31 December 2007

A successful return

After four days in the Happiest Place on Earth, we survived and returned home unscathed. Mickey Mouse held for me all the allure he ever hasPC290283. My acquisition of souvenirs included an ornament for the Christmas tree, about a dozen collector pins, tee-shirts, a dress shirt, maps, unused Fastpasses and more. Although Disneyland remains my favorite because of its more intimate scale, I think Walt Disney World has many more possibilities. The newer rides tend to stray away from clichés and stereotypes, and the atmosphere delves deeper into cultural eccentricities, cross-cultural comparisons and "edutainment" that lets a visitor learn while having a bit of fun. The cost is high, but the product quality for entertainment is rich and varied. (My photo is of the Expedition Everest ride at the Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The Tibetan prayer flags, the Nepalese music, the beautiful calligraphy on the signs made the experience very realistic. However, having not been to Central Asia, I can only imagine.)

One day, I would like to have visited all the Disney parks in the world, adding Disneyland Resort Paris, Tokyo Disneyland Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, and whatever other park comes along. It's my willful suspension of disbelief that makes the parks so fun for me. Only three days ago, I stood before Mickey's SpectroMagic Parade in the Magic Kingdom and waved mightily to the Mouse just as if I were still four years old. My name is Kenneth. I'm a Mickey Mouse junkie. Disney Vacation Club is calling to me. How will that financing work out?

Merry Christmas to all...

and a happy New Year!

This morning I realized that my children are growing up quickly.  They were not up at the crack of dawn and did not come sprinting into the living room to see what was under the tree.  Despite that little difference, they were very enthusiastic about the morning.  They relished every gift as if these were the only ones they had received for Christmas from anyone at all. I'm so glad that they have learned to show gratitude for the blessings that come their way, no matter the form.

Last night, at very much the last minute, I made cookies for Santa Claus.  They were oatmeal with cranberry, chocolate chips, mixed nuts and coconut.  I prefer loaded drop cookies like these to refrigerator cookies simply for the time factor.  I'm guessing that Santa does, too.  We put a large one out on our Santa plate and a mug of soy milk (in case Santa is lactose intolerant). ;O)  Once the children had been asleep for about an hour, John and I set out our gifts and then let Santa do his work. ;O) We slept until 8 o'clock this morning, and by then I couldn't wait any longer.

All the weeks of preparation seem to take so long, but in less than an hour, there's a mass of shredded wrapping paper on the floor.  Of course, today with our departure for Orlando and Disney World, we weren't disappointed with the speedy Christmas gift reveal.  Being able to join my sister and mother et al for some holiday fun will be yet another Christmas blessing.  The continental separation from loved ones is frustrating, so I genuinely look forward to opportunities like these, a mini family reunion without the typical emotional stresses based on house guests, meal preparations and frowning faces after opening a "disappointing" gift.  We're skipping the attitude and going straight for joy and the creation of a few good memories.

...After six hours already on the highway, I'm eager to arrive at the resort.  We have only 30 minutes or so left for our drive.  I've brought some presents for my niece and some token gifts for my sister and mother.  If there's a restaurant open, we may go to dinner, but even if we don't, I'll be content simply to visit for a little while.  Tomorrow will be a big day, and the hardest decision will be determining which of the many Disney parks to go to first.  Traveling on Christmas day is a bit rough because so few gas stations are open, but we did find a Starbucks!  Thank goodness for a little caffeine.

(written 25 December 2007)

23 December 2007

My Regional Accent (continued)

It seems that after a decade and a half of life in the South preceded by almost another decade of globe trotting I have not shed my Western accent. In more than one way, I'm quite glad. Although my accent marks me as a cowboy despite my not driving trucks or hitching wagons, it ties me to my home in Nevada. (That's /nı 'væ dʌ/ not /nə 'va dʌ/ for you outsiders.)

American accents are as varied as those of any other anglophone country. We former British Imperial subjects have made every effort to separate ourselves from our linguistic forbears (spend a few moments comparing Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries) and in doing so, we've created enough of our own internal divisions. However, it makes for a more interesting country. The foods we eat, the words we use, the way we speak--all of these help to create a sense of cultural identity. Even though it seems at times that you can drive through any American town and find the exact same rubber stamped commercialized chain restaurant or retail outlet, our diversity is not yet erased. During our grand tour of the American roadways, my children and I made wide note of some of the varied vocalizations of English throughout the country. Even our dog Beau seemed to notices some differences in the aboiements of his canine compatriots.

Here's to local colloquialisms, accents and habits!

My Regional Accent

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland
North Central
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Sensibilité moribonde de Dumas père

Pendant une année déjà sinon plus long je suis en train de lire Le Comte de Monte-Cristo d'Alexandre Dumas. Ce n'est pas que le français de l'énorme roman est trop difficile de déchiffrer, mais plutôt que cette œuvre est tellement complexe. En toute vérité, il comprend l'équivalent de deux ou trois romans dans une collection de deux tomes épais. L'édition que j'ai prise est celle de Pocket avec une préface intéressante que j'ai évidemment lue, le texte intégral et deux sections commentées, l'une sur le texte même et l'autre un dossier historique. Je compte tout lire, mais à ce moment, je n'ai achevé que 546 pages, deux tiers du premier tome.

Quant à mon esprit amateur de fiction, le livre est bon et le style de Dumas m'attirent beaucoup. Néanmoins il y tant de chapitres qui ne semblent servir à rien. Par exemple, toute l'exposition sur les fameux bandits romains m'a beaucoup confondu et me semble inutile. Les convolutions et circonvolutions du complot me laissent gratter la tête de temps en temps. Mais, c'est d'habitude chez Dumas.

