Thursday, May 29, 2008

lots of little things

I don't know about you but it's the little things I remember, I forget names & dates & locations, but little details stick with me.

One of the things I remember most vividly from college is the door to the University Center. We were always going to the UC - to get mail, use the photocopier etc etc. The doors were heavy, ... and when it was raining or windy it was worse. Now I'm no wimp - I took weight training - but the doors were just big, heavy, and awkward – the kind of doors that want to slam back on you before you’re half way through. I remember walking to the UC, swinging open the big heavy door... then my friend - just a step behind me - reaching up and catching the door and opening it the rest of the way. You know, I can remember the feel of the door's weight releasing from my hand and then walking through the door knowing it wasn't going to whack me in the backpack as I went through. And I think how nice that was...how nice that would be now. I can open the door myself, it would just be nice to have someone there to hold it open as I schlep all my stuff through.


I'm still working... well, "working". I still have to get up get dressed and sit at my computer all day. All of my duties have been reassigned, I'm just working on cleaning out files and answering questions as they come up. While far less stressful than normal, it's boring as all get-out. The other morning my boss was joking "Oh it's your last week - how can we twist your arm and make you stay?" but then kinda back pedaled when she realized I didn't think it wasn't very funny.



At home I'm working on CELTA application #3. The error correction sections are really hard for me. I know instinctively that "My cousin said me that." is wrong and "My cousin told me that." is correct, but it's really hard for me to articulate *why*. And I *still* can't figure out how to explain the difference between "slim" and "thin". Every time I think of a way to differentiate them, I think of exceptions. The "how would you teach this" section is a little easier though. Having spent a bit of time in language classes (both good and bad) I'm familiar with a few different techniques to use. I find it surprising, but reassuring, that I'm able to generate a lot of ideas on how to teach different things. I know I don't know all the techniques, and I know there's a big difference between jotting down an idea on paper, and enacting it in the classroom... but I feel like this is something I could actually learn. Whereas with the grammar questions, I don't even have the vocabulary to explain what I mean. I'm wishing more of my teachers had covered grammar. Miss Crawford made an effort Sophomore year... but it was too little too late. Clearly I have some catch-up work to do.


I've also been reading up on Thai culture, both online and in a couple of books. My sister belongs to an online book-swap and was able to get me a copy of the now out of print book "Culture Shock! Thailand" which comes highly recommended. Unfortunately the version I have is from 1982 (the most recent update was in 2003 or 2005 I think). Since I actually remember being alive in 1982 it doesn't seem that long ago, but it really really was. I can't get over the highly sexist nature of the book. And I'm not talking about how women are expected to behave in Thialand (I assume at least some of this has changed), but the way the author gives general advice and then gives asides for the appropriate behavior of "your wife." Um.... yeah... I guess women didn't travel without their husbands back in the early 80s. Anyway I'm taking the entire book with a grain of salt... and I have a much more recent copy of "Culture Smart Thailand" for perspective, and little guide book for more specific information about transportation, prices, and things to see. At the moment though, my reading stack is a bit overwhelming.


This whole thing is overwhelming in fact...all the little things add up- getting a visa, shots, copies of my transcript, what to do with my stuff, what to do with Sally, how much money I'm going to need, actually getting accepted into a program, learning some of the language, etc. etc. etc.



I haven't been crafting much... mostly because I haven't been especially inspired. I'm pretty deep in left-brain land right now. I've got a new pair of socks on the needles, but aside from the fact that I'm doing them toe up, they're going to be identical to the last pair I made.


One more week. One more week and I'll be free of this job... and hopefully that'll help me regain focus and feel less overwhelmed.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

In their natural habitat

I've seen a couple of posts lately of "Quilts in their Natural Habitat" and thought I'd post mine.

Coincidentally this is also Sally's natural habitat. Although when it's sunny, she'll be on the top of the quilt watching birds.

Of course, when it's *really* sunny, Sally's natural habitat extends to the garden.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Audacity of Rebel's Book Club

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about the books I’ve been reading… and I have actually been reading. I don’t know how much you folks get out of reading my highly opinionated and minimally educated reviews, but I like going back and refreshing my memory on books I’ve read. I hate it when someone mentions a book I read and I can’t even remember if I liked it or not. So here goes.

