Friday, December 30, 2011

Super Adventures

All of my nephews, who I have been visiting in Texas this holiday, received superhero masks for Christmas.  Yesterday, while I was babysitting we decided to make a little movie.

Enjoy our movie magic.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My new project!

For the past two years I have wanted to start a new blog, one that deals with my eternal quest to figure out my life.  I have finally stopped talking about it and decided to take action.

My new site is www.beawannabe.com

Here is the link to my blog post where I look back on 2011.

http://thewannabe.squarespace.com/blog/2011/12/28/looking-back.html

I would love feedback on the site, suggestions for improvement or if you would just make comments.  My goal is to have 1000 readers by the end of 2012 so feel free to share with anyone you like as I build my readership.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Meet my new niece!

I know that it has been forever since I last wrote on my blog.  The past few months have been full of teaching, grading, baking cake pops and more grading.  Other than an eventful hike in Zion's National Park in October and a quick weekend trip to Arizona, I haven't done anything very adventuresome.

This past Christmas break I have spent with Garret and Heidi and I have enjoyed getting to know my new baby niece Aria.  As you can tell by the pictures below, she is gorgeous!




Friday, September 16, 2011

Interesting Find

Periodically, I do a quick google search on myself to see what pops up.  I was pleasantly surprised on the following link:

http://scrappystickyinkymess.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/10-things-that-changed-the-face-of-scrapbooking/

I sometimes forget about my scrapbooking past, but I guess I was an innovator.  If only I had capitalized on  that niche.   My cancer diagnosis came just two months after I found out I won the 2002 Scrapbook Hall of Fame award from Creating Keepsakes. I am just glad that I survived that year.

Now lets see if I can find another way to be an innovator again!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quick Update

After my return from India I had a busy summer crossing items off my to-do list. I returned home to a family reunion in Idaho and then I decided to stay an additional four weeks to visit my parents. This summer I was able to complete a number of long-standing projects and finish some new ones.

Here are some of the projects I completed:

  • Finished picture books of Germany and India
  • Designed Paris & Turkey book (2007) - still need to add text
  • Finished painting my house (pictures will be forthcoming)
  • Finally unpacked and officially "moved in" (I know 8 months later)
  • Cooked 2 months worth of lunches for school (various soups)
  • Made 12 jars of peach jam
  • Reorganized all my electronic files
  • Sold a number of items online

The new school year seems to be shaping up well.  My AP students have been very receptive to class discussions and I am excited to see them grow.  In my honors and regular world history class, I am experimenting this year by teaching history backwards. So far the students have liked this system, although they don't like how much work I am making them do.  It has been fun to see all of my old students this year, they keep stopping by to talk and tell me how much they miss my class.

I am the VP of Communications for the Southern Nevada Council for the Social Studies this year.  My job is to maintain the website and write the newsletter.  I have enjoyed being a part of the council.

This fall I am busy studying for the GMAT exam.  My friend Grace (a math teacher at SWCTA) has been helping me study.  It is humbling to discover how much information I have lost since high school. I am also still working on my photography and spending more time painting. I am keeping busy as always.

I will post this weekend, photos of my new place.  I am excited to show off all the hard work.






Monday, July 4, 2011

Pictures of Jaipur

Wind Palace

The ride up to the Amber Fort

Snake Charmers
Water Palace


Seth and Rand 

Outdoor Observatory with the world's largest sundial.

Pictures of Agra

Tomb of the Mughal Emperor Akbar

Courtyard & gates at the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Stephanie, Steve, Me, Seth, Rhianna & Rand

Upclose images of Taj Mahal and view of the River

Baby Taj 
Agra Fort, it is massive!

Views of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort

More pictures of Agra fort.

Pictures of Delhi

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar, Muslim mosque built from 27 Hindu Temples

India gate and auto rickshaw

Slum area of Delhi

Pictures from Week 1

Commerce street in Bangalore. Seth found his twin!

Training facility of Infosys in Mysore.





Views from the bus.

Scenes up on Chamundi Hill in Mysore.

Hindu temples on Chamundi Hill

Mysore Palace

Luxury Resort in Kabini, we got our own private pool hut.

Some of the animals I saw on my Safari. The black cheetah is in the middle.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Golden Triangle

On Monday the 27th we left Delhi to travel to Agra. We left early (7 am) to avoid some of the major traffic and an hour and a half into the trip our driver stopped for a quick rest. We figured we would be back on the road within 10 minutes, but our driver informed us he couldn't feel the right side of his body. With slurred speech, his symptoms were those of a stroke. He looked freaked out and we had to wait almost 2 hours for a new driver and someone to take our driver to the hospital.

To make up for lost time our new driver really worked hard to get us o Agra in decent time. We had to stop several times to pay tolls and such and on one occasion there was a man sitting in the divide between the four lanes of traffic with a sewing machine mending some pants. Seemed like an odd place to do mending.

Also along the road we started to see the first camels of the trip. Looking at all the animals helped make the long car trip go faster.

Once in Agra we stopped at the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (grandfather to Shah Jahan the builder of the Taj Mahal).

The highlight of the afternoon was the stop to the Taj Mahal. Pictures can't show how beautiful the building is. All the headache with the passport and getting sick were all worth it to see the Taj.

