Wrapping up November

Today was the first day back from Thanksgiving and the last day of the month at the same time. So I had crazy kids fresh from four days (or more) off, who wouldn't settle down. . . seriously, at one point during seventh period I just left my desk because the noise from the class using the computers near me was unbearable--the teachers here are great but some place no expectations on the class to behave any differently in the library as opposed to being isolated in a classroom. . . and a million computer labs requests for December.

Time has certainly flown. And what a month it has been.

The good things: School-wise, I survived a formal observation of my teaching and tackled a major American Lit project. I also helped organize a
NaNoWriMo-related write-a-thon for the writing classes (doing YWP). Blog-wise, I enjoyed answering blogfriends' questions in honor of my 400th post, and posted more than a few kitteh pictures. Home-wise. . . well, let's just say the clutter is finally starting to clear in anticipation of setting up my birthday/Christmas present TV. And Thanksgiving went pretty well--my family didn't drive me crazy, and I didn't feel as much of the single-person angst that I expected. I did feel a little bummed out when everything was over, but in the end I was glad to have some time alone to recharge my batteries.

The not-so-good things: My first attempt at
NaNoWriMo ended at 1,167 words. I was one of what WriMo Chris termed "The Go On Without Me's. For you, November turned out to be a very bad month to try and write a novel. Life went completely crazycakes, and you faced a never-ending series of demanding work or school projects, health emergencies, social obligations. . . You managed to get a few good ideas down on paper, but . . . [y]ou're. . . planning on giving it a try next year." Yeah, I hope so.

I also suffered a crazy rash/allergy attack which ultimately led me to a doctor's visit (the same day I had a mishap with a computer cart) and this weekend I found out I am quite anemic. That could explain a lot of things. Once I start getting that corrected, I could be feeling a lot less lousy.

Looking forward to December: More school projects, a seasonal return to my bookstore job so I can justify buying Christmas presents, lots of singing (which reminds me--I have choir practice tomorrow), and hoping that inner lack of single-person angst from Thanksgiving will stick around through New Year's.

If necessary.


A Post-Thanksgiving Friday Five

A little collage. . .

1. Top Left: Remembering those who can't be with us--coffee in a mug that used to belong to my late great-aunt.

2. Top Right: Marinated bell peppers which turned out to be a big hit with Youngest Nephew. No bread or crackers required. Only 20 months old and already quite the gourmand.

3. Bottom Right: Dairy-free, soy-free pumpkin pie sounds very bad but tastes very good. Next time I make it, I will change two things: (1) I will have a 9-inch pie plate (not pictured: leftover filling in custard dish to bake alongside), and (2) I will buy pre-made pie crust. That crust was just sad.

4. Bottom Left: The biggest downside to dinner. . . all those dishes to wash up. I'm thinking Older Brother had to leave dinner to go to work at the restaurant he manages because there are some people who really want to avoid doing the dishes after dinner. (Kidding! I'm kidding!)

5. (Above) Somebody was doing her best to go about her usual routine and not be alarmed that I didn't go to work two days in a row by ignoring me.

Happy weekend!


Happy Thanksgiving!!!

It is a damp, overcast day here in Philly, but it's not really cold, so that's good. People's spirits seem generally up, especially the people at the parade (hosted for the last time by a local TV news personality who is retiring. . . nice guy, dad to this hottie, will be missed).

I'm thankful for my loved ones (including The Cat), my faith, my friends, the fact that I have a decent place to live, a full-time job, and a car that runs (having come back from the dead).

On a more mundane note, I am thankful that after a week of searching, my missing library book turned up, with a lucky quarter to boot!

And, of course, I am thankful for all of you who visit, read, comment. You all contribute more than you know. I think of people who are very isolated, especially on a day like today, and I say a prayer for them that they still will have a good day, and that they will have someone reach out to them, if not today, then soon.

Now, I'm off to do a little pilates and then get dressed so I can haul some Polaroids, peppers, and pie over to the parents' house. I've already gotten a call from my dad asking if I had a particular glass bowl in my possession--as my mom fussed at him the background--so I guess it's going to be one of those years. The reason behind all that is something for which I am definitely not thankful, but it's something beyond my control so I just have to go with it.

