Tuesday, August 30, 2011

And So it Begins...

For those of you who have been keeping up with my months long journey to alternative certification, I just wanted to give an update. Yesterday I started what will be a school-year long internship, 24 hours a week (minimum), which at this point looks like three full school days (Mon/Wed/Fri). I'm getting my certification in secondary English, while taking online classes towards a master's degree in education. It's a legit brick and mortar school here in Colorado, but they're kind and allow you to take the classes online so that you can do a post-bacc certification from anywhere in the world. Plus, a lot of post-bacc certification courses have you take random education classes, and it's nice that the education classes I am taking are going towards something instead of just a clap on the back and a check mark for completion.**

Although I don't plan on saying anything bad about the program or the students or the school or any of that, I will still, for obvious reasons, not share the name of the school in which I am interning. The most I will say is that I purposefully chose a Title I school because of my convictions regarding education inequality in America. I would feel like a chump if I cried all over the pages of "Savage Inequalities", kept up with all  the lawsuits against school districts in Texas and Colorado, and then blithely signed up to student teach at some high end fancy school attended by angel babies filled with SAT words, a fierce love for all things learning, and showered in $$$. I have more than one mentor teacher in the English department, which is neat because I get exposure to every grade level in high school, plus every class from AP English to intervention classes. I'm also assisting in the drama department, and this week we have auditions. It's nice to get thrown right into the mix of things. Classes are going well- my first week's assignments all came back A's- and I'm really enjoying the literature they are giving us. I'm also doing my nerd thang and supplementing all of  this with random books on education from the library. Any suggestions for me?

The only womp womp of all of this is my broken foot. Being in the classroom will be a lot better when I'm not clicking around on awkward crutches. Seriously, awkward like whoa. Thoughts on crutches, which I shared on FB, I shall now share here as well:

For a person with excellent balance, good coordination, and a strong upper body, I'm not really sure why I'm such a flailing baby giraffe on my crutches...also, since I've never broken anything/had a cast/had crutches I have to say that my childhood jealousy of those with crutches was totally stupid. Crutches are not like arm pit stilts, contrary to my fantasies of their fun potential as a 9 year old...they're just awkward and hurt my hands.
Unrelated- our tomato plants are going crazy and tonight it's caprese salads for dinner- heirloom tomatoes and basil from our garden, plus balsamic vinegar from the farmers' market. I'm watching Bobby pick tomatoes from the dining room window, and afterwards we're off to the grocery store to see if they have their  local goat cheese mozzarella in stock. If not, I can handle that being the biggest problem of my day.

 **I am not knocking those who took that route, I'm just saying, either way I have to pay for those classes and do the work, so ending up with a degree for taking them makes me a happy cat.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Anytime I tell people I broke my foot, they naturally ask me what I did. The problem is, there really is no accident story, no specific fateful incident that cracked my poor foot bone. I mean, do you want to know what I was doing the night before I woke up with my foot so swollen I couldn't move it without pain?

I was learning to can peaches with our friends.

I know, I know, I need to be more risk averse. But seriously, stress fractures are kind of a straw that broke the camel's back kind of thing- apparently that part of the bone just weakens and weakens until one day it flops onto its chaise lounge, puts its hand to its head, and says "I give up". And then it cracks.

The good news is, canning peaches was fun and canning is not as scary as it seemed to be. I mean, botulism is pretty damned terrifying, don't get me wrong, but after doing some reading I've learned that fruits are acidic enough to make botulism risk virtually nil as long as they are processed correctly.

Speaking of processed, I thought it only right that the old timey-ness of this endeavor should be captured with a vintage filter.

 The key to not dying of botulism- the water bath.
 Off and on during the process, the boys played video games. Yes, they helped, but once all that was left to do was boil the jars they took to playing a terrifyingly weird Japanese video game.
 Willow, eating up the attention, blissfully unaware of how she is hindering Bobby's progress in rolling a giant sticky ball through an imaginary world.

 A little sugar water, some lemon juice, and local, organic peaches picked up at the farmers' market that morning. Purrrrrr-fect.

 The finished product. I was super excited to can my own peaches after this, but then, you know, I woke up with broken foot extravaganza and I've only cooked one time since then.

