Friday, October 23, 2009

Return to the Ren Fest

Being sick sucks (I mean, stinks). I'm supposed to be enjoying my Fall Break this weekend. I was going to go to Louisville to spend the day today, and finish it with a temple session. Instead, I'm at home, trying to get my fever down, trying to rest my achy body, trying to get to feeling better. Alas.

On the positive side, I have time to finally update my blog.

Last weekend, I took a short trip back to the "Motherland" of Missouri to attend the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. What a fantastic trip! I have been looking forward to this for the last two years (the last time I was able to go to the RenFest was in 2006, not long after moving to Indy). I was a little worried when I saw the weather forecast (partly cloudy was predicted), but all worries were for naught- we had a near-perfect weekend for the festival, and as far as I know, all who attended (fluffy little Maximus Charles included) had a perfectly delightful time! (Max was definitely the darling of the group, garnering so much attention, we should have charged a quarter for every person wanting to get up close and personal- his vanity was certainly pampered that day! :)

For those of you who may not be familiar with this tradition, there is a lot in Bonner Springs, KS set up to resemble a Medieval town (complete with jousting arena). There are stands full of vendors of every type- from food to clothes to toys to art to weapons to jewelry to just about anything in between. There are fantastic entertainers (Dr. H. Dumpe is one of our favorites, as is Bob, The Incredible Juggler- I also enjoy the Human Combat Chess Match, where real people stand in for the traditional chess pieces), informative shows about things like falconry, jousts, medieval musical performances- something for everyone and every age. The Festival runs every weekend from Labor Day until the weekend after Columbus Day, rain or shine. Luckily for us, we had no rain- just clear skies and enough of a chill to keep us from sweating. You couldn't ask for more perfect weather for something like this! Well, here- take a look for yourself:

Here is Beckie with Max in his favorite position: Off the ground (he probably spent a total of 10 minutes on the ground the entire time we were there...)

Awaiting the show of Dr. H. Dumpe, fire eater.

Dr. Dumpe's assistant, Matt, walking on broken glass.

Dr. Dumpe burying his face IN the broken glass as Matt walks across his head and body.

Amazing feats of fire!

The Joust (complete with armor and lances! :)

The Victor!

Max and I at the jousting arena.

Steven the Sorcerer.

Sarah meeting up with close pal, Stephen Colbert (who knew?! Heehee).

Some of the historical crafts demonstrated throughout the Festival.

Great food, great entertainment, great shops (I'm very pleased with my purchases: a ceramic decorative mask in the style of a greenleaf face and a wooden mug)- fun times were definitely had by all...

...and to finish off an already wonderful weekend, for Sunday dinner, Beckie cooked us a fantastic Greek feast (trying to make it as authentic as she could). I truly wish everyone could have been there- I missed not getting to see Kirsti (keep studying hard!), Emily/Joe/Noah (I hope the moving is going well- I wish I could be more helpful from here...), and even Juli (though we can hook up fairly easily, and I did just see her last weekend when Sarah was here). It was a terrific trip, well worth the wait and the time/effort it took to get there. We'll have to do this again next year! Thanks to everyone for making it something to remember!

The family, relaxing after a delicious dinner, courtesy of Beckie and others who helped her out.

Here's hoping I get better soon and that the rest of you stay healthy!
Love you!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Small rants...

So. I recently finished reading Eldest (the book right after Eragon in the Inheritance cycle). Overall, I find it an engaging and entertaining story. Perhaps it is a bit long at times, but I was eager to get to the end, and I am already looking forward to starting Brisingr (though I think I will take a short break and read a few shorter novels before diving into another huge book).

That being said, I really feel the need to vent about some of my pet peeves with regards to these books.

1. His vocabulary sounds rather pretentious. I have always been big on vocabulary- I like to learn new words, and I have been known myself to use big words on occasion (though generally, I am not using them to show off... they just slip out ;). I'm okay with writers using big words, even when they are words I am unfamiliar with. My problem here is that he uses so many so often, it sounds more like showing off. I realize that it is possible I might be jealous that this kid (well, young adult, now) knows more words than I do, but I think it goes beyond that. There have been many times when it feels like he uses a particular word just to show off that he knows how to use it. While I am learning a number of new words in reading these books, I gotta say- I'm not a fan of the showing-off.

2. I found a very awkward line that has been driving me crazy for weeks- so much so that I had to talk to a few fellow English majors (and my sister, Sarah, who is also very knowledgeable in these matters) to feel vindication that it is not just me being picky. At one point in the story, one of the characters says, "A myriad issues await your decision..." This could have been said any number of ways that would have been correct ("A myriad of issues...", "Myriad issues...", "The myriad issues...") but no, he had to choose the one way that was completely incorrect! Gaaaah! It still drives me crazy to think about it!

3. My biggest pet peeve, though, even more than showing off or a case of poor grammar is the ignorant use of formal language. By this, I mean the use of pronouns such as "thee," "thy/thine," "thou," etc. (I think you get the picture). Now, I realize that it is challenging to use this kind of language--I think that is why so many people have a difficult time reading Shakespeare or the KJV Bible. Maybe growing up reading the KJV and the Book of Mormon made it easier for me to grasp Shakespeare--whatever the case, I have never really had a problem with this kind of language. But every time I encounter it in these books, it seems clear that Christopher Paolini has no clue how to use it. First of all, he uses the pronouns in sporadic isolation- e.g. he may use the pronoun "thee" in one sentence and in the very next one switch back to using "you." This inconsistency is actually rather jarring, because it makes the pronouns so unexpected. Because this jarring feeling does not seem to serve any purpose (it doesn't create suspense, it doesn't seem to add anything to character development, etc.), it is more frustrating than anything. Additionally, what so many people don't seem to realize is that it is not enough to substitute "thee" or "thou" or "thy/thine" etc. for the pronouns- certain words have to change, too, to match the formal language ("would" becomes "wouldst," "does" becomes "doth," "do" becomes "dost," etc.)

