Thursday, October 28, 2010

New obsession at our house...

E introduced me to Plants vs Zombies yesterday.

He and the boy have been playing it nonstop on the Xbox for the last month or so.  Now it's on my phone, ostensibly for the boy.

Um... I have been playing it all night.  Good thing I'm sick or I might feel guilty about such a shameful waste of time.  But it has great music and it's funny, too.

I feel like it's a great allegory for a teaching career.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Light and shade

I gathered my breath awkwardly, my lungs catching air faster than I could take it.

"I..." gasp "um..." gasp, exhale. Pause. "Epaulement means shouldering." Exhale, secretly. I drew my hands through fifth front, supporting my arms from my back and across my chest, then into an almost mathematic demonstration of the position.

She gathered the papers up like leaves under her pale fingers, her elderly skin stretched over feminine hands, unintentional ends of arabesques. "That is correct," she proclaimed; but the lines in her brow belied her satisfaction with my answer. "May I see your dance for this Grade?"

I mustered every atom of politeness and decorum in my being. "Of course," I breathed through my smile, trying not to show that it took air to accomplish any of the feats of ballet and academia I undertook. I aped my best ballet walk to the back corner, smiled, pressed down my uneven shoulder, widened my collarbone, tucked one leg behind the other and set my fingertips at the edge of an imaginary tutu.

Ready, AND....

I pressed technique into each note and each muscle in my sixteen-year-old body with the force of a car crusher. Turn out, chin lifted, smile, keep to the music, and a one, and a two... It was over like lightening, my one chance to show off all the hard work I'd done for the year and test out of my Grade under the ISTD's Cecchetti Society of Classical Ballet. This exam represented every enchainement I'd studied that year, every bit of french translation I'd committed to memory. It ended with little flourish. Just me, trying not to breathe audibly.

The small English woman cocked her head to the side like a boxer. "My dear, are you familiar with the term, 'light and shade'?"

"No, ma'am."

"'Light and shade': an artists' term. Meaning that you cannot paint an entire picture in one color. You must use darks to show the highlights. I would like to see you use more light in shade in your dancing."

"Yes, ma'am. Thank you."

In that moment I did not have one clue what light and shade meant. It wasn't until years later (one art class with Wayne Thiebaud, and several conversations with my ballet teacher about what the examiner meant) that I even began to understand what it could mean to have light and shade in one's dancing. Juxtaposition. Contrast. Demarcation of borders between things. I don't believe I was able to even approach application of this in my dancing until I'd lived enough life to feel true light and shade.

Today I felt light and shade as I sat in the pew of the standing-room-only funeral for my former student. The opening hymn was "Amazing Grace." Grace, in the face of such a tragedy. Grace when so many of "my" kids were trying to answer questions without answers. My heart tore at the lyrics of the song. I am thankful for God's amazing grace, and I believe in it wholeheartedly. But the shadow was so dark. I couldn't sing. Praise was so far away.

I listened to the young man's father speak and was unable to remain detached. Every story about kids is, to me, a story about the what-ifs in my own life. This was so not about me; I get that. But my mind went there. I felt such pain for the family. And there, also, interrupted awkwardly my feelings of thankfulness for what I have now--that I have such beautiful kids, that they're healthy and safe--and I felt guilty. Light and shade came too close together. It was jarring.

In English class today we read Emily Dickinson's "I heard a Fly buzz-- when I died--". My thoughts of gratefulness for what I have, juxtaposed against the sad, difficult eulogies I heard were like Dickinson's "blue uncertain stumbling buzz." Over and over I flipped between thoughts of my own mortality, that of my kids, and that of the young man who we honored.

The ceremony was beautiful. Every person who spoke brought a special perspective on this young man's life. I was particularly moved by the remarks of a teacher from our school, the young man's friends, his brothers. It was emotional and sad. It was difficult. It was beautiful. It was filled with light and shade. Humorous highlights and dark, heartfelt mourning.

It takes pain to show us how lucky we are. It takes others' suffering to remind us of what we have not yet suffered--to show us the fragility of man. It takes death to remind us of life. I wish it wasn't that way, that gratitude, love and expression of feelings were constants. But a picture painted all in yellow is not interesting; a dance of repetitive movement is not inspired. We need contrast to remind us of what we have, to remind us that its beauty is in its unpredictability. Life uses cutting edges, deep shadows and uneven gradation to give meaning to the light. Sometimes it takes hurt to show us joy--whether it's in what we have left or in what we had once.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I tried to fit this into a tweet but it was too long.  Every time I read a good book (like right now) I have this thought:

I always wish someone I knew was reading the same thing so I could say ohmygod, did you read that one part?  *gasp* I know, right?  He was so... and then she was so... and then *sigh*

I dream of a chic, smart, wine-fueled book club. The kind that I'd look forward to every month.  The kind with food.  Carby food with cheese on it.  And did I say wine?  The problem is, I'm picky, and introverted, and snobbish about books.  (I own all that, isn't that something?  I can't be in a club if the book isn't good.  There.  I said it.  And yes by good, I mean well-written.  And yes I know that makes me a raging snob.)  I've had offers to join book clubs and they just haven't felt right for one reason or another--the books, or me not knowing the people in the book club well enough and just being nervous... you know, those old chestnuts.  Maybe someday I'll find mine.  Maybe.

