Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve and Other Stuff

So here’s the thing. Back in October (I think??) my bookclub read The Monk, which was so ridiculous that I had to love it. Anyhoodle, one of my bookclubbers read to us from a review of The Monk he had found online and it was so funny that we made him email all of us the link so we could go read the whole thing. Except it was so great that I started reading all of the reviews, and totally using the reviews to pad my (already quite long) to-read list over at Goodreads. Today I had nothing much to do, so I totally worked on that all day. And my to-read list went from 28 to 39 when I added all next year’s bookclub picks to 98 when I started reading Books I Done Read and I’m only on the letter M as I write this. People, I am never, ever going to finish my to-read list. Especially when you find out that I have two other to-read lists which have none of the same books (one on my phone and one on a notebook I keep in my purse).
Also, I was going to tell you about Chicago.
I love Chicago. Also, I love holiday traditions because I don’t really have any. My best friend, however, does. One of hers is a trip to Chicago every December to look at the windows in Macy’s (except it used to be Marshall Field’s and was apparently much better back in the day, but this story is not about the un-Chicago-ing of a Chicago landmark, so moving on…). Except this year her family didn’t go and she didn’t think she was sad about it (due to the apparent sucki-ness of Macy’s compared to Field’s) until I told her that if she wanted to go on Christmas Eve I would go with her. So, Friday off we went to Chicago, and it was awesome. There was cheesecake made out of Frango Mints (which are pretty much the best way to eat chocolate-they are magic candy). There were very few crowds and there were very many “Oh crap, Christmas is tomorrow and we still have whole tons of Christmas stuff!” sales. I bought two gorgeous Christmas ornaments (a wine bottle because of my wine touring this summer and a new topper) for less than either one of them cost full price. The only thing that would have made it better was if her brothers (who were invited) had decided to come, I know she regretted that they weren’t there and she wishes she spent more time with them. Also, they are both very polite young men who don’t make me want to slap them in the face every five seconds like my brother. I took some pics, but there are mostly of glittery things for me to admire, or of sparkly Christmas lights, which I already showed you like forty-seven pictures of, so I won’t include them in this post.
Anyway, that’s all I wanted to tell you about Christmas Eve. Hope your holiday was a wonderfully sweet and comfortable as mine was.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas, Again

I LOVE Christmas Eve church. I always go to the 11:00 service at the church I work at with Kristin and her family. I always sit with her brothers (because she is assisting minister-like every year). And I always feel like the whole service is just one big Christmas hug (if that makes any sense). BUT, when I was a kid the church I went to said that the Bible never said to celebrate Jesus' birthday and so they didn't do anything special AND the church I went to in high school did their special service the Sunday before Christmas and nothing on Christmas Eve. So for me the Christmas Eve service is a choice I've made as an adult and I think that's part of why it means so much to me.
It's kind of weird for me actually. Most days I don't really think about God at all, and even when I do (because I work in a church- it comes up!) it's kind of a here and gone thought. But on Christmas (and Easter, yup I'm one of those people- Chreasters Kristin calls them, who only go to church on Christmas and Easter) I sit in the pew and I can't help but think/pray things like this...
"I know you and I (meaning God and I) don't really spend a lot of time together, and I clearly struggle with the whole God thing, sacrifice and not doing what I want [i.e. list a few sins that I engage in fairly regularly] aren't realy my thing. All the same I am really glad there's this special time. That You are into sacrifice and gave up Heaven to come here to live adn die for people, because hello, you're God, you could totally have just hung out up there pointing and laughing at us and our pointless lives instead."
See, it's weird. Like I see the real meaning, but I can't really take it to heart and I end up standing outside of it all staring in, kind of wishing I could accept it and belong, but not quite being able to do so. Sort of like how I feel with Kristin's family, like I'm ALMOST one of them, but...not really.
And now that I've told way more about my complicated issues than you ever wanted/needed to know, I'll wish you a Happy Christmas and go on with my holiday! Tomorrow, maybe I'll tell you about my trip to Chicago yesterday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas

I had meant to participate in one of those “25 Days of Christmas” things with post questions for each day from December 1 until Christmas. But instead…I didn’t. No, instead I just spent a lot of time enjoying Christmas with my friends. I told you I went to the Holiday Magic light display at the zoo I’m a member of, and it was awesome. It was below freezing both days, and yet I had a total blast. I didn’t take the kids either day, instead I went with Kristin on Saturday and Sarah on Sunday. Saturday Kristin drove. She was quite pleased with herself because she got to play with a penguin. She put her finger on the glass and started moving it near a penguin, who followed her finger. After a few minutes he decided he wanted to lead and swam away a little bit, but Kristin thought he was done playing. Then he came back and gave her just the most exasperated look ever and swam away again until she started trailing him with her finger. It was very cute, and very funny. That was three weekends ago (!) I totally meant to tell you about it sooner, and also show you these pics.










Last weekend my best friend and I got together with our friends who are getting married and exchanged presents, then we went looking at Christmas lights. I haven’t just driven around looking at lights in forever (like since it was my gas that was being spent, or that of my equally poor friends?), but there’s a neighborhood not far from where we were that I had heard about online and from Sarah (Juniper Lane, South Elgin if you want to go). It was amazing!








Tomorrow I’m going to Chicago to check out the Macy’s windows (Kristin has always gone with her family but they didn’t go this year, I have never gone but always wanted to, so it works out well for both of us). Saturday I’ll spend the day with Kristin’s family and Monday is my family’s Christmas. It will be a pretty busy weekend, but I’m going to love every second of it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

To Do Lists

See I always have big, grand plans for December. I think I’ll attend several Christmas parties, spend time relaxing and thinking about the season, perhaps do Advent for myself (not just my class), make Christmas cookies, and watch classic Christmas movies (you know the ones I’m talking about right? The old claymation movies, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th St., It’s a Wonderful Life, etc). Instead my to-do list ends up looking like this…

  1. Finish making Christmas present for friend (who reads this blog, so I can’t tell)
  2. Paint scenery for school program
  3. Make school program music (which means actually mixing music, not just making a quick cd- it took over four hours!)
  4. Work on present for parents (31 handprints per kid later, we’re making super cute handprint calendars)
  5. Finish making Christmas cards (quick, spend 28 hours on those so that the FIVE mom wants to sign can sit on the table for over a week waiting to be signed so I can mail them BEFORE Christmas)
  6. Buy that one last present that I never get on time, even though it’s the biggest one and I HAVE to get it because it’s from four other people who are all counting on me.
  7. Babysit niece and nephew at least three times more than I planned and on nights that I don’t really have the time for them
  8. Go see the NEW movie that I’m dying to see, but that has nothing to do with my picturesque Christmas movie plan
  9. Help figure out how to make sure the babies (who are supposed to be Jesus) don’t look “like terrorists”
  10. Ambitiously agree to help figure out NEXT year’s Christmas program two days after this years
  11. Figure out how to make a crib look like a manger, and after thinking about it for days, get told that we can just wrap some paper around the one part they don't like- it totally doesn't need to look like a maner!
  12. Stare sullenly at the giant pile of Christmas movies every time I come in or out of the house wishing I could just sit for two hours and watch one of them
  13. Spend an entire weekend at holiday magic with two different friends (wait, I actually really enjoyed that one-I’ll post pictures AFTER the Christmas program tomorrow-I mean today)

And that, dear friends, is why I haven’t posted in over a week because that, that is just this week’s to-do list. :(
Also- did you know that my last post was my 100th? If I’d known, I might have written a special post just for that, but I just realized today when I was posting number 101, so.. I didn’t.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

**Update from Below**

Wow! I got my first annonymous comment today, and people are mean! I deleted it, because such things don't need to jumble up MY space. But I will clarify what I meant when I wrote before...
I'm not a lesbian. I don't HATE male companionship, in fact I do enjoy men. Men think so differently than I do that's it's always interesting to be around them. I enjoy the perspective they can offer. I've always had fun hanging around with my male friends or my friends boyfriends/husbands. I even seek it out sometimes when that slightly different perspective can help me solve a problem. However, I don't crave it as the be all, end all of my existence. I date. Sometimes. I've been in fairly long relationships (you know afew months or whatever). I just don't spend all my time seeking one out. If I was attracted to a man that it was practical to pursue, I probably would. But most of the men I know are dating or married to my friends, or they are the brothers of my friends, or they're in relationships of their own. Therefore, it would be STUPID to let any interest on my part show.
Also-no crush boy (thanks for the term Sarah!) is not currently dating/married to one of my friends. I would NEVER even look twice at a man in a relationship. Not in that way.
Finally- Sarah, you don't know crush boy, but I'll tell you all about him tomorrow at the zoo.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Perception

