Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Horrifying

The Good:
1. At long last, it was so sunshiney in San Francisco today. Beautiful!
2. I got to spend the evening with my favorite little boy, Freeman Jah. Here he is at dinnertime, clapping to his current favorite song, Party in the USA. Notice his pretty dog, Dora the Explorer, in the background. :) I can't believe Freeman is 19 months . . . he was only 6 tiny lil weeks when I started taking care of him! Our little buddy's getting so grown up--he tells me what he wants to eat, says "please," "thank you," and "wait" (among many other things), and dances like a true champion (C: "Freeman, wanna have a dance party?" F: "Pweeeeease!").

3. For the most part, I've been waking up early enough to not only brew my coffee at home, but make grits for breakfast as well. This ritual has made the mornings much more tolerable.
4. Someone appears to have intercepted my dreams:



I mean really, is that seriously a stiletto shaped bathtub? If there's such thing as personalized heaven, that might be a pretty accurate depiction of mine. What do y'all think?

The Bad:
I might kill my 5th period class. They're monsters. Two are locked up, one is constantly spouting racist nonsense (toward his own race, mind you), a fourth I recently had to kick out permanently because she was in the habit of showing up once a week, cursing me out (literally: F--- YOU!), and then storming out in a rage, one has a problem with pathological lying and is failing every class (despite being at school every day), and THREE are cousins. In the same class: three cousins. Not the best idea. In any case, they just might drive me over the edge. For instance, today at the end of the period I shouted at them: "You guys make me feel so disrespected and sometimes you make me not even like my job!!!" Which was pretty much the lowest point of the year. And the worst part: I don't even feel guilty yet!

The Horrifying:
1. I got the following facebook message from a guy I went out with once, months ago:

from: M.O.
subject: what happened!

i never used my booty call with you. is it still valid?

I'm not sure if there's anything I can really say about that. I think it pretty much speaks for itself. Once I think men can't get any more disappointing, something like THAT happens.

2. American Apparel is the worst company on earth:


Please don't support this incredibly misogynistic company that makes its money from sexualizing and objectifying barely-legal-age women. I've already sent my furious (and concerned, truly concerned) email to them, and urge you to do the same. I've been disgusted with them for years--there are all kinds of articles about AA's leery, sexual predator of a C.E.O., their ads often resemble tasteless pornography, not to mention the gross cultural appropriation of their "Afrika" line-- but this just tops it all. Here are some other examples of their vileness:


Gross me out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Progress!

So the Progress! playlist has at last been finalized . . . and here it is (Lane, it will be in the mail tomorrow!):

Dancin' with Myself--Billy Idol
Pursuit of Happiness (feat. MGMT and Ratatat)--KiD CuDi (thanks Miss!)
Hold Your Head Up High--Miri Ben Ari (feat. Lil Mo)
Fear and Love--Morcheeba
I'll Work for Your Love--Bruce Springsteen
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow--Amy Winehouse
The Way I Am--Ingrid Michaelson
Love, Come Save Me--Right Away, Great Captain!
To Start Anew--The Perishers
Woman Be Strong--Will Hoge
The Heart of the Matter--India.Arie
Love Will Come Through--Travis
Stronger--Britney Spears
Stronger Woman--Jewel
You Can Have it All--Yo La Tengo
So Happy I Could Die--Lady Gaga
You Move Me--Pierce Pettis
Hot Like Fire--the XX
Here Comes Your Man--the Pixies

I'm finally satisfied with its progression, and super excited to have a physical (and musical) manifestation of 2010's commitment to forward-motion and progress!!! Except that I fully intend to drink wine and watch the Bachelor tonight, which doesn't seem to be very progressive, huh? Whatever, after managing my 5th period hellions today, I deserve some time-wasteful indulgence. ;) Anyone else watching the Bachelor? This guy is such a Goody Two Shoes, gosh.

