Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Greetings from the Hermitage

I know that I have completely disappeared from the world. What craziness is everywhere! But I am involved in an epic struggle between success and failure--Will I graduate in December? The answer lies very much in how much I can cram into the next week.

And in spite of it, here I am. Here's why:

I work better with something else going on. Music, usually, although PBS also can work very well. It keeps one section of my brain from going completely batty bored with whatever is going on that I must pay attention to. For example, the last couple of nights they've been showing a documentary on Benjamin Franklin, which I believe is by Ken Burns. Fascinating, and a nice story, and I can generally stay on track and be very productive with something like this on.

Until tonight they showed a documentary called "A Touch of Greatnes" about an educator named Albert Cullum. Basically he had elementary school students in the late 50's-early 60's debating the merits of Shakespeare, Shaw, and Sophocles, learning geography, and doing all kinds of crazy learning. Man I wish I could have had him for a teacher! One student's vocabulary notebook had 290+ words for the year and she actually learned to use them because the whole class was this wriggling organism of collective learning. I got so wrapped into this--I was sitting on the edge of the ottoman to be closer to the screen to drink it all in. And the thing was, it was obvious that Mr. Cullum was having the best time of anyone. That is the teacher I want to be--the one having a jolly old time in the learning atmosphere I've created. The one who figures out how to play our way to a better understanding. Anyway, now I'm all fired up and I've gotten some portfolio work done, and I'd better get back to it because I have miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, July 10, 2006


So I was out watering the garden, when something jumped out of the chives.

Yes, it's a praying mantis. I have never seen a real one before. At first it took me a second - maybe it was a walking stick? Because it's brown and I thought praying mantises were green? Or maybe they are and this is really some kind of walking stick or walking leaf or something. Anyway. Moot point. The deal is, I don't think I've ever seen anything like this before. It was BIG! So I ran inside and grabbed my camera, and now you see the result.

Since we're at it, here is my rosemary. Isn't it beautiful?

And yes, I do think it likes having the gnome there. And so does the laurel plant (it has two of them).

Fun in the garden. Fun for everyone.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Amilynne's Idea

Amilynne says the Mona Lisa should go to the winners. Buon idea! Of course, she was going to award pasta to the French if they won. I don't know what Italy would have done without pasta for 4 years. And honestly, I don't know what the French would have done with it. Good thing the match turned out the way it did.

A Brilliant Italian Win


Guess who is putting a gigantic soccer ball on the door of her classroom for the next 4 years??? Forza! Forza! Forza!
(And shame on Thomas for texting me "Vive la France" during the game. Vive les headbutters what?)
You know, though, that game really did have me on edge - I must have been really holding my breath because the second Italy won and I started jumping up and down and whooping and cheering I about toppled over! This wave of quasi-unconsciousness hit, I got terribly dizzy, and I had to sit down a second. I seriously feared I would faint. Wouldn't that have been priceless--knocked out by Italy's championship run. Ha!
I'm also naming Andrea Pirlo player of the game. Of course, Gennaro Gattuso was also brilliant - talk about being everywhere at once, and Gianluigi Buffon is goalkeeper extraordinaire. (Oh my goodness - when he knocked Zidane's shot over the goal - fabulous!) But to me, Pirlo was just always there putting on the heat and setting up opportunities. He also shot in the first penalty shot after overtime. Forza!
(I've linked the title of this posting to the FIFA highlights, as long as they will remain posted. Enjoy.)


I woke up this morning with visions of Italy winning the World Cup dancing in my head. So all I can really say is:

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Elementary, My Dear

So I'm a week into the internship at the elementary school. I'm tutoring this cute little kid and having a ball. I did a reading interest survey with him where I was naming different topics that books could be on and he was grading them - an A meant he was really interested in it, an F meant he wasn't interested. So I was going down the list and he was giving lots of As and Fs and some Cs and a couple of Ds and I got to "love" and he said "A+!" And I kind of chuckled to myself because I'm used to teenagers (and to myself, and to some of my friends) who would rather die than admit that love is any more than an F--. He was so cute! Then, near the end of the list, I got to "family" and he said "A+ a hundred!" Computers got "A+ a hundred!" too.

