETING), and after all that, it is more than likely we'll open late tomorrow.  For roughly an inch of snow.  I hope I'm wrong!  The one day, the ONE day that sorry greenhouse stood a chance at its journey toward repair, might be taken away due to Maryland's inability to understand snow.  Cross your fingers, everyone, for A REGULAR DAY OF SCHOOL TOMORROW.  

    You know what I love?  When the seatbelt catches you when the car stops or turns suddenly or at a great deceleration.  Basically, when the car thinks an accident is afoot, even when you know it's clearly not.  That precaution!  That comforting hug restraining you!  It's so... safe!  Soothing!  Helpful!  By the same token, somehow I always innately understood that if the seatbelt isn't coming when you pull it to first put it on, it means you're pulling too hard, and the car thinks you're in an accident.  Go easy!, I have gently chided many a carmate.

    You know what I never understood?  The frequent, regularly spaced doors in the walls next to highways.  Now, I think I understand the walls next to highways.  They keep the deer out?  But the doors!  There is never anyone maintaining these slim margins.  Who goes through there?  When?  And why exactly?  Speaking of which, having moved to Lanham, MD, we have seen people walking the highway.  Yes, walking the highway.  We call them, appropriately, "highway walkers."  What are they doing?  Where are they going?  Where are they coming from?  We will never know, but we certainly ask.  It's not often, like daily; it's just happened more than a few times.  Are the doors in the highway walls for highway walkers?

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Like House, I have created a position which I fit perfectly

    Now I just need the public school system to fund it.

    You guys, is this me or is this me: Elementary Special Projects Manager.  Picture it!  I'll oversee greenhouse repairs, be sponsor of bus patrol, manage the school store.  Right now, for those of you keeping track at home, only one of those things is happening.  The one I'm in charge of.  Greenhouse repair seems to have mysteriously fallen to our counselor, no further comment on my opinion about any aspect of that.

    I could literally sit here and spend my days thinking of Special Projects I would Manage as Elementary Special Projects Manager.  SIGH.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Tell them I've skipped town, looking for flash mobs

    So I had mostly written this whole big rant about how we're absurdly cautious to offend (so much so, that it offends me) in our society but then I got distracted and went on to my facebook tab and Mama Nicol had posted this and now tears won't stop streaming down my face and I can't possibly write about dumb things after watching it on repeat.  I basically just died.

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    I am reclaiming Christmas.

    You guys.  As completely expected, I am mucho into Christmas.  Wedding crafting preemptively inspired all sorts of festive joy around this most darling of holidays.  I went to Michael's about three weeks ago and came back with $50 of specialty papers, stamps, and punches.  I am so happy!  Last night was officially Round 1, complete with a Christmas station on Pandora, which continues to play behind this very post.  You guys.  They're so great.  Each one is different.  Also as completely expected, the first two are pretty lame, then I found my groove.  Oops.  A Yankee Candle kept me company.  As I said, joy!

    Also, my pants are all in a tizzy over presents.  Due to a powerful suggestion from my better half, I'm (we're!) getting everyone close to me (us) a smallish present.  This completely flies in the face of my family's heretofore unquestioned "Secret Santa" tradition.  At once providing mystery and frugality, Secret Santa was fantastic before I realized otherwise.  Drawing the names at Thanksgiving had always been super fun, once I was old enough to be included.  Over the years, however, it has devolved into an email chain featuring everyone in the family stating a wishlist of three extremely specific things.  Earrings, various books, knee-high socks; pens, more various books, an alma mater sweatshirt.  No offense!, potentially reading family; I'm not blaming anyone.  We all just got caught in this amazingly dry, uncreative rut.  Certainly everyone wanted the things he asked for, and certainly we are all Very Busy People who lack the time (and energy?) to searching for that inspired present, but in reality, this Secret Santa game was little more than seeing who ended up funding the item you were about to buy for yourself anyway.  Look, it had taken the excitement out of the whole thing!  Perfectly enough, the one year that really stands out to me was the year that my cousin's wife bucked the trend and bought me something that was not only not on my wishlist, but I never would have considered altogether -- a simple travel mug and gift card to Starbucks!  But more importantly, a travel mug!  With a lid!  It changed my life!  I cannot imagine college without it; it was with me everywhere, every day,* from my daily 7:30 am job at the preschool to running subjects to studying at the Reg.  Or, more likely, Harper

    Now.  I am in no way advocating Christmas as a commercial endeavor where the point is that we all spend lots of money on everyone.  I am, however, advocating Christmas as a time to step back, be joyful and excited, and give in such a way that reflects joy and excitement.  And how much joy and excitement is there in creativity and surprise!  So much!  So, so much!  There's an unfortunate pressure attached to gift-giving, involving the $ spent, the practicality versus the superfluity of the gift, and the relationship between giver and receiver and trying to find a gift that describes that relationship to the proverbial t.  If we let go of, say, three of those pressures, look how unabashedly we'd give!  Travel mugs for everyone! 

    True to form, we didn't register for our wedding, and we got all kinds of fantastic things we didn't even know we wanted.  Vases!  A cheese serving set!  A red Japanese dinner plate set, complete with teapot!  Of course, we got things we didn't especially want, but the point is that that is OKAY!  We'll find something else to do with them and all will be well!  No post on gifting would be complete without, arguably, my favorite (material) present of all time, and the least possible to ask for.  It was a tablecloth, for my twelfth birthday, by my very crafty neighbor, a delightful and inspirational lady.  All she did was take an enormous piece of white cloth and write "Happy Birthday Pam" and twelve candles, balloons, and swirls all over it in rainbow fabric paint pens.  The edges aren't even finished, but I don't care!  I understand that this present probably cost $4 to make, but I don't care!  I have written her five or six thank-you notes over the years, reminding her how much I love it and that I put it out every year.  Look!  Simple, delicious gifts!  Creative, out-on-a-limb, thinking-of-you!  Little makes me happier.  To give or receive.

    All that to say.  I am reclaiming Christmas.  Presents.  Handmade cards.  An itty bitty something to say, you are wonderful.

    *Until that fateful day that I left it after a big psych department meeting in G134, remembered later that day and thought, Oh, I am there all the time, I pretty much live there, surely my travel mug with its lid will be sitting on that counter waiting for me right where I left it I AM SO SORRY MARY :'(

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Five Easy Pieces

    Price and Quality

    (or, Surprising Things That You Legitimately Thought You Could Buy on the Cheap but You Should Really Invest in Higher Quality Of)
    1. Dish soap and sponges
    2. Undershirts
    3. Tights
    Music and Choice

    Have you ever noticed that songs sound so much better on the radio than when you specifically play them on a CD (those of us who still bother with CDs)?  I love MGMT's Kids; it takes me back to October 2008, and all the good and bad that entails.  I played that song, track 4 on CD #3 in our car's rotation of six, over and over.  I love the music and that line about a family of trees wanting to be haunted.  Then, as lots of people do with lots of songs, I forgot about it.  I got hooked on Pandora (case in point, right now).  An edgy local morning radio show became my new commute soundtrack.  I got all wrapped up in the Top 40 again, and just when it was out of my thoughts completely, Kids started popping up on whatever radio station is preset 2 in the car.  I was overjoyed!  It was a completely different experience on the radio.  Does the better-ness have to do with the knowledge that many, many other people are listening to it with you from that same source at that same moment?  Is it the bond you feel with the radio station for agreeing that it's a great song?  Is it the surprise factor, that you didn't choose it, but here it is, something you love, for you?  The combination of all of these makes it that much sadder when you turn on the station only in time to catch the last few notes -- crap, I love that song! -- and, inspired and reminded, find track 4 from CD 3, and it's just so ... weak.  You chose it.  You put it on.  You're the only one listening.  What's the fun in that!

