Tuesday, May 31, 2005


To Ms C:

My teacher is nice
when the kids are nice
to her but if we're good

She will let us leave
like early birds
when it's stormy she will

Yell like lightning had hit
Quiet as a bee.

From Student A, in Class C

Monday, May 30, 2005


Farmers smallcamp after the central tree system was knocked out by lightning this winter.

ash jean julie.JPG

Ashley, Jean, and me. Good times, reunions.

chimney fire.JPG

Look--they installed a woodburning stove in the old fireplace!


The view of the lake from one of the smallcamps. Pretty, no?

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Here is the maroon van (dubbed 'the limo'), also used to transport beds, bed boards, mattresses and linens.

lift beds.JPG

We gathered the bed frames from various places in the camp, then drove this beat-up brown truck to the smallcamp sites to unload them into the shelters.


Our gorgeous round-to has survived beautifully these last three years! I could not be prouder.

chimney trail.JPG

Walking from the Great Hall to Chimney Corner. It was in this vicinity that I saw the first bear that first night, three years ago.

about Trailblazers

Last weekend I was at Trailblazers during their Operation Muscle weekend. Below, you will find pictures and a long entry about the camp/work from 2002, when my AmeriCorps team was there. Above this, I'll post some pics from last weekend.

The camp sign on the otherwise empty road traversing the forest. Posted by Hello

Raking leaves in the damn forest. Posted by Hello

Originally uploaded by susiejulie.
Squirrel Hunter (standing) and Firestarter in our
Chimney Corner front room.

Chimney Corner. Rustic, but pretty homey, considering.  Posted by Hello

Verticals done. Notice how they practically stand straight up. That's why we had to lean on them in order to do the crossways ones. Posted by Hello

Originally uploaded by susiejulie.
Shannon measures the twine while Brodie lashes the
first crosswise sapling.

Dez, Brodie, Shannon, Julie, and Mandi not posing with our finished round to! Isn't it beautiful? Posted by Hello

AmeriCorps, chapter 5: The First Spike, Part the First

During the first round, Fire 4 was on a local project at a Baltimore primary school. We all came to love our students, and ache for their lack of resources and thus a more limited future. Occasionally I see them in a dream, and I am so thrilled to see them. This year my kids will be (should be) graduating fifth grade! How time flies.

There were, I think, only five of the eighteen teams doing local projects and thus living on campus. When the Fire unit all came back, we were inundated with loads of people everywhere. Part of it was exciting, to visit with friends and housemates, but part of it was a big culture shock. We had had the whole place to ourselves, things were quiet and peaceful. Then all of a sudden, everyone was there, taking up room. Invading our space.

It was quite thrilling to find out that our second project would be at a camp in the woods of New Jersey. (To be honest, I think most of us were shocked to find out there were woods in New Jersey.) The work would be mostly outside. There were lots of bears in the area!

May 1 was our departure date. Not only that, it was teammate Jess's 19th birthday. Mandi and I baked a birthday loaf (cake mix poured into a pound cake-type loaf pan), and Jep decorated the van. Oh, and it was a new van. Our Ghetto Booty (the name the rest of the team dubbed our stellar gray 15-passenger beast) had been loaned to an Ice team whose van was somehow out of commission. Thus, we got a new, maroon van. It was literally right off the lot; it had eighty miles on it. Sweet! Sadly, still no tape deck or anything.

So we started off with that, some fun and sugar. We only got across the Havre de Grace bridge before someone remembered something important that had been forgotten. We all hung out at the McDonald's parking lot while it was fetched.

Finally we arrived at Trailblazers, the camp, in Stokes State Forest, still in daylight. It's a thousand acres of raw forest. As of yet, it was still winter up there; the whole world was still brown. We met our sponsor, a hilarious Brit named Jean. I love her, we all do. She showed us the Great Hall (dining hall/industrial kitchen, where we would be preparing our meals and eating). Then we saw Chimney Corner, the nurse's cabin and our home for the first six weeks of the project. There's a lodge, with one computer on the third, attic-type floor.

As we were hanging out in the kitchen, I left to go get something from a bag in the cabin. Right behind the Great Hall, in the trees next to the path, was a black bear. I froze, desperately trying to remember if I should look it in the eyes, or look away, or stand still, or run screaming, or what. It looked at me, I looked at it, and a moment later, it turned and ambled away. I ran back into the kitchen: "I just saw a bear!!" We'd known that we would probably see them, and the next day we would be shown a video about safety/bear stuff, but no one thought we'd see one so quickly. And I was the lucky first. Whew.

Trailblazers is a nonprofit decentralized camp that's been around for over a hundred years. They bring out underprivileged kids from New York City and Paterson, New Jersey. They don't have to pay anything to attend. The kids live in groups of 10-12 (separated into age groups) with two or three group leaders, out in a smallcamp site. The smallcamps have shelters (either hogans, round-tos, or tipis), a main bonfire area, a 'kitchen,' a latrine, and a (face/teeth) washing area. All structures are natural materials (except perhaps the canvas coverings?). No nails and hammers.

The activities are all outdoors-based, including literacy, swimming, hiking, cooking, and other things. All the smallcamps have to plan and then cook most of their meals out in their camp. There's a store where they can 'order' supplies and ingredients for the meals.

Because of bear concerns--cooking in the same area where people sleep--the forest authorities this year forbade this. Now each group will still cook outside, but only a couple times a week, instead of at least twice a day, and only in special, cooking-only areas, not in their own smallcamps.

