Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Invitation to the President...

After a long hard day of saving the world, it's time for bed, but not before I mention a few wedding details (for those who are keeping up)! Tonight, I made a mock-up of our Rehearsal Dinner invites. A compromise was necessary when we decided on our wedding invitations last Monday and in the compromise, I promised him we'd do the rehearsal invites as "travel documents" of some kind since we saw sample wedding invitations like that and he fell in love immediately. Dustin has been so good about everything...and by this I mean-he has opinions and input on every decision we make, but this one made his eyes light up! So I got in touch with the stationery store and they sent me jpgs so I could decide on an invite...I thought I'd look for less expensive ones (they're always more expensive in stores, aren't they???) and found a template for them online! When I'm done, I'll share them if you guys are interested! :)

I have to immediately give credit where credit is due. The template was on this super amazing website written by a woman named "Aylee" who is also getting married pretty soon. Thanks for the templates, Aylee, and if any of you want to see a super cool wedding website blog...head her way.

Secondly, I borrowed another template from her for "Passport" invites and am revamping them into Welcome notes and Itineraries for our out of town guests (which means just about everyone)...the ones whose hotels we can locate, that is. Also, more to come on that as we get further along.

But perhaps the most exciting thing I've learned from Aylee's website so far is that we can invite the President to our wedding (which, I guess is a given...anyone can get an invite, right?) and even though there's just about no chance he'll show, he will send a response signed by he and his wife. Pretty cool, eh? I guess that's only cool if you're an Obama supporter or history buff? No?

Either way, if you're getting married or have some other event you want to invite our President and his wife to...here's the address, courtesy of Aylee...

Send your invitation to the Obamas here:
The Honorable Barack Obama and Mrs. Obama
The White House
Greetings Office Room 39
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Swee dreams, kit kats!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Home Again

We are back in Columbia just in time to ring in the new season (hopefully). While we were gone, a group of our friends tag-teamed puppy/bird/house sitting for us and we could not be more indebted to them. If you're a pet-owner you know what it's like leaving your pets at home or, worse yet, kenneling them at the vet's or boarding place alongside various other dogs from who KNOWS what kind of home! It's stressful! Even taking them is a bit stressful, but with two dogs, two birds, two people and one car, we couldn't figure out a safe way to travel home to SC with everyone arriving in tact so we pooled together our friends and they really came through for us in a bind! We are eternally grateful!

Upon our return home, I discovered that everything I'd been growing from seed when I left a week ago was thriving now-one week later. This year, I planted tomatoes, a few leftover seeds of dill from last year, sweet peas, spinach, red leaf lettuce, hot banana peppers and habanero peppers that Dustin brought back from Hungary sometime in the late nineties or early 2000's I think, basil and coriander. They are all lined up on the kitchen windowsill and moved during the day according to much sun they like or don't like. D thinks I sort of garden haphazardly, but what he doesn't realize is that I've read all the directions and have tailored my care for the various seedlings based on them. For example, peppers need heat, according to a bunch of websites and their packages, so I've been keeping them on top of my heat pad (the one intended for my bum knee) to make sure they're warm enough. I turn it on and off through the day and night since the peppers and heat pad reside on my nightstand (so I can monitor the heat). They are also directly in the window so when the sun starts to go westward, they're perfectly positioned and warm. Some of the things I'm growing are heartier and don't need as much time and attention and care...etc. What it comes down to is this: every single pot I've planted something in has green seedlings or small stalks coming out of it. When I say every single pot I really mean it. Imagine my surprise when I began transplanting the large enough seedlings to separate pots that I thought were empty only to find that the basil I was pretty sure wasn't sprouting had, indeed, sprouted three times. Exactly! Pretty awesome.

So now I have spent half the day gardening, transplanting and watering and a small portion of my day reveling over how successful our vermicomposter seems to be so far. When we left, D and I put in a ton of garbage (knowing we probably shouldn't, but also not wanting it to sit around until we got back). If worms have TOO much garbage in there, they try to escape. If they have too much water they try to escape, too. Apparently, there are a lot of things that upset worms and make them want to leave and, somehow (knock on wood), we have managed to avoid doing any of the things they hate. When we left, the compost was pretty high up and we hadn't bought any worms. Instead, while I gardened, I took the worms I found, collected them in a plastic cup, and tossed them into the compost bin every ten minutes or so. We were supposed to buy them, according to the websites we read, but we couldn't find a bait/tackle shop around here and didn't want to spend a whole lot of money so we threw caution to the wind, crossed our fingers and collected the worms from the garden.

Lo and behold, the compost smells only like dirt rather than smelling rotted from the spoiled food we tossed in a week ago, no worms have tried to escape from any of the holes, there are no worms in the bottom basin of the compost and the amount of stuff inside the compost seems to have gone down...literally...like it's not as high up in the bin as it was. We took this to mean success?

Only time will tell...but so far this spring seems to be off to a good start...off to correct the 20 essays I should've corrected over spring break. I need another spring break just to get over the last one! Whew...it never ends.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wedding Dress Introduction

The Wedding Planning Week has come to an end, just about. D and I leave tomorrow for Columbia and the rest of the semester and are feeling pretty good about what we've done so far. The only real problem is that I'm worried everything isn't as nailed down as I'd like it to be, but is it ever? 

