Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Please, Oh Please, Mother Nature

Bring on the snow. And lots of it!

Mama needs a break.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I Want To Set Fire To Every Possession

I am not cut out for manual labor.

We've been moving this week. We didn't want to move, but we have to. And of course I'm still working full (+) time. So every available minute is spent packing, lifting, hauling, grunting, cursing, bleeding, hoisting, pushing, crying, and swearing NEVER TO DO THIS AGAIN!!!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Attention Arkansas Voters!

If you've moved within the state, go to your county clerk and verify your new address so you can vote in the primary on February 5th!

I think early voting starts tomorrow, so if you're all set - then go on down to the county clerk's office and VOTE!!

Many Children Being Left Behind

Last week I was helping Stella with her homework and saw that she was studying Islam in her Social Studies class. "Well, that's a good idea," I thought to myself, "We never studied that when I was in 7th grade." I talked to her about my Muslim students and how kind they always are to her and how they often want to use my office for their prayers because it faces East.

I had talked to her Social Studies teacher in the past about what I do and how I often have students from all over the world who would love the opportunity to come to a classroom and talk about their culture to American students. I also know how busy teachers are so I emailed her to jog her memory and to offer to bring a Muslim student to Stella's class to talk to the kids and answer questions. In my opinion, having a person there, in the classroom, to answer questions and discuss a topic reinforces the learning experience in a way that reading or watching a video just can't come close to. So I was a little irritated, or maybe just disappointed, when she emailed me back to say that they were too busy to make time for a visitor.

This is a big part of what's wrong with our education system right now. Students don't have time for their studies to be meaningful or enriched. The emphasis on testing has ruined every opportunity for lasting education. It's just on to the next topic and QUICKLY, because you've got to cram in everything that could be covered in the benchmark tests. I know from my experience teaching in a private school that in-person guest lecturers or field trips were the BEST ways of making a topic come alive for the students. It just goes to show that Stella's teacher wasn't thinking of how to best help her students LEARN (a subject that can always be studied more in depth). She was probably thinking how to best help her students KNOW (what is covered on a benchmark test). That's the difference. How frustrating! No wonder kids hate school!

What's the point of having a test if the topic isn't even covered in depth? I'm just saddened and angered by the whole thing. I wish I had the time and resources to just home school.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's Worked Before

Okay internet, I need your collective positive energy sent my way. If all goes well I could have exciting news to share within a few weeks!

We're also in the process of moving this week. It makes me want to throw everything away everything I own. Why oh why can't I be minimalist? Do I really have to keep every birthday card from the past 15 years?

This is For You, Ms. Mocha

Dolly Parton and Amy Sedaris in the same place - what more could you ask for?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Peek Into Curious Minds

Welcome, those of you who got here by way of:
  • "housewives of orange county mindless bimbos" - I couldn't agree more! Addicting, aren't they?
  • "i have been single for so long" - I know the feeling. But I can't help you.
  • "robitussin cigarette" - Ew.
  • "sleazy santa" - Super Ew.
  • "why are there camels in arkansas" - A valid question. But no answer here, sorry.
  • "garbanzo bean steven colbert" - Who are you and can I get some of what you're on?
  • "fuck you carl" - Yes, Carl. That means you.
  • "brainwashing children to hate gays and pagans" - You got start on 'em young, you see.
  • "blowjobs worth keeping" - No time like the present to start a collection.
  • "public masturbator cunt-suspect-jury trial-appeal" - I suspect there's some anger that hasn't been properly dealt with somewhere in that google search.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Yes, I'm One of Those Parents Who Wants to Keep The Computer in the Kitchen

Last night we asked Stella to watch Growing Up Online, a Frontline special, with us. She resisted at first, because, of course, all adults might be carriers for deadly contagious diseases and must be avoided at all costs. But I made her. Because that's what moms do.

I'm glad we watched it together. I think we both related to things we saw on screen. I have always talked to her about online stalking and child predators but realized from this show that most kids are pretty aware of that scenario and know to avoid people who approach them online. The biggest threat to most of these kids were.....other kids. Online harassment from peers is devastating and I can understand why. The internet can bring people together and also be incredibly isolating. Some of those kids had entirely separate lives on the internet. The internet allows kids to publicly express their private thoughts, away from their prying parents. A mother who was interviewed talked about how hard it is as a parent to feel so shut out from what's going in in her kids' lives. Stella is only 12 (almost 13, as I'm reminded daily) but I already feel the beginning of that. I remind myself that it's normal and natural for kids to detach from their parents.....but it still hurts.

