Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Compelled to clarify a bit

I am sorry, but I have to just say something on the topic of the day...Swine Flu.  Oh, sorry, H1N1.

It has become just too much! I was so looking forward to a weekend filled with tennis and golf tournaments, but NO! My state has decided to cancel all high school sports and therefore, adult tournaments as well. REALLY?! I had also made plans to go to the state lacrosse championship next weekend, but NO! Cancelled!
Just so you all know…

In the United States, each year 30-40,000 people die from the “regular” flu. There are about 40 million cases reported each year.

According to the US Census, there are roughly 306,319,565 people in the United States. According to MSNBC, there are just over 100 confirmed cases of swine flu in the US right now. That means there is about 1 case of swine flu per 2,759,635 people.  

As for the World Health Organizations Pandemic "Coding"?  Well, the media has failed to effectively mention that levels 1-3 are typically only concerning infection in animals or animal to human.  They do not normally deal with human to human transmission.  So, the fact that we were at a level 4 yesterday simply means that it has mutated and is now capable of transferring from person to person...much like the common cold or "regular" flu.  Currently, we are at a level 5.  That means there have been cases of one disease reported in more than two countries in one region.  Yes, this H1N1 has the potential to be bad...really bad, but the media has failed to put it into perspective.  

The moral of the story?  Wash your hands. If you feel sick, stay home from school/work and go to the doctor.

I do not doubt that it makes you feel like crap and is not an enjoyable 7-10 days if you contract it, but is all the media necessary?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not forgotten

Seven years ago, one of my best friends passed away.  I so regret not staying in better touch with her during her last year with us.  Today is her birthday.  I think of her literally every single day and today will always be important to me.  Here is the post from last year.  Happy birthday, Elisabeth! 

Monday, April 20, 2009

La De Da, La De Da

You may remember my post about a former student from my old job that was playing at the House of Blues. Well, thankfully, I made it to Jillian Edwards’ show on Friday night. True to form, I was running late and then hit traffic as I arrived in Dallas. Thankfully, as I literally ran into the venue, I found Jill standing just next to the door. It was so good to see her and all of her friends, many of who were former students. She was her normal happy, peppy self…exactly as I remember. 

Jillian is such a genuinely kind soul, and her music is such a perfect expression of it. Yes, I am a little biased, but honestly, she is one talented young lady. I was pleasantly surprised by her poise and stage presence. She is all of 5’4”, but takes the stage and owns it with just her petite little self and a guitar. It is really incredible.
Photo credit: Chase Giunta

Her songs are mellow, upbeat, and positive without being cheesy. They have meaning and leave you wanting to listen again. They leave you with a tune in your head, humming and singing them hours later. They leave you with a smile on your face. They leave you with the knowledge that you can conquer this world. They leave you wanting to be a better person.

I am telling you, go and listen to her. You can hear her on MySpace and when you love it, go and pick up her CD at CD Baby. You can also hear samples on the CD Baby site. And for those of you that read this page and are BAYLOR BEARS (Tiffany!), she will be playing Diadeloso this Thurdsay.
Photo credit: Sandra Edwards - i think! (Jill's incredibly sweet, patient, and talented mom.  If you live in the DFW area and need a photographer for anything, contact her.)
**Oops!  Actually, the photo credit goes to Sara Kerens.**

Here are some videos for ya…

Jillian Edwards - Go Together from Clint Brock on Vimeo.  Clint is Jill's brother in law.  Seriously, could this family get any more talented?!  Oh, and the kid on the drums, March, was also one of my students.


Here is a great picture of her performing with her twin brother, Cole, who is also very talented. They have a funny little song about Dr. Pepper, but I cannot seem to get a video to embed. (Side note: love that her MySpace is day and his is night.  And I can totally hear his voice right now laughing out a "DUDE" as he is reading this and seeing the link to a page he cannot log into, let alone update.)
Photo credit: Zach Lewis