Maybe you see yourself as an adventurer or a political genius, a math whiz or a sweet homemaker, maybe you see yourself as an academic or a jock. There are thousands of ways to see yourself, each unique to the person doing the looking. I want to see myself as independent and practical. One of the parents at my work recently bought his wife a Mazda 2. If you recall that is the car I really wanted when I bought my Focus. Ever since, one of my coworkers has been making quite the big deal about how jealous she is of the wife. We’ve been talking about it and I just realized my coworker is jealous because the husband bought his wife a car. I however, am jealous because I want her car. I don’t want someone to buy me a car; I want to buy myself a car.
The whole situation has made me think about how I perceive myself, how others perceive me, how I want to be perceived all in comparison to who I really am. In reality, I’m not as independent as I’d like. I live with my mom because I can’t afford to move out. Of course there are always options. I could get a second job, cut corners, stop going out, etc. But I’m essentially lazy. I like to be able to play with my friends, and have time for myself to watch TV or read books. So despite being independent in the little things, that clearly isn’t always the case, and especially not in the big things. As for practicality, I know other perceive me to be a bit of an airhead and again I sacrifice necessity for desire.
I want to be an Elinor (from Sense and Sensibilty) not a Marianne. Not coldly emotionless, but neither exposing my every passing thought or emotion. Not chillingly removed from those around me but neither revealed in front of everyone. Yet I conceal little. I have to acknowledge that those closest to me have little doubt as to my personal thoughts, from little things like what they’re getting for Christmas to the big things like my latest (and longest lasting) crush. I just can’t contain my exuberance, from my excitement at having bought the perfect present to my joy at spending time with crush boy.
That’s another place reality and perception doesn’t really meet. I am generally contented to remain single. The only time I really wish there was a special man in my life is late at night when I wish I was cuddled up to something other than my pillow. I don’t long for male companionship, although my friends know I do tend to notice every attractive man in a five mile radius. That’s just because I like to look, and I’ve liked to look since long before I would have known what to do with one if I had him anyway. I don’t enjoy the chaos of early relationships. I prefer to be around people I know and can be comfortable with. I enjoy being around people I can comfortably be quiet with or talk about anything rather than having to search for safe topics to discuss with people I don’t know. Despite all that I know very few people perceive me as being happy with the status quo in this area. People generally think because I have a dirty mind and like to look at men, that I want one of my very own.

The Ghost Map

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern WorldThe Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


My dad and I read this book together, and it was amazing. While a bit gross (do you know how cholera spreads? because now I do) it was one of the most interesting history books I've ever (and since my BA is in history, that is saying alot) and it was great to discuss.

**Update**

I just reread this for bookclub, and I enjoyed it way more this time than last. Although I could do without the author’s lengthy epilogue on the hazards of nuclear weapons, the information found within the main body of the book is fascinating. Johnson manages to spin out the suspense of a hundred and fifty year old epidemic by turning the bacteria and the city both into characters (and by pointlessly endangering the life of one of the human characters- but I guess since it’s nonfiction, you can’t really blame him for that). My only real complaint is the total lack of the “ghost map” in a book entitled The Ghost Map. He goes to some lengths to explain why the map made by the doctor was groundbreaking in its time and instrumental in convincing people of his argument, yet doesn’t choose to include a copy of the map in the book or on his website, which I found to be somewhat less than useful. Also, I knocked a star off what was once a five star review because of it.





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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No Christmas Spirit

I had an entry all written to post tonight when I got home. I wrote it during nap at work, but I had to wake the ids up before I could post it. It’s all about how perception and how I look at myself. I’m sure I’ll post in a few days when I’m nice and calm and rational again. But for now, I’m going to write this one…
I hate Christmas. I never used to. I’m one of those people who just barely gets through Thanksgiving anticipating Christmas. I usually shop on Black Friday. I put my tree up before the weekend is over. This year, like many others, I had presents wrapped and under the tree before Monday. I’m not sure what went wrong this year.
I could say it started Friday. I was a little down because I couldn’t go Black Friday shopping since I was completely broke (should have waited to buy a car until after the holidays!). But, instead I had Nataly over. Mandy and I made plans weeks ago for me to have special Aunt Tina and Naty only time while she was at work and Steve was supposed to have the kids. That day was the first day that I snapped this holiday season. First Steve called me to tell me Naty didn’t want to come with me, but when I talked to her she said she was excited to have our special time. I went to get her and Steve said, “It’s freezing here. Nick and I are coming with you.” I told him no because then Naty and I don’t have our alone time. He yelled a bit more and I told him he could come if he was going to entertain Nick and keep him away from Naty and I. Then he got mad at me and said if I was going to have an attitude about it. When I got her to my house, we started pulling out my special ornaments, the ones that mean something to me. Nataly asked about them and we talked. I pulled out the one that says “Baby’s First Christmas, 1982” and asked her who she thought had their first Christmas in 1982. She thought for a second before very proudly claiming “Jesus!”. Once the tree was up, we watched Christmas movies for awhile (Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman). Then we wrapped the presents that I had already bought before her mom picked her up. Overall, it was a good day. Hopefully that’s how Nataly will remember it, if she remembers it at all.







After work I went grocery shopping. While I was shopping I picked up (and put back) Christmas presents for the kids. I also had to buy new Advent candles because three of mine wouldn’t light today. I spent literally hours looking for purple and pink candles and never found them. Instead I bought a five candle candelabra with the intention of tying ribbon in the appropriate places. When I got home I started working on it, but then I found it.
Neelix (the dog) has been plucking ornaments off the tree since I put it up. What I found was the first one he had destroyed. It had been made for me by a now deceased friend out of terra cotta balls and a mini planter- it was a snowman that meant a lot to me. Now it’s in the garbage. I FLIPPED out and started screaming at the dog. I wound up angrily putting all of my Christmas decorations away so nothing else could get destroyed. Mom had previously pulled all the hangers off a bunch of cheap ball ornaments I had for very basic decorations because Nick tried to eat them and she had promised to fix them for me. Instead they had sat there for three days, in the place she puts stuff she wants me to put away. I asked her if she was going to fix them or if I should throw them away and she got mad at me and told me to throw them away if I was going to have an attitude. So I did. Then I put away all my ornaments and brewed a pot of tea to relax myself.
I feel better now that I’ve written all of this, but I have literally no Christmas spirit left. It’s all drained away from me in a blur of rage and sorrow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cremain Thief

A few months ago my friend’s uncle passed away and was cremated. The other day her aunt called her in tears. She went into the closet where the ashes were kept to scatter some of them per her husband’s wishes, only to find them missing. Her house had been broken into a few weeks ago and the thieves apparently stole the cremains.
I know that sounds like a terrible story, but really…think that through. How dumb were those thieves to steal a medium sized white plastic bag with the words “Funeral Remains” written in black letters on it? What did they think that grey dusty material was? More importantly, did they smoke it or otherwise try to use the remains to get high only to find themselves coughing up dust? Also if they ingested the cremains, are they now either cannibals or zombies?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I'm Thankful For This Year

It is officially Thanksgiving. Also, I just got back from a late dinner with a friend from high school during which we really talked about some serious topics, which I will go into a bit later. The two things combined have really made me reflect on my life and now I want to write about the things I’m most thankful for.

