Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

This week has been busy with some really good things, a quick trip to San Antonio and my birthday celebration, and some really discouraging things, my car troubles; all of which I will blog about later I'm sure. Now, I have to stop piddling around and get ready for my 3 hour drive to see my family. I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas has a wonderful day. I also wish a wonderful day to all those to whom this is just another Sunday. :-)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me!

For many years now, I have wanted to hide under the covers and let this day pass with no ceremony. This year, though, I decided that I needed to celebrate with people. Truly, I needed an excuse to get dressed up, go out for a really nice dinner, and afterward go to a club for live music and more drinks. So Valerie organized a group of friends to go out tonight for a girls' night out on the town. We are going to have such a great time. I'm very excited, surprisingly so.

I'm so excited about tonight that I will not even let these fact about my life get me down today:
  1. My car is in the shop having $300+ repairs done.
  2. My bathtub is a complete mess thanks to the maintenance man's "major problem" while unstopping the drain. The plumber was supposed to be here 30 minutes ago. :-( I'm sure I will need to do some surface cleaning when the plumber/maintenance man finally get the problem fixed. What if the problem can't be fixed today? Yikes. I don't even want to think about that.
  3. I have a doctor's appointment at 4:15--yearly check of my thyroid, so not a stressful appointment, but still I have to figure out how to get there and back and get ready in time for people to show up at my apartment.
  4. I still have to figure out my whole outfit for tonight. I bought a pretty sweater yesterday, but I have to figure out which pants to wear--not a fun activity when you're overweight.
  5. I still have to finish my Christmas shopping. I guess I will do that tomorrow though.
Whew! Just making that list wears me out and makes me anxious. Oh well, there's always tomorrow. Besides some of this is beyond my control, and I really don't want to worry about anything much today. Today, I will just be happy that it's my birthday and that I have friends who are willing to go out and celebrate with me.

Friday, December 16, 2005

TGIF!

Ahhhh! Today is the last day of the semester. One thing I love about being a teacher is the work calendar. Of course, I will still have that calendar when I become a school librarian.

There's the phone--Valerie is on her way so I have to go now. I hope everyone has a great Friday. Later.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My Answers

I guess I have waited long enough to share my answers. Valerie pretty much got them all, but the rest of you were close too.

* submissive, but I can be dominant in certain situations
* logical
* loner - I wish I were more social.
* vanilla actions - kinky thoughts ;-)
* sophisticated
* puppy
* warm flannel sheets or sleek satin - a hard one for me, neither really, but if I have to choose, I will pick flannel. Satin is too slippery; I might slide out of bed.
* leader but I wish I could learn to keep my mouth shut like Valerie. :-)
* talkative, but if I'm around people I don't know, then I am very quiet.
* planned
* football -- Go Cowboys!!!
* golfing -- another hard one. I grew up on the golf course and love to watch it on tv, but I've been hiking in Big Bend twice and love that too.
* tequila or vodka - WINE - Tequila has been my nemesis, so I don't partake anymore. I will drink margaritas though. I really never drink vodka, never have.
* bottom
* shoes
* jeans
* rough
* aware
* nerd and proud to be one! What Penny said is true, I do love books more than computers.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My Turn

I stole this from Valerie stole who stole it from someone else. Maybe enough readers will participate to make it interesting. I'm not sure that I have enough regular readers.

Pick ONE from each pair that you think describes me the best & leave it in the comments. Then copy this and post it in your own journal to see how your friends view you.

* dominant or submissive
* logical or intuitive
* social or loner
* kinky or vanilla
* cute or sophisticated
* kitten or puppy
* warm flannel sheets or sleek satin
* leader or follower
* quiet or talkative
* spontaneous or planned
* football or chess
* hiking or golfing
* tequila or vodka
* top or bottom
* barefoot or shoes
* jeans or Dockers
* tender or rough
* aware or dreamy
* nerd or geek

Friday, November 25, 2005

Desert Places

Desert Places
by: Robert Frost

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

From A Further Range, 1936

Thanks to Bookworld for sending me to read this poem. I think it speaks to how I feel today. Frost, of course, said it so much better than I could ever say it.

After having had a very nice Thanksgiving day with family and night with my sister Susy at the casino, I spent last night in a hotel, alone of course, and woke up this morning with the realization that this is where I will wake up on Christmas morning. Now, I’m no longer looking forward to Christmas.

Yesterday, I enjoyed the theater of the filling out of wish lists and the drawing of names for gifts in my large family. I was excited about buying some things for my niece Barbara, whose name I drew. Then I woke up this morning and felt completely alone. The thought of waking in this desert place on Christmas morning with no sign of Christmas just makes me want to cry.

I feel like I have been unhappy for the last two or three years. Feelings of happiness visit on occasion, but they never move in and stay for long at all. I decided a couple of weeks ago that I am tired of being unhappy and that I must figure out a way not to be. So here are my options for Christmas morning: 1) go on a vacation trip that I really can’t afford but will take my mind off being lonely, maybe; 2) wake up at home alone at Christmas where I will at least see the accoutrements of the holiday then drive to J'ville for the exchanging of gifts and the eating of way too much food; 3) get very drunk on eggnog on Christmas Eve and sleep through Christmas day. I’m sure someone can add to my options. Any or all suggestions will be considered.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Home-y Feelings

For a while now, I have been feeling like I need to create a home. I am single and childless, and usually okay with that situation, but lately I have been wishing that I was not single or childless. I wish I had someone to make a home for. I have been thinking a lot about cooking and homemaking kinds of things. I don't know what's going on with me. I have been wanting to read home/decorating magazines. I have thought several times about having some kind of party, like an open house with egg nog and Christmas treats. I have really felt like cooking. I have cooked complete meals on several occasions recently. Luckily, I did have Valerie to share some of those meals with, otherwise I would have wasted too much food because I can never cook just enough for me.

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I wish I had room to be the hostess for my family or had my own family to cook for. Since I have neither, I will travel 3 hours to Jacksonville. My older brother and his wife are the family hosts this year. Except for the drive, I'm really looking forward to the visit, but I do wish I had room for everyone here. Anyway, I am cooking 2 things for tomorrow--Corn-Rice Casserole and Pound Cake. Yummy!!!

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. I was thinking about posting a cheesy what-am-I-thankful-for list, but I couldn't think of more than a couple of things to put on that list, so I gave up. I might still try that later. Now, I guess I better get started cooking. I have to pack later too.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

One More Day

Tomorrow is the last day of work before Thanksgiving break. I can't wait to start breaking. Woohoo!!!! ;-)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Something for Sunday

I just finished my Statement of Purpose and Goals for my application to University of North Texas library science program--it's an online program that is ALA certified. I have been completely preoccupied with the application process this week and just a bit stressed. After I send off the statement and some other final application items, I will have to just wait for acceptance or rejection. I'm not sure how I will react if I'm rejected. I have already been accepted at UH Clear Lake, so either way, I will be taking classes in the Spring. I've been almost giddy all week when I've completed each step of the application process. I think I'm more excited than my students are, and they've never been to college. Go figure.

The next big step is figuring out how to pay for college. I hate the thought of borrowing, but I know that I will likely have to do so. Of course, I have really bad credit, so I don't even know if I'll be able to get loans. I might have to starve some. Thank god, I don't have a car payment. My poor Altima with almost 250,000 miles is going to have to last me for quite a while yet. I have always taken decent care of it, but I will have to baby it from now on. Maybe I will ask for money for family Christmas gifts.

Of course, I have procrastinated a bit here and there during the week. I read Daisy Miller by Henry James. (I have decided that novella will be my AP students' holiday homework between semesters this year.) The funny thing about the copy that I checked out from the school library: the introduction is almost as long as the novel. Sadly, it tells the whole story. The copies that I get for my students will not do that, I hope. I really enjoyed the story anyway. I like the character of Daisy Miller. She is very much the head-strong American woman who wants to have her own way but also wants to do the proper things. I'm anxious to see how today's teenagers react to her. Also, I think she makes a great lead-in to a unit that includes Wuthering Heights, The Awakening, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. All great novels with great female characters. I love teaching AP literature, but more importantly, I love reading these novels.

I spent part of this afternoon reading some of The Secret Garden, which I bought for my niece but haven't mailed yet. I did go to the post office on Friday intending to mail it, but it was Veteran's Day so no mailing. I must mail it tomorrow. I had missed her birthday--she's a first grader--and had mentioned to her mother that I would put something in the mail. I completely forgot about saying that and when I went to my niece's son's birthday party last week. My little niece asked me about her present. I wish someone had told me earlier that she had been checking the mail every day. I felt so bad. I hope she likes the book; it's one of my favorites from my childhood. I think I will stop by Half-Priced books and get a copy for myself. I really want to re-read it.

