Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Waiting for the Pleasantness of Spring

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." Anne Bradstreet

Daydee Du

This is what my little kindergarten boy says to me (which, roughly translated is "ladies first") as he holds the door open for me on our way to speech today. The other day, a sixth grade boy I just met shook my hand as he left my office! Last week, I am told by a very language impaired second grader that "You are looking very beautiful today, Miss Jen". This seems to be a theme lately - my students surprising me at their impeccable manners. I didn't think children were taught manners anymore. I'm flabbergasted!! Most of the time, I am used to students who forget to say "please", "thank you", "I'm sorry", and who don't know how to respect their elders. These are things I teach my students because most of them aren't taught these things at home. This is hard for me to deal with because my brother and I were taught these basic manners, so my expectations are a bit high.

It says a lot about our society (and its decline) when I get a genuine "thank you" for calling to cancel and reschedule an appointment instead of just not showing up at all. Or when an elderly gentleman looks at me with disbelief, followed by a soft-voiced "thank you", when I hand him a business card that he has been trying unsuccessfully to pick up from the receptionist's desk. Drivers give me a look like they would kiss me if they could just for letting them in traffic when attempting to exit a parking lot. No, I don't always mind my manners, but I feel guilty when I don't. I think this is an oddity and something that needs to make its way back into our society - basic manners.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Be Kind to Your Child

By not giving your child a weirdly spelled name, you will be doing them a big favor later on. I'm not talking about unique names - I have nothing against those if they are tasteful. However, I just met a kid named "Maverick" the other day and the first thing that came to mind was "Top Gun" - not the greatest association for a person to make. One should also pay particular attention to the initials of the child's name. Luckily, my parents decided against the name "Barrett" for my brother, especially since our last name begins with "O" - the initials "BO" would have invited endless teasing from peers. The only other name that bothers me is when parents name their kids "Richard", then call them "Dick". How embarrassing for the poor little guy!

Getting back to weird spellings of names, the spellings that I think should be avoided are anything with a -leigh, when an -ly will do just fine. Case in point: my friend in high school named her daughter Ashleigh instead of Ashly - what is the point? Also, Kaleigh is no more cute sounding than plain ole Kaley. I read an article on this week about a missing family in Oregon - their kids were named Sebastyan and Gabrayell. Not sure why the extra "y" is needed - do these names actually get pronounced differently? Along the same lines, why was a "y" ever used in place of an "i" - like "Devyn" versus "Devin". Name spelling variations, I think, would be more difficult to deal with for a boy. A boy named "Austyn" might receive much ridicule and possibly even wedgies for that spelling, but "Austin" might not. However, a girl named "Jasmyn" may not receive much more slack than another girl named "Jasmine". What is with the small letter, with an apostrophe, then a name? d'Sean, d'Soto? What in the hell were the parents smoking when those names popped up? Okay, here is my last irritating spelling - an -ee for -ie or -ey (for example, "Lacee" for "Lacey"). I don't know why it bothers me... it just does.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tagged by ~D

  • hostess at Perkins
  • housecleaner
  • hot dog slinger at Costco
  • plastic bottle inspector

  • As Good As It Gets
  • Forrest Gump
  • Austin Powers
  • A League of Their Own

  • Eastern Washington
  • Western Washington
  • Texas
  • California

  • 24
  • Everybody Loves Raymond
  • Alias reruns
  • Sex and the City reruns

  • gmail
  • yahoo home page
  • Wells Fargo

  • chocolate
  • mexican food
  • italian food
  • ice cream

  • Hawaii
  • Mexico - somewhere by the ocean
  • Fiji - I've never been there, but I've heard it's nice
  • Anywhere warm where I have no responsibilities

Book Review: Marley and Me

I'm rather proud of myself for finishing yet another book. I am putting blinders on regarding all the books I've started and have yet to finish. Really, though, I should not be proud about this accomplishment - this book was very easy to read. It's about a man and his misbehaving Yellow Lab and the adventures and craziness that happens as a result of raising his dog, Marley. I won't give away all the parts, but I laughed hysterically when the author describes one incident when Marley manages to get ahold of a gold necklace, which leaves the author on the lookout in the dog droppings to retrieve it. The reason I could laugh at these antics is because it was not me on the receiving end of this dog's bad behavior. Even though I love dogs, I doubt that I would have stayed the course with this dog (or any other dog as poorly behaved as this one). No matter what, though, it's very clear the love this author had for his dog. It's a good thing too, because dogs like that can be hard for people to love. The thing that I could relate to the most is the connection this man had with his dog - and how faithful this dog was to his master. In the end, when the dog passed away, I could not help my tears. For anyone who is a dog owner or dog lover, this is an excellent book - it is funny, endearing, at times sad, and overall very entertaining. I give "Marley and Me" nine dancing feet out of ten.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Babies Don't Come From Sex... They Come From New Jersey

This is what I was told by a second grade student of mine as I was doing a lesson on associations and describing. His task was to look at the picture of the card I gave him (a mother chicken), scan the pictures that were scattered on my table, and find the picture that "goes with" the one he had. He quickly picked up the picture of the "chick" and informed me that "Miss Jen, I know where babies come from". Just like I usually do when any subject like this comes up, I became very silent and waited for further embellishment. "Babies don't come from storks.... they come from.... New Jersey", he informed me. My reply? "Well, some of them come from New Jersey... but that's a discussion for another day".

