Friday, August 03, 2012

The Great Florida Road Trip (and Other Roadside Attractions)

Summertime and the livin's easy.  The end of the school year came, as it always seems to, quickly.  I had a great summer planned with two trips and time to get work done as well.  I want to create my own text book for Journalism, and gather resources and plan for the American Cultural Literacy class I'm teaching next year.  So far, things haven't quite worked out as I planned.  The mission trip to Nicaragua was cancelled, and I chose NOT to go back to Italy, where my soul lives, to go on it.  So that's pretty dissapointing, especially since it seems like everything in my life is currently pointing me towards the choice I now think I should have made.  But... it's too late now.

I have had plenty of time to get work done, though, and am still going to a journalism workshop put on by ASNE (American Society of News Editors) in Missouri.  Not the most exciting location, I suppose, but a place I haven't been, free travel there, and an opportunity to learn how to do what I do better.  I can't really complain.  Plus, I'll get to spend some time in Chicago and Michigan afterwards, so that's even more of a plus.

I needed to take off, so to speak, for at least a little bit, so I decided on a little road trip.  The Room mate and I took off together for a long weekend, beginning in Orlando and ending in Sarasota.  I wanted to visit friends, as well as see Eatonville and the mermaids in Weeki Wachee, so we set off with those goals in mind.

We left Friday night and headed to Orlando.  We got in late and attempted to sleep in, but the excitement or the new bed or our 30s prevented us from accomplishing goal one.  So, we got up earlier than we wanted to and made the short trip to Eatonville.  Before stopping there, since we had so much time, we decided to do a little geochache stop... and jump shots.  Y'know, for the kids.

I wanted to go to Eatonville for two reasons.  One, it's historically significant.  It's the first all African-American incorporated town to exist in America.  Two, it has literary significance--a writer I teach, Zora Neale Hurston--spent her childhood there, and many of her stories take place there.  If you don't know her stuff, read Their Eyes Were Watching God and let your life begin to change.

Here's proof I was there, a marker in the median indicating the year the town was officially established, 1887.  There wasn't much to see there, but we found the woman in the library extremely helpful.  There was, theoretically, a path to walk (not well marked and extremely confusing) and an art museum we had to wait to see (the woman who ran it stepped out), but it seems there is some sort of movement, although slow, to make the town more of a destination.  I think it should be.

After a morning in Eatonville, we headed to Old Town Disney to walk around and each lunch in the car.  The joy, the nostalgia, of peanut butter and jelly never gets old.  I think the find of the afternoon were some glass rings that cost $1.00, which is exactly how much a giant glass ring should cost, in my opinion.  I bought three.

From Old Town Disney, we headed to meet a friend at Epcot.  I haven't been to Epcot in probably 14 years, since the band trip when I was in high school.  All I know about it is that the countries are there (except South America, or even Central America, does NOT represent.  At all.  Lame Disney.  Lame.  Little did I know that the most magical thing that has ever happened to me at Disney, a place of magic, was about to happen.

Eric, T, and I got on "Spaceship Earth" narrated by Dame Judy Dench.  Once we got through the caveman days, and through ancient Egypt and the invention of papyrus, and into ancient Rome when it happened.  The ride stopped.  The usual announcement came on, something about staying seated and resuming soon, but after about three minutes of this Eric said, "Y'know, I've had to evacuate people from Toy Story a bunch of times."

"What?  What do you mean 'evacuate'?"  I reply, a dream forming in my mind.

"Well sometimes the rides just don't get going again, and we have to evacuate."

"That's POSSIBLE?!  I want to get evacuated  from a ride.  That's AWESOME!"

And then... about five minutes later... it happend.  We got up out of our "spaceships," onto the path along the side of the ride, and walked out into a light drizzle, Fast Pass for Mælstrom in hand.  It was so awesome that I cannot truly and effectively express how awesome it was.

Although it was hard to top the evacuation, there was still plenty of Epcot to see.  One of the rides I remembered from my youth was the one that goes through the gardens, where "scientists" (Eric says they're legit) work on growing plants in all kinds of cool ways.  Here are some Disney sunflowers, because they're pretty.

After a few rides, we headed to meet some other friends in the countries, where Eric, T, and I stopped for a picture.  In Morocco.  Like ya do.

