Monday, October 13, 2008

Low-Maintenance Or Dirty?

The Amazing Race didn't give me the same warm-fuzzies last night that I usually get while watching the show. Several moments made me particularly uncomfortable, particularly the marching band and the wrestling scenes. Normally, the show does a decent job of finding something unique to the location and presenting it in the most positive light possible. Last night I thought they made the locals look like asses. Really? The coolest thing you can come up with in La Paz is to perform staged wrestling moves? How sad.

But I was already irritated from a scene that occurred early in the show. The contestants reached Bolivia before dawn, and without proper accommodations, they were asked to camp in a plaza next to a statue of Simon Bolivar. As soon as the sun rose, the campers began their morning rituals.

I was shocked. Here they were in a public square treating it as if they were in their own bedrooms. Men were shaving with electric razors, while women were applying full-on war paint. Foundation, mascara, several colors of eyeshadow, the works. I know they're going to be on television so perhaps they want to add a little color, but I found this ridiculous. "You're traveling around the globe as fast as you can. You're sweating bullets, sleeping very little, and arguing with your partner for all the world to see. Will makeup really help?"

But then I started to get a bit more realistic. In humid weather, my crazy curly hair harkens back to Halloween costumes unless I employ the help of a little hair gel. I love the smell of vanilla, and even when I'm camping I like to have that dab of lotion to make me feel a bit softer, a bit girlier. I don't travel with a lot of jewelry, but I do wear earrings and a watch daily and sometimes a small bracelet.

I could do without the jewelry--except for my rings and a watch--and the vanilla lotion. The hair gel? I'm not sure I can give that up, for fear of scaring children. My question to you is this: when you're on a long trip and you're trying to pack light, what are those non-essential things that you still pack just so you can feel like you?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Like A Chump

Marc and I are going to Paris over the winter holidays. We both speak limited Spanish and I know a trace of German and Italian (thanks music training!). Unfortunately, neither of us can speak a lick of French.

With a little more than two months still to prepare, I decided to make the most of my hour commute each morning. I bought "Learn French In Your Car!" The title is hokey, but I was attracted to the idea that the program was geared to the aural learner. I was also attracted to the reasonable price tag, considerably cheaper than that of, say, Rosetta Stone.

I was so excited yesterday when I decided it was going to be My First Day Of French. The course I purchased contains fifteen lessons. The first few are very basic and practical: Modes of transportation; Simple phrases and greetings, "Important" words (toilettes is very important).

Usually I keep a strict code for myself when I get a new CD and force myself not to skip around and instead to listen straight through. I couldn't resist, though...I wanted to learn how to order a meal. I decided to skip through the tracks for a quick sneak preview.

And that's when my purchase began to feel like something you'd expect to see advertised in a Saturday Night Live skit.

(chime) "Lesson Six: Numbers" (skip ahead)
(chime) "Lesson Seven: More Numbers" (skip ahead)
(chime) "Lesson Eight: Big Numbers" (skip ahead...seriously? why didn't they just put all the numbers together in one lesson...)
(chime) "Lesson Nine: Very Big Numbers" (What?!! are you kidding me?! @#$%$&*(#@)

Four out of fifteen of these lessons are just numbers. My husband, the king of moral support, reassured me by mentioning that you never know when you'll need to order 30,000 baguettes.

But the Very Big Numbers? They only go up to 99.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Haste Makes Waste

I have many happy memories of the summer of 1996. It was the summer before my junior year of college, and my family spent several days at the Atlanta Olympics. We saw some inspiring athletics, had lots of laughs, and enjoyed the opportunity to spend time together without school or jobs to get in the way.

Unfortunately, there is one memory of that adventure which my brother and sister will not let me forget. Ever. We were all standing in the MARTA station waiting to get on the subway. The place was packed with people, many of them from other countries, and it was hot, dark, and deafening in that station. After a long sweaty day at Track and Field and Baseball, we just wanted to get back to our parked station wagon and head home.

My dad was no exception. Like the rest of us, he was eager to get out of the city and into a cold drink. Impatience got the best of him and when the next train rolled into the terminal, my father charged through the throngs of people in order to climb aboard. What he failed to do was read the sign and realize the train was headed in the direction we didn’t want to go. Worried that my family would be separated (this was before cell-phones) I raced after Dad, grabbed his arm, and yelled at him to stop. He was determined to make that train, and after I grabbed and yelled a few more times and my family didn’t follow him, we had a knock-down drag-out fight in the middle of the MARTA station. Dad was pissed thinking we had missed the train, and I was pissed that he wasn’t listening to me. Mixed with thirst and fatigue, it was a terrible combination and we both showed our worst sides as a result.

I remembered our family blow-out as I watched this week’s episode of The Amazing Race. So many times these teams run into trouble simply because they don’t stop for a second and collect themselves. One brief moment to re-read a clue, listen to a partner, or ask for help would solve so many problems. Twice the divorced girls made huge blunders just because they were being careless. The southern blondes, the fratties, and the brother and sister team all drew blanks as they stared at the wall of phrases. People lost their tempers and their logic, but in the end what they lost the most was time. All that rushing around and scheming to get the first cab ultimately didn’t help them a bit.

When you travel, you’re undoubtedly going to encounter something stressful and maybe totally unfamiliar. Just take a minute, breathe, and think before you find yourself hopping on the wrong train.

Favorite Quotes:
"They didn’t even say HI to us!"
The cute African-American girl: "Our faces don't get red."
"I don’t mind playing dirty as long as I'm the one that benefits from it."
"Girls from South Carolina are not stupid. We might be a little slow but we’re not stupid."
"I have a lot of things in my life to be thankful for. I have my health, I have my parents, I have my looks, and I have Stephanie."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pay It Forward

Julie is one of my favorite people. You'll like her too.

  • speaks Spanish.
  • is originally from South Carolina.
  • loves to travel and does it often.
  • is a fantastic writer and editor.
  • puts others before herself, as you will gather from the following news...

Months ago, Julie and her husband started a project with some teens in Colombia. They've been slowly teaching the students about writing and videography for the Internet. These kids are putting together some terrific stories about their home and posting them on the web so others can learn about life in Mompox, Colombia.

A project like this requires equipment and some supervision. Julie's been collecting donations on her website, but it's slow-going. Recently she came up with a brilliant idea that will hopefully earn a bit more money for the Voices in Mompox operation.

