Monday, December 28, 2009

I Loved You For It

To my husband on our fourth anniversary 


August 2005

I was sitting on the back porch of a house in El Salvador. It was night. You were thousands of miles away, and yet I always felt like you were right beside me that summer. I could hear the wild life of a strange country buzzing and hooting in the trees as I dialed your phone number and readied myself to unveil the plan I’d been scheming for weeks: “Ry, I have a proposition for you,” I began after a few minutes of small talk.

“Okay?” you responded, the curiosity evident in your voice.

“What if we got married in December instead of May, took winter semester off of school, and came back here—to live and volunteer at the orphanage?”

You were silent. You were thinking. Then finally you asked, “Could we make a difference to the kids, Rach?”

So I started to talk. And I talked and talked and talked.

And at the end of all of my talking, you said five words: “Okay, Rachel. Let’s do it.”<

You trusted me.

And so we spent the first three months of our marriage in El Salvador. We slept in a single bed together—the only bed that the orphanage offered us. We got chased by mangy dogs on our morning runs and then came home to freezing cold showers. We did our laundry in the bathtub. We got in fights when we were lost on the city buses and were both too stubborn to ask for directions. We ate powdered mashed potatoes and PBJ sandwiches almost every day.

I jumped off a cliff and “butt flopped” into Lake Atitlan. You valiantly tried to save me as I writhed and sobbed in pain, floating on my back in the choppy water. You updated me every hour on the status of the bruises on my backside and patiently listened to me whimper as my sore hiney endured the bumpy bus rides.

We played with the niños. We played and played and played. You sat with Carlitos every day, reading books in your faltering Spanish and pointing out the pictures. You blew bubbles with Inecita for hours on end, talked to Cindi even though she couldn’t talk back, and pushed Edwin’s wheelchair through the obstacle course at top speed.

I loved you for it.

****

May 2006

Several months later, I was home in Colorado visiting my dad, and you were in Utah, searching for our first married apartment. I remember calling you from the phone in the blue room and then sitting down on the bed, eager to hear about all of the great housing options you had undoubtedly found for us.

You were excited. “Rachel, I found a perfect place for us to live. And it’s only $400 a month, including all of the utilities!!”

“$400 a month?!” I asked, a red flag waving in my mind. “Ryan, what’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing! I mean, it is an attic apartment, so it’s a little small, and there’s not a lot of storage space…but I think we can make it work.”

I was skeptical. “It must be really small for it to be only $400 a month…”

“Well…” you began hesitantly, and the red flag waved faster, “there is one little quirk with the place: the tub is in the corner of the bathroom, under the slant of the attic ceiling, so you can’t really stand up when you are showering.”

I was silent. I was stunned. “You can’t stand up when you are showering?” I repeated, the concern evident in my voice.

So you talked. And you talked and talked and talked. And, somehow, you convinced me that an inconvenient shower was worth all of the money that we would save.

I couldn’t believe it when I heard myself saying those five magic words: “Okay, Ryan. Let’s do it.”

I trusted you.

And so, we moved into the attic. And for a year, we spent every morning standing hunched over in the bathtub, holding the shower hose over our heads as we tried to spray off the soap and shampoo as quickly as possible. We learned to cook in that teeny apartment, and I threw temper tantrums when we burned several pork roasts and dropped a chicken potpie on the open oven door. (We ate the pie anyway.) We stayed up late grading papers—you were always willing to help me during that insane first year of teaching—and we rarely went out on Friday nights because I fell asleep on the couch by 6:00 p.m.

I made you a scrapbook of our first year of marriage for Valentine’s Day that year—and a waiter at the Olive Garden accidentally dumped a pitcher of water all over it. The poor kid was mortified, but we didn’t yell at him for it.

We worked a lot. We worked and worked and worked—you on finishing your undergrad, me on teaching 200 teenagers to write. And when I was too tired to get up in the morning, you made me breakfast and ironed my skirt and lifted me out of bed with a hug.

I loved you for it.

****

July 2007

You graduated from BYU and got accepted to dental school. We packed up our little attic in Provo and flew across the country to find a new apartment, a new teaching job, and a new life. When we first drove into Buffalo, New York in a rental car, it was night. We were 1500 miles away from home, and it was raining. We didn’t know a soul in that cold, grimy city.

“Babe,” I said, surveying the abandoned, boarded up warehouse outside the passenger-side window. “What are we doing here?”

You too looked around us—and then started to laugh. “I don’t know, Rachel. But I think we can make the best of it, don’t you?”

Shaking my head in amazement, I said the familiar words: “Okay, Ryan. Let’s do it.”

We trusted each other.

And so we settled into life in the Buff. We got lost finding the Wegmans grocery store for the first time. We drove all over town to pick up furniture that we’d found on CraigsList. We got in a fight after I insisted that the new apartment needed to be completely organized within a week and you insisted that there was no rush. We met the neighbors, some delightful and others scary, and accustomed ourselves to colorful language that we didn’t often hear in Provo. We tried chicken wings. You started dental school. I started teaching in a nearby suburb.

I was shocked to receive a phone call on my way home from work one day: “Rachel, we’ve been robbed.” The thief had made off with my laptop, my bike, our digital camera, and your electric razor. We were a little scared—and then we got over it.

We loved the people of Buffalo. We loved and loved and loved. We invited neighbors and young couples from church over for dinner (we had perfected the pork roast and chicken potpie by that time) and couldn’t believe how lucky we were to know them. We drove Deborah to church and took the Cookie Club kids on bike rides. You became the neighborhood favorite, and I became slightly overwhelmed by the incessant sound of the doorbell and the pleas of “Can Mr. Ryan play?” I sometimes watched you from an upstairs window, playing tennis with little Lawrence and David in the driveway.

I loved you for it.

****

December 28, 2009

This morning, I woke up thinking about the years that have passed and the years that are still to come. I rested my head on your chest and smiled.

I trust us.

“Happy anniversary, Ry,” I said quietly.

In your sleep, you put a hand on my hair and murmured, “Happy anniversary, Wife.”

You’ve always been beside me.

And I love you for it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store..."


Ryan and I had so much fun on Saturday "doorbell ditching" Christmas goodies with some friends, the Fordhams. Their little boys (ages 4 and 2) were absolutely adorable about it. Before we left, they insisted on "practicing" and putting on "disguises." Ryan was dubbed "The Fast One," and he was the boy's top pick for a doorbell ditching partner. It was pretty cute to see them all running away from the doors with their capes flying behind them--even Ryan wore one!