Another thing I did today: Make some pretty fantastic vegetable soup. I made it for my posse in Russian River last weekend, but I think that performance anxiety + cooking in a place other than my own kitchen yielded less than optimal results. I made it again today, however, and it's back to its delicious essence:



Speaking of my kitchen, that's another thing--it's so luxurious! For those of you who live in SF or another big city, you know how precious a spacious kitchen is. Ours is even bigger than it looks in this picture, cause it's L-shaped and juts out around the fridge. And we even have a separate dining room, so this bistro table is just extra! Here it is:



So this is how I make my yummy veggie minestrone for anyone else trying to endure this gross, chilly, rainy, wet weather:

Dice a large onion, red pepper, and yellow pepper, and saute in olive oil (in a BIG pot) until pretty well cooked
Add a little minced garlic to the mix
Add various spices . . . I use basil, oregano, parsley, Tony Chachere's, chili flakes, s&p
After all this is well sauteed, add a jumbo can of diced tomatoes (either just one, or a jumbo one and a regular one. sometimes I add a little tomato paste as well)
Fill the rest of the pot (minus a couple inches) up with water and 4 Knorr vegetable bouillon cubes . . .
(Meanwhile, cut a large potato into chunks)
Bring to a boil & add the potato
Let the potato cook for a bit, then add a small pasta (I usually use orzo)
Add a can of kidney beans and a can of corn
And that's about it! I usually check the seasoning & add from there. YUM!

I finally finished Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch (lent to me by my awesome friend Josh Klipp) and let me just say I LOVED IT. And highly recommend it. Imagine that . . . I loved a book about a southern girl in the big city who can't seem to find the right man. How funny! ;) In any case, it's well-written, engaging, relatable, multi-dimensional, quirky, and honest. I'll definitely look out for whatever's coming next from Katie Crouch.

I'm so grateful to have had long conversations with my sis and Lesley (my semi-sis) today . . . I miss my Georgia girls so much. I love California but it's so far away! Oh and speaking of Lesley, check out her ridiculously cute Etsy shop. OMG. Prettiest little girl clothes and accessories and toys you can imagine. And every single one is hand-made! Too bad all my little rascals are baby boys.

And now onto my favorite part of the evening: cheap red wine!



Thursday, January 21, 2010

Feelingful.

So this has been one hell of a week, with regard to pretty much all aspects of life. All this strife has been mirrored (a bit too literally) by the rainstorms pouring down all over California. After self-pitying my way home from work on Tuesday, I entered my apartment (more specifically, my room) to find this:


Yes folks, THAT is my ceiling. Right above my bed. My bed was covered in rain water and plaster, and some of you may remember that this is the THIRD time that this very thing has happened in my room in the very same spot above my bed. The landlords have been at my apartment every day since then, but have yet to repair the gaping ceiling hole, as there hasn't been a long enough rain reprieve to get the work done. So alas, I'm still sleeping across my room, trying hard not to be preoccupied with the fear that more of my ceiling is going to collapse down on me.

Two of my 5th period students are incarcerated, which has been another contributing factor to my hell of a week, particularly since final exams were last week and, obviously, they both missed them. One of them is a sweet, funny boy who, along with two buddies, got into a fight with some guys at a park and took their bikes. My student, G.M., is now facing 9 charges, 7 of which are felonies. I've been in back-and-forth conversation with his devastated mother, written a "character letter" to the court, and have spoken with the head teacher at the San Mateo County Juvenile Hall school. All of this is incredibly sad, but the silver lining is that I was able to fax my final exam to the school at the jail, the head teacher got it to G.M., and then he faxed it back to me. Technology, huh? In any case, I was grading G's final today and came across this in one of his answers:

Changes I think need to be made to the current prison system should be better judges who are feelingful and care honestly.

Feelingful! What a neologism! That word made me genuinely smile, and I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be and behave in a "feelingful" manner. How much better would our world be if we all followed my student's advice?

In happier news, Ji, our friend Paul, and I had dinner at Trattoria la Siciliana in Berkeley the other night, and it was fantastic! Paul had pesto shrimp linguini, Ji had some sort of calamari-in-squid-ink pasta, and I had eggplant penne. Delicious! Trattoria la Siciliana really has that "Italian grandmother's kitchen" feel to it--the shotgun setup, decor, authenticity of the menu, friendly Euro-esque wait staff, etc. We'll definitely be back.

