Friday, November 20, 2015

Paris vs. Beirut, All Lives Matter, Mais Nous Sommes Amis!

Merci pour votre amité, la France!
I'm not addressing the tragedy that occurred a week ago in Paris.  My love of Paris is fully documented, and the French people are the most lovely I have encountered.  No, there seems to be a petulant cry from some saying, what about our tragedy?  Why don't you care so much about us? Specifically, Beirut and Kenya.  It's because we're not white, right?  That's the only lens we see anything through, and so that's it.

The French people are, have been, and will continue to be our friends.  They have been our friends for a very long time; in fact, since before we were even a country.  They have been a long, true, dear friend of America, and friends are there for each other.  Because I am willing to sympathize with my close friends, does that mean I cannot empathize with acquaintances, or even people I do not know?  Of course not, but for our true friends, we will come over with a box of tissues and a patient ear.  And, so we sit and comfort our good friend, la France.

There is pain and suffering everywhere.  It is not that we don't care, but there is a term compassion burnout.  Well, if there isn't, there should be.  Close friends are there when we need them, as France was during 9/11, and we reciprocate now in their hour of grief.  It's what buddies do!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

CB2 Pendant Drum Shade Update in the Style of Tord Boontje

This is what a half million dollars
gets you in NYC - a bathroom closet
in the dining area and faux wood particle
board kitchen.  Geez!  Oh, right, I added this to
show the original light fixture, not to complain!
I have trust fund baby taste on a public school teacher's salary.  It could easily stink, but I consider it a challenge to create custom things, close to the original, pricier versions, on a budget.  It will never be immediately gratifying, but I usually get what I want eventually.  Back in 2009, we bought our home, and it was gross, especially the kitchen.  One of the first things to get replaced was the kitchen light fixture, which was faux pink and white stained glass in one of those 1950's, upside-down tulip shapes.  The whole kitchen was a disaster, but the light I could fix right away.  CB2 had a nice, modern drum shade for, at the time, $59.95, now $69.95.  It may have been the one saving grace of the space.  Now, six-plus years later, it's become a bit dingy, and in my snazzy new kitchen, it was receding into the background.  Time for an update, but the dreamy Emil Stejnar snowball pendant goes for over a grand, so, what's a girl to do?
am I right?

Pretty close to the actual thing,
If there's an upside to the alarming pace of rental price increases in New York City, it's liquidation sales.  Yes, we've lost many an institution (F.A.O. Schwartz, Toys R' Us Times Square and the Subway Inn are some of the latest casualties), but I scored two great pairs of shoes at an ousted Aerosoles location, and today, at my local A.C. Moore craft store "relocation" sale (to an as-yet-undetermined site) I got me some sweet bling for my boring shade.  Yay, mercenary landlords!  I scored a Tord Boontje style laser cut felt border for the low, low price of $0.60, normally $3.99!  What?!?!   The downside?  I couldn't find any two in the same color, but isn't that the reason spray paint was invented?
And, I'm off!
So, first I started by spraying down the blotchy Eden pendant with bleach, then plain water, because I've learned from experience that the whole enchilada needs to get wet, or the stain will just move to the edges of where you wet it, plus, I didn't want the shade to disintegrate from remaining imbued with bleach.  Then, I grabbed my nearest can of silver spray paint, and soon all the felt borders matched.  In a fortuitous bonus, it came out looking like a French metallic silver lace bracelet by Paz Sintes that I swooned over at the Bastille Day Festivities, until I learned its price, and then, regrettably walked away.  Since the felt was self-adhesive, I just peeled of the backing and put it in place.  

So, to recap, I now have a custom shade, with faux silver lace in the style of Tord Boontje, and the update cost me: $1.20.  Eat your hearts out, hedge funders!  Unless you have the snowball, and then, call me!
Ho-hum.  And stained!
Notice the Orla Kiely knock-off design
in the right of the photo

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Inside Out" Movie Review

How many ways was this movie made for me?  Amy Poehler, check.  Pixar, check.  Movie about an 11 year-old girl who moves far away from her friends, check.  Made. For. Me.

