Ringworm and Baby Mama

Tina Fey is pretty cute as a wanna-be mom. I won't give up the ending, lest any of you decide to see this movie, but it was a very decent way to spend the afternoon. Much gratitude to my friend and co-worker, Amy, for taking me. I think we should consider going after school on a regular basis. Matinees are only 6 bucks.

This movie is cute and happy because when people are trying to have a baby or in the pregnancy stage, they never think about things like ringworm, which is what I think of when I think of children. Ringworm and lice and soggy, wrinkly thumbs, pulled from mouths and trailing with saliva as they reach out towards me.

I guess it's different when it's your own kid. Have I mentioned that I love my job?


Can't Stop the Rain

Last night window panes rattled as thunder boomed. Rosie the Cat stayed close to us, and we fell asleep to the sound of heavy rain.

I woke up around 5:30, with rain still falling steadily, facing the following dilemma. If I drove the car, I could sleep in another hour and still make it to work on time, and also not get all wet while walking two miles to the bus stop. If I took the bus, I might get wet, but then I would be able to read one of my new library books, and also stay committed to my pact to be somewhat car-less this month in observation of Earth Day. I guess I really wanted to read that book, because I decided to take the bus. Either that, or I really love the Earth.

I got very wet.

I felt somewhat foolish about choosing the bus. I mean lots of people (myself included, before getting my first car at age 26), can't avoid getting all wet while waiting for the bus. I could have, at least on this particular morning. And let me tell you, my feet were wet all day as I sat in training, some of which was good, and some of which was clearly not very well thought out.

But being a person who doesn't mind getting Economical, or the trials and tribulations that sometimes accompany frugality, has granted me a tremendous amount of freedom. When I hear my colleagues and friends bemoaning the fact that they can't leave jobs they hate because of financial obligations or debts, I feel very, very lucky that I can pay all my bills on a minimum wage job.

Of course renting a small apartment from a slum lord has its downsides.

This morning, the leak that was formerly just bubbling plaster in the bathroom turned into steady stream. M was late to work as he haggled with the land company. But the thing is, we don't care if water is pouring out the ceiling into our bathroom, so haggle is not exactly the word I'm looking for. We've been dutifully reporting the leak every few weeks as we noticed a crack, then a bubble, then damp plaster, then falling plaster, etc. each time we noticed a change. But one would think that they might care, as something that would have been an easy fix a few months ago, is now something of a disaster.

Anyway, our bucket is only so big, so all M wanted to know was if they planned to come over sometime in the next hour, so he could leave the bucket, or if they would be by many hours later, in which case, he would need to stay home and change the bucket, which was steadily filling up, and which, left unattended, would likely spill all over the floor and into the first floor apartment.

Again, not that we care, but....

So, eventually they came and the leak appears to have stopped, as did the rain. Happy endings all around.


Congratulations, Mom!

Today we had the pleasure of attending the English/Film Studies graduation ceremony at the University of Pittsburgh. M's mother finished her degree in English Writing - her second bachelor's degree. She has been working really hard (while also holding down a full-time job) for a long time and I know that she really loves to write. Hopefully we will be seeing some children's historical fiction flowing from her pen in the near future. Congratulations, Mom!


The Path

Last year at this time, spring was in the air. Even high up in the mountains, the days were starting to get warm, the forest floor was carpeted with flowers, and I woke up everyday and followed white blazes until I got too tired to move any more. Then I stopped, ate a ridiculous amount of food and went to bed. Sometimes I wrote in my journal, or knit a few rows on a pair of socks I was working on. But often, I just stared out into the woods, until it was too dark to see anything.

It was the opposite of multi-tasking, and it was very, very good.

On Monday, I found out that the state department of education has a problem with my certification application. After a dizzying number of phone calls and emails, it seems that there are some ways to work around this - transfer my credits to a new university, appeal to the state board, do another round of student teaching. But it will all take six months or more, and a good deal of money, and I think pursuing it would be a little bit like walking off the trail and bushwacking through dense, Appalachian vegetation, instead of just staying on the obvious, well-maintained, clearly-blazed footpath that leads directly to one of the most stunning mountains in the world.

If an obvious path presents itself to you, I think you should probably just get on it. Now the Appalachian Trail, while clearly marked, does not provide the most direct, nor the easiest route, from Georgia to Maine. To drive it would only be about 1,400 miles. Walking the path is nearly 2,200. So, I think I'll be taking advantage of the opportunities that have presented themselves to me, instead of fighting this bureaucracy.