Anyhow...here's more of a recap for you! Friday got up bright and early again and wandered over to the Atlanta Bread Company to meet Cathy Evangelista in person. Cathy is our videographer and we'd never met her in person before yesterday morning. I have to say, the videography wasn't my biggest concern. D and Mom did most of the research, interviewing (on the phone/email) and requests while I kept records and info (we've unknowingly fallen into various roles...as you can probably guess. I'm the one who has all the information and does all the follow-up work and keeping everyone straight and updated work-meaning vendors. We all make the decisions, especially based on what's most important to us regarding the wedding). I totally trusted their choice of videographer, but knew there needed to be a formal meet and talk session with me present. When we did finally sit down over some coffee Friday morning, D and I fell into our usual pattern of asking more about the person's life and, in Cathy's case, very musically inclined sons than asking questions about their work. I think this happens because we already chose them based on what they can do, now we want to have a relationship with them and know who they are and what's important to them. If any of our vendors seemed like ass holes or selfish, money-driven jerks, I think we wouldn't have stuck with them. We are all about having a group of vendors and people on our wedding team that feel like friends rather than just some people we hired and Cathy fell right into that category.

Afterwards, we headed over to the Big Bamboo so D could get a tee-shirt. While we were there, we had lunch at the fabulous seafood place, Steamer's, that I used to work at back in 2002. We mainly go for the amazing She-Crab soup, but their tuna bites are pretty incredible and so is just about everything else. While we had lunch out on the patio, we spotted Dustin's old colleague from the Hilton Head Airport, Austin. I don't really know Austin, but we seem to literally run into him every time we're home.

BUT...the MOST exciting part of yesterday, as wonderful as each moment was, was going to Bleu Belle Bridal to look for a veil. Mom and I entered, wandered around when I saw one of my three dress choices hanging in the samples rack and said, "This is one of the ones, Mom..." to which the salesgirl said: "Yeah, we just love her!" I found two veils I liked and they suggested I try on the sample of my dress with it (cus up until now they'd said my dress hadn't come in yet)...so I headed toward the dressing room and they quick covered my eyes, led me in and said: "Neesha, we'd like you to meet your wedding gown!" Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me just tell you right now...it was AWESOME! I was so excited and my Mom cried a little, one of the salesgirls got "chills" and I couldn't wait to get that sucker on. It was so amazing. Even more amazing in person than I remember it being. Mom helped me into the dress, we tried the veil I liked most on with it and voila! The wedding day attire is complete. I even had the crazy idea to bring my shoes with me for whatever weird reason...and the only gown, shoes, veil...went together so well and I was so happy. What made me even HAPPIER was that the dress was a little too big on me so it needs to be taken in. Back in November when I tried that size on it was a perfect fit. Literally. Almost like they melted me and poured me into the gown, but this time...too big! Not huge, but too big and in need of adjusting. This is nice to know.

I stood in the dress for quite some time while Tammy, the seamstress, tried to figure out the best way to bustle it without losing any of the beautiful details of the gown. She played with it for about thirty minutes and my right foot started to get totally numb from standing in the new shoes with the heavy gown on...but, really, I would've stood their forever if they'd let me. There aren't many days I'm going to get to put on a wedding gown like that...I love it and I can't wait for you guys to see just why when you come to the wedding!

Before we left, I picked out some cute hair jewelry (who ever thought I would one day be thinking about hair jewelry!?!) and thanked the women profusely. I also dreamed about this Bronwin dress by Melissa Sweet and how much I'd love to wear it to the rehearsal dinner. I read somewhere that it's good luck to wear green to the rehearsal and, although I really want to wear white, think I'll make sure I've got some green shoes or something (I'm totally superstitious...I think it runs in the family). I figure I can find something like this Bronwin dress, though, and throw on some green heels. I saw a pair in some wedding magazine that were ridiculously adorable. If only this dress weren't so freaken ridiculously expensive. Damn Melissa Sweet. I will have to find a more reasonable dress that looks similar.

In other news, my bridesmaid Carrie dropped out, which wasn't all together unexpected. A lot has happened in the world and in families since D and I got engaged...for example, two or three of his groomsmen just had a new baby or are about to have a new baby. We're crossing our fingers they'll all be able to attend still! But, if not, we get it...and love them just the same.

Other than that, the week was a total success. I started this entry the other day and am finishing it now-back in Columbia, after our intensely long ride back yesterday. Still working on details from home...but it feels fabulous to have so much taken care of...thanks to Mom and Dustin this process has really been enjoyable.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend/spring break!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wedding Planning Week Recap

If I could be any event, I think I would like to be an oyster roast taking place right after an 8am 5k run complete with lemon, cocktail sauce and golden frothy beers on the side. Aphrodisiac HEAVEN!

Dustin would like to be an all-you-can eat pancake breakfast on a chilly autumn morning in Missouri with fresh amber-colored syrup straight from Vermont drizzled over pads of quickly-melting butter.

