Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions for the New Year

Every year we do it. We tell ourselves, "This year, I will (dot, dot, dot)." Yes, now is the time of The New Year's Resolution--calling to us like Great Aunt Ruth's fruit cake when the best of the holiday goodies are long gone: it could be good, or it could be very, very bad.

While some of us fail miserably at those three little dots, others can reflect on our sweet success when the next year approaches. I have never been great at making New Year's Resolutions. When I do, I go all out and make multiple resolutions which I am pretty good at failing. This year I'm being realistic: one resolution--blog more. (This blog war thing is helping out royally, thanks Blackeyed Sue)!

Whatever your resolution is or is not, I hope you have a Wonderful New Year filled with all the success and good fortune that life has to offer. You deserve it! Oh, and speaking of fortunes--Confucius Say: I would stear clear of Great Aunt Ruth's fruit cake.

And for the "What About You?" ...What is your 2008 Resolution and/or opinions on New Year's Resolutions? (If you're stumped on ideas, might I suggest posting more comments on The Rookie's blog?)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Fav

This was my favorite gift for Christmas this year. I love it. Thanks, Alice.

What was your favorite gift this year? (Given or received)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I'm Special! Are You?

I've signed myself up for a once-a-day blogging duel thanks to Blackeyed Sue. I'm shakin' a little in my boots, but I really do want to post more frequently--even when school is in session. So I'm in for the challenge.

On to the REAL post, now.

I was driving down the road the other day, and I had one of those weird "Oh yeah, I'm an adult, now" epiphanies. It went a little something like this: I'm not all that special. I used to think I was the good at a lot of things--monkey bars, reading aloud, ballet, school, writing essays, singing harmony. I prided myself on this stuff. The sick part: I prided myself on being better at this stuff than someone else. Sometimes I still catch myself. But the truth remains--I'm not all that special. There's always somebody better. I'm not as intelligent, witty, I was once certain. And here's the kicker--I think I'm okay with that.

In a world where Dora and Blue's buddy, Steve, speak directly to their viewers and Brittney Spears finds her way into my television, internet homepage, and local news, I'm getting the impression that we are a society obsessed with "getting noticed." YouTube is proof of that. But is this desire for attention merely cultural? Or is everybody simply doing the best they can to leave some type of evidence that they once stood in this very spot, that they exist, they matter, they are special?

All cliche's aside, I'm thinking Maslow for a minute. In Maslow's heirarchy of needs, the basic need of every human being is physical: feed your hunger and your thirst. When that's covered, we move on to safety needs: a warm bed at night without risk of bodily harm. Beyond those two levels, we get to the kicker: Social Needs. Social needs are those of acceptance and belonging. Somebody who wants us simply for who we are. So maybe this desire to be noticed is innate. We're hardwired for it. We want it right after a full stomach and no impending doom. I wonder, however, if we are looking in the right places anymore.

Maybe "the public at large" ain't the best place to be searching for this whole social needs thing. Maybe, and I could just be goin' out on a limb sayin' somethin' a little crazy here, but maybe it is that basic unit of society that seems to be oh-so-easily forgotten. Yes, I'm saying the family. And perhaps some good, close, loyal friends who are a lot like family. Not acquaintances or strangers or someone you'll never win over because the first time you met them you might or might not have had dog poop on your shoe. But your family and close friends.

So, as I was driving in my adulthood epiphany, I acknowledged that all that stuff I used to be so proud of because it meant automatic admiration, wasn't worth beans--pinto, refried, or garbanzo (okay, so maybe I just wanted to say "garbanzo" and "pinto" because we rarely get to share these words in conversation). This stuff I did was great if I enjoyed it for the love of it. But it didn't make me more special than anybody else. Yes, I might have gained some momentary admiration, sure. But the people who sat on the front row when I did this stuff were part of what mattered most. Because those were the same folks that sat on the front row and admired me when I flopped and really sucked at something. The ones who wouldn't laugh unless I was laughing with them.

So, in coming full circle, I guess you could say that I am special. Because I'm a daughter, an aunt, a friend, a sister, a niece, an in-law...and even if Joe from Duluth has no idea how good I might or might not be on a harmonica (which, by the way, happens to be really awful), if I wanted to try to become a professional harmonica player, my cheerleading section would show up.

What about you? Who thinks you're something special? And who do you think is something special too?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Encyclopaedia of Me: C

I've fallen off the bandwagon, but I am now back again and I'm determined to complete all 26 of these bad boys!