Anyway, I could just eat this kid up. He was sleepy today from fireworks last night and he kept putting his head down and making snoring noises. Especially when I was asking him to do hard things. It's just fun that he's young enough that nutty is OK and playing is an acceptable free-time activity.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


The Boy got out of school last week, Amilynne got out of school this week, and I have two more weeks of school.
The seniors who started at the high school the same time as me graduated this week. I admit I will miss the class of 2006. The students I worked with, especially the ones who were still studying Italian this year, are great people with fun personalities. I hope I get the chance to see what some of them become.
But for now, I'm just pushing for summer vacation. It will not get here soon enough.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"...speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world..."

Imagine my joy when I found this one on Microsoft clipart:

The funny thing is that they had it listed under Italy, Milan, and Stained Glass Windows, but not under Dante.

I flipped when I found it. I went back to Purgatorio XXVIII to read about Matilda. How fantastic it all is.

The fourth years started Dante this week. Joy, joy, joy.

Spring Break Review

When I went to Texas and Louisiana last month for spring break, I bought a snazzy little digital camera. Hooray! I've got to say--it has been way too long in coming. But I had decided the week before that it would be my tax refund treat this year, and then once I got on the plane to Texas I realized that I had forgotten my regular camera (which, by the way, is eleven years old and has produced pictures with a hairline crack in the top of the frame for at least half of those years), so once I got to Texas I hit Best Buy and hooray! I'm the happy owner of a cool new camera.

Of course, once I got home, it has taken a month for me to install the software so I can download pictures to my computer.

But now I have, and now they're there, and now I can post a picture or two (or four) from the trip.

Here is the camera's first picture. A close-up of the shepherd's pie will be a feature on the new Casseroles...Hella Good! website that Amilynne and I are going to build. But here is the full picture, with my splendid friends Hunada, Daryl, and Elizabeth, who love me enough to get together for shepherd's pie when I come to Texas:

Next, here is cool Marianne at Oak Alley, the fabulous old plantation we visited between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The trees are three hundred years old. And can I say how fantastic it was to see Marianne? We hadn't visited for ages, not since she got married four years ago. Which seems almost as long as the trees are old.

On my way back from Louisiana, I had an otherworldish experience. This is where I found myself:

Anyway, when I got back to Texas, Elizabeth and I went to the Botanical gardens and there we beheld something you would ONLY see in the Lone Star State:

Little chica is practicing her pose. Yikes!

And I just have to add this picture because it is so cool to have a camera that can do it:

See the dew? I love my new camera!

But not as much as I love my friends! :D

Sunday, May 07, 2006

On Libraries and Languages

On Libraries:

Last night I went to a university Italian faculty party to get to know the faculty and just to enjoy being like an Italian for an evening. It was fantastic!!! I just don't get to use Italian conversationally very often (and that shows--I found myself switching to English too often last night when I was talking--anyway, it was a LOVELY evening, I brought one of my students along and I think he enjoyed it a lot too, and it was just great.

Anyway, the party's hostess LOVES books. She is a book collector. She has such a collection that she has built a separate library the size of a small house for herself, and it is all shelves and books. And get this. I was randomly exploring one aisle when my eyes fell on a book by my great grandmother. I just died. I mean, it was never the most popular or well-known book (although my dad told me last night that when it was published it did win an award in California for being the best new book for jr. high students). That was really cool.

On Languages:

Last week W made some idiotic remark about how the national anthem should only be sung in English. Apparently someone countered with a claim that W did, in fact, sing the national anthem in Spanish when he was on the campaign trail. Scott McLellan, the white house spokesman on his way out, retorted by saying that the claim is "absurd" because "He's not that good with his Spanish."

Give me a break!!!

Every semester I teach my students to memorize a poem in Italian that they don't necessarily understand and that they probably couldn't read flawlessly if handed for the first time. Almost all of them have it nicely memorized in 4 months. Learning to say things you don't understand is a big chunk of learning a language! I forwarded the news story to friends and family with this attached:

"What idiocy. We all know that you don't have to know a language well to sing in it, you just need some coaching (coaching that I think would be availble to someone courting the Latino vote!)"

To which Amilynne replied:

foo nee coe lee foo nee coe la foo nee coe lee foo nee coe LAAAAA, yamma yamma yo foo nee coe lee foo nee coe la HEY!

