Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Break '11

Oh, wow, where did March go? The last two weeks of classes were busy, but I survived! I'm a bit sad that I'm now planning for next week and trying to mentally prepare myself for 're-entry'. In the meantime, we did manage a quick getaway at the beginning of the week.
There seems to be a trend to our spring break jaunts - head north, see some coast, drink good wine...
Last year we traveled to San Francisco via Monterey, this year we had snippets of a Sideways tour in California Central. (Just a quick aside: I wasn't a HUGE fan of the movie "Sideways", but there are some very funny moments and a good, dark comedy can satisfy one's sense of schaudenfraude like nothing else can). My parents came out to visit us, and we planned a visit full of sights and good food and drink.
They arrived at LAX Friday night, and rather than battling rush hour traffic to try to return to the "east" side, we ate dinner at Piccolo, an Italian restaurant with a small, intimate feel. The touring began Saturday with a 10 am "appointment" to the Getty Villa. We've visited the Getty Museum a few times, but this was our first time visiting the Getty Villa which is north of Santa Monica. Like the Getty Museum, it's a beautiful place (amazing grounds and architecture). I obviously enjoyed all of the museum visit:

Oops! I hope that sleeping in a museum doesn't make me out to be a TOTAL philistine. At least I went to the museum... And it was a cool space with lots to see. I will be honest, however, and say that ancient art and antiquities don't rock my world. Still, it was fun to walk through the rooms and read about Dionysus, Hercules, tales of the Iliad and Odyssey and see scenes depicted in statues or on pottery.

On Sunday, we left mid-morning and headed north and west, driving up the 1 and the 101. The weather, which had been crappy for most of the week, finally cooperated and we made our way north. Our first stop was just west of Buellton, a town close to Santa Barbara in the area that was featured in the movie "Sideways". A friend at work recommended Alma Rosa which ended up being our first stop. We were apparently the first customers of the day because they gave us rather hefty pours of nice white wines (a really great and non-oaky Chardonnay) and tons of Pinot. It was a fairly rustic winery, definitely not as polished as those that we've visited in Napa. The bathrooms were not exactly the finest, but they were clean! My dad and I made a bee-line when we arrived! Although we honestly found the winery thanks to a friend's recommendation, it turned out that Sideways (the movie) did feature it and our Lonely Planet guidebook included it as well. We felt quite trendy!

From the Buellton/Solvang area around Santa Barbara, we drove north to Paso Robles, an upward-trending town that is trying to promote itself as the latest wine-tasting mecca in California. We pulled in around 5:00 pm, headed straight to a cheese store which fortunately was still open so that we could stock up for the evening. We ended up eating a lavish dinner of wine, cheese, fruit and crackers. I was clearly excited about the experience:

On Monday morning, we set out to the coast to the charming villages of Cambria and San Simeon, the Hearst Castle being our destination. This was my first time visiting the "castle" built on what Hearst called Enchanted Hill, and it was an impressive place, to say the least. Actually, it is a bit of a marvel, to think that William Randolph Hearst decided to build and to create this showplace in such a remote yet breathtakingly beautiful place. The castle and grounds certainly reminded me of the grandeur of a past era - a table that could have fed 30 or so people, guest houses in a Spanish-style that looked fit for a king or queen (to me, at least!). While the buildings were impressive, I truly envied the view and the pool (and the view from the pool). I can even envision myself swimming in the pool, or reading a good book while I lounge in the sun!

After touring the Hearst Castle, we ate sandwiches and enjoyed views of this beach. Yet again, I kept pinching myself to verify that I really WAS in such a beautiful spot.

