Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notes and Nemeses

When I left my last full-time teaching gig, my students made me a binder full of letters and pictures from all 200+ of them.  And might I say, if you haven't had a bunch of adolescents write about how great you are, you should find a way to make that happen.  It's great.  And hilarious.  Tonight, in a fit of teacher nerves and need for validation, I flipped through those recorded bits o' wisdom and ridiculousness I inflicted upon them.  As someone who is all too susceptible to the curse of the demon nostalgia, all too familiar with the painful backward glance, this was a bittersweet experience.  I really loved my kids last year.  I can't believe that a few short months can take a bunch of strange, remote looking teenagers and make them all unique personalities that I cherished.  Even the terrible personalities were part of a fond remembrance, if only for the craziness I went through with them.

One of my favorites was this one:

While I have no clue where his weird, anti-environmental message is coming from, the last section of the note contains two of my legacies from that year.  1 - introducing them to the 'alot,'  and 2- that every no name paper turned in killed a puppy.

At the time I was a little confused by what appeared to be a sort of backhanded compliment.  Thanks, I guess?  I thought I did OK in the public setting?

Well, shows what I know, since that little snot-nose was right.   One year later, and where am I?  Teaching at an "independent," a.k.a. private, school for gifted and talented children.  And you know what?  I'm loving it. 

OK.  So Fact: I haven't officially met the kids yet.  But I've talked to a few parents, and they seem almost overwhelmingly supportive.  Also, Fact: I don't think I've ever seen such a friendly, open and relaxed staff.  Usually I feel lucky to find one person to talk to at staff meetings, but here I can strike up a conversation with anyone I sit by.  It's one of those dream faculties where everyone respects each other and is working as a team to benefit the student.  Imagine that!  Working so that your students are getting the best education possible! If this is a dream, I certainly don't want to wake up.  Here's hoping it lasts.  I've got a feeling it just might.

However, in the interest of full disclosure, there is one downside to the job.  I have a new nemesis.  The classroom bulletin board.

Hello, SATAN.

Ugh.  The staples.  The creativity.  The cutting out of construction paper and spatial planning (definitely not my strong suit).  How I hate it so.

So be warned, bulletin boards.  You're On Notice.

Cat's Hit List
1. Ferris Wheels
new addition! ------> 2. Bulletin Boards                        

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brought to you by the letter 'L'


That's all I'm going to say.  Just that one word.  What images does that create?  What pens, papers, sticky notes and iPhone apps does that summon?  What tasks, goals, or dreams do lists encapsulate for you?

If only I wrote lists as neatly as this one

Like my dear Kate, I love making lists.  Many times, when I am sapped of any "real" creative drive, when I feel like paragraphs and commas are just too difficult to even begin to think about, I will make lists.  I will use my very favorite M dash (or a hyphen, which does in a pinch) and write a word or two, then press enter and on to the next.

That's the inherent beauty of lists.  They're clean.  They're straight-forward.  They keep the thought without betraying the emotions behind it, which was my modus operandi for the majority of my life.

Here are some of the lists on my mind right now.  Yes, it's a list of lists.  Let's call it meta, and follow me down the rabbit hole.

-Good books that are also good movies
-Authors I love
-TV shows I need to watch
-My weekly menu
-What I want to be when I grow up [current #1: comic book writer]
-Present ideas for Taylor's birthday
-Top 5 concert experiences
-Movies based on books where the movies are better than the books
-Favorite Provo bands
-Members of my Man Basement
-Top 5 worst movies I've seen
-Future grad schools
-Which people still need thank you notes
-Good band/album names
-Books I want from the library
-Favorite parts of Seattle
-Items I'd like to buy when I have all the monies (or to receive as gifts)
-People I am friends with
-People I want to be friends with
-People I don't care for
-Qualities I have
-Qualities I wish I had [curly hair and an Irish brogue.  And a puppy?]
-Places I want to live when I grow up
-Ways I will exercise that, let's be honest, will probably not ever happen, but would be cool
-Top 5 future vacation destinations

All of those things, floating in the gray matter creases of my mind.  Squished between wrinkles and oozing out of the cracks.  If you see a random "Boston!", "Andrew Bird" or "Muay Thai" trickling out my ear, don't be surprised.  Where else does that tidbit have to go with all the other list items competing for space?  Let's just hope that I can remember it soon, and then maybe implement some organization up there.  Maybe one of those filing cabinet systems that are all the rage.  I'll add it to my wish-list.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Route 66 Kicks

Taylor and I are infected.  Full-on possessed by the virus known as the travel bug.  While we are usually home bodies who love our apartment and city, every month or so we get restless.  Our feet itch to move somewhere, our eyes get bored with the familiar landscape and complain, wanting to see new things.  What whiny bodies we have.