    Rashay and Bus Patrol

    There is a child, who, by virtue of Bus Patrol, I'm trying to exit from special education.  He is so much more "with it" than most special ed kids.  I can say that because I'm a special ed teacher.  He's capable, mature, polite, and, for the most part, full of effort.  When I got to my new school in January of last year, I was told I wouldn't have to worry much about him, he'd be leaving special ed soon anyway.  Ok!  Cue his annual review in March.  Imagine my surprise to find all sorts of testing in the Basic category!  (Basic, being the lowest of three categories: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.  Stay tuned for another post on how ludicrous it is that "Proficient" has been bent to mean "On Grade Level," and how further ludicrous that "On Grade Level" spans scores from 50% to 70%.  Where I come from, 50% means you failed by a mile, not you're on grade level, in other words average, which is now apparently called Proficient.  For our purposes today, pretend that "Proficient" is amazing.)  So, I tested Rashay, all the time, for my literacy class.  Also bear in mind that testing is more than half the battle, or so they would have you think.  He read for me, he comprehended for me, he wrote for me.  I cracked down in class when I caught him not paying attention.  I gave him heart-to-hearts about doing well.  But you know what I really think finally pushed him over the edge -- being chosen for Bus Patrol.  I wish it had been my idea; it was his homeroom/reading/social studies teacher with whom I work closely.  When I asked teachers for their suggestions, staying a little bit out of the selection myself, not taking my own advice to use it for kids who needed a push, "Yeah, Rashay, Rashay's a good kid.  Pick him."  OH YEAH.  Having delivered the YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN papers in the 5th and 6th grade lunch period, he waved me back to incredibly sincerely whisper, "Thank you."  There is no Special Ed Bus Patrol; I take no prisoners.  It is made crystal clear to all 15 of them, all the time, that their spot on this most prestigious of clubs depends 100% on academics and behavior.  Both, obviously, have to be stellar, all the time.  Bus Patrol (and, therefore, I) is (am) one of the last few institutions that can absolutely demand high performance.  A girl handed me her belt in an astoundingly mature move to resign, having earned a D on a few math tests and therefore on her report card.  I just kicked off a tiny Chinese girl for not turning in three quarters of an enormous social studies project.  I'm not kidding around, and they know it.  Rashay's October standardized tests: Proficient.

    Serious and Adorable*

    I think that's the best way to characterize the combination of things I totally love.  Like, bus drivers waving at each other when they pass.  My by-the-book, no-nonsense principal wearing a huge Cat-in-the-Hat getup for Dr. Suess's birthday.  I have two favorite facts, and they both involve this tension: One is that you can sing The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to the tune of Gilligan's Island, and the other is that there was a Pope Hilarious.  My newest discovery under this heading is that Eminem keeps a guest bedroom specifically for when 50 Cent comes over.  I cannot describe, you guys.  I love this.

    *Justin and Pam

    *See also: http://www.strindbergandhelium.com/

      Friday, November 5, 2010

      This is a Thank You

      To my Alert Friends! 

      My effusive excitement for license plates has apparently encouraged various friends to notify me of the awesome tags they see driving around.  I love it.  I love that this is my reputation.  Pam?  Yeah, she's the one that loves license plates.  I text her when I see a cool one.

      Alert Passenger C-b has texted me after sightings of LV5TRNG, GR8 AGE, and MEOWWW. 

      Alert Driver K texted me about the time that she saw an orange car, JKOLTRN.  JKOLTRN!!!!!!!!!!  This is too amazing.

      And incidentally, way better than the time that I actually discovered a website that listed pretty much every vanity plate ever requested.  It was too much, all at once -- it was like growing up and realizing there was no one to stop you from eating an entire pan of brownies and fudge for dinner.  You think it's going to be amazing, but it turns out the joy of the thing is in its scarcity.  Its organic-ness, seeing it in real time and in real life, not a manufactured list of excessive sugar.  Is it me, or is seeing awesome license plates in the real world a really good metaphor for life?

      Also, HNY B, and probably la creme de la creme, a smart car (parked across the street from the dinner cruise boat), ITY BITY.

      I die!  Of JOY

      !!!!!!!!!!!!

      Sunday, October 31, 2010

      Four Group-Discount Adventures

      Friends!  There have been no fewer than FOUR Groupon or Groupon-spinoff events in the last two weeks, and they have all featured their own brand of novelty!  Here they are, in order of appearance:
      1. Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum!  So, trust me, I knew even before I bought them, before they ever came up on Specialicious, that Justin would have less than zero interest.  But I, I!  I love this kind of thing!  My theater days are not so far behind me that I have forgotten the magic of the real-but-fake arts.  Although I know very few celebrities, I have always been dying to go.  And it was indeed impressive, starting with Beyonce's guided tour video of how they made her figure.  I can, however, admit that several aspects of it were slightly questionable!  It's super short, as all the reviews will tell you.  And it ends with Joan Rivers, which is pretty disappointing in and of itself.  But apparently, no matter the time period, all the presidents were SUPER TALL.  The Kennedys were represented as being like 5'11!  Each!  Justin and I questioned historical height. 10/16.
        look alikes!
         
      2. "Mr. and Mrs." (aka Post-Wedding Engagement) Photo Shoot!  Here is a shoot that the Races can really get behind!  Our trooper Justin posed, kissed, and hugged like a champ for an hour and change at our new favorite gardens.  My ampersand, apples, pumpkins and chalkboards were all put to good use, and despite his doubts and grumbling, Justin ended up really enjoying it too.  I, of course, had the best time.  We got a few congratulations, which we happily accepted.  Pictures hopefully to come soon!  Watch for the one Justin staged himself, which includes me sitting in a tree and him attempting to hug both me and a large branch.  Christmas card or Awkward Family Photos, I can't decide.  Both?? 10/23.
      3. Maryland Small Arms Firing Range!  So, trust me, I knew even before I bought them, before they ever came up on LivingSocial, that I would have less than zero interest.  But Justin, Justin!  Justin had been longing to shoot the firearm for many moons now.  Itching for the real deal instead of plastic, zombies, and Dave and Buster's, he'd been mentioning going to a shooting range ever since a friend showed us his collection of bullets and firearms several months ago.  It was going to be their bonding thing; they were going to become Real Dude Friends over guns and the many manly things that went along with that.  I tried to bow out of it before it was even scheduled.  I would tell both my husband and this couple that I definitely did not want any part of this, I would watch from the outside, I didn't want to shoot any guns.  When you make plans to go out with another couple, however, it's generally accepted that both parties of the couple attend.  So I went.  And I almost died.  Not of a bullet, but of such intense dislike of every aspect of the place.  Once in the shooting hallway, filled with smoke, flying casings, and other shooters, I jolted at every bang I heard.  Naturally, there were a lot of bangs.  Loud bangs.  Friends, I jump a mile high when a balloon pops, I contort into a hunched, nearly paralyzed, severe cringe at the sound of the oxygen machine blowing up balloons in case the filler overfills and pops the balloon.  Can you picture me at a shooting range -- at a small, indoor shooting range!  My convulsions alerted me that it might not be the safest idea for me to shoot at all, and I signaled to these kind and well-meaning and gun-comfortable people, through all our headphones, that I was leaving.  I never even touched the gun.  I was relieved and not entirely surprised to see Justin already in the parking lot, trying to stop trembling.  Shooting is not for the Races. 10/24.
      4. Spirit of Washington Dinner Cruise!  This came up on Groupon itself, and I fell over with joy.  Half price tickets for a three-hour tour of the Potomac and a fancy schmancy dinner buffet!  Justin says, of his initial reaction to the Groupon, "Yeah, I was game, but I never thought we'd actually do it."  That's where I came in.  I insisted we do it.  A dinner cruise!  It sat and sat, during our super boring summer where we did nothing, and then the school year started, and we didn't do anything then either.  So I scheduled it for this past Friday, and it was amazing.  We forwent fancy clothes, because it was pretty cold, and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  Turns out we were getting ourselves into something with the classy food of a wedding, and the entertainment of a middle school dance.  Slash talent show.  There was a

        hilarious deep-voiced DJ and three ridiculous waiters who dressed up in glitter vests, sang and danced their hearts out.  They weren't very good at it, but they were very enthusiastic about whatever they were doing, but the overall point is that my joy at the entire situation drowned out any distaste for their objectively sub-awesome performances.  The dance floor called my name -- the cha cha slide?  The electric...slide?  Some new slide called the Cupid?  Guys.  I can't help this kind of thing.  I have to do it.  I love it so.  Also, turns out it's perfectly okay not to dress up.  It's perfectly okay to wear anything you like.  From our LBD bachelorette party, to our classy old couples, to our just-engaged lovers to our mid-dating hooch-it-up ladies and their she-made-me-wear-this dudes.  The entire time, amidst it all, we couldn't believe what was happening.  We were on a dinner cruise!  We were getting serenaded!  We went out on the deck several times for views of the DMV skyline and the stars!  We were next to a group of four people who didn't look very happy about anything that was going on.  But one of them happily took our picture!  Thank you, friendly angry man! 10/29.

