Thursday, March 30, 2006
hello spring!
This is my favorite day of the year - the first day when you walk out of work and are delighted to discover that you don't need your coat, it's warm enough to drive home with the window rolled down and you have to squint the whole drive home because you can't seem to find where you put your sunglasses which you haven't had to use since October, but you don't mind because you've just remembered how much you love spring. Chloe and I are ready to barbeque - who wants to join us?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006
mine is the generation that bought more shoes and we will get what we deserve
I own 36 pairs of shoes. Now, while this amount would be miniscule for some people (Imelda Marcos, Carrie Bradshaw, etc) I fear this may be a lot for a woman who lives in a 1,300 square-foot house. My shoes, which I've never really given much thought to before, became a matter of interest for me last Saturday when I discovered, to my amazement, that I did not own a pair of dark brown dress shoes with a small heel, something that I "desperately" needed on that particular day, and as a consequence I found myself rushing to the store to buy my 36th pair of shoes. As I was buying said shoes, I was reminded of an article, When More Equals Less, which appeared in The Detroit News last week. Surprise, surprise, materialism is addictive, leads to unhappiness and may even cause health problems such as headaches and anxiety issues. Understandably, each generation hopes to be more successful than the generation who came before them, and I am reminded of this every time I enter my own home. I live in a house that is over fifty years old but has only had three sets of owners. The couple who built this house (Bea and Merrill according to the giant box of old greeting cards in my attic) apparently lived here from after WWII until some time in the 1990's when they sold it to a newlywed couple. That couple lived here for about five years until they sold it to us so they could move into a bigger house, which is exactly what we plan to do within the next five years. It's intriguing to me that my little house with one tiny bathroom was sufficient for Bea and Merrill to raise their children and grow old in, yet at some point in the course of the last sixty years this house has changed from being an end result to being good for nothing but being a young couple's starter home. I have never considered myself to be a particularly materialistic person - I drive a sensible car and handle keeping my credit card debt to a minimum - yet I can't pretend to be above the Hummer drivers I so love to hate (thanks Viewmaster) because, after all, there are those 36 pairs of shoes lurking my closet. I can't help but think that my generation's student loans, credit card debt, behemoth SUV's, oversized homes and lack of a retirement plan can only spell disaster somewhere down the road. Oh well, at least we'll be wearing cute shoes.

Sunday, March 26, 2006
my female phobia
For reasons I've never fully understood I have always tended to befriend men with greater ease than women. Even when I was a toddler this has been the case - my first friend as a child was my neighbor Tony (that is until he threw me over for my younger brother) - and I am usually more comfortable conversing with men than women. I'm not really sure why this is since I don't have traditionally "masculine" interests (sports, cars, etc), and while it's true that many of my close male friends have turned out to be gay, I still have a fair number of heterosexual male friends and very few close female friends. To be honest, a room full of women tends to make me nervous and I've been told by more than one of my female friends that they didn't particularly like me at first because I came off as bored/rude/snobby, all of which are manifestations of my discomfort around unfamiliar women. Yet, I tend to have a fairly easy time befriending men and if I had to create a list of all of my friends, many of them would be male.

One female venue where I am most uncomfortable is at a wedding shower (second only to a baby shower). Even if the hostess is kind enough to not make me play shower games like "guess what type of melted candy bar is in the diaper" (baby shower specific) or "who can make the best wedding gown out of toilet paper," I still tend to be very uncomfortable just sitting at a table with a group of women making small talk over tiny sandwiches and watching a friend or family member open gifts. My discomfort with showers is bad enough, but couple it with having to walk into a room full of unfamiliar women and it takes every ounce of courage I have not to drop my gift off at the gift table and quickly turn around to slip out the door.

And it is this very same situation that I found myself in yesterday. I was invited to a wedding shower on Saturday for a woman who I like a lot, but who I don't know very well yet, consequently I know next to none of her friends or family members. I very nearly didn't go to the shower, in fact, I waited until 12 hours before the event itself to RSVP, but I've been trying to overcome my introversion a bit as of recent and decided that I must force myself to go. I walked through the doors of the shower slightly late, greeted the bride, set my gift down on the table and looked around the room, searching hopefully for someone who I knew. I became crestfallen when no such familiar person appeared, so I did what any mature, 27-year-old woman would do - I ran to hide in the bathroom.

