Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not Ready To Go Back To Civilization

I'm in the woods near Mountain View, Arkansas. So far today I accomplished the following: had coffee while drifting to and fro in a porch swing, went to a swimming hole in South Sylamore Creek, threw sticks for the swimming dogs, talked about finding rocks shaped like every state and making a big ol' rock map of the U.S., made pesto and Tuscan bread salad, put on red lipstick and a cute dress, ate a ton of yummy food, spilled champagne, looked at pictures, and now I'm going to bed.

I did not accomplish: making jewelry, catch up on my New Yorkers, taking a shower.

I need more holiday three-day weekends.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Oh, For Goodness Sakes...

D. and I watched Obama's acceptance speech last night at a watch party sponsored by the university Young Democrats club. It was fun to watch it at a bar filled with people who were watching the speech raptly and applauding wildly. I didn't think it was his best speech (my favorites so far are his 2004 DNC speech, the one after winning the Iowa caucus, and his "race" speech) but still, all in all, quite good. It's hard to silence my inner cynic, though. No dependence on foreign oil in ten years? Yeah, I'd really like to hear more about his health care plans. My health insurance premium just went up. I can barely afford it...and that's just to cover me!

So anyway, today I made the mistake of reading the Morning News reader comments on the article about his speech. Check out these gems:

" if he like all politicians would do just 1/4 of what they promise it would be just great to see him as president,however,in all my yrs I have yet to see a politician live up to his campaign promises.He in the first place may very well be thedeath of the american way of life considering his islamic and muslim ways of life and thought pattern.It is a proven fact a muslim,can not be a good president due the conflicts of the islamic faith and the christain based American bill of rights.Everyone seems to be forgetting this man is a sworn muslim and attends Islamic based chursh services and has stated he will be sworn in with the Koran,Not the Bible,how can that be,you must swear to God to protect and serve the american way of life,not to Muhammed.Muhammed is autocratic/ dictatorship based religion! America is based on freedom of speech and is a diplomatic based country,these 2 beliefes CANNOT CO-EXIST!
The American People need to get this clean cut, good looking man way of thinking out of thier head and realize this is exactly what the extremists want the young people in this country to do.we do not elect a president because he has a nice haircut,and his record in congress is all but ignored which is what they want.Wake Up America! "

" I hope that all of you Obama fans are ready to give up several of your rights. To include the right to bear arms and defend yourself from bodily harm. And not just the right to have guns but he wants to stop the production of all semi aoutomatic guns. Now there is a great a time when violent crime is at its highest lets tear down our first line of defense. "

Luckily there were plenty of other comments from people who employ common sense when evaluating politicians...but I worry so much about the sheer number of willfully ignorant people who will vote.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Not An Elegy

In the past week two people I've known for a long time died suddenly. These two people ran in completely different circles, had very different lives, but they were both friends of mine from when I was a teenager. So it's all very sad and overwhelming, dealing with this one-two punch. I thought long and hard about going to one visitation last weekend. Collective grief is really hard for me to take. So...although I feel like an a-hole for it, I didn't go.

Both of them were parents. I can't stop thinking about the kids who will grow up with a permanent hole inside them....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Enough To Make Me Turn Vegan

I feel like someone is wringing out my uterus like a wet towel. Perhaps this is needless to say, but it's also making me a complete emotional wreck and a moody monster.

This is the absolute WORST CONDITION in which one might watch the PBS Nature episode Wisdom of the Wild. But that's exactly what I did the other night. It's all about how animals can help humans and was basically one big emotional sobfest for me. Like the people who rescue baby elephant orphans and keep them from dying of broken hearts because they're so lonely and miss their families? Forget it. The part where I just completely lost it, though, was when this woman who had worked to rescue chimpanzees from research laboratories visited the refuge where she sent some of them. She hadn't seen the chimps in nearly 20 years. One recognized her right away and got really excited and started jumping around and reached out to hug her. TORRENTS OF TEARS, I'm telling you.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Fair, Some Films, and a Fib

Friday evening I took a bunch of students to the County Fair. I've already professed my love for the county fair, so I'll not waste your time. I didn't bring my big camera, but did run across these few things that I just had to share:

Elvis and the confederate flag. But of course.

Look! Even the county fair has "gone green"...

"Lil'" Pardner is bossy. I do like the idea of sandwich board directives, though.