I could never start my own because people would be all oh, I'm not going to HER book club because she'll just turn it into English 12.  And then I'd be afraid I'd turn it into English 12 anyway, because what the hell else would I know to do at a book club?   Get out your notes.  Let's discuss the dichotomy between the feminist and psychological overtones of the novel.

I'm kidding.  Sort of.  I just wanted to say "dichotomy."  You caught me.

God, I feel like Hermoine sometimes.  All hair and no cool.  (You knew I meant young book Hermoine, right?  Not older movie-hot Hermoine.)

So if it was someone else's book club I'd just sit there and gulp my wine every time the conversation got a little... I don't know where I'm even going with that... BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW WHAT GOES ON IN THESE MYSTERIOUS CLUBS OF BOOK.

I'm revealing my naïveté.

Maybe all I want is just to drink wine with my friends and then share a sentence or two about what we're reading.  No, that's dumb and it's not the thing I'm wanting.  I'd like ideas about what to read and some deadlines by which to read them.  I'd like to talk about books with some people that aren't pre-pubescent.  I want a standing date for something--what did I say?--chic, smart, wine-fueled.

The kind that puts the HOT in dichotomy.

I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon.

Two Safe Desserts

We're still reeling over the now 42-food long list of E's allergies. But we're doing what we always do--looking for "safe" things he can eat and making those. His doc told him this week that some of the lesser allergens (like corn and soy) might be okay in small doses, so that helps. But this weekend we actually made two desserts that were really tasty--and I mean that in the way that I would call any normal person food "tasty", not pretty good for a real food substitute (which is what I consider most allergy-safe foods--they're generally weird and gross).

The first safe dessert was one E made for himself on Saturday--Chex Muddy Buddies.  As the  regular recipe stands, it would include milk and peanuts, but it's easy enough to use dairy-free chocolate chips (these are really good), Earth Balance Spread and almond butter.  I like almond butter better than peanut butter, anyway.

Fun fact: Chex is one of the most Celiac and gluten-allergy-friendly foods. They changed Rice Chex a few years ago so it's totally safe.

E's Muddy Buddies

9 cups Rice Chex
1 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup Earth Balance spread
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.
2. In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, almond butter and spread uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.
3. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

(Recipe adapted from Chex website, here.)

The second recipe comes from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet.  Her blog and book are all about trying vegan recipes.  One of the benefits of vegan recipes is they're already dairy-free for E.  Last night I adapted her peanut butter cup recipe and it came out SO GOOD.  I've eaten way too many of them already.

H's Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

1⁄2 cup Earth Balance butter
3⁄4 cup almond butter
3⁄4 cup gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 cup grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate chips
1⁄4 cup almond milk
1⁄4 cup chopped almonds

1. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with a non-stick spray. Set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
3. Stir in the almond butter, graham cracker crumbs, and brown sugar and mix well. Remove the mixture from the heat.
4. Evenly divide the mixture, approximately 2 tablespoons per cup (1 if you're using mini-cups), among the muffin cups.
5. Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan.
6. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.
7. Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture.
8. Top with chopped nuts.
9. Place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours before serving.

(Adapted from The Kind Life website, here.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Running Dreams and Rainy Days

I started this post on Friday night.  Actually thought I posted it.  Apparently not!  So here's Friday's part of the post:

Last night I took a cue from Hurley and I had a great run in my sleep.  My hip (possibly IT band) is still jacked up like nobody's business and I haven't been on a run for two weeks.  I'm dying.  DYING to run, I tell you.  I have to say that running in my sleep was pretty cool.  Amazing how lying down and being unconscious will give ya a sublime runners high.  It was like being at the end of a completely zoned out run, and I was flying.  I wish I could make it happen again.

I'm not just missing the physical activity, but I think running would be good to squeeze out the old "mind grapes" right about now.  School has been hard this week--grades were due last week, I worked the homecoming game on Friday, I had all kinds of commitments and then found out about my former student passing on Sunday, Monday was emotionally draining and the rest of the week was just a slow lurch uphill.  I'm forgetting to mention that we've also been dealing with E's allergies and some "speed bumps" in our marriage as he tries to figure out what this means in his life.

Complicated, that's what we are.

I am not unlike a hamster in my need to run out my Crazies.

I wish I could even walk, but today I'm in the worst pain I've been in since Day 1 of the injury.  I haven't worn heels to work this week, I haven't put any kind of strain on it that I'm aware of.  I've been gently stretching and using a roller on it and nothing is helping.  I gave in and emailed my doc again tonight to see what can be done, so at least I have an appointment next Thursday instead of a week after that.  That's something.

So now it's Sunday--rainy again--and I'm couching it up all day with gratefulness like you can't imagine.  I forgot to bring home the essays I need to grade and when I realized (yesterday) I just decided to take it as a sign that I'm not supposed to grade anything this weekend.  I'll be better at my job tomorrow if I really take today off.