      Friday, October 22, 2010

      OH WAIT HOW COULD I FORGET

      Also: FELIZES

      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      On the Beltway!  Were we not alternating between 70 and 10 mph I would have rolled down my window and shouted with unbelievable joy.

      Numbered List: FALL EDITION

      I have a post in my heart about how ridiculous education is.  I can't write it.  Tonight, at least.  Or pretty much in this blog in general.

      Instead, I will leave you with Happy Fall Thoughts:

      1. Brookside Gardens!  We are so excited to explore a new garden and have our backwards engagement session brought to us by Groupon!  I have mini pumpkins and apples.  And an ampersand.  Justin is being a good sport.
      2. We have been working on a still life in painting.  Our midterm.  It's pumpkins (two huge orange, one super light green, two a weird super light orangey-green), and a few lemons.  Apparently my gentle painting teacher has no say over which still lifes are left set up in the classroom, so anything we paint is on the condition it's still there in the future.  Furthermore, the fruit/vegetables on display will be rotting kind of soon.  In describing this condition, and in encouraging us to try to finish during Thursday's session, Tim instructed us to "paint like it's your last day."  He meant, of course, like it's your last day with the still life in front of you.  But I took the opportunity, as I frequently do, to take his words out of context and apply them to life.  Paint like it's your last day.  "Tim, you're so inspiring!"  He chuckled.
      3. How did baseball evolve?  I think I can see the progress of most famous sports.  Get a ball into a certain area -- don't hit people.  Too hard.  But baseball!  Starts out innocently enough: hit a ball with a stick.  Bases really throw me for a loop.  Hit a ball with a stick, then run in a circle.  Strategically.  Baseball might very well be the most complicated sport.
      4. Fall always makes me wish I could run.  :(
      5. Pumpkin Spice Latte coming up, I can feel it!!
      6. Marriages are everywhere.  This is so awesomely exciting and renewing my faith in humanity.
      7. Magazines are also everywhere.  Somehow I got myself into some sort of subscription/free trial mess and I currently have one Whole Living and two Real Simples waiting for me.  (Dude.  Real Simples are NOT, in fact, real simple.  They are like 400 pages a piece.  Not even kidding.  What is this, InStyle?)  This is on the heels of my last Whole Living and The Nest.  I rarely use anything from them, but recently I decided I am in love with young-ish-housewife type magazines.  They're so...seasonal!
      8. Fall candles: Coming soon to a living room near you.  Mmmm.
      9. Also: B8HOVN.  I pretty much died.  We were crossing a street as the composer was turning towards us onto our road; my jaw dropped, I grabbed Husband's arm and pointed wildly.  I hope that gentle musical family understood.  I was so happy.

      Sunday, October 10, 2010

      Recent Realizations

      1. Has anyone else ever noticed that unreasonably often, the "WRONG WAY" sign is in fact in the middle of the meridian that divides the halves of traffic?  This both gives me a good scare while driving and is ineffective for those who actually are going the wrong way.
      2. Earlier this past week my throat hurt as part of my annual Three Days of Mild Sickness, and especially after school (where I was already talking only when necessary), I said almost nothing once home.  I wisely (if sadly) didn't sing along to the radio, either.  But get this - in not singing one of my favorite songs, I finally heard the actual words to a line I was never really sure about but sang my own version to anyway.  I take this, as I take lots of things, as a pretty good metaphor for life.

      Monday, October 4, 2010

      Why must my ambitions be increasingly epic

      So I'm getting my dual certificates in special education and general education in elementary school, and hopefully the now-defunct PGCTF (moment of silence!) can still tack on my English cert, rendering me triple certified with several (I count four?) permutations of how that can work out in my future.  My painting class is swimming along beautifully and getting tucked away to keep in my back pocket, or up my sleeve, or in some other clandestine section of clothing.  I'm a jack of all trades at dismissal, especially just now, having added sponsor of Bus Patrol, which basically makes me the most coveted authority figure among the fifth and sixth graders.  Everyone wants to be on Bus Patrol, but only my elite 17 get the honor.  I take the minutes for 20 hours' worth of meetings per month totally outside of special ed duties.  Oh yeah, and in the present, my school NEEDS to make AYP this year.  Or else we will all die.  How did all this happen?, I ask myself daily.  Like anything, a combination of volunteering and getting requested.  Funny how volunteering leads to more requests.  It's like leaving five minutes earlier in the morning -- you don't get there five minutes earlier; it's a sliding scale and you arrive even earlier than five minutes because the traffic was already lighter in those earlier five minutes, saving more time.  The sum is greater than the whole of its parts.

      But now I must have decided that the world is not enough.  The world apparently needs a functional greenhouse. 

      My school has a greenhouse.  Yes, a greenhouse!  Imagine my joy at my interview, my bewildered peering on that December day, wondering if what I thought I saw was really true.  Imagine my dismay at passing it by every day all throughout last year, filled with janitorial supplies, alone, void of life.  Imagine my outrage at fully realizing its six or so broken glass ceiling panels.  Imagine my hope at hearing that once upon a time, up until recently! it was used regularly!  The itty bitty children grew plants from seed and cherished them and gave them as presents and even sold them!  The lessons that were learned, the rarest of opportunities, especially in this ridiculous age of overwhelming curricula!  (I roundaboutly realized today that if they only gave us half the curriculum to cover in a given year, just by enrichment and depth and creativity I'm quite convinced we would approach learning the whole of it; mastery is so directly affected by the pressure to fly through it all that it just doesn't happen.)  The wholesome, real ties to nature and earth!

      Indeed, I sadly gazed at it every day from January 19th onward last school year, guilty that I wasn't currently remedying the situation.  I vowed to make that my pet project this year.  And here we are.

      I am ALMOST certain that I have my hardcore principal's blessing to form a committee under the guidance of the guidance counselor.  But make no mistake, yours truly is spearheading!  And she has no idea what she is getting herself into. 

      Current Ideas:
      1. Call glass/greenhouse company for (free) estimate.
      2. Call glass/greenhouse company(ies) for greatly discounted panes and installation, further discounted for this Great Cause For The Disabled And Non-disabled Environmental Children (do I hear a Groupon!).
      3. Call local businesses for contributions to this Great Cause For The Disabled And Non-disabled Environmental Children.
      4. Research "government grants."
      5. Submit write-up and get accepted on donorschoose.org and advertise flagrantly and vehemently for donations.
      If there is something I'm missing, please let me know!  If any ideas come to you in dreams, let me know those too.  Speaking of dreams, I had my second dream last night that my children underwent some magical surgery and could walk ("Calvin and Ryan, you guys look great!").  That hazy coming-to is great, until you realize it was just a dream and they are and always will be in motorized wheelchairs, both of them.

      Sunday, September 26, 2010

      Out Petting Horses


      So, seeing how our marriage lacked both a honeymoon and a wedding present from me, around August or so I decided to surprise Justin with a trip.  A trip to a bed and breakfast (as I stumblingly tried to explain to the owners, we seem young but we tend to enjoy things that retired people enjoy), it turned out, at the northern most end of the Chesapeake Bay.  It was a roundabout find, sprouted from the seedling of "farm stays," the hot new staycation taking the nation by storm I read about in Redbook (Cosmo for college graduates!).  Apparently Maryland has very few farms available for stay, so I went with Fairwinds Farm, a charming horse farm with all the fixins, including horrendous web design.  Justin had been slightly hesitant, vaguely understanding that I may have "had something planned" that he was less than comfortable not knowing about.  I did all my errands and packed us all up on my furlough day, at the last minute deciding on fruit, hot fudge, and a bottle of sparkling cider in a well-meaning but humorous attempt to make at least part of it a romantic wedding present.  Oops, oh well. 

      who knew that sparking cider needed a bottle opener?  not me!

