28 January 2008

Poetry Slam @ Barnes and Noble

Tonight I presented Starbucks at the first poetry slam at the Newnan Barnes & Noble. There were audience judges, and my presentation earned 27 out of 30 possible points. A 93-year old local author & poet named Mary won the night. Her poems were inspirational and lovely the way only someone who is fast approaching a century of life can make them be. Truly, youth is wasted on the young.

For once, I performed in a way that wasn't tied to school, was solo, was my own creation and people received it with applause. It makes me glad and helps me to overcome a little social anxiety.

27 January 2008

The old Sony Walkman has died

Alas, 'tis true. The old yellow and black cassette player with AM/FM Radio and TV & weather bands has died....sort of. The radio still works, but the cassette motor has ground to a halt. Actually, this one was about the fourth I had of its type before I switched to CD players then finally to an iPod.

It served me well. I used it the entire time I was walking then running off the pounds from 250 down to 180! Two years ago, the little diva helped me convert my 80's cassettes to MP3 so I make get my audiothèque as digital as possible and fully enter the 21st century.

Today, it gave up the ghost. I was converting some AP French language study cassettes to MP3 to make easier to use CD's for my one student using the accompanying workbook. After the first successful conversion, the motor in the 10-year old Walkman died. Poor thing. I haven't the heart to get rid of it. Whatever shall I do?

21 January 2008

3PM Barnes and Noble - Newnan, GA

Sitting in the café, commercial wonderland of books and coffee that it is, I see people around me, and I wonder about their lives.

The three students examine children's literature intently, consulting each other about publishers, authors, illustrators and content.

Spouses browse books. The wife is either oblivious or in denial a out her husband's status as a flaming queen. Really, she has to know; don't they all?

An old man flips the pages of a monthly on woodworking, glossy photos and drawings for next weekend's backyard or tool shed project.

Me? I stop writing long enough to read a few paragraphs of Le Comte de Monte-Cristo. Why exactly does Edmond Dantès need 1500 pages to exact his exquisite revenge on those who betrayed him?

At tables and in upholstered chairs, portable PC's plugged into wall sockets send data packets through WinSockets across WiFi connections freely offered by the bookstore.

The librairie is busy, and I imagine that there must be a reader for every one of the thousands of titles shelved for sale. But there isn't. The store could not accommodate as many, and so few people read books cover to cover any more.

Even these students--of education, of writing, of literature, who knows?--don't read the books piled before them. Pages flip. PowerPoint slides compile. Presentations materialize, but no one seems to enjoy the wealth and power of knowledge and experience in written word and artful images.

20 January 2008

A long weekend

Three days to rest & relax
With too many hours at video games,
Glazed eyes reflect the LCD.
Alarm clock's disabled so there's only
The gentle lift of café au lait
To soothe & revive me.
The quiet of late winter snow
Melts too quickly.
The brilliant white blanket
Erased from view but not from memory.
Photographic bytes & bits
Pointed & clicked into sepia warmth
Capture an excited dog's antics
Pixelated by 10 million
Turning the day into a White Christmas,
An unexpected gift to be cherished
God-sent on the tiniest fluttering angelic wings.
The purity of new fallen snow
Hides the sins of apartment dwellers
For one morning
All is an illuminated Eden.
Under the smoothed rubber sole of a Gortex lined boot,
There's first the gentle crunch and then the easy slosh.
Everything is temporary,
And in Georgia
Le temps des neiges s'enfuit trop vite.
Beau romps in sepia toned snow

19 January 2008

Chez moi sous la neige

Saturday brings snow to the South!  I do wish it had happened during the school week, but 3day weekend snow is just as lovely!  Beau was hysterical; in fact he still is.  He's been barking at flakes outside the window off and on all day.

Beau in the snow!

Today's winter weather comfort food recipe:

In a 8×8 baking pan, drizzle enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom.  Next, lay down finger-sized slices of homemade or bakery fresh bread.  Cover this layer with ingredients you like on a pizza (I used vegan pepperoni, pitted Kalamata olives & artichoke hearts).  Grind some pepper over this layer to your liking.  I like a lot of pepper!  If you want, you can layer some cheese here too, like parmesan or romano.  For vegans like me, Toffuti Better than Cream Cheese works well as a substitute for ricotta.  Now, use a spoon to break up the contents of a large can of whole stewed tomatoes.  Spoon these all over the top of the dish.  If you want more cheese, you can put that on now.  Lastly, cover with foil & bake at 350° F for about 75 minutes.  For the last 15 minutes, remove the foil so the cheese can brown a little.  Let it stand until it stops bubbling when removed from oven.  Oh, this comes out good and there's no need to bother with boiling noodles in advance.

18 January 2008

Finally, some relief

After more than a week battling the evil, horrible monster that is asthma, I've started breathing better. My dog Beau was pleased today when we resumed our walk around the entire apartment complex instead of just out to the pet stand and back to the apartment. I was glad too that when we returned, I wasn't completely out of breath. Additionally, there's a day off from school Monday, so I can get a little extra needed rest this weekend. Teaching this past week, though only three days because I took two from sick leave, was very difficult. I huffed and puffed like a big bad wolf just to be able to lead a few verb conjugations and simple dialogue activities. I'll have three days at home to recuperate a bit. One advantage of being alone so much is that I don't have to talk to anyone, and I can let my lungs and voice rest. The dog just wants me to pet him, and he doesn't mind if I'm quiet.

