Friday, January 25, 2008


I went to a workshop on Wednesday, and today I got an e-mail from the director of the programs and they want to work with me to build my program at school! That's awesome! The National Gallery of Art!!! I'm so happy.

I have work to do this weekend though. I think she wants to donate materials, but also maybe some people to come in and talk to students, and maybe some presentations. I think it's a good idea, but I just have to think of things that would be relevant to them.....narrative art, storytelling, social commentary in art, graffiti, propaganda etc....

I've been going to these programs when I first moved here, and I guess regular attendance really helped me. They recognize me now, and want to give me a hand! I'll take it!


I've been wracking my brain to figure out things to do, and maybe things are falling into my lap a bit..... What's next?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Still on hold!

Yeah, they didn't correct it, and I only need to turn in my re- certification stuff next week. But, whatever.....

Anyway, weeks go by here so quickly I feel like I have hardly enough time to communicate with anyone these days. Plus I was dealing with a cold I've had since Christmas. Finally, I think it's going away. But my theory about colds is that we always have one, and it just fades away sometimes.

This week I got to go to a workshop at the NGA. At night! I love it. It's such a cool feeling being in rooms full of artwork at night. We spent time in the newer part of the museum, in the modern art section. Looking at a bunch of stuff. I always like going there. The program last night was kind of basic but I got some good reproductions, a book, and some much needed coffee...

The only thing that I have been forever neglecting that I feel terribly guilty about is a painting I've been working on since about November. It should be done by now. And I have only one more layer to finish. But it's a daunting layer. Filled with tiny script. I got myself into it, and I just need to finish it. I think J agrees.....

At school I'm dealing with some returning kids from last year. It's such a heart breaker. I mean I actually enjoy my students. For the most part they have really interesting personalities, and I can usually find something I like about them. Which is great. No one is ALL bad! But one came back with carvings all on his harm, obviously self-inflicted. He doesn't even want me to see it, although he could wear a sweatshirt if he wanted. And today he told me that someone cut that arm off. When clearly it is not missing. It's the strange facade that these kids wear everyday. Obviously this kid realizes that I want him to do better, and that I want him to be safe. I've been through so much with this kid. In the last two years. He obviously craves attention, but doesn't know what kind of attention. And he has been disheartened from the time he was born. Born in Vietnam, grew up in the streets there for about 6-7 years, was brought to America with his father (raging alcoholic) , learns to drink (just like his father), lives on the streets of Annandale. That's really all he knows. And I'm not kidding! Never ever has attended school regularly, has been in and out of the system, can't read, can't do simple math. Has no hope. It's almost impossible to get him to do anything. Although for me, he will do something. And I guess that's why I keep on trying. He's an addict, he's depressed, he has no family.

So what do we do with these kids? Why are they not able to get the support they need from the first moment they step into a facility like this? There are so many more like him. The story differs a little, but basically it happens all over.

I am ranting, I realize this, I went from talking about my transcripts, to a museum, to this. I'll stop. I'll go eat lunch. Some nourishment should un -cloud my brain a little bit.

Everyday at least one students asks me why I smile all the time, and I usually tell it's because I like my job. I do like every frustrating moment of it. It's challenging, it's interesting, and it changes day to day. And I also like to think I'm offering my students a little bit more than art. A little compassion, understanding, and acceptance.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winter in jail.

It's weird to see snow collect on barbed wire fences. It actually looks pretty. Like loops of yarn or something. The way the metal razors catch and hold the light and airy flakes. The mesh of the fence becomes opaque from the collection of snowflakes blanketing the surface. I lucky to have a room that has a wall of windows. And the kids loved watching the snow. And watching the snow does give us all a positive feeling. It's pure, it's light, free of almost any imperfection. Individual snowflakes that completely change a surface and cover dead limbs of trees, metal, wire, dark roads, holes, and sharp surfaces.

We actually turned off the lights so we could let the white light just pour in the windows. It was nice. Serene. Easy feeling.

Fortunately I got to go home early. I was home by 1 pm today. The kids went to their rooms, and they'll probably will watch tv and not be able to look out any windows at all. I wish this "system" could change. They're kids caught up in a lot of dangerous webs. Some of them making simple mistakes, but others pretending to be adults, hardcore, tough, a menace to society. The "system" almost perpetuates it.

But only when something simple happens, like snow, does it make them realize that they're all growing up way too fast, and they can recall a day when things were much simpler.

So, I'm home and I realized the chai I'm having is kind of like this day. Warm, airy....frothy... I'll drink it, and feel my belly become full and warm. But, my cup will be empty, cold and used.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

There's a hold on your records because of the monks

Where to begin with this one. Back in 2003 (I think it was) I moved from Albuquerque to Alexandria. I was required to take a class to keep my teaching position (yeah, an art teacher is required to take a health class). So I took it (fortunately with my friends Amy and Ruth), and I was able to get 3 graduate credits. Well, in Virginia, a teacher also needs 180 points to maintain their professional license. And 3 credits is worth a 1/3 of that.