Today, we were a wedding in many parts that will, eventually, add up to one whole wedding event. In other words, we were up at 8:45, to the florist's (A Floral Affair...apparently, they appear in magazines all the time and have won multiple excellence awards...when you meet Dawn, her adorable puppy Rascal and her completely devoted and hardworking team of floral designers, it's easy to understand why! Dawn picture to the right with my mom and I) by 10 so we could pick and choose flowers, linens and everything else under the sun for two hours. We hit up Sister Kat around noon and had a nice little chat about stuff we didn't know or remember (aka-a reminder session of all we need to have ready for the big day and when we need to get it to her by), followed immediately by an hour and forty-minute food tasting at the Westin which consisted of a few passed hors d'eouvres, sit-down appetizer, salad, three possible entrees and cake (we took that to-go 'cus we had another appointment to jet to).
At 2:45 we found ourselves seated in Pastor Dan Quiram's office at Island Lutheran church to discuss the possibility of him doing a reading or saying a prayer at our Catholic church ceremony and by 3, we were both sweating bullets (seriously) from being grilled about our religious convictions and faith, our definitions and motivations to marry and then (a separate question) our motivations in marrying one another...and many other sweat-inducing questions. I thought I'd lose ten pounds before we walked out the door.

If you're wondering...he did, in fact, agree to do a reading, though we were fairly sure he was 
going to say "no" at the end of the interrogation. It was intense. More intense than our meetings with the priests at our Catholic church and pre-canaa sessions. Just severely intense.
It was so stressful, Dustin asked if we could please go get ice cream to make him feel better. Of course, we did (despite our attempts at watching what we eat...79 days and counting).

This is Mom's favorite ice cream store on the island (really it's in the Tanger outlets just off island, but who's counting?) and she's right. It's pretty amazing and that's coming from a girl who doesn't really dig ice cream all that much (sensitive teeth). So if you're ever on the island...keep this place in mind and you'll be glad you splurged your diet on this ice cream!

But the day finally came to a perfect climax when we met up with our fabulous friends 
Stacey and Todd who are, consequently, getting married six days before us just up the road on the island, as well! We met Stacey and Todd a year ago on the island when D and I discovered the Art Cafe. I should mention that we are also pretty much in love with the Art Cafe and go there just about every time we are in town to create a new piece for our home (also, it's a great excuse to see our two favorite islanders). D has made two coffee mugs already and I have made a chips and dip plate and a serving platter. The concept behind the Art Cafe is awesome. You go in, pick out a piece of pottery you'd like to paint (options range from dishes to tiles, letters to wall hangings, picture frames and vases...etc.), paint it, leave it with the wonderful owners who will then glaze and bake it then VOILA you have a new _______ (insert name of object you want to paint here). We commemorate most of our visits with a new piece from the Art Cafe. It's a relaxing fun time and we love getting our creativity on during a rainstorm or cool island day!

So we met up with T+S for dinner at Murphy's Irish Pub (just a hop, skip and jump away from the Art Cafe), then headed down to check on the Tiki Hut (which wasn't open, but happens to be just outside the site of our rehearsal dinner and isn't being torn down after all-for those of you who are familiar with the Tiki Hut's plight!). From there, we headed over to the Big Bamboo where D and I first met back in 2003 (click there for story on how we met taken from D's old myspace blog) and had a blast sharing stories, talking, laughing and just enjoying some quality time catching up with one another. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far. We don't get to Hilton Head nearly enough and when we're here, we're always strapped for time since we're planning the wedding with every moment our eyes are open...so meeting up with these two was a real treat and we can't say enough about how awesome they are and how lucky we are to have met them (and they don't even read our blog, so I'm not scoring us any brownie points here). Hopefully, you who are invited will come to the wedding and get to see exactly what we mean. If you're at their table, consider yourselves lucky and highly awesome in our eyes.

A few other things of note from the week...

-Invites are picked thanks to Gene over at Pretty Papers

-Hair and make-up decisions have been made thanks to another Gene over at the Westin's Heavenly Spa

-All the music for the church ceremony has been worked out thanks to the incredible musical and creative genius of the church's breathtakingly talented organist (and hopefully our new friend) Jonathan Davis

-The menu is just about set and it includes a delish Indian vegetarian option with the help of 
Deepak, an Indian intern in the Westin's kitchen, Bill Ryan, the chef who is working specifically to create our dream menu, and Anissia Shalton, the dream of a wedding/even planner the Westin (and we) are lucky enough to have found. Not to mention we were only able to enjoy this tasting thanks to the incredible service of Linda, the wonderful server that took care of us and everything we could possibly need this afternoon.

-Our engagement photos have been taken and are being tweaked. Special thanks to Tim Zielenbach for taking the time to come out here, meet with us, hang out with us and coax us into playing in the water on the beach, despite the chilliness in the air. (I strongly encourage you to visit Tim's site and treat yourself to some spectacular photography that could keep you entranced for hours. Tim has an uncanny ability to capture the beauty in every moment, whether it includes tears or smiles, old or young, weddings or casual photos. Every moment is a blessing when you see it through Tim's shots. And if you're looking for a photographer-and friend-I can't recommend him enough!) Here is a brief sample Tim sent to us the evening of our shoot...

And, of course, we have to remember to give a shout-out to my Connie...aka..MOM...who is all over every detail and tirelessly works with us (as we drag her around for her opinions) to put every detail and piece of this wedding together little by little. She has been absolutely incredible every single minute of every single day and, really, without her there is NO way we would be this together or this prepared for our wedding. If you read this...THANK YOU, MOM!...You are completely kick ass.