I decided to put my random energy to good use by crocheting again, too.  Roo and I hit up the Wal Marts Friday night for some yarn I was able to buy with the last of my change from the bottom of my purse.  E and I are back on the "cash only" thing and while it's going well, it's been a tight month.  It's a good thing my hobby is cheap.  I missed crocheting.  I'm not doing "the" pattern, since it takes more yarn then I wanted to buy, but I'm remaking an old Vanna White (yes, you read that correctly) pattern that I did for E's mom about eight years ago.  I'm doing it in a soft grey that I really like.  It seems like it's the season for Crafty P.  Hopefully this year I can find a way to run, crochet, and sleep.  I don't want to lose my enthusiasm for running.

I hate waiting on an injury, in case you couldn't tell.

In the category of Relaxation, Dammit, I am also happy to report that I finally got started on the book that's been sitting in my right-hand column as "Currently Reading" and similarly on my Kindle as "Come on, Heather, READ ME", Cutting for Stone.  I'm only a few pages in, but I like it a lot.  Roo had her GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) test at the district office yesterday along with (what seemed like) every other third grader in the district.  I had to sit in my car and wait for 45 minutes so I blasted (my new favorite soundtrack), Blood Diamond (check out "London" and "Crossing the Bridge") and read, read, read.

In the category of What the what? I just wanted you to know that I am thinking about running a full marathon.  Kelly has been suggesting it for some time, and Julia just did one... *sigh*  It all depends on what the doctor says, but I am thinking I'd like to train for one this Spring.  What do you think?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

REALLY? No. REALLY?!?!!?!?!?

Dairy (cow)
Egg whites
Sweet Potato

What's that, my grocery list? Nope.

That's the updated list of things E is allergic to.  His allergy doc did some new tests in the past two weeks.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Everything on the above list is something E can't eat.

Turkey.  Chicken.  Lemons.  Garlic.  Wheat.  Soy.  All of it.

As you can imagine, this has been kind of difficult to figure out.  We haven't, actually.  We're frustrated.

That's all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Six Questions

Since my brain isn't working properly yet, I'm grateful to Katie for tagging me in her Six Questions post.  I was going to answer the ones that Hutch posed, but since I got officially called out I will do these.

1. What's your favorite song of all-time?

Can I have categories?  Teaching dance has made me love so many different songs.

I really like a lot of instrumental songs like Spiegel Im Spiegel (Daniel Hope), Rocket to the Moon (Jim Brickman), Leaves on the Seine (David Lanz), Everloving (Moby), I Miss You (Vitamin String Quartet), and Deportation/Iguazu (Gustavo Santaollala).

I'm really fond of a song called Sand In My Shoes (Dido) and pretty much anything by Sarah McLachlan, Coldplay, Counting Crows... I really like the song Jolene (Dolly Parton)!  Hotel California (The Eagles), Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)... oh man, this list is going to be too long.

I'm going to call my top two as Green Onions (Booker T and the MG's) and Shine (David Gray).

2. What was your favorite Halloween costume? How old were you when you dressed up in that costume?

I think my favorite costume was the year I dressed up as a fried egg.  I wish to God I had a picture handy for this post.  My parents were so accommodating when I came home and made the announcement that I was going to be an egg, period.  I think I read it in a book or something?  I have no idea where the idea came from.  I also don't remember the year--6th grade?  But it was the coolest costume.  My parents bought foam and shaped/glued it into egg form (with a yolk and everything) and spray-painted it white and yellow.  It had arm holes and a face hole.  It was like Scout's ham costume in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Glorious.

3. If someone gave you $100 to spend as you please, what would you do with it?

Massage, end of story.  If it was a good massage, I know it would be more than that but I'd save my quarters until I could make it happen.

4. What's your funniest drunk story? It could be you that was drunk, or someone else.

Ummmm... pass.

5. Are you addicted to a caffinated beverage? If yes, what's your poison?

I don't know if I'm addicted--I definitely was addicted to soda but I think I've broken the habit.  I have one every once in a while but I don't crave them anymore.  I think coffee has taken the prime spot.  Maybe it's an addiction?  It seems easier to resist.  My favorite is still pumpkin spice lattes but I try to drink black coffee or Americanos most days so I'm not drinking empty calories.  Lattes are for special days.

6. Would you rather get drinks with Daniel Tosh (Tosh.0), Conan (you know, Conan O'Brian), or Joel McHale (The Soup/Community) and why?

It's between Tosh and McHale for me but I'm going to say Tosh for two reasons.  One, E would crap his pants if he got to meet that guy.  Even by proxy it would make his little day.  Two, Tosh seems like he's cooler with the "little people."  All those web redemptions mean that he has spent time with lots of weirdos so I wouldn't be the worst thing he'd ever seen.  McHale gets bonus points for hotness, but it seems like there might be some kind of elitist douchebaggery.

So now I'm supposed to make up 6 new questions and tag some folks.  I hate tagging.  Then people might not take it.  So here are 6 questions, feel free to answer if you want to.

1) When you were a kid, what was your "I want to be when I grow up"?

2) What is your favorite Disney movie?

3) What toppings do you put on your frozen yogurt?

4) What is your weirdest physical talent?

5) What's the one thing you eat more than anything else?

6) What's one thing you wish someone would (or could) invent?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I'm avoiding my blog all week because I don't want to write about what's on my heart.  What was probably going to be a "this-is-what-I-did-all Sunday" post quickly turned into something else when I checked Facebook late Sunday night.  I found out that one of my former AP kids died tragically.