As I mentioned, we lived in Chimney Corner. Eleven people in four bedrooms and with one bathroom. There was no heat and no hot water on tap. The cabin was made of all wood, naturally. We were all sleeping in our AmeriCorps-issued sleeping bags, under piles of four or five wool blankets. The blankets had been liberally doused with moth flakes, so they smelled just great and made me sneeze all over the place. We all slept in our complete outfits, even in layers, because it was so cold. The only thing that made eleven people sharing one bathroom bearable was the extra sink in the front room. We had no choice but to use the ice-cold tap water. That's what I used to wake me up each morning when I washed my face. To this day, I wash my face in cold water in the mornings.

Four of us girls slept in the front, main room of the cabin. We were lucky in that we had a fireplace to at least attempt heat. Mandi was our Firestarter, and made some nice, toasty fires each night. Of course, halfway through the night they'd burn out and we'd still wake up half-frozen, most unwilling to leave our little warm nests.

As it turned out, us four were not the only occupants of that front room. Each night we heard little sounds, like nibbling or something, from the rafters above us. It took a week or two to figure out what exactly it was. One morning we found out the hard way. A whole FAMILY of flying squirrels was running around our room. I woke up with a bang when one of them ran across my legs in the sleeping bag. Holy cow, did I sit up fast! Somehow Mandi and Dez convinced Geo to get the squirrels. She donned her leather work gloves and carefully trapped each animal, one at a time (two adults and four babies), setting them outside our door. She would be known as Squirrel Hunter the rest of the year. (If you don't already have a hero in life, you can borrow Geo. More on her heroics later.)

So. The first week and a half of our project was terribly thrilling; we raked leaves. IN THE FOREST. We had to make sure that the pathways in the smallcamps were clear, and also that there were no large piles of leaves, which are a home for nesting mosquitoes.

It was hard to be very excited or motivated at first, we thought we were just doing stupid grunt labor. We complained, we got backaches, we got blisters. No fun at all.

Soon enough, though, we graduated to more interesting tasks. Jean taught us to square lash, which is when you use twine to tie sticks/posts/logs together. It's surprisingly sturdy. That's how all the shelters, tables, and washstands are built: using twine and twigs, saplings, or logs from the surrounding forest.

We relashed some kitchen tables and built washstands. We put up the canvas over the kitchen areas and shelters in a good number of smallcamps. Tipis are a major pain in the ass, if you didn't already know. Very complicated. You have to start with your three main logpoles on the ground, arranged just so, then tie them right. Somehow you get the other logpoles in there too, as well as hook on the canvas/covering in the right direction at the right height on the main pole. Then you have to make sure the damn thing can stand upright and stay sturdy. We spent an entire afternoon with the property manager doing the first one of the season.

One of my favorite projects, and one of the proudest accomplishments, was building a round-to. It's got one big cover that leans over the platform to provide shelter. All shelters only last a few years, and in this one camp, they were all a bit damaged. We took the first one down and started over. We relashed the base log, which was HUGE and took the whole freaking team to hold up while someone did some giant lashings. From there, we found suitable saplings in the forest behind us, and sawed them down.

Once we decided our measurements (how far apart we would make the lashings), we lashed in the vertical ones first, they were easiest. Then we lashed in the horizontal ones. Those got trickier the higher up they got. We had to employ one of us as a weight-bearer, who stood on one of the lower horizontal saplings and leaned into the structure, to bend it down so that the rest of us could actually reach to do the next one up.

It took two mornings to finish this round-to, but when we did, it was perfect. It had excellent, even, and strong lashings, and it had a perfect angle to provide maximum coverage.

When I was back at Trailblazers last weekend, I made sure to check out that round-to. And do you know, it was still perfect and beautiful. Three whole years later. See what I mean about one of our best accomplishments of our entire year?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Happy Memorial Day

I have just returned from my weekend mini-break to Chicago, where I visited with some family members on my dad's side.

It started Friday afternoon. I thought that leaving at 4pm would be just fine, that I would catch the 23 bus and get to LaGuardia between 4.45-5.15. We-ell. Not hardly. When I got up to the corner, there was a bus right then pulling up, which I thought was excellent news, considering I've stood there waiting for 15-40 minutes before. However, this particular bus only went part of the way to the airport, so I had to wait on the corner for at least 10 minutes. A bus showed up and made its way ACHINGLY slowly through Queens, finally getting to the outer entrance of LaGuardia at 5.00. I waited for the 48 bus for ten minutes; that one (IF it exists) drives around the airport. I was worried about the time, so I just walked over the bridge and down the way a bit, into the terminal .

I was on the standby list for the 6.05 flight. I got checked in easily and made it fairly swiftly through security, and to the gate. Sadly, there was no room for me on that plane.

I wasn't too bummed, because I was quite hungry (used to pigging out right after I get home from school around 4ish). So, with at least half an hour to kill, I leisurely made my way to the food court to grab a little something. No time for a real meal, and french fries sounded good. There was a deli/fast food stand thing, I ordered fries and some fruit and some lemonade. Had to wait over ten minutes for the damn fries--were they growing the freaking potatoes or something? Sheesh. I had to sit and scarf them down quickly and most unladylike-ly, getting ketchup all over my fingers.

I made it safely on the 7.05 flight, thank goodness. But, the last five or six of us that got on were dismayed, at the very least, to find that ALL of the overhead compartments were filled right up. They had to check our bags at the front door.

