Wednesday, September 03, 2014

the teachers you remember - a post without pictures

we all have teachers we remember...sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for not so good ones.

~ mrs. polly, who made us try sardines on saltines in kindergarten and who made sheila madsen disappear after she cried at school, leaving one thinking one had better not cry at school or one might disappear oneself. tom pranger also cried and both he and his brother tim, who did not cry, disappeared as well. crying was not a good thing to do in kindergarten.

~ mrs. bushman, who divided us all into blue birds, red birds and yellow birds according to our ability to read "saw" as "saw" and not "was" and to not leave a puddle of pee beneath our desks on a regular basis. come to think of it, you could still be a blue bird and pee your pants regularly, as jody hoekman proved again and again, so it must just have had to do with reading ability.

~ mrs. luze, who was the subject of a horrible joke by my father, who stamped one of my worksheets with a "horseshit" smiley stamp and asked her if that wasn't a little harsh. she stared at him in wide-eyed horror, her jackie o bouffant perfectly coiffed (it was the 70s, but the 60s lingered on in south dakota, we were a little behind, after all).

~ miss maryann. my favorite grade school teacher. she who taught us about chicken soup with rice and allowed us to choose spelling words like uruguay and triskaidekaphobia. she was in a horrible car accident and ended up in a body cast in pierre. i think i had nightmares about that for years afterwards. i think her husband owned the seattle mariners for awhile at one point. or was it the super sonics?

~ mrs. petersen. she put up with horrendous plays we made up ourselves, based on various combinations of nancy drew and the hardy boys. they were interminable and she allowed them, but she punished us by making us sit together in desk groupings with boys.

~ mr. teller. he lived in the apartment across from my grandmother and always had the yuckiest warm coffee breath which he breathed on you in a moist, uncomfortable way if you asked him a question. not that long ago, dad mentioned that he was a vietnam vet with issues. that i did not realize at the time...the vet part at least (tho' of course, for years, i thought veteran's day was veterinarian's day, so there was that aspect), i do, however, think i picked up on the issues.

~ mrs. blunck. she had been a teacher for too long and hated children. i remember when i wore my first pair of high heels to the 6th grade...they had awesome wooden, chunky heels and were brown leather with colorful leather stitches. she told me to wait to grow up. which, in retrospect, might have been wiser than i thought it was at the time. but i still maintain she hated children. and i think she might actually have been a man. a very short, stout, child-hating man.

~ mrs. walker. the superintendent's wife, with her severe haircut, gabardine pantsuits and cowboy boots. on the day ronald reagan was shot, they announced it over the school's pa system. i, perhaps a bit too cheerily, and with more than a tinge of hope in my voice, asked, "is he dead?" and she made the entire class stay after school because of my disrespect for the president (that made me very popular, i tell you). i was already a liberal in the 7th grade. i will say tho', that she taught me how to draw using perspective and for that, i am grateful, tho' i've never been that fond of polyester since then.

~ mrs. tappe. she always seemed classy and a little bit above the fray and like she didn't really need the job but did it just for fun. she taught us girls how to take shorthand and do other officey-things, like filing, that girls should learn in those days. i liked her and i liked shorthand too.

~ mrs. leistra. gabardine and cowboy boots - she and mrs. walker clearly shopped the same fashion crime scene, but she had an even more severe haircut. i learned to type from her on an ibm selectric. i'm still using that skill at this very moment (tho' i have thankfully graduated to an apple product) and no, i don't need to look at my keyboard. tho' maybe i'd have learned it anyway as i'm pretty much bred to be good at typing.

~  mr. hirt. they gave him history because it didn't matter that much (maybe they knew we'd eventually be able to google any historical knowledge we needed to know). he was actually the football and wrestling coach. he could be easily led astray during a boring recounting of the civil war and made to tell stories of the brave wrestlers of the university of iowa, which always seemed a little bit like being in a john irving novel, so i liked it. i believe i eventually went to the university of iowa because of him, but oddly, i don't think he went there himself.

~ mr. schaefer. i'll never forget the day he droned on and on about filling out tax forms while dressed as gilligan (tho' i have a more hazy recollection of why he did that). he looked strikingly like gilligan even in his regular attire and it was very difficult not to laugh during the entire hour. i think there was more to him than we realized at the time. he coached girls basketball.

