23 October 2007

Great Video!

Many of you know my tendency to rant about unrealistic views of feminine beauty and the damage that they do to women. Well, my dear friend recently posted this video from Dove's Real Beauty campaign on her blog and I liked it so much I thought I would put it here.

22 October 2007

Neighbor update

After the whole stink business I was minding my own business. (Thanks for the ideas, though). Then on Saturday night, around 11 I decided to go to bed. I had some music playing quietly to cover street noises, but when I lay down I FELT a baseline vibrating through my bedframe. I looked outside, but there wasn't any booming traffic. Ends up it was the lovely people in 619 having a party. Standing inside my door I could hear conversation and some of the melody line of the music. But I could still feel the music in my bedroom which is on the opposite side of the apartment from the door.

I do know that our condo association as strict noise policies, so after checking to make sure that is was coming from their apartment, I called and left a message with the building manager. A short time later I heard someone in the hall and it ends up it was the neighbors to our south, Don and Allison, who we are quite friendly with. They are both flight attendents, so we don't see a whole lot of them.

Don mentioned that the guys from 619 are very pesky to the neighbor directly across from them in 618. He also said that they have smelled pot when they walked into the building and have seen individuals from 619 smoking in the hall. He said he would call Jack (building manager) and complain as well. I am not sure that he did, but it was nice to know that I wasn't hallucinating or just being grumpy.

So we will see how it goes. Jack returned my call today, got a few details and said that the first step is that 619 will get a general letter stating that there have been complaints about noise. After that comes fines. That doesn't take into account the smells, but if it gets bad I am going to contact the owners.

Enough of that saga.... Hopefully I will post something more intelligent soon!

19 October 2007

Airing a Grievance

I do not, normally, like to complain in a public forum, but this is driving me nuts. In August we had new neighbors move in across the hall. It looks like they are 2-4 male college students. I am not sure about the number, because I am not sure who exactly lives there, and who just visits a lot. I don't know that the number really matters.

The issue is the smells that come from their unit and directly infiltrate ours. Our doors are directly across from each other and I found out, rather unpleasantly, that if our windows are open we draft in anything that is in the hallway. It used to be the occasional cooking smell, and usually it wasn't bad.

However, things have taken a seriously negative downturn. It seems that they like to smoke. A LOT. And the minute they light up, it smells like a stale ashtray in OUR apartment. One evening, when Sara was suffering from a particularly bad headache I went across, knocked on the door and asked if they would put something at the bottom of the door. Our windows were closed but it was still drafting into our apartment. That time I talked to the blond roommate.

Nothing resulted from that interaction but the installation of a rolled blanket at our door. It didn't seem too bad and we didn't want a conflict, so we let it go. Last night it smelled like bad cooked fish, or something worse that I don't want to mention on this blog, and Sara and I lit 6 scented candle in front of our door and hoped that it would either dissipate or be covered enough for us to fall asleep. We were not home all day, therefore the blanket was not at the door to do its work.

Tonight required another confrontation. I was sitting on the couch, blogging and minding my own business when what should I smell but stale ashtray. As many of you know, I grew up with smoking parents who quit when I was about 13. This led to an abhorrence of all things smoking related, but especially of stale cigarette smoke. The LAST thing I want to smell in my home--which is supposed to my refuge--is ashtray! Unfortunately, this smell was making it past my rolled blanket and my fragrant tart burner by the door.

So I went to talk to the neighbors. Again. This time it sounded like they were having a party and they didn't hear my first knock. A youngish dark-haired guy answered the door. As politely as possible I asked him if he would mind putting something under his door, as I could smell his smoking or cooking in my apartment. He was very polite, but I don't have very high hopes.

After the first incident, when I wasn't sure it was our neighbors, I called the building supervisor and left a message. That day, I could smell stale smoke all the way to elevators. He never contacted me again, but the hallway smelled better for quite awhile and so we didn't bother. However, if it happens again, I am going to contact him.

You see, this building is individually owned condos. Many of them are rented by their owners and I am fine with that, because I am reaping the benefits of that situation. The issue is, I seriously doubt they have permission to smoke in the apartment. This building is just over a year old and everything is new, including the carpets. A couple with young children had the unit before these guys, and I would bet they own the unit. Even if they don't whoever does is not going to want it stunk up so quickly. If our apartment smells bad, I can only imagine what it smells like in there.

Along with the smells we have been subject to an occasionally middle of the night guest or loud party but that hasn't been too bad. Sara usually sleeps through it, and since I wake up during the night regularly it isn't as disruptive as it could be.

So, do you have any advice? Should I try to contact the owner of the unit and complain? I don't think the building manager will do anything about it, and don't know that he could, unless there was a clause about smoking in the condo association contract. I don't really want to "just live with it" since we have 6 months left on our lease and I HATE being in a smelly apartment.

Well, that is enough of that.

What I've Been Reading

Time for another installment on my reading list. I must say, this is one of the greatest perks of my job. People are paying me to read! My mother would have told you that this was my dream job.... How many times has she told me to put away the book? These are in no particular order, and I want to preface this with a disclaimer: Just because I read it doesn't mean I recommend it. This may be clear to some people, but I wanted it clear to EVERYONE so as not to cause needless offense. So here is the recent installment.

