31 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days :#15

#15: Does Anybody Hear Me?

Ok, it's been two weeks of me attempting to blog regularly. I know two weeks is nothing in the span of 100 planned entries but I'm starting to feel like Atreyu. I've started out on this quest and I don't know where it's leading or if I'm getting anywhere. For all I know this could just be the means of getting a shy little boy to give an Empress a new name.

Basically, I'm asking for a grain of sand people.
Just one comment to let me know that I'm not writing into the ether. And if I am, maybe I need to get the word out. Feel free to tell your friends. But right now I just want to know: Does anybody hear me?

Take it away Shannen!

30 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days :#14

#14: Lazy Hazy Crazy Days

One thing I love and hate about Northern California during this time of the year is the weather. This is when the summer is really kicking up. The past few days have been 80-90+ degrees and absolutely gorgeous. The problem is that it's so incongruous with what's happening around you. School starts about nine hours from now and if I want to be at the beach, I can only imagine how the kids feel.

It's also tempting to spend your time outside of work at the bar or restaurants a.k.a. spending money. My solution to that is usually to stay inside. Today, I watched about 3 movies and twisted my hair, which is an all-day activity. But I would have loved being on a beach. So school starts tomorrow and summer is officially over ... and I'm already looking forward to the beginning of summer again.

29 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days :#13

#13 Real Food

Today I went to the Eat Real festival at Jack London Square in Oakland. Initially, I wasn't even sure if I would go. My friend Ashely had invited me to volunteer at the festival and since I knew that I couldn't commit to that, I decided not to make any plans. But this morning, I knew I wanted to check it out and I'm so glad I did.

The idea behind the festival is to showcase affordable and good for you street food as well as staging cooking demonstrations and contests. All the food plates were under $5 and there were also plenty of free samples. I spent under $20 and I was there from 2 p.m until 9 pm. The majority of my money was spent on beer but I still managed to have plenty of free samples by spending time with the brewers and learning about the different types of beer and how to make them.

I tried some raw milk and learned about the benefits of it. I also tried some delicious plums and great jams and olive oils. I got to watch two sets of butchers go head to head and break down an entire quarter of beef. And the best thing about it (other than all the free beer) was that I got to see where my food started out and where it ended up. Everything was fresh (and delicious) and most importantly, I knew where it came from and even got to meet the people who farmed it.

It was nice to know that the food i ate didn't have to be expensive to be good. The one plate of food that I purchased cost $5 and it was a plate of collard greens and ribs with a sample of catfish. I was completely full the whole day and buzzed for about 90% of it. I don't know if these Eat Real festivals will continue throughout the nation but they should. We've moved so far away from our farms to our tables that we don't know what's good for us and what's bad. It was nice to reconnect but what was even nicer was to be full and not break the bank.

100 Issues for 100 Days :#12

#12: Lack of Short-term Memory

I did it again. One of the problems with updating on a Friday is that it's Friday and literally every thing goes out of my mind. The second is that I have a lack of short-term memory.

It's something that I've noticed developing over the past five years or so. I have get recall for facts, odds and ends and details from long ago but sometimes I have a hard time remembering what I did an hour ago or even ten minutes ago. Yesterday was one of those days when I talked about this blog, I thought about what to write and then when I walked in the door I thought, "what did I want to do again?"

It's come to the point where I have to do things when I think of them or they'll be gone out of my head by the time I get to it. So I promise there will be another update later in the day and next time, I'll blog when I think of it or at least keep a pen and pad handy.

27 August 2009

100 Issue for 100 Days: #11

#11: Bowled Over

Yesterday we did a training on emergency procedures for our school. First of all, I'm glad our school even has a procedure. I know many don't and the ones that do barely practice it, but that doesn't take away from the fact that emergency procedures have come to encompass so much more than they used to. In addition to contingency plans for airplanes falling on the school (I know. Apparently it happened to a co-worker), there's now the ever-pressing possibility that an intruder or a student might enter the school with a gun.

