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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hazel Goes to the Vet, and I Accidentally Steal a Candle

Hazel-rah, the fuzzy poof-ball that impersonates a rabbit, had been having some issues. His butt fur kept getting matted, and and even worse there was...well...fecal matter in the matts. I tried to clean him up myself, but finally took him to his usual vet (where I've taken him at least 3 times since I got him) who shaved him down and treated me as if I was a horrible rabbit owner and this was all my fault (which I felt anyways). I took him home, started grooming him even more than usual, but a few months later, he was all matted again. So I called the vet. The conversation went like this.

Me: Hi, I'd like to make an appointment for my rabbit.
Receptionist: Your what?
Me: My rabbit.
Receptionist: We don't treat rabbits here.

Turns out the one small animal vet had left the practice. Another vet was recommend to me, so I called, and after confirming several times that Hazel was a male rabbit, made an appointment. Before taking him, I checked the office's website, and saw they requested that you bring in a sample of your pet's fecal matter to the appointment. So I packed up Hazel, his water bottle, his food, and a ziploc with some rabbit droppings, and we set off for the vet.

When I arrived, they couldn't find Hazel's file, but finally located it over with the files for the female animals. Remind me to never name a pet for a literary reference again.

I explained the matting issue to the vet, who took Hazel and the fecal sample to the back to run some tests. Turns out, Hazel had a stomach parasite, which was making his droppings runny, hence the matting fur, something the other vet never thought to look for. Five days of medicine, and he's his normal, hoppy self.

Now, for the candle...

The vet's office sells this candles that eliminate pet odors. I put one on the counter to purchase, but with all the confusion of Hazel's paperwork ending up on the female side again, the receptionist forgot to add it to my cost. I didn't realize it until I got home, and happily left with the candle in my bag. The people at the front desk where very surprised when I showed up to pay for it the next day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Creare: To Create

I made my wedding veil. Just wanted to brag, since I haven't posted anything I've made in a while.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series)

Title and author: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan

Summary: This is a series of five books. In the first book, 12 year Percy Jackson discovers that he is a demi-god: half-god, and half-human, and that there are many kids like him all over the world. As it turns out, the gods of ancient Greece never faded away, they just moved to New York, and have been up to their usual activities, albeit with modern twists, ever since.

The demi-gods are targets for ancient monsters that still roam the earth, and so take refuge in the safety of Camp Half-Blood, where they are trained to become heros. Adventures ensue.

My Review: Anytime a book alludes to Greek mythology, I watch closely to see what mistakes the author makes. Riordan makes very few. I've found that I can actually tell which of my students have read the series because they know their Greek mythology so much better than the one's who haven't.

The biggest criticism I've heard of the series is that it's a rip-off of Harry Potter, but I don't find that to be the case. Instead, it's a simple matter that both books clearly and deliberately follow the quest cycle common in ancient myth.

The characters are likable, the pacing is excellent, and so is the writer. Riordan is a masterful storyteller, and he knows his material well.

Age appropriate/kid friendly/morality: This book is intended for middle school audiences and above. It has the usual issues one finds in ancient myth (gods having children with mortals, etc.), but the human characters are all very well-behaved. Mature kids ages 7 and up will probably be fine reading these books.

Recommended: If you like myth and fantasy, this is for you. If not, then you probably won't like it. Adults may find the books feel a little young, but the adventures are exciting enough to keep older readers interested, and it's always intriguing to see which myth Riordan is going to take on next.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Don't Smile Until December! And Other Bad Teaching Advice

I've be given the advice "don't smile until December", or the similar "start out really strict" advice more times than I can count. I was given it my first day teaching at my current job, when I first started teaching as a Graduate Instructor, and most recently in a coffee shop by a stranger who overheard  me discussing my syllabus with a friend. And I have always blatantly ignored it. 

