Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sorting it out.

Yesterday, Dad convinced me to go out to the farm and go through the wreckage to see if there was anything I wanted to keep. I bundled up, then walked in through the missing front door. Things crunched under my feet. The stairway looked just the same, but the rooms upstairs certainly didn't.

We went in J.B.'s room first, where I found a blue glass perfume bottle that belonged to my great grandmother.

Then we went to my room. In one place, the wall was cracked, and my curtains had gotten sucked off the window and through the wall (see photo at left).

My books were strewn everywhere (see photo below). Then I found my greatgrandmother's jewelry box. It's gold and plays "Sunrise, Sunset." I know it's not valuable, but I love it a lot. Inside was my ruby necklace. Then I picked up a few favorite books and some photographs.

In the attic, I found a box of my clothes. I sort of wanted to keep all of them, but in the end I just took my favorite jeans from high school (at some point, I'd already pinned a note on them that read "Please keep."), my brother's football uniform, a 4-H t-shirt and a Woodward-Granger (my high school) t-shirt. Then I salvaged a couple toys: a metal top that still worked, and a green, wooden grasshopper on wheels, with legs that moved up and down as you pushed it on the floor. Then I resigned myself to leave everything else behind to be destroyed with the demolition.

It was the possibility that was hard...the possibility that something I loved might still be intact, but hidden. But I made myself let go and walked away. Then Dad and I exited through the entirely-missing wall of their bedroom. I couldn't believe how much smaller it looked. It was like at funerals, when the person in the casket looks so much smaller than they did when they were alive.

My favorite tree survived, but I got a bit crabby when Dad told me they might tear it down, it and my second-favorite tree. I told him I was cold, and he said "Okay," but soon got caught up in showing me where the new house would go and pacing out the footprint.

"Daddy," I eventually interrupted, "I'm really cold!"

"But we're visuallizing!" he exclaimed. "Well, I guess I'm visuallizing you as a popsicle, and I'm not having to work very hard."

We realized I wasn't wearing a hat, so he put one on me, then we transfered my salvaged stuff to the semi-trailer they rented to hold our stuff. After that, I helped him load gates into the truck. (In all fairness, I had volunteered to do so the day before, but I hadn't been shivering and damp then). "Oh, sheesh," Dad said, "I better get you inside before I end up giving you pneumonia from this whole deal."

Then we drove over to Unkie and Helen's house.I believe that I've already mentioned on this site that Unkie and Helen and their daughters were like my second family growing up. Unkie is watching Dad's flock for him, and one of the ewes lambed early. Unkie is pretty generous, but he warned my dad that his sows farrowing and dad's ewes lambing would be too much. I imagine Helen's cancer doesn't make it any easier. So dad and I built a small pen for the ewe and her lamb, and Dad's looking for someone else to take on the ewes who are about to give birth. When we saw it was a Dorset ewe that had just had a lamb, Dad and I both chuckled that we (and Unkie) needn't have worried. Dorsets are wonderful mothers.

While I was there, I joked with Unkie, played with his Border Collie puppy, Callie, and arranged with Helen for me to come spend the night on Thursday.

That night, I fell asleep on the couch at 8, Mom and Dad sent me to bed at 9 and I slept until 7 a.m. this morning. Then I chatted with Mom, had breakfast while watching "You've Got Mail," walked the dog and took a three-hour nap. I must really be sick, because I am not a napper (as anyone who ever took care of me as a child can attest!) I wanted to go with my parents and some kids who are friends of the family to see Jolly Holliday Lights in Des Moines this evening, but I had a headache so I decided to rest some more in the hopes of finally kicking this bug.

Wish me luck.

Monday, December 26, 2005

White Christmas. (Warning: long one!)

Some people who know me give me credit for being adventurous. I'm not afraid to uproot and start my life over with new careers, new locations and new friends. The truth is, I'm rather traditional. It was the knowledge that my home base would always be there that let me go off to Spain or New York or wherever. I knew that my home and my family would always be there waiting for me.This was my first Christmas, my first time home, since my home was destroyed. That concept of home "always waiting for me" was easily disspelled. But my family has been here for me like always before, and hopefully forever after.

Saturday, my flights were delayed and delayed and delayed. I was sick and stressed out and started crying when I called to tell my parents when to come to the airport. A stranger who passed me to board his flight said, "Merry Christmas, dear. I hope it gets better." I thanked him and laughed at how pitiful I'd apparently become.

I didn't get to Iowa until after midnight, I think.We went home and opened one present each. My one present was an iPod Shuffle (YAY!). The next morning we went to church. Everyone was so nice and supportive. Mom and Dad asked if I wanted to go the the farm. I said no, because I was not in the mood to cry, but we ended up going anyway because they'd promised J.B. a load of firewood.

As they tossed walnut logs from a destroyed tree into the bed of Dad's pretty new truck, I circled the shell of what was our house. It wasn't just the structural damage that made it a shell. It was that the house was empty and cold. Without us living there, it had shrunken somehow. Tears streamed down my face, but I wiped them away and stopped sobbing before I met up with my parents. As we drove away, past the razed hillside that used to be an orchard, my dad said, "See? That wasn't so traumatic, was it?" But my face fell. "Oh," he chuckled sadly, "maybe I spoke too soon." I couldn't stop the tears then, but they didn't last too long.

We sang along to carols as we drove to see my brother, J.B.; sister-in-law, Erika and my niece, Brooke. When we got there we all hugged. Brooke was shy for the first five minutes, but instead of trying to hold her, I got down on the floor and played with her. Thus, we were fast friends. We had a soup supper (a Christmas tradition in our family). We opened our presents. I loved mine, Mom and Dad seemed to love theirs. J.B. loved his Dukes of Hazzard boxed sets, Erika loved her stamps (she's very crafty) and Brooke seemed to dig the books I got her. She loves to read, and I loved reading to her. Erika estimated that I read Brooke 253 books.

The next day, I changed Brooke's clothes, played with her and read her "The Polar Express," which lulled her into a morning nap. Cuddling her was so wonderful. She's so smart, right at the age when she's constantly picking up the language used around her. Mom sang her a lullaby, and she tried to sing it back to Mom, which was the cutest thing I'd ever seen until we were driving away and I saw Brooke in the window saying "Bye-bye! Bye-bye!" until we pulled out of sight.

Then we went to Uncle Jay and Aunt Dea's house for another soup supper. (Good thing I love chili!) I got to see my first cousin-once-removed (I think) for the first time. Logan is just as cute as can be, and it was hard for me not to hold him, but I restrained myself due to this nasty cold. Megan (my cousin and Logan's mom) was quoting "Anchorman" and holding the DVD. "Oh," I said, "I got that for my boyfriend for Christmas." This resulted in an instant uproar by my cousins (Jenny and her husband, Sam; Megan and her husband, Josh).