After devouring our sandwiches and plenty of oohing and aahing, we drove back to Paso Robles, winding our way through valleys and hills. It was SO green thanks to the recent inundations in our lovely state. Once back in the Paso Robles area, we stopped by the Tablas Creek winery which another friend had recommended. We did not love the Tablas Creek wine, but through their recommendation, we hit up Halter Ranch before returning to the hotel, and we did enjoy their Sauvignon Blanc and several reds. The day ended with an evening at Artisan, one of the best restaurant experiences that I'd had in a while. The ambiance was relaxed and fun, food was local and fresh, and prices reasonable. At the end of that evening, we rolled into bed, content to have shared good food and conversation, and a day full of experiences.
But wait, there's more! That will have to wait until tomorrow, however!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pizza and Pancakes and Thai - the ideal diet

Over the weekend, I witnessed how I would eat if I still lived on my own, and it was fun and tasty, but not very healthy in the long run. Because he wasn't feeling well, Michael lived off Progresso soup, which he has now sworn off for at least a year. Fortunately, our Costco stock usually lasts about that long, enough to get us through a few rounds of sickness. While he was slurping down different variations of processed chicken noodle soup, I was eating exactly what I wanted.
Not that I don't eat what I want, but I do try to eat like an adult - lots of greens, some protein, homemade meals to one degree or another.
With him being sick, I fully gave into my carb cravings. Yesterday, for example, I made pancakes for myself for breakfast. After a MILE SWIM (!!), I bought a frozen pizza from Trader Joe's and wolfed it down before taking a nice nap. Then, last night, I ordered Thai for the both of us - Tom Yum soup and Pad Thai.
He's feeling better, so I'm now trying to act more responsible with my food choices.
With the exception of some Sun Chips as a mid-morning snack, of course!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A quick-change artist!

About 5:00 pm yesterday, I decided that I needed to begin preparations for the social event of the evening - probably of the year. I don't often don a cocktail dress, maybe twice a year, so I try to give myself ample time to look more or less presentable for a fancy occasion. The irony is that it does not take me much longer than my everyday routine, but I assume that it will take hours upon hours!
However, I randomly decided to see if the wetsuit that a friend has loaned me for the triathlon fit (yes, I'm still planning on participating in a triathlon, although my running is game is shot these days). I have no idea why it seemed so urgent, but as you can see, put it on I did!
And it fits! Maybe not the most attractive look that I've ever pulled off, but shew! That is one very expensive piece of gear that I couldn't possibly afford to buy, and I really wanted to avoid renting one if I could. Hooray for Katie!
By the way, don't I look like a badA$$?! Wishful thinking, I know!

So, once I had it on, after much pulling it and pushing myself, it seemed silly to immediately strip down and take the damn suit off. I'm going to have to deal with swimming in cold water at some point, so I took up Michael's challenge and jumped in the pool in our backyard and swam a length. Then, I got out, ran to the diving board and jumped in again. My feet were FREEZING, but my body felt great! It was kind of a crazy thing to do - randomly jump in a pool on a cold day in March, but I think that I needed something silly and goofy before changing into more adult-like attire. In less than an hour, I was sporting something like this:
While this was not exactly my dress, it conveys the main idea: the ubiquitous LITTLE BLACK DRESS! I know, I'm so boring. There actually was a THEME involved in the party/fundraiser that I attended last night, but I decided to play it safe (= boring). I did, however, wear new shoes that I purchased at Bloomingdale's in San Francisco way back when, and they were great. And I also had a nice blue wrap, so I wasn't completely boring. While I did not have a *fantastic* time of it, I also did not find myself cursing every moment of the evening. So, not a raving success of an evening, but not a flop either.