I had no need to be in there, so I set my purse down on the counter and proceeded to unnecessarily touch up my make-up and hair, trying to avoid eye-contact with the woman who was washing her hands in the sink next to me. When she looked up my eyes met hers and I discovered something spectacular - she was my friend Michelle. Neither one of us expected the other to be there so the pleasant shock of seeing her there was enough to make me downright giddy. She admitted that she was hiding in the bathroom too and I was so happy to see her that I very nearly kissed her. With a tremendous sense of relief, we both left our self-imposed banishment in the bathroom and reentered the shower, searching out a table in the far back of the room where we could be awkward and uncomfortable together.

So here's to the awkward women - women who don't do small talk well, women who aren't particularly comfortable holding your baby, women who feel hopelessly judged in a roomful of other women - we want to fit in, really we do, we just don't know how.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
was so excited about a new lost episode that i've renamed most of my links..
..yes, I am officially a nerd, and no you can't trade names. Deal.

P.S. Locke + Jack tension = Happy Ana Lucia (me).

thank goodness for tenure moment of the week
I'm on a role today....

So, which was more inappropriate to say in class?:

1. In response to a male student complaining that the boys' bathrooms are always locked:
"Well, if you guys didn't always fling your poo around we wouldn't have to lock them."


2. In response to a student who was defending steroids because they make you "buff":
"Yeah, but they shrink your testicles too. Or don't you mind that?"

Tuesday, March 21, 2006
but here is where i am lured into the abyss that devours my comprehension (or, the fort knox theory)
I received yet another e-mail from yet another obsessive-compulsive student today, but upon reading it I discovered that this one was quite different from the norm. This young man, I'll call him Robert, wanted me to proofread a letter that he had written to the U.S. Secretary of Treasury requesting an explanation for what backs our paper currency. The letter, which is over three pages long, is quite humorous and I couldn't resist sharing some excerpts. (He gave me permission, by the way, to share this with a "few friends," so my guilt pangs can take a hike.) Wanna hear it, here it go...

Dear Mister John William Snow

Re: Gold and Dollar Comprehension Assistance

Hello Mr. Snow. I am pleased to see that you have set aside or found time to read for you what it is that I have written. I am a student of ______ high school in ________, Michigan who has become somewhat confused with certain aspects of our nation's currency, therefore, I took it upon myself to learn more about this problem may or may not be complex, but since I am so confused that I do not desire to make any mistakes; and although you are merely mortal as any other man, you, Mr. Snow, retain a position of paramount in the field for which I need assistance....

He goes on to outline what he thinks he understands about our nation's "twenty five percent linen and seventy-five percent cotton notes," of which I will spare you the details and continues with...
...but here is where I am lured into the abyss that devours my comprehension. I was under the impression that America had its complete financial foundation of money based around gold. By that, I mean to say (hypothetically) the United States of America had a thousand pounds of gold in Fort Knox (other banks held money too, correct, but my theory is called the "Fort Knox Theory," and the numbers I've fabricated to make my point) and the exchange rate for gold to dollars was for every one pound of gold there would be ten dollars...which makes perfect sense on a national level to me. I mean, you do not have to "flaunt it" to know that you actually have it, (although counterfeiting is a problem I know, but please I need not be confused more at this time)
...okay, that being said, how then is America being financially backed? Certainly polyester has no significant value in France, so breaking down the dollar for that material seems ridiculous. (I really am attempting to come up with reasoning, but I am having troubles, again please bear with me), so then why does France want it, aside from bringing our economy down like with the Japanese incident years ago? Or is that just it? Is that the only reason foreign nations want our money is to bring American down?...
It would be greatly appreciated if you, having been well educated in the field, could help a young lad like myself understand this concept. While I never may be an economist and so well taught, I believe that this knowledge now would not only assist me in comprehending more of my economic studies, but as to the US financial history and future...Also, I am merely sixteen-years-old, so don't let the title fool you, it was self-appointed to make me feel better.
Robert _____, Scholar
Is it just me, or does this letter make you too feel relieved about our nation's youth on one hand, yet terribly bewildered about the pointless pieces of paper in our wallets on the other?

Monday, March 20, 2006
when the bogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for chuck norris

Chuck Norris reading "Chuck Norris Facts" is mildly humorous, no?

