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Friday, January 1, 2016

For The Love and Hate of The New England Patriots


Me heading to work on Opening Day
I’m getting myself in trouble even beginning this. Why? I love the NFL. Like stupid crazy love. Like if you’re a guy who doesn’t have 17 weeks of Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays already marked on your calendar as “sorry, I’m busy” days, there is zero chance for a second date. I love the sport, the play calling, the yelling at the TV screens, the beautiful game of chess and evasion and collision that manifests in a gorgeous dance of speed and power across 100 yards of turf. I don’t know every Super Bowl fact or every player’s statistic or the name of all 32 teams’ defensive coordinators. But I know football. And I know that I love it. And that is enough. It is enough to feel my heart rate accelerate before every kickoff on Sunday morning. It is enough to bathe in the beauty of it for four months of the year, and go through withdrawals every time it leaves me in the beginning of February.

And let’s get something straight. Contrary to popular belief, Tom Brady is not my first love.

The NFL is.

And in order to write this, I’m going to have to shed a little light on my true love. And what's under that light is a little ugly. When you choose to love someone, you love them wholly and completely, regardless of their faults and vices. And let’s do a little math (and Captain Obvious common sense): the NFL has 53 players a team, if you’re not including the practice squad. At 32 teams, that’s 1696 players who were not hired for their moral uprightness, but for their passion, drive, and intelligence of the game.



One thousand six hundred and ninety-six.

Since last year and Deflate Gate, I have received an avalanche of disparaging remarks when people see me don my #12 jersey: 

“How can you support a cheater?” 
“I thought you were a good person.” 
“Of all teams, you’re a PATRIOTS fan? You?” 
“Tell me you’re from Boston. There’s no other excuse.” 
“I can’t believe you can actually feel okay wearing that.” 
“How can you have a crush on such a fraud?” 
“They are the most dishonest team in history. And you’re a fan?”

I must clarify that I rarely hear these comments among fellow football fans. They’re usually from those who don’t follow the sport, yet feel the need to attack it as if they own stock in it and have a Masters in the game that they’ve most likely never sat through four quarters of, except during the Super Bowl with a good multi-layered bean dip to keep them on that couch.

Mind you, I never rebut these comments, as I have often found people like to hear their opinions as universal truth, and then move on. Any defense I could offer would bore them, as they don’t care about the sport anyway, much less my opinion. Plus, I cannot nor will not justify that my team was innocent or clueless of the deflation.

Brady over my right shoulder (oh, and my parents and Jen - haha)


At the game 3rd quarter

This year, I was lucky enough to fly to Denver and watch the Patriots play the Broncos in a sold out stadium of orange and blue. 


I was at the 50 yard line, fifteen rows up from the field, stomping my frozen feet for four quarters of snow. Denver’s back up QB Osweiler held his own against an injured Pats defense, and in OT, they took down the Pats and their undefeated record. It was heartbreaking, but still an incredible experience, even as my parents (big time Bronco fans) would reach to hug me every time their team did something magnificent.

Of course I came back home to comments like, “It’s about time the cheaters got brought down,” and “Sweet justice.” People rallied around Denver, the heroes who conquered the enemies, The Robinhoods who served those thieves right! Yes, my sweet non-NFL-watching hecklers were defending Denver.
 

Let’s travel back to 1998. Let me introduce you to three fantastic Denver offensive linemen: Brian Habib, Gary Zimmerman, and Mark Schlereth. It was the AFC divisional playoff game and the Broncos won in Kansas City. Fair and square, right? 

Well, except for the Vaseline.  

Yep, those three linemen were fined after it was discovered that they lathered each other’s arms in Vaseline pre-game. My friends and I used to play water polo in the Delta River with a watermelon that we slathered in Crisco. Ever tried to catch one of those? Yeah, impossible.

You wanna compare advantages between Crisco linebackers and 1.6 PSI? I don’t. I’m not justifying one over the other. I’m just reminding us all that these players were not picked out of a church lineup. They love to win. I get it. But let’s not come up with patronizing nonsense that the team who leads the NFL with suspensions for Performance Enhancing Drugs DESERVED to take down the New England Patriots.