It was a hockey night in Pittsburgh...

...sadly, not a baseball night.

Pens prevailed over the Rangers 5-4. Pirates succumbed to the Phillies 5-6. Since everybody and their mother from Pittsburgh was watching hockey, PNC Park had an uncomfortably high number of Philadelphia fans.

But the rain held off, and Mark, Matt, Sloan, Stan and I rode our bikes downtown to the game on the Jail Trail. We met Matt's brother and Peter and Jason from Mark's work down there. The game went late, and there were fireworks after. So all in all, it was a fun time.

Riding home in the dark, we were a dizzying collection of blinking red and white lights. We stopped in Oakland, which I expected to be more empty than it was, since classes are over, but throngs of drunk college students roamed the streets, and we could not even find a bar that was satisfactorily empty. Instead, we got a pizza from Antoons, and sat on the wall across from the Towers dorms and took in the show.

I love riding my bike around at night, especially with a group of people. Even when I got slightly separated from my group, and a woman in a giant SUV cut me off, there was another cyclist right there behind me in a flash, cursing her out. It's like being in a club.

I love Pittsburgh in the spring time - it's been a few years since I've lived here for this season, and I forgot about the sweet and heady smell of lilac that hangs in the air on a humid night.

Definitely eased the tension I was feeling this week over my job.


K & M....EX-vagabonds

The era of sleeping on a futon, in other people's spare bedrooms, in our car, and yes, on the cold, hard ground, is finally over. M and K have purchased a bed. This was a rather impromptu decision, fueled by the desire to spring clean our apartment and the fact that the skies were clear on Sunday afternoon - allowing us to transport the mattress on the roof of Sandy. She did great. So we are now resting peaceably on an extra firm pillow top.


So maybe I won't be a teacher after all....

I just heard from the state that my application for certification will not be accepted after all. This after I spent $1,700 on tuition and close to $500 on Praxis exams to fulfill the gaps in my original application, not to mention a good six months of my life. I can go to Harrisburg (4 hour drive), for a fifteen minute meeting with a committee who will make recommendations to the Secretary of Education, who will then make a decision. Twelve to fourteen weeks later.


To boot, four teachers called off today and there were not enough subs, so the rest of us had to cover. I, suffering from a cold, nearly called off, but thought it was not a good enough reason. I know that some people are just burning their personal days, which I do not blame them for. I just wish more people would sign up to sub, although I know why they don't.

So, while I thought my life calling was to educate children with special needs in high poverty areas, there seems to some resistance on the part of the universe in me actually fulfilling that calling.

I'm thinking...banking?


What? A Japanese Vegan Restaurant??

And to top off our California vacation, we headed down to Oakland to visit Leah and Kristijo, former TFA colleagues and neighbors of ours in Phoenix. They are both students now, and seem to be studying all kinds of fascinating things. It was great to catch up with them over dinner in Berkeley at a Japanese vegan restaurant - you heard me right...no fish! The food was delicious and ample. Now if we could only get them to come and visit us in Pittsburgh!

Baby Butler

While in CA, we drove up to Sacramento for a quick, but fun, visit with Jamie and Trisha and their new baby, Sean. He is two months old and quite charming. Jamie and Trisha seem to be doing well with their new California life. We miss them tons in the Burgh, but I must say Sacramento has a certain sunnier disposition about it.


K & M in Monterey Bay, CA, watching the humpback whales dive. Luckily the weather was unseasonably warm, with calm seas. It was still pretty hard to keep my delicious Carmel Valley wine in the glass. You can also see that I felt the need to bundle up in my fleece jacket. The boat was pretty small, but had a little cabin area, where we spread out some food. It also had a toilet, much to the relief of everyone. The captain was also very knowledgeable about sea life and also had another person on board who was a marine biologist. I definitely recommend taking a cruise in the Monterey Bay.


Got Paid, Still Teaching

I may have been getting a little melodramatic in the past few days, and I don't want to alarm anybody, or give them the idea that I'm working in some kind of post-apocalyptic urban hell. I did in fact receive a paycheck today, had a lovely time teaching Vowel-Consonant-E, and enjoyed a pleasant walk home from the bus stop.

Perspective, it's all about perspective.


