Friday, November 28, 2008

Being an Adult

Today, I went through a rite of passage. I did something that most people my age have done already, and some have done more than once.

I bought a car.

I got rid of the only car I've ever owned, the one that I've had since I was 16 years old (that's 14+ years if you're counting) and the one that drove me back and forth to high school, college, grad school, and my jobs at summer camp, Breakthrough, the Girl Scouts, and three schools. It went back and forth from New Hampshire to Connecticut when I was in a long-distance relationship.

It was registered in 3 different states, had parking permits for two different institutions of higher learning, and a non-resident student sticker from my time in Massachusetts. The Mount Holyoke sticker on the back window had been there since the day I got accepted early decision in December 1995.

I sang, laughed, cried in that car. It held dear friends and family members. The gas that I put in the car when I was in high school cost less than $1 a gallon and this summer cost over $4 a gallon. Bill Clinton was in his first term as President when I got that car and it had campaign stickers from Howard Dean and Barack Obama on it. The car had a tape deck (replaced due to premature death in summer 1999), roll-down windows, no air bags, no anti-lock brakes. I got a flat tire once in all of those years and never got into an accident apart from one minor fender-bender. 2 speeding tickets in all of those years -- seriously, I think that cops couldn't believe that the thing was going as fast as it actually was.

234,296 miles. 20+ years old. Goodbye to my trusty 1988 Volvo 240.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


A little something for the holiday... a short list of things I'm thankful for:
- several coworker and families from school who invited me over to have dinner with their families
- the ability to read and write and the chance to go to college and graduate school
- the fact that I have a job that, most days, I love
- friends far and near

I have enough.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I Am Learning to Abandon the World

I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.
by Linda Pastan, from PM/AM: New and Selected Poems. New York: Norton, 1982.

1/3 of the way through!

1/3 of the school year is over! Yahoo and yippee. More importantly, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means a few more days off in a row. And in that vein, here's my thing to be thankful for today: my end-of-trimester comments are finished. All 75 of them.

In other news:
- from the NYT, an article on the fact that early decision applications are actually up this year at lots of different institutions despite the fact that the economy is down
-from the NYT, an article on the fact that California plans to cut enrollment at its state university system by 10,000 students because of the economic downturn (ouch for low income kids)
- from the NYT an article on how a student from Dartmouth won a county election in NH
- from Slate, an article on a new book about the Constitution, one of my favorite documents of all time

And that's it for now. Reading on a Sunday afternoon, what a concept!

Monday, November 17, 2008


I thoroughly hate this time of year at school. So busy. Plus, the bigwigs are already starting on plans for next year, which I can't even conceive of at this point. I mean, I get it, we need to plan for next year and I'll never argue with the concept of starting early. But when we're only 1/3 of the way through the year, I have a hard time thinking beyond the 2/3 that are left. Especially when we're worrying over the budget and they want to add new classes but aren't talking about new positions to cover those classes (or if they are, I'm not hearing it).

I don't want to teach 6 sections of class next year.

I won't teach 6 sections of class next year.

Plus, I seriously need a freaking break. I'm so glad that there are only 6 school days left until Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Still Relishing the Election

From Salon and Garrison Keillor:

"Be happy, dear hearts, and allow yourselves a few more weeks of quiet exultation. It isn't gloating, it's satisfaction at a job well done. ... He was elegant, unaffected, utterly American, and now (Wow) suddenly America is cool. Chicago is cool. Chicago!!! ... The French junior minister for human rights said, "On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes." When was the last time you heard someone from France say they wanted to be American and take a bite of something of ours? Ponder that for a moment. ... It feels good to be cool and all of us can share in that, even sour old right-wingers and embittered blottoheads. Next time you fly to Heathrow and hand your passport to the man with the badge, he's going to see "United States of America" and look up and grin. Even if you worship in the church of Fox, everyone you meet overseas is going to ask you about Obama and you may as well say you voted for him because, my friends, he is your line of credit over there. No need anymore to try to look Canadian. ... Our hero who galloped to victory has inherited a gigantic mess. ... So enjoy the afterglow of the election a while longer. We all walk taller this fall. People in Copenhagen and Stockholm are sending congratulatory e-mails -- imagine! We are being admired by Danes and Swedes! And Chicago becomes the First City. Step aside, San Francisco. Shut up, New York. The Midwest is cool now. The mind reels."

