Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Years Resolutions

It is that time of year again. The time to look at your life and decide what the heck is wrong with you and overnight you are to change them all. So here are some of my goals to strive for in 2007.

1. Eat cookie dough - which not only satisfies my sweet tooth, but totally freaks out My Sweet.

2. Spend time outside wondering and wandering

3. Read one challenging and one fluff book a month.

4. Leave work on time each day - ready for tomorrow. You never know what is going to happen the next morning.

5. Find one thing daily to laugh about. I know, grammar aficionados are laughing at the fact that an English teacher ended a sentence with a preposition.

6. Give as much attention to My Sweet as I do my classes. His is the life that my interactions will affect the most.

What are you striving for?

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bah Humbug

Some people have too much time on their hands, and they are obviously not filling it with the Christmas Spirit, came up with the improbability of Santa's sleigh ride.

The Physics of Santa Claus

1. No known species of reindeer can fly.
2.There are 91.8 million homes where one presumes there's at least one good child.
3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, and assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
4. The sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa.
5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth's atmosphere. They will burst into flames almost instantaneously.

Here is what I have to say to this!

1. Any one who has done their research knows that Santa's reindeer are a known species of reindeer given their power by magic corn from the Winter Warlock (see the award winning documentary Santa Clause is Coming to Town).

2. You can not presume there is a good kid in each home.

3. Santa's sleigh is not man-made, it is made with elvis magic. (No, this is not a typo - check out the first Lord of the Rings movie if you do not believe me) Therefore it is conceivable that Santa can time-warp, multiply himself or freeze time. He loaned it to Hermione in to off season so she could get all of her class work done.

4. Again elvis magic, weren't you paying attention before?

5. The fir of the reindeer acts as insulation to protect everyone. And as I said before, elvis magic. Besides, I learned in science class that heat is energy and energy is what makes things go. So isn't it possible that the heat of re-entry gives the sleigh the fuel to go further and faster?

So there you go, all of you humbug spreaders, and to all the Virginias everywhere. Christmas is about magic. Man can not begin to comprehend it all. "But Jesus beheld them, 'With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible'." —Matthew 19:26

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It comes and goes

Many days I drive away from school, where I teach at risk teenagers, I sure that I am not getting through to the students and pretty sure that I am going to hand the reigns over to someone else next year. This week I had a couple of days that allowed me to doubt my ineffectiveness.

On Wednesday at the end of school, we had a meeting with Student B and his mom. Perfect Teacher was concerned because B's behavior had deteriorated over all since last year. I wanted to go because I wanted his mother to know that while he was a major pain in the behind, since we had changed his classes, he had greatly improved. Even earlier that day B came into class surly and definitely not in the mood to work. He sat quietly in to back and I gave him the day's handout and told him that as long as he was not disruptive I would let him be. He was fine with that, where as a few months ago he would have blown up and told me in no uncertain terms to get out of his face.

At the meeting, even before I had the change to tell his mother the positive changes, B said "Ms. H is my hommie. She just lets me be when I am up set." Unsolicited he called me his hommie! That has NEVER happened before with any student. The rest of the meeting was heart breaking. B's mother cried as she confessed that B has been acting disrespectfully at home and that B's parents do not know what to do with him. At one point B struggled to keep his composure stating, "You make me out to be America's Most Wanted!" We ended the meeting with B agreeing to meet once a week with the school counselor. I have a lot of hope for this kid. First of all he has parents who, though frustrated, care enough to come to school and talk, really talk. There are many parents we have begged to come meet with us, and we have never seen them. Secondly B's near tears shows that his heart hasn't hardened yet. So there is hope for B.

There was another thing that made Wednesday a good day. During the last period of the day Student J asked me a question. "Hey Ms H., how many kids did you have to send out today?" I actually had to take a moment and think about it for a minute before I told J that for the first time that year I did not have to send anyone out of class or give any detentions! Unfortunately Thursday more than made up for it, I reveled in the fact that Wednesday was a good day. Friday was pretty good, too. It was the end of the week, and nearing the end of the grading period, so I was creatively dry and had the kids work on vocabulary puzzles. But they had fun and were using the words, so who is anyone to judge.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Putting on the Ritz

Did you know that the father of Everyone Loves Raymond had John Lennon for a best man? Or that as a young man he was a monk? This was a man who turned down the lead role in The French Connection because he was being type cast as the tough guy, and he was impressed by Gene Hackman's performance.
This weekend I will have to watch Young Frankenstein and While You Were Sleeping.
Rest in Peace Mr. Boyle.

Friday, December 08, 2006


What do you think of when you see MASH? The award-winning movie staring Donald Sutherland as a wacky Korean War doctor? The Emmy winning TV show with darling Alan Alda? Or do you remember getting together with your girlfriend in the playground to foretell who you will marry and how you will live? Would you live in a Mansion, an Apartment, a Shack or a House? My friend Dot-Kat found a way to play MASH on line.

I tried this on line game, but for some reason it wouldn’t narrow down my choices to just one. This so reflects my personality! Maybe it means I still have some major live changes awaiting me. I will at one point be living in a shack and at another point I will have a house. I hope the shack is first! However, I will be living in Hawaii and Italy. So to be honest a shack in either of those places is none to shabby. Having a shack on the beach in Hawaii could fit the whole Moondoggie surfer/beach bum scene.

And what will I be doing with my life? Well thank you for asking. I will not be trudging about in some cubicle cutting out Dilbert comics and replacing the characters names with those of my coworkers. No, I will be working for World Vision, a columnist and a novelist. Sitting in front of my shack watching the waves and typing out witty observations of life sounds like a dream come true for me right now.

I will be tootling around the islands or the streets of Naples in one of the following: an Aston Martin, Herbie the Love Bug(the 1969 version), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or the truck from the Beverly Hillbillies. I just hope the silver Aston Martin is in Italy and the truck is the dust colored one.

When they asked about husbands, I did not put My Sweet. As much as I love him, what is the fun in that? For this I am going to throw out a possible time line. First I will marry Jack Bower, who for the sake of national security will have to make the gut wrenchingly difficult decision to fake his death and go into hiding. Of course he will love me so much that he will not let me in on this secret for my own safety. Them I will hook up with Sawyer, who will be my bad boy with a hidden heart of gold, but he will have commitment issues. Finally Hugh Jackman will sweep me and my 3-10 children (you can't work for World Vision and not adopt a few of them) off our feet and we will live happily ever after.

Play the game yourself and let me know what the future holds for you.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fall on Your Knees

Tis the season to write about the rush of the season and the true meaning of Christmas. Well, I chose the title Jump on the Bandwagon for a reason. So here it goes.

Halloween is all about the decorations, costumes and candy. St. Patrick's day is about green beer. Thanksgiving is dinner, and Valentines Day is about chocolate hearts. In American pop culture says that Christmas is about consumerism and showing others up.

I get caught up in things, including stressing about work until the break. But this year I want to take time to remember what this holiday is about. On one level it is about remembering the joy of family and friends - how there are many more delights in people than we usually see, and how our lives would be more flat and gray without them.

On a deeper level it is a time to remember how grey our lives would be without God wanting a relationship with us. This is a time to contemplate and celebrate. One of my favorite carols is “Oh Holy Night”, and I always pause when I hear the lines:
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.

I love the line about the soul felt its worth. I hope this doesn't sound preachy, but I have found truth in the fact that the deeper my relationship with Christ is, the more richness I find in myself and in the world around me.

Celebrating does include decorating the house, giving gifts and watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But when these things become the focus, then I have lost the Spirit of Christmas. So I have brought in our Charlie Brown Christmas tree (it is a living tree. I don't begrudge those who cut down a tree, but I like keeping the same one for several years and eventually planting them) and will eventually trim it. However it isn't to be a stress - my soul is worth a lot more than that.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Reader Quiz

I got this quiz from Plain and Simple.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

I find its pretty much true for my attitude.

Take the quiz yourself and let me know what kind of reader you are.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Wachja Gonna Do?

Well, this entire week I have been struck down with a bronchial infection, so I will continue to write about the only fun night I have had during the week. Therefor it is back to the slumber party. Whoo Hoo!