En plus, qui n'est pas vraiment choquant quand je considère
Les 3 mousquetaires, Vingt ans après, Georges et La reine Margot, ce conte du comte est vraiment sanglant. Les assassinats, les enlèvements, les morts. Je me demande si la vie au XIXe siècle était aussi violente ou si ce n'est qu'un effet littéraire que Dumas a voulu établir pour ses fictions. La scène la plus frappante est celle de la fin du chapitre La mazzolata. Je la cite :

... Franz était comme fasciné par l'horrible spectacle. Les deux valets avaient porté le condamné sur l'échafaud, et là, malgré ses efforts, ses morsures, ses cris, ils l'avaient forcé de se mettre à genoux. Pendant ce temps, le bourreau s'était placé de côté et la masse en arrêt ; alors, sur un signe, les deux aides s'écartèrent. Le condamné voulut se relever, mais avant qu'il en eût le temps, la masse s'abattit sur sa tempe gauche ; on entendit un bruit sourd et mat, le patient tomba comme un bœuf, la face contre terre, puis d'un contrecoup, se retourna sur le dos. Alors le bourreau laissa tomber sa masse, tira le couteau de sa ceinture, d'un seul coup lui ouvrit la gorge, et montant aussitôt sur son ventre, se mit à le pétrir avec ses pieds.

À chaque pression, un jet de sang s'élançait du cou du condamné.

Moi, comme Franz dans le récit, je suis devenu malade et faible. On croirait lire un tel passage dans un roman populaire et scandaleux des années 1930 aux EU ou bien voir une telle scène dans un film d'épouvante d'aujourd'hui. La fascination humaine avec la mort existait et existe depuis toujours, et ça rend peut-être la vie plus chère. On est toujours content de ne pas être le prochain bœuf d'entrer dans l'abattoir.

22 December 2007

Home for the holidays

Yesterday afternoon, my boyfriend John arrived in Atlanta. He's been working in Mountain Home, ID on a power plant construction project for Siemens and Idaho Power. Six months of work already and he still faces another two months at least of bitter cold 60-hour work weeks. Fortunately, he gets about 10 days of vacation for the holidays. I'm so glad to have him home with me. Right now, he's snoozing peacefully on our sofa with our dog Beau asleep at his feet. I'm watching Born Yesterday on Turner Movie Classics while I sit in the easy chair.

The last 30 hours have been quite hectic. Yesterday we went to dinner and did some final shopping for Christmas, then we spent the evening wrapping all the presents. I don't put anything under the tree until late Christmas Eve. Santa Claus does his magic ;0) whenever he can squeeze our little apartment into his schedule for the night. When the children come out in the morning, it's quite the surprise to see the filled stockings, the tree surrounded by gifts and the dog about ready to pop out of his fur with excitement.

Gifts will be a bit less extravagant than in the past because John and I budgeted most of our money for a trip to Disneyworld. Christmas night, we'll meet my sister and her family and my mom in Kissimmee where we'll stay in their timeshare while we all take advantage of the parks for three or four days. During the trip, we'll spend a day at Cape Canaveral to see the Kennedy Space Center. About the whole trip, I'm very enthusiastic, probably enough for my kids and John as well. It will be the first time that I'll get to spend any of Christmas Day with my mom or sister in more than 15 years. The whole trip will be wedged neatly between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Whirlwind to be sure, but more than likely fun as well.

20 December 2007

Trompe l'œil

It's just a Kodak CX7430 EasyShare snapshot of my computer after I uploaded a picture of my Christmas tree. If I could balance the colors better, the trick would be more appealing.

19 December 2007


The term is an example of how anglophones and francophones have distinct differences in logic. We prefer to tie up all the loose ends, while those of the esprit gallois prefer to unravel all the knots. Despite the lack of Latin ancestry in my bloodlines, I have an affinity for the French way of thinking about ending a story.

The deal for the house fell through. There were a lot of reasons, and the rational part of me simply wants to let it go, focus on the future, not assign blame. Really, there is no blame to assign; some things just happen. Ultimately, I have nothing less than I had three weeks ago, and my life is still good, my children are healthy, my boyfriend loves me, my dog still snuggles up to me. Eventually another opportunity will arise for us in the housing market. With the market the way it is, the same house may still be available a year from now. Who knows?

Thanksgiving was great. Having my dad here after not being with either of my parents for America's holiday in 21 years was a great pleasure. Next year, my boyfriend and I will fly my mom to be here with us. I'm so grateful to this man in my life who has helped me to get closer to my family than I think I have ever been before despite geographical distances.

My son's educational pinball game has tilted yet again. Whether it's going to be continued academic probation or indefinite suspension from the gifted program, I have know idea. The poor kid has been like a bird caught in the hypnotic cobra's stare, the cobra being his bitch of a science teacher who seems to have spent the last six weeks poised with pen over disciplinary referral form. On medication, he's just like any other 13 year-old boy. The compassionless witch (no offense to practitioners of Wicca), has targeted him for her vitriolic attention all semester. At least his mother and I were able to have him removed from her home room so that he can start his day with someone who smiles.

Now that the fall semester has come to an end, I can take a big breath and rest for a couple of weeks. My first ever art class was a success. Only one student didn't pass, but in the end, he had turned his attitude around despite the many weeks of his lack of interest in art. They had all internalized many of the principles of design and elements of art. Their last few projects demonstrated understanding of color theory, space, balance, unity. I guess I might be pretty good at this teaching business.