Sunday, March 19, 2006
happy birthday donna!
According the The Secret Language of Birthdays, the fact that you were born on March 19th reveals that your strengths include persuasiveness, tirelessness and thoroughness. Your weaknesses include being unaware, stubborn and closed. You were born on "the day of dogged persistence" and your tarot card is "The Sun," which is the most favorable of all the cards. You tend to have "pure and childlike qualities," are pragmatic, and like to be first. Finally, you share a birthday with Glenn Close, Bruce Willis and Wyatt Earp.

And of all the traits that my mother-in-law could have, it's the "dogged persistence" combined with the connection to Wyatt Earp that troubles me the most.

Happy birthday, Donna, and just know that despite being 21,170 days young, you don't look a day over 18,000!

Thursday, March 16, 2006
after a long evening of furious pillow humping, chloe takes a well-deserved rest...
...and pouts about not being able to go to Bowling Green with her parents this weekend to drink green beer with Stirfry and Spike.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
my lenten progress report
Well, it's been over two weeks now (16 days to be precise, not that anyone's counting) and I'm still observing my Lenten fast. It hasn't been easy, but I'm proud to say that I've hardly cheated at all. I did watch the Oscars, but that shouldn't even count because it's a once-a-year event and I didn't even enjoy it all that much. So, to the doubters and naysayers I can proudly say the current score stands at Me: 1, Lent: 0 (I'm totally kickin' Lent's ass!) So how have I been filling all the tv-less hours, you ask? Here's how:

  1. Listening to music. In heavy rotation: Metric: Live it Out, Voxtrot : Raised by Wolves EP, (Download this. Do it now!), and Belle and Sebastian: The Life Pursuit.
  2. Reading: Running with Scissors (a train wreck I couldn't pull my eyes away from), In Cold Blood (creeeeeeepy), and The Human Stain (one of the best books I've read in, well, perhaps ever).
  3. Making much needed repairs around my house. (Speaking of which, how disgusting is it that it costs as much to install a door as it does to buy the door itself! Grrr..)
  4. Dreaming up completely unnecessary ways to spend my tax return money.
  5. And having intellectually stimulating conversations about literature with my husband like this one:

Nathan: What series was it you said you read as a kid, Sweet Valley High?

Me: Sweet Valley High!? Hell no! Only ho's read that, and I wasn't no ho. I read The Babysitter's Club. Get it straight, man.

Nathan: So sorry. I had no idea.

Me: Well now you do so don't forget. I can't have you blemishing my name. Mama didn't raise no ho, Nathan.

Nathan: Right.

And to think, I only have 24 more days left to go...

Friday, March 10, 2006
books i heart (or, how i spent my friday morning when i should have been working)
So, this has made the rounds, but it looks like a worth-while endeavor, so I want to do it too. A part of me fears what this list might reveal about me, but a larger part doesn't really care because my mom told me I'm smart and I believe her. (See Steve's or Paul's lists if you want something with a bit more literary merit/depth/masculine influence.)
  • a book that made you cry: Where the Red Fern Grows (Rawls)
  • a book that scared you: Misery (King)
  • a book that made you laugh: Breakfast of Champions (Vonnegut)
  • a book that disgusted you: Haunted (Palahniuk)/Last Exit to Brooklyn (Selby, Jr.)
  • a book you loved in elementary school: The entire Babysitter's Club Series (Martin){oh, how I wanted to be Claudia, but, alas, I was much more like Mary Anne}
  • a book you loved in middle school: Little Women (Alcott)/The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
  • a book you loved in high school: Franny and Zooey (Salinger)/To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)
  • a book you hated in high school: Heart of Darkness (Conrad)/The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)
  • a book you loved in college: Slaughterhouse Five (Vonnegut)/The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)
  • a book that challenged your imagination: What Dreams may Come (Matheson)/Like Water for Chocolate (Esquivel)
  • a book that challenged your identity: The Tao of Pooh (Hoff) {Be nice. I was 16.}
  • a series that you love: Harry Potter (Rowling)
  • your favorite horror book: The Stand (King)
  • your favorite science fiction book: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Adams)/Brave New World (Huxley)
  • your favorite fantasy book: The Golden Compass Trilogy (Pullman)
  • your favorite mystery book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Hadden)
  • your favorite "coming-of-age" book: Catcher in the Rye (Salinger)/Middlesex (Eugenides)
  • your favorite book not on this list: The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood)/The Bluest Eye (Morrison)/The Secret Life of Bees (Kidd)/Things Fall Apart (Achebe)/The Lord of the Flies (Golding)
  • your favorite book to teach: Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck)
  • the book you hate to teach: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain)