At the end of the night, Ry and I felt "in the Christmas spirit" for the first time this December. We've been so busy this month that we haven't even thought about Christmas! I am so glad that we are now in the holiday mood. Thank you, Fordhams, for including us in your family tradition! (We need to get some kids of our own!)

We had a very uplifting and spiritual meeting at church this morning, filled with beautiful Christmas music. Then the lesson in the women's meeting was especially meaningful, as we read and discussed Luke 2 together. I feel very happy today and am so grateful for my Savior.

Here's a great little video. I recommend it!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Numa Numa

Have you seen this?

My students showed it to me at school today, and I busted up laughing. Made my day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

R.I.P.


A beloved member of the Nielson household was laid to rest this week. It was an emotional moment for me. I bit back the tears and tried not to sniffle as I said my final goodbye.

"So long, Track Suit."

Yes, my signature PJs/exercise/knock around the house (okay, I went everywhere in it) outfit is now at the bottom of the Good Will box. I feel so heartless admitting that. But it was time for Track Suit to be put out of his misery.

Friends and family know my track suit well. The matching pants and zip-up hoodie were a gift to me--from Ryan, actually--on my 21st birthday. And in the almost five years since, I have been seen wearing little else. I mean, of course I convince myself to change my clothes for work every day; but the minute that I get home, the nylons and heels come off, and the track suit goes back on.

I would like to point out that a matching track suit isn't the most fashionable choice to begin with; but add to that the fact that, over the years, the track suit has gotten smaller and shorter (due to countless turns in the dryer), and I have gotten wider and rounder (due to countless turns in the Dunkin' Donuts line)--and then you can picture how lovely I looked in that polyester beauty.

I once asked Ryan if I could wear my track suit to a birthday party thrown by our friends. He said only if I wanted to be "disrespectful." I wasn't totally sure what that meant, especially since the party was for a one-year-old...but I wore the track suit anyway. I hope little Taylor Dayton didn't feel disrespected by it.

So why did I decide to discontinue use of my trusty "uniform?" Well, last week, I was embarrassing myself in a Buns-N-Thighs class at the gym. I couldn't figure out the steps; I was a count behind everyone else; and I fell down (yes, like, on the ground) at one point. As I got back to my feet, red faced and sore, I caught a glimpse of something laughable in the full wall of mirrors across from me:

In the midst of spandex-clad, tight-bodied dancer girls, there stood a young woman wearing short, snug, stained workout pants and a matching zip-up hoodie.

It was me.

Humiliated, I tore off the hoodie, but underneath, I was wearing a
t-shirt with a smiling gumball machine on it. This did nothing to improve my image.

Call me shallow; call me a fairweather friend; but Track Suit had to go. I am now too cool--and too chubby--to wear him.

R.I.P.

Track Suit
May 31, 2005-December 10, 2009

Pictured here in May 2008...believe it or not, the track suit was even more motley, short, and dorky a year and a half later...time to say goodbye!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I love underachievers.


For four years now, I have taught the "worst" kids in the school. Without fail, I always get assigned to teach the remedial English classes that none of the other teachers want. Some of the honors teachers feel sorry for me--but guess what? I feel sorry for them. Who would you rather teach: funny, relaxed teenage boys who keep me laughing with their crazy comments, or uptight, grade-grubbing AP kids who crowd my desk to whine about every missed point on their last test?

Of course those are gross generalizations. I have some high-achieving kids who are great and some low-achieving kids who are a pain in the butt. But overall, there are some real perks to teaching underachievers:

1) They don't try to cheat on tests because, well, they aren't expecting a super high grade anyway.

2) They don't copy each other's homework because, well, they realize that their classmate is not likely to know the right answer.

3) They don't notice when you lose a pack of their journal responses and quizzes because, well, they don't even remember completing those assignments. (If they even did!)

Yes, it's true...not one of my eleventh grade students has asked about the papers that I lost on my plane trip to Idaho. Not one.

Luckily, it was only about one assessment per class period that disappeared on the plane in Atlanta. So, I simply excused the assignment or gave everyone participation points for completing it, and then I moved on with my life. I am quite proud of myself because, in past years, I would have been freaking out and given myself anxiety attacks over this loss. (Eh hem, I might have been one of those uptight AP kids in a former life.)

Rachel Westover Nielson is learning to relax--maybe my students are rubbing off on me! :)

P.S. I did tell my seniors (because I lost a major essay for them), and they all just reprinted it. I can't believe it, but it was no big deal! (Huge sigh of relief!)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Somethin' to Talk About


Every so often, I have a moment occur in my day that makes me think to myself,  How is this happening?  How am I sitting here observing this right now?  Ryan thinks that I am a magnet for bizarre experiences.  I think he may be right.

I just had such a moment.

A little background: I am great friends with all of the night janitors at my school.  This can be attributed to the fact that I am one of the only teachers who is still in the building when the late shift starts.

Night janitors are great people—but inevitably quirky.  And certainly dedos.  At my first school, the night janitor named Valancy spent her break each evening talking my ear off about Anime and Star Wars conventions.  When I left the school, she made us matching Indian dream catcher necklaces, and I still have mine.  I love unexpected, unique people.

Just now, John, one of the elderly night janitors at my current school, came into my classroom and said, “Rachel, I hear you like to sing.”

A little taken back by this random comment, I suspiciously confirmed, “Yes, I like to sing.”

John continued, “Well, then, you have some homework.”

“Okay?” I replied, my wariness increasing.  

“You need to find us a duet to sing together.”

Hmmm.

“Who would we be performing for, John?”

“Nobody.  Anybody.  I just like to sing.”

I tried to graciously decline his invitation to perform.  “Well, I’m a little scared to just start singing in front of people at random times.”

“You are?!  I’m not!” he declared—and proceeded to launch into a heartfelt rendition of “Just to See Her” by Smokey Robinson.

As I watched him singing—his eyes shut in order to get the full sense of the song, his arms pantomiming the lovers’ embrace, his eyebrows moving up and down for dramatic emphasis—I couldn’t help but think, Is this really happening to me right now?  I also couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face.  So bizarre!  So delightfully bizarre!

When he finished, I clapped enthusiastically, and he liked that reaction so much that he gave me several encore numbers, including “Lady in Red” and "Dancing in the Moonlight.” 