Stay tuned for the Friday Five tomorrow. It's going to be a photo one, I think.

Have a great Turkey Day!!!


I Have Some Explaining to Do

O.K., so I haven't exactly been able to get anywhere near my laptop in the last few days.

Friday: School, then happy hour with some math & science teachers (seriously, where was everybody?), then the school play with my new-teacher-orientation buddy, the music teacher from one of the elementary schools. It was a tragic story but it was really well done. I'd give you the name but it might I.D. my school. Then the music teacher and I went for drinks and talked about our crazy parents, silly pets, and dating woes.

Saturday: Slept in, watched DVDs, did errands. That was a nice recharge.

Sunday: My sister changed up her usual travel plans (arrive really early on Thanksgiving morning and go back to bed) and came up here late Sunday morning. It was fun spending the day with her. We did not get to our Scrabble game, however, so we're just going to continue the trash-talking until the Thanksgiving post-dinner showdown.

Yesterday: Not very enjoyable. At the start of second period, while I was helping a teacher in a hurry to move one of our laptop carts, my foot got run over. Painful and embarrassing. Nothing broken, though. So I got ice from the nurse's office and tried to tough it out for a bit, but by 10:30 it was apparent that I was miserable. Not to mention useless in the library. So I went home, put my foot up with more ice. I had a doctor's appointment in New Jersey that I couldn't cancel, because I had to wait three weeks just to get that one, so I went.

Traffic was terrible getting to Jersey, and then the weather was worse once I got to Jersey. I think it was raining twice as hard as it was on the Philly side. Found the office, got through my appointment, listened to the traffic report. . . decided to bum around Cherry Hill while traffic cleared a bit. I found a shopping center with a bookstore and a supermarket I used to love when I lived farther west of the city. And, uh, spent a bit of money and probably more time on my injured foot than I should have.

But, hey, gas in NJ was almost 40 cents a gallon cheaper AND somebody else pumped it for me, so--score!

I spent today in sneakers, had fun with the students doing the drama research, and got annoyed with one of the library staff who either doesn't have her priorities straight or doesn't see me as a superior. Or both. I finally got to open my Etsy orders from Annie Coe and Ashley. Their handiwork is so wonderful that I'm having a hard time parting with the pieces I ordered as gifts for other people! Oh, and the Cat had a (carefully supervised) fun playtime with the string from Ashley's artfully wrapped package. Cats are the masters of reusing materials. (Speaking of cats, please send some good vibes to Annie; her kitties have not been well lately. Bummer.)

I have one more day of class and then I will be making PEPPERS! and PIE!


School Is, Like, Hard and Stuff

Not sick or dead--just really, really busy. And tired. There were parent-teacher conferences last night, so that meant the students got the day off. . . and the faculty was at school from 1-8:30 at night. Obviously, I didn't have meetings with parents, but all the librarians from the district got together for a meeting at our location. We are a surprisingly loud group--I was a bit hoarse afterwards.

I also am helping the American Lit classes with their big literary criticism project. The teachers decided to dump the tried-and-true project they've done for the past, oh, decade or so, and there are a lot of bumps we are trying to iron out. I stayed late to meet with them because we are up to the drama section and more or less single-handedly I have been trying to create a list of over two dozen plays cross-referenced with possible thematic topics. Because students are starting to come to the library in search of plays and don't have a clue what any of the plays on the list are about.

Not that I have any idea, myself. Did I mention that the concentration for my B.A. in English Literature was British Lit? Most of what I know of American Lit is what I learned in tenth grade. Most of which I would prefer to forget (Ethan Frome, The Crucible. . . ugh). So the meeting was basically to show the teachers what the Drama for Students series has been saying the possible topics are for certain plays and how I've been able to isolate major topics from individual volumes' indices and convert them into a table.

Which I have done for 15 out of 19 volumes of said series so far.

Yeah, I'm tired.

After reading this post, you probably are tired now, too.


