20 December 2008

Face at rest


Relaxed (adapted from National Geographic, January 2009) [Graphite on paper]

The Bear



The Grizzly (adapted from National Geographic, January 2009) [Graphite on paper]

15 December 2008

Round one of online classes is over!

Although that course on educational funding about gave me the worst nightmares of my life, I finished it successfully. Grades won't come out for a few more days, but so far, it looks good there. With regard to my class on historical foundations of public schools, I received top grades for all my papers. I feel especially good about that course.

Page and Marie have done well this year, too. My son's struggle with 9th grade has proved that parental support is essential in that first year of high school. He's pulling himself together to meet the academic and scheduling challenges. I'm proud of him. My daughter has been bitten by the drama bug. She's in love with her drama class this term. Who'd have guessed?

John, the love of my life, is working hard in New York to supply the people of Long Island with plenty of electricity. At least he'll be home for Christmas.

For New Year's Eve, the whole bunch will be with John on Long Island. A New England New Year, my first, and I'm excited to be there for it, a little scared to drive in the winter for fear of deep snow somewhere on route though.

08 December 2008

Frustration with higher education

I'm only one week away from finishing my first full term with Capella University online. It's been a very bumpy start. The course I have enjoyed the most was historical foundations in American education. For that one, I did some in-depth study of the content and was able to apply the skills I was learning to the research I did. One drawback was that the professor experiences a personal problem just before the midway point of the course. At that time, his feedback (that had been otherwise timely, engaging and helpful) all but disappeared.

The leadership course that was the beginning of my program did prepare me to be a more analytical thinker regarding leadership decisions. It also encouraged me that any teacher can take a leadership role in his or her work environment. Still, some of the content seemed redundant and not well structured over the ten weeks.

Educational funding was the nightmare before Christmas! The instructor provided feedback so late in the game that frequently I found myself having missed the mark on assignments or discussions. He seemed to assume that everyone coming into the course should already have an extensive knowledge of the complexities of federal, state and local educational funding as well as of litigation and legislation about equity and adequacy in education. Asking him for help was not unlike asking my socks for help. You know: six weeks after you got rid of the solo sock, you found the mate behind the dryer. Unless Capella goes to significant lengths to restructure the presentation and study of course content, I would not recommend it to anyone. Unfortunately, modified or not, it still is a core class for the EdS in Curriculum and Instruction.

Fortunately, in all my classes I stayed engaged in all the weekly discussions no matter how confused or frustrated I became. I've turned in all my assignments on time and did my very best to include all the points of discussion based on rubrics and checklists provided in the course rooms by the instructors.

According to my academic counselor, my future courses will allow me to tailor my research more closely to my teaching field (art education and French/foreign languages). I do hope that will be the case.

01 December 2008

Thankful for Thanksgiving

This past Thanksgiving was wonderful. My mother came from Nevada; my boyfriend came from New York; my children were with me all week. With the slightly crowded apartment, we managed not to step on each others' toes, to enjoy family time together in a relaxed manner and to stock up a few memories for years to come.

We also put our Christmas tree. Since most of the time there's only my son and I here, it was nice to have family all around to decorate the tree together. This makes my son's 14th Christmas and my daughter's 12th. Counting Christmases seems just so silly on one hand, but on the other, each one is important. I wish I could distinguish one from the other, but basically they all sort of run together. Happy lights on the Christmas tree that is my brain...very bad analogy, but I don't care.

Only 24 more days are left until Christmas. That one and Thanksgiving are my favorites though today they do not compare to the holidays I spent as a child in Nevada. The constant flow of relatives in and out of our home and my grandmother's (who lived just down the street) gave me a great sense of connection. It's a connection I try hard every year to recreate, and given the challenges my family faces in geography alone, that task is no easy one.

15 November 2008

Notes for the week

Band is finally done for Page. Northgate made it to the first round of state playoffs, but alas, we lost against the Marist War Eagles, 42-0. Looks like the War Eagles plucked the Vikings. At least Page will be able to have some weekends to himself again.

My leadership class toward my EdS has come to an end. Fortunately, this conclusion means a little less stress during the work week for me. I've got plenty to do still though with two classes ongoing; both have heavy reading requirements. At least we're coming up on some vacation time in my teaching schedule, so I'll be able to deal with the reading because I won't have as many teaching obligations.

Last week, my mother's dog passed away. Tommy had been her faithful Yorkie for more than 16 years. She's affected for sure, and she will wait a while before considering adopting a new dog. She still has her cats, and I'm sure she'll be ok, but I feel for her.

At her school, my daughter is pursuing the drama career of her dreams. In her class, Marie is auditioning for all the fun parts in her class plays. I think she may have been bitten by the showbiz bug.

07 November 2008

Wochenrückblick

Now that it's Friday night, I'm resting on the sofa watching SciFi Channel's Stargate Atlantis. I suppose that at heart I will always be a scifi nerd. I can't help but wonder if that has any bearing on my ability to make friends? This past week, my asthma has been a real challenge for me. I've been using my inhalers as much as dosage will allow, and finally my symptoms are returning to normal manageable levels. Whew.

Election day was long. I waited in line for 90 minutes before casting my vote, and I had arrived at the polls by 6:45 AM. My vote made little difference in my state, but I felt accomplished as part of the democratic process. I'm glad to see our country move in a new direction, and I'll be hoping for more progress. The constitutional ballot initiatives in Florida, California and Arizona leave me in a state of grief, but I'm hopeful for revised initiatives in future elections.

Today was my sister's 37th birthday. John and I sent her an iPod Nano. She had a baby last month, and I think with the typical hullabaloo around a new baby, mom can get a little forgotten. I look forward to seeing my new niece as soon as I can, but in the meantime, I wanted my sister Kristie to know just how special she is. When I talked to her on the phone today, she was incredibly surprised and happy about her present. She wants to play movies on it while she exercises. I hope she doesn't forget about the baby.

My son has had a lot less stress since marching band finished its busiest season. Our high school went to regional playoffs tonight, so the band still had a show. However, the rehearsal schedule he faces is greatly reduced. I'm glad because he's getting more sleep, but he's also trying to parlay his free time into video game play. I won't go for it.

While at her mother's house, my daughter had a blast on Halloween. She filled a pillowcase with candy when she went trick-or-treating. Apparently in the last week she has halved what remained from her treats that night. Her mother has since made me the warden of the candy, and now somehow I'm to develop will power enough of my own not to eat it all myself. Quel dilemme!

Beau, my lovely dog, has been a bit goofy this week. I think he's feeling a little stir crazy with being indoors too much. More walks, more walks, more walks. We both need the exercise.

02 November 2008

Election only two days away

Well, decision day is almost here. If not for Page's hectic schedule for marching band, I might have voted early. Instead I'll go early to my polling place Tuesday morning to cast my ballot. We'll be up late watching returns. This looks to be an intense and exciting election day.

Yesterday Page had the last band competition of the season.  Unfortunately, they lost the grand champion spot by 0.8 points.  They did win best marching and best visual effect.  The show really was good.  They still have a play-off game to perform.  Who knows?  Football could go to state (knock on wood).

26 October 2008

Weekend with my daughter

Going back to school for another degree takes a lot of time. One of my concerns apart from too little sleep and too much homework is taking time away from my children. I'm home because I'm doing the courses online, but I'm also absent because I am spending all my time reading and writing for classes.

Yesterday after finishing a paper for my class on educational finance, I took a needed break. My daughter Marie and I went to lunch at Five Guys (Damn, those fries are tasty!), and then I took her to see High School Musical 3. She and I had a great time. Really, the choreography is top notch in that movie, and the songs are Disney pop-perfect as usual. Frankly, that's not a bad thing. Milk Duds and Swedish Fish made for great snacks. She's so glad that her braces are off her teeth.

Take time out with your kids. They won't be little for long.

19 October 2008

Busy Sunday morning

  • walk Beau
  • get Saturday's mail
  • make coffee
  • prepare bread dough to rise
  • prepare crock pot to make black bean soup
  • do Page's laundry
  • back up files from Page's computer
  • back up assignments from my laptop
  • make oatmeal
  • run the dishwasher
  • shop @ Target
  • shop @ Publix

02 October 2008

TiVo...OH NO!