  1. I'm thankful that we can change, who we are is never set in stone. Pretty much the thing I’m most thankful for is that I am not the same person I was ten years ago, or even five.
    Ten years ago I graduated high school. Now, I can look back, and I can remember some good times. However, in general I was miserable. I pretty much had one friend and she abandoned me whenever she had a boyfriend. People made fun of me and teased me for being a lesbian (which I am not). I didn’t fit in with choir (where I sang anywhere from soprano to tenor, but nothing very well). I didn’t fit in with the theatre kids because I worked backstage where it was my JOB to blend in and go unnoticed. I didn’t fit in with any of the writing cliques because while I took the classes I was too shy to let others read my writing. I sucked at math and science but cared about my grades so I didn’t fit in with either the smart kids or the kids who didn’t care about grades. I was socially inept and generally uncomfortable with who I was.
    Today while I can still see some my old behaviors, I am much more confident in who I am. Part of the trouble in high school was how clear it was that I had a crush on a certain boy. I wasn’t very subtle in how I expressed myself. He was friends with a girl I sometimes talked to, and I would go hang out at her lunch table just so I could check him out and pretty much ignore the girl was pretending to be talking to. I made my friend pose for pics in front of him and cut her out so I could get a pic of him. It was ridiculous. I still can’t keep a secret (especially at Christmas, I get to excited about the “perfect gift” I’ve bought and can’t resist dropping unsubtle hints), but at least I can be a little more subtle about crushes.
    Five years ago my best friend (the same one from high school) admitted to me that she basically used me as a scapegoat, that I was someone to yell at anytime she was angry at someone else. And instead of standing up for myself I let her get away with it because I was still so shy I didn’t really have any other friends. Eventually I grew a spine and wouldn’t let her treat me like that anymore. That combined with some other stuff was the last straw for her and we had it out weeks before her wedding and haven’t spoken since.
    Today I still don’t make friends easily, but I do have a small group of friends that I can be myself around. None of them would even consider scapegoating another adult and I generally wouldn’t let anyone treat me like that anymore.
    I hope that I will continue to grow and become more the person I want to be and I’m thankful that I have that chance.
  2. I’m also thankful that I have good friends. My family isn’t close and I’m truly thankful that I have a wide support system of people who are like family to me. My best friend’s family welcomes me with open arms at most holidays (actually…I think at all holidays). Without my friends I wouldn’t be the person that I am today and I like who I am. Without the group of friends I now surround myself with, I would never have grown that spine I mentioned before. I would still be the shy, awkward girl with no opinion instead of a fairly outspoken woman who knows what I want and don’t apologize when it’s not what others expect.
  3. I’m thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had. I was able to walk away from a good job and study full time for an entire year, which very few adults are able to do, and as a result I graduated college. I know that while I had to work hard for that, without my father I would never have had that opportunity. Even in this economy I still have a good job, and not just any job I have a job I love and was just promoted to an even better position. I was able to buy a nice car and I have a solid home to live in. So even when I complain about these things, I need to remember that these are still good things that I need to be thankful for.

There are many other things I'm thankful for, but those are the top three. What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lauren Willig Book Signing

So I told you about going to Chicago the other day for a book signing- Remember the Creepy Train Guy (I think I should start tagging those entries "creepy guy")? That was so long I didn’t get a chance to tell you about why I was actually in Chicago.
So…
One of my favorite living authors is named Lauren Willig. She writes spoofs of Baroness Orczy’s League of the Scarlett Pimpernel books, that are sort of sequels with a modern frame story. They are FANTASTIC and you should totally read them. Actually I’m going to post y review of her first book here in a few days just so you can see how much I liked them. Anyway…
I had met her once before about a year and half ago, and this is how cool she is. She was at a conference and she thought that the book signing portion of the day was open to everyone not just conference attendees, which turned out to be not true. So she spent her scheduled break in a hotel lobby hanging out with fans, signing books (and since there were only like six of us giving us amazing spoilers!) So when I found out she would be in Chicago again, I promptly took the day off so I could go see her again.
It was great, there were way more of us this time, so it was less intimate, but still very cool. She read us an intro to her new book that the publisher made her take out (because they thought it sounded to serious, but none of us thought it was at all serious, so…), she answered questions, and gave us a few minor spoilers then she signed books. So now all of my copies of her books are signed, and I got another Christmas present checked off my list.
Afterwards Kristin and I went to dinner at the restaurant we’d been planning on going to BEFORE but were unable to since I missed my train. The food was AMAZING and the prices were absotlutely astonishing (in the good way). As in we split a carafe of Sangria (wine and brandy poured over ice and fruit), Kristin had linguine and clams, I had wild boar ragu (yes you read that correctly, I ate boar for dinner), and we split chocolate fondue for dessert. Mind you this was all at a restaurant in downtown Chicago (on State St) that was so nice, there was a bathroom attendant. Our total bill (not including tip) was only $45!!
Now enjoy the pictures I took that night (I’m the one in the black and white cityscape tee, Kristin is in blue lace, and Lauren Willis is in the amazing red dress.






Nectar In A Sieve

Nectar in a Sieve (Signet Classics)Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya




I found this book to be moving and lyrical, sorrowful and yet hopeful. However, I think to fully appreciate the book the American reader to place it in historical context first. Rukmani marries Nathan in 1930’s rural India. This is a time and place where there is no such thing as adolescence. The poverty stricken Indian people have to make choices that provide the highest chance of survival to the highest number of people. So, when Rukmani’s parents contract her marriage when she is only twelve years old, the American reader has to understand that not only is this an acceptable age in that culture for a woman (and she is considered a woman by her culture) to be married, her parents are really trying to ensure their own survival (one less mouth to feed at home) and hers (she is the mistress of her own home and although her husband is a landless farmer, she will likely not starve).

Nectar In A Sieve moves through the rest of Rukmani’s life. She sees her family’s prospects grow as Nathan saves money hoping to buy the land he farms, and dwindle as a tannery opens in her town artificially raising prices and destroying the farm land. Eventually her daughter is forced to prostitution to feed her youngest son, who still dies of starvation and they are kicked off the land they’ve farmed for thirty years. Nearly all of their sons are lost to them either through death, because they’ve taken jobs in Ceylon, or through simple vanishing acts. Every day is a struggle, and it’s hard for an American to grasp situations where a family is stretching one meal of rice water to last three days. And yet, Rukmani never gives up. Even after Nathan has joined the dead while they in a distant city far from home, she doesn’t give up. Instead she adopts a leper boy (and saves his life by doing so) and returns home.

This is a novel about hope, the hope that is necessary for people to strive for a better, more secure life, achieved only through gainful employment and a stable income in a capitalist world. Where these opportunities don't exist, or barely exist, you will have thousands of Rukmanis, and Nathans begging in your towns and cities. And thankfully, there will be other "Kamala Markandayas" to document their stories for those who are willing to open their eyes to the world around them.





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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Creepy Train Guy

Tuesday afternoon I got off work at one so I could do my week’s grocery shopping, change clothes, and catch the train to Chicago for my book signing. I left for the train in plenty of time and SHOULD have made it well before the train arrived. Instead, I got stuck on the wrong side of the train station as the train pulled up, stuck behind the train crossing thing. I called Kristin who was supposed to be meeting me, to tell her that I wasn’t going to make that train so she wouldn’t get on (there was another train that would get us there in time). She didn’t answer, and I left her a voicemail telling her not to get on the train. A few seconds later she called me back and asked where I was because she had gotten on the train JUST as it pulled away and she wanted to find me. We agreed that she would continue on and I would catch the next train. We would just meet at the Newberry where the book signing was going to be held.
I didn’t leave the train station, since I didn’t really have that much time before the next train. Instead I sat in my new car and read until it was almost time for the train to arrive. At first my train ride was fairly normal. I sat on the second level, where I always sit when I’m alone. I put in my earbuds to listen to a comedy program and enjoy my ride. Except…there was this guy. He had checked me out at the station while we were standing around waiting for the train, but since I was in my cute going out clothes, I was flattered not worried. However, the guy followed me and sat upstairs but on the opposite side from me. Still, not creepy enough for this to be a story about a creepy guy on a train. No, what makes this a creepy guy story is what happened next. I was sitting there, listening to my music when I noticed Creepy guy’s (CG) reflection. Staring at me.
I didn’t say anything, I didn’t look at him, I just turned the music up and kept an eye on him via the reflection. He never looked away. He just kept looking at me. All the way from Elgin to Galewood. According to Metra, it’s a trip of 54 minutes. Fifty four minutes CG just watched. Can you even imagine??? Anyway, just after the train pulled out from Galewood, CG got down from sitting across from me. I pulled out an earbud so I could be more attuned to what he was doing. People, we was moving across the train to sit by me!
Since we were nowhere near a station and I was pretty well stranded, I thought quickly. I was dressed up, in fancy jewelry and everything. I slipped my big fancy ring from my right hand onto my left and put my earbud back in before he made it up the stairs and sat down two seats away from me (the seat right by me was full of my purse and bookbag). The problem was, my MP3 player died right then. And since it was clipped to my coat, he saw it turn off. And he started talking to me. I’m not great with confrontation, and I can’t tell a guy to take a hike, so I did the next best thing. I flashed my shiny ring and fidgeted with it hoping he’d take the message. He did not.
His opening gambit was “I like you.” Uh…no you don’t buddy. You think I’m hot and you want to know if I will sleep with you. HUGE difference. I tell him that’s very nice, chuckle and open my book. He asks if I have kids. I tell him no, and that I don’t want any. “You don’t mean that,” he says, “You’d make such pretty babies. Especially mixed babies.” Uh…Creepy Guy, get the heck away from me! He’s quiet for awhile before he tries to talk to me again, just about random stuff. So I chat politely for a minute, really ramping up the fidgeting with my ring. Then I ask him “Do you like my new ring? My boyfriend, oops I mean fiancée just gave it to me this weekend.” Even after that he still told me he “likes” me two more times, and asked for my number just as we pulled into Union Station. I told him that my fiancée wouldn’t like it if I gave my number to a random guy on a train, and he literally asked me “Why? What would happen? Would you fight? Would you still be together?” I’m not even kidding from there he told me I should break up with my fiancée so he could call me. I told him I loved my fiancée and got off the train.
People, he followed me! I literally had to go into the ladies room to loss him! Even then, when I came out of the washroom he was waiting for me. I slipped out so he wouldn’t notice me and then practically ran to the cabs out front just to lose him. It was RIDICULOUS!
Next time I write, I’ll tell you about the actual book signing, and share some cool pics.