Even worse than this, though, is the incorrect use of the pronouns- e.g. "I will do mine best..." (and other similar usages, though I can't find other specific examples right now). If one cannot use the language properly, it should not be attempted (unless it is to point out a character's ignorance of the language, but since several characters in the book make the same mistakes, this seems unlikely in this case).

Now, to be fair, I realize that Christopher Paolini is still very young (I think he was 15 or so when he started writing these books)- and I think he is still learning how to be a better writer (heck, we can see how J.K. Rowling got better as she wrote more and more). So I can cut him a little slack. In fact, I would probably lay more of the blame on his editor. The fact that his editor has failed to catch such errors and inconsistencies shows that he/she, too, is ignorant of these matters, which, in my opinion, is something a good editor cannot afford...

Okay. I'm a little better now. Here's hoping that Brisingr shows improvement in these issues...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's Gnu With You?

I'm a bit tired, but I felt I should give a "gnus" brief on what's been going on in my life (mostly because I can't remember who I have told and who I have not told...)

What's gnu with my job: Up until this summer, I have been teaching with an emergency teaching license, one that expires every year, but is renewable for up to three years if there is still an emergency need. Well, after some intense work the last few months (April and May were pretty insane, not to mention the Praxis II in June), I now have a permanent license. Unfortunately, the school I was at does not currently have an open position (nor the funds from the district yet to create the much needed Spanish teaching position I know they would like to have).

So. Here is what I am currently doing. I am part of a newly developed teaching cadre, made up mostly of displaced teachers (mostly RIFed teachers, newly graduated teachers, or ones in my type of situation). We have been getting trained in various areas during August- mostly involving IPS policies and what the district feels are the "best practices" for all teachers to utilize in the classroom.

What we will do come September 1st is fill in for teachers who will be called out to receive specialized training in Language Arts and Math. Yes, technically, we are substitutes, but not your average sub. What makes us different: 1. We won't be filling in just because a teacher called in sick or has a family emergency. All of our assignments are pre-planned on a monthly basis. 2. Unlike most subs, we are all licensed teachers, many of us with experience in the classroom. 3. We are primarily focused on the Language Arts and Math content areas (though we will also have to help elementary teachers get professional development, so on those days, we will obviously be covering all subjects that elementary teacher normally covers).

Now, since the district may still have positions that open up (either because of numbers that are larger than anticipated or because of surplus funding or whatever), we will generally be the first ones to be considered for those positions. So, this means I might be doing this for the whole year, or a matter of weeks or months. It's hard to say. Still, I am fine rolling with the punches for right now. For me, the biggest plus side is that I don't have to worry about grades or grading, and only minimal worry about lesson plans (teachers are supposed to provide those, but I know from experience that not all do, so I will need to be prepared in case that happens...).

So, that is what I will be doing for work this school year (oh, and I will still be putting in hours at the ol' Barrel on Saturdays, as usual...)

What's gnu with church: Okay, not much really in this category. Since I turned 30 this year, I have until my next birthday before they kick me out of the singles' branch (unless I miraculously find one with whom I would gladly spend eternity and we get married before that next birthday... but don't hold your breath, Mom). Rather than stay until I am kicked out, my plan is to slowly transition out. I will go to the Carmel Ward with Rachel about once a month until the end of December. Then, in January, I will make the switch official and complete and have my records transferred over.

What's gnu with other things: Well, I know I told at least some of you that I would be auditioning for the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. I was really rather nervous- it's been awhile since I have done singing outside of a church choir. But the audition went relatively well, and I was notified a couple of days ago that I have been invited to join! I am really excited about this! I love singing, and I am looking forward to singing challenging music that will help me develop this talent! I will also be re-joining the handbell choir I joined in April, so that is another talent I look forward to improving.

I think that pretty much covers what I will be doing with my life this coming year... if you feel I have missed something, you are welcome to let me know and I will fill you in on whatever you want...

I'm done now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I'm baaaaaaack...

So, it really has been a pretty crazy summer, going here and there and almost everywhere. Sadly, due to a temporarily (I hope) dysfunctional computer, I am typing this post at the library, meaning I will not be able to post photos of the following items at this time. (I may post photos later, if I think about it- and if I can find the time- school is coming up PDQ...)
After such a long absence from the digital and blogging world, I now present... (drumroll please...)

Elise's Top 10 Funsies of the Summer of '09!
(small disclaimer: due to the fantastic nature of most of these funsies, they do not appear in any particular order, since most of them tie for the top position)

5. High Praxis II Score!
Many of you know that I was really stressed about this test. After all, it would be one of the key determining factors in whether or not I would be eligible for a permanent teaching license. After some cramming, and a lot of prayers (and patience as I waited for the results to post), I found that I got 192 out of 200! I also received a commendation from the testing company, saying that this score was in the top 15% of test takers! (It is so nice to have that overwith... whew!)

4. New T.V. Show Obsessions
Thanks to the limping economy that has all full-time Cracker Barrel servers desperately needing hours, part-timers (such as myself) have been left with an excess of time. When I wasn't traveling to and fro this summer, I was spending all this valuable extra time in the oh-so-productive-efforts of getting addicted to new shows! Well, by new, I mean new to me- shows that have been around but that I hadn't yet really watched...until now. June was devoted to watching the entire 1-season series Firefly (a fantastic Joss Whedon creation that should have lasted much longer) and its follow-up movie, Serenity. I loved the down-to-earth vision of the future and the unique facets each character brought to the show. Very well done.
Free time in July was spent getting hooked on Psych- a hilarious show about a pseudo-psychic who solves crimes with his uber-observant skills. I watched the first season in under a week; the second season took a little longer only because travels interrupted the viewing. I am currently waiting to borrow season 3 from a friend (unless Hollywood has it for rent; Blockbuster disappointed me.) Both shows are definitely worth the time invested in watching them...

