Wednesday, November 30, 2011

working conditions

I work in a great place.

I started in mid-October 2010 and immediately felt at ease with everyone that worked there. My weird sense of humor and sarcasm was right at home with my coworkers', and most days there is a lot of laughing. Really great people. Also sometimes there is cake.

Over the last thirteen months, a handful of people have left or moved, and a lot more people have joined us. They are all also good people, and there's still plenty of laughing. But it's still a little different, less of a small group/family kind of feeling as we expand.

Regardless, I feel very lucky to have this job where I get to hang out with smart, interesting, funny people. I don't make much money at all, but the environment and pace of the work make it almost okay.

In my last two years of teaching at charter schools, I knew that my colleagues were fantastic and interesting people too, but I never got to really see them. We were all penned up in our classrooms for ten to twelve hours a day. A good job--teaching or not--isn't about the money near as much as about how you feel when you're at your job, and how your coworkers get to interact and make you think or laugh. A good set of school supplies is an excellent perk, but it doesn't compare to a commiserative laugh.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the best things about me

1. I'm good at ideas. 

I love brainstorming. Occasionally I get these sudden visions or ideas, and very occasionally I get to see those visions carried out. I work for an educational/technology company and a few weeks ago I had some thoughts about new products. I took notes and added more details and I think they are super awesome. I shared it with a few people at work, including the person in charge of new products. He seemed happy to hear my ideas and passed them along. Not sure if anything will come of it, but I'm still excited about the ideas. I was sort-of put on the marketing team because of my ideas this summer. I have lots of photography visions that are much tougher to pull off, lacking certain geographical or costume elements. But I do keep a list in hope that someday I'll be able to realize it. 

2. I'm honest.

Some people are fake and/or not genuine. It doesn't cross my mind to lie, so I tell the truth. Not at all in a "I say that I'm honest but really am just a brash asshole" way, more like "I'm too innocent and I follow the rules" way. So you know what you get with me, in a genuine way.

3. I'm passionate.

When I'm reading or thinking or talking about things I love (travel, photography, books, my ideas), I can feel my face light up. Sometimes I hop or dance in excitement. Often I continue to think/brainstorm about them while I should be sleeping or doing other important things.

4. I love to laugh.

5. It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Music? Something to read? Cozy chair or sofa with blankets? Maybe something to crochet and/or watch on tv? Someone nice and fun to chat with? A good hug? Pick any one or several of those things and I'm happy. Easy peasy.

6. I'm a cheap date/friend. 

I don't drink very often, and I can't seem to stomach more than a few drinks when I do. I never order entrees and usually get just a salad and maybe one side (though I often want dessert), so even at a fancy restaurant, my portion of the bill is small. (Not that you'd be paying for me. But you know, for my husband, or if someone is footing the bill for a group, like a work event.)
I don't want fancy or expensive things (unless you count plane tickets?). I don't give a shit about status symbols, having the latest gadget or trendiest shoes or whatever. I don't want presents even; experiences are way better than things. Though if you want me to experience having a few more camera lenses, I guess I don't mind...

7. Do you need help? I can help you.

I like helping people. I also like teaching people to do things, if they need it. I like helping people figure out what they want. 

8. I like learning things. 

I've subscribed to National Geographic and Smithsonian since 2004 (actually, someone subscribed me to NatGeo that year, still not sure who--maybe my great-aunt?), and I love reading them and finding out small bits of information or in-depth looks at historical events, current events (though I can't seem to do this in newspapers or online news), or geographical features. I know this was one thing I did well as a teacher--made it clear how much I loved learning and reading, and that it shouldn't stop just because you're not a student.
Sadly no one else I know reads these magazines (I don't know why! They are so fascinating! You should read them!), but occasionally I can talk to people about a NYT article or a New Yorker piece that the husband tells me I should read.

Monday, November 28, 2011

the worst things about me

1. I'm a Negative Nelly.

Seriously, I hate everything. I roll my eyes at everything else. So much makes me cranky. Traffic. Too many commercials. Slow-moving people. Trends. The word "trendy". Spoiled and/or entitled people. Children's names with excessive vowels or cre8tyve spyllinge. Toms Shoes. The smell of turkey. Hearing grown people say the word "totes" as in short for "totally." That one song, oh and that other one. 98% of reality television. This new Blogger format with the incorrect cursor. The Facebook "top story" bullshit. The term "social media." Incorrect use of the phrase "mano a mano"--it means hand to hand, not man to man! Sheesh!