In return for your small donation to the project, Julie and Francisco will let you stay in their awesome Mexico City apartment --rent-free! Give just a little money to the kids of Colombia, and you can be chilling in some swanky digs in Mexico, walking the same streets as Che Guevara and Frida Kahlo, and munching on tortillas you could never find this side of the border.

Go learn more about Julie and the kids. You will be impressed.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Amazing Race 13, Week 1

I know some people complain about The Amazing Race because it shows us as “ugly Americans.” I disagree. We’re not all “ugly Americans,” and some of the contestants on the show are considerate, kind, and thoughtful to the people they encounter. Then there are some that show the ugly side, and admittedly, I find those raw, hideous behaviors very entertaining.

I also love watching the teams either bond or break during the stresses of The Race. I’m a big believer in traveling with a partner—when I know that partner and his or her travel style. Each season, some of the Amazing Race teams are made of either people who haven’t traveled together much, or worse, people who haven’t know each other very long. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a cab with them, but it makes for excellent televiewing. I think a couple that recently started dating might benefit from a trip together, but maybe they should start with a 4-day weekend in Maine rather than a nationally televised trip around the world. And the estranged couple from Tampa (I promise we’re not all like this!) should be working their issues out with a marriage counselor, not an American Airlines ticket agent.

Nevertheless, you can bet I’ll be watching.

Some random thoughts:
*Most girls from South Carolina can be classy without wearing pearls everyday. They are insane. I don’t own pearls, and I even know about Beethoven and shit. I got yer classy right here.
*I’m surprised to see the beekeepers on this show. I wonder if they even own a TV.
*How will the Tampa lady keep her hair bleached throughout the month-long trip?
*If I could ever convince my sister to do this, I can assure you we would not be wearing matching outfits.

Favorite quotes:
*The Tampa women to her sorta husband, in Brazil: “You were supposed to know how to do the Spanish.”
*Terence, the running coach to his new girlfriend Sarah: “Can you not outrun me? I appreciate your speed, but you have lapped me every time.”
*Terence, again, tearing the girlfriend down: “You can’t climb and talk.”
*Beekeeper lady: “Bees are much calmer than all of this!”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Slippery Customer

I am generally not a wimp. I have a high pain threshold, I am independent and have no trouble doing things alone, and I will ride the most ferocious roller coaster out there and most likely laugh through the whole trip.

But I do have one pretty significant fear--things that creep and crawl, specifically in my house.

I will go way beyond the call of duty to move a snail to a safer place or put a Daddy Longlegs spider where no one will step on him. If he's outside. But when creatures start embarking on my territory without paying rent, well, I get pretty upset.

With stints in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, I understand that the occasional roach will probably sneak inside. Don't get me wrong: I HATE them, but you learn to accept them as a part of life when you live in a hot and humid region. (The more genteel southerners call them "Palmetto bugs." They are in denial, and these are usually the same people who refer to the Civil War as "The War of Northern Aggression.")

What I never expected to face are the small lizards that continually appear in our Florida house. I see lizards everywhere; some are a dull brown, blending in with the sand, while others are a bit more colorful and much more animated, flaunting their throat flaps and doing push-ups to impress the ladies. Outside they're cute; I get a kick out of watching them scurry, convinced that I don't see them. But when they're scurrying up my bathroom wall or doing those push-ups on the bedroom carpet? I'm not amused.

Together, Marc and I have rescued at least three lizards this summer, usually by cornering them with Rubbermaid containers and then quickly ushering them out the front door. (It's great family fun, almost as much fun as pulling the sand spurs out of the yard!) Last night, however, as I reached for a measuring cup, my life flashed before my eyes as a two-inch-long critter leapt from my spice rack and raced away. I don't know where he is now, but I can tell you I probably won't sleep much until I find him.

So. Who wants to come over for dinner?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Feel The Heat!

I know all about being a loser.

I have always been a sports fan, and although I’ve moved around a bit, I’ve always tried to embrace my home team. Even when they stink.

And they usually do. I loved my time at The University of South Carolina, but the Brad Scott years were painful to watch. Later I moved to Cincinnati and was cursed with all kinds of bad teams: the Bearcats (they’re good now, but back then…), the Bengals, and the Reds were just terrible. Nevertheless, they were my new “home” teams, so I cheered with gusto, to no avail.

After living in South Carolina for four years, I moved down to St. Petersburg, Florida last summer. I was delighted to once again be living in a major league baseball city. I was less delighted to discover that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays truly sucked. I sat through some horrendous baseball, each night hoping to see some progress, some glimmer of hope. It never came.

But then the 2008 season began. What seemed impossible last summer began to happen—the Rays started to win some games. A new team name, a couple of important trades, and some critical calls to the minors, and the Tampa Bay Rays gradually earned everyone’s attention.

It’s been a treat to watch this team succeed. They’re an unusual story, from the wine-drinking articulate manager to the quirky catwalk-filled dome, to the players themselves and their consistently laid-back “one day at a time” attitude. Although they’re a young bunch, the chemistry is there, and they’re getting it done. I sat in a sold-out crowd Wednesday night, watching as angry Red Sox fans scratched their heads, wondering how this happened.

I don’t have an answer. But I’m very happy for them, and I’m excited that when they most likely clinch their first-ever playoff spot tonight, I’ll be rooting for my home team.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Recently I've found myself going through travel withdrawal. I'm back in the full-time teacher groove now, which makes it even more evident that it will be a while before I take a "real" trip again. The past two weekends I've noticed myself growing more and more twitchy, so yesterday I decided I'd better get a fix.

I headed up Hwy 19 to a small town called Tarpon Springs. I have wanted to visit this little fishing village for quite a while, but never carved out the time for it. I'm glad I finally had a lazy afternoon that allowed me to browse the shops and eat a wonderful dinner.

Tarpon Springs lies on the Gulf Coast just north of Clearwater. Although there is a small beach at Howard Park, the town doesn't feel much like a beach community. You don't see the high rises and surf shops; instead, the streets are lined with beautiful stucco homes and small neighborhood churches.

While I enjoyed strolling through the residential area, I was most interested in the Greek village. In the late 1800s, settlers discovered that money could be made by harvesting live sponges. Greek divers were hired to capture the sponges, and over time the town was influenced heavily by the Mediterranean immigrants. Today, the docks are lined with shops selling sponges, loofahs, olive oil, and shells. A number of Greek restaurants and bakeries also fill the air with fragrant lamb and baklava.