Last Saturday, it was a nightmare.

There I was trying to finish homework for the week for my online course Leadership Innovation. Suddenly, my son says to me "Papa, the something's wrong with TiVo." The infrared on the remote just shone red. The TV kept making that electronic thud sound. TiVo would not advance correctly to any of the right menus nor would it command the cable box to turn to the channels I chose. After consulting troubleshooting guides online and after calling tech support, the answer was to order a new remote control, as this one was definitely dead.

Thursday, the new remote came. Yay! Because of my homework schedule, I'm not watching broadcast TV whenever programs air. Instead, I'm banking shows on TiVo to scan when studies are light or my discussion questions are finished. I need that remote to work. Ah, sure, some of you would just say throw out the TV. But, then I actually might go crazy. I need my Ugly Betty, Heroes, Smallville, Pushing Daisies, CSI, etc. etc. Even if it's only background noise from the other room, it reminds me that the fascinating study of educational funding will eventually come to an end, and my life can be a little more normal.

This Saturday has been a little more pleasant. Although my daughter is with her mother this weekend, and my son is at a band competition all day, I have a working remote control for my TiVo!

21 September 2008

Setting small goals while watching TV online

Ok. Doing all this work means setting a million small goals. I can't look at the big picture too much: teaching, learning, fathering, personal growth.. Trying to fit it all together in one scene is too much like trying to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in my head. So instead, I'm going to work on one sketch at a time until somewhere down the line I have a finished picture. Once in a while I'll stand back to make sure it's not becoming too surreal.

For today: I finished one of three readings and posted a discussion topic entry for the first of three due this week. Hooray for me! Now I'm grading journals for French III & IV while I let Fringe play on Fox.com. (I caught part of the pilot, and it intrigued me. However, why do we need so many British or Australian [etc.] actors on TV pretending to be American?) It's something like a 21st century X-files. I don't know if it's meant to have the same cachet, but it was worth a second look. The first episode did freak me out with the whole liquefied flesh business. It's not a show for the kids!

One journal left, and then it's off to marking some homework papers and checking art projects. Believe it or not, I do work my whole planning period. I'm going to have to cut back on preparations...someday.

20 September 2008

Posts will be less frequent

Because I'm engaged in pursuit of higher learning, the frequency of these entries will most likely diminish. As often as I can, I'll post an update here or there, but expect them to be largely about my course work and progress.

13 September 2008

eLearning is on!

After finishing the first week of course material in my education specialist program at Capella, I feel a bit more secure in my ability to finish the program.  Having a collegue at school enrolled in the same program is very helpful.  We're able to discuss topics together in a way that neither of us could in a purely online format.  In addition to the offline discussions, I have logged into the course room daily to check discussion threads and to see if there are any messages or announcements from my instructor.  That has helped me, too, to see whether I am making appropriate progress in the class.

What's funny?  My students love asking whether I have been doing my homework.

Note to self: I need to squeeze yoga into my routine again.

01 September 2008

Waiting on the dough

Brioche-like dough rises in the breadpan.
Soon enough it will be a freshly baked loaf
Of delicious bread
Great for jam and tea.
Yum

30 August 2008

Marching band delights my son

He's hooked!
He is in love with marching band.  Last night at the season opening football game for Northgate, the band rocked and executed all their drills impressively.  Page didn't miss a step or a beat and made me very proud last night.  He played his heart out, marched like a pro.

In the car he said to me, "Papa, this is like being on the football team.  I have to go to all the practices, and I have to be at all the games."  He also said, "That makes my band class like going to weight training."

What capped it all?  Our team won!

What will make his mom cheer?  He asked to get his hair cut, so he won't be so hot in his uniform!

Will wonders never cease?

24 August 2008

Living w/my son

After nearly three weeks of cohabitation with my son, I think we're finally getting into some kind of groove. Good day, bad day, good day, bad day, etc. Well, it's better than that. We've got a lot of adjustments to make because he's been living with his mother for the last 3 years, and she definitely operates her household differently than I do mine. High school is proving to be a sincere kick in the pants for him, but his spirit wears lederhosen, so I think he'll make it through his freshman year. Marching Band and Spanis Club seem to be where his interests lie, and that's not bad at all. It's also a bit weird for me to be the high school dad and not just the high school teacher. Now my daughter is talking about what high school will be like for her, asking questions about being in my French classes or taking my art class. It will be fun to have both my children in school with me. I'm excited. In the meantime, I have to learn to be patient with the young teen that's here with me now.

I really don't like

... writing lesson plans.

22 August 2008

Well underway!

Whew! After two and a half weeks of school, my students are all into their first projects. My French 2 students will give short oral presentations on their future careers. In my French 3 class, students are 'remodeling' a room in their house while keeping to a budget in Euros. My students in Visual Arts 1 have completed a project on the principles of design, and starting Monday, they'll be exploring the art of Australian Aborigines. I'm excited.

16 August 2008

Back to school : La rentrée

A new school year is underway here in West Central Georgia. I've got four preps: French 2, French 3, French 4 & Visual Arts 1. It's going to be a very busy semester and not just because of my teaching schedule. My courses for an EdS begin in September. Already, I've got my books on hand, and in a few weeks I'll have my own homework to finish.

30 July 2008

Chocolate oatmeal cookies

cream
1/4 C vegetable shortening
1/4 C soy margarine
3/4 C granulated white sugar
3/4 C firmly packed dark brown sugar

stir in

1/4 C unsweetened apple sauce
1 T vanilla extract

stir in
1 C whole grain all-purpose flour
3 C rolled oats (5-minute kind)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg

stir in
3 squares Baker's® unsweetened chocolate (melted & cooled)

size & shape dough into discs using two large spoons. set on Silpat® lined tray, and then bake a dozen at a time in oven at 375°F for 15-17 minutes.

cool on a wire rack before storing.

serve with ice cold milk or Silk® or crumble over a ice cream or sorbet.

my daughter and I made these cookies this morning. even my grumpy, angst-ridden teenage son had to smile.

28 July 2008

Astonishing entomon

This has to be the most amazing and the largest moth that I've ever seen. (Photo taken with Olympus E-Volt 410 with FL-36 flash.)

Children provide solace during 5 days of illness

Wednesday evening, I began to feel feverish. I woke in the night with violent chills, shivering so fiercely that my clattering teeth frightened the dog. When I awoke in the morning, my sheets were sweat soaked and I was doubled over with abdominal pain. After a few trials and obstacles getting myself together, I made it to the drugstore for some Imodium, which provided absolutely no relief. My son later trekked to the drugstore for a second remedy, and that provided no ease to my extreme discomfort. Nausea had become my newest enemy, making it impossible to eat more than a crumb of bread or a baby-spoon of soy yogurt.

Saturday morning, I managed to get to the walk-in clinic right as it opened, only using their restroom three times. (The alternative the night before would have been the emergency room if I'd followed the advice of the MD on call. However, taking a dog and two teens along with me in an ambulance was simply not an option because I really couldn't drive at that point Friday night.) Only ibuprofen could keep the fever at bay, and that medicine did as much harm to my stomach as whatever bug was already after me. Still, it stabilized most of the cramps and chills and fever enough for me to drive the short distance to the clinic.

With three prescriptions to fight infection, nausea and cramps, I felt I might have a chance. My children proved to be troopers. Whilst I lay in bed, or was making one of hundreds of trips to the restroom, they managed not to bicker all day. They made a run to the grocery store to get juice and bread. They kept my glass filled with ice and water and juice. They brought me saltines with small amounts of jam or peanut butter. My son did his Food Network night and made broccoli with tomato and mozzarella over a Boca burger on toast. It actually smelled good after I'd been on meds all day. I didn't eat any, but he and his sister cleaned their plates. Finally, Monday morning, I had the strength to walk the dog, and I didn't have to panic about how long it would take to get back to the restroom.