Paige and Matt have a huge backdoor garden, so they sent us home with a baggie of cherry tomatoes and some beets. All in all, between the farmers' market that morning, the canning, and the good night gifts of fruits and veggies from their garden, it was a most excellent way to celebrate, unbeknownst to me, my last day of mobility for 8 weeks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lowered Expectations and Absences, Illustrated via Cupcakes

I might need to adopt this kind of attitude to stay sane through this injury...
 I've either been in bed with my foot propped up on a pillow, or sitting at the table with my foot propped  up on a chair, for the last two weeks thanks to a stress fracture. I think stress fractures should be called "ninja injuries", or, to make it really roll off of the tongue, "ninjuries", because this thing came out of n.o.w.h.e.r.e. Seriously, I was strolling around the farmers' market on a beautiful Saturday, caressing heirloom tomatoes and shoving chard in my re-usable bags, after which we ate some lunch, came back to the apartment, and lazed around watching some shows on the computer. Nothing extraordinary, heck, I didn't even work out the week prior other than weight lifting- twice, instead of my usual three times.

Yet somehow I woke up on the very next day to a throbbing in my right foot that hurt so badly I was whimpering and crying. Upon inspection, it was swollen to twice the size of the left foot, so much so that even the sheet rubbing against it caused pain. Lots of ice and ibuprofen got me through Sunday, and a doctor's appointment on Monday confirmed a stress fracture. I was pretty heartbroken about missing out on all of the hiking, camping, and biking to be had in the last month of summer/first part of fall when I was told that October 1st was when I would be back in commission. Now, I know that a broken foot has nothing to do with my hands, and my hands are all I need to blog- especially given the inordinate amount of time I have spent sitting/sprawling around- but honestly it just really bummed me out and I kind of spent the last two weeks pouting about how my summer was ruined. I had planned on doing Warrior Dash but had to stay home last weekend instead, and right now, as I type these words, Bobby is at Red Rocks seeing Death Cab for Cutie with a girl from work because I just couldn't crutch my way up to row 42. So, yes, a bit of a bummer. But I'm shaking off the funk, looking on the bright side and all that jazz.

Please, on my behalf, get out and hike and bike and walk around the neighborhood and swim and play in the park as much as you can. Know that someone is very jealous of you. That someone is me. Just to clarify.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Show Me the Country

I haven't been feeling very chatty lately, in terms of blog posting. Mostly because so much of what I'm feeling lately is anger, revolving around the debate about spending and the solutions to our problem. So many things are being said that appall me, that make me ashamed, that frustrate me, that make me want to scream I'm so angry. I'd rather not drag it all out here on my blog, but I think it's gotten to the point where I'm just going to throw it all out there, because it's making me nuts.

First of all, I'm incredibly saddened that many people want to go so far as to get rid of public schools in the interest of a small government so that we'll have "more liberty". I suppose I'm starting to realize that utopia for a lot of people for some reason strongly resembles an unstable country in Africa. No social safety nets, no welfare of any kind, no public schools, very low taxes, and a government with little power that stays out of the citizen's business. I wonder if they consider that all of those things usually come with civil unrest, hordes of poor, desperate people, and the "luxury" of living in a walled compound with security guards to protect you if you happen to somehow find a way to be rich? Probably not.

I'm sure that getting rid of public schools, eliminating all social safety nets, lowering taxes further, and eliminating Medicare and SS for the elderly are exactly what will "make our nation great" again. I'm wondering how awesome they think being rich will be if every time you leave your walled compound you're greeted with shanty towns, squalor, and a teeming mass of desperate poor people who might, at any moment, turn on your ass and storm the compound for some food and money. Or, how great of a business they'll be able to build without having access to an educated workforce. These people need to travel more. Or, I don't know, read a book. Hell, they could even read a history book of their own country and see how awesome it really was for people before America instituted safety nets. Just go back and study the Great Depression/Dust Bowl. Trust me, not ONE of those small government/get rid of public schools/abolish all government aid people would be saying "Oh, no, it's fine, Government, please don't help me! I shall starve to death in the streets, because I am so committed to my political ideology of small government". Yeah. Right.

More than anything, I'd LOVE it if anyone arguing that the way to make America great is to get rid of all social safety nets, public schools, and Medicare/SS could give me just ONE example- JUST ONE- of a modern country that has 0 social safety nets and no public school and also has a healthy, vibrant economy, that is a global player in international economics, that has a stable society with a respected currency, and that has created a political and economic culture that allows people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet to be successful. Just one. There are almost 200 countries in this world of ours, I would think that if the Ayn Rand based fantasies of a perfect country with 0 safety nets and a simultaneously thriving economy and stable society were possible in reality, at least one of those almost 200 countries would bear testimony to it. 'Cause I gotta be honest, ya'll, when I look at the countries that have 0 social safety nets, and no public school, and no Plan B for those who fall on hard times or are unfortunate enough to be born into them... well, those aren't the kind of places that I see anyone lining up to move to, or invest in, or start a business in, either. Those are usually the places people want to leave behind, places full of civil unrest and starvation and huge divides between the wealthy in walled compounds and the poor living in the streets or in shanty towns, or herded into refugee camps because their government isn't strong enough to protect them from roving bands of killers and rapists who are trying to wipe them out on a whim. But ok, sure, if that's the plan for making America great- just give me one example of it working out. I'm a facts and figures kinda gal, so I'll be waiting. I've posed this question several times over the last few weeks, and no one has given me one example. Because in my studies, all the countries that meet these Ayn Rand fueled fantasies are in shambles.