~ mr. harvison. bitter man who, despite the triple major to which he loved to refer, never really seemed to amount to all that much himself. he was, naturally, appointed guidance counselor, as we weren't really supposed to amount to all that much either, being from a small town as we were. we shouldn't have too many aspirations. after all, we could never live up to mr. harvison's own triple major. i was never clear what it was in, but when he taught psychology, he liked to use, by name, various people in town and former students as examples of the various psychoses (there's likely a whole other blog post in recounting those). i spent my time in his physics class reading dostoevsky. i think it's probably why i eventually got a fulbright. funnily, enough, i don't think mr. harvison ever got one of those.

~ mr. markhart. the math teacher. he had a ruler and he wasn't afraid to wack it against a desk. i think i was actually better at geometry than i was supposed to be as a girl, but managed to pull myself back to the level where i belonged where algebra was concerned. mr. markhart wanted us to think he was strict, but actually, he liked kids and got more of a kick out of us than he let on. and we really did learn stuff from him, and not only how much force it took to break a wooden ruler, but actual math and things.

what teachers do you remember?

Monday, September 01, 2014

i am not worried

things about which i am not worried:

~ putin.
~ the ukraine.
~ the coming nutella shortage (we have an 8 kilo stockpile).
~ ebola.
~ the middle east (i probably should be worried about this).
~ running out of gin (we were just in germany and i stocked up).
~ aging gracefully.
~ bills.

things which worry me a little bit:

~ finding the right shampoo.
~ what if i never find the right shampoo?
~ that my daughter's camera is way better than mine.
~ pixel-wise, mine still has that thing where i choose where it focuses.
~ the size of the new iPhone.
~ what if i never get to cape town again?

things which i worry about a lot:

~ stepping on kittens (i have an entirely too vivid picture in my head of the result of this).
~ cats getting run over.
~ there whereabouts of the feral hen.
~ how behind my child is in math and german thanks to the school she used to attend.
~ how can you know as a parent how bad a school really is?
~ will karma bite that dominatrix principal in the ass? (i know it will, but i'd honestly like to know when.)
~ with the amount of tax we pay, why couldn't our local school get its act together?

* * *

ahh, the jazz life in manila.

* * *

remind me again why we don't live in the world's most liveable city anymore?

* * *

and speaking of which, why do we lie about where we live?
(in my defense, i did live in copenhagen at one time and sabin was born there.)

* * *
the secret life of pronouns.
because words matter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

that kind of week

we're seeing dinosaurs in the clouds.

i forgot my id at home today and had to sneak in the door behind some others at work, as well as bumming lunch money off of a colleague. not lunch money, per se, as we "pay" with our id and then it's subtracted from our paycheck. yesterday, i sat at my desk with headphones on, trying to watch a youtube video (yes, i get to watch youtube videos at work, as part of my job), and only after far too long realized my headphones weren't plugged in and the sound was blaring out of my computer. and it sounded like i was watching beavis & butthead, tho' i was actually watching something that was actually quite relevant to my job. that was not at all embarrassing. luckily, someone had brought in a meter of chocolate (for reals...1 meter of little 4-square sized ritter sport), so i only feel vaguely out of synch and not unhappy or frustrated.

i think i'm distracted by this school switch. we made our decision on monday and the switch will happen on thursday. we feel we've made the right decision, but i think i will only rest easy once she's settled in. and that will likely take a few weeks. so i think i'll tether my work id to my computer bag and eat the odd chocolate to get through it. which is actually weird, because normally chocolate is not my go-to problem solver of choice. but when there's a whole meter of it on the shelf behind your desk, what choice do you have? that amount of chocolate could solve a whole lot of problems.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

the view from sunday night or what a week it's been

it's been a full week. there have been tiara-wearing kittens (that got a whopping 252 likes on flickr, which is the most any of my flickr photos have ever gotten).

there were days of rain, and blustery winds, but also glorious, golden light spilled through in between showers, making it ok that it went from summer to fall overnight.

there were more photo sessions with kittens, where i came to understand why they say you shouldn't try to herd cats. they are at their most lovely and irresistible right now. i'm enjoying every yummy minute of them.

there was a bit of early access to the series 12 minifigures, which won't be in stores until october (hence the blurry photo). i've got 13 of the 16 and can't wait for them to be released so i can get the other 3.

there was teenage mutant ninja turtle homework to do. i do love the kind of homework i'm asked to do at my workplace, even tho' tmnt aren't my favorites. this little spaceship was mostly an upside down build, which was new for me. it's also quite a lot sturdier than it appears, which is cool.

we harvested the last batch of honey - boosting our total harvest for the year up to 90 kilos, a much better harvest than last year. now we just need a big box of new honey jars so we can fill them up and maybe even sell some.