At the end of such a passionate performance, how could I deny him his duet?  And so, we ended this unexpected melodic interlude with—at his request, I might add—a duet performance of “Let’s Give ‘Em Somethin' to Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt. 

As I sang the twangy words and tried not to giggle, I noticed that a few students were in the hallway, presumably getting their stuff after a long basketball practice or something, and also presumably hearing this oh-so-random janitor/teacher duo.

I think we gave them somethin' to talk about, don’t you?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Idaho Spuds and Buds


Highlights of our Thanksgiving weekend in Idaho:


Turkey Bowl and Turkey Trot


The Nielson men got together for some athletic competitions on Turkey Day. After a game of football, they had a race on the high school track. These boys are competitive, and unkind words were exchanged, but, after several heats, Ryan and Nate came out victorious. (Funny that they were the only two who didn't strip down to their skivvies for aerodynamic advantage!) It was hilarious.



Family Feasts


We enjoyed Sal's homecooking the entire weekend. Of course, the actual Thanksgiving meal was a highlight.


Family Fun



The "love bird" couples had fun decorating gingerbread houses with Sal (Mom) and Tan (little brother).


Family Fotos






Aren't we cute?

"Love ya tender," Nielsons!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Teacher's Worst Nightmare


Every year, during Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, I grade like a maniac. I may have been known to even neglect my family a time or two in favor of holing up somewhere to grade.

Well, apparently the Fates wanted me to change my anti-social behavior this year.

Before I left school yesterday, I thought, I will have so much time to grade while I'm in Idaho this weekend!  So I packed everything--two sets of quizzes, two sets of essays, a pack of journal responses--into my expandable file folder and stuffed it in my bag.

On the first leg of my trip, I graded a set of quizzes before settling down to read a good book.  (Hunger Games--it was excellent.)  I was so involved in my book that when I arrived at my layover airport, I continued reading for several hours before convincing myself, Rachel, you really need to keep grading!

So, grudgingly, I put down my book and opened my bag to find my expandable file...GONE.

This was my reaction:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I sat frozen and stunned for a full minute before I could compute the fact that, yes, I left the entire file on my first plane; yes, it's probably gone forever; and yes, I'm going to have to explain this to 150 teenagers on Monday.

I approached the Delta info desk and told them that I had lost something important and asked if there is any chance that I will be able to get it back.

"It's not likely," the worker said.  "A lot of times people aren't nice enough or honest enough to turn stuff in."

"Umm, I don't think it would be valuable to anyone but me.  I'm a high school English teacher, and it's all of my students' tests, quizzes, and essays," I responded, the pain evident in my voice.

He shook his head and started to laugh. "I bet some kids were just praying you would lose that bag!"

I bet they were.

Now I'm just praying they find it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Music to my ears...

"Mrs. Nielson, I've been looking forward to this class all day!"

It's not very often that I get to hear comments like that...especially from my male students.  But I've been hearing this and other similar sentiments a lot lately since my 11th grade classes have been reading and acting out the play version of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.


My students love this unit, and this is why:






I turn my classroom into the "set" as a mental hospital, and I make them wear costumes and act out what we are reading.  Surprisingly, they love it and run to class each day to get their costumes on and their props ready.  Yesterday, the characters in the play did an Indian war dance, so guess what...I had a pack of wild eleventh graders whopping and hollering, shuffling up and down the aisles of desks.  OH SO FUN!!!!!

Unfortunately for them, our next unit is the huge research paper.  What a juxtaposition!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Three for the Price of One

Last night, some of my fun girlfriends invited me to go to the midnight showing of New Moon with them.  After considering the fact that I had to get up at 6:00 a.m. to teach a full day of school, I decided--what the heck??--and I went.

It was so much fun.  We smuggled in Cheetohs, Doritos, and Hot Tamales, and we just chomped and giggled away while watching what was quite possibly one of the corniest movies I've ever seen.  (But in a fun way!)  We screamed with all of the other girls when Jacob, the sexy werewolf, first took off his shirt, and we gasped in horror at the creepy, red-eyed Volturi.  At the climactic moment of the film, just when Edward was about to get killed by the vampire authorities (we knew he wouldn't...but still...), the movie started to wobble...and then slow down...and then, it STOPPED.

My first thought was, "Riot."  Honestly, I was afraid that the hordes of Edward-loving maniacs might pummel the poor worker who came running in to fix it.  He calmly assured us that they were having technical difficulties, and it would just be a few minutes.

Well, FIFTY minutes later, the film got rolling again, and we finally got to see Edward reunited with his precious Bella.  To compensate us for our lost time and to ease our aggravation, the theater gave each person two free movie tickets. JACK POT!  I was more than appeased, especially considering that during the entire fifty minute break, I had a grand old time chatting and laughing with Karli and Tasha.  So fun!

Although quite sleep-deprived at school today (I got home from the movie at 3:35 a.m.), I was able to muster up enough energy to have a few spirited discussions about the movie with my students.  (You better believe they were at the midnight showings!!)  I love being able to talk about relationships, life, and literature with my students--even if the discussion centers around cheesy vampires!

Tonight, Ry and I utilized the free tickets and saw another new release film, The Blind Side.  It is the true story of a family who made a remarkable difference in the life of a troubled teenager, and I have to say, it was infinitely more inspiring than New Moon.  I left wanting to be a better person.  In fact, as we were driving home, Ry and I spotted a guy pushing his truck down the road, and we looked at each other and knew we better stop to help.  It's a little ridiculous how good it made us feel to help this fellow; the family in the movie changed someone's life, but, hey, we helped push a broken down truck, and that's a start, right???  Ha!

I love going to the movies...so it's been a good couple of days!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You know you're getting old when...


*You listen to NPR on the way to and from work each day. "Oooh, reading disabilities, foreign elections, and Haitian folk music...how interesting!"

*You quote lines from movies, and your teenage students just look at you like you're insane. Umm....they've never seen Tommy Boy...they've never seen The Princess Bride...THEY'VE NEVER SEEN BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. ??????!!!!!!!???????

*You are ecstatic when you get to go to bed at 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday night.

What else can be added to this list?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Best Day Off EVER


I had Wednesday off of school for Veterans' Day.  I was torn between wanting to hang out with friends and wanting to be productive.  This is always my dilemma.