A week ago, my children's middle school held its Christmas concert for the band. I have to say that Mrs. Becton is one amazing band director. Middle school students played Christmas carols in tune and on beat and with dynamics! It was a pleasurable evening, and I wish I were the kind of dad that carried a camcorder everywhere he went. Their grandfather the former band director would be proud of those two kids, I'm sure.

Tonight, I sit on my sofa, key these words, sip some Merlot and watch a tacky Rankin & Bass Christmas special on ABC Family. Tomorrow, I sleep as let as the dog will allow and catch up on reading Le Comte de Monte Cristo. Thank heaven and the school board for the two weeks away from work. Merry Christmas!

07 December 2007

Or not...

...acquiring real estate

30 November 2007

Aquiring real estate

Buying a house
is not like buying an iPod
at all
nor like buying a car
nor licensing a new pet
The marathon of paper
runs with the crush
of signatures and initials
and one date rewritten 30-odd times
In the ether created
from black and white
with escrow and earnest to cause it to thrive
during the period of due diligence
dashing to closing
I, the buyer, am subsumed
and overwhelmed
From the cost of credit
to the full payment of the 30-year mortgage
pity that I don't understand
all the intricacies
of negotiation
though the deal, I'm told, is sweet
seller pays closing
the APR is fixed
the loan is bank secured and assumable
The surreality of lender-ese,
legalese, and the 1-year seller-financed warranty
leave me astounded, frustrated, elated and depressed.
caveat emptor

16 November 2007

Weekend Dad

What hurts most is that I was the every day dad.
Then the wishy-washy testimony of an 11-year old
settles it for the judge, and then
I am relegated to 46 hours twice a month
unless their mother
gets busy,
and then I'm the parent
who drops everything
to make life easier
for people who don't give a fuck.
My children do; don't get me wrong.
Still somehow, in someone's eyes,
I am the lesser parent.

04 November 2007

Man w/no memory

Drawing from Maggie Steber's photograph of EP in the November 2007 issue of National Geographic (graphite on 65 lb. Canson paper)

03 November 2007

Learning from classical art

Moses from the sculpture by Michelangelo (graphite on 65 lb. Canson paper)

29 October 2007

I've been Nerd Tested, and I passed.

Is that like getting positive medical test results?

NerdTests.com says I'm an Uber Cool Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

I'm glad to have found that link on Bob S-K's blog. And Nicolas, you'd better bring that lightsaber to school and the mask, too.

A poem from my notebook

I wrote this today for my dog, Beau.

27 October 2007

The cobbler's children

When you imagine the adage about the cobbler's children going barefoot, it's not hard to extend the analogy to the teacher's child failing middle school. In the last trimester, I've watched my son's grades plummet like autumn leaves, helpless to stop their inevitable descent. It's as if I were waiting for my addict friend to hit rock bottom before he'd allow my intervention.

His mother and I are at wits end, nearly bald from the figurative hair-pulling. Dealing with a battle over medication for ADHD and unfeeling teachers that insist of giving grades like 20% from which almost no one can recover does not help in any way. My greatest fear is that he would have to repeat 8th grade. If I could in anyway afford it, I'd school him myself, but I cannot go without income for two or more years helping him to learn self discipline and to appreciate his own education.

After the confrontation and discussion this morning, I'd like to think that there will be improvement this week. I pray that will be the case.

21 October 2007

The truth about latte

The blend of lies and non-fiction in my life has varied like a sweetened latte.

At once it’s all good, perfectly balanced, delicious. Then the milk has to go because it wreaks havoc on the intestines, leaving you feeling uneasy, nauseous to the verge of vomiting forth facts you can't suborn or violently passing them to be sanitized in the septic treatment of the world at large.

Next goes the sugar. First you try pseudo-sugars that leave people hearing what they think they want, but in the end are empty and unsatisfying. Ultimately, all the sweetness takes a hiatus, foregone for the apparent blunt honesty left by the strong taste of the coffee.

The no-foam soy is the deal-maker. At first it’s just a little different, but it lets the espresso pound through. The coffee overwhelms the senses while the soy milk attempts to soothe the palate. It’s the easy flow of the falsehood, chaser to the hard truth, that makes it so easy to swallow. It’s a latte, but it’s not; the beauty is the higher price it exacts.

13 October 2007

Late night date night movies...alone

Before midnight I wait
for him to call me
though I know when he does,
it will be late,
and we'll both be very tired.
He's playing cards with buds
from work.
He's having a few drinks,
gambling his money away
in a private game for friends.
The miles apart
create a rift beyond geography.
Anxious separation
leaves me cold, sleepless, tired.
In almost 5 years,
we've been together for less than 1.
Common time
is made of coincidental simulcasts,
a boon of digital cable subscriptions.
Internet IM and "Friends-n-Family" minutes
keep us together
when life holds us apart.
Frankly, it sucks.
Come home, my man.

12 October 2007

11 October 2007

Guns in school

A student in Ohio attacks his school. Another in Pennsylvania stockpiles weapons, apparently under the auspices of parent-supervised homeschooling. Then in Oregon a TEACHER wants to be allowed to carry a gun to school--under permit and allegedly to protect herself from an ex-husband.

I believe in the 2nd Amendment though I do not own a gun. An American has the right to bear arms within the context of the law. I don't believe it takes an automatic weapon to hunt a deer. And one can adequately defend his home with a handgun. However, schools whether public or private are no place for guns. In my role as a teacher, I work hard to make my classroom a safe place for my students, but I don't believe having a gun would ever create the sense of safety that students need.