The Taj is inlaid with precious stones and other carvings which were spectacular upclose. I will post my good shots when I return.

After visiting the Taj we went to a show room to see how the artisans do all the inlay work. We all purchased small items which show the craftsmanship.

On Tuesday we visited the Baby Taj. We arrived so early that we were the first people there. After the visit we went to the Agra fort. It was massive and it had some beautiful buildings. Plus, it has great views of the Taj.

After the fort we headed to Jaipur. A few hours into the trip the windshield wipers stopped working. After we got lunch the a/c also stopped. It was a warm, wet afternoon getting to Jaipur.

Wednesday was spent touring the major sites in Jaipur. We visited the Wind Palace, Water Palace, City Palace and the highlight was the Pink Fort. To reach the fort we rode elephants. It was a little rocky, but he kids and I definitely thought it was a fantastic ride.

Thursday we drive the six hours back to Delhi and we catch our late evening flights. My return flight is a total of 29 travel hours. I will be glad to he back in the States and all the comforts of home.

I will say that India has definitely been incredible.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

End of Delhi

On Friday the 25th and Saturday the 26th I was still staying at the Jackson's house awaiting my brother and his family. Friday, Mrs. Jackson took me to lunch with her friend and daughter to Chile's. The restaurant food tasted very similar to home. After lunch they took me to a couple of stores where I was able to pick up some souvenirs.

Saturday, I went with the two Jackson boys and the family cook to Mother Teresa's Orphanage for disabled and handicapped children. Apparently the three of them go every week to play with the children and give them a little treat.

There was approximately 100 children in the home with more than half of them suffering from MS. The orphanage is run by some nuns and they have a small army of volunteers and workers. Seeing the poor conditions and the cramped quarters was heartbreaking. The children were so young and helpless that I wanted to cry for them. From what I could tell the children were well cared for, but nothing can replace the loss of a family to love a young child. I spoke with the head nun and she was gracious and kind.

Speaking with the Jackson clan I learned that there are more than 100 orphanages in Delhi. They were surprised to learn that I had never visited an orphanage before.

In the afternoon I rode in my first auto rickshaw with Anjuli the Jackson's daughter. She took me to the neighborhood bazaar that she does all her discount shopping. It was fun to ride in the auto and Anjuli taught me a few things about barteering.

We then went for pedicures at a salon around the corner from their house where the price was only $6. I wish I could get a pedicure that cheap in the States.

At 7:00pm I finally met up with Steve and his family and I was happy to be reunited. The Jackson's were so hospitable, but after 4 days I felt I had worn out my welcome.

Sunday we attempted to go to church, but we were not able to find the building. After lunching at McDonalds we took a short tour of Delhi, seeing the India Gate, parliament, and this mosque built in the 11th century.

I was sorry to leave Delhi. It has been the most organized, and "normal" Indian city we've visited. However, our next stop is Agra and the Taj Mahal.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week two - India

Monday we got up early to catch our flight to the southern part of India and one of the two things I was most looking forward to on this vacation - the house boat cruise down the back waters. At the Bangalore Airport I discovered to my shock and horror that my money belt was missing from my purse. I wasn't worried about the extra $46 in there, but it was where I kept my passport. After dumping everything put of my purse and frantically routing through my luggage, I still couldn't find it. I was still able to board the flight, but I knew I was in a world of new obstacles.

After landing in Cochin and checking into the hotel, Steve jumped on the computer to find out what I needed to do to get a new passport and visa.

Step one. File a police report. Knowing that my afternoon was shot-Steve and his family took the scheduled tour of the harbor and was some ethnic dancing while I got schooled in Indian bureaucracy.

A representative from the tour company accompanied me which proved to be a big help. The police station was out of a bad movie. I didn't see a single computer, the walls were dirty, bugs crawling everywhere and no a/c. Within moments I was drenched in sweat. There was approximately 15 officers in a four room building and it appeared that no real work seemed to ever get done besides sweating and talking. A few carried guns, but with no technology to be seen I can't imagine difficult crimes are ever solved there.

After listening to my guide share what happened to me, they gave me a sheet of paper to write my statement. According to the US Embassy I only needed a statement from the police that I had reported the missing passport. Because I actually lost the passport somewhere else, the police thought I was an idiot when I told them I couldn't find my passport after landing in Cochin. I couldn't tell them I lost it before my arrival, or they would not have helped me.

What I thought was a relatively minor procedure (a police letter), turned into a mini-drama. The police informed me that because I has listed the passport as lost I needed to take out an advertisement in the local newspaper to see if anyone would return it before they would give my any documents.

They also said it would take until the 23rd. Three days I was expected to wait and to make matters worse we were only spending one night in Cochin. I left the office drenched and dejected.

The newspaper office turned out to be almost as depressing. We arrived there by 6 pm and so it wound up costing four times the normal rate to place the ad. My guide thought that if we got it in the paper by the next day he might be to convince the police to give me the report early. The ad cost me approx $80 and we were there about an hour. Their offices had the same worn down feeling as the police station. They did have computers but they were at least 15 years old.

By the time I returned to the hotel that night, empty handed and poorer, I was feeling very low. It was looking like I would have to miss most of the vacation.