"Woah, woah, woah, guys! Calm down. I did not mean to make a big announcement."

"Well," Jenny replied, you just did."

Then Mom piped up that you could see his picture on my blog. Soon it was being booted up. The cousins informed me that they'd been through it, and now it was my turn. "No, I'm fine," I replied. They laughed and informed me that they'd be watching for big announcements. Then Sam started his own blog.

Now admittedly, I've not had a real boyfriend since the '90s, and I rarely mentioned the guys I casually dated. As such, I can't blame them for getting all worked up. The truth is, my life is up in the air right now. I don't know how it will turn out, professionally, geographically or romantically. I try to just take everyone's interest as a show of love.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nothing says 'Happy Holidays' like a transit strike!

Yes, it's heartwarming...the sight of seven million New Yorkers bustling frantically around the city, not buying presents or looking at window displays but just trying to get to work and back home again. I've been bumming rides to and from work, and it hasn't been too bad. Luckily, I had most of my Christmas shopping done.

I've been rushing around like mad to get done all of the things I need to get done this week: the shopping, wrapping, packing, cooking, cleaning, laundry, lesson planning, etc., etc. On top of that, to save a little cash, I decided to make jewelry for some people's presents (see above). Yeah, I'm insane. I had also hoped to take a picture of myself in front of the Rockefeller Center tree (to frame for the grandparents' presents), but it's more than forty blocks from here and it's too cold to walk that far.

This Christmas is going to be weird. I'm big on tradition, and this year the house is gone. The old ornaments are gone. I won't even get to Woodward in time for the Christmas Eve church service. On the other hand, I'm really looking forward to seeing my family, friends and pets. I think that will be strong enough to hold me together.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A fight with my...boyfriend.

Last weekend, darling Laura's boyfriend met up with us.

"Oh, I'd hoped your man-friend-type-person would be here," he said.

"My 'man-friend-type-person?'" I replied.

"Yeah. I didn't know if you'd had the official boyfriend-girlfriend talk."

"We haven't." In truth, I thought the idea of an official boyfriend-girlfriend talk was lame...and yet I found myself broaching the subject with Mr. B.

"So, the other day Ryan said, 'I'd hoped your man-friend-type-person would be here,'" I said.

"Your 'man-friend-type-person'?"

"Yeah, he said he didn't know if we'd had the official talk about what to call each other."

"Ah," he said, laughing, "'man-friend-type-person' works." Heh.

But he officially crossed into Boyfriendland when we had our first fight this weekend. After work we went for drinks with a co-worker. Then Mr. B. said he might order a black and tan. I said I didn't understand how the Guinness floated on top of the other beer because Guinness seems so dense. He tried to explain it to me which just made me feel dense. I tried to understand, but I couldn't, which made me feel frustrated and dumb and insecure. So I said to him, "Forget it." But he tried to continue explaining, so I gave him a whithering look and told him to drop it.

Then, in the car, we began discussing an illegal habit of his. He was talking about how normal his little habit is. I said I think fewer people indulge in it where I'm from, especially teachers. Well, he took this an an invitation for debate and wanted me to statistically back up my opinion. I got annoyed, because everytime he discusses his habit he says the exact same things and only wants to hear what he wants to hear. So again, I said to him, "Forget it."

[AAARGH! What just happened? I finished this blog entry, and a chunk of it just disappeared! Where was I?]

Okay, I said "Forget it," and he went off. He said that I refused to let him be right and that trying to avoid those arguments showed something about my personality. It told him that I probably wouldn't care enough to go through the important arguments (one example he gave was 'the virgin thing.'). There was ranting (on his part) and a little screaming and crying (on my part) but eventually we managed to calmly get our points across. Then he played his guitar for me for the first time. It was really nice. We followed that up with a Ben Stiller movie (Keeping the Faith) an some making out before bed. In the morning, we had a mini-fight (it was an aftershock, really), but were on solid ground by breakfast, during which we flirted over our eggs in the diner.

That night I went out to good old Solas (my favorite bar--above, left) with the ladies. We used to go every Friday, but somehow fell out of the habit. The bartender greeted us warmly and remembered our favorite drinks. The next morning, I made it to church (Park Ave. United Methodist--above, right) for the first time in a month and sang with the choir (Vivaldi and Christmas carols, which I adore). It sounded and felt amazing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The last ten days...

Quite a bit has happened since I wrote last. I remember nothing about December 5...perhaps something traumatic occurred and now I'm blocking it out. December 6 my counselor wasn't available for our normal session, so I went to a great store called Beads on Fifth. I've been making jewelry for Christmas presents, and I needed supplies. Since then, I've made six pairs of earrings and two necklaces.

I've noted that when I first met Mr. B, I was struck by the urge to bake. A while back, I bought a bunch of apples, but hadn't had time to actually make the pie (from scratch!) until Wednesday. It was a dutch carmel apple pie with a lattice crust (see photo above). I think I over-worked the shortening in the bottom crust, but the top crust was perfect and flaky. The filling was breathtaking, if I do say so myself.

Thursday...yeah, I blocked that out, too.

Friday I went out with my ladies. It was fun, but I had to go home earlier than usual because I was exhausted. The insomnia...she is back.

Saturday, I went to Mr. B's for dinner (his family is out of town). He made me chicken cutlets with garlic pasta and we had my pie and ice cream for dessert. He's a great cook. Also, there was much making out. More on this another time, perhaps.

Sunday I did laundry and turned a few black bananas into a loaf of yummy banana bread. I also planned my lessons. I also chatted with my parents. Mom said Hooligan has made to move to the apartment in town. She also told me Aunt Helen, with whom I'm very close, has lung cancer. Lung cancer! She's never smoked. Unkie never smoked. It's so unfair. But the doctors seem to agree. They said she's so healthy that she'll probably be okay.

Monday I had a tough day at work. Well, it started out all right. I had to video tape a grammar lesson for my Fordham final. I taught it to 702 and they were great. My 803 class was good, too. Then the tide turned: Kids in class 705 were swinging belts and I couldn't get anyone to come help me. Between that and having a cold, I almost cried. I then had a long staff meeting in which my administrators were trying to manipulate the staff. Usually our staff gets along well, but that day we were all CRABBY. On the plus side, that day I bought this miracle elixir called Zicam. As I see it, there are three possibilities: 1-Zicam is a wonder drug that has done wonders with my cold symptoms. 2-It's the placebo effect. 3-The cold is just running its course. I say who cares, as long as my nose no longer feels like it's full of jello, I can pronounce the letter d, and I don't sound like I've been gargling gravel.