Luckily we have the television to bring us together from time to time. Irony fully intended.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Holiday Weekend Round-Up

Friday Night:
  • Hot date with the boyfriend - Margaritas and Mexican food
  • Dog Whisperer - Yeah, it's formulaic, but I can't get enough.
  • Asleep on the couch
Saturday:
  • Apple-pecan pancakes w/ hot vanilla-bean, pecan maple syrup - YUM! The vanilla bean & toasted pecans added to the hot maple syrup were an afterthought, an afterthought straight from heaven.
  • Comatose on the couch all. day. long.
  • Catching up on NPR podcasts
  • Homemade meatballs w/ penne and tomato sauce and a caesar salad
Sunday:
  • Work for a few hours, where I was discovered by some students and answered tons of questions
  • Run into Kelly and my sister while grocery shopping
  • Throw a bunch of veggies, herbs and some whole chickens into my new stock pot
  • Chicken & veggie stew
  • Dogs that Changed the World - fascinating!
  • Missing Angela. Bad
Monday:
  • Cheese grits
  • Child of the Jungle - I got this because it takes place in West Papua, where a student of mine from last term was from. Recommended reading!
  • Feeding the fire all day long
  • More NPR podcasts
  • Packing boxes
  • Triple-chocolate Fudge Brownies and latt├ęs
  • I imagine the South Caroline debates are in my near future
Can I have one more day? Please?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Heartache of a Small World

One of the best parts of my job is feeling like I have a connection to places scattered all over the globe. It feels good to know that people are basically the same and want the same things for their lives, for their families, for their towns and countries. The downside (if you can call it that) is that global events often affect me on a personal level. If there is an earthquake in Indonesia, flooding in Brazil, or political unrest in Russia or Palestine or wherever, I immediately think, "I hope my friends and their families are safe."

Right now I'm extremely saddened and upset about the Kenyan crisis over its election and the resulting tribal warfare. I think back to the Kenyan students I got to know from our bus trip this past summer. Out of the three African countries represented (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa), the students from Kenya were as a whole the sweetest and kindest. They seemed to carry a graceful inner peace and radiated joy and innocent curiosity. They told me about how proud they were to come from a country that honored peace, especially considering that Kenya is bordered by countries that have experienced some of the most devastating and horrible wars of recent memory. So to hear about the recent violence was particularly shocking and upsetting. I emailed the Kenyan students to tell them they were in my thoughts and one replied last week, asking for our continued prayers. He ended the email asking ME to have a good day! That's just the way they are.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why I Can't Ignore Politics This Week

This'll all have to be bulleted thought fragments as I still don't have time to elaborate or explain or investigate my inner feelings.
  • Chris Mathhews' voice makes me want to hurt someone. Bad. I get so angry when I hear it. Plus, he's a total a-hole.
  • John Edwards. Dude, give it up already. Sorry it didn't work out for you but bow out now and spend every available minute with your wife because she seems like an amazing woman.
  • If I have to watch Hillary Clinton choke up or Bill Clinton angrily say the word "fairytale" one more time I will hurt someone.
  • How is it possible that Stephen Colbert is funnier than ever without his writers? I don't believe it.
  • Why can't people see that Mitt Romney is beyond creepy? And when Mike Huckabee isn't being aw-shucks charming and funny that he really doesn't know what the hell is going on?
  • I need to work out some sort of deal so that for every debate D. watches, I get to watch two hours of America's Next Top Model or Project Runway and he's not allowed to give me shit for it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why I Have To Ignore Politics This Week

From reading my latest posts you might think I've spending all my time lurking around Wal Mart and the ER waiting room staring and judging.

That might not be too far from the truth.

My newest group of students arrived last week. As usual, I have been helping them adjust to life in a different climate, culture, and language. Sunday I got a call from one who I knew to be feeling sick but I thought it was probably just from the long flight from Russia and readjustment process. Many students feel sick a few days upon arrival. This student said he was experiencing pain in his chest and I explained how health care works here and the long wait he could expect at the hospital. He opted to go to the health center on campus on Monday instead.

Yesterday afternoon the health center called saying he had pneumonia and needed to go to the Emergency Room immediately. Yikes! I felt horribly guilty for not taking him the day before. So of course we wait hours and hours before we are even taken back into the ER. Then we wait to see a doctor. Then we wait some more. Then there more tests were run. X-rays. Then a CT scan. Finally, close to midnight we were told he needed to spend the night in the hospital.