3. 48 Hours... of Reading.
When Genny D. first mentioned some national event trying to get readers to spend 48 hours of their time in recreational reading, it sounded like a fun idea. I was unable to participate on the official days, but I took a couple of days to do my own read-a-thon. It has been so long since I have just had time to sit and read without allowing myself to get distracted with other things that I thoroughly enjoyed those two days. Granted, I did have a few other things I had to do (eat, sleep, shower), so it wasn't 48 hours of straight reading, but I got several books read (and started a couple more that I am still working on). I think I will have to make time for something like this every year!

2. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince
Out of the series, this is one of my favorite books (it ties with Prisoner of Azkaban for the top spot). As such, I'll admit my expectations were pretty high. It was hard to register a fair opinion after the first viewing because of all the inevitable alterations (as Beckie always says, if you want the books, read the books...). That being said, I have now seen it four times (twice in IMAX 3-D). My "complaints" are relatively minor. I think the movie is fantastic and very well done, and I think it will lead nicely into the next two movies, despite what purists may say... (my only big complaint is Ginny, but that's for another post).

1. 4th of July
This year, Juli and I got to spend the 4th with friends in northern Indiana. Seeing as how I hadn't seen these friends in a few years, it was a thoroughly delightful trip. I had such a great time talking with them and catching up with all that is going on... while the fireworks were fun, the best part of the weekend was the entertaining conversations.

1. Birthday Book with Emily
Earlier in June, I got to spend a night with Emily helping her put together what is called an "altered" book (basically taking an existing book and, using paint and gesso and colorful papers and stamps and photos and other such things, turning it into a personal scrapbook/album). Acutally, about the only thing I did to help was pick out the paper. She did all the work. Still, it was fun to watch her (I really want to try this kind of project on my own someday), fun to talk with her, fun to get some time with her- which is far too rare a treat. Thank you, Emily, for a charming book and a delightful evening!

1. Beckie's Homecoming
After spending a year working in Iraq, Beckie finally came home for good. As she will point out, it's not like we never saw her during the year or so she was gone. Still, it was hard having her so far away for that long. Her return resulted in a family reunion, which was a lot of fun (it was nice to see the stress kept to a minimum). I'm so glad I got to be there for that, and even more glad that she won't be quite so far away. Seeing as how she is now closer to the KC side of MO, there will definitely be some road trip plans for the KC area!

1. Wicked
When Juli first played me the soundtrack to this musical, I thought it was amazing! I got even more excited when she found out it would be coming to Indy (I wasn't able to attend when she, Beckie and Kyle went in St. Louis about a year and a half ago). As I drove down to watch the show, I was a little apprehensive- due to experiences with The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon, I was afraid I might somehow end up a little disappointed as I had with those shows. Fortunately, such was not the case here. The whole show from beginning to end was fantastic! I was mesmerized the entire time! Granted, there were a few things I might have changed had I been the director, but I was anything but disappointed. It was wonderful! I would so see it again in a heartbeat!

1. Six Flags-Great America (Chicago)
I love roller coasters! As much as I enjoyed Disney World (more on that in a bit), it didn't quite satiate my desire for thrilling rides. So when the opportunity came to join Esther Morris and Annie and her husband Darren for a day-trip to the Six Flags in Chicago, I jumped at the chance. Despite a frustrating drive through Illinois that morning (and an even more frustrating one through the overly humongous city and suburbs of Chicago), I spent a good 8 hours riding some of the best roller coasters and rides I have ever experienced- The Raging Bull (no loops, but super high and super fast!), the classic Batman, the Superman (where you are actually situated belly-down so you can see all that crazy open air below you!), Vertical Velocity (similar to the Mr. Freeze in St. Louis, I believe)- even the older, classic wooden coaster, the Viper, had twists and turns enough to make my stomach drop several times! We also took time for some of the tamer rides- the Tilt-a-whirl, the Scrambler, the swinging chairs... It was a day well spent!

1. Walt Disney World
When I first heard of Disney's free birthday pass promotion, I didn't really think I would actually be able to take advantage of that. Thanks to some savings, and to some very generous sisters, this birthday wish came to pass! Sarah and I flew down to Florida for a few days so that I could spend my birthday at Disney World. We stayed at a nice resort a few miles away (cheaper than the Disney resorts, but still so nice!). While we didn't get to the park until about noon, we still got to spend a good 11 hours enjoying the many rides (they don't specialize in thrills- it is, after all, aimed primarily at kids- but they have some great scenery and effects!), some tasty (though pricey) food, and all the shops. I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (they have added Jack Sparrow into several of the scenes) and the Jungle Tour and the Haunted Mansion (one of my favorites). It was fun walking through the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (I used to think it would be so much fun to live there!) I think my favorite ride was Splash Mountain (Unfortunately, Space Mountain was closed for repairs until later this year...grrrr.)
Besides the rides, two other things that made this one of the best birthdays I have ever had:
First, so many people wishing me happy birthday (thanks to the birthday button they gave me at the entrance)- it was nice to get such friendly smiles and warm wishes, even from total strangers!
Second, the fireworks. Truly, it was one of the most spectacular fireworks shows I have ever seen. Sarah and I just sat on the ground, gazing up in awe. I felt like a kid again (for a 30-year-old, that was something!)- I was just so enthralled and delighted with the incredible lights and colors of the fireworks. I had felt that I deserved an amazing 30th birthday, and I feel that that is exactly what I got. It was worth every penny spent and will not soon be forgotten!

Okay, so there you have it- 10 of the best, most fun moments/days of my summer.
It's good to be back!
Now, I just have to get ready for school... :S

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good Dads...