During the evening Steve got busy doing research and sending out emails to help solve this problem. A few middle of the night phone calls to the States and we had a plan.

I would return to Delhi on Tuesday with or without a police report and start working on everything up there until I had what I needed to return home. I said goodbye to Steve and headed to the police station with newspaper in hand, hopeful we would get the report.

When I got there they gave me the run around - they couldn't give me a report it was an active investigation. What I really understood was they wanted to cover their butts. My guide explained it was because I was an American and if I'd been Indian it wouldn't have been a big deal. I begged him to explain that I just needed a memo stating I told them I lost it. After an hour of sitting around sweating I got the memo, only my entire name was spelled wrong. After having to correct the memo three times I finally got to leave, however just as the police Inspector informed me that it probably wouldn't do me any good.

On the way to the airport we stopped and got some passport photos and then I caught a flight to get back to Delhi.

In adversity it becomes very easy to see the Lord's hand. Traveling to Delhi five days early I worried about accommodations and money. Stephanie's mom gave me the number to the mission president's wife in New Delhi and she was so sweet and offered to let me stay in her guest room.

When I arrived late that evening in Delhi I was warmly welcomed into their very nice home where I have been living for the past three days.

Wednesday I arrived at the Embassy thirty minutes before my appointment and I was able to get my replacement passport in 2 1/2 hours. They were very nice and I was pleasantly surprised to get it so quickly. While there I met a couple of American women who live in Delhi and they had some great tips for navigating the office where I needed my replacement visa.

My driver had to park more than a kilometer from the embassy so the brief walk had me drenched in sweat. The drive to the Foreign Registration Office was short, but more walking was involved and I looked like a drowned rat by the time I figured out where the correct office was.

I got my number 64 (they were on 34) and patiently waited my turn. After I had been there thirty minutes this older gentleman wanted to speak to me in the hallway. He didn't have anything to say, but since I was standing I decideded to ask the info desk if there was any forms I needed to fill out while I waited.

Much to my surprise he gave me a form and immediately pointed me to a counter. Within twenty minutes I had all my forms filled out, checked, and informed that all I needed to do was return on Thursday.

The rest of that day and Thursday I just relaxed and read. My driver showed up an hour early and so I decided to take a chance and see if I could get the visa early.

I could have laughed aloud when I returned and saw their processing of the visa. My original paperwork appeared as though it has not moved from the day before. All I did was took it back to the original counter, it was stamped, they stamped my passport, and I left. I don't know why they needed to let the paperwork sit for a day, but it certainly feels like the Indian thing to do.

The process of getting all my documents in Delhi has been very easy, which is a huge relief. I now have to wait two more days before Steve and his family fly up to finish this final stage in the vacation.

The Jackson's have been fantastic and it has been a pleasant stay at their house. The instant connection with strangers is easy because of The Church.

Next week I will post the final installment of my trip. Although I missed the house boat and swimming in the Indian Ocean, I will still get to see the Taj Mahal which is the one thing I most wanted to see.

Here is to hoping that I will not have anymore travel roadblocks the rest of the trip.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mysore Palace

Gorgeous detail inside.

Mysore Palace

Inside courtyard if Mysore Palace

Week one - India

Wednesday the 15th we headed to Xime, which is the local college where Steve has been teaching his class this summer. Once there we loaded ourselves onto two buses for our trip to Mysore and Kabini.

The trip was only 100 km, but it took us close to 5 hours to reach our hotel. Part of the problem was a pit stop at a coffee shop. With 50 students ordering food and Indian inefficiency, it took forever.

The hotel was lovely and that evening we ate a catered BBQ near the pool with the students and the other professors.

Thursday we visited Chumundi Hill. There is a famous temple at the top dedicated to the wife of Shiva. Walking to the temple we saw lots of monkeys. It was pretty funny because we saw one that looked like it was going to ride a motorcycle. The kids thought it was especially hilarious.

Steve, Seth, Rand and I were the only ones who decided to enter the temple. We dropped off our flower offerings and dots were placed on our foreheads. The boys immediately wiped the dot off which left a nice streak of color along their foreheads.

In the afternoon we visited the Majaraja's Palace. Built around the turn of the century it was a lovely building with stunning artwork and handcarvings. I wasn't able to take my big camera with me, but I will post a couple of my pictures I took with my itouch.

That evening I started to feel sick, which as of today (the 23rd) I still don't feel back to normal.

On Friday, we drove to the tiny village of Kabini to stay at the luxurious resort Orange County. The resort was very remote and the tiny roads that took us there were treacherous. The final 20 km took more than an hour to drive. I must give credit to the outstanding bus driver.

The resort was spectacular. Beautiful views of a river and national park. All the accommodations were huts. We had two pool huts. I will add pictures of the resort to this post when I return to show you how incredible it was.

Friday we relaxed and Saturday I watched Seth while the rest of Steve's family could go on their safari. In the afternoon I went and I'm glad I got the later time, because the whole day was rainy, but in the afternoon it was very mild rain. Our group saw wild monkeys, deer, Samba, variety of rare birds, wild boar, wild dogs, peacocks, elephants and the very rare and very lucky black cheetah. The only other animal I would have like to have seen was the tiger.

