Monday, June 27, 2005

Incredible Things Catch-Up

I was supposed to be noting one incredible thing for each day until tomorrow's writing workshop session. So here are 3 more days worth.

Day 3
The clear blue water of the just cleaned swimming pool beckons below my stairs. In the oppressive heat of a Houston summer day, it calls to me, asks me to dive in and revel in the icy blanket as it covers me.

Day 4
Colorful explosions light up the sky. The fireworks race to their zenith then fall away in a cloud of smoke. Like a child, I smile and laugh at the benevolent bombs bursting in air.

Day 5
I'm in Nashville at the Model Schools Conference. Nashville is known as Music City, but I will forever remember Nashville as the home of the incredibly ugly, Bell South "Batman" building that I think is supposed to be a modern gothic style building (I have no idea if this is a real style or not). The building looks like Batman. Click here and see it on the right in the picture. I'm going to get my roommate to take a digital picture of it and upload it here tomorrow.

Extra - The incredibly beautiful thing according to my co-worker Sandra is....drumroll please.....Sandra. She doesn't read my blog but she wanted me to make her the beautiful thing for today. She's a hoot, and I've enjoyed drinking wine with her for the past two days.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Mad Hot Inspiration & Something Incredible Day 2

I saw Mad Hot Ballroom this afternoon. It is a lovely movie about New York elementary students who participate in a ballroom dancing program and competition. The students were so cute. I think one of the things that I liked the most was their sense of innocence. They were ten-year-olds, and they knew some things about their world, but they still had a sense of innocence about them. My only criticisms of the movie are that I would have liked to have seen at least one dad talk about his view of his child competing in ballroom dancing, and I would have liked more conversation from teachers/principals about the dancers as students outside of the program. I only remember one principal talking about two dancers. Of course, it's apparent which team will win the big trophy before the moment arrives, but I still enjoyed the winners' and their families' and teachers' emotions when their school was announced.

A surprising side-effect of my seeing the movie leads to my incredible thing for the day. One of the teachers in the movie, really inspired me with her beautiful love for her students. She made me feel good about being a teacher, something I haven't felt for a while now. She teaches at a school that has a large Dominican population. Her desire for her students to learn that they can be something and do something was truly beautiful. At one point, she talks about how she wants to get inside all of them to make sure they know that they can become something great. It is apparent that she loves teaching these children. I wish I could be as enthusiastic and boisterous with my students and about my students. Of course, I teach jaded seniors, and I don't think ballroom dancing is the answer for them or me.

Now, it's awfully late, and I have to get some sleep. Later.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Disharmony over eHarmony

For some time now, I have been enamored with those commercials. A couple of weeks ago, ran an article about the founder. The reporter seemed enamored with the founder, but not so much that she wasn't critical in her reporting. She didn't just give him a pass. If she had, she wouldn't be a Salon reporter for long. Anyway, I decided that I would fill out the very long questionnaire to see what kind of matches I would get. I thought it would at the very least be a fun experiment. I wish it had been that. I started the questionnaire last weekend sometime. It really is long and I got bored after a while and saved and exited. I put off finishing it for several days, only doing so after being prompted by 2 reminder emails from eHarmony and my younger sister's curiosity. I decided late last night to finish the questionnaire. By the time I finished and received my results, I wished I had just given up and never finished it.

After spending over an hour, trying to be completely honest, responding to the questions, I received no matches. That's right -- zero. The reply said the eHarmony was unable to match me at this time. Apparently, 20% of the responders are not match-worthy (my word not theirs). I could still look at my profile, which I did. I'm pretty self-aware, though, so there wasn't anything unexpected in my personality profile. As I am typing this, I feel myself dropping into sadness. I am still disconcerted by the absence of matches. I was really shocked late last night when I saw that response. I actually cried and felt lonelier than ever. I really felt pathetic. What kind of person has no matches? It really made me feel like I will be alone for the rest of my life. This thought surprised me because I love my solitude. I enjoy being alone very often. I don't mind going out to eat alone or going to the movie/theater alone. Reading is a solitary activity as is writing, and those are two of my favorite things to do.

