Saturday 24 January 2009

How the Past Sometimes Makes the Present Easier

I have had grand goals of getting posts out about my holidays and all, and I though last week would be the time to do it.

Boy, was I wrong.

I spent last week working as a reader, scribe and invigilator (proctor, I think it's called in the States... the one who makes sure people don't cheat, and start and finish on time) for the first week of exams on campus. It's good money, and I don't mind it, really. I have good handwriting, I can read well and clearly, and I'm a stickler for rules. All around that makes for pretty good qualifications for this job.

I had forgotten, however, how physically difficult it is to write-- with a pen, not on a computer, as that is a different matter all together-- for hours on end, under the stressful time constraints of an exam. My hand hasn't gotten that kind of a work out in ages!
See those blue books? Those are where the answers go. Of course, some students have me write more than others, depending on how much revising they've done or how much of it they've retained. But still. Whew. I had two exams everyday except for Wednesday, when I only had one. And most of them were back to back. In subjects ranging from law to chemistry to business. Two of them I got to sit and do nothing... better to be there and not be needed than the other way 'round, I say. But mostly I was working hard for the money.

See that pen? It's the second one I've used during the exams. The first one was nicked by a student after one of the exams-- accidentally, of course. She borrowed it to sign my timesheet, and after she'd gone I realised it had gone with her. I was totally bummed, but I saw her for another exam the next day, and she still had it in her bag! So we laughed about it, and I got the pen back. I offered to let her keep it, because all I really wanted was the squishy purple bit. She didn't take the pen back, but I switched out to another one anyway, just in case.

See that squishy purple bit? That little grip has been a lifesaver to me, during this exam period and throughout my many, many, many hours of notetaking and research. I love that little sparkly purple squishy grippy thing. I was very sad when I thought I'd lost it (along with the nicked pen), and thrilled when I got it back! And not just because it makes writing more comfortable....

The spring before I moved here, I was substitute teaching in the local county schools (as well as living with a friend and keeping her five-year-old during the days I didn't work, but that's another story....). A friend of mine from church was having shoulder surgery, and needed a sub for her classes for two weeks at one of the elementary schools. She taught special ed, and did math and reading with first through fifth graders with learning disabilities. Knowing that I was subbing, and since we are friends, she asked if I would be interested. I jumped at the chance! I loved subbing for the elementary schools more than the older kids, and it sounded like a lot of fun (as well as some more serious cash). She walked me through her routine, showed me where all her resources were, and brought me in on her last day, a Friday, to introduce me and let me see the whole day in action.

On Monday, I started my two weeks. On my own. I was a bit nervous at first, because she didn't leave lesson plans for me beyond the first couple of days. She was trusting me to figure it out, and figure it out I did. It was fine. And the kids were great. I really loved it, and didn't even mind that I had to get up at the butt-crack of dawn to be in school on time. =) I was actually quite sad when my two weeks were over, even though I was glad my friend had recovered enough to come back to work. It was fun, after that, to run into some of the kids in stores or in town and have remember me and come over to say a shy 'hi'. I just love kids that age.

I haven't forgotten about the purple squishy thing. This story is all about the purple squishy thing. It's special to me, because it was a gift from one of those kids. He was in my first grade (first period) math class, and stuck around for the next hour's reading class. He was such a sweet little guy. On my last day, he came into class with a handful of new things he had just bought at the bookstore-- pencils, cap erasers, a ruler, and two of those grippy things. He was excited to show them off to me, and I was duly appreciative. After that class, while we were waiting for the next group to arrive, he was sitting with me at the little reading table.
"Do you like purple?" he asked.
"Yes, it's a favourite of mine," I answered. He shyly rolled the grippy thing across the table to me. "I bought this one (a red one) for me, and this one for you, because you have been so nice."
"Thank you, but you didn't need to buy me anything-- I have just enjoyed being here with you and everyone."
"I want you to have it anyway, please," he said, "to remember. I like to have things to help me remember people and places, and I thought you might, too." I could tell that this little guy didn't have much money to spend, so even a little grippy thing from the bookstore was a precious thing. I also remembered the feeling of being able to buy 'fun' things at the bookstore as a kid, the things that the other kids took for granted... and I didn't, because sometimes a quarter is a lot of money. I knew that this wasn't just an empty gesture, and I was genuinely touched that he had put the thought and resources into getting me a gift.
"Thank you so much," I said. "It is good to have things to help us remember, and whenever I use this-- which I will a lot, since I'll be going back to school soon myself-- I'll remember you, and my two weeks here at this school."

Which I do. Every time I use it.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Three Words: Fab. U. Lous!

At least, my sister thinks I am. She gave me this. And I'm sure it's for more reason than just because she doesn't read many other blogs she could award this to...

In order to claim this, there are two requirements. First, list five things I am addicted to. That's easy.

1. Coffee: decaf, regular, flavoured, whatever. Anything but instant (although the Waitrose brand I enjoyed daily in London with Lara was not half bad, for instant).

2. Facebook: games, photos, and chatting. I love it, and can't stay away. It's about the only way I keep in touch with anyone these days, and there are folks popping up that I haven't heard from in years! It's amazing. I love it.

3. TV: it's true. I'm a tvaholic. Crime shows, films, US shows, British shows, sci-fi, comedy... whatever it is, I"ll watch it. It's my veg-out time, it keeps me company during meals, it's my best friend. Sadly.

4. Cinema: I haven't been much lately, but I. Love. My. Unlimited. Cinema. Card. In case I haven't mentioned that lately.