We ate in China (nothing amazing) and then headed to Norway so T could ride the ride.  Good thing we got those Fast Passes, 'cause in Norway we encountered the longest wait of the day--25 minutes!  We skipped the line and got right on... then found this guy at the end.

No, I did not realize that my viking had only had one horn.  Don't judge.

We then headed back to Spaceship Earth, and completed the ride before the way out, and even traveled to the future, where we sent ourselves a postcard.  Pretty fun.

The next day of our road trip was packed: tubing in the morning and mermaids in the afternoon.  I don't have any photos to share from tubing, mostly because we were, y'know, on inner tubes.  In water.  And water and cameras don't really mix.

We went down the Rainbow River, about a two-hour course down a lovely river in northern-central Florida.  It took us a little less time, mostly because I'm really not good at just floating, so I paddled a little bit...or a lot bit.  Still, we saw turtles and lots of birds, and some summer houses and boats I lusted after, and some great trees.  It was a little too relaxing for me, but enjoyable.

Then we ate some quick lunch in the car and headed to Weeki Wachee State Park, where there are women who do a mermaid show three times a day.  They swim all under water, in tales, and take hits of oxygen from these tubes located all around the tank.  It's pretty outstanding, actually.  It's a little girl's dream come true.

Here I am, wishing I could be as awesome as the mermaids.

And here's a shot from the show.  We saw "The Little Mermaid" and these are two of her sisters.  The black tube between them is the oxygen hose.

I'm just saying that seeing the mermaids was on my Florida Bucket List, or even my Life Bucket List, let's be real, and now I can proudly say it's checked off.  And it was awesome.

Our final stop on The Great Florida Road Trip was Sarasota, where I have a friend, T and I have a mutual friend, and T has family.  We picked up a pizza and brought it to her grandma's and ate it with some tomato and mozzarella that we picked up at the side of the road from an Amish stand.  Sweet.

The next day, we took T's cousins, who are nine and six, I think, to the Ringling Museum, which is free on Mondays.  Only the art museum was free, and the grounds, but it was something new to do, at least.  There were quite a few paintings of Italy and from Italian masters, which just put a little salt in the still-open wound of not going to Italy.  I saw some of the artists I'd seen at the Louvre, as well, like the guy who paints vegetables into portraits of people, which I enjoy.

The girls weren't really into the art (can't blame them) but I think they liked walking around the grounds, which were lovely.  They were made to look like they're straight from Italy, and I feel like they succeeded.  Do you?  

This is a picture of the house, which we didn't go into but walked around the outside of.  I'd like to head  back someday and check out the rest of the property.

John Ringling's wife, Mable, had a rose garden on the property, which was also lovely.  We didn't spend too much time there; it was small, plus it was hot outside so we were all sort of ready to leave.  Some of the flowers even smelled nice, and they looked lovely too.

That night, before we headed home, we met two friends at a Vietnamese place for dinner.  It was delicious food, and great to see the guys and catch up.  I feel like all of my friends are moving away, and this road trip was a great way for me to be proactive about seeing the few that have only moved cities, not states.

This trip was a great way for me to cross several things off my Florida Bucket List, which is probably pretty close to being completed now.  It wasn't Italy, but it was a nice little break, and a way to celebrate not having to work until August.

Much love.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

One Short Day in the Empire City

A couple of months ago, a friend and co-worker asked me what I thought about a day-trip to NYC to see the show Newsies.  Not being able to go on spring break, coupled with the (abnormal?) amount that I love the movie Newsies, made this a very simple question to answer.  Of COURSE I said yes!  And we made it happen.

We flew out pretty early and, 'cause my friend's a baller on American Airlines, flew first class and enjoyed breakfast on the plane.  We arrived with some time before lunch, so we headed to H & M for a little NYC shopping.  The day, as you can see, was absolutely beautiful.

Walking around the city was glorious, and shopping at H & M was also glorious.  I got two new dresses, pineapple underwear, and a chain for my sunglasses.  I'd been joking with my students about needing a chain for my glasses, and there one was, for only $3.  Awesome.  Heck yes, I rock that shiz.

After some lite shopping, we found a little place for lunch.  It was a tiny little place that had anything you could want--frozen yogurt, sandwiches, salads, and even sushi and Korean food in the back.  I had Korean bi bim bap, which was expensive but nostalgically delicious.  What cost me about $3 in Korea costs me three times as much here, but that can't be helped, I suppose.  Here I want it more.