I could go on for days...

I'm also highly suspicious of most everything.

2. I am bad at talking.

I am terrible at chatting with people. I listen but I don't know how to ask questions or something, to encourage more conversation. So I'm sorry. I really do want to talk to you, but I don't know how.

Either that, or I get started on a stupid topic and can't think of others. Like teaching. Probably half the people I know must think, "OH MY GOD SHUT UP ABOUT TEACHING ALREADY--IT'S OVER." If you're one of them, ack, I'm sorry!

Also, I am terrible at debating, because even when I have things to say, I can never say them right. Harrumph. Facebook politics make me itchy for this reason.

Even more, I only have like three stories. And two jokes. I'm terribly unoriginal and unwitty 99% of the time.

3. I'm a dumbass.

I do lots of stupid shit. (My last big one was locking my key into my gym locker.) I also say a lot of stupid shit, without realizing it. Sometimes I find out that I've offended someone or irritated someone, and then I am so anxious and sorry about--I promise, I didn't mean it! I'm just dumb! Sorry! I'm sorry!

4. I make excuses.

See? I should somehow know better than to say dumb things before they come out. Also, my knee hurts. And I have a headache again.

5. I'm lazy.

Can't go to the gym if my knee hurts. Can't I sleep in? Waah, I'm so tired. But instead of doing reading that could make me more interesting or more knowledgeable, I browse flickr. Instead of writing thoughtful blog posts, I flip through Jezebel and Gothamist on googlereader. I stay up late doing nothing important instead of going to bed at a reasonable time.


My face is crooked and my neutral expression looks unhappy. Also, it turns red. Like, all the time, any time. Sometimes I can feel it, but the horror I've learned this year is that my face turns red without me even realizing it! What the heck! Seriously, it's been making me really anxious lately. I hate my face. Also, it manages to be both shiny and too dry. Lovely.

7. I have trouble letting go. 

Often I don't leave parties early because I don't want to miss out. I don't want to be the nineteenth wheel the next day when everyone is laughing about this one shared experience that you really had to be there for. I average over a thousand pictures a month, and many of them could be deleted. But...what if, you know? Maybe in a year I'll want three versions of that tree branch, and five versions of me standing in front of it. Argh. I have lots of books. I brought a handful with me when I moved here, leaving probably five boxes in my dad's garage. Now I have almost two full bookshelves filled with books. I've been able to get rid of the ones I don't like and that I know I won't read or read again...but that's not been very many. I hold onto books for probably too long, because what if I want to read them again?

On either the flip side or more of the same, I have trouble being in the present. I'm very guilty of only looking ahead, looking forward to something else that's different and therefore better than whatever's happening now. It's hard to slow down and experience things fully. 

8. I'm basically an old person.

I hate loud noise and loud music. I hate crowds. I hate being out late on a school night. Half the time I probably can't hear you. I am often covered in aches and pains.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Look, I enjoy the holiday season. I keep Christmas music on my ipod year-round because I like it so much. (My favorite songs are O Holy Night and Do You Hear What I Hear?)

I was alarmed to see Christmas decorations go up literally the day after Halloween. I saw a Christmas tree at the Atlantic Terminal mall two weeks ago. Gingerbread house kits at Costco several weeks before that! I have a problem with all this jumping forward and extending the consumerism of the Christmas season by the retail industry. It makes me cranky; it just shouldn't be this way.

I'm also kind of alarmed how quickly so many regular people (as opposed to the stores) are jumping into Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving, it seems like everyone started showing off their Christmas trees. I know that technically Christmas season can start after Thanksgiving, and that some people start decorating asap. But this year it seems like all the people. Like everyone's been holding their breath waiting until the first possible moment to hurdle into Christmas. I don't know, it's just weird. It's all too fast! Too much!

We'll put up our fake tree and buy a real one across the street. We'll take out our ornaments, adding special ones from this year to our collection. I'll starting gathering/replacing strands of fairy lights. We'll put out our Advent calendar that has treat boxes. I'll listen to Christmas songs on purpose instead of hearing them occasionally on shuffle. But it will be December when all this happens.