16 July 2008

His Dark Materials

I wish that I could just put down a book that didn't resonate with me. I plowed through the His Dark Materials* trilogy by Philip Pullman, and it wasn't worth it. The philosophy is weak: "I don't know if I am an intelligent designer, an evolutionist or an atheist."Dust is a pale and pathetic version of the ridiculous midi-chlorians that George Lucas seemed to pull out of his backside in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I really couldn't tell you who borrowed what from whom. When you start talking about intelligent particles or micro-organisms enhancing human biology, God begins to make more sense.

Then there's the whole business of fate vs. free will. If you even have to have that discussion, then on some level you believe in "God"; whether that God is intelligent particles throughout the multiverse or whatever is academic. I was not enamored with the first book, but I read the whole trilogy: down to the last iota of deus ex machina and tripping over every possible plot hole along the way. The writing is poor, and the third book is little more than pulp and circumstance. Some chapters go on and on for no apparent reason with little plot development and futher flattening of the characters. I can't tell if Father Gomez† was thrown in just to give Balthamos a character resolution or vice versa. How disappointing!

Oh, and for not being particulary fond of Tolkien, Pullman's books have talking bears, witches, shamans, ghosts, spectres, cliff-ghasts, spur-heeled Gallivespians (read venomous Lilliputians), angels, dæmons, etc. He may not care for Tolkien's work, but Pullman's attempt at multiverse mythology is no less inspired by it.

Next, there is magic as science. It's the fantasy fiction of the 21st century, I guess. Pullman's not the first to try it. Anne Rice tried to explain vampires and witches that way. Why not? It's like string theory with a sprinkle of pixie dust. But that doesn't explain how you can make a knife out of steel with man-made smithing tools and then have it cut through layers of the multiverse because a kid can put his mind into an alpha state. I stick with the Doctor's TARDIS, thanks very much. Allons-y!

Lastly, I don't want my daughter to read it. My reason? Not because of the mixed messages about when it's good to lie or how sometimes killing people is all right if it's for a good cause. Instead, I don't want my daughter (or son) to read this book because of the message that Pullman puts forth that it's OK for a girl (Lyra Bellacqua) to be independent, intelligent and willful until she meets a boy because then she should become all goofy, foolish and subservient to him so that he can tell her what to do and run her life for her. Will I forbid my daughter to read it? Of course not. It's on the bookshelf where it's been since Christmas. She can read it whenever she likes. So far, she hasn't shown interest.

Frankly, the movie The Golden Compass has better story telling, better action and more believable magic as science. Right now, she's into Nancy Drew.

* The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass
± angelic being serving as a virtually powerless guardian to Will, the central character in Book 2
† Magesterial (read Papal) assassin absolved in advance for a murder he would commit

feed address change

I'm making a few changes to the overall idea behind my website. When I started, I intended mostly to post artwork. However, those who read my site probably notice that my life takes up the biggest portion of the posts. Without further ado, welcome to art, life & poetry.

http://feeds.feedburner.com/artlifepoetry

Practice

Because I'll have who knows how many art classes this school year, I figured that I had better dust off my pencils and sketch book. With so much translating to do lately, most of my spare time has been devoted to reading and improving my French skills. My drawing has been ignored, and photography has been something I've enjoyed only once in a while. So yesterday, I trekked over to the Barnes & Noble to sit in the café, to have a latte and to sketch from a coffee table book. I found some beautiful 360° photos of places in France, and once my inspiration opened before me, I began to sketch. Here's my version of a sand dune in the South of France.
Dune, July 2008 (graphite on paper)

14 July 2008

Little birds, HVAC repairs , water in the closet & a dead battery

To say that today has been interesting would be so much an understatement. It has been downright unusual.

This morning, there were four small birds flitting about my potted plants on the porch. One little budgie got in a pot that has only soil and gave himself a dust bath. They were all so cute, chirping at each other, but by the time I could get my camera to the window, they were growing bored. When I got my camera to the window, I must have tapped the glass and startled them. They all flew away.

After my Snow White moment, I donned my running gear and did a lap around the neighborhood. I don't know how far it is, but it took me about 25 minutes. Let's call it two miles, and I'll feel good for almost 40. All right, 12.5 minute mile with asthma and partly arthritic knees! Rock on!

Next I needed to run errands, so I went to the car. Raising the garage door, I saw that my left rear passenger door was ajar...and had been for nearly three days. The dead battery resulted in my walking to Big Lots to buy a charger. Considering that I do something like this about once every two to three years, and not just to my own car, I should already have had one of these in the garage. As the battery charged, I waited in the muggy apartment for the HVAC guy to come.

You see, the AC has been out for a few days, again. This time the apartment management called in their company HVAC specialist to fix it, rather than having the resident handyman do the job. The apartment is cool and comfortable again, and I don't have to lie svitzing in my briefs on the living room floor under the ceiling fan while I try to pretend I'm not melting. Beau feels better, too. That tongue is tucked back in his mouth now.

The never ending saga of the water leaking into Marie's closet continues. Apparently the flashing, where the vinyl siding meets the brick on the façade, has been damaged. Now when it rains, water drains inside the wall and then seeps into the carpet on the floor. About every two or three days, the carpet cleaners come vacuum out the water. In the meantime, roofers have inspected the flashing and are supposed to return "soon" to make repairs. After that, the old carpet gets removed when everything is dry again, repairs to the wall and finally new carpet in the closet. Poor Marie. I'm sure that she'll be thrilled to have all that resolved.

13 July 2008

Saturday pool party

Yesterday, the management staff of my apartment complex put together a pool party for the residents.  My children and I donned our swimsuits and went to have a little fun for a couple of hours.  There were door prizes, which we didn't win.  There were snacks, and we had a few.  There was a DJ who played a very poor selection of party music.

When they got to the dance contest, I was really glad that there was no category for grownups.  However, I did note that the three teen girls couldn't bust a move until the DJ played a "song" (Soulja Boy Tell'em - Crank Dat [Soulja Boy], don't ask, I just can't go there), that had a canned "dance" to go with it, they just stood there, doing nothing, with no creativity, no spark, no interest in the music.  It was as if because the song had no recognized choreography, the music could not be interpreted for dance.  To my further dismay, the Crank Dat (Soulja Boy) dance lacks any imagination as much as the music lacks any music.  I never thought I'd say it, but I miss Thriller.  If you could learn all of that choreography, you were working.

After the third set of door prizes and no win for us, along with sunburned foreheads and shoulders, it was time to go.  In addition to the discomfort in my scorched shoulders, my left ankle really hurts.  I must have given it a bad turn while horsing around with Page and Marie in the pool.  Dang, I'm showing some wear.

11 July 2008

A nice day out

Unexpectedly, my children were with me today.  I had thought they would be with their mother for another week, but there were some work conflicts for her, and I've got them with me for three extra days. :0)

So after I picked them up from their mother, we made a little day of it with lunch at the pizza parlor on the court square.  Afterward, we went to the Regal Georgian 14 to see Hancock and had a good time watching the film.  It wasn't anything that I expected, and we all found it quite entertaining.  I can't listen to critics too much, or I'd probably never go see a film.  Wil Smith looks great in a tight black and yellow body suit by the way.

Then we next went to Barnes & Noble to read and enjoy a snack.  After a stop at the grocery store for a few essentials, we came home.  It's nice to have them here with me.  I just wish it were all the time.

10 July 2008

Another gull in my collection


Sea birds are beautiful. Somehow, the white of their wings seems so brilliant. I suppose it's all that sun, bleaching their feathers and making their wingtips scintillate. I managed to catch this one in flight with my Olympus. The pyramid point it forms with the lifeguard and the beach-goers is nice. This one sailed in the sea breeze at Cedar Beach, Babylon, Long Island, on 2 July 2008.

01 July 2008

Patti Lupone, you Broadway diva!

For the past week or so, the kids and I have been in New York. We're staying with my boyfriend John who is working a power plant installation on Long Island. We've done some sightseeing in Manhattan, and I've decided that I could end up living there at just about any second. Contrary to the old adage: It's a nice place to live, but you wouldn't want to visit there! Seriously though, we've had a blast. There's so much to do and so little money.