A note to sweet Ms. Jillian~
Words cannot express how very proud I am of you. Not only because of where “this music thing” is taking you, but also because of the fact that you are staying true to yourself and the person your parents and your God have allowed you to be. Your spirit is infectious and I hope that it will never fade. You have that “tallest branch of the tallest tree” for you know what it is to live. It is love and hope and laughter and peace. It is falling and learning and giving and growing and succeeding and still learning. It is praise and prayer and worship and fellowship. It is fear and faith and through it all, as you say, it is knowing you are in good hands. Thank you for reminding us of this in your music. Give your mom and dad a big hug around the neck and thank them for doing a great job. I wish you nothing but the best in the future.
Another fun side note, Cole likes to sneak into any and all pictures that he can.  The picture at the top left of this blog, the one with my mouth open?  That kid in the background to the left of my face?  Yep!  That is Cole.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Art in the city

It is the last post about New York….I swear. Well, at least until I go back in July. In case you missed the rest of the trip, go here and here and here.

As mentioned, I was glad to have gone with my family and done a bunch of cliché things, but one thing I really love doing is going to museums. It is, admittedly, a very large and very geeky side of me, but I blame it on Mr. Robinson. He was my 8th grade history teacher and made me love all things old. It is a side of me that is also fueled by my degrees in history and political science.

I had come to the conclusion that I would rather do stuff with the fam than slip away and go to the museums. However, Mom and Sis knew I really, REALLY wanted to go and graciously gave me 45 minutes to go through the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yes, 45 minutes to comb through approximately 2 million pieces of art. CRAZY! They attempted to come with me, but as soon as we walked into the first room, the Greeks and Romans, and Sis and Bea burst out laughing at the naked sculptures with no arms, I knew it would not work. So, I took a few minutes with my map and plotted a speed race through my selected interests. Sadly, I did not take pictures, but I did get to see the Impressionists I love and went through the various dynasties of China.

The next day I took 2 hours to go through the MoMA. WOW!  I have to say is…modern art…I do not “get” it. I mean, an iron plugged into a wall is not art, it is a chore. Dishes in a sink that is overflowing? Huh? I guess some of it is cool, but a lot of it is odd to me. I guess I am just jealous that I never thought to make my pile of dirty laundry into a $250,000 piece of “art”. Aside from the vast array of Dada pieces, there are a TON of cool paintings and installations in this museum. I feel like I saw the whole place, but I would totally go back for another 2 hours. Here are some pictures from the MoMA.
There was a display of Esquire Magazine covers over three decades.  
I loved this one as a piece of art, with no article to explain the meaning.  

Evidently, Andy Warhol had more than just Tomato in his pantry.
Jackson Pollock made some of his splatter paint have structure.
What I was most taken with at the MoMA was the view of the sculpture garden from inside.  It is a large collection of modern, steel sculptures set against a background of brownstones, skyscrapers, and blue skies.  
The juxtaposition was artistic in itself! 

I also spent two nights with Pip, a friend from high school that I have only reconnected with this past year. The first night I went to his apartment and we walked next door (literally) to a perfect little wine bistro and spent hours chatting and drinking. It was after Jean-Georges though, so I was in a bit of a food coma, and he had just returned from a week in Texas for SxSW.

The next night he called and asked if I wanted to go to watch the NCAA finals. So off we went to a little Irish Pub, had a few, and I met some of his friends. One guy felt the need to “show me a ‘real’ New York night”. It was a Thursday, so evidently our selection was small, but off they swept me to a RAGING dance club! WHAT?! So not my style! I am talking Night at the Roxbury, strobe lights, girls in tiny dresses, DJ spinning dance club. I am in jeans, t-shirt, Chucks, hair in a ponytail with a workout headband. Not a cute one, a black elastic workout headband. Which one of us does not belong?  

Thankfully, they knew the promoter so my attire was not an issue and we ended up with a table and bottle service. Aside from the initial shock of the place, I LOVED IT! I had such an amazing time. Never would I have ever picked to go there, but I thoroughly enjoyed Pip, his friends, and myself. I so appreciate y'all taking me in as your NY project. Thanks.  (side note: in looking for links for this post, I stumbled upon the "events" page for this club.  Thank GOD I had no idea about all of this when they said we were going!  Holy crap!)