Booktalking with the Friday Five

It seems that the less time I have to read, the more books I seem to add to my reading pile. Does that happen to anyone else? Here are five books I am reading while I should be tackling my extensive to-do list:

1. The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen: Borrowed via inter-branch loan from the public library at the beginning of September and, after a few renewals, finally flipping through it. I dunno, I'm not finding it as interesting as the Moosewood cookbook. Maybe if I was into making a ton of bread. That said, I will be photocopying recipes for avocado enchiladas, chocolate crepes, and coconut & almond macaroon torte. Mmm.

2. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: I mentioned this one a while ago, and after many weeks on the library's hold list, a copy finally came to me. I'm about a third of the way through, and it's compelling--in spite of the fact that the intended audience is middle schoolers, which oftentimes renders a mystery story a little too easy for an adult to unravel. The chapters are short, so it doesn't have the chance to get dull. Aside from the occasional anachronism (it's set in the late '70s), I'm getting the feeling it was worth the long wait.

3. Before I Die, by Jenny Downham: I had ordered this as part of the plan to pump up the fiction section at school. It had gotten a lot of mention, and the reviews seemed all right. . . but when it arrived, my co-librarian brought it to me with concerns about the summary on the back cover--scroll down to the Product Description section in the link (it's the back cover verbatim). So one of us had to take it home and give it a thorough reading to decide whether to add it to the collection. Honestly, what's mentioned there isn't so disturbing to me as all the drug use. The setting is Great Britain, so what do I know? That could be normal for British teens. The bluntness of the narrator is kind of appealing, and I think that candor (not to mention the controversial stuff) could be attractive to teen readers.

4. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange: I admit it--this is also a new addition to the school library that I snapped up before the kids could check it out. This is not a parody, but I do hope it will not be dead serious. No pun intended.

5. Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle. . . by Glenn Stout. I've been slogging through this one, which had been mentioned somewhere as a possible recommendation for teens looking for a new(ish) biography. It's chock full of history, just a little too much history if you ask me. I've been trying to read a bit every day at lunchtime, but I'm just now reaching the halfway point. To me, Stout did a ton of research and painstakingly maps out the convergence of the realization it's a good idea to teach women to swim with men's attempts to swim the English Channel, ultimately resulting in the discovery of teenage swimming powerhouse Trudy Ederle--but it took so long to get there that I don't think I'm interested anymore. And I definitely think that unless you know a teen who is a rabid swimmer, this book would not be something you'd recommend for YA reading. I'm not usually the kind of person who can leave a book unread once I've started, but the slogging feeling is reminiscent of my attempt to read The Grapes of Wrath in high school. I didn't finish it. Then again, I was able to beg for an additional renewal beyond the limit (my old job works for me more now than it did while I was there), so I have time.

Wishing you the gift of time (and good reading!) this weekend.


"You Keep Using That Word. . . " is perfectly applicable here

One of the oft-spouted phrases by some students, after a staff member has undertaken some disciplinary action--ranging anywhere from a "please stop" to a "you've been warned, you broke the rules again, now you've gotta go"--toward such students, is that our library is fascist.

That claim never goes unanswered. We stop immediately and address it, because that is a completely unacceptable accusation, and way out of line--even if we were peers.

I kept wondering, since it was said so often, perhaps the kids were quoting a movie or TV show. Amazingly, a quick search for the phrase brought up only one
result. And I loved the response "The Queen B" made:

I don't believe you mean the library is fascist. I think you mean
people who run it are. But let's look at that. Webster's
Dictionary defines
fascism as: a political philosophy, movement, or
regime that exalts nation
and often race above the individual and that
stands for a centralized
autocratic government headed by a dictatorial
leader, severe economic and
social regimentation, and forcible
suppression of opposition.

These kids have NO idea what fascism is even remotely like. In the high school where I was student teaching, they had to put their iPods away the minute they walked through the doors. I mean, security would stop the kids and make them pull their earbuds out.

Where I am now? I've seen students use their iPods in class. (Probably to drown out their noisy classmates so they can hear themselves think.) They would apply to Amnesty International if they had to put their iPods (that they were given and didn't have to save for,
unlike me) away.

I'm thinking I'll post The Queen B's excellent point in a prominent place near my desk.

Probably somewhere near the Trashcat calendar.