Most of the time, I do not mind being alone. I have to have my space. I honestly do like my solitude. I have realized that I am selfish and like being able to do what I want when I want and not have to really worry about anyone else wanting to do something else at the same time. It's been over a year now since I have seen or spoken to that asshole Alvin, and I do not miss him at all. I have really been reveling in my aloneness for the last year. However, I do have to admit that lately I have been feeling lonely more than comforted when I'm alone. Perhaps if it weren't summer, I wouldn't be feeling this way so much. I don't have work or my pre-occupation with my unhappiness at work to keep my busy. I'm not sure how I would be feeling if it weren't for Valerie letting me tagalong with her almost everywhere she goes. We hang out almost every day at least for a while. We have lots of fun and spend too much money. I don't think that I want someone to marry. I don't even think I want someone to see every day. I just want someone to go out with and be romanced by on occasion. I really don't know what I want except that I don't want to feel lonely or pathetic.

I am really angry with myself for letting some stupid internet dating service make me feel that way too. I remember from the Salon article that very intelligent women are not going to match 95% of the men or something like that. I hate living in a world where being an intelligent woman is an obstacle to romance. So why did I let the eHarmony results upset me so? Probably the same reason I have fantasies of myself as a thin, pretty woman whom everyone wants to know and love. I'm not naive; I know that being that woman would not necessarily make me happier. Yet, I still want to be her sometimes. As much as I would like to believe otherwise, I think most of us are affected by what the media puts out there as the ideal people. Sad but true. I comfort myself in not desiring to be that ideal to such an extent that I will physically harm myself.

So where does all this leave me? Lonely? Pathetic? Of course not or at least not right now. I'm not going to let some internet dating service founded by some ex-minister from the Christian right make me feel lonely and pathetic for long. Fuck eHarmony! I have some great friends and a not too-dysfunctional family that love me. I am smart, funny, and open-minded. Although I am selfish, I am not a bad person. Damn, is it just me or does this sound like I'm writing a profile for one of those other internet dating services? :-) Anyway, I'm sure I will be fine. Besides I'm not lonely all the time, and I'm not going to worry about it very much until I am lonely all the time.

Something Incredible Day 1

Heading out for my daily walk yesterday morning, I stepped out of my apartment expecting the usual Houston summer heat and humidity. What else would I expect on the first day of summer? Imagine my surprise and delight when I was hit by a cool breeze. Ahhhh!!! As I walked under the canopy of trees that line my route, I would periodically pass through the sheerest of cool walls. Each time I stepped through a cool space, I felt invigorated. Cool breezes on the first day of summer in usually hot Houston, magic! I envied all the kids that I could see playing in the park. They were at the park on the most perfect morning of the summer. How lucky is that!!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Three Random Things

1st Random Thing
Friday, I got a new bookcase, a very much needed second bookcase, and I still don't have enough room for all my books. Valerie says I should take some books to Half-Priced Books and get rid of some of them. I agreed that I might have a few books that I could bear to part with--books that I didn't buy for myself and never intend to read. However, I know how futile this exercise will be. I will sell those and buy some more with the money that I get from them. I just can't stop myself from buying new books. I just can't stop finding new worlds that I want to inhabit. Last week, I went to the Houston Chronicle's Annual Book Sale. I bought 5 or 6 books, one hardback, all brand new, for $9.00. After I bought those books, I told Valerie that I had been toying with the idea of trying to read all of the books that I have purchased and not read yet before I buy another book. I thought that would be a great journey to embark on and write about on my blog. I was really thinking that I would accept this challenge, but now I'm craving a mystery to read. Of course, I could go to the library and check one out, but it's so much more fun to buy my own and take my time reading it. I am the slowest reading English teacher that I know.

2nd Random Thing
Saturday, I finished reading The Namesake by Jhumper Lahiri. During Thanksgiving holidays, I had devoured her Pulitzer Prize winning book of short stories, The Interpreter of Maladies. I usually don't like books of short stories that much, but I loved hers. I like her style, which is not extremely unique, but she always seems to choose just the right words. Her writing is not flowery or complicated. She just tells these wonderful stories about the clash of traditional Bengali culture and contemporary American culture. She has a way of getting the reader to sympathize with even her most unlikable characters. I am adding her to my favorite authors list.

3rd Random Thing
I am taking a fiction writing workshop this summer. It is my third writing workshop, and I am really enjoying this one. Each week, we do writing exercises that really challenge me to be creative. I've never really tried to write fiction so I need to be challenged. Today, I spent quite a while working on my story, which is not due for several weeks. In the past two workshops, poetry and personal essay, I have been true to my procrastinating self and waited until almost the last minute to do write my submissions. However, I have decided that I need to put more time into the short story so I won't be so ashamed of what I hand in. I want to write something that I know I have worked on and can be proud of whether others like what I have or not. Enough about that, tonight the instructor gave us a cool homework assignment. We are supposed to get in the habit of noticing the details in the world around us. For the next week, we are supposed to write down one incredible thing we observe each day. The thing can be incredibly beautiful or incredibly horrible; it must be incredible in some way. I plan to post my observations for the next week since I won't be able to share them in class next week. (I'm going out of town.) Therefore, I will share them with the two people who purposely read my blog and anyone else who hapens upon it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Peace and Quiet