After bi bim bap (and frozen yogurt, duh!) we headed to the theater, The Nederlander.  The line to get in was around the building and went on for about two blocks, but we made it to the front eventually.

While we were waiting to get in, Fredy, my friend and partner in crime, dropped a little surprise bomb on me.  He is friends with the stage manager of the show!  We were going to see him after the show and get backstage!  How amazing is that?!  I almost couldn't wait until the show was over for the surprise.


The show was magical.  I read an article a few weeks before the show about the music and the show itself, so I knew NOT to expect the movie, which is what I sort of wanted it to be.  Some of the lyrics were changed, a little bit of the story-line was tweaked, but all the stuff I love from the movie was there.  The tap sequence to "King of New York" make my life joyful.

Jeremy Jordan, who played the lead role of Jack Kelly, played Dolly Parton's grandson in Joyful Noise, which Fredy and I tried to watch on the plane on the way home (we didn't finish it, sadly.).  He can sing and act well, and, although he's not Christian Bale, did a great job.  The other "big name" in the show was Alex Wong, from So You Think You Can Dance?  He had to leave the show mid-season because he snapped his Achilles tendon, but apparently he's recovered and on Broadway now!  It was really cool to see him in the show, and he is still an amazing dancer.  The show was nominated, I found out, for eight Tony's.  Pretty awesome and totally deserved!

After the show, we met up with the stage manager, who got us not just backstage but ON stage.  Jeremy Jordan was just walkin' around like it was no big deal that he was three feet from me while we were walking all over the stage and seeing the sets, the props, and even some of the "magic" that goes into the show.  I.  Was on the stage.  Of a Broadway theater.  If I hadn't experienced it myself, I wouldn't have believed it either! 

The entire time we were walking back stage I just wanted to steal something, but I probably could've just asked for a prop paper and gotten one.  Given the novelty of the situation in my life, I wasn't really sure about proper protocol.  Shoul've just asked for a darn paper.

After the show, we walked a bit to get a cab back to the airport so we could head home, and we happened to walk by this.  The Journalism teacher in me couldn't resist snapping this picture.  Epic journalism, kids.  I need to remember where it is so when we go on CSPA next year, we can at least walk by the building.

We headed home much the way we'd come, making quick work of the lines at security and even having a few moments (and drinks!) in the Admiral's Lounge before heading on the flight.  This is the view from the window.

We flew back first class as well (Like I said, dude's a baller.  Like, George Clooney's character in Up in the Air baller) and enjoyed dinner on the plane.

It was a great day.

Much love.

Just Being One

Last year's spring break was sort of magical because it happened to fall right at the end of the semester so I managed a little trip.  This year's spring break was not magical--I still had a week of FIU left.  So, this spring break, I stayed not only in the country, but in Miami.  It was nice to just be a student for a while, to get out in the sunshine, and to... read.  And relax.  And... be.

The first (in no particular order) major event was that I began--and ended--The Hunger Games trilogy.  I think I read them all in about six days, and when I returned to school the day after finishing them (I finished at 12:30 Sunday morning), I really struggled with reality.  Like, I didn't know how to be in a world that wasn't Panem.  I was engrossed, entrenched, enmeshed... lots of en-words.  Katniss is totally bad@$$ and Peeta is just... He's amazing.

Another important spring break happening was a little trip to Fairchild Botanical Gardens with Taniya.  It ended up raining as we were on our way out, but it was still a lovely afternoon trip and walk.  Here are what amount to all the photos I took this spring break.

The art featured at Fairchild when we went was a guy who did metal flowers, Will Ryman.  There were roses (and rose petals) installed all over the garden at various points.  They were really lovely, actually, pink, yellow, and red flowers all over.  There were even red rose petals floating in one of the "lakes" at the garden, floating freely around the lake.  Pretty cool.

Here I am with a yellow rose.

Here's another one of Ryman's installations.

Beautiful.  Finally, I saw this cool little guy on one of the trees.  I've never seen a black lizard before!

A third spring break event was my friend Matt's inaugural music festival called The Vanguard Miami Festival of New Music.  It took place on UM's campus (University of Miami, people!  The other one is U OF M!) and, frankly, I needed a break from Katniss and Panem.