      Anyway!  The house overflowed with rustic country charm, and the town's Main Street held equally charming shops and ice cream places.  The property itself was overflowing with animals, most notably, of course, the horse.  I do this thing where I'm really timid and actually pretty afraid of animals until I see someone else pet them, preferably the one who owns them.  I figure I'll trust the animal after someone I trust trusts it.  It's so... transitive!  After I bring myself to approach it, and it doesn't flip out, I'm usually pretty okay.

      hello and thank you for not biting me!
      We even went on a trail ride!  Not only did I trust my horse (Pete), but I had the best time riding it.  Except when he trotted me into branches.  Justin brought up the rear a good twelve yards behind or so at all times on his lazy, uncooperative horse (Major).  Turns out he prefers his feet on the ground.  He likes petting them better.
      hello and i will never ride you again!
      There was also Finn, a charmer who fell in and out of love with us.  Having her around thoroughly renewed our pining for an awesome, happy dog.  Especially one who follows produce stand signage.

      The place was owned by this couple, Ted, 55 and JoAnn, 53, who each have more energy and ambition than all the Maryland Teacher of the Year contestants combined.  These people run the B&B, host tea parties and birthday parties, board horses and dogs, manage horse shows and give lessons, rent out for weddings, movies (their horses have been in, oh, The Color Purple), and trail rides.  She's written four children's chapter books about girls and horses, oh, and she has an agent to land her roles as extras in movies such as The Sixth Sense and Rocky V.  They both happen to teach at the local community college, and they travel during their "slow months."  They've won bunches of "Best Farm," "Most Beautiful Person," and other town and state awards for excellence in being people.  "They don't let the grass grow under their feet," said our stand-in host, a nice gentleman who's been working for them for six years, who was there to make sure various birthday parties and guests found everything okay while each of the actual hosts was at a different wedding.  And upon hearing all of that, I was floored with awe.  I continue to be floored with awe, but my flooring has taken on different colors in the time I've had to process all this.  I started out with lots of envy, but it also makes me exhausted just listing all those responsibilities.  Then I start getting mad at my preemptive exhaustion.  It's inspiring, of course, but it would be more inspiring with a little more modesty.  "They're living the life they love," our very nice man added.  But in the end, I just remember that there would be pretty much no more time for this:

      i would miss this

      And that's pretty much where it's at.

      Sunday, September 12, 2010

      Another graph, more musings, the usual

      As the football season dawns upon us, I imagine I shall write while half-paying attention.  At least while sharing the same couch.  He'll have the remote and some pop, I'll have a candle and my snuggie, and all shall be well.

      Here are the things I have been thinking:
      1. I JUST FOUND OUT THAT DEXTER AND DEB ARE MARRIED IN REAL LIFE!  I spent a while flipping out last night.  How crazy is that!  I am so happy.  Someday I will be as skinny as Deb.
      2. Why I am so sad that the average lady I cannot replicate anything that was done during even a simple haircut and blowdry.  When I leave, I look so awesome.  The next day, I look just like I always do, but with shorter hair.  Sigh.
      3. Speaking of haircuts, I rarely get mine cut.  I did the Hair Cuttery thing for a while, and, let's face it, they're a little ridiculous and no self-respecting adult lady does that.  I'm still far too intimidated even to purchase a Groupon to a fancy salon, so I'm in the middle of the two with a fun but reasonable chain called Bubbles.  But re-enter my inclination towards not spending money: So far I've been there twice.  Six months apart.  Yup, I know my ends were probably ridiculous.  I could have told you my hair was not fun or flouncy or voluminous.  But you know what, it does the trick.  And semiannually I muster up the courage and adulthood to go in and get my hair cut by a professional.  And I love having my hair washed and everything else and overall it's a great experience except when they make me feel like crap for not going earlier.  "How long did you say it's been?  Let's definitely not wait 'a few months' next time.  Have you seen your ends?!"  This makes me :( .  Hairdressers aren't the only ones.  Dentists (who goes to the dentist during college, SERIOUSLY) and priests (confession is, you know, confession) tend to make you feel horrendously guilty for not doing their difficult thing more often or sooner.  It's DIFFICULT, yo.
      4. Sighted: I BUILD.  What do you build!, I wanted to shout out my window.  Also, cause for doubled over, jaw dropped, husband-arm-clutching and pointing ecstatically: ISL&DS.  Now, the D is obviously unnecessary but maybe someone else out there already had ISL&S and this tropics afficionado wanted to express his love in the second most awesome way.  I am so happy about that ampersand.
      5. Speaking of ampersands, I bought an ampersand on Etsy.  This October photo shoot gets more and more adorable, and this husband gets more and more exasperated.  Oops.
      6. This is something I've vaguely always known but recently have not only been reminded but inspired to represent statistically.  Here is a graph for you to demonstrate my mood (x) vs. desire to be hugged (y), where 100 represents an average person's greatest desire to be hugged.

      Monday, September 6, 2010

      The Six-Month Itch

      What is it about these moderate seasons of transition that inspire cleaning and organization?  The overhaul at the start of spring is more famous than its younger cousin who usually just gets referred to as "new school supplies."  Also, if spring signals new life, fall correspondingly signals the beginning of death.  But in terms of detox and starting anew, I dare say it goes further than books and rulers; maybe it's the American system, but the start of a new school year is so hopeful.  In theory, kids start the year with a clean slate; in theory, teachers start the year with ambitious organizational plans.  Everyone's excited, eager, well-rested, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

      Borrowing from this energy, I up and mopped our floors last weekend and got four bags of clothes ready for charity this past weekend (thanks to a mailing for the most convenient charity ever).  I feel revitalized, not to mention my new habits of yoga and, um, art class.  What is it, that coming out of these severe weather seasons, we feel so... ready?  Or at least, ready to get ready?  Wouldn't you imagine that it should be the opposite, that we should really gear ourselves up and freshen all these aspects in preparation for the most extremes of cold and hot, that just as we are about to spend time indoors with central air conditioning and heat, then we should declutter and reorganize?  Maybe it has less to do with the seasons in particular and is just a function of every six months.  Subtract the school year, and it could simply be a semiannual urge to clean up and reinvent?  We do (or, are supposed to) go to the dentist every six months, and no matter the pain, it is always a triumphant moment to celebrate one's responsibility and mature attention to hygiene. 

      I can't decide which it is, and I certainly don't know why this hits us all, but I am very glad for its far-reaching effects.  And I can't help but notice the apt phrase, turning over a new leaf, can easily belong to either season.

      Saturday, September 4, 2010

      Wrapping up eating in

      Friends, let me share with you the much-anticipated results of our restaurant-less August.  At the end of the day (month), we learned more about ourselves and about each other than we did about new recipes.  I am going to be more forgiving of changed minds slash less disappointed, more cheerleader; he is going to be more steadfast in seeing through the things he says.  We are going to meet each other halfway.  Once we straightened out our emotional growth, we crunched the numbers: adding up our respective Food and Dining categories from Mint over the past six months proved that indeed, August featured the lowest total.  Data, however, rarely stops at confirming your hypothesis.  You frequently get some bonus findings that you didn't necessarily set out to demonstrate.  For example, this is our ACTUAL graph of combined totals:

      we are extremely silly

      Oh my goodness gracious.  Our predictability is astounding and ridiculous.  This graph accurately represents the bipolar swings of eating out four times a week (hey, weekends necessitate a LOT of meals; Money doesn't MATTER, it's there to SPEND; Who cares if you order a $3 Coke, it raises your enjoyment WAY MORE; Go ahead Pam, you know you want that sundae), then sheepishly facing Mint and its EXCEEDED BUDGET wrath (uh, let's, uh, cut back a little; Hey look at that, we're doing a great job of finishing groceries and leftovers; Water, please; Don't you have chocolate covered raisins at home?), then feeling a) triumphant at our willpower to spend less than the previous month and b) entitled to lots of restaurants as a reward.  As you can see, it is a cycle that goes back AT LEAST the last six months.  We are extremely silly.

