Sunday, December 23, 2007

Best of 2007

So I love blogs that list the author's favorite products. After reading, I always end up trying one of the items listed. I've read 'best of' lists for parents, for name it. I wanted to come up with a little "best of" column for the year 2007. These aren't necessarily new products to the scene for 2007. They're new products to Mr. Pete or me this year. These are products, big or small, that enhanced our lives this year.

Swiffer if You Hear Me
Number 10: The Swiffer
I'm sure you remember this post about how Swiffers changed my life. If only I had purchased a Swiffer before we moved from the holy awfulness that was our linoleum floor in our old apartment. But now, with the expanded square footage of pergoish flooring we have all over our first floor, I have developed an even stronger relationship with our Swiffer. Just remember, the Swiffer is safe for laminate and tile flooring. The wet Swiffer is not safe for hardwood floors. The dry Swiffer, however is great for chasing dust bunnies. The handheld Swiffer is great for those dusty spots (like the 100+ year old banister in my front hallway) and great for the car too.

These Shoes Were Made for Standing
Number 9: Dansko Clogs
Just so you know, this is not going to be all about buying a new house. Other things have happened this year. Crazy things. Like (well some of this is last year too) how I spent 8+ weeks in physical therapy for two separate injuries that prevented me from getting my run on and joining Mr. Pete for the Chicago marathon. Don't worry I've learned my lesson. I can't wear two inch or more high heels to work when I'm on my feet 7 hours every day. This year, I discovered Dansko clogs. They are semi-fashionable but they really keep all ten pigs (including the two little ones...they're always squished in heals) and my feet happy.

I Was Itching for Some New Lotion
Number 7: Curel Continuous Comfort Moisturizing Lotion; Fragrance Free
I've never been a big Bath and Body Works girl. Don't get me wrong, that stuff smells great. I could tell you about a really scary story about a high school student who named the sent I was wearing as I was assisting him during class one day. But I won't. I have super sensitive skin. It's the kind of skin that dries up and falls off every winter. It's the kind of skin that my students call chronically "ashy." Anything that touches my skin in the winter time leaves a mark. Jeans that rub, a school bag that touches my hip bone, turtleneck necks. Yes, people turtleneck necks. This stuff: priceless. I first heard about it here and it's made dry Midwestern winters much more bearable. No pun intended.

She's Witty, I'm Not
Number 6:
Speaking of Curel. The first place I read about Curel was here. I'm an avid reader of the blog Amalah and she writes a weekly column for Alpha Mom called "The Advice Smackdown." Right now I'm debating with myself how I should punctuate a blog column. I'm going to trust that you won't judge me for putting quotation marks when underlining or italics are in order. This home grown beauty diva gives real advice on products she tries out in her test kitchen. She's a Sepphora junky who is not afraid to be thrifty. She's the reason I own Smashbox Primer. But that's a whole other entry.

It's not Jiffy
Number 5: Real Popcorn
Cindy, my best friend's mom, made the best popcorn in the world. My mom had long abandoned making popcorn on the stove top so, during our movie night's at her house, I inhaled this stuff. Mr. Pete and I have started making popcorn from scratch this year (if you can call making popcorn "from scratch"). We just put enough oil in the bottom of the pan to cover the bottom and drop in a few kernels while the oil heats up. Once one of the kernels pops, we drop about a fourth of a cup of kernels into the hot oil and cover with a lid. Voila, marvelous popcorn.

That Really Chaps My Lips
Number 4: Burt's Bees' Wax Chapstick
One of the worst things in the world is chapped lips. It makes me cranky.
OK, so this isn't one of this year's top finds. I found this lip treatment years ago. It takes first place followed closely by Lipsaver by Aveda. I love the minty fresh emollient texture of this great gloss. The best part? It leaves your lips looking shimmery and shiny. A great no maintenance lip treatment with some class. I keep one in my gym bag, one next to my bed, and one in my purse. Seriously. Who wouldn't trust this face?