He played for about an hour or so, a sort of "Storytellers" scenario.  He plays sax and, obviously, composes as well.  I got there before he started, though, because I took the Metro-Rail and struggled to time it properly.  It was fine, though, because I got to see and hear some cool new music.  There was a flute piece called "Ka" that I thought was pretty cool.  I like the way that new music isn't just about notes on the page but sounds, really.  The opening and closing of valves, new ways to put breath through the instrument or make it play, like opening the piano and playing the strings inside rather than the keys, is really inspiring to me.  I tend to struggle to "think outside the box" in most situations, but these composers don't.  It's like what ee cummings did with words and punctuation in his poetry.  It's great.  Anyway, it was a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I'm glad I went.

Another little spring break excursion was a Living Social deal Tiffany and I found a while back.  It was for appetizers and a painting session at a studio up north.  This wasn't the studio where I painted the first time, but it was a similar idea.  The event was pretty cool, totally worth the money we paid, and this is the result: new art for my bathroom.

I don't know what Tiffany did with hers.

Finally, after spring break at ILS came the end of the semester at FIU.  I had one final exam and one paper to write.  I did well on the paper, I assume, because I got an A in the class.  I also got an A in my other class, but it was certainly more hard-won.  The final exam went well also, I suppose, but it was quite an endeavor to complete.  I won't get into it because it's resolved now, but it was a week's worth of studying and stressing out.  Anyway, I feel great about so well, the best, in fact, I've done in any previous semesters.  I have the same two professors again next semester, so I'm hoping for (and will certainly work for!) a repeat performance.  Wish me luck.

Overall, through spring break and now at the end of the semester, I have really just appreciated being only ONE thing--JUST an FIU student or JUST a high school teacher.  It's like I can breathe again, enjoy free time again.  I forgot what free time is like.  I'm looking forward to only one more year of doing both!

Much love.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Kids in New York: CSPA 2012

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association conference happened in New York over college spring break this year.  ILS took 21 kiddos (four boys this year!) and headed there in mid-March.  The weather this year was much warmer than last year--I barely got to wear the fingerless gloves with a mitten top that I knitted for myself.  It was tragic.  I did, however, get to wear my FAB coat that I had made in Vietnam.  And boots.

We flew out on Tuesday, and the conferences happened on the campus of Columbia University Wednesday through Friday, and then we few out on Saturday.  This year's trip was very different from last--almost twice as many kids, for one thing, and boys, for another.  Overall, it was good, though, and I think everyone had a good time.

Columbia's campus is really quite beautiful, even on overcast days.  Check it out.

We got in on Tuesday and settled in, with a little time for the kiddos to explore Times Square and see the lights.

Wednesday and Thursday were conferences during the day, and fun in the City at night.  We saw our show on Thursday.  This year we saw How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying again, due to the Nick Jonas factor.  A trip to NYC+17 teenage girls=seeing the show starting Nick Jonas, even if you saw it last year.  Nick Jonas is on Team D (read: he's diabetic) so that means he's awesome by default.  Anywho, he was good in the show, better than I thought, really, and it was kind of fun to see it again.

I'm pretty sure the picture that follows is illegal but... I didn't take it.  :)

The other important event in the itinerary was a little event that I liked to call "Operation Silver Fox."  I got us tickets to see a taping of Anderson (Anderson Cooper's daytime show), and we headed there for some real-world journalism experience instead of the conferences.  And let me just say that Anderson Cooper is very handsome in person.  He's sort of white like a ghost, but still very handsome.  Trust me.  The best part of the show was that "The Big Chicken" from Boston Market was there, which doesn't seem amazing, but when you know that Anderson eats Boston  Market every day (literally), for him it was like, I imagine, the moment I met Tori Amos.  Transcendent.

The process of the show was really cool to see--the intricacy and spectacle of it all.  I decided that I could be the person who warms up the audience.  I could TOTALLY be AWESOME at that, I'm just sayin'.  Anyway, the kiddos commented that it was awesome for them to see all of that, especially the ones from LTV, our film editing/announcements kids.  Maybe some of them will be there some day.

The topic of the show as also apropos for teenage girls, I felt.  It was about trusting your intuition and warning signs in a relationship that the guy could be a crazy.  It was moving and informative, and I learned how to "steeple" my way out of any situation.  :)

The show ended up airing during spring break, but I watched it and we were all on camera.  It was pretty phenomenal.