And a note on PEDs. If you’re going to play the comparison game to conclude that the Pats are SO MUCH WORSE in their cheating tactics than any other team, let's just remember that PEDs increase risk of injury to other players, and THAT is far worse than a ball that is more catchable. Since 2010, the top three ranked teams for PED suspensions are the Washington Redskins, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Indianapolis Colts. In a four way tie for fourth, you have the Baltimore Ravens, The New York Giants, the St. Louis Rams, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All of the above teams have had more PED suspensions each in the last five years than The New England Patriots have had IN TOTAL SINCE 1960.

But the Pats have a reputation! Remember when they filmed games and defensive signals? Yes, I do. But I also remember in 2010, when the Broncos also secretly filmed, except it was of the 49ers walk-thru practice. And THAT is illegal, on or off the field. What the Patriots did is actually legal and common; it’s just not allowed from the field. Had it been in the stands, it would have been no harm, no foul.

But Belichick is such a cheat. Other coaches aren’t as shady as Belichick.

Are you a Jets fan? Do you remember when Coach Sal Alosi was suspended for the rest of the 2010 season after he intentionally tripped the Miami Dolphins corner Nolan Carroll running up the sideline?

He’s not the only coach who has forgotten that he’s not wearing a jersey. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin walked on the field and into the line of Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones as he was returning for the kickoff. Jones literally had to move out of his way and into a tackle.

Raiders fan? Then you may know that your owner Al Davis once posted a sign in the locker room that read “Raider Rules: #1. Cheating is encouraged. #2. See rule #1." Does that mean they cheated? Nope, but it doesn’t seem like your owner is frowning on rule-breaking.

However, while we’re talking Raiders, it is important to note that Stickum was only made illegal after the 1980 season when Raider Lester Hayes would cover himself fingertips to elbows in the stuff. Did it work? Well, he did intercept 13 passes and receive the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. You be the judge.


NY Giants fan? By far my favorite of the shady NFL moves is from Linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who wrote in his autobiography that he would routinely hire escorts the night before football games to “entertain” the running backs he would face the next day. The escort’s job? To “weary their legs.” Ha! Talk about covertly preying on men’s weakness to give yourself the advantage. Well played, good sir.

I could fill pages with different players in the 32 teams who have cut corners, helped themselves, and hurt others in their fight to have every advantage on Game Day. They’re fierce. Not flawless. Notorious. Not noble. No one ever said they were noble. 


Should there be consequences? Absolutely. I’m not trying to advocate for a rule-free league. However, before you come down on the Patriots as THE cheaters, take a step off the field and back up to the nosebleed section. Look down on the NFL as a whole. Add up every team’s multiple violations, from PEDs to Salary Cap infractions, from Vaseline and Stickum to dance/sex partners hired for their opponents, and I think you’ll find that the New England Patriots are far from the front lines in the ranking of “scandalous teams.”

As for Deflate Gate, let's take a look at the two refs' measurements of the footballs at halftime (credit: nbcsports.com):
So, no, they weren't all at least two pounds under, as originally reported. But it doesn't erase that most were one pound under. One is still one.

Here’s my quick stance on the deflated balls: I don’t think my coach was aware of it, and if you know anything about NFL coaching, you know that when preparing for a game, the footballs are not even on a coach's radar. That’s petty janitor work, when he's the principal: he's assuming the classrooms are ready for students, but he's not checking the desks for gum. He's dealing with the important administrative logistics.

But sadly, I can't say the same for my quarterback. Brady’s too good to be ignorant. If he didn’t do it, which I don’t think he personally did, his hands would have still recognized the difference. Brady is good. Really good. No one, no matter how much he or she may dislike Brady’s fame or good looks, denies that. Brady is damn good. He knows his football as if it’s another appendage. And therefore, I only have two options: he either knew or he didn’t know. Here, his talent deceives him. You can’t be that good and not recognize the meticulous differences. Would it have changed the outcome? No. That’s what’s so disappointing about it all. It would be like Michael Phelps wearing invisible fins. Why, Michael, why? You're good enough to kill the competition without them. 


