9.29.2008

What's in a day?

On Mondays, I work as a graduate student researcher.

This can be alternately mind-numbingly boring (and reminiscent of my various stints as a Temp doing data entry) and really, really fun. Well, fun for me.

I just discovered that Eric has a "cite this article" button, in which the appropriate citations for MLA, APA, even Chicago Turabian pop up, and you can just cut and paste them into your paper. This is a phenomenal development in library technology since I last attended college.

So, what's the fun part of what I do? Well, right now, I'm reading these surveys from the principals of our Reading First schools. I'm supposed to read their open-ended responses and classify them by categories that I make up based on themes I see. The fun part is that it leads me to ask all kinds of questions about the science of teaching reading and the politics of implementing it well, and then I go look for articles and read more about it. Right now I am reading:

Stern, S., & Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, W. (2008, March 1). Too Good to Last: The True Story of Reading First. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED500480) Retrieved September 29, 2008, from ERIC database. (yes I used that special citation button right there)

This article reads like a telanovela. Oh, the scandals! The lies! The deceit. And the billions of YOUR tax dollars. It's pretty good stuff.

Anyway, I read and I think, and then I type some ideas, and then I think some more. It is not a bad way to spend a day. Thinking about teaching is far less taxing than teaching.

And now, I'll go off to class for a few hours, which has turned out to be sort of easy, although I'm behind in locating a student to work with, on account of the whole tutoring program debacle, a story I would relate to you, if only I could think of a way to tell it without engaging in the defamation of certain involved parties.

9.28.2008

What M and K are doing...

The problem with having an amazing life of adventure is that it sets a high bar for blogging. And then, when one is going about daily business, it is difficult to summon the energy to write. And when one is not writing, one doesn't even realize how tedious and uninteresting life has become. But the next logical step from this realization is to move to New Zealand to WWOOF on a sheep farm.

Perhaps I'm being a bit dramatic. Things are not that bad. Nobody is going to New Zealand (right now). We've just been hangin' out in the 'Burgh, watching football, studying, and eating a lot of dumplings.

So, we've been looking for a house to buy. The consequence of buying $100,000 worth of anything, however, has made us pause and reconsider our general approach to Major Life Decisions. This has resulted in us significantly narrowing down our criteria, much to the relief of our fearless real estate agent, Matt. But even in a buyers market, it's tough to find a cheap, old, classy, place with 3 bedrooms and hardwood floors, and charm, within walking distance to Pitt, a grocery, a coffee shop and a vet. And a porch. And a roof that doesn't leak. And not with a converted coal furnace. But we're looking, and one of these days we'll find a place. Or not. In any event, I got so excited about moving into a new house that I already started collecting boxes and packing stuff up. This is fairly typical of my non-linear approach.

In other news, M bought a ukulele. This is much quieter than an accordion, with a gentle, tinkling sound and I don't mind it at all. So far, he has learned to play lots of Jens Lekman songs, and also the them to Super Mario Brothers. But while he was learning to play the Mario theme song, I nearly went mad, and one night had dreams that all occurred in video-gameboard-like settings, and I didn't much like the 2D, never-ending aspect of it.

I've been babysitting. Twins. Three sets, but not all at once. It just seems that every family that contacted me had twins. Well, every family that was not psycho. It's kind of funny, but the families always think when you meet them that THEY are the ones checking to make sure you aren't nuts, but they don't seem to realize that I'm sizing them up, too. Basically, I only sit for families where the parents seem pretty chill. Anybody who gets excited about kids getting a little dirty, or spilling juice on the carpet, or requires the babysitter to drive them to all kinds of activities, is not for me. And so far, I've found 4 decent families.

9.21.2008

Summer Table

It is still pretty prime farmer's market season, and we got some awesome peppers last week. They have a deep, rich, hot flavor that lingers on your tongue. And the tomatoes are so ripe they burst open all over the cutting board the second the knife pierces their skins. M made a fantastic breakfast scramble two days in a row. We paired the tomatoes with marinated tofu and basil, for a delicious caprese salad. And we shared slices of a red, juicy watermelon with my cousin Eric, who stopped by on Saturday afternoon.

