Saturday, July 28, 2012

I'm Published!

Creative name for a post, huh? It's just that I'm so excited to share that I have an article published in the July 2012 issue of English Journal. For non-English-teacher-types, EJ is a well-known professional journal about all things English instruction. Super-nerdy.

At the middle school last year, the eighth graders worked on a year-long project about bullying, so when I saw the topic of "Preventing Bullying Behaviors" in EJ's Call for Manuscripts, I thought I might have something to say. (A special thank you to my editor!)

So, without further ado, "Using Warriors Don't Cry in a Capstone Project to Combat Bullying":

*Typically you have to subscribe to the journal in order to get more than an abstract. However, for good or bad, my article has free access. So enjoy. For free.

Also, I wanted to share the video that is referenced at the end of the article. Due to our partnership with Facing History, a short film was made by the Working Group featuring our darlings:

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Cue the Deer!"

I have a photographic memory.

Jon doesn't believe me, but he will admit that I have a very good memory. Such a good memory that I remember obscure lines from movies I haven't seen in maybe 10+ years.

Over the 4th of July holiday, Jon was able to take a couple of extra days off that allowed us to finally get to Seattle to meet our new nephew who was born in mid-May. Memphis in July is a less-than-desirable location, due to the same heat and humidity suffered all over the Midwest, South, and (made-up) Midsouth. Summer to me means hot weather, but I was definitely ready to spend some time in 70-degree temperatures.

The Pacific Northwest did not disappoint. From the moment we arrived on Wednesday until the moment we left on Sunday morning, the weather was amazing. The sun was shining, there was no humidity, and the mountain was out the entire time, all of which prompted my incessant movie quoting.

I have probably seen the movie Funny Farm starring Chevy Chase 50 times since its release in 1988 (forgive the hyperbole). If you haven't seen it (shame on you), here is a brief synopsis: Chase and his wife are city slickers who decide to move to the country so Chase's character can write the next great American novel. Like any Chase movie, nothing goes right and hilarity ensues. Things get so bad that the couple decides to divorce and sell the house. In order to entice some other suckers to buy their home, they convince the townspeople to dress up like subjects in a Norman Rockwell painting and pretend like their town is just as idyllic. When the prospective homebuyers arrive at the property on a wintry morning, a neighbor hiding in the woods shouts through a walkie-talkie, "Cue the deer!" Immediately a fawn is released from a cage, prompting the homebuyers to squeal with delight at what they think is their new dream home.

I wonder who was hiding in the proverbial bushes in Seattle because throughout our entire weekend, all I could think was, "Cue the deer!"

Summertime in the Northwest is clearly the time to convince people to move to that part of the world. I have heard that there hasn't been very much summer this year, but while we were there, it was absolutely beautiful, making the memories of rain and clouds bearable. In addition to the fabulous weather we enjoyed, we crammed in as much visiting--and eating--as we could.

We were able to visit briefly with a few friends in the South Sound area and saw lots of family members. We met our new nephew and celebrated a first birthday (just a few days early) for our other nephew, both of whom are incredibly smart and adorable.

We also ate. A lot. Specifically cherries. Everywhere we went there was delicious fruit, including our all-time favorite Rainier cherries. We ate them as if we were storing up for the rest of the year...which we kind of were.

A metaphor for life?
Just when our weekend couldn't have been any more enjoyable, we capped off the trip by going to a Seattle Sounders soccer game. I know very little about soccer, but I must say that it was so cool to be in the midst of a packed stadium of crazy soccer hooligans. There were cheers, there were songs, there was even a parade with a marching band before the game. I don't think I've stood for the entire game of anything since high school football (and that includes Nebraska games because in the seats we usually have, folks sit down during the time-outs).

Our seats, directly behind the "super-fans"
Maybe it was our delirium from several days of non-stop travel on top of sleeping at airports and on planes, but we concluded our whirlwind Seattle trip with visions of Norman Rockwell paintings swimming in our heads.

Hop on the Bus, Gus

I "don't need to discuss much" (Paul Simon, anyone?) but I would be remiss if I didn't briefly share my recent Megabus trip. I didn't have the amazing experience Megabus worshippers rave about, but it was a very cheap, fairly reliable way to get to Chicago.