After the fun and games at the bowling alley, we stopped by the store for some much needed supplies - toilet paper, Oreo cookies and plastic forks. I know what you are thinking - midnight picnic. Wrong-a-rino. Instead we went and ambushed to front yard of the birthday girl's friend. We not only toilet papered the tree, car and front porch, but we also Oreo-ed and forked the place. Now I have done the Oreo thing before. That is where you take off one side of cookie sandwich and press the creamy part against a wall. You can then spell out something or create a lovely picture. Just be nice and don't Oreo someone's car window - the grease from the filling is annoyingly hard to get off. The other thing we did to that poor landscape was to fork it. What you do is take a box full of disposable forks and stick them prong side down all over the yard - making a lovely design if you wish. Hopefully this does a bit of aerating for the lawn. Now do not forget, dear reader, that this happened after 11:00 PM, in the dark of night while the owners were in their living room watching TV. We could have been caught at any minute! The tension was intense!

Mission accomplished, we headed home for drinks! Dolores (or Deidre or Delaney or Dingus) was tended bar and joyfully shouted, "My first blended drink!" To this she quickly added that it was her first time making one, not actually drinking them. Well, for her first one, they were delicious. And we spent the rest of the party enjoying Dolores’s work, talking about life, looking at You Tube and watching two hours of Tony Bandares. Man, did it get hot when Antonio danced the tango. There is a bit more I may have to add to confession. After all that we were all ready for the slumber part of the party.

Now doodah! knows who to put the video on the actual blog, and someday I may figure it out, too. But remember I am the one who screwed up the bowling technology. So instead I will send you to the You Tube cite. One of my favorites from You Tube is the Steven Colbert Light Saber Green Screen Challenge. He shot a clip of him in a light saber duel against a green screen and challenged viewers to create their own clips. Some were pretty funny, so check them out on the side bar. My Sweet's favorite was the one sent in by viewer George L.

Oh, I learned from My Sweet, who makes me swear that he is not a geek, informed my that there is a trick for the shooting video games. Instead of pointing away from screen to reload, all you have to do is put a finger over the sensor, that way you don't have to re-aim. No Sweetie, you are NOT a geek.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Proud to be an American

Sometimes my country makes me so proud that I just need to puff my chest out like a bald eagle. What have we done do make me bust my buttons, check out below.

I know most of you do not remember, but a few years ago there was a small subdued crime and trial about this obscure athlete, think popular breakfast drink, who was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her gentleman friend.

Well, this media shy sportsman has dedicated his life to searching high and low for the real killer. If you study his search pattern, he must suspect the true killer is a caddie. Well, for the first time ever Mr. Juice has done something very tacky. Although he swears that he is not the murderer, he was going on Fox TV to say IF he had done it, this is how he would have killed them. So his children were going to be exposed to how hypothetically their daddy could have killed their mommy. How horrible! How truly horrible. And it seems that I am not the only one who feels this way, hence the being all proud thing. There was such a backlash that Fox, which has aired shows that pitted elephants and dwarves and Temptations Island, has canceled the show. Not only that, but they have canceled the book as well. This second bit is going to cause them to lose a lot of money since the books have already been printed. But people uproared and they were heard.

So if you will excuse me now, I need to put on some Lee Greenwood while I sew a flag onto something

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Girls will be Girls

On Friday I went - would you believe it - to an old fashioned slumber party to celebrate my friend Fellow Fanilow's 36th birthday. It was me, Fanilow, doodah and three other women who I am getting to enjoy more and more.

It all began innocently enough. We all donned our pj's and prepared to go out for Chinese fast food. It's a good thing I had just gotten a new pair of flannels or I'd have been going around town in my dad's old gray super-sized tee shirt and some scrubs pants that a) totally do not match and b) are way too cold for a November evening. Doodah in the past has dressed Fanilow and she was the only one in costume. This year we were being nice and supportive and all going around in our jammies.

After dinner, where the place was packed with pre-weekend folks including someone I work with, we high-tailed it over to the local bowling alley. Again it was packed; anyone who was not at a loud and messy frat party was there at the bowling ally. While waiting for a lane to open, we were being impressed by this young fella doing Dance Dance Revolution. Not only was he getting a perfect score, but he was playing on two-yes count them two - game pads! After exercising our suppressed desire to drive super fast and shoot zombie terrorists, the young man was still at it and didn't even break a sweat. His mother and banker must be proud. The other person worth watching was longhaired air hockey playing dad who bowling was so stylish that he glided across the floor on one knee, ready to pop the question to the bowling pins.

It has been a while since I've actually done any bowling, and a majority of it was in the late 70's when I was a little tyke. The scorecard was done on some kind of overhead projector and you had to write and calculate everything by yourself. You had to remember if a spare was ten plus the next spin or was it the next two? Now everything is computerized which causes two problems. The first is that you can't cheat - no slipping a one in front of your score or marking a strike symbol when it should have been a spare. The second problem is that low techies like me can screw it up in a way that doesn't help you win. While the others were putting on their shoes, I figured I would get a jump on things and input our names. I do not know what I did, but I could only get one name up there. I had to make three trips to the counter where the girl tried unsuccessfully to hide her bewilderment at my inability to accomplish such simple tasks. Eventually she simply put in Player A, B, C, D and E. So we decided to cheer each other on with made up names, so in one round we were whooping it up for Aretha, Beulah, Constance, Dolores and Eunice. The next round was for Agatha, Bertha Jo, Consuelo, Dusty Sue and Elinore.

Well this post is pretty long, so I will put in a To Be Continued...

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Hi folks. The past week I have just not had the energy to do much more than add a couple of short comments on people's posts. Sorry. But I am reading everyone and for the most part enjoying them greatly. Please stay tuned for something more interesting to come.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Attempting a new post

Well, I have tried several times to post a blog, but each time I tried to publish Blogger shot up a sign that said, "Hey we are screwing up something and have now lost the best post you have ever written." So I am just going to share a few thoughts and sightings. Oh and a spoiler alert for Lost fans who haven't seen last week's episodes or if you don't watch the show - don't read #3.

1) Last week we had our first real rain. On my way home I saw a 50-something businessman riding his bicycle home. Now in my town, which has more bikes than people, it is not unusual to see a person in business casual cycling to work. What was strange is that he had the freshman stripe. College freshmen quickly learn that they need to have some kind of fender or when they ride in the rain dirty water shoots up their backside. And this guy had it bad. Every time he was at a stoplight he would scratch it. Even though it shouldn't, it made me chuckle.

2) What do you do when your doctor calls in sick? I took a very precious sick day, plus stayed way late prepping for my sub. I have nothing more to say about this; it was just a frustration for the week.

3) Here is the Lost bit, so you may want to stop reading. Really, unless you are an up to date fan, stop reading. I can not believe they killed off Mr. Echo! and in such a lame way! Last season he became my favorite character - not including Sawyer whom I like strictly for his bad boy sex appeal. Last year there was a superb episode called Psalm 23 where Echo faces down not only the monster, but also his own struggle with good and evil. But in this one he let evil win, and I am not necessarily talking about the island monster. He was proud, arrogant, unrepentant and he died. Oh, and I do not trust the doctor chick. She is part of the mind game.
The moral of the story is that if the actor who plays you gets in trouble with the law, you will get killed!

4) My husband's friend just got voted off the island. I am actually surprised she made it this far. She is a person who wears her heart on her sleeve, and that does not bode well in this show of alliances and selfishness. So now we no longer need to watch it, that is until the last episode to see if the cute Asian guy wins.

Well, that's all folks.

How have you all been this week?

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Friday, October 27, 2006


You know the clichés: "Life is a rat race", "He who hesitates is lost", "Run with the wolves". But you also have "Running on empty" or "If you are on the go all the time, life sucks". Ok, I made that last one up, but it is true.

Last weekend I spent the day with Refreshing Sunshine doing nothing but sitting outside and letting our minds meander wherever they roamed.

When I lived in Romania, we had time to meander, mentally as well as physically. As we walked to work, our brains could take in the sights, run through the plan of the day (not plans), or play the "what if" game. As we waited for the bus that may or may not come, we had the time to diddle with possibilities of the other passengers, what was the relationship between the man in the wool sweater and woman in the hat? Maybe they are spouses who have been happily married for 15 years - childhood sweethearts. Maybe they are in an illicit affair. Maybe former KGB agents now working as free agent mercenaries. We had the free time and free mental space to do this.

The US prides itself on time saving devices, but more often than not this produces an atmosphere of expecting to do more with the time saved. So our free time is not free.