Tuesday I finished the paper to go along with my grammar lesson video, which was due that night. My Fordham field advisor watched me teach and he thought I did a great job. 803 was okay, but 705 went nuts again. After school was Fordham, after Fordham was counselling (Quick summary: 'Props on getting the paper done on time! Don't try so hard to impress your dad. Don't be afraid to go for your dream and write. Good luck with the holidays!' Thanks, Angela!) I went home and made earrings (that was pair 6), then went to bed. I didn't get to sleep until almost midnight, though. Yes the insomnia continues. I must get more that six hours sleep soon or I will snap.

Today the kids were decent. It was photo day, and no one warned the teachers, so we were crabby at our administration...again...some more. Then, because it was so cold, Mr. B. gave me a ride to the train. On the way to his car, we ran into some of my students on the street. They went nuts, screamming that they had caught us. They were giddy, surrounding us like the paparazzi. Seeing us walking together was, to them, a sure confirmation of their suspicions. This shall feed their need for drama for quite some time.

Tomorrow, I'm going to see one of my students play basketball and another dance during the halftime show. It's the first time students have invited me to one of their activities, and I'm proud that they want me there.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fresh snow, fresh start

Last night was rough. Mr. B was late for our 7 p.m. date. Usually, he calls when he leaves his house, then again when he's almost to my apartment. At first, I panicked. On Friday I told him I had plans with Laura during the day Saturday. He said I could call him to let him know when we were done. I said, "No, let's go with 7 on Saturday like normal. I'll call you if that changes." Suddenly, I was stricken with uncertainty. Was I supposed to have called him? I left a message: "Hey, it's Erin. It's after seven. Are you okay? If I was supposed to call you and I forgot, I'm sorry. Please call me."

Half an hour later, the guilt was gone and I was 50 percent worried, 50 percent pissed off. Either something was wrong or Mr. B was pouting, which is a dumb and passive way to deal with a situation. I called a few friends for sympathy and advice. Then, at 8, I called him again. This time, he picked up. "Hello," he answered with no notable tone in his voice. "Where are you?" I asked. "My cousin's. Why?" "Why? I thought we had a date for 7." "We do," he replied, "Why, what time is it now?" "It's 8 o'clock!" "A.M. or P.M.?" "Are you kidding me?" I asked, incredulously. "No, I'm not kidding. It's 8 p.m.?" "Yes," I said, "It's 8 p.m. What are you in a basement? Didn't you notice that it's dark out? Are you alone there?" "Yeah, I'm alone. All the shades are closed because my cousin's in China, remember?" "How drunk did you guys get last night?" "Not very! I don't know what's wrong with me. Do you still want to hang out?" "Yes. Just get over here, okay?" (In his defense, my first year of teaching, I slept that long a few times. It's a stressful job.)

He came over and we ordered in Chinese food. Then we went to see Rent. It was a little hard for Mr. B to get into it at first, I think, but by the end he was on board. Actually, the hardest part for him was probably me silently sobbing during the refrain of "I'll cover you." Up to that point, I'd managed to hold it together, but I knew that refrain was going to kick my emotional ass. Sure enough, it did. (That said, I really enjoyed the adaptation.)

I love Rent, but it's tough for me because my uncle Carl died of AIDS when I was 12. No one told me it was AIDS for a long time, and even when they did tell me, they couldn't really talk about it. He was an artist and gay and used drugs. He was part of a community of friends what was whittled away by AIDS. He was the first one in the family to see the artist in me. I loved him in all of his eccentricities. Back then people didn't know how to discuss AIDS...or they didn't know how...or they didn't see why they should. Now time has passed. We've all become more aware and less scared.

The first real snowfall of the year fell last night. It covered the streets of New York with a white hush. That fresh new start doesn't change what lies beneath, but it lets us see the world around us in a new way -- with new beauty and new hope.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Overheard in New York

I am addicted to the web site Overheard in New York, and since Val told me about it I have longed to overhear something funny. Well, recently I did. It went something like this:

Fordham boy: ...and then the salesgirl said, "We don't have any. They're out of season." Out of season? They're bathrobes. Have I missed something? Is there a season for bathing?


On another subject, going back to work after a break is SO hard! Ugh. I slept in until 6:45 this morning, deperately needing a shower...but I normally leave the house at 7! I had to really rush to get to work on time, and then I had to cover a class for an absent teacher, and didn't find out until the last second. Grr. Now I'm procrastinating from some work I really need to do, which makes me feel all guilty. AAaaaaaaaarrrgh. Okay, now I'm going to go get to work... really...I mean it this time!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanks were given.

Last year I had a nice Thanksgiving. I loved seeing the Macy's parade (see bad photo at left). I loved how friendly all the New Yorkers were. I then went back to my apartment where I prepared a microwave turkey dinner which I ate while talking on the phone to my family back in Iowa and watching A Christmas Story on TV. It was a nice day, but whenever I mention it to people, they moan a pitying moan and look at me like I just "came down with cancer of the puppy." (That's a Buffy the Vampire Slayer quote.)

Anyway, this year was quite different because I went home with Mr. B. in Eastchester. Their house is beautiful and fancy but lacks a bit in coziness. When we arrived, I introduced myself to his mom and sister. They both gave me really weird looks. Then I excused myself to the bathroom and heard them laughing. You see, whenever Mr. B talked to them about me, he used my last name (which sounds like a first name). When I introduced myself as Erin, they thought I was some girl other than the one he had planned to bring to dinner. But we got that cleared up. I played with the children, charmed the babies, bantered with the gentlemen of the family and helped the ladies in the kitchen. After dinner, they all teased Mr. B. saying that I was alright and fit right in...perhaps better than him, and that they weren't sure about Mr. B, but I'm welcome at family events anytime.

After dinner, Mr. B. and I went to the basement to watch Meet The Fockers. His mom asked us to stay the night, saying we seemed sleepy and she didn't want us tangling with holiday drunks on the road. We conceded. His bed is comfy, but we fought over the covers. The next morning, Mr. B. tickled my feet until I was screaming with laughter. When we left his room, much of the family was gathered in the kitchen. I think Mr. B must have warned his mom that I'm kind of old fashioned and a little weirded out by sharing a room with him in his parents' house because his mother came up to me and whispered, "Don't be embarassed. We're not ones to judge. I mean, my mother lives with her boyfriend!" She then waved at her mom who was puttering around the kitchen. "Okay...thanks," I replied, probably blushing a bit. All blushing aside, it went well.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Double blogger

Happy Turkey Day!