Luckily for me, one of my favorite friends in the world, Natalie Dayton, knows me all too well, and she called with this proposition: "I want to hang out with you on your day off, but I know how you like to be productive...so why don't we get together and make a bunch of meals to freeze and use when we are busy and stressed?"  JACK POT!  Do I have amazing friends, or what?!

Natalie is an awesome cook, and she had read my rant earlier in the week about my inability to cook, so she picked three of her "easy meals" and taught me how to make them.  I went home with tupperwares and foil pans full of food.  I was one happy girl.

The best part of the day was being with my friends.  (Laney came too.)  Let's just say that giggling and chatting makes cooking a whole lot funner!  (Yes, I know that's not a real word.)

One of the recipes that we made is Natalie's divine chicken and wild rice soup.  I am obsessed with it. So before I stuck it in the freezer, I saved some in a little tupperware, just for me.  And all day at school today, I kept thinking about that delicious soup awaiting me at home for dinner.  The thought got me through the day.  When I got home at 7:00 p.m., I was definitely ready to chow.

The problem was...the tupperware was EMPTY in the sink.

Oh man, Ryan better be glad he wasn't at home.  I take my food very seriously, and I was beyond livid. I stomped around the house for ten minutes, thought about going to get myself some Wendys to punish him (no idea how that correlates), and ended up eating a bowl of lame Frosted Mini-Wheats instead.  Grrrrrrrrr.

So when I heard Ry walking in from his tennis match, before I even saw him, I shouted, "You are in big trouble, Mister!"

I felt kinda bad for yelling at him when he then pulled out a yellow rose that he had purchased for me.  He claims that this uncharacteristically romantic act was intended to be thoughtful, not propitiatory; but I think he knew that he would be in deep water for eating all of my precious Natalie Dayton soup.

Fortunately for him, we have a big tupperware in the freezer...just waiting to be thawed out next week!

Here's the recipe for anyone who wants it.  It is so yummy!  Just be sure to hide it well if you don't want it to be devoured by sneaky husbands.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

4 chicken breast halves or equivalent amount of tenders
1 box Long Grain and Wild Rice mix (Near East Brand is best, but Uncle Ben's is easier to find.)
2 cans chicken broth
4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 Tbs. cornstarch
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
Salt and pepper

-Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 of the poultry seasoning and salt.  Cook it in a tiny bit of olive oil over medium heat.  Cover to avoid drying out.
-At the same time, cook the rice according to the directions on the box.
-In a large pot, melt butter. Add chopped carrots and celery and pepper to taste, and sauté for about 10 minutes until tender. Add flour, cornstarch and the rest of the poultry seasoning, and whisk together quickly. 
-Add stock and milk, whisking quickly as you pour.   Cook over medium-low heat stirring often.
-When the chicken and rice are finished, cut chicken into bite-size pieces and add both to the soup. 


Thanks, Natalie, for a great day!  

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Introspective Night


I’ve had an introspective night.  I want to do something to better my community—but I just don’t know what.

I went to a grocery store on Main Street--one that I usually don't go to because it's scary--and I heard more profanity in ten minutes than I would in a two-hour long R-rated film.  The most memorable incident involved the young couple who was in front of me in line.  They got in a huge argument which included vicious insults and the worst profanities in our language.  The husband finally turned to the teenaged clerk who was checking them out and said, “Do you see what you have to look forward to when you get married?  Do you want me to hook you up with her sister?”  The clerk was speechless, as was I.  When they left, we looked at each other in horror.

When I got home, I read this article online, and I almost threw up.  Then, I sat on my bed for an hour and thought about our world. 

Ryan asked me why I read about this stuff—all it does is depress me.  I told him he is right, but sometimes I think I need to feel a little depressed about the condition of the world…because it awakens my desire to do something—anything—about it.

I live in a bubble.  The bubble of the privileged.  I can go for weeks at a time without feeling any real discomforts.  I have a warm bed, an awesome husband, plenty of good food, wonderful friends, a fulfilling job.  I sometimes say things to Ryan like “I hate my life!” when I am stressed about school, or I whine and grump when I am feeling sick or frustrated.  But let’s face it, Rachel…compared to 99.9% of the world, your life is perfect.  So get over it.

Sometimes, I have to admit it, I completely forget that there’s a big, grim world out there.  In my oblivious stupor of surfing the Internet, going to the gym, and planning weekend get-togethers with friends, I truly forget that any other reality exists.  Honestly, I often go through the day without doing a single thing for anyone outside of my immediate family. 

If I didn't take an occasional shopping trip to the "ghetto" store on Main Street, and if I didn't occasionally read heartbreaking stories in the newspaper, would I even remember what the real world is like?  I don't know.  I truly don't know if I would.

I can’t change the world.  I can’t change the culture of vulgarity that seems to be a spreading plague; but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t act.  I said to Ryan tonight, “I need to do something to acknowledge the rough world out there.  I cannot live in this bubble for the rest of my life.”

It’s more for me than for anyone else.  Just so that I keep my eyes open.  Just so that I remember how blessed I truly am.  Just so that I can look back on my life and say, “I was aware of the world, God.  I was aware, and I didn't just stand back and watch.”   

The problem is, where to begin??  How to find opportunities to serve?  What programs could I help with?  Where am I needed?  Even when I want to help, sometimes it’s so hard to find out how and where and when and what.  With no kids, this is the perfect stage of my life to engage in something meaningful in my community, BUT WHAT?!?

I'm not talking about a total life change or anything.  Just small things, to make some sort of a small difference.  Maybe I could do after school tutoring downtown?  Or help inner-city teens with college application essays?  Maybe I could help people who are unemployed with resumes and interviewing skills?  I have talents and abilities that surely could be put to some use...but how do I find the opportunities?

Tonight was a wakeup call.  I hope I don’t forget it or ignore it.  I hope I actually act.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Too much to ask?

My Christmas list:

1.  A personal cook.*
2.  A personal trainer.**
3.  A personal fashion consultant.***

IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!?!

*I cannot cook worth a darn.  To make matters worse, I hate it.  I blame my mother--she hated it too and never really taught me much about it.  I've been trying to cook and eat healthier meals lately, but I'm not good at it (which frustrates me), and it seems like such a production for just a few minutes of satisfaction.  Last night, I had a melt down and a slight screaming fit: "I AM NOT COOKING A SINGLE MEAL THIS WEEK!!"  Ry was bewildered but amenable to my decision.  So we're going simple for the next few days:  tomato soup, baked potatoes, pancakes...I just wish I had someone to cook delicious, healthy meals for us every night!