Please don't be offended; I'm a cranky old lady. Who will eventually get into the holiday spirit.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

and we're back

Here are those stars I mentioned yesterday (they're a bit blurry).

There is no better guarantee that I will feel burning hatred for New York City than making me slog through Penn Station after getting back from a quiet, peaceful trip. Harrumph.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I like vacation

Today was a great day. There was ice cream and sunshine and millions of stars.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful for many things this year:
--My husband, who is cute, funny, supportive, and gives great hugs
--My family, who are pretty great people
--My husband's family, who are all very kind and have taken me in as one of their own
--Their kitty, who is very cute and likes me a lot:

--My colleagues, who are fantastic, interesting, and funny people
--Various friends scattered about the country and globe
--My two jobs, for keeping me busy
--The water pressure that got fixed after four months
--Time to sleep in this weekend
--Anyone who still reads this blog!

I hope you are having a good Thanksgiving wherever you are!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm on a train

We're heading out of state to visit the mister's parents. Look at all this room! I've totally overpacked activities because I'm always paranoid about getting bored. So I have four books and three craft projects, plus my new sudoku book. That should be plenty for four days, right? :)

If you're traveling for the holiday, have a safe trip! Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the state of my (online) library

Today I completed one of my big 2011 goals!

I completed my 100th book of the year. Goodreads happened to offer a challenge that would track everything for you, which was a big help so I didn't have to count up my written list all the time.

I chose Charlotte's Web for book #100. Somehow I made it through childhood without ever reading it. It was at the top of the 100 Best Children's Books the other year, and I figured it would be an appropriate book for this special position on the list. It did not disappoint. What a wonderful book! The writing is clear and clever, and even educational (I love the vocabulary that kids can learn from reading this!), and the characters really come to life. It is so sweet and I can just imagine how enchanted a child would be reading this. If I ever have kids, I will surely read this one aloud to him or her.

Other notables from my year's reading:

I read eleven nonfiction books this year, and eight of them were first-person memoirs.
  • My favorite by far was Bossypants, in audio, by Tina Fey. She is awesome but also hilarious. I want to be like her when I grow up. (I look forward to listening to Mindy Kaling's new book; I have a feeling I also want to be her when I grow up.)

I read a few grown-up literature books this year, including:
  • My favorite discovery was the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde (the first of which is The Eyre Affair). Fun adventures and clever wordplay? Yes please! I've read five of the books this year; the sixth just came out this spring.

Most of what I read was/is young adult literature. Don't scoff; some of it is amazing! (And some of it is stupid [I have never read Twilight, I don't intend to, and its very existence makes me angry].) I've read both types this year, some for the two YA book clubs I joined. Some of the ones I liked most were:
  • the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan: Greek myths come to life, fast-paced adventures for middle-grade girls and boys alike. There are five books; I can't wait to read the last one!
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: a fun satire of modern pop culture mixed with a girl version of Lord of the Flies. Fun for any high schooler.
  • LinkForge by Laurie Halse Anderson (sequel to Chains): A must-read by one of the best historical-fiction writers for young adults. Get an up close look at slavery and the Revolutionary War in the New York area.
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts and Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko: You simply have to read these. Life on Alcatraz is fascinating enough, but the characters seem so real, and the plots are alternately touching and adventurous. Fantastic reads for boys and girls (and their parents!).

Other outstanding YA books that you should absolutely read no matter how old you are:

Monday, November 21, 2011

How to Find Your Passion

Sometimes the Oprah magazine has pieces that strike a chord with me, like the de-cluttering issue awhile back. The November 2011 theme was Find Your True Calling.

I grabbed a notebook and took notes on the section titled: O's 4-step Fulfillment Workbook:

When I was a kid, I dreamed of: gymnastics
I can't pass up a book or movie about: dancing?
If I played hooky from work for a week, I'd spend the time: sleeping in, reading, taking photos
Most people don't know this about me, but I really enjoy: singing, organizing things
I am the go-to person when my friends need help with: not applicable. no one asks me for help.
If I could star in my own how-to TV show, it would be about: travel
If I were to make a homemade gift, it would involve: crochet or baked goods
I've tried it only once or twice, but I really enjoy: dance classes
The closest I come to a runner's high is when I'm: brainstorming ideas; taking portraits
If I won first prize in a talent show, it would be for: what, right now? no idea

The next step is comparing each side by side and declaring a 'winner', then moving "round the world" style until you have one overall winner.