One of the things that I've learned is that schools spend tons of money on fire safety yet the amount of school fire deaths is next to nothing each year. This is while school violence and violence related deaths rises by 300% each decade. And what many project is that these school shootings are only a precursor to future shootings in the workplace. School shootings have moved from middle school, to high school and college. This makes perfect sense because for kids, school is their workplace and if they aren't able to handle the emotional and physical stress of high school, what's going to happen when there are paychecks, bills and potential offspring involved?

It's hard to believe that this is the reality of the American school system but it is. We now have to practice "lockdowns" and think about how we would react if a gunman managed to make it into our room or if a tanker flipped over near the school. It's good to be prepared but mainly I'm just bowled over.

26 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #10

#10: Hurrying Up to Get Nowhere

One thing that I'm continually learning is that life is about balance. Even though our school has moved and is in transition, this is my second year working with the same students and I want to reflect that in my life.

Many of my colleagues are trying to ensure that they are not staying at school until 7 or 8 p.m. Since the majority of my work happens in the afternoons, I'm working to make sure that I don't let my short-term goals (creating a writing center, establishing a high-school leadership structure) overwhelm my long-term goals (applying to business school, writing, creating a space for my personal life).

What I've noticed about myself and my colleagues is our tendency to become consumed by our student's lives and problems. The truth is it's hard not to. when you're a teacher, you're not dealing with numbers and abstractions. You're dealing with actual people, in real time and 90% of them are dependent on you and susceptible to your every word and action. It's a heady feeling and the pay scale that's associated with the job doesn't remotely reflect its importance. But this consumption can't override your own life. For the past three years as I've struggled to establish myself in a new state and new work environments, I've let that balance slip. For me, it means working harder to ensure that it doesn't happen anymore but the reality is that one of the best ways to do that is to detach from my students a bit. Otherwise, I'm hurrying along and getting nowhere.

25 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #9

#9: Ain't Nothin' Goin' On ...

But the rent. Currently, I find myself in a precarious position rent-wise. I'm working hard to take out small loan to get me through September because of the way my jobs pay periods are set up. I would take out an advance but then I'd find myself doing the same thing a month from now.

In all honesty, I know I brought some of this on myself but I think this problem is compounded by two things: the configuration of the academic year and California's current financial problems.

To tackle the first one, my school ended in late-June. School resumed mid-August. This gave me approximately 6 weeks of vacation. Not enough time to get another job (at least one that didn't involve working with kids all summer) and enough time to blow some money while on "vacation". So I returned to Oakland somewhat refreshed and extremely broke.

And how does the economy play into this? My school is going through some major changes. Some for the good (new, amazing facility). Others for the worst (no room for financial growth). The new position I interviewed for was cut after the state slashed it's budget and although there are some fringe benefits this year (new computer) there are still expenses that the school won't cover (a $10 hike on monthly transportation pass means $80/month to ride the bus).

Which brings me back to where I am. I need to take out a loan and I need to put in every extra hour I can. Unfortunately, that puts me in a position where I can't drop off the loan papers because I'm working at the school from 8 am - 7 pm everyday. Any suggestions?

24 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #8

#8: Quarter-Life

Yesterday I went to see two movies, (500) Days of Summer and Julie & Julia. I mostly went to see them because I was in the mood for a big-screen version of a Lifetime movie and beause of my long-standing girl crush on Zooey Deschanel (not to mention my regular crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Both movies were entertaining, enlightening and mostly sweet but later as I reflected on the two I realized that both brought up an essential question that people my age grapple with: what do we do when what we thought our lives would be, are anything but?

The main character in
(500) Days. Tom, is a guy who always had an idea of what falling in love would be like. Most of it was based on what he saw in the movies. So when he meets Summer, he pretty much ignores all the obvious signs of why they won't work and is devastated when it doesn't, although the audience can see it coming from a mile away.

Similarly, in
Julie & Julia, blogger Julie Powell embarks on a mission to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in order to prove to herself that her life and her friends, that her life (at 30) has not been a failure.

Basically, these two people, in their late 20s/early 30s, have almost given up hope on love and career. And the reason we are able to go on this journey with them is because for many people my age, we find ourselves in the same place. We wonder what we did wrong or what we're missing that we haven't found love or been able to succeed at our passions. Personally, I'm in both positions. After 26 years of life, I've never been in love. And professionally, I struggle with being able to follow my passion or paying the bills. Lately, I've managed to find a bit of serenity in realizing that when those things do come, they will be epic. And they will be right. I guess right now I just have to trust that everything I'm doing will have to pay off otherwise it'd be pretty damn hard to get through the day.