Dad's emotions, with Anger front and center.  His brain
looks like the panel from a sports show.
See, I moved from my home at 11, also.  It's a tough time in a girl's life to begin with.  Add to that the puberty button, and it becomes something of a mess.  Goofball Island, Friendship Island, even Family Island crumble.  Oh, how I related to this movie.  Riley cried in front of her new classmates; I spoke with a Rhode Island accent.  The entire class was mocking me when I said that a noun was a "person, place, thing, or idear".  "Idear!  Idear!"; I can still hear their voices.  Did anyone else notice that Riley, the daughter, has Joy running the controls, while Mom has Sadness, and Dad has Anger in charge?  How true, how true.

Oh, Bing Bong, it's so sad to say goodbye.
Watching this as a mother of an 8 year-old girl put me over the edge of reason, man.  Spoiler alert, when Bing Bong martyred himself as a forgotten memory, that was my first cry of the movie.  Tootie Pie has pretty much abandoned her belief in Santa Claus; the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy can't be far behind.  The second tear-jerker moment was when Joy relinquished control to Sadness, because what Riley really needed was to express her sadness.  That's something I'm still learning.

Up until now, my favorite Pixar movie was "Finding Nemo".  The irrepressibly upbeat Dory was my hero.  She always found the bright side of things, but maybe that's because she had short term memory.  Maybe that's the key to happiness.  Riley and I don't suffer, or enjoy, the same affliction, and so sadness affects us, because we remember.  Ernest Hemingway said, "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know"; I swore I'd be different.  I could be smart and joyous, but, alas, it's an unattainable goal.  I'm a mother, and Sadness is at the helm of the ship.  There is no other alternative.  But...Joy is her right hand woman, and I feel like the two of them can come to some sort of arrangement where Sadness doesn't interfere too much with the warm, happy, core memories.

The boss of Mom's brain?  Sadness.  Oh, dear.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Mermaid Costume Tutorial

This was a lot of work for very little payoff, but I guess that's the theme song of my life.  Originally, in the grandiose, what-was-I-thinking phase of the birthday planning, I imagined Tootie Pie wearing this at her 2-hour party (one hour of which was spent in the pool) and photographing her with each of her party guests.  Ya know, so each thank you card could be personalized?  Because, the only thing more tedious than dusting off my never-that-great-to-begin-with Photoshop "skills" to make a thank you card is making twenty different thank you cards.  So, that's not what happened.
 What did happen is, after many an unhappy fitting, and glitter everywhere, we used this costume exactly once, for her thank you card.  Oh, and the backdrop was used the same number of times, but that is now "art" in our basement stairs.   

All you need for this project is sequinned stretch fabric and tulle.  I followed this tutorial for the skirt.  I love the speech bubbles on the photo where her daughter was complaining that her arms were too tired.  Adorable.  For the top, I used the pattern here and followed the tutorial here.  Rather than sew it to a leotard, I sewed elastic to it, since it was not intended to be worn long nor in public.

In the photos, she is wearing a Strawberry Shortcake wig, bedazzled with a purchased pressed paper starfish that I added dimension to with a glue gun, and then dry brush painted it with gold paint.

In the card, I added waves using Photoshop, and some text.  All in all, I think the end result came out quite nice.

I Need a Pencil: Pencil Entitlement


“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” ― Brené Brown

In my twelve years of teaching, I've never been asked for a pencil.  Now, that doesn't mean that every student has always come prepared for class, nor that these entitled children haven't tried, in their privileged way, to obtain one from me.  Remember when you would ask your teacher "Can I go to the bathroom?" and the reply would always be "May I go to the bathroom."  Not once have I had occasion to use that most famous teacher line.  That's because kids today no longer ask for things, they demand it.  Rather than ask "Can I have a pencil?", they, without fail, state "I need a pencil", to which I respond, "Yes, everyone needs a pencil." or, "I know, everyday!" or sometimes, "I need a million dollars and a maid."  I simply respond to a statement of fact, not a request.  What's interesting is that in their mind, they think that they did ask for it; I've overheard more than one student complaining that "She won't give me a pencil when I ask for one."