**I am pathetically out of shape.  Yes, I did run a half marathon five weeks ago, but I really haven't exercised since.  Why is my life so "all or nothing?"  I focus on one aspect of my life, go after it like crazy, achieve the goal, and then I'm just DONE.  It's really not the ideal way to live.  So this week, I joined a nearby gym, and I'm trying to get into it.  But, as is the case with cooking, I'm really not very good at it (which, again, frustrates me).  I can't even figure out how to do the exercises that the instructor is modeling because I have zero coordination.  Wouldn't it be nice if I had a personal trainer to develop a sweet workout for me and walk me through each move?

***I wore a very frumpy outfit to school today.  It was frumptastic.  But at 6:15 a.m. each morning, as I fumble around in the dark and throw on the first few articles of clothing that I can get my hands on, what can be expected?!  The problem is, I have a very critical audience.  I honestly don't know if there is an audience more critical than teenagers, and I can only imagine the internal comments that they have about my outfits every day.  How do you think they would react if I just shouted at them, "LOOK, I'M NOT GOOD AT THIS FASHION THING, SO CUT ME SOME SLACK HERE!"  Lately, I've tried wearing scarves.  You know, those cutesy ones that all of the fashion-savvy girls are wearing?  Anyway, I think I probably just look ridiculous.  But I don't know--because I can't tell.  Honestly, I have no eye for it.  That's why I need a personal fashion consultant to put together my outfits or at least approve/disapprove my choice before I walk out the door each morning.

Ahhh, such wishful thinking.  But alas, I am not Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears or Paris Hilton.  And so, I suppose that I will have to continue cooking my own meals (or resorting to cold cereal if I persist in my current trend), continue enduring ineffective workout sessions at the gym (I think it's more likely that I'll just stop going), and continue showing up to school in mismatched sweaters and skirts (and hope that my students don't judge me too harshly).

Darn.

So, readers, I am wondering: What's on your unrealistic Christmas list?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Oh my.

Just returned from an emergency run to Wilson Farms. I know, I know, it's technically still Sunday...but the ox was in the mire (just remembered that tomorrow is my co-teacher's birthday, and we had no eggs for me to make her a cake), so I decided that 11:35 pm was close enough to 12:00 am, and I dashed down the road to buy a couple of eggs.

Wilson Farms is just at the end of our street--on the corner of Highgate and Bailey--so I drove there in about 30 seconds, hopped out of my car, and ran into the empty store. As I walked towards the dairy case, I got a strange look (candy corn pjs again) from the worker and the armed guard, and then--WAIT--armed guard? I did a double take. Oh yes, there was a big, black, armed guard standing with his arms crossed by the door.

Awesome.

So as I was waiting for the worker to come ring me out (she conveniently disappeared just as her only customer for the night stepped up to the counter), I struck up a conversation with the large guard.

"Are you here every night?" I asked.

"No, only Saturday and Sunday," he responded, appearing quite pleased that I was actually talking to him.

"But is someone here every night?" I persisted.

"Oh, yeah. One of us is."

"Wow, that's scary. I guess that means that there is a need for you to be here every night, huh?"

His response: "Girly, you have no idea."

Note to self: If ever you need eggs in the middle of the night again, it might be best to drive the 10 minutes to Wegmans in Amherst. Better to lose gas and sleep than to lose your life.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Grumping

I came home from church today feeling a little overwhelmed.

During the meeting, Ryan had his arm around me--trying to peacefully meditate, I'm sure--and I just kept sighing, adjusting, crossing and uncrossing my legs, sniffling.  Basically, I was grumping.

"What's going on??" he finally asked.

"I'm mad," I stated, matter of factly.

"At me?" he asked.  (Poor Ryan, he puts up with a lot.)

"No, at everything else," I responded--and left it at that.

Do your family history.
Serve your neighbors.
Keep your house clean.
Cook healthy meals.
Exercise daily.
Read your scriptures.
Pray fervently.
Be a missionary.
Engage in your community.
Keep a journal.
Stay informed on current events.
Be a good wife, teacher, daughter, sister, friend, Relief Society member...someday, mother...

It's all a little much for me sometimes.

And that list of basics doesn't even include some of the "non-essential" goals that I have for myself, such as writing a book, learning Spanish, helping at the orphanage...SIGH SIGH SIGH.

This week, Ryan asked me what the meaning of life is.  (I think he is discouraged by school and trying to figure out how to find more joy on a daily basis.)  I thought about it, and I told him that I think it's "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." Luke 10:27.  I think that's the reason why God sent us to this crazy world...to see if we would love Him and love our fellowmen.

Two simple commandments.  Yet, life's not so simple, is it?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm guessing my students weren't expecting to see this when they walked into English class yesterday...

"Happy Halloween!!!"

The staff at our school picked "Clowns" as the theme for our costumes this year.  Yes, it was with the intent to freak out the students.  I think it worked.

My mom made that clown suit in the 1990s, and she wore it every single year for Halloween.  It's been collecting dust in the costume closet at home for the past six years, so I asked my dad to send it to me when I found out our staff theme.  I'm glad to report that we made VERY good use of the clown suit this year.  Ryan even made an appearance in it for our church Halloween party on Wednesday night:


And of course, Miss Deborah got in on the clown action with us:


After spending an entire school day in that hideous outfit, I decided I wanted to dress up as something different for the costume party we attended last night.  Spur of the moment, Ry and I created Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter costumes.  I had actually thought ahead and gotten the stuff for Alice, but Ryan's costume was truly a 15-minutes-before decision.  He is a good artist, and he can always create costume pieces in a flash, and I am so impressed that he created his Mad Hatter cap in a matter of minutes.  Of course, at the time, I was actually annoyed because he was making us late to the party (he got a lecture about planning ahead which I'm sure he did not appreciate), but all of my annoyance disappeared when we WON THE COSTUME CONTEST!  Hurrah!  Win Rachel a caramel apple, and she will forget all grudges and love you forever!!



We were not even close to the cutest people at the party.  Check out my favorite little baby, dressed as a hot tamale:


I am obsessed with her and wish she was my daughter!!

Anyway, Halloween is fun!  Fall is fun!  Last night, when I got home from school, the weather was temperate and perfect, the yellow leaves were falling, and the sun was setting.  I wanted a better view, so Ry and I climbed up on our roof.  (It is very easy to get onto from our porch balcony.)  We sat on top of the world and enjoyed a serene autumn scene.

