Tuesday, October 21, 2014

This Might Be Futile

Midterm elections are in a couple of weeks.  My absentee voter ballot arrived on Saturday, and I've spent the better part of the last three days researching and trying to figure out who/what the heck I'm going to vote for.  
In the mail alone, I've received a General Election booklet, and General Election Supplemental booklet, a sample ballot, a guide to voting in the election booklet, and absentee ballot booklet, and various partisan-based literature about the propositions on this year's ballot.

One would think with all this literature, navigating what to do based on my ideology would be easy.  No such luck.  I felt like I was reading tax code for all the good these documents did. An "Elections for Dummies" guide would have been much more helpful, so I headed to the Internet to see what kind of information I could find there.  Even sites written for the common person made no sense for what I should do.
And then I was stumped.  The nominees for my District's State Representative are both Republican!  Where is my other option?  After some research, I found this is a byproduct of our Open Primaries which were adopted in 2012.  I'm frustrated about my lack of choice for a Representative to Congress (who have been an utter disgrace over the last few years).  I'm voting in the hopes to make a change and my only two choices are the status quo.  Humph!
Our country has such a low voter turnout, and after hearing about Scotland's recent 85% turnout in their independence election, I'm ashamed.  It's our duty and a right that we shouldn't take advantage of. In the past, I've always felt empowered and accomplished when I voted.  I was enacting change!  But I will say, it was a lot of work to fill in my ballot this year and after all is said and done, I'm not terribly convinced that I voted correctly nor that anything will change for the better.

No wonder Americans don't vote.  On the other hand, since I am voting I'm allowed to complain about my government.  So at least there's that.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pattern Therapy

This afternoon, I finished my sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project.  There were not plans to do one this year.  The blank book is often a stressful deterrent.  Usually more time is spent staring at it and wondering where to start than actually working in it...too much pressure. However, they were offering a discount on it via Facebook over the summer, so I caved.  It arrived in mid-July and sat on the table collecting dust while I worked in a sketchbook that wasn't getting sent in for others to see.  Then August came.  With school starting it got buried underneath other books and projects.  Then a few weekends ago with work being over-the-top busy and my mom being in town (since the middle of August by the way) I went into the art room, closed the door, and tried to find some semblance of serenity.
I was inspired by some patterns I had seen recently and just started playing around with my watercolors.  The paper in these books is terrible - it buckled and didn't hold water very well.  I was limited to mostly drawing with the brush instead of using washes and had to skip every other page due to bleed through.  But it didn't matter. The time spent mindlessly creating these patterns made me so very happy.  In fact, I think I'd like to quietly draw watercolor patterns in the art room with the door closed as my full-time job.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oh, What's the Point

By the time I left school and headed home tonight a total of five people told me "how cute" my hair looked today.  On one had, that is so very kind, and if I knew how to take a complement I'd appreciate it.  On the other hand, I didn't really do my hair today so I'm left wondering why I even bother anymore.
My morning routine is as follows...
5 - 6 Walk the dog
6 - 6:40 Shower and start getting ready for work
6:40 - 6:45 Choke down breakfast
6:45 - 7:15 Finish getting ready for work
7:15 - 7:20 Fill up water bottle, make coffee, and head out
While I am truly not a vain person it takes me SEVENTY MINUTES to get ready in the morning - maybe 10 of that is showering, maybe 5 of that is brushing my teeth and putting on make up, and maybe 3 of that is actually getting dressed (including shoes and jewelry).  So that makes what, about 20 minutes (for good measure).  The remaining 50 minutes is spent doing my hair.  It kills me to say it, but I spend 50 minutes on my hair.  FIFTY MINUTES ON MY HAIR!?!?!  The hair on my head is very fine but there is a TON of it.  It literally takes me 25-30 minutes to just get is dry using the hair dryer.  Now that wouldn't be so bad, but said hair is bone straight in some places and slightly wavy in others so simply drying it doesn't do (think lion's mane).  After breakfast I spend another 20 minutes styling it - straight if the weather is dry, wavy if the weather is humid.  It's the bane of my existence most of the time - a slave to my hair and its whims!
So back to today.  This morning it was necessary to get into work a little earlier.  Work has been CRAZY with non-teaching stuff and some extra time in the classroom was necessary.  Since I already wake up at 5 in the morning (and when I say morning I really mean the middle of the night), starting any earlier isn't an option for my sanity.  So something had to give today.  I wasn't quite sure what that would be as there were no intentions to bypass the hair.  After breakfast though, I put part of it up in this half pony-half bun thing that I do so I'm not styling all the hair at once, looked in the mirror for a few moments,  said "F@$& it!", and left it the way it was. After throwing on some make up and getting dressed I was ready to go about 17 minutes earlier than usual.  
This uninspired, unstyled mess on the top of my head was unsolicitedly complimented multiple times today.  Which leaves me to ponder the time and effort put into this morning routine.  I'd love 17 extra minutes of sleep!!