Friday night turned difficult, parenting-wise. I won't go into the complicated details, but my daughter lied to me again. I really wish I knew what goes through her mind when she makes the decision to lie to me. Is it a split-second decision, borne of a selfish desire to call her own shots? Is it planned in advance, calculated and practiced? If so, how far in advance? Doesn't she know how easy it is for me to determine what really happened? SO MANY QUESTIONS and just about the only answer I can get out of her is "I don't know." I've never felt like a more ineffective or clueless parent. Because I did not have a good parenting example set for me when I was a teenager, I feel like I'm just bumbling through the darkness here. I expect there to be difficulties...that's only natural, especially when dealing with adolescence...but how can I take these setbacks and somehow make them learning experiences? How can I tell that she's learning her lessons?

I'm not present enough. I know that's hard on kids. I've been gone too much, working late hours and weekends. I must remedy that as soon and often as possible. And it'll be easy to spend more time with her, seeing as how she's grounded for an as-yet-undetermined amount of time. I'm taking her to our friend Jude's cabin in Mountain View for Labor Day weekend. A girls' retreat. We need it. Time with Jude will only do us both a whole lot of good.

Okay, so that was Friday night. The fair...picking up Stella at 3:30am...right...oh, and D. and I watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I liked the film...but didn't love it. It was, in a word - INTENSE. Maybe it was just a little too Schnabel-y. Artsy scenes full of blinky camera shots, sexy ladies speaking foreign languages, saturated colors, soaring soundtrack numbers...well....okay. It wasn't's just strained in places.

Saturday morning I took students to the Farmers Market and we got caught in a crazy sudden downpour. It left as quickly as it came, though, and we had a sunny, hot afternoon. I decided to have a welcome barbecue for my new students. My work owns the townhouses where the students live as a nice little international community. I had the barbecue in the courtyard of their apartments. We ate traditional American barbecue food and they seemed to get a real kick watching me sweat over the smoky grill. They sipped various native alcohols (something clear, sweet, and Korean, mescal, cachaca, etc), danced under the trees, and bonded as a group. My work here is done!

Sunday was quiet. Stella read all day. She swept and mopped the kitchen. I mowed the yard. We went to see The Rocker. Oy. What a stinker. It wasn't even dumb-funny. It was just dumb. But I like going to the movies even when they're bad so I still had fun.

I hope this week goes well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"...Suffer a Sea Change Into Something Rich and Strange"

I think I'm going to be okay, y'all. This was the week that the fever of non-stop work and craziness broke. I feel like I might have time to be myself again. Time for stuff like making jewelry and art, helping my sister with her new boutique, yoga, wine with girlfriends, reading (books!), seeing my grandmother, and spacing out, thinking thoughts.

I took Lucy for a long walk last night, along the Scull Creek Trail. The gorgeous, big ol' mystical trees lining the path provide a full, lush canopy, so I could only see a few clouds turn deeper pink against the darkening sky. I was getting a perfect mix of songs on my cheapie mp3 player - "Children of the Revolution" by T Rex, "The Seed" by The Roots, "Consolation Prize" by Phoenix, "Illusion" by Destiny's Child (really...this is the most awesome workout song), "It's a Mistake" by Men at Work, "Houses of the Holy" by Led Zeppelin, then psychically segueing into cooldown songs by Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen, and Feist. If it weren't for the often visible and always audible Gregg Street right there, Scull Creek Trail would be just about perfect. Oh, except for the other problem of too much trash. I keep meaning to take a trash bag with me when I go on my walks and pick up trash but like the rest of my good intentions, they remain just that - passive plans.

At least I have the opportunity, through my work, to do my best to counteract negative opinions of the U.S. It's remarkable easy. Just be helpful, kind, and respectfully curious. Not too hard, huh? Oh, but you'd be surprised. A good example of the hateful, ignorant sentiment that can run rampant in my corner of the world is on display in the comments of articles in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas. A sampling from this past week(very much sic):

" we feed and house all the poor illegal immegrants,why not feed all the kids for free to,if obama gets in we will be,and every other immegrant from every other country, he will let in our country.first its bush and the mexicans,next it will be Obama and the africans and islamic muslims,Americans will have to move to canada before its all said and done,just to find someone that speaks english "

" Can't help but notice Fayetteville's ongoing trend of black male violent crime.

For a population so small in Fayetteville, they sure do commit a large percentage, if not a majority, of the gun crimes."