C is for Creative. While I may not be crafty, I would consider myself creative. I love to write and decorate and dance and at one time was a stage performer (though these days I think I'd feel more silly than anything in the limelight--unless it is in front of a crowd of adolescents who potentially aren't paying attention anyway). I'm also a Cook and am realizing that I like it more and more, given time enough...and the right ingredients. And, as an educator, I must confess that this creativity has come in handy: not only can I create a mean lesson plan, but you try and give a lecture or test or assignment or class discussion that has that special entertaining factor day after day and you'll see what I mean. Whining aside, this is just the facts: teaching is a friggen' tough job--my creativity has helped out.

C is for Camping. I love the woods and wilderness and there is great fun to be had whether I'm roughing it or "wussy camping" in a trailer. Ooh, and the star gazing by the fire...with smores!

C is for Curly. I am the proud owner of naturally curly hair. It is perfect curl (not too tight, not too wavy). Yes, I do realize I am unabashedly bragging. I know that I can make the other girls drool with envy. At one time, my hair was a barely wavy straight. Puberty brought about the usual funky changes, it also brought me a head of curly hair that perplexed me, frustrated the hell out of me, and downright depressed me. For years I was filled with an aching desire for something stick-straight. Diffusers and good mousse numbed the pain. Since that hair angst of adolescence, I've come to a truce with my hair, which has grown into true love. Part of it must be attributed to my awesome stylist, Ashley (Alice's sister). She cuts it right, dyes it right, shaves my neck, and makes sure I get the right product in it.

That is enough of the C's. Check back for more posts.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Things We Do When We Can't Sleep

If you notice the time stamp on this post, perhaps you will recognize that I cannot sleep. I mean to sleep. I feel tired. But, apparently, my brain does not. Counting sheep got boring, and I fear sleep aids because my mother has had me convinced from an early age that all drugs, from heroine to tylenol to cough drops, ALL DRUGS are addicting. So I removed myself from the comfort of my warm but sleepless bed because, as mentioned, my brain won't shut up. And--because my brain won't shut up--I started thinking about the fact that I once read somewhere that your bed will become as sleepless as Seattle if you allow it to become an area for engaging in awake activities (like reading, watching television, eating...and according to my logic lying there plagued by sleep depriving thinking). I hated the idea of turning my bed into a sleepless spot, so I went to the living room and clicked on the television. Ever notice how at 12:30 at night there isn't much on TV?

So I surfed through the late late shows. I surfed through bad reality TV and infomercials. (By the way, have you seen these? Got to admit, I'm tempted). I avoided HBO altogether. I surfed until I found this show on PBS. This particular episode took its hosts to Northwestern India, near Delhi. Many of you may not know this, but "India" happens to be my response to that silly get-to-know-you-lame-game-of-an-icebreaker question: "Where would you travel if you could go anywhere in the world?" And I really do want to go to India. And to Banff, Canada. And to Europe. And all over Ireland. And on a cruise (or two or three). And to Greece. And on a Church History tour (sorry for the Mo-mo-jargon). And to the Galapagos Islands. And to Peru. And to New York City. And to China. And to one of those massage/mudbath/facial/desert located/wheat grass drinks by the private pool kind of resorts. Point is, I want to travel. So I found this site. And I added up what it would cost to go all the places I want to go.

And I don't have enough money!

And when I say I don't have enough money, I mean that even if I moved into my parents' basement, cashed in my pitiful excuse for a 401k, if all my debt were mysteriously and magically forgiven, even if I donated my plasma every week, took on a second job, AND never purchased anything from here or here again, I'd still not have enough money.

So, here it is nearly two in the morning and I'm still awake AND a little bummed about the not enough money to fulfill my traveling hopes and dreams situation. Which gets me back to thinking. Things like maybe I should look into auditioning for The Amazing Race. Or that maybe I should email a few celebrities requesting that they refrain from Option A: buying just one little purse or handbag this week and choose, instead, Option B: sending that small amount my way for a travel fund. Or how I need to narrow it down to one choice (like, say, "India"), and make a plan for saving up the 6k plus buckaroos it'd take to travel there, and perhaps focus on convincing a travel buddy that India is The Place To Be in about five years. And hopefully in five years inflation hasn't pushed it to 10k plus buckaroos. And hopefully five years from now I'm not having a wedding or pregnant or hit by a Fed Ex truck filled with exotic tomatoes.

