Sunday, April 28, 2013

Learning Lessons The Hard Way

Sometimes I wonder if that's the only way I ever learn.  You know that feeling?

I had a scare yesterday morning where I thought I had lost or had my wallet stolen.  My heart stopped beating for a few hours until the girls at the hotel front desk located the restaurant where I'd had lunch the day before. I couldn't believe how stupid I'd been.  That's not like me, especially when traveling.

Later that afternoon we all went down to the hotel conference ballroom for the big college fair.  I'd stuck my phone in my suit jacket pocket, so I could quickly look up words to translate or information.  The room quickly got very hot so I took my jacket off and hung it on the chair behind me.  Do you know where this is going?  Because it's going where you think it is.  Our table was set up so that my chair faced the stream of students walking past.  Next time I had a chance to check for my phone it was gone.  A little later we found out another college rep had his iPad go missing too.  I had to go into the conference restrooms and have a small crying jag/breakdown.  After the wallet fiasco I felt like I just looked so AMATEUR and careless and stupid to my colleagues.  Then there's the trauma of losing my connection to home, all my photos...all my MUSIC that saves my life on long flights?  Such a First World complaint and yes, that comes into sharper focus when traveling like this - the fact that I am a product of the First World.

On the other hand, this is what I'm looking at right now:

Beach across from my hotel.  Boa Viagem district, Recife, Brazil. 

Tuesday I should have time to go here.  Yes.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sao Paulo, Briefly


Yup, I made it to Brazil.

Last night some former students met me at the hotel and took me out into the city.  We took the subway into the center of the city to the Luz Station, which was moved, brick-by-brick, from England.  The locals are very proud of it.  "It looks just like Harry Potty!  Station 9 1/2!" they kept saying.   Right next to the station is the incredible Museu da Lingua Portuguesa, (link takes you to English Wikipedia page) one of the few museums in the world dedicated to a language.  I was so mesmerized by its technological wizardry and unique hands-on exhibits that I forgot to take photos.  If you're ever in Sao Paulo, though - GO!!

Luz Station

Watching the madness from one level above
Although there is police presence everywhere, apparently it's A-Okay to stand DIRECTLY next to the tracks and shove people into the next oncoming train.
Yet another view of the crowds at Luz Station
Scary-looking power lines everywhere

Photos from my phone:

Outskirts of the city
Like this but in every direction, as far as the eye can see
Sao Paulo is the largest city in South America.  Photo to prove it.

Post-Instragram filter
Rush hour in the subway.  Utter chaos.
Memorable dinner.  Shrimp the size of my face, grilled asparagus & the most flavorful delicious grilled shiitake mushrooms.
There is amazing street art everywhere you look.

Tomorrow is our last day in Sao Paulo - and tomorrow night I'm supposed to go to a student's home for a Brazilian barbecue.  Um, yes please!  Then early Sunday we're flying to Recife, Tuesday we'll be in Natal, Thursday in Rio and then, with tragically little time there at all, I'll fly out Saturday night to return to Arkansas...where we begin a new program the same day that I arrive AND I'll need to move to a new house instantaneously.  Eeep!  No rest for the wicked. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

We Went To Colorado Last Week

And all we got were these incredible views and the confirmation that Stella will go to college at Ft. Lewis in Durango!
From the edge of campus

Campus looking down on the town

Who's gonna run this town (in September)?

Watched a little football practice.  Our last season's coach (who failed miserably at a big SEC school and taking over in the midst of a huge sex scandal) is now their coach

From the practice fields

We also drove over to Mesa Verde.  This is along the drive

Looking back over to the San favorite part of the Rockies

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I don't have television (like channels....I own a physical television), so sometimes when I have to stay in hotel rooms for work, I like flipping around and getting horrified.

Like here:

Funniest part?  When I googled "iyanla fix my life season 2 promo" a news article titled "DMX:  Iyanla didn't fix my life; she made it worse!" popped up.   Fix my life, make it worse!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dispatches From The Ashes

Stella and I got back late last night from 3.5 days in  Durango.  It was Preview Weekend at the college of her dreams.  We're gonna try to make this happen.  A lot of cards appear to be falling into place.

I have a sunburn.  I finished Female Chauvinist Pigs, found on Ginny's shelf, and started The Marriage Plot which I've been hauling around, unread, since Kazakhstan at least.

Speaking of books, I joined a bookclub and am now 2/2 on unread club selections.  Oops.  I just keep finding other things I'd rather read, like my old buddy Scott Hutchins' UNFUCKINGBELIEVABLY good A Working Theory of Love.  I intend to devote an entire post to this book and my feelings about its author (SO PROUD!)  The closest way I can describe them succinctly is just to say that this book really tickled the best possible way.  Fantastic work, Scott!

I took my first hot yoga class a week ago.  I slipped and bumbled and groaned and sweat more than the entire month of August...but I held my own, dammit.  I breathed (panted) and forced myself through it, ordering my body to recalibrate itself and find balance.  Boy, oh boy I do get the appeal of this discipline.  Incredible!!  I felt limber and exhilarated afterward.  Keep in mind I couldn't sit up without wincing for 3 days but I can't wait to get back.  And next time I'll definitely know how it works.  I've already learned the hard way not come to class wearing a baggyish cotton t-shirt, toting a skimpy thin mat that turns into oiled glass when wet, and hair in a loose bun. 

This trip to Colorado was so much fun!  It was our birthday trip and the weather was perfect.  Stella and I hadn't been on a plane together since 1996.