      Monday, August 30, 2010

      Back to my blogging roots

      1. Every time I hang something on the wall, I am utterly convinced the mechanism used to hold it will fail and it will come crashing down.  I even stand and watch it, wide-eyed and waiting, for a minute or two before accepting its stability.  Not a "let me make sure this is straight" moment, more like "I know that wire is going to give out any second" feeling.  Like a child for whom something not visible is not existent, I just don't believe that the wire caught on to the nail.  I know, I can't help it.
      2. Pretty sure I'm going to watch the opening to the Emmys every morning for the rest of my days.
      3. Tell me, wouldn't you be sad if you were House, and you 'rewrote the understanding of the antihero,' and you were nominated BUT passed over for the nod all your years, and you didn't even get to present a different award?  Maybe it's better not to present what you didn't win.  But I would be so sad if I were House.
      4. Of course I would go and get obsessed with a hilarious blog that decided to update once every Haley's Comet.  In the meantime, awful cakes and DIY meets WTF (and, you know, season 3 of Dexter) have been holding me over.
      5. Parked in our neighborhood for TWO DAYS was the one, the only, Virginia HGWARTS.  I almost a) died and b) made Justin go get the camera.  Isn't it crazy how an objectively gross pair of nouns (fine, noun acting as an adjective and noun) now conjures up the most supreme, most magnificent magic and majesty worldwide?  Also cruising up BW Parkway was LUVUTOO.  Siiiiiiiiiiigh!  LUV U THREE!!!!
      6. Fall is going to bring SO MANY THINGS: 
        1. teacher class
        2. painting class (?!)
        3. MODERN FAMILY &c.
        4. demise of dancing?  Time-wise, that would be, in fact, the wisest; Justin says I am less fun when I don't (not a big surprise).  Hm, is it finally time to revise?

      Sunday, August 22, 2010

      BILLY GOAT TRAIL: CONQUERED

      I maintain that my eyes make this picture EVEN MORE awesome
      GUYS: I DID NOT DIE.  You can probably fathom the triumph I am feeling, but I cannot.  If you're one of those people who runs marathons or other great feats of physical (and/or mental) demand, you understand.  If you're not, well, then you probably still understand.  I am feeling REALLY, REALLY victorious.  Look at this thing!  As explained by my friend and yours, Wikipedia:

      The Billy Goat Trail (also written as Billygoat Trail) is a 4.7-mile (7.6 km) hiking trail that follows a path between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park near Great Falls in Montgomery County, Maryland. The trail has three sections: Section A, the northernmost, is 1.7 miles (2.7 km); Section B is 1.4 miles (2.3 km); and Section C, the southernmost, is 1.6 miles (2.6 km).

      Section A of the trail, by far the most popular, is on Bear Island and traverses rough and rocky terrain, including a steep climb along a cliff face along the Potomac River's Mather Gorge. At another point MOST POINTS in the trail, hikers are required to scramble over and around huge boulders. [edit mine]
      So I alluded in posts past about how unwilling -- nay, terrified -- I was of this.  It was a lot like going on my first roller coaster: Dave my junior year physics partner "made" me go on -- and front row of the Superman, at that -- and I informed him the whole 45-minute wait that I very much did not want to do this, I couldn't believe I was still in line, and I was going to murder him when we got off.  Not only did I survive, but I was instantaneously obsessed with roller coasters and demanded to know where they had been my whole life.  Sorry, Dave.

      me, trying to keep up with Chuck Norris
      Much the same with this trail.  I was so averse, partly because I knew in advance that this was for Highly Skilled Hikers, partly because hiking can sometimes be just a really annoying, steep walk filled with branches in your way and bugs in your face (rendering this an annoying and dangerous steep walk filled with branches in your way bugs in your face), and partly because I didn't want to not look awesome in front of John and Kathryne.  Kathryne spent several emails reassuring me, and I accepted the fact and even got myself psyched up for it.  The morning came, I filled 4 water bottles ranging from normal to huge, packed a bag of pretzels and an apple just in case, and off we went.

      I'm not sure how or when, but somewhere along the line, I decided to dominate.  I mean, own the trail.  At least compared to my previous, silently-whiny self from pre-hike.  There were boulders 94% of the way, and I hopped all over them.  I climbed and crawled and was light on the balls of my feet and didn't overthink it.  And it really is a metaphor for a lot of things - once you start thinking about it, you freak yourself out.  And then a bunch 10-year-olds scamper past you, hardly looking where they're going, much less agonizing over every step, and you wonder what their secret is.  Oh, yeah.  Don't think about it, trust your body.  Kids do that innately, adults learn too much and forget it.  I did things I never in a million years would have thought I could handle.
      Kathryne and me showing some rocks who's boss



      If someone had come up to me pre-hike and said, "Pam, your limit is somewhere above you hurtling yourself over enormous boulders and to the edge of rocky cliffs hundreds of feet raging rivers with nothing to stop you from plummeting to your doom save your own self," I would have said, "What are you smoking, my limit is definitely like fifteen miles below that."  But it turns out that person, had that person said that, would have been right.  We saw awesome sights and lots of friendly people and also a choking lady whom John saved.  I also totally lost my footing at some point past halfway and sent my shin and forearm straight into rock-edges, which unfortunately messed with my head way more than it messed with my limbs.  I stepped way more conservatively after that and cursed myself for realizing all those awesome things and then losing them to this mental block because of my fall.  But, as Chuck Norris said, it's not a hike if you don't fall.  But even so, even so!  Those lessons stay with me, and my triumph has stayed with me even more strongly than my bruise.  How inspiring, energizing and motivating to start the school year!  Let it inspire, energize, and motivate you too.  Go out and do that thing you do.

      you can't tell, but we're REALLY high up in this picture

      Sunday, August 15, 2010

      So, about these things that I said would happen

      Several of them have happened, or are happening, but several others are too lame to warrant updates.  Here is a convenient numbered list:

      1. Yoga:  HAPPENING.  I did it the quick and dirty way, especially after post-room-painting yoga turned out to be very much not yoga.  I got a 7-day pass from the gym that would get me into the last two daytime yoga classes before school started and went to my first one on Tuesday.   I was every bit the super lame new kid who had to piece together shredded and bacteria-ridden mats from the communal mat-cage featured in the studio, so that was kind of sad and gross. The nice Indian man that led it went at an almost grueling pace filled with way more core-exploding asanas that resembled my arch nemesis, the nearly-impossible Pilates, than I had remembered yoga entailing.  But he was super great, and included in his instructions every so often "...and smile."  For some reason that detail made everything part holistic healing and exercise, part photo shoot.  He also led us through a meditation at the end where we were butterflies, landing on flowers, feeling breezes on our wings, then eventually flying into the Bally's down the street from our flower.  I loved him.  Good thing there's a Modell's next door to my butterfly's Bally's, so that I could purchase a real, live yoga mat for future butterfly impersonations.  I Netflix-streamed yoga videos video until Friday, my second free class, for which I came fully prepared.  Unfortunately, this class too started out on an awkward, unpleasant note: a woman towards the back announced that she wanted to be able to see the instructor.  We all do, honey, and you can't really claim that if you put yourself in the back row.  But in any case, the upshot of all this is that I am well on my way to being a master yogi. 
      2. Not Dining Out: HAPPENING BEGRUDGINGLY; MAY NOT BE HAPPENING SOON.  Some of us have truly enjoyed making new delicious meals.  But others of us have underestimated how much we rely on the going-out-to-eat process to break up our evenings and indeed, the drudgery of our weeks.  Some of us happen to see this less as a fun teambuilding exercise of awesome challenge and opportunity for creativity and more as a dire punishment that inspires sadness and anger.  As of right now, we've held to our word, but I am pretty sure restaurants will get the best of us in the very near future.
      3. What Are the Haps, My Friends: NOT HAPPENING IN COOL WAYS.  Our last two weekends have involved 24 hours in Chicago and 36 hours in Leesburg, VA.  Blog-worthy haps on the imminent horizon include searching for a late summer county fair, going to a shooting range and hiking the Billy Goat Trail.  I might, however, die on at least two of these haps, so farewell, dear readers.
      4. Finishing My Peace Book:  HAPPENED.  I also emailed the author my aforementioned concerns about peace and motivation, peace (with) sadness, and being so thoroughly into peace that you can't any more relate to the humans you hang out with, so much that anything that happens or doesn't happen is fine, so much that you can marry pretty much anyone and it'll be great.  His email back to me shall be in two parts!  He is very nice, and his name is Bear.
      5. Thank-You Notes: ALMOST DONE HAPPENING.  Wooooooo
      To balance those out, here are things that I didn't think would happen, but did:
      1. I am now signed up for community college art classes!  Well, class; I have to cancel the one that my teaching class conflicts with, once I get that schedule.  But isn't that exciting!  It was much more exciting when I finally wrangled the in-county tuition rather than the out-of-state tuition.  You should have seen what I brought in my folder of marriage and name-changing goodness: the real certificate, copies of the certificate, lease, a bank statement printout and a credit card bill, half-filled out forms about my passport, and the receipt that I applied for a new social security card.  Now.  If all those things had my name and address on them, would you believe that I lived at that address?  Well, let me tell you, the good people at PGCC did NOT believe it!  None of those things fell on their accepted-proof list, even though 1/8 of that was good enough for the DMV, and put together, I am pretty sure they more than convince that I do, in fact, live in Prince George's County.  "No, we don't accept those, anyone can get a license," I was told.  Hmph!  Trust me, I am ALL FOR following the rules, but it was getting to the point where I don't own the things she needed to see: a lease with a seal (?!) listing every month (?!!) that I have lived there, car registrations, a dated passport application.  It was only by not leaving the counter that she changed it in the system.  Let that be a lesson to you all.  Stand up against ridiculousness. 
      2. Seasons 1-2.5 of Dexter.  Oh man.  I have to cover my eyes for 20% of the show, and even still sometimes it gives me nightmares, but he is SO NICE!!! 
      3. This.  And I feel like I'm late to an awesome party, but not fashionably late, you-were-doing-something-more-awesome late.  It's the kind of party that knows it's SO AWESOME that nothing you were doing could possibly compete with it, and once you get there, everyone just kind of feels sorry for you that you were missing from it for THAT LONG.
      4. I have also watched this over and over.  I love it and don't understand why it hasn't gone viral.