Soak, Relax, Repeat

Number 3: Lush Bath Bombs

Buying a new house yielded all kinds of rewards: privacy, space, and a bathtub. This year, the first round of parent/teacher conferences, I asked Mr. Pete to run the tub. My bathtub experience has been revolutionized by the power of Lush Bath Bombs. They're these effervescent, sweet smelling bombs of relaxation. I've tried Sex Bomb, Green Party, and All that Jas. Don't judge my choices. They're all great.

C'mon Baby Light My Candle
2 Molly's Soy Candles
I bought these candles as Christmas gifts last year as part of a fundraiser one of my coworkers was doing. I doubled my order this year and ordered them for almost everyone on my list. I like these candles because they have a strong sent (but not obnoxious), they burn forever, and they're easy on the wallet. My favorites so far have been Holiday Cookie, Eucalyptus, and Lavender Mint. They are not the most attractive candles I've seen. They come in jelly jars with printed labels, but they smell so good.

This Ol' Juke Box
Number 1: The iHome Table Radio for iPod

This one speaks for herself. This is a great space saving music blaring device for hours of tune enjoyment. If I could recommend a few tunes to listen to on your Table Radio, I'd recommend the Snow Angel album by Over the Rhine, anything by Maroon 5, Paolo Nutini, or Mika.

I'm taking recommendations for the Best of 2008 list. I gladly accept free samples and words of wisdom. Happy New Year!

Lots of love,

Stinky Pete

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Wish I was a Little Bit Taller

Conversation overheard at Michael's today:

Grannie: What did you eat for snack after school today?
Lil One: A chocolate Christmas tree, a bag of Combos, some Cheese Puffs, and a Coke.
Grannie: Oooooh Grannie doesn't like it when you fill yourself with all that junk. That's waaaay too much food.
Lil One: But I was hungry.
Grannie: Well you can choose different snacks. And that's waayy too much food.
Lil One: But Grannie, I'm tired of being small. I eat a lot so I can get big.

Yeah me too.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Trying to be Friendly

I made a trip to the gym tonight. The gym and I have a love/hate relationship in the winter. I hate HATE to go to the gym and to change into cold clothes that have been in my car all day. I think I'd rather spend an evening with Ann Coulter (she just seems plain mean). So I muster up the energy to go, to change, and to workout. I even have to workout without my IPod because I left it charging at school. I'm thinking, 'ok, it'll be fine without music. You can be present with the people around you.' AT THE GYM.

A little context took me a few years to use the weights at my gym because I felt like there was always a swarm of meat heads hanging around. Now I just blare a little Amy Winehouse and ignore the grunting and sweating. Today, of course, I don't have my IPod. I also picked out a pair of shorts and a shirt that were just a little too tight (hence the reason I'm at the gym, duh). So when I walk out into the weight area, I take a peak in the mirror just to wiggle around a bit and to make sure I'm not a walking wedgie. This dude (you know who you are, dude in a green baseball hat) basically calls me out for looking in the mirror. Here's how it goes:
Rude dude: Checkin's yourself out in the mirror, huh.
Me: Yeah, I'm just..[mumbles something inaudible even to self]
Rude dude: Checkin yourself out, huh huh huh
Me: Hey, every body looks in the mirror
Rude dude: huh huh huh
Me: lifts weights uncomfortably, looks for chance to drop weights on dude's foot

I walk over to the other side of the gym. In between sets, I'm pausing while I doing some reclined lunges (or something) and Rude Dude returns.

Rude Dude: D'you find a mirror on the ceiling?

At this point I'm thinking A) he must be in high school B) maybe this guy just has some lousy game C) I will never go to the gym without my IPod again. Forget being present....

I do a little steaming and lifting and imagine what I could say if I were really bold. I imagine asking him if he's trying to be friendly and take the appropriate measures to educate him in the proper way to interact with others. I think about using I statements. He is still lurking around near by. I think about using cuss words. I think about super gluing his top lip to his nose. I think about showing him God's love. I think about Mr. Pete getting in his face. And then....