I really don't mind dressing up or attending social events, but as goofy as I look in the wetsuit, I find it far more inspiring, if not quite as fashionable. So, to end on that note, here's another shot of how cool I am in a wetsuit:

I'm totally ROCKIN' it! Splish splash!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Changing plans: A low-key weekend

So much for a long and very hilly ride this morning; the rain washed away those plans. Yes, I happen to be a fair-weather rider, I will admit the fickle nature of my lackluster cycling passion. Looking at the forecast, it does not bode well for the rest of the week, although I will hope for the usual mistakes on the part of the Weather Channel. And so, rather than a nice ride outside, I will pretend that a super intense spinning class can make up the deficit. I suppose that it is better than lounging around the house, moping about the weather.
In addition to the weather prompting far less ambitious plans for the weekend, Michael caught the flu-bug that seems to be making its way around the part of Southern CA. I am simultaneously trying to be sympathetic and play nurse while also cursing under my breath that he had better not contaminate me! So much for being the perfect wife.
I realized, however, that it is not all bad, his being sick. Not for me, at least (it looks as though he feels like crap, and he certainly doesn't sound great). We - or I - usually push so much during the weekends, trying to go and do and see, that laying low is a nice change of pace. I have graded a few compositions, enjoyed a late breakfast, given the dogs some attention. Not bad.
I will, however, miss Michael as my date to a social/work function tonight, but a friend and I will make a nice twosome. Michael's "delicate" condition might provide me with the perfect reason to bolt on the early side, so maybe I won't curse him, even if I end up hacking up my lung later in the week?!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fun myths about teachers and teaching

"Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym."
Apparently Woody Allen's twist on a George Bernard Shaw quote popularized the idea of "those who can't do, teach". On the one hand, I find it a bit insulting since I have spent the better part of my adult life teaching, but I can't help smiling at the sentiment. Michael and I watched "School of Rock" on Friday night, and Jack Black's character repeats this phrase to a table full of teachers, a scene that I always find hysterical. Despite the fact that I am, to a slight degree, "the man" at the school where I work, I'd like to imagine that I'm Jack Black - or his character - inspiring students to stick it to the man, to rebel, to ROCK! The closest that I come to being that type of a character is to cancel homework for a night.
On a different yet related note, I did enjoy Nicholas Kristof's recent article in the NYTimes in which he advocates higher pay for teachers. Not that this will happen with budget cuts and all that fun stuff, and I can't complain since I am not a public employee (working at an independent school and all that). Still, one of the details that he throws out is this: In 1970, in New York City, a newly minted teacher at a public school earned about $2,000 less in salary than a starting lawyer at a prominent law firm. These days the lawyer takes home, including bonus, $115,000 more than the teacher, the McKinsey study found.
Kind of depressing.
In the meantime, I will be putting on my fancy dress clothes this weekend to hobnob with parents and local dignitaries, people who probably make the equivalent of my salary in a week. Thank goodness there will be free alcohol, as I plan to imbibe. Not that the free-flowing alcohol is a valid reason to work at a certain institution, but it certainly does help at times.
I know, I know... I'm supposed to vouch for my passion for 'the children', and I do happen to teach some pretty great kids, but I am not an altruistic do-gooder.
As for some of the myths about teachers and teaching:
- We have TONS of time off! Okay, we do, but we also don't. For instance, I absolutely consider the fancy-schmancy party to be work. I will have to talk to parents about their children whom I teach. That = work.
- Speaking of students, we never trash-talk about our students. Never.
- Nor do we have favorites. Not at all.
- Students ALWAYS learn when they are having fun.
- Anyone can teach. (This one happens to be my favorite)
On this note, I'm so inspired to finish the week off tomorrow. Hooray!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Not a girly-girl (but sometimes a mean girl)

I've been seriously unmotivated these days - regarding student papers that I need to grade. I believe that I have a case of spring fever and cannot concentrate, and the weather and change to daylight savings have conspired against me. Thus these wonderful photos to illustrate that point:

Yesterday, in Santa Monica, enjoying the awesome weather.

En casa, with yellow cauliflower posing as flowers - and some ghosts in the background! We ended up eating the cauliflower for dinner.