We need time to meander, something we used to call play. Kids should go out and let their imagination wander - making up games with bizarre rules. In the third grade my friends and I would play a game called Gorilla. It had something to do with an obstacle course in the living room and the kid who was "it" jumping off the couch, growling and trying to tap the others' heads. Each day the rules were not quite remembered, so we made new ones up.

Adults need to play. Sometimes with actual balls and rules, ink and paper, blogs and comments. Sometimes we need to just let our brains meander and wonder what kind of bird is singing right now. Was Classic Coke really better than New Coke? Has my favorite show jumped the shark, and if so do I want to stop watching? How cool would it be to cross a lemon tree with a lavender bush?

The ancient Greeks actually had a winding river called Meander. Meandering can lead us to amazing adventures. How many road trip movies actually have the characters on a tight schedule getting from point A to point B? Rivers are teaming with life, sustenance and refreshment - just as mental meandering can revitalize our soul.

And the river Meander is deep, but not very wide. In our meandering we do not need to solve all of our life's quandaries. Ponder and play with one thing - one idea. It may lead you off track on another topic. If it does, more power to ya!

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

50 things meme

It is my 50th blog, which by blog law I am requires me to do a 50 things meme. (If you have 50 posts but haven't done this, consider yourself tagged and get to it toot sweet!)

I did not feel like doing all 50 questions, so here are some.

Fifty Things Meme

1. My roommate and I once: hitch hiked with gypsies after exchanging money on the Romanian black market.

2. Never in my life have I: danced naked in a meadow at twilight. I think mosquito bites in delicate places discourages that idea.

3. The one person who can drive me nuts, but then can always manage to make me smile is: any one of my students - they drive me nuts, but can turn on the charm when they want to.

4. High school was: A blast - I knew where I was going, how the world was supposed to run, and if there was something I didn't know I knew where to get the answer.

5. When I'm nervous: I ramble and jump to random topics, and munch on very sweet or starchy things.

6. The last time I cried was: during the last sappy movie, commercial or TV show. My husband always looks at me during a sentimental part of a movie to see if I am tearing up.

7. If I were to get married right now, my bridesmaids would be: The same. But the flower girl would be my new niece (if it is not too un-cool for a teenager to do).

8. Would you rather run naked through a crowded place or have someone e-mail your deepest secret to all your friends? Any chance for an exhibition!

9. My hair: Is very fine and flat. I never know what to do with it. But I like being blond. Thanks Mom.

10. When I was 5: I had my first proposal of marriage. Mark also proposed to my best friend, but insisted he liked me best.

12. When I turn my head left: My neck cracks at least three times

14. When I look down I see: boobs striving to reach my bellybutton.

15. The craziest recent event: is found somewhere in my blog. Go look and comment.

16. If I were a character on "Friends": I'd love to be Phoebe, but probably more like Ross with a bit of Chandler.

19. I have a hard time understanding: why our government is not stricter on drunk drivers (in Romania automatic 1 year suspension of your license on your first offence, plus a fine that was equivalent to three months of a teacher's salary.) We are also too soft on sex offenders (I vote for castration of the convicted!)

23. Take my advice: you will never be as young and as thin as you are now. So enjoy yourself! (I have read that some bloggers have lost over 80 pounds - congratulations on beating the odds!)

24. My ideal breakfast is: During the week some cottage cheese with dried cranberries or yogurt with granola. On the weekend omelets and country potatoes or waffles with raspberry syrup.

25. If you visit my town: I will take you to the dollar store that snuck in while the "slow growth" city council is protesting a Target coming to town.

29. The world could do without: thoughtless people.

30. I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: clean port-a-potties.

31. The most recent thing I've bought myself: are some new under things. Nothing can make you feel more sexy and confident than good, new underclothing!

32. The most recent thing someone else bought for me is: blank transparencies for my overhead projector at work. Talk about nothing that can make you feel sexy!

33. My favorite red head is: Ron Weisley from Harry Potter, Anne Shirley form Anne of Green Gables, or Lucile Ball who is America's favorite redhead.

34. My favorite brunette is: Hugh Jackman. I could watch him for two hours in any kind of movie.

37. The animals I would like to see flying besides birds: other than pigs and monkeys, I think a flying whale would be graceful. A flying giraffe would be funny with its long limbs everywhere.

40. Last night I: fell asleep at 8:30 - right in the middle of Gilmore Girls!

42: The CDs on my player right now are: The Blues Brothers the Definitive Collection, Sting's 10 Sumner's Tails, Bruce Springsteen's We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, and Switchfoot's Nothing is Sound.

44. If I ever go back to school I'll: take classes on how to do minor repairs on my car. I hate going to a mechanic having no idea about what is going on; fulfilling the "such a girl" stereotype.

45. How many days until my birthday? Just over 4 months. I will turn 40! My mother swears she adopted me when I was 21 because she is too young to have a daughter this age.

46. One dead celebrity I wish I'd met is: Well heck I'd love to meet any celebrity, but I would have loved to meet Mother Theresa and just sit at her feet and learn or CS Lewis.

48. I've been told I look like: Drew Barrymore

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Smells of Today

What a day today. It started out with me loosing my cool during second period because for the second day in a row people let off stink bombs! Second day in a row! This time we did not go outside to work. I made them stay inside and work - if you could call what we actually accomplished that day work. It is a small school (48 kids total) so I know the students will find out who did it. In fact I am sure that the culprit is sitting at the lake bragging about how he - trust me, it was a he - was able to make me blow my top. I just hope that the students stuck in the stink will use peer pressure to get them to knock it off!

But the day ended with our first graduation of the year. Five young men have completed all their requirements to earn a high school diploma or completion certificate (this is for kids who meet all requirements except for passing the high school exit exam). Each student has a staff member give a speech about him. One student made sure that in his speech he said that he was sorry for giving a particular teacher a hard time. That particular teacher was - you guessed it - me. A dozen students looked over at me gave me a smile and head nod.

I know this speech should make everything all right. It should. Actually it did help because I could tell that he was sincere. But it doesn't quite. I had to put up a lot of crap from him, and from others who decided to follow his example. Why couldn't he have figured this out weeks or months before he left?

Well, we will see how things air out on Monday.

Is it bad that I know how many days of classes there are until Winter break?

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Monday, October 16, 2006

My Weekend

I am not sure if you are interested in my weekend exploits, but I am going to tell you anyway. And just like TV, if you are not interested, you are certainly free to turn off the machine. But I do hope you enjoy.

Even though there were only four days of school, it felt long. So I was so totally ready when Refreshing Sunshine and Fellow Fanilow restarted their monthly game night. I love the chance to chat with people I see once a month and talk about everything from missions outreach issues to how much of our wall space is given to bookshelves. The best thing is laughing at someone's phony poker face or playing Apples to Apples and winning because you can describe houseguests as chewy roadkill. I always leave the party with sore stomach muscles.

The next day My Sweet and I drove 90 miles up to my mothers, because she made it lovingly clear that we need to see each other face to face every couple of months. My sister and her family came up as well. One of her stepson did a research project on My Sweet and we wanted to see how it came out. Instead of bringing it, he brought some of his ideas for a Japanese style comic book. My Sweet gave him some advice to make it more authentically Japanese.

I am trying to think of something profound to tie this up, but on the way up to Mom's I came down with a bad cold. Therefore my profound-ability is out of whack. If you can think of something, please leave me a comment to give this post a good ending.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Funny things said to me today

I am trying to remember that just because one class gave me some gray hairs, or another student threw a banana across the room and broke a window, it was not a totally bad day. In fact I think some of the strangest things happened or were said. Some are strange ha ha, some are just odd.

Student E, whose early use of drugs has put a serious hamper on his brain ability, joined a new class, and I knew it would be hard to catch him up with the novel we'd been reading all month. Another student gave a quick summary of what we've read so far, and I had them continue reading and answer the comprehension questions. E started his usual vacillating between talking to his friends about the party he went to last night and screaming over and over that he doesn't get what to do. So of course I snapped, "If you'd been paying attention then you'd know what has happened so far." He then rattled off the entire summary word for word. Egg on my face.

Student R, who was a major pain in the you-know-where last year, said something so amazingly mature. "I wish I had an older brother to set me straight. In elementary school I screwed around but figured I'd get my act together in middle school. I didn't and figured I could change at the high school. And then I screwed around in high school and ended up here. I am keeping my baby bro on the right path. He's getting straight A's and shit." My little man is showing signs of growing up.