It comes down to entitlement.  Children have been put on par with adults, but their lack of understanding about the adult world leads them to think that things are a given.  For instance, at a communion service that I attended, the priest's sermon dealt with love, and ways that parents show love.  He asked the children how their parents show their love, and each one could only come up with "by buying us toys."  Putting up with an idiot boss, getting up at the crack of dawn, getting jostled on the train or aggravated in traffic, all to put a roof over their heads, food on the table, heat, electricity to charge that cell phone, transportation, those nameplate gold hoop earrings or designer sneakers - to say nothing about not throwing them out the window - in children's minds, none of that is love.  What's interesting is that the entitled child used to be a pampered, overindulged rich brat, like Veruca Salt, but today, it is the well-to-do, the solidly middle class, as well as the poor and needy  Why?

It is learned.  It is taught when a child witnesses a parent bullying a teacher to get what they want.  Your child is watching when you display misplaced outrage at rules that you feel shouldn't apply in your case.  When you shout obscenities at a driver that shares the road but doesn't share your same driving goals, you're showing how to act like society's anoited.  A parent that tells a teacher "You will move my son!", (and, not surprisingly, later tells an administrator how she asked for her son to be moved), is demonstrating how to be an entitled, ungrateful adult.  Short term win?  Sure.  Long term gain, no.  You're modeling vulgar, crass behavior.  Not epic.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Back lit Emil Stenjar Knock-off Starburst Mirror DIY Update

Well, it took nearly a year to create enough milk jug flowers to cover the largest spokes of my Emil Stenjar wannabe mirror, but I did it.  A year of tracing, cutting, heating and pushing the cookie cutters through plastic, and around 70 glue stick batons later, I think it has its own, cool thing going on.  I also reinforced the linkage strips with hot glue, since the tape wasn't holding.  Finally, the lights fell off the back, but I will fix that when I add flowers to the smaller spokes.  Here she is, in her partial glory.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Teachers Don't Get Any Stinkin' Rights

"No greater instrument has been devised for arriving at truth than to give a person in jeopardy of serious loss notice of the case against him and the opportunity to meet it." U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter

I came across this quote, inscribed in the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse, while looking through some editorial drawings of the Boston Bomber case that just wrapped up.  It hit a chord, because, this "instrument" is being granted to murderers, rapists, child molesters, and the like, but not teachers.  You know, those horrible criminals that devote their lives to educating children?  Why should they get the same rights as those who injure and kill, right?  Screw you!, teachers, who are the 5th lowest paid occupation required to have a Master's degree.  That's what you get for wanting to make a difference.  Now, if you were to sell drugs or take up organized crime, then we'll consider giving you due process.

Notice in the sample arrest warrants their is an area for listing the offenses.  It is unlawful to arrest someone without stating the nature of the charges.  Not so with teachers, sadly.  Beneath the warrants is a redacted copy of a notice of a disciplinary hearing, in which no details of the charges are listed.  This is not an exception, sadly.  It is the rule.  How is one to defend oneself without knowing what the accusations are?  It is harassment, plain and simple, and our union tacitly allows it.

Yes,  the union.  Detractors of the union say that teachers have guaranteed employment and there is no way to fire a bad teacher.  Pro-union representatives say that tenure just ensures that teachers get due process.  In today's "right to work" environment, this is unusual, yes, but I would argue that we are not granted even this.  The system is stacked against us, and we have no actual rights at all.

It's been called a labor of love, the teaching profession.  How many of us still love it?

Monday, April 27, 2015

End Free Guaranteed Public Education

I am becoming a serious advocate for ending a guaranteed public education.  The teacher "reforms", the new standards, the insane standardized testing; none of this has worked.  And for good reason; all these "solutions" aim to put more pressure on the teachers, and this doesn't solve anything.  Stressing teachers will not fix our schools.  Those who claim that quality teachers can turn around students are quoting two studies from hundreds of thousands of educational studies. Yes, a quality teacher can improve students' test scores, but so can smaller class sizes, homeschooling, enrichment programs, increased funding, mentoring, tutoring, good nutrition, quality parenting, yoga and meditation, self-motivation; the list goes on and on.  Most of these thing require money, and some, such as quality parenting, are beyond the control of school staff and the government.  Or, are they?