Sunday we returned to Bangalore. We spent the night at Stephanie's parents house.

The first week was very interesting, I really enjoyed Mysore and Kabini was stunning. I only wish that I had felt better to enjoy it. By the end of the week I was hardly consuming any food which also made me feel very weak.

Week two has been even more of a challenge, but I will tell you all about it in a different post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bangalore

After a peaceful night in the Radisson, I took a 2 1/2 hour flight from Delhi to Bangalore. Steve's driver met me at the airport and due to the atrocious Indian traffic a 60 kilometer drive turned into a 2 1/2 hour drive.

I must confess that India is almost exactly what I thought it would be. Traffic is crazy. It appears that no one follows any traffic laws. Car horns are extensions of the driving experience. Steve commented that the driving was the ultimate game of chicken-who's going to back off first.

Monday afternoon was spent at Stephanie's parents apartment (they are the mission president of the Southern India mission) and chatting.

Tuesday we got up and did a little shopping, ate lunch at McDonalds. The afternoon was spent at the Science and Engineering Museum.

While at the museum there were tons of people who wanted our picture. The people were especially interested in Seth. I have never seen a child touched so many times. For a three-year-old he handled the attention well.

The jet-lag has not been to unbearable, but the beds in Steven's house are the hardest surfaces I have ever slept on.

Today we leave for Mysore and our jungle safari. Here is to hoping the beds will be softer at the hotel.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Arrival

At the airport in Saturday I decides to splurge and pay the extra $150 for the emergency row seats. I flew Continental and this was a wise choice because their seats were small and having the extra leg room was a dream. The flight from Vegas to Newark was cramped, and with a four hour lay-a-way I had plenty of time to meander and work out the cramps before the marathon flight.

The flight from Newark to Delhi was long, but with all the movies I watched, it went by faster than I expected. I ended up seeing 5 movies and three television shows. I normally have a difficult time sleeping on flights and this was no exception. I did get a couple of restful hours on the 14 hour flight.

Upon arrival I was met at the Delhi airport by a driver for the hotel and was quickly checked in.

Immediately I noticed differences, the driver and the car were checked by guards and scanned when we arrived. Before entering the hotel my bags were scanned as well as myself.

Before catching up with my brother and his family tomorrow I opted to spend the night, get well rested so that when I see them I wont be wasted. My splurge of the trip is tonight in the Radisson Blu Hotel. It is stunning and they upgraded my room to business class and it is awesome! I will attempt to attach pictures, but it is the nicest room I've ever stayed in. I almost don't want to go to sleep so that I can enjoy the room as long as possible.

Before I call it a night I will jump in the gigantic tub to relax. On second thought, after 15 minutes of trying to figure out how to close the drain, I opted for a shower. The rain head feature was awesome.

Oh the adventure has definitely begun!

Sent from my iPod

Bathroom

My awesome hotel room

First glance.

Welcome to India

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sneak Peak

As I go through the monster task of editing all of the wedding pictures I took at my niece's wedding this weekend, I thought I would give those that couldn't attend and those that did a sneak peak at some of the bridal pictures I took.  These are still in their "raw" state and I will add a little editing to them.  Taylor is so photogenic and it was a blast to photograph her wedding.




Saturday, May 7, 2011

Release

This morning I completed the assessment portion of my National Board Certification. The test lasted over three hours and required that I write six - thirty minute essays.  I feel really confident about five of the essays and now I must wait for the results.  The fascinating part came as I left the testing facility.  As I walked out the door something clicked inside and all of a sudden my creative juices started flowing again. 

For the last few months I have felt stiffled, exhaused and stressed.  I am excited that this mental weight has been lifted and I am optimistic that this release will allow me to move forward, catch up on some projects and set new goals.

In other non-related topics, I spent some time this afternoon watching the news footage and coverage of the Kentucky Derby.  I loved the way the networks crafted the stories about the horses/trainers/jockies. I felt like I was watching the Olympics and I couldn't help but cheer and root for the horses.  Animal Kingdom was the big winner and his last surge to win was exciting.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Anniversaries

Yesterday, my ex-roommate and friend, Tiffany and I celebrated Cinco de Mayo.  Even though we had met on the 4th for her birthday dinner, we decided we would keep with tradition and enjoy some Mexican food at our favorite Mexican restaurant Bonito Michoacan.  It wasn't until I left the restaurant that I realized that this was the fifth year we had celebrated this event.

The only hiccup in the last five years of celebrating Cinco de Mayo, occurred last year, when the restaurant was so busy we ate next door at Red Robin--I know, not a very good Mexican choice.

There is something comforting about celebrating an anniversary, even if it is for something as minor as eating at the same restaurant once a year.  I hope that it can continue next year as well...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Convergence

The last six days have been full of interesting historical events that have uniquely coincided with what the lessons in my class have been about.

Last Friday was the first interesting day, with the Royal Wedding.  The wedding also coincides with the date Hitler married his longtime girlfriend Eva Braun and is my birthday.  As far as birthdays are concerned it was an uneventful day, but I found the wedding quite lovely.

In class we have been discussing WWII and the holocaust.  The day of the wedding we were discussing the bombings of London and the students were moved by the heroics of the  Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain and when I mentioned that William is a member of the RAF they were intrigued by the timing of the class discussion.