Then today right out of the blue in the middle of grammar, student J asked, "Do raccoons run in packs?" After my confused admission that I have no idea, he continued, "I hooked one with a fishing pole and sardines when I was fishing at my friend's place."

You just never know what you will find out in school.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ballet in the Sky

This is ballet that even manly men would enjoy.

This past weekend My Sweet traveled down to San Francisco to watch the high light of Fleet Week - the Blue Angles. Now I am not one of those people who hyperventilate at the idea of spotting an A-10 over head. Heck I probably couldn't differentiate between that and an AK-47. But My Sweet does, so we went.

The Blue Angels were Amazing! It really was ballet in the sky! When they were in their famous diamond formation, they were as close as 18 inches apart! And they flew with such precision and grace. It took my breath away.

What takes your breath away?
Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Fresh New Day

The red is fading a bit.
A weekend of old friends and videos helped. Getting together with college friends I haven't seen in years was refreshing. Although I did something I thought I never would. Amos asked about my trip to Japan, saying I probably had a lot of stories. And I did. But instead of launching into my escapades with high tech toilets, I told them to check out my blog's post. Can you believe it? I passed on real life entertainment.

Today I had a heart to heart with one of my students. The vice principal made him do it because of some, shall we say unflattering, pictures he drew of me. The conversation started out they way any other forced apology goes, "Sorry I did it, I know it wasn't nice, blah blah blah." After getting over the wave of emotion, I started to talk to him about his real problem about not do anything to earn his credits so he can graduate some time this year. His eyes glazed over with the heard-that-speech-before-so-I'll-tune-out-till-she-stops-talking look. I grasped at something to say before I lost him, and I mentioned that he was too good to be "stuck" here at school. I think that saying he was worthwhile struck a chord somewhere because his eyes misted up and he suddenly got interested what was going on out the window. And later that day he worked more than he has in an entire month. We'll see how tomorrow.

If you are interested, Lucky Number Sleven is a wonderfully quirky black action comedy, and the Inside Man is not to bad when want an intriguing bank robbery movie.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Garden Metaphor

I am going to give this a shot. In my mind I know exactly what I mean, but sometimes I don’t really get it out clearly enough. Majoring in English, I learned to find allegories in everything - especially when it comes to gardening. I mean I knew the metaphors, but I never KNEW them until My Sweet got me actually gardening a few years ago. So here are a few things I have noticed.

1. The things that seem in the way can sometimes give us the shelter we need. We bought a huckleberry bush a few years ago - mostly because I thought it would be cool to have something that lends its name to a Finn and a Hound. However, over the past two years it has taken up an enormous percentage of our tiny garden plot. I mournfully thought we would have to uproot them in order to plant to grow some tomatoes and cucumbers - which have often failed in scorching California summers. We haven’t gotten rid of it and this year the sensitive, vine plants have interwoven with the Huckleberry branches, and the shade is actually encouraging growth.

2. Weeds are insidious, and if you do not pull them out quickly they will take root and spread. The weeds in our life really do need to be taken care of. However, as I mistakenly prematurely harvested some weedy looking green onions, not everything is bad for your - no demons found under each rock.

3. They say that if you like something, then it must be either bad for you or illegal. But some things that are good for you can be beautiful. Our eggplants and squash have gorgeous blossoms. And then they produce vitamin filled veggies.

4. Earlier I talked about my gardening philosophy and how it connects to how I deal with students. For those of you who are wondering, my Student stopped by a week or so ago and is doing well. Still clean and sober and getting ready to head to community college in the spring.

P.S. If I had my way I would reclassify a few things. Brussels sprouts would get a healthy dose of DDT, and dandelions would be cultivated for the ones that produce the biggest puffballs.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Red Day

Today is red. Not the red of passion of garden ripe tomatoes, unless it is a tomato thrown passionately against a crumbling school wall. It is the red of rage, against students who take and take and when you can not give anymore they cuss you out for not helping. It is the red of a desert, from an administration that demands more on fewer resources. It is the red of eyes from a person who wakes up weary. I am weary today.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Do I Have a Life?

Wonderful, supportive teacher that I am, I am spending my precious Saturday morning not listening to my favorite NPR shows and eating waffles, but I am watching a few of my boys play soccer. They will either think I am interested in them as people, or that I have no life.

It is totally God's fault that I am here. Now my students didn't know, as of Friday morning at school, when the game would start. My Sweet is not feeling well, so he is grouch and I had to get out of the house for a while. I ran a few errands, and yes garage saling is a necessary errand - I just got a nearly new dehydrator for $3. I pull to the field just as the boys were warming up. Total God's timing, but someone had better score some points.

Sitting on the nearly empty sideline is the aunt of a former student. He had been with us for only a couple of months, transferred to adult school and is now planning to transfer to Berkley. Sometimes we are an elevator lifting students a great chunk to their goal, and sometimes we are a toehold to the next step.

Why do we Americans love football when the rest of the world is passionate about soccer? Why do we play soccer only until we are old enough to graduate to football? I do not know, and to be honest I don’t really care why. There is a limit to how much energy a country can pour into sports, and we have chosen our four: football, basketball, baseball and reality TV competitions.

There are a few things I like about soccer, like it being a high-energy game. But what I like best is that a 90-minute game is just that - 90 minutes. No 15 minute quarters that last three fourth of an hour!

What I laugh about soccer is the injury drama. You see them trip over a blade of grass and they go down as if a pit-bull had taken out their Achilles tendon. American football players have been know to hack off a broken toe in order to keep playing. No whining on their part!

Well, I see that one of my students has scored a goal thanks to the set up of another student. I hope I scored as well.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Things I am told to say

There are a few things that people have told me recently that they told me to put on my blog. And of course I always do what I am told, so here it goes.


TV novellas are just starting to hit the US airwaves, but they have been in place for quite a while in Mexico, and of course Japan. My Sweet has just had me watch the entire 15 hours, sorry 12 episodes, of a series called "Densha Otoko" (Train Man). It is about a totally sweet anime geek who musters up the courage not only to stop a beautiful woman from being mauled by an obnoxious drunk, but he also stuttered out a request for a date. The sweet thing is that Densha has an on line community where he pours out the honesty in his heart, and they help him step out of his geek-dom in order to get the girl, and then to embrace the action figure-collecting, voice-actor worshiping, comicon-season-ticket-holding geek that he is. And there are a surprising number of romantic lines where I slap my husband's knee and ask him why he doesn't say things like that.

But tell me this, why is it always the geek guy who gets the gorgeous girl? (How do you like this for a piece of alliteration?) Why not the geek girl going for the hunk? Or a couple enjoying their geek-appeal together? The answer has to be more than the male-dominated industry. I mean at least a third of the audience, who the sponsors need to appease, is female geek.


The other day I was meeting with a wonderful group of spiritually passionate women. (And I am not just saying this because I hope they are going to read and comment on this!) In the course of dinner and discussion I made a few metaphorical references. Refreshing Sunshine said that I had better put them in my blog. So here they are:

Comparison 1)Sheep are creatures that are not phased when one of their own is killed - much like us sometimes. But as soon as I said it, I knew it was cutting but not entirely true. The sheer numbers of massacres like in Darfur overwhelms us, but we also feel powerless to help. But we will encourage the hunting down a murderer and demand justice. And if the criminal is super rich and can buy off the system, we make it so uncomfortable that they leave the country.

Comparison 2)Figs are in their growing season right now. They are sweet and succulent, but the season is short. Once a fig tree was in trouble for falsely implying that it was in season, like it had it all together and could bring sustenance and sweetness. When we pretend that we have no trouble and all the answers, when we give out junk or fluff, that is when we are to be shamed.

Now here is a challenge for you. Think of Forrest Gump: Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you have until you take a big old bit out of it.

Take a word from group A and one from group B.

Group A
(your choice)

Group B
a mud puddle
a pair of shoes
(your choice)

Plug your choices in here and finish the sentence. Be sure to put your metaphor as a comment.

(Word A) is like (Word B) because ...

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Fun and Games

I refrained from doing this at work. Pesky grading and lesson plans.

But if you need a break, enjoy. I now truly know that I will not be slaying a wild boar and living to tell about it. On another post I will try to talk about Lost as a TV show that expresses redemption and repentance better than many sermons I have heard.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Famous in Our Own Lunchtimes

Wow, I have been tagged, by two people. Doodah! and Fruitful Words. I am not totally sure what that means, except that I get to write about things that talk about me. And maybe about you.