Which brings me to the "What about you?" Over what do you fret when the sleep just won't come? And am I the only one out there who is this neurotic? And, more importantly, do you want to go to India with me in, say, about five years?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Who Knew? Snowman Good on Crackers

Say what? Two posts in one day? You betcha. I couldn't NOT show this guy off. I took him to my family party last night. He was massacred one chunk at a time...but ain't he a beauty?

Auntie Teresa in Three Acts

This is my Aunt Teresa. Last night I went to a family party and realized I ought to write a post about this woman. Let's just say that Teresa is unique...and loud...and opinionated...and a teaser of the mean variety. But she's my aunt and you can't pick your family and frankly I kind of like the woman in all her eccentricity. So I decided to share three memories involving Teresa that would hopefully sum up the love/hate relationship I've had with this woman throughout my life.

ACT I--"And She Went Wee Wee Wee All the Way to Disneyland"
When I was six, Aunt Teresa and Uncle Willy (my dad's brother), loaded myself and two other girls she babysat in the back of their Subaru and drove us to California and Disneyland. In a tiny Utah town called Scipio we stopped to use the restroom at the local 7-11 and maybe grab a drink. I and my six-year-old bladder were quite filled up from the last pit stop and I had on a pair of overalls that I couldn't get off without assistance. As I stood dancing and asking for Teresa's help with my overalls in the middle of the "highway robbery" chips and dip/travel sized aspirin aisle, I had an accident. And by accident, I mean flood...and by flood I mean who knew my bladder held that much? The circumference of the puddle kept growing until it spread out across the aisle in a yellow sea. I was certain all pride or ego I had left was lapping on its yellow shores. I felt relieved and awful at once. Teresa refused to clean ME up until I cleaned IT up. The 7-11 employee insisted that cleaning it up was not a big deal. Teresa, on the other hand, insisted that I should be given the mop. The mop that was at least three feet taller than I was. I remember the distinct taste of humiliation as I mopped up my accident. I vowed then and there that this woman was my mortal enemy, Disneyland or not, and I would seek revenge one day.

Act II: "The Salt Block"
This story is family legend. Teresa's favorite about me. Memorial Day. I was 12. I had earned myself a spot in Teresa's back seat again. Destination: A cabin in Southern Montana on the fringes of Yellowstone National Park. The area was absolutely beautiful and I immediately understood the logic behind her yearly journey up here. City girl that I was, this wasn't the kind of "getting out" to which I was accustomed. I loved it. The area was stocked with wildlife. Moose, bears, eagles. The cabins we stayed in had a clearing with a giant salt block which attracted the moose and deer in the area. The first morning, Teresa dared me to walk out to the Moose which was enjoying its morning ceremony at the salt block. (I said she was a teaser, right). The moose looked so harmless out there that I slipped on my shoes and headed for the spot in my nightgown. Teresa laughed on the porch until the moose noticed me staring at it. I'm not sure how close I got, but it was too close because the thing seemed suddenly wary, possibly a bit unhappy. Teresa called me back, laughing all the while. I escaped unscathed. If my mother knew, she would have croaked.

Act III: "Nothing in Moderation"
During college, Teresa and Willy headed for Europe to visit my sister living there at the time. She needed her condo and her dog, Cassidy, watched. For two weeks I moved in with my best friend, Alice. And this is when I got an adult perspective on the workings of Teresa's mind. Beyond the over-the-top 4th of July decor which found its way into every nook and cranny of their home, beyond the limitless collection of DVDs, many unopened, beyond the EIGHT wind chimes that would clang mercilessly at night as the mouth of the canyon 1/8th of a mile away released the wind, beyond the Smorgasborg array of doggie snacks available for Cassidy, let me first of all describe "The Beanie Room." First of all, Utah summers are hot--melt your face off, singe the backs of your thighs on the leather car upholstery hot. And July's in Utah are hotter. Teresa's condo had only two window a/c units. One of which was located in "The Beanie Room," as it came to be known. A second bedroom which housed the computer and Beanie Babies--Beanie Babies in large rubbermaid bins, Beanie Babies displayed on Beanie Shelves along the walls. Big Beanies, Little Beanies, Beanies, Beanies, Beanies. It was a little frightening, in fact, as Alice and I lay on the empty carpet basking in the cool 68 degrees pulsing out of the window unit, staring up at the years of collected Beanie Babies. I'd been threatened before Teresa left for Europe that she knew exactly how many Beanie Babies she had and that if I were to take one, she would know. Because apparently hippie-esque college students obsessed with feminism and Freud had a hankering for Beanies?

