Saturday, February 25, 2012

Photo Journal: A Happy Saturday Morning

Friday, February 24, 2012

The President Effect

On my fortieth birthday I would have gone out on a limb of vanity and said I looked 32 or 33. Okay, 35 tops. No one thought I looked my age, and that was, in part, how I had arrived at my look-like age estimate as mid to low 30s. That is to say I did not think people were just blowing sunshine up my ass; I agreed there was something still youthful about my face and appearance.

Now flash forward to me at 46. I've been looking through photos lately--some taken while in my thirties, others more recently--and I feel like I have more than caught up with my chronological years. In fact, in the last 5 years I feel like I've aged 10.

Earlier tonight I talked to Tamara and shared this observation with her. She agreed (quite enthusiastically) that this has been her experience as well: visibly aging in her forties--what feels like exponentially.

Hence The President Effect.

If it's not just me, but Tamara too (and others I won't mention until they admit it themselves), then maybe all those presidents we've seen age decades in a term or two have aged like that because we all just get to a time in our lives--job stress aside--in our mid-40s (Clinton was inaugurated at 46) or early 50s, when we start to look our ages. Any grace periods we had been given to defy the clock and look younger than we are come to a grinding halt and there's no fooling anyone anymore. Presidents just happen to get there in front of the cameras.

So that was my big aha moment today, my pearl of wisdom, my new theory. In fact, I think I just coined a new phrase, since I Googled it and nothing came up. Yep, pretty impressive since it's Friday and I've been in my pajamas since I got home...all while experiencing The President Effect.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pass on the Pączki

Fat Tuesday is over and today begins lent. And that means another season of hearing pączki mispronounced and made plural when it already is (singular pączek, plural pączki) is done. Amen.

I get that some sounds are hard to translate from one language to another, but pączki is not pronounced poonch-key. There is an oo sound in Polish, but it’s not what ą sounds like. I also understand there aren’t a lot of Polish-speaking people out there, but we all know how to order fajitas, right? And quesadillas? Even lasagna for that matter.

While we’re at it, let me say that gołąbki are not golumpki. It sounds like [ɡɔ-wɔmpki] and it, too, is already plural. But now I’m asking a lot. Let’s get back to pączki.

If it’s too much to ask to pronounce them  [pɔntʂhki] a perfectly acceptable alternative would be to call them Polish donuts. Just please don’t call them poonchki.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In Pursuit of Happiness

Just after the New Year began I started, in earnest, to imagine new possibilities for myself. I decided that I needed to stop acting and living as if this is all there is; this is all I can do. Not that my life is a bad one, but I had been feeling stuck. Dissatisfied and stuck.

This school year has been a particularly difficult year for me, and I have seriously questioned how much longer I can be a part of a profession that is so undervalued and disrespected. It is getting harder and harder to be a part of an institution where the onus for education is put on teachers, instead of shared with parents and students. Remaining a teacher to me feels a bit like being complicit in the unraveling of education, akin to what it would have been like to be in banking when they were selling bogus mortgages.

So I thought it was time to get serious about making a change. Or changes. I came up with a new writing plan, started doing affirmations and meditations again, and I set out to find some tools to help me. But until then, when the power of intention brings me that something else, what could I do to be happier now? Interestingly enough, I happened upon The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (in Anthropologie of all places) when I was out with Jonathan and Amanda, and it spoke to me. "When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” right?

Well, I love it. I am learning some new things (e.g., the opposite of happiness is not depression; it is unhappiness), being reminded of others, and taking notes as I go—collecting little gems and mantras and notes to myself on a bright and sunny note card cum book mark. Act the way you want to feel. Tackle a nagging task. Don’t expect praise. Enjoy now. I just finished March. Can’t wait for April’s bits of wisdom.

Click on the link above or download a sample on your iPad or Kindle and I’m sure you’ll want to buy it as soon as you finish “Getting Started,” especially if you, like me, could use a little more happiness in your life-- without setting off for Italy, India, or Indonesia. Says Gretchen Rubin, “I didn’t want to reject my life. I wanted to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen.”

Sounds worth trying, no?

Monday, February 20, 2012


I feel like this year has been a lesson in expectations. Perhaps it's more accurate to say it has been a series of lessons in not having any.