      Thursday, August 12, 2010

      Two excited paragraphs and one sad paragraph

      Oh my!  Let's talk about how the school year is pretty much here!  Silly things:  It will be crazy and fun to get used to my new name in a very real setting (besides addresses on cards and thank-you notes), there will be a new teacher, so I won't be the newcomer anymore, and I got handed down a whole trash bag of professional clothes (skirt-suits!), which I can use to look like a completely different person in the colder days where I can't wear my pretty skirts.  Sad things: MY DEPARTMENT CHAIR IS LEAVING to a new school and a new position, and I COULD NOT BE SADDER.  Really.  I am so sad.  I love her.  We clicked, you know?  The other teacher I clicked with left, but she started saying that halfway through last school year, and I never worked with her directly.  This one, I did.  Bus duty will never be the same.  :'( .  Wonderful things:  I HAVE THE BEST CASELOAD.  I love these children, I've worked with over half of them last year, and there are NINE.  Last year I had FOURTEEN.  In TWO grade levels.  This year, both fifth grade classes, and I hear those teachers will be phenomenal to work with.  I am so excited and so happy.  I will have a consistent, reasonable schedule!  I will be productive and chart their growth!  And we will make AYP!  Oh yes.

      Speaking of school starting, I am so excited for fall.  I am jazzed.  To the max.  Not only because there's that hum in the air as school starts, not only because that means it will decline below 89 degrees once more, not only because I will be earning wages at long last, but because there's a sense of ownership that is totally new to me.  In my new era of cooking (and cooking SEASONALLY!  Imagine that!  I am so sorry, but seriously, Smitten Kitchen has changed my life), crafting, having adult couples friends, and earning two incomes has me feeling so legitimate.  Cooking with the seasons means fresh and tastier than I am ever inclined to notice, but it's the knowledge that I am following along that is so fantastic!  As the longest standing member of this house, I've really made it so pleasant to live and be in and look around in.  Justin has helped.  I feel like I can be such a great homemaker in this environment, with these new and creative and healthy things to eat, and with the style and energy infused in the house, as much as we can.

      I didn't mean for this post to end sadly too.  I didn't mean for them to go in this order.  But my friends, I had to do something for the second time in my life (and an even more dire situation than the first time):  I had to pull out my pumpkin plants.  I know.  I know.  I was devastated too.  There were three of them, and yes, eventually they all sprouted, but from the moment they went into the earth, I was concerned.  That dirt is not meant to hold intentional plants.  Weeds, bushes - fine.  Grass, vegetables - almost no chance.  The quality is ridiculous, and though my pumpkins grew fairly quickly at the start, and although they reached a few feet and sprouted a tendril or two, the roots never thickened.  And this worried me greatly.  They were always these spindly things, and, not wanting to relive the MiracleGro Disaster of '99, I just stuck to watering it in between torrential downpours.  I tried to give it better soil.  Nothing was strong enough, and as I saw when visited it the other day, the storms had all but torn it to shreds.  I pulled them up, and sure enough, the roots may as well have been thread.  Sigh.  We must cultivate our gardens, better, next year.

      Update 6/28/11:  All ye who found this post by searching "sad paragraph," see the label of the same name for your tutorial and more sad paragraph paraphernalia. 

      Monday, August 9, 2010

      Indefiniteness

      So here's something I've been thinking about quite a bit recently.  This whole wedding experience has brought into, and sadly, yet inevitably out of, our lives a parade of long-lost friends.  Which has been incredible.  Especially for the Park Ridge party, I invited people with the attitude that it was basically my funeral, you know, come see me for this excuse-less occasion.  Gather everyone.  And that's largely what happened - fortunately, many of the most important people were in town or could swing by or could stay the whole time, and that was magnificent.  But it has me thinking about friendships and debt and obligations.  Justin has grad school friends who flew out for the wedding itself, and then ending that all-nighter, our hugs were only temporary goodbyes; we'd see them in a month.  Now, that temporary goodbye was pretty indefinite, with no future obligations tying us together. 

      In hopes of getting around that, I have decidedly not fulfilled various promises I have made, especially to one particularly good and particularly old friend of mine.  One year, many years ago now, for his birthday, I told him his present would be a future trip to see Blue Man Group.  I had just seen it, and I knew he'd love it.  We'd always been pretty inconsistent gift-givers - one year, a phone call; the next, New Pornographers and Belle and Sebastian concert tickets.  So it wasn't that out of place that I piped up with this invisible present, figuring we'd work out our college vs. home schedules soon enough and go see this group of blue men do their thing.

      It has yet to happen.

      Notice I very much didn't say, "we never did."  "We never" is such a final, dire phrase.  I'd make fun of extremist Justin all the time for his petty "we never"s ("Pam!  We never went bowling!"), the premise being that there is still time.  ("Justin.  There is still time to go bowling.").  There is always still time, as long as both people are alive, and presumably both still at least theoretically interested in each other, and in doing whatever activity there is still time for.  But for me, somewhere along the line, this has become a debt that, once repaid, severs one (albeit tiny) connection to my good friend Mickey.  Hundreds of miles apart, we don't have too many connections that bind us, and my undelivered present has, at least to me, become one of those.  Apparently I also gave him in high school an artfully rendered IOU for a pudding-filled chocolate Otis Spunkenmeyer.  I guess we imagined one time how amazing such a creation would be, and it looks like I vowed to make that happen.  But once I do, check!  We can cross that one off the list.  This list can't afford to shrink!  These obligations (necessarily more specific than "I promise to come visit you"), without their date of fulfillment, are so hopeful in the saddest of ways.

      Trust me, if these were to happen, I know they would be awesome memories.  But without them actually happening, I look forward to them indefinitely. 

      Wednesday, August 4, 2010

      As summer ends, accomplishments climb

      Today, I walked shelter dogs for the first time.  I was so intimidated, but they are so happy!  I should have known better.  Dogs are friendly. 

      Today, I made a cake from scratch for the first time.  Much like gourmet food, sometimes you just prefer the taste of the boxed kind.  But I am still proud of myself for doing it the old fashioned way, at least once.

      Today, I went to town on my LinkedIn profile.  How come no one talks about LinkedIn?  It's just Facebook for professionals; instead of favorite music and movies, I have my resume.  When I first heard of LinkedIn, probably through Google searches gone slightly awry, I was pretty sure it was a scam.  Yes, we have WHATEVER name you're looking for!  Just sign up here, it's free!  Fill out a profile to message WHOMEVER you're looking for!  Invite WHOMEVER you're looking for to sign up for LinkedIn!  See?  Super sketch.  So imagine my surprise when I figured out that it was pretty legit.  I have sent many connection requests, feeling mostly ridiculous, but a network has to start somewhere.  Incidentally, my only picture where I don't look absurd is me on my most recent birthday, relishing a Coldstone creation.  At Coldstone.  Maybe at our October photo shoot I'll have her take some that I can remotely use for things like, you know, LinkedIn.

      Yesterday, I signed up for a new Google Voice number, with a semi-new email address, and took more consideration in choosing my digits and scored a number whose last four spell HUGS.  HUGS!