For one thing, this list was kind of hard for me. I've never been good at favorites, ultimates, or instant answers to these kinds of questions.

Some of the answers are pretty dumb, in that they're easy to eliminate from my "true passions." --Gymnastics was a pipe dream that I realized was futile at 13.
--Dancing is wonderful, I love it. But I don't have talent, time or money to pursue it. (I happened to walk past the Capezio store the other day and looked with longing at the photos and outfits.)
--I only sing when people aren't listening.
--I'm not always a very neat person. But I get such a kick out of making a big old mess, dumping everything out, and then sorting through, cleaning up, and making it all organized. But I don't have the drive or desire to make a hobby or career out of it.
--I'm not very good at baking or crocheting; they're fun hobbies to play with sometimes.
--Travel is definitely a passion of mine. I don't think it's a career possibility, though. Regardless, I will continue to 'pursue' it as a hobby. (We're talking about a late spring Europe trip for next year, in fact.)
--I love brainstorming. I don't think you can do that as a job.
--The big duh winner is photography.

See, I knew that already. Which rarely happens for me. But there are still problems. Observe:

I worry that I'm incompetent.
I worry that this is just a phase and temporary obsession.
On the other hand, I began photographing outside of hobby-land in early 2009, and it's almost the end of 2012.
So Jesus Christ, shouldn't I be further along by now?
Oh god, does that mean I'm terrible?
I have a real website.
It probably sucks.
I don't have any marketing skills.
I can't bring myself to subscribe/read/buy all those internet marketing guides.
It's really beyond my purview right now anyway, as
I don't have any clients.
I want clients.
But I don't want just anything; I do believe I'm worth being paid fairly for my skill and time.
There are people paying thousands of dollars for photography. I'm not worth that (yet), but I think I'm worth at least hundreds or so.
I don't have an "in" to my target market with friends or family. And/or I'm too chicken to bug people about it.
I want to be successful.
You can't swing a camera in New York without hitting five photographers, at least three of whom are probably better than me.
I have seen some photographers' work that I am comfortable saying I'm as good as if not better.
But most of them are better.
Should I beg and plead to become a free third-shooter?
But when would I have time for that? I'm already working six days a week.
And yet I'm still poor.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

happy sunday

I swear I have thoughtful posts in the hopper. If hopper refers to the edges of my brain.

This weekend I did baby shoots both days.

I'm really ready for some days off.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

when are we?

I am terrible with time. Must stem from my terrible memory. I rarely know what day it is (kind of fun when I suddenly realize or remember that it's Friday; less so when I think it's time for the weekend on Monday night), and in my head I'm usually a few months behind.

So the fact that it's suddenly dark by 5pm is not only surprising, but downright depressing. How is it that late in the year already? I guess it's winter. This week I had to break out a hat, and on a couple days I needed gloves, at least in the evening. Except that tomorrow will be 63, what's up with that?

It's also a bummer for photos. Taking a picture every day is easier when there's still several hours of daylight to play with after getting home from work. Now that that's out of the question, I've been phoning it in. Literally, with my iPhone camera. Here's a shot from Friday morning, which was sunny and crisp and the perfect late fall day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

hush your face, siri

The whole talking phone thing creeps me out. Here's why.

1. What, can't we talk to people anymore?!

2. It's called an encyclopedia. Or, you know, the entire internet. You're telling me that a kid who's curious about a particular animal is going to ask a phone-bot instead of looking it up on wikipedia?

3. It's like we're living in the future--the bad future. Didn't the Terminator movies teach anyone anything?! Is it really a good idea to start having conversations (well, two-sided ones; who hasn't yelled at their computer?) with our technology? College Humor once again nails it (NSFW).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

nine years ago...

...the Thursday before Thanksgiving, our AmeriCorps *NCCC term ended.

I'm pretty sure I've babbled before, many times, about the crazy, incredible adventures of that year. It was the hardest and most amazing thing I'd ever done. My team put up with my weird and crazy self--I am much less crazy now, if you can believe it; I was pretty up and down all the time that year. And since I'd always had family issues, I couldn't believe how it felt to have these people as my new family. Through good times and bad, I knew they would be a part of me forever. God bless them, they still talk to me all these years later.

