29 July 2008


That's the number of miles I will have traveled this summer to my various destinations. In a word, I'm tired. But the beauty of blogs is that I don't have to use just one word. Because I'm also full of new memories, I'm enriched, I made new friends (some of whom were my students!), I have new perspectives, I've laughed a lot, I tried new foods, I have lots of gorgeous pictures, I learned new phrases (tuanis!), and my passion for travel is as strong as ever. I know I still need to recap (and post pictures) from VA, San Fran, NYC, and Nicaragua, and I will... just not now. I have one more trip this weekend to my cousin's wedding in Chattanooga, TN (the miles of which have been added prematurely to the total above). Oh yeah, and I'm moving on Wednesday and Thursday before I leave on Friday morning. So, I'm still alive, just not up for full posts yet. Be back next week!

13 July 2008

Mad Men

Is anyone watching Mad Men? I'd heard about it, especially when it won the Golden Globe for best drama tv series, but I'd never actually seen it. The fact that it's on AMC can't help the show garner viewers - I feel like the only time people turn on AMC is to get their Katherine Hepburn fix and then move on to Bravo or Food Network or whatever it was they were watching before. But maybe because it's on AMC, it can take risks that it couldn't on network TV.
Anyway, I was on a flight from San Francisco to New York on Virgin America (which not as great as it's hyped to be, by the way) two weeks ago, and I watched the first two episodes during the in-flight entertainment. And that was it - I was hooked. As in, order-the-season-from-Amazon-the-next-day kind of hooked. Set in 1960, it revolves around the office of a Madison Avenue advertising firm. The writing is incredible, the nostalgia is fun without overlooking the faults of the period (plus the furniture is so hot!), and the characters are unbelievably complex, with all of the protagonists seriously flawed. The next season starts in late July, and now that I've caught up on Season 1, I'm really looking forward to it.

08 July 2008

Home Sweet Home

I'm back home from two more weeks spent on the road. It was a marathon trip, first to the DC area for my cousin's wedding, then to San Francisco for a conference, then to NYC to visit friends -- all consecutively. This summer my blog is being transformed into a travelogue of sorts, except that I'm much too tired to recount all of it right now, wonderful though it was (and I haven't uploaded my pictures - what's a travelogue without pictures?).
Instead, I'm just appreciating being home, at my parents' house, in my old bedroom, with all the familiar sights and sounds and smells that come along with it. Ordinarily, I might not be all that pleased with this living situation, even if it is just for the summer. But right before I left for my trip, my parents told my brothers and me that they are putting our house on the market this fall. After 24 years of familiarity, economic forces are thrusting my family into the unfamiliar.
I've run the gamut of emotions - from sadness, to nostalgia, to anger, and back through the circle again. It's amazing when you realize how many memories are tied to a specific place; perhaps even more amazing how much you take that place for granted until confronted with the possibility of it not being there anymore.
Every week, my pastor sends out an email, and I will confess, I don't always take the time to read it. But the week my parents told us about the house, his email was titled, "Coming Home," so of course, my interest was piqued. Here is a brief highlight...

For a few folks, “home” is the only place they’ve ever known...
But “home” is also the perfect metaphor for something that goes deeper than people and places. Frederick Buechner described “the home we knew and will always long for” and “the home we dream of finding and for which we also long.”

Does it still completely suck? Absolutely. Am I still sad, and frustrated, and a little bit bitter? Of course. And will the day we actually move be one of the hardest days of my life? Undoubtedly. Still, it was a much-needed reminder for me that home really is deeper than people and places... particularly places for me right now. Trying to imagine something like Christmas morning not in my house seems unfathomable, but at least the joy and meaning of Christmas will remain a constant.

23 June 2008


It's confirmed: I'm still obsessed. The Scotland trip was awesome. Despite plenty of logistical issues with our AWFUL tour company, EF Tours (nevernevernever use them!), the kids had a fantastic time and so did we. I revisited some of my favorite places, saw some new favorites, and even sampled the nightlife as other chaperones held down the fort. Our guide, Andrew, and I became fast friends, much to my students' delight (I felt like I had 7 younger siblings on the trip - it was kind of cute), but for the record, we are just friends. More than anything, it has rekindled a desire to move there in two years (after Brendan graduates high school) and teach for at least a year. Of course everything will depend on circumstances at that point in my life, but if things are anything like they are now, it will happen.

So here are some highlights, observations, and tidbits from the trip...
- Everyone thought I was crazy for traveling with a big group of kids, but I'll tell you what -- For every 1 complaint from the kids, we heard 7 from adults
- Latitudinally speaking, Scotland is just a little south of Alaska. Being that far north means that the sun goes down REALLY late (almost midnight) and comes up really early (before 5am) in the summer.
- I was told (by a Glaswegian, of course) that Edinburgh is for tourists and Glasgow is for real Scots.
- Sandy Bell's is still my favorite bar in the whole world.
- I have a new affinity for Belhaven and Leffe beers
- Having a tour guide with a sense of humor, humility, and the ability to get along with crazy kids and cranky moms beats a tour guide who knows 57 random facts about every small town you drive through.
- RIP, Tim Russert. We didn't know he'd died until 3 days later. The news, especially in this election year, will never be the same.
- Wisdom from our Edinburgh guide about sneezes: "Me mother used to say: 1's a wish, 2's a kiss, 3's a cold, and 4's a pint."
- In the U.S., people holding signs that say "free hugs" and hugging people on the street might seem pretty creepy. In Edinburgh, it's just part of life.
- A "half 'n half" is a 1/2 pint (or a "hay pint") of beer and 25 cl of scotch (slightly less than a full shot) and is my new favorite way to get drunk.
- The highlands of Scotland, especially on the coast, are unbelievably cold, even in June. If (when) I move there, it will have to be one of the cities a bit further south.
- Spam-a-lot is hillarious even though if you've seen Monty Python, you've heard all the jokes before
- When you miss your new puppy, every dog you see reminds you of him

