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.