Now, I have to tell something extremely funny about myself. Friday evening on the way home from work, Valerie and I stopped at Target so I could buy a gift for my niece's baby shower, which I was going to on yesterday. Yesterday, I got up and started to get ready to go to the shower. I was very upset by the fact that I had no hot water. After calling the answering service for my apartment complex's management office, I learned that mgmt. knew there was no hot water on Friday, had a plumber out, but the problem wasn't repaired. I was extremely angry about not being warned about the lack of hot water for the weekend. However, I didn't have time to waste. I had to dress and drive three hours to get to the baby shower. I called Valerie and borrowed her shower, came home, got dressed, and headed out of town. When I'm heading to J'ville, my sister Susy will usually call me to see what my timetable is. I knew she had to work Saturday morning, so I wasn't worried about her not calling. As I backed out of my parking spot, I dialed her number. I told her that I was just leaving, but I had to stop by Walgreens for a gift bag. She said, "Where are you going?" I told her that I was coming to the shower. She told me the shower is November 19--next Saturday. I laughed so hard that I literally cried. I have had dreams before about showing up for work or other events on the wrong day, and I have woken on a weekend day, panicked that I had overslept for work. I have never gotten dressed for something and headed to it on the wrong day. I'm such an IDIOT! I never even looked at the date on the invitation. Duh!!

I guess that's all I have for this Sunday post. I hope everyone has a great week. I will spend mine counting down the days to next week's Thanksgiving break, a needed week off for me. Later.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Very Long-Winded Catching Up

Yes, CM, I read your comment and decided that I had to catch up tonight. I actually started a post yesterday morning on my pda, but I never uploaded it to my computer at work. I hate it when work gets in the way of play--being responsible is such a drag sometimes. ;-)

I will reproduce what I wrote and finish the post now. Hey, maybe before I'm finish, I will even upload a photo or two from the World Series. Too exciting!!!

From yesterday:
Last week was very stressful. I had procrastinated to the point where I could not possibly get all grading finished without at least one all-nighter, which I am no longer able to do--getting old sucks. However, I did the best I could and actually got close to finishing. I have decided that my procrastination is out of control. I think that I might need to seek professional help for this problem. Anyone know where I can find a good 12 step program for procrastinators?

Because of my work problems, I didn't have time to blog, read, or watch TV much last week, so this post is for catching up, and it will probably be too long for even my most faithful readers, all 3 of you.

Before I begin catching up, I have to say one thing about Houston weather of late--it's too HOT for November. I've been thinking a lot about moving some place that really has four seasons. That idea was reinforced on Saturday when I drove to my hometown in East Texas. I seldom say anything good about J'ville, but I will today. It is absolutely beautiful there this time of year. The trees are a cornucopia of colors. I was actually in awe of the beauty. I wished so much that I had a camera phone so I could take a picture. The beauty actually made me nostalgic for life there. (This is where I left off on Monday morning.)

The rest of this post will be a mix of things that I haven't had time to talk about yet. Things from the past two weeks or so.

Recent readings
The week that August Wilson died I decided to read Fences in his honor. Five of my six classes have 15 minutes of silent reading everyday, so I read Fences during that time for a few days. I have only seen one of his plays, Jitney, performed, and I had never read any of them. Fences is the story of Troy Maxson, a proud man who performs his familial duties purely out of a sense of responsibility rather than love. Unfortunately, for him and his family, a little more love and understanding might have made for a happier life together. I really found this drama interesting in light of the number of absentee fathers these days. Troy was physically present, but emotionally absent. This play shows that the mere presence of a father isn't enough. I figure some publisher will publish a book of Wilson's cycle of ten plays, each set in a different decade, depicting the comedy and tragedy of the African-American experience in the 20th century. I will have to put that on my to-buy list when it comes out. Hopefully, one of the theater companies here will do a series of his plays too. I would love to see them all.

Mutual Life & Casualty by Elizabeth Poliner was one of the nominees for the fall Read This! at The LitBlog Co-op. I was intrigued by The Happy Booker's recommendation of this novel in stories that I ordered it from Amazon. The stories come together to tell of the Kahn sisters and their mother as they make their way through the late 70s. I enjoyed the book in part because I could relate to the sisters since I grew up in the late 70s. The book is very much about the changing ideals and lives of women during that time. Of course, when you read a novel in stories, some characters are not fully developed, only appearing in one or two stories, and stories told from varying points of view, as these are, sometimes seem to miss their connections. Despite those flaws, I really enjoyed this book. I especially liked the story told from the point of view of the great elementary teacher who had no children of her own. It depicted perfectly the attitudes toward childless women then.

Reading Lolita in Tehran
by Azar Nafisi is one of the most disappointing books that I have ever read. (The most disappointing book? Don Delillo's Underworld) I was reading this book during my classes' silent reading time, and I thought I would never finish it. As a rule, I don't read memoirs. I just don't like them. I am a literary fiction snob for the most part. I do like a good mystery, British ones especially, now and then, but I love literary fiction. However, I decided to try Reading Lolita because I had heard some good things about it. Valerie warned me that her friend and her mother didn't like it (both of whom I trust as readers), but I thought I would like it because it was about the secretive study of literature. Well, very little was really about the secretive study, and I never felt that the author or her students were in real danger by reading the books she selected or by meeting at her home to discuss them. Nafisi did not make me sympathize with her plight or her students'. She did, however, make me worry about the Christian rights determination to shape the morals of our society. Each time she spoke of the morality squads, I pictured men like Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Falwell racing around accusing Americans of being immoral and arresting them. I do believe we live in dangerous times for us liberals. She also made me want to articulate some philosophy of why I read, why literature is so important to me. Maybe I will do that some time, but not now. The worst parts of the book were Prof. Nafisi's complaints about teaching. They were so similar to the complaints that I have and hear everyday that I just wanted to tell her to shut up. I'm tired of thinking my complaints, and I don't want to read some other teacher's complaints--that's not pleasurable reading. I do have to give her some credit for the part of the book that concerns The Great Gatsby--one of my favorites--and I have to admit that I have put Nabokov on my to-read-soon list.

Currently, I'm reading Ireland by Frank Delaney (at home), and The Color Purple by Alice Walker (at work). My students voted on my current silent reading book, and The Color Purple was the winner. My students were surprised that I had never read it and a bit concerned by the "inappropriate" content. I assured them that I was a mature reader and could handle the content. So far, I'm enjoying both of these books, but I need more time to read at home. Alas, I always do. :-(

Other news
Enough about books, let's talk about freedom of religion. I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state. As a result of my belief, I have started a controversy at my campus. We have a faculty breakfast at the end of each month. Each department is assigned a breakfast for which to provide food. Last year, we had a moment of silence at each breakfast. Except for the math department's, when a teacher who never attended any other breakfast decided that he needed to say a prayer. This year, I assumed we would continue the moment of silence. However, at the first breakfast, the principal made a speech about bad things that had happened to some of our faculty/staff and about Hurricane Katrina and Rita then he said we would have a prayer. I emailed him, voiced my opinion that a prayer was inappropriate and possibly illegal, and questioned whether this would be the norm for future breakfasts. After waiting 15 days to reply, he said that he had decided to continue with a prayer. I again emailed, asking him why a moment of silence wasn't good enough and informed him that I had been researching the legalities of the prayer. In the meantime, Valerie also emailed him her concerns about being forced to pray. Oh, at some point, he suggested that if the prayer made me feel uncomfortable that I should wait until it was over to come to breakfast. This option didn't set very well with me. Eventually, he consulted the school district's attorney who told him to stick with a moment of silence. So at the most recent breakfast, he started to do the moment of silence but was interrupted by a teacher who called all those who wanted to pray out into the main hall to pray--which because it's in the presence is still illegal, I think--I was rather shaken by the number of people who turned to look at me to see my reaction. I had only told a couple of people, and I knew that Valerie had not told anyone. Of course, very few of us didn't go out to pray. We still had our moment of silence, and later the principal told the faculty present that the lawyers had said we could not pray. The teacher who led the prayer voiced opposition, but the principal stood his ground. A new staff member spoke up for not having prayer, but no one else said anything. Wait, another English teacher did email the principal voicing her disapproval of the teacher leading the prayer. Another teacher sent me an email accusing me of excluding people who want to pray and demanding that I exclude myself if I don't want to pray--a bit ironic, huh. So, next week, we have another breakfast. I am anxious to see how things go. If the same thing happens, I will consider pursuing some kind of legal resolution if I have to with the help of organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Now for the most exciting thing that I have ever attended--the World Series!!!! I'm still a bit speechless, can't do it justice for some reason. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, despite the freezing the whole 14 innings of the game and despite the Astros coming out on the losing end. I have never been to a professional championship, and I LOVE sports. I couldn't believe the tension in the stadium from the very first pitch. It was just so damn exciting! I was really going to upload some photos, but it's late now. I want to get this post published and go to bed. I will post photos tomorrow--they aren't anything special anyway. I'm no photographer.

I have bored you long enough; now I must sleep--sleep, perchance to dream. :-) Good night.

ps: If you see typos, please ignore them. I'm too tired to fix them now.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Work Woes

I really need to stay home from work today to get caught up with work today. Do people in other professions feel this need? Seriously, I need to spend a whole day working on work without the distraction of students or co-workers. Grades are due at 8:00 this morning, and I am far from finished. I also have things that I need to get done for myself personally, but I can't seem to find the time for those things either. Since it's my week to drive the carpool, I have decided that I will not take off today, but I'm going to give my students a To Do list and tell them to pretend that I'm not there. I hope this works and that I can finish my grading by the end of the day. I really can't stand the thought of working all day then having to come home and work all night too. I feel like I need to get something under control now, or I will have a meltdown very soon. Next week, I have to be out for a training one day, and I'm taking the next day off for me. I just hope I can stave off the meltdown until then.