He apologizes. He says:"Hey, I'm sorry if I embarassed you, I was just play'n." And then I said, "It's OK, you're fine." What kind of answer is that? No superglue, no cuss words, no God's love, just some awkward wierd whatever.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


This was a VERY productive weekend. Mr. Pete and I spent most of Friday night cleaning our house. It just needed a good deep cleaning and some straightening and now it feels great. Saturday was packed: we bought our Christmas tree and did some Christmas shopping. For those of you who living in the Tri-state, it's worth the drive to Findlay market for Avoc's tree sale. We spent most of the afternoon raking leaves and planting bulbs and then we shopped until close to 11 PM. We accomplished a ton, shared a small cup of gelatto, and watched a movie. I still feel relaxed. I love it when you have a full weekend to choose what to do and I also love choosing to do things that can "check things off" the list.

We even went to church this morning with some friends. We're hoping to see this. It should like it will be great. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Things You Should Not Do In Class

I know it's difficult to determine just what is appropriate for class. I remember struggling to decide if eating Cheerios in my Rhetoric class was appropriate. I decided that the threatening glares from my prof were a hint and left the Cheerios at home. Here are a few tips in case you were wondering:

1. Do not clip your fingernails or your cuticles in class.
2. Do not Instant Message your girlfriend/boyfriend while using your laptop to take notes.
3. Do not yawn audibly (this is even more obnoxious when the offender leans back onto the desk of the person behind him/her).
4. Do not hit people in the face.
5. Do not raise your hand to ask when you go to lunch (duh, you go the same time every day) in the middle of an important discussion about the universal meaning of all literature.
6. Do not attempt to prove the professor/teacher wrong if you don't know what you're talking about. This should be avoided especially when you are arguing with the professor/teacher about the "F" you got on your paper in front of the entire class.

To be continued...

Monday, November 26, 2007

let's give 'em something to talk about

Sometimes I really should just not say things. There are really things that should not be said. I find, just one year older, that I'm more resilient to the opinions of others. I won't mention names or circumstances about how I, with my step-father-in-law, inserted my foot into my mouth. Working with high school students has it's perks; the acquired bluntness is not one of them.

PS: Do not use the phrase "what happens in Vegas" while entertaining your in laws. Really. Don't.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sippin' on Grandpa's Cough Syrup

If you've ever met my Gram, she's the picture of most of the things I want to be some day. She's elegant and well read. She has excellent taste in food, clothes, and her house puts those home remodelling shows to shame. I've never seen such eclectic and classy style all in one place. She has an eye for color, a nose for good martinis, and a shoe collection that would make most women faint. These things pale in comparison, of course, to her charm, her humor, and her quick wit. I come from a family of fast-talking, ice selling (you've heard the joke, he can sell ice to Eskimos), smooth operating salesmen. These men are tight with their money, relentless with their sarcasm, and some of the most charming men I know. My Gram has learned to run along side her husband for the last 60+ years. She keeps him in line, makes sure he's well dressed**, can survive his frugal ways and his sarcasm. These days, she's mostly confined to a recliner where she sits looking out at a golf course all day. She remains one of the most well coiffed women I know. She seems to sleep in such a way that her weekly make up application and hair dos are undisturbed when she slumbers. She also says the darndest things. Here's a conversation from my last visit:
Gram: Richie dear, when should we expect visitors for Thanksgiving dinner
Richie (my grandfather): We'll I think people should start arriving around 4PM. We'll start our cocktail hour then.
Gram: What time do you expect to serve dinner?
Richie: Well, I'm not sure Gram. What do you think?
Gram: Don't wait too long. If you have a long cocktail hour, the whole family*** will be smashed by dinner.

Now let me give you some context here. Without going into details, I'll say that I come from a family who likes to drink and tell stories at holidays. Not your plucky family stories about the time you [insert mildly embarrassing moment here]. These are the stories that turn your ears red, the stories you'd think were "safe" with family. With the motto, "Work hard, play harder," it's no surprise that the family coat of arms has been replaced with a family drink, the whiskey sour.