Do I think the balls were deflated in the same way I let air out of a soccer ball? No. I think they were inflated to 12.5 PSI in a warm inside environment on purpose, knowing that Mother Nature’s cold weather would do her magic. Subtle. But nothing new. Andrew Luck does the inverse. He has his footballs inflated in the cold outside on purpose so that his footballs naturally increase in PSI in the slightly higher temperature of the field. It’s preference.

Aaron Rodgers has admitted to overinflating his footballs. CBS broadcaster Phil Simms recalls Rodgers stating pre-game, “I like to push the limits of how much air we can put in the football, even go over what they allow you to do.” Does it help with his grip and confidence? Probably. Do I think he’s a cheater because of it? No.

Brady can throw a deflated ball. He can throw an overinflated ball. He can throw a regulation inflated ball. And would you be able to tell which is which if you just watched his throw? No. Brady can throw a helium balloon as if it were a rocket. I think it affected the catching more than the throwing, but then it really just comes down to good field playing, because if you can intercept, it’s an easier catch for you too.

So is it that big of a deal? Eh.

Every team is guilty. Every. Single. Team. Yet The Pats are the ones with the mark on them.
Which leads me to the question, why so much hate for The Pats? I mean, truly, there is no middle ground. It’s crazy passionate love or vehement hatred. 

I think it’s because America loves an underdog. We rally, don’t we? We tune in for the Cinderella teams who squeak into the March Madness bracket. We are America: the eternal optimists. Believers in miracles through enough hard work. We fight for the impossible. We hope for the hopeless. Look for life among the ashes.

At the end of the day, I see a team who is really good and a coach who is never pushed around and a quarterback who is that talented. And hot. And married to a supermodel. And dammit, just stop it already, New England! Why would I cry for the popular head cheerleader who loses an earring when she is basically nice with awesome parents and a sexy-and-good-to-his-mother boyfriend and no financial struggle. Can she just trip going down the stairs? Just once? Or get a gnarly wart on her face?

I get it. I do. And you are perfectly entitled to hate whatever team you want. What I’m trying to prevent is the untrue absolute that The New England Patriots are more deplorable than 31 other teams and their naughty shenanigans.

Newsflash: They’re all naughty. And for the 17 weeks in the regular season, I will park myself in front of multiple screens and soak in the bliss of a beautiful and well-crafted symphony of strategy and strength known as the National Football League. Because at the end of the day, the scandals and shadiness are far outweighed by the beauty and sexiness of the game. I love all 1696 of you. Play on.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My "Grand" Movie

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels." -Hebrews 13:2

There's such a beauty in going places alone. For me, it's the heightened awareness of the people around me. People are fascinating and quirky and beautiful. Everyone has lives full of both great things and sucky things. But they all have their stories. And if you look closely, you can have your own front row "movie" every day.

Today, while traipsing through five miles of the Grand Canyon upper rim alone with my dog, here were the characters I was lucky enough to have enter my movie reel:

The foreign couple speaking their native tongue in quick words that felt giggly and devious; then I noticed they were trying to get a photo of the boyfriend peeing over the edge of the Grand Canyon, but tourists kept rounding the corner every time they got set, which resulted in the boyfriend repeatedly doing a frantic "zip up" that left the girlfriend doubled over in fits of laughter.

The old lady in the wheelchair who was so excited to tell me that they couldn't figure out why she couldn't walk after her operation, but she wasn't going to let it ruin her vacation. Her daughter was riding a mule for the first time because her granddaughter, who was a rodeo star, couldn't go alone on the mule ride down the canyon since she was only 12.

The homeless man with the dog who played with my dog for 20 minutes, who used to live in L.A. but bought a van, gave up work, and is now secretly sleeping near one of the Grand Canyon's campsites. Every day, he walks to the upper rim to enjoy the free nature talks and sunset walks.

The lovebirds making out on the bench who have been married for 52 years and were on a road trip from Florida. Florida?! My butt would be sore after Memphis.

The man from Connecticut who was bringing his daughter's car across country for her so she could have it in college. Dad of the Year Award.

Caitlynn, who asked to pet my dog, then asked my name. When I told her, she said, "Oh, that's great! I'll never forget you. That's my sister's name." Sure enough, three hours later, someone yelled "Heather!" across the parking lot, and I looked up to see Caitlynn waving both hands wildly like we were old friends, and she had missed me so much through the years.