One of the boys always sends out an email at this time saying hi and giving updates. The other day after getting the email, I put up a note on Facebook. Most of my wonderful teammates responded with brief memories and snapshots from our year together. It made me so happy to read these--not just the nostalgia, but it was like suddenly hearing other people speak your own language again. NCCC lives mostly in my head and in all my photos (I took 33 rolls of film in ten months! Back then that was a lot. Now, of course, I take that in one long trip.), so to hear (well, read) other people referencing the same things, it's like, oh yeah, that all really happened, I didn't imagine it, look at these great people that I shared those things with. I was filled with love for my teammates.

Such a gift! Happy nine years, friends. I can't wait to see everyone all together again soon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the state of my wallet

Today my paycheck included a huge reimbursement.

Tonight I paid off the credit card that's been carrying a balance since June (payments and charges since then).

I also paid the first bill in full for the new JetBlue American Express card that I got. (I wonder where I'll take my free trip next year?!)

I even have some money left over. (Of course, it will go toward expenses at the end of the month.)

It may be another month before I fully feel the relief to be in balance again. (Maybe I will find a few dollars for my long-neglected Roth IRA?)

Phew. (Whew.)

Monday, November 14, 2011


A year or two ago I bought this 'light and easy' sudoku book, and this week I got through the 140 of them (ten more are 'moderate')! I completed 92 of them, and the rest I either messed up or abandoned.

I've gone weeks or months without doing any puzzles. But for the last week or so, I was really in a zone; I kept doing sudoku instead of finding books to read. I realized that I did it for all three hours of a long commute day the other day! It's kind of hypnotic, thinking about those damn squares.

I bought a new book yesterday--it's empty and waiting!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

the state of my bum

On Friday, I did something very exciting. I came home from the gym and did this:

I have a little calender where I give myself a sticker every time I work out or am active. (Like on Saturday, where we walked probably three miles around town, even though it wasn't taxing.) That visual reward seems to work fairly well for me.

Though I'd been faithful about going to the gym once a week since we joined last September, in April I realized that it wasn't making much of a difference. I told myself I needed to go twice a week. And except for a really busy end of August, I have kept up with that.

So even though it doesn't mean anything numbers-wise, it's kind of exciting to finish off a whole sheet of stickers and know that it represents me working out or at least working on a goal of being more active!

What about results? Yeah...I don't know about that. I take a phone shot of the scale after my workout (at the gym; we don't have one at home), so that I could see/track any changes. I haven't been scientific about it, but recently I saw one from last October, and I was around 143. Now I'm around 148. And for a few weeks I was just over 150! That is the very highest range for me, and it's a little depressing to know that I've gained weight over the last year, while working out.

I am in my thirties now (I'm 32! What the heck!), and I've started to see the truth in the metabolism slow-down that happens. I'd hoped that by kicking up the workouts a bit, that would help. I guess not so much. Though I do use weights and when I was young I felt pretty muscular. In my head I'm still like that; the mirror sometimes tells me a different story. (But some days, like Friday, I was feeling kind of good about the reflection. But maybe that's just the flattering workout clothes. In my pj's I promise I look and feel fatter.)

Which brings me to another goal for 2011: track everything I eat for a week. Just because.

I searched on my iPhone for an app and the first one I saw was SparkPeople. It's a whole diet and fitness tracker, which is way more than I was looking for. (I hate the word diet and I've never been on one, and I don't ever plan to start.) But I was game for the challenge and gave it a go.

I actually kept it up for two or three weeks. The food tracking was kind of fun, in a sorting kind of way. And it was interesting to know how many calories were in the things that I eat. (I was impressed every time I ate a banana or apple or salad how few calories are in Real Food.) It took me a week to realize that my daily calorie goal was 1570-1920 and how low that is! That's not a lot of food. (Again, Real Food helps. So does water. [Oh my goodness, two weeks ago I suddenly tried water with half a fresh squeezed lemon--so delicious!]) But it makes sense, since that's a diet program, that you have to cut down on calories, or at least manage them.

I found two things, neither of which are surprising:
1. A few times I decided not to eat a snack or extra nibble because I knew I had to keep track of it.
2. There were plenty of times that I was full or at least not hungry, and therefore didn't need to eat. Some days I was a little surprised at how few items were on my list of meals/snacks.