All this week, workmen have been changing out the railing at my apartment complex. All day, everyday, I have been serenaded by the sound of cutting metal, soldering metal, and just plain loud clanking. This morning, no serenade -- in addition, no tv, no music, no people out and about. All I've heard is the sound of my a/c and the clicking of my keyboard. Ahhhh! It's really nice to have this quiet today. I have been sitting in my big comfy chair, drinking coffee, surfing the internet, and chatting, for a while, with one of my two readers.

However, the longer I sit here, the hungrier I get--wouldn't want to break the silence by cooking something, you know banging pans, sizzling bacon, buzzing timers. I am craving an omelet, which I could cook for myself though I never have, but that would mean having to clean up later, and I'm too lazy. I wish the maintenance man would hurry up and come look at my dishwasher, then I would be free to go eat breakfast--no clean-up required then. :-) Alas, he said he would be here by noon, which probably means at noon. So by the time he leaves, it will be too late for breakfast. :-(

So I guess, I will just sit here and continue to enjoy the peace and quiet for a while longer.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Missing Mom

This morning, I drove to East Texas to attend my niece's bridal shower this afternoon. It was a nice, but rather disorganized, affair. At all the other bridal showers that I have ever been to, everyone in attendance watched the bride-to-be open her presents and oohed and ahhed at each one. This setup gave the bride-to-be a chance to personally thank each person for the gift. Today, while she was opening her gifts, a group of us were watching and oohing and ahhing, but all over the house were small groups of women, just chatting with each other and totally ignoring the proceedings. I just thought it was weird, and my brother's sister-in-law thought it was weird too. Maybe my niece isn't outspoken enough to demand everyone's attention, and she certainly didn't seem a bit bothered by the lack of attention. She was having a great time opening all those gifts. I think her older sister was having as much fun helping her. Her older sister didn't have the big wedding with a big bridal shower, at least I don't remember a bridal shower. She and her husband got married with only their parents present then had a big party afterward. It was a really nice, big party, but I'm sure she feels now like she's experiencing some of what she missed. It was a really sweet thing to watch though.

While I was there, another niece, one who is very good friends with the bride-to-be niece, told me that the bride-to-be niece was in tears earlier in the day because her grandmom, my mother, isn't alive to see her get married. My mom had such a great love for her 7 grandchildren, especially with the five girls. The bride-to-be was named after Mom, and I didn't realize until my mom passed away that the two of them were so close. Apparently the bride-to-be would often use my mom as a sounding board and a venting place when she had her frequent fights with her parents. I'm sure Mom always knew the right thing to say to make her feel better.

So on the drive home--3 hours--I was missing Mom, something I haven't been doing lately. While I was at my sister's house before and after the shower, I looked at some photos of Mom and me in France, someone had found them in a box yesterday. In two of the pictures we are on the middle level of the Eiffel Tower, and you can actually see my mom's fear of heights in the pictures. I remember telling her that she didn't have to go up (we had not gone to the top of a mountain in Switzerland because of her fear and my lack of funds for the extra excursion). She could have gone to a cafe with my friend Lois, the trip organizer, another group member, and the tour director, but she insisted on going up. Once we got up to the second level, she was okay for about five minutes, long enough for us to take a few pictures. She was like a scared little kid; it was really quite cute. She stood behind me and hid her eyes in my back in the elevator on the way up and on the way down. I think she held onto my jacket all the time we walked around the platform, even when we went into the gift shop on that level. When we got to the bottom again, she was all smiles, but she had really been afraid. Her smiles in the photos were really grimaces of fear. I wish I had a scanner, so I could put one of the photos with this post.

While I was missing Mom during the drive home, I started thinking about how comforted I was knowing that when she died, she was going to heaven. When I first went into her ICU room, I had a feeling that only a miracle would save her. When I left that room, all I could think about was calling my co-worker and friend Laura to get the praying started. (Laura is a true prayer warrior.) As I was recalling this, I realized that for the last year, I had not been praying much at all. I have been struggling with my faith and spirituality for the last year. I really chafe at the intolerance and ultra-conservatism in my old Baptist religion. I have been going to a Unitarian Universalist church for over a year now. I love the open-mindedness of the people in this church. However, I haven't quite figured out how to have my own faith/spirituality that includes praying/meditating on a regular basis but precludes all the intolerance and close-mindedness. So now, when I pray, I feel like I'm just covering all my bases, not praying from the heart. Maybe I should just stop praying and begin meditating. I don't know, but I do know that when a miracle is needed, I will always turn to my friend Laura. Even when the miracle doesn't happen, like in my mom's case, I am comforted by the faithfulness of Laura and her prayer warrior friends/family.