Not in the mood to be a tourist, I passed on the aquarium and the free movie at "Sponge-o-Rama." I had a great time watching the boats, though, and my gyro platter was delicious. I'm looking forward to visiting again in the colder months when the manatees make the Springs their winter home.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Shameful Self-Promotion

Many of you know that my parents brew their own beer, thanks to a very lame kit my siblings and I bought them for Christmas about ten years ago. My husband and I also caught the brewing bug, and we love it, although we're still new at this.

We are not, however, new at sampling the malty nectar of the gods. We love beer, and more importantly, we love good beer. The kind you can't see through.

Any aspiring travel writer has heard the advice: when you're starting out, write what you know. So most of my newbie stuff has been about Florida (my current home), South Carolina (my original home), and food (who doesn't love food?).

Now I bring you Beer. Please read it, and if you have anything to say, please do that, too! If your city isn't on the list, lemme know and perhaps I'll do a feature next time.

I'm very excited. This is my first real by-line. My husband is a professional sportswriter and has long numbed at the sensation at seeing his name in print; I on the other hand have butterflies and I'm tickled pink to know that, with this tiny step in the right direction, there are possibilities.

Thanks for your support.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Leaving My Footprint

I'm not a very good friend to the environment.

I try, but I could try much harder. Sure, I recycle, and I try not to leave lights on, and I do all my laundry on the cold setting. But there's so much more I could probably doing. And I feel incredibly guilty about my hour-long commute to work each day.

Today I did something. In the grand scheme of things, it was tiny, but it was at least an effort. I had some work done on my car, and the shop called to tell me my vehicle was ready. Rather than hitch a ride from a friend, bus, or cab (my husband is out of town this week), I decided to travel to the mechanic the old-fashioned way: I ran. Those 2 1/2 miles gave me a chance to explore a couple of side streets, I got a good workout, and hopefully I gave a little hand to Mother Nature.

Beet red and sweating profusely, I also scared the heck out of the cashier at the auto shop, who thought I was about to keel over. But I'd like to think I inspired him a little, too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Making Lemonade

Hurricane Gustav ruined quite a few Labor Day weekends on the Gulf Coast, but here in St. Petersburg we only had a few hours of pounding rain and wind Sunday afternoon.

By Monday morning only the wind remained. It made it a fairly challenging day to go sea kayaking--the minute we left the sheltered bayou and went out into open water, it was like paddling through tar. It really wasn't all that windy, but when the gusts combined with choppy seas, it took some real elbow grease to get back to our little inlet.

On our way out of Fort DeSoto County Park, we saw some kites off in the distance. We were about five miles away at the time, and without my glasses I thought they were just ordinary kites. I haven't flown a kite in many years and was excited about seeing some families spending their Labor Day together flying kites at the beach.

When we got closer we realized it was a makeshift kite surfing convention. At one time I counted 18 boards skimming across the surf. I overheard a couple of guys complaining that the wind had died down since earlier in the morning, but they seemed to be cruising along just fine to me.

Walking among the kites and watching guys fight with their equipment, I briefly saw the frustrations associated with surfing. But all the cables and nylon disappeared when I looked out and saw the rainbow of sails reflected in the blue water with the Sunshine Skyway as their backdrop. It was a colorful surprise on an otherwise cloudy day.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

This is going to be a long year.

I love teaching. I love the students, I love my subject area, and I have pretty good schools (because I teach orchestra, I travel between 4 schools).

But despite all that, I'm finally ready to try something new. And now that I've made that decision, it makes going to work very difficult. I just want to write, and travel, and take pictures, and explore new options, and see the world, and spend time with my husband, and live with a different schedule for a while. Maybe for a long while, maybe for just a few months, I really don't know. I just know that getting up at 5 every morning in order to go stand under fluorescent lights and fight with administrators who don't think the arts are a beneficial part of the schoolday? That is no longer appealing.

I'm not going to throw in the towel. I will work as hard this year as I have in years past; I owe that to my students. But it's very hard in the meantime to try to do my job and at the same time start laying the groundwork for this next stage. I know people have done it--they're out there now, living that dream they worked so hard to achieve. I just don't know how they found the time to work a regular 8-10 hour day and then research and write and plan on top of it all. School has only been in session since August 8, and already I feel overwhelmed trying to find that balance between the present and the future. I guess if you want it badly enough, you find a way to make it happen.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Read Me

Here are a few cool links for you travel-fans.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fay Day?!

The mandatory evacuation was rescinded at 5:30 this morning. Although I hated setting the alarm and getting up that early on a day off, it was certainly nice to know that Marc and I would no longer have to fight traffic and try to find a place to stay. We contemplated leaving last night and I'm so glad we nixed that potentially expensive plan.

It's now about 3 PM and, although it's pretty windy, the sun is out and we've only had one short rain shower. I've found myself angry with meteorologists before when they've gotten it wrong, but I'm happy they missed this one. If my husband was off of work tonight, it would be a near-perfect day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fay Update

So far no rain and just a mild breeze...nothing to get freaked out about.

Nevertheless, the city has ordered a mandatory evacuation for those of us who reside in "Level A." That means you're either in manufactured housing or you live in a low-lying area (our house). I've packed for 3 days in case I have to go teach Wednesday; my violin, camera, wedding photos, hard drive, and soon computer will be in the car and ready to hit the road. For where, I'm not sure yet.

Hopefully this is all a big overreaction, but I suppose you can never be too careful.

Holding Our Breath

When you train to be a teacher, you learn that the first few days of school are crucial to the success of the whole year. There's even a book and video curriculum--The First Day Of School--that many universities and school districts use in order to encourage methodical planning, establishing procedures, and trying your darnedest to kick things off on the right foot.

So today was the first day of school. And tomorrow we will not be going.

Right now Tropical Storm Fay is looking a bit less menacing than she was earlier today, but the expected winds and rains are enough to merit cancelling classes. I'm not too worried, yet--so far we've only had showers and a nasty sky, but very little wind. The interesting stuff should start happening later this evening; hopefully it won't get too dramatic around here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Different Kind of Trip

Most of my travels these days are semi-independent. I scan Marc's baseball schedule, pick out the cities I'd like to experience, see what works with my school calendar, and book a few trips.

