Snow Day, Bitches!

First time as a teacher. Woo-hoo!


My Phone Is Fixed

Rather, I got a replacement one. Booyakasha.

Choose Life

The weekend was great. I spent quality time with good friends, including Meghan and Paul's fabulous wedding on Saturday where I witnessed not only the greatest father-of-the-bride speech ("I'd like to thank everyone for coming. Peace."), but also heard the greatest back-to-back-songs-at-a-wedding ("Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham followed up by "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure). I danced like Molly Ringwald.

Chris also, while listening to "Needle in the Hay" by Elliott Smith, buzzed his head. Along the way he looked like my 7th grade boyfriend, Anthony Kiedis circa 1991, and Travis Barker. Transformation photos to follow.

Speaking of Chris, he got HEATED by an e-mail forward from one of his friends. Have y'all seen the e-mail, sent by Republicans, about the ant and the grasshopper? It's basically uses the story of the ant and the grasshopper to make the case that people are poor because they don't work hard enough and people who work shouldn't have to help out those that don't. The forward ended with "Vote Republican." This pissed Chris off and he fired back an eloquent rebuttal that silenced the haters, I think. I mention all this because I had a similar conversation, via e-mail/blog, with my good friend Geoff, who has recently started owning his Republicanism. Anyone who knows Geoff knows that he's kind of bandwagon, so he'll probably come back to the brighter side of things sooner than later. Anyway, his argument, which I can understand, when it comes to poverty and public assistance, was that when he opened his business, he was working a ton and was broke but he didn't go on welfare or EBT. He goes on to say that if people want better jobs, they have to educate themselves and work hard. In theory, this is true. In practice, however, this shit is false as hell. Not to diminish what Geoff has done, because I am incredibly proud of how he started his own business and I know he's worked his tail off. However, Geoff comes from a comfortable family. He is independent in the sense that he pays his own bills, but not in the sense that if something were to happen, it's not like he would starve, lose his house, or not be able to pay the bills. Clark and Annie would help out. As they should, as good parents. However, not everyone has that luxury. That is a middle-to-upper class luxury. So who helps out the working poor when they have an emergency?

We live in a world of middle class values and norms. If you were not raised in the middle or upper class, how would you know how to properly navigate a middle-class world? For example, in my middle-class upbringing, it was never an option for my brothers and I to not go to college. The question was just which one. My parents knew how to help me fill out a FAFSA. They knew what questions to ask on a college visit. They knew about college visits, for chrissakes. They took me to a college counselor. For some of my kids, who have no one in their family who has ever gone to college, that idea is not automatic. It takes calculated efforts from teachers and other influential adults to get them to assume that college is their future and to help them jump through the hoops that they have to in order to be successful. I think a lot of middle-to-upper class people have no idea of what poverty means. I have seen where some of my students live and it would shock you. Honestly, even I had no idea until I saw it myself.
There are several books published in the last five years that document the struggle of those in poverty. Two fascinating reads are Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and David Shipler's The Working Poor: Invisible in America. All three are excellent reads and I own them if you want to borrow them.
The idea of the American Dream is dead. Nothing teaches you more about the cyclical nature of poverty and ignorance more than working in a school. I can't tell you how many kids I have that are messed up and rightfully so if you meet their parents. If outside agencies such as education and social services don't step in to help people break that cycle, impoverished people will continue to be impoverished and society will bear the burden of that poverty. We are becoming less of a nation of opportunity and more of a nation of classist castes that doom children to repeat their parents mistakes.

My kids are sponsoring their second annual Tent City on January 13th at my school. Kids will camp out for 12 hours in support of poverty-relief efforts in their community. We are taking donations of new or gently-used clothing to benefit the Salvation Army in Maplewood, canned food to benefit America's Second Harvest, and money to support Joe's Place, a new home for homeless teenaged boys in our school district. There will be displays with information on poverty and every donation is tax-deductible. Please come support my kids and their efforts to help make a difference in their community.


Day of Thanks

Here are things I am thankful for at this moment, 11:51 AM on Thanksgiving Day, when I am carmelizing onions in my kitchen:
a clean kitchen
no hangover
strong coffee (fair-trade! organic! at your local Schnucks!)
Elliott Smith
a baby daddy that is literate, doesn't beat me, has a steady job and isn't with me because we have a baby, among eight thousand other things
vintage maroon Vans
my cat and dog
a Survivor Thanksgiving
Karen V and Sha-Na-Na-Na being in town
my totally amazing kids, including the Star-Wars obsessed autistic one who wrote a story with a character named "Padme Best-Oliver"
my parents, who didn't freak when I told them I wasn't coming home
my brothers, who are on the verge of becoming real-live adults
Meghan and Paul's upcoming nuptuals, and the celebration with friends that will follow
The Decemberists amazing new album
knitting and pretty yarn and making functional stuff with your own two hands
good friends
the Champagne Of Trivia's hopefully upcoming run at the World Series of Pop Culture
the bigger-than-a-breadbox bag of TasteeOs that I got at the grocery store
my two-day workweek
cooking with wine

That's all for now. Go eat turkey. Or tofurky.