It probably would've been very romantic...if I wasn't wearing creepy clown makeup.  Umm, yeah.  Sorta ruins the moment.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Care packages and Cupcakes


My cousin Amber sent me an awesome Halloween care package: a spooky apron (which she sewed herself) and all the supplies to make harvest cupcakes with the Cookie Club kids. Since I hadn't had the kids over in forever (and was feeling quite guilty about that), this was the perfect opportunity! We had fun!



Thanks, Amber, for being the best cousin ever.

As a random side note, I decided that I am officially the dorkiest woman alive (or at least the teenage boys in my neighborhood think so). We live in a borderline "rough" neighborhood with lots of young, aspiring thugs. What I mean by "aspiring" thugs is that they are all really nice kids, but they are trying to dress and act like homies. Our sixteen year old neighbor Preston, for example, acts so tough around his friends, but he has been known to come over for Cookie Club and put on a girly apron to help.

Yesterday morning, I ran over to his house to invite his younger siblings to join us for baking. Preston answered the door wearing baggy jeans, puffed out boxers, and a skull cap. He immediately looked a little embarrassed to see me in my candy corn pj pants. I soon found out why: All of his friends were over playing video games.

"Hi, guys!" I said to the room full of big, gangsta-looking teens.

They only grunted in return.

After inviting the little kids, I said to the video gamers, "If you guys get sick of that game, you can come bake cupcakes with us." Apparently they didn't pick up on the sarcasm in my voice. They just stared at me.

Wow. I am a loser.

So, anyway, later that day, I came jogging up the street at the end of my run, and the same group of guys was playing football. It was lightly raining, and I looked like a drowned rat. My glasses were all fogged up and smeary; I was wearing my infamous, matching "track suit" (which is a little short and small these days); and I run like a duck, which certainly doesn't add to my "coolness factor." As I approached them, the ball was fumbled and came to a rest at my feet. So, I picked it up and tried to throw it back to them. It fell to the ground about five feet short of my target. And keep in mind that the target was only ten feet away from me to begin with.

Wow. Such a loser.

"Did you guys get your cupcakes?" I asked, referring to the plate I had sent home with the little kids.

"Yeah," one of them said and, without another word, continued playing.

I guess they don't want to be seen with me. I can't imagine why. :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Congrats, Ash!



My beautiful younger sister-in-law (Ry's sister) got engaged today. I am so excited for her!!

It stinks to be so far away (we haven't even met the lucky man yet!), but we will be thrilled to celebrate with them when we are home for Thanksgiving in just one month.


Congrats, Nate and Ashley!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good Old Joera

Ryan is in love with another woman. Her name is Joera. I think she lives somewhere in India.

This affair began 90 minutes ago, when he dialed up the Net 10 cell phone company's customer service line for the twentieth time this month. He was connected with Joera. Like all the other representatives he has spoken to/yelled at, Joera had a thick accent and robotic responses to all of his questions. But unlike all of the other representatives he has spoken to/yelled at, Joera actually knew what she was doing.

So instead of shouting at her in exasperation, he was shouting for joy. Sitting in the other room, I heard random outbursts of, "Joera, it's working!" and "CODE ACCEPTED!!" (Yes, he was actually calling her by name, and she was calling him 'Mr. Ryan' in response. It was kinda cute.)

I don't think Joera the Great really knew how to respond to her exuberant, American admirer. At the end of the call, Ryan informed her that, if he was in the same room as her, he would "probably give her a hug."

The poor woman was completely flabbergasted--and speechless. I spoke up and said, "Ryan, don't be creepy."

Oh, Joera. We love you so.

Amber, this one's for you!


1. What is your all-time best Halloween costume?
My personal favorite is "Patsy" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I think I was in about 8th grade when my BFF Lizzy and I put together this costume. She was the King, and she galloped around the neighborhood on an imaginary horse. I was following close behind, clapping my coconuts.

2. What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
How about a tradition that I would like to start? When I was in college, my good friend's mother always invited me over for the family Halloween dinner. All of the food was spooky, silly, and fun. I thought it was a great way for the family to bond before the kids went their various ways for trick-or-treating and parties. I want to have an annual Halloween dinner with my future family.

3. What is your favorite Fall tradition?
I like pumpkin waffle dinner feasts with our best friends in Buffalo.

4. What is your favorite book?
To Kill a Mockingbird!!

5. Name 3 great things that happened to you today.

- I didn't have to teach a formal lesson because my students are revising their essays in the computer lab.
-I chatted with one of my favorite people, Natalie Dayton, at a meeting for church.
-I came home from work to a clean kitchen. (I love that Ry!)

6. What is your all-time favorite dessert?

Probably plain old brownies and ice cream. But I like all desserts.

7. Tell me something you look forward to doing in the next month.
I look forward to visiting Ryan's family for Thanksgiving. I miss them, and I can't wait to meet my sister-in-law's serious boyfriend and give him the R&R stamp of approval.

8. Tell me something you are going to give someone else for Christmas.
I am going to give Deborah an olive wood ornament that I got for her in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

SURVEY: What would you do with 40 hours?

(a) Read several interesting novels.
(b) Deep clean and reorganize your house and everything in it.
(c) Watch 20 movies that you've been wanting to see.
(d) Grade 115 eleventh graders' essays.

I chose option (d). Yes, folks, I truly did. My students did the math this morning. Over the past two weeks, I spent over 40 hours grading their essays--in between teaching full-time and dealing with "life" and all of its related responsibilities.

This morning, I said to them, "I am forcing you guys to revise your essays because I spend a lot of time on the comments, and I don't want you to just look at the grade and toss the paper in the garbage. I want you to look at what I wrote, strive to change your weaknesses, and improve as writers."

One of them said, "Mrs. Nielson, how much time do you think you spent?"

I thought about it and then responded, "I guess I don't really know. I spend about 25 minutes on each essay, and there are 115 of you...do the math."

I was shocked when they told me the answer. "That's about 40-50 hours, Mrs. Nielson."

???!!!????!!!???!! (stunned silence)

"No, Johnny, you're wrong. Do the math again," I insisted.

"No, really, it's actually 40-50 hours."

I stood there in shocked horror, and then screamed out, "I HAVE NO LIFE!! YOU GUYS, I HAVE NO LIFE!"

They were amused.

I was not.