03 October 2007

Morning Meds in Macro

taken with Kodak EasyShare CX7430, retouched in Photoshop Elements 2

29 September 2007

Value scale of colored pillows

taken with Kodak EasyShare CX7430, cropped in Photoshop Elements 2

Suddenly one room seems too small

tempera (water color pigment mixed with egg yolk as a binder) on 90 lb. paper

Blue kimono

Wearing a blue kimono
Seated in comfort
The blue & white cotton
Against tanned, bare skin
At ease at home
Half drowsy & ready to nap
Watching senseless movies rerun
On cable channels
Rather than pay another $8
For a movie theater seat
Or $8 more
For a Coke™ & a small box of Raisinets™
That make you feel guilty twice
For the calories & the price
Instead there's a martini waiting
As many olives as you like
Queen-sized for a queen
Approaching mid-life
Already past the crisis
Sitting at home on a Saturday
Watching senseless movies
Wearing a blue & white kimono
Taking time for a weekend riposa
& a moment to pet the dog
That munches on a rubber toy
Trying to get the Iams™ biscuit inside

23 September 2007

Multiculturalism in North Coweta

In Georgia, part of the historic Deep South, home of the capital of the Confederacy, there may not seem to be a place for multiculturalism. However, that is far from an accurate description of the quality of education in Georgia. Northgate High in Coweta County is a young school burgeoning with programs that allow students to examine and explore other cultures. Some examples include reading literature and creating visual-verbal documents that reflect the experiences of African-Americans and Holocaust survivors. Others include making Southeast Asian-style shadow puppets in drama classes. Don't forget making cascarones, piñatas, and Day of the Dead altars in Spanish classes. Music videos for le rap beur and le pop français are a popular project in French classes. Still, these are only beginnings, and as the school matures and expands, more will be necessary to bridge divides within the school’s own culture and to prepare future alumni for the world outside.

Since the school came into being little more than a decade ago, its population base has changed dramatically from a basically White, semi-rural middle and working classes to a suburban one that encompasses students from a variety of ethnic, economic and social and political backgrounds. At times, among the students there is evidence of cultural misunderstanding. One setting that brings a large portion of theses diverse students together in a new cultural setting is the world language classroom. At Northgate, students have the option of studying Spanish or French if they pursue a college preparatory diploma. This year, about 1000 students at Northgate participate in world language classes where they have multiple opportunities to compare hispanophone and francophone cultures to their own. Theses classes have long been the place where students come to correct cultural misconceptions, and all of the teachers in the department help students recreate authentic moments for themselves. Not all are successful, and some are hackneyed, but students come to appreciate the experience and many take advanced level courses to continue their studies and to gain skills that will better prepare them for a global marketplace.

Beyond the classroom, students can participate in a variety of different clubs, but a popular one with more than 50 members is the International Club or iClub. In its inception, iClub was little more than a combination of the French and Spanish clubs. But in only six years of existence it has grown from a few kids who occasionally met for eating taquitos and dancing to salsa music to a good-sized group of motivated students that participate in school-wide events like homecoming and that sponsor three other happenings to raise cultural awareness in the community at large. These get-togethers include the International Banquet to which students bring home cooked meals following authentic recipes from around the globe to share and experience together. Second is the Chinese New Year celebration that invites parents, students and teachers to enjoy culturally authentic foods beyond the take-out menu and to appreciate the symbolism and richness found in Asian-American culture. Lastly there is an International Film Festival that each year brings first hand voices from other countries to tell stories to our students in a way they might not seek out on their own or find readily offered in local movie theaters.

There's always room for growth, for more acceptance, diversity and tolerance. However, it shouldn't surprise that a seedling of multiculturalism can prosper in a little corner of the South. I'm glad to nurture it.

16 September 2007

Teaching tests you

As a teacher, I find that I must always keep my skills honed. For French, I read newspapers and books, listen to podcasts, watch films, and practice speaking, listening and writing in that language. Not having regular francophone interlocutors, I have to do most of it on my own, and at times, I'm certain that I'm forming linguistic habits that will be hard to correct once I learn that they're questionable. For art, mostly I draw. I prefer to draw rather than to paint or to use other art forms. When I do work with photography, I prefer to manipulate color digitally rather that to find the perfect scene to photograph. When I do paint, I find myself slathering color more deeply than the medium I prefer would allow; watercolor likes to be applied in a single smooth layer, not like impasto as with oil or tempera or acrylic. I guess that changing my medium is in order. Now, what I really need is an office/library/studio where I can work, leave work unfinished and come and go as I please without having to put everything in its place each time I leave or enter the room.

08 September 2007

Optimisim or pessimism

When you teach, you look forward to the good days with a class. Those days where everyone stays on task, where the collective accepts your guidance and behaves as if they believe that you know what you're talking about. My art class has perhaps turned a corner. This past Friday was much less of a struggle as a leader for these young people. It seemed finally that I've hit upon a way to interact with them that lets them look toward working together and toward creating art, rather than simply trying to keep me from giving them any kind of instruction at all.

The project at hand is creating a panel of rock art in the style of an ancient "cave" culture: Native American, Australian Aboriginal or Proto-European. All four groups chose Native American for their theme, and then they were quite surprised that there would be research and cultural considerations to include in their art and storytelling.

What bothered me personally was that it seemed to me that the class itself behaved only because one student, the "why do we have to learn this, and how can you make us read and write and think about math for art?" student was absent.