Big Allergy Monday

At least, that's what I think it was. After spending most of yesterday helping my parents set up their new TV, DVD/VCR, etc., I felt my eyes start to bother me by the end of the day. I took out my contacts for the night, but then this big rash broke out on my shoulder. I don't know if it was the dust, the sweater I'd worn all day, or something I ate (Mom cooked brunch and sometimes thinks sneaking in a little butter won't hurt), but in spite of skin cream I was itchy all night and miserable when I woke up.

The only thing that could knock it out was a nice big dose of an antihistamine, but that meant I'd be knocked out, too. I figured it was better to be foggy at home than itchy and cranky at the kids in school.

Of course, by the time I'd made the decision, I'd missed the cutoff to enter my sick day on the website the school uses to manage absences. I tried calling the main office, but nobody was picking up. So I sobbed a little (because this was holding up my taking the antihistamine and I just plain felt bad) and then just e-mailed the other librarian. She e-mailed back that she was able to get hold of someone in the office, and advised me to call the administrator of the absence website, who would be in after 8 a.m.

By then, it was about 7:10. I took the antihistamine, set the alarm for 8:00, and went back to bed. When 8:00 arrived, I made a groggy phone call to the aforementioned administrator, got her voicemail, left what was probably a sleepy-sounding message, and went back to sleep.

The next time I opened my eyes, it was 11 a.m.

O.K., so I slept half the day away--which also makes me wonder if I had a tiny bit of a cold I'd been fighting--but the rash is gone. Hooray.

Now, if I could just get around to setting up my new TV (exact same setup as my parents' so it should take a lot less time), and actually putting a dent in my word count for NaNoWriMo, then I'd be in business.

But I think I'll just take it a day at a time.


The Friday Five: Kate P Answers (Nearly) Anything

1. (from Annie Coe) What is your favorite book and what book inspired you the most to change?

I’ve always said it’s hard to pick a favorite, but my all-time favorite is Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott. (In case you couldn’t tell from the quote on my blog heading.) It starts off with a very sad girl who has suffered a tremendous loss and thinks she is all alone, but life gets better for her once she opens herself up to the kind people in her extended family and beyond. I could go on about it for awhile.

As for the book that inspired me the most to change, I would say that there have been a few. I'll mention a couple here. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, which a high school art teacher recommended to me, changed the way I looked at art and being an artist. It just changed my perspective entirely. I’d also say that a book called The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron went a long way to helping me both accept myself for who I am and care for my own needs—I spent years being told I was weird and that I shouldn’t feel the way I did (do), just because nobody else around me felt the same way. Now I know none of that was really true--and not to put up with that "You're too sensitive" throwaway line anymore.

2. (from Amy G.) Do you miss dairy? What is the thing you’d love to eat again if you could?

I miss dairy at times, but I definitely don’t miss being sick all the time. That’s pretty much what I tell myself in the face of temptation. It’s really hard sometimes when there’s birthday cake being passed around. Even tonight at happy hour with my co-workers—they demolished a huge plate of nachos. That sat right in front of me the whole time. I feel like an outsider sometimes. And if it were just once a year, like on my birthday or something, I would love to have one big piece of tiramisu, darn it.

3. (from Cullen, part 1) [Because] you haven’t traveled too extensively, . . . given the opportunity, where would you like to go?

Well, I’ve always said I’d like to see Barcelona and Rome, and locally, San Diego so I could see where my mom lived as a girl. Those are my top ones, and those never change. I will get there someday. That said, sometimes I think I’d like to see someplace extremely popular like Las Vegas, just to see what the fuss is all about. And a standing getaway to a nice little beach town wouldn’t be bad, either.

4. (from Cullen, part 2) If offered your dream job, would you consider moving to a different state?

Which state are we talking about? (Uh, not that I have any prejudices against any particular one *cough*WestVirginia*cough*) I think if the hypothetical dream job did require a move, I might be O.K. with it. It might be nice to make a fresh start—go someplace where there’s no chance of running into people I don’t like, or if I had relatives in the area, that might be a nice connection.
I’m just not sure if I’d be O.K. with being someplace landlocked. Even though I made it to the shore for just one day this year, there’s something weirdly reassuring about just knowing the ocean’s not too far away.