Read it all.
Looking for a Rest Area

I've been driving for hours,
it seems like all my life.
The wheel has become familiar,
I turn it

every so often to avoid the end
of my life, but I'm never sure
it doesn't turn me
by its roundness, as women have

by the space inside them.
What I'm looking for
is a rest area, some place where
the old valentine inside my shirt

can stop contriving romances,
where I can climb out of the thing
that has taken me this far
and stretch myself.

It is dusk, Nebraska,
the only bright lights in this entire state
put their fists in my eyes
as they pass me.

Oh, how easily I can be dazzled--
where is the sign
that will free me, if only for moments,
I keep asking.
Stephen Dunn, from Looking for Holes in the Ceiling. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1974.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Work, work, & more work

First off, and unrelatedly, an observation: when you're waiting for the phone to ring, it never does.

And now, onto other stuff! Like the busy. Seriously, I don't think that I've worked this hard for such an extended period of time since MHC. So much work! It's the AP/regular US history combined with redoing the 9th grade. I'm enjoying the work, I just wish there were a few more hours to spend doing things for myself.

Outside of my insulated little school life, the rest of the world keeps on keeping on:
- a piece from Slate on how different religions define death
- another piece from Slate on parental expectations for kids and why they are too high
- from the NYT, a story on how Howard Dean will step down as DNC chair -- I adore Howard Dean

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day After

So, here we are, back to "normal." I'm disappointed in California's decision to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage, but that's the way it works sometimes. If you leave those things to the people, it doesn't always work out the way you want it to. But I think that eventually, we will see gay marriage not only legal in all 50 states, but also socially accepted by most places and groups. Look at what just happened in this country! I feel like anything can happen now.

Often quoted Dr. King: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

Fascinating elsewhere:
- from Salon, quotes from thinkers and reporters and academics and bloggers on what the election of Obama means -- it's lovely and inspiring
- from the NYT, an article on studies that show that contagious liberalism of professors is a bit of an urban myth, though it seems to indicate that MY liberalism as a high school teacher is far more influential than I like to think
- from the blog Feministing, a "thank you" for female voters on how they affected the outcome of the election
- a really funny blog from two old ladies who have been friends for 60+ years, with absolute opinions on everything and remind me of my friends from college, older and young
- from one last blog, Indexed, on the outcome of the election

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Results

Here's the rub, which I hope that you all have picked up on: Obama won!

Am I pleased with these results? Yes. Do I think they are amazing given our country's history of slavery and discrimination against people of color? Yes.

Are others disappointed, including some of my students? Yes. And seriously, that's ok to be disappointed. We're all disappointed when our guy doesn't win. I thought Obama's victory speech last night was very eloquent and understated-- the following was particularly historically resonant:
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.
It reminds me of Jefferson's first inaugural address, where power transferred for the first time between political parties, from Washington and Adams's Federalist Party to Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party. At that time, Jefferson said "We are all Federalists, we are all Republicans."

I have many students today who are bummed out by the election results. I have been emphasizing the fact that Obama has said he wants to listen to those who disagree with him, that Senator McCain said in his concession speech that he was committed to helping President-elect Obama help out country through touch times. In addition, the history teacher in me needs to tell them that we are lucky to live in a place that has a long-established tradition of peaceful transitions of power from one political party to another. That our Constitution is a pretty conservative document and that the office of the presidency is designed to be well-balanced by the other branches. That it's wonderful that we live in a place where freedom of speech and the press are enshrined in our Constitution and that it's ok to not agree with and voice your opposition to the government and the president.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Here I am, sitting on pins and needles waiting for Election Day to be over. I voted early this morning when polls opened and on the way to school. There were probably about 100 people in front of me and I waited in line for about 1/2 an hour.

Since there are no real election results to see, here's some mock election results instead:

With our very own electoral college:
Obama: 79% electoral votes/McCain: 21% electoral votes

Monday, November 3, 2008

Not Election Day Yet

It's not election day yet, so here's some stuff to tide you over:

- from the NYT, an article on the Erie Canal and how it's still used, amusing to me since I just taught about the Erie Canal in AP class
- from NPR, a story on a Supreme Court case involving the FCC and swear words on radio/tv -- the topic itself isn't that funny, but the treatment is, as they have a guest on to talk about the history of the "f word," but refer to that word throughout the story as "floss" -- it's absolutely hillarious