**This year, my grandfather was not dressed by my grandmother. He traded comfort for fashion and sported some black elastic waist velour pants with his dress shirt and his tie tucked into pants. He was so precious.

***In Mr. Pete's defence, he never really indulges in the whiskey sours.

Birthday Girl

I just turned the big 2-? and I'm pretty stoked about being that much closer to 30. It was a fun filled birthday complete with delicious sweets and a mini spa day from Mr. Pete.

This was the first birthday when I didn't have time to retreat to my favorite coffee shop for an annual time of reflection and journaling. Mr. Pete and I had a packed holiday schedule and decided to host a little soiree in the new abode. I usually spend my time rereading my journal from the year and reflecting on how quickly time passes. This has been a big year: we bought our first house, I taught my first college class, Mr. Pete started grad school, we celebrated two years of marriage, I started my sixth year of teaching, and I bought a Swiffer (hey it changed my life). Needless to say, we've had some monumental changes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


In her article, "Rethinking How to Teach New Teachers," Denise Caruso validates the profession of teaching:
"Economic research shows that an educated work force is the foundation of a stable economy. A good education does more than just increase a person’s earning potential. Studies find that regions that produce well-educated high school graduates have a higher rate of business start-ups and more economic activity. Graduates also provide communities with a continuing pool of taxpaying labor.

As teacher rosters shrink, the question is this: How long will such regions be able to hold onto those benefits?

The well-known liabilities of teaching — low pay, overcrowded classrooms and crippling budget constraints — have led recent graduates to opt for more lucrative career options."

I've never thought of teaching so pragmatically. I've never thought that the local economy would be impacted not only by the rating our district receives on a report card, but by our students returning to give back to their community in a very tangible way.

I remember in middle school staying up late on the phone with my friend Andrea. We were two little suburbanites who thought we knew what the world's troubles were and we were the smart girls who would grow to be smart young women who changed the world. I ran into Andrea a few years ago at a happy hour and we reminisced about those conversations. She said, "well you're doing it."

Sometimes it just doesn't feel like change. Today I cleaned up chocolate smeared on my floor, I answered the same question at least 15 times, and someone breathed "b****" under their breath in a subtle way when I wouldn't let them move seats. That doesn't change the world.

Tonight, our local Chipotle had a school fundraiser. I met up with my homeroom class of about ten students for what I called a "family dinner." We sat around a table "smashing" burritos (that's teenager for eating something up) and giggling. I watched a young man let the ladies in line go ahead of him. I watched people say "please" and "thank you". One young lady was laughing so hard at the end of the night, she was crying. Something's got to change when you sit down with your teacher and smash burritos. Racial lines were blurred, rice and beans were flying, and I was connected with my students. I can only hope that a little carbo loading and giggling will some day change the world.

PS: Mr. Pete went. He is the best husband in the whole wide world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Home Improvement projects 34 and 35 of 90,000

One of the reasons I started a blog was to document the new home ownership experience. It's fun to have something of your own. When I lived in an apartment, I looked forward to buying new dish towels to experience the sense of satisfaction one receives for making something in his/her life better. Since we've moved in we've done mostly wall and floor stuff like painting and finishing floors. The real improvements, I think, are in the details. Like, it's really great to have curtains on the back sliding doors so I don't imagine someone is out there every night after 6:30 now when it gets dark. One of my first projects was to change out the door hardware. Let me tell you, oh joy! I've compared teaching the first months of school to walking through a sandstorm with your eyes open. I'm thinking I'll need to come up with a metaphor for fixing the silly mistakes previous homeowners made carelessly while fixing their 100+ year old house. My latest two projects were really fun. The first one was the best. I went to Home Depot and picked out lights to project light onto dirty dishes in the sink. I say it was a great project because, after a fruitless trip to pick out furniture, I insisted that we install the new lights. Mr. Pete started them and I went upstairs to "do-some-work." I came down only to criticize his work and screw in a few screws. Essentially, nothing. The great thing is the after show here. I mean it really made a big difference. The other project I really worked on. I mean it. There were several trips to several homegoods stores until I finally picked a roman shade (said with thick accent) from Target (pronounced by my mom and sister as tar-jay). It was tough stuff. I installed the shades on a metal door. There were power tools involved, and no, not the kind with batteries. We're talking power tools here people. Notice the killer brackets and final product.