As both an adjunct at a community college and a part-time teacher at a middle school, I have experienced a vast range of students and instructors. When I first started teaching grad school, it was almost a competition amongst the grad students to see how many students they could scare into dropping their class the first day. In middle school, of course, students don't have that option. Instead, 'don't smile until December' is about setting the tone of your class, of making sure that students understand that they are going to have to do the work if the want a good grade. 

But I can't help think that this idea supports several statements I strongly disagree with. It says "learning is serious business", "this is work, being a student is your job", and worst of all, "learning isn't fun". 

But the truth is, learning should be fun. Learning is exploring new ideas, new places, new ways of thinking. School is where children learn how to become adults, how to communicate with one another, how to make friends and socialize, and how (hopefully) to one day make the world a better place. And if your teacher isn't smiling, well, who can blame kids (or adults!) for not liking school?

Don't get me wrong, learning is serious business. And it is a student's job to do the best they can at school. But any employer can tell you that they would gladly take one employee who loves their job over a half dozen who don't.

It takes a lot of energy to smile day in and day out. Students can be exasperating. It takes a lot of work to make conjugating verbs into something fun and exciting (believe me... it takes a lot of work), but the pay off can be worth it.

I have noticed that some of my students (college and middle school), are taken aback by my teaching style. They aren't sure how to react to the teacher jumping up and down in front of the room shouting, "aren't Latin nouns cool!" or "Maps are great!". But eventually they loosen up, and many are surprised to find that learning can actually be fun. 

Legall-ly stuff: This are my opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employers. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store

When I posted a recommendation for this book on Facebook, I was surprised by the number of my friends who asked me for other recommendations. Which leads me to think (perhaps mistakenly) that people are interested in my views on books. So, for those of you who are, here's my first book review.

Title: Mr. Penumbra's 25 Hour Book Store

Summary: Set in post dotcom boom America during our current recession, the unemployed Clay Jannon accidentally finds a job working the night shift at a 24 hour bookstore. He's entranced by the atmosphere of the small shop, but is most interested in its unusual clientele. His investigation leads to a quest of not-quite-epic proportions, as he recruits the help of his unusually talented friends along the way to solve an age-old mystery. I'm afraid I can't say more about it without risking spoilers.

My description: When I attempted to explain this book to my husband, I said, it's science-fiction without the science fiction, fantasy without the fantastic, and epic without epic-ness (is that a word?). But mostly its about books, technology, and the people who love them. This may sound boring, but trust me, it isn't.

Age appropriate/kid friendly/morality: There is some alluded to pre-marital sex, but I have read YA novels that are more graphic. I would say it's appropriate for 7th grade and above, but I don't think they would enjoy/appreciate it. This is an adult novel, not because it has adult themes, so much as there is a certain level of maturity and life experience to really love it for what it is.

Recommended: Absolutely. A must for anyone who loves books for their own sakes, this book is in someways a love letter to its readers. Don't be surprised if you feel guilty reading the electronic copy.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fear of Failure (I'm Back)

I think part of what took me so long to start posting again was trying to decide what I wanted to do with this blog, or if I even wanted to keep it. Once I decided I wanted to keep it, I couldn't come up with the amazing, I'm-back-to-blogging post I wanted. So, I'm not going to do one. I'm back, and here's what's up with me. 

In high school, college, and grad school, I used to have nightmares. You know the ones. I'd wake up thinking that major paper I hadn't started yet was due today, or that I had registered for a class and never attended. But now I find myself on the other side of the desk. I'm not doing homework, I'm collecting it. And yet I still have nightmares.

I think every teacher knows it. The fear of failing your students somehow. Whether it's failing to prepare them for the next exam or next year. It's even a fear of failing, in some way, to prepare your students for life beyond the classroom. These fears terrify me. The students, parents, and school all expect me to teach these children, and I worry everyday that I'm not going to succeed.

My nightmares are different now. Now I dream of an unruly class, me standing in the room desperately (and unsuccessfully) getting them to calm down and pay attention. I dream of forgotten lesson plans, of my whole class failing an exam, or worse, of my whole class failing the course. I dream of confrontations with parents, demanding to know my qualifications, or why I let their child down. They are not good dreams.