Jon and I had tried to take the Megabus over Christmas vacation, but were stymied by the internet. For whatever reason, our reservation didn't go through...which we didn't realize until the week before the trip when all of the seats were taken. Hence, our very first Greyhound trip. While we joked about sleeping on the overnight bus with one eye open and packing a shiv in our carry-on, it was a perfectly uneventful trip, one that I slept through, actually. In all seriousness, everyone should travel by Greyhound at least once in their lives.

But back to Megabus. Due to my recent involvement with the Board of Directors of an honor service organization I belonged to in college, Cardinal Key, I was invited to attend the annual board meeting in Chicago. However, Memphis is a bit of a challenge to fly out of (ie, expensive), so in order to save money, I volunteered to take the Megabus.

I was intrigued, really. I'd heard wonderful reports of people snagging seats for just a couple of dollars and then having ample room to stretch out and sleep/read/type. Since I wasn't able to book my ticket until just a couple weeks prior to the trip, I missed the unbelievable fares, but I was hoping for spacious accomodations. I thought that leaving on a Wednesday night for an overnight trip would ensure me plenty of space...but I was wrong.

Unbeknownst to me, there was an optometry conference in Chicago the same weekend as my board meeting. When Jon took me to the designated bus stop 30 minutes early, the line was already quite long and it was full of optometry students. I must say, though, that I have never seen so many pairs of trendy glasses in one place.

Needless to say, every seat on the bus was taken. In hopes of having the seat next to me free, I had brought both of my bags on the bus instead of putting one in the cargo hold, so I spent the night a little cramped. I was worried when the optometry students couldn't seem to contain their excitement about the weekend's "eye-tinerary" (first and last eye pun, I promise), but they quickly quieted down.

We arrived in Chicago at Union Station right on time and I spent the weekend discussing all things Cardinal Key. After a successful meeting, it was time to return to the Megabus. While I prefer traveling long distances overnight because it's just so efficient, I opted for the mid-morning bus that would get me back to Memphis at around 9pm. I was proud of myself for navigating Chicago's transportation system, and I returned to Union Station with extra time, even though I had to walk several extra blocks due to track construction.

Once again there was a long line for the Megabus. Actually, there were long lines for several Megabusses, all traveling to various spots in the Midwest (Megabus is based out of Chicago). I found myself toward the back of the throng of people, which proved to be good because right before I stepped onto the bus, the driver stopped me and told everyone to evacuate the bus. The gaseous fumes everyone was choking on were not an indication that we were hanging out around half a dozen busses, but rather of a mechanical problem.

So, everyone "de-bussed" in an orderly fashion and we began to wait. We really only had to wait for about 30 minutes, but the hot sun definitely made it feel longer. I did my good deed for the day, however, when I volunteered to help translate for a passenger who only spoke Spanish. Finally, my Spanish minor was good for something!

Once the new bus arrived, we piled back on again. Of course, I had selected the same bus as several of the optometry students, so no empty seats again. I put my larger bag under the bus this time, though, so I was much more comfortable. I had set myself up with snacks, books, and my iPad and was ready to travel the ten hours back to Memphis. I shouldn't have been surprised that wifi on a bus is not that reliable. I also wasn't surprised that I chose the one seat without a functioning electrical outlet. Other than that, though, it was a smooth trip. Our driver was a bit of a ham and played his personal playlist for our enjoyment, and in between all of the reading I did, I had a nice conversation with the wise-beyond-his-years man sitting next to me.

My final assessment of the Megabus is that it is definitely an affordable way to travel, and I would probably do it again. I prefer the romance of train travel, certainly, but when it comes to bus travel, I'm pretty satisfied.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Meet Me in St. Louis

While there was no Worlds Fair in St. Louis this summer, it did prove to be a good place to meet my family from Kansas City. Since my brother and sister-in-law were not interested in driving the eight hours to Memphis for a visit with a 2 1/2 year-old in the backseat, we all decided meeting halfway would be a great way to get together. My mom and younger brother also decided to join us, which led to a mini family reunion in Missouri's inferior east side.