Sunday, October 5, 2014


About a year and a half ago, I read the book Gone Girl.  It was a book club book, and I downloaded it before I left on my trip to Portugal.  While I don't tend to read a lot when I'm traveling (there is just too much to see and do), it rained and rained and rained, so I read a lot more than I normally would have.  And really, I could not put the book down.  Gone Girl - a little bit love story, murder mystery, and suspenseful thriller - is quite clever and takes twists and turns never expected.  By the time the book was over I both loved and hated, commiserated and despised the two main characters.  And I hate to say too much more than that in case you've not read it yet, because it would be a shame to spoil such a fun read.
Because I enjoyed this book so much, I was thrilled to see it was being made into a movie earlier this year.  I was excited to see Hollywood's take on the movie, even though I'm usually disappointed.  But for this film, the author also wrote the screenplay and David Fincher (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - US Version) directed it, so there was a chance it would be good.  The previews began a couple of months ago, and remembering how crazy the book is, I got almost giddy when I saw them.
Finally, after months of anticipation, Gone Girl opened this weekend to decent reviews, and I got to go see it.  My first reaction?  It was well done, and I don't think once I was irritated about how the book was handled (and that's rare when it comes to books made into movies).  The actors chosen played their characters well, and the screenplay was fairly true to the book.  I read an article earlier today that contrasted the book with the movie.  The differences were minute - when turning 450 pages into 150 minutes something is bound to be left out, but overall it followed the story quite well.  But that is why I think I'm a bit indifferent about the film.  This book threw a lot of curveballs at the reader.  I had formed opinions about characters and situations that were completely turned on their head from one chapter to the next.  I spent many moments gasping about this book across Portugal on trains, buses and airplanes.  And in the movie I KNEW THEY WERE COMING!  Someone who hasn't read the book yet would probably enjoy the movie very much. It was very comprehensive and the twists and turns were all there.  Knowing all the twists and turns made it a little less exciting the second time around.
With that being said, I'm glad I saw it.  The story is cra-cra and that was done flawlessly in the movie.      I wonder if I'll ever think a Hollywood movie based on a book is WONDERFUL.  Probably not, but this one is probably the closest they've come.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

When It Comes to Kleenex, I Feel Like I'm Losing My Mind

I woke up with a terribly stuffy nose this morning.  It cooled off enough this weekend to open up the windows at night, so I'm hoping I'm just suffering from allergies rather than actually sick.  That's what I keep telling myself anyways.  But that's not my point tonight.  What I'm really going on about...I can't find my freaking Kleenex!!!  Every time I come down with a bug or these darn allergies, I head to the store and buy some Kleenex.  And, because this is America, I can get 3-5 boxes for the price of one.  From there, part of one is used for the duration of the illness and then sporadically after that.  The remaining boxes are stored.  Where?  I don't have a clue?  I know for a fact that I have at least two boxes sitting in a cupboard somewhere in this house, but for the life of me, I can not find any of them.  So how do I know they are here?  Because I found the ones I couldn't find last time over summer break while looking for something else, saying to myself, "Ah!  There they are!  At least I have them for next time."  Well, it's next time, and they are NOWHERE!!  I may have to resort to paper towels if I run out before I can get to the store tomorrow.  That's hard on the nose!
It's been a few months since I've seen a movie...summer break is the worst time of the year to see them unless you're a 10 year old.  Now that fall is here, the quality of films has improved, and I've seen three over the last three weekends.
The Drop, which was James Gandolfini's last role...
but Tom Hardy was amazing in it.  It was intense, but well done.
This is Where I Leave You - a good cast and a ton of laugh out loud scenes.  The reviews were so-so, but I really enjoyed it.
Makes me wish I had a large family...and then maybe not.
A Walk Among the Tombstones - based on Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder novels, with Liam Neeson...
Holy cow!  It was suspenseful and kind of creepy.  It wasn't what I expected it to be, but it was good.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

First World Problems - I Don't Know How to Do it Like That Anymore

Before school started this year, I wrote about starting the year WITHOUT an electronic whiteboard.  I've had one in my classroom (between this school and my previous school) for about eight years.  The first day of school is spent more on getting-to-know-you activities and learning procedures so my panic over not having a board in my room after the "updating" was for not.  That afternoon we were told that the new and improved boards would be installed the next day...the second day of school.  After taking the kids to another room for a couple of hours we returned to a classroom with a new board.  There was a small learning curve as I had been using a Promethean Board for all those years and the new one is a Smartboard.  Within in week though, things were up and running fairly smoothly and over the next 5 weeks it was a regular part of my teaching repertoire.
Then it happened...my new Smartboard started to get glitchy about a week ago!  I lost the ability to write on it and shortly after lost the ability to use the touchscreen altogether.  It's currently only a REALLY expensive screen and projector.
And I'm SOOOO frustrated!  Now that we are well into the school year, I use it for almost every lesson or activity for one reason or another.  To have no access to it now...well I don't know how to teach without it anymore.  And right now I'm stumbling through old school lessons and just pointing to assignments in actual size, not projected 100X larger in front of the kids.  I would not dream of teaching without it, and here I am living the nightmare of very limited tech in the classroom!
Someone from the installing company came out today, and apparently there is a camera in the board that is out and there's something wrong with the bezel...whatever that is.  The parts have been ordered and I have to suffer through it for 3-5 more days.  Humph...