I am still recuperating a bit from my delightful trip to Missouri (I spent a lovely three weeks there with my family), so I don't have energy for a long post- I may share details of my travels within the next few days, but for now, a short tribute to all fathers and eventual fathers to be out there, but most especially to those whose lives are more closely connected to my own:

Dad (i.e. Steven W. Lambson, Sr.): What can I say to a father who has done so much for me, who has given so much of himself over the years for the sake of his wonderful wife and ridiculous children, it's amazing he's still got any hair at all?! Dad, you have been such a solid rock, such a sure spiritual foundation for all of us- you and Mom have done so much to help us grow, to help us not only learn but to help us love to learn. Any success we can claim in this life is owed at least in part to the role you have played as a father (and, of course, to what Mom has done as a mother). I am so grateful that I can say, as Nephi of old, that I have been born of "goodly parents." Thank you for being my dad.

Joe: Joe, thanks for being such a great husband for my sister and such a great father for my nephew. You have so much depth and insightful perspective to offer, I always appreciate any thoughts you have to share (meaningful and meaningless alike). Even though you pinched me in my soft spot, I still love and admire you.

Steve (i.e. Steven W. Lambson, Jr.): Okay, I know you're not a dad yet (I don't think the Wii counts...)- and please don't think this is any kind of rude or awkward pressure to hurry up and become one. You and Tamara will do what's best for both of you. But I wanted to give you a shout out anyway for being a good man. I love your intelligence, I love your spiritual maturity, I love your geekiness, I love your humor. I look up to you in so many ways (and not just literally :). Thank you for being such a good brother and even a good friend. I hope someday those Teachers realize what a valuable example of righteousness they have right in front of them!

And on this Fathers' Day, I hope we all take time to remember and express gratitude to and for the Father of us all.

Happy Fathers' Day!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Some More Olds and News...

First of all, I forgot to mention a couple of items in the "update" part of the last post:

1. BYU Ballroom Dance Corp (I think that's their official title- I forget). A couple of weeks ago, they were in Indy as part of their national tour. I'm not sure how Rachel found out about it (most likely, her bishop made some announcement in the ward...), but she signed up to host a couple of the female dancers. In exchange, we got a pair of free tickets to their performance May 5th. Let me tell you, it was an amazing performance! Granted, I didn't recognize a lot of structured ballroom dancing steps- to me, it seemed more like a combination of a professional-level show choir with some ballroom dancing techniques thrown in. But then, I will confess that I am not knowledgable enough to be a dance critic. Whatever the case, it was some incredible dancing (with some exquisite costumes- as well as some really weird and bizarre ones). Seriously, I'm not sure humans were really meant to move like that- astounding agility and flexibility! If you ever find yourself given the opportunity to go to one of their performances, go. It is a visual delight!

2. I have always loved handbells. Although I haven't tried to keep that a secret, I haven't really gone around and told people about it- it just never really came up. But I think handbell choirs are amazing and fun and so cool! I have always been a little sad that our church does not have congregational handbell choirs (which is understandable- the initial cost is considerable, from what I've heard, and I realize our funds go to other, more important things, like helping out starving hurricane victims or helping support missionaries that are trying to bring people to Christ). Anyway, long story short (too late!), I joined a handbell choir a few weeks ago! It is at a Methodist church in Castleton, and one of the players is also a teacher at TEch (which is how I made the connection). I have had so much fun learning how to play the bells (there is a lot more to it than just ringing, let me tell you!), and my "big" debut on Sunday went fairly well (only a few mistakes, nothing too major). Sadly, they are done for now- we won't start up again until the fall. But a lot of the members were very friendly and eagerly asked if I would be coming back in the fall. That's definitely the plan! I am excited about this new way to develop my musical talents!

Okay, that's it for the updates (I think). Now, since J.Ammon complained about haters in my last post, I thought I'd show him that it's not all about hate (though I did forget to mention in that list that I absolutely despise beets, that I hate Romeo and Juliet as a love story, that I think Maraschino cherries are disgusting, and that, unlike most people, I really do not care for movie theater popcorn. I hate the way it coats your tongue and the roof of your mouth in layer after layer of pointless cholesterol...)

Anyway, I decided to do a list of things I like that most other people seem to dislike/hate. Here goes (again, in no particular order):

10 things I LIKE that most other people seem to hate:

1. William Shakespeare: I know that his name may be considered the equivalent of a four-letter word to most high school students, but despite the aforementioned dislike of R&J as a love story, I can honestly say I love Shakespeare. This is not any kind of obligatory English-major acknowledgment of one of the greatest writers to ever live. I genuinely love much of Shakespeare's works (I will concede that I do not love his works universally- there are some of his plays and poetry that I can do without). He had such a brilliant knack for description and imagery. I will argue till the day I die (and maybe even beyond) that one of the greatest speeches ever written is King Henry V's pep talk before the Battle of Agincourt. Goosebumps every time.

2. Hamlet: Going with that Shakespeare vein, I love Hamlet. It seems that even among those that like Shakespeare, Hamlet does not seem to be one that is often cited as a favorite. It is definitely one of mine. I love the intricacies, the complexities, the ambiguities of it all. Most of all, though, I love Horatio. He has long been (and always will be) one of my absolute favorite characters, Shakesperean or otherwise. I especially loved the way he was portrayed by Nicholas Farrell in Kenneth Branagh's production of Hamlet. (The best is the scene between him and Hamlet, just before Hamlet's fatal duel with Laertes).

3. Washing dishes by hand: Most kids do not like to do chores (heck, most adults don't like to do chores either), but out of all the rotating chores my parents had us do, I never minded doing the dishes. For most of our childhood, we did not have a functioning dishwasher appliance, so they always had to be done by hand. I actually found this rather relaxing, especially since we had a window above the sink that looked out over the back yard. Though there is no window above the sink in my current apartment, I still don't mind doing dishes by hand, even with a working dishwasher appliance. Weird, I know.

4. Cleaning in general: You wouldn't think it to look at my room, but I really do like cleaning: mopping, scrubbing, dusting, vacuuming, straightening/organizing...I enjoy doing it all! (Although, keep in mind that having a cluttered home is not the same as having a dirty one). While it may not necessarily be relaxing to me like doing the dishes is, it is still a refreshingly satisfying thing to do. It really does bother me when the house is dirty and out of order. Granted, I'm not obsessed like Monica on Friends, where I'll do it above doing many other things. No, other things sadly do take precedence...but I'm still working to balance my life in such a way that I can get more cleaning done on a regular basis.