I also want to mention this new book by young (and awesome) author Nina LaCour:


It was our first selection in Balboa's teacher-student book club this year, and we all really enjoyed it! The book is about a high school student named Caitlin who is entering her junior year in the wake of her best friend Ingrid's suicide. Despite the weighty subject matter, Hold Still really isn't a sorrowful book; in fact, having been through essentially the exact same experience in high school, I'd say that Caitlin's behavior, preoccupations, and mechanisms of grief are impressively authentic. The "Young Adult Fiction" genre is pretty nebulous . . . what is "young adult," really? . . . but it's certainly fun to read. Nina was generous enough to come talk to our book club at lunch yesterday (what a delight!), and she gave a tremendous little reading/presentation/Q&A session. Check out her website. AND her quirky new blog, Chelsea I Want My Flannel Back.

Good luck staying out of the relentless rain!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Things that Glitter . . .

First of all . . . have you ever seen a cake HALF this adorable??

This weekend a big group of us went to Russian River Valley to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday. On Saturday we got a driver (Dane!) who carted us around to various wineries. Though I was disappointed to miss the Freeman Winery for obvious reasons, we had plenty of fun at the ones chosen by the birthday girl--HopKiln, Matrix, and a few others whose names were far less important to me than the copious amounts of wine I imbibed. ;) At one of the stops we had a personal wine guide--an older gentleman named Don who was brimming with naughty jokes, at one we had a delicious picnic, and at another there were hula hoops . . . now hula hoops and wine is a pretty stellar combination!

After a break back at our hilltop cabin (and a stint in the luxurious hot tub), we had dinner here, a fantastic Sonoma restaurant and garden that serves locally grown food and is famous for their pork. While I, of course, did not indulge in the salumi/prosciutto/bacon that came out plate after plate, everyone else seemed to think it was the most heavenly meat in the world. Zazu, the restaurant, cures their own pork, which is pretty darn impressive if you ask me. I asked the chef to make me a vegetable concoction (my only rules were no meat and no mushrooms), and the waitress came out with the most gorgeous plate of house-made pasta and all kinds of greens: kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, and shaved Italian cheese. Incredible.

Now back to the cake. Below is a picture of Cheryl, the birthday girl, posing proudly with her Barbie cake. The cake was created by the talented Ms. Morehouse, who went through several thorough and meticulous steps in order to yield this ridiculous, amazing creation:


All in all, an incredibly fun and restorative weekend. I'm so lucky to have such wonderful, beautiful, talented, passionate, hilarious friends. I need to remind myself of that every day so I never take it for granted.

In other news, as I'm sure most of you know, the Golden Globes were this weekend. I'm only vaguely interested in the awards, as I rarely see movies and I don't know most of the tv shows, but every year I get incredibly psyched about the gowns! Each year, after scrutinizing all the gowns, I deem one of them my favorite. This year's Claire's-Favorite-Red-Carpet-Gown Award goes to Ms. Chloe Sevigny, who wore this stunning, silver-lilac Valentino ruffled dress:

Can you believe it?? I'm not sure I've ever seen something so breathtaking. It's just LOVELY. That's the best word I can come up with. Anyone else have favorites?

Last, please keep one of my best friends in your hearts and thoughts and prayers and positive energies today as he had surgery this morning to remove cancer. I'm very worried about him, but encouraged by his determined, positive outlook. I'm working on a "positive vibes" playlist for his recovery . . . any suggestions?

xoxoxoxo

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teachers' Perks:

Okay so maybe, more specifically, a perk of being a teacher-who's-paid-by-a-nonprofit-and-not-the-school-district: a day off in the middle of the week! It's finals week at Balboa, and today was 3rd and 4th period finals . . . not having a 3rd or 4th period, I got a sweet sweet break from work, which was pretty darn blissful. Even after being roused out of bed in the middle of the night to go pick up my crazy boy (of late) after a night out with his buddies, followed by trouble sleeping thanks to his loud snoring (have you ever heard a rugby player snore?), I soaked up the slow languor of today with delight. Days off in the middle of the week are so much more decadent than weekend days! I brewed coffee at noon, showered, made a farmers' market salad (did you know that a medium-sized avocado contains THIRTY grams of fat???), and graded finals while vaguely paying attention to the tv (and Ji and Eric sparring in the background). After several hours of lazing about the house, I was anxious for my girldate with Missy tonight at Pizza Antica, which was complete with Zinfandel and boy talk and laughter . . . and now I'm home with a glass of red table wine awaiting the Grey's Anatomy season premiere. Today, life is pretty sweet.