I had a student admit last week, in front of his snickering parents and all of his teachers, that he did not read the passages for the ELA test, and simply guessed on all the questions on the high-stakes, standardized test.  When I informed the testing coordinator of this, she told me there was nothing that could be done, and that it happens all the time.  Remember, this child's "performance" will be used to determine if his teachers are effective.  In other words, teachers' careers depend on a children's poor judgement.  This child has done nothing in any class all year, to the point where he does not even produce a pencil or a notebook on a daily basis. His parents are guilty of educational neglect, and it's currently the teacher's fault.  It's as if I ate candy and drank soda every day, never brushed my teeth, and my dentist could lose his practice because of my poor oral hygiene.  On what planet is this fair?

Does this child deserve a free education?  Perhaps, but only if he is going to avail himself of it.  If he wants to make poor decisions, the patsy should no longer be the teacher.  If there were consequences for the student and the parents for continually coming to school unprepared, disrupting instruction, and generally not taking advantage of one of the things that makes our country great, maybe this child would get his act together, and maybe not.  But, it is time to tighten the screws on the students and find out which choice he will make.  The current system is not working.

I'm going to propose new legislation that will put the consequences of poor behavior where it belongs: on the child and his or her parents.  All citizens of the United States, and, yes, even non-citizens, are entitled to free, public education.  But, if a student is not engaged in his own betterment, we should be able to rescind his right.  This doesn't mean that every child must perform well on standardized tests, because not everyone can, but only that they come to school prepared and participate in their own learning.  I am certain that this will lead to better education for all, because most students will toe the line, and those who don't, won't be around long.  The bad influences will disappear.  The insubordination will vanish.  It is a workable solution to what some see as an intractable problem.

What will happen the children who are found non-participatory or disruptive?  I feel the parents should have a choice: they could either enroll their children in a private school, at their cost, or, the child could continue to come to the public schools and receive character education.  The latter option would mean the child would need to repeat the grade the following year.  Character education could include community service, improving the physical state of the school they attend, or helping teachers with administrative tasks, as well as study skills, behavior modification, self-esteem and the like.

I will be looking into Citizen Cosponsor in order to get some groundswell behind this idea.  It will takes years and a lot of support, but stressing out and threatening teachers will not increase learning standards; only the students and the parents can control that, and it's time to hold them to their end of the bargain.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Humanity for Teachers


Not perfectly symmetrical - developing
It's a juggling act.  Actually, it's a juggling act on a high-wire, upside down, blindfolded.  Teaching is not easy; in fact, it's harder than this juggling performance, because as an entertainer, it's just you alone, or you and trained professionals.  Teaching requires the cooperation of unwilling children.

I'm noticing one lady is bending her knee more
than the others - unsatisfactory
So, then, to be evaluated harshly, well, it takes the wind out of our sails, doesn't it?  What is wrong with displaying compassion to the people who dedicate their life to the betterment of children, to the welfare of the society?  Shouldn't we take care of those who take care of our youngest citizens?  Don't they deserve our support, our encouragement, our good-will?  What are we afraid might happen?  To find only the bad and ignore all the good, when we do so much, it's criminal.  We are not the enemy.  We are not the villain.  You are.
Some handstands not completely vertical -

I don't really understand it.  I guess, and I sincerely hope, that I never will.  There seems to be a million road blocks put up for teachers.  It is a tough, brutal career.  Stop making it even more punishing and let us have some dignity.  Thank you.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Buddy the Elf! What's your Favorite Color?

I just like smiling.  Smiling's my favorite!
I figured I better not let my last post lead off this blog for long, just like I don't let the horrible parts of my work keep me down for long.  I'll switch gears completely and show you how I created my very own Buddy the Elf costume.

Wearing their ugly sweaters.
My husband's includes lights.
Next year's ugly sweater?
We had Ugly Sweater day at school.  I've made ugly sweaters before, including one that lit up!  But, brainstorming out another hideous sweater, I came across the style that makes the wearer look like an elf.  And then, elf on the brain, that turned into me recreating the hero of one of my favorite films, Elf. Everything about that film is right up my alley, from the North Pole aesthetic, to the innocent in the city, to the word "purply".  It's perfect!
T-shirt with puffy black fabric paint
"placard" and yellow "Scandanavian"
designs, alternately glittered gold.