If you check my profile, you might notice that I have one blog listed, and it is not The Shepherd's Daughter. That is because, as of last night, this is my secret blog. Girl Out of the Country (as in "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl") is my public blog. I copied over (and back-dated) most of the entries from this blog, removing anything that would constitute too much information for the majority of my friends and family. If I remember correctly, the only ones who I've told about The Shepherd's Daughter are Rose, Val, Lex and Kelly. If any of you think you'd prefer the censored version, feel free to make the jump. Those of you who like getting all the dirt should stick with The Shepherd's Daughter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Mom and dad found Hooligan! (They also found a sweet barn cat, Gray Kitty.)This is a photo I took of Hooligan this summer. He lives up to his name. I figured he would survive, especially considering how we got him in the first place.

The summer after my sophomore year of college, I was driving to work one day when I noticed some kittens running around: two orange ones and a black one. They darted into the ditch and I couldn't find them. About a week later, I saw one of the orange kitties as I came home late from work. It was tiny and weak. I scooped it up and took it to the house. Mom and I fed it tuna and petted it. It perked up a little. I put it in a cat carrier and put the carrier on my bed. I fell asleep to the sound of it purring.

The next day, when I returned home from work and peeked into the carrier, all I could see was a swirl of fur whipping around. "Wow, Dad! What did you do to her?" Dad gave a sad-yet-amused chuckle. "Oh, honey. That's not the same kitten. That kitten died. I found this one this afternood." It seems that the fiesty kitten, just a few weeks old, had been fending for himself and doing a good job. He must have gone hungry a bit, though, because forever after that he has devoured every bit of food set in front of him and still ate everything he hunted. You could feed him a huge meal and he would still mew pittifully as though he's starving.

His tenacity and sense of adventure gave us a challenge when naming him. Eventually, he sort of named himself. He kept doing naughty things. One day, he annoyed my father, who exclaimed, "You hooligan!" and it stuck.

The storm shook him up quite a bit, and he's reverted a bit to his old wild ways...which were barely suppressed at the best of times. He's used to being able to leave the house whenever he wants, and my parents are afraid he'd dart out of the apartment and get lost if they moved him to town. They're trying to figure out what to do for him. I'm just happy he's alive. And he let Dad hold him, so he hasn't gone completely feral...yet.

P.S. Tomorrow I'm going to Mr. B's for Thanksgiving with his mom and stepdad. It will be my first Thanksgiving with a family that's not mine. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Mr. B and how it will be

Today I went to church (Park Avenue United Methodist) and sang with the choir. It sounded amazing. Oh, good news! One of my professors has agreed to let me make up the work I owe him over the next few months. Then I'd be able to graduate in August. Now I just need to finish the assignments and get my Masters Fine Arts applications done and turned in! I'm stressed out and racing to get done all the myriad things I need to get done on the short and long terms. Wednesday, I plan to go to pub night with Madrid, and Thursday I'm going to spend Thanksgiving with Mr. B. and his family.

I have received requests for more details on the 20-hour date and Mr. B. in general. previously stated, he arrived at my place at seven and rubbed my back supportively as I talked to my parents. Accepting comforting platitudes isn't my strong suit, so it worked well for me that he took a more physical approach. After I found out my parents were okay, we left to get supper.

We drove over to Mill Korean at 113 and Broadway and had a fabulous (and affordable!) meal of Bulgogi Hot Stone Pot. Rice, veggies, beef and a raw egg arrive at your table in a sizzling hot bowl. You stir it up, and the bowl cooks the food. It is so delicious. After that we went to a bar called The Heights where we ran into a fellow Teaching Fellow named Deema. Sipping our drinks at the bar, he said "I liked you from the moment I saw you. Now I can't believe I'm with you." Wow. Later we went back to my place and made out. We tried to watch a movie, but ended up going to sleep.

In the morning we made out again. I skipped church and we made omelettes, then went for a walk to Central Park. That's when I took the picture above. (He's a little bit cuter in real life, though. He's one of those people who can't smile normally if there's a camera present.) We explored the Conservatory Gardens, then climbed up a rocky slope where we sat and talked and looked down at the city. We talked about things we did when we were younger (which for me included tap dancing), and he asked me to tap dance for him. I did the best I could in tennis shoes, and laughed that it reminded me of a scene in Garden State. He'd never seen it, so we went back to my apartment to watch it. After that, we went to the Itzocan Bistro, which serves French-Mexican fusion quisine, including a breathtaking 3 chile eggs Benedict. My mouth waters just thinking about it. While we ate, we talked and talked to the sounds of Buenos Hermanos Cubanos. He told me he's told his Italian Catholic Grandmother, Nanny, about me. "What did you say?" I asked. "I said, 'There's this girl I like. Her name's Erin.' She said, 'That sounds Irish. What's her last name?' 'Kiley.' 'Oh, that's definitely Irish.' Which she thought was a good thing." Ha, I thought, it probably gave her false hope that I was Catholic. After brunch, he drove home to Westchester.

I'm still grappling with what this means. Do I want Mr. B, or is it just that he's available?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Clean Sweep

If you look closely at the picture at left (by Doug Wells of the Des Moines Register), you will see my mother smiling as she passes a tiny blue Barbie trunk to someone on a ladder. One might assume that the only reason she is smiling as she sorts through the rubble is because she knows someone is taking her picture. Well, one might be wrong!

My mom has wanted a new house since 1992, a desire I fought tooth and nail. I like the boulder walls of the basement and the creaky stairs and the cobwebby attic. I fantasized about the house being mine to rennovate someday...maybe as a bed and breakfast. It was a shabby little house with the world's ugliest carpet, and I loved it dearly.

My mother moved into that house as a young girl and lived there until she graduated from high school in 1969. Then when my brother was two (1979), Grandma and Grandpa Staker moved to Arizona, so my parents took over the farm. That's more than 32 years in one house...more than three decades with that terrible carpet.

Mom finds it difficult to let go of hurt feelings, but easy to part with material goods. Dad and I, however, are pack rats. Mom loves the TV show Clean Sweep, where a team makes you empty rooms of your house and sort the contents, keeping at most a third of it. Mom joked about calling them to combat me, Dad, and the myriad ancestors who have tucked their belongings into our house's nooks and crannies.

"Well, Mom, you don't have to call the Clean Sweep team anymore," I exclaimed on the phone yesterday.

She laughed. "Oh, I know. Your father was tryin to haul boxes of magazines from the attic. I said, 'Oh, no. That is ridiculous. Over my dead body."

The storm has given my mother a guilt-free opportunity to start over without the trappings of her past. The insurance money has already come through, and they're meeting with companies to plan for the new house.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Goodbye, farm.

