Thursday, November 13, 2008

The picture's so real...

it fools the cat. She keeps trying to make friends with the people on the screen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My new library

Most people have a to-be-read pile; I have a to-be-read room. Up until this past weekend, it looked like this:

After much shifting of boxes and several hours of banging and pounding, it looked like this:

Finally, after several more hours of hefting and sorting, I have a library. Didn't go Dewey, but the books are alphabetized so I can find stuff. As I was sorting, I only found one book that I mistakenly bought twice. And it's by one of my favorite authors, so that's okay.

This is my new haven:

Lots of books and a cozy room to read them in--bliss.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Concession / Victory Speeches

I just watched John McCain's concession speech, and I have to say I like him better now than at any other time during the campaign. His speech was gracious and I appreciated the way he pledged his support for our new president and urged his supporters to do the same. Our country is in the midst of a difficult time right now and we do need to find ways to work together to solve some big problems. Kudos to McCain.

Though I was exhausted and ready to crawl into bed, I had to stay up to watch Obama's victory speech. For the first time in many years, I am proud of my country's choice of a leader. Barack may not be perfect, but I believe he is the best choice for our country at this moment in history. Obama's speech left me feeling inspired. Yes, we have lots of problems to solve. This is our time to make a difference. "Yes we can."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Analogy of the day

"And a woman voting for McCain and Palin is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders."

Ashley Judd

Friday, September 26, 2008

Takin' hits and takin' names

Well, sorta. Taking hits and not falling...much.

Right at the start of my first full season of roller derby, I am still not entirely sure whether I want to stay with the newbies or get out there with the big girls. So last night at practice, several of the returning skaters, dying to practice hitting, got out on the track. I was left on the edge of our makeshift track, watching the skilled skaters move onto the track and the newer skaters head to the outside. I looked longingly at the safety of the far end of the rink and then thought, "Am I a woman? Hell yes I am!" And braced myself for the carnage to come.

So today, though I have no bruises to show for all the pain and suffering, I see a visit to the chiropractor in my very near future. Thanks a bunch, Bombadee. Derby love to you too.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why you should never talk politics at a party...

Okay, so I am making a serious effort to stay informed on issues to be better prepared for the presidental elections this year. In addition to standard news sources, I have been reading blogs.

The problem I am having is that people are downright rude and political discussions turn into profanity-laden screaming matches. Now, I enjoy profanity as much as the next bad-ass rollergirl, but not when it is used to cover up the fact that a person has nothing intelligent to contribute to a discussion.

Obviously, tempers are bound to flare when people are discussing deeply held personal beliefs. And, truthfully, I enjoy reading the dissenting opinions--when those opinions are stated clearly and backed up with sound facts. I have learned much in my life from people with whom I have disagreed. Even if my opinion isn't guaranteed to fundamentally change after one of these discussions, listening to a well-reasoned argument always gets me thinking and examining my own beliefs. And that's a good thing.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that everyone is so entrenched in their own fundamental "rightness" that they can't even hear anyone but themselves. For example, an author I admire posted a video clip about Palin's campaign to eliminate wild wolves and bears from Alaska. There were a few intelligent comments on the blog, but most were abusive, misspelled, ALL CAPS, and/or just plain ignorant. And this was on both sides of the issue.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Not sure whether to laugh or scream...

It's the two little furry yahoos running rampant through my house right now.

We adopted two kittens from a wonderful no-kill cat shelter last year (Touched by a Paw). They are friendly and lots of fun, but they have one very strange quirk: they LOVE enclosed spaces of all kinds. They hang out in the laundry basket and are especially happy if there are a few dirty socks cushioning the bottom. But their favorite hangout is a toss-up between either my sock drawer or my underwear drawer. Now, it would be bad enough if they simply curled up and took a nap in there, but they burrow--and they are not small.

So, I come home from a looooong day at work to find that the two creatures had been partying like rockstars in my bedroom. My dresser drawers gaped wide open, the contents strewn from wall to wall. It looked like a lingerie bomb had gone off, tossing undies and derby socks everywhere. When I started reorganizing, it became apparent that my little darlings had attempted to squeeze their not-so-svelte bodies out the back of the sock drawer. I have no idea if they succeeded, though I doubt it. They had, however, managed to push several socks out that way. As I took out the drawer and dug around the back of my dresser, cursing a blue streak, Ally and Lucy sat a few feet away, watching.