Before we left the show, I had a kid snap this picture of me and my new boyfriend.  I like to call him "Andy."

I also managed to meet up with a friend who moved to NYC recently for a quick minute in Times Square.  We enjoyed some falafel from a food truck (doing this is my purpose in life) and caught up at this cute red table.  I felt so New York it was amazing.

We also got to see a former student, my little miracle, who now lives in the city.  She also enjoyed some falafel (because it's amazing) and hung with us for a little bit too.  It was great to see both of them.

Now, while I am certainly not complaining about a few days in New York, the trip can get tedious.  This is only my second time going, but we did basically the same things this year as last.  As an adult, I get it--it's for the kids, not me.  But as ME, a traveler and selfish, child-less adult, I want to do new things.  This year, we went to the 9/11 Memorial, which I really wanted (and at the same time didn't want) to see.

The Memorial, while not completely finished, is beautiful.  I didn't know what to expect--both from the Memorial and from myself.  I didn't know what I would see or how I would feel, but it was amazing.  The site is, for the middle of New York City, quiet, and peaceful.  There are now two infinity pools where the towers stood, and these pools have the names of those who died that day.  Walking around, you see little tributes--flags, flowers, folded paper cranes, placed near the names of people who are gone but certainly not forgotten.  Some of the kids were pretty moved too, and one of the privileged in working for Jesus is that the kids didn't mind taking time to pray there, and they weren't embarrassed, and neither was I.

All in all, it was a great trip.  Last year's tiny group was amazing, but we had some good times this year, too.  It was nice to get away and feel a little cool air, at least, and I think the kids learned quite a bit and had a good experience, so that's all that matters.

Can't wait to see what awaits us in NYC next year!

Much love.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wills and Wars

And now, the tale of the Three Trips Up North in One Week...

The first trip was to a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale for a small gathering of GVSU alum. The Athletic Director and his wife were in town for a conference/vacation, and a few alum were invited to have dinner with them. There were only four of us, but it was a lovely evening and it was great to hear about all the great stuff happening back in Allendale. I had scallops and mashed potatoes, and they were so good. I mean, I LOVE a damn scallop. And I love a damn Laker. :)

Toward the end of January and the beginning of February, a theater company called Shakespeare Miami does a production, for free, in local parks and venues. This year's show was A Midsummer Night's Dream and my good friend The Aussie was in it, as Robin Goodfellow, everyone's favorite mischief-making fairy, also called Puck. I actually saw the show twice, once in Pinecrest Gardens, former home of Parrot Jungle, and once up north in Hollywood with coworkers and Team Weaver. This was trip #2 for the week.

We had a little picnic, a little wine, and watched a little fairy mayhem ensue. The show was well done, an adequate amount of glitter without being over the top, and there were even some "special effects" that were fun. It made me realize just how crap our version of the play was in high school. Ahh well, you know better you do better, I guess. Free and well-done Shakespeare is still free and well-done Shakespeare, so yay.

Trip number three marked a day I'd been waiting for for a long time: The Civil Wars concert! When I found out they were coming to FLL, I was so excited! Plus, tickets were only $25, which is awesome.

The band sounds just as good live, if not better, than they do on Barton Hollow. The duo, made up of Joy Williams and John Paul White, haven't been around that long, but they sound like they've been singing together forever. Here's what we saw while we were waiting.

The two aren't married (to each other, anyway) but their voices marry perfectly. They have great musical chemistry as evidenced by this picture. Here they are, huddled around one mic and one guitar. :)

Just after the show, the group was nominated for several Grammy's AND we found out that Joy was actually pregnant with her first baby! How awesome! She is so darn cute when she sings I can't even take it. And JPW isn't bad on the eyes, either. He's like if Jonny Depp and Jack White from The White Strips had a baby. A hot, guitar-playing baby.

The duo sang every song I wanted to hear, including my favorites, BRILLIANT covers of "I Want you Back" by the Jackson 5 and "Disarm" by The Smashing Pumpkins.

Here's a little video of them singing one of their own songs, "I've Got This Friend."

This band is my newest obsession. Their music is just so... pretty. It's soothing and kinda sad, but just so beautiful. A while back I made my journalism class watch this music video, for their song "Poison and Wine" and write a review of it. I don't think they loved it as much as I do.