Finally I sat down. Which I kept doing for the next forty-five minutes, as first the plane sat at the gate, and then sat on the runway. Thank goodness I had a fairly long book to be engrossed in. Eventually we took off, the captain announcing that "we will probably land pretty much, close to our scheduled time," very reassuring, right? After awhile, I finished my book. The captain announced that because of something, we couldn't land right away. They were diverting us, but not really; just making us fly in a broader circle or something. We couldn't actually circle because there wasn't enough gas. Again, very encouraging.

We landed about half an hour late, at 9.15, and of course now I had to wait for my emergency-checked bag at baggage claim. I was quite happy to see it on the thingy pretty much right away, and off I went to find my rental car.

There was a shuttle to the rental place, a huge line IN the rental place, and at 10.15, I finally drove out of the damn lot, to Grandmother's house I went.

The freeway driving was very easy, as were the tolls. However, there was a little mixup/mistake in the local directions, and so I got a bit lost. What didn't help was the utter lack of street lights and/or well-lit SIGNS on all the side roads. Could not see a blasted thing.

I had to stop at a gas station and get directions. Phew, it eventually worked and I got to my Grandma's at midnight.

Saturday was a light, easy day. A bit of eating, a bit of driving, a bit of napping, a bit of reading. It was all good. Sunday morning was more of the same. I enjoyed the whole weekend. Relaxing, easy-going, etc.

I want to remember and write the stories I heard from my grandma and great aunt. Now, unfortunately, is not the time. The hour is way, way late.

Don't worry, I will also be doing a bit on the previous weekend, spent in the forests of New Jersey. Quite the traveler I am this year, eh?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


No, sadly, not with school; with the big paperwork project. Whee! Hurrah!

Also, thank god Wednesday is over. I hate Wednesdays. Only because I fucking HATE Class B on Wednesdays; I have them sixth and seventh period and a good half the class act like monsters each and every time. I felt so bad for the handful of good kids. They just sat there with pained looks on their faces, like, "oh god, are we done with this yet? Why is she so out of control?" It was awful. I plan on doing a whole-class lunch detention tomorrow, save the handful of good kids, of course.

Class A was actually mostly good today. Those boys are mostly on my side, and so when I shoot them my Evil Teacher Look of Doom, they snap up straight, grab a pen, and go, "oh! I'm doing my work!"

Class C was okay too. Chatty, a bit flightly, but not bad or anything.

Ho hum, hurrah the big thing is finished. I should be studiously planning out some reading lessons, but...I just don't care that much. I figure I deserve a break. I worked hard at home the past three days, so now tonight I can just veg out. Right? Sure.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


It's not Monday anymore, so that means we're closer to Friday.

I got a whole bunch of work done today, including during my preps, after school, and at home. Lots of grading and bubbling, AND I even made a chart. I rarely make charts anymore. Too lazy on one hand, too paper-wasting conscious on another, and too tired of ridiculously chart-riddled classroom walls on yet another.

Again, this is the last hard part. And hopefully that should end before the end of the day tomorrow. Whee!

I reserved my rental car for this weekend; I'm pretty psyched about that. That's an awfully grown-up thing to do.

I have been doing well with getting to bed at a decent time, drinking some water during the day, eating more, and eating earlier in the day. Or at least stopping the eating earlier in the day. Ha. Anyway, as much as I drag through the last third of the school day, I'm feeling a bit better all round.

God, I'm boring. See ya later. Maybe I'll be more interesting then.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Not dead

I'm here. It's been a few days.

The weekend was great out at Trailblazers. There's a cute anecdote to share about Friday, and two for today. Although I hated all three of my classes today; they were all a bit assy. Good thing I was already giving a test.

I was so absorbed in grading the tests on the bus and then train that I missed my stop. I haven't done that for months and months. Duh. At least I used the extra time to finish the grading.

I only have a handful of stories left to grade. I did about half last night, and I did more this morning on my prep. I know--I worked on my prep! I never do that!

Did more grading stuff at home; I'm getting nearer. Don't worry, the grades will be based on actual numbers, but I won't bother with each and every one. After last week, homework and classwork are meh. The actual grades will be more estimations of the quarter's work and effort.

Happy news--don't need to have it all in until Thursday instead of Wednesday now. Woohoo! Hopefully that reprieve will help me kick into gear and actually get it done by Wednesday, now that I don't *have* to. I am weird like that sometimes. We'll see.

Will write a much longer piece very soon about camp. I was so flattered and relieved at the positive reaction to my last actual thought-out 'writing' post. Clearly the rest of the time I am mostly boring. :) That's okay, I know. I don't have the creativity or patience to do all long, interesting pieces. I feel happy to have a few here and there.

After this week, my workload will be awesome! I have no more college courses to pretend to worry about, no more fretting about homework, no tests or anything. So perhaps I can actually focus on lessons! You know, my real job?

Once this week is over, we have two four-day weeks, a full week (as of now; there may be half-days in there somewhere), then a three-day week (with the big field trip), then the last two-day week. That's a lot of weeks, but it's not that bad, with all the little breaks in there. I can do it.

I can do it! We are almost there!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Gr. Argh.

Because I am karma's bitch, neither of the doses of two different medicines I took worked last night, so I was all congesty. AND I just couldn't sleep. I was wide-fucking-awake until 12. Then I pretended to sleep--really just laying there and tossing and turning--for four hours. SUCKS to be me.

I went back to school this morning, feeling like a Monday all over again, but really, it was Thursday. Gotta love that. Still felt a bit unsteady and lightheaded at times, but I reminded myself that if I'd been at school yesterday, it would have been much worse, and not pretty. I tried to eat a bit more, and actually drink water. We'll see if it works or not.