Today was a grand movie.



But today actually started a long time ago.

Back at summer camp when I was in junior high or high school (the memories merge), there was a campfire talk. The guy spoke of something profound and life changing, I'm sure, but all I remember is one phrase: "That's a huge hole." He was speaking of his visit to the Grand Canyon, and no doubt it was some extended metaphor to our walk with Jesus or our plight through the scary halls of middle school, but all I remember was the humor of his understatement as he recalled staring into the vastness of the canyon and saying, "That's a huge hole."

I remember laughing when he said those words. It's funny what the brain holds onto. Maybe it was because the speaker wasn't easily impressed, and the size of this "hole" made him stagger. Maybe it was just because he was a funny guy, and he made me laugh. Why do we remember what we do?

Years later, I don't recall the point of that talk, whether it moved me to improve my morality or to square my shoulders back and walk with a new "hell yeah" confidence, but I do recall his four words: That's a huge hole.

Since then, and primarily because of that campfire moment, I have wanted to visit this huge hole. Today, en route to visit my parents in Colorado, I finally went.

I walked to the edge and looked down. There it was. I looked out. There it was. I looked to both sides of me. There it was. And like I did at campfire years ago, I laughed, only not from the humor but from the truth. I found myself saying out loud, "That's a huge hole."


I mean, what else can you say? There aren't weighty enough words to encapsulate what it truly is. Epic chasm? Gargantuan gorge? Colossal cleft? Those words minimize the reality of what your eyes can't even take in fully. It's just this huge... hole.

I'm struck by why those four words stayed. But they did. They played a part in me getting here today. They played a part in my "movie watching": the dad driving his daughter's car 3000 miles to her because he loves her, the lady in the wheelchair rolling around the Grand Canyon because she loves to get out and live, the homeless man who loves a good sunset, my instant old friend Caitlynn who loves all Heathers, and foreigners in the midst of their peeing shenanigans who love a good memory.

I'm reminded of so much today.
I am small.
That's ok.
People are beautiful.
That's a huge hole.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Yet"

 Look, I’m no Olympian (though I’ve hilariously tried to be, but that’s a blog entry for another day.)
 I’m no Hope Solo, but I love being the girl who can dress up on a Friday night, and then hold her own on a soccer field with guys on Saturday morning.

There are always faster people, stronger people, better people. My friend Tiffanie Novakovich can kick my butt any day of the week in a Spartan Race (like serious leave-me-in-the-dust-ass-kicking), but still. I can pull off a 5:40 mile (as long as I don’t go out with Taylor Scarnato the night prior). I'm ok with that.

So when I forgot about climbing Mt. Whitney until a week ago, I thought, “No problem, sis. You’re an athlete.” 

Turns out there’s one small detail I didn’t take into account:

Altitude cares very little for athleticism.

I knew Mt. Whitney was high. Like nosebleed high. In fact, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 states, standing at a daunting 14, 505 feet. But still.

Hulda Crooks climbed Mt. Whitney when she was 91 years old! 
I could do this.
Tyra, Natalie, and I started our ascent late. We meant to start at 4 AM, but didn’t hit the trail until about 6 AM. So what did we do to counter that?
We booked it. I mean HAULED. We ate as we walked, powered up the 99 switchbacks, and only stopped for quick bathroom breaks and water purifying.
 
This might have been Mistake 1. One of the first causes of AMS is rapid ascent. To Natalie and Tyra’s credit, they had been at 6000 elevation for the past three days; hence, no big deal for them. We had climbed over 2000 feet by 7:36. Altimeter reading: 10,040.
We did the first 9 miles in less than 6 hours. I was drinking enough water (3 liters), eating enough food; I was golden. 
That's Tyra and Nat showing that they've hit 12,000 feet elevation.
Somewhere around the next picture, I became light headed. Like “ready to pass out” lightheaded. But that’s how I feel during every race. You learn to suck it up and keep going. No room for whining. It's only 11:01 AM. You can't complain when it's still Mimosa hours.

 And then, 1.9 miles from the top, something switched. Notice Tyra is still great. She's like, "Okay, I'll stop to give you the 13,000 sign, but seriously, let's keep this moving!"