Teenagers. Bless.

Much love!

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hello, 2012

Going and being home for Christmas break is always strange and wonderful.

I don't feel like my life is in Holt Michigan, anymore. I mean, it's NOT in Holt, Michigan any more. Few friends still live there, and when I go I'm transported back to my high school days staying at my parents house and sleeping in a twin bed. Only now, they have cable. In both scenarios I don't have a car so mobility is a problem. Not that I'd drive much, anyway because I've sort of forgotten how to drive in anything but sunshine and rain.

But I love being in Michigan. A big part of my heart is still there and most of the better parts of who I am are there, too. Plus, with a little creative scheduling and very nice parents, I managed to see quite a few people.

It wasn't nearly as snowy as I wanted--I think it was near 50 when I first showed up. I felt like I brought the Miami weather with me--and brought the Michigan weather back to Miami, unfortunately--which no one in Michigan was mad about. A little snow fell here and there, and I certainly spent a good deal of time being cold, so I guess it felt a little bit like Christmas. Downtown Lansing even looked a little festive.

Hello Capital City!

And here's the snow on our bush in the front yard, from later in the break. I thought it was pretty.

Winter wonderland, indeed.

I spent a good deal of Christmas break, as I said previously, watching rented movies and Netflix. I saw several "classics": The Deer Hunter (intense but amazing and Christopher Walken is the terrifyingly captivating), A Clockwork Orange (Di. Stur. Bing.), Amadeus (long but fascinating, despite the guy from Animal House playing the title character). I saw Young Adult in the theater which... wasn't what I expected but I connected with it anyway. There were some moments the resonated with me, but overall it wasn't as funny or witty as I had imagined it would be.

Christmas festivities were fairly traditional. Cuban side for Christmas Eve, ate some Cuban food, took the traditional cousin's picture (we look better every year, I swear), and loved on some family. Here are the Garcia girls.

Christmas Day with the Palos was also some good lovin' on family time. Both uncles were there, and two dogs (Bubba and Cody, Mema's dog) and a tiny tree, too. We had brunch and the traditional cheesey/bready casserole of joyous life, which is only edible once a year 'cause of how terrible it is for you. But it's so worth it.

Another aspect of Christmas I really love is the tradition: food, family, our own little twists and turns on the days that make my family mine. They're beautiful and probably strange to some, but they're mine. Ours. And they're comforting.

I also got to spend some quality time with my good friend Coot in A2, Ann Arbor. We went to a U of M basketball game against Penn State (I think). Here we are, pea and pod-like as ever. :)

The halftime show at the game was, like, Mr. Fantastic or something, a "magic" act of sorts. It was pretty cool--the guy and his assistant did some traditional tricks--making flowers appear, an endless hankerchief chain, but she also wore about seven outfits and changed into them in seconds (or second, really). That part of it was pretty awesome. Here they are after she has just shed her dark wig and long dress.

Christmas in our family isn't just about the birth of Jesus (although it is) but the birth of my father (Christmas Eve) and my Tia (Boxing Day). My Tia Maki was actually in from California this year, so that was exciting, and we took her out for lunch on her birthday, along with our traditional cousin's lunch. We went to Olive Garden, where I haven't been in ages, and I remembered the glory of those bread sticks. Hallelujah! Molto benne!

The other major festivity was my friend Timmy's wedding. It was on New Year's Eve. Normally, I head back to Miami for NYE, but this year I stayed for the wedding and it was a good life choice. Timmy's a college friend and VanCooter, so the wedding and ensuing reception was peopled with creatures I hadn't seen in ages, since I left Grand Valley in 2004. A NYE wedding is a GREAT idea, by the way--everyone needs something to do, and is looking for a good time. Blam, reception. Good times.

Here's a photo of our table (well, the most important people at it anyway).

Missed these VanCooters like crazy. I was so happy to bring in 2012 with them. :)

Upon returning to Miami, I returned back to school--both kinds. Teaching and taking. I'm excited about my sememster at FIU; I'm actually taking a sociolinguistics class, which is the aspect of linguistics I'm most interested in. Sure, structure is great and necessary, but it just doesn't turn my gears the way looking at actual usage does. So yeah... excited.