Saturday, we did take in Gypsy with Patti Lupone. There was a moment of intense fear and dread when the disembodied voice of the house announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Pattie Lupone has injured her foot..." There was a collective gasp and then innumerable hands wrung and chests clutched. "...and will be wearing Isotoner slippers for the entire performance!" A tremendous roar of cheers and rumble of applause cycled through the audience. When Mama Rose first yelled "Sing out, Louise!", I began to cry. I was transported. I was embarrassingly giddy for the next three hours. My hands ached from clapping, and my cheeks cramped from smiling. Thank God you get to sit for the performance, or I'd have toppled into the orchestra seats from dizziness and emotional vertigo. However, I did manage only to lipsynch the entire show and not to belt out the libretto and lyrics. I mean after all, people paid to see the Tony winners, not to hear me from my 4th row mezzanine seat. People like me should not wait 39 years to get to see a Broadway show on Broadway. It could result in a stroke.

Of course we've done much of the other obligatory tourist stops in NYC. We've been to the UN, the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, Times Square, The Museum of Television & Radio, Rockefeller Center & Radio City Music Hall. Next stop in the All American Tourist Roadtrip will be Coney Island in Brooklyn. I don't know if we'll get to the Statue of Liberty or not, as I'm just about penniless at this point. Who knows?

Family road trips rule! And yeah, just like last year, the dog is with us again. This time, however, we're using my Hyundai Elantra that gets far better gas mileage compared to John's Kia Sportage. My dog Beau was just as happy as could be sitting in the back seat with his little harness buckled to the seat belt strap. Gas prices are high, but the cost of the trip has still been less than if I'd had to pay for hotels and air fare. We were going to drive to Montreal as well, but my limited funds postponed that trip for another time. In this way, I can save a little money for the trip to France next summer. No driving for that one, and I'll have to start the bargain hunting for that trip right now. Wish me luck.

[parts snipped from an e-mail to my friend Liz]

17 June 2008

Old man one day (unfinished)

Within the yellow warmth of incandescent glow,
The mustached professor sat by window as snow
Fell gently on French countryside, garden and wood.
At his desk he sipped single malt before he could
Take a moment to sigh and wonder where his pen
Could have gone--not on the blotter nor in his vest.
Then instead his weary mind sought distraction lest
He not remember at all where he had set down
His faithful stylus. So notebook he seeks, a frown
And a furrowed brow upon his face. His journal
Where memories, ideas, pleasant or infernal
Could be let loose without affront or offense
On cream colored pages, his cursive letters so dense.
With Moleskine in hand, he still sought that pen to write
Thoughts that coalesced in shadowed mind on winter night.
Confessions, obsessions, anecdotes, text sublime
To write in shaky meter and unstable rhyme.
Papery fragile fingers rustled scraps and notes,
Pictures of now grown children upon whom he dotes.
He forgets the pen, for the moment anyway.
Photos and notebooks mental cobwebs swept away.
...

08 June 2008

060708

With tickets gifted from the kids' grandparents in hand, we trekked into Atlanta. With the aid of online navigation over the phone form my boyfriend John in New York, we found the Green Lot for parking at Turner Field. We went to the ballpark. We rooted for the home team. I bought peanuts. We didn't win. But it wasn't a (cryin') shame because the kids and I had a good time. On TV, Major League Baseball bores me to tears, but live, with all the fan fun and with diaper bags faded memories of the past, we had a great time. I think it made for an all-American night at the ballgame. Even though, as I remarked to the Phillies fans behind us, it seemed as if we'd traveled to the past, an 80's night when the Braves habitually lost. Did they do it just to reminisce on the good times? You know, for a team that's over 100 years old, the fact they can even make it onto the field is impressive. ;0)















(Photo © 2008 Atlanta Braves and MLB)

Talk about an expensive night! But to quote my man John: "It's only money; they print it every day!" Here's the tab:
  • Souvenir T-shirt, foam finger, and foam Tomahawk -- $42
  • Pizza, hot dog, peanuts, French fries -- $34
  • 2 ice creams and a smoothie -- $15
  • 5 Cokes and a beer -- $25
  • Gasoline to get home -- $48 (ouch!)
  • That goofy grin on my daughter's face -- Priceless (Oh, like you couldn't see that coming!)
Chipper Jones knocked a homer, and the crowd went crazy. The kids and I danced at our seats; we helped get a wave around the stadium twice; we booed bad calls from the umpire; we mocked the Phillies' catcher and pitcher who looked like lovebirds with all the time they spent together on the mound. And when a drunken rowdy fan stooped to deriding one of his companions for ordering a Pepsi at Turner Field in Atlanta the Coca Cola capital city, I agreed with those Phillies fans behind me that baseball fandom had reached a new low when soft drink preference was fodder for insults, and whatever happened to slurs about a body's mother or sexual orientation?

Marie, Page and I had a bit of fun guessing what some of the crazy abbreviations meant on the scoreboard. Honestly, I think they just make them up on the fly. But in the bottom of the ninth when the Braves were down by 5, I knew that it was time to beat some of the crowd, and potential drunk drivers, to the parking lot.

The drive home kept us talking from Turner Field to our suburban Interstate exit, and we knew it had been a great night for the three of us. After showers to wash away ballpark stink and sweat, I tucked in two tired teens, and I was asleep fairly soon myself.

Thanks, Atlanta Braves!

02 June 2008

Two new photos (151 posts!)

Here are two recent photos. I love using my Olympus E-410. Thank you, John My Sweet Man!

The first is entitled Bathroom Reading and the second is Turtle at My Terrace.



01 June 2008

Weekend work

At the eighth hour of a Sunday morn'
instead of in my bed a-snorin'
I sit at the table in my den
to see if a bit of work can then
be done.

However, as I search the 'Net,
finding the right resource is met
with frustration and consternation I read
that the linguistic resources which I need
are hard to locate and aren't too many
and what there is costs a pretty penny
at least.

It seems though now my sear is now thwarted
my trip to Montreal will leave me rewarded
with new materials, dictionaries and books
to get my jobs done quickly looks
possible.

30 May 2008

Smart pet tricks

Wow, what a parrot! But I still don't want any birds chez moi.



So, seeing this parrot talk, makes me look at my dog and wonder, is it that he's so smart he won't do all the tricks I try to teach him, or is it that he's so smart he does just enough for me to think he can learn more, so I keep giving him treats to train him? To date, my Beau can do only a handful of tricks: sit, stand (we call it dancing), lie down, roll over and shake. It makes for an entertaining morning before he gets his bowl of food. He doesn't talk, but to paraphrase a bumper sticker: "My dog ate your fancy, talking bird."

27 May 2008

At last, at last, thank God, a winner at last!

Yesterday I attended my fourth Poetry Slam at the Barnes & Noble in Newnan. With a small crowd, my own children as a judging team and two of my own students as competition (and a darling little girl who couldn't have been more than 7 years old)...I WON! Youpi! Hourah! The $25 gift card is mine and Marie won a free desert for a cute little drawing. Below you'll find the winning poems and art work.

Guard Dog
Small black dog
asleep on a chair.
From outside
an engine's rumble or a neighbor's knock,
he's all snarls and barks and bristled hair.
Short races he makes
from one corner to another of the window ledge,
then two big brown eyes look back
for approval.
A short pant and a yip, a groan and a grunt,
now the home, protected once more,
gets a quick tour from a faithful
four-footed detective.
A damp black nose
sniffs ottoman and coffee table.
All's well.
Back to the chair,
once, twice, thrice
a circle of steps
before settling down again to surveille
the living room
for potential danger.
Little black pup,
homebound K9,
keeps me safe and sane.

Lazy Monday
Drip-drop from the espresso machine in the shop.
A rookie barista gets me the last cookie in the bakery case
to eat here despite the to-go-bag.
In this place where I can relax amid words and music,
and after only a small deduction from my debit card!
I take pleasure in the moment's leisure
to peruse a few books,
check out a Blu-ray that my device won't play
'til prices one day come down.
So back to the books where my mind makes up the pictures
in mental high def.
All that's left in my paper cup, a swig or two,
and time is up!
The last of my pax arabica
before going home to resume
the pattern of commute and reboot,
of work and rest.