Meanwhile, my simultaneous thought was, "Hey, 13,000 feet, what the hell did you do with all the air?"
I told Tyra and Nat to go on ahead. Hitting the summit is a freaking HUGE deal. Like HUGE huge. I wanted that for them, and I didn’t want to slow them down. I would have been annoyed had they stayed back with me. If you’re an athlete, you get this. 

Plus, there were myriads of hikers, and only one trail. NBD. I wouldn’t lose them. Besides, I would make it; my fierce competitive side would will me through this. I would just be slower.
Once again to their credit, when they left me, I was fine. Head space was good. I was just slower. But as I hiked, I became a lot slower. Suddenly, things felt… swimmy. Drunk. I was not just wobbly from fatigue. My brain was getting confused. I remember telling myself “up.” And taking a step, sitting, taking a step, sitting. I was aware I was confused. But I would coach myself, “Where ya going, Heather?” Then I’d answer me, “Up.” And I’d take another step. Then sit again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I remember three college guys on their way down stopping. One touched my shoulder. “Hey, do you have water?”

I nodded, and my head fell back. “Whoa, kid,” I heard one say as I stared at the sky. They filled my water, sat with me, talked with me.  My head cleared again. 

“I’m so close,” I told them.

“We get it,” the African American one said. “But breathe every time you take a step. Go stupid slow.”

“Stupid slow,” I repeated and gave the thumbs up.

I started walking again. “Slower!” one shouted from behind me. “Remember! Stupid slow! Step- Breathe! Step- Breathe!”

I trudged along. But it took too much coordination to breathe at every step. I’ve never been “wasted” drunk. Usually my 2-3 drinks puts me in a “dance-party-with-the-world” mood, but I don’t get kicked out of bars. And making out with you? You'd have a better chance at winning the lottery. But this was drunk. Way drunk. Enough-to-get-arrested-for-public-intoxication drunk. I crawled for a bit. Then sat again.

At some point, another guy sat down with me on his descent. I never got his name. “I’ll catch up,” he told his group. He pulled out a small can of oxygen. “Hey, you want a hit?” 

I nodded hungrily, pulled the trigger, took a hit, and the world was clear again.

“I don’t get it,” I said after a few minutes and five more hits of oxygen. “I’m breathing up here. But nothing’s happening. It’s like I’m not.”

“You should turn back. You know that, right?”

I nodded. “My brain feels fuzzy.”

“Too much nitrogen, not enough oxygen. There’s probably a little fluid getting in the way. Altitude sickness. It’s only getting worse from here on out.”

I looked at him. He looked at me. I bit my lip. “You wanna keep going,” he said, like we were old friends and he knew what biting my lip meant.

“A little bit further?”

He shrugged. Didn’t like the idea, but told me if I felt anything bad, to stop immediately. I sent him on his way to catch up with his group.

I tried again.

It’s all a little blurry from here, but I remember being ok. Making some good progress. Then turning a corner, and not being able to breathe again.

Only this time there was no one around. I willed myself not to panic because I knew I’d have even less air. With my head between my knees, I looked at my altimeter. 13,760. I was only 745 feet from the summit. This picture took me four attempts. I couldn't quite remember my passcode or where the camera button was.

And then it hit me. If I couldn’t breathe at this altitude, what made me think I could breathe where it was 745 feet higher? It had taken me five minutes to go about 25 feet. But I had ½ mile left.

I.
Was.
Done.

The realization was awful. I just wept. Big heaving little kid sobs. Alligator tears. Everything in me wanted this. The peak. I could see it. But I knew something was off, seriously off. Game over.

When you grow up in team sports, you learn how to lock it up quickly. There are no meltdowns on the field. No crying because you're losing, or because someone screwed up your play, or because a ball smacked you. Can you walk? Then walk it off. The word "yet" helped me to lock it up. No, I hadn't made it to the top.

Yet.

Mt. Whitney wasn't going anywhere. Of course I was going to come back. As soon as I relented and accepted a plan for "next time", for the three-letter-full-of-hope "yet", it no longer felt like defeat.