Oh yeah, and that door hardware, that's my work too.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Will Okun has this blog over at It's great because he's a teacher and he's a photographer and I really dig his stuff. I've linked it here if you want to check it out. Here's a quote from today's post titled "Understand":

"Although I am exhausted and frustrated, I am still passionate about teaching and I care deeply for the students I teach. I am saddened to consider that my race potentially limits my effectiveness in the classroom. But truth be told, I can feel an awkward disconnect between the students and me on an almost daily basis."

Now I'm not sure I feel an awkward disconnect on a daily basis but I do feel different. It's frustrating at times to know that students make assumptions about me because of my race. I guess it's even more frustrating to me to know that other people will make assumptions about them because of their race.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Say Chaise

I can't quite figure out how I've survived the last few years of my adult life with all the decisions I've had to make. Job, husband, house, grad school...the list could go on forever. Since Mr. Pete and I have reached the "must have somewhere to sit" phase of new home ownership, I've realized just how picky I am. Most of our furniture is hand-me-down. We've been saving up to take the plunge into adult- looking matching furniture.
It was quite a productive weekend. We finally found some furniture we could both agree on that wasn't going to break the bank (ie. give Mr. Pete a heart attack). We found both a couch and a chair. Imagine a chocolate brown couch with a paisley chair. Mr. Pete's face was priceless after we made the big purchase. It was like 'Hey, I picked out the furniture and I'm outta here. I'll leave the mirror/picture/accessory picking out to you'.
I didn't realize how most furniture salespeople (in those chain-like furniture stores) are like car salespeople. Here's a summary of the conversations we've had with salespeople lately.
Couch-o-Rama Sales Person (aka. chain store salesperson): How can I help you folks today?
Inexperience and indecisive young professional(s): Hmmm I'm looking for a new sofa.
CORSP: some kind of random tirade about springs and glue
IIYP: Yeah I'm looking for something attractive and functional
CORSP: We don't carry those
IIYP: Hmmm
CORSP: Let me try to sell you a wrinkly cotton couch instead
IIYP: Ok, let's take a look around.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Couched in Impatience

I really can't believe just how difficult it is to find a suitable couch. I didn't think I had high expectations. I wanted something attractive, well made, and comfortable. This is coming from someone who house hunted for four months during the best buyers' market in years. Hmmmphh. I'm afraid to say, at this point, I'll take almost anything.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I've seen some spectacular costumes this year. My favorite (in the couple category) are my two friends who dressed up as Edward Scissorhands and a topiary (see picture for reference). This costume has nothing on them. It's time to make this blog a little interactive. Did you see any cool costumes this year?

"Heroes help you hold on a little longer"

Our little neighbors were out after trick-or-treat tonight. Sometimes I get a little annoyed because, as soon as I pull in the driveway, they are ringing my doorbell. Tonight Mr. Pete and I visited with them post-costume and candy binging. The boy suggested that I be Super Woman for Halloween. Both kids agreed that Mr. Pete should be Spider Man. They were even thinking of scenarios of how he could rescue me. I suggested that maybe I could be Mary Jane if Mr. Pete was Spider Man. We chatted for a while in the yard. The kids shared their candy with us. Mr. Pete got a sucker and I got some chocolate hand prints on my white vest. When we said goodnight, the little boy called over his shoulder, "Goodnight Spidy, Goodnight Mary Jane."
I think my life goal might be to be a hero in someone's eyes. Chocolate hand prints and excessive doorbell ringing aside, these kids are great.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

This is true and I'm not trying to be perverted

Conversation overheard at Home Depot last week:

Concerned customer: Excuse me, sir could you help me I have some corroded nuts?