I forgot to mention that I am confirmed to keep my job for next year. We won't find out our assignment (not an actual program, just grade and subject, I think) for another few weeks.

In other good news, my slacker ways combined with a strict teacher just may result in the first C type grade since that pre-cal freshman year--EIGHT years ago. And now I'm in a master's program with an existing 3.85 cumulative. How's that for lowered standards? I feel bad, and sad, and disappointed in myself, but surely I brought some of it on. I'm pulling for a B-, which would still really suck; but if the prof gives me a C+ I'd like to fight it. The turning point for this stupid class came at the beginning of the semester when the research project just didn't gel with my situation. I talked to her about it on numerous occasions, letting her know I didn't have access to small children, also offering/asking/suggesting several times if I could do something else, write another paper, what have you. So I finally turned the thing in this week, two months late. Since she takes points off for lateness, I'd love to still get a 10/15, but I'm thinking she might give me something more like a 5.

Part of me cares. Most of me is like, "Thank the lord this semester is OVER! Who gives a shit anymore?!"

As things go, I don't want to stay in New York past my two-year commitment. I've been told by everyone that the first year living in New York is horrible, and I've been told by even more people that the first year teaching is a living hell. I would have to agree with both of those statements. And I'm just so done with it all. I'm tired of being new and clueless and fucking stranded all the time. Not knowing anyone or anything.

I want to be in familiar surroundings. I don't want to work. I want to have the freedom of driving to the grocery store--anytime I want. To buy things like a 20 pound bag of potatoes, or something else heavy and/or terribly awkward to haul on a train/bus/half a mile down the street.

Gotta do the road trip. Gotta do the road trip. Need to have my own transporation. Can't wait to NOT be a first-year teacher anymore. Fuck this shit, man. I am tired. I don't even do anything, but I'm just exhausted, physically and mentally.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Five Weeks To Go

So damn close, and yet so fucking far away...

I woke up at 3.30 with random nose congestion. As the day progressed, my head hurt, I got weak and tired. Mr Principal was all concerned, "Are you alright? You look all flushed." I was like, "I'm just so tired...and I felt like I was gonna pass out all eighth period..." He asked if I had eaten much, and I was like, not really... What was awesome is that CuteTeacher had just come outside also, and Mr Principal goes, "[CuteTeacher], make sure Ms C makes it back upstairs alright." And CuteTeacher goes, "I'll take care of her." Swoon! Really, he is so damn cute. It kills me. I have such a crush on him.

Last week, a girl from Class B came in before school started, to hand in a paper. She asked shyly (this is a very outspoken girl, so I thought it was pretty cute) if I needed help. I know that the kids love helping out, so I let her straighten desks and help me cut some chart paper for that day. Out of the blue, she asked, "Are you and [CuteTeacher] [I've got to find a different name for him! I sound like *I'M* the sixth-grader, dammit] best friends?" I was all, "durr, what?" She said, "He always plays us music and gives hints and has us try to guess." I'm sure that I got a little pink at the mention of him, but I was all playing it off.

This afternoon, those two kids were being all assistantish for the beginning of class. I took my hair down, and tried to fluff it out into a semblance of shape. Eager R and Fashionable C (the girl obsessed with clothes and now the strand of my hair that always falls down) were all, "Leave it like that!!" And they were all, oh it looks so good blah blah. And I put my hand on my hip and said, "No one cares what we look like." Meaning, obviously, me. And the other assistant girl pipes up, "The janitor!" and someone else piped up with "[CuteTeacher!]" I pretended not to notice but inside, I was all, ooh! what?! no way!

So yeah, apparently I'm just pretending to be a grown up; I am still twelve. Sheesh.

I felt like ass at the whole end of the day. Like I said before, dizzy and flushed and yech. Yesterday I was really fucking tired all day, but this was that plus more. I ate a bit, I drank orange juice AND some water, but I wasn't even hungry.

I got home and the congestion kept building up. There is even sneezing. Before I got all the way home, I stopped and got a few things, including Airborne. I've already taken two doses, and the last one seems not to have worked. I also did some TheraFlu, which did precisely nothing. Fuck. I can't wait to sleep but I just bet I'll be too stuffed up to be comfortable.

So, with the encouragement of CuteTeacher, and the reassurance from good old Mom, I made the call. I am taking tomorrow off!

I meant to try and schedule a doctor's appointment, for a checkup and stuff, but I didn't. Oh well. I'll sleep and rest and finish up my two things to turn in at class tomorrow night. Definitely can't skip that; it's the second to last one. Grr.

Five weeks. So short and so very long.

My friends: the Whale, Mr Leopard, and Blankie.  Posted by Hello

Do you see the line going along his back? Poor, toasted Blankie. I imagine he's too squished to care anymore.  Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 15, 2005

If I could...

Hurrah for being included! Thanks, Nancy! :)

Choose five of the starters below, and tag three more people:

If I could be a scientist...If I could be a farmer...If I could be a musician...If I could be a doctor...If I could be a painter...If I could be a gardener...If I could be a missionary...If I could be a chef...If I could be an architect...If I could be a linguist...If I could be a psychologist...If I could be a librarian...If I could be an athlete...If I could be a lawyer...If I could be an inn-keeper...If I could be a professor...If I could be a writer...If I could be a llama-rider...If I could be a bonnie pirate...If I could be an astronaut...If I could be a world famous blogger...If I could be a justice on any one court in the world...If I could be married to any current famous political figure...