At that moment a hiker came by. I sent him up to tell my friends I’d wait for them at 12,000. I needed to get lower quickly. The drunk seasick confusion wasn’t going away.

I stood and started walking down. But remember, I was a little confused. Like had you asked me a question, I might have just taken my finger and played with your lower lip. 

Maybe ten minutes later, I looked up. 

I was on a giant boulder, surrounded by hundreds of other large rocks. I turned 360 degrees. I had. NO. Idea where I was. No sense of the trail. In my effort to get "down", I had forgotten to use the trail. That's how confused I was. And who knows when exactly I had left the trail?

Not a soul in the vast barren wilderness around me. And I was a tiny speck in comparison to the world of rocks on all sides of me. Had I been hiking for ten minutes? Or 20? I couldn’t remember.

“Hello?” I called out.

No answer.

"Oh fuck," I whispered.

Sure, I pray all the time. But the words that erupted were raw. Intimate. Oh, crap-ish desperate. “Hey, Jesus, so you made these rocks, and I’m in them. You've gotta help me, buddy.” My voice felt very tiny.

And then I had a Bear Grylls moment. His number 1 rule: Stay calm. When you let anxiety take over, that’s when you make dumb decisions and get hurt. 

Number 2 rule: Find a source of water. It's funny how quickly I switched from "get down to your car for a cheeseburger" mode to "survival" mode.

I saw a lake a couple miles below me. Who knows what lake? But there was a lake, and thanks to Ryan Wiley who packed my backpack, I had rain gear, and some really warm stuff that fit in these itty-bitty pouches. I’d be ok. All was well again. Should I hike down to that water and stay the night?

I had the thought, Stay where you are. So like a three-year-old lost in the mall, I did. I sat and called out. It was like performing CPR on a dead guy and getting no results, and all the time, your heart is beating like mad and you’re begging the air for some sign of life. I was sitting in silence surrounded by cliffs and rocks with no sight of anyone. Over and over I called. Nothing. Twenty minutes later, The CPR worked. The dead guy breathed.

“I hear you!” a guy’s voice echoed. “Keep talking!”

So I did, and way above me, a teeny face appeared.

“Where are you?” I asked him.

“On the TRAIL!” he yelled, like DUH! “Where are you?”

“Um, good question!” I climbed towards his voice, boulder by boulder. When I finally reached him, I wrapped my arms and legs around him like an octopus and sobbed into him like he was my best friend back from the war. “I’m totally buying you a beer,” I promised this stranger.

Turns out I had led myself about 200 yards in the opposite direction of the trail. But perfect timing. Right when I reappeared, Tyra and Nat came back into view.

“Hey, guys,” I said sheepishly. “I took a little detour.”

So new friend Chris hovered like a blue heeler, herding me in as I stumbled down with my friends. And literally a couple steps below 13,000 feet, my head cleared as if I had never tasted alcohol. All my faculties came back, and though my legs felt wobbly, my lungs felt brand new. I could've run the 10 miles back to the car.

We did enjoy a cheeseburger when we returned to the campsite six hours later. 

Looking back, I'm thankful for every minute of it. The joy, the fight, the struggle, the defeat, the confusion, the rescue. We need things to throw us on our asses from time to time. I was reminded of how paradoxical we all are. Fragile but fighting. Controlling yet helpless. So stupid. So lovely.

Somehow it blends to form something beautiful.

Hang in there, everyone. Nope, you may not have reached your "Whitney".

But don't forget the most important word.

"Yet."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A tribute to Periplaneta americana Linnaeus: THE COCKROACH

Moving to a new classroom this year.
Yesterday, I went in to organize.
Look at this lovely treat I found:

Yummy! Apparently cockroaches get stuck on duct tape (I tell you, duct tape can be used for ANYTHING!) I think one cockroach got stuck, and since cockroaches are attracted to dead cockroaches and excrement, the rest of them were like, "Yes! Lunch! Oh crap, I'm stuck."

Cockroaches are fascinating creatures. It is estimated that 2 cockroaches are enough to populate an average size home in one year with enough cockroaches to go one meter deep. Not even making this stuff up. There are at least 4000 species of cockroaches in the world. Only 70 in the United States. Most live in Florida, home of navel oranges, old people, crocs in swimming pools, and apparently 41 species of cockroaches.