Sounder by William H Armstrong: This book I HIGHLY recommend. It is award winning and it is not hard to see why. Only about 70 pages, but they are beautifully written, and on top of that, the story is beautiful as well. In the tradition of Where The Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller, Sounder is the story of a boy and his dog. But even more than that, it is a beautiful story of learning to read, of loss and heartache in a black sharecropping family and of a boy becoming a man. I was bawling my eyes out almost the entire book! I bought it to see if it would be a good choice for one of my classes. If only they had the patience for a book that wasn't "urban."

The Prince by Machiavelli: This book is a classic for good reason. It took me several months to wade through the density of this text. Like Aristotle's Poetics, I read this because I felt like I should have read it in order to be truly well-read. It is dense, and the political and theatrical allusions are lost on me, but it is applicable to our current age and probably always will be. Machiavelli is ruthless in his estimation of men and almost nihilistically pragmatic about what it takes to rule them. There is no denial of the sinful nature of man, and that was refreshing. However, his emphasis on the need for the appearance of virtue, rather than actuality, and his wholesale distrust of all people completely lacked grace. One selfish happiness that came from it, however, was personal vindication of my opinions about Bill Clinton. I have always said that he may not have been a particularly wonderful president, but he was a FABULOUS politician. He almost perfectly embodied all the Machiavelli says a successful prince needs to be.

Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers: This book was assigned to one of my groups with a lower reading level, and since I want to have read what my students are reading, I picked it up. This book was chosen because it has a lot of themes that students can relate to: poverty, gang issues, single-parent households, harsh and misunderstanding schools, etc. Myers has written many books for students and young adults and this one is a Newberry Honor book. However, it is also dark and rather hopeless. It reminded me too much of Thomas Hardy and his fatalistic stories to be an enjoyable read for me, although I do not doubt its accuracy. Some of my students love it, some hate it. There is a lot of African American colloquialisms and that is rough for some of my Latino students.

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman: Subtitled "A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall" gives you a slightly better idea of what this book is about. Like Scorpions, it is an often stark picture of the lives of gang members, this time from the perspective of incarceration. Salzman was part of a program that arranged for writers to lead writing groups with high security inmates. He is an excellent writer (I absolutely loved his novel Lying Awake!) and the combination of his narrative and examples from the guys' writing makes for a readable, if not totally happy story. Anyone who works with urban youth would benefit from reading this, and people like Daniel and my Mom can probably even identify with it.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld: One of my students asked me if we could read this book as a class, so I decided to take it home and see what it was about. It is basically a modern story of vampires, although Westerfeld's idea is that vampirism is a parasite, so every other chapter is a short discourse on some real parasite. The main protagonist, Cal, is someone who carries the vampire parasite, but is not a vampire himself. However, since he is a carrier he can pass it on to others through any bodily fluid and has some heightened abilities such as an ability to see in the dark, an inability to get infections, ultra-sensitive hearing and smell, extreme strength and a voracious appetite. Cal hunts down those he accidentally infected. Well, there is also a big conspiracy and the end sets up another novel where the vampires have to face a very serious threat.... Not fabulous writing, and not the most wholesome of storylines, but it does have enough action to keep your attention and it is clean, both strong recommendations. Next step is to discuss it with my boss, Kate, and see what she thinks.

That is it for my current reading list. Of course, I have at least 6 books on my bedside table, a couple started at work and a few more that I just bought as possible resources for work. Needless to say, this will probably become a regular feature of the blog. Also, if you have any recommendations of books that my students might be interested in feel free to pass them along!

New Quote

I would like to draw your attention to my new quote. I have included the text here because that quote will change eventually and no one reading this old post will know what I am talking about:-)

You will make all kinds of mistakes: but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her. Winston Churchill

I read this, of all places, in "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." I picked up a copy at school, randomly opened it, and saw this quote. It was so comforting that I wrote it in permanent marker on the cover of the notebook that serves as my gradebook at school. Believe me, I need to read that every time I start a class! Why? Well, it is a long drawn out story that rambles over every area of my life, but let it suffice to say, I have a VERY hard time untangling my worth from my performance.

Before you get too concerned and start pronouncing the obvious, let me calm your fears. I have talked to more than one counselor about this and have been bravely battling it for over a year now, but it is a deeply embedded thought process and not one that is easy to dislodge. So I try to surround myself with truth in many forms that will combat this obsession. In addition to being difficult and inconvenient to feel down when MY performance isn't up to par, it is even worse teaching. Because then the issue is not just my ability to perform, but also my students' ability to succeed.

If they do not do well then I MUST be doing something wrong, right? If I was just more patient, a better teacher, more prepared, more authoritative, less harsh, more consistent, etc. everything would be beautiful and I would be valuable, right?

I need a lot of encouragement on this front and A LOT of truth on a regular basis. So, I was glad to see this quote and I wanted all of you to have a chance to think about it as well.

14 October 2007

Short addition to the list....