If I could be an athlete, I would be a gymnast. I would have already won the Olympics! And I would be touring with all those famous gymnasts. Oh, how cool that would be.

If I could be an inn-keeper, I would build a series of beautiful cottages in a forest on a lake. They would have huge, pillow-top beds with bunches of fluffy pillows. There would be a cozy fireplace and soft armchairs sitting nearby. There would be bay windows with window seats, to soak in the sunrise or sunset (whichever way the thing faced). The floors would be dark stained knotted pine, with wooden, twig-made furniture, and cedar ceilings. There would be bright and colorful Impressionist paintings on the walls in one, another would have just sunrise and sunset art (photos and paintings), yet another would have beautiful travel photos, one could be a mountain motif.

If I could be a librarian, I would make a lot of money, so that I could spend my days around books. I would always be reading, helping kids get excited about reading, and have lots of programs to bring people into the library. I would make sure that my library, wherever it was, would be light and airy and welcoming, but also cozy. Lots of soft chairs and sofas to sit and just be there, with the books.

If I could be a painter, I would find places to just sit. I would start at my dad's mountain house. The beauty there is astounding: forests, valleys, and distant mountains and foothills. I would paint the sunrise every morning for a month. I would walk into the forest behind the house and paint the stream gently swooshing through the endless green underbrush. I would also have to find a square to sit at in places like Rome, Paris, London, and other great cities. I would paint the sights, the light, perhaps the people. I would be able to capture a moment with my tools, whatever they may be.

Nothing else on that list really strikes at my fancy, so I'm going to make one up.

Back in the day, a lot of rich kids from the provinces or wherever would come to Paris for their 'sentimental education.' Or the young Parisian rich people would just hang about. There's a very specific French verb, flaner, which means to stroll or saunter aimlessly, to lounge around, because you can, because you have the means to not have to do anything else. This term can be made into nouns: flaneur and flaneuse, a man or woman who does this; and flanerie, the act of being a flaneur.

So, If I could do anything at all, I would be a flaneuse. I would just wander different parts of the world. I would have a camera and be a talented, thought-provoking photographer. I would carry a journal in which I recorded my deep thoughts and insightful noticings of the world around me. I would casually chat up handsome strangers and intriguing locals. I would lend a hand to hapless but adorable tourists. In short, I would seek happiness.

Tag, you're it! Mz Smlph, Jubilee, and Rae.


My first two years of college were spent at Western Washington University, a fairly large school in a college town on the water, a little south of the Canadian border.

None of my friends had cars, or if any of us did, we didn't drive anywhere. For entertainment off campus, we would take the bus to Bellis Fair Mall. The fare was thirty-five cents. (The second year, we were incensed that it was raised to fifty cents. Oh, the innocence!) We would go to a movie, or to the Red Robin, or just walk around the mall. In that mall, as well as a few others in the greater Seattle metropolitan area, was a store called Natural Wonders. It was kind of like a precursor to the Discovery store, only a mite nicer. There were lots of science toys, pretty jewelry, and new agey music. The back of the store was the best--the real toys as well as stuffed animals. They had a whole menagerie of oversized exotic animals that were as soft as heaven.

I don't know when I discovered it, but my absolute favorite was the big green frog. He was large and squishy and just right to hug. Each and every time we were in that mall, we usually went into the store to play, and even if we didn't, I always made sure to run in and hug the frog. I never bought him, but I always loved him. It actually got to the point that the staff knew us, and specifically me, that I was that girl who came in for the frog. I thought that was pretty neat, that I was 'infamous' and known to a group of strangers. I didn't care that it was related to a stuffed animal and that I was supposed to be a grown-up.

All through my sophomore year, I couldn't bring myself to choose a major. I had already abandoned biochemistry and regular chemistry; I just barely got a C+ (my lowest grade EVER, by far, before or after) in pre-calculus my first sememster, and all chem-related majors required second-year calculus. I survived my first quarter of organic chem, and did alright, but I had to work so damn hard, and really study, and I just couldn't focus on that and other classes. I loved it, but it was too hard. So I quit.

I had started up French again in the winter quarter of my freshman year. I'd stopped in junior year of high school, because the one French teacher was ridiculous and I didn't learn anything new all year, even though it was third or fourth-year French. Anyway, I kept taking French at the college level, and I liked it, but nowhere near enough to major in it.

I really loved my linguistics course. And my anthropology class. But after the first joy wore off, I realized I didn't want to actually major in them.

So I did what any quitter who can't stay more than one place very long would do: I transferred colleges. To the University of Washington, where I'd never wanted to go; it was too close to home.

As it ended up, the boy who I'd had two years of saga with already also left Western, and we finally got together. We dated all through my junior year of college, even though he lived forty-five minutes away and did not have a car, and I was working and going to school and feeling insane, and he wasn't doing much of anything.

In the fall of senior year, he met me on campus of UW one afternoon. The previous weekend, I had made a trip to some Natural Wonders store (had I actually gone up to Bellingham and finally bought it, or did I find a more nearby store? I don't remember), and I bought that green frog. But I bought it for my boyfriend, not for me. I don't know why; our relationship was winding down, but we both, at that point, pretended not to notice too much yet. I wanted it to be a kind of symbol. To show that something that meant so much to me--that silly frog--I wanted him to have. I told him that I was kind of lending Mr Frog (very creative namer, I am) to him, to take care of, and so that I could visit and hug Mr Frog when I visited the boy.