9.10.2008

Dumplings

Yet another thing that happens when you do not own a television....

video

M and I would have liked to watch television on Monday night. We are really busy, with lots of projects on our respective plates. We wanted to relax. Unwind. Veg out. But lacking the comfort of that familiar, glowing box, we turned to the kitchen. And nothing is more comforting than spending 3 hours making Korean Kimchee Dumplings. At first it was fun. And then, it felt like it might never end. But at the end of the night, we agreed that being a human assembly line of dumpling making goodness, actually achieved the same effect as watching a few hours of television. But now we have six dozen dumplings in our freezer.

(And we still kind of want a television.)

9.06.2008

Penny for your thoughts...

Does anyone else find pennies everywhere when you are cleaning?

We live in an old apartment building, and dozens of people have occupied the space we call home. I was wondering today, as I picked up pennies wedged underneath the chair legs, and tucked into the space between the carpet and the wall, how many of these pennies were ours and how many had been transported here by other hands. Some of them were very old and dirty.

I've never lived in a new house. When I was a child, we moved into a property owned by my grandfather. He had been renting it to a magician and his family, and they left all sorts of strange and thought-provoking junk behind. My parents now own this house, but the history of those who have lived, and died, there is still strong.

I'm collecting all my pennies, and dropping them into a ceramic canister that my sister gave me. When I have enough, I'll take them to Coinstar and exchange them for paper bills. And then I'll use those paper bills to buy coffee and sandwiches and other things that don't cost exactly one dollar or two or five. And then more pennies will fall out of my pockets when I do laundry. They will roll across the floor and I will be too distracted to find them and pick them up in that moment. And the next time I decide to lift the furniture and sweep underneath, they will be there waiting for me.

9.04.2008

School

I started graduate school last week. It's a bit of a surreal experience. First, I'm working with some of the same people I did before we moved to Arizona. Second, I have a research position at the school, which sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is - I spent all day yesterday entering 0s and 1s into a spreadsheet. I'm sure it will get better.

I work in the same building I did when I was an Americorps*VISTA volunteer. The echo of the cavernous hallways and rumbling escalators is so familiar.

I spent all summer outside in sunshine and fresh air, and it's strange to be deep in the bowels of a climate controlled building, fluorescent lights buzzing overhead.

I sit in my office and catch up on my reading, hi-liter in hand. I sit in class and scribble notes on a tiny pad. I was shocked when out of a class of 30, only I raised my hand as having experience in a Title I school. I had forgotten that education existed outside of high-poverty areas. I realized how much of my educational philosophy had been shaped by working with kids who did not show up to school ready to learn, and that these kids do, in fact, represent a minority, albeit a sizable one.

M and I went backpacking this weekend with Caveman of Ohio in the Laurel Highlands. I will post some trail photos soon, which you will find hilarious because what we were trying to do and what we ended up doing was rather ridiculous on a number of levels.

Anyway, while hiking along the ridge line, through an endless, waist-high carpet of ferns, I noticed bugs swarming around my face. I sweat a lot when I hike, and maybe they like that. The bugs made a weird deja-vu feeling wash over me and I remembered that I spent a good 10 hours a day, walking and sweating and hearing the high-pitched whine of mosquitoes and gnats when we were on the AT in the hottest summer months. At first, I applied bug spray, which I promptly sweat off. Then I swatted at them. I tied my bandanna in creative ways around my head. I cursed at them.

And when I had exhausted all possible strategies to eliminate this annoyance...I did nothing. I just walked with the bugs, and low and behold, this was the magic pill.

What I realized this weekend is that it's the magic pill for just about everything. It's how I live in Pittsburgh again, happy to experience things that used to drive me crazy. It's how I conserve my energy to tackle things that matter, instead of getting bogged down in situations I can't win. It's how I can do exactly the same thing that I did seven years ago, and not only be cool with it, but love it.

So is that what maturity is? Giving up on swatting the flies from your face?