I'm just in shock.  This post isn't going to be well-written or thoughtful.  It's going to be a bunch of stream-of-consciousness drivel because it feels too difficult to sift thought into something neat.  Losing students is a strange and difficult part of my job.  Experience thus far has shown me that it's a part of my job, though I hate it with a kind of anger I can't express in words.  (What part of my teaching credential was supposed to prepare me for dealing with death?  Teaching is supposed to be about reams of paper and overheads, sharpened pencils and seating charts.  Not this.)  Death has been, unfortunately, prevalent.  In my student teaching year, a sophomore from one of the English classes I observed committed suicide.  I lost a Drill Team member slowly to cancer a few years later.  The day before Henry was born, a student died at school playing basketball.  There have been others--not quite so close to me, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some in my current state--and now this young man who graduated in 2007.  It's just all wrong.  I'm angry and I'm upset and all week I can't help but look differently at my students because I know that there will be more of this to come, and there's nothing I can do about it.

That sounds so pessimistic, so jaded, and I feel like writing it down is maybe wrong.  Should that just be how I look at it?  It's heartbreaking, thinking about how full of promise a kid is in his or her senior year of high school and how unfair it is that some lives are cut short.  I hate that some kids don't feel like they have answers when life gets hard.  I hate that diseases of all sorts strike without any deference to age.  I hate that there are some problems in the real world (and inside people's heads) that are just too much to bear.  I hate it for these kids; I hate it for their families.  I wish I could keep them in the bubble of high school, the same way I wish I could shield Addie and Hank from any pain.  I wish my students could be full of hope and an open future forever. I wish it were possible to connect to more kids on a level that meant something--or at least that more kids were able to have such a connection with any adult on campus.  Something.  I wish there was a way to hang on to kids.  Our job as teachers is to do what we can and then let go, and it frankly it sucks.

If I ever had doubts about my connection to kids, what they really mean to me, this is a good indication that I care more than I'd like to let on.  Darn it if they don't all give back to me just as much as I try to give them.  Most of them don't even know.  They think I don't see them, that I don't hear them. I do, even when I can't let on. As a parent I'm just reeling.  This young man who died had everything going for him; he had connections with so many friends and in the community.  Death doesn't respect any kind of social or geographic boundary.  The senselessness of it is hard to swallow; it cuts and tears like a corn chip, accidentally swallowed whole.  As with so many bad things that happen, there's no logic to it.  As one of my colleagues said at lunch today, you just can't know what's going on inside someone else's home, or someone else's head.  I'm sad and I'm angry.

I remember driving back from a student funeral a few years ago and taking a wrong turn to my house.  I ended up one neighborhood over and it took me a while to find my way out.  My sense of direction was so skewed from the shock and the irrationality of such a thing that I felt like I was wandering.  I feel that same disorientation now.  (And these events confirm for me that my feelings about removing myself from a mock funeral last year were well-founded.  Real loss is hard enough to bear, too familiar.  I'm glad I didn't go through with a feigned ceremonial loss because now I'll be going to another real funeral.)  I look at my AP class all week and I can feel the empty hole where this young man sat.  I can see the entire class in my head just as they were that senior year, where everyone sat, what everyone said.  I can see him, vividly, laughing and joking with his friends, being just this side of inappropriate in the way that makes teachers want to laugh when they know they shouldn't.  I remember his smile.  I remember him using humor to lift the spirits of others in class, or to poke fun at his buddies.  I remember him being witty and clever.  I hate that he's gone.  I'd hate to lose any of them.

Facebook has lit up with tributes to him--beautiful and painful things that his friends are feeling.  They feel so badly that they didn't say to him what was on their hearts before he was gone.  I take comfort in the theory that he did know.  He was blessed to have so many good friends on campus--he touched so many lives that I am sure he had a sense of it, at least at some point.  I feel like "my" kids are hurting, reading their posts.  The maternal side of me wishes there was something I could do, but I know there's nothing.  All I can do is keep those students--those new adults who are now facing a distinctly adult issue--in my heart and in my prayers.  If any of you are reading this, I want you to know I love you and I'm so sorry for your loss.  I know what he meant to you.

It's just sad.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In pictures...

Last night:

Some of this

then I finally finished this.

Then today:

I made this with a little of this (meh--not great)

went out for this (how come I didn't know about hollandaise sauce before?)

saw this

then a nap...

and finishing off the day with this.

Good times.

It's just been a busy couple of days.  I've been to three doctor's appointments in two days, which is more times than I think I've been in the last three months.  Just trying to knock some stuff out of the way while we're double covered for insurance.  Nothing like free health care to brighten my little day.  I even got my flu shot, thankyouverymuch.

Apparently the reason my hip/butt and side of knee still hurt like a mother is that I definitely do have some kind of IT band issue.  And then to make matters worse, I tripped last night as I got out of the spa, caught myself on my bum stem, and it feels like I tore a hole in my butt... MUSCLE.  MY BUTT MUSCLE, I SAID.  I'm kind of cranky because my whole leg is jacked right now.  I haven't run since last Thursday and I think it's making me a little crazy.

On related note, I got some definitive information about my Crazies this week.  Probably post about that soon.