In closing, my favorite things were skating in Central Park, Jean-Georges, Top of the Rock, 5 Napkin Burger, Citrine, MoMA, Little Mermaid, Pip in his element, and generally hanging out with the girls. Really, the company was the best part of the city.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

14 years and counting

Today is my best bud Eb’s birthday. We have been through A LOT together! Over the past year or two he has become paranoid of getting “old”, so I remind him regularly that I will always be older. (Not to mention that I am the one with a so-called clock.) I wanted to take the time to remind him of a few other good things, so E…

…thanks for being such a great big brother and proud uncle and always being mom’s go to guy.
…thanks for those moments when you laugh at my terrible jokes just because you know I need it.
…thanks for the endless hours upon hours that you will talk politics with me and throw in movie quotes just to tie life together in those chats.
…thanks for coming out in public with me during recent months. I know you hate mixing and mingling with the locals here, but thanks for doing it. We will keep working on it. ;)

Congrats on this past year…your great job, that you actually like, buying your first home, and getting healthy. (How you are living without BBQ I will never know!)

I am very proud of you, Eb. Know that I am always here, and I love you to the moon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Faith in the future

Back when I was teaching I spent my last two years losing hope.  Do you remember that feeling you had when you found out Santa was not real, or that there was a man behind the curtain in Oz, or that some people will never really care about others?  That is the feeling I had in my last two years of education.  I realized that some people (too many for my liking) just did not give a darn about students.  They only looked at test scores.  They ignored the kids' personal challenges and triumphs, they did not wipe tears, give high fives, or share 10 minutes of no-brainer conversation filled with laughter.  Those people missed out!

Two years ago I had the honor of working closely with about a dozen kiddos that honestly saved me.  They will forever hold a dear place in my heart.  I owe them more than they will ever know.  Fo Sho ;)  Here is a post for them from back then.

I do not keep up with them much now as I have quit that job, and they can no longer pop into my classroom, kick back, and disrupt the class that I was supposed to be teaching.  So you could image my surprise and sheer delight when I opened my email recently from a concert company. 

Okay, that did not set up very well.  

I am on a mailing list for an artist named Bob Schneider (greatness!  look him up) and I usually delete the emails.  This week I opened it and started to scroll down.  Lo and behold, I saw the name of one of my former lovelies.  TWICE!!  Turns out that she will be playing the House of Blues in Dallas!  I freaked out!  I immediately start researching and coming up with ways to get to one of these shows.  I am going to do everything in my power to see her live.

I do not have permission to print her name and concert dates just yet, but I will let you know when I hear from her.  Let me just tell you, this little lady is such joy and grace in one person! She is kind and funny and talented to boot.  She is a perfect example of a Witness in a young person.  Just read her "about me" section from her MySpace Music page...

hello lovely people. my name is Jane* and i want to make music forever and ever, even if its in coffee shops until I'm a cute, little old lady. i want to make you feel alright about life and lighten your load by telling you that we are all in really good hands. i also want to tell you some good news - that everything, everything - heartache and joy and sorrow and bad days and sunshine - it all pushes us onward to see that we are a lovely people made for lovely purposes. we are dearly, hugely, and personally loved. those moments when you are driving in your car on a perfectly breezy afternoon with nothing to do but listen to music and let the sun spill on your skin, when you know you are right where you're meant to be- those moments may seem far and few between but they come and they will keep coming. so come on, world, lighten up. you've got a lot of love waiting to kiss your pretty face.

It was because of those kids that I had, and continue to have, faith in the future.

* not her real name.  Duh.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A little food and wine

The whole point of the New York trip was to celebrate Mom’s birthday. She generously paid for all four of us to fly up there, stay in a very nice hotel, and go to a Broadway show practically on stage. In return, Sis and I wanted to treat her to a “fancy” meal. I LOVE fine dining and try to do it for any or no reason at all. Luckily, I live in a city where this is possible.

Sis asked for some suggestions and I called up my trusty NY buddy Pip for a list. We decide on Jean-Georges. OH MY GOD! I was so freaking excited for this meal I cannot even begin to tell you. 

J-G is a Michelin 3 star restaurant! Basically, the Michelin Red Book has been seen as the gourmet Bible in Europe for over 100 years. (Minus several years of hiatus during the World Wars)  It is such a big deal that two chefs have been rumored to have committed suicide under the stress of the simple possibility of dropping a star.  They rank restaurants on a scale of 3 stars with the highest ones being considered “excellent and worthy of a special journey” for food, atmosphere, and service. There are only 60 establishments in the ENTIRE WORLD that are currently 3 star rated, only 6 in the United States, and I ATE AT ONE OF THEM!! This is an activity that is on some people’s bucket lists. Well, I did it. And I do not mind bragging about it.