Monday, November 15, 2010

And the Winner Is...

...The shiny “new” 2011 Ford Focus! I put new in quote marks because it has 3,000 miles on it because it’s been a loaner for a dealer for a few months. But I don’t mind because they knocked like $1,000 off the price for me over it. Also, the dealer is a liar. He specifically told me that the Sync system was standard in all Ford’s and it was what tipped me over to the Ford. Then when I got there and we were talking about my specific car, it doesn’t have the Sync system because it’s the base model. But, whatever, I just wanted to be done and I’m very happy with my choice.
Tomorrow…A book signing with one of my favorite contemporary authors in Chicago :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Car Drama

Okay internet, I told you I’d tell you more about the car thing when I knew more. So let me tell you what’s going on…
To recap, I had dealt with a few rude dealers and not found anything I liked until I stopped to look at the Ford Fiesta. I couldn’t get the Fiesta, but I was kind of done car shopping and I could get financed in theory for the 2011 Ford Focus, which is ubiquitous but not horrible. In practice, I needed to give them a partial down payment ($200) before they would get the financing done because I don’t have a co-signer and they “had to call in some favors” to get it done. So I gave them $200 (fully refundable) and asked when we would know for sure. Two days later they had finally called me back and let me know that they had it worked out. In the meantime, I had found a new car that I LOVED, the 2011 Mazda2. When I saw it online, it seemed perfect. When I saw it in person, my heart literally skipped a beat. It felt so right when I test drove it. But it was late, and they couldn’t even deal with a bank that night. The next day they called me and told me that they couldn’t do it for me. So I was upset, but prepared to get the Focus, but it still had to wait until my next payday for the other $300. In the meantime, I found another Mazda dealer that advertised that they dealt especially with people with bad credit. I don’t have bad credit exactly, so much as very little credit history. Anyway, they told me they could probably finance me, so I went out there and got some things in motion. I just heard back on Friday that they can finance me for the Mazda2 but “we need to discuss some things”, I don’t really know what that means, but now I’m flustered. Tomorrow, one way or the other, I’m buying a new car and I don’t know where to go, so here’s my pro/con list for each car…

Mazda2







    Pros
  1. Bright green=super pretty
  2. Mazda has a great reputation
  3. It felt so right when I drove it
  4. Unique/European styling- it's not the same as every other car on the road

Cons

  1. Almost no features/options- it will route MP3 player through the radio but that's it
  2. Back seat is not comfy/spacious (I feel I shouldn't have to concern myself with kid comfort since I don't have kids, but because of how often I watch Nick and Naty, I do)
  3. No former US model to refer to- it might have bugs we don't know about since there's no history
  4. Not very powerful
  5. low MPG for it's size (subcompact) (29/35)
  6. slightly more expensive

Focus










Pros
  1. Blue which is my favorite color
  2. Ford's Sync System (Bluetooth, will run calls through the radio for a hands free system, plays music from MP3 player radio adjustments on the steering wheel, ambient lighting [this is cool, colored lights at the feet that you can change depending on your mood])
  3. Back seat is more spacious/comfy (see above)
  4. It's a Focus, it's been around long enough that I know what problems I'm likely to run into with it
  5. Slightly cheaper than the Mazda

Cons

  1. Ford doesn't have a great reputation, and the Focus especially has had terrible years in the past, although the reviews have been universally fair to good since 06
  2. STILL haven't test driven it due to dealer issues
  3. Ubiquitous
  4. MPG is lower than the Mazda (25/35) but average for the size of the car

Hmmm… I thought that writing it out like that would help me make a decision, but it didn’t. I love the Mazda, but I’d be giving up some pretty neat stuff with it. I do really like the Sync system but I certainly don’t need it.
If I could wait a year to get a new car, the 2012 Mazda2 is supposed to have a much higher MPG rating and a potential for a “speed” version with more power. Buying a car is hard people!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This week I...

This week, I…
…wanted to call in sick to work almost every day, but decided not to because I don’t get sick pay until I’ve been full time for a consecutive year. Which means that since I wasn’t full time from the September 3 to September 27 I have to wait until September, even though I was full time from June 4 to September 3.
…STILL did not buy a car. But only because I was waiting to hear about the car I really wanted. Which I finally did, and I might be buying that car on Monday. Otherwise I’ll buy a different car on Tuesday. Either way, I guess we know what I’ll be blogging about early next week!
…had to blow off my best friend for a trip to the zoo (and Christmas shopping), a party with high school friends, and a work party so I could babysit for my SIL while my brother slept (he works nights). Then when I got there, he went out.
…informed my SIL that I will be unavailable for ANY babysitting the weekend of Thanksgiving, most of January, and from May 30 through July 6. This is only partly related to the above item, and partly to things like my friend’s wedding.
…argued in favor of a guy taking a child bride. To be fair, it was in an historical novel in which a girl was married to her husband when she was twelve, but in a time (1940s) and place (rural India) where that was the norm.
Next week I’m looking forward to hanging out with my friend Sarah and reading my next book club book which is about Cholera and death-woo-hoo but at least no children will be getting married!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hockey kicks baseball's butt!

I’m not going to say anything about my car search just yet. I’ll let you know stuff once it’s set for sure. However, I do have some things to say about the weekend.
This weekend was AWESOME!! Kristin and I went out to Rockford where Jamie’s fiancée lives. From there we stopped first at David’s Bridal to look for a wedding dress. Jamie bought the second one she tried on and it was perfect. I have pictures, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to share them here. So…no photos will be posted unless I’m told otherwise.
After that we went Christmas shopping and I got several people knocked off my list. Then we went to an Ice Hogs game (minor league hockey). I love hockey, but I hadn’t been to a game since my dad died because he was always the one who took me. We crammed five people in Chris’ Focus and headed to the game, parked, and then were informed that no one really knew where we going, so for the fourth once again we busted out something we nearly always say when we go to Rockford “Follow those people!” Good thing people in Rockford are pretty nice or we would have been drowned in the Rock River years ago! So we get to the game and I’m sitting there screaming my head off cheering and cursing and basically acting like any sports fan who’s really into the game and I think Kristin was quite surprised by my behavior. Not that it was out of line, but she just didn’t realize how much I like hockey, and had never seen me like that because she’s only seen me at sporting events I didn’t understand. Also, when the players started fighting (dropped sticks=fights) Kristin thought it was poor sportsmanship and couldn’t get into it until I explained that it’s allowed in the rules of the game.
We stayed the night and shopped a bit this morning, but no matter how much fun the whole weekend was, eventually it was time to head home. We got in Kristin’s car and we started off but less than five minutes later her car was bouncing and making a flapping noise. Of course we figured it was a flat tire, but the tires all looked fully inflated. We debated, but decided to go back to Chris’ apartment. Good thing, because as Kristin was calling her dad to ask his opinion, she ran out of cell phone minutes and my phone battery had run out the day before (despite having been fully charged when we left). I tried to get her to write on the note she left for the mechanic “My car is making a noise like ‘flappa flappa flappa clunk’ and bouncing like a lowrider over train tracks” but she didn’t think that would be very instructive :(

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ARRRRGH!!!!!!!