While we love traveling far and wide (as our recent vacation proved), we are also advocates of the good old fashioned road trip.  There's nothing that compares to you, the car, a sack full of sunflower seeds, an ever-changing view and some great tunes.

Those tunes have been a source of some contention... no, let's say slight disagreement... between Taylor and me as we've honed the art of our road-tripping.  While I think there's nothing better to cruise to than Elephant by the White Stripes, Taylor hates Jack White (I KNOW!) and thinks the perfect road album is Jimmy Eat World's Clarity.  Gag.  What-the-I-don't-even.

Luckily, we've found some albums that we agree on.  Road music that represents us both pretty well, and that perfectly complement the wide possibility and endlessness of asphalt.

Songs for the Deaf - Queens of the Stone Age

This is usually the first album we listen to when we get on the road.  And it's PERFECT.  Taylor introduced me to QotSA, and it might have ruined other music for me?  Because it's awesome?  Because it combines interesting musicality, harmonies, hypnotic rhythms, and turns it all up to eleven in a way that shouldn't work but totally does?  Seriously, they are so interesting to listen to and punch you in the face with such awesomeness that all other music sounds precious afterwards.  Like, 'aw, look at the cute little chord trying to be a song.  Maybe when you're older.' 

Sorry, weird rant there.  Anyway, this album was designed to fit the drive from LA to Joshua Tree, so it was created to be road music. And boy howdy does it deliver!  It's perfect for long, twisting roads through deserts at break neck speeds, while adding this sense of urgency and making you feel completely unconquerable.  Like I said, perfect.

 One Fast Move or I'm Gone - Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar

Another classic desert drive accompaniment, this album adds a literary epic-ness to your journey.  All the lyrics are taken from Jack Kerouac's "Big Sur" and set to music by Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar. The result is this sprawling album that sometimes makes you feel invincible, like there's nothing but sky and tumbleweed and you, ruling all you see.  But other times it brings your mortality crashing down, reminding you that you are a wandering vagabond with no home, no love, and no reward in Heaven. Much more appealing than it sounds, I promise.

After listening to that I always try to sneak in Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco, just to even out the Uncle Tupelo-does-Americana dynamic.  But somehow it never works, because Taylor always suggests Rilo Kiley, and who am I to say no to that?

More Adventurous - Rilo Kiley

I can't even express how much I'm in love with Jenny Lewis.  I love her.  I just do.  It's a thing, and it's not going away, so there.

Rilo Kiley is my favorite, and this is my favorite Rilo Kiley album by far.  It's great, because it has their folksy semi-country songs, but blends them with pop sensibilities (courtesy of Blake Sennett's guitar).  Honestly, this is a meal of an album.  It's rich, and filling, and satisfying.  It has the variety a mix CD without the trouble of making one, which is a relief for the lazy vacationer in me.

Demon Days - Gorillaz

Somehow, we always end up with at least one Gorillaz album on the trip.  Apparently, if I choose the album it's Plastic Beach, and if Taylor chooses it's Demon Days.  I think we listen to Demon far more often, which is fine by me.  What a great, dancey album.  If you don't awkwardly wriggle in your seat, trying to shake your groove thang, something is wrong with you.  Really, you should get that checked out.

Transatlantacism - Death Cab for Cutie

This video captures the essence of driving in Washington.  The horizon, the stillness, the soft evergreen of evening.  I love it.

This album goes into the surreal side of road-tripping.  The quiet, introspective times.  It's when we've been on the road awhile, and now we're just driving.  No conversation, just holding hands and listening to Ben Gibbard.  I might be reading, Taylor might be staring out the window, but this music holds us together.  When "Passenger Seat" comes on, it's a vision of our future.