Thursday, August 28, 2008


If you haven't read my blog from yesterday, do so first. I'll wait. Go on.

Okay. My mom doesn't read my blog. I think she's heard me mention it, but I don't think she knows what a blog is. Needless to say, she hadn't read my latest post. Last night, however, she sent the email below to some friends and family. Am I my mother's daughter or what?

"I have watched every moment of the Democratic National Convention. Never before have I been so moved. When I was 12 or 13, I watched because my daddy watched when Nixon and Kennedy squared off. I also watched my daddy cry when we lost our Camelot president fall. This election has brought to my mind the incredible history that people of my generation have been so privileged, and so sorry, to have experienced. Brutal killings of our heroes. Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and, yes, John Lennon. The incredible losses of 9/11. Needless deaths of our people who offered us hope.The immense losses of our boys in Viet Nam. This year's presidential election offers a scenario that I truly never believed would happen in my lifetime. A woman with a chance to be president of the greatest nation in the world! An African-American man poised to be voted the leader of a country which once, not so long ago, didn't find him worthy to eat in their diner or drink from their fountain.

I have actually heard, out of the mouths of people I thought I knew, that their problem with Barrack Obama is his name! Are you kidding me? Guess what? His middle name is Hussein. That's not his fault, people. And he is what we need. A man with a history of what it's like to be needy in America.He now has way more than the American dream...I'm pretty sure his girls won't want for much, but I'll bet that they take nothing for granted."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Overflowing, overwhelming, overdoing

I cried four times yesterday. That lurching in my stomach, that tightness in my chest, that sting in my eyes. I'm feeling it now. I can literally cry on cue. Am I heartbroken? Heavens, no; my husband is more wonderful than ever. Am I stressed to be starting the new school year? Of course, but not enough to make me cry. Then, what, Miss My Life is Perfect, is troubling you so?

More than ever before, I am plagued by feelings of unease as we go deeper into this crazy thing we call election year. I know! You were all so worried about me, reading that first paragraph. And whereas some may think, "oh, that. don't be so dramatic", others of you are right here with me, literally praying to God every night for the Democrats to take back what is ours. I have been watching the major speeches of the DNC this week, and the more passion I see, the more I believe it might actually happen. However, this is America. Land of the nothing comes free and the home of the rich, white oligarchs. My cynicism is battling with my hopefulness. My head v. my heart. When someone ticks out on a list all of the terrible things that have happened/are happening under Republican rule (like Hill did last night in her AWESOME speech!), I literally get scared. I said to Pat after the speech last night, "Oh, no. What ever will we do if Obama loses???" He is a mellow and practical fellow and responded, "The same thing we've done for the last eight years: cope."

All the while in my car I'm listening to MPR and they have extensive coverage and feature stories of all things election. I am actually volunteering with a political group. We watch more CNN at home than ever before (unless the Twins are on). I feel like I am TOO informed for my own good. In the past, I have tended to just vote my ticket on one side. But the older I get, the more I understand about this crazy-ass world, the more I want to know. The more I want to be involved. And it's driving me insane. It's nearly all I think about.

I am scared for my own faith in the nation I love. What if people would rather have four more years of this hell than (dare I go here), have a black president? I don't know how I'll "cope".

Watching the footage of the DNC is what makes me renewed in my faith that democrats should rule, always, without doubt. In the crowd, you see all races, all genders, all ages. People raising flags for unions, for gay rights, for everyone and everything. You WILL NOT see that at the RNC. We are the people. The real people. The representation of all groups. There are rich democrats, Catholic democrats. And, I'm not a total closed-minded idiot; I know there are decent Republicans. I know there are diverse Republicans. But if they don't pass any policies to prove it, then I can't get on board with it.

Sigh. Double sigh. Pray for our country. And for heaven's sake, VOTE!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


We have just returned [four days ago] from a wonderful camping trip. The ultimate camping trip, as far as I'm concerned (especially considering our many other trips this summer were somewhat "training" for this one). With friends, we spent four days in Northern Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area. And canoe we did. A lot. And we carried very heavy backpacks over portages. But it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to do those things. And it was fun to swim and relax and take it all in. Mostly, it was magical being in such a beautiful place.

A list of some of the wildlife we saw: frogs, crayfish, bald eagles, loons, a coyote drinking from a lake (we were on the lake, so no worries), chipmunks, and many, many bugs.

A list of wildlife we ate: walleye.

A list of wildlife we heard: wolves howling at the full moon (seriously; VERY cool), and I'm certain something rustling in the bushes the third night when I couldn't sleep; the world may never know.

Enjoy the pictures. (Group photo above courtesy of Heather and Travas.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2 Experiences

1. I spent last week at a conference in Chicago. I spent seven hours a day in the type of classroom learning we're not supposed to practice: open and pour. The first day was very intimidating, as we were just given dense material and they started going through it. But the more I learned, the more I got sucked in, and really, the more fun I had.