We have been incredibly blessed to work with such amazing, talented, accommodating people during this process. If not for them, it wouldn't be nearly as fun, exciting and enjoyable to put our dream event together. We really are so blessed.

And thanks to you guys for reading! More updates to follow!

A Word on Peanut Butter

Certainly, there is lots to say and plenty of stories to fill you, our loyal readers, in on. But, for the time being (and because it's terribly late and we have a very wedding-planning-filled day tomorrow...appointments starting at 9 stretching in 1-2 hour intervals until 7) I want to share with you one piece of advice, beginning with my discovery.

Cut to story:

Enter Neesha in the mid-afternoon light, feet slapping against the stone kitchen floor, fingers ruffling through a plastic bag resting on the kitchen counter to, ultimately, reveal what it contains: apricot/cranberry bread. (Imagine an expression of utter joy on her face as she pulls two slices from the bag.)

                 An Aside:
    Neesha has given up meat, seafood, cheese and any product made of these elements for Lent this year. For those of us who are vegan/vegetarian this isn't so bad and even for Neesha it's do-able, save for the fact that she is on spring break visiting her parents who love meat and hate seitan, tofu, tempeh...etc True, she is not much of a Catholic, but she is a sucker for a challenge and giving something up for 40 days is a challenge. As her fiance would say: she does it to see if she can.

Envision her small mom standing at the ironing board she's positioned in the kitchen, wedged between the sink and the bread counter.
"Hey Mama, do we have any peanut butter?" Neesha asks, mouth salivating as she puts the slices of bread on a paper plate-the first piece of food she has had time to eat all day long.
Picture tiny Connie pulling a jar of Peter Pan Peanut Butter from the cabinet behind her. In Neesha's mind she sings, "Peanut...peanut butter...(jelly!)" although she has no intention of putting jelly on her bread.
Peanut...peanut butter...jelly! She spreads the creamy peanut butter over the yellow and red speckled bread. Peanut...peanut butter...jelly! Peanut...peanut butter...Over the slice...jelly! "Does peanut butter go bad, Mom?" She asks as she screws the cap back on the peanut butter jar.
"I don't know? Why?" Connie asks, a touch of concern and interest in her voice. She eyes the jar.
"No reason. I just wondered. I thought there was mold in there, but realized it was just the empty spot on the bottom of the jar, not a mold spot." 
More salivation before, at last, the first indulgent sensational bite...and chew, chew...gag.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the correct answer to the question "Does peanut butter go bad, Mom?" is a resounding "yes." Peanut butter goes rank and vomitesque. (Yes, I created that word just for you.) Ya know when you haven't dusted your abode in a long time, then decide it's past due? So you go ahead and pull out a dust rag but only have one so you have to clean the whole place and all its surfaces with just the one rag? Imagine all the dust that has collected from your entire habitat being mixed in with a jar of Peter Pan Peanut Butter remnants. That equalled what I almost threw up from my first attempt at eating of the day. 
The peanut butter coated itself to the walls and surfaces of my mouth like quick-dry cement. My tongue stuck to my teeth, my cheeks, the roof of my mouth and all the saliva secreted out...retreating from the foul peanut butter I attacked it with. I could do nothing but gag. My eyes teared up, ready for whatever was in my stomach to come rocketing back out. The problem was-there was nothing in my stomach. My mouth was a hostage to the bad peanut butter and nothing was coming out. Salvation came in the form of my toothbrush which I used to cut through the layer of stale peanut butter and bread that stuck to my mouth. It was torture. Pure torture. I would've preferred battling salmonella from the peanut butter than the gross, bad peanut butter I unknowingly attempted to have for lunch.

When Neesha returned from gagging up her peanut butter and apricot/cranberry bread, a new, unopened jar of peanut butter greeted her on the counter. Still coughing and sputtering, she shoved it back toward her mother, saying, "I think I'm off peanut butter for, maybe, ever. And perhaps you should be, too."

Moral of the story: don't eat anyone else's peanut butter or you'll be sorry.
Oh, and, also...beware of bad peanut butter. It's not like milk which curdles and smells, but a whole new breed of disgusting.

Hope you're all well. Miss you desperately! 

(PS-sorry for the confusion of narrator's, too, was feeling experimental)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Italy in an Instant

As I drove to It's a Grind this afternoon, still smelling the shampoo on my wet hair and feeling the rawness of my callused, cut hands from digging out a few feet of grass for our garden in the back of the house this morning, I started to think of the six months I lived in Italy. I thought of this while driving, not while gardening. While gardening, I thought of the loose leaf lettuce I'm growing, the spinach and sweet peas, the surprising unlikelihood of my successful pepper seeds that have sprouted and are thriving. I fretted over the worms I stole from the soil and expatriated to the composter, though I've read this will not work, and felt vindicated by this action when I checked to see if the worms were attempting an escape and found that, indeed, they were not. But while I drove, serenaded by NPR's classical musical choices, I thought of Italy.

