Saturday, March 27, 2010

Not Quite NPR

Whenever I think of NPR, I think of my dad's blue Acura. Growing up, I never got in that vehicle without being forced to listen to the "boring" radio show about politics, economics, and the world. Seriously, it was so boring. Such an old person radio station.

Well, call me old because at the ripe age of 25, I have become an NPR fiend. I never thought I would see the day that I'd be deeply engrossed in radio stories about folk music in Cuba, or current developments in Autism research, or the conflict in the Middle East. But now, on my way to and from work, I bask in the glory of NPR for at least an hour every day.

The guests are so incredibly smart, and I feel a little bit smarter after listening to them.

With that in mind, you will understand why I was quite delighted to be invited as a guest on "Crossroads," a weekly radio show on 96.1 sponsored by the Buffalo Network of Religious Communities. Each Sunday morning, representatives from different faiths explain an aspect of their religious beliefs, and this week, my friend Melissa and I will be explaining the LDS women's organization called Relief Society.

I know, I know...they must have been truly desperate to ask me. (Actually, they were. Their other scheduled guest cancelled or something at the last minute.) But I was pretty stoked to be able to talk into one of those cool radio microphones and say things like, "Thanks for having me on the show." So NPR!

The best part: The show airs at 6 a.m. So, yeah, no one in Buffalo will even hear it. Well, two people will--you better believe that Ryan and I will be up bright and early tomorrow, listening to my radio debut!

NPR, here I come.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Habitual Mishap

I am a girl who just does not like vegetables. Period. I've tried to convince myself does not work. Vegetables make me gag.

I do, however, know that vegetables are important to your health. And since I am also trying to convince myself to care about my health, I've attempted to come up with clever ways to "disguise" my vegetables in the foods that I eat. For this reason, a good friend of mine gave me the Deceptively Delicious Cookbook, and I was shocked to see that you can put cooked, pureed carrots in fruit smoothies. I tried it, and guess what...

I couldn't even taste them!


So, I've taken to cooking and pureeing carrots in my free time.

There's only one problem with this new-found hobby: I am easily distracted and always forget that the carrots are on the stove steaming.

Twice now, I have come out of the bedroom (where I was doing something incredibly productive such as blogging) and thought, "What's that smell?" And then, with horror, remembered that over an hour before, I had put the carrots on the stove to steam with just a little bit of water.

Yeah, ruined the pan. Ruined the carrots too.


Currently, Ryan and I have NO saucepans because I have ruined all of them through my carrot-steaming mishaps.

This is what happened last night:

I think I am going to ask for one of these for my birthday. It has a timer and turns off by itself.

Again I say, hallelujah!

Monday, March 22, 2010

How do I get myself into these situations?

It is a dreary, cold, wet day in Buffalo. Pouring rain! So when I got home from work, I immediately started stripping off the dress clothes, reaching for the warm sweats.

Mid-strip, the doorbell rang. Figuring it could be no one but Ryan standing out in the freezing rain, I hustled toward the door to let him in. My pants were still unbuttoned, and as I headed down the stairs, I started to fasten them--just in case it was not Ryan at the door. Obviously, I was not going to open the door until I was fully clothed.

You know where this is heading.

As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I audibly gasped in horror and clasped my hands over my open fly and button. There, standing inside the door, was our downstairs neighbor, who had rung the doorbell to get my attention instead of just walking upstairs to knock.

"Yes?" I asked as nonchalantly as possible while holding my pants closed.

"Could you please move your car? You are parked behind me." He avoided my eyes and my exposed undies.

Will I ever be able to look this man in the eyes again?!?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Another one of my favorites

One of my favorite students wears baggy jeans and chunky chain necklaces. He spends all of his time drawing graffiti in his notebooks--not the type of kid who you would expect to be engaged in English class.

Yet, he is always listening. His eyes are on his graffiti, but his mind is on the discussion. I am amazed how his hand shoots in the air when I ask a probing question about the literature. He is my #1 participator, and his leadership prompts everyone else in the class to participate too.