      Stay tuned tomorrow for painting Kathryne's condo and my first official venture into yoga since high school.

      Tuesday, August 3, 2010

      These posts will no longer be so depressing

      Ta da!  To illustrate, here is Justin, making the best of our magic-less situation amid statues and flowers:

       

      Here are further fantastic things:
      1. I ate a mango yesterday, and as I bit into its juicy deliciousness, my first coherent thought was "why do I ever eat anything else."
      2. So many MORE people are coming to celebrate our nuptials Saturday in Chicagoland!  It will be like This Is Your Life.
      3. Justin and I have imposed upon ourselves an idle challenge:  We Shall Not Dine Out During August.  We also shall not forsake friendships for our silly endeavor, so if we happen to have invitations to eat out with friends, then so be it!  We like having friends so much, we are willing to bend the extremely strict rules of our extremely strict game.  We're going to prepare everything from grocery stores and farmers' markets until September 1.  Wish us luck!  Hoo boy!
      4. Two more weeks of freedom!  Of walking puppies and petting kittens, of practicing calligraphy, of researching compost piles, of reorganizing the spice cabinet.  I lead such a baller life, I can hardly stand it.  Really though, I'm excited for school.  Dare I verbalize my goal of reinstating the greenhouse?

      Monday, August 2, 2010

      In which I complete my life's goal amid countless disappointments

      So.

      In a stellar BuyWithMe deal, I found tickets to a magic show for a certain husband's birthday.  Now, said husband has wanted to go to a magic show FOREVER, and these steeply discounted tickets landed in my lap.  And I was overjoyed.  I was overjoyed in secret for several months, and then I FINALLY told Justin, as it had transformed into (one of) his birthday present(s) (how this became Year of the Justin, I have no idea.  Between Jim Gaffigan and this magic show, coworker lunch AND surprise friend lunch at Buca di Beppo, this birthday season has been celebrated extensively.).  So the Races have been extremely excited, together, for a couple of weeks leading up to the actual Magic Show Night.  We leave ridiculously early due to my fear of finding the hotel and getting good seats.  We trek downtown in rush hour.  We make it to the swank hotel to find Glenn Gary's showroom.  The staff doesn't appear to know what we're talking about.  Then other staff murmur something about how they hadn't seen him today; yes, we're in the right place; yes, he's usually here Wednesdays and Fridays -- oh, is it Friday already? -- hold on, let us get the manager.  The manager verifies what has become increasingly apparent:  No Glenn Gary tonight.  We sadly stumble downstairs, bumble through an explanation of why we don't need a refund, yes, we'll call for future Wednesdays and Fridays to make sure he's there and reserve a spot.  SIGH.

      Other disappointments were far sillier, like walking the mile and change to the ATM only to see that the lines were too long for us to wait before turning around so I could drive to the animal shelter.  Or that our mini-golf outing was less putt-putt and more wait-wait.  Or that Largo Capital Centre Boulevard is actually a super lame excuse for an outdoor mall, or that Golden Corral is not only really expensive but also shrewdly in charge of all your drinks, severely dampening the buffet experience.  Or that no one at CVS knew how to handle my raincheck for a free box of self-sealing envelopes.  Or that the DuPont Farmer's Market was, unbelievably, still overcrowded and still overpriced.  But they were still disappointments, and even though I was with my adoring husband, I still felt them more deeply as they progressed.  I tried to remember to be peaceful.  I was successful at times.

      But then.  But then!  We're walking through DuPont to kill some time before our 1 pm Buca lunch.  And there, there before my very eyes! is a group of friendly-looking Indians, apparently from Karma Kitchen, exploring new outreach adventures while their restaurant was under renovation.  They have a table filled with paper bags (that, it turns out, are filled with bags of chips and granola bars) and bottled water, all free for the taking, asking only a smile in return.  I see a cardboard sign leaning against their info board.  COULD IT BE?!  IT COULD!!  There it was, spray painted in its dripping glory, "FREE HUGS."  I nearly bulldozed the girl holding one of the signs, and got my own free hug, and apparently begged with my extremely eager face to hold the other sign.  I had about ten glorious minutes to be part of a Free Hugs site.  I got some funny looks, some skepticism, some smiles, and some free hugs.  Thank you! they would exclaim.  No, thank YOU!  Have a fantastic day! I would answer.  I got complimented on my hug.  I hugged a small child.  I was basically Juan Mann.  It is all downhill from here.

      In other news, am also still trying half-heartedly to find a bike.  A used bike.  A cool bike.  Craigslist is slow and ironically way too serious for what I'm thinking, and (speaking of disappointments) some guys who always go to Georgetown Flea Market to sell bikes weren't there last week due to ridiculous heat.  Here is me in Baltimore (speaking of disappointments), on the day we didn't know that the Twins/Orioles game was moved back three hours, trying to ride a statue bike.  I am not getting very far.

      Thursday, July 29, 2010

      Being peaceful and awesome

      Friends!

      I am ALMOST DONE changing my name!  This has been such a pain in the butt!  Many people, on the verge of divorce, say the whole "we're staying together for the kids" bit; I will say, "we're staying together because it is such a LOGISTICAL HASSLE."  Just kidding.  We're not getting divorced.  But that's what I would say if we were.

      In any case, I am giving my first public speech today!  The Fellows asked me to talk about my school-changing experience, largely because Fellows this year aren't getting placed until the eleventh hour.  I myself was the rare exception last year in my own eleventh-hour placement and my subsequent mid-year move.  I have a lot to share with them!  My thesis is pretty much going to be, "Decide to be awesome."  One of my favorite stories about my experiences last school year was when I "interviewed" at my new/current school, and the principal's main concern, I later heard through the grapevine, was that I came off really flighty, ditzy maybe:
      "Things are always extremely busy around here, we have so much going on."
      "That's fine!"
      "The days fly by - it's really faced-paced, are you sure you can handle that?"
      "Yeah, sure!"
      "Have you ever done IEPs?"
      "No, but it'll be fine!"
      etc.  If you don't know me, I can see where that looks SUPER shady and cause for worry.  The important part is that then I was INDEED awesome and they all like me now.

      So remember my peace book?  I am more than halfway through it, thanks to my recent DMV wait.  The thesis of that is also pretty much, "decide to be peaceful."  Which is wonderful, but I cannot for the life of me wrap my mind around being simultaneously peaceful and ambitious in new life or career endeavors.  If peace is contentment, what pushes you?  Being pushed is inherently being un-peaceful in one's current state or situation.  What motivates change!  Furthermore, what judges the changes you may have made!  Don't they all seem "fine" if you are deciding to be peaceful?  I am a young grasshopper with much to learn.  I shall email the author, a man named Bear, with these concerns.

      In other news, I have made this and this!  Both were astounding in deliciousness!  Deb is my new hero.  I wish I were Deb.

      In OTHER other news, I have seen LEXI ES on a Lexus.  I have seen SING, twice.  I also saw COMBINE drive out of a parking lot and in A DIFFERENT PARKING LOT THREE DAYS LATER.  My life is so amazing.

      PS:  I have subscribed to Martha's Craft of the Day to quench my crafting thirst for now.  Other plans are in the works.

      Friday, July 23, 2010

      Today has been a whirlwind of emotions

      I remembered while making things for my wedding that I LOVE crafts.  Love.  I was really good at it too -- my alternative guest book, my card box, the signs and placecards, the last-minute fans.  Ribbons, paint pens, calligraphy.  I made like eight trips to Michaels and was never happier.   Last night I Netflixed Julie and Julia, which inspired me to do something crazy and hopefully get noticed for it.  I didn't exactly know what, though.