Lack of Tech

My phone is broken and has been broken since before I went to Nashville. So if you are one of the eleven new messages I have on my phone, I'm not hatin'. I didn't even have my phone in Nashville. But now I am home, and I will slowly get to replying to those of you who called me. Right now, I gotta figure out what I'm doing today and tomorrow and figure out what happened while I was gone.


Southern Hospitality

Awwww yeah! Comin' to you live from the National Council of Teachers of English annual conference in Nashville. Talk about a merging of cultures: 5,000 English teachers from around the country meets...Opryland. This hotel, the Gaylord Opryland (how's that for a name?) is not so much a hotel, but what would happen if the Mall of America and Tan-Tar-A spawned a super-commerce complex surrounded by the world's biggest parking lot and overcharged for everything. Seriously. Place is huge. It's like six hotels, but there's these big atrium areas with a "river" which is really just a large, windy fountain, and a zillion overpriced restaurants, bars, and shops selling completely useless shit such a platters that say "Everything tastes better with cat hair" and t-shirts that read "Merry Christmas, y'all" as if Britney designed her own line of novelty clothing. And country music. Errwhere. At any given time in my hotel room, there are at least four different channels playing country music and an episode of "Home Improvement" on. Not only are the English dorks meeting here, but so are the commercial lubricant sales convention, featuring 1,500 men with names like Rod and BIll, wearing light blue button downs with the sleeves rolled up. And, like any touristy place, the old folks. Lots of them.
The English teachers are a different story. There are, of course, the dancing apples. There are the disgruntled folks. But there are also all of the very cool, very awesome at their job people. And there's free booze at things, amazing author talks, and, best of all, FREE BOOKS. Tonight we had the welcome gatherings for all the grade levels, and the secondary session had Ann Patchett, the very distinguished author of Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars (among other books), and she gave away, to all however many hundreds of high school teachers, copies of two of her books and one of Eudora Welty's books. To everyone. Plus free food and beer and wine. And that's just the beginning. Starting tomorrow, there's an expo floor where every book publisher ever gives away free or dirt cheap copies of books and other teachery things like pens, pencils, bags, lesson plans, etc. I know this last paragraph was nerdy. Deal. My colleagues and I are actually presenting a session on our conference English program. Yeah national presenter. Last two years. No big.
Don't worry, I'll update LIVE! FROM NASHVILLE! again soon.
Shout out to my dear friend Meghan. I'm missing her bachelorette party on Saturday, which I'm sad about, but I'm sure it will be like any other bachelorette party: dive bar, party bus, golden showers. Same old, same old.


A Tiny Glimmer of Hope

What's that smell? Is that the smell of...VICTORY? A victory unlike anything Dems have experienced in the past, oh, ten years? The first major victory in my career as a voter?

I went to bed disappointed. The early numbers, at least for Missouri, were grim. I was tired, and Chris was glued to the TV, so I went to sleep, knowing he would wake me up. And he did. When his alarm went off at 2:30 so he could pull out the laptop and check the numbers, after which he freaked out and woke me up to tell me that Talent had conceded, Amendment 2 had passed, and nationwide, things were looking good. I was as excited as I could be when someone wakes you up at 2:30, but I got up early to check the stories.

I'm still in shock. I'm in shock that Dems took the House so convincingly. I'm shocked that we still have a chance (and a good one, at that) to take the Senate. I'm shocked that Amendment 2 passed. I'm shocked that Prop B passed so handily. My entire adult life, Republicans have ruled everything. I wonder how (or even if) things will change. I think the biggest sign of hope is not that leadership will change, it's that America is ready for a change. This looks to be an exciting time in our country's history, and I hope this election inspires people to become active in their communities to continue to make changes. I also look forward to Bush's reaction to everything. Dude is going stutter and sweat like a 7th grade persuasive speech.

Not to neglect the OTHER important news of the day.

Finally Britney is in on the inside joke the rest of the nation has been laughing at. I think so much more highly of her now. Hopefully she'll give him a bus ticket back to Fresno. That, or he'll find another woman to pop out two shorties with.



Just a quick post to remind you to go out and vote if you are registered. Please, please, please take ten minutes to read up on the major candidates and amendments. There is so much propaganda out there, particularly regarding the US Senate seat in Missouri and Amendment 2, the stem cell research bill. All this talk of cloning and poor language and exploitation of women is riling me up. THINK FOR YOURSELF. Exploitation of women? As if we can't make our own decisions to undergo invasive surgery? Some schiester doctor is going to con us into it? And we need to be protected? Get the fuck out of here. I don't see people trying to save frat rats from the sperm bank. All that talk, all the focus on the extra nonsense, is to take your mind off the real issue: when do you believe life begins? If you believe that the cells in blastocyst constitute life, and that life is just as valuable as a grown human being, they you are probably against this bill. If you believe that life begins much later, or you believe that the cells are more valuable as a means of saving a grown human being, then you are probably for the bill. Let's not bring archaic views of women, or the concept of meeting your twin on the street someday into this. Call a spade a spade. It's pro-life or pro-choice ver. 2.0. Whatever way you vote, make sure it's really about that, not what some dude on a corner had on a placard.

More later at school.