My students were the ones who informed me about the US operation that led to the killing of Osama and his death coincided with the discussion of Hitler and Stalin (which the media were already making connections with OBL).  As I finally got around to discussing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor all the connections with 9/11 were easily made and the students and I had a great discussion on retaliation, foreign policy and war.

To top everything off, I am trainer in my district and I was leading a class on Wednesday for a literature group.  The book we were discussing was about a young man who was a medical student in Burundi when the genocide erupted and then he escaped to Rwanda only to get caught in the genocide there as well.  He eventually came to NYC where he was homeless before he found people able to help him.  Any discussion of genocides is an easy connection with the Holocaust.

Rarely does my curriculum so easily fit within the events of the day.  I love when I can make personal, relevant and current connections with the students.  My student Jonathyn came in on Tuesday and proudly announced that he had the most interesting conversation at home about WWII because of what we had been discussing the previous class.

Maybe I will be lucky and the rest of the month of May will offer even more relevant and convergent topics.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

NYC Doug's Perspective

My brother Doug was definitely not prepared for the torture I had planned for the NYC trip. On average we walked close to 10 miles a day and spent a considerable amount of time standing.

As Doug said "I didn't know I was coming on vacation to kick my own butt."

He described our typical day in the city as follows: "We would leave the hotel and walk the one block to the subway where we would stand and wait. Once the train arrived we would stand and sway the thirty minutes into the city. Once we arrived at our destination we would walk the 3-6 blocks to the 'must see' tourist site where we would stand in line to get our tickets. Once inside we would walk around and then take the 3-6 block walk to the subway to then get to our next destination. More standing and swaying, more walking and looking, until the end of the day when you return to the hotel ready to cut off your own feet."

His favorite activities included the Martha Stewart show, Opera, Broadway and the Pizza tour simply because they involved the most sitting.

I also didn't warn him about the "nuts to butts" train rides and museum lines.

Needless to say I know he was thrilled to get back home to his quiet town, I certainly was.

This past week the students who were on the trip, kept calling Doug's name anytime they saw each other. It is sweet how much they liked him. I promised him that if I ever invited him on vacation with me again that I would plan more relaxation.

Thanks Doug for being such a good sport!

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Sunday, April 24, 2011

NYC Final Days...

Saturday seemed to be an exercise in futility. Once again the students were all late in the morning which meant we would miss the first boat out to Staten/Ellis Island. I decided that we still had enough time to make the second boat. With our umbrella's up we took off.

Once we entered the subways the hell began. Lines were not inservice due to repair, kids were always walking too slow for the group and we routinely missed trains. After an hour and a half we reached the exit point only to discover the rain had picked up. We decided that it would be miserable to go out to the islands.

On our original itinerary I had planned to visit Hoboken, New Jersey for pastries at Carlo's Bakery (made famous from the tv show Cake Boss) and then to Central Park. I decided that we could still go to New Jersey. With $30 in subway fare we headed to the tunnels again. The trip to Hoboken was pleasant, because we were able to get a seat on the train. Even though it was still raining the walk to the bakery was short. I really liked the look and feel of Hoboken and would have loved to have visited on a day that wasn't so unpleasant.  Once we found the bakery we snapped a few pictures and went to go inside only to discover the massive line across the street. I was in agreement with Doug that I was not about to spend 3 hours in line for a canoli.

Another wasted trip for the morning, we returned to the tunnels and spent our remaining time getting lunch and shopping in Grand Central Station.

Our shutte service was waiting to take us to the airport when we returned to the hotel. The kids and I said our goodbyes to Doug and we parted. While driving to the airport I got a text from Southwest informing me that all our flights were cancelled. Our flight had us making a connection in St. Louis and then catching another flight to Vegas. Friday night a tornado hit the airport and it had to close due to the damage.

Thinking quickly I called my sister-in-law Steph (thanks for the help) and she was able to rebook our flights for Sunday morning and find us a nearby hotel. Our shuttle driver still dropped us off at the airport and we picked up some food and went to our hotel. I was so exhausted that I was asleep by 7 pm.

As I am writing, it is a beautiful Easter morning and we are safely at the airport awaiting our departure. If all goes well and our flight leaves on time we should be home by 5 pm. I feel rested and refreshed. Although I am going to have to do more fundraising when I return home to pay for the additional night in the hotel, this little delay hasn't been terrible.

In all honesty, I don't think I will ever lead a trip like this again. We had a great time, but the stress, work, time, and money aren't worth it. I am still attempting a trip with students over seas for the summer of 2012, but with that trip a company does all the work.

I hope you all have a wonderful and Happy Easter!


Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Saturday, April 23, 2011

NYC Update #5

Friday we attempted to get to the sites missed on earlier days.

The day started with a chilly trip to the Empire State Building. The line was HUGE, but we attempted it anyway. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took an hour to get to the top.