Italy comes to me in gusts, sometimes. Today it was the sweet powdered scent of chocolate filled croissants at 5:30am, before the sun came up as we strolled the cobblestone streets back to our green-shuddered apartment with its white facade always glowing in the night like the moon. Today it was how those croissants melted like sugar in hot water on our tongues as we exchanged lire for them at the backdoor of the unopened bakery, spitting out what little Italian we had mastered in the early morning darkness to a face that never came to us in clarity.

Today I thought of the cobblestones we treaded both at night, in the morning and in the afternoon. How we carved our way through Florence, past the Duomo and Santa Croce, across the Ponte Vecchio and through the San Lorenzo de Medici market cluttered with wares and vegetables, leather and eggs. Always heading somewhere, to see something, following the cobblestones, dodging traffic, gazing into windows filled with rich chocolate sachertorte gazing back at us through a glaze of glossy, smooth frosting.

I can hear Italy, if I think hard enough. I can remember my innocent mistakes as I ordered an expresso when I really wanted a coffee or my surprise when I found a sandwich spot hidden beneath an arch with a woman who spoke every language we threw at her. I felt safe in her company, her voice as confident as an American's and her command of the language even better.

I remember my shock of blonde hair against the black of my clothes as I attempted to hide myself and blend into the atmosphere, always noticing my foreignness in the reflection of the endless windows I passed.

But what struck me most about Italy today was how everything I saw there, everything I did, every day for months it lured me, entranced me like a siren into forgetting to look for the sky. it's easy to forget the sky in Italy when surrounded by so much artistic and architectural beauty, when watching the ground to be sure I didn't step in dog excrement. How easy it was to forget that slice of blue hidden away behind the shining buildings and sidewalk vendors with their renditions of the art hidden away in the buildings as their wares.

It was on a walk to school one afternoon that I suddenly felt lost and empty in the middle of living my dream existence in Italy. The feeling came over me like homesickness and my heart pounded in my chest, begging me to take notice and remember. "Remember!" It seemed to say with each thump. "REMEMBER!" And, believe it or not, I felt frantic, panicked, as if I'd lost something I couldn't name or even seek. I tilted my head back to take a deep breath and spotted blue space high above the buildings and people, high above the sponge of culture and art I'd become. And in the time it took me to inhale, relief swept over me, calm soothed me and I felt like I was home.

Missouri has so much sky I never feel lost, though I sometimes long for Italy in my daydreams. As long as there is space above me, as long as I take notice of its existence, I will always be home.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Advice Needed

Let me give you the lowdown. Let us call the students "Jen" and "Anne." Let us call the class "creative writing." Let us say that this class, in particular, is fairly mature and very attentive.

Picture this: class begins. Students are seated. You are in the front of the room discussing the reading they were to have read for homework. The majority of the students are scribbling down notes. At least one or two hands go up when a question is posed. When asked to read their work aloud, many of the students are willing to divulge what they've written--therefore, putting themselves and their writing out there on the chopping block for the rest of the class. Occasionally, someone will send a text message, but will immediately put the phone away when you, the teacher, give them a "look." The students laugh at jokes posed by their peers or you and are really quite witty and intelligent. They impress you with their desire to learn and their thoughtfulness. In the back of the room, distinctly separate from the rest of the class, are Jen and Anne. Once, in the middle of workshopping three different, carefully written stories by three different students who offered up their work to the critical eyes of the class, you are distracted through the entire hour and fifteen minutes because Jen and Anne are noticeably fooling around on their laptops-side by side, in the back right of the room. You are annoyed because you realize if it were their pieces being workshopped, they would be paying the utmost attention. They were to have read all of these stories and made comments on the manuscripts in order to discuss them this very day. They had the pieces, at least, one week in advance. There is no reason they should be typing away, eyes fixed to the screens before them, while the rest of the class respectfully attempts to critique the short stories in order to help with the revision process for their peers.

Class ends.

Because you do not want to "call them out" in class and embarrass them in front of their fellow students, you sit down and compose two emails that evening, one to each girl, asking that they do not ever come to class and play on their laptops again. You kindly explain to them just how rude and disrespectful that is to not only you, but their peers and, especially, those who's stories are being workshopped.

Neither girl replies and neither girl appears in class with a laptop again.

When workshopping ends and lecturing begins again, Jen and Anne tag-team their attendance to the class. You notice that Anne is clearly the brighter of the two, as well as the more talented writer and more thoughtful student as a whole. She is, overall, a better student and it is evident when she makes comments in class. However, Jen has a poor attitude-incessantly writing notes, laughing, rolling her eyes, assuming an attitude of condescension when given a prompt in class while the other students are thirsty to learn more, try more and do not make the assumption that what you are asking them to do has no point. It is clear that Anne is more involved in these prompts as she takes much longer to write them. Jen, on the other hand, is always the first one finished. She slams her pen down with annoyance and proceeds to distract Anne while she is still doing her work. One particular day, you have had just about enough and find yourself glaring at the two girls in the back of the room, breathing enraged breaths and debating exactly how it is you want to handle this situation. This has been sparked by Jen's overwhelming flow of haughtiness. Today she has become outright vocal about her displeasure in being asked to perform the menial task of writing down five things and acts as though even the simple directions are damn near ridiculous. (Write down five characters. Write down five conflicts. Write down five gestures.-She responds: A gesture? What, like a hand gesture? Like five different hand gestures? To which you reply, there are far more than just hand gestures to be performed in the world.) Everyone else, including Anne, seems to understand the assignment. She, unhappily, goes back to her work.