I really need to find time to finish a blog about the World Series and some recent readings. Maybe my students will be the mature, independent workers that I need them to be today, and I will be able to get everything done at work today. Then I can blog tonight, if I'm not too tired.

I really hate being a fucking teacher.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

World Series Bound

Tonight, I will be AT the World Series. Valerie's name was drawn in a last chance lottery for tickets, so yesterday at the beginning of my second period class, I ran--well, walked very fast--to her room and stood beside her while she searched for tickets. Once the tickets had been purchased--at regular price!--I spent the rest of the day with a cheesy grin on my face. :-) (It's still there this morning, too.)

Last night, we had to pick up our tickets at the ballpark. We both felt that it wouldn't be real until we had the tickets in our hands. After she got the tickets and we got back into her car, we both had to hold one, examine it, and make sure it was real.

So, we get to see the first World Series game to ever be played in Houston, the first to ever be played in the state of Texas. Pretty cool!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Go Astros!!!

We are going to the World Series! Houston is already going crazy over this. People driving up and down Westheimer, honking their horns. As soon as the game was over, the local news stations were showing footage of Main St. downtown--people were packing the place - the train could barely get through the crowd. After the game Valerie saw some TV footage of an Academy store selling pennant t-shirts. So we thought that we would just go there and pick up shirts to wear to work tomorrow. Imagine our surprise when we saw a line snaking from the front of the store to the back and down the street. We'll have to get our shirts tomorrow.

Now, I have to go to bed, so I can go to work tomorrow and talk about the Astros. Yeah, I might teach a little, but I'm sure I will talk about the Atros a lot. ;-) Good night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Real Downer

Damn! The Astros were one strike away from the World Series last night and didn't get the out. After a walk to the previous batter, the best player in MLB comes to bat--Albert Pujols. The Astros manager should have made the pitcher intentionally walk him, but the Astros have been keeping him off base for most of the series. Not this time though, he hit a monster 3-run home run that sends the series back to St. Louis. :-( I still believe in the Astros, especially with Oswalt and Clemens on the mound, but my faith is flagging this morning. Plus, I woke up in a very black, I-hate-my-job mood. Not good. Oh well, I guess my day can't get worse.

Damn! I didn't realize it was so late. Later.

Update: I meant to post this yesterday, but I didn't have time before I left for work & didn't remember once I arrived at work--probably shouldn't blog at work anyway, but I wanted to get this posted. Tonight, I'm working late, but I wish I were going to be somewhere watching the game with a big group of fans. Instead, I will be grading papers in my classroom. Go Astros!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Long Weekend

What a good long weekend!
  • I got a bunch of papers graded, not as many as I had hoped, but a good number.
  • I made $100 for sitting in a room listening to 2 people talk about literacy then discussing problems in my classroom with the others at my table. Not a bad way to earn $100 even though I won't receive it for a month or two. It will be a nice treat when it arrives.
  • I finished reading another good book, Mutual Life and Casualty; I will post a blog tomorrow or Tuesday about my recent reads including this one.
  • The Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants in overtime today.
  • But the most important and most exciting thing of all -- the Astros are one game away from their first World Series. -- Woohoo!!!!!! I can't say enough about how exciting it was that Valerie and I were at today's game. The last couple of innings were almost too tense to watch. One man sitting below us kept putting his head down, trying not to watch, but he had to watch--we all had to watch. It was great!!!! I love this game!!!!
Tomorrow night, I will be watching the game in a bar down the street. Valerie, another friend of hers, and I went there for Thursday's game, and it was such a good place to watch the game so we decided to try it again. At this point, the games are too exciting to watch at home. A big crowd is essential. It's so much more fun to yell and clap with a big group than by yourself at home. Besides, I wouldn't want my neighbors to think I was crazy or something. ;-) Speaking of crazy, I think Houston will go crazy if (when) the Astros go to the World Series.

Well, enough about the Astros. I really should get ready for bed--if Sportscenter would just hurry up and show the Cowboys highlights then I could go to bed. Unfortunately, I do have to go pretend to be a good teacher in the morning. Really, I am being a good teacher this year, which means that I'm working so hard and feeling like I'm still drowning in work. I hate that feeling, but I don't want to talk about that now. Besides, my few regular readers have heard it all before. So, good night and have a pleasant tomorrow. :-)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Longest Game in MLB Postseason History

Anyone who is a baseball fan needed to see today's NLDS game between the Astros and Braves. The Astros won in the bottom of the 18th inning with a walk-off homer by Chris Burke. The game lasted about 6 hours. Around 3:00, thinking the game would be over soon, Valerie and I were talking about what we would do after the game. Three hours later, we were still watching the game. The Astros had no players left to play, and Clemens was pitching in relief. It was so crazy! Now, it's on to the NCLS against the Cardinals. Go Astros!!!!

An added bonus for my Sunday: the Dallas Cowboys beat the Eagles today. Woohoo!

I will post again later today, but now, I have to grade papers for a while. Later.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A 36-Hour Ordeal

I've been working on this post for a few days. I hope someone, some where finds it a bit interesting. I'm not happy with my telling of this story, but I had to tell it now.

Let me begin by saying thank you to Valerie, my younger sister, & my older brother. All of them listened to my frustrated, anguished calls, complete with tears and indecision and never lost their patience with me or made me feel foolish. I could not have made it through this ordeal without them. Also, I have to thank the crowd of fellow evacuees who waited in a mostly orderly gas line for several hours on US Hwy. 59. They kept me calm and positive by just being nice and helpful and not too negative. Thanks to the Polk County Sheriff Dept. deputies who were controlling traffic and crowds in Seven Oaks on Friday, especially a deputy named Mark. He was honest and helpful and patient with all. Finally, thanks to the dude who let me use his hotel room bathroom instead of the woods. Desperate times really do call for desperate measures.

*********************

Here are the details of my evacuation.

I left home about 5:30 a.m. Thursday, 9/22, stopped to give Valerie her computer and get a cup of coffee and a coke--no water available at the bagel shop. I figured that I could stop somewhere else along the way to buy water and more food, if necessary. I had some snacks, but I planned to stop somewhere and get real food later. I truly had no idea that all stores and restaurants along the way would be closed. I was amazed at the traffic, but even when it took me all day to get out of Houston, I still didn’t think that it would be 36 hours before I arrived at my older brother’s home in Jacksonville. I was listening to the radio news reports, which were reporting exactly what I was experiencing. I even saw a woman, perhaps overcome by the heat, being revived by paramedics on the shoulder of the road in Humble, but I still believed I would be in Jacksonville before the night was over. Was I being na├»ve or merely avoiding the obvious? Late Thursday night, after sitting for about 30 minutes, not far outside of Houston between Splendora & Cleveland, without moving and seeing that my gas gauge was nearing a quarter of a tank, I decided to turn around go home. I knew that I could get back to my apartment easily on a quarter of a tank. I really didn’t want to ride out the storm alone, but I also didn’t want to ride out the storm in a shelter or stranded on the side of a road. By this time, tears of frustration were streaming down my face. I had to make a decision and neither choice was a good one.

I turned around and headed back to Houston. I stayed on the feeder hoping to find something open, some place to buy anything to eat or drink, some place with a restroom. The only place I could find was The Back Room, a bar. That bar was an oasis to me. I was able to get some ice water--the owner/barmaid was very apologetic about the lack of bottled water but she assured me the water was filtered. I was just grateful for the water, and even more grateful for the chance to charge my cell phone battery and use the restroom, which was surprisingly clean for a dive bar. I sat there for about an hour, calling family and texting Valerie. My brother told me to drive on and when I ran out of gas that he would bring me gas. I appreciated the offer, but I was worried about him being stuck in the same traffic, but he said we would find some back roads way back to J’ville. I trusted him and decided to turn around again and keep heading out of Houston. Also, I really didn’t want to ride the storm out alone in my apartment in Houston.

So, I got back onto the road around 10:30 p.m. As I drove, I passed so many small and large groups of vehicles parked wherever the drivers could find a space, probably hoping to rest for the night because by now we had wakened to reality of our overly long journeys. Any space on the shoulder of the road or in a parking lot was fair game for "camping space." I kept expecting my car to die, but it kept going. I decided that I had to find a place to park--side of the road or parking lot. I drove, well crawled, until 2:30, by that time my gas gauge was sitting on E. I pulled into a closed convenience store parking lot. People were parked everywhere, a line had formed beside the gas pumps. Obviously, there was some hope that the store had gas & would be open for business in the morning. All I hoped for was a restroom. I thought I remembered stopping there sometime and the restroom was around the back, but I was too afraid to check it out in the dark. The only lights were in the store, nothing was on in the parking lot. The scene was surreal. I couldn’t see a face anywhere, only forms moving here and there. Finally, I shut my windows but left the sunroof open, called my sister Susy so she knew where I was, and slept, off and on for several hours.