Feel free to comment/criticize/post your own list should you feel moved to do so. (The teacher in me couldn't help adding those last two; I know most of you probably don't care so, sorry.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006
Fun with web cams
Just because you have a web cam doesn't mean that I want to see you... oh wait, I do. Another offering from my Video Arcade:

I now return this blog to it's rightful owner.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006
haiku of the week
So, there's these two girls who stand front and center in my AP step aerobics class every Thursday. For months I've stood in the back of the room and watched them as they add unnecessary steps and hops, watch themselves intently in the mirror as they stretch and contort their bodies into humorously provocative positions, and provide hopeless confusion any newcomer who makes the mistake of standing behind them, attempting to duplicate whatever it is that they are doing. I call them Brandi and Kelli, and I dedicate this haiku to them.

Work it, girls, work it.
Kick and bounce with furrowed brow -
Awe us with your skills.

Monday, March 06, 2006
my completely irrelevant oscar reactions
I'm going to keep this one short, since staying up until after midnight and then rising at 5 am makes Maggie a tired and very cranky girl, but I feel compelled to post a few of my opinions about last nights Academy Awards before I take a much needed nap.

On fashion: Charlize, that is the most butt-ugly dress that I've seen since this one. Speaking of Uma, your dress was pretty enough, but beige is not your color and your make-up makes you look a bit scary. Salma, well done. I loved the color and the swoopy thing that's happening around your shoulder. Now go help Charlize.

On Dolly Parton: Good God, woman. How can you be so old, yet so skinny? Futhermore, it never ceases to amaze me how very large your bosoms are. Good singin', by the way.

On Best Picture: Come on, Academy. Crash? Lame. I really did enjoy the movie, but I strongly feel that the winner was the weakest of the five nominees.

On Philip Seymour Hoffman: It doesn't lessen my love for you, but I really do wish you would have barked at least part of your acceptance speech.

On Middle-Aged White Guys Suffering Through "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" - Hilarious. Thank you academy for making it possible. Moms tells me that pops quit the show out of frustration and went to bed when they announced this song for the winner. Personally, I think Dolly's song was better, but what can you do.

On Jon Stewart: Cheer up. So what if your celebrity audience didn't think you were funny?They're all narcissistic, self-indulgent assholes anyway. I thought you were very funny, especially your Cheney joke and your "election ad" spoofs. And it could be worse; you could have been David Letterman.

Sunday, March 05, 2006
awards ceremony sunday
It's Oscar Sunday, and I can't be certain who will win any awards, but I am certain that my husband deserves an award of some sort. Somehow (still not sure how) I managed to convince him to help me chaperone an overnight field trip this weekend, a task which most other husbands would have laughed at before telling their wives not to let the door hit them on their ass on the way out. Nathan and I spent our weekend with 30 kids ranging in age from 13 to 17 as they competed in the Future Problem Solving (FPS) State Bowl, which is perhaps the nerdiest competition a kid and be involved in (with the possible exception of Quiz Bowl). We spent yesterday waiting around aimlessly while the kids sat in locked classrooms and solved the world's problems. Oh the laughs we had. The awards ceremony was today, and our kids either came home with shiny trophies or splotchy, red, tear-streaked faces, so I'm all preped and ready for the Academy Awards.

Speaking of which, here's a short list of what I'm hoping to see at the 2006 academy awards:
Hermione drunk,
Crazy, drug-induced fashion,
A soy-bomb sighting (apparently, there's a group of them and they have a message of sorts. Who knew?),
Philip Seymour Hoffman barking his acceptance speech,
Verification of all of my brilliantly-chosen Oscar predictions,
And, of course, lots of closed-mouth, tight-jawed smiles of those who watch someone else walk up to receive the award they think they rightfully deserve.