Was she a kid at heart? Probably. Was this a bit too much? Definitely. Some women like Anthropologie, Teresa prefers The Disney Store. But I guess this sums up the psyche of Teresa. She doesn't know moderation and she is slightly childlike in her loud, unabashed demeanor. She is also sometimes generous, sometimes stingy and about as contradictory as the next guy. This winter she cut out scarves, bought hats and gloves for all 65 kindergarteners she works with. 65! She is a woman who could never have children of her own yet she has surrounded herself by children my entire life--nieces and nephews, babysitting, volunteering to read to kindergarteners at a local elementary, playground aide. Faults and strengths aside, this is my Aunt Teresa in all her loud, embarrassing, over-the-top-ness. I love her. Even when she drives me nuts!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Alternate Ego

Acoustic guitar. That's my favorite instrument. I want to learn to play but never make it much of a priority. I also want to write a book one day and learn to speak another language (Spanish seems practical, Italian more romantic). The world offers itself to me--a million lessons I want to learn. But I really long for that acoustic guitar. I want to write mellow, poetic lyrics and form an alt-folk band that plays in coffee houses, though I don't drink coffee. I'll sing lead vocal for most songs and sometimes harmony with my smoldering-with-his-own-angst-and-depth band mate. I want thick, dark-rimmed glasses, a bob, two vintage cardigan sweaters I rotate between, and a decent pair of trendy yet unique mary janes.

That's what I sometimes think about on days I listen to songs like this one.

Who is your alter-ego?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

From "Mary Jane" to "Magic Brownies": Confronting the Myth and Metaphor of Marijuana

When I was a junior in high school, I found out what a bong was. It was while socializing with a group of acquaintances after class at my new school that I realized their joking and pantomime meant that they intended to make a McDonald's Happy Meal figurine into some kind of drug paraphernalia. Later, with a trusted friend, I asked for more specifics because I was in the dark. Naive and in the dark.

Fact: I've never smoked, injested, or been around the drug commonly known as "pot." And while most people can recognize its scent at concerts or catch it wafting out of the neighbor's open window, I honestly have little recollection of what that smell is. I take others' word for it.

Fact: References to cannabis as a psychoactive drug can be found in a limitless number of songs spanning across nearly all genres--folk, jazz, rock, alternative, rap, metal, R&B...

Fact: If you google the term "marijuana," over 2.5 million websites pop up.

Fact: Marijuana is the most widely used drug among America's youth.

Fact: I frequently have students show up to my class under the influence of the substance known as THC, which is found in marijuana. If they do not have evidence of the drug on their person, there is nothing I or my school can do about it.

Each of us holds one opinion or another on the use of marijuana. I know some who are fully in support of its legalization. Others are leading a fight against the use of this drug, especially among adolescents.

Any way you slice it, both sides have strengths and flaws in their argument. I frequently hear from the legalization side that it is far less dangerous than drinking alcohol. Whether that be true or false--what does this have to do with justifying the use of marijuana? Isn't this like saying "Well, technically, this double chocolate fudge chunk ice cream isn't quite as bad for me as the triple chocolate fudge chunk ice cream--so this justifies my eating an entire gallon of it in one sitting."

With careful analysis of the statistics given by those on the opposing side, however, you get the sense that marijuna is taking the blame for social problems that could or could not correlate. Take for instance, this fact posted on a website for the National Youth Anti-Drug Campaign Marijuana Prevention Initiative:

"In 2002, approximately 21 percent of youths (5 million) engaged in serious fighting at school or work, almost 16 percent (4 million) took part in a group-against-group fight, and almost 8 percent (2 million) attacked someone with the intent to seriously hurt them during the past year. Nearly 5 percent of youths (1.2 million) stole or tried to steal something worth more than $50, more than 4 percent (1.1 million) sold illegal drugs, and more than 3 percent (800,000) carried a handgun during the past year. The percentages of youths engaging in delinquent behaviors in the past year rose with increasing frequency of marijuana use."