The morning brought no relief. The store didn’t open. I think I talked to my brother at one point & told him that I was going to try to get into Livingston & would call him when I ran out of gas. I ended up driving past Livingston, and although, I saw no evidence of it, I heard on the radio that one of the stations I had passed had gas. When I had passed it, though, all I saw were cars parked everywhere in the parking lot, no movement, no lights on. An eerie sight repeated over and over until the sun came up completely. I drove on. I passed so many cars with hoods up and makeshift "Need gas." signs posted on them. I really believed that my car would join their ranks at any moment.

Finally, I arrived in Seven Oaks, a very small community between Livingston & Corrigan, I decided that I could not drive any further. My gas gauge was sitting below E. I wanted to be able to leave my car in a parking lot and not on the side of the road somewhere. I noticed a line of people across the road in the parking lot of a liquor store. I got out of the car and asked some people carrying gas cans if that line was for gas. They said there were 2 lines, one for people who had gas cans and one for people who needed to borrow one. I immediately got in the have not line. I had been in line for only about 30 minutes when the tank went dry. The Polk County sheriff’s deputy who seemed to be in charge of the situation said that more gas would be provided but it would be at least 1.5 hours before it would be there. Three hours later, we were still waiting; patience was thinning but still there. A group of us had formed a sort of tag team. People went in search of shade (it was at least 100 degrees & very sunny--I have a horrible sunburn on my face and neck to show for my determination to wait for the gas, OUCH!), water, restroom, a plug for cell phone charging. The first time I left the line, I was desperate for a restroom. I was headed to the woods behind this hotel across the street from the gas line, but I saw a young man go into a room and leave the door opened. I decided that I would see if he would let me use the bathroom or not. He did. Man was I relieved! I told him he was a savior. Later in the day, it was discovered that the restroom at the closed liquor store was not locked as had been previously believed. I was glad to know it was there, but I couldn’t have waited until it was discovered.

At one point, one of the deputies started recommending that if we had 1/8 of a tank that we should consider driving to the nearest shelter. He said that buses would be provided for those of us who had no gas left if we didn’t get more gas. I’m not sure what the hold up was on the gas, something about the TxDot driver not being available. Eventually, the deputy sent someone to get some kind of special trailer hitch put on his truck, and finally sent someone in his truck, pulling the gas tank, to refill it. When it returned, I had been waiting more than 4 hours. When I finally got my 5 gallons into my car, it was about 5 hours later. Some nice people loaned me a funnel, and a nice man lifted the very heavy can of gas and poured that nectar of the car gods into my car. I have never felt so relieved.

With the help of a couple of deputies and my younger sister, I mapped out a way of bypassing the chaos that was apparently going on in and around Lufkin and still get to J’ville in just over an hour. When I got to my older brother’s home in J’ville, I was so happy to be there, to be out of my car. I felt safe and secure for the first time in 36 hours.

*********************

A lesson learned: I like living alone, and I crave solitude much of the time, but evacuating alone was absolutely the loneliest experience of my life. I will never evacuate alone again. No one should evacuate alone. I needed some company and some driving relief, another brain for ideas. I needed a present shoulder to cry on.

*********************

During the early part of my trip, I passed the time between calls/text messages from Valerie and my younger sister by reading Cloud Atlas. Yes, I can read and drive. :-) It is a skill of which I am extremely proud. I have developed this skill over many years of commuting to college and work. Normally, I wouldn’t even consider practicing this skill while driving in traffic--I reserve it for the open road--however, traffic was going so slowly that I really had little fear of being too distracted by the book. When I wasn’t reading, I did some writing in my journal. I will post some excerpts from my journal later.

Post-Rita Work Blues

I'm heading back to work this morning after 5 days off thanks to Hurricane Rita. I'm dressed and ready to go, waiting on Valerie to pick me up--it's her week to drive. I would rather go back to bed and hide under the covers, forever. I have to figure out a way to put that good-worker-bee facade back in place. It crumbled into tiny shards a couple of weeks ago.

Ah, dear reader, you are saved from more of my wallowing in self pity diatribe. Valerie is on her way. I hope we all have a good Wednesday.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Safe but Longing for Home

I have spent the last 2 nights at my older brother's home in Jacksonville, TX. Now, I'm ready to go home. I will write about my 36-hour evacuation ordeal when I am at home on my computer and can be comfortable.

I spent yesterday waiting for the storm to pass through East Texas. Jacksonville got some high winds, some rain, and some power outages--nothing very scary, thank goodness. Today, the weather is absolutely beautiful. I checked the return plan, and it looks like people who live inside the loop in Houston are not supposed to return until tomorrow, but I'm probably going to go back tonight. I love my family, & they have been wonderful to me, but I hate to feel like people think they have to sit around and entertain me instead of doing what they usually do. Plus, I feel like I'm being unsociable when I just want to go in a room by myself and read--I would have finished Cloud Atlas yesterday if I couldn't have found some space away from everyone. Of course, I could be in a shelter some where, which would be so much worse. I am grateful for having family that could and would take me in. And I'm grateful that I could get here because I was worried about even making it here for a while. More about that later. Now, I have to run some errands and return to being a houseguest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Running from Rita

I am evacuating tomorrow. At first, I thought Valerie and I could get a hotel room in East Texas, but they were all booked up. When I spoke to one hotel clerk, she suggested that I try north of Dallas. I tried a number of hotels in surrounding cities, and Valerie checked several more cities online, but the answer everywhere was "No availibilty." So I decided to go to my childhood hometown. I will stay with my brother. Valerie is going to her grandparents. Last night, we did some shopping for supplies, just in case we decided that we could stay here and ride it out. Since we couldn't get any water anywhere, we bought really important supplies like wine and chocolate. :-)

I live on the second floor in an apartment that faces into the center of the complex, and I'm really not worried about my apartment being damaged. Until it turned into a Category 5, I really thought I could ride the storm out here, but I have decided that I would rather be safe. Besides, I don't want to be here for several days with no electricity. Too damn hot for that!

I spent today cleaning my apartment, watching the weather reports, chatting with Valerie online, and avoiding packing for what I hope will be only a long weekend trip. After returning from eating dinner tonight, I finally packed things for my evacuation. I did have one packing dilemma--how many books to take and which ones--but I finally decided on 5 books. I know I won't read all of those. I read too slow, but I like to have a choice, and I will finish Cloud Atlas tomorrow or Friday for sure. Now, I sitting here watching the weather reports with Valerie. I guess I will leave here around 6:00 in the morning; Valerie said she might leave at 5:00, but I don't know if I can get up and be ready to go that early. Hopefully, I will be able to return on Sunday.

I'm really worried about my friends, co-workers, and students who live on the coast. If the storm comes in where it's looking like it's headed, they could get the worst of the storm. I hate my job, but I don't want to be out of it for a while as a result of this hurricane. I'm afraid that we might not go back for well over a week, maybe even 2 weeks or more. I was surprised when they announced yesterday afternoon that the schools would be closed today. Of course, when I see pictures of the traffic coming from that direction into Houston, I'm grateful for the decision made by the powers that be. I'm glad I didn't have to drive in that traffic to get home today. I'm sure I will have to drive in major traffic going to East Texas tomorrow, but I have my Scarlett persona on, and I will worry about that tomorrow morning. :-) For now, I think I will get off here and read for a while before I go to sleep. I will be back online as soon as I get to East Texas. Be safe everyone!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Procrastination

Yesterday, I got my car's brakes fixed, read more of Cloud Atlas, and slept too much. Today, I cleaned my kitchen, paid bills, bought groceries, cooked lunch and dinner, read the paper, , watched baseball (Yea! Astros!) and football (the Texans SUCK!), went to the library and 3 bookstores.

Instead of all of the above, I needed to grade papers, but grading is the one thing I didn't do.

I have spent the entire weekend avoiding grading a huge load of papers. I just cannot bring myself to work on them here at home. Tonight, I have even thought that it would be better to just die than have to ever grade another paper or go back to work tomorrow or any day after tomorrow. Of course, I'm being melodramatic, but I really could have stayed in bed all day and could probably do the same tomorrow. Yesterday afternoon, after spending $500 on my car's brake system (a depressing but necessary expenditure), I came home planning to work all evening so that I wouldn't have to work today. Instead of working, I slept all afternoon and into the night. I realized when I woke up at 8:00 last night that I must be really depressed. I love to nap, but I don't usually sleep that long unless I'm hiding from some bad feelings. I have been trying to be positive and put on a happy face for work. I have been doing this successfully until this week. I'm not sure what triggered the failure of my facade, but I have to find a way to patch it back together if I'm going to get through the rest of this school year and Open House tomorrow night.

I would love to just walk away, but I can't afford to do that. I have a plan to get out of teaching next year, but somehow I have to finish this year without ruining my reputation as a teacher. You never know when I might need a recommendation.

We are supposed to wear our school shirts tomorrow, but I don't think I will. My newest one shrank in the wash, it's a man's shirt (they are always men's shirts), and I hate it. I have no idea what I will wear instead. I wish I could just call in sick and not go at all ever, but I will be out next week for two days, visiting a school in Amarillo. I'm on a committee that is going, but I wish I weren't going and that I was no longer on that committee. I feel that the committee's work is so futile. No one really listens to us teachers anymore. I don't feel that the administrators respect or appreciate us at all. They don't listen to our ideas and rarely, if ever, respond to our emails, at least not for a month.