Mr. B and I just finished a 20-hour date that was amazing...but the amazingness was overshadowed quite a bit by what preceded the date. My phone was ringing off the hook while I was in the tub getting ready. Eventually, the ringing was so insistant that I ran, dripping, for the phone. My childhood best friends, Harmony and Gwen, were on the phone warning me that a tornado had destroyed half of my home town of Woodward. My parents didn't answer the phone, so I rinsed and dried off.

I tried to call my parents, but couldn't reach them. I called my brother. He told me that the barn and sheds were gone. The house was still there, but the roof was gone and the house was probably irreparable. The house (in the pre-storm photo above) was more than 100 years old and had been in our family all that time. My childhood bedroom was my mother's childhood bedroom.

With shaking hands I got dressed and applied my makeup and nail polish. Painting your toenails while in shock is a difficult and ridiculous task. Mr. B. arrived and rubbed my back while I called my parents on their cell phone. Friends and family were already helping them gather the flock and salvage what they could from the wreckage. Today I found out that the family dogs survived. My ancient cat, Tut, survived, too, but Hooligan and some of the barn cats are MIA.

Good Morning America started off at the farm this morning. Dad's quoted in an AP story and will be interviewed via telephone on CNN at 10, 9 Central tonight. They should be on GMA again tomorrow, too.

It's all so surreal. The house had been in our family for more than 100 years, so it was easy to take for granted that it would always be there. I lost belongings. I may have lost pets. My parents have to start over. And my home is gone.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Longtime no see.

I haven't posted in a while, and it looks like my I-got-a-tiny-sewing-machine post hasn't whipped even my regular visitors (Hi, girls!) into a verbal frenzy. Oh, well.

In The Wedding Date, Dermot Mulroney's character (an escort, Nick, who receives far more respect than any female prostitute in cinematic history) states, "Every woman has the exact love life she wants." At later in the movie, he fights with Debra Messing's character and accuses her of choosing to be angry with him and broken-hearted so she would have an excuse for being alone. She wouldn't have to trust someone or risk getting hurt down the line.
At first I had my doubts about Nick's thesis, but with that statement, this blythe little rom-com had my number. The only difference was, I was less afraid of getting my heart broken than falling for someone.

I once had a therapist who, during the last five minutes of our final session, said to me, "What would you do if you met 'the one' tomorrow?" "Say hello?" I replied. "No," she replied, "I mean, what would that do for your plans?" "I guess I'd be screwed." She went on to warn me that I would rarely have access to so many eligible men as during my college years, so I should be open to finding "the one." No pressure, right?

A subsequent therapist laughed when I related that story to him, saying, "You're twenty! You have plenty of time for relationships. Go ahead and focus on your goals and living your life!"

But now I'm 25, and as with anything in life, there has to be a balance. This August, I chose to change my love life. I went on a date for the first time in ages. Now I've been dating Mr. B. for several weeks (during which time I've gone on more dates than during my entire 10-month relationship with my ex, Paul. Love you, Paul!). The point is, I'm trying to be open...but I'm still scared about what it might mean for my future. There are places I want to go in my life and things I want to do. I just don't know if I can if I'm linked to another person.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Several things are new with me. I shall share them now in handy list form:

1- I chose a Halloween costume and finished making it last night. As suggested by my brilliant friend Kelly, I shall be an evil girl scout from Troop 666. I just sewed the last demerit badge on my sash last night. I'll post picture of the outfit after Halloween.

2- To complete my outfit, I purchased the world's tiniest and most adorable chain-stitch sewing machine. I had been missing my big sewing machine, which I left in Iowa. I didn't think I'd use it often enough to justify the shipping costs or the space it would take up in my tiny Spanish Harlem apartment, however. This little beauty is good for crafty stuff, hems and other small jobs. I wouldn't use it to actually construct a garment. There's no speed or stitch-length control. But isn't it cute?

3-Hee. I can't believe I'm listing this below a tiny sewing machine: I am now dating Mr. B. Last night he drove me home and asked me out for Friday. Tonight he drove me to the train (a student saw us. There were already rumors, but now they'll be rampant). Both times, he stayed at school later than usual, which is kind of sweet. I had called Rosa to tell her about Mr. B, but she wasn't home. When I got a hold of her she laughed. "You know what I love about this new phase in our relationship? When I get a phone message saying you have news and you don't answer your phone, I can just find out on your blog!" She asked me if I liked Mr. B. "I think so," I replied, "Sunday I had the urge to bake for him." "Oh, no!" she exclaimed, laughing again.

4-Now it looks like I probably won't graduate at the end of the summer. I may have to come back and take a class in the fall and pay a couple thousand bucks to do so. If so, the choice would be Goodbye, Iowa Writer's Workshop or Goodbye Fordham Diploma. Of course, that's definately counting my Writer's Workshop chickens before they hatch, but the idea of a third year teaching middle school in the Bronx is rather depressing. Although I would be released from the Fellows Program at the end of the summer, so I guess I could apply to teach wherever I want. Oh, Bloggie, you've cheered me so! Erm...perhaps I should wrap this up, as I think its a bad sign when you give your blog a nickname and begin talking to it.

5- Maybe I should discuss it in an hour when I go to therapy. Yes, Item 5 on my fun list is that I've started therapy again. It's funny. Because of the yoga I do for 35 minutes 3-5 times a week, I'm in the best shape I've been in in years. I have great friends. I'm dating. I'm doing a little better at work. I'm sorting out the tangled mess that is my master's degree. All in all, I feel pretty good... but my insomnia, which plagued me when I was 20, is returning. Last night I got 3 hours of sleep. 4 hours a night was about my average last week. Thursday night I didn't sleep at all. Also, my back tightened up worse than it had in a year and a half. Only a visit to a masseuse (who practices the delicious torture that is accupressure) got it in check. So I thought I'd get some counsellling before my physical feelings became emotional feelings of depression.

And on that cheery note, I've got to go to my appointment. Much love to my dear readers, Vali and Rose...the only people who know this is here. Anyone else who wanders by, welcome!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Surprise! It's a date.

A cute coworker and I have been flirting for a while, but I never thought anything would come of it. My friend Madrid said she didn't think his flirting was personal, that Mr. B. is just a flirty type. Just in case it was personal, she added the demure advice, "Don't shit where you eat." While her way of saying it was repulsive, I agree with the sentiment. I messed around with a coworker in the past (someone I wasn't even that interested in him...I was just horny) and it turned out okay, but I decided I wouldn't do it again. So imagine my surprise Friday when I found out I was on a surprise date.