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Spring Cleaning

Disclaimer: This is not the most exciting or entertaining post you will read on this blog. Do not operate heavy machinery after reading this post, as you may become drowsy.

It seems like there are so many things going on in my life, I don't know where to start. Firstly, I am getting over my fear of the dentist as I keep going back to my new dentist - she is just that good. I'm one replacement filling and one regular filling away from being done with major dental work for a while. I have even abandoned trying to invent reasons to cancel my dentist appointments, which is a major milestone for me.

At work, things are crazy with conferences - everyone freaks out at spring conferences because topics like "retention" and "not performing at grade level" come up and there is this realization that there really is not much left of this school year. One of my favorite kids is moving away - why do all my good ones leave or graduate? As usual, I have new kids to replace the kids leaving - the latest addition to my caseload is a little kindergartener with autism. He's very sweet, repeats everything I say, lines up cars (and other objects that are in my room), and can't sit in a chair to save his life.

When I'm not pouring myself into work, I am busy trying to figure out which avenues are open to me professionally. I am planning to take the GRE (again!) and try to get into Stanford's Linguistic department to get my PhD. This option became more promising as I ruled out opening my own business in this area. I have roughly 65 kids on my caseload and I know of two who actually go to private therapy to augment school services. And also, how many speech therapists does San Jose really need? There are a gazillion already...

As for personal growth, I feel stagnant lately. I try to knit and it takes me forever and a day to finish a simple project like a dishcloth. Of course, this might be because I have four projects going on at one time, which I realize is too much. Why do I do this to myself? I have started to evaluate the things that once held my attention, but have since been cast aside - my Nintendo DS (which is a good thing since gaming is a big time waster), books that I start and never finish, Sudoku puzzles that I start and leave half-completed, and even quilting projects (which I've always found enjoyable). I think I need to do some major spring cleaning - both of my physical space and of my own habits and activities. How can I expect to focus on things admidst the clutter in my life when I can't even handle extra clutter on my desk? Yes, it's time to simplify.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Breathe In Energy...Breathe Out Love

That was the only thing that almost made me gag and roll my eyes at my very first yoga class last night. Other than that, it went swimmingly. I actually could do some of the poses - I'm best at "the corpse". In this pose, you lay on your back with your feet slightly spread apart and let your toes relax, with your arms at your sides (but slightly away from your body), and your palms up. You close your eyes and try to make sure the negative energy leaves your body through your fingertips and your toes. It was hard for me to do this because I was busy listening to the guy next to me snore.

I have learned some very important lessons from my first class. The most important lesson is that you definitely want to be in the back of the class. This is because, about halfway through stretching, the instructor had us do a "modified dog", where your back is straight and parallel with the ground and your "sit bones" are stretched as far in the air as you can and hands are balanced on the seat of a chair. In this position, if anyone is behind you and looking up, they have a nice shot of your butt. Now, you're supposed to keep looking at the floor, but that got me a little bit light-headed, so every now and then, I looked up. This brings me to the second thing I learned last night, which is "don't look up". If you do this, and you're in the back row, you get to see everyone else's butts because you are surrounded by them.

All joking aside, it really was a good class. The instructor actually gave directions that made sense, came around to make sure that people were doing the poses correctly, and I did not feel awkward because she was good at suggesting modified poses (for us less than graceful souls). Today, I am sore, but in a good way - not in a "it hurts me to walk" way. And maybe, in time, I will learn to "breathe in energy... and breathe out love".

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Beef with Bicycles

I don't have anything against bicycles or bicycle riding, per se. I've had several bikes throughout my life and have enjoyed riding them, despite some minor mishaps and scrapes and bruises from falling. My beef is about sharing the road with bicyclists. I don't think I would have this issue if two things happened - all roads had bicycle lanes on them AND bicyclists actually followed the rules of the road.

Before moving here to the San Jose area, I lived near the "Bike Capital of the Northwest" and was used to sharing the road with bikers, even though it annoyed me. At least most of them knew the rules of the road and followed them, even though most of the streets in that area (Redmond) were not built to easily include bikers in traffic. Now that I'm in California, my patience with bicyclists has plummeted, mostly due to the idiotic things they do to make driving around here even more difficult than it already is. Some of the things I've seen include bicyclists riding on the opposite side of the road, not stopping for stop signs, not wearing helmets, using a car lane when a bicycle lane is available, and asking me to get off the sidewalk so they can ride their bike on it. This last one doesn't hinder the flow of traffic, but pisses me off just because of the "rudeness" factor. Aside from all of this, I've yet to see a bicyclist able to keep up with the minimum posted speed limits on most streets, which makes it tricky to get around them in congested traffic where there aren't bike lanes.

In searching for bicycle accident statistics, the most recent data I found was from 2002 on the US Department of Transportation website. Here are a few interesting factoids:

  • The first automobile accident in the US was in New York City in 1896, when an automobile collided with a bicyclist.
  • More than 47,000 pedabicyclists have died in traffic crashes in the US since 1932.
  • Pedacyclists accounted for 12% of all nonmotorist traffic fatalities in 2002.
  • Pedacyclists under the age of 16 accounted for 24% of all pedacyclists killed and 39% of those injured in traffic accidents in 2002, which is down from 1992 (42% of those killed).

It looks like, from the data, that pedacyclists' deaths have decreased over the years. Even so, there are still too many injuries and fatalities on the road for bicyclists. This website gives some interesting statistics on bicycle accidents. Clearly, both motorists and bicyclists have a ways to go before it is actually safe for bicyclists to share the roadway with motorists.