1. What do you like most about where you live?

I love the variety found in Northern California. I live an hour and a half from the beach, an hour and a half from the snow and the same distance from several redneck rodeos and hippy wineries. My husband went to a museum today, and I happened to notice that there were more than a dozen interracial couples - including us. Many places in the US and the world would give us a lot of sideways glances.

We can get authentic Italian, Mexican family restaurants. And not only do we have Japanese, Thai and Chinese, but we can also tell the cuisines apart. There are also Birkenstock wearing Republicans as well as leftwing "suits".

Also, recycling is so easy that I do not have to really work at it.

2. Is there anything strange about where you live?

My town is known for its weirdness. My dear friend Doodah! described it perfectly in this post. So I will send you there to read about our quirky town.

You can also check out our town's unique holiday.

3. What's one of your all-time favorite music albums, and why?

Sorry, can't limit to just one. It all depends on the chapter of my life.

As a little kid my first "album" - it was an eight track - was one of Sonny and Cher. My friend and I would be in the bedroom belting out songs that really were kind of too serious "or depressing for ten year olds to be singing. But heck, we didn't know. The songs "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" or "Black Lady" were passionate, which lent themselves to being belted out. We didn't care a if "My baby shot me down" or that” I sneaked back and caught her with my man/Laughing and kissing till they saw the gun in my hand." Years later I had just moved to Romania and was missing my friends and totally testing how understanding my housemate would be by blaring Cher and Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits. These were two different tapes, but wouldn't that be a trip to watch live in concert?

In college I discovered the 80's revamp of hippiness, and along with that the beauty and convictions of Joan Baez and Peter Paul and Mary. More than that my friend Monica turned me on to a fantastic Christian singer of that era Larry Norman. He combined my desire for social justice with wanting things to be centered on God. He was also the first real Christian rock and roll artist. So I practically wore out "Only Visiting This Planet" as I meditated on what God wanted to do through me to make the world more the way He has originally intended.

In addition to these, U2's Joshua Tree, Born in The USA and anything by Barry Manilow. Nuff said.

4. Did you have a passion for something as a kid that you still have now? (If not - what is one of your passions now?

Like many bloggers, I love reading. As a child I could hardly wait until it rained, I would bundle myself up and go out under the roof of our porch with a mug of hot lemonade (I was not all that into hot chocolate) any my most recent library book. Even when we went camping, I would bring something to read in the great out doors. Yes, I hiked and looked at the gorgeous surroundings, but I also spent time breathing fresh pine scented air and finding out what happened to "My Friend Flicka" and "The Black Stallion".

The other thing I loved was daydreaming, especially if we were on our three-day drive to Grandma and Grandpa’s. Now I am not talking about imagining what I would do if I got the day off of school. I created entire plot lines with me as the main character, well not really me but a character of me, if that makes any sense. Maybe it was a sign of my young age or of my limited imagination, but most of my plots were using settings and characters from my favorite TV show or movie. I created shows for M*A*S*H or Charlie's Angles that included a 12 year old me.

5. What do you like most about having a blog?

The exhibitionist part of me enjoys writing about my life and thoughts knowing that some people will read and comment on what I say. There is also part of me that enjoys having a journal where I don't just spew onto a page. I have to think and edit what I am going to say, as well as once in a wile have something worth saying.

Pick 3 (or more) people and give them the opportunity to be Famous in Our Own Lunchtimes.
Here it goes: Dot, Plane and Simple, and My Sweet

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What Fall are You?

I love autumn, and thought this would be fun, but it is kind of depressing.
You Are Changing Leaves

Pretty, but soon dead.

I liked this one better.
You Are Teal Green

You are a one of a kind, original person. There's no one even close to being like you.
Expressive and creative, you have a knack for making the impossible possible.
While you are a bit offbeat, you don't scare people away with your quirks.
Your warm personality nicely counteracts and strange habits you may have.

But I took it again and got this answer
You Are Olive Green

You are the most real of all the green shades. You're always true to yourself.
For you, authenticity and honesty are very important... both in others and yourself.
You are grounded and secure. It takes a lot to shake you.
People see you as dependable, probably the most dependable person they know.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remember and Make This Day Count

Today is a day of remembering. We remember those who died: people who thought it was a regular "let's go to work" day, people who knew they were heading into danger, people who have sadly died in bombings and battles everywhere.

We also need to thank and pray for those who still continue to serve, honest cops, firemen and protectors. These are men and women who every day come to work not knowing if they will lose a limb, their sanity, or their life. So please, when you see a hero, show them your appreciation.

My Sweet does a nice job of describing our experiences that day. He has never been a flag waver for either of his counties, but because of that day he searched for something to express his connection to America. Please check out his post.

Mourning for those who are gone is the necessary yet depressing part of this day. There is so much more. We are fortunate enough to be able to breathe and live. We can tell those close to us that we love them. We can stop and smell the roses, watch a sunset and grow as people. One of my students today asked me, "Why do we always wait until after someone has died to try to be nicer and enjoy life?" This is a time to examine our life and world. Are we living it to the fullest and are we making it the best that we can. I read a story to my class today about a man whose brother was a lawyer working near the Twin Towers. This brother had been an EMT at one point and borrowed a medical bag and went to help. They found the bag and brother six months later. As a result David Paine and his friend Jay Winuk have started a campaign to make September 11th a time to volunteer. This could be anything from taking your great aunt out to lunch or working for the Red Cross. Please go to and see how you might take up your part of the burden and joy of making this world more like the paradise God intended to be.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My Town's Unique Holiday

I live in a small college town. Every summer students take off for summer internships or mom's washing machine. For everyone but landlords this leaves an unbelievably peaceful place to walk at night and hear armature musicians. The landlords, on the other hand, loose three months of rent every year. So, the powers that be met together and decided to offer only year-long leases that begin on September 1st. Thus on August 31st about 40 per cent of the population packs all their possessions into moving trucks and begins a new chapter.

One of the results of this is an unofficial "Dumpster Diving Day". There comes a moment in every packer's day where you stand up and shout, "That's it! I can not take it any more! All this crap that is not boxed up is going to the dumpster!" This is where the diving comes in. Those of us not moving have a veritable smorgasbord of perfectly good free junk. You will see us in the afternoon and evening picking through these leavings. And in my town not only are the movers kind enough to leave the good stuff stacked neatly outside the dumpster, but also many of these divers have NPR blaring from our car stereo (including those in SUV hybrids).

Most years I come across some real find - like the cherry wood bed frame from last year, or a new in-the-box waffle iron. This year, however, was a total dud. I think we missed the critical time. The time that is late enough for the frustrated packers to put stuff out and early enough that you get there before the other divers. Instead My Sweet and I found out that we have different levels of pride/humility when it comes to what to "dive" for. Let's just say that I still contend that if the pie filing and soup is in a can, there is nothing wrong with it. But for the sake of marital harmony I left them there for some other, probably single, diver to enjoy.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Monday, September 04, 2006

My Music Taste

Look at the nifty function my pal doodah! showed me how to do! Well, her plus a lot of help from My Sweet.

I saw this on another blog.
Give it a try. I think this says that I have no taste. Or at least low taste.

Your Taste in Music:

80's Rock: Medium Influence
80's Alternative: Low Influence
90's Alternative: Low Influence
90's Pop: Low Influence
Classic Rock: Low Influence

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Fire and Ice soup

Here is the soup like the one
I tried last Sunday at the Earl Grey Manor. It is really wonderful.

Fire-and-ice melon soup

6 c Cubed peeled cantaloupe; (about 1-1/2 pounds)
2 c Sliced seeded peeled cucumber
¼ c Honey
½ ts Grated lime rind
3 tb Fresh lime juice
1 ts Minced seeded jalapeno pepper
1 ts Ground cumin
½ ts Salt
1 ct Plain fat-free yogurt; (16-ounce)
1. Combine cantaloupe and cucumber in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Pour half of cantaloupe mixture into a bowl. Add honey, rind, juice, and jalapeno to blender; process until smooth. Add cumin, salt, and yogurt; pulse until blended. Add to cantaloupe mixture in bowl. Stir well. 2. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or until thoroughly chilled. Yield: 6 servings The jalapeno pepper adds the "fire" to this chilled soup, though it can be omitted.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Arts Gratia Artis

I think I have rested from my weekend of high and low art. You can decide which is which. Thursday, which is the new Friday, My Sweet and some coworkers with a concert by my favorite local band, the Bottom Dwellers. Watching talented men having fun in their creative element is one of the few moments when we are reaching human potential.