I think my family would not like it if I moved away. My sister moved out of state and her current beau is from Scotland, so my mom’s fretting already about the chance she might move farther away. And how would I be able to help her upload her photos from her digital camera if I’m hundreds of miles away?

5. (from Nightfly) How’s your kitty doing?

She is very flattered that you asked after her! Well, the advent of chillier weather is turning her back into instant-lap-kitty, i.e., I sit down in the living room and before I realize it, I look down and there she is, settled down right in my lap. Really, I don’t know how she gets there so quickly.

Also, with the colder weather, there seems to be a certain little critter (mouse? chipmunk? singing frog?) scratching around in the outside wall, right next to the office/dining room window. The cat gets rather obsessed when she hears the scratching, which is why I end up with a picture like this:

From the bottom of the windowsill to tip of her ear = about 31 inches

Have a happy weekend!!!


Translator Needed

I flipped the cat calendar behind my desk in the library to November on Monday. Tuesday morning, there was a post-it with the latest LOLCats caption:

"Trashcat iz not amuzd"

The picture is of a white kitten--one of those persian smushed-nose ones. So it does look kinda PO'd.

I don't get the "Trashcat" part, though. Can anybody help me out?


Nerves and Other Annoying Things

Evaluation tomorrow at school. My first evaluation. One of the administrators will be observing me as I teach a lesson (information-literacy-related) to one of the American Lit classes.

The good news:

* I've been teaching this lesson to several other American Lit classes for the past week.

* The lesson is based on (and practically dictated by) the wiki that I created based on the assignment and under the guidance of the other librarian.

* The class is meeting in the closed computer lab, as opposed to out in the center of the library, where it's noisy and other students seem unable to keep the h**l out during class time. So there's a chance they might pay attention.

* This lesson relates directly to a major assignment, thereby adding to the chance that they will pay attention.

* The administrator who is evaluating me is genuinely nice. (It helps that I made a really good impression on her during my interview.)

The bad news:

* I've been warned this particular class isn't as well-behaved as the other sections.

* I'm using technology, which just lends itself to a random breakdown--and considering the network's track record for the school year, the odds of some failure are higher than usual.

* I have to write a lesson plan, and not only do I hate doing lesson plans, I am experiencing a lot of confusion over which template and which standards to employ. Frustrating.

* The school district is really tight with its evaluations, and the superintendent gave a lovely talk during orientation that stated in no uncertain terms that any long-term sub (i.e. someone in my position) who receives a bad evaluation is outta there. I was sick to my stomach after that talk.

Needless to say, I am nervous. I'm off to scrounge up a lesson plan.

While you're thinking positive thoughts and/or offering up a prayer for me, submit a question if you haven't already.


Halloween Mooching

It may be an apartment community from which I blog, but the community goes elsewhere to trick-or-treat. If I want to see any kids in costumes, I go to my parents' (a.k.a. the same neighborhood I toured, costumed, pretty much all my life, as "my first Halloween" occurred when I was a couple weeks old and that was my only year in our previous house). I helped hand out candy while Mom took pictures with the digital camera practically everyone in the family taught her to use. A total of 48 kids came, and I think things pretty much were over by about the time the baseball game started.

Highlight #1: K, the little boy across the street and over a couple houses, announced, "I'm a Stormtrooper!" with the biggest grin on his face.

Highlight #2: I got a big hug from one of my former teen advisory board kids from the ol' public library job. She lives around the corner from my parents, but last night was the first time we'd seen each other since my last week at the library.

Highlight #3: F, about 15-16 months old and dressed in a cuddly bear cub costume, fell in love with the rocking chair in my parents' living room. Total cuteness as she rocked and rocked away. She cried when her mother said it was time to go. Really endearing, because the rocker used to belong to my grandmother.

Highlight #4: The last visitor of the night, "Jessie" from Toy Story 2, had the privilege of petting the senior cat of the house. "She's not moving away!" the little cowgirl said, amazedly.

Weird candy item of the night: My mom had bought Tootsie Roll Pops to give out. Kids were reaching for the red-orange wrapped ones that looked new to me. Turns out they are pomegranate. Uh. . . . yum?

Don't forget to
ask a question (or two or three) for this week's Friday Five.