That's all I have to say for now. Just ARRRRGH!!!!!!!! I'll have more to say when I finally buy a car.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Whist

My best friend volunteered to learn how to play whist and then teach it to my Jane Austen Fan Club. Which really meant she volunteered herself, me and two other friends to learn to play whist and then teach it to my Jane Austen Fan Club. Friday we gathered in Kristin’s house to learn the basics of this game. If you don’t know, whist is a card game frequently played in Jane Austen novels involving two teams of two trying to win tricks by playing the card of highest value. I turns out it lots of fun. You know what else is fun? Sitting around, playing whist and listening to our friend John repeatedly put his foot in his mouth. Here are a few of his D’oh moments from Friday night.
John is partnering Kristin and I am partnering John’s girlfriend Jessica. John triumphantly plays the last card, nearly slamming it onto the table and whoots “And the lovers take the trick!” Whereby Kristin nearly dives behind me for protection because uh…she is not in fact John’s lover, but his girlfriend is RIGHT THERE. What none of realized for a tense second is the cards we’re playing with have pictures of Modern European art on them. Including a Picasso called The Lovers. Which is the card John just played.
Later I complimented Kristin on her earrings. John has just seconds ago said (I don’t remember why) that he sometimes wishes he was a girl. And now he responds to my compliment with… “Sometimes I want to poke a hole through my body and hang dangly things from it.”
Uh… John do you want some leftover pizza to get that foot taste out of your mouth?
Anyway, I really enjoyed whist. It might actually be one of my new favorite games! Also, I should not tell anymore John stories because he is a very private man who doesn’t like people knowing things about him.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Car shopping

First some backstory…
When my dad died, he and I were planning on buying me a car when I got back from a school trip to Turkey. I was going to be going off to school and I needed a car. Dad and I agreed that he would take me car shopping, we would buy something not terribly expensive and the loan would go under my name, but my dad would make the payments (to help build my credit, it was going to be one more way my dad helped me be more independent). Instead he died and I missed the trip and inherited his car. Which means I reached 28 without EVER buying a car.
My check engine light is on, and my plates expire on Sunday night. Perhaps this doesn’t seem connected, until I tell you I live in a county (not a state, just a county) that requires that I pass an emissions test to renew my plates. However, with the check engine light on, I won’t pass emissions. I COULD fix the $1,000 part (it’s the sensor that tells the light everything is fine) and continue dealing with the broken window, and the body damage that makes me want to hit someone, etc. BTW, my dad had the part fixed. Four times. In two years.
I’m not fixing the part.
Instead, I wound up (partially through my own stupidity true) with two weeks in which to buy a new car. With a crap credit rating and no money to put down. Car shopping is…fun? Terrible? I’m not even sure.
I did internet research, decided what I could afford, etc. My first day out (first dealer, first car I looked at) I fell in love. It was everything I wanted in a car. A 2006 blue Ford Focus hatchback with low miles, good mileage and a price tag that didn’t kill me. The dealer was nice to me and explained things for me since I don’t know much about cars. BUT I had been told not to just buy the first car. Try a few things out, they said. So I walked away after telling the dealer I would probably be back later.
The next day my mom and I went to a few other dealers, where I found out what people mean when they say car shopping sucks. First up…Hyundai. The salesman only talked to mom, even after we made sure he knew I was buying a car, mom had just bought a new one, nad she wasn’t even co-signing my loan. Like to the point that she was standing behind him, I asked a question and he turned around and answered her. We left. Next…Nissan. They ignored us for twenty minutes, which I wouldn’t have minded except none of their cars had prices. Finally a man came out who at least talked to me. But he had a very clear idea of what he was going to sell me, before he even talked to me. He ignored me when I told him the price point I was looking at, didn’t listen to anything I wanted in a car and tried to force something I hated on me. Then, when I told him why I was there (I wanted to see a used Versa) he didn’t tell me what he was showing me and tried to con me into a brand new car. Also, after I saw it, I thought the Versa was bigger than I wanted, and he was rude about that. Finally I told him I wasn’t buying a new car and he goes “Then I don’t think I can help.” To which I replied “Okay, thanks for your time.” I got ready to leave but mom was off changing Nick’s diaper, so I had to wait for them, and he goes “Well…let me talk to my manager.” As soon as Mom came back we left, while he was still talking to his manager, because he was rude and I didn’t want to give him my money.
So, I called the original Ford dealership and told them I wanted the Focus and my SIL was going to take it to the mechanic for my on Monday (this was Thursday). Which they said was fine, but then called me twice more to ask my intentions. I finally told them on Saturday “My SIL will take it to the mechanic on Monday at one, if the mechanic gives me the go ahead, I will come buy it after work, I’ll be there around 5:45.” Monday afternoon my SIL texts me, they sold my car. Then they tried to get her to take something else to the mechanic without me there to say if I liked it. Then they told me that I should come look and that if I found something I liked, they could set it aside until Monday when it could go to the mechanic. Why didn’t they do that with the car I told them I wanted!!!
Today I went to a different Ford dealer to look at the Fiesta (so pretty) even though it only comes in 2011. I can’t have that, but if all goes the way we discussed Monday night I’m picking up a 2011 Ford Focus sedan in electric blue!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Filing, Reviews and Judgement

So one of my small children celebrated her third birthday today. Which means next week we have to do her “ages and stages” to assure her appropriate development. So today, to help make sure I remembered it, I went to pull it out of my file cabinet. Before the previous teacher left she had shown it to me in the cabinet, so I knew it was in there. I cleverly found the file labeled “Ages & Stages” and opened it up, to find…shamrocks. I kept digging, and digging, and… Eventually I found it in a file labeled “Fall: Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Misc”. What kind of filing system is that?? I’d been meaning to clean out my file cabinet, so I started working on that today. Oh the filing people! In FIVE different files I found the same sheet of paper with several hearts on it and a line cutting through the paper and a large hole in the middle. I threw away every file folder in there and replaced it with brand new. I bought 100 file folders, and have less than a quarter left. I may have over organized in response to the complete lack of organization I found.
I also got my very first review today. I’ve never worked anywhere organized enough to be bothered with reviews. When I heard we were doing them, I got a bit nervous, just because of this summer’s parent complaints. Instead my boss mostly laughed at herself because she had completed the reviews in February and forgot to actually give us our reviews. That basically meant my review was even more out of date than anyone else’s because of the job change. Anyway, it went fine. I know a few people were concerned when I first changed jobs (myself included) were a little concerned about how I would take it, if I would be able to handle the huge change. My boss told me that she “liked me as the school age teacher, but she likes me even more as the twos and threes teacher” and honestly? I really like being the twos and threes teacher. It’s a lot of fun having my own class and feeling like a real teacher instead of just a glorified babysitter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shoe Shopping

Next weekend I’m taking Niece to see a play for her fourth birthday. I’m delighted at the opportunity to share one of my favorite things with her. For me, however, part of going to the theater is getting all dressed up. So for her birthday present I bought her a cute little sweater dress and some tights. Then I took her shoe shopping since I owed my SIL in some money anyway, we decided I would buy her dress shoes and we’d call it even. It turns out that buying adorable things WITH a little girl is even more fun than just buying them FOR her.
First, she was extremely pleased with herself when she needed size twelve shoes. If you’re unfamiliar with children’s shoes, that means she graduated from the toddler shoes to the girl’s shoes. Which also meant she had much prettier options. She tried on every brown dress shoes Target had, prancing around in each pair. I kept trying to get her to pick a favorite pair but she kept telling me it was whatever pair she was wearing. I asked her why that was and she said “Because you put them on me Aunt Tina” and continued dancing around the aisle. This would have been slightly more useful if I hadn’t put every pair on her, but it was cute nonetheless. She eventually decided on this adorable pair of slouchy western style boots with a tiny baby heel. When my SIL in saw them she just raised an eyebrow and asked me if Niece could walk in them. I told her Niece could dance in them, so I thought she’d be fine. Hopefully I’m right or I’ll never get to buy her shoes again, and it was so much fun. I’ve always loved shoe shopping, but this was extra special :)