Yesterday with this little fellow wasn't so bad either:


Another teacher's perk: I give my kids a journal question at the beginning of every class. They know to get out their journals and answer the question on the board as soon as they come in. It's the end of the grading period, so I've been reading/grading their journals over the past few days. A couple months ago, leading into a discussion about crimes, arrest, and by what means people become "criminals," the journal question was: "Why do people do 'bad' things?" One of my very favorite students, E.M. (who himself has been incarcerated), answered with this:

"I think people do bad things because they are lonely and feel scared about life and everything around them so they do bad things to get help but not in the right way."

I swear, outta the mouths of babes. Sometimes they get it so right, through language far simpler and clearer than I can ever approach. Doubtlessly, there are days I want to pull my hair out, days I want to pull their hair out, days I cry, days I don't sleep enough . . . but when I realize that things are "clicking" for them, and I see them making true progress . . . it's all worth it.

One more day of finals and then it's off to Russian River to celebrate a good friend's birthday with a group of wonderful people. Three days of wine, games, laughs, friends, hikes, and a hot tub will be a perfect end to the semester. Living in California is certainly financially overwhelming, but every time I go on a gorgeous hike, look at the Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach, drive down to L.A. in a few hours, check out the view from Twin Peaks or Land's End, or drive up 101 through Sausalito I just can't imagine living anywhere else. For right now, at least. And that's another goal for 2010: to focus not on the past or the future but right now.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Spring Clean(s)ing

Anyone know anything about the Spring Cleanse? My friend Anna has coerced me into yet another cleanse . . . we're aiming for Monday - Friday. Unlike the last cleanse I did, you can actually eat food on this one, albeit an extremely limited selection of raw fruits and veggies. We are allowed spinach, dandelion greens, a couple other bitter greens, beets (though they don't do much good uncooked), avocado (!!!), apples, and citrus. Yikes. I'm still deciding whether or not I'm gonna cheat and keep my morning coffee in the mix . . . it's finals week at Balboa, and the kiddos deserve a teacher who is at least . . . human. Good thing I bought a big bag of DELICIOUS satsumas at the Berkeley Farmers' Market today.

Speaking of which, what a day! Anna and I are both dogsitting, so we went to the farmers' market and then took the pups on a gorgeous, off leash hike through the Oakland Redwoods in Tilden Park. So pretty! It was a pretty difficult hike . . . almost straight downhill into this deep canyon surrounded by creeks and tall, tall redwoods, and then, naturally, the almost straight climb uphill back up to the trail. Man oh man. I'm so lucky to live in an area that is full of gorgeousness. And I'm finishing up the day in Marin with Mr. Milo, whose backyard overlooks water, boats, and Mount Tamalpais. Seriously???

My friend Josh Klipp lent me this book, which I just started reading, and about which (thus far anyway) I am very excited!


Being a teacher and a poet means reading so much nonfiction and poetry . . . I sometimes forget how amazing it feels to read a really good novel. So here's to that. And to the stunning dress on the book cover. And to any recommendations y'all have for other amazing novels . . . cause I plan on making a practice out of some seriously good reading this year!

I think it's about time for me to settle in with some United States of Tara . . . the show my sister got me hooked on when I was home for Christmas. If you haven't seen it, it's about a woman (with a husband and two teenage kids) who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, and whose "alters" pop up unexpectedly . . . not only is the story line fascinating, but the husband is played by John Corbett. On whom my crush is almost debilitating.

Goodnight!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Things that Make a Bad Day Better:

Yesterday was NOT GOOD.