Which is close enough.

Nice to know that Scott McLellan thinks the President is about as smart as my least motivated urban high school students.

Sunday, April 30, 2006


I'm ripping another picture off of the Kiddo's website. This one cracked me up.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Because I'm still in Junior High

I have not changed at all. I am essentially the same teenager I have always been.

I've added two new albums to my collection this week: Future Retro (Great Alternative Anthems of the 80's Souped Up With Dance Beats) (e.g. Crystal Method does Bizarre Love Triangle) and Morrissey's new Ringleader of the Tormentors. And I have to say that both are very good. No one can orchestrate an opening like Morrissey can, no one at all.

On top of that, I have worked late late late this week, and how do I keep going? Just a simple mix of Morrissey and Midnight Oil, please. (Dear reader, you do know that Blue Sky Mining is Midnight Oil's greatest album, followed closely by Earth and Sun and Moon? They're not just Beds are Burning, no, no, no.) Since we're doing finest albums, Morrissey's is, of course, Viva Hate.

(Earth and Sun and Moon is so good on headphones walking through a forest.)

Which begs a discussion on picking favorites. Is the favorite the song you hear first off, identify with, and claim, love at first sight, whole-hearted and blindly? Or is the favorite the song that etches itself slowly into your soul, hook by hook, riff by riff, until it is part of the fabric of your soul and tearing it out would cause a loss of self?

Are we talking about love now? or worship? Do we leave particles of our souls with the things we love in exchange for the memories? I once worked for a man who owned a very nice shop, and he claimed that if you go into a store, and find something you like, and pick it up and walk around with it, feeling it and adoring it, and then put it back, someone will come find it and buy it because of the piece of you that rubbed off on it. Interesting, but when I think of the things I put back and regret having put back (the jewelrey box in Genova, for starters) I wonder if what I'm missing is the piece of me that stayed with it when I walked away.

How much worse to leave our friends! Our favorites! The ones to whom we have given large chunks of our souls (please don't lose them), who finish our thoughts and travel our same paths not nearly long enough --

And so we capture what we can: photographs, songs; and we write notes and letters; and all the while it's more of our souls that we are leaving on these treasures -

And our yearbooks say "Stay Sweet!" and "Friends Forever!"

And somewhere we are. Because they are in us and we are in them,

because we're still in junior high.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Worst Driver On Earth

On my way to the bank yesterday, I saw first-hand what happens when the biggest idiot in the world gets behind the wheel of a car. I was at a light waiting for opposing traffic to clear so I could make a left-hand turn, when suddenly this little car zips completely around me and makes a U-turn. I had to slam on the breaks. Since I was in the turning lane, it means that this guy entered the intersection from a "go straight only" lane, but instead he took the whole intersection as his own and zoomed completely around me. My heart stopped as he roared into my view (I had been watching oncoming traffic looking for an opportunity to turn). I slammed on the horn, but it took just a second as I registered the shock, so he was already driving away and probably didn't see me flip him off.
The diagram of what happened is above. I am the cute gold car, my path is in blue, because I stayed so relatively calm throughout the experience. (HA! But at least I was cool enough that I didn't plow into him!) The idiot is driving the teal car. His path is hot pink because he thinks his driving makes him hot stuff. I think it makes him the world's biggest idiot.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


This morning I actually woke up five minutes earlier than I did yesterday morning.

For anyone keeping track, that meant I woke up 55 minutes late. I can't believe this. I even set a third alarm this morning, and I still just didn't wake up. I WILL NEVER GET USED TO DAYLIGHT SAVINGS!!!! On the bright side, though, I guess this means that my chances of dying peacefully in my sleep are probably higher since I won't wake up for whatever horror kills me.

My new look is barely dried hair and just a hint of mascara. If this continues, my new look will be pajamas.

Two notes on the bright side: 1. At least they hadn't yet marked my name with highlighter for being late when I signed in today. & 2. It was still light out when I left my class this evening. That was so nice. Like I hadn't ruined my whole night yet.

Monday, April 03, 2006


I swear, I've got to figure out a way to charge a VERY high interest rate on the hour that that government steals from us in the spring and gives back in the fall. My body did not get up this morning until the usual time--meaning one hour late--so wasn't everyone at school so happy to see me run in at 7:30. (SHAME ON ME!)