Niece's new boots

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting Together

So my friend and I used to hang out every other week. Then I started working full time, and ever since it’s been chaos. We haven’t seen each other in weeks (weeks I tell you!) because I have to work all day, and she has commitments all night. Here are some highlights from our emails the last few days trying to arrange something (S-T is her to me and T-S is me to her)…
S-T: we NEED to hang out. seriously. we have gone far too long... lol... evenings, right? i am unavailable EVERY evening this week. bummer.
T-S: yeah, now it has to be evenings, so i guess i'll see you saturday and maybe we can do an evening next week or something. (she’s having a tastefully simple party)
S-T: Are you ever free on weekends? Evenings are usually pretty hard for me
T-S: weekends depend on my brother's schedule. . if he's off i'm free, if he works, i watch my niece and nephew, but there's still some free time in there, or we could take them to the library or something.
S-T: Well, let's see... I could probably do a Monday evening here or there. What time works best for you?
T-S: ha ha!!! you managed to pick my busiest night! I'm free the first and third mondays of the month (and the fifth if there is one). Which actually means i'm free this coming monday if you are
S-T: i'm sorry. that's actually our date night, but it's the only time i'm around!!! tuesday is bible study. wednesday is awana. thursday is usually choir (except not tomorrow, but i have megan... however, most 3rd thursdays of the month i'd be free!), and friday/saturday/sunday are usually crazy with family or social events...
T-S: lol, it's chaos! here are the choices as i see them...
a. hang out on the 3rd thursday of the month
b. hang out on monday nights that you don't have date night AND i don't have bookclub
c. hang out during my break time from 1-2 on workdays
d. something neither of us has figured out yet
Anyway, the point of telling you all this is to ask…any ideas other than the four I outlined above?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Political Climate Pt. 2

Last time I talked politics, I began talking about the divisive political climate in our country. What I think few Americans realize is that this is not the only time in history that we’ve disagreed about serious issues. This time it is getting out of the recession and health care reform causing most of the broo-ha-ha. From the beginning, our country was made up of people who disagreed. At first, we disagreed about whether we should even form our own country, there were people who stood behind King George and Parliament long before the first shots of the revolution were fired, even after the last shots died away. But let’s skip forward a few decades…
The year is 1856. The place? Washington D.C., Senate Floor. In mid-May Sen. Sumner gave an anti-slavery speech in which he singled out two other senators (including Andrew Butler) as committing crimes against Kansas in the Bleeding Kansas incident. Three days later Sen. Preston Brooks, a relative of Butler’s waits until evening in the capitol building. He waits until all the ladies (secretaries and such) have left the building, and then…Brooks confronts Sumner at Sumner’s desk (which is bolted to the floor of the Senate). "Mr. Sumner,” Sen. Brooks began, “ I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner began to rise, Brooks proceeded to beat him with the cane Brooks carried. Eventually, Brooks literally ripped Sumner’s desk off the floor and continued beating him until his cane broke. He then proceeded to casually walk out of the room. Sumner required three years to recover. Brooks received dozens of new canes from his constituents and remained in office until he died in 1857 (he was even relected!). This is of course just one incident, but all over the country people were shouting each other down, and generally acting like hooligans. Of course we all know that just a few years later in 1861 the country was at war.
One would hope that we could mature as a country. If the kids in my class acted the way people on the news have been, let me tell you there would be some serious time outs in order. Even my two year olds are required to let each other talk, but for some reason we don’t have the same requirements of our adults. One more comment from the news article I talked about last time…
Obama does not legislate, Congress does. Democrats have controlled Congress for 4 years, and have obviously have failed. Liberals will go in November... BUT... thank you very much for your waste-of-time novel. –Comment by Bandonite
Did the end of that comment need to be added? I think Bandonite could have more effectively made his point, and contributed to a more respectful political climate, had he ended his comment after the word November.
Election day is coming! Be prepared.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cuteness!

I talk to my SIL almost every day. The other day she called to talk while she was outside of her apartment. After we had talked for awhile we said goodnight and she went upstairs. A little later, my phone rang again, and it was my SILs number again. I was a little confused because she doesn’t usually call back after we’ve said goodnight. I answered my phone to hear my niece’s voice
“Aunt Tina! I got it right!” she said to me. Still puzzled, because if she wants to talk to me her mom usually calls me and lets me know and then gives her the phone, I spoke to my niece for a few minutes asking her how her day was, etc. Finally, I asked her why she called, and she goes “I love you Aunt Tina.” So of course I liked hearing that. After she hung up her mom called me back again later. Apparently Niece had stolen her mom’s phone, gone into contacts, and picked my number (there’s a picture next to my name) and called me, all without her mother’s knowledge. When her mom asked her why she said that she wanted to talk to Aunt Tina and Mommy was busy.

Today when I watched Niece and Nephew, we were going to pick up a movie and pizza (it was a special night) and I heard Niece tell Nephew this story…
“Jesus was crazy. He dieded on the cross. Did you know that people dieded on crosses? Auntie M wears a cross on her neck, but she won’t die on it. Aunt Tina wears a cross on her thumb and it scratches, but it’s not big enough to die on, so it’s okay. Alternatively she could take it off like when she works.”
I’m not sure where she got that Jesus was crazy, but her Aunt M does wear a cross necklace. I have a thumb ring with a cross on it, but I haven’t worn mine in a long time, I’m not even sure how she knew I had it. I taught her the word alternatively, and she says it much better than conservative (it came out convervative), and I think she must even know what it means, because she used it correctly. I tell this story to remind myself, even though she’s only three-she is paying attention. She might not always get the details right, but she is paying attention!

My boss told one of my coworkers that she thinks I’m doing a great job in my new position. Which is good because several of my coworkers had told me that they thought I would hate it, and not know what to do. One gave me a month before I begged for my old job back!
My class is learning colors, numbers, and shapes in English and in Spanish. You should hear their little accents when they say some of the words. “Naranja” (orange) is especially funny with their little lisps imitating my accent!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Happened At The Verizon Store

So, I planned on writing part two of my series on the political climate tonight. Instead, I'm going to tell you about what happened to me today. My SIL and I have been planning to go to the Verizon store and complain about our crummy phones for weeks, and today we finally did it. The man was very nice to us, and ordered us both new phones that will be mailed to us hopefully to arrive by Monday. My SIL mentioned being annoyed about having to reprogram her 100+ contacts, and the very nice man said he could load backup assistant for us so we wouldn't have to. He took our phones and gave them back a few minutes later, we said goodbye and left the store. A half hour later my SIL got a random text from an unprogrammed number. It turned out to be my brother (a number she should clearly have had programmed!). When she looked, she only had ZERO contacts! When I double checked, I had also had zero contacts. Almost an hour of talking to the ladies at the Verizon IT line, and we MIGHT be able to get our numbers back tomorrow. Otherwise, we both have to refigure everything out. Which is clearly crazy because I literally don't even know my mom's number, or my SIL's, or my best friend, nothing! Technology SUCKS!!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Political Climate Pt. 1

As you probably noticed, I love politics. I love feeling like I’ve done something to influence the way my country is run, even when I’m only one voice in millions I do have a voice. But I have to be very precise about what I love. I love the process of learning about my politicians, and picking the person I think will do the best job. I love discussing politics with a certain kind of person-the kind of person who can be respectful of a point of view they don’t agree with. I love signing petitions, going to the polls, emailing my representatives. I love being a part of the process. What I don’t love is the political climate among that portion of the population that cannot respect any opinion but their own.
At the end of a CNN article I read the other day, I skimmed the comments, and this is what I found.
Bush's mess did not go away when he got on that helicopter for the last time. His problems remain, until action corrects them. And Republicans have done absolutely nothing to fix the mess they helped create!! People that don't work should get fired. –Comment by TheVeteran
To me this seems like a reasonable comment. There had been some previous comments about how President Obama has had almost two years, and we’re still in a recession therefore he’s failed. TheVeteran is fairly politely pointing out what has been said before, that it took eight years to get us here, it might take time to get us out of it. The response he got was…
Obama, and all other Dems will never accept responsibility for their own failures. All he is trying to do is turn attention away from his failed policies. –Comment by Republam
This kind of bothers me, because during the Bush presidency I felt like anytime something went wrong it was Clinton’s fault, but when Obama truly has to deal with stuff leftover from Bush, he’s not accepting responsibility. It feels like a double standard to me, but it’s not what makes me so angry. Later this comment was made…
I just would like to say that I feel as if the people who are commenting on this page are way to harsh on Obama! You have to understand that we would not be in this predicament if Bush was not in office for the past eight long years. It took eight years for this country to fall apart, Obama is doing his best and what he feels is necessary to get this country back on is its feet. He can not correct all the issues over night or by himself; this is going to take time and more support from people in order to move forward effectively. And plus if you have time to write rude comments about him on this site why not use that energy else where such as helping people find jobs, and research other means of health care. Or better yet, U try being president for a day! –Comment by Ice Cold
The responses immediately below it were…
RE: Stop whining. –Comment by Dolleybird
Estimates are there is $1 trillion, to a high of $4 trillion, of investor money sitting on the sidelines waiting until the spend-and-tax Democrats are out of office. That's what will happen in November. You will know some of these things if you read the front page instead of the comics. –Comment by Bandonite
These two replies are fairly representative of the political climate. In this case it’s conservatives making me angry, but liberals do it too. Instead of just arguing the facts, people have to take it one step farther and insult each other if they disagree. In some cases, they don’t use facts at all, just “Stop whining.” I don’t think anyone is whining, I think that these are overall people who are concerned about politics in this country, stating their opinion and being shut down. I think this is what created the situation we saw this summer where townhall meetings were overtaken by people who didn’t want information out there at all. If you don’t remember, this summer when politicians held townhall meetings about the health care bill, many of them were shouted down and people asking legitimate questions were chanted over, or were not even able to get into the meetings because there were so many people there to protest. I’m not saying we all have to agree with each other, but I am saying that we have to be respectful of each other. This post is getting long, so I’ll finish with a quote from John Stewart. Later I’ll be following up on this with a few historical stories about the last time our political climate got this divisive.
"We live in troubled times with real people facing very real problems; problems that have real if imperfect solutions that I believe 70 to 80 percent of our population could agree to try and could ultimately live with. Unfortunately the conversation and process is controlled by the other 15 to 20 percent." –Jon Stewart