And I swear, they were smiling.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Just say no to Palin!

As much as I would LOVE to see the United States progress to a point where a woman running the White House could be a reality, I am personally and politically insulted about the Republican party’s assumption that women will support a candidate who has nothing to offer except that she has a vagina.

Palin is against all the things that I personally believe make this country a place I want to live. She does not believe that women should have control over their own bodies or that we should educate our daughters so that they can make informed choices about their health and sexuality. She thinks global warning is a myth and believes that everyone should own a gun. As an English teacher with a love of controversial books, I find her views on book banning appalling.

As far as the “experience” McCain so glowingly talks about—organizing the soccer carpool and being the mayor of some Podunk town with a smaller population than my high school does NOT make her qualified to lead the nation.

I keep waiting for the McCain camp to call a press conference and say, "Just kidding, folks. Our real choice for VP is..."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Cancer sucks

My father-in-law died of lung cancer today. Even though we knew he couldn't last much longer, it still came as more of a shock than we thought it would. The saddest thing is how little either of us really knew him. On our last visit, which was last year, he had just found out that his cancer had come back (even after having a lung removed). Bill planned on trying to talk about some of their unresolved issues, but his dad's life was already so sad that Bill couldn't bring himself to bring them up. The few times that Bill actually picked up the phone, his dad didn't want to have any serious conversations. So, no closure.

Bill is a mess and he's all alone in a hotel room halfway across the country right now. I hope he gets some sleep tonight because he has to wrap up his job and start the long drive home tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will have to figure out what we'll do about the funeral and book our flight to California.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

School ready to go, part 1

School starts on Tuesday in our new school. Within a few short weeks, we've made amazing progress in setting up our learning environment and I am PROUD of our accomplishments so far. This was last year's classroom, literally a "one-room schoolhouse." It went from this:

to this (our cafeteria / gym / math room:
Our science lab went from this:
to this (the floor is still not done, so we decided to wait on moving in the big storage cabinets):

Friday, August 29, 2008

Check out the view from my office

My classroom is shaping up, though I still have tons to do before kids show up on Tuesday. My desk is on the yet-to-be-organized list, but my books are all at home on their shiny new shelves. Whenever I start to feel too stressed, I can sit back in my comfy office chair and peruse my mighty empire of books. Ahhh...

The actual classroom remains "under construction," but we're getting there. I'll go in tomorrow to (hopefully) finish setting up the physical space. Then I can spend the rest of the long weekend writing curriculum. FUN.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Proud to be a woman today

Smart, dynamic women; fantastic speeches.

Some of my favorite quotes from Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton:

I loved what Michelle said about "the belief that the world as it is just won't do-- that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be."

And that "America should be a place where you can make it if you try."

Michelle Obama delivered a positive, uplifting message which was just what I needed after a hard day. I would've actually settled for a foot massage, but, hey, a political speech is the next best thing, right?

During Hillary's speech, I was reminded why I like her so much. That woman is so smart and a such powerful presence on stage. Definitely a bit stiffer than Michelle, but formidable (and I do mean that in a bad-ass, derby love way). Can't really see Michelle playing roller derby, but I bet Hillary could knock some bitches down.

The "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits" line cracked me up, but my husband didn't get the joke.

When Hillary said, "My mother was born before women had the right to vote; My daughter was able to vote for her mother--for President," I almost burst into tears. While I'm still blaming the patriarchy for the fact that the US is STILL not ready for a female president, I have to admit that we've made some amazing progress.

And now, thanks to Hillary daring to go where no woman has gone before, there are "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Join the fight against Leukemia and Breast Cancer

Support your Stateline Roller Derby Divas as we join the fight against Leukemia and Breast Cancer.