We then traveled across town for 'A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour.' This 4 hour tour took us on a drive through all the major neighborhoods of Brooklyn-including a cold walk along the Boardwalk as we visited Coney Island. As part of the tour we stopped twice for pizza. The first was at Grimaldi's which is famous for their great location (under the Brooklyn Bridge) and the use of coal to fuel their pizza ovens. I love Grimaldi's and they did not disappoint. All of us gobbled up the pizza in 10 minutes. The second stop was at L & B Spumoni Gardens for authentic Sicilian pizza. This style is made with a thick crust, then fresh mozzarella and the sauce on top. I was surprised with how much I liked it. They are also famous for their spumoni (a version of ice cream that whipped cream is incorporated into it). Even though we were all stuffed from our pizza, we enjoyed some spumoni.

Most of the students preferred L&B's pizza of the two. Doug rated Grimaldi's a 10 and L&B a 9.6.
The tour guide was funny and engaging through the entire tour. I was just thrilled for the opportunity to enjoy a restful (ie: little walking) afternoon.

After the tour we went to the Guggenheim for an hour. We all agreed that the best part of this museum was the building itself.  The exhibit was a tad boring and the students were glad when we left.

Friday was the coldest day all week and I was stunned that I had students in shorts and no jackets all day. At breakfast I warned them about the weather but they didn't heed my suggestions. With the temperature continuing to drop I made the executive decision to return to the hotel for the kids to put on more clothes before heading to the baseball game. This was a wise decision. I was frozen during the game. We saw the Mets vs the Diamondbacks. In the bottom of the eighth the Mets managed to get the score a few extra runs and we left at the top of the ninth inning. The Mets won 4-1.

It was unanimous that everyone appreciated the relaxed pace of today.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Friday, April 22, 2011

NYC Update #4

Today should be called 'Mishaps and Missteps.

I had planned the following activities today: Visit to Staten Island and Ellis Island, view 9/11 site, visit the MET and some shopping in Times Square.


I had a bad feeling about Thursday when the girls didn't arrive in the lobby on time. The students had been great about being prompt. When I ran up to their room I discovered they were all still in bed. Our departure for our morning activities were thrown off by more than an hour and we had to readjust our schedule.

Instead of heading to our tours of Staten and Ellis Island, we went to the MET. We all agreed that this was a great museum to visit. Doug especially loved the architecture. From there we headed down to the financial district for lunch at a huge McDonalds. It was so crowded and busy. The only thing I enjoyed was the piano music that was played while we ate lunch.

After spending a few moments at Ground Zero we headed to Battery Park to take our Island tour. Unfortunately they had sold out all the tickets for the day. The students voted that we should return to the Empire State Building. While riding the subway it got so packed that when we arrived at our stop Doug was not able to disembark. The students were upset and started to panic. Doug had decided not to carry his cell phone with him and that freaked the students even more. They wanted to jump on the next train to find him. I knew Doug and I were on the same wave length and I just proceeded to our destination. I was positive he would figure it out and meet us there.

While the students went to line up at the Empire State Building, I waited outside for Doug. Doug had the foresight to write my cell number down on the first day and so he was able to call me when he found a pay phone. He eventually met me outside. The students decided that now that we were reunited they didn't want to wait in the three hour line to get to the top.

With yet another change in plans we went to Times Square. Earlier in the week the weather had been so pleasant that both Doug and I decided not to bring a jacket. A poor decision with the 30-40 mph winds. We were really cold all night. Times Square was packed and while the kids explored Toy'R'Us, Doug and I huddled with the mass of humanity outside.

Dinner was at a nice Thai Restaurant near Times Square. After dinner we planned to go to Serendipity 3 for dessert. Once again we arrived to discover a 2 hour wait. Ultimately, we just returned to the hotel with a quick detour for candy at a nearby Walgreens for dessert.

Doug has come to the conclusion that he has never walked so much on a 'vacation' in his life. We both have struggled with sore legs and feet. Conclusion, next major vacation needs more R & R.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

NYC update #3

Wednesday we had great weather. We headed to the MoMA for a quick one-hour tour. Much to my dismay, this theater was PACKED. So badly that when you rode to the top of the escalators there was no room to get off and we were crushed from in front and behind. The students all agreed that one hour was not enough time to appreciate this museum.

Unfortunately, we had to get to our taping of the Martha Stewart show or we would have lingered. The Martha Stewart show was an interesting experience. We arrived to the studio at 12:30. While waiting we once again hurriedly ate.

The show was scheduled to tape at 2:00, but didn't begin until around 2:40. Seeing the small army of people it takes to pull the show off was fascinating. I will confess that the experience was exactly like I had imagined it. We were told how to act, when to cheer, and when to make 'yum' sounds.

The show they taped will be airing on Friday, the 22nd of April in honor of Earth Day. We are sitting in the 3rd row on the right side. The girl with the red flower in her hair is the first of my students. Make sure to watch!

I was a little surprised by Martha, when she entered the studio to begin taping she didn't acknowledge the loud applause or even look at the audience. It wasn't until the taping was finished that she talked to us.

We did score some sweet giveaways - a great cookbook on cakes, a huge box of jelly bellies and a set of beautiful measuring cups.

Due to all of our arms full of bags and candy, we decided to return to the hotel and drop our stuff off. We had a slight subway mishap that threw us off our time table. By the time we made it back to the city we only had 30 minutes to eat before going to the Opera.  The only way we were able to arrive to the show on time was to splurge on taxis. The theater where the MET performs is lovely and it has the most exquisite chandelier. The Opera we saw was Il Travorte. A classic tale of revenge, mistaken identities and love. The visit to the Opera was for me and even though Doug and the students weren't excited by it, I was glad they were willing to indulge me.