Not too long ago, a student complained. In fact, it was just after the laptop incident. He conferenced with you and said, "It's so distracting and annoying! I don't know how you can stand it. If I were the teacher I would flip out!" You want to tell him you, too, want to flip out on occasion...but you haven't quite gotten to that point yet and, instead, you are holding out hope that your emails on the laptop incident will solve the problem. You find out, over the course of the next few weeks, that you are, in fact, wrong.

While the students work on their prompts, you consider your options for solving this issue, while maintaining your composure and coolness. You have reacted well with situations that others may not have before. Remember the time half the class showed up without their work done? You calmly told the half that did not do the work that they were dismissed and free to go since they were of no use to the class or the conversation if they did not come prepared with their work. They stared at you in disbelief. One of them asked you to please, at least, yell at them or something. You said you weren't angry-it was their grade, but you simply couldn't use them in the class activity so they should leave in order to clear up space and distraction. They did so and never came unprepared again. It was the saddest you'd ever seen a class and, possibly, one of the most effective ways of disciplining you've ever used. You want to maintain that kind of demeanor. You think of this while you debate the options.

1. Ask them both to stay after class. When they do, tell them that their attitudes and ongoing conversations with one another are not only rude, but distracting. Explain that you've had students literally tell you that they find it disrespectful and annoying. Ask them if there is a problem you are unaware of that, perhaps, you can all solve together? Further, if they react poorly, tell them they are welcome to drop the class or you can do it for them considering Jen has already missed the allotted four absences. If they respond well, tell them if it keeps up, though, you will have to ask them to please sit separately from now on. "I don't like to do this," you hear yourself say, "Just like I don't like to call students out and embarrass them in class, but since you have become a distraction to your fellow students, it's a major problem and I will be forced to ask you to sit apart if you cannot handle sitting beside one another and remaining attentive in my classroom." Part of you imagines this breaking into a fight because Jen is so angry looking all the time. You don't want to have to take her down. 

2. Ask Jen to stay after class, knowing full-well Anne will probably wait for her outside the classroom. Speak solely to Jen and explain to her that her attitude is starting to disrupt the class and her fellow students. Tell her that she is acting as a distraction to Anne who, when Jen is not present, is attentive and participatory. Explain to her that you've honestly had just about enough of the high school attitude and that even if she dislikes you or the class, it's up to her to make the decision to either stick it out and perform up to par with the rest of the class or to drop it and you'll be happy to submit a drop form to the Dean. Further, she is not to miss even one more class as she has already missed the limit and, lastly, she is not to sit near Anne any longer if she cannot keep from chatting with her. This is where you imagine she flips out and attacks you. Unfortunately, you are about half her size so you fear this, but, luckily, you have some taekwando training. A very small amount, but it's better than nothing.

3. You try a sneak attack mode and ask Anne to stay after class. This one, you think, is ingenious! When Anne stays after class, and you know Jen is waiting outside the room for her, you explain to her that you think she is a thoughtful, helpful critic. You tell her that you think her participation is useful and that you enjoy having her in the classroom as she brings a unique twist on things other students have not. You go on to say that you think if her first story was any type of hint as to what she could do in a shorter period of time, you are convinced she could do something quite wonderful if she took quite a bit of time. Unfortunately, you tell her, you have had students complain about the activity going on in the back of the room between she and Jen and it would be best for her grade, overall, if she found a new place to sit or a new way to ignore her friend's chatting.

There aren't as many cons on the third, you think. Positive reinforcement, then blast away at the friend. Divide and conquer! Brilliant! 

Yet when the class ends, after the students have read their short scenes for the class, you do not ask either of them to stay. You want to make sure you have chosen the correct option, but need to run it by some people instead of just going for it. You are ok with thinking that Jen might not like you as a teacher or think you are not effective. You're fine with her disliking you as a person, even. What you are not ok with is handling the situation incorrectly and setting a standard. You want this to end and you want it to end as peacefully and quickly as possible.

What do you do?


Friday, March 6, 2009

The Watchmen: A Review

Second day of physical therapy: done!

When I told my students I was going to have to start P.T., they got really excited. It seems like nearly every one of my fiction students has had to go through P.T. for one thing or another and they all said the same thing: "They do this cool thing at the end where they put these shock things on you and a cold pad and they just leave you for, like, ten minutes. It's awesome!" Some of them went so far as to say that they lied and said the buzzing of the stimulator pad wasn't up high enough so their therapist would make it stronger. 

I trust my fiction class. They are bright, talented, engaged human beings and I thoroughly enjoy each and every one of them. We have bonded over the last few months and so I believed them when they got so excited about the buzzing strips and cold pad...but let me tell you right now: I hate it. I hate how it makes my leg muscles contract unwillingly. I hate how my leg gets numb from the cold pad and I really hate how it feels as though the buzz pad is buzzing its way through my skin and injecting it's buzziness directly into my muscles. I hate it. I didn't have the heart to tell them the other day how much I disliked it. I thought I'd give it another go: maybe it was just first time gone awry, ya know? But, no. I hate it. Still.

