Wednesday, November 21, 2007

always Thankful

"You guys ever wonder why they call it THANKSgiving?" --Joey, Friends

Well, for the thanks, of course. Although I appreciate the small and large things in my life for which I can be thankful every day of the year, I do so love this one special day. Despite the fact that it's more about food than gratitude, I love the warmth and joy of the occasion. Only a small contingency of my family will celebrate together tomorrow, but the ritualistic qualities of baking pies, making the drive, and playing Scrabble with my mom and aunt are incredibly comforting. Later this evening I will roll out the pastry I made yesterday, then fill it with pumpkin and apples, both fruits hand cut and frozen earlier this year. I feel more traditional and proud of things when I make them from scratch, like these pies. Yet, I don't hesitate to enjoy convenience when necessary. I am thankful for convenience and for tradition.

Two Thanksgivings to enjoy once married. Saturday we'll venture to southwestern Minnesota for a couple of days "on the farm". The large celebrations that occur three times a year in my husband's family are still something I'm getting used to. Nieces and nephews, sisters and brothers in law, dogs, parents, and ridiculous amounts of food. Small families like mine are barely comparable to a large sprawling family like my husband's. There are no moments alone, no hiding, yet it is lovingly cozy. Families all have problems, and his is not without, but I feel honored and special to be a part of all of it.

I am thankful for my husband's family, my family. My family of friends who hold their arms open. My dogs, for they are family, too. My students and colleagues, a different kind of family, but I am thankful for their presence in my life also. Thankful doesn't begin to describe how I feel about my husband. Thankful for the (mostly) healthy life God has given me today.

Thankful to you for reading my blog.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lake Turnover

Described on MPR this morning during the weather report, lake turnover is a remarkably simple, yet beautiful, concept I had never heard of before. Perhaps I'm feeling romantic as the holidays approach, but this scientific aspect of life on Earth made me smile and give thanks.

Lake turnover is as basic as it sounds; in essence, lakes turn into themselves to rotate the oxygenated water. The beauty of design is what excites me. Water, Paul Huttner tells me, is at its heaviest at 39 degrees, causing it to "sink" to the bottom. Water begins to freeze at 32 degress, a mere seven degress fewer than the heavy water. So, the living plants and animals at the bottom of a frozen lake all year have the surface water (full of oxygen and nutrients from the summer months) in which to live all winter. If water was heaviest at 29, it would be too late, for it would already be frozen. Tough luck, fishies. But conveniently enough, water sinks before it freezes.

This is too perfectly syncronized to be a mistake.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Belated Tribute

Sunday was Veterans’ Day, a rather under-celebrated holiday. Falling on a weekend this year, it didn’t gain the periphery attention it does during the week when it causes banks to close and mail to stop. Stories and interviews all week on MPR have kept the holiday and the veterans themselves in the forefront of my mind. The lack of attention given to this day is shameful.

I’m not without guilt. When I taught writing, I had a writing assignment for Veterans’ Day. I had my students write a letter to a veteran they knew personally or just to a veteran in general. They were to give the letter to the person they knew, or I would personally deliver the generic ones to the local VFW. When I taught Sunday School, we colored flags and crosses for veterans and hung them on the wall outside the classroom. But now, it goes unmentioned in my classroom, in my entire school in fact. One of the stories from MPR gleaned mention in my lecture yesterday, but only because it was an appropriate example. But the fact that the entire school went without even a say-so is rather surprising.

We say the pledge once a week, Tuesdays as a norm, Thursdays when it was forgotten on Tuesday (yes, this has happened several times). Standing and/or reciting it is an option. An option I agree with, yet I secretly judge my students who don’t stand. I told my husband about this, and he made a wonderful point: the pledge is more than just a sign of respect for our nation (and arguably our government), it is an honor to the thousands, nay millions, of men and women who have fought for this nation in its 231 years. But even with this connection, no mention of Veterans’ Day before or after the pledge this week.

My father was a sergeant in the Army in Vietnam. Both of my grandfathers were sergeants in the Second World War, one in the Army and one in the Navy. My heart runs full of veteran blood. I donate money every few months to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (and not just because they send me return address stickers). I have a nephew in the Navy; a friend in the Marines, and a niece who at 17 just decided to join the Guard. I thank men and women I know have served; really being grateful and proud of them. Unlike my father’s tour of duty, these people are there by choice. Even if they enlisted for the money for college or a reason to get the hell out of here (wherever that may be), they knew there was a possibility they could go to war. THAT is an amazing act of bravery.

I hate this war we’re fighting in Iraq, killing so many people on so many days. I hate the Bush Administration with all of its lies, “compromises”, and ridiculously bad decisions. I hate the idea that people have to fight wars at all…can’t we just all get along? But I love veterans. People willing to risk their lives for others or for a cause are beyond brave, they’re heroes.

Despite that heroism, most people let Sunday slip by without so much as a whisper. If you haven’t lately, thank a veteran. Every day, pray for their safety.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Times I cursed my alt plan paper? Tissues I used to wipe away the tears of frustration? Dollars I paid for the credits? Cups of coffee enjoyed in the last month?