13 January 2008

Asthma knows no Sabbath

The day of rest is not familiar to the constricted airways within my lungs. Of course, with my children here, parenting doesn't give me an opportunity to rest. Finally, we took down the Christmas tree. This activity is mostly one of trying to preserve ornaments from one year to the next. The voice, my regular weapon against stupidity, bickering, carelessness, foolishness, rowdiness, etc. was completely unavailable. Multiple rounds with the albuterol did little to help. What I need to do is rest so that I can get my self back in good health. I don't know how to rest, and that lets my asthma get out of control. Despite feeling better since starting all the meds as my doctor prescribed, I have to surrender. Tomorrow, I will call for a substitute and forward lesson plans to my AP and dept. chairperson. I hate missing school because it always means a crazy game of catch-up as a result of there being virtually no substitute teachers who speak French. This time of year, when we are just getting the ball rolling, my being absent is serious setback. I hope that one day will be enough. Friday at work was ridiculous. I was pantomiming and writing and pointing and whispering and clapping my hands and whistling. My students actually were wonderful and behaved like angels. In reality, we accomplished a good deal of work, but it was not nearly the productive day it could have been. Likewise, I encourage students who are ill to come to school when what they should do is rest. It's true, asthma is not contagious, but not taking illness seriously lets communicable ones like flu, strep, staph, etc. get out of control in a school very quickly. I guess that I need to be a good role model in sickness and in health. (Even if you read aloud through this fast enough, you won't be close to as out of breath as I have been for two weeks.)

11 January 2008

100 Posts!

Cent entrées! It's a small milestone.

Today, my doctor's office called me at work. They had me up my inhaled steroid dose to 8 puffs a day for the next week and start oral steroids for 6 days, and I continue my albuterol, 2 puffs every 4 hours. If I'm not better by Monday, I'm supposed to call again. I haven't had this kind of trouble with my asthma in over 6 years. I'm grateful for my insurance plan and for my doctor.

10 January 2008

Medically frustrated

By the end of third block today, I had nothing but the wispiest tendrils of a voice. Breath was a fleeting bit of pleasure that flitted by me once in a while. I had only my planning period left, so I checked with my principal and got permission to leave early to rest, then I left school and put a call into my allergist's office. After two hours, I hear from his nurse who tells me they'll call back soon to tell me what they can do for me. I take a nap. Thursday business hours end as I doze. There is no return call from my allergist or his nurse. It's ok. Restful sleep and breaths that fill my lungs with air are not necessities that are particularly urgent.

08 January 2008

Evil feline

Asthma, that malign feline crouches on my thorax, its heavy pressure poised to steal my breath.

Its lethargic purr is the sticky phlegm inside my constricted bronchia.

Albuterol, like water in a spray bottle; I give two squirts to shoo the cat away.

Two puffs, a minute apart, and then I wait, but can't relax.

Hope that the air will flow freely to fill my gasping lungs, leaving me jittery and exhausted.

But this time two puffs are insufficient.

The imperturbable wicked queen sits ready to snatch her prey.

I pray the cat will go away, let me breathe easy.

Four puffs later, my throat itches deep into my chest, unfriendly scratches from the asthma cat's claws.

My slow suffocation is the grimalkin's catnip.

06 January 2008

How dumb am I?

Don't answer that! I guess that I'm just forgetful, and maybe kind of a dork.

Anyway, I've really taken a liking to Sara Bareilles (pronounced /buh reh lis/, though I think it should be /bah rey/* since it seems to be a French surname). I downloaded her single "Love Song" from iTunes only to discover that I had downloaded a slightly shorter version of it from her EP a while ago, so now I have it twice on my iPod. The versions aren't even noticeably different despite a difference of 20 seconds in length. Next time, I should check my library before clicking OK on the purchase confirmation button. Thinking back a bit to the days of vinyl 7" singles and cassingles, ,I sometimes bought songs from an artist whose album containing the single I already owned. There's no accounting for sense despite education.

*Forgive the phonetic transcriptions; I couldn't get all the IPA symbols to work as I hoped.

05 January 2008

Nouvel an, nouveau semestre

Thursday began the spring semester at Northgate High School. I greeted my second period French 2 class with "Good morning and welcome to Human Sacrifice 101." The uneasy silence followed by an even more uneasy flutter of chuckles was a great reward.

Once again, I have only three class periods but five preparations. Being a minority language makes for time consuming lesson planning in order to offer a rich program to my students. Fortunately, this school year I have had help with the arrival of Mme Brockman, une québécoise, who took over the level one classes. That scheduling change allowed me to teach a section of visual arts, and I enjoyed the challenge of extending my teaching experience.

This new term requires extensive documentation to accompany my daily teaching as our school embraces "standards based instruction". It's the new catch prhase, but I've been aspiring to standards based instruction with performance based evaluation for years. "Eduspeak" finally catches up with me. I guess that makes me a trend setter.

Ancient Indian Art


In the National Geographic issue for January 2008, I read portions of an article on Ancient Indian artwork from temples and religious structures throughout the subcontinent. The artwork is inspiring and striking even in its decrepit state. I can hardly imagine its beauty in its most pristine state. My one, simplistic sketch in chalk does not do justice to the fresco depicting the god Krishna.