Home Depot associate: Sure, over here in aisle...

Concerned customer: Yeah, I was looking for some penetrating oil

The next reality show: massage school

Mr. Pete won some plastic back massager thing from this healthy competition at work. They get points for relaxing and eating fruits and stuff like that. He was really excited because in his engineer mind, this was going to add leverage to my sucky back rubbing skills. He had a particularly stressful day so he thought last night was the perfect time to try it out. I gave it the ol' college try and I could tell from his response that it wasn't very effective. We give reciprocal back rubs at our house. You give one, you git one. So when it was my turn, Mr. Pete said he would imitate my technique so I could get the full benefit of my own skills. He prefaced the whole thing with "But I won't rub the hard plastic part up and down your spine the whole time 'cause that might be painful." Point taken.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


The thing I like about the Catholic wedding mass is the part when the couple takes their vows. The priest encourages all other married couples in the congregation to renew their vows with this couple who are about to take theirs for the first time. Every time, I mean every time I get all choked up thinking about the taking and renewing of vows, the sacredness of doing this in a community, and the toll these vows take from the moment we make them.

I attended a wedding near Pittsburgh recently. One of the readings comes from Fr. Pedra Arrupe, titled "A Meditation On Love":

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know,what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything."

I love this meditation because is so subtly suggests the toll the vow of love takes. It is overwhelming and it guides everything. There's a paradox here because what and who we love dictate our every action. It's exhausting, it's exciting, it's annoying, it's beautiful, it's boring, it's crazy, it's expensive, it's devastating, it's in everything and it's everywhere.

Teacher Moment

My first class of the day is, how do I say this politely, materially challenged. On a daily basis their preparedness for class resembles that of an army of sloths, or zombies, or something. Most of them usually arrive late, if at all, and their general attitude toward me is 'oh it's you, were you saying something?' They hardly ever have anything they need and the only questions they ask me are "Does this book come on tape?" or "Are we going to watch the movie?" Most look up at me with attitude and squinty eyes, the quintessence of adolescence.

I tried an experiment a few weeks ago. After drinking several cups of Starbucks' Breakfast Blend, I attempted to get their attention. I put everything I had into this twenty minute rant about vocabulary and connecting new knowledge with prior knowledge and I was using my hands, and I was talking miles per minute, and I was pacing, and keeping eye contact, redirecting disruptive behavior, monitoring learning, and using my proximity to them to keep them engaged...all things good teachers do. And it worked. It was almost like I had given them the energy I had. I once taught under a principal, who on a daily basis, met up with one of our more energetic students in the hallway. He'd approach her, greet her, and stick out his finger E.T. style. She would reach out to meet him halfway. He'd pretend as though a jolt of energy surged between their fingers and he'd quiver as though he had just been energized by this always perky (only sometimes annoying) student. I always thought it was an act. BUT IT WORKED. Moments later, my zombie/sloth class began to mimic my manic behavior. Their arms were moving, their mouths were flapping, and they appeared to be ready to jump from their seats. It was then I remembered this lesson I learned from a colleague a few years ago. Education is loud, it's exciting, and the learning process itself is a little unsettling.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Delinquent Young Student

This morning as I entered the building before 7:30 AM, a delinquent young student asked me how long my detentions are in the afternoons. Delinquent young student (DYS) had been talking while we were watching a movie last week. When I asked him to stop talking, he shot me the stink eye and proceeded to argue with me. I upped his consequence from a loss of points to a DT. This morning's conversation was hilarious.

DYS: Mrs. Pete, how long are your DTs?

ME: As long as I want them to be.

Unsuspecting bystander: Oooh boy, you're gonna be here foreva.

ME: Actually, I can't stay long it's my husband's birthday today.

Unsuspecting bystander: It's mass people's birthdays today

DYS: Thank you husband. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Happy Birthday Mr. Pete!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Santa is Watching

My little neighbor came over to get some help with her homework last night. Our other neighbors were out on their front porch. As she was leaving our house, she called out to them from the last step. She said, "I dreamed of [Mrs. Pete] last night."