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I [Heart] My Town

Tonight I saw a play. It was perhaps one of the most harrowing plays I’ve ever seen, and I have seen a lot of plays. Big plays that everyone has heard of like Wicked, plays you didn’t know were plays, like MASH, plays most people have never heard of like The Beauty Part. Tonight’s play was a Pulitzer Prize winning play called Doubt. And although I could not see it again any time soon, it was fantastic. The play has only four characters. It is the sixties, Kennedy has been dead a year, and the Catholic school that in which our play is set has its first ever black student, a boy in the eighth grade. The action begins when a young teacher/nun comes to the principal’s office to ask about a student who went home with a bloody nose. While she is there the principal (also a nun) asks her to watch, although she doesn’t say what to watch for, those of us less innocent than the young nun already know she suspects someone in the school of harming boys. Eventually the young nun tells her that the black student went to the rectory and came back upset, with alcohol on his breath. I won’t reveal the ending, but it’s not the guilt or innocence of the priest that is the drama. The central drama is about protecting a little boy who never even appears on stage. A little boy who already has a full plate dealing with his social status, without the added drama of what is suspected. It was fantastic. The director chose his four actors extremely well, to the point that I actually think adding even one character would have taken away from the play. If you live in my town, you should absolutely go see it. It runs the next two weekends Saturday and Sunday at seven, and if you ask I’ll be happy to provide more details!
Another amazing thing in my town recently, was the cemetery walk. Our oldest cemetery was created in 1899, but has graves from before that, which were moved when the old cemetery closed. During the walk, a costumed guide walks you around the cemetery pointing out interesting graves and leading you to the graves of “interesting people of the past” where costumed actors give speeches about the person they portray. What I liked most about this (it only ran last Sunday) was that the people represented aren’t only the important (like the guy who worked with Thomas Edison and electrified my town), but instead also include the ordinary (like the spinster who worked most of her adult life at the Elgin National Watch factory eventually becoming the first female supervisor, or the gardener who worked at the Mental Health Institute). This was my first year, and it was especially fun because Kristin and I ran into some other friends on our way in. The cemetery itself is super pretty, and borders one of my town’s three nature preserves. The presentations were all informative and interesting, but not at all spooky. That’s because one point of the walk is to show people that the cemetery is really more like a beautiful park for adults, than a creepy place frequented by ghosts or whatever. And it is like a park. I have gone there and taken beautiful pictures or just read a book. I tried to convince my brother and his fiancée to have their wedding there, but Stevo thought it was too weird. Which reminds me! If you come back on Tuesday, I should have pictures of the wedding which occurs at Lords Park Monday morning. I will be the only guest who is over the age of 3, so I’m pretty excited about it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Judgement

You guys working with the two year olds is so rewarding! I’ve only been there for a week and I already know I’ve TAUGHT them things. On Monday when we did a little getting to know you activity, I had kids who named three out of nine colors when asked. They all knew purple, they all knew “their” color (the one all their stuff is to help them learn their names), and several knew one other color. They couldn’t sing the ABC Song when prompted. They couldn’t count to five. They didn’t know any shapes. Today we did the same activity. They all knew at least five of nine colors, they can sing the ABC Song, most could count to ten (the exception still couldn’t count to five), they all know at least three shapes. Now, I can’t claim all the credit for the improvement. I have to assume that although they all know me, and no one seemed shy on Monday, they were a little shy. That could affect performance. However, I know the other teacher told me that she could hold up a yellow circle, ask them what shape it was and they’d say “Green!” so… Also, today was the first day they played in our newly arranged classroom with real centers, and access to all their toys. They loved it! Also, they totally cleaned up after themselves when prompted. I think part of the problem was that THEY didn’t know where anything went, now that there’s a clear spot for stuff, they are happy to clean up.
On the other hand…I do know that when I haven’t done it for awhile I’ll miss teaching more abstract concepts. I enjoyed my Peace, Love, and Recycling unit at the beginning of the summer. I enjoy discussing more complicated topics as they come in homework, or because someone reads the back of my latest book, or whatever. I like walking them through their homework and listening as they develop not just minds, but opinions.
In short, I don’t know that I can truly judge. The two classes are so different, but there are aspects in each that I truly enjoy and that I truly don’t. I won’t miss the attitude problems and the bickering, but neither am I looking forward to diapering (not an issue yet, this whole class is potty trained), or the fact that they have the attention span of…well two year olds.

New Job Stories

I started my “new” job this week. So here I am looking back over the last few days, trying to decide already how this is going to work. My coworkers have been laughing that I won’t like and the odds are that I’ll ask for my old job back within a month. I’ve been concerned about intellectual stimulation and how to teach such basic concepts that I don’t remember learning them. So, without further ado, here are the few stories I’ve accumulated already in my new class...


  1. On Tuesday I had the kids do an art project where they glued down small colored squares to make a “mosaic”. Not only did one of my coworkers tell me that I should have applied the glue (so the pictures would come out better, since “they’re only two”), but one of my kids decided to move a square and when she couldn’t get it up, she dropped the f-bomb. The f-bomb people!!!
  2. I’ve been teaching them a song about numbers to the tune of Jingle Bells
    1, 2, 3…4, 5, 6…7, 8, 9, 10! Now I can, count to 10. Now I give a shout, HEY!!
    They pretty much sing “1, 4, 7, shout HEY!” but I like it
  3. Today I promised them we’d go on a walk, but we left class a little late. As in at 11:40 when we eat lunch at 11:45. So we only walked around the school once and had to come in to eat. And on the way in, one little boy said to me “Thanks for a great walk Tina!” So, I guess the moral of that story is that my kids are SUPER gullible.
  4. Tomorrow I plan on working on rearranging my room. Or should I say arranging my room? I have discovered that the teacher before me had really no organizational system at all. Like I get that they don’t really clean up after themselves, but to just have piles of stuff thrown on a shelf is not going to teach them. Neither is only letting them play with one kind of toy all day going to help prepare them for the center system in the next class. No wonder the next teacher can’t stand the old teacher in my class.
  5. On a related note, I spent my break today on my hands and knees scrubbing my 12 square feet of tile. The old teacher apparently put down symbols to help them line up (good idea) without cleaning the tape off the floor when she changed them (bad idea). So there was literally lumps of gluey, black tape surrounding the rainbows she had down. Plus our cleaning company is supposed to mop my floor every night, and it hasn’t been done since at least last Tuesday. I get to write them a reminder in their binder tomorrow!

And…that’s all I have for you today. I'll refain from judging my new job until Friday, when I've worked in this class for a whole week.