Enough. I have to stop writing this now. I'm just depressing myself even more. For now, I will play Scarlett, "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow." Later.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Where have I been?

I can't believe that it's been almost 10 days since my last post. Pretending to be a good, dedicated teacher is hard work, and it makes me tired. Most evenings, I come home after work and have no energy for anything other than watching television and veg-ing in my big comfy chair. If I find the energy to do my three mile walk, I feel good until I step out of the shower, then I just feel exhausted. While I don't like being so tired, my pretending has worked so far. I haven't had any really bad days, but I am beginning to feel depressed about the whole teaching situation, especially the feeling that I work so hard and do so much yet I still have so much to do. Thursday, I'm going to do two things to start the ball rolling on changing jobs after this school year. I know I have to be pro-active this year because nothing is going to fall in my lap. Also, I know that I don't have the right kind of connections to get out of the classroom without leaving the school district I now work in. I don't play politics well enough, unfortunately, but I don't want to think about that now.

Although I haven't been posting lately, I have had some ideas for posts. I will just list them here with a few comments. Maybe I will expand on them later, when I'm not needing to go to bed so I can get up for work in the morning.
  1. I have an extreme case of book lust. I am in the middle of reading and enjoying Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, yet I am constantly thinking of other books that I want to read. Since Thursday, when the short list for the Man Booker Prize for Literature was announced, I have been obsessing over how I can get a copy of The Accidental by Ali Smith. The book is not out in the U.S. I'm sure I can order a copy from some online bookseller, but I haven't pulled out my credit card just yet. Of course, I should & probably will just wait for it to come out here, but I can't seem to stop thinking about it. I read and loved the author's first novel, Hotel World, so I want to read her new one. I think that I would feel this way even if the novel wasn't shortlisted for the Booker Prize. To truly understand how silly this desire is, you would have to see my "to read" shelves on one of my bookcases plus I have a stack of at least three books by my bed. These books are supposed to be next in line, but I have no fidelity to that line. I am always wanting more books to read and thinking of more books to re-read. To make the book lust worse, I surf literary blogs often. Yesterday, I checked out Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind. The most recent post concerned a novel called Taming the Beast. The blogger's review made me want to read this book, which is not out in the U.S. yet. I guess I should be glad that these two books are not here yet--money saved is always a good thing, right?
  2. It's football season!!! I love football, especially professional football. I grew up watching the Cowboys (they won today!!!), and I still love them. However, I will watch whatever NFL game that is on, and I know the rules too. I'm not sure why I love football so much. I am an intelligent, intellectual woman, but I love to see a man get "jacked up" on the football field--ESPN Monday night pre-game show fans will know what I'm talking about. Maybe instead of a librarian, I should become a football coach. ;-)
  3. I've been thinking much about my singleness. I enjoy my solitude for the most part, but I know that some people who know me irl probably think I'm a lonely, old spinster or that I have an easy life with few responsibilities (I'm sure some envy me that). Sometimes I am a lonely, old spinster, but most of the time, I enjoy being single and living alone. I don't have to explain my every move to anyone. I can make choices and not be concerned about anyone else's feelings. I can come and go as I please. Does my desire for a solitary life make me some kind of weirdo? I hope not, but I have a feeling that other people would say yes. I will definitely have to write more about this later.
  4. The Katrina aftermath. My friend Penny thinks Bush's mishandling might lead to some kind of political shake-up. I wish I could be that hopeful. I'm afraid Americans have short memories. My positive feelings are for all the people of Texas, especially Houston of course, who have aided people affected by the hurricane and its aftermath. I'm not one of those Texans who is more patriotic to Texas than to the U.S., but I have to say that I'm proud to be a Texan and a Houstonian these days. I still won't say the Texas pledge at work though, but that's another story.
I guess I better go to bed now. I told Valerie earlier that I wanted to stay up all night reading and writing and play hooky from work tomorrow, but I have to miss work on Thursday, so I can't play hooky tomorrow. Therefore, I need sleep. I need to clean my kitchen too, but I guess I will do that when I get home tomorrow night.

Wait before I go, I have to recommend the movie Junebug. I gave up watching the Cowboys win today to go see it with Valerie. Before we went to sit down, we read some comments by previous viewers. The comments were not good: "Worst movie ever." "Malo pero autentica." "Very slow but authentic." I think only one was good. We talked about slipping out if the movie was that bad and going to see another one that we wanted to see. It started 30 minutes later than Junebug. Well, I don't know what movie those people watched, but I liked the movie. I didn't think it was slow at all. It was quite funny and very interesting. I didn't even think about the Cowboys game that I was missing. Believe me, that is high praise for a movie. :-)

Good night now.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Ineffable and Futile

I've wanted to post something about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, but I just really haven't been able to write what I want to say. Mother Nature can be an awesome and terrible thing. Human nature can be even worse sometimes. I am appalled by the lack of a plan/desire to get the poor out, and I'm appalled by people shooting at police/aid workers. I have watched entirely too much news coverage of this event. I really should stop watching because it just angers and saddens me. I really can't watch the footage of people talking about what they lost because I just cry. I want to do something to help, but I feel helpless, even donating my little amount of money seems like a futile act. Even worse for me, I really do feel at a loss for meaningful words regarding this catastrophe. (I'm sure Valerie is thinking something like this, "But Kim, this is almost all we have talked about for days now.") I can talk about specific things I see and hear, but I just can't seem to get my feelings down on paper in a coherent way. I feel a need to write, but the words are hiding from me.

Last week, I had an idea to write a series of poems/essays/stories about how some people are "invisible" our society. After seeing all of those poor, stranded people in New Orleans, I know that I should pursue that idea. Maybe I will share some here if I stop locate those words that are hiding from me.

I have to cut this short. Valerie is on her way to pick me up for work. Later.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Weekend Reflections

Despite having another good week at work, I found myself feeling very hateful and unhappy on Friday. I hated my job and every student who walked in my door. I was very bothered by my feelings on Friday morning during my first period class, because my students have really done nothing to justify my feelings. At the beginning of first period, I was a real bitch, but later in the day, I started to feel better about my students--there always seem to be one or two who make me feel bad about my bad attitude, and they do it by just being nice to me. By the end of the day, I decided that the reason for my hateful feelings was that I really do hate my job and can't let myself settle into a routine and forget about taking care of business so I can become a librarian. More and more, I am convinced that the librarian path is the one I should be on. After work on Friday, I met some co-workers at a local restaurant and had drinks, which, of course, made me feel very good. It was a nice way to end the week.

Yesterday, all I wanted to do was read--I needed to work, but I just haven't been able to make myself do that on the weekends since last school year. I had started Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell last weekend but had been so tired during the week that I hadn't read much at all. Yesterday afternoon, Valerie and I went to a local cafe for a while, me to read and her to work. I didn't get much reading done there, but I did get a lot done at home later in the day and that night. I read until 1:00 a.m. and would have kept reading, but I had plans for today and didn't want to be completely exhausted. The book reminds me a bit of The Hours by Michael Cunningham, which I loved. It is divided into sections telling the stories of different people in different time periods, but the stories are connected in some way. Except for the slight shock of one section ending in mid-sentence, I have enjoyed the novel immensely. I have been completely drawn into the stories. Of course, now that the weekend is over, I will have to return the book to the back burner until next weekend--after I read myself to sleep with it tonight.

This afternoon, Valerie and I went to the Theater District's Open House. We had a nice day in the heat, sampling food and music. We got some really good coupons for all kinds of great deals for theater district events, if we can just remember to use them. The best part of the day was watching this little boy "Be the Conductor." The symphony volunteer put a little tuxedo jacket on him and handed him a baton. He was so serious, but he was really trying to be the conductor. His dad tried to make him move the baton and his free hand in a certain way, but he had other ideas. When the music ended, he took a very professional bow. He was so cute!!!! He made me wish I had a cute little boy to be the conductor too.

I guess I better get ready for bed now. I have to be a teacher again tomorrow, unfortunately. Send me good vibes for another good week at the job I hate. :-)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Good Feelings

I'm not sure how to write this post. I'm not sure I've ever written a positive work-related post. This past week, the first full week of classes, was actually a good week for me. It wasn't perfect (see Valerie's post from 8/17 for proof of imperfections), but at the end of each day, I found myself thinking, with some surprise, that I had had a good day. I have been trying very hard to be positive about my students, the school, and administration. The last one is the hardest. If I'm honest, I do feel that there is a black cloud of repression and distrust floating over the school. I just tried very hard not to let it affect me this week. Maybe I was just too busy being a better teacher than I have been in several years and did not had time to pay close attention to the negative. All week, I kept telling my students that I'm there to help them if/when they need it, and this year, I actually believe myself. I'm not sure what's happened. Maybe believing that this is my last year as a classroom teacher helps me to focus on the positive more. I'm not looking forward and seeing year after year of the same old drudgery. I'm seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I'm seeing opportunities for a more fulfilling work life.

Although I had a good week, I feel kind of guilty that others, like Valerie, didn't have a good week. I've been such a complainer and a whiner for the last year and a half that I feel like I don't deserve to have good days, especially when Valerie and others who have tried to be positive in light of my negativity have bad days. Of course, if my life works the way it has in the past, our fortunes will switch back to normal soon. For now though, I will enjoy the good feelings at work and about work.