and when we weren't eating shark burgers, the weekend was spent discussing the school options. we visited two schools on friday and both have their own advantages. so much so that we've not had a gut feeling that one is a better choice than the other. that's been a bit difficult for me, as i normally rely on my gut to tell me things and in this case, it's told me that we should definitely find a new school, but it isn't obvious which one is the best choice. the child, on the other hand, is sure which one she wants, so pending a couple of questions tomorrow morning, we are going to go with that one - she is, after all, the one who has to make the switch. it's up to us to make the logistics of it work and to ensure that she keeps her social circle intact, as well as building a new one. that one, we're not really worried about so much. probably, we'll ultimately choose the public school, because we pay an awful lot of taxes and education is something they should just get right. and the new school gives a good impression of getting it right (of course, we're currently easy to impress in light of how bad things are at her current school).

and the weekend ended with a long walk with husband in the forest. the rainy weather has been good for mushrooms, both the edible and the photogenic kinds (these are the latter). a long walk has a way of clearing out any last vestiges of restlessness and discontent. and now i'm ready for the week ahead.

* * *

molly has been on a roll (of awesome posts) lately.

* * *

me, probably not making all that much sense, 
in danish, on the radio last wednesday evening.
talking about what danishness is.
(hint: full calendars, booking people two months ahead,
being able to talk to the boss no matter your level in the org. 
and being afraid of conflict)

* * *

i'm liking stuckinplastic
what's not to like? minifigs. life philosophies. lemonade. gratefulness.

* * *

a heartwarming story of love that finally happened after 60 years.

* * *

has amazon gone to the dark side?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

the comfort of ice cream or why we're looking for a new school

so weird how one thing going wrong can weigh you down completely and drive you to crave ice cream, which is arguably better than driving you to drink. and by you, you may have guessed, i mean me.

we're well into the second week of school around here. at the end of last year, there was a a bit of trouble with her homeroom teacher (i wrote about it here). after the mail of the mixed metaphors from the principal, there was silence and nothing really changed. then came the summer holiday and the silence stretched on. then came the first week of school. on the first day, the same teacher was there in homeroom, tho' they announced that she would be moved to the special education class and a new teacher would be taking over the class. that teacher wasn't there yet for the first week (tho' it's unclear why), but the regular schedule wasn't in place yet either, so that was more or less ok.

but as the week progressed, the stories i heard each evening painted a more and more worrying picture. students being told to start behaving like responsible, mature young people in one breath and not being allowed to stand up and plug in their computer (which they are required to have with them in school since the school does not provide computers) without raising their hand to ask. which is it? do you want them to behave responsibly and act for themselves or do you want them to sit down and shut up? you can't have it both ways.

i also heard tales of a student who used to love math, but nearly cried in frustration during a long-winded explanation by a teacher who apparently didn't notice that all motivation and desire to learn was draining from the students as he droned on and on. and i heard stories of a young teacher who has reached a point where his back is so against the wall that the slightest question from students makes him defensive and he sends them out into the hall. it is, in short, a series of stories of a school in crisis.

on top of it, the school has fostered an environment where if you're the best at something (e.g. english), it's not ok to say that or show that. but instead, you have to hide in the crowd and pretend you don't know. i brought this issue to the attention of a number of teachers last year, but nothing changed.

and lastly, there are new school reforms being implemented, with longer school days and apparently, in the case of our school, less breaks - they have one break in the middle of the day, but otherwise, no breaks mid-morning or afternoon (tho' other schools seem to have managed to put together a schedule that gives kids a breather). odd, i take breaks during my work day, to go to the bathroom or grab a cup of coffee or just have a little breather, so why wouldn't kids be even more in need of breaks to help them refresh and be able to concentrate? you'd think people who work with kids would know this.

there are half-hearted attempts to supposedly make things better and create a better atmosphere, but they are too little, too late. for some reason, the bad leadership is convinced the class is the problem, not the teachers, tho' this same class was the most harmonious one with the best class environment when they left the elementary school at the end of sixth grade. six people have already left the class - moving to other schools and even going to efterskole a year early, but apparently the leadership doesn't see this as a big, flashing red light. and now, we too are looking for a new school for sabin, because this isn't good.  i don't want her to be demotivated and uninterested in learning because of weak teachers and bad school leadership which doesn't have the sense or ability or wherewithal to support their teachers properly in good time. i'll admit i find it very disheartening and tho' moving her is a big step, the situation is really that bad.

i do realize these are luxury problems compared to race crimes committed by police officers in missouri and journalists being beheaded by terrorists, but this does loom large in our little world.

what is danishness?