Marie's Flower: crayon, marker and graphite on 20 lb. paper


25 May 2008

L'art baroque

Here is a presentation that I prepared last fall for my Visual Arts 1 class. Maybe others might find a mini lesson of their own in here. In 2008-09, I'll have at least two art classes. With a second run at this course, I can fine tune my projects, rework the failures and imagine some new options. Art for everyone, I say, more of it!

24 May 2008

When's the absolute last day I can turn in...?

There's always at least one student who wants to know just when the proverbial hammer comes down. Apparently words like Final Exam and Last Day of School don't provide a clue to these special students. Yet I relent. I have more than a couple appointments for the first planning day so that repentant students can turn in late assignments. Am I foolishly compassionate or just foolish?

18 May 2008

Magnolia blossom

Southern magnolia blossom on a springtime Sunday morning (Olympus E410)

Grease is the word

Saturday night, my children and I attended Northgate's spring musical, a rather good production of Grease. The standout performers were Kelsey Adams as Sandy and Libba Beaucham as Rizzo. The two girls handily belted melodies and hotly blazed as the stars they are. All the students in the cast and crew came together to put on a rockin' show full of humor, solid dancing, charming characters and more. Where vocals did lack tonality here and there, showmanship and spectacle kept the entertainment level high. Because the young performers were so engaged in the moment on stage, the audience willfully and easily suspended disbelief and enjoyed every moment of the show.

I felt so very pleased to witness the whole ensemble as they ushered Rydell High into Newnan, GA. For so long, the Northgate stage has been as dry as a Georgia drought with only a smattering of showers, momentarily lifting spirits only to set them back into despair. This latest production is far and away the torrential slaking of quality theater for which the Viking stage has thirsted. I can hardly wait for the next drink of refreshment from our Backstage Players.

Alarming phone calls

The usual ringtone couldn't prepare me
Because
I'd never heard my boyfriend cry
In fact rarely have I seen him angered or more than frustrated
His emotions run at cool temperatures
His heart pumps propylene glycol, not blood.

Instead of the regular calm collection
Of wits and temper
This time
His voice cracked
I could here his words break in two
His stifled sobs broke into our conversation.

Go to your dinner he said
I couldn't; I wouldn't
I called to cancel
Made excuses
Then followed that call
With another to him
For three hours maybe.

Though the time connected was nothing new
It was a new kind of conversation for us
He leaned on me
And for once it seemed I took the pressure
And didn't buckle beneath it.

When I heard it might be cancer
I stayed calm
Sent word for family and friends to say a few prayers.

Not a false alarm
More like a fire drill, a call to arms
Smoking has to stop
The inflammation causing pain in the chest and back
All a warning, a violently frightening alert
To a stubborn man who doesn't care often when he receives health advice
Smoking and drinking go hand in hand with eating, sleeping and bathing.

But maybe this time
It will take
This warning gets attention.

Doctors, X-rays and CT scans aren't just a Greek chorus of Cassandras
But instead
The Oracle at Delphi, a Papal decree
Telling a stubbornly calm man
To take heed, to listen, to be well and to take care
So that he can be there
When we need each other.

11 May 2008

Sunday morning: fresh air, fresh coffee, sweetened sourdough

After walking my dog this morning in the rain scoured and wind freshened air, I returned to the apartment to brew coffee, wash dishes and to set out dough to rise. While my coffee brewed, I washed some blueberries and put them over soy yogurt. That I ate with some whole grain toast and a café au lait (de soja). Although I have stacks of papers to check, I'm wasting a bit of time updating this here blog. [[Grading papers sucks. If there were some way to teaching in truly a Socratic fashion, I'd be happy. No grades, no seemingly arbitrary curriculum, but pure discovery. That'd be an educational Utopia, for me anyway.]

For the past several months, I've been experimenting with home grown sour dough starter. Until I conducted a small amount of research on the toile mondiale, I thought it was some great secret known only to chuck wagon cooks and San Franciscan artisan bread bakers. Hah! It's a delightful accident of nature. One cup of flour (whole grain, baby, whole grain!) and one cup of filtered water mixed well and left to stand from 1 to 24 hours, and then you've got sourdough starter. Wow. So, for about six months now, I've had a continuously cultured batch of starter, separating and feeding it about every 7 to 10 days, using about 1/3 to make more starter, the rest in a loaf of bread. Here's my recipe for the dough that's rising now.

  • 2/3 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3 cups whole grain AP flour
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp soy margarine
  • 100% whole wheat flour for dusting

I just threw it all in my trusty KitchenAid and let the machine work until the dough became a smooth, fat ball. I put the ball into a greased, tightly lidded plastic container to chill in the refrigerator over night. I took the container out of the refrigerator this morning, and I'm going to allow it to rise as long as needed until it has doubled and bulk. Natural yeasts can take quite a long time to rise bread, but it's all so worth it! Then I plan to form it into two baguettes, then allow those to rise a bit longer. Then I'll bake them until they are deeply golden brown and have that lovely hollow thump when tapped. I'm the only one home, and these generally don't last more than three days. They're wonderful with breakfast, with lunch, with dinner, or with a snack. Okay, I'm addicted to bread. My midsection is a witness to that.

The rest of my papers await this Mother's day for my pen to score points and then this little computer demands that I update the grade records so that I can distribute progress reports to my students. [See notes above about Socratic methods.]

10 May 2008

Tranlsation madness

Of late, I've been a translating fiend. IHG has had loads of work because of the reconfiguration of their job application portal. It still amazes me that I get this work. Pinch me; it must be a dream. I'm sure that I can put the money to good use, what with my upcoming EdS classes. Settling on a top notch computer to put me through my classes is enticing, but just paying off some credit card debt would be a better choice. Probably, putting translation earnings and the money from George Bush into the bank would serve me the best. Getting a bit more out of debt may not do for the economy what the President might hope, but it helps my personal economy closer to debt free and have a bit more disposable income on hand. Gas prices are about to leave me homebound! Maybe I can conserve during my summer break by staying home and walking to places nearby whenever possible. We'll see.

05 May 2008

Testing the waters before taking the plunge

Based on my dad's positive experience working on his PhD through Capella University online, I've decided to test those waters myself. I won't go quite into the deep end, instead I've initiated an application to do an EdS in Curriculum and Instruction. It will probably mean working my ass off for the next two years--teaching, studying and the occasional translation to pay for the studying. Two and a half years of work to create few more career options down the road.

03 May 2008

They forget they love you when they get their grades

After five hours spent Thursday grading projects for my French 2 class, I was physically and mentally exhausted. This week was scheduled for our state end of course testing. Although my subject doesn't have one, it can be a difficult time for my students. Because of material to check in all my courses, I had got a bit behind in checking some projects, so I used my extended planning period on one of the testing days as well as some time during a long club function to shorten the stack in my proverbial inbox. The vast majority of students accepted that my evaluation of their work was fair. I had provided a well delineated rubric at the start, explained those details and stuck to the list as I checked off criteria and added points. The few who failed had egregious shortcomings. I had to remind those with slightly more vociferous complaints that if I graded everyone's work based on my like or dislike of them, they'd all fail. There are students who make my blood boil that still get an A, and there are those for whom I'd sacrifice home and hearth that get an F. Either you're speaking and writing French and you're following directions, or your not.

It's been a bit of time since my last entry. School is hectic, and suddenly InterContinental Hotels needs a lot of translation of materials for their employment web portal as it receives updates for French. Je suis actuellement très recherché ! So finding time to post has been a challenge all on its own.

My weekend in Long Island with John was good but short. John and I managed to find two really good local restaurants. First there was the Rainbow Cookie Café on Route 112 in Medford, NY. I can't find a website, but I'm sending them a coffee mug. It's a delightful diner with charming owners and a folksy clientèle. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the delicious breakfasts served to us. As for Manhattan, I don't know yet, but Suffolk County seems to harbor a nice bunch of people. Next there we found The Good Steer. The food was home cooking and the atmosphere of the third-generation family run business was wonderful. Don't forget the "7-Layer Chocolate Cake".

Getting out to find the mom & pop shops makes for a real introduction to the community. I'm looking forward to more trips to New York and becoming more familiar with part of the Northeast of these United States.