I want to explain exactly why I love these things but need sleep and my neck is killing me and wow, am I ever sick of hearing such old crotchety excuses for not writing enough.  So just take it from me that each of these recommendations is wonderful and more than worthy of your precious time, attention, and patronage:

The film and soundtrack - Celeste & Jesse Forever.  Heartbreaking and funny and sweet.  Rashida Jones continues to incite sharp pangs of jealousy.  Does she HAVE to hit the Smart/Pretty/Talented trifecta so perfectly?  I'd hate her if I didn't love her so much.  Added super bonus - discovering Donnie & Joe Emerson.  They've got quite a backstory

The consistently charming, hilarious, and very real adventures of these two bloggers:  Melina Coogan from The Wilder Coast and Nici Holt Cline from Dig This Chick.  Each woman writes about her life in a rich, captivating way that never flinches from the truth or misses an opportunity to express love and appreciation for her life.  I love not only discovering a great blog, but also then finding a good fat archive to feast upon. 

Thinking very seriously about trying the 30 Day Paleo Challenge.  I mean why not?  It's only 30 days and if it can bring me more energy and get me out of this pain/exhaustion/caffeine/sugar/drugs spiral of death I will be thrilled.  It's not something that feels inherently wise to strictly adhere to, but I'd like to see if it helps me.

MAD MEN IS BACK!  MAD MEN IS BACK!!  Yes!  Finally!  Other than that all I've got left is Game of Thrones, where I never remember who goes with whom, and Nashville, which I love for the music and the Connie Britton but doesn't really challenge me or get me to think the way Mad Men does.  They give us a short film every week.  How lucky I am to bear witness to this era of creativity in media. 

I did tell you I was going to Brazil, right?  I've got to get on that.

Do any of you have any recommendations?  

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Barely Legal

People always ask me if I get the same breaks that the students get. The short answer, which I'm sure you can already anticipate, is NO. We're always preparing for the next group of students and tying up loose ends from the ones who have just departed.

That said, I was able to take a long weekend at the beginning of Spring Break.  A 3-day weekend is just glorious to me!  Of course I went straight to the river to relax, read, cook, eat, sip coffee in the morning and wine in the evening, identify birds, and, best of all, visit with Jude.

One afternoon Jude was running errands and I was alone at the house.  I looked up from my book and saw these characters hanging out in the yard:
I don't see many wild turkeys so I get kind of excited when I do.  They're in that category of ugly/beautiful I think.

Jude and Craig had family out to the house on Monday night for the twins' birthday.  I can't even believe Ben and Julia turned 31.  How is that possible??  Here we have Carmen and Loretta working in the kitchen.

I made a tres leches cake for Julia

I had to make a cake for Ben too, even if he couldn't be there to enjoy it.

Ben got a chocolate-y chocolate cake.

Farar documenting the cakes

It's getting too meta!  Photos of photos of cakes.

It's high birthday season around here, folks.  It's the heat of summer that produces all these springtime babies I guess.  Stella had a big milestone birthday - EIGHTEEN!  Of course I walked around singing Alice Cooper all day but no one got the reference or cared.  Come on!  It's a great song!  "I've got a baby's brain and an old man's heart?"  Classic.

I had to do better than last year when, as is typical, I was overworked and exhausted and had a complete meltdown during Stella's birthday dinner.  I had to go in the other room and cry because my mom and I somehow got into it and I had once again pushed myself too far and paid the price.  Or, rather, my daughter paid the price.  It should have been HER celebration but then all the attention went to me, acting like a child and having a temper tantrum.

But this is a new year!  And hopefully I've grown and learned how to try to prepare ahead and not end up a stressed out maniac by the time  Stella's birthday rolls around.  Luckily the night before her birthday I took all the food in the fridge and sauteéd it all together, deciding at the last minute to turn this mish-mash into enchiladas!  You guys - total success!  The enchiladas had just a little bit of cubed chicken thighs, spinach, leeks, peppers, carrots, onions, mushrooms, plain yogurt and queso fresco cheese.  So delicious.  I also had some brown rice on hand so I cooked it the night before.  Then, on Tuesday night - Stella's actual birthday - I whizzed cilantro and a can of diced tomatoes together and stirred that into the rice. The pièce de résistance though, was her birthday cake.

Stella's friends showed up and loved the meal.  They loved the dinner and kept remarking on how good and healthy it tasted, which goes to show that teenagers don't want to eat pizza and fast food only.  Then I pulled the cake out.  The cake that I'd stayed up until 2am the night before finishing because I only had two cake pans and the cake required six layers.  
Tryna be cool

This little creature is now legally an adult.  WHAT?

New coffee table book:  pictures of pictures of cakes

The candles had colored flames, in keeping with the rainbow theme.
So I did not plan this at all, but it so happened that Stella's birthday fell on the first day that the Supreme Court was discussing marriage equality.  So she got a gay pride cake on a day of extreme significance to fighters for justice and equality.  It all somehow worked.
The surprise inside

I first saw this cake in a photo on Ai Lien's blog, I think.  It stuck in my head and I knew I had to try it one day.

There are a LOT of chemicals in this cake.  But the icing was "natural" and delicious - butter & cream cheese whipped together, dash of vanilla, then slowly add powdered sugar until it felt stiff enough (that's what she said).

Opening cards and presents

showing off her manicure (and her bf there to the left)

My little baby

After dinner, Stella's friends, my sister, grandmother, and I pulled out the photo album that has pictures of her birth and directly after.  She was the cutest baby.  I'll scan and post one day.  I can hardly believe she's already 18.  My job's not over...far from it.  We've still got college ahead of us, but I think she's certainly on a good path.

Stella and I are going to visit the college she most likely will attend, and really, really wants to attend this weekend.  It's a Preview Weekend.  We're going back to Colorado and both are super excited.  We need a weekend away, just the two of us, no matter what the reason.  But this is a pretty exciting reason!