The Divas will be walking in Light the Night to raise money for leukemia research on September 18. The walk starts at Davis Park in Rockford, IL. Registration begins at 5:30 pm and we start the walk at 7 pm. Walk with us and become an honorary Diva or make an online donation. You can make your donation at:

We will also be participating in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on October 25. This walk starts at Martin Park in Loves Park, IL. Registration begins at 8 am and we start the walk at 9 am. Walk with us, buy a t-shirt, or make an online donation (or all do all of the above and experience some sincere derby love). Visit my fundraising page to help save endangered boobies everywhere:

Friday, August 22, 2008

My New School

Construction is ALMOST DONE on our school expansion. Last year, our charter school was literally a "one-room schoolhouse." That original room, pictured here crammed with all our junk, will be used as an all-purpose room. Gym in the morning, lunchroom at noon, and whatever is needed in the afternoon.

At the far end of our all-purpose room is the kitchen where lunch will be served. It was a storage area last year.

We hope our new science lab area will be done by next week. Let's all cross our fingers...

Here is the long view of our very large classroom that will hold about 40 students in grades 9-12. We moved in the furniture all day and I was too exhausted to even think about taking more photos. Maybe tomorrow when I go in to set up my office...

It doesn't look nearly so big with 40 workstations set up.

Close-up of the same room. My office is the door on the left, Scott's is in the middle, and the short hallway on the right leads to an extra classroom where we can take small groups of kids for seminar time, presentations, or whatever. I managed to squeeze a ginormous desk and four bookcases into my office. Now I just need a spot for the file cabinets...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More Roller Derby Basics

Can't get enough of roller derby basics? Check out this article from HowStuffWorks for a short tutorial on bouting, rules, etc.

Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track by Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan

Roller derby is back, but very different from the banked track derby that many people remember from the 70's. The reimagination of derby as a flat track, skater-run sport started with a single league in Texas in 2003. Today, there are leagues of smart, strong women all over the country ready and willing to step into their skates and knock a bitch down.

Melicious traces the fascinating history of flat track roller derby, starting with the founding of the Texas Rollergirls in 2003, and continuing through the Dust Devil National Championship in 2006. Quotes, stories, and profiles from real rollergirls, in addition to fast-paced derby action, make this a book that will be almost impossible for skaters or fans of derby to put down.

Melicious describes her immediate enchantment with the sport after seeing a bout and her subsequent trip to the rink for her first practice. I could relate because I had the same reaction. Even though I hadn't been on skates since middle school (a loooong time ago), my local team has welcomed me and is patiently teaching me how to hold my own on eight wheels.

I highly recommend this book to skaters of all levels. Melicious combines a detailed history of this exciting sport with stories from skaters that explain exactly why so many women are willing to pay money for the privilege of working so hard and risking injury in order to participate. Humorous and informative.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Not sure you understand the basics of women's flat track roller derby? Check out this animated video posted on YouTube by the Gem City Rollergirls, featuring music by Uncle Leon and the Alibis:

Great stuff!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My favorite song from Les Miserables

Rereading Les Mis got me thinking about how much I enjoyed the musical when I saw it in London back in 1991. I haven't listened to the soundtrack recently, but even hearing a few bars of my favorite songs starts the waterworks...

Who Am I? (Jean Valjean) Another man is arrested in Valjean's place and he struggles with whether to admit his true identity or to let the other man take his place:

Come to Me (Fantine/Jean Valjean) Fantine's death scene:

Master of the House (the Thénardiers) A bit of comic relief with the thoroughly disgusting innkeeper and his wife:

The Confrontation (Jean Valjean/Javert) Valjean begging for time to save Fantine's daughter while Javert insists on following the letter of the law:

A Little Fall of Rain (Marius/Eponine) Eponine's death scene. I weep every time I hear this song:

Bring Him Home (Jean Valjean) Valjean rescues Marius and prays that he will live:

I wish they'd sell the musical on DVD. As much as I'd love to go back to London to see the show again, I don't see that happening any time soon. And the movie versions just don't do it for me....sigh...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Irritated by a Book

I really hate reading fiction and being smacked in the face with an author's agenda. Sheesh, that crap should be saved for non-fiction. At least you know the kind of drivel you'll be getting from Ann Coulter or Jerry Falwell.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

When you're on vacation in Las Vegas...