Once there, I spend most of my time alone, walking, eating, exploring gardens and museums, and just trying to soak it all in. My school schedule is so rigid and demanding--it is incredibly liberating to have a few days in a cool place when I can do exactly as I choose.

But it's also wonderful to be able to visit a great city and, at the same time, hang out with a few of the best people you know.

I went to Portland, Oregon last week to see my sister Mary and her husband. Fortunately, my husband was also able to meet us there and our quartet had a great time together.

My dad called to ask what we did on our trip. He seemed disappointed when I couldn't give him a laundry list of attractions--we didn't see any movies, visit any museums, or scream at amusement parks. Instead, we saw the city like locals, with locals...over beer and tots, shopping in a used book store, walking the waterfront with no particular aim, and just driving around admiring the lovely bungalows and their perfectly manicured gardens.

And even with the jaw-dropping beauty of Mount Hood, a comforting breakfast at Bumble Kiss, and the calming fragrance of the Rose Garden, there's one memory I'll probably treasure most.

The night we all played Rock Band.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Thrill Is Gone

I used to love getting on a plane. I don't mean when I was a little kid--when I was a kid my family never flew--but just three, four years ago. I loved the anticipation, knowing I was about to go someplace far away, too far to drive. But I also loved the act of flying--the airport energy, the protocol before taking off, and that funny feeling in my stomach just as we left the ground.

I'm so sad that this has all been replaced with frustration and fatigue.

There was an article in our paper this week about the hassles associated with flying here in America. Interestingly, foreign carriers are providing much better service. It's upsetting to know that it doesn't have to be like this, that there are solutions and in other countries the skies are still friendly.

But I got particularly upset with one point in this story. In trying to justify why European airlines provide some of the niceties no longer seen on our big carriers, David Castelveter explained that American travelers demanded safety, reliability, and lower prices. Supposedly, airlines stripped away the extras in order to meet these demands.

When I flew to Toronto two weeks ago, I planned to leave Tampa at 6 AM, connect in Atlanta for an hour, and arrive in Toronto at about 11:30 AM. I could then share a cab with my husband, have lunch with him, and then walk around town a bit by myself until attending the Rays/Jays game that night.
I reached Atlanta on time, but about an hour after we boarded the plane for Toronto, we were de-planed. There were about 30 empty seats on the plane, and despite the announced "hydraulic leak," I'd bet a 7 dollar lunch voucher that the less-than-full flight had something to do with our little snag.
So the big question...what did they do for us? Not a thing. We all had to race to the Delta counter and ask them to re-book our flights. I am lucky. I was on vacation and disappointed, but it was easy for me to be flexible and change my planes. Some other folks were headed to funerals, important clients, and their children.

My one hour layover suddenly became ten, and I was forced to connect again in Cincinnati before finally reaching my destination at almost 10 PM. I missed my ballgame, two good meals in a cool city, had to pay $60.00 for my own cab, and killed a whole day "traveling." Not my idea of reliable.

I, for one, would jump for joy if I had to bring my own water bottle and granola bar, paid a few bucks to check my luggage, and in return departed and arrived on time.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

It's Like This Whole Other Country

I spent most of last week in Toronto, Ontario. I'll post a few real travel stories up here once I get my laundry done and open my mail, but here are a few things that stick out in my mind.

  • Canadians care about the environment. Not in the "Oh let's have a story about green vacations in our newspaper" way. They really care, and it shows in their lifestyle. You see bikes everywhere, and the bus and subway systems are efficient. It was totally normal to see people carrying water bottles into restaurants and getting them filled rather than using another glass at their meal. And recycling bins are as common as trash cans; in fact the waste receptacles have separate slots for glass, cans, and litter. No excuses.
  • Toronto residents love art. Nearly half of my photographs depict some cool sculpture or building design, and while some of them are installed in high-profile places, plenty of them are on side streets and in residential areas.
  • Canadians take their beer seriously. If you're a real beer drinker, Toronto has some outstanding beer bars and even more authentic pubs. I will not be happy until I can find some St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout down here in Florida, it's one of the nicest brews I've had in a while.
  • The people are fabulous. I can be somewhat shy, especially when I'm in a new place and a little less sure of myself. But the friendly faces and warmth, people who seemed genuinely interested in having a conversation...they killed that shyness immediately. I had so many great experiences with the locals, and I know part of that is because I worked a little harder to put myself out there, but most of it is because Toronto is just full of outstanding people. I can't wait to go back.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A New Journey

"My thoughts jump around like a monkey."

The first time I heard that, I was sitting in Gambrell Hall at the University of South Carolina. My best friend and roommate Katie was taking a religious studies class, and as a course requirement she had to sit through some panel discussion. Like a sucker, I went with her (as she had often suffered with me through organ and trombone recitals). The Hindu representative was caught completely off-guard by a question, and after struggling with an answer that's the best he could deliver. I don't remember the question or anything else from that panel discussion, but I loved the image of little monkeys jumping around, creating total mayhem in the guy's head.

I've got me some monkeys right now.

I love to write, and I have always been working on something, even when it was just for my own eyes. I have a diary that dates back to fourth grade. I have poetry and song lyrics, most of them awful, from high school and college. The interest in the diary petered out in 2002 when I started my first blog, and I have been posting on and off ever since.

My other huge interest, aside from music, has always been travel. My old bachelorette blog, What's Brewin', chronicled lots of my trips like day-hikes near Asheville and a weeklong cruise to Alaska. I even did a separate blog for my Europe trip. I love to travel, I love to write about travel, and I love learning about other people's travels. The travel-writing community has increasingly become the place I want to call home.

The big question has been how do I go about this?! Am I even a good writer? No one reads this blog, so my knee-jerk answer is "No." But dang I love it. I have two college degrees, both in music education, and all my post-college work experience has been of the same breed. I know it will be a ton of work to learn the ropes, make contacts, and try to get good at this stuff. And yet it still keeps calling me. Usually when I get a risky idea, I begin to realize the consequences and suddenly it no longer sounds that appealing. (Veterinary tech school sounded awesome. Until I realized I had to perform a castration and anal excretion exam. Back to the violin I go!)

This time I can't talk myself out of it, and honestly I've tried. The low pay, the crazy schedules, the hassles that come with all just sounds exhilirating and challenging rather than frustrating and profit-less. I think I really want to do this. The only big mystery left is my ability.

