Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year; A New Beginning

Yes, the title sounds trite, but this year it holds a special meaning for me. Every year we make resolutions, only to break them. Every year we all complain about our jobs, our friends, the government, etc., and where does it get us? Nowhere!

So this year my "new beginning," or resolution is to be more optimistic about things. Times are so tough for everyone it seems, so why complain? As I write this, hundreds of my colleagues are lamenting going back to school tomorrow after two weeks off. I choose to look back and say "Wow, thank you God that I get to do something I love and get two weeks off at Christmastime to relax and celebrate!" Of course, we teachers do work VERY hard and often long hours when school is in session, but that is besides the point. I also am very thankful to God that I still have a job when millions are out of work right now.

Now does this mean that I'm going to be a Pollyanna and never get bothered by things? I'm only human, so the answer is no! But what I can do is fight the good fights. Change what I can (or try very hard to do so!), accept that which I cannot, and ask God to help me know the difference!

So to my reader out there, Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Getting My "Phil" of Philly

Ok, so that was a rather cheesy title, but all of you who know me, know that's my personality! Last weekend I promised that I would upload some pictures of my sightseeing at the NCTE/NWP conference in Philadelphia, so here we go!

The Philadelphia Mint, where they print money. So tempting, but I resisted!

This is Christ Church, one of the oldest in the country, and where Congress used to meed before conducting the business of the Country. Many famous early Americans were also regular parishoners. This is a night view; I toured it during the day though.

Christ Church during the day.

A view of the pulpit of Christ Church. There are two plaques that hang on either side of the pulpit: one is inscribed with the Ten Commandments, the other has the Lord's Prayer.

Looking up at the choir loft from the pulpit. Though I love the architecture and ornateness of the Byzantine Rite, the simplicity of the Early American Christians is equally amazing.

This is the first bank of the United States. It was actually run by the government, which made me think about current circumstances. The plaque on the building says that a national bank was controversial, and after its original charter expired it was never renewed. Now the building is used for the parks department and isn't open to the public.

Here is Besty Ross's house. I did tour it, but no pictures were allowed. All I have to say is that place was TINY, and a couple of families lived in this one little building! It makes for an interesting comparison to today's Americans who desire humongous houses

Several streets in the historic district still have brick pavement. I rode in a charter bus as we went from the hotel to the convention center, and I became much more grateful for even roughly paved asphalt roads!

This is probably my favorite shot from the weekend. I tried to get a daytime picture of this, Independence Hall, but I was too close. But on Saturday night, as I was walking back to my hotel, was a block away from it, and got a perfect shot!

If you look closely, the name of the building on the awning reads "Mr. Bar Stool"! Yes, there is such a place!

They are only open on Sundays? Man! I was hoping to bring home a few!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Night Reflections on NCTE

So for me the conference is effectively over; tomorrow at 6:30 AM I begin my sojourn back to Schererville. I'm always a bit sentimental at this point in time because these three days have really helped reinforce for me why I do what I do. Not only do I get to attend some great workshops and see some big names, but I also get to reconnect with people that I see only at this conference.

But so as not to get too teary-eyed on my reader (notice the singular form!), I'll just re-cap this weekend with some key things I've learned:

1. I'll be sure to keep finding hotels with free breakfasts. I saved good money each day!
2. Wireless connections in hotels are not always as good as what I have back home. Case in point: it took me about an hour to upload pics yesterday!
3. The 10%/30-second rule for copyrighted material is not actually law, and we all have more rights than we thought when it comes to using it in the classroom. Don't believe me; let me know and I'll tell you.
4. Barry Lane is much shorter than I thought. I had heard he was short, but he's short. That doesn't take away from his awesomeness though!
5. I need to buy a better camera. I tried taking some pictures from 100 feet away from the subject, and I ended up with horrible pictures!

Luckily I did get a lot of great pictures, and next weekend I'll put together a pictorial of my adventures here. But to Carrie, Carla, Nancy, and Art, thanks for a great little reunion at the Robinson Dinner. It truly is a highlight of the weekend.