And here are some picture highlights... See facebook for a still-edited, but much larger selection

The gorgeous view from Stirling Castle

I wasn't kidding about the cold - and remember, it's summertime!

Plant group braving the cold for a picture in our matching shirts

Lighthouse in MacDuff, Scotland, where we stayed for 3 nights

Touching the North Sea in St. Andrews, Scotland

Our whole tour group with Edinburgh Castle in the background

Sandy Bell's was just as wonderful as I remembered it being

Andrew being a gentleman and helping out Grey Friar's Bobby in the rain

When the monuments even offer free hugs, it's hard to say no

02 June 2008


1 day till our superfun end-of-the year luncheon at Channelside
2 days till I give my last exams of the year
3 days till I take the end of my teacher certification exams
4 days till true freedom
5 days till I start packing
6 days till I start totally freaking out about the fact that in...
7 days, I'm going to Scotland!!!

A colleague and I are taking a group of 10 kids to Scotland and London for a week and a half. Scotland is my most favorite place in the world. I've been three times (August 01, November 01, and March 03), and I am SO excited to go back. Here's a preview of what we'll do/see...

29 May 2008

Year 2 Retrospective

Today was the last full day of classes. Underclass exams start tomorrow morning; Graduation is tomorrow afternoon. My original plan when I started this gig was to teach for 3 years. Which would mean I'm 2/3 of the way through my career as a teacher. It was a year of incredible professional growth for me, teaching a new subject (Government) to a new grade level (FRESHMEN), being asked to serve on numerous committees, planning and running a camp for rising freshmen this summer, working on a $2.04M grant, sponsoring a club (Youth in Government), and agreeing to sponsor the Senior Class next year. And all of that on paper is great, but what did I learn? Rather than specifics (we know how good I am at keeping a journal/blog), here's a general idea...

- I still have a hard time not laughing when I'm not supposed to
- The classes that drive me the craziest are the ones I secretly like the best (3rd and 8th this year)
- I have a total soft spot for kids who screw up and try to redeem themselves
- The unplanned moments are the best
- Teachers don't get paid enough, even if we do get our summers off
- A 10-minute game of "Heads Up 7 Up" is enough to bribe good behavior out of kids for a week
- I'm still scared of calling parents
- The College Board is a total scam (I'll dedicate an entire post to this in a year when I have tenure. In the meantime, I'll keep my comments off my public blog - but I'm happy to talk about it in person)
- I don't ever want to teach AP (see previous bullet)
- You're always a teacher whether it's 9am Monday morning or 11pm Friday night
- I love teaching freshmen
- I still have a hard time saying no. But...
- Being asked to participate in grants and serve on committees is incredible gratifying and humbling (I'll probably revisit this comment in a few years when I'm burned out from all of it)
- Not everyone is cut out for this job
- A job that doesn't make you cry every once in awhile isn't worth having
- Teaching 6 classes a day is infinitely harder than teaching 5
- If my county was in the Northeast, we would have gone on strike this year
- Having friends to eat lunch with makes all the difference
- It's really hard to not take things personally
- SMARTboards are so cool
- I think Ben Franklin's quote should be modified to read "Coffee is proof that God loves teachers"
- I'll take a thoughtful gift (like a pen that plays quotes from the Office!) and a heartfelt note from a student over a $50 gift certificate any day
- Friday afternoon "faculty meetings" are essential
- I think I'm going to be doing this a lot longer than 3 years...

27 February 2008

PR Finale!!!!

Ohhh I almost forgot to post - Project Runway finale tonight!!!! My mom has warned my dad and brother to steer clear of the living room or face the wrath of the fashion gods. Final predictions - Rami vs. Chris - Rami. I *really* want it to be Chris, but Rami has bored me to tears all season, and the judges have still kept him, which makes me think they really like him, so unless he comes out with 12 draped pieces of bs (which I doubt he will after the beating he took at the end of the Met episode), I think they'll pick him over Chris. Even though I love love love Chris. So then final predictions, I'm going to say 1. Jillian 2. Christian 3. Rami. I think Jillian might pull it out. I think the only thing that has held her back this season has been time, and since they were able to go home and do it, I think she'll be fine. Even though I love Chris and Christian personality-wise, I love Jillian's aesthetic the most out of everyone left, so this is probably an emotional pick, but I'm sticking with it. :-) I should also put the disclaimer in here that mom told me that she peeked online at the collections (I've been resisting because I SO want to be surprised) and said Christian's was just so-so. Otherwise, I probably would have put him first. Regardless, it's been an awesome season, especially after what I thought was such a catty (off the runway) and dull (on the runway) season last year. The only thing I'm sad about is that we'll have to wait another year before we get to see it again!