Can we please just pick a time zone and stay with it?

I sometimes get this feeling like I should saw off the top of my head and alleviate the pressure that has built up during the day. I need to go home and take a nap, but I also need to go home and finish my correcting because I have a small load of journals from my advanced classes that are due tomorrow, and it will take me all the time I have to get those done.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

You know you're a resident of the ghetto if.....

It is T-8 hours to my comprehensive exam for my master's degree.
About 4 hours ago, I called Papa John's to order a pizza. It seemed the student-cramming-for-a-test thing to do. It is also something that I never do. I seriously may have never had a pizza delivered to this place. Maybe once my first year here, but maybe not. I don't remember.
At any rate, the nice girl who answered the phone when I called Papa John's had to inform me that they don't deliver to my area after dark.
As I listened to gunshots about 1 1/2 hours ago (like a whole gun being emptied rapid fire), I just nodded my head and thought, "Yes, that's why I couldn't get a pizza tonight." When Thomas called to see how the studying was going and I told him the story, his immediate reaction was "You do live in the ghetto!"
"Yes," I replied, "that pretty much confirms it."

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Lately, I have been listening to Italian music radio at work. I would listen to it at home too, but somehow my computer here can't bring it up. You can see if your computer will do it by clicking to RadioItalia here. Good luck.

Anyway, there is this crazy commercial for non-stick spray with this nutty song that gets stuck in your head and really is as annoying as irretrievable popcorn hulls between your teeth. The saving grace in this commercial is the use of the verb disincrostare - to remove a baked on crusty mess. I told my students about it today and one of them just smiled and said that she loves the way Italian has crazy words like that.

I must agree with her. I love it too.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jon Stewart - Hooray!

I had a good time watching the Oscars last night. Why? Well, if you didn't read the title of this post: Jon Stewart - Hooray! Shall we compare last night's awards to last year's? My rundown of the 2005 ceremony is here. Please refresh yourself, I will make comment:

1. Jon Stewart doesn't have to yell at us to be funny. His opener had me rolling - not hitting mute like last year. The whole bit with George Clooney was great.

2. George Clooney also gets the best acceptance speech of the night award. Do you think he might get to be sexiest man alive again? He certainly beats this year's winner. And he has a lake district house in Italy.

3. Dolly Parton. 'Nuff said.

4. I can't imagine what I would have cooked for the best picture nominees had I thrown a party this year. Racist ethnic foods for Crash? Fancy western hors d'oeuvres for Brokeback Mountain? I might have had to resurrect my smoking cigarette cake for Good Night and Good Luck. That might have been fun.

5. Martin Scorsese wasn't up for anything this year. Hooray.

6. I didn't see Puffy there. I'm sure he was there, but I didn't see him. I didn't miss him. But a torch-wielding mob needs to hunt out the people who thought that the pimp song was the best of the year. Was it just a bad year for music?

7. Jon Stewart cracked me up.

And that's it. Until next year.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Republishing: Amilynne is Brilliant

I originally published this on the new Amilynne & Melissa collaborative Blog of Blood. Amilynne then informed me that if I was going to brag about her it had better be in the traditional context of this blog. So I am republishing the following, which I originally published Friday, Feb. 26 on the Blog of Blood. Then I'll go erase that post--so you'll only be able to see me brag about my sister here:

Amilynne is Brilliant

As the Olympics finish tonight and Neve and Gliz become a footnote in history, there is something of much more consequence about which to write: Amilynne got a perfect score on her Language and Literature PRAXIS test. She is too modest to tell you herself. But if you ever need to know which novel has a coffeehouse named for one of its characters, she is the one to ask.

It's so nice to have a sister who is perfect. I just don't have to worry about being perfect at all, I have Amilynne to do that. I can just live my life and enjoy the warm glow of her brilliance and let it reflect off and bounce around and do acrobatic tricks.