I forgot a few VERY important additions to the list I posted earlier. These may even take priority over all the earlier ones:

Ikea shelves: I already have one of the 72" x 78" units in my bedroom to house my books and some of my sewing stuff. However, I need another unit, either the same size, or the smaller one at 72" x 47", to house the rest of my sewing supplies. Currently they are sitting in a pile of rubbermaid tubs in my room and driving me crazy! This shelving unit is fabulous! Sara and I also have one in our LR/Kitchen/everything room that holds videos, kitchen stuff and some decorating misc. The boxes are all 72" long, however, and don't fit in our car. That means it has to be delivered to our apartment (what we did last time) or we have to go shopping with someone who has a truck (hint, hint).

A New Bible: I was thinking of holding out until my 30th birthday, but I am coveting a new Bible sooner than that:-) My current one is about 10 yrs old, looking very battered, and I have already had the cover professionally reattached once. My criteria: NAS or ESV, compact/small enough to fit in my purse, cross-referenced and/or with appropriate study notes, and a real Leather cover (I want this one to last longer!). CBD has a couple I am interested in here, here, and here. But I could be persuaded to consider some other alternatives if you think they are really worth it.

10 October 2007

It's My birthday (almost)

Hello dear ones… As many of you know, my birthday is fast approaching and Christmas is not far after. Because many of my friends and family are very loving, but still diffident gift-givers I thought I would post a little wishlist here. These are in no particular order and are obviously of varying degrees of expense. Consider this a source of inspiration…

Land’s End turtlenecks: Since I have returned to the land of winter, I need to update my wardrobe accordingly. These are reasonably priced, have a lifetime garuntee, and are cute. Preferred colors: Blackberry, Navy, Black, Ice Pink, White in size L.

Classic iPod: I have a large collection of music and must of it doesn’t get listened to since I am on public transportation most of the time. I am not a techie, so the 80GB model is more than satisfactory for me. Oh, and black goes with everything.

Black tennis shoes: Naturalizer has two styles of black tennis shoes that I like here and here. Sometimes I just need the comfort of tennis shoes, but they have to look a bit more professional than my white running shoes. Shoes always have to be in 10.5.

Comfortable dress shoes: Teaching requires a professional look, but walking to work and using public transportation means my shoes must also be comfortable. I like Naturalizers two looks that are here and here. Again, size 10.5.

Commentary on Galatians: This commentary has been recommended and I am looking for something to give a little depth to my Bible study time.

Winter Coat: I have a long wool coat for winter, but not something that is appropriate for in the car or on public transportation. The Gap has some really cute ones here, here and here. I am currently a size 16 which is an XL with them. My preference is for colors other than black.

Interesting new CDs:

  • David Crowder Band's Newest: This is their latest release and one that I am really looking forward to listening to. I am going to their concert here in Chicago with several friends from my church, since it falls so close to my birthday.
  • Chris Rice’s Newest: He has been on of may favorite singer/Songwriters for years and this is his newest project.

Interesting books:

Maybe this is a little excessive, but I wanted to give you some good ideas.

One last pipe dream wish: The KitchenAid Flour Power - 14 Cups Stand Mixer. It doesn't get any better than this... especially since it comes in Nickel Pearl.

08 October 2007

Quick note

I forgot to link to Teach for America in my last entry, so here it is. TFA is a non-profit organization that trains individuals from all backgrounds and disciplines to teach for two years in a failing school. They place teachers all over the country and in every grade from K-12. I am applying for Chicago, but I am not set on any age group at the moment. I have successfully taught students at every level, so I am willing to see what is available. It is a normal teaching situation as head teacher in an individual classroom. A bit daunting, but not impossible:-)

06 October 2007

Another step

Today I started my application for Teach for America. That was a bit daunting, but we'll have to see where it goes. Another woman at my church has applied and made it through the first round of interviews. It is another situation where they have an enormous pool of applicants for a relatively few number of positions. I am nervous, but like everything else, I can only do my best and see what happens. Moments like these remind me of what a joy it is to belong to the Sovereign God of the Universe!

04 October 2007

On my mind

So, I am coming to see more and more that Sara is right. I am compulsive, obsessive and it is all in my head.

I started looking into Master's Degree programs in Chicago. People who love me or like me, know me well or have known me for a little while are all saying things like "Why not? Maybe you just needed to learn something by the first round of refusals. You are obviously good at this and have a heart for teaching." But graduate work in any form is still daunting and TIME CONSUMING. I will be 29 next month, no possibility of starting before I am 30 and then it is 5 yrs at best to a PhD. Ugh.

And I am teaching high schoolers and feeling the tug. There is such a huge need for teachers and I am good at it. Even my most problem students seem willing to work a lot of the time and I don't get too much back talk from them. But high schoolers are hormonal and difficult. And if I really want to teach full-time I should go for a MA in education with certification. There is slim chance I could slide into a full-time position at Perspectives if one opened up, it was a good fit, and they wanted to hire me. So even staying at the High School level may require a return to school.

The only good thing to come out of all of this: I am firmly convinced that teaching is where the Lord has called me, so it is just a matter of discerning where and how.

If only I could stop thinking about it.....