23 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #7

#7: The Cleaner

Yesterday was the last day of my Master Cleanse. For six straight days, I consumed a 1.75 L mixture of water, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. As I told my friend Shannon, it was motivated by two main reasons: I've been drinking a lot since I was out of town & I was trying to push back buying groceries for as long as possible. Eventually, it became a battle of wills that lasted until I ran out of maple syrup.

The first few days were hard. I fast-forwarded through food commercials and until I started chewing gum, not having something in my mouth was the hardest part. On Day 3, I started to adjust to the hunger but not chewing on something had taken it's toll and I did cheat a bit. I was hanging out with some co-workers and I ended up having a few garlic fries and a piece of zucchini. I don't know if that resulted in the sluggishness I felt on Day 4 but that day in particular was the hardest. After work and an evening meeting, I came home and crashed around 9:30. The next morning when I did my Salt Water Flush (SWF), I could feel it all throughout my body. I felt cold and wrung out but once i was finished, Day 5 was full of energy. Days 5 & 6 were the best of the process. I felt energized and even went out again, this time to see my friend's band, The Get Back at Pier 23 in SF. And although I cringed a bit when the waitress described the menu to the table next to me, I stuck to my guns and didn't even have a drink. Yesterday, I went shopping in anticipation of the end of the cleanse and walked through the farmer's market without trying one free sample. I also managed to do two loads of laundry and unpack some boxes (yes, I still have boxes even though I've lived here 3 years).

Basically, if I decide to do the Master Cleanse again, I'd make sure to get plenty of rest, stock up on gum or mints and use at least 2 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt when flushing. If you're considering this, know that the SWF is a bit gross and takes awhile to finish. You basically poop liquid but if you get it all out, you feel energized after. A co-worker, who does this regularly, asked me what I learned from doing this and I'll tell you what I told him: I learned that I'm hungry! I really like food and eating and I'm going to use this as a way to reset the clock a bit. Ease back into eating and drinking well. But I'll never forsake food, it's just too delicious.

22 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #6

#6: Where's the Beef?

Today (thanks to my job cutting back my hours) I was able to enjoy a small pleasure I usually just see on my way to work: The Grand Lake Farmer's Market where I also scored this great eggplant at the right. I've always found farmer's markets to be a lovely experience. Although it's mostly touted as something that White people like, going to the Grand Lake market illustrated that it's anything but. I found a very diverse group of people, both sellers and buyers. And though there is a certain "crunchiness" to the farmer's market crowd, there was also different spirit that I saw there. It wasn't about pretentious, vegan eaters but people who just wanted good, fresh food.

I've always had a pretty healthy and diverse diet. I don't obsess about what goes in my mouth but I do take note of it. As the amount of money in my pocket dwindles, I've had to make some hard choices but I think I've also found a nice balance of fresh and wallet-conscious items.

1. Ramen:
I came back to this after many years of disdain because my house-sitters left behind a few packages when they left. Instead of turning up my nose, I decided to combine my fresh veggies to the mix and to go easy on the "flavor packet" that's included in the package. I used my own spices and topped it all off with fresh cilantro and a few basil leaves.

2. Beans:
I tend to get a lot of my protein from meat. I'm a carnivore to the fullest, but beans are a good way to get protein and are much easier on my budget. So instead of eggs and bacon, this month I'm going to try eggs and black beans.

3. Fresh Herbs:

A lot of people are afraid of getting fresh herbs because they don't last very long. After walking around the farmers market (I always do a full lap around before purchasing anything), I found the best deals on basil and cilantro ($1/bunch) and to help them keep in the fridge, I've placed them, stems down, in glasses of water.

4. Sweet Treats:
Each month, I treat myself to a "sweet treat". Last month, it was a box cheesecake (because it freezes, I still have some left). This month, it's mango slices. Mango slices can also be frozen and they're great with hot sauce, a trick I learned from my friend Kira.