Before I go to bed, I have to tell the first Devil's Bitch story of the school year. Wednesday at lunch, a group of us were chatting and enjoying our food. We had had our first advisory period meetings that morning and the conversation centered around our new experiences. The DB decided to tell us what she had told her advisory class. I don't remember how she prefaced the story, but it was intended to make us ask her to tell this story about a teacher she had. After she made her opening remark (damn, I wish I could remember what she said), she just sat there expecting us to ask her to tell us the story. No one said a word, not one word. I'm not sure anyone even looked up from their lunches. Of course, instead of just letting it drop, she had to tell us that we were supposed to ask her to tell the story. A couple of people said something like, "DB please don't tell us the story." She just laughed and told her story--I can't believe how blind some people are. We really didn't want to hear her story. During the story, even two of the nicest, most Christian of our English teachers, were making faces and making little comments. DB was oblivious to it all. She thought we were teasing her because we like her and her stories. She just told her story with gusto and left, I'm sure, feeling like she had really entertained us. How sad! And how funny!!!!! I loved it.

So, I guess I will go to bed now. I bought a new book today that I want to read more of before I sleep. Of course, I didn't need a new book since I have many books already waiting in line to be read. I have to find some time this week to work on my writing. I have this great idea for an essay about why I read so much. Maybe I will get home early enough this week to walk and write and read. If so, I'm sure I will have another good week.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Work Woes and Salvation

Today, I really do feel like I'm barely keeping myself together. I already feel like I'm way behind at work and am stressed to get caught up. What a crappy feeling! I kept thinking today that I should call in sick tomorrow. Of course, I can't. It's only the 3rd day of school, and I'm not sick, at least not physically. I just feel frazzled. I really don't want to keep writing about my work woes, but I just can't seem to shake my feelings of doom. I have felt all day like I should be working. I worked all day in my room yesterday, but I still feel like I need to do some things before I go to work tomorrow. By working yesterday, I really didn't have time to do some of the things I wanted to do this weekend, like read, write, and paint (I still haven't opened that new watercolors set). :-( I had an idea about an essay/blog post that I want to write about why I read so much, but I know it will take some time and planning before I can post it. Sadly, the tiny bit of time I spent reading this weekend was spent re-reading my AP students' summer reading novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, which I am testing them on tomorrow and am far from finishing. Although I enjoy the book, I would rather be reading something new for my own edification or pleasure. Maybe I can work on my essay/blog post while my students are writing an essay tomorrow.

One, and not the only one, good thing about today was this morning's church service. Today's sermon was called "Salvation in the 21st Century," but really it was about the Unitarian Universalist idea of salvation--"wholeness, not despair, is our birthright." I really enjoyed the sermon. It made me realize that there is much that I do not know about this church/belief system that I have been "visiting" for well over a year. Not long ago, I said that I thought I wanted to join the church. Today made me know that I should learn more about the beliefs, but it also reinforced my feeling that I should join. There is a Pathway to Membership meeting next month, and I think I'm going to try to attend. From what I understood, Unitarian Universalists believe that humans are all saved. Salvation is being in the right relationship with one's self, other people, nature, and Mystery (God?). At some point during the sermon (or during the meditation time after the sermon), the minister asked three questions, 1) From what do you need to be saved? 2) What saves you? 3) For what will you be saved? What is your contribution to the right relationships with others? I think I will be pondering these questions for a while, especially the third one. Maybe I will answer them in a later blog post.

Well, I guess I better go to bed now. I do have to get up early in the morning.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Unexpected Bad Feelings

As soon as I stepped inside my apartment tonight, I felt like I could just sit down and bawl for hours. I wasn't expecting to feel that way at all. I had not felt that way before I walked through my door. I had not even felt that way this morning when I learned that I had to spend some of my prep time today in a committee meeting, which ended up lasting over two hours. Although my eyes were brimming with tears, I didn't cry. I'm not sure why. After all, no one would have seen or heard me crying, since I live alone. I think I didn't cry because I had no shoulder to cry on, no one to tell my sob story to. I really needed someone to come home to tonight. I haven't felt this lonely in a very long time. Most of the time I really enjoy my solitude. However, for some reason tonight, once I left work, I just felt really sad. I'm sure work stress is the root cause, and I believe things will get better. I have been really trying not to whine and complain about all the chaos at work. I have helped people even when I needed to be helping myself. I am truly trying to make the best of things. I think my optimistic facade is fading though.

Maybe tomorrow night, I will get home early enough to relax, drink a glass of wine, and use my new watercolors and/or go for a swim. (If I had someone to swim with, I would go get in the pool right now.) Maybe painting something will make me feel better and help me finish this damn poem that I can't seem to finish. I think I've been working on it off and on almost all summer.

Okay, now I have to go to bed so I can be a teacher tomorrow.

Early Morning Blues

This has to be a quick post because I have to pick Valerie up and go to work in just a few minutes. But I have to get this off my chest. Yesterday, I was feeling good about getting my brand new room in order--only missing a teacher desk, or so I thought, I was so much better off than many other teachers on my campus. Suddenly, I looked around my room for the boxes of paperbacks--almost all of my AP English literature novels--and discovered that too big boxes of books were missing. These are books that I issue to students from the beginning of school. I don't know what I will do if these boxes are not found soon. It will cause me to change my whole AP curriculum, and I'm just not sure I can handle that this year. I have been awake since 4:30a.m. worrying about this.

I have to stop now. It's time to go pick up Valeria and go to work and try to cope. Send me some good coping vibes, and wish me luck.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Back to Work :-(

I started back to work Friday. Yuck! The whole day, I was smiling and pretending that I was glad to be there and going to be okay. For the most part, I was really okay. Even when I heard that our multimedia lab was going to be used for something else this year, I quickly decided why that was the correct thing to do and didn't allow myself to be angry about it. However, I can tell that our two new assistant principals are going to be difficult for me to like. They both acted as if our teachers are a bunch of idiots with little or no classroom management and little or no technology competency. Still, I'm going to try to stay out of the way and just get through this year. Regardless of those negative feelings, I couldn't allow myself to feel too bad because I have a room with most of my belongings in it already, and I could get in it on Friday. Others were not so lucky. I am taking this as a good sign for my year.

Friday Funnies
1. The question of the day for Friday - Why would someone keep a penny in his ear?
This young man, one of many manual laborers hired to move boxes and furniture into our new building, stopped in my room and was just looking around. I asked if he needed something, and he said he was going to bring me some new bookcases and was looking to see where to put them. I said okay, then I had to ask why he had a penny stuck in his ear. He kind of laughed and shrugged, then he said, "I ain't never broke" and turned around and walked off. It was all I could do to keep from laughing before he got out of earshot.

2. Another group of movers told me earlier in the day that if I went to the store and bought some beer they would help me drink it and move some stuff that didn't belong to me out of my room and set up my new students desks. When I said that I didn't drink beer and asked if wine would do, one of the workers asked if I had tried the new orange flavored Boone's Farm wine. I said no, and he said it tastes just like Orange Crush--a high recommendation apparently. I said something about that being marketed for underage drinkers, and he said he was only 21. I just started laughing.

Now, I must go to bed so I will be well-rested for tomorrow's staff development events. In the morning, I get to see a video of a speech that I saw given in Nashville. I know people are not going to appreciate the speech as much as those of us who went to Nashville, but I do think William Daggett has some important things to say about improving schools. Anyway, in the afternoon, I have to give a presentation on our new advisory period. I hope I don't bore everyone to tears; I'm sure I will piss someone off, but that doesn't bother me--I kind of enjoy pissing people off sometimes, especially some of the people with whom I work. Hey, that's something to look forward to--trying to be positive, always. ;-)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Last Day of Summer

Tomorrow, I must return to the world of work. :-( While I'm not looking forward to it, I am not dreading it as much as I might. I think my efforts at de-stressing this summer have worked very well. I have thought as little as possible about work. I have read as much as possible. I've done some writing, both online and off. I have watched movies, Astros games, and drank lots of wine. Much thanks must be given to Valerie for putting up with all my stressed out anguish during last school year and the early part of the summer. She really has been a great friend. Thanks to her, I have had a great, relaxing summer.

I spent this last day doing very little. I went to the MFA to see the Cy Twombly exhibit, which was a bit disappointing--only one series of 12 paintings, Lepanto. However, I did enjoy the exhibit of acquisitions from the last five years. Two Kenneth Noland paintings were included. I don't know why I am so drawn to his work, but I feel good knowing that I can go to the MFA on a regular basis and contemplate those two paintings. Something about his work draws me in and comforts me. Tonight, I have read some--trying to finish one more book, had a glass of wine and some chocolate, and watched some television--Astros are losing now. :-(

Now, I must return to my work night routine. The news is over, and I have to get up early, so I will finish off my glass of wine and head to bed. I will read for a while, of course--I really need to finish The Shadow of the Wind in the next couple of days. I still need to re-read A Prayer for Owen Meany before I try to talk about it with my AP students next week. So, good night!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Last Sunday of Summer

Today is a bittersweet day. Counting today, I only have five more days of summer vacation; I start back to work on Friday. :-( Still, I have these last five days to enjoy. I am going to read one more book, which I started last night. I am going to go to the beach one more time and sit and read under the shade of an umbrella that, on a too hot Texas day, is worth much more than the $15.00 it will cost to rent. I am going to see the Cy Twombly exhibit at the MFA, even if I have to go on a day other than Thursday when it's free. I will use my new watercolors for the first time. I will finish at least one of the poems I have started this summer. Maybe I will go see one more movie.