So now, it's very late and I need to go to bed.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A Question

I have spent the evening celebrating the birthday of one of my best friends and one of my two readers. I'm not sure she saw it as celebrating. She's much younger, and I'm sure she would have rather been doing more than eating dinner, watching movies, and drinking wine. Well, I'm sure she didn't mind the drinking wine part though. I hope she had a decent time anyway.

I was about to go to bed--I've been having insomnia and need to try to sleep rather than sitting up half the night on the computer and watching TV--but I had this question bearing on my mind. Do you think people can live happily without expectations? I would like to live without expectations. I would like to have no expectations of others and for them to have no expectations of me. Without expectations, I could make the other person happy when I did anything (nothing would be expected), and without expectations, I would never disappoint anyone (again, nothing would be expected). Maybe I have had too much wine, but this seems like a great way to live. I'm sure there are some negatives to this, but right now, I can't think of any.

Now I am going to bed. I must sleep tonight.

PS: Happy Birthday, Valerie!!!!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Some bad and some good feelings

I started this post on Thursday, 6/2 at 11:35a.m.
I am really struggling with my disenchantment with my job. I can't stop thinking about how much I do not want to go back to Bport HS in the fall. If I have to go back there, I just want to be a teacher and nothing more. I want to cut all my ties to the school and district this summer. I do not want to participate in anything extra--no committees, no favors, no writing curriculum, not even for advisory period, no summer workshops, no teaching tech workshops. Valerie says I can't resign from the Smaller Learning Communities Committee and not write advisory period curriculum this summer because I was instrumental (my word and maybe just a bit exaggerated and arrogant) in making the advisory period happen for next school year. But I really don't want to be involved at all. However, I really don't want to be involved any longer. I can't get out of going to the Model Schools Conference as long as I am employed by the district because plane tickets and hotel rooms have been bought in my name already.

I had added to this this morning (6/5) before getting ready for church. However, I hit some combination of keys and lost what I had added. It's probably just as well because it was just more of the same--depression, disenchantment, dissatisfaction.

Today, the church service was planned and conducted by the older youth. Their theme was "A World Community" and the service featured some of the foreign exchange students who have been attending the church this school year. It was a really nice service; it ended with everyone singing John Lennon's "Imagine"--something that would be very unlikely to happen in the churches I grew up in and attended until last spring when I visited this UU church for the first time. The service really left me feeling good. I'm so glad I went this morning. I needed to feel good. Afterward, I took myself to lunch at Cafe Adobe--they have the best seafood enchiladas!!! I took my current book, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, of course, and did do some reading, but, perhaps, more importantly, I had a great view of the tv, which was showing the Astros game. It started bad--3 runs scored against Clemens in the first inning--but the 'stros were leading 5-3 when I left. Valerie and I should have gone to this game! It's 6-4 now, and "Lights Out" Lidge is in to win the game. Woohoo! Go Astros!

I just got home from doing some mostly browsing--I actually resisted buying books at three different bookstores. However, I did buy a new cd, but it was only $9.99 at Target, so I don't feel too bad. I'm listening to it now, and I think I made a good choice--Anna Nalick, Wreck of the Day.

While I was out running around this afternoon, I realized that I am one week into my summer of discontent. Normally, I would be completely relaxed by now, but my neck and shoulders are tense. I can't seem to get comfortable whether awake or sleeping. I haven't slept well lately. Two nights before last, I hardly slept at all. Last night was better, but I still didn't sleep well. I don't know what the problem is except my unhappiness over my job. I do know that I can't possibly spend the whole summer feeling this way. I am going to start tomorrow getting up every morning and going for a walk. I used to walk at least a mile every day, but I haven't done that now for several years. When I did walk regularly, I felt better physically and mentally. I'm hoping the same will happen now. Maybe I will figure out how to be happy again. I don't like being unhappy, but I can't seem to stop it. But for now, I am at least glad that the Astros won one of three from the Cardinals this weekend. Now, if they can just keep the hits coming.

I guess I've bored my two readers long enough. I think I will finish The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and maybe take a nap. Later.