      This morning, I decided I wanted to work for Martha Stewart.  Somehow.  Not necessarily Main Chief Head Honcho Art Director or anything, but somewhere in her empire of crafts and perfect worlds.  I went straight for her site's Career Opportunities, and again got sucked in by the familiar refrain of "We are always looking for awesome people!  Come work with us!  We give great benefits!  You know you want to!  We can't wait to see you!"  And I thought-replied, "I DO want to!  I AM awesome!  Okay!!" and looked at all their posts, some of which I could conceivably trick someone into thinking I could do long enough for me to actually figure it out.  I frantically imagined crafting and blogging it every day for a year, combining it with lesson plans to do double-duty in my current career, and all the wonders it would bring into my life.  In heating up the oven to half-bake this idea, I found "Hire Me Martha," a blog written by a far more qualified, more talented, more prolific crafter and baker than I could ever hope to be.  She'd sent in resumes, she had connections, turns out they even gave her a guest spot on the show!  And they didn't hire HER!  What hope do I have!?  I then remembered that "Come work with us!" translates to "We are shrewdly encouraging every last person on the planet to apply, so we can pick the top 0.0001% of candidates!" and yours truly is certainly not in the top 0.0001% of candidates.  Wistful sigh!  You guys, there are so many talented people out there.  LOTS of people love crafts!  LOTS of people are really good at them!  I am a measly psych major who's now a teacher who wants to get paid to craft.  How much more trite can you get than that!

      Monday, July 19, 2010

      A new line of posts, coming your way!

      So people have this notion that Justin and I do exceptionally cool things.  Let me dispel that rumor: we do not.  But time and again friends have commented that I should alert them of surrounding awesomeness in activities, so I bring you, pretty much stolen from Ryan North, What Are the Haps, My Friends.  In WATHMF I shall try to bring you what we'll be doing, or thinking about doing, or wish we were doing, partly to tell you about the thing itself, partly to fill you in on how we discovered it, and partly to inspire you to be on the lookout for these things in the future.  I'll tell you right now, it will pretty much be a combo of Metromix and Groupon (referral links for everyone!), to scour for the best of the entertaining and the cheap, if not free.  Obviously I will still bring you your numbered lists, loves and rants, just thought I'd mention this barely-cohesive topic thread.

      Justin and I try (we were doing really well until the whole wedding thing usurped the last like three weekends) to alternate weekend planning.  One weekend will be mine, and by Thursday I plan everything from Friday evening through Sunday, with two or three fun things, times and transportation, where we're eating, errands, etc; the next weekend, he does the same.  When it's my weekend, I get to decide everything; when it's his, I get to kick back.  It's working really well so far.  We try to do things a little off the beaten path - we enjoy a good monument or Smithsonian, but we LOVE a hidden garden or a terrific mini golf course.  Here's what I mean (numbered list time!):
      1. Hillwood Garden and Estates - the 25-acre garden and mansion of the sole heiress to the Post cereal empire, complete with million-dollar Russian chalices and lavish costume ball costumes!  Off Connecticut close to Van Ness.  Literally hidden behind people's houses.
      2. Renwick Gallery of American Art - enormous room of portraits of Indians AND unusually beautiful modern (but not too modern) art!  By the White House.
      3. Corcoran Gallery - what's that, you say? $15 admission?  Not on Saturdays during the summer!  Complete with Free Summer Saturday events, like our coveted flipbook!  Also by the White House.
      4. Rocky Gorge Mini Golf and Batting Cages - apparently the longest mini golf hole in the world!  Also one of those awesome, old fashioned, get-it-between-the-windmill-fan obstacle courses.  Laurel, MD.
      Ta da!  Welcome to What Are the Haps, My Friends, my friends!

      Friday, July 16, 2010

      You no longer have to accept my mid-shocking-sentence glam shot as the only wedding photo

      I'm 99% sure that anyone who would even consider looking at this blog has already seen that pictures are up.  But I'm going to say it again.  Pictures are up.  Woo!  Thus rounds out my social media applications, except for Twitter, because I feel like Twitter was cool for four months starting last March.  All I read on there anymore are Andrew WK's reminders to party.  And I do party, Andrew WK.  I do. 

      Summer!  I have cats to pet, dogs to learn how to walk, desserts to make, and asanas to hold.  I also need to finish my book about peace, which, ironically, is stressing me out a little bit.  Also, toe update!: It is a mysterious injury and not imminent doom for my foot.  Hallelujah!

      Also: trying to figure out a fun beach within maybe 4 hours' drive at which to minimoon.   Ocean City?  Rehoboth?  If you have an opinion, please share!

      Wednesday, July 14, 2010

      (Almost) One week!

      Hello friends!  I write to you for the first time since being married!  And what a week it's been!

      The wedding:  phenomenal.
      The afterparty: out of this world.
      The next day: Slept from 5 pm to 9 am.

      Back to Leesburg to hang out with an aunt and uncle, then back here so Justin could go back to work, and I could take care of married chores like car maintenance and thank-you notes.  I'm also trying to write down everything I remember!  This task is proving to be long and arduous, ironically enough.  I've got 6,500 words so far that don't even come close to the wedding yet.  I haven't finished the rehearsal bbq, and for the wedding day itself, I'm only up to the part that's on the way to getting our nails done.  Sigh!  I'm checking my photographer's website pretty much hourly even though I know full well she said 7-10 days.  We're also figuring out recipes, etc for our house party this Saturday (come, my many readers!), and I am trying to convince myself not to quit teaching to become a wedding photographer.  (All they do is document love!  LOVE!)  I'm also browsing Etsy, trying to figure out if whatever I would have to offer would really make a difference in that pile of delicious goodness.  I'm also admiring my bling (permanent) and french manicure (temporary).  But I know what you've all been waiting for.  We had been waiting for it too.  It had been forever...

      since we ran into AUNDRE!!!!!!!  We're taking one of our neighborhood walks, as usual; hoping we'd see him, as usual.  We mention how it's been so long, walking around OR at CVS.  And trust me, there were a lot of wedding-related CVS trips!  So imagine our joy when we see a black dude with dreads (still far away!  that's all we have to go on) walking up the street a ways, talking on the phone.  Hard to tell.  I chance a wave.  He waves back!  Then he recognizes!  Still on the phone - letting the person just chill out for a while - "Hey guys!  What's goin on!"  The happy reunion ensues!  We all come in for a big group hug as we proclaim our previous sadness!  "We've been looking everywhere for you!"  "I've been searching all across the nation for you guys!"  "We've been going to CVS every day!"  The last one was a slight exaggeration.  "So, what have you guys been up to!"  "We just got married on Thursday!"  We flash our rings in happy proof.  "What!  No way!  Aw congratulations!"  More hugs!  "I thought you guys were already married!  It's so great to see the love that you two have.  Whenever I was goin through some stuff in my relationship, I would see you guys, and think, I can have that."  I died of love and joy at the fact that we were an inspiration!  To Aundre!!  My life is complete.

      To hold you over until the pro pix are up, here is a candid picture of me getting my hair done by my awesome hair and makeup artist, Carla.  I am so glamorous!

      Tuesday, July 6, 2010

      Antepenultimate day.

      In 48 hours, I will be walking down the aisle.  Hoo boy!  I made Bride and Groom signs for our chairs today.  I think that was the last of my crafts.  Goodness, will I miss making my crafts.  If anyone out there wants care packages filled with crafts, let me know, and I would be more than happy to provide. 

      You guys.  I'm on edge, and I'm calm.  I have all these heightened senses, and I'm at peace.  I'm nervous, and I'm ready.  So many things!  It will be so lovely, and it will also be wonderful to have these very dramatic activities over.  I keep feeling like I should be doing things to relax.  Justin is chain-smoking movies.  We just finished Zombieland, and now comes a martial arts feature, where I make my graceful exit.

      I guess it's time to pack my overnight(s) bag anyway!  Wish me luck, folks.

      Monday, July 5, 2010

      My last couple of days being a single lady

      ...are filled with last-minute people and crafts!  Extra parties and impulsive fans for our 100-degree day.  Also, I wanted to tell you, precious audience, of something insane that happened.

      I was cruising down the beltway, as I am wont to do, and I see the license plate "NANAMOBL."  From MD.  And this is awesome for a couple of reasons.  1.  It's the Nanamobile, and 2.  IT HAS EIGHT CHARACTERS.  And license plates with eight characters are just expanding my vanity plate joy that much more.  So I revel in this phenomenon for a few minutes, super excited, probably tell Justin about it, excitedly, he probably doesn't really care.  Fast forward a few days, and we're day tripping with friends to West Virigina, no biggie.  In the WV state resort lake parking lot, however, there is a NC license plate that says ... wait for it ... "NANAMOBL."  I PRETTY MUCH DIED.  I tried to explain to everyone what had just happened but they didn't really care!  Can you believe it!  I know YOU GUYS care, faithful blog readers!!! 

      Stay tuned tomorrow for my antepenultimate day of singlehood.