Tonight E's doing man things so the monkeys and I are having a big-time sleepover with Twinkle on the couch, watching How to Train Your Dragon.  So far it's adorable and I love the score.  As I said, good times.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Recipe: Roasted Corn Chowder

Annemarie posted last week that she made a great gluten-/dairy-free corn chowder. The original recipe is from Gluten-free Goddess.  I made it last night and I have to say I was quite pleased.  :)  I was a little heavy-handed with the spices, so it came out a little bit hot but it was a nice alternative to my current chicken-noodle/minestrone repetoire.  I never thought of putting sweet potatoes in a soup, but they were great... and they're easily becoming one of our diet staples lately.

I made some changes for E so it would also be tomato free (made his in a separate pot with no tomatoes) and that came out great too.  Here's my modified version of her recipe (which in truth, is mostly the same as the original but I've broken the prep into steps for myself so I can easily make it again next time).

Gluten Free Goddess' Roasted Corn Chowder Recipe with Chicken, Lime and Cilantro
(with full credit to its original poster!)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder, to taste
a dash of cayenne pepper
a dash of garlic pepper, to taste
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 ears of corn, roasted, kernels removed
1 large sweet potato, peeled, diced
1 14-oz can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes*
1 cup seeded, chopped fresh tomatoes*
4 oz. can of chopped roasted green chiles
1 quart vegetable broth
1 14-oz can coconut milk (unsweetened)
2 rounded cups cooked chicken
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste

To serve:
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
Fresh lime juice from 2 juicy limes

1.  Roast corn cobs on the BBQ.  Let them cool, then slice corn off cobb.
2.  Peel and dice sweet potato.  Chop onion and press garlic.
3.  Seed and dice tomatoes.
4.  Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat and stir in the cumin and chili powder; cook for one minute to infuse the oil with spice.
5.  Add the chopped garlic and onion. Stir and cook for five minutes. Add the roasted corn, sweet potato, canned fire roasted tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, green chiles; stir for a minute. Add in the broth.
6.  Cover and bring to a high simmer. Lower the heat and simmer gently, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes or so.
7.  Add the coconut milk and cooked chicken pieces. Stir and season with sea salt and ground pepper. Heat through gently.
8.  Just before serving, add the chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice. Stir. Taste test. Adjust seasoning. The lime juice brightens the taste and accents the spice.

Serves 6-8.

Read more:

*Also good without tomatoes, as I made it for Gluten-/Dairy-/egg-/tomato-free E.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I can't tell you what it really is, I can only tell you what it feels like...

One song has been increasingly stinging closer to my core since this summer. Driving... running... grading in my classroom before school... it doesn't matter where I am, I'll stop and listen with a mm-hmm in my heart like an Amenner in a southern church.

Last night, 60 Minutes profiled Eminem. I hesitated all day about posting this because Eminem is himself, so polarizing; even people who like him will have moved on from this particular mid-summer hit by now to something more upbeat and saccharine. The rest of the people I know, I don't see knowing his work anyway. He's been off-putting to many for years because of the language he uses. But as E and I have discussed multiple times, there's something about his ability to (forgive the English teacher language) slant rhyme that rings in my ear with a poetic artistry. Okay, I might not have said it like that to E, but there's just something about him and how he manipulates language.

His song, "Not Afraid' is refreshing in its honesty and the admissions of his struggle to get clean. I think listening to his recent stuff as I run has really given me a chance to think about why it speaks to so many people.

But his song "Love the Way You Lie" with Rhianna is the one that stops me in my tracks. I googled a bit this morning to see if there were other blog posts out there on the topic, and I didn't find much--a few MTV articles on the obvious domestic violence admissions of the song. One post on marriage and how loving someone who lies is not really loving. Lots of criticism for Rhianna for her afiliation with a project that, I believe MTV lamented "didn't glorify violence, but didn't dismiss it either." I remember lots of twitter chatter when it first came out asking how Rhianna's character could "love the way someone lies" and there was a lot of "why doesn't she just leave him?"

I feel like the pull of the song for me is that it isn't representative of a single-sided relationship. There's hurt and anger and bad behavior on both sides. There's a sense of being pulled back in to something--wanting to be better, saying the right words even when it's not clear it will be possible to maintain them. There's blind love and recklessness. I can't think of anything like it that I've heard recently. It hits me hard every single time because it speaks to a type of anger--a blind, reckless anger--that has been in my relationship with E at different times. The song is not neat and tidy. I'm fascinated by that. I suppose this is the same pull that people feel to read about how the marriage road has been rocky for the two of us. My hypothesis is that more people have seen or felt that kind of numb anger--or perhaps its inverse, Rhianna's position and the dichotomy that is the pull between loving someone and knowing that there's still a line--than not. I'm not speaking of violence (which I am also not suggesting is acceptable), but there are so many shades of anger between love and violence that the song shines a light into what I think is a dark corner most people would rather avoid. I think my own struggles in marriage make me understand exactly how a couple gets to that point where things would turn. Hopelessness, repeated failure at fixing things, inescapable old patterns make people behave in ways they know are not right. Maybe that's not something one should say out loud, I don't know. I think it's worth looking beyond the literal context of violence that the song explores because the message about anger and love making a home in the same relationship is powerful, compelling, and disturbing.