The Test, Kindergarten and a Paycheck

So, I came home from California last night at, oh, say about midnight. By then I was already acclimated to west coast time, and therefore had a terrible go at actually falling asleep. And then, since I had experienced a blissful three days sans alarm clock, the Beep, Beep, Beep at six am was truly a frightening experience. I rousted myself out of bed nonetheless and managed to make my way to work, where I discovered an email inbox full of contradictory, nonsensical, incomplete and ungrammatical emails regarding the administration of the Test.

Now, I knew the Test was coming up and had already carefully constructed a schedule that would allow me to simultaneously teach and administer the test in IEP-mandated small group environments. Well, not at exactly the same time, but in such a way that the learning part of school could continue, at some degree anyway.

However, it seems that some people had other ideas about it. I didn't really feel like investigating to find out who was responsible for this, but suffice to say, I was feeling pretty cranky about the new testing schedule.

Administering a bubble test to kindergarten students is pretty amusing though. Basically we are trying to figure out if they know how to count to a hundred, write the number twenty, identify a square, etc. But in order to do this in a nationally-normed way, you must give them four choices with accompanying bubbles. The best part was that the test questions are not numbered, but instead have a key picture, such as a cat or a boat. I say, "Put your finger on the cat," and then I'm supposed to read the question, which might be as simple as the word "Triangle", which would then cue my students to shade the bubble under the three sided object. Theoretically at least. However, since they were all staring at the picture of the cat, I was hearing audible, "huh?" sounds coming from their little heads, and immediately knew, this would be a very long day.

Other favorite parts of the day included when my second graders (who have been doing bubble tests for ages and were not confused by the format, but, regardless, are still very small children and cannot sit for 60 minutes to do any sort of task with out a break) requested that we do Yoga, and then led me through a posture-perfect Sun Salutation. And later I let them color instead of going straight back to class and we had a marvelous conversation about our favorite places (For me Big Sur, CA, for them Dave and Buster's in the Waterfront).

And of course, there was not getting paid. I am in the habit of working for money, but I am also in the habit of not spending very much money, so pay day is not that big of a deal to me. However, I am still cognizant of the fact that money should be flowing into my bank account on the 15th and 30th. And there was no such flow today. I know you are screaming, "Walk away from that place, you idiot!" and any remaining pity you might have harbored for me is vanishing before my very eyes, but sometimes it just seems easier to continue doing what you are doing, even if it is really, really terrible. And I know I am not the only American in that boat.

But in general everything is ok, as I sit here spinning records (Akron/Family, Okkervil River), and Mark soaks in the tub to soothe the poison oak he got in Big Sur. But I'm gearing up for tomorrow when I will either teach with a paycheck or come home with nothing, but I sure as heck am not planning to teach (or administer bubble tests) for free.


Adventures in Destination Weddings

Well, Matt and Sloan finally did it. They tied the knot in Carmel, CA on Saturday! Here is a photo of the happy couple. We started off with a fairly relaxing morning at Treebones, then a gorgeous drive up Highway 1 to Carmel. The ceremony was in a tiny chapel at the mission. After the ceremony, we traveled up the coast and went on a whale-watching cruise. I hope to post some videos of the whales we saw, because it was pretty darn impressive. I have never been to a "destination wedding" before, and it was really nice to just hang out with Matt and Sloan and their families for a few days. We ate great food, drank great wine, and had wonderful views of the coast and hills at every stop. I am completely impressed that Sloan organized the entire event from 3,000 miles away!

The weather was absolutely perfect the entire weekend. M and I arrived in San Jose just before noon to sunny, clear skies. After waking up at 3:00am, getting caught at check-in behind 200 high school band members, and flying for what seemed like forever (Central California is REALLY far away), the sun definitely cheered us up. We picked up the rental car - a little silver Beetle - and headed down towards Highway 1. Pittsburgh seemed a million miles away.

I'm chewing on this right now....

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.


We're off to California

We're off for California for Matt and Sloan's wedding! Matt and Sloan are great friends and a wonderful couple and we are so happy that they are tying the knot this weekend. Think happy thoughts on Saturday afternoon.


A Game, but not Jack's game

M told me about some kind of internet game that Jack knows about. You lose as soon as you think about it, or something like that. This is not that game, but another game...a game of internet tag, and I have been tagged by my friend, Amy.

