Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Because books are what I love

I'm a bookfiend by nature, and I always have been. As a child, I used to devour books at an unhealthy pace. Once I learned how to read I couldn't stop, and once I found a book or series I loved, I read it over and over and over again. Teachers and my parents practically begged me to read other books, claiming I'd get bored reading the same stories or all about the same characters. I still don't understand it--if the book bored me, I wouldn't read it again! Non-readers are weird folk.

I distinctly remember being allowed to choose a new Babysitter's Club book at the Chicago Ridge Walden's one evening as I had been particularly well-behaved for a while (a huge accomplishment for Dennis...er, Angie the Menace). I knew exactly which book I wanted (I was an 8 year old with a "Books I Need to Read" list. Sick.) and I ran to the Series section in the far back corner (an excellent reading and hiding spot) and picked it up. I'll never forget it: Babysitters Little Sister #1: Karen's Witch. It was a spin-off series staring Karen Brewer, step-sister of BSC president Kristy Thomas. Karen had a wild imagination that I fell in love with and I really identified with her. In the books, the first especially, she believes that her elderly neighbor Mrs. Porter is really a witch named Morbidda Destiny. For a short, squirrely, odd, and imaginitive child such as myself, what wasn't there to love about this?

My mom argued back and forth with me. Naturally, I was open to her opinions.

"But you hardly LOOKED at any other books, Angela Rose!"
"But Mo-om! I want THIS one!"
"Just look around, Angela."
"NO Mo-om! THIS one!" ::foot stop for good measure::
::Mom rolls her eyes and sighs, wondering why she wanted kids to begin with. She relents, because it's getting late and this will only get ugly if she persists.::

And because I couldn't wait--I had to know the truth about Morbidda Destity!!!!--I was an extremely well-behaved child (meaning: while Mom shopped for clothes I hid in the circular clothing racks at Sears and read my new book) and I managed to finish the darn thing before we left the mall that night. My parents were pretty surprised. I was in second or third grade and easily finished 150 pages in less than 2 hours. In retrospect, I bet they were wondering why I couldn't channel that energy into cleaning my bedroom or pairing up my mismatched socks. But, I digress. I've always loved reading, and that's just one example of it. I found this meme on Molly's blog, and I couldn't resist!

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?

Yes please! I like paperback for its portability, but if I always like a good hardback. (Sorry Molly, I stole your answer, but it's essentially the same thing.)

However, I'll always choose hardcover for special books that I want to keep and share, like the Harry Potter series or the Anne books.

Waterstones, Borders or Amazon?

What’s a Waterstones? I love Barnes & Noble, personally, but I do love Amazon for the instant gratification it gives me.

Bookmark or dog-ear?
Both. I use bookmarks for placeholding or in my favoritest books, but I'll dog-ear to mark a quote or a good point for a book club meeting.

Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random?

I've got a sickness. I alphabetize by the author's last name, then by title. Randomized book "order" gives me hives.

Keep, throw away, or sell?

I usually keep, unless it's a book I don't care for one way or another. I'll donate those.

Keep dust jacket or toss it?

Keep!!

Read with dust jacket or remove it?

With it. I'm very with it, man. Groovy.

Short story or novel?

I'll read anything, but I read more novels than short stories for sure. I love a good collection of short stories, though.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

I haven't read all the Lemony Snicket books, but I definitely prefer HP to LS.

Buy or borrow?

Both! I'll always buy a good book, but borrowing from libraries puts a happy in my heart place.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?

I almost always go on recommendations from friends, and browsing helps direct me to the right books. Reviews don't mean too much to me.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?

This is where I vary from most other bookies. I enjoy a wrapped up ending. I like knowing what happens to characters, especially at the end of a series. If the series ends, it doesn't necessarily mean the characters are dead, but I like to know what happens to them, or I'll start screaming, "BUT WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM??????? TELL ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" after I read the last paragraph, and really, it's an unfortunate thing for all of us.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?