The Audacity of Hope, Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream – Barack Obama

Plot: The country is broken, and it really doesn’t have to be.

Motto: Yes we can.

Opinion: The book reads like Obama’s manifesto, and is very clearly a campaign tool, but nonetheless it is a very interesting read about the challenges facing America and the ways in which we can approach them as a country, rather than as opposite sides of a political battle.


I read this one back in March I think. Unfortunately, I've now waited entirely too long to write up this review and I can’t remember enough specifics about it to go into any detail. But I will tell you this- I get bored really easily when talking about government & politics ... but when I read this book I was engaged, and I intend to read it again so I can more fully understand some of his points. Obama is a very good author, his style is clear and focused without over-simplifying anything...I'm putting Dreams from my Father on my 'to read' list too, regardless of how the election turns out.




Sense & Sensibility – Jane Austin

Plot: Girls get the boys, girls lose the boys, girls get get the boys!

Motto: Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…

Opinion: I liked it, but I liked the movie better.


It took a while for me to get into reading Austin’s style of writing, some of her turns of phrase are just not used any more. Having seen the movie (with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet) helped me follow the plot a lot better than I might have otherwise. But on the other hand, having seen the movie SEVERAL times, I couldn’t read the dialogues without hearing Thompson or Winslet’s voice.


There’s a reason this is a classic though. Austin develops her characters so fully, and you can really see the change in Marianne and Elinor as the story progresses. Both of the Miss Dashwoods have their flaws as well as graces. I appreciated seeing glimpses of Elinor’s selfish and emotional sides in light of her mature, responsible exterior. Also, in the book Willoughby is much more of a scoundrel, although he does get a chance to explain himself.


I really enjoyed the book, but I probably would not have liked it as well as I did if I had not seen the movie first. The movie is so well acted, with certain exchanges emphasised so much by tone of voice and significant glances. So my recommendation is that if you’ve seen the movie, read the book. If you’ve read the book first however, they’ve chopped a good bit out for the movie… so I’m not sure the recommendation would go both ways.





A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

Plot: Two out of shape, middle aged men attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail.

Motto: Are we there yet?

Opinion: This is the second Bill Bryson book I’ve read, and I really like his style. He’s funny, factual, thoughtful, and tends to use a chatty style of writing that pulls the reader into the story.


Bryson starts out his adventure with lots of intellectual and material preparation, sharing with the reader a bit of history about the 2,100 mile stretch of trail running from Georgia to Maine. His college buddy Katz is somewhat less prepared. Although they do not walk the entire trail, they get a good feel for what life is like on the trail. There are lots of trees, for example, lots and lots and lots and lots of trees. And there are people along the trail, helpful kind people, and of course unusual and annoying people as well. Bryson does an awesome job of describing the people so colorfully that you can just about see them walking along the trail. You can also just about hear the sound of bears sneaking around somewhere out there on the trail with him!


The book takes a few somber turns when talking about the environmental degradation that has taken place along the Appalachians, and the state of the Parks Services tasked with taking care of the trail. But he’s not out to make a statement about it. If he has a statement at all, it’s that the reader should spend some time out exploring the natural world around them. Advice I intend to follow this summer after I stop working.


I’d recommend this book as a good vacation read, or a getting ready for vacation read. It’s not too heavy, but not pure fluff either, and parts are genuinely funny. I’ll be putting his other books on my ‘to read’ list ... but I’m in no hurry.




Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire – Rafe Esquith

Plot: Hardworking, self sacrificing teacher brings out the best in his poor, mostly immigrant students.

Motto: High expectations + lots of work = lifelong success.

Opinion: This is a very inspirational and impressive story. But rather than making me feel hopeful about what kids can accomplish, it made me feel sad that he had to give so very much of himself to make a difference. It also makes me a little sad that I didn’t have a teacher like him when I was in school. Not that I’m bashing my education, I had a lot of really good teachers, it’s just that I got the impression, while reading this book, that so much more is possible. Like… this is the man who could have taught me math!!