Orlando, you may think because you have Disney World that you can handle large crowds, but just wait till NCTE/NWP descends in fewer than 365 days!

Billy Collins Live!

Who is Billy Collins? He is a contemporary poet and former poet laureate (2001-2003) who has made it a goal to help kids rediscover poetry. This year's annual National Writing Project Meeting featured him as a speaker, and he was great! I bought two of his books and got him to sign one for my students!
Connie Farrell, Dr. Carolyn Boiarsky, and I. We all work together at the writing project.

Billy Collins reading some of his great, sardonic poetry.

Billy Collins signing my book!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

If it's November, it's NCTE/NWP Time!

I'm very fortunate that I get to attend the annual meetings of the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Writing Project each November. And because I work for the Northwest Indiana Writing Project, it's all paid for me. On top of all that, the conference is held in different cities each year. My first year it was New York City, last year was San Antonio, and this year is "the city of brotherly love," Philadelphia.

Today was all about just getting here and getting to know where things are. You may have heard about the major computer problems that tied up flights all around the US today. My flight was delayed, but not because of that. No, my flight was over an hour delayed because of the weather. in fact, you'll see from some of my first day pics that it looks more like Seattle than the East Coast!

But here are some of the first day pictures. My hotel is in the historic district, so you know I'll be doing the tours and sightseeing in the area! Unlike last year, however, my room looks out on I-95, not the Delaware River (that would be the OTHER side of the hotel).

A view of the weather and cool architecture. Like San Antonio last year, there are very old buildings with a distinctly historic shape next to very contemporary buildings.

I ate my first meal in the Reading Terminal Market. From what I can tell, it's an old train station that has rows and rows of booths of all sorts of food vendors. You can buy fresh fish, fair market produce, handmade candy, and of course, get a Philly Cheesesteak.

Here's what my meal looked like. This is a traditional cheesesteak. It's meat, onions, hot peppers, and...I'm not kidding...Cheez Whiz! When I was offered that as an option for my cheese, I said, "really"? to which the guy taking my order said "Where are you from? No local ever is shocked that traditional cheesesteaks are made with Cheez Whiz. Don't knock it till you try it." So I did. And it was good!

More tomorrow!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cassidy's First Birthday!

Two posts in one day? Move over 2010, the Apocolypse is NOW! I just got home from my niece's first birthday party. I can remember cuddling her at the hospital on the night she was born, and now she's walking!

Mom and dad getting ready to open presents!

She is pretty good at opening her presents...

Who doesn't like a rocking horse? Cassidy apparently. I think she didn't know quite what to make of it, especially since it neighs and the tail wags!

Cassidy got some cool presents, including this handmade doll.

But she really liked the wrapping that the gifts came in.

...I mean really liked the wrapping...

...I mean REALLY liked the wrapping!

Seriously, for Christmas, I'm going to wrap some empty boxes for her!

My sister baked cupcakes, including the gigantic one with the candle. Unfortunately, Cassidy was too intimidated to smash her face in it, so it was still intact!

Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?

There is a Polish tradition of setting out a shotglass, a coin, and a Rosary on the first birthday. If the baby grabs the shotglass, it means a life of drinking, the coin a life of money, and the Rosary a life of faith.

Yes, it looks like she's going for the shotglass...

...but in the end she grabbe the Rosary.

A nice picture of my sister, niece, and my cousins Gina and Maria.

No Shave November?

So it wasn't until last weekend when I saw my good friend Kevin that I first learned about "No-Shave November," an unofficial rite when men refuse to shave. The next week in the teachers' lounge the topic came up again, and my good friend Brandi told me I was too strait-laced to go without shaving.

Not being one to turn down a challenge, I said "it's on!" So it's been about a week, and I did clean up a little of the edges this morning (I'm flying later this week, and I don't want to look like a total slob in front of my students!), but I refuse to shave until the end of the month!

Here's some pics in progress:

More pics to come as progress is made!