I spent some time this morning and then again this evening with him at the hospital. When I was at work there were something like 619 urgent tasks waiting for me. Nothing and no one is getting my full and adequate attention. Back at the hospital and still I haven't seen an actual doctor. The nurses are wonderful. This is turning into a case straight out of House. They've ruled out pneumonia, most likely. Too much fluid in his lungs. They really want it to be Tuberculosis. I can tell. But he's not coughing. Still, he's in an Isolation room and the nurses are wearing masks when they enter. It's too late for me; I'm already exposed. So he'll be at the hospital again tonight with no diagnosis and tomorrow he'll see a pulmonary specialist. My verb tenses are all over the place. Figures.

Did I mention it's also our first week of classes? In other words, our busiest week of the term?
And Stella's math teacher called me in the middle of all this saying he thought she copied off another student's homework and gave her detention tomorrow? And because of last week's events I don't know who or what to believe anymore, because of course she has a different story?

And I haven't slept more than 5 hours in a row in several days?

Want to start taking bets on how long before I just implode?

Thank Goodness for Megan, who sent me this bizarre and hilarious bit of crazy.

I have to force myself to go to yoga and not collapse.

Yeah, You Too

That's right.  You, the meth-skinny dad wearing a dirty white baseball cap and a pink (?)   t-shirt that says "Learn To Pimp,"  bringing your kids Skittles and Mountain Dew in the ER waiting room?

I see you too.  

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hey You,

Slightly overweight mom at Wal-Mart with your lower back tattoo and butt-crack showing, dragging your screaming toddler around with a leash?


Don't think I don't see you.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Only Just The Beginning. Scary Thought.

It was a rough Sunday. I won't go into details, but I will say that Stella was caught in a lie. Not a huge, Big Bad Lie, but a lie she told in order to do something she felt she had every right to do. The hardest part is knowing she orchestrated a willful and conscious deception.

Parenting a 12 year-old who thinks she's going on 16 is hard, very hard sometimes.

Any advice, support, or choke hold techniques would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Where I've Been

Okay, so...

I've got to back up first. After our indulgent Christmas, we went down to central Arkansas to visit D.'s grandparents. The weather was cold, overcast, and windy which seemed to only enhance the sad, lonely feeling of a town that time has passed by.


Pond on the property


Abandoned chicken house


D. man walking


I admit to being a sucker for old, rural abandoned barns and houses


I won't go chasing this waterfall, no matter how pretty it is.


When we got back from central Arkansas, we had one night at home and then we packed up for three days of hanging out, eating, drinking and A LOT OF KARAOKE SINGING to celebrate the new year with 12 friends from out of town.

We did a little relaxing by the fire,

a TON of singing,

some interpretive dancing,

and, well...other forms of entertaining ourselves.
I wish I could post other pictures of the rest of the group but I haven't procured permission yet.

Then I got hit by the holidays truck.

I think I'm about recovered now. Recovered enough, at least, to cook some good food.

The other night I made falafel with tzatziki sauce and tabbouleh.

In the past I had always used a mix for the falafel but this time I wanted to make it from scratch. The recipe called for soaking garbanzo beans overnight and using the soaked, semi-dry beans but I didn't have time for that (I need instant falafel gratification), so I used two cans of garbanzo beans and dried them for a bit in the oven:

I put the dried beans in the food processor and added:


1 teaspoon of freshly ground cumin,


A handful each of Italian parsley and cilantro, roughly chopped,

a few cloves of garlic, and (unpictured) 1/2 a large onion, also roughly chopped and some cayenne powder.

I pulsed it a few times until it resembled a coarse meal. Then I added 4 Tablespoons of flour and a teaspoon of baking powder. I pulsed it again until it was smooth and looked like it held together well. I refrigerated it for a while then formed it into patties and fried them until golden (pictured above).

MEANWHILE....I grated cucumber into a colander and salted it. After a little bit I squeezed the water out of it and added it to a container of delicious Greek yogurt and added some tahini, and a little water to thin it out.

And also MEANWHILE, I soaked 1/2 cup of bulger wheat in a few tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice:

I chopped the rest of my bunch of Italian parsley and thinly sliced about 2 Tablespoons of mint,

which I added to 2 large tomatoes, diced small, and one small red onion, also diced small (I couldn't find green onions at the health food store and didn't want to go to a whole 'nother store for them....so red onions were what I went with). I then added the bulger, 1/3 cup of olive oil and more lemon juice to complete the tabbouleh:


Voila!
Very tasty. I could have made hummus, or baba ghanoush....or any number of side dishes but I was TIRED, y'all. As, I'm sure, you are now after reading this monstrous post.

Nighty night.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Ugh.

You'll have to excuse me but I feel like I've been hit by a truck - the holidays truck.

I've got good stuff comin' up, though.