20 April 2008

11 Months to Go

This weekend marks a month that John has been away, off in New York, electrifying Long Island. I miss him so. During the last 48 hours, he's also setup (partially) the one-bedroom diggs he found in Selden about 20 minutes from his jobsite. His commute will be short, and he won't have to spend too much time on the LIE. In New York, express doesn't mean quick anymore than it does in Georgia or California, I suppose. One day, he'll find a job like this one within commuting distance from home, and then he'll probably dump me. Maybe the constant separation has been what has kept us together. Who can say?

14 April 2008

Only 5 Mondays to go!

Spring break has ended, and the sprint to the end of the school year has begun. The seniors in my class itch to wear their caps & gowns for more than mugging in the mirror. Juniors long for the day they become seniors. The rest, I suppose, is trickle-down.

In the last six weeks, I want to cram in two units of instruction in every level along with two projects and a final exam for each class as well. Whew! Outlining goals made nearly every student groan. Oh well. Such is life. What's odd, is that at first my students all love the projects. That's mostly because they think somehow I will grade more easily and more people will pass, but then the writing gets longer and longer and harder and harder. Tee-hee. It's fun, and despite their trepidation, they learn.

07 April 2008

If only my father and mother hadn't been right

or Spring break hastens parental decline

The role of the adolescent human being is to do nothing more basic than drive its parent insane to the brink of infanticide; this task is best and most easily accomplished with the assistance of at least one sibling.

Today my children made the journey to their bedrooms in bouts of teen angst and sibling rivalry no less than four times a piece. Perhaps if I hadn't been translating e-mail templates for a hotel client, I might not have lost my cool so much. But when I debate whether I need a subjunctive clause or if I can make do with an infinitive phrase, my patience begins to wear very thin, very fast.

My son must act the clown and tease his sister. My daughter must whine, complain and nit-pick.

Breakfast I think had set the tone for the day. I woke early first to walk the dog and then to make an early morning trek to my neighborhood Publix, where shopping is a pleasure, to retrieve a few essential groceries. Upon my return, my smiling angels greeted me and, after very little cajoling on my part, helped put away foodstuffs. I then prepared a tasty morning meal of chocolate waffles and blackberries. [Aside: Don't ask for the recipe; I'm just not in the mood.] Before I could take even two minutes to eat my own portion, I found myself alone at the table with no hint of thanks, my daughter at the sink griping to her brother about how he'd stacked his cup and plate in the sink. À vos chambres, allez-y tous les deux pour que votre père puisse prendre son petit déjeuner en paix!

Now as I write this mémoire du jour, I look back on the overcast daylight hours as a kind of sine wave tracking their behavior, almost perfect in its regularity of amplitude, frequency and wavelength. There were wonderful but short moments of peace--oddly, they agreed on a television show, even sat together in a chair at Barnes & Noble quietly reading books. [Aside: Here I must give them credit for having learned early in life to be polite and well comported in public, and for the greatest majority of time, they are.]

Home again there were arguments over ketchup and homemade fries. They made snide comments to each other while playing our customized -OPOLY game, then later sat quietly through an episode of House, asking questions intelligently about plot, character, science and verisimilitude. And then the moment bedtime is announced, I would have thought they'd reverted to preschool lamentations of thirst and headaches, lack of fatigue and desire for prolonged late night reading. I longed for the midday calm that had reigned while my son had played video games and my daughter had watched Food Network, occasionally exchanging pleasantries. At that time I had been able to put up a few new items in my Zazzle boutique and finish off a bit of translating without worry.

It's all to be expected, I know. I think that if I had more time with them, I'd worry less about the stressful moments. There's this Martha Stewart perfection I would love to see rule, but then I realize it's the messy moments that make family beautiful. In the end, even when they're aren't sleeping like cherubim, they are beautiful.

06 April 2008

Pollen silently assaults sinuses

April 1st brought its own little joke for me: pine pollen. The gentle dusting of yellow powder that covers everything in Georgia marks, along with the dogwood blossoms, the return of spring to our part of the Southeast. Walking my dog Beau, I see the fine dust collect on his black coat. Light puffs woosh up from the pavement and mulch as my shoes stomps the ground beneath. Daily were predictions of rain, but not until Friday did droplets to begin to wash away the wicked ochre-tint from autos and sidewalks. My parade of anti-allergy pills, puffs on inhalers, waves of tissues--it all did little to stem the pollen tide, and even with the rain, my recovery has been slow. Thankfully, HEPA filters in the ventilation and localized air cleaners inside my apartment have given me a little respite. Of course, now it just means that I must purchase new filters to accommodate the accumulation of allergens and pollutants over the past year or more. Alas.

05 April 2008

29 March 2008

One more week

Spring Break is just around the corner. This semester is usually easier than the fall one because of the frequency of breaks: 6 weeks on, 1 week off, 6 weeks on, 1 week off, 6 weeks on, summer vacation. The fall is 6 weeks to Labor day, then the Thanksgiving stretch, then the short sprint to Christmas. It's very stressful in the fall. Oddly enough, I get more accomplished with my students in the fall. It's not the frequent breaks in the spring that are the problem, it's the interruptions with standardized testing and registration that screw up the flow of content in my courses. It's hard to keep pace the way I'd like when one member of a group or another is missing from class. Oh well.

25 March 2008

4th Monday @ Barnes & Noble

Yesterday evening made my third appearance at the local Barnes & Noble poetry "slam." There were only four or five people to read. I fell from second place scores to penultimate disgrace. Here are my two "morceaux":

Comestible conversation

Flecks of indignation pepper speech.
Kernels of sarcasm direct conversation waste.
The thrown away spoken word becomes moldering vegetable peel.

Words need growth and time to age and ripen, to reach maturity, to arrive on point, to be apropos or not at all.

Much like beer, wine, cheese or chocolate, words require proper preparation and degustation.

When carefully handcrafted, the well chosen "bon mot" has savor, balance, delicacy and weight.

The empty calories of slander and vulgarity and the saucy satisfaction of the quick retort sate only temporarily but are the fast food followed by guilt and more hunger, leaving the unpalatable aftertaste of wanted wit and questionable character.

Plagiarism becomes the store-bought pie that "tastes just like mom's" but its obvious occlusion of source and recipe disgruntles the guest and makes the dish indigestible.

Relax to dine slowly on words to take pleasure in succulent syllables that in a perfect moment give compliment to comestible conversation.


Indefinite articles

a toothbrush with blue and white bristles dropped beside a speed bump

a napkin from Arby's coated in decomposing grease turning it translucent

a losing lottery ticket from a scratch game, instant fun discarded beneath an azalea

a gold-tipped cigarette butt with maybe 30 seconds of tobacco left to smoke

a brown beer bottle, glass shards blending into pine straw

a plastic blue cap from a long lost bottle of spring water

a rubber ball for playing catch, soft molded to resemble a Major League hardball

a Coke can suspended in a shrub like a forgotten Christmas ornament dangling in early spring evergreen

a jumbo paper clip unfolded like a key or tool tossed to the ground after momentary use

a flattened watch battery deceptively reflective like an abandoned nickel

a silver label from a bottle of vodka, crushed on the pavement in an empty parking space

15 March 2008

Photo browsing


Sometimes I click through my hard drive and stumble across photos I took some time before, uploaded but not examined. This one of the Boise River near where John was staying while working in Mountain Home is one of those that I think is just pretty. The brown river stones, green-black water, reflected sunlight, wispy clouds, blue-streaked sky, the last green fading from trees--all of it pointed to the fast approaching high desert autumn. It was early October 2007, and I had gone to see John for a weekend visit. While he worked Saturday, I strolled the river walk and took photos throughout the time. It is beautiful country there. Who knows; he might get another run there if they expand the power plant at Mountain Home again. (BTW: it looks like Siemens is going to take on John through one of their primary outsourcing firms for a year-long job in Long Island, NY. At least we'll be in the same time zone, and AirTran is more affordable from to New York than to Idaho.)