Yes please! I'm mostly an afternoon reader. I've found I can't focus on reading as much during the evenings.

Stand-alone or series?

Both!

Favorite series?

The Anne books, hands down.

Favorite children’s book?

Bernstein Bears, Charlotte's Web, Caddie Woodlawn, But No Elephants, Heidi, and The House That Had Enough.

Favorite YA book?

Gosh, I don't know. YA is never a genre I've been too fond of.

Favorite book no one has heard of?

The Perfect Hour.

Favorite books read last year?

The Blind Assassin.

Favorite book to re-read?

The Anne books.

Do you ever smell books?

Always!

Do you ever read primary source documents like letters or diaries?

Occassionally. The last favorite one I read was "Love, Ronnie" and it made me cry.

What are you reading right now?

Re-reading Crossing California by Adam Langer.

What are you reading next?

Maybe The Washington Story, the sequel to Crossing California. Or....heck, I dunno. I'll hit up the library next week.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Bedroom: Paint Job Revealed!

Ta da! The finished project! I'm soooooo happy with how it turned out. It's looking a little more purple in the photos, but it's a blue-gray, which is exactly what I wanted. Graham likes the color, and I'm really happy with it.

Graham and my dad ripped up the carpet on Monday and I like it much, much better than the green patterned shag that laid on the floor.


As you can see, the creepy old lady curtains are still there, and hopefully over the weekend I'll be able to pick up some new curtains and some window shades. After that, the only thing left is to get a set of end tables and some small area rugs to put on either side of the bed.


Old lady hands aside, a pretty good color match, don'tcha think?

Painting, From Start to Finish

I lied, because this is just the start, but whatevs.

Our fugly green bedroom is gone! I took some painting pictures, because I've learned from the best, and according to the best, "Everything must be documented."

Here's a snapshot of our awful green closet. Stan & Sophie painted everything this God-awful shade of green that strangely resembled vomit. I've been desperate to get rid of this crap color since the day our offer was accepted.



Two walls down! Yay! This was after a few hours. We were slow starters. Ironic, as I used to drive a short bus.

Graham was hard at work. By the end of the night, he had the trimming down pat.

I was in charge of cleaning the baseboards and trimming at the bottom. I got bored.

Coming up, the finished product!!

The Secret Garden

Well, enough mopey-dopey b.s. It's time for a picture post!

We're gardeners by hobby, and this is the first time we've gardened with plenty of land at our disposal. We haven't planted anything of our own yet, but surprise! Some bulbs are coming up depite the plans we've got in store.




After the last few weeks, I can't tell you how glad I am to see these guys. Keep it coming, Spring!

The search is on, friends.

I'm officially job hunting. It's odd, because it's the first time in my life I've been looking for prospective employment while currently employed, but I've got to take care of myself first, and I can't guarantee that my job will be safe. To say that we're under intense scrutiny is probably an understatement.

It's like this: I've got to bring in anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000 between now and the end of the school year in order to keep my job. No pressure! The new position I adopted this year has been fun and I've enjoyed it, but it's also come with its challenges, and the newest challenges aren't necessarily worth the headaches I've dealt with almost every weeknight since early February. (No. Mom. It's not a brain tumor.)

I love the kids and families I work with, but the pressure and scrutiny I'm feeling make afraid to even post on my personal blog--not cool. Hell, I'm afraid to use the Facebook groups for the school's alums and 100th anniversary, and that's part of my job! A few weeks ago, I started getting a sinking feeling in my stomach when I checked my work email. I'm nervous about what I'll find behind my login. I'm starting to view people I work with as competitors, and it's not at all a healthy work environment right now.

I'm confident that these changes and the stresses we're all under are for the "good of the students" and that no one's making changes without them in mind. If they aren't, then their priorities are misplaced. The kids are the reason I go to work each day. Their education and their success is inextricably linked to my own. But lately...it feels like there is more emphasis (at least in my arena) on the funding that fuels the school rather than the education. And, you can definitely make the argument that the school cannot educate without funds. We can't purchase books and equipment without funds, and without the proper tools, we can't educate our kids.