None of these. Sheets of paper printed at Kinko's yesterday. By eliminating the superfluous Appendix B (50+ pages), my APP ended up being exactly 100 pages. Title page, sign off page, acknowledgement page, table of contents (2), and a 95-page documents with all the information you would ever want to know about NCLB and more equaled exactly 100 pages. Of course, I printed five copies, for those of you who are not math geniuses. A stack of cotton paper over five inches thick, signatures at the ready, and a knowing smile from the woman at the graduate office receiving desk.

Now, it is officially done, an email of approval and acceptance to prove it. No more waiting, wondering, worrying if my committee will like it: they did. One has intentions as using it as a reference in her Comm Pedagogy class. Yay me.

I know this is the umpteenth time I've written about this in the last month and a half, but I don't care. I'm damn proud, not to mention relieved. It's my paper and I'll brag if I want to :-).

Party: December 15th.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Much like our soon-to-be Attorney General, my school condones torture. Not water-boarding, not vicious dogs, but torture nonetheless.

During passing time, Hanson's MmmmmBop is being played every hour, every day until we raise $1,000 for Toys for Tots. An effective fundraising technique or cruel and inhumane? Hard to say...

(I have already put some money in the envelope...)


Our levy was split into three questions, basically asking for a renewal of previously granted funds, an increase in student operating costs, and in increase in technology funds. Question one, the most important, passed. The other two did not. What this basically means is we will cut $1.3 million instead of the projected $7.3. This is a significant win. It is sad the other two didn't pass, especially since one was only a margin of 15 votes, but still it's progress. Hopefully, this means I have a pretty good shot at working here again next year, but only time will tell.

Thanks for your support.

Monday, November 5, 2007

One day a year

For the second year in a row, my district is one of many sending voters to the polls in hopes they will vote “yes” in its attempt to raise property taxes to fund the local schools. Last year, “no” was the answer, and we cut $7 million district-wide, resulting in the loss of 80+ full time staff (spread over 14 schools and the district office). In my department, we lost my fave, my Molly, and the loss still hurts. In addition to cuts in staff, we raised fees, cut programs, and cut staff development. This year, tomorrow, another “no” conclusion will result in another $7 million decrease in funds. I could lose my job as easily as Molly lost hers last year.

With this in mind, readers, consider this (yes, I’m politicking on my blog):
*My district is one of 99 MN districts with levies or referendums on the ballot tomorrow. Though this is an “off year” in terms of big politics, please consider the other issues and GO VOTE TOMORROW.
*The federal government provides only 9% of the money needed to fund public education. The rest comes from state and local government. In MN, we have good ol’ Tpaw in office, meaning the local government (i.e. your property taxes) funds the majority of schools’ needs.
*A house with an estimated value of $350,000 will only see a $400 increase in property taxes to support my district’s proposal. This situation is similar in most districts. This equals only $34 a month. I spend that on Caribou Coffee each month, for pete’s sake. Consider the ways in which we spend our money…isn’t education a priority?
*Until major education reform that works happens (death to NCLB), schools WILL need to keep asking citizens for more money. It is an inevitable fact.

Please vote tomorrow, and if your district has a school levy, vote yes. If you are NOT a homeowner, then you should definitely vote yes, as the tax increase won’t hurt you at all :-). For me, tomorrow will be a day of worry. My job is in the hands of the voters. Not many people other than politicians can say that. Even if I don’t lose my position, my job will change. If “no” is the vote, then my class sizes will go up again, my development will be denied again, and my students will miss out on valuable opportunities, as more programs and activities will be cut. Think of the whole (community) instead of the part (you).

(*steps off soapbox; goes back to work*)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The sky is blue again

Yesterday, I finished writing my alt plan paper. The paper itself is 79 pages. Then it has five pages of front material, nine pages of references, and 55 pages of appendices. Damn. I was shooting for around 40 when I started. Turns out that's near impossible with an eight-point analysis of three artifacts.

Now the paper will be read by my committe, as the oral defense has been waived due to my commuting, non-trad status. My advisor is nice like that. If it contains no major errors or rewrites, I will be officially finished. It has to be in the graduate office by 3 P.M. on Friday, November 16. I plan on turning it in on the 12th. Keep your fingers crossed that nothing major will be wrong with it.

Now, I know none of you want to read a 79-page diatribe about No Child Left Behind and the Bush Administration. However, I do want you to read this, my acknowledgement page, because you're all on it:

To [advisor], a supportive advisor, a quick responder of emails, a knower of
all things, and a generally wonderful man. I have learned more from you in my college years than everyone else combined. Thank you for advising me for the past eight years, both educationally and otherwise.

To [committee member], your guidance and advice in the one class I took from you helped
me to see my own potential. Thank you for supporting my wayward process of
learning, for reading and critiquing this paper, and for being a strong role model.

To my darling friends, thank you for providing advice and coffee breaks, for
putting up with my neurosis, and for being present for me in every way.

To Leslie, for being the kind of sister and friend I can look up to in every way but height.

To Mom, for supporting every decision I have ever made, both good and bad, helping me
realize I will always be good enough, smart enough, and successful enough for
you, and subsequently, myself.

Most importantly, To Patrick, my amazing husband, my personal advocate, my best
friend. No one believes in me more than you, which means more to me than any
degree ever could. Thank you for making me laugh, for holding me when I cry,
and for agreeing to spend your life with me. I love you.

So now I sit and wait for an email telling me I'm a genius and to go ahead and get that monster printed. Of course, I have a seven-page lit review to write for class on Monday, and I still have six weeks left of class, but the major hurdle is behind me.