It's Mr. B's first year as a teacher, and I remember how hard that was. It was only going out Friday night with Madrid, Laura and Carolina that kept me sane. He's also living with his parents right now, as he recently graduated. I had to do that right after I graduated, too, and it's very stressful. So I invited him to join our Friday night dinner and drinking session at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria. He agreed. Then, at the last moment, Madrid dropped out of the night's festivities and everyone else decided on a change of venue. So Mr. B and I ended up having dinner their on our own. We had some drinks, kielbasa and good conversation while flirting. Then the bill came and I reached for my wallet. He said no, that he would pay. I said he didn't have to. He replied something like "I know, but I'm old-fashioned. When go out with someone, I like to pay. Besides, it was fun date...good conversation." That's as close as I can remember due to the tequila involved. Anyway, after he said that I was like, "DAMN! I'm on a date!" Who knew? Until then, not me. I mean, yes, we flirted and that night there'd been several little did-he-mean-to-touch-me touches, but it had remained a gray area. Well, not any more.

We then hopped in his car and drove to Tropix to meet up with Carolina, Laura and her coworkers. I got to use an ipod for the first time, and played Al Green for the duration of the drive. Then we drank and danced. I boogied with my girls, tried to teach Laura swing (unsuccefully), tried to teach Mr. B to dance (also unsuccessfully, but still fun) and did a little grinding for the first time in years (quite successfully). A definite plus for Mr. B: He's not a good dancer, but he dances anyway without being self-conscious about it. I gave a few of my usual backrubs: one for Laura, one for Carolina and one for Mr. B, at which point he proclaimed, "God! This is like ecstasy, seriously." I don't know if he meant "an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement" or the drug, but either way it's a nice compliment.

At one a.m. I had to go home because I had a required workshop at 8:30 the next morning. Mr. B insisted on driving me home. We put on more soul music and he drove me back (I was buzzed, but he was sober). When we got to my place, he gave me a simple kiss. It was sweet, but I was a little worried at the time because he didn't try for more. Then I thought, "One, I'm smashed; two, I have to get up early; and three, maybe he's a gentleman!" It'd been so long since I ran into one of those.

We'll see what comes of it. Whether we go out again or not, I had a great night, and that's what matters.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Creative Friends!

I'm pretty busy these days with teaching, planning lessons, grading papers, going to graduate school and doing my homework, but when I get a spare moment, I write poems and stories. (Bizarrely enough, you can even buy newspaper articles I wrote for the Business Record at!) Well, the cool thing is, many of my friends and acquaintances are creative, too! Here are some of their recent accomplishments that you should check out:

Valerie Lee Joplin, one of my very, very best friends, has a lovely blog, Sleeping Late in Seattle and two bands. Despite the fact that she is my best friend, I don't know the names of her bands. Perhaps if she visits this site (as she claims she does) she will leave a comment telling me the band names.

You can see the work of Anthony Lee Richardson and his wife Valerie Lee Joplin at Tony's web site, ALR Studio. (Thanks for reminding me, Vali!)

My former Suitemate Rachael Bossow recently joined the Leavenworth Times as a reporter/photographer. She's an amazing writer, so you should check out that fine publication.

Blake Wilner, a hip Aussie jazz musician I met in NYC in 1999, is living and performing in London. He creates great contemporary jazz with an old-school feel. His latest album, The Reprieve, has been getting positive reviews from Jazz web sites and publications, and he'll be in New York from Nov. 28 to Jan. 4. If you get a chance, go see him perform or buy his music, which is available on his web site or at CD Baby. The folks at CD Baby provide hilarious customer service! Place an order with them and you'll see what I mean.

Stacy Carolan was my college-boyfriend's roomie. We were the best of friends. We were the worst of friends. We acted and sang and climbed trees together. We fought. We made up. Now he and his a cappella group, FourShadow, make brilliant music. They've even been featured on the Today show. Their new album, Four, has been getting good press. From now until Oct. 31, a portion of any of their CDs you buy online will go towards hurricane relief. So go and buy some top-quality a cappella!

Drew Melbourne, was a fellow Teaching Fellow. He is hilarious. His web site includes strange videos and pictures, as well as his whip-smart writing. It's mostly about his comic book, ArchEnemies, which hits the stands April 5th. (ArchEnemies is the story of a superhero and his nemesis who don't realize they are roomates.) You can also read about how and why he left the Teaching Fellows in his Scriptic Studios column, "You can also Quit Your Day Job."

Micah Chaplin and I sort of ran in the same circles at Buena Vista University, and she has written two romance novels called “You’ll Never Know” and “A Promise Worth Breaking.” Give them a try next time you need a good lovey-dovey book.

Support the friends of the Shepherd's Daughter! P.S. If you are a friend of mine and happen to find your way to this site and have an artistic endeavor I don't know about, let me know and I'll post the information.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It's been a long day...

...but at least my hair looks pretty! I finished up my three-day-weekend with a hair cut at Aveda Ibiza Salon just off Union Square. They don't give the neck massage you get at Aveda Salons in Iowa, but my friends her in New York say that there's no way Ibiza was an official Aveda Salon, because the bill for a shampoo, cut and blow-dry came out to $42. Well, one way or the other, the shampoo was nice, and the cut looks great.

Today some of my students felt compelled to reach out and touch it. (When caught feeling my ponytail, Natasha simply exclaimed, "You got good hair, miss!") A couple of coworkers complimented me on it (As Madrid put it, "What's up with the sexy hair?") and at grad school, my classmates commented on it, too. I admitted that I'd just gotten a cut and the ultra-sleeknes was the result of a long hard struggle by my stylist. "Never wash it again," Alex recommended. Another classmate said she had been so distracted by my hair that she'd had trouble concentrating on the lecture. Huh. All that from a 1/2 inch trim and straightening! I figured I should memorialize the shiny pretty hair before I have to shower and it goes away. Thus the picture and the blog entry.

Oh, cute hair-related annecdote: I always wear my hair in a ponytail at school, and I always wear my glasses. One day, I had a headache, so during lunch I took my hair out of the ponytail, took off my glasses and massaged my face and scalp. I left my room for a moment to go to the bathroom. Each person I ran into said, "Oh, it's you! I didn't recognize you. I thought we had a new teacher!" Then one of my homeroom students, the adorable Tariq, came to my classroom looking for something. "Where's Ms. K?" he asked. "I'm Ms. K." "Huh?" "Honey, I'm Ms. K." He furrowed his brow and looked me up and down. I laughed and slipped my glasses, then held my hair back. "Oh, it is you," he exclaimed, sounding relieved. My ponytail and glasses seem to create a Clark Kent/Superman effect. Or I'm The Dragon Lady from that episode of the Cosby Show. Hee!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Memoir obsession...It's soundbyte-tastic!