After talking to my husband and some family and friends, it's a tough decision to make, but I feel like I don't have any other options. Hell, if I could write my own job description, I would. Unfortunately, that's not an option.

So....wish me luck! Let's just pray I can leave on my own terms and not on someone else's.

Friday, March 12, 2010

If it's peace you find in dying well then let the time be near

I'd like to preface this entry by saying no, Mom, you don't need to worry about me. I'm not thisclose to being committed to the hospital or needing you to come over and hide all the sharp objects and unplug the oven. I promise, and I nevah break a promise.

I've been thinking about death a lot lately. I haven't been thinking about offing myself or thinking overly morbid thoughts like, "Dead people are lucky because they can't hurt anymore." I've just been thinking about death and dying and the overall process of it all.

Medically speaking, dying is serious business. The human body has a lot to accomplish before it shuts down for good, and post-death it's messier. Emotionally speaking, death is exhausting. When my grandpa died, I was five years old. I vividly remember my mom telling me that Grandpa would be in a casket and it would look like he was asleep, but that he wasn't asleep, he was dead. I said, "Okay, but if he's not asleep, what is he?" My mom paused again and said, "He's dead." Her eyes were red and her nose was running. I still didn't understand what dead was, but it sure as hell made my mom sad. I remember her bawling and unable to speak when we picked out my grandpa's tombstone. I remember how cold that room felt, and that I could see my breath while I watched my mom cry.

I remember running around Modell Funeral Home playing 'airplane' with my cousins and my sister, and thinking it was pretty awesome that we could be as loud as we wanted and Grandpa wouldn't wake up. I remember being yelled at for not being sad.

When my dad's mom died, I was in 6th grade, and I hated myself for not being able to cry. I remember being told she had died, and not really feeling anything. I had begged and pleaded with God on my knees the night before, and I remember my dad coming home and telling us that it "didn't look good." My grandma was strong. She was 81 and still lived on her own. She identified the men who robbed her. She smoked everyday and still washed her clothes by hand. She was strong as hell, and if someone like her could die, there was no hope for the rest of us.

And then, there was my Nina, my big, fat, Italian grandma who ruled her roost and heaven help anyone who tried to tell her otherwise. Nina was my mom's stepmom, and was my grandma. She wanted to be called Nona, or Nonna, but as a small child I couldn't say it correctly, so she was Nina. In the end, I think she preferred Nina over Nona. Almost anyone can become a Nona, but no one else had a Nina.

My Nina passed away 5 months before we got married. I was devastated. Since the day Graham slipped the engagement ring on my finger, I had dreamed of taking one precious photo with my grandmother. I wasn't stupid; I knew she was running out of time. She still gave the strongest hugs I've ever experienced, but she was constantly getting weaker. She couldn't walk without holding on hard to someone's arm. She couldn't do stairs at all. She couldn't really see by the end of her life. But she still had so much life. She was fiery, like me. I definitely get my strong will from her. She was right, dammit, and don't anyone say otherwise, because that was just asking for trouble. My favorite memories of Nina involve my mom saying, "Anna, stop yelling," begging her to lower her voice, followed by a booming, darn-near-glass-shattering, "I'M NOT YELLING! THIS IS MY VOICE! WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY VOICE! Santo Dio, Mary! NO ONE HERE IS YELLING!"

The day she died, I didn't cry. My mom fell into my arms at the hospital. My sister burst into tears. My mom lost it. For so many years we'd all heard that "this was it" and that Nina would be dying, and my mom was always saying, "I think I need to get ready," but she came out of the hospital so many times that we never actually believed that this time would actually be it, and that she wouldn't be coming home. I cried after her funeral. I cried with Graham and cried for myself. I cried for the picture I'd never get to take and the frame I foolishly purchased for it. I cried for believing she'd make it to the wedding, even at 84 and completely unable to walk and care for herself. I cried for myself, angry at everyone who dared to need me that week. I was hurting and grieving too. I wanted time to cry and say goodbye. Why did everyone need me right at that time? I was so happy a few months later, but I remember looking around the church and feeling a tug at my heart. She wasn't there, and she should have been.