I've also had a bit of theater so far in 2012. I got tickets to see the musical Next to Normal from school on opening night. The musical won Tony's and two Pulitzers, so I was excited to see it, but when I looked up the synopsis I was struck--it's a musical about mental illness. Yep. A rip-roarin' rollick in the human psyche.

The music was great, though, and the story was good, but intense. I expect musicals to be a bit light--y'know, love story, some tap dancing, stuff like that. But this wasn't. It's extremely clear why it won two Pulitzers--the writing and subject matter are pretty great. The performances were great as well, and it's a small cast (only six actors, I think) so everyone was really cohesive and acted (and sang) their hearts out. I'm glad I read the synopsis before I went, though, because I was prepared for the intensity. Everyone around T and I was bawling (like, BAWLING) and we were fine. It was kinda funny... but not at the same time.

So far, 2012 has been treating me right! For all of my holiday photos, click here.

Much love.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Artsy Fartsy November and December

Well, here it is, Christmas break, and I haven't updated since before Halloween. I need to get better about this thing... especially since I can't really remember what happened to me if I don't write it down.

October held one more surprise for me. Halloween morning, the weather seemed befitting of the day--it rained heavily the night before, and there was some serious flooding on the day. I heard it all over the news and had the fleeting thought that, I should turn on my phone, but didn't do it at that that exact moment and therefore forgot. I drove through a small lake on South Miami Avenue, fearing I would stall out, and got to work only to discover that not a single other car was in the parking lot. I feared the zombie apocalypse had finally come, and walked to my room to discover that there was a puddle in the middle of the room and the power flickering on and off. My neighbor was there and let me use his printer, but by this time I figured I'd better turn on my phone and find out what the heck was going on.

There were three texts on my phone and one voice mail, all trying to relay the message that school was, indeed, cancelled. Greeeeaaaat. So, lucky me, I had a very special Halloween day off like a Halloween miracle.

Sometime in the past few months (I can't remember where, exactly, this fit in) some of my other female coworkers and I went to a place called Painting with a Twist. This is an art studio where you get a personal paining class and you can bring wine and food while you paint. You walk away with a painting that you did yourself.

It sounds a little intimidating, sure. I have very little artistic talent, at least in the visual arts, and I really did not think I could paint a picture that would look like anything not painted by Jackson Pollack. But I did! Here's the before...

And, after some wine, some snackies, and only a little bit of stress, here's the after! (Note the bottle of wine in the pic, lol!)

Not only was painting fun, but it was a beautiful metaphor for life. Every time I got freaked out that I'd messed it up irrevocably, a teacher would come over and tell me just to let it dry a little and paint over it. You can't make a mistake because it's art, and if it's "wrong" or you don't like it, after a little bit of time you can just fix it. That's deep. I can't wait to go back and paint something else!

Even though it's a terrible picture, here we are together, my paining and I. I even wore my "art teacher" smock/shirt-thingy so I could get into the spirit.

The painting is currently hanging in my bathroom.

November brought the birthdays of two very special people. My Mema, who turned 86, and Sister Fanny, who turned 80. Sister Fanny is just one of those people that makes me happy. She has been a Salesian Sister longer than I've been alive and she still is so happy every day. She makes copies at school and runs a little after-school store, but more than that she tells jokes and just makes everyone happy.

There was a "surprise" party for her at the convent in Naples, and some of us went over to help her celebrate. There were even mixed CDs to rock out to on the drive. We ate (and ate...) and toured Sister Pat's new school, which is lovely, and played F-A-N-N-Y, which is similar to Bingo (okay... it IS Bingo but with different letters). Here's the birthday girl, who made out like a bandit!

November and December were artsy months for me. It was Art Basel time again, and a girl from work got us into an Absolute Vodka party for an Art Basel event. It was sort of a fun girls' night out and I felt super classy and artsy. The evening ended in some falafel from a food truck, which is a win on several levels.
The next weekend was an Art Walk, a free event I've written about here before. It's a night when the art galleries in the Wynwood district downtown open their doors for people to wander through. Some, I'm sure, actually buy art, while poor teachers like me and my friends simply walk around, take pictures, observe humanity, and feel classy. There are food trucks too, which is sort of a budding culture here in Miami; a budding culture I fully support.