Nevertheless, I do believe that the end product for this project will be good, and it will be worthy of display for the school at large. I hope I can find a nice place to put it up, and that students will appreciate having their work visible to the whole student body.

06 September 2007

An awkward invitation

A senior invited me to come to Dubai this summer after graduation...to New York, too, to catch a Broadway show.

05 September 2007

Martini free-writing

Feeling the buzz of an after work martini
I write this entry
wondering where it will go
lamenting the time I didn't leave
to get the grades averaged
to get the homework checked
to update the grade book
to relax
to play with my dog
to talk to my children
to update this blog
to smile
to be nice
to enjoy myself
to talk to my children and tell them I love them
to talk with my boyfriend
to make a delicious dinner
to ask my mom if the goldfish survived
to ask my sister if the present wasn't too outrageous
to tell my boyfriend I love him
to get to work and get my job done

26 August 2007

Time suspension

There's too much time spent alone
without him here.
I miss him.
How could I not?
The time apart suspends me,
floats me over a gulf of calendar days
that bring me from one brief weekend shore
to the next.
When he leaves, our home is desolate.
It's one man and his dog here.
Both of us less than ourselves,
and therefore, we live in a haze of loneliness.
He keeps doing his job.
He calls every night and makes a trip
once in a while, not quite monthly.
Only until Christmas
will I have to endure this separation.
By then, I'll have seen him three more times
in person.

14 August 2007

Career expansion

Two years ago, I took the Praxis for Art in order to gain add-on certification in Georgia. Self-taught with very little instruction in the formal understanding in art, I managed to pass the test. In the year prior I had been cramming my head with the essentials of art history and wearing my fingers to nubs drawing and painting trying to establish a real portfolio of what I look at as decent student work. It felt like a long shot, but I did pass and for two years, my teaching certificate has claimed that I am prepared to teach the subject.

Finally, I have an art class: Visual Arts 1, the most basic of levels at our high school. I'm glad to branch out from my core of French language and to put my own talents to work in a new way. Interacting with students in a different field also lets me know them in a less than strictly academic sense. I hear much more of their conversation as they work, see how they behave with each other, let them express themselves without the restriction of French only. As they develop their own skills as artists, I hope to see them grow and pursue more study of art to enhance their lives as I believe it has mine. Without art, I don't believe that my skill in French would be the same or as important to me.

07 August 2007

Back to school

Yesterday I began my 11th year of teaching here in Georgia. With this new year, I have a regular teaching schedule without the stress of no planning period. Today I marveled at how much I could accomplish with an entire class period to sit and write out ideas and put together framework for activities and mini-projects. At the end of the day, I felt prepared and eager to have my students return to me and to continue our new year in learning to communicate in French.

Although the expression may be "fail to plan, plan to fail," it was more for me a case of failing to have adequate time and energy to plan last year. Despite the added hour for planning, mostly I was simply exhausted and stressed. I did make plans, but they tended to be skeletal and broad, lacking the detail that allows a teacher to prepare for possible tangents and unexpected eventualities.

This year I also decided to make a number of changes: reconfiguring my room, adding some new strategies to my teaching style, collaborating more with colleagues, encouraging more participation from my students. I want this second decade of my career to be one of growth and not of stagnation. So far, my students seem to like the changes and embrace them as a new way to learn French, the differences making the class a bit different than the year before and, I hope, more interesting, too.

24 July 2007

Harry Potter, where are you?

Barnes & Noble gave it to UPS. UPS brought it to Peachtree City. In Peachtree City, The Deathly Hallows has gone missing. I may never learn what happens to Harry.

15 July 2007

Naturism, nudism or just being weird

Without too much detail, I went out into nature and got natural. It was refreshing and fun. Everyone should try it once. It's how you come into the world, so why not spend more time that way?

07 July 2007

Day 19 - 4 July 2007

On the way to Oklahoma City, we traveled the fabled and revered Route 66 that is now mostly covered by Interstate 40. Through the wonder of Apple technology, my iPod played a version of "Route 66" by Chuck Barry from the Cars soundtrack when we were leaving New Mexico and heading into Texas.* There were so many interesting old buildings and as many run-down decayed towns that had been forgotten with the advent of the Interstate. Page and Marie loved observing the Americana and the open road across so many states. This scrap book is going to take forever to complete.

*Another technological quirk, on Day 21 when we were heading into Georgia on I-20 from Alabama, we heard "Love Shack" by the B-52's on a Birmingham radio station. We sang out loud down the "Atlanta highway" on our way home.

06 July 2007

Day 20 - 5 July 2007

Upon arriving in Memphis, we quickly checked into the Quality Inn near Graceland, then headed downtown to Beale Street for dinner. After a couple of wrong turns, we found ourselves in front of Sun Records. We decided to park, go inside and take the $10 tour. Wow! Seeing the memorabilia of a bygone era of rock & roll, standing in the studio where Elvis, BB King, Johny Cash and even U2 recorded--we were in awe.

After the tour, we made our way to Beale Street and stumbled into BB King's Blues Club. We had a great Southern (read "fried") dinner with SWEET TEA and live blues music. Page and Marie were all smiles and had a great time and stuffed themselves: the former on chicken tenders and hush puppies, the latter on mac & cheese and French fries. By the time we were back at the hotel, all we could do was talk about how exciting it was to be in the Sun recording studio and to walk the Beale.