" I would also add to the list of things to do to prevent burgleries,
Get a good watch dog
Get a Smith & Wesson and learn how to use it.
These last two will stop thieves dead in their tracks. Especially S&W. "

" i sorry but i call the cops all the time. because you don't who is who, and you don't not what happen tomorrow my respect to the cops.try do the right thing "

You see what we're up against? And these are the comments allowed by the newspaper. Apparently the worst ones are deleted. So these are the tamer comments! Even if they are just stupid, machismo, purposely obnoxious hyperbole....I'm sick of it. It's not funny; it's just gross.

Okaaaaay. Time to mow the yard!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Let The Record Show...

...that I've been a fan of Joe Biden since way back when. He probably knows more about foreign relations and foreign policy than just about any other Senator.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Of No Importance Whatsoever

Anyone else mildly disturbed by the new SEXY M&M ad?
Grody, huh?

I gave up ever trying to read a book again a long time ago. However, our recent road trip afforded me the time and opportunity to put a dent in my New Yorker backlog. Some intriguing, thought-provoking, entertaining, and often sad reading, in particular, were the articles on Medical Marijuana, the life and death of Alan Rogers, and Indian sex workers who are "chosen" by the goddess Yellamma.

I can't bring myself to read my other fresh-from-the-mailbox issues of O or Harper's. The former can sometimes make me feel just a tad too mom-y, not to mention that the magazine seems to exist in exotic Oprahland where a dress costing $200 is considered a "bargain," and the latter just requires too much close attention. I have a sinking suspicion that I'm getting progressively dumber every day. I can't speak a foreign language. I don't have the patience for Harper's magazine. I've never seen The Wire. Maybe there's some sort of crash course for me. Like fat camp...but smart camp.

International Intrigue?

I received two emails from former students of mine from Russia this morning...your typical "I arrive home safe...I miss Arkansas" emails that I tend to get at the end of every term. So I emailed them back my typical "I'm glad you're home...we miss you too" email. EXCEPT this time both emails bounced back to me with a cryptic "access from this IP address is blocked" error message.

Do you think Russia is blocking emails from university IP addresses? Because of Georgia?


Maybe I'm just trying to make my job be more exciting than it really is.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chock Full Sunday

This morning I picked up a student from Chile. She spoke next to no English. And my Spanish...well let's just say it's baby talk - all nouns, no verbs and CERTAINLY not conjugated verbs. So it was a quiet ride back from the airport. Last night when I picked up the Russians, one of the guys said that he didn't speak English but spoke German. "Oh!" I said, "Ich spreche Deutusch!" Which is pretty much a lie at this point, seeing as how my German fluency muscles atrophied years ago. So he was talking to me in German and the cool thing is that I understood him perfectly. Then he'd ask me a question and I realized he expected an answer and my brain would just turn circles...some gobbledygook combination of German, Spanish, and English tumbled out of my mouth in response. I'm sure it just confused the hell out of him.

So after I settled in the Chilean at the apartments I answered a hundred questions from the other students who'd had a day now to rest and adapt to their new language life and were ready for some ANSWERS. In English, luckily.

Then D. and I had a nice patio lunch and soaked up the lovely weather and listened to some good music. I had spoken to Stephanie earlier and we made it work (finally!) to see each other and get outside. We, with Lucy and Z. in tow, hiked halfway around Lake Fayetteville, to the backside of the Botanical Garden, chitter-chattering the whole time. It was great! I really needed it. Then it was on to the Indonesian welcome dinner where I ate way too much fried food (catfish, hush puppies, french fries...mmm....and, my favorite, green tomato relish) and now I'm all dried-sweaty and stuffed full and ignoring Stella's requests to go shopping (again??) for lunch food and school supplies. I just can't.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thoughts Aplenty

Holy crap. Obama is talking about empathy being related to American values and it's blowing my mind to hear someone running for the most powerful position in our country tying it together, staying away from bullshit, blowhard-y, political rhetoric, and just speaking plain common sense. I'm afraid to get my hopes up...after years of progressively insaner, Twilight Zone-esque ("Surely this time people will be infuriated and protest this lie/cover-up/obvious bad move?" Surely! ....NO???) behavior happening in our country, I just don't know what to think about my fellow Americans anymore. I've got relatives who are voting for McCain just because they don't like Obama's former preacher. That's who we're dealing with, folks.