The thing is, at the end of her life, Nina begged for death. She was so sick and miserable and I started to get pissed at God for not taking her. She did come home from the hospital, but there were days when I looked at her and prayed for God to take her. She loved her family and her life and all her children and grandchildren, but I didn't understand why God let her linger. I don't know if I'll ever understand it, but aside from the grief and the sadness I felt, I was also relieved. Finally she was at peace and she didn't hurt anymore. And I missed her, and still miss her, but it's wistful. I don't hate God because she's gone. I'm happy she's finally as she should be, and as I remember her from when I was small.

The more I think about death, the more I realize I'm unafraid of it. Honestly, I think dying has to be one of the most peaceful actions in the entire universe. The order in which people die isn't at all fair or clear, but I think the very act gets a bad rep.

Personally, whenever it's time for me to die, I'll be okay with it. It's not "not living" that scares me. My bigger fear is not getting the use out of this body that I hope for. I want to see India and experience different cultures. I want to jump out of a plane. I want to get a tattoo. I want to get to heaven and meet Jesus and have him say, "A little banged up, but all in all still in pretty good condition." (Ideally I'm getting to heaven, but given some of the crap I've dished out I'm not so sure sometimes. Sometimes I think about the song lyric, "I swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell," and think that if I had to choose between nothing at all and going to hell, I'd take nada. I burn easily.)

And because I'm a worrier about things, my bigger concern is for my family. Mom and Dad don't handle death well, and that leaves a lot of mess for Gina to deal with. I've never experienced a close family member passing in Graham's family, so I don't really know how they handle it. I know it sucks all around, that's for sure. My concern is for Graham--he's got to be taken care of. And my close friends. I want everyone to have some closure. If I've lived my life right, people will be pissed off that I'm gone, but also glad to have known me.

.........

I've always been contemplative, and after my mom's dad passed I used to swing in the backyard on a swingset that wouldn't be allowed out of Toys R Us and stare up at the sky. I wanted to see heaven. I wanted to see my grandpa staring back at me. I'd squint past the moon and ask nicely for God to show me heaven. Even when I said please, he never delivered. Wonder what that's all about...::shrug::

As far as an afterlife goes, I want to be a ghost. I want to run all around the world and just be a snarky, funny ghost. On the other hand, I'm not a wallflower. I need to participate, and it'd drive me nuts to have to sit on the sidelines and watch my friends travel and have fun and go to ball games. If I can't have fun, then no one else should be able to, either!

All in all, I can't control the future and if given the choice I wouldn't want to know what happens and how it all goes down. I hate surprises, but if I knew that death was gonna come knocking tomorrow, I'd be torn. Do I say my goodbyes or have one last hurrah? Do I share the news or just let everyone be surprised?

Like I said at the start of this post, I don't ever break a promise. I've made a promise to myself that I'll never have to look at myself and know that death is coming and THEN start living. I'll run out of time and hate myself for it. I don't do a good job of it, but I do try to actively live as though each day was going to be the last. It drives Graham nuts, but it helps me sleep at night. Like I said to my mom in high school, "If I'm supposed to live each day like it's my last, I don't wanna spend my last day doing laundry." She rolled her eyes, my sister laughed, and I went out the door for some ice cream.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not going to sit around and be scared of death. I'm going to be scared of spiders and bats and rabid dogs, but not dying. It's an active verb, after all.