And a third duh one: Going out to eat really screws you up! There were a couple times that we went out and my calories were over 3,000 for the day!

Baking doesn't help either. Or parties. Last week at our party I had lots of nachos and two pieces of that delicious Costco cake. This past week I've had more cake, plus cookies and brownies. My tummy thanks me but my thighs won't!

The fitness tracker was also fun; I liked burning more than the "daily goal" in my trip to the gym. (Though I was irritated that you only get credit for calories in cardio and not for strength as well; that's not fair.) They give you suggested exercises and you can watch demos too. I sometimes feel at a loss with free weights and abs (because I do the same few things every time), so I was glad to have some new suggestions. I started tracking some more things with the GPS on RunKeeper and found that I do a fair amount of walking in general, just to the train and around to errands and things. I should get a pedometer; that would help motivate me to keep moving.

This past week I petered out on the whole thing. I didn't exactly have a goal when I started; I was curious about my eating habits. I'm not sure that I want to or need to continue tracking (that's a lot of effort for not dieting).

I do have some takeaways that I need to be better about focusing on:
1. I would like to get back to 145 at the highest, closer to 140 if possible.
2. To do that, I need to be active three times a week.
3. I need to be better about eating fruit and veggies.
4. I'm a grazer; sometimes I feel like I eat all day long. I need to temper that with more water and healthier snacks. (Nuts are great, but man, they will eat up your calories!)
5. I also need to eat less often and pay attention to the times that I am or am not hungry.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

fall day

I took today off, and took myself to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Did you know that it's free on weekdays for the season? I wandered around for a couple hours enjoying the fall colors.

Happy 11/11/11!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Tonight I got on the 4 train and sat down near a mom and kid. The little boy was doing his homework. I peeked at his notebook and I think he was in third grade. He was so little and adorable. He was one of those boys--we've all had a million of them--who is kind of disorganized and scatterbrained, always losing papers, has sloppy uneven handwriting, is a little unkempt, and who is small in size but not in heart. It was almost impossible to A) not put my arm around him and B) ask if he wanted some help with his math.

A few weeks ago--more like a month really?--I visited a school and got to teach a class about our program. They were sixth graders (I taught 6th graders for four years), and they were so small and goofy and earnest. It was so much fun to teach them again! All of my teacher instincts came back, my teacher voice, I found myself doing my quiet signal.

I was all psyched up afterward, like I used to be after one of my long teaching days. I felt like I missed teaching.

Looking back on my own experience, and reading about other teachers' experiences, I really don't know how good a teacher I ever was. I think I had moments of good, but I don't think my students knew me enough or trusted me enough. Every year I came to love almost all of them, but I wasn't the right kind of caring to them. And what does it mean that there were always a few kids I really didn't like? Aren't teachers supposed to be above that? (In my head I roll my eyes and remind myself that teachers are human too.) Or at least able to fake it enough? Oh, and how about that I was never good with the parents? I often felt like I was doing everything wrong on that front.

So yeah, I don't know. Teaching is still in my head; I guess it will never go away. I know I don't want to teach in New York. I often wonder in the back of my mind if I'd ever try again living in a new place.

None of this is news to you. But if you're out there reading this, chances are you're either a teacher now or you were one. Maybe I need advice, though I don't know about what, exactly.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Today was a better day, so to celebrate it let's talk sweets.

Remember those apples we picked? Last month I did get around to making a pie--an apple crumb, to be precise. I bought the crust, chopped the apples, pulsed some stuff in the food processor, and bam, delicious!

We still had a handful of apples left over, so a week or two after the first one, I tried another recipe. This was an apple crisp. It was also delicious!

Almost forgot--made some seasonal sugar cookies for the party last week (bats, trees, and hearts). They were a hit at the office yesterday.

Last and certainly not least, I bought myself a Costco cake for my birthday. :) YUM!

Monday, November 07, 2011

I hate today

Someone linked to this post yesterday: It's Okay if You Suck at This

I woke up on a bad note today (by a loud noise on our roof--it happens every fucking morning) and then the afternoon got worse as I felt confused and frustrated, and then even more so when Excel proved too much for me. I am over it. (Not Excel, but the day.) It feels like everything started going badly and then I spun myself into a funk. And this doesn't happen at work, at least I don't recall so.