I guess I bring all this up because, frankly, I'm growing weary of the subtle message that is sent out which whispers "pot ain't all that bad." Many of my students have heard the soft voice of this message and marijuana has become their drug of choice. Watch any movie geared at an audience ranging from adolescence through mid-20's and I would pose that at least half of those films make humorous references to marijuana. Talk to many adults and soon enough confessions of their relaxing weekend drug of choice are allowed to slip. While the law says one thing, society says another. This is made evident when you acknowledge that the number of 8th graders who had at least tried marijuana doubled between 1991 and 2001.

And this all has me worried, because I see students every day who frequently injest or smoke the drug known as marijuana and feel that it is one of the safest recreational activities they could engage in. It concerns me because while many of my students have little to know recollection of what the Holocaust was or why, exactly, we celebrate the 4th of July, nearly all of my students express a strong desire to visit Amsterdam one day and see April 11th as a cause for celebration. Furthermore, it worries me that messages like the one touting the harmlessness of marijuana seem to be the only messages some of my students hear. And these messages are just plain false.

This has me worried because the truth is that pot is physiologically dangerous, especially when used by adolescents. Marijuana is more likely to be highly addictive the earlier you start using the drug. Marijuana causes similar changes in the brain to that of cocain, heroin, and alcohol. Marijuana, when smoked, contains the same cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco. In fact, the tar inhaled by marijuana smokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed by those who smoke marijuana, regardless of THC content, are three to five times greater than among tobacco smokers. Furthermore, marijuana users experience a higher rate of anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other mental health problems.

But does giving this message to my students who may or may not be addicted to marijuana even really make a difference? Let's face it, it is adolescents who wear their jeans either too tight--and possibly purchased in the department store section intended for the opposite gender--or too baggy, resulting in a need to both walk as though they have wet their pants AND show their vast collection of undergarments. Apparently this is a population highly uncognizant of the influence media, society, and fashion have on them. So, do I as a mere dorky, annoying, unhip teacher stand a chance against all the glitz, glamour and justification behind marijuana usage?

Those are my thoughts. Comment as you will.

Monday, December 10, 2007

IKEA: Swedish for High Speed Internet

Okay, first of all that title makes no sense whatsoever unless you are in on a little inside joke that probably is only friggen' hilarious if you are "on the inside" with "Alice" and myself. Okay, basically, the joke is lame. It all comes down to those La Quinta Hotel billboards "La Quinta: Spanish for High Speed Internet" and how lame Alice and I think them to be....but I digress.

I hit up the IKEA recently in search of the perfect bedding "ensemble" for my new bed. IKEA delivered...this is a picture of what I found:

And in other news: I rarely blog anymore. Which is upsetting to me. I typically think of three to four things on a daily basis that I'd like to blog about, but I never get to them. Blame it on school. Blame it on the holidays. Blame it on La Quinta and their high speed internet.

Since I can't take the time to blog about everything my heart desires, here is a summary of what I've wanted to blog about in the past few months but haven't gotten around to. Think of this as a blog spew--it's a blast from my past, kind of messy, but it makes me feel better to have it out there.

It snowed on Friday night. Heavy Snow. A lot of it.Reminding me how much I loathe shoveling snow.

So Alice and I made Hot Cocoa and stayed inside.

My most recent guilty pleasure: The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

I'm sick of wrapping Christmas presents. Are you?

I love her. She's Alice's, but I claim her.

I recently met up with two of the Three Fierros for a girl's lunch. Kariann was in town and as it's been over a year since we've seen her last it was, of course, great fun. Lili is the happiest baby I've ever met. I wanted to take her home with me. If only she didn't live so far away...(hint, hint). :)

I am a little freaked out by my singles' ward (eh, what else is new?). This awareness has come since being called as half of the dynamic duo of Gospel Doctrine teachers. Were people always making that weird of comments and I just wasn't paying attention?

Just so you all know--my messy fingers resulted in several beautiful cheeseballs that I never showed off...

I love Christmas trees in general, but I especially love MY christmas tree (technically Alice's, but I help decorate).

I went trick or treating with my niece and nephew. We maybe got to five houses, but aren't they cute? (Confession--I still need to send my sister these pictures).

Over a long weekend (way back in October)...Alice and I headed to a Bird Refuge a couple of hours away (part of the "Extra Credit" homework I gave my AP kids). It was a beautiful day. Here are a few shots:

And finally...I miss blue skies. And summer. This place is covered in snow and skiers today. Five months ago it looked like this:

That sums up the highlights of what's been on my mind lately. My chest feels suddenly memory card too.