A Dash of Him, A Pinch of Me

Graham and I have been together for so long that I've started to forget some of the things that make us unique. We're so used to one another that every so often I need to pause and remind myself that we compliment one another in ways that are interesting, cute, sickening, and great fodder for a marriage counselor, I'm sure! I decided to document some of them here so that someday our kids or cats have a record of how "we used to be", or at least proof that we've always been this way.

Him: Practical, responsible
Me: Ooooh, shiny!

Him: Sure, I'd like to go to India, but we need to save a little more first.
Me: Fly to India? Now? Tonight? OSSUM. When does the plane leave? Nah, I'll worry about clothes when I get there.

Him: Ah, it feels so good to get my taxes done before the end of February.
Me: $#!%!!!! Taxes were due last week?! Ya think the government will notice if I promise that I put the check in the mail?

Him: Age of Empires? Where do I sign?
Me: Crap...which book should I read today? I love them all!

Him: Two pairs of black shoes? Nope.
Me: But there's my black flats, and my dressy black flats, and my black heels, my black peep toes, my black stilettos, my black sandals, my medium-heels......

Him: I need to wash the car.
Me: Good thing it's gonna rain tomorrow.

Him: Bills arrived today. Bills need to be paid today.
Me: It can wait till tomorrow.

Him: Ugh, I don't wanna do this. I should do it now to get it out of the way.
Me: Ugh, I don't wanna do this. I wonder if there's a Snapped marathon on tv right now.

Him: Memories are great.
Me: Everything must be documented. ::clicky::

Him: So there's wine in the pasta tonight?
Me: Uh, yeah. ::glug::

Him: Rocky Horror Picture Show on tv? Again?
Me: Well, there's always the live Midnight Madness RHPS...

Him: These still-packed boxes are driving me nuts.
Me: Ah, still-packed box is in the closet! Outta sight, outta mind.

Him: Rise and shine! Time to meet the day!
Me: M----- F-----!!! WHY AM I UP BEFORE THE SUN AGAIN???

Him: 8:00? Man, I slept in today.
Me: 8:00? BOO. WANT MORE SLEEP.

Him: Billy Madison! YES!
Me: Crap.

Him: Snooze buttons are for the weak.
Me: Snooze button means 15 more minutes of sleep!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Angie Frazzoo and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but bear with me. Today sucked.

I've been having some issues at work over the last few weeks, and some of them have come to a head. Out of respect for my boss and the students at my school I won't go into them here, and to be perfectly frank, it's the internet, people!!! Lord knows that with my luck over the last few months, anything else I write could be/will be forwarded to my boss right away. More than anything else I'm covering my butt. However, via friendly phone call or email, we'll be in touch.

That being said, yeah. I've had a rough few weeks. I've been casually browsing for other work opportunities since Decemberish, but not too seriously because my students are important to me and I don't plan on leaving them mid-year. Their education is of the utmost importance. to me.

But after today, I'm starting to seriously consider moving in another direction. It's not a decision I'm making lightly, and the thought of leaving some of the kids behind squeezes my heart. In many ways, I feel like I've just gained the trust of some of them and that's something I'm tremendously proud of. The traditional Latino community is slow to grant trust to "an outsider" or someone they're unfamiliar with, and to know that I've gained the trust and confidence of many older students and families gives me pride and makes me reconsider the very thought of looking at "Career Opportunities". But then I look at the bumps in the road that I've hit over the last few weeks and during the course of the last school year and makes me consider whether I'm just delaying the inevitable.

In short, things have been difficult. I love the students I work with, and the families are great. I'm so proud of them when I see students accomplish what they thought they couldn't, and I'm VERY proud of myself when I see a 5th grader working in PowerPoint or inserting images into a Word document. I know that I taught them that, and that's a feeling that's unlike any other. I taught someone something useful! Yee-haw and howdy doody!