Saturday was spent in San Francisco. There were three main goals: to eat some "real" Japanese food, watch the dancing at a Japanese festival, and to explore some area we haven't been to yet. The first was a given, and in Japan Town there was an Bon Odori celebration. This was a celebration put on mostly by people whose parents or grandparents were the ones who actually danced the real thing in Japan. About a third of the participants knew then steps and almost half were not of Asian descent. There were several college age guys with their blond hair banded in a ponytail. My Sweet kept laughing and saying, "We never do like this in my country!” But over all people were smiling and joining in all the festivities.

I have to say though, the sighing of the day happened while we were exploring a new park near the Presidio. Floating before us was a flock of people on Segues. Obviously they were renting from the same company because they were wearing helmets and neon green "Hey don't shoot me" safety vests. Or were they? Maybe they are the reincarnation of the 80's group DIVO. As I was searching for a good image, I found out I was not the only one struck with this idea.

The last day of my weekend was definitely the classiest. Whoops, sorry, I said I would let you decide which was classy and which wasn't. Refreshing Sunshine and I went with two other gals to high tea, Gershwin and Escher. There is a wonderful tea restaurant in Old Sacramento that served up a wicked high tea. The decor was very 30's art deco, and we feasted on many tasty treats including a cold cucumber, cantaloupe and, get this, jalapeño soup. Yes, you read me right, jalapeño. There was just enough kick to balance to coolness of the cucumber and melon. After the refreshments, we went to the Crocker Museum to refresh our spirits with a piano recital. We were too late to get chairs, but we went upstairs which turned out to be better because dimensions were added because I could listen to Rhapsody in Blue while staring at masterpieces of Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. Then I got to check out the geometric mindbenders of Escher. Some people's brains work so beyond me.

Anyway, it is time to be off and enjoy another weekend.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My work place soul mate.

Finally, a teaching story that I can relate to! At least once a year I have to resist the urge to gather together all of those books and movies about how a teacher miraculously and single-handedly takes a rag tag group of young hoodlums and inspires them to reach inside themselves and turn their lives around - you know, ones like Dangerous Minds. I gather these stories of overly dedicated teachers together and then call on strength deep in my soul and somehow resist the temptation to chuck them all in the blender and puree the bajezus out of them. There are stories of perfect teachers, and I can not relate to them (check out the middle paragraph of this past column).

But I have found the greatest book called Teacher Man. This is the third book Frank McCourt has written about his life. The first was Angela's Ashes - one of the most touching book I have ever read. His descriptions of growing up in Irland had me in tears - on one page because it was truly horrid and on the next because I was laughing so hard. The second was about his journey to America, and was nothing to write home about. But so far this book has more than made up for the previous one.

In Teacher Man, McCourt talks about his experiences teaching. While most teacher memoirs talk about their successes, he shares his struggles and failures. This is a man I can relate to.

He was an English teacher, working with at risk - disinterested kids, and also wanted to write. It is encouraging to me that he got his first and huge book out at the age of 66. There is hope for me, even though I hope I do not have to wait that long.

I love the quote he uses in response to his late bloom as a writer:

I was teaching, that's what took me so long. Not in college or university, where you have all the time in the world for writing and other diversions, but in four different New York City public high schools...When you teach five high school classes a day, five days a week, you're not inclined to go home to clear your head and fashion deathless prose. After a day of five classes your head is filled with the clamor of the classroom.

He shares his struggles, faults, mistakes. There was one example where he wanted to comfort some students but believed that he would only muddle it, so he didn't. I would like to say that I would never act this way, but to be honest, I am not sure.

Don't think that this is a downer book - quite the opposite. By the end of his career in the classroom, he does get better. Again, there is hope for me.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Monday, August 21, 2006

All's Faire

My Sweet, who is not a small town boy by any means, humored my by taking me to the county faire. Bless his heart! He was a good sport.

There is nothing like a county faire. It's an open house for the entire area. Not showy, like the nearby State Fair, but one where you go to check out which high schooler grew the biggest heirloom tomato, what place Aunt Mildred's double dutch chocolate pound cake got, and of course the corndogs!

And let me tell you, the true goober time to go is Saturday early afternoon. The cool kids won't bring their dates there until after dinner, so it is mostly young families, senior citizens, and every FFA member in the entire county. I mean WoW! We watched a bit of the auction going on, and I do not understand how the auctioneers keep their lips from bursting into flames. I was a bit nervous in case I had to itch my nose nose - I may have ended up spending three hundred buck on a goat.

But the real action was the main stage. At two o'clock we got to watch performances from Miss Whaterdoozit's school of dance. Six-year olds tap dancing their little hearts out! Gotta love it. My Sweet was a little disparaging about it, but when our kids are up there, he is the one who will be there with the latest of recording devices to capture every moment.

So, if you haven't made it out to your county fair yet, go out and enjoy where you come from. And have a corndog on me.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Some Tid Bits

Things have been very busy and quite jet lag-ish for me. So here are only a few things I have time to write about.

1.My husband has always bragged about the superiority of Japanese firework displays. The festival we went to ended in fireworks, and let me just say this. They aren't all that - if you are comparing them to fireworks co-produced by Donald Trump and Sir Elton John!

2.Frank McCourt is my teaching hero. There will be a later column on that.

Have a great weekend.


Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Few Final Impressions

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on a few more things about Japan.

The food:
The food here is not only delicious but also beautiful. However, it is not for the faint of heart. I have lived in Africa, Eastern Europe, and had roommates from the Deep South. I have to be honest and say that Japanese food is by far the strangest. I’ve had fish every way imaginable – broiled, dried, braised in sauces I can not begin to explain, and of course raw. Then there are the sea foods that My Sweet doesn’t know how to translate but says, “Eat it, it is good for you.
There is a lot of calcium in it.” Every day he asks, “If your mom comes, do you think she will like this?” It all depends on how adventurous she is that day.

For older ladies, hats are in. It is a hat shaped much like the crushable had of Gilligan.

For young people the bronzed look is in. They somehow achieve an unnatural copper tone. Add to that sparkly heels and bleached hair and you are ready for the clubbing scene of Tokyo. On the other hand, several young ladies are harkening back to the traditional yukata (cotton kimono). It reminds me of the resurgence of prairie dresses in the 80’s. (Yes, I wore them to a dance or two, and looked pretty darn cute, thank you very much!)

For every one little lapdogs are the in thing. This from a country that does not allow much room for pet or strays. But now it is in to have a cute little shi-shi dog that will fit in your tote bag. My mother-in-law, who coos over her friends’ dogs, says she would not get one because she would never be able to go anywhere. When I suggested leaving the dog outside, she said someone would steal him. They cost $1500-$1700! Jeese Louise, they are beautiful, but a dog should never cost more than a house payment.

The Japanese language uses at least three different alphabets, and all in the same sentence! The freaks! I have spent the last two weeks being totally illiterate, and it has frustrated me to the point of wanting to stick a chopstick in My Sweet’s eye! When I lived in other countries where I didn’t understand the language, I could at least sound out words and look them up in dictionaries.

Now it is back to the craziness of the US.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Worth a Thousand Words

Here are a few pictures to help show what I have been talking about.

Here is my mother-in-law’s toilet. After being naked with her, I didn’t fear hitting a panic button, so I did try them all. No music, but I did have the cleanest bum ever.

Here are the Jumping in Dancers.
“Jump, jump, to the top of the sky!
The sweat spatters, a joy rises up from inside
And our energy explodes.
A fierce surge of excitement…
And them comes the surge of sublimination.”

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

What a Time for a Festival

My Sweet’s hometown hosts a yearly grand festival, the Nebuta Festival. This is a celebration of ancient legends gathered from Japan, China and India. Heroes are celebrated for fighting in battle against evil – be it a demon or human enemy. People sacrifice themselves for their friends, deities are able to strangle monsters, and loyal animals fight along side their masters to save humankind.