So, cut to now, where I finally need to update my certification. I have tons of points (I got points for being overseas, teaching in a summer program, and tons of other workshops). However, I need a transcript proving I took this"Family Life" course. I remember that George Mason University was who gave us credit. Fortunately, I knew I could just get it off line. No big deal.

WRONG!!!!! I open my account, and it says," You have a hold. To find out what the hold is press this button." So I press the button and it says that I have a library fee of $115, in Fairfax. Yes, I do go to the library, however, I've never set foot on the GMU campus in my life! How is this possible. So I call the library. They say yes, there is something under my name. But it was returned, and there are still late fees on it. I tell them this is impossible. What are the dates? June 2004!!! What?

I was getting ready to leave the country June 2004. But the librarian says," It looks like you returned it..oh...two years later. July 2006." Again, I say," There must be some mistake, what is the title of the book?" He says," It's Gregorian Chants." What?
He says there's nothing he can do because it's actually an inter library loan from Catholic American University in DC. What? I've never even been there! So this librarian guy, is actually being nice and helpful... gives me the number to the library.

I call CAU and she says that she needs to transfer me to the Music Library. I get transferred. Another woman picks up the phone. She hears my abbreviated story. She looks up my name. Turns out there is another person with my exact same name. Even the middle initial. So someone must have not really paid attention. The strangest thing is. I don't really understand how I am in their system at all, having never been there. But whatever. She was helpful too, and said she'd fix it right away and said that she'll just take it off my record.

So to end this long story. I'm hoping that it really isn't identity theft, and it really was a mistake. Hopefully I can get the darn transcript and be done with that University forever. Although, I won't be, because J works for them........and the saga will continue.

So, my friends...beware of the Library Shakedown!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Too long..

I haven't been writing in my blog a lot in these last few months. And I was thinking I had time as an excuse. Which really isn't true. It's just that I really haven't felt like it. I'm not really sure why. However, I am going to try to be more prudent. Although it may turn into political rants, and positions about public policy (because after all it is a huge election year).

But I hope to kind of turn this blog into more than just ramblings. I can't believe it's already Mid-January. Like many of you I've probably already broken a thousand promises to myself.

So I've been thinking a lot about going international again.... I think I do every year at this time. This is when teachers go to the recruitment fairs, and go to a million interviews to snatch a job you might like in a strange country.... It's a crap shoot,unless you do your research. While I do love traveling, it's just not the same as living and experiencing another culture first hand. And while I love where I live, and would like to stay here, there is something that is always calling me somewhere else. I think about those ideas, and I'm still trying to hatch a plan that will get me there.

Good thing "J" is open to these possibilities. He is doing a job search right now, and I already threatened him that if by June he doesn't find his "dream" job, then we should try to snatch up a last minute placement for the next school year in a foreign land.... Of course I think he just really wants to get a job in this area and stay (and most of me hope he does too).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Happy New Year! Enjoy a lovely beverage!!!

No more smoking in Alexandria or France! Enjoy it at home people.

Ok, so we were the balloon rescuers. The people next to us were capturing them and using their lighters to pop them. Ruth and I managed to save at least a dozen and proceeded to release them in another location....away from the lame people.

Jarle, Me, Ewan and Ruth! Happy '08!

I'm kind of glad that the holidays are over. There was a lot of rushing around, and not enough relaxing time. And it all got capped off by a flat tire first day back to school. ARGH! Merry Christmas, time to buy new tires. It was a good break though, filled with lots of family, other people's families, and friends. I spent a lot of time in the car, so it's no wonder my car greeted me that way this morning. Up to Gettysburg, down to Charlottesville and all around the beltway. Well worth the miles put on my car. Next year, beach vacation????

New Year's was a lot of fun, and I took dozens of random blurred pictures of the night time festivities. I can't believe it's 2008! Where does the time go? Forget resolutions, I never keep them anyway, so I guess I just vow to not be a slug. AND- to get out and use my new passport. I think I can keep those.

So happy new year everyone. It's going to be an interesting one, lots of politics, we'll elect a new president. Hopefully not Huckabee, because I'll have to leave the country if he does get elected (and oh are you going to pay attention tomorrow?-- it's all about Iowa). We'll watch tons of stuff happen, hopefully it won't be all bad....Although, are you watching the news? It's all doomsday. But anyway, there will be new songs, new tv shows, new movies, new haircuts, new foods, new ways to decorate. Life will go on...

I hope the holidays treated everyone well. Be thoughtful, creative people, give something back.