Day 18 - 3 July 2007

We rose early and rolled out of Henderson after 3 days with my Mom to head to the Grand Canyon. My daughter had been complaining of her stomach hurting, but I put it off to her not really wanting to pack up and leave as she was having a good time visiting her family that usually she never sees.

HOWEVER, in Arizona, only an hour away from the Grand Canyon, she again complained that her stomach hurt. I asked her to specify whether she meant pain or nausea. She said she felt both. Just as I looked for a place to pull over, she belched and puked in her hands, lap, on the seat, on the floor, out the window, down the door. The good news: we were right in front of a little gas station/laundromat in Williams, AZ. It was a Mustang gas station, but I'd already fueled up just a mile or so earlier in town. Still, they were very nice and filled jugs with water and gave me paper towels to help clean up the car and Marie. In their restroom, Marie changed out of the soiled clothes. With the coins in the console of the Kia, I was able to wash and dry the blanket from the car, Marie's clothes and the laundry we were carrying from my mother's house. In all, we were there in Williams about an hour and a half. The people we greeted and who helped us were friendly and kind. It was the best place for Marie to get sick. At least when it was over, Marie felt better.

Finally, we made it to the Grand Canyon. We looked over the South Rim for about 30 minutes, marveling at the awesome magnitude of it all. It's too bad that the time spent cleaning up vomit couldn't have been spent seeing more of this natural wonder.

27 June 2007

Vacation Frustration or Wounds a Little Less Fresh

When we had settled in Rapid City, SD at the Rodeway Inn for the night, I spent time on the phone with my boyfriend as he helped me book a room for the next night. The whole endeavor was besieged with problems. Firstly, we were having no success finding hotels that allowed pets and that had a vacancy. As John cross-checked cities along my itinerary with listings on Hotels.com or other online search engines, I would call potential locations for the next night's repose only to be told there were no vacancies or that pets were not allowed. The worst was the Holiday Inn reservation line that refused to let me speak with a human being because I was not booking a multiple night stay. Top that off with a rude desk clerk at a Holiday Inn Express that I managed to call after a very frustrating battle with a computer voice and then by choosing options to call the hotel under the pretext of talking to a guest staying there. It was all I could do not to throw my cell phone across the room in anger. Fortunately, my common sense kicked in, and so did the shot of whiskey I swallowed.

While I fought back tears after rejections from more than a dozen hotels and motels, John asked me why I was traveling down to Utah to get to Boise when I could take a more direct route by going across Wyoming along a pair of US Highways instead of the Interstate to the south. My mistake would not keep me from getting to Boise, but it was adding an extra night to my trip that I could ill afford. As frustration mounted, getting to Boise a night sooner than I had planned was very appealing. That's when John looked along the US Routes and found us the place in Riverton, WY that I wrote about the other day.

Booking hotels in advance is helpful for sure, but not enough information is readily available online to make that as easy as it can be. Not all the travel search sites cross reference "pet friendliness" as a criteria for reservations, leaving large sets of lodging resources unchecked or in doubt. It's definitely "call before you book" if you don't want problems during check-in.

Traveling with children and dog while being the only adult driver in the group is a big challenge. At least my children are finally old enough to know when papa has had enough, to plug in their iPods and read rather than to bicker about who's touching whom. With Dramamine at the start of the trip, the dog is a non-issue except to stop for water and to pee, which is something all of us need to do as often as he does. Thank goodness for modern, clean, well-equipped rest areas that dot most of our nation's highways. M&M's do a lot to keep me sane.

Only a week and a half remains in our automobile adventure. There is still family to visit as well as sights to see. Happy motoring!

25 June 2007

24 June 2007 - Fourth day in Boise

This was a great day. John booked a rafting trip down the main fork of the Payette River north of Boise. The four of us donned life vests, took up oars, and with the instructions of a guide and the help of two other river rafting tourists, we paddled eight miles down the Payette. Marie and Page took turns "riding the bull", sitting on the bow of the raft as we took a class one or class two rapid or active wave train. They had so much fun, giggling, squealing and getting doused by the chilly river water. They talked about the trip the whole ride home in the car, devoured their dinners as if they'd never before been fed a hot meal in their lives, and passed out in front of the television before their regular bed time. What a fun and exciting day for all of us! If ever in Boise, give Cascade Raft & Kayak a try (http://cascaderaft.com/index.asp). (Photo courtesy of Cascade Raft & Kayak, 2007)

23 June 2007

23 June 2007 - Third day in Boise

After just a week on vacation, I've been through some serious highs and lows. One good note has been our stay in a delightful little hotel in Riverton, WY. The place is called the South Federal Inn (http://www.southfederalinn.com/); it's an old motor lodge, an original motel, from the 1950's with two private garages for the high end suites. Our room had had to areas for sleeping, so I had a little privacy. The innkeeper, Jennifer Thomas, was wonderful. She gave us such a warm reception and was so kind and charming while greeting us and showing us our room. The morning of our departure, she came to see us off at 7:30 a.m., to give us directions in Wyoming, and to offer advice about moose and elk on the road as we passed through the Snake River Valley below the Grand Tetons.

On the way to Riverton, we passed through the entire state of South Dakota going from Sioux Falls to Rapid City. We were able to see both Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. We also passed through the Badlands and visited the famous Wall Drug. All of us agreed we could easily spend a week in the southwestern part of South Dakota.