People from all over the country descend on the city for eight days of parades and fireworks. Months are spent creating floats, or Nabutas, that represent a key scene from one of the legends. They are fierce, intricate, and are illuminated during the night parades. They are also not motorized. Twenty or more men maneuver the floats, making it look like the mighty warriors are jumping and ready to attack the evil around you. The Nabutas are accompanied by massive drums and battalion of pipers and symbolists. During the two-hour parade the musicians do not stop; if a drummer gets tired, there is waiting to take his or her place. As impressive as this is, the best part is the dancing. These are people overjoyed with the idea of conquered evil, and they can not help but jump and sing. They simply jump in the parade wherever they like; My Sweet says they are aptly called Jumping In Dancers. Anyone can join in the dancing as long as they are wearing traditional clothes, which include bells pinned all around the body to add to the cacophony of music.

Most of these floats are massive and sponsored by major companies. Impressive to say the least.
But there are also neighborhood or school built ones called Children’s Nabuta. They are maneuvered by kids and their dads, and also have clowns and the like running around. In fact one of the brightest moments was when a “pirate” twisted a balloon sword and gave it to a 4 year old, whose little face simply radiated joy.

Loyalty, bravery, defeated evil, and a gift from Jack Sparrow, what more do you need to jump in and celebrate?

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Friday, August 04, 2006


There are a few things that I think pretty much cross cultural boundaries.

* In one respect, my mother in law is much like Marie from Everyone Loves Raymond. Marie’s greeting was, “Hello dear, can I get you something to eat?” I have learned every variation of “Aren’t you hungry,” to fill an entire phrase book on this theme alone. And if My Sweet’s father were still alive I am sure he would be asking how the car is running and slipping him a bit of money every time we went out – for “emergencies”.

* Soap operas have a magnetic appeal. Right now my mother-in-law is drawn to some that come from Korea. Even though I understand neither Korean nor Japanese, I knew that Baby-Face guy loved both Doe-Eyed girl and All-Business gal, and struggled to know where his heart was. And it took no interpreter to understand what DE’s mother was saying when she thought BF had spent the night with her daughter (don’t worry, they had fallen asleep studying).

* Kids are cute. They just are, no matter where you go. The kids here are not too shy to look at the tall, blond, plus size foreigner. When I say hello to them, they usually hide behind their mother. But sometimes they will introduce themselves to me, being brave enough to shake my hand (or bow). Each time My Sweet whispers in my ear, “Aren’t you going to eat them?” He’s a bit strange sometimes.

* Though the amount expected to be spent differs, gift giving is important in society. And, it is usually left up to the women to take care of it. My Sweet says he doesn’t care, but I see him considering what we should bring from California for people. (FYI CA wine can be found here. We had gotten a bottle of Ironstone Wine and she already had a bottle. So much for hoping that a $10 bottle would be mistaken for something much more expensive. Yet another lesson in humility.)

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You Wash My Back and I’ll Wash Yours

This weekend my mother-in-law took me to my favorite place – the hot spa! My Sweet’s hometown is not very exciting, but it is known for two things: a festival I will talk about later, and being next to one of Japan’s best mineral hot spas. The water comes pure from the towering Iwaki Mountain. Here are a few things that stand out for me here:

* There is nothing like being naked with your mother-in-law to banish any inhibitions you may have. When you tenderly wash each other’s back to help you feel like the language barrier may prevent acceptance.

* It was great to be in a place where women were letting it all hang out with imperfections, even on the idealized models.

* Many women, including yours truly, have unnatural creases at their waste. What does that say about fashion and fascism?

* Going around the resort in a yukata (more than a bathrobe and less than a kimono) is fabulous. Very free. I can understand why Hugh does it – Heffner that is, not Jackman. But it is not clothing for taking great strides in. Instead I learned to do a kind of shuffle where you don’t separate your knees very much.

* Being au natural out in nature is for many reasons a very spiritual. You have fewer defenses to hide behind. And not being able to speak gives me more time to focus on our Creator.

* Besides the relaxation that comes from soaking in a hot mineral bath, there is a peace here and I think it comes from the search for spiritual truth. People can take a hike starting from the temple behind the resort and climb Iwaki. During this walk they get in touch with nature and the supernatural. Not as in spooky things jumping out of the underbrush, but that which is beyond the nature we can see.
Mother Theresa was once asked why she allowed Buddhists and other non-Christians to work for her organization. She said that she encourages Buddhists to be the best Buddhists, Muslims to be the best Muslims, and so on. By seeking the truth and fully looking into what they believe, people have to come to see the truth about God. I am glad God is in this place.

Ode de la Toilet

It has been a very interesting couple of days. In Tokyo My Sweet and I spent time visiting an old friend as well as my sister-in-law. Our friend took us out for the real deal sushi, not the “California knock-off” version. He took us to an all you can eat place, for which I was terribly underdressed, that made everything fresh right when you order the next round. I know for many of you all-you-can-eat-sushi will mean an empty plate, but trust me when I say it was delicious. Our friend then accommodated my whim and took me to the place where they filmed part of a great reality show - the Amazing Race.

I know this is indelicate, but I must talk about something that everyone must deal with eventually on their journey to Japan. That, my friends, is the high tech toilet. In America I feel like I am in the shadow of Bill Gates if the toilet flushes automatically. That is a child’s elementary science project here. Not only do the toilets shoot up warm water to wash you backwards and forwards, but they also can blow you dry. There are ones that even have a button to push for a running water sound – thus being able to mask the business you were doing.

At the sushi restaurant, I ventured into the ladies’ room to do my business. After sitting down I spend some time reading the directions by the toilet paper. By reading I mean staring at the characters and pictures hoping something will magically come to me. Once in a while, this being an international metropolis, they’ll throw me an English bone. There could be a line like “Please wipe seat” next to some tissue and a picture of a well manicured hand wiping down the seat, and of course a cute little cherub hovering by it. The next picture is the cherub next to another facet (located near the paper) and the word “Push” with motion lines showing something (probably disinfectant) shooting out to the tissue held by Ms. Manicure. However, the cupid is positioned in a way that the product looks like Cupid’s fart. Now I do not know if it explains it or not, but I have a relatively important question: do I wipe the seat before or after I am done?
There are many other signs and buttons, some of which probably do the cool water sounds, or heck maybe even bird calls or Bing Crosby, but I was too nervous to try them for fear of accidentally hitting some kind of panic button that would send an assistant or manager in to see what was wrong.
Well, I finished what I had to do, got up and then panicked a bit – no automatic flush! Looking around I saw no visible handle to push! Oh my gosh – I did not want the next patron to have to see the business I had done! What to do? Well, out of some deduction and a lot of desperation, I pushed a button and was quite relieved to hear the toilet actually flush. There goes my business down the drain.

What adventure will tomorrow bring?

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Random observations about Japan

Right now I am sitting at Starbucks (pronounced Starbuksu) enjoying a green tea frapiccino, and I want to share a few things I have noticed so far.

* The Japanese have customer service down to an art form. While in line for the aforementioned frapiccino, the clerk came out from behind the counter and with elegance of an accomplished dancer, presented us with the day’s menu. In other restaurants the waitresses kneel down as they place fine bone china in front of you.

* Japanese love good food. One sign of this is that a vast majority of their game and morning shows consist of people being shown food and eating it. I’m not talking about Fear Factor grossness. The contestants, usually TV personalities, compete in order to be able to partake in the delectables. And if they do not win, they put on quite the melodrama about the torture of watching the others eat.

* Recycling is paramount. When you live on an island nation, there is not a lot of room for landfill. So you must be very careful where you put your trash. It would be OK if there were pictures at the trash receptacles with a can or paper, but no they are marked in Japanese with images that look like squatting men with their hands in front of their eyes. I usually slip my garbage in My Sweet’s pocket and let him deal with it. When I was waiting for customs, I saw a young man being lead to an imposing looking back room. I bet it was because he threw his empty sake bottle in the wrong can!

* I got to ride the infamous Bullet Train. The take off was so smooth that it was like gliding through butter. Because of this lack of friction, you never know how fast you are going.

* Everything is a lush green, a huge benefit of the tropical humidity. And also every bit space is compactly used. Even the nooks and crannies are usually filled with a plant, which is good given that most people have no yard.

* I constantly feel like everything is just an inch or two too short – chairs, bus seats, sinks, etc. My thighs ache the first few days here because they are stretched when my knees are higher than usual (and often jammed against the seat in front of me).