Expect snow in the winter--because you live in New England--and you'll get a whole lot of days with temperatures in the fifties and occasional rain. But don't rule out getting twenty inches in October.

Expect a February vacation when you've had them for fifteen years, and you'll get a single day off instead.

Expect to enjoy that day as a day of peace and quiet to do some housecleaning and lots of reading, and instead you'll clean to the sounds of construction in the unit below.

Lloyd Dobler (in Say Anything, an all-time favorite movie) said "if you start out depressed everything's kind of a pleasant surprise." I guess something similar can be said for expectations-- if you start out without any, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dragon Breath

I stopped to see my parents the other afternoon. Within a minute (maybe only a millisecond) of sitting down with my mother at the kitchen table she asked, "did you eat garlic today?"

And then some! Amy made roasted garlic soup and shared some with me and I loved every garlicky spoonful.

Great, I thought. My last period class (the one I had after I ate said yummy lunch) is probably on Facebook calling me Dragon Breath, starting a page Slay the Dragon, photoshopping my last yearbook photo so that I have flames coming out of my mouth. Or I'd become a character in someone's anime project.

Why couldn't a colleague be as honest as my mom? It's not as if I don't have 3 packs of gum in my desk on the ready, and another couple on purse. Wait, scratch that. My mother has also told me I need to go on a diet and other such stuff that--albeit true--I wouldn't want to hear on a daily basis. Especially if not from her.

A little while later I took my bad breath and a beautiful salmon filet that my mother gave me (that I planned to eat for dinner with spinach--and more garlic) home, grateful for my mother's honesty and generosity. I was also grateful for Amy's generosity and the delicious soup that held me until dinner.

And frankly, the moment passed. I was no longer concerned about what my students think of my breath.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

[Heart] Sharpies

rainbow of Sharpies

Few things in life become household names, the standard bearers that automatically capitalize when you type in Word, forgetting that they are actually trademarked brands: Kleenex, Xerox, Band-Aid. Yet I've used other tissues, copiers, and bandages. Without incident. But Sharpies? Is there really another option?

Nope. Not in my book. No friggin' way. Imitations need not apply.

I [heart] Sharpie markers.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Note to the Governor

Dear Governor Malloy,

I did not “just show up for four years” to earn my tenure. I imagine that the principal who evaluated my teaching for those four years, and provided feedback and support, and assigned mentors for me in my beginning years of teaching while I completed the state of Connecticut’s BEST(Beginning Educator Support and Training) program, would be as insulted as I am to hear you summarily demean what a teacher does to earn tenure.

I know you weren’t governor yet when the BEST program was around and new teachers all had to complete elaborate portfolios (which were similar to ones we all completed in graduate school to earn our Masters degrees and become certified to teach to begin with) and videos of ourselves in our classrooms—does any of that ring a bell?—but I know you have staff. And records. In fact you have a whole Department of Education that keeps records of our college and graduate school transcripts and certifications (which are tiered, by the way: initial, provisional, professional) and continuing education credits that we earn in professional development provided by our school districts. That is, you have access to the truth.

But shame on me for expecting you to do the homework rather than simply join in the blame game and blame the teacher. After fifteen years of teaching high school I know the type.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Winter Blahs

At this point in this rather bizarre "winter," with no snow days in sight and no February vacation on the horizon, I am ever so grateful that I have plans-- and plane tickets--to be in sunny California in April (where Jill still insists I should move). I'm flying into San Diego to spend the first few days with her, then I will move on to Los Angeles, to spend a few days with my cousins Lisa and Joanne and their families and will fly home from there.

Between now and then I have nine weeks to get through. Some of that time I'll spend doing not-so-pleasant things--like correcting lab reports, maybe dealing with another lunatic parent (more on that in my memoir, or maybe a future post), getting blood drawn and going to a doctor's appointment--but I know I will have some fun along the way, too. I have been reading three really good books (at the same time! unlike me to do that) and playing words with friends every night. I have some dinner plans coming up, Lord & Taylor is having a sale (and I have a coupon), and I figure Boston will beckon once or twice.

But chances are what I'll mostly be doing these next nine weeks is counting down the days till I can pack my bags and get away from it all. California, I can't get there fast enough.
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