At some point near to that--it shows that I am the worst girlfriend and friend EVER that I don't remember--he had given me a stuffed animal too. It was the spotted leopard from Natural Wonders. He said that he'd gone to the one in Seattle somewhere, but they didn't have the frog, so he got me the leopard instead. We named him Burgess, because we kept seeing that word or name all over the place. But I always call him Mr Leopard. So perhaps that means I got him the frog after that? Who knows. Anyway, that leopard has stayed with me ever since, and every once in a while, when I visited my ex, I would see Mr Frog, and I would feel a pang. Of what, I don't know.


My college friends will also remember Blankie, my infamous stuffed sheepdog. I got him on my fourth birthday. I named him Blankie because he was the same color and texture (white, slightly knobby) as my favorite childhood blanket. I loved him, of course.Even though one time when I was eight or so, he fell behind the little sofa upstairs in my dad's house, and a line of his tatted fur was toasted from the heater.

I probably forgot about Blankie while I was trying to grow up, but I found him in plenty of time for college. He came with me and when I hung out with friends in the tv lounge, I brought Blankie with me. People made fun of him, because they didn't know what he was supposed to be, and because he was smushed and very old-looking. But I defended him and loved him still. He was a great companion.


When I left for AmeriCorps after college, you can bet that two of the most important things I brought were Blankie and Mr Leopard. They lived in my bed with me, and my new burgundy flannel sheets and flannel blankets. I had plenty of time with them, since our first project was local.

However, when it came time to pack my Red Bag for spike second round, I knew that my two friends would not fit. And I felt a little dorky insisted to carry around and sleep with my two stuffed animals. My teammates, at least some of them, already knew that I had them, but I didn't bring them.

That first night in New Jersey, sleeping in Chimney Cabin's front room, in a sleeping bag covered with a pile of moth-flaked wool blankets, with three other girls nearby, I felt lonely and strange in that twin bed. I didn't like being alone while sleeping.

Two or three days later, we made our first of very many trips to the nearby Wal-Mart. The most important thing on my list to buy was a companion. Thankfully, I found one: a plush orca whale. It was the perfect size for hugging, and it was only ten bucks. I bought it and that night I was so happy to have a new friend.

On all my spikes, and yes, even when I went on disaster relief, my whale was with me. It sat with me in the van with my pillow, squashed among my teammates on those long drives from one place to another. The whale went through the security checkpoint with the rest of my on-board belongings. Remember, I was twenty-three years old at this point. The people I met while clutching that whale never made fun of me; in fact, they loved the whale as much as I do. Perhaps they felt a longing to return to the childish place where our friends don't have to be real people and a little token like a whale can mean the world to us, like a little bit of home or consistency that goes everywhere we do.


I'm sure that now you can guess what some of the things were that I packed in my suitcase when I flew out to New York. I only had room to pack one of my stuffed friends in that suitcase; the others must have been put in one of the boxes I had shipped. But I made sure to have at least one of them available to comfort me on my first night in a new city, in a new apartment, and a new bed (with no bedding, as it turned out).


I don't care that I'm an 'adult.' My friends know me and that I keep these stuffed animals. They find a way to love me and laugh at me even though that part of me has never grown up. I can't imagine ever outgrowing those. Many of you don't actually know me in the 'real world,' and I should probably care that I'm revealing this to you, but I don't. You can laugh, I don't mind. You can roll your eyes or you can say, "hey, thank god I'm not the only one!"

To date, the best part of getting into bed is hugging my stuffed animals. All three of them are in that twin bed with me every night; it would feel large and empty and alien without them. Each of those three has a story behind them, and those stories are intricately woven into the story of who I was, who I became, and who I am now.

Friday, May 13, 2005

wow, am i glad it's friday

My brain is so fried lately.

Class C is pretty damn cute. They kind of made my day on Wednesday. Two of them appointed themselves my assistants. They bustled around, doing the things I normally do. It was awesome, since I was tired from just having Class B for two periods in the afternoon, ie, hell.

Yesterday I put in some wee pigtails in my hair. As Class C and I were getting ready to enter the classroom, this one boy giggled at me, "You look like Miss Daisy!" I looked at him strangely and he continued, "You know, from Driving Miss Daisy?" I just shook my head. No, I don't know how or why urban sixth-graders have even heard of that movie, either. But, pretty funny!

As a special treat for them, I read a story instead of having normal reading workshop. I still made them make connections and inferences, though. I read Chris Van Allsburg's The Wretched Stone. After I read it, and after we talked about connections, I asked them to infer the meaning of 'wretched,' and then to infer what exactly The Wretched Stone is. If you haven't read it, I don't want to ruin it or anything. It's kind of parable-ish, about a ship that found a mysterious stone. It emits a strange glow, which entrances the crew, who then ignore their duties and turn into apes. After a big storm, the stone's glow is gone, and the captain reads and plays music for the crew. Soon they become human again.

So, this week we've started poetry. On Monday we did acrostics. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were haiku, and today I introduced cinquain. I had never heard of it before, but it seems alright. The kids are writing some really good poems. One boy wrote a hilarious, and politically aware cinquain today:

A dictator
Killing his own people
A bleeping bleep that no one likes

Ha! Awesome. He wrote it with the bleeps, actually spelled out just like that. Too funny. To keep track of these, I had them make Tiny Books. That way they can put them all in one place to see and celebrate their own work. And when it's time for the group project in a few weeks, they won't be intimidated.