Another thing I kind of hate is the movie the Watchmen, only I'm not as certain about the depths of my hatred on this one. There were some, minor elements I liked. D and I saw previews for this film a year ago and, as intense superhero fans, we have been looking forward to it ever since. In recent months, D has been refining his superhero based course and as the movie release came closer, we grew worried when we heard that the rights to the film were not fully sorted out, meaning the film was in jeopardy of not being released! We waited, with baited breath, and were happy to hear the conflict was resolved and the film was coming out!  So when I heard that both of our major theaters were having multiple midnight showings the night it came out, Dustin and I knew we needed to be some of the first viewers.

Admittedly, I had not read the graphic novel as I've been a bit on the busy side, but D filled me in on the basic essential background pieces I needed, we met some friends at the theatre a half hour before midnight and, with popcorn in hand, we awaited the opening credits of the film.

First things first...this movie expects that you already know the basic premise. If I had known more about the background of the characters, I would not have been confused about who belonged to the first vs. the second generation. This wasn't the MOST essential missing link, but it would've saved Fi a lot of quick explaining.

Secondly, the acting was comical. Really. I burst out laughing a few times without meaning to and at totally inappropriate times because it was just THAT bad. The chick who played Laurie (Silk Spectre Gen. 2) was the worst, by far, plus she looked just like Xena: Warrior Princess. If you doubt me, look below for a comparison shot and doubt no more!

See what I'm talking about? Totally weird, right? Imagine trying to NOT think of Xena the Warrior Princess while watching the Watchmen!

Thirdly, gender roles! Good fucking GOD (you know it's serious when I drop the f-bomb!). I am not usually one for pouting about whether women have huge roles in movies. I mean, there are times when movies are made that have NO good male roles, so I think it's fair to keep that type of conversation out of a review if it's clearly not intended to be a carefully done character sketch on both genders. I do, however, take serious issue with the distortion of female roles when they were not intended to be presented as they are on screen. For example-removing half of a costume so the actress is more eye-candy than the character from the graphic novel, cheapening the effect of a sex scene when it is meant to reveal much more about both characters than it does on screen...etc. Perhaps one of the best examples of the poor portrayal of women in this film is simply Laurie herself. She literally goes from one man to the next, craving their attention and using them as "saviors" because she has somehow lost her ability to live independently despite the fact that she is a retired superhero. What??? Talk about wrong on so many levels! Other women were casually and meaninglessly beaten, nearly raped and murdered. These moments added nearly nothing to the plot unfolding on screen.

Fourthly, Roorschach's voice is utterly ridiculous. It's impossible to take him seriously when it's clear he's deliberately trying to make his voice raspy, intense and low, not to mention he leaves out essential words that, for those of us who speak proper English, are imperative to the meaning and completion of a sentence. I'm all for altering the English language when I write--last I heard they call that creative license, but c'mon! I have enough trouble with students getting their sentences straight than to promote it in a movie most of them were probably watching alongside me. It, again, only evoked laughter and disbelief from me.

I could go on, but let me leap forward.

Since I couldn't fathom that Laurie could really be such a vapid character, and because I didn't understand everything in the movie or how it could be SO bad, I borrowed Dustin's book version and read more than half of it within a day of watching the film. If you have ever heard someone say that "the book is way better than the movie," they haven't seen anything til they've read and watched this film.

We sat through nearly three hours of that sludge they called the Watchmen which was made by the creator of the incredibly aesthetically pleasing film "300" and yet only a few scenes of the Watchmen came close to grasping that kind of powerful artistic mastery. Perhaps it was there, but just got overlooked in my deeply concentrated attempt to find something likable about the film. I read more than half the book in less time it took me to watch the film. Part of this is because of transitions. In the book, in literature, white space or a clear leap from one visual scene to the next demonstrates time passing, shift in narration...etc. This is not so easily done in film. Sure, it can be done successfully, but imagine how dizzy an audience would feel if every few minutes we were being tossed from one moment and scene to another entirely different one. My confusion based on having not read the book would've been ten times worse if they'd had followed it around like that.

This is not to say the film didn't stay true to the book, because, in most ways, it did. It literally almost went panel for panel with the book...except the movie characters had to walk down the stairs instead of just going from kitchen to basement in the flip of a page. It took more time to set up scenes and to flip between characters in the film than it takes to see them in a book.

It didn't help that the same day we saw the movie, I discussed the difference between "plot" (defined, from our text, as underlying significance/importance to the series of events; the "stake" an audience has in the piece) and "story" (defined as: a chronological series of events) with my fiction students. (It lost much of its strong plot when it moved from paper to film.)

I commend the movie for trying. I do. I am even willing to grant that some of my issues with the film were due to my own ignorance in having not read the book and done my homework previously. I have to say, though, they really should've stuck more closely to the important details, the symbolic meaningful ones from the book because they were lost in translation. The book was trying to tell a story full of various underlying stories, themes and symbols than even a 2.40 hour long movie could possibly cover. It goes to show that literature really is more powerful than film in many ways. It really was no wonder, when we were leaving the theatre and Dustin confessed the creator of the graphic novel wouldn't allow his name to be used in the credits, why Allan Moore (graphic novel writer) made the choice to remain unattached to the film.