We had the cheapest seats in the theater (last row at the top), but the acoustics are so phenomenal that I didn't mind. I thought the whole evening was spectacular. During the 3rd Act, the lead soprano sang the most breathtaking aria. The best quote I heard from the students about it came from Garrett who said "man, that woman just blew my mind."

Funniest moments today both happened on the subway. First, on the ride back to the hotel after the Martha show we managed to score seats next to each other. Garrett decided to open his jelly bellies only to discover all of the flavors had mixed themselves up - this led to quite a bit of ribbing. After much begging he decided to share a taste of a 'cile mango' jelly bean with David who then declared that he had "just tasted death." I'm sure all the other passengers on the train thought we were crazy, but all of us we roaring with laughter.

The second funniest moment came on the ride back to the hotel after the Opera. Felipe undid his tie and decided to see if he could remember how to tie it. (Doug had shown him earlier in the day) This demonstration took nearly twenty minutes as we gave directions which we largely ignored. We were all laughing, as well as the crowd of subway riders. Even the girls attempted it. Needless to say Felipe still has a lot of practicing left.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NYC Update #2

Yesterday was an exhausting blast. During the NBC studio tour we saw the sets for the Nightly News, the Jimmy Kimmel Show, and Saturday Night Live. It was interesting to see how small everything is and the tricks the studio uses to make everything look larger.

We then ate lunch at the Shake Shack. They had the yummiest fries and burgers. They were so juicy that I didn't notice they didn't put any ketchup, mustard or mayo on the burger until I was almost finished eating it. The only down side to lunch was the cramped quarters. We wolfed down our food very quickly. This was mostly done because of the huge que waiting to sit. It is hard to savor your meal when you are getting the evil eye from other hungary patrons.

After lunch we spent three hours at the Natural History Museum. I was stunned by the enormous crowds. It was hard to move through the exhibits due to the number of people. Doug (my brother and the other chaperone) decided to scan for an open bench to rest our weary legs and feet. After our butts got too tired we would move to another corner.

Dinner was at John's Pizzeria in the Broadway district. Once again the meal was quickly inhaled before our Broadway show 'Rock of Ages'. A basic boy-meets-girl premise set to music from the hair-bands of the eighties. All the boys were jamming, singing, and rockin out. All of us agreed that it was hilarious show and a ton of fun.

Star sightings for the day; John Lithgow (on the subway) and Billy Joe Armstrong (lead singer/guitarist for Green Day, he was leaving the Broadway show 'American Idiot' which is about his band.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NYC Update #1

Last night we headed to Grand Central Station for dinner. All of us ate at different places. I enjoyed a delicious tomato soup and salad.

The highlight of the station was the acoustics. Between the main concourse and the dining area is a small area where the acoustics are amplified and you can talk to each other by whispering in the corner. At first the students were skeptical to stand facing the wall to talk, but once they tried it, they were impressed.

After being turned around a few times we made it to the Empire State Building. Once we discovered there was a 2 hour wait we returned to our hotel and managed to get a few hours of sleep.

This morning we left early to visit the Today Show. At approximately 7:34 when Al Roker came out to deliver the news segment the camera caught us.  Al was nice enough to shake all the students hands.

On schedule for today: Tour of NBC studio, ice skating, Natural History Museum and the Broadway show 'Rock of Ages'.

With only 4 1/2 hours of sleep, I am feeling jet-lagged and tired; however, I am sure I will perk up as the day progresses.

Until the next update...
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Monday, April 18, 2011

New York the Arrival

My student's and I arrived safely to Newark for our NYC holiday. Traveling brings its own annoyances and after waiting over an hour in the airport for our reserved shuttle, we were picked up.

The 40 minute transfer to our hotel was our own driving adventure. Our driver honked, swerved, ran over dividers and cut off other vehicles to drop us off. I could have handled an extra 10 minute drive, for safety, but it was amusing. This driver took us through Harlem and it was interesting to see beautiful, well maintained streets so close to run-down and depressed areas. Detours like this reveal the oddities in city planning and organization.

Tonight we have dinner and a visit to the Empire State Building. I will try to post as the holiday continues. I hope you Easter is shaping up as well as mine!
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Love to get LOST

I am a television junkie  As a way to force myself to not spend hundreds of hours sitting and watching a bunch of shows, I recently cancelled my cable (also a great money saver).  The only downside is that I can still watch almost everything via my computer.

Recently, I just finished watching the series Lost.  With a lot of shows, I am not initially interested in watching them while they are on the air, but I get really involved when I can watch season after season on DVD.  This was the case with Lost.  With the ending of each show I go through a small mourning period.  I miss the characters, their antics, the stories and emotions the show stirs up in me.  This show was especially moving, I cried many, many tears.