The trip has had its ups and downs. The sites have been amazing apart from having to skip some tours because we couldn't leave the dog in the car. The hotel experience has been difficult quite often as far as making reservations in advance where accomodations would accept a dog. Driving over 2500 miles from Atlanta to Boise on the route we chose has also been a strain on me physically. My back is pained and it's taken the last two days to rest and recuperate. At least I've got a few more days here to relax before I have to get in the car again with kids, luggage and dog to get to Las Vegas for four days to visit my mother and other family. When this adventure is over, I hope to have some lasting memories that are good enough to overshadow the frustrations.

18 June 2007 – Third day on the road

I hate fucking traveling by car. And you can’t get a hotel in America unless you’ve booked it weeks in advance and go the secret code to get the non-existent discount available only online to special customers who know the wink and handshake to give at check-in.

16 June 2007 - First day on the road

After 9 hours on the road with me, the two kids and the dog crammed into my boyfriend's Kia Sportage, we were all glad to arrive at the Howard Johnson's hotel where despite the lack of connectivity as advertised, they welcomed our pet. Sixteen miles from St. Louis, MO, we have stopped for the night on our first leg of our journey from Atlanta to Boise to Las Vegas and back. We'll cover a great bit of the highways and byways of America, enjoying the scenery, seeing some sites, and finally I'll get a few days of reunion with my beloved John. Regardless of the distance, he is very supportive of my needs.

Our first remarkable point of interest was in Metropolis, IL, the Home of Superman. We took the obligatory photos of Page and Marie before the giant Superman statue and of their faces over the life-sized cutouts of Superman and Supergirl. We also bought a few trinket souvenirs the Superman Museum gift shop. We did not tour the museum itself because we had no way to keep our dog Beau cool and comfortable in the summer heat. Maybe one time on another trip, perhaps to Chicago, we'll stop in and see all that Metropolis has to offer.

Tomorrow we will pass through the Gateway to the West and take our pictures before the Gateway Arch. I'm not sure how much touring we can do around the site with Beau in tow, but definitely we'll have a good time. If we're lucky, the hotel will have a decent breakfast to get us off to a good start before we cross the Missouri River.

12 June 2007

Mobile computing—do I need it?

Whether or not I need it, I have it now. With an upcoming freelance translation job, I need to have easy access to a computer to be able to complete translations quickly for at least a couple hours a day while on a road trip. In addition, I need to have the ability to connect to the Internet in WiFi hotspots or in hotel rooms that have broadband in order to verify information on French Canadian Web sites and to check online French language resources when I hit the occasional translation bump.

Shopping in the electronic stores was in order. Doubtful that I would find anything within my budget or that wouldn’t devour my potential earnings, I stumbled across a clearance sale. When I was able to find a well equipped, dual-processor multimedia computer that would leave me more than two thirds of my upcoming paycheck for the job, I bought the Toshiba Satellite. It took a short while to configure, mostly to delete all the bloatware I don’t want and to install the handful of applications that are useful to me.

Although I considered a switch to Mac, I have to stay within my budget. Besides the cost, right now is just not a good time for me to change platforms though I do understand it’s easier than ever to do. What frustrates me about Mac is its price tag. Why is it so high? Even budget computers from Apple are outside my price range while I have other debts like my car and my credit card balance. Eventually, I’ll own the kind of Mac I want, but this interim Vista-based computer is very nice. For the most part it can do everything I need when I’m on the road. If it works out well, I may switch entirely to laptop computing and wave goodbye to my desktop the next time I upgrade my computer.

One thing is certain, despite the “bazillion” updates I had to install for this brand new operating system, Vista works far better as the native operating system on a new machine than it did as an upgrade to my older but well equipped desktop. With 20/20 hindsight, I see that I should have left my desktop running XP Media Center and waited until I needed the laptop computer to upgrade.

My next goal for home and mobile computing is to get my wireless router installed. Then I will be able to work in the living room. My boyfriend John will be glad to know I’m using the rest of the apartment rather than staying holed up in the bedroom with infrequent trips to the kitchen or laundry room. At least then I’ll make better use of the widescreen TV and the TiVo.

09 June 2007

Thus I begin my 39th year

With little or no fuss, my 39th year on this Earth began today. My boyfriend is in Idaho, building a turbine for a power plant. My son is camping with friends. However, my daughter is here today, and we went out for ice cream. This morning my father called as did my mother this evening. A card from my grandmother came in the mail today. Two of my students sent text messages of birthday greetings. Lastly the little blessing on top: my car insurance company sent me a dividend refund of $79.30 just in time for my birthday. Here's to good prospects in the coming year.

24 May 2007

All New Separation Anxiety

First, I'll give my boyfriend some credit. After Easter, he cut back his hours and started coming home more regularly, pretty much every weekend. For that extra time, I've been very grateful.

Then at the start of May, I got the word from him that he would be returning in June to Idaho for a 6-month gig at a big power plant building a new turbine. He was there two years ago on a similar job for the same client. It drove me near to madness. Though none of this is his fault because I'm responsible for my emotions, for getting help if I need it, for not letting myself sink into depression, with his being away for so long, the latter is where I went and deep. There were whole weekends where I sat in the dark, and I engaged in some fairly dangerous behaviors.

Knowing somewhat in advance about new upcoming departure, I've been better able to prepare myself. Now there's Beau here to keep me company instead of being alone all the time. John has agreed to make sure we see each other in person monthly rather than on the six week schedule we did last time. To adjust to the time difference, I'm planning on a siesta daily after work so that I can stay up a little later at night to talk to him on the phone without being exhausted for work the next day.

When my kids are with me on the odd weekend or for school vacations, I'll make sure we do some fun family activities. Like we did last time, we'll make some care packages to send to John while he's away from us. Although he doesn't express it very well, he gets lonely, and he appreciates knowing he's missed.

