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:

    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