On a completely different note, sort of, please check out the last page of the March issue of Smithsonian for an article about the words English hasn't borrowed from other languages.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

SuperGreat Fantastic News

So this week there is some SuperGreat Fantastic news to report--Amilynne landed her first real-live, need-a-college-education-for-this-one job. She's a teacher! She interviewed Wednesday, was hired on Thursday, and started Friday. Basically, the teacher she worked with to do her student teaching said that she was the best student teacher he'd seen in 30 years, the department head wrote her letter of recommendation, and now she works there.
And I have to think--how cool would it be to have Amilynne for your teacher? She is hip and cool and brilliant. Yesterday she was at the museum looking at an exhibit of Roman frescoes and working out a lesson plan for this week. I want to be in her class.
Anyway, that's the best news of the week. Hooray!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Mouse Fire

So if you have been as amused as I have been by the story in the news about the guy who tried to burn a mouse in a leaf pile, only to have the mouse (on fire) dart back at his house and burn the whole thing down, please make sure you have read Billy Collins' poem "The Country." There's a link to it (although stanza breaks are omitted) if you'll click on the title of this post.

Coming Through in Stereo

I know you won't be surprised when I report once again that living in my apartment is hell.
Here it is, after midnight, I'm trying to get some work done, and the music pours in--not from just one neighbor, but from the neighbors on the other side of me now as well. New people moved in about 6 weeks ago and the noise level has steadily increased. Now the music coming in is clearly audible no matter where I try to hide in my apartment, and at this moment, I kid you not, the discs the two neighbors are listening to have the exact same tempo and could be mixed quite neatly into one song by any talentless DJ who felt the urge. Me, I don't feel the urge at all. I just feel annoyed. Like I want to shoot up some stereos. I just can't believe that on a Wednesday night these people think they need to keep the whole world awake with their crappy music.
You'd think this really was the full-fledged ghetto. At this rate, it won't be long until it really is. Thug central, here we come.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I dare you to look at how cute Junior was at Christmas and not think he's the cutest baby ever.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Well, I didn't post for a while. The beginning of December brought Hell's wrath with it--finishing projects for my class, state testing, not to mention I still had to teach. Somehow I emerged from it all on the 17th still able to catch a flight home for the holidays. Home was blissful--far from the soul erosion that is my normal daily life. I finally got to see & play with Junior. What a sweet baby! He has gigantic blue eyes like searchlights and he loves to look around--in fact, he hates to be held in such a way that he can't look around--he won't let you do it--and he hates to go to sleep because it means he has to close his eyes. He is such a sweetheart and he wrapped his auntie around his little finger so fast.
One quick story about holiday shopping:
Before I went home, Thomas and I were out one day. He had taken me to a gallery to see some pottery that he liked a lot. After admiring the pottery, I was just looking around and I found the funniest little pewter pin. Just a small pewter square with a little jingle bell attached, and stamped on to it, it said "As Merry as I Get." Ha ha ha, I thought it was great, and as I picked it up to show Thomas, I noticed the $46 price tag. Gagging, I turned the price tag forward and said "Not that merry." We rolled our eyes, and the person working there, who had heard us from the back, came out laughing. "What does it say?" she asked, explaining that there was so much stuff in there that she couldn't keep up with everything. I showed it to her, and she just chuckled. She had thought she had heard me read "Not That Married." Which is probably a pin that someone would buy too.
One of the fantastic things that happened over the holiday was the discovery that Billy Collins has released another collection of poetry. Hooray! I grabbed one up for Amilynne, and, so as not to gift her a used book, I grabbed one up for myself as well. Splendid as usual.
But the best thing happened on the way home. Friday morning, Dad took me to the airport, and after I said goodbye to him at the security checkpoint, I went up to my gate and cried and cried. I was heartbroken to be leaving. They boarded us on the plane, and I sat there with tears running down my face, and then a Christmas miracle happened--they asked for 12 volunteers to bump--heavy snow in Minneapolis meant they had to take more fuel and fewer passengers. My hand shot up and I got off that plane as fast as I could. I got them to let me stay through Sunday (which I didn't do in the first place because it cost so much more than leaving on Friday), and I got a voucher for a round trip ticket to boot. Hooray! I get to go home again this summer! For free! I called home for dad to come get me and the next two days were great.
So that's a month in a few words. Too much shopping, and a bit of extra time at home. And now, if all goes well, I'll finish my master's degree in a year or so and I'll be that much freer. Commence the countdown.