Anyhow, we might see it again when I finish the film. Or we might wait for it to go on dvd. If you see it, let me know what your impressions were! I'm interested in other opinions!


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Family Film Festing

Sorry for the very absent blogging...my parents were in town all week until today and we've been terribly busy. But! That's no excuse.

Let me recap what's been going on.

Today I had my first physical therapy session with a woman named Morgan. By means of a recap-I hurt my knee months ago during an extreme off-track run and, though it has it's moments of release, for the most part it's been terribly painful, especially when I go up steps or walk on it a lot. The weird thing is, it hurts after I'm done with said activity (except the stairs-it hurts ON the stairs, not after), and they took an MRI to see if it was a tear or bone bruise or torn ligament or anything, to no avail. So the doctor at the health center sent me over to Peak Performance for some P.T. to fix it. If it doesn't get better in four weeks, they will go in there and see what's up. I'm hoping it'll just be fine!

I realized it was hurting a while back, but the day I went to the doctor, it sort of felt ok. Figures, right? When I left I wondered to myself, "Am I a hypochondriac or something? I don't even feel any pain? Weird." Then my parents came to town for the True/False Film Festival and it all went downhill on day two (Saturday!).

The True/False Film Festival is a series of documentaries that comes to town. The True/False org puts it on once a year and it begins on a Thursday night. It's pretty amazing since they also have sponsors and collect enough money to fly some of the actual movie-makers into town. Most of them are pretty independently done and some of them have been recognized at Cannes...etc. After the film ends, the director/producer/subject of the doc will come up on stage for a Q&A. In general, it's one of the more amazing things we do here in Columbia and my parents drove all the way up just to come see it (they'd been here one other time at the same time the festival was going on). So we got a pass for the films and saw one on Friday night followed by four back to back films on Sunday and Saturday. This is awesome. I love docs and I love my parents and I love changing my routine up, plus I was excited to walk around a lot since the theaters are spread out around the city and, by no means, terribly close to one another. We usually had about 10/15-30 minutes to get from one screening to the next (and Good Lord! was it cold!) so we ended up really running a lot, which strained my knee just in time for my follow-up with the dr. yesterday and my first P.T. session today. Whew! It sucked, but the festival was awesome. Somehow we picked mainly depressing movies, but most of them were just fabulous, so it was worth it. Here's a rundown of the films we caught:

Afghan Star
Blood Trail
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Waltz with Bashir (which may be opening in a theatre near you!)
We Live in Public (totally makes you rethink your online presence...freaky)
Rough Aunties
Over the Hills and Far Away
Burma VJ (I feel like an ass saying this, but I fell asleep during the first part)

Overall, a great experience.  The following pic is the Missouri Theatre-redone and looking fab, of course! The T/F logo is cast on the newly gilded ceiling and I thought it looked elegant, so here's that:
Unfortunately, it was freezing out, as usual when my parents come. We'll have unseasonably warm weather, then the parents will visit and it'll drop down to the single digits! Here are the parents and the Fi waiting to get into the first movie we saw (Waltz with Bashir) on the very first night of the festival. Don't they look cold? Awww. Poor lovies!

There were other guest appearances in store for our weekend, but I will hold off on those and let GG have her update afterwards (you know what GG signals, AP fans!). Plus, who doesn't miss new GG episodes? Seriously? I know the cast needs a vacay, but this was just waaay too long!

We were lucky enough to catch up with some of the people we love most, aside from my parents, and to introduce them to my parents, as well. Connie and Kris (my parents) liked everyone they met a whole lot and kept asking when we'd all get to see them again. If only we had more time between films!

At any rate, other fun things my parents did while they were here is as follows:

If you guessed that they had a Nerf Gun fight...or many...you were right. D and I have these Nerf Guns just hangin' round the house so when my dad spotted them, he immediately figured out how it worked and shot the entire round at my mom before she even figured out how to get hers going. Needless to say, it was the start of a week-long barrage of Nerf-bullets soaring through the house.

Had drinks at one of the best "burger" places in the country, Booches. And ran into people we knew at the table behind us.

Had a tasty, but not efficient lunch at Coffee Zone (it was conveniently located next to the theatre where we had two back-to-back films...the one and ONLY time, I might add!) 

We took a trip to the rec center where my dad kicked D's butt in racquetball (he's ridiculously good, even though he hadn't prepared by bringing the right clothes for a day at the rec).And, lastly, they took a trip with me to the Student Health Center where we were not allowed to take pictures. Unfortunately, I have always had a bit of a problem with certain rules and the fact that I find them stupid...unfortunate for the Health Center staff...but we did walk AWAY from the Health Center itself for this photo, so I think it was ok. Note the look of concern on our faces. We thought we were about to be busted.

My parents left today (sadness), but we will see them again in a few weeks. Meanwhile, I have been working on wedding party gifts. Top secret business, everyone! And am feeling sore from therapy and tired and kind of sick (weird). Hopefully, now that I've played a bit of catch-up blogging, I can play some catch-up blog-reading!

Hope you're still reading and haven't given up on us. Stay tuned for a GG update any hour or tomorrow now :)