So I came home and ate cookies and faced the fact that while I need a good rant or fit (or a good workout, if I was a healthier person), I have a bunch of photos that I have to process tonight.

It is really frustrating that it seems like I'm working all the time and yet I am so fucking poor. Over. It.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

party animal

I made a goal to host two "parties" this year. I kind of hate the word 'party' because in my head, it conjures up:
--a child's birthday party
--popular high school people
--a lot of people
--noise, crowds, dancing

And I do not have (or in the last case, want) any of those things. So "gathering" is a better word, I guess? But that sounds pretentious.

Two Christmases ago, we had a pretty big gathering at our place, and there was like a total of 30 people who came and went over the course of the evening. That was fun and pretty exciting. There was a lot of wine consumed!

I wanted to do one at the end of May with some former colleagues to celebrate spring and the end of t3sting season, but I never got around to it and I was afraid none of them really liked me after all and no one would show up.

I decided to do a little thing for my birthday. I sent out the invites a good month in advance, since it's such a crazy busy time of year. As always, I was worried no one would come, or even worse, that only a couple people would come. It turned out to be 10-12 or so, which was a nice number. It was a pretty quiet evening, but that's kind of standard, I guess. Anyway, it was fun, and there was cake. I really appreciated that some people made it!

One excellent side benefit of having people over is that it forces me to look at our apartment without my blinders on. I gave away a stack of things that had been piled in a corner for weeks. I moved some little things so the edges of floors were clearer. It made our place look so much more streamlined and attractive! I am motivated to continue keeping things as de-cluttered as possible. Which means continue getting rid of and organizing all the crap that I have.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

down with pop culture

I've long hated reality television. I remember when Survivor started and all the drama that was shown in advertising clips--I found it distasteful and uncomfortable. I used to watch MTV's Road Rules (fun! adventures!) and Real World, back when they tried to force the people to have a job and do something. There were a few casting specials, and I remember that the producers were fairly transparent about choosing people who would make a good story (ie, stir the pot and cause scenes).

Now there are all these awful shows that venerate ridiculous yelling and drama, or even violence and bad behavior. Take this with a boulder of salt because I don't watch any of them, but when I see ads for Bad Girls' Club, the Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, those kind of shows, my lip curls in disgust. It's seriously gross what these shows do for the media, and don't do for humanity.

Today someone posted this article on Facebook: "Why Kim Kardashian's Divorce is Good for America and Women."

An excerpt:

So, what do these shows teach us? To start, that all a groom needs to qualify as “Prince Charming” is a fat wallet (why, hello there, “Joe Millionaire”). That “every girl” wants to—and can--become a “princess” bride, so long as she is skinny, vapid, and emotionally undemanding (the longest-running dating franchise, ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” set this template early). TV networks have collaborated with embedded advertisers to convince us that the only thing "real women" should aspire to is becoming “Mrs. Something” (as a former Miss USA contestant put it on “Who Wants to Marry My Dad"). And that ludicrously expensive weddings are the key to lifelong happiness, no matter what happens behind the scenes.

It’s tempting to laugh all this off as harmless fluff, but the impact is real. Dating shows in particular portray women as bitchy, catty and desperate. These shows also tend to exclude intellectual, professionally accomplished women--preferring contestants like a bubby 24-year-old on "The Bachelor," who promised she’d “make the best wife” because “I will be a servant to him.” According to a recent Girl Scouts survey of 1,100 girls, young women who regularly watch reality TV are more likely than non-viewers to “accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying” in their lives. They’re also significantly more likely to believe that “It’s in girls’ nature to be catty and competitive with one another,” that "It’s hard for me to trust other girls,” and that girls “have to compete for a guy’s attention.”

The article linked to this article about a new documentary that I want to see but also sounds really difficult to watch:

It makes me sad and angry that shows like this exist, that they have huge viewerships, franchises, and "fame." It seems like they multiply every year, and the producers manufacture more and more drama, and the American populace grows dumber and grosser every time they grin delightedly when watching shows about people being shitheads. People think they can be complete assholes and instigate all kinds of ridiculousness, while claiming "I'm just honest!" I hate all of it.