What I liked best about the show was the light/dark themes and road of redemption the characters take. A group of strangers forced to band together to save themselves and flee a mysterious island.  A quick look online reveal fan site after fan site of theories and expositions about the show.  I won't get into any of that but I will close with these three quotes:

"We were all brought here for a reason." (said by Locke)
"I'll see you in another life, brother." (said by Desmond)
"I have looked into the eye of this island, and what I saw was beautiful." (said by Locke)


Goodbye, I will miss you!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quick Update

Here is a quick recap of the last couple of months:

  • The month of February brought me a lovely visit from my parents.  My dad spent two days at school teaching my students about his experience in the FBI and then he and my mother spent the rest of their time helping me hang pictures and complete some little home projects.

      

  • President's day weekend I traveled Tucson to visit my brother and his family.  I had a nice relaxing weekend.  My niece and nephew's favorite activity when I visit is helping me to grade homework. I must say it is infinitely more fun when they are helping me.
  • The last weekend in February I drove to Logan, Utah to take the engagement photos for my niece and her fiance.  It was great to meet Carson and other than being a little cold, I loved being up in the mountains for a day.
 

  • In March I completed my portfolio for my National Board Certification.  The next task is to study for the assessment test which I will take the first Saturday in May.  After I complete that portion I will just have to wait for my scores.  Scores aren't released until December.
  • April is one of my favorite months in Las Vegas because everything begins to bloom again and the weather is usually perfect.  This month I will be taking seven students to New York City for Spring Break.  My brother Doug is accompanying me and I am looking forward to the trip.  The last time I was in NYC was three years ago with another group of students.  In addition, I have several photo sessions lined up which I am looking forward to.
I like to ponder my life frequently and because I believe in constant and never ending improvement I have decided to implement a plan to be more accountable for my actions.  I have recently been inspired by Conference and a book about Happiness to start this project.  As I am more intentional about my life, choices and happiness I think I will find more satisfaction, find more peace and ultimately do more good.  I will write more about what I am doing as I figure out all the details.


Monday, March 14, 2011

STEM Workshop & Guitar Building


The second week of January I had the opportunity to take a STEM workshop at my high school. This program, funded by the National Science Foundation, was created to get kids excited about science, math and tech ed through building their own custom guitars. I was only one of three women in the workshop and the only social studies teacher. I definitely felt out of my element, but I was willing to challenge myself and try something new.

The workshop was all day on a Saturday and then ran the next week Monday-Thursday for six hours every evening. It was a brutal schedule on top of teaching all day. To make matters worse I got really sick. Given that the foundation was paying for our time and we got to build super cool guitars I showed up everyday to finish the guitar. The workshop made me wish that I taught science so I could demonstrate some of the exciting information I learned. Of course the biggest thrill was the gorgeous guitar I made.

I achieved a two 'firsts' through this workshop; first use of power tools and first time soldering. The guys in the workshop were very helpful and were always willing to step in to show me how to use one of the machines or to make sure I was doing something correctly. My guitar is not perfect, but I embrace all the little imperfections.

Now the next phase, learning how to play it. I plan on taking lessons this summer. Enjoy the photos.






Sunday, March 13, 2011

Long Overdue

My blog has been neglected since my January 1st posting. So much for keeping everyone updated. The blog is a general reflection on the state of my life. The last few months have been crazy busy. Here is a quick list of the major happenings since the new year. I will post more detail on these events over the next week.
  • Building my electric guitar
  • Sick (twice)
  • Parents visit
  • Visit to Tucson
  • Engagement photo session with my niece and her fiance (stormy trip)
  • WPPI
  • National Board Certification
  • Bake sale, bake sale, bake sale
  • Talent Show
  • Upcoming trip to New York
As usual I overwhelm myself with projects, responsibilities and tasks. The next few months will be no different, but I have decided to reorganize how I get my stuff done and I am hoping that this change will make it easier for me to develop some balance.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I really do enjoy the new year and the opportunity to reset, reevaluate and reflect on what works and what doesn't work in my life.

2011 will be titled "The Year of Preparing for Transition" ...I have big plans for 2012 and need a year to be ready for those changes.

Last years resolutions were so good (and broad) that I plan on keeping them:
  1. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.
  2. The world is waiting for you to figure out what only you can contribute.
For the last 12 months I have been thinking, planning and organizing my new project for 2011...I started a new blog "The Wannabe" (link will be posted shortly). I still plan on using this blog to keep you up-to-date with the day to day activities of my life, but this new blog is intended for a larger audience.

The Wannabe is about figuring out how to do accomplish all the goals I want in my life and trying to inspire others to do the same. Initially, I will post at least once a week, as I slowly build my audience, and then eventually post three times a week.

I came up with this idea last year, but with all the activities and stresses in my life it fell to the bottom of my to-do list. This will be an exciting venue for me to really pursue my various passions and interests. The first major event that this blog will be tracking is the building of my very own electric guitar. In a week I will be joining some faculty members at my high school to build a guitar. Once I have built the guitar, than I will have to learn how to play it--I am really excited!

Besides my Wannabe blog, I plan on refining my teaching skills, growing my photography business, travel to India in June, Italy in December and hopefully China and Korea sometime in July/August. It will be a busy year, but I am excited by what is on the horizon.

I hope that this new year fills you with hope and excitement as well.

Also, here is my new look...I figured that this New Year deserved a new haircut...the new body will be coming soon as well.