"You did," I asked curiously.

"Yeah," she said. "You climbed a tree with me and then you flew up high in the sky."

"Really," I said in amazement.

"Yeah, yeah and Santa, Santa's watching. Santa was watching you and he gave you 50 million presents."

"Wow, Santa was watching me fly?"

"Yeah and he saw you bein' good and he gave your lots of presents. "

And with that she disapeared.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I am some super awesome runner

I'm always correcting students when they make disparaging comments about each other or about themselves. They're not allowed to give disclaimers when they offer comments or questions to the class; they can't say, "I know this is a stupid question but...." I've noticed lately that my own self-talk is really unhealthy. On my way home from work today, I was beating myself up for all the mistakes I made today and then I started beating myself up for beating myself up. Once I got to the gym, I did a little weight training and then headed up to the treadmill. It's been a while since I have put miles on the treadmill and my legs were cold and tired at the start. After just about 27:32 on the treadmill, a woman approached me.

Annoyed woman at the gym: Sorry to bother you. How much longer are you going to be on that treadmill?

note: this is the treadmill closest to the fan

Me: um, let's see like 23 minutes and some change

Annoyed woman at the gym: Oh (looking at the mileage and time I'd completed on the screen), you're some super awesome runner, huh?

Me: (thinking)

Me: I'm trying to run 5 miles today

Me to myself: yeah, I am some super awesome runner

I know I mentioned that my students could teach me some things about peace and all, but I never thought that I'd learn some things in the process of teaching them things....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bad Day

I had one of those days today when you cry on your way to work and you cry on your way home. This morning, I was listening to the words from "Idea #21" by Over the Rhine and I got all teary-eyed because I'm impatient for justice and peace. And then I thought about my job and how I have this amazing opportunity and responsibility to foster peace and justice with young minds and young hearts and that just gets me all jazzed up to walk in from the parking lot and into my classroom. I can't wait to hurl Salinger, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Angelou, and Bronte at unsuspecting students revealing truth, beauty, and the journey of humanity.

And then I told my students to shut up.

Student: Mrs. Pete, I have a question

Me: teacher glare

Same student: Mrs. Pete, do I have to write this down or can I just think about it?

Me: I don't want to talk to you right now.

It was hot in the computer lab today and they were being so obnoxious. And they didn't care one little bit about truth, or beauty, or about humanity. At least not at 12 PM today. I couldn't teach them anything. They couldn't hear me. So, I told them to shut up. And I tear myself up because telling someone to shut up is not fostering peace and it's certainly not showing them how to "use their words."

My coworker came down later in the afternoon and I confessed my sins. She reminded me that I'm human and I vowed to be nicer to myself. I got home to find a Real Simple magazine and a letter from a good friend with a copy of the poem "Messenger" by Mary Oliver from her book Thirst. Bibliotherapy I tell you. The first line of Oliver's poem took me back to the excitement I felt getting out of the car this morning, "My work is loving the world." It reminds me that my work is to love the world and love isn't always perfect, it's not always kind, it's not always patient, but it tries to be. So I'll try again tomorrow. And hopefully I'll be "astonished" by how much my students teach me about truth, beauty, and humanity. I'll try to stand still. I teach high school.


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird
--equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half
perfect? Let me keep my mind on what
matters, which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a
heart and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy
dug-up clam,telling them all, over and
over, how it is
that we live forever.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Home ownership is fun

So we got possession of our house and it's fun. When you tell people you are house hunting, they glow with excitement and share fun stories about their first home. Then there's this strange transition from the time you are house hunting to the time you put a bid on a house. Stories change, smiles fade, and people recount their stories of bidding wars like tales of lost loves and tragedy. Then stories begin to surface about the reality of home ownership and amortization charts and property taxes. Then. People start talking about actually living in the house. Like how hard it is.