Is that so weird? That it's more common than we would admit, so we have a voyeuristic tendency when it comes to watching other people struggle? Like I said, the song bothers me. It's not comfortable. Eminem's use of the second person perspective--a "generic you" forces anyone listening to identify with at least some aspect of the "push/pull" out the door and back in again. I'm not saying everyone's story is his, or mine. But I find my own fascination and discomfort with the song to be endlessly interesting and thought-provoking, sometimes a little upsetting, and at the same time there's a comfort, an identification with the awful things he says. You should read the lyrics for yourself--or better yet, listen to the song (and know it uses some really angry, profane language). The line that grates the most against my heart is the "tie her to the bed and light the house on fire" line. I don't see Eminem advocating arson or murder, but the raw, uncensored emotion in that line is so embarrasingly honest. (And watching the video, Rhianna's open palms full of fire sent me into another symbol-searching think-fest). It's not a happy ending. She doesn't leave him like we think she should, things go up in flame. It's something that can't be framed into a song, a cliche ending, a finale. This is why the song won't leave me.

I don't believe the listener is supposed to know what all of it means anyway, but as E says, that's how Eminem's character feels in the (pun intended) heat of the argument. As one who has been to an awful place of anger, myself--one who felt for every second that this person who pushed her beyond her limit was still someone she loved, as someone who has been on the other side of the same rage--I find myself in that song in a way I'd probably like not to. I'm drawn to it. I feel like anything that gets people talking about the realities of relationships is powerful, though. Love isn't easy or rewarding or fixable on its own, at least not for all of us. My situation is different enough from the song that I'm not directing you to it for a parallel. I think it's worth giving it a careful listen, though.  It makes me thankful not to be there now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Logical Progression

We got a spa.*

Addie went in the cold spa. Henry went in the cold spa.

Daddy heated up the spa. Monkeys went in the warm spa again.

Addie swam in the spa, Henry floated in the spa.

Henry swallowed half the spa.

Mommy went in the spa. Then Mommy decided she liked it better with no kids in the spa.

Mommy got out of the spa.

Addie got out of the spa. Henry got out of the spa.

Henry puked up the spa and passed out.


*Don't go thinking E's making big bucks yet--he ain't--his parents generously gave us their castoff.  But boy, do I love it!

Jury Duty: NOT the Pauly Shore Movie

I was expecting jury duty to be more "state fair" or "DMV", and in actuality, it was more "church luncheon" or "senior center."  I expected raucous, unwashed masses, I got literate grannies and plump uncles.  I dreaded jury duty from the minute I registered to vote; everyone I knew groaned about the long days and what a bother it was to sit for hours on end in a jury room, waiting.  Know what?  I loved it.

I arrived well ahead of schedule--nerves about what would happen to me if I was late enabled me to get out the door well before I needed.  I lined up on the red carpet with my "peers", still waiting for the room to fill with a standard Californian type of diversity.  I won't say that the room wasn't ethnically diverse--it was, for sure--but what surprised me was the lack of perceptible diversity of income level and education.  I suppose one can't tell these entirely by looking at someone, and I don't mean to presume too much, but by all appearances everyone there was ostensibly literate and of mid- to upper class.  This really made me wonder about the process of jury selection, my perception of Californians, and at least the kind of people who pay attention to a jury summons... in the end I really just don't know why the crowd appeared as it did, but it took me by surprise.  It did not appear to represent a cross-section of California as I imagined it.  I also wondered if my perception of what a cross-selection of my state would look like is skewed from my profession.  I honestly don't know.

My early observations out of the way, I settled into a cubbyhole in the corner and proceeded to tune out the world.  Thank God I remembered to run back in the house to grab my headphones in the morning.  I Jim Brickman-ed out and graded essays for a few hours.  My cubbyhole proved to be the best seat in the house, as it afforded me a bubble of personal space and a window seat in the sun.  I sipped tea and wrapped my sweater tight around my shoulders.  It was glorious and peaceful, not unlike the Saturdays I spend grading, huddled in the corner of a Starbucks--only this seemed like a "free" day because it wasn't carved from my personal time.  Lunch came (two hours!) and I strolled into the sunshine to fetch my lunch from the car, smiling.

The post-lunch hours were admittedly more boring than the morning and my right hip started to ache, but the morning's peace carried over enough that I was content.  Eventually I stopped grading and buried myself in the final pages of Native Son, which I'm teaching to my AP kids.  I finished my read-through, ironically following the passages that chronicle Bigger Thomas' legal troubles in the final book, Fate.  Every once in a while a disembodied voice would call out names for transport to a courtroom.  Every time I'd lift out my pink ear bud, and listen, escaping selection.  (I honestly wanted to go--I like the courtrooms--but my name never came.)  Finally the eight trials dwindled to one, and I waited obediently for the last hour.  A ten-minute break  allowed me to sojourn to the cafeteria, where I ferreted out a (disgusting)  hard boiled egg and some string cheese.  I spent my final minutes reading The Onion and trying to guess the political affiliations of my fellow maybe-jurors, and I was thanked and excused by 3:45.