I know, I know. I could cut back. Scrimp a little. Cut corners. Believe me, I'm trying to. But after eight years of tutoring/teaching writing, I've streamlined the grading process as much as I possibly know how to while still making the feedback formative and meaningful. A major essay just takes 20-25 minutes to read and thoughtfully respond to. Writing instruction just takes time.

But, oh, think of the things I could have done with that 40 hours:

(a) Watched the Pride and Prejudice BBC mini-series six times.
(b) Driven to Colorado and back.
(c) Worked a full-time second job (earning money!)
(d) Made Ryan enough decent meals to last us several months. (He's lucky if he gets one per week.)
(e) Made a dent in my "to-read" list, which currently has 55 titles on it.
(f) Completed all of the major projects that are in piles on my floor: scrapbooks, cleaning, journaling, filing, bills, stuff for the non-profit...

And what did I do? I graded papers instead.

I sure hope they learned something.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ready or not, here it comes...


It's here.

WINTER.

In Buffalo, it's a seven-month endeavor.

I hate it.

From October to April, I am shivering in our dank little apartment. I swear, it is colder inside than it is outside, and because of the horrible insulation, our heating bill in the winter is, to say the least, outrageous.

Ryan and I have been bundled up in our bedroom this week. We crank the little space heater, put on our heavy sweatshirts, and study/grade papers with a mug of hot cocoa nearby.

And it's only October 3rd. Will I last until May when it warms up again?

There are no guarantees!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Lean and Hungry Look


Last night, I “video chatted” with my little sister on my computer using Skype. (I did this because I temporarily lost my cell phone, and Ry’s phone is still not working, so we had no way to communicate with anyone.) She had just gotten back from the gym and was eager to show me her muscles. At my request, she also angled the camera so that I could see her six-pack. (She is a tiny, fit little thing.)

Well, I decided that I better show her my six-pack as well—so I hunched over to make sure that my rolls were especially prominent, and then I angled the webcam so she’d have a great view. “Ewwwww!” she shouted.

I loved it.

Today, my co-teacher showed me a fantastic article that literally had me dying of laughter and wiping tears from my eyes as I read it at my desk.

It’s based on this quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

“Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.”

The article, by Suzanne Britt, starts like this...

“Caesar was right. Thin people need watching. I’ve been watching them for most of my adult life, and I don’t like what I see. When those narrow fellows spring at me, I quiver to my toes. Thin people come in all personalities, most of them menacing…Thin people turn surly, mean, and hard at a young age because they never learn the value of a hot-fudge sundae for easing tension. Thin people don’t like gooey soft things because they themselves are neither gooey nor soft. They are crunchy and dull, like carrots…”

I like this woman's logic!

To read the essay in its hilarious entirety, click here.

So to my little sister, and all other skinny stick people, I say--GO EAT A HOT FUDGE SUNDAE.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Before you buy your 2010 Twilight calendar, consider this option...




I thought I would alert everyone to a great cause.

Ryan and I oversee volunteer work for an orphanage for persons with disabilities in El Salvador. The orphanage is run 100% by private donations (which can sometimes be difficult to raise), so one of our recent volunteers used her talents as a photographer to develop fundraising materials for the orphanage.

One of the products that she created is a 2010 calendar featuring 12 of the kids (one per month). She took all of the photos, and then I wrote a little biography about each of the kids. The calendars have been printed in Spanish to sell in El Salvador and English to sell here in the States. They are really beautiful.

If you need a 2010 calendar, instead of going to Barnes and Noble to get a generic one, you could purchase this one, and 100% of the proceeds go directly to improving the lives of the children. The calendars are $15 each or four for $50 (if you want to give them to family and friends). It would make a great holiday gift, as everyone needs a calendar, and then you could also tell your loved ones that the proceeds from their gift will be benefitting a wonderful cause.

The children are truly remarkable. They are so full of love and happiness, and they have blessed my life immeasurably. I can't wait to hang the calendar in our apartment, so the kids can smile at me every day.

If you are interested in purchasing a calendar, please leave a comment or send me an email at rachel.nielson@hotmail.com, and I will get you the order form. If you know anyone else who might be interested, please pass on the info to them. (Or if you are interested in posting something about it on your own blog, PLEASE do. I am trying to get the word out about the orphanage!)

Here is a slideshow featuring many of the photos that are in the calendar, as well as capturing the spirit of the children who live at the Hogar. Put it in "full screen" and turn up the volume to get the full effect of Molly's beautiful photos!

(Photography by Molly Hunter, song by Mercyme.):


Monday, September 28, 2009

Survival of the Not-So-Fittest


I survived my half marathon in Akron, OH this weekend. I was slow as a snail, but, hey, I survived (and it actually wasn't too painful, surprisingly.) Look...I won a medal:

Don't be fooled. It was a consolation medal. Everyone who participated got one. I am a pathetic runner--in fact, I almost got lapped by the first place marathoner. As I was running my last 1/4 mile, I heard the announcer say that the top marathoners were coming up the street behind me, so I started hauling. I decided it would be a disgrace if I couldn't finish a half marathon before they finished a whole marathon. My oh-so-determined thought was, "Those crazies are not going to beat me!!" I am proud to say, they didn't! I made it in about 30 seconds before they did. Boo ya.

Here I am in the wee hours of the morning, just before the race began:


And a little video footage:


Ryan didn't know that you can't turn a camera sideways to film.

The hardest stretch was about miles 7-9. At that point, I got really grumpy and tired and started noticing the grammatical errors on fans' signs. (Sorry, I know that's not nice...)

After mile 9, I got cheerful again, and the rest of the race wasn't too bad. Here I am at about mile 10, posing for an "action-shot." (Ry never knew when I would be rounding the bend, so he was always caught unawares and without his camera ready.) In this shot, It looks more like I'm dancing a spastic ballet than running a 13 mile race! It was very awkward, especially since about 50 fans were standing there watching me pose like an idiot.


At mile 12.5, he actually got me in action:



And at the finish, I had some awesome fans waiting for me:

My old RA from BYU, Betsey, and her darling daughter, Nora.




Nora looks much cuter in my medal than I do.

My supportive husband (who did my training runs with me even when it was 11:00 pm on a school night)


It was a good experience, and I'm glad I did it.

The rest of the weekend was wonderful too. We were staying with Betsey's family, so Saturday afternoon, they showed us the sights of Cleveland, and Sunday afternoon, they showed us the sights of Kirtland (a historical place for our church).