It has been years since I have been to St. Louis and stayed in the city and not on the couch/spare bed of a college friend. We splurged a little on the hotel because we figured it would be a good idea to have a nice homebase, particularly when planning around naps and such. We stayed right downtown and were able to walk to all of the destinations we were interested in seeing.

Jon and I got into town earlier than expected on Friday afternoon, which is impressive considering we didn't leave as soon as we had wanted to (not surprising) and I had spent that morning and the previous afternoon at the mechanic's getting new tires (very surprising--having a flat on the side of the interstate in 90+ weather is not something I had on my agenda). At any rate, we arrived just in time to enjoy the hotel's complimentary happy hour before heading out in search of dinner.

We knew we were up against the clock as far as bedtime went, so we quickly found a place to eat and then took a chance on an evening stroll. We were so close to the Arch at this point that we had to check it out. Jon helped our niece get some of her energy out by teaching her how to roll down a hill...which resulted in her comical attempt to roll up the hill. It quickly became apparent that we needed to get back to the hotel, so we called it a night, although not until we watched the Royals defeat the Cardinals (or rather watched the Cardinals lose, since we had it on a St. Louis station).

Gateway to the West

The next morning Jon and I got up and ran to Illinois (which only sounds impressive until you take into consideration that Illinois is only a couple of miles from where we were staying). The rest of the family accompanied our niece at the children's museum, an unbalanced four-adults-to-one-kid ratio. Once we reunited, we headed back to the Arch in hopes of riding the rickety elevator to the top. Unfortunately we were not able to find out if the elevator is as rickety as it was when I was 5 because the line was way too long and we didn't have the time to wait--we had a baseball game to catch!

Anyone who knows us well will not be surprised to read that we found a brewery in an area known as The Landing, which was only a slight detour on our way to Busch Stadium (good beer, by the way). We had not planned on going to St. Louis specifically to see the Royals play in the Cardinals in the annual I-70 series, but it proved to be a nice coincidence. We opted for the cheap seats, which actually worked out okay because we were in the shade the entire game. While it wasn't as hot as it is currently in the Midwest, it was still pretty warm in mid-June.

View from the cheap seats
Unfortunately the Royals didn't win, although they did make it interesting at times. The highlight for me, however, was hearing a sweet little 2 year-old voice shouting "Go Royals!" over and over, right in the middle of a bunch of Cardinals fans.

After the game, it was back to the hotel for happy hour and a quick dip in the pool. With the exception of our sister-in-law and niece, we all went to the Schlafly tap room for more delicious beer and food. It was a nice time, although I'm sad to report that both of my brothers were unsuccessful in their quest to crash the wedding reception upstairs.

On Sunday morning, our niece was re-charged and ready to play, so we took her to Grant's Farm on our way back to our respective homes. Grant's Farm is the Busch family (as in Anheuser-Busch) ancestral home and is named after Ulysses S. Grant, who once farmed part of the land. Now, it is a wildlife preserve of sorts, featuring the legendary Clydesdale horses. We got in free because one of Jon's relatives once was handicapped when he was trampled by one of the Clydesdales. (Okay, so everyone gets in free, but the part about Jon's great-uncle is true.)

After checking out the horses, we rode the tram to the other part of the farm, where we saw lots of different types of animals, all desperately trying to keep cool. The folks at Grant's Farm certainly know what they're doing because as soon as we got off the tram, there were several employees selling the ultimate in kids entertainment. For one low price (it actually was pretty affordable), you could ride the carousel, feed the baby goats, and eat a sno-cone. Of course, our niece had to do all that. I'm sure you can imagine her paparazzi.

Beware the ferocious guinea pig
It was a pretty nice way to conclude our St. Louis getaway. I'm a big proponent of vacationing with family. No one is responsible for hosting, everyone has to travel somewhere, and it's always a good time. All in all, it was a great trip...especially since we heard the Royals game on the radio on the way home, in which the boys in blue beat the Cardinals (in extra innings) to win the series.