Esquith is clearly a man on a mission. He is passionate about upholding high standards for both himself and his students. He teaches academic subjects (not just science, math & reading, but also art, music, athletics, and theater) as well as life skills. And the whole time he is swimming against the stream of standardized testing, ineffective school administration, and ongoing cuts in funding.


The book starts out by describing Kohlberg's Six Stages of Moral Development.

He challenges his students to be level six thinkers. I have to admit, I spend a lot of time in levels 1 (what's in it for me) and 4 (rules are rules) right now… and if nothing else, am glad I read this book so I can start incorporating, or attempting to incorporate, more level six thinking in my life.


I highly recommend this book to teachers and parents. It’s unrealistic to expect other teachers to perform the kind of magic in their classrooms that Esquith does (I don’t want to diminish the amount of effort he puts into his classroom, but really, the man has a gift) but he presents some very practical ideas that could be used by anyone.



So those are the books I've most recently read. I'm currently diving into some books about Thailand and teaching abroad, in fact I'm on the last few pages of The Bangkok Survivor's Handbook. I should probably write up a review of that one before I start in on the next book. Any good recommendations for me?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thank you!

It just occured to me that I neglected to thank you all for your support through my whole canceled course / job quitting saga. Your comments and good wishes mean a lot to me, all the more so since some of you have never even met me! Thank you!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I think too much

I think waaaaaay too much.

So today it’s time to just endulge my senses. Dude… that sounds retarded. Ok… what I’m actually doing is my very favorite thing – hanging out downtown. At the moment I’m laying on the grass in the Park Blocks enjoying the dapled sunshine filtering through a stand of full-on leafed-out trees. It’s really awesome. I mean… take a pretty cool city full of people who love their community, and the outdoors, make ‘em suffer through one of the coldest springs in recent memory (Snow in March! Freezing temperatures through April! Then back to our regularly scheduled rainy, cloudy, dreary May.) and reward them with one absolutely glorious sunny hot Saturday. EVERYONE is out here. Half the women are in sun-dresses, Teva sandals as far as they eye can see. Oh… and acres of pasty white flesh begging for just a hint of warmth and color. It’s really a beautiful thing.

Oh... and it really wouldn't be Portland without barefoot hippies singing old-timey music.


video


There are draw backs to the heat of course. I actually heard myself say, "Hmmm... it's too hot for cheese." as I passed by Juniper Grove Farms booth. And made a bee-line for the Pine State Biscuits booth for some sweet iced tea. Mmmmm…. I’m gonna miss this.




Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Just when I thought I was out...

they pull me back in.

Ok... Mae West reportedly stated that she could resist anything but temptation. Here at Chez Rebel, I can resist anything except a well reasoned, fiscally responsible, slightly maternal appeal to my ISTJ side. Ugh.

So I handed in my notice on Thursday, my last day would be May 21st. It's true that the final act of writing up my letter of resignation was done in haste and without a real plan as to how I would move on... but it was not a rash decision. I've been wanting out of this job for a long time, and I've been trying to get out for a long time - a LOOOONG time. I don't know why it takes me so long to do things. Some people just pick up and go. I was going through an old notebook and found some career-brainstorming I'd done back in October of 2006 and jotted right there on the page were the words "Teach English Abroad." WHY AM I STILL HERE??? Because I took it slow trying to figure out the best way to do that... trying pay down debt and save up vacation time, then trying to save up a little more money and a little more vacation time, then you know... getting the rug pulled out from under me with this stupid non-existing class. So with one thing and another two months here, two months there...one stressful work deadline flowing into the next stressful work deadline ... October 2006 turns into May 2008 and I'm fed up, farther past my breaking point than I knew existed, and I give my 2 weeks notice. Finally!! Counting down the days... the hours, I am.

My boss called me into her office on Monday to 'chat'.
How are you feeling about your decision?
- Fine... it's time for me to go. (In truth, I'm terrified, I have no idea what I'm doing, I don't think I have enough money, I'm scared that as soon as my health insurance runs out I'm going to get cancer but I'm even more afraid that if I don't get out of here now I don't think I'm ever going to get out.)