Now McCain is talking and..yup, he's jumped right into the patriotic talking points..."My heroes? Blah blah General Petraeus is amazing...blah blah token Black....blah blah Meg Whitman for the ladies....OH! Ronald Reagan - big time...hahahaha...My friends this my friends that" The cadence...the UP and DOWN of his voice is lulling me into a hypnotized sort of disgust and horror.

Oh hey - Jeff Mac's commercial is ALL OVER this bizarro talk show/"forum!"

Also, unrelated, but...I can't stop thinking about who Rick Warren looks like. Perhaps Chuck Todd, from MSNBC...
...crossed with Principal Rooney? Whaddya think?

Also...even more unrelated to the Big Important Issues being discussed here...Saddleback Church... Those words sound so odd together. Like a Stereolab album name.

And that On Star commercial where the disembodied Car Voice talks to the guy who just had a car accident? Freaks me out. Especially when the Car Voice says that it will continue to talk to the guy until help arrives. There's technology that enhances our lives and then there's technology that's co-dependently weird.

So, other news...I must have a heart of cold, black cynicism because I don't think I give a hoot about Michael Phelps. I don't know why, either, because I LOVE heartwarming tales from the Olympics. Oh, but those little Chinese orphans, I mean, gymnasts give me the willies (so little! so bony and old-before-their-time). I want to adopt them and feed them grilled cheese sandwiches and hide their make-up.

Our new students are arriving this whole weekend. Stella starts junior high Monday. We went shopping at the mall today with my grandmother. Did you get all that? The mall? The Saturday before school starts? With an 8th grade girl? AM I GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT? (answer: duh) Shopping came after I'd picked up three students, settled them in, AND shampooed half the living room carpet because Lucy the dog has been spite-peeing on it ever since D. and I went away last weekend. Shopping wasn't near as awful as it could have been, despite my nearly going off on a punk-ass Journeys shoe store sales guy who tried to talk Stella into CLEARLY ENORMOUS size 9 shoes (she's a 7) and then tried to turn her against me just to make a sale (Buddy, you don't know who you're messin' with...) and a blaring "back to school" fashion show happening in the very middle of everything. Then we came back home and I shampooed the other half! Then I went back to the airport for four Russians, settled them in, and sat down for a cup of tea with a bunch of middle eastern men, students from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Libya - perhaps a little awkward but still not so bad. Tomorrow will be more of the same! Grrrr!! Superwoman!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Can't Someone Throw a Hardball at Chris Matthews' Big Mouth?

I think I've figured out why all those political commentary shows like Countdown with Keith Olbermann and Race To The White House with David Gregory annoy me.

They're basically talk shows where the guests never change. They just always have the same ol tired stable of commentators.

It'd be a million times more interesting if they asked waitresses and cab drivers and grocery check-out girls and know-it-all college students their opinions. Don't you think?

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Rest Of It

I love road trips. I don't even have to go anywhere. I love driving around the Ozarks on Sundays, for instance. I love poking around gas stations looking for weird gifts and buying nasty candy and nastier coffee. I love scanning the radio for creepy or crazy call-in shows.

I discovered that I also like it when D. drives and I read aloud. On this trip to The Middle I read from David Sedaris's latest book When You Are Engulfed in Flames (predictably hysterical). In my previous life when I taught middle school, I used to love reading to my students. Every afternoon, at the very end of the day, we'd all sit down and I would read a chapter or so from my personal favorite YA (young adult, duh) books: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Wolves of Willhoughby Chase, From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Dark is Rising series. I think it's really good for kids to sit still for 15 minutes a day and just listen....

But anyway, our mini-vacation last weekend was a blur. Guess what though - Iowa is beautiful! Rolling hills, American Gothic-style houses, lots of corn, big open blue skies....really lovely. Too bad all we saw was from the seat of a Toyota speeding along the god-awful I-35 interstate. Seriously, that highway is the worst. Did you also know that Iowa has luxurious rest stops? We're talkin' wireless internet, copious free maps and information booklets...and bathroom stalls almost suited to speed-changing from road trip clothes to rehearsal dinner semi-fancy duds, Superman-style (more on that later). That particular rest stop was advertised from miles away as the "modern rest stop." "What's at this rest stop then?" D. asked as we zoomed past a glorified oxbow-shaped paved pull-off and a sign promising - or warning- that for the modern rest stop we'd have to drive 4o miles, "A porta potty? A hole in the ground?"