Finally, should you ever find yourself nominated, here's an academy award speech generator that you might find useful. Here's a sneak-peak at my speech (be kind; it's a rough draft):

Maggie's Acceptance Speech for the Most Over-Produced Victorian Epic Oscar:

Thank you! Oh! Thank you! I can hardly conjugate verbs! I feel so coked-up! And this statue - it's so suspiciously phallic! Oh, thank you again! I just want everyone to secretly suspect that even in my wildest fits of self-loathing, I never would have made daddy promise that this could ever validate my mediocrity. And to the other closeted homosexual nominees, I want each of you to know how totally vindicated your lackluster applause makes me feel right now! You know when they first told me I wasn't blonde enough, I just had to take a Carnival Cruise and scoff about how unaesthetic my thighs have been. I guess it all just makes me feel kinda wrinkly. You know, there are so many blood-sucking Napoleon Complex-suffering studio execs to thank! First off though, I want to bitch slap the glorified prostitutes of the Academy, who looked deep within their lint-encrusted navels before giving me this fantastic award! Also, I want to thank Charleton Heston, for being such a powerful force in my loins. And to the hooker with the heart of gold, who taught me to take life by the fifth of bourbon. And finally, to all the illegitimate children I sired - I couldn't have done it without you! Thank you America, and good night!

So, what do you think?

Friday, March 03, 2006
a rare moment of child-like wonder
Being a high school English teacher is a strange thing. Each year I am charged with the task of instilling an appreciation (and hopefully a little awe and wonder) for writing and literature to over 150 14-16-year-olds, many of whom couldn't care less about symbolism and foreshadowing and complex sentence construction. It's not that these kids never cared; nearly all of them entered kindergarten thirsty to learn and explore their world, but somewhere along the line learning turned into a chore that they had to be bribed into participating in with the promise/threat of grades that supposedly make or break their futures.

But it's not just the kids that see learning as a stale chore. After five years of teaching the same two classes, I have essentially stopped learning anything new about my subject matter. (I challenge anyone to try teaching To Kill a Mockingbird to 16 different classes of 9th graders and still be able to find new things to appreciate about the novel.) It's not that I'm not learning; I learn plenty about how I interact with other people and what the true limits of my patience are, but I must admit that after five years of teaching the same books and stories it's hard to summon up the passion that I had when they were new to me.

I say all of this not to complain, I actually love my job, but to provide a bit of background to help explain why today was such a powerful day for me. Today I, along with 55 of my students, took two hours out of the day to learn something for no other other purpose but to learn, and I'm a bit shocked at how incredibly refreshing that was.

One of my students' fathers is full-blooded Native American (a hodgepodge of five different tribes) and, almost as an afterthought, he asked me if his dad could come in and tell us about his culture. I hesitated at first because these are the AP students, and taking a day out of their very full syllabus always makes everyone a bit tense. I was also weary because so many presenters are so very boring, and the kids get squirmy and obnoxious so very quickly, but I agreed. What I didn't realize at the time was this man travels from school to school with two of his "blood brothers" putting on very very organized and professional presentations. I sat amidst my 55 teenagers and watched, awestruck, as these men prayed with us, sang to us, danced for us, shared their stories with us, and joked with us. There's no way that I could recreate the experience here, so I won't bother attempting to, but it was amazing. The kids asked refreshingly naive questions and were more engaged than I've ever seen them.

There was no "point" to today's lesson plan, and that was the point. It wasn't in the curriculum, we'll do no final project and there will be no test. We all learned together for no other reason but to learn, and I realized today just how much I missed being that five-year-old who didn't need a report card or college admission or career opportunities to entice me to learn something new.

Perhaps that came off a bit sappy, but today's not a cynical day. I promise my next post will be deliciously sarcastic so the universe will return to its proper balance.

Thursday, March 02, 2006
good news/bad news
Good News: Snow day today! It's the first time all year that I can play hookey without all that pesky guilt.
Bad News: I can't watch television until "Survivor" at 8pm.

Good News: The Detroit city council approved a deal to save the zoo.
Bad News: It looks like I won't be adopting any spider monkeys anytime soon.

Good News: February's over.
Bad News: It's March. Above all other months, I hate March the most. It struts around like it's April, but it's no April.

Good News: I've turned green for March.
Bad News: "It's not easy being green," at least so I've heard.