Before, I used to spend about $100 per month on groceries, and now I'm trying to bring that amount down to $50. That means eating at work (luckily my job contracts with a company that makes healthy school lunches) and cooking more at home. Hopefully, I won't have to skimp on taste and flavor just because my wallet is skimpy.

21 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #5

#5: Gilmore Girl

Today the movie Post Grad premiered in theaters. I haven't seen it yet but this is a subject that is close to my heart. I'm so glad Alexis Bledel is playing this role because I feel like if Gilmore Girls had continued, this would have been season 8: Rory returns home after she realizes that it's near impossible to find a job after college.

What they don't tell you is that if you don't want to work in a cubicle, finding a job that pays more than by the hour or even finding a job in your field of interest is pretty much a pipe dream. I've been out of college for 4 years and I still feel the pressure everyday to run home to my mom and live at home. And with the recession and looming college loans, it's hard not to identify with this film.

Being a college graduate is not enough in this economy. You have to bring a lot to the table and even more you have to be willing to sometimes work for nothing if it's what you're passionate about. Which brings me to my second point. The other thing that makes this movie so relatable is that it's about a white, upper middle-class female. For most first-in-their-family or loan-taking (read: of color) college graduates, the option of taking your time to find a job is nearly non-existent. You have about six months before those loan payments kick in and your parents start to kick you out. For most the question is not "what's your passion?" but "when are you going to make your own money?" And for those pursuing a passion, the grumbling doesn't stop after you leave your old bedroom. I still have to listen to my mom ask me what my plan is and where am I going and my favorite is "when are you going to get a real job?". In this economy, I have one piece of advice for this year's college grads. Stay in school.

*UPDATE: Check out this Post Grad review by TheReelAddict

100 Issues for 100 Days: #4

#4 Lighten Up ...*

... It's just FASHION! In honor of Project Runway's return to the airwaves, I thought I'd talk about personal style. Lately, I've been working my way through the latest issue of Marie Claire. I say, "working my way" because it's surprisingly dense. I've never read an issue of the magazine before so I was surprised by the depth and breadth of the articles. And as I'm nearing the end of the issue, I'm find myself caught up in the fashion spreads and inspired by their cover girl, Ashley Olsen.

I'll admit, I've always been a fan of the Olsen twins. I grew up on Full House and although I was more of a "Stephanie" or a "DJ", I always had a special place in my heart for Michelle Tanner and I'd hunker down on a Sunday and watch many an Olsen twin flick on ABCFamily. But I've never seen either girl as a fashion icon, until now.

Although both of their lines Elizabeth and James and The Row are very high-end (read: More than I'll ever be able to afford unless that sugar daddy thing comes through *fingers crossed*), what struck me was Ashley's philosophy on style. she admitted readily to cutting up dresses or jackets worth thousands to create the right fit. And she holds on to every piece of clothing she's ever owned. And at the end of the day she wears what feels right to her. You have to admire that.

One thing that I'm really striving for this fall is to take more risks with my weekend fashion. Given my job it's a little hard to be too avant garde during the week but I'd like to try more out. Finding new ways to wear my clothes (I have enough) and focusing on buying new things that I need and not things that are trendy. I may never have the closet that Ashley Olsen has but I can adopt some of her quirks. And we all need to lighten up ... it's just fashion.

*I know this was a bit late but I got home and crashed after work. I'll update again later in the day.

19 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #3

#3: Long Distance Friendships

You think that being in a long-distance relationship is hard? Try a long-distance friendship. I've had to deal with long-distance friendships ever since going to boarding school. The first thing I learned: some friends are not defined by time or distance. To wit, I have a friend whom I've known since the 1st grade. We've been separated by distance and time, sometimes going more than a year without speaking. He is and will always be my best friend (and my mother's hope for grandchildren). On the other hand, I've been away from New York for three years and some of my friendships have shown major wear and tear.

First, there's the married/pregnant friend. When I was home most recently someone told me, "You're a good friend because you don't have a husband, a boyfriend or a kid" (not too harsh at all). I agreed. I don't have those things. But I give plenty of leeway for the new mother/wife status. You need time to adjust to those things. Still, a true friend checks in. In this age of communication, a text will suffice.