Here are the rules:
A. Post the rules at the beginning.
B. Answer the questions about yourself.
C. Tag 5 people and let them know in a comment on their blogs that they have been tagged.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago? Getting over my working class hero phase and deciding that going to college may be better than working night shift at the Giant Eagle and day shift at a printing shop. Also, I am pretty sure I had never heard of the internet before.

2. Snacks I enjoy: Peanut Chews, kiwis, wasabi peanuts, juice.

3. Five Things on my To-Do List Today: print out directions to Pittsburgh Mills so that I can get my nails done with Loren and her mom (yes, as out of character as manicures are for me, that was really on the list), rewrite an IEP I messed up, edit the mission statement for our upcoming Uganda trip, call my Aunt Mary to find out if we can meet up while she is in town, and put away the laundry.

4. Things I would do if I became a billionaire: Move to New Zealand, quit my job to finish my novel once and for all, totally fund the Uganda mission, hike the PCT, pay off my student loan. Actually these are things I will do even without the billion dollars. Never mind

5. Three bad habits: taking on jobs I do not really want, obsessively thinking about my job in the middle of the night instead of sleeping, and overreacting* to said job instead of just chilling out.

6. Five places I’ve lived: Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston and out in the woods for six months on the Appalachian Trail.

7. Jobs I have had: program coordinator, night stock clerk, preschool teacher, cemetery landscaper, literacy specialist, special education teacher, receptionist, vagabond

8. Things people don’t know about me: I have a secret inner-punk rock self that is just about to burst forth

I tag the Butlers, Stan, and Leah, and they are the only internet people I know, so I cannot do five.


Happy Earth Month

Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd. You can find out more atthis website, who claims They are cleaning the air, promoting land conservation, and improving water quality, or this website, who claims They are not.

Yes, environmentalism can be a complicated political issue.

I am trying to avoid being preachy here, while at the same time sharing some of the ways I am trying to be a more conscious Earth-dweller. So don't take this post as a sign that I will soon show up at your house with a gang of eco-terrorists and slash the tires on your SUV.

Responsible Citizen Effort #1 - Gas is expensive and I hate sitting in traffic, so I bought a bus pass. Hopefully I am also causing less air pollution, although with the Port Authority, you never know. I like to sit on the bus and grade papers, read, or just stare out the window and try to get my blood pressure back under control before arriving home. As a result of riding the bus, I am also walking about 4 miles a day to and from the bus stop. This is not a great amount of exercise, but it's something, and I feel better already for it. There is also a direct fiscal benefit, as a bus pass is cheaper than filling up my car with gas four times a month, to say nothing of the other auto-related expenses (insurance, registration, car payments, maintenance, etc.). So, hopefully this is actually an earth-friendly gesture, but if not it is a K-friendly one.

For all the years I was car-less, I yearned to have wheels of my own. I thought, boy, wouldn't it be great to transport myself around town in a protected environment, and not ever to have to sit next to a crazy or smelly person? Wouldn't it be great to get everywhere faster and on my own schedule?

I finally got those wheels when I was in Phoenix and it has been the curse of me ever since. For some reason, with the car, I think that I will be able to get errands done in a more timely fashion. But having easier access to Target has not greatly improved my quality of life, I am sad to say. Not to mention that fact that just by living in a neighborhood where I have easy access to several groceries, a drug store, dry cleaner's, restaurants, banks, clothing stores, shoe stores, dollar stores and coffee shops, once I get home I have no reason to drive at all, save for traveling out to the suburbs to work (good Lord, what was I thinking taking that job?). And while I truly appreciate a roof over my head in rain, wind, sleet or snow, I now have a very nice raincoat, that accomplishes the same thing. And maybe the grass is always greener on the other side, but I think I'll be spending my time and money in an effort to drive even less over the next year.

There is a matter of that 6:18 am bus to catch, though. So when you are tucked cozy in your bed at 5:30 am this week, think of me trekking to the bus stop in whatever weather is falling from the sky. I will be doing it joyfully.


Beating Hearts

Well, my kindergarten classroom was broken into last night, and they broke the pencil sharpener. Made for an interesting writer's workshop this morning. While we were trying to figure out how to sharpen pencils, we put some aerobic alphabet music on. After a few songs, one girl turned to me, with her hand pressed up against her chest, and said, "My heart is beating!"

She looked quite concerned. I explained that our hearts are pretty much always beating, unless we are dead, but that the harder we work our bodies, the more we can feel them beat.