With planning, good habits at home and more communication with my man, I think I'll avoid the depressed lows this time around. It's only six months.

04 April 2007

Separation anxiety

After nearly a month of living separately, I'm close to wits' end without my boyfriend. His work is so very demanding of late that he has been working on average 50 hours of overtime a week for the last month. He's making a lot of money, which has benefited our household greatly, but it's also straining me, and perhaps him too, emotionally.

This weekend, he'll be home for three days. It's Easter this Sunday, and my children are here, too. All of that coming together to make for the picture perfect family weekend. The flip side is that it also makes for an intense time. Having so little face time among us in general sets my emotions on high with all around me, even the dog--poor Beau. It's as if I try to cram a week's worth of togetherness into 48 hours, so it's not hard for things to go awry.

When my children are home, it's even harder. If I spend all my time in the bedroom with my man, I feel like a shit-father for neglecting them. When I put all my focus on "doing family stuff," the weekend comes to a close, and I feel neglected for not getting enough alone time with my man.

Somehow this weekend, I'll find a balance, and maybe my man will consider going only three weeks on his crazy schedule before coming home again.

08 March 2007

The hardest time of the year

It's not Christmas
or Thanksgiving
or Valentine's Day
or Easter
or Halloween.
It's Girl Scout Cookie season!

03 March 2007

A time to remember what I have

  • Two beautiful, loving, wonderful, sweet, brilliant children
  • A loving and caring boyfriend who doesn't get bent out of shape over piles of junk mail, art supplies, books, CD's, computer software, DVD's, knickknacks, clean laundry
  • A great dog
  • Parents that love me for who I am
  • A very cool sister
  • A funny brother-in-law
  • A little gem of a niece
  • Extended family members that manage to lift my spirits when I least expect it
  • A good job that lets me do what I love to do
  • Rent that I can afford
  • A Webcam that works
  • A nifty iPod video
  • A car that I like, that fits my budget, that zips nicely along the Interstate and that let's me avoid those bitches in SUV's
  • Students who call me their favorite teacher
  • Colleagues who say that I'm really smart
  • A mustache and soul patch that actually look kind of sexy
  • Hair on the top of my head without having to do a comb-over

12 February 2007

Microsoft F-ing SUCKS!

Customer support is, to quote Battlestar Galactica, "frakking" useless!

07 February 2007

Somewhere in my youth or childhood

Things I miss:

  • Funny Face drink mix and collectible cups
  • Hershey's Chocolate Syrup in a can
  • Thrifty Drugstore ice cream cones
  • Saturday morning cartoons with School House Rock on ABC before Disney's aquisition
  • Wild Kingdom brought to you by Mutual of Omaha
  • Name That Tune
  • Sesame Street before Elmo
  • The Electric Company with Rita Moreno
  • transistor radios
  • black & white TV shows rerun on regular broadcast TV
  • good penmanship
  • gasoline for 75¢ a gallon
  • letters sent by US Mail for 15¢
  • The Muppet Show
  • Wonder Woman
  • The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman
  • Merry-go-rounds and see-saws at public parks
  • crossing guards
  • four-square, jumping rope, kickball

03 February 2007

Windows Vista? ARGH!

If your new copy doesn't come with a brand new computer, don't bother! All the new features aren't worth the headache of making even one piece of legacy (XP and below) hardware work! In fact, if you're going to spend the money, get a Mac. My birthday is in June, and a new Mac is going to be my present to myself! To hell with debt management!

23 January 2007

Testing and the whiners

It seems to me that just about every student becomes “emo” when they have to take a test. « Oh French is so hard. You don’t understand. I fail my tests to feel alive. » This never ending litany of complaints needs only its own soundtrack. Or rather, it becomes, I suppose, its own soundtrack at the end of each unit in our textbook. Thank goodness for the few who study and practice and pay attention. They sing a different song: one of success.

11 January 2007


One of the greatest frustrations a teacher may find in his career is caring about a student. So much like parenting, teaching has pitfalls, too. When you are friendly, students can misinterpret your intentions. Let me clarify; students feel that as your friend, you'll let them do as they please. But they need to remember, I am the teacher, not the friend. When I remind them, call them to task, they may shut down, and it can take time for them to realize that by doing my job as the teacher, I am a better friend than they realize. Boundaries and limits, structure and discipline, caring and sensitivity--it's all very much like my role as a father.

05 January 2007


in the coffee shop
hearing the music bee-bop
I stop
after work
the barista at the counter
takes my order
a soy lattè
and a cookie
sugar that I need
in order to succeed
at resting
my nerves
caffeine has the reverse
affecting peace in my
spinning head
my body dead
not wired

mired in worry
over job children boyfriend
others enter the café
at the end of the day
children play
and dance about
and a man in boots
caked in mud
does homework from a thick
look at the rain
on the street
alternately pausing and
coming down in sheets
women with thin lips
wide hips get no-whips
a dude with a broken nose
and Cope in his pocket
poses tough at the
register to order his
with a double shot
almost no one stays
to meditate
or contemplate the by-gone day
men in tight pants
with soft bellies
barely notice the time
as they drop a dime
in the tip jar
no one socializes
except two lesbians on
the terrace
beneath the awning
my moleskine rips
more coffee drips
the Mont Blanc glides
slides across smooth paper
recording words
not heard
only written
peacefully after little
only casual observation
and minor invention
little retention
of rhyme or meter
until the venti cup