Addition - 8/1, 8:48 a.m.
I had a nice last Sunday of summer. I went to church and heard and interesting talk about positive ways to interpret the story of La Llorona. After church, I had lunch with Valerie. Later, we went to see The Beautiful Country, which was an excellent movie. It really heightened my awareness of people trafficking, which made me angry, disgusted, and sad. Americans really should be more aware of these horrible crimes. Then I played Betty Homemaker and made dinner: salad, mashed potatoes, green peas, and grilled some sirloin accompanied with Black Opal Cabernet. It was all yummy. After eating, Valerie beat me playing cards. Then we watched Def Poetry On Demand and were disappointed not to see the most recent episode. A poet that we met last year in Lake Jackson was on Friday night, but apparently Def Poetry On Demand is over a week behind, which is weird because other shows like Six Feet Under are not over a week behind. Speaking of Six Feet Under, we watched that last night too. As we were watching, I said to Valerie that I would rather Nate die than end up with the syrupy, sweetly manipulative Maggie. Can you imagine how shocked we were when Nate DIED? I don't read all the entertainment news, but I had not heard anything about a main character dying in this final season of the show. What a shock!

Now, I need to get ready to go to the beach. I'm going to sit under an umbrella and read for hours while the ocean serenades me today. I'm not even going to think about summer ending and work starting. I'm just going to chill--of course, I will be sweating and chilling at the same time. :-) Later.





Monday, July 25, 2005

A Fallen Woman Finishes Another Book

On Friday, 7/22, I finished reading Dear Zoe. Finishing three books in one week is a big accomplishment for me, so I feel the need to document. Also, I really enjoyed reading Dear Zoe. When I finished I wrote a blog entry in my paper journal. I'm just going to copy it here.

I just finished reading Dear Zoe. I wish I was home alone so I could have a good cry now. Valerie is here. We had gone to Cafe Artiste earlier but came back here to finish our books (she's reading Three Junes). I thought I would finish reading and wait out the rain, then walk at 7:00. Unfortunately, my clumsiness, rain or not, will keep me from walking today.

When we got back to my apartment, it was raining, and I was running my mouth, always, and running up the stairs when I slammed my left foot into a concrete step. After of moment of stunned suspension, I proceeded to fall up the stairs, slamming my leg into another concrete step. The Coke that I had just bought slammed to the sidewalk below--an acceptable loss, easily replaceable. My book and the take home container of blackberry cobble landed safely on a stair albeit not without some minor injuries--those losses I could not have borne. :-) I actually almost started to cry, but then I realized that I'm a big girl, one who's fallen before and will likely fall again, so I stopped myself. Besides I didn't want to cry in front of Valeria or anyone else for that matter. I prefer to do my crying in solitude. Though I'm sure she would have taken care of me if I had. She's nice like that. Only superficial wounds to clean then I could get back to finishing my book, which I did.

So what did I think of Dear Zoe? I thought it a very straightforward, epistolary, coming of age novel, a genre that I really don't care for. I liked the premise of this one though. On a day when a whole nation was rocked by a great tragedy, a family's small world is rocked by it's own smaller (in the eyes of the world only) tragedy, which makes dealing with their tragedy a bit more difficult. The narrative voice--Tess, a fifteen-year-old girl who is aware of how her world works, but not without some blind spots--is extremely well done. Despite some unbelievable plot twists, I found lots to like about this novel. The no-good but loving dad Nick and the almost perfect step-dad David make good foils, though not angry or antagonistic. They both recognize their limitations and try to do the best they can within their limits. I like that they don't try to punish each other, but they aren't friends either. The author works very hard to draw emotions in the last chapter, but I don't think that detracts from the novel. I think he speaks, through Tess, a lot of truth about the loss of a loved one, and some may find it a bit sappy, but I thought it sounded like a fifteen year old girl, which is what it should have sounded like.

The rest of my writing on Friday was about what book I would read next. Two days have passed and I'm almost half finished with Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers. A British mystery published in 1937, I have a real affinity for things British, especially mystery novels.

I've Been Tagged

Valerie tagged me to do top 10 lists of turn-ons and turn-offs. When she told me she tagged me, I acted like I wish she hadn't done it, but just a couple of months ago, I was wishing someone would tag me. I don't know why I acted that way. I do wish that she had not tagged CM because that leaves me only one person to tag, Lois. Really, though, I'm glad to be part of this tagging thing. It makes me feel part of the blogging community.

Top 10 Turn-ons
  1. Brains. You have to be intelligent to interest me.
  2. Humor. If we can't laugh together, we can't love together.
  3. A big smile, one that lights up a room.
  4. Smooth brown skin. The smooth skin can be brown from birth or a healthy, natural sun tan.
  5. Pretty eyes. Like the waiter from Carrabas yesterday, he had eyes that I could have looked into for hours at a time.
  6. Self confidence. I'm not always very self confident, so if you're not, then we're screwed (and not in a good way). ;-)
  7. Articulateness. I love to talk about books, movies, politics, the world, and I really like to have some witty repartee, especially if there's some flirting involved.
  8. A reader. I love to read and want to be with someone who at least likes to read.
  9. Soft hands. To run over my body, I really like the feel of that.
  10. A good kisser. I really like to make out, maybe even more than having sex. Did I really say that? ;-)

Top 10 Turn-offs
  1. Cockiness.
  2. Hatred.
  3. Intolerance.
  4. Scraggly facial hair.
  5. Ignorance.
  6. Sloppiness.
  7. Condescension.
  8. Obesity.
  9. Non-reader.
  10. Body odor.
The turn-ons list was really hard for me. I'm not sure why. Of course, now that it's finished, I will probably think of so many more that I could add.

I have decided to tag one other person, Danny at Dad Gone Mad. His blog is so funny, even the ones focused on sophomoric humor, which I could have put in my turn offs list. I can't help myself from laughing out loud when I read most of his posts. I'm sure his lists will be nothing short of hilarious.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Pretty Thoughts

The subject of this blog has been on my mind since I attended my niece's wedding last Friday night.

My sister Susy is still the pretty one in my family. My niece's are all pretty too, but I'm talking about my four siblings and myself. When Susy got out of her car at the church, I was actually taken aback by how pretty she looked. I guess, for the past few years, when I've seen her she has usually looked stressed--being a single mother of two, aged 13 and 15, and our father's caretaker would make anyone look stressed. She has worked in a factory for a long time and only in the past year or so has she moved into an office position, one that she should have had a long time ago. So, for a long time, she dressed extremely casually all the time, jeans/shorts and big t-shirts. She still dresses this way sometimes, but she has recently begun to care more about her clothes. I think she's really trying to hook some man, but she's playing it real nonchalant when she talks about it. ;-) She used to tease me about "dressing up" when we would go places because she didn't want to dress up, but the last couple of times that we have gone to the casino boats, she has "dressed up" too.

So back to Friday night, I had some rather unpleasant deja vu when I stood near her part of the night--part of the night all I felt was very pleasant wine effects. Standing near her, I felt fat (she's not skinny either, but she looked so pretty that I don't think anyone would have noticed that she's not skinny) and not ugly but not pretty, homely, I guess. This is exactly how I felt growing up next to her. To those of you who know me IRL, please do NOT send me messages affirming how pretty you think I am or how pretty I am on the inside or how being pretty doesn't necessarily = happiness. I'm really not depressed or self-loathing over this; I'm just explaining. I am being completely honest about my looks, not my person, and I think it's healthy to admit that I'm not physically pretty but I wish I were. Honestly, if I was in a line up, no one would say, "Well she can't possibly be guilty because she's so pretty." :-) Besides, those kinds of messages only confirm the recipients feelings.

So, after I sobered up the next day (my increased/increasing alcohol intake will be the subject of a future post, I'm sure), I started thinking about my desire to be pretty. When I was younger and possessed a bit more bravado, I was only too happy to be the smart one in the family. Other members of my family are smart, but I'm definitely the intellectual one. I had brains. What did I need looks for? Besides, I wasn't "dirt ugly"--my high school friends and I used to say we could never marry anyone dirt ugly, wouldn't want to wake up to that every morning--man, we were really shallow 80s teens. :-)

Now that I'm older, I find myself wishing that I was pretty, not gorgeous or beautiful, just pretty. I know that looks aren't everything. I know that being pretty wouldn't eliminate all my angst. However, I can't deny that I want people to look at me and say/think, "She's pretty." And yes, I know how silly this sounds, but it's true. None of us can deny that in the world today looks do count. I'm sure most of us can name someone whom we feel like either did or didn't get a job because of her/his looks. When I see women on TV talking about having work done, I completely understand why they've done it. If I had the money, I'm sure I would have something done. I wouldn't have too much done, but I would have something done to look pretty--braces, a nose job, liposuction, something. I would draw the line at a boob job though. My breasts are not that big and if I lost weight they would be smaller, but I want people to look me in the face, not the chest.