So, I bought one t-shirt, two rectangles of green felt, one each yellow and white, and 5 black.  I already had black and yellow puffy fabric paint and gold glitter and tights, so this was far cheaper than my foray into Elsa territory.  I started with the shirt, drawing a line down the center, then spreading each one out to the corners at the bottom to imitate the Nordic jacket Buddy wears exclusively.  Then I drew Christmasy decorations around the placard, and glittered every other one.  Because I thought originally I wear them the same way as the cotton headed ninny muggins, coat tails were a must, so I cut two rectangles from one sheet of green felt, and curved the outer edges, to cover my elfin tushie.  I cut from the white felt two collar shaped pieces and whip stitched them to the neck line.
Traced a plate to create the cone hat.

Better view of the hat
For the accessories, I cut a roundish shape from the remaining piece of green felt to make the hat.  From the yellow, I cut out a band for the hat, and finished it with a white feather.  Also from the yellow felt, I cut a belt buckle, and from one piece of black felt, I made a belt by cutting it lengthwise in thirds and whip stitching them together.

The template that I eyeballed
for my booties
That left the booties, my favorite part.  I've always wanted to make shoes, for real, like Irish gillies or the kind that the insane folk at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire wear.  I modified this pattern from  I didn't make the bottom, I just placed the tops over my shoes.  It happened that an 8 1/2 x 11" square of felt just fits a size 8 1/2 shoe when you cut out two pieces per foot!  Happy coincidence.  I whip stitched them together and placed them over my footwear and voila!  In the end, I threw on a pair of yellow shorts, even though I put a pair of leggings underneath them.  Can't be too safe from the easily offended (at least, by teachers, certainly not by each other, whose behavior is beyond reprehensible) population that I "serve".

Oh, it's not a costume, I'm an elf.  Well, technically
I'm a human, but I was raised by elves.

The Truly Hard Way to Make a Living? Teach.

Not that many read this blog, and that's okay.  It's more for me, really.  Today's post is one that, for my 15 regular readers, you may want to skip.  It's therapy, and it's not pretty.

Could you not, at least, realize that there is
usually an innocent child behind that horrible
teacher that is trying to improve you?
Many of my posts speak of the horrible indignities heaped on teachers these days.  One of the worst has to be the accusations, almost always so ridiculous that, as a trusting innocent, one would assume would be laughed at by any reasonable adult, nay, child, even.  However, that is not what happens in this day and age.  No, no matter how unreasonable, how flimsy and beyond credible the charge, the teacher is treated like a common criminal.  Now, this just may be part of the teaching downsides that needs to be tolerated by the good people who dedicate their lives to educating children.  BUT, it is a threat to our very livelihoods, and, by extension, our families' livelihoods.  I am now the sole provider for my little family, and if you don't like me, students, because I want you to learn, fine, but think of my child.  She relies on me having a career.

To say nothing about what it does to teacher's enthusiasm for their charges and their education.  It is very difficult to get up and face your lying accusers and desire to better them.  The morale of teachers is under attack from every angle, and having kids and their parents spread lies about professionals in order to, what exactly?  Get a better grade?  Not going to happen.  Get another teacher?  Not going to happen unless the teacher says "Forget it" and then you're looking at an inexperienced substitute who will barely have control over the class.  What does this persecution even achieve?  Because I have no idea.  In any case, it saps the already trampled joy found when students grasp concepts that will improve their brains, their perseverance, and inevitably, their lives.

So, yes, I'm currently under fire for accusations that don't hold up to logic, to scrutiny, or indeed to humanity.  No matter that, of 90 students, only four will maintain the lie.  No matter that the story has morphed and changed in attempts to make it stick.  No matter that the four students making the claims are...well, I better think of my job.  Still trying to hold onto it, for some unknown reason.

(Actually, I know the reason.  I had a much, much more lucrative career before this, that I enjoyed, but for the time off.  But, it's looking better and better lately).

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