They're resilient little creatures. Probably because all they need for food is their own excrement and each other. Yep, they're cannibals. And omnivores. They also love bread, stale beer, wine, alcohol, fatty acids, and peanut butter... can you blame them? They crave damp even temperatures (like my classroom) with great places to hide in the walls. They're survivors.

Because they survive and multiply like mad, they are the financial backbone of the pest control industry. Why do we want to exterminate them? Oh, I don't know. Maybe because they carry fungi, viruses, protozoa, and 40 kinds of bacteria (gross stuff) pathogenic (that can cause disease) to vertebrates (that's us). And they're middle-guy hosts to flatworms. Yippy.

And with their crazy diet and all the diseases they carry, they still scurry around like they go to the gym every day. As much as I cringe and have a quick body spasm every time I come across one, I equally salute the little vermin.

What America can learn from cockroaches:
They're resilient.
They're adaptable.
They provide jobs.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hi, Colorado

As you can tell, I tend to be a little inconsistent in life (AKA blogging every day and then stopping for no apparent reason). I have many days that I'M bored with myself, so I figure why make other people's lives more boring by making them read about it?

But a friend told me that I need to blog just to blog. So here I go. This one's for you, Sean. Blah.

Today, I'm in Colorado. I surprised my mom for her b-day by showing up to the parents' RV. It's one of the great things you can do when you're a non-breeder -- just pick up and go.

So I showed up at the doorstep of their camper, (Dad was still out fishing), and I said, "Hello? Anybody home?"

She responded, "Can I help you?"

Then she stared at me for a second as all the synapses were running amok in her, processing why her daughter was in the wrong geographic location... was she delusional, was I dead and swinging by on my way upwards, and then it hit her. I was here. For reals.

You'd think a bear was attacking her the way she screamed. Sadly, no one came to her rescue, which makes me think they need to revamp the Neighborhood Watch policy among retirees of Dolores River RV Campground.

She regrouped, cried, and then laughed, and then planned... the entire range of my mother in a 30 second interval.

Yesterday we drove to Telluride.

It's the weekend of the Jazz Festival, so the place is bumping. It's also home to the popular film festival most creatively named, "The Telluride Film Festival."


If you've never seen this cute little "tucked away like a tooth in your pillow" ski town, here are some pics.

Yep, that's a waterfall in the distance. Makes you catch your breath, doesn't it?

Telluride is one of those small towns who still have signs hanging from all the storefronts announcing what they are:

And houses with strict building codes to preserve that "historical look".

And in the backyard of the main street, you'll see the ski runs.


In the past 24 hours with the 'rents, I've noticed one of the quirky and beautiful things of a 40-year-old marriage. My parents have their own language.

Example:

MOM: (lying down for the night) Oh, I forgot to get a glass of water.
Translation: Husband, please get a glass of water for me.

And he does! Every time! He doesn't try to correct her the way our teachers did when we would ask, "Can I go to the restroom?"
TEACHER: I don't know, CAN you?
Didn't you always want to say back, "Seriously, you DON'T KNOW if I can go to the bathroom? Have they lowered the bar on what you have to know to become a teacher?"

Back to the parental units, Dad (on autopilot) translates in his head, gets up, and brings my mom a glass of water EVERY SINGLE TIME! Happily! It's crazy, I know. But love is a funny animal. And love each other, they do.


It happened all day:

I jotted this note on my iPhone --

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As we exit the campsite to head to Telluride, Dad is driving. Mom is talking on her cell phone. She actually says into her phone, "Oh, we never made my nail appointment. Oh well." She points to the left anyway.

My dad, fluent in the language of Mom, makes a left, (even though Telluride is to the RIGHT) because what she really means is, "Can we make the appointment before we head to Telluride?"
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I often stare wide-eyed and open-mouthed at their crazy non-communication communication, wondering how many sentences they have created that actually mean something else entirely. They have no problem with it. No one asks for clarification, or gets annoyed that they don't mean what they say. They know what they mean. And that is all that matters.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My thoughts on Obesity

There are many interesting things I could talk about on my blog today...