Remember to register to vote if you haven’t yet. In Illinois, the deadline is October 5, which is Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Pledge To America

The GOP (republicans) just released their “Pledge to America” revealing what they want to do if they gain seats in November. Below I have quoted it quite frequently, but I have also quoted other sources that either explain what those who don’t support the Pledge believe it means, or evidence that shows how the Pledge may be misleading. If I haven’t included any citation other than a page number, it is direct from the Pledge which you may read here. Also, I have bolded the selections from the Pledge.
“We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity.
We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of or American values.”
(p 3)
I will choose here to simply ask a question rather than cite evidence. Can we “promote greater liberty” by refusing liberty to some? “Traditional marriage” is conservative speak for items like the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage and all it’s benefits as belonging to one man and one woman. I believe that in the space of three lines, the Pledge has contradicted itself. It should instead read, “promote greater liberty to those we agree with”.
“We will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels…” (p 6 and repeated on p 21)
I believe the wording here is misleading. It refers to “pre-stimulus, pre-bailout” in that order for a reason. It seeks to convince people that the stimulus, clearly related to Pres. Obama was passed BEFORE the bailout, thus laying the burden of the bailout on Pres. Obama as well. However, as astute readers will recall, the bailout (which I believe more people oppose than the stimulus as it sought to provide relieve for companies, not people) passed in October 2008- before the election of Pres. Obama. Therefore, it passed a Democrat Congress, but was signed by a Republican president.
“The trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ spending bill has made ‘Where are the jobs?’ a national rallying cry after failing to live up to the specific promises made by it’s architects.” (p14)
The stimulus was passed in February of 2009 (President Obama had only been president for about a month) and by November was seen by a variety of analysts “across a wide range of views” as working. Indeed, Republicans blocked proposed tax breaks later that same year. (New York Times)
“We will help the economy by permanently stopping all tax increases, currently scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011.” (p 16)
First and foremost, these are not actually tax increases. What is actually set to happen is the expiration of Bush tax cuts. Obama wants to renew these cuts. For taxpayers earning less than $250,000 a year. One analyst states “raising taxes only on the wealthy is probably the safest bet”. In a few days, I will probably write about why trickledown economics has been widely discredited, and explain why the wealthiest Americans need to pay taxes like the rest of us.
“For the first time in modern history, the House failed to pass or even debate a budget…” (p 32)
Again, this is somewhat misleading. The House did not debate a budget, but it wasn’t the first time in modern history that the House did not pass one. In fact, no final resolution budget was passed in 1998, 2004, and 2006 (all Republican led Houses). The “modern history” part refers to the time since 1974 when the current rules were put in place. According to The Hill “For weeks, Democratic leaders have tried to strike a deal on the budget, which is a non-binding resolution, but to no avail.” Also, Majority Leader Hoyer has stated “It isn’t possible to debate and pass a realistic, long-term budget until we’ve considered the bipartisan commission’s deficit-reduction plan, which is expected in December.” In other words, they wanted to wait to pass a budget until they heard from the experts.
“We will require each bill moving through Congress to include a clause citing the specific constitutional authority on which the bill is justified.” (p 33)
However, the Pledge vows to keep individuals suspected of committing terrorist acts off American soil even refusing Miranda Rights and fair trials. In part it states, “We will keep terrorist combatants in Guantanamo Bay not in our local jails and courtrooms.” (p 7) “We will prevent the government from importing terrorists onto American soil….Foreign terrorists do not have the same rights as American citizens.” (p 38)The Constitution reads “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…” (US Constitution, Amendment VI emphasis mine). However, there are some who would argue that the Constitution was never meant to apply to non-citizens. Therefore, let us turn to Georgetown University’s Law Department’s opinion on the matter. “creating different rules for suspected terrorists would amount to ‘new rules for sets of people, not sets of crimes.’” As one political economist stated it “The Constitution does not apply only to citizens of the United States. It seems that [some] treat this document [the Constitution] like a two-year-old treats his favorite toy—unwilling to share, and incorrectly believing that it is his and his alone.” (read his opinion here)
Finally I will quote Nadeam Elshami (spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi) “Congressional Republicans are pledging to ship jobs overseas, blow a $700 billion hole in the deficit to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires, turn Social Security from a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble and, once again, subject American families to the recklessness of Wall Street and take away patients’ rights…”
Election Day is coming. Be Prepared!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lies My Teacher Told Me

I just recently finished a book called “Lies My Teacher Told Me” which I highly recommend. The book explains why you were probably bored in history classes, and why to this day you think you aren’t interested in a subject which affects you in many ways, every day. I have friends who can’t even be interested in politics which affects our lives in a very meaningful way every single day, because they can’t stand history. Yet if history were taught the way this book suggests, I think everyone would have some interest in the topic.
I have often regretted what the book calls “heroification”. This is the process of taking very real people, with very real flaws, and making them into more than they were. The classic example is Thomas Jefferson. The man wrote the famous words “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Yet over the course of his adult life he owned over 200 slaves. In a time when many men freed at least some slaves upon their deaths, he freed only five, all of whom were directly related to him. If real history were taught, the gritty things that raise people’s hackles, discussions would be held in the classroom and in our living rooms, and far more people would have a far better understanding of our history. Instead, we teach a sanitized version of history that leaves children thinking that those great men, who did those great things were so great they can’t be role models. It is hard to look up to someone who never made a mistake and think “I can be just like that guy!”. But to tell students that despite the mistakes that people made, they also did great things? That would give our students true heroes.
The author proposes that the reason behind this sanitation of history is that without it, history would offend, and offensive history wouldn’t get adopted by selection committees. The selection committees want to indoctrinate students to think only the best of our country and our past, and so our students must only be told the good things we’ve done.
This book has helped remind me of why I love history, and why I want to teach it to high schoolers. Many times since I graduated, I’ve considered settling not for what I want to do, but what I should do. I don’t want to leave behind those dreams, I don’t want to settle. I want to inspire the next generation to truly think and to question why we do things. I can’t do that by retreating to the hallowed halls of academia, I can only do that in the dirty halls of a high school. I appreciate that the author of this book has helped remind me of that goal, and thus helped set my determination.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

And I Thought I Was Just Seeking Intellectual Stimulation!

Booking time in IRL (In Real Life)
By Katie Anderson Kanderson@stmedianetwork.com Sep 22, 2010 09:36PM

Taking a cue from the popularity of websites such as Facebook, several area libraries have started their own social networking groups targeted at 20- and 30-somethings.

Like online social networking, these groups offer a third-party venue where youngish-adult patrons can meet for information sharing, socializing, community building, career networking and just plain old fun.

The groups are casual, do not require a regular commitment or joining fees, and don’t involve some of the dating-related expectations associated with going out to a bar. Organizers say despite a propensity for online communication, 20- and 30-somethings still crave face-to-face interaction — the kind with no user name or password required.

“I know at least some of our regular attendees use online social networking, but when I’ve suggested we offer more through a Facebook page, they’re like ‘Nah,’ ” said Marlise Schiltz, librarian and leader of St. Charles Public Library’s 20s and 30s group called TnT (Twenties and Thirties).

While providing IRL interaction (“In Real Life,” for those not up on Internet slang), these groups also help libraries reach what many consider an underserved demographic.

“I guess just in general it’s a hard demographic to serve,” said Rachel Bloomberg, co-leader the 20s and 30s Book Club sponsored by Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin. “We’re not children, and many are not parents with children.”

Bloomberg’s club has been meeting monthly since 2007 and discusses a new book each month. Its members live in Elgin, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Pingree Grove and as far away as Carol Stream.

With 20-somethings especially, Bloomberg and Schiltz say, their most recent memory of a library is connected to a horrible college assignment.

TnT launched in 2005 and has inspired several other libraries to start similar groups. It draws members from St. Charles and South Elgin, and unlike the Elgin group, its focus is not on books but rather social and educational outings.

The Dundee Township Public Library started its own group last week, finding that despite a love of Facebook and Twitter, many of its young professional patrons also would rather meet up than “tweet up.”

The Dundee library’s group is called the Young and Restless. At its first meeting Sept. 14, members watched the movie “The Big Lebowski” and chowed down on pizza.

“Our motivation for starting the group was to involve as many people as possibly within our demographic,” said Jason Katsion, an information services specialist at the library. Katsion, 32, is one of three 20- and 30-somethings who founded the group.

“We felt that group (20- and 30-year-olds) was maybe being underserved,” he said. “The library offers considerable programming for pretty much everyone in the community, but a lot is geared to early readers and older adults.”

Katsion said Young and Restless will feature workshops and gatherings relevant to “our demographic” and that meetings will be held either at the library or locations such as coffeehouses, restaurants and pubs.

Although not present yet, a 20s and 30s group may start soon at the Algonquin Area Public Library, too.

“We’ve talked about looking to perhaps start something up, but nothing is in place right now,” said Vicky Tobias, head of Adult Services at the library. Several staff members have brought it up recently, she said, and the library is more than willing to talk about it.

Although not a library-based group, the Young Professionals of Sycamore also has latched on to the idea that 20- and 30-somethings still like to meet IRL. The group meets monthly and has more than 40 members from Sycamore, DeKalb, Genoa and the surrounding communities.

(From today's Courier News)