And yet, they are just dreams. Everyday, against the odds (at least according to my nightmares), no angry parents show up at my door, my students behave in class, and they show signs of actual learning. As a teacher, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that my students are learning, but it always manages to astound me. I taught stuff! And they learned it! It's like the world's lamest super-power, but I'll take it.

It would be nice to not have the nightmares. But in someways, I don't mind them. It's my brain's way of saying it cares, deeply, about making sure the students in my class succeed. And that is what teaching is about.

Legal-ly stuff: Even though I don't (and will never) name the school I work at, just to cover the bases, everything here is my opinion, and does not reflect the opinions of my employer. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Love Story: Part Three, Proposal from Will's Perspective

In which my fiancee, Will, guest-blogs.

Emma’s parents came up for a visit. By this time Emma and I had been discussing our future together and unbeknownst to her, I had already purchased a ring. I was in the process of having this ring made, and was under the impression that it would not be ready for a while. One of the requirements we had both agreed upon before getting engaged, was that I had to ask her parents for their permission. I had only met them once before, but since they live in Orlando I had very few opportunities to ask their permission. Emma had arranged for the four of us to eat lunch together, and had told me that she was going to be a couple of minutes late. I had decided that if I arrived to the restaurant and her parents were there, it would be my only chance to ask.
I had arrived at the restaurant a couple of minutes early, and got out of my car just in time to see her parents walking towards the restaurant. I quickly scanned the parking lot for Emma’s car, and after feeling confident enough that she wasn’t there I joined her parents. We got a table rather quickly, and her mother shortly thereafter excused herself. This left myself and Emma’s father alone in a booth that was set for four, and I knew that if I was ever going to ask him it had to be then. The waitress hadn’t even taken our drink order, when I stammered through the sentence “I wanted to ask permission to marry your daughter”. Of course, then the waitress arrived for the drink order making for the most awkward interruption by a waitress ever. After Emma’s mother came back the three of us talked a little, and I got their permission to ask Emma to marry me. It is important to note at this time that I was under the impression that the ring was not ready yet, and told her parents that it would probably be a few weeks before I actually proposed.

Shortly after we had finished our conversation, Emma arrived. She claims to this day that she was well aware of what we had been talking about, but I like to believe that lunch went forward without her knowing a thing. Her parents left Tallahassee shortly after this, and I went back to my apartment to relax before an afternoon with Emma. It was at this point that I got a phone call from the jeweler; my ring was ready for pickup whenever I was ready. Anyone who knows me knows how bad I am at waiting for things. Instead of relaxing I drove over to the jewelry store, picked up the ring, drove back to my apartment, and quickly hid it before Emma had a chance to drive over. It was my plan at this time to wait until the perfect moment to pop the question…. But like I said earlier I am horrible at waiting. 

We were watching something on television, and for some reason all I could think about was the ring in my room, and the conversation I had with her parents. We had spoken about getting engaged a couple of times, and during those discussions she had indicated that she would marry me with a twisty tie (the little piece of plastic you wrap around bags of bread to keep them fresh). It was then that the wheels in my head began to turn. I excused myself from the room to retrieve a twisty tie and the ring box before returning to the couch next to Emma. I turned to her and told her about the conversation that I had had with her parents earlier.
She claimed that she was aware of it, and smiled at me. I held up the twisty tie and asked her if she was still willing to marry me with a twisty tie. After she replied that she would, I got down on one knee. I put the twisty tie behind my back and pulled the ring box from my pocket. I told her how much she meant to me, and pulled the open ring box from behind my back. She looked down at the ring, and I asked her to marry me. She quickly accepted, and that was how it happened. It was the best April Fool’s Day ever! (By the way, if you ever want to get engaged on April 1st, be prepared for the following conversation:

“Hey I just got engaged”

“Yeah right, very funny, April fools”

“No… really…. I just got engaged”

“Wait what? Really?!?”)