I realize I didn't have the full experience--I can't claim to have been on a trial or to have been through the process in its entirety.  But as far as sitting in a room goes, I'd take jury duty any day.  I would have had to take a sick day to finish my grades sometime this week--instead I did my civic duty and knocked out a few essays in the process.  Not.  Too. Shabby.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Morning

Friday night was spent drinking too much and remembering why that's a good idea sometimes.  In the company of good friends, it can be healing and free to laugh a little too hard.  As a reformed goody two shoes, I'm happy to let my guard down with those I trust from time to time.  It's been way too long since last time.

Saturday morning I woke up at 5:30 AM and realized that any hope of ever sleeping in again was thrown out long ago.  I'm thankful that 5:00 AM doesn't come with any difficulty during the week, but the result is that weekends are kind of a bitch, particularly after a night of indulgence in lemon drops and bread, bread, bread.  Oh well.  Sleeping in is just not for me, anymore.  I popped in Sliding Doors and started to watch it as I put away the clothes I'd been looping over my treadmill arm all week.

Sliding Doors is the latest in a series of movies I'm working through--K always makes me themed lists of old (good) movies and lets me borrow what she has.  I've been through a few of these series in the last five years.  Once it was 60's/70's hunks (Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, etc), a few of them have been history-related, and then in a particularly bad stretch before E and I separated the first time, it was tearjerkers.  Ah, the healing power of crying about someone else's troubles!  K's movie expertise astounds and I'm happy to discover all the movies that came before I did.  The current list is just stuff she thinks I'd like and I have to say she's got an amazing track record.  This past week I watched That Touch of Mink and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: the former was light and entertaining, the latter sweet and touching.  I didn't manage to finish Sliding Doors before I headed out the door, so it's on my list for this afternoon...

I left the house to go to a fund-raiser for a local family that's adopting a child from Africa--you can read Matt and Traci's story here.  It was one of those things where all the home-based businesses are in one spot (a good chance to order a new Pampered Chef cookie spatula--who took mine???) and happily we discovered that ML was there to work with her mom, who sells Longaberger.  Actually, a bunch of people were there that I knew (or who knew me, there was a lot of "Oh, you're Lis' sister?" since Lis is the better-known and better-social half of the sisters Scott).  It was nice and the best part was that we had a greasy breakfast of eggs and ham at the cafe next door.  Not that the sale was disappointing, but I'm glutton for a good hangover breakfast.

(When did this post turn into an accounting of my activities, Friday 'til now?  Oh well.  Might as well just finish it.)

I got home from the sale to find that April was here with her sweet little Lizzy Mug, who I haven't seen much in recent weeks (she's had a cold).  I got to snuggle, smell, and burrito her up.  Maybe you don't know about baby-swaddling, but I get a freakish kind of glee from wrapping a fussing, sleepy baby up like the babies of yore, swaddling their flailing arms snug inside a big blanket.  Of course I had to ask April if I could practice on  Miss LM.  It's been so long.  I really miss the swaddling.  Isn't that weird?  So I swaddled that child up and POOF, sleepy.  I got my fill of baby-holding for the week and it did me good.

But baby-wrapping aside, I did seriously have some grading to do.  We're talking I've-been-bringing-these-papers-home-for-three-weeks-then-separating-them-into-piles-of-ten-and-ignoring-them-on-the-floor-before-I-just-carry-them-back-to-school-and-start-all-over-again grading.  I got a large chunk done during jury duty the other day, but I still had three sets (that's three separate assignments across five classes--or 172 students.  YEAH.) that I hadn't finished.  I intended to set to work on them as soon as I got home from the sale, but as you can see from the picture, my hands and heart were otherwise engaged.  It wasn't until almost 4:00 that I started to work on the papers, and then there was a lot of this:

And some of this:

And finally this:

I worked until 9:00, and then I hit the wall.  I painted my nails and then I hit the sack.  Last night I also discovered there's a hole in my thumbnail. This is slightly disturbing, as I have no idea what repetitive action is wearing through my nail bed.  Maybe I can solve that mystery tonight after I grade the 40 essays I have left.

Sad panda.

Friday, October 08, 2010


we shuffle shoes,
leaves. In gateless ports we
wait, choking on the prolix, strained

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Feels like fall

Last night on my run (which felt great, thanks for asking) I continued to notice the change in seasons; it feels like I'm seeing it happen a little more each night. Running has put me so much more in touch with my body and the outdoors, and I lurrrrve that like I lurve me some pumpkin pie. The autumn sun is distant and aloof, so different from my glowing buddy of summer. Even though I miss thick heat on my shoulders, the cooler evening temperatures make for sweet running through clear, thin air.

I'm sipping an americano this morning; it's delightfully toasty as the crackling leaves. My fall cravings lean decidedly toward the roasted. While summer was seared with grill marks, fall is slowly crisped in a low-intensity oven. Everything is baked golden: leaves, veggies, coffee, pie, soil, and soon--turkey. It's chilly enough for a light sweater and tepid enough for bare feet--the best kind of weather for snuggling with a blanket without any kind of necessity to it.

Fall is never something I anticipate with glee, but I'm happy now that it showed up. I think I used to bypass it in a blantant case of the I'll-be-happy-when-s, a frenetic countdown to Christmas because I mourned summer's passing. In my new efforts toward Happy, NOW (Rhino now?), I am discovering that I really actually kind of like it. Yes, the early sunset is unfortunate, but it gets me finished with my run and home in time to catch all those terrible reality TV shows I love. It's colder in the morning, but the afternoon is devoid of August sweat. There's still enough mildness to the evenings that I slide like a breeze down the path.