5. Crocs: I brought back five pair from my extended US holiday. I wear them every single day. Some styles are more comfortable than others, but heck. I love 'em. I don't care if people think they look stupid. I love them. And my feet are comfy. And warm. And colourful. =D

The second requirement is to pass this along-- to five people. So I hereby declare the following blogs are, likewise, fabulous.

1. Dan and Nancy Erickson
2. Maggie
3. The Holloway Clan
4. Jill, at Learning Something New
5. Amanda, at The Front Lawn

Thanks, Jen!

Saturday 3 January 2009

My 2008 Literary Adventures

I'm putting all these here, so I can start my list over again.
  • Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox
  • Brisingr
  • The Year of the Death of Ricardo Ries
  • Twilight
  • The Blind Assassin
  • Collected Ghost Stories
  • Zorro
  • The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction
  • Peter Pan In Scarlet
  • Mansfield Park
  • Billie's Kiss
  • In the Vineyard of the Text
  • The Quiet Imperative
  • Half of a Yellow Sun
  • The Dream Quake
  • 'The Metamorphosis' (Kafka)
  • Neglected Voices
  • 'The Sand-Man' (E.T.A. Hoffman)
  • Love's Knowledge
  • Brighton Rock
  • Home to Holly Springs-- The First Father Tim Novel
  • People of the Book
  • Heart Whispers
  • The Inimitable Jeeves
  • The Age of Innocence
  • Aristotle's Poetics
  • The Amber Spyglass
  • Plato's Republic (Books I, II, III, X)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • On Moral Personhood
  • Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • The Subtle Knife
  • Fahrenheit 451

My 2008 Cinematic Adventures

So I don't lose this list, and so I can start the New Year's list, here's everything I saw last year.

Friday 2 January 2009

Extreme Flat Makeover, Christmas Edition

There's been some Christmas progress on the lounge remodel, although no more work has yet been done. I was, however, quite happy to come home one day to find this:
The entryway nearly empty of furniture that didn't belong there! The big chest of drawers and the loveseat had magically disappeared...
and reappeared here. In the lounge. Woot! A place to sit, and being able to get to my gloves and hats and scarves and blankets and handkerchiefs. It looked like a real room again! Even though it was only because we were having company up... still. I can't really complain. Whatever it takes to get this place liveable is okay with me. Now all it needed was...

some Christmas cheer! I dug out the few things I had a put them around on the mantle and the tv. I couldn't wait any longer. It started out with my Nativity set, a snowman, some assorted candle holders, and two Russian dolls. It wasn't much, but it was enough. And then, magically... more decorations appeared! Again, because we were having company, but still. Christmas cards poured in by the stack, every day... and there was tinsel, and flowers, and...
our Christmas tree! Isn't it lovely? And what a perfect spot for it to sit, now that the chest of drawers was settled here. The presents had to sit on the ground to make room for the cards, but that was quite all right. I don't care where they sit, as long as there are some! =D
Now all that's left is still the skirting boards... which will be nice, to keep out the drafts. In places, I can actually see the stones of the facade. It's quite interesting, living in an old flat.

Luckily, Kenny's nephews are keen to do the job for us (they are joiners and know what they are doing), so yay! I'll keep you posted on that, as well. We'll have a lounge-warming party when it's all done. ;)

Thursday 1 January 2009

Aberdeen Hogmanay: The Facts

Number of hours standing in the cold: 3 1/2

Number of the temperature: 0*C

Number of performers: 3 (Keith Jack, second place finisher in 'Any Dream Will Do'; Sandi Thom, local pop phenom who won fame through her own webcast; and Amy Macdonald, another pop girl I probably should know but don't)

Number of performers I knew: 2 (um, duh... Keith and Sandi)

Number of layers worn: 3 plus my coat and scarf and gloves and hat

Number of people in attendance: tens of thousands

Number of times my camera nearly died from the extreme cold: um... every time?

Number of fights I personally witnessed: 4

Number of people I saw the police and security escort out (or drag out): 28

Number of creepy old men groping me in the crowds: 2

Number of drunk young men (and women) groping me: I lost count

Number of times bumped into, hit with flying elbows, stepped on, etc: how many minutes was I there?

Number of times I held my ground when rude tall people tried to cut in front of me: at least once every ten minutes

Number of times I was nearly puked on: 1 (thank goodness)

Number of drunks in the crowd: thousands and thousands

Number of rows from the front where I wound up: 3

Number of fingers felt by the end: 0

Number of toes felt by the end: 10 (thank you, fleecy Crocs!)

Number of songs sung along with: 8 and bits here and there (from Keith: Any Dream Will Do, This is the Moment, and You Raise Me Up; from Sandi, Chasing Cars courtesy of Snow Patrol, I Wish I Were a Punk Rocker, and What If I'm Right; after the bells tolled, the big crowd sing of Loch Lomond and 500 Miles; and finally, from Amy, Flower of Scotland)

(a bit of Keith...)

(a song from Sandi...)

Number of ears I can hear out of: WHAT? DID YOU SAY SOMETHING? ;)

Number of songs excpected to sing and didn't: 1 (We never sang Auld Lang Syne. Go figure.)

Number of mugs of mulled wine to warm up with by the fire after: 1 big ole honkin' mug

Admittedly, coming back home to an empty flat is kind of sad... but ringing in the New Year in a big way was fantastic. The last New Year I can remember that much fun was... well... I can't even remember. Now THAT is sad.

But no more! One of my New Years Resolutions I started a wee bit early-- this year, I will just do things. I have gotten pretty good at doing things on my own, but this year I will become GREAT at doing them, with people or without. If I want to do it, if I think it could be fun, I'll do it. Travel, cultural experiences, whatever. I'm there. So if you hear of something that shouldn't be missed, let me know. I'll be there! =D

Happy New Year, everyone!