5. Snow: I don't like driving in snow when there are panicky idiots on the road who make life unsafe for anybody around them, but I love a good snow--especially around Christmas. Anytime between mid-late November until the end of February, I will almost never complain about getting snow (unless it is not getting enough of it, such as on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day). I love the way it looks, I love it when it crunches or when it swishes or when it sparkles or when it glistens... It is so beautiful in so many ways. So, to those living in the Midwest who hate it or complain about it, I always say, Nuts to you. Move to California or Florida. If you live in this part of the country, you're going to have to accept snow. You don't have to like it, but for heaven's sake, quit complaining about it out loud. I don't want to hear it.

6. Ice Storms: Like the snow, I don't necessarily like the dangers that ice storms present- it royally sucks (stinks!) if the power gets knocked out for more than a few hours, and roads are significantly more treacherous than with snow. Still, I love the way an ice storm makes the world look, as though it were encased in glass or crystal. I love the way the ice sparkles in the sun like diamonds, and when it puts a crust on the snow, it's kind-of fun to crunch through that layer of ice... I just think it makes everything so beautiful.

7. Peanut Butter Kisses: Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. Those Halloween taffies that come in the black and orange wrappers. Sure, they are probably used by dentists for tooth extractions, but I love them! I remember my first year at college (and my first year away from home on Halloween), Mom and Dad sent me a small box full of them! (Probably Sarah and Kirsti's discards, but so what? I sure didn't care!)

8. Turkey dark meat: I am one of the few people in the family who prefers the dark meat to the white (I think Mom shares this same preference). I just think it tastes so much better, and unlike white meat, which always tastes a little dry, dark meat is always so much more moist and tender. It really is the best stuff! (My family is welcome to disregard that statement, though- if you start moving in on my dark meat, I may have to beat you with a wet noodle...)

9. Teaching Relief Society/Sunday School (or even giving a Talk): Part of this may be because I just naturally tend to talk a lot (not that any of you have noticed, right? :) However, I think it is also just one of those gifts that God has given me. I think there is a reason I have wanted/planned to be a teacher for most of my life growing up. I think it is just in my blood. I really do enjoy it, especially getting to teach an older group of people (I don't know if I'd still love it if I had to teach 4-5-year-olds, or even adolescents- I've never had that opportunity...). One friend asked once how I do it without ever getting nervous (she'd had to to teach Relief Society earlier that day). I explained that I do still get a little nervous, but I've somehow found a way to use those nerves to my advantage. I just don't worry too much about what I'm going to say. I try to focus more on how I'm going to say it (i.e. through the Spirit, hopefully).

10. The smell of freshly-cut grass: While there may be many others who also enjoy this smell, I know it bothers a lot of people mostly because in order to get that smell, you have to actually cut/mow grass, which releases a lot of pollen and other allergens into the air, which most people hate. My bizarre allergies are kind-of come and go, but even if mowing the lawn were to aggravate my allergies, I would still love that smell- definitely one of my favorite harbingers of summer and all the delights that come with it!

So there, Joe. As you can see, I'm not just a hater. I like lots of things. There are plenty of other haters in the world that hate things I like. So why don't you just quit hating on us all? :)

Here's hoping any and all of you readers out there have a beautiful week!

Monday, May 11, 2009

News and Olds

Yeah, it's been awhile. Here's a brief that may or may not be brief.

1. New Goal: Obtain teaching license by the end of June. It means an insane month of May, getting all this paperwork and teaching documentation done, but I have been assured by my two advisors at Marian College that it is possible. Keep your fingers crossed and hold your breath (until the end of June, that is... I hope you don't turn blue- or dead.)

2. Old Hopes continually dashed: Why oh why do my students continue to fail? I could count the number of passing grades I gave out this last midquarter on one hand. Overall, they seem to be generally engaged in class. I can't see how they might be misunderstanding my expectations. They know what they have to do. Why oh why don't they do it? How can I get them to do the work so they are learning and NOT failing? I'm really struggling with this one, so all you teachers out there, I could use any thoughts or advice on it...

3. Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo: Since apparently I did NOT inform anyone of my intended activities this past weekend, contrary to what I had thought, here's a quick rundown. I left school early on Friday, picked up a friend, Kristina, and drove many many many hours to Nauvoo. Why, you ask? Because we had a couple of friends who were getting married on Saturday (to each other, not to other people- i.e. one wedding was involved, not two). I stayed Friday and Saturday night with Rebecca (Morris) Powell in Burlington, IA (Kristina stayed with the bride's family in a hotel in Nauvoo). Friday night, a group of us (including the groom) went to go see Star Trek. Holy Cow! What an amazing movie! I won't go into a lot of details yet (since some of you may still be on your way to see it), but the casting was amazing, the cast was talented (and hilarious- especially McCoy and Scotty), the story was just a good, solid story- it was incredible! Even Kristina, who is not really a Star Trek fan, loved it and would go to see it again in a heartbeat. For those of you who love movies- even if you're not a Star Trek fan- you should definitely go see this one!
Saturday- the day of the wedding- was beautifully clear and sunshiny- and COLD! FREEZING COLD! And windy! Even in the midwest, May is usually consistently warm. My outfit, including a knee-length skirt and sandals, should have been fine. No. We all froze as the photographers snapped dozens of photos. Still, the wedding was lovely, the bride and groom radiant, and as the weather eventually warmed up by late afternoon, the day was wonderful.
Sunday- after attending sacrament meeting, Kristina and I (and the groom's mom, who joined our party car for reasons too complicated to explain) headed back to Indiana. Despite all the driving I forced Frankie to do, I would say it was a good weekend, even if a bit exhausting...

So, there's an update on things going on in my life right now. Now you can quit asking.