Then there's the "I know you already traveled across the country but can you also come directly to my house?" friend. This is the most insidious type of friend because when you're away they tell you how much they miss you, and when you tell them you're coming home they fawn over you and make promises for nights out and days walking around. Then there's the arrival ... and the inevitable excuses. I've concluded that the break down is as follows: Traveling home = 50% of the effort, Calling to arrange plans once you get there = 20%. If this friend can't make the last 30% happen, you are completely absolved.

Finally, there's the friend you've grown out of. In the world of friendships this is common but time and distance exacerbates things. Moving leads to growth and while you're gone some of your friends are essentially standing still. The jokes that were funny before aren't any more. And the neanderthal comments that once rolled off your back are now lodged somewhere on your shoulder, kind of like a chip.

What I've learned to do is evaluate each of my friends critically. Some friendships cannot stand the strain of distance. But unlike a romance, it's hard to cut someone out of your life who's been a fixture for more than a decade. So the question is: do you cut ties or loosen them? I tend to be a cutter.

18 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #2

#2 Premium or Unleaded

Today is the day my cable bill is due. Don't get me wrong, any other day I would happily pay my cable bill and keep on truckin' but there's one tiny problem: I am BROKE. And I don't mean broke like I'm skimping on that new pair of shoes (I saw a great pair of second-hand yellow pumps for $35 at this store, by the way). No I'm broke like "I'm on a week-long cleanse cause it means I can draw out the time until I have to buy groceries" - broke.

Back to the cable bill. I also have a huge weakness. I LOOOOOOOOVE my television. It's kind of sick. When I add up the amount of television I watch per week it's at least a part time job. So while I'll never give up my cabe outright, I am thinking of cutting back on my premium channels. What does this mean? No more HBO and Showtime. For most people this is a small sacrifice but every time I come close to cutting the cord I think, "No more True Blood? No more Weeds?
and my hand hovers over the "remove" button with trepidation. And I know I can find these things on the interwebs somewhere but for the same reason I can't get myself to commit to a Kindle, "it just ain't the same".

Right now I hover on the brink. But my (empty) wallet will push me over the edge.

17 August 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days

I tried really hard to write a post around my birthday about love and horoscopes but it didn't quite work out but now I've moved on and decided to do something different. A friend of mine who's a poet completed an anthology called "100 Poems for 100 Days" I've decided to do something along the same lines, 100 Issues for 100 Days. Now this can be as small as "Love and Horoscopes" (I haven't given up on that post) or as big as "Global Finance" but each day I'm going to try and tackle something different. And I am committing to 100 Issues for 100 Days, which by my count means I should be done by Nov. 24th. Let's see how it goes people.

#1 Healthcare Reform

Let's face it people. We are in the trenches. It's November 2008 again and people are yelling "Obama's a Muslim!" and "Don't change my Amurika!" It's sickening and frightening and it's sad. I'll confess, I haven't read the healthcare bill and to be perfectly honest, I'm sure there's plenty of things wrong with it. And ... this one's a biggie ... I'm not sure if I think our government can necessarily run healthcare well. BUT I do know this: I am a 26-year old woman who works two jobs and does not have health insurance and that's wrong.

There is a sickening idea that has come out of the "American dream" and that is the idea that anyone who doesn't have prosperity has not "worked hard enough". Therefore, if you don't have, it's because you didn't want to have. And if the government helps you it's because you are lesser and unworthy and "good people" have taken pity on you. The people currently opposing healthcare reform would have you believe that it's a zero-sum game and the poor are coming to take what you have. And they'll kill your grandma, give your 12-year old an abortion in the backroom of her school and anything else it takes to make it happen.

This country needs a reality check. The truth behind these allegations is vast and multi-layered but ultimately no one is seeking the truth, they're just trying to scare everyone. The ironic thing is that these people rail against terrorists but utilize the same tactics. They are stifling real debate that would make this bill the best it could be so that every citizen would come out on top, not just the rich or the insurance companies but everyone who needs and wants to lead healthy and productive lives. Because essentially that's what this comes down to lives. Like I said, I may not know everything but I know that I
am a 26-year old woman who works two jobs and does not have health insurance and that's wrong.