A slow breeze, but a breeze.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Checking in...

Day 2 after the race and I feel great. I'm going to try to run tonight and see how I feel... maybe something between 3 and 5 miles, depending on how stiff the ol' legs are when I hit the pavement.  Icing helped a lot and I didn't have much soreness yesterday (except a weirdo pain in my back--not sure what that's from?) so today was great.  I'm itchin' to get out there again.  Nice, right?  I figure keep up the good work while the keepin's good.

Not much else to report.  It's Essay Grading City over here, Population: me.  On call for jury duty all week, so scrambling to have some lesson plans ready each day just in case...  Playing with kitten... taking naps... laughing at the monkeys... you know, the ushe.

Last night I made PDub's Roast Vegetable Minestrone--I loved it!  Had it for lunch today too and it reheated well.  Tonight is... what else?  Taco Tuesday.  No room for imagination lately, but I lurve me some tacos anyway. :)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Urban Cow Half Marathon 10.3.10

Race night, and here I sit with two Ziploc baggies full of ice balanced upon my sore little hip flexors. Ah, hip flexors. So hard to find as a ballet student, so hard to teach students how to use them as a ballet teacher, and now so hard to move them as a tired second time half-marathoner.  So yeah.  Ze ice diaper.  She lives.

What a day!  My second effort at racing proved just as much of an adventure as the first; the year that lapsed between races had more to do with our financial situation when E was out of a job post-law school (and then basically working for minimum wage so we could eat) than anything else, but I'm proud to say that since I kept up the running (with some degree of consistency) I was able to improve my time.  Last year I ran 13.1 miles in 2:36:47. This year I ran the same distance in 2:30:29.

I'll admit I gave much less though to this year's goal, but I did utter (udder, yes--haha--obligatory pun) the phrases "just as long as I do better than last year" and "around 2:30" to E last night.  Well I hit 2:30 on the nose, and I certainly beat last year.  It is hard not to feel like an 11:30 average is terribly slow, but I have to continuously remind myself that this is a new venture and I am not a lifelong runner.  Nothing about it comes easy to me.  In April of 2009 I couldn't run 1/4 of a mile.  Now I ran my second half marathon, and faster than the first one at that.  *golf clap*

But there is more to celebrate than just the increase in speed, though that would be plenty.  In the past few months I've overcome my nervousness/awkwardness/trepidation about running with other people and I've run with Kel and her wonderfully welcoming running buddies.  I ran 13.1 today with no iPod--that's something just because my ballerina buns have been chained to the steady rhythm of something for basically the last 18 years.  Getting my body to move--finding an internal metronome and (with the help of Kel and her Garmin) pacing myself so I can manage a finish... that's something too.

It was a good race day--last week's unseasonably hot weather in Northern California faded into filtered autumn sunshine today.  It was warm but not hot, humid, but not blistering.  The start was comfortable and the temp stayed mild throughout.  I made the mistake of letting too much time pass between using the bathroom and starting the race; consequently I had to lose some time in a porta potty.  Major fail.  I felt bad about it, too, since Kelly was running with me.  Okay, I still feel bad about it.  But once I realized I needed to go, that became my whole world and there was no way I was going to make it.  Man, that makes me mad at myself.  Whatevs.

Kel was my Garmin, basically.  She kept me from running too fast, and she was able to pace us and let me know how we were doing.  This race is just one more reminder of how much I really, really, really feel like I'm to the point that I could use the instantaneous feedback on my run.  I've been Amazon stalking Garmins all the time and thinking about how I might save my pennies.  The ol' iPhone in the pocket ain't cutting it anymore.  Today it was invaluable to see how we were doing.

I walked.  I know some of you will see that as an admission of failure.  Those are the same people that ask me this all the time:

Them: So you're running a marathon this weekend?

Me:  A half.  A half marathon.

Them (disappointed): Oh.

I wish those same people would try to run 13.1 miles.  But I don't really need to impress them anyway.  So yeah, I walked today.  I managed to run for 8 miles until I had to start doing walking intervals.  That's the farthest I've ever made it running straight through.  On our 12 miler I had to walk after 6; last year at this same race I walked after 4.5 or 5.  Something else to be happy about.  When I started running, I felt maxed out at a quarter mile.  Now I can go about an hour and a half until I hit the wall.  I really hope that if I keep at this that time will get longer and longer.

Me, in green.  Kelly in pink.

Just after the finish.  Saying to myself: don't fall down.

My family timed their arrival so that everybody saw/yelled/took pictures of me crossing the finish this year.  I also smiled three times for race photographers, so hopefully there's something on the race website for me this year--some kind of proof I was there (unlike last year!).  I'm exhausted, but I do notice that the feeling my body is having is not so foreign anymore.  This tells me that this was more like a training run and less like something out of the ordinary I did.  I think that's how it's supposed to be.

Lis, D, and fam.

Dad, E, monkeys.

Henry stealing my chocolate milk.

Mari and Lance--they both ran today too.

The dogs were barkin'.

Glad to have her mommy back.  I really hope I can run a race with her one day.