When our class put on the play version of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, he volunteered to read McMurphy, and he knocked us all dead with his enthusiasm. He is McMurphy. Swaggering, rebellious, troubled...but kind-hearted, smart, and funny.

I love this student.

When he came into class today, I wanted to cry. One side of his face was practically deformed--puffy eye, bruises, stitches. It was difficult to look at, especially considering how much I adore this kid.

"What happened?" I asked, reaching out to pat his arm. I wanted to hug him.

"I got bit by a dog," he responded, a little nervously, not meeting my eyes.

It is very obvious to me that he did not get bit by a dog.

I couldn't look at him while I was teaching because it made me want to burst into tears. He is going to be scarred for life.

Did he get drunk or high and do something stupid? Did he get jumped? Is he in a gang?

I don't know what happened, but what I do know is that when I look at this student, I see who I hope he becomes: I see him in ten years--an art or architecture student, wearing a collared shirt, jeans, and skater shoes. I see him with a wife that he loves and defends and takes care of.

My students sit in their desks, and I wonder what their lives are like and what their lives will be like. I wish they knew what I can see.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

One of my favorites

I have some really funny students. Today, I would like to feature one of my favorites. Since I can't use his real name on a public blog, we will call him Rudy.

Rudy is a red-headed, freckled, bespectacled young man with killer comedic timing. He sits in the front row, and I try not to look at him while I'm teaching, or I am liable to bust out laughing because he is always making an overly interested and philosophical face. Sometimes he actually nods and murmurs "mmmm hmmm" to everything I am saying. This is all an act to make me laugh of course; he is not much of a student. But man is he a great kid.

Not too long ago, I told the students that we were going to have a Reading Week in class. During that week, I would be holding individualized writing conferences with each student about his/her research paper. While I was meeting with individuals, everybody else would be reading books of their choice--fun reading books. I said, "I think you guys will really enjoy Reading Week. In the past, many of my students have said that it was a great opportunity to relax and read for pleasure, which so many of you don't have time to do anymore due to after school activities and such. So I hope you will enjoy it."

Rudy's hand shot in the air.

"Yes, Rudy?" I said skeptically (because you just never know what's going to come out of this kid's mouth).

In a very serious voice, he said, "Mrs. Nielson. I know I speak on behalf of all of us when I say, from the bottom of my heart...thank you." And he started clapping. No one joined in his round of applause because we were all too busy chuckling. I wish I had a video of the way that he said it. He is such a ham.

This week, on the day that they turned in their final research papers, I said, "I want all of you to remember that I have 110 juniors. It is going to take me a few weeks to read 110 seven-page essays, so please don't ask me 'When are we getting our papers back?' starting tomorrow, or I may be tempted to strangle you."

Everyone giggled and agreed. And then we moved on with the lesson. I was 20 minutes in to my lesson on poetry when Rudy raised his hand.

"Yes, Rudy?"

As always, his face was very serious. "I am wondering if you have our research papers graded yet," he asked.

We all burst into hysterical fits of laughter. The comedic timing was unbelievable--I had completely changed subjects, yet my warning was still fresh enough to be remembered. Luckily for Rudy, I was too amused to strangle him!

I couldn't even teach for a few minutes because every time I thought about the way that he asked the question, I would start laughing again.

Teenagers are funny. I like them a lot.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can it be??

The layers of ice caked on our driveway have almost melted away.
The coat that I wore to school this morning went unworn as I left school this afternoon.
The forecast on predicts temperatures over 40 for the next ten days.

The city of Buffalo is releasing a collective sigh of relief.

It appears that winter (or the worst of it) is over for this year.

I am not a winter wimp. I am from Denver, Colorado, and I went to school in Provo Utah--both snowy, cold places. But Buffalo winter has been an entirely new experience for me. Five months of endless gray, freezing winds, and icy driveway is a little much for me. It honestly starts to make me feel depressed.