Nora overlooking the city of Cleveland.



Nora enjoying the beautiful day at Kirtland. There is a really sweet spirit there, and I loved seeing all the historical sights and picturesque scenery.

Ryan and I also managed to get to Cedar Point amusement park on Saturday night. We got there at about 7 pm and stayed until midnight, and not too many people were there, so we hit all 17 rollarcoasters and many other rides as well. It was a fun date--although I was exhausted by the time we got to bed at 2 a.m. It had been a long day of running, sightseeing, and walking around an amusement park.



What is it with me and awkward poses?? Here I am, lounging in the Cedar Point Skyride!

After such a fun weekend, I am happy, exhausted, and SORE!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to Busy


So, as I've mentioned in previous posts, the new school year has started, and I am back to busy!

Honestly, teaching is so busy and so exhausting. After an early morning (5:30 a.m., and I'm up...7:15 a.m., and I'm teaching) and a full day on my feet entertaining teenagers, I come home from school every day and have to take an hour long nap before I can even think about tackling dinner, errands, lesson planning, grading, and jogging. (I am still training for the half marathon, so runs are not optional.) It's crazy!

BUT...I honestly love my batch of students this year. They seem very hardworking and very tolerant of my terrible jokes--so you can't beat that. Even those who are not very smart, they seem to have a desire to learn and work hard. Plus, they keep me laughing. Kids say the randomest things. For example, a dippy girl in my 11th grade class informed me today that her employer is "like totally sexist" because he "only gives hours to the pretty girls." But then she went on to proclaim, "But I am really lucky because I am pretty so I get hours!"

On a recent quiz, I asked the students to write a sentence with vivid, sensory details, and a student wrote the sentence, "This morning, I woke with a start and my baby turtle was swimming like there was no tomorrow." (UHHH??)

 Finally, in a student's response to the Obama speech, she wrote, "President Obama has inspired me to reach for my dreams. Now that I've heard his words, I know that I can actually achieve my life-long goal of becoming a pastry chef." I'm sorry, but I burst out laughing when I read that. You go, girl!

In general, I would say that I love my job. Busy as it is, it's fun, challenging, and rewarding. What more could I ask for?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Taking a stand...




I just want to say that I think anyone who doesn't want their kids to see a speech by the President of the United States about the value of education is CRAZY.


Heaven forbid the President of the United States express his concern for the youth of America. How dare he?! I mean, as a parent, I don't want anyone else telling my kids that education is important! I'm the only one who is allowed to be their role model! After all, you just never know what a sneaky Democrat might say to the youth of America.

I mean, he might say terrible things, like...

"But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life -- what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home -- none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. There is no excuse for not trying."

"I know that sometimes you get that sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star. Chances are you're not going to be any of those things."

"The truth is, being successful is hard."


Yes, I definitely don't want my children to hear those messages--especially from a man who has overcome so much in his life and who, for better or for worse, young people around the nation know and look up to and will listen to.

COME ON PEOPLE...to protest this message?!?

Give me a break.

58 and still going strong...


My cutie of a grandma just called me and told me that today is my grandparents' 58th wedding anniversary.

WOW!!

I have the best grandparents EVER. They have been an active part of my life since day one: The day of my birth, my dad didn't come home from work when my mom told him that she was in labor, and so I was almost born on the living room floor. The paramedics thought that they could make it to the hospital in time...BUT...I was born in the ambulance on the way! My grandma came over to the house during all the pandemonium and comforted my older sister, who was scared and confused. Grammy and Grampy have been comforting us ever since!

When my mom was in the hospital for her bone marrow transplant, we lived with my grandparents for a few months. We were 8, 6, and 3, and my grandparents lovingly cared for us in one of the most difficult times of our lives. I have memories of snuggling on my grandpa's lap when I was sad and missing my mom.

Now that I am an adult, I still turn to my grandparents for advice and comfort. I often call them after a long, hard day at school, and they encourage me and convince me that I am the best teacher in the world. (Grandparents are great for boosting confidence!)

They are an example to me of a loving, fun, and devoted marriage. I am so lucky to have them in my life.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, YOU CUTE OLDSTERS!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"With great dissatisfaction,"


That was my "heated" closing to a complaint letter I wrote this morning to the Net10 cellphone company.  Do I have vicious rhetoric, or what??

I also threatened that I would "tell all my friends and family to avoid Net10" and would "post my negative experiences with Net10 on my internet site." HA HA HA! My dinky personal blog is hardly an internet site and certainly no threat to Net10...I bet they are super scared by me.

Anyway, I had to follow through on my threat, so I am passing on the info to all of you: Net10 stinks. Don't use them. Every time we've had a question, their customer service line has given us a huge run around, kept us on hold for hours, and failed to solve a single problem for us. We have had such a negative experience with them--every step of the way.

I guess you get what you pay for. We were pumped to no longer have an expensive cellphone contract with Verizon, but the cheap price of a Net10 phone comes with crappy customer service in foreign countries and faulty products that don't work.

Net10, I am greatly dissatisfied with you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Education

President Obama gave a rockin' speech to the youth of America today. I recommend watching it.


I don't always agree with Obama's political views and decisions, but I would say this speech is very timely and very very applicable to the lives of the teenagers who come into my classroom every day.

Many of them were moved and motivated by it...and so was I.


Monday, September 7, 2009

It was a zoo today...

Ry wanted to go to the Buffalo Zoo today. Apparently, he wasn't alone in this desire--I think the majority of Buffalo had the same idea as he did. (It was $1 day.) When we first pulled up and saw the crowds, I was not happy. Ryan told me to smile for the camera, but I gave him this face instead:

P.S. I look so lovely because we also went running at the park near the zoo.

Ryan thought that my grumpiness was so humorous that he decided to try it out:


Once we got inside, it was kinda fun--the people were as interesting to watch as the animals. $1 Day at the zoo attracts an interesting demographic. (And hey, we were among them.) I've never seen so many tattoos, crying children, and low-rise pants in all my life.

This morning, I finished reading the book The Life of Pi, which is about the son of a zookeeper and his adventures with animals, so it was great timing for me to go to the zoo. I kept thinking about scenes from the book as I peered into the cages.

The polar bear cheered me up, as did the lion...


It was a fun outing. Ry and I had been bickering a bit all weekend, so I'm glad that he still invited me to go with him. He's a pretty good sport for putting up with me when I am grumpy.