So, here's what I'm thinking- I'm thinking it's because that country simply doesn't exist. I'm thinking it's because people realize that everyone benefits by investing back in our society, by educating children, by having social safety nets so that when things get tough we don't have masses of hungry, desperate people roaming the streets, willing to take a chance with jail time if it means a bit of cash and some food. Here's a mental exercise- tell me, how awesome do you think our crime rate would be if, during these last several years of epic unemployment, we had no unemployment benefits, no food stamps, no TANF, no housing subsidies, etc. Think about that. Where would those people have gone? What would they have done? Just curled up and politely starved, homeless, in an out of the way corner of society? I'm thinking not. Trust me, I'd rather pay my money in taxes and invest it in our society than take my chances on the streets with double digit unemployment creating a substantial number of stressed out, hopeless people with no light at the end of the tunnel. Desperation is not the predominant emotion I want a significant sector of our society to have.

While we're on the subject of paying now or paying later, and how I'd like to pay- I'd rather pay out some welfare, or pay more into schools, or give unemployment benefits, or give job training than pay for more police on the street to quell riots, or pay upwards of $30K a year to house and feed someone for several years in prison. So there's that, too. Pro-active is my mantra, not reactive. Especially because reactive usually costs way more than just helping out in the first damned place. And we usually all benefit from proactive, while reactive doesn't serve to accomplish anything more than a hasty tit for tat.

Oh, but wait, back to my question- show me that country. This idyllic bastion of liberty where the government stays the hell out, doesn't meddle with things like educating all children, or regulating our food and drugs, and lets people get sick and die if they commit the infraction of losing a job, or being born poor, or falling ill. And if that country is so damned great, why isn't it an international player? Why haven't I heard of this utopia of liberty? And if such a country exists, why aren't all the people who want to model America after it calling it out by name and location, and pointing excitedly to its success to bolster their argument?

All cards on the table- I'm a product of welfare. There you go. Despite two working parents, we qualified for every damn one of those "shameful" entitlement programs. And I worked, too, from 14 on, and then full time all through college while studying full time to keep my sholarship- and guess what? I still needed Pell Grants to get through. Yes, that's right, free money that I "didn't deserve". I shudder to think how my potential would have been utterly wasted if there were 0 social safety nets. I am of far greater benefit to my country as an educated person than I would have been if I was tossed by the wayside due to the circumstance of birth. And I have far more pride in my country when it chooses to be compassionate and considerate of the hard blows people receive in this life than when it tries to play detached, strategic economist with flesh and blood living beings. Especially when the predominant evidence for the validity of such a strategy hinges on a theoretical country that doesn't even exist in this world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

On the Road, Again

Friends in Canada, Bobby behind the camera. I can't lie, the last road trip was way more fun.
 Hello there! I'm typing this from a dorm room in Gunnison, CO. I'm here doing a 5 day/4 night orientation for graduate school. I arrived on Sunday, and I'm leaving late Thursday. It's a pretty intensive week, incredibly busy, so this will be the lone post until Friday when I'm back in my regular spot in Colorado. I don't have much time to explore the town, but I am keeping notes on local attractions, restaurants I've tried, and suggestions people have given me for when/if I come back for a visit. I can tell you this much for sure- HWY 285 is treacherous, and I'm only slightly joking. It's a two lane road that cuts through several mountain passes, oftentimes at at 6% or 7% grade. And the people driving it are insane. No, truly. I mean, that is the only logical reason I can give for passing someone on a blind curve on a 7% grade pass. Oh, but no worries- the crazy person saw the two school buses in time, I slammed on my brakes, he cut back in front of me, and he narrowly avoided killing tens of innocent school children, and possibly himself and hell, maybe even me while he was at it. Yes, that happened. No, not the best time on the road to say the least. But, the moral of the story is I did get here safe and sound, and I'm being stuffed full of learnin', which is, after all, the goal. I'll see you all when I head back North. Fingers crossed as I trek back along 285...