After an Ambien-induced sleep, I quieted my alarm clock with no regard for time (or punctuality), and ultimately had to rush out of the house, unshowered, in order to make it to my 2nd period class on time. I zoomed into Balboa to print some materials out before the bell rang and immediately heard that one of my former co-workers (a special ed teacher who had taught at Balboa for six years and transfered to Mission High the year before last) had died unexpectedly. It's such a strange and complex feeling when someone youngish and healthyish dies suddenly--sort of topples my comforting little notion that if we eat good foods and exercise and practice caution in general that we will be okay.

Due to the pervading frenzy and sadness at school, I forgot to give my friend Meagan my house keys . . . Meagan was scheduled to go pick up Kita, our friends' dog, from my house, as I was going to be gone from 7 am until 10 pm. By the time I realized this, I'd already left Balboa and was in Marin at my doctor's appointment (bad thing # 3 of the day: doctor's visit and blood drawn).

Somewhere in between these events I managed to stumble upon pictures of my exboyfriend looking gorgeous and happy with his new girlfriend . . . and though it's my hope and goal to be able to feel the most genuine of happiness for him and everyone else I've ever loved, it was unsettling. Selfish, I know, but instinctual.

Exhaustion seems to exacerbate sadness, which is precisely what happened yesterday. After a long day of teaching/doctor/babysitting, I didn't get home until 10 pm, at which point I was thoroughly spent. And extremely thankful for the following things:

1. A mid-day pep talk from Gaela. How lucky am I to have one of my best friends in the world work across the hall from me?

2. Humor from students. I asked my kiddos to write down two concrete, measurable goals they'd set for themselves in the new year and then share them with the class. One of them pronounced: "My goal is to become involved with a cougar." ha!

3. Spending the afternoon with this little fellow:


4. My sweet neighbors who kindly took the dog out for me while I was with the young Milo Freitag (pictured above).

5. A hot, relaxing bath. How do people function without bath tubs?

Here's hoping today will be better! I'm gonna take the pup on a hike and rock out to my New Years playlist (+ Jodi's suggestions), so things are lookin' up . . .

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Brunch with Girlfriends

. . . is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I've been so lucky this week--brunch with Laura (and baby Slate!) at the Flying Biscuit in Atlanta last Monday, with Lane at J. Christopher on Wednesday, and with Gaela at Hobnob (famous for its bottomless mimosas) in just an hour or so. Looks like I'm gonna have to do a few extra 30 Day Shred workouts . . .

Last night my dear, dear friend Danny came over and we spent hours on my couch talking about love and music. And loving music, and love in music. Danny is one of the rare men who gives me tremendous hope that love is possible and alive and miraculous, and there's no one else in the world I'd wish it upon more than him. I find that I've been questioning a lot of my in-love friends lately about the inception of their relationships, the way these relationships have rivered and blossomed into their current states, and by what means we humans "pick" our potentially lifelong mates. It's really a funny process, huh?

Also, I'm kind of mesmerized by this song:

And now I'm off to finish my brother-in-law's delicious Batdorf & Bronson coffee, meet Gaela for brunch, and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening with my favorite little companion:



Happy Sunday!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Rockin' New Year Playlist!

Here's to new beginnings and progress, and the commencement of my new blog! I've decided this year is gonna be all about forward motion, which includes daily writing, whether it occur in poems, journals, letters, or this blog. Perhaps true devotion to writing will help me feel better about my 60K of student loans from the MFA. ;)

Today just might center around my Rockin' New Year playlist, which is currently blaring through my kitchen while the black eyed peas simmer. Here it is, for those of you in need of a jolt of energy and positivity and things that make you dance:

Paparazzi --Lady Gaga
Rome--Phoenix
3--Britney Spears
Two Weeks--Grizzly Bear
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover--Paul Simon
Rainbowarriors--CocoRosie
Party in the USA--Miley Cyrus
White Liar--Miranda Lambert
Paper Planes--M.I.A.
Life Your Life--T.I.
Bump Bump Bump--B2K feat. P. Diddy
Fancy Footwork--Chromeo
Until We Bleed--Kleerup feat. Lykke Li
Portions for Foxes--Rilo Kiley
Soulshine--Allman Brothers
No One--Alicia Keys

I make no apologies for Miley Cyrus, and for the record I'm a little obsessed with the Lady Gaga song.

And now onto my 30 Day Shred workout video. Happy New Year!