Then the big boss called me into his office to 'chat'.
So what are you planning on doing?
- I need to get focused on leaving, I need to start learning the language and getting myself ready to leave the country. (Honestly, I have no idea what I'm going to do... I hope to god I can get a part time job to cover at least some of my expenses so that I still have my savings to pay for the course I want to take and yet allow me enough mental breathing space to actually prepare for the course & my eventual, hopeful move abroad.)

Is there anything you want to tell me about the office before you leave?
-No... there have been good points and bad, but it's time for me to move on. (I think half the Ph.D.s in the office are overpaid spoiled brats who have absolutely no perspective on life beyond their research and barely see me as a human being let alone an intelligent person with a life outside the office and dreams beyond continuing devoted service to their projects.)


So today, I am just barely hanging on... inside I'm freaking out at near maximum, equally scared to leave and scared not to leave, but putting on the calm face and bravely voicing my ambitions for my future. But it's just one.more.week. Get through tomorrow and Friday, then it's the weekend, then two days of last minute details and a last day of good byes. I can almost handle this.... I can almost make it.


My boss called me into her office again this afternoon.

So what are your plans?
-I'm going to start getting focused on leaving, I'll be having lunch with a woman from Thailand tomorrow, and I've emailed an acquaintance who's living there now. I'm starting to try to learn the language, and I'm going to do some prep work for the course I want to take. I'll probably pick up a part time, low-stress job for a while, but first I need to take a break.

Have you thought about a position here in another department?
-No... I really need to break away, it's a little too comfortable here... I really need a break so I can focus my energies on what I really want to be doing - I don't think I can do that here. The cocoon is too small.. time to move on.

You know, if you work part time you can get full benefits here.
-I'm not really worried about that... I just want to make a clean break. (I'm terrified of losing my benefits - but I really really really need to get out.)

I know you've made your decision and you're ready to go, but if you decide to get another job here within 30 days you can get reinstated with your sick leave, your benefits, and your retirement level.
-I'll think about it... but I'm just ready to go.(Stop tempting me with all the things that have made me stay at this job 3 years too long!)

I know, I sound just like my dad when I was your age, telling me that health insurance is so important, but if you stayed just two extra weeks, you would be covered for all of June. I'm sure that would reduce some of your stress.
-I appreciate it, really I do. But that's not the biggest source of my stress. (But it's mighty tempting... one extra paycheck could make a big difference... plus an extra half-day of vacation pay out on top of it... and an extra month of insurance could mean one more check-up with a doctor who speaks fluent English....)

Well, think about it, it would only be until June 4.
-I'll think about it. (there's an extra paid holiday in there too isn't there?)



ARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I just want out... I just want to not work there anymore. But the reality is I don't think I'll have enough money to support myself until such time as I'm employed in the job I really want. I know no temp job or part time job will pay half as well as what I'm currently getting paid. And an extra month of insurance for just a few extra days of work... that'll save me the cost of individual coverage for a month. Plus I can save face by saying my boss begged me to stay on longer.


I can change the end date on your termination paperwork to June 4th really easily.
-You realize that's the next big stressful deadline.

I really wasn't thinking about that at all.
-But I was... and that's the problem.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I quit

I did it, I quit my job. I quit the job I've hated for a few years now, the job that's been driving me absolutely insane with stress for the past year. I did it. After a spectacular mental breakdown in my office on Wednesday I went home - ignored everyone who was trying to call me and wrote up my letter of resignation. I handed it in the next morning.

I'm not usually that rash (seriously, I've been patiently waiting to get into a CELTA course since November), and my boss wanted to talk about options, offered to hold on to my letter until I thought it through etc. But I was done. I really didn't think there was any way I could stay. In fact, on Thursday I made the mistake of reading my work email at home and got a message that threw me into a complete rage. That's the thing about reaching your limit - it doesn't take much to make it all spill out. So it's done, as of May 21st, I'll be unemployed.







Um.... now what do I do?



Well, naturally I jumped right into another craft project.

Inspired by the woods near my apartment I've been wanting to do this for a while.Actually, I'm even more inspired by the long-view of the tree covered hill as I drive up to it from other parts of town... but I can never get a good shot of it. The way the trees line up against each other as they go up the hill make up a patchwork of green.