Ho hum, I'm so glad it's Friday. I have been sleepy all week, as per usual.

Again, I'm sure I'd like to discuss my feelings and emotions and all that jazz....but see "fried, my brain."

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day!

A flower for you! Posted by Hello

Time flies when we're not at work

Damn, how is already Sunday evening? Shit.

I have nearly finished my first overdue paper. There's another one I need to do ASAP. Lest I think I'm actually done with all this work. And I put together all five lessons for my unit plan. There's some finishing touches to put on both, but I'm proud that I took time yesterday and today to get so much done. That means I can take my time finishing it up over the next two days.

Once again, have I done my own planning or grading or anything related to my actual JOB? Nope.

And holy cow, I am so tired. Perhaps it was the sugar wafers.

I woke up at 9ish and actually worked out at ten! I haven't done that for nearly three weeks, I believe. So that was fun. Feel that burn! Then I got some groceries, but only way later did I realize that I forgot the most important item--hot chocolate mix! That's my 'breakfast' every day. I'll have to stop by the store on my way home tomorrow.

Most of the afternoon was spent working. Pooh.

Feeling a little low and down, but my brain is so fried that I can't verbalize anything useful. All I've got is "blah."

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Teachers Appreciation blah blah

So, last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, supposedly led off by the specific Day. Well, harrumph.

Not harrumph because teachers shouldn't be appreciated. Obviously, I think all teachers deserve MUCH more than mere appreciation days and weeks--something more along the lines of massive pay raises and public adoration.

No, I say harrumph because who has time to sit and ponder and appreciate? What kind of namby-pamby can sit on their bums in MAY--nearly the end of the year, people! exciting but obviously beyond busy-- and pontificate on the meaning of teachers in today's society and one's own development? Not teachers, that's for sure! Our days are chock full of lists and lessons, doing and check homework, running around from one school to another to home, not EVER getting enough sleep and rest, having no personal life...

You want to show appreciation for teachers? Give us a goddamn DAY OFF!

Though most of us would only use it to get stuff done. Mm, sounds like a good idea. AmeriCorps team leaders get to take administrative time on Fridays, to work on paperwork and other stuff. If ONLY we had that luxury!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Squee--Guess What!

My mom and I have just booked plans for Christmas. To BARCELONA! And PARIS!

Six nights of European wintertime fantabulousness. Fucking yeah!

That is by far the best Friday news, EVER.

Let's see, how was today?

I told the kids that I would be counting up their classwork points, and would give rewards to people that got level 4s every day, and also a smaller reward for people that got all 3s and 4s. I gave out a whole lot, actually; around half of each class. That's pretty cool; that means most of my kids are doing a good job. Each kid got a good job note, and the all-4s kids got a special pencil and a lollipop. The kids always love candy, but I think they also do like just getting good job notes. Yeah yeah, positive reinforcement, blah blah blah...

We are working on character analysis in reading workshop, and today was the last day of narrative accounts (stories). Woohoo! We're done! Today was more peer editing/review stuff. Most of the kids were working. Some of the boys, not so much. But most, yeah. Good job.

I went to a workshop after school for literacy. I was so tired; I had trouble keeping my eyes propped open. But there's free dinner and $50 training pay, and we get tips and strategies and even free books. So it's a pretty good deal.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I need sleep....

Damn, I have been a walking zombie all day.

Class C gets to me. This one kid, Eager R, let's call him, is a tall, slender kid with a self-proclaimed "peanut head." He likes to help me by erasing the boards, or cleaning up the classroom, and we banter each morning as the class marches up the stairs, two at a time. He's a giggler, and it's loud and high-pitched. Very hyena-like. He's been freaking out about my hair; he keeps saying, "you don't look like you without your hair!" (It's perhaps three inches shorter!) and giving that giggle when he looks at me. Yesterday as we all walked down the stairs at the end of the day, he was saying to a girl, "We're looking for Ms C's hair! Where do you think it might be? Where would you be if you were Ms C's hair?"

This afternoon, in the hallway as class was starting, he stood next to me, perching his elbow on my shoulder, like an armrest. I actually didn't really notice for a minute or two, then I turned to him and gave him my raised-eyebrow look, and he moved his arm, saying, "Oh come on, Ms C, you know we're buddies." or something like that.

I had my hair up in a ponytail this afternoon, and a strand at the front was too short, so flopped out. I kept trying to flip it up or tuck it behind my ear. As I was at Table Six during independent reading, this girl C, who is a fashion diva, reaches over and plucks down the loose strand so that it hangs next to my face. She goes, "See, there you go. That's the sex." Maybe she actually did say "teh," which would be pretty funny. But regardless, I gave her a shocked teacher face, but then I broke out in a grin. Because I can't keep a straight face in that class to save my life. So then I'm laughing, and she's laughing, and soon the whole room is noisy. Ay.

I circled the room and returned to Table Six a few minutes later. C was like, "Ms C, you should follow my tip. I love fashion, and I love makeovers, and..." I rolled my eyes. Next to C, M piped up, "You're fine how you are." I patted her shoulder and said, "Aw, see? M is my friend; she likes me how I am." Then across the table, J said, "But you could be better." I gaped at him and said, "Are you calling me ugly?" Just to mess with him. The other kids heard and instantly the room filled with "OOH!"s. I giggled as I returned to the front of the room.

It was all pretty funny. I'm sure it doesn't help my professional image of authority when I crack up at almost anything. These days, with that class anyway, it's too hard; I start laughing at nearly any provocation.