I spent last week learning the basics of the new program at my school: AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination). I had never heard of the program before my principal mentioned it last April, but it turns out it has been around for over 20 years. High schools all over the US and some other countries practice it with much success. I'm excited to be one of them soon. It is a program to help middle-level students go to college, when they otherwise might not. They must have a GPA of 2.0-3.5, and have a circumstance that might prevent them from going to college (low income, minority, one parent, unsupportive/unavailable parents, first generation, etc.). The program enrolls them in rigorous coursework like honors and AP and helps them get through it and ultimately get to college. Levels upon levels of support and classwork and tutors get them there, and it is harder to explain than just this, but you get the idea. I'm very thrilled about it.

One of the best parts of the week were hearing the testimonials from students who have successfully gone through the program in the Chicago area. They talk about their AVID families. The connections they make with these teachers is supposed to be the best. In September 2009, I'll be one of those teachers. This fall, I'll be interviewing 8th-graders for admittance into my class for the next year. One student, Desiree, shared her story with me: her dad had split, and her mom was always either working or out with someone. She has no support from home. She told me she's been in AVID for 3 years, and her mom doesn't even know what it is. She was an amazingly articulate young lady who shared her story very openly. I asked her what advice she would give to me, a new AVID teacher. She said to be patient and understanding. These are huge demands to place on a high school teacher with 150 students to keep track of. But, ultimately, she's right. And it's the skill I lack the most in my teaching: patience. I always try to be understanding, but I usually rely on the student to come talk to me. I need to engage all of my students beyond just teaching them public speaking. I'm excited to be going back to school in a few weeks. I want to use everything these students taught me. I asked Desiree what she'd be doing in the fall. She's going to be attending SMSU in Marshall and majoring in Communications. When I left, she gave me a hug (and we had only spent 20 minutes together). She said hugs were really important in her AVID family.

(BONUS: Outside of classes, I befriended two of my colleagues. I've worked with them both for years, but we'd never had the opportunity to really talk and get to know each other. I'm very excited for this as well, because after Molly left (tear), I really didn't have any friends, and spent a lot of time last year feeling sorry for myself. So yay for new friends!)

2. I have officially taken action. I wrote on my last blog entry that I was volunteering with the political group to whom we donate money each year. I followed through with that last night. I spent over two hours on the phone calling people in support of a candidate for the State House of Representatives. It was really fun. Okay, not like jetskiing fun, but doing something good and discussing important things with other people fun. It was cool to see how the dialing computer system works (hence the delay when surveyors, telemarketers, etc. call you). And I was actually very surprised at the number of people who were willing to talk to me. More than not. Some people had way too much to say, and I had to keep myself from laughing a couple of times. One time I laughed out loud, and she appreciated it. After listening to the woman rant and rave for about five minutes:

Me: Well, Norma, you really seem to have the kind of conviction in your beliefs we value in our voters. [Blah, blah, blah, statistics about the candidate that are relevant to her rants.] I hope as you make your decision for the vote this fall, I hope you consider [candidate].

Her: Hmmmm. [Says candidate's name.] I remember every time I talk to someone in support of a candidate, and I have voo-doo dolls for them. What did you say your name was, dear?

Me: Emily.

Her: Well, Emily, I will remember you. If I vote for [candidate] and he ends up stinking, I am going stick your doll with pins.

Me: [laughing uncontrollably]

Her: [starts laughing, too]

Me: Well, Norma, if I am in pain in November and December, I will remember you. I really appreciate your taking the time to talk with me tonight.

Her: No, thank YOU. Most people would've hung up on a crazy old lady like me.

Me: I'd never do that.

Her: Well, I'm glad.

Me: You have a nice night.

Her: Okay, bye. [click.]

GOOD TIMES!!! Another guy spent about ten minutes telling me why we should only vote for politicians with the same moral and religious values as our own. I wanted to hang up with him, if only to get my call count up (he was wasting my time!), but I was compelled. Plus, it is my job to keep the candidate I'm supporting in a good light. And since I'd already said who I was calling to support, I couldn't hang up. What if in November all he remembered about the name when he saw it on the ballot is that someone from his campaign hung up on him? Nope. Had to listen.

Overall, we had a good night. We made over 1,000 calls, and 43% of them were in support of our candidate, 53% were undecided and only 4% were for his opponent. (We called people with a history of spotty voting, declared independents, and consistent split tickets. It's amazing, apparently, what you can get from voter registration.)


This weekend, we head to the BWCA for four days. I've never been and am rather nervous, but I am more excited than anything. One friend had this to say, "I've never felt closer to God than I do when I'm in the Boundary Waters." Well, that's something to look forward to. I shall report next week. Hugs, friends.