I do watch the Amazing Race, which is technically a reality show. And there is certainly an element of drama that they highlight as teams bicker or fight with each other or with other teams. And I hate those parts. They make me really unhappy and uncomfortable. Happily, most of the show revolves around interesting tasks in interesting places all around the globe, and I feel that overall, the show is about growth, personal strength, team unity, and endurance rather than showing off how mean people can be to each other.

I know it's stupid to get upset about something 'trivial' like television, but as that article points out, the effects on the viewers are real, and they are not good. I really want to find a way to just stop the stupidity.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Today's BlogHer prompt: When you are writing, do you prefer to use a pen or a computer?

It depends. For 'academic' writing, definitely computer. If there's a certain volume of material, it's just so much faster and efficient. I learned to type when I was a kid (on the PAWS program, back in the days of 5 1/2" floppies!), so I'm a quick typist (my students used to be in awe of me!).

But for certain creative things, nothing beats an actual writing utensil. If I need to work something out, like a creative idea or something, the tactileness (is that a word?) of holding a pen or pencil helps me think. Trying to type a creative idea feels colder, more impersonal, less easy to flow. And I do love me a list! I use the notepad feature on my iPhone, but it's definitely lacking in the ability to cross things off. (Obviously there are more apps for that, but eh, seemed like too much work to find the right one and make it work.)

I'd been thinking about organization lately. When I started at this job a year ago, I used a white legal pad. I'm almost through my third one now. But it wasn't very organized. Sometimes I made lists, sometimes I took notes from meetings or calls, I wrote phone numbers occasionally. It never felt very happy, organization-wise. A few weeks ago I finally felt frustrated enough to start thinking about other options.

Happily, I asked a colleague while on a work trip, and she showed me her planner. It's this one from Staples. Do you see the genius of it? The left side has a space for each day, but the right side is all notes. It's fantastic! We went to Staples and I found one on sale since it's already the end of the year, planner-selling-wise. I've been using it for a few weeks, and I love it! I make a list each day, and I check off my tasks as I complete them. I have space for notes during the week, about projects or ideas or what have you. My colleague uses earlier dates to take longer notes and then makes a 'table of contents' at the front. So on a team call, she dates the page and takes notes, and then marks that meeting at the front. Pretty smart, but I don't think I have a need for that quite yet.

Anyway, the pen/pencil/real writing factor makes my work life very clean, very easy, and very satisfying!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

things i've done so much in real life that i did them in my sleep

(in chronological order of occurrence)
1. play tetris

2. an uneven parallel bars routine

3. paint walls

4. teach
4a. write lesson plans
4b. discipline students

How about you?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

to blog or not to blog

That's been a question at the back of my mind for a few months now.

One of my goals for 2011 was to post something here at least once a week. Which I did, for over half the year. Though, many of the posts were lacking in meaningful content...I guess I was trying to cultivate a habit?

Sidebar: It really bugs me when someone writes, "New blog up today!" Blog=blog post. You most certainly did not create an entirely new blog on the internet today; you wrote a post on your existing blog. /end mild rant.

Remember that this thing began as a geocities site eleven years ago when I did my summer abroad. For the next couple years, I rambled about who knows what. Then there was AmeriCorps--full of adventures and excitement (both positive and negative) ripe for the telling. Finally, I moved to New York and started teaching. Back then, when no one was reading, this was a great way for me to reflect and record my lessons, student behavior, whatever random shit was floating through my mind. There was a clear purpose, a clear intent, and plenty of material; it was more a matter of time and effort to type it all out.

But now...most of the time I can't think of anything to say. In fact, here is an entire post about not knowing what to post about. There is no material, no purpose, and I'm not sure if there's an effort.

It's November 2nd, the second day of the annual 30-day writing challenge. Technically I could try doing the bloggy version and see if I can dredge up a new life for this dusty e-tome. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday today!

When I turned thirty, I dressed up and jumped at the Brooklyn Bridge.

Last year I tried to do thirty-one jumps on my thirty-first birthday, while wearing a cute dress. That plan...was a little overzealous, but I did get eight. :)

I'm excited to announce here the completion of one of my 2011 goals--thirty-one jumps before my thirty-second birthday. These jumps comprise different boroughs, states, and countries over three and a half seasons of the year. Hurray for jumping and birthdays!