So I've taken some baby steps. I enrolled in a travel writing course, I've read two books about the profession's ups and downs, and I started writing some "real" stuff on a couple of travel webpages. If I try and fail, I'll be very disappointed but I'll live. If I don't even attempt something new, I'm setting myself up for an adventure-less life.

So here goes a new adventure. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It And It Jr.

I've never been one of those people who was afraid of clowns. I never particularly liked them, but I wasn't afraid of them.

Until now.

This just freaks me out.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

In My Own Backyard

I opened my mail yesterday, thrilled to discover that I received my new and improved passport. Immediately my travel bug began biting me again, and I spent the greater part of a Saturday night sniffing around for airfare deals, European rail passes, and travel writing information.

This morning I woke up in a more realistic state (Florida), reminding myself that the Euro is outrageous, airfare is skyrocketing, and I live in a pretty cool place that I have barely begun to explore. So Europe will have to wait a little while longer. In the meantime, I should slow down and enjoy my homeland.

Here are some pictures from Bok Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is built in the very rural community of Lake Wales, Florida. You probably haven't heard of Lake Wales unless you're from this area. Aside from the sanctuary belltower, the town's other claims to fame are Spook Hill--a haunted hill where your car will allegedly drive upwards when in neutral gear--and the visitor's center for Florida's Natural Orange Juice. There is also a lake, Lake Wailes. And yes, I spelled that way on purpose.

Once inside the sanctuary, the quirkiness of Lake Wales fades away and you're left with singing birds, brightly colored flowers, carpets of green grass, and majestic oaks decorated with Spanish moss. It's a lovely place, and unless you brought a screaming baby or a cranky grandparent I don't know how you would not find yourself completely at peace. The cloudy skies took some of the color out of the scenery during my visit, and it still remained beautiful. I would love to return in late February or early March when the spring flowers are blooming.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Lesson in Karma

Several weeks ago, my husband left the house for a quick breakfast run. He reappeared only a minute later, looking sad and dejected. I went outside with him.

His car was covered in bird crap. We had never seen anything like it; it was as if they had poopball guns or something, sat on the telephone wire above our driveway, and shot target practice for hours.

Like a good, supportive wife, I was amused and cackled for at least ten minutes. It wasn't my car, ha ha ha!!!

Fast-forward to last week. During our lunch at Kennedy Space Center, I sat alone at a picnic table while Marc walked away to take a phone call. Almost as soon as he left--they were looking out for him!--a large gull let one rip and it landed within inches of both my arm and my meatball sub. Needless to say I was uncomfortable finishing my sandwich, and Marc was tickled when he returned and saw the fun he had missed.

I thought that was it. The birdies got their revenge, we were even, life goes on.

Saturday I played a very elegant beach wedding in Clearwater. The guys wore suits, the girls wore long flowy dresses, and it was a lovely affair. And there I was, the refined violinist, in her dressy black and heels. A hundred guests, a professional photographer, and a videographer all looking on as I played the meditation music.

I never saw the bird, but I'm sure he looked pretty smug as he flew away.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Do Not Drive A Lexus

I know very little about cars, so I hate taking mine to the shop, even when it's just for a routine oil-change. Inevitably what I expect to be a routine oil-change suddenly becomes a dire situation which more often than not involves a few mechanics taking all of my car's innards out, throwing them around on the garage floor, splattering each other in oil, reassembling the car, and charging me $700.00. I hate it when they do that.
Today I got very lucky and left after receiving exactly what I asked for: a routine oil-change. No pressure to buy new wiper blades, no persuasion to have my transmission fluid flushed,not even a suggestion to have my tires rotated. The service was friendly, relatively quick, and less expensive than my previous dealership. And on top of everything, there was free entertainment in the waiting room.
I took my book and my Mickey D's sweet tea inside, where I plopped myself down into the first empty chair I saw. The tile floor amplified the deafening television, and I was amazed to observe a couple in their twenties glued to the set while their infant daughter sat alone, babbling in her stroller.

Scene: An Automobile Service Center Waiting Room

Woman to Man: But DNA testing isn't 100 percent correct.
Man Screaming to Television: (laughing) Y'see? Now you stuck. Now ya gonna have to stay with the bitch. That baby's yours, man!
Woman to Man: SHHHH! Don't say 'bitch.'
Man: Don't tell me what to say. I'm gonna go piss. (walks away)
Woman to Infant in Stroller: (in baby talk voice) If ya daddy don't fix hisself, me and Daddy's gonna be on Divorce Court, too.
Infant in Stroller: ---

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad

My husband and I visited my parents over Memorial Day weekend. As usual, we found ourselves spending most of the time together sitting around the kitchen table, just talking. I don't think the television or stereo were turned on the entire time we were there; conversation with Mom and Dad is normally much more entertaining than anything a national media outlet could provide.

We had a great time. But Sunday morning, sort of out of the blue, my father asked me a question and he sounded serious. "Sarah, do you think I get mad a lot?" I didn't really think about the answer as much as I should have, and after a second I responded.
"I don't think you get mad, necessarily, but you get upset. Yes, I would say you have a short temper."

And if you had grown up in our house, you probably would have thought the same thing. So many times we were screamed at for leaving lights on in empty rooms, pouring juice over the kitchen floor instead of walking two more feet to the counter, leaving water running, leaving our stuff outside in the rain, failing to finish chores we had put off for days...typical careless kid-like behavior got us into some nasty dinner table "discussions."

But here's the thing with my dad. There have been so many, many other times when he could have--and maybe should have--screamed and yelled and instead played it cool, talked it out with us, or stayed quiet and let us figure things out on our own (and most likely vented about it with Mom when we weren't around).

There was the time I nearly failed AP English because I was a senior and I was sick of school and I didn't like that teacher, so I quit writing papers. I just stopped. Don't pass English in high school and you don't graduate, but I was an idiot and had grown tired of deadlines and what I mistakenly thought at the time was hard work. I was stunned to come home one afternoon and find my dad already home from work. I was more stunned to discover that he had chatted with Mr. Franks, my English teacher. Dad could've called me every name in the book, but instead he just quietly told me how disappointed he was and wanted to know why I was wasting the last few months of a long, mostly good, school career. That conversation kicked me in the ass, I made up a few assignments, and pulled out a 4 on the AP test.