I wish I could follow D. around with a little recorder because he says the funniest things all the time. We were in a crowded bar after the wedding reception when "Billie Jean" came on...."They should re-write this for John Edwards" he said drolly. Awesome! I was fiddling with the radio and "Tell It To My Heart" by Taylor Dayne came on. "I bet you like Taylor Dayne, don't you?" I asked, idly harrassing him the way I sometimes do. Then he just naturally and casually replied, "I saw her on The Late Show once and bought her CD" as though it were the most normal and inconsequential thing in the world. This man is full of complexities y'all. Former (?) heavy rocker, superfan of Thelonious Monk and Chopin, and....closet Taylor Dayne fan. Who knew?

Too bad I can't remember all the times and circumstances in which he's cracked me up. I haven't been whipping out my Little Notebook Of Observations and Overheard Funny Bits near as often as I should.

Oh well. On to the pictures.

Here's the aforementioned lowflow shower head. Is that sentence missing some hyphens? Because I'd be happy to add one or two. I do love the hyphen.

"In case you didn't get the PREVIOUS HUNDRED TIMES WE'VE MENTIONED IT, we are a GREEN HOTEL. Got it?"

Aveda: code for "pretentiously earth-conscious." I like their minty lipsticks so much, though, that I had to buy two different shades at the salon where we had our wedding hair done (more on that later too).

The one lone painting in our room in Kansas City. Who am I kidding? That thing is as much a painting as I am a painter. The lone trendy green print.

Non-dairy creamer, right? So what's that say at the very bottom in bold print? Call me crazy, but how could it possibly be described as non-dairy? Food science scares me. Those two words shouldn't go together (no offense, Fuji - you know I love you!).

Friday we woke up early-ish with big plans and a full agenda to tackle. I wanted to accomplish three things in Kansas City: 1.) buy silver heels to wear in the wedding. I know Stacey loves how Arkansas I am, but I didn't think she'd want me to literally walk barefoot down the aisle. 2.) Go to the Nelson-Atkins Museum. I took my class there, in my previous life when I taught middle school, and have long dreamt of going back to poke around on my own schedule, and 3.) visit old friends of my family. The husband is recovering from a scary surgery that saved his life and I really wanted to see how he was doing. He has always been one of the crazier of my parents' old, crazy hippy friends who tells, by far, some of the most entertaining stories. They all seem to start with "So I was driving down to Mexico...." and end god-only-knows where.

I found beautiful, sexy silver shoes right away. My beautiful, sexy boyfriend bought them for me! They're the kind that look so pretty when you look down at your feet and conveniently cover up the THROBBING BLISTERS that inevitably form from wearing beautiful, sexy 3-inch heels. Then it was time to get our culture on and stare at some art. I love this museum! It's huge and varied and, best of all, FREE! I remembered to take the camera but I'm a dumbass and failed to take notes (ahem) so I don't know who did these pieces, but I love them. If you're smart about this sort of thing and can identify the artist, please let me know. Click on the pics to make them bigger.

I love the food-like warmth of this painting. It looks vaguely like a woodland creature covered in radishes or cocktail olives. Whatever. It makes me feel hungry and cuddly.

Outsider art is sometimes, let's face it, embarrassingly crappy. But when it's good it's more likely to be creepy or unsettling in some way. Like an eyeless preacher with his midsection opened up to reveal a shrine.

Angles of the ceiling when looking up in the contemporary art wing.

I loved the small but amazing cubist and dada room. This painting reminds me of the cover of a record album my parents had when I was little. I am going to make myself crazy trying to remember which album it was....

Dancing plastic lobster display! Yes, of course!

I DO remember that this painting is supposed to be of St. George. You know...who killed the dragon? "He's" the one on the left. However, I refuse to believe that it's a guy there on the left. There's just no way. I know paintings were different back then and stuff, but I just can't accept that. I prefer this instead as a painting of Joan of Arc being tough (Joan Jett of Arc - I smell a fantastic Halloween costume idea!). Look how strong and elegant she is! And it appears she's not afraid to stand up to the papal dude next to her.

At the museum store, where I wanted to buy Stacey and Nick's (I'm so prepared for this wedding - can't you tell?) gift, D. told me about his idea to give gift certificates for marital counseling as wedding gifts. He's wicked. But exactly the right kind of hilarious. Wouldn't that be perfect for the couple with an advanced sense of humor?