Mr. Pete and his mom agreed to paint two of the bedrooms upstairs this week. My job was really tough. I showed up just in time to finish the second coat on the last room and I got to wash the brushes. I toted the June Day yellow coated paint brushes down to our utility sink. Each new thing I use in the house brings on new excitement. I couldn't wait to use the new utility sink. So I start rinsing the brushes and in my klutziness I'm splashing water all over. It's even getting on my toes. It's splashing so much that I'm standing in a puddle of water. And that's when I realize that the puddle is coming from the duct tapped pipe in the oh-so-awesome utility sink. But don't worry. When the previous owner patched up the leaking pipe with duct tape, it did occur to him/her that it might leak. So there was a lovely square plastic garbage pail propped up under the sink. Imagine this. It overflowed thus causing a puddle to form at my feet. I did what any new homeowner would do, I yelled up to my husband and made my way out to the backyard with the dirty brushes to pout.
Don't get me wrong. I'm so thankful that we found a house. There is something really great about twirling around in a place singing at the top of your lungs because you won't bother anyone but yourself. It is also really nice to have a dishwasher. I just hope it's not duct taped together.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

So you think you can Swiffer

Some very important things have happened in the past few days. School has officially started. Mr. Pete helped to kick off the school year with lots of sugar. For my first days of school I got a donut with sprinkles and an apple cookie.

I wish I was as optimistic as this darn apple is for my first Monday. It's just that it will be the first "real" day of school tomorrow. School days last week were shortened because it was 1,000 degrees in the school building. I don't think any of the other faculty thought it was at all humorous that I was wearing a sweater set both days because of the arctic conditions in my air conditioned room.

OK. So the real news is that I purchased my first Swiffer. First of all, Mr. Pete made the comment that we are now locked into the replacement schedule that comes with purchasing something like this. There's a reason that the mop only costs $9.99 and the little replacement towels are half the price of the actual mop. I can't help but think that I'm mopping the floor with a moist towelette. The second reason this is so important is that I'm actually excited that I bought a Swiffer. It's a mop. It's true. I've become one of those people who gets excited about household cleaners.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Summer is O-ver

We go back to school tomorrow. It's hard to describe this feeling. Every year I'm sad when the laziness of summer is gone and the craziness that is school begins. I've been reflecting about what waiting for the school year is like. It's almost like when you're driving and you know you're going to hit something and you just brace yourself for the impact. That's generally how the school year begins. I see it coming from miles away and I brace myself for the impact it has on my everyday life.

My friend Susan and I have pledged that we would stop teaching the school year after we weren't excited about returning to school. We both recognize that it's impossible to teach without loving school. It's difficult to return year after year to something you don't enjoy. I wouldn't say this year's return brings apathy, maybe a healthier and more mature desire to teach. This year, teaching won't be who I am. Teaching will be what I do. I'm hoping that will make it a better year for everyone.

I really like this poem by Julia Melor Simpson that is featured in the July 2007 edition of English Journal. She writes

She Left Because

Huck had headed out to the terriotry
one too many times.

She left because she told
students to discover their passions.

She left because of rubrics.

She left becasue Hester Pyrnne wouldn't
and Dimmesdale couldn't.

She left becasue she started planning
her summer vacation in February--
okay, January. Okaay, November.

She left because it was time
to find Kunitz's garden.

She left because Thoreau's distant drum
kept disrupting her classroom.

She left because she still could.

She left because some days
she wanted to give everyone an A--
and some days an F.

She left because the things she carried
were no longer a storyteller's truth.

She left because
it was time to go.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

5 Reasons I Can't Wait to Move

5. Objects stuffed into storage will fall on my head less often.
4. Mr. Pete won't be bitter about always having to do the dishes.
3. I'll be able to open the windows when we sleep (Note the "I" here. Mr. Pete isn't such a light sleeper).
2. The incessant thumping in the AC system will cease (this is "Tell Tale Heart" creepy).
1. I won't wake up to use the restroom with my upstairs neighbor in the middle of the night.