To finish this off, I offer you a list, taken from one of Genny Dawson Dazet's recent posts:

10 Things I Hate That Other People Seem To Like:
(in no particular order)
  1. Seafood: Everyone is always raving about shrimp or crab or this or that kind of fish. Blech. Ew. Gross. Now, I realize that part of this is years of prejudice against any kind of seafood talking (thanks a lot, Mom and Dad, for forcing me to eat all those nasty fish sticks... I think you have traumatized me for life). However, in growing up, I have made some effort to overcome those psychological prejudices and have made the attempt to try some types of seafood. That being said, with the exceptions of canned tuna and fried cod/fried calamari (when I'm in the mood), I hold to my first opinion. Blech. Ew. Gross. (I do, however, have to give kudos BIG time to Red Lobster, who can ALWAYS make seafood look appealing, even to me... Whoever is in charge of their marketing campaigns is a pure genius!)
  2. Earbuds: While I am not opposed to swabbing out the earwax with a Q-tip on occasion, I still can't handle the annoying sensation of earbuds. While I realize traditional headphones may feel a bit bulky, I still prefer them to sticking wads of plastic/rubber in my ears for extended periods of time. It's like having wax buildup that won't come out! I'm sorry. If there are earbuds out there that are lighter than air so that I don't notice I have them in, great. I'll give them a try. Until then, I'll stick with the bulky but comfortable.
  3. Vegetables: While I am often quick to point out to my family that I have come a long way since I was a child- I can willingly eat many things (vegetables included) that I didn't like to touch as a kid- I can still freely admit that many vegetables are not on my list of things I like to eat (the few that are tend to be low on the list- with the exception of corn, which I can honestly say I love). When I do eat veggies, for the most part they have to be raw. I still struggle with cooked vegetables (Hey- at least I don't have to massage my throat anymore, right?) Of course, that makes it hard for me to eat many other types of meals, because they often use vegetables as a complement to meats, grains, etc. Oh well. I still find plenty to eat.
  4. NASCAR: I realize that this may be rather ironic, considering that I live in Indianapolis, the heart of car racing. There may be those that would consider such a statement blaspheme. Nuts to them. I certainly didn't move here to be closer to the Indianapolis Speedway. People who honestly enjoy NASCAR are either sick or drunk (or both). The closest I will ever get to willingly watching stock car racing is watching CARS. (Disclaimer: I realize that Indianapolis is famous for the Indy 500, which is NOT a NASCAR race. No matter. The speedway is still used for various NASCAR races. And even if it weren't, I'd still hate NASCAR.)
  5. Cola: Pepsi, Coke/Coca-Cola (by the way, as far as I know, there really is no difference between Coke or Coca-Cola, so why they have to use both names is beyond me...), Dr Pepper, Mr. Pibb- all are gross to me. Only if I am dying of thirst would I even consider taking a sip of any cola, name brand or otherwise- and even then, I would probably pass up on it, preferring to suck my own spit to soothe the dry throat. I have never liked cola, I never will, and I don't think even the addition of flavor- cherry, vanilla, chocolate or otherwise- could make any of them palatable enough for me to willingly drink.
  6. Vitamin Water/Flavored Water: Continuing on the subject of drinks, I don't really understand the appeal of these drinks. Well, at least Vitamin Water can claim to have nutrients. Still, I have a hard time believing that people actually drink them for their taste. To me, it's like drinking very, very, very, very watered-down Kool-Aid, where only a hint of washed-up flavor is left. Yuk. If I want flavor in a drink, I want flavor! I don't want to be teased with traces of it. I'd rather just drink plain bottled water, which does far more to quench my thirst than this tainted crap. So have fun drinking your pseudo-"healthy"-Kool-Aid-imitation-blah-ter. I'm gonna stick to the real stuff.
  7. Valentine's Day Romance: It's not that I object to romance in general. On the contrary, I love a good romantic story (nerd alert: I recently re-read and re-read and re-read Jane Eyre because of all the thrillingly romantic moments throughout the story). And it's not even that I still object to Valentine's Day in general (I have more or less gotten over my previous hatred of it). I have decided to use Valentine's Day as a day to show other kinds of love- family love, friendly love, etc. But I find that romance on Valentine's Day just tends to be nauseating. Maybe it's all the cliche gifts and activities that are so nauseating. I don't know. Whatever it is, I have decided that whenever I find that significant other, anything red, white, pink, chocolate, stuffed/fuzzy, rose or carnation is outlawed on Valentine's Day (now, the day before or the day after might be a different story...)
  8. Red-Velvet Cake: I think people talk themselved into liking this kind of cake simply because of the cream cheese frosting. How can anybody seriously like such a butchering of chocolate cake? And all that red dye can't be good for you. Nope. Red-velvet cake is disgusting, plain and simple- and a complete waste of good cream cheese frosting. Get yourselves a really good carrot cake, for pete's sake. Stop ruining chocolate.
  9. Nebraska: Well, I don't know and don't care if other people like this state. I just figured that if this is a hate list, Nebraska has to be on it. It's a long story. If you are really interested, ask me. But for now, just know that I hate Nebraska.
  10. Football: Yes, I will admit that I occasionally keep tabs on the Colts. I feign interest because I have so many students/co-workers that love the Colts, and in order to avoid looking like a complete idiot, I try to keep track of how they are doing- sort-of. To be honest, though, I really do not care. I don't hate football the same way that I hate NASCAR, but I really have no true interest in the sport. Although I don't mind attempting to play it with the family on a beautiful autumn Thanksgiving Day...
Okay, that took a little longer than planned. I was going to punctuate the list with photos, but I have to be a responsible teacher again. I'm out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Worst. Monday. Ever.

I had a delightful Spring Break. I got to sleep in every day. I got to bake muffins. I got to watch Seasons 1-3 of the Office. I went to see Monsters vs. Aliens with some friends Friday night and thoroughly enjoyed it- it was hi-LAR-ious. I enjoyed spending General Conference weekend with Juli (including a lovely picnic between sessions on Saturday and a nice lunch with her friends, the Leamings, between sessions on Sunday).