Earlier in this blog, I stated that I've recently become obsessed with memoirs. In hopes of spreading memoir-fever, here are some sumaries of ones I've read recently:

1. The Idiot Girl’s Action Adventure Guide by Laurie Notaro.
The synopsis on Barnes & simply says “'I've changed a bit since high school. Back then I said no to using and selling drugs. I washed on a normal basis and still had good credit.' Introducing Laurie Notaro, the leader of the Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club.”

2. Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett. Patchett tells the story of her friendship with Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face. Their friendship is complex, lively and troubled, just like Grealy. The book lives up to its name.

3. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krause Rosenthal.

"I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story." And in encyclopedia form! Clever and fun to read from cover to cover.

4. Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing up Groovy and Clueless by Susan Jane Gilman. I'm just going to quote Publishers Weekly: "When her brother asks their dad why their Jewish family celebrates Christmas, she doesn't miss a beat: " `Because your grandmother's a Communist and your mother loves parties,' said my father. `Now eat your supper.' " Hee. From her hippie childhood to meeting Mick Jagger as a teen to caving in and getting married in a pouffy white dress, Gilman makes it all seem wildly entertaining, yet surprisingly normal.

5. Beeing: Life, Motherhood, and 180,000 Honey Bees by Rosanne Daryl Thomas.
The title pretty much says it all.

6. A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them by Sue Hubbell. Yes, I have read TWO memoirs on women who raise bees. Both were great. Beeing is more about the people. A Book of Bees is more about the bees and has more technical illustrations. Both are poetic nonfiction books about creating a new life. As David Quammen wrote in the New York Times, A Book of Bees is also about "the difference between solitude and loneliness."

7. A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance by Marlena De Blasi. A freshly-divorced American chef falls in love with a Venetian she calls "the stranger" in this memoir/cookbook.

8. Travels with Charlie: In Search of America by John Steinbeck. John Steinbeck set out with Charlie, his French poodle, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years. It is amazing to see how much has changed since this travelogue was written, yet I still recognize small town America as he depicts it.

9. Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman. It's a tiny stretch to call these graphic novels a memoir; they're mostly about Spiegelman's father's experience of the Holocaust, but they include Spiegelman's life and creative process.

10. Living Up the Street by Gary Soto. Soto gives a lively depiction of growing up a poor Latino. The best chapter is "Mean Kids," tales of his naughty youth.

11. Tuesdays with Maurie by Mitch Alblom. Alblom writes a tear-jearker about the death of a beloved professor with a thirst for life.

12. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. My first foray into Sedaris. He's hilarious, but his depiction of the strain his homosexuality created in his family is heartbreaking.

13. Leading a Literary Life by Carolyn See. One part memoir, two parts how-to. See guides us through the dark forest of wannabe-writerdom.

14. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. It's well-written, but I had to set this one down for a few days and when I picked it back up, I couldn't remember who anyone was. I'm sure I'll finish it...someday.

15. Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch by Hollis Gillespie. Hee. Oh, Hollis! Hollis and her crazy friends who use roadside religious signs and crack pipes to decorate their homes! She's a flight attendant, a commentator for NPR, a photographer and a columnist. I'm jealous of her colorful resume.

16. Ill-Equipped For a Life of Sex by Jennifer Lehr. Jennifer Lehr is hilarious, and her husband (formerly the mute brother on the NBC sitcom Jessie) is no slouch. Lehr is unflinchingly honest, as willing to tell you about her sexual debauchery as her heartache or her financial irresponsibility. This is a must-read for anyone who has fought for a difficult relationship and found it worthwhile in the end. Oh, and everyone else should read it, too. The pictures are fun and Lehr manages to admit her every flaw yet remain completely lovable.

17. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris Art, drugs, learning a new language and living abroad all get Sedaris' signature treatment.

18. Foreign Babes in Beijing by Rachel DeWoskin. DeWoskin moved to China in the early 90s to work for a PR firm. She somehow ended up on a soap opera, Foreign Babes in Beijing. The title makes you think you're in for a sexy romp (and there is a bit of that), but it's more about language and friendship. This memoir melds personal and academic perspectives into a rapidly-changing nation. During DeWoskin's time there, China struggled to accept new commerce without losing its cultural identity. Meanwhile, DeWoskin struggled to find her place in the world.

Get out there and buy some memoirs, y'all! Keep the market good and hot so some publisher will want to buy mine when it's done.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Pillow Book

Pillow Book is an interesting in surreal movie about a young woman whose father, a calligrapher, used to write on her face. As an adult, she became obsessed with finding lovers willing to write on her body and with writing a pillow book. According to Wikipedia, "The Pillow Book was a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shonagon during her time as court lady to Empress Sadako during the 990s in Heian Japan. In it she included lists of all kinds (agreeable things, disagreeable things, things without merit), personal thoughts, interesting events in court, poetry and some opinions on her contemporaries."

The concept really appealed to me -- the concept of the pillow book, not of being written on -- although if Ewan McGregor were to do the writing, that might be okay, too. Anyway, a la pillow book, here is a list of agreeable things: Peanut M&Ms that are missing the peanut; white chocolate raspberry truffle HaagenDaz ice cream; Ben & Jerry's fish food frozen yogurt; air conditioning on a hot sticky day; a soft, thick comforter on a cold night; fireflies; hoar frost coating tree limbs like lace; a letter from a friend; your favorite song on the radio; a man's strong back; a kiss that makes you shiver; a cat's pur; a work of art (whether a book, tv show, movie, etc.) that moves you to tears. More entries like this one are sure to follow.

Under the heading of disagreeable things, a commercial just came on television for Girls Gone Wild. I think it's a trashy product. A lot of people villainize the girls, but I tend to feel sad for them. I think most girls who take part, like the girls who pose in Playboy (and to a lesser degree, models and pageant contestants), just want proof that they're beautiful and attractive. Somewhere they've received the message that beauty and desireability are the most important qualities in a woman. The problem is, beauty is subjective. I guess if you're selected for a product men use as an aid for masterbation, it is assumed that you are objectively beautiful. Then you never have to question your hotness again.

Then again, I'm kind of a hypocrit. You see, I've danced on a bar a time or two, and I don't consider that sad. I did it because it was fun and I liked the attention. It didn't feel much different from the acting I used to do. I value my intelligence. I put that first. I choose comfort over appearance when I get dressed for school every morning. On the other hand, I'm less secure about my looks than my smarts. It doesn't help that my teaching job makes me feel so old and asexual. I guess sometimes when I go out on the weekends, I just want to feel desired...and I don't always care by whom. What's more, I don't actually need to act on that desire. So what's the cutoff? What is a natural wish for validation and what is a sick act of desperation? I think the cut-off includes public nudity and/or a money-making endeavor. Thus far I've kept my clothes on and no money has changed hands, so I'm in the clear.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Me (as Sydney) with Lex (a drag king) last Halloween.