Moving on to other topics that do not include the weather or my total aversion to work... Michael and I attended an afternoon spin class today which I assured him would be not as hard as some other classes we've attended. I think that he wanted to push me off the bike at a certain point in the class, because she kicked our butts! One of my favorite mental activities in which I engage while spinning has nothing to do with having a great workout. Confession: I like to find people who annoy me, and then I enjoy watching them be annoying. Total sick and perverse, kind of like looking at a car wreck. Today, I zeroed in on these two women who CLEARLY were newbies to spinning (like I was a few weeks ago). Unlike my experience - when I did not want people to know that I was new to spinning - they seemed to flaunt the fact that they had no idea what they were doing, "rode" with poor form, were dressed pretty much identically (ubiquitous yoga pants and a tank top) and giggled periodically and inappropriately. I do go to class with a friend on occasion and/or with Michael, but I don't see it as a social hour. The socializing can happen before or after, but it shouldn't happen DURING class. Jeez and sheez!
So, yes, I'm very judgmental when it comes to things like women acting, to me, girly. Maybe it is the type-A side of my personality that on occasion rears its ugly head. Maybe it's that they remind me of my middle school experience when I hated the cliques of cute girls, mainly because I was not a part of them. While I can be feminine - for instance, I don't mind wearing heels on occasion (if they are comfortable), will definitely shell out the bucks to get a pedicure, like clothes and all that jazz, I sometimes believe that I have a 'girly chip' missing, at least the one that lets me giggle. I don't mind being somewhat feminine, but I'd rather laugh out loud over a bawdy joke than giggle. Give me a dirty martini over a cosmo, even if it's just to look tougher than I am.
To add to the lack of giggle and on a different tangent... It does make me wonder that most of the students who comment on my "get-ups" (as Michael likes to call the clothes that I wear to work) are boys. Okay, that makes me sound like I'm pulling the sexy teacher look. Not at all. I have these two students, male, both very quirky, who seem to like my Doc Martens, French fisherman's sweater and this punky-bracelet that I occasionally sport. While I would like to think that I'm trending in a 'cool' fashion, I actually believe that these two kids like my so-called style because they would wear certain items that I happen to don.
I'm not sure what to make of all this or where this all came from. Spin class? A student asking me if I used to be into punk? Too much time to ponder my own life?
All of the above? Check!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not living "in the moment"

I am not going to rant about the month of March, really, I am not.
I will say, however, that booking a quick and easy get-away for the Memorial Day weekend at the end of May did make me just a wee bit too ecstatic. Seriously, I was bouncing around the house and reading up on San Diego. It's the perfect weekend trip - a mere 2 hours or so away from home, a cheap but decent place to stay, beaches, good weather, taquitos (they apparently originated in San Diego), a lobster BLT, margaritas...
I do realize that San Diego is a hop, skip and a jump down Interstate 5 from where I live, but, as lame as this is, I have never been to San Diego while living in Southern California. This is now my ninth year total in the Golden State, and I've only been to San Diego ONCE for a job conference-thingy. I shared a hotel room with a friend - not a romantic one either. How lame is all of that?
There are many things that I have to survive before and after Memorial Day, but just the thought of this weekend trip gives my step a bit more of a lift and makes me feel lighter. I realize that many people focus on living in the moment. I, however, have now happily eschewed that for a totally different mantra:
I *will* make it to May. I think I can, I think I can...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