As a former resident of Las Vegas, I have a tip for those of you planning a visit. If you're planning to get drunk and stupid, you need to know that following traffic laws might save your life.

If you ignore traffic laws and cross against the lights, you stand a very good chance of being hit by a car. And no, holding up your 3' tall drink as you stumble in the path of fast-moving traffic won't make motorists feel your drunken vibe. In fact, it just might piss them off enough that they will run you down. And guess what else? If you are crossing where there is no crosswalk or crossing against the light, the motorist who runs you over won't even get a ticket.

My husband and I just spent a week in Vegas for RollerCon and I could not believe the way tourists just wandered out into traffic. Often, everyone would be waiting and then one dumbass would decide to go in spite of the don't walk signal. This would inspire a group of others to follow, despite the fact that two lanes of traffic were heading towards them.

Believe me, coming home in a body bag will totally be a vacation buzz kill, so just wait for the walk symbol.

Monday, August 4, 2008

More Las Vegas food highlights

Janie and I got new haircuts for the Black and Blue Ball on Friday and then stopped at Firefly, our favorite tapas restaurant, for lunch. We started with the crunchy bread and almond butter and a couple of mojitos. I like the sangria better, so I switched to that for the meal. We ordered a big bowl of salad and a big bowl of pasta. We tried to get Bill to come over and join us, but he was busy taking a nap. Smart man--it was a late night!

Our last stop of note was my all-time favorite restaurant in Vegas, The Roadrunner. Unfortunately, the blender was broken, so I was unable to order my usual, a mango margarita. I only pouted briefly. Ron and Janie joined us. Ron had the buffalo meatloaf, Janie had the Dr. Pepper tacos (very juicy and delicious), Bill tried the brisket (underwhelming, though the smashed potatoes rocked), and I stuck with an old favorite, the smoked turkey and avocado wrap.

We stayed at Paris and tried a couple of restaurants there when we couldn't face traffic. The food was excellent, but pricey. I highly recommend getting away from the Strip on your next trip and venturing out to where the locals eat. Just don't act like an annoying tourist!

Las Vegas food highlights

One of my favorite things about Las Vegas is the wide variety of restaurants. I'm not a big-city kind of girl, but I love eating out and appreciate good food. I planned to do a daily food blog live from Vegas, as there are so many wonderful eateries, but Internet access was sporadic and my free time surprisingly limited. It was a hectic week, but we did make time to get away from the Strip and revisit some of our favorite restaurants.

Our first stop (directly from the airport) was Memphis BBQ. No need to look at the menu--it was brisket sandwiches and apple blossom tea for both of us.

Next up was our favorite breakfast place, The Original Pancake House. Portions are GINORMOUS, so it is a good idea to share with a friend. Unfortunately, Bill likes meat and I prefer veggies, so he never wants to split anything. He had a basic egg and sausage breakfast and I had an incredible baked omelet with lotsa veggies. And fluffy buttermilk pancakes and fresh-squeezed OJ. Then we had to go take a nap and digest a while...

The other Divas in town for RollerCon joined us for dinner at Sammi’s Woodfire Pizza. I had, you guessed it, a grilled veggie pizza. Yummy!

More to follow...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Oh shit!

Not what you want to hear as your hair stylist takes the foil out of your hair after a highlighting job. Sigh...such is my life.

Ah, well, it's fixed and I have a bouncy new haircut to enjoy in Vegas. RollerCon is going to ROCK!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Books and music go together like...

Spent the day skimming through my music collection looking for songs that would be good motivation to skate to. Of course, being a pretty typical woman, I couldn't merely do that and move on.

Instead, I got sidetracked once I noticed a song by Kate Bush called Wuthering Heights that I haven't listened to for some time. The song shares a title with a book by Emily Bronte. I stopped to listen to it and to think about how much I love the book. Then I thought it might be fun to look for other music in my collection with literary references.

Meanwhile, my original playlist is half finished...

This is what I've come up with so far. Can anyone add to my list?