Because I love the kids at school so much, I want to stay. Unfortunately, some of what I've encountered lately makes me wonder if staying, even for their sake, is worth it. I suffer from a tremendous amount of guilt-by-association. I feel that even by considering a new career path that I'd be letting them down, and the morals I'm unlucky enough.....er, blessed to have makes me want to sit in the corner for 30 minutes and think seriously about the faces I'd be letting down. So many of the students I work with have already been let down by adults they've grown close to. How can I look at myself in the mirror the next day and not feel guilty? I'll have to tell those little faces that I'm just another adult they can't trust.



Sigh. Like I said, guilty-by-association.



And then, there's my own mental and emotional health. I don't think I can take another year like this one. I don't know that my doctor will let me, truth be told. I think she'd sooner lock me in a closet and order me to grad school. So....THAT will be a SUUUUUUUUUUUPER fun conversation to have. :-/

And just for the hell of it, let's throw the possibility of grad school into the mix. I'm just 25 (almost 26), and there's still "plenty of time" for stuff like kids and traveling and new adventures, but the amount of feasible time for me to get my MLS or even enter grad school is slipping away. I'm pretty certain that I won't graduate with a Master's sans children, but life is funny and things change, so who am I to say? But in reality, when I look at our future hopes and dreams, I'll most likely be stretching myself thin by the time I finish. Hopefully not, but I know me. I'm a big fan of spreading myself as thinly as possible.

Since October, I've gotten more and more attached to the idea of grad school, and I'd really love to start to pursue my degree. Now that a friend of mine has started a grad school course of her own, I'm even more excited about it. But, as my schedule stands for next year, I'd be teaching, Developmenting, Alumniing, Wife-ing, renovating, and schooling. Why don't I just slit my wrists now and save us all the trouble, eh?

Long story short, I've got a lot of unanswered questions staring me in the face. I dunno. Maybe this is God's way of telling me that it's time to move on. Maybe this is God's way of strengthening me. Maybe God's bored and using me to play chess! Who knows? Maybe God is just sitting back and has nothing to do with this situation and is waiting for me to come out on what is hopefully the side I'm supposed to come out on.

I need to do a lot of praying about this. I've talked with Graham about our options for the next year, and Mr. Voice of Reason has an opinion of his own, and sadly for me he is my voice of reason, and his points are incredibly valid and will come into play a lot as I wrap up my school year. Oy vey.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What else is new?

Oy. Right about now, I'm thinking, "It's Sunday night already?" Of course, I say that having napped a good 3 hours this afternoon.

(Angie is lazy.)

Lately we've been busy, and I'm looking forward to the next few weeks (moreso than Graham, but more on that later).

The last few days have been busy. Dad G had a birthday this week, so in addition to opening his new Wii on Tuesday (yippee!), he was taken out to dinner on Saturday night by Mom G, and Graham and I surprised him by meeting them at the restaurant. It was a good time, and I loved my Olive Garden breadsticks. They were pretty fantastic if you ask me.

Afterwards, we returned to their home and helped them break in the new Wii. Graham and I showed them how to box, and I learned that 4 glasses of wine makes it pretty impossible for me to keep my title as "Wii Boxing Champion".

Today, we had a pretty fabulous afternoon--we bought paint!!! I've been counting down to this day for months now, and I'm so glad it arrived. Graham is going to do some prep work this week so we can start painting before the weekend. You have no idea how indecisive you are until you're presented with 35,940 paint colors from which to choose.

Choices aside, we picked up the last of the remaining supplies that we needed, some primer, and all the paint we needed. After the bedroom's done, we're going to work on the dining room, and maybe even one of the upstairs bedrooms. However, given some of the other things that are coming up this month, upstairs is probably going on the backburner.

Aside: Graham would like you all to know how I bugged him relentlessly to start painting until he actually went out and bought supplies and paint. Hey, when you promise me paint and can't fulfill, I get antsy! But, I did bother him relentlessly, and today he held up his end of the deal so we can get this show on the road, so snaps to Graham.

Now, I'm just sitting and watching the Oscars and praying for a rain day tomorrow. Now that the snow's just about melted, maybe we'll get a day off for rain instead? I can hope, right???