Speaking of losing weight, readers will notice that I have not discussed ways that I can work to make myself look better, though not necessarily prettier. Basically, I'm lazy about working to look good. I don't want to spend too much time on makeup, hair, or weight control. However, I have recently thought about working more at looking good. I have walked three miles many days this summer. The last couple of weeks though my walking schedule has been disrupted by work, travel, and rain. :-( I will get back on track this evening, weather permitting. Also, I bought a hair straightener to try to make my hair look better (and hence pretty?) than it does when I just blow it dry. Finally, I have started a back-to-school (work) shopping list with new makeup at the top.

So why the desire to look pretty? Sibling rivalry, maybe. If Susy looks pretty, I want to look pretty too. Besides, I'm single and over 40 and smart; I need to add pretty to my qualities to increase my chances of finding someone to share the second half of my life with. I don't want to end up an old maid, do I? ;-) Well, at least, I'm funny, aren't I? That's something. Right?

Before I sign off, I have to stress that Susy is not merely physically pretty. She really has bravely taken on the care of our dad and is trying so hard to raise her kids to be good people. She would do anything to help her friends, of which she has many, and her family. AND she's smart. I wish I had a picture that I could post to show how pretty she looked Friday night.

Waking Desperation

I woke this morning feeling like someone/something is trying to steal my summer time from me. I feel like I start back to work tomorrow, but I don't really start back until August 5. I do have to go to a meeting tomorrow, and I'm supposed to go to a couple of things next week, which reminds me I need to cancel those (done!). Today, all I have to do is drive down to Freeport this afternoon and pick up Valerie. I had thought that I might go visit my friend Lois and her grandsons, whom she is babysitting this week. They must have kept her so busy this week that she has not had any problems sleeping because she hasn't replied to my email yet. She tends to surf the net late at night and early in the morning when she's having trouble sleeping.

I feel like I have to fight the summer-time thief by satisfying my need to do only what I want to do--read, read, read, and blog a little, nothing too stressful, no expectations. For the past three days, I have really done nothing stressful. I have even decided to drop my fiction workshop. I am completely blocked on finishing my story, but also, I really can't stand the thought of spending 6+ hours of the rest of my summer, reading and responding to someone else's work. Damn, I really am so selfish these days. Instead, I want to finish Dear Zoe, read at least two more books, write some blog posts and maybe a poem or two, and not really think about work until August 1. I just want to be able to stay up late and sleep late and not feel like something is waiting for me.

One potentially stressful thing that I must do before August 5: my car needs some repairs. I had planned to have the brakes done and the front axle replaced when I get paid next week. Now, I think I may have to have my alternator replaced too. Maybe the need for car repairs initiated this feeling of desperation. Whatever caused it, I don't like it! Damn the life of an underpaid working person.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Finished Another One

I have finished another book, Forbidden Knowledge by Roger Shattuck. It's about one half literary criticism and one half cultural/social criticism. I really enjoyed the first half in which he analyzed literature that uses the idea of forbidden knowledge. Some of the texts he used in the Bible, Paradise Lost, Goethe's Faust. I read the first half during the school year. The second half is mostly about science and how it should be cautious in its desire for knowledge. For those who know me IRL, you understand how good finishing this books makes me feel. I really don't do non-fiction very much at all. I'm a literary fiction snob and proud of it. :-) The second half of the book was very interesting too, but I thought Shattuck never really answered the question of whether some knowledge should be forbidden. He did, however, caution against unbridled discovery without concern for the effects on ourselves, others, and the world around us.

Since this has become my week of reading, I have already started a new book, Dear Zoe by Philip Beard. It's not very long, less than 200 pages, and is reading fairly fast. I will probably finish it in a couple of days. Of course, I will let you know what I think of it when I've finished it. So far, so good. It's about a girl who was somehow complicit in the death of her sister on Sept. 11, 2001 (not in the terror attacks though). She is writing to her dead sister, working through her grief.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Finished!

I spent the day finishing my reading of Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. In the end, I really didn't like the book, but I have a thing about finishing all books that I start. In a previous post, I commented that there was something unsatisfying about the book. At first, I thought the book was too light-hearted, not dark enough, but in the end, the book is fairly dark, so that can't be the cause of my dissatisfaction. I think I have figured it out though. The book is structured in short scenes, which alternate the focus on each of the 4 members of the Naumann family. I think this structuring prevented me from ever spending enough time with one or more characters to feel connected to them. I just never was able to feel very deeply for the characters. I do have to admit that Goldberg's descriptions of Emily Naumann's, the young girl who unexpectedly wins her school spelling bee, relationship with and ideas about letters is at time so very clever. But that cleverness wasn't enough to make me care about what happens to the Naumanns in the end.

Now, I have to figure out what to read next. Of course, I have plenty of choices on my bookshelves, but I think I will go to the bookstore(s) tonight to see if I can find something new anyway. I think I've written before about my book-buying addiction.

I should be at the fiction writing workshop that I'm in this summer, but I decided today that I would play hooky. I only have this week and next left to enjoy as my summer break, so I couldn't bear the thought of sitting in class tonight. Tonight, like today, is my time, and I don't want to share it with anyone. I'm going to eat a nice dinner and go to the bookstore then start reading a new book. Besides, I didn't finish my submission, which was due today--you readers who know me IRL know how I procrastinate. Not to worry though, I can email it later in the week. Maybe my creative energy will return tomorrow or Wednesday. I'm sure it will. :-)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Good, Short Vacation

The trip to Galveston was a big success, even though we didn't spend as much time on the beach as we had planned or sit on the balcony drinking wine. The rented umbrella had to be relinquished at 5:00, which meant we only had a couple of hours on the beach. Still, it was a nice couple of hours, chatting and reading, despite the knee-high pile of seaweed lining the beach and the family drama of the group next to us. The balcony was nice, but it was positioned so that it didn't get much breeze, so it was too hot to sit and drink. We did, however, sit in the room and drink wine and played Trivial Pursuit--yeah, we're both nerdy like that. The first bottle opened easily, but the second bottle required quite a fight to open. We had forgotten a corkscrew and bought the cheapest one at Kroger in Galveston. Of course, the cheapest one was one of those that waiters use--you have to pull the cork out. We both fought valiantly--lots of cork remains and some wine splattered all over the table--and refused to be beaten by the cork. Finally, we decided that if it wouldn't come out then we would push it in and drown it in wine. At last, we were victorious! Valerie took some pictures of the dead cork, which I'm sure she will post in her livejournal some time. The bad thing is that we fought so hard and didn't finish that second bottle of wine. The sight of wasted wine is so sad. :-( Still, a good time was had by both (I think I can speak for Valerie, anyway) of us--we had a good seafood dinner and spent yesterday morning strolling in and out of the air conditioned shops along The Strand. It really didn't matter that the trip was short; it was nice to get away with a good friend and relax for a couple of days. After all, the start of a new school year is less than a month away now. :-(

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Vacation - 2 days, 1 night , one hour away

I went to Nashville a couple of weeks ago, but that really wasn't a vacation. I went for a work conference--all that late night honky-tonkin' still didn't make it a vacation. Really. Today, I am going on my summer vacation. I am all packed, waiting on Valerie to pick me up. We are going to Galveston, of all places, for our summer vacation trip. We had wanted to go to San Antonio--still not really far enough away for me--for a few days, but our meager teacher salaries and excessive spending on things like wine, books, and dinners out--the truly important things in life--prevented us from being able to do so. Alas, it's hard being a poor teacher with no rich spouse to pay for really good, long vacations to exotic places.

Really, though, I love Galveston. It's always been my favorite Texas getaway spot. I have many fond memories of family trips to Galveston. Too many years ago now, my mom and I had a couple of wonderful weekend trips to Dickens on the Strand--a pre-Christmas celebration. For a long time, after she died, I felt a need to go sit on the beach and just mourn. Unfortunately, she died at the cold wet beginning of November, and I didn't make it to the beach until the next summer. That trip with my sister, her kids, 4 nieces, my almost invalid dad, and Asshole Alvin, who was in the midst of a guilt-driven nervous breakdown or so he claimed, didn't lend itself to much time for reflection. Still it was a fun trip, especially the last night when my sister and I made very weak strawberry daiquiris for the girls, all too young to drink. We were the "cool" aunts--aunts should always be cool. I've been to the beach once or twice since then, but the need to mourn has passed. Maybe today, while I'm lying on the beach, I will think about Mom and not mourn but revel in my memories of her.

I'm sure Valerie and I will make the most of this short, in more ways than one, vacation trip. We must enjoy a really good seafood dinner somewhere. I woke up this morning craving boiled shrimp. Yummy!!! :-) Last night, I stocked up on wine. We plan to sit on the balcony with its guaranteed view of the ocean until very late, listening to the waves, and enjoying wine. Tomorrow morning, we will enjoy a leisurely breakfast then hit the Strand. Of course, payday is not until Thursday, so too much shopping won't be possible. The Strand is a good place for just browsing though, lots of interesting shops. Although this will be a short trip, not very far from home, I know we will have fun. We always do.