There was also the time that I completely totaled my car when, in the middle of I-75, I rammed right into a reclining chair followed by an unforgiving steel guardrail. It was a freak accident and thankfully I was both alone and unharmed. But I had stupidly leased the car rather than purchased it, and I received approximately zero dollars from the insurance agency. Despite the urge he surely must have been fighting, Dad did not kill me or even tell me what a jackass I was for getting into this financial nightmare. Instead he visited his credit union and sent me a check so I could buy a used car, finish grad school, and get myself back on my feet.

My brother, sister, and I weren't terrible kids. We were decent students, we were usually pretty nice to other people, we didn't lead lives of crime. But we each had our share of dumb stunts, terrible ideas, and dangerous situations that would have angered and stressed out any parent. We are so lucky to have both a mom and a dad who could still see potential despite all of our screw-ups and calmly pushed us on through to adulthood. I hope my kids can be half as lucky. And if they think I get mad a lot because I yell at them for "leaving the door wiiide open" or "pourin' on the run," I just hope they forget about it when I help them get through college, move them into their first house, or dance with them at their wedding.

Thanks, Dad, for everything. Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 13, 2008

When The Cat's Away...

My husband loves food, but for all the joy and pleasure he gets out of drinking a creamy beer, eating a tasty hunk of sharp cheddar, and chowing down on a juicy steak, he has an equally strong repulsion to seafood, coffee, and nearly everything grown in the dirt. I still eat vegetables with dinner and grind fresh beans each morning, but I try to avoid any "extreme" vegetable meals when he's in town.

And when he's not in town, the herbivore in me usually comes out to play. I'd been wanting to make this salad for a few weeks, but with no fridge at work it wasn't very school-lunch-friendly. I was happy to see broccoli on sale last week when I went grocery shopping, and with Marc in Anaheim it was a perfect time for me to get my salad fix.

Thanks to Mom for her recipe, and thanks to Lani of Pleasure Cooker for jogging my memory with this stuff.

Broccoli Salad

1 bunch of broccoli, finely chopped
1 cup grated cheddar (I use sharp and I'm fairly certain I put in more than a cup!)
1 chopped red onion (I will chop the onion finer next time, I had some pretty strong bites in this batch)
8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

Mix together. Then make the dressing...
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (I'm sure other vinegars work, but I like this best)

Fold the dressing into the salad and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Best Wishes

I played violin at a wedding last weekend, and it was one of the few where I didn't feel very good after it was over.

The music was fine, don't get me wrong. But it was one of those rare instances where the bride and groom and their families just didn't seem to have that "glow." I feel terrible saying that, I don't know these people and maybe they were elated and I simply didn't see it. But there were some red flags all along, and 4 days later I'm still mulling it over and worrying about their marriage.

When I sent the bride a playlist months ago, she wrote me back "just play whatever you want. We really don't care that much about the music." I know most people don't get as much into music as I do, but most brides (and some grooms!) show at least a little concern. Communicating with her was like pulling teeth; her phone was mysteriously "out of service" and she went through 3 different email addresses over the course of 2 months. I never received her payment, and after politely reminding her that my fee was due a week before the event she promised I would have it at the rehearsal the night before. It didn't happen, and I had to eventually chase down her dad while the photographer took family pictures after the wedding ceremony (I majored in music education, not business or entrepeneurship).

There were other things that were just strange. The bride cried--like really loud, sobbing not silent, smiling tears--through the entire event. Perhaps it was in part because her three-year-old daughter, aka Flowergirl #1, threw a fit before coming down the aisle. Or maybe it's because the groom's father's 20-something girlfriend (got all that?) arrived wearing a strapless, fitted, ankle-length WHITE dress.

I hope when the stressful logistics were figured out, they were able to laugh and relax and just goof off and enjoy their day. I loved every minute of my wedding day, and I hated to leave this one feeling sad.

Friday, June 6, 2008

It's The End Of The Year As We Know It

School's out once again, and today marks the beginning of My Summer Vacation. This year felt a little longer than usual; because I moved last June, I spent last summer finding a job and then jumping through the various hoops required to teach in Florida.

So I am extremely happy to finally have a hefty chunk of down-time here in my still relatively new town. I've lived here for a full year now, but I have done very little exploring other than a few beaches and a handful of restaurants. I'm looking forward to some shopping, eating, visiting museums, running a 5k or two, and hopefully taking my first cooking class. A trip out to Oregon and maybe a visit with my little nephew, and this should be a full, but relaxing, summer.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Everybody's Goin' Green

Last weekend while visiting my hometown, I spotted this treasure. A limo covered in astroturf.

I am now 100% committed to the promise that I will always keep a camera in my purse.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I've Got Crabs

In eight years of public school teaching, I think I've only taken five personal days for illness and a couple of family weddings. Shoot, I didn't even take a day off when I was planning my own wedding!

But this year has been really tough. I wake up earlier than ever before, I have a wicked commute, and I teach at four different schools. To compound things, from April to June my husband and I have completely opposing work schedules; we're lucky if we have dinner together once a week.

So Marc and I agreed to play hookey. We took a random Thursday off after all my spring concerts were done, and we headed up to Honeymoon Island State Park. It's a great hideaway, about 40 minutes from our house in St. Pete. Decades ago the island was home to eight little bungalows, perfect for honeymoons and a romantic rendez-vous. The bungalows are no longer there, but a dog beach, a 2 mile nature trail, a visitor's center, and some amazing wildlife make this a place I hope to visit again soon. Hopefully with our soon-to-be-purchased kayak!

My favorite creature this time around was the gopher tortoise. He tucked his head in when we approached him, but he gradually came around. Less friendly were the crabs. They're pretty when you just see one or two of them...

...but when hundreds of them begin to chase you, well, that's just a little too National Geographic for me.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Analyze This

I want to preface this by saying that I am not making fun of a religion here. I understand that religion is important to many people, and I think people should practice what they wish, as long as it encompasses treating people with respect and love.

But in light of the recent Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise frenzy, I feel that this is relevant and at least somewhat interesting.

Marc and I went to see Ozomatli a few nights ago, and left the car parked on the street for probably around 5 hours or so. Plenty of time for someone to go around and stick pamphlets under windshields, one of my pet peeves. I hate this form of advertising or "spreading the word," it's an invasion of personal property and more importantly it always causes litter problems.