Then Monday hit. Hard. Literally.

Even though I was running a couple of minutes late, I was blithely driving along at about 35 mph (which happened to be the speed limit- weird, I know...) when I felt (and heard) a very jarring, nerve-grating thunking, crunching clunk on my front passenger tire. I slowed down even more and drove carefully the half-block it took to get to a nearby gas station. I was hoping for the best, fearing the worst. In the light of the gas station, the worst was revealed. I had a flat tire due to the dent in the rim caused by the obnoxiously large (and deep) pothole I had driven over.

No biggie, I thought. It's a good thing I know how to change a tire, right? I pulled out the donut in my trunk, located the jack and lugnut wrench, and tried to get to work.

No can do, apparently. I felt like such a pansy, trying to jack up the car and struggling with every crank of the jack. Still, I persevered, only to discover that the jack had started to lean at an angle. So, I uncranked the jack, reset it at a flatter point, and tried again. Still, after a certain point, it began to lean again (It never occurred to me that the car had probably started to roll a little). By this time, I was tired, freezing, wet (while I *hate* snow in April, I think it was somewhat lucky that it was not rain, or I would have been a lot more wet), and very, very frustrated and discouraged.

At this point, I just wanted to call a tow service to change the tire for me, regardless of the price. Unfortunately, no one seemed to be open at 7:00 a.m. Finally, one of the cashiers in the gas station sweet talked one of her regular customers into doing it--in exchange, she promised to buy him a pack of cigarettes and a 6-pack of beer. So, out he went. After about 10-15 long minutes of waiting, he returned to tell me he was done. I felt a little awkward taking his service in exchange for things I am morally opposed to- I offered to pay him, but he declined.

So. For a pack of cigarettes and a 6-pack of beer, I got my tire changed. I was late to school. I was tempted to just call off, take the day to settle my frazzled nerves, and be ready to try again tomorrow. However, I stuck it out, drove slowly the rest of the way to school, praying that the donut would hold out. Now, I pray it will hold out long enough to get me to the dealer to see if they can't fix the stupid, dented rim.

Grrr. I hate Mondays.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Little Blurbs

Okay, so it's been awhile. What can I say? Life got a little busy.
However, I am currently on Spring Break (well, by now, it is almost over), so I thought I would try to catch up all my countless, avid readers (Ha!) on how my life has been going lately.

Okay, so I actually learned basic cake decorating skills from my mother years ago during a couple of 4-H classes. I'll confess- the main reason I decided to attend this session was because our instructor, my friend Sarah, works as a professional cake decorator and was able to provide some basic supplies for a really great price. Still, even though I didn't really learn new skills, I learned a couple of new techniques, and really enjoyed the socialization. And hey- free mini-cake! What's not to love? (I have to say, though, that the frosting has nothing on Mom's homemade buttercream recipe...)

Good-bye, Calvin
A few weeks ago, I had to say good-bye to one of my students. He was such a sweet kid, always trying to stay engaged in the classroom (even though he didn't really do so well getting his homework done). I promised to make him some cupcakes for his last day. Here's how they turned out:

(Here's the charming young man for whom these were made:)

Spring Break Fiesta
I took off March 26th so I could take the Praxis I (which was long overdue!). March 27th was the last day of school before Spring Break. Knowing that I would not really be able to get much done, I decided to try vocabulary games. And since I love any excuse to bake, I made these cupcakes for my students:

Spring Break Fun
Well, with no pressing engagements early in the morning (i.e. school), I have allowed myself to indulge in one of my favorite pasttimes: baking! I have been a baking fiend this week. I have had several muffin recipes I have wanted to try. Now, I have finally had time to try them- a different recipe every day this week. So far, Rachel has been treated to:

  • Apple Streusel muffins (she took the leftovers to work, so no pictures- sorry)
  • Cranberry Almond muffins

  • White Chocolate Macadamia muffins (they're especially tasty with raspberry jam- yum!)

  • Lemon Pound Cake muffins

(Okay, so I can't seem to capture my food in photos as well as Emily can- so sue me. At least they taste good...)

And finally,

The Package

I suppose what makes this so ironic is that I was just commenting to Mom how, compared to Rachel, I rarely get packages because, unlike Rachel, I live fairly close to my family and see them often enough that there really isn't much of a need for packages. So imagine my delight when, upon checking the mail, I found this tucked amidst various ads:

When I opened the package, this is what was inside:

(An old thank-you for a present, a note of appreciation from Christmas- with a random Trivial Pursuit card tucked inside, and a darling "post-card" calendar, featuring photos of the family!)

This was such a lovely, unexpected package from my sister Emily- I wasn't having a bad day, per se, but it definitely made my day a lot brighter! Thank you, Emily, for your love (and the beautiful way you have of expressing it). You are such an amazing person and such a wonderful sister. I love you.

So. There you have it. I will try to be a little more diligent in posting...but don't hold your breath :)

(P.S. Sorry, Em, for the little photos and the poor layout- I tried to use Photobucket to post them, but apparently the website was having issues with my photos and wouldn't cooperate... I guess I'll have to have a more hands-on tutorial when I visit next...)

Align Left

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ice Skating, anyone? ...

Rachel unexpectedly had the night off from work and wanted to do something fun, so she invited me to go ice skating.

I actually have been ice skating since moving here to Indy a couple of years ago, but it has been a little while. Though my ankles are a tad sore, it was a lot of fun.

Funny enough, as I skimmed my way around the rink, it reminded me of the many trips to Crown Center at Christmas time, and I began to feel a bit nostalgic about it...

Now, I know that as we tried to narrow down our many Christmas traditions, this is one that fell by the wayside, especially since most of the family seemed to be migrating eastward. However, it is one that I do miss. Despite the confusing craziness of the hectic highways and byways (no matter how many times I have been there, it is still easy for me to get lost in KC), I always enjoyed the fun of ice skating, looking at the lights at the Plaza, even braving the crowds at the malls there. It seems like Kansas City has become a forgotten city amongst our family.