Oh!  And after updating to IOS 8, my iPad will no longer send group texts!!!
I tell ya, I'm having a tough week!  ;)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Equal Pay for Women (and I may have to give my feminist card back now)

There has been a lot of chatter this year about the Paycheck Fairness Act which was proposed back in 2009 to counteract the issue of women making 77-86 cents (depending on whose data you read) to every dollar a man makes.  It has faced significant road blocks since its inception and continued to be blocked via filibuster (what hasn't these days) earlier this year.  It seems like a no brainer to me.  If a woman does the same job as a man, that pay should be equal.  Why wouldn't it be.  I know that's idealistic, but it makes sense to me.
One of the push back issues for the Act is the fact that women often take time off or leave the workplace for extended periods of time to have and raise a family.  Women who do this often come back with a wider gap between their pay than that of their male counterparts who didn't take the time off.  While, I understand the rationale to a point, it goes back to - if it's the same job, the same performance standard, it should be equal pay, end of story.  Determining that is another matter entirely, but the pushback on the Act itself was kind of confusing - fair is fair.
This past week, my work colleagues and I met in our staff meeting room to schedule parent/teacher conferences which are coming up in a couple of weeks.  Trying to make it more convenient and increase the chance of our parents showing up to the meeting, we try and schedule sibling conference times close together.  For about 30 minutes, right after school on a Tuesday, we engage in sort of a free-for-all of scheduling. Identifying teacher colleagues with siblings in their class, locating those colleagues by calling them from across the room, lining up to wait for the teachers on the list to become free, coordinating 2 or more times that match up by fifteen minutes can be anxiety ridden for the faint at heart.  This year I had multiple with three siblings at school and one with 4 (5 kids in all to schedule with 5 different teachers).   Usually, I'm right in the middle of the action to get my times booked, but this year I was hot (it was 107 degrees outside that day) and tired, so I sat at one of the tables and waited for them to come to me.  I spent that 30 minutes nodding and saying, "That's fine," when someone asked me to set a time.  But I digress...
Anyhow, while I sat at the table working with someone, another teacher (I'll call her teacher A) came up to book a time with me.  While she waited for me, another teacher (Teacher B) came to her and I caught bits and pieces of the conversation.  The gist...Teacher B wanted to book a time with Teacher A.  B  already had a pretty full schedule so asked A for a later time (we are contractually required to be available from 3:00 - 6:00 on that particular day).  Teacher A responded with, "No, I'm a mom and won't stay that late."  At first I wasn't fazed.  The mom card is played on a regular basis by a member of my team so I'm pretty much used to it anymore.  But since then, I've kind of been obsessing over it.   You won't stay that late even though those are the required hours?  So because you are a mom you're not required to be available for that time block like the rest of us?  What about the teachers who are Moms (like teacher B) who are booking times later in the day as per their contract...does that make them a bad mom?  There are so many things this person is saying when she says, "I'm a mom so I won't (fill in the blank) at my job."
Since I'm not a mom, this is just my view looking in on the situation, but I'm thinking this is part of the reason we can't get equal pay for equal work.  Some of us (women) are not willing to do the equal work due to family/home commitments or the perception of them anyhow.  Which is certainly their right to do.  However, how can we expect to be paid the same if we play that card and men usually don't.  Just something to ponder.
Now, in my own little world of teacher compensation, we are paid equally - men and women.  Our salary is based on number of years taught and number graduate units attained.  It is placed on a salary schedule and everyone has equal opportunity to attain the highest salary level if desired.  The comment made above irked me a bit because of that salary schedule.  Teacher A is getting paid essentially the same as the rest of us, but when refusing to work the expected hours that she is getting paid for, it is not equal work.  Heck, I don't want to stay until 6 either, but I often do work that late, even when it's not a contractual day like this one is.  And I don't have a Mom card to play.  I have other cards though...plans, appointments, exhaustion, LIFE.  Why is it that we accept one, but not the others?
My intent isn't to bash moms.  In fact, women as a group spend enough time second guessing themselves they don't need anyone else doing it for them.  I know the working mom (part time and full time) vs. stay at home mom is already one decision that gets a lot of judgement from those looking in.  I'm not trying to add to that.  With that being said, I would expect someone who has chosen to work at a paying job to do that job in order to get paid, regardless of them being a mom.  Am I being unreasonable here?