So then it was on to visit the convalescing friend of the family. We got to talking and I wasn't paying attention to the clock. I dragged myself away because we (err, D.) still had to make the drive to Des Moines. I was thinking of the invitation in my purse for the rehearsal dinner at 6:30. Mmmm....dinner. Only as we wound our way across Kansas City in search of the interstate did it occur to me that the rehearsal dinner usually comes AFTER the wedding rehearsal. The rehearsal that was scheduled to begin in 2 & 1/2 hours. Add to that the fact I'd somehow gotten it into my head that Des Moines was a 2 & 1/2 hour drive from Kansas City. D. whipped out his stupid iPhone and quickly proved me wrong, wrong, wrong....more like 3 hours. That brings us to changing into my pretty dress and his handsome suit in the bathroom of a (modern) rest stop along I-35. You haven't lived until you've emerged from your chrysalis of a bathroom stall to ask a total stranger to zip you up.

So yes, we missed the wedding rehearsal. I mean, I MISSED IT. But (you know me) I got to the dinner right in time. Wine and fancy pizza. Perfect.

Saturday morning all us wedding party ladies went to get our hair done. The last time my hair was professionally done in order to participate in a wedding was probably one of the most traumatic hair experiences of my adult life (all I can say is "cascading hair ribbons") so I was a little anxious. But it turned out pretty! Shellacked within an inch of it's already over-processed life, but very pretty!

Here's Stacey, looking so calm and gorgeous! How does she do it???

It was pretty fun(ny) to walk around for a few hours in flip flops and shorts with a totally glam updo and professional make-up application.

I didn't have time that day to remind D. that he was supposed to take pictures of the wedding and reception. So this is the only one I have of Stacey in her dress. I also think this was before we figured out that she forgot to put on her floofy petticoat. LAND SAKES! How could we forget something so crucial? All I can say, I guess, is that wedding preparation is akin to being pregnant, and one can get really spacey and dumb when pregnant. I'm not saying Stacey was spacey and dumb - far from it! - I'm saying I WAS/AM. Stacey amazed me with her poise and mad organizational skillz. She looked so freaking beautiful, too.

This is likewise the only picture of the bridesmaid dresses. And of Lisa touching up her makeup. I was so worried I'd look like a fat mermaid in that dress...but it was floaty and elegant and so flattering. Just like everything else about the wedding.

The reception was in an old Mason temple. This is the ornate and gorgeous ceiling. If walls could talk! What the hell did the masons exactly do anyway???? I may have some serious insomniac internet research ahead of me.

There was a lot of dancing.
The vacation pictures abruptly stop there. And I didn't have it in me to get the camera out again until tonight. So you'll have to take my word for it on the glorious tackiness of the Ameristar casino in Kansas City where we stopped on our way home. Ameristar! I think that sounds more like a credit card name than a casino (fitting, no? Both are designed to trick you out of every penny to your name). I'm too chicken to play any tables...but D. is quite the skilled Blackjack player. He was up....then down...then down further.....but he came back triumphantly and so I made him stop right there.

We got home very late Sunday night where we were greeted by the most excited dog ever.

I am so glad I also took off work Monday because I got to be extraordinarily and deliciously lazy ALL DAY LONG.

After restaurant meals exclusively for that many days, I was dying for a home-cooked meal. Does anyone else miss their own cooking when they're traveling? I couldn't wait to make something exactly the way I thought it should this dish. I don't know the name of it, but it's Mexican. The recipe was passed down from a Mexican acquaintafriend (does this term make sense?) to another friend of mine who taught me to make it.

First you sautée onions until they're on the verge of caramelizing. Oh...wait....first you make brown rice. Then the onions...

Meanwhile you ask your sassy teenage daughter to shut up and peel some carrots, already. And don't let her stop at 3 or 4....have her peel at least 5, enough to fill a mid-sized mixing bowl.

While she's complaining about the back-breaking work of peeling carrots, you roast poblano peppers under the broiler setting in your oven (or over a flame of a gas stove....or on the grill...whatever) and slice some queso fresco cheese.

When the brown rice has about 20 minutes left, you layer the nearly-caramelized onions, then carrot slices, and finally the poblanos that have been peeled and de-seeded and then stuffed with the cheese slices and pour some chicken or veggie broth over it all and let it simmer and bubble and cook all the flavors together. If you did everything right, it should be a harmonious combination of sweet, smoky, savory, spicy, salty, and YUMMMMMMM.

Then, hours later, the only thing that will top off such a meal is a tasty dessert of toasted coconut and almonds.....