* This high tech country has public telephones that talk. And not “Please deposit 60 cents,” but it actually thanks you for using it. My mother-in-law has one that calls out “You have a call” while it is ringing, which I think is a bit redundant. Now if it said, “You have a call coming in, and it is not from a telemarketer but from that cute guy you met at the market,” that would be pretty darn amazing. And I saw on TV that they have a stove that will talk to you. It reminds you that it is still on, or that something is about to burn. Pretty cool, especially considering my ability to get distracted during dinner prep.

What’ll they think of next? A milk carton that warns when it's expired?
Pens that signal a siren when it is about to leak or run out of ink? Who knows.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Where the streets have no name

My Sweet and I have just finished over 14 hours of sitting in very cramped places. California to Japan. My body is saying, "Hey I need to move" while my brain is saying, "I am so fricking tired that I think I am going to stop telling the legs how to move."

During the 2 hour bus ride from the Tokyo airport to his sister's place, My Sweet kept saying things like, "I used to hang out there with my college mates," or "This is a new building." I said things like, "Oh really?" when I wanted to say, "Hey, I am sleeping here!"

I have just a few impressions of Japan (note that I have been here for about 3 hours and as subtly implied before - very sleepy). Everything is so much smaller here; My Sweet keeps saying, "My word, I don't remember things being this small."

And as for the title of this column. The streets often are the size of alleyways, and they usually do not have any posting of their name. So even people who are Japanese literate can get lost. And as a side note, it is very disconcerting to be in a place where not only do you not speak much of the language, but you can not even sound out the words. In other countries I have traveled, I could usually have someone write down the address and I was able to figure out the signs. But here, I can not even use a dictionary! Aarrgghh!!

If this seems to ramble incoherently, it is because I am about to fall asleep, but my husband is chatting with an old boss. So I am entertaining myself with the laptop instead of insisting they translate everything. Aren't I an understanding wife!

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Happy Birthday To You

Yesterday my sister and I threw a party or my Dear Sweet Mother's 60th birthday.

It was a bit of a surprise for her - not the date or the guest list, both of which she had controlling voice in. The surprise was where - at the local bowling alley! Yes sir ee bub - we had a grand time knocking down some of the tenpins. What surprised most of the guests, who hadn't been in a bowling alley for a couple of decades, was the electronic board, which not only told you which pins you had standing, but also gave hints on how to throw your next ball, knew if you were right or left handed, and kept score. I loved that - no more having to remember how many extra points to add on for a strike or for a spare. The down side is that you can't cheat on your score.

The most enjoyable part for me as co-host was the "Who knows Rose best" trivia game. (Those were my questions, Mom even though Kris and I collaborated on narrowing down my original list of 60.) What made it especially fun was telling all her friends what Grandpa's versions of the answers had been. Here are a few examples:

Me: Question 10 - How old were you when you had your first kiss?
Grandpa: 14
Mom: I was probably 16. Who was there to kiss in Montana?

Me: Question 17: How many car accidents were you the cause of as a teenager?
Mom: 2
Grandpa: Yes, and it was the same car. And it had to be a Cadillac.

(OK, if it doesn't sound so funny, trust me, in my head it is hilarious!)

And of course this is a bit sappy, the truly best thing was to see how many people were willing to come out to honor an amazingly wonderful woman who taught me everything about strength, love and faith. Happy birthday Mom.

P.S. My Sweet and I are heading out bright and early tomorrow to visit his mother in Japan. So, for the next two weeks my postings may be even more sporadic than usual. Until then, Sayonara Baby.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

ye ol' blogge

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

English geeks unite! What English major didn’t have to, sorry get, to memorize this part of Chaucer’s prologue. If that is not enough, then check out his blog! (Thanks Dot) Yes you can check out what he thinks about life today. (His today is our yesteryear, so there may be some time/space continuum issues here.) You can check out glossaries, biographies of the time, and you get to know little known rumors such as his secret life as a pirate – complete with a parrot and an eye patch. (I thought you’d like that doodah!)

Speaking of writers who have spent time in the United Kingdom, Bill Bryson has royally pissed me off! I love his stuff – he has a wonderful perspective on quintessential life. So I figured that a book about a road trip to find out about small town life would be a perfect read. The only reason I have not put this book down (other than a quirky inability to not finish a book I have invested in reading 10 or more pages) is that I keep hoping that at some point he will stop talking like an angst ridden Goth teen. Every place he goes is a major disappointment for him, too touristy and tacky or boring. DUH! Tacky and touristy is a big part of small town life. However, it is jsut the surface stuff. Everyone knows that the real value of American small towns is getting to know the people. How in the name of Aunt Millie is he going to do that by spending less than 3 hours in any one place! You Euro snob! And the kicker that got me today was when I read that he found the Giant Sequoias ugly and boring! Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? If he had bothered to, oh I don’t know, maybe walk a little bit away from the parking lot, he might have found what he wanted - the tree that you could drive through. Plus the regal beauty of the trees. Or if he went on a ranger lead walk. Oh but wait, that would require actually spending time there. Sorry, he just really really irritated me today. I will now have to renew my joy by reading some of his later – and way more insightful books like this one or this.

However, there was a great line in one chapter where he exclaimed: “(The town) had been eaten by strip malls.”

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sorry I have been away

I know, I should have called, or at least let people know that I was going to be out for a while. I will never do it again. Cross my heart and hope to live.

This week My Sweet and I went to my favorite camping spot among the Giant Sequoia trees. As you look at this picture, keep in mind that I am almost six feet tall and not of a slender build. So these trees are enormous. "The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness," John Muir.

Back in the day pieces of the trees were sent to the World's Fair, but no one believed that trees this big, stumps big enough to use as dance floors, were real. They called them the California Hoax. All I can say is that J.R.R. Tolken had never seen them, or they would have been King of the Ents. If Peter Jackson could take creative liberties and have the elves come to Helms Deep to assist in battle, then he could have done a greater service and created some Giant Sequoia as Ents.

This has been a bit of the process for replenishing the reservoir of my soul.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Where I am From

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.And medicine, law, business, engineering - these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love - these are what we stay alive for.”
This is one of my favorite quotes from the film The Dead Poets Society. I especially used it when my engineering major friends would wonder why the university even had an English major.

One of my fellow writers showed me this exercise that focuses on tangible things from our past. It is really quite easy when you follow the form. In doing the exercise, however, we discovered that life is too big to put into one poem. You have things from your childhood, the emotional teen years, college, Mom's side of the family, Dad's influence, and what not. Every day new memories and ideas come up. So, I think I may have to put the date in the title because they are the images that impressed me on that particular day. This weekend I took a stab a writing my own focusing on the pre high school years.

I challenge you to write your own Where I Am From poem and post it (you can put it as a comment). It is easy when you use this template

Where I Am From in Early July, 2006

I am from easy listening and beach music,
NPR and Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story;
From refrigerator muffins and Chef Boyardee’s Stuffed Raviolis;
From neighborhood games of snipe hunts and midnight hide and seek;
And from riding bikes all over town.

I am from Howdy Doodie and the Electric Company,
From M*A*S*H and Mork and Mindy;
I am from milk and Pepsi, rainbow suspenders and hiding from Sleestaks and Tyrannosaurus Rex;
And I am from all manifestations of William Shatner -
Star Trek, TJ Hooker and Rescue 911.

I am from the raspberries in Grandma’s garden,
Sweet firm cherries from the roadside stands,
And from frosted cakes with jellybean eggs and coconut dyed to look like Easter Basket grass.

I am from telling the same family stories over and over,
From “Do you remember the time when your brother pissed off your sister and she cut off his hair?”
And “Mom, that’s my story and you’re telling it wrong!”
And from “If your sister tells The Licorice Story again, I am going to puke.”

From the “Clean up your plate because people are starving in Africa,”
and “Don’t worry, things can be replaced but people can’t.”

I am from grounded in the Bible, saved by grace, liturgical Lutherans
From communion wafers, hymnals and the eternal flame.

I am from good Midwestern stock, Norwegians and Oakes,
From the mother who was willing to pick up Crazy Karen at the train station at four in the morning in another town,
The sister who stole your licorice yet made sure you got your handmade clock from Grandpa,
And from parents willing to drive three hours to pick you up at the air port even though you forgot to write some of the minor details like the arrival time, airline, and city of departure.

I am from pioneers and sea travelers,
A grandma who took off across the West to find a better life,
And another who hopped a train to California to marry the man she loved,
From people leaving for somewhere new, yet always remembering that
Home is always the place where you can always be yourself.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!