Anthem by Rush
Basket Case by Green Day
Clocks by Coldplay
Cloudbusting by Kate Bush
Daddy by Jewel
Don Quixote by Gordon Lightfoot
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica
Frankenstein by Edgar Winter
Ghost World by Aimee Mann
Goldrush Brides by 10,000 Maniacs
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Guinnevere Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Hey, Jack Kerouac by 10,000 Maniacs
Home at Last by Steely Dan
I Am the Walrus by The Beatles
Kid Charlemagne by Steely Dan
Leaving Las Vegas Sheryl Crow
Misty Mountain Hop by Led Zeppelin
Mock Turtle's Song by Steely Dan
Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin
Nutshell by Alice in Chains
Orestes by A Perfect Circle
Prince of Tides by Jimmy Buffett
Ramble On by Led Zeppelin
Rivendell by Rush
Romeo And Juliet by Dire Straits
Sensual World by Kate Bush
Sister Moon by Sting
Sleep To Dream by Fiona Apple
Tales of Brave Ulysses by Cream
Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan
The Barricades of Heaven by Jackson Browne
The Battle of Evermore by Led Zeppelin
The End by The Doors
The Ground Beneath Her Feet by U2
Tom Sawyer by Rush
Troy by Sinead O'connor
Virginia Woolf by The Indigo Girls
White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
Who Wrote Holden Caulfield? by Green Day
Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush

Friday, July 25, 2008

Learning to fly

I've been roller skating outside on the bike path all week, getting ready for RollerCon. Skating outside is much harder than it looks and I feel like I'm creeping along, sweating my ass off, but never really getting anywhere.

Disheartened at my lack of progress, I headed over to the Diva's home rink, The Skatin' Station, for a bit of Friday night fun. It wasn't too crowded, which was nice. I was the only adult on skates and several kids looked amused as I strapped on my pads and adjusted my newly stretched skates (aaaaah, bliss...).

Big difference from the bike path! That feeling of zipping around the rink like a cold beer on a hot day is addictive. I almost felt like a jammer as I weaved in and out around the slower skaters. Granted, nobody was trying to block me or knock me down, but for someone who could barely stand up on skates a few months ago, this was an incredibly empowering feeling.

Since the rink wasn't crowded, I eventually started to practice falls in the corners. After one extremely smooth right knee 180 (yeah, I was proud) I stopped to adjust my laces. A young girl skated over to me, very concerned, and our conversation went like this:

Girl: "Are you okay?"
Me: "I'm fine. Believe it or not, I fell on purpose. I'm just tightening my laces while I'm down here."
Girl: "Oh." She thought a moment and then added, "Why would you fall on purpose?"
Me: I was thinking, "Ah, Grasshopper, good question. And why would you put on a pair of roller skates and dare a whole posse of tough bitches to try to knock you down? And why would you get back up and do it all over again? Because it's the most fun you can have without breaking the law, that's why!" But what I said was, "Because the more you fall down, the more opportunities you have to get back up." Pearls of wisdom, I tell you, pearls of wisdom.
Girl: "Um, okay." And she skated away, but watched me for the rest of the night and applauded every time I did a fall.

I am such a rock star.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

Eighteen people respond to an offer to live in complete seclusion for three months in order to complete the novel they have always wanted to write. The writer's retreat turns out to be a sinister experiment that unlocks the participants' baser natures and reveals them in all their horrifying inhumanity.

Their host shuts off the power and heat, and leaves them with an empty pantry. Then he waits to see what will happen. No one actually writes anything, but each participant does share their personal stories--each one more disgusting and disturbing than the last. For example, one story involves a teenaged boy who decides to masturbate at the bottom of the pool. Soon, he is stuck to the filter and his intestines are being sucked into it. Another story is set in a police station where the officers have sex with the anatomically correct dolls which the social worker uses to help children talk about being abused. The phrase indescribably gross comes to mind, but Palahniuk does describe the scene, in vivid detail.

Instead of actually writing, each "writer" envisions the made-for-TV movie that will result when the story behind the writer's retreat is sold. Each person plays little tricks on the others to make their situation more horrifying (so it will play better on TV). The revelation of the real reason for the writer's reatreat made me gasp and then made me think. So, even though this book was over-the-top gross, both in sexual and gore-factor descriptions, I can't stop thinking about it. I recommend anything that inspires thought, but beware if you are squeamish or easily offended.