March Madness

I realize that's about the most over-used and therefore unoriginal title for anything, but whatever. It's probably trademarked to boot. However, it does aptly describe my state of mind/being, which is far from being zen, at peace with world and content with myself.
If I remember correctly, March is a bit of nightmare work-wise, but I forget about that quality until I'm actually experiencing the nightmare. Perhaps that's a good thing, because I don't dread it, it just *happens* and then I hate my life for the few weeks until spring break finally arrives. I know, I know, I'm complaining about March when it does deliver some gift - that oh-so desired and necessary week off from students (not, usually, from work). But in the meantime, I feel AP exams looming, too many distractions for the students and reasons to slack off, along with a short day here, missing a day there. Plus, there is this event that I have to plan and then the worry that comes with the event (will I pull it off or will the head of school fire me?). And, finally, the curse of the second-semester seniors has hit, so I find myself running after students far more than I like to do.
Woe is me.
To top it all off, I have felt very frustrated about the foot situation on the one hand, and then freaked out about the entire concept of the Wildflower Triathlon. At some point, I planned to dedicate some thought to the "Why compete in a triathlon?" question. Now, since I've downgraded my entire approach to the triathlon from the "compete concept" to "just finish it and don't be last", I think that I'll save the deep thoughts for another day.
I have, however, spent plenty of time thinking about the Tri and how it is now 8 weeks away (Oh, Fuck!) and how I should be ratcheting up my so-called training program. Should, should, should. I finally got out on the bike again today, after much berating myself all week. Michael accompanied me, and we had a fantastic ride around town! We started with a pretty major climb - I think we were averaging 2 miles per hour on it, or something super lame like that - but I remember doing this climb back in the fall, and I actually felt great today. Also, major points for me - I did not fall, although I almost did as I came home. So graceful.
So, cycling continues to not cause any issues for my foot, which makes me quite happy. I realize that I sound like the most boring person in the world now that I've seriously dedicated myself to limiting my walking. We had snow in the mountains the past two weekends, and I missed it because of my left foot. I haven't even taken the dogs out for walks these days!
On a totally different note, I am chaperoning students on a bus today/tonight to see our basketball team. I have spirit, yes I do, I have spirit! Go team go!
See, there's your March Madness!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rockin' das "boot"!

I'm tempted to submit a full fashion shoot of myself with this awesome new accessory - it is *just* that sexy! Yes, the doctor recommended THE BOOT, and as much as I wanted to resist and protest, I'm also determined to be a good patient (for a change). While the good news is that the third metatarsal (I'm excited that this experience has expanded my miniscule knowledge of the foot and its complex structure) is not fractured, the doctor did not share my optimism over the inflammation. He kept repeating "severe, severe, severe", and then expressed his concern that if I kept walking on it and did not rest it or keep it immobilized, then it possibly could fracture.
So, yes, I opted for the boot, in part because I know that I am not fully resting the foot and that I will not teach sitting down and give it the rest that it probably needs. I wouldn't say that it's impossible to teach while sitting, but I find it challenging to engage with a class while I'm sitting on my ass. The doctor did say that we could take it week by week, and I will give the boot one week, maybe two, and hopefully it will heal (it actually felt better just last night - funny how that is).
I was also open about my hope/goal to finish a triathlon at the beginning of May. Oh, yeah, big announcement: I'm training for a triathlon! Or at least I was hoping to... So, I'm still training and hope to "compete" as much as I can. I have, however, downgraded my expectations!
But because I can still swim and bike and will hopefully give the foot time to heal, the tri is still on! He did ask how I was dealing with the fact that I couldn't run, and I brushed off the question, pointing to the swimming and cycling. While I am relieved that I can still work on the other skills - more on that later - I did not directly answer the question. When I think about it, however, the situation does provoke frustration tinged with anger and a bit of depression. Despair would be too damn dramatic, so I will reserve that emotion for something worthy of desperation, quiet or not. But I didn't run for years, and returning to running was like the cliché, 'new lease on life'. I do feel the injustice of it all - after all, I did not go crazy with running, did not run crazy mileage, varied the terrain where I ran, rested more than enough! And now this?
I can turn all of the possibilities and injustices around and around in my brain, and it will accomplish nothing.
Apparently, the best and only thing that I can do is REST. I even asked the doctor, with naive hope, if I could do some PT to help with the healing process. He said that I could do as much PT as I wanted for the rest of my body, but not for the foot. Funny, I suppose, that I've become such a believer in the idea that something can be done to fix an ache, pain or injury, and being the masochist that I am, I can take the pain and suffering of PT. When the doctor prescribes rest and recovery, that poses a far greater challenge.
I am, however, determined to meet that challenge with flying colors. Thus, the boot, no vigorous walking, and even when the foot starts to feel better, continue to rest!