I am so--and I mean SO--happy that Spring is almost here.

I plan to do the following as often as possible:
-go for after-school runs (Sure beats a treadmill.)
-wear my comfy, summery dresses (Sure beats pants and a sweater.)
-ride my red bike to the grocery store (Sure beats wasting gas.)

It may not be sunny and warm yet...but it sure feels a lot closer than it did last week.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Poet Who Didn't Know It

I am currently forcing my students to write poetry to submit to our school's literary magazine. (I am the advisor, so I have a vested interest.)

So for several days now, we have had lessons in class about good poetry, types of poetry, literary techniques, etc. Their poems are due tomorrow, and I'm sure they will be entertaining. (Perhaps some blog posts will need to follow?)

Anyway, I felt like a bit of a hypocrite forcing them to write poems when I myself never write poetry (it intimidates me) I sat down and wrote a few poems last week to use as models for my students. I was surprised how fun it was for me to tinker with words! I think I would like to start writing more poetry.

Here is my "confession poem" about the first time I fell victim to peer pressure (a cute boy in kindergarten):

Heart thumping
hands shaking
eyes darting
from her imposing, intimidating desk to
his daring, darling eyes,
I grabbed the bottle of sticky Elmer's glue, and
with a few white stripes
on the back of my laminated placemat, I
secured his love--and her wrath--
in a moment of twitterpated stupidity.

Minutes passing
glue drying
teacher crossing
from her cushioned, comfy desk chair
to our miniature, messy table by the door,
She tidied up and straightened up our clutter, but
after a few quick tugs
on the edge of my shiny placemat, she
realized it was stuck--as was I--
due to a moment of deviant criminality.

Heart thumping
hands shaking
eyes darting
from her omniscient, ominous gaze to
a dainty, dusty speck on the floor
I awaited the wrath of the kindergarten God, and
with a few brisk strokes
on the blackboard at the front of the room, she
emblazoned my name--and my cheeks--
in a moment of heartless authority.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dental school is ridiculous.

Ryan is an incredibly hard worker. He also has the worst luck ever when it comes to the patients that are assigned to him by the dental school.

I know all dental students struggle with patients who miss appointments and cancel with 5 minutes notice...that's just the nature of dental school...but I swear that Ryan has the worst luck of any of them. (I'm sure the other "dental wives" feel the exact same way.)

Every night, several patients call Ryan to cancel. It is ridiculous. So then, he spends hours going through his lists, calling other patients to beg them to come in at the last minute. It breaks my heart to see him so frustrated when he himself is working so hard. He is supposed to see a certain number of people and get a certain number of points and do certain types of procedures--but he can't do that when everyone keeps canceling on him.

They have a policy at the school that if patients "disappoint" twice, they are no longer welcome to be patrons of the dental school. In the last few weeks, Ryan has had to have six people removed from the UB patient pool...that is how often people bail out on poor Ry.

To make matters worse, the school is not at all sympathetic or flexible with these situations. Their attitude is, "Figure it out! You still have to meet all of your requirements by a certain date." Ummm, how can Ryan do that when his patients don't show up?

One small example of the drama that Ryan has had to endure: Ry must do one more root canal by the end of the semester, or he will not pass 3rd year clinic requirements. Well, his first patient got the prep done for a root canal--but then she never bothered coming back for the actual filling. So Ryan is worrying about this woman who is wandering around town with a gaping hole in her tooth, just waiting to get infected. Did she go to someone else to get it filled? Does she still plan on him doing it? He doesn't know because her phone is now disconnected, and she isn't responding to the postcards the dental school has sent.

When it was clear that this woman was not coming back, the dental school assigned Ryan another root canal patient. She was an older lady, and she came in last week to get the prep. Tomorrow, she was supposed to get the filling. Well, this afternoon, Ryan called to remind her about her appointment, and her husband told him that she died today. Can you believe it?!? Isn't that just the saddest and craziest thing?

I am so glad that I am not the one in dental school. I would've dropped out by now.