The other day we were playing the dictation game with the sentence strips, for commas. I read each one only once, so that they would be forced to listen and pay attention. This time, the sentence I said was, "The movie, to tell the truth, was rather boring." And Table Three holds up their sentence strip: "Bumble bee, to tell the truth, was boring." I bowed my head, covered my eyes, and just laughed for a minute.


I had a seventh-grade coverage on Wednesday, first thing in the morning. You know that I hate seventh graders, and the only thing I hate more is eighth graders. They're all so big and think they're grown and show attitude and take out walkmen and cell phones and cards and all that shit. Anyway, so it's always with trepidation that I walk into any classroom filled with seventh or eighth graders.

But this one went well! My spiel (you can choose between an ELA test or a game) went over well, and though they were a bit chatty, they actually quieted each other each time I was about to read a question. I LOVE that! And when a class is cooperating and being nice, I let myself be more of me--the nice West Coast girl, instead of the stern, mean, NY transplant. And it's a happy cycle of goodness and learning. These kids were sharp with their science, which is cool.


My kids are finally gonna have to 'publish' their stories! Two and a half months, and a few kids have yet to turn in a single draft. Oh well. We started proofreading and editing today, and we will continue/finish tomorrow. They have one more chance to get feedback and make improvements on their stories. Monday, they will have to turn in their final, typed story. Yay!

Speaking of "yay!", next week we will get to start the poetry unit! Ms F and I put together an introductory lesson, so I've already got Monday taken care of! And I have made an outline of the order of types of poems that I want to teach (starting with more structured poems, then moving to magnetic poetry, and then to free verse), so the rest of the planning shouldn't be too tough. Sweet!

Like I said, it's been a very tired week. I shall be THRILLED when school is done tomorrow.
It's 9.30. I hope I can get to sleep, like, right now.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

My head hurts.

I finished my semi-big project that's due tomorrow. I'm mostly prepared for my presentation tomorrow. I did the recording for the reading diagnosis paper that was due before spring break. I've got some material for the unit plan that's due next week. I have an idea or two about the presentation next week.


Have I graded papers? Checked my lesson planning? NOPE.

Do I care? Not so much.

The homophone drawing and game went over swimmingly. Sweet! I might do more of it tomorrow instead of starting the editing, because if we edit stories in class, then that means I have to give back the drafts I received on Monday. And, ugh.

Did I mention that my head hurts?

Monday, May 02, 2005

I really need to be asleep right now

It's not even ten, but I literally tossed and turned ALL night last night. Thus, I hit a wall around 5.30, but pushed through in the hopes of getting to bed super early tonight. Ha, ha.

Today was the first day back after spring break. I arrived with short, straightened hair and contacts. The kids really noticed! They gaped and gawked and asked where my glasses were, if I got contacts, if I had on blue contacts, what happened to my hair, that kind of thing. It was pretty funny. Two kids in Class B said to me, "Excuse me, who are you? I've never seen you before." Heh. Goofs.

It was an easy teaching day; I gave a comma test, which I had to dictate because my overhead bulb went out again. Dammit. Then we played a game by tables, to see who could copy and correctly punctuate sentences. They were pretty willing to do that. I gotta remember that calling anything a game improves my standing in their eyes.

Teachers--invest in erasable sentence strips and a pack of small whiteboard markers. It's easy to use for these kinds of games, and the kids love using them!

Tomorrow I will do some homophone work, and then move on to editing/reviewing. Did I already say this yesterday? I think I did. Oh well. I also think I will do some dialogue practice, just like the comma game. See who can correctly punctuate bits of dialogue. Yeah, that would be cool. Time is the only problem, as usual.

I think for the bulletin board I shall use something about Mother's Day. Have them write a poem or a special memory of their mom or other female relative.

I'm nearly done with my big project that's due on Wednesday. My format is pretty casual, but I don't really know how to write out a mini-lesson. And, honestly, I don't care that much. I like what I've got, I found lots of resources that I printed out, and I'll have it finished on time.

Argh, I wanted to write some introspective stuff about teaching and talents/skills...but like I said, I should be asleep right now. I'll try to catch up tomorrow perhaps.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Special Wishes

Happy belated s-birthday to Kel!
Happy birthday to Jess!
Happy half-birthday to me!

Just over eight weeks of school are left in this crazy-ass year. It feels like we're so close to the end, and that two months is hardly anything. But eight whole weeks...dang. That's a lot of weeks.

One day at a time. Really gonna have to concentrate on that.

I wish I had a better plan of attack for going into class tomorrow. It's going to be a rough week, coming back from break and trying to get those stupid stories finished up. Not to mention our stupid "author study"/literature circles. Wish I could just axe those. Grr. I'll do my best to get that done as soon as possible.

I'll start with a test on commas, and then do a group game on them. Next will be homophones, I'll give it maybe one day. Then I've got to give them the rubrics and do some editing/peer reviewing. Wish us luck--we need to get through all of that shit in five short days!

And oh crap! Bulletin boards are due Friday! Shit.

The next two weeks are busy ones for my own courses; I spent the better part of yesterday getting three projects started. I have a project due (ten mini-lessons on current events) on Wednesday, a presentation to do, and an overdue reading diagnosis to START. The next Wednesday, there's a huge unit plan due and a literature extension activity/presentation.

Thank god our testing is over. Once we finish the stories, we'll finally get to start a poetry unit! I'm excited for that, and I think the kids will be too.

I'll really have to push myself to get all this work done. It never ends!