Thank goodness for Rosh Hashanah! According to a little online research, it is “the Jewish New Year, the Day of Judgment, the Day of Remembrance, and the Day of Shofar Blowing" ( Oh, and a Shofar is a trumpet fashioned from a ram’s horn. It’s a little embarrassing that I had to look up a major holiday of a major religion. It seems like something I should have known. Also embarrassing: the reason I’m so excited about Rosh Hashanah is because it got me out of school for two days. Then I just have to get through Thursday and Friday, followed by a three-day-weekend. (Thank you, Christopher Columbus! Sure, you subjugated the indigenous people of America, but you also paved the way for my ancestors to come here and got me out of work on Monday.) Then there’s no school for Yom Kippur on the 13th “(the day to ask forgiveness for promises broken to G-d” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”).

Everyone likes days off…I know that. But now I rely on them. Just two broken weeks and two whole ones until November. Trying to handle this job 180 days (a whole school year) at a time isn’t doable for me. I break it down, vacation-to-vacation, weekend-to-weekend, even day-to-day. I’m in a program called the New York City Teaching Fellows, and we’ve a running joke: “Just take it one day at a time…like alcoholism.” This is a pretty good sign that teaching is not the career for me. I know my last entry about teaching ended on an optimistic note, but my feelings tend to yo-yo.

Speaking of November, I’ve asked my parents to visit for Thanksgiving, and they’re thinking about it. I know that they won’t come, though. It’s not that they don’t want to. My mom likes the idea of seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and, more than that, the tree-lighting. Unfortunately, the tree isn’t lit until the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and we all have to be back to work on Monday. Last Thanksgiving, I went to the parade and had a microwave turkey dinner. I chatted with my family on the phone. I had been dreading it, but it was actually nice. Now, as the holiday approaches I’m in the dread phase again.

Fortunately, I’ve got Halloween to help get me through it. I adore Halloween, and my last few costumes were fabulous. I loved them, anyway, and that’s what matters. In recent years I’ve been Medusa, the moon, half-devil-half-angel, a flamenco dancer, and Sydney from the season 2 finale of Alias. Now I’m at a loss. I’ve got the perfect little-black-dress to go as Holly Golightly, but last year at the Village Halloween parade, I saw at least three Hollies. It's that "So you think you're an individual..." problem again. Maybe I’ll soon be struck by inspiration.

I'm glad that I haven't told anyone (except my dear Vali) about this blog, because so far it's BORING! Oh, well. It's cheaper than therapy and the pictures are pretty.

Me (as Medusa--see the little snakes in my hair?) with Nathaneal (Baccus, god of wine).

Me (as the moon) with Rosa (the devil).

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Meet the Family

Here is my lovely family in a photo taken in November of 2003. (Clockwise from lower left, Julie, John, J.B., Erika and me).

I've been teaching my seventh graders about the genre of biographies. Last year, it was a troublesome genre. The kids have trouble drawing the line between paraphrasing another text and performing thinly-veiled plagiarism. (Of course, I knew kids in college who had the same problem...they just hid it a little better.) I decided to skirt the issue by making the kids write biographies on people they know. First I had to teach them how to conduct interviews, and I let them practice on me.

One of classes was more fascinated by my parents than by me. Here's a sample of our conversation.

Devon: How old are you?
Me: 25.
(This is followed by various proclamations of disbelief because they all think I'm in my mid-thirties. Their concept of a mid-20s white girl is Paris Hilton, so I'm not too insulted that they think I'm older.)

Matthew: Who raised you?
Me: My parents, John and Julie. My parents have been married for almost 34 years.
(This is followed by stunned murmurs).
Stephanie: That's really good, Miss!
Me: I know, and they're still in love.

David: How did they meet?
Me: At college. Dad was in a fraternity and mom was in a sorority. Those are college clubs. One of his friends wanted to date one of her friends, but she didn't want to go out with him alone, so my parents agreed to come, too. The other couple didn't stay together, but my parents did.

It went on like that. They learned that my mom has been teaching for about 34 years, that my dad is a farmer and a mailman, that my brother is a microbiologist and my sister-in-law is an accountant. They learned about my too-adorable niece, Brooke. Then they asked about my career goals.

Yomaris: Why did you become a teacher?
Me: Well for one thing, my mom was a teacher, and I got to see the positive effect she had on her students' lives. For another thing...I was working as a reporter and I really liked it, but some days I was at work from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. the next day. I decided that if I was going to work so hard, I might as well be helping people.
Reidy: Why did you come teach here?
Me: I wanted to help people, and I heard this was a place where they really needed teachers.

Then someone, I don't remember who, asked me if it was my dream to be a teacher, whether this was my final career, my perfect fit. For the first time, I was tempted to lie, because there are times when I want to quit and run far, far away. In the end, I opted to play spin doctor.

Me: I don't know how I'll feel in the future, but it's feels right for now. It's a challenging job. It's really hard sometimes, but some days I see one of my students learn something or get inspired or write something amazing. Then it all feels worth it.

And the funny thing is, it's true.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The general idea

Visitors may be curious to know what the shepherd's daughter looks like, so here's a picture of me at Bar 13 for a night of dancing with my friends. I'm the one in the red skirt. (From left, Carolina, Laura, me and Rosa.) It was a few months ago, so my hair's a bit longer, but you get the general idea.

So you think you're an individual...

It's so demoralizing! I thought of myself as creative and unique until I tried to name my blog only to find someone else had beat me to it! I quickly wracked my brains for a more creative name.

I chose The Shepherd's Daughter because I grew up on a sheep farm in Iowa. (My father never would have described himself as a shepherd. He was always bemused by my "artsy-fartsy" way of looking at things). Now I teach English in the South Bronx and live in Spanish Harlem. It's a difficult job, and I'm so far from where I started this life. It's my friends, my family and my writing that get me through it.

I'm obsessed with memoirs right now, and I'm hoping this blog will help me finish my own, one post at a time. I don't know if I'll tell anyone I know that this is here. It might feel like too much pressure. I mean, I've started so many journals in my life, only to write on three or four pages. I did complete one journal, a record of my four years of college. I also filled a cute little 4" by 4" Agatha de la Prada notebook with poetry, events from my life and other assorted jottings. I guess what I'm telling you is that there's a 50-50 chance that this blog will go nowhere. Is there a graveyard for blogs that die?

Maybe some strangers will find their ways here by chance. If so, welcome.