These fabrics convey the general feel I'm going for, lots of trees and rain. I had hoped to finish it in time for M5K's decathlon... but that was much to ambitious for my current state of mind. I have actually made a lot of progress on it... but still dont' want to post it here, because I'm not sure if it'll end up being a gift or not.

I've accumulated a LOT of fabric for this project, and so far what I have is most of a small quilt top... perfect for a baby quilt. I kinda want a larger quilt for myself... so I can either make the quilt in progress bigger, or finish it and start a second quilt for myself. I haven't made any decisions yet... too busy making rash, risky, emotionally driven decisions about my career.

Oh lordy... what have I done???

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Updates

A few little updates. I've been looking at other places to get certified to teach ESL, and have found some new options... although these options all cost a lot more and won't take place for a few more months. Not ideal... but I've got options. I actually spoke with someone at one of the programs and had a very reassuring conversation about the course.

On the crafty side, I'm working on a new project for the M5K Decathlon 2008. I'm not sure if I'll get it done by the deadline... but I'm gonna give it a go. It'll be one of those annoying top secret projects that I talk a lot about but won't post.

To make up for that though, here's a kitty in the sunshine.
How much do you want to nom nom nom that paw!!!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Broken Dishes

I've just finished my Trash to Treasure quilt - Broken Dishes. It turned out exactly as I had intended. I used all free fabrics, most of the fabrics were delivered to me in a trash bag (two of the black florals including the outside border is from my mom's stash). The binding is all leftover pieces from other quilts. I had hoped to use leftover batting as well, but I didn't have quite enough.

Here's the finished top:And here's a picture of the quilt that inspired me in the first place (stolen from the internet):
I think I hit it right on the mark.

This quilt was the first time I used meander quilting for a whole project, and this represents the closest stitching I've ever done on a quilt (I'm usually pretty lazy about the actual quilting part).
The stitching does indeed meander, and there's only one place (maybe two) where I stitched myself into a corner & had to cross over the line to get back into free space. More practice is definitely called for - but I did okay.

I managed to do a small label that's legible if plain.

All told, this little scrap quilt is perfect for laying out on the ground in the sun.


At least Sally thinks so!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Scrappy Caturday

Once again, Sally is helping me out with my quilting.

I've actually made a lot of progress on the Trash to Treasure quilt, and am really pleased with how it looks so far. It's got it's pros and cons, but it's the most successful thing going on in my life right now... and that counts for something!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Loopy

Well, for the last few days I've been out of sorts to say the least. But I've sorted some things out, there is a CELTA course offered in San Francisco, where, conveniently, a former roommate now lives. I'm looking into the program and have already requested additional information. I also spent a good long time at Powells books yesterday and picked up a couple books:

Getting Out: Your guide to Leaving America - Mark Ehrman
Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire - Rafe Esquith
Ganbatte Means Go For It!: or How to Become an English Teacher in Japan - Celeste Heiter
Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women who are Changing the World - Holly Morris


The book about teaching in Japan is a little too Japan specific, but it does bring up some things I'll need to think about... and there were surprisingly few books about teaching abroad, but maybe I wasn't looking in the right area. Getting Out has really good information about the paperwork involved in moving abroad, and overviews of the most popular countries for ex-pats. There are a lot of personal accounts from people who are living abroad. If nothing else, these should keep me inspired until the next opportunity to get certified comes up.


Ok... but to the title of the post. I took three days off work getting my head together (as much as possible) and mostly taking a breather from work. I spent a lot of yesterday working on the trash to treasure quilt. I decided to use this as an opportunity to practice meander quilting, and things were going really well...for the first few rows. It got more challenging towards the middle of the quilt (yes I know I'm supposed to start from the outside in - sue me!). Anyway It went well for the first spool of thread, but when I ran out & refilled the bobbin & spool - it went all wonky in the back. Of course it looked fine on the top, so I didn't notice until I ran out of thread from the second spool and went to change the bobbin again.


I wasted an ENTIRE spool making this mess. Obviously I can buy more thread - but it took me a good hour or more to pick out all the stitches. Dang.

So with the quilt misbehaving, I decided to go back to work. ;)