13 March 2008

Sedentary behaviors no help to belly

Oh the humanity! Just when you think you've made it past Valentine's Day there's yet another holiday candy explosion: a year with an early Easter! Add your son's birthday cake, and too many late nights to bed coupled with yoga-less mornings, and well, the belly doth expand. YIKES! There is no one to blame but myself, however. I will self-motivate before I need a crane and reinforced packing straps to move. More walks, routine yoga, weights and ab work... slowly but sure, I can get my body a little bit more fit.

08 March 2008

Early birthday cake

Page's chocolate cake

Tuesday, my son will have completed 14 years on this Earth. He asked for a chocolate cake with chocolate icing for the party we had today to celebrate while he is with me this weekend. I was happy to oblige. At least when it comes to sweets, he and I are often on the same page. The recipe was very much like the one I posted for the chocoberry cupcakes except for the following substitutions:

  • 1 ½ cups white cake flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole grain all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons of black cocoa
  • 6 ounces vanilla soy yogurt
  • 8 ounces total of cold black coffee and plain soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

To get the height I wanted, I used three 8" round dark cake pans that I first greased with shortening and then lined with rounds of baking parchment. I baked the cakes all at once at 350°F for 23 minutes. Luck was with me, as they were perfect. After about 15 minutes of cooling in the pans on wire racks, I turned them out, removed parchment and allowed them to cool completely, several hours actually.

For the icing, I used ½ cup kosher margarine, ¼ cup shortening, 1 ½ lbs. 10X confectioner's sugar, 3 squares unsweetened Baker's chocolate (melted), and several tablespoons of soy "cream" blended on medium-low speed until very creamy and spreadable.

sliced cake

The three layers stay positioned nicely if you insert three toothpicks each time you stack a layer while icing. They hold the cake in place easily, but do warn those about to enjoy so that no one injures his or her mouth (see the photo). Finishing off my son's wish for total chocolate enjoyment, I topped it with chocolate jimmies. Serving it with vanilla ice cream cuts some of the rich flavor for those with less of a sweet tooth (John and I had soy ice cream, but the kids had Breyer's All Natural).

For a little fun, I positioned my son's 14 candles à la romaine: XIV. He got a kick out of it. Unfortunately, he has a bit of a cold, so I had to blow out the candles for him. He should still get his wish!

A light dusting

This morning at 6:30 as I took Beau for his morning walk, it began to snow here in Newnan, GA. Now three hours later, there's a thin accumulation among the trees, but grass and concrete seem to stay free of any snow. It's cold and beautiful. Tall thin pines sway outside my window. I'll warm the apartment in a few minutes with the heat of the oven to bake a chocolate cake for my son's birthday celebration later today. Snow and chocolate cake--I think that's a perfect combination!

06 March 2008

Finally, the prodigal homo returns

He arrived Tuesday night, and it was such a wonderful treat for him to have come home. Eight months of separation, and I was near to bonkers. After little more than 24 hours with him, and I shan't go into detail, I felt so much better about getting out of bed, going to work, teaching students, having a department meeting, grading papers, etc., etc., etc. My students even inquired as to what had come over me and to why I was in such a good mood. With nothing more than an impish broad smile, I went on with my lesson.

He'll have a few days at home before moving on the the next job. With hope, he'll soon hear something from Siemens, and that could translate into a much more convenient work schedule with better benefits and more time home. John should know more after a phone call tomorrow. All I can do is pray, I suppose.

Beau is one ecstatic puppy. The man who rescued him from the pound has returned. John is the embodiment of goodness for that dog. I, however, am nothing more than the food, bath, vet and poop guy, I guess. At least my man is more grateful that the dog!

01 March 2008

Saturday

Today has been a busy day. Awake at 7, I showered and then walked the dog. By 8, I was en route in my little Hyundai to the service station for an oil change with only a short stop at Starbucks for coffee and a croissant. While waiting, I worked on a translation for IHG, a set of data sheets to examine hiring practices in their Quebec hotels. Once back home, I set again to the translation, tweaking my brain, dictionaries and Internet resources trying to find a good translation for kitchen steward or barback. [Note: The challenge of a translation is to end up with language that actually makes sense and fits the idiom of the target reader. Sooner or later I have to find a good hotel/restaurant dictionary that isn't OUT OF PRINT! Whenever I have a little cash to buy one, I can't seem to find one. In the meantime, my business dictionary and unabridged dictionary seem to serve me well.]

Late in the morning, my children arrived from a night spent with their grandparents and a church pancake breakfast--Bisquick according to my kids with "blech!" after that. The dog was practically rabid with joy for them, leaping and barking crazily as he drooled and slobbered greetings to them. When finally Beau settled enough to get a leash on his collar, they escorted him outside to relieve himself before he could pee on the floor. As I continued my linguistic labors, the kids and dog sat on my bed and watched "Singin' in the Rain" on TCM. Although we've all seen the movie before, we enjoyed seeing the clever dance numbers with Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly's brilliant and lovely solo, and the humorous irony of Debbie Reynolds' careful lip movements to the dubbed love song.

By 5 PM I had the first fill draft of the translation completed. I followed that with a bath for Beau which he pretends to hate, but afterward, he prances about the apartment, glossy and shining. For dinner I crafted an Italian-Asian fusion stir fry that tasted better than I might even have intended and satisfied cravings for comfort and Chinese. In place of dessert, we played a round of Clue. My daughter always seems to suggest rooms, weapons and suspects over and over without making any deductions toward victory. My son prematurely accuses, and then he loses. Even while I was distracted by the sounds of Miley Cyrus coming from iTunes, I managed a win. The evening came to a close with our watching "For Your Consideration" on of the premium movie channels. It was funny and poignant, especially the "It's French!" part considering this year's Oscar ceremony.

Now the children and dog sleep. I await a call from my traveling man while I watch "300" (for the abs if not the acting). Good night!

25 February 2008

8

8 days
8 weeks
8 months
----
Time is a greedy bitch!

Cracked watch crystal

Chipped over the 2,
directly,
right on the 2nd wide line.
Time unchecked
keeps slipping
away.
The watch, a gift
from the friend of my heart,
marks the time
we are apart
and very little together
as 2.
Usually
2 ones
and not
one 2.
As the 2nd hand clicks past
the crack,
I wonder if
when
how
he will
come back to me.
Fragile crystal,
transparent
and fissured,
yet it never obscures
the 2nds
that move
from present
to past,
keeping the future
always a moment
at bay.

24 February 2008

8 weeks starting Wednesday

Well, John never was able to get out of Idaho like he and I hoped. Tuesday the 26th marks his departure from the Potato State. He can't get home fast enough. I don't begrudge him the time that he'll spend with his mom and then his dad on his way home to me, but I am so jealous that they'll get four days that I won't. These 8 months of his absence with intermittent weekends and a couple of holidays have been difficult emotionally. Whereas I want him to be happy and successful in his career, I want him here with me all the same. Too many adverse factors come together in this situation. If he's completely out, it's unlikely that he'd get the kind of work he does now. It's not like there aren't gay construction workers, but unless he decides to start his own business, he'll face all sorts of prejudice in the workplace. Even as an independent entrepreneur, he'd have a hard time outside of certain markets. At the same time, I cannot leave my situation because of my responsibilities to my own children prior to their becoming adults. For at least 6 & 1/2 more years, this may be the way we lead our lives. Far from perfect, it still makes me happier than I ever was in a traditional marital relationship. However, were this a more forward thinking nation, many more people would be happy, myself included.

21 February 2008

Chocoberry cupcakes with Blunilla icing!

Just say it over and over again. You know it sounds good. Here's the recipe.

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Yes, they’re vegan, but no one will notice and no one will care.

Ingredients for Chocoberry Cupcakes:

¼ C vegetable shortening
½ stick (¼ C) kosher or other dairy free margarine
1 ½ C granulated white sugar
6 Tbs unsweetened applesauce
2 C white cake flour
1 C whole grain all purpose flour
3 Tbs black cocoa
1 Tbs baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
6 oz blueberry soy yogurt
4 oz vanilla soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line cupcake pans with paper cupcake liners. Batter yields enough for about 18 cupcakes.
  • Cream the shortening, margarine and sugar at medium low speed in a standing mixer with the flat, wide daft. Once those ingredients are very fluffy, add the apple sauce, 2 Tbs at a time on low speed until incorporated but without losing air.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and set aside.
  • In a measuring cup, mix the soy yogurt, soy milk and vanilla.
  • With the mixer set at its lowest speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the liquids about ¼ of each at a time. The mixture needs to be smooth. Be sure to pause and scrape the sides to make sure all is well mixed and that there are no streaks of unmixed batter.
  • Spoon the batter into the cupcake pans to fill each well about ¾ full. Bake for about 20 minutes. Test with toothpick,. Cool completely before icing.