Anyway, the pamphlet this time was not the usual ad for a local happy hour or half-price appetizers after the concert. Instead, it was a very lengthy questionnaire designed to serve as a personality test. As an education student I took many a personality test, but never before had I been asked questions like this. A sample of my favorites:

  • Do you browse through railway timetables, directories, or dictionaries just for pleasure?
  • Is your voice monotonous rather than varied in pitch?
  • Are you normally considered "cold?"
  • Are you a slow eater?
  • Do you smile much?
  • Do you go to bed when you want to?
  • Do you have a tendency to tidy up a disorder of somebody else's household?
  • Does emotional music have an effect on you?

As it turns out, this is an introductory activity to see if you're a good fit for the Scientology Life Improvement Center. I found the questions to be pretty bizarre. I'm curious about what they're looking for--do they want a slow-eating monotone statistician who always sleeps eight hours, or are those negative qualities? I wonder what TomKat would say.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Flighty People

Every once in a while I really kick myself hard for not carrying a camera with me at all times. I used to have my digital camera in the car, ready at a moment's notice. But it's really hot here in Florida and I'm afraid that it may not withstand the temperatures.

Nevertheless, I regret not having a snap of the car I have now parked next to TWICE at the local grocery store. This is the decal attached to the rearview window:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thoughts While Cleaning My Closet

Any garments that are seen in pictures that also depict the only asshole I ever dated should not also be seen in my closet. Especially since I broke up with said asshole in 2001.

I have way too many striped tops.

I have way too many yellowed race/organization/festival t-shirts, and hardly anything to wear to work or out to a restaurant/bar/concert.

I need to find a deodorant that doesn’t ruin all my silky shirts.

On the off-chance that overalls come back in style, it’s highly doubtful that I’m going to be able to wear the same size that I wore in 1995. (While listening to Pearl Jam on my Sony Walkman and rollerblading across a college campus. Super-cool.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Quick Bite of the Big Apple

I had a wonderful time in New York last weekend, and as always I hated to leave so soon. Although the weather down here in Florida feels a lot more like spring!

I only had two and a half days to spend in the city, but I feel like I did a pretty good job of packing in as much as possible without feeling completely drained. Saturday I went to my first ballgame at Yankees Stadium. I love baseball, but I don't generally go to games even when I'm with Marc on a game-related trip! But this is the last year of the New York icon and I felt like I should see it before it's gone. I'm so glad I went--temps in the 60s, a very authentic subway ride, and some "real" locals surrounding me in the stands. It's a cool ballpark and I'm glad I got to be a part of its final season.

We had every intention to eat dinner at The Spotted Pig, a gastropub recommended to me by a foodie friend. But lots of people had the same idea on a Saturday night so after giving our name to the host we decided not to wait for nearly two hours and we hiked to Steak Frites instead. I've had better steak, but the atmosphere was nice, the potatoes were incredible, and I watched Marc do a magic trick that made the trip worthwhile--I watched him wolf down a salad as if it were a plate of cheese.

Sunday was one of the greatest moments of my musical life. I saw a performance at Carnegie Hall.

To many, I'm sure this doesn't seem like much of a big deal. It's just a big brick building with pretty good acoustics and famous people come play there. But it is so, so much more than that, as it has been for more than a hundred years. Each lobby and hallway reminds guests of the remarkable history of the place. Portraits of Oistrakh, Perlman, and Barenboim, letters from Ives, Tschaikovsky and Dvorak! It's a Who's Who of 19th and 20th century music history in America, and I think that's what makes it so's truly an American icon. Through school I learned all about Milan and Paris and Esterhazys and all the important European palaces and cathedrals that musicians still treasure. But the US got a much later start and we have very few sacred places that can tell some of the same beautiful stories. Carnegie Hall is one of them, and I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to sit in her balcony for a few hours.

Monday--my travel day--flew by. Marc and I braved the cold and wind and headed to the Upper West Side for delicious burgers at Big Nick's. We then hustled through the dinosaurs and a few mammals at the Museum of Natural History before he went to work and I caught a plane.

It's funny. I lived most of my life in South Carolina, yet I feel more comfortable navigating Manhattan than I do Charleston or Myrtle Beach. I love New York. I usually set limits for myself, trying not to visit the same cities or again and again. But I could see New York over and over and it would be a different city for me each food, different weather, a museum I haven't yet explored, concerts, parks, Broadway musicals. It just never gets old. I love New York.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

If You Were In New York City This Weekend

...and could only do one absolutely awesome thing, what would it be?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Brownie Pudding

My big dessert weakness is usually ice cream, and 9 times out of 10 I race to Publix to buy some chocolate-based treat like Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk or Edy's Rocky Road. But every once in a while I need something a little more substantial, something baked or saucy or sweet to the point where I can feel my teeth starting to crumble a little bit.

Such was the case last week. I wanted cake but I didn't want the added aggravation of going to the grocery store--you see, I had no eggs. Kinda limits your cake options.

And then I remembered this golden nugget from my cousin Mary. I hadn't made it in a couple of years and now I scratch my head and wonder why?! It's easy, the ingredients are all staples that you have in your kitchen anyway, and the end result is a warm, comforting, and delicious treat. Crispy edges like a homemade brownie with a rich fudgy sauce, better than any pudding I've ever tasted.

Now go buy some good quality vanilla ice cream and get to work.

Brownie Pudding

1 cup sifted flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup nearly boiling water

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, 2 tbsp baking powder, and salt. Add the milk, oil, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan.

Mix the brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa. Sprinkle evenly over the batter. Pour the hot water over the entire batter.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Scenes I Hope To Remember

As I enjoy a rainy thirty-first birthday, I think about how lucky I am. I've experienced some amazing food, travel, and, most of all, people in my short time here. A handful of the many things I hope never to forget:

  1. Dad's face when he told me I won the pony
  2. Hearing that I had a baby sister
  3. Meeting Slugger for the first time
  4. My first telephone conversation with Marc
  5. Mom teaching me how to make tartar sauce
  6. Mom taking us to the bookmobile
  7. Playing at The Rock with Mart, Beth, and Alisha
  8. Riding the see-saw at the Mitchells house
  9. Hearing my name called at graduation
  10. Dad telling me he had talked to my principal and they were going to let me take violin
  11. Flying in a plane over Alaska
  12. Riding in a convertible for the first time
  13. Hearing Marc repeat his wedding vows
  14. Dancing in Myrtle Beach with my 3 best friends
  15. Hearing Mart tell me about his new baby
  16. Tubing on the Green
  17. Buying my first margarita legally
  18. Playing violin at my grandparents' anniversary Mass
  19. My first view of the Eiffel Tower
  20. Feeding kangaroos in Tasmania
  21. Crying on the beach, admiring my new engagement ring
  22. Riding in a pick-up truck to get Katie's wedding dress pressed
  23. Hiking at Multnomah Falls
  24. Playing kazoos at Thanksgiving
  25. Unwrapping wedding presents at my bridal shower
  26. Cosmic bowling in Columbia
  27. Chatting with Guster band members
  28. The Dr Seuss ride with Amy
  29. Eating homemade brownies with Katie and Shareen
  30. Laughing at The Melting Pot with Marc, Mom, and Dad
  31. Trying to drive a stick
  32. Gazing at waterfalls at 2AM in Findley Park
  33. Climbing a tree to pick mistletoe
  34. Getting my bellyring
  35. Seeing The Producers from the third row
  36. Taking my students to Mirabell Gardens and singing the Do Re Mi song
  37. Walking to school with TR, Eric, and Jason
  38. Singing in the 7th grade assembly
  39. 80s music video nights with Marc
  40. Snorkeling in the Bahamas
  41. Acting out Beauty and the Beast with Sara while working 3rd shift
  42. Winning my first 5k award
  43. Feeding the deer at Hollywild
  44. Baking Christmas cookies
  45. Having the girls over for lasagna and salad
  46. Riding the boogie board
  47. Playing Marco Polo at the Kendalls
  48. Watching him ride his bike on Mackinac Island
  49. Opening my apartment door to a dozen roses
  50. Picking blackberries for Mom and Dad's famous ice cream

Friday, March 21, 2008

"What did you do at school today?"

This is my eighth year of teaching. Today may have been the most ridiculous day of my career.

For many,many years my school district has taken Good Friday as a holiday. Sometimes Spring Break coincides with Easter so it's not really an issue, but this year, in the interest of being "politically correct," our school board made it a point not to include Good Friday in our days off. We will have a full week of vacation in April, but regular classes were scheduled for both Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Apparently a lot of employees--teachers, staff, and even bus drivers--were unhappy with the school board's decision to work today. Many were generally upset because of their religious obligations, but most of the angry people seemed to care only because this has always been an off-day in the past and now they had to work. (We receive our district calendar about 18 months in advance; this new schedule may have been inconvenient but it was no surprise.)

The craziness started late last week when it became clear that many of these employess would be taking a personal day. The media ran with it, and daily there was paranoia that kids wouldn't be served lunch and schools would be full of substitutes. Some schools told their high school students that the absence wouldn't count against them so they "shouldn't bother coming."

Parents got wind of all this (it was all over the news this week) and by Thursday it was obvious that we were going to be making some adjustments. But nothing would have prepared me for the attendance today.

I usually teach 106 students on Friday. Today I saw a grand total of 13. My high school with a normal enrollment of 2400 kids? Attendance today was 138. And this was pretty much the standard throughout the district. The rough estimate was that district-wide we saw about 10% of the kids.

On the other hand, all the hype about the teachers skipping school turned out to be a huge overreaction. We were missing 12 teachers at my high school and only 8 at my middle school. But those of us who got up at 5:30, showed up on time with lesson plans prepared? We couldn't teach because these parents chose to buck the system and keep their kids home. I cleaned my classrooms, ordered some supplies, went out to lunch, and chatted with other teachers while our students watched movies and played outside. Your tax dollars at work.

A lot of people are upset with the school board, blaming them for scheduling school in the first place. But what's wrong with these parents? How can this many people just look at the calendar--keeping in mind this is not a federal holiday, most people had to work today--and tell their kids "screw it, school's not that important."

This kind of thing makes it harder and harder for me to set that alarm clock every night.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Treasure Island, Indeed

Last week I brought my orchestra students to our state contest. Actually they no longer call it "Contest," instead it's the Music Performance Assessment. The ensemble performs 3 prepared pieces for an audience and a panel of judges. Then you migrate (silently!) to another smaller room and sightread a fourth piece, again in front of an audience and one judge. The kids played extremely well and despite a couple of major transportation snafus it was a really nice day. For lots of reasons, but the biggest one being we earned straight Superior ratings.

Field trips are always a big headache, which is why lots of teachers no longer organize them. You have to find the money, the chaperones, the transportation, the itinerary and meals, and then go through all the paperwork of clearing their absences from school and making sure you have their medical and insurance info. Because I'm a music teacher, I also have the added treat of making sure the students have their instruments, music and other paraphernalia, and double-checking that they're dressed in their proper concert uniform.

Through the chaos of getting the kids organized and on the bus the other day, I failed to notice that my Principal Second Violinist came nattily attired in a pirate shirt.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Humble Pie

There are few positions more vulnerable than standing in a bathroom with your pants down as a stranger accidentally walks in on you.

Unless you're a teacher standing in a bathroom with your pants down as your principal accidentally walks in on you. That's probably worse. I think.

Friday, February 29, 2008


As a true 80's kid, there are any number of things that are sacred to me that many other people--younger people--wouldn't understand. Snoopy Sno Cone Machines, the He-Man cartoon, original Care Bears, Rainbow Brite, The Facts of Life. These are all experiences from the 80's that we thirty-somethings fondly remember, but deep down we know they weren't any good. It hurts to admit it sometimes, but let's be realistic. Have you watched a re-run of Family Ties? I adored that show as a kid, and now I'm aware that it really kinda sucked.

But there were some truly great things that came out of the 80's. Cheers was a great thing. The Slip'n'Slide. My Little Pony (although my mom wouldn't let me have one because it looked "like a pig fetus." Years later, my younger sister had several.). And Magnum P.I. Magnum was a great thing.

Apparently the carnies think so, too. There we were, walking down the Midway at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. And amidst the run-of-the-mill Gravitron, The Zipper, and the Himalaya, there he was. A poorly painted Thomas Magnum (look at the shape of his head! say it ain't so!) smiling down upon us, most likely trying to solve the mystery of what the hell is really in Deep Fried Pepsi. Either that or wondering why instead of the terrific Mike Post Magnum PI theme song, revelers were spinning around to the tune of Ice, Ice Baby.

*photos courtesy of Marc