1) Why do they call it "walking pneumonia"? I don't feel like walking. I feel like "laying". Why don't they call it "Knock you on your ass pneumonia"? Much more accurate.
2) What do they put in that dog food? Seriously, my dog can evacuate a country with that flatulence. And why does she insist on laying down next to me before she starts evacuation procedures? I'm slowly being asphyxiated as I write this because of the "Knock you on your ass pneumonia" nailing me to the couch (see #1).
3) What's up with our fat country?

#3 wins.

Strangely, as I'm finally getting around to grading old essays, the topic most on my mind today is obesity. One of the units we discuss every year in English class has to do with the alarming increase in childhood obesity in our nation. Here are some crazy facts:

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control)

2-5 year olds (percentage who are obese)
1980 - 5%
2008 - 10.4%

6-11 year olds
1980 - 6.5%
2008 - 19.6%

12-18 year olds
1980 - 5%
2008 - 18.1%

Crazy, huh? So there are many articles written by extremely intelligent people who differ on their opinions of who is to blame. The parents? The lack of nutritional content offered to make an informed decision? The lack of alternatives to fast food for kids in low-income neighborhoods? (The obesity rate is higher for inner city kids. You can't exactly tell that kid to go outside and ride his bike.) Is it the marketing that combines cute cartoon characters with junk food? The lack of physical exercise in schools? Maybe it's the super-sizing and portion distortion that's making America's waistlines pop at the seams. It's a crazy debate, and not an easy solution.

Nor is this blog a platform for me to rant to you about my political position on this topic; I have none. I can only read the articles and help kids write organized essays about them!

But I find these facts fascinating so I'm going to share.


On the portion distortion topic:

Do you ever wonder why they call the small size at starbucks a "Tall" and why the medium is called "grande"? How annoyed do you get when you say on accident, "Can I have a medium?" only to have the Starbucks barista correct you and say, "A grande?" And you have to say yes, even though everything in your logical mind knows that grande means "large" in every freaking language.

It's because Starbucks hopped on the super-sizing band wagon when they realized it worked. The sizes used to be "Short", "Tall", and "Grande", which totally makes sense. But who wants an 8 ounce nowadays, really? They discontinued the "short" and introduced the "Venti" -- 20 ounces of your sipping pleasure.

They did this case study at Cornell University with some movie-goers watching Mel Gibson's movie "Payback". They gave half of the audience each a large bucket of popcorn, and the other half each received an extra-large bucket. Nobody finished off their bucket, but when the researchers weighed all the leftover popcorn, the group with the extra-large buckets ate 45% more. CRAZY! Therefore proving if you put more in front of us, we're gonna eat more.

And not that our country needs any more financial problems, but between 1987 and 2001, diseases associated with obesity accounted for 27 percent of the increases in medical costs. I won't bore you with all the statistics about how much diseases related to Type 2 Diabetes are currently costing our nation, but do a google search if you're curious.

I have no conclusion to this, no great finale to send you off to the gym, and I'm only writing about this because I went to the movies the other night (saw DATE NIGHT - totally recommend it). While I was there, I noticed they now post the calorie content of your "movie meal".
I love the range of soda calories: oh, between 2.8 and 444.

In case you wanted to add some cheese and bread accessories to your popcorn, coke, and twizzlers, here are some more fat-free numbers:


I guess there are people out there who need clarification that water does in fact contain zero calories. Did anybody else's jaw drop to the floor when you read that nachos are 1400 calories? Whaaa?

In case you're going into hibernation, here's your one stop shop for getting an entire season's worth of calories in one meal.

P.S. I totally almost got kicked out of the movie theater by a 16-year-old concession stand girl who was indignant at me taking pictures of the prices. She made me erase them from my camera... which of course I did, as you can tell.

Monday, May 17, 2010

In the Classroom: Lessons in Irony

Written on my board by my student My'Jina about another student, Scoey:

"Scoey is a dumby"

Shouted across the room by my student Traysha at another student, Ronald:

"What do you mean, 'can I spell grateful?' If you go to church, you know how to spell fuckin grateful!"

Yelled at no one in particular by my student Jilvonnie about CST's (California State Testing):

"Why do they give us these tests if we don't know the any of the answers?"