Ingredients for Blunilla Icing:

¼ C or (½ stick) kosher or other dairy-free margarine
¼ C vegetable shortening
1 LB 10x powdered confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 to 3 tsp vanilla soy milk
Royal blue gel food color

  • Cream the "butter" and sugar in the mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add vanilla and allow it to incorporate completely.
  • Add about two or three dots or more of gel color to icing to get the color you want. A little goes a long way with gel color.
  • Then add the soy milk, just a little at a time, until the icing comes to a good, spreadable consistency.
  • Pause the mixer frequently to scrape the sides to make sure all the sugar and "butter" are well mixed and very smooth.
  • Frost cooled cupcakes.

Get yourself a cup of hot spiced tea and enjoy it with a Chocoberry Cupcake with Blunilla Icing.

Mia Doi Todd - Mixed reviews



Gea
Mia Doi Todd

Release Date: February 19, 2008

Genre: Alternative
℗ 2008 City Zen

Last night while John and I were talking, he sent me this new album from Mia Doi Todd as a gift through iTunes. I clicked the link in my e-mail and redeemed the album. Although I transferred it immediately to my iPod, I didn't listen to it until this morning when I walked Beau.

Upon my first listen, I might call it contemplatively boring. Individually, the songs are pretty and pleasant, but in a way that is ignorable and that lets you focus more on the world around you. During a long walk or a weekend drive (if you can afford the gas!), this music lets the senses do what they will without interruption. The coherence of the album comes from its repetitiveness, but if you're looking for upbeat pop or rock, it's not here. Mostly the singer and her guitar, there is little harmonic invention, and an ear hoping for teases and tricks will find none.

Work out music it isn't, unless the work out is slow yoga, and then this album might be perfect. I've no familiarity with any of the rest of Ms. Todd's opera, so I make comment only on Gea. The sound isn't original because there are many other artists that fit this genre of plaintive singer/songwriter on the verge of clinical depression (Nick Drake for example), and some might do it better (Nick Drake for example, except he's dead because he went past the verge into suicidal depression). But there is a place for Ms. Todd somewhere in my music collection, and I'm glad to add her to my almost-chock-full-of-music iPod. (I'm running out of space for my favorite podcasts! Help!) She may very well accompany my next yoga routine. Sometimes icy and scalding are extremes that cannot exist if there is no lukewarm, and Ms. Todd's lukewarm folksy-pop might provide better perspective of the soundscape around her.

My own criticism aside, reading the reviews on iTunes is its own comic relief. No one has anything musical to write about the album. The 33 reviews listed at the time of this writing are nothing more than a restaurant wait list of lovers and haters and a few feeling apathy with an attempt at a favorable review. Even the NY Times review that a fan copied & pasted to iTunes wasn't especially clever or helpful. The first review was little more than a moronic "yeah, I'm first". The haters are more than likely too video-game-quick-click-attention-span to be able to listen to the entire album or perhaps to read an entire novel of more than a couple hundred pages in order to give a substantive review. The lovers are mostly in love with their own fawning text. The rest gave middle-ground ratings and could provide little detail as to why. In the end, with all the audience and performers that exist, there's a match for everyone, I'm sure.

(album artwork for Gea and color layout as distributed through iTunes)

17 February 2008

Tulips for Valentine's Day

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John sent me a stunning bouquet of tulips for Valentine's Day. Because it wasn't the more commonplace dozen roses, I was a bit surprised but very pleased. Their beauty as the blooms have opened full has made me reconsider this flower which in the past I'd taken little time to appreciate. The tulip is truly a beautiful flower, and when once I do finally have my garden, it may join the lily as one favored in my landscape. Thank you, John.

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(Sorry, but the links to some of the pictures don't seem to be working properly.)

16 February 2008

Yet again, the proverbial hare takes a nap!

For reference see the article "Schools drop one mandatory foreign language course" by Megan Almon from the Valentine's Day 2008 edition of The Times-Herald of Newnan.

Not only does Georgia want to safeguard the state's status in the lowest tier of the Union for educational rankings (see page two of this GBPI publication), but the county where I teach apparently aspires to descend its rank to the least successful of 159 counties for its high school students. Four years of progress made through an effective middle school program articulated through a required third level of study in high school are erased as readily as a misplaced jot or tittle. My disdain and disgust are potentially limitless. Ms. Almon's "thanks to" captures the local mentality and attitude with regard to participation in the world at large better than I could ever describe.

While in the short term I may see a sudden increase in art classes supplementing my teaching schedule, my own advocacy of language study will not waiver. As my father might say, "keep pluggin'." When I came to my school, there were not three full classes of French, and my schedule was replete with such academic equivocations as Freshman Focus and SAT Prep. This year, there are EIGHT sections of French with levels I, II, III, IV & V. I gained a colleague in "my department" and was able to extend my experience into visual arts. This may be only a temporary trend toward linguistic decline, but as long as I breathe (which is sometimes its own challenge), there will be French in Coweta!

Just why does language matter to me? Read this article at the University of Tennessee Martin. It summarizes already and more effectively what I might write on the subject of language education and provides links to related research and bibliographies.

Hé, l'Amérique, le plus grand des lièvres, réveillez-vous alors!

Que le monde entier soit plurilingue!

13 February 2008

Hillary

These latest primaries in the Potomac region lave chiseled away at her lead enough to put Obama ahead. I don't know. "Change" is a platitude that doesn't impress me. I like Hillary's platform, and I don't care for anything the Republicans have to say. Obama doesn't seem to say enough in the press for me to "buy in", but then maybe I'm just too "old" now to be caught up in the movement a man 8 years older than me seems to inspire in the young. I guess I'll keep reading and watching and listening.

Who knows when?

John is due home... soon... -ish. It's been five and a half weeks since he was home. With any luck he might get home before the end of my mid-winter break next week. If you read this, my man, I love you.

10 February 2008

Florida gull


Here is a gull in flight at Coco Beach, FL. I shot it with an Olympus E-410 digital SLR at f/10 with 1/320 sec. exposure time. I had the photo up as my desktop wallpaper, and I realized that I really like it, and I hope others will, too.

09 February 2008

Front page even when I don't win


This past Thursday marked the 11th annual CLICK Spelling/Trivia Bee. Originally, it was a spelling competition among local business to support an adult literacy charity that helps the nearly 1/3 of my counties population that does not have a high school diploma. The team from my high school gets sponsorship from the Times Herald, the Newnan newspaper. I've participated in the competition five or six times, and it's definitely a worthwhile cause. My team and I have won once or twice in the original spelling bee, and last year we won the first trivia bee. This year we made 3rd place, but considering the rules kept changing about every five minutes, that's not so bad. Making the front page while the winners made 2A was just a bonus, i guess. I did learn some new tidbits:
  • Holocene - the current geologic epoch
  • North American hibernating bird - whippoorwill
  • Hitch your wagon to a star - R.W. Emerson
  • Plantagenêt - England's longest ruling dynasty (1152 - 1399)
  • Barney Clark - first artificial heart recipient (I could only remember Dr. Jarvik but mostly from the Lipitor commercials.)
  • DeWitt Clinton - New York governor who built the Erie Canal
I did a little fact checking and it's not actually the whippoorwill that hibernates, but the common poorwill. Another irritation, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon were not the original Odd Couple no matter what that trivia contest insisted (though I put down that answer knowing that their source would be thinking Hollywood and not Broadway). Walter Matthau and Art Carney were the original Odd Couple (now played by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the revival).

By the end of the evening, all had a good time (me included) and $21K will go to helping people learn to read, to do math and to earn a high school diploma or GED.