...served over vanilla ice cream with Hershey's syrup on top.

I don't think I have anything else to say. Hard to believe, I know. Wow.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

KC - Episode Requiring A Tiring Number of Ironic Quotation Marks

Just sittin' here in my Business Queen (Queen because that's the size of the bed. I guess "Business Double" sounds a little dirty. What makes it Business? The desk? Isn't that, like, standard?) room in The Q Hotel in Kansas City. They proudly describe themselves as "Kansas City's First Green Hotel." I'm not really in the mood to go into my rant about the adjective "green" so let's just say that, beyond the wee little snazzy silver trash can with a "Please Recycle" sticker on it, I don't really see what makes this a "Green Hotel." They ask not to wash our towels every day, and perhaps offer a low-flow shower head (I didn't pay attention). They do have a coffee pot with little packets of organic coffee and some paper cups. My personal opinion is that it's sort of a lame attempt at jumping on a marketing bandwagon. Maybe I have snobbily high standards but it'd be nice to at least see LEED certification or recycled furnishings, and all natural fabrics. But's just a few half-assed gestures and fingers crossed that no one will notice that it's just a surface makeover to try to make an aging hotel seem "hip." That kind of thing fills me with rage. Like when you see Gwyneth Paltrow on PlanetGreen talking about making her own baby food puree. Who do you think you're kidding??? I guess me, because I'm the idiot who fell for it thinking, "'s got to be a tiny bit better than staying at the Holiday Inn...where, throw away all their trash and wash towels every day?" I'm just perpetuating this stupid trend!! I'm a late adopter!

But what the hell? I grew up with no indoor plumbing and an organic garden! We lived about as "sustainable" as you can without getting all creepy and obsessive....I've been "green" since it was still called "hippy!" See, so I'm really an early adopter! Ha! For the only time in my life probably, but still!

Shit. I think I slipped into the rant a little. I CAN'T HELP MYSELF.

PS - I'm cheap...but spending this much money for the sheer privilege of sleeping in a different city makes me think of all the kitchen gadgets I could have bought instead...

I think the important thing to remember, though, is that this is all very exciting because A.) I get a mini-vacay from working and parenting....oh and B.) Stacey and Nick are gettin' hitched! And the bridesmaid dress is prettier in person than in the picture...that never happens! And I'm visiting a part of the U.S. that I never have before - the exotic Middle. That big ol' beige expanse that I've never really thought to explore. So far my take is that it's kind of funny and sad and beautiful and weird and boring....but it doesn't count because I'm only in Missouri and I've been here many times before. I'll let you know my touristic take on Iowan interstate sights tomorrow.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Keeping Me Up At Night

This was the last weekend for all our programs. We have two whole weeks before the next groups arrive. So you might think I can finally relax.

You might.

But you'd be wrong.

The departures were a little crazier than usual. That's bound to happen when 80some internationals with varying degrees of English comprehension are all flying out of one small airport. I could tell stories of attempts to take six (6!) bags as carry-ons, wheelchair fiascoes, missed flights, and security showdowns. But that's not why I can't sleep.

One of my students has gone AWOL.

Despite working with hundreds of students from so many different nationalities, this is the first time I've dealt with this issue and processed it from an administrator-ish point of view. I feel frustrated, shocked, disappointed, confused, sympathetic, as well as a little taken-advantage-of. Most of the students I work with come to us to learn English and study America's approach to social justice. They are grateful for the experience and excited to go back home and share what they've learned. Their program is paid for as part of a prestigious grant given to students who must first prove that they are committed to improving their communities. They tend to be indigenous, highly principled, older, and married with children. In other words - not flight risks. It is very rare for students from this program to have their visa denied.

I can't help but think of all the possible repercussions of this action. Trust me, the very last thing I want to be doing right now is obsessively thinking about anything work-related. But this is about people, about human relations, not work. I can only hope it is a temporary error in judgment, a stupid and impulsive decision. The one thing I can't seem to do is stop thinking about it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sometimes It Pays To Stay Home On a Friday Night...

...watching The Dog Whisperer and cookin' up some farmers' market veggies before they go bad.

Otherwise I wouldn't have caught my hilarious friend Jeff Mac as a construction worker (he IS a manly manslator, after all) stuck in cement in a new Verizon commercial!

I had to back it up a few times to make sure...but yup, that's him! It's only a matter of time before I get to say, "I knew him back when...."

I'm hitching my wagon to your star, buddy.