today's (yesterday's?) jyllands posten (you may remember them from a certain set of mohammed cartoons) had an article about a study suggesting that danes think the biggest problem with foreigners is that they don't understand and embrace danish values. i wouldn't have known about the article, not being a reader of jyllands posten, but i was contacted by my radio crush to be part of a radio program about the article this evening.

so i dashed into 7-11 and bought their last copy of the paper, which oddly, they had hidden in a back room, and i prepared for the program. what struck me about the article was that it was unclear what these danish values that we foreigners apparently reject are. that was completely unstated in the survey where people had come up with that answer and it wasn't until halfway through the second article about it, on page 6, that a list of values even was mentioned. they included things like democracy, equality, valuing work and the vague "personal freedom." those strike me as pretty universal and not exactly uniquely danish. western, perhaps or even protestant, but difficult to narrow down to a particular nationality.

after talking with the journalist, i decided to think about danishness instead and see if some values fell out of that. what are the things that strike me as so danish after all these years? a lot of workplace behaviors came to mind - like the fact that it's ok to have a conversation with the boss and to even grill him (and i do mean him, since that whole equality thing isn't as pervasive as they might like it to seem) a little bit during that conversation, regardless of your position in the firm. i've not really seen that outside of denmark. leaving at 3 p.m. to pick up your kids and having no one look askance at you. wearing a kind of monochrome (read: black) uniform for most of the year, outside of a few wild weeks of summer, where everyone breaks out the summer wardrobe they purchased back in the late 80s and which never wore out, due to the limited use it's had, and embraces a kind of retro madness during the warm weather. and then there's the full calendars which quash all hope of spontaneity because you need to book someone for a dinner party at least two months ahead, even tho' you have no idea if you'll be in the mood to have people over for dinner two months from now.  and then there's the design thing - it's important to have the right lamps (PH) and chairs (Arne Jacobsen) and couch (Borge Mortensen) and table (Piet Hein) (see, i even had so much respect i capitalized their names). of course, that design thing creates a uniformity in homes, that while it's in good taste, ends up quite sterile, impersonal and, dare i say it...boring. (yes, i dared to say it, tho' i myself have Hans Wegner and Kaare Klint chairs and some Tom Rossou lamps, plus the fabulous Triplex lamp). (i wonder if that means i'm integrated?)

and this sameness in design principles and clothing got me thinking about that supposed value of "personal freedom." if there were really personal freedom, we'd have the space in which to choose other chairs and lamps and you'd see more variety in the clothing shops (there's a great deal of black, i can tell you). so i wonder how much personal freedom there actually is. there is, of course, personal freedom in terms of one's right to be gay or to have an abortion and those are important things, but again, they are true many places and aren't uniquely danish.

so i'm still wondering what these danish values are that we foreigners are so reluctant to adopt...and why it's such a source of worry for the danes. perhaps if they got better at communicating and outwardly sharing their real, core values (and not just a bunch of stuff that could be from a UN pamphlet), we'd have an easier time adapting to them.

the ivy

there are no less than a dozen draft posts behind the scenes here on mpc. it's been like that lately. i sit down, start to write and get interrupted and don't come back for days on end. or when i come back, i can't get myself back into the mood i was in when i started the post and therefore can't finish it. so i thought i'd start at the simple end of the posts. with some beautiful food.

i ate this beautiful food (that's salmon sashimi in those top two photos) at the ivy a few weeks ago when i was in london. i'm not sure i realized the significance of lunch at the ivy at the time, tho' i knew it was a posh london club and i knew that a lovely two hour lunch on a friday was something special. and i fully appreciated the wonderful intriguing, interesting conversation that i had with my lunch companion, who is a person i met a few months ago at a conference.

the specialness started to dawn on me when i had to go in through a secret entrance through a flower shop. it was nice, a bit stiff upper lip in decor, but also comfortable. i probably didn't look around me enough to spot celebrities, as i didn't know that aspect of the place at the time. i was too absorbed in the food and the great conversation. but i suppose that's as it should be.

the food was just lovely and the perfect amount of chef-y. pretty presentation, delicate flavors, fresh flowers as garnishes and generally a delight to the senses. especially this delicate lemon dessert, a take on lemon meringue pie. it makes my mouth water all over again, just looking at this iPhone photo.

it was all rounded off by a lovely coffee with latte art. i'm a little bit glad i didn't realize the significance of being invited to lunch in the private club at the ivy at the time, as i might have been overawed and not enjoyed it nearly as much. as it was, it was a lovely, completely engaging experience. one of those where you're just fully in the moment, savoring it. every delicious bite.

and now there are only 11 more drafts to go...