The exhibitions are always interesting, at the very least. This was sort of a camouflage deer event happening and I found this little guy and this little corner to be very appealing.

This was a wall near the deer that I just thought was amazing to look at. I couldn't stop staring.

There's all kinds of art at Art Walk including plants. This one trapped The Aussie!

Art Walks are one of the free, great, cultural events in Miami. It's always a good time, especially when you go with the right people.

The official beginning of the holiday season for me was an early viewing of Love Actually and The Polar Express. I somehow seemed to get a little Christmas spirit early this year--normally I don't get it until I'm back in Michigan, if then. Also, the Weavers had an ugly sweater party in early December, which helped to foster some Christmas joy.

My sweater was borrowed and HIDEOUS. It had about 15 tiny bells on the front, which rang every time I moved, creating this high-pitched whine that nearly drove me crazy. Some of the other sweaters were equally terrible, including the winning one which was a lovely depiction of a tiger.

The part inspired me to take some awkward family photos, with the hosts. I'm thinking Christmas card next year?

Last year at work we began a tradition of having a Christmas party at the convent. It was a great way for the faculty and staff to come together outside of school and just relax and be. Last year, I really enjoyed myself and this year I did too. First of all, I discovered that the convent has a nice little backyard area, which they used to barbecue. I had no idea that existed last year! I didn't make it past the craft room. lol

I had lovely conversations while I ate with several people that I don't really talk to much at work--not for any reason in particular, just because we're not really in the same cirlces. It was nice to get to know them a little better, which is one of the reason why this party is so nice. It helped me get into the holiday spirit, even though it was pretty warm outside.

So now I'm back in Michigan for both Christmas AND New Years. This will be my first NYE in Michigan in a while, and I'm going to a friend's wedding so it should be a good time. So far, my time here has been spent relaxing and knitting (and knitting and knitting...) and watching movies with my mom. It was even sort of warm when I got off the plane, so maybe I brought a little of Miami with me. You're welcome, Mitten. :)

Much love.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

September and October

The calm that I experienced in September gave way to a chaotic October, it feels like. I was so excited that I was balancing work and school so well, I even had time to keep reading The Kite Runner, which I started about a week before work/school/chaos began. But now the novel, although great, has been set aside for required reading, and paper grading. Guess I'll have to wait until Christmas break to see how it all turns out.

I haven't managed to do anything too exciting over the past couple of months, although I have seen a bit of theater. I saw Spring Awakening on South Beach for only $15 a couple weeks back. It was a production put on by New World College of the Arts.

I'd never seen the show or heard much about it, other than Leah Michelle originated one of the roles on Broadway and Duncan Shiek did the music. The show was about teenagers in the early 1900s who are, like, awakening sexually. It was kinda awkward but I guess I could see how a teenager could be obsessed with it. The music was pretty great and my favorite character was played by a little gay with a mohawk and I wanted him to be my best friend. The performances were great; one girl who sang a song called "The Dark I Know Well" (which also turned out to be my favorite song) had this husky, bluesy voice. Really, really pretty.

After the show we got some ice cream at Giradelli's and headed home, a fun, cheap night out under our belts.

I also saw The Addams Family on October 30th, a birthday gift from Tanya. The show was pretty fun because some of the people dressed up (like the people who sat next to us, a Spiderman, a princess, a Morticia, and a zombie/Frankenstein thing), and I'm pretty sure that the powers that be at the Arscht center hand-picked the door people, 'cause most of them were cree-py. They looked like the could have BEEN in the Addams family, for sure.

The show itself was funny--much funnier than I thought it would be. There were two Michiganders in the cast--clearly awesome--and the story was, well, musical-ly. Love, complications, magic, blah, blah, happy ending. There were some cool effects in the show, which I am always fascinated by. I always think of special-effects in movies, but never stage shows. They were really clever and fun to see. The best part, though, was that, I swear, the people who were working there were PART OF the Addams family. It was outSTANDING.

My final October adventure was a pumpkin carving party for Halloween. This year, I carved the word "Nevermore" in the shape of a raven. Pretty complicated, but the Poe is necessary since I read "The Raven" to my kiddos each Halloween (give or take a few days) and I like to light the pumpkin to help create a mood.

Life is crazy, as always, and some time to slow down and settle would be great. But... I'm doing what I can!

2011 is flying by, huh?

Much love.