Don't get me wrong- I love St. Louis and all the indoor and outdoor delights it has to offer! I love spending time with family- I love the newer tradition of St. Charles at Christmas- I love the city (and heck, I'll take the Cardinals over the Royals any day, hands down, though Kauffman Stadium is still one nice stadium).

I am simply offering this proposal. This fall, I plan to make the time to go to the KC RenFest somehow. And this Christmas, I plan to make the time to return to Crown Center (and yes, I will probably continue the tradition of getting lost in trying to find it), go ice skating, and maybe even try to look at the Plaza Christmas lights.

So, anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This is what I at least pretend I am reading...

Well, The Music Man is finally over.

In case you are confused or haven't heard, Arsenal Tech puts on a Faculty/Staff musical every year, partly so the students can see the teachers in a whole new light and see a side of the teachers they rarely get to see, and partly so teachers can get to know each other (after all, Tech is a pretty big campus) and interact on a more casual level...

The past three weeks have been pretty intense- it's not easy to put a show together in that amount of time, especially when we all have so many other commitments (some people were only able to make it to a few rehearsals...). But we pulled it off (it helps to have enough dedicated people that are willing to rehearse even on snow days...). It has been a lot of fun- I love getting to meet new people (Tech is big enough that there are still people I haven't met, even after teaching here for two years). We got a lot of compliments, some who even said this has been Tech's best faculty musical ever!

...Still, it is nice to have a little time to myself again.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Emily and Steven posted photos of their nightstands, in part to show what they are reading. To start, here is a bird's eye view of my nightstand:

Here is a better front view of the same thing:

First, we have my CD player, easily dominating my little nightstand. Unlike most of my family members, I love to listen to music when I go to sleep. I was able to learn how to go to sleep with silence on my mission, but I definitely prefer soothing, instrumental music to take me away to the land of dreams... (just in front of the CD player, on top of the spiral notebooks, is the cover of my current CD selection, Secret Garden's album White Stones.)

In front of the CD player, on the left side of the photos, are two bottles of Aromatherapy Pillow Mists from Bath and Body Works (easily one of my favorite stores- it is practically a miracle if I can go through one of those stores without buying anything...). The black bottle is Black Chamomile; the dark blue bottle is Lavender Vanilla. Both are very relaxing scents that help calm the senses as I lay in bed...

The two spiral notebooks are my dream journals (the top one is the current one, almost full; the bottom one is for when I fill up the top one). This is something I started in high school, when my psychology teacher had us keep one as part of an assignment. I liked the idea so much, I have kept one ever since. It really can be interesting (sometimes bizarre) to go back and read what you have dreamed. Sadly, it seems like lately I am either too tired to remember my dreams, or I don't have time to write them down when I wake up and I forget them by the time I do have a few minutes. Alas.

Also on top of the journals, next to the CD cover, is my phone (a nice, jungle-green Sony-Ericsson Walkman :), being charged while I sleep. Sometimes, I play a little Bejeweled before drifting off.

Finally, we come to the right side of the nightstand. Here, we have my bedside lamp, a bottle of B&BW lotion (because I hate to have dry hands/legs/feet- this one is a bottle of Pearberry, one of my favorite scents!), and my Libro de Mormon (my Spanish Book of Mormon). This is sitting here because I had intended to try reading a little in it each night before going to bed. You can see by the way it is sitting UNDER the lotion and sticky notes how successful I have been in that venture. Still, I keep hoping to strengthen my resolve and actually do it, so there it remains, by my bedside.

So there you go. Not much in the way of actual reading, I suppose (usually, those books end up on the back of the toilet, but I thought I'd spare you a photo of that for now...) However, since Emily's actual challenge was to post a photo of my nightstand, that is what you get. Perhaps in a little while, I will actually post photos of what I am trying to read...

Of course, since few seem to read this blog anyway, we'll just have to see what I feel like I have time to do...

Signing off.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Daze...

Despite all the warnings, despite the fact that it took me an hour of careful driving to get home yesterday, despite the accumulation of snow that had already settled in by the time I got home, I did not think we would actually get a snow day. I figured all the snow had fallen and would be plowed and cleared by morning (although I was mentally preparing myself to leave extra early so I would arrive at school at a decent time).

This morning, when my alarm went off at 5 a.m., I did a quick check on one of our local weather stations to see if, by any chance, school was closed. No such luck. Still, I decided to snooze until 5:30... when I checked again, oh blessed day, school was cancelled!

A little later in the morning, I got a call telling me institute was also cancelled, and since I didn't fancy spending a long time in the car driving to the Music Man rehearsal we had agreed to have (snow day or not), I decided to ditch out (I'm pretty on top of things anyway)- meaning: A whole day of Freedom!!!!

A whole day to do oh so many things I have wanted time to do- very important, productive things. Yet, was I productive? Yeah, right. Here are the fruits of my labors of the day:

(Yes, I watched the whole thing and loved it!)

(I actually managed to defeat Diablo with one of my characters a couple of weeks ago, but I wasted a fair amount of time trying to beef up my other two characters...)

(Fun with my "Build a Castle" card set)

(And more fun with the "Hogwarts" set, made by the same company. In case you can't tell, the figurine is supposed to be Harry Potter...)

Lest you think I spent ALL my day indoors, here are some shots of the beautiful, glorious, pristine whiteness glittering behind our condo. I spent a delightful hour traipsing through the pseudo woods (the thin line of trees that separate our complex from the corporate developments springing up nearby). Sadly, I do not own a sled and do not know where there might be great hills for sledding nearby. (I may have to look into that for tomorrow). Still, I had a lot of fun (I even tried making a snow angel, but it didn't stay intact long enough for a photo)!

(An attempt to show how deep the snow got)

(Tonks' first time in the snow)

Happy Snow Day!