It was not easy convincing Sis to go to Jean-Georges. She did not recognize 95% of the menu and even when I translated things like “skate” to “light fish”, "squab" to "poultry" (I did not tell her it was pigeon), and "foie gras" to ... well ... foie gras (there is no way to translate "liver" to sound good to my Sis) she was still hesitant. I tried to pulled a Sex In The City episode and told her that even if it was terrible, we could grab a slice of pizza on the way home. There was no way in hell this was going to be bad! In a pinch, I called Bro and left a covert 20-second message begging him to call Sis in a nonchalant way and convince her to go. She would listen to him since he is in the restaurant industry…very far from a Michelin star, but she will listen to him before me when it comes to food. It is incredibly frustrating, but I am the youngest and have gotten used to this fact. 

It was everything I had hoped! I will spare you the details and just tell you that I had fish, fish, and more fish. Calamari, crab, salmon, a bit of skate, and it was all incredible. It is so Food Network/Top Chef to say this, but the texture and flavor with the dishes were things that I would have never put together but WOW! 

Through it all, Bea was a champ. She tried everything and was such a little lady that the kitchen made her a special dessert. I normally do not eat the final course, but this one was too good to pass up. If you know you are going to be in New York, make reservations and treat yourself. It is so worth every penny. And there were a lot of pennies. Fair warning.Check out the silver candle by the largest chocolate dot.  No idea how it stuck to the plate!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Workout, eating, a show = vacation

There is nothing like a good workout on your vacation, right? One crisp NY morning, we decided to go skating in Central Park. I have always loved skating, but was worried about the little one and Mom on blades of glory. We went to the Wollman Rink and after about 3 minutes, we all looked like pros. It was awesome; completely cliché, just like the movies, and more fun than I ever imagined! I highly recommend it.

We did Serendipity, which was exactly as we hoped…delish. Everyone at work told me the wait would be long, and they all recommended going down to Dylan’s Candy Bar. So we did just that. Let me tell you, that place is over stimulated to the nth degree.  The smorgasbord of smells, tight quarters, and bright colors, OH MY GOD the colors, were just too much for me to handle. Not to mention the “sweetpants” that were $60 or the bedazzled sweater I found for $350. Yes, $350 for a sweater. The stairs were pretty freaking cool, but I think I will stick to supporting the Lauren family by buying Dylan’s dad, Ralph’s, stuff and not candy.
We took in a Broadway play. It was my and Bea’s first trip to the "Great White Way". Mom decided to see The Little Mermaid. She and Sis kept asking/telling me that I did not have to go see this particular show, but to be honest, I did not mind at all. I loved the movie and would have seen grass grow if it was on Broadway. The show itself was great. We were 6 rows from the front and Sis swears Prince Eric was singing to her. My personal favorite was Ursula. Bea was quick (and loud) to point out that in the musical she has white hair and needs to have black hair like in the movie. I think that fact killed the character for the little one. I debated going to see my all-time favorite movie that has been adapted to be a Broadway show, but figured I would catch it on the next trip.

After the theatre we went to dinner for Mom’s birthday. This is one thing that I was SO looking forward to on the trip. It will have to be another post.

Other spots we got to in our time included The Late Show, complete with a trip to Hello Deli to order from Rupert. I only ate a bite of Bea’s sandwich, but it was really quite good.

We went back to Central Park, this time to watch some street performers. Bro will be glad to know that I taught the little one the lesson that you cannot stop and listen unless you plan to pay them something. She took to it immediately and then wanted to stop and watch ALL of them. 

We stopped by Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I always loved the pomp and circumstance of the Catholic Church. Old cathedrals in the United States fascinate me, and St. Patrick’s was no exception. It is stunning! If I ever move to New York, I may consider going back to the Catholic faith just to attend that church. Dad was elated to know that Bea made a request to stay.
I also got to two museums. Those, nights with locals, and the birthday dinner will be posted later. Stay tuned…